Monthly Archives: March 2006

Newsgator is getting a face lift

I use newsgator to read all my RSS feeds. I think it is becoming a big OCD problem. Anyway, I noticed today this purdy picture when I logged into my account:

Newsgator upgrade
The interface definitely looks a lot better, and I still think that newsgator beats any of the web based, hosted RSS readers. I recently actually paid for a year subscription to their paid service, which offers a spiffy mobile version of their site. Bloglines is okay, but it just doesn’t even compete with the newsgator. The “clippings” feature alone saves me hours of time. I can quickly scan through a bunch of the feeds I subscribe to, and click on the little disk icon to save the article for later reading. Then, after I am done going through the rest of those feeds, I mark them as read and when I actually have time to sit down and read an article or try a program/website, I go to my clippings folder and have a feed that contains only stuff that I care about….or at least did when I originally saw the post.

Also, I like how in newsgator I can make use of both tags and nested folders. With bloglines you only have 1 level deep of folders, and everything is mainly based on tags. organizing all my feeds into groups is a cinch in newsgator. I can put all the computer security feeds in a sub folder in a folder I called computers, and maybe put put a new folder in that. one for vulnerabilities (like securityfocus) and another for viruses (like the F-Secure blog).

I just think the interface in bloglines is clunky and hard to navigate through, but, it is still better than all the other web based feed readers out there. rojo dropped the ball big time, and all the other ones are more community focused, sort of like how digg works where you rate articles, and that is what you mostly see.

What would be a dream come true would be if one of these sites would come out with a feature that would try to group similar articles into a tree. So, instead of having to scroll through 10 posts from different feeds all titled exactly the same, all originally from the same place…then reposted, instead they could all be grouped together, and if that particular article looked interesting, I could open up that article tree and see everyone else’s post of that article….on the off chance one of them actually said something other than cut and pasting the entire post from somewhere else.

This is what I call a completely disorganized post. my brain told me to write and I did.

[tags]newsgator,rss,feeds,feed reader,rojo,bloglines[/tags]

dodging a microsoft bullet

Lately I have been building and maintaining more and more Windows 2000 and 2003 servers than I would ever like to. I think it ended up being basically a necessary evil that needed to be used to tie the many different system architectures, systems, and company divisions together.

having something even remotely close to a single sign on type of authentication system would be great. Every time an new employee starts at my work, there is at least 3 to 5 separate accounts that need to be created.

1. The phone system

2. a windows login

3. a unix login

4. a login to our CMS

5. a login to the horrible “email system”

Most of the unix (Solaris/Linux mostly) systems that we have use at least NIS, but everything else is completely separate. Getting a working phone number and a working windows logins both come from completely different departments…actually different buildings.

I can see how annoying this must be for a new employee. You sit at your desk trying to adjust to your new job and you can’t receive email, maybe have no phone, possibly no computer. I think at this point they should just get a 3 subject notebook, a couple folders, 2 post-it pads, and a pen the day they start, because that will get them a lot further.

So, when a couple weeks ago my office had a massive phone outage due to some “issues” with a telecommunications company that begins with a V. We ended up having literally 43 non-working phones. That is easily more than half the company that could no longer use the phone. The phone system isn’t controlled, maintained, or basically touched by me or anyone else in my department. It is handled by a separate division of the company that for the most part doesn’t want to be bothered with our stupid phone problems.

Nothing was getting fixed, technicians are poking at everything attached to the phone system, and my time (along with others) gets wasted more and more. So we decided it was time to start cutting the few life lines we have with the other division in the company. They have an archaic poorly maintained phone system that we can’t diagnose anything on, and sales people don’t like you very much when they can’t use their phone. Or even better, when they will be in the middle of a call with a possible client, and the phone will just drop the connection. There are many reasons, the list goes on and on.
So it seemed like this would be a great chance to just ditch the old phone system and install a new shiny VoIP phone system. We figured out that we could maintain all our offices phones internally on the VoIP system, and then any incoming/outgoing calls from outside the office would go directly to the old phone systems switch.

So then after thinking things out, this would be a great opportunity to finally start using LDAP for all our user accounts. This quickly changed over to making an Active Directory. Enter Microsoft.

If we installed an Active Directory, now we can get off of the other divisions old slow windows NT domain. We could be able to now create all the windows accounts ourself, meaning employees could actually login to their computer when they come in for work. Sounds great doesn’t it? but now that means that the Active Directory is in charge of everything. Is that a bad thing? I don’t really know, but I (and most people I work with) have never been big fans of using windows…even more so as a server. Which is why we have 3. 1 primary and 2 backups. I suppose the odds of all 3 blue screening at the same is slim.

So where does the bullet dodging come in? Active directory likes to be able to dynamically change DNS entries. I wasn’t familiar with how to do that in BIND, and while clicking all the next buttons involved in installing Win 2003 and the Active Directory, it has a pretty little radio button that says “hey there…if you want, I could install microsoft dns! you’ll be all set!” It was a pretty radio button and it almost lured me in, but thankfully I looked on google and found out that it’s actually one stupid line that needs to be added to the BIND config.

So I just made a new zone file for windows to play around in without taking over everything like it was SkyNet.

Knowing that I at least am not now using Microsoft DNS means that is one less cold shower I need to take this weekend. The stench of windows is everywhere, and if the testing of this other product goes well, we’ll have a pretty little PAM module installed on all our Linux and Solaris boxes that will make everything authenticate off of the active directory. Group and system policies included.

On the bad side, I just sold my soul to the devil. On the good side, having there be 1 account for virtually all the internally maintained systems the company uses would be nice.

At least nothing on or around my desk, or even have to log into begins with a lowercase i.

thats when I just have to throw in the towel.

damn turkeys

I saw this article today:

Boston — Folks in the Boston suburb of Chestnut Hill have a pesky problem. Wild turkeys have been chasing little kids, scaring dogs, and munching in people’s front yards. (read more)

oh the images that brings to mind…..
[tags]chestnut hill,wild turkeys,boston,turkey attacks[/tags]

is there really a point to software keys?

Since I have recently had the luxury of building a growing amount of windows 2003/xp computers, I got to thinking. What is the point of software keys? there is not much that I hate more than typing in those stupid 25 charactor strings so that I can finish clicking on next buttons to complete the install.

Anyone with half a brain knows you can go and find a millions sites through google that have keys you can use for any program. Or, better yet, you can just use your friends or works copy.

If your a company, you can get audited, and that is the motivation to have legally purchased copies of everything. If your some home user, you have little motivation aside from morality issues with doing something illegal. So really, the way I see it, the main reason why people legally buy software is for 2 reason:

  1. Because it is illegal to use a pirated copy
  2. It takes too much effort to find a serial number that works

I bet more often than not (aside from companies installs) the reason is because it takes too much effort.

There really is no point to software keys. They are easy enough to obtain illegally, and they are just a pain in the ass for people who legally purchased the product.

If the only reason why someone actually buys the product is because they feel they should. If someone didn’t want to pay for a program, then they wouldn’t pay. They would get it from a friend or find a serial number online. So why make all your paying customers have to deal with all that licensing crap?

[tags]windows 2003,keys,licensing,pirating[/tags]

anti-social networking

This site has to be the best thing ever: Snubster

Its a Anti-Social networking site….

These lists can contain items or people. If you choose people, supply an email address to identify the person. The email address will remain private, but we’ll send them an email letting them know that they’re either on notice or that they are now dead to you.

On Notice Dead to Me
Things go on this list first. You can specify how long something is on notice. If there are no more infractions in this time period, they’ll automatically come off the list. Otherwise you can move them to your Dead to Me List Put things on your dead to me list when you’d like them on there permanently. They’ll only come off your list if you manually remove them.

[tags]snubster,social[/tags]

Peabody, MA

Apparantly Peabody, MA produced more tanned hides than anywhere else in the world from 1900-1950. Then because of the economy all the tanneries in Peabody started to shut down, and then after boston decided they didn’t want boston harbor to continue to be a festering cesspool, the tanneries all shut down because they couldn’t keep up with the environmental requirements.

[tags]peabody,massachusetts,leather,tannery,boston harbor[/tags]

Sun is out to get me, and God told them to do it

After mucking around with it for 3 days off and on, I come into work 2 hours early today to get a head start on getting the Sun Java Enterprise Server (with LDAP/Messaging support) running and populated so that my work can finally move off of NIS/40 other authentication systems.

I have it to the point where all that is left is to run the various post-deployment configuration scripts and steps, which I find odd in the first place. Why are their configuration steps that you have to do after you finish the configuration? what is the point of having a configuration wizard with a product if after you complete using it, the wizard then says “yeah, uh, you still have things to do….I dont know what, but there is stuff, and it is in document 819-2328.”

The fun part is that document 819-2328 is on suns docs.sun.com website. Which gives the good ‘ol

Server Error

This server has encountered an internal error which prevents it from fulfilling your request. The most likely cause is a misconfiguration. Please ask the administrator to look for messages in the server’s error log.

message. That doesn’t look like post deployment instructions to me. You know, I always thought that generic 500 error was stupid. So I am supposed to just go and contact “the administrator” at Sun? I am sure Sun only has one administrator..just one. Not only that, but I am sure he is just sitting at his desk…twiddling his fingers just waiting for the phone to ring for me to say “hey, uhh…your website is down…your probably didn’t get 500 calls, pages and emails about it, but yeah…I just wanted you to know. Could you get it back up soon?”
Someone out there really does not like me. It must be because I didn’t pay much attention to ash wednesday. Now god is smiting me.

I think that this is what happened to the server:

melted computer

On a related note, aside from the massiveness of the entire Java Enterprise Server system, it actually is fairly cool. The web mail client that comes with the messaging server is not the best thing in the world, but it is fairly decent, and adding info to the LDAP directory with their java interface is beyond easy. I don’t know why it took around 4 years for us to finally set one up. I guess it is probably because of the 300 other projects that are always going on.

[tags]Sun,JES,LDAP,Messaging Server,Java Enterprise Server,Solaris,web mail,500 errors[/tags]