Disable the Customize Ribbon Option in Office 2010

So I recently had a specific request at work from a user, which, unless I note somewhere I am sure I will forget.  Basically, the requester does not want to grant the ability for users to be able to change the default UI ribbon settings within Outlook 2010 or any other Office 2010 program.  The easiest way to explain it is, the user wants to disable the “Customize Ribbon” option  as pictured below.

While I don’t know of an exact way to accomplish to “grey out” this option I did find a way to wipe the ability out to adjust these settings within Group Policy.  The setting is located in the following location within Group Policy Manager.  The setting we are looking for is labeled Turn off user customization via UI.

User Configuration -> Administrative Templates -> Microsoft Office 2010 -> Global Options -> Customize -> Turn off user customization via UI

NOTE that you need to have the Office 2010 Group Policy templates installed on the machine you are attempting to set the policy from (if you have questions just let me know and I can follow up with instructions on how to do this).  Here is what the setting looks like:

And here is what the updated Outlook “Customize Ribbon” option looks like:

Read More

Podcasts for System Administrators

Over the years I have slowly built up a collection of resources that I find valuable in keeping my skill set sharp and my abilities fresh.  One of the best resources, for me anyways, happens to be listening to podcast’s.  Podcast’s are a great learning tool, especially if you can get into the habit of listening to them frequently.  It is surprising how much of the things from those podcast’s stick in my head.  I tend to like listening to a podcast when I am driving or out by yourself on a walk/run or just doing some other physical activity.  I have found that this is a great method for me to escape from work and clear my head by engaging in some sort of activity while listening to a podcast.

I have experimented and listened to a wide variety of podcasts during this period of time.  Some of them have been less than great, but for the most part I think that I have found a good balance of technical and general level podcasts relating to a variety of topics within system administration and I feel like sharing the ones that I have gained the most from in the past few years.

So here is my list (in no particular order).

Security Now!
The title pretty much sums things up.  This is a video podcast (but audio only is just as good IMO) that focuses in on what is happening in the world of security in IT and computing.  There is a good mixture of broad technical information and news as well as great nitty gritty detail (for example deep dives into topics such as how TCP/IP works, which I highly recommend).  The co-host Steve Gibson does a great job of explaining things in detail, especially when it comes to very complicated and complex topic.  He has a brilliant way of making these topic easy to understand and not overly confusing.  Even though Leo Laporte annoys the living shit out of me, he and Gibson make a good pair and do a good job covering security in such a way that makes the topics in this category interesting.

This video podcast is billed as a hacker oriented podcast.  A lot of interesting hacker and Linux topics are covered in this podcast as well as great in depth interviews among a variety of other things.  I personally love the cast of this podcast, which I believe makes it more enjoyable to watch.  I have learned probably more tips and tricks from this podcast than from any other and the format is in a style that is humorous as well as informative so it doesn’t usually get very boring.  I highly recommend this podcast if you are interested in hacking or Linux or other cool, little known about topics of interest.

Packet Pushers
If you are a hardcore networking guy, then this is a great podcast for you!  I have only recently been listening to this podcast but I can’t say enough good things about it.  The material is just about as technical as you can get, which is great for me.  The hosts and guests are top notch as well, as nearly if not all of them are prominent figures in the networking world.  I don’t know how they do it, but every one of their shows seems to keep my attention even if they are discussing a topic that is over my head.  I learn a ton from every episode I listen to and, as I said, if you have anything to do with networking then I would strongly suggest you check this podcast out.

RunAs Radio
This is another great sysadmin podcast plus Rich Campbell’s voice soothes me.  The people on this podcast are top notch as well, the guests are always interesting and the content is also very detailed and technical.  I have to admit that I tend to skip some of these just because they sometimes cover topics that don’t really pique my interest entirely but that being said, all of the shows are well done and informative and I’m sure would be of great value to others that had more of an interest in these areas.  This podcast usually isn’t drawn out like others, which is another reason I like it because it doesn’t give me a headache after listening to it.

FLOSS Weekly
I just found this podcast and am excited to try it out, it looks like there is a ton of interesting stuff in this podcast.  The main focus of the show is anything and everything open source.  There are interviews with figures is the open source world as well as news and other open source tools.  I will update this post once I listen to this podcast a few times to give more information about it.

PowerScripting Podcast
This show focuses on the world of Powershell.  I find this show to be helpful for me because I work in a Windows environment and I absolutely love Powershell for administration, chastise me if you must.  It is great to have a podcast that focuses on Powershell because I feel like it gives me an advantage over others just because I can keep an inside track on what kind of developments and other things are happening.  This show covers news, interesting topics within the Powershell universe and also have interesting and informative guests on the show as well. If you are a Windows admin or have anything to do with Powershell, I suggest you check this podcast out.

Podnutz Pro
This podcast takes you into the world of small to mid size business administration.  One of the co-hosts works for and MSP and goes through the details of his work.  It is interesting to see the point of view of somebody working in an MSP admin role because it is much different than that of a typical sysadmin.  There is a lot of good technical content in this show as well (can you tell I like the technical content?) and although there isn’t much in the way of outside guests for content they manage to do a pretty good job in finding interesting topics to cover in depth.  I must warn though, this content can sometimes get a little bit dry as well as dragged out at times though because the hosts of the show are admins, not radio show hosts.  Still recommended, just not all of it is as worthwhile as some other podcast’s.

The Linux Action Show!
Hands down the most informative Linux podcast I have come across.  They cover relevant topics, interview people in the industry and just do a great job overall.  The content they cover is interesting and the hosts of the show seem to be well informed and are entertaining as well.  They are nerds but they are great hosts and don’t have any trouble delivering their content and keep things fresh.  The delivery is crisp and smooth and their shows seem to flow very well.  I highly recommend this podcast to anybody working with Linux on a daily basis or even for people new to the Linux scene, the shows are done in such a way that pros and newbies should both feel welcomed.

This is another podcast that I was recently turned on to so don’t have much to report on this one yet.  This show is similar to Security Now in some ways because it covers a lot of interesting security news.  My favorite part about this show though is that its not overdone with ads and they really don’t go on too many tangents unrelated to IT.  Another cool fact about the show is that some of the less common topics are covered, like a lot of talk about BSD and ZFS and how to use them, which has been helpful to me.  I recommend this podcast for anybody that enjoys show like Security Now as it is fairly technical but is really interesting.

The UC Architects
This is a great show that is relatively new that I just recently picked up on. This show covers all things Unified Communication, focusing primarily on Lync and Exchange but also covers many other topics in the Microsoft world as well.  There are some seriously smart people on this show as nearly all of the hosts and guests either are MVP’s, MCM’s or work for Microsoft.  I like this show because I have found it gives a great glimpse into the UC world that is not really covered very well elsewhere, it is more of a niche I would say and this is the place to go if you have anything at all to do with Exchange, Lync or any other Microsoft UC product.  This show has it all; in depth technical conversation, reviews, news and much more.

Stack Exchange Podcast
This podcast covers a number of interesting topics that revolve primarily around running a startup and everything that goes along with it.  Great guest interviews, tips and tricks about Stack Exchange, and a wide range of topics.  Here is a description from the site: “The Stack Exchange team gives you an unparalleled look inside the building and running of one of the web’s hottest startups: Stack Exchange. Instead of the typical podcast format, Jeff & Joel are joined by a different guest each week as they discuss the strategy and direction of Stack Exchange, the decisions they’ve made about the community and where things are going next.”

Healthy Paranoia
This is one of the newer IT related podcasts that I have found that I actually enjoy.  It presents some very technical information yet it isn’t difficult to follow.  The hosts and guests all have a solid foundation in security, so the quality of this podcast is pretty top notch.  The topics are broad enough though that you don’t have to be a super hardcore security pro to follow them, therefore the topics are interesting and are usually very relevant to what system administrators deal with in many security related areas.  I definitely recommend this podcast to any sysadmin that either has an interest in security or for any security pros out there looking to boost their knowledge, the show is accommodating and appealing to multiple different areas of IT.

A Weekly BSD Podcast – News, Interviews and Tutorials.  “We advocate the use of FreeBSDOpenBSDNetBSDDragonflyBSD and PC-BSD. Our show aims to be helpful and informative for new users that want to learn about them, while still being entertaining for the people who are already pros.”

DevOps Cafe
Interviews with interesting members of DevOps community.

The Joe Rogan Experience
Okay, so this podcast isn’t exactly geared towards system administrators necessarily but this show is really good and is hilarious (Joe Rogan is a professional comedian) and covers a variety of very interesting topics and features some genuinely funny, interesting and smart people.  There are even some IT pros that have been on the show, check out episode #361 if you want to listen to the VP of Cloud Security at Trend Micro talk about coffee, for example.  This podcast is a great addition to your collection if you want to learn something and be entertained but aren’t up for something that is too technical, its more of a show that you can just turn on and have in the background, which can be nice sometimes.

That’s it for now, I will be adding to and updating this list as I find more interesting podcast’s but I have to say these are among my favorites to listen to and watch right now.  They all have some sort of unique quality to them yet they all tie into system administration one way or another.  I’m sure there are other ones out there so if you know of any other good sysadmin podcast’s let me know and I will check them out and hopefully add them to this list.

Read More

Disable Windows Firewall and IE ESC

I just wanted to make a post for disabling the Windows firewall from the command line on new server builds because I always manage to forget and this is pretty much the quickest, easiest way.  From the command prompt just type:

netsh advfirewall set allprofiles state off

and voila, no more wasted time trying to figure out weird network issues, super simple.

To disable each firewall individually adjust your command as follows:

netsh advfirewall set domainprofile state off
netsh advfirewall set privateprofile state off
netsh advfirewall set publicprofile state off

I also like to disable IE ESC from blocking websites by default because it is such a pain if I need to troubleshoot.  Unfortunately there isn’t a very graceful way to disable this function from the command line so I usually will just go through the Server Manager GUI to take care of this.  Server Manager -> Server Summary -> Security Information -> Configure IE ESC

On new server builds I manage to overlook these so taking the time to go through and disable these 2 items is a great time saver.

Read More

Making bootable USB devices

I was tasked with the installation of a new OS the other day and of course found that I had no optical media access (CD/DVD-ROMs) on this server.  This of course is a problem if you are tasked with installing an OS.  As such, it can become an annoyance if you aren’t prepared to deal with situations where access to optical media isn’t an option.   I think the lack of optical media access isn’t necessarily a bad thing, in fact I would consider it to be a good thing and it is helping me break my habit of burning CD’s like it was my job. A few benefits of using USB can increase flexibility and speed that I can think of, especially with USB 3.0 becoming more prevalent.  There are a few handy tools out there for making your USB devices bootable, bypassing the need for optical media.  In this post I will describe my recent experiences with some of these tools with the hopes of speeding up the installation process for potential viewers in the future.

Windows 7 USB DVD Download Tool

This is a pretty slick tool for making ISO’s of newer Windows operating systems.  The name can be a bit misleading but it can handle server OS’s as well.  I haven’t tried it on an older OS so I can’t vouch but I believe it will work on Vista, Server 2008 and Server 2008 R2.

The tool is pretty self explanatory and Microsoft did a good job of making this tool easy to use.  Just install the program, plug in your USB device and point the application to the ISO that you would like to make bootable.   The tool takes care of the rest, including formatting of the USB drive and expanding all the necessary files to make it bootable.

Universal USB Installer

This tool is meant to create a bootable Linux image but I know it will work on Windows as well, again at least with newer versions.  Inside the program there is an option for Windows 7 installer, simply choose this option, point to your ISO and select the USB device which you wish to make bootable.


This is the third tool I have had success with.  One down side to this tool is that there isn’t really support for Windows images built in, but that isn’t a huge problem if you use the other tools and have more than one USB drive.  I believe there are others like this  but this was the first one I tried and worked right away so I didn’t really even need to bother with others.  In my scenario I needed the HP Smart Start image, which isn’t listed by default so I just chose diskimage and pointed to my ISO and away I went.

YUMI (Your Universal Multiboot Installer)

This is another multiboot (obviously) tool for USB devices.  and this one is probably the coolest from the perspective that you can create multiple bootable images, rather than just a single image like the other, aforementioned tools.  This one appears to be made by the same people that made the Universal USB Installer.  The only difference being that you can use YUMI for more than one image.  For example, this tool would be great for a variety of different Operating Systems, Live disk images, anti-virus scanner, boot utilities, etc.  It is pretty dead simple to use which is nice as well.

Using these tools I was able to dramatically decrease the amount of time it took to install the HP tools and Windows operating system.  I think I will try to use bootable USB devices whenever possible in the future because the results were so good from this experiment.

Read More