Words that should never appear in the same question:

“auditors” and “Perl script”

Aero considered harmful

Outlook 2013 started breaking for our users last week. Only some of them, and not all at the same time, but the symptom was that the application would no longer start, hanging at the “loading profile…” screen.

The solution is to switch to the “Windows 7 Basic” graphical theme, turning off all the 3D UI decorations.

No, seriously.

And that’s about four days of sysadmin time that we’d like back, please.


That’s the number of emails sent out this morning by a test service that was getting pummeled by an automated QA script.

Mood: Cranky.

[Update: after many eyes explored the logs, the QA test script was found to have done exactly the right thing, and the bug was in the actual service. So, a big huzzah for catching a truly crippling bug before it reached Production, but damn that was a mess.]

ESXi 5.1 on Dell

We bought a Dell R620 to run VMware ESXi 5.1U1. It was pre-configured to correctly boot the supplied ESXi image from an SD card. Bringing it up on the network was trivial. Downloading the Windows vSphere Client software was trivial. Configuring a datastore so that you could actually use the product was annoying.

Y’see, they shipped it with a Windows GPT partition table, and attempting to use the disk produced a lengthy timeout and disconnect, every time. Occasionally, I’d get a pop-up error message, but couldn’t select it to cut and paste, and enabling ssh on the server showed that no errors were being logged.

Typing the error message in by hand (“… HostDatastoreSystem.QueryVmfsDatastoreCreateOptions … failed”) and googling it turned up detailed solutions for the problem, with obsolete commands. So, for the benefit of anyone else who gets into this state on ESXi 5.1:

  1. Enable ssh, and log in as root.
  2. Run esxcli storage core path list, locate your disk by the display name that showed up in the vSphere Client, and save the contents of the Device: field (mine was naa.6b8ca3a0e8405800195f77a21641467c).
  3. run partedUtil mklabel /vmfs/devices/disks/device msdos

Now you can use it as a datastore.

Three hours of my life I want back…

“No, we just moved our office, we didn’t change anything except the external IP address. The VPN problem must be on your end. Did you set the new IP address?”.

“Okay, we did install a new NAT router. But the problem must be on your end. Did you set the new IP address?”

“Oh, yes, it’s running a newer version of the OS. But the problem must be on your end. Did you set the new IP address?”

“Here are screenshots of our config. But the problem must be on your end. Did you set the new IP address?”

“Yes, we set it up with IKEv2 instead of v1. But the problem must be on your end. Did you set the new IP address?”

It’s actually been more than eight hours, and they still haven’t fixed their problem, but I at least got some sleep in the middle. We’d still be arguing about what the problem actually is if they hadn’t sent me the screenshots.

Oh, and it was urgent for me to make the change on my end Friday night (which they told me about on Friday afternoon…), but no one at their end actually checked their router for connectivity until this morning. And it’s been nearly an hour since they responded to the message that they’re using the wrong IKE version, but they still haven’t fixed it.

[Update: to add insult to injury, I just got a recruiting email from WalmartLabs. Perhaps the fact that it’s raining in Northern California in late June should have been a clue that the week was going to be a little odd.]

Important NTP safety tip

When the clocks on internal hosts are drifting out of sync despite the fact that everything runs NTP, make sure that the server everything is pointed at isn’t pointed at itself.

(unless it has an attached GPS or other source of correct time, of course, which this one didn’t)

Dear users,

When you detect that an incoming email contains a virus-infected attachment, please do not forward the virus-infected message to other people saying “hey, if you got this, don’t open it”.

Followup questions are important…

User: “Help! I can’t find some of the files I need on the server for this morning’s meeting.”

Sysadmin: “Okay, that server looks fine, and we have good backups. What folders are missing files?”

User: “Well, I was looking in the agendas folder, and then it was gone, and there was a porn folder, and a sexy pictures folder, and…”

Sysadmin: “That sounds a little more serious than missing files. We’re on our way.”