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Category Archives: Tools

TreeSize Free, an already great tool got even beter

One of my favorite tools for years has been TreeSize Free. It is a small, easy, fast and portable tool that can be used to determine disk space usage of folders and files on a volume.

In the past it had some limitations that hindered me, but with the latest updates they’ve added great features that I really love:

  • TreeSize Free now scans network drives (except Windows servers and network drives within a Windows domain).
  • TreeSize Free provides a touch-optimized user interface as an option for Windows 8.0 and higher.
  • Users can now search for folders in the directory tree.
  • TreeSize Free supports selection of multiple files now, e.g. to delete or move them.
  • The scan performance on local NTFS drives (especially on SSD drives) has been increased.

So be sure to check out TreeSize Free if you hadn’t already or if you’re on an older version, download the latest version.

For those that run into the limitations regarding network drives with TreeSize Free, take a look at the commercial versions of TreeSize or other free disk space analyzer programs like Space Sniffer, WinDirStat, JDiskReport, Disk Analyzer Pro, Daisy Disk, Space Gremlin, etc.

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Posted by on February 25, 2015 in ICT, Tools

 

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PowerShell – Using PowerShell 5 to automate the installation of your favorite Windows applications

In this blog post I will explain why to automate installations of Windows applications and how you can do this.

Why automate the installation of applications?

But first, why is this useful? Well this depends on your situation and there are probably many good reasons. For me though, it basically boils down to this:

  1. I often reinstall my computers with new (preview) versions of Windows operating systems and having to install applications each time is a waste of time. Also sometimes you forget to install some things.
  2. On a regular basis, friends and family either want me to install or upgrade their PC and I want to provide them with a standard set of programs that most people need/want without having to spend a lot of time on it. By example virus scanner, burning program, media player, codecs, etc.
  3. I want to update existing installed applications to the latest (and hopefully more secure and feature packed) versions.
  4. When installing applications, there are often checkboxes enabled to install other applications (you generally don’t want to install). Automated solutions using packages generally prevent these additional unwanted applications from installing.

Which tools to use to automate the installation of applications?

Before PowerShell 5 preview was released, I used both Ninite and Chocolatey to perform to automate installations. They both have their advantages as described on this wiki page.

The PowerShell 5 preview version of OneGet installs and searches software from Chocolatey repositories, but support of additional repositories will come in subsequent versions.

How to automate the installation of applications using PowerShell 5 preview?

To automate the installation of applications a couple of things are required:

  1. You need to determine which applications you want to install automatically.
  2. You need to determine the package name that Chocolatey uses for this application. Options include:
    -Using a browser to browse the Chocolatey packages
    -Using PowerShell and a part of the name of the application you’re looking for. By example if you’re looking for Irfanview, use:
    Find-Package -Name “fan”
  3. Store the package names to install somewhere (e.g. in a .txt file on OneDrive for easy access). My .txt file by example includes:
    AdobeReader
    Directx
    ffdshow
    Flashplayerplugin
    GoogleChrome
    Imgburn
    IrfanView
    Javaruntime
    Keepassx
    Mp3tag
    mpc-hc
    PDFCreator
    Silverlight
    TeamViewer
    Totalcommander
    Winrar
    greenshot
  4. Use the Install-Package cmdlet to install all the packages whose name is in the file from step 3.
    Install-Package -Name (Get-Content C:\OneDrive\AppsToInstall.txt) -Confirm:$False
  5. Wait for the programs to install

My opinion

It’s great to be able to use PowerShell to install my list of favorite applications similar to like I did with Chocolatey and I’m also looking forward to see what benefits the additional repositories will bring in the future.

I did encounter some errors however while trying to install some applications like Firefox and dotnet3.5. But since it’s still a preview, this will probably be fixed.

For regular users, I think they are better off sticking to by example Ninite because they’re often afraid of anything that involves a CLI.

Blog posts by other people about OneGet

Some other people have also blogged about the OneGet module and have gone in more technical detail, so be sure to take a look at their posts as well:

More information about PowerShell 5 Preview including a download link

Windows Management Framework v5 preview, includes also Desired State Configuration (DSC) improvements and NetworkSwitch commandlets to manage network switches that pass the Certified for Windows Program. For more information including a download link, you can read the initial blog post. : Windows Management Framework V5 Preview

 

 

 

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Greenshot – a free screenshot tool optimized for productivity

Lately I’ve been teaching some classes and I saw many people using many different methods to create, store and share screenshots. Most of them took too much time and effort  in my opinion and were actually distracting from the learning itself.

Since I also had the need to create many screenshots, I was looking for a tool that provided a lot of functionality without these drawbacks. I didn’t really care very much whether the tool would be free or paid, as long as it made my work easier and faster.

Below I’ve included some of the options I’ve explored:

Windows 8 / Windows 8.1 print screen options

With Windows 8 or 8.1 it’s now possible to use windows key+PrintScrn and then all screenshots will be stored in my “Pictures” folder in my documents. And even though it’s a nice addition if you sometimes need to take a screenshot, it still requires a lot of manual work for processing the screenshots and adding them to your desired location.

Windows Snipping Tools

Included in Windows Vista and above, it provides a bit more options than the regular print screen, but it is still very limited.

Irfanview

In the past I also used Irfanview, which is a great image viewer. Since I didn’t have to make many screenshots the workflow would then be:

  1. Press (alt +) print screen.
  2. If I needed to crop something, CTRL+V in Irfanview, select the area and CTRL+Y to crop, CTRL+C
  3. CTRL+V into application I want to use.

As you can see, this is still quite a lot of work if you make a lot of screenshots.

OneNote Screen Clipping

With OneNote you can create a Screen Clipping to be stored in your OneNote notebook, but it requires too many actions in my opinion and is also fairly limited.

ScreenShot Captor

I then started using ScreenShotCaptor which provided me with even more options, but it still wasn’t quite what I was looking for with regards to productivity

Greenshot

Then however I came across Greenshot which is free and really makes it so much easier for me to accomplish creating documentation. I especially like the ease with which you can capture and output to many different locations:

greenshot

And if you’re working on something where you need to save to a specific output, you can (temporarily) configure it to save to a specific location to make your workflow even more efficient.

If you have the need to, you can also use the Greenshot Image Editor to include shapes and arrows, etc.

For me, Greenshot is a product I’ve come to love even though I haven’t used it for that long yet. I hope they’ll also add support for OneNote as well, because that would make it even better for me. Also if you’re not using a Windows system you’re out of luck.

Snagit

I’ve heard a lot of positive things about SnagIt in the past and I was planning to give it a try even though it is not a free product. But since Greenshot met my needs, there was no use in trying Snagit. If you’re not using a WIndows system it might be worth looking into.

Also if you’re interested in capturing videos of your screen, you might want to try Camtasia.

ScreenPresso

Immediately after I published this blog post, someone suggested I’d take a look ScreenPresso as well, so I did. The free version is more limited than Greenshot in my opinion and steers you towards the paid version (http://www.screenpresso.com/features). For me, the only reason to buy the ScreenPresso Pro version (29 Euros) would be the video recording ability.

Also be sure to check out my list of other tools I find useful. It is updated on a regular basis:
http://bjornhouben-web.sharepoint.com/Lists/Applications/Summary.aspx

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2013 in Tools

 

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Apple – Create an OS X 10.9 Mavericks bootable USB flash drive or ISO

This week Apple released OS X 10.9 Mavericks for free through the App Store. Even though downloading from the App Store works great for updating, I also want to be able to perform a clean install and create VMs running OS X 10.9 Mavericks. I also don’t want to download the 5+GB update file every time I upgrade a system.

Unfortunately Apple doesn’t provide an ISO download or a tool to create an ISO or bootable USB drive. There are however many people with similar needs that provide information on how to create both. The downside of these methods though, is that you need to have a working OS X system to be able to use them.

Create an OS X 10.9 Mavericks bootable USB flash drive

Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2013 in Apple, ICT, OS X, Tools, Tutorials

 

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LazyWinAdmin – a great powershell script for more efficient Windows management

The last couple of months I’ve been playing around a lot with PowerShell and I’ve also been trying to make some nice GUI versions for my script using PowerShell Studio 2012 from Sapien Technologies Inc. While looking for more information how to best use PowerShell Studio 2012 I came across LazyWinAdmin.

LazyWinAdmin is a great tool created by Francois-Xavier C that will save you a lot of time. It provides you with most of the commonly used tools and commands in a very structured and easy to access way. In the picture below you can see what I mean.

For more info on the tool, take a look at the website and be sure to download and test it yourself.

If you want to take a look at other useful tools I’ve found in the past, take a look at my applications list.

 
 

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Microsoft – Run programs and scripts under the local system user context

In the past I’ve had numerous occasions where I wanted to run a program or system to run under the local system user context. Most of them involved customers and application administrators that wanted to have a service or scheduled task configured. They often weren’t able to tell me if it was sufficient to run the service or scheduled task as local system or that a special service account would have to be created.

The issue I always ran into when I wanted to test this, is that you had to provide a password that you didn’t know if you wanted to use “Run As” with the local system account.

Recently I ran into the “Run As System” application. It enables you to start a program or run command and script under a local system account. It is UAC compatible, but it requires administrative privileges.

Another use of the “Run As System” application is if you want to access files or folders that are normally not accessible for users. This can come in handy when troubleshooting Offline Files. The tool might not work correctly with Windows Explorer though, so you should consider using other tools like Total Commander.

Other methods to run something as system can be found here.

For more tools and applications, take a look at my website: http://bjornhouben-web.sharepoint.com/Lists/Applications/Summary.aspx

 

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Create Active Directory Visio diagram automatically using Active Directory Topology Diagrammer ADTD

One of the least favorite tasks of many administrators is to document. Good administrators also don’t want to manually do things when it can be automated. This is where Active Directory Topology Diagrammer (ADTD) can help to automate documenting your Active Directory environment.

Recently I have been working on a new Active Directory OU design and used the Active Directory Topology Diagrammer to create a Visio diagram for the AS-IS situation. I have to say it worked great. Keep in mind though that it will show the OUs and not any other containers.

Besides documenting AD OUs, the Active Directory Topology Diagrammer can document many other things as well. Take a look at the article “How To Use The Active Directory Topology Diagrammer” or play around with it yourself to see what it can do.

The tool can also be very helpful when:

  • You’re in a new environment and need to get a quick overview of the Active Directory.
  • When there’s no documentation available or when the available documentation is outdated.
  • When you’re auditing the quality of documentation.

For more tools, take a look at my website: http://bjornhouben-web.sharepoint.com/Lists/Applications/Summary.aspx

 

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