Category Archives: IT Management

NTEN’s Staffing and Salary Surveys for IT Staff

NTEN has published its most recent survey on IT for non-profits. A couple excerpts:

• The highest average salary reported was $71,494.57 for a Chief Technology Officer/Chief InformationOfficer.
• The lowest reported average salary was $37,445.65 for a PC Technician/IT Support Staff.
• Reported salaries for most positions were lower this year than last year. The largest drops were for management positions. CIO/CTOs reported salaries 25.44% lower than last year and IT Directors reported salaries 18.42% lower than last year.
• The exceptions to the trend toward lower salaries were Systems/Network Administrator and Webmaster/developer, which were 4.00% and 8.84% higher, respectively.

Dynamic DNS & Port Forwarding

One thing that is necessary when dealing with IP videoconferencing is the whole network management thing. This means dealing with DNS, ports, and firewalls.

DNS remains a bit of a mystery, but in essence, the DNS system maps numerical IP addresses to domain names. So for example, my web site is located at 64.78.42.66. The way I know this is by running the NSLOOKUP command in Windows.

You can find your current public IP address by going to www.whatismyip.com

For help in setting up your router with port forwarding, go to http://portforward.com/

Laura Chappell produces fantastic tutorials on network troubleshooting. I should say “still”…because I’ve been reading her stuff since Novell was the networking operating system, and that is going back close to twenty years. The linked tutorial, from Novell Connection Magazine is entitled 10 Tasks Every Troubleshooter Should Conquer.

She references the SecTools site for tons of networking tools

Tech Friday: Amazon’s Web Services – Database

Every so often somebody makes a prediction which at the time seems plausible, but maybe somewhat out in front of things. They always with start with the word “Someday…” For example:

  • Someday, you will be able to go to a machine and withdraw money from your checking account.
  • Someday, there will be a little box that knows where it is at all times.
  • Someday we’ll all buy our computing power just like we buy electricity.

So it was interesting to see an announcement by Amazon yesterday about the Amazon SimpleDB database, a sort of do-it-yourself pennies per hour Oracle database. Well, maybe not Oracle, but a substantial database back end that can be used to host a major application. Actually, the SimpleDB appears to be primarily a querying component; for hosting a large dataset, Amazon offers S3, the Simple Storage Service.

Just a quick browse around shows support for C# and Ruby-on-Rails, among other development languages. In addition, Red Hat is offering Red Hat Enterprise servers as part of the Amazon offering. Their FAQ about “cloud computing” is located here.

This is something to keep an eye on, perhaps the next logical step after virtualization of existing servers in your machine room. Why have any servers at all? Why have a machine room?

Time Tracking with Harvest

I’ve been using TraxTime from Spud City Software (is that a great name or what?) for yonks to track billable time. TraxTime is a Windows program which runs on a single computer. (There is also a multi-user version which works on a LAN, and allows for aggregate reporting). Now that I’ve got a Mac, though, I’ve been looking at web-based time tracking. The problem with Web-based time tracking is that you need to have an open browser running.

But now, Harvest includes widgets for both the mac and the pc which interface with their web-based tracking application. So you can run cross-platform outside of a browser. It has passed the five-minute test.

Windows 2008 Server: Joining my existing domain

Or not. I attempted to join my existing domain with this server being a member server, and received a message:

An attempt to resolve the DNS name of a DC in the domain being joined has failed. Please verify that this client is configured to reach a DNS server that can resolve DNS names in the target domain.

OK…I actually know how to fix this, I think… when configuring IP addresses, I didn’t put the local address of my domain controller in as one of the DNS possibilities. Once this change was made…it worked.

So far so good. Now I’m trying to promote the Win 2008 server to a domain controller; it will be interesting to see if this works with Small Business Server as the master domain controller; I recall that one of the restrictions of SBS was that it could be the only DC.

So I can run this remote desktop. I change the permissions to allow logging in under Remote Desktop. Now I can watch this run from my main workstation, with full video support, and avoid the maddening mess on the native monitor screen.

Before actually running the upgrade wizard, there is a utility called adprep which is provided win Win2008. This version is run on the master DC (ie the SBS 2003) to upgrade the AD database to match the level of the Win2008 database. A message suggests that this upgrade takes the existing AD level 30 to AD level 40.
So, I copy the entire adprep folder from the Win2008 machine to the SBS2003 machine, then on SBS2003, I run the following commands:

adprep /forestprep

adprep /domainprep

Then in response to a message from the result of the domain prep, I run the following to update permissions on the group objects:
adprep /domainprep /gpprep

There is a nice help screen which explains this process.

Now, in on the new machine, running the AD Domain Services Installation Wizard, I will “Add a domain controller to an existing domain.”

Now I get an error: “You will not be able to install a read-only DC in this domain because adprep /rodcprep was not yet run. Do you want to continue?” Since I don’t want a RO DC here, that is fine, and I just continue.

It asks to select a site:
Defualt-First-Site-Name

It now asks if I want to install additional services; a DNS server, and a Global catalog. This dialog includes some additional stuff about a Read-Only domain controller, that is irrelevant because I don’t want to install a Read Only domain controller.

So, while I would prefer not to install the DNS server and Global catalog, since eventually I want to promote the Win2008 machine to the master domain controller, I’ll allow these two items to be installed. I hit the “next” button.

Now an error message comes up:

A delegation for this DNS Server will not be created because the authoritative parent zone cannot be found or it does not support dynamic updates. To ensure this DNS Server can be resolved as authoritative for the domain mxdesign.local, you can create a delegation to this DNS Server manually in the parent zone. Do you want to continue?

Well, OK…let’s continue.

Now it asks for locations for the database, log files and SYSVOL, suggesting that these should be on separate volumes. Ain’t gonna happen. Next.

The Directory Services Restore Mode Administrator account is different from the domain Administrator account. Assign a password for the Administrator account that will be used when this domain controller is started in Directory Services Restore Mode.

I give it my normal admin password. There is this talk about the password being the correct complexity and length, and conforming to the correct history.

So far so good, the DNS install goes ahead and completes in about two minutes. This requires a reboot, so I’m psyched to see how this will work when it comes back up.

Windows Server 2008

I’ve installed a beta of Windows Server 2008 on a new partition that I carved out on my secondary workstation. Installation went fairly smoothly, but both my sound card and the onboard Intel graphics chipset are not supported, so I’m stuck with the generic VGA driver which, frankly, looks like hell. Still, since most server management will take place remotely, this shouldn’t be a show stopper.

The install creates a dual-boot menu at startup, which allows me to choose betweein Win 2008 or a “legacy windows system”…that is, my existing Windows XP workstation.

The beta is good until April 2008. After about 20 minutes, everything is copied to the hard drive, and you can start playing.

A major advantage of 2008 is that the wizards previously available on small business server have been added to 2008 to provide “accidental network managers” some additional support.

I quickly changed the default IP address obtained from the DHCP server on my router to a fixed IP4 address. I also nailed down the admin password.

Right out of the box the server doesn’t do a thing; you have to assign “roles” from the extensive list provided:

  • Active Directory (several items)
  • Application Server
  • DHCP server
  • DNS server (and is this required for AD as in previous versions?)
  • Fax server (the application that apparently will never die)
  • File Services (our first role)
  • Network Policy and Access services (functionality provided by the previous add-on application, including VPN services and fewalling)
  • Print Services (shared printers)
  • Terminal Services
  • IIS
  • SharePoint
  • Windows Deployement Services

Picking one of the roles above then allows you to pick additional functionality related to the main role.

Roles that require other roles as a prerequisite will automatically let you know.For example you can’t install Sharepoint without installing IIS and the Net Framework 3.0. Makes sense, of course.

For starters, I’ve installed print services and file services. Once the installation is complete, I received a message saying I had to restart the server.

Chron this week: Google Apps

Technology-related articles in this week’s Chronicle of Philanthropy

Google Offers Charities Free Software, Help

This article describes Google Apps, which are the Google Mail, Google Docs (word processing) and Google Spreadsheets.

Google Apps, which will be free t nonprofit organizations in the United States, includes e-mail and calendar programs, Internet-based telephone and text-messaging services, and word-processing, spreadsheet, and Web-publishing applications.

More at www.google.com/a/npo.

FCC Offers Educational Radio Licenses

For the first time in even years, the Federal Communications Commisssion in mid-October will accept applicaitons for new, full-power stations used for non-commercial, educational purposes.

More at http://radioforpeople.org

Salesforce for nonprofits – Database Alternative

Salesforce is one of the most popular web-enabled databases, and it’s gaining adherants among nonprofits. Accessible from any browser, customizable in myriad ways — and available to nonprofits for no fee through the Salesforce.com Foundation (up to 10 seats) — it’s a powerful tool. But how can a database with a name like Salesforce be used by the nonprofit sector? This webinar will explore the functionality and community of Salesforce. We’ll look at how several nonprofits, from a group of more than 1500, use Salesforce to cultivate and recruit donors, manage their electronic communications, and more. If you are looking for a new CRM solution, or just want to know more about Salesforce, this webinar will be a great starting point.
Presented by Rob Jordan, Idealist Consulting

Register now at http://nten.org/webinars.

Microsoft Action Pack: Vista and Office 2007

Sooooo….the Microsoft Action Pack Q1 shipment arrives with Office 2007 Enterprise and Vista Business Edition upgrade. I spend 90 minutes digging bits of the Office 2007 beta 2 Technical Refresh out of my workstation before it allows me to install Office 2007.

Conversley, the Vista install has to be done over an existing XP install. WTF? That means if you want a clean install, you first have to install XP, then install Vista on top. This has to be a mistake, I’m sure that Bill’s boys and girls will be fixing this momentarily, right?

So I skipped Vista for now, and went with the Office 2007 Enterprise. This not only includes the usual suspects but a few others, like Groove, Expressions Web (The replacement for the unlamented FrontPage), Visio 2007, and a bunch of SharePoint stuff.

By my count there are at now at least three different technologies for “shared workspaces” offered by Microsoft; Groove, Sharepoint, and within some versions of Vista. Actually, four, because you can share OneNote notebooks in real time as well.

Before investing too much in the Microsoft versions, check out the Google Docs and Google Spreadsheet. I had a two-hour shared telephone conference with budget spreadsheet using Google Spreadsheet this morning, which worked out fine. It is a little funky when downloaded back into Excel, but it worked. And of course, we still like Backpack, I mean Basecamp.