I was tasked with doing some upgrades for a client in their Configuration Manager 2012 environment recently. They wanted the SQL database on the back end upgraded to something more recent so SQL Server 2012 it is. So we confirmed we met all of the software prerequisites and began the upgrade. Setup Support Rules were happy.
Look at all those green check marks!
All of the features were auto-populated showing that they were already installed and supported. We confirmed we had adequate disk space, more little green check marks.
Many more little green check marks.
The Upgrade Rules were checked and many more little green check marks were displayed and now we’re ready to upgrade.
Ready, Set, Go!
The process begins, everything looks happy, the upgrade appears to be proceeding as planned and then this happened.
Ouch, so much red it makes my eyes hurt.
So we reviewed the logs, double-checked the prerequisites yet again, searched and researched to see if we could find out what was missing. No luck looking at entries in the log files so I did a quick search using “an error occurred for a dependency of the feature” and came across this which pointed to an already installed SQL Server 2012 component, the Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Native Client. It may have been installed as part of the SQL Server 2012 Upgrade Advisor which seems odd but I was a bit surprised that the rule checks didn’t flag the item when all the little green checks came up. All’s well that ends well. We removed the native client, reran the installation process and SQL Server 2008 R2 was successfully upgraded to SQL Server 2012.
Take a look at this gem. They’ve distributed some 8 million sensors out and about in the world that mimic typical devices like ATM’s and POS devices that are regularly under attack by the bad people. They then take the feedback and present a visual representation. Very cool!
It’s that time again when we gather with loved ones and prepare to sit Microsoft exams to gain and update our certifications. For me it’s upgrade time, I have 70-417 on the menu for this year while others on my team are looking at the whole slate of Windows Server 2012 R2 exams.
We’re using an assortment of resources to get this done. I prefer Microsoft Press study guides, I always have, and recommend them. Another excellent source for study materials is the voluminous Microsoft Virtual Academy which provides tonnes of material to learn and review all of the stuff you need to bust a move on those exams. Do a search with your favourite internet search engine using the exam code of your choice to see who out there has written the exam and get some input on how they found the exam.
There are all sorts of lists of suggestions on how to approach actually writing the exams. This is how I like to approach them. I’ve written more than a few and the method to my madness has changed over the years but in a nutshell I like to follow a couple of rules:
- Book your exam. That seems like the obvious thing to do but I have known a lot of people who want to write an exam, express interest in writing an exam, but never get around to it. So, decide which one you want to do, give yourself what you think you’ll need to for prep time and book it. If you’re not ready when the date approaches you can always reschedule or just go ahead and confront the beast. Microsoft is going to do you a solid this spring by offering you a Second Shot so if you miss it on the first go you can come around and give it another try.
- Prepare. Take advantage of the many free resources out there to allow you to set up a lab and test and play. Most computers these days run nothing less than 8GB of RAM and I’ll hazard a guess that most of us have a gaming machine that has more. Load up your favourite hypervisor and practice installing and configuring and learning. I like to pair this with reading then rereading the study guides for the exam I’ve chosen to write. I find I almost always come across something new, there’s a lot to learn.
- Adding to the “book it” note above I prefer to write first thing in the morning. I find that at some point in the study process your brain is full and you know you’re ready to go. I’ll put the books down the night before the exam and relax. The morning of the exam I like to get up early, have my usual breakfast and make my way to the exam center with time to spare. Being first allows one to get in and get it done without the distractions or delays of a later appointment and doing it first thing in the morning means you’re focused on the exam.
What do you think? What would you add or remove from the tidbits above? I’ve always found the Microsoft exams challenging which makes that feeling of successfully completely the exam just that much more satisfying. Good luck exam takers!
Christmas is upon us and the year is almost a wrap so its time for the recap. I would say 2014 was quite good with a couple of bumps along the way. Elke and I are in stable jobs and enjoying them for the most part. Colin has ramped up his school work and is doing an exceptional job. His artistic skills are better than they’ve ever been. My odometer clicked over 50 in February. Ugh, I feel so old….not really. : )
In May Elke and I jetted off to Iceland for a week. What Canadian goes to a cold place having just survived the winter in Canada?! It was fantastic! Beautiful country, loads of great food, lots of photographs to bring home, along with a few lopapaysa to keep us warm this winter. The people are super friendly so if you get the chance to see Iceland I say to you GO!
The summer was reasonably good, for Ottawa, not too much cold rainy, a fair amount of hot humid. I topped last years distance getting just over 1300km on the cycle. I should have done more but what can one do? Next year, more!
Colin was off to Germany in July for a visit with family, it was short but he enjoys his travels.
In August Elke and I took a short trip to Quebec City on the train. Can you beat train travel? I don’t think so. It was my first visit and I can certainly say it is a beautiful city. Such friendly people! We walked a lot, so many hills!
At the end of October Elke and I flew off to Barcelona so I could attend TechEd Europe 2014. If you’ve never attended a Microsoft conference you really must. New motivation to learn PowerShell. Next year it’s MS Ignite in Chicago. Worth the trip. I do work for a great company don’t I?! : )
So for all of you out there Merry Christmas, enjoy time with your families and friends, eat some turkey, see you in 2015!
One of the consistent messages heard over the past few years, maybe more, regarding system administration and how things are done in the Microsoft world is that one must learn PowerShell. It’s how things are done and will be done into the future. I’ve never felt it to be that important or that urgent until recently. I find myself in a rut, without purpose. These are not good things. To want to go to work every day one must have purpose or one develops as dislike for the job and that’s just not good. How will I deal with this? PowerShell.
I bought a copy of Learn Windows PowerShell in a Month of Lunches written by a guy named Don Jones. I carried that book around with me for more than a month of lunches and only opened it a couple of times. Then the second edition came out. Ugh. Have I had that book for that long? Apparently so. Time to learn some PowerShell. As an extra motivator I work with a Microsoft PowerShell MVP so maybe I can put a dent in this book.
Today is the last day of my 90 day extension of my TechNet subscription with Microsoft. It was a great service and offered a lot of value for anyone with their own lab setup at home. Now that it’s done we still have access to a whole load of excellent resources. Virtual instructor-led courses can be had at the Microsoft Virtual Academy. You can get your hands on downloads to install and configure and test through the TechNet Evaluation Center. Give a product a test drive by using TechNet Virtual Labs. All good resources. Not quite the same as the TechNet subs but then if you have the money and really need the resources you can always check out a MSDN subscription.
Just about everyone knows about “Patch Tuesday”. Whether you’re in IT or just a casual user of technology we’re all exposed monthly to the System Tray icons popping up to tell us there are important updates that need to be applied or have been applied to your system and now you need to reboot or postpone for an hour/four hours. But why bother?
Many of the updates that companies release these days are to plug some security hole. That’s important. Sure, maybe you don’t visit sketchy websites so you don’t think you’re system is ever going to be exposed to the “bad people” and that’s fair. But in reality, if you have a network connected computer, any network, you run the risk of coming into contact with a machine that could potentially be infected or exposed or hosting processes up to no good.
In part you want to keep your systems up-to-date to protect yourself from problems but you also want to keep this current to protect yourself from others with problems. And it’s not just operating system updates. Just about everyone releases updates from time to time to correct issues, plug holes, or improve performance. So why wouldn’t you update?
My own recent experience involved a small port extender device manufactured for a large vendor that was used at a client site. The drivers for the device were the default drivers used when the devices were first installed in 2011. After applying some operating system and application updates the device continued to work but now Outlook would crash each and every time it attempted to load. Since the laptop worked just fine unplugged from the device, and the crash could be replicated on another matching laptop, I decided to look and see if newer drivers were available. In fact there were and they were relatively recent, September 2014. There were numerous revisions since 2011. I updated the drivers and presto chango everything worked just fine again.
This is but a single example of many that should encourage everyone to maintain up-to-date systems whether for work or for home. We do ourselves a favour and we do our part to keep the neighbourhood clean as well.
Have you had enough yet? How about some Right Click Tools? How about some more Right Click Tools? These are cool additions for the Configuration Manager console but consider this before you install them in their default state. Do you want to provide the full set of tools to anyone who has access to the Configuration Manager console? Maybe, maybe not. These are powerful tool sets but in most cases probably go beyond what you would ever need. Fortunately, you can edit the underlying structure of the tool sets to remove the dangerous parts, no need to be running around with scissors, and still have some useful bits. For example, as Jörgen Nilsson and brought up during their demo at TechEd do you really need to be providing a way to shutdown full collections in one fell swoop? Probably not.
So what you might like to do is edit the underlying xml files to remove some of the potentially career impacting functionality of the right click tools so malicious or accidental actions like shutting down collections, rebooting collections, or uninstalling agents just aren’t there to happen. In the sub-folders of the Configuration Manager console installation there are folders that correspond to the GUIDs which represent locations in the console. Under these foldrs are xml files that can be changed to fit your requirements.
There’s a lot more out there to see, what I’ve posted is just a toe in the ocean of what people in the Configuration Manager community have created to make life easier for those of us lucky enough to be working in this field. There’s also a nice wiki page available as well that lists all of the goodies.
Let’s see, where did I leave off? This is what happens when life rears its head and tells you things need to be done that don’t included blog entries.
Next up on the list of goodness is a package of tools created by our friends at Microsoft called the Configuration Manager 2012 R2 Toolkit. This toolkit includes just over a dozen tools, client and server based, to help in the day-to-day operation of your Configuration Manager environment and help with troubleshooting should problems arise. The DP Job Manager and Collection Evaluation Viewer are two highlights but really I think all of these tools are worth a second look if you’re not using them already.
The System Center Configuration Manager Support Center is a tool I have yet to use but look at the cool stuff this thing does. You’re basically going to run this tool and connect to the problem client machine. Once connected you can gather up all the logs and settings and look under the hood to see what’s happening and sort out where the problem might be. It let’s you look at the policies applied to the client so you can see if the actions you’re trying to push to the client are actually happening. When I first saw this demoed, at TechEd Europe, I immediately thought of some work done recently trying to troubleshoot a client machine where I know this would have helped.
Client Center for Configuration Manager is another one of those “how did I manage without this?” tools. This is the work of a MVP named Roger Zander. This is another one of those troubleshooting tools that helps you gather up all the details in one place to help you figure out what’s busted and point you in the direction to fixing it.
Here’s another tool, similar to the Client Center for Configuration Manager called the Remote Manage app presented by a company called Cireson and a man named Wally Mead. Tonnes of useful stuff can be gleaned from the client using this tool and this is the guy who would know best about what to get to help with troubleshooting.
Here’s where I’ll stop for today. Go check this stuff out, I’ll be doing the same.
It’s time to deploy some applications. How should we accomplish this? Well, thanks to Seán Lillis and Dan Cunningham and their PowerShell App Deployment Toolkit you’ve now got a slick, efficient way to deploy your apps and hand some control back to the client. Basically, what this does is provide an interface and PowerShell template to allow a PowerShell noob like me to whip up applications following standardized and consistent procedures that have a common look and feel. The client can be presented with dialog boxes and popup balloons providing information or prompting for interaction to smooth the installation of the apps. Clients are as different as we are, some like to point and click while others just want it installed and will be “confused” if presented with a dialog box asking them what to do. You get to decide how much or how little the client will see with this toolkit. And it works with both SCCM 2007 and Configuration Manager 2012. How cool is that?!
The SCCM 2012 Application Importer is another tool I’ve never seen before. This is cool beans as well. This tool will help you import the .MSI file, create the deployment type, choose the distribution group to deploy to, create the deployment, create a new distribution group if you need/want one, and create a new AD group if you need/want one. Quite nice. The nice thing about these tools is they help you create consistency. It keeps things tidy and understandable in your Configuration Manager environment and that makes things easier to manage.
Who here likes to create documentation? I used to hate it. I’ve grown to enjoy creating documents that are clear and understandable and help the intended audience complete the procedure or receive the message being sent. This tool, created by David O’Brien, is like mana from the gawds. This tool does an inventory of your Configuration Manager environment and presents you with a nicely packaged document ready for some light bedtime reading or for presentation to your manager to show him/her what you’ve been up to all day. I don’t know if I have a favourite tool but this is pretty close.
I think that’s enough for today, soak it in and enjoy the goodness!