Posted tagged ‘information technology’

IT workers and health

June 2, 2009

It’s an important topic, I think.  See the link for some more information on popular office problems.


10 changes to Win7 security

February 13, 2009

I’ve been taking a break from writing to work on classes for the last month or so – hopefully I will be back on track soon.  In the meantime, here’s a great 10 Things article from TR.

Open Source ‘LoggedOn2’ finds usernames for a domain PC

January 26, 2009

As the person essentially in charge of desktop support for a field office of about 100 users, I occasionally receive a phone call from a corporate network administrator who wants to know who’s using all the bandwidth, or who is downloading viruses, or the like.  Usually, they give me a NetBIOS name, and I take care of checking the user’s internet history and talking with them about their particular issue. 

More frequently that that, I have to track down a user who is using a particular resource.  For instance, this morning all of our available admin licenses for Alchemy (a document database) were in use, some by people who were idle for over an hour, and the person who really needed the license couldn’t get it.  But Alchemy only gives you IP addresses, not computer names or user IDs.  So I can use nbtstat to find the computer name from the IP address, but that’s still cumbersome.  In the past, I have had to make a spreadsheet (and keep it up to date) of which user has which computer.  It’s a good thing to have anyway, but I don’t need it for this process anymore.

Enter LoggedOn2.  It’s a simple (and incredibly fast) Delphi program that will grab the logged on user on any given box, either via NetBIOS name or IP address.  I tried a couple other alternatives, but this one was fastest and free.  The others either didn’t work (as in a VBScript someone posted), were too slow (one was trying to scan the whole domain for computers), or were shareware.  I don’t mind buying the shareware (and getting a 1.7 billion dollar company to drop 50 bucks for software isn’t hard) but this one works too well.  No installation needed, either. 

It is open source, so I did have a look at the source code.  I don’t write any Delphi, but I have enough knowledge to try to guess what it’s doing.  It looks like it checks the registry of the PC (under the HKEY_CURRENT_USER hive) for the domain ID of the user.  You do need administrative privileges on the remote machine (which you should have, if you’re an administrator).  It’s fast, simple, effective, and free.  Here’s a few screenshots:


 The main screen.  Click Scan Machine to continue…











Input the PC name or IP address, or select a computer from the list of domain PCs (which I conveniently blotted out)



 Output is the domain\username for the computer you entered (just like this screen, except instead of saying “domain\username” it would say “YourCompany\t_collins” or somethinglike that).  You can also click “Scan Domain” (if you have a small domain) and get the logged on user for every box.  This would make asset tracking especially easy as you could develop a list easily. 

Other features that would be great would be a comma-delimited or Excel report of all domain PCs and logged on users.  Especially great would be the ability to search by IP range so that I can grab only a few VLANs from our rather incredibly large domain.  At some point I would like to port this to Python, just for fun and to help my understanding of Python programming.

One minor annoyance (it’s a help too, but it’s annoying) is that the program is (in Windows terminology) “always on top.”  This is nice because I might be logged on to a server via RDP and need to grab an IP address from the server while switching back and forth between LoggedIn2 and the RDP session.  On the other hand, you have to minimize the window to get your screen back (it conveniently minimizes to the system tray).

This program is a great example of what old-school “hacking” was.  Make your own tool and use it to access the information you need.  Ah, makes me feel all nostalgic.

You can download LoggedOn2 here.  Does anyone have a similar program for Mac or *nix?

Windows XP installation error 47872

January 23, 2009

Today I replaced a hard drive on a Dell Latitude D630.  I booted from the XP SP2 cd (an OEM Dell CD), and received the error 47872 and a prompt to press a key to exit.  I didn’t find a lot on a quick Google search, but someone out there mentioned to try a different CD.

I checked the CD and there was a fingerprint and a scratch on it.  I tried a different CD in better shape, and it worked flawlessly.  Thought this might help you if you see the same error.

That begs the question – are there really 48000 errors that can happen in Windows XP setup?  Scary. =)

Another issue with my web design textbook

January 15, 2009

You might have read my December post quibbling with the author/editor of my web design textbook.  It’s happening again, but this time it’s not just a quibble – it’s just plain wrong.

In this case, I’m feeling a little ill.  Here’s the quote (emphasis added): “The second difference [between Apache and IIS] is that Apache is open-source software, meaning that it is non-proprietary and thus license-free.”  I’m sorry?  When did open source start meaning there’s no license?  Have you ever heard of the GPL?  Creative Commons?  In Apache’s case, it has its own Apache license, which is compatible with GPL 3 (though not with GPL 1 and 2). 

I guess the moral of the story is that I should do my homework to avoid writing about things I don’t understand.

This reminds me.  I haven’t been posting much due to a final exam tomorrow in this very course.  I’ve got a long way to go, so I’m signing off.


Dell Fast Track is a breakthrough in enterprise warranty service

January 9, 2009

Recently, my company (which has at maybe 4,000 desktop PCs) enrolled in the Dell Fast Track warranty service.  And there was much rejoicing.  Especially by me.  I dread having to call Dell, even their Gold Technical Support.  The reason is, they aren’t warranty agents, they are tech support.  Here’s a good example.

About two months ago, I called on a system that was very close to the end of its warranty.  The audio would not work.  On this model (Optiplex GX 620) the audio is integrated and requires a new system board when faulty.  I ran the hardware diagnostics and called Gold Tech Support when the audio failed.  The technician, of course, wants me to check the drivers and the speakers, etc.  Of course, I have already bypassed that and directly checked the hardware.  To the technician’s credit, he understood this (not all of them do) and ordered a new motherboard for me.  That’s where the trouble started.

I installed the new motherboard (I say new – it was actually marked as refurbished) and had problems.  The system just acted funny.  I know that’s not a good technical description, but strange things were happening that didn’t used to happen before the new motherboard.  Troubleshooting 101 specifies that, if you replace a piece of hardware and end up with new problems immediately after the replacement, then the part you installed was bad.  The Dell tech did not agree.

To prove my point, I installed the mobo into another identical system which had no known issues.  All of a sudden it had issues, like not booting correctly, or taking 10 times as long to boot, or not being able to unlock Windows properly.  The tech told me (I’ll try to quote) “I don’t think there’s any way the new motherboard could be bad.”  [palm to face]

Enter Fast Track Service.  I take some online certification exams to prove I have basic troubleshooting skills, and within 48 hours (in this case, less than 24) the results are reviewed and you are allowed to order warranty parts for any system on which you are certified (I certified for desktops and notebooks very quickly; if I could have given it my unvdivided attention, I could have passed them both well within one day).

The system works like this:

– technician troubleshoots the system according to Dell guidelines
– technician fills out warranty request, listing problem details and the troubleshooting steps
– Dell reviews the request and sends the part
– metrics are kept to detect fraud or “preventive” maintenance, both of which are not allowed

This is a major advantage for me because I don’t even bother calling Dell until I know what is wrong with the system.  I am very familiar with the systems we use, and I have a whole group of other techs I can ask if I have questions.  Not to mention that Dell’s support is sometimes less than reliable – I have been told glaringly wrong things before by one tech in particular (for instance, he told me – no kidding – that if a user played pirated music, it could mess up the BIOS and cause a CD drive to stop working).  That one turned out to be simply a case of cable creep – I reseated the CD drive cable and it worked after that.

So, the long story short, Dell’s new Fast Track Support is a great way for solid enterprise technicians to save time and energy dealing with Dell’s other support options.  Here’s a few things you need to know:

– it’s only available to Pro Support customers (their branch that deals with IT staff)
– it is monitored and statistical trends can identify fraudulent patterns of parts ordering
– the certification courses are approximately the same level as the A+ cert exam, but are specific to Dell parts

Again, I’m so relieved that we have gone to this system.  If you work as a full-time tech, you might look into this – it could save you a few headaches down the road.

Irony in technical textbooks

December 10, 2008

I am currently working on finishing my B.S. degree, and my current course is on Web design.  The author has taken pains to help us understand these two concepts:

1. “Your Web site should look, feel, and work the same as everyone else’s.”  Good advice if you want people to easily navigate it.  Here’s the irony – rather than using absolute page numbers like most texts, this book paginates each chapter separately.  I have seen it before, but it’s far from standard.  It makes it harder to find what you’re looking for, IMO.

2. “There should not be any dead ends in your site.”  Also good advice.  Here’s the problem – after eight chapters, I STILL haven’t been able to locate the answers to the end-of-chapter quizzes.  Talk about a dead end.

So the moral of the story is – follow your own advice.