Sunday, 15 December 2013

Filling the G-Apps: Google Drive Sync

Google Drive Sync whilst being a useful tool is not yet developed to an enterprise level.

NB: Whilst the above statement is also true of Google Drive the following points are only about Google Drive Sync:

● There are currently no management tools available
● It is not supported when installed on a server
● Scope and granular functionality don't exist beyond what a basic user can see
● The local synchronisation service whilst it seems fairly reliable and it doesn't quite interfear with resources as much as something like Dropbox. It's not extremely fast, it's not a snail's pace but if you have 30+ users all working on non Google Docs documents they might not all be synchronised in a reasonable time
● Unidirectional synchronisation settings. While any files you place under the root folder will synchronise from a local computer up you can't tell it what not to synchronise at the secondary folder level or any subsequent folders
● There is no connection or issues with Google Drive Sync between Google Drive and local network security permissions so they need to be maintained separately

While it's fairly simple to use, you need to understand if you don't consider your setup correctly it could easily be a nightmare for a network administrator.

Currently Google Drive Sync is only designed for personal use.  

Filling the G-Apps: Chrome/Gmail Crash

A more common issue with Chrome & Google Apps these days is an DNS caching issue.
If you're using the simple but useful "Stay Signed in" checkbox and there's an issue with your connection or your IP address is changed you could come across the Chrome/Google Apps equivalent of the "Blue Screen of Death", nowhere as bad and simple to fix.

You'll be faced with a white screen with the appropriate Google Apps icon & the text "The app is currently unreachable".

To resolve the issue you just need to clear your DNS by completing the following steps:
  1. Open your command line I.e. Dos prompt (On Windows PC, press Windows + R > type "cmd" > click Ok) 
  2. On Command Promt type "ipconfig /release"
  3. Then type  "ipconfig /flushdns"
  4. Then type "ipconfig /renew"
Similar details for the Tasks Chrome Extension can be found here.

Another solution that works when it's just a locked session issue from a dropped connection is to log into another browser, log out and then refresh your Chrome browser.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Filling the G-Apps: Attaching an Gmail Email

Sending an email as an attachment isn't something that's not native to Google Apps but there are a couple of methods that can get the job done depending on what you're trying to achieve.

A) To attach an unrelated message as an email file you can do the following:
  1. Open the email you would like to attach
  2. Open the menu on the right and select "Show Original" - (It will open a new window with the message in plain text)
  3. In your browser, select "Save As" and use the .eml extension.
NB: This will create a message that all mail clients (Outlook, Live Mail, Thunderbird...) can open, and it will include all original headers. Then upload that .eml file as an attachment to the message you're sending.

B)  Attach as a Google Drive HTML file:

  1. Open the email you would like to turn into an attachment.
  2. Click the drop-down  next to ‘Reply’ in the top-right corner of your message.
  3. Select ‘Print’.
  4. On the left-hand side of the print screen, click the ‘Change’ icon in the ‘Destination’ section.
  5. Select the option to ‘Save to Google Drive’ in the ‘Google Cloud Print’ section.
  6. Click ‘Save’ at the top of the print screen.
  7. Open / Create the new message you would like to send.
  8. Attach your old message using the ‘Insert Files using Drive’ icon.
  9. Select ‘My Drive’.
  10. Find your old email in Drive (it should be at the top of the list) and select it.
  11. Your old email is added as an attachment!

    HTML email using Google Drive - By Ask the Gooru

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Filling the G-Apps: Temporarily Disable Goolge Labs

When trouble shooting an issue in GMail it can be handy to temporarily disable Google Labs.
This can be done easily from the URL once you're logged in either use this address:

or add the operator for Google Labs with it's disable flag i.e. "?labs=0" at the end of your mail domain access address (once logged in).

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Is your iPhone 4 Flaky & Possibly Out of Warranty?

When you work for a company that has iPhones as company phones you're bound to come across similar issues.

By now you could have a number of iPhone 4's that are showing performance issues if you bought them around a year from their release date.

I've had a few that have been taken back for screen repairs and battery issues so the majority of the iPhones I have don't match the original proof of purchase forms (they don't give you a new one when you get a replacement phone) and I have no way of knowing the life expectancy of the refurbished phones.

You can check if an iPhone is still under warranty by the Apple website (https://selfsolve.apple.com/agreementWarrantyDynamic.do) using the hardware serial number that can be found under Settings > General > About.

A replacement warranty lasts 90 days so it's a good idea to record when it will expire and set a reminder to check/test the phone a week beforehand. 

An article you might find this article helpful -
http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2012/08/how-to-get-apple-to-replace-a-defective-out-of-warranty-iphone-in-australia/

Monday, 19 August 2013

Exchange Restart

There are a number of different reasons you might need to restart an Exchange Server it can fall over if resources are limited on your server, something's interrupted one of the services or your mail queue has been overrun and backlogged to name a few.

You can find details on Microsoft's Social Technet but the process I've always followed:
  1. Check the following 3 Services (a-c) and the dependent services (i-x) are all running fine:
    1. Microsoft Exchange Active Directory Topology Service
      1. Microsoft Exchange Transport Log Search
      2. Microsoft Exchange Transport
      3. Microsoft Exchange Service Host
      4. Microsoft Exchange Search Indexer
      5. Microsoft Exchange Replication Service
      6. Microsoft Exchange Mail Submission
      7. Microsoft Exchange Mailbox Assistants
      8. Microsoft Exchange File Distribution
      9. Microsoft Exchange EdgeSync
      10. Microsoft Exchange Anti-spam Update
    2. Microsoft Exchange Information Store
    3. Microsoft Exchange System Attendant
  2. If they are all running (not stalled or stopped) and emails aren't coming through you'll need to restart a, b & c in order and 
  3. If one of them is stopped try restarting the service and if necessary start, stop and start again incase it crashed but won't restart without being stopped correctly. 

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Google Apps for Business

I'm currently in the process of migrating our network to Google Apps in a phased project.

We've decided to make the jump from Exchange to Google Apps for Business for a number of reasons:
  • Lower infrastructure costs — All your email will be stored securely on Google's servers, so we'll no longer have to maintain email servers on-site or upgrade to a new server as has been required for a while. 
  • Ability to consolidate our platforms — We can eliminate a large portion of redundancy costs by moving all of our email and calendar platforms to Google Apps 
  • Lower support costs — Because Google hosts the email and calendar services, there's no more email client software to maintain on your computer 
  • Innovative solutions — We can leverage the ongoing creative and technical solutions of the Google Apps platform to provide employees with powerful, easy-to-use tools for getting their work done. In particular we have integration with our CRM to enable smooth and efficient management of customer communication. The connector allows for simple passing of emails, attachments, documents from Gmail to the CRM saving time, errors and easy management of customer tracking. 
  • Highly scaleable environment — With Google Apps, our email capacity will grow automatically as our organization grows, and we'll avoid the complexity of internal systems 
  • Access to services from anywhere, at anytime — A key benefit of the Google-hosted solution is that we can access email, contacts, and calendar from any computer or mobile device with an Internet connection, from anywhere in the world 
  • More collaboration features — With Google's next-generation applications, we can collaborate with colleagues, customers, and partners more easily and efficiently 
  • Instant messaging — Because Google Apps includes Google Talk, we can now implement an instant messaging system for our organization

We've created some test users and are fairly happy with the integration to the CRM and functionality of Google Apps however I've identified that the test domain we set everything up on (the company's primary division) is not the best domain as the company I work for has a number of domains/divisions that need to be used for multiple employees.

According to the structure of Google Apps I have two options which basically come down to either users having to use multiple logins or a parent/child domain relationship that involves scrapping the setup that's already been done on our primary division and redoing under the parent domain.

There's a large resource base available for Google Apps (perhaps too much for most) so I'd recommend a well planned staggered deployment for any company that's well established in any alternate environment.

Aspects Currently Lacking

While there's are a large range of Apps available either through Google or App developers there still seem to be core back end functionality required for larger businesses.

There are a number of generic Enterprise solutions that any large corporation requires that are not available unless you add a large number of paid Google Apps services and even then they are generally not clean solutions such as:
  1. Signature Management
    1. The ability to apply signature templates across users against their departments requirements
    2. The ability to apply signature templates across users against their divisions requirements
    3. The ability to apply signature templates based on their domain name
    4. Full HTML manipulation
  2. The ability to apply a Company Style guide
    1. Company fonts
    2. Generic document settings such as single line spacing with a paragraph carriage return
    3. Non Google Fonts

Management Tools


GAM

There is a management tool available called GAM (Google Apps Manager) that I've seen a few positive reviews/comments about that I'll be looking into as it apparently makes Enterprise level management aspects a lot easier than the limitations of the Google Apps Admin Console.

FlashPanel

Another Tool I'm using is Flash Panel, it does do as it says "FlashPanel is a powerful, user-friendly cloud management tool for Google Apps administrators that helps them better control and secure their Google Apps domains, delegate granular privileges to non-IT employees, and automate common management tasks.",but it's not quite there yet in terms of easily managing larger organisations.

With things like managing multiple updates and new users it does use a simple import/export spreadsheet to allow you to manipulate multiple users but the layout/structure, functionality and details in both the web-portal and spreadsheet could be improved as I'm sure they will be over time.

It is also a one direction functionality so it locks out out of aspects in the Google Apps and the synchronisation isn't instant between the two.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

iPhone5 Microphone Not Working

I've experienced this issue my self and it's rather frustrating.

Basically the noise cancelling software is active and not functioning how Apple intended as it is cancelling out the users own voice.

You can identify that this is the case by switching your call to speaker mode (or plugging in your iPhone headphones) and the person on the other end of the line can hear you clearly.

There are several factors that could cause this to happen:
  1. iPhone cases a good understanding/explanation about the possible reasons is shown here by Marty Huie on YouTube.
  2. Change in settings. I currently have no verified reference for this but it has been mentioned in possible solutions on a couple of forums.
  3. iOS Error

To resolve the issue you'll need to go through the following:
  1. Try a Hard Boot or Reset by holding down the home and sleep buttons at the same time, wait for the Apple logo, let go of the buttons.

    This does two important things: 
  • Clears any unsaved cached data which gives a clean slate for any apps or settings having any issues.
  • Drops and reestablishes a connection with your carrier, Bluetooth, wireless etc. in-turn resetting and reconnecting any applications.
  1. If that does not work try a Restore in iTunes this will restore your iOS to a point where there were no issues, you can then test and reapply your backup for Applications etc.
  2. If both of the above fail you'll need to get it serviced as it's possibly a hardware issue.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Windows 8 Impressions (Network Instillation)

I know lots of people have already reviewed Windows 8 from Beta to it's release date 2 months ago (October 26, 2012) but I thought I'd give my first impressions.

It's easy to see what they're trying to do with Windows 8:
  • Compete with the exponential growth in the Tablet market
  • Create an easy transition from traditional KVM to touchscreen desktops
  • Compete with Apple and Android Apps across multiple devices
It seems like they've done what they always do and create something at face value that looks Microsoft (reasonably clean but structured with many layers) and left a whole lot of functionality they're unsure of out so they can wait on public opinion to add/correct in future updates.

The ease of moving between the traditional desktop and the new interface is well done, as are the very brief tutorials (once you get over the "fear factor" of the changes). However the "intuitive factor" of knowing what to do, or finding details within the system on how to do something like install a program are a big failure. It's not hard Microsoft if you completely change a standard process you show how it was done previously and how it should be done in the new version.

When setting setting up a Windows 8 machine on a SBS 2008 network there were a couple of things that didn't work or were annoying nuances and as it's not easy to find answers because Enterprise level uptake is slow so the issues and answers aren't readily available yet.
  1. The computer connect wizard program (http://connect/) doesn't work unless you follow these instructions from MPESC's Blog
  2. Remote Desktop/Microsoft Terminal Services Client (a.k.a mstsc) doesn't work to the Windows 8 machine using the connect wizard program you need to manually allow through the windows firewall (which is a good thing). Instructions can be found here if needed.
  3. The Windows Start Page and accessing standard Administrator tools isn't there by default for an Administrator account. It is simple to display but doesn't always work...:
    • Go to "Settings" > "Tiles" > "Show administrative tools" and slide to "Yes"


Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Excel Random Row Heights

I've used Excel for at least 20 years now an I haven't come across this issue before.

Basically we use a shared document to track job processes and it has a header section with key details, summary data and flags for some Macros and the other day all the row heights in the header section reduced so that it looked like the rows were hidden.

I searched for a number things like:

  • Excel row height error
  • Set Excel row height
  • Excel row height issue
In the end I found this post (summarized version with appropriate details below):
  1. Increase the row heights so that they can be viewed
  2. Select/highlight the entire range that's effected
  3. On the Home Toolbar choose bottom alignment, then top alignment  then bottom alignment again....viola, all rows should recover their standard height
  4. Please note if you're working on a shared document with different versions of Excel you'll need to repeat the process
on Microsoft's Social Technet thread, thanks to Dick Bowers

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Microsoft Upgrade Headaches

Some new computers are needed on my network due to resource issues. Normally I'd make the purchase but the GM made the purchase over the Xmas break as of the new computers was for him and I'm one of those fortunate IT managers that has a GM with a reasonable enough understanding of IT to easily make a decision and know generally the right questions to ask.

As we order our computers through a larger producer their computers by default come with the latest OS versions therefore I'm currently dealing with Windows 8 on an SBS2008 server. I've been Googling potential issues and haven't found many issues other than the standard complaints about massive alterations to the structure of the way the OS is layer out/operates.

Standard MS ethos of a split personality our core customers are business but due to the home market we will make it look pretty and improve functionality and. Of care about the ease of transferral of existing customers.

Changes required are generic OS recognition, they're not hard and easy to understand details are found on MPECSINC's Blog

Thursday, 10 January 2013

New Year New Blog

It's a new year and I thought I'd start a blog that I don't personally have to maintain the coding upkeep. As a web developer I've maintained a number of my own sites (CMS Websites, Blogs, Wikis, eCommerce etc.) But they become a full-time job just to maintain. 


As any IT geek I spend a portion of most days researching how to do something via Google, some forum or blog so I thought I'd start by giving back to those that have posted before and will post in the future.

Q: A simple enough question how do you re-size a PDF (Portable Document Format) from A4 to A3.
A: There are ways of doing this but it depends on your criteria:
1) There is a way to do it in Acrobat Pro... simply print to PDF.
However this can take a fair amount of memory and error out sometimes and depending on what you want to edit on the file later and how it was produced you might not be able to make the alterations you want if required.


2) Use a third party program that has this functionality such as CutePDF which will usually strip all future potential editing possibilities.

3) The correct way is to do it in the original editing program such as Adobe Illustrator (if you have the original file). Please see DIGITALIFA's blog for details.