Blog Archives

FIOS customers – better DNS solution

If you have Verizon FIOS, and haven’t already customized your router to use better DNS Servers, do yourself a favor and do so asap.  By default Verizon uses “DNS assistance” on their *.*.*.12 DNS servers.  Set your router to use custom DNS servers and change the ending .12 to a .14.  Alternatively, using any of the other official Verizon DNS Servers in the range of 4.2.2.1 through 4.2.2.5 is also a good bet. 

If you don’t customize your DNS, the Verizon DNS assistance configuration can potentially cause issues for Tech Savy users who do VPN, host monitoring, etc.  You are also helping Verizon make more money by being served ads on their DNS assistance page. 

I came across this help link on the Verizon website that will guide you through changing your router config to optomize your DNS settings…

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Recovery from Identity Theft

My own experience with identity theft is nearly over now, but I’ve learned a few things during this experience.  First, its important to keep a close eye on your bank accounts, watching daily activity and looking for unrecognized charges.  In my case I found that the person using my card had my physical card info including the 3 digit number on the back.  So someone either had physical access to my card, or one of the few only vendors that I deal with that actually asks for the 3 digit code had some kind of security breach that they haven’t alerted me to yet.  So keeping an eye on your accounts is really a key element to protecting yourself and putting a stop to things before it gets out of hand. 

Fortunately we use online banking and have for years now, which is not only convenient but normally allows you to setup e-mail alerts and notifications for various levels of monitoring.  We first found that something was wrong by monitoring our checking account and saw some unrecognized charges.  Someone was buying website memberships and hosting services.  They racked up about $200 worth of charges on my account, but I cought it fast and was able to get all the charges refunded by the charging merchants. 

I was not happy with the way my current bank handled the whole situation.  They made me call the merchants and deal with the process of removing the fradulant charges on my own.  Any other bank when you report fraud they would be all over it, and I probably wouldn’t have had to do a thing.  So we now have a new bank and are in the process of switching everything over. 

I checked my credit report and everything looks fine, so far no one has used my information to get a loan or do anything else bad to my credit. 

The long weekend

This is going to be a long post, so be prepared for some reading…

Firday I took a personal day from work to stay home and watch the kids while Liz went to a conference in Orlando. She actually left on Thursday afternoon, but her parents came earlier on Thursday to help with the kids. So I got home on Thursday evening and she was gone 😦 After some settling in, we decided to have soup and grilled-cheese sandwiches for dinner. This is a simple meal, but very tasty (I make a great grilled-cheese sandwich). I had a bit of a crazy time trying to time everything just right, making soup and sandwiches for so many people at once. It turned out good, which I was a little doubtful about since we were one package of soup short of what I thought we’d have. There was plenty for everyone and it was good.

We got the kids in bed on Thursday night and had some fun beforehand playing the wii. Once the kids were in bed, Liz’s parents played the wii and after a while we shut the wii off and watched a movie. We put on Eragon and stayed up late.

Friday morning, after the kids and I had breakfast, we had a wii tournament. I played a few games with the girls, and then Liz’s parents started a bowling competition. They both achieved pro status and had some very good games. They were beating me and I lost some of my pro points.

Then we decided to run out to a store to try to buy a computer for my brother-in-law’s fiance’ We went to Circuit City in New Tampa and looked around (this was while Sarah was in school). We were there for about 2 hours with Michael and Abby actually being pretty good. We found a computer we all agreed was a good one, for about $400 but it didn’t come with a monitor. They had a package deal with it, but the monitor it came with was a bulky CRT.

Kind of kidding, I said they could buy me one of the nice HP flat panel monitors and I would give them my 19″ dell FP at home and give them some money for the upgrade. They agreed and the rep checked inventory, but found they didn’t have any of the computer we picked out in stock. So my mother-in-law asked if they would sell them the display model. The rep agreed and came back with a price around $330 something. We went to check out and they were going to keep the computer for a few hours and re-image it and then have us come back to pick it up. We were about to leave when Liz’s dad found a problem with the receipt. After probably an hour of waiting and adjusting, they just couldn’t get it right. They ended up getting the computer for about $185 and they got an additional $30 discount on the monitor. All in all, they paid around $460 or so for the computer and monitor, which is an awesome deal!

We went to Wendy’s after that since we are all starving and it was around lunch time anyway. I was in a hurry because I wanted to hook up the new monitor. We got to Wendy’s and got in the drive through line, but the line was moving slow. Liz’s mom suggested it would faster if she just went in and ordered. So I pulled out of line into a parking spot. We waited in the car for what felt like 30 minutes, when finally Liz’s dad went in to check out what was taking so long. Turned out they were out of chicken right at noon (go figure) and had to cook more on the spot. We finally got out of there after 12:35pm and made it home to sit down and eat. I fed Michael and got him down for a nap and started setting up the new monitor on the computer desk. At first, it worked, but was blurry, and didn’t have the software installed for the proper resolution or settings. After installing the right software, the DVI output stopped working. When set to the right resolution, the monitor would go into standby, and the display would just stop. I tried everything, uninstalling, safe mode, new drivers, new ATI software, etc. Nothing worked and I ended up taking the video card out of my multimedia computer and reloading my home computer’s OS. Once reloaded with the other video card, there were no problems and things were fine.

So now my multimedia computer is stripped of its video card and is non functional. I ordered a new video card from TigerDirect online, and it should be here sometime mid-week. I got an HIS Radeon 512MB GDDR3 Pro card, with nice specs and enhanced HD support. This should be a major improvement! I was sad to find out later that my power supply in my multimedia machine is only 250W, meaning that the new video card won’t have enough power in that computer. I may end up for now putting the new card in my main computer and taking the original video card that was in the playback computer and put it back in since I know that works. But ultimately, I want to get new power supplies for both computers, a 500W for the main PC, and a 450 for the multimedia computer.

After spending most of the afternoon working on the computers and getting things setup, I began working on setting up the new computer that my in-laws bought. I managed to re-image the computer to factory, and do all the updates and install needed software. Then I moved all their files and settings off the old computer to the new one. Then I cleaned up the old computer and removed all the clutter and made it like new. (Liz’s mom ran home once we got back from CC and got their existing computer). The arrangement ended up being that they got the new computer, and my monitor. Then my brother-in-law’s fiance’ got their computer and exsting 17″ flat panel monitor. So the arrangement worked out well for everyone.

We had Pizza Hut dippin’ strips pizza for dinner, and I also ordered a large half cheese, half pepperoni pan pizza. It was sooooo good, we love the dippin strips, which is only a seasonal thing from what we can tell. I ordered online and had it delivered.

Friday night, we started watching Spiderman 3 and didn’t finish because it was late and the movie was long. So I went to bed around 12:30 something or close to 1am.

Saturday morning we played more wii, and I finished final touches on the computers. Then we started cleaning up the house in preparation for Liz to get home that evening. We had lunch after Liz’s parents left that morning. We got to play more wii and relax a bit before Liz got home. We had the left over pizza for lunch which was still good, we had just enough left to have enough for lunch.

I was just putting the kids to bed when Liz walked in the door. Must have been after 7:30pm and I had just put Michael to bed. So I went and got him back out of bed to say hi to her. I put him down on the floor in his room, and I think he already knew she was home. He ran out of his door and into her arms and just held her for a while. He is such a sweet little boy!

Got all the kids to bed Saturday night, and Liz and I sat on the couch and chatted about our weekends and relaxed a little. It was nice to catch up and fill each other in on all the goings-on of the weekend. She had a great time at her convention and told me all about it. I told her the long story of the computer work for the weekend.

Sunday we had Amanda and her kids over for lunch and the kids got to play for a while and Lizzie and Lina got to play bowling on the wii. Amanda finished a turn for Lizzie, and said it could definately get addictive.

All weekend I had meant to cut the grass, but never found time, I was busy all weekend and never got around to it. Then I took a sick day on Monday because I was getting over some stomach problems that I seemed to pick up over the weekend. I had thought I could try to at least mow the front yard on Monday, but it kept raining on and off all day. It was a weird weather day, it would be sunny outside, but a rain cloud would be over our house, and it would be raining. Sometimes hard rain would come down and it would get grey outside, but then it would stop and the sun would come back out. All day it was like this, so I didn’t get a chance to cut the grass.

Monitor upgrade

Over the weekend, I received a free upgrade to an HP w2007 20″ widescreen LCD flat panel monitor for my home PC. Its a long story which I’ll comment on soon. This is a nice monitor, perfect for multi-use and the things hat we do with our computer. Its got a nice glossy black finish, which I was a little concerned about because it will be used in a shared area of the house, but after some use and testing its actually not bad. It gives images a nice shiny look. It has a 5ms response time and has a 1000:1 contrast ratio. Retail cost was $269.

Computer System upgrades

This weekend I will be doing some computer system upgrades to my home computer systems. Not all of this will be accomplished this weekend, but the following is a list of items I plan to take care of starting today and finishing by mid week next week.

1. Install new memory into main computer, this is 2GB of DDR800 PC6400 DDR2 high performance RAM. Replacing another set of high performance RAM that never did work well with my motherboard, and was only 1GB.

2. Install upgraded CPU for the main computer. Installing new Intel P4 D 3GHz Dual-Core processor, replacing older 3.2GHz HT P4 processor. Slightly less MHz than the old processor, but provides dual-core support and better performance for Vista when we do that upgrade.

3. Install new Processor for the multimedia computer. Installing new AMD Athlon 64 2.4GHz CPU to replace the AMD Semperon 1.8GHz (mobile) chip that is currently in the unit.

4. Install new server computer. I will be adding a Dell Optiplex GX260 SFF desktop class machine as a server to my home network. This will end up powering Active Directory, DNS, DHCP and some other services on my home network. This will replace older and very slow compaq desktop that is on its last leg. This is a 2.4GHz P4, 512MB RAM, 20GB hard drive system, its small, cool and quiet. Perfect for my “server closet”.

In addition, the following upgrades are planned for the coming months…

1. Upgrade existing home photo printer. Currently have HP PhotoSmart 7550. Will be selling this on ebay to purchase new photo printer.

2. Upgrade existing LCD Flat panel monitor. Will be selling existing unit to purchase a new better model, at least 19″.

Software I just love

I just love software from Adventnet, they make such great products such as OpManager, and AdManager Plus! Most of their software is free for a particular amount of users or devices and for me it works out perfectly. I use their software to manage my home network and systems and its free since I don’t have that many systems. If you have a lot of systems or users to manage, then buying the software in its pro version is the way to go. These products all have awesome web interfaces and work really well. I highly recommend to other sysadmin type IT people to check out these various software packages, or even if your a tech savy person who wants something to manage and monitor your computers and network, these products are just awesome. Go to www.adventnet.com and see what I mean

Details on DST patches, Goodlink issues and resulting patch problems.

This post is going to be very technical in nature and hopefully someone will find it useful. This all started because of the patches for Exchange 2003 due to Daylight Saving time updates. Below you will find detailed information on the DST patches, resulting problems I had with Goodlink, permissions issues I encountered, and resulting side effects of a supported fix from Microsoft. I’ll break it down into sections, relating to each type of issue I encountered.

Daylight Saving Patches

After installing DST patches on Exchange 2003, I found myself unable to mount the stores on all of my Exchange 2003 servers. The information store service would start, but none of the stores would mount from ESM. After some researching I found this article from Microsoft that was supposed to fix the problems I encountered. After the 930241 patch was installed, my stores would mount and everything seemed to be working fine. After applying these updates, Exchange seemed to be working fine at the time, all my message tests were good and I didn’t see any obvious signs of a problem.

Goodlink and the Send-As permission

After applying the DST patches and the update from MS KB 930241, I found that my Goodlink devices were not working. At first it was affecting everyone, no one was sending or receiving goodlink messages from their handhelds. I did some checking and found this article on the good.com website. Now on a previous case with Good support, we went through and modified the correct permissions for the Goodadmin account in advance, so that we wouldn’t have this issue. It turned out that some of our Exchange objects were not inherriting permissions correctly, so when we applied the DST patches along with 930241, our goodlink system lost the send as permission required to operate properly. I got on the phone with Good support and we went through and manually reset the permissions again, ensuring that all Exchange objects were inherriting the proper permissions. I had to restart the Exchange services on all 4 servers to make the changes effective, and once done, Goodlink resumed working normally. This all happened between a Firday night and a Saturday morning. So not only do you need to ensure you grant the send-as right in AD to the GoodAdmin account, but I’d strongly recommend making sure you have all the inheritance setup properly for all Exchange objects as well. I think our permission issues were remnants of our setup of a mixed environment with Exchange 5.5 and 2003.

Read the rest of this entry

Home Network Monitoring

I am again using OpManager from Advent Networks for my home network/server monitoring. I only have 3 servers, 2 PCs and some network gear to montior, along with a few websites (URLs) I need to keep an eye on, so this product is perfect for me. Since I’m a windows shop (not that I have anything against other platforms, I’d actually love to throw some Linux in there), this product works perfectly. I can monitor 10 devices for free, I can setup URL monitoring so I can keep tabs on my website uptime and keep detailed history. I can get notified of failures of any system on my network and even website downtime. I have a scheduled downtime window between 10pm and 7am where my desktop PCs are not monitored in case I shut them down for the night. This is an awesome product, with tons of features and amazing functioanlity. Fully supports, WMI, SNMP, custom montior and just some amazing features. I highly recommend it to anyone who needs to keep tabs on their systems, even for over complicated home users like myself.

Exchange Stumper solved finally!!!!!

I use a SPAM filter on my server that has lots of cool options and advanced features and a bunch of extra stuff. One day when I was first setting up the spam filter, I started playing around with mail monitoring rules. Don’t ask me why, but I had setup a test rule that had the conditions configured to copy Liz on any outgoing message sent to verizon.net addresses. I looked at that and could not believe it. I completely forgot about setting that up and it never even occurred to me that the spam filter could be causing it. I had checked every other option in the configuration and simply ignored the rule settings. So now I deleted that stupid rule and what do you know, no more copied messages!

Sometimes in I.T. you encounter things that don’t make any sense. I thought I had discovered some new bug in Exchange or was having issues with my smarthost or something along those lines. I was relieved to find that the problem was totally mine and had to laugh out loud. But ahhhh, another problem solved!]]>

Home Network Rennovations

Having Exchange also necessitates having a backup strategy. So I’ve got another older PC acting as a server with backup software running daily. Then you need a network monitor to keep an eye on Exchange and your network. I’ve got another server keeping track of my servers and network devices. It emails me if anything goes wrong. Then I have my traffic monitor, to monitor network/internet traffic on my home network. It keeps tabs on each device on my network and watches all traffic coming in and out of my internet connection.]]>