Inject Drivers into a Windows 7 PE Image

One scenario – booting a system using a USB Windows PE flash drive, the same flash drive then could not be read within Windows PE. This was because the PE image had no USB 3.0 drivers. The solution was to inject USB 3.0 drivers into the standard Windows 7 PE image.

  1. Download the desired drivers
  2. Extract the folder that contains the .cat, .inf, etc. files for the drivers (e.g., files can be extracted from a .exe using 7zip). Place them in a temporary folder (C:\x64)
  3. Create a mount point folder on your local drive (e.g., C:\mount)
  4. Open elevated command prompt
  5. Get the name of the Windows PE system by pointing dism to the wim file (which could be on a portable media or your local drive). For example:
  6. Mount it. In this example the name determined from previous step was “Microsoft Windows PE (x64)”
  7. Inject the drivers:
  8. Unmount

Create a Windows 7 PE Bootable USB Flash Drive (32 bit and 64 bit)

  1. Download Windows 7 AIK ISO file
    https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=5753
  2. Burn the ISO or extract it to a folder (e.g., using 7zip)
  3. Run StartCD.exe
  4. Choose the “Windows AIK Setup” option
  5. When complete, navigate to Start->all programs -> Microsoft Windows AIK -> Deployment Tools Command Prompt
  6. In the Deployment Tools Command Prompt window, issue the following commands.
    Note: if needing a 32-bit version of Windows PE, replace “amd64 with “x86”
  7. Insert your flash drive
  8. Launch diskpart (Start button-> then type diskpart)
  9. Locate your flash drive with this commandlist disk
  10. Select it, format it and make it bootable (in this case the flash drive was disk 1) using these commands:
  11. Determine what drive letter has been assigned to your flash drive
  12. The last step is to copy files to flash drive (in this case drive letter of the flash drive was F:
  13. If you want to create an ISO to use later:

Flash Dell PERC H310 to LSI 9211-8i IT Mode Using Legacy (DOS) and UEFI Method (HBA Firmware + BIOS)

This procedure is a combination of using the Legacy (DOS) + UEFI methods to flash a PERC H310 to an LSI 9211-8i in IT mode.  This method will flash both the firmware and also the BIOS of the card, which many guides omit.

  1. Create a bootable USB flash drive using Rufus.
    1. Choose partition scheme: MBR for BIOS or UEFI
    2. Bootable disk using FreeDOS
  2. Download the latest zip file from LSI/Broadcom that has the BIOS and firmware for the 9211 HBA card. At the time of this guide the latest is P20.  There are three files you need from the zip file:
    1. Firmware (IT mode) file for 8i model, it will have file extension *.bin (typical file name 2118it.bin)
    2. BIOS file, it will have file extension *.rom (typical file name mptsas2.rom)
  3. Place these three files on the root of the flash drive
  4. Also download and extract some support files to the root of this drive. These files are needed to prepare the card for updating. Download here.
  5. Install the HBA card in the system and boot from the flash drive using Legacy/DOS mode (not UEFI mode). This will get you into FreeDOS.
  6. Determine what the current SAS Address is of the card using the command below. Make a record of it because we will need to re-program this same address later.  Note – the output of this command is several pages long.
  7. Now wipe the firmware of the card using this command:
  8. Followed by
  9. Once complete, reboot the system. However this time boot the system to your UEFI Shell (not the flash drive).
  10. At the UEFI command prompt, find out what device number has been assigned to your flash drive using this command
  11. Then type the device number followed by a colon symbol to get to the root of your flash drive in UEFI mode. For example, if you determine your flash drive is fs0 then you type:
  12. This gets you to the root of the drive. Now it is time to flash a Dell firmware using this command. Say Yes if it asks if you want to flash.
  13. Once complete it is time to program the SAS address using the following command. Replace the X with the values you recorded earlier.
  14. After it completes, reboot the system again to UEFI shell and get to the flash drive root as described previously.
  15. Now flash the firmware of the card to the latest 9211-8i firmware:
  16. Once complete, update the BIOS of the card:
  17. Once complete, reboot and you should now have a card that has the latest firmware (IT mode) and also the latest BIOS.

Unable to log in to Windows because “The Group Policy Client service failed the logon. Access is denied.”

When trying to log in to Windows (in this case Windows 7 using a domain account) you may receive the following error

This particular situation occurred after a reboot following the installation of the latest Windows updates.

There are several suggestions out there to solve this problem, some more drastic than others. The most common root cause seems to be a problem with a corrupt registry. Specifically, several guides have you log in to the system with a separate local administrator account and then check and modify registry settings located at these locations:

  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\gpsvc
  • HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\SVCHOST

In this case there were no problems with these registry settings, so a different solution was needed.

It was discovered that the user account had both a ntuser.man file and a ntuser.dat file, located in the root of the affected users profile folder (C:\Users\username).  Depending on the account type, there should only be one or the other.  It is most common to have a .dat rather than a .man which was true for this specific user account. The ntuser.man file was also very small compared to the ntuser.dat file.

The solution was to log in with a separate local administrator account and then move/rename the ntuser.man file while leaving the ntuser.dat file untouched.

That allowed the user to log in again with no loss of data or Windows settings.

How to Factory Wipe Settings and Data for Asus MeMo Pad

I could not find a reliable procedure for performing a factory reset / restore on these devices, so I have put one together. The official procedure from Asus did not work for me.

This has been tested specifically with the MeMo Pad 8 Model K011 (ME181C), but it should also work for the MeMo Pad 7 (ME176C).

Here are the steps:

  1. Power off the tablet
  2. Press and hold the volume up button. While holding it down, press and hold the power button.
  3. Release both when you see the Asus logo appear.
  4. The tablet should then boot into the Droidboot interface (shown below).
  5. Scroll down and execute Recovery.
  6. The tablet should then reboot into the recovery screen that has the robot tipped over with the message No Command (shown below).
  7. Now press and hold the volume down key. While still holding it, press and release the volume up key.  You can now release the volume down key.
  8. You should then be presented with the Android system recovery options that will allow you to do a factory reset.
  9. It takes a while so be patient. Once done simply choose the option for Reboot system now.

Start Menu Doesn’t Work After Windows 10 Fall Creators Update (Build 1709)

After installing this update you may find that you are no longer ble to launch your Start Menu. When clicking on the Windows logo button, it is animated but the Start Menu doesn’t appear.

Try the following:

  1. Press Control-Alt-Delete
  2. Launch Task Manager
  3. Click File-Run New Task
  4. Type control panel and press enter
  5. Choose User Accounts
  6. Click the option for Make changes to my account in PC settings
  7. If the window comes up but gets stuck with the gear icon, try right clicking on your Start Menu button a few times
  8. When the settings window appears, Choose Sign-in options, located on the left
  9. Find the option for Use my sign-in info to automatically finish setting up my device after an update or restart.  Having this option enabled seems to be the root cause of breaking the Start Menu
  10. Disable this option then reboot.
    Note: an alternative way of safely rebooting without a working Start Menu is to use the command line. Start a new task cmd using Task Manager in similar fashion like steps 1-4 above. When the command window appears, type the command: shutdown -r and press enter.

Upgrade PHP on CentOS (CentOS version 6 or 7)

You may find that you need to upgrade PHP on your CentOS install in order to meet dependencies for an application. For example, a WordPress plugin:

CentOS by nature maintains the same package version throughout the life cycle of its release, so for CentOS 7 you end up with PHP version 5.4 (e.g., 5.4.17).

The good news is that you can upgrade PHP using the IUS Community project repositories without breaking your CentOS install.

Here are the steps, which need to be run with sudo permissions:

With the last step you may receive the following warning:

For this procedure the warning is typical, so hit Yes

You will then be presented with a transaction summary as follows:

Verify that all of the packages being removed are being replaced with equivalent packages of the newer version. Then hit Yes.

Once complete, restart all services that use PHP or reboot the server.  Typically this is Apache, so to restart it issue the following command:

iOS 10 Device (iPhone iPad) Forgets Hidden Wireless Network

A particularly annoying issue where an iOS device will constantly forget about a hidden wireless network. The problem seem to start after upgrading it to iOS 10. In this case it was an iPhone 5.

Resetting the network settings would seem to work for a while but it would eventually occur again. Most often it would occur after power cycling the wireless access point or if the access point lost connection to the internet.  Unhiding the SSID would resolve it however that does not fix the root problem. Here are the steps to flush out the bad configuration in the device so that it no longer forgets:

  1. Connect to the hidden wireless network as usual
  2. Go to Settings -> Wi-Fi.  Click the info icon next to the name of the hidden network to which you are connected
  3. Choose Forget This Network
  4. Reboot the phone by holding the Home button and on/off button
  5. Navigate to Settings -> General -> Reset -> and choose Reset Network Settings
  6. The phone will automatically reboot
  7. Go to Settings -> Wi-Fi. Disable Ask to Join Networks
  8. Finally, reconnect to the hidden wireless network

Now you should no longer have the issue of the device randomly (or not so randomly) forgetting the hidden network.

Update: Eventually the device forgot the network again. The only thing that has been a permanent solution is to broadcast the SSID, such that the network is no longer hidden.

How to Grow RAID Array in OpenMediaVault After Upgrading All Existing Drives with Larger Drives

Scenario: You have an existing RAID array in OMV and you have replaced each drive one at a time with a larger drive. Now you wish to grow the array into the larger size but it turns out the GUI of OMV does not have that option. When you navigate to “RAID Management” and then click “Grow,” it comes up with an empty list of devices. This is expected since all of your drives are used in the array already.

To grow the array into the new larger size after all drives have been upgraded, access the console of OMV (e.g., via SSH) and issue the command:

where the letter X represents the number of your md device. The first md device is typically zero (i.e., md0).

After issuing the command, you should receive a confirmation immediately that the array has been resized. Something like this for an md0 device:

mdadm: component size of /dev/md0 has been set to [the new size in K]

You can confirm the change has taken place by navigating back to RAID Management where you will then see the RAID is in a resync process.

ESXi 6.5 Host Initiator Unable to Connect to OpenMediaVault 2.x Guest iSCSI Target

I ran into a problem when trying to have an OpenMediaVault 2.x Guest machine act as an iSCSI target for an ESXi 6.5 Host iSCSI initiator. The goal was to have OMV share a datastore for the ESXi host using the iSCSI protocol.

To create iSCSI targets on OMV, the easiest way is to install the available plugin (openmediavault-iscsitarget) from the web GUI. However a major limitation with this plugin is that you are not able to create fileio targets using the web GUI. In another post I detail how to get around that limitation but at this point we’ll assume you have successfully created a target (either fileio or blockio) on OMV and are now trying to get an ESXi host to discover and connect to it.

You may find that ESXi successfully discovers the OMV target but then fails to connect to it. I happened to be logged in to the console of the OMV guest at the time and saw several console error messages appear when ESXi was attempting to connect to the OMV target. They were similar to the below. You may need to reboot OMV and then try to rediscover the target in ESXi in order to reproduce them.

To flush the errors out I ended up having to reboot the OMV guest machine. The root cause appears to be a bugged version of iscsitarget that is installed from the OMV repositories when running the Linux 3.2 kernel. The solution is to install a backports kernel for OMV and then install updated iscsitarget packages that the OMV maintainers have made available.

The steps:

  1. Back up / make note of any iSCSI initiator settings in ESXi
  2. Remove the iSCSI configuration from the ESXi host
  3. Reboot OMV
  4. Back up / make note of any iSCSI target configuration settings you have configured for OMV
  5. Uninstall the iSCSI plugin (openmediavault-iscsitarget) from OMV using the web GUI
  6. Reboot OMV
  7. Log in to the OMV console
  8. Run several commands from the OMV console to fully remove and flush out the iSCSI configuration. One or more of these may not be necessary depending on your configuration:
    apt-get purge openmediavault-iscsitarget
    apt-get purge iscsitarget
    apt-get purge iscsitarget-dkms
    apt-get autoremove
    apt-get autoclean
  9. Install the OMV-Extras.org Plugin. This has to be downloaded and installed manually since it is not available by default within the web GUI. The official guide:
    http://forum.openmediavault.org/index.php/Thread/5549-OMV-Extras-org-Plugin/
  10. Navigate to the plugin configuration page in the web GUI and confirm that the OMV-Extras.org main repository is enabled.
  11. Install the 3.16 backports kernel.  At this point I configured it to be the default for OMV. The official guide:
    http://forum.openmediavault.org/index.php/Thread/8584-Install-Backports-Kernel/
  12. Reboot so that you are running 3.16 kernel
  13. Now reinstall the openmediavault-iscsitarget plugin. With the 3.16 kernel running, the plugin will automatically use the newer packages of iscsitarget available from the OMV-Extras.org repository (noted below for reference only).
    http://omv-extras.org/debian/pool/main/i/iscsitarget/
  14. At this point you should then be able to configure the iSCSI target on OMV and have ESXi successfully connect to it.