Posted tagged ‘IT’

My experience with Active@ Boot Disk

October 19, 2009

Our office recently needed to do some data recovery.  We usually don’t have to, since all saved data is supposed to go onto a network share.  But there’s always the user who thinks they know better and keeps 3 GB of data on their desktop (not just the desktop computer, but the Windows desktop).  And of course, this would also be the user whose hard disk dies.  My sense of responsibility got the better of my schadenfreude, so I started trying to retrieve the data.

Occasionally, I’ve been able to retrieve data by fiddling with things until I can temporarily access the data.  Didn’t work this time.  Enter Active@ Boot Disk.  I’ve used the demo DOS-based version of their software before, and I wasn’t particularly impressed.  But we decided to spring for the Windows-based version, and I’m glad we did.  It’s intuitive, effective, and I will consequently spend much less time recovering files in the future.  Check it out if you have a chance.

Some of the particular things that impressed me about the Win version are:

– ability to map a network drive, then save recovered files to it
– use Remote Desktop to control another computer
–  reset Windows passwords (I already have a freeware tool that does this, but it’s nice to have)
– registry editor
– web browser, mail sender, FTP and Telnet clients
– disk wipe tools
– partition tools
– imaging tool
– hex editor to read data directly from the disk (I don’t know if I’ll ever use that, but hey…)

So you get the idea – it’s got a lot to offer.  If you’re needing a preinstall environment, especially for doing file recovery, check it out.

Only thing I wish it had – ability to integrate malware scanners into the PE.  Oh well, can’t have everything.  And at $80 US, it’s a great value.

A lesson in IT planning

September 18, 2009

The cliche goes: “Fail to plan, and you plan to fail.”  I recently have had a unique opportunity to use both good and not-so-good planning in my role as a technology consultant.

A bit of background if you haven’t read my other posts.  I work day shift as an LII desktop tech for a medium-sized corporation.  In my spare time I consult for local small businesses, helping them plan, implement, and maintain their IT systems.  I have a relatively selective client base that mainly divides up between 1) malware and performance issues for individuals, and 2) small business IT services for several local firms.

Two of my major clients are realty offices, each employing several sales professionals as well as ancillary staff (real estate lawyer, receptionist, etc).  In fact, they are direct competitors in our small-town real estate market, and I rather enjoy seeing them work hard to ‘outdo’ each other.  In the course of their battle for market share, they both decided that a new location would serve better.

Client 1 has a wireless/wired network with some 20 data jacks throughout the small office (as many as 4 in one 12×16 office!).  They use a LAN-enabled printer and have a special-use computer acting as a file server.

Client 2 has a wireless only network – the exceptions being a printer and the receptionist’s PC (physically located at the router).  Everything else is wireless because they primarily use laptops.  They share files on the receptionist’s PC.

Oh, the joys of zero-config wireless.  I spent a mere hour onsite setting up Client 2.  Of course, I have worked on their systems before and made sure that their file/print sharing was working cleanly.  I also had a little bit more time into that project due to the pre-project meeting for a total 1.5 hours charged.

Client 1, however, I invested some three or four hours in over the course of a week.  Patch cables had not been ordered (this is my fault) because we had not discussed the network’s physical setup thoroughly enough prior to the move.  In addition, we almost bought a new switch for them due to the fact they didn’t know they had a 24-port sitting in the basement of the old building.  We ordered the cables (rather pricey due to how many jacks they had installed) and I installed and configured the network.

Here’s my analysis of my planning.  Poor planning on my part caused the wait time for Client 2, but the difference is small when it comes to the final time charged (I might have saved a half hour if I hadn’t made that mistake).  Still, I need to learn from that.  The other factors in this situation mostly involved the owner not being organized about what was wanted beforehand (again, I could have proactively helped that), and asking me to fix PCs when I was there to help them move (let’s focus on one issue at a time!).  I do enjoy working with that client, but it gave me a heads-up that I need to plan better and be more assertive with that particular client.

So then a few months later I move Client 2.  He knew exactly what he wanted.  This was such a big plus.  He worked with the telco to make sure the needed jacks were hot prior to my arrival.  Our short planning meeting was to the point and productive.  When I got there the day of the move, there was little extraneous work to be done other than get the receptionist’s desk put together so I could put the monitor on it.  Everything went together without a hitch.  Set up computer, test printing and network, then test laptops on the network.  There was a small additional piece of work – to set up network printing for a user that had not previously used the workgroup printer.  However, this did fit with the scope of the project since network printing was a big part of testing the new setup.

I would point out that I am not entirely sure about Client 2’s decision (made independent of me) to only have 2 network jacks in his entire suite (large main room plus two side offices).  The building’s physical setup is such that installing new jacks would not be difficult, but I would have put two jacks in each room anyhow.  But we’ll see as time goes on – he’s certainly future-minded with using a primarily wireless network.

My takeaway?  As a consultant, make sure I know not only the network’s logical topology, but the physical topology as well.  Plan the planning meetings ahead of time so that I know what I’m looking for.  Make sure to stick to the scope of the project at hand, and defer noncritical tech support requests until after the project itself is finished.  And educate my clients where appropriate so that they can more fully communicate their needs.  We’re here for them, after all.

Considerations before upgrading to Win7

August 14, 2009

Bill Detweiler discusses things to think about before deploying.

If you’re involved in Win7 deployment planning, what are some things you’re concerned about?

Adobe, I was wondering the same thing…

July 28, 2009

Why wait seven months to release a fix for a vulnerability that (for all intents and purposes) can’t be worked around?  Michael Kassner calls Adobe and MS out:

In the end, IT support…

July 6, 2009

…is all about the business.  We exist to enable business.  It’s pretty easy to get off course on that.

There are other segments of IT that deal in large ways with process change, compliance, and executive planning.  They guide the business in some ways, and we support folks should have some feedback to them, letting them know where processes are hitting walls so they can do their jobs.  But in the end, keeping a “serving” mindset is just another part of our job description.

I’m curious for insight you readers may have.  Let’s hear your thoughts.


Keeping alert at work

June 23, 2009

For IT support staff, sometimes it’s drought, and sometimes it’s flooding.  For me at least, it’s rarely much in between.  And since our hiring freeze, incidents that are within my scope are scarce.  I read this article today on Tech Republic regarding night shift boredom on the help desk.  Now, I don’t do “help desk” per se, and I don’t do night shift, but I do have the same essential issue – my quality of work depends on my alertness of mind.

I like Jeff’s ideas.  He’s pretty much hit the nail on the head.  I would add a few ideas, though.  Here’s my comment I posted on the thread:

First thing (which you alluded to) is physically keeping the body alert. Walking, running, even having a treadmill or bike in the office (depending on your corporate culture) could be a help. Proper ergonomics (especially neck and back) are a must.

Mental stimulation is key as well. I love designing things, so designing a woodworking project or a guitar or a computer program will keep me rolling at all but the most sleepy of times. If you like to hack (in the old-school non-destructive sense), and you have the authority to set up an old ‘retired’ asset, set up a dev box and write code. Save all of it, too. That kind of analytical thinking will not only keep you awake, but will also sharpen your analytical skills and broaden your knowledge.

Eating right is a big factor. While a Coke can provide a short buzz, it also makes you crash afterwards. Eat plenty of fruits/veggies, and take a multivitamin. Stay away from fast food, etc… all the things we already knew but don’t practice. =D

So what are your secrets for ensuring that, when the next phone call or meeting comes, that you are at the top of your game?

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.