Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Best practices, network outages and.....resolutions !!!



One of the first things I would advise for any IT Guy is to profile his network and system infrastructure. It is very essential that you document all and every network-enabled device. It will assist you to greatly in planning any upgradation to your company's IT infrastructure, you want to take a system offline for maintenance, OR more importantly you have to quickly and effectively resolve any outage. Some of the key things to include would be as follows:
  • Architechture of the network.

  • Public IP addresses and their mappings if NAT is assigned to devices within network.

  • Number of Routers / Switches / Firewall devices / Modems / Access Points / VoIP phones.

  • OS and firmware versions running on each of these network devices.

  • Always Backup ALL configurations on a network repository or on a DVD/CD.

  • Take snapshots of the configurations of critical resources like Firewall settings / AV Server settings / DHCP / Routers etc. It may be more than handy when you are configuring a newer device or rebuilding the device if the backup configuration is not working.

  • IP Addresses and more importantly MAC addresses of all the network enabled devices.

  • Network points/node numbers assigned to each user.

  • Remembering a series of usernames/passwords can be quite a task for anyone. Storing them in a Excel or Word with password protection is not recommended because they can be cracked. Instead, Store the Passwords/usernames in an excel file and then encrypt it with a key. You can use a tool like PGP for this.

  • Also, make sure that the employees in the company are aware of the Threats / Trends/ best practices for safe computing. For the starters, clearly communicate the IT Policies, Do's and Don'ts.


Let me share an experience with you that happened few days back in the office:

It was the day as usual at the office - corporate mails, checking router health, Backup status on the drive, Server health, MRTG graphs, Helpdesk stats.... Since ours is an R & D company lot of devices are in and out of the LAN frequently.

Around afternoon that I got a call from couple of users complaining that they are not able to access the internet, our web-based helpdesk is located in a Co-Lo and it was inaccessible as well....hmm... getting ready for another day in the paradise. First things first, I telnetted to router to see if the Internet link was down. There were no problems with the link and it was working fine. Now the slightly scary situation.....I logged into the our Unified Threat Management system to check if there were any issues with it, and was hesitantly scrolling down the list and all of a sudden i see that the number of sessions had quadrupled to around 1000 and still increasing! Under normal circumstances, the number of sessions always used to hover around 200 and the maximum supported by the device was 2000.

What could have caused this? Intrusion? Virus attack? Switch poisoning? My heart was pounding as I was
going through pages and pages of logs and at last I got hold of the culprit. It was another DHCP server on the LAN! A rouge DHCP server, you can call it.

It was not over, as the log generally tracks the MAC address only with no inbuilt functionality to capture device name.


The next thing i checked was the excel file where I had stored all the MAC addresses of the network enabled devices in the company using an Open Source utility called Angry IP scanner. The MAC address matched with one of the LAPTOP, it was a Fujitsu laptop, but it was used for testing, hmmm...kinda floating laptop. I wasnt sure who was using it and the thoughts of running three floors up and down was lingering in my mind. I checked with the QA team, Hardware team which led me to the Apps team. There, was our user blissfully ignorant about the issue he had created.

He was testing an app called winproxy, which apart from acting as a proxy also functions as DHCP server. What amazes me is the ignorance of the users when it comes to reading the Readme file or the Do's and Dont's of using an application. I did give my piece of advise to our dude, and henceforth any testing of newer equipments on our LAN will be on an isolated network.

This is what prompted me to jot down the points that helped me resolve this issue in under 15 minutes. Hope you find it usefull.

Regards,
Prasanna


Thursday, July 13, 2006

BSOD.....eeerghhhhh in Vista?

I was testing Windows Vista recently and this came as a shocker to me....guess my expectations were too high. I am sure any Windows user has come across the infamous BSOD-Blue Screen Of Death while working on Win98/Me/2000 or even XP. But I was stunned to see it on Vista. May be this is still a beta build. This reminds me of the days while in college how we used to make fun of someone who had his OS crashed while working on some important project documentation. Not that we were geeks or linux freaks but a sheer mention of BSOD was enough for 'making fun of oneself' sessions. Also reminds of me an incident that took place while we were in 6th semester of Engineering, where the Win98 crashed during our computer lab and one of my friend who was working on it had no clue about wat happened apart from the Blue Screen and some hexadecimal code it showed before dying. The lab incharge was furious with us and if it was not for another geek in our circle, he would had to do lot answering, not to mention about the fines , writing an apology letter to HOD for messing up the so called state of the art computer lab.

So far it has been a rollercoaster ride while working with Vista beta build. I remember having read somewhere that nearly 40% code for Vista would be redone. If you are aware this product was supposed to kill the competetion and was scheduled for launch in 2006. It looks like a distant dream for MSFT....with so much competetion around.


Watch out for more....I will be posting my experience with Vista soon.

So much for the Blue Screen Of Death !

Regards,
Prasanna

Friday, June 09, 2006

Word 2007 Beta Review !!!!

Aha!!! Just got my hands on the new Office 2007 beta and boy, it rocks. First and foremost, Microsoft has given it a glossy look (kinda ‘Mac’ish?). One of the stand-out features of Office 2007 is that commonly used options are all icon based and very easy to use. Microsoft calls this assortment Ribbon. It’s all one touch now - to apply changes to your document, just click on one of the icons on top.

You will be surprised to know there were /are many features that you wished but never knew that they actually existed in word 2003 as well… ya, I was surprised to know that Translation feature existed in word 2003 itself, but I guess you will not miss out such feature in word 2007 due to the visibility of the features and tools - Ribbon.

One of the coolest features of word 2007 would be its ability to save documents as PDF files without any need for additional plug-ins. The default saving option for files in word 2007 is .docx. DOCX is the new file format extension for Word 2007 and it uses Zip compression / XML. You can change the default saving option to .doc

Most of the items that were previously accessible through menu are now icon based on the top frame. Just click and voila you can make changes instantly. Other options are Mini toolbar when you select a text. Mini toolbar provides quick access to formatting tools. Live Preview shows you how a feature affects the document as you move your mouse over different choices.

Theres Smart Art

, the enhanced equivalent for the built-in diagrams in office 2003. For developers, there is Show Developer tab that includes macro and template authoring tools and then there is Smart cut and Paste that allows you to save pasted content to be automatically adjusted to match the destination formatting (this feature is also currently available in office 2003 as well, does exist for text …but I dunnow about other objects) a very useful when pasting objects to tables and list. Now you don’t have to go through maze of menus to change the margins etc etc, just click the margins icon on top and select one of the preformatted layouts.

There is a slider at the bottom window, using which you can zoom in or zoom out the window to suit your viewing pleasure. But I could not locate the Reading layout that is available in word 2003? Is it gone or did I miss out? May be you guys can let me know when you check this out.

Hang on, this also gives you the option to Publish the documents to your favorite Blogging site as well

I think dudes at Microsoft have made some honest attempts to make Word user-friendly with this version. I found it very easy to make changes with least effort when compared to the previous version. In my words, I would call this version of Word as One-Touch Writing.

Some Snaps for you:

General View


One touch formatting


Setting margins will never be difficult


Smart Art’ehhh :)


Translating is cool…Joga Bonito?


Bloggin is so easy….Believe me this is how I published this on the web.

Interested to beta the new word? Click here to Microsoft link for more info OFFICE 2007 Preview


Regards,
Prasanna
GeekstufF community

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Windows shortcuts

Sick of going thru Start > Programs > Apps, I thought it would be a good idea to share some info on shortcuts we commonly use while working on MS Windows:

Windows key +E - Opens Windows Explorer

Windows key + R - invokes Run command

At Run command use type in the following for:

Outlook - MS Outlook

Control - Control Panel

Sysdm.cpl - System Properites

Ncpa.cpl - Network connections

Appwiz.cpl - Add/Remove program panel

Winword - Opens a new window in MS Word

Excel - Opens a new window in MS Excel

Visio - Opens a new window in MS Visio

Powerpnt - MS Powerpoint

Winproj - MS Project

Calc - Calculator

Notepad - Opens notepad

Iexplore - Opens a new window of Internet Explorer

Firefox - Opens a new window of Firefox

Iexplore / Firefox www.google.com - Opens google.com in the new window

CTRL+SHIFT+ESCAPE – Opens Task Manager

* .cpl files are control panel files for the objects found in control panel. If you search for .cpl files, the list throws up various files, just double-click each one of them to know whats the shortcut :)





Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Famous oneliners from Movies..

Here is my compilation of some of the famous oneliners in the Hollywood movies I have come across:

This ones evergreen:
"I will make an offer, he can't refuse"
Movie: GodfatherI

"When the mind suffers, the body cries out"
Movie: GodfatherIII

"May the Force be with you."
Movie: Star Wars series

"God may have mercy, but he won't"
Movie: RamboIII

"When you shoot, shoot, dont laugh"
Movie: Is this from Ronin, am I right?

"Welcome to the real world"
Movie: Matrix

"There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path"
---This ones my Fav: Movie: Matrix (I, II or III ?)-----

"Hope, my friend is a dangerous thing"
Movie: Shawshank redemption

"Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get"
Movie: Forrest Gump

"I will be back" and "Hasta la vista, baby."
Movie: Terminator2 Judgement day

"...Bond. James Bond."

"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn!"
Movie: Gone with the wind

"Some body stop me"
Movie: Mask

“Don Corleone.”
Movie: Godfather

.......And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next."
Movie: Gladiator