Monday, July 21, 2008

Tuesday Toot - Restoring my Geek Stature

Being a software engineer means that I've become the de facto network administrator at my house. Which is not usually a problem since I live and breathe computers all day. But when all the computers at home started acting up at once, it made for one grumpy admin. Last week, I mentioned that my hard drives were full on my main computer and I couldn't get another computer activated. On top of that, I couldn't get network access from the last remaining computer to my main computer, so all three computers had some kind of problem. But over the weekend, I managed to straighten all these guys out (they will yield to my command, dammit! And yes, they are guys, not gals like cars can be. Which reminds me of this creepy story about a guy who had sex with thousands of cars, but now I really digress).

In the last few years, my peripheral gadgets, the iPod and digital cameras, have driven my computer and hard drive upgrades. I was using my laptop with a 40 GB HDD as my main computer when I got my first 30GB iPod in 2005. Obviously, there was going to be a space problem at some point, as the iPod was nearly the same size as the laptop HDD. When that happened, I moved my iTunes library to my old computer, a 450 MHz Pentium III II (from 1998) with a 120 GB HDD. But then this computer started to act up in a few months, not running iTunes and not shutting down. At this point, I bought a used computer from work, a dual core Xeon and moved my 120 HDD there. Everyone was happy, I had iTunes back, Doug used the laptop and eventually, I would to set up the 450 for the kids.

On my Xeon, I had a 20 GB drive for the operating system (I know, woefully small) and the 120 GB drive for data (iTunes, pictures. etc). And at exactly the same time, both drives were full. I ordered a new 500 GB drive and in the meantime, started to work on the 450 for the kids. I reformatted the HDD on the 450 and re-ininstalled Windows XP, only to have the activation problem. And then Doug mentioned that he could no longer access our sacred car spreadsheets on my computer from his laptop. Arrgghh!! So this weekend, in between a trip to a lake, here's how I fixed everything:
  • I installed the 500 GB drive, and totally forgot how to use the Windows disk manager. I finally managed to create a "basic disk" through the command line and formatted it (two hours!). Then I copied all my data over (another two hours!). In the meantime, I packed for our trip. Note to self, next time use Ghost, should go much faster...
  • I ghosted the original 20 GB OS drive onto my old 120 GB drive. People always say to use your newest, fastest drive as your OS drive, but I wanted the biggest drive for my data because I TAKE LOTS OF PHOTOGRAPHS. Besides, going from the the clunky slow 20GB to the 120 GB, made my computer seem lightning fast. One computer fixed.
  • On the 450, I did not have the enter the product key during the Windows installation because it was an OEM "re-installation" disk. As a last ditch effort, I re-entered the same product key at the dreaded, "Your product key is invalid" prompt, and then it activated. Whew! Stupid Windows, stop giving me unneeded heart attacks.
  • The last problem was definitely a tough one. I could access the files on the laptop from my main computer, but not vice versa. I couldn't even ping my main computer. When I was setting up the 450 and looking to copy file over from the main computer, I ran into the same problem, so I knew it was some setting on my main computer and not the other computers or the new Verizon FiOS router (Ugh, I still need to swap that out with my Linksys running DD-WRT, really miss the VPN...). I spent a lot of time trying things from Google, but then it finally hit me. I had installed the AT&T Global Network Client VPN for work (because I am so dedicated that I need to access the work network even when I don't bring my work laptop home - I really can't say that with a straight face). Hidden in this client is a software firewall which they default to ON. The last time I installed this software was about two years ago and I barely remember turning it OFF for exactly this same problem. If you are here looking for the solution, go to the Start menu, All Programs, AT&T Global Network Client, Firewall Settings.
So once again, our home network is in good shape for the time being. And now I can finally upload a ton of new photographs to keep the blog going.

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