Category Archives: IT

The things people leave behind

I’m on the way back to Melbourne now from my trip to Sydney.

Waiting at the Qantas Club waiting for my flight, I’m using a public computer to logon and check my email. (Laptop battery flat because I surrendered my power pack to a staff member who forgot theirs)

it’s interesting (but not surprising) to see the documents people have downloaded onto this public terminal but not deleted.
I did go looking for them but merely stumbled upon them when saving a temp document (nothing sensitive) myself.

Dividend reports, names and addresses, they’re all there.

Would you really want to trust a public terminal with private and confidential information?

This is also possibly a bad reflection on Qantas. They should have a more stringent cleanout policy in place to reset a system after use.

My advise:
-where possible, don’t use a public terminal
-never log into sensitive sites such as financial sites
-if you must, it must be secure, not clear text.
-where possible, use a web based service to access files. Citrix if your company offers it, that way no data leaves the corporate network.
-if you have to download files to the public machine, know where you save them and delete them. Directly opening a file from a browser will open the file from a temporary location you may not be able to find or delete. (Although it should get cleaned out)
-Always restart the computer when you are finished.
Many cleanout routines only take effect on a reboot and not a logoff.

Day 4?

Well I think it’s day 4 of laptop rollout.

16 units imaged, configured and ready to start going to staff tomorrow.

Steps so far

1) Pxe boot & image
2) Install Altiris client off USB key
3) Post Image script & Driver install Job. (Altiris)
4) Software install jobs (Altiris)

There are a few other nagging bits and pieces I hope finish scripting.

The corner pile of laptop boxes disappeared but have been replaced with the stands and docks.

Dick Smith Electronics rant

I’ve been at a client’s place doing software upgrades on all his pc’s.

To make life easier, I thought I’d reconfigure a printer to use it’s network ability, but was short a network cable.

The nearest place at 4:30 on a Saturday of course was DSE.

$15 for a 1m network cable!
Actually, I wasn’t surprised, but still that’s pretty good consumer ripoff work.
(3m cable was $25)

Here’s an idea. Get rid of the fancy plastic packaging (which will be better for the enviroment anyway) and have plain or almost non existant packaging. $8 maybe? (And that’s still making a big profit)

My cardboard Fort

Well, he new computers have finally arrived. My office now looks like a child’s cardboard fort creation.

IMG00023-20091023-1948 

This is only half of the boxes. There’s still the docking stations, notebooks stands and external monitors down in the loading dock.

I have managed to create a universal image to deploy to my machines. It’s not perfect, but will work.

Due to Windows 7’s relatively good native hardware support out of the box, so long as your platform stays the same (Intel or AMD) you can use the same image.
I use Altiris Deployment Server to do the actual imaging and then deployment, making use of PXE booting to a WinPE image.
It loads the Altiris client which I then assign the imaging task to. Completes in 5 minutes.

I do then have a USB key which I plug in and run batch script to delete the local user account used for initial image setup and also load the Altiris client (seems to have vanished after Sysprep).
From here on in, it’s all hands off. Every software application and Dell driver package is a scripted task.
I simply grab appropriate software that a staff member needs as well as drivers to suit the model of laptop and assign to be deployed to that unit. (along with joining the domain and naming the computer).

Well, this is all tested with our demo models. Let’s see how it goes in practice from Monday.

Windows 7 in the Enterprise

Laptops were due for replacement at work this year so that gave me a few choices when it came to OS.
Stick with Windows XP, take a chance with Vista or bite the bullet and go straight to 7. After playing with both Beta editions and RC editions I’ve  settled on the 7 option.

For most IT people, the idea of deploying a new operating system when it’s first released is probably never really considered as a good option.
After playing with 7 on my domain for a few months, I haven’t found any reason I shouldn’t be doing this. It appears stable, doesn’t appear to be causing any compatibility or interoperability issues and has a raft of benefits over Windows XP (well there is 6 or so years between them)

As I never had to deploy Vista, working with sysprep and unattended settings files in 7 is proving to be a little bit of a challenge.
Gone are the days of a simple and straight forward GUI to generate an unattended setup file.
Microsoft does have tools like the AIK and Deployment Toolkit but these still require a large amount of reading and research to understand how they work and how to use them.
Maybe there is a good 3rd party tool out there I haven’t found yet.

One strange thing that Microsoft appears to have done with 7, is removed the ability to copy a user profile over the default user profile.
You’d commonly do this after you had customized a user profile with icons / toolbar / program settings that you want every new user logon to receive when they first logon.
I did just find a setting in sysprep that may get around this.

Anyway, my challenge for today is to have an image completed ready for deployment on the 46 new laptops which are about to land in my office.

Sydney

For the past two days I’ve been working in Sydney.

I shipped the old HP R3000xr UPS from Melbourne and bought 30 new batteries to suit. After reassembling the battery packs and making a quick hack saw assisted modification to some rack rails, it was mounted and running.
(Tip of the day, buy the $30 hack saw, not the $19 hack saw. Grr.)

I now have a fantastic 2 hours of runtime for the lone server, network switch, telephones and alarm system.
A little bit overkill, but good considering there may be bigger plans for Sydney in the future.

Whilst in Sydney I managed to squeeze in two other meetings.
Meeting one was with the Sydney Opera House (SOH).
They have three locations for there IT infrastructure, one of them being the same building we’re in. All linked by fibre and 802.11g (pringles can accross Circular Quay).

We plan to bridge our networks to provide permanent network access for the 7 week periods we call the SOH home twice a year. Benifits will include a faster reliable connection to the office, no ongoing costs and possibly less setup time.

My second meeting was with Chris from Dell.
I’m in the process of deciding on prefered vendor and models of my laptop fleet (about 50 units).
As Dell is based in Sydney, Chris kindly offered to show me around their offices. It was a very worthwhile and interesting tour. They have a staff of about 450 over two floors, all setup in cubicle arrangements (ala Dilbert style). Even the managers I was introduced to were part of the same cubicles.
The most important part of the tour was the ProSupport area. Dell is one of the few global IT companys to have a local support precence in Australia. Their level 1 standard support is still based offshore, but they offer ProSupport which is 2 level direct support which is exactly what I’m after.

Good to see real people in Australia with real experience (min 5 years) all cross trained.

As I said, worthwhile visit.

Now to make a decision of what to buy..

a new physical home

I’ve moved to a new rental property much nicer than my last.

I’ve also resetup my office (obviously) and found enough parts in the move to build a new computer.

thanks to Stephen, Phong and a few others for assistance with the 6m lazy susan.

And, final got WordPress on the Blackberry. Thanks guys at WordPress for finaly writing an app for Blackberry, but still no app for WinMo.

My phone crashed but recovered with My Phone

My i-mate Ultimate 9502 decided to have a really bad day today and pretend it didn’t have a touch screen or any buttons.

After searching the web and finally calling i-mate support (which was pretty quick and painless – amazingly), I had to perform a hard reset.
This restores the device to original factory state wiping and user data.

Now this is not such a big issue as most of my data is stored on the micro-SD card within the phone, and contacts, email, calendar & tasks all sync to Exchange over the air.
The outstanding items are SMS & MMS messages & any photos and videos inadvertently stored on the inbuilt storage.

Luckily I have been trying out the Microsoft My Phone beta service.
Well I had been till I uninstalled it from the device (but not closed the account) a month ago.

The My Phone service is basically just a backup service for your Windows Mobile based device.

image
So, it’s time to put My Phone to the test.
In theory I should be able to restore any SMS’s I really want along with anything else.

I’ll also try and set activesync up again without plugging it into my PC.

I guess after this, I might re-enable My Phone on the device as next time the memory card might fail or the phone might be stolen.
At least then I can restore SMS along with the contents of the memory card.

The other option would be to backup the phone to my PC more often..

change, not for the sake of change.

Well, it’s become clear that my current IT setup away from the office is no longer fulfilling the requirements.

At present I have a SBS2008 which handles my mail (although not receiving with an MX record), some file storage, torrents and remote access.
My Windows mobile device syncs to Exchange over the air.

I also have a Windows Media Centre (7 Beta) which has it’s own storage for recording TV, shows and music.

The problem is that everything is disjointed.

  • Content recorded on the Media Centre can’t be streamed and can’t be accessed unless the media centre is on.
  • Large HDTV content doesn’t play reliably over wireless (needs to be streamed)
  • Storage is distributed between the Media Server, Server & desktop
  • No good reliable backup

In order to try and unify the network, I’m looking at replacing SBS2008 with Windows Home Server.
This will provide storage for all devices, backup for all client computers, remote access and act as a Windows Media Centre storage server and stream content.
(some of this stuff only recently available with the latest Power Pack)

What happens to the mail?
At this point I’m looking into Google Apps.
I’d host the mail there (IMAP to Phone) and use the Google Sync for Windows Mobile to sync/backup contacts and calendar.

I’ll use IMAP with Outlook on the desktop and the Google Calender Sync tool.
The only outstanding item here is syncing Contacts with the Outlook client. At this point in time Google doesn’t appear to have an app to do this, although there are numerous 3rd party tools (most paid), so I will occasionally manually export and import.

I think i’ve decided on this path, now just need to find a time to do it, mail first.