More Microsoft Management Console Problems
For no apparent reason Microsoft Management Console (MMC) has lost the
Internet Information Server (IIS) configuration data three more times
in a little over two weeks. A totally default "add/remove" reinstall
makes the hidden data visible again. I no longer "Save console settings"
(the default) when exiting MMC. MMC still has my nomination for the
stupidest piece of software ever written.
By now I should stop being surprised at Microsoft software problems but
the truth is I cannot get over just how really awful some of their software
is. It's only because of their size and (undeserved) reputation that they
can get away with some of this.
About a week ago I wanted to make some minor setup change to IIS. I
double clicked on the shortcut to MMC for IIS. A dialog box that said
"Error connecting to NT" was briefly displayed and then went away. NT
happens to be the computer name for my NT server. I don't think I could read
the error message the first time before the dialog box disappeared. Subsequent
restarts of MMC gave me enough time to read it. Even though the dialog box
had an "OK" button on it, I never got to click on it. The error appeared
then disappeared in anything from half a second to three seconds; these
are just estimates as I never tried timing it but the amount of time it
was displayed was definitely variable.
Once I got into MMC and clicked on the plus sign for IIS the little square
box with the plus sign disappeared leaving a line with no expansion options
leading to IIS. No configuration data. The data files, iis.msc and
metabase.bin in which the IIS configuration data is stored were in the
inetsrv subdirectory and looked OK. I tried restoring earlier versions
from various backups but this made no difference. I also stopped and
started IIS using the net start and net stop commands. IIS could read the
data fine. I checked all my virtual web sites; they were all present and
looked fine. FTP had been working daily because all the various automated
communication tasks that I run through it had been working with no problems.
Only MMC couldn't find the data.
What could I as a user have done to mess this up? Nothing that I am aware of.
MMC is a graphical interface to IIS. You go into a hierarchical configuration
tree, pick options from various graphical widgets and MMC saves the changes
when you click OK on the dialog box containing the widget. I don't even
remember what the last change was except that it was minor. I haven't made
any significant changes since I last reinstalled IIS as described in
NT Problems Getting Ready for DSL.
This time I went to the Microsoft web site and searched their knowledge base.
I searched for "error connecting" under both IIS and MMC. Under IIS I added
every combination or variation on microsoft management console and mmc that
I could think of. Nothing at all showed up. One would think that with
exact words from an error message you should find some documented reason for
the error message but no such luck.
At this point I could think of only one more thing to try. Reinstall IIS
again. Even though it was working, I was completely lacking any way to
manage it to make even the slightest change to its setup. Here, I wish
Microsoft had left the configuration information in the Registry. With
IIS 3, I'd learned to directly manipulate the registry settings that
Microsoft forgot to provide access to via the Internet Service Manager. As bad
as the Registry is, its better than saving data in a proprietary binary format
that can only be maintained by a moron program that repeatedly loses its
data. Microsoft seems headed in a consistent direction: more features,
more bugs and more stupid design decisions.
I got the Option Pack disk and chose the Add/Remove option. I went
through an install without changing a single option or setting. The
install program did something. There was a moderate amount of disk and
CPU activity but not the long copying files part that you'd see with
an new install or upgrade. After I clicked on the "Finish" button there
was some disk and CPU activity for almost 2 minutes after the dialog
box had disappeared. Once everything was quiet, I rebooted the server.
When it came back and I went into MMC, the data was available again and
all the settings and configuration options looked as I remembered them.
I suppose the next time the IIS configuration date disappears from
MMC I'll try
reinstalling first. I say next time because I've now seen this happen
enough times on this and other NT 4 servers that I have little doubt
it's merely a matter of when, not if.
I was right. MMC can't find the IIS configuration data again. I didn't
expect it to be so soon. This is just one week latter. It's also the
next time I needed to make a change and thus go into MMC. There has
been an intervening reboot and I also installed an NTP server but there
is no valid reason either of these should affect MMC's ability to find
IIS configuration data. This time, knowing exactly what to do, it only
took about three minutes to fix the problem (run through an Add/Remove
re-install of the Option Pack 4 without changing any options). I didn't
even reboot this time. After making the change, saving it and exiting
MMC I restarted MMC to see if it could still find the data. It could.
I wonder how long this will last?
It looks like this is going to be a regular occurrence as MMC once again
could not find the IIS data. I'd been in MMC numerous times checking on
log contents, format and location as well as some security related items.
I don't think I saved any chages except MM Console settings. It only
takes about 2 minutes to fix if the CD is handy but it is annoying and
makes a mockery of remote administration.
I hadn't updated this page for a while. I had to reinstall the
Option Pack again today. Since September I pretty much leave the
Option Pack CD ROM near the NT server. I haven't been counting
how many times I've reinstalled since September but I think it's more
than 2. If I had to make server changes more often, I'm sure I'd
encounter this "lost" / hidden data problem more often.
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