It’s the Law

Ritter’s first law of network administration: An administrator at rest tends to stay at rest.

An administrator’s day could easily be consumed with all the little, mundane tasks that are necessary to keep things running smoothly. Backing up servers, reading log files, preparing reports on resource utilization, playing RuneScape—it all really eats into one’s time. That’s why I formulated my first law of network administration. I noted that, as a network admin, when things could pretty much take care of themselves, I could relax and better savor the more fulfilling moments of my job, like reducing a user’s disk quota or reading a user’s more provocative email messages. Here is a short, alliterative list of tips to help you achieve network nirvana:


Locate shared resources that have common security requirements in the same directory structure on your file server. Set access permissions only once on the highest-level directory that these files have in common. Use permission inheritance to ensure consistent security on all the files in the hierarchy.

Don’t assign permissions directly to users. Add users to appropriate groups and assign permissions to the groups. That way, you need only add a user to a group to ensure that all the access they require is properly configured.


Do nothing by hand if possible, because hands can be so error-prone sometimes. Learn a scripting language and write (or download and customize) scripts to perform common, repetitive tasks like reading log files and collecting report data. If you administer a windows network, you must learn PowerShell. It’s available for windows versions from XP onward, and is the “wave of the future.” If you administer a Linux network, you must learn bash. If you manage a mixed environment, I strongly recommend that you learn Python—it’s sufficiently platform-independent and very mature, with a smörgåsbord of cool features built in.


Let your network tell you when there are problems. Install a network monitor system that’s capable of notifying you when your file and email servers run low on disk space, or when your web server stops responding. When you can address an issue before your users even know it’s there, they’ll come to respect your precognitive powers and revere you for the system superhero you really are.

Well, that last one, not really, because they won’t know there was a problem in the first place, right? But hey, we’re geeks: we’re good at fantasy. Now roll a D20 to see whether your invisibility-from-Lumbergh spell worked before he asks for those TPS reports. Again.

Be seeing you.

Revolving at 900 miles an hour

Disks: MBR, GUID, Basic, Dynamic

Managing disks in Windows isn’t that complicated, but there are some useful things you should know that can help you make smart decisions in allocating disk storage. Besides, you can never tell when this stuff might come up in a rousing game of Trivial Pursuit, MCSE Edition.

Continue reading

“Books, young man, books.”

Free books for your company’s computer guy

Free is good. Books are good. Just ask Samuel T. Cogley.

So, how about free books?

Are you a Windows admin? Read free eBooks from Microsoft Press.

Do you run Linux boxes? Get a free eBook from The Geek Stuff.

And keep checking in here. I don’t have any plans for a novel anytime soon, but I will share with you some helpful tidbits in working with Linux, PowerShell, Windows, Python, and other things that interest me.

Be seeing you.

The more they overthink the plumbing…

Password Complexity in Active Directory

Password complexity seems to be an often misunderstood aspect of password security in a Windows Active Directory environment. To be sure, Microsoft itself has at times been vague about how complex passwords are defined, and many websites and books (even from authors that represent Microsoft) are filled with erroneous or unclear information. Even Microsoft’s own TechNet article on the subject, which I presume to be authoritative, muddies the waters by allowing community comments that are flatly contradictory to the article’s text. In light of the confusion, I am going to reiterate what Microsoft says in the above link, but I’m going to try to make it very clear.

Continue reading