ESXi 4.1 Update 1 Whitebox

Shopping List

  • Thermaltake V3 mid-tower ATX Case
  • Intel DP67BA Motherboard
  • Intel i7-2600k Processor
  • Corsair 650TX Power Supply
  • G.SKILL Sniper 8GB (2×4) DDR31600 Memory
  • Seagate 7200.11 1.5TB SATA Drive
  • Lite-On SATA DVD+/-RW
  • MSI GeForce8400 PCIe Video
  • I did some creative shopping, caught a lot of these on sale, and got the whole thing for ~ $800

    Whole thing went together pretty well… considering I haven’t put a machine together in YEARS. I wanted a powerful system, but I didn’t want ‘server class’ because it’s sitting under my desk. It’s hard to find a consumer box with this level of RAM, Mobo, CPU without paying a fortune because they include the high-end video, sound, and Operating System components – which I don’t care about here.

    Installing ESXi 4.1
    Here’s where I knew it was going to get tricky. I specifically picked an Intel motherboard hoping that the on-board gig nic would ‘just work.’ However, the one I picked was just a little too new and I couldn’t get through the install at all – the dreaded “vmkctl.HostCtlException: Unable to load module /usr/lib/vmware/vmkmod/vmfs3: Failure” message greeted me.
    Ok… probably the nic… let’s see what we have.
    ALT-F1 will get you to a console (yes, even though the install bombed) – login as root, blank password.
    The “lspci” command will show us (hopefully) what’s there. In my case, it did in fact show me a nic that was surprisingly in the pci.ids already for ESXi. In my case it was the Intel 82579V. I crossed my finger and ran “vmkload_mod e1000e” then “esxcfg-nics -l” hoping to see my nic appear (which then would just be a matter of editing the and running install again) Again, no joy.

    Big sigh, crack a beer, ponder my options.

    I really don’t know if I can pull off compiling a driver for ESXi… but I start looking for what it would take. It’s either that, or buy a officially supported card and hope the rest of the install goes well. Not sure I’m willing to do that yet… check flea-bay… eh. Maybe. I’ll think on it. Check back on and someone is already working on a new driver based on the 1.3.10a drivers! He came through with it (you’re the best Chilly!) so I took his driver and rolled my own install using this super-handy script.
    Some notes on the script: Not spending a lot of time in Linux lately, I made the mistake of putting a space in the path where I put the script & .iso files – that won’t work. Also, one USB stick I tried gave me some weird ‘not a multicore kernel’ error. I also had the “menu.c32: not a CM32R image” loop – grab 3.86 from here and extract. I’m on Windows 7, so find syslinux.exe in the win32 folder, right-click | properties, and on the compatibility tab make it ‘Run as administrator’ Then run “syslinux -m -a X:” (replace “X” with your USB drive’s letter)

    But I wasn’t done.

    First, none of my installed drives came up as options to install to – the 1.5TB or the SSD I had installed. Bummer. Ok, so into the BIOS we go and change the SATA mode from AHCI to IDE. Still nothing. Try changing from IDE mode to RAID and WOO! There we go. Ok, so hit F11, ready to throw a party, and I get “Unable to find system image to install” Back to to Google.
    Found a couple of options to deal with this minor setback. Most of the advice on suggests installing 4.0 first then upgrading to 4.1. I found a great tidbit earlier on with problems installing from USB where ESXi seems to ‘forget’ you’re installing from usb and suggests creating a kickstart script to get around it. So I started creating that script and started the download for ESXi 4.0… but just for giggles, decided to go back to Varazir’s script and make a custom install CD first. I had been making a USB installation media just because it was faster and I thought I’d make a few coasters, but I was pretty sure I had everything else right this time, so tried making the CD.

    Boom goes the dynamite… no problems. 4.1 update 1 installed in no time using the CD.

    Just stood up a Windows 2008R2 VM, fixed the stupid slow-response console problem with it, and attached a USB device to the host and accessed it from the guest. Doesn’t look like it’ll support VMDirectPath, but I don’t think that will matter for this machine.

    I can’t remember the last time I had an AD controller in my living room 😀

    Running converter to pull in one of my old VMs. Have a physical box to convert if that works. Only thing I have running under Workstation is a Linux box I use to play around with.

    Soooooo… more to come. Gonna install ePO and all that good stuff. We’ll see what happens. Also need to get my gig switch put in here. If my weather station will work in pass-thru, I think this’ll work out VERY well. If not… I’ll have an extra machine running until I figure it all out.