Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows Mail

I have just been setting up a new Windows Server 2008 R2 box up as a terminal server. As part of this I enabled the Desktop Experience feature, however this also enabled Windows Mail.

Windows mail seems to generate large amounts of ESENT messages in the log file as it tries to backup the mail database. It also create 5Mb of files for every user as they logon. As we don’t even use Windows Mail, just Outlook for staff I wanted to disable it.

There appears to be no easy way to remove it from the system, but you can prevent it from setting up the details for every user when the log on.

Download and runs the Microsoft Sysinternals program Autoruns as an Administrator and then under the Logon tab untick “Microsoft Windows” under both the Active Setup\Installed Components and the WOW6432Node\Active Setup\Installed Components.

Now when a new user logs in it will no longer set up Windows Mail files or shortcuts.

Autoruns Windows Mail Disable

Autoruns Windows Mail Disable

Posted in Utilities, Windows | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Moodle Structure Problems


Recently I discovered our Moodle gradebook was playing up and not correctly recording marks from assignments as well as been unable to assign categories from quizes.

I tracked the problem down to the Moodle database losing all its default entries for its tables. The cause is unknown but is quite likely the UTF conversion utility I ran previously to make the system compatible with Asian languages for LOTE.

To fix this problem I needed to recreate the Moodle DB structure and then reimport the data.


First make a backup. I made a mistake the first time I tried repairing this and the backup I made saved me.

mysqldump -u backupacc -p -Q --opt moodle > moodleBackup.sql

I created a duplicate site with a clean DB (copy the moodle folder and create a new DB) and went through the install. This needs to have all your modules and blocks to ensure all tables are created.

I then dumped the structure from this new DB and the old DB and compared them using Meld (or any other diffing program will work).

 mysqldump -u backupacc -p --no-data --skip-add-drop-table moodletest2 > moodleGoodStruc.sql
mysqldump -u backupacc -p -d --skip-add-drop-table moodle > moodleOldStruc.sql

Using Meld determine if there are any extra tables or fields in your current system that don’t exist in the clean one.

Then you need to determine if it is safe to delete those tables / field in your main DB or if they need to be added to the clean system. e.g. grade_items_history.decimals and grade_items_history.display were in the main DB but not the new one. After searching for it discovered they can be removed (MDL-15985).

After getting them to match you need to dump your Moodle data from your main site.

You can speed up the next steps by reducing the size of backup_log if you wish. Just do a

FROM `mdl_backup_log`
WHERE `time` <1242777600

Where the time code is calculated as a unix time code from about a month before todays date. This can reduce alot of space of your DB, and improve import/export times.

mysqldump -u backupacc -p  --no-create-info --extended-insert --complete-insert moodle > moodleData200906171559.sql

You need the –complete-insert option to ensure each insert is labelled with field name, in case field order is different. I didn’t do this the first time and needed to restore the backup.

Testing Merge

Now you need to test it. Create a new empty DB and import the Structure then import your data.

mysql -u root -p moodleTest3 < moodleStruc.sql
mysql -u root -p moodleTest3 < moodleData200906171559.sql

Check that no errors occurred during import, this is when I discovered most of my problems with extra non existent field.

Prep for Applying

Put your site in Maintenance mode so no users can login while you are testing this. (i.e. when you restore data site will already be in maintenance mode)

When everything is OK do another backup, as after this you are going to delete it all. (I recommend taking your site completely offline for this, not just maintenance mode. Edit your config.php and temporarily change either the username, password or db name or your database settings.)

Now re-export the Data again (assuming your site has been running while you have been doing tests)

mysqldump -u backupacc -p  --no-create-info --extended-insert --complete-insert moodle > moodleData200906171559.sql

Applying to Site


Now use phpMyAdmin to drop every table in the Moodle main DB. Just use Check All at the bottom and select Drop.

Now you need to redo your test restore above but to your main DB.

Once complete reconnect your config.php file and check everything on your site looks the same. Open some courses, check some gradebooks, have a look around.

When its OK take out of Maintenance mode and you should be good to go.

Posted in Moodle | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Google Earth Zenworks Deployment

Google Earth is a great program for schools, as it allows teachers and students to explore the worlds geography and use layers to examine  history, socio-economic information and many other areas.

It used to be fairly easier to deploy on your network, but after version 4.2 it became significantly more difficult if you use a deployment program like Zenworks. A new MSI test was introduced to determine where to install Google Earth. If the current user is not an Admin User it would redirect to [LocalAppDataFolder]Google\Google Earth (usually C:\Documents and Settings\username\Local Settings\Application Data\Google\Google Earth) which made it inaccessible to other users.

As Zenworks uses the System account, which is not an admin user, this would happen when the installer was launched by a student.

To fix this problem there are a few different techniques. You can use either ORCA or Admin Studio Tuner (from Zenworks) to create a transform file that ignores these checks. Alternatively you can use ORCA to edit the msi file directly, I had to use this technique for V5 due to some exisiting problems in the Google Earth MSI.

First download the full version of Google Earth, (V5.0.11337). You should be able to find later versions through Google.

To find what you need to edit you can do a search in ORCA for AdminUser you should find around 3 entries.

The major entries are:

  • InstallExecuteSequence: ChangeInstallDirForNonAdmin: NOT AdminUser (Delete this row)
  • InstallExecuteSequence: setALLUSERS: AdminUser (remove the word AdminUser so it applies to all installs)
  • InstallUISequence: ChangeInstallDirForNonAdmin: NOT AdminUser (Delete this row)

You may also wish to remove AdminUser as a Condition from Component:

Once these are removed or modified it should install in C:\Program Files\Google\Google Earth regardless of which user is logged in.

Posted in Windows | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Migrating DHCP reservations from Novell to Microsoft

We are gradually migrating our core services from Novell Netware to Windows Server 2003 and 2008. As part of this migration we needed to migrate all our DHCP reservations stored on our Novell servers to Windows Servers.

First a comment, although Microsoft seems to have a much better DNS system than on Netware 6.5, their DHCP implementation leaves a lot to be desired.

On Novell I could create a scope, reservations and options and it is stored in eDirectory. I could then have multiple DHCP servers with different IP ranges to offer. I could use the java console (sometime slow) to add a reservation and it would sync to both servers.

On Windows Server 2003 and 2008 I need to separate create scopes, allocation ranges and reservations on each server. Their is no synchronisation or communication between these servers. This means to migrate my reservations from my current Netware DHCP servers to the target Windows servers the reservations need to be added to each server, as well as adding any future reservations to both servers.

Migration Process

First use the Novell DNS/DHCP console and export the DHCP scope / database you are migrating.

I have written the following Perl code to read in the DHCP3TAB file generated and output a netsh file that will add all your reservations to any number of Windows DHCP servers.

You will need to modify the DHCP servers list to your AD servers and change the scopeName to the correct IP settings.

After running your DHCP3TAB through the perl script, copy output to your server and run netsh exec outputFile.txt to add it to your servers.


# Designed to read in Rservations from a Novell DHCP Tab file and output a NetSH script file
# From
# On the destination server, the exec command is used to load and execute the converted reservations:
#  netsh exec AdReservations.txt
# After you use the exec command to load the file, you must reconcile all scopes. 
# Use net stop dhcpserver to stop the DHCP Server service and net start dhcpserver to restart it. Once the service is restarted, DHCP database changes take effect.

use strict; use warnings;

my $dhcptabName = "DHCP3TAB.txt";
my $outFile = "AdReservations.txt";
my @dhcpServers = ('\\\\',
my $scopeName = "";

open F, "< $dhcptabName" or die "Can't open $dhcptabName : $!";
open O, "> $outFile" or die "Can't open $outFile : $!";
# File parsing
my $ip;
my $host;
my $mac;
my $type;
my $comment="";

while (my $line = <F>){
  if ($line =~ /^\[IP Address Configuration /i) {
  # New entry, clear values
    $ip="", $host="", $mac="", $type="", $comment="";
    while ((my $entry = <F>) !~ /^$/){
    # Parse and fill in values
      if ($entry =~ /IP Address Number = ([\d.]+)/i){
      elsif ($entry =~ /Assignment Type = (\d+)/i){
      elsif ($entry =~ /Host Name = ([\w\-_]+)/i){
      elsif ($entry =~ /MAC Address = 1 (.+)/i){
        $mac=~ s/\s+//g;
      elsif ($entry =~ /Comment = (.+)/i){

    # Following determines which type of entries to convert. Default is only reservation. 
    # You can comment it out and uncomment the second line to include reservations and allocated IPs.
    # If  type != 8 (reservation) discard
    next unless ($type == 8); 

    # If  type != 8 (reservation) or  != 2 (Allocated) discard
    # next unless  ($type  == 8 or $type  == 2);

    next if ($mac eq "" or $ip eq "" or $host eq "");
    foreach my $server (@dhcpServers){
      print O "Dhcp Server $server Scope $scopeName Add reservedip $ip $mac \"$host\" \"$comment\" \"BOTH\"\n";

close F;
close O;
Posted in Active Directory, Novell | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

AD Password Reset and Bulk Modify

Those who in the past have used the Novell Change Pass utility may have been missing it when moving to Active Directory.

A great tool is Wisesoft Password Control which allows you to just type in the username, it will display info about the account and give you the option to change the password, enable/disable the account and unlock the account.
It is ideal to make available to teachers for resetting the student passwords if you use the Delegate control option in AD Users and Computers for your student OU’s.

The other useful tool on the website is a pair of tools Bulk Password Control and Bulk Modify. These allow you to bulk reset the password for a large group of students, or modify the attributes for a large number of users. It can read these in from a CSV file, and match the CSV entires to either sAMaccountName or some other user attribute. You can also set the attribute based on their existing attributes.

After downloading it will ask you for a code that you can get with a free registration on their site.

Posted in Active Directory, Utilities, Windows | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Recently I needed to identify where all the space was going on our server. Usually I just use the Folder Size tab extension but it requires scanning every time you close the Properties dialogue.

After looking around online I found a great free utility that displays the info in an easy to explore graphical view. OverDisk scans the drive or folder (this took around 10 mins for a drive containing hundreds of home directories) and then you can save the data so it does not need to constantly rescan (unless you make changes to files).You can also have it only rescan a certain subfolder rather than the entire drive again.

It presents the information in a colour coded pie chart, allowing you to easily see which folders and files are using the most space.

You can click on the folder and the pie chart will change to reflect that folder or click the middle of graph to go up a level. Right clicking on a folder gives you an easy option to Open or Explore in Explorer.

OverDisk folder space tool


Posted in Utilities, Windows | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments