The MDT and Office 2013 Click-to-Run Jigsaw Puzzle

office 2013 iconsIf you are trying to deploy a click-to-run (C2R) version of Office 2013/365 then it’s time to forget everything you knew about deploying office and start from a clean slate!

Due to Office 2013’s Cloud-based nature it is set up a bit differently to the traditional CD/MSI approach. This is fine if it’s your personal copy but what about deploying it to an whole office of PCs?

IT pros have been using the Microsoft Installer (MSI) technology for years to silently install Office programs. You can use a mix of existing switches to update and patch Office installations using Group Policy, scripts, Office Customization Tool (OCT) or the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT).  However, Microsoft, in their wisdom, decided to offer a brand new deployment methodology for Office 2013, Click-To-Run. There is still an MSI version out there but it is only available for the Volume Licensed customers, which means, if your business was used to buying the much cheaper Product Key Card (PKC) licenses, you are stuck with C2R. Oh, and by the way, WSUS can’t be used to update it either.

We came across this issue when we purchased and job lot of PKCs for Office Home and Business 2013. This includes Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. This seems like an ideal buy for most small businesses as it includes all of the core Office apps that your average user would need. However, when it comes to deploying, customising and activating it is about as far from business-ready as you can get! I struggled for weeks trying to get things working correctly to allow a smooth integration with our Windows 7 deployment, I did finally get there, but I hit so many brick walls I almost gave up trying. The worst part is when you get a stock “You should buy Volume Licenses” response… erm yeh, I wish I knew that 3 months ago before the money was spent.

So here is my ultimate guide to installing, customising and activating Office 2013 C2R editions. It’s not going to be pretty but it will get you someway to a mostly automated and controlled deployment. It is specifically tailored towards Office 2013 Home and Business but should work for any Office 2013 C2R version that needs to be deployed in a Windows Domain

Continue reading The MDT and Office 2013 Click-to-Run Jigsaw Puzzle

Legacy: Silently Install Crystal Reports Viewer 2

File this one under PITA.

As part of our #XPMustDie campaign we sometimes come across old software that simply cannot be updated in time. It’s usually some bespoke system that will take a lot of time and money to re-write or upgrade. In my opinion, it is better to get the OS secure and let an old legacy app run, than to keep a dusty Windows XP PC just for the use of one program. Of course, the ideal solution may be to virtualise the app but if you don’t have the infrastructure in place already then that may be cost-prohibitive or time consuming as well.

One such app we need to use is  Crystal Reports Viewer 2.0. This is completely unsupported by the publisher (SAP) and means it is very difficult to track down files or documentation.

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Importing Trusted Certificates onto Legacy Wyse WinTerms

Overview

Root Certificates are used by web browsers to identify a trust with web sites. When root certificates expire, Windows usually auto-updates them (Vista and above) or deploys them through Microsoft Update (Windows XP). The Windows CE 5 operating system on the Wyse 3150 WinTerm (windows terminal) has no automatic way of updating them so they must be imported manually.

We had this situation arise when our remote users complained that they were unable to log on to one of our Citrix Servers. All they would get was an SSL Error 70 message when they tried to load the virtual desktop. Luckily, one of the more up to date terminals gave a more specific error, stating that one of the certificates, from GlobalSign, had expired. So my challenge became to get the latest one imported manually.

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2013 Blog Stats in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog. Despite only having 8 new posts I feel like I’ve reconnected with my blog a bit and hopefully will be adding more useful articles on it soon. Thanks for reading 🙂

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 130,000 times in 2013. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 6 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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.

Image

Continue reading My Toolbox – Quick and easy driver backup with Double Driver

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