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September's Journal
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[11:45] Last day of the month and I've bought some software, changed some tapes and basically gotten some good stuff done before I head off for the weekend. I think I can get some RAID hardware purchased on Monday and then it's a case of setting up a laptop and doing some Mozilla configuration again. As it is I'm off to get my hair cut and then away until Monday lunch time. I really don't think anything is going to happening this afternoon (touch wood) but I'm going to let people know I'm not here just in case people knock on the door looking for me.

Either way everyone have a good weekend.

[09:35] I saw the Aurora Borealis last night. Given how far south I am this is something not too short of amazing. It looks something like a wider version of this, with an occassional spike looking something like that. I was certainly very impressed and quite cold too.

[10:15] Looks like I may be going to see Jasper Carrot and Phil Cool not next Thursday but the Thursday after that. Which is cool.

[15:10] It looks like today is Software Purchase Thursday, with purchases of BrightSTOR ARCServe Backup v9 for Windows and HFNetChkPRO 4 (now with committee approval as standard) going ahead after an exhaustive quotations round. Not really.

[17:30] Oh, I forgot to mention, someone's parodied me. Go figure. Don't even ask, I have no idea. Right, off to have a Thursday in a pub. At least a bit.

[13:10] This morning I've been hunting for Christmas presents for my nearest and dearest. I've also been sorting out the morass of email addresses that cross and recross between incoming and outgoing secretaries and the departmental role aliases they have. I'm off to stop staring at the screen for a little while and have some lunch.

[15:20] Is it me or is today going really, really slowly?

[16:40] The three machines I took out yesterday appear to have been about to fail in new and interesting ways. Luckily they're now doing it as I reformat their hard drives for leaving out to be relocated to new homes. Given that they're free I don't really care so long as all the data's off. What happens then is up to the new owners. They're only p100 machines with 32MB of RAM. Fine for a linux router or somesuch, not much else.

[17:35] Oh, I saw League of Extraordinary Gentlemen last night. It's a fun film, but don't imagine it's going to be anything like the comic, which is really good.

I'm off climbing this evening, but late, so it'll be bed as soon as I get home.

[11:40] In complete comparison today has been dull, boring and empty. Yet still I've been quite busy. More printer problems of course. I've also fitted the first of the new optical mice with PS/2 converters. I'll try to do the rest tomorrow morning. I've set up a laptop for the Admin Officer and am just about to get those three old machines replaced with the new ones. Then I think it'll be time for lunch.

[16:45] Three machines installed, updated and the ePO directory restructured to make things a lot more simple in terms of organisation and updating problematic machines. I need to wipe the old ones and then advertise them to be taken away for free. I'll take them downstairs and leave them by the door and people can come and 'steal' them. It's easier that way.

I wish it was Friday because then I'd either have company here or I'd be in Sheffield.

[12:00 GMT] Where did the morning go? It's not like I was more than ten minutes 'late' this morning yet it's already 12:00. This morning I've been fixing email clients, promising things I couldn't initially do (specifically saving a television advert to CD when the Javascript wasn't about to easily let me).

The weekend was great, yet again. Unfortunately it was far too short, again. Elaine arrived on the Friday. We went climbing in London on Saturday and I make the probably silly mistake of doing the hardest wall in the place (upstairs, wall 28). It was marked as a 5b I think, but overhangs all the way. I lead it. In retrospect this was a bad idea. I think it's the hardest climb I've ever done and there were some points where not clipping in right then would have had me dropping close on six meters.

[12:40 GMT] Like I was saying, it was a monster climb and I was sweating cobs by the top, but I made it, even if I did use a few non-standard holds on the way. It wiped me out though, so we ended up only doing a few more climbs afterwards. Even so it's great to see just how good Elaine's getting in such a short time. I don't think I improved this quickly! Saturday evening, when we got home (had to sit on the floor as the train was so packed) was spent watching DVDs, eating dinner and basically chilling out. It was nice to have the heating on and be under a duvet on the futon, very cosy.

Sunday, traditionally a day of rest, was started by feeling pleased that we'd set all the clocks back the night before and then by eating lots of toast and honey. In an effort to make some use of the day we wandered out into town and hid in a lot of shops as the weather alternated between freezing cold and freezing cold but sunny.

As luck would have it we wandered past Monsoon in town and found the dress that Elaine had tried on a few weeks ago and looked stunning in. It was now half price, so of course we bought it between us. Given the cost, halved and then halved again it was a steal and it looks absolutely wonderful. All we need to do now is find something to attend. I think there's a few things we can go to next year...

[17:25 GMT] The meeting this afternoon was boring, but at least after two hours I had everything on my shopping list approved. This is always a good thing. On returning to the office I started updating and Ghosting the three spare machines we have here in preparation to replace the last stand-alone NT4 machines in the building. This exchange, happening tomorrow, will leave only clusters of identical machines to replace now. There's a fifteen and a twenty node cluster still to do. For those I'll be buying a new copy of Ghost and investing in some time and effort in getting the basic machine images perfect and locked down, even under Windows 2000. If you have any advice on useful GPO settings (standard and non-standard) or any templates you specifically use then let me know and I'll take a look and possibly even pass them on to others if you don't mind.

[14:40 BST] Today I've been mostly doing updates, fixes and web pages. Nothing too strenuous but its kept me busy. There were a few stuck machines on the wrong anti-virus DAT but they're fixed now too.

At lunch (Thai) today someone else told me about the possibility of work elsewhere in the Institution where I might be able to get my hands dirty with more non-Windows stuff. Anything to help me improve myself and my skillset is good. Frankly I'm considering a paycut just to get onto another track so my career prospects for the future look rosier.

[15:45 BST] I've just done the most painless install of OpenSSH (daemon and client) to a Windows box ever. I really might start rolling this out to my servers some time soon. Or including it in the image for client machines (server restricted to local user login only) so that I can see what they're doing remotely.

[17:05 BST] I think it's time to go home and avoid the rain.

[15:10] For most of the day I've been fighting with HP Web JetAdmin. It's a nice piece of software but it really doesn't understand that sometimes IP details change and you want them to update sensibly.

I've also worked [...]

[15:55] Damnit! There's been a hot water leak in the newly refurbished computer room. Hot water spraying everywhere, newly laid carpet tiles ruined and I'm still a bit worried about the new wooden benching. The machines are okay though and so is the comms cabinet. I've passed the buck on to the people who deal with things like this and hopefully something will be done fairly shortly. I've done my part in helping to turn the water off but now it seems that I have to go down and move carpet tiles away from the benching to prevent any long-term damage to the wood.

[16:25] Knees covered in 'radiator pipe lubricant' and carpet tile detergent I return. I should wash my hands. That and the carpet glue too. I'm going to be glad to go home at this rate.

[17:40] Oh, had lunch with Shaun and Durga. That was good. Talking DBA, Unix and stuff like that is always refreshing after too much Windows.

[13:00] It looks like the union I'm part of may be balloting on industrial strike action some time soon. This is going to be odd as I feel I have a duty to look after the machines here at work. Admittedly I can do a lot of what I need to from home, but that's not the point. It struck me as funny when I opened my payslip for this month and it's substantially more than normal; I thought that maybe the Institution knows I'm in the union and is trying to keep me sweet.

[14:15] Oh, I have some emails from you lot on what I put in my journal. I'll talk about that some time later this week.

[14:50] Hmm, just found a really very important web form that appears to be unpassworded. It's probably human-scanned before any changes are implemented in the real-world. I've made a non-destructive change and have emailed the webmaster with exactly what I've done to see what happens.

[17:15] Off home and hoping that I've managed to set up printer pooling correctly. Either way I need to do some signs tomorrow so that the users don't get too confused when their printout comes out of a different machine to how it did yesterday.

[12:40] Annoying morning trying to find the coaxial video lead for the BBC computer I've inherited. If anyone has a spare they can send me...

Also setting up a PC for someone who's heading off to University and needs a PC to work on. Sometimes it's nice to hand-craft a machine to a particular user and know that it's going to help them get where they need to go.

[14:00] Just back in from Sheffield and there's some good news and some bad. On the good side my Indiana Jones DVDs have arrived, the building hasn't fallen down and my spare batteries from Dell have arrived. On the bad, well, let me talk to the PFY first and get back to you.

[16:00] O.K. it's not as bad as I feared. A To Do list reduces things to much more manageable proportions. I'll start on the remaining items (I've already done a few since 14:00) as soon as I quickly tell you about the weekend.

As I travelled up to Sheffield on Friday I was looking forward to some decent climbing and as such had taken my rope with me for the first time. On the Saturday I wasn't disapointed as Elaine demonstrated just how much she's come on since we last climbed together. She lead without fear up some quite nasty routes and seconded an alleged 6a (I think not) that I lead. By the time I was tired we'd done some meaty routes and I was really rather pleased with how well she'd come on. As a celebration we travelled out to the UCI cinema near Meadowhall and watched Kill Bill. What an extraordinary film. Definitely Tarantino and well worth another watch. Which I hope to do this week.

On Sunday we decided to bite the bullet and take a trip to Leeds to visit my parents. I needn't have worried about it, everyone got on wonderfully well and I've been told I really need to hang on to this woman or my mum's going to be peeved. I don't think it was the chocolate brownies, but you never know. All in all a really stunning weekend marred only by having to get up this morning and come home.

[17:30] I've got a load of washing to do this evening, so I'm going to go out and watch television at someone else's house. But I think I'll put some on first so I'm not without clean clothes. Someone emailed me today and asked why I don't put more exposition about my life, what I'm feeling, what exciting things are happening in my personal life and opinions on my moods, the state of the world and generally stuff like that into the Journal. Well... I didn't think people wanted that to be honest. Have you actually got an opinion you can be bothered to send me on this? A quick check shows me that 123 of you looked at my journal between midnight and 17:30 today. There's usually more later weekdays. Why not email [email protected] and tell me what you want to read about. If I get enough replies I might actually followed whatever's requested. Have you ever read The Dice Man by Luke Reinhart?

[09:05] Gosh, two resignations today. Luckily I'd know if they were in IT, seeing as there are only two of us who do IT here. I'm spending the morning doing the last of the patching and then I hope to get out of here some time around 13:00.

[11:40] All machines updated. I was at the SUG last night and was told by a member of CERT that the machines in my part of the institution were some of the best run they had to interact with. Frankly this comes as a bit of a surprise as I was under the impression that most IT people around here kept a tight ship. Still, so long as my machines are safe and secure I can go about helping anyone else who needs it much more easily.

I hope to be at a meeting this afternoon so probably won't write much more today. Just the backups to do and a bit of tidying up... oh, someone gave me a BBC Micro (don't even think it's a Model B) yesterday, with a 3.5" and a 5.25" drive in one enclosure. There's a monitor too somewhere. All I need to do is find out whether it's got some stupid ROM in it and if it hasn't it's Elite time!

[11:30] So far today I have done the following. I got up very late and didn't get into work until 09:30. On the plus side this meant that all the students were either in lectures or still in bed. This was a good thing. I arrived at work and was still missing my new switch. Apparently it'd been signed for but that person didn't know where it was. It turned up (addressed to the accountant a few minutes ago). I've patched all my NT4 servers and the web server for the five new Windows security holes and prepared the batch file for the workstations. The PFY and I will go around on Monday and do the rest of the building. On the other hand I've been looking into HFNetChkPro from Shavlik and wondering whether I can splash out on the cash to get it. It'd certainly help given the number of hotfixes coming out at the moment.

[13:15] I hate editing html. It should be someone else's job. Oh hang on, it is, only she's not here this week (for a very good reason). Still all done now time to move on to something else.

I went climbing last night in London. I must have bouldered fairly heavily for close on two hours and was getting pissed off with no-one to do some rope work with. In the end I decided to pack up and prepared to head off when Ben arrived. Deciding not to go after all I did a good few climbs in the 5B/5C grading to keep my arm in, as it were and ended up absolutely pooped.

[15:20] Great, one of the hotfixes is an RPC-alike hole that really could do with patching now. Well I'm afraid it's going to have to wait.

[17:10] So I've patched those machines that I can and have a pending list for tomorrow. Frankly I really really want HFNetChkPro or similar, and soon. I'm getting so sick of this. I would have sorted it a long time ago but you know how things stack up on your plate sometimes. I need to go and have some free food, drink and tech talk at a SUG and then talk to my girlfriend for a good long while.

[21:50] I couldn't be here, rebooting some servers at this time of night could I? Surely not. Still, it means I can get in later tomorrow morning.

[10:20] Today I start trying to do global configuration with Mozilla rather than Netscape. Straight away it takes away the need to turn off Netscape Registration which was beginning to bug me something chronic. I may also take a look at NAI Virus Scan Enterprise 7 today too. Allegedly it's better than 4.5.1 and it has to be better than NetShield 4.5.0 which sucks something terrible.

I went shopping with my parents last night. Wasn't really feeling up to it after a day of lugging machines around and failing to get Netscape working but by the evening I was feeling a lot better, especially after a home-cooked meal from the hands of my mum. Marvellous. We ended up watching an Inspector Morse DVD (both mum and dad are big fans) before I headed off to ring Elaine and then get my head down.

Big congratulations to Elaine, by the way, for leading for the first time last night. I really wish I'd been there to offer all kinds of advice and probably get in the way, but I'm very proud of how quickly she's come in terms of skill. I'm looking forward to the opportunity to keep up with her soon!

[13:20] Finally got the building WLAN back up and running again. Oddly arp -a of the MAC adddess didn't enable me to contact it. In the end I had to fire up something with a serial port on the back and use the null modem cable to get in and reset the IP number by hand. I've disabled the telnet interface but the web one was still up and running. Oh well, fixed now. Off for lunch at a Japanese/Chinese/Korean/Thai place for lunch. Scrummy.

[17:10] Damn, late for train. Climbing in London.

[12:10] Have been setting machines back up all morning so my hands are covered in grime and dust. Hopefully they'll get ghosted after lunch and I can feel happy that the workspace is back in operation, even if a certain tiny bit isn't working properly yet. At least the machines'll be secure and up to date. Not only that but my anti-virus graphs'll be looking much nicer too.

[17:15] It's official, Netscape 7.x sucks if you want to pre-configure it once it's installed (if you see what I mean). All I want to do is turn off that stupid Netscape Registration thing, set where pages are cached and a few other small things that'll make everyone's life a lot easier (like plugin configurations and things like that).

I've been ghosting all afternoon and I'm a bit sick of it. Still, time to go shopping.

[10:40] What a stunning weekend! Elaine was here again and we had an excellent time. Aside from being bloody knackered from the week's illness and general happenings we managed to get some shopping in on Friday evening, including some freshly-made pizzas which were so big they didn't fit in the oven, so we had something to actually eat. They've installed magnetically actuated brakes on a single wheel of the shopping trollies at my Asda so I had to lift a trolley above my head to carry it over the area of pavement where the magnet was. I'll be taking the trolley back when I next go back, so no harm done.

Satuday was a great day which just got better as Andy came round for a tea (meeting Elaine for the first time) before we met up with her and others for a Dave Gorman show. He's great. We also met someone I haven't seen in five months, which was odd. I imagine we'll bump into each other a bit more now and then, but probably not that often for the moment. The show was stunning but Dave swore us all to secrecy so all I can say is "go and see it, it's great".

[12:55] It's true that no-one ever said that life is easy, but these days things sometimes just stop you from keeping your head on the right track.

[14:15] Yet a single simple phone call can even so much out again. Humans; we're so bloody odd sometimes it's just hysterical. Still, even keels are what it's all about at the moment. My parents are due this evening for two nights (leaving on Wednesday at some point). If they're going to take me out for my birthday meal (my birthday's in April, we were busy) then it may need to be this evening as I hope to be climbing tomorrow. Of course a free meal may take precidence over climbing.

[17:35] I hate modern browsers. All I want is per-machine rather than per-user settings (so the profiles don't get huge) and can I find a modern Netscape or Mozilla that'll do it? No way. I have to start looking into fiddling about with RDFs to set up default prefs.js files. Gah. Fresh start tomorrow as I'm already late to meet my parents.

[12:25] I've been struggling with a piece of software called SPSS (v.11.5) this morning. First of all I couldn't find the installation keys (and there are a lot), then I realised that basically it's an arse of an application and the tutorial requires javascript thingies that Netscape doesn't seem to like. Owing to things being as they are I don't give access to Internet Explorer and therefore need some way to make netscape.exe work with what I have. Any suggestions?

I'm off for a Thai at 12:45, so should be back around 14:00.

[16:20] Off early. Have a nice weekend. This one's going to be Interesting for me.
[11:10] The problem with living in a university city is that when the students come back everything goes to hell. I'm a cyclist. I cycle everywhere and I do it a lot. I cycle to work for example. I'd consider myself a pretty damned good cyclist. In all the time I've been cycling I've only come off my bike about three times. Once was due to brake failure on a downhill slope, the second was due to a slippery road where is normally isn't and I'm sure there's a third but I can't quite remember when it was... Anyway, the point is that I don't do much wrong considering how many miles I've done. This morning was so amazingly full of bad cyclists I nearly started shouting at people, something I haven't done in years.

[13:10] I've finally got time to get a machine back upstairs to roll out a new image (testing, etc.) and it's only taken three days. I'll do that over lunch and get on with installing the new software.

[18:10] Mostly all done now. Do the remainder of the software and some other niggly stuff tomorrow. Had a good afternoon going over old ground but in new and interesting ways. For once in my life I hope some of it sticks and I can get on with things in a better manner. Anyway, home now to socialise and think about someone special far away.

[10:20] I almost didn't get up this morning. I was unbelievably tired and it was far too cold outside of the bed to risk getting up, but I did. Big get well soon to Elaine who's feeling a little under the weather today. Hope you feel perkier before the day is out.

In an effort to increase productivity from the thin trickle it's been for the first half of the week I've resorted to a ToDo list again. There are currently six items on it of increasing interest, so I have to work through what are the worst ones to get to what I like, I think that's probably the best way to do it.

[11:40] Item one crossed off. Item two should take substantially less time to complete, hopefully, but you never know with printers.

[14:55] I just made the mistake of cycling out for lunch and came back with a chicken tikka baguette, a chunk of something chocolate and biscuity and a danish the size of a B-cup. I feel the need to keep moving all afternoon now, otherwise I'm going to develop a gut.

[17:40] I did a RedHat 9 install today. Oddly, once it's installed there's 119MB of installs to put on over the top if I want to stay up to date. Talk about Windows-alike. Of course there's the post-installation closing down of services which you have to do anyway, but still.

[12:10] Odd morning. On getting in we were to pick up one PC and deliver another one, only the PFY had to lend her car to her husband today. In the end I got the custodian to drop me off and drive me back once I'd picked up the PC I was collecting. The PFY will drop off the other one when she can. We now have another space (and reasonably decent) PC in the building, so I'll have to do something with it shortly. I may even see if RedHat 9 (or 10 beta) works on it.

I hope to be going climbing again this evening. It's time to get myself back into shape again as I've put on a bit of extra mass again. Maybe it'll help the arms keep in shape if I have a bit more to haul around. There was a fire alarm this morning when I got back from picking up the PC and the lemming which inhabit this building had to be shouted at to move to the proper muster point. Sometimes I despair at what would happen if I didn't move people in the right direction.

[18:30] Been moving the first six machines back into the new com