My ownCloud adventures - Part 1: Installation and Initial Configuration

If you own multiple different computing devices (portable computers and Desktop PCs at different places, Smartphones, tablets, ...) - and I bet you do - then you will sooner or later feel the need to share your personal files between them in a seamless, convenient way. You may e.g. want to have your music files and pictures available on any device at any place without manually copying them around. This is why using a Cloud Storage provider is becoming more and more popular: Dropbox, Google Drive,, ... just to name a few. They will offer you a limited amount of online storage for free - if you pay them a monthly fee then you will get more. However, if you want to have a lot of space (1 TB, 2 TB?) then this will get very expensive ... and there are also other concerns: Data security, privacy, ...

Luckily there is software available that enables you to be your own Cloud Storage provider like the Open Source solution ownCloud. I have started playing with ownCloud in my hosted virtual lab and will blog about how I got this up and running, configured for my needs, and what else is needed to make good use of it. This first post is about installing and initial configuration.

Importing virtual disks of hosted formats in ESXi 5.1

Recently I stumbled over a new issue that really puzzled me. I was trying to import a virtual appliance (the Bitnami ownCloud stack) into my lab ESXi host. This appliance is provided with a virtual disk in 2gbsparse format to make it compatible with VMware Workstation. For using it in ESXi instructions were given to clone the disk into an ESXi supported disk format using vmkfstools like this:

   vmkfstools -i bitnami-owncloud-4.5.5-0-ubuntu-12.04.vmdk owncloud.vmdk

On my ESXi 5.1 box this command promptly failed with a very confusing error message:
  "Failed to open 'bitnami-owncloud-4.5.5-0-ubuntu-12.04.vmdk': The system cannot find the file specified (25)."
Of course the file existed in the current directory, so how could it not be found?!?

How to write your own esxcli plugin

Last week I published an esxcli plugin that allows to run any shell command through esxcli. In this post I want to share what you need to know about the esxcli plugin system to be able to write your own plugins.

[Updated] esxcli plugin to run shell commands (new version)

[Please note: I have updated this blog post to reflect a new version of my esxcli-shell plugin and the changes in there. What's new in version 1.1 (of 2012-01-12):
- supports for advanced shell function like pipelines, I/O redirection
- execute multiple shell commands at once (or a single command spanning multiple lines)
- logging of shell commands to /var/log/shell.log ]

The esxcli command is a very powerful tool to query and configure various aspects of an ESXi host's configuration, and you can not only use it in an ESXi shell, but also remotely through the (perl based) vSphere CLI and the (PowerShell based) vSphere PowerCLI.

The esxcli commands are organized in so-called namespaces (e.g. hardware, software, network etc.) for managing the sub-components of the server, and - out-of-the-box - you are limited to the commands that are exposed through these namespaces. But you cannot run arbitrary ESXi shell commands through it ... until now!

How cool is that: VM console screenshots just by browser

Recently William Lam posted about a lesser known vSphere feature that I was not yet aware of: You can produce and look at screenshots of your VMs just by pointing a web browser to your ESXi host or vCenter server. If you have already read his post you will probably agree that this is very cool, but you might also wonder what this can be actually used for. So I want to share this knowledge again while adding some useful comments ... and use cases.

How to use the latest VMware Tools with older vSphere versions

With vSphere 5.0 VMware made an important change regarding the compatibility and supportability of the VMware Tools: The Tools that come with vSphere 5.0 (and newer releases) can also be used with earlier vSphere releases (down to vSphere 4.0). For e.g. the latest VMware Tools of ESXi 5.1 the VMware Product Interoperability Matrix shows the following:

VMware Tools of ESXi 5.1 interoperability