I’ve become so numb, I can’t feel this chair…

We’ve managed to catch the train for about three weeks straight. Time that I’d spent in the past writing or doing malware research has instead been used to sharpen my web development skills. I don’t have any delusions of grandeur, I’m not looking to change jobs, I just enjoy it and I didn’t like that I’d eliminated it from my life.

Earlier this year, Aesop Rock released a new album, and one of the tracks really connected with me.

The drifting away from the things that you used to enjoy, used to consider part of your fabric of being, part of your soul, and that initially that drifting away was temporary, then a protracted hiatus, then you’re saying “Well, I used to do that.”

I don’t want to overdramatize my love-affair with web-design, but I built my first webpage in 1997. That’s almost 20 years ago. For comparison’s sake, I played guitar from my 13th birthday on to my first semester in college, so about five and a half years. I derive too much enjoyment from it to deny myself of it on some weird professionalism issues.

Whether I’m doing the work for myself or someone else is really secondary to the creation element. I’m learning how to do things the right way in my language of choice, and I’m building little applications that exist only on this tablet I’m writing from. They’re built for an audience of one, and they do exactly what I need, and want, and nothing more or less. At some point I’ll expand that scope, but making peace with the fact that I enjoy it for the sake of creation, has been useful. I’m not getting hung-up on justifying the hobby with being able to monetize it. If I come up with a million-dollar idea, fantastic. Those probably won’t happen unless I’m creating in the first place.

One of the problems I’m having with the new train situation is that Diana and I have been sitting together every time, which highly restricts the seating options. Sometimes I don’t get a seat with a table, and it makes for a very awkward setup, trying to use my knees as a table and having my legs and feet go to sleep. I’m debating getting a different laptop to accommodate. The Surface Pro 3 has been about the best laptop I’ve ever owned, but for the lap part of laptop, it fails spectacularly. Since I’m no longer doing any really specialized Windows work, I’m strongly considering a MacBook Air or Pro. I really enjoyed by Early 2008 MBP, and about all I am going to be using it for anymore is writing, web development, and general surfing. Most of the “gee whiz” stuff on the SP3 is stuff I haven’t really used. And it still holds most of its value. I could get in for not much more money and probably be much happier on the commute. As I’m currently crunched up with pretty much my whole lower body going numb, it’s very intriguing indeed.

Single Entendre

So we came down on the side of taking the train. I had to admit that the stress incurred by driving was exceeding the enjoyment I was getting of being home a little earlier. And costs are in favor of the train, too.

This comes just as I’m starting to get creative urges again. I have one project I’ve committed to, getting a new website going for a childhood friend that’s become a popular stand-up comic. But that’s going to be a collection of off-the-shelf software, and I don’t see it being terribly involved in the long run.

I’m not sure what the project is going to be that wins the battle of attracting my interest. I think it’s going to be something with The SCP Wiki, but it’s not going to be Project Foundation, the name that was given to a full wheel reinvention of the website, all functionality. I indicated to them that I’m not willing to put in that much effort until they at least begin the process of incorporating, to reduce the liability I would have of being associated with it.

But there are other things that could be done that don’t involve the full commitment of that wheel reinvention. Honestly, I think it would be a wise mental separation to make this creative outlet something that is not tech-centric. I wrote a post back in April that laid out a plan for a new site, and that is the most intriguing thing to me at the moment. I like the name SCPrompt, as it works two ways. I think I’m going to pitch that to staff in a more concrete manner, and I can build up some of the infrastructure regardless. So there’s a bit of a tech element, but it’s largely peripheral to what the actual creative endeavor is.

On a related note, one of the technical staff wrote a pretty incredible program to save essentially all the information from a Wikidot site, which Wikidot itself doesn’t even fully allow for. This has some pretty major ramifications for the feasibility of an eventual migration. It’s one important piece accounted for, but there’s a ton of logistical ground to cover, and I don’t currently believe there’s enough discipline from the administration to do everything that will need to be done.

Over the long-term, there will probably be a successful implementation of Project Foundation, either through the Russians finishing their Starforge project or me finishing the Redpool project. The Russians and I have entirely different skillsets so it’s not really a waste to have both of us working in two different directions.

I think that is easily enough decided. Work on my friend’s new site in the short term, build up SCPrompt as a short-to-mid term thing, and if nothing happens with regards to incorporating, I might just do it my damn self.

Five Green Rings and Two Dead Doves

So, let’s get this out of the way. I exceeded expectations yesterday.

Crushed yesterday, for real. #fivegreencircles

A photo posted by @bluesoulsez on

I’m making use of every function of the app now. I went ahead and bought the Aria scale as well, it’s not too overpriced for including body fat percentage (even if only a rough approximation) and I know myself well enough to know the integration with the app will make me actually use it. I’m using the food log and tracking water consumed. I’m pretty sure it’s everything the app offers outside of run tracking because I’m not running yet.

With all the extra walking yesterday, I consumed 2100ish calories, but that’s fine because I burned over 3,000. That’s a significant deficit, enough to average 1.3 pounds of fat burned in a five-day work week.

I was talking to Diana about this yesterday, from an evolutionary standpoint, we’re good at a lot of things, but out biggest strength might be walking. Early man would bring down a yak or a goat or what have you by walking behind it, never letting it rest, pelting it with stones and throwing spears until it got back up and the chase began again until the animal finally keeled over from exhaustion. We’re not the best runners, but we’re the best walkers on the planet.

So when I got the scale set up (hey Fitbit, make your applications respect Windows text scaling, please.) I got my first number back. 173.2 pounds and 24.7% body fat percentage. I did some mental arithmetic on where I wanted to be, which is 135 pounds as I was when I was about 18, and let out an audible “Fuuuuuuck.” That’s like 40 pounds. But I did a little more math, 173.2 less 24.7% is 130.4 pounds of “lean mass”. 135 pounds would be 3% body fat which is a great number if you’re a hypertrophy bodybuilder. I’m actually looking for something around 14% body fat. That works out to about 149.4 pounds. So a little under 25 pounds to lose assuming lean mass stayed the same. That seems much more doable not only from a mental standpoint but from a physiology standpoint. I couldn’t figure out where 40 pounds would come from. That’s like, a leg.

I feel pretty good this morning, could’ve used some more sleep. Still fighting heartburn and general stomach discomfort in the evenings. That’s one of the things I’m hoping gets solved along the way.

I received a reddit message this morning that I was made a moderator of /r/ransomware, which I requested about a month ago. That’s exciting, I have big plans for it since /r/malware isn’t really suited for discussion on removal. I’m gonna work on that for the rest of the morning ride.

Ready Up

I really couldn’t ask for a better Friday. No alerts in the morning, couple emails to plan stuff for next week, got my evaluation from the boss, got my one-on-one meetings with my direct reports done, and nothing broke or caught fire in that timespan. It left me from 1:00 to 5:00 to plan and do a thorough weekly review.

It’s a really good feeling knowing that you have tracked everything going on at work, and know exactly where everything is at. That you don’t have to think about those things just for the sake of remembering them. You can actually relax.

So, the evaluation. I indicated it would have a lot of influence on how I felt going into the weekend and in general. I’ll just read off the relevant line out of the eight paragraph evaluation:

Daniel is a very skilled technical supervisor. The right person for the job.

The right person for the job. Validation. It’s a wonderful world.

I was initially joking about bringing decaf coffee with me on the train on the way back instead of gross lightly coffee-flavored cold water. I had a decaf pod in a variety pack. Guess what I’ve got today? It would be better if it wasn’t quite so warm out. But it was still a good idea, I stand by it.

All the Nutanix migrations so far have either been flawless or invaluable learning experiences on non-production boxes. My systems guy has done about a dozen machines, and we have about two dozen to go. If we can get about another dozen done in four days next week there’s a half-day off on Friday there for the taking. There actually is a train that leaves at about the right time, 1:07. I think we want this.

I ordered some replacement Gunnar glasses. My go-to model was discontinued, but a pair appeared on Amazon for about half price. I also bought a Google Cardboard kit. For 10 bucks, I’m quite curious how it actually works. They’re not terribly adjustable and this is a fairly exact science. But for an approximation of technology that’s currently going for $600-1000, it’s worth a shot. It would be funny as hell if it actually worked well enough to not need to bother with the Oculus Rift, Gear VR, HTC Vive, etc.

I’m gonna play the hell out of some vidya this weekend. Damn shame the new monitor won’t arrive until Monday. I know the new Hoops mode for Rocket League is next week, and I’ll be playing the shit out of that when the time comes. I think it’s going to be Dark Souls this weekend. I only have the first one and started with a rather cheesy minmax (Drake sword). I’ve heard from a number of people that it really does detract from the balance of the game, so no Drake sword this time. It’s a full-on franchise at this point, and my policy on franchises is that I have to play through the first before playing any of the rest. I know in this case there isn’t a ton of plot I’m messing with, but that’s the plan just the same.

So, you know. Praise the Sun. \[T]/

The 28 Year Old Rookie

Twice the last two weeks I’ve made the big rookie mistake of train-riding. I’m currently seated on the wrong side of the train, so I either get a delightful glare from the monitor or a face full of sun. By the time I realized (about five seconds) all the correct seats were already gone.

I ended up getting a reasonable amount accomplished today. Nutanix is one staged patch away from being ready, and we have a migration plan ready for tomorrow morning. I’m working on some of those carrots that are viable now, like a new backup target for some hosted web servers. Joining a Linux machine to an AD domain is easier than ever in CentOS 7, and I left off at a good point. Tomorrow I’ll have logons restricted to a security group and sudo restricted to a different one.

I spent my lunch break remoted home, organizing my storage, moving files around to more logical locations, cleaning up names with Filebot, and generally setting this new array up for success. I also downloaded some 250 games between Steam and Origin, and boy am I happy we’re not doing data caps on residential internet yet because that was about a terabyte of data right there.

I’m going to be really happy to have the system back in a usable state. This has been quite the homework project but it was a lot of fun, too. I’m happy I’m going to be able to game again tonight. I’ve got an odd juxtaposition of game styles I want to play. I want to keep playing FIFA 15, I’ve really been enjoying it. But I also want to play something very difficult like an XCOM or Dark Souls. The thing is, they are difficult through entirely different mechanisms. XCOM uses a lot of uncertainty in dice rolls and random enemy placement; the former keeps metagaming low and the latter keeps the game feeling fresh. It can be called out as “artificial difficulty,” but it’s also more adjustable. Dark Souls is “tough, but fair.” When you die in Dark Souls, it’s your own fault 95% of the time. You mistimed an attack, you overextended yourself, you failed to plan. I find myself less rage-prone with Dark Souls than XCOM. If XCOM doesn’t make you mutter “fucking bullshit” at least once or twice a session, it’s not living up to its ancestry. Most deaths in Dark Souls are learning experiences.

In the middle of those difficulty extremes is FTL. There is a little luck involved in terms of drops, missions, hit chance, and so on. But it’s also a game made much easier with a great plan. Honestly the Borderlands franchise can end up here too. There’s luck involved in most of the drops and critical chance, but understanding how to play your character, when to be defensive and when to blitz the enemy, is critical to advancing in True & Ultimate Vault Hunter Modes.

Maybe I’m wanting to play Rogue Legacy, or the new addition to my Steam library, Nuclear Throne. I think I’m just excited to be able to game again and everything sounds good.

I don’t understand why or how you still get the taste of coffee in a thermos after washing the shit out of it like five times, but it’s crap. I want water to taste like water. Maybe I’ll switch to decaf on the way home. If you can’t solve the problems, change the parameters, you know?

It’s like 802.1p for your innards.

So I have titles again now, I ran through my countdown (or countup, I suppose) of ten days. No nicotine and I’m over that mental hurdle now of ten days. Truth be told, everything after that jittery first day was easy. I threw away all my remaining gear over the weekend. At this point I’m ready to enter that “I used to” phase of my life and be more selective, if only a little, about what’s coming into my body.

The hard drive saga appears to be laid to rest. The final topology is 4x5TB drives in a RAID 10, with the 128GB SSD still to be swapped out for a larger model. Those replace 2x3TB in a RAID 1 and 2x1TB in a RAID 0. So my usable space has doubled, but it’s all resilient storage. I took one of the 3TB drives and put it in one of the enclosures that the 5TB drives came in, and connected it to the PC over USB 3.0. With write caching enabled, it’s fast enough to be the data store for Steam, even NBA 2K16 didn’t see a change in load times and it’s probably the biggest game I have in terms of shit to load. I took the 1TB drives and fed them to the PowerEdge server, to bring me up to 8x1TB drives which I’m reconfiguring to an 8-drive RAID 10. That leaves one 3TB drive that I’m unsure what to do with. All my Steam and Origin games fit fine on one 3TB drive. And these drives have a 94% failure rate? Nothing important’s going on it, anyway. I’ll think it over.

We also bought a Keurig and a water filter/dispenser deal over the weekend. I didn’t grasp how much I disliked our tap water until we got the filter. The water is incredibly hard, what with it being the desert, and there’s a ton of sediment. We bought the filter thinking that if it didn’t do anything we’re only out 30 bucks. It’s exceeded expectations.

This all goes to a larger quality-of-life improvement that’s going on. I’m not doing the 25-cent ramen any more, I’m making and bringing lunch instead, fresh sandwiches and fruits and vegetables. The Keurig means I can bring coffee on the train, which is exactly what I’m doing now. So better food, better water, no nicotine. It feels like a natural evolution in my life. Money is a “can’t take it with you” sort of thing, and I have some immediate health concerns that should be greatly helped by making these changes.

For example, since cutting out the nicotine the one thing I noticed is that I’ve been hungrier than I’ve been in years, maybe since I was a teen. Whether that’s because the nicotine was suppressing my appetite or lowering my metabolism, or both, I don’t know. But it wasn’t doing enough to stop me from gaining weight (go figure, you have to attempt some semblance of work), so to hell with it. But I’ve had a lot of GI issues recently. I became lactose intolerant, and I was diagnosed with IBS which is a hell of a thing, as I’ve touched on before. If I simplify some of the equation on what’s going into me, it’s only going to help. I think it’s going to do a lot. It’s small sample sizes at play, but I’ve only needed to take an anti-spasmodic once in the last ten days, where prior to that it was every other day or so.

Nutanix is coming along nicely, it’s been the carrot on the stick for quite a while for quite a few people, so it’s on us to get it to a usable state quickly. Today being Wednesday we may actually get to make some uninterrupted progress. Yesterday was three-fourths meetings. Today is zero meetings. I have high hopes.

What I tend to have to do on days like this where my boss is out of town, and I have all day with nothing scheduled, to keep myself from goofing off, I’ve got a Chrome extension that will block sites that I specify. While I have total control over whether or not that runs, it’s sufficient because more often than not, checking /r/sysadmin is almost muscle memory.

Wednesdays are for action.

232/240

Over the weekend, I found out that the 3TB drives I’d been using in a RAID 1 at home have had a 94% failure rate from Backblaze. So, you know, good job to myself for finding the news a year after it was released. I ended up buying 4x5TB Seagate drives at they represented the lowest cost per usable GB out of the field. I wanted to use a Storage Space, but mixing SATA and USB 3.0 in a Storage Space led to some abysmal write speeds. So I broke my 3TB mirror, put one of them where my optical drive normally is, and moved all 4 5TB drives into the case, in a RAID 10. That takes me from 5TB usable (2x1TB RAID 0, 2x3TB RAID 1) to 10TB usable, so it’s going to be nearly halfway full out the gate. Here’s hoping there are some higher densities on the horizon before I fill up the other half.

Copying 5TB of files blows. But it’s gotta get done, and it was a good opportunity to reorganize anyway.

That script ain’t right

So I have a code offering today, which I’m calling DangItBobby.ps1. It lets you remotely disable the NIC of a computer given only the username that is logged in. In essence, when in the middle of a ransomware infection, and you see that the owner of all the files is changing to Bobby, you run the script and provide credentials of a local admin account. Then you tell it you’re looking for Bobby, it’ll check AD to make sure that’s a valid account, then check with WMI to see if there’s an explorer.exe process running under Bobby’s context on each computer, which you can narrow down with the first few characters of what the workstation might be. If they’re logged into multiple workstations it’ll let you choose which one to work with. Then it’ll give you a list of NICs and a little information about each one, and let you choose which one to disable.

I hope I don’t need to tell you to be careful running this.

The more you know, the less you say.

Pleased to report that Windows 10 hasn’t reduced the Surface Pro 3 to smoldering rubble. In fact, it’s quite a happy upgrade so far. The Verizon USB card seems much happier in 10 than it did in 8.1, and the applications all came over flawlessly so far, quite a feat considering it went all the way from NT6 to NT10. (That’s nerd sarcasm, by the way.)

I was mildly amused by being notified that I’d earned some money from Amazon Affiliates. That would be from my I Miss Grantland project, which runs ad-free and has a page where you can buy books on Amazon from writers featured on the site. The site has been up for about 3 months and has managed something like 104,000 hits. Out of those, about 132 hits were to said book page, representing about 7,000 clickable links. 88 clicks were made (a ~1.3% clickthrough rate) and 7 items were ordered, representing Amazon cutting me a check for almost four dollars. It’s seriously a good thing that the whole thing is automatic and able to run on my shared hosting account, so my only expense is the domain renewal.

It’s not hard to understand why so many sites are fucking littered with ads. All that said, I still run an ad-blocker. Not because I feel people shouldn’t get paid for creating content, but because the current system is a mess and more than a little insecure. E.g., malvertising. It’s one of the great unsolved puzzles of the Web. For a long time, Flash was the enabler of the worst offenders. Now it might be JavaScript. A simple, if regressive, solution would be to standardize on text-based ads, with the use of a 1px transparent image for basic tracking for per-impression based ads. Image-based ads are workable if the rotation logic is done on the ad provider’s side. That’s it. No javascript, no Flash, no HTML5, and certainly no fucking iframes.

In a good example of “be the change you want to see in the world,’ that’s exactly what I’m doing at I Miss Grantland. And it is paying peanuts. It would be all too easy to find out what ad company pays the most and carpet-bomb the readers, but karma’s a hell of a thing when you’re an IT guy fighting malvertising and ransomware. And honestly, even if the ad revenue increased 1000%…10 bucks a month? At the expense of being a vilified piece of the web that I fight against?

I make six figures. I’ll be alright without the ten bucks a month. Going full retard with the ads is not worth it.

I’ve been fighting with a PowerShell script at work, and it’s been very educational if also irritating. The idea, when it’s finished, is automated response to ransomware. There are some Word files on a share, they act as honeypots for ransomware. I check the CRC value every minute and compare it to what it was when it was created. If it changes, we’re under attack. The ransomware strains I’ve seen lately modify the owner of the file to be the infected user, possibly a programming bug or possibly due to some quirk of our environment. The program will note the new owner of the watched file, use Active Directory to get a list of PCs, and compile a list of PCs the user is logged in on, and then disables the NIC(s) of each such PC. And it’s so close to being complete. The pieces all work on their own, it’s just a matter of linking them together now.

Extending PowerShell beyond little one-liners with piped commands, into a proper program with functions, arrays, and variable scope makes me realize there’s probably almost nothing in Windows you can’t do with PowerShell, and it’s even extensible to a few non-Windows applications.

To you aspiring sysadmins, if you don’t know Linux, you’d damn well better learn PowerShell. Without one or the other you are going to get left behind sooner rather than later.

BTYBTL6?

Well, I feel quite a bit better today. I don’t know if I was fighting some kind of illness yesterday or just didn’t get enough sleep, or perhaps the anticholinergic wore me out, but I spent most of yesterday in an exhausted fog. Felt rather useless at work to say the least. I’d have started to really worry about myself if I had to miss today, not because I might be sick, but because that would mean I’d missed every other Tuesday for the last 8 weeks, and that’s suspicious.

After some discussion on my fears, however unlikely it may be, that we would buy a house and then I would not be retained at work, I think we’re going to hold off on the whole process until the probationary period is over around Thanksgiving. It also lets us keep saving up money which is wise, if we can do it for a year it’s probably going to put us in a position to pay off the credit card debt, maybe pay off Diana’s car, and put us in better shape overall.

There was also some discussion on future plans involving spending money, and how I was a little put out that while I’m bringing in a lot of money, I’ve been really good in not spending it because the house was coming quickly. However, there were still projects coming up that didn’t involve me getting to buy those things that I want. I’m oversimplifying but to Diana’s credit, she heard me out and understood. So she wants me to get the list together of the stuff I’ve had in mind to upgrade.

I’ve been wanting to get back to other forms of media creation, in particular either a podcast, a radio show, or a screencast. My concern is the time investment. It’s not something I can really do on the train, you know?And if it’s not happening on the train, it’s happening either at work or at home. Work seems improbable on account of actually needing to work, and when I’m home there’s probably other more enjoyable and/or necessary things to be done.

A podcast would take the most work in audio post, and I’m not entirely sure what it would be about, and it would probably need a second person, right? Very few people seem to like the solo format. A radio show would take the least work and be the most familiar, having done it for two different audiences in the past with TLoM Radio and later the 3-hour block on Shoupz Radio. But both of those audiences are gone. The screencast could be either Twitch-style gaming, or teaching on a topic, likely sysadmin stuff. I actually have done some work on an outline for this course, and have been working on the lab piece to make sure I understand the concepts I’m trying to present and explain. I don’t know what else I would be able to cast and still be remotely interesting to people.

I upgraded my Surface Pro 3, which I use to write these posts, to Windows 10 yesterday. 8.1 has had some weird issues involving the machine totally locking up, so it felt worth trying the upgrade. This isn’t my first encounter with 10, I ran the Technical Preview in a virtual machine, and then in-place upgraded my workstation at my last-job so I used it on a daily basis in a professional setting. There’s this camp of junior admins masquerading as sysadmins and MSPs masquerading as competent human beings acting like any company that isn’t already on Windows 10 may as well be running Windows XP SP0 with the firewall off and addressed in public space. And I don’t know if they forgot that even Windows Vista is still supported for over another year, much less 7 (2020) and 8.1 (2023).

If you don’t think 10 is going to change significantly before 2020, you’re crazy. There’s also the matter that we need to write a check to Microsoft for about $170,000 just to license 10 Enterprise. That’s not couch cushion money, particularly when our budget has been slashed until July ’17 at the earliest. I am not endangering my users by leaving them on a supported operating system for a little longer. Get over yourself.