Category Archives: IT

The blog is back!

So I underestimated the drudgery of changing my DNS settings for the blog, clearly. I also learned the pain of the “nx” record – what your DNS cache retains if it fails to hit a site the first time.

Basically, I messed up the “www” registration – I made it a “CNAME” versus an “A” record. If that goes right over your head, I obviously won’t think less of you. ūüėõ Anyway, since it was messed up and it failed DNS servers all over the globe cached “www.teamjuchems.com doesn’t exist anymore, don’t look for it” – essentially that “nx” thing I mentioned before… so we all had to hold our breath and wait for that record to expire.

Let the rejoicing commence – www.teamjuchems.com is back!

–Nat

EveryDNS is going down….

Since EveryDNS, the nice, free DNS hosting site was sold out to a company that now wants some $20 per year (!) for DNS hosting I had to find a new home – back to xname.org I went. Surprisingly, my cedarvalleycomputing.com domain was still alive there. I wiped that, uploaded my teamjuchems info and killed off my EveryDNS registration. I have updated GoDaddy and such, but if you don’t have the site in your DNS cache you may experience an outage.

I am just hoping it works later tonight and I don’t have to waste more time mucking with it.

–Nat

Lab Manager Blog

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Lab Manager so far. It has been a great tool for our developers, but it is not a complete solution. It wantonly wastes storage (its primary constraining resource) and it make server maintenance much more of a chore than necessary. I stumbled across this good blog on it now, of course, as it enters its twilight. Hopefully good information on vCloud Director will be forthcoming.

http://bsmith9999.blogspot.com/2011/03/lab-manager-4.html

–Nat

Killing Wayward VMs in vSphere ESX

From time to time as an ESX admin, you’ve likely come across a VM that doesn’t want to die. ¬†The infamous “Another task is already in progress.” error message likely means you have a VM locked into la-la land, unable to be powered down, reset, restarted, shut down or otherwise manipulated. ¬†If you have ESX, this is about the time you find yourself firing up Putty and heading in to do some low level surgery.

First steps:

  • topping the virtual machine by issuing the command vmware-cmd /vmfs/volumes/<datastorename>/<vmname>/<vmname>.vmx stop. ¬† Equivalent to sending it a shutdown command. ¬†Will probably fail.
  • If this does not work, one can issue the following command: vmware-cmd /vmfs/volumes/<datastorename>/<vmname>/<vmname>.vmx stop hard. This will try to kill the Virtual Machine instantly. ¬†Equivalent to a power off, will likely fail.
  • If that does not work, one can issue the command vm-support -x to list the running VMs and their World IDs, then vm-support -X worldid (note the x is case sensitive in both commands). This then prompts the user with a couple of questions, then runs a debug stop of the VM, and creates a set of log files as well that you can forward to VMware tech support. ¬†This does some fancy background things and is your last stop before calling VMware support. ¬†Not to mention, its a great way to get the PID of all your running VMs. ¬†You can try kill -9 PIDOFYOURVM but that probably won’t work if the previous commands failed.
  • I’ve had to do this about four times in four years, just often to have always forgotten how to do it…

    –Nat

    Video Card Nostalgia…

    Video cards I’ve had/used since 1998

    Voodoo 2 12 MB!!!!! – OMG $$$ ¬†(Thanks Dad! ¬†The gateway worked for quite a while ūüôā )
    Geforce 2 MX onboard – In my shiny Falcon NW talon system! ¬†Well, it was actually pretty Beige…
    8500 64 MB – $130 new clearance @ BB – different drivers for different games! Things have gotten much better since 2003, right?
    9500 Pro 64 MB – $130 new clearance @ BB, used for almost 2 years!
    9800 Pro 128 MB – $80 used, Doom 3 caused me to sell it after about three months.
    6800 128 MB – NewEgg, not sure – It rocked Doom3, which I hated and only used as performance benchmark.
    6800U 256 MB Р$400 (!!!), NewEgg to go along with the fastest parts available at the time Р2x 36GB raptors in RAID0, 2.4 Ghz AMD 3700+, DFI Lanpart S754, and OCZ Powerstream 500w Power Supply, when plugged into the UPS I had it would blue screen as it was power starved.  Had to plug it right into the wall!
    5900U 256 MB – $50 John Deere Swap Sheet (was in college and realized that I couldn’t afford the entire rig the 6800U was in¬† )
    6600 256 MB – NewEgg, Passively cooled, ~$100 I think
    7800 GT 256 MB Р$345 new on launch day! 
    6800 GT 256 MB Р~$200 fs/ft (sold it later for $170, was defective on delivery, had to eat $170 loss  )
    6800 256 MB – ~$100 NewEgg
    7900 GTO 512 MB – ~$230 NewEgg – used for almost a year!
    3870 512 MB – $130 clearance @ BB (full circle!)
    4830 512 MB – $70 fs/ft – used for almost two years!
    4830 512 MB (xfire) – $60 fs/ft
    5870 1GB – $200 Newegg

    Marriage, the great man-hobby depresser ūüôā ¬†Kristin has saved me quite a bit of money in the last four years or so ūüėČ

    –Nat

    Server 2008 R2 – Free for Students

    Don’t want to drop the money on a Windows 7 license and have a .edu email address? For sometime you have been able to get the latest and greatest Microsoft Server operating system, here:

    https://www.dreamspark.com/Products/Product.aspx?ProductId=17

    Next up, you can enable the full desktop experience by following the steps in this photo gallery:

    http://www.zdnet.com/photos/converting-free-windows-7-server-into-a-workstation/444308?seq=3&tag=content;get-photo-roto

    For a long time, this was a great money saving idea but you had to run without an antivirus.  The latest version of the awesome, free Microsoft Security Essentials installs just fine in Server 2008 R2 (tested myself!), visit this address from the server itself after you have installed the OS:

    http://www.microsoft.com/security_essentials/

    Now you are set! ¬†Given it has the same “kernel” as Windows 7, you’ll be able install video drivers and games without issue. ¬†This wasn’t true for Server 2003.

    Enjoy ūüôā

    –Nat

    SSD – Locked, Loaded and Stupid Fast

    I bought an Intel branded Solid State Disk (SSD) last fall when the hard drive in my server died and the blog lost nearly a months worth of entries. SSDs are much more reliable in the fact that they are not mechanical; instead they are like a big thumb drive but much faster and built with more expensive (reliable) components.

    Luckily, I was able to recover the entirety of the blog off of the fallen Raptor hard drive that it had lived on before.  I got the server up and running with just one hard drive Рand then I got lazy.  Finally, after talking about some future spending plans it came about that there was going to be something like a voluntary spending freeze on my main PC (hello 1080p projector!) and I determined that the best way to use the SSD that I already had in the basement was the boot drive for my main rig.

    It is only the boot drive because it is only 40GB and even less actually usable.  Back in the day I tried to live on a 36GB raptor and found it impossible.  The difference now is that I am shoving everything except the operating system and applications like Chrome and Office off onto the larger, normal hard drive that I have had in the PC for some time.  No games on the SSD either, given that many games are approaching 10GB+ each installed these days.

    Now my PC boots up crazy fast and applications launch almost instantaneously.  Even after installing 7 and Office along with a few other apps there is still over 20GB (50%) left available on the drive.  Before optimization, that was more like 13GB.  Important optimizations:

    • Move your page file. ¬†The “System Managed” page file is usually the same as your installed ram. ¬†In my case this was 4GB – over 10% of my drive set aside for some worst case scenario!
    • Change your system restore percentage. ¬†By default its 3%, minimum is 1%. ¬†This is your safety net for things like Windows Updates gone bad, so you should leave it on but keep it to a minimum.
    • Drag and drop space hogs out of your user “library.” ¬†This is folders like “My Videos”, “My Downloads”, etc. ¬†You can just grab them and “move them” in windows explorer to a different hard drive. ¬†Windows 7 takes care of moving the contents – but you won’t see anything different in your library as it also takes care of doing some nifty redirection. ¬†It looks the same to you, but now those folders are taking up cheap space on your secondary hard drive.

    At this point I am more impressed with my hard drive upgrade than my video card upgrade which was substantially more costly.  It feels like I got a whole new PC!  Review sites have been saying it for some time now, but having done it myself now I am really a believer.

    — Nat

    Senators being useful?

    Well, it looks like I misplaced my vote in the 2010 elections – and it could have been a huge loss for not only myself but perhaps the country. Luckily, Al Franken was still elected as Minnesota’s Senator and he is there now actually championing some legislation that is good for the people and not the folks with fat wallets who can write checks to support campaigns.

    This article over at Ars Technica pretty well sums it up:

    http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2011/01/senators-bash-telecom-oligarchs-drop-strict-net-neutrality-bill.ars

    Net Neutrality (NN) is a necessity with the way that communications companies are currently government protected monopolies.  It is what keeps Comcast and the like from charging an extra $3 a month for netflix, $1 per month for Skype, etc.  It keeps the pipe to your house free for using how you see fit for the one price you pay for it.  Without NN, the internet will be fragmented as pay walls are erected and those without the means to pay will be stuck with some subset of the Internet.

    Franken has worked with another Senator to write a concise, readable piece of legislation that we want to see passed. ¬†Really, we do – as your resident technologist, don’t believe rhetoric that tries to paint any other picture.

    –Nat

    Resizing a RHEL in Amazon EC2

    Working on getting RHEL virtual appliances setup in the Amazon cloud this is how you resize the root filesystem after taking a snapshot of the original, creating a larger EBS from the snap, removing the old /dev/sda and attaching the EBS volume you just created.

    1. Verify that the device /dev/sda is where the / filesystem resides
      1. # df -h
    2. Verify that the device /dev/sda is larger than the usable space
      1. # fdisk -l
    3. Open fdisk with /dev/sda specified
      1. # fdisk /dev/sda
    4. Delete the current partition
      1. Command (m for help): delete
    5. Create a new primary partition
      1. Command (m for help): n
      2. p
      3. Partition number (1-4): 1
    6. Use the entire disk for the new partition
      1. “enter”
      2. “enter”
    7. Verify that the only thing that has changed on /dev/sda is the size
      1. Command (m for help): p
    8. Write out the new configuration
      1. Command (m for help): w
    9. Reboot
      1. reboot -n
    10. Extend the file system
      1. # resize2fs -p /dev/sda1
    11. Verify that the disk size and usable size are the same
      1. fdisk -l
    12. Enjoy!

    I have had success using a similar method in Ubuntu, but then you have to be careful to leave the boot area and removing the swap partition first. Take a screenshot of fdisk -l /dev/sda before you start mucking around – you’ll be glad you did ūüôā

    –Nat

    Fry’s Annoyance

    Being in Seattle, I was pretty happy to stop at Fry’s.¬† I didn’t have much that I needed and there wasn’t anything that was an deal I had to take home.¬† My Uncle Alex has a nice late 2006 iMac that only had one GB of ram, much less than the typical guidance for Mac OSX.¬† An excellent excuse to stop at Fry’s if there ever was one.

    We wandered the store while I pondered whether I should scimp and get the clearance 2*1GB kit or splurge on a 2GB stick so that the total memory would be 2.5GB.¬† The difference was $12 (~25%) so I went with the $32 1GB*2 stick OCZ kit.¬† Down on checkout three, I signed the paperwork and waited patiently for the slow staff to get the memory.¬† The checkout lady took the credit card, swiped it, then handed my memory.¬† That’s when I noticed that someone had half-halfheartedly tried to tape the kit closed – it was either returned or a floor show piece kit.¬† In any case, not worth full price even if it was a reasonable clearance price.

    That’s when things got really annoying.¬† The checkout lady refused to get another kit until she was instructed to do so multiple times by the on duty manager.¬† The guy in the cage supposedly said that all the kits were open, that is why they were on clearance.¬† I should have insisted seeing another kit if that was the case.¬† Then it turned out they were going to charge me a restocking fee to return it – even though I hadn’t signed the form.¬† Enraged at this point, I stalked back into the store, got a 2GB stick, used my new in-store credit to buy it, and left the store behind my entire family who had grown sick of waiting the fifteen minutes it took me to check out.

    My Uncle’s iMac is snappier now.¬† I guess it was worth it.

    –Nat