The New Customer Challenge

Posted: April 27th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Insight, Mac OS X, Mac OS X Server, Work | No Comments »

ticking-time-bombI’m an Apple consultant. I help small businesses who want nothing to do with the decision making aspect of technology. Planning, budgeting, procurement, deployment, support, deprecation, and recycling. Out of all these contexts no task is more challenging than workstations.

For those who are in the field, you know what I’m talking about. You get a new customer, they have workstations… some are new, some are old, some have MacKeeper, the bastard ones are carrying old migrated home folders that originated from 10.4 and a Cisco VPN kext. Some have 16 mail accounts filling 70% of the disk but since they’re “disabled” in Mail.app you don’t see them at first. Now you have to dig to find out where the space is. Do this across 10 – 50 workstations and you will soon realize why I went bald early.

I needed a quick dirty way to get some very specific data out of the machine and into a little text file, yes I’m sure there are some sort of MDM tools or whatever might have you that will track everything that I don’t care about widget, but I don’t want that. It’s about workflow, see if I don’t get an idea of what I’m stepping into before I step into it I may find out something nasty far too late. In other words, I wouldn’t deploy an MDM before getting an idea of what’s going on.

Introducing sysAudit.sh: feel free to download here

usage: sysAudit.sh -c <client name> -s <ftp server> -u <username> [-p <password>]
OPTIONS:
-c unique identifier for audit, a folder of this name will be made on your ftp server
-s ftp server fqdn/path sans protocol ie: mybigfat.ftpserver.com
-u username to connect to ftp server
-p password for username, will prompt if none given
NOTE:
Requires root privileges to successfully deduce all features

Once I begin relations with the new customer I immediately gain admin access to all their machines, after placing the following script somewhere on the web I can then push it out through ARD in a script something like this:

curl -o /tmp/sysAudit.sh http://www.copiousit.com/sysAudit.sh; chmod +x /tmp/sysAudit.sh; /tmp/sysAudit.sh -c clientname -s ftp.server.com -u ftpuser -p "ftpuserpass"

I also have it wrapped in AppleScript so that I can pop it over email to any remote machines. Usually also along with a Meraki MDM as well. Just place this code into Script Editor, then save as an application. Place sysAudit.sh inside the package of the AppleScript app.

## change the switch arguments!
set path_ to (path to me as string)
set p to POSIX path of path_
do shell script "" & p & "/sysAudit.sh -c clientname -s ftp.server.com -u ftpuser -p 'ftpuserpass'" with administrator privileges


Terminal.app or Linux Command Shell 101

Posted: May 31st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Insight, Linux | No Comments »

The Folks

Someone the other day asked me about how I got into the computer industry, and I guess it was because of my father. I still remember the day he brought home our first Commodore 64. The excitement I felt as the disk drive began to makes noises that are reminiscent to some sort of steam punk robot still resonates within me today. I was roughly eight but from that day on I was hooked, especially when I figured how to use a modem. If my parents read my blog they’re about to read a story regarding a strange incident from the past.

We had a 300 Baud modem that my father thought didn’t work and tossed aside, it came with a program called Quantum Link which eventually turned into AOL. I figured out how this modem worked by reading our subscription to the Computing Monthly Magazine and eventually got connected to a BBS in Toronto. Toronto, the city.

Now if you’ve been around long enough you’ll remember that most BBS were crowded services that were hard to get onto as they were all modem based, and if run out of house only had one line dedicated to it. In addition, since modem operate on phone lines you had to physically call the other end, so if the BBS was in Toronto you were basically making a long distance phone call.

My parents could NOT figure out what this number was that racked up so much long distance, and why it would just squeal when they called it. They called the phone company and I think got the charges reversed but I didn’t want this to happen again. I told some friends of mine who also had a Commodore 64 and they showed me that if you use a touch tone telephone to navigate through an automated phone system at BC Gas you could get to an open relay and make free long distance calls.

Through the years I’ve learned more and more and eventually got to the point where it’s now my profession. With this comes the need to have servers and there’s just something gratifying in having that “server under the bed.” My parents just so happen to have a spare bedroom in their house and thus the perfect place for my server to live. However every so often it needs some maintenance and thus my Dad is the one who intervenes. Recently though the requests I’ve been making of him have been getting more and more complicated and so I wrote a Linux Command Shell 101, to which I now share with you world. For all you people learning the shell for the first time.

Hi Dad,

So I’ve decided that it’s time you learn the command shell in Linux and how to use it. Yes, you have to read this :)

Chapter 1 – The Shell

The shell is actually not that complicated, but if you don’t understand what you’re looking at it can be very confusing. First what is a command shell? Well it’s actually no different than a programming language. It’s a way of giving the computer commands and interacting with it in either one off commands or in a script. There are many types of shells as well, the most common is the Bourne Again SHell or BASH for short, for the most part this is the defacto standard shell. Some other shells are:

ash
kash
tsh
tcsh

Most shells are all the same thing, the only difference between them is small grammatical differences. For example, and don’t worry that you have no idea what this is about.

bash ${variable}
ash $variable
kash $|variable|

see? small differences. So in summary the shell is a place where you can input commands to the computer and the computer executes them for you.

Next is a look at the shell. The following is what my shell looks like on my mac.

bart:~ jordan$

This is a command prompt. When you see something like this it means that computer is ready to accept commands.

So there are a few pieces of information here.
The first word tells us the name of the computer. In this case, my computer’s name is bart. Another word for the computers name is hostname
“:” indicates the end of the hostname,
“~” tells us the path that we are currently located (more about path later)
then username that we’re currently logged in as.
The $ tells us its the end of the prompt.

Now some prompts may look a little different from this but they’ll be the same more or less. Here’s what it looks like when I’m logged in as root

bart:~ root#

notice the only difference is the end of the prompt has a pound symbol instead of a dollar sign. This is because we’re root. All users prompts end in a dollar sign but only the root user ends in a pound. So if you ever encounter a prompt with nothing but just a dollar sign OR a pound you’ll still know that its a prompt.

Chapter 2 – Command Structure

Now it’s time to give the computer a command. You already know what a command is, its basically a program that runs in text mode. Commands can be anything from something simple like “cd” (change directory) to something complicated like “firefox-text” (text mode on firefox) When you give a shell a command there are a few things that you need to be aware of. First is a switch.

Switchs
A switch is a modifier that you give to the command to change what the command does. For example the command “ls” gives a listing of the files in the current directory. So here’s an example of the ls command listing the files in my home directory.


bart:~ jordan$ ls
Applications Downloads Movies Public bin
Desktop Library Music Sites test
Documents LimeWire Pictures bash.test zimbra
bart:~ jordan$

Now what I’m going to do is give the same command but with the -l switch. (that’s a lower case L)


bart:~ jordan$ ls -l
total 16
drwxr-xr-x 3 jordan staff 102 12 May 23:40 Applications
drwx------ 20 jordan staff 680 22 May 02:41 Desktop
drwxr--r--@ 39 jordan staff 1326 12 May 23:31 Documents
drwx------ 40 jordan staff 1360 18 May 09:22 Downloads
drwx------ 47 jordan staff 1598 23 May 20:01 Library
drwxr-xr-x 4 jordan staff 136 12 Feb 10:09 LimeWire
drwx------ 12 jordan staff 408 16 May 23:17 Movies
drwxr--r-- 21 jordan staff 714 24 Mar 19:41 Music
drwxr--r-- 23 jordan staff 782 7 May 23:33 Pictures
drwxr-xr-x 5 jordan staff 170 16 Sep 2009 Public
drwxr-xr-x@ 7 jordan staff 238 2 Nov 2009 Sites
-rwxr-xr-x 1 jordan staff 73 23 May 15:03 bash.test
drwxr-xr-x 6 jordan staff 204 7 May 23:33 bin
-rw-r--r-- 1 jordan staff 19 18 May 12:07 test
drwxr-xr-x 3 jordan staff 102 9 May 17:40 zimbra
bart:~ jordan$

see how command changes? It’s the same command, it does the same thing in that it lists all the files and folders but it also gives me LOTS of other options such as owner, size, date, etc.

Arguments
Next is an argument, an argument usually goes with a switch. So say you have a command like a text editor. One example of a text editor is “nano” if you just type edit the computer will not do anything, you have to give it a file to edit as well. So for example:


nano example.txt

We see here that “nano” (which is used as an example only) is the command and “example.txt” is the argument.

Final Chapter – Commands

Finally I’m just going to touch a few basic and extremely common commands as well as a way of searching for commands and their manuals. First let’s introduce you to a utility called “apropos” To use apropos you simply type it in followed by an argument in quotations. ie: apropos “move files” What this will do is search all the commands available on your computer for something that matches “move files” Think of it as a search engine for commands, a really dumb search engine. It’s dumb because if you don’t pick the right words to search for it won’t find anything. Take this for example. apropos “make folder” will find nothing but apropos “create folder” will have many search results.

So let’s use apropos to find a command to move files


bart:~ jordan$ apropos "move files"
mv(1) - move files
removefile(3), removefile_state_alloc(3), removefile_state_free(3), removefile_state_get(3), removefile_state_set(3) - remove files or directories
srm(1) - securely remove files or directories
bart:~ jordan$

So in the search results here there are the actual commands on the left (ignore the number in the brackets) and then explanations on the right. The first line looks like the one the that we want, the second (and third) line looks like garbage and the last line is some command to remove files. Apropos found the last line because we searched for move files and reMOVE FILES matches that. See how it’s dumb?

Ok so the command we want is the first line, mv. Next we need to learn how to use this command, what switches and arguments it can take so what we do is use another command called “man” man is short for manual. Simple. We type man and then the command name as an argument. for example


bart:~ jordan$ man mv
MV(1) BSD General Commands Manual MV(1)

NAME
mv -- move files

SYNOPSIS
mv [-f | -i | -n] [-v] source target
mv [-f | -i | -n] [-v] source ... directory

DESCRIPTION
In its first form, the mv utility renames the file named by the source
operand to the destination path named by the target operand. This form
is assumed when the last operand does not name an already existing direc-
tory.

In its second form, mv moves each file named by a source op...... ETC ETC ETC

To navigate this man page you can use the up and down arrows as well as the page up and page down keys. To exit push “q”

There you have it between apropos and man you can search and learn all commands linux. Here are a few commands that very important for you to know.

ls: list files and folders in current directory
cd: change directory
mkdir: make directory
rm: remove file
rm -rf: remove files and folders, WITHOUT VERFICATION
mv: move files and folders
pwd: display current directory
whoami: display your username
nano: an easy to use text editor, to use it just type “nano ”
exit: exits the shell

Ok, so this is pretty short and brief but hopefully was a good introduction to the Linux command shell. If you have questions or if something I wrote doesn’t make sense email me back and let me know.


Free Geek Server Room Build Part 4 AKA How I learned to love LTSP, Migrate OpenLDAP and get bind running all in one day!!

Posted: May 8th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: DNS, Free Geek, Insight, LDAP, Linux, Migrate, SSH, Vancouver | 2 Comments »

Free Geek Mascot #1

Today was awesome! We got so much done!!! And it all went without a problem… oh except for when we tried to create an LACP bond on our NFS server and crashed the whole network… yeah… Quick story on that. we have 10 VLANs all trunking between our switches and our router. The NFS server is on VLAN 5 untagged on port 17 on the switch, we the added port 18 and created a bond on the switch. We then created a bond0 interface on the NFS server and used ifenslave to assign the eth devices to the bond device. Then….

BAM! WHOLE NETWORK GOES DOWN. Not just vlan5, no no, the whole god damn network. No Internet access nothing, not even from the router, the router can’t ping a thing on the whole network.

Why God? Why?

Then the Network God ARP said, “Jordan did you check those top kwality DLink switches?” So off I went to check the switch I just modified. For some unknown reason the DLINK decided to plunk VLAN 6 tagged onto port 16 for no reason what-so-ever. So I fixed that, but no, nothing worked still. So Tyler says, just unplugg the ethernet cables to the NFS server. Voila! Problem solved. Basically we think the NFS was just spewing out crap across the network and making all the servers in VLAN 5 bail, including the router. We were getting some pretty crazy ARP poisoning happening the router. Now, on to the good stuff.


This is a basic (and poorly made) diagram of how the Free Geek Vancouver network looks. We’ll take a look at how an LTSP client boots and logs in.

First the LTSP client boots looking for a PXE server, DHCP is handed out and tells the client to grab a boot image from yew. The LTSP client then boots into Ubuntu 10.04 (bleeding edge baby) where the login screen is presented. The user logs in and authenticates against our new fancy LDAP server on teak. When the client logs in their home directory is handed out via LDAP as /net/home/<$user> This directory is handled by AutoFS and mounts the NFS home from maple. The user now has full desktop experience with all their account info and home directory handled by 3rd parties.

What? Centralized authentication AND home directories?! REALLY?

Our LTSP server is now a 2 x Dual Core Xeon 3.20GHz with 4GB of RAM. A HUGE upgrade from what we running before. In addition to all this insanity Vicki was able to migrate our ticketing system for us as well as update all the LDAP records for home directories, install autofs on all servers, install the mount maps, comment out all the irrelevant fstab crap AND switch over all our servers to the LDAP server. Pow vicki, pow!

The backup system is pretty sweet as well. In our NFS server that holds the home directories is two RAID 5’s, a RAID 1 and some spares. One RAID 5 has a slice out of it that is for home directories. The other is 1TB for nothing but backups. What Tyler did was write a script that uses rsync to create incremental backups all done thru hard links. It’s pretty rad.

Now that I come to think of it, I didn’t really do much except play with the dogs!!

She helped in her own way


What's going on?

















Sharp as a Marble

Posted: January 13th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Insight, Work | No Comments »

So if you’ve been reading my blog you’ll know that a couple months ago I quit my 9-5 job. Since then to be honest, I haven’t done much in the way of systems administration. I’ve had a couple contracts here and there but nothing really big. I tell you what, do the skills dull quickly! I sat down the other day to help a friend with a pretty simple problem. He had 10.5 OSX Server and wanted to extend his LDAP schema…. I couldn’t remember how to do it! Or just little things, mostly in bash, like how to tell processes to stfu. Don’t get me wrong I know how to do it, its just not coming to me as quickly as I would like.

To any sysadmins out there thinking about quitting, make a list of things you think are cool and don’t want to forget. Cause soon after your notice, there won’t be anything upstairs! 😉


TEDxVancouver

Posted: November 23rd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Insight | No Comments »

TEDxVancouverTEDxVancouver was simply an amazing event. The people and the lust for inspiration alone was something to behold, but of course the talks were of the spotlight that day. While all the speakers were breathtaking and I’m sure there are a lot of other sites out there that can give you a play by play I thought I would share what I took away from this day.


1. Take a concept with content and place your own context on it
2. Users will always get what they want to consume, it’s just a matter of time so there’s no point in trying to control it
3. Ask yourself, who am I that causes the eyes of the people around me not to shine?
4. Success could be graded on how many people’s eyes you make shine
5. The search for extra-terresterial life has gone unfruitful probably because any advanced civilization who came before us encountered the same problem as us. They destroyed their home and did not survive.
6. The world will not change and neither can you save it by typing on Twitter. Get off social media and commit to the message instead of just relaying it.
7. Framing a discussion for your target audience is key to convincing the business world to act on global climate change.
8. Having wind and land based solar energy options may not be enough to eradicate coal burning plants because they cannot provide base-load power. Nuclear may be a viable option.
9. Our fight or flight response causes rigidity and inflexibility. Learning to cope with the problem and find conflict resolution, no matter what that may be, is key to our evolution.
10. Respect the baby boomers, understand that they used to exist in a world where it was not “their oyster.” Today Gen Y’s and X’s are told to conquer, boomers were told to work hard, save, squander, and die.
11. Calorie restriction not only ties into longevity but also the environment.
12. Anxiety has a negative impact on our creative centres but is very useful for making us focus and to get a job done.
13. A lot of people in this world believe that we are our ethnicity, regardless of who we are. We wear our skin colour like a badge.
14. Vancouver has the highest percentage of mixed relationships in North America :)
15. “being black informs me to who I am, but does not define who I am.” – Barack Obama
16. Context is king, LIVE your message.


Cutting the Umbilical Cord

Posted: November 5th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Insight, Work | No Comments »

I quit my job. It’s was a big step…. no, it was a huge step towards where I actually want to be in life. I wasn’t happy working a 9-5 day in and day out. I think it has something to do with that salary slave (being paid one flat rate for all my professional services) feeling. That did not jive with how I wanted to live.

panhandler However, this new found freedom and choice of working for myself comes with a price. Finding funding. Thankfully my first few months have been funded by some smart decisions on my part as well as person who has a lot of faith in me. You know who you are. My concern actually lies in my next round, which will need to be quite substantial comparatively. It’s at this point that I begin to see the similarities between owning a startup, and having a sign similar to the one on the left. You see, when I had a full time position I was taken care of, in fact the company that I used to work for took care of me and all its employees so well that it was a very difficult decision to leave. When I walked out for the last time and saw that door close behind me the first thing that raced through my mind was; “did I do the right thing?” “Did I just totally screw myself over?” “Can I do this?” For you see, now I have no extended medical, no extended dental, no automatic payment system into my bank account and worst of all no one to blame except myself. This is the price that I have to pay. The sacrifice of that umbilical cord, that lifeline. My cash flow will no longer come via automatically deposited, semi-monthly payments. Instead it will come by means of investors and angels.

It’s a big leap of faith on my part to go after what I dream and at the end of day I feel happier and more fulfilled. I’m sure it will be a big challenge and a huge adventure, and really why wouldn’t I go for it? As Seth Godin pointed out to me in Tribes, it was the fear of the possibility of failure that was holding me back. Once I wrapped my head around that, I quit.


Choice

Posted: October 29th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Insight, Work | No Comments »

Force a person to perform an action or accomplish a goal and they will do the absolute minimum.

Allow the same person the choice to accomplish the goal and they will not only accomplish it but go above and beyond the requirements.

I recently learned this while looking over different corporate policies. Companies without vacation policies didn’t worry about employees taking time off near a big deadline; they allowed their employees the choice — if taking time off before a deadline would be wise or not. That choice, that freedom, which the employee can feel, is so important to a company and to a company’s corporate culture. Without choice your workers will feel as just that, workers. Drones. Slaves.

Slaves have no choice, no freedom. They do what they are told or suffer the consequences.

For employees the consequence may be getting “written up” or perhaps even let go. Of course, this however will only motivate an employee to work the bare minimum. Consider the following situation, and again I’m going to use a vacation policy as an example: Bob wants to take time off of work, however the dates he originally selected are days before a large deadline. Bob says to himself, ‘those two days I booked off are coming up but I can’t go because the vacation policy mandates that I can’t.’ Now, what if Bob thouht the following instead: I want to take those two days off but I won’t because that big deadline is coming up. Instead I will take time off the next week. See the difference? It’s can’t versus won’t.

Bob made a choice to move his personal time off around for his company. He wasn’t forced. He chose to. This gives Bob a sense of pride in his work and, by not being forced to move his vacation due to some esoteric policy, by allowing him choice, he has no reason to resent the company.

Same can be said for working from home, taking sick days, whatever.

The more policies you put in place at a company the stricter you make it and therefore the less choice you allow your employees to make for themselves. When your employees are given “The Choice,” then they are choosing to not only do their job, but also to follow a company. Contrast that with being forced by corporate policy; the employees will drag their heels because they know they have no alternative. They are slaves. No choice.

If you want your employees to feel empowered, if you want them to be more productive, then allow them the choice to be productive.


Prospective Clients

Posted: October 23rd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Insight, Work | No Comments »

Steps to meeting a prospective client.

The problem with being any sort of independent contractor is the amount of time you waste meeting clients who aren’t worth the air they’re using to speak. I’ve met my fair share of talk-is-cheap “business” people in my day and I can tell you with no uncertainty that you want to try and stay as far away from these people as possible. If they even show up to the meeting in the first place, they do nothing but ask probing questions and try to sucker you in to doing free labour. One client I had recently wanted me to not only network his office but also create a network topology for his product deployed on a nation-wide basis, on speck. I have one word for dealing with this type of people. Run.

First, when you are introduced to a prospective client or when one contacts you and requests a business meeting there are a few things that must be done right away. First, describe to them exactly what you do and what you do not do. This is important for people like myself, most of my clients do not understand the difference between a network engineer and a developer. That way you don’t get halfway through a meeting only to find out that they’re looking for a helicopter pilot and you’re an airplane pilot. However, in my own example, I have a great network of other independents like myself who I sub-contract to on a frequent basis. That way I try to accept new business that I can’t do and contract it out, act as a liaison.

Second, if they still want to meet request from them a quarter to half page itinerary outlining the topics and objectives for the meeting. The good thing about doing this is to foce the client into thinking about what they actually need from you, and to ensure that all their concerns are addressed so that subsequent meetings are not needed. The best part of this though is weeding out the talk-is-cheap people. They usually will not send you an itinerary, but if they do it forces them to stay on topic rather than jumping to different questions and topics trying to pull free info from you.

Third, as previously touched on. When meeting the client you want to stay on topic and what was written down in the meeting itinerary. You want to address all the of clients concerns and questions while staying on topic and at a high level. Remember that the meeting is simply to entice the client to give you the contract, not lay out in every detail the solution to their problem. Once the client is enticed ask for a one page project proposal outlining at a high level what it is that the contract will entail.

Fourth, once you have the project proposal from them you can begin to lay out the approximate cost of the contract and a time budget for when you expect to complete the project, or milestones within the project. This keeps not just you and the client on track, but also sets the expectation of project completion so that 2 weeks in you don’t have the client yelling and demanding it be done immediately. If the goals or tasks of the project change after you have begun work on it, then a new project proposal is to be drawn up and signed off on. I’ve found that some clients will agree to initial cost of the project, change the amount of work needed halfway through, and still demand the same price tag at the end.

Fifth, You have three choices for pricing, either by day, hour, or project. Hour is probably the worst choice as it creates more work and accounting for yourself. By project is a descent choice but only if you are 100% certain that you can complete the project without unforeseen complications. Otherwise you end up working a lot of extra hours or days without any extra compensation. By day is the best choice for me as most of my project take on average 1 – 7 days, and since most of the work is remote I don’t have to be entrusted to track hours. Clients will usually feel more at ease being charged a lump sum for a day rather than wondering if the contractor is actually working the amount of hours he claims.

These simple steps hopefully will help you weed out the talk-is-cheap business people and at the same time seem more professional to legitimite customers.


The Importance of Taking Time Off

Posted: October 18th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Insight | No Comments »

It is important to take time off for several reasons – to reward, reflect, and recharge. Living a balanced life is extremely important for both your physical and mental health. Working harder and harder will result in being dead before you know it. Working hard and playing harder will enable you to accomplish goals more efficiently, sometimes subconsciously while taking time off!

Rewards are always needed

Rewards are always needed

Reward – you should reward yourself for your hard work. Without some hope of reward, it is difficult to stay motivated. If you set a goal, attach a reward to it if you achieve it. It is a good idea to set the level of the reward relative to how well you achieve the goal. For example, a reward for reaching your goal, a bonus reward if you exceed your goal, and perhaps a consolation reward if you just fall short of reaching your goal but still made progress.

Reflect – without taking time out to reflect, you cannot correct your current course to ensure you are headed in the right direction. It is like wandering off to sea searching for the promised land with a map or compass but being so busy dealing with windstorms and a sinking ship that you never actually have a chance to use the map and compass for guidance. More than ever before, our brains our bombarded with information. So much in fact, that it cannot mentally process all of it, let alone formulate answers to the problems at hand. By taking time off to reflect, our minds have a chance to process and work through the problems to formulate the answers. It is often while relaxing on the beach sipping a cocktail that we have those “ahah” moments.

Recharge – all work and no play wears us out. Just like a car that needs an oil change every 6,000 kms, our bodies need to recharge so they can perform at their optimum. If you work and do nothing but work, soon your body will be like an engine with no oil in it, eventually making metal on metal contact until it seizes up and ceases to function. Take time off to recharge and come back stronger than before.

Ironically, it is often during time off when the most is accomplished, albeit behind the scenes. So remember, work hard. Play harder. Don’t forget to take time off. In fact, make a point of it and schedule time off. Your body. mind, and financial bottom line will thank you for it.


The Advantages of Volunteering

Posted: October 13th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Free Geek, Insight, LDAP, Vancouver, VPN | No Comments »

As I touched on very briefly in one of my previous posts, I volunteer. I volunteer for a non-profit organization by the name of Free Geek. It’s the local chapter here in Vancouver and they have a very simple purpose. Their website states: Free Geek is a nonprofit community organisation that reduces the environmental impact of waste electronics by reusing and recycling donated technology. Through community engagement we provide education, job skills training, Internet access and free or low cost computers to the public.

Free GeekWhen I first arrived at Free Geek I was amazed at how much computer hardware there actually was, but even MORE amazed the second time I went to see that it all had changed. I mean, all of it. The amount of hardware that that flows through their doors is mind boggling. Immediately I knew this was something I wanted to be a part of. I met one of the founders and explained my talents and I what I could do for them, Ifny LaChance, she hugged me! She explained that Free Geek was desperately in need of a good Systems Administrator as their current person could not adequately handle the failing systems. The Free Geek infrastructure suffered from network outages, power outages, overheating, and poor performance, and they were all considered part and parcel of the environment. Most of the users had learned to live with it, or work around the issues.

They use a system called LTSP for all of their public and private workstations. These workstations were at a crawl. The first thing I took care of was all the physical wiring between computers, switches, and servers. While pulling cable out I would find the oddest things, like a six foot ethernet cable running from a switch to hub, then from that hub another cable extending about four feet to a switch. This switch was not only then connected to three different computers but also plugged back into the same switch that this connection originated from! After the wiring had been taken care of, an 802.1d trunk was introduced between two main switches and then VLAN’s were placed on the network to segregate subnets up a little better and to give some added security.

Since then I’ve gone on to introduce an OpenLDAP directory system, integrate user authentication for all workstations and switches. Created an OpenVPN install and added services such as SNMP monitoring by way of Zenoss. I am on a never-ending mission to improve the stability and the scalability of their infrastructure while only being able to work with recycled hardware and open-sourced software. It has been a great challenge, but of all the years I have worked with technology I must say that nothing compares with the satisfaction I feel from knowing my hours of labour are enabling an amazing organization to help keep this planet green and give back to the community.

Please visit their website to see how you can help. freegeekvancouver.org