Archive for the ‘Tech’ category

Just Fix It

February 5, 2009

A new addition to the Microsoft support documents, the Fix It button.

Fix it

Rather than having to go down and do a list of 15 steps, the Fix It button will run a script to do the steps for you. It’s not on everything yet but it’s starting to show up on more pages.

Online Ringtone creator

January 25, 2009

Came across this site that makes it really easy to convert your own audio files into ringtones. Conveniently called

Boot Windows 7 from VHD

January 13, 2009

Just read this from The Lazy Admin about booting Windows 7 from a VHD and thought this was pretty cool for testing. I like the idea…currently running Windows 7 as a virtual system but may give this a try to really put it through the paces.

Ideal Home Network

January 12, 2009

I was watching some video from CES earlier and started thinking about the amount of electricity we use with idle devices around the house…especially the computers. Usually there are 2 computers, 1 server, and a Tivo on every night (not including the little night lights from the TV. coffee pot, and every other electronic device that sucks energy when off.)

I was thinking how nice it would be to just be able to have one GOOD system with a small touchscreen display that could be in the living room and serve multiple functions. It would need to be a decent system with multiple-redundant hard drives to function as a home server for backups and file storage, media server to record & playback TV, and a Virtual Server so we could have little dumb terminals with instant on to use for desktops. Heck even a blade server for home would be cool. Somehow I don’t think I could get away with putting even the smallest of the blade servers in the living room currently…one day maybe they’ll come out with a Home Blade Server!

Emailing with PHP

January 12, 2009

While adding some more features to the recent Intranet Portal, one thing that came up was to have an email sent with a copy of the order for a quick check. I originally did this sending it as plain text however it was a little difficult to read. I wanted to set it up to have both text and HTML emails so it was nicely formatted for reading on the desktop but still useable when viewing on a mobile phone.

Enter PHPMailer. This is a great PHP class that makes the whole process of dealing with MIME headers and all the other crap painless. Using PHPMailer I was able to get the email sent with both a text and HTML version (including inline images) and it’s working great.

Windows 7 Beta…first impressions

January 12, 2009

Just installed the Windows 7 Beta. I should point out that I’m one of the few out there that seem to actually like Vista and have had great success with it….could it be better, sure, was it as bad as everyone makes it out to be, no way.

So, first thoughts of the new beta:

Install went well, no issues there. I like how the requirements seem a little better and am looking forward to seeing how it performs on netbooks. I think people will have less issues as they most likely already have newer hardware from upgrading to Vista or if they are still on really old hardware, they’re due for a new system anyway.

Look & feel is nice…I like the built in desktop slide show feature. It’s trivial but a cool touch (and I know someone who’s been asking for this feature for a while now.)  Gadgets are no longer tied to the gadget bar but rather can be dropped anywhere on the desktop.

Powershell is built-in of course as is PowerShell Integrated Scripting Environment which is a nice looking application that allows you to write, test, and debug scripts with all the syntax formatting and all.

UAC has a new settings adjustment. Honestly haven’t looked at this much as I don’t have too many complains about the one in Vista.

A new feature called HomeGroup is now available…not too familiar with this one yet but seems like it is from an old Longhorn feature called Castle.

Looking forward to playing around with it some more but so far it’s looking good.

Feature request for Windows Home Server

January 11, 2009

So far I’m really enjoying the little MediaSmart WHS that my wife got me for Christmas. I’ve been playing around with the various add-ins (there are some great ones!) and am still tweaking the IIS setup so I can have my photo sharing just the way I want (I don’t like the HP app as it’s too much of a pain to have to import the photos over the web to share them.)

So one thing that I think could use some improvement is oddly enough one of the great features of WHS…the backups. The one way I would like to see the backup improved on is to use VHD’s or at least have an easy way to create them from the backup. The reason this came up is my laptop started having issues with the fan…I wasn’t worried about losing data as I have it replicated via Live Mesh for some things, backed up to a removable drive, and now my new WHS. But the one thing I realized is that if my laptop were to fry itself, how would I access that data from the backup on another system?

The best thing I could come up with is that I could create a new Virtual system (using your choice of Virtual PC or VMWare) and use the WHS recovery CD to “restore” the backup of the now dead system. I’m sure it’s not going to boot up but at least you would then have a VHD image of the drive that you could mount and access the data.

What I’d love to see, either natively in WHS or via an add-on, is the ability to mount a backup image as a drive/folder in WHS so it is accessible over the network.

Oh well, maybe one day.

Online Ordering Intranet Portal

January 10, 2009

While writing an online ordering portal to be used internally between multiple locations to standardize their purchases, I needed to create an easy, web-based way to add and modify product entries in a MySQL database. I started trying to put this together using PHP and after a little while decided to start browsing the web for other options to get it done quicker as I realized this was not going to be a quick thing to put together.

I came across a great little project called phpMyEdit. This is a great PHP tool that will create an interface for your table(s) that can be customized a great deal and easily integrated into your site. So rather than having to spend hours reinventing the wheel I was able to complete the project and have a cool looking administration page to go with it.

If you go to the actual download site and look at some around, there are some other projects there that look pretty interesting as well.

Managing your UPS on Windows Home Server

January 2, 2009

Now having a WHS running in the house, I was looking around trying to figure out how to get it talking with my UPS to make sure it wouldn’t have issues when the power dies. Being in Florida, it’s not a question of if but just when the next one will happen.

Turns out there’s a great add-in for WHS that will manage your UPS, from multiple vendors even! Aside from monitoring the UPS events and automatically shutting down the system when the battery runs low, you can configure Grid Junction to launch a script as well. This works out great for WHS because you can setup a script that will shut off the other computers on your network that may be connected to the same UPS as well as kick off an email to alert you that the system is shutting down because of power failure.

If you’re running WHS, I highly recommend adding this app!

Task Scheduler 2.0 Email

December 29, 2008

I was originally excited about the new Task Scheduler built into Windows Server 2008 & Vista….I liked the idea of being able to easily select an event from the Event Viewer and schedule a task to trigger when it occurred. I was thinking this would make a really easy way to monitor some simple server stats…for example, anytime a login (failed or successful) occurred I could have an email alert sent. This was nice for servers that I know people shouldn’t be physically logging into on a regular basis.

The part that sucks though is that from everything I’ve read the email is sent using NTLM authentication for Windows SMTP servers. If you’re not using Windows SMTP server the email will still be sent if the server allows anonymous access. Well, if you’re trying to use a non-Windows server on the Internet and it does not allow anonymous access, looks like you’re out of luck.

Time to redo that PowerShell script to email alerts.

For reference, here’s a Technet post with info about the email settings:


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