Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Friend Lost

It's with great sadness I report Terrie and I lost our cat and best buddy, Cleo, after roughly 17 years (that's anywhere from 102 - 153 human years).

Cleo, enjoying a sunny day on the deck

She will be missed.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Italy Pictures

I just finished updating and uploading all of our Italy Vacation pictures to Google's Picasa web albums. When viewing the links below, there will be a "Slideshow" button in the upper-left corner which will play all in a slide show format.

The first album (and majority of the pictures) can be found at

The second album (and remaining 245 pictures) can be found at


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Servers Decommissioned - Now Using Email Service

What Happened?

Well, the primary server (host to all the virtual servers within) had a glitch in it's drive array.

Some Background First...

To explain, there's a drive array module which controls the computer's access to the hard drives. With this card, I can pair a number of drives together to logically so they appear to the operating system (i.e. Microsoft Windows, Apple Mac OS, VMware ESX/vSphere, Novell Netware, etc.) as one big drive or a couple of big drives.

When a drive array spans 3 or more drives, the drive array starts to use parity technology for redundancy. This is, in short, a mathematical calculation where a block of data is stored on any of the drives and it's mathematical checksum is stored on the other drives. What this does is provide a high level of redundancy in the event a hard drive within the array of drives goes bad. Very cool so long as fewer than half of the drives in the array go bad at one time.

Back to the Issue...

None of my drives are reporting any issues.

In my case the array glitched (similar to losing power or power spike) and lost the drive configuration. In higher end array modules (and even in this one) I'm supposed to be able to pull the array configuration from the drive back to the card. That failed due to something with the glitch.

What About Backups?

I very likely could have restored from backup if I had backups of each virtual machine - remember though, each virtual machine is essentially a complete computer in and of itself (and I have - correction, had - quite a few). So, unfortunately, I do not have the resources (technically or financially) to do backups of these systems on that level. And I learned long ago with email and database systems, if you don't go all the way with backups (and backup everything) it's best to just do what you can to minimize your losses and downtime.

You did maintenance on the servers the other day. Did that have a play or possibly cause this issue?

Short answer, No. I was done with maintenance on Saturday and the server crashed while I was out buying presents on Tuesday around noon. Plus, what I did had no relation to the drive array system.

My Analogy of the Issue...

Probably the best way to explain this is, if you drive a full stretch Cadillac and go to the grocery store and fill up that huge trunk with groceries, and then 30 miles down the road simultaneously all four tires blow and the transmission breaks, do you think it's because the trunk is full of groceries or is it possible something else which may have happened (like running over glass in the roadway)? :-)

As for backing it up, we could probably have four spare tires in the trunk as well as a spare transmission - but it's unlikely anyone would go to that length of protection on a personal basis.

What Now?

For anyone using my email server, I've transferred it out to a service (provided by so it will no longer go down (at least - not because of something I've done, or my Internet connection, or my server glitching). I've gone ahead and paid the first year service fees to get the transfer going and email is already flowing in. This service was already providing basic anti-spam services (I didn't have them set too high) so it will continue to do that - and we can also increase the spam protection services as well as the settings for individuals. I will also be re-setting up the reflection addresses which existed in my own server (things like group addresses which forward/reflect email to all members of the group).

What are the differences?

Here are the differences which you'll notice:

  • No server based calendar. Personal calendar within your email client (i.e. Outlook, Apple Calendar, etc.) will be useable.
  • No server based address book. I think everyone had their own address book on their computer anyways. This will still work the same.
  • Web Email will have a different look and feel.

If you wish to use another email service (such as Comcast or Verizon) and want your "" or "" email forwarded to it, please let me know.

Also, the reverse is true - if you wish to use the "" or "" email service and currently have another service, please let me know. Either way can be accommodated and this email service is guaranteed to be up 99.99% of the time.

What Else?

For those of you who are using my Corporate Antivirus license, that server is also gone. Your Antivirus client will be fine for a couple of weeks if you wish to buy another (I would highly recommend it). I would recommend Trend Micro or AVG. I've not used AVG but have heard it is good from others. For those who have multiple computers (I think everyone does) and want to purchase Trend Micro, I've provided a link to the online store which allows you to purchase Trend Micro for multiple computers.

A couple little tricks on purchasing Antivirus software - specifically Trend Micro

  1. Purchase it ONLINE from Trend Micro. Don't go to the store! You'll pay more at the store!!

  2. Buy the best one. It's worth it!

  3. Trend Micro

  4. I really like Trend Micro, but when purchasing Trend Micro or any other software, be aware of the "Download Protection Service". It's a waste of money! You'll always be able to download a copy of Trend Micro's software - no matter the situation!

  5. Download Protection Service

    Hit the "Trash Can" icon to remove the "Download Protection Service" and save yourselves about $8.

  6. Don't skimp on virus protection! Remember everything you have on your computer - and what a malicious person could do with it. Trend Micro is having a serious sale right now so now's the time to purchase for your Windows pc.

Is that everything?

Surprisingly, that's about it. Amazing how a complete system wipe can bring you back to a clean slate.

The only other thing is an apology for any inconvenience or issues this may have caused to anyone. Know that your email is now in better hands now and will not go down.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Server Down....Unknown Reason

Well this really irritates me. After brining it up the other day from the configuration changes, everything has been running fine until today (and I've left it alone since). Apparently sometime after noon today (Tuesday) the virtual machine host server just stopped working. Technically, the Logical Disk Array (I have 4 large drives acting as one in case of a drive failure) dropped all of it's configurations and none of the drives are reporting valid drive configuration including the disk controller. So 5 sets of drive configuration information are all gone in an instant (that was the backup too).

Talk about a disaster.... That scream of frustration you heard was me.

Still troubleshooting and attempting to figure out how to proceed for now.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, November 22, 2010

Seattle with Snow

It snows in Seattle!!?

Yes! On occasion the white stuff does fall here in and around the Emerald City.

Unfortunately, most people around Western Washington State do not know how to act, let alone drive, in the frozen H2O.

Yesterday, and last night especially, it dipped well below freezing so the ground was well suited for the stuff. As of around 8am this morning (the 22nd of Nov) it started lightly snowing and and stopped in my area just about an hour ago as it cleared up and the temp dropped even further (19 deg F right now). While we only have about 4" on the ground (most has blown away in the 30Mph winds), the snow on the streets started sticking and freezing solid early on.

My back yard as of 4pm.

Did I mention Washingtonians don't know how to drive in it? Here's a screen shot of the Seattle Area Traffic map from the Seattle Freeways app on my iPad.

Note: That's a bus turned sideways on the freeway in the smaller inset image.

Yes, people have been stuck on the freeways for hours....and hours. Did I mention people don't know how to drive in snow here? Thank goodness I work from home! :-)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Intermittent Outages This Week

Just a reminder....All servers are back online ( and email as well as other - FTP, etc.)! Currently I'm trying to fix the Antivirus server for those of you who use my corporate AV license for your Windows systems.

However, please don't be surprised if there are temporary outages this week while I fix issues (the AV issue and others), perform maintenance and cleanup. And if my new server arrives this weeks, there will be some longer outages while I install it and move systems around to it.

So for now, all is well. As always, I will keep the Flaming Family web site updated so you can always go to for any updates and post a comment if you need anything.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

All Servers Are Up

All servers are back online!

Turns out the new Intel PRO/1000 Dual Port Network Adapter
was not the correct item needed for the additional capacity necessary to support the move of the firewall. I ended up reconfiguring my VMware ESX virtual host server to accommodate the virtual appliance firewall with the hardware configuration I was already running. In the process, I also upgraded the firewall to a newer system as well.

I won't be able to fully load it until I get the new server in to offload a few things to it, but the new virtual firewall does run better than my old Dell Dimension (a Pentium Pro 400Mhz system with 650MB of RAM and about 10GB in hard drive space - archaic by today's standards).

So for now, all is well. As always, I will keep the Flaming Family web site updated so you can always go to for any updates and post a comment if you need anything.

Servers are Down for Hardware Updates

I am bringing the servers down at this time (email) to update hardware in preparations for the firewall migration from the physical white-box firewall into a virtual appliance firewall.

In case anyone is interested, I will be installing a new Intel PRO/1000 Dual Port Server Adapter
network adapter for the additional capacity necessary to support the virtual appliance firewall.

During this time, I will keep the Flaming Family web site updated so you can always go to for any updates and post a comment if you need anything.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Computer Updates for Thanksgiving Week

Just a reminder, during the week of Thanksgiving, there will be some server outages to those of you using my email server ( and

I will be conducting at least one upgrade if not more on the following:

Firewall Move:

Additional maintenance may also occur.

  1. Server Operating System Updates.
  2. Server Reboots.
  3. Service Migrations (License Servers, Log Servers, Web Servers) to other systems.
  4. Service Maintenance (cleanup of aforementioned services and logs).

During this time, I will keep the Flaming Family web site updated so you can always go to for any updates and post a comment if you need anything.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Bad Drive?

So my very first laptop has finally died - or, at least, the hard drive within it died (my Dell Inspiron 8600 I bought 6 or 7 years ago). I only had it running a web cam, a license server, and a network attached drive which was backup to some other things so no huge loss (had all the data copied off elsewhere too). Still...annoying as I now have to recreate the services elsewhere.

Anyways...I thought I'd share this picture as even my diagnostic tools are indicating a "bad drive".

Click picture for larger image.

To help interpret this screen, in 27 hours, 21 minutes, and 42 seconds, it's only scanned two sectors of the drive and the second is not only bad but unrecoverable. It's working on the third segment - so less than 0.3% complete. To bring perspective here, this tool should only take about 30 minutes to scan a 350GB drive (the size of drive here). It's estimating another 11,142 hours, 37 minutes, and 4 seconds. In case you can't do math that quickly, that's 464 days (or 1 year and 99 days), 6 hours, 37 minutes, and 4 seconds. So...yeah...bad drive. :-)

Oh well....that's why we have a technology called "Backup".

I.T. Rule #1 - Backup, Backup, Backup!
I.T. Rule #2 - When all else fails, revert back to rule #1.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Upcoming Server Outages

Just a forewarning, during the week of Thanksgiving, there will be some server outages to those of you using my email server ( and

I will be conducting at least one upgrade if not more on the following:
Firewall Move:
a. Migration of the physical white-box firewall into a virtual appliance.
b. Physically installing a couple of Network Ports.

Additional maintenance may also occur.

1. Server Operating System Updates.
2. Server Reboots.
3. Service Migrations (License Servers, Log Servers, Web Servers) to other systems.
4. Service Maintenance (cleanup of aforementioned services and logs).

During this time, I will keep the Flaming Family web site updated so you can always go to for any updates and post a comment if you need anything.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Veterans Day Salute

Well, it's Veteran's Day - the day we honor all who have and are serving our fine country. For a history of how Veterans Day came into existence, check out the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs - History of Veterans Day. Did you know Veterans Day was originally known as "Armistice Day"?

In honor of my family's Veterans, here is a picture of my Grandfather during WWII.

Grandpa, Thanks for your service. You will always be remembered.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, November 1, 2010

Cortona Countryside - Follow-up Posting

Terrie and Celeste went hiking around Cortona one afternoon (I think Terrie was secretly looking for places to buy but can't be certain) and they took some really neat shots which I thought I'd share here.

This first one is a neat view from up near the top parts of Cortona.

This was from the same vantage point as the above picture, except looking off to the right.

This was looking in the same direction as the above picture, however completely zoomed out.

These next couple are of some really neat little courtyards and entry ways.

Another nice view from atop Cortona.

Just an awesome entry way. Check out how steep the street is.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

We're Home!

Finally got the chance to post the previous posting. We got in about 8pm last night and Cleo was happy to see us (slightly annoyed by me taking the below picture - but happy, nonetheless). She's stuck to us like glue.

I'm off to get a real Starbucks and breakfast! Yum!


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Back in Heathrow - Got 8-Shots

Well, when I started typing this we had landed back in London at Heathrow...and it was nice to be able to get 8-shots of espresso over ice at least (no such thing as iced coffee here though). Now we have taken off from London on our way home to Seattle.

To wrap up our last day in Venice and 1-night stay in Milan I've got a few pictures here.

Our last afternoon in Venice, Terrie and I took a walk down to the entrance of the Grande Canal. Here's Terrie at the point.

Here I am at the point (and awfully close to the water...but still dry).

On our way out to the point, I hammed it up a bit and got a little daring. Notice the steps lead right into the water....and I'm well within "falling in" distance. :-). But I didn't fall in!

I also took a couple of neat shots of Terrie.

And one of us on the way back from the mouth of the Grande Canal.

After getting back to the hotel, we checked out and grabbed a water taxi to the Venice train station. We took the train from Venice to Milan (about a 2 ½ hour train ride) and arrived at Milan Central train station in the heart of downtown Milan (not very far from where we stayed in Milan the first time). The train station itself is very huge and has the 1930's feel (like from a WWII movie). It is absolutely enormous and has several levels - if I had to guess, probably twice the size of Grand Central Station in New York (for those who've been there).

From there, we had to take a shuttle bus to the Milan-Malpensa International Airport - normally about a 45-minute drive outside of Milan, however, ours was a bit longer due to traffic (see below). Then, once we got to the airport, we had to grab a hotel shuttle to our hotel (they only went back and forth between the hotel and airport - not 45 minutes into the heart of Milan).

The rail station to airport shuttle bus ride was almost as wild as the first taxi ride in Rome - especially since we sat right up front - so I took some videos of it and will be posting those as soon as we get home.

As I said, once we got to the airport, we hopped the hotel shuttle to the hotel. So last night we stayed at the Crowne Plaza at Milan-Malpensa Airport - which was very nice overall, however the room, which was very clean, wreaked of really bad air-freshener and the room was quite warm (while the air conditioner would go down as low as 19ºC - which is 66ºF - the room never got below 75Fº according to the thermometer on Terrie's travel clock). Fortunately the window opened so we were able to get some cooler (albeit, very polluted) air. We were both glad we stayed right at the airport though, since all we had to do was go right from the hotel to the airport this morning.

This morning's check-in at Milan-Malpensa Airport wasn't bad at all. When we had dropped Celeste off there last week she said she had multiple check points in both Milan and London and how chaotic it was. While the airport is huge (even larger than the rail station), and while we did have to hike from one end of Terminal 1 to the other (and back), once we found the British Airways desk, check-in was a breeze as there was no line, and security was very simple as we were pointed to the "Fast Track" lines. Even the Italy foreigner tax (VAT) return process, while somewhat convoluted in and of itself, went smoothly for us and had no lines. We could only surmise on the lack of lines - thinking it was because we are traveling on a weekend. But who really knows...

FYI - In most countries if you are a foreign visitor who makes a purchase in a store of one or more items and the total purchase is greater than a certain value, then you can file to have the tax returned. In the U.S. it is often referred to as the Value Added Tax or VAT.

Upon arriving at Heathrow, we did the standard two security check-points (one I.D. check and one security check) and headed toward the main terminal (where I got a Starbucks for the first time since leaving 2 ½ weeks earlier). I did get selected for the random security check upon boarding but that was no big deal either. I didn't even set off the metal detector with my leg (the metal rod placed in it when I broke my leg years ago). Normally, I set them off all the time.

So now we just have an 9 hour plane ride and we'll be back on Pacific time.

Vacation in Italy was wonderful....but we're ready to be home.

Ciao for now!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, October 15, 2010

Out of Venezia, Back to Milano

We just got on a train in Venice heading back to Milan where we'll be flying out tomorrow (Saturday) to London-Heathrow and on to Seattle.

Yesterday afternoon we wandered around town a bit, stopping at the Rialto bridge (shown below).

Below is a picture of the people and shops from the top, looking down to the far side.

After a bit more shopping and site seeing, we found a nice little restaurant to eat at (below).

We then hopped a gondola ride - and I'm happy to report it was accident free and I'm still dry.

The gondola ride was neat - taking us all through the main area of Venice and even out onto the Grande Canal (below) where we passed under the Rialto bridge.

That was yesterday evening. As I said, we're now on a train to Milan to fly home.

Ciao for now!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Veneztia and Murano, Italia

Today we took a private boat ride over to Murano to see the glass blowing and sites.

The boat ride was absolutely awesome! Here, Terrie and I sit in the back of the private water taxi while we head down the Grande Canal towards open sea and the island of Murano.

The sites on the Grande Canal.

The glass blowing was neat to see. Here the apprentice in the black T-shirt assists the two master glass artists in white T-shirts.

They were making beautiful little glass cups in the above picture, but also make other such beautiful things like these (below).

After glass blowing we wandered over to Murano's central canal.

Here I am next to the central canal. They do not have any rails or walls on their walkways. By the way...I'm still dry....even after multiple boat rides and canal walks.

The central canal in Murano is quaint with many glass nick-nacky shops.

We ate a snack afterwards street-side - or, more correctly, canal-side - where there was a wall to keep me from falling in. ;-)

PSYCH! No, Terrie isn't drinking coffee below...she's just taking a sniff of my espresso.

Afterwards, we took a boat ride back to Venice, to the Grande Piazza, and then slowly made our way back to the hotel (below).

Today has been fun!

Ciao for now!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Venice - The First Night (Still Dry)

I'm happy to report I'm still dry after 16 hours. ;-)

Here's a few pictures of Venezia, Italia from yesterday.

Here's our Water Taxi over to the island. Good thing it's covered...I might have fallen out. ;-)

Here's the boat landing we docked at near the Accademia. Our hotel was about a 10 minute hike up the side canal.

After we got to the hotel, we went exploring. Here's a shot of Terrie just outside our Hotel (Pensione Accademia) looking down the side canal towards the above boat landing (can't see it in the below picture).

A picture of a potentially risky venture...

"Big D" on the Accademia bridge over the Grande Canal.

A night time shot of the Grande Canal from the Accademia bridge. I had to use some serious shutter time for that to turn out...and brace the camera so it remained very still for the whole time the shutter was open (about 10 seconds).

Anyways...we're off to Murano (island of glass factories) to look at glass!

Ciao for now!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad