My Thoughts On IT…

Brian Lewis's Thoughts on all things Information Technology related

imageIt is shocking how much a stranger can know about you from your posts on social media. Most of us know not to post that our home is being left unguarded while we are gone on vacation. However, many still share enough information when they post where they or what they are eating that someone could figure out that you are not home. It is scary.

After watching the video I have linked below I just realized how much more vulnerable we are with the information we post to social media sites. It goes way beyond someone emptying your house while you are away.

In the video below Jack Vale approaches people and convinces people that he knows this stuff from his “psychic” powers. In reality he just saw they were nearby from a social media post. He then researches them on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and other social media sites. Then he makes his approach. People are shocked that he knows so much about them. In one case he knows more about the lady than her friend does. 

Watch Jack Vale the Social Medial Psychic

So, what do you think? Do you share too much online?

My Windows 8 Surface machines uses BitLocker by default. That is great if you lose  your device then others can’t get  your data; however, it is not so good when you have a technical issue. Well guess what happened to my Surface today? Yep, I had an issue. I was told “You’re locked out!” It went on to tell me to “Enter the recovery key to get going again” Here is a photo of the message:


Unfortunately I didn’t have the recovery key to my Windows RT Surface machine. I did remember that the key is stored somewhere on my Microsoft account that I use to login to the machine. Great!!! Smile  Finding the key however was much more difficult that it should have been. I looked all around the settings and profile on my account. If there is a way to find it from the menus, I still haven’t found it.

So I went and googled the Internet via the Bing search engine. Surprised smile Yep, it’s true you should try it and see if you like it. Just Bing it! I did and I found the answers I was looking for on Bing! <end of commercial>

The article I found gave me the direct link to get the key from my SkyDrive. Here is the link to get your recovery key: BitLocker Recovery Keys. I still haven’t found a link in the settings to find this information. If you know where it is please leave it in a comment.


After entering my recovery key I saw this screen!!!! Hurray!!!

Here is the article I found from Microsoft that gives the link:
( )

Here is the Direct Link:!/recoverykey

microsoft-end-user-license-agreement-397x300What is AVMA?

Automatic Virtual Machine Activation is a new Windows feature added in Windows Server 2012R2 that enables you to activate your Windows VMs without using a KMS server or even a network connection. As you spin up new virtual machines they will activate against the host Hyper-v server. This activation only lasts 7 days and then it needs to renew it’s activation. This is perfect for your Windows Datacenter Hyper-v hosts because you can

Two features of AVMA that no other activation method offers are:

  1. The ability to automatically activate virtual machines without a network connection
  2. Track virtual machine licenses from the host virtualization server, without requiring any access rights on the virtualized machine

(Other options for activation are: KMS server, MAK key, AD-based Activation)

How Does AVMA work?

Automatic Virtual Machine Activation requires a Hyper-v host server running Windows Server 2012 R2 Datacenter and it must be activated. The Virtual Machines must be 2012R2 or above to activate under AVMA. This includes 2012R2 Datacenter, Standard, and Essentials.

The guest VMs must have an AVMA product key configured on them. See the table blow for the key.
Windows Server 2012 R2 AVMA keys:

Edition AVMA key
Datacenter Y4TGP-NPTV9-HTC2H-7MGQ3-DV4TW
Essentials K2XGM-NMBT3-2R6Q8-WF2FK-P36R2

* Licenses above were taken from

These keys can be installed during the install or installed at a later time.

The last piece of this is how the virtual machine talks to it’s Hyper host to get activated. The channel it uses is the “Data Exchange” that the para-virtualization drivers provide. This is a per VM setting and is enabled by default. You can verify that it is enabled by going into a VMs settings and then selecting the Integration Services. Make sure “Data Exchange” is checked.


AVMA also provides real-time reporting on usage and historical data on the license state of the virtual machine. This data is stored and available on the virtualization host server. There is no need to have any access or rights to the VMs on that server to access this information.

Step by Step directions to implement AVMA:

To use AVMA is easy just follow these 4 steps to virtual bliss:

  1. Install Server 2012R2 Datacenter
  2. Activate the server
  3. Add the Hyper-v Role
  4. Install a 2012R2 Virtual Machine and assign an AVMA key

If your virtual machine needs a key or already has a different key and you would like to give it an AVMA key there are a couple ways to achieve that. Here are two:

Using the GUI – Start the File Manager and Right click on “This PC”. From that dropdown list select “Properties”.


You will then get the System Screen. From here you select the Change Product key at the bottom right of the window. Put in one of the keys in the above table.



Another way to change the product key is to do it from a command prompt or script. This will need to run with administrative privileges.

Steps to Set the Product key from a command Prompt:

  • Click on the Start Button and type “CMD”   — (Welcome back Start Button)
  • Right click on the Command Prompt and select “Run as administrator”


  • In the command window run the command slmgr /ipk <AVMA_key>
    Command in the example below:
    slmgr /ipk Y4TGP-NPTV9-HTC2H-7MGQ3-DV4TW


Hope you found this fun and informative! –Brian Hot smile

ITEBlogThis post is part of a series of posts by the US IT Pro Evangelist team. In this series we cover, Why Windows Server 2012 R2 is important, how to deploy, manage, configure any number of components in Windows Server 2012 R2. 

This series is deep technical content with lots of How To’s and Step-By-Step instructions. You will learn about storage, cloud integration, RDS, VDI, Hyper-V, virtualization, deduplication, Hyper-v replica, DNS, AD, DHCP, high availability, SMB, backup, PowerShell and much, much more! – See more at:

SharedVHDXOne of the new features in Windows Server 2012 R2 is Shared Virtual Hard Disks.

What are the benefits of Shared VDHX?

The benefits of using Shared VHDX on a 2012R2 Hyper-V server is that you can deploy a failover cluster consisting of all Virtual Machines. You can also create failover clusters using Fibre Channel, Server Message Block (SMB) file share, Storage Spaces, or iSCSI storage. The real benefit of using the Shared VHDX is that you don’t have to expose your storage infrastructure like you would with the other options above. This is something that an ISP would want to use because it would be easy to automate the creation of new failover clusters without having to make a new file share or a new LUN.

What does it take to run Share VHDX?

Let me start with the error that many IT Pros see as they start to look at Shared VHDX. If you started to try and use this technology you may have missed some important prerequisites and received this error message:


Error Message Error Applying Hard Drive Changes
Failed to modify device ‘Virtual Hard Disk’.
The storage where the virtual hard disk is located does not support virtual hard disk sharing.
Cannot get information for attachment ‘\\Svr01\hyper-v smb storage\shared_disk_1.vhdx’.
The storage where the virtual hard disk is located does not support virtual hard disk sharing.

The common problem here that people run into is that you can’t use local storage (d:\VHDs\disk.vhdx). Further, you can’t use a regular file share (\\Server\Share\disk.vhdx). You either need to have the VHDX file on on a scale out file share or on a CSV volume. The CSV volume can be from iSCSI, fiber channel, SAS, or clustered Storage Spaces with SAS JBODs. So the virtual disk must be a VHDX not a VHD and it must be on Cluster Shared Volumes (CSV) or on a Scale-Out File Server Cluster with SMB 3.01. Again the benefit of using the VHDX file in addition to the storage is that you can add more clusters without provisioning more shares or LUNs and the guests don’t have access to the shared storage. This is easier to secure and automate for you end users who may want fail over clusters from your Hyper-V farm.

Here are the other things that are required to configure a guest failover cluster that uses shared virtual hard disks:

  • At least a two-node Hyper-V failover cluster.
  • Servers must be running Windows Server 2012 R2.
  • Servers must belong to the same Active Directory domain.
  • Availability of configured shared storage resources—for example, CSVs on block storage (such as clustered storage spaces) or a Scale-Out File Server cluster (running Windows Server 2012 R2) with SMB 3.0 (for file-based storage).
  • Sufficient memory, disk, and processor capacity within the failover cluster to support multiple virtual machines that are implemented as guest failover clusters.

For step by step instructions on deploying a Guest Cluster using Share VHDX Microsoft has a great guide on the TechNet site here:

Deploy a Guest Cluster Using a Shared Virtual Hard Disk (step by step)

If you have anything to add – just drop it in the comments!

Thanks –Brian 


ITEBlog_thumb[1]This post is part of a series of posts by the US IT Pro Evangelist team. In this series we cover, Why Windows Server 2012 R2 is important, how to deploy, manage, configure any number of components in Windows Server 2012 R2. 

This series is deep technical content with lots of How To’s and Step-By-Step instructions. You will learn about storage, cloud integration, RDS, VDI, Hyper-V, virtualization, deduplication, Hyper-v replica, DNS, AD, DHCP, high availability, SMB, backup, PowerShell and much, much more! – See more at:

ITEBlogThis article is part of a larger series on “Why Windows Server 2012 R2” where my peers and I detail many of the new features in Server 2012 R2 including step by step guides where appropriate. You can see the whole series here:
Windows Server 2012 R2 Launch Blog Series Index

Storage Quality of Service
Storage Quality of Service is a new feature in Windows Server 2012 R2 in the Hypervisor. It enables you to control a VMs use of disk IO so that you can manage a VMs performance relative to disk access. This is a very necessary ability if you wish to run multiple VMs and insure each VM has adequate access to the disk and that no single VM consumes all of the disk IO leaving the others to have poor performance.

The Storage Quality of Service is set on a per Virtual Machine basis. You can set a Maximum and a Minimum level. The Maximum sets a cap and the Minimum sets a reservation.

If you have the luxury of a San you could accomplish the same result of setting a Maximum cap by provisioning a Lun, for that VM’s drive, and then set a cap on that. This is how administrators would coral a poorly behaving application if they couldn’t get the business group to fix the app. You can see that it is much easier to set this limit on the VM rather than relying on your San to do the work. Further you can now set the limits no matter where the virtual disk is, no need for a San.

Step by Step
The only feature that needs to be installed is the Hyper-v Role in Server 2012 R2 and then have the ability to set limits on your IO. To do this on your VM, just follow the steps outline below:


  • Open the Settings on your VM. From Hyper-V Manager, Cluster Manager, or VMM
  • Select the VM and go into the “Settings”
  • Select the disk that you want to set the limits on.  (Works on both IDE and SCSI disks)
  • Expand the disk properties and choose “Advanced Features”
  • Click the checkbox to “Enable Quality of Service management”
  • Set your desired Maximum or Minimum
  • Click on “Apply” or “OK”

That is it. That is how easy it is to set Quality of Service limits on your Disk IO for your Virtual Machines! Stay tuned to the Windows Server 2012 R2 Launch Blog Series for more insight into the new features of Windows Server 2012 R2.


Download Windows 8.1 Now!

Today Microsoft released Windows 8.1 for general availability! If you already own Windows 8 then you can go get your free download of Windows 8.1. If you want to know how to upgrade to Windows 8.1 see the details available here:


Windows81bookDownload your Free ebook:
Introducing Windows 8.1 for IT Professionals

If you want to know more about Windows 8.1 then here is your free technical overview book! It’s difficult to believe that Windows 8 was introduced only a year ago, and yet today its successor, Windows 8.1, is ready for widespread adoption today.

“Introducing Windows 8.1 for IT Professionals” by Ed Bott is ready for download in PDF format. Available here:

remote-desktop-connection-iconI often run into customers running Windows XP that are unable to remote into Server 2012 because they don’t have the latest RDC client.

Here is where you can get the Remote Desktop Connection Client for an older Windows operating system. The filename is mstsc.exe.

Remote Desktop Connection 7.0 client update for Remote Desktop Services (RDS) for Windows XP SP3, Windows Vista SP1, and Windows Vista SP2

Here is a list of the new features in RDC 7.0

-Enjoy – Brian

The RDC 7.0 client update contains the following new features.

  • Web Single Sign-On (SSO) and Web forms-based authentication
  • Remote Desktop (RD) Web Access now uses forms-based authentication to improve the user experience. Web SSO makes sure that after a user is logged on, no additional passwords are required for RD Gateway, RD Session Host servers and RemoteApp programs.
  • Access to personal virtual desktops by using RD Connection Broker
  • Users can access personal virtual desktops when they use the new Remote Desktop Virtualization Host in Windows Server 2008 R2. Personal desktops are assigned to users on a one-to-one basis and maintain state over time.
  • Access to virtual desktop pools by using RD Connection Broker
  • Users can access virtual desktop pools when they use the new Remote Desktop Virtualization Host in Windows Server 2008 R2. Pooled desktops are shared between multiple users, and all changes a user makes are typically rolled back when the user logs off.
  • Status & disconnect system tray icon
  • A single system tray icon enables users to see all of their remote connections. The user can disconnect all or individual connections that use this icon. The icon appears only when opening RDP connections which are associated with a RemoteApp and Desktop Connection feed.
  • RD Gateway-based device redirection enforcement
  • In Windows Server 2008, it was possible for non-Microsoft Remote Desktop clients to override the gateway device redirection controls. In Windows Server 2008 R2, device redirection settings are defined in RD Gateway and can be configured not to be overridden.
  • RD Gateway system and logon messages
  • System and logon messages can be added to RD Gateway and displayed to the remote desktop user. System messages can be used to inform users of server maintenance issues such as shutdowns and restarts. Logon messages can be used to display a logon notice to users before they gain access to remote resources.
  • RD Gateway background authorization & authentication
  • Background authentication and authorization requests are performed after a configured session timeout is reached. Sessions for users whose property information has not changed are not affected, and authentication and authorization requests are sent in the background.
  • RD Gateway idle & session time-outs
  • Configurable idle and session time-outs with RD Gateway provide better control of users who connect through RD Gateway. An idle time-out lets the user reclaim resources that are used by inactive user sessions without affecting the user’s session or data. This helps free up resources on the RD Gateway server.
  • NAP remediation with RD Gateway
  • NAP remediation allows you to manage remote clients by updating them with the latest software updates and settings. This helps keep remote clients in compliance with network security policies.
  • Windows Media Player redirection
  • Windows Media Player Redirection enables content hosted in Windows Media Player to be redirected to the client for decoding on users’ computers. This improves the quality of the video and makes sure that video and audio are always in sync. This works for both full Windows Media Player and Windows Media Player controls hosted in Web pages.
  • Bidirectional audio
  • You can redirect audio recording devices such as microphones on the client computer. This is ideal for applications such as Windows 7 voice recognition, and applications that record audio.
  • Multiple monitor support
  • In Windows Vista and in Windows Server 2008, Terminal Services supported only monitor spanning. Remote Desktop Services now includes multiple monitor support for up to 16 monitors, and works for both Remote Desktop and RemoteApp programs.
    Note For connections with multiple monitor support enabled, AeroGlass support is currently not supported and will be turned off.
  • Enhanced video playback
  • Bitmap acceleration improves the remote display of graphics-intensive applications such as PowerPoint, Flash, and Silverlight.
If you run either Windows 8 or Windows Phone 8 you should check out this app! It is an app that details other new apps and helps you install them and test them. So if you are looking for the latest and greatest toys / apps take a look at this tool!

From the Author:
What is exciting is that App Enthusiasts is more than just an app, it is a movement to bring visibility to applications created by Windows Phone and Windows 8 devs.  Microsoft field employees are planning to host events at Microsoft retail stores across the U.S.  At these events, developers featured in App Enthusiasts share their creations and speak to the audience about their inspiration.  We believe that an application like this can help create a community of supportive developers and fan interest alike.  I certainly suggest reaching out to if you have an app that you would like featured in this program!  Seriously, we want your best work to shine!
Let’s take a look at the app itself:
Upon launching either version of the app, the user is asked to authenticate with their Live credentials and is then greeted with a listing of applications organized by date:
Users can see at a glance what City, State, and Country an app has been published in.  Upon clicking an item, the user will be brought to the download page in the marketplace for the selected app.  When an item has been viewed, a checkmark appears next to the item indicating that it has been seen.
With this applications you can easy discover cool apps coming from your geographical area. By setting the filter to your city you can see creations from people in your area.  Then you can easily install apps built by people you may know.  A great tool to evaluate, rate, and play with the latest apps. Enjoy!


ula1The article today in our “VMware or Microsoft?” series is about the best way to licensing Microsoft Windows Server in your virtual environments.

The introduction of server virtualization in the Intel market place changed the way most organizations run their server infrastructure. It has given organizations great agility in that we can now provision new servers in minutes vs. weeks. We can better utilize servers and datacenter space through server server consolidation. One area that has been difficult to understand  is how to properly license Windows Servers in VMs.

I am a technical guy but unfortunately I have had to answer these licensing questions so often that I now know way more than I ever wanted to about licensing. The good news is that the licenses work the same way no matter what virtualization engine you use. VMware, Microsoft, Citrix, etc all follow the same rules for licensing Windows Server in a VM.

vmsDo I need to License my Windows Servers in VMs?

In 2003, when x86 server virtualization first became mainstream, I was often asked if a Windows Server license was needed to run it in a VM. (BTW: yes, it isWinking smile) At that time Microsoft licensing rules had not considered virtualization technology. In fact this has caused one of the biggest current misconceptions. When you move a virtual machine from one physical host to another it is viewed as moving a physical server license. You are allowed to do this once every 90 days. What? Yep. In the old days you would only move your server license when you upgraded your hardware. Most customers didn’t do that more than once every three years. However, in a virtual world you may want to move the VM and then move it back. You would then need a license for that VM on both servers. Ouch – can you say double license.

In our current licensing schemes we now include provisions around VMs. We started that with the release of Server 2008. It still took a bit to understand the best way to license for virtualization. In Matt McSpirit’s blog entry he did a good job of describing the options under Windows Server 2008 licensing.

The current licensing with Windows Server 2012 is pretty easy. There are two versions of Windows Server 2012 available for Enterprise customers.  Standard and Datacenter. (I am ignoring Essentials and Foundation) Technically both standard and datacenter have the same guts. They both have failover clustering, Hyper-v, IIS, etc. They only differ in licensing.

Server Version Licensing
Standard Can run two Virtual Machines for each license
Can only transfer license to another physical server once every 90 days
Datacenter Licensed by Physical Processors
Unlimited Virtual Machines
Can only transfer license to another physical server once every 90 days

For more on the Licensing see:

So the easiest way to license a Multi host Virtual environment is to have Datacenter licenses applied to your physical hosts. This applies to ESXi or Hyper-v. You can then move around VMs all day long and provision as many as you can fit on the box. Licensing in this fashion will also save you money as long as your have a good ratio of consolidation per physical processor. With multi-core CPUs this should be pretty easy to achieve the lowest cost and it is positively the lowest management burden.