SkyDrive users – act now to keep 25GB for free

Microsoft have announced changes to Windows Live SkyDrive, introducing paid tiers of storage and reducing the free offering down to 7GB. Existing users can (for a limited time) login and hit a button to keep the 25GB that you currently have, for free.

Go and do that now:

Once you’ve done that, you might want to download the long-awated SkyDrive client applications that have been released for Mac and PC.

PowerShell On-Ramp

Last week I was up in Edinburgh with Microsoft presenting at their IT Pro Camps. We had multiple mentions how PowerShell can help you with the managment in the three topic areas we were covering: Hyper-V, Private Clouds and Consumerisation (supporting BYOD scenarios). Taking the audiences for those three days as a representative sample, it looks like about half of the Windows-based IT community still hasn’t begun their PowerShell journey.

Now is a great time to get started with PowerShell, especially with its increased prevalence in Windows Server 2012 and some of the great improvements in PowerShell 3.0. For those just getting started, I’m encouraging everyone to get familiar with the following four cmdlets (pronounced “command-lets”) in particular:

Get-Command finds all the commands (including aliases and functions) that are available to you in the current shell.
Get-Member tells you about the objects on the pipeline which the previous cmdlet has output. eg. Get-Process | Get-Member
Get-Help provides help about cmdlets and features of PowerShell (in v1 and 2 this is all in the box; with PowerShell 3.0, you need to Update-Help).
Get-PSDrive tells you about the drives that PowerShell is exposing; not just the file system, but the registry and others.

Given those four cmdlets, you can get a long way by yourself, just through experimenation. Don’t forget to use the -whatif parameter (or -confirm) on any cmdlet that might change something.
eg. Get-Process | Where {$ -match “^s”} | Stop-Process -whatif

In PowerShell 3.0, you can benefit a lot from using the Show-Command UI in the PowerShell ISE (Integrated Scripting Environment) to help you with the parameters required to achieve a task. As a beginner to PowerShell, you can also learn a lot by looking at other people’s scripts; the Microsoft Script Explorer for Windows PowerShell is a useful tool to find scripts and other great resources from online repositories.

There’s no better way to learn PowerShell than to write some scripts that solve real problems, and there are a number of pre-canned problems that you can take a shot at in the Windows PowerShell Scripting Games. You’re too late to enter this year’s competition, but you can still try out the challenges, and once you’ve given it a try, you can see the expert solutions from some of the top members of the PowerShell Community.

I suggest that while you’re getting used to PowerShell, you print a couple of quick reference guides (or cheat sheets) and keep them close to hand, or pinned up beside your monitor. You can also download a great free ebook called Mastering PowerShell from, where you’ll also find a bunch of other great resources (including another free ebook on PowerShell remoting, for when you’ve got to grips with the basics).

If you like to go and buy a book, then the beginner’s book of choice is Don Jones’ Learn Windows PowerShell in a Month of Lunches.

Accessing UNIX files from Windows

Those who use our UNIX services (for example, web publishing or the aldred time-sharing server) often need an easy way to access their UNIX files from a Windows (or Mac) computer.  This is where the ISS Samba service steps in by allowing SMB/CIFS access to your UNIX files.

If you’re using a Windows common desktop computer on campus, you’ve already been authenticated and can access your files immediately. In Windows, go to StartRun (or Start,Search Box in Vista/Windows 7) and enter:


(Replacing username with your user ID.)

After a couple of moments your UNIX home directory will appear in a new window.

You can make the connection permanent and assign it to a drive letter so that your UNIX home directory will be available every time you log in. To do so, click Start, right click on My Computer and choose Map Network Drive. Choose a drive letter, enter the path as above and choose whether or not to make the mapping permanent.

Follow @NU_ITtech on Twitter

Twitter users may be glad to know that we now have an official Twitter account for the technical teams in ISS – @NU_ITtech. As with any new account, it’s going to take a while to get up to speed, but you can expect the sort of content that you get from this blog (only in 140 characters or less), along with other short-form content, including any links that we think are worth checking out. This feed is squarely aimed at technical staff, although some content may be interesting to a wider audience.

This isn’t going to be a one-way channel, so please treat it as a conversation (bearing in mind that it’s completely public and there are some things that shouldn’t be for security reasons).

There is also a more user-focused account for information and tips about ISS services and IT in general at the University – @NU_ITservice.

Secure destruction of data

We’ve recently been asked how we dispose of our hard disk drives/tapes while ensuring that sensitive data is protected.  Depending on the nature of the data we use a 2 stage method.

Media for disposal or reuse within the University

Hard disks are wiped using the freely available DBAN. I’ll use their own description of the software:

Darik’s Boot and Nuke (“DBAN”) is a self-contained boot disk that securely wipes the hard disks of most computers. DBAN will automatically and completely delete the contents of any hard disk that it can detect, which makes it an appropriate utility for bulk or emergency data destruction. DBAN is a means of ensuring due diligence in computer recycling, a way of preventing identity theft if you want to sell a computer, and a good way to totally clean a Microsoft Windows installation of viruses and spyware.

Tapes are erased using the built in library features. Completing this stage would make media suitable for internal transfer and reuse within the University.

In order to use DBAN yourself you simply need to burn a copy of the ISO which creates a bootable CD/DVD. After that simply follow the on screen instructions.

Disposal (WEEE)

If the media holding the data is to be disposed of or recycled the University has a contract for WEEE contractor-

Second Byte provide Hard drive erasure and Certificates of data destruction. Each piece of equipment is given a reference by the contractor and certificates of destruction are provided. These are stored electronically centrally.

Hard drives are removed from machines during booking in, placed in secure containers and moved to a separate area of their warehouse. Only specific members of staff are allowed to handle hard drives. All hard drives are sanitized again using DBAN working to DOD 5220.22-M with 7 passes even if clients have sanitized them or if they have asked for disposal. All hard drives that clients have asked to be destroyed are recycled after being sanitized.

Any tapes or other media are physically destroyed certificates of destruction provided.