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Preview: Under The Stairs

Under The Stairs



Thomas Lee's collection of random interesting items, views on things, mainly IT related, as well as the occasional rant



Updated: 2017-11-16T04:25:00.897Z

 



Major updates to PowerShell Azure Module

2017-11-10T15:13:12.775Z

Like the rest of Azure, the Azure PowerShell cmdlets are truly a work in progress. I've written many times before about the cmdlets, including details of the great cmdlet renaming (https://tfl09.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/azure-powershell-some-changes-and-some.html). I've also demoed these cmdlets on a variety of occasions.

Microsoft has just released a major new revision to these cmdlets, version 5.0.0. The details can be found over on GitHub at: https://github.com/Azure/azure-powershell/releases/tag/v5.0.0-November2017.

This is a major update, as evidenced by the major version number change (from 4.x.x to 5.x.x). Additionally, there are several breaking changes - changes that could break your code if you update just the module itself.  You can see a list of updates at: https://github.com/Azure/azure-powershell/blob/release-5.0.0/documentation/release-notes/migration-guide.5.0.0.md.

If you are using Azure cmdlets - then you probably have some work to do to update to the new cmdlets. But all in all, such is the price of progress.




A Cool Azure Resource

2017-10-16T11:00:05.586+01:00

I spent the weekend attending a Train-The-Trainer event at Microsoft UK (Thanks Ed Baker!). The event was focused on Azure and both what it was and how to teach it. A cool event which led to a lot of sharing of tips, tricks, and cool links.

One particularly cool link I discovered was to https://azureplatform.azurewebsites.net/. When you navigate there, you see a page like this:


Each tile on the page represents one Azure service. Click on a service and a neat pop-up appears providing more details of that service. Clicking on Virtual Machines, for example, shows this:

A great launching pad for discovering more about Azure.





Events in the Security Event Log

2017-10-16T12:03:35.507+01:00

I was answering a question in the Spiceworks PowerShell Forum concerning the event log. The poster was looking for how to find out who had logged on to a particular computer. The answer was to use Get-WinEvent and search the Security log for the relevant event. Easy. But how do you know which event to look for? There are so many events! Well, there's a PowerShell script for that. To find the different event codes and roughly what they mean looks like this: # Get all the security even  $e = Get-WinEvent -LogName Security # Get the different message kinds:$ids = $e | Sort-Object Name |Group-Object -property id # And print the event types Foreach ($id in $Ids) {$m = ($id.Group[0].Message).SPLIT("`n")[0]  " {0:N5}    {1}" -f ($id.NAME), $m }This code first gets all the security events and sorts them by Event ID. Then the code extracts the first line of the Event Log message and displays the event ID and that first line. On my the output looks like this: 4624    An account was successfully logged on. 4672    Special privileges assigned to new logon. 4634    An account was logged off. 4648    A logon was attempted using explicit credentials. 5058    Key file operation. 5061    Cryptographic operation. 4798    A user's local group membership was enumerated. 4799    A security-enabled local group membership was enumerated. 4904    An attempt was made to register a security event source. 4905    An attempt was made to unregister a security event source. 4907    Auditing settings on object were changed. 5059    Key migration operation. 4688    A new process has been created. 4608    Windows is starting up. 4902    The Per-user audit policy table was created. 1100    The event logging service has shut down. 4616    The system time was changed. 4826    Boot Configuration Data loaded. 5033    The Windows Firewall Driver started successfully. 5024    The Windows Firewall service started successfully. 4647    User initiated logoff:So knowing this, finding out who logged in is simple, right? You might think. It takes a bit of tinkering with the object, but here's my code: # Get logon users $le = $e | where id -eq 4624 $x = foreach ($event in $le) { $time = $event.timecreated $username = $event.properties[5].value $domain = $event.Properties[6].value If (($username -ne '') -or ($Username -ne 'System')) { $ht = @{} $ht.time = $time $ht.user = "$domain/$username" New-object psobject -property $ht # And display the results: $x | group user | sort count -desc| ft name, count This code creates a simple object for each event log entry for the relevant ID. This object just has the time, username and domain name from the event log entry. I create an object to, at the end, group then sort the logon events. The result is almost like this:Name Count ---- ----- COOKHAM.NET/JerryGarcia 7576 NT AUTHORITY/SYSTEM 746 COOKHAM.NET/COOKHAM24$ 73 COOKHAM/BobWeir 36 NT VIRTUAL MACHINE/27A96661-D855-4286-81D6-BBB32172CCED 6 COOKHAM.NET/MickyHart 5 Window Manager/DWM-1 2 NT AUTHORITY/NETWORK SERVICE 1 NT VIRTUAL MACHINE/55C8EC55-6D2B-421D-A454-28FCF4680366 1 NT VIRTUAL MACHINE/53EC57B5-BAB2-4A29-A34B-19A8BB857C42 1 NT VIRTUAL MACHINE/45FF27A5-C133-4213-9A4A-DBF4317D55D0 1 NT VIRTUAL MACHINE/4459B92D-0476-4815-B2DE-C3243CD2D82B 1 NT VIRTUAL MACHINE/3D886F3D-B8BD-41A0-8B05-B82AEB2FE99D[...]



Free Microsoft Azure Symbol/Icon Set

2017-10-04T11:16:47.896+01:00

Over the years, many Microsoft groups have created sets of downloadable symbols and icons so you can create nice diagrams to represent your Azure service architecture. The latest set of tools includes Azure services which can be used in PowerPoint or Viso making it easy to create professional looking content.

You can get this icon pack at: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=41937. Note the download is 23.3MB.





The PowerShell Book Is Complete

2017-09-20T11:36:06.200+01:00

Since late last year, I have been working on a book. Titled  Windows Server 2016 Automation with PowerShell Cookbook (ISBN: 978-1-78712-204-8), it was finally completed and sent to the printers. The book is published by Packt Publishers. It's taken 10 months to complete and we face some serious issues during the writing. We had been using a neat web portal, but it suddenly started 'eating' bits of code. It was a nightmare and cost weeks of extra effort to fix (and we'd fix it only for the portal to eat the code again).  Then disaster struck in the form of my co-author having to drop out for personal reasons. This is never nice. I ended up picking up the extra chapters, but due to time, space and personal commitments, we did have to drop some of the chapters.  And during the final chapter reviews, we found that code that looked great in the Word Documents had been badly borked in the final PDFs (so HOURS or detailed proofreading). I just hope I picked up all the errors. But it's done. The printers are doing their best now to print it, and Amazon is now selling the book. I have to say I get a kick out of seeing that page. The code is planned to be uploaded to a GITHUB repository, so you can download and leverage it. This should happen soon! So with this book done, my fifth, I am never going to do this again. Way too much work, way too many late nights and early mornings, way too much stress. Never again. But having said that, my super-star tech reviewer, Mike Robbins, has suggested another book. Hmmm. In any event, let me know if you get this book and what you think! [...]



VSCode as a replacement for the ISE

2017-08-30T12:11:55.179+01:00

VSCode is a free source code editor developed by Microsoft and aimed at WIndows, Linux, and MACOS. VScode includes support for various languages, such as PowerShell, as well as embedded GIT control, syntax highlighting, code completion, and more.

Mike Robbins has produced a nice video, which you can find at http://mikefrobbins.com/2017/08/24/how-to-install-visual-studio-code-and-configure-it-as-a-replacement-for-the-powershell-ise/. This video takes you through the process of downloading VSCode, and setting it up as a replacement for the ISE.

It turns out to be remarkably simple to do this. Downloading is easy - and the installation process the normal clickercise approach. Once you get VS Code installed, you can easily configure it to act as the replacement for the ISE.

Once you have your settings configured, you end up with something that looks like this:



It looks and feels almost like the ISE, but with a lot of extra features above and beyond the basics provided by the ISE. These include the ability to determine aliases (and replace them with full cmdlet names), GIT hub/VSTeam Services/Hg integration and a lot more.

If you like the ISE, you are likely to enjoy VS Code!






Creating a SHA1 Hash - Using PowerShell

2017-09-11T16:50:36.002+01:00

I recently saw a query about how to create a SHA1 hash, using Powershell. The post was looking at using a web site for this and accessing it via PowerShell's web processing. But there is a much simpler way - just using the .NET Framework. Here's a simple script that hashes a string:


# Create Input Data 
$enc      = [system.Text.Encoding]::UTF8
$string   = "This is a string to hash< $data     = $enc.GetBytes($string)
# Create a New SHA1 Crypto Provider
$sha1 = New-Object System.Security.Cryptography.SHA1CryptoServiceProvider
# Now hash and display results 
$ResultHash = $sha1.ComputeHash($data)
$ResultHash

The trick to this approach is to convert the string into a byte array and then pass the byte array to the ComputeHash method.





Managing Azure with PowerShell - A Spiceworks Blog Series

2017-07-15T10:09:59.138+01:00

One of my fun tasks these days is being a group administrator and moderator on Spiceworks community forums. The forums are IT Pro focused and include a great group dedicated to all things PowerShell. If you have issues or questions, you are most welcome to come on over and post away. If you know PowerShell, we'd love to have more folks answering the torrent of questions we get.

In that role, Spiceworks asked me to create a series of blog posts on the Spiceworks Cloud blog which covers PowerShell and how you use it in the context of Azure. I offered to update some of the content in my upcoming book (See http://tfl09.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/my-next-powershell-book.html for details). The publisher (Packt Publishing) kindly agreed.

The first article, Introduction to Managing Azure Services Using Windows PowerShell, was posted this week. The next blog post, which looks at getting the modules you need to manage  Azure whould be posted sometime next week. A third article on the basics of Azure storage and how to create an SMB share (and access the share across the Internet) is planned and should follow on in due course.

I have a number of additional posts to create, including one on building a Virtual Machine, and another on virtual networks and creating a P2S VPN into the VM. I am very much open to suggestions for more in this series.





Hyper-V and PowerShell - A Tale of Two Modules

2017-07-13T12:06:30.739+01:00

I've been working on a book project (see: http://tfl09.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/my-next-powershell-book.html for details!) and have been working a lot with Hyper-V. I've built a nice farm of VMs (18 or so) representing a bunch of server roles and features. Then, I've been using PowerShell to exercise those roles and features. These VMs all run on client Hyper-V, on a Windows 10 (AU) host that has 96gb or ram, 2x6-core XEON processors, and loads of disk. The VMs are nearly all running Windows 2016 Server. The chapters all utilise AD/DNS/DHCP/CA etc. A nice setup for writing a book. In writing, I've noticed that Windows 10 as well as Windows Server 2016 both ship with two Hyper-V modules. The two modules are version 1.1 and 2.0.0.0, as you can see here: The version 2.0.0.0 module is a superset of the version 1.1 module. Version 1.1 contains 178 cmdlets, while  version 2.0.0.0 contains 235. Both modules have display XML included. Both versions use the same file name, but the Version 2.0.0.0 copy is larger. You could, or course, manually load version 1.1 module like this: Import-Module -Name Hyper-V -MaximumVersion 1.1 So long as you just use the cmdlets in the 1.1 version, you would be safe, but if your script did load 1.1, then trying to use cmdlets in the 2.0.0.0 module generates what at first sight is a curious message: The error message is also both wrong and, if taken, confusing. Importing the module as suggested by the error message generates more error messages. The error messages (Error in TypeData, etc) occur because Powershell is trying to load the version 2.0.0.0 copy of the display XML, and most of the components were already loaded from the 1.1 version. And even if you ignore the display XML errors, the suggested solution still fails with the same error message. The solution to this error is easy: update your scripts to not explicitly load v1.1. OR, if you do need for some reason to use the 1.1 version and use cmdlets in 2.0.0.0, then pressed them with a 'Get-Module Hyper-V | Remove-Module Hyper-V' and then follow the 2.0.0.0 cmdlet with commands to remove the module and reload the 1.1 version. Personally, while that could work, it's awfully messy and possibly not needed. Does having two versions really matter?  If you just use cmdlet names in the Hyper-V module, such as Get-VM, then PowerShell by default loads version 2.0.0.0.  If your script uses Import-Module to load the Hyper-V module explicitly, then again by default, PowerShell loads 2.0.0.0.  Having written over 100 scripts across a dozen different Server 2016 features and roles - I never noticed any problems. My scripts, with a few exceptions, relied on PowerShell's module autoload feature - I called the cmdlet and PowerShell loaded one. If your scripts, on the other hand, explicitly load V 1.1 (as shown above), then you may get a strange error. But in most cases, that can be avoided by simply not explicitly loading version 1.1 of the module. Now I know there may be cases where you may need to use a V 1.1 cmdlet, but those cases should be pretty rare. [...]



Setting Application Pool Recycling Values with PowerShell

2017-06-26T14:59:42.317+01:00

As I mentioned a while ago, I'm working on a new PowerShell book (See http://tfl09.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/my-next-powershell-book.html for details! In writing the book, I've been creating simple scripts to do useful things. In researching them, I found a number of aspects really well covered, reference wise. Other things were not covered well if at all. I hope to post some things I've discovered in the coming months. With IIS, you can create applications that run in application pools. An application is some set of web pages (with related executables). An application pool is a process, or processes, that run this application. This provides process isolation between applications reducing the impact a badly behaved application can have on other applications running on the same server. Resource leaks can bring an entire web server down, for example. One way to minimise these sorts of issues is to recycle the application pool - just stop then restart the processes running the application. A neat trick that reduces the risks of resource leaks. One downside is that any state within the application is lost. Needless to say, there are other ways to save state that are not affected by an application pool restart. For a fuller look at the things you can do to configure application pools, see: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc745955.aspx. This document is old, but is a good starting point (and worked fine on IIS 10 for my needs). You set application pool recycling values, using PowerShell, by setting item properties on certain items within the WebAdministration provider (the IIS: drive). This is simple, but the property names are not all that obvious at first. What I wanted to do was: Set specific times at which to recycle the application pool Set the pool to automatically if private memory rises beyond a limit, say 1GB. Set the pool to recycle the pool after the pool processes a certain number of requests, say 1 million. In PowerShell, once you know where to look, this is simple: # Set Application Pool Restart time Clear-ItemProperty IIS:\AppPools\WWW2Pool -Name Recycling.periodicRestart.schedule $RestartAt = @('07:55', '19:55') New-ItemProperty -Path 'IIS:\AppPools\WWW2Pool' -Name Recycling.periodicRestart.schedule -Value $RestartAt # Set Application Pool Maximum Private memory Clear-ItemProperty IIS:\AppPools\WWW2Pool -Name Recycling.periodicRestart.privatememory [int32] $PrivMemMax = 1GB Set-ItemProperty -Path "IIS:\AppPools\WWW2Pool" -Name Recycling.periodicRestart.privateMemory -Value $PrivMemMax # Set max requests before a recycle Clear-ItemProperty IIS:\AppPools\WWW2Pool -Name Recycling.periodicRestart.requests [int32] $MaxRequests = 100000 Set-ItemProperty -Path "IIS:\AppPools\www2POOL" -Name Recycling.periodicRestart.requests -Value $MaxRequests Some things that caught me out a bit: 1. Finding out the property names. In the case of recycling after 1m hits, the property name is 'Recycling.periodicRestart.PrivateMemory'. I suspect this naming is used by the provider to access the underlying XML that IIS actually uses to hold configuration information. 2. Finding values is easy, if there is one. I found the easitest way to set these values was to first clear the property, then set it. 3. Some item properties take properties of a certain type. It helps to specify the type (as shown above) as some times PowerShell tries to be helpful which can confuse the provider. [...]



AD User Properties In PowerShell

2017-05-02T11:00:04.958+01:00

I spend a lot of time as a Group Administrator looking after the PowerShell forum over on Spiceworks. The PowerShell group has an active forum  which you can find over at https://community.spiceworks.com/programming/powershell,

One issue that arises often is around getting properties back from a user object in Windows Active Directory. Typically we see posters knowing the GUI interface in Active Directory Users and Computers (ADUC), and wanting to get the same details. Although it is NOT new, I found a great resource the other day: Mappings for the Active Directory Users and Computers Snap-in.

This page, which has numerous subpages, maps the fields you find on the property sheets inside the ADUC MMC snap-in to the properties names you get/set using the Microsoft provided AD cmdlets.

For example, if you have set an Office address on the OU Managed By property sheet, you need to use the Physical-Delivery-Office-Name property from Get-Organizational unit to obtain that information. Likewise, the General Property Page for a user object shows First Name (property givenName), Last Name (sn), and the Display Name (displayName).

This page has links for:

  • Computer Object User Interface Mapping
  • Domain Object User Interface Mapping
  • Group Object User Interface Mapping
  • Object Property Sheet
  • Organizational Unit User Interface Mapping
  • Printer Object User Interface Mapping
  • Shared Folder Object User Interface Mapping
  • User Object User Interface Mapping
If you are working with the AD cmdlets and you need to map what you see in the ADUC GUI to what you need to use in PowerShell.



Top 50 PowerShell Blogs

2017-04-29T15:44:27.622+01:00

I just got e-mail that this blog has been included in the Feedspot.Com's Top 50 PowerShell Blogs list. You can see this list over at http://blog.feedspot.com/powershell_blogs/

I started this blog in 2003 - and first blogged about PowerShell (well, it was called Monad in those days) on 1 Nov 2003. It's been a long run with PowerShell - since that first day when Jeffrey Snover presented 'Batch Scripting, what you can do in 7 lines of code' to PDC 2003.

As Robert Hunter once wrote (and the Grateful Dead sang) "What a long strange trip it's been".



My Next PowerShell Book

2017-09-21T17:11:06.373+01:00

I'm working on a new PowerShell book. The book's title is Windows Server 2016 Automation with PowerShell Cookbook (ISBN: 978-1-78712-204-8).  The focus of the book is showing how to manage key Windows Server 2016 features using the latest versions of PowerShell. For each area covered, I show how to do things using Powershell, in the form of recipes. The intention is to both teach a bit about the feature itself, and show you how to manage the feature using built-in and add-on modules.

In a few cases, there is no built-in way to perform some operation using PowerShell. My favourite example is that the Printing cmdlets provide no way to create a printer pool, but you can in the UI. In that case, and others, the book shows useful Win32 console applications. In the case of printer pools, we show how to use PrintUI.DLL and RunDll32.EXE to set up a printer pool. IT pros can't yet do everything with PowerShell, out of the box - but in many cases, that's just not a problem.

The book has 13 chapters, as follows:
  • What’s New in PowerShell
  • Implementing NanoServer
  • Managing Windows Updates
  • Managing Printers
  • Managing Server Backup
  • Managing Performance
  • Troubleshooting Servers
  • Managing Windows Network Services
  • Managing Network Shares
  • Managing IIS
  • Managing Hyper-V
  • Managing Azure
  • Using Desired State Configuration
At the time of this post, I'm nearly done the drafting of the book's contents, and entering into the slow, tedious, and boring part: the editing and final proofing. It may be slow, tedious, and boring, but it's very important, as any writer knows.

There were several hiccoughs with the writing, but it's looking now like this book will be published in the autumn. As soon as I have a more definitive date, I'll post it.

[Later]
Publication should be early October. Sadly, my planned co-author had to drop out of the writing due to personal commitments. Additionally, I had to scale back a bit on the contents. The original plan was to write 450 pages. The book ended up something like 650!



Nested Hyper-V with Windows 10

2017-01-28T14:16:48.967Z

I've been away all week, teaching in Trondheim Norway. A nice place, great students and a useful Microsoft training course. In the course, Hyper-V features quite a lot - one cool feature discussed in nested Hyper-V.

Nested Hyper-V is a feature that enables you to create a virtual machine, and then load Hyper-V into that machine. So you can have a VM running VMs. This feature is cool, certainly at a technical level. No doubt someone is going to point out that VMware supports this, but the feature is new in Hyper-V on Server 2016. And interestingly enough, it works in Windows 10 Anniversary Update too!

Why does it matter?  For me, it matters since I am writing a book on PowerShell showing its range and depth. One chapter covers Hyper-V and having Nested Hyper-V means I can create two VMs (HV1, HV2) cluster the VMs, then create clustered virtual machines, The chapter is now easier to write.

The feature matters for customers too.  This enables you to use Hyper-V containers within a VM on a VM. And, it's a fantastic training tool when using on-line labs. The lab vendor, such as Virsoft (a great hosted labs experience!), to provide a student with a VM, in which they can load and use Hyper-V. Previously that was unsupported.

Getting nested Hyper-V to work is great news. For some time, I believed that this would not work on my systems. I have three big Dell Precision 7500 systems. When I tried this during the beta of Windows Server 2016, Coreinfo.exe suggested that my system did not support SLAT. And that meant I could not use nested Hyper-V. But it was wrong!

Here's a picture of a VM hosting a nested VM:
As you can see, a VM running a nested VM. The nested VM, which I called 'embedded' is in the midst on installation.

It turns out that the fix was pretty simple. In the host VM, I just had to issue a simple PowerShell command:

Set-VMProcessor -VMname DC1-ExposeVirtualizationExtensions $True
I had to shut down the  VM first, then reboot. Once rebooted, I was able to bring up the Hyper-V console and create the embedded VM.







Grammarly

2017-01-21T19:27:11.712Z

Last year, I wrote about a few great writing aids. One of the tools was Grammarly.

Grammarly is a browser plug in for the Chrome browser which provides spelling and grammar advice. A spell and grammar checker on steroids. On my main writing workstation, I have Grammarly loaded and running all the time. It almost feels like a part of the underlying browser, but with nice bells and whistles.

I am currently working on a book for Packt, and we have a sweet content development portal. We just go to the web site and use the text editing features to enter the text and graphics. We can then output to PDF - it works well. Inside this CDP, Grammarly is wonderful!

When I am entering content in the CDP, you can see Grammarly when it has something it's not happy with, like this:



If you hover over the red squiggly, Grammarly displays a little pop up box that gives you options - in this case some spelling alternatives. From that little popup, you can click on 'Correct with Grammarly', and a larger box appears with more advice. From this second pop up, you can scroll through your entire document to see where Grammarly feels you should make a change. It's awesome.

In practice, I write and insert code/pics, then repeat and repeat. I touch type, but not with perfect accuracy. For me, at least, it's faster to leave a typo in the sentence and continue typing than to fix the error then carry on. I can then just use the mouse to fix the errors - and that works well for me!

The free version is excellent. But for a fee, there's a Professional version that adds a significant number of additional grammar checking rules, including passive voice as well as a plagiarism checker. The Pro version is billed either monthly ($US 37.95), quarterly ($US 24.98), and annually ($US 11.66). At the moment, there is a 20% reduction - but I do now know how long that will last - with the discounts the prices are $29.95, $19.98, and 11.66 per month).

On the downside, several of us have noticed that with Grammarly turned on, our content deployment system can crash. This is a pain, but regular saves, autosave turned on, and bit of experience - recovery is usually pretty easy. I can live with the occasional hang in exchange for such a great product.





WMF 5.1 released for download

2017-01-20T13:52:22.846Z

When Microsoft ships a new version of PowerShell, it issues what they call the Windows Mangement Framework (WMF). The WMF package includes a new version of PowerShell, updated core cmdlets, and includes updated versions of other related components (e.g. an updated WMI).

In a blog post on the MS Site, Microsoft announced that release of the WMF 5.1 package. The blog post makes it clear that WMF 5.1 upgrades Window 8, Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2012, and Windows Server 2012 R2 to the PowerShell, WMI, WinRM, and SIL components that were released with Windows Server 2016 and Windows 10 Anniversary Edition.

If you are using Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2, you should be a little careful installing this package. The installation instructions were changed - so read the release notes carefully. 

It should be clear from the blog post, but if not: if you are using Windows 10 AU or Windows Server 2016, there is nothing for you to do. Those two operating systems ship with WMF 5.1 installed.




Using Get-CimAssociatedInstance

2017-01-18T23:36:47.369Z

Tonight I finally found a use for the Get-CimAssociatedInstance cmdlet. I know what that cmdlet does, but never had a real use case, until tonight.  What I was trying to do was to use the CIM cmdlets to find the logged-on user.  Initially, I searched through the many Win32_Classes and found one that looked promising (Win32_LogonSession). So I tried looking at the interactive logons: Get-CimInstance Win32_LogonSession |         Where-Object LogonType -EQ 10 But that returned me a somewhat unhelpful response: I wanted the username (and the SID). So I searched around a bit and found a class name that looked appealing: win32_loggedonuse. Turns out this is one an associator class. In WMI, the associator associates two other instances in the WMI database. In this case. the associator class associates a Win32_LogonSession with the WIn32_Account that is logged on in that session. So I turned it into a tool :. Function Get-WhoIAm {# Get Account for the loggede on user$Me = Get-CimINstance Win32_LogonSession |         Where-Object LogonType -EQ 10 |           Get-CimAssociatedInstance -Association win32_loggedonuser# Extract useful properties$IAmHT = [ordered] @{}$IAmHT.Account            = $Me.Caption$IAmHT.Description        = $Me.Description$IAmHT.LocalAccount       = $Me.LocalAccount$IAmHT.PasswordChangeable = $me.PasswordChangeable$IAmHT.SID                = $Me.SID$IamHT.CommputerName      = (Get-CimInstance -Classname Win32_Computersystem).Name# Create a new object$IAm = New-Object -TypeName PSCustomObject -Property $IAmHT# And return the Iam objectreturn $IAm} And for fun, I set an alias of WhoAmi - a tool I've used for a decade or longer. With that done, the output looks like this: Happy days with WMI and the CIM Cmdlets. [...]



Building a GUI with PowerShell

2016-12-23T16:55:09.496Z

Many IT Pros are familiar with the concept of using Windows Forms and PowerShell to create a simple. The approach is not always that easy if you are doing it from scratch - automation is very helpful.

Sapien's PowerShell Studio (see https://www.sapien.com/software/powershell_studio for more information) works very well, but it is commercial. And at a price of £389, out of reach to many folks.

I just discovered a cool online site that does a great job of building a GUI with PowerShell - for free: https://poshgui.com/#.  The starting page looks like this:

This is not anywhere near as rich as Sapien's tool, but great for really simple GUI development. Once you get the form right, just copy/paste it into the ISE and away you go!




PowerShell cmdlet documentation is open source - COOL!

2016-12-22T22:29:42.637Z



I was recently teaching a PowerShell course, and we looked at the definition the NAME parameter in Get-Service. It stated that the parameter did not accept wild cards. But it did. That made the demo sub-optimal.

So what's the obvious thing to do? Easy: just fix it!  And you can! If you look at the online version of the cmdlet's documentation (here: https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/powershell/reference/5.1/microsoft.powershell.management/get-service) the page looks like this:



In the upper right-hand corner is a little button Contribute. You do need to be logged in with a Microsoft Live ID to see the contribute icon.

Clicking Contribute takes you to the GitHub page for this document. All you have to do is to click on the Edit (the pencil icon), make the changes, and create a pull request. The pull request asks the doc team accept your update. Then send it and away you go. The whole process is automated and very quick and easy. The pull request is reviewed before being accepted - and as part of that process, the doc team can ask for something more/different. The process is very slick.

And finally, when you DO have the pull request accepted, your Live ID picture appears on the page. COOL - my face on the PowerShell documentation.



My Ten Tips For Technical Writing

2016-09-04T17:45:21.752+01:00

I have written many hundreds of thousands of words over my career – not only work product, but books, trade publication articles and so on. Over that time, I’ve read far more then I’ve written. And in that time, I’ve slowly developed a set of rules for how I write. Or for how I hope to write! In my career, I have had three great writing mentors: Keith Burgess, Roy Chapman, and Susan Greenberg. Keith was a partner at what was then Arthur Andersen Management Consultants who I worked directly throughout my time there (and was to work for again 20 years later). I did work for Roy over the years, he was a master at writing. Susan Greenberg was an amazing instructional designer at Microsoft and a great teacher. All these people strove for excellent writing – and each helped me to learn to write better. My ten rules are really pretty straightforward. Some can easily be converted in to muscle memory – your hands just type better text. And when I see some of my rules broken in other people’s writing – it drives me nuts. Those authors who have had me as an editor will recognise some of them! So here are my ten rules for better writing: Avoid future tense  This rule has a couple of benefits. Some languages deal with future tense differently to English – present tense is easier. Also future tense may make the writing harder to understand. For example: if you say “clicking on the foo button will make bar happen”. So the question is when will that happen? Is it immediate? Will bar happen in a minute/hour/day? Better to say: ‘Clicking on the foo button makes bar happen. Avoid passive voice Passive voice is, to cite Wikipedia,a grammatical construction where the noun that would be the object of an active sentence appears as the subject of the sentence.  Active voice, for example “Our company builds the best widgets whilst in passive voice it’s “The best widgets are built by our company. Sentences with passive voice add words to the sentence (6 vs 8 words). They can also make the reader work harder to understand the intended meaning. No split infinitives Yeah – I know: To Boldly Go and all that.  But an infinitive is a single idea – splitting it makes understanding more difficult. You should avoid that. What is it, so what  This is one of the lessons Susan Greenberg beat into me. It’s simple really: when you are writing about something, you should explain what it IS, before telling us why it matters. I really hate reading about some product or technology where the writer spends the first few paragraphs telling me why it was cool, without ever explaining precisely what ‘it’ actually is. Define your terms, THEN tell me why I need this product. Organise carefully I learned this lesson watching Keith Burgess. When you are writing a client report, or a magazine article, you have a purpose. That purpose could be to justify a project, or to explain a product or product feature. You need to organise your thoughts carefully, progressing from premise through to conclusion. You are taking the reader on the journey. We all know authors who veer widely off topic with annoying regularity. Decide on 2nd person vs 3rd person This is about how you are talking to the reader. Do you say: “You do X to make the Y feature work” or “The user does X to make the Y feature work”.  I prefer to directly to the reader, you, vs some one else, eg the user, the manager, the IT Pro. I like to talk directly to the person who is reading. Gender neutrality - or not This is one where [...]



Windows 10 Anniversary Edition–You’re Fired!

2016-08-03T19:42:44.667+01:00

Like many, I was excited about the progress that Microsoft made with WIndows 10 and was looking forward to running the final version! Sadly, my enthusiasm was short lived.

I have a nice home workstation: dual processor/ hex core, 96gb of ram and 4tb of disk – and a nice pair of modern 24 inch TFT panels. I have two other systems of similar size under my desk – these run Server 2016 TP5. All three systems are connected to the twin TFTs via a nice Lindy 4 port HDMI/USB KVM switch. The two servers use just one screen, whereas the workstation has one output going to the KVM, the other direct to the right screen. Having two screens has become not only natural, but important for work. Being able to have three large windows open is now normal practice.

So, last night I saw there was an update and I agreed. Go for it, I thought. The ‘upgrade’ took nearly an hour all told. But then I got the logon screen. After logon I got my first bit of bad news: Only one screen. The other two systems on the KVM switch work perfectly – the Windows 10 machine would not project to the second panel. I tried all the normal tricks of plugging things in, power cycling everything, etc. But I carried on.

Then the next bit of bad news: application compatibility. First, Network Monitor – AE gave me toast saying it was not supported. NO problem, I thought – I have Wireshark. Second, Foxit PDF reader started behaving oddly. If I double clicked a PDF in a mail in Outlook, the file opened, but Foxit immediately crashed.

Then came the proverbial 3rd strike. I fired up a VM (The old box ran around 10-12 VMs albeit not at the same time). I double clicked on the VM, and the VM Connect box errored out. I tried again. Error.

Sorry Microsoft, losing the second screen. having app compatibility issues with key tools, and no being able to see inside my VMs is simply unacceptable. I can not accept the downgrade in functionality. Frankly, for me an OS is just a tool. The changes for me are mainly cosmetic – except of course for PowerShell (but I can get that separately anyway).

So I reverted. Foxit works, as does Netmon. VM Connect works just fine. And I have my two screens back. Sorry Microsoft. Sorry Windows 10 Anniversary Edition, but You’re Fired.




Backing up SSD Disk In Azure

2016-06-18T16:33:51.426+01:00

Given all the coverage of the LinkedIn purchase, you may have missed the latest feature update in Azure: you can now backup data stored on Azure hosted SSD Storage using Azure backup.

Azure Premium storage allows you to provision SSD disks in the cloud – which naturally speeds up I/O operations and improves performance of workloads like SQL Server. Unlike traditional (i.e. spinning disk) storage in Azure, you pay for the disk you provision irrespective of how much you use. Traditional storage is billed based on the amount of storage actually used.

Like just about every feature area in Azure, Premium Storage is an evolving story. Last month, Microsoft announced that you could use Azure Site Recovery to replicate to Premium storage.

The most recent announcement means a VM using Premium Storage for storing VHD and other data can now be backed up with Azure backup. There is some documentation on the Azure documentation site: https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/documentation/articles/backup-azure-vms-first-look-arm/.

With this updated feature, you can now fully backup any Azure VM, whether V1/ARM irrespective of storage used (spinning disks vs premium SSD storage). You can specify the replication options to enable LRS vs GRS, define the backup goals, set policy and specify what to backup. Backup is pretty straight forward!

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Windows Server 2016–Coming Soon (and a free e-book)

2016-06-18T16:15:37.667+01:00

Windows Server 2016 is coming soon. While Microsoft has not issued a formal release or launch date yet, the updated server OS is due out sometime in the coming months. As I understand it, we are likely to see one further technical preview before RTM. I’m expecting RTM to be over the summer and expect to be able to download it from MSDN soon after. We’ll see how accurate my guesstimates are – and no I have NO inside information.

A sign that the new OS is coming soon is the release of a new e-book: Introducing Windows Server 2015 Techical Preview. It’s a bit dated (it was released in April) but has great details of the key new features of Server 2016, including Nano Server, Containers and the huge host of other updated or new features. I have downloaded the PFD and have been reading it on my train journeys to/from London.

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Finding Type Information in PowerShell

2016-05-18T20:12:08.188+01:00

On frequent occasions, I find myself using a cmdlet and needing more information about the objects that cmdlet produces. The details are in Microsoft’s MSDN library, but it can be hard to use the GUI to find it. Fortunately, I found a cool way of dealing with this. I found the trick on the Internet but I really can not remember where I found it. The trick is simple: I use some Type XML to extend all objects with a new script method called MSDN. If I create an object – I can assign it to a variable and just call the .MSDN() method on any occurrence.  Suppose I did a Get-ChildItem against the Certificate Provider and needed more details on the object returned. I just do this: $Certs = Get-ChildItem Cert:\CurrentUser\My$Certs[0].MSDN() The MSDN() method, something I’ve added in, then brings up Internet Explorer and nvigates to the appropriate page in the MSDN library. Which is: https://msdn.microsoft.com/library/System.Security.Cryptography.X509Certificates.X509Certificate2.ASPX. But how did that method come about – you might ask! Easy – it’s just a bit of type XML I add to each system I use. I just add an xml file and reference it in my PowerShell profile. The XML file looks like this:       System.Object                  MSDN                    I have saved this into a file (I saved it as c:\foo\my.types.ps1.xml) then in each PowerShell profile I just add it in: Update-TypeData -appendPath C:\foo\my.types.ps1xml And from then on, you can just use the MSDN method on just about any type. It’s not perfect – sadly there are types/classes that do not appear documented in MSDN (or at least now where this little XML trick can find it). If you know where this came from, Please comment – I just can’t remember where I found it![...]



Some Cool Writing Tools I Could Get Used To!

2016-05-18T18:29:18.007+01:00

As someone who blogs, and contributes to a lot of web forums, my writing skills matter. I want readers to digest what I say, without the text sounding like I'm talking to a 5-year old. The technical content of a lot of what I post makes that even more challenging. I’m sure I am not the only person who cringes when I see a typo or a bit of appalling grammar in my output.

Today, I came across an interesting page from StumbleUpon, called ‘3 Simple Writing Tools that will blow your mind’.  I did find the inconsistent use of capital letters in that headline to be amusing. But the content was good – and very useful!

The first tool is Headline Analyzer – which does what it says. You type in an article’s headline to the page (http://coschedule.com/headline-analyzer) and then the page analyses the headline for you. It shows common, uncommon, emotional and power words in your headline. Increasing the number of uncommon or emotional words can improve the headline. The page also shows how your article might appear in both google and email! If better headlines increase readership, then so much the better! I’ve bookmarked this page!

The second tool is Hemingway – a tool at www.hemingwayapp.com. You paste your article headline/text into the page, and your text is analysed for thinks like use of passive voice, or for phrases that have simpler alternatives. Running this article’s draft through Hemmingway showed some sentences/phrases that could be improved. This is another page I have bookmarked.

The final tool is called Grammarly. This is a chrome plugin that checks your text as you type into text boxes on Web pages. I installed it, and instantly the SpiceWorks pages give me this nice editor. This tool is free, and I’m already hooked!

Tools like these are a gas!