Apr
08
Filed Under (PowerShell) by on 08-04-2010

Last night was the inaugural Arizona PowerShell user group meeting known as AZPOSH.  There was well over 20 people there and a great guest speaker.  Dr. Ferdinand Rios who is the CEO of Sapien Technologies spent an hour talking to us about what is new at Sapien…and wow there is some really cool stuff coming out soon.  Dr. Rios is a dynamic presenter and also a coder of some of their products.  He showed off an early alpha version of Visual Powershell which is perfect for a person like me that doesn’t like to remember (ok doesn’t have the mental capacity) a bunch of cmdlets and the ability to save portions of code for later use.  He also showed iPowerShell which is an app for iPhones as well as the iPad.  The future of that app (as long as it gets ported over to other phones) looks amazing.  The ability to use a device like the iPhone or iPad to run PowerShell remotely reminds me of the old Star Trek days.

Jason and Mike both did a great job running the meeting and I’m really looking forward to where this user group is going.  I know they are working on opening this up to a remote audience as well which is really intriguing for people that aren’t in the Phoenix area but still want to be part of the PowerShell community.  Jason suckered me in to presenting for the July meeting…actually I’m really excited to be able to speak about Active Directory and PowerShell.  Can’t wait to attend the next month’s meeting!!!

Mar
16
Filed Under (Windows 7) by on 16-03-2010

I’m a huge fan of Windows 7.  I love just about everything with it.  There is one feature that I seem to always fight with and that is Windows Shake.  Take a look here if you are not familiar with this feature.  Most people like it, perhaps I just shake a bit to much!  If you’re like me and you want to disable this feature follow the steps below to edit the registry to do so.

  1. From the Start Menu Search or Run dialog box type Regedit (depending on your UAC configuration you may have click Yes to open it)
  2. Navigate to the following key – HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwarePoliciesMicrosoftWindows
  3. Right-click on Windows key and create a new key called Explorerimage
  4. Right-Click on the Explorer folder you just created and create a new DWORD (32-bit) Value key (even if you have installed the 64bit version of Win7)
  5. Name the DWORD – NoWindowMinimizingShortcuts
  6. Assign it a value of 1
  7. Close Regedit
  8. Log off and log back on to have the key take affect.

I’m sure you are like me when it comes to locking your desktop.  You ALWAYS do it.  Most if not all corporations today have a group policy in place that at least sets the Screen Saver on after a certain amount of time and requires a password for security reasons (User Configuration – Administrative Templates – Control Panel – Personalization – Password protect the screen saver).

You know as well as I do that there is always that one person that seems to always forget to lock their workstation.  Sure the group policy will kick in…eventually.  During that time the system is unlocked and the data vulnerable.

Since i’m such a huge fan of shortcuts I have two for the price of one today.  I will show you two methods to lock your workstation…even for those very forgetful people.

Method 1 (and what I think is the easiest)

By pressing the Windows key and L on the keyboard you effectively lock the system.  I use this one ALL the time.  It is the quickest method that I know.  However some people are not so keyboard shortcut friendly.

Method 2

For the people that prefer to use their mouse here are several steps to create a desktop shortcut.  This method is very similar to the post I had on creating a shortcut for the Network Properties in Server 2008.

1. From where ever you want the shortcut create, Right click and select New –> Shortcut  (I recommend the Desktop)

 

2. Put the following path into location rundll32.exe user32.dll,LockWorkStation

3. Click Next and type whatever you would like the name of the Shortcut Icon to appear as and click Finish.

4. Time to change the way the Icon looks – Right Click on the newly created Shortcut and select Properties

 

5. Click the Change Icon… button and change the path to %SystemRoot%system32SHELL32.dll and now pick whichever Icon you prefer.

 

6. We finally have an icon available to lock the workstation on the Desktop.

 

I personally love when people at work leave their workstations unlocked.  Like a lot of you i’m sure you like to teach that person a lesson.  Perhaps mess with the background…a nice screensaver message on how much they look up to me!

I’d like to share some of the things I look at while do a health check on a server.  Its funny how few resources there are out there on the Internet.  I believe people keep this kind of stuff to them self because they are scared they are going to miss something and they will never live it down.  My response to that is, So What!  Heck, I don’t claim to know it all but why not share what I do know and maybe others can share via the Comments!!!

When I’m troubleshooting I like to compartmentalize what I”m looking for.  With that my health checks are set up the same way.  I also believe health checks are quick snapshots of the health of a server.  Sure there are tools that you can use to analyze systems further but in this case we are doing a quick health check.  Not all of these need to be done but some should, you get to decide.

CPU

Occasional high CPU spikes are ok as long as you are aware of the process causing this. A server should maintain 80% CPU utilization for an extended period of time.  If it does it may be time to upgrade.  Its a good idea to keep Task Manager open during the duration of your troubleshooting to see trends.

Check CPU Usage

  1. Open Task Manager

  2. Check the Processes tab, ensure there are no processes consuming excessive CPU

  3. Check the Performance tab, ensure there are no single CPU’s that have excessive CPU usage

Check CPU HW

  1. Open Device Manager (right click computer –> Manage)

  2. Ensure that no CPU’s have red X or yellow ! underneath the Processors

Processes

This is one area that you may not want to do for quick health checks but is something you should be familiar with.  Task Manager only gives you basic info on processes and you will find that you may need to dig a bit deeper.  For that I recommend Process Monitor from the great SysInternal tools.  Process Explorer can also be used.  In fact download and play with all these tools…they will save your bacon, I guarantee it.

In-Depth Check
SysInternals:

Copy Process Monitor locally, then launch it.

  1. Analyze each process and watch what operations open the reg keys, file etc.

Copy Process Explorer locally, then launch it.

  1. Analyze each process based upon the number of threads, handles, loaded DLL’s,etc.

Two great webcasts can be viewed here to see these types of tools in action.

Memory

General rule of thumb is to make sure the general memory utilization does not exceed 80%within a given period of time.

Check Memory Availability

    1. Open Task Manager
    2. Select the Performance tab

    3. Look at the Physical memory box,and multiply the total memory by .2

    4. If the total available memory is less than this number then the box is currently utilizing more than 80 percent of the memory.

Current utilization by process

  1. Select the Process tab

  2. Check the ‘show processes from all users’ box in the bottom left corner

  3. Click the column header ‘Mem Usage’ to sort the processes by memory utilization, highest to lowest. This will help you determine what processes are currently utilizing the memory on the box and can help you narrow your search for memory intensive processes.

Network

Check NIC HW

  1. Verify both ends of the network cable are securely seated in the port

  2. On the back of the server verify you have a green blinking link light on the NIC port

  3. Verify NIC HW is working properly by using Device Manager and ensure the active NICs are showing green

  4. Verify gateway, IP, subnet mask, DNS, DNS suffixes, etc. are properly configured.

  5. If everything is properly configured and HW is working, you should be able to get a ping response from the gateway.

Check Network Connections
Here are some other checks you should perform to ensure proper network connectivity:

  1. ipconfig /all will display all you TCP/IP settings including you MAC address

  2. ipconfig /flushdns will flush your dns resolver cache

  3. ipconfig/displaydns will display what is in your dns name cache

  4. Netstat -an command will show all the connections & ports from a machine

  5. Nbtstat command will show net bios tcp/ip connection stats

  6. Tracert <IP or DNS Name> command will show you the path the packet takes, the routers, and the response time for each hop.

  7. pathping <IP or DNS Name> command combines ping and tracert to the 100th degree.  It pings each hop 100 times and is great for testing wan connectivity

Disk Space

All kinds of bad stuff can happen when your disk space is filling up.  The best way to alleviate this is to write a script to notify you when you reach a certain threshold. In a future post I”ll share a method for you to do just that…however if there is a problem and you need to perform a health check then here is how you check the space the old fashion way.

To check disk space manually:

  1. Right Click on My Computer

  2. Select Manage

  3. Select Disk Management

  4. Validate each disk more than 10 percent free space

Event Logs

Event logs can reveal a more historical perspective on what is going on with the system and applications. Things to look for when troubleshooting event logs is to query either the system or the application logs and look for the presence of events that have a timestamp near the time of the issue you are troubleshooting.

Events have 3 categories in the event viewer:

  • Informational: Noted with a white icon and letter ‘i’. Successful operations are logged as informational. Usually not used in troubleshooting problems or failures

  • Warning: Noted with a yellow icon and exclamation point. These usually are looked up as they serve as predictive future failure indicators, such as disk space running low, dhcp ip address lease renewal failures, etc.

  • Error: Noted with a red circle icon and ‘x’. These are indications that something has failed outright and are a good starting point for troubleshooting.

When looking at event logs, use the information to determine the following:

  • Is the incident tied to a particular time or outage incident?

  • Is this a one-off, or has this particular error occurred multiple times in the past?

  • Does this error appear on other systems or is it unique to the system that has failed?

Also make sure you take a look at eventcombmt from Microsoft.  This tool allows you to search the logs of multiple machines.  The benefit to this is to see if a specific error or warning message is also occurring on other systems.  This can help rule out issues.

Services

Troubleshooting services should be limited to the specific that is affected by the problem being troubleshot. Each server will have specific services varying upon the types of applications running. You should document how your servers services are configured to and compare that to the server in question to see if anything is not configured correctly.

Cluster

Servers that host applications and services that require high availability should be clustered so that if one node fails the other can pick up the workload.  Clustered servers need the same type of health checks as stand-alone systems except you will want to check on the health of the cluster.

Check Cluster Resource Status

  1. Open Cluster Administrator: Log onto server, select Start –> Run –> cluadmin

  2. Check the Resources and ensure all are Online

  3. If Cluster Administrator does not open, ensure that the Cluster Service is running on the node.

  4. Cluster resource status can also be checked from a remote server. From a command prompt, just type – cluster res <cluster name>

Client Side Health

  1. Right click on My Computer, select Manage

  2. Open Device Manage

  3. Drill down to SCSI and RAID Controllers, verify that the HBA HW is visible and does not show any errors

  4. If it does not show up in Device Manager, you may need to re-scan for the HW, re-seat the fiber card, or re-install the driver.

  5. If the HBA is showing healthy in Device Manager, open the tool that you use to view configuration and settings for the fiber card and verify there aren’t any transmit/receive errors on link statistics or counters

Switch Health

  1. Make sure fiber is properly connected to each switch

  2. Make sure switch has no errors

  3. If you’re using zoning verify it is properly configured

Check Fiber and SAN Connectivity

  1. Log onto san appliance and verify that the SAN is in general good health and no major errors are present for the controllers, loops, switches, or ports.

  2. Ensure that the LUNs are presented to the servers in the cluster

NLBS

Some applications will require you to spread the load across multiple servers.  Web servers are a very popular choice to network load balance.  As with clusters we will need to check the status of the load balancing.

Check NLBS Status CMD Line

  1. From a command prompt on the local system, run ‘wlbs query’. This will give you the convergence status of the local node with the nlbs cluster.

  2. Other useful NLBS commands: wlbs stop (stops nlbs), wlbs start (starts nlbs), wlbs drainstop (drains node)

Check NLBS Configurations

  1. Open up the network properties –> Network Load Balancing, right click & select Properties

  2. On the Cluster Parameters tab, verify that the IP address is configured for the shared NLBS IP and that the subnet mask, domain, and operation mode are configured correct1y.

  3. On the Host Paramters tab, make sure each node of the cluster has a unique host identifier. Also verify the IP and subnet mask are configured for the local values.

  4. Also make sure that your switch has a static ARP entry if using multi-cast NLBS. The entry should be that of the virtual MAC of the cluster. To get the virtual MAC of the cluster, you can run the following command: WLBS IP2MAC <virtual IP address>

Name Resolution

To healthcheck name resolution, open a command prompt and enter the following

  • nslookup <servername>

Verify that the servername is correctly entered in DNS

If a record does not show up in the DNS query, or maps to a different name, perform a reverse lookup by IP address to see what name is associated with the IP address * nslookup <IP address>

If no name shows up associated with the IP address, log into the domain controller and check the DNS records for this particular name/ip address

  1. From a Domain Controller go to start–>run–>dnsmgmt.msc

  2. Expand the Forward Lookup Zones

  3. Expand the zone for you primary zone that holds the records for the system/s you are troubleshooting

Validate that the record exists. If it does not exist manually enter the record name and IP address by right clicking on this same zone,

  1. Select new host (a)

  2. Enter the name and IP address

  3. Check the box next to Create associated pointer (PTR) record

  4. Click add Host

Additionally log back into the node that you manually entered the record for and ensure that DNS is registering in DNS

  1. Right click on the My Network Places icon on the desktop and select Properties

  2. Double click on the primary adapter

  3. Select properties

  4. Highlight internet protocol (TCP/IP) and select properties

  5. Validate the IP addresses of the DNS servers are correct

  6. Select Advanced

  7. Select DNS tab

  8. Make sure the box is checked next to Register this connection’s address in DNS

As I wrap this up I realize there is so much more that can be done.  Each application type of server needs its own set off health checks.  For example web servers, terminal servers and database servers.  Remember this is just the baseline for each server and that other components can and should be layered on top of it.  Again I would love to hear from others so please feel free to add you comments below.

If you have been playing with the the AD PowerShell cmdlets you know that it requires a few things to run, first Windows Server 2008 R2 or Windows 7, the .NET Framework 3.5.1 and of course if you want to manage an AD domain you need Active Directory Web Services (ADWS) installed on at least one domain controller. 

By the way ADWS requires TCP port 9389

So how in the world does a Windows 7 system know how to find a DC running ADWS?  Well your client running PowerShell will use the normal DC locator process.  First the client will determine which site it is in nltest /dsgetsite and then it will determine the closest DC nltest /dsgetdc:<FQDN Domain>.  It is looking at the DC for the following flag:

DS_WEB_SERVICE_REQUIRED

More info on that flag can be found here.

Now what if you don’t have Server 2008 R2 DCs?  With Server 2003 and Server 2008 a problem occurs because the Net Logon service of those domain controllers does not recognize the DS_WEB_SERVICE_REQUIRED flag.  There are two hotfixes (one for what ever version of AD you are running) available to fix that in those environments.  Server 2003 and Server 2008

After you install this hotfix the AD PowerShell module and Active Directory Administrative Center will be able to locate DCs that have Active Directory Management Gateway Service installed, similar to Active Directory Web Services (ADWS) on a Windows Server 2008 R2-based computer.

Jan
19

I’ve pulled together a list of commands that can be used to help gather information from Active Directory.  Sure there are plenty of commands out there but the following are the ones that I use and stored into my own mental memory banks…no jokes on the lack of memory banks either  :,,)

Viewing local and remote FSMO roles:

local – netdom query fsmo

remote – netdom query /domain:%domainname% fsmo

List of your Domain Controllers:

Nltest /dclist:%userdnsdomain%

Cool stuff with groups

Determine the current group scope of a security group
dsget group %GroupDN% -scope –secgrp

Change a group”s scope to universal
dsmod group %GroupDN% -scope u

Change a universal group”s scope to global or local
dsmod group %GroupDN% -scope l | g

UPDATE – Microsoft appears to have taken this download down.  No word why or when it will be back up.

Looks like Microsoft just make the Windows 7 LDS (Lightweight Directory Services) client available.  You can find both 32 and 64 bit clients here.

For those that aren”t familiar with LDS, it is the Server 2008 replacement for ADAM, otherwise known as Active Directory Application Mode.  While i”m no developer LDS is a good platform that applications that require directory storage and access.  Have most of the components of Active Directory without the complete infrastructure needed for Active Directory.

Jan
12
Filed Under (Life of Brian) by on 12-01-2010

For the last several years I”ve worked in a team that is spread all across the world.  The following ramblings are the items I”ve picked up from working in a virtual team as well as from books that I”ve read on the subject.  One thing is key, leadership is leadership.  It doesn’t matter if you are there local or remote.  Enjoy.

 

Trust is an important aspect in all levels of leadership. The degree in which trust is used across virtual teams is usually much deeper than what level is used with a local team. Trust is the key to getting performance from a team that is distributed geographically. Trust must be gained:

  • In you as a virtual leader
  • In the virtual project or virtual organization
  • In all virtual team members across distance

Building Relationships and Trust

Since virtual teams have limited interaction and limited knowledge of each other in their isolation, the virtual team must establish ways to help team members learn about each other quickly and frequently.

  • Establish ways for the team to learn more about each other professionally and personally so they will collaborate even when distant
  • Establish a short meeting for the team to talk with one another to troubleshoot and discuss current issues
  • Pair off people to work together on parts of the project
  • Acknowledge all types of recognitions including, birthdays, academic success, and other personal achievements

Virtual Team Alignment

People who work across distance tend to lose focus after any single meeting. Therefore, it is critical that the virtual team create:

  • A clear vision so every team member knows exactly where the team is headed
  • A clear emotional link so each remote team member stays motivated when distant
  • A published roadmap that is used as each person does work remotely to align work and efforts

Virtual Team Equality

Be extremely fair in treating all team members, near and far, equally. Even appearances or suggestions of favoritism break trust.

  • Avoid the temptation to rely more on those on-site with you than those at a distance
  • Take culture differences into consideration
  • Give every team member an equal opportunity to excel and contribute to the result
  • Confront nonperformance in a constructive manner
  • Be consistent and fair in holding everyone accountable for every factor needed to insure team success

Communication

Miscommunication and unequal access to information are trust-breakers.

Keep communications flowing to counteract the out of sight out of mind phenomenon on distributed teams.

  • Be extremely clear when making decisions
  • Frequency of communication should be increased compared to a team that is only local
  • Understand that members will have different communication preferences
    • E-mail, forum, phone, face-to-face,instant messaging,etc
  • What isn’t said matters too
    • Check for understanding or ask for clarification

 

Again these are items I”ve picked up over the years and through books.  Please feel to share you thoughts if you have anything good to add to the conversation.

Did I say free?  You bet I did.  Microsoft has done this for quite some time now and is something everyone should take advantage of.  Especially in today’s economy where training budgets are getting slashed. 

Here are three great labs that you can use to learn all about Server 2008 R2’s Active Directory. 

Windows Server 2008 R2: What”s New in Active Directory

Windows Server 2008 R2: Active Directory and Server Manager Remoting

Windows Server 2008 R2: Active Directory Recycle Bin, PowerShell V2, and Remoting

 

Do you have any cool free training resources?

With PowerShell 2.0 being released with Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2 there are plenty of fun stuff to do.  Although what I”m about to show you is not specific to PoSh 2.0 but it a great way to pull info from the Event Viewer.

When I’m presented with a problem on a server one of the first place I go is the Event Viewer.  Sure there are ways to filter it but I’d always wanted a way to dump that filter into another file to review later on another system.  PowerShell gives you a great method for displaying events as well as saving those results to a file.

The Event Log has several cmdlets available which can be seen here:

Get-EventLog
Clear-EventLog
Write-EventLog
Limit-EventLog
Show-EventLog
New-EventLog
Remove-EventLog

As you can see you can read an write to the Event Viewer here.  The Get-EventLog cmdlet is a favorite of mine.  With it you specify which Event Log to view and off you go.  Below is an example of using that command and showing how to only list the first 20 events.

Get-Eventlog -Logname System -Newest 20

Now if you want to save that you have several options.  You can save it as a text, htm or csv file.  Realize it may take awhile to build the whole file.  Below show the commands needed to output the files.

Get-Eventlog System | Out-file c:Tempsystem.txt
Get-Eventlog System | ConvertTo-html | Out-file c:Tempsystem.htm
Get-Eventlog System | ConvertTo-csv| Out-file c:Tempsystem.csv

The great thing is you don’t have to show everything.  If you want you can filter by the Event ID by using the –instanceid switch.  Below is an example.

Get-Eventlog System -instanceid 4 | Out-file c:TempEventID4.txt

As you can see PowerShell is really handy when it comes to EventLog management.  The best part is I haven’t even talked about Remoting.  You can use PowerShell to remote into other machines in your environment running PowerShell 2.  But that is another story…