03 December 2006

Novell NetWare

I just completed a week of training on Novell NetWare 6.5. I first came into contact with NetWare at my previous job as network admin for a small department. It was NetWare 3.12 and now I'm using NetWare 6 but the basic hasn't changed that much. Over the past six years I've learned much about NetWare but never thought of going for a certification. Taking the course last week convinced me that I should. Most of the materials were not new to me. Sure there were topics like iManager and iPrint, basically Novell's attempt at making NetWare less reliant on Microsoft Windows. Microsoft has been known to purposely change its Windows architecture to make competitors' products stop working so Novell counts more on web browser technology, which hopefully is not locked down by MS. Have the proper web browser, some Java components, and theoretically you can most of the basic work of NetWare account administration.

The instructor advised us to take the CNA certification test within thirty days of completing the course. That means I must take it some time in December 2006, before the new year. It's a challenge but I will take it on. All ten or so of us students in the class signed up to get the voucher for the cert exam and the online sample exam. Whether management pays for it or not, I'll still go for it. It's about $100, something I can afford. I doubt passing it will make any difference with the current job, but I'm sure it will in future jobs. One other, noble reason for me to take the NetWare cert exam is to be there for any companies that need a certified NetWare expert. I hate Microsoft for squeezing market shares out of NetWare. Hopefully, with one more qualified NetWare expert, the conversion from NetWare to Windows server will be slowed down.

Not that long ago, NetWare was the king of networking software with some +70% of the market. Then Windows NT Server came along with its graphical interface and took away lots of business from NetWare. It's probably true that NT Server is easier to start but there's a lot more to a server than just setting up user accounts and shared folders. My work experience and the five days of training provide plenty of examples of NetWare's superiority over Windows. Everyday, I as a LAN Account Admin would create NetWare accounts and Windows accounts. For NetWare, there's nothing to worry about the new user's home folder. As long as I use a template with all the home folder properties defined, the home folder is created at the time the account is created and the user is given access to it. Not so with Windows. Even with ActiveDirectory, I still have to somehow manually created the home folder and set permission. I manage to make the process easier by using various KiXtart scripts to do the work, but if Windows can provide the choice of a template, I wouldn't have to go the extra mile in the first place. There might be some third-party plug-in to achieve the goal, but with NetWare it's already built-in, you don't need to spend extra money for it. Another very friendly feature of NetWare that I as a LAN Account Admin have come to appreciate is the last login date. I don't know how NetWare does it, but if I look at an account's last login date, then that's what it is - the last time the account was used to connect to the particular tree. Not so with Windows, NT or AD. The true last login date for a Windows account can only be determined after all the last login dates on all the domain controllers have been collected. Then from the list, one would extract the real last login date. Alas, if the Windows account is only used to map a drive, the act of authenticating during the mapping process doesn't trigger any records of the last login date. So, if Mr. John Smith every day maps to the resource \\server1\shared$ but never logins to any of the domains, his account appears inactive to the LAN admins. Per auditing requirements, the LAN admins would disable Mr. Smith's account and a whole series of detective work would go into high gear before the root cause of Mr. Smith's sudden loss of access is determined.

The class instructor was an interesting chap. He had long hair, told us he played in some band and drives a motorcycle. He told us that the user symbols in Novell products are faceless because the Novell corporate echelon consists of believers of the Church of Latter-Day Saints (LDS). Supposedly, per LDS, inanimate objects have no soul and no face.

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