Moving On to a New Job

Today is my last day with my current employer and working for a fantastic client here in Delaware.  I made a lot of new friends in IT and on the production floor.  Some of them I will stay in contact with on Facebook or Google Chat, others I will see in the area.  But now it’s time for me to move on, to take care of my family’s needs.  Sadly the new job will not include Linux work, but there are high profile projects which are scheduled to begin shortly after my start date.

My notebook running Linux Mint 11 and my fart bank

During my two year stay, I really appreciate the client giving me a wide latitude to develop my Linux skills.  When I first arrived in 2009, my cube was filled with twelve PCs all running Windows XP or Vista.  Shortly afterwards I installed Ubuntu 9.04 to learn how to use Linux in a production environment.  Soon, I was running two Linux boxes; one as a personal file server with Samba and NFS, the other as a VM host for multiple Windows XP machines in multiple non-trusting domains.

By the time I left, I had four Linux PCs (one as a Linux Mint 11 notebook with a Windows 7 x64 VM, my original Ubuntu file server, a new Ubuntu 11.04 x64 file server with an external RAID 5 1.3TB disk box running Samba and NFS, plus a Linux Mint 11 PC running a Windows XP VM in the other domain for Active Directory support).  I’ve also deployed Ubuntu 11.04 to my manager’s Dell M4500 notebook, Linux Mint 11 to a colleagues’ notebook, and started training another colleague, on using Ubuntu 11.04 with NFS and Samba.

I also had the chance to deploy RHEL 6 workstation as a host with a disk box for off-site archive, and a introduction to ESX for creating new Windows Server VMs.

I wish all the best to previous employer, my manager, my colleagues (local and other sites through out  the U.S.), and to all the people I supported at the Delaware locations.  I will miss working with you, and hope to see you soon!

Ubuntu 10.10 on Work Notebook

Last year when a new IT Service company took over the contract from another IT Service company I was working for, they issued a new Dell Latitude E6400 notebook to each of us.  This PC is not the beefiest notebook from Dell, but this is not a review of the PC.   The notebook specs are:

  • Intel Core 2 Duo P8700 @ 2.53GHz
  • 2GB RAM (upgraded to 4GB by employer)
  • Intel Video
  • CDR / DVD ROM
  • 14″ Screen
  • SD Card Reader
  • Intel network

The PC came with Windows 7 x32, Symantec EndPoint 11, MS Office 2007, and a few other applications.  Being a good IT technician, I used Symantec Ghost to create a backup image the day it was delivered.  At first I left the PC as is and installed a bunch of software to support the client.  After a year of hard use, computer was having problems booting or just being stable.  In no way is this a bash of Windows 7.  I like Windows 7 but the system needed a rebuild and it was time to try something that’s been on my mind.

After sending an e-mail to my manager asking for access to the ftp server to download MS Office 2007 and Symantec EndPoint 11, I wiped out the HDD and installed Ubuntu 10.10 x64.  With a 64 bit OS, I can use the full 4GB of RAM.  Just like before, installation took about 20 minutes, and everything worked without having to install additional drivers.  Since the client I’m working for has started to roll out Windows 7 x64, I wanted the same for my VM.  Running Windows 7 x32 would be all that I need for the VM, but as I found out over the last 5 months, some applications that work in the 32bit environment will not work in a 64bit environment.  Sometimes you need the native 64bit software to install or work correctly.

So I chose VMware Player to run Windows 7 x64.  The VM is configured for 2.5 GB of RAM, 2 processors, with the NIC configured at bridged for DNS registration.  After activating Windows 7 x64, the system was ready for MS Office 2007 and Symantec EndPoint 11.  While waiting for may manager, I installed Banshee, Filezilla, Terminal Server Client, Google Chrome, Adobe Air, Tweetdeck, Adobe Acrobat Reader, Gimp, Skype, VLC, Ubuntu Tweak, Shutter, modified my Pictures Screensaver, plus a bunch of minor configurations I use for Ubuntu.  After several days of using Outlook Web Access (OWA), I finally received my email with the server information and software keys.

So now I am supporting my client with Ubuntu 10.10 x64 at work.  I can honestly say Ubuntu is ready for the IT professional in a real world environment.  I have three different Microsoft Windows vms for supporting two non-trusting domains, covering x32 and x64 operating systems.  Due to the limited resources on my notebook, I can only run one VM at a time, but that’s OK.  There is a second Linux computer constantly running a Windows XP x32 OS which I use to manage one of the domains.

The nice thing about my setup is the dual monitors.  The default screen is the notebook display, the second screen I use for my VMs or if I need to focus on a particular task.  I usually run Banshee and Empathy IM on the small LCD, Tweetdeck minimized, and Google Chrome for all my personal stuff.  Terminal Server Client is used to connect to the three Windows 2003 or 2008 severs I support orto VNC into a Windows XP workstation.  Plus the other techs at work were impressed with what I accomplished.

So give Ubuntu or any Linux distro a shot at work for a month.  If you plan it a little, you can have your system running Linux with a VM or two to meet your clients needs.

Used Linux Mint Bootable USB to Fix Windows Server 2003

Logo Linux Mint
Image via Wikipedia

Today I was asked by one of our server administrators who was off site, if I knew how to reset the local administrator account on a Windows 2003 Server that was not communicating with the domain.  I said yes, “let me get my Linux Mint USB stick and I can reset the password.”

The server was an old HP ML370 with a RAID configuration and 4GB of RAM.  Once I was in Linux Mint 9, I mounted the local hard drive and navigated to the %systemroot%\System32\config folder.  I right click that folder and selected Open Terminal here.  Here is the reference document I use:

  1. Open Nautilus and mount Windows HDD.
  2. Right click Windows folder and select Open in Terminal.
  3. Type cd System32/config and press Enter.
  4. If account is Administrator enter sudo chntpw SAM.
  5. If any other account enter sudo chntpw -u <account> SAM.
  6. From menu select function.
  7. Write hive files.

After rebooting the server I was able to log in as the local administrator and complete the repairs.  Another justification for every IT Technician (server administrator or on-site workstation support) should have multiple tools to repair any computer on-site.

Busy IT Month

Well it’s been a busy month for me at home and work.  I migrated my Sager NP8690 to Ubuntu 10.04 and created three virtual machines; Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7.  To my surprise Windows Vista SP2 is extremely stable as a VM.  I disabled UAC because I don’t like being asked “are you sure you want to do this” from my PC.  Both Windows 7 and Windows XP SP3 ran well also.  Over all I was pleased with the performance from each VM.  Of course that changed when I tried to run two VMs at the same time,  I was running out of RAM.  I think if I had 8GB installed, running two VMs would have worked fine.

However, I was never able to get get Blu-Ray running in any VMs or in Ubuntu.  This bummed me out since I wanted I watch Star Trek.  Maybe I’ll ask Santa to bring a Blu-Ray player for Christmas.  Then I was informed by my wife that she needed Windows in order to work from home.  Plus she was not too thrilled that I didn’t create a account in Ubuntu for her.  Oops!

So I backed up everything (again) and reinstalled the image I took before wiping out my hard drive.  Since I am dual booting between Windows 7 and Ubuntu 10.04, I deiced to leave Windows with a larger partition and keep all my videos there.  I can access then easily enough from Ubuntu without much hassle.  I still need to install a few application in Ubuntu (Thunderbird, Filezilla) but for the most part I am finished.

Instead of trying to use Gwibber a buddy of mine said I should look into TweetDeck.  TweetDeck requires Adobe Air to install and run.  Being Adobe has issues with x64, there were no .deb files for my OS.  I downloaded the .bin file and from a Terminal window I typed ./AdobeAIRInstaller.bin.  Now I can install TweetDeck and have access to my LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Google Buzz accounts.

At work, I was asked to test a kickstart install script for RHEL 5.3 (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) client install on a test PC.  I used a Dell Precision 370 which has a Intel P4 3.4 GHz  single core, 2GB of RAM, 80GB Sata drive, Nvidia Quadro FX 1400 card, and a DVD drive.  Installation took about 30 minutes.  I test several applications, accessing network shares, and printing to several network printers.  I still prefer Ubuntu or Linux Mint over RHEL, but it was fun to be part of a Linux project.

I also help with installing a new Dell server this week.  The job required us to install a keyboard/mouse tray, move an existing server and tape library up, install a new IP console KVM, and install the new ESX server.  Due to space limitations, we placed a LCD monitor on the side of the rack.  Because I hurt my back several day earlier I was asked not to lift anything.  So for me it was more of a learning experience.  Hopefully I will be asked to assist with other data room projects.

Right now I’m downloading openSuse 11.3 x64 on DVD.  Maybe this weekend I’ll try it out on a VM to see some of the new improvements I’ve read about.

Bootable Ubuntu 10.04 USB Stick

Over the last two weeks, the client I work for had multiple power outages. The one outage broken several LCD monitors and a few PCs.  One of the PCs had Windows Vista installed.  The problem was a corrupt OS and would not boot into Vista.  Booting from Last Known Good Configuration or Safe Mode would not allow me to fix the problem.  I explained to my customer that  would repair Vista using the enterprise DVD.  Although he liked that option, he was concerned about losing his data.

No problem.  I brought up my bootable USB Ubuntu 10.04 flash drive I made a little while ago.  While it was booting my customer explained that his PC has 2 hard drives.  The primary drive contained Vista on a 40GB partition, the rest was his “D:\” drive.  The second hard drive was used to additional data storage.  My Ubuntu flash drive found all the hardware on his HP XW4600 Workstation and using GParted I verified his hard drive configuration statement.

On the second hard drive I created 2 folders,  zzz-d_drive and zzz-c_drive.  All data files my customer was concerned about were copied to the perspective folders.  After a shutdown, I disconnected the second hard drive to ensure all data files are safe.  Unfortunately the repair for Vista failed as did restoring from the last 2 restore points.  My only option was to reinstall the OS.  After installation I copied all the data files back to the “C:\” drive, the “D:\” was intact since I didn’t format that partition. 

If you don’t have a bootable Ubuntu flash drive you should take the time to create one.  For me it is a valuable tool which enables me to meet my SLAs.

Installed Linux Mint 9

Last week I downloaded Linux Mint 9, both x32 and x64 bit platforms using Vuze.  There were 2 different ISO formats to choose from: CDs and DVDs.  The DVDs contain additional software and wallpaper.  Kind of a waste of a DVD, but I said OK, I want all the goodies on one disc.

At work I have 2 Linux PCs, one has Ubuntu 10.04 x32 and another running Mint 8 x32.  My Mint 8 PC hosts a Windows 7 VM using VirtualBoxOSE.  I use this VM to connect to a Windows Domain to manage machine accounts.  I also user Terminal Server Client to log onto another Microsoft server for running Symantec Ghost Solution Suite.

I closed my Windows 7 VM and other active connections and proceeded to backup my data and VM to my Ubuntu PC.  The VM was about 13GB with other data files totaling about an additional 4GB.  Installed the DVD, rebooted to install Linux Mint 9.

I admit I like the slideshow better in Ubuntu 10.04 than Mint 9, but it was still informative.  Installation time was under 20 minutes on my PC.  After a quick reboot I logged onto my new Mint 9 PC.  What do I love about Mint?

  • Multimedia works right from the start.  I was able to play YouTube and QuickTime videos.
  • Color scheme and Title bar Button Layout.  I like the new color scheme Canonical went with on Ubuntu 10.04, but I like the color scheme with Mint too.  Under Control Center – Look and Feel – Desktop Settings, I can change where the Title bar buttons go.  I moved them to the left for something different.
  • I can configure the menu slab to always display my Favorites instead of what was shown last, rename the menu button to anything (I went with my PC name), show side pane or recent documents, change the column size for favorites, and install a scrollbar Places and System.

I enabled Desktop Effects and Compiz to get some of the eye candy running.  Afterwards it was a quick data transfer of my personal data back into my home folder.  I installed the following apps:

      After getting my Windows 7 VM copied back to my PC, I configure the Startup Applications to launch my Windows 7 VM when I sign onto the system using the following command:

VBoxManage startvm PCVM01WIN7

    .   For some reason I cannot connect to the VM using the PC name but I can connect by IP address.  I guess this give me something else to work on.

Bootchart records it take 14.91 seconds for the PC to boot.  Nice!

I am contemplating if I should replace my Ubuntu 10.04 x64 on my Sager notebook with Mint 9 x64.  I still have some issues with fast user switching on my Ubuntu 10.04 PCs (which I disabled using Ubuntu Tweaks), and the occasional lack of response from the OS when nothing works and I have to open Gnome-Terminal and reboot.  I think this might be an issue with NVIDIA drivers. I’m not sure if I’ll have the same issues with Mint 9.  And then there is the issue of creating a backup of the PC before I wipe off Ubuntu in favor of Mint 9.  Should I use Symantec Ghost or create the PING CD and create a backup ISO file.

Either way you should give Linux Mint 9.  Download the ISO and try the LiveCD or LiveDVD.  Always be sure to backup and verify your data is safe BEFORE wiping the HDD.

Clear Email Address Cache in Outlook

Monday I received an e-mail from a colleague’s personal e-mail address.  He was calling sick and asked to to complete a few tasks, and to contact him by e-mail if I had any questions.  I send him an e-mail, but I wanted to remove his personal e-mail address from Outlook’s address cache.  I would hate to accidentally send him a message at home when it should have gone to his work e-mail or worse, accidentally using his personal e-mail address on a respond to all.

I remember reading a post at How-To Geek regarding clearing out e-mail addresses from Outlook’s address cache file.  The directions work for Outlook 2007 also.

A Thank you to the folks at How-to Geek.com

How to Verify you have .NET 3.5 SP1

Today I was asked how I could verify .NET 3.5 SP1 installed successfully on several PCs running Windows XP Professional.  I searched the Internet and found several answers:

  • Check Add Remove Programs under Control Panel
  • Open Internet Explorer and enter this Javacript in the url bar:       javascript:alert(navigator.userAgent)
  • Open the registry and look for this key  HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Internet Settings\5.0\User Agent\Post Platform\.NET CLR 3.5.30729
  • Finally click on Start => Run and enter C:\Windows\Microsoft.Net\Framework\v3.5.  You should see a folder called Microsoft Framework 3.5 SP1

Thanks to Walker News for the information.

Rebuild Linux PCs at Work

Today is the Friday before Labor Day in the United States.  Many of the employees of the client I support are off today.  So I am taking this opportunity to rebuild my Fedora Core 11 PC (completed) and my Ubuntu 9.04 PC.  I am also building a new Windows XP PC for R&D.

So far everything is going well.

Of course I backed up my Ubuntu PC using rsync to an external HDD.  Since I decided to rework my partitions I also backed up the /home directory too.  Everything is being built from scratch.  Hopefully I can have everything finished by end of business today.