Category Archives: Guide

How I have my mail view configured in Outlook 2013

Part of what we do as consultants is help people from the ground up with software. Nothing is more ubiquitous than Outlook but it is also probably the least well utilised.

Below I’ve disassembled how I setup my Outlook view of my mail. This layout helps me get the most bang for my buck on a 24inch display and helps me organise myself.

There is a logical progression, left to right of: start > email comes in on the left and it is followed through its lifecycle as I flag, reply, familiarise, track tasks against it and schedule my time > end.

It is the result of quite a lot of experimentation but ultimately is my own preference. Feel free to submit your own in the comments :-).

Continue reading How I have my mail view configured in Outlook 2013

Windows Server 2012 laptop installation.. (on ThinkPad) – Part 1

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Wow!! how time fly’s by..

It’s over 4 years since I wrote a post on installing Windows Server 2008 on the ThinkPad and since then
A LOT has changed, just a few in technology that struck me while writing this post:
Cloud Computing has really taken off, hardware & software development has carried on at its usual breakneck pace e.g. Core i7s, affordable SSD’s, 3TB drives cheap as chips, Social Networking exploded & a imploded a little (the Book of Faces share price, etc.), but most important to this post at least, Microsoft Windows Server 2012 was Released To Manufacturing on August 1st followed by General Availability (GA) TODAY! with Evaluation downloads available to the public and full product on TechNet, MSDN, etc..

Oh and Apple seems to have taken over the world..

But, it’s not all bad, we at The Full Circle still use ThinkPad’s as our primary client machines (of course, our back-end is now Cloud based Winking smile), and I still have the T61p from the original post although now semi-retired to be a docked ‘desktop’ – it’s still going strong albeit with more memory and a faster larger disk, but essentially it’s the same tin.

So the time has come to ditch the current O/S (believe this – Windows Server 2008 RTM upgraded to Windows Server 2008 R2 RC and later upgraded to RTM and used for a couple of years, then upgraded to Windows Server 2012 RC – and it still worked!?!? that is a testament to modern software, drivers, etc.)

No, I’m not upgrading again, I’ve finally harvested enough settings and been running on another machine long enough to do the right thing and blow this disk away!  (or do I just swap it Winking smile) – NO the deed is done, I am free!

So (finally!), onto the process:

  1. Check out your BIOS settings to ensure the usual hardware virtualisation settings, boot options, etc. are set correctly i.e. on and enabled for your install media choices will work (USB is best).
  2. Copy Media to bootable USB key (or if you have to use a DVD.. yuck!)
  3. Install is easy, I’m not going to tell you how.. (see someone else’s blog for that)
  4. Logon as your local Administrator, and first thing first sort out the screen resolution – 1024×768 just doesn’t wash it in 2012 (and neither does the default Microsoft Basic Display Adapter driver – we’ll fix this later…)
  5. As suspected there is a lot of stuff a server O/S still isn’t going to automatically detect, on my old trusty Stinker Device Manager (started from Task Manager, Run, devmgmt.msc) came back with:image
  6. Before doing anything serious let’s sort out our machine name, storage and other system properties:
    There are various ways of accessing System Properties, but on a freshly built machine I also want to see what Windows has decided to do with my storage, so for me Windows Explorer is my preferred path..
    Window Key & E, then right-click Computer, and Properties
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    Change Settings (or Advanced System Settings) will bring up the familiar System Properties box, the first tab is still Computer Name and you may wish to change this, Description and maybe Workgroup, but at this stage I wouldn’t bother joining a domain (we might need to trash the machine again, or better still SysPrep if it’s so damn good Winking smile)

    Changing Computer Name and/or Workgroup will still require a restart (it’s still SMB under the hood!)

  7. When restarted check out your storage, hard drives, etc. I found the IBM/Lenovo Service partition (an 8GB volume called ServiceV002 was unhidden as drive F:) and arrange as desired, personally I like all my local devices contiguous, and optical and removable storage out of the way.. e.g. I have:

    C: Local Disk (rename to System)
    D: Data
    E: Logs
    F: Optical / DVD
    U: USB key
    X: External disk

    (with the ThinkPad there is argument to put the Optical/DVD to the end e.g. Z: as it is a removable device (UltraBay)

  8. To change your storage in Windows Server 2012 you need to find the disk volumes in the new Server Manager..
    image
    (and select the correct disk, to see the associated volume – think diskpart)
  9. You should be concerned by now that we’ve not checked for any updates – let’s start with Windows, back to the System Properties page (not Advanced) there is a Windows Update link where you will find updates are not automatically installed by default

    image

    With my machine the only update was a fairly minor ‘UPEK driver update for TouchChip Fingerprint Coprocessor (WBF advanced mode) (http://winqual.microsoft.com/support/?driverid=3872) – that’s not going to fix all those missing devices!

     

    Installing Roles and Features

    via the GUI… no, you don’t want to do that!

     

    Scripted… yes, that’s better!

    Start PowerShell as an Administrator..

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    Windows PowerShell
    Copyright (C) 2012 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

    PS C:UsersAdministrator> Import-Module Servermanager

    PS C:UsersAdministrator> Add-WindowsFeature NET-Framework-Core,Hyper-V,WAS-NET-Environment,Windows-Server-Backup,Wireless-Networking, Desktop-Experience –restart

    (mine actually had an ABEND after this!)

    To show all components (available and installed, simply type Get-WindowsFeature) e.g.


    PS C:UsersAdministrator> Get-WindowsFeature

    Display Name                                            Name                       Install State
    ————                                            —-                       ————-
    [ ] Active Directory Certificate Services               AD-Certificate                 Available
        [ ] Certification Authority                         ADCS-Cert-Authority            Available
        [ ] Certificate Enrollment Policy Web Service       ADCS-Enroll-Web-Pol            Available
        [ ] Certificate Enrollment Web Service              ADCS-Enroll-Web-Svc            Available
        [ ] Certification Authority Web Enrollment          ADCS-Web-Enrollment            Available
        [ ] Network Device Enrollment Service               ADCS-Device-Enrollment         Available
        [ ] Online Responder                                ADCS-Online-Cert               Available
    [ ] Active Directory Domain Services                    AD-Domain-Services             Available

     

    If your server is running Windows Server® 2012, click Configure this local server to open the Local Server configuration page. Then, in the Properties area, next to IE Enhanced Security Configuration, click On to open the Internet Explorer Enhanced Security Configuration dialog.

 

Attempting to use the ThinkVantage System Update tool bombed out (not Win8/Server2012), so it’s down to manually installing drivers and system software…

Bits to download (for a ThinkPad T61p and likely most ThinkPads)

Intel Chipset Support (WW)
1.52 MB
Normal
9.3.0.1020
Thu, 10 May 2012 12:00:00 EST

Management Engine Firmware
1.26 MB
Normal
2.6.50.1056
Thu, 21 Apr 2011 12:00:00 EST

NVIDIA Display Driver
149.2 MB
Normal
8.17.12.9688
Thu, 02 Aug 2012 12:00:00 EST

SoundMax Audio Software
4.5 MB
Normal
6.10.1.7255/6.10.2.7255
Thu, 28 Jun 2012 12:00:00 EST

Intel Matrix Storage Manager Driver
6iio10ww.exe
488.67 KB
Windows XP,
Windows Vista,
Windows 7
8.9.2.1002
02 Oct 2009

EasyEject Utility
5.04 MB
Normal
2.39
Fri, 02 Apr 2010 12:00:00 EST

Intel Matrix Storage Manager Driver
488.67 KB
Normal
8.9.2.1002
Fri, 02 Oct 2009 12:00:00 EST

Power Manager
29.39 MB
Normal
6.32
Thu, 07 Jun 2012 12:00:00 EST

 

 

References

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc732263.aspx

How to structure a software media library folder

Most of our commercial customers with The Full Circle (www.thefullcircle.com) aren’t technology businesses so managing software isn’t what they do.
Whilst we often perform this as part of a managed service, we still implement a software library (AKA Media Library) for them comprising of their software installers, ISO images, drivers, patches, etc… which makes various rollout & upgrade activities easier & faster in the long run and easier to audit when the time comes.

Having been asked a few times what this structure looks like I thought I’d do a post on it. It’s a very small piece of the data storage puzzle but one which makes life a lot easier for techie and companies with a lot of software assets.

Once in place, the next step is to carefully decide who has write access. No easy task figuring out who you can trust to put things in the right place, but one thing is for sure whatever you decide – it should be read only by default and write access by exception. The best practise would be to have several people nominated as librarians but this isn’t always possible. Whether you store your licence/activation keys here though is down to your businesses policy. Some prefer to keep them secure in something like Keypass, while other are comfortable keeping keys in text files along with the media.

In the ITIL world this structure be known as the Definitive Software Library or DSL.

The core structure follows this basic pattern:

Documentation >
Drivers > Major Driver Categories >
Major Platform Binaries >Vendor > Package/Package Group >Product Version >

 

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You can download a zip of the folder structure here –

Moving a OneNote notebook to SharePoint 2010

A customer was having trouble with moving a OneNote notebook to SharePoint 2010 so they could collaborate on it together so I thought I would do a quick post on the process.

Creating a local notebook

In order to move a notebook to SharePoint you need to have a notebook to move. You probably already have one so I’ll just leave you with a screenshot of creating a new one.

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So now you have your local OneNote notebook.

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Creating a Document Library on SharePoint

You will need to create document library on SharePoint to hold the notebook. You can either create a new one or using an existing one. From a logical separation point of view you should use it’s own library.

Give it a name and set the document template. The document template choice simply changes what happens when you click on the New Document item in the library, nothing more. You could pick anything you like from the list.

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Before leaving the page you need to copy the link to the library. Make sure you only copy up to the the library. Don’t copy the /forms/allitems.aspx bit, it won’t work. If you are having trouble with this part, you can also get the exact link by clicking on the “Email a Link” button and copy it from there.

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Moving the local notebook to SharePoint

Back in OneNote, right click on your notebook and on “Properties”.

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Click on “Change Location”.

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Paste in the link to the new library and click on “Select”.

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OneNote will now move your notebook to SharePoint.

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Once it’s done you will see a confirmation, click on “OK”.

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That is it, simple and quick. You can how invite people to work with you on your notebook and the changes will sync pretty much live between everyone’s machines and also be available offline.

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[aboutme username=”ashley.lawrence”]

Creating your own Excel Reports from performance data collected by System Centre Essentials 2010 – Basic Example, Start to Finish

I’ve been using SCE 2010 for a while now and for the most part there have never really been too many demands put on the reports. The built in reports a little quirky and not that flexible but that’s partly by design since you can only use the reports that come with SCE or ones that are already authored in Management Packs, for anything else and you need Ops Manager.

I recently needed to get at the raw data that SCE had collected and do some of my own analysis on a “before and after changes” report so worked out this simple (some may well disagree) method. It will hopefully be useful if you didn’t already know about it and could act as a starting point to create more complex reports.

Steps:

1: Getting the raw data out of System Centre Essentials.

2: Cleaning the data up so Excel can use it.

3. Creating Pivot charts to graph and aggregate the data.

Outputs:

These examples are only guides, once you have the data in your worksheet you may choose to pivot the data in different ways depending on what you want out of it.

1. Time of day CPU usage average graph showing peak average load times

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2. 31 day daily average CPU usage showing busy days

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Prerequisites for the process are:

1. Excel
Most versions will work but I’m using Excel 2010.

2. NotePad++
Free and open source, download here. A must have replacement for the built in MS notepad. It will be needed to remove certain characters from the raw data but you could write an Excel macro if you’re looking for a little more automation.

3. System Centre Essentials 2010 (or 2007)
Obviously required otherwise there is no data.

4. Performance data retention set in SCE to the maximum of 37 days and this setting in place for 37 days.
Optional but useful if the report is to contain a useful amount of data. A lot of the grouping of the data in Pivot charts later in the process become a little pointless if there is only the default 7 days in there.

1: Getting the raw data out of System Centre Essentials.

Assuming that the you’ve completed the prerequisites getting the raw data out of SCE is surprisingly easy but this method cannot be automated (I’ll do another post automating getting the data out assuming it’s possible) so it’s not a flexible, scalable method that you’d be happy about doing every day if you need to do it for multiple servers and multiple counters.

For this example I’ll be getting the CPU Percent Total for a server over the last 31 days.

  1. Open the SCE Console and click on “Monitoring”
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  2. Drill down into the Windows Server node and click on “Operating System Performance” graph
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  3. Change the filter options and target the server you are interested in and tick the CPU Percent Total for that server
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  4. Change the date range for the graph to the last 31 days and click on OK.
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  5. At the top right hand side of the screen click on “Copy data to clipboard”
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  6. Open NotePad++ and paste in the information.
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Note: If you are accessing the SCE Console over Remote Desktop give the clipboard a few seconds to populate since there can be 60,000 data points or more. You’ll find out if you’ve been too hasty when you paste and nothing is there.

Had you pasted the data straight into Excel you’d find it not formatted neatly into columns as you’d hope. This is one of reasons NotePad++ is needed – to get it into something that Excel can use easily. A macro in Excel could also do the cleanup which I’ll follow on with another post if I end up going down that route.

2: Cleaning the data up so Excel can use it.

Now that you have the data out of SCE you need to clean it up for use in Pivot charts in excel. There are several items that need to be edited and or removed.

The function that we need NotePad++ for is to remove the carriage return line feeds, aka what the “Enter” button does to end a line. NotePad++ can search for and remove them while excel can’t (to my knowledge anyway). NotePad++ identifies CR LF as rn if you enable the Extended Search mode. All the other editing could just as easily be done in Excel since they are simply “find and replace”. At the end of the stage we’ll end up with a clean CSV file for use in Excel.

  1. Press the “show all characters ” button in NotePad++
    image
  2. Delete the line <NewDataSet> at the beginning and </NewDataSet> the end of the file
  3. From the “Search” Menu select “Replace” (or press Ctrl+H)
  4. Change the search mode to “Extended”
  5. Copy <Series_your GUI here> and paste it in the “Find what” field and add rn at the end of the line.
    image
  6. In the “Replace with” field type in your server name and the counter that you used and click on “Replace All”, e.g. “Server 1 CPU Counter”
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  7. Continue find and replace the following:
    1. Replace <X> with nothing (leave “Replace with” field blank)
    2. Replace –04:00</X>rn with nothing (this is the time offset from GMT)
    3. Replace <Y> with nothing
    4. Replace </Y>rn with nothing
    5. Replace T with a single space
    6. Replace with </Series_your GUI here> with nothing
    7. Replace every two spaces with a tab space (“Find What:” press space twice, “Replace with:” t)
      image
  8. Save the file and you’ll have your data ready for excel and graphing.

3. Creating Pivot charts to graph and aggregate the data.

Now that you a csv file which Excel will be happy with you can start the real work of graphing the data in meaningful ways. Most of you reading this will probably not need to follow the next bits but for the sake of completeness and anyone who hasn’t done it before I’ll keep the level of detail covered in the process high.

  1. Open Excel and go to File > Open. Change the files to “All Files (*.*)” and open the text file you just saved
  2. Change the type to “Delimited” and click on “Next”
  3. Tick “treat consecutive delimiters as one” and click on Finish
  4. Insert a new row for the headers, something like “Server”, “Date and Time”, “Value”
    image
  5. Select all three columns and select Insert > PivotChart and press OK.
    image
  6. Add all three fields to the report.
  7. Move the following fields:
    1. Move “Server” field to Legend Field section
    2. Move “Value” to the Values section
  8. Change the Value Field settings for “Count of Value” to Sum
  9. Right click on the most top left “Date and Time” value and click on Group.
    image

This is the point at which you can group the data in a date group that your want. If you grouped it by Day it would look something like this –

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Grouped by hour would look like this –

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And that’s it. It might look a little lengthy the first time but the process is really quite simple.