Rick's Blog


Topic Date Summary
Deleting Partitions from command prompt/terminal (Mac/Win) 2021-04-09 I often run into situations where I need to remove all the partitions from a USB stick or a hard drive. This is some reminders for myself on how to do that on both Windows and Macintosh.
[FIX] Windows 2019 Server "not connected to the Internet" Message After AD Promotion 2021-04-01 I have a new Windows 2019 Server box in the lab, and when I promoted it to a Domain Controller, after the promotion the network adapter was reporting "not connected to the Internet", even though clearly the box was connected to the Internet. I found this Microsoft TechNet post that had the answer for me...
Enabling Dark Theme in SQL Management Studio 18 2021-04-01 Instructions on how to enable the Dark theme in Microsoft SQL Management Studio (SSMS) 18 and higher.
Excel Use SUMIF to Add Values Based on Other Values 2020-09-29 A quick example of how to use the SUMIF function in Microsoft Excel.
Disable Windows Server Shutdown Reason 2020-09-17 I run a lab Windows 2019 Server that frequently gets rebooted and shutdown. Every time I log in, I get greeted by the Shutdown Reason screen. Obviously for a lab server, it doesn't matter too much. To disable this dialog, I had to add a registry key and value...
Make Windows 10 act/look like Windows NT/95 2020-09-16 Windows 10 is a fantastic operating system. Microsoft has done a really good job at bringing speed and stability to its platform. However, Windows 10 is a bit "cluttered" in my mind. I prefer the simpler times (don't we all at this point?) and the relatively clean interface introduced by Windows 95 and used by Windows NT 4.0.
Active Directory Tips - DNS and Permissions 2020-09-15 I was fiddling with a lab computer today installing Windows 2019 Server Standard and configuring it...
Active Directory - Find Out When Password Expires 2020-09-15 A good security policy for Active Directory is to have users change their passwords at regular intervals (ie: 90 days). That, combined with password requirements (ie: minimum length, complexity, etc) provides users with a secure environment. As a user, you can find out when your AD password is going to expire...
Fix - Duplicate OneDrive Quick Links in Explorer 2020-09-15 Sometimes if you're using OneDrive for Business, you can get two quick links in your explorer window - one is named "OneDrive" and the other is "OneDrive - Business" or something similar. They will both take you to your OneDrive library, so the duplicate can be removed.
Fix Outlook Multiple Windows 2020-09-15 Outlook is a terrific email/calendar/contact application - there are many others out there, but personally I haven't found one I like better (yet!). However, once in a while I have multiple windows open in Outlook - for example I'll have one window for my Inbox open, another for my Calendar and even sometimes one for my Contacts. Sometimes these windows get "stuck" and even though you close them all, when you re-open Outlook the next day, all the windows open instead of just one. Fortunately, there is an easy fix for this issue...
Importing Data with Guids into Dynamics 365 2020-06-23 Often when moving data around between Dynamics 365 (CRM) instances, you want to preserve the guids of certain records so they are the same across instances. This helps with workflows that link to entities directly - you don't have to edit the workflow and re-link things. Additionally, configuration information is usually guid-sensitive. In the past I've used Scribe or Kingsway Soft to move records around and preserve the guids - but it turns out to be very simple with Excel. Here's how to do it...
Windows NT 3.51: Create Emergency Repair Disk 2020-04-03 If there is a problem with your Windows NT 3.51 server or workstation, you may need an Emergency Repair Disk to help restore corrupted or missing configuration files in order to recover your system. The Repair disk can assist you with that task.
Windows 10 Self-Signed Certificate 2020-04-02 In Windows 10, it is pretty easy to create a self-signed SSL certificate. Open an administrative PowerShell and execute the following...
Excel Checking List from Another List 2020-02-19 This is similar to my last blog post where I explained how to filter a list in Excel based on another list. This time, the task is more straightforward - we just want to identify if an item in one list is present in another list. I find I use this technique quite often when using Excel (especially during data migrations).
Excel Filtering a List Based on Another List 2020-01-28 I've been doing some data migration recently for a customer and I've run into a few situations where I have a big list of Customer ID numbers (plus the other associated fields like Name, Address, Email, Phone, etc) and I have a smaller list of Customer ID number that I'm interested in. Using Advanced Filtering in Excel, I can get to just the records I'm interested in.
D365: Set Customer field to default to Contact 2020-01-15 Here's a handy little JavaScript that lets you set a Customer Field in CRM to default to Contact instead of Account. A Customer Field is a "special type" of field in CRM that can either be set to an Account or Contact. When you add a custom one in CRM, it defaults the lookup to go to Accounts first - the user then has to manually (every time!) change it to Contacts if they want to select a Contact record.
Quick Tip: Debugging Dynamics 365 JavaScript 2020-01-15 So, you’ve got a JavaScript you’re having trouble with. What you can do is fire up Chrome, open the Developer Tools by pressing F12, choose the Console tab, and then log into your D365 instance.
Fixing Office 365 Ribbon Toolbars 2020-01-15 After a recent update to Microsoft Office 365, I was surprised to see the Office Toolbar/Ribbon behave weirdly when I tried to pin it. Previously, when I pinned it, it would just stay on the screen in the format it was in. However, after the update, pinning the Toolbar resulted in it completely changing - and it became bigger and (in my opinion) less useful. It turns out the issue is related to some Touch settings in Office!
Using LetsEncrypt Certs with IIS without ACME 2020-01-11 I use LetsEncrypt for my SSL needs on my websites (including this one!). It works seamlessly with my hosting provider (GoDaddy) but sometimes I generate a certificate to use on a local Windows box for testing purposes. However, the certificates that LetsEncrypt gives you aren't readily importable into IIS. Fortunately, there is a way to do it.
Verifying Active Directory Credentials 2020-01-10 If you're like me, you are often configuring servers and services to use service accounts - a service account is a dedicated Active Directory account that is not used by any users, instead it is used by an application to access network resources. Sometimes I am unsure if I have the right password for the service account (for example, configuring SQL Reporting Services to use an AD account), so it is helpful if I can verify that I have the right username and password.
Dynamics 365 Toggle Unified Interface 2020-01-07 Likely near the end of this year (October?), Microsoft will make the new Unified Interface mandatory on all Dynamics 365 Online instances. Until then, we can choose between this new UI and the Classic Web Interface. Here are the steps to do that.
Set ADFS Timeout for CRM/D365 On Premises using IFD 2020-01-06 If you run CRM/D365 on premises you may notice that out of the box the security tokens only last for an hour and then you have to log in again. This is because the default lifetime of the security token for claims-based authentication in Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) is 60 minutes. When I normally set up an on premises installation, I set the token lifetime to be at least 8 hours (480 minutes) so that users will be able to log in when they arrive in the morning and then use CRM uninterrupted until they leave at the end of the day. The next day when they go to CRM, they have to log in again.
Using On-Demand Workflows in D365 with UI 2020-01-03 The new Unified Interface for Microsoft Dynamics 365 poses a challenge to users switching from the Classic Web Interface - the Run Workflow option is no longer available. If you use on-demand workflows to help users get things done in CRM, this is potentially an issue.
Installing .NET 3.5 into newer Windows without Installation Media 2020-01-03 Sometimes if you're using older software on newer versions of Windows (ie: Windows 10 or Windows Server 2019), you need to install the .NET 3.5 stack. This is simple to do if you have your Windows installation media - but if you don't, it can be a headache. A simple way around this is to install it using Windows Update.
Bypass WSUS Server for Windows Updates 2020-01-03 Most of the time using your local WSUS server is a very good idea - that means your getting your Windows Updates from a local server on your network. However, sometimes the WSUS server has issues, or it doesn't have the updates you require (I have run into this trying to manually install .NET 3.5 onto some older servers). To bypass the WSUS server is relatively simple.
Fix for Closing Shared Mailbox in Outlook with Office 365 2019-12-31 So you're an Office 365 administrator and you've granted yourself, or someone else, "Full Access Permissions" to another user's mailbox — either in Exchange Management Console or in Exchange Admin Center in the Office 365 Portal. You did this because you needed to access the user's mailbox to receive something or work on an issue.
Deleting Custom Apps from Dynamics 365 2019-12-31 I was just fooling around with an On Prem installation of D365 and I created a custom app to test out converting the legacy Web Interface application into a Unified Interface application. When I was done testing, I wanted to remove it, but I saw no where in the App Designer to do that.
Arch Linux 2019-04-08 My favourite distribution of Linux is Arch Linux. The reason? It lets you choose exactly what components you'd like to install - nothing more. Unlike pre-packaged distros like Ubuntu, Arch doesn't come with an office suite, a graphics editor, various games, tons of GUI tools, etc. Oh, you can install all of these things. As a matter of fact, you can make Arch look and behave exactly like Ubuntu, or any other distro. But that's not what I'm into.
Running a Disk Check in Windows 10 2016-05-27 The Windows 10 equivalent of chkdsk is here!
Using Encryption in C# and ASP.NET 2015-04-26 Came across this handy little code snippet for encrypting and decrypting strings in C#. Enjoy!
Telescope Reviews: Meade 2120 LX-6 2003-09-02 This scope has been out of production for years and has been superceded by the LX-200 series. However, my friend Chris owns a pristine example of the 2120 on the LX-6 mount. His scope has integrated digital setting circles, both RA and Dec motors and a hand controller. He also has the Meade focal reducer, a bunch of eyepieces and a Meade Dew Shield. I've had the opportunity to use his scope on many occasions over the years, but just recently he asked me to run a quick star test on it and share what I thought.
Telescope Review: Guan Sheng GS-600 8 inch f/4 EQ 2003-05-31 I traded in my Orion StarMax for this scope just a few months ago. The deal involved just swapping the OTA's, so my test sample doesn't have the 8x50 finder (I have a custom made 12x60 finder instead) and I don't have the 10mm eyepiece, although I did use my 13mm NexStar Plossl with it. The scope is now my primary unit, designed to deliver the deep sky views that the StarMax 127 simply couldn't.
Telescope Review: NewStar 70mm f/10 Refractor 2003-03-17 This was a piece together project that included a NewStar (Synta) 70mm f/10 OTA with a Skywatcher red dot finder, an Orion 25mm Sirius Plossl and a Guen Sheng EQ-2 mount and tripod. The tripod featured telescoping aluminum legs and a solid accessory tray that also served to steady the mount. The EQ head was a bit odd - similar to the Orion EQ-2 but the goose neck was missing. The tripod was very solid and the dual slow motion controls were smooth, although the Dec control was a spring loaded affair that had to be "reset" every once in a while.
Telescope Review: Orion StarMax 127 2003-03-06 I picked up this super compact scope to replace my bulky 10 inch Dob. The StarMax comes on a sturdy EQ-3 mount. I actually purchased the Apex 127 - which is without a mount. I first mounted to an EQ-2, but that proved too weak, so I later upgraded it to an EQ-4. My review will deal with it's performance on the EQ-4 mount. The scope also came with a decent 25mm Sirius Plossl eyepiece, and I augmented it with the addition of a 17mm and 32mm Sirius Plossls. I rounded out the eyepiece setup with an Antares 2x APO Barlow.
Telescope Review: Meade 10 inch Starfinder Dob 2001-11-14 I traded in my ETX for this big Dob in the fall of 2001. The 10 inch Dob was my only scope at the time, and served very well as a general purpose scope. I transported the scope to a dark sky location in my Grand Am. The scope took up all the available space except for the driver's seat! I used the scope for about 1 year before trading it in for something more portable (an Orion Starmax 127).
Telescope Review: Meade ETX 90/EC 2000-12-23 I traded in my C8 on the ETX so I could have a more portable package and GOTO control. I bought the ETX with the optional AutoStar controller and the Deluxe Field Tripod. This gave me a nice big mount with height adjustable aluminium legs and a tilting mount head, so I could polar align the ETX if required. I also got a 2x Barlow included in the deal, along with a nylon carry bag for the ETX.
Telescope Review: Vista 508SE / Orion Short Tube 80 1999-03-06 I bought this scope as a portable grab and go to compliment my big C8. This scope came on a tiny table top EQ-1 tripod, but it had a threaded hole in the base that allowed me to mount the whole assembly on top of a camera tripod. The whole rig was a bit jiggly, but with the low powers afforded by the ST80, it didn't turn out ot be a big issue.
Telescope Review: Celestron C8 (Celestar 8) 1998-08-22 This was my first serious telescope. I bought it way back in 1997 before GOTO became all the rage. The only options I had on my scope were a dew sheild and a Telrad. This is the C8 series that comes with the "wedgepod" - the tripod and wedge are integrated in one unit. The scope has a built in RA motor that is powered for up to 40 hours by one 9V battery. It includes slow motion knobs on both axis as well as setting circles. The 90 degree star digaonal interfaces with a 1.25 inch visual back.
Telescope Review: Bausch & Lomb Professional 200 1995-08-21 If you are in to portable Newtonians on an EQ mount, this scope might be for you! I got to compare this unit directly with Meade's ubiquitous 4500, and I must say in every area, the Pro 200 was better. The scope is a long tube (900mm focal length) Newt with a 114mm parabolic mirror mounted on an EQ-1 style mount. The entire rig weighs just 42 pounds and is very easy to transport in even the smallest car. It includes a decent 6x30mm finder scope and a 1.25 inch metal rack and pinion focuser. The adjustable aluminum tripod has a handy accessory tray built into it. The scope comes with two decent quality Kellner eyepieces - a 25mm and a 9mm. It also comes with a 2x Barlow lens and a neutral gray Moon filter.

My name is Rick Towns and I am an amateur astronomer and computer programmer from Canada. This is a collection of interesting posts I've gathered over the years.