Servers & Networks
Gripes, victories, and other discussion centered primarily on server and network related topics
Sunday, October 07, 2007
Jay: Submit the word you see below
Hey comment spammers, fuck off.
The rest of you, disregard this post. I am attempting to mess with the results the manual comment spammers from Ukraine, Russia, or wherever they may lurk, get by searching Google the title of this post in quotes for this domain only. That is why I am marking this post as being in every available category, because then every category should come up as a link in Google that is not a distinct individual post page with comment entry available.
Friday, May 04, 2007
Jay: Server Software
For further explanation why this post exists, see Intro to Experience Dump. This is the section for server software, including operating systems. It overlaps extensively with things I have mentioned elsewhere, and is primarily another way of classifying and discussing some of it. I could be forgetting some…
Windows 2000 Server
Windows 2003 Small Business Server
Windows 2003 Server
Microsoft SQL Server
Microsoft Exchange Server
Microsoft Internet Information Server (IIS)
Microsoft Proxy Server
Veritas Backup Exec
Juris Next Generation
Sybari Antigen and Spam Manager
Do I include that which can be run networked or not, like Lawyer’s Diary, Turbolaw, Peachtree or Wintitle? Does figuring out how to access an old AS/400 from its lone remaining terminal count as a server? When I set out to make a server software category, I thought it would be straightforward. Most of the afterthoughts technically only use data on a server, so really wouldn’t count in the manner I decided Winlaw, local except the SQL Server backend, didn’t count.
My big server OS experience is with NT4. I’ve installed it many times. I’ve run networks using it. I helped run it mixed with Novell, then migrate entirely to NT. The trouble was, I was in an environment where it was used well beyond the point when many had switched to Windows 2000 or 2003 Server, so I feel like I was held back in obsoleteville. Not that NT4 didn’t rock, but sometimes you gotta move on.
Thus I only dealt with Windows 2000 Server in the form of adding it to an NT network as a member server, because NT didn’t support the SATA RAID on the new server. It was never quite right - like one of those “haunted” computers you encounter periodically - and the people administering it now plan to retire it as soon as can be managed.
I setup 2003 SBS for a client and thought it was pretty cool. I also helped migrate another client from a Novell server with a degraded drive to a 2003 server. Finally, I did the preliminary setup of two Windows 2003 servers for the client that had been clinging to NT, and have otherwise worked with them.
I setup a client with the version of Exchange on SBS 2003, and have otherwise worked with that version of Exchange. Mainly I’ve used Exchange 5.5 though. I helped set it up initially, reinstalled it multiple times, and installed it on other servers for subsidiary purposes like enabling a backup agent to work. I administered Exchange 5.5 for a firm of 40 - 52 people from late 1999 through late 2006. During that time, I got the firm onto the internet, adding IMC (internet mail connector) via a proxy server.
Which was also when Proxy Server and IIS came in. IIS was required for OWA (Outlook Web Access), and handy for creating an intranet site for everybody not to use. I helped the client select an upgraded phone system that was T-1 based and included four channels of the T-1 for data. Later we switched providers and doubled the bandwidth. Proxy seemed like the best way to handle it at the time, while also feeding the owner’s desire to know and control what everyone did on the web.
ArcServe was the original backup software. It wasn’t bad, but when I had to rebuild the server the tape drive was in, the media was nowhere to be found. At that point we switched to Veritas Backup Exec, which came hugely recommended and was even easier to use than ArcServe had been. I deployed and redeployed that variously over the years, including when we got a new tape drive on a new server because the old tape drive’s 12 GB capacity became too small for even the most important files.
The IT firm that’s taking over most of the work switched them to EMC Retrospect during the network upgrade, utterly ignoring the existing license for a vastly superior product in order to feed their vendor relationship or whatever. Retrospect, which subsequently became an orphan product for which there are no further release plans, is hands down the worst backup software and quite possibly the hardest to use software of any kind that I have ever encountered. Nonetheless, I have to my dismay used the product, as I had to check and change the selections, and try to figure out whether the time the backups took could be reduced. Backup Exec had been taking around five hours. Retrospect was taking around eighteen hours. Ouch.
Juris was covered under accounting-related software. It is very much server-based, so I included it here as well. I supported the classic version, encouraged them to upgrade to the modern version, worked with them arranging it, deployed the new version, migrated the data from the old version, and supported that from then on.
I tried for many years to get the big client to get a corporate Norton Antivirus (or something like it!) license, which they steadfastly refused to do, even when presented with explicit pricing and ordering information and left to do it… or not. They finally went for it when the people we outsourced the network upgrade to insisted on it, which was correct, notwithstanding again the massaging of their vendor relationships. In the meantime, I dealt with Norton corporate elsewhere.
I did get the big client to adopt Sybari Antigen to scan e-mails for viruses, which was a huge help, given that’s the overwhelming source. Prior to doing even this for protection, there were two major outbreaks. One was e-mail borne. The other was simply “hey, you’re connected to the internet” in nature. There were no major outbreaks after I deployed Antigen, which was the most highly recommended product of its kind. Two years later, we added Spam Manager, which was also superlative until replacing the Exchange server disrupted it.
That should cover at least the most important items that can be called server software, even if something is missing.
Intro to Experience Dump
Word Processing Experience
Spreadsheets and Accounting
Graphics and Presentations
Database and RDBMS
Communications, Internet, PDA, Blogging
Legal Industry Software
Backup and Compression Software
Security, Spam, Malware...
Call Center and Tech Support Tools
Languages and Programming Tools
Employment and College
Experiences and Accomplishments Scratchpad
Friday, April 20, 2007
Jay: IE Slaughters Innocent JPEGs
Speaking of troubleshooting, get a load of this (click for larger):
What is it? That is what a JPEG looks like in Internet Explorer 6 on Deb’s XP machine, as far as we can tell starting after she installed Spybot Search & Destroy, a program I have previously had no reason not to praise and recommend highly.
In Firefox all is fine.
Which makes this only a problem because her feed reader uses IE in the background, and thus renders JPEG files accordingly.
I established it’s JPEG and not GIF, and doesn’t matter if the file is on the internet or opened locally to view with IE.
Clearing temp and temporary internet files didn’t help.
It doesn’t matter if you log on as another user.
There’s no crud causing it, as far as I can tell.
It is not resolved by changing video or Internet Explorer settings.
It’s not resolved by doing a system restore to before the problem started.
It is not even resolved by booting in safe mode with networking, which implies it’s not necessarily an IE/video driver rendering interaction gone wrong as I had assumed. I figured Firefox might use a rendering engine completely independent of system drivers, and IE might lean heavily on whatever the video driver happens to be.
Any thoughts? I did some Google searching, and will no doubt do some more, but since it’s not a showstopper, I thought I’d throw it out here.
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Jay: It’s Very Sad
That Exchange Server 2003 downloading and installing itself an update should confuse Sybari Antigen & Spam Manager so much that the whole thing grinds to a halt, requiring Sybari to be removed, with far more difficulty than that should entail.
Now the question is whether reinstalling Sybari later will leave it all deconfused and functional, or whether the Exchange update will make it forever unhappy.
Why yes, both are Microsoft products. Thus they always play well together…
Monday, December 18, 2006
Jay: Password Expiration Problem
People are being informed in Outlook 2003 and Outlook Web Access that their passwords will expire in so many days, having started at 14, and now at 7 days.
On individual accounts, passwords are set to never expire.
When the problem started, I discovered there was an overriding policy defaulting to expiration every 42 days. I changed that so the domain policy is never expires, and that should have been the end of it.
It’s not. The message still comes up.
So far the only thing I have been finding is how to enable the ability for a user to change passwords remotely through OWA, which is cool, but not what we need.
I posed this problem to a mailing list teaming with experts and got no response. That was surprising. On the off chance anyone knows anything, figured I’d post it here too. If I find a solution, I’ll post that too so maybe the next person searching will find the answer readily.
Thursday, December 07, 2006
Jay: The Server Strikes Back
So I got to the office rather late yesterday, what with this and that, then took care of some of the various issues that had come up, and ended up with some time to kill before I would be able to call the guy about the van.
I was really fretting about the need to setup the HP Digital Sender that’s waiting to go, and though it would be a much bigger than hour or so project, I decided to start going through the settings.
First thing is to tell it an SMTP gateway to use. I could have cheated and told it to use one on the internet, but I had the notion with the upgrade now we had a gateway, or one could easily be setup. It searched for a gateway and found none, so I checked the goofy Windows 2003 configure your server wizard. I can’t begin to imagine why Microsoft thought server tasks ought to be wizarded down. To me it makes everything harder. Of course, they also made mail merges harder in Word 2003 by making them easier, but at least that’s an end user app, even if the end users are more confused by the change than I am.
The option for mail server was not installed. That bullies through a setup of both POP3 and SMTP, without being able to choose one and not the other. Ironically, if you go to add/remove Windows components, it won’t let you install POP if Exchange is installed, and SMTP isn’t even an option.
Turns out Exchange 2003 uses Virtual SMTP. It’s so simple that a default install of Exchange on a server that has internet will basically just work, just already have working internet mail without a bunch of fussing around. And I broke it.
Oh, and it uses SMTP for internal e-mail transport too!
After hours of this and that, I ended up going home at 11:30 PM, ready to drop, defeated, having left the office manager a note and e-mailed people at the place that did the upgrade and therefore knew the settings. Figured they could go in and quickly make the settings right, as eventually it looked to be a matter of settings and all should have been right. Which is why after I started typing this, one of them called to clarify things, and said they might have to call Microsoft support. Doh! I pride myself on never doing that, even though I used to be one of them and still know some of them.
If I have reason to believe I’ll affect something like Exchange, I make sure I have a record of all the settings before I start, assuming they’re not already committed to memory, which I never assumed even after years of working with Exchange 5.5. It’s just a stupid scanner, however sophisticated.
Anyway, gotta do a thing or two and then get out of here. I may as well have stayed at the office, but didn’t think of it until I got partway home. I didn’t sleep much, and when I did I had nightmares, in one case about configuring a server and not being able to get it right.
The good news is I did talk to the van guy last night and agreed to $550. He’ll be home sometime after 2:00 today so I should be able to go pay him and move around vehicles then.
Friday, December 01, 2006
I keep starting to write commentary on what’s happening with work in the
post-apocalyptic post-upgrade world, then having to abandon it because I’m just too busy. It’s very annoying.
After just about four totally unexpected hours today working on a crazy problem initiated by someone (quite reasonably) thinking she could make a setting change to Outlook 2003 herself, I now have to go into work this weekend and spend what I expect to be 2 - 8 hours more on the same problem. Which wouldn’t be worth it, except that it affects the owner of the firm.
And I was already feeling guilty that I planned to take the weekend off except maybe a little research into problems like unstable profile behavior in XP on a 2003 network. Instead I get the same result without the free time.
And the setting the user tried to change was something that was supposed to have been set by the employee of the company we outsourced to who did the bulk of the work on the project, when we split going around to all the machines to make some changes. That’s at least two he left incompletely configured.
I have 41 items explicitly listed in Outlook Tasks, mostly for the big client, not counting really major stuff coming up in the next two months, not counting the odd items that come up as I go and the routine stuff, not counting everything I’ve no doubt forgotten, that combined won’t even think about being less than 80 hours of work.
It’s basically just there, as much of it as I want, and much less of it that will become moot after a while if delayed. The promise of the upgrade - really a series of upgrades that will take us at least to February - is to need me less. I knew that would be more eventual than immediate, but I had no idea how much.
Can you say continuity in light blogging?
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
I swear this backup software has to be one of the most poorly designed programs I have ever encountered. It’s the kind of thing you imagine being made intentionally complicated to keep IT guys well employed and ensure that the technoproles stay in their place.
Which is intriguing, given that it was foisted on my client by the much larger IT services firm we brought in to do the Exchange migration, with a pat on the head there, there, it’ll be much more cost effective than Veritas Backup Exec.
Yeah right. Backup Exec is one of the easiest programs I’ve encountered. Heck, ArcServe wasn’t that bad either.
The big problem is that the backup that took Backup Exec no more than five hours takes over eighteen for Retrospect. So I tried to make changes and that’s when I learned the software is nearly impossible to use. That, and the guy who set it up included upwards of 12 gigabytes of extraneous stuff. Doh.
It’s this and much, much more that’s been keeping me so busy I might as well be invisible to the blogging world.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Is outsourcing an Exchange server migration and many other aspects of a network upgrade, then after the other guys, who by the way would shamelessly love to have the rest of your work for the client, leave the scene, realizing that they installed Exchange on the server you plan to install SQL Server on, rather than the almost identical, except for having a second CPU for which SQL would cost $5000 or so more to license, server purchased expressly for Exchange.
It’s enough to make you write paragraph-length run-on sentences.
And yes, they knew up front, before they even created a proposal, about the distinction between the servers and the ultimate goal, and are the professionals. I didn’t babysit them to make sure they got something so fundamental right.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Jay: Well That Was Fun
The Big Client had what amounted to an e-mail denial of service attack via massive spam and NDR messages generated by same. Made worse by recalcitrant software.
For an entirely different problem, the other day I removed and reinstalled the internet mail connector - IMC - for Exchange 5.5. After doing that, I ran the Exchange Optimizer to have it tell me where it thought things should go on disk, so I could tell it where they really needed to go; namely all on the D drive, not the puny C drive. And I did. It ignored me in part.
So today’s problem was disk full. I deleted 7000-odd queued non-delivery responses from C, ran the optimizer again, convinced it this time, and promptly another 7000-odd needed to be deleted, followed by another 10,000-odd. CPU usage went crazy. It hung when I tried to select and delete stuff. Had to turn off the IMC to delete the queue. After a reboot I found the flood had stopped.
That led me to look for a way to turn off the automatic NDR feature of Exchange 5.5, locating a hotfix touted by but no longer available from Microsoft, finding the hotfix elsewhere, trying to install it and being yelled at for having a build ending in 50 instead of 53. Despite having service pack 4 installed as required. Oh well.
Now perhaps it’ll stay working for a while, despite not having the anti-NDR hotfix…
Sunday, September 24, 2006
I went to the office Friday night and came home late last night, spending a lot of time working on servers, and having people help with prep and maintenance of workstations. Initially it went fine, but in the end, after from-scratch reinstalls of Windows 2003 Server. Then I ended up in the same place; the servers unable to see each other. One of them is also plugged into the internet and sees that fine. One of them is also plugged into the old network and sees that fine. Each other? Not so much.
Yet it worked at first. I was all ready to move into the Exchange setup phase. Which really means doing a bunch of preparatory stuff I don’t yet grok first, because instead of just being a setup, Exchange 2003 setup asks what kind of setup you mean to do and then gives you a checklist of stuff to do for whichever one you choose. This whole Active Directory thing is so whacky. And newfangled! It’s only been around since Windows 2000 Server, after all.
Anyway, I found evidence that the problem might be a matter of registry permissions. I saved investigating that for today, when the last thing I want to do is go back and continue this. I’m a zombie, and that’s after 3 1/2 mugs of strongish coffee.
Meanwhile, I described the situation to a mailing list I am on of people who Know Things. The reply so far is “you’re doing WHAT?! No, don’t!” Which is probably half accurate assessment, and half not realizing what all the details are and imply. For instance, the trust relationship is temporary. On the other hand, apparently trying to have two domain controllers is a Really Bad Thing. Who knew! Maybe it’s way too NT of me, but I assumed having a backup controller would be a Good Thing.
I think I may have to change the configuration again, and ironically doing so may be easiest if I reinstall. Again. But hey, I’m getting closer each time.
It’s also starting to appear that the new network would come off better with one server to do nothing but be the controller, which I had no reason to expect previously, when I assured them they’d bought everything they’ll need for a while. Well, server-wise anyway.
I tried to get Dell to quote me for Microsoft Office licenses and the guy there refused because I should wait until the new release comes out in November. The one that won’t run on most of the computers we have. So ironically another guy at Dell last week notifies us that there is a rebate program from Microsoft if you buy licenses of the current version, and we should hurry to take advantage of it. Doh. Scary that they can offer a rebate of $125 per unit. That implies the licenses are perhaps double or so the cost I might have expected.
Oh well. Apparently writing this helped wake my brain up. Either that or that final(?) half mug off coffee took me over some threshhold in which caffeine trumps dopamine or seratonin or whatever causes the zombie plague. Barely.
Monday, September 18, 2006
Jay: When NICs and Mice Collide
So it turned out that this problem seems to have been caused by either a network card that got subtly fried, or possibly a hardware conflict that shouldn’t really be possible. It started, after all, when I switched from USB to PS/2 mouse, and the server in question acted funny and required a reboot after inexplicably “installing software for the new hardware.”
As of when I left them yesterday, they could ping each other. Previously I was getting one-way pings, which is why I said “subtly fried.” I have to test again when I get there this morning to confirm my findings, and someone pointed out a utility I apparently can use to diagnose it as well. I’m prepared to replace the network card, but for all I know, removing the mouse and forcing the existing primary network card to reinstall will do it.
Of course, I’ve mangled active directory and DNS thinking it was a settings problem, before I noticed event log errors starting at the time I switched mice. It might still be best to start over, armed with what I’ve learned. But we’ll see.
Saturday, September 16, 2006
Jay: Quick, Where’s the Baling Wire and Duct Tape?
So there were these two networks, right? One an old, tired NT4 network in current use, with several servers, the newest on Windows 2000 and acceptable to be a firm part of the new network. The other a new network, two Windows 2003 servers strong.
The trick is, all that is the old network, call it A, must become one with the new network, call it B. The old Exchange 5.5 mailboxes must move to Exchange 2003. The old SDE accounting data and old SQL Server 6.5 document management data must move to SQL Server 2005. The network accounts and computers must move. And so forth, with it done this way because the old and the new are too many versions and years apart for a smooth, in-place upgrade, or for a shaky in-place upgrade leading to a smooth same-network migration. So we setup parallel networks, get everything just so, and the in one massive spurt finalize the move.
That’s a simplified version. In reality, the database parts will come later, and some of the standalone NT stuff will join the new network temporarily.
It’s a whole new world; much more complicated than I’d expected from my limited experience with 2003. Still, I created the new network, had the two servers seeing each other, had one of them seeing the internet but not sharing it yet - speaking of things more complicated that I’d expected - and had the other one also hooked to the old network. It appeared I needed to tweak the network settings of the server that will share the internet, so that plus the internet sharing were next.
So now what? Network B fell to pieces. Network A is fine. Network A and Network B can still see each other, via the Network B server where they intersect. But the two servers of Network B can’t see each other. Argh!!
Sounds all the world like an unplugged network cable, right? Wrong, as far as I can tell. The “hey, a cable is unplugged!” indicator isn’t nagging. Everything is lit up. Maybe a reboot will do it, but if it’s that sensitive, I’m not looking forward to managing it once it’s deployed. Sheesh.
Anywho, I started modifying settings on the rogue server, came down to get the CD it begged for, plus more caffeine, thought I’d e-mail Deb a “look what the stupid thing is doing now” e-mail, and decided to post it instead. Funny thing is, taking a few minutes to describe and gripe about it has made me more confident and hopeful, as is often the case.