Wizard World Chicago Comicon 2014

Having spent threedays at the Chicago Comicon, I have some mixed reviews of it.  On the whole it was a good weekend but there were things that really could have made it quite a bit more enjoyable.

First the good stuff:  the attendees and vendors (the ones selling comics and geeky stuff) were great.  Everyone was their to celebrate their particular brand of geekdom and, although often in costume, be theirselves.  The general mood was one of happiness and acceptance.

One of the highlights for me was the Bruce Campbell film festival.  It was essentiall a series of full length feature horror movies that would like either never see the inside of a theater or have a very limited runs in theaters.  I got to see three of the films:  Inner Demons (which I mentioned in my previous entry), Meet me there, and Killers.  All three were good films and quite enjoyable.  It was interesting to be able to have a short Q&A seesion with the people involved with the movies afterwards.

I also enjoyed the panels.  Twice I went to Joel Hoedson’s panels and even broke down and got his autograph afterwards.  I also went to the John Carpenter panel and got to ask him a question.  And on the last day I attened a panel that was hosted by four professional movie critics about the joys of the B movies.  I even got to participate a little bit in the discusssion on that one.

Now fot the bad.  The bad all boils down to one thing: the venue.  Comicon was hosted at the Donald E Stephenson Convention Center in Rosemont, Illinois.  I have never attened a convention there before  and I pray I never have to again.  Simply put, it was probably the single worst place I can think of to host a convention.  Some reasons for this are:

1) Parking.  Parking is $13 per day.  That I am fine with.  What I am not fine with is paying $13 per day and then having to walk a 15-20 minutes through parking lots trying to figure out how to even get to the convention center and try to cross a busy road, taking ones own life in their hands, and having no shuttle bus service.  Then the proceedure for paying for parking is so unclear nobody really knew how to do it.  Oh, but take your ticket with you.  Why?  Because you may have to pay for parking in the lobby of the parking garage.  Or you might not.  Or they may be nobody on duty.  But there might be.  It depends.  On what?  Who knows?  

2)  Food.  You would think having a major confrence center like this would be an opportunity to have a variety of resturants to cater to all these people.  I mean this is a captive audience.  And at $13 for parking with no in/out privledges, people are going to tend to want to stay there.  One might also think that there would be plenty of resturants around the convention center to cater to the overflow from these conventions.  Yet there was little of either.  The convention center itself had little in the way of food options.  Oh, there are several food stands there with the standard crap (pizza, cheeseburgers, and hot dogs) at exorbant prices ($8 for a luke warm, tasteless cheeseburger.  Really?) BUt for a four day convention, that doesn’t go over very well.

Now to be fair, the hotels had several restaurants (again at insane prices) and there were restaurants a few blocks away, but I came to the convention center to actually attend the convention, not wander all over Rosemont looking for decent affordable food.

The coup de grace, however, was the food stand at the convention center when my daughter wanted cheese pizza and they just sold the last slice.  I asked if there was more coming.  The person looked at me like I was asking here to move a mountain and mumbled something we couldn’t understand.  I said “I’m sorry, did you say there was more coming?”  Now see glared at us and said, with much distain, “I said it’s coming.”

So now, really feeling the love, we get to the cashier and I am astounded that there is a tip jar there.  This is a line where I get my litttle cardboard tray thing, I put the food on it, I put the drinks on it, and everything I want I have to do and the little bit of assistance I ask for I get treated like shit and now here, at the end, is a tip jar.  Incredible.

3) Cellular signal.  Two of the three days we were there the cellular repeaters were  down the bulk of the day.  Now being in IT, I know stuff happens, but honestly they need to have back up systems in place to allow for this type of thing.

In short I was very unimpressed with the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center.  In short it seemed mismanaged at best.  I will be a happy little camper if I don’t have to go back there again.

Chicago Comic-con Day 1

We arrived (my daughter Kelsey and I) at comicon (#WWChicagoCC) around noon.  In the car ride over we identified the things we wanted ro see.  The first we we did was attend the Neard for a living panel.  It was okay but seemed to focus mostly on animation and such which is really just a part of nerddom.  So it kind of left us wanting but over all it was fine.  We then went to the snack bar and had a quick lunch and walked around the floor a bit.  We then split up and I went to see Gates McFadden and she was awesome.  It was a real treat to get to see her in person and hear tales not only from ST:TNG but Labrynith too.

After leaving that panel I was still floating on a cloud kind of when I ran into Stan Lee.  Stan Lee!!!!!  An I shook his hand!!!  Arrrggghhhttt!!!!

Yes, I am officially a geek.  All doubt is dismissed.

We then went for dinner at the Marriott  across the street from the convention center.  The lack of any restaurants around the Donald E. Stevenson Convention Center is surprising.  Dinner was fine, but a little pricey.  I need to find some better resturants around here.

We returned to the convention center and attended the Joel Hodgeson panel where he riffed on himself.  What a hoot.  That guy is so funny.  And I had no idea that he and Jerry Seinfeld were close.

We ended the night by seeing the Chicago permire of a horror movie Inner Demons.  It was pretty darn good I have to admit.  Kelsey and I enjoyed it quite a bit.  In fact I think we are now going to try to see all the horror movies while we are  here.  (Apparantly they are trying out something new by having a mini-movie festival within the convention focusing on horror movies.  I’d say it is a great idea.)

My only complaint thus far is the distinct lack of gaming and game vendors.  Hopfully tomorrow will have more or I’ll find here they are hiding.  

Awsomebar issues in Firefox on a Mac

I use to do the IT support for a company we supported in the same building as us.  On occasion I would have to get into their spam filter and change some settings.  The url was spam.downstairscompany.com.  It was nice and easy to get to and manage.

Once I was relieved of the “joy” of supporting those * ahem * people (they were a pain in the ass) I no longer needed to go to that spam filter.  I did, however, need to go to my spam filter which was named spam.mycompany.com.

Everytime I started typing in Firefox address bar the URL, the one for the comany I no longer supported would come up first.  This seemed like a minor annoyance, but a fear down the road, it was beginning to bother me.
The auto-complete (or autofill) feature in the URL address bar just would not forget that I once supported them, no matter how hard I tried.

I started trting to fix this by deleting my history.  That did nothing.  So I headed over to Mozzila support and came across this link that told me to start typing the address and then press Shift+Delete to clear it from the autocomplete history.

That did nothing.  No matter how many times I tried it, it still did nothing.  It rise highlighting the address and doing it, nothing.  Hover over the URL and do it?  Nothing.  No matter what I did, the Shift+Delete did nothing.

So I started to play with my settings and found that if I wen into preferences and then went to Privacy and set the location option to suggest nothing and that actually worked in eliminating the offending URL, but it wasn’t a pretty solution and honestly I want it to suggest from history and bookmarks.

So I re-enabled it and the offending URL popped right back up again.  Ugh!!!

I figured there had to be something about this in the configuration, so I typed about:config in the address bar and did a search on “autofill”  Here is what I found:

I toggled the browser.urlbar.autofill to false and closed and opened the browser.

Darn…so close.  I was hoping the cache or database would be deleted but no such luck.

So next I decided it was time to perhaps start over.  I made note of the plug-ins I hade installed and made sure everything was up to date with xmarks.  Then once it was done, I opened Firefox and went to help>>Troubleshooting Information.  There I selected the profile finder and chose “Show in finder”

The folder opened, I closed the browserand then, in the profile folder located places.sqlite and remaned it (not deleted) the file to place.old.

Once that was was done I reopened Firefox, re-installed my plug-ins and once again all was right with the world again.  No more annoying autofill URLs.

(As an FYI, I opened the places.old file and Lo and Behold the offending URLS were in there.  So that is where they were coming from.  Attempts to edit the file directly did not achieve the desired results.)

Hope this helps.

A New Blogging Program

One reason I don’t blog as often as I would like is because of the inconvenience of logging into the interface, typing it out, formatting it, checking it, uploading it, blah, blah, blah.  In short, it is easy to avoid doing it.

But perhaps those days are past.  I’m trying ot this new software called Blogo (http://www.getblogo.com)  .  It works (right now) with wordpress blogs and it simplifies the blogging process to to its minimal (yet still functional) components.  Thus far it seems to be working very well.  The set up took all of about three minutes and to walk through the tutorial about double that.

I am hosted by GoDaddy.com so I can vouch for the program working with that host.  I can’t see any reason that it wouldn’t work with any blog host on the WordPress format.  They also mention on the say that they intend future releases to work with other services (Tumblr and Blogger) “coming soon.”

While the interface is minimal, the features aren’t.  Within the app you can add tags and catagories, insert media, change fonts, preview the post, set a post to preview at a specific date, and respond to comments.  Honestly, for day-to-day posting that is really all I personally need.  I found what usually happens is that when I get into my blog I start messing with settings and spend more time doing that than actually writing the blog post.

So, yeah, this might be a good fit for a techie A.D.D. guy like me…

One thing I do not like is that the formatting (namely paragraph breaks) are uploaded correctly however once the post is published, the breaks go away on the post in Blogo.  They are still there in the actual blog post however.  It makes going back and editing kind of a nightmare.

It is currently a “Mac Only” application, available in the App Store, and I am unaware of any plans to expand to the PC or Linux market.  It is still essentially in beta and as such is 50% off in the app store as of this writing ($14.99 US.)

 

Applying Folder Permissions for nested folders

My company uses a network share to place all the customers’ information regarding work we are doing for them in a centralized location.  Each job we do has it’s own folder and each folder has a standardized set of folders.  These folders have information in them that some is available to all users, while some (like financial data) we keep secured.

The structure of the folders looks something like this: (image on the left):

Folders

Note the job numbers are different but all the subsequent folders are all the same.  The issue at hand, however, is that the folders need separate security on each of them (or at least different security on each depending on the content of the folders and what management has asked for different groups to have access to.)  So for my example here, lets say we have two groups, group A and group B

Group A has full control over all the folders, and group B has access to all the folders except Drawings and financials.  The challenge, then, it to apply the correct security permissions.  And while my drawing here shows just two folders, my real-life challenge consisted of hundreds of folders like this.

My original attempt was to create a template folder that had all of the correct permissions assigned to it.  I then created a batch file for the end users to run to create a new folder with the correct security pemissions.  The batch file was just a simple running of Robocopy with the /sec switch implemented.

 

ROBOCOPY \\Souceserver\Share\Template \\Sourceserver\Share\!New /E /SEC

That’s put in a batch file and then the end user, when they start a new job, are supposed to run the batch file and then rename the folder that is created “!New”

The problem is relying on the end users to actually follow procedure is kind of pointless.  They never do it as it is much easier to copy and paste the new folder than to double click a batch file.

So the issue that was presented to me was to apply the correct security consistently through hundreds of folders and multiple companies and various geographical sites and networks.

Ugh!

So my fist thought was some soft of batch script, but that quickly became a nightmare due to the differences in file structure on the server.

I then turned to Powershell.  While I had a minimal experience with powershell, with most of it being in the Exchange version of powershell, I knew of the awesome power of it and figured if anything could apply these permissions correctly it would be powershell.

Off to Google I went.  I found many different solutions on how to assign permissions to a folder, but most of them were in reference to creating a a folder and assigning permissions to the newly created folder.  More specifically, they were usually talking in reference to user folders in the home directory.  I wanted to change permissions on folders that were already existing.

So I broke the problem down into two parts.  The first part was to identify the folders to have their permissions changed and the second part was to actually change the permission.

I decided to create two variables.  The first was the sub-folders I wanted to find and the second was the variable containing the path of the folders including the sub-folders.  So in my example to the left, the first variable would be a static list of the sub-folders I want to change the permissions on (Drawings and Financials.)  The second variable would be the entire path of the folder.  So, again from the example to the left, our path would end up being \\Root\Job1\Financials, \\Root\Job1\Drawings , \\Root\Job2\Financials and \\Root\Job2\Drawings.  I wanted to do it with two variables in case I need to change the name of the sub-folders later on.  And by piping the first variable into the second it made of a nice clean method of making changes relatively easily.

But I am getting a little ahead of myself.

I started by trying to find all the folders in the location that had the name “Financials in them.

$Folders=Get-ChildItem -Filter “Financials” -Recurse -Path “\\Root\Job1\”

This would return hundreds of the following:

Directory: \\root\Job96868\Financials
Mode LastWriteTime Length Name
—- ————- —— —-
d—- 10/18/2013 8:59 AM Contract_PO

Not particularly useful, but I was on the right path in isolating the desired directories.

Looking into the Get-ChildItem a bit more I came up with changing the directory and running the following.

$Folders=Get-ChildItem -Recurse -Filter “Financials”| ?{ $_.PSIsContainer } | Select-Object FullName

Using the ?{$_PSIsContainer} allowed me isolate just the folders with the name “Financials.”  At the first pass, I thought I had it, but unfortunately the “Select-Object FullName” also returned the header FullName@(\\Root\Job1\Financials) which I could not use to apply ACLs to.  Somehow I needed to return only the path name.

Finally I  came up with the following:

$Folders=Get-ChildItem -Recurse -Filter “Financial”| ?{ $_.PSIsContainer } | Select -Expand FullName

This finally would fill the $Folders variable with just the full path of the Financials folder.  Now on to applying the permissions.  This was a matter for creating a loop for each item in the $Folders variable and applying the changes.  In the end, here is what the powershell script looked like:

cd \\Root
$Subfolders=@(“Financials”,”Drawings”)
$Folders=Get-ChildItem -Recurse -Include $Subfolders | ?{ $_.PSIsContainer } | Select -Expand FullName
$sid = “Group B”
foreach ($i in $Folders) {
$Acl = Get-Acl $i
$acl.SetAccessRuleProtection($False, $True)
$rule = New-Object System.Security.AccessControl.FileSystemAccessRule -ArgumentList @($SID,”FullControl”,”ObjectInherit, ContainerInherit”,”None”,”Deny”)
$acl.AddAccessRule($rule)
Set-Acl $i $acl
}

So to explain what is happening here:

  1. Change the directory to the correct share
  2. Create a Variable to include the subfolders that you want to apply the ACL to.
  3. Create the $Folders Variable and populate the variable with the correct file Paths.  Note tht it is including only the folders defines by the $Subfolders variable.
  4. Create a variable for the groups which you want to Apply the permissions for.
  5. Create a loop that applies the ACLs to each “line” in the $Folders variable.
  6. Read the current ACL values into the $Acl variable.
  7. Protect the current ACL values and their inheritance.
  8. Create a $Rule variable to include the permission you want to include for the folder in question
  9. Apply the Permissions/ACL

I then created a ps1 file for this and used task manager to have it run the powershell script every hour so any new folders created will have the correct permissions applied.

Hope this helps!

Ed

Android vs. Apple….score one for Android.

I’ve been a fan of Apple since, well, about 2006 when I got my first Macbook Pro.  I know in the “real world” that might not be all that long, but in the IT world that’s a long time.  To put it in perspective, Twitter was still a startup and had yet to exceed 20,000 messages a day on the whole service.  All of my droidcomputers, both at work and and at home, are Apple.  My phones are all Apple.  All my tablets are Apple.  Except two.  I have an HP Touchpad that is mostly retired now and a museum piece and a 1st Gen Samsung Galaxy Tab.  I recently fired up the Galaxy Tab for the first time since July 2013 and found one thing that Android is doing much better than Apple: supporting older devices.

My first iPad, a first Gen 32 GB iPad, was bought about a week after initial release.  But as time has marched on, less and less apps are available for it.  The OS can no longer be updated, and each day, the apps slowly go bye-bye.  Eventually it will only be good for surfing the internet and maybe checking mail.

But imagine my surprise when I fired up my Android tablet to find that, not only did the older Apps work, but apps that I couldn’t get on the Android tablet before were now available.  More to the point, apps that would no longer run on my first gen iPad were now available and running on my first gen Galaxy Tab!  Yikes!

So while Apple has abandoned, for the most part, early devices the Android environment continues to embrace and develop for these golden oldies.

So if longevity is a metric you use to base your decision on which tablet to buy, it looks like Android is the platform for you.

 

A-ha! A new host!!!

Well, after a long time of really being frustrated by Squarespace and their format and such, I made the leap to WordPress hosted service by GoDaddy.  Thus far, I am really liking the features and such and I really like the price (much, much much cheaper than  SquareSpace.)  I guess the final straw was when Squarespace decided to stop supporting the Squarespace 5 mobile app to force all the end users to version 6.  That part I don’t mind so much, but it was the fact that, in order to get the same features an benefits that I had with squarespace 5 I would have to pay about 20% more.  I understand and can appreciate the need for change, but if you are going to force a long time customer to change you should offer the same benefits at the same price.

And honestly, I know prices go up as a standard practice, but this is one area where that does not hold true necessarily.  In IT, the price of storage and bandwidth go down over time.

And the support has really gone down hill recently,so it was time to say goodbye to SquareSpace and Hello to WordPress.  At least now with WordPress I can take my blog almost wherever I want.  🙂

Fallout 4: My Wishlist

As the rumor mill continues on at full tilt about Fallou 4 I’ve seen many ideas that people have suggested they would like to see in the next Fallout. (As a pint of order, shouldn’t the next Fallout be Fallout 5. I mean there was Fallout 3, then the next one, Fallout:New Vegas, which to me would logically be Fallout 4 and then next one coming up should therefore be Fallout 5. I’m just saying…)

Anyway, a few of the things I would like to see in the next iteration (whatever the number) are as follows:

1) More variety in enemy/monster art. Seriously, why do all raiders and Deathclaws look identical. I know this a minor issue, but after killing hundreds of the same raiders, sometimes I avoid them just because they are boring visually. And to that point…

2) Let random encounters be just that…random. I shouldn’t be able to tell a half mile out if someone is hostile or not. Maybe those people in the distance are just traders that have the bobby pins I am low on. Maybe they are bounty hunters looking for my head on a pike. It’s more fun if I don’t know until the last minute…or until it is too late.

3) Weather. This could have wide ranging effects on the environment and gameplay. Do more critters come out while it is raining? Perhaps I cannot shoot as far or run as fast. In inclement weather Perhaps it even effects my weapon condition or how hard my enemies may pursue me.

4) More in-game weapon and armor mods available. New Vegas was a good foray into weapon mods. Now let me make my sniper rifle into the unholy terror of the wasteland it was meant to be. But on that same note…

5) Permanent wear-and-tear. Sure, you can fix that combat armor and sawed of shotgun, but at some point, there is no more that can be done and it just needs to be scrapped. A continual, irreversible decrease in item condition and effectiveness would bring a sense of realism to the Fallout world.

6) Religious groups, political alignment and karma/reputation system. Why can’t I be a Child of the Atom and a member of the Enclave? And how would the Tops react to me if they feared the Enclave but were dismissive of the Children? I should be able to belong to more than one group and the affiliations of those groups have a cumulative (or subtractive) effect on members of other groups.

7) Location. We’ve done East Coast. We’ve done the desert. How about the Midwest? Or California? (Anyone care to topple the NRC?). Rumor has it the next Fallout may be in Boston, but I don’t think that location is set in stone yet. Some have said Europe might be a good option, and I could see where London or Paris might be a good choice. But it would be hard to explain the presence of super-mutants there.  But the Midwest is a Tabula Rosa.  It’s barely mentioned in Fallout cannon.  Let’s open it up.  On the other hand, we’re familiar with the NCR.  I think it is time they get to know me…

8) Quest, quests, and more quests.  The more the better.  Go crazy and have a ton of quests that it will take forever and a day to complete.  Then add half a dozen more.

Any other ideas?

Apple maps, you suck!

All I wanted to do is go get me some Mongolian Beef extra crispy at PF Chang’s. Was that asking so much? Instead, you put me in the middle of nowhere between a parking garage and a construction site. Then you had the audacity to mock me with “Arrived at PF Chang’s!!!”

I hate you, Apple Maps!

ActivEcho Review

One of the challenges that network admins face these days is the constant fight against the cloud storage system like Dropbox, OneDrive, Google drive, box, etc. These systems are very appealing to end users but are a never-ending source of frustration and a huge security issue for the organization. In addition to being a huge open hole for data to leave the friendly confines of the organization, and in addition to not having adequate password and/or encryption security on the data being removed, the terms of service of these services normally do not align themselves with the best interest of the company.

With that in mind I set off to find a solution that would be a good substitute for Dropbox.

It was almost by mistake that I happened about ActivEcho. I was actually looking for a solution to allow a MobilEcho type interface on Macs and PCs that weren’t on the network. I was asking my sales rep at Acronis about this issue and he suggested ActivEcho.

While not what I was looking for originally, the users and abilities of this software quickly piqued my interest. This piece of software was far and away better than the Dropbox that most of my users were using. Some of the features that made it superior are:

1) Essentially unlimited storage. It is only limited by the size of the storage array I attach to the server.

2) Integrated with Active Directory (and thus enforcing my password security policies on it.)

3) Encrypted file storage

4) The ability to restore precious versions.

5) Logging to see what happened when and by whom.

6) No Terms of service that conflict with proprietary rights.

7) Price based on user base and not storage amount.

8) Data is hosted in house on our servers.

9) Integrates completely with MobilEcho on mobile devices.

ActivEcho has a web interface as well as a PC and Mac client.

Because my network is spread out and connected via expensive MPLS data lines, I prefer not to use them to transfer the data to the ActivEcho server, so I configured my DNS to give the external IP address of the server and the configured the local firewall to redirect that IP address to the correct internal IP address. Another way to do it would be to put the server in a DMZ behind the firewall. So the one downside to the whole solution was the additional internet bandwidth it requires in my configuration. But still it is better than using the expensive MPLS bandwidth.

The user adaptation has been very high and it a great collaboration tool to use with clients and co-workers alike. I highly recommend this software for anyone looking to get our of the Dropbox trap.

http://www.grouplogic.com/enterprise-file-sharing/file-sync/