Fitting USB3 into a DELL PowerEdge R510 Server

USB3 is not supported natively within Windows Server 2008 (or Windows 7), and therefore Dell has always seemed reluctant to fit USB3 hardware into its Servers.

To make matters worse, most USB3 cards require some sort of SATA Power from the main board, and Dell does not provide these connectors inside the chassis either. So, fitting a PCI Express USB3 card is a tricky proposition.

Fortunately, StarTech offer several USB3 Cards that do not require any additional power from the board (save that provided by the PCI Express slot itself). However, be aware that if you are intending to connect an external Backup Drive to the card, you will need to ensure that the device itself is powered.

I chose the StarTech PEXUSB3S42 Card. It provides three external USB 3.0 Ports (another port sits inside), and was a breeze to install.

The first image (below) shows my R510 Server prior to fitting the Card, and the second shot shows the new card in place.

151007 Dell R510 - PCI Express Slots

160530 - PEXUSB3S42 USB3 Card (2)

For reasons explained above, it was neccesary to run the driver installation disk (provided in the box), and this resulted in a further reboot of the server.

My HP RDX Backup System is now connected to a much faster port and the backup times have reduced accordingly.

All in all, a successful upgrade.

PS, don’t forget to use a USB3 lead when connecting your External Drive, or you will still be running at USB2 speeds. 😉

160530 - PEXUSB3S42 USB3 Card (6)

 

 

 

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Microsoft IIS Bindings and Hosting Multiple Web Sites

This article covers the configuration of multiple web sites within a single installation of Microsoft Internet Information Server (IIS). In order to do this, we need to establish an understanding of how “Bindings” work.

An “out of the box” installation of IIS will create a “Default Web Site” that listens on Port 80. This is the standard “listening” port on which web sites are hosted. In technical terms, we “Bind” the Default Site to Port 80.

IIS Bindings 001

If IIS is running on your network server, you can test the site from any workstation on the network by typing the “IP Address” or the “Host Name” of the Server into Internet Explorer. In my case, this is “http://192.168.200.62” or “http://8g7yf4j-2012r2”.

IIS Bindings 002

This is all pretty straight forward so far. The situation becomes a little more complicated if you decide to host a second web site within IIS. Since the default Web Site is already “listening” on Port 80, it isn’t entirely obvious how we can run two web sites on the same server without moving one of the sites to a different port (such as 8080). This is where we need a little more knowledge of how to properly configure the bindings when we are running multiple sites.

To demonstrate this, we will go through the process of adding a second Web Site within IIS.

The first step is to create a new folder within “C:\inetpub\” to hold our Web Site assets. For convenience, I have named mine “www2root” (the default site is named “wwwroot”).

IIS Bindings 003

Now that we have created the (empty) folder, we can go ahead and choose “Add Website” from within IIS Manager. I used the following settings:

Site Name www2root
Physical Path c:\inetpub\www2root
Host Name Leave this blank!

IIS Bindings 005

Click “OK”, and you will receive a warning to the effect that you are trying to bind two web sites to the same port.

IIS Bindings 006

For the time being, we will accept this warning.

IIS Bindings 008

You can immediately see that our new web site is not running, and it cannot be started without first stopping the default web site. So, we need some mechanism by which IIS can differentiate between the two sites, and allow them to exist in harmony. The way that we do this is by utilising the “Host Name” field within the binding settings. You will hopefully recall that we left this entry blank in the previous step.

IIS Bindings 009

Choose “Edit Bindings” for the “www2root” web site and set the host name field to something other than the host name of your server. For example, the hostname of my server is “8g7yf4j-2012r2”, so I have set the value of the field within the bindings to “8g7yf4j-www2”. Click “OK” and “Close” when you are done.

Site Name www2root
Physical Path c:\inetpub\www2root
Host Name 8g7yf4j-www2

If you got everything correct, you should now be able to start both Web Sites.

IIS Bindings 011

There is now just one more task to perform. If we are going to use the “http://8g7yf4j-www2” host name to connect to the new site, we need to add this information to our LOCAL DNS Server as an Alias “CNAME” record. I’m not going to describe how to do this in detail (as it is beyond the scope of the article), but the information I entered in the DNS settings is shown below.

IIS Bindings 012

Alias Name www2root
FQDM 8g7yf4j-www2.mydomain.co.uk
FQDN (Target) 8g7yf4j-2012r2.mydomain.co.uk

We should now be able to access both Web Sites from a Workstation Web Browser as follows:

IIS Bindings 002

IIS Bindings 013

You will most likely receive a “403: Access Forbidden” page when you try to load the new web site. This is purely because the web directory we created is empty, and so there is no content to display. If you wish, you can create a basic “index.html” file and place it within “c:\inetpub\www2root” to satisfy yourself that everything is working properly.

To summarise, if you wish to have multiple sites running within IIS, each site must have a unique binding (and appropriate CNAME entry within DNS).

Group Policy: Disabling Internet Explorer Add-Ons

If you want to enable / disable an Internet Explorer Add-On via group policy, you will firstly need the “Class ID” of the Add-On.

Within IE, select “Manage Add-Ons” from the Tools Menu. From there, select your Add-On and click “More Information”. For the purposes of  this example, I have chosen the “Java™ Plug-In SSV Helper”.

clip_image002

You can use the “Copy” button to place all the details into the clipboard (as I have done in the table below).

clip_image002[4]

Below shows some sample Add-On information (we only need the “Class ID” in order to disable the Add-On).

Name: Java(tm) Plug-In SSV Helper
Publisher: Oracle America, Inc.
Type: Browser Helper Object
Architecture: 32-bit and 64-bit
Version: 8.0.450.14
File date: ‎17 ‎April ‎2015, ‏‎12:17
Date last accessed: Not available
Class ID: {761497BB-D6F0-462C-B6EB-D4DAF1D92D43}
Use count: 0
Block count: 0
File: ssv.dll
Folder: C:\Program Files\Java\jre1.8.0_45\bin
Name: Java(tm) Plug-In 2 SSV Helper
Publisher: Oracle America, Inc.
Type: Browser Helper Object
Architecture: 32-bit and 64-bit
Version: 8.0.450.14
File date: ‎17 ‎April ‎2015, ‏‎12:17
Date last accessed: ‎10 ‎July ‎2015, ‏‎11:52
Class ID: {DBC80044-A445-435B-BC74-9C25C1C588A9}
Use count: 0
Block count: 3125
File: jp2ssv.dll
Folder: C:\Program Files\Java\jre1.8.0_45\bin

Finally, we need to configure the Group Policy itself.

Within a suitable Group Policy Object (GPO)..

  • Navigate to: User Configuration => Policies => Administrative Templates => Windows Components => Internet Explorer => Security Features => Add-On Management
  • Enable the Add-On List” setting
  • Click the “Show” button
  • Click the “Add” button
  • Copy the “Class ID” value you obtained earlier in the exercise, and copy it into the “Name” field
  • Set the “Value” field = 0 to disable to add-in (make sure you include the brackets): 0 = Disable; 1 = Enable
  • Click “OK” to save the data

clip_image002[6]

Add any other items to the list as required.

clip_image002[8]

Click “OK”, and you’re done.

Give the policy time to refresh on your network, and you should find that all of the Add-On(s) have been disabled.

clip_image002[10]

OneDrive: Throttling Upload Speed

If you are on a relatively slow internet connection, it can be frustrating when Microsoft OneDrive takes up the majority of the bandwidth when it is syncing to the cloud. During the upload process, even basic web surfing can be almost impossible.

Sadly, the OneDrive app itself doesn’t contain any settings to limit the upload speed, but it is possible to address this issue via group policy on the local machine.

To begin, you will need to logon to your workstation with an administrator account.

image
Fire up the local Group Policy Editor: Windows Start => Search Box => gpedit.msc (hit “Return” on the keyboard)
image
Within the Policy Editor main window, navigate to: User Configuration => Windows Settings => Policy Based QoS. From the “Action Menu” => “Create a new policy”.
Complete the wizard using the input I have set out below.
image
Policy Name: OneDrive
Deselect the “DSCP” Option
Specify an “Outbound Throttle Rate”. In my example, 10 Kbps is rather extreme (but it is useful for testing the settings are working). At this data rate, a 20Mb file should take around 30 minutes to upload.
OneDrive 002
Ensure that “Only applications with the executable name” is checked. The value should be set to “onedrive.exe” (for all users) or “C:\Users\yourusername\AppData\Local\Microsoft\OneDrive\onedrive.exe” (for a specific user).
image
“Any IP Address” is fine for both options.
image
“Any Port” is fine for both options. Click “Finish” when you are done.

You may need to wait a few minutes for the policy to take effect (a reboot may be required).

These instructions can be adapted for any program that you discover is using too much in the way of bandwidth. Unfortunately, it only applies when “uploading” data (not downloading).

Tracking Multiple Product Keys within the Office 2013 Portal

If you are running a small office network and managing multiple copies of Microsoft Office 2013, you will be aware of the difficulties of tracking the license keys within the Office 2013 Portal.

Most network administrators (myself included) are using a single email address to activate all of the licenses, but this is problematical because it is not entirely obvious which product key belongs to which installation option.

There is a little trick that can be used to see the product keys within the portal, and this document will explain how to do this.

Obtaining Product Keys from the Office 2013 Portal

Firstly, log into your office account here:

You will see each copy of office listed, but the product key is not displayed.

Office 2013 Activation 003

To view the product key, select “Install From Disk”

Office 2013 Activation 007

Then, “I Have A Disk” followed by “View your Product Key”.

Office 2013 Activation 005

The product key will then be displayed on the screen.

Office 2013 Activation 006

Make a note of the product key and repeat this process for each copy of the Office 2013 held within the portal.

This only partly resolves the problem, as you will have noticed that NONE of the product keys you have just recorded match the “product keys” that you originally typed in at the time of installation. The explanation I received from Microsoft is that those keys are actually “pin numbers”, and they are used to obtain / generate a product key at the time of installation (this is al done in the background). However, there is no way to cross reference these “pin numbers” to a “product key” within the portal.

So, if you wish to track product keys with individual workstation installations on your network, a further step will need to be performed.

Obtaining Product Keys from the Workstations

to determine which specific product key is installed on which workstation, some leg work will be involved. You will need to visit each workstation in turn, and manually obtain the key using the “ospp.vbs” script from a command prompt.

Use the following procedure:

  • Logon to a workstation where Microsoft Office 2013 is installed
  • Open a command prompt
  • type: “cd c:\program files\microsoft office\office15” (or “cd c:\program files (x86)\microsoft office\office15” on a 64 bit machine)
  • type: “cscript ospp.vbs /dstatus”

Running the above script will display the final five characters of the product key. This should be sufficient to match the key to one of the keys you earlier recorded.

You can find out more information about the switches for “ospp.vbs” by typing “cscript ospp.vbs /?” from a command prompt.

Repeat the process with the remaining workstations on the network and build a spreadsheet with the following information to help track your license keys:

Workstation ID Product Key Notes
4G58D8S-WIN7 xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx
FGHDUR5-WIN7 xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx
FGHD586-WIN7 xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx

Windows 7 “Downloads Folder” and Roaming Profiles

By default, Windows 7 automatically saves all downloaded files into the “Downloads” Folder within the user profile. Since this folder forms part of a user’s Roaming Profile, it will be copied back and forth between the workstation and the server at every logon / logoff. As the size of the “Downloads” folder increases, so will the user’s logon / logoff time.

One solution to this problem is to use “group policy” exclude the “Downloads” folder from the roaming profile.   

From within the group policy editor, choose a suitable policy object (one that will be applied to domain user accounts), or create a new one. The key we are interested in editing can be found at: User Configuration => Policies => Administrative Templates => System => User Profiles => Exclude directories in Roaming Profile.

Exclude Directories in Roaming Profile 001

Enable the policy and set the value = “Downloads”

Exclude Directories in Roaming Profile 002

From now onwards, all downloaded files will be excluded from the roaming profile, and will only exist on the local workstation.

Article Update (August 2014)
You may find it useful to exclude these other folders too:

Application Folder Location
OneDrive / SkyDrive OneDrive; SkyDrive
Dropbox Dropbox
iTunes AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync; AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\Logs; AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\iTunes\iPhone Software Updates;
Blackberry Desktop Data\Roaming\Research In Motion\Blackberry Desktop\Updates;
Java Data\Sun\Java

A Computer Memory Primer

Here is a quick list of the different types of memory found within a typical computer workstation / server.

SRAM (Static RAM) DRAM (Dynamic RAM) DRAM DRAM DRAM DRAM DRAM DRAM DRAM
SIMM SIMM DIMM DIMM DIMM DIMM DIMM RIMM
SDR
SDRAM
DDR(1) SDRAM DDR2 SDRAM DDR3 SDRAM DDR4
SDRAM
2000 2003 2007 2012
32 Bit 32 Bit 64 Bit 64 Bit 64 Bit 64 Bit 64 Bit
1 –> 128 MB
30 Pin 72 Pin 168 Pin 184 Pin 240 Pin 240 Pin (different notch to DDR2) 284 Pin
SO-DIMM = 200 Pin SO-DIMM = 200 Pin (different notch to DDR1) SO-DIMM = 204 Pin
DDR3L is a Low Voltage Version
  • SRAM (Static RAM) is mainly used within the CPU Cache. It is faster, but more expensive to produce than DRAM.
  • DRAM (Dynamic RAM) is essentially Computer Main Memory
  • SIMM = Single Inline Memory Module
  • DIMM = Dual Inline Memory Module. These can be ECC and / or Registered (Buffered) in Servers and High End Workstations. So, “standard” DIMM modules are also known as UDIMM (Unregistered), whilst registered memory is RDIMM
  • ECC = Error Correction Code. An extra “parity” chip on the memory board is used to detect and correct errors. Due to the additional chip (and processing required), ECC RAM is both more expensive and slower than Non-ECC Memory.
  • Registered / Buffered Memory.
  • SDRAM = Synchronous Dynamic Random Access Memory
  • SDR = Single Data Rate
  • DDR = Double Data Rate
  • SO-DIMM = Small Outline Dual Inline Memory Module (Laptop Memory)