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Friday, November 30, 2007

Fighting Fires in Data Centers

Fighting Fires in Data Centers: "Due to the volume of Inergen required to create conditions in which a fire can’t be sustained, pressure in the room increases significantly upon its discharge. To avoid damage to the facility, pressure vents may be required, Amato says."

Hmmm... reflecting on yesterday's events, could this be what was being installed? Inergen has a number of requirements that a drop-ceiling might not be compatible with.

more information...

@#$% Happens...

Sometimes, no matter how welll you plan and how much you've begged for the funds to provide better service and support to your customer base, things happen with such ferocity that you're left dumbfounded and bewildered while trying to find your way back to functional.

Yesterday our systems, located at a datacenter which will remain nameless, were delt a heavy blow, 5 dead drives, 1 dead production SAN, and a very long, slow process to recovery. Staff were not the cause of the failure, recovery was impaired by the presence of Police and fire services (preventing access) and our world came to a grinding halt.

Today, we are waiting... we are preparing for the worst. What is the worst? Well, we restore from backup and implement an alternate SAN (iSCSI) solution we were preparing for use in around Christmas.

What caused this? I dunno. We haven't been informed with any certainty of the cause.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

XBOX [Non-]Technical Support

Aside from the obvious lack of comprehension of the english language and their inability to comprehend the privacy aspects of giving them your Windows Live account password to resolve a problem, these people prove to me, repeatedly that they have no technical abilities, simply scripts they follow to work toward possible resolutions. When they are stumped the help runs cold.

While I'd hoped that e-mail support and offering them alternatives would help, the canned responses flow, bad grammar and all, from their e-mail servers to me, discouraging my faith in the company i once worked for and loved. To the point that I have considered, on an increasingly frequent basis, returning my XBOX Elite and buying a Wii or, remarkably, a Playstation 3!

I am so disappointed in the service and handling of this rather trivial matter that I haven't even fired up Halo 3 in the last 3 days. I have written off getting any video games for myself for Christmas and just really find the presence of my XBOX a stress rather than a relief.

I dropped off my former XBOX (Pro) for repair last night, it should be back in a few weeks, hopefully before Christmas so I can allow someone else to enjoy the system (For Sale, XBOX Pro with some cool stuff and a wireless controller). How do I sell it to someone else knowing that they will need to deal with a host of technical issues and potentially problems dealing with XBOX support over the transfer?

I'm just disgusted.

UPDATE: Over the last couple of days I spoke with Aaron of Microsoft XBOX Support and he found a workaround that worked well and life is good. My kids will again be able to play (and save games for) Ecco the Dolphin. -- Thanks Aaron

Sunday, November 25, 2007

XBOX Technical Support and Privacy

Recently I have encountered a problem with my XBOX Live account, a game has forgotten I paid for it, at least while it's running. Otherwise it's fine. That being the problem, I called Microsoft's XBOX support this morning and we endeavoured to resolve the issue over the phone. 2 hours later the problem remained unresolved and i spent 35-40 minutes with an agent explaining that they could not resolve the issue without my Windows Live password.

The technical approach they wanted to take was to "recover my GamerTag" or an XBOX at their office, to do this I'd need to give them my hotmail.com password. What the ....

After my rant/lecture about privacy and poor system design I was left with an agent feeling utterly hopeless explaining that they would pass the issue on to management [with no expectation of resolution because they can only troubleshoot the issue in this one way].

How many people have had to sacrifice their privacy to troubleshoot an issue? Be careful what you hand to these [non-]technical agents of support. You're e-mail is a store of much personal information, protect it as you would a bank-card number.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Kindle: An e-book reader that just might catch on

globeandmail.com: An e-book reader that just might catch on: "The screen uses the same astonishing E Ink technology that Sony's Reader uses. It looks like black ink on light gray paper: no backlight, no glare, no eyestrain — and no need to turn it off, ever. That's because E Ink draws power only when you turn a page."

Okay, this is cool, albeit restrictive in some manners, but it is definately cool. The idea that I can (could if the price were a little better) give a tool like this to my daughter and send her off to school with her textbooks in hand without the weight of our education tools crushing her tiny spine. That is a great idea.

Amazon's Kindle is dead on for it's desired target, but could this open up a new opportunity for e-Textbooks? The idea that our kids carry 10-20 pounds of books around is insane, especially with the potential in a device such as this.

The OLPC project is a great idea too, I support it and need to look into the manner and method by which I can acquire one for my daughter (It's stupid that I can justify upgrading my XBOX but have trouble justifying this... I'll do it, after a long serious talk about the benefits and whether she will actually use it. We all benefit from the XBOX).

eBooks are the answer to Open Source Textbooks and a step towards reducing the cost of education and making education more accessible. Whether you're in the public school system, a private school, or home-schooled, the idea that a person or group of people can produce a resource that will deliver subject matter to a student at no cost to the student (or parent/school system) is only going to help.

As for the Kindle, it sounds great but hey a Kindle Lite that was featured Wi-Fi, a USB/SD Card Slot, PC connectivity would be a great eduBook. A teacher could hand, er, publish homework for the class, the students would receive it and be able to take it home, with the eTextbooks in one simple, very portable, tool. Though we might need to ruggedize this thing.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


DevDude: is the XDI Terminal Server gone again?
NetworkAdmin: nope, our connection is very flacky
NetworkAdmin: something is going on..
Okay... so.... that's an answer?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Mail-In Rebates**

It seems more than a little odd these days that a software company, hawking its wares on thier own site is a little out-of-line using a mail-in rebate. Sure they use an outsource to perform the actual sale, but they know you bought it and all of your details, why ask me to jump through hoops for $30?

I had been putting up with the mail-in rebate process for a while, I'd buy my Symantec Anti-Virus and wait eagerly for the money they borrowed from me. I did this until Symantec denied my request because the bill (that Best Buy GAVE ME) was rejected because it lacked a store name/address. I've never bought another Symantec product since, though I do get it free through Rogers High-Speed Internet.

Chalk that up to being a lessons learned, but the idea that I need to pay $30 extra, loaning the company $30 against the actual value of the product, is ludacris. If I'm buying a product that is marked $39.95 that's because it is worth that price to me. It is not worth $69.95 and the rebate is not a gift or any other sort of gracious monetary gesture on the part of the datahounds that want your information.

Watch for those asterisks:
** Estimated Retail Price. Actual retail prices may vary. Mail in rebate details
**You may be eligible to receive a rebate by mail. To receive your rebate, you will need to fill out a rebate coupon which is available in the product box or, which will be made available to you, in a downloadable/printable format, after you have completed your download purchase.

Mail-in offer valid with qualifying proofs of purchase only in the 50 U.S., D.C., and US military bases with valid APO/FPO addresses. Rebate must be postmarked within 30 days of purchase. Limit one per household. Not combinable with any other Microsoft offer or rebate. Expires 1/1/09. Only Microsoft Money Plus packages featuring an on box sticker messaging this rebate, or special download purchase pricing, qualify for this offer.
TigerDirect.ca denotes rebate-priced items with a little read asterisk (*) on the price, they're upfront and I applaud that, others do not do this so well, but I've taken to making my decision on the purchase based on the full (pre-rebate) price. If I can afford this price and the value is there, the deal's done, but I'll look for a non-rebate or Instant Rebate (the cost comes off the price in the store, no waiting) as my first choice.

Mail-in rebates are the companies way of generating a customer list. They pay 3rd-party companies to process the rebate requests and mine the data. By not sending in the rebate (using the system to get as much as you can) they make money based on the idea that most (~60%) customers will not pursue the matter. It seems a little underhanded.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Improve your workspace...

Okay, I'm spoiled. The place I work just gave the coders an early Christmas present in the form of a dual arm-display support. It's a WONDER to use!

Now, I know we're lucky enough to have dual-displays, but this made my day (week). I'm not normal in anything, I didn't position the displays together like they show in the pictures, I have my left monitor turned to page-display format (portrait) positioned in front of me, the right monitor is up and angled down for review of what i create(d) on my primary display. My desk, is clean.

For me, for all of us, this is a big win in that we spend so much time staring at the screen this allows for us to task our systems to our personality and work-style.

Yes, these are expensive. If you'd like something more consumer-level, check out your local Tiger Direct for a unit that suits your needs. This unit from Ergotron is very nice and can be adapted to support a laptop. They have others...