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Windows Server 2008 R2 Foundation & Dell T110 Recovery Notes

Ran into a situation where a client's Dell T110 server would no longer boot Windows Server 2008 R2 Foundation off the PERC S100 RAID controller and the two drives that were configured as RAID1.

The symptom happened after a power outage that took out the UPS and crashed Windows Server without a graceful shutdown. Not a pretty thing at all.

First, I discovered the RAID1 was broken and only one drive was showing the desirable "Online" state. The other was "Ready". That should have been OK, but it looks like the RAID failed and the was able to boot, but then crashed and took out the Windows configuration.

The boot would freeze where the green strobing progress bar would be displayed. It would do that for about an hour, then just freeze and stop...

Avoiding Password Prompt When Using ssh

When creating scripts and automating contacts between systems, especially unix-based stuff, you often want things to be automatic without a password prompt. Your script will hang at the password prompt and you'll not be running your process like you want! This is really bad for a scheduled process and kind of annoying for a manual process. You'll get prompted for each command you run.

The solution is to use a private/public key on your systems so that ssh, scp, and related commands won't prompt for a password...

Excel 2003 Crashing on Cut or Paste

I had a user report that, all of a sudden, anytime they cut or pasted something in Excel 2003 running on Windows 7, Excel would crash.

We'd had a problem before with Skype and Bluetooth causing Excel to crash, but when I checked this setting in the registry, it WAS set to zero as needed:

HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Office\Excel\Addins \BtOfficeAddin.BtOfficeIntegration.1\LoadBehavior REG_DWORD 0x0

Change the LoadBehavior key from 3 to 0, if needed. In this case, it was already 0.

So, that left the user still having the problem...

Excel 2003 Slow Opening Files

Recently during the summer of 2011, I had a number of Excel users complain about how slow Excel had become opening spreadsheets, especially over the network.

It also seemed to affect files opened from Outlook and locally stored files, but was most pronounced on Network files.

It also seemed to mostly affect XP and Excel 2003 users, but that could be because they run on older computers which "feel the pain" of slow opening files.

There are a lot of articles on the interwebs talking about similar slow downs, but they didn't help...

Zimbra and Barracuda Cagefight SMTP Address Rejection Battle!

Ever have your Zimbra server and Barracuda anti-spam system fighting it out over bad recipients? This can really slow down the Barracuda's interface and mail processing.

The fix I used back in 2009 was to make some changes to the POSTCONF settings in zmmta.cf

Testing Virgin Mobile's Broadband2Go

UPDATE 2/21/2011: It gets worse. I can no longer recommend Virgin Mobile for anyone but those that have no other options. The monthly price went up $10 from $40 to $50 per month and the cap went down from 5GB to 2.5GB before you get throttled. If you have the current plan, you're OK for now, but if anything happens (like your credit card expires) and your plan doesn't stay 100% active, you'll lose the $40 plan and be forced into the more expensive, more limited $50 plan. STAY AWAY FROM VIRGIN MOBILE!

UPDATE 1/17/2011: While my information in this review remains accurate and true for most aspects for Virgin Mobile's BB2G product, they just announced that they are discontinuing the unlimited plan and it is now an "unlimited to 5GB, then you'll be throttled" plan. I can't recommend it anymore as a DSL replacement or "use it if you can't get DSL" plan, except for the lightest of users. When will these companies realize that the real world uses more than 5GB a month?

I decided to try out Virgin Mobile's Broadband2Go data service. We have good Sprint coverage around here and that is the network VM uses.

I chose the USB modem since I didn't need the mifi shared service and the device cost a lot less. I have a router at home that takes USB broadband modems, so that was nice, too.

The modem is an Ovation MC760, so it is compatible with many 3G compatible routers. The cost online was just $79 and the monthly prepaid service is advertised at $40 per month unlimited (without limits). The low cost, Sprint 3G network, and $40 per month all pointed to a pretty good deal for my use.

I ordered the modem online directly from Virgin and had it in two business days. The cost online was $79 vs. $99 from Best Buy, so I went that way.

I did have a few problems installing it...

Google TV/Logitech Revue Review

For some reason, as a registered Google developer, I received a Logitech Revue Google TV device a few weeks ago to try out.

It took a couple of weeks to get to because I was waiting to upgrade my internet connection to Virgin Mobile's truly unlimited plan before I was tempted to download any videos.

So, I got finally got the thing out of the box and got it working (I'm writing this using Chrome and the Revue, right now!).

The set up process was OK, since I'm a little technical, but I'm not sure Grandma is going to be able to set this one up...

How to Caffeinate Seagate's Sleepy Little Drives

I've been using Seagate's small 1.5TB USB 3.0 external drives for backups lately. I stopped using tapes for new systems a couple years ago, but my client's capacity needs have kept me recommending externally powered 3.5" high capacity drives, except for smaller servers, which could handle backing up on unpowered (or rather, powered through USB) 2.5" USB 2.0 external drives. These new drives from Seagate give me the small size, large capacity, and internal power capabilities that I've been looking for (can't wait for the 15TB version to come out a a few years :-).

I've used USB 2.0, eSata, and firewire interfaces with best compatiblity results coming from using the slower USB 2.0. The other interfaces worked for awhile, but something would happen and I'd go back to good old USB 2.0.

These new drives use 3.0, but I don't. I haven't had any problems with 2.0 compatibility.

Overall, this strategy has worked well and the cost of high capacity portable external disk drives has really come down. Down to about $.10 per gigabyte!

I've only found one problem with these drives and that is that they usually come decaffeinated! They come by default with power saving sleep modes enabled and set to 5 minutes. Some servers and operating systems will wait patiently for them to come out of a sleep, but others won't. In fact, I've had systems crash when they attempt to access a formerly working drive that has gone to sleep.

This is a ginormous problem because the thing we are doing to save our data is actually crashing our system!

So, here's what I did...

Fixing the Apple iPad, iPhone, and Touch's Problem with Displaying Data as Phone Numbers

I had a problem with a data heavy website not displaying numbers correctly when accessing the site from an iPad.

Specifically, numbers in a table would show up as blank on the iPad, but look great on every other browser. I thought it was a css issue, but the problem was that Safari was "helping" me by converting these number strings into links that, when you touch the screen, would ask if I wanted to add a new contact. That was my first hint. When I said, yes, I did, it took the number and tried to format as a phone number.

It turns out there isn't a way to turn this off in Safari or the iPad, but you can fix it by creating a meta tag...

VMware ESXi 4.0 Update 1 Installation On A Big Array

I ran into a problem figuring out how to set up a large, multiple terrabyte disk array that was usable by VMware ESXi.

Specifically, I'm setting up a server with 16GB of memory and a 4-core 3ghz processor to run VMware ESXi 4.0 (Update 1). This driveless Dell rack server is hooked up to an external Dell MD1200 array packed with 7.2TB of storage. I wanted to make the entire 7.2TB (less after accounting for RAID5) available to my virtual machines.

The MD1200 has the option to split into two drive arrays and be accessed by two systems. For this configuration, I'm just going to have the one server, so I set up redundant paths (2 cables) from the server to the first controller on the array.

A few of the things you need to know about installing ESXi...

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