Archive for the ‘General’ category

The 9/11 Post

September 10th, 2011

Snagit CaptureMy memory isn’t what it used to be but there are a few experiences in the past which remain clear in my mind.  The first time I met the person who would eventually become my wife. The birth of my daughter. The first time I saw VMware ESXi at a Minneapolis VMUG meeting.  September 10th, 2001 and of course what followed the next morning.  A lot of people have a 9/11 story.  I have mine.  Tomorrow being the 10 year anniversary, I’ll share it here as requested.

In 2001 I worked as a Systems Engineer for a large bank based out of Minneapolis, MN.  One of our datacenters was located in Columbia, MD which is situated between Baltimore, MD and Washington D.C.  We were re-IP’ing the datacenter the weekend before 9/11 so I had spent the prior week on site making the final preparations for the long weekend ahead which I would also be involved in.

As I recall, it was a pretty long weekend working around the clock.  Par for the course when we had to deal with the finicky attitude of Microsoft SQL Server clusters.  We got through it and Monday morning arrived.  I would usually stick around through mid day Monday for this type of activity to make sure we were out of the woods, then fly out in the afternoon or early evening.  There were no issues to speak of but I hung out with my Maryland co-workers until the last possible minute I had to leave for the airport.  This was my normal routine.  At this point in time there was no reason to arrive at the airport two hours early.  There weren’t security checkpoints & the associated lines to deal with.  However, I had cut it way too close this time and was going to miss my flight.  I didn’t know it at the time but arriving late and missing my flight would allow me a brush with fame opportunity.

Snagit CaptureAt this time it’s probably 5:30pm EDT.  I worked with the ticketing agent to find a later flight out.  Fortunately there was a later flight, I believe it was the last out of BWI.  I checked my bag and made my way to the gate for the long wait.  The portion of the airport where my gate existed was fairly empty.  I was doing the long walk thing to one of the last gates.  As I’m walking, a young guy who had gotten off a plane is walking towards me from the opposite direction.  From a distance he’s tall and has a baseball cap on.  As we passed each other, I got a closer look.  One thought immediately entered my mind as he was walking away “He looks like Travis Pastrana (a pro motocross Suzuki rider).”  The DUH moment followed “Travis and his parents live in Maryland.”  When you eat, sleep, and breathe motocross, you follow motocross and pro riders closely. You know these things.  I spun around and called out his first name “Travis!” from 20 feet away.  We talked for about a minute.  He was a nice guy and autographed a full spread poster of him performing a lazy boy contained in a motocross magazine I happened to be carrying in my laptop bag.  Then we went on our respective ways.  I called my wife (girlfriend at the time) and told her she’d never guess who I just met.  I spent the rest of the evening smiling.  I would always remember that particular day (but not necessarily the date September 10th itself), as one of the best days in my life.  The following day would be one of the worst.

Tuesday morning I woke up and drove to work in downtown Minneapolis.  As I waited at the intersection of 11 Street to turn right onto Hennepin Avenue, the frantic reports started coming in over the radio.  For me, that’s where I was when 9/11 happened – at that intersection making a right turn, trying not to believe what I’m hearing on the radio.  The details of that event are known by all and don’t need repeating here.  I had a difficult time grasping what had happened, how they could have happened.  I thought about how close I had been to one of the sites the night before.

The following weekend I loaded up the truck to race at Mazeppa.  There was such a poor turnout due to the week’s events that the races were cancelled and for those that stuck around, we just practiced the entire day.  A small and inconsequential example of how the events 9/11 would impact the future.  By the grace of God, I didn’t lose any of my own loved ones, friends, or co-workers but when I see the faces of the innocent people who lost their lives, I can’t help but feel a connection to each of them.  I’ve watched interviews of so many who suffered the loss of family members and I absolutely cannot comprehend how they dealt with it.  I pray that those who passed on and their family members who remain receive love and comfort from God.  It will be an emotional morning at church tomorrow as we join together in a special service of remembrance.

My daughter started kindergarten last week.  I also have a three year old boy.  In time they will learn about 9/11 and will inevitably talk about it and/or ask my wife and I questions about it.  I hope that it is the type of event they will only have to learn about through history books.  Tomorrow I’ll pray for peace and hope that my children and my children’s children can grow up in a better world.

On a creepy side note, for the first part of my tenure at the bank, each time I traveled to the Columbia site, a national level tragedy occurred:

  • Columbine High School tragedy – 4/20/99
  • 9/11 tragedy – 9/11/01
  • Space Shuttle Columbia tragedy – 2/1/03

I no longer work for the bank and as such, no longer travel to this site.

USB Thumb Drive Not Recognized – 3 Fast Beeps

July 27th, 2011

No Earth-shattering material tonight.  In fact this tip isn’t even VMware/virtualization related other than the fact that the problem came up while working in the lab.  It has been several months since the last article I wrote under the “General” category which contains no VMware/virtualization content.

Anyway, I was working in the lab when…

My Windows 7 OS would no longer recognize my USB thumb drive.  Inserting the thumb drive into any of the USB  ports produced three quick USB-style beeps.  Having cut my x86 teeth in the days when A+ certification amounted to quite a bit, the three beeps told me something wasn’t right from a hardware standpoint but with a hint of driver hence the USB audio indicator.  I was mildly concerned because I sometimes carry data around on this drive which hasn’t been backed up or cannot be quickly reproduced.  A warm reboot of the OS produced no joy.  Neither did a power off.

Back in Windows Device Manager, the device was shown as disabled with an option to re-enable.  This did not work however.

Snagit Capture

This being a USB device which can easily be reinstalled, the next step was to uninstall the driver by right clicking on the device and choosing Uninstall (notice the “down arrow” depicted on the device indicating it is disabled):

Snagit Capture

After the uninstall of the driver, I unplugged the USB thumb drive, waited a few seconds, plugged it back in, and immediately heard the friendly USB sound I had been wanting all along.  Windows 7 went through a device discovery process, installed drivers, and I was on my way.

WordPress 3.1 Upgrade Issues

February 27th, 2011

I noticed this evening that WordPress 3.1 was available and my blog’s dasboard was coaxing me to upgrade.  Every single time I have upgraded, I have made a backup before hand.  At the end of a long week, my logic was shot and I proceeded with the upgrade without a backup.  As luck would have it, my Windows Server 2003 and IIS based blog no longer worked.  Page loads were an endless hourglass, no 404 or any other web browser errors.   However, another symptom included the w3wp.exe process (this is IIS) on my server consuming extremely heavy CPU utilization during the endless page loads.  When cancelling the page load, the CPU utilization goes back down to normal.

As I have an ongoing obligation to blog sponsors, not to mention I was mentally drained, I was feeling pretty screwed at this point, but was prepared to restore from the previous night’s Veeam file level backups.  I turned to Google looking for other WordPress upgrade experiences.  Search results quickly lead me to this thread which provided a ton of users having the same issue.  A chap by the moniker of jarnez had the solution, or at least workaround which worked for me as well as others.  Open the blog’s admin dashboard (thankfully this is still functional) and install the Permalink Fix & Disable Canonical Redirects Pack plugin and all is back to normal again. 

Thank you jarnez!!!

Old Games Revisited

December 1st, 2010

I got the bug tonight to try one of my old PC games.  I still have several of them on my hard drive dating back to the early to mid 1990’s.  Each time I re-image PC, I make sure that I preserve these games by backing up and restoring their directory structures. 

I wasn’t sure if they would work under Windows 7 but I decided to give it a try.  I made a few attempts to get Doom II launched using various compatibility mode settings but none worked. 

When that failed, I quickly stumbled on skulltag.com.  It’s a free Windows download which lets you play Doom and Doom II on modern Windows platforms.  Not only that, you can play online with other players from the internet.  I downloaded and installed the software and I was literally playing online with another player within a minute.

The following videos bring back a lot of great memories of modem and LAN gaming with old friends in my 20’s and are nothing short of amazing!

Doom II finished in 14:41

 

Quake finished in 17:38

Quake 2 finished in 21:06

SexyBookmarks WordPress Plugin and RSS Feeds

November 4th, 2010

Wednesday night I wrote up a blog post on Veeam Backup and Recovery 5.0 and scheduled its release for this morning at 9am.  I’ve been swamped at work but I did get a chance to validate mid-morning that the post was up.  Shortly after I realized the blog’s RSS Feed had stopped working as of last night’s Veeam post.

Once home from work, I started the troubleshooting.  Due to the self-hosting aspect, IIS, MySQL, the number of plugins in use (I do try to keep to an absolute minimum), the theme mods, the monetizing, Feedburner, etc., my blog has several moving parts and is a bit of a pain sometimes.  WordPress itself is solid but with the add-ons and hacks, it can become a house of cards (it’s a lot like running a game server).  The more time that is invested in a blog, the less of an option it is to firebomb and start over.  I crossed that point of no return a long time ago.  Themes, monetization, and all that stuff aside, the content (and to some degree the comments) is by far the most valuable piece to NOT be lost.  In retrospect, solving the technical issues as they arise is satisfying and a slight boost to the ego, but often times there just aren’t enough hours in the day for these types of problems.

Troubleshooting a WordPress blog is best approached from a chronological standpoint.  Think of the blog as one long timeline of sequentially serial events.  You’ve got post history, comment history, WordPress code history, theme history, plugin history, integration history, hack history, platform infrastructure history (Windows/Linux, MySQL, IIS or Apache), etc.  Blog problems are usually going to be tied back to changes to any one of these components.  If the blog sees a lot of action, malfunctions will usually surface quickly.  “It was working yesterday, but something broke today”.  Such was the case when my blog’s RSS Feeds stopped updating this morning.  As I stated earlier, the best approach is to think about the timeline and go backwards from the point of broken identifying each change that was made to the blog.  Historically for me, it’s usually a plugin or a recent post which has some sort of nasty formatting embedded in it somewhere.

So.. the problem: RSS Feeds broken; no longer updating at Feedburner.  Impact: 3009 RSS subscribers are unaware I’ve written new content – bad for me, bad for sponsors.

Solving this problem was a treat because I had made multiple changes to the blog last night:

  1. Upgraded the theme to a new rev. (finally!)
  2. Applied existing hack functionality to new theme files
  3. Installed two new plugins
  4. Made changes to sidebar widgets
  5. Wrote a Veeam blog post which had some special characters copied/pasted in it

I started by testing my blog’s RSS feed with a syntax/format checker at Feedburner.  It failed.  There’s bad code embedded somewhere which can stem from any of the above changes.

Next I shut down Feedburner integration to help isolate the problem.  With the Feedburner plugin disabled, my blog now supplies its native RSS feed capability which is built into WordPress.  Hitting the URL for the feed showed failure.  Long hourglass followed by a blank browser page with a bit of information, again, about bad code in the feed which cannot be handled.  So now I know Feedburner is indeed not updating because of bad content in the feed (that behavior is by design which is why the internet makes feed checkers to aid in troubleshooting).

Good progress, however I’m still left with identifying which change above caused the RSS feed to stop working.  The next step is to start backing out the above changes.

  1. I started by unpublishing the Veeam post.  No dice.
  2. I then rolled back to the old version of the theme.  Problem still exists.
  3. Then I disabled the SexyBookmarks 3.2.4.2 plugin.  B-I-N-G-O

Shortly after, I found specifically what in the plugin was causing the RSS feed issue.  There’s an option in the plugin settings called Show in RSS feed? (displayed in the image below)  This feature is designed to show the little social media information sharing buttons in RSS feeds when set to Yes.  Whether or not I had configured this option, it was configured as Yes.  When set to Yes, it embeds code in the RSS feed which RSS readers don’t understand, which then leads to RSS feed failure.  With this find, I could disable the feature but at the same time,  keep the plugin enabled.

SnagIt Capture

I can’t say I learned a great deal here.  It was more reinforcement of what I’ve learned in the past.  I’ve been through blog troubleshooting exercises like this before and they were solved using the same or similar techniques.  Blog plugins and modifications ship with the implied warranty of “buyer beware”.  When something goes wrong with your blog, you should be able to tie the problem back to recent changes or events.  In an environment such as mine where I’m the only one making changes and writing content, I’m accountable for what broke and I can isolate the problem to something that I did to cause impact fairly quickly.  Larger blogs hosted somewhere else with multiple owners and authors introduces troubleshooting complexity, particularly if changes aren’t documented.  I guess that’s why change management was invented.  My lab is the last environment I’m aware of where changes can be made without a CR.  That’s one of the reasons why the lab remains so sexy and is such a great escape.

The Crisis of Credit Visualized

August 6th, 2010

I must choose my words carefully here.  This is an interesting video creation from Jonathan Jarvis (credit goes to Guy Kawasaki for the discovery) which explains the financial meltdown that has occurred in the United States.  Just about everyone is impacted in one way or another, but many people will have multiple impacts.  Hopefully, for the sake of future generations, this does not happen again.

The Crisis of Credit Visualized from Jonathan Jarvis on Vimeo.

Gestalt IT Tech Field Day – NEC

July 16th, 2010

It’s the last presentation of the day and the last presentation overall for Gestalt IT Tech Field Day Seattle.  We’ve made a short journey from the Microsoft store in Redmond, WA to to NEC in Bellevue.  Anyone who knows the NEC brand is aware of their diverse portfolio of products and perhaps their services.  Today’s discussion, however, will focus on Storage Solutions.

First a bit of background information on NEC as a corporation:

  • Founded in 1899
  • 142,000 employees
  • 50,000 patents worldwide

Storage. NEC opened up with some of today’s storage challenges faced by many.  Enter HYDRAstor, a two-tier grid architecture comprised of the following key building blocks:

  • Accelerator nodes – Deliver linear performance scalability for backup and archive.
  • Storage nodes – Deliver non-disruptive capacity scalability from terabytes to petabytes.
  • Standard configurations are delivered with a ratio of 1 Accelerator node for every 2 Storage node – ie.:
    • HS8-2004R = 2AN + 4SN = 24TB-48TB Raw
    • HS8-2010R = 5AN = 10SN = 120TB Raw
    • HS8-2020R = 10AN+20SN = 240TB
    • HS8-2110R = 55AN+110SN = 1.3PB Raw

HYDRAstor delivers the following industry standard benefits:

  • Scalability – Non disruptive independent linear scaling of capacity and performance; concurrent multiple generations of compute and storage technology.
  • Self evolving – Automated load balancing and incorporation of new technology reduces application downtime and data outages.
  • Cost efficiency – Reduce storage consumption by 95% or more with superior data deduplication. Ever “green” evolution of energy savings features.
  • Resiliency – Greater protection than RAID witih less overhead.
  • Manageability – No data migration, zero data provisioning, self-managing storage; single platform for multiple data types, formats and quality of service needs.

A few of other key selling points about HYDRAstor:

  • Global Data Deduplication of backup and archive data is achieved during ingest by combining DataRedux with grid storage architecture.  Dedupe of 20% to 50% across all datasets.
  • Distributed Resilient Data (DRD) technology drives data protection beyond what RAID protection offers with less overhead.  At its native configuration, user data is protected against up to three simultaneous disk or node failures.  This equates to 150% greater resiliency than RAID6 and 300% greater resiliency than RAID5 with less storage overhead and no performance degradtion during rebuild and leveling processes.
  • Turnkey delivery.  According to the brochure, HYDRAstor can be installed and performing backup or archive in less than 45 minutes.  I’m not sure what the point of this proclaimation is other than it will most likely be purchased in a pre-racked, cabled, and hopefully configured state.  When I think about deploying enterprise storage, it’s not something I contemplate performing end to end over my lunch hour.

I know some of the other delegates were really excited about HYDRAstor and its enabling technologies.  Sorry NEC, I wasn’t feeling it.  HYDRAstor’s approach seems to consume more rack space than the competition, more cabling, and based on today’s lab walkthru, more cooling.

IMG00778-20100716-1554

Note : Tech Field Day is a sponsored event. Although I receive no direct compensation and take personal leave to attend, all event expenses are paid by the sponsors through Gestalt IT Media LLC. No editorial control is exerted over me and I write what I want, if I want, when I want, and how I want.