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Microsoft Index Server Problem Update - 6/6/00

I can't describe because I can't even remember all the things I've gone through the last few days. Beyond a certain point my energies stop being directed towards a specific problem and I start wandering wherever one thing leads to the next. I don't keep track of these wanderings. But they've included tar and find on both Linux and BSD, trying to figure out how to allocate more disk space on both Linux and BSD looking at df and mkfs and other file system related commands, and FTP on all systems. I stumbled accross a simple shell script in O'Reilly,s UNIX Power Tools that showed "ftp -n hostname" and then gave a user name and password. A look at man ftp explained that this prevented ftp from attempting to immediately log in which causes interactive prompts. It allows the ftp user command to provide a user name and password that are used to log in.

I've fiddled with scripting ftp before but was never able to surpress the interactive username prompt. I quick check confirmed that this worked with the NT command line ftp. This is the key piece that's been missing and much of the reason I haven't spent time on automating my web site synchronization. The O'Reilly sample depended on the shell scripts here document capability. NT doesn't have a similar capability. Due to the differences between csh, ksh and bash and NT not having any of these natively, I'm increasingly doing things that I might previously done in a shell or batch file in Perl, even if it's nothing other than tying a series of system calls together. Using Perl like helps mitigate dealing with differences between the various shells as I have at roughly comparable versions of Perl on all my systems.

I know that Perl can redirect standard input and output to system commands but couldn't remember how to do it. I tried my local Perl docs but couldn't find what I wanted. I looked at my NT search function once again and this time each search attempt said the document indexes were corrupt. I think this is what I've seen that last couple times I've tried but definitely not what was displayed when Index Server first stopped indexing my primary site. I decided I couldn't do without this search capability any longer, even if Index Server never indexes

I returned to the NT server and opened both the IIS and Index Server management consoles. I clicked on Help but there are no Help contents for either IIS or Index Server in MMC. As far as upgrading to Windows 2000 I'll re-reference the "burn me once" cliche and mention the "throwing good money after bad" one as well. Someplace else I'll do a long discussion of why Microsoft may be able to make limited improvements to Windows stability but can never solve the underlying problems (registry and bloated complex graphical management programs) without starting over.

Anyhow, without Help, I thought I'd stumble around MMC for a while and see what I could find. It didn't take long to find something very odd. In the directories defined in MMC for Index Server, my original primary site root directory and all of the virtual directories for my Perl and Java documentation were missing. One of the last things that I remember doing when trying to get searching to work on the site was to add its directory to this list. I certainly did not remove any of these directories from the list. Also, the failure to search on my primary site and its virtual directories did not appear immediately when I made these changes.

How is it possible for the configuration of key system components like these to change? I have no idea. What I do know other than to use its file services via a mapped drive, I was hardly even on this NT server and surely installed no software or made any system configuration changes. Windows is the only system I've ever worked on where things like this occur. Other systems you nearly always find a rational explanation for the seemingly odd things that occur from time to time. With NT the odd things occur much more frequently and you just shrug your shoulders and don't expect to ever have an answer.

Putting the directories back caused no change. I then tried various combinations of re scan and merge and stopping and starting different parts of IIS and Index server. Nothing seemed to work.

I decided that after saving them elsewhere, I would erase all the index files and see if Index Server would rebuild them. Even after stopping the web service and ftp, I couldn't move or erase these files. Then I noticed a Content Index service that I had never focused on previously and stopped that. I'd set each of these services to manual start with the intention of rebooting the server if necessary. Once I stopped Content Index, I could move the old index files.

As soon as I restarted all three services, the NT server got quite busy for a while. Files were being added to the catalog.wci directory which is where the index files are stored. I tried a search and got some results but also a message that the index was out of date. After the server quieted down the index out of date message was no longer displayed. Searching appeared to be back where it was before I tried to index the virtual site. I could search my documentation sets and primary site but not the virtual site.

After copying some test Microsoft search forms into the GeodSoft virtual site and adjusting paths so the correct .idq and .htx files were found, searches still did not return anything from this site. When I returned to MMC for Index Server, the GeodSoft root directory was still there as well as the primary server root and virtual directories that I had restored. There were also about 6 - 8 other directories that had not been there a while before. Some were other virtual directories to the primary site. Why these came back I don't know because I thought I had marked them not be searched.

At this point I'll put index server aside for a while since its most important function is working again. If I never get it work on that says more about Microsoft products than it does about me.

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