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Category Archives: Microsoft

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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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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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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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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Microsoft – Troubleshooting Key Management Service (KMS) activation

Today I helped a colleague troubleshoot a couple of systems were unable to activate using Key Management Service (KMS). Basically for this situation it boiled down to this:

Determine for the KMS service

  1. Which server is hosting the KMS service.If an SRV record has been added for KMS DNS auto discovery, run from CMD: nslookup -type=srv _vlmcs._tcp
  2. If the server hosting the KMS is functioning correctly:
  • Check if the server is up and running.
  • Check if the “Software Protection” service (sppsvc) is running.
  • Verify if the KMS service is listening on port 1688: telnet localhost 1688
  • Verify the KMS status. Run from CMD: slmgr.vbs /dli
  • Verify if a KMS key is installed and activated.
  • Verify if the minimum threshold for activation is being met.
  • Verify if other clients are able to activate using KMS. Even though the output of “slmgr.vbs /dli” gives you an indication, you can use the “Volume Activation Management Tool” (VAMT) for more insight and functionality.
  • Verify that a VLK key is being used.

For clients that are not able to activate

  • Verify if the correct KMS server can be resolved correctly:
    nslookup -type=srv _vlmcs._tcp
  • Verify if the KMS can be contacted:
    telnet <KMS FQDN or IP> 1688

    •  If this is not the case, perform a traceroute to determine potential causes. Reasons could include:
      • No default gateway configured on the client to reach the KMS.
      • No route configured on the client to reach the KMS.
      • Firewall on the client is blocking the traffic.
      • Firewall on the server is blocking the traffic.
      • If it is a VM, the virtual network might be misconfigured.
      • Routing on the network is not correct.
      • Firewall on the network is blocking traffic.
  • Clear any previous (mis)configuration: slmgr.vbs /ckms
  • Attempt activation: slmgr.vbs /ckms

NOTE: If you have lots of systems where you need to clear configuration and then attempt activation, you can also perform slmgr.vbs on remote computers using:
slmgr.vbs TargetComputerName [username] [password] /parameter [options]

Additional information

If you haven’t been able to resolve the issue, you might want to take a look here:

 

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TechNet subscriptions will be retired, last week to get or renew a subscription.

As you might have already read by now in my previous post, TechNet subscriptions are going to disappear. For more info take a look at this blog post and the Subscriptions retirement FAQ.

This is just a reminder that you have until August 31 to buy a last year of technet.

You might also want to backup existing keys and files:
http://www.zdnet.com/five-things-every-technet-subscriber-needs-to-do-before-time-runs-out-7000017687/

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2013 in Network, Windows 2012

 

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LazyWinAdmin – a great powershell script for more efficient Windows management

The last couple of months I’ve been playing around a lot with PowerShell and I’ve also been trying to make some nice GUI versions for my script using PowerShell Studio 2012 from Sapien Technologies Inc. While looking for more information how to best use PowerShell Studio 2012 I came across LazyWinAdmin.

LazyWinAdmin is a great tool created by Francois-Xavier C that will save you a lot of time. It provides you with most of the commonly used tools and commands in a very structured and easy to access way. In the picture below you can see what I mean.

For more info on the tool, take a look at the website and be sure to download and test it yourself.

If you want to take a look at other useful tools I’ve found in the past, take a look at my applications list.

 
 

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Sample ICT troubleshooting process flowchart

Troubleshooting can be very difficult and there are many different approaches and personal preferences. Also the chosen approach can even differ based on the situation.

Even though there is no troubleshooting process that is  best in all situations, it is considered a good practice to troubleshoot in a structured manner.

This is why I’ve created a sample ICT troubleshooting flowchart in Visio for companies that:

  • Have separate dedicated management teams for various IT disciplines like Windows, Linux/Unix, Database, Backup, Storage, Virtualization and Applications.
    • Have both offshore and onshore IT personnel where all tickets are initially routed to the offshore team.
  • Uses a ticketing system:
    • To log events, incidents, changes, problems, etc.
    • To route tickets to various disciplines.
  • Use a CMDB.
  • Use a change calendar.

Keep in mind that this is a sample troubleshooting flowchart that was only created to provide some structure or inspiration for troubleshooting.

I hope it is useful. If you have any ideas or suggestions, please leave a message.

PS: If you don’t have Visio, you can download Microsoft Visio Viewer 2013 from Microsoft.

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2013 in ICT, Microsoft

 

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Home LAB Setup guide – 07 Make your lab available over the internet

In the first part of this LAB setup guide, I described the hardware selection process.
In the second part, I described the hypervisor selection and installation.
In the third part, I described VM guest considerations and preparations.
In the fourth part, I described Configuring Server 2012 VM as DC with DNS and DHCP using PowerShell
In the fifth part, I described easily creating (many) proper AD users with PowerShell
In the sixth part, I described creating a local PowerShell v3 Help Repository with PowerShell

In this post I will describe how you can make your lab available over the internet.

When you’ve created your home LAB, you want to be able to use it anywhere. Depending on your situation, one of these options probably best meets your needs.

Examples include the use of:

  1. Remote desktop connection to your server
    + Easy to configure (enable on server and configure NAT forwarding if appropriate)
    - On many enterprise or public networks TCP3389 is blocked by the firewall.
    - Connects only to specific server. Even though you access the rest of the network from there.
  2. VPN connection to your network
    • Using your hardware router
      + Connection to network, not just a server.
      - No dependency on Windows Server
    • Using Windows Server 2008 / 2012
      + SSTP VPN (TCP443), is generally not blocked on enterprise/public networks.
      + Connection to network, not just a server.
      - Dependency on Windows server.
      - Requires more configuration.
      - The root CA certificate for the certification authority (CA) that issued the server authentication certificate needs to be into the store Local Computer\Trusted Root Certification Authorities. For a self-signed certificate, this means that you need to have local admin permissions to add it.Note: DirectAccess is a great feature, but it requires the client to be a member of the domain. And in my case this would limit where I can connect from, therefore I don’t plan to use it. For other situations it might be a better solution though.
  3. Using 3rd party tools like logmein, teamviewer or VNC
    + Connects only to specific computer.

Since I want to be able to connect from within enterprise environments as well, I chose to use SSTP VPN in Windows Server 2012. The basic steps you have to perform, include:

  1. On the server, you have to install and configure the VPN service.
  2. On the server or your own PKI, you would want create and install a machine certificate. You can create a Certificate Signing Request and request a 3rd party public certificate. Alternatively you can create a certificate using your own Certificate Authority, or you could create a self-signed certificate, For creating the self-signed certificate you can use the great PluralSight SelCert tool.
  3. On the client, you have to make sure the created certificate will be trusted. This means you have to add the certificate to local system\trusted root certificate authority if you’re using a self-signed certificate, which requires local administrator permissions on the client.
  4. On the client, you have to set-up the VPN connection to the server. Preferably you want to connect by DNS name. For your home lab you can also utilize dynamic DNS services like by example no-ip.com or alternative solutions.

For some more information, you can also take a look at this:

 

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