[Unsupported] Defeating the VCSA shell timeout

In my earlier post vCSA 6.0 tricks: shell access, password expiration and certificate warnings I showed how can set the VCSA shell timeout to an effectively indefinite value using the command

   shell.set --enabled true --timeout 2147483647

at the appliance shell prompt. I was notified that in recent versions of the VCSA (probably since Update 1) this does no longer work. The maximum timeout that the command will accept is now 86400 seconds (= 1 day). The VAMI interface of the VCSA 6 (that was added in Update 1) also allows enabling the shell and setting the shell timeout, but there the GUI also limits the input to max. 1 day (resp. 1440 minutes).

When I checked my own vCSA (that was originally installed with 6.0 GA, then upgraded to Update 1 and Update 1b) I found that my old large timeout setting was still in place and functioning. That means even in the latest build of the VCSA 6 it is still possible to set an arbitrarily large shell timeout, just not through the appliance shell or the VAMI. So how do you do this?

How to use the ESXi Patch Tracker to update ESXi

About a year ago I started my VMware ESXi Patch Tracker service. This is a set of automatically generated web pages that show informations about all available ESXi patches. Its primary purpose is to give you an easy way to track the patch history and get alerted about new patches once they are released. You can subscribe to it by RSS feed, E-mail and Twitter.

Recently I have added new functionality to the Patch Tracker that enables you to update your ESXi hosts in a very convenient way. Here is how:

Why upgrading from ESXi 5.5 Update 3b to 6.0 fails

As of now users who are running ESXi 5.5 with the latest patch level Update 3b will find it difficult to upgrade to ESXi 6.0. Trying that with VMware Update Manager (VUM) or the esxcli software profile update method fails with error messages. esxcli throws this error:

VIB VMware_bootbank_xhci-xhci_1.0-3vmw.550.3.78.3223702 requires com.vmware.usb-, but the requirement cannot be satisfied within the ImageProfile.

and the VUM remediation process fails with the error event

The upgrade contains conflicting VIBs. Remove the conflicting VIBs or use Image Builder to create a custom upgrade ISO image that contains the newer versions of the conflicting VIBs, and try to upgrade again.

The issue is mentioned in an updated version of the VMware ESXi 5.5 Update 3b Release Notes, with a refreshingly short list of possible workarounds: None.

What are our options in this situation, are there really no workarounds?

How to build a customized ESXi installation image for your whitebox server

My ESXi-Customizer tool has come a long way... Originally built in 2011 it was a great tool for building customized VMware ESXi installation images, it was downloaded over 200k times since then and helped a lot of people who had one quest: getting ESXi installed and running on their whitebox (unsupported) hardware. This year it was even mentioned in a VMware KB article ... However, please do NOT use it anymore! Because ...

Since quite a while there is a much better way to build customized ESXi images, and that is my ESXi-Customizer-PS PowerCLI script. I'm writing this post not only to explain how easy it is to create a customized ESXi installation image for your whitebox server with this script, but also to convince the last nonbelievers that it works much better than my legacy ESXi-Customizer tool.

How to embed the VMware Tools version 10.0 into ESXi

Recently I ranted about the current situation with VMware Tools, and my blog post The great VMware Tools dilemma caught some attention and got a lot of agreement. The good news is that VMware is listening to its customers and trying to improve things.

In a new blog post VMware's Brian Graf elaborates on the recommended solution to use a shared productLocker location for VMware Tools with your ESXi hosts. I complained in my post that it is not easily possible to populate such a shared location with the new "standalone" Tools version 10.0. And this has been improved now:
  • The VMware Tools version 10.0 download now includes all the files that you need to upload to the shared productLocker location, and
  • Brian has shared some scripts on his own blog to automate the process of creating a shared productLocker, uploading the Tools to it and configuring the hosts to use it.
Great news!

But what if you only have one or few ESXi hosts and want to avoid the overhead of creating a shared productLocker? Wouldn't it be good if we could just update the Tools that are embedded into ESXi to the new version 10.0?

To say it short: Yes, we can! The embedded Tools is just a VIB package (called tools-light) that can be updated. Unfortunately, VMware refuses (so far) to make VMware Tools 10.0 available as a VIB file, but we can build this ourselves! Here is how ...