23 November 2005

Google Update

Maybe the company that hosts your domain has some impact on google ratings. It took a while to appear but I am currently at the top of the table for Cyberhythm. I suspect that may have a lot to do with my hosting company (1&1) which appears to have set up www redirects for me without my even asking. Not that I mind, being in the number 1 spot means anyone who can spell Cyberhythm will find me. YAAAAY!!!

Not much blogging at the moment as we are moving building at work and I don't really want to get into the technical details of how to lift things.

20 November 2005

Spyware and Search Engines

Short blog today as I'm busy working on a few things. I just wanted to share a few interesting links I found about spyware (which is the cause of 8/10 PC complaints I get confronted with)

Remember this name: Ben Edelman. Ben has a very interesting site about spyware and peer-2-peer programs (e.g. Kazaa, bearshare, gnucleus etc). Ben has done some testing and found almost all of these programs to contain spyware. The single program he found which didn't install any is Limewire.

I particularly liked Ben's site as he has lots of visual examples of what to look out for. He also explains how the people behind these programs use dubious means to get them installed and how some of the companies providing them are even linked to major search engines (like google and yahoo) either indirectly or directly. I found Bens site really interesting as at the moment I am looking for a new favourite search engine.

Yes I am now somewhat dissillusioned with my old favourite (google). Is this the beginning of the end? The source of my frustration? I actually went ahead and registered some domain names (which I admit was less than a week ago). However none of the search engines are currently showing me at the top of their rankings despite the fact I now own the two main variations (ie Cyberhythm.co.uk and Cyberhythm.com. I'm glad these are for a personal project as any business which suffered from this sort of domain ignorance abuse could really suffer.

Ironically, I do a search for Cyberhythm and the top listing is for a guy in Florida who has been selling an information product via clickbank and outsourcing some of the work on Elance.com (which is googles top result). It's as though google has vowed never to display my site without any communication about it's reasoning.

There seems to be some benevolent force behind the scenes of search engines at the moment though. Mamma.com and Metacrawler.com are now linked (with several others) to a service which charges just under $50 for a submission service. Damn!!! both of those used to be my favourites at one time.

So it looks like I'm currently without a favourite. Maybe the time is right for a new engine. One which doesn't seek to become a police state; one which gives free submission to all and one which gives prominence to those who have already been subjected to the scam of paying a domain registrar to register their existing identity as a domain name. If anyone finds such a service, please contact me.

In the mean time google will have to figure out for themselves that if people can't find my site, they're not going to earn much revenue from their adsense code on it .

8 November 2005

Virtual Machines and Crossfire boards

Once again, the mighty virtual PC 2004 allows us to create a network training environment exactly to our lecturers specifications. Well done Bill for such a fantastic product. Now if I can just suggest one minor improvement... stop it aquiring settings from the primary network card when there are two cards installed.

I spent all of yesterday setting up about a dozen virtual machines by hand. I'm sure there must be a quicker way of doing this. I know you can copy the files around (which I did from home over the weekend using remote desktop), but it's the configuration that takes all the time. Things like changing the VM's network identity. Ok so I also spent some time installing the Analog-X web-server on each VM as well so the class could simulate network traffic (yes they could have used netmeeting or anything else really, but AX's web-server is easy to set-up, looks pretty and does it's job well). As a test environment for HTML/CGI pages, I don't think you can beat it for ease of setting up. Now if it just did PHP as well ;).

Do I sound like I'm picking fault with everything? I hope my comments can be seen as constructive criticism as these tools are so useful that it would have taken 3 times longer to set our lab up in any other way. Virtual PC allows us to set-up guest operating systems with different software after we've already completed the annual process of clean installs with the latest software and patches. It's fantastic to be able to add software to our standard images at any point after the beginning of the new term. As for Analog-X, well I remember the tracks on mp3.com and this guy deserves a lot of credit for all the freeware he's created over the years.

At this point I feel the need to plug a couple of sites before I get on with the Crossfire review. First is the excellent
Lanlord's guide to building a PC
which helped me understand this Crossfire stuff. A nice black & white step-by-step guide at the bottom of the page should be helpful to anyone building their first PC (all of us had a first!!!). The other one I found on the same subject is
Dr Ashen's guide
(which should not be taken at all seriously). The Evil Emperror really made me laugh.

Ok, back-patting over and now let's get on with the Crossfire review. I've recently managed to get my hands on a Sapphire PURE Advantage CrossFire (model no: PC-A9RD480Adv). I've been a fan of Sapphire graphics cards for a while but this is the first time I've had one of their motherboards. For this review I will be comparing it with my previous board (an A-Bit 3rd eye with guru clock - I forget which model, A8N maybe).

To start with, the A9RD480Adv is jet-black coloured. It's not as colourful as some of the pictures I've seen with green PCI-E sockets and yellow PCI-Express sockets. It also lacks the port-80 LED display of the A-bit board; so why buy it?

Primarily because it's for my own home PC and I want different features. For a start it uses Crossfire technology (the ability to run two identical graphics cards to get image enhancing features like ansi-tropic filtering to run on high resolution displays without everything grinding to a snails pace). It's also slightly future-proofed with it's support for AMD X2 processors and gigabit network built in.

Now the bad points and yes there are a couple. The board is shipped with ribbon cables for IDE drives. Come on Sapphire, rounded cables are only a couple of quid from the computer fairs. They also improve air circulation which is important for this boards target market (ie gamers). Another problem is the legend (white writing on the boards surface). The PCI-Express sockets are not clearly marked despite you needing to know which is master or slave for your graphics cards). Also, the front panel power-LED connector is only 2-pins so I had to service one of the connections from my Antec Lanboy case front-panel connector (3-pin) before I could connect it.

The board also comes with a slave adapter (for the unused PCI-Express socket), A back panel, a quick start guide (which doesn't tell you which PCI-Express is the slave) and three CD's (drivers, system utilities and a games disk with free limited trials of four online games). Now I would have happily swapped the four games demos for just one decent full game (Quake4 or UT2004 would have been nice but after the half-life 2 vouchers fiasco I can understand the big S not wanting to be committed). It just seems a bit strange to me to give away four demos instead of a single half-decent game.

Anyway after swapping the boards out, I realised how much neater my system looks compared to my old A-Bit board. Things just seem to be in the right place (except the front panel audio connectors). My perspex side panel now sports a well-laid out board which has been thought out. As a result my Athlon-64 (3500+) now runs at a mere 23-25 degrees (wow about 10 degress lower than it was on the A-Bit with no additional cooling).

My first attempt at installing windows proved problematic. Looking at the Sapphire site revealed there was already a BIOS update (which I naturally upgraded to). Although Windows installed, I couldn't get to windows update; it would repeatedly throw me out after the registering stage with a strange error code (0x8000170D I think). And here is todays piece of wisdom. NEVER, EVER (and I mean EVER) install windows without using the full format option. It turns out I'd forgotten to format the partition on my new drive when I got it last month and it took ages to install (causing problems later but still managing over 19,500 on 3D-Mark 2001-SE).

One drive-format later and my computer was actually performing again. The new BIOS appears to have significant changes to the memory timings section (so worth upgrading) amongst other things. Anyway with all the updates installed, I had a 3D-Mark (2001SE) score of around 20,500 which is as high as my A-Bit board got when it was over-clocked. I also managed to get all my memory (2GB Kingston) memory running at DDR400 speeds (I'd only ever got the first two sticks at that speed with the A-Bit board but then my memory does not consist of matched pairs).

My only problem with the system now is the slightest attempt to overclock the graphics card results in the total loss of on-board sound. I consider this a minor problem as Day of Defeat source now runs far more smoothly (even at 1024x768) and without the crashes which I always thought were caused by the steam engine (well with my frequent anti-spyware checks and linux firewall, what else could it have been?). Maybe it's a known issue and will be resolved in future BIOS updates. For now I can make do with an old PCI sound-card as the performance is impressive. Is the X800 really so much better than the AGP 9800-Pro? Well my system seems to think so. Either that or Sapphires PC-A9RD480Adv board was worth the wait.

OCUK returns update:
====================
My better half commented about OC's returns system being awkward but she did manage to get a returns number. At that point we actually went in (for my new graphics card) and they swapped the faulty drive over the counter, no questions or hesitations so well done OCUK. I also noticed there were more staff on the sales counter these days and the amount of time you have to wait has been greatly reduced. Again well done OCUK. We only started using mail-order because it took so long to get served in there at one point. Nice to see things back as they were and now I can actually visit at lunch-time and still have time for lunch as well.

21 October 2005

Floppy fails, Windows Code-5's and resurrecting machines

Another busy week in the systems support office, what with our upcoming move into the Brindley building (although we're still not sure exactly when it will happen). At the moment I seem to be answering lots of calls and taking messages as we're short staffed (1 guy is off sick and another lost a family member this week).

Today I wondered what was happening with my machine after I tried to format three different floppy disks and they all failed to format. Turns out that my drive must have failed as I replaced it with another which is working fine.

I found that out during my attempt to resurrect an old piece of kit which would otherwise have been thrown out. A single machine I found in the clearing room which looked a little unusual as unlike our other old lab machines it had a 2GB Jazz drive in it. Inside I found an Aopen AX6BC motherboard. I'm not sure how this PC got here but it's not the usual sort of thing we buy. This board was once an overclockers dream. After stripping it down, removing the old PII 300MHz and fitting a 1GHz PIII chip I reconnected a CD drive and tried to install Slackware 10.2. It locked up straight after boot-up with a meaningless HEX error message.

At that point I thought I'd just stick win XP on it to make sure it works. Needless to say, it didn't and I got a Code 5 error message. From this point on I am going to plug Aopen relentlessly due to the fact I estimate this board to be at least 5 years old and I could still find BIOS updates on their web-site (which is how I discovered my floppy drive had died).

One successful BIOS update later (from 2.36 to 2.59) and the motherboard is now running well with it's PIII thanks to a great range of multiplier and FSB settings all of which can be done through BIOS settings (no fiddly motherboard jumpers).

I tried windows again and it failed during the file copying process. Now experience has taught me well that 9 times out of 10 this is caused by faulty memory. Luckily Microsoft now have a utility which you install to a floppy and boot from which runs a DOS-style diagnostic to check your memory is ok. IMPORTANT POINT: When you use this, press T to get the extended tests. The basic test runs 7 diagnostics while the extended tests run 17 (my memory failed on number 15 so always use the extended test feature).

After replacing the memory I realised XP probably wouldn't work well on just 64MB so I went back to Slackware as this machine was intended to let me have a look at the all new Slackware 10.2. Next week I'll be looking through my old blogs and checking out how the networking runs (and to see if I still have problems with the gateway settings).

Abit AN8 Ultra nForce4 Ultra (Socket 939)


This week I've also been putting some equipment together outside work for the company my wife works for (Intelligent Orthopaedics). This was my second opportunity to build an Athlon-64 system and based on my previous fairly favorable experience with my own Abit system, I went ahead with building a similar system for IO to run their CAD/CAM software.

I have to say it went better this time. Most of the components were bought from OCUK and EBuyer. Sticking with suppliers and brands which I know and trust proved worthwhile as this was one of the easier systems I've ever built. The main problem was a cheap finger-cutting case bought from a third (unnamed) supplier. Once the board was fitted though, the extra bits just seemed to fly in although it took a few minutes to figure out where the USB front-panel pins should go (what with the 3 rows of pins for 6 USB's on the front of the board).

I was most impressed with the speed at which this system was up and running. The Sapphire X800 should be able to cope with Solidworks and the OCUK value memory forced me to have another look at my own system (3rd eye with the micro-guru) during which I discovered that my memory had been running at DDR333 speeds for some time. Well done OC for decent quality value memory. I might invest in some myself after Christmas.

I did however have one Hitachi deskstar drive from OCUK which failed to work (in fact it sounded like a bomb ticking when I installed it). My better half has now obtained a returns number for it so no doubt next week I'll be commenting on whether or not their returns turnaround is any good. I hope so because we ordered two drives and the other is for my own machine.

18 October 2005

Not Again McAfee

It's been a while since I posted anything. Now the main part of the Hera evaluation is over (for me) I can concentrate on quality rather than quantity. I consider todays fix to be important enough to post a blog entry.

It started yesterday when a VB.Net lecturer showed me a program which worked on some machines but not others. A simple program, just to show a messagebox on the screen. However on some machines the text was not displaying inside the messagebox. I re-installed visual studio (twice) but still no joy. I looked into the program (a simple hello world). By adding a few extra bits, I could get a title to display on the messagebox, but still no text inside it or on any of the buttons.

It was by chance that I went back to googling it and found this post by Peter Jausovec.

Thanks Peter, you are a star. It turns out that McAfee 8i has buffer overflow protection turned on by default. Turn this off and all the problems vanish into obscurity. Now if only we can persuade the powers that be to do the same with McAfee.

22 July 2005

Sound Config on Linux

This has to be the easiest thing I've had to do to configure my linux box. Using Slackware 10.1, I logged in as root and ran the alsaconf utility. This auto-detected the sound card and even modified the startup files. I ran it from a terminal window under KDE and straight after, it was able to play a couple of .wav files on the desktop. :)

Unfortunately gnome-meeting is still not working properly yet :(

21 July 2005

Project Week?

So far this week I seem to have spent quite a lot of time doing 1-2-1 tutorials with students who are about to submit their dissertations for comments. The problems have been very varied in terms of content and complexity.

Monday
======
I spent some time helping out Jermaine with his web-streaming project (again). He seems to have taken notice about having to have his project on one of our servers here for marking so I had to set up some space for him and check it was serving jsp pages.

I spent the rest of the day evaluating web-cam software (for surveillance use)and reading up about wi-fi antenna. There appears to be a lot of web-cam software available so I set out specific criteria for selection.

I wanted:
1) A program that could take timed pictures and upload them to a remote ftp site
2) Some sort of motion detection
3) Have the ability to number uploaded pictures
4) Be cheap or relatively low cost.
5) Be easy to use

There were quite a few programs which passed the selection process although there were many which didn't. The ones which seemed like they might be useful are:


Conquer Cam
ChillCam
Web-cam Control Centre
Crime Catcher


Of these I think ConquerCam is the winner at $10 USD (about £5.70). At this point I should also mention CatSpy. This is currently freeware and stores video clips instead of single frames. It also has motion detection and is easy to set-up.


Tuesday
=======

Today I got a wi-fi card working on linux by downloading and compiling the driver and configuring it. While I did this for an old 802.11b card I brought in from home, the principles are the same for any card so I will now be able to support Bob if he decides to integrate wireless into his linux modules.

I got the netgear MA-101 (rev. B) amtel based card running on Slackware by using this site, which proved to be incredibly useful. I followed the sites instuctions to compile and install the driver. The configuration was then just a few conmmands which I added into my /etc/rc.d/rc.local file to get the wifi card to power up after booting:


ifconfig atml0 192.168.10.1 netmask 255.255.255.0 broadcast 192.168.10.254
ifconfig atml0 up

iwconfig atml0 essid "Office"
iwconfig atml0 channel 4
iwconfig atml0 mode ad-hoc

/usr/sbin/dhcpd atml0


The ifconfig commands set up the wi-fi cards IP settings and bring the interface UP. The iwconfig commands access the wi-fi extensions in linux and set up the station id, channel and in this case set the card to ad-hoc (ie connects to any other wi-fi link without requiring an access point). The usr/sbin/dhcpd command sets up a DHCP service on the card so connecting machines can obtain their own IP settings from this machine. This is not very secure but the machine is not connected to the network so it's ok. The addresses given can be changed by altering the etc/dhcpd.conf file. I changed this to give out addresses in the range 192.168.10.32 to 192.168.10.128.

In this case the slackware box was acting as a fixed point in the network. I could have made it a client machine by using dhcpcd atml0 which tells the interface to get it's IP address from another dhcp server. Using this with another network card (PCI or onboard) would be the starting point of a home linux router/firewall system. Using dhcpcd eth0 for example would get the linux machines IP address (and other info) from the service providers dhcp server.

Wednesday
=========

Today I did a 1-2-1 tutorial with a Mr Abubaker (an MSc student from the Stafford campus) on how to embed an MS project Gantt chart into word as an imported object. MS really don't make it easy to format the object so I finally suggested he use printkey to grab screen-dumps which could be inserted into his document.

I also prepared a ghost bootup disk with drivers for a Dlink 530Tx network card which I set up on Lynn's machine to create a backup copy of her hard-drive (problem diagnosed on Tuesday 12th. Replacement drive from Pheonix computers would not arrive for three weeks so Mel has found a replacement 10GB drive for now). I set the ghost session up after 5pm so as not to inconvenience Lynn during the day.

I also helped out another student who didn't know how to backup his project onto CD. We could create a hand-out for this but I suspect the students actually find it reassuring to have us there at the time. If they get it wrong it is easy to ruin the CD.

Thursday
========

Today Mr Abubaker has been back and needed a quick refresher on certain functions of MS word. He asked for help with borders around pictures amongst other things. He left seeming both happy and grateful for the assistance.

Lynns replacement hard-drive has been created using one of the open machines from the hardware lab and will be swapped over later on this afternoon.

14 July 2005

Win Tomcat & Slaxx

I spent most of this morning helping a student with his project. J has a tendancy to go off at a tangent at the earliest opportunity. He's also had some problems with his PC lately and brought it in again.

To start with I went through windows media encoder with him using my own (recently purchased) webcam. It didn't take long to set up as the wizard did most of the work. I just had to specify to pull the stream from the encoder rather than a windows server. J seemed confident enough to know how this works and he did have some video clips on his PC suggesting that he had actually used it to capture some video of his own.

Earlier in the year I spent some time setting up the Tomcat JSP server on his machine and it looks like somewhere along the lines it got trashed. Luckily I kept my install instructions so I backed up his files, uninstalled what was left of the original server and reinstalled it all from the beginning (complete with Jonathans demo site).

J then showed me his media streaming page which had a slight error on it. He had somehow (or maybe Dreamweaver had) missed a closing ">" after the embed section. It took a while to find but eventually we got his page displaying the video stream from my machine and then I copied his page and showed him the part where a filename can be specified to view a file rather than a live stream. He seemed quite pleased with the progress and inquired about a user/password database system. I told him I couldn't do that for him and referred him to the JSP module web-pages.

After lunch I started looking at Slaxx. In particular one aspect of Slaxx seems to be causing me some irritation at the moment. I have been trying to connect to an external server but I just couldn't get it to work properly.

I found lots of articles about setting up network cards and routing tables (the best of which is here). I still couldn't get it to connect to the local gateway though and it kept coming back with a SIOCADDRT error. I tried everything listed in the article but Slaxx refuses to connect. I finally gave up and tried my Ubuntu live CD instead and was impressed when it managed to set up the gateway without any problems at all. Strange that Slaxx would let me ping any machines on the local subnet but nothing outside it.

12 July 2005

Why computers and heatwaves don't mix

Today I ended up reinstalling a video driver on a machine which has suffered some corruption on the hard-drive. The fault seems to have occured because the screen display driver was located on the part of the disk-drive which failed. The usual sign of a dying drive is lots of found.00* files created by MS's fixdisk utility trying to recover damaged sectors (chunks of data) on the drive.

Normally I would have said "Yep... dying drive" and found/ordered a replacement but then I thought "Could this be the effect of heat?". Our office for example is currently 30.8°C. This is because we are opposite an air-conditioned lab with two fans near the door, another in the corridor and then two smaller fans blowing into our office. Although it feels cooler to me, the articles I've read on the topic suggest the fans are just evaporating moisture on my skin. Since computers don't generate this moisture, they don't lose heat from its evaporation.

So I fired up the intel system monitor. My cpu (P4 3Ghz) is running at 44°C. My motherboard has two other temp sensors onboard which are reading 39°C and 43°C. My system has a couple of extra fans which I fitted myself to improve the airflow. My maxtor hard-drive specifications say it will run up to 55°. The question is, how close to that would this machine be if I hadn't put extra fans in? Even then is the drive rock-solid at 54° and then it suddenly dies at 55° or is there a sliding scale (performance declines from 50° onwards?)

The other problem is... how do you monitor a hard-drives temperature? For home systems it's easy; you go out spend £30 on a fan controller with temperature sensors but that's not practical or economical for 200 machines. It's also not necessary for 3 labs which have air conditioning. However the machine having the problem is a staff machine in an office. The windows are open but there's very little wind. I'm 99.9% certain the machine won't have rounded IDE cables inside which would have helped. Although it's a lower spec machine I suspect it's internal temperature is probably higher than mine.

The best resource I've found on this subject yet is on the Antec web-site.
Some of it is common sense, some of it is too expensive to implement but some of it is really useful

11 July 2005

Wireless & Warchalking

After a long weekend (and an extra day off on friday) it was straight back into the wireless networking arena today as me & Bob attempted to set up an example of a secure (sic) network.

The problem is that all the wifi devices we have are different. My SanDisk 256mb+wifi card seems to be the most restrictive as it doesn't seem to support wpa-psk properly. We finally got it to work with wep (64-bit) although it didn't seem to work with the newer more secure protocols. It looks like we will need to set-up a radius server to use either WPA or 802.1X protocols. Of course we don't just have radius servers propping doors open so it means installing one from scratch.

Bob is slightly more security conscious now suggesting he may have read the article I sent him about why the WEP protocol isn't very secure. In the interests of security I have also tracked down a couple of articles on wardriving, specifically so we can keep an eye out for the appearance of chalk symbols appearing on our buildings. I think this is unlikely as the wireless equipment is not used for any length of time but better to be informed about these things.

The article with the symbols can be found here.

I was also reminded of a utility which detects wifi networks called net-stumbler. It's been a long time since I last looked at this but it seems they now have a PDA version so I hope to try it out very soon.

Another site which I think may become useful is Wi-Fi Zonefinder. Although we should not really be encouraging our students to frequent the local bars, it turns out that the Roebuck (approx 100 yards from the front door) is listed as a wi-fi hotspot.

5 July 2005

MySQL revisited

Today the big issue in our office is software and our lab images for this September. Being public sector we always need more than we can afford. As a result the excellent but no-longer-free MySQL-front has had to go. Adrian was not impressed to hear the license was about 14 items below the cut-off point in the priorities list.

All is not lost though. A while back I was looking at alternative front-ends and this seemed like a good day to have another look at sqlyog. It's been a while since I looked at it, but since this is what I recommended Helen should use last month I thought it would be useful to try some basic functions.

Despite not using mysql for a while I didn't have any problems performing basic functions in yog. I managed to create tables, add data, export it as a sql dump file, delete it and then re-import it again. If anything yog is possibly slightly easier than front imho.

The interesting bit occured when I tried to access an external server. It looks like port 3306 (mysql default) is blocked at the firewall or at some point along the route. I could login using SSH and tried changing the default port in the my.cnf file to a 5-digit number. Sadly this port was also blocked which lead to me investigating other methods of remote admin on mysql servers.

The first method I attempted is actually built into yog. Html tunnelling uses a php web-page which you copy to your user area on the mysql server (I think this assumes the mysql and php are hosted on the same machine). It looked like an interesting idea until I discovered this feature is only available on the retail version (so back to square one).

Yog's big mistake was to mention another system on their web-site called PHPmyAdmin. This is a php web-site which you put into a directory on the host (again will need to check if this works when the sql and php hosts differ). All I needed to do was edit the config.inc.php file and enter the host name and mysql credentials and it just worked.

The interface may be a little slower than using yog locally, but I managed to dump an external database to my local machine without too much fuss. It is worth remembering I did this as admin so we'll need to check if students could use this remotely.

4 July 2005

Airwaves and Technoreps

Friday was a fairly busy day. Our radio station friends finally moved into the building so there was an initial process of moving them in which involved me helping to shift boxes and equipment, sorting out keys and access codes, checking network port connectivity (for which a linux laptop was incredibly useful) and chasing up a problem with the phone lines which I then discovered was actually a problem with a telephone.

In the afternoon I was in an informal meeting with Mick and Paul Bossons to discuss machines and lab equipment with Rob Crowther from Pheonix Computers (our new equipment supplier?). We discussed the demo machine we had to try out and pointed them towards what we would really like to have here. It will be interesting to see what they come back to us with next.

1 July 2005

Open days are great

After my day off on wednesday I returned yesterday and was told we were having an open day. It would have been a total surprise had my wife not pointed out the AA signs on the way in to work.

So I spent the morning creating & printing signs to direct people towards the labs (using publisher) and supporting the staff by enabling the open day user account in active directory and starting up the sip server (which I set up during last semester)for a VOIP demo in the network lab.

In the afternoon I spent some time trying out the Ubuntu linux live CD and noticed a program called gnome-meeting (similar to net-meeting). I thought this might be useful for the VOIP demos/modules so I experimented with it until I got it working and then I mentioned it to Jonathan and Michael.

I also came across a strange problem with XP's firewall in SP2 yesterday. Some spyware appeared to cripple it even after the spyware was removed. Every time I tried to start up the firewall in security centre it would crash with a 10047 error and prompt me to start the firewall service manually from control panel. This also failed to fix it. I found an article on google explaining that the spyware had added a layer service and although MS-antispy had removed the spyware it doesn't fix the service issue. The fix is fairly simple though. From a dos prompt, type in 'netsh winsock reset' and the service can be restarted.

28 June 2005

Cisco lab support

Most of today has been spent helping Bob to set-up and configure a wireless network to demonstrate to a group of students next week. I've lent him a safecom 54g+ wireless router which he says will be ideal as the students will be able to relate to the sort of equipment available for home users.

We have one machine physically linked via the built-in 4-port switch and three other machines in the middle of the room connecting via USB-wifi dongles. I went through the basic set-up and helped Bob secure access via mac addresses. Bob is not sure if they will get past this stage and on to encryption using WPA but it is possible.

As with all of these tasks, once it's all up and running it makes sense and looks easy. The time consuming part is the intricacies like how to allow students to install drivers without giving them local admin access to the machine. Fortunately LC123 is dual-boot with a second less-restricted image for cisco use (which uses a second network card in each machine so students can change ip settings). Bob seemed happy with the collaboration and has been able to use some screen dumps to produce teaching materials. He has also asked Mick to buy a couple of the wi-fi routers so this can be included as part of the network computer systems module next year.

=====================================================
Update:
4:00-4:40pm

Once again I've had to set-up the video conferencing equipment in LC101 for a video conferencing session with APIIT in malaysia at 10am tomorrow. I'll be on holiday and it sounds like Mick could be here on his own so I've spent the last half-hour here and in 101, walking back and forth to make sure the audio settings are right and there will be minimal drop-out due to the automatic silence detection in netmeeting. Hopefully it should go ok depending on network availability and traffic tomorrow.

27 June 2005

Slackware 10.1 GNOME fix

Having decided to use my quiet time to learn more about slackware I have installed version 10.1 on a machine. I've discovered that the network fix works fine with 10.1 so I'm not sure what caused it to look into the 2.2.26 directory instead of 2.2.29 last week.

I did however discover a new problem with 10.1. If you log in as root and enter the window environment (linux cmd: startx) you get a strange error message about a settings daemon and some of the icons don't look right. Luckily I managed to find a fix for this on the web and here it is:

Overview: The gnome desktop in Slackware 10.1 includes a faulty gstreamer plugin which prevents the gnome-settings-daemon from starting correctly. This leaves (at least) the root user with several popup error messages and desktop shortcuts without their correct icons.

Fix: Move the offending plugin out of the way. As root, run the following commands:
cd /usr/lib/gstreamer-0.8
mv libgstxine.so libgstxine.soXXX

Now restart X

This works for me so thanks to Aaron who originally posted this fix.

Slackware vs Fedora

Well friday was an interesting day as I was helping a student install Linux on his laptop. I got to see redhat fedora core 3 for the first time and slackware 10.1.

FC3 looks very nice with the anaconda gui-based system installer. Just one annoyance really, it didn't set-up the network card correctly which proved to be a major stumbling block given the lack of documentation.

This lead to the installation of slackware 10.1 instead. Slackware at least has documentation but in this case proved worthless. It had the same problem detecting the network card and the documented solution didn't seem to work. For some reason the kernal still seemed to be looking in the 2.2.26 directory when it should have been checking in 2.2.29 for drivers. I couldn't find out how to fix this from the docs but I suspect it involves recompiling the kernel (something I've not attempted without help yet).

So I went back to Slackware 10.0. Same problem detecting the network card (damn that Toshiba satellite pro 4600). At least with version 10 I was able to fix the ethernet card by editing the /etc/rc.d/rc.modules file (slack cmd: joe /etc/rc.d/rc.modules)

The fix is to scroll down to the ###Network device settings ### section. I wasn't sure which driver to use so I removed the #'s from three lines:

/sbin/modprobe eepro
/sbin/modprobe eepro100
/sbin/modprobe eexpress

After saving (ctrl+k, followed by x) and rebooting, the network card came up with an IP address and I was able to get to google. Good old Slackware 10.0. May not have the fancy bootloader of FC3 but the online docs fixed the problem.

There does seem to be a lack of troubleshooting advice for Linux. I used google to look into these problems and it returned a lot of forum posts about people having the same problem. Ironically the usual reply to these posts is "have a look on google". This is not a helpful reply for us win admins and now I have a better understanding of why staff/students come to us for help rather than wasting time with search engines.

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Update:

It looks like the only line which actually needs uncommenting is this one:

/sbin/modprobe eepro100

IP settings are set by using the netconfig command and ifconfig eth0 will show whether or not the card is working.

23 June 2005

Welcome

Ok so which planet have I been on not to know until today that Google provide a blogging service?

Greetings to one and all. My name is Chris and I'm a support-o-holic. Actually I'm a technical-type working at a UK university and I'm a nominated role holder for the national pay framework committee which means I came back off holiday a couple of weeks ago and received a letter saying I'm going to be called into a 1-to-1 interview with some personnell types who want to ask me about what I do (...well what do you pay me to do?).

Since I can't even remember what I had for lunch yesterday it seems like a good idea to keep a blog and so here it is... my first entry.