IDF Wiring Rack Cleanup

Havening Problems

Now I have a wiring closet for you that was definitely havening problems! A recent posting over at TechRepublic reminded me of this cleanup job we did on a small IDF rack a while back. This closet was used as a sort of "hub" during contruction and often had "we need connectivity now" situations that arose that caused it to become the mess it was. We were planning a night to reconfigure some of the switches in a number of telecom rooms so we decided to clean this rack up while we were at it. It's amazing how much of a difference the cleanup made!



Before Picture



After Picture


Have any of your own wiring mess stories? Share them in the comments!

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Article on SQL Query Optimization

General News

At first I didn't want to post a story on the site about this since it falls outside the realm of what we usually try to present here, but since a number of IT professionals are not specifically database programmers or designers yet still need to have a good idea of what could affect their organization's database performance, I thought I'd share an article that came out yesterday written by Sean McCown at InfoWorld. The article outlines many of the most common (and often lazy) things SQL database developers do that could affect performance.

7 performance tips for faster SQL queries
It's easy to create database code that slows down query results or ties up the database unnecessarily -- unless you follow these tips

A lot of the tips are very similar in nature, basically saying that you want to reduce your query size as much as possible in addition to the number of times you query tables (especially large ones), but it's not just a "well, duh" type of article. It's well written and is clear on the issues, though it assumes you have at least a basic understanding of SQL databases. If you are looking to speed up your SQL queries or just want to update your mental memory banks on database optimization, take a look at Sean's article and give it a quick read-through.

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Cheap Windows 7 Upgrade Options in 2010

General News

Recently, I was asked where the best place to find a good deal on Microsoft's Windows 7 operating system would be. Having used the RC, I knew I would be upgrading so I preordered up a couple of the $50 Home Premium copies that lasted for only two weeks back in June/July 2009 (in hindsight, I wish I would have picked up a few more copies for friends & family). Since then I haven't needed to purchase individual licenses and this put me into the position of not really knowing what deals exist right now for the average person other than the assumption there were non-profit, educational, OEM, MSDN member, etc. pricing. I also knew the family pack deal was dead.

[Update 2010-09-02: The family pack is making a comeback as of October 22, 2010; no word on how long the promotion will last yet]


In the end, we saw that there are still a few inexpensive (and legal) upgrade options found in the top search results and also through our own research. Note that I am excluding the Windows Anytime Upgrades since those are for adding features to an already purchased copy of Windows 7 and also OEM pricing since that's for system builders only. Read further for our findings.

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VBScript: Shut Down Computer If Not Logged On

Scripts & Tools

Here are a couple VBScripts that you can use to shut down computers if no one is logged on at the time the script is run. This is useful if you want to make sure computers are shut down at the end of the day, but don't want to shut them down if someone is logged in and working. The difference between the two scripts is that one would be run on the local machine(s) that you want to shut down, while the second script can be run from one computer and will attempt to shut down all computers in a specified Organizational Unit (OU). You can use the Task Scheduler to run either of these scripts at a specific time of the day or week.

Obviously, you could also cut out the parts that test to see if someone is logged on if you don't want or need that check

Both of these scripts use the Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) service and should work on any version of Microsoft Windows from Windows 2000 up and possibly Windows NT, Windows 95, & Windows 98 with the WMI CORE 1.5 distributable.


Continue on for the VBS code...

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Microsoft Education Labs Releases Chemistry Add-in for Word

General News

As announced on the Microsoft External Research Team Blog, MS Education Labs in collaboration with the University of Cambridge has released a chemistry add-in for Word (2007 & 2010) that "makes it easier for students, chemists and researchers to insert and modify chemical information, such as labels, formulas and 2D depictions, from withing Microsoft Office Word." It uses the Chemical Markup Language (CML), which is based on XML, and as such should easily allow other technologies to take advantage of the open document format.


Eventually, the developers plan to release a CodePlex version of this project later this year, hoping to build a community around the add-in and increasing the number of molecules available to use. I hope this takes off!


Anyone interested in how it looks and works can head over to the How-To Geek website (which, BTW, is definitely a site you should keep in your RSS feeds) and check out their article Create Chemistry Equations and Diagrams in Word.

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What My Users Have Taught Me - Part 1

Havening Problems

The logical is of course illogical. User's suppositions are truth. Common sense is for the herd and must be shunned. Part 1.


I am fortunate to be in the position where most of our users are a pleasure to work with and even if they aren't completely computer savvy, they tend do very well with what knowledge they have. Still, we all have our off days and sometimes I see actions or receive comments that illicit a "huh?" response. Most of the time when I respond with a "have you tried..." they realize what happened and we have a good laugh and go on our merry way. Other times... well, go ahead and read on.

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Microsoft Releases Updated Microsoft Baseline Configuration Analyzer 2.0

General News

Microsoft has released version 2.0 of the Microsoft Baseline Configuration Analyzer.



Microsoft Baseline Configuration Analyzer 2.0 (MBCA 2.0) can help you maintain optimal system configuration by analyzing configurations of your computers against a predefined set of best practices, and reporting results of the analyses. Best practices are developed by a product development team or domain experts, and are packaged in the form of a best practice model. Models are available as separately-downloadable packages that can be run and analyzed by MBCA. MBCA lets users work with best practice models in a consistent, user-friendly way.


The new version adds support for the newer Windows operating systems: Windows 7 Enterprise; Windows 7 Professional; Windows 7 Ultimate; Windows Server 2003; Windows Server 2003 R2 (32-Bit x86); Windows Server 2008; Windows Server 2008 R2; Windows Vista Business; Windows Vista Enterprise; Windows Vista Ultimate


You can download it from

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Orca MSI Editor Crashes When Deleting Rows from a Transform


Orca is Microsoft's database table editor for directly creating and editing Windows Installer (previously Microsoft Installer) packages and merge modules. You are most likely familiar with these installation packages as MSI files.


You may have noticed, though, that Orca would freeze when you dropped a row at times. This is because the version that comes with the Microsoft Windows Server 2003 SDK (and Vista Platform SDK as well, I believe) would crash if you deleted some rows from a transform, such as registry entries. The newer versions of Orca seem to fix this, beginning with the version from the Windows SDK for Windows Server 2008. Last I checked, there's an even newer version - version 5.0 - included in the Windows 7 SDK.


Well, that's the answer to your crashing issue, but there are more questions that now arise:

  1. The Windows 7 SDK is huge. Where exactly can I find the Orca.exe program in it?
  2. How do I go about downloading just the portion of the SDK that contains Orca?
  3. Are there any good alternatives to using Orca to edit MSI tables directly?

Read on for the answers to these questions!

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A Truly Universal Print Driver from Samsung

General News

While universal print drivers (drivers that support multiple printer models) are nothing new, they've had a history of being fairly limited. One example would be HP's UPD that comes in PCL 5, PCL 6, & PostScript flavors, but they only work across HP branded printers. On the other hand, Xerox's Mobile Express Driver can print across manufacturers and models, but it only supports printers that allow the PostScript page description language (PDL).

Late last year, though, Samsung announced a print driver that not only is compatible with their own models, but any network printer that uses SPL, PCL6, or PostScript languages. Here at The Grim Admin, we wanted to find out how well these claims hold up. Read on for our review & test run of the driver and, of course, the download link since you'll definitely want to give this driver a go yourself...

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