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windows Archives - AWS Managed Services by Anchor

Why it’s a good idea to keep on top of Windows Updates

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Our IDS has proven itself to be extremely valuable several times so far, we thought we’d share something interesting that it picked up. What’s an IDS? In case you’ve not come across the term “IDS” before, and seeing as we haven’t mentioned it previously, we’ll go over that first. An Intrusion Detection System, or IDS for short, is a system that sits on a network and compares packets to a set of rules. These rules contain signatures, which are patterns that are defined to detect malicious and potentially dangerous network activity. When our IDS detects something, it will write a line to a log file that we monitor. It does NOT capture and keep data. We wont go into further detail about our IDS at this stage; maybe later 😉…

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Learning about .NET session state in IIS

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Today’s piece is for developers out there building for the .NET framework, specifically webapps run under IIS. Katie, our senior Windows sysadmin, has kindly written an intro to changing the session state backend for your app. The session state store is similar to PHP’s session feature, storing per-user data such as logins and shopping carts. To provide the best experience for your users you’ll probably want to avoid the default volatile storage method, which the article discusses. Session state in .NET As always, feel free to get in touch if you have any questions or comments. If you’re an Anchor customer we’d be happy to help you configiure things to get you up and running.

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Ninja migrations from VMware to KVM using vmdksync

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We recently made the decision to pay off some of our technical debt by eliminating the VMware servers we built when we first started our Virtual Private Server (VPS) offering. VMware is a commercial vendor platform so it’s not exactly trivial to jump ship, but it is possible with some time and effort. Forcing a few hours downtime on our customers for business reasons is not cool, so we had to find a better way. Background and rationale When we first started offering virtual servers the software landscape was very different. After comparing what was available at the time we settled on VMware ESX for our virtual private server product – the right features, suitable for a VPS product, secure and manageable enough, sufficiently mature and reliable, and a nominal…

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Automated server updates

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This is going to be a contentious one, but here at Anchor we think automatically applying updates to servers is a Good Thing. It’s definitely not for everyone, but in an environment like ours with hundreds of managed servers it’s the only way you’re going to get things done and get any sleep at night. Sysadmin of note Tom Limoncelli advocates rolling out updates to progressively more machines with prior testing beforehand to mitigate the scope of potential problems (it’s called “one, some, many”). It’s certainly a good strategy for a large number of homogenous computers, but what we’re talking about here is a bit smaller-scale. Specifically, we have customers with servers that we never touch, we call this Anchor Monitor. These customers often have particular environments that they’re better…

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When HA won’t play the way you want it to

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In an ideal world every service would support High Availability and Load Balancing, would scale up easily and cleanly and all of us systems administrators would be paid bucketloads to play golf all day while the computers did all the hard work. To quote Dylan Moran of Black Books fame, “Don’t make me laugh…bitterly”. I’ll cut to the chase – sometimes you have to really shoehorn technologies to do what you want. Fortunately I love doing this, and the technologies of today’s article are virtualised Windows 2008 on Xen, and Oracle XE 10g. Neither likes to play ball, for a few reasons: Generally speaking, when you virtualise an OS you want to have para-virtualisation drivers enhancing the hardware support. Open Source Xen has PV drivers, but they are not signed…

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A great Windows FTP & SFTP Client

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A question I get asked reasonably often is “Do you know any good free FTP programs?” Yes, I do. It is WinSCP. Some of the cool features are: It does what it is designed to do and does it excellently. SFTP, SCP & FTP support (ditch FTP and use SFTP!) I’ve never seen it crash. Transfer resuming on broken and cancelled downloads. Supports SSH keys, so you do not need to remember another password. Scripting support; schedule your own remote backups or have sane website rollout procedures! The WinSCP site describes it as “WinSCP is an open source SFTP client and FTP client for Windows. Its main function is the secure file transfer between a local and a remote computer. Beyond this, WinSCP offers basic file manager functionality. It uses…

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Filebucketing to the MAXXXXX

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Every now and then we see an example of application failure so astounding it literally brings tears to our eyes. We have a client whose legacy application is unfortunately still running on an ancient version of Oracle Weblogic and which must be maintained until the new, flashy .NET version of their site is complete. We were alerted this morning to a problem with some of the Weblogic content – the pages were timing out. Diagnostics were fairly fruitless – packet captures showed nothing useful, and the logging from Weblogic left much to be desired. We started considering more outlandish possibilities such as I/O load causing issues, recently applied updates and so on. Even rebooting was considered (given it is running on Windows). The first clue of note was the open…

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Patch Tuesday again

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If you’re one of our dedicated server customers, you’ve got the option of a paid support package, the choices being Anchor Secure and Anchor Complete. Whatever you choose (or if you decide you don’t need one), we just hope it’s the right one for you. One of the services we provide with a support package is keeping your system up to date. For Linux machines this means installing updated packages as they’re released, and for Windows this means staying on top of Windows Update. We can do a lot of this without you ever noticing, but Windows Updates almost always require a reboot of the machine, which we schedule with our customers by email. This brings us to an amusing little snippet from one of our customers. Anchor: We’re going…

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Bug report: “all” does not mean all, for some values of “all”

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We’ve discovered some interesting things about Windows, and they never fail to cause some head-scratching. We had cause to go rooting through a customer’s wordpress installation recently to hunt down the cause of PHP errors, and discovered two WTFs here. The first was the breakage of various scripts in the wp-admin directory. Through means unknown, every array definition was broken by the addition of a file path. If you grok PHP, you’ll recognise that this isn’t syntactically valid: $defaults = array( ‘show_option_all’../../../wordpress/wp-includes/ => ”, ‘show_option_none’../../../wordpress/wp-includes/ => ” ); Python is our preferred in-house language, but breadth of knowledge is more important for a sysadmin. Cleaning up the PHP was a snap, but it’s a mystery as to how this happened in the first place; according to the customer it “just…

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