Connect to VPN on Startup Before Login

If like me you have a need to establish a VPN from a host to another or even to a secure management network, you might like to configure your host device to establish a connection at boot rather than lose remote connectivity if the device reboots. In my case I chose to use OpenVPN Cloud as it was a simple 2 node requirement, I was able to get the host specific configuration by following the guide from https://openvpn.net, check it out here https://openvpn.net/cloud-docs/switching-to-manual-profile-distribution-creating-a-device/

To achieve this using OpenVPN, simply download and install the OpenVPN client most suited to your environment https://openvpn.net/index.php/open-source/downloads.html

Install the client, this guide assumes the defaults. Once complete, place your configuration file in the folder C:\Program Files\OpenVPN\config\ and open Task Scheduler. Click Action followed by Create Task, name the task and provide a description as appropriate. Select the Run whether user is logged on or not and set Run with highest priveleges, change the Operating system for which the task is meant.

Click the Triggers tab, New and change the task to begin At startup. I set the task to delay for 1 minute but that is entirely up to you, once you’re happy click OK. Click the Actions tab, with the Action set to be Start a program and enter the following under Program/script;

"C:\Program Files\OpenVPN\bin\openvpn-gui.exe"

Add the arguments to ensure the correct profile is selected

--connect YourVPNFileNameHere.ovpn

Next click on the Conditions tab and deselect everything, unless you want one of the settings enable. We then open the Settings tab but leave all of the defaults, only adding a tick for Run task as soon as possible after a scheduled start is missed, just in case the host gets caught up with other processes. Then we just press OK.

Then all that is left is to test it.

Connect to AzureAD

Quite often the basic logic of how to connect to Azure Active Directory with PowerShell is omitted in so many of these how to guides and for this reason I’ve added the references below. If for no other reason than to allow me to refer back to in the future.

Below is Microsoft’s documentation on Azure Active Directory PowerShell 2.0;

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/powershell/azure/active-directory/install-adv2?view=azureadps-2.0

If your machine meets the prerequisites, the following command will install the General Availability version of the module on your computer

Install-Module AzureAD

Prior to any cmdlets being run, the Connect-AzureAD command should be run in PowerShell. Running this command will prompt for credentials which can be pre-empted using the $AzureAdCred = Get-Credential command.

$AzureAdCred = Get-Credential
Connect-AzureAD -Credential $AzureAdCred

Once complete, you’ll be connected to AzureAD and able to run further commands found here https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/powershell/module/azuread/?view=azureadps-2.0#azuread

Microsoft Collecting More Data of Windows 10 Users than Initially Thought

Microsoft Collecting More Data of Windows 10 Users than Initially Thought

After several controversial data mining and privacy invasion features within Microsoft’s newest operating system, Microsoft continued convincing its users that Windows 10 is not spying on anyone and that the company is not collecting more data than it needs.
In addition, Microsoft also updated its privacy policy in order to clear how and when Windows 10 utilizes users’ data.

See the full story here:

http://thehackernews.com/2016/01/windows10-privacy-data.html

Get the Start Menu back

If like me you have ignored the cries of frustration from others about how Windows 8 or 8.1 have stolen the Start Menu then fear not as there are several solutions kindly provided by great people. Below are a couple of links that are by no means exhaustive but will give you an idea of how to claw your functionality back. If you choose to install any third party softare, please ensure you read the instructions and don’t install anything you don’t want to.

Start Menu 8 – http://www.iobit.com/iobitstartmenu8.php

Classic Shell – http://www.classicshell.net/

Skypes little known in chat commands

If  found myself needing to give admin rights to everyone in my skype chat group but couldn’t find anything to support it in the GUI, then I descovered the Skype commands buried in their website. Below are some key entries, all of which are entered in the chat bar;

  • /kick [Skype Name] – removes the user from the group, they can later be added
  • /setrole [Skype Name] MASTER – sets the user stipulated as an aditional admin
  • /showmembers – displays a list of members and their role
  • /info – shows number of people in the chat and maximum number available

For more detailed information visit https://support.skype.com/en/faq/FA10042/what-are-chat-commands-and-roles?

Small Business Server 2011 – Installing

Insert the CD and power on the server, ensuring that it is set to boot from CD/DVD. Allow the software to run and continue until you are presented with an “Install Windows” dialogue box, select your language settings (in my case English UK) and ensure it is correct for your keyboard before clicking Next. Another screen should now ask if you want to Install or repair, click  Install Now. Setup will then present the license terms and ask you to confirm by ticking the accept box and then clicking Next. The next stage of installation is to choose whether to upgrade or custom, in this case it is custom as it is a fresh install, you will then be asked about what disk to use, no change should be necessary so click Next. Windows will then run through its own checklist, your system specs will decide how long this takes.

Now SBS 2011 needs to be configured and asks if it should be part of a migration or clean install, in this case tick Clean Install and click Next. Provided your hardware meets the minimum standards, if however there is an issue it will tell you what needs to be resolved. Verify the time and click Next, at this point you need to choose whether to automatically detect network settings or set them manually, in this case I shall set automatic and click Next. Now select your update method, I will select the recommended setting of keep uptodate.

Following a brief process you will then be asked to enter your company details before clicking Next. Then your chosen server name and the internal domain name need to be set, bear in mind that you will not be able to change this once committed, click Next. After a short time you will be asked to enter your administrators details, note the account “Administrator” is already a provisioned account and cannot be used, click Next. A summary screen will then be presented and a final warning that domain details cannot be altered, if you are happy with what is stated click Next. Configuration will take quite some time but will eventually present a “Installation Finished” window, where any errors will then also be displayed, if there are any just click to view them and try and resolve them as you see them.

SBS 2011 is now installed, though will need some configuring to bring it up to scratch. You are now presented with the standard console where the configuration can be manipulated to fit your needs.

Taskbar missing

In the event that the taskbar appears to have disappeared, the following should resolve the issue;

  • Run cmd.exe, its located at C:\Windows\System32\cmd.exe
  • Type Start wmic (i sadly can’t seem to find wmic location, thats why i do it like this, but its the only command prompt capable of fixing this problem)
  • In Wmic, type this exact sentence: Process where name=”explorer.exe” call terminate
  • When it asks if you want to execute it, type Y and hit enter.
  • Normally, explorer.exe should automatically be re-started and the bar will appear again, should this not happen type this sentence: process call create “explorer.exe”
  • When it asks if you want to execute, type Y and hit enter.

Installing Server 2012

Insert the installation media and boot the device, ensuring the device is set to boot from the appropriate drive.

Select the appropriate install language and then the time/currency format, the keyboard should then auto set but can be changed if needed. Click Next .

Click Install Now.

Select which version of Server 2012 you wish to install, eg Standard or Datacenter and then either Core or GUI and Click Next .

Read the License Terms and tick the acceptance box (bottom left) and Click Next .

Choose whether to do an upgrade or custom, in this case we select custom as it is a fresh install.

Select the drive you wish to use for the installation, we are going to use the full drive of one partition and Click Next .

Windows will begin its’ setup process and may take a while depending on your system. After a while all of the tasks will be ticked and the system will restart, alternatively if you are in a hurryClick Restart Now .

On reboot you may be asked to change the password for the Administrator. Enter your password once in each box to confirm no errors and Finish, then Windows will finalise the installation. You will then be faced with the server 2012 screen and will need to press ctrl+alt+delete to enter your password. Server 2012 is now installed in its base configuration.