Category Archives: FAIL

Rocketman 2014: my epic fail

In idle conversation with my friend and fellow TRI101 attendee Alex, we started kicking around the idea of forming a relay team to do the Rocketman Olympic-distance triathlon. The Olympic distance is the next step up from sprints; it combines a 1500m swim, a 40Km bike ride, and a 10Km run. I figured I could do either the bike or run, but not both back-to-back, and I knew I didn’t want to attempt the swim… but Alex is a strong swimmer and he jumped at the chance. We recruited Ryan, another TRI101 member who runs ultradistance races, and we were all set.

In the weeks leading up to the Huntsville Sprint, I’d been thinking about buying a new bike. Instead of splurging I decided to rent one from Madison Cycles and give it a try for this race. I picked it up on Wednesday, but didn’t get to ride it until Friday, at which point it scared me badly! At nearly 10lbs lighter than my normal ride, and with much narrower tires, different geometry, and different gearing, it felt much less stable, and after my first ride my shoulders ached from gripping the handlebars so hard. On Saturday I rode it again and felt a lot better, though. I packed my stuff, attended the race brief with Alex and Ryan, and got to bed at a reasonable time. Sunday morning found me up at 0430 to finish my last-minute prep and drive out to the Arsenal’s recreation area, which abuts the Tennessee River. I’d signed up for a volunteer shift at the packet pickup booth, where I had a grand time visiting with friends and helping triathletes get their packets and swag for the race. The morning was cool and overcast, and as dawn broke I was excited about the race.

I met Alex and Ryan at the transition area, got everything set up, and headed over to the swim area. In a relay race, the swimmer starts with the timing chip and hands it to the cyclist in T1,  then the cyclist hands off to the runner in T2. Rocketman has a separate transition area for teams, which is handy.  Once Alex started the swim, Ryan and I hung out in the transition area until he came out, then I was out the chute and on the bike. By this time it had warmed up a bit, but it wasn’t too bad, and I felt great. Fresh breeze! Beautiful scenery! I’d violated my normal “nothing new on race day” rule and was sporting a Camelbak for hydration; I figured it, along with two water bottles on the bike, would keep me well hydrated.

The first mile of the course went by smoothly and quickly. I was keeping an eye on my pace because 40Km was about a third farther than my previous longest ride, and about half again as long as my previous longest race, but I was still feeling great as I rounded the turn near mile 2… and then suddenly it seemed like the bike was slowing down. I pedaled faster. This had no effect other than to rock me back and forth in the saddle. “Maybe I need to shift some more,” I thought. So I did, fiddling with the bike’s four shift levers in a fruitless effort to stop decelerating. Finally I had to unclip and pull over, where after some experimentation I found that the freewheel gear inside the rear hub had broken or something. Pedaling turned the crank, which moved the chain, which turned the rear cassette, which did nothing to the back wheel. I fiddled with it for another 10 minutes or so, to no avail; then I reluctantly turned the bike right side up and started the Walk of Shame back to the corral.

Along the way, I am happy to say, probably 4 out of 5 cyclists who passed by me asked me if I was OK. I appreciated their support a great deal, though they were moving too fast for me to do more than shout “THANKS!” at their rapidly receding backs. At one intersection, world-famous race photographer Gregg Gelmis was set up and captured the moment:

Me after my rental bike crapped out during Rocketman 2014

Me after my rental bike crapped out during Rocketman 2014

Thanks to my distinctive jersey (which I love, so shut up, haters), Alex and Ryan could see me before I made it back into the corral and they knew something was wrong. I am very grateful to them for how gracious they were; the mechanical failure of my bike meant that I officially did not finish (DNF’d) and so our team was marked as DNF’ing. Ryan ran the 10Km leg anyway and turned in an excellent time; while he was killing it in the 90-degree sun, Alex and I got to cheer a number of our TRI101 friends and coaches as they crossed the finish line. (Results are here if you want to see how fast everyone was.)

The Madison Cycles folks were very apologetic, and I’m sure they’ll settle up with me when I get back home. Mechanical issues happen. as anyone who’s owned any device more complex than a pencil knows well, so I don’t blame them, but it was still frustrated because I was excited to compete. I still had a great time; I especially enjoy the social aspect of triathlons because, while it’s a very competitive sport, the competitors tend to be very friendly and incredibly supportive. It’s a sport where you can take genuine pleasure in the successes of your friends, which suits me just fine.

The only thing to do: come back next year and DO THE WHOLE RACE. That will show ‘em.

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Filed under FAIL, Fitness

Microsoft Certified Systems Master certification now dead

I received a very unwelcome e-mail late last night:

Microsoft will no longer offer Masters and Architect level training rotations and will be retiring the Masters level certification exams as of October 1, 2013. The IT industry is changing rapidly and we will continue to evaluate the certification and training needs of the industry to determine if there’s a different certification needed for the pinnacle of our program.

This is terrible news, both for the community of existing MCM/MCSM holders but also for the broader Exchange community. It is a clear sign of how Microsoft values the skills of on-premises administrators of all its products (because all the MCSM certifications are going away, not just the one for Exchange). If all your messaging, directory, communications, and database services come from the cloud (or so I imagine the thinking goes), you don’t need to spend money on advanced certifications for your administrators who work on those technologies.

This is also an unfair punishment for candidates who attended the training rotation but have yet to take the exam, or those who were signed up for the already-scheduled upgrade rotations, and those who were signed up for future rotations. Now they’re stuck unless they can take, and pass, the certification exams before October 1… which is pretty much impossible. It greatly devalues the certification, of course, for those who already have it. Employers and potential clients can look at “MCM” on a resume and form their own value judgement about its worth given that Microsoft has dropped it. I’m not quite ready to consign MCM status to the same pile as CNE, but it’s pretty close.

The manner of the announcement was exceptionally poor in my opinion, too: a mass e-mail sent out just after midnight Central time last night. Who announces news late on Friday nights? People who are trying to minimize it, that’s who. Predictably, and with justification, the MCM community lists are blowing up with angry reaction, but, completely unsurprisingly, no one from Microsoft is taking part, or defending their position, in these discussions.

As a longtime MCM/MCSM instructor, I have seen firsthand the incredible growth and learning that takes place during the MCM rotations. Perhaps more importantly, the community of architects, support experts, and engineers who earned the MCM has been a terrific resource for learning and sharing throughout their respective product spaces; MCMs have been an extremely valuable connection between the real world of large-scale enterprise deployments and the product group.

In my opinion, this move is a poorly-advised and ill-timed slap in the face from Microsoft, and I believe it will work to their detriment.

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Filed under FAIL, UC&C

Blacklist blacklist blacklist: the forbidden word

I just got chapter 6 of Exchange 2013 Inside Out: Clients, Connectivity, and Unified Messaging back from Microsoft Press. Like most other major publishers, Microsoft Press has a strict process to try to catch potentially offensive, libelous, slanderous, or sensitive terms before they appear in print. In this particular chapter, the editors requested many changes because of the odd vocabulary associated with message hygiene. For example, it’s OK to say “spam” to mean “an unwanted commercial e-mail message,” but it’s not OK to say “ham” to mean “a legitimate or desired commercial e-mail message” because in some book markets, ham is either unheard of or regarded as offensive.

However, they also busted me for using “blacklist,” as in “real-time blacklist.” This is the accepted term of art for a DNS-based system that allows an e-mail server to look up IP addresses of senders in real time to decide if they appear on a list of known or suspected spammers. Apparently “blacklist” is an offensive word in some contexts, although I’m having a hard time figuring out where or why.

Imagine my surprise when I fired up my Xbox tonight and saw this:

NewImage

Now, to be clear, I get it– Microsoft Press is not the same as IEB, Microsoft’s behemoth of a business unit. I’m sure they have different rules or something. And my editor, bless her heart, is only enforcing the rules forced on her by some clique of zampolits…but seriously?! Xbox LIVE has tens of millions of worldwide customers who are seeing this forbidden word. On the other hand,  my book, if I am very lucky, may sell as many as 25,000 copies (that would make it a runaway hit by computer book standards), and yet I can’t use a well-known and commonly accepted term in context.

Sheesh…

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Exchange OWA IM integration and Lync trusted application pools

I am a bit ashamed to say that I wasted most of a day on this, but I’m posting this in the hopes that I can help someone else avoid the same mistake I made.

I just spent about five hours troubleshooting why I couldn’t get Exchange 2013 Outlook Web App to display IM and presence data from a Lync 2013 standard edition server. I had carefully followed the integration steps in the documentation, including the part that says this:

If you have installed the Microsoft Exchange Unified Messaging Call Router service and the Microsoft Exchange Unified Messaging service on the same computer then there is no need to create a trusted application pool for Outlook Web App. (This assumes that the server in question is hosting a SipName UM dial plan.

So, having read that, I didn’t set up a trusted application pool or trusted application… and IM didn’t work.

I fussed with certificates. I read a ton of documentation. I swore. I drank too much diet Coke. I ran OCSLogger and found errors about an unknown peer. “AHA!” I thought. “There must be an error in the docs and you really do need to create a trusted application pool.”

So I created the pool and the trusted app. Two quick lines of PowerShell, a quick login to OWA, and voila:

NewImage

As much as I would like to claim that it was a documentation error, this was pure fail on my part: the problem was that my Exchange 2013 server doesn’t host a SIP dial plan, so Lync doesn’t automatically add it to the Lync known servers table. It will have a SIP dial plan when I get to the next section of this chapter, but that’s a post for another day.

So, in summary: yes, you do need to create a trusted application pool and application for your Exchange servers even if they are multi-role unless they are hosting a SIP dial plan. 

Now, time for another diet Coke…

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Filed under FAIL, UC&C

Bad experience at Larry’s Pistol and Pawn in Huntsville

I’m not really a complainer by nature (thank goodness), and I don’t tend to have problems with customer service at most of the businesses I deal with– in part because I am picky about who gets my money. Having said that, I had a bad experience with Larry’s Pistol and Pawn in Huntsville that I wanted to document.

Larry’s has been in business for a long time; when I moved to Huntsville in 1991, they had the only indoor pistol range in town. As long as I’ve lived in the area, I’ve shopped there, and I’ve never had a bad experience. Yesterday, though, I had a salesman who was both discourteous and uninformed about the law. He refused to sell me a rifle because I am a dual resident of California and Alabama– “I won’t sell you this because it’s not legal in California,” he said. 

I explained that I’d just gone through the same process at another local store, which had called the local Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE) office to confirm that it was legal. According to 27 CFR 478 § 11, it is in fact legal for a US citizen who resides in more than one state to purchase a long gun in any state of residence. I meet the legal residency definitions for both Alabama and California, and if you read Example 2 in the definition for “State of Residence” it’s clearly applicable.

Rude Guy wasn’t in the mood to listen; he told me that the other store where I’d made a previous purchase had broken the law. That didn’t seem likely; gun stores tend to be terrifically careful to follow the law and ATF regulations because failure to do so can get them shut down and their employees jailed. I politely thanked him and left. Then I called the local ATF field office myself and spoke to a very helpful ATF employee. I explained my situation, she cited 478§11 to me, told me I was good to go, and gave me her phone number to have Larry’s call her if they had any questions.

Armed with this information (ed.: see what I did there?) I went back to Larry’s, stood in line for the same guy, and explained my phone call. He was even ruder than before: “I don’t care what she said,” he said angrily; “I still won’t sell to you.” Clearly there was no point in arguing, so I left.

I’ve sent Larry Burnett, the owner, a detailed letter explaining what happened, so we’ll see what action, if any, he takes. Until I hear back, though, Larry’s is off my shopping list. If you’re in the market for firearms, ammunition, or supplies, I suggest you go elsewhere.

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Filed under FAIL, General Stuff, Smackdown!

Please stay home, Mr. President

Our dear leader, President Obama, is coming to the Bay Area on Monday. (Why he’s coming is unclear to me; it’s not as though Romney has any chance of winning California, so I presume it’s so Obama can raise money from his legions of wealthy fans out here.)

Anyway, the point of this post is to point out what happens when he’s here. The picture below will help illustrate my complaint.

oct-tfr

See those red rings? During his visit, most private aircraft are essentially not allowed to fly within those rings; flight training (and cropdusting, and animal control, and a long list of other operations) are specifically prohibited, and there are other restrictions. Commercial passenger and cargo flights are exempt, luckily (otherwise AA passengers departing SFO Monday would be in even more trouble, hey ho!)

The largest ring is a 35-nautical-mile radius centered around the San Francisco (SFO) VOR. That takes in the Palo Alto, San Jose, Oakland, and San Carlos airports. So from 1pm Monday until 10am Tuesday,  the dozens of instructors and hundreds of students training at those airports are grounded. That means an immediate loss of several thousand dollars per instructor– and the losses are greater for flight schools themselves.

More to the point, this is just a further delay in my pursuit of my license, as I can’t fly during that time unless I am actively, y’know, going somewhere.

Oh, and the best part: the geographic and time restrictions of this temporary flight restriction can change at any time. So I could, in theory, inadvertently and innocently violate it if it changes while I am in flight. This is rare and unlikely, thank goodness.

So thank you, Mr. President. I’m glad you’re doing your part to help the economy. See also previous helpful contributions here and here. (substitute “Bush”, “Romney,” or the name of your favorite post-9/11 president above if it makes you feel better, although President Obama has been a worse offender in this respect than was President Bush.)

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Filed under Aviation, FAIL

Backups and MEC

tl;dr edition: don’t let this happen to you.

I’ve been working on a couple of iOS applications for my upcoming talk at the Microsoft Exchange Conference. Since MEC starts in just over three weeks, this has become a matter of some importance.

Side note: I often talk about “the Exchange tribe” as a shorthand way to talk about the community with people who aren’t in it. The MEC team has posted a bunch of speaker photos which may help put some faces with the names. These pictures don’t show everything; for example, you can’t see Greg Taylor’s sense of humor, the color of Jeff Mealiffe’s most excellent glasses, exactly how much Scott Schnoll looks like SA Martinez from 311, or what Devin Ganger is trying to karate chop. The pictures are useful for recognizing who’s who, though the rumors that Ross Smith is making a set of MEC speaker trading cards is false as far as I know.

Last night, I unplugged my laptop, tossed it in my bag, and headed for SFO for the redeye to DFW, thence to Huntsville. This morning at DFW, I pulled out the laptop again to work on my code a bit. I had made a stupid mistake the other night: I created a class based on UIViewController instead of UITableViewController, which means that Xcode refused to link the class definition files with the view controller itself in the storyboard editor. That caused a variety of bad behavior, including an inability to link selectors for the “done” and “cancel” buttons in the view

I realized my mistake right after I had deleted the view so that I could recreate it. “No problem,” I thought. “I’ll just restore it with Time Machine.” This, despite the fact that my main Time Machine backup is on a disk back in Mountain View.

So, I tried to do that; I opened Time Machine, found my source folder (/Source/ExOOF in this case), and restored the folder from its most recent update at midnight. Switching back to Finder, I accidentally opened the project in Xcode. I quit Xcode and noticed that Finder was asking me whether I wanted to replace the folder or not. I said “yes” and was greeted by a mysterious Finder error.

Long story short, my working copy is now gone. I can’t restore the Time Machine copy either, as the local replica only contains the project file, not the source code.

“No problem,” says I. “That’s why I have CrashPlan.” A quick trip to the CrashPlan app revealed that… I back up /users/paulr only. When I first set up CrashPlan, I didn’t have anything in /source, so I didn’t back it up. Duh.

So, bottom line: my source code is safe and sound, on a disk on my desk in Mountain View that is completely inaccessible remotely. My app development will have to wait until I get back to Mountain View. I suppose I can work on the accompanying slides, but where’s the fun in that?

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Filed under FAIL, General Tech Stuff, UC&C