Archive for the 'Email' Category

Happy Alarms

Configuring the alarms from a health monitoring system can be challenging. The idea is to create alarms that will get the operator’s attention, won’t get ignored, are sent to the appropriate parties, and are clear and unambiguous.

To make this even more complex, numerous systems use email to send out alarms in a distributed manner. There may be a portable backup storage box with configured alarms in a non-standard format that still needs to be handled by someone monitoring the network. To make matters worse, often such devices have email alarms configured to an individual’s email address. This can cause problems when there is turnover.

As part of that I had explored all manner of ways of indicating the status of a system.

Borrowing from the Six Sigma tool set, one scheme involved using a 1,3,9 scale for ranking the severity of an item. A 1-3-9 scale forces the ranking of severity into meaningful categories. A 1-10 scale or similar provides room ambiguity.

Many systems use the existing syslog “standards” for ranking the severity of messages. This had to be incorporated.

For example:


It made sense to develop a scheme that would incorporate the syslog “standards”, the 1-3-3 scale, and provide unambiguous information to someone who had never seen an alarm unambiguous data on the severity of an alarm.

A number of distribution lists were created based on a target groups.

The following are some examples:


The last thing was designing the actual messages. It was decided that it would be important to specify fields in emails in the event that automated processing / parsing systems would have some role in reviewing messages from distributed systems in the future.

Here is a sample message:

Interface(10125) inside is Down at least 2 min on Switch: (192.168.10.X).
Monitors that are down include: Interface(10125) inside Monitors that are up include: Ping,SNMP,HTTP,Telnet,Interface(1) Vlan1,Interface(100) Vlan100 (,Interface(5010) Port-channel10,Interface(5011) Port-channel11,Interface(5015) Port-channel15,Interface(5016) Port-channel16,Interface(10101) dmz,Interface(10118) Inside – Alltel,Interface(10127) inside,Interface(10131) inside,Interface(10133) prd-003-vmi4, Channel-Group 10,Interface(10134) prd-003-vmi4, Channel-Group 10,Interface(10135) prd-004-vmi4, Channel-Group 11,Interface(10136) prd-004-vmi4, Channel-Group 11,Interface(10145) GigabitEthernet0/45,Interface(10146) sw-1 dmz trunking port,Interface(10147) sw2 inside trunking port,Interface(10148) storage trunking port,Interface(10501) Null0,”

This system has been in place for some time and seems to work well.

I kept thinking about this and realized that one of things to make this register and have people react a bit better still.

As I was thinking about this, I was shocked to discover that one of the Exchange Servers had become self-aware. Not one to waste an opportunity, I asked it about additional ways to improve this process. It reminded me that humans have emotions and perhaps that another way to improve the Health Monitoring system was by associating emotion with the status of various alarms.

So instead of saying that the DISK on Server A is RESTORE, instead we might say “Server A is relieved that it’s disk was replaced before a total system crash!”.

This self-aware exchange server, which we have now dubbed Fred, has a weird sense of humor.

IPhone and Cisco VPN

I broke down and got an iPhone.

So far I am impressed. It syncs to Exchange, has Cisco VPN, and a number of other things. One of the things I had trouble getting over at first was the idea of a “glass” phone. It looks so breakable and was definitely a turn off as I go through phones about once a year at least due to having bull in china cabinet syndrome. I found this amazing contraption that you put over the phone that then protects it. That seemed to help the psychological block that I had.

I setup my company VPN to go through the phone. To do this, I took the string out of the Cisco VPN pcf file and passed it through a decoder. There is an online version available here ->

Script to Extract Email Addresses from AD

I had needed to setup a unix based mail gateway to relay mail through to Exchange on one of my networks.

I had found an article on how to do this The script below reflects a modification of a script I found Mail Relay/; however, it needed some adjustment.

I made some modifications below to handle contacts and groups.

‘ Export all valid recipients (= proxyAddresses) into a
‘ file virtual.txt

‘ Ferdinand Hoffmann & Patrick Koetter
‘ 20021100901
‘ Shamelessly stolen from
‘ \
‘ planning/activedirectory/bulksteps.asp

‘Global variables
Dim Container
Dim OutPutFile
Dim FileSystem

‘Initialize global variables
Set FileSystem = WScript.CreateObject(“Scripting.FileSystemObject”)
Set OutPutFile = FileSystem.CreateTextFile(“virtual.txt”, True)
Set Container=GetObject(“LDAP://DC=local,DC=p2sol,DC=com”)

‘Enumerate Container
EnumerateUsers Container

‘Clean up
Set FileSystem = Nothing
Set Container = Nothing
Dim Alias

‘Say Finished when your done
WScript.Echo “Finished”

‘List all Users
Sub EnumerateUsers(Cont)
Dim User

‘Go through all Users and select them
For Each User In Cont
Select Case LCase(User.Class)

Case “contact”
If Not IsEmpty(User.Mail) Then
OutPutFile.WriteLine “alias: SMTP ” & User.Mail
End If

‘If you find groups
Case “group”
‘Select all proxyAddresses
If Not IsEmpty(User.proxyAddresses) Then
For Each Alias in User.proxyAddresses
OutPutFile.WriteLine “alias: ” & Alias
‘WScript.Echo Alias
End If

‘If you find Users
Case “user”
‘Select all proxyAddresses
If Not IsEmpty(User.proxyAddresses) Then
For Each Alias in User.proxyAddresses
OutPutFile.WriteLine “alias: ” & Alias
‘WScript.Echo Alias
End If

Case “organizationalunit” , “container”
EnumerateUsers User

End Select
End Sub