Roodhouse Tech Blog

Technology at Geneseo Community School District 228

If you are looking to use Sysprep.exe to generalize and move a windows installation from one machine to another you may run into a problem with a machine that has been upgraded in the past.  You can actually get around this hurdle by just deleting a couple registry keys and running a single command. 

***Error message you get running Sysprep on a machine that was Upgraded.

To Fix:

Remove this KEY from the Registry:
Computer\HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\Setup\Upgrade

 

Set this REG_DWORD from the Registry:
Computer\HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\Setup\Status\SysprepStatus\CleanupState 

—Set this Value to 7  (will likely be 2)

Run this command as Administrator:

Open the Command Prompt as Administrator and then run.
slmgr /dli

 

Thats it now when you run Sysprep.exe you will see the normal menu without any errors 🙂

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This year I am finishing replacing all teacher workstations at the High School with MacBook Airs.   With Apple considerably raising prices and competitors offering solid machines it took sometime to settle on this for a replacement option.   Here are the models that were looked at and how I scored them as a viable replacement options.  Staff members were using MacBook Pro 2010-2012 Education Models.


 

Disclaimer:  My reviews are based on this school districts environment and user base.   For example legacy USB ports are still needed as are VGA connectors to Projectors etc.  Many end users in other environments or at home I am sure are likely looking for all USB-C and next-gen ports,  however my mini reviews are based on a more realistic fit for what offers the best value to the education and work environment how it currently exists and it will most likely exist over the next 3 years.


MacBook Pro 13 inch (Latest Model)
Price 1299$
Storage 256 SSD
Processor: i5
RAM 8 gb
OS: MacOS Sierra 10.12.4

Thoughts:  Solid Machine.  Priced too high.  USB C ports are nice but with the amount of equipment in schools today needed USB 3.0 ports as well.  If you add in the price of dongles this machine gets closer to 1400$ per teacher which is way too high.  (VGA to USB C adapter,  USB-C to USB 3.0/2.0 Adapter = both 100$)

Overall score 7 out of 10.  Again price major factor here drop 300$ per unit and this would be 9 out of 10.



Dell XPS 13 inch

Price: 1199$
Storage: 256 SSD
Processor: i5
RAM: 8gb
OS: ubuntu or Windows 10

Thoughts:  I am Linux guy at heart and if the price was right I would honestly consider trying to move people to Linux.  However at 1299$ price is still a bit steep and Microsoft Office & significant software availability issues makes this untenable for Linux model(developer edition) .   Dell is interested in lowering prices to get into education but as a school district that has run MacOS for over 15 years a switch to Windows 10 has to be factored in terms of overall costs.  Training, support, malware protecti0n, group policy changes, adds to the cost of this machine.

Overall score 7 out of 10.  Changing OS from Mac back to Windows is doable but would need an agressive price point to make this happen, something around 899$ or less.


Microsoft Surface (latest model)
Price: 1229$
Storage: 256 SSD
Processor: i5
RAM: 8gb
OS: Windows 10 Pro/Education

Thoughts:  I had high hopes that Microsoft would make some aggressive moves to get Surface back into schools.  Machine is solidly built, runs quick, has a great screen, pulls off touch screen and traditional computing better then any other device.  Price is the big killer here,  this device needs to be priced under 1000$ to be competitive and to warrant an full OS change in our district.

 

Overall score 8 out of 10.  Probably best device Microsoft has ever made.  Runs well and is quite versatile.  To move people back into Windows need to price a bit more aggressively for education.


HP Spectre

Price: 1150$
Storage: 256 SSD
Processor: i7
RAM: 8gb

OS: Windows 10 Pro/Education

Thoughts:  This machine surprised me the most.  You get a lot of bang with your dollar here and cannot say much of anything negative.  This is probably the best laptop I have ever seen from HP.  The only downside is they don’t have a i5 reduced price model at the 999$-1050$.

Overall Score: 9 out of 10.  This machine is shown and often descreibed  as a copy/clone of the MacBook Air but even if that is the case they have done a great job.  Priced just a bit too high.


MacBook Air (latest model)

Price: 999-1050$
Storage: 256SSD
Processor: i5
RAM: 8GB
OS: MacOS Sierra 10.12.14

Thoughts:  Okay so this is the machine that really created the ultra book market and did so for a reason.  There is nothing I can say bad about this machine except perhaps its screen resolution is dated compared to other computers.  However at a price point of just over 1000$ machine has it all.  I would venture to say that Apple will likely kill off this model because to be honest it probably hurts sales on their new lineup of MacBook and MacBook Pros.

Overall Score: 9 out of 10.  The only thing keeping this machine from a perfect 10 is not retinal level display.  Battery life excellent, durable, fast, proven design.


Surface Book
Price: 999$
Storage: 128 SSD
Processor: i5
RAM: 4GB
OS: Windows S / Windows 10 Pro

Thoughts:  Okay so this was a late challenger and really missed the deadline to be a true competitor. However I am adding to my list since it was considered but due to dissapointing specs and price point quickly dismissed.  Machine is solid/built well has a great screen but at the 999$ price point that is about all it has going for it.  128 SSD is too small for a machine at this price point as is only 4 GB of RAM.  These specs look more like 2012-2013 prices and not sure what Microsoft is thinking here.  Windows S looks to be a late coming clone of ChromeOS and does not seem to fit this price point.  However it can be configured for Windows 10 Pro and this would be the config used for teacher machines.  Microsoft will need to regroup and work on marketting here of this could be another RT.


 

Winner MacBook Air.  Although HP Spectre is a great machine with great specs and decent price point, it still was more expensive then the Air and runs Windows 10.  Since our staff/admin/teachers have used Mac for years there is a cost associated with switching platforms.  Had the Spectre been around 950$ this would have warranted a change.  The MacBook Air has a fast SSD, is extremly durable, has a proven engineered design and at a price point of just over 1000$ it is still the best value offered by Apple.

Note: The iPad Pro was considered and quickly dismissed.  Although a great device it is still limited in functionality and cannot replace a full laptop.  I say this as a owner of an iPad pro and iPhone 7… locked garden and restrictive iOS is just not ready to fully replace a teacher/admin workstation.

 

 

 

 

 

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This year District 228 has upgraded some core network infrastructure to utilize its fiber WAN connection now running at 1000mbps up/down.  This is a significant step forward in network bandwidth and really allows our district fleet of over 1100 Chromebooks, 500 iPads, and 300 Laptops/Desktops  to make full use of cloud based / internet based resources.

To make full use of 1000+ mbps speeds some network pieces needed to be upgraded. Our old network Firewall was a cisco ASDM 5520 which maxes out at 450mbp.  This device has been replaced with the Cisco ASDM 5545X which is capable of handling 2000mpbs up and down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part of this upgrade involved moving reconfiguring the device for the newer ASA software 9.2.2.  Upgrading from 7.x ASA software requires quite a few configuration changes however I found a cool tool that handles most of it for you https://fwm.cisco.com/auth.do.

 

This tool successfully converted my 8.2 ASA configuration to the newer format 9.2.2 almost perfectly.  I only had to make two minor changes and clear our a couple redundant lines.

 

 

To fully utilize 1000mbps speeds I changed our content filter to a new machine with upgraded specs.  We use the Untangle software running on a Dell PowerEdge R730 Server.  I have been happy with Untangle as a content filter along with providing a few additional security functions.  Our new Dell PowerEdge R730 has 64 Gigs of RAM and runs a Intel based SSD RAID 10 array which passes traffic with all modules loaded above 2000mbps.

 

 

 

With Wireless 802.11AC provided district wide and all device allowed access policy District 228 handles over 2500-3200 internet connected devices during a normal school day.

As of 8:20 AM today we have 2,685 internet devices currently active on our network.

 

 

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I ran across a strange issue that took entirely way too long to figure out.  I was doing a routine IT support visit when I noticed one buildings locations had less then optimal speeds.   The download speeds were hovering around 12-40 mbps when typically our connection runs a strong 190-350 mbps (depending on wifi or wired).  At first I thought was perhaps just a temporary issue with congestion but after checking throughout the day I found that no it was isolated to one building (Unit Office) and only affecting traffic here.

 

For good measure I updated the Firmware on our wireless controller and even updated the switches iOS since it had not been done in some time.

I have two switches in this location one a Catalyst 2560G and a Catalyst 3560.   Looking thought the switches configuration I could not find anything that stood out.  No loopbacks…no faulty nics on the client side.   Upon closer inspection (show interface command) I found that the tengigabitethernet0/2 interface was showing CRC errors and dribble conditions detected.    Here after comparing configurations checking for auto negiotiation issues I could not find anything wrong.   After clearing the counters and bringing the port down and back up CRC errors continued.


 

 

 

A long story short after reading and re-reading cisco documentation on everything from packet flooding, ARP timeout mismatches, QOS settings, etc I stumbled across the answer from a Cisco guy posting on a forum.  It simply said in his experience CRC errors almost always indicate a bad cable or sometimes a bad SFP or similar module.

 

The Cable was bad.    That’s it.

 

Yes Inside the fiber panel the SC Fiber patch cable had been bent inside the cabinet in a such a way that the cable made a hard 90 degree bend.  Simply replacing this cable and everything went immediately back to normal.  After clearing the counters on the switch after 60 minutes 0 CRC errors were detected.    The lesson for me is before looking and spending hours reading complex networking topology issues probably is a lot smarter to start simple, check cables and SFP modules.

 

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  • Filed under: New Technology
  • New Skyward | Turbo Skyward

    At the end of last week we migrated our Skyward Server to a new physical server.   Our old server had ran quite well with no problems for four years and was quick and snappy with 48 gigs of DDR3 Ram and Dual Xeon processors with 16 logical cores running at 2.4 ghz.  Our new server is the best piece of hardware I have personally ever setup and installed.  This server has Dual Xeon (i7 family) process with 10 cores each that are hyperthreaded for 40 logical cores (20 actual) running at 2.6ghz per core.    The new Dell PowerEdge R730 Server has 64 gigs of DD4 Ram and runs a RAID 10 with 8 Solid State Enterprise level Intel Drives.  It is connected to our LAN with a Intel fiber NIC  operating at 10GB (10000mbps).  The idea with this server is quite simple,  four more years of fast, stable uninterrupted access to our Student and Financial Management System.

    This is one of the few pieces of equipment that has not been migrated to offsite cloud hosting because it is simply faster and more economical to keep it local.   For the price of this one server, it would costs us approximately 3 months of cloud managed storage.   Since this server will easily run 4 years  and will run a factor 4-5 times faster locally it doesn’t make sense to have hosted off site (yet).  Our District’s network is essentially one large LAN with each building connected together via fiber optic cabling.  This backbone of our LAN connecting each building together runs at 10GB (10000mbps).  With our local Skyward server running with these specs the latency for our clients in and out of network is extremely low.  In fact I may go as far to say I don’t know of another Skyward installation that runs at this speed (sure there is one somewhere, I just haven’t seen it).

    Our skyward configuration will soon have its database optimized for its new hardware and will gain yet again another speed boost.  Overall the switch over to the new hardware went relatively smooth with only a couple of minor hiccups.  The majority of our teachers, students and staff are probably not even aware it happened.   Want to give a shout out and props to Dell, and its PowerEdge line of Servers.  Working with IT for now over 9 years here in Geneseo none of our servers from Dell have physically failed.  Older  servers from before my time Pentium 3 based have all been retired but were retired in still working condition which is a testament to quality.

     

     

     

     

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  • Filed under: New Technology
  • El Capitan has reached a nice stable milestone but one thing that has always irked me about the OS is its terrible version of Disk Utility.  Not only was functionality removed from this utility but it also simply is less stable and does not work much of the time.  Let’s say you want make a new USB Time Machine disk and you pick up and external on sale at Wal-Mart.  When you go to Erase or partition you will often end up with meaningless errors, such as Out of Space (brand new) or Volume cannot be unmounted (already unmounted), etc.

    The fix is to use a customized version of the older more fully functional Disk Utility that has been altered to work on El Capitan (and MacOS Sierra).   This modified version brings back RAID control, ability to create disk images and is overall more stable and more functional then its newer replacement.

    Disk-Utility-Legacy-app Mac OSX

    Disk Utility Legacy Running on El Capitan

    old-disk-utility

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    A while back I used a cool online calendar program written in PHP which uses MySQL.  This Calendar product has not been supported for sometime and if you try to install it on newer machines you will get lots of PHP and MySQL errors.  I updated the installation files and the SQL installation script that sets up the database so that it functions on modern systems.

    calendarix

    Here is the latest version of Calendarix fixed to work on PHP 5.5 or higher and MySql 5x and higher. 

    To install extract the zip file and place on your web server.  Look inside the config directory to find the cal_db.inc.php file.  This is where you setup the connection to a database for the calendar.

    Here is the official instruction file as well.  I create the database in Phpmyadmin then run the SQL commands from the config directory in phpmyadmin to setup the database tables correctly.  That is about it.

    Official Installation file.

    Calendarix Screenshot

    calendarixrunning

     

    Calendarix Mini Calendar Screenshot

    mini

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    Okay so Prezi makes nice looking easy presentations but they are made using a web interface and are flash based.  This makes sharing, downloading or viewing these presentations outside of Prezi.com a bit difficult.  Using built in software on a Mac along with an opensource project called soundflower you can convert a prezi (or for that matter anything on the web) into a easy to use movie file.

    Using Quicktime you can do a New Screen Recording and draw a box around the content that you want to record.  This works great but has one major drawback.  This is capturing sound.

    For example if you click on Quicktime and then do a new screen recording:

    newscreenrecording

    Now in the box that pops up click on the little triangle to view your audio options.

    Notice the options are only NONE and Built-In-Microphone.

    built in micSo the Built-in-Microphone would work but you will get terrible sound and further you will get background static, and room noise basically everything picked up by the mic.  Also recording from a speaker directly to a microphone sounds terrible.
    Okay so what we need is a way to capture the audio stream perfectly and uninterrupted while capturing the screen.  Insert SoundFlower (https://github.com/mattingalls/Soundflower/releases/)

    SoundFlower adds a audio interface into your System Preferences that allows you to direct the speaker output directly allowing you to copy it perfectly.  Here is how to use it.

    First install SoundFlower.

    (Just download the DMG and double click on the PKG installer inside.)

    With SoundFlower installed you now can get redirect the output of your sound away from your speakers.

    Okay so back to Prezi and capturing the presentation with Audio now that we have SoundFlower.   We need to go to System Preferences and choose Sound.

    sound

    Now you change your OUTPUT to SoundFlower 2ch.

    2chOkay now that you have redirected your output you will no longer hear any sounds.  This is okay and you can change back to Internal speakers after your done capturing the video.
    Now get your Prezi presentation ready to play and go to Quicktime and do a new screen recording.  This time notice when you click on the little triangle to change audio you now see SoundFlower 2CH.

    audio

    With the Soundflower 2ch checked now click on Record, drag a box around your prezi presention and start it it up.  When the presentation is done stop the screen recording by clicking on the little stop button on the top of your screen.

    Stop button is square in the circle

    stop button

    Okay so when you are done with the screen recording you just need to clean up the start and the finish so that it looks nicer.  To do this use QuickTime’s Trim feature.  This feature is awesome and is often overlooked and unknown.

    Just go to EDIT | TRIM

    trim

    Now you can move the sliders on either side of the video to cut off the ackward beginning and the ackward finish (the part where you stop the screen recording) so that you are left with just a nice movie.

    Click and drag on either side of the Yellow box to adjust the start and end of the video

    tim2

     

    Okay before you play your final movie you need to redirect the sound back to the speakers.  Otherwise you will not hear anything because all sound is still going to SoundFlower.  So go back to System Preferences | Sound and now choose for Output,  Internal Speakers.

    Putting Sound back to your speakers.

    soundagain

    With your trimmed video you can save it to your desktop then upload to Youtube.  Or you can use another great open source project like Handbrake to shrink the file and put on a disk, email it, or do whatever you like.

    (Here is a link to another Post I made on shrinking videos https://www.gcsdstaff.org/roodhouse/?p=3598)

    Wait, not that I am all done couldn’t I do this same method to capture video or content from anywhere……?

    Answer yes.

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    When posting a video online it is good to convert it to MP4 and compress it for fast playback.  Using a Mac I have found the best way to compress video is to use a program called Handbrake.  Handbrake is free and you can download it directly here.  Download https://handbrake.fr/rotation.php?file=HandBrake-0.10.5-MacOSX.6_GUI_x86_64.dmg
    Here is how I convert most videos to a web friendly format.

    Step One:  Locate the file that you want to shrink/compress and convert.  I like to place it on the desktop but if you know where your original file any location works.

    Step Two:
    Start Handbrake.
    Handbrake

    When Handbrake starts it will popup with a finder window and ask for you to select a video source.  Here I select a movie that I am going to shrink Рthen hit open.
    SelectVideo

    Step 3
    Okay on this screen you can ignore most of the options except click near the top right.  Here select TOGGLE PRESETS and then choose the iPad Preset.

    Now check that the video Destination is your desktop and then click START.  start

    Now just wait for your video to convert.¬† The time depends on your computer and on the length/size of the video.¬† When it is all done you will see a Popup that says your “Cocktail” is ready.

    *** Note you can use Quicktime to Export and shrink videos as well.  I stick with Handbrake however since the video compression is much better, often times 2times better compression.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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    If you have updated your WordPress site to latest version and you use the JWPlayer version 6 you may have run across and error where your videos do not play.  This is because of an slight error in one file on the JWPlayer which makes it incompatible with the newer WordPress.

    Good news is you do not have to update to JWPlayer Version 7 if you don’t want to you can simply fix the one selected line of code or download my modified version of the plugin which is already fixed.

    jwplayerfixed (JWPlayer 6.9 fixed)

    If you feel like manually fixing your own plugin you can by going to Plugins, click on JWPlayer and then choose the Editor.

    Here edit the file called jwplayermodule.php.

     

    Look for this line of code

    */
    define(“JWP6_USE_CUSTOM_SHORTCODE_FILTER”, true);

    /*

    and change it to false like this

     

    */
    define(“JWP6_USE_CUSTOM_SHORTCODE_FILTER”, false);

    /*

     

    Thats it save and you the player should now work.

    jwfix

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