iOS6: Configuring Do Not Disturb without a Mac computer

Of all the features that Apple has added to iOS (other than multiple email accounts), Do Not Disturb was the top of my most wanted list. I’ve hunted through every iOS update or rumor post since iOS3 looking for it. Finally with iOS6, there it was.

As soon as I got iOS6 installed, I started trying to figure out how to configure it, looking at the limitations. I am disappointed. I have two main complaints with DND as implemented in iOS6:

  1. Scheduling is weak. I want to be able to schedule it like I can schedule alarms; different times on different days. During the week 10pm – 7am is fine, but on the weekends I want 11pm – 10am.
  2. Contact groups.

Now I am well aware that contact groups is not really a part of DND specifically, but how they are implemented definitely affects its usefulness.

I guess part of my issue is that I don’t buy into the whole “Cult of Mac” thing, and do not own every Apple product ever made. I have an HP laptop, I will be buying a Microsoft Surface tablet (though I do own an original iPad), about the only thing I actually use that is made by Apple is my iPhone.

This makes managing contact groups kind of a pain.

I use Gmail to manage my contacts, which cannot create or edit contact groups on the iPhone.

By default the only options you have for groups that can bypass DND is Everyone, No One, or Favorites (and All Contacts if you have iCloud enabled for Contacts, but what is the point of that?).

I don’t want to add people who might need to bypass DND to my favorites.

I’ve found plenty of information on how to set up contact groups if you have a Mac computer, but as far as I can determine if you don’t have a Mac computer, you’re going to have to use iCloud if you want contact groups.

Now if you only want to set up a list of people who can bypass DND, not a huge issue.

When you have hundreds of contacts, stored in Gmail, in Exchange, and maybe Yahoo or Hotmail too (yes there are people who use Hotmail), managing your contacts gets tricky.

I don’t trust Apple with my data. Maybe that’s because I’ve yet to be able to successfully restore from an iTunes backup, no matter what I try. Every single time I have upgraded iOS (major versions anyway), I have had iTunes tell me that the backup was corrupt or unreadable.

After the first time way back on iOS3 I moved all of my contacts to Gmail, and washed my hands of letting Apple shepherd any of my data. Luckily since iOS5, I’ve been able to restore from iCloud backups (suck it iTunes). I have no complaints with iCloud as of yet, but I still don’t trust it.

In my specific instance, it looks like I have no choice and am going to have to use it for my contacts. I will be exporting my contacts to VCard file weekly.
I just want to point out that it is possible to only use iCloud for a single group of contacts if you want to create one for bypassing Do Not Disturb. Maybe Apple will fix this at some point, but I kinda doubt it.

To get Do Not Disturb working the way you want it to, you have three basic tasks:

  1. Configure iCloud Contact Groups.
  2. Enable iCloud to sync contact groups on your iPhone.
  3. Configure Do Not Disturb.

Configuring iCloud Contact Groups

First, you need to export whatever contacts you want to use for a group to bypass DND, we’ll call it ‘Bypass’. I had all of my contacts in Gmail, so I just selected the ones I wanted, and exported them all to a single VCard file.

Now you’ll need to sign into iCloud and create a contact group called ‘Bypass’ (or whatever you want to name yours), and then import the contacts you want in that group:

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  1. Once you are signed into iCloud go to Contacts, and click this red bookmark looking thing to show groups (it’s on the other ‘page’ when you first get to contacts).
  2. Click this to add a new group.
  3. Rename the group, and then highlight it to ensure that you import into that group.
  4. Click the gear to expose options.
  5. Click here to import the contacts you want in this group.
  6. To enable iCloud to sync contacts go to Settings > iCloud > Contacts (swipe to ‘On’).

Configuring Do Not Disturb

In my opinion Apple kinda dropped the ball on this one. Usually Apple’s UI is well thought out to the point of being so intuitive that someone who has never used an iOS device can usually figure out what they need to do to get something working, but Do Not Disturb (like several other things) is not exactly intuitive to configure.

Go to Settings > Notifications > Do Not Disturb.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Now that we’ve got the contact group we want to use configured in iCloud, we can select that in the Notification settings.

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You can see here how I’ve configured my Do Not Disturb notifications:

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One thing I would point out is that if you schedule DND you can still turn it on manually as shown in this screen shot. Also notice that there is a crescent moon icon that appears in the notification bar when DND is active:

Click to enlarge

It works pretty well, but I’d still like to see come changes to this in the next iOS update. Especially the ability to schedule DND a bit more granularly.

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How do I Change the product key in Windows 8?

Official mascot of Windows 8

I’ll just get it out of the way right up front: I hate the Windows 8 UI.

It might make sense on a consumer device, but not for an enterprise. There is no way I’m deploying this to my users. It’ll be two months of help desk tickets that look like this: I can’t find my email. I can find the internet. What’s a Metro?

Not happening. Why Microsoft thought it would be a good idea to throw away 20 years of training their users how to use their flagship product, I’ll never know. I just hope whoever is responsible is dealt with appropriately. By ‘appropriately’ I mean taken out back and shot.

When someone who has been administering Windows machines since Windows 98 is sitting there asking how to actually install Windows Updates, your UI has gone terribly awry.

In order to actually install updates, you have to activate the OS. Apparently to really do anything you have to activate the OS. Ok, I can see that. We use Windows 7 Enterprise here, and I was kinda hoping that Microsoft had realized by now that it is a terrible idea to force the Windows 8 UI on enterprise customers, and had disabled it in Windows 8 Enterprise. No such luck.

Also, they expect enterprise customers will be using KMS servers to activate. We do not. Why? Well I can’t get it working correctly. Microsoft says that it is working. It says that it is working. Clients cannot activate using it. I have a ticket open with Microsoft.

In the meantime, I will just use MAK keys. Except I can’t find a way to get the damn MAK key into Windows 8 Enterprise. Just because I’m not forcing it on giving it to users doesn’t mean I’m not evaluating it.

Apparently they expect you to use KMS to activate MAK keys by opening an elevated command prompt, and typing this command:

slmgr.vbs -ipk “Enter Key Here”

Well that’s all well and good, but I don’t need more KMS “servers” that don’t serve keys.

The easy way is to use a Run Command:

slui 3

That was added to Windows 7 at some point, and works as well there as it does on Windows 8.

I hope that saves someone the time it took me to figure it out.

Assigning an IP Address to an APC Network Management Card without having the APC software.

I work for a company that does Electrical construction and design. When I took this job I though that would translate into having little things like plenty of power in the server room, well documented wiring, and maybe having everything in the building(s) on UPS units. I should have known better.

Much like most IT Professionals home networks are kinda messy, working for a company full of electricians translates to wiring… issues.

We do have a generator, and we do have a building UPS in the main building. That UPS is 15 years old. The UPS battery had never been replaced when I got here (it basically had a runtime measured in microseconds). Only some outlets are on the UPS circuits. The server room is in another building. That building is on the generator, but there is only one circuit that is on the UPS. That circuit was for the 17 year old Toshiba PBX that was mounted (I kid you not) in a cupboard in the bathroom in that building.

The servers were on UPS units. APC SmartUPS 1500 units. Four of them. That were 6 years old. With batteries that had never been replaced. Desk units that were housed on shelves in the rack. That were at approximately 150% of draw capacity (when all servers were at peak draw). Unconnected in any way to any of the servers.

This meant that if the power failed (which is does, because this is an older part of town), most of the workstations would go down, and the generator would kick on. Approximately 1/1000000000 of a second before the UPS batteries on the servers and the few workstations on building UPS circuits ran out. Most of the time.

So clearly my first priority was to get the servers on a UPS that was correctly sized for the draw, with fresh batteries. Enter the APC SmartUPS RT 5000 with two battery arrays. This unit will handle all of our current servers, with about 30% extra capacity for expansion. I bought this unit with a Network Management Card so that I could remotely monitor the unit. And then never configured it. I’m not going to make excuses, it was just one of those things where I got busy and forgot.

Until I needed to get access to a UPS in the other building. This got me thinking about the UPS on the servers. So I plugged the NMC into one of the switches, and… nothing.

As it turns out, the NMC in this particular unit will not pull a DHCP lease without intervention through some APC software that ships with the unit. Which I cannot find. Not an insurmountable issue.

Enter the ARP command.

Address resolution protocol (ARP) can be used to configure the NMC. All we need is the MAC address of the NMC.  The MAC address is located on the quality assurance slip that shipped with the NMC, and is also located on a white sticker on the NMC itself.Unfortunately the QA slip is long gone, and the sticker on the NMC with the MAC printed on it is on once of the actual circuit boards of the NMC, now safely concealed inside the UPS.

Now I DO NOT recommend that you do this, but it is possible to remove the NMC with the UP running. If you feel like taking your life in your own hands, you could just unscrew the NMC and pull it out of the UPS without taking the UPS offline. Which is what I did.

Now we just need a computer on the same subnet.

Open up a command prompt and type the following (MAC Address format: xx-xx-xx-xx-xx-xx):

arp -s [IP_ADDRESS_FOR_THE_NMC] [MAC_ADDRESS_OF_THE_NMC]

Hit Enter.

Next, use Ping with a size of 113 bytes to assign the IP address defined by the ARP command.

Use one of the following Ping commands (To clarify, the -l option is the letter L but must be lowercase when executing the command):

Windows command format: ping [IP_ADDRESS_ASSIGNED_ABOVE] -l 113

*NIX command format: ping [IP_ADDRESS_ASSIGNED_ABOVE] -s 113

Now, you can Telnet to the card by typing: telnet [IP_ADDRESS_OF_THE_NMC]

Use “apc” for username and password.

Configure/apply any additional changes.

Log out to save changes.

That’s it, now you can use the web interface of the NMC to make configuration changes or retrieve information from the UPS unit.

All of this could have been avoided had I simply taken 30 minutes to configure the UPS when I installed it, or even taken 5 minutes to document the MAC and put all of the paperwork that came with the UPS in a folder in my file cabinet. Learn from my mistakes, DOCUMENT EVERYTHING.

 

How to: View email Headers in Outlook 2010

Normally I hear my Users complaining about the changes in Microsoft Office, and my standard response is something along the lines of CRY MORE N00b!!!1!11!1!eleventyone! “Well it’s Microsoft, what are you gonna do?”. But today I am feeling their collective pain. See I installed the Office 2010 RTM on my personal workstation.

Is Microsoft trying to make life more difficult for SysAdmins? Specifically, why (for the love of whatever god you believe in) would they hide the button to view email headers? I need email headers. They give me information. Useful information. Like why my spam filter is marking legitimate email as spam (you know little things like that).

Just not in Outlook 2010. Or at least not where it used to be, or where you’d think it should be. See in Outlook 2003, or 2007 (and I’m pretty sure it was even this way in Outlook XP and 2000), you simply right-click the email, and select “Message Options…”, and you get to see header information. Easy, right?

Apparently there is some guy at Microsoft that thought this was too confusing (or maybe I don’t know,  too easy), and simply had to be changed in Outlook 2010. Ok, no problem, I’ll just bust out some Google Fu, and we’ll be off to the races.

10 minutes later, I find my self wanting to fly to Redmond to beat the tar out of that guy. I’ve found several forum posts, and blog entries that describe ways to do it that simply do not exist in the RTM version of Outlook 2010 (I defy you to open an email in the RTM version of Outlook 2010, and find a View tab in the ribbon). Finally I find one that works. Hopefully this saves you guys some trouble.

Method One (the long way):

  1. Open the email
  2. Click the File Tab
  3. Click the Properties button (?)

Ok, so at least now I know how to view it, but now I have to actually open the email I want the header information for, and this is just way too much work. I want this to be as easy as it was in previous versions of Outlook.

You’ll notice in this screen shot:

That I have a button for showing the “Message Options” (Header information) in the “Quick Access Toolbar” (wasn’t easy to get it there).

Method two (the easier way):

  • Click the Drop down arrow in the Quick Access Toolbar (“QAT” from here on), and select “More Commands”, as shown below.

  • Now follow along in the screen shot below: (1) select “All Commands” from this drop down, (2) find and select “Message Options…” , (3) click “Add”, Click “OK”.

  • Now you can view header information for any email without having to actually open the email, as shown below.

Hey Microsoft: QUIT SCREWING AROUND WITH THE OFFICE INTERFACE!!!

Things like this are why Apple products and Open Office are gaining so much ground on you. I understand updating the Office interface to the ribbon style menus (I don’t like it but I understand it). You should have done it all in 2007, or just waited until 2010 to do any of it.

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