Vcenter Host Agent Pre-Upgrade Checker Problem

I’m attempting to upgrade a vSphere 4 to vSphere 5 Enterprise Plus installation. Just a real simple out of the box install. So I run the Vcenter Host Agent Pre-Upgrade Checker.  Simple enough. But it fails connecting to the database with a “failed to connect to database for user…” error. and “Look at the log file for more details”

Sigh…. Got me.  I know I got my credentials correct. So I do a web search, can’t find anything relevant.

So on a hunch, I just browse the CD and run Autorun with elevated privs (right click, “run as administrator”) and then it worked fine.



How to do a Data Only Smartphone Plan for $25/month

These days having a smartphone means spending $60/month or more for a base package of loads of minutes you may never use, text plan, and a mandatory data package.  But what if you could buy just data, run voice over the data plan, and use IM clients instead of text?   Well now you can.

There are some pre-requisites for the scheme I’ve tested:

  • Unlocked GSM phone that understands T-Mobile 1700/2100 3G/4G plan or a phone locked to T-mobile and supports VOIP or Skype. The VOIP provider must be a true provider and not fake, like Google Voice, that works by using mobile voice minutes instead of data.
  • A $25/month Prepaid Simple Mobile plan (or $45/month for more data if needed). Simple Mobile is an “MVNO” that basically buys in bulk T-Mobile service and resells it.
  • A VOIP provider if you want to make calls, like Skype or localphone

This isn’t for the faint of heart, it requires some manual configuration changes, reading web sites, and an understanding of how all this fits together.

The Simple Mobile FAQ for its data only plan, which is mainly geared towards laptops and tablets, states:

I don’t own a Tablet, can I use wireless broadband on my smartphone?
While the Wireless Broadband plans are primarily meant to be used on a Tablet, they will also work on your smartphone. Please note that voice calling and SMS text messaging is not provisioned with these plans. The Wireless Broadband plans are for data use only.

Internet Access

To make this work, you need a supported unlocked (or locked to T-mobile) smart phone and a new SIM from Simple Mobile first, then add the $25/month plan.  There are multiple ways to get the SIM. You can order it from Simple Mobile’s website for $12.99 or buy it from a number of those small mobile phone shops that are in strip shopping centers or farmer’s markets (they can charge like $25) or buy one from ebay or for a buck or two.

When you get the SIM, it needs to be activated on Simple Mobile’s website.  To activate it requires paying the first month of the plan.  I tried this using a credit card and had problems, probably because of high-fraud rates with prepaid mobile plans. Instead I went to my corner shop and asked for a $25 voucher for Simple Mobile. They just hand you a receipt with a PIN. Enter this into the website instead.

Once activated, you are given a phone number which is all but useless. You can’t use it to make or receive calls or send/receive texts. Remember, this is a data only plan. But you can use the Internet on your smart phone once it’s configured for your device (instructions on their website).

Adding Voice

You can now add a Internet-based voice account.  These usually cost per-minute for calls placed, but it can be pretty cheap like a penny a minute.  So even if you talk for 1000 minutes, that’s just $10.  And if you get an incoming phone number, that can include unlimited free incoming minutes.   I have been using LocalPhone for about a year now and have two incoming phone numbers, one in US in area code 302, and another in UK.   Each costs me 99 cents a month and you can choose which of your numbers is used for Caller ID.  So yeah, I have a local number in UK and it is displayed as my Caller ID.    You can also use other providers, like Skype if your phone supports it (but it must also support making those calls over data, not cellular voice).

Once your account is set up, on the LocalPhone website go to your account info and find “Call using the Internet” and on that page is info for how to set up calling on your VOIP device. It includes your account ID and password to put into your phone.

VOIP doesn’t use much data, but it does use data. And that data will come out of your prepaid Simple Mobile balance, which is 750 megs for the $25/mo plant. If you run out, you’ll need to add another month of data. If you run out a lot, best bump up to $45/month plan for 2 gigs or think about using their unlimited $40/month data/voice/text plan (although reports are they limit your Internet speed horribly on that plan).


  • Simple Mobile uses T-mobiles network, but unlike T-mobile proper, it doesn’t include roaming on other networks. So you only get coverage in T-mobile areas. That includes pretty much all decent sized population areas but if you’re going to visit your relatives in Montana, forget it (the entire state doesn’t have T-mobile service)
  • To get 3G (i.e., decent speed) requires a phone that understands T-mobile’s data frequencies.
  • iPhones and iPads require a Micro SIM, needs to be unlocked and it will only run at slower 2G/EDGE speeds. Not recommended.
  • To do voice, the phone needs to support some sort of VOIP service.  That’s going to cost you extra, but not much.
  • People can’t text you.  Hey, you want cheap, you can’t have everything.  Install an Instant Messaging client on your phone and use that for messages.
  • There’s other prepaid MVNO plans out there that use other networks, like AT&T, but I haven’t found a data-only plan this cheap and that will work on a smartphone.

Insane security at Turkey’s IST Istanbul International Airport

Just got back from a very enjoyable trip to Turkey.   On our return flight, the level of security at the airport was off the chart.   This is what steps we had to go through.

  1. Bag X-ray and metal detector at front door of  airport.  Yeah, before you even get to check-in, so you have to have your luggage you are checking in X-rayed at this point.  This was also the case when we flew domestic inside Turkey from Izmir to Istanbul.
  2. While waiting in line at the check-in counter, someone asked us the standard “did you pack it yourself?” questions as well as a few others like wanting me to list all the electronic equipment I had packed.  My passport was also checked. I was also asked for my ticket or printout of my e-ticket.
  3. At the front of the line another person took my passport  to a scanner machine, then placed a sticker on the back of it.
  4. At check-in counter, passport again checked and boarding pass issued.
  5. Went through another line called “Passport Control” where passport was again checked along with boarding pass. An exit stamp was placed over my visa stamp. After this we appeared to be “airside” with no other x-ray machine in sight.
  6. At departure gate, we went through several layers of security again. Yes, at the gate…. First was another passport and boarding pass check with some more questions and a new sticker placed on back of my passport.
  7. Then had to go through an x-ray machine for carry-ons and metal detector for passengers.  I was also wanded.  My carry-on bag was searched thoroughly but my wife’s was not.  They found a can of soda I purchased inside the airport. I had to toss it.
  8. After x-ray machine, went to another table where ALL carry-ons were checked. This time they went through every pocket, made me empty most of the contents onto the table for further checking.
  9. I then got a pretty intensive pat-down search.  All passengers got the same treatment. After this we had to go board the plane.
  10. At entrance to jetway my boarding pass and passport were again checked
  11. Half-way down jetway was another person checking boarding pass and passport.

Some additional comments:

  • On an internal domestic flight we took earlier we had to go through X-ray twice. Once at the entrance to the airport, and again to go airside.  Since the check-in counters are vulnerable in the U.S. I wouldn’t be surprised to see that used in U.S. eventually as well.    However, didn’t need to produce a ticket or boarding pass so anyone can enter airport at this point.
  • I also went through metal detectors at shopping malls, universities, and office buildings as well while in Turkey.
  • I think moving the x-ray, metal detector, and pat-down to the gate is far more secure method of operation. It removes a large window of opportunity when wandering around airside to obtain a weapon after clearing security.  But to do this, gates have to be reconfigured and made much larger. Space for all that equipment and operation is needed. Also there were at least 12 people i counted processing the boarding passengers.  1 at initial check, 3 at metal-detector/x-ray, 4 doing bag searches, 2 doing pat downs, and two on the jetway.   That’s a lot of labor for each flight.

WoW Priest Mini 5-player Cheat Sheet

I play a Holy or Discipline spec’ed priest in WoW.  I’m a healer. That means when people die, it’s my fault. Doesn’t matter if the tank didn’t hold agro or DPS gained agro — it’s my fault.   So this is my little cheat sheet so when I do a random, I can quickly review the things I need to remember.  I’ll edit it over time most likely.  So this is mainly for my own purposes more than a tutorial.

Continue reading WoW Priest Mini 5-player Cheat Sheet

Couldn’t find root user? Oh my.

At my other job I was given a Mac laptop to fix that wouldn’t boot.  It just sat there on the spinning wheel and never came to the logon screen.  So first thing I did was to boot in verbose mode by holding CMD-V down after the boot sound.  This shows boot messages.  Doing this revealed the boot process was looping with an error message of:

Couldn't find root user.  Sleeping and trying again.

I tried Googling for it and didn’t get promising results. Only fix is to re-install. But I was not discouraged. Besides, re-installs are a pain because all programs need to be re-installed and all settings are lost — plus you can lose all user data if not careful.

So I rebooted the Mac into single user mode by holding down CMD-S after the boot tone. This allows you to poke around the file sytem — if you are comfortable with Unix or Linux.

Consensus on the few items I found online was that it’s a problem with netinfo and to remove the directory from /var/db. I made a backup of that directory first, tried it, and still didn’t help.

Thankfully, a lot of Mac OS X is open source code named Darwin.  The error message was being produced by the memberd program. Going back into the open source archive at Apple for 10.4.,  I found the error message and confirmed it was trying to do something with the directory service.   So I hit a dead end — for a bit.

I rebooted and followed the boot messages and further upstream in the messages was another error from dyld saying it couldn’t load libz.1.dylib.   I went into /usr/lib and lo and behold, found a bad symlink….

libz.1.dylib -> ?~

Bingo!  I relinked it to the actual library file that was in the same directory

ln -s libz.1.dylib libz.1.2.3.dylib

Rebooted the Mac, and IT WORKED!!!!

So here’s hoping if someone else gets stuck with a similar problem on an older Mac running Tiger (10.4) and Googles the message like I tried, they’ll happen upon this and it will hopefully help. is Mine!

Weave has been my nickname ever since some guy named Frank Kros set me up a user account in 1982 on a Burroughs mainframe that I was to do some contract COBOL programming on. The college I was attending at rented time on that system.  Since he forgot how to spell my last name, he just gave me a user account named “weave” on it — and I’ve been using that name ever since.

In 1999, right smack in the middle of the dot com boom period, domain names were selling like mad, with some fetching millions of dollars. It got tough to find short domain names for reasonable prices.  I did manage to get and then because I have a fairly unusual last name. But anything weave.* was just not going to happen.

The domain expired a few months ago due to non-payment by original owner. Once that happens, as with other domains, there’s a grace period where the original owner can reclaim it. After that, it’s released and various scum bag companies that collude with registrars and hence have hooks into the entire domain process can snap it up and offer it for resale to the highest bidder.

That is what happened to  38 people besides myself put in an initial offer for the domain. One guy topped me, with username of rogabiz.  I googled that and found out that user is most likely a domain speculator, attempting to buy low and resell high.  I also saw that is for sale at $1,697 at another site.

So I figured I was doomed. would have to have more value than the name in the lesser known TLD of .info.   But I decided to give it a try and was worried I’d get too carried away and pay too much.  I was hoping to not go higher than $500 but might have went a bit over that if needed.

But I had a bit of potential good luck on my side.  The domain auction was listed to end on December 31st at 15:55. Hoping that most serious speculators would not be “working” on New Years Eve.   I set out to try sniping in a bid at the last minute. But timing was the key. Any bids submitted during the last five minutes increased the bid deadline by another five minutes. So I dropped my bid in with six minutes to go, at 15:49.   I then sat there for 6 minutes anxiously waiting to see if anyone submitted a higher bid.

Until eventually, bam — it was MINE MINE MINE!  So now you can email me too!

I seem to have a New Year’s Eve curse

I don’t believe in curses. But on the other hand, how many times does something have to happen before you start to wonder if there’s something to it.  Then again there’s the self-fulfilling prophecy angle. But trust me, some of these events I couldn’t have subconsciously made happen.

It doesn’t happen every year, but way too often some disaster falls upon my on New Year’s eve. Some are much more worse than others. You decide. Cursed or not?

Continue reading I seem to have a New Year’s Eve curse

Installing MS-SQL Express for those not familiar with it

First of all, it’s really stupid I have to write a blog post on how to install the free Microsoft SQL express package, but it just isn’t that easy to do.  It’s nice they give it away for free for people like me to learn it all, but they assume you already know it in the limited instructions you are given.  The big problem is, there are a ton of pre-requisites that — if not already installed, will fail the installation and leave your install in a bad shape.  For example…. this lovely error:

An installation package for the product Microsoft SQL Server Native Client cannot be found. Try the installation again using a valid copy of the installation package ’sqlncli.msi’

Continue reading Installing MS-SQL Express for those not familiar with it

Prepaid U.S. Mobile Phone Howto for U.S. Visitors

This is a guide to how to get a prepaid phone that works in the United States if you plan to visit here.  Information about how to do this is hard to find because the phone companies don’t want you to just use a phone for a week or so and toss it basically.   I had similar difficulties getting a prepaid phone in UK for my trips there, but I’ll warn you, this is much more of a hassle.

Continue reading Prepaid U.S. Mobile Phone Howto for U.S. Visitors

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