Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Passed another Microsoft Exam

Since I found out that it had been ten years since my first Microsoft certification, I figured that I needed to get my certification caught up to my skills. I started by working on the Microsoft Exchange 2007, Configuring exam, 70-236, a difficult exam that I passed at the end of November. Simply passing that exam earned me the Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS), Exchange 2007, Configuring certification. At the time I wasn't really sure what if I was going to go beyond that or not, but I soon decided to work on the Microsoft Certified Information Technology Professional (MCITP): Enterprise Messaging Administrator certification which required two more exams. The first was 70-237, Designing Messaging Solutions with Microsoft Exchange Server 2007, which seemed oddly easy, but I suspect that is because that is what I've been doing for the past year. Today I passed 70-238, Deploying Messaging Solutions with Microsoft Exchange Server 2007.

Now that I've completed all of the requirements for the MCITP certification, I'm anxiously awaiting for Microsoft's records to be updated so I can print out a new certificate and get a new logo for the resume'. The next exam on the list is 70-640, Windows Server 2008 Active Directory, Configuring for yet another MCTS. Once passed, I will have all of the elements I need to get the Microsoft Certified Master certification. Well, almost everything, I'll need to get funding for $18,500 ($13,000 for a limited time) for the course, and three weeks to go to Microsoft in Redmond to take it. At this point, I'm not sure if it is worth it, since it seems likely that there will be an Exchange Server 2009. I guess we'll see.

Five Hundred Posts

I just noticed in my dash board that I have 500 posts on my blog. That is quite a milestone. I post about anything and everything. Sometimes I go for long periods of time without posting, other times I have several posts in a day. This being post number 501, I guess I can say that I'm more than half way to a thousand!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Merit Badge Sash(s)

I asked, and I received. It takes more than one merit badge sash to display 121 merit badges!

Photo from

Shawn Goldsmith Earns 121 Boy Scout Merit Badges

Shawn Goldsmith has achieved a rare feat, earning all 121 merit badges offered in the Boy Scouts of America program. There are twenty-one merit badges required, among other things to earn the rank of Eagle Scout. Eagle palms are awarded when more merit badges are earned, combined with troop service tenure. The best part about scouting is that there is much more program offered than one could ever take advantage of fully. Leaving boys to make decisions about what is important to them and what they would like to learn.

Shawn's achievement is great, but at what cost? Earning merit badges is an important part of scouting, but it is not the only part. Was his focus on the number of merit badges earned, or actually learning what each merit badge program had to teach? I wasn't a big merit badge earner. I look back at all the things I did when I was in the Boy Scouts and realized that I probably came close to earning several merit badges that I wasn't even trying to earn. My focus was more on service to scouting. I did a lot for my troop and the district, and even the council. I helped perform many Eagle ceremonies, even though I never had one of my own. And I worked on countless Eagle service projects. I also enjoyed the outdoors, camping, hiking, backpacking, canoeing, etc. I learned a lot in the process. Looking back, I probably should have finished enough merit badges and did my own Eagle project, because now I have little to show for my time in Scouting. I figure that I'll make up for that as a Scouter now that Alex has started in the program.

Even though Shawn earned every merit badge, the timeline does not add up to earning all possible Eagle palms. It is possible to earn up to 20 palms, which would be displayed as six silver and one gold palm. (silver = 3 palms, gold =2) Each palm requires you to be active in your troop and patrol for at least 3 months after becoming an Eagle Scout or after the award of your last Palm. The Eagle rank would have to be earned by your thirteenth birthday. And at least five merit badges would have to be earned every three months. All requirements must be completed by your eighteenth birthday.

Shawn's 121 merit badge feat is commendable. I hope he continues with venturing, and as a scouter. I would also like to see his merit badge sash, which unfortunately, he isn't supposed to wear now that he is an adult!

Old Quarters

Somehow, I have a pocket full of old quarters. I have seven quarters and a nickle in my pocket. The nickle is from 1970. The quarters are from 1967, 1971, 1974, 1979, and three from 1980. I spent a couple from the early to mid 80's at the snack bar this morning.

Interestingly enough, the dollar coin is back in the news. I don't mind the dollar coin at all, I used to use them a lot when I used the Baltimore light rail regularly. Face it, coins last for a long time. The 1967 quarter in my pocket is still in good condition. When is the last time you've had seven paper bills over 25 years old in your wallet?

Monday, December 29, 2008

Old Andrew Picture

I was looking through my pictures and found this old one of Andrew.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

New Domain Name

A great Christmas present, the domain name was given to be my my brother in law, stealthfiction. I always said that I would get a domain name, but never got around to it. I guess now I'm good for 2 years, but I better put a note on my calendar when it is time for renewal!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

So, I broke my blog

As you might be able to see if you look at this before I get around to fixing it, my blog is broken. I was simply trying find a way to change the way the blog archives were organized, and poof, all of my template customizations are gone. So, now I have to fix it.

Friday, December 26, 2008

A new stealthfiction

The stealthfiction blog has been updated. Including a great section on Tim Burton's 9.

Updated top row photos again

Same pictures, just re-cropped and saved with a lot less jpeg compression. The last time I saved a jpeg, I had compression turned up really high, and things looked a little funny in the 100x100 pixel thumbnails.

Updated Template Photos!

I finally did it! I have up to date template photo thumbnails in my title bar. Here are the old ones.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

WhooHoo - I'm on Techdirt

I think this is the first time I've been mentioned, linked even, on mainstream blog (well, mainstream to me). I try to read techdirt a few times a week and find it an interesting source on things that are wrong with things like online censorship, copyright, patents, and so on. I recently ran into my own interesting brush with what a copyright issue that I wasn't pleased with. The short story is, a company bought the rights to Heathkit, and has been on a mission to remove copies of the old manuals from web sites where they have existed for years. This was just the sort of thing that I would read about on techdirt, so I sent them the tip and they posted it today! Old Electronics Kit Manuals Forced Offline Thanks To Copyright. My favorite part is "from the can't-learn-unless-you-pay dept".

Inauguration, I may go after all

I may be going to the inauguration after all. Not for the sake of going to the inauguration, but to help with communications. The planners have asked for Amateur Radio operators to provide communications on the Mall and coordinating charter buses and shuttle buses for the event. Since Frederick County's Amateur Radio Emergency Coordinator will be out of town that week, I volunteered to round up volunteers from the county, finally living up to my title as Assistant Emergency Coordinator.

I really haven't been given a lot of details on exactly what they want us to do, but regardless, this is a big event that will create communications gridlock. Ham radio operators are unique in that they understand how their radios work and they are frequency agile, not limited to specific channels. Combine that with message and traffic handling skills that many hams bring with them, and you get a good situation. I think the hard part will be getting folks to volunteer to go to Washington DC on inauguration day!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Darned Internet Restrictions at Customer Site

Ok, so, I've been sent to a customer site for a long term stay. It is bad enough that the customer has simply not moved past the 90's when it comes to their IT processes and doesn't seem very interested in doing so, but they have blocked access to live meeting audio. Why is this important? Because I'm trying to sit in on a Microsoft webcast on Managing and Administering Exchange 2007 using the Management Console and Management Shell. A lot of this stuff I know, but since they don't have Exchange 2007 here, it is a good way to keep it fresh in my head. Along the way I sometimes learn of a new or different way of doing something that I can apply later. With no audio to go with the slides, the webcast isn't very useful.

To make matters worse, I can't even access the virtual labs! I had sort of left the webcasts alone for a while as they were the same thing over and over again. But the new labcast concept sort of turned me onto it again. The webcast, I can just download, but the labcasts, they are online all the time, and it looks like there won't be an option for using them. In the IT field, staying on top of technology is pretty important as every new version of a product obsoletes your skills.

It seems just about anything modern is blocked and restricted. This organization will not do well attracting the best and brightest in the IT field if it continues to block the connections we use to interact with our peers and to improve our understanding of technology.

Laptop fixed

I had no trouble fixing my Windows Vista laptop once I got my hands on the right Windows Vista install DVD. All I needed to do was boot with the CD, and click repair, then tell it to perform a system restore. I'm still going to sweat a little when I go to install those updates again. Before I do I'll probably do a quick backup of some things that will be a pain to get back if the computer dies again

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A little trouble with my laptop

After installing the latest updates last night, the computer is now in a state of infinite rebooting. When starting up, I see the familiar "configuring updates stage 3 of 3 0% complete do not turn off computer" but it never completes and just when you would expect your logon screen to appear, it says, shutting down and the process repeats. It does this when booting in last known good, safe mode, etc. I'm pretty sure the fix is to use the Windows Vista installation DVD to boot and you should get an option to repair and restore from a previous system state restore point. I'll need to get the service desk at the office to give me a copy of Windows Vista Business so I can do that. I'm not sure if I will want to rebuild the computer after this failure or not.

I can blog from work!

Wow, they have so many Internet restrictions at this job site that I didn't even try blogger. I really wanted to blog about my first real Powershell script today, so I figured I'd give it a try. And it worked! I'm glad I tried. Now, I better get back to work!

Just wrote my first real Powershell script

I wrote a script that searches an Active Directory group recursively for any nested groups that includes sender restrictions.

function GroupMembers
$adsistr = "LDAP://" + $args[0]
$group = [ADSI]$adsistr
if ($group.objectcategory -eq "CN=Group,CN=Schema,CN=Configuration,DC=domain,DC=local")
if ($group.authorig -ne $null)
foreach ($member in $group.member)
GroupMembers $member
GroupMembers "cn=dl-all users,ou=groups,dc=domain,dc=local"

I actually wrote the script in Visual Basic script first, and then translated it into Powershell. While I've been doing well with various Powershell cmdlets with very simple logic one liners, I really don't consider them scripts. I've been trying to become proficient with Powershell for a while, and now I think I've found a way to do it. I think that I'll take some of my old standby Visual Basic scripts and rewrite them in Powershell.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Talk about traffic

It took 3 hours longer than usual to get from the Baltimore area back to Frederick this evening. The shoulders of I70 were littered with cars, especially between Mount Airy and New Market. I was almost caught up in someone else's accident between Sykesville and Libson, I don't know how it could happen, but the SUV a few hundred yards ahead of me just lost control, slid to the left into the median, then over corrected to the right across 3 lanes of traffic right in front of me and a tow truck

Friday, December 05, 2008

One College Football Game per Year

I only make it a point to watch one College Football game each year. That is the Army versus Navy game. It has been a tradition for me since I was in the Boy Scouts. Sounds weird, but December was when we had the annual father and son camp out, which was more like a camp in with one or more cabins complete with electricity. On Saturday afternoon we'd watch the Army versus Navy football game. I always root for Navy, I guess that is because I grew up in Maryland not to far from the Academy in Annapolis.

Auto Industry

If Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors will be expected to pay back loans from the government, why can't they just borrow money from banks? Might it be that nobody expects them to be able to pay it back? I think that the US auto industry has some fundamental problems that it needs to fix and I think that sending them money isn't the best incentive for them to fix their problems.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Microsoft Network Monitor 3.2

Remember network monitor AKA netmon from back in the day? Yeah, it really wasn't that great of a tool, at least not compared to some of the other tools out there like ehtereal. Even in situations where I thought that it might help, it was a tool that I rarely pulled out of the toolbox. So infrequently that it really hasn't been in the toolbox (you know, the mental toolbox that says, download this from Microsoft if I'm having trouble) lately.

I've been learning about Network Monitor 3 (3.2 to be exact) and it is great. What makes it great? Parsers, lots of parsers. And a fairly easy to understand language to write your own parsers if the packets you need to parse aren't included! Any systems administrator or engineer responsible for Windows or other Microsoft applications should definitely spend some time with the new Network Monitor. You are not likely to be disappointed. The Active Directory administrator could make great use of the DNS, Kerberos, and NetLogon parsers, among others. There is even an iSCSI parser for the storage folks.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Fire Drill!

Yep, we had a fire drill. No, not at work, or at school. The fire drill was at home. It is one of the requirements to earn the Tiger Cub rank in Cub Scouts. Alex really enjoyed planning and executing the fire drill. Our gathering spot is at the mailbox, and then when everyone is there, we move to the far parking spot.

Prometric Testing Center in Frederick Maryland

I guess this place is new. They gave me a card that said "Now Open In Frederick". It works for me because, well, I live in Frederick!

65 Thomas Johnson Drive
Suite A
Frederick, MD 21702
301-662-3808 x0

So, if you need to take a Microsoft, other IT, or whatever else is offered through Prometric and you live in or near Frederick Maryland, this is the place to go!