BVLog Bryan Voss’ mental synchronization point

28Jun/110

Windows 2003 R2 Enterprise 32-bit not seeing all available RAM

I ran into an issue today after adding more RAM to a Windows 2003 R2 Enterprise server. I upgraded it from 4GB to 20GB, but Windows still only saw around 3.25GB after booting. I checked the HP management board and it showed 20GB installed and working. After some googling, I found a solution here. Edit the boot.ini file and add a /PAE switch to enable Physical Address Extension. After rebooting, the System Properties dialog now shows a nifty Physical Address Extension line under the Computer section and all 20GB of RAM is available.

Filed under: sysadmin, windows No Comments
21Feb/110

Losing connection to USB drive when attempting to sync iPod

I ran into a weird issue recently and thought I would document it here in case others (or myself in the future, hi me-to-be!) can benefit from it. My wife and I bought an iPod Shuffle for our daughter. We already have a couple of iPod Touches, a couple of Nanos, and an older Shuffle in the household, so adding another newer-gen Shuffle shouldn't be a problem, right? So you would think.

We have an older Windows computer in the living room that over time has seen its interactive usage drop as it increasingly became less useful due to age and requirements of newer software. It now primarily acts as an iTunes jukebox/syncing station, Picasa photo storage appliance, and a digital picture frame. It has a 1 TB USB drive attached, where all the content is stored. We regularly connect my wife's iPod Touch via USB to charge it. We also occasionally connect the other iPods in the household to sync new content.

I connected my daughter's new Shuffle and went through the registration process. After getting it all set up as I liked, I tried dragging a song to it to check syncing. A few seconds later, I received an error dialog stating that the song could not be synced because the media file could not be found. I tried another song and got the same error. iTunes stores it's media on the USB drive. Yikes! Is the drive failing? I shut down iTunes, reset the USB drive, and tried to access it via Windows Explorer. Unable to access anything. Uh-oh.

After rebooting the PC, the drive was again available and I could randomly access various directories & files. I restarted iTunes and tried syncing another song to the Shuffle. Same error. Hmm. I rebooted and connected my wife's iPod. It was able to sync without problems. The error only occurred when the Shuffle was connected and I tried to access anything on the USB drive.

It turns out that even though the USB drive has its own power supply, the Shuffle was drawing so much power from the USB bus that the drive could no longer function. We purchased a powered USB hub at OfficeMax and I tried again. I left the drive connected to a USB port on the PC and connected the Shuffle to the new USB hub. Works fine now.

My daughter is now happily jamming to our library of Christian music and is happy to have an iPod of her own like her big brother.

Filed under: hardware, windows No Comments
1Nov/100

Silent install of VMWare Tools under a Windows guest

In vCenter Server, right-click on a virtual machine, click Guest | Install/Upgrade VMware Tools, and enter "/S /v /qn REBOOT=R" in the Advanced field. Reboot will be supressed.

1Oct/100

RightFax error: A Non-Group 3 Fax Device Answered

Issue: RightFax 8.5 consistently errors with "A Non-Group 3 Fax Device Answered" when attempting to send to a particular number.

Details: Called the number and noticed that it rang four times, switched to an internal line and rang another couple of times before the fax device answered. Suspect a timeout issue.

Resolution: Increase CD (Carrier Detect?) timeout on Brooktrout card:

  1. In RightFax Enterprise Fax Manager, right-click RightFax BoardServer Module service
  2. Select Configure Service
  3. Under Global Board Settings, increase CD Timeout. In this case, I changed it from 40 to 60.
  4. Click OK and the service should restart
  5. Resend a fax to a number that has been erroring to make sure the setting change fixed the problem
17Sep/100

The disk management services could not complete the operation

Issue: Receive the following error while trying to extend a disk volume via diskpart under Windows 2003: "The disk management services could not complete the operation."

Resolution: User running diskpart does not have full access permissions to root of volume. Either grant user appropriate permissions, or select disk then partition under diskpart, rather than volume. Example:
list disk
select disk n
list partition
select partition n
extend

Thanks to http://theether.net/kb/100061 for the solution. Plagiarized here for my ease of location next time this issue occurs.

Filed under: sysadmin, windows No Comments
3Sep/100

Note to software vendors

If your "enterprise-class" application randomly displays an error dialog and stops working on my servers, I WILL use AutoHotKey to detect the issue and restart said application, thereby circumventing your attempts to deny my users their productivity. We will prevail!

Filed under: sysadmin, windows No Comments
1Sep/100

Manually adding podcast episodes to iTunes

I listen to podcasts regularly. It's a nice use of commute time. iTunes downloads episodes automatically and they transfer to my iPod Touch when I sync it. The process is mostly effortless.

iTunes also has a nice feature that will suspend downloading new episodes of a podcast if I haven't listened to the episodes I currently have on my iPod. This helps to avoid consuming too much disk space and filling up my iPod with something I don't want. If I then decide to start listening to that podcast again, iTunes detects it on the next sync and starts downloading new episodes again.

I recently stopped listening to a daily podcast for about a month while I was listening to a bunch of old episodes from a new podcast I found. After catching up on the new podcast, I wanted to get back into the old one. I found that iTunes had stopped downloading episodes a few weeks ago and the missing episodes were no longer available in the podcast feed. Since the episodes were part of a series, I didn't want to miss them.

By deciphering the filenames on the episodes I had, I was able to find and download the missing episodes manually. I then dropped them in the "Automatically Add to iTunes" folder to make them available. Within a few seconds, they showed up in iTunes, but in the Music section rather than Podcasts. I tried manually changing the media type to Podcast, but they then showed up as a separate podcast rather than merging with the existing episodes. After a fair amount of googling, I found several suggestions, but nothing seemed to solve all aspects of the problem.

I did a little tinkering and was able to come up with a reasonable solution. I'm running iTunes under Windows, so YMMV if you're on a Mac.

  1. If you don't already have it, download and install Mp3tag.
  2. In iTunes, right-click one of the problem podcast episodes and choose "Show in Windows Explorer".
  3. Still in iTunes, delete the problem episode, but choose the option to keep the file.
  4. In Explorer, move the mp3 file to the correct directory under iTunes Media\Podcasts if it's not already there.
  5. Open Mp3tag and drag both the problem episode and another working episode from Explorer to Mp3tag.
  6. Right-click the working episode and choose Extended Tags...
  7. Note the values of the following fields:
    GENRE
    ITUNESPODCAST
    ITUNESPODCASTDESC
    ITUNESPODCASTID
    ITUNESPODCASTURL
    RELEASETIME
  8. Edit extended tags on the problem episode and set the values to match the working episode, changing ITUNESPODCASTDESC (episode description), ITUNESPODCASTID (episode filename/URL), and RELEASETIME appropriately. Note that ITUNESPODCASTURL is the URL for the podcast feed, not a particular episode.
  9. Save the tags in Mp3tag.
  10. In Explorer, drag the mp3 file and drop it on the iTunes window to add it. It should show up under the correct podcast.
  11. Filed under: lifehacks, windows No Comments
28Jun/100

Creating/deleting Windows services

I always have to look the procedure up when I need to create/delete a Windows service, so here it is for posterity.

Create service (note the space after binPath=):
sc create "[service name]" binPath= "[path to executable]"

Delete service:
sc delete "[service name]"

<rant>
And as long as we're on the subject, I really wish our "enterprise" software vendors would stop setting things up to run as Windows console apps when all they do is display a logfile in a window. If the app has the ability to run as a service, run it as a service. I can tail a logfile to debug issues, even if your support people don't know how to do that.

Running apps on the console tends to cause problems if people login via RDP. I can either:

  1. Explain to people that they have to login via RDP using a particular account with an obscure password in order to restart an app, making sure to include a "/console" after mstsc on the commandline.
  2. Tell them to login using their own account, double-click the Services icon on the desktop, right-click the app on the list and click Start.

Hmm. I think I prefer option 2.
</rant>

Filed under: sysadmin, windows No Comments
15Jun/100

Clariion hosts showing as unmanaged

I have had several Windows servers connected to an EMC Clariion SAN via both Fibre Channel & iSCSI show up as unmanaged, even though they all have Navisphere Agent installed and running. After some investigation, I found that all of the hosts have multiple NICs, either for cluster heartbeat purposes or for iSCSI connectivity. In Navisphere, right-clicking the host and choosing "Update Now" gave an error which included the IP of one of the private interfaces. In other words, the agent is binding to the wrong adapter.

Solution:

  1. Create a file named "agentid.txt" under the Navisphere Agent directory.
  2. The first line of the file should contain the server's fully-qualified hostname.
  3. The second line should contain the IP address that Navisphere should use to contact the server. This determines which adapter will be used.
  4. Stop/start Navisphere Agent service. Do not restart the service, as that doesn't seem to work.

In Navisphere, right-click on the host and click "Update Now". It should show up as managed.

17Feb/100

Synergy + Outlook 2007 pain FIXED

New Monitors
I have been using Synergy for quite a while to control multiple computers on my desk. Synergy allows you to use one keyboard and mouse across multiple computers and monitors. I have my main PC with dual monitors in the center, an old PC with a monitor to the left that I primarily use for GWOS status, and my laptop on the right where I generally display Thinking Rock (GTD app) or watch instructional videos related to whatever I'm working on at the time. Synergy allows me to simply move the mouse to the left or right edge of a monitor and the pointer and keyboard focus seamlessly pops from one computer to another.

A couple of years ago, I noticed that switching from one screen to another occasionally caused a lag of 5-10 seconds where mouse movements were not accepted. After attempting to troubleshoot the problem for a while on several different occasions, I mostly gave up and just accepted the problem. This morning, I ran into the problem again and the hassle once again crossed my pain threshold far enough that I began another troubleshooting run.

After trolling through the Synergy support forums for a while, I noticed that several other users were experiencing the same problem, but there were generally no fixes offered. I did some search tuning and began to notice a trend. Many of the users reporting the problem also reported running Microsoft Outlook 2007, which is the corporate-mandated email client that I am unfortunately forced to use. Hmmm. Come to think of it, my Synergy problems probably started around the same time I upgraded to Outlook 2007. A little further experimentation confirmed my suspicion. With Outlook selected as the foreground application, switching screens exhibited the pointer lag. With any other application selected as foreground, there was no lag and switching screens was seamless. AHA!

Having finally located the source of the problem, I began searching for a solution. I initially thought the issue might be caused by the Outlook option to change the mouse pointer when email arrives, but turning off that option (after finally locating it in the arcane jumble of Outlook configuration dialogs) didn't help. I then thought to turn up debugging on Synergy and noticed that when switching screens with Outlook active, it looked like Synergy was basically resetting itself, which would probably cause a lag of several seconds while the main PC waits for the clients to reconnect.

More searching... I finally found the answer in a comment to a post from a frustrated Synergy user having the same problem I was having. Simply check the "Don't take foreground window on Windows servers" checkbox in Synergy options and restart Synergy. I was then able to select Outlook as foreground app and switch screens without a lag! Problem solved by a simple config change after dealing with it for so long.

Come to think of it, that is often the case with many of the large systems I deal with. After manually dealing with a recurring issue for a while, I'll get fed up (lazy) and write a script to automate the process. I will then later find that there was some arcane option to deal with the problem that I simply had to enable. Sometimes the documentation for the system doesn't even cover the option and the only way to find it is to search a vendor knowledgebase using a particular combination of keywords. On the bright side, at least I get to stretch my scripting skills on occasion when these things come up.

Anyway, back to Synergy. I had noticed that Synergy had not been updated in a few years. During my search for a solution, I found Synergy+, which is a fork of the original Synergy that is being updated and maintained on a current basis. Maybe I'll try that version at some point in the future, but for now, my original problem has been solved and Synergy is back to its quiet yet important role of simply improving my productivity without my having to think about it.

Filed under: windows No Comments