Latest Microsoft Group Policy Templates
article #1183, updated 4 days ago

It is often helpful to update the Group Policy templates for a domain. The most current set can be found quite easily via a Google search:

https://www.google.com/search?q=Administrative+Templates+%28.admx%29+for+Windows+10&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-b-1-ab

They install as an MSI which does nothing but dump them into a folder here:

 C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Group Policy

Once you have the above done, we have manual steps. The best way to approach this is probably in an administrative CMD.

First, look in here:

%WINDIR%\PolicyDefinitions

We will be wiping everything there. If there are many files with numbers at the end of their names, you probably have Microsoft Office templates as well as Windows templates, and you will have to replace them too. There are other templates which could be involved, so be warned and be ready.

For now, we are going to write as if you have just Microsoft default templates there. Wipe them all. Then replace them with all of the .ADMX files in the dump folder, plus just the language folder appropriate for you. The dump folder will have all of the language folders, you want just yours.

The second destination folder is:

%WINDIR%\SYSVOL\sysvol\<domain>\Policies

where is the name of the Windows domain. Do not delete everything here, if you do you will do harm to your GPO system. Do, however, remove all of the .ADMXes, and the language folder(s) here, and replace them as above.

Categories:      

==============

A new Microsoft instruction page for Windows Update troubles
article #1305, updated 5 days ago

Here’s a new one, seems to cover some good ground:

https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/10164/fix-windows-update-errors

Categories:      

==============

When VSS Writers Fail
article #1304, updated 13 days ago

A good thing to do, is to do cleanup/improvement steps, and then restart related services:

VSS Writer Service, Short ID & Binary Service, Long Name
ASR Writer VSS Volume Shadow Copy
BITS Writer BITS Background Intelligent Transfer Service
COM+ REGDB Writer VSS Volume Shadow Copy
DFS Replication Service Writer DFSR DFS Replication
DHCP Jet Writer DHCPServer DHCP Server
FRS Writer NtFrs File Replication
FRSM Writer srmsvc File Server Resource Manager
IIS Config Writer AppHostSvc Application Host Helper Service
IIS Metabase Writer IISADMIN IIS Admin Service
Microsoft Exchange Replica Writer MSExchangeRepl Microsoft Exchange Replication Service
Microsoft Exchange Writer MSExchangeIS Microsoft Exchange Information Store
Microsoft Hyper-V VSS Writer vmms Hyper-V Virtual Machine Management
MSMQ Writer MSMQ Message Queuing
MSSearch Service Writer WSearch Windows Search
NTDS NTDS Active Directory Domain Services
O_Search VSS Writer OSearch Office SharePoint Server Search
O_Search 14 VSS Writer OSearch14 SharePoint Server Search 14
Registry Writer VSS Volume Shadow Copy
Shadow Copy Optimization Writer VSS Volume Shadow Copy
SMS Writer SMSSITEVSSWRITER SMS_SITE_VSS_WRITER
SPSearch VSS Writer SPSearch Windows SharePoint Services Search
SPSearch4 VSS Writer SPSearch4 SharePoint Foundation Search V4
SqlServerWriter SQLWriter SQL Server VSS Writer
System Writer CryptSvc Cryptographic Services
TermServLicensing TermServLicensing Remote Desktop Licensing
WIDWriter WIDWriter Windows Internal Database VSS Writer
WINS Jet Writer WINS Windows Internet Name Service (WINS)
WMI Writer Winmgmt Windows Management Instrumentation

Categories:      

==============

Speed up Windows 10!
article #1300, updated 13 days ago

The amazing Joe Busby showed me a number of things today. First, we remove all sorts of gaming bits which eat resources, and we also remove the built-in Mail and Calendar and BingNews, in administrative Powershell:

Get-AppxPackage "Microsoft.XboxApp" | Remove-AppxPackage
Get-AppxPackage "Microsoft.XboxGameOverlay" | Remove-AppxPackage
Get-AppxPackage "Microsoft.XboxIdentityProvider"  | Remove-AppxPackage
Get-AppxPackage "Microsoft.Xbox.TCUI" | Remove-AppxPackage
Get-AppxPackage "Microsoft.XboxSpeechToTextOverlay"  | Remove-AppxPackage 
Get-AppxPackage "windowscommunicationsapps" | Remove-AppxPackage
Get-AppxPackage "Microsoft.Advertising.Xaml" | Remove-AppxPackage
Get-AppxPackage "Microsoft.BingNews" | Remove-AppxPackage 

There is an optional -allusers option for both Get-AppxPackage and Remove-AppxPackage, but it is far from clear what this does if anything, experimentation yielded very gray results.

Another item. Search for “Background apps”. Open it up, and choose which apps run in your background !!!!! None is an option!

And a third. The Edge browser is reloaded by the operating system at boot and after it is closed. Turn it off with registry settings (this is in Powershell):

CD HKCU:\Software\Policies\Microsoft\
mkdir MicrosoftEdge
mkdir MicrosoftEdge\Main
CD MicrosoftEdge\Main
New-ItemProperty . -Name AllowPrelaunch -Value 0 -PropertyType "DWord"

CD HKLM:\Software\Policies\Microsoft\
mkdir MicrosoftEdge
mkdir MicrosoftEdge\Main
CD MicrosoftEdge\Main
New-ItemProperty . -Name AllowPrelaunch -Value 0 -PropertyType "DWord"

And a fourth. “Game Mode” is something which sits in the background eating resources. Its purpose is to semi-automatically record as a digital movie, everything that happens on your screen. It tries to detect and do this automatically, and it gets it wrong a lot, slowing things down, and sometimes, a lot. But Game Mode can be shut off globally. Turn it off with a registry setting here:

CD HKCU:\Software\Microsoft\
mkdir GameBar
New-ItemProperty . -Name AllowAutoGameMode -Value 0 -PropertyType "DWord"

CD HKLM:\Software\Microsoft\
mkdir GameBar
New-ItemProperty . -Name AllowAutoGameMode -Value 0 -PropertyType "DWord"

Categories:      

==============

If StorageCraft ShadowProtect Will Not Install and Rolls Back
article #1303, updated 13 days ago

Try the steps here:

https://support.storagecraft.com/s/article/How-To-Manually-Uninstall-ShadowProtect-5-x?language=en_US

Use the components in the downloadable zip file. Run them thus:

vssins64.exe /unregister
stcinst.exe -u
stcinst.exe -w

If it is needed, the last indicates reboot as well.

Categories:      

==============

Engine Improvement with a Negative Ion Generator
article #1267, updated 14 days ago

Deep reengineering of recent car and truck engines is probably not a good idea in the general case; the things are tweaked to the gills, with sensors upon sensors, wires everywhere, and the computer the master of all. Certainly I’m not going to try it. But what about something simple, that might never have been done before?

A negative ion generator, is a widget commonly used to improve air quality intended for human consumption. It “ionizes” molecules and atoms in air, giving them negative electrical charges. This observably coalesces dust particles, which fall; and also destroys odors. One can find more health-related reports about them too. Reportedly, right after a thunderstorm, most of the “invigoration” one encounters in the air, is negative ionization.

There used to be “negative ionizer” things which were little bricks that plugged in and hung onto wall power sockets. These did help, but the dust tended to coalesce and adhere around a few inches radius of the device, on the wall et cetera, which is why we don’t see those much anymore! But the electronics are being built into quite a few air conditioners now, even the window air conditioner we bought a year or two ago has one inside it. Little ionizer appliances with fans, suitable for desks and auto dashboards, are now available from quite a few different companies.

And I do enjoy testing the walls of my current box. So, thought I, I wonder what would happen, if we charged the air going into our friendly household truck engine. I have a 1998 Tahoe, 5.7L EFI V8, which underwent some mods before she asked to come into our life (her name is Bertha, she is a big girl with a very low voice)…and she has a certain amount of airspace available in her engine compartment, so I thought, why not. I remember just enough physical chemistry (which I mostly failed) to be dangerous, and the idea of adding electrons to air bits to make them more reactive, sounds like a way to get a very nicely helpful sort of energy into her heart. After all, it’s not how much energy you have, it’s the preparation of that energy into usable form. We have enormous amounts of unused chemical energy in every engine cycle: if we can bleed off a little engine power electrically to get a noticeably helpful net result, that’s a definite gain.

So I ordered one of these,

after a lot of looking around, from Alanchi on AliExpress. The pic is for the 12VDC version, it comes in 110VAC and 220VAC too; I ordered the 12VDC of course, to wire straight into existing electrical. It is advertised as a 30 million particle per cm3 negative ionizer, which appears to be much more powerful than any of the others I could find, except one which is 220VAC only from the same source. That one is at 100 million particles per cm3…but I’m not going to try to engineer 220VAC under Bertha’s hood ☺ Also unlike what I had seen in the past, this class of ionizer throws its output off little carbon brushes, rather than rows of thin and sharp metal needles. I have seen the metal needles degrade over time, due to corrosion and possibly more interesting behaviors (I saw what looked like a slow-moving, brightly glowing spark, rising off a needle, on at least two or three occasions); the carbon brushes strike me as a very good idea.

If you are in the U.S., you’ll spend a lot of money on shipping from AliExpress unless you are willing to wait a long time; I waited a long time ☺ and I don’t regret it, it gave me time to think about setting this up in as durable a fashion as possible, which we really do want in an engine compartment. We don’t want to cause ourselves electrical problems of any sort, bad ones are very bad; we have to be careful, and this is my daily driver. One nice thing, this 30 M/cm3 ionizer element is only using 1 watt of power, just a tiny sip.

Do note that what we want is explicitly not an “ozone generator”. Ozone is a peculiar and less stable molecular form of oxygen, and it is both poisonous and corrosive. We do not want any noticeable amount of this, in regular contact with anything we care to keep. It is used sometimes as a cleansing agent, to kill invasive bugs and other unpleasantries, but it is not what we are after here. Most if not all electronics produce very tiny amounts of ozone, thunderstorms produce more; the devices we want for this purpose explicitly produce only infinitesimal amounts, and they are explicitly rated for this as well, because years ago this was not done so carefully, there was confusion.

It is also true that I am at least a tad concerned with possible corrosion in this build. Ionization means reactivity: various components of air are being made more likely to do chemical reactions with things they encounter, than they would otherwise. So be warned, if you try this you taking risk just as I am; I have no idea what this is doing to various sensors and other bits! As of this writing, 2019-06-10, the project has been progressing about six months, and no evil signs yet, and very much definite good. I’ll be updating as I learn things and encounter things happening; see the “results” section at the bottom if you wish ☺ One idea which did come up recently, was checking the spark plugs, this can be one way to find badness in the cylinders. I also deliberately used two metal screw-eyes in the securing of widgets four, five, and six, study of these will help too.

And back to work. I set up the electricals as well as I know how, with crimp-on terminals for every wire, because I intend to run with it in the long term, and Kansas sometimes (and never always) gets very cold winters, very hot summers, wet springs, etc. We could wire straight to the battery, but that would mean opening the hood to switch it on and off every time. Since we want this widgetry to always have power with the engine, we use something called a “fuse tap”,

which I learned about through web-searching. You take out an existing fuse, plug the fuse tap in, and then plug the old fuse and a second new fuse into the fuse tap’s own sockets. The fuse tap has a wire end to crimp onto, and that runs to the widget needing the power.

Local auto retail had only 10-amp fuse taps for Bertha. She has just one 10-amp fuse socket which turns on and off with the engine, marked “IGN” (Ignition I believe); there is a certain amount of web-advice against using this, but I ran with it for a while until the nagging questions got to me. Then I found a very few in web-retail rated to 20 amps, and she has a few sockets like that, so I chose one and we’re off :-)

So I ran a new wire from the fuse tap, all the way around the back of the engine compartment, threading through items which don’t get hot to hold it in place, to a little switch with a light in it, so I could know for certain when the widget is powered, and so I could shut it off if anything happened within certain categories ☺ I followed the simple wording on the switch (+12VDC here, accessory wire there, ground there), and grounded both the device and the switch directly to the battery. Then I drilled four small holes, one for each of the carbon brushes, in the casing for the air filter. This is emphatically pre-filter, not post-filter, because I don’t care how strong those brushes are, I don’t ever want bits of them going into Bertha’s engine! Here’s the first result:

Everything sat in that little cavity just under the switch, I pulled it all out for the pic. You’ll notice the four wires going into the air filter casing. I used a very nice epoxy from JB Weld advertised to bond any plastic; it works very well, highly recommendable. Unlike other products, it does not make you wonder how much destruction you are doing to your lungs, or potentially, to your sense of reality; very good stuff, just works, and I have been using it for lots of different other things too.

It is true that I will end up regretting using epoxy if/when I eventually have to replace the ionizer units. But that’s fine, that’s what cordless electric drills are for ☺ Also I still don’t know what I would/will use instead of the epoxy. It seems important to hold those wire ends so they don’t get sucked onto the air filter surface, or flap around a lot; they’re sticking through only about an inch.

I can imagine a little metal screw-in stud with a hole in the middle for the wire, but I don’t know what it’s commonly called, or if anyone is actually making them right now ☺ They probably are, these days. If it becomes desireable, I’ll probably send up a RFQ (request for quote) to MFG or AliExpress or something. Wording is the problem then, and the fact that although I might have seen one or two of these in the dim mists of memory, I don’t have precision for it, and my drawing skills aren’t great. I once taught myself rudiments of the DOS version of AutoCAD though, maybe I could revisit that kind of graphics; someone must have an open-source CAD these days, right…?

Results

Lots of them. All of them good so far!

The device has been in place for about 6 months as of this writing. It went in in the dead of a very cold winter, ranging from -5 to +35 F (-21 to +2 C) or so. The first set of results came using just one of the negative ionizer widgets discussed above:

  • Cold running. In the extremer cold, Bertha used to sound a bit strained until warm, like many other engines I’ve heard. Not anymore. Even stone cold, at minus five, the gas pedal seemed to have about as much juice as warm. She burned a bit more gas doing it, but was much happier to run than without.
  • Starting. Bertha has never had real trouble starting once I gave her a really good (and pricey) battery and new starter, just normal behavior. But now it’s not normal. Hot or one-hour-warm, she takes off, probably turning over once. Even cold usually, she turns over just a bit and righto she goes.
  • Idle has an interesting sound change (she does have glasspacks…), very very regular, and when hot quite a lot less in volume, clearly doing more with less.

After about two months, I put in two more ionizer elements, a total of three. Just one of the electronic widgets are visible in the pic below, there is actually some good space down there.

  • Definitely more power at all times. My sweet Lori, who is not often very impressed with my occasional forays into unusual creative [some might say bizarre] engineering, actually commented on this as we hit the freeway together for the first time after the third went in.
  • Sweet Lori and I did two careful fillups at the same pump at the same station and exactly the same route and approximate speeds, and ran two there-and-backs to Lawrence, Kansas, about 30 miles away. There was about 3% (half a gallon) of gas less used with the widgets on, than off. I won’t say that’s clear and present advantage, because 3% isn’t huge, and you’d really want to do testing on a dyno. But it’s not nothing, and it was a rainy day with very wet air, the very condition most likely to hinder the air chargers. Very much looking forward to more testing.
  • I was actually surprised at how little change there was when the air chargers were turned off, given the initial experiences of three. I am theorizing that a lot of the overall effects at this point, may have been due to a simple general cleaning effect of having the charged air running through.

Just last week, I installed air chargers four, five, and six ☺ She now has something akin to a cute little harness connecting all of those wires to the switch. Nice and clean though!

  • Improvement in horsepower is immediate and noteworthy. Ponderworthy had a gig a few days after, about thirty miles away, which was a great first long-ride test; I was amazed at how interesting it was holding Bertha down to the speed limits ☺
  • Overall engine smoothness, and idle tonality, is improved also.
  • Now it being June, we finally have 70’s and 80’s in air temperature; and so far, the warmer it’s been, the better the behavior. In 80-degree weather Bertha actually idles in a quiet murmur once hot. Amazing.

Haven’t run a rigorous fuel use check with six, but that is coming!

Do drop me a line if you have questions, are interested, or try it!!!

Categories:      

==============

Windows Search major disk usage
article #1302, updated 18 days ago

If you see that Windows built-in search components (any of several, including the Indexer, Cortana, etc.) are using a lot of your disk bandwidth, run this in an administrative Powershell:

Add-AppxPackage -Path “C:\Windows\SystemApps\Microsoft.Windows.Cortana_cw5n1h2txyewy\Appxmanifest.xml” -DisableDevelopmentMode -Register

It appears to reset or reload Cortana or a big chunk of it, and probably disable “Development Mode” too. One web reference stated that the above has to be run in a newly created local admin profile to work.

Also, if you’re in a former (or, God forbid, current) SBS environment, make sure the SBS client is removed, and make sure GPO isn’t automatically reinstalling it.

Categories:      

==============

Command References
article #1301, updated 18 days ago

This page will expand. For now:

https://ss64.com

Categories:      

==============

Connect PowerShell to Exchange Online / Office 365 / Azure
article #804, updated 18 days ago

First, as with many things in Powershell, we make sure we can run lots of things:

Set-ExecutionPolicy RemoteSigned -Force

The method below appears best as of this writing for Server 2016 and Windows 10. It uses the Office 365 GUI box rather than the archaic. The first two steps probably have to be done just once per machine, until Microsoft updates the modules.

Install-Module -Name AzureAD
Install-Module MSOnline
Import-Module AzureAD
Connect-MsolService

And the second method, below, will work with 2012/8, as well as 10/2016. It does appear to use at least some older APIs.

$UserCredential = Get-Credential
$Session = New-PSSession -ConfigurationName Microsoft.Exchange -ConnectionUri https://outlook.office365.com/powershell-liveid/ -Credential $UserCredential -Authentication Basic -AllowRedirection
Import-PSSession $Session -DisableNameChecking

When you’re done with the second method, be sure to do the following afterwards, or you may have to wait for automatic session expiration. This does not apply to the first method:

Remove-PSSession $Session

Categories:      

==============

Change Remote Desktop (Terminal Server) Licensing from Per-Device to Per-User
article #1299, updated 26 days ago

This is easily done in Local Group Policy, on the machine with the RDS licensing server:

Computer Configuration/
Administrative Templates/
Windows Components/
Remote Desktop Services/
Remote Desktop Session Host/
Licensing

Categories: