Windows 8.1 Installer Folder Cleanup

On my Windows 8.1 laptop with a small SSD (100GB), disk space was running out. When I checked disk usage by folder using TreeSize, I found that C:\Windows\Installer was taking up over 22GB! A quick online research revealed that I couldn’t delete files from this folder safely. However, I also learned that it could be holding files that were no longer in use or needed.

On further search, I found this neat little utility called Patch Cleaner, which looks for such unused files and gives you the option to delete them or back them up to another location. When I ran it, I found that about 15GB out of those 22 were being hogged by the files that were no longer needed! All of these 400+ unused files are MSP files. I have moved these files to an external hard disk just in case there is an issue later. Restoring the files is as easy as copying them back to the installer folder.

Thank you Patch Cleaner for freeing up over 15% of my disk space!

Windows update broke Cisco AnyConnect Mobility VPN Client

This morning Windows prompted me to reboot to apply updates. After I did that, the Cisco VPN client started reporting “Failed to initialize connection subsystem.” When I looked up, I found this article – Microsoft’s SSL 3.0 Poodle-busting patch KB 3023607 breaks popular Cisco VPN client

I followed the compatibility route suggested as a workaround in that post, and it fixed the problem for me:

  1. I closed the Cisco AnyConnect Window and the taskbar icon
  2. Right-clicked vpnui.exe in the Cisco AnyConnect Secure Mobility Client folder. (I have it in C:\Program Files (x86)\Cisco\Cisco AnyConnect Secure Mobility Client\.)
  3. Clicked the Troubleshoot Compatibility option
  4. Chose Try Recommended Settings.
  5. The wizard suggested Windows 7 compatibility.
  6. Clicked Test Program. This will opened the program. I entered the credentials and connected.
  7. Closed the dialog.

Setting Up a Hyper-V VM Lab on Home Network

When I started tinkering with Hyper-V, I was looking for some guidance on setting up a VM lab behind a cable modem and a router. While I found plenty of how-to posts on specifics of Hyper-V tasks, I found little in terms of networking and other best-practice concerns specific to a home network. Granted that the Hyper-V activities don’t have to be any different on a home network vis-a-vis another kind of network, but I didn’t know enough at the time to be assured about it. Now, I have learned some lessons the hard way, and with this post, I am trying to compile and share my thoughts and experience related to such a setup.

Requirements

I had the following requirements for this lab setup:

  1. The lab will run a Windows domain.
  2. Some VMs will not be in the domain.
  3. Every VM will be able to access the Internet.

Setup Considerations

I had numerous questions and dealt with several issues during this setup process. Addressing these questions and issues guided my decision making as discussed below.

Hardware

One of the first questions that we need to answer is, “What hardware do I need?” The basic requirement for the hardware turns out to be that the CPU should support virtualization. Most servers today will probably meet this requirement, but it won’t hurt to check the CPU features on server under consideration.

Another item to address is the resource capacity such as the number of CPUs and the memory capacity on the motherboard. The answer really depends on the number of VMs you plan to use concurrently. I went with 2 quad-core CPUs and 32GB RAM capacity. I started with 16GB installed and later expanded it to full capacity. One thing to remember about server RAM installation is that there are usually restrictions on each  memory stick capacity and the combinations in which the sticks could be installed. It is important to consult the server manual about the allowed combinations and the slots to use for those combinations while buying and installing memory.

As hard disks are cheap, we may consider loading up the server to utilize the available slots. However, the bigger question to answer is whether to RAID or not? If yes, then which RAID configuration? Is there a hardware RAID controller in the server? My server had a software RAID controller only, and I went with RAID 1 to keep identical copies on two disks. Basically, that gave me redundancy with no performance benefit. As the number of VMs grew, I realized that they were all trying to access the same disk resources simultaneously. Further, I was also restricted in the kind and number of disks I could install in the remaining slots. After some research and heartburn, I rebuilt the setup without any RAID. My thought process was that this was just a lab setup, and I figured out a backup approach to ease the restore process should there be a disk failure.

Software

One of the first questions on the software side is, “Which virtualization software should I use?”. This one was easy as I wanted to learn Hyper-V. The VMWare HyperVisor was another option. The free HyperVisor license has some limitations, though no big problem for this setup.

Once decided about Hyper-V, the next question was about the host OS edition (OS installed on the physical server). Initially, I went with the 2008 R2 Server Core with Hyper-V. This provided a minimal text-based interface for managing the  server, and I was using the Hyper-V Manager client (remote management) on Windows 7 to manage the VMs. It was a nightmare to  make the client connect, and every so often it would stop connecting to the Hyper-V server. I found a utility that temporarily eased my pain, but I was amazed that there was a need for someone to create a utility to configure the client and server for remote management. On the other hand, I have toyed with VMWare HyperVisor a little bit on another server, and the remote management just works without additional setup.

Another issue that I ran into was that certain Windows updates would keep failing on the server. Therefore, I ended up rebuilding the setup with full Windows 2008 R2 Server with Hyper-V role as the host OS. Now, I manage the VMs on the server via Remote Desktop using Server Manager on the host OS (no remote management). In this setup, I have not encountered any of the issues mentioned above.

Networking

My key networking concern was about the co-existence of the existing network and a separate Windows domain for the VMs. While it was a bit confusing earlier, the setup turned out to be quite simple. Each VM participates on two networks – a private virtual network (say, with IPs 10.0.1.*) and an external virtual network (say, with IPs 192.168.1.*). In other words, there are two virtual NICs (Network Interface Cards) on each VM. One is connected to the private virtual network for the Windows domain, and the other is connected to the existing network. The connection to the existing network is needed by each VM to connect to the Internet. There are probably other network configurations that would work, but this is what I set up.

Note that the virtual NIC (VNIC) for the private virtual network is not needed on any VM that would not participate in the Windows domain. I did encounter some cryptic issues in connecting to the Internet from the VMs in the Windows domain, even when everything seemed to be working fine. Finally, I ended up with static IP configuration for the VNICs connected to the private virtual network, and DHCP-provided IP addresses for the VNICs connected to the external virtual network. However, I set up static IP reservation for these VNICs in the router. With this setup, all VNICs get fixed IP addresses, and all network connectivity is working properly.

My server hardware has two NIC cards. I have dedicated one to the external virtual network and use the other for connecting to the Hyper-V host.

Windows VM Cloning

Once we have created a VM with the base OS install, it’s easy to create another VM by copying its virtual hard disk (VHD) file. We need a separate install and VHD copy for each OS type/edition. For example, we need separate VHDs for Windows 2008 R2 Server, Windows 7, and Ubuntu Server. For all Windows VMs cloned by copying the VHD file, it will serve you well to run SysPrep with the Generalize option selected. This needs to be done right after the cloned VM is started up for the first time. This process prevents duplication of internal IDs assigned by Windows. Until I learned about SysPrep, the cloned VMs were unable to participate in the Windows domain security properly.

VHD Location

One bottleneck mentioned above is the contention on the disk resources. Therefore, I decided to distribute the VHDs among all the hard disks on the server. This approach allows multiple VMs to be working off separate disks concurrently. Very likely, there will still be multiple VHDs on each disk (once there are more VMs than disks), but that is better than all VHDs being on one disk.

Linux VMs

Linux is not an “enlightened” (I do not like this term, but I am using the Hyper-V jargon) guest OS for Hyper-V. Basically, it is not designed to fully participate in the Hyper-V virtualization scheme. I tried a few recent versions of Fedora as the guest OS, but couldn’t get the mouse to work on it. I also ran into some networking issues. On the other hand, setting up a 64-bit Ubuntu VM was a piece of cake. The mouse worked and the network configured automatically.

Summary

The following diagram (click to enlarge) summarizes my setup.

Hyper-V VM Lab Setup
Sample Hyper-V VM Lab Setup

I will update the post with additional details if/when I recall them.

Drupal Installation Hangs at ‘Install Site’ Stage

I was trying to set up Drupal 6.16 on Apache 2.2.15 on Windows. I have done this before with other versions and don’t recall facing a problem in completing the installation. However, this time it completed the database setup steps and hung on the Install Site stage. After searching for this problem, I found various suggested solutions but none worked for me. That also seemed the case for many others who were posting on those forums.

Finally, the problem (and the solution) turned out to be quite simple. By default, the Windows installer (httpd-2.2.15-win32-x86-openssl-0.9.8m-r2.msi) for Apache for this version was leaving the rewrite_module disabled. See conf\httpd.conf for the following line:

#LoadModule rewrite_module modules/mod_rewrite.so

I uncommented this line, saved the file, restarted Apache, dropped Drupal tables, and then installed Drupal again. It worked like a charm.

Documentum Installation Owner and Windows Services

Documentum installation owner user id is used for installing Documentum Content Server. On Windows, the installation sets up services for each repository (docbase), connection broker (docbroker), and Java method server. If you run into issues related to the installation owner id (typically authentication related), there are two aspects that can be checked:

  1. Each repository service has an associated command-line which specifies the installation owner as an argument. This command-line is visible on service properties when inspected through Windows services. You can edit the command-line through Documentum Server Manager utility. Select the relevant repository and click on the Edit Service button.
    1. Note that this argument overrides the install owner specified in server.ini in case there is a conflict between the two.
  2. All the windows services use logon credentials and the Documentum services mentioned above use the installation owner credentials. These can be edited through the standard Windows service properties dialog.
Inspecting Documentum Repository Service
Inspecting Documentum Repository Service

Issues related to the installation owner may arise when it is a domain user (as opposed to a local user) and/or when multiple content servers are being used. Another aspect to remember is that while Windows treats the user id as case-insensitive Documentum treats it as case-sensitive. Repository configuration also creates a user in the repository for the installation owner, using the exact case as entered during the installation process (at login time prior to installation).