Friday, April 10, 2015

Updating Dell Latitude E6440 bios without an operating system, plus fixing an "undetectable" hard drive

Dell seem to have introduced a feature which would have been very handy to have had 18 months ago. Just download the firmware executable to a USB stick's root directory, power on the laptop and press F12 for a boot menu. There you should see (at least at the A07 revision) a BIOS upgrade option. After entering the BIOS admin password you are passed to a basic update screen which allows you to browse the file systems the BIOS can see (the stick I used was NTFS and the local HDD was non functional at the time) then select the executable and run it.

On a side note, the E6440 (in our config) runs an mSATA mounted on a 7mm frame to fit the SATA HDD bay. While this keeps things nice and light, this did cause me to run into an issue that does come up now and then, which is that the SATA connectors don't line up correctly and the disk is not detected. In this case, the laptop had been disassembled to deal with the effects of a fall and on reassembly the BIOS would not detect the drive.

When we were retrofitting 7mm Kingston SSDs into bays designed for 9mm SATA drives on E6320s and E6420s, we used the 2mm plastic shims provided to deal with this - it also happened with 7mm factory supplied HDDs sometimes. The same solution was employed here - a spare shim applied against the top side of the mSATA-SATA adapter frame allowed the frame's SATA connectors to properly connect to the receptacle in the laptop chassis. It's a bit annoying to have had to do this once again for a factory component, but at least the laptop is functional again.

Friday, March 13, 2015

VMware Licencing - that was annoying

I'm going through a process of scoping hardware for a new project which is sized a little larger than usual for us. We are still relatively new to virtualization both in inclination but also in respect of vendor willingness to support it, but have used VMWare Essentials to get ourselves started. With this project I expected a step up but that Essentials Plus or at least vSphere Standard+vCenter might be as far as was needed.

First I discovered that "full vCenter" cannot manage Essentials hosts which is grating. Then in reading around editions I discovered the presence of a vCPU (Virtual SMP) limit on guests, but we need to provision one at 24 vCores, which would put it at Enterprise for 5.1. I pinged our hardware vendor who also acts as our VMware vendor and said "figure it out for me" and the initial answer I got was Enterprise Plus, but after pressing the matter the rep said "I'll double check"

Fortunately, while waiting for the reply, I found VMware KB 2001113 which showed that yes, there was an 8-vCPU limit on editions through Standard in 5.1, but there's a "See note" under 5.5. The "note" is KB 2064117 which says in respect of "all paid editions":
There are no restrictions on the number of vCPUs per virtual machine. You can configure up to the maximum number of vCPUs per virtual machine as specified in the vSphere 5.5 Configuration Maximums Guide.
The free hypervisor remains limited to 8 vCPU per guest (but the 32Gb/host limit is gone).

So if you don't have a reason you need to stick at 5.1, even Essentials is sufficient to run even what is for us a ridiculously large 24 vCPU guest. Now I wish I hadn't spent so much time on an SCVMM/HyperV plan B...

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Broken images on Outlook Web Access logon screen after Exchange Rollup installed

We don't normally use OWA but every so often a situation calls for it. Since our last Exchange 2007 Rollup Update, the OWA logon theme on our CAS host has been borked with broken images. It turns out that there's a known and long standing issue and a script which can be run manually to fix it. Best four seconds I spent today :)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

HP LaserJet printers duplex when they aren't supposed to

Came across an issue today where, after a firmware update, a HP LaserJet P4015 decided to send paper from the Letterhead tray through the duplexer. I knew I had seen it before but couldn't recall how it was resolved, but eventually I stumbled across discussions of the same issue. Most refer to the use of an "All_ALM_types_OFF.prn" file which when sent through the printer resolved the issue. It turned out I had a copy of said file lurking in my "I must organise this one of these days" folder. Here's how the PRN file looks in Notepad++, since Notepad and web forums don't render the escape codes correctly:

However, this can also be dealt with from the printer's web console.

If you want to read about what Alternative Letterhead Mode does when it's on, try this HP page. If you want to know why, years after this issue was first flagged, HP are still shipping firmware which can trip this setting on various models then I have no wisdom for you :)

Monday, July 07, 2014

Find the Bluetooth MAC address on a Blackberry 7 device

This is a short one but apparently in the variety of awful Bluetooth support that car manufacturers provide, at least one requires the MAC address to be entered for successful connection. This is reasonably easy to find for wifi but you have to dig a bit for Bluetooth. Blackberry's convention appears to be that they are the same except for the last hex digit.

  • Click the Options icon.
  • Click Networks and Connections.
  • Click Bluetooth Connections.

The screen should now say:

            Bluetooth ON
            Discoverable NO
            Paired Devices

At this point, click the Menu button (to the left of the touchpad) and select Options. You will see:

            Device Name
            Allow Outgoing Calls
            Contacts Transfer
            LED Connection Indicator
            Connect On Power Up
            Device Address << this is what you’re looking for.

Hope this helps someone out there. I find helping people with car/BT issues frustrating as you can neither see the device or the car UI and are dependent on what you are being told is happening.