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Archive | February, 2004

Typepad domain mapping problems

I have seen a problem develop over the course of the last two weeks with Typepad and domain mapping. I have mapped two different domains for folks, and both of them have experienced problems with the Typepad web server giving a 404 (url unknown) error. In both cases I am certain the DNS settings were done correctly.

There are at least two other users at the Typepad User Group who are having the same problem. In one of the cases I mentioned above, the problem corrected itself in a day – I suspect the correction may have resulted from a reboot of the web server or some other action on the part of the folks at SixApart.

I have submitted a help ticket with Typepad, and so far I am getting questions to make sure everything is set up correctly. I know all of the settings are correct, both in DNS and in the control panels of the weblogs in question. The fact that this problem is manifesting itself with other users indicates that it is probably a bigger problem on the Typepad side. I hope they can get it resolved quickly.

If you would like help mapping your Typepad domain, I have another post here that outlines my services in this area.

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Netsky virus

If your computer was beeping incessantly this morning between 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. your local time, then you are infected with the Netsky virus. A removal tool is available from Symantec.

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Microsoft Technet Security Forum

I attended a Microsoft Technet Security Forum today in King of Prussia, and I have to say that unlike the last Technet Security Briefing I attended, this one was really good. The presenter was Rick Schandall, and he really knew what he was talking about. That and the fact that he treated the audience like a group of IT professionals rather than going over every detail as if it were the first time we had even seen the concept were the factors that made this all day event more than bearable.

There was a lot of information shared about securing a Windows network, but here are the items I found most interesting:

  • There is a utility in the Windows 2003 Resource Kit called EventCombMT. The page for the tools lists this as a tool to check replication, but what I saw demonstrated today was its ability to search through multiple machine’s event logs for specific events. Queries can even be saved and re-run to be able to look for events or ranges of events that are of importance to the administrator.
  • In Windows Server 2003, you can recreate the default domain and domain controller group policy objects by using the command, “gpofix”. This command should be used in the event that an administrator makes changes to the default policy ojbects that produce extremely negative results.
  • The Windows 2003 file, adprep.exe, can be run on a Windows 2000 domain controller to extend the Active Directory schema to allow for the new group policy settings that are possible for Windows XP client computers. The adprep.exe file is in the i386 directory on the Windows 2003 Server cd.
  • A utility called syskey allows an administrator to further encrypt the Accounts database so that someone can’t reinstall Windows on top of an existing install for the purpose of mining the password hash information.
  • There can be only one account policy per domain. Having additional policies at lower OU’s will not override the domain account policy.

These were a few of my notes from the event. If anyone else has additional information, please feel free to post it in a comment.

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Pinging Technorati from Typepad

All you Typepad weblog authors out there should make it a habit to ping the Technorati website whenever you post to your weblog. Typepad gives you the option of pinging blo.gs and weblogs.com in your weblog configuration (Weblogs -> Configure -> Publicity & Syndication). They don’t, however, make it a setting option to ping the Technorati spider, and I wanted to start doing this to ensure that the topic I talk about will show up in their keyword search.

The only thing you have to do is add the following snippet to your Trackback section:


That’s all there is to it. You should do this for every post that you publish. If you are using an offline writing application, like ecto, typewriter or zemp, then you should just be able to add that location to your trackback or other sites to ping section.

By pinging Technorati, you ensure that a new post will be indexed as fast as possible in their link cosmos. I hope this helps everyone.

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Dell customer service

I was prompted to write this post after reading the article, “Growing pains hit Dell’s customer service,” at CNet News. I have been recommending Dell products for over five years to my clients. Throughout that time I have seen a lot of changes with the company, which one would expect with any fast-growing organization like Dell.

I noticed the quality of technical support for desktop products deteriorate to almost unacceptable levels within the last year, when Dell started outsourcing many of those calls to overseas technicians. I am in no way prejudiced against this sort of outsourcing. I understand the business needs that lead to choices like Dell’s. The problems I experienced were specifically related to the way in which my calls were handled, i.e. the technician was unable to do more than follow a troubleshooting script and not able to think independently about the problem I was describing, and the communication skills of the technician were greatly lacking with regard to their ability to speak clear and understandable English. That being said, I have seen the quality of support increase over the last few months.

My problems did not end with technical support. I had order delivery problems, including a lost desktop computer that was actually shipped via US Mail with no real ability to track the package and a customer service department who’s response was for me to call my local post office to track down the package. The quality of the customer service team at Dell has deteriorated to what I believe are unacceptable levels. I recently ordered a server that took almost two months to deliver, and I could NEVER get an answer from customer service about the expected delivery date beyond the cryptic information I could look up myself on the website. I was only able to get final resolution by speaking with a sales person.

The last major problem I saw was with the initial release of the Poweredge 2600 servers, specifically with regard to the RAID controller firmware and bad motherboards. I installed 3 servers within a few months of the release, and two of them had serious problems – one required a complete replacement, and the other a replacement of the motherboard within one week of installation.

Not being one to only complain, here are a few of my suggestions to Dell to improve some of the problems I see currently:

  • Better order status information – the current online order status information is woefully inadequate. Delays are not explained clearly, and shipments take between two and three days from the time of the notification to provide tracking information. I can’t believe that Dell isn’t better able to provide tracking numbers for their shipments, when almost every other vendor (even the small ones) with whom I work can tell me the tracking number immediately after shipping the product. Further, if I do call the customer service team, I expect them to be able to tell me WHY the machine I just ordered is projecting a four-week turnaround, rather than just quoting the same information that I get on the site. I understand that certain components get backordered, but I would like the ability to consider changing my order if one particular component is causing the hold-up, if I need the machine faster.
  • Closer relationships with independent technology consultants – the computer hardware industry does not have a lot of room for profit margins on product, especially in the space where Dell has positioned itself. That being said, the key for companies like Dell is volume. A lot of that volume is generated through advertising and marketing, as well as Dell’s direct sales staff, but one thing that Microsoft has learned very well is that you can get past the need for a serious direct sales staff through close relationships with independent vendors. Dell should follow a similar model, not just with regards to certification for supporting its products, but through education and partnering events to roll-out new products to the IT services world. Dell may have a way for large independent vendors to have relationships like the one I describe, and the recently launched Solution Provider Direct, which is geared towards providing “white box” solutions to this channel. I can tell you, though, that having called the Solution Provider Direct folks, they are no where near as knowledgeable or as pleasant to deal with as the other sales staff at Dell with whom I have worked.
  • Bring customer service and tech support back to the US – I know this is a hot-button issue right now in the technology sector. I am not advocating this position just because I don’t want jobs leaving American soil. Frankly, I believe that if we want to keep the jobs here, we have to show why there is a value in paying the higher salaries American workers expect. In the arenas of customer service and technical support for Dell, I believe the value is clear. Customers will respond better to people who do not have accents that make them difficult to understand. Further, by bringing the departments back to the US, Dell will have a greater degree of control and may feel comfortable in better empowering there support personnel to make decisions for their clients. When I first started using Dell products, I called technical support to report a problem and could explain my troubleshooting steps and get the person to replace a defective part in a very short period of time. The same type of call today takes markedly longer – the support person has to get management approval to send out a replacement part, and they are EXTREMELY reluctant to skip any step in their troubleshooting guidelines, even if you can explain that you already did what they are asking you to do with no positive result.

I know this was a fairly long post, but I feel strongly that Dell really has been better than their competition. The problem with the growth they have seen is that they are starting to simply be the least of the evils rather than the excellent provider they once were. I do think, however, that these problems are solvable.

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Google wifi search

Google now has the ability to search for wifi hotspots located near a US address or zip code. This is a really cool feature. I found the link via Lockergnome.

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Typepad domain mapping help

Through my experience helping many businesses with all aspects of their technology support, I have become somewhat of a DNS expert. I have been helping quite a few people over at the TypePad User Group with their domain mapping problems. In keeping with my goal to assist people in any way I can, I have decided to offer a flat-rate service to assist people with their TypePad sites and domain mapping.

For $25, payable through Paypal, I will configure both the Typepad site and either configure a hosting site for the appropriate DNS entries, or act on your behalf to work with your DNS host to have the appropriate entries added. I will monitor the process through completion and test it from multiple locations to ensure that name resolution works. I guarantee that no change I make will affect the flow of email or the ability to reach any site other than www.yourdomain.com.

I can also assist with registering a domain name for those who are interested. I use DomainDirect, a division of Tucows, for my own domain and recommend them highly. If you need just a domain registered or registration and email, I will assist with setting both these up for you for a fee of $50 plus the cost of the domain registration plan you choose.

If you would like to use my service for your Typepad domain mapping, please send me an email using the email me link on this page.

You can purchase the domain mapping by clicking the following button:

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Good review of Mozilla Firefox

Here is a good review of Mozilla firefox I found over at PCWorld.com. In it the author discusses features and benefits of using Firefox. His conclusion, that Firefox can be used as a primary browser but not as one’s only browser, is the same conclusion I would reach with any alternative browser. Personally, I switched to Firefox when it was still Firebird, but I use IE for websites that need its functionality or that were developed improperly without full regard to standards.

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Datapod – a new technology to watch

DataPod is a new service that was Demo’d this week. It doesn’t look like the commercial version is quite ready for primetime, but their site indicates it will be ready soon – prospective users can sign up for updates and a discount here.

The underlying technology for DataPod is a peer-to-peer network with SSL encryption for the data being transmitted. The idea is that a user with multiple computers, for instance one at the office and one at home, could use DataPod to keep their files, email, address book, favorites, etc. in synch with one another. I am not sure if both computers have to be running all the time, but when updates happen at one location, they are automatically sent to the other.

Further, users can share portions of their data with other DataPod users, thereby allowing certain files and folders to stay in synch between partners or other colleagues. I am not sure how the software handles conflicts, though, for instance if one user updates a file while offline then connects and finds that another user has updated the same file.

The last major feature is the ability for a user to log in to a secure website from any computer with Internet access to access their synchronized data. This could provide quick access to links and files from any location while traveling.

There is, however, one potential pitfall for the technology. Businesses may find this product to be a HUGE security hole – allowing an employee to transfer sensitive business data outside the office, possibly even to a public computer through the web interface. Given that fact, they may limit users’ access to the service to just senior management or partners. In the end, though, this product is one to watch, and it could provide help to small organizations looking for the ability to work from home without lugging around a laptop.

Here are some links to other sites that have discussed DataPod recently:

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Could your next broadband connection com through your power lines?

This article over at Wired News discusses some of the technology hurdles and business model issues with Broadband over Power Lines (BPL). This could get interesting.

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