Photo by Victoria Reay
Whether you're co-locating a server, using hosted e-mail, or riding the latest cloud technology, you need to make sure that your service provider can give you the goods. It can be tough to tell from the outside if the core is rotten, but there are a number of red flags to watch out for.
- Each invoice comes with a pre-emtive credit for future outages.
- Redunant servers are virtual machines running on the same computers they are backing up.
- Their web site requires Netscape Navigator version 3.12 or earlier.
- They request that if you're uploading a lot of data to mail in Zip disks.
- Backup power provided by stationary bikes hooked up to an electric motor.
- They ask you to pay in bearer bonds.
- Fire suppression is a set of cappuccino foam makers.
- When calling support you can hear an order being taken at a fast food drive-through... from the inside.
- The primary and backup facilities share a parking lot.
- Executives start every conversation by invoking their 5th amendment rights.
- You salesperson refers to his Motorola DynaTAC phone as a "Blackberry."
- Server room cooling is handled by a ceiling fan and a sun roof.
- Option 1 on the automated phone system is to "serve papers."
- Their tech support web page is a link to Google.
These admins amaze me. I've learned from reading their posts, tweets, and comments. They learn a lot, and they share what they know.
The list hits Admins in the US, Europe, and Australia. They range from only Windows to a mix of Windows/Unix (and a few developers).
7. Rachel Baker (@RachelBaker)
Rachel has a great following on Twitter, and for all the right reasons; she learns, shares, and gives credit where it's due. She's doing more of a business/social networking consulting now, but don't let it fool you. She's technical and has done her fair share of admin work.
6. Matt Simmons (@standaloneSA)
I started following Matt's posts in 2008. His passion for system administration is very evident in his writing. When he has a technical challenge he finds a way to fix it. That's where he gets his best posts.
5. Michael Pietroforte (@4sysops)
Michael is a Microsoft MVP in Windows administration. His website, 4sysops.com, is followed by over 5,000 administrators who learn from his technical product reviews and tutorials.
He lives in Munich, Germany, and though we have an 8 hour time difference, there is rarely a time that I email him where a reply isn't received quickly.
4. Adam Ruth (@AdamRuth)
OK, in the strictest terms Adam is not a system administrator, but he knows their jobs inside and out. For over two decades Adam has been writing software tools that make their jobs (and lives) easier. I think the only major platform he's not written code for is the OS/390. Every flavor of Unix, Mac OS, DOS, and every version of Windows. (Even a tiny bit on AS/400, but he would never admit to that). I've worked with him now for over 15 years, and I have yet to encounter a sys admin problem for which he cannot solve... quickly.
(Adam is co-founder of Admin Arsenal, and is our lead developer.)
3. Jeremy Moskowitz (@JeremyMoskowitz)
If you're a Windows sys admin and you don't subscribe to GPAnswers, stop reading and head over there and subscribe. You'll be joining a group of 11,000 admins who learn weekly from his discussions.
Jeremy is a Microsoft MVP for Group Policy. If you want to not only understand how group policy works, but understand why it was created the way it was, Jeremy will explain it to you. If you need to study up on group policy, the chances are pretty good that you've read some of his books.
Jeremy is one of the few on this list that I've met in person. I had the pleasure of bumping in to him at the 2008 TechEd (Orlando) and again in 2010 in Boston at the annual Business of Software conference.
2. Evan Anderson
If Evan ever sees this, the first thing he'll say is "who is Shawn Anderson?". Last name notwithstanding, we're not related. We've never met, but he has helped me (and thousands of other sys admins) with his accurate (and frighteningly quick) answers on ServerFault.
Evan has some serious ServerFault bragging rights too (just check out his reputation of 49,392 and his 135 badges). He has a strong background in Windows as well as Unix, which means that there are few sys admins who wouldn't learn something quickly from Mr Evan.
I knew when I started writing this blog that ServerFault, though not alive in the conventional sense, would make #1. It simply had too. It's just too valuable.
It's a rare thing to have a really valuable resource so readily available, but ServerFault (and the entire stack exchange) makes it a reality. (So hats off to Jeff Atwood and Joel Spolsky for making a Q&A site that doesn't suck.)
To all on this list, on behalf of system admins from one side of the room to the other, thank you all. You share what you learn (which is great because you... well... always seem to be learning).
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I came across a pretty good YouTube channel featuring PowerShell videos. I haven't finished with all of the videos yet but I dig this guy's (Don's) style. I wish the video examples were a little more magnified sometimes but otherwise I'm quite pleased. Definitely check them out.
When you have an obvious language barrier with someone you work with never, EVER, listen to them and just nod your head. In fact when you don't understand a damn word they're saying, violently shake your head and mutter "oh, HELL no". You'll thank me.
If you're getting ready to add a feature to a script or a program make sure to ask yourself this question: What is the real benefit I get from adding this feature? Seriously? If you can't come up with a semi-literate answer, scrap it. Toss it. Move on. You'll thank me.
Sluffing. Hookey. Skipping. Truant. What did you call it when you missed school? Remember how you'd get in trouble for missing that class or even the entire day of school? Well try sluffing a meeting or two at work. If there are more than 6 people in regular attendance at your meeting, skip one every now and then. If there are more than 15 people then count your blessings and have your make to miss ratio come in around 1:5. You'll thank me.
I don't understand why so many computer geeks get upset at how our industry is portrayed in movies. Let the beliefs live on. I'm happy that my family thinks I can create a network connection between my mac and the aliens that are on the way down to earth. I finally look a little cool. I'm pleased that my extended family all think that I can blow crap up by just hitting a few keys on the keyboard. It keeps them in enough awe that I can cut in line to get the best Bratwursts and potato salad at every reunion. Just sayin' is all.
Follow me on Twitter @ShaneCorellian
I'd like to expand on a new feature in the PDQ Deploy Pro 1.2 beta that I touched on last week. Commands are a new type of installer action that allow for running a command on a target computer without having to specify a source file. In prior versions of PDQ Deploy Pro you would need to create a batch file with the command and use it as the installer file. Command actions provide the same capability without having to create the batch file, so they are easier to work with.
There are are two main uses for the command action. First is to run a command that is built-in on the target computer and the other is to run installers that are located on file shares without requiring that they be copied to the target first. I'll go over each use case with a simple example.
There are a number of reasons you might want to run a built-in command on a target computer, and a good example of one is the gpupdate command. This command can be run after a change to a GPO if you want to apply the changes immediately. Using PDQ Deploy Pro commands it's very simple.
First, create a new installer and click "Add Action". Pick the "Command" type for the new Action.
In the new action enter "gpupdate /force" as the command to run.
Now you have an installer which will simply update the GPOs on the target computers. After making a GPO change deploy this new installer to the computers to force an update. It can even be made to run on a repeating schedule if you have problems with computers not getting GPO updates in a timely fashion.
Some installers are very large and make more sense to run off of a network share than be copied to the target computer and executed. These types of installers typically only install a subset of what is in the installer file so it's just wasted bandwidth to copy the whole file to the target. Microsoft Office administrative installs are an example of this type of installer.
To install from a network share create an installer as in the above example and put in the full path to the installer file using a UNC file name and any parameters.
Make sure to always use UNC path names. Drive letter mappings won't be available as they are specific to individual user profiles and although the install will run as the user selected for the PDQ Deploy Pro server service, its profile will not be fully loaded and drive mappings will not be created.
There is a third use for Command Actions which is just a version of the built-in commands above but can use a special mention. It is to run commands before or after a normal Package installer to either set up the environment or to clean-up afterwords. Examples might include creating registry entries, copying files to special locations, creating shortcuts, or clearing out temporary files.
A very interesting artcile in ArsTechnica shows that we're still an XP world, but that dominiation is winding down. Windows 7 is now on 1/5 of all desktops, a feat never reached by Vista, as noted by
Obviously attrition has been showing its head, and that's going to continue to increase. Still, what's the big advantage to Windows 7 vs. XP? Yes, apps are optimized, and hardware is more than sufficient, but what is the killer reason to make the OS change?
64-bit is a good reason I suppose, but for the average user it's just not a noticable change (how important is 64-bit for Facebook)?
I'm beginning to wonder if Win7 will surpass 50% by the time Windows 8 goes to Release Candidate. I'm still hoping to see a huge advantage to Windows 8 - the feature I just can't live without. At this point I wouldn't even care if it came from Cupertino first - just give us something awesome.
I'm optimistic - Microsoft has surprised before.
As the beta for version 1.2 of PDQ Deploy Pro is underway, I thought it would be a good idea to detail some of the new features and how they can be used. One of the new features of 1.2 is the ability to run multiple actions in a single installer. This will simplify many tasks that previously required creating a batch file.
In this, somewhat contrived, example you need to make a change to a service on multiple computers and then restart that service. This could be needed for many reasons such as adding a parameter, changing the path, setting new passwords, or adding recovery options. We'll use the last example, and change the error recovery options of a service.
Let's say that it's been decided to change all MSSQLSERVER services to "Restart the Service" on the first failure and then "Restart the Computer" on the second failure as seen here:
These settings are stored in the registry as a binary value. Exported from regedit.exe file the value looks like this:
Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00
With this file in hand all that's needed is to create an installer in PDQ Deploy Pro. The first action is the .reg file which will import the registry settings:
This is another new feature of PDQ Deploy which allows for an installer file type of .reg which will import the settings on the target computer.
The next step is to restart the service once the changes are made. This is done by adding a new action and selecting the "Command" type. Also a new feature, this is a quick way to run a command-line utility without having to create a batch file. The command you enter will run through cmd.exe (so you can use all of the cmd.exe built in tools.)
From this point all that needs to be done is deploy the installer to the selected target computers.
Slashdot is reporting that Mozilla plans to release Firefox 4 in February (see TechSpot article).
We'll be sure to post a tutorial on how to deploy Firefox silently to all your business computers. In the meantime we'll point you to the current instructions for installing Firefox 3 silently.
I've been a faithful user of Firefox since 2003. Perhaps my only complaint was discussed in 2009, centered around Mozilla's lackluster support of the corporate environment.
Still, I love my Firefox and I'm curious about the new look of version 4. It reminds me a lot of Google Chrome, which is a compliment. Firefox 4 is doing a good job of getting the browser out of your way. (It's annoying when a browser comes between you and your web content.)
They have a hard push to make final release by end of February. My money is on mid-March.
Now if only Mozilla would make it easier to centrally manage their browser.
Follow me on Twitter @ShawnAnderson
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We're happy to announce that the next versions of both PDQ Deploy and PDQ Deploy Pro have been released as public betas. If you're interested helping us test these new versions or just want to see what's new, please download them and give them a try. You can sign up for either or both.
Sign up for PDQ Deploy Beta
Sign up for PDQ Deploy Pro Beta
Here's a brief rundown of the new features:
- Organize installers into folders, making it easier to keep track of large numbers of installers.
- Deploy scripts written in VB Script or PowerShell.
- Deploy registry files exported from regedit.exe.
- View all deployments from all installers in a single list.
- Export/import multiple installers in one file.
PDQ Deploy Pro
- Everything from PDQ Deploy above.
- View all schedules from all installers in a single list.
- Multiple actions per installer. Create installers that include several applications, updates, or script files all in one deployment.
- Command actions. Run commands on targets without the need to copy an installer file.
- Improved setup which makes it easier to install and upgrade the database, server, and consoles.
The improved installer in PDQ Deploy Pro has been a major focus of this new release. The installation and configuration of PDQ Deploy Pro can be a bit complex as it involves installing a database (using Microsoft SQL Server) a server and one or more consoles. If you tried PDQ Deploy Pro in the past and ran into some issues getting it installed, this new installer is for you.
Over the next few weeks we'll be rolling out some helpful videos, tutorials, and other information to help you make the most of these products.
Photo by Jeffrey_Allen
Last week I put up my New Year's Resolutions. Well, that's not enough for me. I also need to tell other people what to do. So, I decided to create a list of New Year's Resolutions that my coworkers should follow. You may be able to see some of the same needs in your workplace. If so, feel free to add them to your wishlist.
- If you're going to eat at your desk, please reconsider last week's vindaloo leftovers.
- Think of the Reply All button like a grenade: Use it rarely and consider the damage to those around you.
- Backup procedures are not something to think about only when a restore is needed.
- Proofread your emial.
- Try plugging it in.
- Not laughing doesn't always mean that I didn't hear your joke.
- Perfume is not a weapon.
- Seriously, that may be pepper spray.
- "It's not working" is simply not enough information.
- Get your own blog idea.
I'm a fan of technical conferences. The two that I like to attend are Microsoft TechEd and IBM Pulse.
I've written in the past about the importance of ponying up your own cash for these conferences. Today I want to hit another aspect; the people.
If you decide to attend TechEd 2011, make one more leap and commit yourself to something that geeks have a tough time with... networking.
I'm not talking about laying cable. I'm referencing the act of speaking.
Other people that you don't already know.
(I'll be happy to pause for a moment if some of you feel the need to reach for your inhalor.)
For some reason mingling with the masses is tough for dweebs to do. However, mingling at tech conferences has a plus; you can actually mingle. (Can you imagine trying to network at a national convention of inspirational speakers? You wouldn't get a word in edgewise.)
So here's a tip. It's easy to do and costs just a few bucks. Stick with me.
Hold tight. I'm not talking about the your Dad's cards that list name, title, address, phone number, facsimile, email, web address, and the obligatory 4-color logo.
I'm thinking more like:
Remember, you're not applying for a mortgage. You're meeting like minded people. If they can't figure out what your email address is from this card then you probably don't want them contacting you.
Now obviously if your domain name isn't a dot com or you have an abbreviated domain name, then you'll need to stir your own creative juices. Just make your card memorable, and remember the following business card advice.
A business card performs three very basic functions:
- Help them remember you
- Help them contact you
- Help them by providing a bit of paper for jotting down grocery lists and dental appointments.
So here's a tip. Go to Over Night Prints. You can make your own business card online in minutes (use their advanced designer).
Don't get caught up with over the top backgrounds. I actually prefer no background. I love white space because it leaves so much to the imagination (if this were an interactive blog I'd have the imagination song from South Park start playing right about... now).
You'll get great customer service from the folks at over night prints. We've used them several times over the years and have been pleased with the results. On one order they actually made a printing error. We contacted them and they overnighted a double order of the corrected cards at no extra cost to us.
Oh, one note from the trenches. Once, when ordering a batch of cards for our company I decided to do the retro thing and get glossy cards. I never heard the end of it from Adam, Shane, or Gwen. So take it from me - don't order the glossy paper. It looks sharp, but you can't write on the cards. A card that you can't write on quickly becomes useless (see list above).
Remember that business cards aren't Mom's nice china, and while they'll eventually be forgotten and discarded, you won't be.
Follow me on Twitter @ShawnAnderson
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Photo by Eileen Goodwin
You know how one has license to say anything bad about another person so long as the observation ends with "bless his heart" (modify pronoun appropriately)? Well, I thought a little common sense should be applied to Adam's New Years Resolutions post especially considering that Adam is suffering under more delusion than usual, bless his heart.
Adam: Write at least one source code comment per month, whether the code needs it or not.
Common Sense: Oh c'mon. I say you double your total number of comments. (2 x 0 is still 0)
Adam: Clean my keyboard.
Common Sense: The solvent has yet to be invented, let alone available for civilian use, that could even begin to clean that thing.
Adam: Replace keyboard since the only thing making the contacts work is years of grime.
Common Sense: Why must you disparage grime?
Adam: Finally give that poor, illiterate kitten I keep seeing online a cheeseburger.
Common Sense: Put it on the Todd Margaret kitty food plan.
Adam: Empty my computer's trash folder.
Common Sense: AKA - Zeroing out your disk
Adam: Come to terms with the loss of that one file I had in the trash folder that wasn't backed up.
Common Sense: You mean the one titled alt.bin.sex.plush? You'll never get over that one, bud.
Adam: 2 words: Learn to count.
Common Sense: Marked improvement. Well done.
Adam: Create my own Internet meme by "accidentally" posting an embarrassing video of myself online.
Common Sense: We'll believe it is an accident if this time you don't set up mirror sites to handle the expected bandwidth.
Adam: Vociferously deny that because my embarrassing video was posted last year so it doesn't qualify.
Common Sense: Just delete the comments...it'll make it appear new.
Adam: Say no to a relative needing assistance with their computer.
Common Sense: You see, you got too aggressive. You've just set yourself up for failure. Too greedy, man.
Adam: Who am I kidding, keep helping relatives but be a little whinier about it.
Common Sense: *nods supportively*
Adam: More stridently lobby the government about general lack of flying cars.
Common Sense: How about, "only get two DUI's this year". Start out small, brother.
Adam: Celebrate one month of World of Warcraft abstinence by going on a raid (repeat every month.)
Common Sense: Sooo, business as usual? I'll bring the Hot Pockets.
Adam: Fix something that ain't broke.
Common Sense: I believe this was already covered in admitting you'll help relatives with technical assistance.
Adam: Finish work early at least once and see if there really is a glowing orb in the sky during the day.
Common Sense: You'll just end up worshiping it. Stay inside. Please, for the love of my god, stay in doors.
Adam: Never again be caught without a good blog post idea.
Common Sense: Hear Hear!
Photo by Linh_rOm
I swear it, this year I'm going to keep my new year's resolutions. Every single one of them. I promise. In order to help myself succeed, I'm going to publish them publicly so that I can be mercilessly mocked if I don't achieve them.
Here they are, in no particular order.
- Write at least one source code comment per month, whether the code needs it or not.
- Clean my keyboard.
- Replace keyboard since the only thing making the contacts work is years of grime.
- Finally give that poor, illiterate kitten I keep seeing online a cheeseburger.
- Empty my computer's trash folder.
- Come to terms with the loss of that one file I had in the trash folder that wasn't backed up.
- 2 words: Learn to count.
- Create my own Internet meme by "accidentally" posting an embarrassing video of myself online.
- Vociferously deny that because my embarrassing video was posted last year it doesn't qualify.
- Say no to a relative needing assistance with their computer.
- Who am I kidding, keep helping relatives but be a little whinier about it.
- More stridently lobby the government about general lack of flying cars.
- Celebrate one month of World of Warcraft abstinence by going on a raid (repeat every month.)
- Fix something that ain't broke.
- Finish work early at least once and see if there really is a glowing orb in the sky during the day.
- Never again be caught without a good blog post idea.