Windows Deployment: Advanced Part 3 – Driver Injection

In this article, I’m going to show you how to maintain a driver library within MDT 2013 and create different task sequences for each model of laptop.

It’s important to separate your drivers out to avoid conflicts and reliability issues with the workstations that you deploy the images to (although if your only ever deploying the same manufacturer and hardware class you’re unlikely to see an issue).

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Windows Deployment – Advanced – Part 1. Performing Domain Joins Securely

In the first of this new multi-part series, I will show you how to take you Windows Deployment to the next level.

(For this series, we're assuming your running Server 2012 R2 with the latest updates, and the latest release of MDT 2013).

This article looks at locking down the os.deploy account that you use to automatically join computers to the domain.

So, let us improve the security of the mdt join account. This account which we have specified in CustomSettings.ini (Windows Deployment, Part 1: Configuring the Deployment Environment) and which is used by MDT to join the target computer to the domain.

If we leave this account as a Domain User, then MDT will be able to join the first few computers it installs into the domain but then will fail to join any others.

This is because by default Domain Users can only join 10 computers to the domain.

In our initial article, we made the account a member of the domain admins group – of course, perfectly acceptable in a lab environment, but not so in the real world.

This is because of these three facts:

  • The domain admin password is visible in the customsettings.ini
  • The domain admin password is sent in plain text across the network
  • The domain admin password is temporarily stored on the remote pc

So, how do we overcome this??

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60 days to go: Is this the biggest security threat of 2015?

The clock is ticking….

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With less than two months from now, Microsoft will stop supporting Server 2003, leaving many businesses with a major security headache.

From July 14th 2015, Microsoft will no longer issue security patches for Server 2003, leaving it open to an ever increasing risk of virus, spyware and malware infection, not to mention a plethora or security holes allowing hackers to gain access to a businesses network (67% of IT security breaches happen with businesses employing less than 100 staff).
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Enable Hyper-V replication between two workgroup servers

Hyper-V replication is an essential ‘server availability’ tool for any organization. Whilst it is not a substitute for good backups; it will allow you to restore an up-to-date copy of your virtual servers very quickly, should your primary host hardware fail.

In this tutorial, i have built two Windows 2012 R2 servers using a pair of old Dell Optiplex 580’s (AMD Phenom CPU, upgraded to 8GB RAM each), and a single 8 port Netgear GB switch.

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The Primary server name is: Truro

The Secondary server name is: Exeter

Lets get started…

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How to reset a forgotten server admin password…

A few weeks ago, we had a call from a business who’s IT support company had gone AWOL.

This left the business with a server they were unable to access – you see, the IT support company hadn’t provided their customer with any passwords or documentation for their server.

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So, when we got the call, the company I work for did as any good IT support business would…  we donned our superhero capes and got stuck in….

 

Here’s how you do it:

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99 days to go…. The End of Server 2003 is upon us.

With less than 99 days to go until Microsoft stops supporting Windows Server 2003,  it really is time to ‘let it go’.

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It was the OS of choice back in 2003, but has long since surpassed by the likes of Windows  2008, 2008 R2, 2012, 2012 R2.

With every iteration of Server release, every feature of Server 2003 has been improved time and time again (if your using standard edition, support from more than 4GB ram is a useful feature).
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Happy 40th Microsoft!

Happy Birthday Microsoft – turns 40 on 4th April 2015.

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Set up in 1975 by Bill Gates and Paul Allen, Microsoft has brought about massive technological innovation to the world.

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Not every innovation has been good over the past 40 years, but equally, some things Microsoft has brought about have really impacted our lives in a positive way.

To celebrate, we’re going to take a look at the 5 best and worst things Microsoft has given us (or inflicted depending on your point of view).

The Worst:

Clippy – That annoying little ‘helper’ that Microsoft bundled with Office way back before time began. Clippy liked to offer advice (presumably such as “save often, Windows ME is going to bluescreen!)”. As useless and annoying as Clippy was, thinking back, he (or she) was the precursor to the likes of Cortana and Siri.

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Windows Vista, Late, slow, and particularly unpleasant.   People today complain about the Windows 8 start screen, give Vista a try and you’ll never have a dig at 8 again. It was truly horrible. There were some nice features about Vista… somewhere…  I’m sure of it…..

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Internet Explorer. Ok, IE11, is probably not too bad (most home users have long since move over to the likes of Chrome and Firefox). But I’ve seen IE6 lingering around in the corporate world for far too long because large corporations and public sector organizations (such has council’s) haven’t updated their code to support modern browsers. It’s probably the real reason large corporates haven’t rushed onto the likes of Windows 8. Those old IE6 only websites and intranets are holding things back. Whilst it wont help end IE6, roll on Project Spartan!

Marketing strategy for the announcement of Xbox One. Oh god. What a bloody train wreck that one was. I literally could not think of a worse way to introduce a product, save smearing it in dog poo. Xbox is a bloody brilliant platform and the product should have got the introduction it deserved. It’s a testament to the platform and engineers that the Xbox One is doing as well as it is!

Windows ME. If there’s one thing in the Microsoft universe worse than Vista, is Windows ME. Cobbled together at the last-minute to celebrate the millennium (Windows 2000 wasn’t ready for consumers), ME was slow, buggy and pretty crap (it was crap – no bones about it).  It was also last OS based on the old and creaky 9x / DOS platform…

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The Best:

Well that’s the worst out-of-the-way.  Lets take a look at the top 5.

Windows 95. 95 ushered in a new era for Microsoft, and the world. Gone was the tile based Windows 3.1, 95 introduced a slick interface and start menu – the basis of what you’re seeing today in Windows 8, and Windows 10 (10 is an evolution of the ideas that began with Windows 95 all those years ago).  95 may have had its issues but boy did it change the face of the PC world forever.

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Windows XP. After the disaster that was ME, XP was the first consumer OS to ditch the old clunky 9x / DOS platform and embrace the future that was NT. That OS’s time has long since passed, but unbelievably, some 20% of the world computers are running it (No doubt part of this is down to IE6 and a huge list of old clunky websites that wont work without it).

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Xbox. 2001, Microsoft went from zero to hero overnight. Launching their first iteration of console, leading the way with internal storage, built-in Ethernet and a year later launching Xbox live. You could now play online against people the other side of the world. Xbox has become so successful and popular Microsoft has created the Xbox console over 3 generations. Sure the Japs hate it, but what do they know, they eat raw fish.  😉

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Surface. Believe it or not, I love the Surface range. Granted the arm based versions are now dead in the water, but I defy anyone not to fall in love with a Surface pro 3! Slick, Exciting and totally worth the cash.  Now just to convince the boss we need the 84″ version for the board room 😉

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Hyper-V. First there was virtual server. It was crap… next up, Hyper-V.

Early iterations were a bit lacking, but very quickly Microsoft improved the platform and has continued to improve and innovate over the last few years.

Hyper-V isn’t something non IT people will see. But it’s there, every day, either your likely using products and services running on it at work, or indeed when you fire up your Xbox one which has a version of Hyper-V at its core.

For me,  Hyper-V has to be one of the best technologies to come out of Redmond.  No longer am I hosting 70+ physical servers in a small sweaty room, cowering the corner when the sun comes out. Today we’re down to three physical servers in a cluster,   70+ virtual servers running on that cluster.   We can easily and quickly ‘move’ a virtual server from one physical server to another dropping nothing more than a ping. Not only that, we’re able to replicate a VM to a remote server, and keep it up to date within 5 mins. Even better, we can ‘build’ VM’s in just minutes. Gone are days of getting budget approval, ordering new server kit, waiting 2 weeks for it to arrive, finding space in the server cab, racking the hardware and maintaining it. For an IT manager or server admin, that’s bliss.

Notable mentions.

  • Steve Ballmer, crazy wild-eyed once CEO of Microsoft who seemed to like nothing more than literally raving on stage. Crazy. Wild. Brilliant. Steve, in a way, we miss you.
  • Azure, hasn’t made the cut yet, but soon, Azure – visualization and software as a service in the cloud is going to change everything.
  • Holo-lens.  Virtual reality meets reality…  Crazy, cool.. Has the potential to change the world.  Maybe….

So there you go, the top 5 best and worst things of Microsoft…

We’ve seen plenty of good stuff over the years, but most of it Joe Public never gets to see, whether it’s storing their email, letting them log onto their work computer or hosting websites, there’s been plenty of good stuff.

Thanks for the last 40 years Paul & Bill.

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Happy 40th!

How to standardize your company email signature

Often, companies have a mismatch of email signatures. Nothing standard or manageable throughout their business.   There are software applications that can assist, but they can be costly.

In this post, i will detail how to roll out a standard email signature using nothing more that a vb script, group policy and a little elbow grease with regards to your Active Directory.

Lets begin:

Requirement:  To implement a standard email signature throughout your organisation

Solution: Create VB script to pull data from Active Directory and set it as the users default signature within Outlook (tested in Outlook 2007, 2010 and 2013).

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