Are you sure…

So, over 2 years ago I posted my last blog here.  in those 27+ months a lot has occurred and a lot of changes have taken place, some for them for the best.  I guess I need to summarise what has been going on since then.

I could run through a million reasons as to why I stopped blogging, mostly due to work commitments and my reluctance to sit and type a long spiel after I got home.  but that should all hopefully change for the better now as long as I keep “to the company line” in regards social media  🙂

I was involved in a lot of stuff in the past 2 years for work, most of it being upgrades and implementations of new technologies like:

  • Installing a virtualised Citrix Xenapp 5 farm to replace an aging and bug riddled Citrix PS4.0 farm with consultants.  our first dabbling with a proper vSphere 4.0 environment and ESX 4 hosts.
  • Upgrading all the 450 odd desktop computers from the old reliable Windows XP images, to a new fresh Windows 7 install using MDT2010 and some physical drive cloning hardware to assist with the remote offices.
  • Changing the companies old ID cards which were hand made, to new hard plastic MiFare encoded professionally printed IDs that were not embarrassing to show during meetings.
  • Rolled out a new Managed Print Service throughout the Organisation to make it a uniformed printer at every office which works, and controllable by the ID cards we had created.
  • Running round half the country to migrate the larger remote offices networks from some old MPLS networks at 256k up to a much improved 2Mb network
  • Implementation of a brand spanking new vSphere 4.1 virtualisation environment, based on Server 2008R2 to replace the old hardware, on some brand new shiney “bits of tin” which were Poweredge R710’s
  • Rolled out a brand new Secure Remote Access solution for the organisation which used RSA tokens and Bitlocker encryption.
  • and many more small projects involving VPNs, Blackberry handsets, training users on some stuff, internal blogs and forums, and the obligatory need to do my own job at the same time.
That’s only a small part of what I actually remember, it has been 2 years of constant motion so I am sure there are smaller things I have missed out but its been interesting in some ways.
But, it all had to come to an end one day…  So on a mild morning at the end of March I went for a job interview with another company in Belfast.  I had been interviewing for a few months previous and they had never came to much, so I didn’t hold out much hope and thought I would go through the motions anyway.  Come the end of April and I received a phone call from their HR Department making me an offer.

My last day of work with my previous company was officially the  25th of May 2012.  8 years and 8 months after I started with them as a lowly temporary employee, which lasted 2 years and 5 months before I got a chance to work full time for them.  We started as a tiny group who had to deal with only 9 servers, and 25 sites throughout Northern Ireland, and it grew in those years to being in excess of 50 physical servers, 46 physical sites and a Disaster Recovery site which saw more disasters than the main office ever did.

So where does that leave me now?  Hopefully being able to blog a bit more  :mrgreen:  and uploading new photos to the newly updated Gallery (which co-incidentally broke a LOT of pictures in very very old blog posts) using a little android app called Xotof   🙂
Lots of things coming up in the future as well, first thing being a trip to Boston in the US with work for a week… lets hope the hotel has decent wifi so I can upload photos and update this blog  😆
Holy crap, that is a wall of text!

What’s that burning smell…

Why do the problems always occur to the company’s major-important systems?

So today, We have fixed another problem with our (PITA) “Case Management System”

but for once, it wasn’t because of Oracle.

(I’m sure the picture to the left has already given you a clue where the fault lay)

So, rolling back a bit to January we moved the back-end of the case management system to an ISCSI SAN.  We used a managed Netgear switch due to Cisco’s own 2960G range being “in constraint” and taking 2+ months to be delivered.

This all ran fine until Wednesday night, when we finally received our two new Cisco Catalyst 2960G-24 switches for the ISCSI Lan.  In they went and reconfigured courtesy of the 3rd party company Novosco (I should really name-drop them here, because they were very helpful throughout :mrgreen: )

Thursday morning, our system was off-line for some unexplainable reason.  We got them involved where some re-jigging went on to get it back up and going on only one server. Our CMS is clustered for disaster situations 😆

Friday night, they were back in with us looking at the over-arching infrastructure… and the top cisco switch was factory reset to start reconfiguring it, only to discover that the unit had failed entirely.  Thats when the lightbulbs came on!

This morning in went the old Netgear switch which was brought back in, and the iscsi san came up first time.  The bottom cisco switch was tested and it came back all OK as well… We had received a faulty top switch 😥
What didn’t  help was that the top switch was the “master” switch of the pair, it explains why fallover and LACP was screwy and things didnt work.

So the faulty switch is on its way back to Novosco’s office with the engineer, and the system is up and operational now, ready for them to use it again on Monday morning using only one switch.

The only question now is, how long until something else breaks and takes down the CMS 🙄  It better not be the other bleeding cisco switch!

You cannot escape

le CrackBerry

le CrackBerry So, that’s another mini-project “started”

At 10am this morning, we started the initial setup of a Blackberry Enterprise solution in with us.  This you would normally think would be dead simple,  Throw in the box and configure it, then open a few ports in a firewall and away you go.

Well, our network is not that simple 😥  Its quite complicated to explain how it works but our connection goes via two other “sections” before it touches the Internet,  so giving us numerous firewalls  to configure to allow the Blackberry solution to even remotely talk externally. I only have authorisation to change 2 physical devices while the rest are managed by individuals in the other sections.

So by 2pm today, our BES solution was able to communicate with the great big world.. and from then the first 2 company Blackberry phones have been activated 😎 So two poor hapless souls here suffer the indignation of having to carry a phone capable of accessing their work emails anywhere and any time.

The good part is, that I am not one of them so far.  And its effectively a pilot to allow the company to “test” the devices.
(truthfully, its the way management are trying to sneak the solution in under the radar so its suddenly available to all who need it later, without having to jump through the many hoops of buying the kit, when its already installed under a pilot)
This should make for an interesting few months then, once I receive the remaining 18 handsets and issue them out to the respective “testers” so they can break them! 🙂

This message was not sent from a blackberry device

Whats that dripping sound?

Server Image

Server ImageHa! Just been informed that our Disaster Recovery site in Antrim is flooded.

So that’s a couple grands worth of equipment fried/dead/BER

What a way to start the weekend 😥

So I now have to finish my lunch (which I was having late today) and drive from Belfast, up to Antrim to “get on the ball” and make sure we don’t lose more kit.

Who says working in IT is boring? 😆

Grabbing Pills!

The Survivors in Left 4 Dead 2

The Survivors in Left 4 Dead 2

Right,  so after many many hours of Left 4 Dead 2 with a few friends on Steam we have came across some interesting facts.  This has been noted on our steam community servers which are running Sourcemod with the country code mod enabled.

  1. The French seem to be the biggest country with “RageQuitters”, but this could be attributed to two situations
    • They don’t communicate with the rest of the team, yes I know french is a language but nearly everyone else uses English or “Pigeon English” to communicate stuff.  being able to shout “CHARGER BEHIND” in voice comms does help stopping you getting raped by said charger
    • some of them only want to play as Infected who win the round, if the survivors make it to the safe room they quit very quickly.
  2. A well co-ordinated team who does well in versus, never gets past the 3rd level due to the ragequits. If a team is losing then there is less effort to actually “win”.
  3. There’s more Aggro going around in-game, especially directed towards the new players (or n00bs as people love to refer to them).  They of course don’t help themselves if they immediately join a versus game when they have never played single player before 🙄
  4. Team Versus is almost as bad as “public” games, if the teams loses a round they allquit. some stuff we’ve noted are:
    • There’s more interest in playing the first level of Dead Center, just for the charger Insta-kill points. (if they fail to kill anyone in their round, they quit)
    • They are quicker to aggro than public games, with accusations flying normally within the 2nd level (again, hard to ever complete a versus game during Team Versus because of this)
    • Some teams take it very very seriously, if they immediately ask if the server your playing has cevo settings you know they are competitive.  They are also the teams who use Ventrilo instead of L4D2’s in-built voice comms (some teams don’t like the seconds delay you get at times)
  5. There is no friendly “banter” between the teams, everythings  taken so severe.  I don’t know if this is because a lot of people seemed to have came across from CS:S more than the original L4D players. (this we’ve noticed more of these players popping up since Christmas time)

It is always funny when playing and you realise someone on the opposing side doesn’t have a microphone, you start to pick on them more because the team can’t exactly react to someones shouts when they have to open a text box and type in “HELP!” 😆

I guess one reason we notice the ragequits more often lately is that we normally play as a “team” together.  Tho most of the times across voice comms our conversations are less about the game and more about random stuff that’s going on, or my cackling 🙂

Again, most of whats noted here has been on our steam community servers (hosted at ) so you may find it completely different on other servers or with other communities.  Just remember tho if the person doesn’t speak in game either they don’t have a microphone, or they’re french!

Insufficient system resources

Shush! 😮

So anyhow I haven’t really been “updating” the site since mid 2008, and its now January 2010 so that’s about a  year and a half of inactivity on the website.. but I haven’t been sitting on my ass doing nothing!
I am going to blame most of the silence on the workload in the office, we have been doing tonnes of work and 4 or 5 major projects since mid 2008.  That and when I get home I normally find myself either watching TV Shows or trying to play Left 4 Dead 2 with friends on the PC. (if you think I’m going to sit and type out stuff on a computer at home after doing that said task for up to 8hrs per day, your sadly mistaken!)

A quick summary of sorts, on the sort of projects and big jobs that have limited me from spending time in the office writing blog posts.

  1. We continued the roll out of PCs across the whole organisation, Changing from the Optiplex 755’s to the newer Optiplex 760s (which have now been superseded by the Optiplex 780s!)  This totalled approx. 44 sites across the whole of Northern Ireland.
    In excess of 400 computers installed, and We used a PGS to do it all.  (PGS is short in our office for the Portable Ghost System which was based around a laptop with a huge HDD, running Ghostcast, DHCP, and anti-virus deployment software)
  2. “We” (read: the consultants as we have jack all Oracle knowledge in our office) completed the upgrade of the company’s Case Management system to Oracle 10g, which has never really fixed the problems we have with locked tables.  But truth be told we didn’t expect it to, it was all done because Oracle 8i isn’t “officially” supported on Server 2003 (hell, its not officially supported full stop now!)
  3. The requirements changed for access to the Case Management system.  We used to take it offline at 8pm at night (3 hrs after business closes) to allow us to get a clean 100% backup of all data nightly.  Since the disaster many years ago (read: Mayday Mayday on the 14th April for more info) we were very paranoid about data integrity. The Company needed to access the system later in the night when emergencies happen.  This meant an upgrade to the SAN ( New Toys! :mrgreen:) to provide Snapshots of the data.  It mans now we have an effective 5minute downtime compared to the previous 12hr downtime.  I like new kit! For any Technical nerds (TDC, I’m looking at you!) its an EMC Clariion AX-4 storage array with about 5tb of theoretical storage
  4. Installed a multitude of new servers, including a Xenserver Host for testing (more will be revealed below) to provide more stuff to the staff in the Company
  5. The Company finally upgraded the old Option 11 Meridian downstairs in “the basement” (Otherwise known as the cubby-hole under the back stairwell) to the new spangly option 11.  This meant we got to bin Meridian Mail (anyone actually remember the old CLI interface you had to bastardise about with to get the damn thing working?) and had a CallPilot system put in its place.  We have IP phones on our desks in here in the office as well as throughout other parts of Headquarters, and an “outer office” which is situated on the end of a 10mb Les circuit using Citrix AND ip phones! best of all there’s no complaints from any of the 9 members of staff (yes, that calculates out at a 1.1mb connection for each of them)

And there is loads more that’s been done, some of which I wont cover because its insignificant

So anyhow, onwards to the future!  We have a few big projects coming up soon as well, the big one happens to be the big V word in IT lately, “Virtualization”
(Now you see why I have installed a Xenserver host on the network!)
The only bad part is that it seems to have opened a can of worms! possible upgrades to Server 2008 R2, Exchange 2007, Office 2007 and Windows 7 in the office have been bandied about a lot. Of course the added benefit of moving your infrastructure to a virtualized environment means you can do these sorts of upgrades during the move to reduce downtime, the effect and any underlying issues.
(Of course, this is overlooked and I’ve heard remarks of going P2V first, then looking at upgrading OS’s and software at a later date… 😕 )

There is also talk of us finally getting what we asked for many years ago, an actual workshop! There’s pictures in my random gallery showing the office which is also our workspace and IT Storeroom.   So for example when a server needs built, its normally stuck on the edge of my desk and wired up to a KVM hidden behind my screen.  So this tiny office where theres 4 people based (we’ve had 5 members of staff since about 2006) will become the workshop, and we get a bigger office to expand into which in this case is so that there’s a desk for the 6th member of staff who starts next week.

Random other stuff now!

In the space of writing this post (It’s taken over 2hrs to compose this so far) I have been interrupted numerous times to fix equipment or servers, or to answer questions from my boss and his boss regarding “stuff”.  but this is like a mega-post so its somewhat expected to take me forever to write 😉

I went and bought myself a small Toshiba NB200 netbook recently, should be easier to carry than my aging Lenovo laptop.  going from a 15.4″ screen down to a 10.1″ screen is a bit awkward but when your reading web pages and typing up stuff its perfectly fine.  just no hope of playing l4d2 on either of those devices! That job stays with my gaming rig at home (Q6600 w/4GB DDr2 ram & HD4870 gfx)
yes I know its getting a bit long in the tooth, but the i7 prices are still bloody ridiculous and it plays the current crop of games fine… just don’t show it a copy of crysis.

I hate how slow transferring images from Bluetooth really is, I’m still waiting for the picture I took of the office to copy across so I can upload it. It should appear in the gallery sometime today (Wednesday)

Anyway, its now Lunchtime in the office and its stopped snowing \o/ time to pop out and grab something nice to eat.
and before anyone asks, no I wont fucking blog what I’m eating later! that’s what twitter is for 😆