International Technology Frustration

We live in a world where our communications are sent around the world in sub-second times thanks to services like Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp. Thanks to Facebook, LinkedIn and other people hubs we are closer connected to those around us without geographic discrimination and thanks to all of this high-speed communication and information transfer, we discover news and new information faster than ever before.

Taking all of this into consideration, why is it, that we are still in a world where one country takes the glut of the new technology releases without them officially seeing the streets of foreign lands only assisting to line the pockets of the lucky few who are able to import and export these technologies and sell them in the foreign lands via channels like eBay at exorbitant prices.

In the technology arena, Microsoft are one of the worst offenders for doing this. There’s been a number of releases over the years including but not limited to the Zune, Surface Pro, the Microsoft Band and the Wireless Display Adapter for screen Miracast that have been released and neither of them have been released outside of the borders of the US and Canada. Why is it that these highly sought after devices are only being sold in the US and not sold worldwide via Microsoft’s normal retail channels?

I remember when the Surface Pro first launched and I waited months to get one officially in the UK but it never came so I ended up importing one from the US with the help from a former co-worker. Back when Zune was a thing, I happened to be in the US on a long bought of work with my family in tow so I decided to buy one whilst I was there. I for one, would snap up a pair of Wireless Display Adapters and a Microsoft Band the day that they went on sale if they did ever appear here in the UK but I’m not holding out much hope which leaves me with the remaining option to buy them via eBay sellers.

The Microsoft Band is in high demand right now and whilst there a few of them on eBay UK for sale, the price is riding higher than retail and given that the device isn’t officially available here in UK, you don’t know how your warranty will be effected.

The Wireless Display Adapter isn’t quite so hot, largely because other competing products are available in the UK such as the Netgear PTV3000 and as a result of this, if I wanted one, I’d have to buy one from a seller on eBay US and pay whatever import and duty taxes the British government deemed appropriate and then pay whatever handling tax DHL or UPS levy on the shipment for the privilege of advancing my customs payment for me.

All this behaviour results in is a reduced consumer experience because there are devices out there that we want and the companies making them aren’t making them available to us so middle-men fill the void lining their own pockets with profit and driving the retail price up for consumers like you and me. I know that beaming a packet of data down an undersea fibre is obviously easier than arranging shipping and stocking of physical goods, but my point here is that with all of this technology to tell us what is happening around the world, to let us see what we could have, it’s akin to teasing a kid with a lollipop, waving it in front of their face and showing them it, videoing you licking it and playing it over and over again in their face. The kid will end us crying and wanting the lolly and you’d likely give in and let them have it after enough tantrum so why can’t companies see the same logic?

If the trend of devices only being released into the US and not being made available in Europe and the UK (and let us not forget our friends in Australia and New Zealand) continues then I think anything relating to the devices should be applied with IP filters to block people from outside of the availability regions from seeing, hearing or reading anything about it. At least that way, we wouldn’t have the lolly being waved under our noses to tempt us without the opportunity to ever have the lolly.

Free Fitbit Flex with Windows Phone Purchases

If you’re in the market for both a new smartphone and a fitness aid this year, Windows Phone could defiantly be your friend.

Microsoft UK are currently running a promotion that started on January 12th 2015 and runs until March 31st 2015. If you purchase either Microsoft Lumia 735, 830 or 930 between these dates from one of the eligible retailers (almost all UK high street and network outlets are listed) then you can claim a free Fitbit Flex fitness activity and sleep tracking device.

To find out more information about the detail then visit http://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/mobile/campaign-fitbit/. If you want to skip straight to claiming your Fitbit device or want to know if your device is eligible then download the Fitbit Gift app from the Windows Phone Store at http://www.windowsphone.com/en-gb/store/app/fitbit-gift/ee34cfd1-e302-4820-a3cc-0d4e349ccf6a.

I’m a Fitbit user so I like the idea of this promotion but I equally struggle to see it: Microsoft are now in the fitness and activity and sleep tracking business with the Microsoft Band but as we know, this isn’t available in the UK right now. I have to question whether this promotion would instead be against the Microsoft Band if it was available here. Given that the Flex retails for £60 and the Microsoft Band is $200 in the US, I can’t imagine it would be a free promotion like they have on the Flex but I think it would likely be a discount code for £50 off the price of a Microsoft Band.

Fingers crossed the Microsoft Band makes its was UK-side via official channels one day soon and the promotion will flip on it’s head. Don’t forget that all Windows Phone 8.1 devices are going to be eligible for Windows 10 upgrades once the new OS ships too.

Invalid License Key Error When Performing Windows Edition Upgrade

Last week, I decided to perform the in-place edition upgrade from Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials to Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard on my home server as part of a multitude of things I’m working on at home right now. Following the TechNet article for the command to run and the impact and implications of doing the edition upgrade at http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/jj247582 I ran the command as instructed in the article but I kept getting a license key error stating that my license key was not valid.

As my server was originally licensed under a TechNet key, I wondered if the problem could be down to different licensing channels preventing me from installing the key. On the server, I ran the command cscript slmgr.vbs /dlv to display the detailed license information and the channel was reported as Retail as I expected for a TechNet key. The key I am trying to use is an MSDN key which also should be reported as part of the Retail channel but to verify that, I downloaded the Ultimate PID Checker from http://janek2012.eu/ultimate-pid-checker/ and my Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard license key, sure enough is good, valid and just as importantly, from the Retail channel.

So my existing and new keys are from the same licensing channel and the new key checks out as being valid so what is the problem? Well it turns out, PowerShell was the problem.

Typically I launch a PowerShell prompt and then I enter cmd.exe if I need to run a something which explicitly requires a Command Prompt. This makes it easy for me to jump back and forth between PowerShell and Command Prompt within a single window hence the reason for doing it. I decided to try it differently so I opened a new Administrative Command Prompt standalone, without using PowerShell as my entry point and the key was accepted and everything worked as planned.

The lesson here is this: If you are entering a command into a PowerShell prompt and it’s not working, try it natively within a Command Prompt as that just maybe is your problem.

Tesco Hudl 2 Date and Time Repeatedly Incorrect

Since about a week or so ago, the kids Tesco Hudl 2 tablets that they got for Christmas have been consistently reporting the wrong date and time. The issue is easily spotted because anytime they launch an app or open the Google Play Store or perform any action that depends on an SSL certificate, they are shown a certificate warning due to the inconsistency between the server date and time and the client date and time. Sometimes the tablet can appear just a few hours out of sync but in the main, it seems that the devices reset their date to January 1st 2015.

Yesterday, I noticed for the first time that my Hudl 2 tablet started exhibiting the same behaviour which led me to look online to see if this is a widespread issue as I couldn’t believe that all four of our Hudl 2 tablets could show the same symptoms and problems within two weeks’ of each other, especially considering I bought my tablet about a month after we bought the kids theirs so they would likely be from different batches of manufacturing.

Searching online, I came across a thread on the Modaco forums at http://www.modaco.com/topic/373796-misreported-time-and-other-things/ where other users are reporting the same issue and that it only seems to manifest after circa one month of using the device: an interesting observation given that I first powered up the kids tablets the week before Christmas to configure them and I got mine the week after Christmas.

Several users have tried contacting Tesco Technical Support and are advised to hard reset the devices or to exchange them in a local store but the issue continues to return and it appears from one commenter that Tesco is now working on a firmware update to address the issue. To me, this says that the current firmware build clearly has an issue relating to the CPU clock and tracking the time in relation to the CPU clock.

I reached out to Tesco on Twitter today to try and find out if it’s possible to contact their support via email or Twitter as opposed to phone as I don’t want to have to call them to add four new serial numbers to the list of effected devices that they are tracking. If I get a response, I’ll update the post here but in the meantime, if you have a Hudl 2 from Tesco and are experiencing the same date and time reset issue, it’s not you, it appears to be a known problem they are working on but please do report it to Tesco.

The more people that report the issue, the faster Tesco are likely to work on the firmware update and get it released.

 

Project Home Lab: Planning for Recovery

In my last post, Server Surgery Aftermath, I talked about the issues I was having with my home server. Whilst continuing to try and identify the issues after the post, I ran across some more BSODs and I managed to collect useful crash dumps for a number of them. Reviewing the crash dumps with WinDbg from the Windows Debugging Tools, I was able to see that in every instance of the BSOD, the faulting module was network related with the blame shared equally between Ndis.sys and NdisImPlatform.sys which means that my previous suspicion of the LSI MegaRAID controller were out of the window.

Included in the trace was the name of another application which is running on the server. I’m not going to name the application in this instance but let’s just say that said application is able to burst ingress traffic as fast as my internet connection can handle it. I decided to intentionally try and make the server crash by starting up the application and generating traffic with it and sure enough within a couple of minutes the server experienced a BSOD and restarted. This started to now make sense because the Windows Service for this application is configured for Automatic Delayed start which is why in one instance after a BSOD, the server had another BSOD about 45 seconds later.

For the interim, I have disabled the services for this application and with the information in hand, I started looking more closely into the networking arrangements. I knew that as part of the server relocation, I had switched from my dual port PCIe Intel PRO 1000/PT adapter to the on-board Intel 82576 adapters and both of these adapter ports are configured in a single Windows Server native LBFO team using the Static Team mode which is connected to a Static LAG on my switch.

To keep this story reasonably short, it turns out that the Windows Update provided network driver for my Intel adapters is quite old but yet the driver set 19.5 that Intel advertise as being the latest available for my adapters doesn’t support Windows Server 2012 R2 but will only install on Windows Server 2012. Even booting the server into the Disable Driver Enforcement mode didn’t allow the drivers to install. I quickly found that many other people have had similar issues with Intel drivers due to them blocking drivers on selected operating systems for no good reason.

I found a post at http://foxdeploy.com/2013/09/12/hacking-an-intel-network-card-to-work-on-server-2012-r2/ which really helped me understand the Intel driver and how to hack it to remove the Windows Server 2012 R2 restrictions to allow it to be installed. The changes I had to make differed slightly due to me having a different adapter model but the process remained the same.

Because my home server is considered production in my house, I can’t just go right ahead and test things on it like hacked drivers so luckily, my single hardware architecture vision came out on top because I’ve installed the hacked and updated Intel driver on the Lab Storage Server and the Hyper-V server with no ill effects. I’ve even tested putting load between the two of them over the network and there has been no issues either so this weekend I will be taking the home servers’ life in my hands and replacing the drivers and hopefully that will be the fix.

If you want to read my full story behind the Intel issue troubleshooting, there is a thread I started on the Intel Communities (with no replies I may add) but all the background detail is there at https://communities.intel.com/thread/58921?sr=stream..

Project Home Lab: Server Surgery Aftermath

So it seems that in my last post about relocating the Home Server into the new chassis was spoken a little too soon. Over New Year, a few days after the post, I started to have some problems with the machine.

It first happened when I removed the 3TB drive from the chassis to replace it with the new 5TB drive which caused a Storage Spaces rebuild and all of the drives started to chatter away copying blocks around and about half-way through the rebuild, the server stopped responding to pings. I jumped on to the IPMI remote console expecting to see that I was using so much I/O on the rebuild that it had decided to stop responding on the network but in actual fact, the screen was blank and there was nothing there. I tried to start a graceful shutdown using the IMPI but that failed to I had to reset the server.

When Windows came back up, it greeted me with the unexpected shutdown error. I checked Storage Spaces and the rebuild had resumed with no lost data or drives and eventually (there’s a lot of data there) it completed and I thought nothing more of it all until New Years day when the same thing happened again. This time, after restarting the server and realising this was no one off event, I changed the Startup and Recovery settings in Windows to generate a Small Memory Dump (256KB) otherwise known as a Minidump and I also disabled the automatic restart option as I wanted to try and get a chance to see the Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) if there was one.

Nothing happened on this front until yesterday. The server hung again and I restarted it but within two minutes of hanging, it did the same thing again. I decided to leave the server off for about five minutes to give it a little rest and then power it back up and since then I’ve had no issues but I have gathered a lot of data and information in the time wisely.

I used WinDbg from the Windows Debugging Tools in the Windows SDK to read the Minidump file and the resultant fault code was WHEA Uncorrectable Error with a code of 0x124. To my sadness, this appears to be one of the most vague error messages in the whole of Windows. This code means that a hardware fault occurred which Windows could not recover from but because the CPU is the last device to be seen before the crash, it looks as if the fault is coming from the CPU. The stack trace includes four arguments for the fault code and the first argument is meant to contain the ID of the device which was seen by the CPU to have faulted but you guessed it, it doesn’t.

So knowing that I’ve got something wierd going on with my hardware, I considered the possibilities. The machine is using a new motherboard so I don’t suspect that initially. It’s using a used processor and memory from eBay which are suspects one and two and it’s using the LSI MegaRAID controller from my existing build. The controller is a suspect due to the fact that on each occasion the crash has occurred, there has been a relative amount of disk I/O taking place (Storage Spaces rebuild the first time and multiple Plex Media Server streams taking place on the other occasions).

The Basic Tests

First and foremost, I checked against Windows Update and all of my patches are in order which I already knew but wanted to verify. Next, I checked my drivers as a faulting driver could cause something bad to get to the hardware and generate the fault. All of the components in the system are using WHQL signed drivers from Microsoft which have come down through Windows Update except for the RAID Controller. I checked the LSI website and there was a newer version of the LSI MegaRAID driver for my 9280-16i4e card available as well as a new version of the MegaRAID Storage Manager application so I applied both of these requiring a restart.

I checked the Intel website for drivers for both the Intel 82576 network adapters in the server and the Intel 5500 chipset and even though the version number of the Intel drivers is higher than those from Windows Update, the release date on the Windows Update drivers is later so upon trying to install them, Windows insists that the drivers installed are the best available so I’ll leave these be and won’t try to force drivers into the system.

Next up, I released that the on-board Supermicro SMC2008 SAS controller (an OEM embedded version of the LSI SAS2008 IR chipset) was enabled. I’m not using this controller and don’t have any SAS channels connected to it so I’ve disabled the device in Windows to stop it from loading for now but eventually I will open the chassis and change the pin jumper to physically disable the controller.

Earlier, I mentioned that I consider the LSI controller to be a suspect. The reason for this is not reliability of any kind as the controller is amazing and frankly beyond what I need for simple RAID0 and RAID1 virtual drives but because it is a very powerful card, it requires a lot of cooling. LSI recommend a minimum of 200 Cubic Feet per Minute (CFM) of cooling on this card and with the new chassis I have, the fans are variably controlled by the CPU temperature. Because I have the L5630 low power CPU with four cores, the CPU is not busy in the slightest on this server and as a result, the fan speed stays low.

According to the IPMI sensors, the fan speed is at 900 RPM constant with the currently system and CPU temperatures. The RAID controller is intentionally installed in the furthest possible PCI Express 8x slot from the CPU to ensure that heat is not bled from one device into the other but a byproduct of this is that the heat on the controller is likely not causing a fan speed increase. Using the BIOS, I have changed the fan configuration from the default setting of most efficient which has a minimum speed of 900 RPM to the Better Cooling option which increases the lower limit to 1350 RPM.

Lastly, I raised a support incident with LSI to confirm if there is a way to monitor the processor temperature on the controller however they have informed me that only the more modern dual core architecture controllers have the ability to see the processor temperature either via the WebBIOS or via the MSM application. If I have more problems going forwards, I have a USB temperature probe which I could temporarily install in the chassis but this isn’t going to be wholely accurate however in the meantime, the support engineer at LSI has taken an LSIGET dump of all of the controller and system data and is going to report back to me if there are any problems he can see.

The Burn Tests

Because I don’t want reliability problems on-going, I want to drive the server to crash under my own schedule and see the problems happening in live so that I can try and resolve them, I decided to perform some burn tests.

Memory Testing

Memory corruption and issues with memory is a common cause of BSODs in any system. I am using ECC buffered DIMMs can can correct memory bit errors automatically but that doesn’t mean we want them still so I decided to do a run on Memtest86.

Memtest86 Memory Speed Screenshot

I left this running for longer than the screenshot shows, but as you can see, there are no reported errors in Memtest86 so the memory looks clear of blame. What I really like about these results is that it shows you have incredibly fast the L1 and L2 caches are on the processor and I’m even quite impressed with how fast the DDR3-10600R memory in the DIMMs themselves are.

CPU Testing

For this test, I used a combination of Prim95 and Real Temp to both make the CPU hurt and also to allow me to monitor the temperatures vs. the Max TDP of the processor. I left the test running for over an hour, 100% usage on all four physical cores and here’s the results.

RealTemp CPU Temperature

 

As you can see, the highest the temperature got was 63 degrees Celsius which is 9 degrees short of the Max TDP of the processor. When I log in to the server normally when there are multiple Plex Media Server transcoding sessions occurring the CPU isn’t as utilized as heavily as this test so the fact that it can run at full load and the cooling is sufficient to keep it below Max TDP makes me happy. As a result of the CPU workload, the fan speed was automatically raised by the chassis. Here’s a screenshot of the IPMI Sensor output for both the system temperatures and the fan speed, remembering that the normal speed is 1350 RPM after my change.

IPMI Fan Speed Sensors

IPMI Temperature Sensors

 

To my suprise, the system temperature is actually lower under the load than it is at idle. The increased airflow from the fans at the higher RPM is pushing so much air that it’s able to cool the system to two degrees below the normal idle temperature, neither of which are high by any stretch of the imagination.

Storage I/O Testing

With all of the tests thus far causing me no concern, I was worried about this one. I used ioMeter to test the storage and because ioMeter will fill a volume with a working file to undertake the tests, I created a temporary Storage Space in the drive pool of 10GB and I configured the drive with Simple resiliency level and 9 columns so that it will use all the disks in the pool to generate as much heat in the drives and on the controller as possible.

I ran three tests, 4K block 50% Read, 64K block 50% Read and lastly 256KB block 50% Read. I ran the test for minutes and visiting the garage to look at the server in the rack while this was happening, I was greeted to an interesting light show on the drive access indicator lights. After ten minutes of the sustained I/O, nothing bad happened so I decided to stop the test. Whilst I want to fix any issues, I don’t want to burn out any drives in the process.

Conclusion

At the moment, I’m really none the wiser as to the actual cause of the problem but I am still in part convinced that it is related to the RAID controller overheating. The increased baseline fan speed should hopefully help with this by increasing the CFM of airflow in the chassis to cool the controller. I’m going to be leaving the server be now until I hear from LSI with the results from their data collection. If LSI come up with something useful then great. If LSI aren’t able to come up with anything then I will probably run another set of ioMeter tests but let it run for a longer period to really try and saturate some heat into the controller.

With any luck, I won’t see the problems again and if I do, at least I’m prepared to capture the dump files and understand what’s happening.

Error Configuring the Service Manager Exchange Connector

Here’s a quick one to answer a problem that I had recently and one that you may bump into if you are trying to setup System Center Service Manager 2012 R2 with the Exchange Connector 3.0.

From the installation instructions for the Exchange Connector 3.0, you must copy the Microsoft.SystemCenter.ExchangeConnector.Resources.dll and the Microsoft.SystemCenter.ExchangeConnector.dll files from the extracted file location into your Service Manager installation location.

Once you have copied these two files, you import the ServiceManager.ExchangeConnector.mpb Management Pack Bundle into Service Manager. Once this is done, you need to copy the Microsoft.Exchange.WebServices.dll file into the Service Manager installation directory. The instructions provided with the management pack aren’t very clear on this but you can obtain this file from an installation of the Microsoft Exchange Web Services Managed API.

Once you have done all of this, you can then finally you create your Exchange Connector. When testing the connection to Exchange to create the connector, you may receive the following error message:

SCSM Exchange Connector Error

“The connection to the server was unsuccessful. Please check the server name and/or credentials entered.
Additional Information: The source was not found, but some or all event logs could not be searched. Inaccessible logs: Security.”

If you receive this error, you need to read the Exchange Connector 3.0 documentation a little more carefully before heading to the Microsoft Download Center to download the Microsoft Exchange Web Service Managed API. You must be using version 1.2 of the API .dll file for Service Manager to work correctly. If you downloaded and used the later 2.0 version of the API, you will receive this error. This applies to all versions of Exchange including Office 365 or Exchange Online.

Simply install the correct version of the API and replace the Microsoft.Exchange.WebServices.dll file in your Service Manager installation directory. You will need to have all instances of the Service Manager console closed in order to replace this file as the console being open will put a lock on the file.

If you are unsure which version of the file you have, look in your Service Manager installation directory for the Microsoft.Exchange.WebServices.dll file. The API version 1.2 file has a file version of 14.3.32.0 and the API version 2.0 file has a file version of 15.0.516.14.

Project Home Lab: Open Server Surgery

So with my recent bought of activity on the home lab project front, evident from my previous posts Project Home Lab: Server Build and Project Home Lab: Servers Built, I’ve forged ahead and got some of the really challenging an blocking bits of the project done over Christmas. I eluded to what I needed to do next in the post Project Home Lab: Servers Built. All of this work paves the way for me to get the project completed in good order, hopefully all during January, at long last.

In this post I’m just going to gloss over some of the details about the home server move that I completed over the weekend. Lots more hours of thinking, note taking and planning were involved in this and most likely more than should have gone into it but I don’t like failure so I like to make sure I have all the bases covered and all the boxes ticked. Most critically, I had to arrange an outage window and downtime with the wife for this to happen.

Out with the Old

The now previous incarnation of my Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials home server lived in a 4U rack mount chassis. As it was the only server I possessed at the time, I never bothered with rack mount rails so problem one was in the fact that the server was just resting atop of my UPS in the bottom of the rack.

Problem two and luckily, something which has never bitten me previously but has long bothered me is that the server ran on desktop parts inside a server chassis. As a result, it had no IPMI interface for out of band management so that if something should go wrong with the Windows install or some warning in the BIOS, I can remotely access the keyboard, video and mouse (a KVM no less). It had an Intel Core i5 3740T processor with an ASUS ATX motherboard and unregistered unbuffered memory with a desktop power supply albeit it a high quality Corsair one. All good quality hardware but not optimal for a server build.

The biggest problem however was with the fact that the 4U chassis, a previous purchase from X-Case a couple of years ago sat at 4U tall but only had capacity for ten external disks. I had two 2.5″ SSDs for the operating system mounted internally in one of the 5.25″ bays in a dual 2.5″ drive adapter in addition to the external drives. It all worked nicely but it wasn’t ideal as my storage needs are growing and I only had two free slots. Although not a problem, the hot swap drive bays were added to the chassis with an aftermarket upgrade from X-Case didn’t use SAS Multilane SFF-8087 cables but instead used SATA connections which meant from my LSI 9280-16i4e RAID Controller, I had to use SAS to SATA Reverse Fanout cables which made the whole affair a bit untidy.

None of this is X-Case’s fault let us remember. The case did it’s job very well but my evolving and increasingly demanding needs no longer met the capabilities of the case.

Planning for the New

Because I like their to be order in the force, per my shopping list at Project Home Lab: Shopping List, I bought a new 3U X-Case chassis for my home server at the same time as buying up the lab components and getting the home server set straight is priority one because the 4U chassis is a blocker to me getting any further work done as the 3U and 2U lab servers need to fit in above it. In addition to moving chassis, I’ve given it an overhaul with a new motherboard and CPU to match the hardware in the lab environment. A smaller catalogue of parts means less knowledge required to maintain the environments and means I have an easy way of upgrading or retro-fitting in the future with the single design ethos.

As anyone knows, changing the motherboard, processor and all of the underlying system components in a Windows server is a nightmare potentially in the making so I had to plan well for this.

I had meticulously noted all of the drive configurations from the RAID Controller down to the last detail, I had noted which drives connected to which SATA port on which controller port and I had a full backup of the system state to perform a bare metal recovery if I needed. All of our user data is backed up to Azure so that I can restore it if needed although I didn’t expect any problems with the data drives in honesty, it was the operating system drives I was most concerned about.

In with the New

After getting approval for the service outage from the wife and shutting down the old home server, I got it all disconnected and removed from the rack. I began the painful process of unscrewing all of my eight drives from the old chassis drive caddy’s and the two internal drives and reinstalling them into the new caddy’s using the 2.5″ to 3.5″ adapters from the shopping list. I think I probably spent about 45 minutes carefully screwing and unscrewing drives and at the same time, noting which slot I removed them from and which slot I installed them into.

With all the drives moved over, I moved over the RAID Controller and connected up the SAS Multilane SFF-8087 cables to the connector with the tail end already connected to the storage backplanes in the chassis.

Once finished, I connected up the power and the IPMI network port on the home server which I had already configured with a static IP as the home server is my DHCP Server so it wouldn’t be able to get an automatic lease address. I got connected to the IPMI interface okay and powered the server on using it and quickly flipped over to the Remote Control mode which I have to say, works really nicely even when you consider that it’s Java based.

Up with the New

While I was building the chassis for the home server, I had already done some of the pre-work to minimize the downtime. The BIOS was already upgraded to the latest version along with the on-board SAS2008 controller and the IPMI firmware. I had also already configured all of the BIOS options for AHCI and a few other bits (I’ll give out all of the technicalities of this in another post later).

First things first, the Drive Roaming feature on the LSI controller which I blogged about previously, Moving Drives on an LSI MegaRAID Controller worked perfectly. All 9 of the virtual drives on the controller were detected correctly, the RAID1 Mirror for the OS drives stayed in-tact and I knew that the first major hurdle was a behind me. A problem here would have been the most significant to timely progress.

The boot drive was hit okay from the LSI RAID Controller BIOS and the Windows Server 2012 R2 logo appeared at least showing me that it was starting to do something. It hung here for a couple of minutes and then the words “Getting Devices Ready” appeared. The server hung here for at least another 10 minutes at which point I was starting to get worried. Just when I was thinking about powering it off and moving all the drives back and reverting my changes, a percentage appeared after the words “Getting Devices Ready”, starting at 35% and it quickly soared up to 100% and the server rebooted.

After this reboot, the server booted normally into Windows. It took me about another hour after this to clean-up the server. First I had to reconfigure my network adapter team to include the two on-board Gigabit Ethernet adapters on the Supermicro motherboard as I am no longer using the Intel PCIe adapter from the old chassis. Then, using the set devmgr_show_nonpresent_devices=1 trick, I removed all of the references to and uninstalled the drivers for the old server hardware.

After another reboot or two to make sure everything was working properly and a thorough check of the event logs for any Active Directory, DNS or DHCP errors and a test from my 3G smartphone to make sure that my published website was running okay on the new server, I called it a success. One thing I noted of interested here was that Windows appeared to not require re-activation as I had suspected it would. A motherboard and CPU family change would be considered a major hardware update which normally requires re-activation of the license key but even checking now, it reports activated.

Here’s some Mr. Blurrycam shots of the old 4U chassis after I removed it and the new 3U chassis in the rack.

WP_20141230_009

WP_20141230_006

As you can see from the second picture, the bottom 3U chassis is powered up and this is the home server. In disk slots 1 and 5 I have the two Intel 520 Series SSDs which make up the operating system RAID1 Mirror and in the remaining eight populated slots are all 3TB Western Digital Red drives.

Above the home server is the other 3U chassis which will be the Lab Storage Server once all is said and done and at the very bottom I have the APC 1500VA UPS which is quite happy at 20% load running the home server along with my switches, firewall and access points via PoE. I’ll post some proper pictures of the rack once everything is finished.

Behind the scenes, I had to do some cabling in the back of the rack to add a new cable for the home server IPMI interface which I didn’t have before and the existing cables for the home server NIC Team were a bit too tight for my liking caused by the 3U Lab Storage Server above being quite deep and pulling on them slightly. To fix this, I’ve patched up two new cables of longer length and routed them properly in the rack. I’ve got a lot of cables to make soon for the lab (14 no less) and I will be doing some better cable management at the same time as that job. One of the nice touches on the new X-Case RM316 Pro chassis is the front indicators for the network ports, both of which light up and work with the Supermicro on-board Intel Gigabit Ethernet ports. The fanatic in me wishes they were blue LEDs for the network lights to match the power and drive lights but that’s not really important now is it.

More Home Server Changes

The home server has now been running for two days without so much as a hiccup or a cough. I’m keeping an eye on the event logs in Windows and the IPMI alarms and sensor readings in the bedding in period and it all looks really happy.

To say thank you to the home server for playing so nicely during it’s open server surgery, I’ve got three new Western Digital 5TB drives to feed it some extra storage. Two of the existing 3TB drives will be coming out to make up the bulk storage portion of the Lab Storage Server Storage Space and one drive will be an expansion giving me a gross uplift of 9TB capacity in the pool. I would be exchanging the 3TB drives in the home server with larger capacity drives one day in the future anyway so I figured I may as well do two of them early and make good use of the old drives for the lab.

I’m also exploring the options of following the TechNet documentation for transitioning from Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials to Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard. You still get all of the Essentials features but on a mainline SKU which means less potential issues with software (like System Center Endpoint Protection for example which won’t install on Essentials). On this point I’m waiting for some confirmation of the transition behaviour in a TechNet Forum question I raised at https://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/d888f37a-e9e9-4553-b24c-ebf0b845aaf1/office-365-features-after-windows-server-standard-transition?forum=winserveressentials&prof=required as the TechNet article at http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/jj247582 leaves a little to be desired in terms of information.

I’m debating buying up some Lindy USB Port Blockers (http://www.lindy.co.uk/accessories-c9/security-c388/usb-rj-45-port-blockers-locks-c390/usb-port-blocker-pack-of-4-colour-code-blue-p2324) for the front access USB ports on all the servers so that it won’t be possible for anyone to insert anything in the ports without the unlocking tool to open up the port first. See if you can guess which colour I might buy?

Up Next

Next on my to do list is the re-addressing of the network, breaking out my hacksaw and cabling.

The re-addressing of the network is make room for the new VLANs and associated addressing which I will be adding for the lab and my new addressing schema makes it much easier for me longer term to manage. This is going to be a difficult job much like the job I’ve just finished. I’ve got a bit of planning to finish for this before I can do it so this probably won’t happen now until after new year.

The hacksaw, as drastic as that sounds is for the 2U Hyper-V server which you may notice is not racked in the picture above. For some reason, the sliding rails for the 2U chassis are too long for my rack and with the server installed on the rails and pushed back, it sits about an inch and half proud of the posts which no only means I can’t screw it down in place but I can’t close the rack door. I’m going to be hacking about two inches off the end of the rails so that I can get the server to sit flush in the rack. It’s only a small job but I need to measure twice and cut once as my Dad taught me.

As I mentioned before, I’ve got some 14 cables I need to make and test for the lab and this is something I can be working on in parallel to the other activities so I’m going to be trying to make a start on these soon so that once I have the 2U rails cut to size correctly, I can cable up at the same time.

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