Customizing the Text ScreenSaver with Group Policy

screensaver settings

“Customizing screensavers?” I hear you cry, “That’s a bit retro isn’t it?”

Nowadays screensavers have more or less disappeared. It makes much more sense to just turn off the screen after 10 minutes of inactivity. However, there are some instances where a screensaver can be useful, for example, an always-on kiosk or even digital signage.

One of the more useful standard screensavers in the Windows operating system is called “3D Text”. Useful because by default it will display the time but can be customized to display some text instead

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Group Policy Management Overview

gpmc iconWe use Group Policy to tweak the default settings on Microsoft Servers and PCs. You edit the policies using the Group Policy Editor console (gpedit.msc) but to manage the policies you use the Group Policy Management Console (gpmc.msc). The more policies you start to create, the more confusing managing them can become and with each new version of Microsoft software (Office included) new Group Policy templates are added. This article is to give you an insight into exactly what the Group Policy Management Console (GPMC) is about and how everything links together.

It’s always best to edit policies from the latest OS. This is one of the reasons to always have a VM somewhere with the latest OS purely for Group Policy. Alternatively, if you are using the latest OS then you can install the GPMC from the Remote Server Administration Tools (RSAT) and then edit the policies from there. If you don’t, it’s not a big issue but some policies won’t be available. All of the templates can be stored in a central location in Active Directory so they can be accessed by all domain machines. There is some debate whether it is best to have the policies held locally rather than in the central store but I think it works well. By default this is \\DCName\sysvol\domain.name\Policies\PolicyDefinitions. If you ever download a new template you will need to put it in there. For more details on activating the central store se the following Microsoft Support article

Inheritance & Precedence

Group Policies Objects (GPOs) are created in the Group Policy Objects folder in GPMC. Policies are then linked to Active Directory Organizational Units (OUs). You can link as many Policies as you like to an OU and you can also link the same policy to as many OUs as you like. You can also block inheritance by right-clicking an OU and disabling it. The precedence of any GPOs, i.e. what GPO policy wins out of any competing policies, can be changed in the Linked GPO tab of an OU. Normally the deepest policy wins.

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How to Migrate Windows Deployment Services to a new Server

When we first started using Windows Deployment Services (WDS) it was installed as a test on our backup server. It came to the point where we wanted to put it on a more permanent server with some built in hardware redundancy. Luckily this was easy to do.

In the following example I migrated WDS from a Windows 2003 R2 x64 server to a Windows 2003 R2 x86 server

Step 1 – Install WDS

Install WDS from the component wizard

  • On the new server open the Add/Remove programs control panel (appwiz.cpl)
  • Click the Add/Remove Windows Components button to open the “Windows Component Wizard”
  • Scroll down the list and tick the “Windows Deployment Services” box
  • After the wizard is completed, set up the WDS as you did on the old server. Make sure you untick the box to “add images” at the end of the wizard.

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Changes in how Network Adapters are shared from Hyper-V to Hyper-V R2

Setting up a Virtual LAN is one of the initial tasks when getting started with Hyper-V. It involves dedicating a physical network adapter (NIC) in the host machine to be used by the any VMs you create. You are able to create as many virtual LANs as you have NICs in the server. This process converts any NIC into a virtual switch to be used connected to as many VMS as you like.

As most servers nowadays come with at least 2 NICs built in you are presented with a number of choices for how you utilise them

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How to merge two small active directory domains quickly and easily

This article describes the steps I took when we decided to merge to sister companies into one domain. I have, in the past, used the Active Directory Migration Tool. The ADMT, currently at version 3.0 “provides an integrated toolset to facilitate migration and restructuring tasks in an Active Directory infrastructure”. It works great and has loads of guidance on how to go about the daunting task of migrating 200 users from an NT 4 domain to Active Directory, merging domains or restructuring numerous sub-domains. However, it involves a lot of planning and background fiddling to get it working. In my current situation I needed to migrate only 20 users to our main domain so I didn’t really want the hassle of reading through the mammoth migration guide. Neither did I want to add everybody one by one. Therefore, I created the following method that did everything I needed as quickly as possible, without making my brain hurt 🙂

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