Tag Archives: Networking

Tech Friday: Installing Windows Small Business Server 2011

I’ve received  a Dell T110 server, to install here at Microdesign GHQ.  I originally got it with two 250 gigabyte disks, I’ve been fooling around with various images and DVD disks trying several ways of installing it.  Some ideas:

1. SBS 2008 or 2011 requires a minimum of 8 megabytes of RAM, with twelve megabytes recommended for a production server. One reason I broke down and bought new hardware is that I had no recent Windows workstation that I could repurpose that could use more than 4 megabytes of RAM. I tested several candidates using the Crucial on-line tester. Then in desperation I went the Dell web site, and tried there as well. My latest workstation hardware, circa 2005, was too old. 

2. Being a cheapskate, I configured the server with two 250 gigabyte drives, thinking I’d mirror the drives. But it looks like Dell wants 9 megs or so for a utility partition, and that  the Windows installer won’t mirror anything before installation, so the operating system itself will go on a single drive. I’ll configure the second drive for data for starters, and then buy another one to mirror, so that I have mirrored data disks. This is what we ended up doing with the FreeNAS server that we’re using for student data; the O/S is on its own drive. Presumably, if that drive fails, then you could reinstall on a fresh drive, and the data remains intact on its own array. 

The only way around this predicament is to get a RAID controller that does all of the mirroring or RAID in hardware. The controller then “presents” the array as a single drive to the operating system.  

3. The higher RAM requirement also precluded playing with the O/S in a virtual machine… at least with Parallels.  This may be a mixed blessing. Even on dedicated hardware the installation is taking over an hour from DVD. So, in a VM the whole thing would be really slow.

4. Using the technique described last fall  for Windows embedded booting, I’m preparing a USB drive as an alternate boot media, just to see if that works, and if it does if it is any faster. This involves formatting the USB drive, and copying the bootloader files from the Windows setup DVD.

5. The downloaded .iso DVD image for Windows SBS 2011 is larger than the typical 4.7 gigabyte  single-sided DVD. I had to go to Staples and buy double-sided DVDs which hold 8.5 gigs. I never knew they existed, but I’m happy to see that both my Mac Superdrive, and the server DVD reader can read them.

FreeNAS: Automate Drive Mappings for Windows Users

This is the third in a series about FreeNAS, the free network attached storage application which allows you to create an inexpensive but highly capable network file server for backups, iTunes, and general file sharing. Our application is a server for student data. We want to give each student a secure folder in which to store files that they create and use when working in our student computer labs.  The two previous postings are:

Creating a FreeNAS server for student data

Adding students and creating folders 

Note that the first link picks up at the point that the FreeNAS server software has been installed on to server hardware with a minimal configuration. The FreeNAS web site has links to several tutorials as well as the official setup guide.

By the way, FreeNAS installs really nicely within a virtual machine so you can easily test it out. I’ve got it running in Parallels on my MacBook, with software RAID 5 providing redundant disk storage.

Mapping a drive to a student folder

Once I set up the student’s folder and account on the FreeNAS server, I wanted to be able to give them the opportunity to access it from any workstation in our student lab.  The cleanest way I could think of was to create an icon on the desktop which runs a script. The script does the following:
1. Asks for the student login name
2. Asks for the student’s password
3. Maps the H: drive to the student’s folder on the FreeNAS server.

Student folders are named exactly the same as the student login, and they all appear under a shared folder called “StudentData”.  The full path is /mnt/StudentData/.  So, when student Myron Kapoodle logs in with his user name mkapoodle, the script takes him to: 

/mnt/StudentData/mkapoodle

Thus, when the student accesses drive H:, they find themselves in their own folder. They can’t select a folder “above” their own, and they can’t access anyone else’s folder, even if they can see it when browsing around the network neighborhood.

The Script

' VBScript to map a network drive.
' Heavily borrowed from ....
' Guy Thomas http://computerperformance.co.uk/
' Larry Keyes http://www.techfornonprofits.com
' ------------------------------------------------------'
Option Explicit
Dim strDriveLetter, strRemotePath, strUser, strPassword
Dim objNetwork, objShell, objFSO
Dim CheckDrive, AlreadyConnected, intDrive
strUser=""
strPassword=""

' This section gets the name and password
strUser=InputBox("Enter your User Name")
strPassword=InputBox("Enter your Password")

' The section sets the variables.
strDriveLetter = "H:"
strRemotePath = "\\freenas\StudentData\" & strUser

' This sections creates two objects:
' objShell and objNetwork and counts the drives
Set objShell = WScript.CreateObject("WScript.Shell")
Set objNetwork = WScript.CreateObject("WScript.Network")
Set objFSO = WScript.CreateObject("Scripting.FileSystemObject")
Set CheckDrive = objNetwork.EnumNetworkDrives()

If objFSO.DriveExists(strDriveLetter) Then
objShell.Popup "The H: Drive is already mapped"
objNetwork.RemoveNetworkDrive strDriveLetter
strRemotePath = "\\freenas\StudentData\" & strUser
objNetwork.MapNetworkDrive strDriveLetter, strRemotePath , false, strUser, strPassword
Else
strRemotePath = "\\freenas\StudentData\" & strUser
objNetwork.MapNetworkDrive strDriveLetter, strRemotePath , false, strUser, strPassword
End if

'Section which actually (re)names the Mapped Drive to eliminate naming problem.
Set objShell = CreateObject("Shell.Application")
objShell.NameSpace(strDriveLetter & "\").Self.Name = strUser
Wscript.Echo "Check : "& strDriveLetter & " for " & strUser
WScript.Quit

There is some extra stuff in there that attempts to fix an issue that appeared in Windows 7, where if the drive mapping is reused, it shows up with the name of the previous user.

Our student workstations have a single “student” local account.  Every student logs in to that account when they use the workstation. There are no individual user profiles. In some cases I have the student account log in automatically, and I’ll probably do this on all machines that use the FreeNAS network so that a student doesn’t have to log in twice…once to the desktop and once with their own user name and password on the FreeNAS server.

This script should be installed on each Windows workstation, with a desktop icon to appear on the desktop of the student account.

Two other observations and questions:

1. Obviously you can simply map a drive from the command line using Start->Run->CMD, and then at the prompt  type MAP H: /freeNAS/StudentData/mkapoodle.

2. I searched all over for a more elegant way to have a screen that came up that would ask for the name and password and then make the call to create the drive mapping. First I looked at C#, then, because Visual Basic has a “shell” command, I switched to VB. However that required a full-blown Windows installation of the .exe file, as well as a batch file which was called by the VB program. I finally decided I could live with two windows popping up; one asking for the name and another for the password.

Twittering for Non-Profits

Much fiddling with Twitter. One thing that is great about Twitter is that it more or less seems to pass the five minute test. Two resources to help get past Initial Euphoria, and move to Potential Productivity include O’Reilly’s The Twitter Book.

There is also a pretty good on-line guide at FastForward,, albeit with a more corporate orientation. I admit that I cringe when I see tweets like “Insurance industry finds value in social media”. Oh goody. But there is a lot of provocative theory there which suggests why Twitter might be a great way to leverage awareness of your non-profit “brand”.

One thing that makes Twitter so cool is that they published their application programming interface (API) early on, thereby enabling third-party programmers to cook up all manner of search and ranking tools that can sample and mine the tweet stream. This is a terrific example of a company who took a simple idea, maintained control of the idea, and yet allowed others to add value to it. And Twitter the company was recently valued at 1 billion dollars. Not bad for a company with no revenue yet.

Here are several Twitter search tools… mostly shamelessly cribbed from The Twitter Book

What The Trend http://whatthetrend.com
Twitscoop http://twitscoop.com
Twopular http://twopular.com
Twitters own Advanced Search found as a link near the search box on the normal twitter search page.

For some examples of what non-profits are doing with Twitter, there is a discussion on Mashable. Other comments and ideas are on Beth Kanter’s blog,”How Non-Profits Can Use Social Media”

Cloud Computing Redux

A year or so ago I railed against the cloud. Or rather, I railed against the paid cloud. Notwithstanding the fact that even then I was already paying for the cloud.

The subject came up during the Freedom To Connect conference. We were sitting around having lunch, several pretty hard-core networking types and somebody was grousing about cloud computing. “It’s not secure!” “It’s slow!” “What if you’re not connected to the Internet?”, (this at a conference of which the entire point was being connected all the time at ultra-high speed). But, I’m Cloud-Boy.

web site hosted at my ISP
eMail hosted at my ISP
virtual disk iDisk hosted at MobileMe
project management BaseCamp
time cards Harvest
Calendar Google Calendar
RSS reader Google Reader
word processing Google Docs (occasionally)
invoicing QuickBooks via eMail

Then there are the mandatory online applications when dealing with the federal government:

  • Employee withholding and tax payments
  • Applying for federal grants at Grants.Gov
  • NIH Commons for managing those grants once you’ve got them.
  • Electronic Funds System for drawing down funds.

Unfortunately, our state of Vermont is far behind… they actually require paper for virtually every step of the grant application and management function. Hmm….I wonder if you can file for a gay marriage license online?

I guess the point is that you’d be nuts not to take advantage of some hosted applications, and even if you are dead set against the cloud, you might be using something in the cloud and barely realizing it.

As usual, the MobileMe suite of applications from Apple have a little extra. Theoretically at least, you can sync your Safari links, and dashboard applications. (I still can’t get the dashboard apps quite right). The iDisk is effective in that it essentially mirrors one or more folders that are present on a particular machine, my desktop iMac for example, and replicates that disk to one or more other machines. (can work for Windows too…although I haven’t tried it. ) The neat thing about the iDisk though is that there is still a local copy of the folders on each machine. This unloads many of the objections to Cloud Computing…the notion that if you aren’t connected, you don’t have access to your files. True disk transfer happens at “FTP” speeds, so sometimes it takes awhile to sync with the cloud.

Freedom to Connect — Manifesto

I’m beginning to figure out that Freedom To Connect is a conference of people who espouse the following principals (with reservations by some).

1. Just as we first served homes with copper wire for electricity, and then copper wire for telephone service, we are now at an historical juncture where we should serve homes with fiber optic cable. It will actually cost less than either of the first two, because the poles and infrastructure are already in place for putting fiber into homes. Applications that would be supported by fiber include (but are by no means limited) to:

  • The Smart Grid, or “infotricity” a two-way connection between the power company and home appliances, water heater, air conditioners, and furnace that would automatically smooth demand for electric power throughout the day. This would result in a projected saving of 25% of the current base power load and eliminate the need for new coal and nuclear power plants.
  • “Triple Play”, cable TV, telephone and high-speed internet service.
  • Telemedicine, Telehealth and Distance Learning applications via two-way interactive multipoint videoconferencing
  • Security monitoring
  • Tele-Presence — viewing a neighbor or relative (located next door or across the globe) in their home to share photos, stories, grandchildren, whatever.
  • etc. ad. infinitum.

2. The notion that wireless technology is somehow a substitute for FTTH should be disabused. It is a necessary and desirable supplement, but not a replacement for FTTH.

3. Many believe wireless is actually twice as expensive to install and manage rather than fiber for the following reasons:
a. Wireless towers and transmitters still must be served by a fiber connection. (“backhaul”)
b. Wireless requires substantial density to provide effective coverage.
c. Wireless is subject to interference, (leaves, weather, etc).
d. Wireless technology is volatile and becomes obsolete quickly.

4. There are many definitions of “under-served” populations. However, DSL technology with something like 320KB up and 1.5 megabits down does NOT constitute “broadband” in any meaningful sense, nonwithstanding that it is an improvement over dialup.

5. A working definition of broadband would be, at a minimum symmetrical speeds of, say, 20 megabits, (both directions), at the equivalent of $60.00 per month or less.

6. Under lobbying pressure (corruption? payoffs?) no less than 15 states in the U.S. have actually passed laws that prohibit municipalities or citizen groups from creating and forming their own broadband utilities. Examples cited in our meeting this week (Lafayette LA, and Glagsgow KN), described debilitating litigation initiated by incumbent phone and cable companies to shut down efforts to provide muni wireless and fiber networks. After the dust settled, the incumbents reduced their rates by three quarters when they had to compete with the municipality. So, unfortunately, incumbents must be seen as the enemy, until proven otherwise.

======================

Personally, I think this has parallels with other current battles.

  • We can’t have single payer healthcare because it would hurt the insurance companies.
  • We can’t have high-speed broadband, because it would hurt the incumbent cable and telephone companies.
  • We can’t have realistic fuel-economy standards because it will hurt the car companies.
  • We can’t get loans, because the banks won’t lend any of their multi-million dollar bailout money.
  • We can’t have affordable higher education, because it would hurt the educational institutions (and the athletic programs).
  • We can’t find out who is responsible for the policies of torture and rendition, because it would “damage” our government’s credibility and reputation.

Oh well. Might as well go back to watching television.

Freedom to Connect – Day 1

Free to Connect (F2C) is being held at the American Film Institute’s Silver theater in Silver Spring Maryland, a suburb of Washington DC It is an exemplary demonstration of how to hold a no-frills conference… skeleton (but highly competent) conference crew, judicious outsourcing of food and reception, in a compact venue which offers lots of opportunities to meet the other attendees and presenters. The presentations are being streamed on the web, and there is an interactive Campfire chat which is projected next to the PowerPoint slides and which can be monitored by the speakers so that questions can be taken from outside the conference. As might be expected, the interactive chat is a mixture of serious comments and snark. Its a little disconcerting to type and see your comment projected full screen twenty seconds later.

About 250 participants. We were invited to bring our wireless laptops, and looking at the audience during my own presentation it seemed that well over 70% of the audience machines were Macs. We used my own Macbook for my presentation and the colleagues in our session; two were PowerPoint presentations that we ran in Keynote after listened to catcalls as Parallels tried to boot up Vista. Balance seems to be a mixture of Dells, IBM/Lenovo and a few netbooks. Acer Aspire, etc.

David Weinberger is live-blogging.

Session 2: Net politics and other applications
Ellen Miller, Sunlight Foundation,
Nathaniel James, Media and Democracy Coalition,
Larry Keyes, Telehealth via Broadband, and
Eva Sollberger, Stuck in Vermont Video Blog

4th set of presentations. Chris Savage is a lawyer, had a really interesting talk about the death of the Chicago School and how right now there is a unique opportunity to retool regulation to make it more consumer friendly.

Derek Slater – Google policy analyst. Talking about “Measurement Lab” an open platform for researchers to make measurements of internet bandwidth and for consumers to figure out what their internet speed is. There is so much we don’t know how the internet is performing. Could we fund some servers at the University that would host the Measurement Lab applications?

John Peha – FCC chief technologist. Mythology of Rural Broadband
1 in 3 households do not have access to wired broadband at any price.
Broadband has positive benefits for communities who have it, even for members of those communities who don’t subscribe.

Unserved communities don’t gain from broadband, and broadband installed elsewhere can actually degrade things in unserved communities.

Comment: Government should write the rules so that it easier to do the right thing than the wrong thing.

Technology neutrality is something to aim at.

The people who are comfortable with technology are the non-engineers they just use what works.

Comment: Technology neutrality is a false mantra.

Amy Wohl — “recovering Chicago School economist.” When govt. attempts to fix mistakes by the market there is a lag.


The conference takes place on Monday and Tuesday. I arrived Saturday afternoon at Reagan airport and took the Metro to Silver Spring. Sunday, I ran around the mall. The Holocaust museum was jammed with school groups. I didn’t quite know what to expect, I rather thought it would be like going to a cathedral in Europe, but it was more like the science museum. To get to the regular part of the exhibits you have to get a ticket and you are assigned a time. Because of the crowds mine wasn’t until two hours later. I spent 90 minutes on the lower level looking at an exhibit of Nazi propaganda, and after that, I was done. Why people bring small children to this museum is beyond me.

I also went to the Native American museum, (outstanding kayaks) and the National Gallery. The Smithsonian museums are truly a national treasure..and they are all free.

Tom Friedman at the Freedom to Connect Conference

I’m at the Freedom to Connect conference, Thomas Friedman gives a keynote speech drawn from his latest book Hot Flat and Crowded. Notes:

Khakis, white shirt, tie. Looks shorter and younger than I expected. 🙂
Turns out he lives in Bethesda, so it is just a quick ride on the Metro.
Based on his book Hot, Flat and Crowded.

Looks at the running chat — “What the f*ck is that?”

Takes off shoes.
Someone immediately posts a photo on the interactive chat.

Motivation to write the book was that “we lost the groove of our country”.

New unit of measure — the Americum == 300 million people living like Americans

First Law of Petro Politics:

Price of oil has an inverse proportion to the pace of freedom.

Moderated a panel between Al Gore and Bono.

According to the World Bank, 1.6 billion or 1/4 of all humanity have no access to electricity.

Loosing a species every 20 minutes. We are experiencing the biggest loss of biodiversity.

An incredible list of opportunities masquerading as a series of disasters.
Solution to the problems of climate change, poverty, (and everything else) is abundant cheap reliable energy.

The country which dominates energy technology will be the leader going forward. This country has to be the U.S.

You’ll know it is a revolution when somebody gets hurt.

American golfers get 41 miles per gallon, based on the number of miles walked per year (900) and the average amount of alcohol consumed. (22 gallons) (LK: does this statistic factor in the lower efficiency of ethanol?)

The difference between technology and commodity.
Wind, nuclear solar, etc. are technologies == the more used the price goes down.
Fossil-fuels are commodities. == the more used, the price goes up.

Change the leaders, not the light bulbs.

When we leave Iraq it will be the biggest transfer of air conditioners known to mankind.

BANANA = build absolutely nothing anywhere near anything

Smart grid –> Smart home –> appliances automatically day trade electricity — stores power in electric car battery.

The future is here it is just not widely distributed yet.

I love being a reporter. It is a noble craft.