Rob Eberhardt

cleverness ensues

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 Sunday, July 17, 2005

I have a new client who recently guessed their way through a SBS 2003 setup.  THEN they called us to fix it.  This has been quite the cleanup.  I gotta get me a Haz-mat suit.  Imagine and enjoy at my expense, some highlights:

  • Exchange mailboxes not configured for the POP3 Connector (so email was removed from the ISP's mailbox, and dropped into Oblivion).
  • No backups, no (or patchy) virus/spyware protection (and plenty of spyware).
  • Moving from a XP Pro "server", which fell apart when we tried to join it to the domain (due to loads of spyware).
  • XP Home machines trying to use the new server.
  • No extra CALs for the 12 user accounts.  Yes, that's 12 users competing for the 5 licenses that come with SBS.  "Denied!"

And now (drumroll please)...

  • Amid extensive VPN, OWA, and OMA use, a vendor who supplied us with Device CALs instead of User CALs (and didn't mention it until we'd already activated them!)
  • Crap.

    7/17/2005 2:51 AM Eastern Daylight Time  #    Disclaimer  |   | 

     Tuesday, July 12, 2005

    So I just saw this on Ajaxian Blog: "Ajax is rocket science". "Ajax isn't simple". Enough already!

    It makes good points, but what puzzles me is: who is saying this?  I never found Ajax difficult (even when I first discovered it 5 years ago).  Are the complainers just web designers, who just build pretty-but-static HTML pages and don't know coding (-vs- web developers, who build web apps)? 

    Well, as Scott would say:
    And then I got back to work.

    7/12/2005 12:18 PM Eastern Daylight Time  #    Disclaimer  |   | 

    but no, I haven't been deep in the NetHack dungeons (I wish!).  Rather, every client (current or not) called me simultaneously needing something... ....AND every computer I possess simultaneously broke.

    Sure, it's an ego-boost to be in-demand, but that novelty wears off very quickly when I'm making bricks without straw.

    7/12/2005 12:15 PM Eastern Daylight Time  #    Disclaimer  |   | 

     Sunday, July 03, 2005

    I ran into the following the hard way recently.  Since I don't trust anybody's tech support to actually test new service packs or publish known issues, I figured I'd mention it here: SP1 for SBS 2003 breaks Aladdin NetHASP, and programs which use it.

    NetHASP is 3rd-party software which programs use to tie software licenses to a physical dongle (known as a "hasp" or "sim").  In my case, our client was using SigmaTek's SigmaNest and Develop programs (line-of-business stuff), we had the Network sim plugged into the SBS box and the NetHASP License Manager program running on it.  After the upgrade to SP1, SigmaNest on all workstations could no longer find the Network Sim, and would not run.

    Anyway, judging by known issues I'd read about, I pursued a firewall angle.  I found out what port the NetHASP connection uses (475), and made sure workstations could see that on the server (they could).  I reinstalled the NetHASP License Manager.  I reinstalled SigmaNest.  Nothing worked. 

    Finally, dreading a bad support like I've had all too often, I caved and called SigmaTek support.  After an hour on the phone with a well-intentioned, but lower-level support employee, he finally contacted Aladdin support (at my suggestion).  Eventually he got hold of them and the three of us worked together on it for a good while.  Eventually we tried a new (command-line) version of the NetHASP License Manager driver, and voila! it worked again.

    For the record, we had purposely waited a month after SP1's release to let any kinks get worked out (or at least known).  I'd also immediately mentioned the SP1 install to both SigmaTek and Aladdin's support reps, since it was a likely culprit.  Seemingly neither had run into the issue. 

    Now, I'm not sure, but this suggests to me that neither company is proactively testing new Windows patches and service packs.  If true, this is a very bad thing (if not, I'd love hear otherwise!).  It's also possible that they did know, but simply hadn't communicated that info with their support reps (and certainly had not via their support websites).

    I asked them to document what we'd found, but I don't have high hopes.  So... hopefully this anecdote will help out some other poor NetHASP clod like me: get the new/other NetHASP driver, and push the vendors to publish the problem and solution.

    7/3/2005 1:26 PM Eastern Daylight Time  #    Disclaimer  |   | 

     Thursday, June 30, 2005

    Next in my random song roll:

    Transatlantic - In Held (Twas) In I
    Audio Adrenaline - Glory
    King's X - Over My Head
    Ben Folds - Still Fighting It
    Lit - Over My Head
    Ray Charles - One Mint Julep
    Galactic Cowboys - Not of this World
    Crimson Glory - Cydonia
    Metallica - Wherever I May Roam
    Jars of Clay - Faith Like a Child

    Wow, lotta prog rock this time...

    6/30/2005 5:58 PM Eastern Daylight Time  #    Disclaimer  |   | 

     Tuesday, June 28, 2005

    I've installed SBS SP1 several times now.  It's an absurdly long and complicated process (yes, definitely "a process" more than "a patch"), and I just noticed this time the progress bar antics of step 4 ("XP SP2 for Client Deployment"):

    It did this dance for several minutes.

    ...Gotta love those wacky patch devs!

    6/28/2005 10:54 PM Eastern Daylight Time  #    Disclaimer  |   | 

    There's been a massive amount of cool software and web development lately involving maps.  I just want to nail down what I've seen in one place.  I'll try it as a timeline...

    • For ages there were the "classic web" map websites, which reloaded the entire page for every zoom, pan or other change.  MapQuest was one of the first (what, 10 years ago?), and has changed little since then.  In a word, "slooow".
    • Eventually some sites like Yahoo Maps and MSN Maps evolved some, using DHTML to dynamically swap the map image, without reloading the entire page.  This was definitely faster.
    • More recently, there was Google Maps, which actually slices the map into separate map "tiles", so that only the changed parts of the map are downloaded for each zoom/pan/etc (which is even faster).  Definingly-cool features include satellite maps, and the ability to "grab/drop" to move the map with your mouse just like you'd grab and move a real one.  This also put AJAX (aka "Remote Scripting") on the buzz map as a web development technique.
      Update: Don't miss the many amazing "remixes" of Google maps with other web apps, like phone books, housing ads, and crime stats).  Just Wow.
    • Then NASA released World Wind, a desktop application which does this same trick, but leverages DirectX to provide seamless zooming/panning -- a true 3D app, and very cool.  It's mouse-enabled much like Google Maps, but adds UI features like Tilting (which gives panning the sensation of a fly-over!) The focus is more educational/scientific reference than convenience (sorry, no driving directions to Wal-mart.)
    • Google Earth is the most recent, which is basically a combination of Google Maps with World Wind.  Its UI features are very similar to World Wind's, but it has more practical user features like Google Maps (how about Flying directions to Wal-Mart!).  (It also has some business features like demographic information overlays and the like, which puts it in the arena of Microsoft's commercial MapPoint software).
    • Update: A9 Maps is a new one.  It's a different interface, and sports "curb-view" photos of addresses.  ...Or says it does anyway, I can't find any around me, so I'm not sure what use that is.

    All of these are free, by the way.

    If you dig this kind of map stuff and/or astronomy, I recommend Celestia, a free 3D desktop app (like World Wind and Google Earth) for extra-terrestrial (as in "off Earth") virtual exploration.  It's a great reference and learning/teaching tool, and my 5yr old and I love it.

    6/28/2005 12:59 PM Eastern Daylight Time  #    Disclaimer  |   | 

    Okay, I'm not really sure Microsoft invented AJAX, but I do know Internet Explorer had several asynchronous scriptable technologies and techniques long before any other browser.

    To enumerate:

    • DSOs (ADC, TDC, RDS).  The TDC was pretty good, ADC was too heavy, and RDS was too much of a security issue, but they were all early ways to asynchronously data-bind elements at the browser.  They were also fully scriptable.
    • IFRAMEs - IE4/1997 or newer had IFRAMEs (Netscape 4 did have ILAYER, but Netscape 4 generally sucked).  I actually thought I invented this technique, and used it on many projects to much success.
    • Java - Meh, too bad about the JVM.  Same basic technique, though.
    • XMLHTTPRequest - Slightly more recent (circa IE5/1999 I think).  This object IS what modern AJAX code runs on.  Firefox, et al have only added similar objects in the last couple years.

    "Remote Scripting" was Microsoft's term for this technique.  (Heck, here's an April 1999 MSDN article on the topic).

    SO, I'm rather annoyed when well-known journalists say Microsoft is working "Not to be left out of any development trends...", or better yet, "Microsoft has decided [Ajax] is something it can't ignore... the Redmondians have jumped on the Ajax bandwagon.".

    ...Microsoft built that bandwagon.

    Update: Perhaps I'm not the only one annoyed they're not getting their due.
    Scoble's got a good laugh over AJAX, and Scott Isaacs has thoughts on an AJAX (DHTML) framework.

    6/28/2005 12:13 AM Eastern Daylight Time  #    Disclaimer  |   |