Job Scheduler now in Beta

by Joe Payne 28. February 2009 23:45

Job Scheduler has finally reached customer beta stage.  It's currently testing on a customer dev server and we expect to have it running on their live site very soon.  Once any remaining kinks are noted and resolved, documentation can begin and the product can be ready for public sale.

 

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General News

Yay got tickets to Jeff Dunham at the last minute!

by Joe Payne 28. February 2009 09:18

I was so bummed a few weeks ago when I realized how expensive tickets to the Jeff Dunham tour were. 

So as a long shot, I checked Craigslist every day or so and sure enough, the day before the show some really, really great floor seats came up for sale and I snagged 'em!

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Personal

Chase bank offers me a deal to avoid chargeback

by Joe Payne 24. February 2009 23:40

Well, well, well.  Something completely new hit me today.

Chase Bank calls ME.  That's right - they initiated a call to me regarding two charges on a customer charge card.   Obviously the customer is going to dispute the charges or Chase wouldn't have taken the time to call little 'ol me.

First I'm very surprised they've called given I had to endure the joy of 6 chargebacks in a single week without a single peep out of them.  All from Chase.  All from the same week of time back in November 2008.  They didn't care about THOSE charges enough to call me....why do they care now?

I even comment to that effect to the lady and was told there is no time limit on fraud and they can do a chargeback whenever they want - even years later.  Somehow that seems hard to swallow but I press on.

Eventually I determine the orders involved and get them pulled up.   Full AVS match.  Full CVV match.  Billing name/address match perfectly.  Only thing odd about the orders is they are shipped to a different address than the bill-to.  Usually a no-no but far more common during holiday shopping season.

What blows me away is when the lady from Chase actually offers me a deal:  Issue a refund to the card today and she won't push the chargeback through thus saving me the chargeback fees involved.  She obviously felt confident enough that any chargeback dispute I might put up would be soundly lost.

So at this point I'm starting to get a little skeptical.  I've been in business 18 months.  I've dealt with several chargebacks.  Not once has the issuing bank called me - let alone gone Howie Mandel on me and offered me a deal.

The kicker was when I responded that I'll need to call my merchant processor and discuss the situation with them.  The lady actually advised me that they'll be the ones charging the fee, "so what do you think they're going to suggest?".  Now she's just getting pushy - I don't like this at all.

Tomorrow I talk to Merchant Services.  I don't like how this smells at all.  If this is a valid tactic of Chase Bank, it's certainly new to me.

Oh and if you ever want to verify a charge with them, all you have to do is call their security department.  They'll "be happy to contact the cardholder on file and confirm any purchase you might feel is suspect." That's what I was told today.  Well that sure as heck isn't what I was told the last time I tried to do exactly that with that exact department.  We shall see how that works the next time.....

2-25-09 Update:  According to my own Chase Visa customer service department, I have 30 days (from the date I receive my statement) to dispute a charge on that statement.  Now there's no way the two charges in question above would have appeared on that cardholders February statement.  Nor their January statement.  Which means, those charges must have appeared on a statement received between Nov 18th, 2008 and December 31st, 2008.  That puts the charges well beyond the 30 day limit I was told this evening........

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Personal

HP Compaq Servers and intermittent traffic errors

by Joe Payne 24. February 2009 23:09

Well since I haven't had time to post some blog entries this month, I thought I'd do so while fighting this really big problem with certain client file servers.

 Over the past few months, I've noticed increasingly more intermittent VPN tunnel connections using the Sonicwall GVC.  Now and then my VPN connection would just "die", yet my local internet was fine.  I could drop the tunnel and reconnect - everything would be fine.  For a while.  An inconvenience but nothing to cry about.

As time went on, this became more frequent.  Recently it's gotten to the point where I have bounce back-and-forth between the primary and backup firewalls trying to get a VPN connection that will stay working for 5 minutes.  Wow has it been frustrating.  And it always seemed to be when the traffic load got higher.  Like when a large image appeared or a logo screen popped up during RDP sessions.

These servers were pretty static for the last 2 years except for the usual Microsoft updates.  All were HP Compaq DL380 G3 units running Windows Server 2003.  W2K3 had been patched up to SP2 however I forget how long ago.

All along, we never really noticed any "internal" LAN issues.  Occasionally I'd get complaints on speed but usually the problem was gone by the time I was on the case (within 15-30 minutes of the report).  Chalking that up to typical network bandwidth spikes was easy.

But, enter client #2.  These guys have brand new DL360 G5 units running all sorts of the newer drivers, one even running Server 2008 SP1.  Client #2 starts seeing some really strange traffic issues, like DHCP suddenly not responding to station requests.  Bouncing the switch seemed to help, rebooting the DHCP server (W2k8 box) fixed it one time.  Then those issues went away for about a week so it was dismissed as deployment gremlins.  All except one lonely IBM Thinkpad that simply would not get an IP from DHCP.  It could ping devices on the same switch but saw nothing on the other 48-port NetGear Gigabit switch.  Now things are getting bizarre.

So now things are interesting.  Devices that link up, see same-switch peers but cannot see across multiple switches.  Since all these devices involved both at client 1 and 2 have worked flawlessly in the past, there had to be something common to everyone.  I started going down the road of 'blame the switch' and had some credible evidence too.  But overall, I just wasn't seeing the same issues internally on the scale and frequency I was seeing them remotely.

Then tonight, in yet another recon mission into possible causes, I noticed something odd.  Client 1 Win2K8 server was showing "no buffers" receive errors on one NIC.  But not on the OTHER nic.  This made no sense since the NICs were teamed and should be multi-casting - I should see duplicate errors on both NICs.

Finally I had something more "concrete" to work with in the search engines.  I quickly came up with a very, very long thread on the HP support forums and it darn near described my issues to the last detail!  AHA!  Gotcha :)

Here's the link to the huge thread of a whole lot of frustrated HP server customers:  http://forums11.itrc.hp.com/service/forums/bizsupport/questionanswer.do?threadId=1153566

Apparently there are issues with Broadcom NICs when certain advanced TCP Offload and Chimney settings are enabled in Windows.  Certain Broadcom NICs have the ability to offload some of the TCP traffic work to the NIC instead of being handled by the OS.  This features are apparently enabled in W2k3 SP2 by default and can cause all sorts of traffic issues depending on the load being put on the NIC.

The HP Compaq solution is to update the firmware on the NICs, disable the offending features in the registry or NIC advanced settings and then updating the HP NIC drivers.   The specific steps listed (your specific cp*.exe file may differ):

1: Upgrade Bios and firmware from disk FW800.2008_0207.37.iso (firmware-8.00-0.zip)

The order is important as every time you install the driver the settings goes back to default wich is enabled.
2: Upgrade drivers: cp008415.exe
3: Upgrade NCU (Network Configuration Utility) cp008413.exe

4: Edit registry.
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\Tcpip\Parameters
EnableRSS == 0
EnableTCPA == 0
Enabletcpchimney == 0

5: run the following command: Netsh int ip set chimney DISABLED

6: Go inside NCU and on each nic go to advanced settings:
Remove the enabled tick for TCP offload engine.
Remove the enabled tick for Receive-Side Scaling.

7: Boot

I'm going through all of this tonight - so far it seems to have helped Client 2 with the newer G5 servers.  However I'm not seeing the same improvement with client 1 and the G3 servers.  It could be that Client 1 has 12 servers and I've only updated 1 - the problem now is keeping the VPN connection alive long enough to get the updates done on the other servers.   We shall see.........

 

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Personal | Tech Support

Xigla News Manager gets an upgrade to v6

by Joe Payne 1. February 2009 08:41

Introduction

Xigla offered a nice upgrade to v6 of their .Net News Manager module, so I took the plunge Friday.    The old v5 wasn't the easiest to deploy in AC7 but I think part of it was just wrapping my head around it.  Xigla uses a lot of ASP and JScript and I'm used to .Net code with user controls.  That seems to have changed somewhat for the v6 which was nice to see.

Installation and Upgrade

Upgrading was actually very simple - Xigla did a great job with the install wizard.  I actually stepped on the upgrade install by running the SQL upgrade script before I ran the module install wizard.  Don't do that or the install wizard won't let you proceed because the wizard will try to run the script for you :)

The upgrade itself ran flawlessly - let me build the correct SQL connection string and stepped me through every part of the process.  Each step included error-checks before proceeding.  I'm going to need to dig a little into their wizard code and draw some lessons - few .Net install scripts are so well designed.

New Features

I've done some playing with it this weekend and there are some really nice improvements.  Any zone can be RSS'd now.  That's a huge thing to add and oh how simple it is.  Once again Xigla has relied on the "script generator" concept where all the user-defined parameters of a zone can be generated into the final line of code you'll need to deploy it.  Once you're happy with the zone appearance, you're just a copy-and-paste away from deploying it anywhere in your site.  Within just a few minutes, I was able to add RSS feed support to multiple zones.  Adding full social bookmarking support to all pages in my site took about 60 seconds.  You really can't ask for easier integration of stuff like this.

Juan has gotten far better at holding the site admins hand during configuration and management of features.  Many parts of the admin side now give you additional text explaining what will happen and how it affects other aspects.  The plug-ins section is very simple to use for adding new functionality and features to your news management.  A complete WYSIWYG editor offers all the needed functionality for article creation.

Custom templates can still be designed and now can be chosen via a graphical screenshot view instead of the dull text dropdown choices.  A nice touch for the less-saavy admins in the world.   New advanced display options for zone headers/footers/dividers can be included with a zone definition.  This gives you alot more control over zone customization without having to dig deep into templates.  I'm going to spend more time focused on templates so I can deploy product information zones to many more categories of products within my http://www.Solunar.com site.

Blogging Features

A new "front end" page has been included that offers a blog-style home page for searching articles complete with tag cloud.  Xigla is definitely going the route of blog look-and-feel with this front end design.  Version 6 also includes public comment posting to news articles.  Had I known they were going this route, I wouldn't have spent so much time getting BlogEngine.Net up and running :)

Conclusion

In summary, it's a great upgrade to an already well-designed product.  I highly recommend the v6 News Manager .Net for anyone wanting dynamic and flexible content.  News Manager .Net gives me everything I need to quickly and easily manage the dozens of articles I have on www.Solunar.com

You can purchase Xigla News Manager .Net right here or check out http://www.Xigla.com for great product information and demonstrations. 

 

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