A Little Freedom

Perry Noble wrote a blog post yesterday titled “Broke & Stupid?” and he got my attention very early on with this: “OR–let me ask THIS question…let’s say that TODAY you clearly heard the voice of God telling you WHY He made you…what HIS purpose is for your life…and letting you know WHAT He wanted you to do…”
A year or so ago, we were in debt up to our eyeballs. Missing a single paycheck would have been problematic for our finances, and I know that missing two would’ve been BAD NEWS. I’m not exactly sure what happened to cause us wake up, but we did. I started listening to a LOT of Dave Ramsey podcasts and stuff from Crown Financial Ministries as well as reading one of Howard Deyton’s books. We quickly realized how much money we were throwing away at stupid stuff every month by not paying attention.

Fast forward six months or so from that point and things were dramatically different. We were living on a budget (or “spending plan” if the b-word scares you) and it was working! We were making a pretty good dent in our debt. We paid off all our credit cards in late February or early March and by the end of April, we had no car payments either!

And then, God started revealing stuff to us. Scary stuff! See, I knew about a year ago that God was calling me to do more with the gifts that had been entrusted to me. I had an awesome job that I loved, we were living close to both our families, and were involved in a wonderful church. But after the Fall Church IT Round Table in Kansas City, I knew that it wasn’t enough. Bonnie and I began praying on a pretty regular basis that God would show us what we were supposed to do and where we were supposed to do it. To make a very long story much shorter, it was revealed to us, and as you know – here we are – living in South Bend, Indiana.

I know you’re thinking I’m schizophrenic and wondering why I keep jumping between topics, so here’s the bottom line: these two things are so connected for us that it just wows me. If we hadn’t started sorting out our financial life a year ago, it would have been nearly impossible for us to pick up and move to Indiana. However, the Father knew what was going to happen long before we did and began preparing us for it. Without the burden of credit cards and car payments and armed with the discipline it takes to live on a budget, we were able to move here with only the promise of my paycheck, which is actually less than what I was making at my previous job. Two months after the move, we’re doing OK!

I couldn’t  help but take Perry’s post and use it as a springboard to share a little bit of our story and encourage you to get your “stuff” in order so that WHEN (notice I said when, not IF) God calls you to action, you’ll be prepared to act!

Fun with .Net 2.0 and XPe on HP t5730 Thin Clients

Late last week, we received our first batch of HP t5730 thin clients running Windows XP Embedded. The plan is to use these machines to begin replace our aging check-in fleet here at Granger Community Church as well as for a few new check-in stations at our new Elkhart campus. We knew ahead of time that the only prerequisites for the Fellowship One check-in application was the .Net framework and figured the thin clients would be a slam-dunk. We were almost wrong. Almost. It turns out the XP Embedded image that HP loads on these thin clients lacks a couple of things needed to make .Net and the F1 check-in application happy.

To make a long, LONG story very short, we got it working and I know there are other churches wanting to do the same with F1 and XPe, so let me give you the run down of what we ended up doing with our t5730 boxes. You must be logged in as Administrator to do this on the HP units. Check your documentation to figure out how to login if you don’t already know how.

A note of preparation: Prior to beginning the steps below, I’d suggest you download and extract the .Net 2.0 Framework redistributable on a standard desktop machine. The extraction likes free space and RAM both of which are somewhat limited on the XPe box. The .Net package I downloaded was this one:  Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0 Service Pack 1 (x86) [Filename = NetFx20SP1_x86.exe]. The installer doesn’t have an “extract only” option that I can see, so double-click it and once you get the “Setup is loading components…” message box, you should have a very obvious temp directory appear at c:\ that you need to copy to a place accessible by the thin client (a network share or USB drive would be wise). The directory on my machine was c:\b95b22b2b96f153cdb2b so I copied that to my USB drive and renamed it “dotNet-install”. Head to a command line and change to the directory where your download is located and type: NetFx20SP1_x86.exe -x which will prompt you for where to extract the contents fo the archive. I suggest putting it on a network share accessible by the thin cilent or on a USB drive. (Hat tip to Bill Green aka kilodelta for the extraction trick – it’s undocumented. Thanks Microsoft.) Once you have the files, you’re ready to start working on the thin client.

  1. Boot your thin client and disable the flash disk write protection. On HP, this is done by right-clicking the padlock icon and disabling EWF and then rebooting.
  2. Increase the size of the RAM disk by going in to Control Panel->HP RAMDisk Manager and cranking that all the way up to 64MB. Reboot again.
  3. Right-click the Sygate icon in your system tray and choose “Disable Sygate Security Agent”
  4. Grab the .Net install folder and find the setup.exe file in there and run it. .Net should cleanly install. Reboot again here just for good measure.
  5. Install the F1 check-in application. Do NOT start the F1 check-app after installation – keep reading because here’s where it get’s extra tricky…
  6. From a known-working check-in station you need to grab “C:\Program Files\Fellowship Technologies\Fellowship One Check-in 2.5″ and copy that over to your thin client.
  7. Remove any shortcuts automatically created by the F1 installer and create a new shortcut to “C:\Program Files\Fellowship Technologies\Fellowship One Check-in 2.5\2.5.0.8\FellowshipTech.Application.Windows.CheckIn.exe”
  8. Reboot again because I needed a filler – 10 steps seems more feng-shui
  9. Fire up your shortcut and watch the F1 app start!
  10. Celebrate!

If you’re a geek like me, and you must be if you’re still reading, I know you want to know why this works. By default, the F1 check-in application launches AppStart.exe which runs an update process to grab any patches/fixes from the F1 servers. This update process relies on the BITS service in Windows, which is NOT included in the HP t5730 XP Embedded image.

Big thanks to Sid Emory of Fellowship Tech who has been hanging out with us in #citrt while we ironed this out. XPe is NOT an officially supported OS for their check-in application and the steps above come with no guarantee or warranty from me or the fine folks at F1.

Now a Hoosier

I realize I’ve been pretty quiet for the last several weeks, bit yes – I am still alive. We did arrive safely in Indiana and have been getting things settled in our new home as well as getting familiar with the area.

I’m mostly settled in at GCC now and have been hamering away at the support tickets. With the help of Jason and Ed, those are now down to a manageable number and we start on brainstorming and project planning this week.

By the way, if you’re not following me on Twitter, that’s really the best place to keep up with me. If you do follow me there you already know I have a shiny new iphone, and yes I did write this post on it while lounging ok my new couch.

My Wife Said “w00t”

I love my wife. No, really… I do. She wrote a quick blog post yesterday titled “w00t!” and as you can see, she even spelled it properly! I’m insanely proud of her, not just for being a geek and using one of my favorite words, but for completing the Masters of Business Administration (MBA) program at Gardner-Webb with a 4.0 GPA! Yes, thats right. My wife is also a genius.

We’re approaching the final days before our big move. As of last Wednesday, the 23rd, our house is no longer OUR house. God has just done amazing things in the last several months to make this move not just possible, but easy. When we started exploring the feasability of moving to the Granger area, one of our long-time friends, Heather, said we should talk with her before putting our house on the market. We did talk to her and she agreed to buy our house! We never spoke to a realtor or anything. Absolutely amazing!

I’d say we already have about 80% of our stuff packed and ready to be loaded on to the truck, which arrives about 48-hours from now. My slightly OCD wife (who I love – see above!) is going a tiny little bit nuts because she loves organization and lists and knowing where things are and what still needs to be done. She can’t help it though, she gets it honest (love you too Mom Miller!).

Our last day at work is Wednesday of this week and we’ll have all day Thursday and Friday to finish loading the 28-foot trailer before ABF comes to pick it up and haul it to South Bend for us. Speaking of work – if any of you in the Michiana area have leads on a job for Bonnie, PLEASE get in touch with one of us via our blogs or on Twitter (@wantmoore or @gotmoore). Remember, she is graduating in a few days with an MBA and a 4.0. Surely theres a market for her to serve in the greater South Bend area.

Please do keep us in your prayers. The next week to 10 days is going to be insane for us – sure to be full of busyness and emotion. I saw something in the local Christian bookstore that will surely be my anchor over the next several weeks – “Where God leads, He will provide.” We know without a single ounce of doubt that God has called us to move to South Bend and be a part of the GCC family and we are definitely excited about what the future holds.

Setup a DNS Relay using BIND

I’ve had a few inquiries regarding how I setup BIND as a DNS relay for my remote offices. It’s really not as complicated as it sounds. I’ve standardized all my Linux stuff around Ubuntu LTS, so these instructions may need to be tweaked somewhat if you’re on a different platform. The BIND9 configuration stuff should be the same, but the location of the configuration files may (and probably will) differ.

I started with a clean install of Ubuntu Server 8.04 LTS inside a VMWare virtual machine. During the installation, I selected the “DNS Server” option and proceeded. Once the install was finished and the virtual instance had rebooted, I ran “apt-get update” and installed all updates and again, rebooted. If you already have a working Ubuntu system and want to add BIND, it should be as simple as typing “sudo apt-get install bind9″ on your terminal.

Now, here’s the good stuff. Open /etc/bind/named.conf.options in your favorite editor and make some adjustments. Here’s what my basic configuration looked like:

options {
directory “/var/cache/bind”;
allow-query { any; };
allow-recursion { any; };
query-source address * port 53;

forwarders {
172.17.0.5;
};

auth-nxdomain no;
listen-on-v6 { any; };
};

Make these changes to the config and restart BIND. Test that the lookups are being properly forwarded to the upstream nameserver. Once you verify it’s working, you can make additional changes, such as implementing a BIND access control list (ACL). Add something similar to this to your /etc/bind/named.conf.options file:

acl my-subnets {
172.17.0.0/16; //headquarters
172.18.1.0/24; //office01
172.18.2.0/24; //office02
};

Once you’ve added the definition for the ACL, change your allow-query and allow-recursion to the name of the ACL:

allow-query { my-subnets; };
allow-recursion { my-subnets; };

As usual, restart the BIND service and you’re all done!

Halfway Mark

I’ve officially crossed the halfway mark in the big SonicWALL deployment of 2008. Ten of the 19 endpoints are in place and working absolutely beautifully. We are deploying two more tomorrow and the final seven on Thursday if all goes as planned. I had a few challenges pop-up, not surprisingly, related to DNS. The solution – a new Ubuntu 8.04 virtual server in VMWare to run bind and do some caching to lighten the load on my Active Directory DNS service.

Full report to come upon completion of project.

wantmoore.com v5

For those of you coming to me via RSS, Atom, or some other form of syndication, do yourself a flavor and click on over to see the shiny new wantmoore.com version 5.0. I thought I needed a fresh, new look for the blog considering the major life-changes that are coming in the next few weeks. Big, huge, major thanks to Taylor Smith for the incredible graphics you see above. He took my “idea in theory” and really brought it to life and made it way better than I could’ve ever imagined, let alone created myself. He claims he’s a n00b to custom graphics creation like that, but he could’ve fooled me. He did about six revisions in a 24-hour period and I couldn’t be happier. I serisouly owe that guy a nice steak dinner.

I’ve got a few more tweaks to make to the CSS to bend this theme to my liking, but overall, it’s my favorite wantmoore.com ever.

Moving On – Joining GCC

I am absolutely, 100% pumped to finally be able to share some incredible news with the blogopshere. I’m joining the IT Team at Granger Community Church! I couldn’t be more excited to work with Jason Powell, Ed Buford, and Matt Metzger. I’ll be the “IT Specialist” – primarily responsible for help desk, but also assisting Ed with network-related things, handling phone system maintenance, and the scariest thing on the job description “other duties as assigned by the IT Director.”

So yes, for those who can’t read between the lines, we’re leaving the comforts of Western North Carolina winters and heading north sometime around August 4th. There’s a ton of emotions involved in leaving behind our family, friends, and everything else we know and love about North Carolina, but God has truly had his hand in this from the very beginning. He has confirmed in at least 100 ways that this is definitely  our next step in serving Him. Bonnie and I both should be blogging about some of those things soon.

The whole GCC team has been incredible through this entire process. We had an amazing interview weekend in Granger a month or so ago and can’t thank the team enough for what you’ve already done to make us feel welcomed and a part of the family. Jason and his wife Kim have truly gone above and beyond the call of duty and opened their home to us on multiple occassions as we’ve visited the area. Not only do we feel like we’re joining the GCC team, we even feel like we’re an extension of the Powell family! Jason and Kim – we certainly owe you a big, public thank you (and probably some free child care at some point). Thanks a million times over for being so welcoming and supportive during this entire process – I’m not sure we could’ve done it without you!

As I said earlier, we’ll both be writing more about this in the coming weeks leading up to our move, but in the meantime, we could sure use your prayers. Thanks!

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