Using Group Policy Preferences to deploy Favorites to Internet Explorer

My previous article, The new way to configure Internet Explorer proxy settings with Group Policy, spoke about how the Internet Explorer Maintenance section of Group Policy has been killed off in favour of ADMX templates and Group Policy Preferences. One benefit of this is that you get rid of the time-consuming “Branding Internet Explorer” section when a user logs on to a PC.

Thanks to the lack of communication from Microsoft, we now need to scramble around to get all of our Internet Explorer Favorites re-deployed for any PC with IE10 or above. Thankfully it is a relatively simple, if tedious task. I used the GPMC on a 2008 R2 member server

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The new way to configure Internet Explorer proxy settings with Group Policy

Internet Explorer 10 was released for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 machines back in February 2013. Nine months later and we are going through it again with Internet Explorer 11. For SysAdmins and IT Pros managing software updates, these new versions led to quite a significant change in how we use Group Policy to manage them.

I only recently discovered that when Windows 8 (and along with it IE10) was released they finally got rid of the “Internet Explorer Maintenance” Section of the Group Policy Editor. This section always struck me as an odd place to configure IE settings and I’m still not sure why they couldn’t just use the normal Administrative Template section.

Internet Explorer Maintenance in Server 2003 Group Policy Editor
Internet Explorer Maintenance in Server 2003 Group Policy Editor

Continue reading The new way to configure Internet Explorer proxy settings with Group Policy

Freeing up Disk Space on a Windows 8 tablet

Image from Graeme Newcomb, Flickr
Is your hard disk overloaded?

Updated 12/05/2014: Included some new savings that can be made after installing Windows 8.1 Update 1

I love my little Windows 8 HP ElitePad but if I had one major complaint its that I got the one with only 32GB. I knew, from years of maintaining PCs, laptops & netbooks, that the space would quickly be eaten up by Windows Updates alone! In fact, when the ElitePad was brand new out the box it unbelievably only had 11GB free.

I went to upgrade to Windows 8.1 now it has been publically released but discovered that I only had around 750MB free on my c: drive! The Win8.1 Pro download was 2.1GB itself so I had to do some serious freeing up of disk space. Unfortunately, Windows is quite good at hiding this stuff and a lot of online guides make recommend pointless “tips” such as “to save space, flush the DNS cache”!

So here is my guide on several options you have to free up space on your restricted device. Some of them, like removing the recovery partition, are one-offs but others can be repeated whenever space starts to get a bit tight

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My Toolbox – Quick and easy driver backup with Double Driver

Just a quick post because I wanted to give a worthy bit of software a shout-out.

Double Driver from http://www.boozet.org/dd.htm

This little free program lets you back up all of the drivers on your PC for safe keeping. This is really handy if you want to save them all before a major update or re-installation. I also use it a lot on PCs with older operating systems (like Windows XP) because sometimes they are a real pain to try and find from the official OEM website (HP, I’m looking at you). It’s the kind of utility you wished Microsoft had just built directly into the Windows Device Manager.

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Converting a folder of text files into a well formatted CSV spreadsheet with PowerShell

We are in the process of changing over our Print Server and the first step on the plan was to get some data from all the computers on my network about which printers they had installed. This needed to grab the data from all users on all PCs so the only logical way to do this was to create logon script below and let it run for a week. In a previous post I discussed how PowerShell Export-CSV turns lovely tables in to garbage but now I needed to get a CSV from hundreds of separate text files …

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Resetting an HP LaserJet’s serial number – Send a PJL command over FTP in Windows 7

Users press buttons.

If something stops working as expected, they will probably press every button they can see before reaching out to IT for help.

While I’m all for self-service when it comes to IT issues, we had a recent problem where a user managed to perform an NVRAM reset* on one of our HP LaserJet printers! This wipes out the serial number, page counts etc. and replaces them with XXXXXXXXXX. Unfortunately the page counts seem lost for good but  to reset the serial number you need to send PJL commands directly to the printer.

This used to be done by connecting a PC to the printer via a parallel cable. You would then enter some DOS commands to copy a “PJL” file onto the printer for processing. You can also send the PJL file using the HP Firmware Update Utility/Tool but I can’t seem to find it available for download anywhere.

As I am writing this in 2013, I only have network printers and Windows 7 x64 to hand. After a lot of digging I managed to work out how to do it.

Continue reading Resetting an HP LaserJet’s serial number – Send a PJL command over FTP in Windows 7

PowerShell Export-CSV turns lovely tables in to garbage

powershell logo Following on from my promise to do better blogging in 2013, here’s something that frustrated me in PowerShell.

It stems from me being very much a beginner still in the PoSh ranks. Although, I’m using it more and more of late and starting to get the hang of it all

One issue I recently struggled with was when a user asked me if I could create a spreadsheet containing all the London staff phone numbers and email addresses. This sounded easy enough, I ran the following line of code and was happy with my results

Continue reading PowerShell Export-CSV turns lovely tables in to garbage

My HeadSpace: 2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog. They do this every year and it’s one of the reasons I love using WordPress as a blogging platform!

Here’s an excerpt:

19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 110,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

It seems like a long time since my last proper technical blog post, I blame OneNote for replacing my need to publish all my notes online! I intended to do at least one article a month but I was shocked to discover I only did 6 new articles in 2012, although I did update many existing ones. Even so, I’ve been getting impressive page views and glad to see the technical articles becoming more popular than fluffy ones (like my old 2009 Windows 7 theme packs posts from 2009)

As it is a new year, and I’m soon to be starting a new role, I thought it’s about time to share some of my problems to help others stuck in the same situation. Check back very soon for fresh, interesting and (hopefully) useful articles

Why now is as good a time as any to upgrade to Windows 7

Windows 7 branded mug of teaYou may be wondering why you would bother upgrading your existing Windows XP and Vista machines to Windows 7, when Windows 8 has just been released.

Whether you are a home user or a large company there are great benefits to be  had from upgrading and using your new Windows 7 PC as a stepping stone to Microsoft’s latest and greatest.

Windows XP recently celebrated its 10th birthday, a major achievement for it to keep such a stronghold but also a major issue when it  becomes time to change to something new. The are always scare stories when Microsoft releases a new OS. The fact of the matter is, change often creates such fear-mongering when really its an opportunity waiting to be taken advantage of.

Businesses stayed away from Windows 7 for 2 major reasons

  1. Windows Vista had a terrible launch, fraught with bad reviews and needing an extra expense of upgrading hardware
  2. Due to people sticking with XP, business software wasn’t upgraded and smaller bespoke software would cost a fortune to redevelop for a new OS

Nowadays, this isn’t as much of an issue. Windows 7 runs easily on hardware  over 4 years old and really flies on the latest kit. All major applications have been updated or can be delivered via modern methods like application virtualisation or by using tools like Microsoft’s free application compatibility toolkit or XP Mode. OS deployment technologies have moved on too, meaning you can upgrade people from XP to 7 in a couple of hours.

Continue reading Why now is as good a time as any to upgrade to Windows 7