January 12, 2016

Upgrading R730 with NVIDIA K1 GRID Card

I recently ordered a couple of Dell R730 servers and then got a subsequent request to add a little graphics horsepower for our VDI environment in the form of some K1 GRID cards. Turns out, the process to add these suckers in to an existing server that wasn't specifically built out for them has a few catches - you can't just drop them in to the server and take off. It's easy to do, but there isn't much official documentation from Dell on it, so here's a quick guide:

October 23, 2015

SCEP Policy Update Troubleshooting

Because I'm a glutton for punishment, I recently started rolling out System Center Configuration Manager 2012 R2 SP1 and System Center Endpoint Protection across our VDI environment. There are always some considerations to be made in a pooled desktop / gold image type environment when loading software that uniquely identifies devices, but lucky for me SCCM/SCEP handled this just fine without any tweaking. However, there were some nuances to how SCEP policies are applied that caused some serious hair-pulling before I spotted the issues.

July 17, 2015

Outlook Credential Prompt When Opening Exchange 2013 Public Folder

After completing an Exchange 2007 > 2013 migration recently, I was left with one issue that was preventing us from stamping the project as a roaring success and moving on:

Outlook 2013 users were sometimes receiving a single pop-up prompt for credentials whenever they opened the Public Folder (we have only one). One. Single. Prompt.

Google was frustratingly unhelpful because searching for "outlook prompts for username and password when opening public folders" or something similar just resulted in a lot of folks who were always getting a pop-up that wouldn't go away. It was usually caused by an authentication failure of some sort.

However, we were in a different boat - Users got the prompt once when they first launched Outlook and opened their public folders, but after entering it they could continue - authentication worked. Next time they logged in to their PC, it would happen again. Not a show stopper, but it definitely generated its share of support calls.

April 08, 2015

Running vCenter 5.x with SQL 2012 AlwaysOn Availability Groups

After proudly starting the listener on our shiny new SQL 2012 AlwaysOn cluster, I was very eager to get vCenter moved off the brave little single-point-of-failure that is our current SQL server (a 2008 VM sitting in the virtual environment itself). I had done some research ahead of time and thought that AlwaysOn was at least sort-of supported by VMWare for protecting vCenter workloads. However, in my haste to play with a fancy new toy, I must have missed the plethora of blog posts indicating that either a) It's not actually supported at all, or b) Only Failover Clustering (shared storage) - not Availability Groups (non-shared storage) - are supported. And if you are about to do what many have done on the forums and suggest KB1037959 as evidence that they ARE supported, think again - that article is referencing support for running various clustered workloads on vSphere, not running your vCenter DB on clustered systems. Outside of a vague mention of AlwaysOn as a possible third party clustering solution to replace vCenter Heartbeat (e.g. "Best effort support"), I haven't been able to find anything official one way or the other.

But the AlwaysOn cluster was ready to go and if no one is going to tell me explicitly that I can't do it - well, that's basically an open invitation.

August 01, 2014

Pay Me Now, or Pay Me Later: DNS Edition



I hate most low-cost hosting providers. I've rarely have a great experience with one, but Web and DNS hosting providers are usually already established when I start working with a client, and migrating to another provider is typically not marked as a high priority project. I might change my mind on that after working with a client who used iPower and suddenly lost all public DNS resolution one day.

We called up iPower twice and spoke to two oblivious techs who spouted off nonsense and promised to call back after looking in to it further. Finally, on the third call a person finally told us why the client's SOA record wasn’t propagating (causing their domain name not to resolve anywhere, so no website, no e-mail, etc. for two days). Turns out they had failed to respond to their “domain verification” e-mail, which with most providers means nothing – they are just required by ICANN to prompt you to update it once a year, but most just don’t do anything if you ignore the e-mail. iPower took it a step further and deactivated their domain when there was no response.

Paul: So, if I understand you correctly, you all sent an e-mail to the registrant e-mail address to verify the registrant details. The e-mail address was wrong, so they didn't see it. So the domain was deactivated?
Paul: So you checked to see if you had the right e-mail address by ... sending an e-mail? And if the address was not correct, you just assumed we didn't need the domain?
Deepika B: Yes, you are right.
Paul: Fantastic, well done.
Deepika B: Thank you!


Bravo, iPower. Bravo.

January 15, 2014

Enabling Office 365 Message Encryption

Back in November of 2013, Microsoft announced Office 365 Message Encryption (OME) as a way to protect the contents of outbound messages to people in other organizations. This excellent update helps fence in it's predecessor, Exchange Hosted Encryption (EHE), to the Office 365 branding and management. Users of EHE had to work through more cumbersome configuration steps and were required to purchase it open volume licensing, whereas OME comes included as part of Azure Active Directory Rights Management  (AADRM) in the E3 and E4 packages, or purchased as an add-on to other enterprise SKUs with the normal subscription licensing.

June 19, 2013

SharePoint Downloads Interrupted for Large Files

While we primarily use SharePoint Online (2013) for fairly small documents - the largest are still less than 5MB - I recently decided to start uploaded recorded team meetings from Lync 2013. The videos are about 30 minutes in length and end up being around 40-60MB in size. Although the upload runs fine, users were reporting issues when trying to stream the files or attempting to download it. The stream would simply stop and the downloads fail with a message that the download was "Interrupted". We replicated this behavior across 4 different locations with the same result - at some random point in the download, it would fail.