Archive for November, 2007

Windows Update Surprises

2007-11-14 1 comment

Today is Exploit Wednesday, the day after Microsoft’s Patch Tuesday. We have a maintenance window on some of our stuff the day after Patch Tuesday so that we can get everything patched up to snuff.

I was doing patches on a bunch of Windows 2003 servers tonight, one of which had already received IE7 and the rest that had not. After installing mandatory updates on the first couple that were still on IE6, they couldn’t get onto the Internet anymore in IE6. Every time I tried I got some error that said something about being unable to access a key that wasn’t registered or something. I think it was talking about a registry key but I’m not sure.

I couldn’t run Windows Update to get IE7, because Windows Update uses IE and IE6 was broken. I had to go to a different server, download a standalone IE7 installer for Windows 2003 server, and install IE7 manually. After that the server with the broken IE worked again.

The rest of the servers showed IE7 as a high priority update, with borg-like insistance that resistance was futile. I caved and allowed the IE7 install to go through on all the servers. Each server that got IE7 installed needed four reboots to get all the IE7 patches and the latest Server 2003 patches installed.

Meanwhile, while I was repeatedly rebooting the Windows servers, Mac Software Update popped up on my Mac. It wanted to do an OS update. I let it, and it finished and went away. No reboot. That doesn’t always happen, mind you. I think there have been at least two firmware updates since I got my 20 inch iMac, and those definitely require a reboot. You can’t get away from patches, but at least I’ve never seen a Mac patch run that required more than one reboot.

Categories: Mac Stuff, Windows Servers

More Storage in Colocation

2007-11-08 Leave a comment

Over the weekend last weekend James and I had planned to go to the colocation and add a SATA shelf to our SAN, increasing our storage down there by about 11 TB. The install required firmware updates for every piece of hardware that touched the SAN, including blades, the blade chassis, the SAN controllers, all the existing storage shelves, and every disk. We were pretty concerned about the upgrade, since we have some critical systems that use that storage, including our financial management system and email.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to go because of the funeral for Reagan’s dad, so James went on his own and I helped him remotely. Friday James took some big SCSI disks down and plugged them into one of the pizza boxes we have down there, and I spent all night backing up data and virtual machines while the new storage shelf spent the night burning in on the test bench in the colocation staging area. Saturday morning I got up early and made sure all the backups were done, and then shut everything down. James spent the day installing firmware updates, and then installing the storage shelf. Once he was done, I helped him get everything up and running again. After all is said and done, between the colocation and our corporate office, we have about 50 TB of spinning bits in production.

The install was successful and no data was lost, and everything came back up as expected. There was one bugbear though. On late Monday, the battery in one of the SAN controllers failed, which kicked the whole SAN into write-cache-disabled mode. When write caching is off, the performance of the SAN is inadequate to running our mail and the financial system, and users experience long delays and connection failures. We have a new pair of batteries coming tomorrow, but in the mean time we had to force the controllers to enable write-caching even without the batteries. We risk data corruption in the event of a power loss, but the colocation has battery and diesel backup, plus redundant power feeds from the utility company, so for a day or so it’s an acceptable level of risk. It’ll be fixed tomorrow.

Categories: Storage and Backup

Upgrading to OSX 10.5 Leopard

2007-11-06 3 comments

I pre-ordered the family pack for Leopard. We have four macs so that’s the cheapest way to upgrade them all. It arrived on the release day, Friday October 26, but since nobody was home, the courier took it back and locked it up while they closed for the weekend and I didn’t get it until Monday. So much for a geek-out weekend.

Anyways, once I got it, I upgraded the kids computers first, because one of the big things we wanted to take advantage of was parental controls. I enabled daily time limits for daily use, and bedtimes. Daily use limits cause their desktop sessions to logout after their time limit expires, and bedtimes cause their sessions to logout at bedtime. It uses the Mac’s “Fast User Switching” instead of just logging out, so that their sessions resume where they left off when they are allowed to log back in. That’s pretty cool. It also allows you to enable their accounts for remote management so you can tweak their settings from another mac. One thing missing that would be nice would be the ability to remotely grant additional time on the daily time limit without changing the set limit. I’ve tried also using the “try to automatically restrict browsing to child-safe websites” but it is overly restrictive and prevents sites from working that Emily needs for homework.

The kids computers went smoothly, and everything just works, except for one thing: The printer. I have an HP multifunction network printer, which is supported by OSX. Since the upgrade, sometimes the queue gets stuck and you have to pause and resume printing in the printer’s control panel on the mac to get it to print. I’m hoping that a reinstall of the software for it will fix that up, or that there might be an OSX 10.5 update for it’s driver. I haven’t spent any time troubleshooting that yet.

My computer, of course, didn’t go so smoothly. I installed as an upgrade, and experienced the much-discussed blue screen of death. The documented solutions on Apple’s website didn’t help, because I wasn’t using the application that they said may have been the cause of the problem, so I had to do a reinstall using “Archive and Install” rather than “Upgrade”. That was a huge nuisance, because it required me to fark around with a lot of my applications to get them working again. I had to do things like re-enter license codes or copy data over from the archive folder into my user home directory. Anyways, after that fun experience, everything is working again.

The kids say Safari is faster. It seems to be a bit faster but I still like Firefox better. Google Reader acts a bit flaky on Safari, especially when you are using keyboard shortcuts to hammer through your reading list in List View, which is my favorite mode of using it. I also use Firefox at work on my various Linux and Solaris boxes, with Google Browser Sync to keep my bookmarks synchronized, so Firefox on my mac works out well for me there too.

I’ve tried out screen sharing, which just works, and is very responsive. I also setup Time Machine, which is cool, and was literally a one click setup (plug in an external drive, and when it asks “Do you want to use this drive for Time Machine backups?” click “Yes”). It’s the simplest backup program ever. I’m disappointed that it can’t use network shares as backup targets. I don’t think there’s any reason it shouldn’t be able to use an NFS mountpoint, but it can’t. Apparently it can use iSCSI disks for backup, so I might setup a few zvols on my Solaris server to act as iSCSI targets to use with it. Of the many other new features, Quicklook is the most useful.

I’m giving things a few days to settle and to see if any other problems arise before I upgrade Jenn’s Macbook. She relies on hers for a lot of stuff so I don’t want to bugger it up on her. Once I figure out the printing problem, and get the kinks ironed out on my machine, I’ll update hers. So far it seems to be shaping up to be a worthwhile upgrade.

Categories: Mac Stuff

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