Ooops – I Upgraded…

It wasn’t intentional, at least the scheduling wasn’t intentional. However, last night there was a power outage and our servers crashed and then came back on. What is different, though, is that the firewall server is now running Forefront TMG instead of the old ISA 2006. This is much better, of course, but previously I hadn’t been able to get it to work properly.

As you can see, it’s working now. This means that the configuration I had was working just fine. When the servers rebooted, the new server came up first and took over the network and became the production firewall server. I only found out because I hadn’t put the new mail certificate on the listener. The old server came up second, but because it has the same IP address, it couldn’t connect to anything.

I needed to upgrade it because it was running Windows Server 2003 and the old version of the firewall. The new version is running on Windows Server 2008 R2 and is all current and up to date.

It seems to be faster, too.

I’ve turned off the old server and deleted it’s virtual hard drive. No going back now!

Not All Coming Up Roses

The FiOS install went great, but…

After turning in my cable box yesterday and cancelling my residential cable service through Cox, they came out this morning and disconnected my business internet service as well. Argh.

And just as I was getting packed to head to Los Angeles for TEC2010.

As you can see, though, all is back up and running. I did say that Cox customer service was great, didn’t I?

Media Center and FiOS TV

Two words: Awesome.

Well, that wasn’t two, so I’ll compensate by adding a few more.

Today, we ditched Cox cable for Verizon FiOS TV. Cox, the regular local cable provider, is actually not bad. They have great [for a cable company] customer service, but I’ve been disappointed with the service itself. The signals are low and I absolutely deplore the DVR. If you’ve been reading the blog [here, here, and here], you know that I have finally put together a media center PC.

What’s not listed there is that it’s all new. Over the past several months, in order to “make it right” I’ve been working on the computer to make it behave like it’s supposed to.

The old PC just wasn’t up to the task. I had been thinking about upgrading it when an opportunity fell into my lap. I mistakenly ordered the wrong CPU for my server and was unable to return it. So – I “repurposed” it. With the addition of a new motherboard, matching 4GB of RAM and a case, I was all set to build a media center out of a Quad-Core Xeon server processor. That’s total overkill for those not geeky out there.

The first problem, though, was that I ordered the wrong motherboard – it wouldn’t fit in the case. I returned it and ordered another one only to find out that I actually had the wrong case. I replaced the case and found out that I had the wrong power supply. I quick stop by the local computer store solved that problem. I assembled all the parts and it was working. Performance-wise, it’s the fastest “desktop” I’ve ever owned. Only, it’s not a desktop: it’s a server with a server case… which sounds like a jet engine.

So: to solve that problem, I replaced the power supply and it got a smidge quieter. Hmm… the case has 3 fans. I replaced those with whisper-quiet 120mm case fans and wow… Except: it was still very loud. All that was left was the CPU fan. This tiny little thing must have been making the most noise. It was spinning at 6000 RPM and so I replaced it with a large heatsink and fan combination that is now virtually silent.

Media Center “Server”: Awesome!

It’s VERY fast, responds very quickly, and I have about 1.2TB of storage. I think I can record several weeks of TV in HD without stopping. It all works just like it’s supposed to.


All the problems didn’t go away. We used to get digital artifacting [little random squares on the screen] and noise which I thought was due to performance of the machine. It was still there. Come to find out, our signal with Cox was so bad, that some channels were just plain unwatchable. I couldn’t even eliminate the cable box like I wanted to. So much for saving money.

Now, along comes my friend Jack who tells me of his experience with Media Center, CableCARD and FiOS. Now, I was hooked. See, Cox requires a “tuning resolver” to allow you to change channels on their less-watched shows. That way, they can save bandwidth by not showing stations to a neighborhood that no one is watching. Only it doesn’t work all that well. There were many times that our shows wouldn’t record because of some switching error.

No more! I called and scheduled my FiOS appointment and I’m now free from the Cox prison [except for Internet]. The media center is working as it’s supposed to and the signal is strong and clear. Life is great!

The only thing left is to get an additional tuner. I have a Ceton tuner on order which has 4 tuners in it. That will solve the recording conflict problems and should be the final upgrade of the machine for some time to come.

I took the Cox equipment in to the store today. That alone should save us $20/month or more on our cable bill.

Home Repairs Almost Done

After the Snowpocalypse, we had suffered the Ice Dam leakage which turned our master bedroom window sheetrock into slush. The blinds fell off and we had to cut holes in the sheetrock to drain the water. It’s now been repaired [well, it has been for a while] and finally painted.

And not just “repainted” mind you, but we had to choose a new color since the old color was basically smoker’s dirty white. So, after much consternation over the exact shading of the various colors, we have completed the paint job on the house. Here’s the after pictures:



Choosing the right shade of green for the walls wasn’t hard since we’ve wanted that color for a while. What was hard was choosing the right ceiling color. It’s not white – it’s actually a faint shade of green, but you can’t tell from pictures.

Here’s some pictures of the process:

201-6466 201-6470

We still have to install new blinds and/or drapes.