So Complicated!

Why has the world of technology become so complicated? All in the name of “we can do it”, right? But this is almost unfathomable. It really makes my head hurt.

  • In VMware, you have a choice of UEFI or BIOS mode. Good luck figuring out which one is the better choice, because there isn’t.
  • Ubiquiti has twenty UniFi products to choose from, not counting the new UniFi Dream Machine. This has become almost impossible for even a VAR to make the best decision of which product to recommend.
  • Ad blocking has become a huge nightmare battle as the content providers have become even smarter in their detection of ad blockers. Yet what is a privacy-conscious consumer to do? The choices are not clear at all.
  • Everything has a microphone and camera built-in and even the super-liberal Engadget and I agree that consumers have no privacy left.
  • The efforts to keep hackers at bay seem trivial compared to the massive horde of bad people growing every day. It’s like endless wave of zombies attacking your stronghold. Why does convenience come at the price of security?
  • Google Assistant is broken badly on my Android phone. I asked it “remind me when I get home to wash my car” but even using my most clear voice it just wouldn’t understand me. This is supposed to make my life easier but all it did for about 2 minutes was make my blood pressure spike into unhealthy levels.
  • My Dell PowerConnect broke a few months ago, so I “upgraded” to an HP ProCurve. It has frequent issues that require me to restart devices. So I am waiting for a Juniper EX2200 to arrive from eBay.
  • I need a new Android phone but there is definitely no clear decision. Instead I’m just going one day at a time wondering if something new will be released that will be the right decision.

I wish life was simpler.

Which Came First? AD or VMware?

This was a particularly frustrating issue to solve on my home network. The answer to the question posed by the title of the post is obviously AD. But don’t tell that to my network. Sigh…

It all started with the untimely dying of a UPS battery. Investigation later showed that I got at least 3+ years of lifetime from the pack before it required replacement. Cannot complain there. But this particular UPS likes to notify me that it’s time for new batteries by shutting off entirely. The only two things getting power from this unit: (both) power supplies from the VMware server and the Dell gigabit managed switch. A recipe for disaster.

I’ll keep this post short. The whole reason why there was an issue was that the VMware server was not properly shut down. Oh, and in the process of trying to start up the server, the UPS died again. Joy… Anyway, because I have battery backup capability, I do not worry about sudden power failures. Therefore (and for other reasons too) I run my OS drive datastore in a RAID stripe array (without parity). Performance is great; redundancy, not so much. Upon starting up the AD controller, there were some issues. DHCP would not start at all. Who knows what else? So I made the decision to restore from backup. I use Veeam to routinely image the VMware guests through vCenter. Everything is happily married to Microsoft AD for security and easy authentication. Well, when you have to restore the AD controller which must be shut off, that makes it nearly impossible to authenticate the proper connectivity points through vCenter and Veeam to restore the guest. And this is why Microsoft (and VMware) always tell you to have a physical DC at every site.

The ultimate solution was to edit DNS of the services not properly authenticating to use an off-site DC. That worked like a charm. Pat myself on the back for that ability. Meanwhile after the dust has settled, I am starting a new experiment: virtualizing another DC as a guest on FreeNAS.

A Tale of Two NAS’s

Finally I met with success in two Network Attached Storage devices on my home network. Surprisingly, both at the same time, but different solutions.

I have a Synology DS1010+ that has been in use for the better part of a decade and I also had a FreeNAS homebuilt computer. The Synology’s job was for Plex media storage (PMS) and mass file storage. 5x 2 TB drives in a Synology Hybrid RAID (SHR) array. For a few years, the admin portal kept telling me there was array errors, yet all the files were accessible and the drive checks out were good. I purchased a WD 10 TB USB 3.0 drive on President’s day and painstakingly copied all the files from the Synology to the single drive over the past few days. I then wiped the Synology and let it rebuild over about 10 hours. When I brought it back up, SHR was not an option when creating the array. Only normal RAID levels. So I selected RAID 5 and went on my way. 24 hours later, no array errors are present. I think it’s fixed. Also, I found out how to use Domain Admins as admin accounts for the Synology (joined to Active Directory, obviously).

As far as the FreeNAS, apparently the motherboard was dying. I found a suitable replacement and used the latest version of FreeNAS, which is a completely different GUI. It seems to be working much better and I don’t have any errors when using Veeam to backup my VMware ESX server. This is the exclusive purpose of the FreeNAS system. It has 3x 2 TB drives in a ZFS RAID 5 array. The protocol is SMB. iSCSI proved too much hassle to get working. I’ve done it before, but simple Windows share is fine for me.

That’s all today, folks. Maybe next time I’ll announce my new 10 GbE network.

VMware Can’t Add NFS Datastore

This problem took me over a month to figure out.  However, with the help of a fellow tech guy (shout out to Michael Groff, thank you bro), it’s finally put to rest.

Symptoms: VMware ESXi server will not connect to a FreeNAS NFS share no matter what.  When trying to add it, VMware immediately displays a “failed” error.

Cause: About a month ago, I had an existing datastore connected with the name of “BACKUP” that was an iSCSI share from a Synology NAS.  This single drive finally failed and needed to be replaced.  Since the drive failed, I did not specifically delete the datastore from VMware, although it did not show anymore.
This was ultimately the problem.  While VMware didn’t show the datastore, I was trying to add a new datastore also called “BACKUP” (trying to remain consistent here) but somewhere in VMware the name still existed.  Unfortunately I’ve lost the link to the website where the fix was found, but it’s so simple that I still remember it.

Resolution: Connect to VMware ESXi using SSH and run the command esxcfg-nas -d <datastore name>
It will generate an error such as “Datastore not found; but we deleted it anyway”.  After that, you should be able to add your NFS datastore again.