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Content on this site is provided "AS IS" with no warranties and confers no rights. Additionally, all content on this site is my own personal opinion and does not represent my employer's view in any way.


Monday, August 24, 2015

Update + Azure

 

Hello World!

I haven’t written much for a long, long time.  Work and family are all consuming BUT, during the day I find myself staring at my monitor as something builds, merges, downloads, etc.  Usually I pop over to the news and read CNN for a few minutes but I figured I could do something more productive so I am going to start writing again.

First, I am alive :-)  Second, you can see what I spend the bulk of my time working on here: http://www.forproject.com/.  For our EVMS product, we are currently working on version 3.0 but I have also been spending a lot of time on Integrator for Project Server: http://www.forproject.com/index.php/integrator-forproject/

Nights and weekends (sparingly), I get to play on my pet projects which these days are mainly related to Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform.   A new portal for Azure is in preview and if you have a subscription, I recommend taking a look.  It is quite an improvement over the previous version. 

Here is the home page, which is fully customizable depending on what services you are consuming.  Lately I have been working on Azure Web Apps and Storage

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Here is a shot of the management area for my storage account:

AzureStorage

The Azure SDK has a TON of amazing tools and technologies to work with.  Everything from classic .NET technologies to Ruby, Node.js, PHP, and Python.   Plus, you can build a virtual machine running Oracle on Linux if you wanted to!  Microsoft has finally broken out of the “only our stuff” mode.  It’s a lot of fun to play around in Azure.

Azure Storage

Azure includes a storage service (distinct from Azure SQL), which is really nice.  The system includes blobs, tables, and queues.  All three are pretty amazing.  As an example, a queue (which basically stores messages that any app can access across the world with guaranteed availability), stores messages up to 64KB in size and as many as you want up to 500 TB (that’s terabytes!).

The first thing I built with Azure storage was a picture synchronization tool.  The idea was that everybody on my family has tons of digital pictures and we would like to make the available to everyone and also maintain a backup of the images.

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Every person who has this installed can sync our pictures from the cloud to their desktop and upload new photos to add to the collection.

In the process of creating the application, I created a wrapper around Azure’s storage API called CloudStorage:

StorageDiagram

The picture synchronization tool is surprisingly small at just over 600 lines of code, most of it UI related, because the cloud storage wrapper does the bulk of the work.  For those of you familiar with mpFx (a wrapper over Microsoft’s Project Server API), would find CloudStorage easy to use.

Cloud Storage Emulator

Of course, Azure Storage is not free, but it is extremely affordable based on usage.  That said, I didn’t want to be charged for my test data and the various experiments I was doing.  Microsoft has an answer for that called the Cloud Storage Emulator, which ships with the Azure SDK.  Essentially it is a local version of storage that exposes the exact API as the cloud version.  Incidentally, the storage emulator is written in .NET so you can decompile it (for instructional purposes only!) using dotPeek to see how it works.

While developing the picture synchronization tool I accumulated a ton of pictures in the emulator.  I thought, well, it would be really cool to be able to synchronize my emulator data to the cloud.

Azure Manager

Meet Azure Manager, a work in progress…

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The tool allows me to create/update/add/delete blogs, queues, and tables both in the cloud and in the emulator.  Visual Studio ships with this functionality but you can’t learn an API by using at an existing tool so I reinvented the wheel on purpose.  Now, what Visual Studio doesn’t have is the ability to synchronize data from your emulator to the cloud or cloud to emulator.  I wanted that ability so I wrote a sync engine that would go both ways.

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You can chose the source and target for sync.  So, if you want to update the cloud with the data in your emulator, you choose Development as the source and Cloud as the target.  Choose your options and which tables, queues, and blobs you want to sync and it does all of the work for you.

So, most of the time my Cloud usage is really low until I decide I want to  sync to the cloud.

That’s it for now.  Next time I will share a fully cloud based product update system (imagine Windows Update) for all of my pet projects.

Happy Monday!

Colby

Monday, April 14, 2014

WSUS and Windows Internal Database

As I sit here waiting for a build to complete and for a database to restore, I started fiddling with my new Windows Server 2012 instance.  Weird, the available memory is super low so I take look and I see that there is a mystery SQL Server instance running something called the Windows Internal Database.  What’s that all about?

I guess I have been living under a rock in terms of this subject.  Windows Internal Database (WID) is a version of SQL Server 2005-2012 that Microsoft ships with Windows Server 2008/2008R2/2012/2012R2.  It is a variant of SQL Express that is designed to be used by Windows Services.  It cannot be uninstalled and it is used by a variety of Microsoft products, including WSUS (which is how I discovered it—I was trying to figure out why available memory dropped so dramatically after I installed WSUS), ADRMS, Resource Manager, and a couple of others.

You can connect (only locally and preferably using the same account used to install Windows) through the pipe called \\.\pipe\MICROSOFT##WID\tsql\query (for 2012).  I was able to throttle memory usage on WID but expanding databases caused SQL Management Studio to hang.

Learn something new every day!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Windows Update Services on Windows Server 2012 R2

I am trying to modernize a bit.  My products support Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2008 R2, SQL Server 2005-2008/2008R2, and SharePoint 2007/2010.  My home network is a 2008 R2 domain.  My mission was to introduce Windows Server 2012 R2, SQL Server 2012 R2, and SharePoint 2013 with Project Server 2013.

This hasn't been easy.

Figuring that after (depending on which version of which product) x number of years, things would get  easier to install, configure, and go live with.  Installing Windows 2012 R2 was a breeze of course.  Adding the various roles and features I need was easy as well.  Until I hit Windows Update Services (WSUS).

I like WSUS for my domain because I can pick and choose what updates go out to the house computers.  In previous versions of Windows, it was pretty straight forward.  Simply add the necessary roles and features to your server, talk to Windows Update about the types of updates you want, possibly create some rules to auto-approve the updates, setup a GPO object so your machines are looking at your local WSUS, reboot about 12 times, and you are ready to go.

This time, with Windows 2012 R2, this became a serious hassle.  Absolutely nothing worked.  For the machine hosting WSUS, I couldn’t even get it to talk to Windows Update even though it was a vanilla install straight from the ISO downloaded from MSDN.  The MMC snapin wouldn’t initialize, the client machines couldn’t see it, and WSUS kept complaining about not being able to connect to the service.

Time to start over.

After many hours today I finally got the WSUS host to talk to Windows Update.  Unfortunately, I don’t know why it started to communicate.  I just kept plugging away at all of the “answers” on the web, rebooting, turning services on and off, renaming the SoftwareDistribution folder, deleting the crypto directory, etc, etc, until it finally worked. My intention was to track these modifications and create a tool that would do what Microsoft didn’t, which is to make WSUS work on Windows Server 2012 R2 right out the box.  Unfortunately, I didn’t track changes because I was ripping through trying to get it to work.

I wasn’t even trying to spend the day messing with this.  I wanted to get my Windows 2012 + SharePoint 2013 + Project Server 2013 instance up so I could see what it would take to deploy my stuff.  That will be a topic of another post.

What I can tell you is this:  once you get everything working except for clients talking to the WSUS host, you have a big problem. I really can’t explain why Microsoft did this, but the web services WSUS requires have quite the spastic web.configs.  None of them have the correct protocols in their respective web.configs.  I had to not only manually edit each web service .config, but I also had to take ownership of the file because the owner is “TrustedInstaller” so even though I am a domain admin, I could not edit and save the configs to fix the problem.

Hours later…

Everything is working great.  Here’s what you need to know:

Your web configs are wrong.  Open IIS Manager and select the following:

image

Open the web.config in Explore and look:

<webServices>
  <protocols>
    <remove name="Documentation"/>
  </protocols>

  <!-- Run SOAP Header Filter with ClientWebService -->
  <soapExtensionTypes>
    <add type="Microsoft.UpdateServices.WUShield,WUShield"
    priority="1"
    group="0" />
  </soapExtensionTypes>
</webServices>

Nope, not going to work!  There is nothing there for get and post, so you will get something like this.

You really need your <webServices> * to look like this:

<webServices>
  <protocols>
    <remove name="Documentation"/>
    <!-- <add name="HttpSoap1.2"/> -->
    <add name="HttpSoap"/>
    <add name="HttpPost"/>
    <add name="HttpGet"/>
    <!-- <add name="HttpPostLocalhost"/> -->
    <add name="Documentation"/>
  </protocols>

  <!-- Run SOAP Header Filter with ClientWebService -->
  <soapExtensionTypes>
    <add type="Microsoft.UpdateServices.WUShield,WUShield"
    priority="1"
    group="0" />
  </soapExtensionTypes>
</webServices>

So do that!  But your challenge will be to get Windows to let you.  It’s not difficult.  Just take ownership from TrustedInstaller and add your logged on user credentials, edit the file, save, and then you are golden.

You have to do something similar for all of WSUS web services except some don’t require the SOAP components of web.config.  Not hard to figure out.  Simply try to browse to the web service endpoint.  If not doesn’t give you something like this:

image

Then you have some work to do.

Microsoft: This is not okay.  It also isn’t documented anywhere that I can find.  I figured this out by research.  Windows 2012 is a derivative of Windows 8*, which few like so it would seem you would pay more attention to your enterprise users.  That being said, I am really digging the new UI.  I don’t like it on my workstations but I do like it on the server. 

HTH,

Colby

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Windows Server 2012 – Windows Update Malfunction

Brand new install of WS2012, out of the box, nothing configured and yet windows update sat at zero percent for hours.

Here is how to solve it:

1.)  Disable Windows Update Service

2.)  Reboot

3.)  Delete all content from C:\windows\softwaredistribution

4.)  Restart Windows Update Service

5.)  Check for updates and apply…

HTH

UPDATE: These steps didn’t fully rectify the problem.  Following these steps did:

http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/forum/windows_7-windows_update/windows-update-hangs-on-checking-for-updates/b762abf5-655c-4a60-aabc-9f59785bd8d9

Colby

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Forms Authentication in SharePoint

There are tons of posts about how to configure forms auth for SharePoint.  I have a need for a forms auth site collection so I started off by reading the office documentation from Microsoft.  After configuring the web application and creating a new site collection (and doing the numerous things you must do before this), I attempted to browse the new site collection.  I got this error:

“Cannot get Membership Provider with name AspNetSqlMembershipProvider. The membership provider for this process was not properly configured. You must configure the membership provider in the .config file for every SharePoint process.”

Okay, so I went to Central Admin->Security->Specify -->Authentication Providers—>Default and noted that AspNetSqlMembershipProvider was specified.  I checked the web.config and it was listed (inherited).  Reset IIS.  No luck.

Ah, but wait, the security token service wasn’t started.  That must be it.  So I started the service and still no luck.

In IIS Manager, I noticed this:

 image

That doesn’t look right.  The AspNetSqlMembershipProvider is not listed.

Here is what the problem is:

Open :C:\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\Web Server Extensions\14\WebServices\Root\web.config

Notice this:

system.web>
    <membership defaultProvider="i">
      <providers>
        <clear />
        <add name="i" type="Microsoft.SharePoint.Administration.Claims.SPClaimsAuthMembershipProvider, Microsoft.SharePoint, Version=14.0.0.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=71e9bce111e9429c" />
      </providers>
    </membership>
    <roleManager enabled="true" defaultProvider="c">
      <providers>
        <clear />
        <add name="c" type="Microsoft.SharePoint.Administration.Claims.SPClaimsAuthRoleProvider, Microsoft.SharePoint, Version=14.0.0.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=71e9bce111e9429c" />
      </providers>
    </roleManager>
  </system.web>

The <clear /> element is well understood of course.  It simply clears all inherited providers in this case.  Removing those two elements and here we go:

image

The next problem is trying to create users.  When I open the .NET Users feature I get: “The default role provider does not exist”.

In web.config change:

<roleManager cacheRolesInCookie="false" defaultProvider="c" enabled="true">

to:

<roleManager cacheRolesInCookie="false" defaultProvider="AspNetSqlRoleProvider" enabled="true">

I created a users and logged in just fine.

I feel tool coming on for configuring all of this without wading through XML.

Hope this helps.

Friday, April 12, 2013

.NET 2.x–4.x GAC Browser

I filed this under “there I fixed it” because it seems like this should already be out there given how simple it was to write.  I t took me a long lunch break…If you are interested in it, hit me up.

image

Friday, October 26, 2012

Windows 8

We are doing a lot of testing and performance work on EVMS forProject™ these days so in between tests and performance runs I got a Windows 8 machine put together yesterday.

I have been working with Microsoft either as employee or a partner for almost 20 years.   I was working on campus when Windows 95 was launched and my second manager at Microsoft was the lead product manager on that launch.  Those were heady days. 

After that I was really interested in operating systems but nothing coming out of Microsoft was really exciting.  It was like the lost decade and the Bermuda triangle for operating systems. So when Windows 8 was released I was a bit apprehensive for Microsoft.  After all, they are our “mother ship”. 

Windows 8 is a huge gamble.  The user experience is different.  Very different.  I had read the pundit reviews prior to the release and watched a couple of videos on YouTube of people struggling to figure out how to start apps.  I knew what to expect when it first booted but I hadn’t used any of the betas.  I decided to just go with the flow and not try to force my old habits on Windows.  Of course for a guy who REALLY dislikes the mouse, this was a struggle at first.

Then I found this.

Now I am actually faster in Windows 8 than I am in 7 or 2008 Server.  Windows 8 is slick and fast.  It just flows. 

There are a few ways to access your apps.  First the tiles, which are surfaced when you hit the Windows key.  Here is a short video on starting Outlook using tiles.

Starting Outlook with Tiles

Another way is to use the search feature.  Pressing Windows Key + q and typing the name of the app you want to start.  Here is a short video demonstrating that.

Starting Outlook with Search

Microsoft did a great job redesigning PC settings.  The following are screenshots showing a few of the highlights:

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The App Store is also pretty slick.  Here are the top free apps:

image

I updated some of the preinstalled apps, which also has a nice clean interface;

image

The new task manager rocks!

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Check out the new mail app:

image

And the new messaging app:

image

Maps (I will avoid cracking a joke about the other guy’s map app):

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News:

image

And social:

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Okay, back to work.  More later.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Announcing International Project Management Day

Click below to register for this free event

ipmds

International Institute for Learning, Inc. (IIL) has put together an exciting program for International Project Management Day on November 1, 2012: Power of the Profession, a free virtual event featuring video presentations from global industry professionals, experts, and influencers.

You’ll learn about the most current and critical topics in project management through over 30 presentations worth up to 15 PDUs.  You’ll also have a chance to visit IIL Virtual Booths on various knowledge areas, live chat with the presenters, stop by Sponsor Booths, and download white papers and other collateral.