Hyperbole, Embellishment, and Systems Administration Blog

Sep 14, 2011
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Installing and running normal applications on Windows 8

The new style of Windows 8 has a few people flummoxed when it comes to the question “so how do I install and run a normal application like I would on Windows 7, XP, or Vista when Windows 8 has all that Metro stuff that doesn’t really make sense to me yet”   Rather than try and describe it, it’s easier to show you. So I recorded another quick screencast that shows me installing and running one of my favorite applications, EverNote.     Follow me on twitter: @orinthomas...More
Sep 14, 2011
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Windows 8 Dual Boot Screencast

I put together a quick screencast in Camtasia Studio, showing how you can take an existing Windows 7 installation and configure it to dual boot with the new developer preview of Windows 8.   Key fact learned – that the special developer preview, that includes all the Visual Studio Express stuff from Build 2011 comes in at around 15 GB of usage.   Screencast last 2.5 minutes and shows the entire Windows 8 installation process, including the touch boot selection menu.     Follow me on twitter: @orinthomas...More
Sep 10, 2011
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Simplifying end user client data recovery with DPM 2010

One of the hidden gems of System Center Data Protection Manager 2010 is end user recovery of client data. With DPM 2010 you can configure client data backup protection in a “set and forget” method. Client data is automatically backed up to the DPM server whenever the client is able to connect, and is able to be backed up locally when the client is in a disconnected state. As you’ll see in the video below, DPM client end user recovery allows a user to restore data to a new computer from a computer that was previously backed up. This makes system replacements a breeze. It also means that if a user is using multiple computers, they can transfer data easily by recovering data that was backed up on one computer to another. The video is narrated and less than 2 mins in length. When you watch it, you’ll understand what a powerful and simple tool DPM is when it comes to protecting the data on your organization’s client computers. Follow me on twitter: @orinthomas...More
Sep 5, 2011
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Configuring a System Center DPM 2010 Client Protection Group

You might not be aware of it, but a recent Gartner report found that up to 60% of an organization’s data, on average, is stored on client computers. Given how often people tend to back up their own data, not dealing with client computers can leave a massive hole in any organization’s data protection strategy. DPM 2010 allows you to create specific protection groups to protect client, rather than server data. In the video below I take you through the process of creating a client specific protection group in DPM 2010. In a later video I’ll show how end users can perform recovery of their own data through DPM. Follow me on twitter @orinthomas...More
Sep 2, 2011
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New DPM 2012 UI in 76 seconds - 02 Sep 2011

System Center Data Protection Manager went into public beta on Friday. You can get the beta at the following link: http://blogs.technet.com/b/systemcenter/archive/2011/08/31/system-center-data-protection-manager-2012-beta-released.aspx In the following quick (76 second) video, I go through some of the changes in the new DPM 2012 UI. In a nutshell, the UI has been improved so that data protection and recovery tasks can be completed with a minimum of clicking. Experienced System Center admins will also notice that the UI conforms to the existing System Center UI paradigm, allowing a common layout to be used across all 2012 System Center products. DPM 2012 in 74 seconds Follow me on twiter @orinthomas...More
Aug 25, 2011
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Continuous Partial Attention and Technology Conference Sessions.

Go to a technology conference today and you will see that technology has substantially changed the way that delegates pay attention within sessions. The first time I presented at TechED it was a rarity to see anyone in the audience using a laptop when you were presenting a session.  This made sense as laptop battery lifetime was at best a couple of hours and if you were spending the whole day at a conference, you couldn’t use the laptop for more than a session or two before draining the battery. Today when I present, or watch others present, almost everyone is tapping away at a laptop, fiddling with a tablet, or interacting with their phone. This happens even when the speaker is awesome, so isn’t just a matter of poor speakers and bored delegates. Even when the most dynamic presenter is on stage, and the attendees have paid great money to hear insightful expositions of complex technologies, most can’t go more than a few minutes without opening up some gadget, checking their e-mail, or interacting with their social media stream. Whereas a presenter 5 years ago could be relatively assured of appearing to have the majority of the audience’s undivided attention, today at best they are getting the what has been termed as the audience’s “Continuous Partial Attention.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Continuous_Partial_Attention. To quote Steven Johnson “[Continuous partial attention] … usually involves skimming the surface of incoming data, picking out the relevant details, and moving on to the next stream. You’re paying attention, but only partially.” Delegates are still following what’s been said and consuming the information that’s being presented, they just don’t have to use their complete attention to do so. Continuous partial attention differs from multitasking in that the process is ongoing rather than episodic. Multitasking is about being more efficient by doing multiple tasks that require little in the way of cognitive processing. For ex...More
Aug 22, 2011
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Systems Administration is the art of operationalizing pessimism

If something can go wrong, it will go wrong. Usually at about 4.50pm on a Friday afternoon when you’ve got reservations for a meal at a nice restaurant with your partner at 7pm. Even more likely if you’ve organized a baby sitter for the evening. Nothing attracts bad luck like the possibility of extreme inconvenience. It’s at this time that the whole idea of the “Cloud” sounds awesome - because surely if you used the “Cloud” you wouldn’t have some storage array on the SAN in your datacenter try to chew itself to pieces in some sort of bizarre late Friday afternoon suicide ritual. Well it might happen - but that’s the “Cloud’s Problem” and wouldn’t be yours. Perhaps infrastructure outsourcing is a more direct method of redirecting bad systems karma to another team of geeks. I’m not sure how superstitious most systems administrators are, but I’m definitely one who assumes if that someone says “it can’t get any worse than this” then odds are that the universe is going to find a way to prove that statement incorrect. Systems Administration is the art of operationalizing pessimism. You think up ways that stuff can go wrong and you then come up with work arounds. You back up data so that in the event that it becomes corrupted or the disk hosing it fails, you’ve got a work around. You use clustered servers so that if one server fails spectacularly, you’ve got another server there to take the load. You use redundant networks so that if one switch or router decides to fry its internal electronics, you’ve got another one that will quietly keep the packets flowing. But you don’t need to cluster everything and you don’t need redundant networks everywhere. In some places you’ll be fine with the downtime it takes to pull a spare bit of network hardware out of storage and replace it, rather than spending money so that each piece of network hardware has a failover. You don’t need to host every SQL Server database on a failover cluster. In a lot of situations, just using replica...More
Aug 18, 2011
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DPM Client Protection Poem

The following is a little poem I used to open my DPM client protection talk. Someone asked me to post it and I figured that the Windows IT Pro blogs didn’t get enough poetry related to System Center ;-)   --   Have you ever stopped to wonder, where corporate data resides On servers, on file shares, on laptops it hides. Business critical information, data your organization needs Sprouting in locations inaccessible to backup it breeds.   Data that users might work on, but never remember to save When their hard disk goes crash, the situation is grave. These mission critical documents, at risk once again, If only someone smart had deployed System Center D.P.M   So how much will your company need, to ensure that laptop data’s not lost The good news is if you have ECALs, is that DPM’s no extra cost. So autodeploy DPM to clients, with an opsmanager management pack You’ll protect servers and clients, you’ll protect the whole stack....More
Aug 4, 2011
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Mike Resseler and Orin Thomas debate Consumerization of IT

Mike Resseler, System Center DPM MVP and Senior Technical Consultant for Infront Consulting Group Belgium and I have been discussing over twitter whether consumerization of IT is likely to be a growing trend in future. Microsoft has a page on the consumerization of IT here: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/consumerization/default.aspx We thought that it might be interesting to have a written debate about the issue. Here is the result of that debate: Orin: I suppose we need to start with some definitions. Consumerization of IT is a way of labeling the trend of people increasingly using their own phones/tablets/and computers to perform work related tasks. While people have always taken work home with them, the consumerization of IT is something beyond allowing them VPN access from their home computer (or dial-up access as it was a decade or so ago). I think that the consumerization of IT was more of a growing trend back before the beginning of the “Great Recession” when people were more likely to purchase computer hardware that might have been more powerful than the hardware provided to them by their workplace. For example, someone buys themselves a brand new laptop and they’d rather bring that into the office and work on that than the older, less capable, computer that they are given by the company. Now oddly enough I’ve always been a part of that trend. When I’ve been working as a trainer or as a systems administrator, I’ve always had my own gear with me. That’s because I’m a gadget geek and have always had pretty good portable systems. However, even when I’ve worked with other geeks, I’ve found that my choice was the exception rather than the rule. Except for me, my fellow trainers, all geeks, at a company I recently worked for, chose to use the laptop computers allocated to them by the company rather than purchase their own computer. I used my own computer because I needed more RAM than the SOE laptops, and that I also would come in early and work at writin...More
Aug 3, 2011
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Leverage Service Manager to allow end users to trigger Orchestrator runbooks

While you can think of System Center Orchestrator as the glue that binds the System Center suite together, System Center Service Manager (SCSM), especially with the upcoming 2012 release previewed at places like MMS and TechED, increasingly seems to be the front end that makes it straightforward enough that Joel from Marketing can initiate Orchestrator Runbooks. SCSM is one of those Microsoft products that most administrators aren’t aware of. If they know anything about it at all, it’s that it is some sort of service desk solution, something like Remedy. The current version of SCSM has a reputation that is shared by many first release products. That the product does some interesting things, but it needs to spend a bit more time in the oven before it finds itself more widely adopted. SCSM can do some very interesting things - primarily because it’s designed to fully integrate with other products in the System Center suite. It’s this integration, these synergies between management products, that lead me to believe that in the next few years we’ll see SCSM getting a lot more attention. Why do I think that? Let me come back to Orchestrator. For those not up-to-date on their Orchestrator nomenclature, a runbook is a set of automated tasks that administrators can put together. It’s sort of like writing a script, but instead of doing it all in PowerShell, you use a drag and drop interface to link specific tasks together. Administrators who have the sort of enthusiasm for scripting that a 4 year old boy has for cabbage can put together automated processes in less time than it takes to explain what the term “Declarative Provisioning” means to anyone who is buzzword aphasic . When you build a runbook, you draw these tasks together from Orchestrator IP. An IP is a collection of product specific tasks. Depending on the IP, one task might be to get Data Protection Manager (DPM) to go and protect a specific data source, another task might be to create a new VM from a template...More
Jul 29, 2011
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Why System Center 2012 could be as important to your career as Windows Server 2012 1

You’re probably peripherally aware that more and more details about Windows Server “8” are leaking out of Redmond. But Windows Server “8” isn’t the only news out of Redmond to which you should be paying attention. You should also keep an eye on the System Center 2012 suit as this suite promises to be as important, if not more important, to your career. The reasoning behind it is as follows. It’s all down to economics. The most expensive part of an organization’s IT infrastructure is not the software licensing, not the electricity, and not the hardware. The most expensive part of an organization’s IT infrastructure is the cost of the people who manage that infrastructure. System Center 2012 is as important to your career as Windows Server “8” because it provides you with a comprehensive set of tools that allows you to manage a greater number of servers, applications, and desktops. The administrator who knows how to fully leverage Configuration Manager, Operations Manager, Virtual Machine Manager, Data Protection Manager and Orchestrator is able to manage a far larger IT infrastructure than and administrator who only knows the ins-and-outs of a server operating system like Windows Server “8”. An Administrator who knows System Center backward provides more bang for the buck for an organization than an Administrator who is ignorant of these technologies. While there are products out there that do the same things as individual components of the System Center stack, there are two substantial advantages to using system center products: · Each system center product is specifically designed to work with the other system center products. Configuration Manager is designed to work with Operations Manager, Orchestrator, Service Manager, Virtual Machine Manager, and Data Protection Manager. · System Center is designed specifically to support Microsoft workloads. The 2012 revision of the System Center suite is designed not only to support Microsoft applications running on Mic...More
Jul 27, 2011
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Why you should get on theOps Manager 2012 CEP - 27 Jul 2011

The Operations Manager 2012 Community Evaluation Program (CEP) is still open for applicants. CEPs involve regular hour long meetings where the product team takes you through the features of the new product and gives you access to a special form where any questions you have about the product will be answered. If you want to get a guided tour of all the new features of Operations Manager 2012 before the product releases next year, you should get involved with the Ops Mgr CEP. The initial topic list involves the following: Deploying Ops Mgr 2012 and upgrading from Ops Mgr 2007 R2. Presented by Rob Kuehfus and Nishtha Soni RMS Removal and Pooling.Presented by Rob Kuehfus and Nishtha Soni Configuration Service. Presented by Vitaly Filimonov Dashboard visualization with widgets, alerts, performance metrics and state. Presented by Ake Pettersson and Dale Koetke Performance and Reliability driven SLAs with Application Performance Management. Presented by Michael Guthrie Network Monitoring. Presented by Vishnu Nath Cross Platform – JEE & Unix/Linux (tomcat, websphere, apache, jbos). Presented by Peiron Liu and Kris Bash You can sign up for the Ops Mgr 2012 CEP through the following page https://connect.microsoft.com/site1211...More
Jul 19, 2011
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Operations Manager 2012 Beta Available 1

The System Center Operations Manager 2012 beta is available now for download from Microsoft’s website. Operations Manager 2012 will be a substantial piece in any systems management strategy. A Community Evaluation Program is for the product is set to launch in the next few weeks. All of Microsoft’s System Center products will have 2012 editions, with betas for Orchestrator, Virtual Machine Manager, and Configuration Manager 2012 already released and betas for Data Protection Manager and Service Manager coming sometime in the next few months.   Operations Manager 2012 offers the following new features: Application performance monitoring and diagnostics for .NET applications JEE application health monitoring The ability to monitor heterogeneous environments Integrated network device alerts and monitoring Streamlined management infrastructure You can find out more about Operations Manager 2012 at the Operations Manager 2012 beta page. You can download the beta from the following location:  http://www.microsoft.com/download/en/details.aspx?id=26804...More
Jul 14, 2011
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Orchestrator and wheel reinvention

One of the most common questions that seems to come up on the System Center Orchestrator Community Evaluation Program (CEP) calls is “when will we get an integration pack or a task that does X”. Adam Hall, the Orchestrator mentioned as a response that while integration packs did provide simple tools for creating Runbook automation, Orchestrator itself, with its included activities, actually allowed you to already configure a lot of products to do what you wanted them to do. For example, one of the attendees asked why there wasn’t a folder copy task amongst the list of standard tasks that could be added to a Runbook. The answer was straightforward and simple – instead of having a separate activity devoted purely to the copying of folders, use the Run Program activity to execute the robocopy.exe command line utility. Part of the elegance of Orchestrator is that it doesn’t reinvent the wheel. Robocopy.exe has a plethora of options. Rather than come up with a task item that include some way of copying files and folders, but only includes a tenth of the options robocopy.exe has, use the Run Program item to leverage an awesome pre-existing tool to accomplish what you want through the Runbook designer. The activities that ship with Orchestrator allow you to run Programs, commands, .NET scripts, SSH commands, and PowerShell scripts. Although it’s a lot easier to use an activity from an IP, pretty much everything you need to get automation going is already included out of the box.   Follow me on twitter: @orinthomas...More
Jul 12, 2011
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Windows Server 2012 peeks its head over the wall

Microsoft provided a first look-see at Windows Server 8 at WPC this week. We’ve been hearing all about Windows 8 Client, so it’s good to finally know something, even if it is very brief, about the successor to Windows Server 2008 R2. At the moment it looks as though Windows Server 8 will RTM at the same time that Windows 8 Client does. The focus, at this stage, is on the updates to Hyper-V – ostensibly to provide support for Microsoft’s increasing focus on the private cloud. The heavily promoted feature at this stage is Hyper-V Replica. Hyper-V Replica allows you to replicate your VMs from one Windows Server 8 host to another. I’m guessing that this will be some sort of block level replication, but at this stage we’ll have to wait until Build to get more info on this product. Windows Server 8 apparently has 100 new features, most of which we’ll probably find out about over the coming months. I’m hoping that we might see a public beta at around the same time that Windows 8 Client goes into public beta – mostly because while the client stuff gets all the attention, the server stuff is actually more interesting....More
Jul 12, 2011
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New Windows Intune beta available

The next version of Microsoft’s cloud based management suite for SMBs, Windows Intune, has been released as a beta. The beta itself can be used on up to 10 computers until 30 days after this version of Windows Intune becomes commercially available. If you’re interested in finding out more about Windows Intune, which has been getting a lot of positive buzz recently, you should get on the beta to see whether or not this cloud based management service might improve the way you manage small numbers of Windows based PCs.   The new beta offers the following features: Software Distribution. Allows you to deploy Microsoft and third party applications to Intune managed PCs. Remote Tasks. Allows you to remotely run full and quick anti-malware scans, update definitions and restart Intune managed PCs. License Management. Allows you to manage Microsoft retail, OEM, and volume licenses. Also supports license management for third party software. Enhanced Reporting. Allows you to generate hardware reports, detailing the hardware configuration of Intune managed PCs. Alerts and Monitoring. Alert types can be configured to trigger when a specific threshold is reached, or a specific percentage of Windows Intune managed computers become affected. To find out more about getting involved with the beta, check out this post on the Windows Intune Team Blog: http://blogs.technet.com/b/windowsintune/archive/2011/07/11/windows-intune-beta-now-available.aspx Follow me on twitter @orinthomas...More
Jul 11, 2011
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Is “The Cloud” another fizzling fad? 3

Is the cloud another fad, promoted only by buzzword happy consultants, or is it the future of IT? I don’t think anyone really knows. Things certainly aren’t helped by the contradictory and sometimes incoherent definitions of what the cloud actually is. At the moment not enough organizations have moved into the cloud for anyone to make a determination as to whether or not it’s a really great idea. It takes a few years until after a revolutionary change before people work out whether they’ve improved the process or driven themselves over a cliff. It’s a bit like outsourcing. When outsourcing came along, a lot of buzzword happy consultants could only say positive things about it. Save money! Outsource! Get rid of that pesky bunch of nerds in the IT department! A decade down the track and we hear a lot of organizations that were gung-ho about outsourcing early on have pulled a lot of stuff back in-house. The efficiencies that looked like they were there often turned out to be phantasms. It doesn’t help that the “cloud crowd” can be maddeningly short on detail when it comes to explain how a cloud deployment will benefit an organization more than a traditional deployment. Sometimes the messaging seems really off. If you’ve been to enough presentations I’m sure you’ve heard the one about “the executive with the credit card who does an end run around IT and buys a cloud service to run what becomes a business critical app”. (Whatever it’s meant to do, this story is part of the reason that a lot of IT people see the cloud as something that will take their job away as the story is designed to appeal to the exec and not the IT person.) Whether or not the cloud takes over IT comes down to efficiencies. Cloud providers have vast resources that allow an organization to spin up and spin down capacity as it is needed. You leverage efficiencies as you only pay for that capacity that you use. The cloud provider’s vast resources lead to economies of scale. Just like outsourcing...More
Jul 5, 2011
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Orchestrator 2012 and Blue Collar / White Collar IT Professionals 1

In a recent presentation, PowerShell creator Jeffrey Snover talked about the coming bifurcation of the profession of Systems Administrator into what he called “Blue Collar” and “White Collar” IT. His argument is that the ongoing trend in the industry is towards fewer people being responsible for more and more servers and that roles that would likely see wage growth were the ones that drove that consolidation.   Snover prophesized that IT Pros who had the ability to heavily automate proce...More
Jun 30, 2011
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Minimizing the problems caused by personal Laptops used on the organizational network

Back in the mid 90’s when I worked on the helpdesk at an Australian University, the University organized for site licenses of anti-virus software so that anyone that was a student or a staff member at the University was able to get a free copy to install on their personal computer. The University’s thinking was that unless these computers were protected, they would likely become a vector for infecting computers owned by the University, either indirectly through email and document borne viruses o...More
Jun 5, 2011
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System Center Operations Manager 2012 and Orchestrator 2012 Community Evaluation Programs now taking applications

OpsMgr 2012 and Orchestrator 2012 CEPs now taking applications...More
What's Hyperbole, Embellishment, and Systems Administration Blog?

IT pro Orin Thomas provides true tales, snafus, news, and urban legends for Microsoft Windows system administrators.

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Orin Thomas

Orin Thomas is a contributing editor for Windows IT Pro and a Windows Security MVP. He has authored or coauthored more than thirty books for Microsoft Press, founded the Melbourne System Center,...
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