Andy’s Techie Blog

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  • Adding Roles and Features To an Offline Virtual Machine

    Posted on March 25th, 2015 Andy Parkes No comments

    A few days ago I restarted a virtual machine and was presented with the message.

    We couldn’t complete the updates

    Undoing changes

    Don’t turn off your computer 

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    Very helpful.

    The server just sat there for ages, apparently doing nothing.

    After a brief search I came across a post on the Microsoft forums that indicated an update was giving some problems (KB2920189)

    One of the suggested actions was to disable secure boot, start the virtual machine, allow the update to install and then re-enable secure boot.

    It’s a Windows 2012 R2 Gen2 virtual machine so it had that option.

    I turned it off but this didn’t doing anything.

    A further post on the forum pointed to a known issue with that update. The fix for that is to install the BitLocker features as the update is looking it. You don’t need to encrypt any drives, just have the feature installed. My specific problem wasn’t exactly described in that article but it wouldn’t hurt to add the feature and find out.

    But how to do that if the server won’t even boot?

    Well as the title probably already suggests you can do this with a virtual machine when it’s offline.

    Shut the virtual machine down

    Start server manager and select the “Add roles and features” option

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    Click through the first couple of pages on the wizard until you get the server selection page.

    From here you need the “Select a virtual hard” option at the top of the screen

    Then choose the virtual hard disk that has your operating system at the bottom of the screen.

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    From here it’s exactly the same as method to add a role or feature as normal.

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    After that i started the machine, the update installed and all was good.

  • Sync Text Messages To Your Mailbox

    Posted on March 20th, 2015 Andy Parkes 2 comments

    File this under “I didn’t know it could do that”

    Using your smartphone to connect to your work email is a pretty standard thing nowadays.

    They just about all support ActiveSync so your iPhone, Android, Windows Phone and Blackberry will all do email, calendars and contacts to an Exchange server without much fuss.

    However, the bit makes all this work, i.e ActiveSync, has some features that aren’t implemented on all devices. Some features will also be reliant on the version of Exchange server the mailbox is on.

    One of those is the ability to have your phone sync your text messages with your mailbox.

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    I spotted the option for this a little while back and initially didn’t see the point of it but I thought I’d turn it on and see how it worked out.

    I’ve been using it for a few months now and there are two main things I’ve found useful

    Sending text messages directly from Outlook

    When a text message comes into your phone it’s copied to your mailbox.

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    This means that if your phone is your pocket/bag or on silent you can read it on your PC without having to get the phone out. More importantly you can reply from Outlook too. Hit reply, type your message and when you press send the message is sync’d back to your phone where it sends the messages on your behalf.

    Yes that’s the “magic”. Your phone is still sending the message.

    You even get little smiley icons to use and it’ll tell you how many text messages will be needed.

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    It’s something I found useful as I can type much quicker on my keyboard than on my touch screen!

    I also find it less disruptive when I’m at work to not have to go to my mobile to view and reply to any messages.

    Having a deaf wife does mean I send a lot of text messages so this is one of the things I’ve particularly found useful.

    Backing up your messages

    Depends on how much importance you place on your SMS I guess but because a copy is added to your mailbox if your phone dies, falls in a toilet or is crushed/smashed/whatever then your text messages are easily retrievable.

    You can file them exactly the same way as you would any other email.

    I’ve got an Outlook quick step I use to drop any want to keep into a “text messages” folder once I’ve read them.

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    As mentioned above not all clients support all features so most notably this doesn’t work on iPhone.

    Also as already mentioned it’s reliant on Exchange server so if you’re using Google Apps/Gmail, POP or IMAP for email this specific method isn’t applicable.

    There a good list of features and what is and isn’t supported on this Wikipedia article.

    Can you think of any other uses for this?

    it’s also probably worth knowing about for the inevitable support call where someone has setup their own phone and want to know when their text messages have turned into emails. 

  • Problems With Sonicwall and Multiple PPPoE Connections

    Posted on March 17th, 2015 Andy Parkes No comments

    Now there’s an attention grabbing headline if ever I saw one!

    Just a quick reminder post in case I come across this again or it helps anyone else.

    We did some work for a client recently to replace their firewall with a shiny new Sonicwall NSA 2600.

    In the days following the replacement we were getting reports of connectivity problems.

    Inbound connections to the remote desktop server were dropping out and a web application they use was suffering from time outs.

    Even pings out to various servers on the internet were giving us results that showed something wasn’t quite right.

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    The only thing that had changed was the firewall so we put the old one back in and everything returned to normal.

    This meant I spent a few hours going through each setting. We’d set the new firewall up exactly the same as the old one but there was clearly something different between the two.

    We initially narrowed it down to a problem with the PPPoE connections.

    This particular setup had three WAN connections, two of which were PPPoE. The other connection didn’t have any problem at all. 

    After liaising with Sonicwall support we got to the bottom of it.

    There is a setting in the WAN connection that needs to be enabled that wasn’t available with the previous firewall.

    “Allow duplicate MAC addresses”

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    There is ONE article on the Sonicwall knowledgebase that mentions this setting.

    The scenario discussed in the article doesn’t fit our setup though.

    We weren’t using load balancing, both connections had a different default gateway and traffic was flowing across both connections, just not very well.

    However, changing the setting worked. Turning it back off caused the issue to reoccur.

    It’s been fine now for almost a month, 

  • Where Did January Go!?

    Posted on February 2nd, 2015 Andy Parkes 2 comments

    Every year I usually write a post that looks back on everything that happened in the previous year. The end of 2014 and the start of 2015 has been so packed with so many various things January seems to have just vanished before my eyes.

    This time last year I was writing about how tragically the year had ended.

    With that in mind we, as a family (me, Bryony and the girls), made the decision to make sure we got the absolute most out of 2014.

    This meant spending lots of time with friends and family, doing things we enjoy as well as doing new things.

    We certainly achieved it!

    Some of the highlights, in no particular order were,

    I ran my first half marathon

    Shortly followed by my first obstacle half marathon!

     

    Bryony jumped out of a plane!

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    We went to Australia for a wedding

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    Spent a week in the Isle of Wight

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    And a weekend in Rome

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    Took the girls to Comic Con in Birmingham

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    Engagement Celebrations in Newcastle

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    Climbed the O2 in London

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    Saw Monty Python Live!

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    and won a cup!

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    (Photo credit Bobby Bridge Photography)

    and much much more!!

    Going through some of the photos for putting this together what jumped out at me was the number of smiles. So many pictures of happy faces is a good thing to look back on.

    To say I’m pretty happy with my lot at the moment would be an understatement. In Bryony and the girls, I’ve got an amazing family so why would I not want to spend as much time as possible with them! 

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    So it mean I’m glad I was able to squeeze as much enjoyment as possible out of 2014 as I could and I’m very grateful to all the friends and family that were a part of it. 

    Thank you!

    Let’s go make 2015 even better.

  • Close Programs To Prevent Information Loss

    Posted on December 5th, 2014 Andy Parkes 4 comments

    I felt like such a noob when I realised what this was I thought I’d publicly shame myself so it doesn’t happen again.

    For a few weeks I’d been getting pop-ups on my computer warning about low memory and impending data loss!

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    Internet Explorer or Chrome were usually the programs it reported needed to be closed but checking in Task Manager and Resource Monitor seemed to indicate I wasn’t particularly low on memory.

    As well as this I was getting a lot of crashes in Google Chrome. It became stupidly unstable to the point where I couldn’t use it. I disabled all extensions, re-installed and created a new Chrome profile.

    I didn’t really put the two problems together (noob)

    So what was it in the end?

    Low disk space.

    This is my laptop and it has an SSD which is great for performance but not so great for capacity. I keep it pretty full but try to save about 1gb free. The drive space dropped down to a couple hundred megabytes and the page file It was set to “system managed” so was unable to grow when there was no free space. The page file is still used even if you’ve got free physical RAM.

    I cleared up some space and manually set the size of the page file. This meant that that space was fixed and whatever else i did around that wouldn’t matter.

    The excellent Mark Russinovich has a really good post on this.

    Once I’d done that the memory warnings disappeared, that was when I noticed Google Chrome became more stable. A program crashes under a low (virtual) memory condition. Not a massive surprise!

  • A Darth Vader Lightsaber And A Charity Auction

    Posted on November 10th, 2014 Andy Parkes No comments

    This dear reader is a Master Replica of Darth Vader’s Lightsaber, complete with certificate of authenticity, signed by none other than Gareth Edwards. Director of Godzilla and an upcoming Star Wars film!

    First

    Second

    It’s just one of many items available at a charity auction that’s taking place this Friday (14th November) at Ambleside Sports Club in Nuneaton.

    The event is being ran by two very good friends of mine who are both running in the London Marathon next year for their chosen charity Bliss They are a UK charity working to provide the best possible care and support for all premature and sick babies and their families.

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    So…where am I going with this?

    The Lightsaber isn’t the only the thing up for grabs on the night

    There will be two auctions on the night.

    A silent auction and a “loud, shouty” auction as well as a raffle with a ton of interesting prizes. One of which is an iPad Air Gold!

    If you’re interested in any of this, there are a couple of things you can do.

    1) Pay £10 for a ticket and come along! Kids are free, and I’ll even buy you a beer.

    2) Buy some raffle tickets. They are £3 each or 4 for £10. Top prize is an iPad Air Gold

    3) Place a bid in one the auctions

    4) Donate some money…here!

    5) Share this post with someone

    If any of the first three options appeal drop me an email or tweet me to sort that out(@AndyParkes)

    If you’re happy to just donate then click this link  <— This one Smile

    Full list of the auction and raffle items are below!

    Regular (shouty) Auction Items

    Gareth Edwards signed Lightsaber  
    John Barnes signed shirt Barnes
    Justin Rose Signed flag from the Scottish Open (which he won), Signed Ball and a Signed US Open Photo. Rose
    Disney/Phineas and Ferb poster signed by the creators of the show! Ferb
    David Beckham signed picture becks
    Lunch at Gordon Ramsey @ Savoy  
    Champagne experience at The Shard  

     

    Silent Auction Items

    Santa Pod Raceway tickets for 6 santa
    Signed Man United pennant  
    Signed Baggies pennant  
    Chelsea Stadium Tour  
    Spurs Stadium Tour  
    Leicester Stadium Tour Leicester
    Liverpool Legends Tour  
    Segway Experience seg
    Signed Ken Loach DVD  
    Christmas jumper  
    Signed Philip Schofield pic  
    Signed Little Britain DVD LittleBritain
    Bid on "Macca for a day"  
       
       

    Raffle Prizes

    iPAD AIR GOLD ipad
    Christmas Hamper
    Johns hair cut & blow dry + products
    Cawthorns Canvas Prints
    Meal at The Black Horse vouchers
    Coventry tickets to ANY game
    Conkers ticket for four
    £25 voucher for The Chase
    Bottle of Champagne
    Digital photo frame
    Abbey Physio voucher
    Bottles of perfume
    Hair products
    Mobile Disco voucher from Robbie Clark
    Doctor Who Ministry of Funny Walks Poster

     

     

     

     

    Silent Auction

    Raffle Prizes

  • Useful Tool: Service Trigger Editor

    Posted on November 4th, 2014 Andy Parkes No comments

    Newer versions of Windows introduced the concept of Trigger Start services.

    The idea being that a specific event “triggers” the startup of a service. In the past the service would have been running, using up resources waiting for that moment when it was needed. Using this newer method means services a dormant until they are actually needed.

    I had a problem with some backup software recently (Veeam). It needs the remote registry service to be running on virtual machine that needs to be backed up.

    For some reason there was one particular server that refuse to backup. I was able to confirm the trigger wasn’t kicking in when attempting to remotely edit the registry. It worked on other servers and I was able to confirm it wasn’t the firewall or anything like that.

    Working with service triggers is a bit of a pain normally though

    You have to do it via the command line using the SC command

    e.g

    sc qtriggerinfo remoteregistry

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    The title for this post should be a massive clue as to where I’m going with this.

    There is a very useful tool called Service Trigger Editor which you can download for free

    It lets you work with trigger services in a nice and simple gui. You can edit existing triggers as well as add your own.

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    I used the tool on a server that was working ok and replicated that on the server that was having a problem. All worked fine after that.

    Triggers services were introduced with Windows 7 and Windows 2008 R2.

  • Packt eBooks and Videos – Level Up!

    Posted on September 30th, 2014 Andy Parkes No comments

    The good people over at Packt Publishing have a special offer on at the moment.

    Basically the more ebooks or videos you buy the larger the discount!

    ALL eBooks and Videos are just $10 each or less.

    • Any 1 or 2 eBooks/Videos –$10 each
    • Any 3 to 5 eBooks/Videos – $8 each
      • Any 6 or more eBooks/Videos –$6 each

    These prices are in dollars but if you’re shopping in a different currency the discount is still applied (I checked!)

    landing-banner-level-up_0

     

    You can check it out here. The landing page has some suggested development collections but if you scroll down the page there are various categories you can choose from to find something to your taste.

    The offer runs until October 2nd so get on it quick!

  • Facebook Reviews

    Posted on September 13th, 2014 Andy Parkes No comments

    A couple of days ago I had a message pop up when I logged into Facebook

    Hello,

    A review you posted has been removed. Reviews must follow the Facebook Community Standards and focus on the core product or service offered by the Page. Reviews that don’t follow these guidelines may be removed. Please keep in mind that people who repeatedly post content that doesn’t follow our guidelines may lose access to their accounts.

    The Facebook team

    I also received an email with the same content.

    I was very puzzled. The alert gave me no indication of which specific review was a problem or exactly why I’d broken any rules.

    I try to conduct myself on Facebook in a decent way so any review I leave, positive or negative, is with respect to the people providing any particular product or service and is written out of a genuine intention to provide feedback.

    What also annoyed me was that there is no way to contact Facebook to ask about this. The message indicated that repeated offences would result in my account being banned. Does this mean a ‘black mark’ is now against my account that I can do nothing about?

    I don’t leave many negative reviews so it’s not that difficult to figure out which review may have been removed and I’m pretty sure there wasn’t anything in there that would be a problem. This leads me to wonder if the owner of the page reported my post because they want to reduce the number of negative reviews on their page?

    Just thoughts…

    It’s not like I’ve now got a criminal record or anything but I was a bit irked at being “told off” for something I didn’t think was wrong

  • Syntactically invalid HELO argument(s)

    Posted on September 12th, 2014 Andy Parkes No comments

    Yesterday I had a client report that certain emails were being bounced

    The SMTP error message was this

    501 Syntactically invalid HELO argument(s)

    Not one I’d seen before!

    As with most support queries one of the first questions to ask is “what has changed?” and this particular client has a Sonicwall Email Security Appliance that had failed and been swapped out that same morning

    Looking through the rest of the NDR it was clear the issue was with the appliance.

    Generating server: spam.invalid_sonicwall_gateway_domain.com

    This was also a huge pointer as to what the issue was.

    The host name needs to be a fully qualified domain name but in this case it had just been set to “spam”

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    Once it was corrected (e.g spam.customer.com) and the device was rebooted all was well.

    I’m not entirely sure how the host name ended up like that as I’m sure that form won’t allow you to enter a host name that isn’t a fully qualified domain name.

    The device settings were restored from a backup so it’s possible it was part of that but I’m just making a guess on that part!

    Either way it was a simple enough fix and email went back to normal after that.