Converting Large Integers Stored as Floats to NVarChars in SQL (without Scientific Notation)

Converting SQL data types can be a bit finicky, and, at least for this guy, converting a stored, large integer value to a string is not intuitive at all.

I mostly run into this when I import values from some data source like an Excel sheet that stores values like tracking numbers as a float. From there, I usually write a cursor to update tables in my system with these values, and when those tables use a column type of varchar or nvarchar, you have to convert from float type to varchar

One would think that using CAST(varchar(50), TrackingNumber) would do the trick, but when this cast is made, the value is stored in scientific notation.

The real trick is to first convert the int value to a bigint and THEN convert it to a varchar, as shown below:

CONVERT(varchar(50), CONVERT(bigint, TrackingNumber))

Preloading Websites on IIS 7.5

Earlier this year, I built a .Net Core Web Application and deployed it on IIS 7.5. I noticed right away that it was extremely slow on initial load. This was confusing because I tested deployment to Azure and the performance was great. I struggled to figure out why it loaded so slowly but all of my .Net Framework sites ran quickly.

I struggled to find an answer for a long time, but while reading through documentation while setting up another application I came across this bit of information:

http://cdn.rssbus.com/help/ARC/mft/pg_serveriis7dot5.htm

Preloading Applications

You can make use of the preloading feature to have applications running before users connect. In your ApplicationHost.config, add the preloadEnabled attribute to the <application> element associated with the application. The application node is a child element of the sites node:

<sites>
<site name="Default Web Site" id="1">
  <application path="/rssbus" applicationPool="DefaultAppPool"  preloadEnabled="true">
  
  ...

When PreloadEnabled is set to true, IIS will simulate a user request to the default page of the website or virtual directory so that the application initializes.

While it technically is a bit of a workaround since it doesn’t solve the root problem I experience with preloading, it has kept my application loading quickly since I enabled it.

Enabling TLS 1.2 on IIS 7.5 and Discovering a Great Tool (IIS Crypto) Along the Way

TLDR; summary of the fastest way to enable TLS 1.2 on IIS 7.5:

  • Download IIS Crypto at https://www.nartac.com/Products/IISCrypto/
  • Run the executable on your server
  • On the user interface, click the “Best Practices” button (located at bottom left)
  • Click “Apply” (located at bottom right)
  • Reboot Server

The full details:

Today I was contacted by a third-party company that exchanges data with mine and they informed me that they were requiring TLS 1.2 connections as of the new year. Reviewing information about my server’s crypto configuration, I found that, indeed, TLS 1.1 and TLS 1.2 were not enabled.

In setting out to resolve the problem, I ran across a couple of posts that talked about updating registry keys and doing some other messy stuff. And then, I found this post on ServerFault about an awesome tool called IIS Crypto.

From the IIS Crypto website:

IIS Crypto is a free tool that gives administrators the ability to enable or disable protocols, ciphers, hashes and key exchange algorithms on Windows Server 2008, 2012 and 2016. It also lets you reorder SSL/TLS cipher suites offered by IIS, implement best practices with a single click, create custom templates and test your website

Not only is the tool free, it doesn’t even install anything on your machine.

After downloading and running, I looked over the list of available protocols, ciphers, etc. They provide a “Best Practices” button which enables only the protocols, ciphers, etc. that should be enabled using, well, current best practices. This is another awesome feature because the list of everything to review is fairly extensive and not having to do the research myself on these is a huge time saver.

On the program’s menu is a “Site Scanner” tool that will open up a browser and analyze your site. You can use this without running the application. The URL is:

https://www.ssllabs.com/ssltest/analyze.html?d=<your site>&hideResults=on (where <yoursite> is the website you want to analyze)

The analyzer checks your certificate(s), available protocols, and cipher suites, performs handshake simulations with a bevy of operating system / user-agent combinations (well over 50), and analyzes against various attacks. When I first ran the test, the results weren’t so great – there were a number of problems related to my crypto settings.

After reviewing the analyzer, I applied the “Best Practices” settings and restarted the server. Once the server booted back up everything was working and I passed the scanner with flying colors.

For reference, I was working with IIS 7.5 running on Windows Server 2008 R2.

Migrating Azure Resources from one Subscription to Another

I love Azure. It’s a great platform and I’m very happy with the continuing evolution of products and services offered. If you ever have to move resources to a different subscription, there are a lot of little things you have to think about, because sometimes settings are tied to a particular subscription or resource group (which is tied to a subscription).

Some of the non-profit organizations I’ve built applications for have taken advantage of Microsoft’s donation offerings, where they receive Microsoft products and services at a heavily discounted rate. However, these subscriptions often come with a time limit, after which they must be purchased again. When that happens, a new Azure subscription is created and you have to reassign any resources that are under the old subscription to the new one.

The easy part is actually reassigning the subscriptions. There are two ways I see to do this:

  1. Create a new resource group, assigning it to the new subscription ID, and then assign all of the resources you would like to that group
  2. Move the existing resource group to a new subscription. This works better in cases where you have resource groups well-defined
    1. Moving a resource group consists of choosing the resource group in the Azure portal and clicking the “Move,” as shown below:

The trickier part is figuring out any resources that may have been tied to the old resource group name or subscription. Here are a couple I have found:

  • SendGrid (and likely other external/third party applications that can’t use Azure credits) cannot be migrated from one subscription to another. A new API key must be generated for the application(s) of use.
  • Lets Encrypt certificates generated using the extension http://www.siteextensions.net/packages/letsencrypt (detailed in the post http://gagetrader.info/2016/09/27/lets-encrypt-azure-win/) have a couple of keys that are tied to the subscription Id and the resource group. The ones that need to be edited are (to view keys select the resource where the web job was registered from Azure portal -> Application Settings -> Keys section):
    • letsencrypt:SubscriptionId – 7dbf7306-25b3-4e5a-a85a-44017efb9cc5
    • letsencrypt:ResourceGroupName: (New Resource Group Name, if applicable)

    After you have completed this step, you will find that the web job fails with the following message the next time it runs:

    Microsoft.Azure.WebJobs.Host.FunctionInvocationException: Exception while executing function: Functions.RenewCertificate —> Microsoft.Rest.Azure.CloudException: The client ‘xxxxxxxx-xxxx-xxxx-xxxx-xxxxxxxxxxxx’ with object id ‘xxxxxxxx-xxxx-xxxx-xxxx-xxxxxxxxxxxx’ does not have authorization to perform action ‘Microsoft.Web/sites/config/list/action’ over scope ‘/subscriptions/xxxxxxxx-xxxx-xxxx-xxxx-xxxxxxxxxxxx/resourceGroups/MyResourceGroup/providers/Microsoft.Web/sites/MySite/config/publishingcredentials’. at Microsoft.Azure.Management.WebSites.WebAppsOperations.

    This long message basically means that we need to assign the let’s encrypt principal created during the configuration of the extension with the Contributor role. This is fairly straightforward:

    1. Make sure Azure Powershell is installed on your machine (Open the Microsoft Web Platform Installer and find Microsoft Azure Powershell on the list if you don’t have it)
    2. Open Powershell as an administrator and sign in using the command:

      Login-AzureRmAccount

    3. Make sure your new Azure Subscription Id is selected. If not, run the following command:

      Select-AzureRmSubscription -SubscriptionId Your-Subscription-Id-Guid-Here

    4. Run the following command to assign the correct permissions to your new subscription Id:

      New-AzureRmRoleAssignment -RoleDefinitionName Contributor -ServicePrincipalName Your-Service-Principal-Name-From-Extension-Setup

    Once that has been completed, the job should run again and be successful. Now your SSL certificates will continue to auto-renew.

Office 365 – Set Out of Office Response and Forward all User Emails as Exchange Admin

I recently had a member of my organization go on maternity leave, and, because of the way that babies work, she wasn’t able to set an out of office response or a forward.

Thankfully, with Exchange Admin Center, it’s pretty easy to do both.

Setting a User’s Out of Office Response

The first thing is to essentially impersonate a user as the Office Admin:

  1. Navigate to Exchange Admin Center on office.com (you have to be an Administrator to do this, obviously)
  2. Click your Name/Icon in the very upper right-hand corner and choose “Another user…”
  3. Choose the user in your organization that you need to update from the popup window that follows
  4. On the right sidebar of the window that opens for that user, you should see “shortcuts to other things you can do”
    1. In that list is “Set up an automatic reply message”

That’s it. Once you’ve chosen to Set up an automatic reply message, you can format the message however you want (one for internal users and one for external users)

Forwarding a User’s emails

  1. Log into Office 365 Admin Center
  2. Choose Users -> Active Users
  3. Find the User whose email you want to forward and click their name
  4. In the sidebar that opens, expand “Mail Settings” and click “Edit” next to Email Forwarding
  5. Flip forwarding to On and enter the email address where the messages forward
    1. You can optionally choose to keep a copy of the email in the inbox for the original user

Pretty straightforward, but not something I do all that frequently, so I know I’ll forget by the next time I have to do it 🙂

How to Map the Windows Desktop to a Different Folder

I recently setup a computer for a user who likes to store a lot of files on their desktop. However, this is bad if those files aren’t being backed up. I’m a big proponent of using OneDrive, especially since my organization uses Office 365 and they give you 1TB of storage for free for each user license you purchase.

I suggested the user move their desktop files to OneDrive to give them a backup and access from other places, and they mentioned how they are more comfortable with the desktop because they get used to where certain folders and files are organized visually.

It turns out that you can map any folder to the desktop, and it’s easy:

  1. Open Windows Explorer (Win + e)
  2. Right-Click Desktop and choose “Properties”
  3. Click the “Location” tab
  4. Type the location of the directory you want to be the “Desktop” (or click “Move” and browse to the folder)
  5. Click OK

That’s it.

For the user I mentioned above, I created a folder called “Desktop” in their OneDrive for Business folder and mapped the Desktop to that location. Now there are backups and they can use the desktop as they always have.

H/T to this post for the knowledge: Can you change the location of the Desktop folder in Windows?