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Sunbelt W2Knews™ Electronic Newsletter
The secret of those "who always seem to know" - Over 500,000 Readers!
Mon, Jan 28, 2002 (Vol. 7, #8 - Issue #339)
Power Line Based Home Automation
  This issue of W2Knews™ contains:
  1. EDITORS CORNER
    • Password Redux
  2. TECH BRIEFING
    • Power Line Based Home Automation
  3. NT/2000 RELATED NEWS
    • Top 10 Windows Server Storage Bloopers
  4. NT/2000 THIRD PARTY NEWS
    • New Print Manager Plus 4.0 Released and Shipping
    • Powerful New OpalisRobot V4 Does It All
  5. W2Knews 'FAVE' LINKS
    • This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff
  6. PRODUCT OF THE WEEK
    • Clustering Windows Server
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  EDITORS CORNER

Password Redux

Hi All,

It's a hot topic all right. If you really want super strong passwords, we have found the best way to even defeat l0pht crack version 3 is to use the not very well known alternate character set. You create them with the alt key and a number code, like ALT-145. Even a one character password like that (they only show up as squares in most applications) will be far stronger than average passwords.

Add them to your password policy as criteria for a typical "strong password" and it would require brute force cracking utilities on steroids (or the feds of course). But also monitor the percentage of help desk calls that will go up!

Warm regards,

Stu Sjouwerman (email me with feedback: [email protected])

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  TECH BRIEFING

Power Line Based Home Automation

You may ask yourself, what's that got to do with W2K? And as you will see in a short while: everything. Engineers have been suspecting for over a 100 years (really) it should be possible to use power lines for communications. The good news is that chip technology has finally come up to the level of sophistication to make it actually work.

It's been rough going. Power lines are notorious for many kinds of noise. So, other networking technologies were developed that were easier to deploy. Some examples are HomePNA which works through existing telephone jacks, and the new Wi-Fi which is the wireless 802.11b standard. But neither of these have been received warmly.

In the USA we have about 26 million homes with more than one PC, and some 5 million+ are already networked. The vast majority is (90%) using Ethernet because it's fast. But that's just PC's. How about all the rest of the homes? Up to now there has been X10, which is fun, it works when you install it correctly, but it is limited to short packet bursts (for instance to switch devices on and off) with a maximum of 10Kilobit/second.

Envision a scenario where ALL devices in the home can be plugged into your power lines, are able to communicate at 100Megabit/sec and are aware of each other. Wouldn't that be something? Well, they have got the networking part working. The trick is to make it reliable and fast as the noise on power lines is deafening. Proof of the pudding is plugging in a power drill right next to a power network adapter and your network connection stays up.

The technology they have found to be workable took in mind all these power line problems. There is a crowd of devices on these lines that send spikes of static, the breakers filter and dampen signals, and switching things on/off makes the resistance, voltage and current fluctuate. (Think two people talking at their normal voice level but trying to get across Times Square that way.)

The engineers had to go through several years of research to come up with ways around all that. What turned out to work is using frequencies above 4 Megahertz. But they used a very wide band of that spectrum (4.5-21 Mhz) and split that up in 76 independent channels that ALL get used to send the same data message.

The homeplug power line adapters have specialized chips in them that are comparable to the complexity of an early Pentium. The adapters hook up with each other, send test messages, define which channels are reliable, encrypt on the fly and make the packets arrive correctly. The complexity of this signal processing is awesome, and in about 2 years they will be running this at 100Mb/sec.

Now it is of course waiting for the devices to become network aware. And here is where Windows comes in. Universal Plug and Play is a very capable technology to seamlessly stitch all of this together. The existing television, stereo and other appliance vendors need to get on the bandwagon as well and that is what MS usually is good at. An advanced PC-like device would drive the whole house, with backward compatibility to X10 devices and everything showing up in your "My Network Places". Pretty cool.

Link to the HomePlug Powerline Alliance at homeplug.org:
http://www.w2knews.com/rd/rd.cfm?id=020128TB-HomePlug

  NT/2000 RELATED NEWS

Top 10 Windows Server Storage Bloopers

"Don't be the next victim of sloppy storage management," warned Steven Toole, WQuinn's storage expert. Toole has seen IT managers felled by hurricanes, porn, music lovers, and even junk mail. It's not pretty, he said, and it can happen to you. So here are the most made errors made on NT and W2K servers:

  1. The storage hurricane. Whenever hurricane warnings were issued, the company's servers crashed. The cause: panicked users simultaneously backing up their hard drives to the servers, exceeding server capacities. Real-time space allocations can prevent this.
  2. The MP3 jukebox. At a New York City financial services firm, a mailroom employee brought in his entire music CD collection and copied 20 G bytes of mp3 files to the production server. No wonder backups took so long. File blocking keeps mp3s off servers.
  3. Porngate. This well-organized user kept his library of pornographic gif files on the company server. He had a separate subdirectory for each young lady, organized alphabetically by name. Policy-based file blocking says who can and can't store graphic files on company servers.
  4. Drop the dupes. A leading manufacturing company had over 200,000 duplicate files on the server. Copy that! Automated, scheduled storage resource management (SRM) reporting identifies duplicate files.
  5. Love bites. Last year's Love Bug virus caused $10 billion in damages across the corporate IT world. One user spent two full days recovering from this heartache. Blocking VBS, EXE and DLL file types protects server integrity against viruses.
  6. Not enough hours in the day. This company's "nightly" backup cycle took 24 hours to complete. Policy-based storage grooming slashed this by 30%.
  7. Storage cops. A ton of junk mail and unused files were eating up the storage capacity and sapping the performance of this IT manager's network. His first housecleaning effort involved spending almost an entire week per month cleaning junk files off the server and sending nasty messages to users, pleading with them to practice better storage hygiene. Now he has automated the entire process with policy-based SRM.
  8. Babysitting application servers. This admin used to watch capacity levels of 1,200 servers the old fashioned way - one at a time. Now he receives space allocation alerts as each one approaches critical performance levels so he can take corrective action and avoid server failure.
  9. Outdated data overload. This user never cleaned off the server's outdated files. When he finally ran an SRM report on outdated files, his list of files not accessed in over one year was 800 pages long. Regularly scheduled SRM reports can automatically identify files not accessed over a recent period to move them offline and free up server space.
  10. Costly expansion. This user was about to spend $25,000 on an additional RAID array. Instead, he ran some SRM reports and freed up about 30% of his utilized disk space, eliminating the need for the expansion. So, instead of spending $25,000, he spent $1,300 on software products.
And here is the solution to all these ills in one neat package:
http://www.w2knews.com/rd/rd.cfm?id=020128TP-StorageCentral
  THIRD PARTY NEWS

New Print Manager Plus 4.0 Released and Shipping

Print Manager Plus V4.0 is designed to audit and reduce the cost of printing in the corporate, government, and education markets. V4.0 is the most major upgrade ever of this world-class network tracking, accounting, and quota setting software for enterprise printing. PMP supports printing from all operating systems through a Windows print server and from all printer types.

Gartner calculates the cost of acquiring a printer is only 20% of the total cost involved. 70% of companies are unaware of their printing costs because they don't have a means to effectively audit these costs. Print Manager Plus 4.0 creates a detailed audit trail of the cost of printing.

Print Manager Plus lets you enter a different page cost per printer (such as for more expensive color printers) and account for exact printing costs per user or printer in the organization. The GUI has built-in reports showing how many pages each user or printer printed over specific time periods and the actual cost. Reports can also be customized or printed or exported to most accounting databases or billing systems. Print Manager Plus supports SQL, Access, and ODBC compliant databases.

PMP lets you set an overall price quota per user or group over a time period. You can also limit job sizes by user to a specified number of pages. You can restrict print jobs based on file type, application, or by key words in the document title. Print Manager Plus installs in seconds on the Windows NT, 2000, XP print server. In an average school environment of 1,000 students it pays for itself in saved paper and toner every ten days. If they put your budgets under pressure, here is a way to cut costs:
http://www.w2knews.com/rd/rd.cfm?id=020128TP-PMPV4

Powerful New OpalisRobot V4 Does It All

OpalisRobot is a task automation solution. Its unique combination of scheduling, monitoring and automation provides you with the tools to automate a broad range of your IT operations. It can detect and correct system errors as well as automate IT job processes to improve availability and performance of your business critical operations.

  • System Monitoring: OpalisRobot monitors for server, process and service performance. Monitor event logs, performance (memory, CPU, disk space etc.), services, processes, WMI events, SNMP traps, applications, computers, text files, text logs and Internet application (DNS, FTP, HTTP, SMTP and POP).
  • Automate Corrective Action & Improve Performance: When a problem is detected or a threshold exceeded, the user-defined corrective action executes the same procedures that YOU would take to resolve the issue. Stop/start a service, restart computers, run programs (command line or executables), end processes, stop jobs, purge event logs and launch 3rd party diagnostic tools.
  • Notification, Logging & Reporting: E-mail, pager, pop-up, event log message, SNMP trap, web page & alert window. Log file flow jobs to a SQL, ODBC database. Create reports in CSV, HTML or text file format.
  • Management: One product offers automation of IT processes, no agents, modules or 3rd party tools required. The ability to automate virtually any IT operation greatly improves your productivity and saves your valuable time. Centralized management, import/export job configs. OpalisRobot jobs can be copied to other OpalisRobot servers which eliminates the need to recreate jobs for each computer. This is a pretty powerful package.
Check it out over here:
http://www.w2knews.com/rd/rd.cfm?id=020128TP-Opalis
  FAVE LINKS

This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff

  • OK, OK, OK. Sometimes geeks have a way describing things a bit, well... geeky.
    http://www.w2knews.com/rd/rd.cfm?id=020128FA-GeekMail
  • As a System Admin, you control a lot of machines. But careful with distributed computing software (like SETI at home). You may get sued for running it on your networks!
    http://www.w2knews.com/rd/rd.cfm?id=020128FA-DistributedComputing
  • Robert Cringely has some interesting and controversial ideas about why MS is now on the "Security bandwagon".
    http://www.w2knews.com/rd/rd.cfm?id=020128FA-Cringely
  •   PRODUCT OF THE WEEK

    Clustering Windows Server

    This book demystifies Windows clustering from both a hardware and software viewpoint. It defines clustering terminology and concepts from a vendor-neutral perspective, and provides a matrix for evaluating the multitude of cluster technology offerings. You can use it as a road map to creating scalable and reliable Windows 2000 clustered systems.

    This unique book is for everyone from system designers to IT managers who want a solid understanding of the optimal products and technologies they can use in creating "clusters" of computers to support truly enterprise-caliber programs.
    http://www.w2knews.com/rd/rd.cfm?id=020128BW-ClusteringWinServer