Friday, March 17, 2006

The Notwork Engineer

Back in the days when NetWare was king of the office, we used to talk about the notwork engineer - which I hope is self-explanatory. But I hadn't seen one for quite some time. . .

He's baaaaack!

Of course, now in the 21st century, he's also a poser - you know, he's got the fancy 100-button PDA / cell phone / satellite radio / personal portable fax / wash machine I'm getting off track here, but you can probably imagine a Dilbert knock-off. He decides who gets permission to what on his network, and he is such an expert on everything that he knows who needs permission to do what.

Hey, let's change some permissions - that file on the server doesn't need Everyone to have Full Control, so I'll just lock that baby down to the Admins. Great, job well done, Mr. Notwork, the place is secure now, safe from those evil users; good night and farewell. Oops - that was a MS Access file, for which the Jet database engine requires - you guessed it - Full Control. And if those seven field reps drive 45 minutes to the office to update their laptops - poof! There's no permissions to do anything. Hurray! I guess we can all go home now, the notwork engineer was here earlier.

The moral of the story: Ask, don't assume. No one person can know everything about everything. And it is perfectly OK to ask - it doesn't show a lack of intelligence, but rather, the presence of intelligence to recognize when you just don't know.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Windows Server 2003

Having abandoned the Linux path for the time being, I dug through my box of trial CD's that I collected from the various MS launch events. . . and I found a 180-day trial copy of Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition! So I went ahead and re-formatted for NTFS and installed the server OS on the old CTX machine. First impression: I like it.

I've been using my HP desktop as a mass-storage device since it has a roomy 160 GB disk. BTW It's a Hitachi that replaced the original Maxtor that blew up after six months (but that could be a whole other blog entry). Anyway, I had considered buying one of those network-attached-storage devices that are getting popular, but I really didn't know if that was worth the investment.

I didn't set things up as a domain, just your basic workgroup. One little quirk that came up (seen this before) was that I had to create user accounts on some machines in order to connect to the server. I believe that's because of the workgroup.

It's really neat having a file server set up, but I checked the retail prices and Win 2003 Standard runs around $1,000 US; of course, I have 180 days to decide :-)

Saturday, March 11, 2006

The Linux Chronicles

In a previous post, I described my experiments with Linux; for me, the bottom line is that I'm looking for a Windows alternative without all the bloat associated with the current Windows.

First of all, my test machine is an old workhorse - using an AMD K6/2 CPU at 400 MHz, with 384 Meg RAM and a 30 GB hard disk; 10/100 NIC, CD/DVD drive, UPS.

My first trials were with Suse Linux 9.2 for which I basically accepted all the defaults. After running for a few weeks, I became frustrated with the overall slow performance - which I attributed to the act of using a 2005 OS on a slighly-underpowered 1998 PC. But I must say that the YAST installer did a great job of finding all my gadgets (except the UPS) including detecting my legacy sound card.

I was able to connect to my network workgroup, and print to a shared Windows printer, but the performance was quite sluggish, especially when launching the YAST config modules.

In closing, my test machine met, but did not exceed, the minimum system requirements.

Phase II. . .

I located a CD for Mandrake Linux 7.1 which I had obtained from one of the tech trade shows a few years back. This was a distribution "guaranteed to work on a 486 or newer" so I installed this one, which went without a hitch. But it did not recognize my NIC -- I suspect that this older Mandrake distribution does not support PCI which is the installed NIC. And I'm not about to go searching for an ISA or EISA network card, so that experiment was over.

Since network connectivity is a requirement, I concluded that Mandrake 7.1 was not in my Linux future. (I believe that they've since merged with another penguinista.)

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Twenty-four hour banking (not quite)

All the banks are trying to push their online banking services, and IMHO the state of online banking today has improved dramatically over the past few years. I remember when Bank One (which is now Chase) took their online banking site off-line a few hours in the early AM every weekday, and even longer on the weekends - but that's changed. I used to detest Wells Fargo's site back when I was on dial-up, since one of the first things that happened when connecting was that it would send down a fresh certificate file, which took a while at 28.8 kps ;-)

Obviously the technology investment is offset by the potential staff reductions or other similar cost-reduction efforts. But for the typical business with employees, payroll & benefits amount to 2/3 of its expenses, so this area is an easy target for cost reductions.

But what's the deal with "bank business days" - ?? What a thoroughly antiquated concept. If I can transfer funds and make payments at the click of a mouse, why is it that a deposit made on Saturday or Sunday, whether ATM or drive-thru or even walk-in, doesn't get posted until Monday? With the advent of electronic check processing, banks being empowered by the so-called Check 21 initiative, the time has come for the bank business day concept to be retired.