WServerNews: Tech support is broken
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In this issue:
Mailbag from Ireland, USA, New Zealand. Editor's Corner. Documenting OU permissions. Speed up patching Windows. Batch files and UAC. Unbelievable response to Windows 365 Cloud PC? Autologon with PowerShell. Factoid: Insert floppy disk. Plus lots more -- read it all, read it here on WServerNews!
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Last week's newsletter "Special Issue: Starting out in IT today" generated some good feedback from our readers. Let's take a look.
Chris Murray of Belfast Tech Services says:
Hey Mitch, Been reading your WServerNews for nearly 3 years now! I'm based in the UK & Ireland, in denial about turning 31 in 2 weeks, & have (officially) been working in IT for ~8 years, unofficially for at least double that! As per one of your points int he "Some advice for the young" section, I started as a teenager - breaking/repairing/upgrading my own PC then repairing/upgrading for friends & family. Being Autistic, tech has always been my thing, so it was hardly surprising that I ended up going to university to do computing science, even if my A-Levels (exams taken in the UK at the end of secondary/high school at ~18) were Biology, History, Politics & Spanish! I also worked in retail for 4 years (the last 2 years of school the first 2 years of uni.
My university course was a 4-year sandwich course - 2 years in uni, a year out on placement (doing 1st level helpdesk work to fieldworkers in a local government department), then back in uni for final year. My degree covered a range of topics - Databases, networking, a bit of hardware/electronics systems analysis & design, programming in a range of languages (C, Java, & Perl), Development methodologies & professional skills, and my project was a website written in PHP which I self-taught in final year, which also involved teaching myself how to manage a LAMP (Linux/Apache/MySQL/PHP) server as well as learning how useful GitHub is!. Most of the things taught in my degree I've either forgotten or are not relevant to my career, as I've been in a support/SysAdmin role rather than a development role (though that has changed as I tend to write/acquire-from-the-internet more & more PowerShell scripts (and still rely heavily on GitHub/Azure DevOps to manage any code that I do write). The 2 biggest/best things for me at university were
- The social aspects - having a good solid group of friends (both on my course & on other courses) made the different in pulling through the tough parts, knowing we all had each other's back, and it helped me as a young Autistic person to find my feet & deal with social situations a lot better thanks to the placement & previous retail work; Additionally getting to join some of the sports clubs & societies to try new things was great craic!
- Getting access to MSDN Academic Alliance (which changed to DreamSpark, not 100% what it's called nowadays)! This allowed me to get my hands on basically every MS product going, start playing with Windows Server/Exchange/System Center etc & really learning how the products worked, how to set them up etc. This was much more interesting to me personally, & useful for my CV/Resume, than learning about linked lists & binary search trees in Java!
As Murat Yildirimoglu said in "Filtering minds", it is an outdated concept, & getting all the more expensive! It is something that is not always accessible to Autistic/NeuroDivergent/Disabled people, and may not suit the way different people learn, but I will say that it does allow for more types of learning that school!
I suppose my point is that people don't go to university just for the academic experience, but for the social/cultural learning experiences too - perhaps it's the first experience a young person will have of moving away from the parental home & having to learn how to cook, manage a property, budget etc. I definitely agree with the first part of your quote "Your 20s is the time for building your future, not for wasting time having fun—that can come later.", but not necessarily the second half - you don't want to burn out too early so if you can do both, you should! All the best.
Next comes these comments from Dean Baird of Illinois, USA:
Mitch, Interesting reading about the thoughts on whether a four year degree is necessary for success in the IT field. I spent over thirty years in various aspects of IT before I retired a dozen years ago. After high school I spent three years in the US Army, worked in a factory at night while helping my folks farm and then went to college. That was so long ago that college courses in IT involved creating punch cards to run a program and waiting for the results to see if what you punched worked! There really was no IT degree at that time. I got a degree in Business with a major in Accounting! I worked in accounting, personnel, sales management, farm management and when personal computers became available I purchased one and taught myself about IT. This allowed me to get into the IT field and I spent over thirty years doing a variety of IT work. Now nearing 80 years old I still keep a number of self-built PCs around to stay in touch with technology. A degree in IT is not a necessity for success in IT but today it probably helps. The real benefit of a four year degree is that it helps you prepare for what you will face it life, a maturing process mostly if handled properly. What the degree is in is mostly secondary as a lot of us old-timers had a successful career in a new field that came of age AFTER we finished college! The three years I spent in the US Army with half of the time overseas BEFORE I went to college also did a lot to prepare me for what I have faced in life! Probably the most important part of my college life was meeting the woman I married and we celebrated our 53rd anniversary this summer! It is not the degree that makes you successful…it is what you make of your abilities!
Phil Burchell, Desktop Engineer for a medical services company in New Zealand shares the following thoughts:
Great newsletter this week (thankyou) . Certainly raised lots of responses (in my mind at least) across a wide range of areas to do with IT degrees (or not), business, and even DIY building construction.
My 2 cents are based on the age-old answer to everything (besides "42") which is "It Depends ..."
IT is such a wide-ranging catch-all term for anything vaguely technical/computer-related/electronic/networked/has-wires that there is no single answer (apart from 42 of course).
Someone who is highly practical, good with their hands, good at solving physical problems and more than happy to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty (ie capable of constructing a building from scratch) is well-suited to IT and already has core skills. So is someone who is highly analytical or detailed or organized or theoretical or good at languages, but maybe doesn't know one end of a hammer from the other (ie completely opposite the first person above).
I think your comments regarding studying business, and starting one as well (ie entrepreneurship) are good advice for some people but not all. Failure in business may well be a good teacher, but there are casualties as well - collateral damage to partners, employees, creditors etc should not be taken lightly. Not to mention - though business and IT are strongly intertwined, they are different practices ... if you're studying business you're not really studying IT.
So it depends ... if you want to go into business, study business ... If you want to get into IT then work out what area you're interested in and start there.
As for University courses, I agree with most comments already made - they're expensive, long-winded and usually out-of-date so they will not get you a job, but they will teach you skills in research, discipline, critical analysis and the ability to form a cogent argument or position on paper. University doesn't give you experience.
For myself, I gained the most (IT specific) experience by joining a large organization. I am exposed to much more technology than I would ever have encountered in small business, and had to get my head across complex issues such as high-availability, WAN network monitoring, DR, hybrid-AD etc, not to mention VSphere and SCCM or even G-Suite and Slack. More importantly, it's a live, working (mostly) system in production.
Theoretical courses will teach how to build something like AD from scratch, in a Lab, with 3-4 machines, but not how to work with a system that's been constantly in use and patched and modified and upgraded for 10-15 yrs. No one teaches how to reverse-engineer systems for which there was little or no documentation, or that cannot be taken off-line or where the original design team are long retired or moved on.
The best way to learn IT is to do IT. The best IT tutors are colleagues passing on knowledge they've learnt by trial and error (closely followed by Google). And the best skills for that are curiosity, communication and the ability to ask questions
And finally here's what longtime reader Jeffrey Harris has to say in response to some comments by a reader named Rocky in our last issue of WServerNews:
I need to respond about careers. Rocky's friend with the degree in Botany supports my thesis that having a degree, not the degree itself, is what is important. My degrees are in Engineering, and although I did have a programming class as an undergraduate (anyone remember Fortran, with a punch card reader *grin*?), I had no formal IT training until many years later. Much of my knowledge (but not all of it) is self-taught, self-study, and (after the advent of the Internet), knowing what to look for on Google. It is probably similar for you and others. It is the discipline and personal growth that comes from earning a degree that is important.
That is not to say that degrees in IT are not useful; I think they are, and if I were a hiring manager and had to decide between a candidate with an IT degree and one with a degree in another field, all other factors being equal, I would probably hire the one with the degree in IT. However, that does not mean that there are not people who are successful in IT that do not have degrees, or even college experience (again, I will cite Bill Gates).
And one of my coworkers is a fabulous security engineer who also renovated his bathroom during the COVID-19 lockdown last year, and did a fantastic job. If he lived closer to me, I might hire him to do some renovations on my bathrooms. We all have hidden skills we can unlock.
If any readers have further thoughts they want to share on this topic or comment on anything other readers shared above, feel free to email us.
Yes of course saying "Tech support is broken" sounds like click-bait, but my recent experience with an online streaming provider supports this position which I've maintained ever since offshoring helpdesk became a thing for large companies. Based on my own personal experience and talking with colleagues, family and friends, I can only conclude that tech support is broken everywhere now. And we just have to accept it and find a way to live with it.
Here's what happened to me recently. Ingrid and I being big soccer fans and getting tired of watching Alain Delon movies, we finally decided to bite the bullet and try one of those streaming services providers that offer various sports, live and for replay.
Full disclosure here: we're tight-fisted when it comes to subscribing to stuff. Plus we're very choosey what we like to watch to relax. So we don't have NetFlix and we cut the cord on cable TV two decades ago and just collect Blu-Ray and DVD disks of our favorite movies (or download obscure 60s Eurospy flics from various sites online). Because we don't want to get sucked into the black hole of subscribing to too many online services and seeing our monthly budget go to pots just to make big companies rich.
But the still ongoing pandemic has resulted in us spending more time at home than in the past, so besides watching movies and reading books we've begun searching for other forms of entertainment. I've taken up cooking in a serious way, my current explorations being with Smørrebrød. But once you've made a delicious dinner it's nice to sit in front of the tube and be entertained while you munch away.
Hence we decided to try subscribing to TSN Live for a month so we can watch soccer (football to you European readers of our newsletter) including MLS and LaLiga matches. And we enjoyed the first few games on TSN, which we watched by using an HDMI cable to make our Samsung Plasma unsmart TV the second monitor for one of our laptops.
There was only one problem: the timezone of the schedule page on the TSN website is one hour later than our local time, meaning if TSN said a game started at 4 pm we had to turn on our TV/laptop at 3 pm. This small annoyance prompted me to send an email to the help alias on the Contact Us page of their website (very nice of TSN to provide an email alias for subscribers needing help!) and ask how I could configure the settings for my subscription so the schedule displayed for me in Central Time instead of in Eastern Time.
Naturally, I never received a response to my emailed help request.
Anyways, for the first two weeks everything worked fine, but then suddenly weird things started to happen as we watched the games. Specifically, the stream kept jumping backwards a second or two every 10-15 seconds which caused repeats and gaps in the coverage of the game i.e. "And Soteldo has the ball and he passes it to — passes it to Jozy who runs — field where Alejandro steals it from — it from him and it looks like he's — yellow card…"
Ugh. I tried watching games on several other computers and the same problem happened regardless of the web browser I used. FWIW this strange issue seemed to start happening right after our PCs (which are all running Win10 21H1) installed the July CU for Windows 10. But the problem did not happen when I used my Android phone to watch the games, or my iPad. So I reported the issue on a patch management forum but nobody had any thoughts concerning it. So I finally decided to try giving TSN a call since emailing them hadn't worked earlier.
After getting routed around I was finally handed off to someone who could understand the problem I was describing (I actually had to demonstrate it using audio from a game) and who came up with a solution: install Google Chrome on my machine. I had been using Brave as my web browser and it had worked fine for two weeks, but the tech support person said Brave wasn't supported for their service. So I installed Chrome and guess what: it worked!
One might think that this would register as a hit not a strike. But what happened next discouraged me. I asked if they were going to investigate why the problem happened in case it happens again with some other browser. The answer was No.
Now on the one hand I can understand this from the point of view of the company because of the cost involved in deeply investigating some technical problems. But on the other hand it reminded me strongly of how Microsoft, during the many Beta programs I was involved in two decades ago, would annoyingly close bug tickets with "Won't fix" instead of working to resolve them.
This lack of curiosity on the part of TSN support discouraged me and led me to declare…
And with me, it's two strikes and you're out. And for good!
So we looked around for another streaming sports provider and found DAZN (pronounced "da zone") and it's a much better site than TSN Live, way easier to use and halftimes of games aren't cluttered with annoyingly stupid Canadian TV commercials. DAZN carriers both Premier League (UK) and Belgian Pro League soccer games, and they've both been great to watch although we prefer the European matches (and mayonnaise with our fries).
Unfortunately DAZN doesn't carry Bundesliga (German) soccer, so now we're looking at maybe trying out Sportsnet Now+ so we can watch those games too (and enjoy schnitzel while watching them).
Oh no, it looks like much against our will we're getting sucked into the black hole of Subscriberland! Yikes!!
What are your own thoughts about (a) the death of good tech support (b) paying for too many online services (c) who's going to win the World Cup in 2022? Email us.
And now on to other stuff…
Documenting OU permissions
As any of us who work or have worked in Active Directory environments for large organizations can attest, organizational units (OU) tend to multiply like rabbits. And delegations of OUs can become like the multitude of fleas infesting those nice friendly bunnies in your back yard.
Fortunately there are some good ways you can get a grasp of what's happening in your OU environment:
How To Document OU Delegation (Easy365Manager)
How to get an Active Directory OU permissions report (SpiceWorks)
How to Get an Active Directory OU Permissions Report (Netwrix)
Let us know if you have another tool you use for doing this.
Speed up patching Windows
This article by Mike Benson of Microsoft can help you improve your experience of patching Windows and Windows Server systems:
How to improve Windows cumulative update installation times (Windows IT Pro Blog)
Let us know if you have other patching tips you'd like to share with our more than 180k readers of WServerNews!
Batch files and UAC
An alert reader forwarded to us the following question on StackOverflow and the posted solution that helped him solve a problem he was facing running a batch file as admin on Windows 10 machines: "How can I auto-elevate my batch file, so that it requests from UAC administrator rights if required?"
The solution which worked for him can be found here:
Yes I know, batch files are so 80s, but they're still useful in certain circumstances, I even have one I run once a month on one of my work machines to create a series of folders for project planning. I'm sure I could do this with PowerShell, but if it works why fix it?
Do you still use batch files in your Windows environment? Share your stories with us.
Unbelievable response to Windows 365 Cloud PC?
Yeah, right. At least that's what Microsoft says in this article on The Verge.
But no, not unbelievable response but rather unbelievable marketing—just tons of people wanting to try out Microsoft's new offering, not necessarily subscribe and pay for it.
Nice spin, Redmond old friend.
Have you tried Windows 365 Cloud PC yet? What do you think of it?
Got comments about anything in this issue?
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Tip of the Week
Autologon with PowerShell
Need a computer to auto-logon for some reason? Check out this article by Patrick Gruenauer:
Windows 10: Configure Auto-Logon with PowerShell Automation (SID-500.COM)
>> Got any admin tools or software you'd like to recommend to our readers? Email us your recommendations!
MailStore Server is an email archiving solution which helps you meet a growing number of compliance requirements and can assist in eDiscovery scenarios:
dtSearch®-Instantly Search Terabytes. Doc. filters for popular file types, emails, databases & web data; 25+ search options; Win/Lin/Mac C++/Java/.NET Core APIs; Azure/AWS FAQs. Enterprise/dev evals available.
Brook is a cross-platform (Linux/MacOS/Windows/Android/iOS) proxy/vpn software:
RUFUS is the Reliable USB Formatting Utility:
KeePassXC is a cross-platform community-driven port of the Windows application "Keepass Password Safe":
Factoid: Insert floppy disk
Our previous factoid and question was this:
Fact: A few days ago last few remaining NTSC transmitters in the USA finally came off air, marking the end of over seven decades of continuous 525-line American analogue TV broadcasts.
Question: How does the on-demand streaming TV today compare in your opinion with the broadcast TV of yesteryear? And do you think there's a future for high-definition over-the-air (OTA) broadcast TV or is it headed towards the dustbin of history too?
Several readers commented on this one:
Nearly ten years ago I built a home theater PC with an ATSC dual tuner card and installed an antenna in the attic. We cancelled all services. We do not stream and only watch over the air TV for free. The home theater PC can record shows for us and once I changed to Myth TV running on Linux from Microsoft's Media Center we also got automatic commercial skipping for our recorded shows. That gives us 1080p over the air for no cost. I am just waiting for Hauppauge to release their ATSC 3.0 tuner card in order to upgrade and get 4k over the air. $10-$20 a month subscriptions add up fast and who has time to watch that much TV anyway? --Mark Van Noy
On streaming services, I hate them. The entire viewing universe is being divided into a large number of streaming services that each host their own set of programs. New content is being provided only on the streaming services in many cases. Even though individual streaming services are cheaper than cable, by the time I purchase enough services to replicate my cable viewing experience, I am paying as much, or more, than cable. And because these streaming services use the Internet, and not a dedicate cable feed, they take away from my available bandwidth, and force me to route the video through my computers to my TV because my current TV does not natively support these streaming services. I want to watch programming on my TV, using TV controls, and not on my computer, having to manage the viewing through the computer! And I waiting for the streaming services to reintroduce commercials because they have to have even more profits (anyone remember when cable was first being distributed that we were promised no commercials in exchange for a monthly service fee? How long did that last?). Maybe this is the future of television, but that does not mean I have to like it. --Jeffrey Harris
NTSC dead and buried (finally) and good riddance ... I was 'raised' as a Broadcasting technician on the PAL TV system, and we always looked down on Never-Twice-the-Same-Colour as being inferior. But the extra 100 lines of resolution and phase-locked color modulation is light-years away from where we are now. I don't think we can compare 525/625 analog TV broadcasting with even 2k HD digital ... that is standard technology progress. Would I think there could be a retro-resurgence similar to music on vinyl? - I wouldn't put my money on it. We could compare Broadcast with streaming VoD which would be valid ... on-demand vs appointment (time-slot) viewing. We could compare Commercial (TVC's and sponsors) with Non-commercial (public) or Network with Regional TV, or Cable with Satellite, or Digital with Analog. I don't think those topics are interesting. What is interesting is the change in content ... the change in editorial direction from balanced to opinionated ... the change in entertainment genres (from Variety chat shows to food/travel-porn and competitive reality cooking), ... the change in drama from movie-length (100 mins) to 6 hr+ series ... the change in program structure that specified dramatic arcs for commercial breaks every 14 minutes to an uninterrupted structure of variable length ... etc, etc. Broadcast TV won't die just as broadcast radio hasn't ... but there are other content delivery methods now, and audiences are watching a variety of screens most of which don't see anything "off-air". --Phil Burchell
Now let's move on to our next factoid:
Fact: Boeing Still Used Floppy Disks to Update the Software in Its 747s
Question: What else have you seen floppy disks still being used for? And do you still have any kicking around your office, basement or garage?
Email us your answer and we'll include it in our next issue!
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Conference Calendar 2021
NOTE: Conference dates and locations (real/virtual) are subject to change
European Cloud Summit -- Sept. 27-29 in Frankfurt, Germany
Open Source Summit -- Sept. 29-Oct. 1 in Dublin, Ireland
VMworld -- Oct 5-7 (virtual)
Black Hat Europe - Nov 8-11 (virtual)
The Post-Pandemic Hybrid Workspace with Martina Grom (RunAsRadio)
The VAR Perspective On Networking And Customer Trends (Heavy Networking)
Arista at MFD6 (Clear To Send)
President grandpa rattles sabre at cloud (Risky Business)
Controlling Cloud Sprawl with Matthias Einig (Microsoft Cloud Show)
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Using SQL Server Availability Groups in Kubernetes environments
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Pay that man in the hoodie his ransom money!
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Cloud migration with Azure Migrate: A walkthrough
Want to migrate your company's IT workloads to the cloud? This walkthrough from Microsoft's Sarah Lean gives you a road map to get there with Azure Migrate.
Fun videos from Flixxy
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