I was recently introduced to Office 2016 and along with it Outlook 2016. I am techy, I like new stuff, I embrace change… this isn’t about me just being stuck in my ways. In short, the thematic approach that Microsoft has taken in its 2016 office products is what I call “ocular assault.” Did they just allow the hipsters in the graphics design department (who all secretly probably use “I-devices” anyhow and never actually touch Microsoft Office) to do whatever the heck they wanted without actually running it by someone… (anyone?!) with a background in ergonomics? Heck, how about just doing some studies with some people that use it?

I tried to use Outlook 2016 for a few hours yesterday… I felt like my eyes were going to bleed after about 10 minutes. The fonts are a mess, the spacing of elements is atrocious, everything just blends together into one big chaotic mess… My A.D.D. brain wanted to explode as it tried to focus on individual elements amidst the tumult of BLAH… ALL I WANT TO DO IS READ AND WRITE EMAILS AND KEEP THINGS ORGANIZED. Now, let me tell you what I really think…

Seriously now dear people of Redmond… a 2 minute Google (or a 30 minute Bing!) search reveals legions of users that all agree. You screwed up badly with office 2016. You only offer about 4 options for changing color schemes, none of which are any better, and there is no option for custom theming or plugins that I can find…. goodness.

The sad thing is that someone (or many someones) in some other department at Microsoft probably have done a heck of a great job of integrating new features that would make my life a lot easier as a heavy Outlook user. Alas, I will never find them and will keep trucking with Outlook 2010. Outlook 2010 isn’t beautiful by any stretch but here is the key… it’s an OFFICE application and is meant to be USABLE FIRST.

Please, Microsoft… fire your entire graphics design department and replace them with all of the people in cheap grey baggy suits and “power ties” that still think Adobe Flash is a “nifty innovation.” These fine people might not be flashy themselves… they might not like Photoshop… they may have never taken a picture of crumpled paper on the ground and called it art… they might still be using Blackberry’s (or perhaps their last upgrade was to a “Windows Phone” product)… ALL OF THIS MIGHT BE TRUE… but they never would have committed the atrocity that is the visual design of the latest office products. Bring back the visual design crew from Office 2010 and let them go “buck wild” and party likes it’s 1999 for the release of Office 2020.


I regularly use the Microsoft Windows sysprep tool to create template Windows Server 2012 R2 systems for wider deploy using cloning. Sysprep is used to modify a pre-configured Windows system and create an image or “template” so that you can create unique copies of it for faster system deployment. Failure to use syprep before cloning a windows machine can cause odd issues, especially in an enterprise environment with Active Directory.

Sysprep is a wonderful tool but it has a few quirks. One such quirk is that it routinely wipes out all of the mounted drive information other than the system drive. This means every time you create a clone from a sysprep’d system image you have to go through and re-assign drive letters. This is fine on a simple server with one extra data server. This is a hassle on a database server which might have five extra drives.

After dealing with this again recently I finally decided to do a google search and came across a simple solution: (more…)

I have been taking a free networking class from Stanford University’s online “open source” education platform. I have really been enjoying the first unit of the course as it has started filling in some gaps in the foundation of my understanding regarding networking, the internet, and TCP/IP. I highly recommend this to anyone that has been in IT for a while but has never taken a more “academic” approach to their work. Okay, so that is my plug for free education. You can check out more here if interested: https://lagunita.stanford.edu/

OSI 7-Layer Model, TCP/IP 4-Layer Model
One of the gaps in my understanding of networking has to do with the OSI 7-layer networking model and the more simplified TCP/IP 4-Layer model (which was developed by DARPA? and predates the OSI Model). I didn’t even realize there was anything other than the 7-Layer model until taking this class and furthermore didn’t realize that while the OSI model gets talked about and referenced more frequently, academia (I think… and perhaps the industry) is shifting to using the simpler 4-layer model for discussion, understanding, and development regarding networking. Please don’t take any of this as gospel truth, this is just my understanding based on coursework and reading. I also find it much easier to think about and reference the 4-layer model. If you are curious how the two compare, this technet article is an interesting read, Technet: TCP/IP Protocol Architecture. Okay, so for this article, I will be sticking with what I am most comfortable with at this point and will be talking about and referencing the 4-layer TCP/IP model and discussing how VPN works. (more…)

Let’s Encrypt is an incredible, FREE, service that allows you to get trusted SSL certificates for your website. The certs expire every 90-days but what is great is that there are a lot of tools for auto-renewing the certificate without you ever having to touch anything on your server… until that process breaks.

Case-in-point: If you are running a Drupal 7 and are using the Apache Rewrite module (you should be…) then the default .htaccess file supplied with Drupal 7 core will block all access to hidden folders. (folders that start with a “.”) This is a problem for Let’s Encrypt because the auto-renew process generates a temporary key file that gets placed in a hidden folder on your web server that the Let’s Encrypt system has to be able to reach publicly (on port 80) in order to validate your server and fulfill your renewal request. Thankfully, another member of the Drupal community has already written the rewrite condition rule that needs to be placed in your .htaccess file to allow access to just the hidden folder required by Let’s Encrypt.

I haven’t posted in ages due to being generally slammed with work but this little piece I threw together was too good to forget about so I wanted to put it down.

If you work with a larger owncloud deployment and have a lot of users and allow file sharing, you may be curious to occasionally take a look at how many shares there are, who owns them, who they are shared with. This isn’t easy to get from the Web GUI but via the command line and mysql it isn’t bad at all.

So, login to mysql on the command line and then use your owncloud database; ie. (if your db name is “owncloud”)

use owncloud;

Then run the following:

select id, share_with, uid_owner, item_type, file_target from oc_share
INTO OUTFILE '/var/lib/mysql-files/shares.csv'

Exit mysql command line and go to /var/lib/mysql-files and you will find a nicely formatted CSV file with a list of all shares and who they are shared with. The columns from left to right…

ID, Who it is shared with (one line per person/group), the person that owns the share, whether or not it is a file or folder, the name/location of the file/folder that is shared