Category - Helpful Tech

Ports and More for Remote Management of Server 2012

I was delivering a quick session on the wonder that is Multi-Server Management for WIndows Server 2012 and I got asked the question – What Ports are required to be open when managing a system remotely.

ARGH… I always forget the port number – as it’s a non-standard port in the 5000 range.

Well – some quick Bing’ing – and I found this great article that lays out ALL the details on remote management capabilities using ServerManager. Lots of details on managing all sorts of systems and methods of managing them remotely.

Scroll down to the bottom and you’ll see the port:

Windows Remote Management (WinRM) listener settings


Server Manager relies on default WinRM listener settings on the remote servers that you want to manage. If the default authentication mechanism or the WinRM listener port number on a remote server has been changed from default settings, Server Manager cannot communicate with the remote server.

The following list shows default WinRM listener settings for managing by using Server Manager.

  • The WinRM service is running.
  • A WinRM listener is created to accept HTTP requests through port number 5985.
  • Port number 5985 is enabled in Windows Firewall settings to allow requests through WinRM.
  • Both Kerberos and Negotiate authentication types are enabled.

The default port number is 5985 for WinRM to communicate with a remote computer.

For more information about how to configure WinRM listener settings, at a command prompt, type winrm help config, and then press ENTER.

New things in Group Policy for Windows Server 2012

I was on point for The Edge Show recently and decided to talk with my buddy Zach Alexander a PM on the Group Policy team on what’s new and cool in Group Policy these days. Three things immediately came to mind:

  • Infrastructure Status
  • Remote Update on client systems
  • Improved Resultant Set of Policy.

I helped him do some screencasts of the three demos a while ago for the group policy blog so I called in my favour to have him come on the show and talk shop. Have a look at this episode.

How to: Force IE to open in Desktop Mode on Windows 8

If you’ve used Windows 8 for any length of time, you’ve probably clicked on a link to open a website in an email or document and it’s opened in the “UI that was formerly known as Metro” version of IE.  It may not have rendered correctly – which you rectified by opening up the site in “Desktop Mode” of IE.

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Joey shared this Tidbit of information recently as we were hosting The Edge Show.  It will force all links to open in Desktop Mode IE instead of “the modern interface browser”.

Open Desktop Internet Explorer.

Go to Internet Options

Click on Programs

Select “Always in Internet Explorer on the desktop” for How you Open Links

That’s it!!! Solved a bunch of “compatibility issues” with various family members and support professionals I talk with.

I decided to go one step further and figure out if this was a policy setting that could be configured via Group Policy. Turns out – IT IS…. you can set this up in a GPO that affects Windows 8 systems today in your Group Policy Editor…

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I hope this helps with your browsing pleasure on Windows 8.

Windows PC SCAM help via Microsoft Canada

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Even though I moved to the “Mother Ship” here in Redmond back in January – I still get emails, texts, Tweets and Facebook Updates about someone who has had a relative / friend who has unfortunately been scammed by some FRICKIN’ A** Holes social engineering their way into their PC. The “technicians from Microsoft” are slick, say the right things, play on the fear of the individual and their lack of knowledge about technology and inevitably convinces them to either:

  • sign up for a security service that makes their system more infected and has their data and machine held hostage for regular payments
  • allows them to install malware on their system thinking that it is some sort of anti-virus
  • harvests information for identity theft and credit card scams / skimming
  • takes control of their email / social accounts to impersonate them online and scam their friends as well

It just goes on and on. It’s very infuriating and frustrating hearing about it and can be quite difficult to help them out remotely – I’d rather drive to their home and fix it personally out of principal – but that just won’t work.

What can YOU do about it? Well – first step in solving the problem is INFORMING yourself and ALL OF YOUR CONTACTS – friends, relatives, play-group friends, kids ball teams / hockey teams – just get this information out there.

The number ONE law of computer security (paraphrasing here) is “if a bad guy can persuade you to run his/her program on your computer, it’s not your computer anymore”.  This applies if you allow others to socially engineer you into installing software yourself or allowing them to remote into your system.

My friends back at Microsoft Canada have had a go at creating an InfoGraphic to help get the information out as well as what to do if you have been scammed. Feel Free to Download it, share it out, post it up on Facebook – tweet it – whatever you like – just get the word out!

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HowTo: Bootable USB Stick for OS Install

Some USB sticks.A bootable USB stick – AGAIN?

This has been covered in many places, but I am still surprised that not everyone knows how to do this.

First off: find yourself a large enough and fast enough USB stick to use as your bootable media. I prefer my OCZ Rally 2 myself – 8 GB and FAST.   Remember – you get what you pay for – flash drive speeds vary greatly, choose yours wisely.

  1. Run DISKPART with admin rights
  2. Type in LIST DISK to list off all disks attached to your system. Make note of your disk# representing your USB stick
  3. Type SELECT DISK # where # represents YOUR USB STICK
  4. Type CLEAN to erase everything / every partition on the disk. Remember you validated what disk to clean in step 2, right?
  5. Type CREATE PARTITION PRIMARY to make your new primary partition
  6. Type ACTIVE to mark partition as active
  7. Type FORMAT FS=NTFS QUICK  to perform a quick format
  8. Type EXIT to close diskpart – unless you want to make more bootable USB disks

Next up – extract the source files your favorite ISO file to the root of the USB stick. Windows 7, Server 2008 R2, Windows Server “8” or Windows “8” Consumer Preview. You can use whatever tool you prefer – I used to use WINRAR to open and expand them. Now I just mount the ISO in my Windows 8 Consumer preview by right clicking on it and choosing MOUNT. I can then select all files and SEND TO my newly formatted USB stick.

Voila – you now have a bootable USB stick. The only way for fast OS installs in a modern world.

I was going to record a quick screencast and YouTube it up – but then again – why? It’s so simple, this text should do.

** EDIT ** – based on @tommyLee’s suggestion – I’ve created a quick screencast on how do make one yourself.

You can get more elaborate and custom make the OS with injected drivers and all sorts of deployment goodness if you CREATE your own ISO with the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit. I’ll revisit the USB OS install post in a while when the tool refreshes with the next OS update.

Create and Boot from VHD for Windows 7, “Server 8”, Windows Server 2008 R2

Note: I have no idea what the next version of Windows Server will be called – I am just using “Server 8” as a short version of the Developer Preview of Windows Server from the Build conference – downloadable from MSDN

hard diskIt’s simple enough – people have been asking how to do this for a bit without having to use all sorts of extra tools like WAIK, WIM2VHD or even screwing around with BCEDIT.

Why would you WANT to boot from VHD anyways? It’s a file format supported and included as a mountable file instance since Windows 7.  I use it instead of partitioning my drives when I want to screw around with an OS directly on my hardware without having to reformat all the time. Great for evals, lab setups or custom configs of the OS when you want no barrier to performance on the hardware that comes with virtualization.

What is my configuration? I want Win7 as the main OS on my laptop. But I also need to boot it into “Server 8” to play around as well as demo things in Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1. Result – My C drive is formatted with Win7.  I have carved up my D drive (second physical drive in this laptop) into 2 dynamically expanding VHDs: d:vhdServer8.vhd AND d:vhdW2K8R2sp1.vhd.

How? Simple. After the Windows 7 install, I create the sub directory where I want my VHDs to be created. You will want to make note of the full path including drive letter AND label.  Next I rebooted using my trusty multiboot USB stick and at the first prompt to choose the region – I press SHIFT F10. At the command prompt type in the following:

  • DISKPART
  • LIST VOLUME
    • this displays all the volumes that the OS sees. Remember I asked you to make note of the drive label – booting from USB / DVD will screw with your assigned drive letters and you’ll need the info to ensure you are placing the new VHD in the right spot. In my case it was still D:vhd
  • CREATE VDISK file=d:vhdserver8.vhd type=expandable maximum=100000
    • this creates a dynamically expanding 100gb vhd called server8.vhd.
  • SELECT VDISK file=d:vhdserver8.vhd
  • ATTACH VDISK
    • this now mounts the disk and makes it visible as a drive for the install process.

Use a custom install to be able to select the drive and create a partition in the drive for installation of your new OS of choice.

Proceed as normal and complete the install.

Simple, eh?

HowTo: Sync Documents / Photos between PCs

I’ve been helping out the Consumer division at Microsoft Canada with training and Evangelizing the benefits and awesomeness of Windows 7 especially when you light it up with Windows Live Services. It’s been a lot of fun and a change from the regular stuff I talk about in the Enterprise space.

I figure it was about time I also share some of these services and programs with the broader audience – because we’re all consumers and not everything is about Servers, Mail systems and virtualization. Problem is – there is just SO MUCH STUFF! So I am going to attempt to break it down into solutions and keep things short and sweet.

memorycardsThe Problem: you’ve got multiple systems in your family / friend social unit. You also have multiple cameras and you have a need to ensure that when your significant other “empties” the camera on to her laptop after the kids soccer game – they get stored and protected as well as shared across the other machines. Likewise – when you empty out your camera after the camping trip, the same happens, but your laptop is a corporate system. Oh – and for some reason – you have a MAC system as well – for your teenager.

The solution: Windows Live Mesh. It’s free – part of the Windows Live Essentials 2011  suite – and yes – there is a client for Mac

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Let me set the stage a bit for how I use it. It’s a bit of a blend of the personal life and work life – but ultimately as is my belief– you only have ONE life, right?

Windows Live Mesh is a free solution to keep your life in sync. Download and install on your system, light it up with a Hotmail/Xbox/Live ID and you are ready to go with one system. Repeat the process on the additional systems “you control” with your same Live ID. Your device pool under your control grows. Install it on a “different” system that isn’t yours and light it up with a different Live ID to further extend your possibilities.  All transfers between systems are on a peer to peer basis and are encrypted with TLS or SSL encryption. You can sync up to 200 folders, each up to either 50 GB OR 10,000 items (whichever you hit first).

That is a lot of Synchronicity. Back to the scenario.

Scenario #1 – Photo Duplication Hell.

The camera scenario is very real for me. My wife has one, I have one, the kids have one, heck – we’re over camera’ed in our house. Kind of goes hand in hand with also having a lot of different Laptops / PCs in our house as well. We were constantly hit with duplicates as we’d forget if the camera pictures were extracted on this system or that system and it all ended up with a complicated mess of duplicate and triplicate photos or worse – deleted / lost photos.

Enter Windows Live Mesh.  I started using it when it was called FolderShare ages ago.  Go download and install client from here. Launch Mesh and light it up with a Live ID. I did the same for my wife’s laptop (with her permission of course) but with HER Live ID (because I REALLY do not control her system). I then create a new folder under my Pictures library called “_current Pictures”.

imageI launch the Mesh client ( you can see it in your taskbar as the two blue arrows) and choose to open the client and create a new sync’d folder. I browse to and select the “_Current Pictures” folder. When the selection screen comes up – don’t select an additional device at this time just finish the process. In the Mesh client – select and expand the “_current Pictures” folder.

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Select the “People I Selected” option (for the first time – it will say “Just Me”) and then pick the people from your buddy list or type in the email address you want to send this sharing invitation off to – up to 10 I believe.

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Mine already has my wife added AND an address for my HomeServer. Yup – I have Mesh installed on my home server to act as an “always on” backup of the files.

Now it’s a matter of human protocol that when you dump your camera contents to your system, you put move them into the Current Pictures folder. I chose NOT to take the whole Pictures library and sync it because it would be the ENTIRE library (all sub folders). I don’t know about you – but my wife doesn’t want to see all the work photos of events and things in the family photo storage location. I DO however want those work photos across all my work systems – so I setup a sync folder like I did in the first scenario and it’s called _Work Pictures..

Scenario #2 – document sync across your “work” systems.

Wait a minute – I just mixed “work” with home. Well – I use Windows Live Mesh to also sync files across my WORK systems I control. (Don’t worry MS-IT – it’s Low Business Impact stuff).  I use Mesh for syncing my documents across all three of my systems with the same Live ID signed in.  In my scenario – there is little to NO chance I will be using two of the systems at the same time resulting in a conflict and now duplicate (with machine name appended) file. By expanding the tool from the system tray – I select sync a folder.

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I browse to the folder I want to sync like “Podcasting” and then select the destination devices that are “under my control” and are signed in with the same Live ID. I can choose multiple systems but notice there is also an option for SkyDrive synced storage (more on this later).

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The service goes in, itemizes all the files, regardless of their size and sends over the content to the second system – provided there is networking connectivity between the two of them. Works great when I am on the road and working on stuff – knowing that my files are synced back to the “home base” system in the home office.

Scenario #3 – want to sync to “The cloud” not Claude.

Remember during the device selection process of the previous two scenarios. One of them was “SkyDrive Storage” as an option. Your Live ID has a total of 25 GB for storage capacity via the web.  You are able to access 5 GB of that storage for the purpose of syncing content from your PCs to the cloud.

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There are some restrictions you should know about. Files can only be up to 50MB up to 100 MB in size (so no movie storage or DVD ISO files here kids) and there is a hard stop at 5 GB of your 25GB total allocation of SkyDrive space. Your local folder can have more then 5 GB, but it will stop sync’ing after it hits 5.

It works the exact same way as scenario #2 above, but “the cloud” is always on and available to sync from OR edit directly in the cloud – but more on SkyDrive later in a separate post.

Scenario #4 – …but wait! There’s more! Remote Control!

OK – so if syncing between Your systems, your friends systems and even the cloud ain’t enough for ya – how about one more functionality that Windows Live Mesh brings – REMOTE CONTROL.

Say you are on the road, you are heading out a meeting and you forgot that a report you were working on is sitting on the desktop of the computer in your home office? it’s not in the sync’d folder that is in your documents folder because you forgot to move it there when you finished it last night at 2 AM. What can you do?  Remote Control and log in to your Home Office Computer, drag the document from your desktop into your Documents folder that you are sync’ing across all the systems.

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This option is OFF by default – you have to go in and enable it on a per machine basis. You can see here I have not enabled it on my system as of yet, but once it’s enabled and the Windows Live Mesh client is up and running – the icons of the systems become enabled and I can remotely login and control the system over the internet – no firewall changes required.

In Summary: (sorry – this was a long one)

Windows Live Mesh is a great way to get files sync’d across multiple systems – including Macs. (not that I have one –  You can download the Mac Mesh client from here.) There are no subscription options, no costs involved (except your bandwidth), no Amway style sales to your friends to get affiliate space. You can do it within your house, between friends in different houses or even different countries / organizations – provided you know their Live ID.  I use this as a disaster recovery scenario with my Brother in Toronto and vice versa for our family photos – geo-diversification – but I digress. The service CAN (but doesn’t have to) use Cloud storage on SkyDrive.

Even if you manage to forget a document back on another one of YOUR systems – you can remote control and login to it and prevent having to call home and guide your wife on how to type your 28 character password and circumnavigate your chaotic desktop to find that report and email it to you.

Give Windows Live Mesh a try. It’s one of Microsoft consumer cloud services that not many people realize just how powerful it is.  It’s saved my bacon on many occasions.

HowTo: Optimizing your Home Wireless Network

SNAGHTML25d5ade1So now that we have Joey figured out in the last article – I got pinged by @kjb_Photography on twitter yesterday – asking about extending coverage in his home wireless networking environment. I could take the consultant answer easy out and reply “it depends” but hey – this is a learning environment, let me share what I did in my house and what you can do to yours to improve your WiFi experience at home with consumer hardware.

First off – I don’t proclaim to be a wireless expert in any sense of the word. I read the manuals (on occasion) or ping my friends who actually ARE wireless experts who implement secure wireless solutions for the likes of various acronym “security agencies” here in Canada.

Where would I start? Know your Antennas.

WRT54G_Linksys_Router_with_7_dBi_AntennasMost home networking routers have your typical antennas that should be for the most part oriented straight up (or down if ceiling mounted) and away from any dense structures like walls or metal filing cabinets. To keep this simple – the signal strength emanates outwards from these antennas for the most part as a circle (or ellipse) and when they are upwards or downwards facing – the signal extends horizontally in all directions (omnidirectional). If you rotate the antenna to ne horizontal – it would go vertical in all directions – if you get my drift. Here’s a picture of my main router bad boy Linksys with upgraded 7 dbi antennas. More dbi – more power (I feel like Tim the Toolman right now). Wireless N routers with multiple antennas or internal antennas are different with their spread – but whatever modem you purchased probably came with a manual or online link to a manual talking about placement and antenna coverage. Go dig it out and find it – RTFM.

The single most screwed up reason why WiFi sucks at your house?

Location… Location… Location!

Get yourself a good LONG cable to put your main AccessPoint/Router wherever you are going to get the best coverage for your home / office layout. Don’t put it up against a wall unless you want less coverage behind that wall – especially if it is a cement wall or in my case a double layer brick wall (live in a century home). You know that you should chuck out that dinky little 2 foot Ethernet cable that comes with your internet modem or router and get a 50 footer or whatever suits your needs to optimally place your router for coverage.

WirelessDiagram

I approached wireless in my house the same way I would approach fitting up an office. Where would you put wireless access points with antennas to cover the best signal horizontally (not vertically)? I have that big dual 7 dbi Linksys as the main internet router and Wireless AccessPoint at the back on the second floor. I then run a cable up to the home office on the 3rd floor to my main switch where I have a generic dLink router/wireless combo device plugged in for 3rd floor coverage. My second run goes down under the kitchen into the basement and up into the middle of the 1st floor. my Linksys 610N sits on top of a bookshelf – away from the exterior walls.

Ideally I would put the main router in the middle of the second floor – but I chose the back for two reasons – it gives me signal in the back yard and it is where the main internet line comes into the house.

That’s a lot of AccessPoints!

imageYes – I am “Tim the ToolMan” excessive with coverage in my house – but I had old routers laying around. The trick to make everyone happy is to have each router configured with the same SSID and the same WPA2 password. I also choose channels and frequencies where there is less congestion with my neighbours (more on this later). I  can “roam” from floor to floor, inside and out without an issue.  To configure the two AP devices (again – just regular routers I had laying around) I configured each so they had unique IP addresses – I use the 192.168.10.x network so something as simple as 192.168.10.1 for main router, 192.168.10.2 for dining room and 192.168.10.3 for the home office.  Each was plugged in to the INTERNAL bank of Ethernet ports – not the INTERNET port that is usually plugged in to the internet provider. I also turned off all DHCP servers except for the main Linksys.

You own router might have specific modes where it acts just as an Access Point – mine didn’t so I went the manual route I described above.  I didn’t have to go out and purchase APs directly for additional cost – I just used what I had at hand. Likewise – you can BUY AccessPoints that are not routers and all they do is serve up wireless networks.  I strategically placed my new Linksys 610N on the main floor so I could run a cable from it directly to my xBox – can’t do that with a simple AccessPoint.

So – a long story to say that the quickest and easiest way to extend your wireless network is a two step process:

  1. Properly place the first router/Wi-Fi point in your house centrally for coverage.
  2. get yourself a long cable to plug into the first router networking ports and run the cable to second Wi-Fi router / Access Point where you need more coverage.
    1. just make sure you configure the second router to not serve up DHCP
    2. have a proper IP address that is different then your main router
    3. plug the cable into the regular networking ports – not the INTERNET port
    4. duplicate the SSID and WPA2 password as the first router

A second option is to opt for a Wireless Repeater type of Access Point – but I’m not a fan of these – mainly because your second device that is placed further away from the main AccessPoint will be “serving up” a connection that will have a bottle neck of however fast / however reliable the WiFi is at it’s location.  So sure – you have strong signal, but you have a choke point of throughput as it relays the network traffic to the 1st Access Point.  Go with cable – cheap and Fast.

Do you know if you have Spectrum Congestion?

Lastly – I mentioned Channels and less congestion. Everyone has wireless devices in your neighbourhood and they all talk on the same frequency and similar channels of that frequency.  More chatter = crappier speed and reliability. Best solution for you to find the right spectrum from multiple points in your house?  A laptop with a free copy of inSSIDer 2 running to help you determine what your local spectrum looks like for congestion.

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You can see I live in a congested area and I currently have strong signal in my house over the channels I have the wireless set to use.  However – what you don’t see is that even though there are at least 6 routers that support Wireless N technology – none of them are configured to use the 5 GHz range which is currently Free and Clear to use.

Looks like I need to upgrade my wireless networking gear.

What does your wireless architecture look like?

How to re-broadcast a public WiFi network

I was catching up with Joey the @AccordionGuy earlier today – chatting over coffee. He used to work on the same team as me at Microsoft before heading out on his next adventure. His current gig has him living in a luxury furnished bachelor pad here in Ottawa with all the amenities – including Big Screen TV, stereo, private coffee bar and free High-speed internet.

Seriously – what more could you ask for?

imageHow about a better internet service – one with a WIRED connection? You see – his internet is provided by a common travelers ISP who shall remain nameless (starts with Data, ends with Valet).  It’s the type of service where you login and you are allowed to use ONE IP at a time. That’s a bit stingy and old school in a world where we all carry multiple WiFi connected devices (iPad, Slates, Tablets, Xbox 360s, smartphones, laptops, desktops).  Remember – I did say that he is living here away from his home base for the summer – he’s got lots of requirements for connectivity – AND NO WIRED INTERNET CONNECTION. Normally this would be an easy fix – buy a travel router and plug in – done deal. I remembered that I used to have a hardware travel router that could re-broadcast one WiFi network as your own and therefore share it with multiple devices. Unfortunately as with some things that I touch – this travel router died for some reason and I was left scratching my head for options.

CTR350Part of my Traveling kit of technology I use for my day job while presenting on the road is a Cradlepoint CTR350 travel broadband router. It has the ability to very simply plug in to a wired connection and act as an Access Point for wireless devices. Very simple – but requires either a wired connection OR a USB DataStick activated with Bell or Rogers in order to have an internet source. It doesn’t have the re-broadcast capabilities I am looking for in this situation. Plus – I wasn’t about to leave it in Joey’s hands for the summer – you never know what kind of surfing he’d be doing.

Wireless N Portable Router (CTR35)                                             A little further research and I discovered that the current product line is called the Cradlepoint CTR35 and has the feature I am looking for – WiFi as WAN. This simply allows you to re-broadcast a visible secure or unsecured WiFi network with your own SSID and settings – for up to 16 wireless clients. I won’t bore you with the details – but here’s the step by step process on how to enable it on their CTR35 device (remind me to go pick one up, would you?).  There – one problem solved – Joey just needs to find one and he’s off to the races.

If you are a road warrior – invest some cash and get something like this – especially the updated CTR35 with this re-broadcasting capability – it will pay off in spades. I use my older one with USB stick to offer up Internet connectivity at locations where public WiFi isn’t available and I want to give access to friends around me.

But what if I don’t have one?

imageDigging further still – there is some free software that builds upon the little known WiFi Access Point hotspot mode of Windows 7. I found out about this from @Oising at TechDays Montreal back in November of 2010. You can take a Wired internet connection and broadcast it out over your supported Wireless card – provided it’s running a supported set of drivers. I mention it Builds upon the solution since it ALSO adds the ability to re-broadcast a public WiFi network.  The software called “Connectify” – it’s FREE (ad supported) and is available from http://connectify.me/

After downloading it from the webpage (links to download.com) and running the install – it does recommend you install a specialized browser for Facebook (they make something like that?) which I quickly declined. I authorized it to install a couple of connectify network drivers (required for the magic of simplifying the re-broadcasting) and then launched the program. It runs minimized in your system tray and has an easy to use non-technical Wizard interface to set things up for you.

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I don’t quite get the dude with the roman outfit – but whatever turns your crank I guess.

Remember the part where I mentioned “supported drivers”. Well – it turns out that my sample laptop (Dell Latitude XT2 tablet) I was setting this up on does not have a supported wireless card that would support turning my laptop into a Wireless Access Point – only an Ad-Hoc network which doesn’t cut the mustard.

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Bummer. To save yourself some time – here is their list of supported cards / wireless chipsets.

All that being said – their interface – once you are past the wizard to do the initial configuration seems simple enough – you bring it up from the task bar icon.

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Stuck like me with a laptop that isn’t supported and still want to use it? If you read through to the bottom of their list of supported and unsupported cards – you’ll notice one USB wireless adapter that is supported – Intellinet Wireless-N USB Adapter. You can pick one of these up and be on your way.

A quick check of the other laptops and netbooks across the house revealed that I’m S.O.L. I can’t actually test this puppy out! Looking at the techspecs of Joey’s Dell laptop – he has a 75% chance it will work (he has 4 options of wireless cards – three are on the good list).

This blog post ends with a “to be continued” until I can find hardware in my crib that actually is supported – or if I hear back from any of you about your personal experiences. Please do tell – did it work for you?

What about you Joey? any luck or are you going the Cradlepoint hardware route?


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