Dr. Skatterbrainz Answers Reader Mail

Warning: The following text may contain adult-ish offensive language which may cause unwanted side effects.  Read at your own risk.

“I was just wondering what you think about going into IT consulting for someone who’s never done it before, but who’s been working in IT direct for about ten years?” – Brad

It’s not for everyone, but some really enjoy it.  It also depends on whether you’re working from home/remote or on-site mostly.  If you’re used to being in a room full of people and a bustling office environment, then switch to being alone all the time, even with online communication tools, it’s sometimes lonely.  If you have pets or someone at home to talk to it helps, otherwise you should get outside frequently and mix with other people.  Coffee shop, park, etc.  It also requires you to impose your own control over scheduling, sleep, eating, exercise, etc.

If you prefer keeping hands-on with things after you build them, it might be tough letting go of each project and moving on to the next.  If you like having a steady office environment, that too may be a tough adjustment.  If you don’t like traveling a lot, or meeting strangers and getting used to strange places, accents, rules, customs, and so on, it may be a tough adjustment.

Other things to consider are how well you adjust to working alone, or with different teams from one day/week/month to the next, as opposed to being with the same group of people for months/years.

I would suggest that if you’re really curious/interested in consulting to give it a try.  You will be exposed to more variety and more ideas than you typically get with a steady office role.  But, no matter how it turns out, it will still be more experience, and more experience is good no matter what (as long as it doesn’t kill you or leave you brain-damaged). And you may get to rack up lots of flyer miles and hotel rewards points.

“Why do CIOs so often turn down requests from their own IT staff to improve tools and processes?” – Jim

Because most technical people suck at communicating things in terms of money.  Remember that old book “Women are from Venus. Men are from Mars”?.  CxO’s like numbers and charts.  The more colors and spiffiness (I made that term up) the better.  The situations where I’ve seen (or done by myself) a proposal laid out in terms of what it will provide in terms of the following, it got a positive result:

  • Cost savings
  • New revenue (not always welcome, unless it’s in a core competency)
  • Added capability (e.g. competitive advantage)

Any idea you have to improve things needs to be distilled down to what “improve” really means.  Improves what?  How?  For whom?  Keep walking that question back until it comes to a dollar figure.  And one other aspect I find that helps is to focus more on the repeat financial benefit, rather than a one-time benefit.  A simple one-time cost-savings doesn’t usually get them excited enough to set down the Martini and whip out the credit card, but a pay-off that keeps getting better every quarter/year is hard to ignore.  In the end, if you have to fluff the numbers to make it work, you need to ask yourself if you really have the best idea.  If it really makes sense you shouldn’t need to oversell it, but make sure you present it in the language the suit-clad folks really love to hear.

“Some of my siblings and cousins have a condescending view of the IT profession.  They’re all lawyers and marketing people, but somehow think IT is like dishwashing.  What’s the best thing I can do for that?” – Charles

Hi Charles.  I can completely sympathize.  I have a few of those people in my family as well.  You can either hold a grudge, or let it go. I prefer to let it go.  Time is your most valuable asset.  Don’t waste it.  The time you would spend on debating them could be better used on learning new skills or finding more projects to grow your experience.  Changing someone’s mind about things is almost impossible without proper firearms and pharmaceuticals.

“I’ve seen you pick on Microsoft Access a few times.  What do you hate about it?” – Chris

I don’t hate Access itself.  It’s a great product, especially for small scale needs.  But it’s not built for large-scale, shared use, and it couples the application (forms, reports, logic) with the data (tables, views, etc.) which doesn’t scale or lend itself to flexible maintenance.  It’s also very dependent on the version of Office installed, so upgrading the rest of Office then becomes hostage to it.

The other issue is that shared-use problems often lead to proliferation of multiple, standalone copies throughout the enterprise.  Maintaining consistency and centralized reporting becomes increasingly difficult.

Then when IT wants (or needs) to roll out a new version of Office, it turns into “Now hold on a minute!  That’ll break our precious Access DB ‘application’!”   The longer the Access app remains in production, the more intrinsic it becomes to business operations, making it more sensitive to disruption.  And the longer is remains in production, the more likely staff will have quit/retired/died/joined a cult, whatever, and now nobody is left who knows how to maintain or modify the code.

This often leads to the following discussion playbook scenarios, complete with the eye-rolling, mumbling, and drooling package…

Version 1

IT: “You guys in Finance need to upgrade this Access thing of yours so it works with 2016!”

Finance guys: “The guy who wrote it left months/years ago and we don’t have anyone who can update it”

IT: “Not our problem. Make it happen.”

Finance guys: “Then fuck you.”

Version 2

IT: “You guys in Finance need to upgrade this Access thing of yours so it works with 2016!”

Finance guys: “Okay, but since this is YOUR requirement, then IT should pay for all that work.”

IT: “No!”

Finance guys: “Then fuck you.”

Version 3

IT: “You guys in Finance need to upgrade this Access thing of yours so it works with 2016!”

Finance guys: “Okay, but we don’t have anyone who can do it due to schedules and other work.  Can IT do it for us?”

IT: “No!”

Finance guys: “Then fuck you.”

Version 4

IT: “You guys in Finance need to…”

Finance guys: “Just fuck you.”

Then we break for lunch, listen to IT complain about how <insert department name here> are a bunch of a-holes to work with.  We come back to the office, fighting off the carb-coma sleep monster, and repeat the same discussions again.  Someone will suggest the usual workarounds…

  • “Let’s install the Access runtime for 2007 or 2010 along with Access 2016!”
    • “Adding more complexity to our environment is not the answer.”
  • “Move it to Citrix or RDS!”
    • Citrix/RDS guy: “No!  I need funding to buy more hardware.”
  • “Let’s App-V or ThinApp it!”
    • “Carl – Do YOU know how to sequence that?”
      • “Ummm no.  But I hear it’s really cool.”
    • “You thought Justin Bieber was cool.”
      • “What’s wrong with Justin?!”
    • (continues on until some smacks the table to break it up)
  • “Let’s rent an unmarked van and kidnap that old guy that wrote this!”
    • “I have $53 on me.  Can we rent one that cheap?”
      • “I have duct tape, maybe a gift card too, hold on…”

In the end, the most expensive, least efficient and most painful “solution” will be chosen and everyone will be unhappy.  After a few months they will have left for other jobs and a new staff will be looking at it, wash rinse and repeat.  Or, in some cases, they hire someone to rewrite the app using modern tools that support shared use, are easy to maintain and even move to the cloud.

“I’d like to use Chocolatey at my company, but management won’t allow it and won’t pay for the business version.  Can I still leverage pieces of it somehow?” – Larry

There are several things you can “leverage” without using the public repository, or buying the business license features.

  • Set up an internal repository.  If there’s no objection to internal sourcing of packages.
  • Crack open Chocolatey packages for the silent installation and configuration syntax to use elsewhere.  Scripts, SCCM, etc.
  • Apply for a new job elsewhere.

Option 1 – Setting up an internal repo…

  1. Read this – https://chocolatey.org/docs/how-to-host-feed
  2. Test, test, and test some more
  3. Pilot deployment
  4. Production domination and ultimate anihilation

Option 2 – Cracking open a warm one…

  1. Locate the desired package (e.g. Microsoft Teams desktop app)
  2. Click on the “Package source” link along the left (opens the Github repo)
  3. Inspect the .nuspec file for some general details
  4. Inspect the xxxinstall.ps1 file for the code and tasty stuff
  5. Copy / adapt when you can into whatever else you’re using

Notes:

  • If you intend to “keep up” with the latest releases of a given package, you may need to repeat the above steps, or monitor the vendor source location(s) to react as they post new versions.
  • If you want to expand on this, you can post your own packages with internal modification requirements (icacls, registry hacks, etc.) as needed, or adapt them into your own deployment scripts or task sequences.

Cheers!

Send more questions via Twitter DM.  If you follow me, and your account doesn’t smell like a bot, or a weird cats-for-kids black market thing, then I will usually follow you back.

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The IT Professional’s PlayBook

cant_crash

So, you’re growing tired of trying to convince clueless managers about approving your requests to improve IT operations.  Maybe you’ve been doing it like this…

You: “Good morning sir/ma’am.  If we spend some money on upgrading our WAN links, we can get ahead of our backlog of projects by moving all our deployment processes out of the slow lane.”

Them: “I don’t know who WAN links is, but it sounds like Chinese food.  Go away.”

Maybe you should try rehearsing these tried-and-tested proven methods:

You: “Good morning sir/ma’am.  I ran the numbers and found we could save money by upgrading our WAN links.  A one-time cost of $14k would eliminate our need for additional infrastructure, license upgrades, controlled spaces, and lower power and cooling costs at all our remote facilities.  That alone would reduce our infrastructure costs by $5,000 per year, and cut our deployment times from weeks to hours.  The cost could be a tax deduction and we’d recoup that in less than three years.  And, are you losing weight?”

Them: “Yes, I’ve been working on my chip shot all weekend and I think it’s getting me in shape again.  I like you Bob….”

You: “It’s Ben.  Sir.”

Them: “Right, Bill, anyhow, it sounds like you think this WAN links guy is really that good?  Ok. I’ll approve him, if you think he can help with our taxes.”

Another example…

You: “Good morning sir/ma’am. I ran the numbers and it turns out we’re spending 150 hours per week installing apps by hand.  That’s 5 technicians over 150 hours at $7.50 per hour, oops, I mean $5.50 per hour.  That comes to $8,250 per week, and a backlog on other support requests in the queue.  We could spend a quarter of that packaging or wrapping the installers and procuring a product to help deploy them remotely.”

Them: “I like that idea.  We can then cut 3 of those technician’s jobs and reduce our burden rate at the same time!  Great work Bill!  You can call me Mike.”

You: “Actually, uh, no disrespect, but I don’t think we should cut…”

Them: “Consider it done Bobby!” (strong pat on the back)

And another…

You: “Good morning Ma’am.  I would like to request approval to replace Acronis and Ghost and all our other imaging tools with Microsoft Deployment Toolkit.  It’s free.  It’s very customizable.  It would allow us to reduce our image library from 43 individual images to 1 with a task sequence.  And it’s been around for years and battle tested.”

Them: “That sounds interesting.  But I spoke with Sam, who dates my daughter, and he says it’s better to maintain 43 image files every month because the extra care and feeding makes it an important job.  And he graduated from a 2 year tech school.  And he dates my daughter, so you know how that goes.  But really, Bobby, I appreciate your concern.”

You: “It’s Ben.  But thank you.”

And finally…

You: “Good morning Ma’am.  I heard about the big tax changes and how we’re going to save $20 million this year alone.  I was wondering if you had a few minutes to discuss some ideas I have about infrastructure improvements to help streamline our operations and save money?”

Them: “I’m glad you asked.  Yes, but it’s actually around $22 million.  And we already have plans to apply that towards automation, to reduce our dependency on human labor.  Oh, and what was your name again?”

Or, you could just consider a career in the legal or medical field.

My First Day as Microsoft CEO

Greetings,

First of all, thank you all for being here today, in my 800 bedroom cabin atop the humble foot hill called Mt. Everest. I hope your parachutes all provided a smooth arrival?  It is an honor having you here to listen to me pontificate about my vision for Microsoft, now that I’ve been voted Ultimate Excecutive Officer, or UEO. I plan to outline changes which I feel will help launch our fine organization to the “next level” (air quotes).

Before I continue, I’d like to take a moment to thank Satya for all his hard work.  He exemplifies all of the qualities and traits a CEO and leader should have, of which I have none.  But that’s beside the point.  Actually, he doesn’t yet know I’m the new CEO or UEO, he thinks the plane he’s on is taking him to meet Oprah for an interview, but I paid the pilot to fly in circles over some place near Antarctica, and I had all the door locks changed.  Please thank Satya, if you ever see him again, for the open bar.

So, first things first:

As of today, all former prefixes like “Active”, “Live”, “One”, “Visual” and so on are being changed to “Awesome”.  So it’s Awesome Directory, Awesome Studio, and Awesome Drive.  Get used to it.  And from now on, no product will have a name that takes more than 5 syllables to pronounce.

Licensing is going to change as well.  A new program called “4th grade review” is going live today.  We will randomly-select a 4th grade student in a random school in Kenya.  They will read the EULA to their classmates, and if even one student looks confused, they get to rewrite it.

Servicing channels are going to be renamed yet one more time.  They went from “Current Branch” to “Semi-Annual blah blah”.  But now we’ll have the following names:

  • “I hate change!” (formerly LTSB/LTSC) is now once every 5 years
  • “What’s the hurry?” (formerly CBB/Semi-Annual) is now once every year
  • “I kind of miss getting updates” (formerly CB/Semi-Annual Targeted) is now twice a year
  • and “Where the fuck are my updates?!” (formerly Insider Preview) is now every week

Changes to Windows

Windows 10 “Enterprise” SKU images will no longer include games or media services apps.  In fact, we won’t even allow those to be installed.  If you want them, buy the Home edition.  The Professional edition will offer it as an option, but not installed by default.

The Control Panel will be entirely migrated into Settings by the time I leave the stage and run out the back door.

We have a new edition called Windows “In-Your-Face” edition, which will be entirely FREE as long as you agree to so much telemetry and advertisements that you might forget what apps you were trying to launch.

All application installations will have to be MSI, C2R, App-V or portable .Exe only.  No more legacy garbage.  Stubborn app vendors can suck it.

Other Products

Office 365 is now going to be entirely browser-based.  No more installations.  Every single feature you had in the C2R and MSI packages will be in the new browser-app.  You’re welcome.

A new driver “service” (air quotes again) is being released.  The code name is Device Optimization Universal Configuration Hardware Emulation, or just DOUCHE for short.  All vendor drivers will have to check into our portal and we will manage a true PnP experience without any manual intervention required, ever.  As in never, or ever, or which ever never you ever never prefer.  Vendors can no longer install drivers without coming through us.  PnP is now going to work the way we envisioned it should work, back when we were eating mushrooms atop some mountain in Chile.  Good times (drifts off with a dazed look)…. Oh, yeah, it’ll be like a toaster.  Plug it in, and watch it burn the toast.

More 

All versioning will be consistent across all products from now on.  No more 10 for this, 2017 for that, or 2.3.5550.0000.1000 for the other. There’s going to be one version format only.  We haven’t settled on it yet, but whoever wins the beer funnel challenge gets to pick it.

We signed a deal with Jeff B. to get Alexa installed on every Windows SKU.  We will be including an app that lets you pay to watch Alexa and Cortana fight in a 3D virtual cage of death, only with our Hololens product, obviously, and all proceeds going to charity.

SQL Server is now renamed to Awesome Database Server.

All external web portals like Fast Track, Partner, Azure, O365, and so on are being merged into one web portal and one credential set across all of them.  And speaking of credentials, you can now open multiple Azure instances in a single browser using separate credentials.  You’re welcome.

We will also start a new customer loyalty program next week.  The plan is simple.  Once a day, the first person to show up in front of a Microsoft store with a bullhorn, shouting “Java sucks and so does Flash” gets a t-shirt.

I’d like to continue with more, but I was just told that Satya’s plane is on the way back so I have to meet my Uber ride out back.  Sorry I don’t have time for questions. Thank you!

Finally! Dave’s Master’s Class on Programming Skills

You’ve waited years, in fact, decades, for this once-in-a-lifetime chance to peer inside the vast and empty space of my mind to gain invaluable insight to insightful and invaluable insights behind expert-level coding mastery! Say that ten times.

Well, here it is!

Open your favorite code editor and paste in whatever code you feel like working with right now.  Let’s get started!

Preparation

  • It’s important to keep a can of compressed air nearby in order to cool down the keyboard, as it will likely reach unbearable temperatures
  • I also recommend a small bowl filled with ice cubes to cool your fingers down after each lesson.
  • Liquefied Caffeine
  • Sugary ingestibles
  • Ear buds or headphones
  • Ear plugs for anyone else in the room

Lesson 1 – Code Formatting

  1. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL
  2. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL
  3. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL
  4. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL
  5. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL
  6. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL
  7. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL
  8. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL
  9. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL
  10. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL
  11. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL
  12. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL
  13. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL
  14. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL
  15. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL
  16. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL
  17. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL
  18. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL
  19. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL
  20. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL
  21. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL
  22. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL
  23. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL
  24. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL
  25. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL
  26. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL
  27. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL
  28. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL
  29. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL
  30. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL
  31. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL
  32. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL
  33. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL
  34. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL
  35. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL
  36. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL
  37. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL
  38. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL
  39. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL
  40. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL
  41. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL
  42. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL
  43. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL
  44. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL
  45. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL
  46. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL
  47. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL
  48. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL
  49. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL
  50. Press SHIFT+CTRL+[>] and DEL

Lesson 2 – Refactoring

  1. Highlight a line of code
  2. Press CTRL+C
  3. Click on the next empty line
  4. Press CTRL+V and ENTER
  5. Press CTRL+V and ENTER
  6. Press CTRL+V and ENTER
  7. Press CTRL+V and ENTER
  8. Press CTRL+V and ENTER
  9. Press CTRL+V and ENTER
  10. Press CTRL+V and ENTER
  11. Press CTRL+V and ENTER
  12. Press CTRL+V and ENTER
  13. Press CTRL+V and ENTER
  14. Press CTRL+V and ENTER
  15. Press CTRL+V and ENTER
  16. Press CTRL+V and ENTER
  17. Press CTRL+V and ENTER
  18. Press CTRL+V and ENTER
  19. Press CTRL+V and ENTER
  20. Press CTRL+V and ENTER
  21. Press CTRL+V and ENTER
  22. Press CTRL+V and ENTER
  23. Press CTRL+V and ENTER
  24. Press CTRL+V and ENTER
  25. Press CTRL+V and ENTER
  26. Press CTRL+V and ENTER
  27. Press CTRL+V and ENTER
  28. Press CTRL+V and ENTER
  29. Press CTRL+V and ENTER
  30. Press CTRL+V and ENTER
  31. Press CTRL+V and ENTER
  32. Press CTRL+V and ENTER
  33. Press CTRL+V and ENTER
  34. Press CTRL+V and ENTER
  35. Press CTRL+V and ENTER
  36. Press CTRL+V and ENTER
  37. Press CTRL+V and ENTER
  38. Press CTRL+V and ENTER
  39. Press CTRL+V and ENTER
  40. Press CTRL+V and ENTER
  41. Press CTRL+V and ENTER
  42. Press CTRL+V and ENTER
  43. Press CTRL+V and ENTER
  44. Press CTRL+V and ENTER
  45. Press CTRL+V and ENTER
  46. Press CTRL+V and ENTER
  47. Press CTRL+V and ENTER
  48. Press CTRL+V and ENTER
  49. Press CTRL+V and ENTER
  50. Press CTRL+V and ENTER

Lesson 3 – Expert Refactoring

  1. Place cursor at beginning of first line of code
  2. Press TAB
  3. Press [Down Arrow]+[Home]+TAB
  4. Press [Down Arrow]+[Home]+TAB
  5. Press [Down Arrow]+[Home]+TAB
  6. Press [Down Arrow]+[Home]+TAB
  7. Press [Down Arrow]+[Home]+TAB
  8. Press [Down Arrow]+[Home]+TAB
  9. Press [Down Arrow]+[Home]+TAB
  10. Press [Down Arrow]+[Home]+TAB
  11. Press [Down Arrow]+[Home]+TAB
  12. Press [Down Arrow]+[Home]+TAB
  13. Press [Down Arrow]+[Home]+TAB
  14. Press [Down Arrow]+[Home]+TAB
  15. Press [Down Arrow]+[Home]+TAB
  16. Press [Down Arrow]+[Home]+TAB
  17. Press [Down Arrow]+[Home]+TAB
  18. Press [Down Arrow]+[Home]+TAB
  19. Press [Down Arrow]+[Home]+TAB
  20. Press [Down Arrow]+[Home]+TAB
  21. Press [Down Arrow]+[Home]+TAB
  22. Press [Down Arrow]+[Home]+TAB
  23. Press [Down Arrow]+[Home]+TAB
  24. Press [Down Arrow]+[Home]+TAB
  25. Press [Down Arrow]+[Home]+TAB
  26. Press [Down Arrow]+[Home]+TAB
  27. Press [Down Arrow]+[Home]+TAB
  28. Press [Down Arrow]+[Home]+TAB
  29. Press [Down Arrow]+[Home]+TAB
  30. Press [Down Arrow]+[Home]+TAB
  31. Press [Down Arrow]+[Home]+TAB
  32. Press [Down Arrow]+[Home]+TAB
  33. Press [Down Arrow]+[Home]+TAB
  34. Press [Down Arrow]+[Home]+TAB
  35. Press [Down Arrow]+[Home]+TAB
  36. Press [Down Arrow]+[Home]+TAB
  37. Press [Down Arrow]+[Home]+TAB
  38. Press [Down Arrow]+[Home]+TAB
  39. Press [Down Arrow]+[Home]+TAB
  40. Press [Down Arrow]+[Home]+TAB
  41. Press [Down Arrow]+[Home]+TAB
  42. Press [Down Arrow]+[Home]+TAB
  43. Press [Down Arrow]+[Home]+TAB
  44. Press [Down Arrow]+[Home]+TAB
  45. Press [Down Arrow]+[Home]+TAB
  46. Press [Down Arrow]+[Home]+TAB
  47. Press [Down Arrow]+[Home]+TAB
  48. Press [Down Arrow]+[Home]+TAB
  49. Press [Down Arrow]+[Home]+TAB
  50. Press [Down Arrow]+[Home]+TAB

Lesson 4 – Super Expert Uber Refactoring

  1. Click the little [+] code-folding handle to collapse a bunch of code
  2. Click the tool icon to comment the entire block
  3. Press CTRL+N (new file)
  4. CTRL+V
  5. Repeat for every code block
  6. After every code block is in its own file, reverse the process and paste each file contents back into the original file
  7. Repeat steps 1 through 6 about 5,000 times

Summary

Repeat the above skill drills 5,000 times every day for the next 5,000 days and you’ll be ready to apply for that fantastic junior entry level programmer analyst position you’ve been waiting for!  Don’t wait!  Get started today!

Windows 10 Secrets: Undocumented Hotkeys

The next time you want to impress someone at a social gathering, wait until they’ve finished rambling about how much they know about Windows 10. Then set your drink down calmly, smile and chuckle “That’s cute. I remember when I first learned those tricks. Years ago.  Before I became a man.” (tip: insert woman here, if appropriate)

Then hit them with these proven hotkey secrets:

Un-stick any frozen application

Press CTRL+ALT+Space+ smack the shit out of the keyboard. Any keys will do.

Recover a frozen web form

Press CTRL+ALT+DEL then grasp the keyboard in both hands and forcefully rip the USB connector loose.  Bonus tip: scream as loud as possible while removing the keyboard to speed up the recovery.

Automatically Rebuff an Annoying Facebook Comment

Press CTRL+ALT and press your face against the display screen and scream as loud as you can “you stupid MF-er!!!

Remember, computers don’t kill people.  People kill people… and their computers.

Quick Rundown on FudgePop and why the Silly Name

The name comes from a wine-infused discussion around Chocolatey, which was around Nuget, which was around Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Chocolatey Stout, which was bout $9 per bottle.  This post however, was sponsored by half a bottle of Pinot Noir, by an unnamed winery somewhere in Wineville.  FudgePop itself was contrived from a casual “bet” over a bottle of Dogfish Head 120 IPA that it’s possible to use nothing but free tools and features included with Windows 10 to manage a “group” of such devices from a central location, regardless of where those other devices are located.

Btw, I just uploaded 1.0.16 to the PowerShell gallery

Installation

Install-Module FudgePop
Import-Module FudgePop

Note: .NET framework 3.5 is recommended for some Chocolatey packages.  FudgePop does not install .NET 3.5 by default.

Use the following to confirm/verify the latest version…

Get-Module

Once the module has been installed on each subsequent victim, er, I mean “device”, scaling out is just a matter of replicating the same steps as the previous device.  On domain-joined devices, you can use Group Policy to deploy it as well as via PowerShell deployment from Intune for devices joined to Azure AD Premium.  Workgroup computers require manual intervention (hands-on, remote connection, etc.)

Functions

New-FudgePopTemplate

Creates a new XML control file using the default (sample) provided with the module.  Other samples are posted on the project GitHub site.  Note that all settings are disabled by default, and filled in with sample/example information only.

New-FudgePopTemplate -OutputFile "c:\devtest\control.xml"

Install-FudgePop

Configures default options such as control file location, enable/disable recurring scheduled execution, and hourly interval between scheduled executions.

Install-FudgePop

Invoke-FudgePop

Executes the FudgePop agent.  If you configured it correctly, magical things happen before your drunken eyes.  If you goofed up the configuration, it forces you to watch The View until your eyeballs bleed.  That last feature is not yet enabled.  Note that this function is what is called by the RunFudgePop.bat script during each scheduled execution (if scheduled execution is enabled).

Invoke-FudgePop -TestMode -Verbose
Invoke-FudgePop -Verbose

Remove-FudgePop

Disables and uninstalls FudgePop from a client device.  It then applies 440 volts of taser current to your genitals until you reinstall it.  jk

Remove-FudgePop -Complete

Show-FudgePop

Displays information about current configuration, last runtime status and rectal thermometer temperature of your cat or dog.  That last feature is not yet enabled.

Show-FudgePop

Get-FudgePopInventory

Bonus, low-calorie, gluten-free, and totally vegan function to export basic inventory data from your meth-addicted Windows device.  It was a proof-of-concept to export a basic set of juicy and utterly useless data into an Azure SQL database so I could win a bet and enjoy a free sushi lunch.  The Azure SQL interface is planned for a future version, but will ultimately depend on user feedback (i.e. does anyone really want that capability?) and how badly I want more sushi.

Get-FudgePopInventory
Get-FudgePopInventory -Computer d001,d002,d003
Get-FudgePopInventory -FilePath "c:\reports\"
Get-FudgePopInventory -StyleSheet "c:\reports\custom.css"

Help

The markdown files were cranked out by a team of recovering caffeine addicts fresh from the Port Authority bus terminal.  Actually, they were cranked out with PlatyPs, which is pretty cool, and doesn’t come from the bus terminal.  You can find them in the “docs” folder beneath the module path (e.g. “c:\program files\WindowsPowerShell\Modules\fudgepop\1.0.16\docs”).

Use FudgePop in a Sentence

Hey man.  I just took a FudgePop on your mattress.”

Sample Scenario

You’re drunk.  But that’s not unusual with your day job as an airline pilot.  You staggered out of an airport terminal, and fell face-first into a random Uber vehicle with the doors open.  You wake up the next morning at your apartment, in a bathtub filled with ice, and a clear plastic aquarium tube attached to where your left kidney used to be.  You get up carefully, and drag the tube with you to the kitchen and make some fresh ramen with Srirachi sauce and a cup of coffee.  The entire time you keep thinking that of all his pranks, your roommate did a fantastic job of making these sutures look and feel authentic.

You grab your roommate’s laptop which has Windows 10 1709 installed, and you logon as a local administrator account and open a PowerShell console using “Run as Administrator”

You set the execution policy to Unrestricted, while staring at the PowerShell book with Don Jones’ picture on it, and say to yourself, “I know, this is very very bad, but I live on the edge baby.”

Set-ExecutionPolicy Unrestricted

You then use one finger on each hand to type:

Install-Module FudgePop

…and press Enter.

(example only. actual results may vary, depending upon your alcohol intake and criminal record)

Then, you can’t help it, but you hurl directly onto your cat, who returns the favor by urinating in your snow boots.  You use the cat to wipe your face off, and return back to the keyboard and type:

Import-Module FudgePop

…and press Enter.

After an IV drip of Death From Above coffee, and a Cat Shampoo enema, you type:

New-FudgePopTemplate -OutputFile wtfisthis.xml

…and make a new control XML file.  You edit it to suit your test environment (computer names, collection names, apps, etc.) and copy the XML file to your GitHub Gist.  You get the “raw” Gist URL and copy the address to your clipboard.

You make some breakfast from whatever isn’t fuzzy in the fridge and then go back to the keyboard, where you cat fell asleep, causing the letter “zzzzzz” to overflow the buffer and make a machine gun beep sound.  You realize that wasn’t Cat Shampoo, but Drano that your poured into the Cat Shampoo bottle because the Drano bottle leaked after you dropped while trying to light your vaporizer with a match.  You scoot the kitty off the keyboard, brush off the hair balls and type…

Install-FudgePop

You answer the prompts with one hand, choosing to enable the scheduled run option for 3 hour intervals, while the other hand is manipulating a pair of greasy chopsticks you found in the trashcan because you couldn’t find a fork, spoon, or plastic spork anywhere.

You look around for the mouse, but it’s gone.  After scouring the entire house/apartment, you find it buried in the kitty litter box.  You recover it, wipe it off on your pants and set it back on the desk and use it to poke around to see what all this FudgePop mess did to your roommate’s computer…

  • It created a registry hive under HKLM:Software\FudgePop
  • It created a PowerShell module folder under $env:PSModulePath
  • It created a Scheduled Task named “FudgePop Agent” under the root folder
  • It added $100 to your bank account (not really)

You go back to the PowerShell console, pause, look around for the cat, and think “what in the **** am I doing anyway?” and after 30 seconds of staring into space you remember that you were using your roommate’s laptop for an important experiment, and you continue on.

You type in…

Invoke-FudgePop -TestMode -Verbose

…so you can see everything it would have done if it weren’t using that stupid -TestMode switch.  It prompts you to trust some mysterious thing called an “untrusted repository”, but you’ve got 55 gallons of testosterone coursing through your veins, and no stupid sissy warnings are going to scare you off.  And besides, you can’t spell “untrusted” without the word “trust” so how could it be bad?  Just like your cousin who kept whining about putting that safety “on” when you were shooting at tin cans and you ignored him and shoot him in the foot.  Like that’s any excuse to use safety stuff.  Yeah.  But it’s okay, because FudgePop is only asking you to trust the PowerShell Gallery, so it can install some needed tools.

You toss back another glass of liquor, notice the cat staring at you, making you wonder if she spiked your glass with something special.  You ignore that feeling and type…

Invoke-FudgePop -Verbose

…just to see what it’s doing to diabolically reconfigure your roommate’s laptop into a tactical nuclear toilet flushing device.  Not really, but it’s likely that it’s creating a desktop shortcut for Internet Explorer, installed a bunch of Chocolatey packages like 7-Zip, Visual Studio Code, Office 365 ProPlus, and Putty, added some folders, files and registry keys, reconfigured some services, and installed a custom .MSI or .EXE from an on-premises server share (you know, the “Chris Hansen Kiddy Porn Undercover Arrest Me Kit 2015 Premium Edition.exe” with the important /S switch).

Everything looks great.

But, being that you don’t trust anyone who’s birth certificate says their name is really ‘skatterbrainz’ you decide to look under C:\Windows\Temp and find a “fudgepop.log” file and open it up.  Your skull falls in pieces on the floor due to the overload of retinal bombardment of verbosity and quantum-level granularity, and because you’re still hung over AF.  But that’s beside the point.  You make some tweaks to the control XML file, rub your hands together while nodding and grinning, laughing like a German lab scientist in a WWII movie, not realizing your cat is going to the bathroom on something else you value on the other side of the room.  You install FudgePop on another device and repeat the process.

You carefully tie that plastic kidney tube closed using the twisty-tie from the plastic bag you use for the litter box.

Later, your room mate returns, sees what you’ve done and pounds your face into the sofa and leaves.

I hope to return in 2018.  Until then: Happy New Year!