andygates: (Default)
I love remote-control software.  Partly because it just geeks me out, and partly because it's a useful tool in my work (yawn) but mostly because it means I can stay in my pit and not get exposed to all the horrible diseases our patients carry.

But nothing stays the same and our licences for the current stuff are coming to an end.  Our shiny MS tools (hella expensive but we already have them) have remote desktop in 'em, but it fails at one of the standard operations we do: Log the user off, log on with local admin rights, install stuff, then let the user log on and test while we watch.  MS, they don't keep the session up during the logged-off stage.  Ambassador, with this epic fail you are really spoiling us.

What do you nerdy chaps use?  We've got over 5000 desktops, mostly XP with a scrag of 2000, a handful of 7.  The scale of our kit makes per-machine licensing painful, especially In These Troubled Times, so I'm thinking UltraVNC.  
andygates: (Default)
"We need an icon for swine flu on the internal patient track-o-matic."

Wow.  Never have I been so productive.  Let the wards be filled with little cartoon piggies. 

andygates: (Default)
Namespaces.  They're common in IT - things like "the people who use this service" have names according to a consistent formula, like BillG at Microsoft, because to do it otherwise is madness.  When you have several namespaces, it's important that they don't clash.  One set of username servers here, for example, had Andrew_G; the other GatesA.  Each service had a user drive that was named after the username.

Two years ago, the Powers that Be decided that the old Andrew_G naming rule was fuddy-duddy and embarassing, and changed midflight to the new rule. 

Can you spot the schoolboy error?  It's absolutely fine as long as none of the services ever mash up.  Because if they do, say, when politics or scalability make it necessary, then some poor sod has to grovel around in thousands of 'em unpicking the ones that don't mash right.  One namespace's Fred Bloggs, Fred_B, would go fine alongside the other's BloggsF, Ferdinand Bloggs.  But when you change rules midflight, we've got BloggsF's on both services - and a hairball of rules as to which one becomes BloggsFe or BloggsFr, and then one of the buggers will probably leave, and -- gah!

I warned them about this hairball two years ago!

Namespaces: One instance where "stay the course" isn't boneheaded.
andygates: (Default)
It's entertaining watching the story emerge from the (garbled) details of a helpdesk call.  "Mai printer is borken!", for example, becomes: Dr Moustache decides that the default password on a device is silly, and changes it; he also changes the default accounting code, thinking they're the same. He goes skiing in Whistler before telling anyone (it won't matter, after all, only he needs to know).  The accounting code, having changed, now causes all prints to be dropped as from a mismatched account - hence the user's call - and we check the server-side accounting widgets before attending, only to discover this admin password change.  To reset the password requires a suppliers' engineer to visit, which is covered on our support contract -- except that the contract hasn't been paid, and the person who can pay it off, he's waxing his skis and 'tache up on the Big Red Express in the lovely fresh powder until the new year.

Users.  Love 'em.
andygates: (Default)
Been working from home today, a spot of overtime moving user shares from one (old, stuffed, wheezy) server to another (new, fast, capacious).  The data, as is data's wont, is old and crufty, full of illegal filenames and impossible permissions dating back to 2002: half a terabyte of the worst of the worst - and by crikey, the whole gruesome job went according to plan.  And the overtime will pay for the trip to Jay (who just won a convention comp) for more ink next weekend.  Sweet.
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The mood at work is a'changin - we have many bike riders among the on-call IT crew and the on-call pack is a huge, gruesome albatross (big, heavy old laptop, a sack of magic string, phone and more magic string, pager, docs, it's the weight of a medicine ball with none of the joy.  We're after a change.

Our on-call needs are simple and generic: get called, get online, and VPN onto the work network, then use Remote Desktop to piggyback around from server to server.  3G or wifi is needed to get online without suckage.  We need to be able to run the Cisco VPN client, which is available for Windows / Mac / Linux.  Some of the options we're thinking about:
  1. A Windows smartphone.  Not used one myself, but IIRC there are flisters who've been using things like the Nokia Communicator and its descendents for ever.  Can they run full-fat Windows apps these days? 
  2. An Asus EEE or similar little netbook.  3G is the issue here, I think. 
  3. Can you bludgeon the Cisco VPN client into working on an iPhone?  I know there's Remote Desktops for it... The boss is a sucker for shiny objects (and so am I).
Input welcome!
andygates: (Default)
Our new Cisco VPN client is a parallel-tunneling sort of creature.  This means that while I am securely and be-dongledly plumbed into the NHS N3 network, RDP'd onto a bridgehead machine and then RDP'd onto a couple more after that, I'm also able to use regular internet.  Compared to the last VPN client we had, which hijacked the whole line, this is joy unbounded, for it means that I can carry on with my daily surf while searching entire umpty-terabyte SANs for the furtive logs of sulky patient booking systems, while waiting for their support agents to phone.  Why we picked a product with support agents in New Zealand (GMT+12! woot!) is beyond me, but at least I can get my pr0n empowering and improving web literature now.
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I work second-line support.  I rely on the Helpdesk to log calls, deal with the chaff, and send me reasonably intelligble problems which are within my remit to fix. 

andygates: (Default)
After yesterday's musing over user-generated movie content, a thought has struck me.  It might be a turkey, it might not, but I can't help wondering if user movies would be more manageable, more accessible and more controllable if they were hosted in a streaming context - an intranet Youtube.  By having a place for legit movies we might even be able to social-engineer the idea that your wedding and that damn puppy aren't meant to be at work.

Has anyone implemented a streaming movie setup at work?  What did you use, how hard was it to do and how brutally did it hammer your resources (or budget!)
andygates: (Default)
It's naughty-file-police season again and a landmark has been passed: for the first time, home movies are responsible for more naughtiness [1] than ripped music.  User-created media content finally has more weight on my servers than non-user stuff; even after we strip out the holiday and wedding movies (and the babies, and puppies, and cake-candle moments, dear gods the warm fuzzy banality of it) the rest of the user-content is a big thick wodge of data.  Of course if it's simple to video your puppy on your mobile, it's just as simple to video a knee arthroplasty and use it as a teaching aid.  Or to record a dull presentation for later cramming.  Rich multimedia content is now officially mainstream.

However, users have no idea of file size.  None whatsover.  "It's just a couple of pictures" is a common and honest response to "your AVIs are ginormous and bloated, you hideous time-wasting harridan".  What's 25Mb between friends?  What's, er, 6Gb in the worst case? (great holiday though, you should see the photos of those giant tortoises)  Icons don't present the impression of file size.  If you wanted to scale them to reflect file size, you'd have to use a log scale just to keep it sane, and it would still look absurd.  A "thing" is a "thing" is a "thing", whether it's a saved email or a Word document or a picture or a movie; saved emails are often the worst, all fat with embedded Powerpoint hunky firemen. 

Frankly, with storage generally cheap and huge, I think this is a good thing.  Freedom to play invites new ideas - users wouldn't have thought about videoing their knee arthroscopies if they hadn't first done Kitteh's First Snowflake beforehand and for this reason I continue to like our no-quotas approach.  So bring on the buckets of storage.  But... can I have some more disks, please?

[1] Methodology: report out all likely file types, eg MP3, MPG, AVI, and the like.  Eyeball the list.  Slap the sinners, give them a grace period, then delete the files.  Traditionally, one gets 60% "oops sorry!" 20% "how did that get there?" and 5% "how dare you peek in my private files?" with the rest non-responding.
andygates: (Default)
Well now, there's a thing.  Next week I'm the mail guy.  The other two main mail guys are off, and so is the demi-mail girl.  The team-leader go-to guy is off for half the week too.  We have a gazillion mail users local and remote, and I'm the new guy.  Real "So X, just how is our mail set up?" and "Hey Y, what are the sending limits again?" levels of newness. 

I don't actually mind carrying the thing.  Baptism-by-fire is a kinky sort of geek adrenaline sport and nothing trains a chap up better than some long hard days in the saddle.  But I'm appalled that such an important service, with so many things to go wrong and so many quirks and wrinkles, is being left to the new guy alone.  That's unprofessional to our users, and that does piss me off.


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