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October's Journal
December's Journal

[15:10] Last day of the month, already. We didn't power off the machine in the end, we want it to get the monthly backup on tape before we do that. It makes things neater.

Harry Potter last night was a passible film. The acting was terribly wooden in places and there were some plot holes which I'm assured are just as they appear in the book. Worth your time, if you've got nothing really important to do. We had a nice hot Thai meal in the pub beforehand and decompressed from the day's happenings.

Today I've been playing with UpdateEXPERT which is the smarter funkier version of the script I found to do hotfixes. Don't think we'll buy it yet, not until we have a big move to Windows 2000 (although it does support NT4 as well). I have an idea how to deal with Iexpress-based installs on a one-by-one basis, which I think I can test this afternoon, or next week. It just means I have to do some programming, which I'm very rusty at. I think I can adapt the existing script to work, though.

[17:00] Sorry to the people I'm not telling about the IRC channel I use, the people therein aren't keen on an invasion at the moment. I've figured out some kind of way of doing all kinds of installs, but I'm not sure if it's going to work because I don't know enough about GPOs and how they execute and interact with shutdown tasks. But this is what Mondays are for. And scratch machines. All I need to do now is decide whether I go to the gym this evening or save my energy for the trip to the cinema to see Kiss of the Dragon. I may go in the morning and just go home now.

[17:40] So I haven't gone home yet. I've decided to update the entire building's anti-virus settings because of one user who seems to get all the viruses allotted to the entire percentage of the population inhabiting this building. Still, it needed doing.

[14:00] This morning I waited in for a Parcel Force delivery which didn't arrive until well after 12:00. I kept myself busy with email and the sysadmin IRC channel I frequent and worked out what me and the PFY have to do before I go away at the end of next week when I head off to Egypt. There's a fair bit of stuff which I won't go into here, because frankly, I doubt you care.

Sadly I've been convinced to go and see the Worst Witch^W^WHarry Potter film this evening. We're going to a Thai food-serving pub first then I'll be the only person in the cinema who doesn't know what's going to happen. All I know is that this lad lives with some relatives who don't want him to get a letter. And there is some magic.

We'll probably promote the server to PDC and sort out the replication at some point this afternoon. That means we can start on the RAID testing tomorrow. The good thing is that we're not using the disks in there at the moment so if it all goes horribly wrong we can drop the old disks back in and promote it back to PDCship (once we've taken the RAID stuff out of course).

[14:10] I'm getting my hair cut this afternoon. As there was very little time free at the hairdressers I've got a trainee doing it for £3.50. I'm a little worried, but normally all I have in the way of trimmer settings is a three on the sides and a four on the top, and then some neatening up.

[15:20] New PDC promoted, old DC automatically demoted. Replication sorted and connections to the old DC beginning to dwindle. Pretty soon it'll be ready for powering off. We may even do it before I go today, at 15:45.

[09:20] The Chubb people are already five minutes late. I'm heading downstairs to find out where they are. Someone's coming in today to pick up the BBC Master I've completely failed to do anything with. I've demanded that he take the monitor I got with it as well, to clear some space.

[11:50] The guy who is supposed to come and collect the BBC hasn't, yet. This is annoying as I need to be out of the room for a bit to make sure that Chubb don't make any bad mistakes with the new mag-lock. The main thing we're doing this evening is copying the romaing profiles and user directories from one machine to another with perl scripts and updating people's user profiles to reflect this. Once that's done the old server is practically relieved of duty. It's still doing backups, but we can offload them onto another box. All we need to do then is promote the other box, fix the replication and then we're free to yank the thing out, fiddle with its innards, install RAID and play.

The real fun comes when I learn about how Dell so volume and partition management on RAID5 arrays. And getting the disks to run at 160 rather than 40 or 80.

[18:40] Major task of the day over; the moving of all roaming profiles and home directories to the new machine. Only one minor bump which was easily fixed. The old machine doesn't do anything other than be PDC, be Replication master and do the backups to tape. All of those can be handed to other machines. I've decided not to go to the gym this evening as I've done a hard day's work.

[16:00] Sorry the update's been late today, I've actually been working, and that tends to draw me in until I can't think of anything else. Today I was working on Windows 2000 automation of hotfix installation. Lovely things, hotfixes, once you understand what's happening and what the Registry is up to. With the help of a nice man called Tony Chow (posts to NTBUGTRAQ), a .js script and a GPO I can now dump hotfixes into a directory and schedule a reboot and on startup all the machines will get the hotfixes they don't have, Qchain them and then reboot.

This makes things horribly more simple. The only flies in the the ointment at the moment are Service Packs and their installation and the ugly non-OS hotfixes which don't use the same installation scheme. Bastards.

[16:15] Chubb have just rung. It seems that they've finally decided to come and do the current final door on the ground floor. This means tomorrow morning I'll be stopping them from poking holes in the walls as they string cables up. I've got a meal with Pars this evening only all the cool people who were going to be there with me are dropping out to go and do other things. This is a little worrying as it means there are going to be less fun people to talk to at the restaurant.

[17:40] Editing JavaScript sucks. I'm going for a meal.

[12:40] This lunchtime we do the next stage of the transposition of all the essential information from one server to another. Today it's the general shares and the information contained within. Wednesday is the big one. One Perl script to move all the home directories and roaming profiles as well as updating the users' referenced locations for same. That should be fun. Should it all work it'll take less than two minutes. Otherwise it could take longer. Still, once that's done theoretically we could unplug the PDC and everything would continue to work as we moved the printers on Friday.

[16:25] The moving of the general shares worked perfectly. Of course we had to dash around the users at lunchtime remapping the drives, which was a bit annoying. Same with the printers, obviously. What I would like is some way (I think Windows 2000's ADS may be able to do this) to publish a share or printer and transparently change the location of the resource at the back end without affecting the users who are working with it.

[16:45] Damnit! I knoew I forgot to do something this morning. The door to one of the rooms which I'm responsible for wasn't locking when I came in this morning. I forgot all day until just now. Luckily the Custodian's still here so maybe he can take a look at it and let me know. There's a combination lock on there that's older than I am. I'm not looking forward to getting it replaced.

[13:40] The girlfriend's in Southampton and Brighton today on some of Terry Pratchett's last November signing dates. If you're in the vicinity of his locations, pop in and say Hi from me.

We have some of the cleverest people in the known world here. Yet how can one of them come into my office and say "I wonder if I might share a problem with you?" and then go on to say how when printing a long document and the printer (a deskjet) runs out of paper she puts in more paper and then "presses the button to make it work again". The printer then spools out about 28 pages of special characters and then she restarts her job again. Turns out the button she presses is the power button and (get this) she doesn't bother to stop the buffer vomit. In fact while she was telling us about the problem the printer was coughing up grollies as she hadn't pulled the paper out. She swears she presses the right button, but when the PFY went down to press the right one, she swore that was the one she pressed. Bullshit. A liar and a fool. I'm looking for somewhere to go this afternoon just to get away from the place.

[13:55] Oh, and a big hello to all my * supporters out there over the water. Why don't you buy some T-shirts, get pictures of yourselves taken in front of some big pieces of LART technology (6" or above guns would be cool). And that goes for everyone. Send me scans (or actually put them on a site and email me the URL) of you in my T-shirts in various locations and I'll put them in a special supporters gallery on the O'Really section. I wonder if anyone will actually do it.

[14:05] A little Friday entertainment for you all is now downloadable from

[12:55] Feel really odd today. The glasses aren't sitting right just yet either. I'm heading to Boots this lunchtime to get them adjusted so I'm not forever fiddling with them. I'm also walking to the hifi shop this afternoon to get the speaker stands for the building's boardroom. I'm tempted to walk with them so I get out of the office for a bit. I don't know why but I'm far too hot and really restive.

[16:40] Bugger. One of our loan laptops, currently loaned to a Ph.D student working here has been stolen from Berlin Zoo train station. Luckily we had it insured and he'd signed the "I agree to pay the £250 excess because I'm a muppet" clause. Means we get a new laptop which doesn't match the others unless we're very lucky. It was also security marked and was running Windows 2000 Workstation. So it's usless without a reinstall. Doubt that'll faze the theives though. Bastards.

[14:55] I went out at lunchtime today and picked up my new glasses. The first new frames and lenses I've had in over five years. My eyes hurt, I think I'm getting a migraine. Still, people are saying they look good on me, so that helps.

We moved the anti-virus management to the new server this morning, also did some more Office 2000 updates. There's about ten more machines to go. I'll do some more of them this afternoon. Set the video for Stargate SG-1's one-hundreth episode this evening and we're off to someone's house on the outskirts of the city for an evening meal. Bus either way, but should be nice. Speaking of meals out. Pars are inviting me and some other people out for an evening meal next Tuesday. They can't get enough of me, even though I've only ever bought two machines from them. With luck they've invited the people from Unix Support so it should be a good evening out then, too.

[16:10] On a BBS I use someone 'graduated' to the level of sysadmin and posted this gem: "I am the Admin and today I did telnet to our router for the first time." Obviously my reply was "And that was your first mistake." His reply will help me gauge how likely he is to accept Clue.

These glasses are weird. I don't feel terribly comfortable with them, but perhaps if I wake up tomorrow and put them on first thing things might be a bit better. Unix Support also haven't been invited to the meal out. It seems that Pars aren't doing this thing "to gain customer sales". So what kind of bribery is this, anyway!.

[11:40] We wanted to move the new server. Which we now have done. The network port we had spare want playing ball so I jammed a screwdriver in and wiggled it around. That seemed to do the trick. The backup/swap-in server is now in place and we're ready to start moving some of the services it needs to offer over from the machine we'll be retiring for a few hours to install RAID. As the connection is officially Dodgy we may swap it for the connection the retired server has when the time comes.

Last night I stayed here late installing the printers it's going to be sharing, working out how to move the AV stuff (I think I mentioned that) and other stuff. We also (to our shame) discovered the Dell OpenManage CD and its install method which slaps in the right drivers for your hardware and operating system. Much as I love doing a clean install myself, this seems to install the stuff I want and none of the stuff I don't. I haven't tried it with Windows 2000 Advanced Server yet. But we'll see.

[10:30] Machine to deliver at some point today. Just sold the old fax machine for £10. Anything to get rid of it. What the buyer didn't know is that they could have waited and gotten it free if no-one had wanted it. I've got two other people coming to pick up old PCs today and tomorrow and also my BBC Master which I got for free and I don't have time to do anything with. That's going for free.

We had a great time at my parents' this weekend. Although it might have been nicer to go up on the Friday and have longer with them, it was nice to be able to go home on the evening, and not rush to the station arriving late in the evening. Still, there we were on Saturday morning on an early train. The day was nice, the food excellent and the chance to relax and not think about work was great. Wish we could have stayed longer. I did get a chance to look through the accumulated gubbins in my bedroom and rescue my old pure and applied maths exercise books. My notes were so clear back then, I look forward to relearning differentiation, intergration and the formulae of points, lines and planes. Mr Martin is the teacher I remember from my A-Levels. He made maths fun and explained difficult topics carefully in a way which just Made Sense. Even for me.

[14:25] The new Dell PowerEdge 2500's arrived. We actually followed the Dell OpenManage installer thingy and lo and behold it seemed to work fairly well. NT 4.0 Server was installed in fairly short order and it was up and running as a BDC within about ten minutes. At the moment I'm on the phone with Dell's technical support to find out whether the RAID key I have for the 2400 works in it. If it does then we have a chance to do a dry run on stuff.

[19:30] Hmmm, how did it get some late? Anyway, tried installing the RAID stuff. Naturally the 2500 has a battery backed-up RAID cache and my 2400 kit didn't have that. So we reverted to the other hard drives with NT on it. Since then I've been installing stuff, exploring Dr Solomon's Management Edition and its migration options for when we stop the current NTME Server being such. Other than that I've installed TCP/IP printing, done some partitioning and moved the actual box to somewhere it makes a little less noise. Now I think it's about time to go home.

[09:30] This morning I'm quite tired and hoping for a quiet day. This should be possible with a meeting this afternoon which will mean I can leave early, attempt a trip to the gym and then go home and collapse. Tomorrow we're going to see my parents for the weekend. This means another early rise in the morning. I think Sunday morning will be something I miss.

With five UPSen in here the temperature isn't going to drop below 23 degrees centigrade all winter, I don't think. This is a shame as I'm much better with cold than with heat. Still, with a pregnant PFY it's probably for the best.

Dell have still not shipped the black monitor we've been waiting for for over two weeks. I'm beginning to lose patience. I think the person we're doing the PC for has probably forgotten about it by now.

[14:24] Monitor's arrived, you can't see it as it's packed away ready for collection now. I'm back from lunch, pottering about for 30 minutes then I'm off to a meeting at 15:00. From there I'll try and head for the gym before going home.

15/11/2001 (Retroactive)
[16/11/2001 - 09:15] Hard day taking the train to Lincoln and Spalding for Terry Pratchett signings. I was up as early as I normally am, kept leaving things behind when I went out of the door including one cycle for half a mile before I realised I'd left the mobile I was borrowing for the day in the house. It was bitterly cold but I'd still raised a sweat before I got to the train station. Trains to Lincoln were pretty good and the signing was standard: big queues, some chatting. The train to Spalding was a little late and finding the bookshop was hard. The signing was a little disorganised and I had to leave pretty soon. Luckily I'd handed out all my remaining leaflets, so the job was done. Trains home were a nightmare and I got in thirty minutes late and had to cycle like buggery again to get home in time for the pizza which was cooling in the kitchen and the evening's Farscape and DVD watching. Not having had any lunch I was fairly tired and pretty hungry. Bed was a blessing.

[10:30] Well, gym last night was fun. I pushed myself fairly hard and still didn't feel too bad this morning. My 256MB CompactFlash card and spare battery arrived this morning so the battery's on charge and the card's already in the camera. Decent resolution video (320x240) gives me about 820 seconds, which is nice. Otherwise I can get more than enough 1600x1200 photos to be more than happy. This is good news.

One of the new machines with a new printer attached keeps dying. This is bad news. I think it's something to do with HP, Microsoft's NT and Office 2000. But I can't tell which. The user is using it again this evening. We'll see if the same thing happens again. If it does then I can fix it and not get a snotty and very annoyed email from the user when I check in the evening from home or in the morning.

[11:10] An ex-BOFH of the Institution is coming in this afternoon to show his PFY how to manage heterogeneous NT domains and run centralised anti-virus with McAfee and stuff like that. Ghost too. He knows the score, so the few rough edges I have here shouldn't bother him too much. That's from 14:15 onwards. Remember that I'm not here tomorrow. Should you happen to be at the Terry Pratchett signings in Lincoln or Spalding tomorrow (see These dates) I'll see you there. Get me to sign yout T-shirts, take my photo, or don't.

[15:55] People gone. I'm freewheeling for the rest of the day, reading the Onion and other choice web sites. For example this Guardian story is rather well written.

[16:40] Quality T-shirts 'R' Us here at Games Skins. I particulary like this Gauntlet-inspired one.

[15:10] Finally! My camera kit is shipping. Spare battery and 256MB CompactFlash to ensure worry-free photography and not missing anything while in Egypt. Just hope the right stuff comes. This lunchtime I went to get some new glasses and some sunglasses. I should have gotten some perscription goggles as well, but the cost was pretty high, just for two pairs of glasses (one tinted). I took advantage of the 'second pair of frames free' deal and was sitting with the sales-person while they took the measurements and stuff and then plugging in the numbers.

As he added in the second frames and told me about how if you get a certain level of lenses the lenses in the second pair are half-price, only I was getting tinted lenses so it was a bit more. Anyway, he hit the calculate button and the price was a little high, so he fiddled and the price was too low, so he fiddled again and the price dropped again. He called over the supervisor and she said there was nothing they could do apart from plug in the two ordered again. She obviously didn't want to take up my time so threw up her hands and said "Sod it, give him the price on the screen." So all in all my second set of glasses, rather than costing £100, cost £13.45. Which was great.

Other than that I managed to get a machine to accept the Whistler beta 2 this morning. That wasn't pretty. A P-II 300 with 64MB and it creaked a little. Still, once you've turned off a lot of the gloss the thing is fairly workable. For the most part. Still don't think we'll be using it here while I'm the sysadmin.

[16:57] Oddly enough, I'm going to the gym. Haven't been in a while. Still, should be interesting.

[12:00] Just finished a draft of the reference required to get my PFY upgraded to something which gets her a whole whack more money and acknowledges how good she's become. Which was difficult, but fun.

This weekend was a major party. There was a pool, food, drink, lots of bacon, DVDs of terrible films (Deathstalker, and Deathstalker II, Amazon Women on the Moon) loads of people to talk to, no sleep, more food, Chinese orders for 25 people with the numbers written in Chinese and Sun E420R servers in toilets serving a network of SunRays. All good fun.

[16:55] There goes another plane. Shame. This afternoon I've distributed over 6GB or RAM about the building as all the remaining machines have been upgraded to 128MB. This means we're in good shape for the Windows 2000 upgrade next summer.

[15:55] Nothing much happened today. Got some emails which are quite interesting but that's about it. Recycled a few machines and began to think about what I'll be doing next here at excitement central.

I'm at a party all weekend at someone's house which is worth about £0.5M. He's splitting with his wife so it's a house cooling. Naturally we're all taking swimming costumes and towels (indoor swimming pool). I don't know what I'm going to be good for on Monday.

[12:10] Eight days into November already. Swapped in potentially the most problematic new PC this morning and it went flawlessly. Not only that but the user was complementary on the process and pleased to be receiving the new equipment. Installation, configuration and post-configuration all went according to the mental checklist and all her files were in the right places straight away. This means that she'll always expect this kind of support, but in this event I don't really care as it's the next to last part of a long job almost done. When I've done the last machine we should have an entire network of machines which I installed and containing standard software in standard locations with only a few bumps where some people wanted Quicktime/Realplayer/Winzip/FTP clients.

The weather is godawful today, and I have no lunch. Time to blag some from the bunshop downstairs I think.

[12:30] So today I've done another two machines. Nothing exciting there. I'm not sleeping too well at the moment. I think the girlfriend isn't either. She's working too hard. I'm having odd nightmares. Nothing serious, but we're both a little more tired than we'd like.

The shop I ordered the 256MB CompactFlash from hasn't gotten them back into stock yet, so they haven's shipped my battery yet either. I've been getting annoyed with the number of old PCs in the room again so I've asked some people who asked for PCs to come and buy some as soon as possible at knockdown prices. I didn't bring any lunch today, mainly because I'm lazy and I was doing the washing up this morning and was too busy and because this afternoon from 16:30 there's a hardware and software demonstration thingy at Central. This means I'll be off there to steal wine/apple juice and eat all the sandwiches and pastries. There's some kit there too. And some software. I'm just after the freebies though.

[11:20] Cycling through the city last night was a little like I'd imagine cycling through a moderately active war zone might be. Lots of explosions, big explosions, flashes lighting up the sky from horizon to horizon and the occasional scream. Odd.

There's big discussion here at the moment about a new report which has come out which could lead to Big Changes hereabouts. We're (sysadmins like me) having a council-of-war meeting at lunch which should provide a jump-off point to something larger and more organised. Sometimes it's good to take an active part in things non-technical, especially if it means that something better will come out of the far side. And in the end it'll affect our jobs anyway. So better to have some say in it from the off.

The Dell GX150 we got yesterday resisted all attempts to let Windows 2000 identify one of its PCI-attached devices last night. Only this morning did I work out that I needed to install the i815E chipset drivers before anything else for Windows 2000 to identify the stuff on the motherboard properly.

[17:30] The Dell's just sitting here now, waiting for the right monitor to arrive now. I've swapped in another PC elsewhere in the building leaving four more to do before I can get back to doing something else. Like preparing for the PFY's maternity leave at the end of January. The AO seems to have decided to get her post upgraded in a different way to how we'd planned, so I have to have a chat with him about what exactly he's up to. The PFY on the other hand needs to do lots of preparations with regard to the Databases of Doom so that I can run them next year.

[11:46] So today I've downloaded some new software for the Librarian and installed it. It looks tacky and nasty and is going to cause problems for me, I know it. I've also received a very late order from Dell (ordered 18/09/2001) which has turned out to be very, very wrong. This is annoying. A lot. I'm waiting for our Dell rep to get back to me so I can get something sorted. Quickly.

I've also finally had a reply from some contacts with whom I've been negotiating a settlement between. With luck this should seal a fairly large rift and help my T-shirt sales in the UK. More on that later.

[15:00] Printing 81MB Word documents is No Fun... unless you have a network attached photocopier with a 100Mb/sec NIC and a 40GB hard disk which can do all the work while your machine doesn't slow to a crawl.

We're sticking with the incorrect Dell machine we were sent, it's been counted as the first of the new style we'll be buying. All we need now is the monitor.

02/11/2001 - Retroactive
[05/11/2001 - 11:45] Got up, went for the appointment and then headed to Hinkley in Leicestershire to look at the hotel where we're having the Convention. Took plenty of photos with the new camera and was given free lunch. When we got back (traffic was a bitch) I checked the photos. I need more practice.

That took up most of the day, really.

[08:55] Well, we had the powercut, all three minutes of it. Hardly a test of the new UPSen but still enough to prove that someone on the site upstream of us doesn't have a UPS on their switch. Which is annoying and tends to negate all of the work we did yesterday. This is annoying, or would be if I wasn't so lethargic from getting in at 07:50 this morning to make sure everything was O.K. Long enough to check machines, not long enough to have powered everything down this morning.

[12:55] Sod it, I'm taking the day off tomorrow. Ostensibly it's because I need to go and have an opticians appointment and go and see the hotel where the Convention is going to be held (and take digital photographs), but also because I feel really rough and I think a day off and a long weekend would be nice. I will do tomorrow's journal on Monday, or perhaps in Monday evening at home, but I doubt it.

Ghosting some more machines right now. With luck I'll be able to do three machines today, which should leave only a few more to do next week.

[13:30] The Site Of This Afternoon is Acts of Gord. It's note quite BOFH, but good enough to spend some time reading through.

[13:45] And while we're at it, The Chronicles of George are always worth a re-read.