Archive

Archive for May, 2006

All-nighter

2006-05-31 Leave a comment

We shifted over from our old Border Manager-based VPN to a new WAN infrastructure mostly provided by our ISP. It was one of the biggest single rounds of changes I have ever done to our network infrastructure. It went very well, down to the very last server.

Then that very last server bit me in the ass. It was our primary SMTP server, the gateway where almost all our external email comes in and out from the Internet. I made a simple change, to the server’s default gateway. I tried to get it to kick in but the smtp gateway agent crashed. I shut down and restarted the server, and the gateway would no longer run. I tried reinstalling it but that corrupted it worse, and broke the web access agent too. I ended up having to reinstal the whole gateway server, which took until 03:30. I got to bed as the sun was coming up.

Today things were working s-l-o-w-l-y. We discovered we had several instances where the Cisco routers from the ISP had autonegotiated conflicting network speed and duplex settings with our HP routers. With the help of our partner Dom Amyotte from Greycon Consulting, we got everything working. The users were skeptical this morning, but now they seem pretty happy.

Categories: Other Work Stuff

AGM Reaffirms

2006-05-29 Leave a comment

This past weekend all the shareholders of our company got together in Calgary for our AGM. We take the opportunity to connect with our peers, meet new shareholders, get updated (briefly) on the state of the art in our various areas of practice, pay respect to our predecessors, and socialize. Some of the stuff that went on really reaffirmed some of the reasons I like where I work. Our former president and CEO is retiring to the Chairman of the Board position. Several of the people that worked for him or with him, and even one who he worked for (our past Chairman) got up and said some wonderful things about him, and everyone was very respectful and thanful for the efforts that he made in making our company successful. I hope that when I retire there will be some people around who are inclined to make those kind of comments about my career. In his thank-you remarks, he even managed to thank and congratulate us in the technology services group as playing an important role in the company’s past and future success.

I have been a shareholder for several years, and the other thing that amazes me every time we have an AGM is that there are always one or two 30 or 35-year service awards given out at the AGM. The staff retention we have is almost unheard of in consulting engineering, and is a point of pride for us. It’s a great place to work.

We also had a presentation about our new strategic plan, and without divulging any information, I can safely say that I am not scared at all about running out of things to do.

Categories: Other Work Stuff

Off to AGM

2006-05-26 Leave a comment

I’m off to the annual AGM of our company’s shareholders. This year we’re in sunny (not!) Calgary. Hopefully we’ll be able to get in some hockey TV tomorrow night as the Oilers oust the Mighty Ducks and move on to the final.

Categories: Other Work Stuff

Air Conditioning Improved in Server Room

2006-05-19 Leave a comment

With the heat-wave we’ve been having, and with the building air conditioning out of service, the server room has been getting untenably hot. It has been pushing over 30 degrees in here, and all the servers with variable speed fans have been howling away at maximum trying to keep themselves cool enough.

Ed decided to go ahead and get a supplemental air conditioner for the server room to try to knock a few degrees off the temperature in there. James tried to get one at Costco but they were out. Yesterday Ed called all the other Costcos around here and found one that had seven air conditioning units. We ran out there and went in as soon as it opened in the morning to get one.

When we got it back here we realized that the inlet and exhaust piping that it came with wasn’t long enough to go up to the ceiling and through the drywall above the kitchen’s hung ceiling next door. I went to Home Depot after work and bought two 10-foot pieces of flexible metallic dryer hose and this morning I cut a hole in the drywall to the kitchen (getting much drywall dust in the face and nose in the process) and installed the air conditioner. It’s humming away in there, and now I can run all the blades in the bladecenter without fear.

Categories: Other Work Stuff

Power Out Again

2006-05-18 Leave a comment

We had another hours-long power failure again last night. Apparently the hamster food I sent over to the power company didn’t arrive and they ran out of fuel again, or something. At least everything came back up cleanly today without any equipment failures. The other bonus was that with the entire server room powered down all night, the temperature got down to a more bearable 24 in there. Our building’s main air conditioning is down for the moment, and the supplemental air contitioning unit in the server room can’t manage the load by itself.

Categories: Other Work Stuff

SPAM Filter Whitelisting on a Barracuda

2006-05-17 2 comments

We just got a new Barracuda SPAM firewall for our GroupWise system. We had an older SPAM filtering solution, but it hasn’t kept up with the latest SPAM techniques, so it is starting to lose effectiveness in blocking SPAM. On the old system we had built up a big (about 120 entries) whitelist that prevents our client’s emails from being tagged as spam. I have the whitelist in a big file, and I wanted to add it to the Barracuda. Unfortunately, the Barracuda’s user interface only allows the addition of any list parameters one item at a time.

firewall-whitelist.png

This would have made loading the whitelist really annoying. I figured there must be a way to automate it, and I started out by trying to reverse-engineer the form by looking at the page source. This probably would have worked, but when I was looking at the Barracuda documentation, I noticed an API document. It tells you how to use some administration CGI scripts to automate configuration changes. I wrote a little C# program and bash script to stuff my whitelist into the SPAM firewall, and it worked. You can modify any configuration parameters using this technique in the Barracuda. Here’s my little program listing. I used mono to run it, and stuffed each whitelist entry into the firewall one at a time with a looping bash script.

// file:  change.cs
using System;
using System.Text;
using System.Net;
using System.Net.Sockets;

public class change
{
  public static int Main(string[] args)
  {
    if(args.Length!=2)
    {
       Console.WriteLine("change parameter value");
       return -1;
    }

    string web_url = "http://cuda.mynet.com:8000/cgi-bin/config_add.cgi";
    string param = "?variable=" + args[0] + "&value=" + args[1];
    Console.WriteLine(web_url + param);
    WebClient web_client = new WebClient();
    Byte[] page_in_bytes = web_client.DownloadData(web_url + param);
    string page_source = Encoding.ASCII.GetString(page_in_bytes);

    Console.WriteLine(page_source);
    return 0;
  }

}

Build the program like this:

mcs change.cs

.
Then, call it like this to add items to the whitelist:

mono change.exe mta_acl_domain_allow_name whitehouse.gov

This would whitelist whitehouse.gov. Do that once per domain name you want to whitelist, and voila!

Categories: GroupWise

Power Failure – Picking up the Pieces

2006-05-17 Leave a comment

I figured we had a power failure last night when I couldn’t connect in from home. I checked several of the internet-accessible services we run at our head office, and none were available. Apparently Epcor ran out of fuel or something last night, so our head office was without power for about five hours. I’m sending over an extra bag in the courier.
hamsterfood.jpg
We don’t have UPS power for five hours here, so pretty much all our servers were down. As is usual when you take down a couple of dozen servers, some stuff doesn’t come back up properly. One thing was our public FTP server, which blew a drive when it went down, and another was the bladecenter. When everything powered up at the same time in the bladecenter, the SAN wasn’t ready before the blades came up, and no virtual machines booted. I had to reboot several of the blades to get them to recognize the SAN volumes. I also had to replace the drive in the FTP server. The thing that didn’t boot by itself was our Expedition server, but that never comes up on its own anyways.

It’s all running again now.

Categories: Other Work Stuff

MailSaver Still Collecting Feedback

2006-05-16 14 comments

I’ve still not had enough testing feedback on MailSaver, so I’m going to wait a bit longer before I publish release 4. I’d like to have some more and varied users test it and let me know how it works for them. Our in-house tests have been fairly good but I still want more feedback.

Hopefully next week I’ll release v4.0.

Categories: MailSaver

OpenSUSE Linux 10.1 with 3D Desktop Coolness is Out

2006-05-11 Leave a comment

I’ve been running a beta release of OpenSUSE Linux on my Engineering workstation for a few weeks. It’s been quite stable, and I’ve gotten so used to the 3D desktop, that I use the tools like the flipping cube, the zoom-to-find-windows and the control-alt-shift flip to drag windows from screen to screen completely by habit. When I’m showing something we’re working on in Engineering to some random staff member who comes in to ask questions, I habitually flip the cube from one task to another and they go “Whoa, what was that?” which of course necessitates the whole 3D desktop tour.

The official release of OpenSUSE 10.1 is out today, and as you can see on my cube below, it’s downloading in a couple of bittorrent sessions.

desktopgl-thm.png

If you want to see the coolest Linux desktop around right now, and see features that may be available in Windows Vista some day if it ever ships, go download OpenSUSE 10.1 and witness the 3D desktop right now.

Categories: Linux

MailSaver 4.0 Beta 3 Up

2006-05-11 Leave a comment

Get the installer for MailSaver 4.0 Beta 3 (and future betas) here.

I’m nearly done and just need lots of testing. This version will be distributed internally at our company to our intrepid testers, so the next build (or the one after that) will likely be the final of 4.0. Hopefully that will happen within the next two weeks.

Categories: MailSaver
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