by Shijaz Abdulla
on 14.05.2013 at 20:57
Below is an invitation to a joint event between Qatar Datamation Systems, Microsoft, Commvault and HP focusing on Data Availability in the Hybrid Cloud.
It is time to re-think your IT investment and infrastructure to address the exponential growth and availability of data, there is a compelling need for a strategic alignment of the backup recovery, archiving and disaster recovery.
See beyond today and focus on sustained business operations that can withstand threats and pitfalls that befall today’s business establishment.
We are honored to invite you in collaboration with Commvault, Microsoft, and HP to demonstrate the approach for the unified Data Protection & Availability across the software, hardware and cloud stack. We will share our thoughts on what are ahead and compelling insights into investing in the business outcomes and the concept of the Hybrid Cloud Data Protection.
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
8:30 AM – 1:30 PM
Sharq Village & SPA
08:45 – 09:30 Registrations & Welcome Refreshments
09:30 – 09:45 Keynote
09:45 – 10:45 Commvault: The exponential way forward in Data
10:45 – 11:00 Coffee Break
11:00 – 12:00 Microsoft: Realizing the Hybrid Cloud With Windows
Azure & SQL
12:00 – 13:00 HP: The Converged Storage Approach
by Shijaz Abdulla
on 13.05.2013 at 15:25
Most of us use multiple audio devices. Sometimes its a headset, at other times it’s the default laptop speakers, and at other times it might a speaker system connected to your docking station or even a webcam microphone.
Unfortunately, switching between the various audio devices can be tedious as you need to change the Windows “default device” or the “default communications device” each time for both recording and playback.
Today we’re going to see how you can create simple shortcuts on your taskbar that let you effortlessly switch between audio devices.
The three shortcuts you see in my little “Audio Control” custom toolbar let me switch between by Microsoft LifeChat LX-3000 headset, Internal Speakers and Logitech c920 HD webcam microphone. Here’s how I created these shortcuts:
Note: I have tried this on Windows 8, but I am pretty sure it will work on Windows 7 too.
1. Download the NIRCMD utility and extract it to a folder on your computer, let’s call it C:\NIRCMD
2. Open your Windows Playback devices (Right click on your speaker icon on the taskbar).
Note the names of each of the devices you need to change. You can click on Properties to view the correct name. You will need the exact same name for the NIRCMD command to work. If you have two devices with the same name (example: “Speakers”) you will need to rename one of them so that they are unique. Click Properties if you need to rename devices.
Note the names in a text file for easy copy-paste.
In my case, the three playback device names are:
- “Headset Earphone”
3. Do the same with recording devices. Note the names in a text file. In my case the names of my 3 recording devices are:
- “Headset Microphone”
- “C920 Microphone” (renamed)
4. Now open the C:\NIRCMD folder, create a new batch file for each device, let’s call them SPEAKERS.BAT, HEADPHONE.BAT, and WEBCAM.BAT
5. Use similar commands as below for each of the BAT files. Use the device names you copied earlier.
C:\NIRCMD\NIRCMDC setdefaultsounddevice "Speakers" 2
C:\NIRCMD\NIRCMDC setdefaultsounddevice "Internal Microphone" 2
C:\NIRCMD\NIRCMDC setdefaultsounddevice "Speakers" 1
C:\NIRCMD\NIRCMDC setdefaultsounddevice "Internal Microphone" 1
C:\NIRCMD\NIRCMDC setdefaultsounddevice "Headset Earphone" 2
C:\NIRCMD\NIRCMDC setdefaultsounddevice "Headset Microphone" 2
C:\NIRCMD\NIRCMDC setdefaultsounddevice "Headset Earphone" 1
C:\NIRCMD\NIRCMDC setdefaultsounddevice "Headset Microphone" 1
C:\NIRCMD\NIRCMDC setdefaultsounddevice "Speakers" 2
C:\NIRCMD\NIRCMDC setdefaultsounddevice "C920 Microphone" 2
- The “1” in the NIRCMD command line argument indicates that the device is set as “Default Device”. A “2” in the command indicates that the device will be set as a “Default Communications Device” (useful for Skype, Lync etc).
- The device name string should be EXACTLY the same that is defined in Windows.
6. Test each batch file by double clicking on them and observing if the default device changed.
7. Create a folder "Audio Control” for your custom toolbar. Your NIRCMD folder should look like the below now.
7. Inside the Audio Control folder, create three shortcuts to the batch files that you created in step 5. Click Change Icon in the shortcut file properties if you want to change the icons like I have done.
8. Right click on an empty space on your taskbar and choose New toolbar.
9. Choose the C:\NIRCMD\Audio Control folder. You now have an awesome new Audio Controls toolbar.
You will appreciate the one-click ease with which you can now change your default audio device in Windows. Leave a comment and let us know your feedback!
by Shijaz Abdulla
on 12.05.2013 at 16:48
With the announcement of the Windows Azure Recovery Services Preview, you can now backup data to Windows Azure using the Windows Backup Agent or from DPM 2012 using the DPM Backup Agent.
We explored how to backup data using the Windows Agent in a previous post.
Now, let’s see how we can use System Center Data Protection Manager 2012 (DPM 2012) to backup data to Windows Azure.
1. Install System Center Data Protection Manager 2012 Service Pack 1 with all latest updates.
2. IMPORTANT: Follow part 1 if this post to create a backup vault on Windows Azure, and to create a self-signed certificate from the computer that you installed DPM on.
1. From the computer running DPM, open your Windows Azure Management Portal. Go to Recovery Services and click on the vault you created in part 1.
2. On the right, click Download Agent.
3. Choose the agent that works with DPM and install it on your DPM server.
4. Open the System Center 2012 Service Pack 1 DPM Administrator Console. Click Management in the left pane. Click on Online in the left pane.
5. Click Register.
6. Select the certificate that you created in part 1. Then select the corresponding vault on Windows Azure. Click Next.
7. Choose an internet proxy if needed. Click Next.
8. If you are running Windows Server 2012, you have the option of setting internet bandwidth throttling. This option is unavailable in Windows Server 2008 R2. Click Next.
9. Choose a folder for temporarily holding recoverable items during a recovery. This is more like a staging area and you need enough space as the size of data that you anticipate recovering in parallel. Click Next.
10. Choose a passphrase for encrypting your data. Make sure you save your passphrase in a safe place or you will not be able to restore your data. Click Register.
Your DPM server is now registered with Windows Azure.
You can now configure backup jobs to backup to cloud. The steps to configure these jobs are similar to normal backup jobs, except that you choose Windows Azure as your backup destination.
by Shijaz Abdulla
on 11.05.2013 at 23:19
Amazon has announced the launch of the System Center Operations Manager (SCOM) Management Pack for Amazon Web Services (AWS)!
Whether on-premises or in the AWS cloud, this SCOM Management Pack (MP) allows organizations running their Microsoft-based workloads at AWS to monitor their AWS resources directly in the Operations Manager console to essentially provide a true “single pane of glass
What make this Management Pack unique are couple of things. First, it is can separate the server (Operating System) from the AWS Instance (Virtual Machine). Secondarily, this creates a logical monitoring and reporting mechanism that can intelligently identify where a problem or error state exists, either in the AWS cloud or the serverOS/application running within AWS.
Image Courtesy: Amazon.com
by Shijaz Abdulla
on 04.05.2013 at 13:50
I use a Toshiba Dynadock u3.0 to connect my Windows 8 laptop to dual displays, printer, mouse & keyboard, webcam, etc and sometimes when I resume my computer from a Standby state, the displays do not work and I have to restart the computer.
One workaround is to unplug the Dynadock before you resume the computer from standby and re-plug it in once the computer has resumed.
An even better workaround is to create a custom power plan that does not cause the computer to go to standby when connected to AC power. However, if your computer is managed by an organization they might enforce a “preferred” power plan through group policy, which causes your custom power plan to be overridden, leaving you with the same problem.
Today we explore how we can create a custom power plan and create a simple scheduled task that will ensure your custom power plan remains enforced regardless of your organization’s enforced power plan. Bear in mind, that depending upon what privileges your administrator has provided you on your desktop, this method may or may not be effective.
1. Create a custom power plan that does not put your computer on standby. Set this as your current power plan. I’m calling my power plan Dynadock.
2. Open the Command Prompt and type powercfg /list. Note the GUID of your Dynadock power scheme (highlighted below). You will need this in the next step.
3. Open Task Scheduler (you can search for it on the Start menu/screen. Look under Settings in Windows 8)
4. Click Create Task on the right pane.
5. Choose the options on each tab as follows
On the Triggers tab, click New
On the Actions tab, click New
Action: Start a program
Add arguments: /setactive <GUID>
(where GUID is the text you copied earlier in step 2)
Review the other tabs and make changes if needed, the default settings should be ok.
Supply your username and password when prompted and you are all set!
What you have just done is creating a scheduled task that runs every hour to change your power scheme back to your own custom power plan, even if the system reverts back to the “preferred” plan.
by Shijaz Abdulla
on 16.04.2013 at 19:23
Windows Azure Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) offering hit general availability worldwide today.
Furthermore, to eliminate price as a discussion when comparing to the competition, namely Amazon, we made a new pledge to our valued customers. Quite simply, we will match AWS prices for commodity services such as compute, storage and bandwidth. We may charge less, but never more.
“If you had concerns that Windows Azure was more expensive, we’re putting those concerns to rest today.”
Steven Martin, Operations GM – Azure
The reason is simple. We want to remove price as part of the equation. We’d rather compete on the services we provide and the complete vision of the Microsoft Cloud OS which provides rich:
- Infrastructure services
- Platform services
- Hybrid scenarios (move VMs from your datacenter to Windows Azure and back. Use common technologies across private & public clouds (Active Directory for identity, System Center for Management, Hyper-V for virtualization, .NET for development)
Furthermore, based on customer input, we are also announcing two new higher capacity virtual machines:
- A four virtual processor VM with 28 GB of memory
- An eight virtual processor VM with 56 gigabytes of memory!
These configurations enable workloads with increasing compute demands.
Oh, and BTW, yes, Azure IaaS runs 100% on Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V.
Finally, it should be noted just how fast Azure is growing. Bill Hilf is quoted as saying that Azure is growing at the rate of 1,000 customers A DAY and today supports over 200,000 active customers.
by Shijaz Abdulla
on 09.04.2013 at 22:05
This is a continuation of my earlier post on Windows Azure Backup Preview.
In the previous post, we discussed how you can generate a self-signed certificate using makecert.exe on the server from which you intend to backup. If you want to backup from multiple servers, you need to export the certificate you generated on the first server along with the private key and import it into the Personal store of the other computers that you intend to backup from. Windows Azure identifies which online backup vault to upload to using this certificate. You can use the same certificate on computers in different networks, domains or workgroups.
- Upload the certificate by clicking Manage Certificateon the Windows Azure Management portal.
- Download and install the backup agent on your server. Currently, the agent supports Windows Server 2012, and Windows Server 2012 Essentials and System Center 2012 SP1 Data Protection Manager. You will find the download link on the right pane.
- The Windows Azure Management portal gives you download links to agents for Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2012 Essentials and System Center Data Protection Manager. However, Scott Guthrie’s blog post mentions support for Windows Server 2008 R2, while a Microsoft employee suggests that WS2008R2 support might be added in coming months.
I have personally installed the Windows Azure backup agent on Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 and it worked flawlessly (although it will need installation of more prerequisites, like Windows Management Framework updates, PowerShell, etc)
- Installation is fairly straightforward. Having PowerShell installed is a prerequisite. The Windows Azure backup agent is updated via Windows Update.
- Open Windows Azure Backup using the icon placed on the desktop. On the right pane of the Windows Azure Backup console, click Register Server.
- Configure the proxy if needed.
- On the next screen browse for and select the self-signed certificate you created in Part 1of this post.
Click the Register button. The wizard will then proceed to fetch the backup vaults from Windows Azure.
- Select the Backup Vault you created.
- On the next screen, enter a passphrase to encrypt your backup with. This ensures confidentiality of the data you backup to Azure. Make sure you save the passphrase in a safe location.
- Click Register and you are now ready to configure backups for this server.
Scheduling a backup
- Click on Schedule Backup in the right pane of the MMC console.
- Select the items you need to backup.
- You can use Exclusion Settings to exclude certain file types from being backed up. Click Next.
- Set your backup frequency/schedule on the next screen. You can choose the days the backup should run and at what time. You can execute up to 3 scheduled backups per day.
- Click Change Propertiesif you wish to set network throttling settings, to optimize bandwidth usage during working hours.
Click OK and Next.
- On the next screen, choose your retention settings.
The more older backups you retain, the more storage you will consume on your Azure subscription.
- Click Next, review your configuration and click Finish to create the job.
The backup will start running according to the schedule.
On the Windows Azure Management Portal, you can see the servers you are backing up, the storage consumed and more information about your protected items.
Here’s a screenshot of Windows Azure backup agent running on Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1
If you want to backup beyond just files, and you want to use Windows Azure Backup with applications like SQL Server, Exchange, SharePoint, etc you need System Center 2012 SP1 Data Protection Manager. I will write a post on how to make this work as time permits.
by Shijaz Abdulla
on 08.04.2013 at 23:59
Windows Azure Backup helps you protect important server data off-site with automated backup and restore.
What can you back up with Windows Azure Backup?
You can manage cloud backups from familiar backup tools in Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2012 Essentials, or the Data Protection Manager component of Microsoft System Center 2012 Service Pack 1 (SP1). Authorized users can easily recover backups to any server.
What other options are available?
For making cloud-based backups of enterprise data including application data, Hyper-V VMs and even VMware, you could consider the StorSimple solution, which is an snapshot-based cloud-integrated storage solution.
With incremental backups, only changes to files are transferred to the cloud. This helps ensure efficient use of storage, reduced bandwidth consumption, and point-in-time recovery of multiple versions of the data. Configurable data retention policies, data compression, and data transfer throttling offer you added flexibility and help boost efficiency. Backups are stored in Windows Azure and are “off-site”, reducing the need to secure and protect on-site backup media.
Windows Azure Backup is billed in units based on your average daily amount of compressed data stored over a monthly billing period, at a rate of $0.25 per gigabyte (GB) per month during preview. Once Backup is generally available, it will be billed at $0.50 per GB per month.
For more information on Windows Azure Backup, please visit the webpage. For more information on pricing, please visit the Pricing Details Webpage.
Activating the Preview
1. Open your Windows Azure Management Portal.
2. On the top bar, click Subscriptions and then choose Manage your subscriptions.
3. Choose Preview Features
4. Activate the Backup feature by clicking try it now.
5. If you go back to your Management Portal, you will now find Recovery on the left pane.
6. Create a new Backup Vault.
7. Once the vault is provisioned, start by clicking Manage Certificate.
To use your own self-signed certificate, follow these steps:
- Download Certificate Creation Tool (makecert.exe) from http://gallery.technet.microsoft.com/Certificate-Creation-tool-5b7c054d
- Open Command Prompt (cmd.exe) with Administrator privileges and run the following command, replacing <certName> with the name of your certificate : makecert.exe -r -pe -n CN=<certName> -ss my -sr localmachine -eku 188.8.131.52.184.108.40.206.2 -e 12/12/2015 -len 2048 <CertName>.cer
I will publish another post soon, which details how you can deploy the backup agents on the server and configure the backups.
by Shijaz Abdulla
on 30.03.2013 at 09:18
I have been trying out multiple solutions to share and sync data from my computer to the cloud.
One of the tool I like to use is SkyDrive, and they provide up to 7GB of space for free. What makes SkyDrive interesting to me is the integration with Office 2013. You can easily browse, open and save documents from any Office application on to your SkyDrive. What’s more, all your connected devices can be used to access the same content, and they stay synced.
Last weekend I was taking notes from an online class in the Bachelor’s program that I am doing at IOU. I was using OneNote 2013 on my Lenovo x220 Tablet to take notes on a notebook saved to SkyDrive. Within seconds, the I realized that the content was syncing to my Surface RT device and my Nokia Lumia 920 Windows Phone device.
OneNote 2013 with content synchronized between computer and phone.
There are many other vendors out there who also provide cloud-based file sharing, especially for the Enterprise and supporting a wide array of devices that you can upload content and sync from.
For example, Citrix ShareFile is a commercial solution for securely sharing, syncing and storing files upto 10 GB in size. All communications between Citrix ShareFile and the user are encrypted using either Secure Socket Layer (SSL) or Transport Layer Security (TLS) encryption protocols and up to AES 256-bit encryption.
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by Shijaz Abdulla
on 30.03.2013 at 00:10
My WordPress site is hosted on Windows Azure and uses a MySQL database that was set up automatically on ClearDB.
For the past couple of days I have been getting warning emails from ClearDB, the provider of MySQL databases for Windows Azure customers that my database quota is almost full.
Tier size quota: 20 MB
Current database storage allocated: 98.28% (1.72% remaining)
Please note that the use of temporary tables as well as index sizes are included in our storage size calculations.
We suggest that you consider upgrading your database to the next service plan to ensure that it does not exceed our storage quota policy. Databases that exceed our service plan storage quotas are automatically locked to ensure the highest quality of service for all of our valued customers, and we don’t want you to experience an interruption of service.
If you’re getting these messages and you’re using the database to run a WordPress site, make sure you compact your database before going to pay for the next higher tier/plan on ClearDB. Chances are that you might not have to upgrade after all!
I simply used an Optimize Database wordpress plugin and it reduced the database size by 50% by removing revisions, trashed items, spammed items etc. Now I can continue using the free ClearDB database without incurring any additional costs.