March 27, 2009: No, Not Spice World!

[Editor’s note: The title of this blog post is in reference to the abysmal 1997 excuse for popular British entertainment and not to the Austin, Texas based small business inventory and helpdesk conference of the same name.]

I woke up at just around seven this morning and got right to work.  It was pretty early but I was awake and able to be productive so I got right into it.  It was nice because I got a ton of work done before I normally even start working.

Nothing much to mention today.  It was a pretty normal day.  Work, work, work.  It is Friday so my schedule is always pretty much the same on Fridays.  I had a number of phone calls today like I always do.  I don’t know what has changed recently causing everyone to call me constantly but it is driving me crazy.  So much time is wasted trying to get the people on the phone to just email me the information that I need since I have to have it written down for accuracy and in a tangible format for auditing.  Calling me on the phone just delays any work that these people want me to do and makes it more likely for me to make a mistake while doing it both because I am distracted by the people talking about nothing relevant on the phone and because I get backed up with work and have to do multiple things at the same time to keep up.

Important rule of thumb when working with a system administrator – DO NOT CALL THEM.  There is no reason to be calling you system admin especially when there is a significant issue like an outage.  That is the very last time that you want to be cripplying their ability to work efficiently and to think clearly.  I constantly have application managers who want to be on the phone when something is horribly wrong and their constant intervention, nagging and misdirection could easily be classified as active corporate sabotage.  They know that they have nothing valuable to add to the situation but activively keep people who need to work from working.  Why?  I have no idea.  Clearly these are people who didn’t get to be managers by knowing what they were doing or they would never let this happen.

I am working tomorrow even though there is a production freeze in place currently.  I am doing some AIX training which should be fun.  Starting that in the morning and doing my usual weekend patching work immediately afterwards.

Dominica ran out to take of some errands quickly early on this evening.  She hit the post office to get our taxes sent out since they needed to go with delivery verification and all of that good stuff.  She also managed to his a wine store so we have a little wine in the house again which is awesome.  We have pretty much been running on empty since having moved to Peekskill.  She just got three bottles but that is more than we have had in almost half a year.  Hopefully sometime this summer we will be able to make a run to the Finger Lakes and hit a bunch of the wineries and stock up.  One good trip should get us through the rest of the year if we plan it well.

This evening I spent some time working on setting up an OpenVPN server.  I am trying to come up with a good design that is relatively easy to manage and will work well for “roaming” users.  OpenVPN is not a simple system to set up so my first attempt is to set up a packages OpenVPN system such as Endian or Untangle although they are both pretty limited and don’t really seem to have all of the features that I would like to have while having many features that I do not need at all.

I read some stuff that basically said that Untangle was not going to meet my needs at all so I looked seriously into Endian.  I even did several installs of it attempting to get it to work correctly but, in the end, the answer was pretty much that because of the way that both Endian and Untangle base everything that they do around their routing engine and because they significantly modify the underlying operating environment so that it is far more difficult to modify than a stock UNIX operating system that neither were going to work at all as my OpenVPN system would be completely behind the existing firewall and not activing as a firewall itself.  I am very surprised by how difficult it is to find a simple virtual appliance of OpenVPN.  Why is no one making this – at least not a free version.  This seems like it would be an extremely popular system to have.

By the end of the evening I decided that working with Endian was not going to cut it and that my only good choice was going to be building a standard UNIX virtual machine and then installing OpenVPN myself onto it and working from there.  More work than I was hoping to have to do but it appears that I have no choice so that is the route that I have to take.  I did decide that given the type of project that this is it is a perfect opportunity to build a FreeBSD system rather than a Red Hat Linux system to try it out.  It is a really isolated system so having it be on BSD and unlike my other systems should not be a problem at all.

While I was working this evening Dominica put on the horrific movie SpiceWorld with the pathetic Spice Girls.  What a horrible movie.  I have not seen it since I saw it in the theatre with Nate and Emily back in 1997.  Hard to believe that it has been a dozen years since anyone knew who the Spice Girls were.  They totally faded into obscurity except for Slutty Spice or whatever her name (really, who can tell them apart?) was who has now become the poster child for vacuous pointlessness and has become a national embarrassment to the British people (and now to America since she moved here but at least she lives in LA where we send people like that – its nice to have a special place for everyone, I suppose.)

We didn’t stay up too late as I have to work in the morning.  So we went to bed around eleven thirty or so.  Liesl has been going to bed earlier and earlier and getting up earlier and earlier recently.  This is a worrisome trend as it means that she may start sleeping during the day and not at night soon.  She used to fall asleep around one in the morning and has slowly worked herself to falling asleep just after eight in the evening!  She is starting to get Dominica up quite early in the morning.

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