I did my taxes this year with Ufile and submitted them with Netfile right to Canada Customs and Revenue Agency. Bart pointed out Ufile to me, and recommended it highly. I did all my taxes and Jennifer’s return too, for about $21. It made it very easy, and it only took a fraction of the time it usually takes. Thanks, Bart.
We use TRIM from Tower Software for records management. I’ve blogged about Trim before several times, but this entry best describes it. It requires Windows domain authentication of the client, which means netbios has to be available between the client and the server. We don’t run Windows servers for anything else important, so we don’t let netbios travel over our WAN. Instead, to provide client-server access for TRIM, we run the client on one Windows server, the server on another one right next to it, and allow the users in using Terminal Services. Much more secure.
I have been having problems with the TRIM client, which is a win32 application. The Import / Export facility broke, and none of Tower Software’s technical support could help solve the problem, despite good effort. I built a vmware virtual machine, joined it to the domain, and installed the client on it, in order to try another approach with the Import / Export. This helped me solve the problem, but the solution left a sour taste in my mouth. When I tried the import on the vmware client, it failed like it did on the terminal server. However, it gave a different error message. It said it couldn’t create or access a file called TRIMport.mdb, which is an Access database file. It seems that some settings for the client are stored in this file, and the file lives in the application directory, which normal user logins don’t have write access to. It turns out that initially the file doesn’t exist, so you have to give a user write access to the shared installation directory of the TRIM client so that the file can be created there. Then, any user can go and bugger up TRIM. On top of that, you can’t even revoke write access to the TRIM client directory after the TRIMport.mdb file is created, because the Import and Export features seem to write some kind of temporary files there.
I think that’s a suprisingly bad design.
Bah. At least it’s working now, and I made a full copy of the TRIM directory before changing the rights.
Our CTO, our manager of corporate technology services and I met yesterday to write our corporate technology strategic plan. The last one was done in 2002 and it was getting a little old. We’ve actually achieved or are in the proces of implementing all the tasks from the old one. The new one worked out very well. We arrived at some good visionary goals for our IT services, and it will be interesting times ahead as we bring them into design and implementation.
It appears that there’ll be plenty of work to go around for our CTS group for the next three years.
In the two weeks since I went off the blogging wagon, I’ve been concentrating on a few things. The biggest pain has been my favorite piece of software, TRIM Context from Tower Software, which went on the blink. TRIM is client-server DCOM software that we use for managing records. It keeps track of where our paper files are and when they should be destroyed and that kind of stuff. It works great for the users but it’s not the easiest thing to manage, and it’s not web-centric.
Recently our client install has become unable to run the import/export tool for TRIM. We only have one client install because of the requirement for Windows networking protocols on the WAN to run TRIM, and because we don’t have a Windows networking infrastructure, so we don’t pass MS network protocols over the WAN. We run TRIM in a terminal server. One big downside to that is that if the client is broken, it is broken for everybody. The upside is that if I can get it fixed it will be fixed for everybody.
I’ve rebooted (repair procedure #1 for all windows problems), reinstalled the import/export facility, and reinstalled the whole client to no avail. I also got in touch with Tower Software’s support line, who told me to reboot, reinstall the import/export facility and to reinstall the whole client. Just for fun I went through all that again to no avail again. Since Tower has no customer-accessible knowledgebase, there is no way for me to troubleshoot the problem short of trial-and-error, or by email with the support people who take a day to reply. They’re good, but it takes a long time. That way, I should have the problem fixed by the end of summer.
Right now I’m building a vm in VMware that I can join to the TRIM domain so that I can run the TRIM client, and then I’ll see if there’s any way I can get that copy of the client to import and export. If that’s successful at least I have something I can go back to TRIM with. We should also upgrade to a newer release, I guess, although that requires some down time for my users.
We went snowboarding (well, I went snowboarding and Jenn, Emily and Mack skied) at Marmot Basin on the 8th of April. It went extremely well. The snow was great, the weather was nice, the kids were without fear and very enthusiastic, and we had a great time.
The single big downside of the day was my new boots. I bought a pair of Burton Moto boots, and wore them at Marmot. The boots were tight, but the sales dude said that they would pack out half a size in the first few days of use. The first day of use was at Marmot, and they definitely didn’t pack out on that day. I got sore feet, partly because of the new boots’ size and partly because I chose a crap pair of socks that were worn out. I got a blister on the sole of my left foot that was very painful and necessitated a few stops to relieve the pressure during the day. If I had brought my old boots I probalby would have switched to them halfway through the day.
I am definitely going to get some good, thin smooth socks for next season.
All in all, we had a great winter of skiing and snowboarding and we’ve already decided to get a season’s pass at Rabbit Hill again this year. I may have to pay extra for snowboard equipment for Emily and Jenn though. They are both interested in doing more snowboarding next season.
For the past two weeks I’ve forgotten to retain the habit of entering stuff into my blog. I think I sort-of ODed on it when I was at Brainshare and I needed a mental break from it. I’ve had that. I was just perusing Planet Beagle, a weblog aggregation site for the Beagle Project when I realized that I hadn’t blogged for a long time. I looked at my blog and Bang!, no entries for two weeks. I’m officially resuming blogging as of now.
We’re going to Marmot Basin in Jasper this weekend to finish off our season of snowboarding and skiing. It will be Emily’s second trip to the mountains, and Mack’s first. Last year Emily had an unsuccessful attempt to ski at Lake Louise, where she got intimidated by the size of the place. This season I was determined to get the kids out to the small hill enough that they were super-confident, and wouldn’t get intimidated by the sheer size of a mountain resort. We went to Rabbit hill more than a dozen times, and the kids developed a lot of confidence, so this time when we go to Marmot they should be ready to just have fun.
I’m also keen to go because I just bought a new pair of Burton Moto snowboard boots to replace my aging Airwalks from the early 90’s. The inner liners in the Airwalk boots have slowly turned to concrete this season, just due to age. The new Burton boots are like pillows by comparison. They are also about half the weight of the Airwalks.
I tried on some Burton Sabbath boots too, and they felt like getting a continuous foot massage, but they were out of my price range. I’m saving up a bit more cash to be able to buy a 2004 snowboard from a rep I know, when he sells off his demo equipment. I won’t have the most stylin old-school board on the hill anymore, but it is really time to retire the old 1991 Burton Air.
Anyways, Marmot has the best snow in their history this year, so I can’t wait to get up there tomorrow.
In the nearly two weeks I’ve been back from Brainshare, I’ve worked only 6 days. In those days, a couple have been spent trying to stablize our failing and flaky storage system, that we use for backup. Its an HP DL380 G3 with an external MSA20 SATA storage array. It works fine for about two days, and then the HP 6400 storage controller card suddenly claims it is unconfigured and stops talking to the external storage array. We’ve patched firmware and drivers until the cows come home, so hopefully now, after two and a half days of uptime, it might be fixed.
I’ve also been dealing back and forth with Telus regarding a pair of Blackberry handhelds that RIM and Telus were supposed to provide me and James with at Brainshare. Telus didn’t manage to get the handhelds shipped in time so they didn’t arrive in Salt Lake City while we were there. I finally got mine yesterday, and got it configured after three tries on Telus’s automated phone programming system. James, on the other hand, has been screwed by Telus again. They have been telling him that his would arrive this week too, but yesterday afternoon they told him that he was on a waiting list, pending the availability of hardware. I bet he will be able to grow a full and luxurious beard before he gets his Blackberry.
Our programming team of Bart and Shawn have been working on the new project initiation tool that builds directory structures and records management structures for new projects. They are finding out what has been apparent to me all along: Even though the records management committee think they have all the issues sorted out for project filing, they really don’t. They have a lot more work to do to establish procedures, policies, access rights, and training. It’s always fun trying to program something for somebody who really doesn’t know what they want the program to do.