Wednesday, May 30, 2007

I need a break from Windows

I need a break from windows. It is driving me up the wall. It is not that it is bad, or misbehaving. In fact it has been quite good stability wise. I was quite enjoying working with it at first . I'm just over windows.
I was so glad the day I first left it. I felt that it was such a milestone in my understanding.

I remember when I first started learning DOS commands. I was so excited, it was such an amazing experience. After about 3-4 days I said to my partner this is so cool, there should be an entire operating system that you can control like this. He laughed...

A couple of days later I had my first experiences of a command line only system: FreeBSD. I loved it, I've never turned back. My understanding and knowledge has grown so much since then. It helps when you have an open operating system. In the BSD's and Linux's you can learn how everything works by read, writing and running the code. You can add to or change the code and most software is free.

At the moment I'm just frustrated because I don't like not knowing what my system it is doing. I can't just bring a command line up and check everything out. Opening webpages, downloading, and all other internet based tasks are slow. Things are constantly happening on the system, yet when I look into it windows reports that it is doing nothing :).

Plus my main whine is that everything is about money and locking you in. Any problem you can think of can be solved by buying this program or plug-in/add-on or whatever. I am so over it.

Women and computing

Take a deep breath this may well be painful. I need to have a little rant...
I'm sick of being treated like shit because I'm a woman in IT. Don't get me wrong I don't think that I should get special treatment or anything like that, I just wish I existed...

I wish that I didn't always have to prove myself over and above others, just to have my knowledge used against me. I wish that it didn't matter! I don't want it to be an us or them thing. I just want to work with computers, because I LOVE it. It shouldn't matter that I'm female.

I graduated top of my class last year. All the rest of my peers were male, and all now have jobs. I don't, I haven't even had an interview. Maybe there are other factors. Perhaps I'm missing the real reason.

Yesterday I walked into a computer shop. I needed a sound card for my fathers computer. I looked around for a minute, then went and stood by the counter. The all male staff were hurrying around. I stood there.

Then a male customer entered the store, within 20 seconds he was served. So I tried more frantically to gain the attention of an attendant. Nothing...
Then two males walked in together and were served straight away, I couldn't believe it. In the end I had to say load enough for the attendants to hear. "Hello, don't I exist here."

After about a minute an attendant walked up to me and said, "Do you want something do you?" I should have walked out, but there was nowhere else to go. He continued to be arrogant the entire time I was in the store. I walked out and burst into tears. All this is really getting to me at the moment.

I don't understand. I don't think being a women takes away from my ability to work with computers. I don't think that I have less knowledge than others in my situation. I don't think I act like I know it all. I certainly don't push the fact that I'm a woman in anyones face. So why do I get treated like this?

Is this a problem just here in Launceston Tasmania?
Are there other places in Australia were women feel like this?
Are there other places in the world were people feel like this?
Or is all of this just in my head? And women get treated the same as there male counterparts.

I'm sorry I'm just fed up with being nothing and nobody, and being treated like crap doesn't help. All I want is to work in the IT industry yet no one wants to give me a chance.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Adventures in Windows

On Wednesday my father rang me with another computer problem. Yet this time was different; he was fed up. He said he was driving up to my place on the weekend (a two and a half hour drive) to drop the computer for me to fix.

I didn't know how serious he was until the next day a letter arrived in the mail, explaining some of the problems he`s been having, and all the info he thought I would need about his computer and the programs on it (He is well trained :). I did some research on the info he gave me. I had a plan of attack in mind before he even arrived.

But we all know how well things follow the plan...

The Plan:

  1. Have a quick look around his current install, and perhaps show him whats going wrong.
  2. Go to computer store and purchase: a new Hard Drive, and a copy of Windows XP professional.
  3. Install new hardware.
  4. Install Windows XP Pro on it's own partition.
  5. Create partitions for: documents and pictures, backups, and downloads.
  6. Install programs for security, antivirus, and spyware.
  7. Re-install his needed programs.
  8. Lock down and configure all of his software.
  9. Make a slipstream disk for disaster recovery.
On Friday dad arrived, computer in hand. We got straight to work plugging everything in. I booted into his Windows XP install.
Well boot is a nice way of putting it... It took about 10 minutes to boot, and even then the errors were amazing, the hard drive and CPU didn't stop spinning.

After about 20 minutes of waiting to open a program, I started Spybot Search & destroy and killed nearly all of the 30+ programs that were starting at boot. After rebooting dad's computer was way faster.

After explaining what was going on to him, and showing him a few things. I explained my plan of attack, he was really happy with it. He loved the idea of having a full windows install. He doesn't want to go to Vista yet. He was happy to know that he could purchase an update disk when he is ready. Yet for now he wants to stay with XP.

He wanted 2GB of RAM, because as a photographer and photography teacher he runs some very memory intensive programs like Photoshop. So we wondered off to the computer shop. He brought:
  • A 320GB Western Digital Hard Drive = $155
  • 2 x 1GB Sticks of Samsung RAM = $110 each
  • A copy of Windows XP Professional OEM = $220
He was really happy with these, so we came hope and I started to install the hardware.

Then everything went wrong...

Lost inside dad's reality distortion field, I've only just crawled out. He stayed until Saturday night, and everything was going wrong until he left. Daz and I just could figure out what was going on. First it appeared we had a dodgy RAM stick, then that the BIOS battery was flat, then something else...

All the time the symptoms were changing, the inconsistency's was unlike anything I have seen from a computer before. I was so incredibly confused and frustrated. I had Daz telling me one thing, then dad telling me another, and in the end I think I was trying the same things over and over again. With dad touching, moving and playing with everything.

Hitting the reset...

Finally dad left. After resting for a couple of hours. I had a look at the computer again.
With in ten minutes I realised exactly what the problem was. The BIOS had not me upgraded to support 2GB of RAM. The motherboard is capable of supporting it, but the BIOS isn't. I'm going to have to flash the BIOS.
I have never done it before. It should be interesting. I have to admit it frightens me a little.

I have installed Windows XP Professional on the new hard drive, I am quite impressed with it so far. It is way better than the Spyware filled OEM Home version I worked in last. It is very strange being back in Windows. I haven't forgotten how to use it though :)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

ngircd: A simple ircd

I installed a new server today. This server will have a very light load so I am giving it many tasks. I installed Ubuntu 6.06 LTS, as I want to run VMware server on it. Unfortunately none of the BSD's can run it.

After configuring a firewall, and hardening the system; I installed an irc daemon for an internal network. I decided to use ngircd as the daemon. I like this application, it is really easy to install and use.
To install in Ubuntu I just ran:
# sudo apt-get install ngircd
Then edited the configuration file, it is really straightforward:
# sudo vim /etc/ngircd/ngircd.conf
Now restart the daemon:
# sudo /etc/init.d/ngircd restart
After thats done just log into the server from another computer, making sure your firewall lets you through, and test that everything works properly.

Then I installed VMware server, this is also an easy process which I talk about here: VMware server on Ubuntu.
Later I will also setup a printer and scanner on this computer, which will be accessible by the whole network.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Private work area

Yesterday and today I have been moving our computer room around. My partner and I both needed more privacy. It wasn't working the way that it was. So after discussing a few layouts we decided on one that would work for us both.

Now I have my own little area, pictured left. It feels very strange at the moment, like all new things do. In fact at the moment it feels so strange that it is almost like I have a new computer.

I am happy that we decided to move everything, it works much better this way. Hopefully I will feel more comfortable working here. I didn't feel right the other way. It is hard to work properly when you feel uncomfortable.

Sunday, May 13, 2007


I've been very busy lately, but I haven't fallen off the face of the planet yet...
I haven't been doing very geeky things though, mostly life shit. Hopefully I will have some more time from now on. I have so many things that I want to do, I just have to prioritize my work.

OpenBSD 4.1
I have decided to give OpenBSD 4.1 a spin, it has been out since the 1st May. I haven't had a chance to try it yet. I just finished creating and burning the ISO to CD. I followed the steps in this post: Creating an OpenBSD 4.0 bootable install CD, Changing "4.0" to "4.1". Also in this post, I say to test it on a CD-rw which isn't a very good suggestion because some CD players wont boot from a CD-rw. So please be careful!

Init and BSD
I have been reading three posts by Dru Lavigne talking about the differences in controlling and initiating programs at boot time in the BSD's:

I think they are worth a read, especially if you coming from a Linux background.