How to Resuscitate a Dead Jeep 4.0 Inline 6

QuadrajetComputers are wondrous and glorious things… except when they malfunction and prevent our vehicles from operating, of course. I’ve been working on cars since before I was licensed to drive them. I’ve rebuilt countless Rochester Quadrajunks, I’ve replaced ignition points (with a swiss army knife in a parking lot during a snow storm), I’ve used a flashing light and a vacuum pump to time an engine’s ignition. None of these things matter anymore because all of these functions have been taken over by the mysterious Engine Control Unit.

That’s all fine and dandy until the ECU starts to misbehave in strange and unusual ways that make us think the problem isn’t the ECU. And thus begins my tale of Jeep woe. Continue reading

Pro Tip #12

NOwinRAROpen letter to all European IT people respectfully sent from every IT person in the United States:


win95So 20 years ago, every Windows 95 PC in the US probably had a trial installation of WinRAR that complained about being 120 days past the 30 day trial. Americans could readily extract files compressed in the RAR format.

We also used programs like RealPlayer, WinAmp, Napster, and we used Netscape to load web pages like Web Crawler to search for crappy, static HTML 1 web pages written by college students and early digital porn pioneers.

However here in the 21st century, times have changed, software has improved, and no one in the United States uses WinRAR anymore! Every Windows PC on every desk in every business everywhere can open a standard ZIP file without the use of external software. Please take advantage of that when compressing and sending files to the United States. I would very much like to stop receiving phone calls like this:

Dave, the guys in Russia emailed me this file and I don’t know how to open it. If I email it to you, can you extract the documents and email it back to me?

My next Pro Tip will probably admonish users for emailing multiple copies of files between multiple parties, causing an avalanche of wasted data storage in mailbox databases… but not today.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Impressions

Samsung Galaxy S6
I’ve been using a Samsung Galaxy S4 quite happily since they were released. It was one of the best phones I had ever used, in fact. However, I was recently motivated to upgrade to a newer model. (more on that later)
Given how much I liked the S4, I decided to go with the most recent iteration of the Galaxy mobile phone line, the Galaxy S6.

I’m quite happy that I did, and here’s why:
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At long last, my websites are now hosted somewhere that isn’t subject to the ineptitude of NIPSCO or Comcast!

I’ve moved all my websites to a GoDaddy web hosting account. It’s only costing me about $80 a year, so it’s relatively inexpensive. It’s an experiment in downsizing my energy consumption at home. Shutting down my storage server was a big step in the right direction. It consisted of a giant 3U rackmount server with 16x 2TB hard drives, 3x power supplies, and a roar that rivals that of a Pratt and Whitney jet engine. It generated nearly enough heat to keep the house heated during the winter months all by itself. Shutting down that server probably lowered my electric bill by $75 a month.

Now if I can manage to convince myself to get hosted email, I can resize my home network to be more inline with what an average home might have…

Nah… conformity blows. Besides, I like saying that I have my own Exchange server.

Pro Tip #10

So I’ve been having this mystery problem with Server 2012 R2 for a while now. I have a 2TB external drive that I am using for backup storage. I was running out of space on the drive, and I couldn’t figure out why. When I added up the files on the drive, they didn’t come anywhere near 2TB. In fact, I moved everything off of the drive entirely and I still had only 32 GB free! Something was definitely awry, and I had to figure out what.

2012R2 System Volume Gone Wrong

My first thought was to just re-initialize the drive and go on with my life, but then I would always be left wondering what caused it. So instead I investigated until I found the problem, and hopefully this article will help someone else resolve the issue without having to shuffle tons of data around to re-initialize a drive.
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Samsung Owes Me an Hour of My Life Back

Not So Smart HubSamsung TV’s Not-so-SmartHub just cost me an hour of my life that I’ll never get back. If you have a Samsung television with SmartHub as of the moment of this writing, your Smart TV is acting pretty dumb. I got home from work and fired up the TV to entertain my daughter while I made dinner. I hit the SmartHub button and go for Netflix. The error message “Network interference occurred. Please try again later.” is all that I can get out of my TV. I start troubleshooting the network. I’m messing with the firewall. I’m pinging and trace routing and packet capturing… I’m pulling out every trick in my IT Guy playbook, and nothing makes sense. It’s own diagnostics say that the local network is good but it can’t reach the internet. I’m watching at the firewall, and it’s not even trying to reach the internet. It just flat-out refuses!

I solved the puzzle, but I had to revert to Facebook to do it. Samsung TV USA’s Facebook page (more specifically, their “posts to page” section) is rife with posts and comments of angry TV owners, all having the exact same issue as I am! A little more digging on Google, and it turns out that Samsung TV’s try to talk to their own SmartHub servers. If it can’t, then it refuses to do anything. No Netflix. No Pandora. No Hulu. Nothing. Zip. Zero. El Zilcho.

Why the hell do these things require that Samsung’s servers are in working order? Good question, but it’s one that I’ll certainly be taking into consideration when it’s time to buy my next TV. There’s no way in Hell that I’m paying for all the “Smart” features, if they have to do something so stupid as to call home to Samsung before they’ll work.

Legend of the Mystical Magic Anti-virus Disk

floppySo I came across a very old document in my loads of old personal data. I started reading it and wondered, “Who the hell wrote this?”

By the time I got to the country music reference, I knew it had to have been me. Once upon a time, I used to have fun at work:

Legend of the mystical “Magic anti-virus disk”
(otherwise known as directions for use)

disclaimer: this is meant to be both humorous and informative… Mostly humorous, though, so if you are not in the mood to smile, skip to the end, otherwise, read on.

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My Guitar Tone Evolution – From Solid State to Tube and Back Again

Tubes or TransistorsI set out today to post a quick spot about my unconventional guitar amplification rig and how each time I’m setting up for a gig I get strange and incredulous looks. Then later when I’m done playing or on a break I get compliments on my tone and questions about how I get such a full sound out of something that small. Well in my attempt to convey how I got to that point, I wound up writing a short novel on the evolution of my guitar tone and the various pieces of equipment I used to get there. For the short story I meant to tell, skip to the end. For the more quizzical and/or bored readers, please do continue to read on. It was kinda cool to remember all the gear I’ve used and to revisit my uneducated beginnings as a guitar novice.

When it comes to guitars and tone, I’m a tinkerer and a tweaker. I go through phases. Way back in the beginning I thought my tone should come from a pedal, and an amplifier was just a way to get loud. As it turns out, I was wrong, but it took me a long time to see why.
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Heartbleed Bug

heartbleedHoly shit! So every day, you use websites encrypted using OpenSSL to order things online, do your taxes, pay your bills, etc… Well for the past 2 years, your information has been susceptible hackers by means of a vulnerability known as “The Heartbleed Bug.” The news just broke yesterday. I didn’t know anything about it until I received an email from my bank stating:

[We are] aware of the “Heartbleed” bug. We are evaluating the situation and are prepared to execute any changes, if necessary, as quickly as possible. We are committed to protecting the security and integrity of your personal information and we will continue to update you if any further action is needed.

Now I found that a little disturbing. Enough so that I decided to dig a little and find out what this Heartbleed Bug was. This is what I found published yesterday on Time Magazine’s website:

Internet security experts are scrambling to assess the extent of the breach caused by a massive bug called Heartbleed in the OpenSSL technology that runs encryption for two-thirds of the web and went unnoticed for two years until last week

Naturally, as a person who runs his own websites, I was a little disturbed to say the least. Especially when I used this site to test whether or not my servers were susceptible to the attack. Low and behold, they were. Well my Linux-loving brethren were pretty snappy about putting out a fix. I patched my server and tested again to verify that it was, indeed, fixed. Not that my web servers are host to any potentially dangerous information, but it’s the principal.

So what should you do? Chances are, you haven’t been affected. It’s not the same as someone hacking into a server to steal information. It’s more like a hacker being able to peek in occasionally, and only see a tiny snapshot of what the server was processing at that exact same moment. However, it may be prudent to protect yourself. This article has some pretty sound advice on what to do.


Ransomware Alert

MALWARE ALERT – CryptoLocker and CryptoDefense

So this is the new scam, and it’s pretty disturbing. Unless your PC is devoid of significant data or you have a spare $500 or $1000 lying around that you don’t mind parting with, you may want to give this one a read through. There is a new string of malware being released into the wild that will encrypt your data files on your computer, and then extort money from you in order decrypt them. Have a read through this newsletter that was sent to me from CyberHeist News. In particular, you’ll want to pay attention to this:

It appears that this infection initially was installed through programs that pretend to be flash updates or video players required to view an online video, and then moved on to a variety of different phishing attacks that all show an email with a zip file and ask to “open the attached document” with is supposed to have been “scanned and sent to you”.

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Grandparents and Grandkids

With everyone together in one place this weekend, I had to take the opportunity to huddle everyone together for a few pics. This was taken right on Rend Lake in Southern Illinois. Me and the kids were in town to see my nephew Josh Nelson getting married. My Dad was the officiant of the ceremony.
2013-09-21 16.44 Touched Up
Now for the nerdy part: This is actually a composite of 2 different photos. Each of the two pictures had 1 person who wasn’t smiling and/or looking at the camera. I used Gimp to blend the two photos together and make one good out out of 2 not so good ones. I’ll bet you can’t tell who those two were!

Here’s a few more pics from the trip:

Comcast Pissed Me Off

Comcast SuxIronically, this post and the image that you’re viewing are being hosted by a server on the residential side of a Comcast internet connection. I’ve been running my own web server and email server at home using a dynamic DNS service for well over 10 years now. Never has there been an issue… until this past weekend.
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I almost missed my own gig!

2013-02-15 Croation Center GigThanks to everyone who came out to see my band 6ix 5ive 9ine on Saturday! I think it was one of our best sounding shows yet (excluding my vocals on Rooster), but it almost got cancelled before it even got started. Lets rewind back to Friday. We set up at the venue Friday night and ran through a few tunes. Given the layout and size of the room, I decided we were going to use Bill’s new drum mics and run the drums, bass, guitar and vocals all through the PA system. This was my first time gigging out with the new JBL speakers and stands, so I wanted to hear what the balance sounded like.
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Pro Tip #6

When VMware says it will support a maximum partition size of 2TB – 512B, they’re not kidding. And when you somehow create a NetApp LUN of exactly 2TB, and somehow get VMware to create a datastore on it, and somehow manage to operate production servers on it for a couple years without a problem, you will likely review the configuration at some point and realize that you’re sitting on a ticking time bomb.

Now, if at this point you cautiously move all your virtual machines off to another datastore, then you will probably suffer no ill consequences. If, however, one were to misguidedly resize the NetApp LUN to 1.99TB while VMware still thinks it’s a 2.00TB LUN, expect to stay up late trying desperately to salvage your servers from the deathly grips of I/O errors.

Luckily in the situation that inspired this post, only two virtual machines were storing data on the far edge of the datastore that was affected by the sudden change in LUN size. Neither of these servers were home to critical applications or data, and all services and data necessary to production were moved to a stable datastore without issue. After struggling with the data recovery attempts from the corrupt datastore for a day, I decided to cut my losses and restore them from backup.

All was well this time, but things could have been much worse. The moral of the story is, never ever reduce the size of your storage LUN while you have data on it that you want to keep.

… and no, I was not the one who resized the LUN. I did, however, get to clean up the resulting mess!