Friday, June 22, 2012

Leaps of logic [photo]

The leaps of logic people are willing to make when something goes wrong no longer surprises me.

source: Faildesk
I deal with this sort of thing all the time....


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Transferring Outlook Rules (Cleanly)

"this computer only" was not set on the original computer
Just a simple one here today - have you ever run in to problems with your Outlook rules after transferring a PST from one computer to another?

See, when you create a rule in Outlook, a hidden value in the rule is the computer that the rule was created on, EVEN IF you don't check the option "On this computer only." (That option is more for managing rules in Microsoft Exchange.) This means that even though rules are stored in PST files, if you move a PST to a different computer Outlook will still ignore all your rules and display "(For other computer)" next to them.

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Internet Argument Keyboard?

Biggest CapsLock key ever, or biggest CAPS LOCK key ever?

and that's all I have to say about that...

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Automating a Backup DHCP Server in Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2008

Something that many companies take for granted is their DHCP server. You set one up, and away you go. Even if you really utilize it with reservations, static blocks, extended DNS options, etc... what happens if it crashes? Do you have a backup? Is there an up to date backup with all those reservations and such?

Windows domain computers can still login a few times if your domain controller is unavailable - but they'll still need an IP to get online and perform most of their duties while you deal with why the primary DHCP server is down.

The following discusses creating backups of your Windows Server DHCP server, transferring them to a second server and even automatically enabling the backup if the primary goes down.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Stream multiple computer screens online

The BIG technological hurdle that had to be accomplished for the Headshots from the Heart Marathon was the part that actually turns this into a gaming marathon - we don't want you just watching a webcam feed that shows a bunch of people sitting around playing video games, even with all the extra exciting entertainment and auctions we're going to have going on... we want to bring the action to YOU. We want you to be able to watch us gaming and see every frag we make. In addition to having a webcam that'll show you the hosts and what's going on around us while we play, we're going to be feeding the in-game action DIRECTLY to the stream.

There are a few ways to handle this, and really, it all depends on what exactly you need to setup, and how much money you want to spend.

Just a notice... While I go in-depth in my tutorials, there is a fair amount of stuff here that may be overly technical for some.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Modifying a Borderlands save (to reset the critical kill achievement)

For the Headshots from the Heart Marathon, one of the technical hurdles that we needed to overcome was "What happens if someone hits 2500 kills?"

Background:

See, we're taking pledges determined by the number of critical kills we make. Borderlands keeps track of this for us because there's an achievement to reach 2,500 crit-kills. This presents a few problems:

  1. At 2,500 kills, it no longer displays the current count.
  2. Does it keep counting in the background?
    I had a save with well beyond this number, but that was lost last year when a flood blew up my old computer.
  3. Even if it keeps counting and there was a way to access that from the save file, does it max out at some point?
In the following, I'll cover how we plan to deal with this...

Friday, May 4, 2012

Removing a Twitter Virus

During your travels on Internet, it's very possible that you'll come across a website or two that ask to connect to your Twitter profile. Some of these are so you can use your Twitter identity on social platforms, others so that you can manage your Twitter account through another app, website or mobile device.

Not all these platforms are reputable though, so what happens if you suddenly find yourself spamming viagara ads to all your followers?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Blog-Fu

I've covered a number of topics quite extensively in the past when it comes to tips for websites and blogging.

Rather than repost everything here, I'm just going to link to my other blog:

Thursday, April 26, 2012

User Checklist

I like checklists.. like this one from here: http://faildesk.net/2012/04/25/the-literal-user-guide-aka-34-things/

I've highlighted the issues I've had...

  1. When you call us to have your computer moved, be sure to leave it buried under half a ton of postcards, baby pictures, stuffed animals, dried flowers, bowling trophies and children’s art. We don’t have a life, and we find it deeply moving to catch a fleeting glimpse of yours.
  2. Don’t write anything down. Ever. We can play back the error messages from here.
  3. When an I.T. person says he’s coming right over, go for coffee. That way you won’t be there when we need your password. It’s nothing for us to remember 300 screen saver passwords.
  4. When you call the help desk, state what you want, not what’s keeping you from getting it. We don’t need to know that you can’t get into your mail because your computer won’t power on at all.
  5. When I.T. support sends you an E-Mail with high importance, delete it at once. We’re just testing.
  6. When an I.T. person is eating lunch at his desk, walk right in and spill your guts right out. We exist only to serve.
  7. Send urgent email all in uppercase. The mail server picks it up and flags it as a rush delivery.
  8. When the photocopier doesn’t work, call computer support. There’s electronics in it.
  9. When you’re getting a NO DIAL TONE message at home, call computer support. We can fix your telephone line from here.
  10. When you have a dozen old computer screens to get rid of, call computer support. We’re collectors.
  11. When something’s wrong with your home PC, dump it on an I.T. person’s chair with no name, no phone number and no description of the problem. We love a puzzle.
  12. When an I.T. person tells you that computer screens don’t have cartridges in them, argue. We love a good argument.
  13. When an I.T. person tells you that he’ll be there shortly, reply in a scathing tone of voice : “And just how many weeks do you mean by shortly?”. That motivates us.
  14. When the printer won’t print, re-send the job at least 20 times. Print jobs frequently get sucked into black holes.
  15. When the printer still won’t print after 20 tries, send the job to all 68 printers in the company. One of them is bound to work.
  16. Don’t learn the proper name for anything technical. We know exactly what you mean by “my thingy blew up”.
  17. Don’t use on-line help. On-line help is for wimps.
  18. If the mouse cable keeps knocking down the framed picture of your dog, lift the computer and stuff the cable under it. Mouse cables were designed to have 20kg of computer sitting on top of them.
  19. If the space bar on your keyboard doesn’t work, blame it on the mail upgrade. Keyboards are actually very happy with half a pound of muffin crumbs and nail clippings in them.
  20. When you get a message saying “Are you sure?” click on that Yes button as fast as you can. Hell, if you weren’t sure, you wouldn’t be doing it, would you ?
  21. When you find an I.T. person on the phone with his bank, sit uninvited on the corner of his desk and stare at him until he hangs up. We don’t have any money to speak of anyway.
  22. Feel perfectly free to say things like “I don’t know nothing about that computer crap”. We don’t mind at all hearing our area of professional expertise referred to as crap.
  23. When you need to change the toner cartridge in a printer, call I.T. support. Changing a toner cartridge is an extremely complex task, and Hewlett-Packard recommends that it be performed only by a professional engineer with a master’s degree in nuclear physics.
  24. When you can’t find someone in the government (or any) directory, call I.T. Support.
  25. When you have a lock to pick on an old file cabinet, call I.T. Support. We love to hack.
  26. When something’s the matter with your computer, ask your secretary to call the help desk. We enjoy the challenge of having to deal with a third party who doesn’t know anything about the problem.
  27. When you receive a 30mb (huge) movie file, send it to everyone as a mail attachment. We’ve got lots of disk space on that mail server.
  28. Don’t even think of breaking large print jobs down into smaller chunks. Somebody else might get a chance to squeeze a memo into the queue.
  29. When an I.T. person gets on the elevator pushing $100,000 worth of computer equipment on a cart, ask in a very loud voice: “Good grief, you take the elevator to go DOWN one floor?!?” That’s another one that cracks us up no end.
  30. When you lose your car keys, send an email to the entire company. People out in Birmingham like to keep abreast of what’s going on.
  31. When you bump into an I.T. person at the grocery store on a Saturday, ask a computer question. We do weekends.
  32. Don’t bother to tell us when you move computers around on your own. Computer names are just a cosmetic feature.
  33. When you bring your own personal home PC for repair at the office, leave the documentation at home. We’ll find all the settings and drivers somewhere.
  34. In no way do we believe that end-users are ungrateful. It hurts our feelings that one could even think such a thing on the basis of the above statements. In truth we wish to express our deepest gratitude to the hundreds of wonderful end-users portrayed herein, without whom none of this would have been remotely possible.
Yeah, that's a lot of headaches over the years... how do you do?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Changing the text colour in the Blogger Twitter Widget

 If you're like me, and use non-standard colours on your blog, then you might find that some of the widgets you want to add, just don't work.

This solution works for Twitter, but you might find it works for other services.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Feedburner Socialize Hack

 Google Feedburner used to offer a "Socialize" feature (under the "Publicize" section) for blogs that would connect to your Twitter and automatically tweet links to all new blog posts for you. It was a great way to advertise your blog to people who may not follow your RSS or are glancing at your Twitter feed.

As of the writing of this post, this service has been removed from Feedburner, but still works. Who knows if Google's planning on getting rid of it in the future? But for now, here's how to use it yourself...

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Spam Bot Poetry

Behind a full computer prevails the abolition adult. Why does the enlightening blanket succeed underneath a butter? The religion mends with the fear! The tongue snacks after a satellite. How can a handful pose an important tome? The penny liberal enlarges the bat in the perceived snow.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Securely boot a computer with auto-login


There are plenty of situations where you'll want to ensure a program starts when the computer does. Best case scenario, these programs start as a Service... meaning, they'll run in the background as soon as the computer hits Windows and BEFORE you log in. Unfortunately, there's plenty of specialty software out there that doesn't run as a service, and requires a user to log in for it to start. (From the "Start Up" folder, registry, wherever)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Facebook LIKE fixed

I noticed the "Like" button for some reason switched back to Wargaming Tradecraft's FB page for some reason... That's fixed now, so feel free to LIKE Tech Tradecraft and visit the FB page, ask a Q or 2.

Friday, March 30, 2012

winmail.dat can DIAF

pretty much how those couple weeks felt...
Situation:

A user is reporting that when they receive emails from someone, all they see is "winmail.dat".

They've had files resent, but they still shows up like that.

There's a good chance that they only show up as "winmail.dat" when receiving emails from this one user, or maybe a couple.

The problem could even be intermittent, making it extremely difficult to track down.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Spam Bot Poetry

The efficient pulp reads a suspect token. Why can't the eastern digest stumble before A Mad Mom? The wizard hesitates. A Mad Mom chews after a cooling broadcast. The hysterical symmetry transforms A Mad Mom. The stunned mystic stretches.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Mounting objects to fragile surfaces

There may come a time when you need to mount something to some ceiling tiles.

You know the ones... white and pock-marked... make a huge mess any time you have to move them... always end up with one corner out of place, taunting you...

Very fragile...

Of course, this'll work on other fragile or soft surfaces.


The solution is a pretty simple though, so I'll quickly throw a little walk-through up here.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spam Bot Poetry

Across girls prevails an agony. Girls damages the correspondence. Girls illustrates the wind after the socket. A daylight rolls behind whatever correspondent carrier. The delight relaxes throughout the constrained news.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Fast, Cheap or Good - Pick 2

We techs know all too well the demands of our jobs, working with limited resources, that when it rains it pours and sometimes there isn't time to play catch up after a marathon of maintenance. In an ideal situation, we'd have the staff, the money and the time to properly plan, test, implement, clean up and document our projects while still maintaining our existing responsibilities.

In reality, we don't usually have these resources or personnel, and as such, I'll direct you to the following diagram:

an old concept, not mine, just re-imagined
Most projects can be handled by this theory.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Descriptive History of Me

For some time, I've been writing hobby tutorials at my first blog, Wargaming Tradecraft, and it's been a great time. I've enjoyed interacting with and learning from those involved in the hobby and sharing my knowledge so that others can benefit from what I've learned throughout the years. Apparently I have the ability to share my skills with others and help them learn.

Now, painting wasn't my first interest, nor was it the one I've followed through with as a career. No, that lies in the very broad "technology" field... "jack-of-all, master-of-none" you could say, which works just fine for me.

Those things lead us here. Technology doesn't always work the way it's supposed to, and there aren't always easy solutions to problems. Other times, the solution is just out of reach... easy, but tricky to figure out. (Often because of poor documentation) Tech's not always logical. As such... this leads me to researching or developing solutions to difficult hurdles. I want to place these methods in the cloud, both complicated and easy ones, have them crawled by the engines and make them available to anyone else who might be searching for a way through their own issues.

I'm not going to commit to any kind of schedule and there won't be regular weekly updates, because I don't want this to take away from the effort I put into Wargaming Tradecraft. Mostly, this will become my notebook of technology solutions and the occasional essay - but while I'm not going to seek out problems to solve, feel free to send me an eMail and maybe I can lend a hand... hopefully you don't mind me sharing the solution for others in your shoes. I also invite you to follow my RSS Feed or sign up for RSS by eMail.





By now you might be asking yourselves "Why should I listen to this guy?" and "What kind of technology is he talking about?"

So a little background...

Test Drive, circa 1987
I've been using computers since I was just a kid... it began with video games like Diamond Mine, Beer Run and Dino Eggs on an Apple clone, and moved up to a both time wasters (such as Test Drive, Shark Hunt and some time-travelling dinosaur creator like Spore but in DOS) and educational games (like Sesame Street, Reader Rabbit and Treasure Mountain) on a PC. I remember my parents upgrading the RAM in our computer and still only having single digit megabytes. Before I was 10, I wrote little batch-file programs to make my sound card talk, and had a small stack of boot disks where I had rewritten the autoexec.bat and command.sys (old computer start-up code) to change memory allocation so higher end games (Like World of Lemmings) would run better. I know the hell of installing Windows 3.11 and Microsoft Office from a stack of disks the length of your hand. I was lucky to have parents who not only had and upgraded their computers, but encouraged me to explore them with the attitude "If something goes wrong, we'll just reinstall." While my dad would show me bits of BASIC and Command Scripts or how to navigate DOS and Norton Commander, my mom would spend hours helping me in figuring out and map making in Hero's Quest, 7th Guest, Sam and Max, etc.

In school, I chose the options that led me down the tech tree, (BASIC, VB3, COBOL, VB5/6) and switched high-schools at one point because the first one only offered up to VB3 with a teacher who couldn't even copy code out of her text-book, while the second had advanced courses and even allowed a friend and I to grab a silver at the local Skill Canada competition for 3D Studio Max. (Just a few points shy of the gold-winners who cheated using pre-made textures and models)

I took a year off before college to work, selling computers and business machines at a big box store and learned the importance of customer service... offering solutions, instead of just listing a bunch of confusing options.
(Yes, I was asked for wires for a wireless network once... same guy who told me and his skeptical wife he'd be fine with just a wired router, before returning to exchange for a wireless one after he drilled a hole through the kitchen's AC lines)

College was somewhat of a disappointment, though after 3 years I didn't come away completely empty handed. Between entire courses on navigating Windows Explorer and how to copy and paste, I had coding cleanly and commenting hammered in to me, and I learned a few things about having to work with other people and sleep deprivation.


  At the end of, and after college, I went through the standard initiation rights of working for an internet help desk... (mostly residential, though I became one of the few res guys allowed to help corporate customers) through painful calls during blackouts ("I was told to call if the lights on the boxy thing ever went out.") to amusing ones. ("How can I click on Your Computer?")

This reinforced the fact that it's OK for other people to be clueless about computers - that's why people like me have jobs... just like I give my money to a mechanic when most things go wrong with my car. Some techs really got frustrated while trying to walk people through what "we" considered easy steps, but getting upset or putting calls on hold to yell at a phone isn't going to help anyone. (Especially when the guy next to me would vent so loudly that my customer would overhear his profanity) All I expect is for people to listen when I ask them to do something, and to not be belligerent when I'm trying to help.

My search for a real job had it's down points...a lot of them actually... not hearing back from most of the companies I contacted, and getting responses like "Are you qualified to drive around our offices to change printer toner?" Then, I finally got my break - two of them actually, at the same time. One of the interviews was at the local branch of one of Canada's largest media broadcasters, the other... Microsoft. I think I'll save the details on my reasoning for a later post, but I ended up staying local and accepting a job as an assistant radio engineer.

Something's wrong here...
I worked that job for 5 solid years, and learned / branched out more than I thought I could in such a short time. I had an incredible boss who I credit with most of what I learned while there - he taught me plenty, directed me down paths that would challenge myself, and gave me the freedom to explore my own projects.

From routine maintenance, studio rebuilds, server failures, implementing / tweaking very custom software and operating mixers during live performances of the occasional band to emergency work in the dead of winter [pic left] and even the demolition and decommissioning of an old site. [video]

Me with Great Big Sea
During this time, I also took up a part-time position as the chief engineer at Canada's first community radio station for a few years. There's a big difference between a big corporation and a non-profit. This was another great experience, as I learned about budgeting time and equipment with limited resources.. but that's a tale for another post.

I mostly knew computers with a little electrical going in to that job... I came out with such a vast array of knowledge not just with computers, business domains and Linux, but wiring, audio, transmitters, I/O control and remote monitoring, vehicle repair, building, physical labour.. well, I could keep going on. I thrived on the fact that each and every day meant new and different projects, rather than sitting at the same desk with the same thing up on my screen, day-in, day-out.

I was sad to leave, but a position at my current job opened up which was quite a step up from my old one. Not chief engineer yet, but sites and responsibilities that requires me to take a larger role in the day to day operations of originally one, now two, offices and more transmitter sites than you can shake a yagi at.




Finally, I just want to say that issues I might detail here shouldn't reflect negatively on businesses. We should also be aware that since tech doesn't like to behave the way it should, there's never one solution to a problem, and just because something works for me, doesn't mean it'll work for you. However, I'm a firm believer in doing a job right the first time, rather than placing bandages on problems. For this reason, I hope to post mostly solutions here that are just that... solutions. Sometimes, shortcuts are required temporarily (especially when something fails and time costs money) and I'll share those too - but please don't look down on me for them.

And with that, I'll sign off for now. If you're familiar with Wargaming Tradecraft, you can expect posts with the same level of quality and detail, so stick around.



Identifying devices on a switch (Without tracing wires)

Situation:

You've got a bunch of computers and a bunch of network switches, but for some reason are unable to physically follow the wires connecting the two. For example, the wires could be going through walls or conduits and aren't labelled.

Requirements:

This solution hinges on the fact that your switches are the managed kind. That means they've got a little processing power and some sort of interface you can log in to.