Speeding Up Cases with Blackboard Support…

“Pardon the rant, but every time I open a ticket with Blackboard Support it seems they always need another piece of information to investigate the issue discussed in the ticket. I spend days in a back and forth conversation with a support person asking for different files. This wastes precious time, and delays a response to finding a solution. In the end, I get emails from the effected user asking for an update. I become frustrated as well as the user. I need to find a new way to resolve end this lag time.”

That was the rant I had with a colleague a few months back. It seemed that it was time to find a new way to resolve this issue. So I thought that if I could write a script that collects commonly requested information by Blackboard Support, then have it zipped into a file which I could then attach to the case and save some time. I knew that this script would need to collect a lot of information, so I would need to learn what information it needed to collect. I talked with Blackboard Support and they suggested that I collect several different files.  I organized the files requested by support into five categories that should address the different issues we commonly face.

Configuration

This file set includes the following files:

  • bb-config.properties
  • bb-config.properties.template
  • authentication.properties

These files should answer most of the questions about how the Blackboard Learn instance is configured.

Performance

This file set contains the following files:

  • bb-access-log from the logs/tomcat folder
  • stdout-stderr-log from the logs/tomcat folder
  • catalina-log.txt from the logs/tomcat folder
  • bb-services-log.txt
  • along with the configuration files we just mentioned

To diagnose a performance issue it is also import and to collect  the output from several diagnostic tools, these are collected and included in the file set by the script:

  • a perf_report
  • output from the vmstat command
  • four thread dumps
  • top commands ran every thirty seconds.

Patch and Updates

This file set contains the following files:

  • All the files from the update-tools log folder
  • bb-installer-log.txt file
  • A list of all patches that have been applied to the server

Course Copies, Archives, and Restores

This file set contains:

  • The content-exchange-log.txt from the content-exchange folder

SafeAssign

This file set has these files:

  • bb-services-log.txt
  • sa.properties
  • all safeassign logs

These files and output data were described by Blackboard Support as very important to getting issues addressed and quickly start work on most Blackboard Support tickets. Once I had this information, I then created a script that would collect this data for me, or anyone that needed to open a ticket with Blackboard Support about our instance. In my script, there are several things that needed to happen.

  1. When the script runs on a node, it requests an email address. This email address must match a specific domain before it will be allowed to move on. If it doesn’t match, the script errors out, this prevents sensitive data from being sent to an incorrect address.
  2. Once the email address is accepted, the script creates a folder within the logs directory of our blackboard application server. This is where the files will be copied to create a zip file later.
  3. Within this folder each category gets its own subdirectory where the files will go.
  4. The script then starts to copy the files for the configuration and performance directories.
  5. The script now runs the performance report, top command, vmstat command along with the four thread dumps and zips them into a file before moving the zipped file to the performance folder and continuing to copy performance files.
  6. Then the script copies the information for the patches and updates directory
  7. Then it copies the files for course copies, restores, and archives along with safassign files into their directories.
  8. It adds a readme.txt file that allows the support person to know what information is within the subdirectories.
  9. The system will zip the directory up and email it as an attachment to the email address given earlier.
  10. I can download the attached file and then add it to the case.

This script has saved me a lot of time and energy, especially when I have to collect these logs on all of our production nodes. When Blackboard Support requests this information, I always tell them it’s attached in the first comment. Which normally surprises,  and I hope pleases, them. Please feel free to use or adapt this in your Blackboard Learn environment. Below are the readme.txt and bb_log_collection.txt script files for Linux. Sorry for Windows users, but you can look at the information here and hopefully create a script for the Windows OS, and even if a person doesn’t want to create a script, the common files should at least give you a good head start.

Download the ReadMe.txt file
Download the bb_log_collection.txt file

 

Technically Yours,

 

Blackboard Guru

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