Tech support WTF



  •  My aunt's laptop kept waking up when in "Hibernate" and connected to DSL. Since it's under warranty, she called technical support. The software people immediately said it was a hardware fault. The hardware people replaced the motherboard. The problem remained. Then the hardware people suggested replacing the hard disk. At this point I heard of the problem and disabled "Wake up on LAN". Problem fixed.



  •  Heh is there even one instance where WoL is remotely useful for home users and/or not prone to false alarms?



  • Hmm. How can WoL be accidentally triggered? Doesn't it require the frame to contain the target's MAC address repeated a crazy amount of times?



  •  I never understood WoL anyway.  It seems largely useless even in an enterprise environment, much less in consumer laptops.



  • Without WoL:

    "We need to reimage every computer in the building."

    "Ugh, but most of them aren't even turned on!"

    With WoL:

    "We need to reimage every computer in the building."

     "Sure, no problem!"



  •  @movzx said:

    stuff about reimaging

    I guess that's one possible use, if you are in an enterprise environment and if reimaging is applicable.

    Actually, that is also the only possible use that makes sense, as something that needs to listen to the LAN all the time won't actually go to "sleep".Then again, I can only imagine the "reimaging when most computers are turned off" scenario taking place if some front-like monkey is working after-hours.

    Otherwise it's pretty useless, and it doesn't even appear to require specially formed or MAC-targeted "magic packets" in order to trigger a WoL event in some implementations.



  •  @movzx said:

    Without WoL:

    "We need to reimage every computer in the building."

    "Ugh, but most of them aren't even turned on!"

    With WoL:

    "We need to reimage every computer in the building."

     "Sure, no problem!"

     

    So instead of going to each computer one at a time, turning it on, going through whatever no doubt tedius and long process to re-image said machine, checking it, and moving on, you instead...

    Go to each computer one at a time, go through whatever no doubt tedius and long process to re-image said machine, check it, move on.

    Hell of a time saver.



  • @C4I_Officer said:

    Otherwise it's pretty useless, and it doesn't even appear to require specially formed or MAC-targeted "magic packets" in order to trigger a WoL event in some implementations.

    That's not Wake-on-LAN, that's Wake-on-Will!


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

     Actually, I've done the mythical wake-on-LAN reimage. In our case, the machines were set to check for a PXE server before booting from their own hard disk.

    The procedure went like this:

    Fire the scripts to psexec shutdown on every machine in the affected OUs.

    Go power up the PXE servers.

    Spam magic packets.

    Wander around the building watching machines run through the automated windows install, and looking for ones that didn't finish shutting down properly, rebooting them manually, and correcting other discrepencies.

     

    Hell of a timesaver.

     

    Also, we use WOL to bring machines up for Patch O'Clock, for pushed software updates, and automated inventorying. 



  •  Again, this very convenient form of automated re-imaging through PXE servers will only work if:

    a) All machines are identical so that reimaging makes sense

    b) All have a PXE-boot capable adapter (as a consequence of point a)

    c) The WoL implementation only responds to specific packets, and not to [i]every[/i] packet.

    If instead you work for an organization that has a broad range of eterogeneous hardware where re-imaging isn't possible and even NICs can have as much as a decade or more of age difference, the WoL will do nothing useful for you except generate the occasional "My computer turns on by itself!" complaint from time to time (I had one that woke up exactly at 00:00 every day).



  • @Master Chief said:

     @movzx said:

    Without WoL:

    "We need to reimage every computer in the building."

    "Ugh, but most of them aren't even turned on!"

    With WoL:

    "We need to reimage every computer in the building."

     "Sure, no problem!"

     

    So instead of going to each computer one at a time, turning it on, going through whatever no doubt tedius and long process to re-image said machine, checking it, and moving on, you instead...

    Go to each computer one at a time, go through whatever no doubt tedius and long process to re-image said machine, check it, move on.

    Hell of a time saver.

     

    It's also helpful if you've got an automated backup script running that needs to backup every computer.  For a small company, maybe not so much of a probelm.  But for a company with hundreds of computers to backup spred over multiple floors, its much easier if you can automate the whole thing.



  • @dwilliss said:

    It's also helpful if you've got an automated backup script running that needs to backup every computer.  For a small company, maybe not so much of a probelm.  But for a company with hundreds of computers to backup spred over multiple floors, its much easier if you can automate the whole thing.

     

    One more reason to use a centralized server for file storage. We even do that in my work environment (~200 machines, most on a domain) where the machines might be extremely eterogeneous and we can't use imaging, however the one absolute no-no is using local storage for computers that have access to a domain and shared server drives.Actually...local storage is even disabled by domain policies.

     So only the reimaging absolutely identical machines scenario kinda makes sense. Who has a large network at his disposal yet relies on local storage?



  • When working big batch processing jobs on a farm (think 3d animation rendering, protein simulation), WoL makes sense. The farm is used at the users' whim. It would be impractical to keep the farm on all the time (energy consumption) or turn the whole farm manually on (trip to the data center), WoL to the rescue!



  • @C4I_Officer said:

     Again, this very convenient form of automated re-imaging through PXE servers will only work if:

    a) All machines are identical so that reimaging makes sense

    b) All have a PXE-boot capable adapter (as a consequence of point a)

    c) The WoL implementation only responds to specific packets, and not to every packet.

    If instead you work for an organization that has a broad range of eterogeneous hardware where re-imaging isn't possible and even NICs can have as much as a decade or more of age difference, the WoL will do nothing useful for you except generate the occasional "My computer turns on by itself!" complaint from time to time (I had one that woke up exactly at 00:00 every day).

     

    So what? If I read you correctly, your question was if there was any kind of setup in which WoL made sense, not if WoL is the magic cure-all solution for all problems on all setups.

    There may be companies out there with heterogenous hardware. For those it's certainly very impractical to use WoL. However, I think there are enough places where the hardware is very homogenous - for example because all the IT equipment is bought in bulk - and that backup/patch solution really is handy.

    In our Uni computer centre, we actually use it to boot up our 20-something "public internet access" PCs in the morning. Yup, the guy that comes in at the morning could take the five minutes time and turn them all on by himself. But why should he? 😉



  •  I think I acknlowledged one possible use of WoL that makes sense. For the remaining 95% of cases, it's probably just gonna result in a "WTF? Why does my computer turn on at night?" remark or a helpdesk ticket.



  • @C4I_Officer said:

    @movzx said:
    stuff about reimaging

    Actually, that is also the only possible use that makes sense, as something.

    It also works for applying security patches.  Note that it even works in a non-heterogeneous environment, so long as either:

    • The DHCP servers record what type of system is associated with each MAC, or most recently was assigned to each IP.  (Or, generalizing: you have a map which indicates exactly which systems need to WoL if they're around.)
    • The dominant platform in each of the subnets you do the WoL thing is the platform you need to network patch.
    • You don't care about accidentally waking computers that don't need the patch, and your script can shut the others down again.

    The remote backup answer is also pertinent if there's a lot of need to do off-line processing.  For example, I've heard of a company whose sales guys were expected to leave their laptops in their offices, powered off, one weekend each month.  (They were encouraged to do it *every* weekend, but only if it didn't impact sales.)

    I also like the render farm idea.  Depending on the render farm, one may not have a lot of down time.  However, by leveraging WoL, one could minimize the overhead of having excess capacity.  Having minimized that cost, I would expect many businesses would then ensure that it did have excess capacity, as that would enable it to produce results much quicker when there was work to produce.



  • @C4I_Officer said:

    Who has a large network at his disposal yet relies on local storage?

    We have about twice the amount of machines, but local storage still plays a big role since many people need to be able to access their documents offline. Windows offline folder functionality isn't really an option (seriously, it sucks. Some people use it here and when I was doing the first level support tasks more, I had to fix the "parameter incorrect" error for every of them at least once. The only solution I found was "deep" purging the cache with ctrl+shift when pressing the button, disabling the functionality & finally enabling it again).


    I do try to encourage users to use their home network drives if I think they have no reason to use local storage tho (like desktop comps. Tho, the real policy states that everyone should use document management system but eh, I know well-enough that many users hate it & using even some kind of centeralized storage makes everyone's life easier since hard drive crashes will always happen).

    But to the actual topic, WoL should be disabled by default imo. Those few companies that use it can just enable it themselfs (or, more likely, get it changed on their bios "image").



  • @C4I_Officer said:

     I think I acknlowledged one possible use of WoL that makes sense. For the remaining 95% of cases, it's probably just gonna result in a "WTF? Why does my computer turn on at night?" remark or a helpdesk ticket.

    Perhaps you need to combine your WoL with something else for even better results.  We use Altiris in our environment, and it's wonderful what we can do from our desks.

    So, for instance we can do the reimage job that has been talked about, PXE server and all.  No, all the PCs don't have to be the same model, because the software sees what kind they are and pushes the appropiate package to the system.  Well, that was fun, what else?

    A customer requests to have their new Xerox setup on all the PCs in their office.  Simple.  Send a wake up job to all the requested computer names, and follow that up with the driver install.  Now I don't have to drive across town to go to the site, and manually turn the computers on, or worse, depend on some person over there to go around and turn them on for me.  Try calling up a random detective in an office and ask them politely to do that.

     So, I agree that WoL is rather pointless for home useage, but not having it in a larger enterprise environment just seems silly.  If you like, I can continue with the ways it saves us time here. 



  • @C4I_Officer said:

     Heh is there even one instance where WoL is remotely useful for home users and/or not prone to false alarms?

     

     

    A media center backend that needs to turn on when recording/watching recorded shows but should be off otherwise?



  • @C4I_Officer said:

    Otherwise it's pretty useless, and it doesn't even appear to require specially formed or MAC-targeted "magic packets" in order to trigger a WoL event in some implementations.

     Requiring the "Magic Packet" is a configuration option. Here's some info to get you started- http://support.microsoft.com/kb/941145 The solution is similiar on Non-Vista machines.

    In a large enviroment, using WOL to allow power management to be enabled without impacting patch management can be a significant savings. EnergyStar.Gov puts this at about $20 per computer per year (With a further $20 for monitor/hdd turn off). Actual savings will vary, but it's a good number for rough estimates of "Does WOL make sense for this enviroment?"

     For the home user, no, WOL probably does not make sense. If you have a few thousand desktops or more, and aren't using it yet- Well, that's a great project for a SysAdmin/Developer to get on, and using the EnergyStar.Gov figures makes a great resume or review item- "Saved company an estimated $200k/year by etc"

     



  • @Kevin72594 said:

    @C4I_Officer said:

     Heh is there even one instance where WoL is remotely useful for home users and/or not prone to false alarms?

     

     

    A media center backend that needs to turn on when recording/watching recorded shows but should be off otherwise?

     

    Wouldn't WoRTC (Wake on Real Time Clock) be better in this case?



  • @Zemm said:

    @Kevin72594 said:

    @C4I_Officer said:

     Heh is there even one instance where WoL is remotely useful for home users and/or not prone to false alarms?

     

     

    A media center backend that needs to turn on when recording/watching recorded shows but should be off otherwise?

     

    Wouldn't WoRTC (Wake on Real Time Clock) be better in this case?

     

     I don't believe so.  If using WoRTC you would have to have the computer awake to tell it when to wake up next.  It's not reasonable to assume that the computer will wake up again before you need it, for example if you turn on the TV and notice there's a movie starting in 5 minutes that you want to record.

    Alternatively, imagine that you can't sleep and when you go downstairs to watch TV you decide to watch something you recently recorded.  WoL would be the best option to get the backend to turn on when you request something from it rather then on some type of schedule.



  • @C4I_Officer said:

     Heh is there even one instance where WoL is remotely useful for home users and/or not prone to false alarms?

    Windows Home Server can automatically wake your computer(s) from hibernation and run backups/Windows updates over the network.
    Personally, I hibernate my computer at night but leave the WHS on all the time; it's automatically started in the morning before I get up for me to check news/e-mail, and then I hibernate it again before leaving for work.
    The WHS is much lower-powered than my main computer, so I'm not worried about leaving it on all the time.



  • @Weng said:

    Also, we use WOL to bring machines up for Patch O'Clock, for pushed software updates, and automated inventorying. 
    That's what I was thinking.  I'm also reminded of those magazine ads that say "I want to get into this machine in this building, and it isn't even on."  I can think of many reasons I'd want a computer to come back from hibernate when I'm not near it.  Mostly that I want to get a file off of it.  Granted, I probably should have thought of that when I was near it and put that on a file server somewhere, but that doesn't always happen.



  • WoL is used around here to turn people's home computers on.

    Coders around here generally program in their free time, too, and there's been many a time when they've said "Hey, I made something to do just what we need here! Unfortunately, it's at my house, about 40 minutes away...". In this scenario, WoL software, combined with a VPN system, saved a long commute and/or a fair bit of programming time.



  • @Kevin72594 said:

    A media center backend that needs to turn on when recording/watching recorded shows but should be off otherwise?
     

     Had this since the mid 80s. It's called "VCR". And I'm still using it 😉

     

    @Kharel said:

    Coders
    around here generally program in their free time, too, and there's been
    many a time when they've said "Hey, I made something to do just what we
    need here! Unfortunately, it's at my house, about 40 minutes away...".
    In this scenario, WoL software, combined with a VPN system, saved a
    long commute and/or a fair bit of programming time.

    So there's even spurious "wake on DSL" and "wake on Cable" functionality? I can't see how this could work unless you have a super-intelligent programmable router that allows keeping a VPN system active all the time. If you need to have a dedicated PCon for that task, and said PC is at your home...that's kinda missing the point, no? Unless you have a 386 turned on 24/7 just for this purpose.

     

    Again, in my organization, we really have no use for WoL, at most it's an inconvenience generating a helpdesk ticket from time to time. The hardware we have to use varies so wildly that no kind of automated system could handle it, either. The majority of the machines are not capable of a LAN boot, and even installing one extra service on some of them will result in an unacceptable loss of work RAM.

     


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @C4I_Officer said:

    So there's even spurious "wake on DSL" and "wake on Cable" functionality? I can't see how this could work unless you have a super-intelligent programmable router that allows keeping a VPN system active all the time. If you need to have a dedicated PCon for that task, and said PC is at your home...that's kinda missing the point, no? Unless you have a 386 turned on 24/7 just for this purpose.
    Or a cheapie consumer router running aftermarket firmware.... Like roughly half the developers I know.

     

    @C4I_Officer said:

    The majority of the machines are not capable of a LAN boot, and even installing one extra service on some of them will result in an unacceptable loss of work RAM.
    No LAN boot? Unacceptable loss of RAM? So you're running embedded systems - which is TOTALLY NOT what this is about. Either that or you're running Pre-onboard-NIC machines (which also explains the unacceptable RAM loss - when you only have 128mb of the stuff kicking around, it's important to keep track of it), or consumer junk.

     

    Or maybe you just got that random batch of Dell GX270's that says they support network boot on the wrapper but didn't come preloaded with the appropriate BIOS. That was a fun one. "WHY DO HALF OF THESE BRAND NEW MACHINES SUPPORT NETWORK BOOT AND HALF DON'T? THEY'RE THE EXACT SAME THING! THE BIOS IS EVEN THE SAME FUCKING VERSION!" 



  • @C4I_Officer said:

    @Kevin72594 said:

    A media center backend that needs to turn on when recording/watching recorded shows but should be off otherwise?
     

     Had this since the mid 80s. It's called "VCR". And I'm still using it 😉

    I have a Windows XP 2005 Mediacenter Edition and I'm NEVER going back to VCR. Not only does it everything a VCR can do, but I also have immediate access to mail, messenger, Skype and so on.



  • @Kevin72594 said:

    I don't believe so.  If using WoRTC you would have to have the computer awake to tell it when to wake up next.  It's not reasonable to assume that the computer will wake up again before you need it, for example if you turn on the TV and notice there's a movie starting in 5 minutes that you want to record.

    Alternatively, imagine that you can't sleep and when you go downstairs to watch TV you decide to watch something you recently recorded.  WoL would be the best option to get the backend to turn on when you request something from it rather then on some type of schedule.

     

    WoL would require you to have another machine on to be able to wake up the media PC. I've seen ways to set the WoRTC from within Windows so the PVR software could set it before going to sleep. Supporting WoL as well would be a good idea, though, for reasons you listed.

    Besides, my "media PC" is always left on (and has been since 2002) so everything is instant anyway. 🙂



  • @Weng said:

    @C4I_Officer said:
    The majority of the machines are not capable of a LAN boot, and even installing one extra service on some of them will result in an unacceptable loss of work RAM.

    No LAN boot? Unacceptable loss of RAM? So you're running embedded systems - which is TOTALLY NOT what this is about. Either that or you're running Pre-onboard-NIC machines (which also explains the unacceptable RAM loss - when you only have 128mb of the stuff kicking around, it's important to keep track of it), or consumer junk.

     

    I had once posted several lengthy comments about what hardware I have to deal with everyday at work (I provide C4I and help desk support for an army corps and its subordinate units) but I can't remember in what article I did so. I will post a link when I trace them back, since I had went to great detail illustrating the situation.

    In any case, most machines would fall in the "consumer junk" category by your definition and many embedded systems would actually be preferable. The majority of the machines range from Pentium II to (early) Pentium IV class with aging PSUs, hard disks and even SDRAMs, but we have  a few Pentium I/MMX in place being used with Windows XP. RAM usually ranges from 96 to 192 MB, but a few machines have to do with 64 MB (bare minimum for Windows XP).

    To understand  why WoL and automated "mumbo jumbo" are not viable, try imagining keeping up-to-date images for machines that can range from anything from a Pentium I with 64 MB of RAM to a Socket 775 Celeron, some still using PCI videocards and ISA NICs.

      Go play ball with that now, guv'nar :-p

     

    P.S.: Traced the original comments. Have fun , they are in the Critical Condition article.



  •  @Zemm said:

    @Kevin72594 said:

    I don't believe so.  If using WoRTC you would have to have the computer awake to tell it when to wake up next.  It's not reasonable to assume that the computer will wake up again before you need it, for example if you turn on the TV and notice there's a movie starting in 5 minutes that you want to record.

    Alternatively, imagine that you can't sleep and when you go downstairs to watch TV you decide to watch something you recently recorded.  WoL would be the best option to get the backend to turn on when you request something from it rather then on some type of schedule.

     

    WoL would require you to have another machine on to be able to wake up the media PC. I've seen ways to set the WoRTC from within Windows so the PVR software could set it before going to sleep. Supporting WoL as well would be a good idea, though, for reasons you listed.

    Besides, my "media PC" is always left on (and has been since 2002) so everything is instant anyway. 🙂

     I was imagining a "workhorse" backend server to perform encoding and file storage while you have a light frontend that is always on.  The light frontend would also need to have a tuner card anyways but would presumably still be a lightweight machine which uses less power then the backend which is only turned on when needed.  I haven't actually set this up yet but I plan to at some point in the future, although it's probably becoming less and less useful as machines get more efficient.


  • Discourse touched me in a no-no place

    @C4I_Officer said:

    I provide C4I and help desk support for an army corps and its subordinate units) but I can't remember in what article I did so.
    Oh. You're one of THOSE people. You poor bastard. Yeah, WoL and PXE have nothing to offer you.

     I do charity work donating junk machines that greatly outclass the stuff you guys have to deal with to non-profits and schools. We deal almost exclusively in LGA775 P4's and Core 2 Duos these days. Greatest irony: Our biggest benefactors are DoD contractors. Most of our machines come with the DoD seal/Media Sanitation Required sticker on them (and we have to spend ages tracking down SATA hard drives because the drives don't make their way to us for up to 4 months after we receive the actual machines).


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