Windows 10 Preview: How to Create a Virtual Desktop

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Note: This article does not deal with anything inside the Windows 10 Technical Preview. Rather, I am going to show you how you can set up your own virtual environment, so you can test out Windows 10.

Windows 10 was released as a technical preview a few months back, and it is available until October, here. If you have a spare workstation, you can install the software over it and “play” with it. However, if you don’ have the resources to do that, you can virtualize Windows 10 very easily, using a free product called Virtual Box, by Oracle. At this website, they give you a free virtualization application, and you can spin up test machines using this environment.

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You can install Virtual Box on Windows or on Mac. For my example, I am going to download and install it on my Mac. When you download and install your Virtual Box package, you can simply accept all of the defaults and install it normally. Once VB (as I will refer to it here) is installed, launch the application and you will be prompted with the Oracle VM VirtualBox Manager.

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From this point, you can now begin downloading your Windows 10 Technical Preview. Once that is finished downloading, you are ready to virtualize!

Go to your Oracle VM VirtualBox Manager and click “New.” You will be given a series of prompts to walk through, beginning with the Name, Type and Version. Your name is just used as an identifier in case you have multiple VMs, but the type and version must match what you are installing. I am installing the Windows 10 x86 preview, so I chose Microsoft Windows as my type, and Windows 10 (32 bit) as my version.

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The next prompt asks how much RAM you would like to allocate to the machine. Minimum for Windows 10 is 1 GB. However, the more RAM you give the VM, the better it will run. Keep in mind that whatever RAM you allocate to your VM, it takes away from your own OS. Also remember effective load balancing: if you know you are setting up three or four VMs, you need to allocate RAM in order for all of those to run effectively. For my example, I will allocate 2 GBs.

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The next area is hard drive size. In the same regard as the RAM, you have a finite amount of hard drive space, based on how much disk space you have on your own hard drive. You also need to determine the hard drive file type. This can be important for your business, because if you create a virtual machine on your own machine, and you decide to move it to a virtual server for everyone to use, you will want to move the hard drive with as little effort as needed, and you will need to adhere to whatever virtual server you have. VDI is Oracle’s hard drive file type, VMDK is VMWare’s hard drive file type, VHD is Microsoft’s Hyper-V hard drive file type, and HDD is Parallels’ hard drive file type.

You do have two other options for QED and QCOW, however those are rarely used. Your two main virtual server hard drive file types are VMWare’s, or Microsoft’s Hyper-V systems.

For this example, I am going to keep it as VDI.

VB5Once that is completed, you will return to the Oracle VM VirtualBox Manager, and you are ready to load your ISO of Windows 10 Technical Preview!

VB6Right-click on your newly created virtual machine, and click Settings. Under the Storage tab you will see your Storage Tree. In your tree is an empty controller, where CD/DVD drives are kept. To the right of that you will an icon for a disc. Click on that and it allows you to Choose a virtual CD/DVD disk file… this is where you can point to your ISO you just downloaded for your Windows 10 preview!

VB7Once the ISO is loaded, start the VM and set up your Windows 10 Technical Preview. It is as simple as that. This can be done with any ISO you get for any operating system, not just Windows 10. This can be very important for creating a test environment for your office. If you have an application you want to test out, but you do not want to affect your workstations, test it out in your VM environment. This is a safe and effective way to ensure that when you introduce new elements into your environment that you do so safely.

For assistance with setting up a VM environment, or testing and installing new applications for your office, call Everon at 1-888-244-1748.

 

Quick Tip: How to Mass-Send Personalized Emails, Via Word

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A few days ago, I confronted a project: the annual update for our 37-person company directory. I knew I wanted something better than the generic, blank form I’d emailed out last year. I also knew there had to be something easier than copying and pasting our existing records – of every single person – in order to individually email them all.

There was!

email mail merge blog - 1I was already quite familiar with Word’s Mail Merge function, having used it for years to convert my personal address database into print-‘em-off, peel-and-stick labels for my Christmas cards. (No, that’s not cheating. It’s efficient time-management.) But I couldn’t find a similar mail merge function in our email software — we currently use Outlook 2010, at work. So I ran a search in Outlook Help. The answer to my email dilemma… was back in Word!

1. I started a new Word document, went to the “Mailings” tab and, from the “Start Mail Merge” dropdown, I selected “Email Messages.” Then I typed up the basic version of the letter I wanted to email out to everyone.
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2. Next, I went back to the “Mailings” tab. This time I clicked the “Select Recipients” dropdown. I already had the old database from last year, so I picked the “Use Existing List…” option and browsed for my file. (Note: in order for this to work, you need to have your recipients’ email addresses as one of your database’s fields. You’ll need it for Step 4.) I added the fields that I wanted personalized in my generic letter. (Dear <<Name>>…,)
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 3. Just like in a regular Mail Merge, with an email merge you can edit your recipient list and preview your results to check for errors. When you’re happy with how it all looks, go to “Finish and Merge” and select “Send E-mail Messages….”
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4. Then, from the dialogue box that pops up, select your database field that contains the email addresses.
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5. When that’s done, click “OK.” Boom. Messages all sent. You’re done!

 

Tech Tips for Techs: Public folders in an Office 365 hybrid environment

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Crash blog - Jan 2014 In this TechTip, I want to address an interesting quirk we discovered in a client’s O365 hybrid implementation back in September. During the process of migrating all of the mailboxes to the cloud, the decision was made to leave the Public Folders on their on-premises Exchange 2010 server. While the migration was going, we discovered that there was a small subset of those migrated mailboxes that couldn’t access or expand the public folder structure. When attempted, they were presented with the following error in Outlook:

Cannot expand the folder. Microsoft Exchange is not available. Either there are network problems or the Exchange server is down for maintenance.

I was able to recreate this same issue on my computer for an account that works fine, as well as for the non-working user. After an exorbitant amount of netsh tracing, Outlook logging, permission verification on the 365 and on-prem sides of the wire, we discovered that there’s an account attribute that get used in the authentication process back to the on-prem Exchange box. It’s called LinkedMasterAccount.

Evidently in a hybrid environment, if this attribute is populated, authentication against an on-prem Exchange server’s public folders will fail with that vague error message I mentioned above. The solution here is a fairly quick and easy one – clear the attribute from the AD account.

In the on-prem Exchange server, fire up the Exchange Management Shell, and run the following Powershell command: Set-User -Identity user@domain.com -LinkedMasterAccount $null Once that’s been run, force a FULL DirSync to run, close Outlook, and try again.

And remember, you can always contact us at info@everonit.com, or reach us at 888-244-1748, for help. We’re available 24/7!

Tech Tips for Techs: Reliability History

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As the year draws to a close, people start thinking about timelines. Let’s talk about those on your computer. Not many engineers know that you can actually view a timeline of event logs on a particular machine that has Windows 7 or Windows 8 OS installed. This feature is great for troubleshooting event IDs for a client.

Say you have a slow machine, and the client complains that between 12-2 pm every day it is basically unusable. What is happening during this time? Use Reliability History to find out! This tool is built into the OS, and all you have to do is type: View Reliability History in your search bar to pull it up. Once you have it launched, you will see a nice GUI for reviewing event logs in a convenient to use time line:

ReliabilityHistoryThe view you see above shows days, highlighted by off-color columns, with the symbols for informational and warning alerts. These alerts directly relate to event logs that happened on these days. In my example I do not have any errors, but if I did, you would see the error symbol on this graph (red circle with a white X in the middle). You can then click on any warning, informational, or error symbols you see, and you will be taken to a view that shows that day, with the various event logs detailed. This makes searching and reviewing event logs MUCH easier.

Reliability2   If you would like to see a longer timeline, you can change the view of the Reliability History from “days” to “weeks” in the upper left-hand corner of the graph. This will break it down now into a few months. In my example, you can now see a few errors that have appeared over the last few months. Reliability3This tool parses the Application and Windows event logs only, so you cannot use it for security events. The blue line above the event logs gives a scale from 1-10 on how stable your OS is. Do not rely on the scale entirely for determining whether you have a truly stable OS. As you can see, my stability plummeted due to Internet Explorer crashes, and although the system was stable after that, it didn’t return to optimal usability for several months. Reliability4If you want to learn more about this tool, it also gives you a link to click (upper right-hand corner), which opens up a nice help document to discuss the tool in greater details. This is a must use tool for any technician working on Windows 7 and 8 environments.

Website Building: Adding Google Analytics to your WordPress Site

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I wrote a blog a bit ago about my professed love for WordPress, after my failure in trying to build a site using DotNetNuke. One of the aspects that really helped me push forward, and is a must for any developing website designer, is Google Analytics.

Google Analytics gives you up-to-date information about how many hits your website generates, the type of traffic it is generating, the most viewed pages, etc. There is a ton of information in here, and to be honest, I haven’t even touched the surface of what it can do. However, installing it was surprisingly easy.

Your first step is to go to Google’s Analytics site and sign up for a free account (there are paid/premium accounts, however I am just using the free account). Once you are signed up, you can now access your Google Analytics page. You will not see any data until you connect it to your website. In order to connect it to your WordPress site, you must download a plug-in called “Insert Headers & Footers.” Once your WordPress plug-in is installed and activated, you are ready to configure the plug-in.

Choose to edit the plug-in, and you will be shown a page similar to this:

HeadersFootersYou will need to enter code that is given to you by the Google Analytics page into this code. The location of the code you need can be found on the GA page, under Admin ->Property ->Tracking Info ->Tracking Code:

TrackingI scrolled to the bottom and inserted my code. Once I posted the tracking code into the bottom of my own code within the ‘Insert Headers & Footers’ plug-in, I clicked Update File, and that was it! If you just want to begin getting traffic tracked for your website, this is all that is needed. But of course, there is WAY more you can do with Google Analytics. Google Analytics is a powerful tool that every beginning web developer needs to consider putting in place, and WordPress makes it VERY easy to set up!

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