Toralko.info is online

Toralko.info, a domain name that I’ve owned for 6 months now, has finally found a purpose in life. It’s now the domain name of the website where, amongst others, you can learn what projects the Toralko group (That would be the abbreviation for Toretto and a few other names) is working on. Nothing huge – or financially rewarding – but the projects are a nice way for us to develop our skills in various areas (most of them “internet” related.)

Toralko.info is already online but we haven’t got much to show right now. There’s a home page welcoming people, and a page doing some explaining about the most important projects of the group. Expect much, much more in the future!

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VMWare drama, the follow up

Yester day after noon, all problems were fixed.  The server purred like a satisfied kitten again, and all virtual machines that were company-critical (I use this term loosely here) were started.

Because I had to work this afternoon – placing a server at a customer’s office so we can configure it later on and migrate their files ans settings etc. etc. I left work at lunch break yesterday.  It was 3 PM when I got a call… the VM of one of the students refused to start.  So I tried and fix that without heading back to the office.  I didn’ really have high hopes of that working out well, and I was right.  My internet connection at home is slow as hell – working wirelessly w/ a mediocre reception guarantees bad performance when working on our servers remotely – but that wasn’t the biggest problem.  When I started up the virtual machine, it was impossible for me to log in.  I tried everything, but I’ve got no clue what happened with that vm.  Ok, I do.  The keyboard settings were a mess, and I couldn’t enter the proper credentials for that machine.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  I’m from Belgium, and if I’ve got a keyboard problem it’s usually an azerty / qwerty problem.  Because of this I’ve got a fairly well idea of what keys to use. But this time I had no clue

To get numbers to appear, I had to hold shift and push the numbers on my numpad.  shift + the numbers on the top row of the keyboard didn’t work; only the symbols came out as a result.  Symbols that aren’t linked to these keys, not in azerty OR qwerty settings.  Also, there was no way to make an  @.  asci codes to create an @ didn’t work.  Which was pretty much predictable because of the hard time I had to actually get 64 show on the screen.

Well, it was a mess and I’m wondering what the hell went wrong…

VMWare drama, day 2

Yesterday, things went wrong on the company’s Ubuntu-based VMWare server (See post of yesterday under Technology, VMWare).  This morning, all problems seemed to be a thing of the past until VMware decided to cross my working schedule again – I couldn’t make a connection to the VMWare Server 2 administration site.  Because Firefox – my browser of choice – was being a a pain in the neck, for a few seconds I thought that Firefox was the problem.  After trying to log in with 3 different browsers it was obvious that VMWare itself was the problem.

I tried to restart VMWare from Ubuntu’s command-line, using the /etc/init.d/vmware restart command, but some of the services failed.  in a dumb move I decided to give the whole server an update, but that plan backfired.  After the update to Ubuntu 8.0.10 was complete (I planned to update to 9.0.4 but apparently that can’t be done without updating to 8.0.10); the server rebooted.  Instead of fixing any problems, new problems were created.

no response from the KVM Switch

We’re only a small company but are still using a Fujitsu Siemens server rack with 4 blade servers (3 active and one waiting for a future task).  In such a setup, the only decent way to monitor the servers if they’re not accessible with a remote desktop solution, is to use a KVM switch, which is built into the rack by default.  But when I accessed the KVM Switch and opened a session with the Ubuntu server, I didn’t see anything.  I didn’t like the “no video” error one bit and walked down to the server room (which is like a noisy sauna these days so I don’t bother going in there when I don’t have to) to use the built-in “computer” – a screen and a keyboard connected directly to the KVM switch.  When opening the Ubuntu session there, I got a different response, which told me more about the problem: the “Out of Range” error learned me that the display settings for the Ubuntu settings were set too high for the KVM Switch to handle.

This odd problem – the display settings were never a problem before updating the Ubuntu OS – had to be fixed.  On the Ubuntu Forums , my savior when suffering from Ubuntu problems, I found the following way to fix it.

  • Reboot the server (In my case, the “power off / power on way using the Button of Doom You Almost Never Use On A Server)
  • Press escape during the boot process when offered by the system
  • In the grub menu, choose Recovery Mode (For some reason I had 2 versions of everything, so I picked the first recovery mode in the list).
  • In the menu you’ll get, choose “Drop to root shell”
  • Log in as root
  • Execute the following:dkpg-reconfigure xserver-conf
  • Go through all steps in the “wizard” that follows.  I just hit “ok” on every screen.
  • Back in the shell, execute init 2
  • Ubuntu loaded, and I accepted the option to start with “limited graphics” which was just fine for me.

Well, that solved that problem, but VMWare still wasn’t working for me.  But at least I had the server back up and running, so I could find out what the delio was.

not_configured…? Are you out of your mind?

I started to do some googling on the VMWare issue and found that someone else also had the same / nearly the same problems with VMWare under Ubuntu. His solution wasn’t my solution – as I didn’t have vmware player installed on the server – but I did suffer from the not_configured drama.  For some reason, the config files of VMWare 2 were a goner or at least not readable by VMWare two.  So I followed the tip in the first or second comment on that page, and ran the following command

/usr/bin/vmware-config.pl

This started the configuration wizard for VMWare server that I’ve only seen once before; right after I installed VMWare Server on the box.  I was kind of worried.  Would this mean that I had to do everything over?  Not that it’d be that much of a problem, but my time was limited today.  One advantage was that the Virtual Machines were still in their folder; so if I had to I could have just added them back to the inventory – but I hoped that I wouldn’t have to.

I ran through the wizard and just did what I did the first time, hitting the enter key everywhere to accept default proposed values.  I was glad to see that that got VMWare server working again, but was even more pleased when I logged in to the administration website and saw that all my virtual machines were still there – and in good shape too.  When I tried to start them, they did so without any problems.

I’m glad to see that problem fixed but am kind of worried.  Next week I’m going to look into this some more, I’ve got the idea that VMWare server on Ubuntu isn’t the most stable environment.  It’s probably a good thing that it’s just a testing environment for web sites and web applications, with the occasional site hosted that no-one would miss.

ubuntu update madness

Since i’m in the IT business, it’s nearly impossible for me not to use Ubuntu.  Where most of the people steer clear of the open source world because of prejudice – and because they stick with Windows for other vague reasons – I’ve embraced the Open Source world a long time ago.  Open source is not evil, bent on destruction of your computer network. Contrary to that it can be a valuable and affordable addition to the systems you’ve already have.

One of the best Open Source products out there, in my opinion, is the Linux operating system Ubuntu.   This flexible, low cost – as in free – OS has got a strong back that can carry quite alot of weight.  It’s the ideal platform for webservers, and can be used in many other ways to assist your windows machines.  Ubuntu development is extremely fast, as well.  No wait of 2 year for a service pack to fix problems.  Every 6 months a new version of Ubuntu is available; one a “long time support version” and one version that’s supported until the next “long time support version comes out – 6 months later.

This updating cycle is great but it caused me some trouble today.  I realized that I was one version behind and decided to update.  When doing that, I realized that I was not ONE but TWO versions behind.  Joke’s on me for not paying attention.  This implies that I’ll have to spend quite some time to update all my machines using Ubuntu.  Because of this I’m considering only updating the physical machines and the Virtual machines we use that are crucial for our company – although those test servers could just as well be removed and replaced by the newer, shinier version.   Now you know what I’ll be doing the next few days: update, update, update!!!

VMWare woes..

Before you read this post, you should know that I work as a network administrator guy for a small local IT company.  I am there to cater to the needs of everyone else, as all my other “collegues” in other companies.  Well, today was the day when technology decided not to help me out…

Everything was fine this morning. The servers were up and running, so I had some spare time to plan the work on a few projects we’ve got running with customers (While I’m the network administrator of the company, I’m also the only tech guy capable of designing and implementing computer networks and everything related.  There’s the manager but he’s far too busy with… well, manager things).  As I was thinking that this would be an easy day – preparing for future work makes work easier – problems started to come in.  First, there was a SQL Express database that started to moan.  Now, I’m far form a SQL server expert.  Yeah, yeah, point your finger at me and say it’s my responsibility to know about it.  Well, either way, this particular server has been up and running for the last four weeks.  It’s a server used by our “temporary development team”; a bunch of students working on a graduation project.  All went fine, until today; when they received complaints about the database in question not having an owner.  As uneducated on the topic as I am, I always assumed that the person who creates the database is the owner.  A quick peek learned me that the database was indeed “ownerless”.  So I fixed that problem and had to move on to the next request.

That request came from another student; one of the two students that are studying to be come network administrators.  Now, I’m not the kind of network admin to play nice with students – they’re of no benifit to me and only create more problems and work for me – but this particular guy is okay.  He’s always been friendly, open for suggestions but smart enough to find it’s own path; and he’s somehow found a way to not annoy me and get things done.

So when he asked me if he could have a server to test things on, I gladly helped him out.  Now, when I say “server” I mean “Virtual environment which will be deleted the minute his internship at our company ends”.  He asked for an Ubuntu “Server”; so I copied one of the existing servers in our VMWare Server 2 environment.  That took me longer than I was comfortable with, because for some reasone the virtual machines were being “locked up” even after closing them.  I had to delete certain folders before I could copy them; and then noticed something disturbing.  The status indicators for the server – the physical machine – were spiking.  Processor usage was at 100%; and RAM usage was somewhere around 80%.  A quick analysis learned me that one of the virtual machines, a stripped Debian machine, was using the maximum of it’s resources; and apparently he was killing the whole box while doing so – I don’t know how that’s possible since you assing only a certain % of physical ram and processor power, but it really happened.  It ended up freezing all of the virtual machines on the box; and the box itself.  None of the Virtual Machines on it could be managed and the physical server wouldn’t listen to the commands either.

so I had to do it; I had to restart the server.  Luckily this server is only a production / testing server; mostly for web appliances so restarting the server wasn’t that big of a deal – I hoped. Before I could restart the virtual machines, however, I had to leave as I had to deliver something to a customer.  I had to fit one iMac and one Fujitsu Siemens Tower server in my little car (google VW Polo to find out how little).  After a half hour drive, we came up to the company in question, and after we rang the bell and waited for 5 minutes I realized our dear customer did it again.  It was the third time (out of four) that they just weren’t there when we had an appointment.  So, we returned to the office, after wasting 1 hour and a half.

Back at the office, bad news arrived.  Some people wanted to see a demo I prepared; a Magento based webshop.  While it’s not a “paying” customer per sé but a business partner of my company’s owner; the manager still insisted that “I showed him the demo as soon as possible.” Only one little problem… the demo was, and is hosted on one of the Virtual machines that had to be restarted.  Most of the virtual machines started just fine and didn’t seem to have suffered any permanent damage from the cold restart, but one Virtual Machine got hit bad – a not so important svn server that’s only used for document sharing between 2 or 3 people.  I had to ignore that problem, in favor of the demo, though.

Not that the demo ever took place.  The business partner in question was about to leave and wanted to see the demo all “quickish”; but we kept loosing the connection to the demo site.  I later found out what the problem was; 2 minutes after he left.  By starting ALL my Virtual Machines on that box; I started a few that have the same IP adress; making it nearly impossible to view the demo store.  Bij the time I solved all the issues around the VMWare server, it was time to go home.  That svn server will have to wait until tomorrow.

In IT, things never go as planned…

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