Me vs Technology (spoiler: I win)

Yesterday Connections 6 shipped and although I was in meetings all day my goal for last night was to get everything downloaded and in place on a VM and have that VM built with a configured and hardened OS.  That was the plan.  I thought it might be fun to share my 4pm – 4am battle against technology and maybe it will help someone else.  It might also explain all the “other” work that tends to take up my time before I  ever get to the actual stuff I’m meant to be installing.

All my servers are hosted in a data centre and mostly I run ESXi boxes with multiple servers on them. I have 5 current ESXi boxes. So first things first, create a new virtual machine on a box with capacity so I can download the software.  All of this is done from a Windows VM on my Mac which connects to Turtle’s data centre

Vsphere lets me create the machine then gives me VMRC disconnected when I try and open a console.  After some checking I realise it’s the older ESXi boxes that are throwing that error for every VM and only since I upgraded to Windows 10.  If I can’t open a console on the VM I can’t do anything so I search the internet for various random advice which included

  • Disable anti virus
  • Remove Vsphere
  • Install latest Vsphere (which keeps being overwritten with an older one each time I connect to an older machine)
  • Uninstall VMware Converter (which I had forgotten was even there) – that required me booting into safe mode in my VM which only worked if I used msconfig to get it to restart in safe mode
  • Downgrade Windows
  • Create a new clean desktop VM to install Vsphere into

This is a bigger problem than just this install because I also can’t manage any of my servers on those boxes.  I rarely connect to them via the console so I don’t know how long it’s been like that but it can’t stay like that.

Several hours later.. still no luck. Vsphere lets me do everything to a virual machine except open a console.  I could use another ESXi box but I’m being stubborn at this point. I want to use this box

Then I find reference to VGC – Virtual Guest Console  https://labs.vmware.com/flings/vgc.  Created in VMWare labs in 2010 and still in “beta” it does one thing I need which is open a console.  So now I have VSphere where I can create and manage the instances and the VGC to open a console I’m ready to install and OS.

But which OS?  The host boxes have ISOs on them I already use but those are Windows 2012 R2 and RHEL 6.4.  I want either Windows 2016 or RHEL 7.1  Again I could use Windows 2012 but #stubborn.

I download Windows 2016 to my Mac and it’s over 5GB.  That’s going to take a few hours to upload to the datastore and I’m optimistically thinking I don’t have a few hours to waste.  So Plan B is that I take an existing RHEL 6.4 ISO and use that to install then upgrade it to 7.1 in place since you can now do that with Redhat if you’re moving from the latest 6.x to 7.x.  Top tip – it would have been quicker to upload Windows 2016.

I start building the new VM using RHEL 6.4 and eventually I get to the point where I can tell it to get all updates and off it goes.  It’s now 1am and it’s showing 19/1934 updates.  So.. I go to bed taking my iPad with me and leaving my laptop downstairs.  Once I’m in bed I can use Jump on the iPad to connect to my laptop which is on the same network and Terminus and the VPN on the iPad to open a putty session to the data centre.  The 6.4 updates finish and now I need to get it to 7.1  First thing I need to do is download 7.1 directly to that new VM which I can do easily because I installed a browser so I download the 3GB ISO directly to the VM which only takes 3 minutes and I’m ready to install.

Except not quite.  Redhat requires to you run their pre upgrade utility before doing an inplace upgrade.  In fact the upgrade won’t even run until you run pre-upgrade.  So I do that and as expected it fails a bunch of stuff that I don’t care about because this is a new machine and I’m not using anything yet so I’m not bothered if something stops working.  Except the upgrade still won’t run because it spots I failed the pre upgrade test.  That’s where “redhat-upgrade-tool -f” comes in.  Around 4am I left that running and got some sleep.

Incidentally this is a great document on upgrading but I think you may need a login to read it https://access.redhat.com/solutions/637583

At 7am I found it completed at RHEL 7.1 and then ran one more update to make sure everything was on the latest patches,  added the GUI and configured the firewall.

I’m NOW ready to download Connections 6