Thursday, December 24, 2015

The All Nighter

Subtitle: Getting the Job Done

This is not just a story about being awake and energised for over 30 hours ...

On the surface this is a tale about a Computer upgrade, but really it's a story about being tenacious enough to get a long outstanding job done.   As such, all of us, even non Computer specialists have been there.   Painting that FrontGate,  finally reorganising our Music Collection,  sorting out the rattle on our Motorbike.   All tasks that get put on the back burner as todos as we prioritise them behind other so-called important life events.

And so,  Marcus finally decided to tackle the annoying "Please install this important Apple OSX" upgrade message that I have been seeing for the last 9 months on our tiny Mac Mini.

Upgrading OSX - The Easy Bit

Yes I've been getting a nag message for over 9 months now on our baby, and now ancient Apple Mac Mini.   This is one of the old machines where the memory was upgradeable with ease and the hard disks could be replace with Marcus' swearing  and my wife Agata's patience and small hands!   The current Mac Mini  generation have soldered everything and no easier drive replacement.

The patching of OSX Yosemite 10.10 was painless and also the upgrade to ElCapitan 10.11 was also controlled and effortless.

Congratulations Apple, another job very well done. 10/10 for user experience.

Heady server

We run this ancient  (4 years+ old) Mac Mini as a shared household resource which we connect to from other computers via the Open Source VNC program.   So after upgrade it was necessary to re-enable this configuration setting.

VMware upgrade

Meanwhile after upgrading my  VMware Fusion icon was inoperative because my Fusion version 5 installation was totally incompatible with OSX 10.11

A paid upgrade to Fusion 8.x is necessary. Ah well.

Windows Torture
I could now restart a very important Virtual machine and it was time to investigate the mystery of the continually disappearing disk space on the boot drive ...

Windows 2008 WinSxS files
In retrospect I now have an answer as to why the space on my C: boot disk has been steadily disappearing over the years.

Windows service packs even after application get saved into a WinSxS directory that never gets pruned.

I read desperate forum articles via Google about users whose systems C: boot disk filled up and whose system came to a grinding halt. Further you cannot from WinSxS since they are owned by /TrustedInstaller/ and even an Administrator gets an error.

Late in the day it became possible to install the Disk Cleanup wizard.   Another amazing fact is that the wizard was accidentally left out of a standard installation. I attempted the above fix, installed, but no matter how many times I ran it, it never worked period!

Here is a run of the Cleanup

Even when disk cleanup appeared to show something large to clean  (most of the time it showed no Windows Update), nothing happened.

So the problem was not fixed, and the computer on this an 8 year old Operating System had completely filled up C:, a 32GB partition, now stuffed full of over 20GB of fixpacks.  Fixpacks were larger than the OS on my hard disk.

You just could not make this sort of thing up, could you!

The Big Rebuild

So with a heavy heart Marcus realised that the right thing to do would be a complete reinstall

- Move to a current Windows server generation
- Chance for a minimalist install  (well I'm keeping the GUI, I am not totally insane!)
- Don't re-install of some Network throttling tools, not required with our current almost Infinite Internet speeds.

Some considerable time later, my legitimate copy of Windows was installed and Activated. Next ...

How Many Updates?

Despite using a late DVD install source there were literally hours of updates to apply.   I went for a small nap and more hours of processing:  All applied.

Reconfiguring Everything Else
What was less of a pleasure, after the plan to reinstall the OS, was the realisation that other components needed tweaking:

- Change Router Port Mapping
- Change Hardware Firewall Rules
- Change Software OS specific Firewall rules
- Change other tools that use Python since moving to 2.7.11

Moving Other Resources

With Smug mode on I can say part of the ease of transition was the deliberate segmented design.  We use a C disk for OS, an X disk for all things web including PHP code and other server based stuff, and Z disk for backup targets.

Finishing Touches

Mainly this is checking the backup software is installed and on a schedule, and then checking the first  backups are completing okay.

(Additionally these backups are moved from a disk to a NAS, then to an offsite Cloud store.  That to be end to end checked in January 2106!)

Checking it a Day Later

The day later check means a double check that all is really well

- Webserver is up
- Check access and error logs
- Check Windows Error logs
- Check Windows software update
- Check Windows disk cleanup ! (works here)
- This writeup.

What may never work
Now that I have everything working, before time to properly relax, or collapse after the all nighter, I thought I would investigate NAS Virtualisation.

In short: Today's more powerful Intel based Network Attached Storage  (NAS) sometimes have a feature allowing them to run a whole Operating System on the NAS box.  So the NAS box is then performing the role of a home Compute server.   

The idea is that  you could run say Windows or Linux server on your NAS and then connect to it as a home PC desktop server locally or even remotely (e.g whilst on holiday) via an Internet browser.

So:  I tried it out via the install of a test Centos 7 Linux server.  It was awkward and runs slowly.  Seems like it's currently a last resort, clumsy, and solution that lends itself to those who can't afford, or who don't have physical space for an additional server. Maybe on a future more powerful NAS?

Learning Points
The learning points of the exercise were

- When you are enthusiastic to complete a task, sleep deprivation never seems to be an issue
- The good design of our Webserver made OS replacement oh so easy
- Microsoft let me down, the WinSxS situation is totally unacceptable, especially as their fix did not work
- Running an OS on a NAS, it's not a good idea on todays modest hardware.

And by a sleep to say we end 
A sleep to say we end

Cleaning up WinSxS