Category Archives: Troubleshooting

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”.

Troubleshooting Windows Server “8” (weekend reading)

imageAs we’re now winding down the week and with 7 days under our belts with the Beta product – I thought I’d quickly share some awesome reading material that can go along with your Beta Evaluation of WS8.

I love troubleshooting things – it’s the challenge of getting things working again after some other “IT Expert” or “curious user” (a.k.a. P.I.T.A user) goes in and messes something up. Well – the technical writers in the product group for WS8 have been busy and have published a great library of resources for troubleshooting.

Understanding and Troubleshooting Windows Server “8” has the following articles published as of March 9th, 2012.

If you’re looking for a single document that kind of covers a LOT of information – Check out the Windows Server “8” Evaluation Guide. It’s another gem in the documentation pool to get you started.

Account Closed? ScrewYou Google/YouTube!

FingersThought I would catch your attention with that one.

This is one in a large number of posts / tweets / comments from a YouTube user who has had their account “deleted” never to return due to some automated process with no course for HUMAN intervention to get something fixed.

Best you can do is fill out a form and hope for something to come through with assistance.

Wait a second – Microsoft Hotmail does something similar for compromised accounts / deleted accounts.  I just does it with more options – IMO.

(Full Disclosure – I work for Microsoft, in case you didn’t know)

That being said – I at least KNOW that there are humans that can engage and respond to fix things when the automated processes don’t work and your “persona” gets munched with your account. How do I know – I AM one of those people and I also have engaged the mechanisms to get stuff fixed with Hotmail and it worked. (It recently got even better, but that’s for another post)

I’m Pissed because My channel “RegularITGuy” had videos and screencasts posted and embedded on a number of properties. Long story short – it was associated with the wrong Google account and I wanted to bring it over to one happy fully connected account. All the support forum queries/searches and form filling out processes turned up MOOT on the ability to move it over and have it associated. At one point I deleted and re-associated account and assumed channel would move over – NO GOOD. Then I was at least able to get the account back and channel re-linked to wrong account and all was well.

or so I thought.

All the videos on this site are now busted because the Channel was not linked correctly and probably timed out (each time I would login to YouTube I would re-prompt me to link the Channel to the Account) due to some automated glitch.

OK – so now I can re-create the channel with the same name – NOPE.

emails, tweets, support queries and forms all came back as moot – no response.

ClosedAccount

CRAP

This is something that Online Providers have to figure out. Granted it’s a free service, you get what you pay for, including the service and community support.

Yes – before anyone Rants on me – Microsoft can have similar issues as well for free services, but we’re trying to make it more human and better. I’ve heard GOOD things and bad things about the process and as I’ve mentioned before – I’ve been involved when people reached out to me to help. 

Where is Google’s equivalent to help? If you know them I’d sure like to meet them. Heck – maybe they can help. Smile

In the mean time – I’ve given up hope and created a new channel with the orriginal Google Account I thought was used to create the orriginal channel…

http://www.youtube.com/user/TheRegularITGuy

Now I have to re-upload all my content! Grrrrrrrr.

HowTo: Optimizing your Home Wireless Network

SNAGHTML25d5ade1So now that we have Joey figured out in the last article – I got pinged by @kjb_Photography on twitter yesterday – asking about extending coverage in his home wireless networking environment. I could take the consultant answer easy out and reply “it depends” but hey – this is a learning environment, let me share what I did in my house and what you can do to yours to improve your WiFi experience at home with consumer hardware.

First off – I don’t proclaim to be a wireless expert in any sense of the word. I read the manuals (on occasion) or ping my friends who actually ARE wireless experts who implement secure wireless solutions for the likes of various acronym “security agencies” here in Canada.

Where would I start? Know your Antennas.

WRT54G_Linksys_Router_with_7_dBi_AntennasMost home networking routers have your typical antennas that should be for the most part oriented straight up (or down if ceiling mounted) and away from any dense structures like walls or metal filing cabinets. To keep this simple – the signal strength emanates outwards from these antennas for the most part as a circle (or ellipse) and when they are upwards or downwards facing – the signal extends horizontally in all directions (omnidirectional). If you rotate the antenna to ne horizontal – it would go vertical in all directions – if you get my drift. Here’s a picture of my main router bad boy Linksys with upgraded 7 dbi antennas. More dbi – more power (I feel like Tim the Toolman right now). Wireless N routers with multiple antennas or internal antennas are different with their spread – but whatever modem you purchased probably came with a manual or online link to a manual talking about placement and antenna coverage. Go dig it out and find it – RTFM.

The single most screwed up reason why WiFi sucks at your house?

Location… Location… Location!

Get yourself a good LONG cable to put your main AccessPoint/Router wherever you are going to get the best coverage for your home / office layout. Don’t put it up against a wall unless you want less coverage behind that wall – especially if it is a cement wall or in my case a double layer brick wall (live in a century home). You know that you should chuck out that dinky little 2 foot Ethernet cable that comes with your internet modem or router and get a 50 footer or whatever suits your needs to optimally place your router for coverage.

WirelessDiagram

I approached wireless in my house the same way I would approach fitting up an office. Where would you put wireless access points with antennas to cover the best signal horizontally (not vertically)? I have that big dual 7 dbi Linksys as the main internet router and Wireless AccessPoint at the back on the second floor. I then run a cable up to the home office on the 3rd floor to my main switch where I have a generic dLink router/wireless combo device plugged in for 3rd floor coverage. My second run goes down under the kitchen into the basement and up into the middle of the 1st floor. my Linksys 610N sits on top of a bookshelf – away from the exterior walls.

Ideally I would put the main router in the middle of the second floor – but I chose the back for two reasons – it gives me signal in the back yard and it is where the main internet line comes into the house.

That’s a lot of AccessPoints!

imageYes – I am “Tim the ToolMan” excessive with coverage in my house – but I had old routers laying around. The trick to make everyone happy is to have each router configured with the same SSID and the same WPA2 password. I also choose channels and frequencies where there is less congestion with my neighbours (more on this later). I  can “roam” from floor to floor, inside and out without an issue.  To configure the two AP devices (again – just regular routers I had laying around) I configured each so they had unique IP addresses – I use the 192.168.10.x network so something as simple as 192.168.10.1 for main router, 192.168.10.2 for dining room and 192.168.10.3 for the home office.  Each was plugged in to the INTERNAL bank of Ethernet ports – not the INTERNET port that is usually plugged in to the internet provider. I also turned off all DHCP servers except for the main Linksys.

You own router might have specific modes where it acts just as an Access Point – mine didn’t so I went the manual route I described above.  I didn’t have to go out and purchase APs directly for additional cost – I just used what I had at hand. Likewise – you can BUY AccessPoints that are not routers and all they do is serve up wireless networks.  I strategically placed my new Linksys 610N on the main floor so I could run a cable from it directly to my xBox – can’t do that with a simple AccessPoint.

So – a long story to say that the quickest and easiest way to extend your wireless network is a two step process:

  1. Properly place the first router/Wi-Fi point in your house centrally for coverage.
  2. get yourself a long cable to plug into the first router networking ports and run the cable to second Wi-Fi router / Access Point where you need more coverage.
    1. just make sure you configure the second router to not serve up DHCP
    2. have a proper IP address that is different then your main router
    3. plug the cable into the regular networking ports – not the INTERNET port
    4. duplicate the SSID and WPA2 password as the first router

A second option is to opt for a Wireless Repeater type of Access Point – but I’m not a fan of these – mainly because your second device that is placed further away from the main AccessPoint will be “serving up” a connection that will have a bottle neck of however fast / however reliable the WiFi is at it’s location.  So sure – you have strong signal, but you have a choke point of throughput as it relays the network traffic to the 1st Access Point.  Go with cable – cheap and Fast.

Do you know if you have Spectrum Congestion?

Lastly – I mentioned Channels and less congestion. Everyone has wireless devices in your neighbourhood and they all talk on the same frequency and similar channels of that frequency.  More chatter = crappier speed and reliability. Best solution for you to find the right spectrum from multiple points in your house?  A laptop with a free copy of inSSIDer 2 running to help you determine what your local spectrum looks like for congestion.

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You can see I live in a congested area and I currently have strong signal in my house over the channels I have the wireless set to use.  However – what you don’t see is that even though there are at least 6 routers that support Wireless N technology – none of them are configured to use the 5 GHz range which is currently Free and Clear to use.

Looks like I need to upgrade my wireless networking gear.

What does your wireless architecture look like?

Swapping out the php.ini file for uploads

Maybe I am just a glutton for punishment. My other online buddy @rbuike – who also dabbles in WordPress on occasion has suggested I check out some php.ini file modifications. I updated the file based on this link he sent over from the support forums:

memory_limit = 100M
upload_max_filesize = 192M
post_max_size = 100M
file_uploads = On

As a result – I do now see a changed admin interface for media uploads – which should solve some issues I have with podcast episodes being too large to upload… but does it fix any of the whacked out picture issues from LiveWriter?

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This is a picture I took while flying back from Newfoundland – it’s actually 1600×1200 and I changed it to 640 x 480 within LiveWriter to see if it helps. Previous attempts failed at this point – let’s hit publish to see how she works.

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Nope – try… try again…