Monday, April 26, 2010

I've moved to my own site!

O hai! I'm not here anymore because I've moved to my own Wordpress blog! You can find me at:

That's right, I'm just an IT nublet, trying to be less nubby. No shame in admitting that. Change your bookmarks and tell your friends. It's going to be a wild ride as I settle into a new job, create my own business and attempt to de-nubify myself.

Come on over and join in as life and experience unfolds. I'll be there waiting for you!

Thursday, April 22, 2010 – How projects REALLY are

Some of you may have already seen this original cartoon, the author of which I can’t seem to track down to give proper credit to:


The site expands slightly on that original with the addition of a few cells and also allows you do edit the captions and order of the cartoon.

My favorite new cell? This made me chortle:

FOSSVersionHowever, all the cells are worthy of a laugh or two. Project planning, even for single-person IT departments, can be an exercise in juggling ferrets. What’s your best IT project story? Bonus points if it involved the calling of at least one public emergency-services department (negative points if that department was the SWAT team).

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Speed Reading, Week 2 Finished!

I did a speed reading test on the morning of Monday the 19th before starting my first lesson of the week. The supposed reading speed was 295 WPM, but I admit my comprehension was low. I’m focusing less on comprehension and more on technique. I’m attempting to consistently stop verbalizing the words I read in my head and just let my eyes see the word and my brain register the meaning.

  • Monday:
    • Morning: Lesson 3 Completed
    • Evening: Lesson 3 Completed
  • Tuesday:
    • Morning: Lesson 4 Completed
    • Evening: Missed
  • Wednesday:
    • Morning: Missed
    • Evening: Missed
  • Thursday:
    • Morning: Lesson 4 completed
    • Evening: Missed
  • Friday:
    • Morning: Missed
    • Evening: Missed
  • Saturday:
    • Morning: Lesson 4 completed
    • Evening:

Wow. I got a weeklong pass on the FAIL train. Two all-day seminars back-to-back on Tuesday and Wednesday threw a wrench into my plans. Thursday, Friday and Saturday were exercises in mediocrity and failed time management.

It’s hard to leave for a day or two and then come back. You really need to keep on it each and every day, twice a day. The ability to keep up a steady reading pace and simultaneously assimilate all of the information (which is now coming in through your eyes at a faster rate than you’re accustomed to) is a draining activity and needs to be consistently done. Much like weight training.

With good intentions, and hopefully more disciplined time management and prioritization, I enter week 3.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

How many days are left in my Windows Server 2008 R2 trial?


The Quick Answer:

Run the following command at a command prompt:

slmgr.vbs –dli

You may have to wait for 20 or 30 seconds, but eventually a dialog box will pop up that displays the following information:


The Long Story:

I’m frobbing around with Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 and Exchange 2010, and in the development of my test lab a question occurred to me:

“How many days are left in my Windows Server 2008 R2 trial?”

There’s a lot of misinformation out there, and some of it contains methods that were common in older versions of Windows.

One common method that is still espoused today is to check the creation or modification dates of various system folders. This isn’t accurate. I have creation and modification dates of system folders going back almost a year before I actually installed the operating system.

Another method that I just learned about is to check the registry key at HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\Current Version\
which shows the date of installation in UNIX epoch time. Converting the decimal notation into UNIX epoch time is as simple as going to and performing the conversion.



You could then take the current date’s epoch time, subtract it from the installation date’s time and see how close to the trial limit you are (180 days).

However, that is inaccurate since you can wait up to 10 days to activate Windows. The trial period starts from the date of activation not the date of installation. I’m unsure if there is a registry key that shows the date of activation.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Video on Web Application Development that Doesn’t Suck

Being a stereotypical SysAdmin, I tend to shy away from development topics. Partially because I attempted to program as a kid (HyperTalk, AppleScript, Pascal, C and the nail that sealed the coffin lid: C++) and found it to be an exercise similar to self mutilation except without garnering any sympathy from people.

Furthermore, being a SMB SysAdmin I tend to be ignorant to the unique challenges that SysAdmins who focus on web technologies have to face. Ironically, my latest contract is managing the technicals behind an upstart website that a friend is making… go figure. Looks like I’ll be having a nice, vertical learning curve soon.

Moving on, I found a video on YouTube that intrigued me. No, it wasn’t Hamster on a Piano, even though that amused me far more than I’m comfortable admitting.

It’s a well done video by a fellow named Sean Kelly (who has worked at places as diverse as NOAA and NASA Jet propulsion laboratory) titled “Better Web Application Development”. The video itself is a little old, circa late 2006 I believe. It starts with Sean’s frustrations with using C++ in the 90s to attempt to get various datasources unified in a single user interface at NOAA.

Moving forward into the 2000s (and a job at NASA), web protocols became the standard for the kind of application development he worked in. As a result, one of the sticking points that he felt in the 90s, that of slow UI development, started to become obsolete. However, not before some poor tools caused him to reach a breaking point.

The video is a 36 minute tour of Sean pitting various web app frameworks against eachother in a logical and fast-paced style. What happens when you pit J2EE (using servlets and hibernate), J2EE with JBoss, Ruby on Rails, Django, Zope and Turbo Gears? It’s a framework beatdown and while the front of the pack is a little crowded, the loser(s) are easy to spot.

The video is well done, with good audio and is fast paced. It’s obviously scripted so the speaking flows nicely and the whole video moves along well. Overall it’s great to listen to and the areas where computer work has been screencasted are sped up with a summary narrative given so there’s no excruciating waiting periods watching someone fumble at the CLI.


There were several good quotes and concepts from the video that I took away and applied to systems administration. Because, when you come down to it, we’re all in the same boat. We all have to create and support systems that are interacted with by people who just want to get their jobs done. Some of my favorite quotes from the video are these:

“Planning a UI is 1/4 of the battle. 3/4 of a UI comes from users playing with it”

The concept I took away from the above quote is that whatever a person has to interact with needs to be good. Furthermore, it needs to be good by their standards. If it’s good by your standards, that’s not enough. If the QA department’s interface is good by an accountant’s standards. That’s not good enough. If the sale’s teams interface is good by the art department’s standards… actually, that probably is good enough.

“It’s got to be fun. Why? C’mon! Fun don’t need a reason!”

Quoted for truth.

“Rapid turnaround is absolutely, unquestionably, irrevocably vital.”

Whatever we do, whatever is implemented, it must be modifiable and furthermore it must be easy and quick to modify. Things change, people and industries are different. Live with it and like it.

“You might recognize this as the n-tier architecture where n is always 3. I’m not sure why they don’t just call it the 3-tier architecture.”

Yeah, what’s up with that?

If you watch the video, let me know what you think about it. know of any better ones?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Speed Reading, Week 1 Finished

I started the week, prior to starting any of my lessons, with a reading speed of about 170 to 185 words per minute. Not bad for me! I think that increased speed is a result of doing these exercises and learning some techniques late last year.

  • Monday - Lesson 1: Morning and evening
  • Tuesday – Lesson 1: Morning but missed evening (Got back into the mental habits pretty good. Came up to speed quickly, was able to focus my attention well.)
  • Wednesday - Lesson 2: Morning but missed evening
  • Thursday - Lesson 3: Morning (more like late afternoon)  Evening
  • Friday - Lesson 3: Morning, forgot evening! =(
  • Saturday Lesson 3: Forgot both. Fail.

It wasn’t the most energetic or consistent week and the last day was a bit of a failure. At least I got back into the habits. Next week will be better!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Listing all volume mount points on a Windows server

This most has been moved to my new blog The Nubby Admin. Check it out here: List All Volume Mount Points on a Windows Server.