Ramblings From The Litter Tray of Life

Archive for May, 2009

Customising System Properties

Posted by graycat on 30 May 2009

If you build your own PCs for a living or look after corporate ones with standard builds, you may find it interesting or useful to customise the system properties of a machine if only to add a little “corporate identity” and colour.

Here’s how I do it:

The logo – create a new bmp image file 180×114 pixels in size with whatever you want to display. Yes you can use rude pictures, no I don’t think that’s a great idea for work even though it might be funny. Maybe an April Fool idea though ….
Once you’ve got your logo up and running as you like is, copy it to %SYSTEMROOT%\System32. This will be c:\WINNT\system32 in a 2000 machine and c:\windows\system32 in and XP machine.

The writing – open Notepad and create a new text file with the following info:

[General]
Manufacturer=Graycat.com
Model=ICMB 500

[Support Information]
Line1=” ”
Line2=” For general support, upgrades and questions please”
Line3=” log on to the IT Help Desk at:”
Line4=””
Line5=””
Line6=”        http://Help.Desk.com        ”
Line7=””
Line8=””
Line9=” For urgent issues contact you local IT admin.”

Obviously customise that to your liking and environment then save as “oeminfo.ini” in the same directory as the logo.

Now when you hit the system properties you’ll have your company logo displayed with the first two lines under [general]. When you click the support information button, you’ll get the rest of the information too (warning: only the first ten lines though).

Neat huh?

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How To Build A Network Boot Disc

Posted by graycat on 16 May 2009

If you’re using a network based system for deploying your corporate images such as Symantec’s Ghost Solution or Suite then you will no doubt be familiar with network boot discs. As a concept they simply load a small operating system into RAM from CD or floppy disc during boot with the sole aim of getting the machine on the network. Usually once they’re actually chatting away on the network happily you then map a drive and run an executable like ghost.exe and have fun from there.
Unfortunately there are limitations with the ones built with ghost etc so here’s my guide on making a super-duper all singing and dancing one. Hopefully this will work with all the network cards on your network but every now and then you run into an awkward one. As a fail safe, I thoroughly recommend you have an Intel Pro network card spare and to hand and use that in a pinch.

Software needed:
1. The bootdisk – http://netbootdisk.com/index.htm
2. Menu editor – http://netbootdisk.com/menuedit.htm
3. Floppy disk to image – http://www.winimage.com/download.htm
4. CD Burner – Nero works but I prefer “CD Burner XP Pro v3” as it’s freeware. I recently tried the latest version and struggle. When I’ve worked it out, I’ll repost.  

Overview
1. Make the floppy.
2. Edit the setup to suit.
3. Create bootable CD from that.

Method
1. Making the Floppy
– download the latest version from netbootdisk.com and unzip to somewhere on your machine
– format a floppy disc – make the floppy an XP bootable disk (an option on the format menu)
– run the batch file in the unzipped folder
– check it works by test booting a machine with it
2. Edit the default settings to suit
– download the Menu Editor GUI from netbootdisk.com
– launch the executable and make and changes you wish, ie: default username, password, domain etc
– enabling the CD drive at this point is very useful
– save file over existing to update disk
3. Create CD
– create image of floppy disk using WinImage
– insert floppy disk and run WinImage
– select Disc -> Read Disk (make sure a:\ drive is selected first)
– once read has been done, click save and save as a *.ima file.
– run CD Burner XP Pro v3 and select data disk (top option)
– select Disc -> Boot Options
– tick “Make Disc Bootable”
– select the floppy image you’ve just made and hit ok. It might query you to the file type but just ignore it and leave it alone
– hit “burn disc” and burn the CD
– test the CD in a machine and see what it does.

Optional extras– you can copy extra files of applications to the root of the CD before burning. As long as you enable CD in the original menu edit, you’ll be able to access the CD drive as R:\. If you do, you can add such things as ghost.exe or even a whole image to the CD and run the entire imaging session from there.

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Dead Servers and Backup Exec

Posted by graycat on 8 May 2009

Sometimes stuff does just go wrong and a machine dies on you. As i said, it just happens. Unfortunately if you’re running Veritas Backup Exec (owned by Symantec now) you might find that it still has the old server in it’s backup jobs.

In this case gets a touch annoying when you have successful backup jobs reporting as failing ….. and that just irritates the hell out of me!

So diving into the backup job to take out the old server and what do you see? Yep, it’s not there! The trick is to not view it in a graphical manner.

When you open the job, go to Selections and then in the right-hand pane, click “View Format” from graphical to text and you’re in business!

A nice little fix for an irritating little problem.

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Upgrading old servers …

Posted by graycat on 5 May 2009

sometimes it’s just not worth it.

I’ve been lucky this weekend and whilst it was a three day one (bank holiday Monday!) I’ve spent about 30hrs working in various offices. Oh yeah, check out my rock n roll lifestyle! Bet you’re jealous, huh?

Ahem.

Anyway, twelve of those lovely hours were spent on Monday trying to upgrade a server (I’ve just found out it’s over 7 years old now.). Funnily enough, it was a bit of a struggle.

6hrs were spent just getting to the hardware to talk properly. I did indeed rock a little happy dance when I finally managed to get it booting from the CD. Yes, it was that bad.

2hrs were spent trying to get into the BIOS as some previous owner / admin / clown had put a password on it and not written it down.

4hrs were spent trying to get Windows to install. Only for it to fail on restart with hard drive issues.

So the primary file server for an office is down and i’m 3hrs into the next day and guess what – yep, still no further forward.

Why can’t people accurately document things?! I mean seriously, if you’ve built something a particular way for a reason – put down why. For example, there’s a NAS box server here where the OS drive is D and not C. Why? Because it had a raid card failure and the new one swapped the drive letters about. Well actually it destroyed the OS partition and left the data one and at that contained a nice high fraction of a terabyte of data, it was decided to leave it that way round. Yes, it’s annoying but not as much as spending the whole weekend breaking it down and rebuilding it then watchingabout 0.9Tb replicate from a really slow site. All of this is noted in the documentation though so “the next guy” can look at it and see why.

The box I’ve been dealing with this weekend is another thing entirely. Not only was it built “wrong” using the OS to do the RAID for all of the drives but there’s no documentation as to what it is or where the drivers are. Fortuanately we managed to liberate a few of them but we’re still playing “guess the part” with some bits.

Anyway, the upshot of this is that upgrading a seven year old file server has probably cost us more in down time and my overtime (as if I get paid that any more!) then buying a brand new one! So i’m just going to leave you with this thought: “sometimes the most expensive route is cheaper in the end”

Oh, and don’t even ask what the server is coz we don’t know!!

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Expanding a VMWare Array on HP kit

Posted by graycat on 2 May 2009

Greetings on this wonderfully sunny Saturday! Yes, it’s Saturday and Captain Graycat is being rushed into service once more!

[cue cut away to a battlefield somewhere on an unknown planet]

“Captain!” screams Major VMware with increasing urgency as he ducks incoming laser and projectile fire

“WHAT?” replies our intrepid hero, sparing only the most minute of attention away from his continued effort to track down that darn laser bunker. “Well, tracers work both ways, old boy” he mumbles as he drills a reply volley into the nest with alarming accuracy.

“Captain! We need an array expanding and you’re the only one for the job!” cries the Major in mild dispair as he throws himself down next to Capt. Graycat

“You need a what doing to who?” replies our slightly distracted hero.

“An array expanding! We’ve already sent in Lieutenant Ears but he just panicked and is now a gibbering mess.”

“Oh dear lord, not again.” mutters Graycat ducking into cover to discuss with the Major “Ok, what’s so difficult about this one that needs me?”

“It’s an impossible missing, sir! It just can’t be done on an HP system like that but we must have it or the battle is lost!”

“There isn’t a system built that I can’t give a good kicking to, son. Watch and learn!” cries our hero as he shoulders his firearm of knowledge and leaps over the cover to charge into his latest mission

“Wow, that’s some kinda guy” mutters Major VMware as he watches the legend that is Capt Graycat disappear into the fog of war and tries not to think about his slightly soiled underwear that requires changing very soon.

[cue cool opening credits to The Adventures of Captain Graycat]

Ok, so it’s not really all that glamorous but it does need doing every now and then. Expand an array as well as changing your underwear!

It’s a bit of a good news / bad news situation for us really. Good news – you can run ESX server on HP kit. Bad news – there are no plugins for HP kit so you can’t control it via the GUI.

According to HP support the only way you can do this is using their SmartStart CD so I’ll go through that method first.

  1. Download the latest CD from here (Link)
  2. Extract iso and then burn boot disc
  3. Shutdown all your VMWare machines, kick the ESX server into “maintenance” mode, slap the boot CD in and reboot
  4. When the HP SmartStart menus come up wander through to the Maintenance section and then Array Configuration Utility
  5. Have it scan for the controllers and pick the one you want (mine has an onboard P400 for the internal drives and a P800 for the MSA70 external array)
  6. You should now see some extra drives not included in your RAID array or logical disc. Select Extend on the right hand window and select the extra drives to add to the array
  7. Select Extend and enter the final RAID / logical partition size you want. There will be a maximum available size listed so I just plumped for that. (See later for array / logical drive sizes info).
  8. L0cate the save button, hit it and watch all the pretty lights flash as the array extends and expands to cover the new drives.

HP sugest that it’ll take 15 minutes per Gb so if like me, you’re got a 1Tb+ logical drive now well you’re going to be in for a bit of a wait whilst it sorts itself out.

You can check on the progress by selecting the logical drive and hitting “More Information” in the righthand window. It’ll then show you rhe progress at the bottom of that page.

Just one word of warning though – VMWare can not deal with logical drives larger than 2Tb, I’m told. So stay lower than this for the moment. I think it’ll be resolved for later versions though which’ll be great!

Another method I’ve heard of but don’t have the balls / skills to try is do ssh onto the ESX server itself, download the command line version of the Array Configuration Utility for Redhat linux and then use that to do the expansion. It looks viable but as ESX is not a “proper” linux installation (eg: wget is missing completely) and this is a production machine for me …. I’m going to leave that one to braver people than I!

Well, I’m off to check on my server and see how the expansion is going. Toodle pip!

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