technical solutions and commentary

December 6, 2013

Free Quality Technical Training Resources

Filed under: tech — Jason Hartley @ 11:41 am

Microsoft Virtual Academy is the best free technical training resource that I have found to date from a large IT vendor. It goes beyond the basics with some of the free courses spanning multiple days which is taking classroom content and presenting it in a nutshell.  For anyone that is needing to update or their Microsoft technical skills, or is just getting started with Microsoft technologies, MVA is the best place to begin.

I am also a fan of the MOOC sites Udacity and Coursera. Google has recently made an investment in Udacity and has co-created content for development courses. This approach is a bit different than MVA as its setup like an online university program. I have taken business courses from both Udacity and Coursers, but have not taken technical courses yet.

I have explored the free online training from some of the other large IT vendors. While the majority have some free content, I am finding it is more limited to beginner knowledge, or 101 knowledge. There also seems to be a lot of up selling for their paid online or classroom courses in as part of their free content. I understand the value of classroom learning and that content development isn’t low cost for vendors. But with a lot of learning content being given away these days, vendors could benefit by adopting the same methods as Microsoft and Google. Training people that will know how to use their products which will result in these people promoting the vendor products to employers and customers. This only makes sense as people will promote or sell what they understand.

Have you run across any good free training resources? Please share by leaving a comment.

August 27, 2013

SkyDrive Pro update brings massive storage increase

Filed under: tech — Jason Hartley @ 12:34 pm

On August 27, 2013 Microsoft made an announcement affecting Office 365 business, Enterprise, and Government cloud users.

SkyDrive Pro storage allowance is increasing from 7GB per user to 25GB per user. The Online Admin Portal will also provide administrators a way to increase the SkyDrive Pro quota up to 100GB per user. Subscribers can add storage at a cost of $0.20/GB/month and this goes into the pooled storage, which can then be allocated to SkyDrive Pro users as the administrator deems appropriate.

Improvements have been made to the user experience in SkyDrive Pro. a new “Shared with Me” view provides users the ability to easily locate documents and folders that others have shared with you without having to subscribe to them in some form. While the documents that you see in the “Shared with Me” view are actually storage in the other persons SkyDrive Pro, you have rights to view, edit, download… as if its in your own SkyDrive PRo.

other improvement are increasing the file size upload to 2GB per file, the recycle bin has been increased to 90 days retention, and versioning is enable by default for new libraries.

The official blog post on the changes is here:

August 22, 2013

Mobile device Malware increasing

Filed under: tech — Jason Hartley @ 11:48 am

According to eWeek, McAfee found that android-based malware threats rose to 35 percent in the second quarter of 2013. Contributing to the threat are:

  • SMS-stealing banking malware has risen
  • fraudulent dating and entertainment apps
  • ‘weaponized’ legitimate apps – installers with spyware
  • malicious apps posing as useful tools

The second quarter also saw the following increases:

  • suspicious URL’s (16%)
  • digitally signed malware samples (50%) – increased to 1.2 million new samples
  • notable events in the cyber attack and espionage areas – including multiple attacks on the global infrastructure for bitcoins
  • revelations around the Operation Troy network targeting military assets
  • McAfee Labs registered double the number of ransom-ware samples (320,000) in the second quarter versus quarter one.
  • 5.5 trillion SPAM messages, equal to 70% of the global Email volume

a security vulnerability within the Android operating system had exposed bitcoin users to theft through several digital wallet applications. the latest highlight of the weaknesses inherent in the Android platform.


July 24, 2013

Office 2010 Service PAck 2 (SP2) released

Filed under: tech — Jason Hartley @ 9:38 am

Microsoft released SP2 for Office 2010 this week. the sp can be downloaded from the download center and will be made available through automatic updates in the next few months. Those using Office Click-to-Run will have SP2 streamed to them beginning in August.

improvements include:

  • Office & SharePoint  2010 compatibility with Windows 8, Internet Explorer 10, Office 2013, and SharePoint 2013.
  • security, stability, and performance

fixes are specifically listed in the SP2 changes list.


June 4, 2013

SkyDrive Pro standalone client

Filed under: tech — Jason Hartley @ 7:23 pm

For those using SharePoint Server 2013 – either on-premise or through SharePoint online – you are no-doubt familiar with SkyDrive PRo (not to be confused with SkyDrive). SkyDrive Pro provides a "dropbox like” experience to business users and allows internal IT policies to be applied.

The SkyDrive Pro client is part of the Office 2013 Professional suite. In the circumstance that a business has not deployed Office 2013, but us running a prior version or even another productivity suite all together, Microsoft has released a standalone SkyDrive Pro client. With this client users can add files to there SkyDrive Pro storage from the client and can sync files across PC’s and the the cloud. This standalone client brings more value to organizations that upgrade to SharePoint 2013 but are not using the Office 2013 client.

Get the SkyDrive Pro client here:

June 3, 2013

Windows 8.1 start menu layout group policy

Filed under: tech — Jason Hartley @ 11:12 am

During the day 1 keynote of Tech Ed North America, Ian McDonald introduced a new feature being introduced call “Start Screen Layout Policy”. This policy enables an IT administrator to customize the Start Screen with Application groups that contain Live Tiles – including Tile sizes, and live tile settings. When this setting is applied the users will changes to the start screen will not be saved. this will enable a consistent layout which will assist the service desk in walking an end user through the start screen and troubleshooting. This will also eliminate users from accidently moving or removing tiles from the start screen and not being able to locate an app they need.

An administrator can create multiple layouts for different end user types and apply the policies through GPO via traditional create a layout perform the following:

  • customize the start menu on a Windows 8.1 client device
  • Open a PowerShell (PS) command window on the client device
  • at the (PS) cmd type (replacing the path info with your environment variables): export-startlayout –path \\servername\folder\layoutname.xml –as XML
  • Open the Group Policy Editor, and Open the gpo to apply the settings through
  • navigate to: User configuration/Policies/Administrative Templates/start menu and taskbar
  • Enable the “start screen layout” policy setting
  • point to the Start Layout file (the xml file you exported earlier)
  • refresh the policy on a client devices to confirm the the desired change

May 10, 2013

SCOM 2012 Management Pack for Amazon Web Services (AWS) released

Filed under: tech — Jason Hartley @ 1:50 pm

Microsoft jointly released a SCOM Management Pack (MP) which enables Microsoft-based workloads at AWS to monitor their AWS resources directly in the Operations Manager console. Those who have existing Microsoft and/or Linux workloads can view and monitor on-premises and AWS resources in the SCOM management console. The MP can monitor EC2 instances (Windows and Linux), Elastic Block Store (EBS) volumes, Elastic Load Balancing, CloudFormation stacks, Auto Scaling groups, Elastic Beanstalk applications. Through  the MP can reach into AWS and capture AWS “CloudWatch” metrics to gain insight into the health of the managed AWS resource.

See the official Microsoft blog post and AWS resource page to download the Management pack.

April 22, 2013

Remote Desktop Sizing Guidelines

Filed under: tech — Jason Hartley @ 10:30 am

The following are notes I collected on sizing guidelines for REmote Desktop Services for session-host (terminal services) and virtualization-host (VDI). These notes are for a pure Microsoft environment based on Windows Server 2012.

Management Backend (up to 5000 users per server):

RD Broker VM  (2 RDS Broker x VMs for redundancy):

  • 1 Core (1 vCPU)
  • 4 GB RAM
  • Windows Server OSE x 64
  • SQL database of 60 MB (yes, MB) this can be hosted on an existing SQL Server

RD Gateway* – (up to 1000 users per server):

  • (2nD Gateway x VMs for redundancy):
  • 8 Cores (8 vCPU)
  • 8 GB RAM
  • Windows Server OSE x64
  • *Provides SSL for the RDP sessions for users connecting over the internet. Not required if you will not be permitting connections over the internet.

RD License VM:

  • 1 Core (1 vCPU)
  • Up to 4 GB RAM if on its own server
  • Windows Server OSE
  • ** This service can be placed on an server that is performing other services.

SCCM VM: (2 x SCCM Servers for Redundancy)

  • 4 Core (4 vCPU)
  • 32 GB RAM

SCCM will perform App-V and other services, to Session Hosts and VMS. Note that an App-V license in included for the Session Host in the RDS CAL. This is not the case for client VMs, MDOP will be required for these in order to use App-V on these VMs.

RDS Session-Host Recommendations:

  • Estimated: 150 Sessions per host
  • 10 Cores (vCPUS)
  • 24-32 GB RAM
  • Network: “Ideal” is 64/Kbps per session
  • Window Server OSE x64
  • RDS Session Host Servers can be VM’s – Per VM Server or Physical Host

RDS Virtual Host Recommendations:

  • estimated: 150 VMs per Physical Host
  • 4 x 12 Core CPU (48 Cores Total)
  • 192GB RAM  (1+ GB RAM per user)
  • Network: “Ideal” is 64/Kbps per session
  • Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2012 (note: this is not Windows Server w/Hyper-V)

Storage Considerations:

  • SSD storage for Gold Images.  20 GB Disk for Gold Image PER Image  – stored on shared network storage or SAN
  • 5 GB per user for User Disk (VHD) for Pooled VM (Diff Disk) – stored on local server or shared network storage
  • 10 GB per user for User Disk (VHD) for Personal VM (Diff Disk) – stored on shared network storage or SAN
  • 5 GB for user Profile Disk (VHD) (Profile) – stored on shared network storage or SAN (supports ~10,000 Write IOPS per sec)  for up to 5,000 users

The environment you are designing for will have individual requirements to meet workload capabilities. The notes above are for what I would call a medium level information worker organization. depending upon your unique needs, these guidelines may change drastically one direction or the other. An experienced consulting services organization should be engaged to help design your particular environment taking your requirements into consideration.

March 11, 2013

Renewing a developer license in Windows 8

Filed under: tech — Jason Hartley @ 7:01 pm

If you have installed some internal Windows 8 apps, you were required to get a developer license.  These licenses are short lived.  If you want to extend your license, you can use Visual Studio or you can use PowerShell.  To do it in PowerShell:

1. Launch PowerShell with Admin rights
2. Run: Show-WindowsDeveloperLicenseRegistration

This will prompt you for your Microsoft Account credentials and should renew your license.  Then your apps will start working again.

additional details on MSDN

Exchange Hosted Encryption & policy enforcement

Filed under: tech — Jason Hartley @ 3:43 pm

Exchange Hosted Encryption (EHE) is applied at the “gateway” and as a policy option that falls under Exchange Online Protection. messages and attachments will have a layered policy applied to them – transport, dlp, etc. – , ending with EHE. 

according to TechNet “Encryption is policy-rule based and messages are encrypted at the gateway based on FOPE policy rules that an administrator sets. The hosted secure email encryption service takes the original message and includes it as an encrypted attachment.”  Details and links to assist with the configuration of EHE is also available from

If you want to have a “button” in Outlook that a person use to manually choose to encrypt a message (even outside the policy), then another detailed technet article walks you through creating a Macro for Outlook that adds a FOPE encryption Button. check it out here

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