Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Tips for a Successful Vmware Converter Operation

For the ones making P2V operations using Vmware Converter plug-in, sometimes it is a nightmare to troubleshoot why the agent fails to proceed. I've tried to compile my experiences on the Vmware Converter plug-in for a successful import without facing any errors.

  1. First of all make sure you read and open the ports necessary if there is firewall(s) between vc, hosts and guests. you can find the official link to the article below;
  2. Before you launch the plug-in, make sure the guest resolves both the vc and host with their fqdn. If necessary, enter the fqdns in the host file.
  3. Always reboot the guest after the agent is installed (even the vmware says a reboot is not necessary)
  4. Make sure the admin$ of the guest is reachable from vc (in order to install agent).
  5. And finally if all of the above are true and you still see face an error while importing, you can find a verbose log named vmware-converter-agent-0.log (increments if a file size threshold exceeds) under the client's below directory;

    %allusersprofile%\Application Data\VMware\VMware Converter Enterprise\Logs

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Exchange 2010 RC is Ready

Exchange Server 2010 Release Candidate (RC) is available for download at the following link:

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Largest Exchange Mailbox?

I have been working with Microsoft Exchange Server since v5.0. During all those years and versions, I have seen mailboxes of all sizes. I have seen users with a couple of 4GB pst files. The largest mailbox I have ever seen on a system was around 8GB, and I used to think it was huge... until recently. I was performing a "site assessment" for a client and was collecting information about their Exchange Server 2003 environment. Since the disk space was a non-issue for the client, there were no quotas defined at the mailbox size level. I opened up the Mailboxes view in ESM and sorted the mailboxes by size to see the top 10 mailboxes and I got perplexed. I looked at the screen again, and asked the IT Manager if I was seeing right. Here's what I saw:

(The names of the users have been blurred to protect the innocent.)

So now the largest single mailbox I have ever seen is 27GB. How about you? What is the largest mailbox size you have ever witnessed? Please share your experiences and thoughts using the "Comments" link below.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Windows 7 on Dell Latitude D810

This may not be my most technical post, but I would like to share my recent experience with Windows 7 on my company provided Dell Latitude D810 laptop. It has a 1.73 Ghz Intel Pentium M Processor, 2GB of RAM and a 60 GB harddisk.I have been using this laptop since the day I joined the company, second week of December 2006.

I have always been amazed by the fact that this laptop was capable of running Windows Vista. Although I have been working on this laptop since December 2006, the laptop was actually purchased in June 2005. Because Vista OS was brand new when I started to work for BVA, I started right away with Vista. My first few months (OK I admit, my first year till the SP1 was released) was not so pleasant. I had performance issues, intermittent VPN connectivity problems and wireless network issues of all kinds. I used to think my problems were caused by due to the fact that Dell did not provide any Vista drivers for this model. However, after the SP1 install, all of my problems disappeared. Since then, my experience with the laptop and Vista has been quite good despite all the negative hype created around this version of Windows. Please keep in mind that this laptop is not officially "Built for Vista" or even "Vista Ready". The only label it has on reads: "Designed for Microsoft Windows XP".

So when Microsoft announced the next version of the Windows Operating System, I got curious. When I read comments and reviews like "Windows 7 runs much better than Vista", "Windows 7 can run on any hardware which supports XP", I thought I could give it a try. When my coworkers started to install and test out the RC code with their relatively newer generation laptops, I decided that it was time.

Because I was too lazy for a backup and restore operation, I initially decided to perform an "in-place upgrade". To avoid conflicts during the upgrade process, I uninstalled my VMware Server, Cisco VPN Client and virus scanning software. Upgrade process ran about an hour or so with no problems. At the end of the process the laptop rebooted for the last time, and I got the infamous "blue screen of death" (BSOD). Following the BSOD, the installer ran again and rolled back the upgrade process. Within 20 minutes of the BSOD, I got my Vista OS back, like nothing's happened. This first unsuccessful attempt was about six weeks ago.

Following this unsuccessful attempt, I had no choice but to perform a "wipe and install" operation. Because of time constraints, I was not able to perform this operation until last weekend.

I had considerable amout of data, but I did not want to perform any "System Transfer" (or Files and Settings Migration). In addition, in case of a second failure, I needed a tool that can perform image based backups and restores. So I used the free DriveImage XML tool (http://www.runtime.org/driveimage-xml.htm) for this purpose. The tool let me create an image based backup of my full drive, and gave me the option to perform file and folder level restores using this backup set. You can use the tool to create online backups (i.e. you can backup your computer while the operating system is running), or you can use it with WinPE and create offline backups. I used the online backup method.

Following the backup, I started the Windows 7 RC installation. I wiped out the existing partition and Windows 7 created a new hidden system partition, plus a new boot partition. Intallation was quick like Windows 2008 installations.

After the installation I found myself with some non-working devices. My network card was there, but wireless card (Intel(R) PRO/Wireless 2200BG Network Connection) was not recognized by the installer. In addition, I had an "PCI Simple Communications Controller" device with no drivers. Finally, my video card was recognized as "Standard VGA". First I had to find the Wireless driver to gain access to the Internet. Then after a brief Google research, I found that the "PCI Simple Communications Controller" actually was listed as "Texas Instruments PCI 6515 Cardbus" at Dell's web site. Finally, I was able to install the "ATI Mobility RADEON X600" driver with no issues. Please keep in mind that all these drivers from Dell were actually created for Windows XP. After the drivers, I updated the OS, and installed my favorite virus protection tool. Finally, I installed Driveimage XML, and only restored Downloads and Documents folders from the backup set. I installed MS Office 2007 quickly and started to test and see the differences between Vista SP2 and Windows 7 RC. First impression, Windows 7 boots and comes back from hibernation faster than Vista. With Latitude D810, my "Windows Experience Index" is 1.0, because of poor 3-D graphics support. I searched for an updated driver for ATI X600, but so far I have been unsuccessful. Most importantly, Windows 7 has a smaller footprint than its predecessor: right after the boot, it's using roughly 700MB of RAM while Vista was consuming almost 1GB. No need to say, any program looks (or feels) faster in Windows 7 as well.

Finally, my biggest challenge with Windows 7 was to install Cisco VPN client. I heard and read bad experiences and BSOD horror stories about Cisco VPN Client on Windows 7. However, I really needed Cisco VPN Client on my laptop, so I asked Google. I was lucky enough to find not only one but two alternative solutions to the problem.
1. Following the instructions at http://weblogs.asp.net/bhouse/archive/2009/01/15/how-to-successfully-install-cisco-vpn-client-on-windows-7.aspx, I first installed Citrix DNE Update, then installed Cisco VPN Client v5.0.05.0290 with no problems. I have tested a number of different connections, and it works great.
2. Dell Latitude 810 does not support this option, because it requires a CPU with Intel Hardware Virtualization support. This option is called "Windows XP mode for Windows 7". Microsoft presents this option to break the incompatibility barrier between the older applications and the new OS. According to Microsoft, any application compatible with Windows XP should work in this mode. However, because of hardware constraints, it is not for everybody. As the first prerequisite, you need a CPU with hardware virtualization (Intel-VT or AMD-V) support. Even though the newer CPUs support this feature, you have to explicitly enable it at the BIOS level. Then, you can follow the instructions here (http://www.microsoft.com/windows/virtual-pc/download.aspx). As a final step, you can install Cisco VPN Client in the XP virtual PC. This is a great feature and provides a very well integration with the host operating system (i.e. Windows 7). One of my co-workers was able to complete this process with his Latitude 820 and got Cisco VPN Client working without the Citrix DNE update.

My overall experience with Windows 7 on my 4-year-old laptop so far has been great. Next step is to get my hands on the RTM code and upgrade the OS one more time. I will try to post about this experience as well. How about your experience/thoughts about Windows 7? Please us the "Comments" link to provide feedback about this post or share your experience about Windows 7.

Update to the post (Nov 09):
After I had used the RC code for a couple of months, I finally found the available time slot to perform a transition to Windows 7 RTM. As some of you have already mentioned, all I needed was to download and install the Windows XP graphics and the audio drivers from Dell's Web site. All other devices were automatically recognized by Windows 7. For the wireless network card drivers, I had to run Windows updates.

In addition, Cisco released an updated version of their VPN client software. Right now I am running Cisco VPN Client v on Windows 7, and it is really fast.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Unable to Mail Enable Public Folders

One of my clients had a recent issue. He wanted to create and "Mail Enable" a new public folder in their Exchange 2007 infrastructure. He used the UI (not the Exchange Shell commands) for the purpose. He did not receive any error messages when he right clicked the folder and selected "Mail Enable" from the context menu. However, then he wanted to verify the operation and tried to open up the properties of the folder. At this step, he received the following error:

The Active Directory proxy object for the public folder '\Root Folder\Sub Folder' is being generated. Please try again later. It was running command 'get-mailpublicfolder -Server 'ServerFQDN' -Identity "\Root Folder\Sub Folder".

We checked almost everything including the "msExchOwningPFTreeBL" attribute. Even if we created a top level folder, the behavior was the same. Mail Enable was running with no problems, but when we checked the properties of the public folders, we were getting the exact same error message.

Because we had retired the Exchange 2003 servers recently, I even thought this issue might be related. However I was not able to find anything to prove this.

My long Google search did not return much results either. Then, in Technet Forums, I found a post which was about a similar problem. In their case, they were working on the RTM version and they noticed that the "System Attendant " service had been shutting itself down intermittently. Their solution was to make sure that the "System Attendant" was running. After reading this post, we immediately checked and verified that the service was already "up and running". Then we thought, since we have nothing to lose, we could try restarting the service. After "System Attendant" restart, we "Mail Disabled" then "Mail Enabled" the public folder. Finally, when we checked the properties of the public folder, we got no errors and were able to verify the new e-mail address of the folder.

I really don't know what was wrong in the first place, but apparently "System Attendant" was not performing properly. Then the service restart fixed the problem. Since the other services do not depend on the "System Attendant" anymore, the service restart did not require us to take all the other Exchange Server services down.

We spent a couple of hours on this "interesting" problem, and with this post I am hoping to save you same time if you run into the same issue.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 RTM'd

Microsoft announced today that the new version of the Windows operating system has been released to manufacturing.

Microsoft resources also announced the availability of the new version with the following blog post.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Windows 7 Tips & Tricks

Attached document contains very useful tips for managing Windows 7 features easily, as we already know some of them from Vista.
Taken from Microsoft Partnering Site

Download Tips&Tricks for Windows 7

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Update Rollup 7 for Exchange Server 2007 Service Pack 1 Can Kill OWA and Web Based Services

No matter how careful you are with your network, you cannot avoid getting bitten by patches or fixes occasionally. I have seen this exact same behavior with three different networks, so I think there's some sort of pattern going on. 

Here's what's been happening: Right after you install "Update Rollup 7 for Exchange Server 2007 Service Pack 1" successfully in your environment, OWA and ActiveSync may not work at all. I want to repeat this one more time: the installation might run without any errors or warnings, but you may still end up with a non-functional OWA. 

Uninstalling Rollup 7 might solve the problem, but I have found a better solution: Simply repeat the installation of the "Update Rollup 7 for Exchange Server 2007 Service Pack 1" package one more time. This second install will take care of OWA and Web Based Services problems for good. Only in one instance, the installation process failed to re-enable the Exchange services at the end of the installation. Simply re-enabling Exchange Services and restarting the server solved the problem.

I am not sure under what circumstances this issue occurs, but I hope this simple yet effective tip can save you from frustration.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

How to Install Operations Manager 2007 R2 on Windows 2008

It is a little tricky path (espacially reporting) to install OpsMgr 2007 wSP1 or OpsMgr 2007 R2 on a Windows 2008 system.
I tried to explain the steps to take before every component installation for a successful OpsMgr installation.

Download Document

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Terminal Server 2008 - Issues and Solutions - Part 1

I have been working on a project where we setup a TS 2008 farm (made up of three virtual servers) on a three node VMware Infrastructure 3 environment. During the implementation of the systems, we had to tackle a number of problems and discrepancies. Some of the problems were related to Windows 2008 compatibility, and some of them were direct results of feature set changes in the new OS.

1. Windows 2008 on VMWare ESX and Painfully Slow Performance

Our Session Broker Load Balanced farm included three virtual Windows 2008 Terminal Services servers. Along with them we had two seperate file servers. One of them was designated for roaming terminal services profiles, the second one was for shared MS Office files and users' home folders. All systems were running on Windows 2008, except one single Windows 2003 domain controller for another which was used for domain migration. ESX hosts were running on 16GB of RAM and Quad Core 2.5GHz CPUs, while guest TS servers were configured with 4GB of RAM and 4 CPUs.

Right after the installation and data migration, we invited some pilot users to test the environment. They were supposed to test standard Microsoft Office Applications, along with their third party Business Management Software. All pilot users agreed on one point: systems were "painfully slow". Logons were taking extremely long, sometimes up to 5-6 minutes. Opening a 40KB Excel file was taking a minute on average and sometimes users had to wait forever for a small file to open. Furthermore, working in their Business Software was almost impossible.

The environment described in that article was very similar to ours with one exception: while we were running Symantec Corporate Edition 10.2, their problems were caused by Symantec EndPoint Protection Server 11.0. Knowing that both security solutions share the same roots and just to see the effects, we removed SAV Corporate Edition from the file servers. After the reboot, performance returned back to normal.

Removing the SAV Corporate Edition from the Terminal Servers helped reaching the normal perfomance values. We were able to open any Excel file with no latency. As described in the article above, instead of Symantec Corporate Edition 10.2, we upgraded the systems to Symantec EndPoint Protection 11 MR3. Installing Symantec EndPoint 11 MR3 did not affect the performance, so I hope the problem has been resolved with this release. We have also installed a number of OS patches to the systems after this, so far the systems are still running properly, I assume Symantec had adressed and resolved the problem with MR3. At the time of this writing, I can see that the latest release for Symantec Endpoint Protection is MR4. We are planning to implement this soon, I will also update the post if it affects the performance.

2. Terminal Services 2008 and Adobe Reader Problem

Some users were not able to run Adobe Reader on the Terminal Servers. After every failure, they were getting "Adobe Reader has stopped working" error message. With each failure, the following message was logged in the Application log:

Log Name: Application
Source: Application Error
Date: 12/16/2008 1:53:03 PM
Event ID: 1000
Task Category: (100)
Level: Error
Keywords: Classic
User: N/A
Computer: TS01.domain.local
Faulting application AcroRd32.exe, version, time stamp 0x4850f0a3, faulting module Annots.api, version, time stamp 0x4850e57f, exception code 0xc0000005, fault offset 0x001bd9e0, process id 0x2e1c, application start time 0x01c95fc0491c84c1.

Since the error points out to "Annots.api" file, my initial response was to locate the file in Plug_ins (C:\Program Files\Adobe\Reader 9.0\Reader\plug_ins) folder and rename it to "annots1.api". However this did not help. The user received the exact same ""Adobe Reader has stopped working" error, and in the application log complained about "annots1.api" this time.
My second action was to move the file out of plug_ins folder. After the move the problem disappeared. However, I was sure that this is not a wise solution. So as a final test, I moved the file back to the plug_ins folder then enabled Compatibility mode and set it to "Windows XP SP2" on "Acrord32.exe" file. I was able to verify that this action resolved the problem for good. No problems were encountered after this change. I also had to repeat this action two other Terminal Servers.
3. Terminal Services 2008 and Session Broker Problem

To be able to distribute the load among three Terminal Servers, we have configured Terminal Services Session Broker service and Session Broker Load Balancing. I will not go through all the configuration steps, you can easily find detailed configuration information from many different resources in the web. However, I would like to mention about a discrepancy in Session Broker configuration. One of the steps during configuration is to supply each Terminal Server with the name of the Session Broker Server. This can be achieved by two different methods:
i. You can specify the name manually on each server's Terminal Services Configuration
ii. You can specify the name in a GPO and assign this GPO to all Terminal Servers

Regardless of the configuration method, as per Microsoft, the name you need to specify can be either in host name, IP address of FQDN form. In GPO Editor, if you examine the "Explain" section of the group policy setting (Computer Configuration\Policies\Administrative Templates\Windows Components\Terminal Services\Terminal Server\TS Session Broker\Configure TS Session Broker server name), it reads:

"If you enable this policy setting, you must specify the TS Session Broker server, using either its host name, IP address, or fully qualified domain name. If you specify a name or IP address for the TS Session Broker server that is not valid, an error message is logged in Event Viewer on the terminal server."

Unfortunately, I found that above statement is only partially correct. If you select to use FQDN, you will eventually see the following errors on each Terminal Server's event log:

Log Name: System
Source: Microsoft-Windows-TerminalServices-SessionBroker-Client
Date: 12/6/2008 9:36:19 PM
Event ID: 1014
Task Category: None
Level: Warning
Keywords: Classic
User: N/A
Computer: TS01.domain.local
The server failed to retrieve the security identifier (SID) of the TS Session Broker server.
Win32 error code: 0x6FC.

You will find that Session Broker functionality intermittently stops (the service stays running but terminal servers fail to join) when you use FQDN in this configuration. To get rid of this warning and intermittent failures, you need to specify host name (i.e. NetBIOS name) of the Session Broker server. After changing it to the host name, the warning does not show up anymore. Somehow, FQDN does not work properly. I did not get a chance to test out the effect of using straight IP address for this setting, if you have similar experience and if you are using the IP address, please let me know if it works.