Remote PowerShell to manage Exchange, even without the Exchange Management Shell installed

Following on from yesterday’s Exchange Admin Center/Outlook Web App tips, I thought I’d share another gem that came from Microsoft Exchange Premier Field Engineer and PowerShell author Mike Pieffer (@mike_pfeiffer) in the Microsoft Virtual Academy Core Solutions of Microsoft Exchange Server 2013 Jump Start course.

Sometimes, you’ll need to perform an operation on an Exchange Server and you won’t have the Exchange Management Shell installed.  You may be able to carry out the operation graphically using the Exchange Admin Center but, more likely, you’ll need to invoke a remote PowerShell session.

The magic commands (which need PowerShell v2 or later) use implicit remoting via the IIS PowerShell virtual directory (proxied via an Exchange server with the CAS role installed):

$session = New-PSSession -ConfigurationName microsoft.exchange -ConnectionUri http://servername/powershell
Import-PSSession $session

After running these commands, you should be able to run Microsoft Exchange cmdlets, as long as you have the appropriate permissions assigned via Exchange’s Role Based Access Control mechanism. I’ve used the same approach previously to connect to Exchange Online (Office 365) using remote PowerShell.

A couple of additional points to note: because you’re running a remote PowerShell session, you’ll also need the script execution policy to allow RemoteSigned scripts; also, don’t forget to tear down the session when you’re done, using Remove-PSSession $session.

Customising the behaviour of Exchange 2013 web apps (ECP/EAC/OWA)

I’ve been spending quite a bit of time refreshing my technical knowledge of Microsoft Exchange recently and, aside from the detail of how the product works, I came across a couple of little nuggets that could be useful for admins working with the product.

Force a connection to the Exchange 2013 Admin Center (EAC)

If your organisation is has a combination of Exchange 2013 and previous releases (2007/2010) and your mailbox is on an older version of Exchange then accessing https://servername/ecp will result in the CAS proxying your connection to the mailbox role on a legacy server. Exchange 2007 users will be presented with an error, whilst those who have their mailbox on Exchange 2010 will see the old (yellow) Exchange Control Panel (ECP) rather than the new (blue) Exchange Admin Center (EAC).  To force a connection to an Exchange 2013 server and access the EAC, add ?ExchClientVer=15 to the URI.

Change the view in Outlook Web App (OWA)

Outlook Web App (OWA) will try to detect the device that you’re using and format the display to match; however this can be over-ridden with a few additions to the URL:

  • ?layout=desktop is the standard 3 pane view.
  • ?layout=twide can be used to force into Touch Wide (2 pane mode).
  • ?layout=tnarrow will select Touch Narrow (single pane).

Migrating contacts from iOS to Android

Last month I blogged about migrating SMS messages from an iPhone to an Android handset. I ignored my contacts because I figured that Active Sync would do that for me – and it does, except that my Galaxy S3 Mini is subject to mobile device management policies and we use the TouchDown client for ActiveSync access to Exchange so that’s where the contacts end up.  Whilst TouchDown can export contacts to the phone book on the device, I only found that after I’d migrated them a different way, so I thought I’d write a quick post about the options.

Many Android users will be GMail users.  If you fall into that camp then it’s pretty easy – sync to Google Contacts via iTunes.  An alternative (regardless of whether you use GMail) is to export the contacts from iCloud as a vCard (.VCF file).  This can be imported to various places – including GMail – or, as I did, directly on my Android handset.  The hongkiat.com post on transferring iPhone contacts to Android uses a Google account to sync the contacts onto the device. I elected to use Dropbox to get the .VCF file into the local storage on my phone, then imported the contacts from there, using the Import/Export option in the Options menu in my contact list.

Lenovo found lacking with lost laptop

Even though I work in the application services business of a rival PC manufacturer, I’ve always had a soft spot for ThinkPads and Lenovo is (was) one of the quality PC brands I would recommend to friends and colleagues.  Until last week…

Our kids increasingly need to use a computer (a real one with a proper screen, so not a netbook – and not my iPad) for school work.  They can’t use my work PC (against policy) and for similar reasons we don’t really like them using my wife’s (again, it’s her business asset). Add to that the fact that some of the IT policies at work make it increasingly difficult for me to use my corporate laptop for anything (work-related or otherwise!) we decided that our Christmas present to ourselves will be a family computer.

Because a mouse will soon be to my kids what a command-line interface is to most of my peers (not including any IT admins or developers reading this blog), I wanted a touch-screen computer and I didn’t want to spend much over £500, which ruled out any ultrabook. Touchscreen requirement and modest budget means no Macs either.  Then I found Lenovo’s “affordable 15.6″ dual-mode notebook” – the Flex 15 – at a penny under £550 with the note that it “ships within 2-3 business days”. And the form factor means that, whilst a touchscreen desktop failed to pass spousal approval, a laptop that doubles up as a picture frame will quite happily sit in our kitchen/dining/family room without being considered unnecessary gadgetry.

I would have liked to customise the specification but that option wasn’t available so I placed an order for the stock version and it was duly processed by Lenovo’s UK reseller, Digital River (or analogue stream as I will now think of them…).

A couple of hours later I got a confirmation, which said:

“Dear Mark Wilson,

Thank you for ordering from the Lenovo Online Store powered by Digital River.

Please note, systems that are built to order can take 1 to 2 weeks to build and ship, plus 3 – 6 days for delivery.

Systems that are not built to order and were purchased with predefined specifications will ship within 2-3 business days.

Accessory options will typically ship within 2-3 business days and therefore may result in multiple deliveries when purchased with a system.

The following is a summary of your order. If you paid by credit card, please look for DRI*Lenovo on your credit card billing statement.”

[The bold text was added for emphasis by me]

A day or so later, I saw that a mouse I’d ordered for my son (he won’t need it but Mrs W insisted) had been shipped but no word on the PC. The shipping notes suggested the full value had been charged to my credit card (as it happens, only the cost of the mouse has been) but I called the number on the order confirmation email, navigated the IVR system and waited on hold before I was greeted, in German, by someone who doesn’t work on the Lenovo account. She suggested I should call back in 30 minutes as her colleague who does work with Lenovo was busy! I asked if they could call me instead and she took my details.  Surprise, surprise – no call.  Since then I’ve called twice more and each time have been told that they can’t provide an estimated shipping date but will escalate for me. Whatever that means, clearly it wasn’t done because the next time I called, I was told that “no ticket had been opened”.

In parallel, I’ve been communicating with the Lenovo UK social media team (@Lenovo_UK) who were helpful at first but then when I asked for progress told me to be patient, following up a few hours later to say they had tried to call (they did – twice, within two minutes, from a blocked number so I can’t call them back) and advising me that another team will send an email (they haven’t). Sorry guys – that’s not “trying”, that’s a pathetic attempt to contact me once before fobbing me off…

The Lenovo website says it ships in 2-3 days but the reseller (Digital River) don't know when it will shipThe thing is, I don’t mind if I’m told it’s on a ship from China (or wherever) and will take 2 weeks but the website still says “ships in 2-3 business days” and so does the order confirmation, yet the reseller doesn’t know when it will ship.  Which means I don’t know if it will ship.

Perhaps I’d be better off writing a letter to Father Christmas…

[Update, 25 November 2013 16:00 – I received a shipping confirmation from Digital River this afternoon.  Still not had the promised contact from Lenovo, or any explanation as to what caused the delay though]

Side by side installation of Office 2013 – watch out for Outlook

For a while now, I’ve been running two versions of Office on my corporate laptop with no problems – Office 2007 from our corporate “gold brick” image and Office 2010 (mostly for functionality I’ve got very used to in Outlook).  After a recent “Patch Tuesday” I started to see some strange behaviour whereby, depending on the method of invocation used, sometimes a 2007 version of an Office application would open, and sometimes a 2010 version.

I’ve had the media and keys for Office 2013 for a while (a properly licensed copy but not supported by our IT department) so I decided to remove 2007 and install 2013.  Because I figured the new UI would take a while to get used to (actually, it hasn’t) and because I wasn’t sure if any macros, etc. would run in the latest versions of Word and Excel (still a possibility), I elected to install 2013 alongside the existing 2010 installation.

It all went swimmingly, until I was having issues with Outlook, which is quite happily connected to our Exchange servers but telling me it isn’t when I want to update my out of office settings or view a colleague’s calendar.  I started to look for Outlook 2010, and found it wasn’t there any more…

Of course, being me, the first thing I did was tweet my bemusement and, being Twitter (and despite being 9pm on a Friday night) I quickly got some responses which told me why (thanks Aaron and Garry).

For those who can be bothered to RTFM, check out Microsoft knowledge base article 2784668 (“Information about how to use Office 2013 suites and programs (MSI deployment) on a computer that is running another version of Office”) or, for a workaround, there’s a TechNet forum post called Outlook 2010 gone in side-by-side installation with 2013″.

<tl;dr>

Outlook 2013 cannot coexist with any earlier version of Outlook. Unless you want to try a complex click-to-run setup…