Browsing Posts published by Kevin

Kevin here. I’m stuck in the car for a two-hour drive to Columbus, so I might as well write a blog post about a recent experience I had with Server 2012 and NIC teaming. Microsoft’s Server 2012 comes jam-packed full of great tools and features like storage spaces, the next  version of Hyper-V, SMB 3.0 and integrated NIC teaming. But I recently came across a very odd behavior with the new NIC teaming and took me (off and on) about a month to resolve. It was for a personal project so I didn’t sink much time into it. I then had the exact same issue at a client location and solved their issue within minutes. Hopefully this blog post will save someone some frustration!

So, NIC teaming. What is it? It’s the ability to join multiple network cards together to either accomplish greater redundancy or increased performance. So if you had four 1 gigabit network cards, you could gain a theoretical 4Gb connection to that server or make it so if two of the four were disconnected, your server would still be accessible. If those connections were spread among four different switches,  one of those switches fails, clients on the other switches are (probably) not affected. Overall it’s a good thing to try to implement into your environment, and with every new Windows Server 2012 deployment we do at Simplex we try to leverage this technology into our clients infrastructure.

Now with a little background on NIC teaming, what went wrong? My home environment used 2 NIC Team using the switch independent configuration mode. The server is a Hyper-V host with a four VMs running on it. All four VMs share the team and life is good. Mostly. I use a small device called an Arduino to track temperature at various places in my house. Another geek project I’m proud to have set up. The original incarnation of my Hyper-V host did not use teaming, and when I made the upgrade, my Arduino stopped communicating with the Linux server that would poll it. Ping would work fine, I could access the Arduino from other systems in my house but never through the Linux machine. I later find out I could not access it through any of the VMs on that system. At this point I’m tweaking firewalls, the MAC address of the Arduino and every other half brained attempt to get this to work. I then had an “aha!” moment, I recalled I did not use NIC teaming in the original setup. I powered down my server, installed a spare gigabit network card (doesn’t everyone have spares of these?), created a new virtual switch that only used this new adapter, bound the Linux server to the switch and voila! The Linux server was perfectly pooling the Arduino again.

To this day I’m not sure why it was broken. My best guess is the Arduino’s simple network interface was “too simple” to handle the NIC team’s multiple interfaces and lost the traffic from confusion. Fast forward a few months and we have a similar issue with Server 2012, a 4 channel LACP NIC team, and a “simple” network device. The device is a small PCL capture device that is polled by a virtual machine on the 2012 Server. The VM would ping the server but communication was spotty at best, with occasional initial connection issues and random disconnects. Based on my experience at home, I had the onsite technician reconfigure the VM to use a single NIC on the server (it had 2 spare unused NICs) and things started working just fine.

As time allows, I want to figure out what exactly is happening to the network traffic that’s causing the breakdown in communication. Until then if I run across other simple devices I will just configure them for single un-teamed network interfaces.

Kevin here. My much more intelligent than myself wife happened to find this tidbit of information:
http://m.winsupersite.com/mobile-devices/google-throws-down-gauntlet-kills-eas-support?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

Basic story is Google is dropping support for the “standard” ActiveSync protocol almost every modern mobile device uses. The exceptions will be for paid Google Apps accounts and education/government accounts. As a user of a windows phone device with Google email accounts, this will absolutely affect me. I like the options I have now of choosing a device, but Google is trying to make it so you don’t have a choice. I guess we sit back and see what this turns into (other than a bloody war between Google and Microsoft.)

Kevin here. I’m usually a lazy, lazy man and don’t spend the 15 seconds it takes to install other browsers, so I’ll just stick to Internet Explorer. I just learned that as of November 13th, Microsoft released a “release preview” version or IE10 for Windows 7. IE10 gives enhanced support for HTML5 (IE9′s is rather primitive/stripped down), built in Adobe Flash integration, and a new feature called “Flip Ahead”. It’s turned off by default (huh?) but if you were unlazy and turned it on, you could flip through pages with a next page button.
And yes, installing IE10 on Windows 7 would mean being unlazy for a minute, but I skirted the issue entirely by using Windows 8 which has IE10 built in already. But for those who like to tinker, here’s something else to try!

http://ie.microsoft.com/testdrive/info/downloads/

Hello, Kevin here. A common task any system administrator comes is migrating data from one server. Whether from retirement, space, or hardware failure, it can sometimes prove difficult to update the hordes of shortcuts pointing to old share locations. There is thankfully an easy way around this though NetBIOS aliasing. The basic idea is to make your new file hold appear as the same name as the old one. So if your old server was named SERVER1 and the new one SERVER2, we can apply the SERVER1 name to SERVER2 and any shortcuts referencing SERVER1 will work just like they always have.

  1. Verify all your data is moved over with the proper shares and permissions. Robocopy is a great tool to do this with (something along the lines of ROBOCOPY /e /sec /w:1 /r:1 /dcopy:t /z \\SERVER1\share \\SERVER2\share).
  2. Decommission the old server. This means unjoining it from the domain, deleting all DNS and WINS records, and deleting the account from Active Directory.
  3. Add DNS aliases. Create CNAMEs for SERVER1.domain.local that point to SERVER2.domain.local.
  4. Add the following registry key to your new server.
    Path: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\LanmanServer\Parameters
    Type: MULTI_SZ
    Key Name: OptionalNames
    Value: Carriage-Returned list of names, so in our case here, SERVER1 <press enter>. if you want more names it’s SERVER1 <enter> SERVER_OLD <enter>
  5. Restart the new server
  6. If you’re impatient, do a ipconfig /flushdns on any workstation and your DNS servers. Otherwise, if you wait long enough (call it an hour), all your systems will pickup the new information and start working.

I’ve also used this method for production items like print server. Instead of building queues pointing to \\SERVERNAME, create an alias called \\PRINTSERVER and point your clients to that. That way if you ever migrate to a new server you don’t have to remap the clients manually! Server 2008R2′s preferences help with printer mapping, but there are still plenty of older networks out there that can use all the help they can get!

As usual, all questions and comments are welcomed! Kevin, kevin@simplex-it.com

Hello again, Kevin here. I was recently doing some web searches and came across this handy-dandy list of shortcuts you can use inside a remote desktop (terminal server for us who have been in the business too long). Microsoft seems to be pushing the whole concept of Remote Desktop more, so things like this will definitely come in handy. Enjoy!

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb457106.aspx

Windows Key Combinations for Client Computer Equivalent Keys for Remote Desktop Session Description
ALT+TAB ALT+PAGE UP Switches between programs from left to right.
ALT+SHIFT+TAB ALT+PAGE DOWN Switches between programs from right to left.
ALT+ESC ALT+INSERT Cycles through the programs in the order they were started.
CTRL+ESC Switches the client between a window and full screen.
CTRL+ESC ALT+HOME Displays the Start menu.
ALT+DELETE Displays the Windows menu.
PRINT SCREEN CTRL+ALT+MINUS (–) symbol on the numeric keypad Places a snapshot of the active window in the Remote Desktop session on the clipboard.
CTRL+ALT+DEL CTRL+ALT+END Displays the Task Manager or Windows Security dialog box. (Only use CTRL+ALT+END to issue this command. CTRL+ALT+DEL is always interpreted by the client computer.)
ALT+PRINT SCREEN CTRL+ALT+PLUS (+) symbol on the numeric keypad Places a snapshot of the entire Remote Desktop session window on the clipboard.

Greetings! I’ve had this idea for a blog post for a while and I’m finally getting around to actually writing it. Go me.

So, the day will inevitably come when you need to reach back to a backup and retrieve some data. A drive has failed, someone overwrote your documents, a natural disaster has claimed your location, whatever. Shortly after looking at your backup, your expression changes that to horror as you realize that either A) Your backups haven’t been working like you thought they were, or B) You never had them in the first place. Neither are good situations to be in. So what can you do? Well, first of all make sure this problem doesn’t happen.
CHECK YOUR BACKUPS!
Make it a part of your routine to check them <plug>or hire us at Simplex-IT to do it for you.</plug> Whatever you decide, just check them and avoid the frustrations, time loss and cost of your remaining options. Remaining options? You mean there’s hope? Well, the answer like so many other things is “it depends”. Here’s a brief run through of a few ways to recover data.

DON’T PANIC!
Douglas Adams never spoke truer words. Stop using the drive and execute your game plan for recovery. Even if that plan is “call your favorite IT support company” that’s a great place to start.

Check the Recycle Bin
If the victim was a file on your computer, check here first. You might have just deleted it and it’ll be sitting there waiting for you.

Check Windows Shadow Copies
Shadow Copies? Isn’t that something an anime character does? (I had to get the Naruto joke in there somehow). If you’re using Windows Vista, 7, Server 2008 or Server 2008 R2, you might be able to restore a file or folder on your computer by looking at previous versions of the object. These can also be enabled for network shares, talk to your network administrator if they have it enabled or not. To use it, right click the file or folder you overwrote/deleted and choose the “Previous Versions” tab. If you have any restore points they will be listed there. You can view them or do a restore from here.
The major downside to this is it isn’t always turned on by default and it will use up some system resources (hard drive space, processing power) depending on how long you want the previous versions stored. But generally speaking it doesn’t consume much so I would suggest enabling it on any system. The default settings work well, but you can tweak it as you see fit.

Stick the Drive in the Freezer
I’m serious. Depending on how a drive fails, freezing a drive overnight might allow it to operate long enough to pull the most critical data off. I’ve personally tried this about a dozen times and roughly half have succeeded. The technical explanation for why this is freezing causes physical parts of the drive to change shape, so in the case of a mechanical failure the changing shape might be enough to allow the drive to function. It’s crazy but it can work.

Undelete Tools
If the above didn’t help, there are tools available that will scour a drive looking for any bits and fragments of a file and attempt to reconstruct them. How can it do this? When you delete a file, Windows doesn’t delete the contents, it only delete references to it. A good analogy is think of your hard drive as a filing cabinet. Your data is like the files in it, and outside of the cabinet is a binder with the location of everything inside. Deleting a file is like crossing out the entry in the binder outside, the file is actually still in there, but any reference to it is gone. Undelete programs manually sift through the entire contents of the drive and will report back what it can or cannot retrieve. The problem here is that as Windows operates, it goes through and potentially overwrites the original data. The longer you wait to recover the higher chance you will lose the data.
If I had to list out the cons of any of the undelete programs, I would start at speed and reliability of recovery. Depending on the size of the drive, it could take days to scan. During that time you cannot use your computer less you compromise your reliability of anything it finds. The programs generally aren’t expensive, but depending on how thorough it scans, how it scans and a host of other options, the programs can be a little as free, and go up into the thousands of dollars. In my opinion you get what you pay for. I’ve personally used several pieces of software to do this and I’ve had good luck on simple recoveries. I recently had a family member’s computer hard drive catastrophically fail and lose hundreds of family pictures. The family member also had recently deleted the pictures from their camera, but I was able to go through and extract almost 800 deleted pictures from the memory card with no corruption on the photos.

Data Recovery Services
If nothing else has worked, this is your last resort. In this scenario, you package up your drive and ship it someplace for them to peel the drive apart (both logically and/or physically) and extract everything they can. Most places charge a fee to even look at a drive, and then depending on how it has failed the costs add up, quickly. A simple FAT corruption could be a few hundred dollars to recover, whereas a head crash or firmware corruption might be several thousand dollars to recover. It boils down to how bad you want your data. I’ve worked with a few of these places throughout my career and have had good success with them. They aren’t cheap, but your chances of recovery are much higher here than any other solution.

I can’t stress how important it is to test you backups regularly and not have to do anything that I just ran through. Outside of the inconvenience of it all, depending on the data for your business there might be legal issues involved with being unable to reproduce old records.

I think I’ve rambled on enough. If there are any questions or comments feel free to contact me at kevin@simplex-it.com

And if I didn’t mention it already, CHECK AND VALIDATE YOUR BACKUPS! Just hearing a tape spin up or job marked “successful” isn’t enough. Verify contents and test them regularly.

A friend of mine turned me onto this great utility for controlling remote computers that are physically next to each other, it’s called “Mouse without Borders”. My home office consists of a desktop computer, but I also keep my laptop on my desk. I would normally need a KVM or a 2nd set of keyboard/mouse to flip between the two effectively. This is rather inefficient. I then found some utilities that would allow me to move my desktop’s keyboard/mouse. The first one I tried “MaxiVista” (http://www.maxivista.com/) worked pretty good, but I couldn’t use Aero visual enhancements with it. Yes I’m being picky and spoiled. However once I was pointed towards Mouse without Borders I use this functionality all the time and can keep Aero turned on without any issues. Over 1GB ethernet I notice no lag with mouse movements or keyboard typing, and the copy/paste features really do work well. It is extremely easy to switch between machines now, it’s just like having multiple monitors how you move between them.

Here’s the link to it, I hope others find it as useful as I have!
Microsoft’s “The Garage” Mouse without Borders
http://blogs.technet.com/b/next/archive/2011/09/09/microsoft-garage-download-mouse-without-borders.aspx

Kevin here, while I do not post much, I do try to post things I think are useful to people. To that extent, I developed a tool in PowerShell that will load IP profiles (IP address, Subnet Mask, Gateway etc) based on information stored in a .csv. You can then apply the profiles to a network card of your choosing. I knew I wanted to play with PowerShell as it’s the way Microsoft is going for system administration, and I recently worked someplace where I was *constantly* changing my IP to static values. This tool is a product of my learning and annoyance. You are more than welcome to look at the code and laugh, it is by far not the best out there, but it works. As I create more I’ll post them here!

Here’s the zipped up .ps1 and a sample .csv.  IPSwitcher

 

Recently my Motorola Atrix stopped receiving my Office 365 emails for no reason. The connection was still setup but I constantly received connection errors using both 4G and WiFi. I eventually found putting the specific Office 365 server in resolved my issue. I removed the old account from my phone then followed the instructions on the two links below.

Set Up POP or IMAP E-Mail on an Android Mobile Phone
http://help.outlook.com/en-us/140/dd772208.aspx?selfhelp
* Write down your server from this link

Mobile Phone Setup Wizard
http://g.microsoftonline.com/0BD00en-US/129
* Follow the Android/Exchange server options and use the server from the above link

I have been using these settings for several weeks now and have not had any issues. Hopefully this helps someone who has the same issue I did!

Kevin

We’re starting to see new drives breaking the 2TB limit become available. These drives use larger sector sizes to increase storage efficiency. (Great technical explanation here: http://www.anandtech.com/show/2888). However, not all applications support this. Microsoft has limited support it on their operating systems and I’ve personally found it not work with Windows Backup and certain portions of Hyper-V (http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2510009). Verify with your application vendor if native 4K , “Advanced format” 4K sectors or emulated 512b sectors is supported by your software!