Applied IT/ Infrastructure

I’ve been reading this paper The Information Management Body of Knowledge

It got me thinking about the different terms that are used to describe areas within an IT organization. Of course lots of confusion happens when people refer to different things using different terms. IT is definitely one such term. In some organizations the scope of what the ‘IT’ department handles is much greater than in others. The paper I’m reading above (IMBOK4b) places IT at the foundational level. It refers to IT as being made up of ‘raw information technology’.

If I was to use a term to describe this concept I think I would refer to it as Applied Information Technology or possibly just the Infrastructure level. This is what everything else is built off of. Obviously, if your foundation is not solid it won’t matter what wizardry you build on top of it, you will have a hard time being successful.

In some future posts I will start writing about what I think helps to make a good IT foundation.


Because of the free version of VMware server you have no excuse! You can easily turn your crapplication’s into VM’s

Everybody has them, some strange white box hidden under their desk, maybe it’s for development or maybe its even running production software, but none-the-less, it’s a crapplication. You need the application but its not worth buying a ‘real’ server to host it, so what do you do? This is where the free version of VMware server comes to the rescue in crapplication wrangling. First install the VMware server on a decent server somewhere (your ‘stall’ you might say) next get your free VMware converter (your ‘laso’) and start wrangling those crapplications! This way they are moved to newer hardware, thats probably still under a maintence contract. All the crap is centralized. Plus if you ever need to move it to a different box, all you have to do is copy a file! The crapplication can exist eternally… whether thats a good idea or not I don’t know 🙂

Because of Open Source you have no excuse! Anyone who needs it should have a VPN connection

Imagine that Avian flu comes a chirping, killer bees come a stinging, and some crucial bridges fall over so that none of your workers can get in to the office. What’s your backup plan? Where’s your disaster recovery.

This is a case for duh dah dah da (can you hear the trumpets) Captain Open Source with one of his trusty sidekicks OpenVPN.

Then again if you were a small business and just wanted your workers to have remote access then OpenVPN is also a good solution for that.

But back to the disaster… let’s say your CEO needs access to his super secret Intranet strategic management portal. What are you going to do? How are going to provide access? Let’s say a hundred of your stranded employees need access.

Get yourself any old box (well if you had a lot of users you would probably want a more decent box) install OpenVPN, create your certificates, encrypt and send the certificates and setup file to your employees. Have them install the OpenVPN client and drop the setup file into the config folder. Done. Remote Access. Free and Good. What can be better?

I’ve been working on the ‘mellerbeck guide to OpenVPN’ it will show you how easy it is!

Information Management, Printing Green, Adblock Plus and Aardvark and GreenPrintWorld Oh my

Hand in hand with going paperless see Going Paperless All Wrong

Everyone wants to go ‘green’. Printing to PDF is actually not a bad way to accomplish this. For example if you have a receipt for an online purchase, instead of printing it out like it recommends go ahead and print it to PDF. (I’ve never actually needed to use any of these receipts but I guess its good to have them) If you want a system that allows you to find it again, I know it sounds lame but send your receipt as an attachment to your gmail account and make sure to name the subject of the email with a good description. I would only recommend this as a consumer solution though.

Lets say you do end up printing something though how can you cut down on wasted sheets of paper and ink? The first thing to do is to install the most wonderful of programs Firefox. The next thing to do is install one of the plugins that makes Firefox so wonderful Adblock Plus that will take care of a lot of those pesky adds that would normally print out. Now you want to install the Aardvark Plugin this allows you to right click in the firefox browser and turn on Aardvark. Then you can select individual elements for removal (it will put a red box around them) and then press ‘r’ on your keyboard to remove them. You should try it out its pretty cool!

If that isn’t enough you can install the newly made free (ad supported, but not to annoying) Green Print World at first I was a little skeptical about this gizmo but it seems to work well. It automagically removes pages that would have been dumb to print, like blank pages that only contain a footer web address etc. It allows you to select pages to remove from your print as well as removing images or text if needed.

Simple PDF workflow recipe

Lets say you had some sort of report written in crystal and your users accessed this report through terminal services. So first things first, you want to allow your users to print this report out as a PDF. (It’s possible that print to PDF is a feature of a new version of crystal, but this version doesn’t have it). So first off you should install the really nice open source PDFCreator program. To install onto a terminal server make sure to use the CHANGE USER /INSTALL before and CHANGE USER /EXECUTE after.

Ok, so now our user has a PDF of their report but maybe now that want to annotate it or circle something. As I mentioned in this post how to escape Adobe tyranny I really like using the free, but not open source :(, PDF-XCHANGE VIEWER  (FREE)

So once again install this into terminal server using the Change User commands, and make it the default PDF viewer. Now when users print to PDF they can select the ‘open with the default viewer checkbox’ and make any annotations that they desire.

Ok, now what if your user wants to add a digital signature to the PDF. (Assuming they already have a digital certificate) I wrote about this a bit on my other blog mellerbeck tech
But in my case I wanted a little bit of flexibility so I modified the source from

and created my own version of a PDF signing app. There ya go, a small PDF workflow, and free to boot. Anybody else have any recipes to share with me?

How to configure program an inter-tel 8662 ip phone to connect to remote ipc ip

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Hold down 7 and 8 unplug and the replug the ‘ip phone’ this will bring you into self-programming mode.

Here is one location of the manual.

And here is another

8662 ip phone manual

Information Management, Going Paperless All Wrong

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There is this huge fad out there to have a paperless office. Some people are blindsided by the obvious benefits of going paperless (hey I have this entire room-full of boxes of paper, if I just scan them in, imagine all the money I can save on storage!!) that they don’t pause to consider the future ramifications of their ‘going paperless’ decisions. At this point, someone (usually a manager) decides that they NEED to go paperless, it’s the wave of the future, we will save so much money and time etc… at this point the only part of the ‘going paperless project’ they are focusing on is the scanning! It’s easy they decide, I’ll just go to the local stuffmart and buy me a $300 all-in-one scanner faxer, do-a-whatsit and start scanning away! I’m a genius! Red alerts should be going off in your mind about now! Never mind that having random people, buying random IT resources is never a good idea. But my manager friend, at this point you have successfully created the worst paperless system possible. There are numerous factors that you have not taken into account.

Lets start of with the easy ones. Chances are you didn’t get a multi sheet feed scanner. Chances are you didn’t get a multiside scanner. You will be single sheet feeding ’till the cows come home. Lets say your scanner doesn’t suck, do you know what DPI to scan at? You don’t want too high or you will have unmanageably large files, you don’t want too small or you will lose necessary detail. Are you going to run any sort of OCR (optical character recognition)? what your not? how do you plan to search and find these scanned documents? are you going to implement some sort of manual data entry, or tagging? Are you going to use any image pre-processing like Kofax-VRS that can make “difficult-to-read or damaged documents legible, auto-rotate documents” etc…

How do you expect to use the documents that you have scanned in? how do they fit into your workflow? what about searching for files. You just converted an entire room full of paper into PDF’s and they are named things like 01212007123A.pdf what are you going to do with them? did you individually rename them all and then place them into neat little folders? so you are going to use windows search to find the documents? have you ever seriously tried to use windows search to find one document among 20,000 PDF’s? It does not work well.

Going paperless is an expensive and lengthy process that can easily fail. You need real hardware in order to scan well. You need people who know what they are doing to do the scanning. You need some method of organizing the output, be it a content management system, a web portal etc.. you need some way of actually finding the document you want, you need some way of knowing what information the document contains, tagging, ORC etc… and on top of all of this you need to know the legal policies regarding the documents that you are storing. What are your data retention policies? Oh yeah and how are you backing up this paperless monstrosity?

A stuffmart scanner and hiring a mcWorker to scan is not the way to go paperless. Otherwise you will have 20,000 PDF’s that no one can find anything inside of. How’s that for improving your processes.