I was pleased to provide a guest blog for the upcoming Business of Software 2011 conference in Boston. Much of the improvements to both company and products in our Admin Arsenal line have come from what we've learned at this annual meeting of software professionals.
Most of the attendees at BoS have been selling their software for years. We get together to discuss issues such as support, web services, pricing, application usability, and other best practices. We hear from speakers such as Seth Godin, Joel Spolsky, Eric Sink, Dharmesh Shah, and many more.
Looking forward to another awesome conference with the best minds in the business.
Want to following the conference? Just follow #BoS2011.
Photo by Naughty Architect
I think that this story is so cool I just had to share it. A 13 year old boy recently invented a way to boost solar panel output by modelling their shape after trees.
Nevermind for a moment that the boy was 13 years old (which is amazing in itself) but think about how simple the idea is. The formula: Trees need sunlight to live + evolution would favour those trees that gathered the most sunlight + ... well, that's about it, really. Shockingly simple, yet it's only simple once you know that it's simple.
I see this all the time in my development whenever I simplify something that was very complex and I'm amazed at not only how elegant it is relative to how it was but that it took so long to get there. Sometimes it seems that you need to follow a very winding path just to get back to the start so that you can see the straight and easy path. It can be easy to get discouraged and think that I've wasted all that time on the complex solution, but I have to remember that not all simple solutions appear simple from every angle. Sometimes the hard slog through complexity is necessary.
Photo by General Wesc
The other day I was reading this article on Slate about the death of booting up and it got me thinking abou the many, many (oh... so, so many) times that I've rebooted computers while troubleshooting. You know, sitting there with teeth and sphicters clenched hoping against hope that this is the time that the system will come up properly.
Once I recovered from my PTSD flashback I decided to create this list of the top 10 most dreaded startup messages. So, without further ado, here they are in no particular order (even items) and in descending numerical order (odd items).
6. Hello, Dave
9. Press Ctrl+Alt+Del+Insert+Backspace+Home+Print Screen+Break+Del (again)+F1+© to continue...
2. Master Boot Record corrupt. Applying UN resolution...
7. Directory C:\Users\Adam\Pictures\Pr0n unrecoverable
10. Insert disk 2 of 116 to continue...
5. (beeps, nothing but beeps)
4. Please, sir, please let me die
3. Logging into Skynet, please wait...
8. Installing Loki patch, problem changed randomly, please reboot
1. Welcome to Windows Me
The ability to group your computers in pretty much anyway imaginable is only a few minutes away. Since I know that all of you have mastered typing and using your mouse with one hand - for various reasons I shan't delve into - you don't even need to put down your Mountain Dew to get things started.
First, though. Why would you want to have different groupings for your computers? A lot of reasons. It's pretty much the same way you may organize your music, videos, finances and pr0n. I have so many great dynamic and static Playlists in iTunes and, for the most part, any of my 35,000 songs are always near to hand. PDQ Inventory Collections, like their AA Console predecessors are just as useful and easy to create.
Here is a quick video where we demonstrate building the two types of collections: Static and Dynamic. You will also see how to create sub (or child) collections.
The examples shown in that video were performed using the free version of PDQ Inventory. We will also show video examples of how to use some the better, more comprehensive, features available in the Pro version of PDQ Inventory.
Please give us examples of what types of tutorials you'd like to see. Having a difficult time with a feature? Have you run into a problem that you think you can solve with PDQ Inventory or PDQ Deploy but you just don't know how? Well, send us an email or, better yet, post your question on our support forum.
One of the new features you may have noticed in the latest PDQ Inventory Beta is the ability to scan for files and registry entries on computers. These scanners can be very useful, but there are some caveats and limitations that one must need to be aware of.
By default PDQ Inventory doesn't actually do any scaning for either file or registry information. Instead, you as the administrator need to define exactly what you want to scan for. This is purely a performance issue as all of the file and registry information on a would require hundreds of megabytes of data per computer (on my current computer it would be about 350 MB of data). I'm sure you can imagine the issue of dealing with this much data on even a small number of computers.
In order to define what you want scanned you need to create a Scan Profile. A scan profile is a collection of scanners that are all run together in a single scan process. A scan profile can have multiple scanners, each getting a different subset of files or registry entries. Out of the box, PDQ Inventory includes two scan profiles as examples, one for files and one for registry entries.
Registry Run Keys scans for all of the Run and RunOnce values on the target computer and Windows EXEs scans for all executable files in under the Windows directory.
The Windows EXEs scan profile contains only a single scanner which looks for every file with an .exe extension in %systemroot% and all child directories.
Registry Run Keys is a bit more complicated as it needs to scan several areas of the registry so it's made up of 8 separate scanners.
Starting a Scan
To scan a computer (or group of computers) using a scan profile other than the default you need to use the Scan with Profile menu item.
There is currently a limit of 1,000 items per scanner (not scan profile). This is so a misconfigured scanner won't accidentally swamp the database with too much data. This row limit is fixed for now, but will become configurable in a future version.
Cleaning up Data
When a file or registry scanner is deleted then all of the items in the database from that scanner would become orphaned because without the scanner, there isn't a way for the items to get updated or deleted. To prevent this, PDQ Inventory will delete files and registry items when the scanners that created them are deleted. If more than one scanner overlaps (such as a scanner that gets C:\Windows and another that gets C:\Windows\Systtem32) then the items will only be deleted once the last scanner is deleted.
As with all of our products we hope you find these scanners to be useful and we always look forward to any feedback from users telling us how to make them work better.
Snippets from my diary
- June 13, 2008 - I realized today that I've downloaded the same Vista image 3 different times from MSDN.
- July 8, 2003 - Yep, it's official: My memory has been replaced by google.
- April 4, 2006 - Laughed my ass off today. I looked at the code of an auto-generated class in Visual Basic. The comment section said: "This code was generated by a tool"
- August 18, 2005 - Tested hosting our Tivoli DB on a $3,000 Dell workstation running RedHat. Blew our $100,000 Sun server out of the water.
- June 5, 2007 - TechEd in Orlando. Haven't seen so many mouth-breathers since Dragon*Con.
- Sep. 17, 1996. Well, I saw a dude with a Novell tattoo. Instead of the big red N he should have just tattooed "I never get laid".
- Nov. 8, 2006 - Listened to a domain administrator spend over 3 hours lying, spinning and pirouetteing around the fact that he f**ked up and caused the Domain Admins group to be removed from 514 servers. Reminded me of my brother's ol' boss who used to say "I won't fire you for pushing the wrong button but I WILL fire you for covering it up."
- Jan. 13, 2007 - ahem. I accidentally deployed the SMS Admin Console to 373 computers today. Where's my resume.doc?
- Sep. 1, 1999 - Adam stood on his desk and recited [Monty Python's] entire "Story of the Film So Far" so loud that people started slamming their office doors.
- Jul 26, 2011 - Motörhead and Ouzo. Writing SQL functions have never been easier.
BTW, it was true about the Novell tattoo. 1996 was the year that I moved my small little network off of NetWare 3.12 and onto Windows NT 3.5.1.
We are pleased to announce that the PDQ Inventory beta will go public in the next few days. This first beta will combine PDQ Inventory and PDQ Inventory Pro into a single application instead of being separate applications as was initially planned. This will keep the functionality of both the free and pro versions more closely in-line and make our entire development turn around much faster. No more lag time between features going into pro that also go into free. PDQ Deploy will soon be following suit with this design as well.
The application will run in two modes: Free and Pro. Free mode has a subset of the features available and the rest can be unlocked by entering a Pro mode license key. All beta testers are entitled to a license key which will be valid for the duration of the beta. At the end of the beta license period the application will revert to Free mode. You can then enter a 30-day free trial or full license key to go back to Pro mode without losing any data or settings.
Sign up to be notified when the beta starts and receive a free beta key
There are a few features that didn't make the cut for the first beta, but we will be adding them over the next couple of weeks along with some of the suggestions we will certainly be receiving. We're very excited to get this product into your hands as it will allow us to tackle many of the feature requests of AA Console that have been held off until the release of PDQ Inventory Pro. You can expect to see a lot of new features coming out quickly over the next few months.
This new beta will be called "Beta 9" to keep it in sync with the current Beta 8 of PDQ Inventory. If you are currently running Beta 8 of PDQ Inventory then it will update itself to Beta 9 of PDQ Inventory Pro.
Thank you to all those users who have been testing PDQ Inventory and we hope you like the new Pro features we've added and will be adding.