As part of my new job I’ve taken on the management of a Palo Alto PA-3020, on my list of things to do…update the software/firmware on it. The update process its self is pretty simple in that you identify the version you are going to update to, download it, install it and then reboot the firewall at a time that will cause the least distribution to your users.

At first glance there does not seem to be a way to schedule the reboot (for say 3am – something I particularly liked on my Smoothwall firewall) so for the time being I’ll have to deal with late night reboots.

Anyway the good bit! To upgrade from 6.0.6 to 6.1.0 took 4 minutes to then upgrade from 6.1.0 to 6.1.5 took 5 minutes 30 seconds.

RPC Server

An interesting quirk of running Virtual Machines for this post… the background is my ‘main work PC’ is currently running Windows 7; in order to remotely manage a Hyper-V Server 2012 R2 machine I had installed Oracle VirtualBox onto my main PC and inside that had setup a Windows 8.1 VM to remotely manage the Hyper-V Server instance.

However after setting up remote management I found that I could connect to all of the remote management tools on my Hyper-V machine with the exception of Disk Management and Hyper-V Manager with the following error message generated in Hyper-V Manager.

RPC Server unavailable. Unable to establish connection between <Hyper-V Host> and <Client PC>.

After much investigation into this issue (and after following a number of dead ends relating to firewall settings, the hosts file and COM security) it transpires that the issue was related to the way that I had setup the network adapter within VirtualBox.

In particular the adapter had been set to NAT mode, now given the properties of NAT it seems plausible that some vital information might have been mangled in the process – if anyone feels like doing some Wireshark on this to discover the cause then please do!

The resolution was simple – setting the adapter to bridged mode instead which allowed the traffic to pass through the virtual adapter just fine.

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

Just like this :)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).

Pre requisites…

  • 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.

Continue reading

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!

For the Voyager Legend firmware change log take a look at this link.

A few days ago I saw something on a social networking site about what Pizza would be like if it was a ‘Cloud Service’ – afraid I don’t know who to credit for it so I won’t post it here but I did give into temptation and make my own about Coffee!

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!

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my world of IT is a blog about both the business and consumer world of IT as seen by a common garden SysAdmin. For more information click here!