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Thursday, July 19, 2012

VMware vSphere Client - Error 503

I posted about this same error message sometime back but now I have discovered an easier and faster way to resolve it.  Not fix it permanently, mind you, but at least make it so you can connect to your vSphere server using the VMware vSphere Client.

The Problem
When you are trying to logon to your vSphere 5 server using the VMware vSphere Client you get an error that says, "The remote server returned an error: (503) Server Unavailable".

The Solution
Assuming you have enabled SSH on your vSphere server you can open a Putty session on port 22.  After you have connected and logged in as root, issue the command called dcui and this will launch a console session that looks just like you were standing at the server.

Click F2 and login as root

Choose Troubleshooting Options from the menu

Choose Restart Management Agents from the menu

Press F11 to confirm your choice

Once the services are restarted you should now be able to login using the vSphere Client.  

There have been times when I've had to restart the Management Agents multiple times before I could finally get the vSphere Client to work.  I was hoping this would be resolved with VMware vSphere 5 Update 1, but unfortunately it has not.  And this is only occurring for me on one vSphere server whereas we have five others that are behaving fine.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Google Toolbar on Firefox 13

It's a shame I have to keep playing this cat-and-mouse game to keep my beloved Google Toolbar working in Firefox.

Google, if you're listening, please reconsider this decision and revive the Google Toolbar for Firefox.  You provide it for Internet Explorer, what gives?

To understand the context of this post you need to read my previous post:

There I describe how you could edit a configuration file, to make the Google Toolbar work again when upgrading to Firefox 11.  This trick also worked for Firefox 12.  But then when Firefox 13 came along, I once again lost the Google Toolbar.

You have to first follow the steps in the previous post, but then while you have the install.rdf file open and you changed the em:maxVersion line to something such as 20.0.* - now to accommodate Firefox 13 you must also look for the line a little farther down that starts with em:updateURL and make a change.

Change this line from this:
To this:

It worked for me, hoping this helps others as well.

Update 9/27/2013 - Please see my post More Issues with Google Toolbar on Firefox 24.0

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Microsoft Exchange - Mail Store will not mount

Let me start this post by saying I am a complete NOOB when it comes to Microsoft Exchange.  I should also say I hate strongly dislike MS Exchange.  From an Administrative side it is so unintuitive. I am spoiled rotten by the MDaemon Mail Server; so much easier to troubleshoot issues.

One of my clients contacted me today because their email wasn't working.  The server had randomly rebooted overnight and now they cannot send or receive mail and they are getting errors when connecting via Outlook.

While looking through error logs and troubleshooting this issue, here are some of the messages I received:

  • Mail store is not available
  • exchange store is not mounted
  • database files in this store are corrupted
Guess I should also mention this is on a Windows Server 2003 for Small Business Server SP2.

How do you mount the Mail Store?

OK, so how the heck do you mount the mail store? As I said, I'm new at this.

Open System Manager
  • Click on START
  • All Programs
  • Microsoft Exchange
  • System Manager
Expand the tree
  • Go to Servers
  • The name of your server
  • First Storage Group
Right-click on the mail store(s) and choose Mount Store

It will not mount - says it is corrupted

In my case both the Mailbox Store and the Public Folder Store were off-line and when I tried to mount them I would get an obscure error.  Turns out both of these stores were corrupted.

I was finally able to fix it with the following command lines.  First of all open a CMD prompt and CD to this directory:  C:\Program Files\Exchsrvr\bin

Then execute this command:
eseutil /p "C:\Program Files\Exchsrvr\MDBDATA\priv1.edb"  - This is the Mailbox Store

and then execute this command:
eseutil /p "C:\Program Files\Exchsrvr\MDBDATA\pub1.edb"  - This is the Public Folder Store

After using the above commands I was able to mount the mail stores from the System Manager (above).  I also read several people saying, Oh be careful with the /p (recovery) as it could cause issues.  Instead try the /r (repair) option; but in my case the /r did no good at all.

Please also refer to these two documents:
 As always, hoping this helps someone else.  It'll probably be me, because I'll probably forget.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Office 2007 Excel Graph Data Missing on Print Jobs

A customer of mine had an issue with printing a monthly report from Excel that contains charts and graphs.  The data on the graph did not show on the print out, but it did show correctly when doing a Print Preview.

In their case, one of the pages contained four graphs on the page.  The odd thing is that when you print the worksheet two of the four graphs had data and the other two didn't.  This behavior also happened when printing to several different models of printers and even when printing to Adobe PDF.

The other oddity is that this same spreadsheet worked correctly for some of my users, while it didn't for others.

In the end I discovered this issue was isolated to those that had Microsoft Office 2007.  Those running Office 2003 were not affected.  Further I found this is caused by a Microsoft Patch that was issued in December 2011.  Removing this patch (KB2596596) corrected our issue.

This is what the graph looked like when it printed incorrectly:

This is how the graph is supposed to look:

Again, just remove the patch called KB2596596 (see highlighted below)

Note: Some of the machines were running MS Office 2007 Basic Edition and some were running MS Office 2007 Enterprise Edition.  Same patch for both.

As always I'm hoping this will help someone else fighting this issue.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Google Toolbar on Firefox 11

I should have titled this post Google Toolbar on Firefox 11 and Beyond.  This trick works on Firefox 12 too and hopefully future versions.  This has been a popular post so I wanted to make it clear this isn't just for Firefox 11.

I have been an avid fan of the Google Toolbar ever since it was created.  It has always frustrated and befuddled me that Google never created one for Google Chrome.  And now I'm confused and aggravated (this is putting it as nicely as I can) that Google has decided to discontinue support for it in Firefox.

On my Desktop PC I have had Firefox and the Google Toolbar working happily together and Firefox has been continually updating to new versions and all is still good.  But when I got a new laptop I installed Firefox 11 and that's when I found that Google no longer offers the Toolbar for Firefox. Argh!

But wait, why does it still work on my desktop?  After a lot of trial and error I have figured out how to get the Google Toolbar working with Firefox 11 on my new laptop and I wanted to share how to do this.

Uninstall Firefox

From Control Panel, uninstall Firefox.  I suggest you DO NOT remove personal data

Install Firefox 4
Download and install Firefox version 4 from FileHippo

Install Google Toolbar
Then install the Google Toolbar for Firefox from FileHippo

Edit the install.rdf File
Now before you upgrade to Firefox 11 we have to do a little surgery.  In Windows Explorer go to this directory:

C:\Users\[User Name]\AppData\Roaming\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\jtn2a7fp.default\extensions\{3112ca9c-de6d-4884-a869-9855de68056c}\

NOTE: The above is on Windows 7, and the exact directory names may be different on your PC

In the above directory look for a file called: install.rdf

Using Notepad (or Notepad++) edit the install.rdf file.  Look for the line that looks like this:

and change it to this:

(Note:  As you will see in the comments below, change it to a higher value like 20.0.* so that you can make it work in Firefox 12 and beyond.)

Save the file.

Upgrade Firefox
From within Firefox click on Help and About Firefox

You should see the button to apply an Update.  This will take you to the latest version, which as of this writing is version 11.0.

I also wanted to mention this:  Those that used to get around it by using the Add-on Compatibility Reporter (, this apparently stopped working as of Firefox version 10.


Update 6/21/2012
The saga continues.  Read how I was able to make it work with Firefox 13: 

Update 9/27/2013 - Please see my post More Issues with Google Toolbar on Firefox 24.0

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Manually Remove Toolbar

I'm sure many of my fellow IT Admins are getting extremely annoyed with the search toolbar showing up on user's browsers.  This thing is being bundled with installers for other products, such as Java updates.  We IT people know what to watch for, but when user's take the updates, they just click Next without paying attention.

In many cases, you can go to Add-Remove Programs and quickly find listed and do an uninstall.  In other cases you have to study the list of programs very closely and you'll see a reference to in one of the Titles, and you can just uninstall that.

But in other cases, some unscrupulous vendors hide it so well that they don't even list an Uninstall for it.

Here is how I was able to completely get rid of it in one case.

I first did a registry search for and ultimately found an entry this reference:

C:\Program Files\\

I then tried to delete the folder C:\Program Files\\ but it wouldn't let me.

After looking around inside the folder I found Updater.exe

Then I looked in Task Manager and found this Updater.exe process was running, so I killed it.

Then I could delete the contents of the C:\Program Files\\ folder.

This gets rid of the Toolbar, but I suggest you use your favorite Registry Cleanup tool, such as CCleaner, to get rid of all of the references to it in the Windows Registry.

I know this is all about money.  Vendors looking to make a quick buck take money from to bundle their toolbar, but this kind of thing just makes me loose respect for all of the vendors involved.  This is akin to malware in my opinion.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Ripping DVDs to iPad

A friend of mine recently asked me, "How do I copy my DVDs to my iPad?".  She is about to take a long trip with her young child and thought perhaps taking some movies on the iPad would help during the long flight.

This seemed like a reasonable request and to be honest I've also been curious how to do this as well.  Apple's iTunes and Windows Media Player make it a breeze to copy your audio CD's that you own to the computer but as I quickly learned, DVDs are a whole other animal.

There are probably hundreds of ways to do this, and this isn't meant to be a definitive guide, but rather to step you through a process that worked for me.  I'm not an expert on this topic.  Heck I can barely spell CODEC.  So please don't ask me how to rip your particular DVD to your particular device.  Odds are I won't know.

You will need the following items:

VLC, in my opinion, is the best Media Player on the planet.  I like it because it's lightweight and seems to play any audio or video format I've ever thrown at it.

At present I am running VLC version 1.1.11 and they recently released 2.0.  HandBrake (I'm running version 0.9.6), is the software that helps you convert your media from one format to another and seems to rely on VLC to help decode the copy-protection on most DVDs.  But I'm reading in the forums that VLC 2.0 breaks HandBrake.  This seems to primarily affect Apple Mac computers; not sure about Windows PCs.  But for our purposes, we'll just be using VLC to playback our media, and use HandBrake to convert from one file format to another as well as from one screen size to another.

MakeMKV is where the magic really happens.  It is able to decode many of the copy-protection schemes used on many DVDS and convert it to a format called MKV.  Ever heard of it?  Me neither.  MKV is the Matroska Multimedia Container.  I could direct you to the Wikipedia article (which is a good read), but instead let me suggest this explanation from the people who make MakeMKV:

One thing that excites me about the MKV format is that it seems to be becoming adopted by more and more software and hardware media players, and it is an open standard and not proprietary.  From what I've read, even the pay version of the Tivo Desktop supports MKV.  So I may finally have a reason to buy Tivo Desktop.  I don't have a DVD player anymore (except for the computer) and being able to watch my DVD collection on the Tivo is very appealing to me.

Problems using just VLC and HandBrake
Before we get started I wanted to mention this.  I did first try using just VLC and HandBrake, as that combination seemed to work for so many in the past.  It was because it didn't work that lead me down the path I did and forced me to learn more than I cared to know about this subject.  I wanted to mention it here because it might help someone else.

First off, HandBrake would not even detect some of my DVDs until I first played a little bit of it using the VLC Media Player.  This seems to have something to do with VLC setting some Regional Settings that HandBrake on its own cannot detect from my computer's DVD drive.

My other issue is that after I tried to rip the content from the DVD using HandBrake, below is the kind of result I ended up with:

Try Googling the symptom above.  How do you begin to describe it?  As it turns out this is because of the DRM (Digital Rights Management) copy-protection in use on the DVD.  In other words, HandBrake could not decode it.  I thought I was either doing something wrong or had the settings wrong.  I wasted a lot of time before I figured out it was DRM.

Overview of the Process

  • Insert DVD
  • Use MakeMKV and let it decode your DVD and learn the Titles and Chapters it contains and then convert the contents to MKV files on your hard drive.
  • Play a few of the MKV files to verify they work and decide what you want to keep or discard.
  • Use HandBrake to convert the MKV file(s) to an MP4 format with a size suitable for your iPad.
  • Add the movie to your iTunes Library
  • Add cover art in iTunes
  • Sync to your iPad

Using MakeMKV

Insert your DVD and open MakeMKV.  Click on the graphic as pictured below.

This step usually just takes a couple of minutes but I had one DVD that took 30 minutes.  This step is identifying the Titles and Chapters and appears to also be trying to figure out the encryption scheme.

When it is complete you are offered a screen like the one below.  You could take the time and just select the Titles, Chapters, or Audio tracks that you want, but since there is no preview, I suggest converting it all to the MKV format.  You can delete what you do not want later.

As you can see in the picture above, choose the Drive and Folder where you want to store the MKV files.  These will be quite large so choose a drive with plenty of space.  Then click the MakeMKV button to begin the process.  So far, every DVD I've done, this step takes about 15 minutes or less.  And this step isn't very CPU intensive.

Let's talk a bit about Titles and Chapters for those that may not know.  Some DVDs contain additional content besides the main movie.  This could be trailers for other movies, for example.  Typically each trailer as well as the main movie is considered a Title.  Then within a Title it is broken up into Chapters.

So after your MakeMKV conversion, open the folder you chose to see the results.  You will see an MKV file for each Title that was on your DVD.  The largest file size is likely the main movie, and the one you'll want to convert in the next step with HandBrake.

In my case, I don't want the Movie Trailers, so I just deleted the two smaller files.

Although it is not a required step, I highly recommend you play at least a portion of your movie file with VLC just to confirm it converted correctly.

Also, you can now remove your DVD disc from the drive.

Using HandBrake
Open HandBrake and from the Source pull-down button choose Folder, then point to the folder that contains your MKV file.

You will see HandBrake parse the folder and show you your Title and Chapters.

Now you will want to choose the Destination; what folder and file name you want this new file to be placed.  On the right-side of the screen choose iPad and HandBrake will select options for you that are appropriate to scale to fit the iPad screen.  By default HandBrake chooses the file extension of .M4V but I usually change it to .MP4 (my personal preference).  Either is fine.

I highly recommend you use the Preview button at the top.  The conversion process takes awhile and I'd hate to see you waste time by ending up with an unusable file.  

When you are ready, press the Start button at the top and go get some coffee.  This conversion process is very CPU intensive and will take some time.  This is where I'm so thankful to have such a fast machine. For example, on my Intel Core I7 machine with 16GB of memory it took 50 minutes to convert a movie that is 1 Hour and 52 minutes long.  And this is with all 8 CPU cores running full blast.

After your movie has been converted to MP4 format, I recommend you play a little of it using VLC.  Again, just to make sure it converted correctly.

Add the movie to iTunes Library
Open iTunes and then drag-and-drop your MP4 file (.mp4 or .m4v file extension).

If you've never done this before you can drag to the Movies folder, but your entire Library will be highlighted as you do it.  Don't worry, iTunes knows it is a movie file and will put in the Movies folder.

Add Covert Art
If you will Google the Title of your movie, I'm confident you will find a picture of the original cover artwork of your DVD.  Just save that picture file to your computer.  Then click on the Movies folder in iTunes and find you're movie.  Right-click on your movie and select Get Info. Choose the Artwork tab and choose Add.  Select the picture you desire.

Syncing to your iPad
Depending upon how you configured sync settings, your movies may not automatically transfer over to your iPad.  So connect your iPad via USB to your computer.  Then under devices, select your iPad on the left (1), then select Movies at the top (2), and place a check mark beside your movie Title (3).

Then click the Apply button at the bottom and it will sync to your iPad.  Enjoy.

What to do with the files?
Now that you're done, what do you do with the MKV and MP4 (or M4V) files?  That's up to you.  When you did the drag-and-drop to iTunes, it copied the file to your Library, so there isn't a need to keep the MP4 or M4V file.

I would recommend keeping the MKV file.  This way you'll have it in case you want to convert it for use on another device, like your phone.  In my case, I'll copy the MKV files to my laptop so I can enjoy them there.  And if/when I get Tivo Desktop, I'll play the MKV versions.

Final Thoughts
I am so grateful to all of the smart people out there that create and contribute to products like VLC, HandBrake, and MakeMKV.  And offer it for use at little or no cost.  MakeMKV is free to try, you just have to re-install every 30-60 days.  But it costs $50 (US) to register, and I plan on doing so just to show my support.

There are other commercial products that claim to do this but I'm finding they are more expensive and are basically doing the same steps above.  

Monday, March 12, 2012

Windows 7 Screen Magnifier

A user just called me and reports they keep accidentally turning on the Windows 7 Screen Magnifier and they don't know how to turn it off.  They also don't know how they are invoking it in the first place.

Since I don't use this feature I didn't know either.  I wanted to share what I've now learned.

If you use the Windows Key + "The Plus Sign on the Keyboard" this will turn on the magnifier.  As you keep pressing the Windows Key + "The Plus Sign on the Keyboard" it will keep increasing the magnification to wherever you have your cursor.

In order to turn it off you have to press Windows Key + Escape

This seems counter-intuitive to me.  Seems like the Escape key by itself would have been the correct choice.  The user still doesn't know how they are invoking it, but at least we know how to turn it off.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

I want the old TweetDeck back

I am so frustrated with the new TweetDeck .  It is so lacking in features compared to the old one. I have tried to adapt to the new one but I've had enough!  I want the old one back.

Thanks so much to David Amador for posting the old beloved version:

I can't believe that Twitter paid so much money to buy TweetDeck only to ruin it.  They paid $40 million dollars.  Can you believe that?

Heck for half that amount I would have wrote one for them, and I don't even know how, but for that kind of cash, I could hire a team of programmers and we'd all retire.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

I don't get viruses

I'm an IT guy.  I don't get viruses.  
Well, come watch me eat some humble pie, and I'll tell you a story of how I got bit, and how I resolved it.

As is probably obvious by this blog I am an IT person.  Although I am far from perfect, I haven't had a virus or malware on my personal computer(s) in years, I mean like maybe close to a decade.  Since I'm in the business, I know what precautions to take, I observe links before I click them, I know how to kill tasks in the background that look a little suspicious, etc.  I probably watch what is in the web browser's address bar more than I watch anything else on the page so I can make sure I'm actually on the site I'm supposed to be.

Last night I got home and sat down at my computer and was about to begin a long session of upgrades for one of my clients.  I had seen a reference to a new movie being released called Act of Valor.  I knew my son had expressed an interest in seeing it and I wondered what it was rated.

So I went to, clicked on the movie, and then suddenly I saw a browser window open with a fake antivirus.  I know these screens all to well, because I'm the one called in when one of my user's get bit.  But before my eyes could even focus to begin to read the screen and before I even moved the mouse, I watched it do a very quick download and reboot my computer, and bam! I had a virus.  Not just any virus, but a rootkit.  I've heard about these drive-by downloads, but I'd never experienced one before.

Time to Rant
I'm going to vent a little.  If you want to watch, read on.  Otherwise skip to the bottom to see how I removed it.  I am more than a little pissed off about this.  I run Windows 7 and I put up with the nagging UAC (User Access Control) prompts in the thought that this is supposed to prevent this sort of thing.  I run IE9 with the smart-screen filter on.  I use MSE (Microsoft Security Essentials).  I keep up with patches on everything, not just Windows.  And above all, I am careful.  I don't surf sites that are known for serving up malware, and I don't even download torrents or questionable software.  And yet...

When Microsoft first introduced UAC in Vista, I thought it was a dumb idea, and boy was it annoying.  Everything you clicked, the computer would essentially ask, "did you mean to click that? Are you sure?"  MS toned it down in Windows 7, and as I learned more about UAC, I began to at least appreciate what Microsoft was trying to accomplish and in fact I leave UAC on for my clients even though this has introduced a wide range of complexities with Login and Logoff scripts and general maintenance that we have to perform.

But why, to this day, with Windows 7 and UAC are rootkits still possible?  What have I missed?  Programs are supposed to not have direct access to the hardware without going through Windows, unless they are granted higher privileges, and UAC is supposed to ask you for permission to grant those higher privileges.

Thank you Sony for introducing the world to rootkits (see Wikipedia).  This is but one of several reasons I do not buy Sony products anymore.  There are other reasons, but that's for another rant.  And by God Microsoft, why after all these years can you not block these damnable things?  I could understand it if I booted from a CD or USB drive that the hard drive's MFT is fair game, but while I'm in Windows, surely you could devise a way to block it or at the very least alert the user before the deed is done.

Mixed Messages
OK, after I got bit and the computer rebooted I was facing the Blue Screen of Death on each reboot.  I was able to boot into Safe Mode and run MSCONFIG which allowed me to disable all non-Microsoft services as well as all Startup items.  This then allowed me to the boot into Windows normally without the BSOD errors.  But while I was in Safe Mode with Networking I opened up Microsoft Security Essentials and saw that my virus definitions were less than a day old.  I did a scan and it found nothing.  Then I updated the definitions and ran another scan and this time it reported that I had the alureon.a MBR rootkit virus.  It then told me that it couldn't remove the virus and suggested that I try the new Windows Defender Offline.  So from another computer I went and downloaded the 64-bit version of WDO (which supposedly has the latest definitions).

I booted from the WDO CD and it says it couldn't find any infections.  So MSE says I have a virus and the tool they suggest to remove can't find it?  So I downloaded and burned the Kaspersky Rescue CD and booted from that.  But it couldn't find anything either.  Then I ran Malwarebytes and it at least said it found an infection.  It reported that the file called C:\Windows\SvcHost.exe was infected and that a copy of that file was also running in memory.  Malwarebytes tried to remove it but after each reboot it came back, because it is a rootkit.  I had also turned off System Restore, but that didn't help either.

There is a legitimate SvcHost.exe file that lives in the C:\Windows\System32\ folder, just so you don't get them confused.

Try This, Try That
After poking around and trying some of my usual tricks, I said forget it, let me restore from last night's backup.  I use the Symantec Backup Exec System Recovery.  As I went through the restore options I noticed it didn't automatically offer to check "Restore the MBR" and I didn't choose that either.  In hindsight, I wonder if that would've corrected my issue.  But after about 45 minutes of waiting for the restore, I rebooted to find I still had the rootkit.

I then grabbed my Windows 7 install CD and booted from that, chose the Repair option, and then the Command Prompt and issued these commands:

  • bootrec /FixMbr
  • bootrec /FixBoot

This too didn't help.

Finally - A Fix
As I Googled around I began to see references to TDSSKiller.  I remember this tool.  Kaspersky made it.  In fact, I had a copy in my toolkit on my hard drive.  I ran that, it found and removed the rootkit.  Yeah!  Thanks Kaspersky.

But then I had to laugh.  Why is that my copy of TDSSKiller which is dated November of 2010 found and removed something that their Rescue CD that I just downloaded didn't find?  And why, with a virus that has been around for so long, couldn't Microsoft Security Essentials detect it with virus definitions that were only a day old, but could be detected by new ones?  Does this mean the rootkit somehow tainted MSE?  If so, that's another very serious concern.

As I was doing my research for this post (after I removed my virus) I have discovered that Kaspersky has a newer version of TDSSKiller dated Feb 7, 2012 available here:

In looking back over this ordeal, what can I do different to prevent this from happening again?  At the moment, I'm not sure.  I feel like I am as protected as I can be without installing multiple antivirus and anti-malware programs.  I have always said, running more than one antivirus program is like wearing more than one condom.  It works, but it sure takes the fun out of it.

I do know this.  The next time one of my clients has malware, I will be a bit more empathetic, as it is entirely possible they really didn't do anything wrong by clicking something they shouldn't.  Well, maybe not "all" of my users.  Some just can't help themselves.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Android Phone Stops Syncing Contacts to Gmail

My Android phone stopped automatically syncing my contacts with Gmail.  Even if I went through the Settings menu and chose to do a manual sync, it would go through the motions but wouldn't update my contacts, and I also noticed that the date/time of the last sync wouldn't change.

I finally found the answer.  Many thanks to the user Peaser on this website:

The solution:

In your phone, go to Settings, Applications, Manage Applications, and under the All tab, choose Contacts Storage.  Then push the "Clear Data" button.

Then resync your phone to Gmail:

In your phone, go to Settings, Accounts & Sync.  Under Managed Accounts, choose Google, and press the "Sync Now" button.

Followup (3/2/2012) 
I wanted to share a followup to this story.  A few days later I noticed my contacts weren't syncing again.  The behavior was slightly different.  Previously the date/time on the last sync didn't change.  This time it would update the date/time of the last sync but wouldn't actually sync the differences between my phone and Gmail.

So, I did this:
  • Settings
  • Accounts & Sync
  • Select your Google account
  • Uncheck "Sync Contacts"
  • Settings
  • Applications
  • Manage Applications
  • All (The All Applications Tab)
  • Select Contact Storage (I'm told that on some phones it is listed as "Google Contacts Sync")
  • Press the Clear Data button (which purges all contacts from your phone)
  • Settings
  • Accounts & Sync
  • Select your Google account
  • Check "Sync Contacts" (which should cause it to re-download your contacts from Gmail)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Unable to Browse VMware Datastores

Arg!  I can't browse my VMware vSphere Datastores.

It didn't start out that way, but let me tell you a story of how I started with one problem, only to discover another, and another, and then ultimately the fix for all of them.

I was setting up backup jobs using Trilead's VM Explorer ( and it kept getting stuck on a message "downloading VMX file".  When doing this from a working vSphere 5 server, this step takes half-a-second, but in my case I tried several VMs all on the same vSphere box and at one point let it set there for over an hour.

Occasionally when I tried I would eventually get a 503 http service unavailable error message.  I Googled both messages and found all sorts of suggestions for these problems and I tried most of them to no avail.  I should add I was seeing people describing this issue with various other backup products as well, like Veeam Backup, and Quest vRanger.

Then I tried using VM Explorer's File Explorer and I was able to browse the datastore and manually copy the VMX file, so I knew it wasn't locked.  I could also browse the contents of my datastores using an SSH/Putty connection.

But when I tried to browse the datastore using the vSphere Client, no matter which datastore I selected I got the "Searching Datastore...." and it would never display files or folders.  I Googled some more and found this too is a common issue with no concrete resolutions.  I also tried using the web browser to browse the datastores by going to the vSphere's IP address, but that lead to a spinning hour glass.

I tried rebooting the vSphere server several times and that didn't fix these issues.  I also tried powering down all of the VMs and placed it in Maintenance Mode, but again no luck.

Several weeks ago we setup a Buffalo Terastation NAS device and configured it to use the NFS protocol.  I had it mounted as a datastore as well.  The performance of this solution was awful and we are in the process of abandoning it.

As I sat there staring at the screen wondering what else to try and wondering if I was going to have to move these Virtual Machines to another server and completely re-install the vSphere software, I decided to remove the unused NFS datastore volume since I wasn't using it anyway.  Low and behold, after removing it I could suddenly browse both of the other datastores as quick as you please.

And my original issue with Trilead's software, the "downloading VMX file" problem also disappeared.

I would have never guessed that issues with one datastore volume would prevent you from accessing other datastores.

I hope this helps some other poor soul.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Access the vSphere 5 Console via SSH (Putty)

I just learned the neatest trick and I just had to share it.

I was unable to connect to a vSphere 5 server using the VMware vSphere Client.  

I needed to quickly reboot that server from remote.  I did have access to the server via SSH using Putty.

What I learned is that after you login via SSH just type the command: dcui
and viola! you have access to the console:

Sweet! This will be easy for me to remember, "David Cocke's User Interface".

To exit the above and return to the command line console, press CTRL-C.


A couple of days later I found my self in a situation where I couldn't access the server via the vSphere Client and rebooting via the above GUI console didn't work either.

What did work was this command:

/sbin/ -r

The -r of course means reboot.  Without it, it will shutdown and not reboot.  You have to be patient after you issue this command.  In my case it took almost a minute before you actually started seeing a response.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Unable to login with vSphere Client

This has happened to me on several occasions so I wanted to document this.  
When you use the VMware vSphere client to login to a vSphere server (in my case a vSphere 5 server) you are unable to login and you get a dialogue box that has a title of Connection Error, and a message that reads:

The server {the server you're trying to login to} could not interpret the client's request.  (The remote server returned an error: (503) Server Unavailable.)

Then below that it gives an error stack message:

Call "ServiceInstance.RetrieveContent" for object "ServiceInstance" on Server "{the server you're trying to login to}"

What appears to be happening is that the SSL encryption service on the vSphere server isn't running and the client cannot talk to the vSphere server using SSL.

What is frustrating is that you know the virtual machines are running, but since you cannot login with the client there is no graceful way to go into Maintenance Mode and/or to reboot the server.

The trick to fix it is to get the various services to restart including the one that handles SSL encryption.

So download Putty to a workstation, and connect to the server using SSH.  This assumes you have already enabled SSH on the vSphere Server.

Once logged in with Putty issue to the following command in the terminal window:

/sbin/ restart

You will begin to see several services restart.  Once complete you should be able to login again using the vSphere client.  The above command works on vSphere version 5 (ESXi 5), but I have not tested this on ESXi 4.x.  

In my case this situation tends to occur when I place the server in Maintenance Mode and try to reboot it, but it doesn't reboot and you suddenly loose your connection to it with your vSphere Client and can't login again.

July 19, 2012 - I found a faster and easier way to deal with this issue.  Please read my new post called: VmWare vSphere Client Error 503

Friday, January 20, 2012

IIS 7 and 32-bit ASP Apps

A highly respected colleague of mine, Donald Milam, emailed me today about a problem he recently encountered.  Knowing I'll likely run into this myself very soon I decided to post this here as a reference.  Thanks, Donald for sharing this.


In the spirit of your blog, I wanted to share something I found:

Recently one of our clients had an issue with retrieving their check images through Internet Teller. This was after they had upgraded their IIS Webserver hosting Internet Teller to IIS7. By default Server 2008 R2 only installs in 64 bit. IIS 7 by default disables 32 bit ASP applications from running.

This can affect third party applications from being executed, such as check image retrieval and Single Sign On (SSO) to external sites such as Bill Pay. To enable this functionality follow these steps:

Create a new or edit an existing Application Pool using Internet Information Services (IIS) Manager by clicking “Application Pools” on the left hand pane. Click “Add Application Pool” and provide it with a name such as “Classic ASP” or edit the existing pools. Right click the new application pool and select “Advanced Settings” and under “General” switch “Enable 32-Bit Applications” to “True”.
Then switch (or verify which pool your ASP site is using) over to use the new Application Pool by right clicking on the site name and selecting “Manage Application”/”Advanced Settings” and changing the Application Pool to the newly created “Classic ASP”.

Thanks to this website for the above solution:

Below is a screenshot of the settings (click to enlarge):