Office 2010 products MIA in SCCM 2007 reporting

One of the curious things about SCCM 2007 is the number of hot fixes it has to fix what are (in my experience) relatively common problems.  One of these came up when I wanted to do a report of how many Office 2010 installations there were versus other versions and reconcile those against the installed base of Windows 7 machines the RAC had.  The idea was to see how many machines were out of MOE compliance and start remediating them.

I got a bit of a shock when I started doing reporting and no numbers, not even entries, would appear for Office 2010 products, including Visio and Project.  Some of the more recent server products also weren’t listed (although this was a secondary concern at the time).

I soon found out there is not just one hot fix for this, but at least 3 have been issued, going back as far as November 2010 at least.  Following a change request, I got the latest version of the hot fix in and the reporting started working correctly.

Voting keypads and bluescreens

One of the more interesting problems I was given at RAC is the issue of Turning Point voting keypads causing computers to blue screen.

For those who don’t know, the keypads allow things like voting by an audience using little keypads.  The signal is sent wirelessly to a USB receiver plugged into a computer.  Following the roll-out of RAC’s new Managed Operating Environment (MOE), plugging in one of the receivers would cause the computer to blue screen.  I was tasked with fixing it.

The initial route I followed was to examine the blue screen dump files using the Windows Debugging tools.  Doing so pointed to the drivers for the receiver being the cause and after googling a bit, there did seem to be some supporting evidence that these style of devices didn’t play well on Windows 7.

The change in troubleshooting approach came from the fact that, if the device was plugged into a freshly un-boxed HP machine which hadn’t been re-imaged yet (that is, it was running the manufacturer image and drivers), it would work.  There was a date difference between the drivers, with the ones in the MOE being slightly older.

Going on the theory that one of the older drivers in the MOE was causing the blue screens in some way, I downloaded the latest drivers from HP and applied them one at a time, testing the receiver each time.  Eventually I hit a point where the blue screens stopped and the culprit was the fingerprint scanner’s driver.

I reproduced the fix on a few other machines with success, so there must’ve been some incompatibility between the MOE’s finger print scanner driver and the keypad receiver.

Getting serious about a home lab – Part 2 (The hardware arrives)

With my new lab, I ended up deciding on a two server approach to address the issues mentioned in part one – one server will purely be the “brains”, performing the virtualisation functions, while the other server will provide storage.  In line with that, I ended up getting the following parts:

Virtualisation Server

  • 1 x Intel i7 3930K
  • 1 x Intel DX79SI motherboard
  • 8 x Kingston 8GB RAM (64GB total)
  • 1 x Corsair 120GB SSD
  • 2 x Intel gigabit NICs
  • 1 x Fractal Design Define XL case

Storage Server

  • 1 x Intel i7 3820
  • 1 x Gigabyte GA-X79-UD3 motherboard
  • 1 x Kingston 8GB RAM
  • 1 x Corsair 180GB SSD
  • 9 x Hitachi Ultrastar A7K3000 (2TB) HDD
  • 2 x Intel gigabit NICs
  • 1 x Fractcal Design Define XL case

I also bought a Netgear gigabit switch and put an Adaptec RAID controller into the storage server.  The 2 additional NICs in each server are for iSCSI traffic with their own IP range.

Getting serious about a home lab – Part 1 (The high concept)

Back in November I posted about the implementation of what was essentially version 2 of my home lab on the VMWare ESX platform, moving an i3 with 8GB of RAM to an i7 with 16GB and proper storage on a RAID controller.  The problem with that environment is it only really served the needs of my “production” virtual machines and hasn’t allowed me to expand further as about 14GB of the 16GB total is allocated out (even with the VMs being under-provisioned in terms of RAM).

Running in parallel with this is my desire to get some traction on my certifications and having a good virtualisation platform that I can quickly set-up lab environments on is an important part of this.  Thus begins the project, to implement version 3 of my home lab environment.  The broad hardware bits of the “high concept” are:

  • Capable of supporting my current virtual environment with better performance (essentially meaning I can allocate more correct amounts of RAM to my current VMs)
  • Capable of scaling up to support multiple simple lab environments or singular complex lab environments
  • Address the storage issues with v2 of the home lab

In terms of software or process, the outcome I’m hoping for is fairly high levels of automation leveraging the feature set available to me in my current available software pool.  Similarly, in the future I could use this model for a testing environment at work, which again means leveraging technologies that may be licensed with (ie. standard vSphere, SCCM, etc) as opposed to the best solutions possible that they may not be licensed for (some of the automation-heavy vmware products come to mind).

Going forward I hope to document the process I’ll be going through in making the home lab, including research and testing to get the end result.