On this twenty-third day of April 2010, I was duly admitted to the degree of Bachelor of Science in Computer Science. No storm troopers like at my fiancee’s graduation,  however there was someone in chainmail a few rows in front of me. Thanks UC, great feeling to finally be a graduate! Look forward to doing it again a few years down the track…



Server 2008 Web Edition & Sharepoint Foundation 2010

I presumed it was a given that Sharepoint would be able to run on Server 2008 Web Edition, however I was mistaken, and found out the hard way when the prerequisite installer wouldn’t work on a shiny new VM.

The prerequisite installer was failing immediately when trying to setup the IIS role, giving the message ‘Configuration Error’. Initially I thought this was obviously a bug because it was beta software.

After reading through the system requirements document again carefully, I found that Sharepoint requires the Application Server role, which Web Edition does not have.

Installed Server 2008 R2 Standard and it went on immediately.


Summer IT Projects

Waiheke IslandMy last exam is all done and dusted, marking the completion of my B.Sc in Computer Science! No time to pat myself on the back for that just yet however.

Here is a list of IT projects I’ll be likely working on for the next couple of months. Hopefully I’ll be able to cross most of them off.

  • Refurbish our server room (done)
  • Recable admin block (done)
  • Consolidate / migrate 4 Windows 2003 physical servers to Windows 2008 R2 running in Hyper-V Core (done)
  • Deploy a Cisco UC520 phone system test phase (done)
  • Create a new Windows 7 deployment for 25 new staff computers (done)
  • Switch over to using UC520 in production (done)
  • Integrate the UC520 with Exchange 2010 (not needed)
  • Get Caller ID integration going with ACT! 6.0 (done)
  • Build a website in Silverstripe (cancelled)
  • Finish the Greymouth Baptist Church website
  • Find a job for 2010, or pursue self employment (done)
  • And if I get time, write my DFSR monitoring tool Windows 2008 (R2?) has a more powerful monitoring tool built in, including propagation testing which is what I was planning on doing.
  • Catch up with friends, family, beach, sun, lake, bike, garden (done)

Making Age of Mythology work in Parallels

Now I’m not a gamer, but I do like to have the occasional multiplayer game of Age of Mythology or Age of Empires. When I purchased the upgrade to Parallels 4 earlier in the year I was disappointed to find Age of Mythology wouldn’t run on it.

You wil get the error message “This graphics card is not supported by Age of Mythology”, etc.

I did some research and found a forum post by awittenauer which pointed me in the right direction. By copying existing GFX files and modifying them so that AoM would recognise the Parallels Video Driver, I was able to get it working easily. I imagine this process should work for other games if you are receiving a similar message.

AOM Parallels Screenshot

  1. First, download my Parallels GFX Config Files
  2. Unzip and copy the contents into the gfxconfig folders of your game. In my case this was C:Program FilesMicrosoft GamesAge of Mythologygfxconfig   &   gfxconfig2.
  3. You should now be able to run the game.

If you are still having trouble getting it working, or want to add support for different resolutions, open up the parallels.gfx file in Notepad. Here you can customise resolution options etc.

Please let me know how you get on! Thanks again to awittenauer for the idea..



I’ve been playing around with IPv6 over the last few days; my ISP doesn’t give out IPv6 addresses yet, but thanks to Hurricane Electric I now have a /48 being routed straight to me. In theory I could subnet that /48 into 65536 subnets, each containing a ridiculous number of hosts.

This is a strange feeling after growing up with 1 routable IP address to somehow share across a whole network and having hundreds of NAT port forwards. It really should make life much easier.

But… there are a few implications. Previously in many situations we have been able to rely on NAT as a reasonably effective firewall. NAT is excellent at that. Customer ADSL/Cable routers will need to now have firewalls which many don’t… and if they do have firewalls it is almost certain they wont be managed properly.

So IPv6 end to end connectivity is all very well; but now instead of managing port forwarding there is going to need to be managing of firewalls instead. By default I am sure they will be managed by UPNP; so basically may as well not be running a firewall unless UPNP gets some security added.

Lastly, I realised IPv6 means you can no longer use the excuse of decreasing the size of broadcast domains when subnetting or using VLANs… It now will be reducing the multicast domains seeing IPv6 now uses multicast to replace the broadcast functions. I’m pretty sure most usually VLANs are more about security anyway than broadcast domains.


Affordable IP Phone Systems

Asterisk has been around for a number of years now, most tech consultants will be aware that there are open source PBX solutions that can run on your PC. However, until I discovered the Atcom IP series of Asterisk appliances, I knew I would have a hard time convincing small businesses of the benefits of VoIP.

There is a strange sense of security that goes with having a dedicated appliance for something as critical as telephony. Businesses that are used to having a phone system on the wall somewhere may not be totally comfortable having a phone system running on any old PC sitting in the server room (although this could be a safer option, as you always can drop the hard drive into another machine if something goes wrong with one).

While there have been Asterisk appliances from major names like Digium, their cost is not much cheaper than a POTS system, making migrating from a traditional phone system hard to justify. The Atcom IPxx series on the other hand which you can get the base unit for under $500, depending on how many analogue trunks and extensions you want.

I should note that it is not a trivial cost associated with moving to VoIP – if you have existing analogue phones the cheapest way will be to use ATA devices such as the Linksys SPA8000. VoIP phones start at around the $200 which soon adds up.

The ATCOM looks fairly easy to set up. There will be a learning curve, but it is definitely within the scope of in house IT staff to create new extensions, reconfigure IVR menus, if not set up the whole system from scratch.

For the price, I would buy two, and keep one as a spare that I could drop the flash card into should anything happen to the other.

The Atcom IP01 / IP04 / IP08 can handle around 30 concurrent calls, which is plenty for any small to medium business in New Zealand.

My immediate reaction when I saw this was to buy it just because it was so unbelievably cheap. Unfortunately, being a student means that isn’t quite a good enough reason to buy one.

Update: July 2009
I still haven’t tried out any of the ATCOM gear. I have to say I am nervous about the quality, I’d love to think it would be excellent, but until I have tested it I won’t know. In New Zealand of course you are probably still going to want analogue trunks instead of relying on 2talk/SIP trunks unless you have a really nice internet connection.

Admin Tips Tech

DNS Performance Test Utility

Recently I have been trying to tune the internet performance at work (and find out whether it is faster to run a DNS forwarder on our VPS hosted in a data centre, or to do queries directly to OpenDNS), and found this cross-platform tool which looks very useful for checking out query speeds of different DNS servers.

DNS Performance Test by the1silverwolf. Enjoy!


Sysprep, Standard PC, ACPI, Ghost Images

NEVER try creating a ghost or sysprep image with your source computer’s HAL set to Standard PC!
I wish I had noticed this critical point in documentation earlier:

You can deploy a Sysprep image created on a computer that uses a Standard PC, Non-ACPI PIC HAL (Hal.dll) to a computer that uses the following HAL types:
 • Standard PC, Non-ACPI PIC HAL (Hal.dll)

Cheers Microsoft, no wonder I was having so much trouble trying to get the image to work properly!

The problem arose when I thought I would be clever and prepare the Ghost Image on VMWare, then Sysprep it out using Mysysprep to select the right HAL type, but then wasted all this time trying to get it to work when it was because the VMWare image had set the HAL to Standard PC (which I was aware of, but I thought that MySysprep was able to change the HAL on deployment). I am currently running a Repair Install of XPSP3, hoping that maybe this time I will get a little further.


'Back to My Mac' flak?

One of the features of Mac OS X 10.5, Leopard, that was getting many people excited, was Back to My Mac. The service was designed to allow you to access your Macs at home, when you are on the road, or from work. However since its release, it seems that many users are having some serious problems trying to get it to work. (You only need to spend a few minutes in Apple discussions, or listen to MacBreak Weekly to find out…)

I say forget it! I recently installed LogMeIn Free on my MacBook Pro, a service I have used with Windows machines for years and it works brilliantly. If Back to My Mac is persuading you to buy a .Mac subscription, give LogMeIn a try first – after all it costs nothing, and it actually works, period.

Let me list three key improvements Apple would have to make for me to even think about using Back to My Mac.

  1. Tunnel the connections over a hosted SSL solution – in other words, you don’t need to map any ports in your NAT, or put holes in your firewall – you can have a guaranteed connection wherever your Mac access HTTPS websites. Where I live, there is a mandatory firewall on all incoming traffic, I can’t open any ports, so Back to My Mac would not work for me, where LogMeIn works perfectly.
  2. Add a Windows client – I only own one Mac – I can’t afford any more, just like I can’t afford a .Mac subscription. Therefore, I would likely be wanting to access my Mac from Windows machines, either from work, or any of the majority of computers in the world. 
  3. In fact, why not do it through a web interface? – That way you don’t even need a specific Windows client, a web interface would allow you to control your Mac from nearly any web browser in the world. If I’m at an internet kiosk, or other location where downloading/installing software isn’t possible, and/or where strict outbound firewalls are in place, I could just rock straight onto my Mac (of course using an on-screen keyboard to type passwords!) as fast as opening my Gmail.

Back to My Mac is fundamentally flawed in their decision not to have a hosted SSL solution for it, and for the fact you can only use it from other Macs.

Wake me up when Apple start to do things right again; I’m already being driven insane as it is by their AirPort AirDisk botch-ups!!


OK So I'm Addicted…

… to the iTunes Music store!

It finally launched in New Zealand a few weeks ago, and I can’t keep away from it!

I think my best buy off it was probably the Chili Pepper’s Stadium Arcadium, which for $17.99 had the two CDs and a video of the making of their video, and a PDF of the booklet that would come with the hard copy of the CD.

My other more significant purchases include Bic Runga’s Birds, and I better not forget The Magic of Boney-M!

So being addicted to the iTunes store isn’t really the best, just after I signed my life away on my student loan, and accepted my enrollment offer at Canterbury University.

18 days to go, till I am off to Christchurch… Exciting! Of course most of those will be spent working; hopefully not the 12 hour days I have been doing recently though.

Thats me for now – I must go and order some prints from DigitalMax who are until Sunday doing 6×4 photo prints for a mere 15c ($0.15NZ) . That is stupidly cheap! Even when they are not on special they are generally between $0.20 and $0.23 each. So much cheaper than anywhere else in NZ will offer you!