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Author Archives: Bjorn Houben

PowerShell – Using PowerShell 5 to automate the installation of your favorite Windows applications

In this blog post I will explain why to automate installations of Windows applications and how you can do this.

Why automate the installation of applications?

But first, why is this useful? Well this depends on your situation and there are probably many good reasons. For me though, it basically boils down to this:

  1. I often reinstall my computers with new (preview) versions of Windows operating systems and having to install applications each time is a waste of time. Also sometimes you forget to install some things.
  2. On a regular basis, friends and family either want me to install or upgrade their PC and I want to provide them with a standard set of programs that most people need/want without having to spend a lot of time on it. By example virus scanner, burning program, media player, codecs, etc.
  3. I want to update existing installed applications to the latest (and hopefully more secure and feature packed) versions.
  4. When installing applications, there are often checkboxes enabled to install other applications (you generally don’t want to install). Automated solutions using packages generally prevent these additional unwanted applications from installing.

Which tools to use to automate the installation of applications?

Before PowerShell 5 preview was released, I used both Ninite and Chocolatey to perform to automate installations. They both have their advantages as described on this wiki page.

The PowerShell 5 preview version of OneGet installs and searches software from Chocolatey repositories, but support of additional repositories will come in subsequent versions.

How to automate the installation of applications using PowerShell 5 preview?

To automate the installation of applications a couple of things are required:

  1. You need to determine which applications you want to install automatically.
  2. You need to determine the package name that Chocolatey uses for this application. Options include:
    -Using a browser to browse the Chocolatey packages
    -Using PowerShell and a part of the name of the application you’re looking for. By example if you’re looking for Irfanview, use:
    Find-Package -Name “fan”
  3. Store the package names to install somewhere (e.g. in a .txt file on OneDrive for easy access). My .txt file by example includes:
    AdobeReader
    Directx
    ffdshow
    Flashplayerplugin
    GoogleChrome
    Imgburn
    IrfanView
    Javaruntime
    Keepassx
    Mp3tag
    mpc-hc
    PDFCreator
    Silverlight
    TeamViewer
    Totalcommander
    Winrar
    greenshot
  4. Use the Install-Package cmdlet to install all the packages whose name is in the file from step 3.
    Install-Package -Name (Get-Content C:\OneDrive\AppsToInstall.txt) -Confirm:$False
  5. Wait for the programs to install

My opinion

It’s great to be able to use PowerShell to install my list of favorite applications similar to like I did with Chocolatey and I’m also looking forward to see what benefits the additional repositories will bring in the future.

I did encounter some errors however while trying to install some applications like Firefox and dotnet3.5. But since it’s still a preview, this will probably be fixed.

For regular users, I think they are better off sticking to by example Ninite because they’re often afraid of anything that involves a CLI.

Blog posts by other people about OneGet

Some other people have also blogged about the OneGet module and have gone in more technical detail, so be sure to take a look at their posts as well:

More information about PowerShell 5 Preview including a download link

Windows Management Framework v5 preview, includes also Desired State Configuration (DSC) improvements and NetworkSwitch commandlets to manage network switches that pass the Certified for Windows Program. For more information including a download link, you can read the initial blog post. : Windows Management Framework V5 Preview

 

 

 

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Free – Brocade Ethernet Fabric course and exam

I’ve been pretty busy lately, so unfortunately there haven’t been as many blog posts as I would have liked.

I did want to share this opportunity however for a free course and exam on “Brocade Ethernet Fabric”:
http://info.brocade.com/DC-GDG-14Q2-CERT-SM-EF-Cisco-CCIE-LP.html?cn=DC-GDG-14Q2-CERT-SM-EF-Cisco-CCIE

I hope it is useful for you and that you’ll share it so many people can benefit from it.

 
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Posted by on March 7, 2014 in Hardware, ICT, Learning, Network, Storage

 

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Microsoft – Passed the free exam 74-409 Server Virtualization with Windows Server Hyper-V and System Center

As I mentioned earlier, Microsoft is offering free exam vouchers for the new exam “74-409 Server Virtualization with Windows Server Hyper-V and System Center”. For more information, take a look here.

I took the exam today and passed after having studied very hard for over a week (including pulling an all nighter today). I’m happy to have my first certification for the year 2014 already though :)

In my opinion the exam contained too many repeating (easy) questions on specific subjects, but there were also some very difficult questions about really specific situations. I personally would’ve preferred more “medium difficulty” questions.

All in all I learned a lot from preparing for the exam and I’m very happy with all the new things Microsoft has added to their new products.

If you are looking to take the exam as well, take a look at my previous post that contains the resources I used for preparation.

Good luck and enjoy. I’ll be going for some well earned sleep now :)

 

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Games – Left 4 Dead 2 is free today on steam (PC)

Just wanted to let you know that Valve decided to give away Left 4 Dead 2 for free today on steam (PC):
http://store.steampowered.com/app/550/?snr=1_7_7_151_150_1

It is a great shooter, that is especially fun while playing with friends in co-op mode.

Merry Christmas everyone and enjoy this great game.

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2013 in Entertainment, Games

 

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Microsoft – Preparing for free exam 74-409 Server Virtualization with Windows Server Hyper-V and System Center

Exam dumps

Unfortunately I’ve received numerous requests for an exam dump of 74-409 which really upsets me.

For those that are not aware of it, you are not allowed to share or use exam dumps. “If Microsoft learns that a candidate used a “brain dump” site to prepare for an exam, this candidate will be permanently banned or prohibited from taking any future Microsoft Certification exams and may be decertified from the Microsoft Certification Program. In addition, test scores and certifications, if applicable, may be revoked. These actions may be taken even if the candidate did not intend to defraud the Microsoft Certification Program.”

For more information, see:
http://borntolearn.mslearn.net/btl/b/weblog/archive/2013/01/02/why-brain-dumps-are-bad.aspx

Preparing to take the exam

This is generally what I do for preparing to take the exam:

  1. Determine the skills that are measured in the exam 74-409
  2. View the online course Server Virtualization with Windows Hyper-V and System Center at Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA)
  3. Reflect how confident you are that the online course has provided you with sufficient skills to take the exam.
  4. Optionally enhance your knowledge using:

Specific topics and resources I used while studying:

Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Greenshot – a free screenshot tool optimized for productivity

Lately I’ve been teaching some classes and I saw many people using many different methods to create, store and share screenshots. Most of them took too much time and effort  in my opinion and were actually distracting from the learning itself.

Since I also had the need to create many screenshots, I was looking for a tool that provided a lot of functionality without these drawbacks. I didn’t really care very much whether the tool would be free or paid, as long as it made my work easier and faster.

Below I’ve included some of the options I’ve explored:

Windows 8 / Windows 8.1 print screen options

With Windows 8 or 8.1 it’s now possible to use windows key+PrintScrn and then all screenshots will be stored in my “Pictures” folder in my documents. And even though it’s a nice addition if you sometimes need to take a screenshot, it still requires a lot of manual work for processing the screenshots and adding them to your desired location.

Windows Snipping Tools

Included in Windows Vista and above, it provides a bit more options than the regular print screen, but it is still very limited.

Irfanview

In the past I also used Irfanview, which is a great image viewer. Since I didn’t have to make many screenshots the workflow would then be:

  1. Press (alt +) print screen.
  2. If I needed to crop something, CTRL+V in Irfanview, select the area and CTRL+Y to crop, CTRL+C
  3. CTRL+V into application I want to use.

As you can see, this is still quite a lot of work if you make a lot of screenshots.

OneNote Screen Clipping

With OneNote you can create a Screen Clipping to be stored in your OneNote notebook, but it requires too many actions in my opinion and is also fairly limited.

ScreenShot Captor

I then started using ScreenShotCaptor which provided me with even more options, but it still wasn’t quite what I was looking for with regards to productivity

Greenshot

Then however I came across Greenshot which is free and really makes it so much easier for me to accomplish creating documentation. I especially like the ease with which you can capture and output to many different locations:

greenshot

And if you’re working on something where you need to save to a specific output, you can (temporarily) configure it to save to a specific location to make your workflow even more efficient.

If you have the need to, you can also use the Greenshot Image Editor to include shapes and arrows, etc.

For me, Greenshot is a product I’ve come to love even though I haven’t used it for that long yet. I hope they’ll also add support for OneNote as well, because that would make it even better for me. Also if you’re not using a Windows system you’re out of luck.

Snagit

I’ve heard a lot of positive things about SnagIt in the past and I was planning to give it a try even though it is not a free product. But since Greenshot met my needs, there was no use in trying Snagit. If you’re not using a WIndows system it might be worth looking into.

Also if you’re interested in capturing videos of your screen, you might want to try Camtasia.

ScreenPresso

Immediately after I published this blog post, someone suggested I’d take a look ScreenPresso as well, so I did. The free version is more limited than Greenshot in my opinion and steers you towards the paid version (http://www.screenpresso.com/features). For me, the only reason to buy the ScreenPresso Pro version (29 Euros) would be the video recording ability.

Also be sure to check out my list of other tools I find useful. It is updated on a regular basis:
http://bjornhouben-web.sharepoint.com/Lists/Applications/Summary.aspx

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2013 in Tools

 

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The Openbox / Skybox , a cheap HD sattelite receiver that provides a lot of bang for the buck

Introduction

A couple of years ago I bought a Dreambox DM-800HD sattelite receiver. At the time, HD receivers were pretty expensive (300-400 euros) and there weren’t many good alternatives. I wanted additional HD receivers, but I wasn’t willing to pay 300-400 euros a piece. As such, I started investigating and found out that you could get an Openbox / Skybox HD receiver for about 70 euros including shipping, so I was quite interested and bought an Openbox S11. I’ve been using it for a couple of years now with a duo LNB with Astra 1 (19,2) and Astra 3 (23,5) and I’m very satisfied with it.

Advantages

  • It’s cheap and provides a lot of bang for the buck.
  • It provides good image quality.
  • It supports cccam.
  • It boots very quickly.
  • The remote is easy to use and comfortable in your hand.
  • You can timeshift / record to an USB drive.
  • You can play multimedia from an USB drive. Music, Images, Video (including MKV X264 !!!! ).

Disadvantages

  • Menus and options are very basic.
  • Only a single tuner.
  • Lack of support.
  • Custom firmwares are limited.
    • Hard to find out which firmware is best. Each has its own advantages and disadvantes.
  • Creating channel lists / favorites from the device itself is very time consuming and troublesome.
    • You can use external tools to create channel lists. By example Ali Editor / PVR800-Editor or MediaBox Editor Studio (MES). Even with these tools, the editing experience is not as good as I was used to with my Dreambox.
    • Already created channel lists / favorites can easily be shared using either USB or over the network using STBHD_LAN_MM.

Conclusion and advice

If you’re looking for a sattelite HD receiver that provides more bang for your buck, be sure to take a look at the Openbox / Skybox HD receivers. While I paid 70 euros back then, they can now be had for about 50 euros including shipping. Keep in mind though that initial configuration can require some manual work. After that you can simply re-use your configuration.

There are now many more versions available of the Openbox / Skybox however and I have to admit that it’s often not clear to me which types provide which advantages so be sure to take a look at this as well. Versions include the S9,S10,S11,S12,S16,S18,F3,F4,F5,X3,X4,X5,X6,S1000,S6000HD. Also keep in mind that there are a lot of clones available. Personally I just ordered the X6 here because I want a spdif output, I’ll write a review about it as soon as I receive it.

For people looking for HD sattelite receivers that provide more features, take a look at the Vu+ Solo2 or Duo2 that have been reviewed very well, but are also a lot more expensive.

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2013 in Hardware, Sattelite Receiver

 

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ICT – Great article by Paul Simoneau about ICT challenges including suggestions to deal with them

As an ICT professional I believe working in ICT can be very challenging. Paul Simoneau wrote a great article about current and future challenges including suggestions to deal with them.

The challenges covered in the article are: new technology, cloud, big data analytics, virtualization, Bring Your Own Device/Apps (BYOD/BYOA), shadow IT, new generations of workers, energy  efficiency, user systems, creating value, interoperability and social networks.

I wanted to share this article because I feel it reflects reality very well.

 

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Microsoft – Free exam 74-409 Server Virtualization with Windows Server Hyper-V and System Center

Microsoft is offering free exam vouchers for the new exam “74-409 Server Virtualization with Windows Server Hyper-V and System Center” to attendees of the Jump Start. The amount of free exams is limited, so be sure to register for the “Server Virtualization w/ Windows Server Hyper-V & System Center Jump Start” as soon as possible.

Also for those interested in free VMware Certified Associate (VCA) exams, time is running out. For more info, take a look at my previous post.

 

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