Category Archives: featured

Home/Small Office VPN Solution – OpenVPN

A few months ago I was asked by a couple of people, “What is a good product for connecting remotely to my machines at work/home, but isn’t going to cost me a bundle”. Good question, as I really never had a solid utility for my home lab environment. At work, we have always had some sort of enterprise VPN product like CheckPoint, F5, or Sonicwall. So I did some searching around, and of course there are many solutions out there. The criteria I was setting for myself was I wanted something somewhat easy to install, preferably open source, and something that could expand and/or grow if needed. I also wanted something that would work with my Windows boxes and Linux boxes. After playing around with a couple of products, I settled on OpenVPN (http://openvpn.net). The access server is available as Linux or Windows, or as a VMware or VHD appliance. The clients available are for Linux, Mac, and Windows. The server install was rather simple as I just downloaded and VMware image and added it to my existing ESXi environment. Made the proper changes after the install and on my firewalls and that was good to go. Of course you have to make sure you register so you can get your free 2 clients. The client software was pretty much the same. I loaded it on my Windows 7 laptop and my Linux netbook. I also tested it on Windows XP and no complaints there as well. The web GUI interface for the admin piece was pretty straight forward. Only problem I had going on was with setting up the profiles for downloading the client. Once I figured that out, I was good to go. Also one of the other things I really liked about the product is I could really test drive it and buy more licenses as I saw fit. Right now I don’t have a need for more than two connections, but that could change. I think this could be a happy medium solution for some home office/small business environments. They also have a pretty good community out there for help in case you get stuck.

Windows Server 2008 Only Comes on DVD

logo-ms-ws08-v

PLEASE NOTE, I TAKE NO CREDIT FOR WRITING THIS ARTICLE, ITS ORIGINS ARE/WERE FROM geekeleet.com. IT SEEMS TO BE DOWN AND MY REFERENCED LINKS TO IT WERE FAILING SO I HAVE REPOSTED WHAT THEY HAVE HERE. THAT IS ALL.

Well, last week I took my first stab at installing the all new Windows Server 2008 (Longhorn).  I must say that I was very frustrated when, a week later, it still wasn’t happily installed and working.  I ran into a couple of problems and I’m going to share them with you in the hopes that I might save you from the same aggravation that I endured.I’m an MSDN and TechNet subscriber, so I have access to the downloads of these products a few weeks before the general public.  I downloaded the English .iso and proceeded to burn it to disk.  When I took that disk to my server to install it, I hit my first hurdle.  It seems that the install disk for Windows Server 2008 only comes on DVD; the server is only equipped with a cd-rom.  I had a lot of ideas on how to fix this, but many of them didn’t pan out.  I didn’t have a large enough USB drive to create an install disk from, nor could I find anything on the web to solve my problem.  Suddenly, I was struck with the idea of the century, install from my network!  I copied the contents of the Server 2008 DVD to a common share on my network and searched for a boot disk to load the network from.  I tried loading a copy of WinPE 2004 (Windows Pre-installation Environment), which loaded just fine, however it threw up an error message when I tried to install Server 2008.  It would seem that the version of WinPE that I was using didn’t support Vista or Server 2008 installations.

After much hunting I discovered that there is a WinPE version 2.0, however I had no luck finding a copy that I could download.  Nope, the community wasn’t going to help me with this one, so I set out to create my own.  It actually wasn’t that hard.  You do need to have a Vista installation running somewhere to create the WinPE disk that will get you going.  For those of you who don’t know, WinPE is actually a replacement for DOS to some degree.  When you boot from the Vista or Server 2008 install disk, you are actually loading a WinPE environment, rather than a DOS one.  Think of it like a really compact version of the Vista kernel.

To build your own WinPE 2.0 disk, you have to start by downloading the Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK).  Warning!!!  Downloading this software does require you to validate your copy of Windows.  Just in case you happen to be one of the minorities that pirate software, I thought you should know.  Otherwise, download the software and install it using the wizard provided.  Once you have completed all of that, follow these instructions to create your disk:

  • Launch the “Windows PE Tools Command Prompt” from the start menu (Start –> All Programs –> Microsoft Windows AIK)
  • At the command prompt, type COPYPE.CMD x86 c:tempx86_PE (command  |  version  |  destination folder) and press <enter>

Note: the destination directory should not already exist.

  • Once the process completes, create a .iso by entering OSCDIMG -bc:tempx86_peetfsboot.com -n -o c:tempx86_peiso c:tempx86_pe.iso and pressing <enter>
  • Now you can burn the image to a disk with your favourite burning software (Roxio, Nero, etc.)
  • You’re done!

Now you have a WinPE 2.0 boot disk.  Once you boot to it, it will look like a fancy Vista background and a command prompt.  If you are network installing like I am, you need to mount the network share so that the install can take place.  That part is easy, just type:

net use z: \computernamefoldername

or net use z: \computernamefoldername domainpassword /USER:domainuser (if you are using a secured domain share)

Now you can type z:setup and you will be on your way to installing Server 2008.  This technique also works for Vista for those of you having a similar problem there!

Windows Server 2008 Hangs After Loading crcdisk.sys

logo-ms-ws08-vPLEASE NOTE, I TAKE NO CREDIT FOR WRITING THIS ARTICLE, ITS ORIGINS ARE/WERE FROM geekeleet.com. IT SEEMS TO BE DOWN AND MY REFERENCED LINKS TO IT WERE FAILING SO I HAVE REPOSTED WHAT THEY HAVE HERE. THAT IS ALL.

If you have been reading along, you’ll know that it’s been about a week now that I have been trying to install Windows Server 2008 onto an IBM x335. Until last night, I had been completely unsuccessful. The first time I ran the installation all went smooth. Well mostly. The installation appeared to be going as expected. The program told me that it had formatted the hard drive, unpacked and copied all of the files to the system directory, completed installation of the operating system, and rebooted a couple of times. Then it would show the Windows Server 2008 splash screen with the progress bar, but it would just get stuck there. I left it overnight the first time and in the morning it was still at the splash screen.

I did what any self-proclaimed geek would do, I tried to troubleshoot it. I tried loading in safe mode, which gave me my first big and important clue. When booting to safe mode, the console displays a list of the drivers that it successfully loads. It always froze as soon as it displayed the crcdisk.sys driver. My research indicated that this was an indicator that this driver was loaded without a problem, so I went on a mission to find out what driver was loading next, and failing. I spent way too much time on Google and really didn’t get anywhere. There were tons of MSDN forum posts about this, or similar, issues. The commonality between them seemed to be either IBM equipment or raid arrays. Still, none of the suggestions were helpful.

The answer though was so simple, I feel quite foolish even mentioning it. I will though, so that you don’t need to feel foolish hunting for it. This particular server is about 6 years old and is no longer being supported by the manufacturer. I did however find the most current firmware and drivers on the manufacturers website. The firmware is pretty easy to do, you need to download UpdateXpress (version 4.05 for this particular model) and burn it to a CD. This bootable disk will continually reboot and update firmware for each piece of hardware until they are all up to date. The second thing to do is download the raid drivers and create a boot floppy disk. Floppy disk you say? Yes, I say. It may be possible to load them onto a USB key, but I went with the traditional option.

Now here is what I did to complete the installation:

* Launch the installation of Windows Server 2008 again
* When presented with the option to select the installation partition, click on the Load Drivers link located at the bottom left-hand corner
* Select the floppy disk (or wherever you put the drivers)
* Select the driver that corresponds to your hardware
* Finish the installation

After many painful hours of troubleshooting, Windows Server 2008 finally installed. In the end it was nothing more than the raid drivers and was easily rectified. Make sure you are using updated drivers for your hard drive or controller to avoid this experience. Good luck with your installation and remember that this will work with Vista as well.

FreeNAS Setup for my Home Environment

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I have been meaning to setup a FreeNAS server for awhile now, actually a real long time.  I have some older hardware just laying around, with a 200gig internal SATA drive, and USB ATA storage array (holds up to 4 ATA drives).  The storage array is hold about 800+gigs of space, only about a quarter used.  Install took about 15 minutes to get up and going.  Adding the drives were a snap.  I just imported my USB array and can now map to it via NFS.  The internal drive I thought I would setup as iSCSI.  I really like how that is working out.  I have my Windows 2003 and 2008 servers attaching to it, and it is really fast.  I am pretty impressed the speed they are attaching at while being virtual and only going over my 100MB network.  I also plan on setting up my Vista machines and laptop access so I can do quick transfers on the fly when needed.  Here is a good write up on how to setup the iSCSI services within FreeNAS.  I may also setup my VMware ESXi environment to take advantage of the iSCSI as well if I get any more spare drives.  If you have the hardware and the need for extra storage space, FreeNAS is a way to go (http://www.freenas.org).

Using FOG to deploy server images in VMware ESXi

fog_logoA long while ago I was taking a look at an open source application called FOG to look at a method of quickly deploying server images at that time, our MS Virtual Server environment.  Flash forward to now, I got some time in the office to look at this again, but now we are using VMware ESXi (until we get our Enterprise licensing this summer sometime). This will probably become obsolete when we get the Enterprise version, but I also wanted to look at this as a solution for my home network as I usually like to get something built on the fly and not have to invest a lot of time into the build. Continue reading Using FOG to deploy server images in VMware ESXi