Updating the Code of a ipbase Licensed Cisco Catalyst 3750X Switch Stack

Here in the office the Access Layer of our switching infrastructure is handled completely with a 7 unit stack of Cisco 3750X switches.  There is no need for these to do any routing other than intervlan so when purchased 3 years ago we just ordered the IP Base licensing level.  Well from what I can tell there is a universal code base and a licensed feature level of each code revision.  The universal naming convention looks like c3750e-universalk9-mz.122-55.SE1 while the ipbase looks like  c3750e-ipbasek9-mz.150-2.SE6.  What I found is that I do not have the ability to download the universal code of later releases due to my licensing level and possibly the lack of SmartNet I keep on these, but I do have access to the ipbase code.  When attempting to update the code on this stack I was presented with the error

After some searching I found reference to others trying to go from IP Base to Advanced IP Services code having to put the /allow-feature-upgrade switch on the archive download-sw code in order to allow the upgrade as well as it seems a downgrade.  Evidently this feature came about with IOS version 12.2(35).  Now the upgrade progressed and I have happy little upgrades switches.

Another note about this upgrade I found in the official release notes is any upgrade from 15.0(2)SE to later will result in a microcode upgrade which when unmitigated will lead to an exceptionally long restart of the switch.  You can mitigate this either by using the /force-ucode-reload parameter when downloading the code to the devices or by using the archive download-sw /upgrade-ucode privileged EXEC mode command afterwards.

Increase Max Attachment Size in Outlook 2007 SP2 and Above

Let me start by saying I feel very dirty for even writing this.  My basic rule in life is if the file is bigger than 2 MB, it isn’t to be sent as an attachment to an e-mail.  That said, many do not share my opinion on that and here at the office we recently had an occasion where a 200 MB file absolutely had to be e-mailed, it could be sent no other way.  A couple of years ago I wrote a post on 4sysops about how to change this in Exchange, so I thought that was an easy fix.  Instead the user continued to see this:

maxattachAfter some Googling I found a forum post saying that not only was a hard limit of 50 MB a feature of Outlook 2010 and above, but that this feature had been added to Outlook 2007 with Service Pack 2.  The good news/ bad news is that this feature can be over ridden by registry hack. Below is the code that you can copy into a .reg file and execute to insert the required registry key.  Know that this is version specific the “12.0” portion below corresponds to Office 2007, you will need to be changed based on your version of Microsoft Office.  For reference 2010 will be 14.0 and 2013 is 15.0.


Fully Install VMware Tools Via Yum in CentOS

I’ll be the first to admit that I know far less about Linux than is necessary to be good at it and more than necessary to be dangerous at it.  That said, if nothing else, I do try to learn more about it.  I find that in general I’ve basically committed to CentOS as my flavor of choice with it being the underpinnings of every non-appliance installation I’ve got.  Alot of this has to do with the fact that my first experiences were with RedHat and the subsequent RHEL, so with CentOS being the server side, open source derivative of RHEL it makes sense that that’s where I’d go.  In the vSphere world as you get further down the rabbit hold of monitor systems for your infrastructure you’ll find that for most things to even begin to operate effectively you’ve got to have VMware tools installed.  While there are various instruction sets out there floating around for how to get these on both, through the “Install VMware Tools” GUI and via yum (the RHEL package installation system) I’ve found that your mileage may vary greatly.

Below is a list of commands that I’ve finally got happy with to get these installed and allow for complete control over the VM much like you do with your Windows VMs via the VI client.  With the exception of a couple of modifications regarding your revisions of vSphere and CentOS you can pretty much copy and paste this into your elevated prompt (root) on your linux box and get all the information and monitoring you need.

1. Add the VMware GPG keys
rpm --import http://packages.vmware.com/tools/keys/VMWARE-PACKAGING-GPG-DSA-KEY.pub
rpm --import http://packages.vmware.com/tools/keys/VMWARE-PACKAGING-GPG-RSA-KEY.pub

2. Copy the following to create a yum repository with all of the relevant information. You will need to change the ESXi version (red) and CentOS base (blue) to match what you run:
echo "[vmware-tools]" >> /etc/yum.repos.d/vmware-tools.repo
echo "name=VMware Tools" >> /etc/yum.repos.d/vmware-tools.repo
echo "baseurl=http://packages.vmware.com/tools/esx/5.0/rhel6/$basearch" >> /etc/yum.repos.d/vmware-tools.repo
echo "enabled=1" >> /etc/yum.repos.d/vmware-tools.repo
echo "gpgcheck=1" >> /etc/yum.repos.d/vmware-tools.repo

3. Install all portions of the VMware Tools:
yum -y install vmware-tools*

And that’s pretty much it.  Once done you’ll probably immediately notice that it shows as you are running a 3rd Party version of the tools, but now you’ll see the IP address of the box in the VM summary screen.  Further you’ll now be able to monitor heartbeat and view performance data for your VMs, which is very nice to have.  In my environment I immediately began getting issue notifications via Veeam ONE letting me know about issues I didn’t even know I had.

A lot of the other guides on how to do this have you use the command yum install vmware-tools-core, but I find that to be pretty incomplete as there are various plugins that allow for greater management and utilities such as auto update abilities.  You can see a whole list of what’s possible and cherry pick if you like by running the command yum search vmware-tools* once you’ve added your repository (step 2).

Blogging in the New Year

Happy New Year’s Everybody! While it most definitely had its high points 2013 over all was a bit challenging for me. So with that said and a liberal dose of optimism I have to say that I am looking forward to what 2014 will put before us. While I’m sure the employer will have me start outlining some goals to work towards there, I’d like to share some personal goals I’ve thought of for 2014.

Enhance my scripting skills. Namely this means powershell, python, and esxcli with the end goal being to start performing greater automation throughout the enterprise. For years I’ve got by with some decent use of vbscript to do the basics on the Windows side of the shop because that’s where most of the need was. As our needs have started shifting towards the virtualization side and with the coming wave of Software Defined Networking (SDN) it’s about time I start learning something new.

Become VCP5 certified. Last year ended up being a pretty Cisco centric year for me from an educational standpoint with me reupping my CCNA and adding a CCNA Voice to the mix, not to mention attending Cisco Live. This year I want to build upon the VCA-Datacenter I gained recently and finally get around to doing the VCP 5 Datacenter exam. I’m still not a big fan of Vmware’s enforced class policy for certfication, but as I’ve already taken the Install, Configure and Manage vSphere 4 class this means all I have to take is the What’s New in vSphere 5.5 course.

Blog More on the Macro. One good thing about 2013 is I did what for me was a lot of blogging, mostly at 4sysops.com. I think in total I posted about 15-20 times last year and in the process I managed to start blogging for myself again, something I haven’t done in years. This year while I’ll still do some of the straight how to pieces that I did quite a bit of last year I want to use this medium to help myself find new ways of thinking and get out of my comfort zone, so expect to see more posts like this in the new year.

Attend a major IT conference again. Last year I had the great experience of attending Cisco Live in Orlando, Florida. It is always a good thing to be able to immerse yourself in situations where you can expand your knowledge and this was that ability on a grand scale. While I don’t know if it will be Cisco Live again this year, most likely it will be Vmworld, I definitely want to make this a yearly thing rather than an outlier.

Refocus on health (start running again!) For the past couple of years I’ve done what I consider to be a great job of focusing on my health and I have seen some pretty darn good outcomes, with any measure I can think of showing positive trends. For the past 6 months or so I’ve seen this focus wan as other things in life have done an excellent job of getting in the way, but this is something I want/need to change. I’m going to get back in the habit or running 3 or 4 times a week. Further look for a post in the near future regarding some of the mobile technologies I’ve found to be really helpful in managing your weight and overall health.

Provide greater training to fellow coworkers. This would be mostly to get more utilization out of already in place systems and greater efficiency out of staff. From our perspective this would mean less call IT, more doing. There are many ways you can describe my employer, but the way I tend to think of it is as a smaller medium size business with an enterprise point of view when it comes to technology. Over the course of the last few years we’ve made some great strides in putting new technology in place to increase the ability of our staff to collaborate and some have really caught on, others not so much. In a lot of these cases I think the lack of use comes from a general lack of understanding of how it works and I hope to rectify that this year.

Well that seems like plenty of list as it is so I’m going to go ahead and stop there. How about you? What goals do you have for this year? Let me know either in the comments below or on twitter @k00laidIT.


Jim’s Healthy Chili

Healthy food doesn’t always have to mean no taste.  As I’ve had to deal with various health issues over the past few years I’ve had to learn to make some things that I really love in a new way.  One of these things is chili, which I could happily eat every single day without issue.  Below is the recipe I’ve been tinkering with for a while now and I’ve got it to the point where I really like.  Give it a shot and if you find a way to improve it by all means please let me know!

Start with…

  • 3 lbs ground lean turkey
  • 1 large diced sweet onion
  • 3 diced bell peppers (colors of choice)
  • 1  petite diced poblano pepper
…brown all that together with a covering of chili powder, mrs dash table blend, coarse ground black pepper, garlic powder
drain about half the resulting liquid
In big pot add the previous mixture with…
  • 3 cans no salt added diced tomatoes
  • 3 cans no salt added kidney beans
  • 1 can low sodium black beans
  • 2 or 3 stalks of thinly sliced celery
  • a handful of shredded carrot
  • a handful of diced fresh cilantro
  • 3 regular size cans of no salt added tomato sauce
  • low sodium tomato juice to desired consistency (I don’t use much)
Spices below to taste, but in general i use
  • .5-.75 cup chili powder
  • 2 tbsp white pepper
  • .25 cup garlic powder
  • .25 cup coarse ground black pepper
  • .33 of a normal sized bottle of Texas Pete’s
  • 2 tbsp splenda brown sugar
  • “some” bacon salt to taste
Cover it and let it simmer on low no less than an hour, but as long as you can until time to serve.  When done in a perfect world I really like it with peanut butter sammiches (JIF natural crunchy to be specific).

Cisco Unified Contact Center Express Scripting Stuff

I recently participated in one of Cisco’s Collaboration User Group (CUG) briefings on scripting their Contact Center Express product.  While I took the official class, UCCXD, I haven’t really had to do much with it because we had a vendor taking care of stuff for us.  Well, that has now gone by the wayside so I’m trying to get myself back up to date on how to manage the application powering our call center.  I had forgotten how much of a PITA it was to find the scripting documentation on Cisco’s site, so after finding it I thought it prudent to Provide a listing and some links here so I can find it later (and for you if you need it.)

The scripting documentation for UCCX is organized into 3 separate documents.  The general link for all supported version is to here.  The links below are for the current 9.0 release.

One thing I learned in the CUG briefing is that included in each version’s documentation bundle, but evidently not linked anywhere that I can find on Cisco’s site, is a Sample Script Repository.  This is updated for each release.

Finally if you work with Cisco collaboration/ voice products much I highly recommend that you think about joining CUG as it has proven to be a very nice resource not only with troubleshooting problems with production release software but also to gain access to betas of what’s coming next.

Raising a Woman in STEM

My daughter is 19 months old and already has a pretty good idea of what to do with an iPhone and iPad.  As a technical person myself I have great hope that my daughter will pursue a future in a STEM (short for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) related career; not because I want to her to follow in Dear Old Dad’s footsteps, but because I see the promise it holds for a life of learning and prosperity.  Driving into work this morning I was listening to a report on NPR regarding a recent study at the University of Texas found that girls are more likely to take Physics in High School and follow a more STEM related path when they grow up with a presence of women working in STEM.  While there are IT and engineering folks around, there is not a strong technology related community in my area, especially females, which got me to thinking about how can I help to get my daughter interested in such things? What can we as her parents do to make technology a potential path in her mind?

At home we try to do things that get her involved with technology even now.  We have family spread all over so she usually has a Facetime or Skype video call at least every couple of days, but we haven’t got into the games yet.  Looking at pictures on the iPad is a favorite activity as well.  While not necessarily tech, we abide by the old adage of “thou shalt read to thy child,” something that is a fact of nature in any of the STEM fields.

Going forward I’ve been looking at is the various summer camp options as she gets a bit older.  Locally (Huntington/ Charleston, WV area) I’ve been able to find the NASA Science, Engineering, Math and Aerospace Academy, or SEMAA and Lego Robotics at Marshall University starting as early as age 5 but I’d love to find something in the 2-4 year old space.

At the educational level Marshall University offers a STEM focused preschool, but 35 minutes each way may be a bit much for pre-K on a daily basis.  After that we live in an area with an excellent school system but I don’t really see any options for focused education until the college level

That said, I’m opening it up to you.  What options have you found or what do you do with your child that’s tech related?  I’m mostly posting this in search of advice of others.  Feel free to comment here or hit me up on twitter @k00laidIT.

Getting Started with Veeam Backup & Replication v7

Come one, come all virtualization geeks, the latest installment of Veeam‘s excellent Backup & Replication suite has arrived.  As noted in lots of places, v7 boasts a boatload of new and new-to-them features that the community has been requesting for some time.  Among these are a few that I am quite excited about as they should in theory make my job as an admin easier; built in WAN acceleration, support for tape libraries, a vSphere Web Client Plugin, and the ability to create backup copy jobs to support your basic Grandfather-Father-Son backup strategy without external help. Among the biggies are:

  • Built in WAN acceleration * – will be great for me, I’ll only need to take one backup of each VM a night now (didn’t like the rsync or xcopy methods).
  • Ability to take backups from storage snapshots * (as long as you have HP Storage devices)- According to Veeam, should be high performance, capable of near continuous data protection without impacting production performance
  • Plugin for the vSphere Web Client * – manage Veeam directly from within the vSphere Web Client
  • Self Service Recovery * – Let them eat cake!
  • Tape Library Support – Straight to tape from Veeam as long as it can directly see it.  This has been requested for a while
  • Virtual Labs for Hyper-V – Us VMware guys don’t get to have all the fun now, you can now sandbox and test backups in Hyper-V now too.
  • Parallel Processing of VMs and disks within VMs
  • Backup Copy Jobs – Built in ability to create a Grandfather-Father-Son policy on per VM and per Job basis.

* These items require the new Enterprise Plus licensing level.  While Veeam is currently giving existing customers free upgrades from Enterprise to Enterprise Plus, understand that taking the upgrade will make your support contract cost more.

There are a great deal of other new features, for more please take a look at their what’s new in v7 document.

I’ve got it installed myself and so far I am impressed.  The installation went very smoothly both on Windows Server 2008 and 2012, with a minor hiccup with the Enterprise Manager required components install requiring a reboot midway, Veeam didn’t know how to handle that so I had to cancel install, reboot, and then begin again. Along the way I learned that the Search Server (capability to search within your backup files for a give guest file) has now been built into the Enterprise Manager component, which is nice, especially if you remember to turn on the guest file system indexing setting in your jobs. 🙂

So What’s Missing?

While I am extremely happy with the obvious work that the guys at Veeam have put into this release, there are still things I wish they would get around to.  I would love to see some kind of capability in regards to physical servers, even if it is nothing more than file synchronization jobs.  Many if not most of us systems guys who manage a virtualized environment still have at least a couple physical boxes around that for one reason or another can’t or won’t be virtualized. In my case this includes a system that houses a 69 GB flat file database that is slow when virtualized no matter what we do as well as an assortment of SOHO domain controller/ file servers that because of their size and the number of people they support it doesn’t make sense to pay to setup them up virtually.  The other alternative is to manage some kind of “other” backup facility for these servers, which makes it a bit of a pain.

Further I see that the delete restore points of no longer managed VMs is still just a number of days thing, rather than having the option to turn it completely off. At no point should any backup software remove data from a backup chain without the backup admin expressly requesting the process to happen.

So What’s Next?Veeam Backup Infrastructure DiagramBecause of the capabilities the WAN Accelerator and Backup Copy Jobs now give me, I’m taking a look at completely restructuring the way that I manage my backups.  After reading documentation and working it out for myself the data flow should look something like shown to the right.  If you see any holes in what I’ve done please feel free to comment or let me know in other ways.

I’m also going to soon be working on moving the test environment to production, with the most noticeable change being the move my production backup infrastructure from Windows Storage Server 2008 to Windows Server 2012 Standard.  Why you may ask?  Server 2012 now include the ability to do volume level deduplication, something that when paired with Veeam’s already built in deduplication process should equal some pretty serious disk real estate savings.  As a test launch I’ve setup dedupe on a VM and copied approximately 250 GB of backup files over to it.  The result afterwards is Windows saved me about 10%, less than Veeam is claiming, but better than nothing.  I think when I throw some of the bigger jobs at it I will see that percentage go up.  Veeam has a good article with video about the process and I’ll have a blog on how to get Server 2012 deduplication up either here or over on 4sysops soon.

Allowing Supervisors to Modify Skill Levels in UCCX 9

Since we installed Cisco’s Call Manager Express call center system a couple of years ago I could set my watch by the requests from our group of supervisors to modify the skill level of our various agents for the various Customer Service Queues (CSQs).  Generally at the same time they will request access to do this themselves.  Imagine my excitement when UCCX 9 was released and one of the features was a mobile browser application called, creatively, Mobile Skill Manager to do just that.  Further you can imagine my chagrin when after upgrading we quickly realized that the app doesn’t work particularly well at this point, either in a mobile browser or through any of the major standard browsers.

So to twitter I went trying to find a way to make this happen and lo and behold I found the answer within the System Parameters of UCCX.  Start by logging into the web interface and look in System> System Parameters.  Then under the Application Parameters section you will find an option called “Supervisor Access.”  By default this will be set to No Access to Teams, and if you want to provide access you will need to choose one of the other two options depending on  your need, Access to All Teams or Access to Supervisor’s Teams only.  For us we chose the former because we are a relatively small call center where all the Supervisors cross train.

uccx9-after-screenshotSo what does this do?  Changing this setting allows Supervisors access to a subset of the menu when they log in with their own credentials at the /appadmin web link, specifically it allwos them access to the RmCm Subsystem which controls the various settings related to CSQs, Resources (Agents), and Skills.  You may want to provide this access with a little guidance because with this they will be able to create and delete CSQs, Skills and Resources as well and most likely you won’t want them to do this.

While I am happy to have this option, I believe we can do it better.  In a perfect world this the base functionality would be built into the Supervisor Desktop application or the new Finesse web interface, with a capability to turn access on and off.  Further I’ve heard tale of an IP service application being developed by CTI Logic to allow desktop phone access to perform this task.  Both of those would be extremely nice to have as less interfaces for the user to know is always a good thing.