Technology Solutions for Everyday Folks

Tagged with 'tech'

A Twitter Bot for Dad Jokes

About a month ago, I discovered this gem of a tweet:

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My Personal Git Cheat Sheet

I've used a number of various Git cheatsheets over the years, usually duing a moment of "how do I do __ again?" and sometimes during a moment of panic like "Shit! Undo that commit!"

Recently, I (finally) "removed my training wheels" and uninstalled the UI client I had for Git, for two reasons:

  1. I was not actually using its features anymore*; and
  2. It was constantly getting in the way of Git updates.

* Save for the occasional git clone action

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Git-ting the hang of Hooks

Several months ago I made the decision to finally use Git to manage a more complex "legacy" web application project that I inherited over a decade ago and continue to maintain. Years ago when migrating the web application to a new hosting stack, I ported the development/test and production sites into their own Git repositories. Thanks to the magic of GitHub, it made the actual migration to a new host pretty simple in that the migration itself (save for the database bits) was more or less a simple git clone action.

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Signing Git Commits: Chasing the "Verified" Stamp

I've been working on projects lately that actually involve writing more code than I have in a while...and so I'm using Git/GitHub with greater frequency than I have in some time.

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Implementing DMARC: Adjusting SPF Records

It's been a couple of months since I last wrote about implementing DMARC and what comes next (review and adjustment). So I figured this would be a good time to document a few changes I've made based on the reporting data received so far.

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My First Twitter Bot: A Journey into Twitter's API

Dancing Robot

Sometime around Thanksgiving/November 2020, I formalized the idea that I would actually build a Twitter bot for the sake of novelty and as an experiment/learning exercise. One night at suppertime, we discussed what might be cool as a bot and those ideas are still on the list as possibilities for the future. Ultimately, I settled on a bot idea that built on some things I've used in the past (Google API) so I wouldn't have to learn All The Things in addition to building a bot and figuring out the Twitter API.

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Exporting Legacy/Archival Emails with Google Apps

At work, we've had a number of folks retire over the last 18 months, and a number of those folks are holders of some significant institutional knowledge and memories. Recently I had the opportunity to work with one of these individuals as they prepared to both hand off information to others, which led me to recall several conversations I've had with my Libraries/archives friends about preserving the "right" subsets of digital messages such as email.

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My Incremental Certbot Panacea

I've written about Certbot more than any other topic in the last 24 months or so, in part because it's been an interesting adventure for me both in helping to demystify SSL certificates, but also because it's been an evolving and incremental process to Make It Better. The first post I'd written in February of 2019 talked about using a web service to generate a Let's Encrypt certificate...good for 90 days...for free.

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Interruptions and Intentionality

Snip of cartoon saying 'Hey, so I just sent you an email about that thing.'

Interruptions: they're everywhere.

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Implementing DMARC for Active Domains: Policy & Review

This is the second post in a two-part series to implement DMARC controls for actively-used domains, where this post focuses on creating and reviewing/adjusting your DMARC policy and controls. Part one reviewed proper DMARC prerequisites and contains information you will need to have in place before creating your DMARC policy.

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Implementing DMARC for Active Domains: Configuring Prerequisites

As a follow-up from my previous post about implementing DMARC controls for unused/alias domains (those not used for actively sending messages), I wanted to write a bit about how to implement basic DMARC controls for those domains actively used to send emails.

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Implementing DMARC on Alias Domains

A few weeks ago I crossed a tweet with some simple instructions for securing your "unused" email domains, specifically the few bits required to implement DMARC controls to prevent Bad Folks from using your domains to send spam emails. The short thread led to an awesome reference by the UK Government on the same process.

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Automating Certbot: A Recap of My Journey

Long winding road

Over the last two months, I've shared what amounts to a four-part "series" of posts walking through my journey of using Certbot for SSL certificate management, with the primary challenge being not having the traditional root-level access on the web server. Those posts are, in order:

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Certbot in Manual Mode with Script Hooks

If you've been following along in the mini series, I've gone over the details of using Certbot in manual mode, then bolting some simple scripts together to improve the process of generating and managing certs, all done with a bit of magic thanks to our old friend key authenti

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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. Technically it's the second post as the first was geared toward setting up key authentication between systems, something that's leveraged significantly in this series.

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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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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. These workstations are still powered on, but we've removed their keyboards, mice, and fiddled with their monitor configurations (along with basic signage) indicating they are not in service (at the console/in person).

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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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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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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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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. As folks started working remotely, moving data to Google has solved several support burdens regarding access and such.

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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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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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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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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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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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Interesting Log Entries (or, Why To Patch Thy Systems)

Random text scrolling from within a terminal window

So far in 2020, I've been keeping a closer eye on the logs of this Drupal site. Back in the day, I used to pore over logs in a sort of 'bender' fashion, presumably as I was bored or something similar. Rarely was something particularly interesting, but it was a good way to figure out and correct some random things. Still is...but it's 2020 and nobody manually looks at logs anymore.

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Private Content in Drupal

Glass that turns opaque with an electric current.

When I started going down the Drupal road a year ago, with minor delay after delay after delay, one of the many 'dorky' things I wanted to do was port my old "Start Page" to a real platform. See, I've had this flat HTML "Start Page" on my desktop for well over a decade, and it's set as my primary browser homepage.

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Low-Budget "CI/CD"

Dude with baseball bat smashes monitor off desk

A client project had a database server upgrade in early December, and as I eluded to in a different post from around that time, Git was the shit when it came to making my angle of that migration go smoothly. Past Me made Current Me's life a lot simpler.

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Powershell to Find and Export AD Records

Frantically searching through report data

With the very near end of life for Windows 7, as we work through the last bit of known and managed machines to upgrade or replace I find myself needing to do more frequent "searches" of AD computer object records for analysis.

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Cleaning Up and Updating

Suspense while waiting (to update).

I've been a bit remiss in the posting cadence lately (well, since Thanksgiving). Much has been happening in all realms of life (as they are want to be during the "holiday season"). That being said, I don't return to work, proper, until January 6. And so it's time to do some cleaning up and other updates. With any luck, I'll have some material queued up to help buffer the situations when I'm out of time (or random ideas).

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Visual Customizations for Windows 10 in OSD

Windows logo

As we work through the tail-end of our Windows 7 fleet (January 14, 2020 is coming if you haven't heard...), I've found myself rolling a different type of hammer process for the last of the "upgrades." This past week as I was tweaking what amounts to an in-place update (by way of wipe and load) for Windows 7 to Windows 10, I was reminded of how Past Me was indeed awesome (and inspired) since this simple script with all the various background and image sizes still works in Windows 10 19XX deployments.

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Tales From The 'Duh!' Archive: Command Syntax

Cartoon character pushes zombie back into grave

I had a very long week, which means I'm writing a short post this time around.

Among several seemingly disparate things I accomplished in the last week or so, I spent some time deploying applications via SCCM (soon to be called Microsoft Endpoint Manager/Configuation Manager/#MEMCM per the announcement at Ignite this week).

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Let's Expand Encryption!

Gif of lock tumbler mechanism

This weekend I performed the quarterly actions to update my various letsencrypt certificates, which I've not written about since early May when I'd performed the first set of renewals. Let's Encrypt and SSL For Free are still outstanding services, and I'm super happy with them!

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Who's Font Awesome?

Puppy pointing with text "Who's Awesome? You're Awesome!"

Earlier this year while working on a client project revision, I decided to spruce up the old and dated icon set. This set had been cobbled together from various sources over time (the way you did these things back in the day), and overall lacked a consistent use and/or feel. Some actions had no associated icon, so educated guesses were made to find a matching icon from the existing set...and so forth.

Ultimately, it was time. But where to start?!

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Time for a Drupal Refresh

Old computer mainframe tape disks

So here we are...just over six months into the new Drupal adventure driving the site. Overall I'm much happier with the transition than I'd originally expected, because the general maintenance and upkeep has been pretty much automatic. Scheduled publishing has been a lifesaver, too, because it's a 'set and forget' thing...unless I cross a month's boundary between create and publish dates (more about that in a bit).

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Collection Variables in SCCM Task Sequences

Hello my name is {X} tag

As I've mentioned a number of times in previous posts, on our campus we perform a roughly-annual refresh of multi-user workstations across the institution. This 'multi-user' scope includes machines in classrooms, computer labs, open learning spaces, conference rooms, and so forth.

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Dynamically Created Anchor HREFs

Multiple Arows Crossing Paths

Back in the day, namely before Javascript and jQuery were really a thing, the idea of dynamically creating an anchor's HREF attribute required some serious magic and behind-the-scenes wizardry. Or something like Flash. Those were not the days...

A Bit of Background

Several years ago, during a client's web app rebuild/refresh, I decided to clean up some of the gnarly baggage behind their reporting mechanism.

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What's That Join Again?

Visualization of SQL Joins

In the interest of hopefully saving Future Me some time, I'm writing this little bit so as not to have to stumble to remember a simple premise:

How do I LEFT JOIN the same table more than once in a query?

For as many times as I've had to join a table more than once (effectively as a certain type of generic lookup table), you'd think I'd have this memorized. But I always get caught forgetting to proper alias both joins.

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Auto-Determine Primary IP Address

IPv4 address representation in dotted-decimal notation

One of the things I've baked into our production task sequence for "multi-user devices" is a secondary way to automatically determine a device's use case while in the WinPE stage. The primary, preferred way to determine use case is by the use of SCCM collection variables, but those require a known object (in the proper collection) to function as designed. Thus, for all rebuilds of known devices, the use case is figured out by collection variable.

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Batch Ship Data to Google Team Drive

Moving Data

A few weeks ago, I wrote a brief bit about capturing webcam images. This post expands on the initial process: specifically, what to do with the images once procured.

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Capturing Your Internet-Connected Webcam Images

Puppet bird with binoculars

Over the years, we've had a few public Internet-connected cameras pointing at various places around campus. We've used them for publicity and other purposes since the mid-1990's, and starting in around 2010 would sometimes be called upon to create a sort of time-lapse video of activity from one of said cameras.

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Windows Scheduled Tasks with Powershell

Mechanical Mathematical Calculator

As I struggled to find looked for inspiration for this week's post, I wound up looking within...oddly enough as I was reconfiguring my email out of office response (the below is what I had for my time at MMS):

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MMS: Drinking From the Fire Hose

Drinking from the fire hose

I spent last week at MMSMOA, a conference I cannot recommend enough for anyone working in the Microsoft/Windows/Systems Management space. The main event, held at the Radisson Blu Mall of America, is a solid four-and-a-half days of deep technical material, networking, sharing, and more!

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Hey, Let's Re-Encrypt!

HTTP vs. HTTPS

The time has come...to renew some Let's Encrypt SSL certificates! Doesn't seem like 90 days has passed since I originally wrote about trying out Let's Encrypt as a service to generate free, trusted SSL certificates with a limited lifespan (90 days versus the more commercially-focused 1-3 years).

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Performance Can Matter

Performance Measure

I've had this written down as a topic suggestion for some time, and to balance/counter my post a couple weeks ago regarding performance, there's absolutely another side to that coin.

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Does the Performance Matter?

Does it matter?

Back around 2015 or so, I wrote a simple Powershell script which basically re-populates Active Directory (AD) group membership based on data procured from our central systems. Two primary AD groups in particular are synchronized to our print management system, PaperCut, which pre-provisions accounts and access so folks handling monetary transactions don't have to create accounts, etc.

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It's Presentation Season!

Wizardry

As I mentioned a month ago, I've taken the opportunity to commit to more speaking/presentation engagements than ever before, in an attempt to better inspire folks and do more technical evangelism. It just happens to be that I have three things lined up in as many months!

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Auto-Transpose Data

Geeks and Repetitive Tasks Graph

Many years ago, an individual in our office retired and the position was not replaced. For several reasons, this was an appropriate decision: the landscape of IT and our localized service portfolio had, for lack of a better phrase, stabilized. Our team was more often innovating in ways involving or prioritizing partnerships over custom builds or infrastructure requirements. We were appropriately consuming centralized services made available as a commodity.

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I Own You, Drupal View!

I Own You

As I tweeted about in victory a week ago, I managed to finally get my Drupal taxonomy term view(s) to do what I wanted:

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Auto-Generate OSD Computer Name

Typos Happen

Last summer while re-designing and upgrading our primary task sequence for the "multi-user devices" in our fleet (computer labs, learning spaces, etc.), I decided to tackle what had become a bit of a perennial problem: device naming.

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We Have Liftoff!

Hovering Cat

Liftoff.

Finally.

Aside from some style tweaks likely to come around, the underlying technical bits I've been ignoring or had on the list to address (looking at you, tag views) are now in place and working as I'd expect. There's a pesky bit I've ended up handling in a more manual sense, at least for the short term: content view by tags.

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Hey, Let's Encrypt!

As I'd mentioned in the past, one of the key reasons for changing up my personal hosting plan was to support Let's Encrypt, the free and open Certificate Authority. In 2019, there is absolutely no need for a regular old website or service to pay some exorbitant rate for an SSL certificate. The premium options (extended validation and such) are an entirely different arena--think banking and other services--but those are out of scope for everyday Joe.

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It's [Well Past] Transition Time

As the last full refresh of mzonline.com was fully thirteen years (!?!) ago, ca. 2006, one can say it was time for something new.

I'm super glad I had built the old site out with a tableless and (for its time) clean and well-structured design. While it's been a bit dated for several years, with the exception of the site itself not being terribly responsive (for mobile and alternate screen sizes) it's had a good run.

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