The Usual Tech Ramblings

Octopress and OpenID

One of the things I had completely forgotten about during my migration from WordPress to Octopress was OpenID. I had used one of the few OpenID plugins that tied into WordPress, and allowed you to use WordPress as an OpenID provider, giving me the ability to login to sites using my WordPress site.

This was great, and I’d completely forgotten about it because I rarely used it. That was until yesterday when somebody on the #Nagios IRC channel had asked a question, and then posted the same question to stackoverflow. I decided to answer the question over there, and remembered I had signed up for an account using OpenID, so I dutifully typed in my site URL, and was stumped because I wasn’t redirected.

This is where I did a little face-meets-desk action. I’d killed my OpenID account by killing off my WordPress site. I tried to think of a way around this, and did some quick searching, and stumbled upon a post by Darrin Mison, on the exact same topic. Darrin had left his WordPress site active over on, but had migrated to his URL else where. Because of this, Darrin was able to use what is called a deligate, and tell anybody making a request to look elsewhere to authenticate.

This sparked a vague memory, and reminded me that when I first started tinkering with OpenID, I used a different site for the authentication, so a quick check, and I was able to login there. Now I just needed to edit my Octopress site to provide the delegate information.

I used as my delegate, and they have a help article on how to handle using your own URL. Following what Darrin had done, I edited source/_includes/custom/head.html and added the lines that the were mentioned in the help doc. So now my head.html template looks like this:

<link rel="openid.server" href="" />
<link rel="openid.delegate" href="" />
<link rel="openid2.local_id" href="" />
<link rel="openid2.provider" href="" />
<meta http-equiv="X-XRDS-Location" content="" />
<!--Fonts from Google"s Web font directory at -->
<link href=",italic,bold,bolditalic" rel="stylesheet" type="text/css">
<link href=",italic,bold,bolditalic" rel="stylesheet" type="text/css">

Pretty simple, and a rebuild of the blog, and my page now includes the delegate headers required to redirect OpenID requests.

Adding XML Elements using PowerShell

In a follow-up to my previous post on removing XML elements using PowerShell, I decided to figure out how to add elements using PowerShell. I’m working with the same file from Remote Desktop Manager (RDM) and adding remote management configurations based on DNS checks.

In the enterprise licensed version of RDM you are given the ability to add “remote management” interface details to a host configuration. In our environment, that remote management interface is iLO, and is available from a dedicated IP address, over HTTPS, giving you access to a remote console as well as power management features. RDM handles this with a small tweak to the XML file adding another element under the connection meta information.

The XML that RDM is looking for is like this:


I’ve removed most of the information, which you can see in the previous post.

As we’re trying to be careful with the file, we need to first validate the XML has a MetaInformation element, and then an existing ServerRemoteManagementUrl element. If one, or neither, exist, then they get created. Not all hosts have iLO interfaces, such as virtual machines, so we need to verify the presence of a DNS record first, and then only create the entry if it exists.

$ilo_str = "https://{0}-ilo"
$ilo_host = "{0}-ilo"

[XML]$conns = Get-Content c:\temp\connections.xml

$nodes = $conns.ArrayOfConnection.SelectNodes("Connection[ConnectionType[.='RDPConfigured']]")

if ($nodes -eq $null) {

$nodes | %{
     $node_name = $_.Name
     $meta = $_.SelectSingleNode("./MetaInformation")
     if ($meta -eq $null) {
          $meta = $conns.CreateElement("MetaInformation")

     $ilo = $meta.SelectSingleNode("./ServerRemoteManagementUrl")
     if ($ilo -eq $null) {
          $dns = $null;
          try {
               $dns = [System.Net.Dns]::GetHostAddresses($($ilo_host -f $node_name))
          catch [System.Exception]
            ## Doing Nothing ##
          if ($dns -ne $null) {
               $ilo = $conns.CreateElement("ServerRemoteManagementUrl")
               $ilo.InnerText = $ilo_str -f $node_name



Again, working with a copy of the original file, I use some crafty XPath queries again to only select connections that are RDP. I then loop through the connections/nodes, and extract the name. Lines 14-18 test for the presence of the MetaInformation element, and create it if it doesn’t exist. Line 20 checks for the ServerRemoteManagementUrl element, if it’s not there, it creates it proceeds with DNS validation.

Lines 24-31 perform a DNS lookup, unfortunately it returns an exception rather than a $null or empty object, so I had to throw in some quick dummy catch code that doesn’t really do anything. If a DNS record is returned it creates the new element, and adds it to the MetaInformation element. For the final step, I saved it to a second file so I could do a comparison between the files to make sure it did as I expected.

One thing to note about adding elements to an XML document is that the CreateElement function (lines 16 and 34) are not executed against the node you are adding the element to, they are executed against the document root. This is so that the element gets all the correct name space information. You then append your element to the existing element.

Removing XML Elements using PowerShell

Every now and again I have to strip out elements from an XML file. In this case, I was doing some cleanup of my Remote Desktop Manager configuration file. When I first started my current job, to save a lot of discovery, my boss shared his configuration file. Unfortunately the configuration file had a lot of hosts that had duplicate configuration information that wasn’t relevant because the “duplicate” option had been used to copy existing hosts. This meant stuff like host description had been copied.

Remote Desktop Manager (RDM) uses an XML file for its configuration, which makes editing it really easy. To clean up the invalid descriptions, I used a little PowerShell and some XML know-how. Here is an example entry I need to clean up…

    <Events />
    <Group>MyDomain\App Servers\DEV</Group>
    <MetaInformation />
    <Description>HP Command View EVA</Description>

And here is the PowerShell that is used to cleanup the file.

[xml]$xml = Get-Content C:\Temp\Connections.XML

$node = $conns.SelectSingleNode("//Description[.='HP Command View EVA']")
while ($node -ne $null) {
    $node = $conns.SelectSingleNode("//Description[.='HP Command View EVA']")


Pretty simple, but here is how it works. The first line is pretty obvious, it’s getting the content of the file1. It then explicitly converts the array object into XML using [xml]. The next bit is where it gets a little harder, and requires a little knowledge of XPath syntax. The code is looking to select a single node, that has the name “Description”, with the data in it that says ‘HP Command View EVA’. If it’s found, it’ll return a XMLElement object, otherwise $node ends up being $null. This gives us the ability to wrap the search in a loop, and remove the elements we don’t need. To remove the element, you have to tell the parent node to remove it, so you ask the node to go back to the parent to remove itself, a little weird, but it works. The final step is to go back and save it to a file.

The hardest bit about handling XML is knowing how XPath stuff works, once that is understood, the rest is usually pretty easy. PowerShell treats XML as an object, so it’s easy to figure out what you can do with the objects using Get-Member.

  1. Which I had copied to C:\Temp to make a backup of, instead of working on the real file. 

Updating iLO firmware using hponcfg and XML

In the course of updating all of our HP BladeSystem blades (BL465c) servers over the last few weeks, I’ve stumbled across some interesting things. For example, you can updated all the iLO cards at once if you have an Onboard Administrator (OA), a TFTP server, and a little XML knowhow…

        <LOGIN USER_LOGIN="Administrator" PASSWORD="UsingAutoLogin">
                <RIB_INFO MODE="write">
                        <UPDATE_RIB_FIRMWARE IMAGE_LOCATION="tftp://TFTP_SERVER/ilo3_150.bin" />

This gets saved as an XML file on the TFTP server, I named it update_firmware.xml. The USER_LOGIN and PASSWORD fields do not matter as single sign-on is used from the OA. The iLO update binary is put on the TFTP server as well (you should use the version applicable to the hardware you’re updating). Then comes the easy bit. SSH to the Onboard Administrator, and execute the hponcfg command as such:

hponcfg ALL tftp://TFTP_SERVER/update_firmware.xml

If you only need to update a single blade, change ALL to the blade number. Otherwise, this will download the iLO firmware update, push it to each of the iLO cards in the BladeSystem chassis, and then restart them. This will not impact the running server. You should see output like this once it has started:

<!-- Transfering image: 0% complete -->
<!-- Transfering image: 10% complete -->
<!-- Transfering image: 20% complete -->
<!-- Transfering image: 30% complete -->
<!-- Transfering image: 40% complete -->
<!-- Transfering image: 50% complete -->
<!-- Transfering image: 60% complete -->
<!-- Transfering image: 70% complete -->
<!-- Transfering image: 80% complete -->
<!-- Transfering image: 90% complete -->
<!-- Transfering image: 100% complete -->

Bay 15: RIBCL results retrieved.
<!-- ======== START RIBCL RESULTS ======== -->

<!--more output here-->

<?xml version="1.0"?>
    MESSAGE='No error'
<INFORM>Firmware flash in progress [100%].</INFORM>
<?xml version="1.0"?>
    MESSAGE='No error'
<INFORM>Firmware flash completed successfully. iLO 3 reset

And that’s it, the magic is done. Using hponcfg is possible from Windows as well when updating the local machines, so it’s quite possible to use the same XML (though I’ve not tested it).

Five Saturdays

Note: I started writing this post at the beginning of December, but due to time issues, and working on blog migrations, I never got around to posting. I’ve still decided to post because it throws in some PowerShell goodies.

The internet is such a gullable place. Really it is. People post to Facebook nearly everything they see anywhere because it sounds like it’s quite possible, and usually accompanying some cool picture to make it seem more important.

An example of one that keeps coming up…

This year, December has 5 Saturdays, 5 Sundays, and 5 Mondays. This only happens once every 824 years.

Along with some blah blah crap about money, and Chinese superstitions. I’m not sure why people don’t stop and think for just a second, and wonder how that could be possible.

Lets do some mental math, and see what happens. December has 31 days, so regardless of what year it is, there will always be 3 days that occur 5 times that month. What are the chances that any other month with 31 days, would start on a Saturday? You’d think pretty high, and I’m guessing a little more frequently than once every 824 years.

To prove the point, I threw together some PowerShell to figure out how many might occur within the next 20 years.

$date = Get-Date "00:00:00 11/01/12"

1..300 | %{
     $date = $date.AddMonths(1)
     $mo = $date.Month
     $yr = $date.Year
     $dy = $date.DayOfWeek
     $dim = [System.DateTime]::DaysInMonth($yr, $mo)
     if (($dim -eq 31) -and ($dy -eq [System.DayOfWeek]::Saturday)) {
          "{0}`t{1}" -f $yr, $mo

So what is this doing? The first line is grabbing November 1st, and the it loops 300 times. Each loop it adds a month, and figures out what day it is, and the number of days in the month. If there are 31 days in the month, and the day is Saturday, it outputs the year and the month. So how did it look? Did I get no results because I’m inside the 824 years? Far from it…

2012     12
2014     3
2015     8
2016     10
2017     7
2018     12
2020     8
2021     5
2022     1
2022     10
2023     7
2025     3
2026     8
2027     5
2028     1
2028     7
2029     12
2031     3
2032     5
2033     1
2033     10
2034     7
2035     12
2036     3
2037     8

So it looks like it occurs quite frequently. Lets also assume just for a second that they meant only December, if we look at the results, we can see it’s pretty consistent. 6 years until the next even, then 11 years, then another 6 years, much more frequently than 824 years.

As a side note, Snopes covers this issue as well.

So my tip of the day, if you feel the urge to repost somebody’s random image and something doesn’t seem right, hit Google or Bing, and search for part of the phrase and see what you come up with.

WordPress to Octopress

Well, it’s only taken me about 3 months of on-off messing about, but I’ve finally cut my blog over to using Octopress. It’s been a long ride with Wordpress but the overhead and all the fluff were more than I needed. Octopress is nice and simple, and just gets stuff done.

The hardest part was exporting and converting. The 6 years of Wordpress usage had me tinkering with all sorts of plugins to get various fun things working, but ultimately ended up being abandoned. Unfortunately after abandoning them, I nearly played clean-up and fixed all the data it left floating around. One major example is the 4+ different code formatting plugins I’ve used.

I don’t remember all the steps I took to get it done, but have most of it documented. I’ll write it up some day. For now, let me know if you spot anything terribly wrong.

Lync, Federation, and DNS

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been working on a Microsoft Lync pilot at work. One of the requirements was external federation. This feature basically allows us to use instant messenger (IM) between users in both locations. So for example, you are CompanyA and you do business on a regular basis with CompanyB and are both using Lync. Federation allows you to add each other to your Lync clients, and talk to each other.

The configuration and implementation went pretty smoothly, but I was having intermittent issues with federation. The problem came up when adding an external company that hadn’t explicitly added us to their federated domains list. Initially we had dismissed the issue as a firewall issue because we got federation working with some consultants, however I was later asked to add a vendor and started seeing the same issues.

After some testing, I wasn’t getting any closer, so I enabled the client logging options in the Lync client. Those are found under Options, General, and “Turn on Logging in Lync”. This writes a log file to a Tracing folder under your user profile directory (C:\Users\username\Tracing). When I started digging into the logs, some errors popped out at me.

ms-diagnostics: 1027;reason="Cannot route this type of SIP request to or from federated partners";

The other error that popped out at me was:

ms-diagnostics:  1034;reason="Previous hop federated peer did not report diagnostic information";

Without doing much digging, the first suggests the request I’d sent to the vendor couldn’t be routed, and the second reports that no error explaining why it couldn’t be routed was returned from the remote side. This made me think it was a potential firewall issue again. Doing the basic testing of validating that our Edge server was accepting incoming connections, and I could connect to the vendors edge server, I eliminted the firewall being an issue. This got me really scratching my brain.

I ran a SIP stack trace from the Lync Edge server and saw more unusual errors, such as “504 Server time-out”. This was beginning to frustrate me, I had confirmed that both servers could talk to each other, why were they getting timeouts?

I decided to go back to basics, start at the very bottom. First thing was connectivity, that we already established by using telnet to the servers. The next was DNS. Lync, like a lot of Microsoft products, takes advantage of Service Records (SRV) in DNS. This record tells the requesting client the protocol, port, and host to connect to. In this case, the Edge server is looking for the SRV record for the entry The response should look something like this: 300 IN SRV 0 0 5061

So the protocol is TCP, the port is 5061, and the server I need to connect to is I ran a check against our domain, and the vendors domain, and both came back with records. Except, with them being so close together on the screen, I immediately spotted an issue. 300 IN SRV 0 0 5601 3600 IN SRV 0 0 5061

Ignoring the different in 300 and 3600, the Time-To-Live of the record, the next difference was the port numbers. Looks like I made a simple transposition of numbers. I did a quick test from outside the firewall, and confirmed that 5601 was not open. I went back through the firewall change tickets, and confirmed I had requested 5061, and the Lync configuration was also set to 5061.

A quick DNS change for the SRV record, fixing the port, and within 10 minutes I received 3 notifications from the vendor that they had staff adding me to their contact lists.

One of the things I’ve come to learn over the years, whenever there is something awfully quirky going on, and you cannot quite figure out what’s causing it, take a look at DNS. I’ve had a number of issues that have resulted in being a simple DNS issue. In this case, it was simple human error, but boiled down to be DNS saying one thing, and it should have been something else.

Lync, Exchange Unified Messaging, and TLS

One of the cool things about Exchange is a role called Unified Messaging (UM). This role allows you to bridge voice messaging, call routing, and emails, all into a convenient package. What’s even better, you can get Lync to integrate right into that feature set too, giving your Lync system a voicemail system.

Part of our pilot program was to setup Lync and Exchange UM. This was to allow us to demonstrate that Lync and our existing Exchange infrastructure could potentially replace the older PBX style system, while giving us cost savings across the board. Configuring the Lync and UM integration is pretty easy, this site gives a great step-by-step walk through of the process. As we were working with consultants during the installation, they walked us through the steps, with a minor deviation to the instructions on that site.

When it came time to test, we called the UM extension number, and got a fast busy. Because it was close to end of day, we thought about giving it time to perform replication at the AD level as contacts and AD records are created as part of the process. Unfortunately the next morning, the issue was still around. Digging about, we confirmed all the settings were correct, however we were seeing weird errors regarding TLS and certificate names in the Application log on the UM server…

The Unified Messaging server failed to exchange the required certificates with an IP gateway to enable Transport Layer Security
(TLS) for an incoming call. Please check that this is a configured TLS peer and that the certificates being used are correct. More
information: A TLS failure occurred because the target name specified in the certificate isn't correct. The error code = 0x1 and the message = Incorrect function.. Remote certificate:
(Lyncpool.internaldomain.local). Remote end point:
Local end point:

The error suggested we were seeing an issue with the SSL certificate on the Lync pool front end server. The first thing to check was that the Subject Name (SN) for the SSL certificate was the same as the name used for the UM IP gateway (Lync pool).

UMDialPlan_01 We verified that the SN matched the UM IP gateway, and that the fingerprint reported by the error message above (which I changed if you didn’t guess) matched. Next was to make sure the certificate chain wasn’t broken. Both servers had a correct certificate chain, and because they were internal certificates issued from our own CA server, the full chain of trust was available. We verified that both servers could open the others’ certificate and also saw the full chain.

We then went back and revalidated all the configurations again, and we didn’t spot anything obvious, the consultants were stumped.

UMDialPlan_03 After several hours of bashing our heads against it, the consultants started throwing out some wild ideas, such as us using an unrecommended TLD in the cert, and some other bits and pieces too. I found those a little hard to follow, but continued to research. Going back over the post we’d discovered on UM configuration, I scoured the images looking for something we may have missed. It wasn’t until I got to the very last image that I spotted the issue…

UMDialPlan_01 The output of the script reports the pool name, associated dial plan, and the UM IP Gateway. When I looked in the Exchange Management console, the “Associated UM IP gateways” field was empty (highlighted with red border as filled in), suggesting that the dial plan had no gateway assigned. When I discussed it with the other team member we remembered that the step to run the ExchUCUtil.ps1 script was done before executing the OcsUmUtil.exe process. We believe that the order of execution resulted in some entries not being updated with the correct information, which in turn made Exchange UM have issues matching an UM IP gateway to a dial plan. After re-executing the ExchUCUtil.ps1 script on the UM server, the UM IP Gateway field was populated with “1:1”, which matched the UM IP Gateway tab for the Lync Front End server.

Less than a minute after we confirmed the field had been populated with information, we ran a test call to the UM extension, and was greeted with the friendly UM voicemail system.

This is a weird case where an error message took us down the wrong path, if it had been a little clearer, it may have steered us in the right direction. A better error, obviously, would be to report that the inbound call was not matched to the calling UM IP Gateway. We probably would have had the issue resolved in about 10 minutes, instead of 2 days.

As a side note, the SSL certificates must be configured correctly as well, otherwise you will get exactly the same error message. This is why we went down the path of examining the certificates very closely. The UM server SN must be the Fully Qualified Domain Name (FQDN) of the server, and the UM IP Gateway SN has to be that of the Lync Front End server.

DL585, Hardware Monitors, and Progress

A couple of weeks ago, I tweeted about a server that had a blinking health light. After some poking around, I discovered that WBEM was reporting everything was A-OK with the server, but flipping the management tools to using SNMP reported a memory failure.

After scheduling some down time to replace the memory, I went to slide the server out on the rails, and discovered that the HP ProLiant DL585 G1 series servers has the health status board on the top of the chassis. This confused me because all the other servers we have have either a pop out tray with the information on, or some kind of LCD up from that reports the status.

What caught me by surprise was the fact that the server had the full hardware layout instructions on the top of the server. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen this. Granted it is an old server (G1 class servers are getting a little long in the tooth), but it was nice to see the full details right where I needed them, and not having to go hunting through HPs terrible support site for the details.

What’s even more interesting to me was the hardware health status board. On the newer servers, this is usually smaller than a credit card, and about as thick as 3 quarters stacked on top of each other. In this DL585, the board is the size of a large network card, with multiple LEDs feeding clear plastic shafts that pipe to another set on the bottom of the chassis top.

I find it interesting to see how hardware configurations have grown, and changed over time, even the very small things. I don’t see many servers with instructions on any more, probably a money saver for the vendors. I also don’t see much in the way of big health boards any more, managing to squeeze so much into a tiny board now. The advancement in chips and technologies has made the server realm quite interesting to poke around in.

Move-VM and Explicit Destination

Due to a weird BIOS error, most of our ESX hosts have thrown a memory warning. This is a known issue, and HP want you to update the BIOS before doing any further troubleshooting, so I scheduled a change window to upgrade all the hosts in our cluster (12 in this cluster). While working on the upgrades, I stumbled across a weird issue with Move-VM.

Our clusters run Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS), which allows the cluster to migrate guests seamlessly between the hosts when resources become constrained. One of the handy features is when you put a host into maintenance mode, it automatically moves all the guests off of that host. However, because I wanted to make sure all the guests migrated, and manage the alerts in our monitoring system, I threw together a quick script using PowerCLI so I could move all the dev/test/stage machines (lower monitoring thresholds), and then move the production servers after so I could see which boxes I had to mark as “unmanaged” in our monitoring software.

Moving the VMs is really easy with PowerCLI, for example, here is the basics of my script:

$creds = Get-Credentials
$conn = Connect-ViServer -Credentials $creds vcenter.domain.tld
Move-VM -Destination newhost -Name guestname

Pretty simple, however I was noticing an oddity. When the guests were moving, they were losing the resource pools they were part of. Looking at the documentation for Move-VM, the destination supports a folder, cluster, resource pool, or host. Because I wasn’t explicitly specifying the type as a host, it looks like all the other options were being set to null and the guest moved. So for the next batch of guests to move, I explicitly defined the type:

$creds = Get-Credentials
$conn = Connect-ViServer -Credentials $creds vcenter.domain.tld
$dst_host = Get-VMHost -Name newhost
Move-VM -Destination $dst_host -Name guestname

After explicitly defining the type of destination, the guest moved host, but retained it’s resource pool allocations. Much better! Obviously this only moves one guest, and each of our hosts has quite a few guests on it, so I used a Get-VM combination, some pipes, and such.

$creds = Get-Credentials
$conn = Connect-ViServer -Credentials $creds vcenter.domain.tld
$dst_host = Get-VMHost -Name newhost

Get-VM -Location (Get-VMHost -Name oldhost) | ?{ $_.Name -match "DAL[DST]+.*" } | %{
	Move-VM -Destination $dst_host -Name $_

The above code happily moves all our dev, stage, and test, machines off of oldhost onto newhost. From there, it was a case of finding the hosts in the monitoring software, unmanaging them all, and repeating the same code without the conditional name check.

So lesson learned, if a function accepts multiple input types, always explicitly define the type, as you cannot tell what might happen.