Random Short Take #57

Welcome to Random Short Take #57. Only one player has worn 57 in the NBA. So it looks like this particular bit is done. Let’s get random.

  • In the early part of my career I spent a lot of time tuning up old UNIX workstations. I remember lifting those SGI CRTs from desk to desk was never a whole lot of fun. This article about a Sun Ultra 1 project bought back a hint of nostalgia for those days (but not enough to really get into it again). Hat tip to Scott Lowe for the link.
  • As you get older, you realise that people talk a whole lot of rubbish most of the time. This article calling out audiophiles for the practice was great.
  • This article on the Backblaze blog about one company’s approach to building its streaming media capability on B2 made for interesting reading.
  • DH2i recently announced the general availability of DxEnterprise (DxE) for Containers, enabling cloud-native Microsoft SQL Server container Availability Groups outside and inside Kubernetes.
  • Speaking of press releases, Zerto has made a few promotions recently. You can keep up with that news here.
  • I’m terrible when it comes to information security, but if you’re looking to get started in the field, this article provides some excellent guidance on what you should be focussing on.
  • We all generally acknowledge that NTP is important, and most of us likely assume that it’s working. But have you been checking? This article from Tony does a good job of outlining some of the reasons you should be paying some more attention to NTP.
  • This is likely the most succinct article from John you’ll ever read, and it’s right on the money too.

Random Short Take #56

Welcome to Random Short Take #56. Only three players have worn 56 in the NBA. I may need to come up with a new bit of trivia. Let’s get random.

  • Are we nearing the end of blade servers? I’d hoped the answer was yes, but it’s not that simple, sadly. It’s not that I hate them, exactly. I bought blade servers from Dell when they first sold them. But they can present challenges.
  • 22dot6 emerged from stealth mode recently. I had the opportunity to talk to them and I’ll post something soon about that. In the meantime, this post from Mellor covers it pretty well.
  • It may be a Northern Hemisphere reference that I don’t quite understand, but Retrospect is running a “Dads and Grads” promotion offering 90 days of free backup subscriptions. Worth checking out if you don’t have something in place to protect your desktop.
  • Running VMware Cloud Foundation and want to stretch your vSAN cluster across two sites? Tony has you covered.
  • The site name in VMware Cloud Director can look a bit ugly. Steve O gives you the skinny on how to change it.
  • Pure//Accelerate happened recently / is still happening, and there was a bit of news from the event, including the new and improved Pure1 Digital Experience. As a former Pure1 user I can say this was a big part of the reason why I liked using Pure Storage.
  • Speaking of press releases, this one from PDI and its investment intentions caught my eye. It’s always good to see companies willing to spend a bit of cash to make progress.
  • I stumbled across Oxide on Twitter and fell for the aesthetic and design principles. Then I read some of the articles on the blog and got even more interested. Worth checking out. And I’ll be keen to see just how it goes for the company.

*Bonus Round*

I was recently on the Restore it All podcast with W. Curtis Preston and Prasanna Malaiyandi. It was a lot of fun as always, despite the fact that we talked about something that’s a pretty scary subject (data (centre) loss). No, I’m not a DC manager in real life, but I do have responsibility for what goes into our DC so I sort of am. Don’t forget there’s a discount code for the book in the podcast too.

Random Short Take #52

Welcome to Random Short Take #52. A few players have worn 52 in the NBA including Victor Alexander (I thought he was getting dunked on by Shawn Kemp but it was Chris Gatling). My pick is Greg Oden though. If only his legs were the same length. Let’s get random.

  • Penguin Computing and Seagate have been doing some cool stuff with the Exos E 5U84 platform. You can read more about that here. I think it’s slightly different to the AP version that StorONE uses, but I’ve been wrong before.
  • I still love Fibre Channel (FC), as unhealthy as that seems. I never really felt the same way about FCoE though, and it does seem to be deader than tape.
  • VMware vSAN 7.0 U2 is out now, and Cormac dives into what’s new here. If you’re in the ANZ timezone, don’t forget that Cormac, Duncan and Frank will be presenting (virtually) at the Sydney VMUG *soon*.
  • This article on data mobility from my preferred Chris Evans was great. We talk a lot about data mobility in this industry, but I don’t know that we’ve all taken the time to understand what it really means.
  • I’m a big fan of Tech Field Day, and it’s nice to see presenting companies take on feedback from delegates and putting out interesting articles. Kit’s a smart fellow, and this article on using VMware Cloud for application modernisation is well worth reading.
  • Preston wrote about some experiences he had recently with almost failing drives in his home environment, and raised some excellent points about resilience, failure, and caution.
  • Speaking of people I worked with briefly, I’ve enjoyed Siobhán’s series of articles on home automation. I would never have the patience to do this, but I’m awfully glad that someone did.
  • Datadobi appears to be enjoying some success, and have appointed Paul Repice to VP of Sales for the Americas. As the clock runs down on the quarter, I’m going two for one, and also letting you know that Zerto has done some work to enhance its channel program.

Random Short Take #50

Happy new year and welcome to Random Short Take #50. Sure, it seems like I’ve done a lot of these recently, and they should probably be newsletters, not blog posts. But whatever. A few players have worn 50 in the NBA including father and son Greg and Cole Anthony. My pick is David Robinson though. Let’s get random.

  • I was interested to read about the Pi 400 when it was first announced, so it was good to be able to read Preston’s review of the device here. There’s also a useful initial impressions post here.
  • Scale Computing recently announced profitability, and this article from Chris Evans digs a little deeper into what that all means.
  • The good folks at Backblaze recently published a roundup of its hard drive stats for 2020 and it makes for some interesting reading. Notably, Backblaze now has 162530 spinning drives and 3000 boot drives in service, and over 3000 “pods” in service now.
  • Speaking of data protection, Zerto announced some good news from the Gartner Peer Insights Customers’ Choice. You can read more about that here. I’m a big fan of Zerto, and I’d like to see the company successfully navigate whatever is gong on with it at the moment.
  • I’m a fan of Rancher, and Longhorn, and thought this news item on what Longhorn is doing at the edge was pretty neat.
  • Working with VMware Cloud Foundation and need to do some bundle updates offline? This article might be helpful.
  • The Ringer recently published a list of 50 best cult movies that you can read here. Gleaming the Cube was notable for its absence, but these things can’t always be 100% correct.
  • I was fortunate enough to attend Storage Field Day 21 recently. I’ll be sharing some thoughts on that over the next few weeks, but in the meantime you can read Georgina’s wrap-up of the event here.

Random Short Take #46

Welcome to Random Short Take #46. Not a great many players have worn 46 in the NBA, but one player who has is one of my favourite Aussie players: Aron “Bangers” Baynes. So let’s get random.

  • Enrico recently attended Cloud Field Day 9, and had some thoughts on NetApp’s identity in the new cloud world. You can read his insights here.
  • This article from Chris Wahl on multi-cloud design patterns was fantastic, and well worth reading.
  • I really enjoyed this piece from Russ on technical debt, and some considerations when thinking about how we can “future-proof” our solutions.
  • The Raspberry Pi 400 was announced recently. My first computer was an Amstrad CPC 464, so I have a real soft spot for jamming computers inside keyboards.
  • I enjoyed this piece from Chris M. Evans on hybrid storage, and what it really means nowadays.
  • Working from home a bit this year? Me too. Tom wrote a great article on some of the security challenges associated with the new normal.
  • Everyone has a quadrant nowadays, and Zerto has found itself in another one recently. You can read more about that here.
  • Working with VMware Cloud Director and wanting to build a custom theme? Check out this article.

macOS Catalina and Frequent QNAP SMB Disconnections

TL;DR – I have no idea why this is happening as frequently as it is, what’s causing it, or how to stop it. So I’m using AFP for the moment.

Background

I run a Plex server on my Mac mini 2018 running macOS Catalina 10.15.6. I have all of my media stored on a QNAP TS-831X NAS running QTS 4.4.3.1400 with volumes connected to macOS over SMB. This has worked reasonably well with Catalina for the last year (?) or so, but with the latest Catalina update I’ve had frequent (as in every few hours) disconnections from the shares. I’ve tried a variety of fixes, and thought I’d document them here. None of them really worked, so what I’m hoping is that someone with solid macOS chops will be able to tell me what I’m doing wrong.

 

Possible Solutions

QNAP and SMB

I made sure I was running the latest QNAP firmware version. I noticed in the latest release notes for 4.4.3.1381 that it fixed a problem where “[u]sers could not mount NAS shared folders and external storage devices at the same time on macOS via SMB”. This wasn’t quite the issue I was experiencing, but I was nonetheless hopeful. This was not the case. This thread talked about SMB support levels. I was running my shares with support for SMB 2.1 through 3.0. I’ve since changed that to 3.0 only. No dice.

macOS

This guy on this thread thinks he’s nailed it. He may have, but not for me. I’ve included some of the text for reference below.

Server Performance Mode

https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT202528

The description reads:

Performance mode changes the system parameters of your Mac. These changes take better advantage of your hardware for demanding server applications. A Mac that needs to run high-performance services can turn on performance mode to dedicate additional system resources for server applications.

“Solution:

1 – First check to see if server performance mode is enabled on your machine using this Terminal command. You should see the command return serverperfmode=1 if it is enabled.

nvram boot-args

2 – If you do not see serverperfmode=1 returned, enter this following line of code to enable it. (I recommend rebooting your system afterwards)

sudo nvram boot-args="serverperfmode=1 $(nvram boot-args 2>/dev/null | cut -f 2-)"

I’ve also tried changing the power settings on the Mac mini, and disabled power nap. No luck there either. I’ve also tried using the FQDN of the NAS as opposed to the short name of the device when I map the drives. Nope, nothing.

 

Solution

My QNAP still supports Apple File Protocol, and it supports multiple protocols for the same share. So I turned on AFP and mapped the drives that way. I’m pleased to say that I haven’t had the shares disconnect since (and have thus had a much smoother Plex experience), but I’m sad to say that this is the only solution I have to offer for the moment. And if your storage device doesn’t support AFP? Sod knows. I haven’t tried doing it via NFS, but I’ve heard reports that NFS was its own special bin fire in recent versions of Catalina. It’s an underwhelming situation, and maybe one day I’ll happen across the solution. And I can share it here and we can all do a happy dance.

Random Short Take #39

Welcome to Random Short Take #39. Not a huge amount of players have worn 39 in the NBA, and I’m not going to pretend I’m any real fan of The Dwightmare. But things are tough all around, so let’s remain optimistic and push through to number 40. Anyway let’s get random.

  • VeeamON 2020 was online this week, and Anthony Spiteri has done a great job of summarising the major technical session announcements here.
  • I’ve known Howard Marks for a while now, and always relish the opportunity to speak with him when I can. This post is pretty hilarious, and I’m looking forward to reading the followup posts.
  • This is a great article from Alastair Cooke on COVID-19 and what En-Zed has done effectively to stop the spread. It was interesting to hear his thoughts on returning to the US, and I do agree that it’s going to be some time until I make the trip across the Pacific again.
  • Sometimes people get crazy ideas about how they might repurpose some old bits of technology. It’s even better when they write about their experiences in doing so. This article on automating an iPod Hi-Fi’s volume control over at Six Colors was fantastic.
  • Chris M. Evans put out a typically thought-provoking piece on data migration challenges recently that I think is worth checking out. I’ve been talking a lot to customers that are facing these challenges on a daily basis, and it’s interesting to see how, regardless of the industry vertical they operate in, it’s sometimes just a matter of the depth varying, so to speak.
  • I frequently bump into Ray Lucchesi at conferences, and he knows a fair bit about what does and doesn’t work. This article on his experiences recently with a number of virtual and online conferences is the epitome of constructive criticism.
  • Speaking of online conferences, the Australian VMUG UserCon will be virtual this year and will be held on the 30th July. You can find out more and register here.
  • Finally, if you’ve spent any time with me socially, you’ll know I’m a basketball nut. And invariably I’ll tell you that Deftones is may favouritest band ever. So it was great to come across this article about White Pony on one of my favourite sports (and popular culture) websites. If you’re a fan of Deftones, this is one to check out.

 

OT – Upgrading From macOS Mojave To Catalina (The Hard Way)

This post is really about the boring stuff I do when I have a day off and isn’t terribly exciting. TL;DR I had some problems upgrading to Catalina, and had to start from scratch.

 

Background

I’ve had an Apple Mac since around 2008. I upgraded from a 24″ iMac to a 27″ iMac and was super impressed with the process of migrating between machines, primarily because of Time Machine’s ability to recover settings, applications, and data in a fairly seamless fashion. I can’t remember what version of macOS I started with (maybe Leopard?), but I’ve moved steadily through the last few versions with a minimal amount of fuss. I was running Mojave on my iMac late last year when I purchased a refurbished 2018 Mac mini. At the time, I decided not to upgrade to Catalina, as I’d had a few issues with my work laptop and didn’t need the aggravation. So I migrated from the iMac to the Mac mini and kept on keeping on with Mojave.

Fast forward to April this year, and the Mac mini gave up the ghost. With Apple shutting down its stores here in response to COVID-19, it was a 2 week turnaround at the local repair place to get the machine fixed. In the meantime, I was able to use Time Machine to load everything on a 2012 MacBook Pro that was being used sparingly. It was a bit clunky, but had an internal SSD and 16GB of RAM, so it could handle the basics pretty comfortably. When the Mac mini was repaired, I used Time Machine once again to move everything back. It’s important to note that this is everything (settings, applications, and data) that had been accumulated since 2008. So there’s a bit of cruft associated with this build. A bunch of 32-bit applications that I’d lost track of, widgets that were no longer really in use, and so on.

 

The Big Update

I took the day off on Friday last week. I’d been working a lot of hours since COVID-19 restrictions kicked in here, and I’d been filling my commuting time with day job work (sorry blog!). I thought it would be fun to upgrade the Mac mini to Catalina. I felt that things were in a reasonable enough state that I could work with what it had to offer, and I get twitchy when there’s an upgrade notification on the Settings icon. Just sitting there, taunting me.

I downloaded the installer and pressed on. No dice, my system volume wasn’t formatted with APFS. How could this be? Well, even though APFS has been around for a little while now, I’d been moving my installation across various machines. At the time when the APFS conversion was part of the macOS upgrade, I was running an iMac with a spinning disk as the system volume, and so it never prompted to do that upgrade. When I moved to the Mac mini, I didn’t do any macOS upgrade, so I guess it just kept working with the HFS+ volume. It seems a bit weird that Catalina doesn’t offer a workaround for this, but I may just have been looking in the wrong place. Now, there was a lot of chatter in the forums about rebooting into Recovery Mode and converting the drive to an APFS volume. No matter what I tried, I was unable to do this effectively (either using the Recovery Mode console with Mojave or with Catalina booting from USB). I followed articles like this one but just didn’t have the same experience. And when I erased the system drive and attempted to recover from Time Machine backups, it would re-erase the volume as HFS+. So, I don’t know, I guess I’m an idiot. The solution that finally worked for me was to erase the drive, format it as APFS, install Mojave from scratch, and recover from a Time Machine backup. Unfortunately, though, this seemed to only want to transfer around 800KB of settings data. The normal “wait a few hours while we copy your stuff” just didn’t happen. Sod knows why, but what I did know was that I was really wasting my day off with this stuff.

I also ran in to an issue trying to do the installation from USB. You can read about booting from external devices and the T2 security chip here, here, and here. I lost patience with the process and took a different approach.

 

Is That So Bad?

Not really. I have my Photos library and iTunes media on a separate volume. I have one email account that we have used POP with over the years, but I installed Thunderbird, recovered the profile from my Time Machine data, and modified profiles.ini to point to that profile (causing some flashbacks to my early days on a help desk supporting a Netscape user base). The other thing I had to do was recover my Plex database. You can read more on that here. It actually went reasonably well. I’d been storing my iPhone backups on a separate volume too, and had to follow this process to relocate those backup files. Otherwise, Microsoft, to their credit, has made the reinstallation process super simple with Microsoft 365. Once I had most everything setup again, I was able to perform the upgrade to Catalina.

 

Conclusion

If this process sounds like it was a bit of a pain, it was. I don’t know that Apple has necessarily dropped the ball in terms of usability in the last few years, but sometimes it feels like it. I think I just had really high expectations based on some good fortune I’d enjoyed over the past 12 years. I’m not sure what the term is exactly, but it’s possible that because I’ve invested this much money in a product, I’m more forgiving of the issues associated with the product. Apple has done a great job historically of masking the complexity of technology from the end user. Sometimes, though, you’re going to come across odd situations that potentially push you down an odd path. That’s what I tell myself anyway as I rue the time I lost on this upgrade. Was anyone else’s upgrade to Catalina this annoying?

Random Short Take #32

Welcome to Random Short Take #32. Lot of good players have worn 32 in the NBA. I’m a big fan of Magic Johnson, but honourable mentions go to Jimmer Fredette and Blake Griffin. It’s a bit of a weird time around the world at the moment, but let’s get to it.

  • Veeam 10 was finally announced a little while ago and is now available for deployment. I work for a service provider, and we use Veeam, so this article from Anthony was just what I was after. There’s a What’s New article from Veeam you can view here too.
  • I like charts, and I like Apple laptops, so this chart was a real treat. The lack of ports is nice to look at, I guess, but carrying a bag of dongles around with me is a bit of a pain.
  • VMware recently made some big announcements around vSphere 7, amongst other things. Ather Beg did a great job of breaking down the important bits. If you like to watch videos, this series from VMware’s recent presentations at Tech Field Day 21 is extremely informative.
  • Speaking of VMware Cloud Foundation, Cormac Hogan recently wrote a great article on getting started with VCF 4.0. If you’re new to VCF – this is a great resource.
  • Leaseweb Global recently announced the availability of 2nd Generation AMD EPYC powered hosts as part of its offering. I had a chance to speak with Mathijs Heikamph about it a little while ago. One of the most interesting things he said, when I questioned him about the market appetite for dedicated servers, was “[t]here’s no beating a dedicated server when you know the workload”. You can read the press release here.
  • This article is just … ugh. I used to feel a little sorry for businesses being disrupted by new technologies. My sympathy is rapidly diminishing though.
  • There’s a whole bunch of misinformation on the Internet about COVID-19 at the moment, but sometimes a useful nugget pops up. This article from Kieren McCarthy over at El Reg delivers some great tips on working from home – something more and more of us (at least in the tech industry) are doing right now. It’s not all about having a great webcam or killer standup desk.
  • Speaking of things to do when you’re working at home, JB posted a handy note on what he’s doing when it comes to lifting weights and getting in some regular exercise. I’ve been using this opportunity to get back into garage weights, but apparently it’s important to lift stuff more than once a month.

Random Short Take #31

Welcome to Random Short Take #31. Lot of good players have worn 31 in the NBA. You’d think I’d call this the Reggie edition (and I appreciate him more after watching Winning Time), but this one belongs to Brent Barry. This may be related to some recency bias I have, based on the fact that Brent is a commentator in NBA 2K19, but I digress …

  • Late last year I wrote about Scale Computing’s big bet on a small form factor. Scale Computing recently announced that Jerry’s Foods is using the HE150 solution for in-store computing.
  • I find Plex to be a pretty rock solid application experience, and most of the problems I’ve had with it have been client-related. I recently had a problem with a server update that borked my installation though, and had to roll back. Here’s the quick and dirty way to do that on macOS.
  • Here’s are 7 contentious thoughts on data protection from Preston. I think there are some great ideas here and I recommend taking the time to read this article.
  • I recently had the chance to speak with Michael Jack from Datadobi about the company’s announcement about its new DIY Starter Pack for NAS migrations. Whilst it seems that the professional services market for NAS migrations has diminished over the last few years, there’s still plenty of data out there that needs to be moved from on box to another. Robocopy and rsync aren’t always the best option when you need to move this much data around.
  • There are a bunch of things that people need to learn to do operations well. A lot of them are learnt the hard way. This is a great list from Jan Schaumann.
  • Analyst firms are sometimes misunderstood. My friend Enrico Signoretti has been working at GigaOm for a little while now, and I really enjoyed this article on the thinking behind the GigaOm Radar.
  • Nexsan recently announced some enhancements to its “BEAST” storage platforms. You can read more on that here.
  • Alastair isn’t just a great writer and moustache aficionado, he’s also a trainer across a number of IT disciplines, including AWS. He recently posted this useful article on what AWS newcomers can expect when it comes to managing EC2 instances.