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Volume 3, Number 11
November, 1998

Tales of the Geek Lord
All I Wanted

by Pelican Smith

Just a little over a year ago I got my hands on my first copy of Windows NT 4.0. Cool, I thought. This should help me build Internet servers which are easier to maintain. After a decade of plodding through configuration files on Unix and VMS servers, I was looking forward to a change.

Sure were a lot of buttons, though. And a lot of windows within windows. And a lot of hard to find drop-down boxes, radio buttons, text boxes, greyed out options, default installations, and dancing paperclips. I kept Linux loaded on my hard drive, just in case. All I wanted was a Graphical User Interface.

Then I heard that NT 4.0 came with it's own Domain Name Server (DNS) software. DNS servers are what turn your computer names ( into IP addresses, so that computers can connect across the Internet. After four years of maintaining text files that contained the names and IP addresses of every single computer on my network, I was looking forward to a DNS server which could update those files automatically.

Unfortunately, Microsoft's DNS doesn't work. At least, it doesn't work for very long. Also, to enable dynamic updates, you have to include Windows Internet Naming Service (WINS) records in your DNS, which doesn't work with the rest of the Internet. My attempt to migrate my users to the DNS was a prolonged waking nightmare. Everyone thinks it is working now, but I secretly have all DNS lookups pointing to a hidden Linux machine behind the server rack. All I wanted was a dynamic DNS.

Then we heard that the company was going to Microsoft Exchange. Cool, I thought. This should help us get rid of the MS Mail Internet Gateways, which ran on DOS machines and could only process a single message at a time. And it can give us a big Global Address List so we can see every user listed from our Exchange clients.

But the Global Address List meant we had to do Directory Replication to each of our 26 Exchange sites. It meant that we were sharing some very large, and very important, Access databases between every single server. It meant that one minor misconfiguration in any one server could cause all mail to misroute to it before being released to the Internet. It meant that any person who runs a basic integrity checker on their server could steal all the public folders from other bases. And the servers were never big enough. We were rolling in computers the size of refrigerators, but they couldn't keep up with the load. And each new version of Exchange refused to communicate with the prior releases. And the service packs sometimes crashed the servers. I secretly loaded sendmail on my Linux machine, so my friends and I could always have reliable email. Man, all I wanted was a Global Address List.

Then Internet Explorer 4.0 came out. Cool, I thought. Now I can have my web browser integrated with my desktop.

But IE4 opened up all these security holes. And it caused my computer to crash regularly. And it kept trying to take my browser to web pages I didn't want to go to. And it took up 40 Meg of hard drive space on day one, and has steadily took more and more as time goes on. And I ran out of memory so I had to get more just to run the desktop. I secretly began using Netscape. All I wanted was to single-click items on my desktop.

Oh, woe unto me. I knew there would be new problems when we began migrating services to Microsoft. But I had always assumed that the software would at least, well, function.

But instead, here I am. It's 5:18 in the morning and I'm at work, keeping an eye on a room full of servers that can't be trusted, no matter how much processing power we throw at them. Netbios packets race across my network for no good reason, sucking up my precious bandwidth. Servers cough once, twice, then display a comforting "Blue Screen of Death". I find out that Service Pack 4 for NT is out, but I am afraid to load it. Behind it all, my secret little Unix servers, two Linux and a Sparc Ultra, continue humming along without a glitch, but management won't let me use them.

All I wanted was to sleep at night.

5 Links to Make You Think
  1. SysInternals
  2. Spinner
  3. Packet Archive
  4. Yahoo Sports
  5. Byte
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