Ping 222: MSN Preview, Siri vs. Cortana, Minecraft hits Xbox One, OneDrive, Apps for Office Workers, E.T cartridges

Hey everybody! Welcome back to Ping!  It’s episode 222, which is a pretty cool palindrome episode number.  We’re so happy to get a ton of correspondence this week – thanks pingers!  We talk about your suggestions about the coolest cooler and more these stories that we’ve been pinging each other about…

[T5:51] MSN Preview

[T7:26] Microsoft’s latest Siri vs. Cortana ad aims to find the fairest voice assistant of them all

[T8:37] ‘Minecraft’ hits Xbox One this Friday and an upgrade only costs $5

[T9:56] It’s official: Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud storage to support up to 10 GB files

[T11:07] 10 Must-Have Windows Phone Apps for Office Workers

[T13:02] You can buy those excavated ‘E.T.’ cartridges at auction soon

[T14:32] Question of the week! Where would you like us to shoot a remote Ping Episode?

 

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Stop the insanity, regain control of user management and security

Sometime it’s the fundamentals that get missed when you are in FireDrill mode for too long and need to get things done. Or maybe you inherited a fileserver where there are WAY too many admins and you are troubleshooting access issues. Take a moment, step back and revisit the basics of Group strategies and how they should be applied to all sorts of scenarios. You have to understand the history before you can start with the new stuff.

Wait a second. You’re talking about everyday boring groups? Those things you use to group users together so that you can assign access rights to resources? How is this going to help me regain control of users? Let me share a story.

WP_20140506_08_33_02_ProRecently I inherited a Clustered FileServer that had a couple of thousand users who accessed resources from many, many domains across this international Active Directory forest. Upon further examination, the use of groups WAS employed (poorly), but only ONE GROUP was created. This group gave whoever was a member “Full Control” of the file permissions down through the entire folder structure on the server.  On top of that – it was used across a dozen different shares, accessed by different groups of users across the entire organization. This fileserver was running on aging hardware, constantly getting “full” and was due for a swap to a new solution. How do I handle this while continuing to work on my regular day job?

Procuring the new hardware was easy.

CiB-9220_Top_Banner_Demo_2

I ordered up a nice 70 terabyte Cluster-In-A-Box from DataOnStorage and got it setup as a Clustered Fileserver. After establishing a large DrivePool and carving out a new Dual Parity StorageSpace – I set about doing some basic Group planning for future access.

Every SysAdmin has their own philosophy on how to assign access rights to shares and folder permissions. There have been some enhancements with Windows Server 2012 R2, but fundamentally things have not changed all that much (A,G,DL,P):

Assign users into
Global Groups. Nest them inside
Domain Local groups and Assign
Permissions to the share / folder structure.

Why do I bring this up? You would be surprised at the number of times I’ve see ACLs (Access Control Lists) for folders / shares that have individual users added directly added to them. Usually as a result of someone granting Full Control to a non technical person (who has no background in managing servers) and them getting a little too advanced for themselves by  changing file permissions, only to “Apply this to all files and sub folders”.

Do yourself a favor. Please explain this concept to anyone who will be managing a folder structure or share on a server. DON’T MAKE THE ASSUMPTION that they know what you are talking about. But also explain to them about reusing groups where it makes sense and possibly “mail enabling” groups in order to make them multi-purposed.  A well managed AD with an understood and communicated Group Strategy will go a LONG way to keep your sanity, keep the users in line and reign in wayward file servers.

That migration project for the file server?  It’s almost done. I’ve practiced what I’ve preached here and contacted the respective owners of the various shares to re-confirm what their requested level of security is.  I’ve create groups and nested them inside local groups on the new server. I’ve also “trained” the owner of the shares what groups are being used and I’ve delegated them the rights to go an manage the group memberships to ultimately control who has access to the resources. I’ve setup some RoboCopy command scripts to copy over data and synchronize  data.  I’m almost ready to flip the switch – just got to get back from my travels on the road and send out the notification emails.

I think some of the follow up from the final process would make a good couple of posts. Stay tuned for more.

If you can’t wait and need to make sometime to figure out what’s coming around the bend  – check out the new EvalCenter with it’s concept of “Tech Journeys” and explore some Hybrid datacenter concepts or Mobile Device Management. .

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Ping 221: Forza Horizon 2 Demo, Alienware Alpha, Coolest Cooler, Windows Store Apps, and Lag-free cloud gaming

Hey everybody! We loved hearing about your dress codes last show – so we go over your responses and jump into all sorts of other things that we’re pinging each other about…

[17:39] Question of the week! What additions would you make to a future cooler?

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Countdown to TechEd Europe: One With Things To Do In Barcelona

Joey and I are back again and this week, they share with you our tour of some of Barcelona’s most incredible attractions. Watch the video, and see their top picks that you should add to your itinerary while you’re at Microsoft TechEd Europe 2014. From historic landmarks, museums and parks, to football and Flamenco dancing… this city has it all!

Make sure that you register so you don’t miss out on this amazing experience!

We want to hear from YOU! What are you most looking forward to at TechEd Europe? Let us know:




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"Dear John…" how to breakup with your old infrastructure

From:         SysAdmin
Sent:          Friday, August 29th, 2014 11:38 am
To:             JOHN-WS2003R2.CONTOSO.COM
Subject:     I really don’t know how to say this in person…


Dear John (a.k.a. Windows Server 2003)

I wish I were writing you for other reasons, but I just can’t continue supporting our relationship feeling the way I feel right now. I’m writing this email instead of logging into the console because I have so much to tell you and this seems like the best way to say it without getting distracted.

What can I say – it has been fun.  You have worked hard all these years keeping our old mission critical applications running, long after others have abandoned you. You stood by me as we transitioned Active Directory away from you and over to the bright shiny new systems running a “more modern” flavor of Windows Server.  It must have been difficult to see those services migrated away after the planning and pilot deployment. This has gotten me thinking – I’ve realized I need to sit down and take stock of where our relationship stands today and I realized that we’ve grown apart.  I’m ready to move to a more mature relationship but I don’t think you and I are on the same page. After reading this – I definitely believe you are not able to continue fulfill my needs.

I want to make this as easy as possible for both of us – so I started exploring other options.

First off, I need to discover what exactly we’ve been doing over the last 11 years. I mean really – you never cease to surprise me when a site visit turns up yet another one of your relatives running some application or print server that is critical to someone’s daily routine. This concerns me – it really does. You’ve obviously gotten around a lot and have been very popular with the IT staff.  This has got to stop. I’ve contacted a couples councilor who has recommended I try “The Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit” in order to get a view of just how far reaching your deployment has grown over the years and what workloads you still maintain.

Next – it’s time for me to set aside some “alone time” to plan and Assess just how much work lies ahead.  I know it will be tough and there will be lots of work to come – but knowing what lies ahead and prioritizing is half the battle.  I still have a lot to learn about what my options are, so I started a personal learning path as part of this Tech Journey of Modernizing the Datacenter.

As much as I don’t like to say it – after taking the time to Assess and reflect on things, it’s time for me to Target exactly what needs to get done to painlessly end our relationship without another nasty fight. I’ll be honest, some things will need to be replaced because the old way isn’t working anymore. Other things will require some assistance to migrate to new solutions. I am going to keep an open mind and explore my options.  I plan on making some hard decisions in the months to come.

Finally – when all is said and done, I’ve got to be strong and stand firm to our deadline of July 14th, 2015. With it fast approaching, I’ll prepare myself to Migrate things on my own or get some additional help from partners who are better equipped to get me through this stressful time.

I know I will revisit our time together and remember the happy times – successful Service Packs, new CD-ROM updates and Sneakernet deployments. I’ll forever hear your disks whirring and see your lights blinking in my minds eye for a long time to come. I’m going to miss all of this, more than you can imagine.

…but it’s time for me to move on.

Sincerely,

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Your SysAdmin

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PingShow 220: ReddX, Skype update, White House dress code, Ballmer moving on, and more

Mark and I cover off a lot of stuff in this one. Heck – I even bring out an old Commodore SX64 luggable “executive computer” that I picked up at a garage sale for $20. Check it out.

[06:05] ReddX: reddit App for Xbox One Available Soon

[07:44] Skype Chat notifications rebuilt around you

[09:02] The White House Gives Up on Making Coders Dress Like Adults

[12:29] Steve Ballmer steps down from Microsoft board

[14:24] Fibbage: The Hilarious Bluffing Party Game is Now Available on Xbox One

[T15:45] New AccuWeather app for Windows Phone includes minute-by-minute precipitation forecast for your location

 

Question of the week! What’s your dress code?

 

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Challenge Accepted: #IceBucketChallenge for ALS

Well it had to happen and thanks to Heike Ritter @heikeritter it did.

Simon May and I grabbed some ice, some water and a bucket and got it done.

We nominated some people you might have heard from: Mary Jo Foley (@maryjofoley), Paul Thurrott (@thurrott), Simon Bisson (@sbisson), Mary Branscombe (@marypcbuk), Tom Warren (@tomwarren) and Dina Bass (@dinabass).

Yeah – we might owe some folks a beer next time we see them, but it’s worth it.

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Installing the Windows Azure PowerShell Cmdlets.

I am assuming you have used the online graphical portal a bit and now you want to be more productive and start some rudimentary automation. We don’t expect you do use the portal for everything. For an IT Pro – the logical choice is to use PowerShell and work like an admin from your workstation. Before I go into more depth on all sorts of components and features/capabilities of Windows Azure, let’s prep your workstation for some automation.

Step 1: Download the files.

Head on over to the download page from the Windows Azure site. http://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/downloads/

AzurePowershellDL1

This will kick off the download of the Web Platform Installer. This tool will be available on your system to download the current version as well as all the updates we periodically make to the cmdlets.

Step 2: Use the Web Platform Installer to install cmdlets and dependencies.

It’s not just the cmdlets that will download – it’s also all the dependencies that come down and get updated as well. don’t worry – the Web Platform Installer (WebPI) has you covered for ensuring everything is up to date.

AzurePowershellDL3

Step3: Put the install location into your path

This is optional, but helpful if you will be using the cmdlets a lot. There a a number of ways to do this, but in my opinion, the least invasive way is to update your PATH environment variable with the Azure cmdlets install path.

The cmdlets are installed (by default) in C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft SDKs\Windows Azure\PowerShell\Azure

Pull up your system properties. (I right click on “This PC” or My Computer and choose properties). Click on Advanced System Settings.

AzurePowershellDL4

Click on Environment Variables

AzurePowershellDL5

Update the path statement to include C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft SDKs\Windows Azure\PowerShell\Azure. Don’t forget to go to the end of the line and add a ; before overwriting your path!

AzurePowershellDL6

Close off all your windows with the OK buttons and you are good to go.

Step 4: try it out in PowerShell and PowerShell ISE

Just to make sure – check it out in your PowerShell window and tool of your choice.

AzurePowershellDL7

AzurePowershellDL8

Fairly simple and straight forward – but surprisingly hard to find out how to set it up in the easiest way possible. From now on – this system is ready to go with the Azure PowerShell cmdlets.

Step 5: Simplify Your Settings

When you need to run a command against your Windows Azure subscription, the session will need some settings to be referenced a lot. This means you will get a window pop-up to login to your Microsoft Account or account you are using to manage and interact with your subscription via the portal. To make your life WAY easier – if this is your “management workstation” that you maintain and secure, you can download your Azure Publish Settings file including your management certificate. Trust me – it will make your life easier if you do this.  It’s so simple.

From a PowerShell prompt, type in:

PS C:\> Get-AzurePublishSettingsFile

That will require authentication to the Azure Portal in order to create your Settings File.

AzureSettingsFile

It will prompt you to download and save it to a secure location. Change to that location in your PowerShell window and then type in:

PS C:\> Import-AzurePublishSettingsFile

If you were not in the proper directory where the file resides, you will need to include the full path and name of the file.

To check if the settings file worked correctly – check what subscription is active in the PowerShell console session by typing in:

PS C:\> Get-AzureSubscription

This should respond with details of your subscription, including details on the management certificate which will be valid for one year.

That’s It – You Are DONE!

Step 6: What about Updates?

That’s simple! Periodically run the WebPI utility to ensure there are no updates.

AzurePowershellDL9

Notice the date for Windows Azure PowerShell AND that there is no option to “add” it anymore as it has already been installed.  If updates are available that button will become active once again.

That’s about it – if there was an update, it would come down to the appropriate path that has already been added to the system path and therefore all new PowerShell windows and ISE sessions would automatically be updated with new functionality.

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Windows Azure–where do I sign up?

(NOTE 3/11/14: clarification on billing with “spending limits feature” has been added. See italicized text in bullet points for additions)

No seriously – where do I get it?

Do I have to get some sales guy to come and sell it to me? Do I contact a software reseller to sell me a copy? Do I need gobs of cash to be able to try this out?

In short – the answer is NO.

The fastest and simplest way to get started is to get your own free trial.

go to www.windowsazure.com

AzureSignup

I think it is relatively apparent where you go for the Free Trial – but I thought I’d highlight the arrows with more arrows in red.

You’ve got links to a FAQ, a phone number you can call to answer questions and $200 in credit to spend on your trial. I suggest you take a moment to read the FAQ. There are a lot of preconceived notions that are either false or greatly out of date with regards to signing up for a free trial. I’ll highlight a couple below:

  • You can use the $200 to try out any number of services without restriction (except the $200 credit limit or 30 days – whichever comes first).
  • The trial is absolutely FREE – you will not be charged for anything above and beyond the $200 credit.
    • MYTHBUSTER: we do not charge you for overages or “mistakes” you make during this trial because you are unfamiliar with how billing works and you are in  a “learning phase”.  In the past we did not have a “cap” that could be added to protect early adopters from getting bills they didn’t expect.
  • CreditCard and Microsoft Account are required.
    • MYTHBUSTER: as mentioned above – we do not charge your card for this free trial.  You are welcome to use your business or personal card – they are used for identification purposes only.  I mean – come on- we don’t want people spinning up services and VMs to do BitcoinMining things without knowing who they are.
  • If you exceed the $200 credit limit on this trial or hit 30 days, the services and account will be automatically suspended.  You are welcome to convert the trial into a simple “Pay-As-You-go” option to maintain your services and will be billed accordingly for services use.
    • The Spending Limit feature is targeted to the MSDN and Partner Cloud network members. It is not available on the Pay-As-You-Go or consumption plans. It was designed to ensure these members won’t get billed while they are developing solutions on the Azure Platform.
    • You are able to sign up for Billing Alerts to warn you when you are approaching thresholds and want to proactively scale back before incurring charges. See this article for more details.
  • Azure Free Trials are available in all countries/regions where Azure is commercially available. Windows Azure is currently (as of March 1st, 2014) available in the following 84 countries/regions: Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Korea, Kuwait, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia (FYRO), Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Montenegro, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, UAE, UK, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Ukraine, and Russia.

Note regarding the Credit Card requirements: All online “cloud” services space require a credit card for identity verification and trials these days. It’s the minimum bar for entry to ensure some level of validation / accountability.  If you don’t have one, you might be able to register one of those “pre-paid charge cards” from a store, provided you registered your information for online purchases – but I’ve never tried it myself.

If you want more details on the plans and how the Spending Limit works – check out this article. If you want to know how to setup Billing Alerts, check out this article.

Fill out the registration details with validation text message or automated voice call.

AzureSignup2

Once the code gets validated, the payment information becomes available. Once confirmed, you should end up at the Subscriptions page with a “pending status” as we get things setup for you.

AzureSignup3

This can take some time – click on the (Click here to refresh) option to check on it’s status.  When I wrote this blog post it took all of a minute to be ready.  Once you are listed as “Active” (my screenshot shows “Pending”) you can click on the blue Portal area up in the right corner.

Once you progress to the portal – a quick tour option is available to walk you through the very basic functionality of what the Management portal can do and it’s various notification areas that are context sensitive.

AzureSignup4

Once you have gone through the quick 5 slices of info – you are dropped into the Management Portal for your Windows Azure account. You’ll be spending some time in here working with the services and setting things up. I’ll be going over a bunch of things I’ve done in here as part of this ongoing series. Take some time, explore a bit and check out the Help in the bottom right corner of the management portal.

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Lets have some quick fun – something all of us ServerHuggers can embrace and understand – Lets make a Windows Server 2012 R2 Virtual Machine and RDP into it!. To keep things REAL simple – I suggest you try out the Quick Create of a VirtualMachine from the big NEW button at the bottom left of your portal.

quickCreate

Fill in a unique DNS name (I use my initials RJC with demoVM to make RJCDemovm), create a local admin user name and confirm a admin password. Finally, choose a region/affinity group (where will it be hosted) and click on “Create Virtual Machine”. Once the info has been submitted – Azure will start the provisioning process and give you a status update in the portal. You can see from the shot below – mine is provisioning, it has a name of rjcdemo.cloudapp.net and you can see a job to finish it’s provisioning is running by the animated green bars in the bottom right corner of the portal.

quickCreateVM

Notice it takes some time to spin up – think of a VHD being copied out of a VM Library and then being assigned into your storage and finally being started for the first time. It has to go through the initial Sysprep like first boot activities and have configuration settings passed through to it via a custom made unattend.xml file (where do you think it got the username and password to create from?).  Eventually it will come up to a Running state.

Once it hits that Running State – you have the billing meter running (against your $200 free credit) to the tune of about $0.10 / hr for a small instance. It’s billed by the minute and you are NOT charged when it is Shut Down – so don’t forget to shut it down when you are done playing with it.

You’ll notice at the bottom, when the machine is selected you can Connect, Restart, Shut Down, Attach / detach disk, capture and Delete. Click on the CONNECT button.

quickCreateVM2

A familiar open/save dialogue opens up – save the file someplace – it’s just a RDP file that has the Fully Qualified Domain Name to your VM and the special non-standard listening port for the RDP connection (in my case it’s rjcdemovm.cloudapp.net:52778). This gets re-mapped to the proper 3389 port by Azure (more on this later). Launch this connection and sign in with the Admin ID and password you filled out in the Quick Connect form and Voila!

quickCreateVM3

NOTE: In case you didn’t know, if you sign in with a .\{username} it signifies that you are logging in to the LOCAL account database of the system (since it’s not domain joined AND since I am running this demo from my corporate machine – you can see me authenticate correctly in the middle with local creds).

Accept the certificate warning and the RDP session opens to your new desktop of a server running in the cloud on an ISOLATED network that has been NAT’ed behind the Azure firewall.  Feels like home, eh?  Go ahead – poke around, check out and explore all the sort of stuff you would do when you rack a server or spin up a VM for the first time. Kick the tires and play around – all seems very familiar, eh?

ok – that’s enough for this post.  Once you are done playing around, log off the Virtual Machine and return to the Azure Management Portal.  From there, select the machine and choose SHUTDOWN from the bottom bar.  This will gracefully shutdown the VM and stop the charges for the machine in order to preserve your credit.  If you forget – it’s going to cost you $1.20 to run this overnight for 12 hrs or so – not exactly going to break the bank.

Congrats on taking the first step towards this Cloud thing as a ServerHugger.

it wasn’t so bad now, was it?

P.S. One last thing:

If you are from the developer side of the house in IT – you might already have an MSDN subscription that includes reoccurring monthly credits and benefits that can be activated. If you’re an IT guy who sits on the Infrastructure side of the house – you might want to check to see if your developer brethren have already started using this benefit and see if you can get in to the action. You see – you can have multiple admins and access to subscriptions for access to these benefits.  But really – you probably want your own space to play in and learn.

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“Server Huggers” guide to Windows Azure–new series

WP_20140307_13_38_38_ProAs you may or may not know – I am a Server Hugger – heck I even have a pin to prove it. But – as I like to take on challenges, I thought I would transition my expertise out of on-premise server architecture and infrastructure and walk on the wild side for a while. I’m on a personal mission to get my head around everything there is to know about Windows Azure – from a Server Hugger’s perspective.

WP_20131031_12_32_29_Pro (340x640)Since I’m making this transition and embarking on a fully immersive Azure experience – I thought I’d document it along the way here on the blog. Don’t worry – I won’t be abandoning all things Windows Server / Storage / On-Premises – that will be continuing. I’ll be able to transition my skills to be more “cloudy” based on everything I’ve read and come out for the better on the other side.

I’ll be tagging my posts in a new category “Azure 4 Server Huggers” so you can find them amongst the stuff I have going on here. I will also caveat that each entry will be date specific as technologies evolve extremely fast in the Azure space. I’ll do my best to keep them updated as things change.

Finally – all content in this series will be coming from the perspective of a Server Hugger with 25+ years experience working in on-premises IT environments. There will be minimal “dev” stuff going on – other than how to support and work with them along the way. I’ll be bringing my architect experience along with me.

I hope you enjoy it.

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