Trip to China … what I learned, what to expect, what to do.

China was a wonderful trip and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone. I wasn’t introduced to much that was unexpected – at least not at the level at which people who I’ve talked to have overly exaggerated about. It could have been due to the protection of the tour guides or what people have told me to watch out for, but seems to me that Beijing and Shanghai are just regular cities, differing very little from San Francisco. Well, they’re unique in their own ways, but the “culture shock” that people have talked about, isn’t really didn’t hit me. Well, this is the list of the expected:

  1. Don’t drink tap water
  2. Toilets could be just a hole in the ground with a lid. (Squatting toilets)
  3. Some toilets don’t have toilet paper – bring your own.
  4. Traffic is pretty crazy – rules are different.
    That’s about it. I think the rest is pretty much the same.

So what was unexpected? If you go on a tour, it’s likely that the service you get anywhere you go, is much better than that in the United States. Of course you pay for what you get, but I assure you that service in China is among the best in the world – maybe not the way they speak, but the way they act for sure. There were times where I felt disrespected, but those are only because I had based them on American values. Pushing and shoving, spitting on the sidewalk (I do it too by the way), and much of the way people say things in China can be offensive to Americans. I’m a firm believer that actions speak louder than words and that it’s just the way you see things. You choose your point of view and will be offended only when you choose to. It’s just a different culture. I bought an apple pear for 2.5 Yuan. For the 2.5 Yuan, the lady peeled it for me. In the States, I don’t ever see this happening. 2.5 Yuan is currently about $0.30 USD. You can’t buy an apple pear for $0.30 and it’s not likely that you can buy one peeled for you and ready to eat, for $3.00. When buying a belt in a store in Guangzhou, I talked to the salesperson for twenty minutes before deciding on the belt I wanted and even after that, I had him agree to adjust the belt size for me. Total cost for the belt was 29 Yuan. In American dollars, it’s less than $4.00. Another thing is that I haven’t heard very many “thanks” after purchases. I think it’s just another example of the Chinese “show me, don’t tell me” culture.

What did I learn? Well, I was told a lot (kind of like lecture in class). What did I learn due to my own curiosity? I learned that little kids instead of using diapers, have pants with holes in them – the just change pants. I learned that some people here are not nearly as fortunate as we are in the States. Well, I already knew that, but had a massage today and talking to the lovely young lady that gave it to me, I learned that she had just a high school education (maybe just junior high) and that she had no chance to go to college because she had two other sisters that she had to take care of in one way or another that wasn’t clear to me. Sounded very sad and I was thinking about what I could do to help her and give her some opportunity. Unfortunately, I was too shy to ask questions that might be too personal and was afraid to take responsibility for any promises I could make. I just left her a bigger than recommended tip. Her job is very hard although she doesn’t have to do it much. It’s usage of a lot of energy and is very damaging on her fingers.

Some advice for those that will be visiting China:

  1. Try squatting on a western style toilet seat (just put your feet up on the seat and try using the toilet that way and get the experience).
  2. Bring your own water, buy bottled water, or boil before drinking – never drink tap water.
  3. Bring your vitamins. Bring your medicine. Bring stomach medicine. Bring mouthwash.
  4. Always have extra toilet paper or tissues.
  5. Check the foreign exchange rate before exchanging currencies. Do not exchange it with people from the street (don’t want counterfeit money) – be sure to do it in a hotel or a bank or just withdraw money from an ATM.
  6. Don’t give money to beggars. The people in the country that work hard deserve more for working. Also, if you give to beggars, you might see a swarm of them come after you after you give to one.
  7. You don’t have to tip in most cases – if you follow a tour, it’s likely that the tip was already included in your meal. You may want to ask your guide before tipping. I like tipping though. In the States, you’d pay a lot more in tips. I think that people in China deserve a lot more also. By their standards, I over tip them by a lot.
  8. Always bargain when purchasing any goods on the street. Also, there are many little stands that sell the same stuff. It might be good to do comparison-shopping. Here’s my template for bargaining:
    a. Buyer: How much?
    b. Seller: Some number
    c. Buyer: (No matter how reasonable) That much!?
    d. Seller: Yes.
    e. Buyer: I want cheaper.
    f. Seller: How much are you willing to pay?
    g. Buyer: How much lower can you go?
    h. And from here, you decide on how you can play. You may want to ask for quantity discounts, etc. As a rule of thumb, I would shoot for 1/4 to 3/4 the amount originally stated. Use your common sense of course. If you’d shopped around and someone offers something to you for less than you’d paid before, it’s not likely you’d get a discount. Also, if it’s a really cheap item like a bottle of water for 3 Yuan, it’s not likely you’ll get a discount either.
  9. Buy stuff away from the tourist areas and places where the locals shop also. You’ll get a better deal that way.
  10. Don’t buy too much if you will be flying in China domestically. There’s a fee for going over a certain weight limit when carrying cargo. Buy most of what you want at your last stop in China.
  11. Bring your 240-110 volt converter if you have one. If not, make sure that the one you borrow from the hotel is a real converter – it should be heavy. You don’t want to blow out any of your devices.
  12. Keep your phone charged. Bring extra batteries if you have them and/or a camera with a flash with extra batteries.
  13. Don’t bring too much clothing. One or two sets of warm clothing should suffice. (So that you have a smaller load to carry). You could buy more warm clothing on the street should you need it. It’s much cheaper to buy in China than anywhere in the States.
  14. Try to learn as much Mandarin as you can. That’s China’s national language.
  15. Work out and get in shape. Walking the Great Wall and up the mountains in Guilin is quite exhausting.
  16. Buy foot massages whenever you can. You probably won’t get them anywhere else in the world for a similar price. It’s well worth it. (Also remember to tip)

I think that the best way to learn is this. Teach your children their history and let them take a tour of the place of where it happened. Of course, you’ll have to have a good tour guide that knows the history. We were immensely blessed with having accomplished tour guides that were courteous and easy to understand.

We had a wonderful tour guide by the name of Lisa Lee. We had initially met on bad terms however. At the time we arrived at the airport, there was no one there to pick us up! There were 18 of us in the group and it turned out that we had waited 3 hours before anyone had arrived to greet us! What the heck did we do for the 3 hours? Not surprisingly, the first stage was obviously shock. Interestingly (and luckily), we’d all found each other (the rest of the group of tourists). Then again, we would’ve all found each other anyways because until the next plane arrived, we were practically the only ones in the airport! Some of us wondered if we’d been had – if this tour was really just a scam. I don’t think any of us had ever bothered to check with any of the hotels to see if reservations had ever really been made. The next thing we did was try contacting them. Funny thing was, their phone number was changed and that they were no longer at that number. To keep the story short, we probably didn’t know until an hour and a half later whether or not someone was really coming (or not!). A lot of things were going through our minds as we waited. Whether we should take a taxi to the hotel and whether or not the touring company would pay for the ride, what we were going to do if they didn’t show up – there’s a lot that goes through just one person’s mind when puzzled; just imagine 18 minds. Meeting Lisa was an immediate relief. Her enthusiasm and friendliness easily overcame all barriers that I may have put up and she had instantly left me a good impression. The following days had only strengthened this notion, as I was extremely impressed with her knowledge of Beijing. She explained a lot of the tour sites and the events that occurred there. With over 5000 years of Chinese history and over 3000 years of written Chinese history, you can imagine there’s quite a lot to talk about. I think that my lack of vocabulary really limits the amount of good things I can say about her. She really took care of us as to talking about how China differs from more developed countries. She also brought us to the more developed areas. For instance, she told us which restrooms to use – showing us where the cleaner ones were. She protected us from the locals – not to say that the locals are bad, but she made us aware of what could happen. She told us to watch our purses and wallets at least twice before entering WongFuJing. She told us to avoid any political talk before entering the Forbidden City. Furthermore, her mastery of the English language was also impressive. I did not expect anyone to speak English at her level.

In the 2 days, we’ve visited the monumental sites of Beijing and have the pictures to prove it. First was the Temple of Heaven. This is the main site for Beijing tourism – being there, you could really imagine and admire and appreciate the work. Buildings erected at times where there were no bulldozers even cars for that matter. The main building in the temple of heaven is a pagoda with 3 roofs and was built without nails or cement. Our tour guide explained how it was built – having the many different pillars and the way it was supported. Unfortunately, like many of the different magnificent treasures of China, the lights were not on in the building. Not that it’s a big deal, but my guess is they didn’t want tourists to mess the place up. Wonder what would happen if the tourists decided to step over the line. If they just decided to walk on in. They were blocked off by nothing but one thick wire. Anybody can easily go over or under. For that matter, I would think the same as on a plane – one that I will be on in a couple of hours – what would happen. It’s quite a sick thought.

Tiananmen Square. After a long walk and a tour around the outside of the Forbidden City, the first sight of the inside was breathtaking to say the least. Seeing it on television or in print is one thing, but being there, I can tell you, it’s different. The size and complexity of it requires a map to navigate (unless it’s familiar territory – luckily for us, we had a guide) .The king must’ve had a really great life – the servants, the view, the perks! You can really admire the piece of art. If you look, you won’t think there are windows in the buildings. As a matter of fact, there are no transparent glass or plastic windows. So how do the buildings get oxygen? You can see the windows in the little designed cuts in the walls. Also, if you have the good fortune of touring on a rainy day, you could see water coming out of the dragons’ mouths. It wasn’t a sight that I’d witnessed first hand, but it’s quite a concept. The reason for design is in event of a fire. Since the dragons’ mouths could hit practically every part of the landmark, if there ever is a fire, firefighting would be a relatively easy task. It’s no wonder that they could make such a landmark with so much wood. By the way, this was all built just less than a century before Columbus sailed the Ocean Blue in 1492! I think the documented date is 1430.

The Great Wall – the pride of China. While taking pictures on the bus, another tourist said to me, “Why? You have plenty of places to take pictures – look at how long the wall is!”

The rest of Beijing was pretty simple compared to the first two sites. We had remarkable lunch at what used to be Yuan May Yuan – it was at a very pretty place with awesome service. The Summer Palace. A Tea House. A massage. Dinner. Watched an Acrobat show. Ming Tombs. Peking Roast Duck. WongFuJing

The three key areas for me in this trip was Beijing for man-made sights, Guilin for natural sights, and Guangzhou for food. The rest was icing on the cake. It’s really difficult to be impressed by anything after seeing the Great Wall and Tiananmen Square. Not to say that I wouldn’t have loved to live along the lake in Suchou or have tea in the gardens, but I think that just walking through the Forbidden City is a magical experience in itself. If you think about it, it’d be extremely difficult to build the Great Wall even today with all the great technology we have, let alone centuries ago.

Gift cards expired? Maybe not!

I recently found an old gift card that had expired and was thinking of throwing it out, but a friend of mine in the past had told me that in California, they’re not allowed to expire, so I decided to look into it.

A quick search found me this website:

You can see what the legislation is in your state. It looks like now gift card vendors have worked around expiration dates with dormancy fees.

Luckily for me, I had recovered $50 I thought I had lost. I just called up the company on the number that was on the card and they said they would send a replacement.

WordPress is under attack! Watch it! Password Protect it!

What? What do you mean? There’s already a password. Yes, you need to log in when you want to put up a new blog post or do maintenance of some sort. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t have an additional layer of protection. Not only can you have it, WordPress actually recommends it here:

I looked in my nginx access log and I saw a bunch of messages that looked like this: - - [16/Nov/2017:06:34:33 -0800] "GET /wp-login.php HTTP/1.1" 402 195 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64; rv:40.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/40.1" - - [16/Nov/2017:06:34:34 -0800] "GET / HTTP/1.1" 200 21587 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64; rv:40.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/40.1" - - [16/Nov/2017:06:40:48 -0800] "GET /wp-login.php HTTP/1.1" 402 195 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64; rv:40.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/40.1" - - [16/Nov/2017:06:40:49 -0800] "GET / HTTP/1.1" 200 21589 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64; rv:40.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/40.1" - - [16/Nov/2017:06:55:42 -0800] "GET /wp-login.php HTTP/1.1" 402 195 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64; rv:40.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/40.1" - - [16/Nov/2017:06:55:42 -0800] "GET / HTTP/1.1" 200 21589 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64; rv:40.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/40.1"

After doing some investigation, it appeard to be the sathurbot attacking my blogsite. It’s some sort of distributed piece of malware that attacks poorly maintained or blogs with weak passwords. The malware tries to attack the wp-login and something else. You can read more about it here:

The first thing I did to counter this issue was configure Cloudflare to under attack mode. This gives the client a short delay when connecting to your site so that can’t get to the file. This should stop the entries in the log completely, immediately. Since I don’t want users to see the delay all of the time, I decided after the attacks slowed to have nginx password protect the file so that when trying to request it, nginx will ask for a password as well. This way, you’ll need to authenticate twice to get into WordPress, but it’s okay. The extra trouble gives me peace of mind that I’ll less likely be attacked.

With nginx, I did it this way:

location ^~ /wp-login.php {
 auth_basic "Administrator Login";
 auth_basic_user_file /etc/nginx/conf.d/.htpasswd;
 include fastcgi.conf;
 fastcgi_intercept_errors on;
 fastcgi_pass php-wphandler;
 fastcgi_buffers 16 16k;
 fastcgi_buffer_size 32k;

The .htpasswd is a hashed file. You can create it with the htpasswd command that comes with the apache2-utils package. The file would look something like this:

alton:[email protected]$SDFapr1$yDoxiXVW$aFe

Now in my logs, I get 401 messages instead of 402 messages. - - [29/Nov/2017:09:36:50 -0800] "GET /wp-login.php HTTP/1.1" 401 195 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64; rv:40.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/40.1" "" - - [29/Nov/2017:09:45:48 -0800] "GET /wp-login.php HTTP/1.1" 401 195 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64; rv:40.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/40.1" "" - - [29/Nov/2017:09:49:22 -0800] "GET /wp-login.php HTTP/1.1" 401 195 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64; rv:40.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/40.1" "" - - [29/Nov/2017:10:08:03 -0800] "GET /wp-login.php HTTP/1.1" 401 195 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64; rv:40.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/40.1" ""

I also know that they’re less likely to hack my site. 🙂

Happy blogging!

Read this before changing the iPhone screen yourself to save $50 or more.

Don’t be afraid to change your cracked iPhone screen yourself. Here are some caveats before you do.

You can get the screen for pretty cheap. Just about $20. What you do NOT want, is to get just the glass. Replacing just the glass is way more difficult. The LCD and the touch digitizer is glued onto the glass, so removed those pieces and gluing them back onto the new one is extremely difficult and not worth the $10 in savings.

Don’t freak out if your new screen and old one don’t look exactly alike. The left is my phone. The right is the screen replacement. There’s a piece rubber that needs to be removed. They’re the same screen.

Consider getting a magnetic mat. I didn’t have one when I replaced mine, but fI can see the value. A couple of alternatives to doing this is to create your own place where you’re putting your screws, like using some double-sided tape on the table or packing tape, upside down, so that you can stick your screws to it. I used a white bowl, where I put a magnet inside. I have a little spinning toy that’s stuck to my fridge that I took off. I used the different spaces at the edge of the toy as a divider and put the screws in order so that I would put them back in the same order. Here’s a picture:

Consider getting some spare screws. They are very easy to lose. They only cost about $2.

You might need another metal shield plate. I broke mine. The ribbon is glued onto the glass screen and I just yanked it off with the tweezers. Be careful and you might not need it, but know that if you do break it, it’s only $4. I’ve circled where I broke it.

Lastly, just be careful when taking your phone apart and putting it back together. It could take from 15 minutes to an hour.

Here’s a nice video that shows the process:

Here’s a guide from iFixit that shows you how to do the replacement step by step: luck!

3 Steps to shop for the best deals and get the maximum amount of points online!

While shopping this holiday season, don’t leave travel points or rebates on the table! A lot of people, myself included, often will just go straight to Amazon or eBay for certain things without even thinking about shopping around for the best deal or what rewards they can get for a purchase. I must admit that I’ve bought things countless times off of those sites either going directly or using a link off of a deal site.

Shopping online is almost always better than shopping at a brick and mortar. It’s almost always cheaper at least. One thing about shopping online though is that you can’t touch the product, smell it, etc. That said, you can always use the store as a showroom – go to a store and do that and then order online.

Decide what you want to buy: If you’re just looking for a deal and not looking for something specific, some of my favorite deal sites are:,,, and When you’re looking for something specific, you should search the forums on to see what others say as well. For some tips on saving money from Amazon, check out

At the point where you’ve decided on what you’re going to buy, do NOT just add to cart and buy. That won’t give you all the discounts or points you want.

Use Gift cards: First off, do you have any gift cards? If not, would it be worthwhile to buy one and get some points off of it? The best way to acquire gift cards is by seeing if there’s one you can get at a significant discount. A couple of ways to do this is via eBay or Gift Card Granny. Another one of my favorite ways to acquire gift cards is at 5% off. When the Chase Freedom card has 5x points on stores that sell gift cards, that’s when I go out and buy them. I bought a few thousand dollars worth of gift cards at Safeway the last quarter they had 5x points on grocery stores. That’s about 5% off right there. Another way I like to acquire gift cards is through Mileage Plus X. With it, you can get one or more United Airline miles for every dollar you spend on a gift card. I have learned whenever going to a chain store to check the app to see if I can buy a gift card for use.

Use shopping portals: When you’ve decided for certain what you’re buying and which store you’re buying from, if you’re buying online, you want to see if the store can be access via a  shopping portal for additional rewards. The site I like to use is It’s generally up to date, but sometimes, other shopping portals can run special promotions so that you might not want to miss. Also factor in bonuses. Sometimes, the shopping portals can run bonuses so you might want to buy from the same one, like if you spend X amount of $ using the portal, they can give you Y amount of points. The various shopping portals can give you points from a plethora of different loyalty programs, including cash back. Here are some of my favorites: for cash back, American Airlines AAdvantage eShopping for AA miles – they’re generally more than United miles. There are other shopping portals, but those are my favorites. It just depends on which airlines you like to fly, hotels you like to stay at, or if you would just prefer cash.

Buy with the credit card that gives you rewards. Lastly, use the credit card that gives you the rewards you want. This could be the Target card that gives you 5% off, your favorite airline card or your favorite cash back card. Just remember that when you spend cash, you lose cash.

So, here are some examples:

Last year, on Black Friday, I foolishly went into Target and bought an iPad. It was a great deal. I think it was $400 for a 64 or 128gb. I tried my Target card, but forgot the pin. I didn’t want to get back into line again, so I just bought it with my regular card that probably gave me 1% back. That’s only about $4. Had I been able to use the Target card, I would’ve gotten about $20. That’s a significant difference, but had I bought online, where I didn’t need to even leave the house, I could’ve used the AA portal, at the time that was giving 3 points per dollar, and gotten my 5% + about 1200 AA points. 1200 AA miles is a mid distance flight! There aren’t too many discounts for Target gift cards, so I’m going to leave that to another example.

I was in need of a laser printer and for some reason, after perusing deal sites, I decided on a Dell. There weren’t a ton of deals at the time, but then I decided to use gift card granny, that sent me to buy a gift card from The printer cost about $100, 108 with tax. I paid $96 for the gift card, giving me $4 off. The credit card I used to buy the card gave me 2% cash back, so I took another $2 back on top of that. I again used the AA portal to give me 3 AA miles per dollar and got just over 300 points.

There’s a local banya that I like to visit for hot tubbing and sauna. The typical entrance fee is about $50 for a 1/2 day. The place also sells a Groupon for about the same price for a full day. I never go for more than a 1/2 day anyway. Why would I buy a Groupon when there’s an expiration date and it’s no cheaper than going direct? Again, gift cards and shopping portal. I don’t remember what % off I got from Gift card granny. I might have bought it from Safeway @ 5% off. Then I took 3 AA miles/dollar @ the AA shopping portal. I’ve had up to 10 miles/dollar for Groupon via the United portal.

My last example is an interesting one. Capital One gives you a credit card number instantly after you’re approved when signing up for a new card. For this reason, I was able to use it immediately and knock out about $500 of spend before I even received my credit card in the mail. I keep a list of all of the automatic payments I made and when I get a new credit card number, I change them all immediately. I did this immediately after I applied and was approved for the Capital One Spark card. I then put the number into Mileage Plus X and went to the mall. There, we ate at Red Robin, Cold Stone Creamery, bought gifts and Hollister and Bed Bath and Beyond. For all of those things, I bought gift cards with the Mileage Plus X card. Spent all this money without even getting the credit card yet.

Happy Spending! Hope this read saves you some money! 🙂

Please share any of your tips down below. 🙂


Remember to upgrade Virtualbox Guest Additions when you upgrade Virtualbox!

If you’re wondering why you might not be getting access to your shared folders in your guest OS after upgrading Virtualbox, this could be the reason. Virtualbox Guest Additionals (like VMware tools for Virtualbox) might need to be upgraded as well.

You can expect a system error 53, network path not found if the Guest Additions is not installed. When in the UI, it will say something like this: “Windows cannot access \\vboxsvr error code: 0x80070035 The network path was not found.”

Hope this help!

Making Bob’s Red mill pancakes palatable

I normally love Bob’s red mill products. I enjoy their organic soy beans, organic oatmeal, flax seeds, beans, you name it. That said, their multigrain pancake and waffle mix is just plain disgusting. I’ve followed their instructions on the package and it just comes out gross. Both, the pancakes and the waffles.

If you got some however, please don’t throw them out. Here’s how to make them taste better. I was watching an episode of Diner Revival where Amanda Freitag show someone how to make a gluten free pancake and used a banana. That inspired me to give it a shot and it worked well! When following instructions, add a banana to the mix before putting them in the blender.

It’ll add just the texture you want. They’ll taste almost like regular pancakes. Of course, add maple syrup or honey to your liking. 🙂

Dropbox, OwnCloud? OneDrive? Which one? or all of them?

 Drew Houston did the world a favor when found USB sticks becoming inconvenient and founding Dropbox in 2007. Everybody I knew that started using it loved it, especially for collaboration on projects. Another use case that I loved it for was backup. I use it now so that I have a copy of my data elsewhere in case my laptop or whatever I’m using blows up. After seeing Dropbox gaining tracking, many other companies followed suit, including Google Drive, Microsoft, and Box. The ones I use are Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive because it comes with my Office 365 account with work, and OwnCloud.What’s OwnCloud? It’s an open source version. It’s one that allows you to keep all of your data in the datacenter or wherever you choose to host it, instead of on someone else’s cloud. It could even be on-premise.

Do you need to choose between the different vendors? Well, there is a way to use them or at least some of them simultaneously. The way I do it is have OwnCloud synced with my Documents folder. All of my work that I want to save is always written there. Inside of the Documents folder, I’ll have one folder for Dropbox and another for OneDrive. This way, OwnCloud backs up everything I have in both, Dropbox and OneDrive. I then keep everything that’s personal in Dropbox and everything that I want to share at work on OneDrive.

Hope this helps someone out there! 🙂


Caveats of using a privacy screen

I love my privacy screen on my laptop. I can work with a little more security, thinking that as like it’s less likely that someone is watching what I’m doing. That said, and there are some trade-offs. One of them is if you want to collaborate with someone, it’s harder for them to see your screen. You’ll need to be sitting directly in front of the screen, so both people will need to be sitting pretty close to each other. On a phone, The same issues apply. Except often, people like to make videos or take photos and if you’re taking photos away or example if you have to raise your arm up and try to snap a photo of something down like if you’re at a ball game or if you want to take a selfie, it will be more difficult. It’s more likely that you won’t even see yourself or see what you’re filming or taking a photo of. On top of this, other issues including when you if you’re watching high definition movies, you lose a little bit of picture. It does not look as good as if you were watching without the privacy filter. And also, you will need to adjust the brightness of your screen. On the phone, this causes another big problem.The battery does not last as long and the phone gets hot very quickly. All that said, I still prefer my privacy and I will continue to use my privacy screens on both my laptop and my phone. I just need to remove it when working with others or if I’m in the sun or driving.

Using vim-cmd to remedy a bsod

Here’s a great tutorial for vim-cmd if you haven’t had experience with it before by my friend, Steve

This is a real-world situation I got myself into when I tried connecting to my client VM and found a BSOD that looked like this:

It’s pretty obvious that the reason for the crash is the USB stick that’s plugged in from the usbuhci.sys line in the blue screen. Since I tunnel into my client VM via SSH and VNC, the easiest way for me to shutdown my VM and remedy this issue is through vim-cmd. This only works if you have SSH allowed onto your ESXi host or if you are connecting to the host with the VMware CLI or vMA or whatever they’re calling it these days. I have the former.

The first thing I do after logging into the ESXi host as root is run:

vim-cmd vmsvc/getallvms

I need to know which one of my VMs is the one to manage. I get this:

Vmid Name File Guest OS Version Annotation
1 windows7 [BIG_DISK] windows7/windows7.vmx windows7_64Guest vmx-07
3 thimble [BIG_DISK] thimble/thimble.vmx ubuntu64Guest vmx-08
4 chunli [Datastore 2] chunli2/chunli2.vmx ubuntu64Guest vmx-08
5 zangief [Datastore 2] zangief2/zangief2.vmx ubuntu64Guest vmx-11

With this information, I know that it’s VM 1, so I power it off by running:

vim-cmd vmsvc/ 1

Thinking the USB issue might be a fluke, I try to power the VM back on to see if it will boot.

vim-cmd vmsvc/power.on 1

I see that it starts booting, but as the resolution changes on the VM, my VNC viewer freezes. Since I normally don’t know exactly when it freezes, I didn’t know when I got the BSOD again.

Until I decided to at look at the vmware.log file. This is what I saw there:

2017-10-18T22:27:05.519Z| svga| I125: SVGA disabling SVGA
2017-10-18T22:27:05.545Z| svga| W115: WinBSOD: (20) 'Technical information: '
2017-10-18T22:27:05.545Z| svga| W115:
2017-10-18T22:27:05.546Z| svga| W115: WinBSOD: (22) '*** STOP: 0x000000D1 (0xFFFFF88000BF2000,0x0000000000000002,0x0000000000000001,0'
2017-10-18T22:27:05.546Z| svga| W115:
2017-10-18T22:27:05.546Z| svga| W115: WinBSOD: (23) 'xFFFFF88004206E49) '
2017-10-18T22:27:05.546Z| svga| W115:
2017-10-18T22:27:05.557Z| svga| W115: WinBSOD: (26) '*** usbuhci.sys - Address FFFFF88004206E49 base at FFFFF88004200000, DateStamp'
2017-10-18T22:27:05.557Z| svga| W115:
2017-10-18T22:27:05.557Z| svga| W115: WinBSOD: (27) ' 57b37a29 '
2017-10-18T22:27:05.557Z| svga| W115:
2017-10-18T22:27:05.557Z| svga| W115: WinBSOD: (30) 'Collecting data for crash dump ... '
2017-10-18T22:27:05.557Z| svga| W115:
2017-10-18T22:27:05.573Z| svga| W115: WinBSOD: (31) 'Initializing disk for crash dump ... '
2017-10-18T22:27:05.573Z| svga| W115:
2017-10-18T22:27:07.547Z| mks| W115: Guest operating system crash detected.

Okay, so I see that my hunch is correct. I guess it’s time I remove the USB device from the VM. So I power off the VM again and open up the vmx file and just start removing all instances of USB.

These are the lines I removed. Don’t worry about breaking anything. The hypervisor will put them back if you need them later. Back up your vmx file before doing it though just in case.

usb.pciSlotNumber = "34"
usb.present = "TRUE"
usb:1.speed = "2"
usb:1.present = "TRUE"
usb:1.deviceType = "hub"
usb:1.port = "1"
usb:1.parent = "-1"
usb.autoConnect.device0 = "path:1/1 autoclean:1"
usb:0.present = "TRUE"
usb:0.deviceType = "mouse"
usb:0.port = "0"
usb:0.parent = "-1"

After you’ve saved your changes, you’ll need to reload the changes so that ESXi will reread the .vmx file to remove the USB device. You can do this by running this command:

vim-cmd vmsvc/reload 1

Now you’re ready to power on the VM.

vim-cmd vmsvc/power.on 1

The VM powers up and I’m back in business. I just had to figure out the USB issue later. Turned out that I just needed to reconnect the device and reformat it. I haven’t seen the issue come up again.