“ERROR: Could not find a hard disk” when using vboxmanage to compact vdi

Goal – shrink my VDI using VirtualBox-provided tools

Important note (this will come into play later): I have VERY fast home-grown ZFS-based NAS/SAN that stores my VDI (and most other) files that I use on a regular basis.  In most cases, this proves to be faster than running virtual machines off of my local disk.

I wanted to compact my Sun (now Oracle) VirtualBox vdi file.  The vdi file was created with version 3.2.12r68302 of VirtualBox, and was a clean, patched base install of Windows 7 that I wanted to compact as much as possible.  After reviewing the user’s manual that comes with the product (C:Program FilesOracleVirtualBoxdocUserManual.pdf), page 99 gave me the command line to use (vboxmanage.exe modifyhd –compact file.vdi), and page 116 references the sdelete tool from Microsoft required to zero out blank space.  After deleting unnecessary files, deleting system restore points, emptying recycle bin, etc., I ran the sdelete tool (which took about 2 hours), then shut the machine down.  So far, so good.  Now it was time to run the “vboxmanage.exe modifyhd –compact” command, which presented a problem that most people probably won’t run into.

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REALLY odd Windows Server 2008 R2 problem (solved)


The computer crashes and reboots for no apparent reason, and now users get an error message when trying to access any of the file or printer shares on the server/computer.  This is related to a registry setting, the Security Event Log filling up, and a possible bug in 2008 R2 that doesn’t allow users to access the server even after the Security Event Log issue has been resolved.

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Eliminating banner pages

7 pages: Average size of a print job in my dept.

13%: Amount of printed pages wasted by banner pages: 13% (1 out of 8 pages is usually thrown away recycled).

1,050,000 pages: Average yearly print volume in my dept (yes, over a million)

$932: Money wasted on paper to print banner pages each year.  That’s just the paper cost, and does not include toner, printer maintenance, etc.

Call them what you want: banner pages, separator pages, job sheet, etc.  These things are a waste of money.  I’m looking for solutions to eliminate banner pages from my department.  So far, I’ve found two options. Continue reading

Still hosting email? Why?!?

I’m lucky enough to work in an academic environment, which means I get to work with (and for) lots of really smart people.  They ask tough questions and don’t hesitate to call BS when they get a BS answer.  This has prompted a lot of new service offerings that don’t always follow status quo.

For example, 250MB of storage space for students on the departmental server used to be status quo.  A while back, we increase that by 800%, and will continue to grow to meet the needs of our students.

Another example, a 2MB mailbox for plain text email, using a client such as pine (or elm, mail, mailx, etc.) used to be the status quo.  Now, anyone can go online and get a 5GB+ mailbox, rich text email, and much, much more for free from places like Gmail, Yahoo!, and Hotmail.  Email (let’s use a more general term like electronic collaboration) has become a commodity.  Lots of people/companies do it better than I do for cheaper than I can, so why would I bother hosting my own server?  That’s a good question! Continue reading