Monthly Archives: June 2011

What’s in your Arsenal?

Don’t worry!  No need for Panic.   I’ve not suddenly developed a keen interest in Football!

We had a Work Function yesterday, at the Emirates Stadium in London.  Home of Arsenal Football Club.

The Emirates Stadium

It was quite amusing to see the reactions from some of my colleagues, who as ardent supporters of some club or another were either quite pleased to be there, and interested in the surroundings or quite scandalised that they had been made to attend that particular venue.   I was of course in the “I-don’t-really-give-a-damn” group.

Inside the Stadium

The venue was nice, a fair size and well equipped with good acoustics.  I was rather dissapointed with the quality and quantity of the “Canapes” we were served!  I’d have liked to see more choice and more than was on offer.  And the less said about the “free bar” the better, seeing as I had to drive part of my journey home!   Never mind, I will have to make it up another time!

A Word to the Wise

You might just have noticed over the last couple of weeks, this Website has undergone a bit of a transformation.

One of the extra abilities that some of this work has given me is the ability to gain a little insight in to the people that visit my blog.  While perusing the statistics today one particular entry caught my eye.

Extract from my Website Logs


Somewhere, Someone is using a very VERY old version of Windows still!

Microsoft have not been supporting or producing any Security updates to Windows Millenium since July 11th 2006, meaning that for nearly five years now, that individual has been receiving no patches or updates of any kind.  I would suspect that any Anti-Virus software (if any!) that they may be running is long past it’s end of life now, and is very likely to be out of date at best.   Internet Explorer 6 is probably the newest version of IE that Windows ME could run, and the more observant amongst you have probably already noticed that the PC in question is already infected with the Zango Toolbar spyware!

I guess it just reinforces for me my belief that it is vital to stay current with your Software Updates and Patches.  I know there will always be a healthy dose of pragmatism involved on the spend/save upgrade cycle, but in my mind that really is pushing the limits in my mind.  It is little wonder that we are subject to such massive disruption and organised anarchy caused by “Hackers” (used in the negative context) using things like the Storm Botnet, which to an extent relies on un-patched vulnerabilities in Windows to spread.

So the message of the day today – Keep your PC Up to date.  When was the last time you ran WindowsUpdate?

Incidentally, I’ve added a small section to this blog with some recommended tools and utilities, including a Free Anti-Virus recommendation, and some Security Tools to help keep your PC safe.

Vehicular Visions

I’ve been looking thru my old photographs, and have been reminiscing about the cars I’ve had over the years.

Prompted mostly by the news that my New car will be delivered next week, I’ve found some pictures of the recent cars I’ve driven/owned in recent years

My first car was a dented old Black 1984 “B” registration Ford Sierra “Laser”. This was a 1.6 Petrol car, and once I had it running well it performed pretty nicely. I actually sold it for about what I paid from it, having driven it in to the ground while I was learning to drive and it’s rusty bodywork was threatening to let it down at it’s next MOT test.

The replacement was a White 1988 “E” reg Austin Maestro. This one was a 1.3 ltr Petrol and was nothing but trouble after I bought it. It had heating problems, Electrical Problems, Clutch problems, and eventually needed a new engine which cost nearly as much as the car! After about 2 years of driving it I became totally fed up with it being so unreliable so I traded it in against a “nicer” more modern car.

No photos of either of these two, but being the Geek that I am, I have photos of the cars ever since.

Next came the 1995 “M” registration Vauxhall Astra. This was the first car that I chose based on what I would like rather than what I could afford or get my hands on.

I took the photo to help me with selling the car;  Unnecessarily as it turned out.  But then I decided I wanted a photo of the replacement, and it’s sort of become a habit to take a photo of the car!

My 1995 Vauxhall Astra just before sale

I actually kept this car for about 7 years, having paid about £6,500 for it when it only had 6,500 miles or thereabouts on the clock. I loved it’s little 1.4i Hi-Torq engine which could leave a 1.6 ltr ford standing and give a 1.8ltr a damn good run for it’s money. This one suited me because it was 3-door and looked a little sporty even though it wasn’t really. It saw me through one fairly serious prang, and by the time I sold it, it had nearly 90,000 on the clock.

The Astra was eventually replaced by my first Company car; A 2005 “05” registration 130Bhp Vauxhall Vectra 1.9CDTi SXI Diesel.

My First Vauxhall Vectra (2005)

I drove this for the requisite 3 years plus a couple of months before it was replaced by the next Vectra.

My current car is a 2008 “08” registration 1.9CDTi “Design” 150Bhp which had a few more whistles and bells, but the interior felt somewhat more plasticky and not as high standard as the previous Vectra, despite being a better model. This one had partial leather seats, which got really REALLY hot in the sunny weather. It had a squeaky drivers seat that has plagued me from Day One for the last three and a bit years, so in some ways I won’t be sorry to see it go.

It looks rather dirty in this picture, courtesy of some Seagulls, and some hot and dusty days just after downpourings of rain!

My 2008 Vauxhall Vectra "Design"

It performs well, and has great acceleration and handling, but the feel and creaky noises from the plastic fixtures and fittings, not to mention the squeaky chair make me feel the build standards took a nosedive when this one was made.

Here’s hoping the forthcoming new arrival will be significantly better!  Rest assured either way I’ll be mentioning my thoughts here!

Gadget Alert: Fuji Finepix XP30

I first noticed this gadget on the TV. Adverts featuring a Bungee Jumping guy who “catches” a camera in mid air, who then plunges underwater may be an amusing idea for an advert, but if the camera lives up to it’s hype then it has piqued my interest.

Fuji Finepix XP30

I’m off on a “big” holiday to Egypt later on this year, and I’m definitely interested in a pocket-camera that I could take underwater, or not have to worry too much about getting dusty etc. In previous years at Centerparcs we’ve purchased some of those single-use underwater film cameras they sold for splashing about in the pool with, so the idea of a reusable digital camera that works underwater is very interesting indeed.

I’m still undecided if I’m going to take my DSLR and a selection of lenses with me. I want to, and know that if I don’t I’ll most likely regret it forever after, but it’s a lot to carry around and will eat up the baggage allowance quite considerably! But of course that one isn’t a waterproof, dustproof, freeze-proof, drop-proof affair, the XP30 is (or at least so it claims).

Some of the reviews I’ve read of it are quite critical of the picture quality, but I’m not especially concerned about a high quality image from a cheap £115 camera.  It’s available in a number of different tacky colours if you’re interested!

So I’m still pondering whether to make the investment, or if I should leave it until nearer the time before we go.  If you or anyone you know has any experience with this little gadget, please let me have your thoughts!

Can’t Fault the Service!

Long time followers may be aware that I’m lucky enough to be part of a test programme run by a certain large PC & Printer manufacturer. On two previous occasions I’ve been sent an all-in-one Printer/Scanner/Copier/Fax to “test” and report back on, at the end of which time I’m allowed to keep the printer as a Thank you for my feedback and participation.

I finished the second of these test programmes in about August last year, and have happily been printing away on this “free” printer ever since. Admittedly not making particularly heavy use of this one, it’s still got it’s original ink cartridges fitted!

I came to use it a few weeks ago and discovered that the printer just had no power whatsoever. Having checked the obvious cables, and extension leads I concluded that it was a printer fault of some sort, and started cursing as I expected that meant I’d need to go out and buy a new printer.

Surprisingly, I made a few inquiries first, and after one phone call, much to my delight a new power supply is on it’s way to me. I have “full” support on the printer until September this year!

For a printer that cost me nothing but a little time, I think that’s pretty fantastic service!

A New Look!

I’ve resolved to try and start to update this Website a little more frequently! 

And in that spirit, I’ve settled on a new theme which I think is quite clean and tidy, and retains all the functions I’m after.  I think it looks quite good, but will give it a week or so before deciding finally. 

In other news, it’s the last episode of Game of Thrones tonight on Sky.  I fervently hope this gets picked up for a second season, as it’s most definitely new and innovative Fantasy/Scifi Television, not another remake or reimagining which we seem to see so many of just at the moment.

Being the regular reader that I am, I am so painfully aware that there are ample quality works out there that would translate well to modern television, so why oh why do Film & Television studios insist on Remaking older works.  I cite recent works such as “V”, the aborted attempt to remake “Dune” (even though SciFi Channel already did that), the recent Star Trek film, and we’re close to seeing the third “reboot” for Superman, to name but a few.

Game of Thrones is based on the book A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1) by George R R Martin. 

I think the relative successes of Sky’s attempts to bring Terry Pratchett’s work to life on screen prove that there’s an appetite out there for the content, and so there’s no need to try and appeal to an existing fan base for a previous incarnation, provided of course that the work is done to a certain quality standard in the first place. 

What’s in my Toolbox?

Prompted by some fellow Networksy types, (Jeff and Jeremy), who’s recent entries on the contents of their toolbags I found extremely interesting;  I thought I’d go through mine as I have a few unusual items!

Starting with the fairly standard stuff:

Wire Strippers

Good old fashioned and simple wire strippers.  These ones have an adjustable lock to stop you stripping too much cable unintentionally.

RJ45 Crimping Tool

Then of course the RJ45 Crimps.  Nothing too fancy, just cheap and practical.  I have never needed to crimp an RJ-11, so all I need are RJ-45 ones.

RJ45-DB9 and RJ45-DB25 Console Cables

A standard set of Cisco Console cables;  I tend to have a couple of brand new ones as well as tried and tested ones in the box, as I often end up leaving them behind attached to “core” devices, so there’s at least one on any site that we touch.

A Krone Tool, or Punchdown Tool

A good old Krone punchdown tool.  My old and trusty one is starting to be a bit tempramental now when it comes to cutting the wires, so I’ve recently added a new one which has yet to be christened.  Fortunately I don’t need these THAT often!

Cage Nut Tools

The quite rare and exceedingly valuable lesser spotted Cage-Nut Tool. I try to keep hold of these as they have a tendancy to vanish from my toolbox when other engineers realise what they are and how useful they can be! Most decent brands of Rack seem to come with one, so I’m not sure quite how they are so rare. Maybe they live under datacentre floors along with the cage nut eating mice?

Cage Nuts and Velcro Ties

Some Cage Nuts/Bolts, and some Velcro ties, have to try and keep things nice and neat now! 🙂

Multi Tool

This one is a relatively new2 addition, a freebie I picked up at Infosec this year, but it replaces a rather worn and similar one.

RJ45/Cat5e Couplers

I usually keep a handful of these Couplers at the ready.  I’ve used them for all sorts of strange purposes over the years.  Everything from extending Cisco Console Cables for those REALLY hard to reach devices, to temporarily connecting cables in lieu of an IP Phone with a built-in Switch.

Anti Static Wrist Strap

I probably don’t need to explain why these are here, but it’s a good “just in case”.

Baby Cat5e Cables

Always a good standby, but I keep some of these 6″ Cat5e cables, they seem to come in handy all over the place!

A collection of Serial Adapters, Converters and Loops

A mixture of Adapters, Gender Benders, Modem Eliminators, RJ45-RS232 adapters, and Loop Tools.

Now on to the slightly more interesting stuff!

Not sure what this is called!

I’m not sure what this is called; I managed to pick this up several years ago when doing a project involving opening and unboxing over 1200 new IP Phones which were boxed in boxes of 4.  The sheer quantity of cardboard and the number of boxes to be opened quickly caused fingers to be cut to shreds and fingernails to be damaged, but this really made life so much easier.

USB Memory Stick

I’m always equipped with a USB Memory Stick, simply because my lanyard with my Swipe Card on it has one built in.  This was a Promotional item from a supplier a couple of years ago, and has 1Gb storage, which is plenty for most things I’m likely to need.

Tone Generator and Probe

This one is so valuable when trying to trace cables and find those frustratingly misnumbered !  I stick with this slightly older model because it has both an RJ45 connection, and a set of Croc-Clips for wiring only checks.

A Butt

Not sure if I’ve spelt that one correctly! 🙂  The Butt is becoming less useful these days in the “modern” world of IP Telephony, but it’s still useful to have for tracing Wires and Analogue lines.

My current Cable Tester

A fairly standard Cat5 cable tester.  I haven’t had cause to use the older BNC style cable tester for some time, but this one is a two-part unit for testing local cables or entire cable runs, and will identify Straight Through or Crossover cables.

Short Wave Radio's

I added these some years ago after myself and a colleague were working in a building, one of us in the Patch Panel / Comms Room, and another person at the other end of a cable run.  I actually have a set of four but keep two in my Toolbox and two at home.

Star Drive

An all-in-one unit for most sizes of star type screw, this one is a really useful one to keep handy.

Digital Multimeter

Again an all-purpose tool which has a multiplicity of uses!  I tend to use the conductivity test and Voltage readings most of the time, but it has saved me from a nasty shock on at least one occasion!

Cable Snake Head

This one is in the spirit of keeping things tidy!  I sometimes have cause to use the plastic surround which wraps a bundle of cables in a protective sheath.  This is the special head which is used to apply the covering.  It opens up and is clipped around the cables to be protected, and the sheath slides over the protruding knob.  You then slide the head along the cable while pushing the protective sheath on to the head and hey presto, the cable is all nice and neat and protected.

MiFi and USB Extension Cable

The MiFi is used to get me Internet connectivity in places where corporate network connections are not available, or too slow.  You never know when you’re going to need to download a different IOS image, and if the Network is broken – well you simply have to have an alternative.  It’s often also faster than Hotel Wifi as I can get up to 8Mb all to myself on this, depending on how good the 3G coverage is at the time.   The USB extension cable is used to get to those really hard to reach USB ports from time to time.

Head Light!

Interestingly I note some of my peers keep a Flashlight in their tools;  this is my equivalent.  With an elasticated head fitting, it can go over my head to give me hands free illumination while working.

Cable Clips

I’m not sure where I picked these up, or what their proper purchase is, but they are ideal for temporarily holding some cables “up” together in the back of a rack somewhere.  The metal clips will hook on to all sorts of things, and the Velcro at the bottom keeps the cables secure.

CompactFlash Adapter

Used for connecting directly to the Laptop and transferring stuff straight to/from a CF card before putting it in a Router or Switch.

Special Tool to Factory Reset a certain type of UTM Appliance

This is a specific tool for a certain brand of UTM appliance.  It’s credit card sized but fairly thick with a push-out USB cable head.  Plugging it in to the USB port on an appliance will cause the appliance to reset to it’s factory default, so the ultimate in password reset tools I guess!

Miscellaneous Widgets

And lastly a collection of Miscellaneous Widgets including some Permanent Marker Pens, a collection of Batteries, a standard USB Memory Stick, a Wireless USB Network Adapter, and a GLC-T GBIC.

That’s all.  I’ve not shown the “boring” screwdrivers, or must have label printer etc which are probably an ever present feature of most Network Guys’ toolkits.  My only problem at the moment is that I don’t have a proper “box” to put all the tools in;  I’d like one similar to this Stanley one, but currently this is all in a plastic crate at work which will slide in to the back of the car nice and easily if needed.

So, what’s in your Toolkit?

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