Best Practice Ezine #92 – Four Litmus Test Challenges

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Best Practice Ezine #92 – Four Litmus Test Challenges

This week I will have four more Litmus tests.  Should you find these tests easy, then challenge your colleagues and thus confirm if you are surrounded by amateurs or professionals!

Four Challenges for an IT Professional

My theory is that Professionals should be able to find and configure the following four settings.

  1. Network Connection
  2. NSLookup – in interactive mode
  3. Turn off the Shutdown Event Tracker
  4. Cmdhere

1) Network Connection

Can you configure ‘Show Icon in notification area when connected’?  One business justification is that users – even Psycho, may spot a message which says ‘A network cable is unplugged.’  There is even a slim chance they realise that as a consequence of their tripping over the network cable, a pop-up message is warning them of a problem connecting to the server.  If you have never tried this before then try the built-in operating system Help – ‘Network Connection’.  Incidentally, only Luddites are too proud to use Help.

The true reason I check the ‘Show Icon’ box in Control Panel, Network Connections is that when I troubleshoot connectivity problems, it reassures me to see the friendly icon.  Now if you can humour me further, I invite you to rename your network connection, if you cannot think of a name, then I suggest the name of the room or office.  I always feel that naming things ‘test’ lacks imagination.

2) NSLookup – in interactive mode

In order to get action from NSLookup, naturally you must first add a Reverse Lookup zone to your DNS.  Once you have added the appropriate PTR (Pointer) record, the non-interactive mode is easy, from the cmd prompt type:
NSLookup or what ever IP address you added in that PTR record.

Next try a tougher challenge, NSLookup in interactive mode, your challenge is to display all the DNS records at the command prompt, type:
NSLookup (Plain on its own)
You should see   >
Now at the prompt type: > ls yourdomain
A good result would be lots of ‘A’ records.

Here is my wild guess, you will get an error message.  Can’t list domain… Transfer Error.  If you want to get ls (list) yourdomain to work, then launch the DNS snap-in and go to the Reverse Lookup Zone,  Zone Transfer tab and enable.  Worried about security? Then just add your own server.   You may have to exit the DNS snap-in and start another cmd / NSLookup session before your changes take effect – DNS is quirky in this respect.  On the other hand there may be an entirely different reason why you cannot get NSLookup to work in interactive mode – it’s a worthy challenge to get this command working smoothly.

DNS in general is an area which distinguishes Amateurs from Professionals.  I wish that I could be more precise, but because configurations will vary, one man’s meat will be another man’s poison.  Some servers need the default Root Hints, for others you must replace internet Root Hints with a pointer to your own domain.  I will leave DNS with an exhortation for you to find the ‘Monitoring’ tab and select both simple and recursive queries.  (Clue, Server Icon, Properties).  If you get Pass Pass, pat yourself on the back.  Even if the recursive query fails, it may be acceptable for your Root Hints setting.  I have never seen a Fail Fail for the DNS Monitor test – could yours be a first?  No, I am sure not, but why not have a peak and see.

Guy Recommends: The Free IP Address Tracker (IPAT) IP Tracker

Calculating IP Address ranges is a black art, which many network managers solve by creating custom Excel spreadsheets.  IPAT cracks this problem of allocating IP addresses in networks in two ways:

For Mr Organized there is a nifty subnet calculator, you enter the network address and the subnet mask, then IPAT works out the usable addresses and their ranges. 

For Mr Lazy IPAT discovers and then displays the IP addresses of existing computers. Download the Free IP Address Tracker

3) Turn off the Shutdown Event Tracker

My old friend ‘Mad’ Mick voted Shutdown Event Tracker the most annoying feature of Windows 200x, astoundingly, he bought me a beer when I showed him: Group Policy, Computer, Administrative Templates, System, Display Shutdown Event Tracker, Disable.

There are three traps for the unwary,
a) Choose the wrong Group Policy for the machine you wish to control, e.g. a policy at the OU instead of at the Domain or Domain Controllers
b) Look in the User not the Computer section of the Group Policy
c) Select Disable (not Enable!).  The reason Mick bought me a beer was that he got all three settings wrong.

4) Cmdhere

I started with a straightforward test and I will finish with an even easier challenge.  A professional can obtain and install cmdhere.inf.   The idea is that once installed, as the name suggests, cmdhere drops you at the command prompt from any Windows Explorer folder.  That’s it.  Not rocket science but I just love its simplicity and appreciate its minute file size. 

While you get the utility from your favorite search engine, here is the code so that you can copy into notepad and save as cmdhere.inf.  All that you have to do with the cmdhere.inf file is right-click and select ‘Install’ from the short cut menu.

The bonus of presenting cmdhere this way is that you can see how it works, and if you are a genius you could modify the code start other programs instead of cmd.exe, for example, powershell.exe.

; "CMD Prompt Here" PowerToy
; Copyright 1996 Microsoft Corporation
CopyFiles = CmdHere.Files.Inf
AddReg = CmdHere.Reg
CopyFiles = CmdHere.Files.Inf
AddReg = CmdHere.Reg
DelFiles = CmdHere.Files.Inf
DelReg = CmdHere.Reg
55="CMD Prompt Here","",1
CmdHere.Files.Inf = 17

HKLM,%UDHERE%,UninstallString,,"rundll32.exe syssetup.dll,SetupInfObjectInstallAction DefaultUninstall 132 %17%\CmdHere.inf"
HKCR,Directory\Shell\CmdHere\command,,,"%11%\cmd.exe /k cd ""%1"""
HKCR,Drive\Shell\CmdHere\command,,,"%11%\cmd.exe /k cd ""%1"""
CmdHereName="CMD Prompt Here PowerToy"
CmdHereAccel="CMD &Prompt Here"

Cmdhere.inf sums up my Litmus tests.  Firstly it works at several levels and thus discovers if you are an Amateur, Professional or Genius, secondly, more than the test itself, cmdhere embodies the idea that Professionals always have a box of utilities such as cmdhere.  In the case of amateurs, the cupboard is bare.

Guy Recommends: Tools4ever’s UMRAUMRA The User Management Resource Administrator

Tired of writing scripts? The User Management Resource Administrator solution by Tools4ever offers an alternative to time-consuming manual processes.

It features 100% auto provisioning, Helpdesk Delegation, Connectors to more than 130 systems/applications, Workflow Management, Self Service and many other benefits. Click on the link for more information onUMRA.

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