Failed Sessions

For exactly two months now I have been working on a re-opened issue (on Oct 7, 2009) where sessions appear to die in Blackboard Vista 8.0.2 hf1.

The first time this came up, Blackboard support wanted us to overhaul the session management. BIG-IP documents saying attempting this new method was a horrible idea caused us never to get on board. We agreed to conduct dupe.pl tests which showed there wasn’t a problem with session spray, which the solution was designed to resolve. Stonewalled, we closed the ticket when the institution reporting it didn’t have any cases to provide us.

So our client with the issue asked us to resume work on it. The key information they provided me was their users hit the /webct/logonDisplay.dowebct. Since they use Single-Sign On (SSO) from a portal, no users should ever hit this page. From investigating these cases, I was able to find a number of cases of users hitting /webct/displayAssessment.dowebct or /webct/displayAssessmentIntro.dowebct with the guest user.

See, the guest user exists at the domain learning context. Users appear as guest before they login or as the logout. They should not appear as guest when taking a quiz.

So I provided this information to Blackboard with the web server logs. They wanted more cases, so I provided more. More clients reported the issue, so I had plenty of sources. Plus it pointed to this problem affecting at least 4 if not all clusters.

Next, our TSM left, so we were provide a new person unused to us. It took just the first note to make a huge mistake. “Provide us all the logs from all the nodes.” At 5GB of logs times 14 nodes in a cluster, 70GB of information for an event which took up maybe 10KB seems like overkill. So… No. I like to think of my self as proficient at system administration, which means I can gather whatever logs you desire.

Now we come to the second mistake. Please refrain from asking me questions already explained in the ticket. Sure, the ticket has a large amount of information. However, if I can remember what is in the ticket, then so can the people working it.

Unfortunately I had to answer a question about replicating this with: it was based on my log trolling not actual cases of students complaining. My mistake was not going to the clients to find a description of the problem. Therefore, Blackboard wanted a WebEx so I could explain the same one sentence repetitively. *headesk* We agreed on me getting a case where a user could explain the problem.

As luck would have it, I got just a case a few days later. So I captured the web server log information and sent it along with the user description. My laziness resulted in me not trimming the log set down to the period of the error. Therefore, this log set showed a user1 login, user2 login, then user1 login again. Blackboard responded this might be a case of sporadic shifting users. Hello! I guess these folks are not used to seeing the SSO login to be able to know the session shifted to another user because… it… logged… in?

By pulling the entries from the f5 log showing the client IP address, Blackboard now wants us to implement a configuration change to the f5 to reflect the browser’s IP in our web server log. Getting such a change isn’t easy for us. Don’t say this is the only way to get client IPs when I… have… sent… you… client IPs. We’ve been at this impasse for 3 weeks. So I get to have another WebEx where I explain the same thing I’ve already written. *headesk*

Maybe it is finally time to ask the people if they are at all familiar with the known issue which sounds like the issue?

VST-3898: When taking an assessment the session is not kept alive. The student’s session times out forcing the student to restart the assessment or makes them unable to complete the assessment.

We plan to implement the upgrade which resolves this issue next week. So, I am hoping this does resolve it. Also, I am tempted to just close this ticket. Should the institutions find they are still having problems in January when the students have had a few quizzes fail, then I might have forgotten how utterly completely useless Blackboard has been on this issue.

All I ask is:

  1. Know the information in the ticket so I don’t have to copy and paste from the same ticket.
  2. Don’t ask for all the logs. Tell me what logs you want to view.
  3. Don’t tell me something is the only way when I’ve already shown you another way. I’m not an idiot.
  4. Don’t ask me if the f5 log has the cookie when the entries I’ve already sent you don’t have it.

🙁

Last Known Good config.xml

Saw this on Laura Gekeler’s blog:

Tip: Keep a ‘last known good’ config.xml file on your admin node.
Your Bb Vista cluster config.xml file | laura gekeler

Very good tip! We learned this lesson a couple months into hosting Vista 8 in pre-production.

She goes on to explain this file gets overwritten any time a change in Weblogic is made. Sometimes these changes are (un)intentionally made by an administrator using the console. Sometimes Weblogic detects problematic conditions and makes the change itself. When these changes create problematic conditions, then the last known good version saved us from having to go make the changes ourselves and potentially miss something.

In our cases of problems, a single node failing to shutdown after the JMS node was shutdown caused Weblogic to rewrite who should be the JMS node. It also caused a jumbling of the user preferred server stanzas. We now monitor for these problems and page ourselves to warn us about the problem so we can address it immediately rather than let our clients discover the problem a few days later. (I also somewhat mentioned this in the Forcing Weblogic’s Config.xml post.)

The times I’ve done this I didn’t go as far as Laura. I just…

  1. Stop all the nodes in the cluster.
  2. Copy the current version from $WEBLOGIC_DOMAIN/config/config.xml to /home/<user>.
  3. Copy the last known version from /pathto/lastknownversion/config.xml to $WEBLOGIC_DOMAIN/config/.
  4. Use “touch $WEBLOGIC_DOMAIN/REFRESH” on each managed node.

I am now curious about why she wanted new server directories or a new Vista_WLSstore database table?

GIMP Raw

When photographers I know talk about processing their digital images, they generally talk about Adobe products like Photoshop or Light Room. Some talk about Apple’s Aperture. Operating system only matters when it manages to make filters finish faster on the equivalent hardware.

Colorful Renee But… I am cheap. Photoshop was in my tool set back when work paid for me to do web design. Aperture and Light Room never entered it.

So I used Picasa as it did what I needed. Occasionally I used GIMP to perform more advanced edits. For example, I desaturated a custom area in the picture on the right to bring the attention back to who is important. Picasa can only do the same for a circle.

Considering GIMP is a image editor, it seemed quite concerning that it would fail to open Raw images. Surely Canon CR2 files from a 4 year old camera are supportable? Well, it turns out, GIMP needs help from a plugin.

  1. A dcraw-gimp plugin based on dcraw has very simple options for profiles used convert Raw to Portable Any Map for opening in GIMP.
  2. A ufraw-gimp plugin based on ufraw has much more cool tools for adjusting the levels prior to converting to Portable Any Map.

This morning I worked with F-Spot as my image manager and GIMP as the editor. This afternoon I switched to digiKam for the image manager and switched only to GIMP for things I could not manage.

I think I can use this workflow.

Self-Reporting

When I read something like this, I start to question the validity of the method.

Psychologist Sam Gosling analyzed the Facebook profiles of 236 college-aged people, who were also asked to fill out personality questionnaires… surveys that were designed to assess not only how study participants viewed themselves in reality, but also what their personalities would be like if they had all of their ideal traits.
The Psychology of Facebook Profiles | TIME

The better experiment here is to have half the participants maintain a normal Facebook profile. The other half would create a profile demonstrating their ideal self. Then compare those against the Big Five questionnaire looking at both. The list of personality traits in the article “openness, agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion and neuroticism” gives away the test used despite not explicitly named. Of course, I’m no fan of the Big Five.

Should the results match you can say Facebook reveals whatever the Big Five measures. However, I’d be uncomfortable saying any instrument measuring self-reported information accurately reflected anything about a person’s real personality.

Linux Adventure Part 3 [SOLVED]

Linux Adventure Part 1 | Linux Adventure Part 2 \ Use these to catch up on the story.

After work and much ridicule from a coworker over this Ubuntu mess, I come home to play some more on this wireless mess. I was even somewhat leaning towards giving the firmware cutter stuff a try. After all, it is just a card, right? I could get another miniPCI card in a pinch, right?

I looked at dmesg and syslog but there were few mentions of the card. So back to research… Lo, the BCM4312 I thought was supported was actually 14e4:4312 when what I have is a 14e4:4315 which is “in progress”. WTF does that mean? Without a date on the page, how do I know how long ago that was?

Now, purely farting around I clicked the Network Tools to turn off the wired connection only to see a list of wireless networks. It was easy to setup the network and get online.

Huh.

Yeah, computers hate me.

Linux Adventure Part 2

Linux Adventure Part 1 | Linux Adventure Part 3 [SOLVED]

So far into the story, I tried repairing Windows Vista which failed to actually give me a working entry into the operating system. The Linux Live CDs were non-committed forays into Knoppix, CentOS, and Ubuntu. All failed to turn on the wireless. An ethernet cord would have gotten me online.

So I was stuck with pretty much a brick.

My next step was to venture out to the store and buy a hard drive. The Ubuntu CD included an installer, so I used it to install a local copy. Continued research revealed my problem probably was the fact my computer came with a Broadcom 4312 card. (My brother said my problem was trying use wireless with Linux.)

Without an ethernet connection, I ended up installing Linux STA drivers from source by downloading them and transferring them by FTP.  No good. Multiple times. I never got it to recognize them. Other options called for installing a firmware update on the wireless card. The idea of a firmware update to the wireless card making me stuck on Linux worries me.

Thankfully I got home to where I have ethernet cords. By this point, I had so completely hosed things, so I reinstalled Ubuntu to start over fresh. Now seeing the Internet through the LAN, Ubuntu offered me “restricted” hardware drivers. The b43 set didn’t do anything. The STA set did enable the Wireless option. Even dhclient referenced eth2! However, the wifi status light doesn’t turn on when I enable wireless. Ugh. So the drivers work better but not enough to get it working.

Also, (based on the time stamp of the file I was able to find in a backup of the problem laptop) I haven’t connected a computer to my home network since February, so I didn’t remember what was the password for the network. Finding which computer or external drive contained the information took a few hours. Yay for backups.

Linux Adventure Part 1 | Linux Adventure Part 3 [SOLVED]

Linux Adventure Part 1

For about a week now I’ve been without my personal laptop as anything much more than a brick. I think tonight I am going to copy off the pictures and other important information to my desktop. From there, anything I do to make the situation worse will no longer matter as much.

Monday night, I shutdown the laptop. Microsoft Vista Automatic Updates said it was working on some updates post-logout. Rather than babysit, I went to bed. I should have babysat it.
🙁

The next morning, Tuesday, starting the computer told me I had a corrupted or missing \boot\BCD. The Boot Configuration Data file is pretty important, as without one the Windows operating system doesn’t even give me a command prompt. After some research I found out I needed my Windows installation DVD only 250 miles away. This caused me so much distress I even forgot I had a spare computer with me.

So I decided to download a Linux Live CD and use that while stuck away from home. At least I would be able to research the problem and possibly fix it later. The first Live CD I tried was a downloaded iso flavor called Knoppix, I remembered from many years ago. Ick. Knoppix Adriane is intended for the visually impaired slipped by me, so the computer reading everything got annoying extremely quickly. Finally turned off the reading stuff, but I had a new problem. Wireless wasn’t working.

Macintosh LC III … And I was out of CD-Rs.

So a newer memory was a few years ago, a friend with a barely functioning Macintosh LC III (pictured right) wanted to get her stuff off it. She brought it up again a few times since, the most recent occasion to ask me to explain why her Windows computer cannot just read 3.5″ floppies from the Mac without any computer-ese. A coworker mentioned a Live CD of CentOS could mount the drive and transfer the data.

So, I downloaded an iso of the CentOS Live CD while I went to the store to get some disks to burn. While starting up CentOS, I downloaded Ubuntu just in case this second Live CD failed. It was a good thing because the CentOS Live CD was prettier without any improvement in getting on the wireless.

Nor was the Ubuntu Live CD any better.

By this point, I had found a site offering a torrent to a Vista Recovery CD. The quandary was to go back to Windows or stick with Linux. The recovery CD off a random web site could just not work or at worst infect the non-functioning computer. So I installed BitTorrent and downloaded the recovery CD. I tried the Startup Repair, System Restore, and Command Prompt (to manually rebuild the booter). Since this failed, I decided Windows Vista was dead.

So I started looking into how to make Ubuntu work for me.

Linux Adventure Part 2 | Linux Adventure Part 3 [SOLVED]