Cruise review: NCL Getaway – February 18, 2018 [Part 5 – Harvest Caye and Roatan]

This post is part 5 in a series of 7 about our vacation on the NCL Getaway, from February 18-25, 2018. You can read the other parts here:

Day 4: Harvest Caye (vs. Great Stirrup Cay)

Awoken to the rattling of the VOIP/PoE phone across the desk, and combined with the time change of minus one hour, Kayla and I were able to rouse ourselves in enough time for a full service breakfast at Savor. She selected the Eggs Benedict, and I chose the eggs to order (over easy) with a side of link sausage. It was a fairly standard breakfast offering, but nothing to complain about.

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Cruise review: NCL Getaway – February 18, 2018 [Part 4 – Costa Maya]

This post is part 4 in a series of 7 about our vacation on the NCL Getaway, from February 18-25, 2018. You can read the other parts here:

Day 3: A lovely pile of rocks in Costa Maya

The title of this section comes from a TripAdvisor review (filter by 3 star/Average) in which the reviewer is unimpressed with the Chacchoben Mayan ruins, declaring them “a pile of rocks”. I mean, points for calling it like you see it, but they’re historic rocks – what exactly were you expecting?

The docking process this morning seemed unreasonably lengthy and loud, but I’m only an amateur and any loud noises in the morning have been a subject of contention since a very early age.

Before disembarking, we went to the buffet and acquired some food. I’m not typically a breakfast person, but made a good attempt as it wasn’t clear when lunch would be offered on our tour. One noticeable omission from the morning buffet was bananas, which I’d figured would be a standard and highly available breakfast item, but none were to be seen. Of course, I didn’t actually ask anybody, so this could just be chalked up to early-morning grogginess.

Keep in mind that in general, you can’t take food off the ship into the ports lest ye incur the wrath of vessel security and foreign customs officers, so that “apple to go” better be down to the core and ready to be pitched by the time you’re on the lower decks.

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Cruise review: NCL Getaway – February 18, 2018 [Part 3 – At Sea]

This post is part 3 in a series of 7 about our vacation on the NCL Getaway, from February 18-25, 2018. You can read the other parts here:

Day 2 at sea: Rock the boat

The downside of being at the extreme front end of the ship was apparent in the early hours of Monday, when we were jolted awake overnight several times with cabinets rattling and above-average movement of the ship. Both of us woke up at 5am and tried to get back to sleep, then later awoke at 9am to different kinds of noises: a high-pitched, whistling, wind sound from the front door, accompanied by low-pitched, repetitive bass from the cabin next to us.

It turns out that when your cabin is directly at the end of a long hall, the design of the passageway causes an effect not dissimilar to that of a wind tunnel. Kayla, who has less tolerance for soothing ocean sounds than I do, gave the cabin door a mighty hipcheck to silence the noise.

Unfortunately, this action only remedied half of the problem – I was still very conscious of the bass line emanating from the next cabin over. Eventually I was irritated enough to get up and on with my day, while my wife was able to ignore the low frequency and fall back asleep. Upon exiting the cabin, the stateroom beside us had its door slightly ajar, leaking the cacophony of noise into the hall as well.

I’m really not sure what to do in these circumstances – it didn’t feel worth a complaint, and I think the price difference between the rooms (Haven vs. oceanview) might make the staff more reluctant to enforce any sort of noise bylaw. In any event, I don’t recall similar morning music happening for the rest of the cruise, so the problem didn’t come up again.

I ambled up to the buffet and encumbered my plate with pork, waffles and potato products. Very shortly after I sat down, a server came over and offered coffee right at the table, which was a nice perk.

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Cruise review: NCL Getaway – February 18, 2018 [Part 2 – Embarkation and Sail-Away]

This post is part 2 in a series of 7 about our vacation on the NCL Getaway, from February 18-25, 2018. You can read the other parts here:

Day 1: Embarkation

After checking out of the Residence Inn, we caught an Uber to PortMiami for $21US and went through the entrance at Terminal B, which was being used to board all the odd-numbered passenger decks (eg: 5, 9, 11, 13 and 15) – Terminal C had the even-numbered floors.

The ride to the port was 27 minutes, and it took us about another fifteen minutes to get through security and half-way through the check-in line on the main floor – so I’d estimate we spent about half an hour total waiting before getting on the ship.

Despite our experience with NEXUS cards being the key to avoiding confusion in Port Canaveral, the port agent in Miami wanted nothing to do with them and didn’t even flip past the picture page on our passports. I guess the next approach will be to offer both passport and NEXUS, and see what the agent prefers for identification and immigration purposes.

We were issued ship keycards with the appropriate indicators for our dining and beverage packages, which I would suggest is a key thing to verify before leaving the check-in desk. Later on in the day, a few folks at the bar in front of us were missing the package codes, and told that they’d have to go wait in line at Guest Relations to get a sticker.

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Cruise review: NCL Getaway – February 18, 2018 [Part 1 – Miami]

This post is part 1 in a series of 7 about our vacation on the NCL Getaway, from February 18-25, 2018. You can read the other parts, which will be linked here as they’re published:

Thanks for joining as I discuss our long-promised, often-delayed February trip on a ship! We make it to Miami, the Western Caribbean and back again to the extremely odd weather of Southwestern Ontario.

(If this was YouTube, you might imagine the above introduction set to obnoxious dubstep and prefaced with “It’s ya boy!”)

As previously mentioned in my December 2017 NCL Epic review, we partook in the Norwegian CruiseNext Ultimate program, bought some deposits and used one of them on the February 18 sailing of the Getaway to coincide with Kayla’s week off.

To avoid burying the lede even further, of our four total cruises with Norwegian, this was probably the best experience we’ve had so far. Everything lined up very well; the Getaway offered everything we like in a ship; and we had a great time before, during, and after the cruise.

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EdgeRouter 4: routing, VLANs and banging one’s head against the wall

I spent most of my Labour Day trying to accomplish two tasks with an EdgeRouter 4 and the other miscellaneous networking gear in the house: setting up a simple VLAN and getting my backup DSL connection working.

Two WANs and a LAN

With two WAN connections (one DHCP/cable, one PPPoE/DSL), I wanted to have specific local network ranges send traffic out to (and receive forwarded traffic from) a specific WAN connection. Note that this isn’t quite the load balancing feature (which I don’t want), but moreso “IP range A uses cable, IP range B uses DSL”. I went through the gauntlet of EdgeRouter support articles and forum posts without much success:

I haven’t yet solved the problem, but I believe the issue is related to the PPPoE connection not injecting default routes into the main table (hence the need for policy-based routing), plus my second SNAT rule didn’t seem to match traffic. The PPPoE connection has a very volatile dynamic IP address, so source NATing based on address translation rather than masquerade wouldn’t work.

In any event, I’m sure this will be another weekend problem, but it was compounded by…

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Windows file share and NTFS permissions

For future reference when I inevitably forget whether it is more appropriate to restrict folders with NTFS permissions (Security tab) or file share permissions (Sharing tab).

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/previous-versions/windows/it-pro/windows-server-2008-R2-and-2008/cc754178(v%3dws.10)

“For example, some experienced administrators prefer always to set share permissions to Full Control for Everyone, and to rely entirely on NTFS permissions to restrict access.”

Relevant table of examples:

Folder type Share permissions NTFS permissions
Public folder. A folder that can be accessed by everyone. Grant Change permission to the Users group. Grant Modify permission to the Users group.
Drop folder. A folder where users can drop confidential reports or homework assignments that only the group manager or instructor can read. Grant the Change permission to the Users group.

Grant the Full Control permission to the group manager.

Grant the Write permission for the users’ group that is applied to This Folder only. (This is an option available on the Advanced page.)

If each user needs to have certain permissions to the files that he or she dropped, you can create a permission entry for the Creator Owner well-known security identifier (SID) and apply it to Subfolder and files only. For example, you can grant the Read and Write permission to the Creator Owner SID on the drop folder and apply it to all subfolders and files. This grants the user who dropped or created the file (the Creator Owner) the ability to read and write to the file. The Creator Owner can then access the file through the Run command using \\ServerName\DropFolder\FileName.

Grant the Full Control permission for the group manager.

Application folder. A folder containing applications that can be run over the network. Grant Read permission for the Users group. Grant Read, Read and Execute, and List Folder Content permissions to the Users group.
Home folders. Individual folders for each user. Only the user has access to the folder. Grant the Full Control permission to each user on their respective folder. Grant the Full Control permission to each user for their respective folder.

Exchange 2016 + Outlook on iOS and Android: Message size limits and their configuration

Users with the official Microsoft Outlook client on Android or iOS kept running into ~36MB size limits when attempting to send attachments (given the megapixel sizes of most cell phone photos, this can amount to 3 to 4 pictures attached and the whole message is rejected), and none of the conventional transport/mailbox maximum size settings were the cause. I’m hoping the changes in the following articles are the fix:

The settings I specifically believe are responsible are:

  • maxAllowedContentLength in %ExchangeInstallPath%FrontEnd\HttpProxy\ews\web.config
  • maxAllowedContentLength and maxReceivedMessageSize in %ExchangeInstallPath%ClientAccess\exchweb\ews\web.config
  • maxAllowedContentLength and maxRequestLength in %ExchangeInstallPath%FrontEnd\HttpProxy\owa\web.config
  • maxAllowedContentLength, maxRequestLength and maxReceivedMessageSize in %ExchangeInstallPath%ClientAccess\Owa\web.config

Cruise experiences: NCL Epic, December 2017

Neither our first trip on the Norwegian Epic nor subsequent one on the Breakaway in December 2016 scared us off of cruising, so here are some ramblings about the NCL Epic sailing an Eastern Western Caribbean itinerary in December 2017.

Eastern… no, wait, Western

We never made it here.

Due to the hurricanes (Irma and Maria) that absolutely crushed Eastern Caribbean regions in September 2017, nearly every itinerary featuring these destinations was adjusted, regardless of cruise line. As we were only a few days away from the 90-day deadline where one can cancel for a full refund, I was closely monitoring the situation. There wasn’t any coherent news regarding NCL’s plans, mainly because their Miami headquarters was also in a state of disarray around that time.

Cruises sailing to these places in September were definitely being cancelled, cut short, or adjusted, but my theory was that by mid-December, the various Virgin Islands would be up and running again. Maybe the entire region would be worse for wear, but at least the touristy areas where ships drop off several thousand passengers would be up and running. Frankly, the best thing a tourist can do in one of these situations is to continue to visit, and spend hard-earned (or easily-earned) currency with the locals. So it was with that theory in mind that I decided not to adjust our plans.

Unfortunately a swift recovery wasn’t the case. Once NCL got things somewhat settled, they made rumblings about a possible itinerary adjustment 88 days prior to the cruise date, which was just enough time to incur a 25% penalty to switch. The replacement itinerary was officially announced at exactly 75 days out (coinciding with a 50% cancel/change fee.) Not being a common idiot, I knew that we were likely to end up at Falmouth and Grand Cayman as replacement ports, but really didn’t want another $300 in airfare changes or to have to sort out transportation from Orlando/Port Canaveral to a different port. So, we stuck with the Epic and the revised route.

Oh, what’s that you say? Shouldn’t the cruise line have to do something – I mean, they’ve changed two-thirds of the ports on your vacation – harrumph harrumph? I direct you to NCL’s guest ticket contract that basically says they don’t even have to put you on a ship (6b), and they don’t have to stick to the itinerary (6c). Also in the same section, you release NCL from any loss/damage/injury due to piracy, among other egregious things, so don’t expect compensation for any Captain Phillips experience.

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Manage your MR10i or other LSI MegaRAID controller on a ESXi 6.5 host

I’ve been arguing with an Exchange 2016 server lately, due to what I suspect is a dodgy IBM-badged MR10i RAID controller in a x3650 M3. It has been kicking disks that seem entirely fine out of RAID1 volumes, which effectively has the same side effect as losing a disk. I intend to publish a few posts with some of the links and practices I’ve used lately.

Original article: How to install LSI MegaRAID Storage Manager (MSM) on ESXi 5.5

The original, excellent instructions from Mike Smith at Serenity-Networks, despite being for ESXi 5.5, seemed to work with some minor adaptations for ESXi 6.5.0 Update 1 (Build 5969303), with the latest versions of software from Avago (Broadcom).

Enable SSH on ESXi host: From the web UI, in the Navigator column, select Host, then choose Actions > Enable Secure Shell (SSH):

Adjust the “acceptance level” to allow installation of unsigned VIB files: In the Navigator column, select Manage, then select the Security & users tab. Then, click the Edit settings button and choose Community.

Get the LSI downloads (SMIS provider and the latest MegaRAID MSM): I found filtering by OEM did not successfully show results. On the Broadcom website, I selected the following categories for download:

  • Group: Storage Controllers, Adapters and ICs
  • Family: Storage Controllers, Adapters and ICs
  • OEM: (left blank – showed up as ‘OEM’ in the search interface)
  • Product: All
  • Asset Type: Management Software and Tools

There were 679 results; I used Ctrl+F and searched for “SMIS”, which offered a link titled “Latest SMIS Providers” for VMWare 6.0 and 6.5: https://docs.broadcom.com/docs/VMware_MR_SAS_Providers-00.67.V0.04.zip

Then I also used Ctrl+F and searched for “MegaRAID Storage Manager”, which offered MSM for a variety of platforms:

Copy the LSI SMIS provider (the file with .vib extension) to the /tmp directory on ESXi host (scp/WinSCP/your client of choice). I found that my sneaky attempt at copying it to a shared volume at /vmfs/volumes/… was hit and miss; when it was a fibre channel mount, the install worked properly, but if the datastore was on a local disk, it died with an error message.

SSH to the ESXi host with appropriate credentials (I did everything as root) and run the following install command:

esxcli software vib install -v /tmp/vmware-esx-provider-lsiprovider.vib --no-sig-check

I also had to disable the firewall on the ESXi host. Bad practice, but I don’t have a list of the specific ports to open at present.

esxcli network firewall set --enabled false

Reboot the ESXi host when complete. You can and probably should do the usual behaviour of taking it into maintenance mode, but in my case everything shut down and came up cleanly as VMWare Tools was installed on each guest.

It was hit and miss as to whether I had to add the line from /etc/hosts on the ESXi server with the hostname to my Windows box. I found that eventually creating both A and PTR records in Active Directory DNS, combined with turning off the ESXi firewall, were sufficient to get the MSM client on a domain-joined Windows server to connect – not even necessarily a guest VM on the same hypervisor.

I also had to change the MSM client settings in the Configure Host dialog to “Display all of the systems in the network of local server”, and not the “ESXi-CIMOM” option: