Project Fi Network Switching & Dial Codes

After a day or two of spotty outbound service at the house on two different Project Fi accounts, using both my Nexus 6 as well as my Nexus 6P, so I decided to reach out to support. After some troubleshooting we were able to determine that it was a T-Mobile specific issue that was effecting the ability to make outbound calls. Forcing the phone onto Sprint, US Cellular, or just using WiFi calling was flawless. At the end of the day it just a local tower issue as driving to a different location worked fine.

At the end of the call I compiled the notes I had taken during the call and asked the support person to fill in the blanks. I am sure there are more codes but here are the ones we used, just punch these into your dialer app on any Project Fi phone and off you go…

*#*#344636#*#* – Code to determine current network.
*#*#34777#*#* – Code to switch over to Sprint’s network.
*#*#34866#*#* – Code to switch over to Tmobile’s network.
*#*#34872#*#* – Code to switch over to U.S. Cellular’s network.
*#*#342886#*#* – Code to go to Auto (auto switching enabled).

The support rep mentioned that after 2 hours or so that the phone should default back to auto mode.

Hope this helps you in your travels or just as a work around for spotty/temp service issues.


Dell PowerEdge 13th Gen Fan Noise

I recently came across the opportunity to assist a client with installing their new Dell PowerEdge R730XD. Quite the beefy server config, 2x10core CPUs, 128GB of RAM, 12x4TB NL-SAS, you know, all the goodies. This machine is slated to replace an aging T610 that has seen better days performance-wise.

I went ahead and put an Intel 10GbE card in the server since all other hosts in the server room including both backup boxes are 10GbE enabled and are connected to our new Netgear 10GbE switch. Keep in mind this was an industry standard PCIe 10GbE card, a particularly good one, the Intel TX540-2. After installing VMware ESXi, and later, Windows Server 2012 R2, users were complaining about the loud “jet sounding” noise coming from the server room. After logging into the Dell iDRAC Enterprise card I immediately noticed that the fans were running around 92% which was roughly 15K RPM or thereabouts. This was regardless of operating system mind you, so I couldn’t even blame Windows OR VMware this time.

After looking around online at various forums I realized that the system was running the fans near max speed/volume due to the presence of a non-certified PCIe card installed into the system. For all intents and purposes, non-certified means you didn’t pay through the nose to acquire the identical hardware from Dell. Essentially, since the Intel card doesn’t carry the Dell specific code/firmware to report back that “all is well over here in PCIe/temperature land”, the system defaults to running the fans in jet engine mode. For posterity’s sake and to clarify, this will happen on pretty much any non-Dell card that is inserted. In researching the issue I found numerous folks that put actively cooled GPUs, old school 4x1Gbps network cards, you name it, high speed fan noise.

Well no big deal, all you have to do is go into the Dell BIOS and modify a setting or two so that the system doesn’t run the fans at full steam when a card inserted right? Wrong! That would be the logical assumption and design choice to make so you know they didn’t make it that easy. Read on below to understand how I finally got this system to quiet down. The info below is compiled from many sources and some of my own figuring out, just though it would be helpful to have it all in one place.

Step 1: Enable IPMI
For this step enter your Dell servers setup/config screen and get to the remote access configuration/iDRAC setup. In the iDRAC setup you need to do all of the standard stuff like assigning an IP and setting user credentials etc, but you MUST also turn set “Enable IPMI over LAN” to yes. This setting is crucial to completing the steps below successfully.

Step 2: Get IPMI tools
Linux users can use their preferred package/distribution method to obtain ipmitool while Windows users will need to grab the Dell OpenManage BMC Utility and get it installed.

Next, open up and command prompt and navigate to the directory the BMC utility installed to, on my system this was: C:\Program Files (x86)\Dell\SysMgt\bmc\

From there go you will see several files, the program that we are using here is ipmitool.exe. Go ahead and run ipmitools.exe without any switches/arguments just to make sure its installed and working.

Step 3:
The third and final step is essentially ‘the fix’. This is where you can check the status, and then disable or enable the systems cooling response to third party cards that are installed on the PCIe bus. This part was a little frustrating at first because I was working in the right direction and was just about there but the commands weren’t being sent or interpreted the way the should have been.

You must use the lanplus option instead of lan but it is important to note that lanplus does NOT work unless you’ve enabled the “Enable IPMI over LAN” setting that I mentioned back in step 1. The non-intuitive part about that was that although I was running the right command aside from lan vs lanplus, I really didn’t get any clear feedback as to why the command wouldn’t “take”.

Anyhow, here is the base command which you need to acquaint yourself with:

ipmitool -I lanplus -H ipaddress -U root -P password raw

Obviously you will need to substitute your own iDRAC ip, user, and password. After that, just tack on one of the three commands below.

Disable Third-Party PCIe Card Default Cooling Response:
ipmitool -I lanplus -H ipaddress -U root -P password raw 0x30 0xce 0x00 0x16 0x05 0x00 0x00 0x00 0x05 0x00 0x01 0x00 0x00

Enable Third-Party PCIe Card Default Cooling Response:
ipmitool -I lanplus -H ipaddress -U root -P password raw 0x30 0xce 0x00 0x16 0x05 0x00 0x00 0x00 0x05 0x00 0x00 0x00 0x00

To check the current third party PCIe card default cooling setting:
ipmitool -I lanplus -H ipaddress -U root -P password raw 0x30 0xce 0x01 0x16 0x05 0x00 0x00 0x00

This response means disabed:
16 05 00 00 00 05 00 01 00 00

This response means enabled:
16 05 00 00 00 05 00 00 00 00

After disabling the third party cooling response my system went from the previously mentioned 15K RPM mark down to a user verified sane noise level/speed of around 6K RPM.

A key takeaway and disappointment for me is that in this day and age of widespread standards and simplicity, things are becoming increasingly proprietary and complex.


Dell Latitude ST and Windows 8 Wifi connectivity

Installing Windows 8 on this tablet went off without a hitch. For a severely under powered device it is actually running Windows 8 very well. After reading numerous comments around the net about how slow it was running Win8, I was curious to find out for myself.
So far I have only found 2 issues. The first being the Windows 7 N-Trig drivers were not compatible with Win8. Secondly the Dell Atheros Wifi drivers were also not compatible. The N-trig issue was an easy fix. N-Trig has drivers on their site at that are compatible with Win8. The wifi on the other hand took some more tinkering. After a couple hours of learning the new UI and figuring out where everything was I decided to take the time to get Wifi up and running. The Dell A06 driver install package as I mentioned above is not compatible with Win8. However it does have the required driver packaged up inside. Before unpacking the install application I tried to install it under Windows 7 compatibility mode which also did not work.

Here are the steps I took to get the wifi driver installed:
Execute the installer package and it will extract the files into your Temp folder and the Atheros Installer.msi will be located in one of the {insert random number and text here} folders. The installer itself will throw an error stating that you must be using Windows 7.
Before you hit OK, using windows explorer browse to your C:\Users\yourusername\AppData\Local\Temp\ folder and find the Atheros Installer.msi. Copy or move that file to wherever you want, just make sure you remember where you put it. It is now safe to hit OK on the Dell Installer.
The installer will most likely clean up the temp folder automatically and you would not be able to find the file after hitting OK.
Use msiexec to extract the contents of the installer.
Open up a command prompt with administrator privileges. Once there the following command will be used: msiexec /a filepath to MSI file /qb TARGETDIR=filepath to target folder.
Now look in your Device Manager you should have an exclamation point listed next to SDIO Device. Click on that and update driver. Choose the folder you extracted the msi to and Windows will take care of the rest.
If for some reason you already have a driver listed for your dell mini card you will have to uninstall the driver and reboot. Upon reboot follow the above instructions.

Migrating from VMware ESXi to QEMU/KVM

For a myriad of reasons, I have been looking at alternatives to VMware ESXi for a few months. Virtualizing a few machines here and there has proven educational. Learning the ropes of working with qemu/kvm, libvirt, and virsh has been challenging at times, but overall a pleasure to work with. Working with kvm is great although it takes some getting use to coming from a VMware/ESXi centric environment.

Up to this point all of the virtual machines that I had worked with were new systems. After some research and a few backups of my current VMs running on one of my ESXi hosts, I decided to migrate a few production VMs. Here are the steps that I used to move virtual machines over from a licensed vSphere 4.1 installation to a Linux host running qemu/kvm.

For starters, be sure that you have full backups of any VMs that you plan on working with. With that out of the way, you are ready to start:

1. Remove all snapshots from the virtual machine across all virtual disks.

2. Uninstall VMware Tools and then perform a clean shutdown of the guest operating system.

3. Copy the virtual hard disk(s) over to the qemu/kvm host. The virtual disk is typically the largest file within a VM’s directory and will usually be named something like ‘guestname-flat.vmdk’

4. On the qemu/kvm host, change to the directory containing the .vmdk file. Assuming you are using qcow2 disk images, run the following command to convert the .vmdk: kvm-img convert -O qcow2 guestname-flat.vmdk newguestname.qcow2

5. Create a new VM on the qemu/kvm host and choose the recently converted disk image as your existing drive/image. It is important that you create your new guest with the same or similar settings as it had before. I recommend cloning the MAC address over to the new guest for added simplicity with NIC detection, assignment, and third party software licensing.

6. Attempt to boot the system. Depending upon your guests virtual disk settings and other factors, the system may hang during boot. Edit your virtual machine and set the controller type to SCSI assuming that was the controller type back on ESXi.

At this point your system should be up and running on the new host. I did find notes and suggestions that qemu/kvm can run vmdk files/disk images, but there seemed to be a handful of caveats so I decided to convert the vmdk’s over to a native format.


How To Leave GoDaddy

Whether you are participating in MoveYourDomainDay or just want to get away from the terrible user interface that GoDaddy uses, there are a few good things to know.

1. Make sure your whois info has a proper email address listed. DO NOT change anything else or you risk locking up that domain for an additional 30-60 days.

2. Unlock your domains with the GoDaddy DomainManager.

3. Send authorization codes via email to the administrative contact by choosing Send By Email under the Domain Info area of the DomainManager.

If you are switching over to NameCheap, they offer great instructions on their site here. Currently, to entice additional business and to fight SOPA, NameCheap and are donating a portion of each domain transfer to the EFF.


How To Test Inbound & Outbound Faxes

Ever needed to test your ability to send or receive faxes? Usually, no one is around to send you a test, or you’d prefer not to bother a client with testing your equipment. HP has a little known service that you can use to test faxing in both directions for free. Simply send a one page text only fax to 1-888-hpfaxme (1-888-473-2963) and wait a few minutes. After a short while, you should receive a fax back from HP.

The official HP page for this service can be found by clicking this link.

Got old-buntu? Ubuntu EOL 9.10 to 10.04 Upgrade Mini HowTo

So several months ago, I like the rest of the world, was notified that end of life (EOL) for Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala would happening. In the news blurb/mailing list, wherever I found it, I walked away thinking that security updates would cease to exist.

In preparation for the upgrade, I went ahead and cloned the 9.10 server and proceeded to upgrade the server to Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx. This went off without a hitch from what I could tell and I scheduled the upgrade of the production server with my last client running 9.10.

Without fail, life happens, clients have things come up, and the upgrade never happened. Fast forward to present day and time, and my client tried installing a package using apt-get and received a slew of errors. Looking into the issue a bit further and I found the repositories gone. Interestingly enough, when EOL occurs for an Ubuntu release, it really ends, and not just for the security patches.

So one is left wondering, “how can I sudo apt-get install update-manager-core & sudo do-release-upgrade when I can’t even do a simple sudo apt-get update?” Solution: EOL upgrade. There are several different ways to go about this, the best are detailed here. At the time of this writing, the link is a little unclear about how to get 9.10 to 10.04 so here is the quick and easy way:

1. Backup your current sources.list:
sudo mv /etc/apt/sources.list ~/sources.list

2. Create a new sources.list:
sudo vim /etc/apt/sources.list

3. Add/paste in archive release repositories substituting CODENAME for release jaunty, karmic, etc:

## EOL upgrade sources.list
# Required
deb CODENAME main restricted universe multiverse
deb CODENAME-updates main restricted universe multiverse
deb CODENAME-security main restricted universe multiverse

# Optional
#deb CODENAME-backports main restricted universe multiverse

4. Update repositories and install update manager
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install update-manager-core

5. Initiate the upgrade
sudo do-release-upgrade

6. Enjoy!