Active Directory: Recovering Deleted Items

A while ago we accidentally deleted a leaving staff member’s account instead of disabling it – and pure bad luck means this particular member of staff came back a week later to cover a staff illness. Not wanting to have to re-create the account I discovered that the Active Directory Recycle Bin had not been enabled in the forest – oh no! Luckily we can still get the account back. Objects deleted in AD are tombstoned for 180 days (by default). Continue reading “Active Directory: Recovering Deleted Items”

Automating Teams School Data Sync – iSAMS

My two SDS profiles, automatically updated from the MIS

I don’t like things that can’t be automated. I started looking at School Data Sync (SDS) last year, however the templates provided by iSAMS, which is our school Management Information System, just gave a set of CSVs and you had to manually click to get them, then click to upload them into SDS. Since iSAMS has an API, I thought this was a bit of a silly way of doing things – who wants to go through a manual process every time a pupil changes class? So instead I wrote my own powershell to pull the data through the iSAMS API, then run through the New-Team cmdlet to create a team per class, and populate it with teachers and students.

As we’re a school we need our new teams to be running the Edu_Class template, but the template parameter on New-Team only exists in the preview (and in Graph, on the beta endpoint) where it has much harsher limitations on how often and fast you can call it – a nightmare trying to call it in a loop. Anyway with the addition of “Start-Sleep 30” in the loop I eventually got them all created. However this time I am having another look at SDS and using Power Automate (previously known as Flow) to make the process completely automatic.

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Wireless Guest Account Management

Wireless Guest Account creator – this is installed at both our receptions

One of my C# projects is an application to create guest accounts for the school wireless network. The wireless network is set up with 802.1X authentication, so we can log in using Active Directory user accounts.

The main parts of this system are:

  • Pass Generator application (C#) – creates the user accounts and prints tickets with instructions
  • Epson T88 based receipt printers – either USB or networked – to print the tickets
  • Powershell script to clean up any old accounts

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Delving into the “Last PXE Advertisement” flag

This post has actually come from having a look at the search queries coming up in my blog visit stats – “all active pxe flag deployements” – which seems like a good thing to look into.

If you’re trying to make a device collection you’ll find the LastPXEAdvertisement doesn’t appear to be available through the query builder UI. Here I’ll look into getting the data through PowerShell and then also putting it into a Device Collection within MEMCM. Continue reading “Delving into the “Last PXE Advertisement” flag”

Automated shutdown of devices

Scheduled Tasks to shutdown pushed out through Group Policy Preferences

In a drive to reduce power usage, I’ve tried a few times over the years at a way to shutdown computers but not if they are in use. I’ve tried using scheduled tasks set to only run when idle – in reality this doesn’t really work as we tend to have quite a lot of mice that move ever so slightly on their own, so the PCs never think they are idle. Even wrote a client/server application where the client reports when someone logs on, logs off, or switches user and when prompted to shutdown by the server, the client asks the logged on user if they want to go a head or cancel. This worked fine for a while but when we updated to Windows 10 it stopped working and needed a lot of time spent on working out what had changed. So I moved away from that method. Continue reading “Automated shutdown of devices”

PaperCut Print Release using RFID cards

RFID reader fitted to copier

A couple of years ago we replaced our copier fleet and moved to PaperCut MF, with a single print queue for the entire site and users had to go to their nearest copier and enter their code to release their printing. Almost perfect setup but people struggle to remember 5 digit codes, so I had a look at using their existing student/staff ID cards instead. We already sync Active Directory to PaperCut so the ideal solution would be storing the RFID codes in Active Directory, and using that data as the user’s login code in PaperCut.

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Powershell Printer Script

Over the last 15 years I’ve tried pretty much every method of adding printers at logon there is – KIXTART script, VBS, Group Policy Preferences and Powershell. As part of speeding up logon, and investigating a weird issue with Windows 10 printers, I moved away from GPP and to Powershell shortly after we upgraded from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10.

Some detail is show to the user, this form isn’t modal so won’t take over the screen, and if they close it the script carries on in the background.

The issue being – roughly 5% of the time, on random user/computer combinations, printers would take a long time adding and then fail to add, with a non-specific error message. My first go at this was a basic powershell script which had a hard coded list of location/printer mapping, and it would run the “add printer” command repeatedly until the error went away. (It always added fine on the 2nd go). The problem with this is that it’s a complicated script for technicians to update, and being a single threaded script the nice form it displays showing people what’s happening would freeze while it was working in the background.

My new script does the bulk of the work in background jobs – so printers add quicker (as it can do more than one at once), and the UI doesn’t lock up and freeze. More importantly, it uses Group Policy Preferences by reading the XML file generated and applies that – so technicians have the familiar interface for adding/removing printers from the script.  Continue reading “Powershell Printer Script”

Windows 10 Edition Upgrade – scripted without re-install

winver showing Education edition

We took delivery of 5 Surface Go tablets a while ago, as we are trialling a Surface Go paired up with a Microsoft Wireless Display adapter on the projector, to replace the traditional PC + interactive whiteboard. They came with Win 10 Pro pre-installed and I didn’t fancy re-imaging them (given at the time I didn’t have any Surface Docks, so no way to plug into the network). This post covers creating and running Powershell scripts through MEMCM as well as the script required to bump up the Windows edition.

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Windows 10 and Super fast logon times

Could be in for a long wait… let’s see if we can speed things up a bit.

I’ve been working at really cutting down the initial logon times – started last year, and again with me rolling out Windows 10 2004 I’ve had to struggle to remember what I actually did, one of the main reasons for my blog is helping out future Katy as she is very forgetful 🙂

This has always been something that has bugged me, as I remember in 2003 at university there was a Windows 2000/XP network with some sort of NetWare back end. The Windows 2000 PCs (libraries etc mostly) logged on in about 2 minutes, nice and speedy, but in the computing labs they ran XP and it was a 13 minute logon (literally 13 minutes as I timed it). Subsequent logons were also 13 minutes. Extremely frustrating, yet means I’ve always been dismissive of people complaining of a 90 second logon time.

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