The Trio of Despair

12 Aug 2014
August 12, 2014

Our cast of characters:

  1. Firefox – my favorite web browser
  2. LastPass – my chosen (and favorite) password management utility
  3. N-Central – the web based RMM (remote monitoring and management app) with which I spend my days getting my job done.

For years these 3 got along great. They were friends. They laughed, they told stories and were generally great pals. Oh, the productive times they had!

Then something changed early this year. What changed? Nobody remembers. It was too long ago and the change was initially too subtle to be immediately obvious. But boy did something change.

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Freeing up Space on Server 2008 R2 (and 2012)

15 Jul 2014
July 15, 2014

We manage a pile of Windows Server 2008 R2 machines across a bunch of clients and many of those servers weren’t necessarily built by us. As such, sometimes space is allocated… poorly… And many of those servers are frequently dancing on the edge of running out of space on the C: drive.  (I will spare you the rant about 20 GB C: partitions. Maybe.)

While there’s always the option of resizing partitions, there isn’t always the time to do it. Either arranging a convenient time to take the server down during business hours or the more common after-hours (nights and weekends) time to travel onsite and do it at a time that doesn’t inconvenience anyone. Either way, never convenient for everyone.

What usually happens is I run WinDirStat on the server and look for anything obvious that can be cleared. Recycle bin? Logs? Assorted temp directories? That sort of stuff.

What often shows up? C:\windows\WinSxS directory. You know you can’t just delete it, right? Bad form.

 Good news. I recently stumbled over a blog post that I have found incredibly helpful for cleaning up WinSxS. Turns out that if your server is reasonably current in patches (you need KB2852386), the Disk Cleanup Wizard has the ability to cleanup Windows Update files.

Can’t find the Disk Cleanup Wizard? Well yeah, there’s a wrinkle there: first you need to install the Desktop Experience Feature. And reboot.

Yeah, I know, I know, but it is worth the amount of space you’ll reclaim. Honest.

And good news, this applies to Server 2012 and R2 as well. On a couple older servers I have reclaimed a lot of space doing this. Which is a heck of a lot easier than rooting around a bunch of random directories trying to find things to delete or compress. Right?

Log Shipping Monitor – Free

05 Jul 2014
July 5, 2014

I just wrapped up a data center migration (physical data center to AWS cloud) in which we had to migrate a fairly large SQL Server database – and then keep it in sync with the original DB for a week or 4 until it was time to do the actual cut-over.

Being a pragmatic and “seasoned” (is that a good euphemism for old?) former DBA, I opted to use the built-in SQL Server log shipping option and had everything setup on day 1 of the project.

Now, for the past few years, I have frequently gone the “tools” route and relied on Red Gate’s SQL Backup Pro software. A slick tool that dramatically simplifies and “operationalizes” backups and restores. It brings a lot of nice wizards and tools including a handy log shipping wizard that really makes life simple. However, that wasn’t an option this time around. And really not a huge deal – setting up log shipping is pretty straight-forward with modern versions of SQL Server.

Red Gate does, however, have a great and free utility called Log Shipping Monitor that I installed on a server to allow quick status checks of the process. A simple install and a simple application to configure (fully documented on the download page) and you have a nice dashboard to monitor both ends of the log shipping equation. Graphs, statuses and even the ability to manage alerts.

Highly recommended!

A Quick Look at the Garmin Forerunner 15

30 Jun 2014
June 30, 2014

This weekend I had the opportunity to try out the Garmin Forerunner 15 GPS Running Watch courtesy of a friend and his trainer, Those who know me or follow me in social media know that I’m an avid cycler so this was a great gadget to get my hands on for a few days.

Forerunner® 15First impression? Yikes – so big! I have become accustomed to the size of my Fitbit Force unit and the Garmin is definitely much larger. However, it is quite light and I forgot about having it on pretty quickly.

It does all the same stuff my Fitbit does and a bit more. Count steps, track activity level and estimate calories burned (more on that in a bit). It also can remind when you’ve been idle too long and nag you into getting in some more steps. It all syncs to the Garmin Connect site and even has the expected social components to link up with friends and such.

There is an optional heart rate monitor (HRM) that my loaner unit didn’t have. Pity as without it you can take the estimated calorie burn for walks, runs or bike rides with a grain of salt! But I reckon that is always the case. If you don’t have a HRM on the software is just flat out guessing.

But you know what this thing has that my Fitbit doesn’t? GPS!

imageSaturday morning I gave it a shot while doing a 1.5 mile dog walk with the wife. I had my Fitbit on one wrist and the Garmin on the other. Each counted steps and the Garmin also generated a pretty map. Step counts were pretty comparable and the reported distance from the GPS looked reasonable as well.

Saturday afternoon I took it for a 21 mile bike ride just around the neighborhood. I also ran Strava on my Android phone which connects to my HRM. Strava said we went 21.4 miles and the Garmin said 21.35. My bike’s odometer said more but I’ve always suspected it is a bit off. Since the two GPS units essentially agreed on distance I figure I know what to trust going forward.

Oh, how about the calorie estimates? Well Garmin said 2395 and Strava (with the HRM) says 756. And that’s why if you get this Garmin you want to spring for the HRM!

Sunday I took it for another ride: Downtown Denver to Golden and back again which was right around 53 miles. I planned to compare it with Strava again, but since the Strava app blew up and disappeared at some point during the ride I reckon it was good I had the Garmin with me! And hey, good news: it is easy to export data from Garmin Connect and import it into Strava (but rats, no HRM for extra analysis).

Now the bad news. That second ride was a bit shy of 3.5 hours – and the battery indicator was down on the bottom “bulb” most of the last half of the ride (I started with a fresh charge). Battery life may be a concern… The web site claims 8 hours life with GPS and 5 weeks with GPS off. I’m not sure I am convinced but I will concede I should have down more testing.

But then again, this watch is definitely aimed primarily at runners, not century bike riders.

Slick, lightweight unit and reasonably priced for a GPS watch. If you’re a running I would definitely encourage a look. Cyclist? Definite “maybe” as I liked everything about it but do have that concern about battery life.