Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Error handling can make or break an experience

This post is a bit of an adventure in building a very small piece of a rather cool demo.
It is really an adventure in developing thorough unit tests.

Some of you have probably noticed that my blog has been kind of dead for a pretty long stretch.  Needless to say, I have been busy.

This week is HP Discover in London.  It is a really big show for HP.

There is a demo called Collaboration Cubed.  And I must say, it is pretty cool.

This is all about building an experience more than it is about building software.

There is this big glass cube, with two monitors, a table, three Surface tablets, and more.
You walk in with a phone, you are recognized. 
You are welcomed by a synthetic voice. 
The room is tagged as occupied. 
Your cohorts come into the room.
A Lync meeting begins on the wall monitor.
A tweet is sent out.
You sit down at the table and your tablets are 'called' through Lync. 
You collaborate and save stuff. 
You exit the cube, the Lync meeting is exited and a follow-up email is sent.

Aruba handles the device detection.
Octoblu handles the automation of the actions.
Microsoft provides OneDrive and Lync.

Why describe all of this?  Well, for one thing I am kind of excepted about it.  But at the same time, there are lots of moving parts.  And each moving part must play its role.

I had a simple request around the tweet.  Since not everyone provides their twitter handle, can we substitute their first name instead?

Sure, sounds easy enough.
I observed some of the data I had captured.
I thought I was being rather cleaver with my solution and keyed off whether or not there was an '@' in the twittername field.
I tested it, it was great.
I deployed it.

Poo, a new case arose.  The app sending me data is suddenly sending me a twittername that is no more than '@'.  Now I am sending tweets with @ @ @ in them (and hoping that the Twitter spam bots don't kick in and suspend the account).

Suddenly I find myself focusing on my unit tests and the variations that I have seen as well as dreaming up ones that I have not seen but expect to.

In the end to handle this simple request I had 9 conditions to cover the cases of the expected data from the other application.
The golden case where everything is good, and eight cases of other stuff.

Since I use PowerShell to do everything, my JSON looks like this:

$TwitterHandles += @{ “firstname”=”Brian”; "twittername"="@testhandle" }
$TwitterHandles += @{ “firstname”=”Brian”; "twittername"="@" }
$TwitterHandles += @{ “firstname”=”Moheeb”; "twittername"="" }
$TwitterHandles += @{ “firstname”=””; "twittername"="@" }
$TwitterHandles += @{ “firstname”=”Thomas” }
$TwitterHandles += @{ “firstname”=”Joe”; "twittername"=$null }
$TwitterHandles += @{ “firstname”=$null; "twittername"=$null }
$TwitterHandles += @{ “firstname”=”Joe”; "twittername"="null" }
$TwitterHandles += @{ “firstname”="null"; "twittername"="null" }

I had two data fields to cover issues with; twittername always being my first key and the possibility of substituting the firstname.
Now, the resulting code I wrote in JavaScript.  And there is the possibility for 'null' and null.  This is null as a string vs. null as an object / value.  These go right along with missing or blank values.

Suddenly I have something with much better coverage of the possible cases and thus a much better product.
One hour to get the first version and three to work out all the error handling cases.

the end result is a solid product.  But the lesson is to not focus on getting it done, it is to make it solid.

In case anyone want sot see the javascript, here is it;

// Requirement: If there isn't a twitter handle provided, replace with the first name
if(typeof (msg.params.twittername) !== "undefined" && (msg.params.twittername) !== null) {
 if ( (msg.params.twittername).substring(0,1) === "@" && (msg.params.twittername).substring(1) && (msg.params.twittername) !== "null" ){
  return msg;
 } else {
  if ( (msg.params.firstname).substring(0) && (msg.params.firstname) !== "null" ) {
   return {
     twittername: msg.params.firstname
} else {
 if(typeof (msg.params.firstname) !== "undefined" && (msg.params.firstname) !== null && (msg.params.firstname) !== "null") {
  return {
    twittername: msg.params.firstname

Thursday, September 24, 2015

PowerShell to manipulate Skype for Business and Lync converations

A recent project left me playing with the Lync SDK (Skype for Business).

The Skype for Business skin was clad onto the Lync 2013 client.  And thus the Lync 2013 SDK is the one I worked with.
Much of the SDK documentation is centered around writing your own application integration with Lync, event listeners, triggers, etc.  I am just wanting to drive Lync, not write a replacement for it.

Yes, I do know that Office 2016 released (yesterday) but I am not going there just yet.

Lets do some interesting things with Lync:

First - if you want to get started with Lync and PowerShell there are a few blog posts.  I find the automating Lync with PowerShell tutorial from Trevor Sullivan to be the most comprehensive / useful.  I am not going to re-hash what Trevor has already done pretty well.

He walks you though downloading the SDK, installing it, and invoking the 'model' DLL that you need to perform all of the actions.

If you are not a developer, then you still need to install the SDK, for one particular MSI - the redistributable.

In the install folder of the SDK ( C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office15\LyncSDK\Redist ) is the lyncRuntime.msi.  This will give you only the bare minimum DLL that you need to make this all happen.  This would be the thing you package into your application.

Now, allow me to build upon Trevor's foundation.
I am going to launch a 'conversation', then call someone, then start open 'application sharing', then end the conversation.

The big assumption here is that you are logged in to Lync.  I am not going to test for that, MSFT has examples.

# import the Microsoft.Lync.Model.dll
Add-Type -Path 'C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office15\LyncSDK\Assemblies\Desktop\Microsoft.Lync.Model.dll'

# Get the Lync Client SDK automation object
$Automation = [Microsoft.Lync.Model.LyncClient]::GetAutomation()

At this point in time I could go two directions.  I could use the 'Meet Now' feature, or I could build a conversation object the hard way.
What I have learned through experimentation is that the Meet Now sets up quite a few things for you and is thus pretty useful.  I have gone about it the other way and run into sharing problems that I don't run into when using Meet Now.  So I will take advantage of the fact that they have provided this.

# Launch a 'Meet Now' conversation
$meetNow = $Automation.BeginMeetNow({}, 0)
# Get the conversation window to manipulate the conversation.
$conversationWindow = $Automation.EndMeetNow( $meetNow )
# Get the conversation
$conversation = $conversationWindow.Conversation

The first thing that I noticed is that I have something that looks no more than an 'InstantMessage' modality conversation.   That is developer speak for I started a conversation and began a session of the type called instant message.
My experimentation shows that you always have IM in the background, it appears to be the base of the conversation.

Now, I want to create an empty 'Stage' just illustrate the rest.
So I will add the Application Sharing modality.

$Conversation.Modalities['ApplicationSharing'].BeginConnect({}, 0)

The Conversation Window object, there are a few things you can do to it.
Such as, make it full screen.


Now, I want to call someone.  And to do that, I add a participant.
To add a participant I do need one piece of information, their SIP URL.  For most organizations this is the email address of the individual, but it does not have to be (that is the caveat).

# add a person only knowing the SIP address (they do not need to be in your contacts list)
$conversation.AddParticipant( $LyncClient.ContactManager.GetContactByUri( "bogusUser@itproctology.com" ) )

# they will receive a Lync Call

You can keep adding folks.  If you forgot who you added, you can look:

$conversation.SelfParticipant # this is you
$conversation.Participants # this is everyone

Now, lets begin to close down this meeting example.

# exit full screen
$conversationWindow.ExitFullScreen() # note the application is left maximized.
# lets resize the window
$conversationWindow.Resize( 300, 300 )

# remove a participant (we only have their SIP address)
$removePeep = $conversation.Participants | where { $_.Contact.Uri -Match "bogusUser@itproctology.com" }

That was a sneaky one liner of me.  Note that I took all of the participants (which is always an array BTW) and I looked for the ContactUri that contained the email of my person to kick off the meeting.

$conversation.RemoveParticipant( $removePeep )
# note, the person you remove receives a notice that they were removed from the conversation.

# End the meeting


That is it.  The lifecycle of a Lync meeting from PowerShell

Those objects are powerful.

Say that you already have a meeting running and you want to use PowerShell to find it;
For this we need the Conversation Manager.

$LyncClient = [Microsoft.Lync.Model.LyncClient]::GetClient()
$conversation = $LyncClient.ConversationManager.Conversations

And then find the conversation (as we can have more than one IM conversation at a time).

Now, a few other shortcuts to get you working:

# add IM into IM Window
$Conversation.Modalities['InstantMessage'].BeginSendMessage("Welcome", {}, 0)

# what I can share
$resources = $Conversation.Modalities['ApplicationSharing'].ShareableResources

# share my desktop
$Conversation.Modalities['ApplicationSharing'].BeginShareDesktop( {}, 0)

# share a specific resource
$Conversation.Modalities['ApplicationSharing'].BeginShareResources( $resources[1], {}, 0)

# add voice
$Conversation.Modalities['AudioVideo'].BeginConnect({}, 0)

# remove contect sharing (stop sharing, stage stays present)
$Conversation.Modalities['ApplicationSharing'].BeginDisconnect([Microsoft.Lync.Model.Conversation.ModalityDisconnectReason]::None, {}, 0)

# stop the video call, keep the IM
$conversation.Modalities['AudioVideo'].BeginDisconnect([Microsoft.Lync.Model.Conversation.ModalityDisconnectReason]::None, {}, 0)

# send a thanks for attending IM
$Conversation.Modalities['InstantMessage'].BeginSendMessage("Thanks for attending. Tasks will follow.", {}, 0)

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Enabling Hyper-V causes continuous reboot

[updated 9/24/2015]

This is a post that I am getting out to pull together a symptom that I am seeing in the TechNet forums and is spread across multiple threads.

I will be updating this thread as I follow things unfolding.  If you have this issue, please follow this post or the thread I mention below.

The current take aways:
  • BIOS / chipset
  • NIC / drivers

A bit of background; Hyper-V takes advantage of hardware virtualization features.
As new releases come out it is not unusual for the platform to take advantage of some hardware feature that is not properly or fully implemented in hardware.  This has played in historic releases.

Now, I am not being critical by pointing that out.  What is am saying is this:
Step 1: check for BIOS updates from your system / motherboard manufacturer and update the BIOS.

As revealed in this thread:  Windows 10 x64 Pro infinite reboot loop with Hyper-V enabled this pattern has played out again.
This thread has been deleted for some reason.  Unknown as to why or by whom.
There is a new hardware feature that has been implemented with Windows 10: IOMMU
According to Wikipedia, iommu is a memory management feature that is present in both Northbridge and Southbridge Intel processors.
Quite honestly, I see folks with i7's reporting this problem.
That said, I have long mentioned that manufacturers release processors in families.  And within a family a feature may exist, but not across all processors in the family.  So you must always check your particular chipset with the manufacturer to ensure that your chipset actually implemented the feature that you think you have.
Manufacturers do this so that they can offer a range of prices for end products.  Be mindful of that.
I bring that up because I cannot tell you hoe many times I have helped folks wit an issue that turned out to be related to them thinking they have a feature (the motherboard implemented it) but the chipset actually lacked it (the particular processor they had didn't implement it, but the processor family did).
Now, here is the latest advice from MSFT folks:
There is a known issue where the machine will fail to boot when Hyper-V is installed but DEP/NX/XD is disabled in BIOS. You mentioned that you have enabled these options, but you are continuing to see the same problem.
One other thing we can try is disabling the IOMMU policy and see if that helps. (The hypervisor's usage of the IOMMU device by default is new in Windows 10, and might explain why you are seeing this only on Windows 10).
You can disable IOMMU usage by the hypervisor by running the following command from an elevated cmd window & rebooting your machine:
bcdedit /set {default} hypervisoriommupolicy disable
Can you try this and let me know if it helps?
If you can also share msinfo32 information with us, that will be helpful with the investigation.

  • One poster reported resolution when they simply disabled Data Execution Prevention and enabled it again (this requires a cold boot).

That said, iommu has (actually) been around for a long time.  And, most likely has not been taken advantage of, so I can understand the recommendation of disabling it in the bootloader.
That said, when do you set it?  Before or after enabling Hyper-V?
Did you update your BIOS?

As MSFT reports this issue to manufacturers, the BIOS update will become more relevant.
If you want to understand how important this is, search the Hyper-V forum for "Sony Viao" - Sony chose to release a system that reported chipset virtualization as being enabled, when in fact it was not.

Step 2: Check your network card drivers.

This one was a surprise.  Now, the networking stack has been undergoing an overhaul over time.  And in this release there are some big changes under the hood (that are pretty much hidden).

That said, recent reports are that rolling back to older versions of Network drivers can al alleviate this issue.

Here is the report from one recent poster in TechNet:

thanks for sharing your experience with Hyper-V on Windows 10 and the Broadcom wireless driver because it looks like you helped find a solution I could use in the meantime that does not crash/BSOD the Dell Precision M3800 laptop.
I used "Update Driver">"Browse My Computer">"Let me pick from a list of device drivers on my computer" to list the drivers on my machine and I happened to have a 6.x version of the driver already on my machine.
Specifically I changed drivers from/to:
-- Before -- "Dell Wireless 1560 802.11ac Version: [7/30/2015]"
 -- After -- "Dell Wireless 1560 802.11ac Version: [11/28/2014]"

After picking the 6.x driver I reinstalled the Hyper-V role, created a Virtual Switch(had to do it twice) and added it to the imported VM. I've been working with it all day and haven't had a BSOD/crash yet.

This is interesting, as most likely, you got new drivers through the upgrade process.  And MSFT most likely got them from Dell, or Broadcom, or Intel.

This said, Broadcom drivers do have a long and sordid history with Hyper-V and I generally stick with the in-box delivered drivers as those are usually the ones tested.  But this entire upgrade process is new, and if the virtual switch existed prior to the upgrade it would have one set of capabilities (copied form the physical NIC) and the new driver would give a different set of capabilities.  There is obviously some incompatibility here.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Docker Containers to Images

I am still learning containers and what Docker gives to aide in managing containers.
It seems that each time that I re-visit doing things with containers that I discover something new and curiously wonderful.

I totally understand why folks get container excited, and why developers love them so much, and why operations folks should totally love Hyper-V containers, and, and...  There I go getting excited.

If you have read my previous posts of containers I tired to relay some conceptual ideas of what a 'container' actually is.  It is not a process, it is not a VM, it is not a session.  It is a little bit of all of them which is what makes describing a container not a straight forward thing.

And, you will recall that a container is the running state of an image.  And an image is a flat file structure that represents the application and everything it needs to run.

A container is more than a running service copy of an image.  It is that image, plus all the settings you gave it when you told Docker to run - create container 'foo' from image 'bar' with all of these settings.

The Docker tutorials really don't cover this well.  They just toss you out there and say, pull this image, run a container from this image, look - you did it.  Conceptually, there is a lot happening that Docker abstracts away, saves for you, manages for you (which is why folks have caught onto Docker).

All of those settings that you give are meta information that define that container.

After you run that container (with all of those settings defined) you can simply stop it.  Then when you start it later, all of those run parameters that you defined are magically applied out of the configuration - you never have to define all of those parameters again.

If you then stop your container and then commit that container to a new image, all of that meta information is saved.

If you inspect a container or an image you can see all of this meta information that defines what happens when that container is started or that image is run.

Then, if you share this image and someone else runs it, they get all of your defined configuration applied.

Let me put all of this together with a simple walkthrough.

First: run a container.
sudo docker run -it ubuntu:latest /bin/bash

Breaking that command back apart:
run an instance of a container (with a random name and id), interactively, using the Ubuntu image (from the Docker Hub) of the latest version, then run the bash shell application.
The prompt that you get back is root@

Second: stop that container
sudo docker stop

While that container ran, anything you did was persisted within its file system.

Third: list all containers
sudo docker ps -a

The Container is the runtime process.  To see ones that are not running you add the all switch.

Fourth: start that container
sudo docker start

notice that the image and command to run did not have to be defined.  But I did not define how to connect to the process.  That is what -it does.  So it is now running in the background.  Stop it again and add -it before the container id and you are back in.

Then stop it again before the next step.

If you wanted to see that your commands were in there, just inspect the container.
sudo docker inspect

Fifth: commit that container to an image
sudo docker commit name:version

Now, you can create duplicates of your container by running container instances of your image.

And, you an use inspect against the images as well.

And there you have it.

In the next container post, I am going to use a real world application in a container and discuss configurations and variables.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Disabling that XfinityWifi home hot spot wireless interference

I got into a wireless networking troubleshooting a few years back as a Field Technical Advisor for First Technology Challenge with the FIRST organization.

The system that they had at the time (recently replaced) was based on 802.11b using a relatively low powered device on the robot that was named Samantha.  John Toebes was the brain behind Samantha, and at the time she was a revolutionary step over using Bluetooth to control the FTC robots.

Being 802.11b based, she would work with most any 2.4ghz router on the market (in theory, and there are interesting reasons why she didn't work with them all).  The other thing about 802.11b is that it was early in the standards for wireless, before it got really popular and the ways to deal with interference got much smarter.

As the spectrum becomes more crowded, signals are pushed out.  If someone is streaming something (like video) that signal actually gets precedence in the local airwaves.  In other words, activity in the local airspace interferes with other activity in the local airspace.

Why am I digressing so far from the title of the post?  I recently read through an article by Xfinity: "10 ways you could be killing your home Wi-Fi signal"

It has a number of harmless suggestions, such as:  Get your router off the floor, put it on the floor where there is the most use, don't put it in windows or behind your TV, etc.

All of the suggestions are about maintaining line of sight with your router.  Frankly, advice that we gave long before home Wi-Fi routers got to the great performance levels that they are at today.

Not once do they mention interference with other wireless signals.  Maybe because they (xfinity) create one of the biggest problems with their own xfinitywifi open access point.

I have had all kinds of trouble with xfinity wireless throughput since they started this open wifi program.  I have changed routers, purchased my own cable modems, moved up to low end professional equipment, replaced the splitters on the cable, used di-electric grease on the outside cable junctions, etc.

I got the performance to the point where when I was wired, I got the full throughput that we paid for.  But as soon as I went wireless I got 1/4 of the throughput.  It made no sense.  Especially since we used to have far better throughput on wireless.

Since I run my own router, I don't use the open wifi connection that Xfinity forces on to you.  Needless to say, I just don't trust them.

Believe it or not, they let you self service turn that off.  So you can be sure that your neighbors are not sponging off the bandwidth that you pay good money for (they can be beholden to the great Comcast too if they really want broadband).

Anyway, thanks for reading all this.  But I know what you really wan is this link: http://customer.xfinity.com/help-and-support/internet/disable-xfinity-wifi-home-hotspot

And just in case they move it or something else, I am going to copy it as well:

  1. Navigate to https://customer.xfinity.com/WifiHotspot. This site can also be reached by following these steps: 
    • Navigate to the My Services section of My Account.
    • Under the XFINITY Internet tab, click the Manage your home hotspot link.
  2. A new window appears indicating, "If you choose to enable your XFINITY WiFi Hotspot feature, a separate network called ‘xfinity wifi’ will be created for your guests - at no additional charge. Never give out your home network password again, so your private WiFi network will always remain secure. Learn more".
  3. Under the Manage XFINITY WiFi Home Hotspot option, if your wireless gateway is enabled with the Home Hotspot feature, the Enable my XFINITY WiFi Home Hotspot feature radio button will be pre-selected. If your Home Hotspot feature is disabled, the Disable my XFINITY WiFi Home Hotspot feature radio button will be pre-selected.
  4. To enable or disable the feature, choose the Enable my XFINITY WiFi Home Hotspot feature radio button or the Disable my XFINITY WiFi Home Hotspot feature radio button.
  5. Click Save.
    • Disabling the feature takes effect within a few minutes.
    • However, enabling the device will take up to 24 hours.
  6. You will be presented with a confirmation message at the top of the My Services page that says, "Thank you! Your hotspot has now been disabled."