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September's Journal
November's Journal

[16:00] Neither of us could get out of bed this morning. Elaine's feeling even worse and I'm just feeling tired. I don't know if it's the job, the days closing in or something else but I just feel a bit down at the moment. I'm sure it'll evaporate in time, with some effort on my part.

Hopefully we'll get some more loft insulating done this weekend, maybe make some more progress on the curtains and the drilling of holes for the curtain pole and maybe even go out and do something, like go to the cinema. I need to relax this weekend at the same time as trying to get something done.

The morning was extremely unremarkable and dull here. I ended up updating a Windows 98 laptop over a dialup connection. At lunch I went out and bought some flowers for Elaine and biked them over to her work place. Owing to not actually telling her I was going to do this I ended up not being able to give them to her for about forty minutes. Next time I'll probably spoil the surprise and tell her I'm coming over. Still, I got to hand them over in person and see her office (a proper computer office, nothing like mine) and walk her to the bank and back, so it wasn't all bad.

The secretaries suddenly demanded a buttload of website updates this afternoon so I've been converting files to PDFs for a few hours and putting them on the site. I think this was the PFY's job but she's been so busy these last few weeks with her own list of things to do I thought I'd pitch in. I want to go home now.

[16:30] I've just this minute finished getting a 75 page Word document littered with Norwegian, italics and headings into a set of web pages. It's taken a while but working steadily without stopping seems to have got it done. Apparently the other documents I'll have to deal with probably won't be quite so long. I certainly hope so because having to go through a 75 page document filled with Czech is going to kill me.

The network here (just outside my borders) keeled over at about 13:32 and came back around 15:30. I doubt any of you actually cared. I had lunch with Cormac and Shaun while that was happening and spent some time listening to MP3s rather than RealStreamed Radio 1. Unfortunately it's bounced back to playing modern 'popular' crap rather than sticking to the absolutely wonderful stuff that they selected in homage to John Peel (RIP). Still, it gets their listener ratings up I guess.

Neither Elaine or I were in the mood for much in the way of household improvements last night. Far too tired. She's ill again too, I think it's something she picked up from the other techies at work. Hopefully she'll be able to fight it off fairly soon.

I still need to do some final configuration on the laptop I was fiddling with yesterday. So I'm going to do that, and then go home.

[13:25] I hate WinModems. They are the spawn of Satan and should be destroyed. Having one installed in an old Windows 98 SE-based laptop and trying to get it to work is even worse. I'm really starting to lose it now. I need a break, and a holiday.

[18:00] OK, I got the laptop sorted (apart from the user not having the right password for their dialup account). Had a meeting with the people who're going to be doing the AV installation in one of the rooms here. That's going to be fun and I may even get it finished before I go. That'll be the last job I hoped to get done before I left here completed.

The website I'm doing for someone has finally started to take shape. They've sent me the first (75 page!) Word Document they want splitting up and made into web pages. Elaine and I will be doing that this evening although I've already made a start on things. I think it's time to go home and have a hug from my girlfriend. I don't think we'll be doing anything to do with the curtains this evening. The drilling didn't go too well last night and I don't think we need any more stress at the moment.

[11:40] The PFY's back today after being off yesterday due to illness. She's got so much stuff to do at the moment I feel a bit guilty but it's all stuff she took on. I've been removing PS/2 dongles from the USB mice we have on some of the machines we moved to Windows 2000 a few months ago (I've not had time previously), working on ePO3.5 understanding, having mini-meetings with people in the corridors as they move between their own meetings and generally blue-arsed flying. I realised we had a spare CPU sitting around so was going to put it into one of the underpowered GX110s, only to find it was a slot, rather than socket motherboard. I knew we still had some of the first GX110s with the older style motherboards. Ah well, it'll be someone else who upgrades all the machines in that cluster then.

Cormacs (Jnr. and Sr.) appear to have a mains water-related issue at home at the moment so I'm off this afternoon to give them a hand putting some new fixtures and fittings together to get them water back to the house again.

Elaine's just pointed out this bridge which, if she'd been doing this last year rather than roads, would have kept her out of IT. Frankly if she'd been doing things like this last year I'd have moved from IT to do it too!

[13:05] For obscure reasons I won't go in to I was looking at Medical Devices: The Therac-25 and realising just how much we put our lives in the hands of programmers, engineers and operators. I've never run a system that affects the health of someone and I appreciate the importance of getting things right. As of next year I'll be administering systems which affect thousands rather than hundreds of people, but it's still not the same. Worth reading for the methodologies.

I was in very early this morning to reboot one of the servers which was filling up its C: drive. We'd moved the page file to another logical drive but needed to reboot to have it take effect. This has now been done and the clot (me) who gave it too small a C: drive can now breathe again.

I'll be at a meeting this afternoon for quite a while and then going home to help (hinder) Elaine in making some curtains for the lounge. We went out on Saturday to choose some fabric, backing, tape, thread and a pole and after going out for a great curry with Shaun and Linda (Tom at Shaun's mother's for the day) on Saturday night, we spent Sunday cutting and tacking and sewing (and unpicking) until we were too tired to carry on. More this evening.

[15:45] I started getting a machine ready to test McAfee's ePolicy Orchestrator this morning. It was only after I'd got the machine fully patched and so on that I found (had I read the manual completely rather than just the bits I thought I needed to read) it has to be Windows 2000 Server, not Workstation. For the next hour or so I installed Server, patched it and installed ePO. For an already fully-featured piece of enterprise-level kit they've managed to make it even more slick (on some levels) and even more complicated in others. I'm having a wee bit of trouble with some of the new bits, especially the concept of local repositories with regard to DATs and Engines. That and software repositories, which aren't the same thing. Either way it looks like it's what we'll be moving to. I just don't know whether it will happen before or after Christmas, and hence whether I do it or not.

[16:15] It's been a bitty day today. I've been working on moving some of the remaining services on the only server without RAID to one of the beefier and RAIDed servers. Last to do are Meeting Maker and McAfee's ePolicy Orchestrator. We're currently on version 2.5.1 plus patches and I think it's time to move to version 3.5 and whatever's current patch-wise.

I made someone's day today by replacing their very reliable HP DeskJet 520. I mean it really was very reliable, just sometimes went strange sometimes. Given how important they are I dropped in an HP LaserJet 1150 I swapped out from an office that hasn't been used in months and won instant kudos points.

Other than that... well, more documentation.

[12:45] I have a new job.

As of January I'll no longer be working here. This is rather cool. I went for interview a week or so ago and got offered the job the next day. It's twice as surprising for me as I didn't even apply for that job in the first place. I was going for the Oracle DBA post, but was put forward for a linux/Unix support post instead (even though I'd deliberately not gone for it on account of thinking I wouldn't really get it). Colour me amazed when I was told I'd been put forward for it and had an interview. On the day the interview seemed to go really well (given how enthusiastic I was about the job, and having been thought good enough to interview for it) and every other candidate seemed to have a bad day.

So, at the end of the year I'm out of here. As of December 23rd there'll be no more Windows support. No more user support (but some peer support). No more printers, scanners or networked photocopiers to deal with. No more users to educate in the ways of Microsoft Office, Eudora and Windows Explorer. Free at last. Free at last. Thank god almighty I'm free at last.

Then again, I'll have no free reign to do what I like with the network. No ability to play god with the desktops of the users. No real scope to set up play machines to investigate what takes my fancy, and potentially no BOFHcam at all. The former items come with the territory and hey, there'll be far too much other fun and important stuff going on to have time to play much. I'll be thinking about the last one over the next two months and hopefully coming up with something that's satisfactory to both my new employers (who read BOFHcam) and me.

The positive aspects of this new job are far too numerous to mention but I'll throw in some words like linux, Solaris, systems administration, security, project management, Oracle and Nerf(tm) and I think you'll agree that there's a good chance I'm going to be a) extremely busy and, b) really enjoying myself. The pay is exactly what I'd expect, the hours are similar to now and with luck and a following wind I'll be able to keep wearing shorts. The location isn't too far from where I am now (still cyclable) but it's further out of town. Being positive again, it'll be working alongside one of my best friends, and there's an almost limitless opportunity to learn.

The next few years are going to be extremely interesting.

[12:55] Of course I need to get through the remainder of October and then November and December without incident, but my references are in now, so they can't hurt me now! Speaking of hurt, a number of us went out to celebrate Bob's 40th birthday last night. As is Bob's wont on his birthday, the wine bill is taken care of and you are encouraged to have a good time. Everyone did, very much so. In fact I had to lead Elaine and Cormac home again last night through the streets, encouraging them not to sing "I'm a little teapot" over and over again at high volume.

Cormac managed to drive he and I into work this morning but I don't think we're going climbing this evening as he recently rang to say he was going home to crash out. Elaine, I think, was fine this morning but is probably only just sobering up completely. I don't think she'll be in the mood for climbing this evening either. All in all it was a great evening, I got to catch up with some people I haven't seen in too long and I got to go home with the most beautiful woman there (and Cormac).

Today is all about documentation, again, and eating something soon.

[10:00] Got my hair cut last night. It was about time, I was starting to look like a bush. Came back after being out yesterday, made sure everything was working, dealt with an LCD projector issue and left for the chop. Getting home earlyish allowed me to watch most of the Battlestar Galactica miniseries prequel before the first episode. I have to say I'm reasonably impressed thus far, especially by the music which I initially hated. Now, when used in the battle scenes, it reminds me quite a lot of the HomeWorld 2(-and-a-half)D space combat games for athmospherics.

[10:00] Quite a full weekend. Early Saturday was spent lazing in bed before getting up and lazing in front of the TV for a bit. After some food we dug out the face masks we had, donned the paper suits and gloves that Cormac brought round previously and ventured into the loft. After some initial juggling of floor panels and other bits of crap up there we began stripping out the old 'insulation' and laying the new. The old stuff is about three centimeters thick, covered in crap and really lets the dust go when you're clearing it up. The new stuff on the other hand goes down like a dream and looks good enough to lie on. Not that I would, given what it did to my forearms when I was clumsy enough to get some on there by accident. Elaine did a good chunk of the work to begin with but had to get out when the heat got a bit too much. I'd say we've done about half of the first loft, got some boards down and are in good shape. We've also cleared out a metric buttload of crap to the wheelie bin so the other side's going to be a lot easier, even if it is covered in loose joists which appear to have just been left in there when the extension was built. The only way they're going to be removed from there is either in bite-sized chunks or through the loft window and down onto the garage roof. I can probably sell them for a good price to someone.

Once we'd cleaned up from the exertions of the day Cormac and Steph popped round with a respirator so the chances of breathing in stuff next time should be reduced even further. A while later Elaine and I walked in to town to meet them for a absolutely smashing Vietnamese meal. For the first time in a while I drank a little too much wine and had to stop when things got a little dizzy. We headed back to Steph's house for a bit more alcohol, chocolate and chatting before Elaine was overcome by a wave of tiredness and we headed home to collapse.

Sunday was just as energetic. Out of the house by 11:30 we cycled to Office World to get her a diary and something to write down stuff she learns in her job. After that we headed off to see a sofa Elaine's had here eye on for some time. I think it's a bit big for the room at four seats, but she thinks it's fine. There's a picture with the right sofa fabric, but we've gone for nicer stuff on the cushions. To get an idea of scale I'm 5'10", if I were to lie on it with the soles of my feet just touching the inside edge of the left arm, the crown of my head would just about be level with the leftmost visible stripe on the right hand cushion.

Luckily I'm not paying for it (other than the deposit) so that's OK. I think it's a little big for the room, but Elaine says it's fine and she's used to judging sizes. With luck it'll arrive before Christmas...

We saw Hero last night. Cinematically it's a stunning visual display of colours, and the character interplay is tremendous, but I was disappointed by the ending somehow. I was hoping it wouldn't turn out like it did.

As for today, more documentation.

[12:35] Just fixed a long-standing glitch in some of our Ricoh photocopier/printers by changing the printer drivers. I'm pretty sure we were using NT4-only ones up until now. Ooops. Off out for a bit, back later.

[16:50] Yeah, sorry, should have done this earlier. It's not like I've been terribly busy today or anything. Trogging through more documentation, trying not to fall asleep at my desk. I had to resort to going for short walks to keep from nodding off. The weather has been pretty crappy today too so I've been indoors all day. In fact it's still crappy now, when I'm about to go home.

I have to admit this documentation is really showing me how much I've learned and done here in the past four and a half years. There's tons of stuff I never bothered to write down which now needs codifying. I'm not one hundred percent sure how much detail to go in to, I'd assume that the person who was reading it had some idea of what they were doing to be in the job in the first place.

Elaine's still very much under the weather at the moment. Neither of us got an uninterrupted night's sleep last night. She was feeling ill and I had lots of things on my mind. In the end we sat up in bed and watched the sun come up together before getting up. That helped. I left my waterproof at work yesterday so I was lucky enough to get to work before it started raining.

With luck a group of us will be going to see Hero on Sunday. I'm looking forward to it.

[17:00] Oh, and if we manage to get hold of some gloves and stuff, we may even be doing some loft insulation this weekend too. Boarding afterwards. There's a chance we may be able to get rid of some of the really weird drafts we have around the place.

[14:50] Two major things happened today. Firstly I was able to tick off an achievement on my virtual lifegoals list. I managed to navigate and come out with a resolution an India-based technical support call. Our Windows-based backup software is CA BrightStor ARCServe Backup v9, for a while now (can't remember how long) when we tried to modify jobs wouldn't show what was selected on machines on the network, only the local server. After about forty minutes of trying to work out what was required of me to get the diagnosis done, after twenty minutes wading through FAQs and stuff it came down to a new dll (tree.dll) to be exact. Then everything was fine.

Had lunch with Shaun today, Elaine popped by to reclaim her stuff which she left with me this morning while she went to a job interview. Apparently the interview didn't go terribly well. Something about saying no real experience necessary and then asking some really, really detailed and specific questions.

Getting in very early this morning I managed to get the printers for the accounted printers setup to use the Pcounter-recommended way of pooling. Finally. It's only taken about a month to work out what they were going on about. I worked it out yesterday and spent a frantic hour or two writing down in excruciating detail exactly what I'd done on the test machine so someone can re-create it the next time it's required. There's still some kind of problem with one of the printers and it getting stuck in some way when it runs out of paper and is refilled, but we can live with that for the moment. Otherwise the scheduling seems to be working fine.

Documentation continues.

[17:05] I've had a demon documentation day today. Not only have I potentially cracked the annoyingly vague configuration of Pcounter to use its built in (and much better) round-robin printer pooling (yet to be applied to the live server, that's tomorrow), but I've also managed to write down exactly what you need to do to ensure that anyone else can do the same thing next time without having to go through the terrible kludgy method I went through.

I got in really early this morning so I could apply the October Microsoft patches to the servers. Having read up on them all yesterday and certain that none of them were going to have any adverse effects (other than the normal effect hotfixes from MS have) I installed them on the testbed server, ran the usual gamut of tests and then rolled them out to the others. I managed to finish just as people got in. When the PFY arrived I walked her through rolling out the patches to the workstations with HFNetChkPro early tomorrow morning via scheduling and then had her integrate the Office (Excel) 2000 patch into the Administration Installation Point. That'll get applied when the machines reboot from the patch installs in the wee hours. I did pop round a few dozen machines at lunch time to get the Office redeployment out of the way on them so the application server is a bit less stressed when all the other machines start asking for stuff.

I'm off to go climbing in a few minutes. It's twilight already outside. I miss light evenings. I think that's everything for the moment.

[13:30] More documentation today. Added an update to the backup software on a primary server with plans to reboot it at 13:15 today. I emailed everyone it's due to affect in plenty of time and am now making sure everything went as planned. We've had no complaints so far so I think we got away with it. Stupid DLL replacement strategy.

Put on what I think is the final coat of red paint on the wall last night. Only had to do a few sqaure metres at it's so much better than the previous stuff. Elaine reckons that it was actually Ruby Fountain 4 rather than 2, but I'm not convinced myself. I forgot to check last night. Anyway, I think I'll be able to take back the other (unopened) pot and get some money back. It really is very smart.

Off this afternoon to talk tech over with some people. Hopefully the weather will hold long enough for me to get where I'm going. The temperature's really come down in the last few weeks and this morning I realised the fuse had tripped for the timer. This is odd as it's not really a huge draw. Have to watch that one.

[12:45] Another opportunity for a relaxing weekend. In fact Saturday was so relaxing I barely remember what we got up to. I do know that we went in to town briefly to get some things, but I can't even remember what they were. I do know that we finally got fed up with the stupid paint I bought for the rear wall of the lounge. Some of that mix-while-you-wait stuff from Homebase. I think it was Dulux or something. Anyway, after six coats it was still looking extremely blotchy, streaky and generally ugly. So on Sunday morning we cycled back and got some nice "Fireside" (PDF, see page one) and a new flock roller. As soon as we got back Elaine set to work doing some edging and I loaded up the roller. That stuff goes on so much better than the other "Ruby Fountain 2" did. Anyway, after about two hours we have pretty much the whole wall covered smoothly with just a few bits to do at the top of the stairs this evening.

Elaine's still ill but just as keen to get to work as she was last week. I'm thinking about getting back to karate now that classes have started up again. Other than that I'm looking forward to the week, getting some documentation done and generally getting on for the moment.

[16:10] My neck really aches on the left hand side today. I think I must have slept badly on it at the same time as coughing, or something. Still, it only hurts when I turn my head to extremes, so as the doctor said, I won't do that.

Highlight of the day thus far was configuring the web server to utilise an in-house (not this specific house) Apache authentication module. Not that it took more than a minute or two, but it's nice to see that it works and that apparently I'm probably the first person with it running under Apache2/Win32 in a vaguely production environment. I've been told to watch for certain things to make sure it's not causing any problems, but it looks fine thus far.

Elaine doesn't seem to be quite on the mend yet, and had a close-run call with the chinese food she ordered last night. A few minutes in the kitchen stopping the stuff from really hurting her sore throat and all was well again. She's managed to tough out the entire week while feeling extremely ill, so I'm damned proud of her and just hope she hasn't passed it on to everyone else at her new workplace and it'll just be her next week.

With most of the week's work safely out of the way I've been expanding my knowledge of sed and awk in the further attempts to better myself. This has been going well and only stopped because I've had to swap around some CD-RW drives to allow someone to start burning again. There are some people who will never burn a CD so there's no reason for them to have the device in their machine.

[10:10] Elaine has the worst sore throat at the moment. She sounds husky and not at all like a frog (as she says). We had broken sleep last night as we were both coughing until the small hours. I went climbing with Cormac, while she stayed home, and then for a curry afterwards so didn't get back until late anyway.

This morning the weather is bright but cold, the building is full of people again and for the moment I'm on top of everything. One machine isn't responding to WoL so I'm going to have to go and prod it personally. Other than that, things are currently fine.

[07/10/2004 - 10:00] Forgot to do this on the day owing to, well, not really having the time or inclination. Not much happened, did some more documentation, did some more website stuff for a project, got a letter from the chairman saying that if I didn't get a plan of action on his desk by Monday with details of how I was going to get a full A/V suite in one of the rooms as quickly as possible there would be serious concerns as to why it was taking so long. Same old same old really.

The reason the last hasn't happened yet is because we've been extremely busy with things like moving the entire building to Windows 2000, consolidating the network, setting up network-accessible services, trying to get the door security glitch-free, dealing with the complete web site update and the DoD stuff that always comes around. Not to mention that the first time it came up I was right in the middle of a personal matter which kind of put paid to pretty much anything happening for a while.

Still, I've sent off initial emails after initial phone calls and am now waiting on other people to come up with the next step or so.

[15:30] Today we have mostly been doing user account maintenance. Adding and disabling a shed load of accounts. Dealing with more people with massively over large home directories and generally getting the place a bit more ready for the next few months. One of the servers seems to keep making its Recycle Bin vanish, which is a bit odd. TweakUI brings it back OK though.

I met Elaine for lunch. She's really enjoying being back at work after so long out of it. The people where she is are pretty much all really nice and she thinks it's somewhere she could really learn at. Obviously now she has a job she's had a second interview offer from somewhere. Given that she's only just started at one place she's loathe to go to two interviews (even though they both pay more). I have to agree that going to two would be taking the piss just a bit. Having talked about it over lunch with me she's going to cancel one interview and take the other. The one she's cancelling was a long way out of town to get to, and probably wouldn't be that nice, in the long run. The one she's going for has a good pension plan, could lead to good things and definitely has a heterogenious network environment. No doubt about that. The pay's a little better too.

I've been clearing out a server in preparation for the move to ePolicy Orchestrator 3.5 and potentially VirusScan 8.0i, but we'll have to see what happens. Before that there's the move of the Meeting Maker server to do and the update of all the client machines.

[11:30] Elaine just managed to almost turn up for an interview one hour and one week early. Neither of us rechecked the date on the email she got. Luckily we have some friends who live nearby so she popped in to see them and have a cup of tea, rather than actually go to the interview. She probably could have called it excessive enthusiasm, but I don't think it would have cut it with the people at the place she was applying to. Rather amusing. She'll have to decide whether she takes next Monday off to go to it once she's working.

The weekend was wonderful. Other than cycling out in the rain and wind to get the week's shopping, I (we) had a great time relaxing, playing Burnout 3 and generally catching up with each other. It's been rather a long time since we both just spent some quality daylight time with each other. We even managed to have an enjoyable time on Saturday morning setting up someone's Apple Airport Extreme (which took three hours due to some problems with the DHCP allocation mechanism).

So far today we've had two power glitches (more than a second, so everything not protected rebooted) which haven't seemed to cause any major problems thus far. They've been as widespread as my house so I don't think it's anything we're doing.

[15:35] Quite a busy day today. Apart from doing the usual stuff for the people here in the building I upgraded Perl on the test box, got all the modules installed, installed PostgreSQL and after a bit of a problem with Bricolage looking at the wrong version of Perl for some reason, now have that installed too. The whole mod_perl thing seems to be working out quite well now.

Now I just have to get people interested in using Bricolage. Before that happens I've got a small casual job at the house of one of my users this weekend. He got a wireless access point of some kind for his home and his son tried to make it work with an Apple, a PC and a PC laptop. It all went wrong, they have no broadband access at the moment and the user has asked me to come and fix it all as the son has now gone away (probably to University somewhere).

Other than that I've got another use asking me to do some "urgent" web site updates to the messiest part of the site and a user who wandered off with one of our PCs coming in to return it and get me to copy all her work off on to a CD-R. Seems she tried herself without looking to see if there was a) a CD-RW drive in the machine or, b) software to support it. I think there's a drive in there, but probably no software. Either way I'll connect the machine to the network and then just copy everything off and on to the PFY's machine and burn from there.

Elaine and I have so much to do this weekend, are so run ragged from the weeks of job searching (mostly her effort, not mine), haven't really spent any decent time together in a few weeks, are low on cash and generally need to prepare for next week that we're not going to do anything than pop out to do this home installation this weekend. The rest of the time is going to be spent in bed, or curled up in the lounge. Unless we're cleaning and tidying the house as that's not been done in weeks, either. So come to think of it we don't really have time to do any relaxing after all. Nevertheless we won't be leaving town this weekend. This'll be the first weekend in four that we haven't actually been elsewhere.