Author Archive for: Chris

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.

Cutting the Cable: Part 1– Rough Start

19 Jun 2014
June 19, 2014

After reviewing our recent cable TV bills, the wife and I decided perhaps we don’t watch enough TV each month to rationalize that expense. Sure, we have a couple shows we like to watch at any given moment but we never actually watch them when aired. We always get caught up later. We’re young, we’re hip. We’re going to cut the cable.

I did a bit of research (not enough, as it turns out!) and decided we would start on the cheap and see how things go. Off to Amazon I went and purchased a Chromecast, a mid-range HD antenna and then I signed up for the 30 day Amazon Prime trial to get access to their TV shows and movies. I figured I’d compare that to the Netflix streaming account that we already have.

The antenna and Chromecast showed up yesterday. Let the grand experiment begin!

First, I plugged in the antenna to our main HD TV, went into the TV’s menus and set the source to “antenna” and told it to scan. It gets about halfway through the scan (around 28 channels found) and the TV reboots, saving nothing. Hmmph. Tried again (and again) with same results. Factory reset the TV, tried again. Same results.

Out of curiosity, I disconnected the antenna and ran a scan which made it through to the end – no channels found, of course, but no TV reboot. Tried the antenna on a couple other HD TVs in the house. No problem on those. But our main TV (admittedly, a pretty inexpensive Dynex unit) just hates something it gets from that antenna.

Finally worked around that by setting the TV source to “cable” and running another scan. That finished without disaster, but only turned up 6 channels, as opposed to the 58 channels I found on the other TVs. Oh well, one of those is the main news / weather channel that we watch so we’re good enough for now. Perhaps I’ll pick up another antenna this weekend just to see if anything changes.

Next I setup the Chromecast and installed the associated app on my Android tablet. Fired up Netflix and was ‘casting a show in no time at all. Slick!  Worked great for YouTube and Google Music as well. At this point I’m pleasantly blown away by how well this works.

OK, now to try out an Amazon Prime Instant Video.

Product DetailsFirst I belatedly realized there’s no native Android or IOS app for that. None. Then I realized most work-arounds or hacks are pretty kludgy or useless. And then I finally realized that the only way that Prime Instant Video thing was going to be useful is if I get a Amazon Fire TV (which is a contender for future purchase) or a Kindle Fire tablet.

For now I reckon we’ll use Hulu+ or purchase episodes or seasons from the Google Video store. We’ll run this way for a few weeks and see how it goes. Main concern being around the convenience factor (or lack thereof) of staring all TV shows from our tablets. That Amazon Fire TV or rumored new Android TV might be contenders yet this summer… Stay tuned.