Goodbye TechNet… But not quite.


Microsoft is retiring the TechNet Subscription service.

September 1st came and went… most of us in North America enjoyed the long Labour Day weekend, whether we were with family, at the cottage, enjoying the CNE, or doing whatever people who don’t live in Toronto do for Labour Day.

What most of us did not feel was the hard stop of all of our TechNet Plus Subscriptions.  By all rights we should have, but last year, shortly after the TechNet team announced that they would be ending the benefit availability, they announced an extension.  So if you had purchased a valid subscription by August 31, 2013 you would get a 90 day extension… in other words, you can continue to access your benefits until November 30, 2014.

There was a huge outcry last year, and I was not part of it… partly because I was on contract to Microsoft, and partly because I will still enjoy my MSDN Subscription as an MCT and MVP.  However for the people who relied on TechNet, this is a sad end.  Fortunately you will still be able to use evaluation versions of the software… but we all know it’s not the same.

Even though we have another day, I will still say my fond farewell to the TechNet Subscription.

Back to … here.

I’ve been with Yakidoo for a little over a week, and it is great to be back in charge of a datacentre… albeit a smaller one.  One thing that I think surprised me though was, after all my time as a Microsoft Virtual Evangelist, I was so happy to be back in a VMware environment. 

Don’t get me wrong, I still like Hyper-V.  None of what I said over the course of the last four years is inaccurate – Microsoft’s virtualization and private cloud solutions are top notch.  However so are VMware’s.  My argument against vSphere was never the functionality, it was the cost.  As Yakidoo is a VMware Partner, that is not a factor here… and I am having a lot of fun implementing (and playing with) so many of the features that I have lectured about, but have not used in production because they are new features since I last ran a VMware environment (probably vSphere 4.0).

I will say though that everything I have said about virtual networking holds true… Microsoft’s stack is a lot easier, especially for smaller and less complicated environments.  The vSphere networking infrastructure is very robust… but I still don’t think most smaller companies will ever need them.

In the meantime, my hosts are in place, and I am virtualizing to my heart’s content!

Another Easily Averted Tragedy…

This morning we all woke up to the terrible and shocking news that a shooting instructor (I refuse to call him a Range Master) was shot and killed by a nine year old girl with an Uzi sub-machine gun (SMG).  It is a tragedy on two fronts – of course it is a tragedy for the family and friends of the deceased, for whom I pray.  However as my friend Greg Starks rightly points out, it is also a tragedy for the little girl.

…All the adults involved chose to enter the situation.  The girl – for her this was like being taken to the park to learn to ride a bike… in her mind, was something cool she was doing with Mommy and Daddy… now how F`d up is her life?… just trying not to lose focus from the tragedy of the girl, given that all the adults had the ability and opportunity to make different choices.  Making her a poster child will only propagate how many times people watch her take a human life.

I pray for the nine year old girl, who will carry this tragedy with her for her entire life.  I will not name her, nor will I name the parents (who should, in my opinion, go to jail for manslaughter) because it could then be linked back to the girl.

So who is to blame for this tragedy?  Some will say the parents, and I agree; some will say the range owners, and I agree with them too.  Others will say it is the Second Amendment… and it is hard to disagree that in the larger picture the ‘Right to bear arms’ is apart of it… but above all else I think it is the American glorification of firearms and their use that is really to blame.  After all, guns are legal (albeit regulated a lot more tightly) in Canada.  Heck, in Israel everyone has a firearm as soon as they go into the army, and there is zero gun crime and almost no accidental shootings.  What makes those cultures different from the US?  We don’t glorify them.

Name a Canadian hero or legend who carried a gun.  Maybe you can… if you give it some thought.  Probably not though.  Name an Israeli hero or legend who carried a gun?  There are plenty of course – all of Israel’s heroes are/were soldiers.

Name an American hero who carried a gun? Wyatt Earp; Jesse James; Billy the Kid.  It took me three seconds to come up with three names.  Sure, some of the American heroes will be law men… but they also glorify the villains.

The American Bill of Rights (in which the Second Amendment is codified) were written in 1789.

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Back then there were no handguns, and a rifle (musket) would fire one shot, then take nearly a minute to reload.  Effective range?  Depending on the model probably as far as 50 meters.  In contrast, an Uzi (designed in 1948 but manufactured by Israeli Military Industries since 1954) fires 600 rounds per minute with an effective range of 2200 meters, from a magazine that holds anywhere from 10 to 50 9mm rounds. 

Because of an ingenious piece of material (that is, I was told by my Range Master in Basic Training, made of a secret material) there is hardly any recoil to an Uzi.  This makes it so easy to fire that ‘even a child could do it.’  Our Range Master was of course joking about this, showing that any simple soldier could fire the weapon.  Unfortunately there are people in the USA who took this literally, and thought that a nine year old child could and should be allowed to fire it.

Someone paid with their life.  The poor child will be scarred forever.  And gun enthusiasts and members of the NRA all over America are going to dismiss this as an unfortunate incident caused by poor training.  I weep for the USA.

DNS Gotchas in vSphere

As I once again immerse myself in a VMware environment as System Administrator, I am getting to do all sorts of fun stuff that I haven’t done in a while.  However there is one gotcha that I encountered that I know, I knew, and have even taught on countless occasions.

VMware does not do Dynamic DNS.  That is, it does not automatically create a DNS entry for your hostnames (and other fun stuff like VMkernel and HA Management).. which is fine, as long as you have an eidetic memory and never assign those IP addresses to anything else… and you are the only person who will ever configure anything on your network.

If those are not the case, you have to document them… and you need to manually create addresses in DNS.  Since most of us probably use Microsoft DNS for internal use, all we have to do is pop open the DNS Management console and create the appropriate A Records.

What happens if I don’t?

Simple… nothing, now.  As you are looking at your systems and it is fresh in your mind you won’t have any problems.  However later on, when you have long forgotten that you configured a new host, or applied a host profile to a new server, things will go wrong, and you won’t know why.  Did I mention, by the way, that VMK and HA Management ports don’t reply to Ping, so once you have double-assigned the same IP address to something else, troubleshooting will not be enjoyable.

A lot of ports such as these are not actually used by DNS ever, so left alone they wouldn’t be an issue… until you assign the address to another device.  creating a dummy record in DNS will save you the headaches later on.

Another benefit of doing this, by the way, is that although the same ports will still not respond to a Ping, a Ping -a <address> will return a hostname!

DHCP on Server Core

I am loving being back in charge of a proper IT Infrastructure, and of course every admin is going to want to put his own touches on their servers.  One of the things I did in my first week was create a couple of new domain controllers running Windows Server Core.  Of course, when you create a domain controller the process will automatically install the DNS Server, but I also like to have DHCP running on some of my DCs.  In Server Core, at least in Server 2008 R2, there are a couple of quirks.

I should mention that a lot of this has changed in Server 2012, but until I upgrade our licenses I had to go back through my memory to remember how to do it in 2008 R2.  Here’s what I did.

  1. The first thing you have to do is install the role.  There are two ways to do it – I use DISM – dism.exe /online /enable-feature /FeatureName:DHCPServerCore.
  2. Next you have to enable the feature, and set it to start automatically.  use this command: sc config dhcpserver start= auto. Note the space after the =… I don’t question these things, but it doesn’t work without it.
  3. Now you simply start the service: net start dhcpserver.

Once this is done you have to authorize the server in Active Directory, and create a scope.  There is no way I would do this in the command line when I have the Remote Server Administration Toolkit installed on my laptop… but if you want to do so then here it is:

  1. netsh dhcp add server %computername% <ip address>
  2. netsh dhcp server <server ip address> add scope ScopeName
  3. netsh dhcp server <server ip address> scope add iprange

This has authorized the server, created a scope, and created an IP range in the new scope.

To add a Default Gateway and DNS Server to the scope (two very common options) you would do the following:

  1. netsh dhcp server <server ip address> scope set optionvalue 003 IPADDRESS
  2. netsh dhcp server <server ip address> scope set optionvalue006 IPADRESS

In the event you want to add an exclusion range, simply do the following:

netsh dhcp server <server ip address> scope add excluderange

And finally, we have to activate the scope.  Run the following:

netsh dhcp server <server ip address> scope set state 1.

That’s it… of course a lot of this will be different in Server 2012, especially with PowerShell.  However if you are still running <slightly> older servers, this will do you well!

Should I return the Surface Pro 3?

I have been having an issue with the device… it’s a networking issue that is absolutely not normal behaviour.  The Microsoft Store replaced it for me once, but I am still having the issues. I requested a call-back from Surface Support this week; I was assured by the site that I would receive a call within 34 minutes.  However 30 minutes later (after counting down the whole while) they changed the status to ‘Sorry, our support desk is closed, so call-backs are not available.  Please try again during normal business hours.’  Crap.

The next day I opted for on-line chat (during normal business hours).  I waited for an hour plus (the expected wait time was 22 minutes).  Finally Kaylee came onto the chat; after I explained the problem to her she reset the chat… in other words, the problem was over her head so she decided to waste my time and let me go back into the queue… for another hour long wait.

I am pissed now, and am ready to take the device back to the Microsoft Store and get my money back so that I can go elsewhere and buy a device that doesn’t have these issues.

What do you think?