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The Power of a RedHat Server

Redhat_LogoThe week after Christmas is a great time to clean up and plan for the next year. I was going through some old info from a few years ago and pulled out a sheet I printed up. It goes something like this:

  • 1 Server
  • P4 3.0Ghz
  • 1GB ram
  • 663 users
  • 53 websites

And it was running on a T1 (or 1.44Mbps) at the time which happened to be the slow point in whole scenario.

Now the servers are hosted at a datacenter with redundant fiber connections and the office location where the server was has a Metro E (11.00Mbps), which is a partial fiber line.

So what's the point? The point is you can host a whole lot of web sites and users on relatively old computer if you know what you are doing.

Another point is, if you're a serious business, have a serious business equipment at a serious business datacenter. It isn't worth it to try and save costs. That document was the goad to rouse me and move the servers to a datacenter.

A last point is, I love a supported Linux. This particular flavor was a RedHat server.

Panda Cloud Antivirus

Panda Cloud AntivirusAfter 10 years of being dedicated to AVG antivirus, I've finally decided to try something new. There are a few reasons that lead me to choose this.

AVG antivirus was wonderful a few years ago. It fit all the requirements: small, unobtrusive, lightweight in terms of system resources and it actually worked catching viruses. Also it had the correct economics, free for home users and business bulk packs for small businesses with servers.

Over the years, AVG has become bloated. Going from 31MB in v7.5 to a whopping 141MB in the latest v10. Downloading the package takes awhile on business T1's and goes against our core beliefs. Adding an extra 10-20 minutes just to download something doesn't thrill us.

AVG has become obtrusive. It's continuous nagging messages about upgrading to pro and trying out system speed is pure tricks to the unknowing, fooling them into paying for unnecessary items.

AVG has become a burden. On more than one occasion, AVG doesn't install correctly, zarks the install and removal can be a lengthy process. This is on top of the already lengthy install process. The system resources needed to run AVG has also increased becoming a burden on the system.The system dogs and pants every time a scan is run. Not cool.

Lastly AVG is unable to catch the TDSS rootkit. Despite saying it catches rootkits, AVG doesn't. This requires other tools like ComboFix. The problem is ComboFix doesn't work with AVG, requiring an AVG uninstall, ComboFix run and AVG reinstall. Again, not cool.

At the suggestion of Majorgeeks.com, I've decided to try Panda Cloud Antivirus. It meets all the original requirements: small, unobtrusive, lightweight in terms of system resources and it actually works catching viruses.

Panda is a small 31MB and downloads in a few seconds. I like that.

The install process is a breeze and doesn't try to upsell you on anything.

It is a server/client system. Unlike traditional server client systems, the server is Panda's server, making this the first cloud antivirus available.

The Cloud Antivirus is unobtrusive. This means no nagging messages after installation.

Panda's pricing is right with a free version and a professional version for those in need.

Others seem to agree. Here's a poll about who's switching to Panda: http://www.cloudantivirus.com/forum/poll.jspa?pollID=50108

I'm just excited I get a large part of my day back as service calls have just become shorter. Hopefully this doesn't turn into longer calls as I have to see for myself about its virus catching quality. Wish me luck.

Move Past Murphy

I can't explain it. I wish I really could but I can't.

Murphy's Law is a common adage that says, "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong."

With over a decade of hands on technology experience, I can tell you that's it's true.

This past week, a client had battery backups in place to keep the internet connection alive at all times. The network equipment is secured behind lock and key however the power extends beyond that secured area. Guess which plug the night time cleaning crew unplugs to get power for their vacuum? And it's a Friday night meaning no one knows until Saturday morning. I can't explain it. I wish I really could but I can't.

My advice is to have systems in place that cannot fail.

Pay extra when the space is being built out to have everything wired correctly and centralized in a logical place.

For network equipment and servers, make sure you have adequate battery backup power. Be certain they are on a scheduled maintenance plan meaning you have the equipment switched every 24-48 months rather than waiting for the batteries to fail.

Also make sureĀ· the systems are behind lock and key of some type. You wouldn't believe the number of times an unqualified employee tries to fix "slow internet" causing even further damage. Don't even give them that chance.

Even with all this preparation, you may find yourself saying to yourself, I can't explain it. I wish I really could but I can't.


I ran into 3 TDSSvirus infections yesterday. All at separate locations. This is despite the computers having antivirus up and running.

The only tools that I know of to get rid of TDSS infections are:


  • -Download Dr Web from above.
  • -Close out of everything.
  • -Run the program.


  • -Stay in SAFE MODE
  • -Download TDSS Killer from above.
  • -Close out of everything.
  • -Run the program.

Hardware Choice

The most frustrating aspect of technology is getting it to work the way it's supposed to.

Recently I was at a legacy client's condo on Palm Beach, waterfront views on 3 sides. They had a remote that couldn't control the volume on a tv. OK, first, it seems like it should be an easy type of issue. There are remotes that go through this everyday and get fixed easily. Secondly, these are high-end items. It wasn't like it was a remote and tv that can be bought at your local Walgreens.

Yet there the client was, hiring an audio/visual expert, not me mind you, get it fixed. The hired help was explaining how it just wasn't going to work. Not the words you ever want to speak or hear.

This is why hardware choice is so important. It goes back to our goal of reliable productivity in the shortest amount of time. I thought I'd list out my hardware choices for everyone to see. Feel free to disagree, this is what I've found to be most stable in my experience:

  • Dell Optiplex: moving to the Optiplex series automatically cut my issue list in half. In general, they are stable.
  • Macbook Pro: for those who must go Mac. Don't even consider the younger brother of the generic Macbook.
  • Asus RT-N16: this router has more memory & processing power to run without ever locking up. Plus it's wireless N and gigabit.
  • Canon Multifunction: I've been around the world on this one. Canon is the only small office MFP I trust. That is until you get to the large MFP's.
  • Netgear Gigabit Switches: reliable and affordable. I never had an issue.

My Favorite Thing

Every once in awhile I get the opportunity to hear John Maxwell speak live. This started when I was attending Liberty University in the 90's and now our paths cross again in the 10's.

Recently, as he was explaining the importance of attitude, he demonstrated through the diary of a dog vs a cat. Here's the jist from my memory:

A Dog Diary

  • 9am feeding... my favorite thing.
  • 10am walk... my favorite thing.
  • 11am nap... my favorite thing.
  • 12pm watch cars at the door... my favorite thing.
  • 1pm sit next to owner... my favorite thing.

A Cat Diary

  • Day 1057 of my captivity.
  • My captures still insist on tormenting me by dangling string in my face. 

As a dog owner, I laugh every time I think about it.

I thought I'd list out my favorite things:

  • HijackThis: The first line to discovering malware on a PC. I've been using it for years. It really takes an outside tool to see eveything starting up on your PC. Sillyness.
  • Malwarebytes: This handy tools gets the majority of general malware on PC's. Run it in SAFE MODE. I'll let you know if I ever become a partner.
  • DrWeb: The only tool I know of that will fix the TSSD infection.
  • ComboFix: Fixing rootkits and the TDSServ/vundo infection.
  • MacBook Pro: Because it doesn't need any of the above. I was driven to having one because the thought of ever fixing another computer made me sick. I've never had to service it since I've owned it. 
  • VI: VI is a text editor that has been around since the 70's. Color coded to easily spot errors. Learn it once and use it forever. My geekyness comes out by listing this.

You can see the list above ties directly into my conclusion. They fix problems fast, increases productivity and saves time.

Best Time To Buy

The best time to buy hardware is early December and late July. Why? Good question.

Early December because of it's proximity to Christmas on the 25th. What happens here is that companies like to hit certain production numbers on a month by month basis. By their nature, they are optimists and usually set the numbers high. When they realize that they won't hit the numbers they set themselves, they start offering discounts to easily obtain those numbers. Or if they will hit the numbers, they like to surpass them and the same situation occurs.

You want to buy early in the month because the manufacturer doesn't receive credit until the package is shipped and received. To be able to be certain that the package is received by the 25th, they'll offer discount usually the first or second weekend in December. It will be one or two days only and it will be internet only. It happens every year.

Late July is a good time to buy as well because students go back to school in mid to late August. Most students are thinking, "Hey, I go back in 3 weeks, I need a laptop." If they aren't thinking that then the parents are.

Late July is better than August because the manufacture knows they won't be able to get all of August, so they shoot for July.

This happened when I manned the Gateway Country stores year after year and it still happen today but in online fashion.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 07 January 2020 11:27

The Conclusion

Like all good stories, this one is going to end where it begins. So I figured I just give you the end before I begin to give details. Over the past decade of helping people out I've eventually have come to a few conclusions. Here are the two most important conclusions.

Technology is for productivity.

It exists for our sake. We do not exist for technology's sake. It exists to serve us and at some point produce some type of item. This item is often time but it also can be money, communication or something similar.

I mention this because with the amount of time we spend on technology, choosing right items, configuration and getting things to work, you'd think that we exists for technology's sake. We've all heard, or worse, been through (myself included) stories that start out like this, "I spend all day on trying to get such and such to work."

Really? All day? It isn't that I don't believe, it's that I figure at some point along the process of trying to get it to work, you'd give up. Not because you are a quitter but because it isn't worth it.

Time is the most precious resource.

Rote, I know but non the less true. Beautiful beaches, coral reefs, playing with children, calling neglected family members are all things that we could be doing instead of struggling with technology.

I try to take this mindset everyday. In practical terms, I try and fix the problems as fast as possible. Also I put a 2 hour limit on it. If it isn't fixed in 2 hours, I simply give up and find another way, often replacing the difficult item.

So I Started A Blog Today

So I started a blog today. Why should you care?

Good question. Well, because I have lots of experience. I mean lots. So much that most technology stuff is becoming obvious to me.

Then I read something. It went something like this... "Just because it's obvious to you doesn't mean it is to everyone else."

You know what? I never thought of that before. I occurred to me that there are thousands, probably millions of people who lack the knowledge and experience that I do. I look at a problem and know just what to do. They look at the same problem and have no idea what to do.

The people want recommendations with someone with experience.The people want confidence and assurance that they are taking the right actions. They want help that they are doing the right thing.

Since I'm moving in different direction other than service, I thought it would be terrible if I didn't pass my the knowledge on to someone. I figured they best way is to chronicle my experiences and journeys so that others can take advantage.

So you are the one to benefit. I'll wrap up my experiences in short blog posts and you can take advantage of what I've been through over the past decade. Most of my experience is with small to medium sized businesses, including home offices. Even if you are a large corporation, you may take advantage of the items.

That's why I started a blog.

Wireless For A Condo Building On Palm Beach

Recently a condo building on Palm Beach asked us how much it would cost to provide wireless internet to the building.

The idea here is that it's silly for all of them to pay internet separately ($40 * 100 = $4000). If they can share one internet connection, it will save them money ($x * 1 = $1x). As an added bonus they'll be able to do surf the web while at the community pool.

I wrote the response privately but decided to post the majority of it in case anyone else in the world is interested:

A hard quote can't be provided until a site survey is done. But here's a soft quote so everyone know what's involved.

There are 4 main parts to providing wireless for the building:

1. Internet Connection
One internet connection will be shared for everyone. The speed of this connection depends on the number of people using the internet and what they are using it for. COMCAST should be OK for regular office surfing and email. But some offices need an upgraded internet to a fractional optical cable / fiber line called a METRO E.
COMCAST: $100 per month approx
METRO E: $1,350 per month approx (36 month contract required)

2. Wireless Antennas & Network Equipment
Wireless antennas have to be place through out the building. These vary in cost depending on brand. Cisco enterprise equipment is on the high end at about $1000 per unit and small office equipment is on the lower end at about $150. The number of units required depends on the building itself. I'm guessing around: 15 units
CISCO: $15,000
Other required network equip: $1,000

3. Wiring
The wireless units need to be actually wired together and meet at a central location. If no existing wiring is in place, then it will have to be installed. Ballpark is $250 per connection.

4. Configuration Service
After the internet is installed, the equipment is in hand and wiring is in place, the whole system needs to be setup correctly, taking a full day. Sometimes further support is needed for customer help (upgrading outdated wireless drivers).
EXTEND: $600

To give a couple of scenarios...
One Palm Beach apartment complex used a DSL connection they had in place. They used 6 consumer-grade wireless units to keep costs low. They had their own on-site handyman wire the building. So the total cost was minimal about $1,500.

Another complex had a site survey done for 3 buildings. They needed all of the above. The total quote was around $37,000 and the project was scrapped.

A community center on PGA Blvd (45,000 sq ft) used an existing T1 internet connection (around $500 per month). The Cisco equipment, wiring and configuration cost around $10,000.

Pursuing wireless for a condo building on Palm Beach is decision each community will have to face depending on complex layout and funds available.

Replace Dated Hardware

It isn't worth it to deal with hardware problems. Combine this principle with the others I've stated like time is the most precious resource and the Murphy's law principle from last time and you'll appreciate this story.

I had a recent snowbird, from Manhattan, in BallenIsles. A simple call to setup a monitor, nothing big.

Monitor setup was no problem. Windows XP starts to boot then fails and begins to endlessly reboot. I try everything I can think of, safe mode, last known good config, boot into BartPE, boot into Knoppix and I even try a repair install. All end in the same result. Endlessly rebooting. Yes, even the repair install.

What do I do? A simple monitor install has turned into a service call worst disaster. After an hour and a half of tinkering, I have a total loss of everything.

I buy off lease systems in bulk and keep them around for fast office setups. They are about 2 years old, Dell Optiplex systems. Total cost of each system is barely over $100.

I run out back to my office, grab one of the systems and put it in place of the troubled item. Transfer over the user profile and finally call it a day.

Total service time was 3 hours. Which is a loss for me as I charge by the job and not by the hour.

The win here is that the issue was fixed as fast as possible and the client was relatively happy.

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