Friday, August 06, 2004

Reactive vs Proactive IT

you have got a spare server to put this on, haven't you?

I work in a Reactive IT Department. There's no getting away from it. The First Line Support Team has the most staff. We spend our days resetting forgotten passwords, clearing paper jams, rebuilding the OS on crashed machines. We normally hear about new IT projects at the last minute, just as they're about to be installed; "you have got a spare server to put this on, haven't you?". I imagine that, as a department, we're probably pretty poorly thought of.

Everyone thinks that we're sitting on a pile of brand new laptops, PCs and printers just waiting to be deployed to deserving causes. Everyone wants new equipment, but few have the funding to purchase it. We fight an unending battle against spam, viruses, worms, trojans and spyware. "Oh, and could anyone take a look at my home machine when they've got a moment free?"

We have no champion at board level who has even a passing grasp of what IT departments can do. We don't have the resources to properly cope with sickness, annual leave or sudden increases in demand. Sure, we're all multi-skilled. We have to be. It just means that the loss of any one person makes a bigger hole in our capabilities. We can't manage our systems in a proactive way. We have to wait until something breaks.

We also suffer from Geek Syndrome. This is where you have a group of technically competent people with overlapping skills. Everyone is sure that they know best, but to ensure that we can all carry on working together we don't argue, just quietly carry on doing it our own way. If you get a new PC, it could have been set up by any one of half a dozen people, and each one of them would probably configure it in a subtly different way.

We know we're just about getting the minimum possible job done to keep things ticking over. But there doesn't seem to be any way out...

Thursday, July 29, 2004

When It Ain't Broke...

We use login scripts at work. We support a variety of clients, from Win9x up to XP Pro. One of the usefull shortcuts we've been able to use has been the %0 shorthand for the currently running program. We were finding that certain parts of our login script, the parts using %0, weren't running properly, but only on XP Pro clients. I spent quite a while on this, and felt like I was banging my head against a brick wall. Then I found the following: A Logon Script Does Not Work If %0 or %0\..\ Calls Multiple Commands. Apparently, %0 is not required in NT, 2000 or XP, so they decided to change the way it works in XP. Not to drop support for it, just change the way it works. Why do they insist on setting these kinds of booby traps for unwitting sysadmins and developers? Anyway, at least my code wasn't at fault.

[Listening to: Red Blooded Woman - Kylie Minogue - Body Language (04:22)]

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

(Current) Favourite SF Novels

My mum brought me home this book from the grown-ups part of the library when I was too young to borrow books from there myself.

The latest list contains my favourite SF Novels. I may even tell you why I like them...

Star Rangers, by Andre Norton
This was one of the first SF Novels I remember reading.

Tunnel in the Sky, by Robert A. Heinlein
Another early read and a classic RAH juvenille

The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman
Very Hard-SF. Counterpoint to Starship Troopers

HardWired, by Walter John Williams
Alternative Cyberpunk future to Bill Gibson's. Grittier if anything. Watch out for the Snake!

The Mote in God's Eye, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
This has got to be one of the all-time best stories of First Contact. Who can decipher the mystery of the Moties?

Footfall, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
Alien invasion epic which predates Independence Day.

Starship Troopers, by Robert A. Heinlein
A story about Why Men Fight

Time Enough for Love, by Robert A. Heinlein
An interwoven series of tales from the life of Lazarus Long. Worth it for The Tale of the Adopted Daughter

A Fire Upon the Deep, by Vernor Vinge
Want to see the future of the net?

Dune, by Frank Herbert

The God Makers, by Frank Herbert
My mum brought me home this book from the grown-ups part of the library when I was too young to borrow books from there myself. I read this long before Dune.

Cyteen, by C.J. Cherryh
Alliance/Union explored from the viewpoint of the bad guys. Also a murder mystery, a novel of politics and an exploration of the life of clones.

Count Zero, by William Gibson
My first introduction to William Gibson. The middle book of the Sprawl trilogy.

Robocopy Is Your Friend

Posting this from the Windows 2000 Server whilst RoboCopy is backing up 16GB of My Documents including an inordinate amount of MP3s. 16Gb is too much for any backup medium I can afford apart from a second hard drive. Interesting PCW article this month about usinging multiple geographically dispersed locations to hold backups of data. Not sure if you can access PCW articles on line... (Later) Nope, you have to pay for some content, but other stuff just isn't available. Pity.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Favourites: Written SF Series

A meeting with Lazarus Long was inevitable...

The first SF series I every bought was E.E. 'Doc' Smith's Family D'Alembert sequence. Some kindly relative bought me Volume 3, The Clockwork Traitor for Christmas 1977 or thereabouts. I was hooked on the background and the adventures of Jules and Yvette and the Circus of the Galaxy. (Note; It seems that most of the work on the series was done by Stephen Goldin. An original version of The Imperial Stars appears in The Best of E.E. 'Doc' Smith without Goldin's by line.)

Next came more 'Doc' Smith. The Lensmen series. By today's standards the writing is simplistic, but the rip-roaring adventures of Kimball Kinnison and co were just what a boy in his early teens needed. I had a tear in my eye as I read the concluding pages of The Children of the Lens.

Larry Niven came next. His collection Neutron Star lead me to Known Space, Beowulf Shaeffer, Gil 'The Arm' Hamilton, Louis Wu, and the Kzinti. I found The Mote in God's Eye which lead me to Jerry Pournelle and the CoDominium and John Christian Falkenberg.

Somewhere amongst all of this came C.J.Cherryh's Alliance/Union universe, starting with Downbelow Station, then Cyteen and the books that followed.

Robert A. Heinlein's juvenilles had grabbed me with Tunnel in the Sky. When I found the collection The Past Through Tomorrow there was reference to his Future History and I was off and running. A meeting with Lazarus Long was inevitable...

More recently there has been David Webber's Honor Harrington, along with William Gibson's Sprawl series (Neuromancer, Count Zero, Mona Lisa Overdrive). David Feintuch's Hope series is there too.

Oh, yeah. There's also the original Foundation trilogy and the original Dune trilogy.

My most current series is by Walter Jon Williams, called Dread Empire's Fall. So far all I've read is The Praxis. Looking good so far.

Well there's a selection, from Space Opera to Cyberpunk to right wing military SF. Enjoy.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Lists and more Lists

In a vain attempt to personalize this blog I'm adding the kinds of list that seem to be de-rigour: What blogs I read, what print media I read, what I listen to and watch. Some snippets:

Possibly the best Science Fiction movie ever made is coming to DVD here in the UK -- Forbidden Planet according to

If you come into contact with the current versions of Windows (Professional or Server) you ought to have a subscription to Windows & .NET Magazine

The lists will follow shortly...

Friday, July 16, 2004

Another Brave New World

Unfortunately it appears that a 'Wireless Network Broadband Router' doesn't have any innate ability to make the physical connection to ADSL.

Decided to make a move away from my existing setup to a proper LAN (Local Area Network). Up to now I had a semi-networked setup. Two PCs connected by a crossover CAT5 cable sharing the USB ADSL modem using XP's Internet Connection Sharing (and Firewall, of course). My thought was to cover all the bases and buy a box which would combine ADSL, LAN and Wireless. I thought I'd found the solution, a Sitecom WL-122, advertised on the box as a 'Wireless Network Broadband Router'. Unfortunately it appears that a 'Wireless Network Broadband Router' doesn't have any innate ability to make the physical connection to ADSL. For that I need a seperate ADSL modem, one with an ethernet connection. Bought a D-Link DSL-502T in the end. Then found a combined box that did have all the functionality I was looking for for about £80 less than the total I had paid, at Aria. Sigh (actually this is 802.11b whereas the Sitecom box is 802.11g).

By the way. If this reaches the Blogger site then they've finally fixed the FTP bug that was stopping me maintaining the site properly. It would have been nice if they'd let me know. Especially as I had raised a support call with them about it. As long as it works...

[Listening to: Butterfly - Kylie Minogue - Light Years (04:09)]

Monday, May 31, 2004

Try, Try Again

Trying to post from w.bloggar

If it's a Bank Holiday it must be...

Raining. We took the boys down to Ventnor Botanic Gardens anyway. Some other looney parents were there at the playground with their kids. They had a good time on the swings etc. A good place to go if you like plants, or just need a decent small playground.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

FTP and w.bloggar

What gives?

Saturday Afternoon Blues

The boys are at a double birthday party, so I'm here on my own. Hopefully they'll be home soon. Then all chaos will be let loose!! I wouldn't have it any other way.

I'm fiddling with some of the features of w.bloggar. Hopefully there's some media info attached to this post.

[Listening to: Silent Running - Mike & The Mechanics - Hits (Mike and the Mechanics) (06:15)]

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Teething Pains...

Had to turn off archiving in order to get publishing to work. Apparently this is a 'known problem' with new Blogger. Hope they get it fixed soon.

Renewed DNS for today. Hopefully that keeps us up and running for a few more years.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Blogging and RSS and Aggregators, Oh My!

It's a new world.

I've always been a fan of text-based news services. Here in the UK we've had what's know as teletext for quite a while on all of the major TV channels. The advent of digital TV has boosted that to a new 'interactive' level, but the text is what has always been most interesting. Now I find that RSS feeds are out there, and I can combine headlines and articles from any number of news organisations with the highly specialised content a general news service would never carry. RSS, more than any other technology really does seem to allow you to design your own electronic newspaper. Aggregators seem to have a little way to go before they are ready for non-technical users. For more on that see Jon Udell's site and Bloggercon.

There seem to be few real how-to documents for people looking at setting up a blog for the first time. The terminology is a great hurdle.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Brave New World...

Posting using the new style Blogger. Looks like the publishing mechanism is a bit suspect.

Later: Logged a ticket with helpdesk over this. Can I be the only one having 'file exists' problems when publishing?