Technology Solutions for Everyday Folks

Matt Zaske Online Blog

Improving Manual Certbot Domain Validation

In my second post about using Certbot in manual mode, I address some of the 'pain points' from the first post: namely the process of scripting together some of the bits to create/renew a certificate and otherwise requiring fewer individual commands be entered (or remembered).

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Moving to Certbot with Let's Encrypt

This is the first post in a short series of posts about automating what one can in an environment that might not support full-automation with Certbot and Let's Encrypt.

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Analog Reading

I read and consume a lot of material every day. I love it, and I love how available this material can be to everyone (God Bless the Internet).

What I have been remarkably remiss at over the last year or so, though, is regular old analog reading. The stuff of books, that is.

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Quick Tests of WQL Queries

Recently I was working on a clean-up/improvement project in the MEMCM (SCCM) console which required some WQL query work and updates. In particular, I was fiddling with some collection queries to segment some areas for a process improvement project coming up. That's intentionally vague, because the 'why' in this case doesn't really matter. What does matter is that I needed WQL to give me proper results.

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A Good, Long Conversation

Throughout the pandemic I've tried to keep in contact with friends via different mechanisms. One of those venues is Slack, where one friend and I have gotten into this "habit" of sorts where we do some sort of video call (Slack, Zoom, etc.) that ends up lasting several hours. These come up every six weeks or so (in addition to more regular banter via Slack); not often enough to be burdensome, but often enough to be meaningful.

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Quickly Extracting Icons with Powershell

One of the things I both love and loathe is adding the little icon to an advertised deployment in the Software Center console of SCCM/MEMCM. As many have said it in the past, "Pretty Counts" and I wholeheartedly agree.

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Auto-Power On Dell Workstation

Cartoon characters join together with "Let's Power Up!" as a caption.

As we begin another academic year, this time in a pandemic, we're providing more virtual/remote desktop access to computer lab and public-access workstations for those in need. We're starting by using the machines taken out of general service due to physical distancing requirements.

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Formulas in CSV Files

Bad Magic Trick with a ladle for cooking

A while back I received a call for assistance in helping to streamline an inherited process. In this particular case, an individual had created a complex (but necessary) process to essentially transform and move data between disparate systems. The employee(s) responsible for creating this process had since left, but the process remained and needed to be manually done often enough that it was painful enough for the person now responsible for the process to ask for assistance.

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All Sealed Up!

Injection foam insulation breaches an electrical outlet.

It's been a wild couple of weeks since I last posted anything here. I'd exhausted most of pre-written content and with a bunch of these improvement and scope creep projects on the horizon it was not feasible to get more material churned out in the short term, so a break it was!

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Improvement Project Scope Creep

As I've written about before, there have been plenty of random projects to work on during the pandemic and additional time spent around home. Due to a pretty significant hailstorm last summer, we're going to be replacing every roof on the property and also re-siding the house.

That's not where the scope creep comes into play.

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Setting Up Key Authentication

Hands playing with a set of keys on a ring.

While I was preparing to write an upcoming post about moving directly to certbot from SSLForFree now that they've merged with ZeroSSL, I realized that I'd not actually ever written a post about one of the components I use all the time, including for my new certbot process: public key authentication.

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Pollinators on the Prairie

Large bumble bee resting in a shady spot.

One of the things I've always enjoyed about our little home on the prairie is the fact we've always a selection of various critters or insects beneficial to the larger environment. Part of this is bolstered by the fact we live across the road from several hundred acres of waterfowl production area owned and managed by the US Fish and Wildlife service.

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Pushing Data Into Google Sheets Sheets (Yes, Multiples)

Screenshot of basic sheet including multiple tabs/sheets (Excel)

If you recall from the last tech post about pushing data directly into Google Sheets, I promised a follow-up regarding the process of adding multiple sheets worth of data to a given parent sheet.

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Interesting Pandemic Electric Usage Pattern

Stock bar graph with trend arrow ending downward

This is a relatively short post, but as I entered our May electric usage into my tracking spreadsheet (see the Energy Use Analysis post from a while back), I noticed something peculiar about this last few months since the pandemic really hit (and we started staying at home all the time).

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Programmatically Push Data to Google Sheets

Screenshot of a very basic CSV file of gibberish test data

I've written in the past about the ability to ship files to Google Drive via its REST API and PHP, which is a super-cool process in and of itself. In the last few months, I've been moving more and more of our internal data shipping processes to Google Shared Drives for ease of end user access.

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Pandemic Projects Aplenty

Tim Allen from Home Improvement showing off sledgehammer

It is no surprise to me that retail outlets catering to home improvement projects have been doing well during the pandemic and various iterations of stay-at-home orders. The sudden 'found' time of folks who might normally spend time on other endeavors is suddenly focused into projects around the house. To some degree this is the same here...

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Character-Perfect Fixed Width Import Files

Flintstones Cartoon Sewing Machine

One of my springtime projects at work was to button up a recently-refreshed process to transmit some billing data between systems. By 'recently-refreshed,' I mean 'finally made a process whereby a human doesn't have to manually generate a file which had been the de-facto process for the better part of twelve years. Due to the cascading effects of some staff turnover in the unit in question, IT was brought into the loop to help find a better way to work this process.

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Shaking The GnuCash Account Tree

Man shaking tree of money

Over the years I've developed a habit where a short part (~30 minutes on average) of most weekends are dedicated to entering the week's receipts, reconciling (or balancing) accounts, updating investment fund values, and so forth. Once familiar with GnuCash, this process is pretty straightforward and easy to do.

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Simple, Yet Powerful Excel/Sheets Functions

Cartoon about functional programming

As a reflection exercise for a project I wrapped up a bit ago, combined as an exercise to make Future Me's life a Better Place, I pulled together a simple Google Sheets workbook to make a quick 'calculator' and balancing mechanism to help keep track of a couple datasets. And in so doing, I again befriended a couple of super simple, and super powerful functions:

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GnuCash For The Win

Parks and Rec "They call me the Swiss Army accountant" gif

As I wrote about a couple months back, GnuCash is my accounting software of choice since ~2010. I wasn't exactly "sold" on it from the start, but it was a free and open-source solution that seemed robust enough to handle pretty much anything I could throw at it, from managing business finances and whatnot to a whole mess of personal accounts.

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Count of AD Groups Ranked by Members

A cartoon/drawn group of random people

A week ago, someone on one of our more generalized Slack channels asked if anyone knew how to make AD Users and Computers (ADUC) filter mechanism rank output based on a group membership count. Now, I don't necessarily understand (or honestly, care) about the particular use case, but I knew the answer was going to be 'no, that can't be done by way of the GUI.' Which was the first part of my answer.

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Energy Use Analysis

Animation of a chart from The Simpsons

A little over a decade ago we had a ground-source heat pump installed for our home heating and cooling. Commonly called a 'geothermal' system, the basic function is that it uses the earth's relative/stable temperature (well below the frost line) to act as a heatsink for air conditioning and heating.

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Powershell Exports AD Computers to CSV

Road sign reading "Export"

A couple months ago I wrote about using Powershell to find and export AD records for the purposes of our Windows 7 End-of-Life project. This post is effectively a second in a series of 'exporting computer records from AD with Powershell' if you will.

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Well, It's Been A Ride These Last Weeks

News anchors flail about

So I wound up putting a bit of a pause on posting this last month or so. Certainly not for a lack of things to say...but certainly for lack of time to nuance them. I've had to schedule and reschedule the various posts I had in progress (but not fully finished) a couple of times now. Hopefully I can get to the point of starting to regularly crank out new stuff on the normal schedule.

But first, this bit of a reset.

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TRIM-ming up for Summer

Trimming a hedge with lawnmower attached to tractor loader

Not really TRIM-ming for summer, but taking the opportunity to briefly write about Rule #1 when dealing with unknown (or incoming) data.

Sanitize. Thy. Inputs.

Without going into great detail (as it doesn't matter at the end of the day), last week I encountered a vendor that apparently doesn't know how to do this very well. Or at all. What ultimately transpired is the complete failure of a reasonably-routine change process to capture a critical failure in production.

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