Mail From Address

It appears CE/Vista has several locations for defining the email addresses it uses for SMTP.

  1. $WEBCTDOMAIN/config/config.xml:
    mail.from=
    From address for messages sent.
  2. $WEBCTDOMAIN/customconfig/startup.properties:
    WEBCT_ADMIN_EMAIL=
    Some internal errors have a mailto: prompt to contact the server administrator.
  3. $WEBCTDOMAIN/serverconfs/log4j.properties:
    log4j.appender.EMail.To=
    Report fatal errors.
  4. $WEBCTDOMAIN/serverconfs/log4jstartup.properties:
    log4j.appender.EMail.To=
    Report fatal errors.
  5. $WEBCTDOMAIN/webctInstalledServer.properties:
    WEBCT_ADMIN_EMAIL=
    Installer picks up this value for populating #2 and possibly #3 and #4.
  6. $WEBCTDOMAIN/webctInstalledServer.properties:
    MAIL_ORIGIN=
    Installer picks up this value for populating #1.

What really disturbs me is the Vista 8 installer created log4j properties files with the  SMTP server set up for miles.webct.com and sending from vista.monitor@webct.com? I cannot seem to find anything in the Vista 8 documentation or wiki or Google index about the “Vista Trap Notification” subject line, from address, or SMTP address which the log4j appender appears to be designed to send.

This Vista Trap Notification appears designed to send an email to the address any time a fatal error is encountered. That’s fine. Just use the smtp host and From address requested in the installer.

Don’t get me started about giving end users a mailto: prompt to report errors.

webctbackup

John made a good point… While telling Blackboard about this is pointless, the community at large ought to be aware of another undocumented workspace issue. I found an 8GB .bak in the /u01/app/nodeA/weblogic81/webctbackup on the active JMS node. Taking out user accessible nodes is okay in my book as with 18-20 of them in our clusters, we can lose one and no client would ever know. Mail, chat, learning context administration and other services in CE/Vista fail without a functional JMS node.

An administrator did a template reassignment with “Force archive before template reassignment” set to true. For some reason the file was placed on the JMS node. It should have been deleted. However, it was not. I caught it in time as another large file was dropped within 10 minutes of me deleting the first. I only caught it time because I was at my desk working (not in meetings, at home, or asleep).

This came within one GB of completely filling up the file system. We do not have huge hard drives on these nodes, just 3 times the size we need except for this. Nor do we allow the nodes accrue a ton of logs or junk.

Maybe this is something Blackboard has resolved this for future versions like Vista 4 or 8. Maybe one day we will have official or unofficial documentation about this kind of stuff.

The answers I anticipate from Blackboard:

  1. This is functioning as designed. I bet composing the archive requires something from the JMS node, so it must reside there. The JVM is too small as is /var/tmp, so the file system is the best place.
  2. Use a bigger hard drive.
  3. Set “Force archive before template reassignment” to false.

Even if Blackboard agrees this is bad, then it might get fixed on Vista 8. Certainly it will not get fixed in the officially supported  Vista 3.
🙁

If you want to confirm if you have the potential for this problem, then you should have a $NODENAME/weblogic81/webctbackup or a $NODENAME/weblogic92/webctbackup directory. We only have them on all four JMS nodes, but have have seen them on four (out of 76) other nodes. The other 72 nodes lack this directory. While you are at it, make sure you know about the other undocumented work spaces I have mentioned.
🙂

Enrolling Administrators

One of the challenges of having 42 institutions is managing the administrators. (Actually we created some 12 spare institutions but why is another  post.) So my challenge was how to not drive myself insane trying to enroll the 6 same admin users to each institution. The best way in my opinion is to create the users in an IMS XML file for each institution and import the data. Creating the users was easy. Next was doing the enrollments.

Naturally, I turned to the Vista 8 Enterprise System Integration Guide on pages 66-67 and 95-96 where it describes which roles can be enrolled at which learning contexts. They go from the lowest most common enrollments at the section level up to the division level. Yeah, there was not anything for the institution level. It even had a comment before the table on pages 66-67:

NOTE: Roles not specified in the table can only be added through the Vista Enterprise administrative interface.

So, because the Institution Administrator is not listed, I could not enroll users to it through the import? It depressed me for about a week. A flash of inspiration had me check the Vista 3 documentation. Sure enough, on page 49 of the Vista 3 System Integration Guide, Institution Administrator is listed. (Admin roles at domain and server contexts, designer roles at instiution and domain contexts are also listed.)

The XML is easy enough to write. Normally, when writing this XML, I just need to refer to the SourcedId for objects I create, so I know their values. However, with this, I need to the know the SourcedId.Id for the institution.

Fortunately, we have collected the properties to a institution.properties and parse it to generate what to run at the command line. Rather than by hand copying the files into place one-by-one, I created a script to take a template, check this institution.properties and place the files in the correct place. In order to make each object unique, a portion of the SourcedId.Name was changed to the name of the destination folder.

Now I just need to add to the script a portion to change the SourcedId.Id for the Institution to the source_id value in the institution.properties. That is easy. Much easier than figuring out where to look in the documentation to find what is correct.

CE/Vista and Banner Integration

This is the second time I have worked on making Vista integration work with Banner. The first was 2005 in Vista 3.0.3 at Valdosta State. The production here at GeorgiaVIEW was set up by Harold, Jill, and Amy years ago and integrated into the install scripts or part of the cloned databases.

So now I am working on getting it to work in Vista 8. The IMS imports worked the first time like a charm. When I turned to using the Luminis adapter, the person records worked fine but the group contexts failed in Vista 8 and worked fine in Vista 3. So the “siapi.sh luminis import restrict” works fine.

Command-line

We have 41 institutions in Vista 3 currently. So imports are automated to some degree to preserve the sanity of Jill (and to a lesser degree Amy and myself). Rather than put in the UI all the settings, we have a properties file defining the location, glcid, sourcedid.source and sourcedid.id for each institution. This allows us to easily pass the values when importing at the command-line.

My first approach was to leave the settings identical to what I used to create persons and group records with IMS. This essentially uses the glcid of the institution and sourcedid of the institution. This is what resulted in the person records working and groups not. Fail.

I realized my error in logic must be the lack of a division-to-group relationship as the error described the groups cannot be related to an institution. So I changed the properties to use the division values for the sourcedid. Fail.

So I went looking in “Guide to Integration with the SunGard Luminis Data Integration Suite” for what I ought to use at the command-line. I didn’t find a solution. Just the same command-line lacking even the glcid and sourcedid.
🙁

XML

Giving up on the command-line approach for now, I added the relationship element to the XML so the group would become a child of one of the divisions I created with IMS. It sorta worked! The groups all imported but the course failed with the exact same error the groups formerly succeeded. To add insult to injury, simply running the import again on the exact same file had the courses import.

Mistakes

A mistake I made was reading the documentation: “Guide to Integration with the SunGard Luminis Data Integration Suite”.

Sungard Libraries:

  1. Page 8 says imq.jar and mbclient.jar do not come with CE/Vista and must be obtained from Sungard. All three of us thought in Vista 3.x these were automatically placed so we didn’t need to place them. Best I can tell, these were installed by Vista. I found $WEBCTDOMAIN/customconfig/startup.properties references both files in CUSTOM_CLASSPATH and setEnv.sh references CUSTOM_CLASSPATH. (This document has notes for what CE customers need to do and no note about CE users needing to go get them from Sungard.)
  2. Those who believe the last note would keep reading and find on Page 9 instructions to deposit the files in $WEBCTDOMAIN/serverlibs/. Assuming I am wrong about item #1, the startup.properties expects them in $WEBCTDOMAIN/serverlibs/luminis/ and would not find them where the document says to put them.

IMS Data Going to Wrong Place

I should know better than to trust documentation over my own intuition. Or to change based on what others tell me.

I followed:

Log in to Vista Enterprise as a Server Administrator or Institution Administrator.
NOTE: To set glcid, you must log in as a Server Administrator.

From the Administration tab, click the Utilities tab.
Click Settings.

Under System Integration, click System Integration API IMS….

Enter values to configure settings. See the table that follows, Standard and IMS Adapter
details on each value.

Click Save Values. The Settings screen appears and the settings are configured.

Standard and IMS Adapter Settings
The following table describes the parameters you can set using the administration user interface.
Setting Description
GlcId

• Stands for global learning context identifier.
Set by Server Administrator only.
Required to run IMS and Standard adapter
commands.

• Identifies the institution in which the adapter
command runs
• Automatically assigned by Vista Enterprise
upon creation of an institution

Of course, it doesn’t say which Glcid, right? After all, every learning context has a Glcid. Since, at the time I only had one institution (before I created the 54 others), I set the Glcid to the one for that institution. Should it be the Glcid for the server or domain learning context? If so, then couldn’t Blackboard just pre-populate it at the time of install? Why do I need to put it there?

At the same time, I didn’t believe it necessary because I had seen IMS imports work without the Glcid set at the server learning context. They worked because the command used to run the IMS import has the glcid.

The result? My imports went into the the institution with the Glcid set at the server learning context, despite the defining in the command I ran to use a different Glcid. Removing the Glcid from the server learning context settings allowed the command to work as I thought it should.

So much for a pristine, clean database.

Netscape to Die… Finally!

Just posted an internal email about what we ought to do about the End-of-Service announcement for Netscape. Usage of Netscape browsers has plummet even as Firefox as increased. Its finally hit the floor such that even AOL has given up on it. Why did they make NN 9? A snapshot of its use relative to total hits for the past ~30.5 days at two of the sites we run:

                   CVIEW             OVIEW
  Browser       Hits     %        Hits    %
  Netscape 7  108,739  0.18%    186,105  0.22%
   -- Mac       6,319  0.01%     33,249  0.04%
  Netscape 8   56,655  0.09%     85,817  0.10%
  Netscape 9        0  0.00%          0  0.00%

My first web browser was Netscape 1. Every version up to Netscape 7.0 was at one time my primary web browser until I switched finally to Mozilla Firefox in 2004. Browser crashes are not unknown in testing, so to loose my place with other stuff (wikis, notes, documentation) frustrates even myself, so I still use NN7.2 for testing.

There hasn’t been an update to NN 7.2 in 3 years, so EOS doesn’t really mean anything to those using it still. So, I don’t expect anyone to do anything. I haven’t heard demands that we provide support for NN8, so I doubt NN7 will be much different.

Too bad, it came in with a whimper and will go out with a whimper.

Maybe Now We’ll Be Heard?

Its funny. Apparently its time consuming for companies to conduct brand analysis (just know what is being said about them). So a niche has been filled by Scout Labs and others. (Hopefully Scout is paying attention and is reading this. Maybe Umbria will also comment their product is better. :D)

On the one hand, I think more companies ought to pay attention. In addition, I hope through honest reflection they use the reactions exposed online to make improvements. For example, I will pick on Blackboard (the company I pick on most). A complaint about documentation from Laura Gekeler’s blog resulted in a contact from a senior director offering help. There are dozens of people who blog about their experiences with Blackboard. I doubt most of them are on the radar of Blackboard’s marketing folks.

How many of these posts help to sway the impressions to Blackboard brands? My readership is tiny. The same compliment issued on my blog, Laura’s blog, and a top blogger would help the brand most coming from the top blogger. So far, except for the patent rumble, the top bloggers and sites like Slashdot have remained mostly silent. The profile of the typical blogger who will mention Blackboard is that of a user. Students mention having to use it for a class. Faculty members mention putting something up for a class they teach. Instructional designers talk about building classes. The smallest but most vocal group are the technical behind the scenes people (like me) who have to make this stuff run. None of these build a huge following. At best we read each others’ blogs so we influence each other than the masses.

Something that used to bother me is the appeal to being a publicly traded company as the reason why they are mostly silent. That is quite okay with me. Just fix it and don’t say anything.
🙂

tag: Blackboard Inc, , brand analysis, ,

Open Letter to HP / Mercury Support

Hi,

Your Mexican hold musak shows your obvious great taste. Why interrupt it every 30 seconds with, “Please standby. Your call is important to us.”? I know its important or you would not have let me stay on the line for 23 minutes.

The lady in India who talked to me handled to the case with the upmost professionalism. Thankfully suggesting maybe she try the incident number helped her find the case. Likewise, providing the product number helped her determine what monitors I need because it wasn’t clear from the receipts or saved download page. Keeping all the emails helped ensure I had all the documentation she needed.

I am most grateful she pronounced my name correctly. That seems difficult for Americans?

The case was only open 16 hours before calling you to ask for help. Your support site emailed me to let me know someone looked at the case three hours or so after it was opened. Too bad no one sent an email or anything in the 13 hours later.

I thought Behind the Blackboard was horrible for a support web site. Now, I appreciate it as a gem compared to your HP support site. When the decisions were made to both investigate and buy LoadRunner, I visited the Mercury support site to determine what we would need. Information was decently easy to locate. Contacting support led to talking or writing to individuals who helped educate me as to what I needed. If we were making the same decision now, then I would have communicated to those making the decision my concerns about your ability to support this product.

Ezra

tag: , LoadRunner,

links for 2007-07-25

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