Updated 2 June 2009 Main Page Computers and IT Work Previous Experience Reference Letters .PDF

Dana Harding, P.Eng.

Computers, IT Work

Primarily self educated in the general field of "computers", I have built a strong skillset through this hobby that has proven to be highly useful and will continue to be so. Introduced originally to my dad's Commodore 64, I spent the next multitude of years working hands-on with operating systems and their problems, kludged together solutions to run my BBS in high school, fought with device drivers, and have recently (past 3-5 years) dove into what is available for open source software and operating systems. I am proficient managing and troubleshooting small to medium business LANs and WAN connections, and the various services typically found within. I also have a solid grasp on VoIP technology and applications.

I am available to consult on specific IT problems.

A very brief overview of some of my experience and accomplishments:
After completing my B.Sc. in Mechanical Engineering and moving to Calgary to begin work - I further enhanced this skillset, saving countless manhours of monotonous work and reducing the risk of user data entry errors.

Currently I am interested in learning more about the following topics:

Interesting and Relevant links

FreeBSD OpenBSD NetBSD Debian
w3schools - HTML & CSS Domain Tools BlackHat Offensive Security FLOSS manuals
The Starman's Realm
(assembly programming, boot sectors, MBR, etc.)

Telephony software and hardware: Easy to provision, easy to configure - good speakerphone (my experience is with the 320 and 360 models) Can modify settings and behaviour with HTTP requests (wget). The documentation mentions the ability to do some RTP encryption - which (if it works well) would be useful when a lone phone will be connecting over the public internet. A solution such as OpenVPN is better suited to connecting PBXes (as opposed to single endpoints) across the internet. After trying to fix echo problems with calls through the FXO ports of some sipura SPA-3000 units (before Linksys bought Sipura), we tried a Sangoma A200 with the hardware echo canceller. Echo problems were gone immediately. I wouldn't recommend doing any business installation with a PSTN connection without hardware echo cancellation.
That said - I have a machine at home without hardware echo cancellation - but running oslec, which has shown a comparable improvement in call quality. YMMV. My experience is with the IP-501. A well refined product, excellent speakerphone, quality buttons. It takes a long time for the web-based configuration to come up after a reboot making it a pain to configure one-offs (mass provisioning is better). At the time of testing, it was very difficult to obtain firmware from Polycom - they required end users to obtain firmware from the merchant who sold them the phone. Polycom has since changed policy and decided to allow downloads of firmware directly from them. I personally didn't find the user interface as intuitive as the Snom's.

TWiT links:
TWIT Podcasts Insight Cruises Podcast - Randal Schwartz

*1 - FreeBSD Replacement for a Windows fileserver

Having had the experiences (more than one) of a hardware failure in the single Windows Server domain controller - and the resulting all-nighter to get everything working again, we separated the primary file share and the domain controller into separate machines so that a failure of one would not affect the services offered by the other. Without another license for Windows Server, we did what I imagine the vast majority of small companies do - make a regular workstation hardware and OS into a network accessible file server.

After receiving the first "Maximum number of connections exceeded" error from windows, and doing some research into the error, and "BSD vs. Linux vs Windows" - I decided to launch a pilot trial. The general consensus was that the BSDs, although not always as up to date or current as various Linux distributions, were regarded as solid and reliable.   Not needing any newer hardware drivers, and being an OSS newbie, the integrated approach of FreeBSD was perfect. I had never installed and administered a unix machine before - so got acquainted in my spare time over a week or so, and promptly solved the issue.

It was also trivial to establish a redundant sister machine: install OS, copy configs from primary, setup a cronjob to rsync the files, done. Try THAT with a Windows machine.    Failover to the secondary was a simple manual process, and was done several times for hardware upgrades.    The users didn't notice the difference which, to me, means a job well done.

Semi-related -   There was a high rate of hardware failures - mostly hard disks and power supplies - and the lead culprits were: dirty power, and vacuum cleaners. On my recommendation, low-end UPS units were installed on all workstations and existing units for the servers were upgraded. They would provide at least enough uptime to turn the circuit breaker back on WHEN the cleaners (repeatedly) ignored instructions and labeled outlets and plugged their vacuum cleaner into the wrong outlet. They would also act as a rough filter on the power feed to the machines.

The hardware failure rate dropped and not very much broke after that (a handful of power supplies - the ones that were bundled with the ANTEC Sonata II case - all failed after almost exactly one year of being put into service).   My dream of saving the day, getting the fileserver back up in no time with the new redundant setup - contrasting to the previous extended outages - was never realized.

*2 - Asterisk PBX

When the business needs grew beyond two analog phone lines, I decided to see what OSS could offer for a solution and found Asterisk.

Some of the unique features of this specific installation included: