It’s Not My Birthday
Posted in Tech
Afternoon watch, 2 bells (1:09 pm)

While today isn't my birthday, I did get a birthday present:

iMac box

Yes, it costs hundreds of dollars more than a comparable PC, and yes, it took three weeks to get here (I could have had parts ordered, shipped, and built in 3-4 days), but by golly, it'll look good. Expect many upcoming blog posts about this experience.

The Missing Logic Link
Posted in Tech
Afternoon watch, 6 bells (3:18 pm)

For weeks now I've been trying to solve a Cisco router issue for my boss. I've opened tickets with their support staff (in India, by the way) and had many email and phone conversations trying to resolve a network issue. Over the last few weeks we've tried many different configurations and firmware versions on the device.

Originally, we determined a single device (there are four routers involved), the final endpoint, was to blame. We know this because if we replaced it with another cheap off-the-shelf home (wireless) router it worked fine.

Cisco technicians confirmed errors in their 12.4-21(a)JA1 firmware that would cause the behavior we are witnessing. So we downgraded the router. Unfortunately, during our troubleshooting, two intermediate routers were upgraded to the 12.4-21(a)JA1 firmware as well. The result was that our endpoint wireless router, despite having the "correct" firmware now, was still exhibiting the same problem as before, but now for a different reason.

Once we realized this, all the odd problems fit together in one beautiful logical grid. This network issue has been a right bugger, and nothing up until now has made much sense. It's offsite, though, and I won't know for sure if this is the solution until later, but my confidence has never been higher.

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Hardware Failure
Posted in Tech
Middle watch, 2 bells (1:02 am)

This evening while I was out having dinner with some friends, my phone battery died, and so did a key piece of hardware my company relies on. Because my phone went offline, I was not automatically notified about this problem, and the first I knew of it was one of my coworkers waiting for me on my porch when I got home. I was quickly filled in on the problem, and checked my phone to see why I didn't get notified and realized that it was dead, too.

Fortunately, others were able to troubleshoot and solve 95% of the problem before I even got involved! This is a big step, and as much as I hate not being involved, a year ago this problem would have sat unmoving until I fixed it myself. It's great to have redundancy!

Now I just have to dig through these log files and find out why a few services didn't start up as they should…

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Opcode Caching
Posted in Tech
First dog watch, 2 bells (5:02 pm)

I'm testing out an opcode cacher (xcache, if you're interested) for this site before deploying it to production servers. It should accelerate my PHP scripts, but only time (and you) can tell. Let me know if things are snappier, if you even notice…

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Return of the Spam
Posted in Tech
Afternoon watch, 8 bells (4:22 pm)

Well you may remember my recent change to comments on this blog. I thought I'd follow up and show you how this has affected the system:
akismet spam statistics

Fortunately, my anti-spam comment measures are capturing what is now getting through, so I think I'll leave it as is for now…

New Home Computer
Posted in Tech
Afternoon watch, 7 bells (3:55 pm)

Last Monday I ordered a new computer to use at home. I've been relying on the laptop provided by the company I work for. It's convenient and portable, and has staved off the need for a new computer at home for several years. Unfortunately, Lorien's laptop is small, and my old desktop just doesn't compare (I built it about five years ago) to new machines.

After building several new Intel Core i7 boxes for the office, I really wanted to get my hands on one for home use. They're fast. I needed an upgrade, and so did Lorien.

Now, to top it all off, our company is considering porting our software to run on the Mac platform. With this possibility in the future, as the IT manager I have a serious need to understand how to use a Mac for the first time in my career.

In the interest of killing as many birds with one stone as possible, on Monday I ordered a new iMac with the Core i7 processor. It should be here by the end of the month. Being a Linux/UNIX guy at heart, it's not a tough step to take but I do expect there to be a learning curve. Fortunately, with the recent redecoration of our living room, I have a spot already picked out for it!

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You’re Not Really An Admin…
Afternoon watch, 1 bell (12:39 pm)

Today I welcomed a new SQL admin into the club. The club of royally screwing something up by accident. Because, be honest, you're not really an admin until you've made a really huge mistake and had to get help to fix it.

Brownie points go out for:

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Apache and PHP Extensions in Windows
Posted in Tech
Forenoon watch, 6 bells (11:28 am)

I've been fighting an error with my PHP installation in Windows with Apache related to loadable extensions. In my error log, I kept getting the errors:

PHP Warning: PHP Startup: Unable to load dynamic library 'c:\\Program Files\\PHP\\ext\\php_mssql.dll
PHP Warning: PHP Startup: Unable to load dynamic library 'c:\\Program Files\\PHP\\ext\\php_pdo_mssql.dll

Interestingly enough, if I ran PHP through the console, it loaded PDO and mssql just fine, the problem was only with the environment in Apache. Turns out the ntwdblib.dll wasn't being located by Apache. I could probably have added the PHP path to the environment variable PATH, but the easiest solution was to copy the dll to the Windows\System32 directory. A restart of Apache after that cured the problem.

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PHP, PDO, and MSSQL in Windows
Posted in Tech
Last dog watch, 1 bell (6:33 pm)

If, like me, you've been using PHP's PDO via the MSSQL driver, be aware that newer versions of PHP do not support MSSQL natively. Microsoft has it's own PHP driver now, or you can use the FreeTDS MSSQL extension, but I strongly recommend just switching to use the provided ODBC and PDO_ODBC extensions and save yourself the trouble. If you're already using PDOs, then you just have to create the object a little differently. For example:

$sql = new PDO("odbc:Driver={SQL Native Client};;Database=dbname;Uid=user;Pwd=password");

That worked for me. Not sure what you can do about the old mssql_guid_string function if you need that, though. I have the FreeTDS lib installed as well and that lets me call it, until I figure out how to do the same thing in ODBC.

Yes, ASP fans, that's a ONE LINE connection to a database. That's all anyone should need!

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Happy Birthday, Internet!
Posted in Tech
Forenoon watch, 5 bells (10:53 am)

We won't tell everyone that you're 40. Oops, I just did.

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Restart Purgatory
Posted in Tech
First dog watch, 1 bell (4:58 pm)

My laptop is in restart purgatory right now after it attempted to install Vista SP 2. I'm at my second reboot and it's still saying Service Pack did not install. Reverting changes. Do not turn off your computer.

This is why people like me have jobs. Thanks, Micro$oft!

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RSS Fixed
Posted in Tech
Forenoon watch, 3 bells (9:56 am)

Well, that was interesting. I heard from @Enfors that my RSS feed was truncated. Turns out there is a setting for Full Text in RSS feeds that wasn't set. I can only imagine that it was running in default mode, I've been running this blog for over six years now and this is the first time I've heard about it. I supposed I should have subscribed to my own feed 🙂

Okay, now that that's fixed, time to figure out Google Wave…

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How I Deal With Voicemail
Posted in Tech
Forenoon watch, 6 bells (11:21 am)

This is how I deal with voicemail. You have been warned.

Laptop Dock Trouble
Forenoon watch, 4 bells (10:16 am)

Last week my boss had a problem with the docking port in his laptop. When I connected it to another docking station, we got the same results and quickly concluded that the problem was the laptop itself and not the docking station. So we called Dell and got a technician on the line. Now, unlike most times, I got a good tech right off, and he quickly realized I was a technical person and in under 3 minutes had concluded the same thing I had—a bad motherboard. He set us up with a replacement and a technician to come out and replace it. This all happened on Friday.

Today when he got in, his docking station wasn't working. Fearing that the station he has at home was somehow frying the port on the laptop's motherboard, I ran down to his office with the docking station I have to test it out. I saw all the cables unplugged, and thought he did that in anticipation of me bringing the other station down. Fortunately, that was not the case. We'd never reconnected the power to his docking station after testing it last week.

Today's tech support troubleshooting lesson: Even if it sounds stupid, ask if it's plugged in first.

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iPhone Safari Crash Code
Last dog watch, 8 bells (8:08 pm)

If I get over 500 iPhone crash logs generated in one year, at least some of them can be entertaining:
iPhone safari crash

ate bad food, hehe.

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