About Ed Hands

 I have been working in the IT field for over twenty years.  

In addition to spending time with my beautiful wife and two lovely daughters,  I enjoy practicing the guitar, Tae Kwon Do, reading, and grilling out  I am always trying to plan the perfect road-trip with my family.  Hopefully there will be coffee.

The purpose of this blog is to journal my experience in the IT field and hopefully provide a useful guide to those doing likewise.  And to journal my random musings on technology, computers, or whatever else strikes my fancy.  Adult ADD FTW!!!!  Ohhh...look...something shiny....

 

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Wednesday
Aug282013

VMWare, I have bested you!!!

I recently got a new iMac at work to replace my desktop and clunky, heavy HP Elitebook laptop(which clocks in at a mighty 8.25 pounds).  The idea was to slim down to an iMac and a Macbook Pro and use VMWare Fusion to run the Windows operating system for the items I could not do with the iMac.

Everything started off great.  I began by installing Microsoft Office for Mac 2011 (which is pretty great) and then a few other nifty little programs I cannot live without on my Mac (Dropbox, LastPass, XMarks, KeePassX, Jump Desktop, and Evernote) and then downloaded and installed VMWare Fusion 5.

Pretty sure I was on my way doing a migration from my clunky 32-bit Windows 7 machine to the new Mac.  I kicked it off and went home.  The next morning, the migration was complete and I fired up the VM with no issues. Yes!  One down, two (or three) to go.

The next one was an already existing VM for Windows XP, and that was simply moving the VM from an old machine to the iMac.  About an hour later that was finished (And the was moving from VMWare workstation 7 to VMWare Fusion 5.)

So then it came time to do my main PC: An HP Elitebook 8540w with 8 GB of RAM and 4 CPUs.  As I had great success with the Migration Assistant in Fusion 5, I would give that a shot.  I kicked it off and let it run its nine (ugh) hours.  Sadly, nine hours passed and I got the "migration failed" message.

I tried again (thinking perhaps it was a transient error and got the same result.

So it was time to try the Standalone converter.  I uninstalled the PC Migration agent and installed the new version of VMWare Standalone Converter.  I had a pretty good feeling about this as I had run this converter before and it worked very well.  So I attached an external hard drive to the machine and kicked of the conversion.  It got to 98% and failed.

So I uninstalled the Migration Agent, the Standalone converter, and my AV and firewall, then reinstalled the latest Standalone Converter agent and tried again.  It failed again at 98%.  It was time to call VMWare.

I called and spoke with a person that seemed to want to help at first, but wasn't real committed to the process.  He remoted into the machine and kicked off another migration, this time setting the processors to 1, the memory to 2 GB, disabling all NIC cards and setting the hard drive pro "preserve source."

I told him it would take a few hours and I would email him when it was finished.  Naturally it failed again (at the now incredibly frustration 98%) and I emailed him the results and asked him to call me. 

The next day he called me (he when home sick apparently) and remoted in to see the results screen.  He asked around a spoke to a few other techs there and they were all in agreement that this issue was unresolvable and nothing further could be done with this PC or to assist me in getting this converted.

I didn't like this answer.

I thanked him, hung up the phone, opened a web browser and started doing some investigating.  Certainly I couldn't be the only person with this issue, right?  The frustrating part of this is that I had done a Standalone migration on this PC before and it worked fine.

I took another look at the error that it generated.  The warning before it failed said "Warning: Unable to update the BCD on the destination machine's system volume" followed by the Error "An error occured during reconfiguration."  The final status of the job was "FAILED: Unable to find the system volume, reconfiguration is not possible."

So I started my search on the VMWare website and came up with a document that explained how to use BDCEdit to modify the the boot configuration data to allow the Standalone converter to proceed.  It seems there was a 100 MB "system reserve" partition that was defining itself a C: and where my data was as D:. I booted up with the Windows 7 install disc and proceeded as instructed, and retried the migration.  Again, failure.  I went back using the command prompt in the recovery console and BCDEdit shows that the settings had reverted to what they were originally.   I changed them once again and rebooted.  On a hunch I decided to go back in and, once again, the settings had revered to their original settings.  So regardless of how many times I tried this BCDEidt, as long as that system reserve partition existed, the issue would persist.

And this is where it gets a little scary.  I knew I needed to get rid of that system reserve partition, but I also need to make sure I could get back into it if the VM Migration didn't work.

So I proceeded to make a clone of the original disk.  I used a Apricorn Sata data cable and EZGig data transfer software to make a duplicate of my original drive on a spare laptop HD that I had laying around.  The cloning took about two and half hours but once finished I had a duplicate I could safely play with and not jeopardize the original.

I found a good article on sevenforums.com on how to go about removing the system reserve partition and then another on running the startup repair to restore the boot.ini and such to allow the computer to once again boot.  I ran through the startup repair twice and on the third boot attempt I saw the happy windows screen jump to life prompting me to give it a ctrl+alt+del.

Once in I initiated the Standalone conversion.  After two hours this time, however, I was met with a much-longed for green "Success!" prompt.

I copied the VDMK over to my iMac, imported it in the Fusion and, ta-da, it worked like a charm.

And the techs at VMware said it couldn't be done...pashaw!

They just weren't motivated enough.  :)

Tuesday
Aug272013

Syria: Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

Once again the United States is poised to take military action in the middle east. The quick rush to a conclusion before the evidence has been gathered and analyzed by the Obama administation is troubling on many levels. Not the least of which is that we really have no idea, based on media reports, who actually used the chemical weapons. But the gears of the United States war machine are in motion. And as we saw in 2003, once in motion they are hard to stop. I fear the Obama administration is about to make a terrible mistake.

I certainly don't want to see the Syrian people terrorized by chemical weapons...or any weapons for that matter. But before we let slip the dogs of war, we best make sure they unleashed at the coreect people for the correct reason.

I pray that cooler head will prevail in Washington over the next few days and that the cool, thoughtful, idealist President that was elected five years ago will show up.

Thursday
Aug222013

Barracuda Spam Filter Out Queue Issue


I recently implemented a Barracuda Spam and Virus Firewall 300 at a business. The configuration was easy enough as they had an Exchange 2010 environment. Having a similar live system at my own company made it even easier as I could just walk through it tab by tab and essentially duplicate the settings I had on my existing system.


The implementation from out of the box to installed and filtering took about three hours. Everything looked great. Or so I thought...


As usual with these type of things, the unexpected always rears it's ugly head. This time it was several days after initial implementation. People we complaining about two things: 1) their quarantined mail didn't have nearly as many items in it as their old system (Postini by Google) and 2) some emails were taking up to eight hours to be delivered.


This first issue they raised was a simple explanation: the Barracuda simply was filtering them out rather than quarantining them. I asked them if they wanted me to dial back the filtering to have it put more in the quarantine rather than outright blocking it. "No, no..." they said "we hated all those emails in there. We just didn't know where they went."


The second issue was a bit trickier. I started looking at the logs and the queues and the Advanced Queue management and sure enough some emails would be queued for delivery but would never make that last jump over to the Exchange server.


Now this Exchange server is nothing special, but it is probably overkill for this company's purposes. It is on a HP Proliant DL380 Gen 5 with 16 GB or RAM and dual processors. Not a monster, but with only ten users, more than enough horsepower to suffice.


I contacted Barracuda support and they told me that the spam filter was having issues connecting to the Exchange server and at times it looked like it wasn't even getting an SMTP connection.

I proceeded to go about applying all software updates and firmware patches on as well as the latest device drivers. No dice. Still had the issue.


They I replaced the NIC cards, the switch and the cables going from the server to the switch and the Barracuda to the switch. Still nothing.


At this point, I talked to Barracuda again and told them that I had pretty much replaced everything I could from a network standpoint, but I was not convinced that it wasn't an issue with the Barracuda Unit. They shipped me another one and I had it the next day. Applied some firmware updates on the new unit, transferred the configuration and....nothing. Same problem.


So back to the drawing board I went. I started to do research the SMTP connector on Exchange 2010. After a few hours of searching, I hit pay dirt. I opened the Exchange Management Shell (EMS) and typed the following:



Get-ReceiveConnector -Identity "Default <Servername>" | fl


It then proceeded to list several key pieces of information. The based on the research I did, I changed the following settings:


Set-ReceiveConnector -Identity "Default <Servername>" -ConnectionTimeout 00:10:00

Set-ReceiveConnector -Identity "Default <Servername>" -ConnectionInactivityTimeout 00:10:00

Set-ReceiveConnector -Identity "Default <Servername>" -Banner "220 SMTP OK"


These ccould actually be combined to the following:


Set-ReceiveConnector -Identity "Default <Servername>" -ConnectionTimeout 00:10:00 -ConnectionInactivityTimeout 00:10:00 -Banner "220 SMTP OK"


So I applied these settings and went back to my Barracuda and checked the queue....and I waited.


And waited.


And waited.


And nothing happened. The mail sailed right through just like it should. Problem solved.

Hopefully someone else will find this information useful and won't have to jump through all the hoops I did.

Thursday
Aug222013

Hacking a Samsung LCD TV

I have a 46" Samsung monitor on my wall (Model UN46C5000) that I use to display the output of some Network Monitoring software we use (Passler, btw.)  This monitor is attached to a Mac Mini via the HDMI port.

The one fly in the ointment has always been turning the darn thing on every morning.  I know it may seem trivial, but usually the mornings are the busiest time of day of me in IT and sometimes that computer just doesn't get turned on.  And I am kind of opposed to just leaving it on and wasting energy.

Now Macs are great at starting themselves up and shutting themselves off, and my Samsung TV has the same capabilities.  However it can only turn on and off the the TV input or a USB input, not the HDMI input (which seems pointless to me, but whatever.)

So I turn to my old friend Google.  I found a forum on CNET where people were complaining about this exact same issue.  A few pages down someone had found a hack that worked around the issue (which the Samsung Rep that was posting to the forum failed to tell anyone which I find both deceitful and troubling.)

Apparantly there is a thing called "Hotel Mode."  Like all good hacks, this one has some very dangerous setting that can mess your TV up pretty bad, so use with caution.  Also please not that this also has the effect of clearing any of the settings you already had setup (like color settings, timers, time, etc.) Anyway, apparantly on many Samsung TV models, to get into this Hotel Mode, what you do is turn the television off and then press the mute button followed by the numbers 1, 8, and 2  (in that order) and then power on the television again.  When the television comes back on there will be a service menu there with all kinds of crazy cool stuff.  Digging through the menus you'll want to turn the Hotel Mode to "on" and the Power On Source to "HDMI/DVI".  Once finished, power cycle your television again.

Once that is finished, go in and setup your timers but ignore the source, antenna, and channel settings.  They no longer do anything.  ;)

And that's about it.  I have tested it a few times now and it seems to work great.  Good luck and have fun!

Monday
Aug052013

System Restore Fun!!!

We have had an on-going issue on our network for some time that I finally resolved.  Our network is a Windows 2008 domain environment using (obviously) AD and employing GPOs to enforce quite a few policies.  Most of the client machines are Windows 7 with a few remaining XP machines in place just for a little variety.

The issue we have had is that end-users were not able to manually able to create restore points.  When a user tried to create one manually, they would get the following error:

The restore point could not be created for the following reason:

Not all privileges or groups referenced are assigned to the caller. (0x80070514)

Please try again.

If the PC was removed from the domain, manual restore points could once again be created.  So the source of the problem appeared to be a GPO.  However a check of the GPO System restore settings were set to the default "not configured" (meaning that System restore was enabled.  The GPO allows the System restore to be UI and SR configuration to be disabled, but the alternative to allow System Restore to function is simply to set these settings to "not configured".)

A check of the registry on effected machines showed nothing unusual either.  GPOs and Registry seemed to check out.

So back to the message.  The phrase "Not all privileges or groups referenced" piqued my curiosity.  I decided to look at the GPO and focus on the local security policy.  There, in User Rights Assignments I saw one that was interesting: "Back Up Files and Directories".  This setting was set to domain admins.  I added domain users to this privilege and rebooted.

Ta-da!  Once again users we able to manually create restore points.