The Surly Admin

Father, husband, IT Pro, cancer survivor

SpiceWorld Day 2

Another interesting day at SpiceWorld.  Sat through the morning session about IT Policies and I’m not going to lie, got a good nap in during that one.  As necessary as they are it would take an amazing speaker to make it interesting!!  The guys here were good, but not up to that monumental task.

Next session I attended was the JEA from Jeffrey Snover.  Great session talking about “Just Enough Administration” and how this is now possible with the tool sets provided by PowerShell.  As with most security measures it’s only as good as the effort you put into it–which in my experience often means no one does much with it at all.  As it stands it’s a great idea and the functionality is there, but I doubt it will be widely adopted.  The reason is everything is custom, you create your custom tool sets with custom permissions and then override, or “proxy” known PowerShell cmdlet’s with your requirements.  What I mean by that is you can actually modify Restart-Computer with a custom validation set so someone using that toolset could only restart Server1 and Server3, but would be unable to touch Server2.  Cool stuff, but honestly seems impractical at this juncture.  Once some easier interfaces, templates, etc start being available I believe you’ll see this take off.

After that I went to the Windows 2012 Deduplication session.  This was put on by a Veeam employee, but he took great pains to make sure we understood he was doing this as an enthusiast and not a speaker from Veeam.  He was very successful.  Great session and really highlighted the insane compression ratios possible with Windows 2012 in the proper circumstances.  In this case the massive backup files created by Veeam backup software.  Ninety-four percent?  Are you insane?!  Couldn’t wait to take that back to the office.

After that just visited a few vendors, then sat through the raffle.  This was a lot of fun as you had to be in the room when the raffle called your name.  If you weren’t your ticket was put into the shredder to chants of “Shred it!  Shred it!” and the crowd was out for blood.

Kris Bushover also put on his yearly presentation of the best tickets his department received from Spiceworkers.  Most of them were pretty terrified of this particular presentation, but it’s all in good fun and great for a laugh.

After that was a after-party there in the convention center which was essentially a last chance to catch up and visit with everyone, new and old friends alike. Then a few of us met up with the community managers over at Champions, but Vegas rules were in effect so can’t say anything more.  Although I did find out what camel case meant, thanks Justin.
Great time, and the PowerShell session was so much fun to put on I just love doing it.  Not sure if I’ll be able to go back next year as it’s a very expensive trip and I had to foot the entire bill.  I will try.



September 29, 2014 Posted by | General | , | Leave a comment

SpiceWorld 2014: Day 1

SpiceWorld 2014 hasn’t officially started, but this year was a little different from last year in that they have set aside the main “gallery”–this is mostly where we ate last year–for some of the vendors.  They now have full convention style booths in there, which was interesting!  CDW actually had a bus which I’m looking forward to walking through.  But as always with SpiceWorld a lot more time was spent catching up with online friends and talking then looking at the goods!  Already have a bag full of swag, which is typical for SpiceWorld.  Did I mention I brought a much bigger piece of luggage than I actually needed because I learned my lesson from last year!

After that Rob and I broke off and did one last practice run of our Introduction to PowerShell presentation.  We ran it on Rob’s Surface, which was mostly OK except we did run into a few problems.  First the Help files didn’t contain all the help information?!  And then when we tried to run Update-Help discovered he was of the WiFi!  We were running late so we just winged it–and we’ve done this enough times that we can pretty much do that in our sleep–and I think it’s going to be pretty good this year.  I added some slides for the last SpiceCorp and the concept was good but the slides needed tweaking and Rob was able to do exactly that and I think they’re really solid.  It’s all around objects and really hammering home what they are.

After that we walked about a mile–ok, it was probably less but to my feet it felt like a mile!–down to Banger’s for a ton more socializing!  Too hot to try out the sausages, but they looked amazing.  Ran into a lot of friends there and was able to catch up, and also ran into several people from Boston SpiceCorp, so great to see the Northeast so well represented!  Also got to meet Jeffrey Snover and that was really fantastic.  Didn’t get to talk to him long but seemed like such a great guy–I’m sure he’s not an ax murderer.  No more than I am!  <Insert evil villain laugh here>

I ran back to the hotel after that and tried to catch the premier of Gotham but at 9pm they showed an hour and a half of news!  And it wasn’t on at 8pm.  The weird thing was they covered Gotham in the news cast and said it would premier today!  Oh well, did tape it at home so it’ll have to wait until I return!

That’s it for today, should be more to write about tomorrow!

September 23, 2014 Posted by | General | | Leave a comment

SpiceWorld 2014

And I’m in Austin!  Looking forward to getting SpiceWorld started.  Our Introduction to PowerShell session is one of the first ones out of the gate, not sure if that’s good or bad!  I’ll take it as good as I can enjoy the rest of the convention after that.  Looking forward to meeting Jeffrey Snover who arrived yesterday (according to his twitter feed).

Excited!  And very hungry!  Have to find something to eat!

September 22, 2014 Posted by | General | | Leave a comment

Post SpiceWorld High

It’s been a couple of days since I’ve returned from SpiceWorld 2013 and I’m still trying to digest the experience.  First off I must say I have never been to a tech conference where I’ve had quite as much fun as I had here.  The Spiceworks community has always been something different–an amazing collection of people who just want to help each other out–and that community translates almost perfectly to the SpiceWorld experience.  Read on, if you’d like!

Continue reading

November 8, 2013 Posted by | General | | Leave a comment

Flying out to SpiceWorld 2013

Well, it’s 5am and I’m flying out to Austin, Texas for SpiceWorld in just a few hours.  Can’t seem to make myself relax and get some much-needed shut-eye so why not write something here?!

So tomorrow is the big day for Rob and I’s PowerShell introduction session and I’m really pleased with how the presentation came out.  It’s going to be interactive as we build a tiny script with the audience.  There are only about 9 slides and 3 of them are introductory and 1 is an “Any Questions?” slide.  The rest is just to get us to the script writing stage.  I don’t know about you, but any presentation that drones on with a ton of slides, especially when the speaker is essentially just reading off the slide, is usually not a good presentation!  I think Rob and I have managed to avoid that with this one.  The session itself is only 45 minutes and if you’ve done anything with PowerShell you know that’s not nearly enough time to even really get you started so we’re focusing on giving you the tools to write your own scripts using the three base commands:  Get-Command, Get-Help and Get-Member.  I’ve written before about all three before here in my Getting Started series.

I’ve written a few scripts recently that I’m pretty proud of that I wanted to mention:

Get-DiskInfo – Really PowerShellisk type script for getting disk information from your servers and workstations.  Accepts all kinds of pipeline input and outputs objects, both a default set and more extensive information if you use Get-Member.

Export-PrinterInfo – This is a script I’ve had for quite a while that I wrote for someone on Spiceworks but ended up using at work too.  Finally decided to publish it on Spiceworks.  It’s a pretty comprehensive disk information script that saves everything to an Excel spreadsheet.

Send-PasswordExpirationNotifications – Just released this script.  It’s an update of a successful vbScript I wrote a few years back that will send users an email when their password is getting ready to expire.  It uses an old-fashioned INI file for configuration but really allows you a lot of flexibility.  Depending on how much effort you put into it you can really customize your outgoing notification so one usage of the script can be totally different looking from another.  All without touching a bit of code!  It also fully supports fine-grained password policies for those of your who use those.

With the experience of using an INI file I gained from the Send-PasswordNotifications script I also have a new version of the Employee Directory ready.  This script has some complex configuration requirements that parameters can handle, but they’re not necessarily user-friendly.  I really struggled with the decision on whether to use named parameters–which would be much more in keeping with PowerShell best practices–or going with an external configuration file.  I decided to stick with best practices, but in the real world of testing and changing the script I’ve found the parameters to be unwieldy.  Therefore the changeover to a configuration file.  Haven’t published it just yet because I want to test it in the real world first and I had one technical issue that I managed to code around but I’m not convinced it’s the best way of going about things.  If you’d like to take a look at the problem and help me out, please feel free to take a look and let me know your thoughts!  The thread can be located here.

OK, just about time to get ready for my flight!  Wish me luck and I look forward to meeting you at SpiceWorld and I hope you come to the PowerShell breakout session, even if you’re a pro!

October 28, 2013 Posted by | General | | Leave a comment

SpiceWorld 2013

Really excited that I’ll be attending Spiceworld 2013 this year.  I’ve been using Spiceworks software since 2009 and been very active in their community most of that time but this is the first time I’ve attended their yearly conference.  I think it will be a great way to meet a lot of the people I’ve been interacting with for years but couldn’t tell you what they look like to save my life!

I’m also excited to be working with another Spicehead, Rob Dunn, on the Introduction to PowerShell 3.0 breakout session.  Rob and I are working hard to present PowerShell to beginners and hopefully cut down some of that initial learning curve that no doubt exists for newbies.  We really wanted to give a hands-on experience to learning PowerShell too, so no endless list of slide’s and lecture.  Our plan is to present 2, 3 maybe 4 slides than just sit in front of a PC and write a script with the whole group.  We’ll have to guide the script a bit as we only have an hour, but the idea is to present 3 different script ideas and let the group decide which script we’ll write.  From there we’ll show you how you can use PowerShell itself to help you write the script–bouncing from the shell to the ISE and back again until we have a rough little script written.

I’ve never done anything like this, and I’m thankful that Rob will be with me.  Rob has been with Spiceworks even longer than I have and written some great scripts.  His expertise is mostly with vbScript, which I think is really nice as he can bring that perspective to the PowerShell experience.  I’ve written quite a lot in vbScript too so it’s nice that we can speak the “short-hand”, without translating back and forth between languages!   It’s also been exciting that we both seem to have the same ideas–so far!–on what and how we want to do this so we can really focus on trying to bring the best and most interesting session we can.  Nothing worse than sitting there and having some guy sit behind a desk and drone on, essentially reading his slide deck to you!  This will NOT be that.  We’re going to be sitting with a PC on the screen writing the script with you.  Explaining why we do things the way we do them, and running into the same problems you would run into while writing a script and solving the problems right there.

So come down to Austin and join us at Spiceworld, find out what’s really happening in the world of the SMB and maybe learn a little PowerShell along the way.

October 14, 2013 Posted by | General, PowerShell | , , | 2 Comments