Category Archives: Others

Squared Up Hit The Road

Written by Tao Yang

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Recently Squared Up has announced they will be travelling around Europe to meet their customers in person: https://squaredup.com/squared-up-hit-the-road/

The road trip is going to start in less than 2 weeks, the first stop will be Utrecht, Netherlands. If you are in the area, and would like to learn more about Squared Up dashboard for OpsMgr, please register and reserve your spot now at: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/system-center-community-event-tickets-18451967331

Squared Up will provide food and drinks, and I’m sure it will be a lot of fun.

After the Netherlands event, the second stop would be Gothenburg, Sweden on 7th October for Approved Consulting’s SCOM day – http://www.approved.se/lasning/nyheter/item/57-scom-dagen-7-oktober-2015.

So, if you are interested to meet Squared Up in person, and learn more about what’s in their pipeline, don’t miss these events!

Spend Your Money Wisely

Written by Tao Yang

spendingAs what I’d like to consider myself as – a seasoned System Center specialist, I have benefitted from many awesome resources from the community during my career in System Center. These resources consist of blogs, whitepapers, training videos, management packs and various tools and utilities. Although some of them are not free (and in my opinion, they are not free for a good reason), but large percentage of these resources I value the most are all free of charge.

This is what I like the most about the System Center community. Over the last few years, I got to know many unselfish people and organisations in the System Center space, who have made their valuable work completely free and open source for the broader community. Due to what I am going to talk about in this post, I am not going to mention any names in this post (unless I absolutely have to) . But if anyone is interested t know my opinion, I’m happy to write a separate post introducing what I believe are valuable resources.

First of all, I’m just going to put it out there, I am not upset, and this is not going to be a rant and I’m trying to stay positive.

I started working on System Center around 2007-2008 (ConfigMgr and OpsMgr at that time) . I started working on OpsMgr because my then colleague and now fellow SCCDM MVP (like I mentioned, not going to mention names) has left the company we were working for and I had to pick up the MOM 2005 to OpsMgr 2007 project he left behind. The very first task for me was to figure out a way to pass the server’s NetBIOS name to the help desk ticketing system and I managed to achieve this by creating a PowerShell script and utilised the command notification channel to execute the script when alerts were raised. I then used the same concept and developed a PowerShell script to be used in the command notification to send content rich notification emails which covered many information not available from native email notification channel.

When I started blogging 5 years ago, this script was one of the very first posts I published here. I named this solution “Enhanced SCOM Alert Notification Emails”. Since it was published, it has received many positive feedbacks and recommendations. I have since published the updated version (2.0) here:

http://blog.tyang.org/2012/08/16/scom-enhanced-email-notification-script-version-2/

After version 2.0 was published, a fellow member in the System Center community, Mr. Tyson Paul has contacted me, told me he has updated my script. I was really happy to see my work got carried on by other members in the community and since then, Tyson has already made several updates to this script and published it on his blog (for free of course):

Version 2.1: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/tysonpaul/archive/2014/08/04/scom-enhanced-email-notification-script-version-2-1.aspx

Version 2.2: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/tysonpaul/archive/2015/01/30/scom-enhanced-email-notification-script-version-2-2.aspx

This morning, I have received an email from a person I have never heard of. This person told me his organisation has developed a commercial solution called “Enhanced Notification Service for SCOM” and I can request a NFR by filling out a form from his website. As the name suggests (and I had a look on the website), it does exactly what mine and Tyson’s script does – sending HTML based notification emails which include content rich information including associated knowledge articles.

Well, to be fair, on their website, they did mention a limitation of running command notifications that you have a AsyncProcessLimit of 5. But, there is a way to increase this limit and if your environment is still hitting the limit after you’ve increased it, I believe you have a more serious issue to fix (i.e. alert storm) rather than enjoying reading those “sexy” notification emails. Anyways, I don’t want to get into technical argument here, it’s not the intention of this post.

So, do I think someone took my idea and work from Tyson and myself? It is pretty obvious, make your own judgement. Am I upset? not really. If I want to make a profit from this solution, I wouldn’t have published out on my blog in the first place. And believe me, there are many solutions and proof-of-concepts I have developed in the past that I sincerely hope some software vendors can pickup and develop a commercial solution for the community – simply I don’t have the time and resources to do all these by myself (i.e. my recently published post on managing ConfigMgr log files using OMS would be a good commercial solution).

In the past, I have also seen people took scripts I published on my blog, replaced my name with theirs from the comment section and published it on social media without mentioning me whatsoever. I knew it was my script because other comments in the script are identical to my initial version. When I saw it, I have decided not to let these kind behaviour get under my skin, and I believe the best way to handle it is to let it go. So, I am not upset when I read this email today. Instead, I laughed! Hey, if this organisation can make people to pay $2 per OpsMgr agent per year (which means for a fully loaded OpsMgr management group would cost $30k per year for “sexy” notification emails), all I’m going to say is:

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However, I do want to advise the broader System Center community: Please spend your money wisely!

There is only so much honey in the pot. You all have a budget. This is what the economist would call Opportunity Cost. If you have a certain needs or requirement and you can satisfy your requirement using free solutions, you can spend your budget on something that has a higher Price-Performance Ratio. If you think there’s a gap between the free and paid solution, please ask your self these questions:

  • Are these gaps really cost me this much?
  • Are there any ways to overcome this gap?
  • Have I reached out the the SMEs and confirm if this is a reasonable price?
  • How much would it cost me if I develop an in-house solution?

Lastly, I receive many emails from people in the community asking me for advise, and providing feedback to the tools I have published. I am trying my best to make sure I answer all the emails (and apologies if I have missed). So if you have any doubts in the future that you’d like to know my opinion, please feel free to contact me. And I am certain, not only myself, but other SMEs and activists in the System Center community would also love to help a fellow community member.

MVP Calling for Help From the Community

Written by Tao Yang

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SCOMBobOK, I don’t blog about my personal life on this blog at all, and I don’t think I have ever blogged anything that’s not technical or my career related on this blog. Well, this is going to be the first non-technical post on this blog.

If you follow my blog for System Center and OpsMgr related content, you must have also heard the name Bob Cornelissen(Blog, Twitter) before. Bob is a fellow System Center Cloud and Datacenter (SCCDM) MVP from the Netherland. Bob is also one of the authors for the Mastering System Center 2012 Operations Manager book.

Bob is a person that I really respect not only because of his technical expertise and contribution to the community, but also what he is doing out side of his professional career. Being a MVP myself, I know what is sharing knowledge’s and helping communities is all about. It is in our DNA and just a part of what we do. But it is rare to see someone extend his/her kind heart to outside of the technical community, in Bob’s case, to another species – dogs!

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Bob and his wife runs a charity dog sanctuary in Thailand. This charity sanctuary is called Leks House of Tails (http://lekshouseoftails.azurewebsites.net/). Bob once told me they have started taking homeless dogs from the streets of Thailand, and started looking after them. When Bob told me if they didn’t take those dogs in, they would have ended up been killed and sold in the market, I know it is true because of my Asian background and I know dog meat is very popular in Asian countries! I grew up in China and only moved to Australia after graduating from high school. I still remember when I was a little boy (around 6-7, or even younger), I once saw few men captured a homeless dog on the street, tied the dog on a tree, and use a big wooden bat beaten the dog to death in the broad daylight! I witness the whole thing as my grandfather stood next to me with 10-20 pedestrians on the street. It’s not something you can easily forget, the image, the sound the dog made, still staying in my head. When I got older, i learnt it is a way to tenderise the meat – by beating the dog to death! So, without Bob and his wife’s help, I don’t even want to think about the destiny of these lovely dogs.

As a previous dog owner, My wife and I once had 2 dogs at the same time. I know how much money and effort is needed in order to take care of our dogs. Imaging what is like for Bob and his wife, looking after 50-60 dogs??  It’s definitely not easy – dogs need food, a roof over their heads, blankets, place to sleep, medicine, carers, etc.

I know Bob wouldn’t publicly asking for help from the community, so I will do it for him:

Those dogs really need our support. We would be greatly appreciate if you could help Leks House of Tails financially: http://lekshouseoftails.azurewebsites.net/?page_id=222

Other than donation, I think there are also other ways that you could help Bob and his dog sanctuary, i.e. placing System Center related adverts on Bob’s blog, etc.

Lastly, our good Friend and fellow CDM MVP Cameron Fuller has also blogged about Leks House of Tails few month ago, you can read Cameron’s article here: http://blogs.catapultsystems.com/cfuller/archive/2015/04/16/what-is-new-and-coming-soon-to-the-microsoft-monitoring-world-and-helping-a-good-cause-opinsights-scom-opsmgr-sysctr/

Next Step in My Career

Written by Tao Yang

 

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Back in September 2011, after a short and unpleasant contracting experience, I joint a large Australian retailer as a senior systems engineer, focusing on their System Center infrastructure. I chose this company because the office location is close to home, the role was interesting (have a VERY large System Center environment to play with), and my wife and I were expecting a baby so I thought a permanent role suited me better. Now looking back the 3.5 years I have spent there, I have involved in multiple System Center implementation and upgrade projects, written countless amount of management packs, trained many of my colleagues in various System Center products, and most importantly, continued blogging on this blog and earned my System Center Cloud and Datacenter Management MVP title.

Like all good things come to an end, I have realised it is time for me to move on and I have tendered my resignation 2 weeks ago. My last day as a full time employee there is Friday 1st of May 2015.

Last year, shortly after I became a MVP, I attempted to partner with another MVP to start a company called Sparq Consulting. Unfortunately, Sparq never took off and worked out for me. Until this date, it is still nothing but a verbal agreement. I have no legal obligation nor signed any contracts with Sparq. Therefore, I have decided to separate from Sparq and become an independent / freelance consultant.

After meeting with my accountant, I was told I need to register a company. As I am very bad with names, my wife suggested me to just use my initials as company name. Therefore, I named my company TY Consulting.

Moving forward, I am still going to keep blogging on this blog, but in order to help myself promoting TY Consulting, any new tools such as management packs, modules, scripts etc. will be released under TY Consulting and download links will be provided from it’s website www.tyconsulting.com.au. Over the last month or so, I’ve been working on an OpsMgr management pack that enables OpsMgr users to synchronise the health state from a monitoring object managed by a remote management group. I have already released this management pack on www.tyconsulting.com.au, I will write about it in the next blog post shortly after this.

Lastly, and most importantly, for all the folks out there in the broader System Center community, please DO contact me when you are looking for System Center consultants, I am now open for business!

This Concludes My Year 2014

Written by Tao Yang

It is one day away from the holiday season of the year. And I have worked HARD over the last few days so I can post my last technical post for the year 2014 before holidays.

First of all, I’d like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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2014 has been a fantastic year for me. Here are some of the highlights for me in 2014:

I’ve been awarded as a Microsoft System Center Cloud and Data Center Management MVP for the first time in 1st July 2014.

This is truly my biggest accomplishment of the year. Not to mention being nominated by one of the most well known community leaders in System Center is an accomplishment by itself.

As part of a project team, the project team and I have successfully implemented one of the largest System Center 2012 infrastructures in the country (based on number of seats and number of System Center components implemented).

For those who knows me well, you probably know which one am I talking about Smile.

Had privilege and opportunity to attend Microsoft Global MVP Summit held in Redmond WA in November

I am so glad that I had the opportunity to attend such a wonderful event. Although pretty much everything is under NDA, I can’t really talk about the content of the sessions. I think I can share some pictures here (Some taken from the camera on my phone, some from the SLRs of other SCCDM MVPs).

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Had opportunities to meet many big names (MVPs and Microsoft employees) in System Center during the MVP summit. Many of those have become good friends too.

I brought a lot of Tim Tam and Kangaroo Jerky to the summit. I didn’t expect Tim Tam to be so popular Smile. If I get awarded again in July 2015, I will make sure I’ll use a bigger suitcase for Tim Tam for the MVP Summit 2015.

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Released a few new and updated Management Packs (ConfigMgr client MP, OpsMgr Self Maintenance MP, SCOM Maintenance Mode Scheduler MP, etc.), OpsMgr dashboards, PowerShell Scripts, SMA Modules etc. to the community.

I’ve lost count, but they should be all on this blog Smile.

Have written 63 blog posts (including this one) in total.

I don’t think the number is very high (only about 5 posts per month), but I’m trying my best Smile. Some of these posts are posting MPs, scripts etc. that I have spent a very long time on. Based on the content, I personally think this is quiet an achievement!

Clocked up over 170,000 hits on this blog in 2014 (to date).

Well, I think I still have a long way to go if comparing with some other popular System Center blogs (Not that I will turn this into a pissing contest). However t is a steady increase from 2013. But I’m sure I’ll do better next year.

What’s Next?

If everything goes as planned, this post will be my final words for 2014. I am taking some time off during the holiday seasons (well, not too long, going back to work on 5th Jan).

During my time off, I will probably spend few days working on an automation solution for OpsMgr – Something I’ve been working on during my spare time since August this year. This leads to the next point.

MVP ComCamp 2015

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I have been chosen to speak at the MVP Community Camp 2015 in Melbourne on Friday 30th Jan 2015. I will be presenting the topic “Automating SCOM tasks using SMA”. This is something I’ve been working on since August this year. Personally, I think what I have done so far is really cool. This event is going to be held at the Microsoft Melbourne office at Freshwater Place, South Bank, Melbourne. Besides myself, a veteran MVP in System Center ConfigMgr, James Bannan will also deliver a session in Enterprise Mobility Suite in this event.  If you are based in Melbourne, please check out the detail of this event and sessions HERE. I am looking forward to speaking to the Melbourne based System Center folks Smile.

Lastly, I wish everyone have a wonderful time during this holiday season. I will be back in 2015 Smile.

What Have I Been Up To

Written by Tao Yang

This blog has been a bit quiet lately. This is because I have been very busy, and it’s just all the things I’ve been working on have not been eventuated yet. I just want to quickly post a short update here to share some information with everyone.

ConfigMgr 2012 Client Management Pack Update

I have spent the last couple of weeks updating the ConfigMgr 2012 Client Management Pack. I thought it would only take me few days but it turned out it has taken a lot longer than what I expected (2 solid weeks with over 10 hours each day including weekends). Having said that, there has been a lot of changes and bug fixes in the new release. I have completed the beta version last night and I’m currently testing it with my fellow SCCDM MVP Stanislav Zhelyazkov. I’ll let the beta version running in the test environments for few more days, so hopefully if nothing goes wrong, it will be released in the coming days.

A Custom OpsMgr PowerShell Module for SMA

I started writing a number of OpsMgr PowerShell functions that directly interact with OpsMgr SDK. These functions can be used to create management packs, various rules and monitors. I then transformed these functions into a standalone PowerShell module which can be imported into SMA as Integration Modules. Unlike the built-in OpsMgr module in SMA, this is not a portable module, it does not require SMA runbook workers to install the native OpsMgr 2012 module.

I will be presenting this module in the Melbourne System Center, Security & Infrastructure group next Thursday night (25th September 2014) at Microsoft’s Melbourne office in Southbank with Dan Kregor. We will demonstrate how to automate OpsMgr management packs creation using this module, alone with SMA, Orchestrator and Sharepoint 2013.

To date, I have spent over 2 months working on this project and have already written around 2000 lines of code. I’m really excited with what this solution does and I think it’s pretty cool. If you live in Melbourne and interested in attending, the RSVP detail can be found on the user group website: http://mscsig.azurewebsites.net/

After the user group meeting, I will also document this solution and make it available to the community.

This Blog Gets A Major Facelift

Written by Tao Yang

I have kept the same theme on this WordPress blog since day 1. It has been 4 years and I started getting sick of it. Especially that picture of an old iPhone on the top of the page. I finally got around to update the theme today.

I’ve also changed the site title to a more suitable one: “Tao Yang’s System Center Blog”.

Special thanks to my wife – The background picture was taken by her using her Nikon D90 in Fiji few years ago.

Bye bye to the old look,

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Sometimes I wish there are more artistic gene in me. I’m still not 100% satisfied with the look, but this is the best I can do for now.

An Alternative for Surface Pro Docking Stations

Written by Tao Yang

I bought my Surface Pro 2 last November – third week after it was released in Australia. I only got it on the third week because I was on holidays in China when it was released and all the resellers ran out of stock when I came back.

I also bought a type cover 2 the same time. I really wanted to get the power cover and the docking station, but they weren’t released back then. I thought I’d get the type cover for now and get the power cover and the docking station when they became available in Australia.

Guess what, I was still waiting when Microsoft announced the Surface 3 release date. I sort of got the idea, they will probably never come to Australia.

For me, a power keyboard is a nice-to-have, but I really want a docking station! Therefore, I have to look elsewhere. I soon found 2 possible alternatives (USB 3 docking stations).

Toshiba Dynadock V.S. Targus USB 3 Dual Video Dock

Toshiba Dynadock U3.0

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Targus USB3.0 SuperSpeed Dual Video Docking Station

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Both of them have similar specs, The local retail price for the Toshiba one is around AUD $160 and Targus is around $180 (currently $1 AUD = $0.94 USD). I’ve decided to go for the Tagus one simply because the Toshiba dock is vertical with a stand, it will be harder to carry around (if I want to). The Targus dock seems to be more portable to me.

So instead of buying it in a retail shop, I managed to find a seller on eBay U.S. who accepts “Best Price”. After bargaining the price back and forth few times, I managed to get a brand new one for $85 USD. with international shipping, in the end, I paid AUD $118, which I’m very happy about the price!

Targus Dock V.S. Surface Dock

Here’s a specs comparison between the Targus dock and the Surface Pro 2 dock:

Targus USB3.0 Dual Video Dock Surface Pro 2 Dock
Video 1xDVI, 1xHDMI 1xMini Display Port
USB Ports 2xUSB3, 4xUSB2 1xUSB3, 3xUSB2
NIC 1xGB NIC 1x 10/100 NIC
Audio 1x 3.5mm speaker, 1×3.5mm mic 1x 3.5mm speaker, 1×3.5mm mic
Power Supply for Surface No Yes
Security Lock Yes No

The Targus dock also comes with a DVI-To-VGA adapter and a HDMI-To-DVI adapter to cater for different monitor connections. Based on the comparison above, the Targus dock is definitely more feature rich. Since I’ve already bought a spare Surface Pro 2 power supply from eBay, I didn’t mind the fact that I can’t power the Surface with this dock.

More Pictures

Here’s the back view:

Targus Back

Using it with my Surface Pro 2:

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Physical size comparing with Surface Pro 2:

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Drivers

I have no problems with drivers, all the drivers got automatically installed when I connected them for the first time.

Cameron Fuller wrote an article on his experience with Surface 2 RT: Using the Surface 2 RT like a Pro-fessional. In Cameron’s article, he listed all the hardware accessories that he has purchased for the RT device. I’m guessing RT devices would always face compatibility issues because of drivers, I haven’t been managed to find an RT device to test this dock with, so I’m not sure if it supports Windows RT.

Replacement for Other Devices

Down here in Australia, I looked up prices for a USB 3 video adapter. it is around $100 AUD (around $94 USD). By getting a docking station like this, it is equivalent of getting:

  • 2x USB 3 video adapter
  • 1x USB 3 or USB 2 hub
  • 1x GB USB NIC

So it is definitely a cheaper option to get the dock instead, not to mention you end up with only one device on your desk.

So now, even if Surface docking station has been made available in Australian market, I’d still stick with this Targus dock, simply because I can connect 2 external monitors.

The only thing I haven’t tried is testing PXE through the NIC port on this dock. If someone has already tried it, please let me know Smile.

MVP Award

Written by Tao Yang

Last night, I got an email from Microsoft and I have received the MVP Award for System Center Cloud and Datacenter Management. I’m so excited and honoured that I have been presented this wonderful award.

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I started blogging in this blog 4 years ago because I thought I have learnt a lot from the community and I have something to share. I still remember the day when I sat on the couch setting up this blog while watching South Africa FIFA World Cup back in 2010. now 4 years later, I received this award during Brazil World Cup 2014 Smile.

I’d like to thank everyone in the System Center community for sharing and caring. The following blogs and web sites have been particularly helpful to me along the way (in alphabetical order):

I am looking forward to the next 12 months to come and I’ll definitely be even more involved in such a wonderful community!

By the way, it is good to see my old colleague and friend, the Inside Podcast host Dan Kregor also received his MVP award for the first time yesterday. Congrats Dan!

System Center 2012 R2 Icons

Written by Tao Yang

A while ago I extracted the icons from each System Center 2012 R2 products so I can use them in various Visio diagrams, PowerPoint presentations and Word documents. Yesterday I dug it out to use one of the icons. I thought other people may want to use them too. So here’s the zip file containing these icons (in both ico and png format):

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System Center 2012 R2 Icons

Note: I found an online ico to png converter, so each icon has been converted to different sizes of png files to something like this:

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