Monday, January 25, 2010

Windows Server 2008 R2 installation hangs on "Starting Windows"

imageI had a strange problem installing a Windows 2008 R2 virtual on a XenServer 5.5 server today.  I gave it 2 VCPUs, 2000mb of RAM (there was not enough free to give it 2048mb), 20gb disk and booted off the ISO for 2008 R2, and it just sits there on "Starting Windows", with the CPUs running at a steady 50%.  This looks wrong as it normally goes through in seconds.

After a quick trawl through the forums this seems to happen in VirtualBox as well and some people fixed it by changing the memory settings.  I did give it 2000mb, which is a bit weird, so I adjusted the other VMs on the server to free up some RAM and upped it to a more normal 2048mb.  Booted again and bam, works first time.  You know its good because the very un-server animation of the Windows logo appears above Starting Windows and then its all go.

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Turned off the machine, set it back to 2000mb, hangs again.  2001mb does not work either, but 2047mb does and so does the relatively inadequate 1536mb - but not 1024mb.  I give up trying to find a pattern at this point. 

Basically if you get this issue with 2008 R2 on a Virtual, pick a number (any number) and change the RAM to it.  It might work.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Disk Space - finding big, old PSTs

Since I suggested SpaceSniffer a while ago it has rapidly spread around the office - its fast, accurate, doesn't require installation and has proved itself a few times in tracking down big data hiding on the network.

It becomes a lot more powerful with a filter applied though - once the scan is complete (which can to be fair take a while on a terabyte drive!) you can apply filters which take effect in seconds to only show certain file types, sizes and ages. 

One filter I have been using a lot is what I call the big, old PST filter:

*.pst;>1mb;>1years

This shows any PST over 1mb, older than a year.  Damn those users and their pesky huge email archives!  We'll get 'em.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Allowing pings in Windows Vista, Windows 7, Server 2008 and 2008 R2

Pings should just always be allowed - checking quickly whether a server is still running happens more often than a Ping Of Death attack!  The firewall will block them by default, so start an administrative Command Prompt and type:

netsh firewall set icmpsetting 8

Windows 2008 R2 and Windows 7 both whinge as below that you're using a deprecated command, but it still works.

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User desperate to get to virus infested Rawlplug site

You have to love users sometimes.  I get a request to "unblock the Rawlplug website" - ignoring the comic possibilities of this (could someone possibly have deemed it a social network site or something and blocked it?) I take him seriously and I have a look at the website myself.  Luckily my virus protection is as up to date as that of the user in question as my anti-virus intercepts the same Trojan that is stopping him getting to his wall-fixing goodies.
So no, I won't "unblock" it and let your machine get infected with Malware. 
Why do I feel that this is somehow all my fault?!
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By the way - Rawlplug, your server has been done over.  Please fix it.

Monday, January 11, 2010

SQL Server - SharePoint_Config_Log.LDF in worst ever data to log ratio

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Apparently this is quite a common problem with the SharePoint config database, but it still amused me.  A 10 megabyte database generating a 38 GIGABYTE log?!

I'd say the disk space issues on that server have just been solved.

I could just set that database to Simple recovery model, but I think I will be good and put a daily transaction log backup on it. 

I might truncate it first.

BACKUP LOG SharePoint_Config WITH TRUNCATE_ONLY

Then.

USE SharePoint_Config
GO
DBCC SHRINKFILE('SharePoint_Config_log', 2)
GO

33gb disk space freed up.  Now back it up!

SpaceSniffer

Just a quick post recommending SpaceSniffer as an excellent (and free!) tool for helping resolve disk space issues.  It takes a volume (or folder, or network share) and does a quick scan on what is using the space, converting the information into an image, with the biggest files or folders represented by proportionally big blocks.  Quite often an inexplicably full drive just turns out to have a huge temp file somewhere you can blow away (or in a recent successful use of it, some user has uploaded 2gb of his wedding photos to the departmental shared drive.) and these tend to stick out like a sore thumb.

Its not the only disk space visualizer out there - there are several paid for ones and I've been using the also free WinDirStat for a while, which does much the same thing.  SpaceSniffer does have a couple of distinct advantages though.

  • Its quick - and while its working the scan builds up dynamically so you can start checking things out straight away.  Other programs make you wait until the whole scan is done, which can be an age.
  • You don't need to install it.  That's a big plus when you're looking after tens, even hundreds of servers that should not have third party software installed unless needed.  No need for paperwork (or spending time installing it just to use it once), just run it from a network share.
  • You can scan network shares - even better when you are not happy about running things on a critical server, though its much faster to run it locally.
  • It looks good! Okay, its not a key feature, but for once it does not seem to have had its interface designed by an engineer who doesn't get out much.  Its got an intuitive interface, right click on folders to open them in Explorer, double click them to drill down into the contents.  Genius.
  • Did I mention its free?  We like free.

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Saturday, January 9, 2010

Windows Live Writer

Some of Microsoft's more useful stuff recently has been in its Windows Live Essentials download - the Photo Gallery (which comes with a very good slideshow screensaver which plays videos too if your video card is up to it) is a great picture editor and much better than the one that comes with Windows XP or 7,

Messenger is where it should have been (in a download, not preinstalled like in Windows XP), the Movie Maker does what you would expect and Windows Live Writer is a very good Blogging tool.

I've tried to use Live Writer before but it didn't like my "exotic" Blog set up, of a self hosted website whose front page was powered by Blogger, but the new version finally supports it just fine.  I've always found Blogger's interface a bit questionable.  It does the job, but its a pain to have to sign in, the FTP part takes far too long and frankly it doesn't work right in IE8 at all.  It sort of works in Firefox on Windows 7 but putting Images in especially requires far too much hacking about in the HTML.

Anyway, its free, it doesn't need Windows 7 or anything (but you're using 7, right?) and it makes it easier to Blog, so that's another New Years resolution sorted.  But the best thing must be its Polaroid picture plug-in! 

Pointless?  Yes.  But fun.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Gotchas installing XenApp 6 Beta for Windows 2008 R2

imageHad a fun day or two installing the new Beta for XenApp 6, the Windows 2008 R2 only version.  This is an version I had been waiting for for a while since I've found XenApp 5's performance on Windows 2008 to be rather underwhelming unless its installed on a beast of a server.

Anyway, XenApp 6 (okay, so Citrix aren't calling it that yet officially, but its plastered all over the thing under the hood and in the documentation - its XenApp 6, honest) is still a Tech Preview and is a little fiddly.  I fell into the following elephant traps while installing it.

  • License server.  I didn't have a Windows 2008 R2 License Server (only R1), which Terminal Services (sorry, RDS, Microsoft have been at the renaming juice too) wasn't impressed by.  Turns out Windows Server 2008 R2 makes quite a good Terminal Services License server since it can serve licenses for all the server versions from 2000 up to 2008 R2, so we now have a new License server for all our TS servers!  The Tech Preview DVD image comes with the latest full version of License Server, 11.6.1, which finally has a user interface written this century.  Sometimes Citrix change things for the sake of change, but this is a very welcome refresh.
  • XenApp 6 Tech Preview licenses.  In my simple way I thought I could just use actual Citrix licenses for the Tech Preview - nope, it needs fake ones!  Could not find the things anywhere (they're not part of the download, annoyingly) so posted the question to the Citrix Forums site and got a response within about 2 minutes!  That's service.  Anyway, they're here:
    http://www.citrix.com/English/mycitrix/resources.asp?contentID=1860995#top
  • Mixed Farms.  Yes, I tried to join my XenApp 6 servers to my XenApp 5 farm.  No joy.  No mixed farms.
  • Program Neighbourhood.  I was using this to test my apps but could not connect to the new farm - old habits die hard!  Anyway, unless I am being a muppet, XenApp 6 does not support Program Neighbourhood - makes sense since it has been officially dropped for all products by Citrix and is not part of the client download since v11.1 last year.  Connected with the XenApp Agent and Web Interface fine.
  • License Server (again).  Needs specifying for all the servers - and its not where it used to be.  There is now a new "Policies" node in the XenApp Management tool which is basically a version of the Group Policies Management Console and this needed configuring.  Entered my server name in the Unfiltered policy and finally was able to launch applications!
  • Streamed Apps.  Oh yes, and I wanted to use my existing streamed profiles.  No joy, had to install ANOTHER 2008 R2 server (now up to 4 for this test environment - XenApp server, License Server, Profiler and Web Interface - oh, and a database elsewhere!) and the exciting beta of the new version of the Streaming Profiler.   Okay, its not exciting, though I like the fact it supports services. 

Anyway, its all up and running now and looking very nice.  Its already performing better than our XenApp 5 Farm on the same standard hardware - specifically it does not have the same problems with ever expanding logon times above about 75 users per server.  Its lovely.  I want the full version now!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Tips for recording Citrix Apps in VuGen/LoadRunner

One of the most frustrating jobs I have had recently was recording user activity in some Citrix applications using VuGen - HP's Virtual User Generator.

This is a clever and mature product, known as Loadrunner by a lot of people, but it can be a little picky. You record your activity, get it all right, play it back and it just keeps getting stuck as things take different amounts of time to load or you get a popup.

Hair has been torn out.

Anyway, found this very useful resource from someone who has clearly spent longer than me using Loadrunner with Citrix apps.

http://www.loadtester.com/citrix-tips-2007-part-1

Among the tips on the page I found one especially useful. I had great problems with windows of a specific name not being found by a ctrx_sync_on_window command and the test ending abruptly.

This tip got the Replay Log to report what window it actually did see in focus, which was very useful in finding why it was not working. At the top of the code add these lines once:

char window_name[100];long xpos, ypos, width, height;

Then before any ctrx_sync_on_window command, enter the following lines

ctrx_get_window_name(window_name);ctrx_get_window_position(window_name, &xpos, &ypos, &width, &height);

This will then log what window it does see - simple but very useful. Obviously your logging has to be sorted out if you're going to use this when the script is running outside Loadrunner on something like HP's BAC...