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June's Journal
August's Journal


31/07/2000 - Retroactive
This entry is being done on 01/08. There was lost of stuff done at CCDE. About the only thing worth while saying is that it was finest Recovery, the sleeping was fine, the weather excellent and the food overly chocolate-based. For my tastes at least. Arriving back on Sunday we played host to a friend from Belgium (Tom) and our luggage handler (Mike). Chinese was consumed, email checked, small crises at work averted and television watched.

Monday we took Tom to London, said goodbye somewhere on the Underground and then wandered over to Knightsbridge to get out Egyptian entry visas. Ten minutes of queuing, a sudden realisation that you had to pay in cash, a dash for an ATM, a surly bloke behind the counter and we were done for the remainder of the morning. We went to Leicester Square to a small Japanese food place up the side of the Warner Brothers cinema called Tokyo {something}. Damned good food anyway. My chopstick skills were honed to perfection in the acts of eating.

Back to the consulate we walked from Leicester Square in the blazing heat. London is a big place and I never want to have to live there for any reason. Hate it. Anyway, we walked along the Mall and stuff, queued for our visas and decided to call it a day. Quick trip on the Underground and then a dash for the train. Back home by bike and we wandered over to a bookshop to pick up an arabic phrasebook and a guide to Egypt. The guide scared us half to death with its descriptions of NIle water and the flukes that live in it. "Don't even wall in grass wet with Nile water in your bare feet." That sounds like nasty stuff. "Never ever touch an animal in Egypt. Wild or domestic. Cairo hospitals still practice the cure for rabies involving twelve massive painful injections to the stomach and once the symptoms for it appear, it's invariably fatal." Nice.

Anyway. Right about now the package tour sounds perfect. Next year we might do something more independant. For now, being moved around a little by someone else sounds much more relaxing. Not having to think and plan is nice to do once in a while.

28/07/2000 - Retroactive
This entry is being done on 01/08. Friday was full of shopping for rollmats, packing for CCDE and travel via "Lightweight, airdroppable Landrover" to the station where we caught the train to Elmswell. Friend Mike from Ireland had come over to provide transport, before realising that his green machine wouldn't be big enough for us plus luggage. Give it's top speed of 50mph in Overdrive we actually arrived at the place before him. We set up camp and spent the rest of the evening Recovering with the overwhelming majority of people there being computer operators of some description.

Not much else to the day except some fun, relaxation and avoidance of stupid kids with hugely overpowered supersoaker clones.

27/07/2000
[11:00] Today is busy. Or at least it will be when I go into town. I've got to pick up some T-shirts (check out the webcam this afternoon...) and some Egyptian money. With luck they'll have some in. Otherwise we'll need to get it on Monday or Tuesday, although we also need to go to London to get our visas. I really hope the Egyptian Consulate is open on Monday.

The librarian has come to me asking if I can get TescoDirect (online shopping) working in her browser again. Naturally she's not supposed to be doing this stuff at work, so it's great that it doesn't actually work any more, anyway.

I'm figuring out what I can close down, tidy up and sort out before I go away. For the duration, webcam II will be down, the journal will not be updated and it's likely thst in the event of a powercut the main site will die and not come back up. Or it might and the camera will bluescreen. I'd appreciate stuff about what you've been doing while I've been on holiday, so I can laugh and point at you in derision. A few days after I do get back there's a very good chance the Co-LARTers section of the site will be getting a through makeover. I've been working on something parody-like which might amuse some of you slightly. Once it's up and running I'll be taking suggestions by email. Watch that space.

No, not now, when I get back.

[16:30] O.K., have you seen it? No? Well, I may wear it when I get back from Egypt. I've been closing down and finishing off stuff here. I'm off to the Clarecraft Discworld Event tomorrow in Woolpit, Suffolk. A weekend of fun in the sun (rain) with a number of monks (you knwo who you are).

This will be my last entry (unless I scribble something tomorrow morning) until I get back from holiday. Everyone have a good time doing what you're doing and email me with daily rants, observations, gubbins and general stuff. If you don't just remember, I know where you live...

26/07/2000
[16:00] Run of the mill day, today. I've been getting used to the MS Natural Keyboard which arrived yesterday. My typing (always fairly full of typos at best) is suffering and the speed has gone right down. Perhaps this'll mean I actually learn to touch-type.

I've also decided to do the six machines required while I'm away, today. Created one in the image I liked and am currently ghosting it trivially to the others one by one as I do a BIOS update too.

[18:00] Damnit. The software designers/organisers for the new accounts stuff for the organisation have scheduled a technical meeting on Friday. Naturally I'm on holiday then. I've asked the PFY to go in my place in the hope that she'll pick up and act on any information that might be of use and stop everything from going to hell come 1 August. As it is the AO and the accounts clerk have managed to frighten themselves to such a degree that I've had to order a PC specifically for the purpose running a web browser to access the accounts database. This is in case the JInitiator or browser JAVA crashes and 'takes the rest of the machine with it'. Now I'm not the last person to bemoan NT's stay-upability, but my machines don't seem to crash. Either way, it's for the PFY to set up, and I'll make sure everything is O.K. when I get back. Took my first two malaria tablets this morning. No problems yet. Gym tonight, finishing off of big things tomorrow. If you're lucky, you'll get a journal entry on Friday.

25/07/2000
[09:35] The PFY's back, with chocolate. I've debited my 'fair share' from the pile she's put in the staff room. I now face the mammoth task of bringing her up to date on the mass of things I've been doing and that she needs to do before I leave on Thursday evening and don't come back until some time around 14 August.

[12:40] Stuff is getting organised slowly, this afternoon I introduce the PFY to Ghost for the first time and make sure she understands the pain and horror I've been through in getting things as hunkydory as they are now. I'll figure out what to do about the six machines we need ready for 3 August some time soon.

[16:20] Hmmm, good job I'm not travelling on concorde.

24/07/2000
[13:55] Colour laserjet arrived this morning. Spent a happy couple of minutes adding it into the network (rebooting the server it's networked to, naturally) and making sure only me and the PFY can print to it. The quality is, stunning frankly. I've been using it to print out some of my favourite images for the walls.

I've been doing lots of ordering today already to a) get stuff done before I go away and b) the other reason I keep going on about. I've spent over three grand this morning. People are beginning to dump their load over this stuff.

This printer really is good.

Anyway, laptop to set up this afternoon, might go to the gym this evening.

21/07/2000
[17:30] Sorry people, been busy with stuff, and things again. The photo stuff the AO had me rush out yesterday has been torn to shreds by her. I wasn't happy and pointed out that I wasn't a graphic designer or had a degree in art. This suprised her as she was under the assumption I did. She'd gotten confused between myself and the previous technician (not sysadmin). Molified, she's asked for her usual changes. I'll get the PFY to do them while I'm away. Not only that, but she wants them in colour. "Fine", says I, "We need a colour printer". "Weren't we getting a colour laser printer?" she enquires. "O.K." I reply, "I'll do that directly, it should arrive on Monday or Tuesday." And thus a LaserJet 4500N is purchased. There's no way it's going in any room but here, and I'm restricting access to it to me, the PFY and erm, that's it.

I've noted down the procedure for adding a new machine to the Ghost system. Even with documenting the activities, it's taken me less than ten minutes. Which is nice, given that I did the two other machines again, just for shits and giggles.

As it is, I think it's time to go home. I tried the picture fix I mentioned yesterday on Deep Impact and there were no problems. Which is nice. Have a good weekend. I'll be buying stuff for the CCDE and Egypt and then queuing for the Prom on Saturday night.

20/07/2000
[10:55] Been tweaking and reghosting images all morning in an effort to come up with the definitive image for sending out to client machines. I'm damned if I'm going to do more then necessary to keep them running, once they're in place. Not only that, I've been doing images (resizing, sampling, cropping, placing) for the staff identification noticeboard. Paint Shop Pro skills long forgotten have wakened from slumber to be used anew. The problem is that some people never came in to have their pictures taken, so I've had to improvise. After asking what to do I was told "Just stick a blank silhouette in there." so I went hunting on the web. I couldnt' find anything, until I started searching for "human silhouette". What should eventually pop up but an upper body plus head image, in black. Perfect!

It's a rifle target. A quick dash over it with the black airbrush (to remove the concentric circles) and it was ready. The irony is almost palpable.

[13:50] Now that's finshed with for the moment, my recent ghost image appears to have a nice Dr Solomon's VirusScan in it now, and I've just popped down to use the building's widescreen television to work out what's wrong with my DVD/TV at home. Watching Deep Impact and Armageddon (don't laugh) last night in 2.35:1 ration as nature intended (small black bars top and bottom) the image kept shifting up so that there was one huge black bar at the bottom and the top 2-3cm of the moving image was lost off the top of the screen. None of my other DVDs did it. Most ditressing. I managed to figure out what it might be; it seems that although there are automatic format controls for the television on the main menu, I'd forgotten there are controls for the AV (SCART) sockets as well. I think I'd set the AV1 (takes RGB, hence has the DVD player plugged in there) to do 'Full' automatic format correction and those two discs out of all of them didn't like it. I'll check it again tonight while the girlfriend's at a Prom.

I've got a meeting all afternoon now, so you'll not see me again until tomorrow.

19/07/2000
[09:00] Those nasty jobs I mentioned yesterday include printing out all of the photos of people we have here by Friday. They need to be passport sized with their name and area of expertise underneath, on landscape A4. I wonder how well they're going to turn out. The other job is the removal of six of the old PCs from the computer room for secondary staff usage. This may be an opportunity for Ghost to come to the rescue again. No messing with the boot partition, these PCs are going to be very underused and won't really require anything as drastic as a bi-monthly reghost.

Other than that I have to get some 'sample phones' from telelcoms so I can show the admin staff the styles. The AO has decided that the times has come for new phones. It's true, the current ones are probably make out of Bakelite.

Oh yeah, I have to order another laptop, and some kit for the hard of hearing so they can hear presentations and stuff. And I got Wake on LAN stuff working last night, or at least, I think I did. It seems to depend on the hardware addresses being in the arp table before it'll work, requiring me to ping the machines while they're on, before I can wake them up when they're off.

[16:40] Trying to decide if I put Dr Solomon's Virus Scan into the image for roll out or not. I'm not sure the Management Console will like it or not. Perhaps I'll get in contact with Joe and see if he has a slant on it.

[18:40] Had some help from Joe. We'll see how things go tomorrow. You've all seen the newOutlook exploit by now I assume? What strikes me as really sodding stupid is that the current fix ist to install IE5.01 SP1. There's a funny thing about that. If you do do the install and then wish to go back to the Windows Update site, it demands that you have installed Windows Scripting Host. Remember the problems with that not so long ago?

18/07/2000
[14:10] After fighting with Ghost all last night and most of this morning I'm fairly sure I've gotten the Answer. Any of you out there who interested, here's the pitfalls I've come across and my solution to them:

I've had some problems with Ghost and I'd like to share my solutions. This is from buying the product and instlaling from scratch. If you've already deployed some stuff, you may need to modify or leave out some things.

- I had a problem installing Ghost to an NT PDC. Errors popped up during the install process. The solution (as Symantec state) is to install it anyway, ignoring the messages. Then download the _two_ files associated with installing LiveUpdate! and run them in the right order. Take both upgrades (if you're running Enterprise Edition you'll get two, one otherwise) to get to 6.0.3 (6.0.4 for Enterprise, and then install NGserver as per the instructions). If you get any errors at this upgrade stage, you will need to reinstall Ghost from scratch, and then upgrade it again. Odd Things happen otherwise...

- Make sure you install the client updates on the client machines so that they upgrade their ghost console client stuff and their boot partition information.

- I had a problem with the 3Com 3C90x NDIS drivers for the DOS multicast boot floppies as provided with Ghost 6.0 Enterprise Edition. They didn't work. Using the drivers from

ftp://ghost:[email protected]/

for a set of 3C905c (although mine were 3C905b's) worked perfectly.

- When creating the multicast-compliant boot partition image try to remember to copy the relevant files from your working boot floppy to the right template directory on the Ghost server. If you are (for example) using the drivers from the ftp site above on the boot floppy and then create a boot image using the files on the server (which didn't work), the machines will not boot properly into ghost console.

- I had problems getting Ghost Console to start multicasting images to machines. This manifested itself as the client machines barfing while booted from their boot partitions. This was because Console doesn't have the permissions that the Domain Administrator I was logged in as had. Make sure your image files are somewhere that doesn't require admin permissions or odd permissions to get to.

- I had problems getting client machines to join the right NT domain on reboot from imagecasting. The old "Unable to {do something with} IPC$." message came up. The solution appears to be to create your master image of an NT machine that _has_been_ a member of the NT domain you'll want to be joining. Once it's been in the domain, join a workgroup again (leave the domain), reboot a few times for NT's sake, then ghost the hard disc as your master image. As far as I can tell, this will then mean the machines which get this image will be able to join the domain when you ghost this modified image onto them.

I think that's all the pitfalls I've come across and solved thus far. If anyone has modifications or points to make based on this message, either reply to it, or email I'll be in touch.

Other than that, I've been racking up all kinds of nasty jobs to be done before I go away, before the beginning of August (same thing) or for the end of this week.

17/07/2000
[10:00] Network's down again. Still, at least Ghost was performing up to spec this time. Approximately 60Mb/sec for a sustained transfer over ten minutes is great. I just need to install the Norton boot partition and we'll be away. I wonder how that works, and how it works out when you just want to boot into NT and not actually go into multicast mode. Oh dear, I've just realised that I had to create the boot floppy disks for these PCs by hand, I get the feeling I'm going to have trouble with the boot partitions' files not recognising the NICs again. Perhaps I can copy the driver files from the working floppy ones.

Still having troubles with the packet drivers for the 3Com 3CCFE575 PCMCIA card. It locks up when tring to initialise the packet driver and do DHCP. I don't think DHCP will be a problem once I've got it to load the packet driver properly.

[10:50] Bollocks. The Mac I hadn't realised I'd need to get running the new accounts software has suddenly decided to appear and I'm in a spot of bother. The recommended specification is a G3 or G4 with 64Mb minimum. I think I have a PowerPC 7200/100 with 16Mb. Also OS 8.0 and a mess of non-updated gubbins. Feh.

14/07/2000
[15:50] While I wait for Netscape to unfreeze, I'll tell you about my day.

Apart from the few hundred interruptions from users using the last possible day of their deadline to print out reports (numbnutses) I've been looking at Ghost in more detail and finding that the multicast performance from client to server (creating the template image) has dropped through the floor. Which is really annoying. I've spent the day pulling cables out and generally re-arranging the network (it's flat, but there are lots of hubs).

[17:05] Still working on a 3Com PCMCIA boot disk for Ghost. They don't make it easy I tell you. I think if I get one working I'll publish it in much the same way that Lonny did the one for the 3C905 drivers.

13/07/2000
[09:20] Upgrading BOFHcam II machine to FreeBSD4.0-RELEASE. Should be fun.

[10:00] O.K. I'm not doing that upgrade. The main reason is that the mfsroot.flp file appreas to be corrupt. I also can't be bothered.

[12:30] Instead I've decided to work on Ghosting. Or at least, getting a first attempt at an image to the server. In an effort to not have to tailor boot disk images to each machine I've set up a DHCP server. I thought it might be quite hard, especially under NT. Then I thought perhaps I'd do it under linux instead. Blow me if it wasn't that bad after I trawled through the nasty dhcpd.conf man page. Not the nicest man page in the world.

Anyway, worked first time (once I'd touched the dhcpd.leases file), which was nice. Now 'all I need' is a network client disk which boots with the on-board 3COm 3C905C cards I have in the Dells. So far things aren't going well as I need to install the extra gubbins for accessing an NT network drive as well. It has a hard time all fitting on one 1.44Mb floppy.

[18:25] Yeah right, this entry is dedicated to Bill. Bill's managed to help me with half of my problem with Ghost. If you want the details of my ineptitude and subsequent solution, as the book says Now Read On:

{wibbly-wobbly lines}
So there I was; trying to get a disk which booted a machine and then ran the DOS ghost.exe. Could I get it to recognise the 3Com 3C905 on the motherboard? No way, Jose. At the same time I was trying to get a disk that'd boot and give me the ability to map a drive to the PDC where Ghost is installed. Did I mention that I had to install Ghost, ignore the error messages, and then use the Norton LiveUpdate! thingy to get it up to versions 6.0.3 and 6.0.4 respectively. Only then would it be a working installation on an NT Server. I did? Never mind then.

Anyway, there I am trying to get one disk which can find the network card and then boot into ghost, and trying to get another which'll find the network card and load TCP/IP as well as LAN Manager gubbins. Both are coming up short. For starters you have to make the disks on DOS boxes (Windows 9x, not NT) and copy the system files to them, or you may as well just stop right there. On top of that, the disk with NT access stuff on it refuses to accept that the 3Com drivers are going to work, and the stuff to add new 3Com drivers to the Network Client Administration files is horrendous in the standard Microsoft style. So anyway, I decide to concentrate on getting Ghost's Multicast Assist program to spit out a usable floppy for me to get the card recognised and ghost up and running so I can then slap in the other disk and map a to a share to the server so I can copy up the hard disc as an image to the server's share. For some reason the "3C90X NDIS" template isn't working, so I do a lengthy search of the ghost support pages and come up with something from one Lonny Lippold who has left a working set of files on ftp://ghost:[email protected] I slap the expanded zip onto a system-files-prepared-and-formatted-under-DOSalike and we're in business. Only I think I'm only half way. There's no way I can get the image of the hard disc from the template client machine to the server without mapping a drive to the server, and for that I need the NT client disk. Or so I thought.

This where Bill comes in. Friend Bill points out after reading some of the earlier entries that you only need the one disk. Using the Multicast Server you select the option for "Dump from Client", select a name for the *.gho image and tell it to look for clients. You then go back to the client and go to multicast. It asks you for a multicast session and then joins that session. The server then tells it it's asking for stuff not sending, and the client machine asks you which hard drive you want to send up, and at what compression. And away you go.
{wibbly-wobbly lines}

Great. I've almost finished the first dump as of 18:46. Now I find I need to start creating some more room for images. Unless I compress them... Either way it's finally turned into a productive day. I also had a meeting with the AO (who's between two jobs at the moment; still here and in a wide capacity role as well) and a load of other techies.. We had a good moan about the new accounting software and how it's going to shaft the institution when it comes in on 1 Aug. Probaly th best part of the meeting of about twenty of us was the point when she asked "O.K. who has holiday booked over the first of August?" and twelve of us put our hands up. It's not that I think it's all going to work, it's a join reasoning of "It'll either still be broken or fixed by people paid to do that work by the time I get home." and "Frankly I don't really care anyway, I got all my important ordering done in the weeks leading up to the end of July. I can sit tight for a month if I need to." Whatever the reason, it was a good meeting (one of the best since I've been in this job) and I came away ready to take on Ghost. Which, as you can see, worked out alright in the end.

Now, with a celebratory dose of Prodigy - Fat of the Land on mp3 blasting away, I think it's time I headed home and caught up on my new DVD purchases.

12/07/2000
[15:20] Scanner arrived. Very fast, untra-smooth, and the OCR is nice and accurate. Knocks the Mustek thing and TextBridge Pro into something of a cocked hat. I'm sure the PFY will be much relieved with the automatic document feeder which does feed documents... automatically. TWAIN compatability with stuff also appears to be O.K. Not only that but the SCSI card worked first time too. I'm waiting for something horrible to happen. As it is I've been setting up the template machine for the Ghosting. Adding everything I can to the base image (that's supposed to be on there) and removing all the cruft and stuff that I don't want people to have. I've even checked what parts of Office 97 Pro are useless. How anal is that?

Anyway, as I've taken off some of the more disruptive parts of a base NT install, I'm going to have to do a quick trawl through everyone's Roaming Profiles on the server and clean out what doesn't need to be there. Anything which makes the backup job a little smaller.

[16:15] For some unknown reason Norton Ghost will not install cleanly. It complains about a service account not having been installed, poips a really nasty error message and then exits 'cleanly'. Not only that, but then the default username/password as supplied by Norton doesn't work either. All software sucks.

[17:45] I can't believe that Norton Ghost only installs on NT Workstation and not on Server. I've posted to the Symantec help site about this, and I'm going to add this query. If there's something I'm missing I'm going to be 'most upset'. Hell, either way I'm going to be pissed.

[19:00] Buried deep in Symantec's online knowledgebase was the solution to my problems. Seems Ghost 6.0 isn't designed for Servers or DCs. Installing it, ignoring the error messages and then doing updates to 6.0.3 or 6.0.4 make it work. I still got one error, but it seems to be O.K. now. I have a headache, and a nice pile of docs for the PFY to read so she's up to date on what I've done, in case I don't come back from Egypt. Ow, headache.

11/07/2000
[10:10] I've been asked to deal with the AO's email while she's doing two jobs. Unfortunately this place (the Institution) has a nicely draconian attitude to security and passwords. I like it, but it plays merry hell with the lusers who want to share accounts (don't ask). Anyway, she's given me written authorisation to get her password changed and given to someone else so they can set up a kind of .vacation setup (this system makes things a little odd). Now, I've asked for the new email password to be sent to the AO, who then passes it on to me. I know the password's been changed as I can't POP her mail any more using her Eudora on which the old password was saved (encryped in the .ini of course), but there's no sign of the new password in the post. Which means her email is piling up and people aren't being told to send it to other people instead. As it is, once things are up and running someone will have to clear the 'who's sent me something since I last cleared my log of people' every day because the AO is of the opinion that People Are Stupid, and if they email her once with something and get a reply saying "Send this elsewhere", they will, then forget until the next time.

Naturally this isn't going to be me.

[11:50] Hmm, suddenly I've had a really productive day. I've rung two people and placed a ball I've had for five months in someone else's court and cleared something from my inbox whiteboard area which has been there over a year. I've also talked someone Important through using Pico to do another vacation message. have you ever noticed how people seem to grip the mouse harder when placed with a text-only situation. I suppose I should have explained the whole console on a different machine paradigm to them, but there wasn't much time and I was on the end of a phone. He kept saying that the mouse wasn't working and I had to tell him repeatedly to let go of the mouse and use the arrow keys. I didn't want to confuse him with pseudo-emacs navigation options. Anyway, he's a nice person and has Importance. So it's brownie points all round.

I'm ordering a scanner as compensation for working so hard.

[17:15] Right, holiday to Egypt booked. Seven days on the Nile with stops in Luxor (Valley of Kings) and Aswan (of course, *crunch*). Should be great. We were going to be on a different one but when the girlfriend ordered it over the phone the numbnuts on the other end couldn't find stuff on his machine despite her navigating him through his options. Anyway, we fly out on 2 Aug and come back on 8 Aug. Back to work the following Monday.

I've updated four laptops today, one on spec. for someone who's taking it to China tomorrow. Virus Scanner updated, naturally. Also my copy of Ghost has arrived so I'm reading that currently. Bit complicated in places. Still, DVDs tonight.

10/07/2000
[09:00] Day one without the PFY. Having to change the tapes myself, which sucks slightly. Still, it does mean that although I have to handle all the support calls I don't have to pretend to work the rest of the while. I don't know if I feel slighted or not by the fact that she's moved all of the plants out into the corridor while she's away. I get the feeling she thinks I might not keep them watered. She's probably right.

Saw Mission: Impossible II last night. If I I saw one more person pull their face off in that film after a certain point I swear I was going to stand right up and scream "Enough!" in the middle of the film. Average to poor in most places, some unintentional laughs, some good stunts, but frankly, nothing you'd miss by staying at home and cutting your toenails. If you have trimmed keratin amalgamations on your locomotionary appendaged, then pop along, you can always leave your brain at the door.

Apparently the big batch of new PCs arrived on Friday afternoon, while I was on my accounting course (Fixed Assets). Must go and see how they look. Norton/Symantec Ghost still hasn't turned up yet, which is annoying. Still, I should wait until the PFY gets back before I do anything too fun. It's going to be great to have the power to reghost the machines whenever we like, there's no way people will be installing crap on there any more. At least, not for very long.

[13:00] Ow. Just had immunisation for Hepatitis A and Typhoid in preparation for what I hope will be a trip to Egypt at the beginning of August. I've managed to convince the girlfriend that going somewhere hot will cook the unrecovery out of us. Malaria tablets from tomorrow. This could get messy. I wonder what Egyptian passport control will say to the stamps which prove I've been to Israel twice. I know some people have Had Trouble before.

[18:20] According to Simon (no relation) 1 in 47 people have psychotic episodes because of a reaction to malaria tablets. Thing is, would anyone notice?

07/07/2000
[11:30] The hardest thing in the world is deciding where to go on holiday. Given it's for ten days, we'd like it to be somewhere nice. Unfortunately we can't go with my choice of Nile boating because the price is too high. Also, the girlfriend's not a big fan of 40 degree heat. I think we'll be going with Inverness, which, if the weather's O.K. will be perfectly acceptible.

Do I bother keeping some kind of Journal while I'm away so I can inform you of what I got up to? Will you care? Would you be bothered to look at photographs? Who knows, email from you lot has dropped off sharply in recent weeks. Are you all on holiday, or just bored and not reading this any more? Anyway, I'll be away from 31 July to 11 August.

THe PFY and I have been working through some DoD detritus. I've given her A Deadline for stuff to be cleaned and polished for. With luck neither of us will be here the next time it has to be used in anger. I could really do with a job that mixes unix and NT in about equal measure, preferably for the moment one that deals with NT/unix intergration. Still it's Friday and I have an afternoon training session on 'Fixed Assets' for this damned accounting stuff from Oracle.

I'm probably going to a meet this weekend for some of the people who use the MUD I'm an admin on. Sad? Perhaps? Recovery? Always; there's drink and a chance to talk to people I only know through the screen. Including some fairly clued computer-types. Lunch starts at 12:20, so I'll be gone by then.

06/07/2000
[08:50] Phew! Nearly had £23K's worth of problems this morning. We've ordered some new PCs and I was racked by doubts that the cases would fit in the spaces vacated by the machines we're replacing. As a result I had a bit of a sleepless night worrying whether the cases of the new machines would fit. So I came in this morning at about 08:30 and dashed down to the computer room in question with a spare case. After a few minutes shifting of boxes I came to the conclusion the perhaps I'd been lucky and things would work after all. Which is nice.

With more luck, and a following wind I'll be taking a trip into the new building going up next door to have a look at the provision for the networking infrastructure. I decided that as part of my new leaf strategy I'd see if I could get a space for the PFY to come along. I'll be confirming it with the person in charge in a few minutes. Must do that backorder for that thing we've been invoiced for, too.

[12:00] One reply from someone so far. Thanks Gareth, you're a pal. Git. I went visiting for thirty minutes to investigate someone's unhappy Windows NT box. Looks like it's really badly foobared. Which is a shame. Thing is, although they're not in the building, we're/I'm kind of responsible for them. Only not really. I have to talk to the AO before I can actually go and do something for them. I don't really want to, as it means anothger cycle in the rain and then jiggling about with a Gateway box (which I really don't like). On the other hand if the AO says their 'technical person' shouldn't have to deal with it, I guess I'm elected. He's really useless as it is. Admitted it himself when I said the best thing to do would be to take the HDD out, slap it in another machine and then copy all the essential data onto another drive while he reinstalled NT. "I can't do that, can you?" Well yes, obviously, I was hoping you could too.

Not that I mind. Unless I have to do it this afternoon when I want to go and see the new building's wiring runs.

05/07/2000
[13:45] Another weird accounting course this morning. We hates them, preciousss. Still, it's good to sit somewhere and not think for a while. Much like work actually. This one was the introduction to the system, never mind the fact I've been on two courses already. As it was, I had trouble following the woman at the front. This meant that the less technically inclined people in the audience for whom this was their first encounter with the the thing will have had no chance.

Which is kind of funny. I'm going to make sure I order everything I can think of this month. 1 August 2000 is the breakover point. Not that I don't trust Oracle and Co. to have done their jobs properly. Oh no. Honest.

I've submitted an email to the support lists asking for a techie-only 1/2 day course on technical aspects in supporting this thing. Specifically what printer gubbins we'll need to know, as stuff can come out of the printer you have specified in your $BROWSER (plain text) or through a PS printer which is IP-enabled and supports Level 2 at the very least. In the first situation, the quiery you've run is sent back to be displayed in a browser window, then you do File->Print... In the other case you select the printer from the list internal to the database (running remotely in Central) and the output is sent back over the network as raw Postscript. This requires you to have sent all manner of details to Central beforehand so they can set up the link. I think a detailed crib sheet or quick rundown for people like me wouldn't go amiss as many of my peers are 'a bit busy' and are lacking the CFT to get to grips with this.

Especially as there's an institution-wide research exercise due to come on-line soon, too.

[13:50] Naturally, going on the last of my courses clashes with the goodbye bash for the outgoing AO. I suppose I don't care. It's Friday afternoon and I'd have to bring food. I'd only be tempted to spike the food with something. Plus the course might finish before the bash...

[15:00] In case anyone is under any illusions, I like the outgoing AO. While she's not the most IT-savy person on the planet, she knew what she was doing with respect to pushing IT usage forward here, she listened intelligently to my opinions and helped me hugely when I arrived last year. She's great.

Hell, the others here aren't that bad either, it's just that sometimes they can be a little clueless, just like anyone else (myself included). The reason I'm so negative about the job is that a) it makes good reading for you lot (apparently you like reading that sometimes you don't have the worst job in the world, I do), and b) just occasionally it is as bad as I make out. One or two people have remarked that since I've been here, the Journal has reflected a change in my personality from the helpful and nice person I used to be to someone crueller. And that generally I read as being less nice. I'd like to think that I'm still the nice person I always was, and that this Journal takes the slightly exaggerated trials and tribulations I endure day-to-day and mixes them into something worth reading and chuckling over as the half-true, inner turmoil of a sysadmin at the sharp end. Or something.

Actually, if anyone cares, opinions on what kind of person you think I am (honest as you like, no censorship) would be interesting. If I get more than three replies I'll stick them up here in a few days. Emails to [email protected] as per usual. Don't be shy (although I can read headers...).

I guess the real reason I don't want to go is that I'll be the only male in a room full of middle-aged and old women who're talking about their work (something I don't deal with) or as usual (in the time I've been there) topics that don't involve me mentally or actually. I think in all fairness I'd prefer to not go, and say goodbye to the AO seperately.

[15:10] O.K. Leaf-turning time. You are now authorised to pick me up on swearing and "overly-harsh" language concerning my job and the people around me.

04/07/2000
[13:10] I hate accounting. I especially hate accounting when I'm forced to go to courses on stuff I'm not going to have to deal with. And when it's boring as well. Don't get me started. The absolute worst thing about it all is that this new system is so tied down it'll be practically impossible to appropriate kit for long-term remote relocation installation and field testing. Which would be about the only thing that would make this job worthwhile. Not that I'd do that, of course.

It's the A/V demonstration this afternoon. I know for a fact that at least one person is coming. Frankly, if it's only one person that makes my job a whole lot easier. Quick lunch, then I suppose I should go and do some preparations with the wireless LAN. Want to impress the plebs so they buy some more Access Points. With enough of them I can get enough coverage to use the laptops from the grounds, under a tree, in the shade of the sun, away from the lusers, with 11Mb/sec connectivity.

03/07/2000
[08:50] Oh crap; it's Monday. First words out of my mouth on opening my eyes this morning. Not that it's going to be a bad day, I don't think. I'll be ordering lots of computers and have nothing on the wall-planner, but I feel tired and really can't get any enthusiasm. Shaving could have been fatal, but I decided it was worth the effort for once.

[09:10] Luckily the PFY's just as tired as I am, so we should have a nice quiet morning. Unless someone invades us and demands service. I'm afraid then there will have to be violence. Or at least comic-book *thwaps*.

It was the girlfriend's party on Friday. That was good. About ten people, plenty of pizza, some DVD action, plenty of admiring comments, some chat. Bed at 02:40. Saturday we drove to another party and had a quiet barbequeue with some more friends. In the end we decided that waking up in our own bed (king size) rather than someone else's soft bed (single) and having to go home feeling like crap, was a bad idea. We bugged out and got the train home. Bed by 00:05. So we faced Sunday full of life. After downgrading the day to 'relax and chill' from 'exercise and gesticulate' things went well. We even dragged ourselves out to see Chicken Run, which was worth the effort.

On a sour note. Netscape 4.6x kept crashing when I was using Xmouse under Windows 98. I'd go to access a bookmark in a folder under the bookmarks icon and the thing would cause a kernel fault in kernel32.dll. I spent two hours getting a new version from Sunsite and then watched it fail exactly the same way. In the end I bit the bullet and installed IE5.01... and then the myriad security patches for it. Given how little it's on, I think the machine should be fairly safe. I'll make sure I do all my serious random browsing from work.

[15:50] Still no notification from DVD Boxoffice regarding my recent orders. I worry when I don't get notification that something hasn't been registered somewhere. Problem is, how much pushing can I get away with before someone says "Fuck him, lose his order."?

Also been checking the speaker setup for tomorrow's demonstration of A/V kit. There's a good chance that no-one will turn up, which is good as the room I wanted to use isn't finished yet. The other one is though, but it's too big.

Going to test some more locations for the radio LAN stuff.

[17:00] Aaaaaaaaaaand we've found the sweetest sweetspot in the whole damned building for the radio LAN's 'Access Point'. Naturally it is in the middle of the Grade I building's most noticable and 'this defines the building/is what makes the building well known' wall, in the library. Consarn it. Arse. Feck.

I'll sell it to the librarian on 'mobile IP is the way ahead' (it supports it but won't ever use it while I'm here) and to the AO on the 'think of all the board meetings without trailing cables!' angles. Either way, I have to write A Memo. So I've lost, even before I win.