USB to Serial Adapters and Kit Suggestions

Way back in 2008 or so I got a couple of serial adapters for my laptop so I could set up various network devices. Most business class devices, even in the 21st century still use the serial port approach to first set up. Something about security or making things harder for technicians to do their job.

Since laptops don’t often come with serial ports anymore this makes things difficult to set up.

Recently I misplaced the best serial adapter I have ever worked with. The IOGEAR USB 2.0 to Serial Adapter I purchased at Best Buy in probably 2008 or sometime around then. I’ve had other adapters, but this one has worked with every operating system from Windows XP to Windows 10. I think I’ve even plugged it into a few Linux boxes and not had to do anything weird to get it to work.  Something  I can’t say with others.

The only real drawback is it has a short cable. I’m always a little jealous of the ones the phone guys carry with the 9 foot cables, but they always break on them. This one went through daily heavy use for several years, and wherever it is I’m sure still works after nearly decade. I replaced it recently with another one exactly like it.

Anyway, I highly recommend IOGEAR stuff, I’ve got an old KVM switch and some other stuff they’ve made and it’s all managed to outlast a lot of the more expensive stuff I’ve bought over the years.

Kit Suggestions

I’ve founds a few cables need to go with this particular adapter over the years. This is a ‘least number of cables you need kit’.

  1. Female to Female Serial Cable – This is what most devices need. Most network appliances are just computers with a regular serial port sticking out of them. Get a really long one of these. The Amazon link is for a ten foot cable. But you can select a three-foot, six-foot, or up to a hundred foot cable. I’ve never needed more than a ten foot cable.
  2. Female to Male Serial Cable – Some appliances have a backwards serial connection like this. I think they expect you’ll have a serial adapter with a long cable. Weirdly they’ll usually come with a cable like this. ShoreTel devices are one big example of this kind of device. I’ve never needed a super long one of these, but it also will double as an extension. I always just carried a six-foot one and kept it coiled up.
  3. Roll Over Cable With Null Modem – Essentially a “Cisco Cable”. You can get one out of the box a switch came in. The Amazon link there has a generic one for $4 but, honestly if you are buddies with some of your local IT guys you can usually get a hand full of these for free. Every time you buy a Cisco equipment or most other equipment that uses these, it usually comes with one. If you have ninety switches, you inevitably have ninety of these lying around.
  4. Regular RJ45 Null Modem – Some devices need weird pin outs and they usually use RJ-45 connections so having a regular old null modem is great and you can just make whatever cable you need. The link comes with two. Some networking equipment will come with these and a rollover cable that detaches so it’s worth watching out for that.

If you need a crossover cable, my suggestion would be to get a short male to female crossover cable, not a female to female one. I’ve never actually seen the need for one, but they sell them so I’m assuming there’s equipment out there that uses them.

Disable Outlook Call Handling In ShoreTel Director

One of the more helpful, or not helpful features of the ShoreTel phone system is Outlook Calendar integration. I’ve worked with the ShoreTel phone system since roughly 2007 in various capacities and this is one of those features that either works, or doesn’t depending on version of Office, ShoreTel, and phase the moon is in. Typically I’ve never really had anyone that actually wanted it so it never got installed on purpose. However, I’ve had some people ask about this particular feature so I thought I’d post a quick fix here on how to disable it on the server-side.

The complaint is typically the phone won’t ring for mysterious reasons even though everything is configured properly. You’ll often hear that the phone stops ringing at 9:00 but then will start again at 10:00 on Tuesdays.

The instructions below are particularly helpful for people in remote areas where it may be difficult to RDP into their machines to uninstall Calendar Integration.

How to Remotely Disable Automatic Outlook Call Handing in ShoreWare Director

Step 1 – Log into ShoreWare Director

Step 2- Go to your user’s Personal Options.

Step 3 – If the box that is labeled “Outlook Automated Call Handing” is checked, simply uncheck it and hit save.

The user’s phone should now ring, even if they have something scheduled in Outlook.

Note – You should be able to change what call handling mode ShoreTel Communicator goes into with Calendar Integration installed in each individual appointment. You may have to go into Outlook’s add-ins manager and physically enable the add-ins if you want the feature to work.

 

Site Changes

I had to change the theme of the site. I haven’t used Chrome in a long time due to it having been a total piece of garbage on most of my machines. Anyway, put it on my trusty Surface 3 as Firefox was taking up a ton of memory, notice basically no links or anything worked with the site on Chrome. Figured that was probably happening to everyone since my other WordPress sites worked fine.

Same problem cropped up on my fiance’s computer running Chrome as well. Figured out it was the WordPress theme. Looked like it hadn’t been updated since 2014 or so. A real shame too, it was a good, no-nonsense theme that loaded fast and worked really well for this blog.

I could probably figure out what the problem is, but it’s probably time to change it and the Twenty Seventeen theme is pretty cool so we’ll see how that runs until I can find something close to what I had or someone who will design me one.

ShoreTel Backup Method Revisited

Occasionally I’ll get a comment on the blog that says, “This post is three years old but it worked” which is really nice to hear. It also means that at least in the case of ShoreTel most stuff is fairly consistent between versions.

I was thinking about backing up ShoreTel servers today and looked at my old post on backing up your server and thought this would be a good time to post again about using a method I’ve found that works well, but that ShoreTel doesn’t seem to talk about.

I am going to disclaim this, as ShoreTel does not suggest it. However, if you poke through this blog, other forums, and talk to ShoreTel customers and partners you’ll find out that basically none of them set up a backup plan on standalone servers. If they do it’s ShoreTel’s included scripts, which almost always fail after a minor update, if they ever worked in the first place.

Backing Up Your Stand Alone Server With Windows Server Backup

You’ll need a NAS or other remote storage for this. These instructions are a little more ‘theory’ than the precise step by step instructions I’d rather give. They’re also geared for Server 2008 and Server 2012. It should work just fine with Server 2016 and forward as Server Backup hasn’t changed much since the 2003 days. If you are still using 2003 you’ll need an external hard drive and a floppy disk probably.

You will also need an installation media for Server 2008/2012 for this to restore correctly. You can usually download this from Microsoft. Someone with a volume license agreement or a Microsoft partner can usually get you the Installation Media (I’ve never had a problem getting one for free if it was an emergency). If you have an install disk from a major hardware vendor like Dell, this will work too as you aren’t actually using the install media to do the installation. I do not think you’ll need your Server Key, but you should be keeping a copy of that somewhere safe anyway.

Step 1 – Open server backup and select the option for a scheduled backup.

Step 2 – You will want to do a full back up to a remote share. The remote share is your NAS. Depending the on the version you may be able to do incremental backups to a remote share as well. Don’t do this. Just do a full, bare metal backup of everything every night or once a week or whatever you feel comfortable with.

Note: A word on the scheduling. You want this to be some crazy hour when nothing is going on. I’ve checked logs on a few servers with this set up. It does not take long, anywhere from ten minutes to an hour at most. Depends on the speed of the machine, NAS and network. It uses shadow copy snapshots so it basically is just copying an image of the machine when the backup copy job starts. I HAVE run these during the day and it doesn’t seem to mess anything up. I would not trust that to happen on a really busy server.

Note 2: This method just backs up the server once, and wipes out the previous backup. Because ShoreTel is constantly writing and deleting stuff, I am of the opinion that a full backup every time is better. This is really for disaster recovery not recovering a deleted extension or a voicemail someone accidentally got rid of.

Restoring the ShoreTel Server

This is pretty straight forward. You want to boot from the Server 2008/2012 installation media and select the “Restore my server” or advanced options instead of the “Install” button. You’ll find a restore from image option. You can usually browse for the image on a network location, sometimes you may need to put it on an external drive (May be a version thing).

You’ll need similar or the exact same hardware to use this. Some backup software will let you restore on dissimilar hardware but, I have no idea how well this works with ShoreTel. It’s probable you could make this work somehow with virtualization though. Newer versions of Server Backup make a VHD file so, it’s entirely likely you could boot it directly in HyperV, but that’s just speculation.

 

 

Clear OS – SugarCRM Removal

How To Remove SugarCRM from ClearOS

I’m not going to show how to put SugarCRM on ClearOS because there are a lot of guides out there how to do that. I’m going to show how to take it off. Here’s how to do that. This is more of a theory guide than a step by step how to.

Theoretical Step 1 – Putty/SSH into the Clear OS and remove the SugarCRM files. Mine were under /var/www/html/sugarcrm/CRM. You may have put them under a Virtual directory or something. Here are a few commands to keep in mind:

Remove a directory – rm or rmdir

Remove a directory that isn’t empty – rm -rf [directory]
(Careful with this command)

Theoretical Step 2 – Remove the database. I show in the video how to do this with whatever version of phpMyAdmin comes prepackaged. It may vary on your version a little, I know most versions I’ve used don’t look exactly like what is on this server. You could also log into the server with Putty and fire up mysql. Since you’re probably using a root user and hopefully your root password is different in mysql you’ll need to do this:

Log into MySQL – mysql -u root -p
(It will ask for the MySQL root password when you hit enter)

Drop the sugarCRM database – DROP DATABASE sugarcrm;

Show databases  – SHOW databases;

That should remove SugarCRM pretty easily. To put it on was basically the reverse of that. Create a blank database called “sugarcrm”. Unzip the SugarCRM files into the /www/html/sugarcrm folder. Then follow the instructions for the initial setup.