Building a Skype/Lync notification light

Two posts in a year, not bad ūüėõ

Like a lot of companies that drink the Microsoft cool-aid I work for a place that uses Skype for business for text chat/voice communications… it generally works pretty well.
A few colleagues of mine have Blynclight status lights above their monitors as a visual indicator to visitors and/or other people around you that you are free/busy/uninterruptible. The concept itself looked pretty simple to build so I thought I’d give it a go… My project is called SkypeSignal (I’m not very good at names):

My solution comprises of two main parts:

  1. An Arduino nano connected to a couple of RGB LED lights
  2. A .NET application which uses the Lync client SDK to send commands to the Arduino via serial (over USB)

The Design:

The parts list for the actual build is pretty minimul:

  1. Arduino Nano
  2. A few RGB LED’s (supports a PWM driver [i.e. WS2811])
  3. a 330 Ohm resistor
  4. USB Cable
  5. Project box
  6. Wire

I went for LED’s using the WS2811 chip to drive them; this means that we only need 3 wires to run the whole thing, the below design can be modified to chain LED’s together and address them individually or alternativly run them as single LED’s by sharing the same digital input.

arduino schematic

Simple Circut

The operating workflow:

  1. Device connected to USB
  2. Relevant COM port set in SkypeSignal.exe.config and application started on PC
    1. A thread is started to run a small tray application on the windows task bar
    2. A thread is started to subscribe to Skype/Lync client events using the client SDK
  3. On client status change, a numerical command is sent down to the Arduino where it switches the light to the colour/pattern representing the presence of the user.

It would be trivial to add new features to this and I may look at adding some of these in the future:

  • Have the .NET app send a PING to com devices and using device on com port that responds with expected value
  • Flashing on missed notifications
  • Strobe + Audio Alerts on Incoming call (I’ve included a speaker in my version for future use)
  • Look at pulling the status over IP using UCWA to have a headless status device.
  • Tidying up the code – its pretty janky


The finished project above works pretty sweet РIf you want a copy of the code, check it out in my Repo here:

Or download a copy at

Drop me a line if you have any questions.


Aug 17: I’ve just added incoming call alerts to the app (requires updates for tray-app plus Arduino sketch. Enjoy

VPN Route Helper Tool

Happy new year!

Once again I am in the situation where I have neglected this blog; feel bad about it; decide to write something to warrant its existence ūüôā …here’s a long overdue post to hold me over for a while:

I run my own VPN that permits split-tunneling, this allows me to access infrastructure behind a VPN but not route ALL of my traffic over it (i.e. Any network that is not in my routing table will be fired off to my default gateway).

When dialing my VPN whilst away from home I would often run into an issue where certain networks I needed to access via the tunnel were unavailable without me setting static routes manually. My operating system (Windows) & the type of VPN I was using were unable to set these routes autonomously based on information provided by the concentrator. Windows does not support this out of the box for simple SSTP/L2TP/PPTP VPNconnections (I think), generally a third-party client would be required [Cisco Anyconnect or OpenVPN for example].

VPN Route ProblemTo overcome the above problem I built a simple little tool that can set routes based on a config file during dial-up of a VPN РThe workflow is as follows:

  1. User dials VPN endpoint
  2. Once VPN Establishes the VPNRouteHelper tool is invoked which:
    1. Checks if there is a config file on a web-server that is accessible on the one route published
    2. If the config on the server is newer we replace the existing config with the new one
    3. We then check for the presence of active PPP dial-up adapters on the computer and grab the tunnels IP address
    4. Check if that tunnel IP address fits between a set of pre-determined ranges
    5. If the tunnel fits inside a range we loop through a list of IP ranges we wish to set routes for and then assign a default gateway based on the tunnels IP address
  3. Displays a message of the day (if enabled in config)
  4. Done

Depending if the VPN concentrator allows us  to access the networks using the newly set routes we should now be done:VPNroute Solution

An example of the config file that is consumed by the tools is below – in this example we we will set two routes one for and if the user has a PPP adapter that falls inside the ranges – or –

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<!--Itterate Version number if You make any changes.-->
<VPN Version="2">
    <Route netmask="" subnet="" description="Example Destination Subnet 1" />
    <Route netmask="" subnet="" description="Example Destination Subnet 2" />
    <DefaultGateway VPNSubnetLower="" VPNSubnetUpper="" DefaultGateway="" SubnetDescription="RESDEV VPN 1 DialIn Range" />
    <DefaultGateway VPNSubnetLower="" VPNSubnetUpper="" DefaultGateway="" SubnetDescription="RESDEV VPN 2 DialIn Range" />
    <MoTD Display="true" TitleMessage="Message From Admin" BodyMessage="This is a private VPN - You agree to all terms and conditions while using it" />

This software does not require any external libs and is a self-contained .EXE that can be invoked automatically on connection (i.e. if you were to build a custom VPN client using the Microsoft Connection Manager Administration Kit [CMAK] like I did) or invoking it manually after you connect)

I might look at making this a bit more “enterprisey” at some stage, its not exactly a perfect solution but does the job at a pinch.

Grab the source code from my GitHub:  

Pretty easy solution – let me know if you have any questions ūüôā


Active Directory Contact Sync Tool (ADCST)

I ran into a scenario recently where two companies had been sharing the same Office365 Exchange tenant for >2 years, one of the two companies was now big enough to warrant its own Exchange online instance, however the two companies still needed to be able to seamlessly contact one another [Lync(Skype For Business)/Exchange Mail/Share Calendars/etc].

We could ¬†easily share calendar information between 365 accounts, however the problem of “finding” a user in the sister-company became an issue; ¬†How does a user in “company A” find a user in “company B” if they don’t know them before hand? By splitting user out of the original Office 365 tenant they loose visibility to search for people in the Global Address List (GAL) to look-up job titles/user locations/phone-numbers etc (This was desired).

One option was to create contact objects in “Company A’s” active directory for users in “Company B” (and vice-versa) and have these sync to Office 365 via Directory Sync… Good-idea, however this is manual and is not a function of Office 365 “out of the box”.

…It turned out this problem wasn’t tremendously hard to solve with the improvements that Microsoft have recently made¬†to Office 365, specifically around the ability to access and [now] query the Azure Active Directory that comes with Office 365 with the Graph API.

Introducing ADCST – A little tool written in C# to help resolve this problem by facilitating the Sync of address books between Office 365 tenants (GAL Address book syncing / federation)

How it works:

The concept is fairly trivial really – Each company delegates¬†Read-Only access to their Azure active directory to a custom application; this is no different to allowing a Standard Application for something like Jira (from Atlassian) access to your Active Directory in Azure for authentication… The corresponding company cannot retrieve anything other than standard AD attributes nor can they attempt to authenticate as you (Allowing read-only access will generate a certificate that can be exchanged to the other company; and can be revoked at any time).

Once each company has established application access to their AzureAD Instance, the relevant details are exchanged and loaded into the ADCST tool.


Now, when the application is invoked user objects from Company A that were previously synced to Office365/AzureAD via Directory Sync are retrieved as objects by ADCST. They are then added to Company B’s on-premise Active Directory as contact objects and synced to their instance of Office365 to later appear in the GAL. If a user was to leave Company A and their account to be deleted, the corresponding contact object will be removed Company B’s GAL.

  • Objects to be synced are determined by a membership of a group (that is, users in Company A must be in a specified group otherwise they will not be synced and created)
  • Objects will only be created in a Target OU as specified in configuration.
  • Only the following attributes are synced (if they exist):
    • givenName
    • Mail
    • sn
    • displayName
    • title
    • l
    • co & c
    • st
    • streetAddress
    • department

Phew, okay… how to set it up:

How to set it up:

  1. Download a copy ADCST¬†or go and grab the source from GITHUB ūüôā
  2. Access your Azure active Directory and complete the following:
    1. Access your Office365 Portal, select AzureAD from the left hand bar of the Admin portal
    2. Once tha Azure Portal loads, Click on Active Directory in the left hand nav.
    3. Click the directory tenant where you wish to register the sample application.
    4. Click the Applications tab.
    5. In the drawer, click Add.
    6. Click “Add an application my organization is developing”.
    7. Enter a friendly name for the application, for example “Contoso ADCST”, select “Web Application and/or Web API“, and click next.
    8. For the Sign-on URL, enter a value (NOTE: this is not used for the console app, so is only needed for this initial configuration): “http://localhost”
    9. For the App ID URI, enter “http://localhost”. Click the checkmark to complete the initial configuration.
    10. While still in the Azure portal, click the Configure tab of your application.
    11. Find the Client ID value and copy it aside, you will need this later when configuring your application.
    12. Under the Keys section, select either a 1-year or 2-year key – the keyValue will be displayed after you save the configuration at the end – it will be displayed, and you should save this to a secure location. NOTE: The key value is only displayed once, and you will not be able to retrieve it later.
    13. Configure Permissions – under the “Permissions to other applications” section, you will configure permissions to access the Graph (Windows Azure Active Directory). For “Windows Azure Active Directory” under the first permission column (Application Permission:1″), select “Read directory data”. Notes: this configures the App to use OAuth Client Credentials, and have Read access permissions for the application.
    14. Select the Save button at the bottom of the screen – upon successful configuration, your Key value should now be displayed – please copy and store this value in a secure location.
    15. You will need to update the ADCST.exe.config of ADCST with the updated values.
      1. AzureADTenantName = Update your tenant name for the authString value (e.g.
      2. AzureADTenantId =¬†Update the tenantId value for the string tenantId, with your tenantId. Note: your tenantId can be discovered by opening the following metadata.xml document: – replace “”, with your tenant’s domain value (any domain that is owned by the tenant will work). The tenantId is a guid, that is part of the sts URL, returned in the first xml node’s sts url (“EntityDescriptor”): e.g. “”
      3. AzureADClientId = This is the ClientID noted down previously
      4. AzureADClientSecret = This is the certificate Value noted down previously
      5. AzureADUserGroup = This group contains all of the user accounts in the Remove Azure AD that you with to pull into your Active Directory on-prem as contact objects.
      6. FQDomainName = FQDN of your on-prem Active Directory Domain
      7. DestinationOUDN = The distinguished name of the Target OU that you with to create the Contact objects in
      8. ContactPrefix = This string will populate the Description field in Active Directory
      9. AllowCreationOfADObjects = Self Explanitory, Allow ADCST to create Contact objects in AD
      10. AllowDeletionOfADObjects = Self Explanitory, Allow ADCST to delete Contact objects in AD when they are no longer required
      11. VerboseLogUserCreation = Log contact creation to Debug Log
      12. VerboseLogUserDeletion = Log contact deletion to Debug log
  3. Create a Service Account to run this as and Delegate it Create/Delete rights on the OU Container on your on-prem Active Directory (see this post for some pretty good instructions – We want to be able to create/delete user accounts [even though these will be contact objects])
  4. Create a Scheduled task to call the ADCST executable on a regular basis as the Service Account that you just created.

I suggest you do some solid-testing prior to rolling this into Production (with read-only acccess you wont be able to do any damage to the Azure AD… The on-prem AD is the one you dont wanna screw-up)

The above implementation certainly wont appeal to everybody, and it could be argued that this is a specific edge-case, but it appears to do the job nicely for what was required. Let me know if you have any thoughts or suggestions.


The fine print: The use of this software is at your own risk – No warrantee is expressed or implied.

EDIT #1 (7/06/15):¬†I’ve gone ahead and refactored a few things on this project. The following has changed:

  • ADCST will now Sync nominated Group’s to ¬†Active Directory as contact Objects (I want to change this to normal Group objects with members expanded from source groups). (Synced Group [Distinguished name] destination defined using the “GroupsDestinationOUDN” App.Config Value + Source Group defined using¬†AzureADGroupsGroup App.Config Value).
  • Users that are synced are now added to a nominated security group – This can be used to lock down groups/resources in Exchange¬†to Internal users as well as contact objects contained in this new security group to prevent spam. (Group [distinguished named] defined using the “PermittedSendersGroupDN” App.Config Value).

Windows Server App-Fabric “failed to connect to hosts in cluster”

I’ve just completed the process of building a new AppFabric Cluster on version 1.1 with a SQL backend over an existing XML Based 1.0 cluster… The new version appeared to fix a lot of issues that existed in V1.0, plus by installing a Cumulative Update  you are able to use Windows Server 2012 standard to host a Highly Available cache cluster (now that it includes cluster functionality that only previously existed in Server Enterprise in 2008/R2)

Fortunately my old automated deployment scripts did not need that much tweaking aside from the obvious changes required to use a SQL server to store the configuration + changing my secondary cache count for scaling.

After the script established the Cache Cluster and added the host I ran into an issue when attempting to start the cluster to add the individual caches and assign permissions, I got the following error: “Use-CacheCluster : ErrorCode<ERRCAdmin040>:SubStatus<ES0001>:Failed to connect to hosts in the cluster



There appeared to be no real help on MSDN  to help me solve my problem… A bit of research yielded the following fixes:

  1. Ensure that the AppFabric Cache Host can resolve itself (and other Cache Lead-Hosts) via DNS, Hosts Files etc.
  2. Ensure that the Remote Registry Service has been started and the rule “Remote Service Management (NP-In)” on the Windows Firewall rule is allowed.
  3. Ensure that Firewall rules exist to allow App-Fabric communication (e.g. Port 22233 for cache port, 22234 for Cluster port etc).

My script opened firewall ports but didn’t start the remote registry service‚Ķ After starting this service and reconfiguring my cache once more everything came online – I was able to add all all of my cache nodes to my brand new cluster.

Office 365 Search and Delete mail using Powershell

A neat feature of Exchange is the ability to run up a search across mailboxes within an organization from Powershell using the Search-Mailbox cmdlet and delete inappropriate or harmful messages using the -DeleteContent parameter. Fortunately these features exist in Office 365 if you are an Exchange Online Administrator

While administrators can use the Multi-Mailbox search feature in the Exchange control panel UI to locate mail, you  may discover you are unable to remove messages directly without some PowerShell magic.

The below script requires you add your admin account to the “Discovery¬†Management” role from Roles & Auditing on the Exchange Control Panel (ECP).

#Every mailbox within the Organisation

[string]$decision = "n"

Write-Host "This script requires the `"Discovery Management`" Exchange Role-Group PLUS `"Mailbox Import Export`" Role assigned to your Exchange onlineAdmin Account `nPlease add it before proceeding:"
Write-Host "`n`nEnter Administration Credentials"

$LiveCred = Get-Credential

#Pass Creds to and generate PS Session
$Session = New-PSSession -ConfigurationName Microsoft.Exchange -ConnectionUri -Credential $LiveCred -Authentication Basic -AllowRedirection
#Import PS Session/Grab MSOL Cmdlets
Import-PSSession $Session

$Subject = Read-Host "Please Enter a Message Subject to be deleted from ALL mailboxes:"

$decision = Read-Host "Are you sure youi want to delete messages with the subject " $Subject " (Y/N)?"

if ($decision -eq "y")
	Write-Host "Deleting" $Subject
	Get-Mailbox -ResultSize unlimited | Search-Mailbox -SearchQuery "subject:$Subject" -DeleteContent -Confirm
	Write-Host "Nothing deleted"

Write-Host "Connection to MSOL closed"

Warning: Use the above script with caution; When using the DeleteContent parameter, messages are permanently deleted from the user’s mailbox and cannot be recovered. (It could also take some time to run over a big Office365¬†Tenant)

See related Office 365 help article here:  here:


Manual WSUS Sync using Powershell

A quick blog post tonight:

When setting up WSUS, its common practice to trial updates internally ¬†prior to deployment¬†across¬†an entire environment…

For a recent WSUS setup I completed we decided to leave auto update approval on for all Windows Critical & Security updates so they could be tested after release every Patch Tuesday. After Microsoft’s recent spate of Out-Of-Band updates we were finding that machines were being updated half way through a month due the limited update controls you have with WSUS… We could opt to manually sync updates or select the longest time between syncs of “check once every 24 hours”.

Using some cool tips from the Hey Scripting Guy Blog I’ve slapped together this script that now runs as a scheduled task to download updates once a month on Patch Tuesday.

This is an impractical approach to updating, critical updates should be applied as soon as possible, however forcing a manual WSUS update could come in handy for a select few:

$ErrorActionPreference = "SilentlyContinue"

# WSUS Connection Parameters:
[String]$updateServer = ""
[Boolean]$useSecureConnection = $False
[Int32]$portNumber = 80

# Load .NET assembly

# Connect to WSUS Server
$Wsus = [Microsoft.UpdateServices.Administration.AdminProxy]::getUpdateServer($updateServer,$useSecureConnection,$portNumber)

# Perform Synchronization
$Subscription = $Wsus.GetSubscription()

Write-host “WSUS Sync Started/Queued; Check WSUS console or Event log for any Errors.”;


Remote logoff all Windows users with Powershell

An annoyance for anyone when running a large scripted software release is when the deployment fails half way through because someone has left a logged-on Windows session with an Open file or Window. You may then need to invest large¬†amounts¬†of time identifying the cause, reverting changes that only deployed half-way and eventually¬†re-run the release package…

In one of my earlier blog posts I explained how I would drop servers into maintenance mode when running a software deployment to prevent being spammed by Operations Manager Alerts… I targeted my specific environment in SCOM using a filter that would only add servers with a NetBIOS name starting with PROD or TEST.

I have quickly whipped up something similar to boot all users off of servers (log-off) prior to executing release package. The¬†snippet¬†below will grab all servers in the “Servers OU” on active directory and throw them into an array. It will then enumerate each server and use the Inbuilt “MSG” command (similar to NET SEND) to warn each user logged onto servers to save their work and log off (along with a countdown timer). Once the timer hits zero the¬†Win32Shutdown() WMI method is run to Force log-off all users so the deployment can proceed

This script could easily be turned into a function that passed along a parameter for Prod/Test/Dev environments.


#Load Active Directory Module
Import-Module ActiveDirectory;

[int]$timeleft = 5 #Countdown time until Logoff (Mins)
$countdowntimer = new-object system.diagnostics.stopwatch

#Establish prodservers array + Enumerate all servers with a name starting with "PROD" and add to array
[array] $prodservers= @()
Get-AdComputer -filter 'Name -like "PROD*"' -SearchBase "OU=Servers,DC=resdevops,DC=com" -Properties "Name" | foreach-object {
$prodservers += $_.Name

while($timeleft -gt 0)
	foreach ($server in $prodservers) {msg * /SERVER:$server "A software deployment is scheduled for the PROD environment; Your remote session will be logged off automatically in $timeleft minutes, you should save your work."}
	while ($countdowntimer.elapsed.minutes -lt 1) {write-progress -activity "Elapsed Time" -status $countdowntimer.elapsed}

#Once countdown is complete - Run Win32Shutdown WMI method with the "4" value 
#to force loggof  all users
foreach ($server in $prodservers) 
	Write-Host "Logging all users off of $server"
	(gwmi win32_operatingsystem -ComputerName $server).Win32Shutdown(4)
Write-Host "`n`nSent Logoff command to $($prodservers.count) servers" -foregroundcolor Green;


Add Proxy Addresses via PowerShell to Office 365 Users

Its safe to say that one of the most useful features of Office 365 from an administrative point of view is Directory-Sync via Forefront Identity Manager (FIM).

When given the task to add a new email alias/address to all users, we can simply add to the existing Proxy Address attribute in Active directory¬†programmatically through PowerShell (and sync it up to the cloud using FIM). The code snippit below will take the take each users first& last names plus the $proxydomain to add “smtp:[email protected]” to their AD user object if they reside in $usersOU.

If the “Coexistence-Configuration” PSSnapin exists on the running system a manual directory sync will be initiated.


[string]$proxydomain = ""; #Proxy domain
[string]$usersOU = "OU=Staff_Accounts,DC=resdevops,DC=com"; #OU to apply changes
[string]$powersnapin = "Coexistence-Configuration"; #Directory Sync PS-Snapin name
[int]$count = 0 ;

Import-Module ActiveDirectory

	Get-ADUser -Filter "*" -SearchScope Subtree -SearchBase "$usersOU" -Properties ProxyAddresses, givenName, Surname | foreach-object { 

	Write-Host "Editing user: $_.SamAccountName"

		if ($_.Proxyaddresses -match $_.givenName+"."+$_.Surname+$proxydomain)
			Write-Host "Result: Proxy Address already exists; No action taken."
 			Set-ADUser -Identity $_.SamAccountName -Add @{Proxyaddresses="smtp:"+$_.givenName+"."+$_.Surname+$proxydomain}
			Write-Host "Result: Added proxy address to Account"
	#Execute Office 365 Directory Sync if possible
	$CheckSnapin = Get-PSSnapin -Registered $powersnapin -EA SilentlyContinue
	if ($CheckSnapin)
			Add-PSSnapin Coexistence-Configuration;
			Write-Host "`n `n ******Added proxy address with DirSync******"
			Write-Host "`n `n ******Added Proxy address; Please initiate a Directory Sync Manually******"
Write-Host "Sucessfully Edited" $count "users"


SCOM Remote Powershell Maintenance Mode

I’m currently working a neat project with a nice automated deployment process – The Deployment (Powershell) does everything from configuring IIS to Updating SQL with Delta schema changes etc. One of the problems for the people in charge of Ops Manager (or those on-call for that matter) is that they will be spammed with Alert emails if the appropriate servers are not dropped into Maintenance mode when this deployment is run.

The team deploying the latest build don’t want mucking around with SCOM while trying to focus on a Prod release for exmple – What we do… Set appropriate servers to maintenance mode at the start of a deployment and pull them out once its complete. Here’s how we do it:

  1. Establish a new SCOM Group which our Maintenance Mode script will target when run.:
    Each server name in our environment is prefixed with its environment type e.g. PRODWEB1, TESTAPP2, PRODSQL1, etc. I’ve setup a Dynamic group with the following rule to target “PROD” machines (and another for test): ( Object is Windows Computer AND ( NetBIOS Computer Name Contains PROD ) AND True )
  2. Enable PowerShell remoting on SCOM server so we can utilize the OpsManager Powershell Cmdlets:
    Enable-PSRemoting -force
  3. Add the appropriate Powershell snippits (or add them as functions) to your deployment to enter and Exit Maintenance Mode:

To Enter Maintenance Mode:

enter-pssession -computername
invoke-command -computername -scriptblock {

Import-Module OperationsManager
$Instance = Get-SCOMGroup -displayname "PRODSERVERROUPNAME" | Get-SCOMClassInstance
$Time = ((Get-Date).AddMinutes(30))
Start-SCOMMaintenanceMode -Instance $Instance -EndTime $Time -Reason "PlannedOther" -Comment "Code Deployment"


Exit Maintenance Mode:

enter-pssession -computername
invoke-command -computername -scriptblock {

import-module operationsmanager
$Instance = Get-SCOMGroup -displayname "PRODSERVERGROUPNAME" | Get-SCOMClassInstance
$MMEntry = Get-SCOMMaintenanceMode -Instance $Instance
$NewEndTime = (Get-Date)
Set-SCOMMaintenanceMode -MaintenanceModeEntry $MMEntry -EndTime $NewEndTime -Comment "Deployment Complete - Maintenance mode disabled"

Let me know if you have any Questions.