Microsoft SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) is a powerful tool that comes with any of the paid editions of SQL server. By design its main function is to extract, transform and load data into databases however by mixing in CSV exports and PowerShell commands it can help automate various workflows.
Although I won’t delve into too much detail in this post I’ll take a look at what is possible in particular-
- Automating the generation of a new staff or student user account
- Alerting the service desk when a student or staff member leaves the school
- Importing new staff members into the asset management system (to assign school resources to them)
- Emailing a report on printing activity to the finance department
- Generating email distribution lists automatically
In the majority of businesses (and in all schools) there will be some kind of central database which stores information on employees/staff and in schools students. Where I work this is Capita SIMS, the database its self comprises of a great number of tables however its possible to avoid rooting through the tables to find the data you want by using the commandreporter.exe application. Continue reading
A happy new year to everyone!
One of the holy grails of Moodle is having it such that students are added to the right courses in an automated way. This becomes particularly true if you have individual courses for each and every class each of which could have up to 30 enrolments to go through (just far to many to do using manual methods).
Moodle has a number of ways to automate the process out of the box and my favourite way at the moment is using an external database…
So in this post I will show how to use SIMS reports (generated using CommandReporter.exe) to populate student and teacher enrolments in courses as part of a Moodle install using the External database enrolment plugin (more on this here – https://docs.moodle.org/27/en/External_database_enrolment).
- First up you will need to know your way around Capita SIMS (in particular creating custom reports) as well as the basics of SQL server management (in particular adding a database to an instance) and Microsoft SQL Server Integration Services (there is a great video series on SSIS here – https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLNIs-AWhQzcmPg_uV2BZi_KRG4LKs6cRs).
- Next you will need a SQL server running Standard edition or higher (this gives you access to SSIS as per http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-gb/library/cc645993.aspx), if you only have Express edition installs in your environment then there isn’t much point in following this guide until you do.
- This guide also assumes that you are using LDAP authentication in your Moodle site and that you have your course lists already populated with the course shortname the same as the course name as it appears in SIMS (it is possible to generate courses using the Database Enrolment method but that’s something for another guide).
- Finally you must have the SIMS.net client (which includes CommandReporter.exe) installed on the SQL server from which you will be running the job to get the class lists into Moodle (more on this a little later).
Capita SIMS setup
For best results create a new SIMS user that will be used exclusively for your Moodle Reports, then login with that user and follow the instructions below.
In recent testing with iOS8 (specifically 8.0.2) we’ve discovered that any web application (in particular we’ve got a number of in house applications that were built using Visual Studio Lightswitch 2013) that relies on Windows Authentication (on Microsoft Internet Information Services) simply does not work.
In particular users get to the login prompt screen to enter their username and password and on attempting to login are just presented with the login window again with no apparent error message.
The work around for now is to use an alternative browser (Chrome works good for us), hopefully Apple will fix this annoyance soon.
Well the new school term is upon us and I have (at last!) had the time to do a photo of my office setup.
In the photo above we have-
- 2x HP 23bw 23″ IPS monitors
- These beasts recently replaced a pair of 1440×900 resolution monitors – given that I’m doing a lot of database work at the moment it only made sense!
- Custom built Desktop PC
- A pretty old machine now, dual core AMD Athlon CPU, 8GB DDR3 RAM, an 120GB OCZ Vertex 3 SSD and AMD FirePro graphics card (with it I have the option to go to 4 displays if ever needed!) all contained in a Fractal Design case
- Polycom CX700 Lync Phone
- Found this on eBay for £35 (the RRP is about £350), for most of the time I am using my Bluetooth headset but for the times that I need a speaker phone this fits the bill
- Microsoft LifeCam Studio webcam
- 720p HD webcam – used for those rare occasions I make a Lync video call
- Plantronics Voyager Legend
- My Bluetooth wireless headset, I use this for pretty much all of my phone calls – I just love the flexibility it provides especially given that it can talk to both my PC (through the Lync client) and my mobile phone at the same time – perfect for call forwarding!
- LINX B-Tube Bluetooth Speaker
- Quite possibly the only thing worth anything that I have ever won in a competition – battery/AC powered Bluetooth speaker with a 3.5mm jack port as well, a great little speaker for watching Keynotes and such…
- Wacom Bamboo Pen and Touch graphics tablet
- Something for the days that I need to use PhotoShop/record a signature electronically
- Wouxun KG-UV6D Radio
- We use 2 way radios where I work for contact between our other members of the IT team as well as the Site team
- 7 port USB 3.0 hub
- My most recent purchase from when my Belkin hub died after 10 years of service! Given my PC is under the desk and the number of USB devices that I have in use at any one time this really does make life easier
- Microsoft Wired Desktop 600 (Keyboard and Mouse)
- Pretty basic keyboard and mouse – I can’t say that I’ve ever found a need for anything more advanced, if I had to choose a ‘this stands out’ feature of the keyboard its got to be the calculator launch button.
Just a little snippet before hitting September…..Having recently tried to update the Firmware on my Plantronics Voyager Legand at work (using a Windows 8.1 problem) I found that the MyHeadset Updater (http://www.plantronics.com/uk/product/myheadset-updater) tool cannot handle web proxies (without having the URLs it tries to reach out to being in a authentication bypass list).
As I only had one headset to update I turned to the simple solution of take it home and do it there!
After playing with Windows Phone 8.1 on my Nokia Lumia 1020 for the past few days (since general release in the UK) thus far my favourite feature has to be the ability for the phone to automatically turn back on WiFi (after a set period of time) after you turn it off.
Certainly where I live and work WiFi is plentiful and as such it makes much more sense to use than cellular data however on occasion I have found myself turning off WiFi (for any strange and interesting reason) but forgetting to turn it back on.
Still looking forwards to the UK version of Cortana if only to ask her what is going to happen in the next Halo!
The past few weeks at work have been filled up with going from what has been a very successful pilot of Moodle 2.6 to a fully featured install of Moodle 2.7.1. Hopefully as time allows I’ll be able to get out some posts about how each aspect of Moodle goes down with the staff and students but for now this post serves as a way for me to highlight some features (in no great detail) which I think deserve recognition.
Things to be covered include-
- Linking AD accounts to class lists in Capita SIMS (a Schools Information Management System)
- Using the auto login feature to put Moodle front and centre
- My home
- OneDrive, Google Drive and Dropbox integration
- Moodle updates (going from 2.7 to 2.7.1)
In this guide I am going to show how to perform a very basic setup of a HP ProCurve 2610 Layer 2 network switch using a serial to console cable.
First up you will need a serial to console cable and a PC that has a serial port. If you don’t have a PC with a serial port (old HPs are great for this purpose) then you can get a USB to serial adapter – a point to note here is watch out for the super cheap ones, quite often you will find that they use counterfeit chips meaning USB drivers don’t work reliably.
Anywhos on with the guide!
First up the network switch that I have has been previously protected with a password, in addition I want to configure the switch from scratch. To do this I am going to perform a factory reset and clear…
Now its time to configure the switch, for the configuration I will be using PuTTY which can be downloaded from here – http://www.chiark.greenend.org.uk/~sgtatham/putty/.