12 November 2020

Useful Software

Let us be honest, software is what ultimately drives IT. It is what allows us to perform duties and complete tasks. We use it everywhere from our smartphones, to our home PCs and office workstations. But there is a difference between good software, and useful software, as well as just plain bad software. I am fortunate in that between work and home, I use a lot of different programs.

I’m always on the lookout for new programs that will help me do my job better, whether it’s at home or in the office. Like most things in IT, it is an iterative approach as there is always something new.

That said… here are some programs and services that I find myself using often. These are my personal recommendations. As my opinion or tastes change, I’ll make sure to update this post.

This post was last updated: April 6, 2021


Brave Browser https://brave.com/
This is a chrome based browser that is privacy focus. It’s taken all of the “nasty” user tracking features in Chrome and has stripped them out.

FastStone Capturehttps://www.faststone.org/FSCaptureDetail.htm
This application makes taking screenshots a breeze. I use it a lot when creating documentation. It’s inexpensive, but it really makes the chore of documentation a lot easier in my opinion.

MS Office 365https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-365/
Love it or hate it, it is the gold standard of Office suites. It’s what 99% of people are using at home and work. If you have more than one person in your house, go for MS O365 Family, as it allows for 6 users on the plan for only $99/year. If you are a student, make sure to utilize your “free” Edu licensed copies of Office.

Yes, there are other free Office suites out there, like Google Apps or LibreOffice, which will work in a pinch – but why settle. Go with the gold standard and go with the software you know will work, go with O365.

NotePad++https://notepad-plus-plus.org/
This is my favorite text editor. If you haven’t tried it, what are you waiting for? It really is just the best multi-tab text editor out there.

VMware Workstation Playerhttps://www.vmware.com/products/workstation-player.html
This is a great, free, type two hypervisor. Do you want to run a VM on your workstation? This will do it! If you are really getting into virtualization (or use it a lot for work) look into purchasing (or having work purchase) VMware Workstation Pro, it’s $149. Having the Pro version unlocks a lot more features which the regular player doesn’t have. Also, take a look at the VMUG Advantage membership I mention below.

VMUG Advantagehttps://www.vmug.com/home
If you work with virtualization at all, then you probably want to get yourself a VMUG Advantage membership. VMUG is VMware’s free User Group and its paid VMUG Advantage provides members exclusive development opportunities with 365-day access to VMware solutions, discounted training, certification opportunities, and more.

While it’s a little costly at $200/year, you get a lot back. Heck if you were to buy VMware Workstation Pro, that alone is worth $150, so for a little more, you can gain access to basically the entire VMware software library. How’s that for a LifeProTip. And with a bit of googling you could probably find yourself a discount code even.

7-ziphttps://www.7-zip.org/
This is my go-to archiving software. It is free. It is open-source. You can use it on any computer. You never have to register it to use it. It works with just about any compression/archive file format. What else could you want!?!

VideoLANhttps://www.videolan.org/index.html
Also known as, VLC player. Need to play a media file? Well, you are in luck! VideoLAN will play it.
If it can’t play your media file, then you got bigger problems. I find that VideoLAN just works better than other media players. It’s also fairly lightweight, so it won’t slow down your system. It’s also available on every platform iPhone, Android, Mac, Windows, and Linux.

PuTTYhttps://www.putty.org/
This app is a bit dated. But it’s still a powerful little app that gets used daily by a lot of folks. It’ll open a terminal session (i.e. – SSH or Telnet) to the server or host or device you specify. I know that there are “newer” and more “robust” applications now that will let you do what PuTTY does… and someday I might swap one of them onto this list. But for the role PuTTY plays, it’d be hard to find a more widely used app among IT professionals.

WinSCP https://winscp.net/
WinSCP is a great app that works as a FTP client, SFTP client, WebDAV client, SCP client & S3 client. Its mostly used for transferring files between your local and a remote machine, but it also has some capabilities in scripting and file management. I really like that it can share site settings with PuTTY, making it even easier to connect to my server and upload/download files.

Bitwardenhttps://www.bitwarden.com/
I have two scary words for you – Password Management. Yes, it’s a scary subject. However, it’s one we need to talk about. With passwords needed everywhere and for everything, it’s important to keep track of what you are using on what site. Even more so, it’s important that you are not re-using the same username/password combinations on every site.

By using an application like Bitwarden, you can keep some of your sanity by letting it keep track of all of your passwords. There are plenty of other password managers out there… so I’m not saying that this one is the best. It’s just the one I am using. You just need to find the one that will meet your needs and utilize it.

Ninitehttps://www.ninite.com/
This site is my goto when I’m setting up a ‘fresh’ Windows machine at home for myself or friends. To sum it up, it’s basically just a multi-installer. Tick the boxes to select all of the programs you want to install and then download just a single installer file. It’s fast and simple!

Trace32.exehttps://social.technet.microsoft.com/…
Trace32.exe, an executable found in System Center Configuration Manager 2007, can quickly open very large trace files and will automatically highlight lines with apparent errors. This tool will allow you to quickly open very large files and locate errors visually. It’s wonderful for log files!

12 April 2020

Restoring your RPi

As I’ve said before, the data running on your RPi is only as good as it’s last backup. You have already backed up your RPi, right?

This article is going to cover how to restore the backup image of your RPi with Windows. While can also restore it using Linux or MacOS, I’m not going to cover those as I primarily use the Windows Operating System. If you desire more info on the RPi backup/restore process, please consult the official documentation here.

Restore on Windows

In Windows, we’ll use a utility called “Win32 Disk Imager”. If you followed my previous article on backing up your RPi you should already have it installed. If you haven’t, please go download and install Win32 Disk Imager onto your computer. It is this software that will allow us to restore the full image copy we made back to the micro-SD card of your RPi.

On your Windows computer, open the Win32 Disk Imager program.

In the upper right, under ‘Device’, select the drive letter of the card reader.
Mine is “D:\”, your will likely be different.

In the ‘Image File’ box, click on the folder button to browse to, and select, the location of your backup image file, which you’d like to restore.

Click the ‘Write’ button at the button to begin restoring your backup image.
There will be a popup message that warns about writing to the device, click ‘Yes’ and it will begin your restore

Once the restore completes, there will be a popup message stating that the write is complete that you need to click ‘OK’ to.

Your restore is now complete!

Go ahead and eject the card from your card reader and return it to your RPi. You can then reconnect the power and turn it back on. Everything should be there, exactly as it was at the time you made the backup.

12 April 2020

Backing up your RPi

Like any other computer system, the data running on your RPi is only as good as it’s last backup. Heck, have you ever even backed-up your RPi since you got it up and running? Well let me show you how to get backed-up so that you can get back up in the event that you ever have a RPi catastrophe.

This article is going to focus on backing up your RPi with Windows. While can also back it up using Linux or MacOS, I’m not going to cover those as I primarily use the Windows Operating System. If you desire more info on backing up your RPi, please consult the official documentation here.

Backup on Windows

In Windows, we’ll use a utility called “Win32 Disk Imager”. Go ahead and download and install Win32 Disk Imager onto your computer. It will allow us to make a full image copy of the micro-SD card that is used in our RPi. That way we can restore a 1:1 image of that micro-SD card as it is at the time of backup, back onto the card or onto a new card if we ever need to. We can keep that image copy on a desktop or NAS or cloud storage.

Start by shutting down the RPi with the following command.

sudo shutdown now

One the RPi has shut down, disconnect the power. You can now pull the micro-SD card out of it. Place it into the the card reader on your Windows computer. This might be a usb adapter that you are using, or there might be a SD slot on your laptop that will take a “micro-SD to SD card” adapter.

On your Windows computer, open the Win32 Disk Imager program.

In the upper right, under ‘Device’, select the drive letter of the card reader.
Mine is “D:\”, your will likely be different.

In the ‘Image File’ box, click on the folder button to browse to, and select, the location of where you would like to save the image file to.

Click the ‘Read’ button at the button to begin creating your backup image.

Once the backup completes, there will be a popup message you need to click ‘OK’ to.

Your backup is complete!

Go ahead and eject the card from your card reader and return it to your RPi. You can then reconnect the power and turn it back on.

You can now restore you RPi to this point-in-time image when anything ever goes wrong in the future.

25 March 2020

WordPress – Set Timezone

I had originally thought that by setting the timezone on a Bitnami server that WordPress would then pull and use that time info. Oh, I was so wrong! It wasn’t a bad exercise, as at least I’ll be able to better read my logs in a more “timely” manner. LOL. But it turns out that setting the timezone info for WordPress is much simpler and doesn’t involve any need to console in or SSH to the server. Lets get started…

Log in with an account that has admin privileges to your WordPress dashboard. In the dashboard menu that is on the left side, navigate to “Settings” then click on “General”

The fifth item down from the top of this page is “Timezone”. Use the dropdown menu to select your desired timezone. Then click the “Save Changes” button at the very bottom of the page. I’m choosing “Honolulu” as my desired timezone.

That’s it! Your WordPress posts will now all reflect the local time you chose as your timezone. It couldn’t be any simpler than that!

4 December 2019

ReFS allocation size

I was reformatting a drive for some Veeam backups and was trying to recall what I had set the ReFS allocation unit size to when I initially setup the drive. Well, I could not remember to save my life. Luckily, with a little command line action, it’s easy enough to find out what it was set it to.

The command line tool to use is fsutils. To see what options are available to us when using fsutils, we can run the following command.fsutils fsinfo /?

Using “E:/” as the drive we are checking out, we can run the following line to discover information about the volume itself. fsutil fsinfo volumeinfo E:

To view the specific ReFS info on this drive, we can run the following line. fsutil fsinfo refsinfo E: Take a look at value for the “Bytes Per Cluster”, this is where we can see that when this drive was formatted, it’s allocation unit size was set to 65k. 65k is also the recommended setting for Veeam destinations if you are using ReFS.

4 October 2019

Veeam Backup O365

While I’ve spent more than a few years working with Veeam’s Backup & Replication (VBR). But I’m pretty new to Veeam’s Backup O365 (VBO365). I recently learning about some of their differences while setting up a new install of VBO365 in an environment which already used VBR.

One is that unlike VBR, VBO365’s repositories don’t support drives have data deduplication enabled and running on it. It can be on a Windows server with the data deduplication role installed, that won’t break anything. But the disk volume that the repositoy lives on can not have a running data dedupe task, as you risk a change of corruption in your backup file.

The next is that it’s recommend that the VBO365 application is installed on it’s own VM. It can be run on the same VM as your VBR, but it can be resource intensive so they recommend it be running on it’s own.

The VBR backup job that is running against your VBO365 VM needs to be application aware. On top of that, they recommend running pre-job and post-job scripts to stop and start the VBO365 services. This means before the VBR job runs, it’ll need to run a script to stop VBO365 services (there are three services, though the RESTful API is probably already off by default). Then once the VBR job completes, it’ll need to start up it’s VBO365 services (there are two of them).

Luck for you and me, VBR can easily be set up to run the pre- and post- job scripts. And even luckier for you, I have already put together the Powershell command you’ll need to stop and start those services

Stop Services:

Get-Service | where {$_.name -match “Veeam.Archiver”} | sort-object Status -desc | stop-service

Start Services:

Get-Service | where {$_.name -match “Veeam.Archiver.Service”} | sort-object Status -desc | start-service

Get-Service | where {$_.name -match “Veeam.Archiver.Proxy”} | sort-object Status -desc | start-service

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