Author: Adam Fowler

Updating the On-Premises Power BI Data Gateway

Power BI’s on-premises data gateway needs updating from time to time – Microsoft are pretty good at communicating this to the Office 365 tenant administrator via email when required.

One of those times is now at the time of writing this blog post – due to end of support of TLS 1.0 on March 15th 2018. The installer itself is pretty much a next, next finish wizard, but there’s a few tricks that can cause the wizard to fail.

The gateway installation failed.

The error logs may not spell out what the problem is. I saw:

Product: EgwComponents -- Installation failed.


Windows Installer installed the product. Product Name: EgwComponents. Product Version: 1.15.6170.1. Product Language: 1033. Installation success or error status: 1603.

The reasons I’ve seen reported online are:

  • Installer not being run as Administrator (UAC may be in the way) – right click the installer and ‘Run As Administrator’
  • Installing .NET 4.6
  • Disable any Anti-Virus product

None of those fixed it for me, but I soon realised an obvious one – check for pending reboots. Windows update had run and was waiting for a restart, after that the installer worked perfectly. It won’t be the last time I forget to turn it off and back on again.

 

Excel – Something Went Wrong While Downloading Your Template

Excel 2013 and 2016 have a great inbuilt feature of having online pre-built templates available for different purposes. You find them by going to File > New. Templates such as Family Budgets or Back to School Planners. They’re hosted by Microsoft and download the template as you need them:

List of Excel 2016 Templates

Normally you’d pick the template you want, and use the create option:

Creating an Excel 2016 Template

However, there’s a scenario I found that this doesn’t work, and you’ll see the message ‘Something went wrong while downloading your template’:

Something went wrong

After digging around for a bit, I found this Technet thread which mentioned uninstalling Visio Viewer to fix it. Seems strange, but I tried this and it worked. I wasn’t happy with that as a solution though, so logged a Microsoft case.

I went through the process of capturing fiddler traffic and logs, but was then asked a simple question: Was Visio Viewer 32 or 64 bit? I had a look and it was 64 bit, however the Office 2016 suite itself was 32 bit. I quickly guessed that 32 and 64 bit wasn’t a good mix for Office products, even if they were installed separately.

Sure enough, using Visio Viewer 32 bit with Excel 2016 32 bit fixed the problem.

 

TL;DR – Visio Viewer needs to match your Office/Excel install – 32 bit or 64 bit for both.

Azure AD DS Health Monitoring Agent Temp Files

There’s a known issue with the Azure AD DS Health Monitoring Agent, which is a part of the Azure AD Connect Health offering from Microsoft.

I’m a big fan of this service, which after installing a small agent on each DC, will alert you of any issues such as replication failing, or a DC unavailable.

However, there’s a problem with how the agent handles its temporary files. As covered on this TechCommunity post, the utility creates a lot of temp files in C:\Windows\Temp locally on each DC. They’re 1/2KB each, but I see around 288 daily being generated. These are never cleaned up.

One one domain controller, since I’ve been running the utility from the 16th September 2016, there are now ~133,000 temporary files. The actual size of these log files is a small 90mb, but the space on disk due to how allocating blocks works, takes up 519MB. I’m going to assume there’s many factors that can change the size and number of log files.

Many people will have small drives for their DCs, and also having lots of files in a folder can cause weird performance issues.

The files are in a format such as 20160915T024226Z-20160915T031125Z-SERVERNAME-6acbd4cb99a1448d848298a59b6fc6e2.json.gz – so it’s easy to set up a daily scheduled task to delete anything older than a day. There’s a couple of examples on how to do this here.

Microsoft has advised this won’t be fixed anytime soon (at least Q3 2018 is what I’ve heard), so it’s worth checking out that C:\Windows\Temp folder and even doing a one time delete if it’s full of log files!

 

Controlling Microsoft Store Access

If you’re managing a fleet of computers in a business, you may not want users being able to access everything in the Microsoft Store. Having users a few clicks away from installing ‘Slotomainia’ or ‘Ninja World’ might not be what you want readily available on a business computer. You may also not want other services that can contribute to data leakage, or shadow IT type solutions that users decide to adopt.

As long as you are running Windows 10 Enterprise or Education, you could completely disable the Microsoft Store functionality by either using Applocker to maintain a whitelist of allowed packaged apps, or using Group Policy to enable the “Turn off Store application” under Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components.

For Windows 10 Pro and Home users, this won’t work so you’ll have to try other methods such as uninstalling Windows Store on each PC with the PowerShell command Get-AppxPackage ​*windowsstore*​ | Remove-AppxPackage

Disabling the Microsoft Store entirelybut you may find that there is a requirement to use a few of the Microsoft Store apps by your users. For this option (again just for Enterprise and Education, and you’ll need Office 365 or Azure AD), you can instead have a Private Store. This is enabled again in Group Policy, using the setting “Only display the private store within the Microsoft Store app” again under Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components.

The Microsoft Store will look pretty bare at this stage (I see the 5 apps in the screenshot below by default), so you’ll want to add or remove some apps. This is done online, Enterprise customers go to https://businessstore.microsoft.com and education customers go to https://educationstore.microsoft.com. You’ll need to sign in with an account that’s an Azure AD or Office 365 Global Administrator, but can then grant access to others.

To add an app, under ‘Shop for my group’ you can search or click through options to find the app you’re after – I’ve chosen Microsoft To-Do for this example. Going onto the app’s page will give you a button that says ‘Get the app’. Once you click that, you’ll see the message “Microsoft To-Do has been purchased and added to your inventory.” After you’ve done that, go to the “Manage” tab and then the “Products and Services” option on the right hand side. Find the app, click the ellipsis (…) and choose “Add to private store”

You will finally see a message saying that the app has been added to your store, but may take up to 36 hours to show.

There’s also the option to assign an app to a user, this is only needed if it’s a licensed or paid for app that you want to give only to certain users – you may have bought 10 copies of a particular Windows Store app and need to control who has access to it.

It’s worth having a look through the other options on this page as you can control settings such as letting users make purchases,  what your organisation will be called in the Microsoft Store app and if you get invoices for the store via email.

Overall the Private Microsoft Store is rather easy to set up, lets you give users self-service access to apps that you allow, and gives you an easy way of letting someone install a Microsoft Store app in the future without having to enable the entire store.

Cryptocurrency Trading

I’ve been mucking around with Cryptocurrency for a little while now, and thought I’d write up a guide on how to get started. I’ll write this as simple as possible at a high level.

What are Cryptocurrencies?

They are digital currencies (such as Bitcoin, but there are many, many others) that operate on a decentralised network. That means, instead of a centralised server hosting all the records and transactions, it’s carried out on a peer to peer network where all members can keep everyone else in check. The term ‘blockchain’ is used to describe the method of keeping all this in check, a ledger that has methods of making sure transactions are correct and legitimate, with in built error-checking.

A cryptocurrency has a real world value, just like any countries’ currency value (for example US dollars or AU dollars), but is much less regulated. It’s value is available to see on different exchanges that accept the particular cryptocurrency type in question, and just like shares are based on buy and sell values.

The coins themselves are created through a process called ‘mining’. It’s a good comparison to going down a mine and trying to find gold; a rock of value in a vast area of worthless rock and dirt. When mining a cryptocurrency, complex maths equation is performed, similar to trying a key to see if it opens a lock. Each valid result gets added to the blockchain, and the person/device who found the result gets paid a reward in the form of coin.

If you want to try some very light mining, you can check out JSECoin^ and you can start doing it from your internet browser. You’re mining JSECoin of course on this link, which hasn’t gone to market yet (but they’re forcasting ~$1US a coin, which is probably a bit high!) – but it’s a good way of showing mining without having to know what you’re doing.

It’s also worth noting that coins don’t need to be traded in full units. At the time of posting (28th December 2017), 0.005 Bitcoins are worth $92.98AU. Prices fluctuate so much though, that several percentages of value being gained or lost in a 24 hour period is quite normal.

Each cryptocurrency will have it’s own unique traits and applications, and you’ll need to read up on a particular coin to find out more about it. Bitcoin was the first cryptocurrency invented, so any other type of coin is referred to as ‘altcoins’ (aka alternative coins). Also, each coin has a trading code like the stock market; Bitcoin is known as BTC.

How do I get started?

Firstly; yes there has been a huge boom in Bitcoin. It’s value is over $20,000AU at the time of writing per coin, where most other coins are well below $1000AU, with many being only a few cents each. The prices of many coins fluctuate with huge swings, which makes it both exciting and incredibly risky.

Step 1 – Sign up to a cryptocurrency exchange that you can get your ‘real world’ money into. Ones worth looking into in my opinion are:

Coinbase^ you get $10 if you buy or sell at least $100.

BTCmarkets which is an Australian based exchange, if you feel more comfortable trading with an AU company (and easier for Australians to deposit and withdraw). They recently reduced the Bpay amount from $500 to no minimum.

CoinSpot^ is another Australian based exchange, but has a lot more coin types than BTCmarkets (who has only 6). This one is the most user intuitive and basic, is clear about wallets for storing funds etc. .

Both of these exchanges will let you transfer in money via easy methods (Coinbase is Visa/Mastercard, BTCMarkets is Bank Transfer or POLi). Depositing money has no fee attached at time of writing, but please read the terms of the exchange you’re using to confirm this.

Step 2 – Verify your account. This will probably be giving a copy of your driver’s license or passport. Be wary and only use a company that seems legitimate and you can find good feedback on before giving a website important information about yourself!

Step 3 – Transfer funds. This can take a couple of days to show up in your exchange.

Step 4 – While waiting for the funds to turn up, sign up to a ‘better’ exchange that has a lot more types of cryptocurrency. The one I use is

Binance^ –  this is where I do most my trades.

Kucoin^ is a newer one that has some different coins. You can also buy their own coin, that pays out based on trading fees on the same site.

UPcoin^ is a new exchange that’s just about to launch, and can be good to get in early on some of these exchanges as they often lock out new signups for periods of time.

The fees are a *lot* less for buying and selling. Compare Coinbase and Binance – you just want to get your money to an exchange like Binance, and it requires a stepping stone like Coinbase to do so.

Step 5 – (After funds have turned up at Coinbase) Buy a cryptocoin for the full amount of money you want to use (which is probably the full amount you transferred). This should be in Bitcoin or Ethereum, as you’re transferring this over to Coinbase to then buy other coins with. Of course if you purely want to invest in one of the few coins on Coinbase (They have 4 at time of writing; Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum and Litecoin), then you don’t need to move it anywhere. Binance however has 96. There’s hundreds out there that can be hard to find what exchange accepts them; but Binance is a great starting point.

Step 6 – Transfer your Bitcoin or Ethereum from Coinbase to Binance. This is done by withdrawing from Coinbase, and depositing into Binance (it’s a single transaction to do this). From the Binance end, you’ll need to get the deposit address for the coin type you’re transferring (Bitcoin or Ethereum). Then from Coinbase, you’ll need to withdraw the full amount of coin you have, using the address from Binance. What you’re doing here is moving your coins from the wallet in Coinbase, to the wallet in Binance.

Here’s a good YouTube video showing you how to do this step:

Step 7 – After a few minutes, your coins will be available in Binance. From there, you can start trading the Bitcoin or Ethereum for the other coins you’re after. Again, like a stock market you can set the price you want to buy at, with full visibility of the going buy and sell requests. The video above also shows this. You can start small with your purchases – the fees are normally a small % of your coins, so there’s no cost difference at the end of it if you do lots of little transactions, or one large one.

Keep in mind a few of these steps do incur costs, but they’re small (a few % max at the end of it). You’ll usually see changes in the value of your coins greater than the transaction fees in the first day, so it’s not a big deal.

Other Notes

Tax implications from Australia – read the ATO’s page on this. A highlight from that page is under ‘Using bitcoin for personal transactions’ –  “Where you use bitcoin to purchase goods or services for personal use or consumption, any capital gain or loss from disposal of the bitcoin will be disregarded (as a personal use asset) provided the cost of the bitcoin is $10,000 or less.”

As Coinbase is in USD, you may have problems withdrawing from Australia. BTCMarkets I didn’t have any issues with, but you can also find other ways to spend/extract your funds.

As you research cryptocurrency, here’s some terms you may come across:

ICO – These are Initial Coin Offerings that startups use to launch a new coin. You’re normally buying tokens that end up being converted to coins of the new cryptocurrency being launched, which could be months away. The coin could also be worthless – it’s a gamble. I’ve only put some money into one so far which is Pluscoin  which sounds interesting in earning coins by visiting fast food restaurants. I might never see my money or I might make many times my investment – who knows! Some ICOs will give you free tokens in the hope of referrals that will lead to purchases – such as Sphere^ which will give you 100 free tokens just for registering, no purchase necessary. (Future note – Pluscoin ICO I lost most my money on, as the coin launched at 5% of the cost of the ICO! This isn’t to say ICOs are bad, but they’re an even higher gamble than general trading, and more research should be put into an ICO before handing over your coins).

HODL – This internet term is used a lot to indicate the practise of just holding your coins. Don’t sell because they’ve dropped, just keep holding and hoping. This generally works because more and more people are getting into cryptocurrency, and eventually the value goes up again. One day it won’t work, but so far it’s been a pretty safe tactic.

Shilling – As you can see from the info I’ve provided, many services and offerings have referral links. Shilling is either related to people who make claims to get you to sign up using their links, or are trying to increase value of a coin they might hold themselves. Generally, don’t believe anything you read on the internet :)

Pump and Dump – The concept of getting a large group of people to buy up one coin on one exchange to raise the price, to then quickly sell off for a profit. Nothing is driving the price up beyond the group’s demand. People will often claim this as a reason behind quick spikes and drops in prices, and it may be true in many cases. For example. here’s a Discord (like IRC) chat group purely for Pump and Dumps.

Wallets – Where your coins are stored. Ideally, if you’re holding onto coins you can move them into a private wallet. There’s different applications and options around this – it’s not necessary to get started, but if you’re dealing with decent money you should read up on them. In the meantime, use 2FA on any online account that’s dealing with money.

FUD – Fear, uncertainty and doubt. Because the cryptocurrency world isn’t regulated, tricks that are banned in the stock market are used here. People will have a reason they want coin to go down, and places like Reddit, Twitter and Facebook are full of people saying things for their own gain, or spreading information because they read it somewhere. Rumors and faked screenshots can drastically affect the market. Be incredibly weary of any advice (positive or negative) you read.

FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out. This applies to the people doing the trading, they’ll often jump on something going up as they don’t want to wait and miss out on a big price spike. This also drives buys and the price up on rumours; get in early and make the most profit. The point of calling out FOMO is to not make emotional based decisions when trading.

If this is all too hard, then at your own risk you can look at other opportunities such as USI Tech (non-affiliate link here) where they invest the money for you with mysterious automated cryptocurrency trading software. You buy packs (starting around 50 euros), and over roughly 140 working days you’ll get your investment back + 40%. This one is a multi-level marketing system, so you’ll see a lot of strongly positive and negative information around the web. I have a single pack which returns ~0.8% each working day, and it’s paid in Bitcoin. I have friends who have been very successful in this system, but that doesn’t mean it’s foolproof. (Future update – this particular operation has been shut down in the US and Canada, so be extremely cautious in programs like these which may purely be pyramid or ponzi schemes).

 

Feel free to ask me any questions publicly or privately – I purely do this out of interest and fun, and although I hope to make lots of money, it shouldn’t be seen as a sound investment method without a lot of time invested. I’ll also update this page as things change or I find more information to add.

^ These are affiliate links, meaning I get a few $ if you use them. If you don’t want to use those links, go to the site manually – but there’s no negative impact to you for doing so.