Friday, December 1, 2006

An obscure utility saves the day


By Nancy Hand

Upgrade -- Part Deux, at least that's how it felt. This time, it was an addition to the Storage Area Network (SAN) with brand-new disks needing to be brought in. What should have been a simple procedure, with little chance of failure, didn't work that way.

"Most of the first day was spent searching for a way to delete something that didn't exist."

The first indication of trouble was when one mail server slowed to a crawl. Mirroring had run all night but, suspiciously, completed within seconds of our stopping Domino. The result was a basket-load of corrupted mailfiles, each with a slightly different error, as shown in Figure A.


It's a collage of twisty little error messages. (click for larger image)

The problems surfaced a few at a time. So, on the first day, Alice's mailfile lost the Inbox. Bill's Calendar wouldn't open. Cecelia's file allowed her to create new memos, but not reply to any. And Donald had errors saying "SwiftfileLibrary" not found.

The usual fixes -- Fixup, Updall, and Compact -- did nothing. Pulling a new Notes copy didn't fix the problems. Refreshing the design didn't help and replacing the design gave a new error: "File not found". I pulled copies of a dozen mailfiles to my workstation for testing.

When users called with problems, we tried to connect them to their replica files while I worked on the primary copy. Some of the replicas were fine. Others had the same problem as the primary file. If the replica was good, I deleted the primary file and pulled a new replica. The others were more puzzling.

I opened the copy of a primary file. The Inbox was fine, but when I opened the calendar I saw another Inbox instead. Thinking I had slipped with the mouse, I tried again, but got still another Inbox.

The status bar showed the Calendar frameset wasn't loading. When I tried to open the calendar frameset in the Designer client, up popped the message "document has been deleted".

In the replica, the Calendar frameset element was missing altogether. Design Replace, using our custom template, failed on both copies of the file. Hoping the default template would work better, I tried "load convert mail&#92fsmith.nsf * mail6.ntf" at the console. I watched as the message "Document does not exist" scrolled past, just ahead of the failure notice. A new Notes copy of the replica did the same thing.

Most of the first day was spent searching for a way to delete something that didn't exist. When that failed, I looked for something to unlock a supposedly unlocked design element that wasn't really there. I was stuck. Then I remembered Department Calendar used something to remove the database design before applying a new template during upgrade. Neither the help files for the Notes Designer nor Admin clients contained any reference to such a utility, so I dug up the Department Calendar upgrade instructions. RemDesign.exe is a Department Calendar utility.

Desperate to recover the files, I mapped drives all over the network from different workstations and servers, looking for the right combination. Finally I discovered IF I went to a specific server where the Admin client was installed, AND mapped a drive to the replica, THEN I could type in "remdesign mail&#92fsmith.nsf" and unlock the design elements. Once the design was unlocked, it needed to be converted to Mail6Ex.ntf, Mail6.ntf didn't work, before re-applying the custom template.

Not knowing what percentage of the mailfiles were corrupted, there is no way to tell if I've gotten them all. Thankfully the flow has turned to a trickle over the last few weeks.

I wonder if the people at Department Calendar have thought of selling the RemDesign utility separately?

[I know the folks at Logic Springs (makers of Department Calendar) quite well, so I'll suggest it. -- David].