Monday, September 22, 2014

Change control killed the sysadmin star


Yesterday, I've watched Office Space for the first time in probably 10 years. I can't believe how this movie is still relevant today. What's most funny is that one of the center pieces of this movie, TPS reports, is the type of report I have to file sometimes. Even if the movie's underlying themes have not aged much, there is one thing that Mike Judge would have to consider if he had to direct a reboot (pun intended) of Office Space 2015: change control.

I could go on and on about change control but I won't. However, I can leave you with this song:

Red tape came and broke your heart
We can't approve you've gone too far
Change control killed the sysadmin star


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Running a Matrox G450x4 MMS under Windows 7


I was recently tasked with a small challenge. Given that we have a fair amount of circa-2005, quad-screen workstations running Windows XP for which we know the clock is ticking, is it possible to upgrade them to Windows 7 even if they have ancient Matrox graphic cards?

The answer is, yes, with some limitations. Matrox doesn't have a clear stance on Win7 support for the G450 series. By downloading their latest driver which is supposed to support Win7 SP1, the installer fails without even a hint of what is going on.

By searching for and trying various older drivers, I found out that the WHQL drivers do not support the G450, but the non-WHQL do. To get these drivers, you have to go to the "archived support drivers" area and scroll down to the latest non-WHQL driver you can find for your platform. In my case, it was version 211_00_183. The driver installs and the graphic card works. Case closed.

Of course, by using non-WHQL drivers, you might be asked by Microsoft to remove these drivers if you run into problems and ask for support.

For the curious, these workstations have been limited to being quad-screen ICA clients a long time ago, so I don't expect any performance impact by moving them to Windows 7. If we move on with this scenario, we'll be saving the company some money by extending the life of this equipment for a few more years.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Launching the Performance Monitor from the command line or script


On a Windows 2008 R2 server, I needed to launch the Performance Monitor with a built-in live report. That is targeted to support personnel and I don't want them to have to start it an add counters manually each time.

Man, that task proved to be more complex than I expected.

Here is what I've found in the last few days:

Solution 1: use IE
From the performance manager, the only option offered to save a custom report is to save it to an .HTML file which can then be launched from IE. That is clunky, as it has some ActiveX code and you need to acknowledge running it. Furthermore, when you load up that HTML page, you first have to press on the "play" icon to start the data collection, which is another useless step that I don't want support guys to have to do.

Solution 2: use Typeperf
There is a nice utility named "typeperf.exe" that can be used to dump specific counters to the console. It works, but for an odd reason, it can ONLY output CSV output to the screen. If you specify another format, it insists on dumping in a file. In essence it is a good quick-and-dirty tool for the console but not a terrific all-around solution.

Solution 3: use Perfmon in standalone mode (WE HAVE A WINNER!)
You can launch a standalone Permon using "perfmon /sys". This lets you add counters and, look at the magic, the standalone panel offers the possibility of saving that report in a .PerfmonCfg file. To load the file, simply click on it (or use "start meh.PerfMonCfg" within a batch file) and it will bring up a good old Perfmon report on the screen. That, in my opinion, is the best way to achieve my goal.

Sorry for the lack of details, but that should give you an idea.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The born-again sysadmin

A few weeks ago, I decided to go back to my roots as a systems administrator. While being an architect was a fulfilling experience, I was missing a lot the technical work I used to do in my previous career.

So, I'll be transitioning from my current architecture duties to join a team in charge of a mission critical system that currently runs on - hold your breath - Tru64 Unix. This is a major real-time system for my company, which spans three sites and counts a plethora of servers. Can't say more due to security issues. Many in that team are due to leave for retirement this summer so I'll probably work as a Mr Wolf for a while, fixing what needs to be fixed (and strategically avoiding what doesn't need to).

This Tru64 system is planned to be upgraded to Linux (specifically RHEL 5.8) starting next year, with a go live in 2014. And I'm in the delightful situation of having been one of the architects to document that upgrade -- the difference being that it's ME who will have to live with it for years to come.

I'll be the first to admit that this blog has been slow going between 2010 and 2012. There was simply no content that was "generic" enough to be published here. Things might change over time.


Monday, April 16, 2012

The Microsoft SMTP service doesn't create a log file.

The Microsoft SMTP service doesn't log anything in the SmtpSvc1 directory even though you enabled logging and you're on Windows 2003?

Save yourself some trouble, and install the "ODBC Logging" role service in Server Manager. Although it shouldn't help, it does, and for me the SMTP service started logging automagically after restarting it.

Wasted an hour on that nonsense before finding this trick buried deep somewhere in a forum posting.




Friday, November 4, 2011

A homebrew ATSC multi-room PVR project

I'm not involved in technical matters much at work right now and thus I've fallen back to updating my own home on my spare time. This is a six-month project that will consist of:

Canada has switched to ATSC on September 1st, so my main objective is to cut cable TV and modernize my 2 current standalone cable-company-supported-PVRs which have an interface that dates back to 2001.

In a nutshell, I'll do this in the following weeks:
  • No more lightning in the house: Installing and grounding an exterior OTA antenna
  • Thank you foxconn and the MediaPortal Team: Building and configuring a "budget" Windows 7 TV Server with MediaPortal
  • Rsync now, robocopy later: Dismantling my FreeNAS-based NAS to consolidate data on the TV Server.
  • PXE for the masses: Deploying 2-3 MediaPortal client nettops using PXE and OpenWRT

I've got some of the pieces in place. The Win7 server is running and I should be ready to test MediaPortal soon. Why Win7 and not Win2008? The reason is that my ATSC card (an AverTVHD Duet) doesn't have drivers for 2008, and I don't need a domain controller for my house anyway. For the nettops, I have one in hand already, and wish to try installing them using PXE (just for the kicks).

I'll try to post some pictures and details over the coming weeks. They should roughly follow the 4 steps above.

Olivier

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Yes, I'm still alive.

Not many posts lately huh?

My older blog, Technocrat-UX, consisted of a way for me to document quirks and techniques related to HP-UX, BladeSystems, and some other technologies. Technocrat-UX enjoyed some success as these were niche, but relevant, subjects.

That model doesn't fit well with The ex-sysadmin where I originally had the intention of documenting my new job as a systems architect. The main problem when designing IT architectures is that the ideas and diagrams that result of my efforts are not generic and reusable enough, thus not interesting. Furthermore, in a security perspective, a lot of work needs to be done to obfuscate the information - any information - before it is released. I can't, for instance, publish a networking topology just like that to the public.

Up until recently I did, however, have the intention of writing a paper and presentation documenting a reference architecture for IED event and measure collection following my 18 month experience with Cooper's products. But due to some restrictions, that has not been possible yet.

In the mean time I'm keeping the blog going with posts that I *think* could be interesting to sysadmins, architects and... ex-sysadmins.

O.