Sep 21, 2009

GMail Student Migration Glitch

Not good for Google. Even a little bad publicity in this arena is enough to prevent people from going this route.

"Going Google" Exposes Students' Email: "A ReadWriteWeb piece up on the NY Times site explores the recent glitch during the move of a number of colleges onto Google's email service that allowed a number of students to see each others' inboxes for a period of more than three days. Google would not give exact numbers, but the article concludes that about 10 schools were affected. "While the glitch itself was minor and was fixed in a few days, the real concern — at least at Brown — was with how Google handled the situation. Without communicating to the internal IT department, Google shut down the affected accounts, a decision which led to a heated conversation between school officials and the Google account representative. In the end, only 22 out of the 200 students were affected, but the fix was not put into place until Tuesday. ... The students had access to each other's email accounts for three solid days... before the accounts were suspended by Google. Oddly enough, this situation seems to be acceptable [to Brown's IT manager, who] 'praised Google for its prompt response.' (We don't know about you, but if someone else could read our email for three days, we wouldn't exactly call that 'prompt.')"

Pseudo Eagle Eye Project over at MIT

This reminds me a lot of the movie "Eagle Eye" in which a government computer does pretty much the same thing to determine who would be likely to be coerced into doing evil things to "Save the Country". Interesting to say the least. I hope I can make time to read the article.

MIT Project "Gaydar" Shakes Privacy Assumptions: "theodp writes "At MIT, an experiment that identifies which students are gay is raising new questions about online privacy. Using data from Facebook, two students in an MIT class on ethics and law on the electronic frontier made a striking discovery: just by looking at a person's online friends, they could predict whether the person was gay. The project, given the name 'Gaydar' by the students, is part of the fast-moving field of social network analysis, which examines what the connections between people can tell us, from predicting who might be a terrorist to the likelihood a person is happy, fat, liberal, or conservative." MIT professor Hal Abelson, who co-taught the course, is quoted: "That pulls the rug out from a whole policy and technology perspective that the point is to give you control over your information — because you don't have control over your information."

Sep 19, 2009

Sysinternals Updates

The well know Sysinternals Tools have been updated and SANS has a great link to all the good stuff.

Sep 11, 2009

Oracle To Increase Investment In SPARC and Solaris

Oracle To Increase Investment In SPARC and Solaris: "An anonymous reader writes 'The Slashdot community has recently questioned what Oracle will do with Sun hardware if and when Oracle's acquisition of Sun closes. And it seems that speculation about the future of SPARC hardware has been common among Slashdot commenters for years. That said, it seems newsworthy that Oracle is going out of their way with some aggressive marketing directed at IBM to state clearly their plans to put more money than Sun does now into SPARC and Solaris.' MySQL is not mentioned in this ad, perhaps because (as Matt Asay speculates) the EU is looking closely into that aspect of the proposed acquisition."

Sep 9, 2009

Basic Raid Level Information

I found this information helpful so, as usual, I copied it somewhere I can find it quickly. There is always the Wikipedia RAID page as well.

In the IT world, hardware failure is not about if it will happen, but when it will happen. If you run a server that has any sort of important data on it, protection of that data is very important. Many people chose to implement a redundant RAID (redundant array of independent disks) array to help deal with the risk of having a hardware failure. There are several types of RAID that are appropriate for servers, and there are several ways they can be effectively implemented.

IBM patented the idea of RAID in 1978. It was not until 1988 that the RAID levels that we have come to know were defined. This development was done at University of California in Berkeley. Now days RAID is used in many servers throughout the world and even in desktop machines.

The use of a mirroring RAID array, or RAID 1 is useful in server situations. It creates an exact copy of the original drive. If either of the drives fail, the system can continue operations without any downtime. Then the new hard drive can be put into the system and it can rebuild the array.

This system is considered a little less desirable than a RAID 5 setup for most situations of day-to-day operation. However, it has several applications where the use of RAID 1 can be beneficial. One advantage is that it has a faster seek time than RAID 5, which makes it beneficial for data that, will not be written to often. The main advantage is that some 1U servers do not have room for a 3 drive array, so implementing RAID 1 is often considered better for reliability than no RAID at all. However, the most useful way that I have seen RAID 1 used in the real world is as backups. With a hot-swappable setup, the mirror disk can be removed and kept as backup much the same way as a tape backup can be stored. This proves to be very useful for mission critical systems since it allows for a system to be brought back online after a data failure, or the system to be brought up on separate hardware after a catastrophic hardware failure.

Probably the most common disk array used in enterprise computing is a RAID 5 array. This is because it maximizes disk usage, reliability, and speed of access. To get an idea of how it works, there are usually 3 drives in an array that each have their data divided between two other drives.

On mission critical servers, RAID 5 is often used with a cache that has an attached battery backup. This ensures that in a power failure, no transactions are lost from the server. Often times database servers with high amounts of transactions will have a battery unit since the RAID card would cache transactions before waiting, a power failure could result in an inconsistent database or critical data loss.

This type of RAID array requires 4 or more drives. At the top level is a RAID 0 array which combines lower level RAID 1 arrays. This type of RAID array has a benefit over RAID 5 in that it has faster write times. This often makes it a little bit better of a choice than RAID 5 for database servers.

Space Calculations
To calculate RAID 1 you simply divide the total drive space by 2. For RAID 5 you multiply the total space of the drives by the number of drives over 1 to get total usable space. Then for RAID 10 you add up each RAID 1 array.

2 80 GB Drives

3 80 GB Drives

5 80 GB Drives

4 80GB Drives
2 RAID 1 Arrays = 160GB usable

Hardware RAID

The use of hardware RAID arrays no longer makes as much sense as it once did. There are still reasons to use a hardware RAID over a software RAID. The first reason to use hardware RAID is that it usually has a cache, which speeds up the operation of the array dramatically. The second advantage is that it will not cut into system resources as much as software RAID. The biggest advantage is in the possibility of having a battery backed up cache. This will help prevent corruption from an unexpected power issue or a system crash.

Software RAID
Although historically all RAID arrays were completely hardware based, there is a growing popularity of software RAID. One of the reasons for this is that CPU speeds are now fast enough that the processing time involved managing the RAID array is really minimal compared to the overall processor.

One of the major advantages of software RAID is that it can be setup on commodity hardware so the physical disks can easily be moved to another server in the event of a hardware failure that does not involve the disks. The biggest disadvantage is that software raid has no cache so the limit to the speed data can flow from the Operating System is the limit of the drives.

Lets assume you have a working RAID setup now. Now if a drive fails the system continues like nothing ever happened. The problem is, without notification of a drive failure, there is no reason to have raid. So make sure you setup a system to notify you whenever a drive fails. It may notify you by email, page you, or on some control panel. The important thing is that you know before two drives fail and render the array useless.

Hopefully you will be able to make some important purchasing decisions for you next server after reading this article. There are a lot of things to consider when planning data availability so make sure you spend enough time to get everything right. Remember that no single RAID setup is best for all applications.

by Tyler Weaver

Sep 4, 2009

Educause Announces Plans To Sign .edu TLD With DNSSEC

Educause Announces Plans To Sign .edu TLD With DNSSEC: "jhutkd writes 'Educause (who run the .edu gTLD) announced today that they will deploy DNSSEC and sign the .edu zone by the end of March 2010. This will enable all educational institutions to benefit from deploying DNSSEC via the secure delegation hierarchy starting with IANA's ITAR (a temporary surrogate for the root zone signing), going through .edu, down to schools, and potentially leading all the way down to individual departments. Unlike larger gTLDs like .org, the churn of adding new and deleting old zones in .edu is much lower (due to the fact that there are tight controls on who may register for a delegation). Thus, many of the hassles of adding new DS records and maintenance procedures might be more manageable and help speed DNSSEC's rollout in this branch of the DNS hierarchy.'

Sep 2, 2009

Flowcharts for Computer Troubleshooting

I've always wanted to make something like this but never had the time (from Lifehacker)

We recently showed you a fun (but accurate) tech support cheat sheet courtesy of popular web comic xkcd. If hardware is more your problem, this series of (non-comic) interactive charts can help you troubleshoot some common hardware problems.

The flowcharts are the creation of author Morris Rosenthal. Morris has created detailed, interactive charts for everything from hard drive failure to CD and DVD troubleshooting to modem failure.

I'm by no means the resident hardware expert at Lifehacker HQ, but the charts offer an easy way to diagnose and resolve some basic problems for anyone from beginners to the more hardware-savvy folks out there.

Hit up the link to see all eight diagnostic charts in action.

Google Apps News

Nice, I've been looking forward to trying out Wave.

Google to let Apps users try out Wave: "Google plans to let Apps users test its Wave collaboration and communication tool, which is still in development.

Sep 1, 2009

Google Mail Fail

Whoops, I thought I heard something crash.

Google Mail: "

 September 1, 2009 2:37:00 PM PDT

The problem with Google Mail should be resolved. We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience and continued support.

 September 1, 2009 2:13:00 PM PDT

We are continuing to investigate this issue. We will provide an update by September 1, 2009 3:13:00 PM PDT detailing when we expect to resolve the problem.

Users can access their email via IMAP or POP. You can find instructions for how to do this here.

Also, at this time, Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook (applies only to Google Apps Premier and Edu customers) is not available.

 September 1, 2009 1:02:00 PM PDT

We are continuing to investigate this issue. We will provide an update by September 1, 2009 2:16:00 PM PDT detailing when we expect to resolve the problem.

Users can access their email via IMAP or POP. You can find instructions for how to do this here.

 September 1, 2009 12:53:00 PM PDT

We're aware of a problem with Google Mail affecting a majority of users. The affected users are unable to access Google Mail. We will provide an update by September 1, 2009 1:53:00 PM PDT detailing when we expect to resolve the problem. Please note that this resolution time is an estimate and may change.