Thursday, July 17, 2008

Server 2003 proves itself useful! (Free Virtual Machines for Windows Servers)

OK, I have to quit being a Mac Weenie and Linux fanboy and come clean: It's been months since I've set up a network with a Linux or Apple server providing what amount to Active Directory services, and except for IPCop, Windows Server 2003 has been doing my heavy lifting. My vendor says that I should give Server 2008 a try. Shoot, I'm still discovering what Server 2003 x64 is capable of.

Stuff like easily running multiple Virtual Machines seem to make the Windows Server line a bit more valuable. Microsoft's FREE (free as in beer, not as in puppies!) Virtual PC and Virtual Server have been a real treat. I've enjoyed Virtual Box on my Mac, but the business world doesn't seem to want to trust their data to an Apple server, and Linux is right out as many of the server softwares in the healthcare industry require a Windows server, so I would have to run Windows in a virtual machine anyhow to serve the Windows desktops that the end users know and love!

So, what could be better than Running an IPCop on your Windows 2003 Server? I couldn't think of anything either, so using this handy guide I first built an IPCop in Virtual PC. As I was a newbie and didn't read far enough in Virtual PC's manual, I soon discovered that a product called Virtual Server existed that wouldn't complain about running on my x64 2003 Enterprise server, and it was free.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

IBM Enters the SMB Linux Server Space

This sounds like a dream come true: A Linux server that sets itself up, manages itself, and fixes itself if it breaks, for around $150.00 per user, with licenses starting at 5 users, and offering Document Management, E-Mail, and Lotus groupwares.

Have a look at IBM's documentation on "IBM Lotus Foundations Start" - it claims all of this is true, and if you BYOS (bring your own server) with these astoundingly minimal minimum requirements:
  • x86-based system
  • At least one hard disk (removable hard disk required to use all of the features)
  • At least one Network Interface Card (NIC) (two NICs required to use all of the features)
  • CD-ROM drive
  • VGA-based video card
  • At least 1 GB of RAM
  • Monitor
  • Keyboard
I'm going to try to get in on their beta program - wish me luck!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

We want to keep XP!

Oh my gosh, how can I get together all of my friends, relatives, customers, and everyone that they know? If I knew it would mean Microsoft's continued support for Windows XP, I would personally organize a bus trip to Redmond and camp in front of Steve Ballmer's office with everyone I know, and everyone that they know. Everyone will have to kick in for the bus, though, I'm not THAT generous!

Okay, since you all aren't exactly beating down my door wondering when the bus leaves, maybe try sending an e-mail to Microsoft's Steve Ballmer at If your e-mail doesn't get through, then leave a response on my site, and I'll try to figure out another way.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Installing Peachtree Accounting 2008 Server in a Headless Server

For those of you who aren't in the know, a headless server is a server without a keyboard, monitor, and mouse. Instead, you manage it using Microsoft Remote Desktop (RDP). If you call up a remote desktop on your Windows 2003 server and try to install Peachtree 2008, it will fail, saying it cannot be installed from the Windows Terminal.

Instead of dragging out the monitor, keyboard, and mouse, using your Remote Desktop download and install RealVNC or some other VNC app if you don't like that one, and set it up as a server. Close the Remote Desktop Session. Now, fire up yor VNC client, sign into your server, insert the CD, and feel the joy!

Friday, April 18, 2008

EARTHQUAKE! Armageddon in Illinois!

Well, I just felt another trembler - a bit exciting as we don't get these much here in St. Louis! I remember these happening as a kid when I lived in San Diego. I would imagine that my friends in Indiana and Illinois are feeling as giddy as I - will these occasional minor trembles keep up? Will they get worse? I sure hope not - the Earth used to be nice and quiet here in the Heartland, I wish it would stay that way!

Now, after that last trembler, I was looking at the USGS's Latest Earthquakes page, and kept on refreshing it. Wow, I'm watching the news, and the newscaster said that he had the magnitude at the same time it came up on this page. An interesting fact: There are earthquakes as strong as we've had around the world EVERY DAY.

Another interesting earthquake site is the IRIS Seismic Monitor, it gives a nice world map with visualizations of recent seismic activity.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Terminal Server 2003 Printer Fallback Drivers

So I have a customer that uses a terminal server to share a clinical and financial app between forty or so users. Some, when printing in landscape mode, get the right 1/4 inch or so cut off when prionting reports. I could print fine using an Apple printing to a Lexmark All-In-One, and the programmers could print OK using a Windows client printing to a Laserjet 5, but my friends with Laserjet 1300 series and some others get cut off.

Looking into it, I found that some clients were printing using the HP Deskjet 500 PCL drivers, but we have no Deskjet 500's in use, so where did this come from? Well, Microsoft quietly delivered a feature called "Fallback Drivers." So instead of trying to download the drivers from the client computer, it says, "Ooooh, you have an HP, let's just use the Deskjet 500 drivers." Well, this doesn't work so well under some circumstances.

Doing some further research, I found the page How Microsoft's Windows 2003 SP1 Fallback Printer Driver Works (which now supports color!), which clearly and concisely explained what is going on, but not necessarily how to fix it. But he pointed me to some new registry keys that could prove useful.

I downloaded and installed HP's Universal Print Driver, then added the following registry key under HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Terminal Server\Wds\rdpwd

String value FallbackPclDriver with the value HP Universal Printing PCL 5.

Reboot your server, and it prints AOK from ANY HP printer.

Note added 10-Apr-08 - this driver seems to consume a lot of time before allowing print dialogs and properties to be displayed. I downloaded the x64 version as I'm running a 64-bit server 2003, but during one particularly spectacular crash, I noticed that some 32-bit processes related to the HP Universal Print driver were to blame. This begs the question: "Are the x64 versions really repackaged 32-bit drivers with a wrapper?" That would explain te performance hit and the crash message (shoulda wrote it down - I'll have to check the logs). I'll keep you updated!

Friday, March 21, 2008

IPCop DNS and DHCP Tips

As I may have already mentioned, IPCop is an excellent open source firewall system that uses low-end computers that sit between your internal network (Green Zone) and the Big Bad Internet (Red Zone). Here are some things I to do with my network that simplify my job as an admin:

  • When using it with a network that has it's own internal DHCP and DNS servers, be sure to put DNS pointers to your IPCop's internal IP on the relevant internal DNS servers. Then you can access it by going to http://ipcop:81 when on your internal network.
  • On a smaller network, the IPCop makes an excellent DHCP and DNS server. However, when we set up IPCop, I've sometimes found it to give our external DNS servers to DHCP clients. Even when the hostname is registered in DHCP, our name queries try to use external servers that know nothing about the internal network. This is easily fixed by setting the IPCop's IP as the first DNS. I've found that this can speed up DNS resolutions a bit, also as it caches DNS info.
  • IPCop's internal DNS server is not self-aware. That is to say, if you punch in http://ipcop:81, you'll get an error message. But if you add it to the HOSTS list (Services -> Edit Hosts), it becomes easily resolved once you have have started using your IPCop for DNS.

AVG 8 - Worth the wait? (The wait for the download, that is!)

For whatever reason, downloading AVG's antivirus package seems to take longer than actually installing it. That said, the new version 8.0 seems to have a much friendlier interface, scan faster, and come with more features than ever, even in a basic edition. With these added features, the price has gone up considerably. I'm not sure if it's because it has been so vastly improved, or because their parent company is in the Czech Republic and the US Dollar isn't as valuable as it used to be.

The down side? Well, it seems that in Windows 2000 the firewall component may mudge up web connectivity for applications that need it (like Crossloop). However, since Windows 2000 doesn't come with a firewall, I'd prefer to fight with AVG's clunky firewall interface than have no firewall at all.

The new AVG Administrative interface (AVGAdmin) does an excellent job showing information at a glance, and offers yet more powerful features that 7.5. The most improved part of the AVGAdmin component is the Remote Installation feature. 7.5's was extremely difficult to use. 8's has vastly simplified the process, and seems destined for greatness.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

More Time Wasters - Free First-Person Shooters!

What, ME waste time? Well, occasionally I can stop geeking out on network and such and geek out on something really fun - FREE GAMES! I'm a Mac user, so you Windows Weenies should consider yourselves lucky that I think about you occasionally. All right, I HAVE to think about you, because no one else with a Mac wants to play video games with me. If I want to play games, I either need to boot into Windows, or, preferably, find cross-platform games. I prefer the cross-platform option. So you can have your Windows, and I can have my OS X, and we can play together without having to hear me grouse about how dirty I feel running Windows on my MacBook Pro.

That aside, what does a smarmy geek like me play?

Well, there's the old standby Scorched3D, a game of ballistics and wacky weaponry. While not fast-paced, this is definitely a great time-waster - my 8-year-old son's favorite!

Now, the First Person Shooters (henceforth FPS's) I was talking about:

The most popular one, and one of the most polished, in my opinion is Wolfenstein - Enemy Territory. Set in World War II and featuring a rich set of features, there are almost too many reasons for this the be the most popular FPS. Features include lots of weapons, a robust online gaming community, multiple player classes, and a level-up system that rewards persistence. Oh, and it will run on older computers that have 3D graphics cards.

The only drawbacks to Enemy Territory are PunkBuster (this program somehow keeps people from cheating) and the lack of a Single Player mode. While PunkBuster works well under Windows, it is difficult to make work under Linux and OS X. That said, if anybody would like a tutorial for getting PB working under OS X or Linux, just tell me so in a reply to this post!

Nexuiz is the coolest looking of the established FPS's (I'll tell you about some of the less established in a moment), and, frankly, looks as cool as just about any commercial FPS (except Airborn, that one ROCKS!). It's set in a futuristic deathmatch arena, and has lots of cool weapons. Features include stunning graphics, a good choice of avatars, and fast-paced action. The Single Player mode is fun, and the online community has lots of servers with lots of players.

While it will work on a lame computer, you'll get the most out of it if you have a good gaming system.

Now we get to the lesser-known games. Just because they're lesser-known doesn't mean that they're inferior, it just means that there hasn't been much buzz about them.

World of Padman, based on an obscure gaming magazine comic strip, is best described as Quake meets Toy Story. That's right, you control toy action figures as they battle to the death with zany weapons. This game is under active development, and seems destined for greatness if it keeps up the momentum.

It has only online play available (Single Player mode is still being developed), and when I went on around 5:30 Central Time, there were lots of servers, but noone was playing! Bummer! I'm hoping that maybe a few someones will see this post and decide to populate the servers. Online Community: ignoring this game would be a tragic waste.

Another excellent game that's rapidly coming together is Warsow. It has clean, almost simple graphics, and allows for unique freedom of movement - actions include sliding down rails and jumping off of walls - a kind of Parkour Deathmatch. Again, there is not a Single Player Mode, and there were no players online, although there were a wealth of servers just waiting to be played!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Windows XP Service Pack 3 Available

Windows XP Service Pack 3 was released to none of the fanfare that we saw with XP SP2. My evaluation so far? If you're installing it in only one PC, use Automatic Update. If you have more than one, then get the ISO and burn it.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Network Speed Tests

NPAD Servers

NPAD is a very detailed bandwidth test for measuring TCP transfer capabilities. It requires you to have a target computer in mind, and do a rudimentary PING of that target to note the round trip time in milliseconds. Next up, you decide what speed (target rate) you and your target computer are supposed to transfer at, which is the upload speed of the server in a one-way system, or the lowest of the two ends upload speeds for a two-way system.

Pick one that is closest to you or your target:

Web100 based Network Diagnostic Tool (NDT)

For a more general speed test, forget about that crap at and such and use this test, so generously funded with our taxpayer dollars:

Bear in mind that I live and work in the Midwest, so if you live someplace else, visit one of these pages, then scroll down to Other Publicly Accessible NDT Servers.

Intel NAS Performance Toolkit

This one is for traffic performance across the Internal network. I haven't tried it out, yet, but be asured I will, and maybe even post screenshots. In the meantime, if you get it, don't hesitate to leace a comment on it, or anything else, for that matter!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Two more useful utilities - One for Annoyances, and one for Disk Space!

Fix Windows XP Numlock Off at login.

One annoyance that pops up time after time is the toggling of the NumLock key when a user signs in - as in, it's off, and user's don't typically remember to toggle it on before entering their password, thus failing to enter the password and becoming very frustrated! An intreped programmer named Doug Knox has written a program that can help fix this, called, amazingly enough, XP_Numlock.exe.

Free Your Hard Drive of Wasteful XP Hotfix Folders

OK, so, you're running out of hard drive space, or you're really geeky and decided to get rid of any wasteful hard drive usage so that you can get the perfect Defrag with JKDefrag ( now a personal favorite). XP_Remove_Hotfix_Backup.exe is the ideal solution, removing ONLY hotfixes, so it's reasonably safe.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Windows Server Tape Drive Replacement Headaches

So your tape drive has failed, it gets replaced with a similar model, but backups still fail? I've run into this several times, and finally found the info I need to set it right!

Assuming it's a similar model, everything should be OK, right? Well, the RSM (Removable Storage Media) does not agree. It still sees the old tape drive as being there; this would have been avoided if the installing tech (sometimes me, more often a Dell rep) would have shut down the server, removed the failed tape drive, then instead of immediately installing the new one instead fires the server back up and lets it realize for itself that there is no drive. THEN you turn it back off, install the replacement drive, turn it back on, and presto! It works!

So you didn't do this, and Ntbackup doesn't recognize the new tape drive (even if it says the right thing, that right thing is likely the OLD tape drive!), don't worry! Let's begin:

  1. Go to your server's command prompt and enter:
  2. Note that the tape drive listed likely doesn't match the one you'll see in your Hardware Manager - go on and look for yourself, because if this isn't the case, then the rest of this likely won't help!
  3. Rebuild your RSM database:
    A. Stop the RSM Service.
    B. Backup the RSM databases located at %SystemRoot%\System32\NtmsData and
    delete the contents of ntmsdata folder.
    C. Restart the RSM Service and reboot the server. This will recreate new,
    empty RSM Databases.
    D. Put a new tape in, or a tape that may be deleted.
    E. Go to the "properties" of the disk inside the physical locations. Uncheck
    'Enable Drive'
    Hit apply & then check the 'Enable Drive' again
    (This was done to reset the Flag since we had renamed the database for RSM)
  4. Go to your server's command prompt and enter:
    This should prove that your newly installed tape drive is indeed recognized by the RSM. If it isn't, then you likely have other issues like improper drivers.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Fun 'n Games

Cursor*10 - this one had me puzzled. But duh, it's a puzzle game? When I read the instructions, I thought they were an awful translation of the author's intent. Instead, it's literally true. This one really makes you think, especially as it plays tricks with time in a way that can be a bit disorienting. In this game you get 10 cursors, each with a 5 second life. You get points by clicking pyramids. Boxes hide stairs, and stairs advance you to the next level. Low, flat, boxes are buttons that make a set of stairs appear. You get 10 cursors that exist simultaneously in the game world, but you manipulate them sequentially, and the previous cursors replay what you had just done.