Fortinet Wireless, NPS & Called-Station-ID – can’t connect to SSID

Image not my own, I pinched it from Amazon

We’ve created a new SSID at work for our IT staff on our Fortinet (previously Meru) wireless network. Using Radius (through Microsoft Network Policy Server) we couldn’t connect even though it was set up in the same way as an existing, working network. It took us a while to figure out the issue once we thought we had everything configured correctly, but the TL;DR is, essentially, if you use the “Called Station ID” field (not “Calling”!) on the NPS box to specify which SSID the user is connecting with on a Fortinet wireless network, it doesn’t actually use the SSID of the wireless network, it uses the profile name of the ESS profile on the controller.

On the Fortinet box, we have an ESS Profile called “TECHS” within which sits the configuration for the “ITWIFI” SSID. In NPS, setting the “Called Station ID” to “.*:ITWIFI$” doesn’t let you log in, however setting it to “.*:TECHS$” does. This goes against any documentation I could find online.

We ended up just changing the SSID to match the ESS profile name.

Videos not loading in Google Drive

TL;DR: Check that Third Party Cookies are enabled in Chrome and/or G Suite Device Management user settings.

We use Google Drive a lot at work. We are also beginning to use video as a method of training or recording information that you would typically write down. We do still write this stuff down, but sometimes a video is easier to create and consume alongside a document.

We’ve had an issue recently where, seemingly randomly, some people wouldn’t be able to play any videos through Google Drive. They’d open the video and the youtube video player would load, but the video itself wouldn’t start.

Right clicking and downloading the video worked, but that’s not really a suitable workaround to the issue.

We weren’t really able to find anything online about this issue either, but we did find out what caused it so if someone else searches, here’s what we did to resolve the issue.

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Themes – Light and Dark

I’ve added a theme switcher that allows you to change between a light and dark theme.

Before adding this functionality, the default theme was dark. As you may now be able to tell the default is a light theme! I much prefer a darker theme myself but I know most people prefer a lighter one.

The toggle can be found in the very top left of the site, next to the menu across the top of the banner. This will eventually be updated with some CSS so it looks better but for now it appears to work, however it does need some more testing which I will do over the next few days.

If you configure dark mode, a cookie will be set to remember your choice. I don’t yet have the Privacy page finished (don’t tell the GDPR police!) but more details on this cookie will be found there once it’s done.

I can’t promise this feature works on every browser yet but I’ll iron out the kinks as I find them and make it more efficient to boot. If I do anything interesting I’ll document it in a future post.

Tech Support Management: Projects, Respect, and PlayStation 4’s

I am incredibly privileged to work with a team of technical support folks who not only get along very well, but actively support each other on a daily basis. As the manager of this team, it is my duty to ensure they are being supported in every way possible by the workplace itself as well as the other teams within the organisation. This is a very delicate balancing act that I have yet to master.

Often, this ‘support’ means answering questions, taking responsibility for issues or working behind the scenes to enable the team to do their job effectively. A lot of the work I do (that isn’t GDPR related, and there’s a lot of that) is aimed at improving the quality of the work we do as a team, which in turn improves the quality of work the rest of the organisation is able to achieve.

Unfortunately, this kind of ‘enabling’ work that I or my team do is often invisible to both the organisation ah large as well as the team itself. It can take many meetings and a long time to get anywhere in management as everything on the organisation level often happens too quickly to react to, or takes such a long time that any progress that is made is barely noticeable to anyone not involved. Either way, this work is often isolated into individual projects, each of which requires lots of careful thought and consideration before any work can be started.

The first step in any project is to figure out if it is even worth it. Whatever the idea or project is, you have got to make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. These reasons are varied, it could be cost saving or efficiency improvements, or the introduction of something new, such as a product, feature or resource.

Understanding the purpose is key to progressing into the planning stages. These plans could outline the single task required for the implementation of smaller projects or building a fully fledged project plan for larger endeavours, such as to introduce new technology or rebuild some core infrastructure. Whatever it is, planning is important, takes time, and happens invisibly to anyone not directly involved.

Working in the public sector, money is often the deciding factor when it comes to projects or general progress and change. Producing an effective budget is something that I am constantly improving on. It sucks up quite a lot of my time, however at the end of the day all that everyone else sees is a number that they can spend up to. It’s my job to make sure these numbers stay within certain bounds and do not change too much, and to also keep an eye on the state of things to see if any cost savings can be made. Doing this is quite time consuming and can often be invisible to the casual observer.

So there’s an idea for a project that you believe will be good for the organisation, those teams that it directly affects know that it will be great to do, and with luck you know that the money will be there (as it’s always worth getting buy-in from the finance team first!) The next step is trying to convince everyone else in the decision making chain that your idea or project is worth both the time to bother actually implementing as well as the money you want to spend on it. Working towards this “yes” from each person often requires background tasks, sometimes these involve the team in ways they don’t recognise, too…

Quite often I’ll ask my team to perform a string of seemingly unrelated jobs or to focus on a certain type of issue in order to affect the outcome of some discussion about a project I know will occur in the future. There’s an element of “keeping certain people happy” which unfortunately ties in to this, too, but I try very hard to treat everyone as equals, and certainly avoid treating anyone as inferior or less important. As anyone who has worked in a technical support role will know, this is a very difficult thing to do. That one customer who always brings you snacks and tasty treats? It’ll be near impossible for your team to not give them preferential treatment. That other customer who is constantly rude and abusive? Incredibly hard to work with and support effectively.

But that’s my job. Give the treats to the team, take the abuse so it doesn’t hit my colleagues. And get all the invisible management/planning/budgeting stuff done to enable the continual improvement of the organisation as a whole. Oh, and again, there’s a whole boatload of GDPR stuff to deal with, too.

It is difficult, tiring work. I am by no means perfect of course, but I like to think I’m generally successful in doing my invisible work. I always strive to improve and do better for the team and the rest of the organisation.

Unfortunately the team doesn’t often see what I get up to day to day. I’m often out in meetings or deep into spreadsheets, only to occasionally request work from them, seemingly for random reasons or for no reason at all. I’ve been on the other side of this and I know it can be quite frustrating. Communication with the team is key here, and I am always looking for ways to foster this within the team, but especially when it comes to myself communicating with the team members about what I’m up to and where all our work is heading.

Having their respect and support is important to me and I encourage open criticism, however it is very hard for me to measure how well I am doing with the team. It’s one thing to complete projects, but knowing that a team of people are happy with me (or not) is something I have yet to really figure out. It’s something I worry about quite a bit, actually.

So it came as a shock to me on the last day of work in 2018 when I arrived to find that the team had secretly set up a treasure hunt in the workplace filled with riddles and puzzles.

The team had come together and planned this months ago, contributing towards a gift, then working on the clues over the last couple of weeks and setting it all up without any indication to me that it was happening. All out of hours, I should add! After the dozens of clues and puzzles, the final clue led me to a box with a wrapped up Christmas present in it.

That present? It was a PlayStation 4 with four games. Yeah.

It blew me away. It was the last thing I ever expected anyone – let alone the team at work – to gift me. Despite my initial refusal to accept it, I now have it connected up to the 11-year-old 720p 40″ TV (which is now due an upgrade to at least a 1080p model thanks to the PS4) and have been enjoying it every single day of the holiday period.

The four games are:

  • The Last of Us (remastered)
  • Uncharted 4
  • Red Dead Redemption 2
  • Shadow of the Colossus (remastered)

To top it off, my partner has known about this for months and got me God of War for Christmas. She somehow kept it secret the whole time. I had no idea this was happening, even up until holding the thing in my hands. It still blows my mind that anyone would do this for me.

Clearly, I must be doing something right!

I’ve had a PS3 since release, but it died around six months ago. Not that I played any games on it anymore, it was a glorified Netflix box. Normally my gaming was done on a PC, however that too had suffered from age. The newest component is at least 4 years old so it’s not able to run modern games too well, but the PSU has also failed and I haven’t yet replaced it.

I used to play video games a lot, however since moving out I’ve been rather preoccupied with all the renovating and cleaning. I still dabble, though. I’ve been playing a little bit of Borderlands 1 & 2 and The Witcher 3, which I have been running on a borrowed laptop. Since the PS3 died, Netflix was being run through Firefox on Linux Mint which I installed on my partner’s low-to-mid-end-at-release laptop that’s ageing quite rapidly.

As you can probably guess, this has now changed. I’m still a PCMR at heart, but the ease of playing on a console and the fact that it’s the only reliable access to gaming I have, PLUS the fact that it’s the most modern bit of technology I own, means that I am now back on the gaming scene. There are a lot of current gen games I’ve missed out on, plus some really awesome looking PlayStation exclusives that I can now play.

I suspect, though, that this gaming will be infrequent once the holiday period is over. I will still make time for it of course!

In fact, I plan on writing reviews of the games I play on here. They may not all be modern games, nor will they be overly professional or likely to contain anything new, but I have plans for a “media review” feature for this site that has now opened up quite significantly in scope with the addition of modern video games. There’s no better time to start than now!

The first game review will be Uncharted 4 as I have already completed it.

If any of the team from work eventually come across this: thank you. Now get back to work 😁

The Misconfigured Switch

I love reading technical post mortems from big-name organisations or experts in their respective fields. If you’re interested in reading some, here’s a list. They’re fantastic insights into some very complex and highly technical issues.

I investigated an odd issue recently involving a misconfigured switch which caused some very abnormal symptoms. I don’t think this qualifies as a legit post mortem article as I don’t have the niche expertise in any particular field to produce one, neither do I have in-depth knowledge of the network within which the issue occurred, but it’s about as close as I’ll be able to get to one at this time.

Here’s what happened.

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Google Night Sight

A short while ago Google released an update to their Camera app which adds in their Night Sight feature. It is essentially a low-light camera. It takes several photos in quick succession and combines and enhances the batch to produce one image.

I’ve recently been playing with it and it is surprisingly good! Check out some of these nighttime pictures, taken during a long late night walk with nothing but a fairly bright moon sometimes hidden behind the clouds using a Pixel XL.

I want to say those spots are stars but I’m pretty sure it’s an artifact. Possibly from the building at the bottom of the image
Night time sheep!
The moon behind some clouds
A car driving towards me in the distance

The only issue is the blurryness. Due to the nature of how the feature works it can only really be used on a still subject. Any movement within the frame or of the camera itself will make for a blurry image. Some of the images above probably suffer from this. Still, can’t complain! I like the feature a lot.

Davis update

I use the “Davis” theme on this site. It’s minimal and plain and has a built in dark-mode, which I’ve set as the default – my preference to be honest, eventually I’ll add a theme changer like on the old site. It does everything I need it to so far! I will eventually extend it but for now everything I need is there.

An update recently came out for it (1.13 >1.14) which changed a few things. The header in the banner across the top changed, as well as the headers used in posts. They’re now more standardised and “correct” according to the HTML spec, which is great. Unfortunately I decided to update the theme before realising these changes were implemented and it messed up a couple of my custom CSS rules.

I think I’ve fixed the issues now, but it goes to show that even on something as simple and minor as this blog, you should test your changes in dev before pushing them to production!

WordPress 5: Test post

This is a test post using WordPress 5. I wonder what it will look like?

I’ve updated already (as soon as I heard it had come out!) and so far it looks pretty good. The use of blocks in the editor is a bit strange compared to the old simple giant text box, but I can see myself preferring it once I get used to it. It allows me to more easily do things like this:

A Cover image. With text!
Exciting.

The built in fancy things are pretty cool. I can now really easily create a gallery which is something I’ve wanted to implement on here since I imported the First Bloom article over to this site.

Looking at editing previous posts, it looks different. I’m a bit nervous that editing old articles will cause some issues. I’m sure there won’t be any issues but the difference puts me off slightly, so let’s give it a go.

Here you can see what the new editor looks like:

The new editor when viewing a newly created post
The new editor when typing into a field. The cursor is at the end ofthe 2nd paragraph and you can see the text formatting tools above it, partially covering the previous paragraph.

Now take a look at the previously created posts when editing. It uses a Classic view which looks and behaves a bit differently:

The view when editing a previously existing post. Note the “Classic” heading letting you know it’s an older “classic” article
The view when typing in an already existing post. Notice the largertext formating box

I’ve now messed around with editing older articles and it all looks fine once they’ev been updated. I wonder why the WP developers couldn’t utilise the same editor everywhere. Having two experiences for the same task is always a bit jarring, but I’m sure there’s a reasonable explanation for it. Not an issue for me, anyway.

Aside from the editor, I’ve not really messed around too much with WP5. The theme I’m using still works with it, most of the admin side still looks the same. I’ve trialled the Twenty-Nineteen theme too. That looks very nice indeed. Definitely built for use with the new editor. Other than that, as I said, it mostly looks the same on the surface. I’m sure as I keep using it I’ll spot other changes. As a new WP user (well, sort of. I used it years ago!) it’s mostly the same. Which is great!

The only change I’ve had to make is the edition of a CSS rule to account for the captions on the images (the figcaption element) – This is of course a result of me using the dark theme and changing some of the colours and fonts around. Totally not a technical issue in the slightest and entirely my fault.

If I spot anything interesting I’ll be sure to write about it. Until then, I’m happy. Good job to the WordPress community. A solid release, upgraded without any issues on this fairly simple blog.

EDIT: When I attempted to publish this article, it came up with an error across the top. The fix for this was to de-select one of the images in the above post, then publish again. Not sure if this was a coincidence/one-off or a recurring issue. Next article, I’ll give it some more tries.

Makita Drill

Give a kid a hammer, and the world turns into a nail. Give me a drill, and suddenly everything needs a hole drilled into it…

After much deliberation (over a period of about 6 months) and the assistance of a generous gift card from a birthday I am finally the owner of a real powertool!

I’ve got a corded drill already, but having to move around with it whilst doing the refurbishment of the house (climbing ladders and going room to room) just isn’t practical. So I purchased a Makita 18V cordless drill to make my life easier.

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DevOps 101

A colleague and I were reading through the recent Reddit Infrastructure Team AMA and came across a link to opsschool.org, which is essentially an introduction to DevOps. The menu on the left is pretty large, you can see it goes over a wide variety of topics and although some of these need some work and fleshing out, there is a lot of useful information there. I’m glad they touch on the soft-skills, too. It’s a somewhat-false-but-not-entirely-untrue stereotype that those in IT lack certain skills required to grow in a professional environment. Keeping on top of these soft skills is more important as you grow as they often become a key (but not the only) factor in deciding upon promotions and raises.

Although I’m not in DevOps, I will certainly be reading through some of this and I would encourage all technical folk, whether already working in the field or interested in doing so, to have a look.