Wednesday, October 04, 2006

In our second episode, your host Ben Higgins introduces himself as a self-proclaimed Geek.

Following that introduction, Ben talks about online communities and how they began in the early days. Remember the FidoNet BBS?

Finally, at the end of each show we will bring a podsafe music selection. Listen to hear Ben's choice.

Please share your feedback, comments and requests by calling our comment line at (206) 888-6465.

Links from this show:

Music used in this show:

How to Listen:

Wednesday, October 04, 2006 12:24:08 PM UTC  #    Disclaimer    Comments [0]   
 Thursday, September 28, 2006

Welcome to Net Results the podcast from Dovetail Internet Technologies, LLC. This is episode one.

In this show your host, Michael Villa, introduces the Net Results Podcast by describing the goals and format of the show.

Following that introduction, Mike shares the story of how the Net Results podcast came to be and sheds some light on why any business should be considering podcasting for themselves.

Finally, at the end of each show we will bring a podsafe music selection listen to hear Mike's choice.

Please share your feedback, comments and requests by calling our comment line at (206) 888-6465.

Links from this show:

Music used in this show:

How to Listen:

Thursday, September 28, 2006 4:49:28 PM UTC  #    Disclaimer    Comments [0]   
 Thursday, September 21, 2006

This weekend I went to Loudon (officially New Hampshire International Speedway) to see the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series SYLVANIA 300.

As I stood there 20 feet from 40 cars moving at speeds over 180mph my gaterade shook in my hand and I scrambled to get my ear plugs.
Wow what an amazing sight, smell, sound!

Okay maybe it isn't for everyone but me and 110,000 of my closest friends thought it was a great way to spend a nice fall day!
Being a new timer I didn't have a favorite car or driver.  My 5 year old told me to pick a car based on my favorite color and my 7 year old said pick one closest to my age...only one problem there was no blue 30-something car!

I found a 38 with M&M's on it and thought that was close enough! It was in the leading 10 cars when I picked him out so I figured he was contending for the championship.  Turns out he wasn't in the "chase". I guess if you aren't in the top 10 by this time in the season you are out of luck even if you have a great race.  Rules

He crashed into the wall half way through the race - bummer but got back in and with the 5 car who had a really bad day (and no hood), pulled up the rear and at least stayed in the race to the end.  Looks like I should have picked Reese's Peanut Butter cups #29 who won and is in the chase! 

Not for the weary - I left at 6:20 am and got home at 10:30pm. The atmosphere was a mix of small and personal yet huge and happening.  Parking was free, t-shirts only $5 but then tickets $60 and radio rentals $180 and up!

Thursday, September 21, 2006 12:34:39 PM UTC  #    Disclaimer    Comments [0]   
 Wednesday, September 06, 2006

I live in Auburn, MA. I called home yesterday and was talking with my wife, Lisa. At one point in the conversation she took the cordless phone outside and I could hear a whole bunch of racket. It sounded like a med-flight helicopter was landing in my back yard. I asked what was going on and she told me that she wasn't sure but there were a lot of police sirens, and there were helicopters hovering overhead. That's plural. Multiple whirly-birds.

So while I was talking I did a quick check on news sites and found out that a bus traveling from New York to Boston had overturned on an exit from I-290. That's just a mile from my house. Apparently the driver of a Fung Wah bus had misjudged and ended up going off the highway. 35 people were injured and taken to area hospitals.

My first reaction was "there goes the drive home." Figuring the commute would be crazy, I headed home at the end of the day. To my surprise though, since my drive doesn't take me directly to the affected routes, I was OK.

When I got home, sure enough, at least one chopper could still be seen circling over my house. Round and round, back and forth. Quite the buzz in the neighborhood.

Despite the obvious nightmare this must have been for those involved in the crash, I have to admit that it's always fascinating to hear about such events through the mouths of children. The minute I walked in the door I got the news from my three oldest, Katie, Tony and Elisabeth. While Katie and Tony were pretty a matter a fact about the incident. "A bus fell over and some people got hurt" my daughter Elisabeth was intent on letting me know that her brother "was going to be on TV."

Now like I said, we are about a mile from the site where this happened. I was pretty sure that my wife hadn't dragged to kids to the site to gawk. And sure enough she hadn't. But as Elisabeth put it... "Tony was dancing around the driveway, waving his arms, and talking to the man in the helicopter. Hey Mr. Cameraman! I wanna be on TV!!!"

Alas, I'm pretty sure that I didn't catch him during the Channel 4 or Channel 7 news. (Yes I did watch to see) But he sure made the headlines in my house!

 

Wednesday, September 06, 2006 5:28:50 PM UTC  #    Disclaimer    Comments [0]   
 Thursday, August 24, 2006

Posted: 8/24/2006 at 9:08:11 a.m. EST

We experienced an issue this morning with a pair of our mail servers that has caused some email messages from August 9th until the morning of August 24th to be temporarily inaccessible for users on that pair of servers. Inbound and outbound email for all users on these servers is working as expected.

Clients who have their email hosted on these servers have been notified.  We are working on resolving this issue and will keep you posted on our progress.

Update: 8/24/2006 at 10:45:36 a.m. EST

Our engineering team is in the process of restoring email messages from August 9th to August 24th. We expect email messages to be restored by this evening. We will continue to post updates throughout the day. Thank you for your patience in this matter.

Update: 8/24/2006 at 12:42:49 p.m. EST

Some users who were affected by the issue we experienced this morning may also experience email clients downloading old messages more than once. Email messages from August 9th to August 24th will be downloaded as they are restored for the affected users. This is a one-time occurrence and should not happen again after the mail has been restored.

Posted on 8/28/2006 at 10:30 AM EDT

Our engineering team continues to work tirelessly on restoring email messages from August 9th to August 24th for the affected mailboxes. We expect the email messages to be restored over the course of the next few days. We will continue to post updates and we appreciate your patience during this restoration.

Thursday, August 24, 2006 1:43:06 PM UTC  #    Disclaimer    Comments [0]   
 Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Today is a day like any other. A Tuesday in August. Which means for me that my allergies are in full swing. [I'd like to shake the hand of whoever invented Claritin.] Blurry eyes, sneezing and all! And typically off to a late start in the morning. So I thought I'd chronicle my day for the Blog... not a special day, but just another day.

8:25 am - arrive at work, fire up the laptop and get to a cup of coffee quick

8:35 am - got my coffee in hand... boy this a good cup... reading my email from last night

8:45 am - need to pack up my cell phone that died and was replaced by Verizon last week, tape it up and call Fed Ex

9:00 am - So what do I tackle first today - let's look at the Dovetail newsletter I'm working on getting out and pick some topics

9:15 am - got my topics and start generating requests for help by posting it to our internal Dovetail Blog

9:16 am - Ben's already replying to the Blog post with ideas and content, discuss and pull some more together

9:45 am - Time for another cup of coffee so I can fuel some meeting prep work I need to start

9:50 am - Working on finalizing new Dovetail Service Ticket System

9:54 am - Mark chimes in on the newsletter content and will get me some photos we can use for one piece.

9:56 am - Back to my prep

10:09 am - Mark stops by to bounce some compilation issues he's dealing with off of me... unfortunately I'm not much help

10:15 am - Back to my prep

10:40 am - Ben stops by to tell me about how one of our APC UPS services may cause some problems but that the developer is sending a hot-fix over now

10:49 am - The fax rings, go check it out, I'm expecting a fax from a new customer... WOW! That's great I can get a low low mortgage rate if I just respond to this junk fax... crumple, crumple, toss...

10:50 am - I ask Ben on some thoughts about the service ticket emails ... back to prep

11:24 am - Ben stops by needing to do some brainteasing... But I have to make him wait...

11:26 am - Just finished the service flowing...

11:27 am - "OK, what's up, Ben?"

11:30 am - Seems like we got a call from a customer dealing with an interesting network question wanting to separate their LAN traffic to two separate ISP connections.... Ben and I spend a bit of time white boarding the options, confirming theory and best practices.

11:53 am - Ben goes back to his desk to think through the detailed response and touch base with the customer

11:58 am - time to get some lunch...

12:34 pm - Mmmmm. Good lunch! I'm on a low fat / low cholesterol diet so I've become an expert at ordering healthy from anywhere. Today's stop... McDonald's - Yes you can eat healthy from there - a side salad with lo cal dressing and a grilled chicken sandwich, naked... tasty and only about 10 grams of fat... well back to the grind... still have more flow prep to do for service.

2:05 pm - Finished service tickets... just in the nick of time too. I'm about to go into a project planning conference call to discuss a number of development tasks and my service training is right after that... So stay tuned and I'll give you some exclusive behind the scenes on what we'll be rolling out to help track and monitor incoming support.

3:05 pm - Had a great project planning conference call. Looked at some feature requests and agreed on an approach that works for everyone. This is what it's all about - coordinating with the development and planning expertise Mark brings to the table, getting the attention of the sponsors and project managers and agreeing on a course of action. Now it's time to setup the projector for the Team and I'll be training on the new service ticket system which will be launched shortly thereafter...

5:02 pm - Wow, what an afternoon. A good meeting with the team on service and support tickets. We are going to launch our new system with customers tomorrow which entail the launch of our internal help desk solution. We will be able to quickly capture incoming support incidents, assign them unique tracking numbers, automatically email customers with information, track the activities associated with them and improve the overall flow of support for Dovetail.

5:34 pm - End of the day. Need to complete a few clean up items for the day and then I'm heading out. Gotta run to a volleyball game - my wife and I coach the teen league team for our church - a lot of fun. Wish us luck!

 

Tuesday, August 08, 2006 1:45:34 PM UTC  #    Disclaimer    Comments [1]   
 Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Dovetail Hosting environments will be undergoing maintenance beginning at 9:00pm EST on Thursday, July 13, 2006, lasting approximately 4 hours. Due to the nature of this maintenance, there may be downtime. Dovetail's A.V.O.I.D. services will not be affected.

While that paragraph is something that our clients receive in their email, not many really know what goes on the second Thursday of every month.

To prepare for the evening's work, Thursday morning we begin to determine what patches need to be installed, what don't, and what patches may cause issues for our clients and products, like DovetailWRP.  For example, we might not install a Media Player security patch on our servers but will definitely install a security patch for Internet Information Service (IIS).  Using tools such as the Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer (MBSA) for the Windows computers and yum for the Linux servers, we create a list of patches for our production servers.

Just prior to the start of our maintenance, we make sure that the A.V.O.I.D. service is online and functioning properly.  While you can discover the nitty-gritty of A.V.O.I.D. on our website, in a nutshell the service brings up a maintenance webpage whenever the live web server is unavailable.  It allows the customers who subscribe to the A.V.O.I.D. service to have important information (such as contact phone numbers) always available even if the website isn't.

Once the clock hits 9:00pm EST, we begin applying patches to the production Linux and Windows servers from the lists we created earlier in the day.  This isn't as easy as it seems.  You may be used to applying patches to your home computer and rebooting several minutes later.  Imagine doing that not only to an entire office of workstations, but also a room full of servers.  It tends to take us several hours to finish the job.

The rest of the evening is allocated for general maintenance.  One month, it might be as simple as updating the network map on the wall and sweeping up the server rooms.  Other times, such as this month, we begin to implement recommendations from our Quarterly Network Assessment.  Generally, we use the extra time after patching is completed to put into production our ideas and procedures which have been developed and staged on our test servers. 

While the monthly maintenance is important, it's only one piece of the puzzle.  We try to stay ahead of the curve by monitoring security email and discussion forums, watching for trends in the industry, and networking with friends and colleagues across the IT spectrum. 

All our efforts help Dovetail provide our clients the best support possible.

   --ben

Tuesday, July 11, 2006 9:20:43 PM UTC  #    Disclaimer    Comments [0]   
 Friday, June 30, 2006

I was driving back to the office the other day from lunch when I came across a funny thing. On the side of the road was a caution sign indicating there would be street sweeping for the next five miles. I moved into the left-hand lane expecting to come across a few slow-moving sweeper vehicles on the right cleaning up. And if that were what I ended up seeing, I'd have had nothing to add, however the scene I saw had me laughing so hard I almost drove off the road.

As I approached the flashing lights ahead, I passed a Massachusetts state highway truck on the side of the road with a crew standing there. To my surprise there was no sweeper vehicle in sight, but rather one of the crew leaning against the truck taking a break and he was holding a broom! Yes, a broom! I have to imagine that sweeping any road by hand is a nearly impossible task and I assume that the crew was simply doing some clean up that the vehicles couldn't get too. But it still struck my funny bone pretty hard.

After I regained my composure (and control of my car) I got to thinking about the metaphor I had just witnessed. You might have a tool that will do the job, but do you have the experience to know if your selection of tool was the best it could be? Yes my friend on the side of the road with the broom could have swept the entirety of Route 9 West, but he would probably retire before he finished the job.

Whenever I approach a project I ask myself several quesitons:

  1. Have I seen this type of project before, and if so, what worked then?
  2. What didn't work then? Should I use the same tool again?
  3. Is there a related project that might have a similar solution to the one at hand?
  4. If the tool can do the job, is it the best tool for the job?
  5. Have newer, better tools been built since then?
  6. Can I make an existing tool better?
  7. Should I build a tool to do the job?

These and other questions (and I suppose their answers) have been developed because of the depth of experiences that I've come across over the years. Using that I think I've typically made the right choice more often than not.

So next time you want to sweep the highway, don't just grab the closest broom you can get your hands on or may never finish what you start out to accomplish.

Friday, June 30, 2006 8:05:43 PM UTC  #    Disclaimer    Comments [0]