How to set up free SSL certificates for Qlik Sense

I recently had a need for an isolated Qlik Sense environment, in order to test some of the new features of Qlik Sense September 2017.

While it works perfectly fine to run Sense with self-signed certificates, you then get browser warnings that the certificates are not valid etc. That might be fine, but as the test at hand involved testing my app duplicator service for Qlik Sense (which require a proper SSL cert) together with the September 2017 version of Sense, I needed a proper SSL certificate.

As I have good experiences using the free certificates of Let’s Encrypt (they secure this blog, for example) I thought it would be a good exercise figuring out how to use them together with Qlik Sense Enterprise.

The notes below are largely reminders-to-self, in case I need to do this again some day. Maybe they can also be useful for others out there.

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Monitoring and auto-starting Node.js services on Windows Server

When relying on various Node.js services (e.g. Butler SOS, Butler, App Duplicator etc), you quickly run into the challenge to ensure all services are always up and running.
A failing service might be fine, as long as it is quickly restarted in a predictable way.

A concrete example could be Qlik Sense or QlikView apps that send status messages to Slack during the execution of their reload scripts. Those messages will fail if Butler is for some reason not running.

This leads us to the conclusion that the services must automatically be

a) started when a server is rebooted, and
b) restarted if they for some reason terminate/die.

Enter process monitors.

At their core, process monitors ensure that the desired processes are always running, i.e. bullet b) above. Some process monitors also offer additional features such as zero-downtime restart of services, memory and performance profiling of the monitored services, being able to monitor different kinds of processes (not only Node.js ditto).

Adding to the pain is the fact that Sense and QlikView runs on Windows servers, meaning that all those great tools available on Linux cannot be used.

Looking at Node.js specifially, I have found two process monitors to work well on Windows: Forever and PM2.

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Moving and extending VirtualBox virtual machines

Running things on Apple hardware here, all those Windows-only software packages are a somewhat of a pain… As good as they are, both Qlik Sense, some of the vendor specific embedded software IDEs and other need-to-have software are Windows-only.

VirtualBox to the rescue. It is free and works really well  (I do hear good things about Parallels too, though). I have used it for years without any real issues, until recently when I simply ran out of disk space on the host iMac where it lives, as well as in the virtual machine itself. The client OS (Windows 10) simply did not have enough space to download and install service packs.

Time to upgrade.

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Upgrade to Windows 10 on VirtualBox with OSX host

Windows 10Lots of OS upgrades lately, Windows went to Windows 10 and Apple to El Capitan. I am usually pretty ok upgrading to Apple’s latest OSs a week or two after their release – they are usually of good quality.

As VirtualBox (“VBox”) also came out with their version 5 release, it was time to upgrade the Windows 8.1 virtual machine (“VM”) running in VBox, with OS X as host.

Turns out this is (of course..) not as easy as one would think – but still possible.
Here we will walk through the steps of

  • Extending the Windows 8.1 virtual disk in VBox
  • Forcing the Windows 10 installer to run, even though its hardware compatibility checker says the VBox machine is not compatible with Windows 10
  • Installing the VBox Guest Additions in the Windows 10 VM.

Before doing any of those steps, you might want to upgrade to OS X El Capitan, and to latest Virtual Box (5.x as of this writing).

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Dell’s WinXP installer messes up OSX partitions when using Boot Camp

A few days ago I decided to install WinXP on my Intel based iMac, using Boot Camp.

Boot Camp assistant worked great, it created a new Boot Camp partition on the hard drive just as planned with a 32 GB partition. Popping in a Dell WinXP SP2 CD (from a now long gone computer) as instructed, but when prompted to select where to install XP the Boot Camp partition was gone. In fact, so was the OSX partition…
The weird thing was that the XP installer suggested I should install it to a 131 GByte partition on the disk – where did it get that from?

Luckily I have a nightly Carbon Copy Cloner job scheduled for the iMac, so restoring the OSX disk was pretty straightforward (even though it took some 5-6 hours to restore 500 GB of data).

Tried the same procedure twice more. Once with the same result, and once I the OSX partition was actually intact. But XP still suggested I’d install it to the non-existing 131 GB partition.

Fourth time I tried another XP disc, and this time also slipstreamed it with SP3 using nLite (awesome product!). And now it worked flawlessly.

After doing some research it seems that some people are having trouble using Dell XP CDs with Boot Camp. Not sure why, but using that other, generic XP CD made the problem disappear. Or if it was the SP3 slipstreaming – either way it now works. I guess you could argue that the Dell CD was intended to be used with Dell machines only, and in this case that  turns out to be true.. Anyway, with the problems sorted out, dual booting works great!

Dell XPS M1330 – end of story

Long overdue, here is the final chapter in the warranty story going on with Dell.

They indeed repaired the laptop – at least in part. The graphics now works as it should, but the computer is still unstable and hangs way too often to be useful, even with fresh installations of Vista. Loosing work because the computer hangs at random times (several times per hour) just isn’t an option… No idea what’s causing it – feels like it may be poor thermal design/overheating. But that’s just a guess.

Nice of Dell to repair the broken GPU, but too bad they didn’t make the laptop usable again.

Dell XPS M1330 NVIDIA troubles… progress!

Turns out Dell’s tech support wasn’t the way to go.
After being told the laptop was 2 months out of warranty I had a chat with the sales guy who sold us the laptop two years ago. Friday last week he promised to look into the case and get back by Tuesday this week latest. That he did, with the good news that Dell would repair the laptop without cost to me.

Now that’s good support! Let’s just hope that is the end of the story.