It’s smmmmoking!

The network is not fine at all in our little palace.

The good news is that I was here when my router started smoking yesterday, but the bad news is that the router started smoking.

Our network was running really crappy yesterday, so I unplugged the router and let it stew for a wee bit. See, sometimes the network gets really sluggish, so turning it off for a good hour or so brings the device back to it’s prior glory. When I plugged the router back in, everything started going smoothly again. Then about 5 minutes later, I heard a pop and then a spark came out from the middle of it, at which point it started smoking. I ran over and switched off the power and removed the ethernet cables from it. I waited a minute and switched it back on. Same thing… I grunted, took it apart and then chucked it into the trash after letting Devina take a whiff of burnt router parts. The warranty was well past over and I never bothered to get the “extended warranty” from the Best Buy when they offered it. So, until I get a new router, my machine will be the only PC with access to the net, kinda like this guy… After reading the entire thread I feel dumb for chucking it out in the trash. I probably may have gotten the newer version. 🙁

In a way, I am very glad it happened while I was here. If I wasn’t, it may have started a fire and then we’d have nothing. Hmm, wait a minute, we have renters’ insurance for waaaay more then the stuff in here is worth. Damn…

Don’t you sass me

A couple to a few weeks ago, Microsoft released two update files to patch up quite a number of vulnerabilities. Most notably MS04-11 and MS04-12. The first set, supposedly took care of a grand total of 14 different vulnerabilities and bugs. Just several days ago, exploits were released in the wild to take advantage of the now infamous LSASS Vulnerability which one of those patches addressed. Give this exploit a few days to stew and we now have the Sasser bug and it’s variants that are out now wreacking havoc on the internet since this past Saturday.

You might think that the answer to this new worm that’s smacking PC’s around left and right is to patch up as soon as those updates were released right? Hehe, you haven’t dealt with Windows patches yet have you? My friends, only a seasoned administrator knows not to immediately patch up the important systems in your organization with a Windows patch. Microsoft has a tendency to sometimes produce bad patches which make matters much worse. It turns out that the lovely patch for this new worm floating around has a bad tendency to knock some Windows 2000 machines out cold that are running certain VPN applications. One of my friends who runs a nice server farm of Windows 2003/Exchange 2003 machines said this patch also rendered most of his Exchange boxes dead and he’s not even running the VPN software stated in the article above! Then there’s also some reports of some SOAP specific apps failing after the new patch being installed and a few with regards to external USB drive issues!

Welcome to our world.

I tested the patches on several machines and all came out clean. I then patched 2 of my non-essential servers to see if they misbehaved. After waiting a day or two, I took care of all of the other servers with the exception of the two most important machines in my network. I waited a little while just to see if Microsoft would release a fix for the patch. Unfortunately, they didn’t and the exploit was released. At that point, you have to make a decision that no administrator should ever have to make. Do I patch a system that could possibly fail or cause some major downtime for my users because of it or do I not patch and contribute to the worm problem we are seeing now in the event that my servers become infected. Granted I have both internal and external firewalls, so even if I was infected, it would have stayed on those machines.

I got lucky and no problems happened after I patched those machines the weekend before this.

However, I feel for the admins out there who can’t run this patch reliably and have this worm beating down on them. These poor folks are being placed into a very bad situation and I can only blame Microsoft on this one. They really dropped the ball big time on this and I wish they could be held liable. If a fix for your product causes even worse problems, there is something seriously wrong in the way you do your business.

Arch Vile = Tcsh = Dead

Image of DooM monsterAs some of you may or may not know, I am a network administrator at my job. Essentially, I keep the network and it’s applications (e-mail, data storage, web servers, music sh… err, important data resources) happy which in turn makes the users happy. As such, every day I am on the lookout for tools and how-tos on how to do my job more effectively and efficiently to benefit the people under my little umbrella.

I can’t believe it took me this long to find this, but I have found a perfect tool to add to my arsenal.

psDooMDoom as a tool for system administration

Yes folks, a brilliant individual (IMHO, worthy of some nobel peace prize) has created a method for attaching system processes to the DooM GUI interface. Not only has he created a whitepaper on it, he also presented it at CHI 2001! This is cool on so many levels. I especially like that processes can kill each other. Though I have to wonder if you can kill the ‘init’ process or if that’s some sort of uber super monster that can only be killed if like 8 players all have BFGs aimed at it.

Wow, I just remembered how the BFG sounded when you fired it. Ahh the memories it brought back…

I also wonder if a Quake version is going to come out this as well. I have to admit that I was much better at Quake than I ever was on DooM. I was getting my ass handed to me back in the day while playing DooM.

You know this means I need to build a Linux box now just to test this out…

To XP or not to XP

So Microsoft is all up in a tizzy because a great deal of corporations haven’t made the jump to Windows XP. Personally, I don’t see a reason for any company to go this route in the first place and it really is only a huge waste of money in my opinion. Granted, I believe XP is the best OS this company has put out to date, I just don’t see how it could benefit Corporate America anymore than simply going to (or staying on) Windows 2000 on desktops until Longhorn comes out if it lives up to it’s expectations.

First off, let’s talk about machines in a large networked environment. I’ve been to a few large corporations (working and visiting) and many of my friends work at hefty sized companies as well. Most of these establishments do not have machines that can optimally run XP now. It wouldn’t be a shock to still see Pentium 3 500MHz-1GHz boxes in a typical location with not more than 128 MB of RAM on each of them. Win2k can still run fairly well on these machines, but XP? Most people would rather sit next to the guy in Office Space with the red stapler than live through that nightmare.

Second, does XP really offer anything to a user in a corporate networked environment that Win2k can’t? It’s great for home users with the snazzier GUI, nifty n00b wizards, enhanced multimedia capabilities and some fairly robust hardware support. However, in a work environment, that snazzier GUI requires a better machine with a good chunk of RAM. This is money that can be better spent on upgrading back end systems, let’s say to Windows 2003 if you’re on an NT domain (you wouldn’t believe how many of my buddies are still on NT, let alone lots of others corps). Unless you’re in a multimedia type of business, there’s no need for the enhanced multimedia capabilities on the desktop in a work environment, which again would require a beefier system. Then there’s the process of upgrading the system itself. Microsoft operating system upgrades don’t typically behave themselves nicely and more often than not, they do way more damage than good. Thus you’re stuck with a clean install of the OS and unless you’re on a properly maintained Active Directory infrastructure (screwed again if you’re on NT), it will cost more money in terms of man-hours by manually moving important files to share for safe keeping.

Then there are the stability zealots. From my own personal experience, 2000 is just as stable (if not more) than XP. It all stems from the guts of the machine which you are using. Microsoft operating systems (just as much as almost all flavors of Linux) work best on good name brand hardware. Slapping in Jocko brand network cards, Slammo brand video cards, Babaloo brand sound cards into your machine will probably make your box crash regardless of what OS you put on it. I’d say that’s the number one reason of the incompatibility issues many home users have on their computers. Much like in real life, if you save a few bucks to take a shortcut on something, you’re going to pay for it in the long run.

All in all, while XP is definitely a worthy upgrade for a home user, it just does not make sense for business, even with Service Pack 2 waiting right on the horizon. Microsoft has not made it worthwhile enough for someone like me at work to spend the money on the necessary hardware upgrades now to go to an operating system that is not much more different than my current one if I am running 2000. If I’m unfortunate enough to still be on NT, my ass is more worried about upgrading my servers than some measly desktops now…