Blog Archives

Re-Connecting

Lately I’ve been trying to re-connect with some old friends, acquaintences and collegues.  I have successfully re-connected with Kerry who was the first IT person I worked with when I got into the tech world.  We worked on lots of stuff together, computers, running cable, climbing in attics and busting through concrete…  I also got back in touch with Carol who was another of the first IT people I met when I first got into tech.  We worked at the same little IT shop for over a year and did a lot of work for state and local government offices in the area. 

Other contacts I’ve reached are Jim who is an IT director for my home county, and Eddie who was an intern when I worked for county government.  I am still trying to hunt down the IT Director I worked for in my last county job.  I haven’t been able to track down contact info for my old boss, the guy I first started working for at my first IT job, but I’ll find him eventually.  I also recently talked to Jenni who was also in our IT department in my last county job.  I’m still waiting on the low down on whats been going on since I’ve been gone.  Also heard to Chris and a few others. 

Its nice to catch up with people and see what everyone’s been doing.  If you are reading this and know me or used to work with me, please leave me some comments here and re-connect!

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Hard drive faulure … fake out!

Yesterday, Liz tells me that she can’t get into our external hard drive to get to our picture library. This kinda freaks me out since we have nearly 500GB of data on this drive. So I try a few quick things to see if I can get her access to the drive, I see some warnings in the event log about the disk and some transaction log error. I assume the drive is dead or perhaps I unseated some cables when I put in the new processor the other day. So when I got home from work I checked it out, plugged everything in and it came right up the first time, no problems. I’m not sure what happened, but I didn’t have any trouble with the drive, and Liz said she tried the same thing, so I don’t know what happened. Its working ok and our data is safe….for now.

FIOS Update

So now that I’ve had FIOS for several months, I thought I would post an update. Here are my observations so far…

1. I love the ActionTec wireless router that comes with the service. It is a very flexible and fully featured with a firewall, MAC address filtering, port forwarding, and more. I took a little while to adjust to the settings on the router, as you have to click save in more than once place for your settings to be saved and applied, which is a little different, but once you figure out the little neuances of the router, you are good to go! It will do anything and everything I need and more.

2. My only gripe so far, is something that happened when my IP address changed. I had the service for probably over 2 months before my IP changed for the first time. When it did change, my home network lost internet connectivity and my dynamic DNS client was unable to connect to the internet to update my IP. This caused several hours of outage for my home e-mail and internet connectivity. I have not yet had another IP change, so I’m hoping the first time was just a fluke. (NOTE: This won’t be an issue for most people, unless you run DNS for accessing services on your home network like I do).

3. The speeds are consistent and fast, every time I run the Verizon speed test, it comes out over 20MBps down, and nearly 5MBps up, with only slight variations. The bandwidth is exceptional, very fast, and reliable. I have had not real service outages at all and am very pleased with the quality of service I am receiving.

4. In order to optomize the speed your computer will see on the FIOS network, it may be necessary to run the FIOS connection optomizer. This basically changes some TCP/IP settings in the registry to optomize throughput on the FIOS system. These are the same type of settings people have been adjusting since the internet was created, I’ve done it with dialup before, and this is just the most modern way to optomize the connection. Its no big deal, but you will see lower than advertized speeds unless you run the optimizer.

5. The price of the service is comperable to service with other providers in the area, but the speeds are much faster without increasing the cost of the service.

I am overall very pleased with Verizon FIOS service. I highly recommend it to anyone currently using a cable provider. I’ve been a cable user for years, and took a long time to make the decision to switch. I am happy that I did, and will never go back to cable. I would also point out that Verizon offers a 30 day money back guarantee, so you can always give it a try and test it out to see what you think. You can cancel at the service if you don’t want to keep it. Plus then your home will be wired for the service should you decide to use it again in the future.

Server Closet picture

ServerCloset

Pardon the cable mess, but here is a picture of my server closet. I have two domain controlers (PCs on the left) and one Exchange server (HP desktop on the right laying flat). My FIOS router is on the top left on top of the black HP desktop/server. Right next to that is my Road Runner cable modem (Motorola SBG900). On the bottom shelf, I have a Dell Power Connect 16 port 10/100 switch. My vonage router is at the other end of the lower shelf and just above that is a phone (now the only phone connected to Vonage – until I cancel the service). I will be dropping road runner and Vonage this coming week, so the collection of devices will be reduced by 2 and a few cables will be removed.

Issue with Public LAN in Windows – Exchange Clustering

Yesterday I began a demo of a Windows Server 2003 Cluster running an Exchange 2003 virtual server. This is a 2 node active/passive cluster. Everything was fine until I got to the part where I was showing hardware failure and the resulting failover performance. I unplugged the public LAN ethernet cable from the active cluster node. To my dismay and embarrasment the cluster administrator locked up and failover never happened. I was sure I had tested this particular scenario before during the initial setup. After thinking about this a little more I probably tested this with the default cluster during setup, and not after Exchange was up and running. Why would you want to disconnect the public LAN cable right? Well, when tested I discovered that Exchange in a cluster is very sensitive (as it usually is) to losing its public LAN interface. Anytime Exchange (clustered or not) loses connection to AD and DNS, it can hang. Well my problem was cuased by the Exchange 2003 services hanging once public LAN connectivity was lost. I found that the cluster was trying to stop the Exchange services but they were hanging. The cluster can’t failover to the second node until the core Exchange services are stopped and Exchange cluster resources are marked as offline. So because the services were hanging, my cluster would not fail over to the second node.

Read the rest of this entry

Weekend Summary

This weekend was a busy one in Tampa, with lots of things going on. This past Saturday, the Strawberry Festival kicked off. I really want to go and get some fresh strawberry shortcake, its soooooo good! They also sell flats of fresh strawberries for a good price as well. I was going to go down to Plant city and get some yesterday afternoon, but I was pooped and ended up taking a nap. (I must be getting old, I’ve been taking naps almost every weekend lately). It rained most of Saturday evening and night, so we stayed in. Amanda brought the kids over that afternoon (on Sat) and the kids played togther and we (the adults) watched Star Trek Voyager until about 8 or 8:30.

After the kids went to bed Liz and I watched some of the episodes of Monk from Season 5 that we had missed since dropping cable. We sitll have 3 more episodes to go and we’ll be caught up. BSG was new last night, but I have to wait to watch it until it shows up in the newsgroups.

The Great Speaker Hunt

I recently decided that I’d like to replace the older surround sound speakers currently installed on my multimedia PC at home. Since I don’t have cable or DirecTV or any other paid TV Service, I use my multimedia PC to download/watch any shows or movies (not counting DVDs) that I want to see. This works out great for me, and the quality is amazing. My multimedia machine is a 1.8GHz AMD system, with 512MB of RAM, a 400GB hard drive, and Realtek HD Audio processor. I checked out my system specs and found that if I bought a really nice set of surround sound speakers, I’d probably need a new sound card. I like the Realtek HD audio, but the physical outputs on the motherboard are limited. I won’t have enough outputs to power a decent speaker set in 5.1 surround. So I went online and took over an hour to decide on a new sound card. I ended up getting the Creative Audigy EAX PCI. Its not an expensive card, but should deliver good quality 5.1 6 channel audio to my living room. Now the hunt is on for a good speaker set, I want to get something thats 5.1 surround, has 2 right channels, 2 front channels, a center channel/sub. I need something with a remote for volume control. I also want something if possible, on stands, so I won’t have to worry about finding temporary stands or mounting stuff on the wall.

I think I found a few sets on eBay that look pretty nice, and are fairly affordable. I don’t really need a receiver, because I won’t be using it for any radio or with any other inputs. All my multimedia comes from my multimedia PC, so as long as whatever I get connects to my multimedia PC, I’m set. I don’t want to go overboard either, since I won’t be using them to their full potential till we either move to a more secluded area, or the kids are older. We live in a close neighborhood, so I don’t want to make too much noise! I’ll try to put together some kind of diagram and spec listing for my multimedia PC and home theatre system once its complete.

Good weekend

Saturday was a productive day, as I got the CAT5 cable I needed run to my entertainment center. I can now playback video downloaded from my main PC directly on the TV over my home network. I was using wireless before and it was aweful and slow. Its much better now hard wired. I might put the wireless back in the PC and not run another cable at all to the computer desk as I wanted to do earlier. It will be even better when I can replace the older PC currently used for video playback with a nicer machine.]]>

Can't use FIOS :-(

I recently came to the sad realization that I am not going to be able to use FIOS for my home ineternet connection afterall. This is very sad, as I was looking forward to using this new service from Verizon. I was very impressed with their wireless router and the upload speeds, but sadly I will be forced to cancel my account. The issue is that they expire your IP address every 104 minutes, making it a true DHCP (Dynamic IP) network. Where with Road Runner they have a DHCP network, but your IP pretty much never changes. I’ve had RR for almost 2 years, and its only changed once because I got a new cable modem, so it got a new IP address. I checked into using Dynamic DNS services, which the Verizon router supports, but I have more than one domain, so updating my IP with more than one domain would be a problem. Most dynamic DNS services assume you only have one domain to work with at home. I have 3 main domains that I use, and some supporting domains. So I am going to have to stick with Road Runner for now. I am sure there are workarounds I could do, like run the dynamic DNS service clients on my various computers at home and set each one for a different domain, but that is a huge liability in that if one of them doesn’t work right, then mail services for that domain will stop working until I realize what happened and fix it manually. Right now I don’t host any websites on my home network just e-mail, but e-mail is important and I don’t wait any problems with mail flow, I have enough trouble with that at work, I don’t need it at home too.

Multimedia PC

Now that I have a big screen TV and no cable or DirecTV, I discovered a need to connect a PC to my TV to watch shows I download now in HD. I had the grand idea to buy a video card with DVI out and use my mail server (starbuck) to playback video I download from the internet. So I got the video card last night and put in into Starbuck. I was very disappointed to find that there were no drivers from ATI that would work with the card and support Server 2003. So that shot down that idea. The whole reason I wanted to use starbuck was because its a more powerful machine, at almost 2GHz and 1.5GB of RAM. So as a last resort, I took my old backup server (janeway) and reloaded it with Windows XP Pro. I installed the video card and proceeded to setup the machine to be my playback computer. The bad thing is that its dog slow, this thing only has a 667MHz CPU and 512MB of PC100 SDRAM. So I finally got it all setup and drivers installed and connected it to my TV. I had to tweak the video settings and finally got it to where I could see the Desktop on the TV. I installed my codecs and began trying out the video playback. So far it all worked with only one hiccup, its on wireless, and a cheap wireless card at that. So I was copying over a 1GB+ file to playback and the wireless disconnected at 85% of my file copy and I lost it. I gave up around 11:30pm and went to bed. I plan to run cable into a wall jack behind my entertainment center so I can hard wire the connection, rather than rely on flakey wireless. Of what I was able to watch, I think this setup will work for now, but I definately need to get a better machine to use for video playback.