VMWare upgrade 5.1 -> 6.0 notes

In 2013, the fine folks at Interconnekt sold us a fine Dell PowerEdge T420 server to run VMWare and a bunch of virtual machines. VMWare came installed on a dual SD module, and this came in handy later. We quickly discovered that VMWare ESXi 5.1 has a RAM limit of 32GB, so we removed the other 32GB and sailed on.

Three years on, and we have bumped up against that limit, our VMs exhausting available supply. We could pare down our use on some machines, but knowing there is an upgrade available and some DIMMs in the cupboard, I’m upgrading.

Dell recommend their customised version of VMWare, so I downloaded that through the Drivers & Downloads part of their website. I was stumped finding the link for a while, but eventually found I had to ‘change OS’ from Windows to VMWare, and found it under Enterprise Solutions. There is nothing to suggest skipping 5.5 is a bad idea, so I grabbed 6.0 and burned it to CD.

Backup the VMs

I installed ghettoVCB and did a test backup run of all machines:

$ wget -O ghettoVCB.vib https://github.com/lamw/ghettoVCB/blob/master/vghetto-ghettoVCB.vib?raw=true
$ scp ghettoVCB.vib root@server:
esxi # esxcli software vib install -v /ghettoVCB.vib
 VIB virtuallyGhetto_bootbank_ghettoVCB_1.0.0-0.0.0 violates extensibility rule checks: [u'(line 23: col 0) Element vib failed to validate content']
 VIB virtuallyGhetto_bootbank_ghettoVCB_1.0.0-0.0.0's acceptance level is community, which is not compliant with the ImageProfile acceptance level partner
 To change the host acceptance level, use the 'esxcli software acceptance set' command.
 Please refer to the log file for more details.
esxi # esxcli software vib install -v /ghettoVCB.vib -f
Installation Result
   Message: Operation finished successfully.
   Reboot Required: false
   VIBs Installed: virtuallyGhetto_bootbank_ghettoVCB_1.0.0-0.0.0
   VIBs Removed: 
   VIBs Skipped: 

GhettoVCB creates a snapshot, does a backup of that snapshot, then deletes the snapshot. It fails if a snapshot already exists.

esxi # vim /etc/ghettovcb/ghettoVCB.conf
esxi # /opt/ghettovcb/bin/ghettoVCB.sh -a -c /etc/ghettovcb/ghettoVCB.conf -l /ghettoVCB-`date +%Y%m%d`.log

Some VMs had old unused snapshots, and some were in an old format, probably from when they were copied across from previous versions of ESXi. Therefore those backups failed. Right click, upgrade VM worked. Delete old snapshots. A successful test backup took 24 hours to our NAS – slow, but that’s okay in this case.

I didn’t want to manage changes in the event of failure, so I shutdown all VMs before running the actual backup. 24 hours later, I was ready to upgrade ESXi and install more RAM.

Upgrade ESXi to 6.0.0 Update 2

I put ESXi in maintenance mode so it wouldn’t automatically boot VMs on next boot. I first wanted to see that all is well. Shutdown ESXi, physically removed all HDDs and network cable from NAS – for paranoia’s sake, boot up with the CD I previously burned. Select upgrade and the dual SD module. Dammit, the upgrade failed because there’s a CommunitySupported VIB installed – ghettoVCB! Boot up, remove it:

esxi # esxcli software vib remove --vibname=ghettoVCB

Shutdown and boot the CD again. The upgrade was simple as can be, and for interest I timed it: 8 minutes of processing time. ESXi boots, complains about missing HDDs, and works just fine.

I’d heard of another benefit that I am now going to realise: I don’t have to boot my Windows VM to run vSphere Client any more! I might still for some things, because web clients sometimes suck, but not having to is great.

Install 4 x 8GB 2Rx4 1333MHz RAM DIMMs

Now, on to the RAM upgrade. The machine is nicely laid out, with easy access to the DIMMs. Naturally I want to put two of my DIMMs into each bank of slots, but where? There are two used in each out of six. The information panel on the case was helpful but not conclusive. Over to the Owner’s Manual.

“Populate all sockets with white release tabs first and then black.”
“Advanced ECC mode extends SDDC from x4 DRAM based DIMMs to both x4 and x8 DRAMs”
“Memory Optimized (Independent Channel) Mode … supports SDDC only for memory modules that use x4 device width and does not impose any specific slot population requirements”

A bit of discussion led me to believe that I should just place them closes to the CPU and with x4 DIMMs it didn’t make a lot of difference. It worked. Sadly I left out the big plastic baffle from the case when I reassembled – not a huge problem, but I need to schedule another outage to reinstall it.

Job done. I’m happy.


MythTV Migration: Machine Prep and Database Backup

I’m deploying a MythTV frontend, and the currently available 0.27 expects a database schema 18 versions newer than my Mythbuntu 12.04 server running MythTV 0.25 master backend and frontend. I’d quite like to deploy FreeBSD for one or both machines, if possible.

Getting Xorg working in FreeBSD was simple on my Intel NUC with the vesa driver automatically detected. The fine folks at #intel-gfx on freenode IRC told me that the Intel chipset (8086:0a16) was not yet supported by FreeBSD, and that support was needed for the GT2 portion of the intel driver. Sadly Xorg crashes hard whenever I leave its display – either by switching back to console with Ctrl-Alt-[0-7], or quitting Xorg entirely. Requiring a forced power-off in such situations clearly doesn’t bode well for reliability, and I’ve had no luck – despite a bit of assistance – from the BUGS, xorg or freebsd-questions forums.

So, back to Mythbuntu on the NUC, 14.04 this time. Xorg works fine, and from my reading of /var/log/Xorg.0.log it appears to be using the intel driver, not vesa.

$ grep vesa Xorg.0.log | tail -1
[    27.466] (II) Unloading vesa

Because I don’t want to upgrade the database schema (and probably much more) on my production Mythbuntu 12.04 machine until I’ve tested the procedure, I’ve built a temporary master backend machine, running FreeBSD 10.1, Xorg 7.7 (autoconfig, vesa driver, no crashes this time), MySQL 5.5 and Mythtv 0.27. Mythbuntu packages things up and makes them a bit easier, but I got to learn about some installation steps when doing it by hand:

$ mysql -u root < /usr/local/share/mythtv/database/mc.sql

For getting the database from old to testing backend, the Mythbuntu upgrading page sent me to the MythTV database backup and restore page, which taught me that there are tools to help, and for that I’m very grateful. Backup was easy, and quick:

$ echo "DBBackupDirectory=/home/mythtv" > ~/.mythtv/backuprc
$ sudo /usr/share/mythtv/mythconverg_backup.pl
$ ls -l ~mythtv
total 14360
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 14701471 Jan 8 20:44 mythconverg-1299-20150108204433.sql.gz

I now have a database backup, and a temporary backend machine with bare configuration. I’m ready for a test migration.

FreeBSD PKGNG bootstrap

For months FreeBSD has been prompting me to upgrade from pkg_ tools to pkgng, the next generation of their package management tools. In particular, using ports commands displays a link to a blog post with more detail. I’m embarking on that upgrade now, and the first problem was getting a new automatically deployed FreeBSD 8.4 machine to start using pkg. The manual process is easy:

# pkg
The package management tool is not yet installed on your system.
Do you want to fetch and install it now? [y/N]: y

Automating this wasn’t documented, nor available from my usual sources of advice, so I started to experiment.

# make -C /usr/ports/ports-mgmt/pkg install
# pkg_create -xb pkg
pkg_create: no packages match pattern
# pkg_info
pkg_info: no packages installed
# pkg create -x pkg
Creating package for pkg-1.4.4

Okay, so pkg_ doesn’t know about pkgng, fair enough. How am I to get this pkg package installed without pkg being installed to install it?! Ye olde bootstrap problem. Dan Langille came to the rescue with a helpful command line:

env ASSUME_ALWAYS_YES=YES pkg bootstrap

This installs the latest package from default sources, and I suspect will be what I use in the majority of cases, but while starting to build that into our systems for testing, I noted something in pkg(8): “pkg-static is a statically linked variant of pkg typically only used for the initial installation of pkg.” and then

# tar -tf pkg-1.4.4.txz

So the way to bootstrap entirely from the network, is to take that packaged package to a newly installed FreeBSD 8.4 machine, and use the pkg-static within it to bootstrap the whole package:

# tar -xf pkg-1.4.4.txz --strip-components 4 /usr/local/sbin/pkg-static
# ./pkg-static add pkg-1.4.4.txz
# pkg2ng

The packaging system still doesn’t work though, because no repositories are defined:

# pkg update
No active remote repositories configured.
# pkg -vv | grep -A 9 Repositories:

Fixed with help from Romain Vrignaud’s blog post, but without quoting the enabled value, since it’s a boolean:

# mkdir -p /usr/local/etc/pkg/repos
# cat << 'EOF' > /usr/local/etc/pkg/repos/FreeBSD.conf 
FreeBSD: {
  url: "pkg+http://pkg.FreeBSD.org/${ABI}/latest",
  mirror_type: "srv",
  enabled: yes,

Meanwhile, I have finally found a satisfactory code format! I don’t have to find another blogging platform after all.

Recover from a skipped FreeBSD upgrade step

Per my last post, upgrading a FreeBSD machine from one major version to another is dead easy, thanks in part to the clean separation between core system components and anything an administrator or user might add. Today I learned that even if one fails to follow the steps correctly, recovery is straightforward.

The process (e.g. for upgrading to 8.4-RELEASE):

# freebsd-update -r 8.4-RELEASE upgrade
# freebsd-update install
# freebsd-update install
Rebuild ports as required
# freebsd-update install
– oops, missed this step without noticing.
The machine worked fine. A few days later I ran into this ugly error which meant nothing to me:
# make -C /usr/ports/editors/vim-lite
Unknown modifier 't'
"/usr/ports/Mk/bsd.sites.mk", line 953: Malformed conditional (!empty(_PERL_CPAN_ID) && ${_PERL_CPAN_FLAG:tl} == "cpan")
"/usr/ports/Mk/bsd.port.mk", line 2885: Unclosed conditional/for loop

(full listing at http://pastebin.com/kPg03nhy)

The ports tree is NFS mounted, and other systems mounting it worked fine.

The friendly folks at BUGS (specifically nox on the IRC channel) suggested that it might be make itself. So
# which make

No problem. What about the file itself?
# file `which make`
/usr/bin/make: ELF 64-bit LSB executable, x86-64, version 1 (FreeBSD), statically linked, for FreeBSD 8.3, stripped

Ah, that doesn’t look right. Sure enough, it shows 8.4 on another machine. I can copy that file across, no worries, but what else is wrong?
<@peter> Is there some sort of audit function?
Yes there is: freebsd-update IDS gave me a full listing of everything that didn’t match – roughtly 11,800 files! A bit of scripting, ignoring the files locally managed (e.g. /etc/ntp.conf), and I’ve now got all of those files across to the once-broken box. Fixed!

FreeBSD system upgrade – it Just Works

Since Windows 3.x, I’ve never had much luck with operating system upgrades, and by many accounts, neither has much of the world’s computer-using population. The safest method has been to backup, format, install the new one, restore. It would seem things are getting better. Mac OS X all but requires upgrades now (since by two versions old you’re not receiving security patches any more, and some programs refuse to work without security patches), and they work. I’ve still had significant trouble with upgrades to Windows 7, but have heard a few good stories. The GNU/Linux experience seems as varied as the OS itself, so I won’t try to comment much except that I’ve had a couple of failed Ubuntu upgrades, albeit a few years ago.

FreeBSD seems to Just Work. I’d never used it before a couple of years ago, but on first reading of the relevant handbook page, the steps became clear, and they Just Worked!

# freebsd-update -r 8.4-RELEASE upgrade

I can’t be sure, but I reckon a big part of it is the clear separation between the core of the OS, and the packages installed through the ports system (or prebuilt binaries).

Other operating systems which have decent package management (of which I have most experience with GNU/Linux) seem to come with a lot of packages installed, but not FreeBSD. Also, in the vast majority of cases non-core packages that get installed to FreeBSD don’t get to touch system locations like /etc, rather they use /usr/local/etc for the config files. In fact /usr/local seems to be the general prefix for all things package-related. At system upgrade time, only the core elements are upgraded, leaving the packages untouched, which means they can be upgraded separately.

Of course, there are then arguments to be made about which functionality should be core, because the core could get unmanageably big, and offer services only a very small few would want. Too small and it becomes a pain to bootstrap a machine to a useable state. I reckon FreeBSD has balanced this well – I get ssh, ntp, vi, and a range of other basic items from core. If I want vim, bash or sudo, I install them.

As a relatively new user, I’m pretty pleased with all of this.