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?

 

Chat with us throughout the week using  #PingShow on Twitter

Like us on Facebook http://facebook.com/ThePingShow

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.

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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.

“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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What to do in Houston for TechEd 2014

I can’t believe I still get the “TechEd is in Houston? Awww, what am I going to do in Houston during TechEd?”. I was kind of in that boat, since I had never been to Houston except once for an overnight and all I saw was the airport hotel and a training center. Let me tell ya – My perception of Houston has been completely changed after shooting The Countdown Show there a couple of months back. When I inquire about their opinions a bit further – the initial comment about Houston is inevitably clarified with a secondary statement that they’ve never been there and are going on someone else’s comments OR they have been there before – but a long time ago and didn’t find Houston all that appealing. hummm… same as me. I follow up and ask them if they’ve seen the Countdown Show episodes where Joey and I take you along a tour of our new favorite places in Houston. They inevitably answer no – so I have to get them to check them out AND subscribe to The Countdown Show in order to stay up to date. I got tired of sending them to multiple spots, so here is your ONE STOP SHOP for those videos and how to subscribe to The Countdown Show.

Part One: The One With Things Not to Miss in Houston

Part Two: The One With More Things Not To Miss in Houston

Part Three:The One We Finish the Things Not to Miss in Houston Trilogy

 

And – if you are looking for the One Stop Shop for all the LOCATIONS we visited, here are their coordinates and more info.

Lets just say – I’ve discovered there are a LOT of very passionate people in Houston who are eager to share their passions for craft beer / coffee / great food and more. Just come prepared to check your pre-conceived notions at the door. I can’t WAIT for TechEd in Houston May 12th to 15th.

Have YOU registered yet? Get with it!

Hyper-v Extensible Switch in Windows Server 2012 R2

A while back, when Windows Server 2012 was codenamed “Windows Server 8”, I sat down and talked with Bob Combs, a Sr. Program Manager on the Windows Core Networking Team about the newly released “Hyper-V Extensible Switch”.  Well, now that Windows Server 2012 R2 has been released and planning has already begun for whatever comes next – I decided it was time to pay Bob a visit and get the details on what was new in Extensible Switch land…

Pretty cool stuff.

This is the start of a bunch of video interviews I’ll be doing over the next while. Let me know if you have teams / topics you’d like me to reach out to and see if they are interested in sitting down to chat.

Digging up Resources for Technical Communities

Those of you who know me from my previous job as a Technology Evangelist in Canada know that there is one thing I STONGLY believe in… User Communities of all shapes and sizes.

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I remember when I first started my job – one of the things we tried to do was gather people of similar interests together and facilitate them into creating their OWN communities that had some sort of sustaining passion to keep things going.  Some have survived and thrived, others have evolved to ad-hoc gatherings around events and still some have faded away all together.  No matter what their current state – a sense of community is present in the people that were part of it and the relationships created by being part of a community are still very much used when the opportunity arises.

I’ve found some communities have evolved from in-person events to include online gathering places and forums or social networks like twitter, Facebook or Google+. But something just can’t replace the face to face connection you get while at an event accompanied by a good old fashioned handshake.

Part of my role here at The Mother Ship (a.k.a. Microsoft HQ) is working with the programs team who provide all sorts of resources you might know about and use on a regular basis (TechNet vLabs, Eval Center and Microsoft Virtual Academy to name a few) and some you might not.

From the “Might not know of” category is “Microsoft Technical Communities” program. It’s got something for you if:

  • You are looking for a local group / technical community of like minded people – you can find one of over 1400 registered communities worldwide (and growing).
  • You are running a technical community – you can sign up and register your group and gain access to resources to help grow your membership
  • You are a technical speaker or subject matter expert – you can register and connect with community leaders who are seeking speakers for their communities

Besides being a central resource point to connect people and communities together – the Microsoft Technical Communities program also provides benefits to it’s Community leaders to help grow their group memberships and sustain the organizational structure that keeps their group together.

  • eBooks for members
  • Office 365 subscriptions to help executives coordinate and collaborate resources
  • Promotion efforts on external sites like Facebook and Linked’in
  • Visibility of upcoming meetings on sites like TechNet and MSDN.
  • Access to “TechTrax”  webcasts and exclusive Q&A with experts to help deliver content
  • PowePoints / Demo Scripts / Demo setups for re-delivery
  • …. and more

Are you looking to connect with other Like Minded technical folks? To find a community or a user group event in your area, try the events calendar and the community list.

If you run a user group or speak regularly at events, sign up for the program at www.technicalcommunity.com!

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One last note: we’re always looking for ways to make things better.  Got ideas on what we can do to improve the Microsoft Technical Communities Program? Drop me a comment below or if you prefer – shoot me an email (rick.claus@microsoft.com) – I’ll make sure to pass it along.

Need a quick lab/sandbox to try out MSFT technologies?

One of the best parts of my job is talking with IT Professionals / SysAdmins / Students from all over. It doesn’t matter if they are independent IT consultants, staffers / lifers at “company x” or someone just getting started in the IT field – they all at some point ask me about “spinning up a lab” for one thing or another.

That’s when I let them in on a little secret: The Microsoft Virtual Labs Experience.

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I use our Virtual Lab Experience when I need to quickly get something up and running. Why?

  • It’s a virtualized Sandbox that can be yours to play in for the duration of the lab time – FOR FREE.
  • It comes with a pre-defined lab including step by step instructions that allows you to test drive all sorts of Microsoft Technologies and solutions
  • Better yet, even though it comes pre-configured – you are NOT RESTRICTED on what you can do within it!

(Yes – I am encouraging you to colour outside the lines)

What can you find in this plethora of sandboxes (as one size does not fit all)? Just over 500+ Hands On labs most providing 2 hours of lab access!!! 60+ labs from TechEd North America 2013 were just posted earlier this week. More RTM updated labs with Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2 were recently added as well.

You can mix and match which ones to try, select different technologies or scenarios for whatever tickles your fancy. You can even rate the labs and sort them by most popular or most relevant to your searches. Heck – you can get social and share out what environments you are trying out with your various social networks.

Being that I am very passionate about the Windows Server 2012 R2 stack, here is one more tip. You can get a good “trial” by registering to kick the tires with a simple 4 part series:

  1. Windows Server 2012 R2 – Configuring and Managing Servers
  2. Windows Server 2012 R2 – Storage Infrastructure
  3. Windows Server 2012 R2 – Network Automation using IPAM
  4. Windows Server 2012 R2 – Exploring Hyper-V Server

Check out the labs and start giving the team your feedback and opinions using the post-lab survey. They are just down the hall, tell them I sent ya.

If you are like me and are curious by nature about how all this back end virtualization works… check out this interview I snagged with Corey Hynes, architect from HOL systems. They are the guys and gals who host this virtual lab experience for us.

 

They have a very cool Windows Server powered solution that handles all the heavy lifting to get these spun up on demand when you click on “Launch Lab”.

How To: Delete windows.old from Windows Server 2012 R2

I’ve been updating my various environments from Windows Server 2012 RTM or Preview releases (build 9431) of Windows Server 2012 R2 to the final bits. On some boxes I just use my scortched earth policy of leveling the partitions and starting from scratch – others I will do an install and use the same partition. You get the following dreaded message – which you dismiss and move on.

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Sure – I’ll just go and delete that directory after a while and go about my merry way.

Unfortunately it is not that easy.

In Windows client environments, you can just kick off a “disk cleanup” routine and have it removed – saving you a dozen or more GB of space. Unfortunately, that Disk Cleanup does not exist in Windows Server 2012 / 2012 R2 Full GUI install, unless you add Desktop Experience.

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Fear not. Once you have confirmed you need nothing from that old c:\windows.old directory structure, you can manually delete it, with a little bit of extra effort.

Here’s how you do it.

1) Download Junction.EXE from Sysinternals. I extracted and saved it to c:\source. You will use this tool to generate a list of all the junctions that have to be removed.

2) create a reference file that lists all the junction points and symbolic links in use by opening up a command prompt, changing into C:\source and running

junction.exe –s –q c:\windows.old >junctions.txt

3) open up PowerShell ISE administrator rights and run the following script to remove all symbolic links and junction points in c:\windows.old.

foreach ($line in [System.IO.File]::ReadLines(“c:\source\junctions.txt”))
{
if ($line -match “^\\\\”)
{
$file = $line -replace “(: JUNCTION)|(: SYMBOLIC LINK)”,””
& c:\source\junction.exe -d “$file”
}
}

You should get the following scrolling by…

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Now it’s some simple taking of ownership, granting rights and deleting windows.old to get your space back.

4) to take ownership use

takeown /F C:\windows.old /R /D Y

5) delete c:\windows.old – you now have permissions and ownership.

How much space you get back will change based on your particular situation.  My last run at this saved me 15.5 GB of space on my OS drive.

Note: Kudos to Peter Hahndorf’s response on ServerFault.com on which this article was based.