Sunday, December 24, 2006

(not-so-) Quick Googler Updates

First, a big thank-you to VMTN Blog (VMware Technology Network) for their link a few weeks ago. Glad you guys liked it. I'm guessing the guys at Citrix won't be linking to me any time soon.

!! Super Windows tip in today's episode !!
!! Screen captures from Windows Media Player using !!
!! the PrintScreen key !!

On to the searches. There've been some strange groups, like life on zeus, life of zeus and life to zeus. Apparently some schoolchildren who need to work on their prepositions were assigned to write about Greek mythology. I'm surprised no parents have complained.

I'm still getting a lot of hits for searches on the Moroccan spelling of "Bullshit" (منيك) but I still haven't received any comments telling me how to write it in other Arabic variants.

vpn does my employer have access to my private information
A lot of people stumble across this blog looking for answers to privacy questions, especially from the workplace. The answer is Yes, unless you mean you're at work and connecting to your own machine via VPN, and even then it's technically feasible. You have no privacy nor (in most countries) any expectation of privacy when using someone else's terminal, especially your employer's since he can be liable for what you do with his machine.

bereavement fares
I don't know if I'm really happy or not about people coming to this blog right after a relative has died. Maybe reading about someone else's misery might help ease their own, if only for a few minutes. Worked for me.

To the best of my knowledge, only USAir offers bereavement fares for travel originating outside the US and Canada. All other airlines I've contacted -- Lufthansa, BA, AA, AirFrance, Delta, Northwest, KLM, SAS, United and others -- now only offer bereavement fares originating in the US. Things have changed in the past two years. If you live in Europe and a relative in North America dies, you'll pay the full, overpriced, last-minute (un-)fare which can be two to three times higher than the normal price because you didn't know in advance that your relative was going to die.

In any case, first check on-line fares from places like travelocity, opodo or orbitz. Get an idea of the lowest full fare you'd pay. Then call each airline's reservations number directly and ask if they have bereavement fares from X to Y. Even if you get a half-price bereavement fare, it might be more expensive than a regular ticket due to the way fares and seat blocks are handled.

Before you call you should have the following information ready: name of person, relationship, hospital or funeral home name, an attending doctor or funeral director name. They also tell you they'll need a copy of the death certificate (doesn't need to be certified) when you check in for the return but I've yet to be asked for that.

You can't. You can delete the lines which reference the program you installed but make sure to save a copy of the original in case you fuck up.

InstallShield tip: Under the "Program Files" directory you'll find one called "InstallShield Installation Information". This stores a copy of the entire fucking installation software used. Why? Who the hell knows? It's a huge waste of space. Delete the subdirectories. Since InstallShield also fucks up and forgets to delete these even after you've uninstalled the program, you can't re-install the software before manually deleting them. Fuckwits.

printscreen and wmv
Back in July I wrote Kindergarten, and inside that piece I wrote a Cringely-style forecast in which I mentioned embedding content inside WMV so that people can't use the PrintScreen (PrtScr) key to make screenshots. That was just me being lazy. You can make screenshots with PrtScr.

Go to Windows Media Player, select Tools:Options, go to the Performance Tab, click Advanced and then uncheck “Use Overlays’. Easy, huh?

I haven't looked to see if this is even possible in Vista yet. If enough people find out about it I'm sure Microsoft will remove the option because they don't give a shit about what their customers want, only their "partners".

happy feet dressup eb
I don't know and I really don't think I want to know.

For fuck's sake! Update your goddamned software already! The 919010 patch is gone. History. That's it. No one has it (except maybe me, and probably on the dead drive that needs to go in for recovery). MS lost the Eolas case and that's that. It's bullshit, it sucks, but it's reality. Your only hope is to update the software that still uses the deprecated ActiveX embedded controls.

presentation of kindergarten life
I've written a number of articles which have been published in print and on-line. If you're looking for a cleaner version of the Kindergarten piece (perhaps to demonstrate how little difference 40 years can make) I can rewrite it and even tailor it as needed. I generally do this free for schools and most non-profits; everyone else gets charged. Drop me a line.

aix unicode difference
AIX is an operating system. Unicode is a character encoding method. That's the difference, fuckwit.

i hate citrix
Who doesn't? Pull up a chair and commiserate. It's your round. Mine's a Hendrick's gin, neat, thankyouverymuch.

Zuma regedit
No, I will not tell you how to steal the game. Jeez, it's only 20 bucks! If you like it that much, buy it. Anyway, it takes more than a registry change. Popcap Games aren't that stupid.

That's it. I have to go. My girlfriend wants me to teach her how to play guitar and insists learning with a Fender 12-string acoustic rather than an electric BC Rich 6-string because, and I quote, "it sounds so prettier". Yes, the same girlfriend as before.

Suggested viewing for the holidays:
Origins of Christmas Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4. Back to basics!

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Friday, December 22, 2006

Cow-orkers VII: Is That a Knife in My Back or Are You Just Happy to Use Me?

I just got a note from Kris, a manager two levels above me. Lenny is out on holidays and won't be back until January. I'd given him some advice on a ticket and he'd (surprisingly) done the proper thing and credited me with an assist. Unfortunately that meant that since the customer came back with another question, I was asked to give further answers. That meant I had to read through the entire ticket.

Lenny had been playing Chinese Whispers (or "Telephone").

Lenny, Lonnnie and Larry comprised a group we called "Triple Threat" (Trip-Ell Threat -- yes, I know lame it sounds). For a few years they were in my Functional Team. They were a close-knit group and all easily took offence when I fired off an E-Mail about on or another's behaviour or response to a customer. They became indignant as I rewrote their Knowledge Base documents, cleaning them up for style and content. We're not part of Microsoft's marketing and there's no reason that a technical document needs to contain "Microsoft® Windows® 2000 Server Operating System" even once, much less on every single reference.

They'd run off to tattle and cry to the managers at every one of the perceived offences, embellishing their stories wherever possible. They'd likewise sic management on my if I didn't drop everything I was doing to answer their questions immediately. They looked for every possible way of causing trouble, and it all started because I'd once had the audacity to try to help one of them (Lonnie, I think it was) and fix his damned document before it went to PM.

And so ensued a war of sorts for two years, the Cerberus of LLL vs. little ol' REC. I couldn't tell them a thing and learned not to bother asking them for any assistance since the only answers I'd receive were crafted to look right and be wrong. The stupidity and pettiness began to peter out when I visited the London offices for a week and dealt with them in person, calming their egos a bit, but the enmity remained. After Larry left the company and Lonnie moved to a different team, I was only left with Lenny to deal with, and rarely since he worked the other end of the spectrum of our team and our work rarely overlapped.

He was still annoying, demanding full assist credit if he answered a single minor question confirming something like a version number or file directory. Such are his petty ways. He's going for a record on a metric which only has to exist; high numbers of assists neither bring any additional accolades (or money), nor do they excuse your ticket load as one of our locals knows all too well.

To his credit if someone gave him a significant piece of information or more than passing assistance he'd credit the assist. I stumbled over a ticket he'd been working on while looking for something else and saw the answer, a defect which I'd dealt with many times but which the customer hadn't discovered correctly. By that I mean he didn't notice a couple major symptoms and his problem description seemed to be about something entirely different. I sent Lennie a quick note with a test for the customer and the internal bug tracking numbers, saving his ass on a month-old ticket for which he had no direction.

He'd been contacting me by IM or mail every few days for some other freaky problem. The problem was based in Resonate, that wonderful/horrible load-balancing software. There are only three of us at the company who even deal with Central Dispatch anymore so it wasn't much of a surprise that Lennie'd come to me: of the three I'm the only native English speaker.

Using the team leader's note in the Prio-1 ticket, Lennie took ownership and sent a response. There's an internal entry for a mail between us a few days later when the customer came back. Right after a response signed by Lennie and copypasta'd from my mail with every warning Lennie didn't see before. And the next activities were the same. All of them.

Now it's my ticket and I got to the root of the problem which turned out to be a very different problem indeed. Because he didn't ask for their network diagram after the first signs of problems (Resonate would only work if it was the first NIC binding). My technotard girlfriend couldn't design a more perverted architecture if my vengeful, technically capable, psycho-bitch ex-girlfriend helped her.

One mail with an architecture correction and new diagram resolved everything.

I'm onto Lennie. Had he been a bit more clever, he could've asked one of the other two Resonate experts to cover that ticket and I might not have seen it. Stab me in the back repeatedly, use me continually, then go on hols and give me a chance to find out?


x-posted from HuSi, with a poll.

P.S. Enjoy a holiday GooTube link.

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Redefining the OS

Tired from the flight back. Much stress. No time to tell long stories and no concentration to type them. BigHugeTelco made sure I wouldn't have to.

And I quote, verbatim:
We are in a process of building a new development server. Our existing Development Server is operating on Windows NT .
The new development server will be built on Microsoft Office 2000. Can you please let us know the procedure or the steps to be followed to migrate a server from one machine to another running on different operating system . A detail document will be benefical as we dont have much idea on this.
You go right ahead and install $OurBigApp on Office 2000, Sparky. Make sure the DNS server is on Excel and remember that FrontPage isn't supported as a document server platform.

He probably meant Windows 2000 in which case migrating from NT is already documented... extensively.

Root Cause: 17-Fuckwit.

x-posted from HuSi.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Reality bites.

Location: JFK (New York City), Terminal 7 (Delta, unfortunately)
Date: 08Dec06
Time: 20:15-ish
Elapsed transit time: 22 hours
Expected transit time remaining: 5 hours

Subject: TSA admits liquids restrictions are for revenue, not security.
Well, duh!

TSA: You can't take these liquids with you.
REC: They're each under 100ml and all in the bag.
TSA: You can't take them. They're drinkable.
REC: And they were drinkable when I got on in Munich and in London. I'm not even flying internationally. They're sealed cans provided by the airline! Look at the BA logo!
TSA: And I'm telling you that you can't take them to Florida.
REC: But I can buy the same stuff again right there ten feet away!
TSA: Exactly. You have to buy them here.
REC: So this has nothing to do with 'security' and everything to do with revenue generation?
TSA: Well, now you...
Supervisor (cutting TSA off): If that's how you want to see it, sir. Do you plan to make it to Tampa tonight or not?

Of course, this was after 8p.m. so even the shops where one could buy a just a fucking drink of water were already closed. Flights leave Terminal 7 through 11pm, shops close at 8, and there's not a single public drinking fountain.


The customers are no better.
FIX IT!!!!! PRIO 1!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Lemme see... It's a Prio-1 even though your system is running fine because you reset the password and everything is working now. OK...

Looking closer at their general set-up and the level-headed description, I note that this happened at the first instance of each roll-out and then never happened again. Twits.
Of course the password changed -- you instructed the OS to require a change at first log-in. $OurBigApp doesn't expect this because standard practice is to set machine and service accounts to "password never expires", normally with strong passwords.

Requiring users to change password at first log-in is a security measure which allows humans to set passwords which are unknown to the administrators who otherwise could spoof access to their accounts, something unnecessary for machine accounts.

Password handling is at the OS or security adapter level. $OurBigApp doesn't and can't access that. We only pass credentials via standard methods.

And I knew when I hit Send that I was going to get more or less the response they sent back, despite having explained the problem and their failed logic:
Our security policy is that every account has to change the password after first log-in. You must provide a solution to give the password correctly!
NO YUO! Talk to Microsoft.

Closed. Root Cause: 17-Fuckwit.
x-posted from HuSi.

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In compliance with $MegaCorp's general policies as well as my desire to
continue living under a roof and not the sky or a bus shelter, I add this:

The views expressed on this blog are my own and
do not necessarily reflect the views of $MegaCorp, even if every
single one of my cow-orkers who has discovered this blog agrees with me
and would also like to see the implementation of Root Cause: 17-Fuckwit.