IT Pro Tips for Android Users

Warning: The following information may contain extreme and dangerous technical terminology. Read at your own risk.

  1. Do not submerge your device in water unless it is encased in a waterproof case.
  2. Do not smack the touch screen with large, rhinestone-embossed, 10k gold-plated pimp ring.
  3. Do not operate your device without some sort of protective case.  A protective case does not include duct tape or ziplock baggies.
  4. Do not puke on your device.
  5. Do not use your device as a substitute car jack.
  6. Do not use your device to crush dangerous insects or spiders.
  7. Do not use your device to pry open the jaws of an angry pit bull.
  8. Do not pound nails with your device.
  9. Do not use the flashlight feature on your phone to search in the dark for your phone.
  10. Do not attempt to clean a soiled device by dunking it in boiling water, or paint thinner.
  11. Do – Remove Facebook apps to increase battery life from 3 hours to 7 hours.
  12. Do  – Remove all apps to increase battery life from 7 to 400 hours.
  13. Do – Disable NFC unless you’re one of those weirdos that has an NFC device.
  14. Do – Disable Bluetooth unless you have Bluetooth devices to pair it with.
  15. Do – Install a real keyboard app on it as soon as possible (e.g. Swiftkey)
  16. Do – Avoid conversations with iPhone users. If it cannot be avoided, be sure to respond to the other person’s first question (regardless of the topic) with “You know, Android has been scientifically proven to extend penises.”
  17. Do – Avoid conversations with other Android device users if they’re not from the same manufacturer.  For example, if an LG device touches a Samsung device, it may cause a matter/anti-matter implosion.
  18. Do – Perform a factory-reset after you reach level 40 on Candy Crush Soda Saga.
  19. Do – enable cloud backup services.  If you cannot enable cloud backup services, toss the device in the nearest fire.
  20. Do not forget to enjoy using your new Android device.

If I had a Dollar for Every time…

Skype for Business client said “You can’t add or remove Favorites at this time. Try again later.”

Someone on a conference call said (late): “Sorry, I was walking to mute

A web site says it only works in Chrome, Firefox or Internet Explorer (but not Edge)

My smartphone says “you have 24 app updates pending

Microsoft Outlook client says “trying to connect”

I heard “that will be fixed in the next version

Our power company insists a new project will benefit customer costs, but it never does

Health, Dental and Vision insurance premiums increased, while overall coverage drops

I pass a hospital in the midst of major renovation or new construction

I hear Siri say “here’s what I found…”

I hear Google Assistant saying nothing whatsoever (it pantomimes)

I hear a corporate line manager get excited over a cloud migration while saying it will help reallocate staffing

I hear a corporate executive get excited over a cloud migration while saying it will help reduce staffing

Netflix adds another stand-up comedy special

I hear someone bashing foreign markets while they’re holding a Chinese-made phone

I hear someone complain about how stupid and unreliable human vehicle drivers are, but they’re dead against self-driving cars

My little terrier bark at the sound of an ant tip-toeing over the carpet at 2am

I hear Webex say “at the tone, please say your name and then press pound…

I see some idiot named Skatterbrainz post some stupid crap online

Setting up a Real World IT Lab

1wearandtear

Updated: v1.1 – Fixed bug in step 8.2 added final step for consultants

Whether it’s for your full-time job, a customer reflection platform as a consultant, or a certification study environment, if you work in IT today, you have to make or buy a lab in order to keep up.  It’s no longer a luxury, it’s a must-have.  But, while many resources exist for making a lab at home, or in the cloud, most are fairly clean and “textbook” configurations.  The real world is nasty, ugly and smells pretty bad.  If off-the-shelf lab tools and hydration kits were a dog, they’d be neatly-trimmed and bathed poodles, while the real world lab would be a dumpster filled with dead fish, baking in the Texas sun for weeks on end.  This is one of the trade secrets seasoned IT professionals keep close to their chest.

Well, fear not.  I have compiled and prepared a simple how-to outline for building your own lab, to reflect that beast we call the ‘real world’.  Let’s get started.

  1. First off, start with 5-8 year old hardware.  Make sure it doesn’t support anything really new, like TPM.  If it still has DB25 and PS/2 ports, that’s a winner.
  2. Beef it up to no more than 8 GB of DDR2 memory
  3. Stuff a hefty 250 GB 7200 RPM Hard Disk in it, and add a few others at either 5400 or 7200 RPM rates.  Find the nearest vacuum cleaner, and empty the dust bag into the vents on the server case.  The more dust, the better. Kind of like a seasoned cast-iron skillet.
  4. Load it up with Windows 2000 Server
  5. Install VMware Workstation 9
  6. DO NOT, and I repeat DO NOT, install ANY hotfixes or updates on it.
  7. Power it on and wait for it to get to the login prompt.  It should take around 15 to 20 minutes or so.  If it gets there sooner, remove some memory and reboot again.
  8. Configure an Active Directory forest and domain.
    1. Create 100 random OU’s
    2. Create 400 random GPO’s and link them to as many OU’s as possible.
    3. For added realism, randomly select a dozen GPO’s and apply inheritance blocking.
    4. Modify the Default Domain Policy to contain at least 75 settings.  It doesn’t matter what they are, random selections work best.
    5. Do not document any GPO settings whatsoever.
    6. Create 500 computer accounts with random names. Create 500 user accounts with random names. These will reflect a typical company environment which has 25 real computers and 35 real users.
  9. Turn off all firewalls, and install any antivirus that comes up in the sidebar ads while searching Bing for “ultimate antivirus”, but avoid any products with recognizable names.
  10. Add “Domain Users” and “Users” to the local “Administrators” group on every machine in your lab.
  11. Copy random files to every machine until the C: drive is around 96% full.

Now, you are ready to play the game of “ask management for an upgrade budget”

  1. If you’re married, put some clothes on and carefully knock on the bedroom door.  It works best if your wife/husband is watching his/her favorite show on his/her tablet or phone, that way your intrusion puts him/her in an authentic mood, to match that of a real MBA type, who’s busy updating Facebook and LinkedIn when you knock on their office door.
  2. If you’re not married, substitute your most-recent girlfriend/boyfriend.  Otherwise, use a random neighbor, stranger or off-duty bus driver.  Do not use anyone under 21 years of age who didn’t drop out of school, because they’ll be too smart for this.  Remember, the key here is to be authentic.
  3. Make your best pitch for a budget to replace all of that hardware and software with modern stuff.  If you want really real realism, ask for a budget to migrate everything to AWS or Azure.  Always double your asking price, so they’ll cut that in half, and approve 40% of the remainder.
  4. Ask for additional IT staff, but be sure to double that number as well, so when they reject the entire request, it will at least look like you tried.

Now comes the real work.

  1. Turn off the server and go mow the lawn, wash the car, do some dishes, walk your dog or cat around the block a few times.  This will simulate dealing with support request tickets and attending useless status meetings.
  2. If you get back to the server in less than 5 hours, you rushed it.  Go back and do it again until you use at least 5 or 6 hours.
  3. When you get back to the server, turn it on and then go take a shower.  This will simulate you trying to get caught up on email, Slack, Teams, SharePoint, Hangouts, and writing all the reports you were asked to do during all those daily meetings.
  4. When you get back to the server, it should be around 8 PM (assuming you started around 7:30 AM), so this is about perfect for a typical time to get started on actual technical work.
  5. After one hour, stop and ask your wife/girlfriend/boyfriend/neighbor/bus driver if they need anything from the nearby fast food place.  When you get back it should be around 11 PM or midnight, so it’s time to make coffee and get that last OU populated.
  6. If you’re doing this right, you should fall asleep at your desk around 1:30 AM at the earliest.
  7. Don’t forget tomorrow is that 6:30 AM all-hands meeting, that the CIO requested.
  8. And don’t forget that at 8:00 AM you’re supposed to demo how you’re planning to migrate all of your infrastructure to Azure using Hyper-V, PowerShell and Office 365, in front of all the executives who need to approve your request.  If you don’t have it ready yet, forget the sleep stuff tonight.

That should just about do it.  But there’s more.  For added realism, you can include the following:

  • Cut your sleep down to 2:30 AM to 6:00 AM, or 3:00 AM to 5:00 AM for optimal effect.
  • Start massive consumption of coffee, Red Bull or Monster.  In fact, never leave your desk without one of these in one of your hands
  • Always carry a mess of papers in one hand and coffee cup in the other, and your smartphone in the other.  Yes, that’s three hands, figure it out.  Always look stressed and anxious, and out of breathe.  This is commonly referred to as “office camouflage”
  • Stop eating healthy. It’s bad for you.  Doughnuts are the most efficient food source.  Pure calories for pure energy.
  • Time yourself in the desk chair.  If you’re getting out of your chair more than every 3 or 4 hours, that’s too much.
  • Wherever you sleep, if you do, make sure to keep your cell phone next to you, with the ringer volume at the max.  You’ll need this for on-call rotation practice.  Set the alarm to go off every 55 minutes for randomized effect.  If you have a friend that barely speaks your native language, ask them to have a friend of theirs call you at random times between midnight and 5 AM and scream about something crashing or being on fire.
  • Ask for a raise.  This is best practiced on someone who doesn’t understand your native language at all.  Not even one word.  Go ahead, make your best case.
  • Take up smoking. Not for your health, but as a proven excuse to out outside to call recruiters, searching for another job.  If smoking isn’t feasible, walking is an okay substitute, just not as good for your health.
  • Hire consultants

Within a few weeks, you’ll be out of the hospital and back to work, just a real IT professional.

Another Tragic Rant

I’m so tired of listening to neighbors, in-laws, relatives, even strangers at large, bash the IT community,  as being a bunch of “stupid nerds” every time their laptop gets infected with some bad stuff. The jokes. The snarky comments. The condescension (“I’ll have  you know that I have an MBA!” or “I build cranes for a living!” – so what. We have to listen to you all day) 

Even more annoying is after hearing someone jaw-jacking about us “nerds”, and then they try to put on the sad puppy face when they need help setting up their new ink jet printer from Costco, or they can’t figure out the self-configuring Wi-Fi router.
Lately, it’s about the ransomware attacks. Spora, WannaCry, and Petya. Followed by “that’s why I have a MacBook. You know, they’re *impossible* to hack“) News flash: most non-techie folks don’t need to be “hacked”. We can either guess your stupid basic password,  or read if from the sticky note on your desk, usually under the keyboard or on the back of your family photos from that Disney vacation. Geez. At least try to be creative. 

How about taking some responsibility for the stuff you buy and use? Stop clicking on stupid links and surfing porn. Update your software. Keep the OS patched. Keep your firewall turned on. Keep your anti-virus up to date, and use it often. Keep copies of your important files in the cloud. Don’t share thumb drives. Wear a condom. Look both ways when crossing a street. 

And stop blaming Microsoft, when there is proof they released a patch months or years before. You were too lazy, or drunk, to be bothered with maintaining another contraption. As if your car takes care of itself forever. Don’t have time to patch and reboot? Then you’ll have plenty of time while paying bitcoin to get your files back. And wait til it locks you out of your bank, email, Facebook and Instagram. 

To quote Jamie Fox, from Jarhead: “Fuck. ..  that.”

To all the consumer folk that don’t bash their IT brethren, this isn’t aimed at you. This is aimed at the douchey makers of snarky comments, and the media that fosters that puke-flavored view. 

Stop blaming “nerds” for getting hacked while you were clicking on yet another link like “5 ways to grow your penis!”,  or “You’ll never guess what this TV actor looks like now!”. You do know what click bait means? 

If you don’t know how it works, get some help. If you can’t learn to use it, maybe you shouldn’t be using it. Regardless, whatever your profession or unemployment status may be, stick to what you know and we’ll stick to what we know.  

We’re always glad to help, but please be professional about it. And if that doesn’t work, we’ll be glad to plant some kiddie porn on your device and notify Chris Hansen. 

Thank you 🙂 

Top 5 WSUS Technical Issues

MFfn7

Figure 1 – Daily status meeting in progress

1 – The server is jacked up.

That’s a technical term, just ask any help desk technician after a week on the job.  If they look confused, find another one who’s been on the job for less time.  Seriously, you probably didn’t run the post-install configuration, or you installed it on 2008 R2 and didn’t realize it’s 2017 and the 2008 R2 bus left the station long ago, and wound up rolled into a ditch along some mountain trail, riddled with bullet holes and filled with skeletons, still clinging onto dust-covered Blackberry phones.  In many cases, removing the role (you are on 2012 R2 or 2016, right?) and reinstalling it helps.  Or reinstall the server.  Or throw a piece of furniture across the office and do one of those primal scream therapy exercises.  If it’s a virtual machine, wipe the entire VM host, unplug the rack and go home.  Someone will eventually fix it.

2 – The clients are jacked up.

This is sort of technical.  Actually, it means the clients are not configured properly, such as not being told the proper URL or IP address to the WSUS host, or the port number is wrong (such as 8350 instead of 8530).  You led them into a dark field after a full day of heavy drinking, as they looked to you for guidance and safety, but you let them down.  Tragic story.  Or you realized that all the clients are running Linux or MacOS.  Or you forgot that you don’t even work in IT and haven’t got a clue what a WSUS really is, but you thought it would be a cool stunt to pretend and hope that they don’t discover you never studied anything related to IT in your life (true story: I know of a CTO who did that, and is still pulling down 6 figures).  Before you resign, be sure to uninstall SMB v1 at least, so it won’t be a total loss.

3 – You Pissed off the Network Team

They shut down all your ports to the outside, because you made disparaging remarks about their favorite sports team.  The only way to recover from that is to beg forgiveness, show up to work dressed entirely as their favorite team (you know, the one you despise), with your face painted, your car (or bicycle) painted, to match the team colors and logo, and maybe a box of hot doughnuts.  You might also have to fill all of the whiteboards in the building with “I promise to praise and worship the Dallas Cowboys” (example team only, no affiliation or similarity to real teams intended, hereinafter, forthwith, notwithstanding)

If you don’t have a network team, then it’s probably the InfoSec folks, who you never trusted anyway.

4 – You Forgot to Configure It

You didn’t configure synchronization.  You didn’t select products, classifications, languages and so on.  You didn’t run a first-time synchronization.  You didn’t approve any updates.  You didn’t drink coffee. You didn’t turn the server on.  You didn’t turn the clients on. You didn’t turn the lights on.  Good God almighty, did you forget to turn the shower on?  You’d better run home right now and check.

Maybe the WSUS server and clients are in two different AD domains, and nothing was configured to allow them to party in the same club.  Maybe you configured everything perfectly, and the server team moved your VM and gave it a new MAC and IP assignment (true story, yes).

5 – You Chose the Wrong Career Path

Suddenly, you realize that you wanted to be a guitarist, a farmer, a truck driver, a pilot, or a surgeon, even a blogger.  No, wait, not a blogger.  Nobody wants to be a blogger.  Whatever it is, it wasn’t IT.  Don’t be sad or ashamed.  The same thought crosses every IT worker’s mind once in a while, actually, about every 15 minutes. It can happen after repeating an innocuous acronym a few hundred times in the course of one conversation.  Just say “WSUS” over and over and over and over, and then over again, and one more time.  By the time you reach this sentence, you’ve already broken something in the room around you.

Summary

That’s a lot of raw technical stuff to absorb, so take your time.  I’m sitting in a hotel all week in the middle of nowhere.  Well, I’m close to a ridiculously huge corporate campus, surrounded by little houses and shit-loads of cows and chickens.  But there is a Japanese Sushi place across the street, and that’s about it.  But I needed a break from sushi, so I ordered a boat of french fries and a tall beer, while sitting at the bar, facing the 80 year-old grand master sushi master guy.  He just glared at me.  Anyhow, I’m glad murder is illegal or he might have leaped over the counter like I asked for a Liter of cola too many times.

I need to go to sleep now.

Tech questions with Dave

Reader Anne (not her real name) writes, “What patches for Windows 7 provide support for which Intel processor flights?” 

Hi Anne, or whatever your real name is, the most accurate answer is, upgrade to Windows 10.

Your welcome. 

Tune in next time when I answer questions about ways to recycle toilet water. 

IT Security Methods by Industry

After years (okay, decades,… okay, okay, centuries…..  damn it… alright! alright already, eons… are you happy now?  yes.  I’m THAT freaking old.  I still remember coal-fired computers and horse-drawn airplanes and shit.  My birthday cake is a slice of tree trunk of matching rings, but the table can’t hold the weight anymore.  sheesh!)

What was I saying?  …. (eyes wandering left and right…. … . . .          …  .         …. . .      .   .  )

oh yeah!  I’ve amassed a data set that accurately summarizes the predominant security practices or strategic “methods” leveraged by each major US industry. I warn you: this is highly scientific information.  It may require additional consumption of various questionable substances just to remain conscious while trying to read it all. Here goes.

Idiocracy-LB-1

Banking

Method: Place sufficient restrictions on the adoption of new technologies, so as to (A) mitigate unknown vulnerabilities and exploits, (B) insure that those with knowledge of older, proven exploits have died from old age, and (C) keep certain aging consultants employed (because they’re married into your family).  And besides, what’s wrong with COBOL?

Insurance

Method:  Never leave important IT decisions up to any one person, ever.  In fact, the more people involved, the greater insurance that the decision will eventually be reliable, maybe.  Larger companies focus on perfecting multi-role hyper-proliferated subterfuge logic branching and coalescing processes.  In layman’s terms: they foster greater variety among responses to decision inquiries.  Many have invested heavily in processes which depend entirely on custom hand-stitched, stone-carved, natural leather encased software, usually written by someone who left or died long ago.

Defense Manufacturing

Method: Implement dozens of stop-gap procedures to insure every motion of IT is slowed to the lowest possible, almost un-measurable, velocity.  Think of a Japanese rock garden, only slower.  Where the sand is executive processes and the stones are IT staff, now simply add quick-set cement to the sand mix and sprinkle some water on it.  This insures that even the bad stuff will take forever to make headway, and by that time, the entire system will have been eventually decommissioned.  Forget penetration attempts, even social engineering-based, because they’re often project-oriented, not departmental, so most people have no clue what that next cube is working on.  In fact, they probably don’t use the same network, computers or operating systems.

Legal

Method: Relegate “IT” to whomever answers the Craig’s List ad for an “IT Expert”.  Critical skills include: printer management, thumb drives, recovering lost files and emails, and using Excel databases” (that’s not a typo).  Must also have experience with Macs and Windows XP, particularly with kids games.

If they have any in-house “IT” capacity at all, it’s often enough shock to send a consultant into cardiac arrest.  Due to possible legal implications, it’s best to never change passwords for critical user accounts and never, I mean NEVER, delete anything.  Keep everything forever, or as long as you can afford somewhere to store it.

Travel

Method:  Agents need to be flexible and mobile.  Everything is done on laptops.  Everything remains on laptops.  No time for that silly, trendy, cloud stuff.  No backups, no cloud sync, but OMFG do NOT let anything happen to that precious data on those roaming laptops!  Thumb drives are forgotten like Matt Damon in Interstellar, waiting for someone to give them a hug, only to have their face shield cracked open and their chip tossed away.  Shit.  Did I give away the plot?

Advertising / Marketing

Method: Hire someone quick, and get back to the conference before the food runs out.

Transportation

If it’s airlines, use railroad standards.  If railroads, use airlines standards.  Either way, the older the technology the better.  It’s like a cast-iron frying pan, after years of seasoning, or a vintage wine.

 

Municipal

Method: Deny all requests for pay increases for five (5) years, reduce promotions from once every five (5) years to once every ten (10) years, discontinue any training programs, and for God’s sake: deny all requests for stupid things like newer software and hardware  It worked in 1995, so it should still work!  Hire a consultant to blame internal staff for every deficiency, terminate and reassign to avoid audit trails and blame the contractor afterwards.

Federal Agencies

Method: Same as municipal, but on a much larger scale.  Every four (4) years, change direction from in-sourcing to out-sourcing, and blame the opposite for any failures that remain.  If conservatives win, out-source to private contractors, where expertise and trust are premium values, after all, when has anyone ever heard of a private contractor doing something wrong in a government position?  Then blame liberals.  If liberals win, open up the job requisition flood gates and hire at will.  However, keep GS-rating pay scales at 1995 levels to avoid asking for tax increases.  This helps insure only the highest-quality employees are onboarded from their previous positions as private contractors or foreign exchange students.  Then blame conservatives for any failures.  Think of it as seasonable employment.

Medical/Dental Practices

Method: Hire the first contracting IT firm that actually shows up.  If they wear those spiffy-looking polo shirts with a slick company logo, they might be too expensive.  Ask if your cousin’s friend graduated tech school yet.  You know, the one who puked all over your sofa when he brought her to crash in your apartment while you were out of town.  That one.  If she’s not available, what about that kid that asked you about spark plugs while you were trying to inflate your car tires that day.

 

Summary

See if you can guess which of these most closely matches the photo above.