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Since When…?

Those of us who have been in the IT industry for a while remember the heady days of never having to reboot a server… otherwise known as ‘The days before Windows Server.’  Those days are long gone, and even non-Windows servers need to be patched and restarted.

But how do you know when it last happened?  If you have a proper management and monitoring infrastructure then you can simply pull up a report… but many smaller companies do not have that, and even in larger environments you may want to figure out up-time without having to go through the entire rigmarole of pulling up your reports. So here it is:

  1. Open a Command Prompt
  2. Type in net statistics server

There will be a line that says Statistics since m/dd/yyyy… That is when your server last rebooted.

If you want to shorten it, you can also just type Net Stats SRV.  It provides the same results.


Incidentally, while the command specifically states Server, it works for workstations too.

…And now you know.

Another Milestone for TWAM

A few weeks ago – somewhere around the second week of November or so – this blog hit a bit of a milestone.  It welcomed its 183,060th visitor of 2015.  That may seem like a bit of a weird number to celebrate… but it is significant in that it is the same number of visitors we welcomed in 2014 – the entire year.

That same week we welcomed our 181,122nd visitor… the same number as we had welcomes in 2013.

If I remember correctly, for a few days in December of 2014 I was worried if we would have the same number of visitors as the preceding year – the year I first went to Japan and Australia, the year I spent traveling across Canada as a Microsoft Evangelist (with all of the exposure that entailed).  We did of course, but statistically it was no more than that – Actually, just over a 1% increase.

I wasn’t sure if I had plateaued – if this was as good as it was going to get.  I expected that Now that I am no longer a Microsoft Evangelist, no longer a Microsoft MVP, my readership would actually start going down.  And it might yet… but it certainly hasn’t.

And so last month we matched the total for the previous year… and every view after that was shooting for a new record.  But before we would know what that record will eventually be – and we will not know until January 1 – we have been shooting for another milestone.

If the trend continues, that milestone should be reached around the same time as this article goes live, at 8:30am Thursday morning.

Around that time, we will welcome our 200,000th visitor of the year.  Wow!

Additionally, once we hit that target, we will then be 5,344 hits away from welcoming visitor number 700,000 (since migrating onto the WordPress platform in November, 2010).  Another Wow!

I want to thank all of you for your confidence and your readership.  Even though my father does not know how to visit my blog (and if you know him, please feel free to tease him about that) I still consider you part of my family.  No, that does not mean you should expect a Christmas present or that you can borrow money.  What it does mean is that I feel a responsibility to all of you, and will continue to work hard to not let you down.

Thank you all!

OEM Servers: Myths vs. Realities

In a recent conversation I realized that there are still a lot of misconceptions about OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) operating system rights with regard to Windows Server. While I am not here to say who is right and who is wrong (whether one should or should not buy OEM operating systems), I still think it is important to understand the facts.

Myth #1: OEM licensing is limited, and cannot be upgraded.

An OEM license is indeed tied to the physical hardware for which it was purchased. This is a distinct disadvantage to purchasing Volume Licenses (VLs). However when you buy an OEM operating system you have thirty (30) days to add Software Assurance to it. Any license with Software Assurance attached to it can be upgraded as new versions are released. However there is one important bit to understand… when decommissioning that server, the SA can be detached from the license and attached to another… but the OS itself cannot.


Myth #2: Virtualization rights are unclear on OEM licenses.

I hear this from people all the time, and although I have tried to explain it to many of them, sometimes I simply have to shrug my shoulders and walk away from it. There is nothing murky or unclear about virtualization licensing. Whether your host (hypervisor) is an OEM license, VL license, or FPP (Full Package Product) license, your virtualization rights are the same, and they depend not on how you bought the license, but what tier you bought (Standard vs. Datacenter).

The OEM license is applied to the host, and must be tied to that host. However the guest VMs (2 on Standard, unlimited on Datacenter) do not have any restrictions. Like any guest VM on any other license, they can be migrated to any other host, as long as the destination host has allowance – so if the destination host is Windows Server Standard Edition, it cannot host a third guest VM, but if the destination host is Windows Server Datacenter Edition, the only limitation is based on the available resources (CPUs, RAM, storage).


Myth #3: There are things you can with OEM Editions that you cannot do with VL Editions.

While this is a less common complaint, it is still there. I am told (and I have not really looked into this) that with Windows Server OEM versions (let’s take the HP ROK as an example) you can modify the image to show your logo during the boot-up process. While this is true, I have two points to it:

1) If you know what you are doing you can customize the boot process of any Windows Server installation, regardless of the edition or version.

2) Folks, it’s a server… how often are you rebooting it? Most of my servers (especially virtualization hosts) don’t reboot for months at a time. When they do get rebooted, it either happens at night (when I have scheduled patches) or remotely, when I am not sitting and watching the POST process. I can’t imagine there are too many customers who sit and watch their servers either…


Myth #4: When a reseller consultant sells OEM licenses there is more room for profit.

I am usually very saddened to hear this, but that is mostly because I am not the sort of consultant who makes a lot of money off products; I would rather make my money off my time, and that is what I do. I don’t like hearing that there are resellers who buy a cheaper (and less versatile) option but resells it for the same price as the full version. Aside from the previous point also applying, I am always certain that my customer will find out and call me on it, and I will lose their trust. It is just not worth it to me. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a legitimate issue for some.



There is nothing wrong with OEM licenses, and they are certainly less expensive than other ways of purchasing the operating system. They are just as versatile as non-OEM licenses, but not especially more versatile. If you replace (not upgrade or add more) servers often then they are likely not a good option for you, especially since they don’t add value to the physical server if you resell it. However if you keep your servers for more than a couple of year (as most companies will) then the cost savings might make it worthwhile, and if you do the cost benefit comparison, you might just come out ahead… and that’s CONFIRMED!


Distinguished Names for Complex Items

Distinguished Names are pretty simple, right? Well… it depends on several factors.  To figure out the DN for swmi.ca it is… dc=swmi,dc=ca.  An Organizational Unit is not much harder… Let’s take an OU called Toronto in the swmi.com domain… ou=Toronto,dc=swmi,dc=ca.  Simple.

But what happens when we add a little complexity to our environment?  Say… OUs within OUs, and domains within domains?  Here’s an example:

Domain: Canada.swmi.ca
OU: OntarioToronto

Okay, this is a little more complex… but it’s actually pretty easy, once you know what you are doing.


See? That’s not that much harder than the simple Distinguished name…it’s just longer.

Spaces… what happens when you add spaces into the names of your OUs?  Of course, the space is not a valid character in a domain name, but there is nothing stopping you from putting them into your OU names.  You know… aside from common sense ;’)

We know that in PowerShell (and most scripting- and command-line interfaces) you have to put quotes around names that have spaces.  But when I run a PowerShell script that includes the DN of an object, it will already have quotes around it… do I have to double-quote?

No.  Distinguished Names do not change because you are scripting.  So let’s look at an example:

Domain: Canada.swmi.ca
OU: OntarioToronto – File Servers

Take a deep breath… relax, and let’s do what we did before…

OU=File Servers,OU=Toronto,OU=Ontario,DC=Canada,DC=swmi,DC=ca

We can go on and on with this game… one particular client that I am working with right now has a domain with OUs embedded six levels deep.  It is crucial that I get the DN right when I am scripting… refer to my article on Failover Cluster OUs and you will see why.  My clusters must be placed in the right place.  So I spent the time to make sure I had it right… and it worked!

…So what if you are hesitant, unsure, unconfident?  Before you run your script, run a simple command to test it:

dsquery ou “OU=File Servers,OU=Toronto,OU=Ontario,DC=Canada,DC=swmi,DC=ca

A simple dsquery should return the following response:

“OU=File Servers,OU=Toronto,OU=Ontario,DC=Canada,DC=swmi,DC=ca”

Now this isn’t very exciting… it is just parroting back to me what I said, right?  Well know that the alternative is an error message (dsquery failed: A referral was returned from the server, or dsquery failed: Directory object not found) and not getting that is golden.

Distinguished Names can be intimidating… but with a little bit of knowledge, you should be on easy street!

An Open Letter to Application Developers

Dear Developers,

I want to thank you for continuing to build applications and programs and other software that makes my life better.  As an Infrastructure Specialist I feel my kind and your kind have developed a nice symbiosis over the years – I build the environments on which your solutions run, and you make my infrastructure more than just a pretty face.  This has allowed us (in collaboration with our good friends, the DBA types) to deliver solutions to our users that make their lives easier.

We have come a long way from the time when WordPerfect consisted of a single file, and that all of what we did ran off individual floppy disks.  As the solutions get bigger, it is understandable that, at least under the hood, they are going to become more complex. So I get why I have had to step up my game in a lot of aspects.  My environment will be as complex as you need it to be, while remaining as simple as it can be.

There are times though when I think you are taking a simple path, and that path of yours can complicate my life.  I will give you an example:

I have been testing a particular monitoring solution for one of my customers.  It is a solution that I suspect will make my life easier, so I decided to install it.  Okay so far.

And then I needed to uninstall it.  It wasn’t that I didn’t like the product, it was that I hadn’t checked on some of the requirements, and rather than trying to adjust them later on (or live with them).  I opened the Uninstall or change a program window, and poof… there were suddenly 25 ‘programs’ that I needed to uninstall… one by one.

Before you say it I know… some applications have an Uninstall program which will clean your system of every last remnant of its installation.  Most don’t.  So when I uninstall one component, I have to uninstall all of them, lest the installation program see that the remnants are still there, and not re-install properly later on.

I understand you think I am asking a lot of you.  After all, what is 20 minutes of my pressing ‘Uninstall’ over and over again in the grand scheme of things?  Well here’s the thing… when I have to do it five or ten times (whether I am testing it or writing about it or whatever) it can really add up.  With that said, how difficult would it really be for you to create an installation log that an Uninstall application can follow?

What about Snapshots and Checkpoints Mitch?

Ah, that is a good point… Virtual Machine Snapshots (and Checkpoints) do give me the ability to go forward and then back out to that point… but I have to know in advance that I am going to go through the uninstall-reinstall dance… and when your application links to an external database on a different machine they are often rendered useless.

So if you feel I am being unreasonable, please understand that is not my intention.  I just feel that a little extra effort from you could go a long way to making my life a little easier.

But we don’t want you uninstalling our applications!  Use them!

That is another great point… but I assure you that if I create a server specifically for your application (as I did in this case), if I decide to NOT use your application then uninstalling it will not be an issue, I will simply blow the server away.  I want to use your applications, that is what makes my environment shine.  This will just help me a little bit more.

Thank you!

2015: My New Year’s Resolutions

2015-Calendar-7-723x1024I can honestly say that I don’t think I have ever made New Year’s Resolutions… at least, I have never written them down.  At the end of 2014, my annus horribilus, I am looking forward to a spectacular 2015.

Yesterday afternoon – December 30th – I was looking at my dashboard on www.asana.com – a tool that my boss recently introduced into our organization that  helps us to keep track of our tasks – and realized how much I have been able to accomplish in the month or so since he introduced it.  Don’t get me wrong, I was probably almost equally productive in the previous months… you know, when I wasn’t distracted by illness, my separation, my parents’ separation, kids’ illnesses and whatnot.  It’s just that this tool not only helps me to track what I need to do, it helps me to stay focused on those tasks.  It is a tool that, going forward, I will be using more and more.

What my focus on Asana reminded me of on that particular afternoon reminded me of the old truism – if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.  I have thought to myself several things I want to do in 2015, and so maybe putting them down on paper (yes, I still refer to my blog as ‘on paper’), and try to remember them so that I do not lose focus.  I am planning out several goals for 2015, and I plan to succeed.

Professional Life

There are some changes coming in the next few weeks that I am not prepared to share yet.  However the abstract of it is that I plan to continue to grow professionally, grow my knowledge, my network, and my reputation.  I have a couple of certifications that I have been putting off completing and I was challenged by my friend Sharon last night to complete them.  Additionally I have to renew a couple of certifications, and I should do that. 

I plan to re-focus the main theme of The World According to Mitch back to IT.  Does that mean I am going to stop talking about topics such as Weight Management, Martial Arts, and my personal observations?  No… some of those will stay on that blog, but the Weight Management component is being moved to a new blog that I have created.  Going forward I am going to invite my readers to subscribe to my second blog if they want to follow that side, and this one if they are interested chiefly in IT.

I plan to deliver to my readers the high quality and relevance you have come to expect from my blog over the past decade.  Wow… I can’t believe it’s been nearly a decade since I started blogging.

I have been asked by some if I plan to try to get re-awarded by the Microsoft MVP program.  The answer is that I have no such plans.  I will continue to participate in technical communities, and contribute by way of blogging, articles, and speaking engagements.  However I never really stopped doing any of that.  If Microsoft does not feel that my contributions warrant an award, then I will do it for the same reason I have always done it – to help the communities.

baby-new-yearPersonal Life

I think I need to be a better father than I have been to my children.  That is not easy for me, and I am not sure how I will do it.  Spending time with my younger son is easy, but my older son has school, works, has homework, friends, is probably dating, and so on.  I am going to continue to try to figure that out.

I need to be a better provider.  The last year my finances have been a disaster, and as such when I moved out of the house into my condo I was not able to pay all of my bills and meet all of my financial obligations to Theresa and the kids.  Fortunately I think I know how I will be able to do that starting in 2015, and that is my goal… in addition to paying down all of my debts and credit cards and bills.

Most of you are by now aware that my wife and I separated this past year.  In 2015 I hope to continue the healing process.  It is not easy, but I will continue to grow.

I started to lose weight in 2014… and not because I stopped eating from stress and depression (were that only the way my mind and body worked I assure you that by now I would be a lithe 215lbs).  Since I started the journey I have lost about 40lbs, and I plan to continue on this path (although December has been a total clusterf*¢k in that regard).  I am hoping to lose another 70-90lbs in 2015.

I decided in June of this year that it was time for me to start training for my 3rd Dan Black Belt… but I was wrong.  Before I was able to do that, I realized I needed to get myself back up to the level befitting a 2nd Dan Black Belt.  I needed to refresh my memory of all of the patterns that I needed to earn my 1st and 2nd Dan Black Belts.  While I am not entirely there, I feel that I am now at a place where I can begin to spend the next five months in training and preparation, and to test for my next belt in June.  Whether I am ready in June or not, I plan to earn it in 2015.

I plan to continue to teach, and to improve as a Taekwondo instructor.  Under the tutelage of my Masters I will continue to try.

There are a lot of other things I would like to do, but I don’t think I am going to over-commit.  I hope that I am able to do what I have outlined here, and hopefully more.  As John Lennon said ‘Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.’  I think what I have outlined here is reasonable, achievable, and with a little luck a year from now I will be able to look back at this list and smile, and say ‘Mission Accomplished!’

Happy New Year to all of you!

Surface Pro 3: Two weeks later

Are there problems with it?  Yes.

Do I absolutely love it? I love my kids and my dogs… but I suppose I do like it as much as I have ever liked a laptop or tablet… and I have had quite a few of them over the years!

What are the problems? There is really only one that you should be aware of if you are thinking of going out to buy one.  It’s the patches and the battery.

How, you may ask, do patches and batteries wind their way into a single problem?  Simple… as you probably know, everything in computers is managed by software drivers… and that includes the battery to some extent.  When you buy the device (or any device) you are prompted to apply patches, and at this point a couple of them for the Surface Pro 3 are firmware updates.  You apply the first one, and then you have a problem…

…Windows tells you there is no battery detected.  Worse, if you unplug the device it shuts off immediately.  The firmware update actually tells the computer that there is no battery installed.

BUT THERE IS! Wait a minute!  I was using it unplugged just a few minutes ago!  Where did it go?  Oh… I get it!  The pesky firmware is what screwed me up.  Let’s check to see if there is ANOTHER firmware update.  Plug it in, connect to the Internet, run Windows Update… By Jove, there it is!  Install it, and presto changeo, there’s my battery!

…and what a battery it is!  My original Surface Pro probably gave me 3 hours of battery (with Hyper-V and a bunch of other things draining it).  The Surface Pro 2 was probably closer to 5.  The Pro 3? I haven’t had it run dry on me yet… for the first time in my laptop-owning life I am not afraid to leave the house in the morning without the charger.

(Imagine the voice of Hervé Villechaize if you would…)

Yes, there are a lot of improvements over the Surface Pro 2, but wow I never would have imaginged that the 1.4″ difference in screen size (12″ over 10.6″) would make that much of a difference.  As I told you recently I have an external 16″ screen that I keep in the trunk of my car so that I can have the dual screen experience on the go.  I don’t know that I have pulled it out once since I got the Pro 3… the combination of the slightly bigger screen and the much improved screen resolution make the extra screen redundant… at least when I am on the go.

Don’t get me wrong… the day the Pro 3 docking station is available I am buying it – I have pre-ordered it from the Microsoft Store, and I have the voucher for it (from something else I returned).  All I need is the e-mail saying it is in… and I expect that to be around the same time the remaining Surface Pro 3 models (with the Intel i3 and i7 CPUs) are released, sometime in August.  When I am at home (or an office) I will still want the multi-screen experience.  On the go?  Not necessary anymore.

A lot of people are saying I should have waited for the Intel i7 version, but the reality is I have not found myself lacking.  The Surface Pro 3 runs everything I need it to with 8GB of RAM and the Intel Core i5 CPU, and frankly I don’t want to spend the extra money (the i7 version will come in two models – 256GB storage for $1,599, and the 512GB model for $1,999.  Too rich for my blood, but thanks!


I am asked pretty often (including 3 minutes ago, as I sit at the Microsoft Store in Square One Mall blogging) whether the Surface Pro 3 is really a laptop replacement.  The answer, as with everything, is that it depends.  I would think that for the vast majority of people the answer is yes.  If you are a true hard-core gamer? Maybe not; there are some gamers who need more than 8gb of RAM.  If you are a coder? I have a friend who is a programmer who needs to run virtual machines running more than 8gb of RAM at all times.  (Did I mention that I LOVE the fact that it runs Hyper-V?  Well I do…). Aside from them?  I don’t know too many users – even power users – who need more than 8gb of RAM ever, not even occasionally.  For them (like myself) I would say that this is the device for you.

If you are in the Greater Toronto Area come down to the Microsoft Store at Square One or Yorkdale Malls to check it out!🙂

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