Thursday, June 28, 2007

Is Microsoft trying to sabotage Linux?

My life has been a technology hell this past month and a bit. I appear to have become one of those people who causes technology to explode when I walk past.

First one of my server hard drives went. The RAID saved my butt and it was then a matter of ordering replacements from the States via eBay. They finally arrived, but to do the capacity expansion (I ordered bigger hard drives) I had to back up all the data, replace the drives and then retsore the data - not a trivial task for a few hundred Gigs of data. This was made more difficult because my DLT drive is still busted (it will cost thousands to fix). However, although time consuming, the drives are in. They are reconditioned drives and two failed on start up - which is where I got lucky because I ordered two extra.

The new laptop I bought to replace the stolen one arrived with Windows Vista for Business. I resized the partition to install a dual boot of Debian Linux, and disaster. Vista would no longer boot. So I've been working exclusively in Linux for the last month while I've tried to sort out the Vista problem. This has allowed me to develop an appreciation of key migration issues. The biggest? For me, tables in Powerpoint. Almost all my consulting documentation ends up in Powerpoint (roll on the consulting jokes). Tables are critical for formatting data on a slide. And Impress (the equivilent) doesn't do them. No. Kidding.

Solving the Vista problem has been a ball-ache of note. The recovery disk will not boot if you have resized the orginal install partitiion and IBM suggested I buy a copy of Vista - at a few thousand rand - to replace the OEM version on my machine. This after much efforty including a trip to the East Rand to the Laptop distribution and support warehouse.

I finally found documentation on the issue here after arriving at a similar conclusion.

The key is being able to run "chkdsk" on the affected Vista partition. You can either boot with a NTFS-capable start disk and run it from there, or you can run ntfsfix from Linux and then boot your Vista partition which will launch "chkdsk".

This a pretty huge issue - most Linux installations now make use of partition resizing in order to turn a Windows machine into a dual-booting machine. This issue results in a broken Windows installation. Sabotage?

As if the above pains were not enough, I dropped my cell phone into some water. With my old laptop stolen, I was contactless! I have a backup on my LDAP server, but with the transition to a new eGroupware this had also got broken. Yup, I certainly have become Karma's bitch (taking over from Devil).

Anyway, much more about all of the above incidents, workarounds and fixes on my technical blog.

After a week of drying out, I tried my phone yesterday - et voila! It works. Together with the Vista fix, the arrival of my new wireless router (after six months of fighting with Digital Planet) and my new UPS, does this mark a change in my techinical fortunes. Please God let it be so.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Do you know anyone who has decapitated a live dog with a chainsaw?

No? Thought not.

Two guys from Delmas did it though - a live husky.

And they want to pay an admission of guilt fine and be done with it.

I say put the arseholes in Pollsmoor with some of the more infamous gangs and let them suffer for a few years.

What is wrong with people in this country?

From News24:

Dog decapitated with chain saw
19/06/2007 15:55 - (SA)

Johannesburg - A Delmas magistrate has refused the offers of two men who wanted to pay admission of guilt fines after admitting to using a chain saw to decapitate a live husky dog.

The SPCA said both Phillip Matthysen and Alec Sirate pleaded guilty to a charge of animal cruelty.

The case was postponed to July 24.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Is my burglar mad?

So I was robbed. And he came back. So robbers do sometimes come back. Once.

But last night he came back again and tried to rob my neighbours. Oh yes.

The bugger is so bold, he didn't waste any sleep this time. At 22h00, my neighbour's wife walked into the bedroom and was confronted by the sight of a dread locked man standing in her garden. Of course she screamed. This either did not bother the burglar - or he froze before bolting.

I was in the shower when my phone rang. I am the body corporate trustee in charge of security. "Sorry to bother you so late IITQ, but would this be a convenient time to talk?"

My neighbour must be the most polite person on earth. "(L) spotted a guy in our garden and we've let the guards know and called the police. Should I be doing anything else?"

So I called our suburb's security and once again we had ex-soldiers (ex-recces, the SA equivalent of the SAS/Marines) with assault rifles running through the complex.

Naturally our gardening staff are a little concerned - they are after all having polygraph tests today. So post us having not found the terrorist again, one of the gardeners volunteered to take the security guys to the homeless vagrants up the road to quiz them. Shortly later I had two scared looking vagrants on my doorstep, one munching hungrily on some bread. Odd. But I didn't question that - other things were more odd and more pressing.

My gardener, "These guys know the guy who owns the bag we found with the torch from your house. He has dreadlocks and his name is Terence."

Alrighty. Turns out Terence is a Zimbabwean who smash and grabs from cars in Sandton, sells dagga to the builders in the area and has the nickname Rasta. It seems the man's talents are expanding.

Talents which, by the way, include getting over electric fences, past guards and up 2,5m walls.

By now, half the world's private security and the police are in my complex. I take the homeless to the police and they repeat the story. The police and the suburb security resolve to catch the man the next day. For his sake, I hope the police get him first. The security have offered to bring him to me.

Meanwhile, my home is becoming a massive worksite and interrogation room. The polygrapher is in my study quizzing the frightened gardeners. The alarm people are rewiring and adding everywhere. By coincidence the pond guy arrived to fix something. The carpenter arrived to fix my damaged door and lock. The complex security management are on their way. My client deliverables are way behind. And I write a maths exam next week. And I need sleep.

Oh, turns out one of the ex-recces bought the vagrant the bread as a tongue loosener. Apparently it worked.

Sunday, June 10, 2007


After sleeping through my Monday night robbery, I was awake for its reprise last night.

I'd worked until 03h00 and was settling in for my sleep when I heard a noise. Armed with a piece of steel rebar that has been beside my bed since Monday, I inched down the dark passage. Never turn the lights on they say - you become a better target for a bullet.

I rounded the corner to see the shape of a crouching burglar on my patio. My shout as I chased towards him was the weird roar, "You fucking bastard!"

The dark shape turned and ran. He slipped as he tried to cross my koi pond. In a flash he was up again. He raced across the garden an vaulted the garden wall into the complex gardens.

I raced back to my room, called the police, suburb security and armed response.

I spent the next hour scouring the complex with first the suburb security, ex-recces with assault rifles, then the police and then the armed response.

Nothing. Either this guy knows a good way over our boundary wall and electric fence or he's coming from the inside.

All I know is he's one brazen fucker.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

How do you technically recover from laptop theft?

Right. So after the recent excitement of a stolen laptop, I need to go through the process of setting up a new laptop and recovering data, etc.

I'll make this useful by blogging about the IT trials and tribulations on my tech blog.

In the mean time, consider the following:

  • Install a stolen laptop tracker on your PC - if the fuckers ever connect to the net, it'll let you know and provide their ISP details

  • Keep invoices, serial numbers, etc in a safe place to facilitate police and insurance reports

  • Get one of those cable alarms that screams if your laptop is moved

  • Backups really are important - use a syncronisation app like iFolder to sync your laptop with the server when it connects to the network

  • Encrypt your harddrive - I am now a prime candidate for identity theft

  • Password protect the BIOS on your laptop - same reason as above

So I've been busy setting up the new laptop. What a mission. Anyway, it is a beautiful new beast. Follow the progress on my techie blog.

Here it is:

Vital stats here.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Where do all the stolen goods go?

There have to be thousands and thousands of stolen laptops and cell phones in South Africa. Where do they all go?

It bugs the shit out of me that people buy stolen goods. Without the market there would be no theft.

I'm thinking about it because I've just had to run out and buy a new laptop. And I will have to buy a new DVR and DVDs tomorrow. After the brazen fuckers broke into my house and stole them while I slept last night. Of course I'm lucky. I could have woken up, etc, etc.

But I've been thinking a lot today about the arsehole who's going to buy my old laptop for a few hundred bucks.

Meanwhile: new laptop + Office 2007 = R20000. DVR = R3000. DVDs = R2000. The stuff that's missing that I have not figured out yet? All the work from the three weeks since my last back up?

I want to box somebody...

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Thank goodness for technology?

On Friday night one of my server's hard drives went to hard drive heaven. This resulted in many pretty messages printed on the screen and many pretty words pouring out my mouth.

It reminded me how dependent on technology each of us is. That server has a ton of my life on it.

Not only that, but after my tape drive failed a year ago, my effort to procure a new drive from a bloke in Beijing through eBay were frustrated by the fact that he was a thief. $750 US down the drain. So my backups are way out of date.

Luckily, I invested in RAID. The miracle of technology means that I merely have to put in a new drive and it will be rebuilt. I don't even have to switch the machine off when replacing the drive.

So pray that my new eBay drive order goes according to plan. If another drive in the RAID fails during the interim, I'm toast.