Category: Technology
Posted by: khanti
My apologies for the few posts lately, but I've been at an IT conference out of town and have been very busy. Something struck me today, though, that is worth sharing. It's no secret that there are fewer women in technical fields than men. Information Technology and computers are no exception to this. It really puts it in perspective, though, when you go to one of these conferences. I took a headcount in one representative session today and there were 65 men and 3 women in the room. THREE! There's something seriously wrong with that. Either we men are idiots for choosing this as a career and they've just figured it out before us, or the system is broken. I don't believe there's anything basically wrong with IT, and I think women are just as capable as men in the field, there's just fewer of them. There's no question of the nature/nurture debate here. It's nurture in my opinion. Women simply aren't encouraged to pursue these kinds of fields of study. Partly by friends and family, but most importantly by the educational system. At least that was the case for my generation. I'm not certain if things have changed much lately. Seeing it in these terms over the last few days prompted me to do a little research and I found this little gem here : "The number of women in IT, as measured as a percentage of the total IT personnel pool, declined from 42 percent in 1996 to 32.4 percent in 2004--with no noticeable progress in the number of women in professional or management ranks." So things are getting worse. Great. The study referenced in the article points out that problem is not limited to the US, it's a global phenomenon. But why?

Some seem to think that it's because the profession has been dominated by male 'geeks' for so long, that it causes women to discount it purely by social association as early as their early teens. So maybe it is simply a matter of perception that we're all bleary-eyed geeks sitting in darkened rooms eating pizza and drinking Mountain Dew, who play D&D on our days off and are known to hack out code in 48 hour marathons and compare pocket protectors... As untrue as that stereotype is, it persists and may be a big reason for the lopsided distribution of the sexes. What do YOU think?

Posted at 20:21:19 central time.

Category: Technology
Posted by: khanti
Today at 17:31:30pm CST the UNIX timestamp, which uses the number of seconds since Jan 1, 1970 (the UNIX epoch) to track time, will hit 1234567890. Geeks the world over are celebrating this once in a lifetime event. I, for one, will be popping down to the corner pub after work for a cold one and will raise my glass to toast a big round number for no particular reason whatsoever.

Letting my geek flag fly...

Posted at 08:10:31 central time.

Category: Technology
Posted by: khanti
Well, my attempts at salvaging the array without re-installing XP have come to naught. So I attempted a parallel install of XP, but it blew up, so I wiped the system drive, re-installed XP, copied the data off the dynamic volume, recreated the partition as a basic disk, and the data is copying back as I speak, then I'll blow away the system drive again and put Vista back. At least Vista installs quicker than XP. It patches quicker too as there are only a couple of years of patches to apply instead of nearly a decade's worth.

So let this be a warning to you! If you have multiple hard drives under XP and you want to keep them when you upgrade to Vista... either go with the Ultimate or Business editions or make sure all of your drives are partitioned as basic disks, not dynamic.

Posted at 08:57:59 central time.

Category: Technology
Posted by: khanti
I finally upgraded to Vista on my home computer last night. I'd been putting it off for some time for a couple of reasons. I wanted to let the kinks get worked out first and I was tossing around the idea of migrating to Linux instead. The kinks have been worked out to the point that most people now seem to enjoy Vista, so that was no longer a hurdle. As for Linux, I've been searching for ways to convert my existing 4.2TB of NTFS RAID 5 arrays (I collect a LOT of live music) to a Linux-compatible file system without spending days (or weeks!) doing backups and restores to optical media or shuffling things around from drive to drive. I finally decided it just wasn't worth it until I have an easier method of backup and restore. The tipping point, believe it or not, was the death of my MP3 player. The battery on my trusty Rio Karma finally died and I was forced to buy another player. Capacity was the one feature I was keen on, having already converted my lossy collection from OGG to Lame-encoded MP3, so I picked up a refurbished 160GB iPod Classic only to find out that iTunes doesn't work on 64-bit Windows XP. I tried all the hacks and workarounds I found online, but to no avail. With my old Rio, the management software for it also wouldn't run on XP X64, so when I needed to load music on it, I had to use my work laptop while accessing my music library over my home wireless. It was painfully slow, so I was looking forward to the new iPod not having to do this. But here I was in the same boat. 64-bit Vista would work apparently, so I ordered an OEM copy of 64-bit Vista Home Premium which arrived yesterday.

The install went quickly, I was up and running within an hour or so. After patching and installing the basic software, I was in business after a couple of hours. There is only one problem, but it's a HUGE problem. It turns out that Home Premium doesn't recognize XP dynamic disks. One of my arrays (the smaller 1.2TB one, thankfully) was set up as dynamic instead of basic and Vista was having none of it. Some Googling indicated that I'm basically out of luck, unless I re-install XP, backup the disk, convert it to basic, and restore the data. I have just enough space on other drives to accommodate the data on this array, but I won't want to have to re-install XP and start over if I don't have to. So, I'm going to try a few things first. The drive Imaging software I use to backup my system drive (Image for Windows) does see the array, so I'm imaging it right now and when it finishes, I'll open it with the restore tool and see if the files are visible. If so, I'll restore from that image. If not, then I'll try an-XP-formatted boot floppy with the RAID drivers on it and see if I can get to it that way. If that doesn't work, then I'll image my Vista install and do a parallel installation of XP to do the conversion. Once converted, I'll remove the XP install. If anything goes wrong, I can salvage the Vista install from the image and save myself some time.

I chose the Home Premium edition over Ultimate as the features that were listed in the comparisons I saw didn't list anything that looked necessary. Clearly, support for dynamic disks was not listed prominently enough for me to notice.

Posted at 08:06:59 central time.

Category: Technology
Posted by: khanti
Microsoft recently included a Kill-Bit for the Print Control that ships with Reporting Services in update 956391, in order to fix a security venerability. This patch was automatically applied to all desktops with automatic updates turned on. The result was that printing from our Reporting Services web-portal just mysteriously stopped working. The details on this issue can be found here.

Frankly, the way this was handled by Microsoft was pretty frustrating. Not only did they not communicate the issue well (buried in an employees blog), but the instructions on how to regain the functionality are all over the place, inconsistent, and nowhere is it clearly published by Microsoft exactly how to regain this functionality. Phooey on Microsoft... I finally had to piece together instructions from several other places before a working fix could be found that didn't involve uninstalling the kill-bit containing update from every desktop in the company, thus exposing us to the venerability in the old control. The permanent fix for SQL 2005 wound up being the following procedure:

On the Reporting Services Application server:
1. Install the 3073 Cumulative Update for SQL Server 2005 SP2(KB954606). Found here. You MUST have SP2 already installed.
2. Reboot
3. Install the latest patched version of the ReportViewer Control, found here.

This installs the new GDI+ DLL where the venerability actually resides and the new ActiveX print control for reporting services that uses it.

Posted at 07:10:20 central time.

Category: Technology
Posted by: khanti
The CMS used for our public website at work has an odd publishing mechanism. The folks who edit content do so in a 'QA' area. When they're happy with the way it looks, they publish the content to the live site. The CMS then does two things. First, it copies the changed files, at the file system level, to the live webserver. Second, and here's the problem, it backs up the QA CMS database and restores it to a new database with a datetime stamp in the database name. This database becomes the live CMS database. So every time content is published a new database is created. Since they can revert back to previous versions, I can't just automatically drop the old databases, so I keep a months' worth around and remove them old ones by hand. This isn't the real issue, though.

The problem is that we want the QA database to reside on a different server than the live production databases do. You can configure the CMS's 'replication' to do so, but it doesn't work. The system uses a native SQL login for these operations and if the database is restored from another server, the sid's for the user don't match, and the system is unable to reach the newly restored database. It detects this, and rolls back the whole operation, removing the newly restored database in the process. We could get around this if we could automatically re-synch the sids as part of the restore operation. Essentially what we need to do is put a DDL trigger on the RESTORE DATABASE operation or a DML trigger on sys.databases that executes 'sp_change_users_login' for this SQL login. However, neither approach is possible. DDL triggers can be used for CREATE DATABASE but not RESTORE DATABASE, and sys.databases is a view, not a table, now, and is in a read-only schema that we can't place triggers on. SO it appears we're stuck until the CMS vendor fixes this issue for us.

But, I figured I'd put it out there, do any of my readers know of a way to automatically re-synch sids for SQL logins as part of a RESTORE DATABASE operation?

Posted at 08:53:52 central time.

Category: Technology
Posted by: khanti
Some time ago, I finished bringing all of our custom databases under source control using Visual Studio Team Edition for Database Professionals (VSTEDBPro). Coming from a sysadmin background, rather than a programming and development background, this is new territory for me. It took some 'book learning', but we're now reaping the benefits. Coordinating change to underlying databases for the many systems we work on was a nightmare. As in many shops, we don't have a single monolithic database with a single line-of-business application that uses it. We have many databases (25 or so) each with 1 to 10 or so applications that use them. With just me and one other DBA, it was tricky, at best, to keep tabs on what was under development where, which database objects were being affected by each development effort and then coordinating their movement from development to testing to QA to production. We've created projects in VSTEDBPro for each underlying database with branches for each development effort associated with it . We then merge those changes back into the mainline and the other branches as appropriate. This combined with the deploy, refactor, and schema compare tools makes my life a whole lot easier and makes my and my co-DBA FAR more effective at what we do. For once, we feel like we have a handle on what's going on and can now focus our time on other things like security, documentation and applying best-practices. The sort of things that tend to get lost in the shuffle when project work gets the best of you.

So, to all you DBAs out there who may be resisting the move to place your DBs under source-control. DO IT! Once you get comfortable withe the processes and tools, you won't look back. I can't imagine doing it any other way, now.

We've also just acquired CA's ERWin Data Modeler, which I've used in previous jobs, but it now integrates directly with VSTEDBPro. I'm still getting familiar with its new capabilities, but I like what I see so far. I'll write more about it later.

Posted at 11:09:22 central time.

Category: Technology
Posted by: khanti
After importing our main production database into DataDude, I'm struggling with how to manage versioning through the tool. One suggestion was to branch the project for each projected release and merge the changes into a master project that reflects the current state of production when a release goes live, using the master project for bug fixes and such that happen between releases. This seems reasonable, but the problem is that our project is so large that it takes about 10 minutes for the project to load on my workstation (2Ghz Intel Duo w/ 2GB RAM) and switching between the projects all day would be a huge waste of time. There has to be a better way. Much like with the SPN problem I wrote about earlier, if I should figure something out, I'll post it here. Likewise, I'm open to suggestions.

Posted at 14:07:16 central time.

Category: Technology
Posted by: khanti
Today I was cleaning up old linked server that are no longer used in our environment when I came across a linked server that I could not drop. When I tried, I'd get the error:

"Server: Msg 20583, Level 16, State 1, Procedure sp_MSrepl_check_server, Line 30 Cannot drop server 'servername' because it is used as a Subscriber in replication."

The server in question had been a publisher many moons ago, all long before I got here. These two servers were no longer involved in any sort of replication. Somehow, when replication was removed, the linked server that was used for communication with the distributor was left behind with the sys.servers.'is_subscriber' still set to '1'. After some digging, I was able to resolve the problem by first running

"execute sp_dropsubscriber 'servername'"

and then re-running

"execute sp_dropserver 'servername', 'droplogins'"

Posted at 12:23:54 central time.

Category: Technology
Posted by: khanti
One of the greatest comics by one of the greatest comic artists of our generation....

Exploits of a Mom


See more here

Posted at 12:51:24 central time.

Category: Technology
Posted by: khanti
If you're running Windows XP 64 DO NOT install the latest update (6.8). It does not work. I know DIVX officially support only 32-bit platforms, but earlier versions of their players have worked. In my case, I wound up having to clean up the new install and the re-install an older version, 6.3. Details here

Posted at 21:09:08 central time.

Category: Technology
Posted by: khanti
As we upgrade our servers to SQL Server 2005, we're also changing the service account used from one that is a domain administrator to a domain account with just the necessary local privileges. We've run into an issue, however, where after changing the service account, Integrated Security no longer works and anyone who tries to connect to the server gets the error :"Unable to generate SSPI context". After much digging, it was determined that the service is no longer able to register the Service Principal Name with the Domain thus causing problems with Kerberos authentication. We were able to sidestep the problem by running the following command from an account that has domain admin privileges and on a machine with the Windows Resource Kit Support Tools installed to manually register the service (assuming SQL is running on port 1433, change for a named instance or as otherwise appropriate):

Setspn -a MSSQLSvc/servername.domainname.local:1433 serviceaccountname

We think there is a permission the new service account is missing to self-register. We're going to experiment tomorrow and see if we can figure it out.

Posted at 16:10:40 central time.

Category: Technology
Posted by: khanti
The company I work for has recently bought into the Team Edition of Visual Studio and I was asked to implement the Database Professional Edition nicknamed 'DataDude' (link) for all of our existing databases to assist in change control and versioning of our databases. Having worked with the product for a couple of months now, I have to say that for the most part, I really like this product. It is not without its flaws and frustrations, but on the whole, Microsoft did a great job here. The hardest part for me has been learning the kinds of source control and software development tricks that most developers are familiar with and applying it to database schema maintenance. Since my background is in systems and network administration and not software development, I'm having to learn how to implement things like branching, multi-checkout, merging, versioning, and so on and then apply them to database schema which traditionally have not been subject to these tricks. It's been a challenge. But we have a great team here who have been more than willing to give me a hand.

Also, tech posts over the net few months will be mostly about my experiences implementing DataDude, upgrading to MS SQL Server 2005, and migrating SQL Servers from on older SAN to a brand new one as those are the main projects I'm working on at the moment.

Posted at 08:27:39 central time.