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2005 October archive at the letter e
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Archive for October, 2005

it’s not IT, but where IT’S at

I just spent about 16 hours trying to find a solution to a technical problem I was having. Here’s the sitch (warning: techspeak ahead):

Mission: Site-to-Site VPN between Microsoft ISA 2004 and SonicWALL TZ170.

I expected this to be fairly slam-dunk since both Microsoft and SonicWALL had technotes for this procedure. [Microsoft document; SonicWALL document] (By the way, the SonicWALL link is complex one, so hope it works. Also, I have to say that the SonicWALL site has one of the best implementations of an interactive online support agent. You start with keywords and then it interactively asks questions narrowing down the solution. I’m sure kudos are more toward the individuals supplying the content rather than the portal provider, but still…)

Application of said documents took about an hour. Didn’t quite work. Mostly worked. I then googled my brains out. I was searching for every document, every shred of anything that might have something to do with this issue. Nada. Then I started going deep into IPSec debugging. Found specific error codes that could generate more search hits. Nada. Then went to well-known support sites for said products. One is www.isaserver.org . Great site, but the Search box didn’t even turn up documents that Google found on the same site!

Tonight, after getting a HUGE kick from What’s Up, Tiger Lily I decided to checkout isaserver.org’s forums. Registered, found a lot of activity, then did a search on the forum… bang. I found a post from someone that knew exactly what he was talking about and I was flying about five minutes later. (If you’re wondering what the problem was, the VPN tunnel had corresponding subnets configured, but packets from ISA were arriving from the ISA WAN IP and the SonicWALL did not have a corresponding IPSec policy for it. Solution, add ISA external IP to SonicWALL VPN policy and add SonicWALL external IP to ISA VPN policy.)

The moral… I got too google-centric. Google to find focus sites, then dig deep into that site’s data!

ps: I love SonicWALL products.

high-res satellite pictures of Katrina/Rita

If you have a couple hours to spare, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency has posted a Hurricate Crisis Imagery website that has hundreds of high-resolution before and after pictures of Texas, Alabama, Louisiana, etc.

I am a big fan of Google Earth, but for some reason the site’s Google Earth option is not working for me. There is a streaming imagery viewer that has tons of data though.

Like I said, you might want to have a lot of time to browse these pics. Mostly phenomenal.

need a new home page?

Came across this site a while ago, on slashdot I think, but it is just spectactular. It’s an Astronomy Picture of the Day and the amazing thing is you could just start flipping through other days and still be amazed at the sights out there.

Here’s a pic of today’s and one a while back that I am using as my desktop wallpaper right now.

that's a bunch of stars

perfect

trail of breadcrumbs

Got off on a kick googling my name and found some neat old references to tech stuff gone by. This ref is a call for votes to establish the Usenet group comp.os.nt. You can see my name and email address in the votes area further down the page.

At the time I was actively involved in the BBS scene and was sysop of my own system called Etcetera Etcetera. I ran an a gateway called FrontDoor and a BBS called RemoteAccess. I still remember the author’s name, Joaquim Homrighausen. Anyhow, I was also involved with a BBS network called FidoNet. Here’s an old FidoNet listing, just search for “Smythe” or Tulsa…

Participation in FidoNet and BBSing in general allowed me to peer with experienced technical guys which is how I learned C programming. One of my first applications was a messaging tool that wouldu grab internet email and newsgroups (the big boys) via UUCP and convert them to FidoNet .PKT message formats (the BBS dialup boys). This allowed me and other users on my BBS to use internet email and newgroups from my lowly Intel 286 machine.

And that’s how I got into the internet… pre-world wide web of course. But that’s another story.

Enough reminiscence…(may not be real word)

metro thai

One of the things I miss most about Brooklyn is the eatspots. There’s nothin’ like Joya or the fun and tasty Smith St./Court St. fare in San Luis Obispo. But a couple weeks ago we went down to visit Bill and Jeri and went to a GREAT Thai restaurant in Pasadena called Saladang Song (apparently means Read Temple Two).

Here’s a neat article with pix about the architecture.

Biir and Jeri and us'ins

hoping to go through rest of my life without this encounter

10 years in Brooklyn and a googol of ticketed events therein created a subconscious avoidance of Ticketmaster.

And now today, all of it comes crashing to an end with predictable results.

I bought six tickets to the Niners/Giants game through a ticketbroker. (Nice guy, recommended.) Now I need another ticket. The plan, simple in concept, is to call Ticketmaster and ask for a single ticket in a particular section.

Obviously, this is too simple to be accomplished. Maybe akin to defining the word “the” or some such silliness.

For the Ticketmaster neophytes, tickets can easily be purchased through the website or automated phone system, but they give you the minimum of location preference. Something like, looking for a new apartment and only being able to choose California for the specific location. Oh look! We’ve found an apartment in Maricopa!

I slogged through the Ticketmaster website and finally tracked down a phone number. Then it required five phone calls to find the secret voicemail combination to get the privilege to be ON HOLD for a real human (to be determined.)

This combination is : 1, 2, 6, 2

I’m presently on hold, this makes about 15 minutes… we’ll see what happens.

BTW, I don’t recommend googling for “ticketmaster problems” or some such phrase. Many expletives.

money… it’s a gas

Finally got to the point where I was the status quo was not efficient enough and I has some spare time to switch paths. What am I talking about? Today… personal accounting software.

The whole process began as I was evaluting Microsoft’s Small Business Accounting 2006, which has just released and is challenging QuickBooks. See, I find that Intuit has no idea about user interfaces. I find navigating through their systems way too difficult. Add to that the slightly technical fact that QuickBooks is not Terminal Server-friendly makes it a real nightmare to use in network environments with greater than a few users.

So then I started to renew my complaints about Quicken, which I use for personal finance. I’ve regretted the day I bought (year and a half ago) ’cause it just didn’t have the automation you think would be in a computer application for 2005. I bank at Citibank. It’s a large bank. But does Quicken seamlessly transfer bank statements from Citibank? No.

And of course, it’s user interface is equally terrible. Anyway, Microsoft has Money 2006 for a 90-day trial. I bought the Deluxe version after 36 hours. It works VERY smoothly and has taken a huge chunk of time out of my bill payment and reconciliations. (BTW, no integrated Bill Pay features for Citibank yet, statements are fully integrated.)Money Home Page.

Anyway. SBA and Money have my vote. If you’re a new user, I have no hesitation in STRONGLY recommending both of them to you. If you’re already using Quicken or QuickBooks, you may not have reason to change unless you are just fed up with Intuit products. SBA and Money support full Quicken/QuickBooks imports, so you basically be able to move everything intact. My Quicken import was transparent. The QuickBooks import will take a little more work, but I still did my company conversion in a day (and got sweet Word invoice/receipt/etc. XML templates customized in that time too.)

Just install Money for PocketPC. We’ll see if that’s anything that will improve my quality of life.