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With Friends Like These…

There is no little doubt in my mind that nothing brings out the worst in people better than a contentious election campaign.  In Canada this usually means six to ten weeks of slight animosity.  In the United States – a country where the presidency holds much wider global implications – it is often a two year battle royal that literally has people un-friending each other after terrible flame wars.

The 2016 Presidential Election was no doubt the worst I have ever experienced.  Whether this was because the system is broken, or because the two parties chose two very flawed candidates, or whatever the reason… I cannot think of a single civilized debate among friends or families who disagreed; it was all shouting and hateful rhetoric.

Boy, am I glad it is over.

I do not vote in the United States.  I am a proud citizen of two countries, neither of which is the USA.  That does not mean that I do not have my own opinions – I do.  However much I might have hidden it this time around (as I generally try to) it was obvious which candidate I preferred.  That candidate did not win.  As I said to my friend Eduardo prior to election day, if Secretary Clinton were to win I would celebrate… by smoking a cigar.  If Mr. Trump were to win I would mourn… by smoking a cigar.  Life will go on and despite what many will tell you, it is not the end of the world.

For the record, the cigar I smoked was a Montecristo No. 2 that was rolled at the Coronas factory in Havana, Cuba.  It was delicious.

For several weeks prior to the election I mused that I was looking forward to life getting back to normal, where not every conversation both on- and off-line was a fight about the election.  That sentiment was, I’m afraid, far too optimistic.  The election is now a week in our rear-view mirror, and the fights continue.  To the embarrassment of many there are even now protests and riots in the streets… yes, even in Canada.  The #NotMyPresident campaign is going strong, and while many Americans are looking for a way to move to Canada ahead of Inauguration Day, I am looking for a tropical island with no televisions and no Internet.

A few days ago I posted something on Facebook that sparked yet another heated flame-war between my friends.  I generally will let them go at it.  However a disturbing trend has come up.  Several different people have questioned how I could possibly be friends with anyone who would ‘support the other guy?’  They have not left it at that.  One person whom I went to high school with equated being friends with a Trump supporter with being friends with a supporter of Maurice Duplessis.  ‘Would you have been friends with someone whose minister wanted to deport all Jews?’  Another (actually, possibly the same person) asked if I could have been friends with someone who voted for Stalin?  Yet another, of course, brought up Hitler.

Now let’s make a few things clear: Firstly nobody had to vote for Stalin… and if you did want to vote against him there was a nice Gulag waiting for you, assuming you were not one of the millions of Russians he simply killed.  But leaving that aside, the United States is not and will not become Nazi Germany.  While I do not think the Trump presidency will be good for a lot of groups, I also do not think that anyone will be interned (although have you looked at the prison statistics?), and while he may halt immigration I don’t think anyone who is legally in the United States will be deported based on their race. 

But the point is this: We live in a world where people have different views.  Some of those views of people we like and love will differ tremendously from our own, and to disavow them is to give in to the hate.  NO I will not do that.  Frankly, if every Trump supporter were an outright racist, none of them would be friends with me (did I mention I’m Jewish?)

I also don’t think most of them (those that I am friends with) are actually racist.  I think they are just fed up with a political system that they see as having let them down for too many years.  If that were not the case then I don’t think that Trump would have even gotten the nomination.

Don’t get me wrong… I have equated Trump to Hitler on many occasions, but not for his racism (and yes, I truly feel that he has proven himself to be a racist).  I think he campaigned in much the same way Hitler did – show people how bad things are very loudly, blame a particular group or groups, and bang the table without offering any solutions but insulting his opponent.  Sound familiar?  All he was missing was the Beer Hall.

I did un-friend one person from Facebook during the campaign, and yes she was a Trump supporter.  However when she posted slanderous accusations against the candidate’s spouse, posting speculation of criminal activity as fact, and when I confronted her about it in private she started insulting me and the fact that I had the nerve to try to kiss her on a date two years ago.  Frankly in this she proved that I probably should not have been on that date in the first place, but that is another story.

So yes, I am going to remain friends with people whom I have jokingly called fascists, and who I felt during the course of the campaign made a complete ass of themselves.  I am certainly going to remain friends with my family (my cousins may be right-wing nut jobs, but they are my family and I love them).  Most of all, I am not going to un-friend anyone based on someone else telling me that I should.  That was reserved for high school, and truth be told I never had enough friends in high school to give them up because someone told me I should.

The best meme I have seen since the election said something like: ‘If you are unhappy with the result of the elections do not move to Canada… move to a Red state, become a school teacher, and educate people.’  I am going to remain friends with my friends because the only way they will ever see the light is by people like me gradually showing them that moderate is better than extreme, and love is better than hate.

And with that, I am going to watch a TV show that has absolutely nothing to do with politics.  Have a great day.

Remembrance Day vs. Christmas Decorations: The battle begins.

I was listening to talk radio as I drove home from wherever recently and there was a discussion about Christmas decorations, and the discussion was whether or not it is inappropriate (In Canada) to put up Christmas decorations prior to Remembrance Day (November 11th).

One of the commentators said that Christmas decorations before Remembrance Day is disrespectful to veterans, and of course as these shows are set up (primarily on slow news days) the other host disagreed.

remembrance-poppy-247x300The commentators hedged their bets, in case that topic had no interest, on whether it is appropriate for people who do not recognize the sacrifice of veterans to wear the poppy.  For those Americans who do not know, Canadians (and the entire British Empire as far as I know) wear poppies sold by the Legion (Our version of the VFW) to commemorate the veterans as well as the fallen.  The symbol dates back to a poem by Lt. Col. Robert McCrae called In Flanders Field.

Now I served my country and while that country was not Canada I still feel sentimental about our Canadian soldiers.  While I do not think that it is necessary for all Canadians to support the government, I feel it is incumbent upon all of us to support our soldiers – past AND present – and that wearing a poppy from November 1st through November 11th is a simple way to do so.  The argument of the host was that if the wearer does not feel it, they should not wear it as a fashion statement just to fit in and be recognized as ‘one of us.’

For anyone who has ever worn a poppy from the Legion you will know that you would be hard-pressed to find a flimsier accoutrement, and as such it is common to see people who are not wearing it, simply because it has fallen off.  I usually go through 5-6 of them in any given year.  As such I do not think anyone would look at anyone and say ‘Oh, he or she is not wearing a poppy, he or she must hate Canada and our soldiers!’  The corollary to that is I doubt anyone has ever said ‘Oh look! That person is wearing a poppy, we can happily include them in all our reindeer games!’  It’s just silly.  With that being said, every time you buy a new poppy – whether you support our troops or not – the money you put into the tin does go to help our veterans… and whatever your politics or beliefs, your money is just as needed.

As for the first topic – the Christmas decorations – I strongly believe they should not go up before November 11th, but that has nothing to do with veterans or respect, rather the fact that, assuming the decorations do not come down until the second week of January, do we really need Christmas decorations in our face for 1/6th of the year – all of November and December? 

My ex-wife used to think I was anti-Christmas because I am Jewish, and that I did not want to have a Christmas tree in the house because I was some sort of Christmas Grinch.  That is not the case… at least, not entirely.  I think the vast majority of Christmas decorations that we see in this day and age are just gaudy and tasteless.  I also don’t believe they need to be (or should be) out for two months of the year.  I lived in Israel for four years and cannot remember seeing a Chanukah decoration even a week before the holiday started – nor three days after it ended.  Assuming twelve days of Christmas, would it be so unreasonable to put decorations up December 15 (10 full days before the holiday starts) and take them down by January 15 (about a week after it ends)?  That gives the people who love that ‘most wonderful time of the year’ an entire month – 1/12th of the year – to enjoy it, without either over-diluting the (ridiculously commercialized) message or making the rest of us overdose on it?

As a veteran I have tried to figure out the connection between the two and I still cannot.  I assure you that I am not offended by Christmas decorations on Remembrance Day… and if you want to wear a poppy because everyone else is then as long as you put your loonie into the tin then please by all means… but rather than looking at it from a ‘someone has to be offended’ standpoint, why not look at it as ‘MAYBE it’s just too much, and smaller doses can be a good thing!’ ??

And with that, shortly before midnight on November 3rd, I just heard my first Christmas Carol on the radio, and am going to go throw up.

Thanks for reading!

Since When…?

Those of us who have been in the IT industry for a while remember the heady days of never having to reboot a server… otherwise known as ‘The days before Windows Server.’  Those days are long gone, and even non-Windows servers need to be patched and restarted.

But how do you know when it last happened?  If you have a proper management and monitoring infrastructure then you can simply pull up a report… but many smaller companies do not have that, and even in larger environments you may want to figure out up-time without having to go through the entire rigmarole of pulling up your reports. So here it is:

  1. Open a Command Prompt
  2. Type in net statistics server

There will be a line that says Statistics since m/dd/yyyy… That is when your server last rebooted.

If you want to shorten it, you can also just type Net Stats SRV.  It provides the same results.

Uptime

Incidentally, while the command specifically states Server, it works for workstations too.

…And now you know.

Another Milestone for TWAM

A few weeks ago – somewhere around the second week of November or so – this blog hit a bit of a milestone.  It welcomed its 183,060th visitor of 2015.  That may seem like a bit of a weird number to celebrate… but it is significant in that it is the same number of visitors we welcomed in 2014 – the entire year.

That same week we welcomed our 181,122nd visitor… the same number as we had welcomes in 2013.

If I remember correctly, for a few days in December of 2014 I was worried if we would have the same number of visitors as the preceding year – the year I first went to Japan and Australia, the year I spent traveling across Canada as a Microsoft Evangelist (with all of the exposure that entailed).  We did of course, but statistically it was no more than that – Actually, just over a 1% increase.

I wasn’t sure if I had plateaued – if this was as good as it was going to get.  I expected that Now that I am no longer a Microsoft Evangelist, no longer a Microsoft MVP, my readership would actually start going down.  And it might yet… but it certainly hasn’t.

And so last month we matched the total for the previous year… and every view after that was shooting for a new record.  But before we would know what that record will eventually be – and we will not know until January 1 – we have been shooting for another milestone.

If the trend continues, that milestone should be reached around the same time as this article goes live, at 8:30am Thursday morning.

Around that time, we will welcome our 200,000th visitor of the year.  Wow!

Additionally, once we hit that target, we will then be 5,344 hits away from welcoming visitor number 700,000 (since migrating onto the WordPress platform in November, 2010).  Another Wow!

I want to thank all of you for your confidence and your readership.  Even though my father does not know how to visit my blog (and if you know him, please feel free to tease him about that) I still consider you part of my family.  No, that does not mean you should expect a Christmas present or that you can borrow money.  What it does mean is that I feel a responsibility to all of you, and will continue to work hard to not let you down.

Thank you all!

OEM Servers: Myths vs. Realities

In a recent conversation I realized that there are still a lot of misconceptions about OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) operating system rights with regard to Windows Server. While I am not here to say who is right and who is wrong (whether one should or should not buy OEM operating systems), I still think it is important to understand the facts.

Myth #1: OEM licensing is limited, and cannot be upgraded.

An OEM license is indeed tied to the physical hardware for which it was purchased. This is a distinct disadvantage to purchasing Volume Licenses (VLs). However when you buy an OEM operating system you have thirty (30) days to add Software Assurance to it. Any license with Software Assurance attached to it can be upgraded as new versions are released. However there is one important bit to understand… when decommissioning that server, the SA can be detached from the license and attached to another… but the OS itself cannot.

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Myth #2: Virtualization rights are unclear on OEM licenses.

I hear this from people all the time, and although I have tried to explain it to many of them, sometimes I simply have to shrug my shoulders and walk away from it. There is nothing murky or unclear about virtualization licensing. Whether your host (hypervisor) is an OEM license, VL license, or FPP (Full Package Product) license, your virtualization rights are the same, and they depend not on how you bought the license, but what tier you bought (Standard vs. Datacenter).

The OEM license is applied to the host, and must be tied to that host. However the guest VMs (2 on Standard, unlimited on Datacenter) do not have any restrictions. Like any guest VM on any other license, they can be migrated to any other host, as long as the destination host has allowance – so if the destination host is Windows Server Standard Edition, it cannot host a third guest VM, but if the destination host is Windows Server Datacenter Edition, the only limitation is based on the available resources (CPUs, RAM, storage).

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Myth #3: There are things you can with OEM Editions that you cannot do with VL Editions.

While this is a less common complaint, it is still there. I am told (and I have not really looked into this) that with Windows Server OEM versions (let’s take the HP ROK as an example) you can modify the image to show your logo during the boot-up process. While this is true, I have two points to it:

1) If you know what you are doing you can customize the boot process of any Windows Server installation, regardless of the edition or version.

2) Folks, it’s a server… how often are you rebooting it? Most of my servers (especially virtualization hosts) don’t reboot for months at a time. When they do get rebooted, it either happens at night (when I have scheduled patches) or remotely, when I am not sitting and watching the POST process. I can’t imagine there are too many customers who sit and watch their servers either…

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Myth #4: When a reseller consultant sells OEM licenses there is more room for profit.

I am usually very saddened to hear this, but that is mostly because I am not the sort of consultant who makes a lot of money off products; I would rather make my money off my time, and that is what I do. I don’t like hearing that there are resellers who buy a cheaper (and less versatile) option but resells it for the same price as the full version. Aside from the previous point also applying, I am always certain that my customer will find out and call me on it, and I will lose their trust. It is just not worth it to me. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a legitimate issue for some.

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Conclusion

There is nothing wrong with OEM licenses, and they are certainly less expensive than other ways of purchasing the operating system. They are just as versatile as non-OEM licenses, but not especially more versatile. If you replace (not upgrade or add more) servers often then they are likely not a good option for you, especially since they don’t add value to the physical server if you resell it. However if you keep your servers for more than a couple of year (as most companies will) then the cost savings might make it worthwhile, and if you do the cost benefit comparison, you might just come out ahead… and that’s CONFIRMED!

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Distinguished Names for Complex Items

Distinguished Names are pretty simple, right? Well… it depends on several factors.  To figure out the DN for swmi.ca it is… dc=swmi,dc=ca.  An Organizational Unit is not much harder… Let’s take an OU called Toronto in the swmi.com domain… ou=Toronto,dc=swmi,dc=ca.  Simple.

But what happens when we add a little complexity to our environment?  Say… OUs within OUs, and domains within domains?  Here’s an example:

Domain: Canada.swmi.ca
OU: OntarioToronto

Okay, this is a little more complex… but it’s actually pretty easy, once you know what you are doing.

OU=Toronto,OU=Ontario,DC=Canada,DC=swmi,DC=ca

See? That’s not that much harder than the simple Distinguished name…it’s just longer.

Spaces… what happens when you add spaces into the names of your OUs?  Of course, the space is not a valid character in a domain name, but there is nothing stopping you from putting them into your OU names.  You know… aside from common sense ;’)

We know that in PowerShell (and most scripting- and command-line interfaces) you have to put quotes around names that have spaces.  But when I run a PowerShell script that includes the DN of an object, it will already have quotes around it… do I have to double-quote?

No.  Distinguished Names do not change because you are scripting.  So let’s look at an example:

Domain: Canada.swmi.ca
OU: OntarioToronto – File Servers

Take a deep breath… relax, and let’s do what we did before…

OU=File Servers,OU=Toronto,OU=Ontario,DC=Canada,DC=swmi,DC=ca

We can go on and on with this game… one particular client that I am working with right now has a domain with OUs embedded six levels deep.  It is crucial that I get the DN right when I am scripting… refer to my article on Failover Cluster OUs and you will see why.  My clusters must be placed in the right place.  So I spent the time to make sure I had it right… and it worked!

…So what if you are hesitant, unsure, unconfident?  Before you run your script, run a simple command to test it:

dsquery ou “OU=File Servers,OU=Toronto,OU=Ontario,DC=Canada,DC=swmi,DC=ca

A simple dsquery should return the following response:

“OU=File Servers,OU=Toronto,OU=Ontario,DC=Canada,DC=swmi,DC=ca”

Now this isn’t very exciting… it is just parroting back to me what I said, right?  Well know that the alternative is an error message (dsquery failed: A referral was returned from the server, or dsquery failed: Directory object not found) and not getting that is golden.

Distinguished Names can be intimidating… but with a little bit of knowledge, you should be on easy street!

An Open Letter to Application Developers

Dear Developers,

I want to thank you for continuing to build applications and programs and other software that makes my life better.  As an Infrastructure Specialist I feel my kind and your kind have developed a nice symbiosis over the years – I build the environments on which your solutions run, and you make my infrastructure more than just a pretty face.  This has allowed us (in collaboration with our good friends, the DBA types) to deliver solutions to our users that make their lives easier.

We have come a long way from the time when WordPerfect consisted of a single file, and that all of what we did ran off individual floppy disks.  As the solutions get bigger, it is understandable that, at least under the hood, they are going to become more complex. So I get why I have had to step up my game in a lot of aspects.  My environment will be as complex as you need it to be, while remaining as simple as it can be.

There are times though when I think you are taking a simple path, and that path of yours can complicate my life.  I will give you an example:

I have been testing a particular monitoring solution for one of my customers.  It is a solution that I suspect will make my life easier, so I decided to install it.  Okay so far.

And then I needed to uninstall it.  It wasn’t that I didn’t like the product, it was that I hadn’t checked on some of the requirements, and rather than trying to adjust them later on (or live with them).  I opened the Uninstall or change a program window, and poof… there were suddenly 25 ‘programs’ that I needed to uninstall… one by one.

Before you say it I know… some applications have an Uninstall program which will clean your system of every last remnant of its installation.  Most don’t.  So when I uninstall one component, I have to uninstall all of them, lest the installation program see that the remnants are still there, and not re-install properly later on.

I understand you think I am asking a lot of you.  After all, what is 20 minutes of my pressing ‘Uninstall’ over and over again in the grand scheme of things?  Well here’s the thing… when I have to do it five or ten times (whether I am testing it or writing about it or whatever) it can really add up.  With that said, how difficult would it really be for you to create an installation log that an Uninstall application can follow?

What about Snapshots and Checkpoints Mitch?

Ah, that is a good point… Virtual Machine Snapshots (and Checkpoints) do give me the ability to go forward and then back out to that point… but I have to know in advance that I am going to go through the uninstall-reinstall dance… and when your application links to an external database on a different machine they are often rendered useless.

So if you feel I am being unreasonable, please understand that is not my intention.  I just feel that a little extra effort from you could go a long way to making my life a little easier.

But we don’t want you uninstalling our applications!  Use them!

That is another great point… but I assure you that if I create a server specifically for your application (as I did in this case), if I decide to NOT use your application then uninstalling it will not be an issue, I will simply blow the server away.  I want to use your applications, that is what makes my environment shine.  This will just help me a little bit more.

Thank you!

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