ESXi Embedded Host Client Overview

As I have begun to see numerous rumors in the VMware forums that the next major release will deprecate the usage of the vSphere thick client (and the simple fact that VMs created using the most recent extensions include features that cannot be managed with the desktop client) I decided to take the plunge and install the HTML5 fling host client on my ESXi host.
The fling can be downloaded from the VMware Labs site. The standard caveat applies to this fling like anything else that you install from VMware Labs:

I also understand that Flings are experimental and should not be run on production systems.

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Configure Google Authenticator on CentOS 7

Image of laptop with hand holding a skeleton key extending outwards through the display.

Intro

As part of the rebuild on my Plex Media Server using CentOS 7, I had intended to configure Google Authenticator but hadn’t gotten around to doing it yet.  As I got into the process recently I discovered that many of the steps that I had used when configuring my CentOS 6 Digital Ocean droplet were out of date to the point of uselessness.

I also discovered that most of the guides that I found either relied on the older 1.0 code release which was also outdated or used a unknown RPM repo.  As such I decided to write up the process that I followed to use the code downloaded from the official GitHub repository.

NOTE: If you are doing this in an enterprise setting, it is likely that your company has particular settings and restrictions that you may need to adhere to (e.g., not running things as the root user). Also, please note that all of my examples use the CentOS defaults unless specifically noted.

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Switch your domain registrar to Hover

wallet_smallThere is an adage that you should vote with your wallet when you are unhappy with a particular business or their practices.  Do we do this as much as we should?  Probably not.

Taking this to heart,  I have decided that I will try to apply this to the usage of my electronics and gadget stuff.  So the first thing I chose to do was to switch my domain registration from using NameCheap to using Hover.  There were several usage reasons, like support for the TOTP/HOTP system for two-factor authentication instead of relying on SMS messages.

But there are some other reasons, like the support for causes that I feel are worthwhile.  Here are just a few that Hover is a patron of:

So if you own a domain or two, or you work somewhere that does, think about switching your registration to Hover and help support not only your account’s security but also some great organizations.

Gratuitous Recommendation Link: https://hover.com/Ems0HmPv

Full disclosure: I work at Web.com and they are the parent company of Register.com and Networksolutions.com, two really large domain registration companies, but I still prefer Hover.

RHEL7 and ncat changes

One of the tools that I use on a regular basis to test network connectivity updates is the “z” option of netcat.  Apparently when RedHat rolled out the latest version of their distribution of RedHat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) they decided to move to using the nmap-ncat package instead of the nc package.  The command options a very different.

So when attempting to test single port like I would have under previous releases I now use the following syntax:

# echo | nc -w1 $host $port >/dev/null 2>&1 ;echo $?

If the result that is returned is a zero then you have successfully connected to the remote host on the desired port. This also applies to CentOS 7 since it is a “clone” or copyleft port of the RHEL7 binaries.

Dear Comcast: You Suck

Editorial Note: Apparently Comcast really would prefer that people not use the term data cap when referring to the limitations being placed on their customers data usage and would much rather prefer that we use the term data usage plan or data threshold, however, I don’t really care. 🙂

Dear Comcast,

I would like to go on record as saying that you suck.  I recognize that you are a for profit company and that you would like to make a profit on the services that you provide.  I even think that having your company make a profit is a good thing because that enables you to pay your employees so that they can put food on their tables and afford to pay the fees for their children to participate in Little League baseball and other such childhood activities.

Your data usage cap system is bogus.  According to the data available on your own website you have eight (8) different trial markets where you have rolled out data caps since 2012:

  • August 1, 2012: Nashville, Tennessee – 300GB cap
  • October 1, 2012: Tucson, Arizona – 3 tiers (300GB, 350GB, 600GB)
  • August 22, 2013: Fresno, California – Economy Plus option added
  • September 1, 2013: Savannah, Georgia; Central Kentucky; Jackson, Mississippi – 300GB
  • October 1, 2013: Mobile, Alabama; Knoxville, Tennessee.
  • November 1, 2013: Huntsville, Alabama; Augusta, Georgia; Tupelo, Mississippi; Charleston, South Carolina; Memphis, Tennessee – 300GB cap
  • December 1, 2013: Atlanta, Georgia; Maine – 300GB cap
  • October 1, 2015: Fort Lauderdale, the Keys and Miami, Florida – 300GB cap plus $30 option for increasing to  unlimited

In fact, your page on this even refers to these as “trial start dates” which to a reasonably minded person would imply that they have an end date as well, however to the best of my knowledge (as well as the comments made by a customer support representative) there is no plan to end these trials OR any plan to actually collapse them into a single cohesive plan that applies to your entire service.

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Massive Numbers of Chrome Helper Messages in system logs

Today when attempting to figure out why Google Hangouts would not start on my Mac after the application was re-enabled due to a permissions change, I noticed a large number of messages like the following:

6/10/15 10:20:14.000 AM kernel[0]: Google Chrome He (map: 0xffffff804da160f0) triggered DYLD shared region unnest for map: 0xffffff804da160f0, region 0x7fff99a00000->0x7fff99c00000. While not abnormal for debuggers, this increases system memory footprint until the target exits.

After some research I found that this is a reported issue in the bug tracker for Chromium.  At first I thought that maybe this was the cause of the problem I was having but that turned out to not be the case, simply removing the Hangouts app in Chrome and re-adding it fixed my issue.  However, the sheer number of these errors makes the log a bit unwieldy.  It turns out that there is a way to hide all these messages (thanks to the commenter in the Chromium bug thread!):

[code language=”bash” light=”true”]sudo sysctl -w vm.shared_region_unnest_logging=0[/code]

While it doesn’t help at all with Chrome’s memory issues or other UI issues on Mac OS X, it is rather nice to hide all those spurious messages from the system log.

Checking your password expiration date

While logging into one of the Linux jump boxes at work today, it occurred to me that while I recently got notified about my password expiration from our Active Directory farm, I had no idea when my Linux password would expire or what the password life was.

To find out this information you can easily use the chage command.

Here is what the output looks like:

[code language=”bash”][user@myserver ~]$ chage -l user
Last password change : Apr 09, 2015
Password expires : Jul 08, 2015
Password inactive : never
Account expires : never
Minimum number of days between password change : 1
Maximum number of days between password change : 90
Number of days of warning before password expires : 7
[/code]

It may seem like such a simple thing to do, but knowing when your password expires can be a lifesaver on occasion.

Windows Tip of the Week: Find your account password expiration date in an AD environment

Image of laptop with hand holding a skeleton key extending outwards through the display.

In many cases your enterprise Active Directory will not involve too many domains, in fact it is quite common for an Active Directory implementation to only include one domain.  In some cases, however, when you have the unfortunate situation of having a username in multliple domains with differing policies on password expiration it is useful to be able to know when your password, or that of another user will expire.  Here is an easy way to accomplish this from the command line.

For the current active user

[code language=”bash”]
net user /domain
[/code]

For a different user

[code language=”bash”]
net user /domain _username_here_
[/code]

Here is an example of the output:

[code language=”bash”]
User name afore
Full Name Andrew Fore
Comment
User’s comment
Country code 000 (System Default)
Account active Yes
Account expires Never

Password last set 1/29/2015 4:38:37 PM
Password expires 4/29/2015 4:38:37 PM
Password changeable 1/29/2015 4:38:37 PM
Password required Yes
User may change password Yes

Workstations allowed All
Logon script
User profile
Home directory
Last logon 3/18/2015 3:27:55 PM

Logon hours allowed All

Local Group Memberships
Global Group memberships *VMWare Admins *Domain Users
*Staff
[/code]

If you notice there is a lot of useful information regarding the user account here, but of particular interest in my situation was the value of Password expires since I was trying to ensure that I got my password reset prior to the policy setting so that I would not find myself locked out over the weekend that I went on call when the Helpdesk would be closed.

Solaris Tip of the Week: a better du experience

Graphic showing several nested command line terminal application windows.

In my day job as a Systems Engineer I frequently find myself switching between different UNIX and Linux distributions.  While many of the commands exist on both sides of the aisle, I often find vast differences in the command line parameters that can be consumed by a given command when used in, for example, Linux vs Solaris.

Recently I came upon this again with the need to easily ferret out the majority consumer of drive space on a Solaris 10 system.  While we did have the xpg4 specification support available, the du command was still missing my favorite option “max-depth”.

In Linux I use this to limit the output to only the current directory level so that I don’t have to face to possibility of wading through a tremendously large listing of sub-directories to find the largest directory in the level I am in.  Unfortunately, in Solaris, even with xpg4, the du command doesn’t have this option, so my solution was to pipe the results through egrep and use that to filter out the sub-directories.

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Desktop Google Chrome Reader Mode

If you are a Safari user then you are likely used to the “reader mode” which disables all the extra graphical stuff and focuses the view on the content of the article.  Thanks to a tip from Google Plus user Francois Beaufort, here’s how to enable it on the desktop (in Windows at the very least, I haven’t tried in any other OS).

If you’re on desktop, playing with it is as easy as running chrome with the –enable-dom-distiller switch. Once it’s done, you’ll notice a new “Distill page” menu item.

Hopefully this will make it to mainstream with a nice icon.