Fridays in IT: Read-Only Friday

Read-Only Friday.  It’s an IT tradition that I really think every company should abide by.  Seriously, I really think every IT company should have it in a contract or something.  What is it?  Well, Friday is the last day of the week…so you should do everything in your power to not have a terrible weekend by updating or making any changes to your production environment on a Friday.  Friday in the IT world should be for emergency calls and finishing up projects you had during the week…not for installing that new software for your users or installing that shiny new UPS to replace one that is working, just old.

Why the fuck is this important?

Well, if you install new software (or god forbid, hardware) on Friday you have to make sure that it fucking works by the end of the day for the user.  Now, using new software might also be easy for you, so after installing and testing it you’re done, right? NOPE! Remember, the user is used to the old stuff, so they’re not going to know a damn thing about the new software you just installed for them most likely.  They’re going to call you for every little thing they need help with..EVERYTHING.  And if they can’t get something working, you’re stuck helping them.  Now, if the program install doesn’t go smoothly…you’re screwed.  You’ve gotta make sure it’s working for Monday, so guess what?  You’re staying until it’s working.

It’s worse for hardware.  If that brand new thing doesn’t work right (and you know it won’t) you’re stuck there..and if you think you’re good on Friday..wait.  You’ll get that call on Saturday that you NEED TO BE AT WORK TO FIX THAT NEW THING CAUSE IT’S NOT WORKING RIGHT!  Yeah.  It happens more often than people think.

So..Friday is really the worst time to do ANY upgrades or installs in IT.  Seriously..I just was told by a client who isn’t here (sick) to install a new version of Adobe Creative Suite on a users’ computer.  CS6 changed a whole lot from CS5.  So, like a moron, I do it.  I’ve now been called 3 times already by this person because they don’t know the new layout of CS6.  I’ve had to go across campus 2 times for this person.  I’m waiting for the phone to ring again…I just know it’s going to happen.

Why did I install new shit today?!?

Well, being client work, I have to make the client happy.  If that’s what they want, that’s what they get.  One good thing though?  If something else goes wrong after 3PM (when I’m leaving) they have to deal with it themselves. :-)

So please, everyone.  If you work with IT people, don’t ask them to do major shit to your production environment on Fridays.  It’s a terrible fucking idea for everyone involved, especially the IT staff.  I’m not even joking when I say that if I ever have my own IT staff, I’m putting read-only Friday as a real thing, mark my words.  Friday is for planning, emergencies, and finalizing work. That’s it. Nothing else.

Now I’m going to get ready to go home and have a beer.

First Impressions on Lion Server

I haven’t forgotten about the posts on upgrading my servers, I’ve just not had the time to.  I also got extremely delayed with getting the hardware itself.  Let me just give some first impressions on Lion server and the new hardware.

Hardware

The Mac Mini servers are very fast, quiet, and easy to store of course.  The Promise Pegasus is a great piece of hardware also.  Six SATA drives in a box smaller than a mini tower with a single cable for data.  Setting up the hardware was so simple it’s only one sentence: Take out of box, configure, plug in Promise, done.

Software

Now on to the bad part; Lion Server.  I like Lion as s desktop, I haven’t had any issues with it thus far, but I really dislike Lion Server.  Initial server setup was also very simple; it asks a few questions, configures some services for you, and you’re done.  After it drops you into the desktop, you’re on your own.  So manage the server in the past you had a few tools; Server Admin, the main config GUI for all services; Workgroup Manager, to configure users and computers on the network; and Server Monitor, a simple monitoring tool that gives you the server status at a glance.  Lion includes those tools with the addition of one more: Server.  Server is basically what separates Lion desktop from Lion Server, one single app to “control” the services.  This sounds great, but wasn’t that what Server Admin was for?  Yes..it was.  But now Apple decided that they wanted to make things more difficult and separate configurations into two programs, one of which (Server) is stupidly over simplified.

Server vs Server Admin

Server is basically a simplified version of Server Admin.  When I say simplified I mean VERY simplified.

Looks good, but wait until you go in more...

Now, compare that to the old Server Admin overview shown below.

Looks similar....but...

Now these two look like they give relatively the same information, right?  It tells you everything you need to know about the sevrer at a glance.  If you notice that on Server you have a lot more items on the sidebar though, and Server Admin has very little.  This is because Server Admin allows you to select what you want shown, so out of the many options (there are 11 total) I only need to show those 3; however, out of those 11, only 2 are available in Server also (Mail and Podcast Producer).  Why is this a problem?  Server Admin allows you to really edit lots of different settings with your services, it also allows you to edit more advanced services (DHCP, NAT, DNS).  Server allows you to edit the most used services (file sharing and web) but they are VERY limited in what you can edit.

For example, editing file sharing on anything other than 10.7 looked like this in Server Admin before:

10.5 File Sharing

This window gave you everything you needed to set up proper file sharing with users, home directories, NFS, FTP, SMB, AFP, and a bunch of other things.  It gives you great control over your network file system and user access.  This is what you get with Server:

10.7 File Sharing Configuration

That’s it.  Those are your settings you can edit. Notice the lack of FTP and NFS…as well as lack of a REAL permissions editor.  This is totally unacceptable in a server environment.  NFS is still there (it gets enabled when you use NetBoot) but where is FTP?  it’s not in Server or Server Admin.  Well, Apple decided FTP isn’t needed really, and basically removed it.  Let me rephrase, they didn’t REMOVE it completely, it’s hidden.  Apple’s basic FTP server is still there, but there are not settings in GUI for it at all, it’s all command based now, and to enable it you have to type this command in terminal.

sudo launchctl load /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/ftp.plist

Now, on a server, that’s pretty ridiculous, especially since FTP config was easy and clean in pervious versions of OS X Server.  To get around using the basic FTP, which has limited functionality, I decided to install a third-party server.  I will make another post on how I accomplished this and about the frustrations I had with it.  Long story short, went with PureFTP.

My frustrations with LDAP also came back.  I’m not sure if it’s an issue with our old LDAP database or setup, but I simply couldn’t restore the server LDAP backup for the life of me.  I tried several different methods but nothing worked.  I ended up exporting user data (without the passwords) to the new server using Workgroup manager.  This worked fine, but I lost every password. I was upset with this, but I knew it was the best method to try to get the LDAP working normally again (I constantly have trouble with the old LDAP server due to corruption…so this hopefully would fix that).  The user editing in Server is horrible.  It’s way too simplified, and doesn’t allow much configuration..thankfully, you can use Workgroup manager still.

After setting up a new image and setting shares for home directories and resetting passwords, I tested our lab with home directories and logins and SUCCESS!  It all worked!  So now the network accounts are faster, and the LDAP seems to be working fine now.

Moral: Lion Server sucks compared to older versions.

I’ll be updating again on how I got PureFTP installed on the server and configure it for LDAP.  I’ll also go over how I got SFTP working with users jailed to their home directories….but breaking AFP, then fixing it again.

Another Stupid TUAW post: “Why I’m staying with AT&T” and a moron too!

I always enjoy reading tech blogs the day after a big announcement.  Not because I want to see coverage about the previous days event but because I I love seeing all of the weeping and moaning about what “failed” with said announcement (even though all of the expectations were rumors and speculation) and I like seeing the people who were so gung-ho about the event suddenly drop down and go back to their old crap.  I’ve seen the posts about the “failure” of the Verizon iPhone, and now I’m seeing the posts about “sticking with AT&T.”  Again, that’s totally fine of course; don’t switch companies for a single phone, but if you have various complaints and problems, isn’t that enough to switch?

This post by Mel Martin on TUAW, The Unofficial Apple Weblog, really confused the hell out of me.  I saw the title “Why I’m Staying with AT&T” and was expecting to see things like “I haven’t had the issues everyone talks about,” or “I like their customer service!” No, what I found was a long list of complaints with some reasons why he’s sticking with AT&T through all of his problems.  Let me break this down a bit more.

I admit, AT&T has been sloppy and at times downright incompetent. Who can forget the massive foul up when the first iPhone came out and literally millions of customers couldn’t get AT&T servers to sign them up? It happened again with the 3G iPhone and the iPhone 4.
There’s the really nasty rate of dropped calls, lousy or inconsistent reception, and how AT&T always seemed to put endless roadblocks before developers who wanted to use the iPhone in the way it was designed. Months of delays on the SlingPlayer app, no Wi-FI tethering, and more delays delivering a 3G tethering plan that was overpriced and forced you to give up your unlimited data plan. Oh yes, AT&T dropped unlimited data so it could start enabling some of those features that might force you to go over AT&T’s newly imposed limits. Nice. The list goes on and on.

Let’s see.  That is a list of eleven complains or problems faced on AT&T with the iPhone, not to mention that he put “the list goes on and on” at the very end, meaning there are more complaints!  Any normal, competent person would have tossed their provider out on their ass a long time ago with this list, I know I would have, but that’s because I actually like being able to make and receive calls and texts and data anywhere I like.  This is a VERY bad list of complaints for any cell service and sticking with someone this bad is just insane.

Now, with this list of eleven you figured there would be a much longer list of good reasons he’s straying with AT&T, right? Let’s take a look now, one by one, and try to keep count!

Big Fee to drop my AT&T plan. Way too much. $325 for those who purchased after June 1, 2010, and $10 off of that for every month of completed contract.

This is a good reason! Why would you want to pay a fee to drop your cell company only to have to pay another $200 to buy a new phone which you already own!  Let’s hope a trend of smart follows.

Coverage. We all know that AT&T coverage is generally worse than Verizon, but AT&T ponied up and let me have a MicroCell device for free. It solves the ‘no coverage at home’ problem, and after some initial growing pains it works well

There goes the smart…out the window.  This is where I start getting very confused.  You’re claiming you want to stay with AT&T because of their coverage but you say in the very next sentence that they generally have worse coverage than Verizon?  And because you had such bad service they gave you a personal 3g device to make calls in your home?  So you’re sticking with AT&T because they have bad coverage but solved your home service issue?  Why bother have a cell phone then? Isn’t the point of a MOBILE PHONE to be able to use it…mobile-ly?

Competition is good. I expect AT&T to step up and compete, not because they want to, but because they have to. Maybe there will be a reinstatement of unlimited data plans. Maybe FaceTime will finally work on 3G.

Another stupid point.  While I agree that because Verizon now has an iPhone that AT&T will have to step it up, AT&T has always had this problem and still haven’t resolved it for the most part.  Why would they all of a sudden just start to “compete” now?  Haven’t they been competing in the past, or were they just  riding the dollar waves of the Apple fanboys turning a blind eye to their crappy service just to have an iPhone?  Not to mention that you’re basing this on speculation that “maybe” something will happen.  I don’t know about you but when I’m paying for something now I want it to work now, not “maybe” in the future.

Simultaneous voice and data are huge. I often fire off an email or web link when I’m on the phone. Going to Verizon means I kiss all that goodbye.

Okay, a valid reason to stay on AT&T.  CDMA cannot do voice and data simultaneously and if that’s a big issue for you then you should have no questions to ask, just don’t switch. That’s two instances of sanity.

Speed. At least here in Arizona, I get really fast data on the iPhone. Yes, the Verizon voice network is more reliable, but in local side by side tests on the data side, my AT&T phone really is faster than a Verizon smartphone.

Speed is another thing that I have trouble viewing as a major issue to switch cell carries.  For one, the difference in speed isn’t really that much, unless you’re using 4G on a device.  Now, I would say that this is another good reason if you really need that speed, except for the fact that you point out AT&T’s flaw right in the next statement.  You say AT&T is faster than Verizon (true) but Verizon is more reliable.  Tell me, what’s more important to you: getting something done quickly while praying that you keep a steady connection, or getting something done a little slower, but knowing it’ll get done because you have a strong, reliable connection?  If you say anything other than the latter, you’re a moron.

New iPhones. There will likely be a new iPhone this summer. I expect it will be a lot easier to talk AT&T into an upgrade than Verizon.

Guess what, you’re probably right! It really doesn’t take a genius to figure out Apple’s release schedule. But I also think that if someone wanted to upgrade early they will pony up the dough.  If they switched to Verizon and paid the fees they won’t have an issue upgrading their device.  Not to mention that so many people will probably wait for a new device before switching to Verizon anyway.

And that’s the end of his list. Five reasons he’s staying, five. And only two of them are valid.

Explain that to me please: 11 complaints vs. 5 reasons (of which only 2 of them are valid in any way).  How can someone who apparently knows something about technology see this as a good decision?  If I had half the list of complaints this guy has, I’d drop Verizon like a bad habit.  I have maybe two complaints about Verizon and neither of them has anything to do with service or call quality (mainly cost and devices).  His entire post seems to me like he’s sucking the AT&T pee pee all the way home while getting his free cell service too.

I should also point out that I have called TUAW out on a very misleading title in one of their other posts and they responded by sending me tweets to rumored stories about the iPhone 4G on Verizon.  It seems they do not understand the concept of a rumor.  Over there they seem to be a bunch of AT&T and Apple fanboys…and dealing with fanboys is a hard thing to do.

Sound off in the comments if you have anything to say!

Update note: I found this post on a blog I frequent (The Adventures of Systems Boy!) and I was so happy to read it.  Three sentences and it’s already the best post on the Verizon iPhone. Thank you, Systems Boy!

Verizon iPhone: UNICORNS!!!!

Okay, so it’s finally out, Verizon now has the iPhone.  And unicorns are flying around now apparently.  Of course the blogosphere and the media are insane right now but I have also seen my fair share of complaints and I laugh at a good amount of them.  Some of them even make me want to slap someone. Let me go through them.

  • Not GSM, can’t use all over the world:  Okay, were you really expecting this? Verizon is CDMA, their phones work only in the US.  Yes, they offer world phones, but did anyone really believe they’d make a “world iPhone?”
  • Not 4G/LTE: Apple will not update the iPhone in the middle of it’s life cycle to put 4G in the device.  Maybe the next one in July will have it, but expecting a 4G iPhone to come out today was really far-fetched.
  • Can’t use data and voice simultaneously: Let me see. Anyone who would need this should know that CDMA cannot do this, it never has been able to and it never will.  Why the hell would anyone expect the iPhone to suddenly let CDMA do this?  It’s not about the phone people, it’s the network.  In my life, I have probably had the need to do this maybe 4 times, and I’m a tech junkie!  Maybe that’s me, but I still wonder how much people really need/care about this.
  • Verizon might install apps on the phone: I don’t think Apple would allow this. They didn’t allow it on AT&T….why would they allow it for Verizon?  If they do, I’ll eat my shoe.

So those are really the fun ones I’ve heard. I’m sure there is someone out there who always uses data and voice, but then stay with AT&T! If you travel out of the country a lot, chances are you don’t have Verizon anyway. I believe that these complains are from people on AT&T fed up with them and they were hoping Verizon would swoop in and save them from everything bad about AT&T…and are disappointed that they can’t just get everything they want.  So a message; stop crying. You’re never going to get everything you want, face it.

Unicorn Power!

What everyone expected...

What will Happen Next?

How many people are going to jump the AT&T ship to go to Verizon now?  I know of a few off hand that will as soon as they can. Honestly, switching carriers for a phone is just ridiculous.  I always thought this, especially when everyone complained “Oh my god I can’t wait until the iPhone is on Verizon so I can finally dump AT&T!”  My question, why bother have a cell phone on a network that doesn’t make you happy?  Isn’t the point of a cell phone to have cellular service?  If you switch providers simply for a phone, then that’s dumb.  Switch because one has the features you want, or because one’s cheaper, you know..a good reason.  If you’re going to leave AT&T now because you had shitty service and were just waiting for an iPhone to come to a better network, that’s even a good reason..that’s probably why most people will leave, but don’t complain when you can’t use your voice and data at the same time since you switched, that’s your own dumb fault for not knowing you can’t do it.

I also wonder how many Verizon Android users will hop over to the iPhone.  I know this will happen (again, I already know of some people who are thinking of doing this), but I really want to see how many people will end up doing this.  I myself have thought, “Humm, if a Verizon iPhone came around, would I go for it?”  I do like the iPhone hardware and iOS is nice but I’m very happy with Android and I see very good Android devices coming out in the near future.  I’m also used to it’s features and I know I’d miss some of them if I went to the iPhone.  Only time will tell, but come August when I’m up for a new phone I hope to have a choice of some LTE Android phones or even an LTE iPhone.

Wrapping up, what does this change?  Nothing much.  People will still switch companies for a phone, and people will still not be happy with things they’ve wished for.  Not a single person will get everything they want from their phone or network, and that’s the way it will be forever.  I want a device that can work on CDMA and GSM and underground, but guess what? That’s not happening. Am I going to complain and call something I waited for a failure? No, because these are my wants, my needs.  Cell companies and device makers don’t have an obligation to anyone.  This iPhone hype was all created by the media.  All of these wishes were created by the media.  Verizon and Apple didn’t promise anybody anything, they simply said “we have an announcement” and that’s all it took for everyone to go ape shit and expect all of these things from the device, hell people didn’t even know it was actually an iPhone announcement until they said it.  It could have been a Windows Phone 7 announcement!  The fact of the matter is that you can’t always get what you want.  Listen to the Stones, people.

Doing things the legal way…the hard way?

The other day, I came across this comic while browsing Reddit:

From Cyanide & Happiness

First, it made me laugh because of how truthful it is, and I know from experience.

A few years ago, before I was the technical director of my lab, they were installing Maya 3D with a network license system.  The entire process of purchasing the licenses and installing the server and putting the license files on the machines was a nightmare that ended with someone passing around a pirated copy of Maya to use in the class.  We owned the software and licenses, but the Alias (now Autodesk) licensing software was so convoluted  that it was easier to pirate the software.  Just recently I learned that the version of the FlexLM license server that we use doesn’t work with Mac OS 10.5, so I had to cut the package up and copy it to the computer myself.

Just the other day I was trying to watch an episode of Entourage on Fancast, legally (If you have HBO on your home cable with Comcast, you get HBO on demand on Fancast as well).  After waiting 5 minutes for the website to install stuff on my machine I tried to play the show and it didn’t work.  I began trying different browsers and refreshing and it still didn’t work.  I began to download it via a torrent while I was trying to get fancast to work properly and next thing I knew, the torrent was done and I was able to watch it.  Turns out it just didn’t work for some reason, no error, no nothing.

Both software problems, both problems with companies not testing their stuff properly for the consumers.

Now, I’m not specifically talking about DRM, more about big companies screwing consumers unintentionally, but all because they spend so much time and money on copy protection.  Of course I’m not saying that stealing software is okay, and I’m not saying that companies should not protect their products, but I do believe that if your normal consumer is getting screwed over because of shitty DRM or licensing then you’re doing something wrong.

Can anything really be done to fix this that will allow consumers to stop getting screwed while protecting the company?

I personally enjoy the iLok to a certain extent.  The iLok is a hardware based licensing solution that just plugs into a USB port on the computer.  The software reads the license and it just runs.  It’s not perfect in the least though.  It’s managed online, and if you lose the iLok (or it gets stolen) you’re pretty much out that license, unless you pay for the protection.  You can store multiple licenses on one iLok, and you can move the iLok to another machine and use the software on a different machine if you need to.  A mobile license that (for the most part) it works!  The iLok must also be purchased, which adds more licensing costs, and it also takes up a USB port. So it’s not perfect..nothing is though.

This is something to think about, and I do fairly often since I deal with licensing a great deal for work.  So think about it!