Random Flying Bits #1

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If Python is executable pseudocode, then perl is executable line noise.

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DNS Self-Service with Orchestrator

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Monday morning, you’re sitting in the comfort of your cubical, playing Minecraft, building a giant pixelated reptile, determined and focused, when suddenly a new outlook toast with “New DNS record creation request” as the subject appears… You feel like:

Ain't nobody got time for time for that

You know the feeling, that woman is my role model !

Imagine if you could just reply the man with “Use the DNS self-service form, fiend” and continue with your masterpiece.

Fret not, old friend, that is exactly what we are going to do today !

Continue reading

DSC vs Group Policy: In Plain English!

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Internet, we meet again!

No, it didn’t take me 14 months to write this article, i just had a bad case of fleas that took a while to shake off (metaphorically, of course).

As you already know, Windows server 2012R2 is already being shipped with the new PowerShell feature/framework: Desired State Configuration. In this article i will list a summary of key differences between group policy and DSC, in ENGLISH.
Microsoft provided us several tools to manage Windows, other than GP and DSC (e.g. SCCM DCM, InTune), but I wanted to compare those two specifically because they are free, mainly.
Enough chit-chat, differences, in no particular order:

  • DSC, by using MOF files (which are not proprietary to Windows), can manage Linux boxes, while group policy (currently) can’t.
  • DSC can use any MOF file created by any future 3rd party product that can potentially leverage DSC as a policy engine.
  • DSC is easy to extend (the only limit is PowerShell’s potency), whereas extending Group Policy can be really daunting.
  • DSC writes all errors in the Windows event logs when things go south, while not all Group Policy settings does that.
  • DSC periodic configuration refresh checks for updates every 15 mins by default, whereas Group Policy’s background refresh can take up to 120 mins.
  • DSC stores the required config and resources locally, so even if there is no network connection, configuration refresh WILL occur, whereas group policy requires connections to AD and SYSVOL to perform its background refresh.
  • DSC config/policy can be applied to workgroup machines, thus your DMZ machines will never be out of shape again, whereas group policy requires the machine to be in an AD domain.
  • DSC, while declarative, does not have any GUI (yet), while group policies GUI is easy to use and well known.
  • DSC is more complex to apply, whereas Group Policy is click-driven.
  • DSC provides centralized triggering of configuration distribution, while Group Policy relies on the GP client to trigger refreshes.
  • Group Policy uses a combination of event-driven (like computer startup and user logon) mechanisms, while DSC does not have anything like it yet.
  • DSC tattooes its changes on the machine, that means when a DSC config item is no longer applied, its changes does not revert back to its original state, whereas “most” Group Policy settings are not tattooed (GPP is another story).
  • DSC scripts is more human-readable than a raw Group Policy file.
  • In my opinion, DSC is more likely to be used on Servers, while Group Policy is still for both servers and clients (excluding perimeter machines).

That’s it, short and simple, I hope you’ve found it useful. Let me know what do you think by leaving a comment below.
Until next year (hopefully not), have a great one!

 

Poor man’s enterprise remote support solution

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There are tons of  remote support tools for AD environments, but most of them are commercial, and some of them are user initiated (like Lync 2010+ desktop sharing feature), today we will implement an agentless (sort of), free and pretty effective solution, the end result is a box that you enter the destined Username in (the person you’re trying to help), et voila, you have control over his screen ! (gentlemen, after his permission, of course)

Chapter I :

The base application that we will use is “Windows Remote Assistance” which ships for free with most Windows 7 flavors, the rest is scripting gimmicks.

Out of the box, Windows remote assistance will work if the requester sent an invitation file to the helper, but in our case, we want to initiate the process by offering our help before we even hear the nagging.

To do so, we need to create and link a GPO to our computers OU that enables just that :

Computer Configuration > Policies > Administrative Templates > System > Remote Assistance

Enable the “Offer Remote Assistance” option and select who can offer remote support, typically you will add your Help Desk group

Enabling WRS in a GPO

After you gpupdate the end-user’s machine, try it:

Open “Windows Remote Assistance” from your helper workstation, then click on Continue reading

Producing an Intentional BSOD (Blue Screen of Death)

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In some cases you may feel an urge to experience a lucid nightmare intentionally: to Generate a Blue Screen of Death !

Why ? You may have some sort of cluster configuration or some kind of HA solution that you want to dirty-test

This can be done using several ways, one including editing the registry and using the NumLock key, but the one we’ll check today is much simpler

First you need to have PowerShell installed (you can produce the same outcome by using any tool that can interface with WMI, PowerShell is the easiest)

Then open a elevated PowerShell console and type :

Get-Process | Stop-Process

A nice BSOD will appear

If you want to produce a BSOD on a remote machine, you need to have PowerShell remoting enabled and some firewall exceptions added to the target. To do so, open an elevated command prompt console (on the remote machine) and run:

winrm quickconfig

Then from your machine, issue the following:

Enter-PSSession ComputerName
Get-Process|Stop-Process

That’s my time for today, see you in a few days (or weeks…or months)

RDP 7 vs RDP 8: Wan Optimization, Zombies Style

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Yes, 5 months have passed since my last post, I was busy,with uhmm, stuff…

Now enough with my hypocrisy, today my curious monkey refused to sleep before i test the new “Wan Optimization” that Microsoft allegedly added to its new RDP v8.0 feature set that ships natively with Windows 2012.

So i setup 2 client machines, one with RDP v7.1 client and another with RDP v8.0, i will be connecting to my remote machine from home via an RD gateway server which is located in our remote branch’s DMZ.

Now we have to find some material worth testing on, and what is more frustrating than playing flash games over RDP? Their rich graphics, high frame rates and fade in-out effects (alpha) makes it the best candidate.

 I decided to go with something zombies related, “Earn to die 2012” is a great game (Disclaimer above): www.flashgames247.com/play/15994.html

*Round 1: RDP client v7.1 connecting to RDP v7.1 (or v8.0)

  • Of course RDP v8.0 is backward compatible so if you connect from a v7.1 client it will work but you will not get v8’s features
  • General Experience: Very slow and choppy gameplay, hangs when fading effects come into play, quality is good
  • Judgment: Unplayable

 not choppy

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Automating Lync 2010 Users Management

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Managing Lync 2010 users is a boring-slash-routine job, especially when you have integrated several VoIP solutions and you want to maintain consistency, for example maybe you use a single extension for the same user across multiple platforms.

In my case, users extensions in Lync is the same as their CUCM’s but prefixed with “5”, Continue reading