Thursday, June 30, 2011

Installing Linux Mint 11

If you are a beginner computer user wishing to learn something different from Windows 7 and don't want to wait for Windows 8 next year to improve your computer knowledge, then you could probably be interested by Linux. Yes, Linux, you heard right. Linux is a powerful Operating System which Windows users sometimes hesitate to install because of its mystical aura of an OS for nerds and geeks. But this is not true today. No more. New Linux distributions are quite easily installed and run without ever touching to its obscure features (the Kernel, the Terminal and so on).

Today many Linux distributions exist. Some are harder to use, some are definitively easier (maybe easier then Windows I daresay). Some are for the IT expert wishing to have full control on its installation (like Slackware, Fedora or Debian, the grandpa of Ubuntu), some are oriented to please the common person using its personal computer for Internet browsing and  listening to music.

Easy desktop distros are, for instance, Ubuntu (mainly for its wide hardware compatibility and its ease of installation) or Linux Mint (mainly due to its familiar GNOME interface).

If I were to define in a few lines the Linux distributions as I see them today, I would say:

  • Ubuntu 11.04, Mandriva, Linux Mint is for real beginners
  • Fedora 15 and Slackware 13.37 is for skilled geeks
  • Puppy Linux 5.2.5 or Xubuntu 11.04 (based on Xfce) is better for installation on older hardware
  • Linux Mint 11 or Ubuntu 11.04 is good for your home computer
  • Jolicloud 1.2 or MeeGo 1.2 is good for your brand new Netbook
  • Debian 6.0.1 is for sysadmins
  • OpenSUSE 11.4 is the right one for office automation
  • CentOS 5.6 is good for enterprise servers and web servers
  • Ubuntu Studio 11.04 or PureDyne 9.11 is for your multimedia station and for creativity

None of these distros is perfect, but they will fulfill various purpose, as you will learn using them. Picking a first Linux distribution to use isn't always easy so I have chosed for you: install Linux Mint 11. The reason for this choice is that Linux Mint is the Linux distribution of the moment, having just pushed Ubuntu (and its Unity interface) out of DistroWatch’s No. 1 spot.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Unix joke

Having just published a joke about Windows Drag & Drop feature, I feel obliged, in fairness, to publish a funny joke about Unix/Linux OSes too:

Unix admin asking for a sandwich

I hope you like it! :-)

Drag and drop...

I really couldn't resist publishing this funny joke about Windows most known feature: drag and... drop!

A Windows admin troubleshooting Windows 2008

Windows sysadmin will surely understand! :o)))

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Clean up Winsxs on Windows 2008 R2 after SP1 install

Last year I wrote a post where I explained what the Winsxs folder was and which were the possible solutions to contain its bad habit of eating free space on your hard drive. Some days ago I have discovered that, starting from Service Pack 1, Windows 2008 R2 (... and Windows 7) finally has a built-in tool to reduce the size of the Windows Side-by-Side DLL repository and free up some GBs on your server storage. This tool is DISM.exe.

Cool news isn't it? Personally I am happy to know that someone at Microsoft has finally decided to make it possible to reclaim a few GBs on the system partition and to partially solve this major bug.

The procedure is the following:
  • Install Windows Service Pack 1 then ...
  • Start and elevated command prompt (run 'CMD' as administrator) and ...
  • Run the DISM command, which replaces the old VSP1CLN and COMPCLN we used on previous Windows versions: DISM.exe /online /Cleanup-Image /spsuperseded
  • Wait 10 minutes before the task completes ( it ends with “Service Pack Cleanup operation completed. The operation completed successfully”)
Normally you should have been able to reduce the Winsxs folder size by 1 or maybe 2 GBs, sometimes more. Saved space may vary a lot.

Just know that after using DISM you will not be able to uninstall the Service Pack 1 anymore.

Let's have a look at the used switches for DISM.exe:
  • The /online switch tells DISM to work on the running OS installation
  • The /spsuperseded option removes the backup files created during installation. 
Optionally you could use the /hidesp option which will remove SP1 (KB976932) from the “Installed Updates” section of Programs and Features, to ensure that users do not try to uninstall the Service Pack.

I hope this helps. Please let me know how much disk space you were able to free up using the given command.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Using Ethtool to configure your nic on CentOS

We are introducing a certain amount of CentOS computers and I am often asked by regional IT people how they can check and change the configuration of their network cards to reflect the configuration of the attached network Switches. That made me think of this post (my first one on CentOS) in which I will explain how you can determine the current Ethernet connection link speed of your CentOS system.

To do that you can take advantage of ETHTOOL, which is an easy utility that can be used to display and/or change settings of your Ethernet Network cards.

In the following example I will assume that you are willing to change the parameters for your first network card (usually eth0).

The syntax to show the NIC parameters is very simple, just enter:

ethtool eth0

and look for the Speed parameter:

Supported ports: [ TP ]
Supported link modes: 10baseT/Half 10baseT/Full
100baseT/Half 100baseT/Full
1000baseT/Half 1000baseT/Full
Supports auto-negotiation: Yes
Advertised link modes: 10baseT/Half 10baseT/Full
100baseT/Half 100baseT/Full
1000baseT/Half 1000baseT/Full
Advertised auto-negotiation: Yes
Speed: 100Mb/s
Duplex: Half
Port: Twisted Pair
Transceiver: internal
Auto-negotiation: on
Supports Wake-on: g
Wake-on: d
Current message level: 0x000000ff (255)
Link detected: yes

Thursday, June 9, 2011

DFS Target refers to a location that is unavailable

Today I have encountered a strange problem with some of my Stand-Alone DFS Targets. Many users using old Windows versions, such as Windows XP pre-SP2, were no more able to browse DFS file shares after I had updated some referrals to reflect an infrastructure change (new folder targets) happening at my company.

The funny thing is that most of the end-users running Windows XP SP2 or Windows 7 had no problem at all in browsing the DFS links from their Windows Explorer.

This problem pushed me to dig inside DFS behavior, design and architecture more than I hadn't done any time before.

After checking that no alerts where reported Server-side, I went to one old XP box and tried to browse the DFS \\dfsserver\root\link. The error I got was a generic "\\dfsserver\root\link refers to a location that is unavailable"...

I then tried to map the DFS link using the good old "net use", hoping for a error code a little bit more specific... but all I got was a "System error 2 has occurred The system cannot find the file specified".

Monday, June 6, 2011

Closing network files on a remote fileserver with PSFile

These days I am migrating some data from our old network file server to a new network storage. The plan is to migrate one folder at the time, and I have found out that in such a situation it can be useful to know how to to close all the open files in a specific directory before migrating in order to evite open files conflicts.

As I do not want to migrate all the data at once (this would be pretty much unpractical with so many gigabytes of data), I cannot simply adopt the solutions of shutting down or restricting access on the fileshare for everyone.

PSFile.Exe from SysInternals is our best friend in this case. Using this small utility, it is possible to retrieve all the open files in a given remote directory and close them altogether.

This is the way it should be used:

psfile \\ "t:\folder\subfolder" -c
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