Stand up infrastructure on a budget with Azure DevTest Labs

Many businesses expect IT teams to do more without giving them more money — and, sometimes, cutting an already…

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small budget. But new projects mean test and development — an expensive endeavor in the data center. One way to alleviate this financial strain is to move those test and development workloads into the cloud.

Running a test environment in the data center is expensive, with high costs connected to hardware, software, power and cooling — not to mention all the time and effort IT spends keeping everything running and properly updated. Instead, administrators can turn to the cloud to develop and test applications in Microsoft’s Azure DevTest Labs. This enables companies to trade in hardware expenses and switch to a pay-per-use model. Other features in the service, such as the auto shutdown for VMs, can further control costs.

In this first part of a two-part series, we explain the merits of using a test bed in Azure and configuring a VM for lab use. In part two, we explore ways to manage the VM in DevTest Labs, as well as benefits gained when a workload moves out of the data center.

What is Azure DevTest Labs?

Many businesses maintain an on-premises test environment that emulates the production environment, which lets development teams test code before it is pushed into production. This also enables other teams within the app dev team to perform usability and integration testing.

But a test environment can have slight variations from the production side. It might not have key updates or patches, or it could run on different hardware or software. These disparities cause the application to fail when it hits the production environment. Azure DevTest Labs address these issues, enabling admins to build an infrastructure that is disposable and adaptable. If the test environment requires drastic changes, the team can remove it and build a new one with minimal effort. In contrast, a typical on-premises production setting generally cannot be offline for very long; the investment in hardware, software and other infrastructure requires lengthy deliberation before IT makes any changes.

The team can turn off DevTest Labs when the test period ends so that resources go away, and there are no costs until the service is needed again.

Creating another lab scenario to test a new feature removes the effort to twist and tweak an existing test environment to bring necessary components online, which can cause problems with other testing scenarios. An on-premises test environment requires sizable expense and effort to maintain and keep in sync with production. In contrast, admins can quickly configure a test setting in Azure DevTest Labs.

What are the benefits of Azure DevTest Labs?

The most noticeable benefits to DevTest Labs include:

  • Pay as you go pricing: The lab only incurs cost when a VM runs. If the VM is deallocated, there are no charges.
  • Specified shutdown: IT staff can configure DevTest Labs to shut down at a certain time and automatically disconnect users. Turning the service off — for example, shutting it down between 5 p.m. and 8 a.m. — saves money.
  • Role-based access: IT assigns certain access rights within the lab to ensure specific users only have access to the items they need.

How do I get started with Azure DevTest Labs?

To set up Azure DevTest Labs, you’ll need an Azure subscription. Sign up for a 30-day trial from the Microsoft Azure site. Go to the Azure Resource Management portal, and add the DevTest Labs configuration from the Azure Marketplace with these steps:

  • Select the New button at the top of the left column in the Azure portal. This will change the navigation pane to list available categories of services and the main blade to a blank screen. As you make selections, this will populate with related information.
  • In the search box, enter DevTest Labs, and press Enter.
  • In the blade that displays the search results, click on DevTest Labs. This will display more information about DevTest Labs and a Create button.
Install Azure DevTest Labs
Figure 1. Find the option to add the Azure DevTest Labs to your subscription from the Azure Marketplace.

Click the Create button. Azure will prompt you to enter configuration settings for the instance, such as:

  • The name of the lab: The text box shows a green checkmark if the value is acceptable.
  • The Azure subscription to use
  • The region where the DevTest Lab will reside: Pick a region closest to user(s) for better performance.
  • If auto shutdown should be enabled: This is enabled by default; all VMs in the lab will shut down at a specified time.

Enter values for these options; items marked with a star are required. Click Create, and Azure will provision the DevTest Labs instance. This typically takes a few minutes to gather the background services and objects needed to build the lab. Click the bell icon in the header area of the Azure portal screen to see the progress for this deployment.

DevTest Labs provisioning
Figure 2. Click the bell-shaped icon in the Azure portal to check the provisioning progress of the DevTest Labs instance.

Once Azure provisions the lab, you can add objects and resources to it. Each lab gets a resource group within Azure to keep all the items packaged. The resource group takes the name of the lab with some random characters at the end. This ensures the resource group name for the lab is unique and ensures the admin manages its resources through DevTest Labs.

To find the lab, select the option for DevTest Labs from the left navigation pane. For new users, it might be listed under More Services at the bottom. When the lab is located, scroll down to the Developer Tools section, and click the star icon next to the service name to pin DevTest Labs to the main navigation list.

Click DevTest Labs in the navigation list to open the DevTest Labs blade and list all the labs. Click on the name of the new lab: techTarget — for the purposes of this article.

Azure DevTest Labs environment
Figure 3. After Azure provisions the lab, the administrator can add compute and other resources.

This opens the blade for that lab. The administrator can populate the lab with compute and other resources. New users should check the Getting Started section to familiarize themselves with the service.

What components can we put in the lab?

DevTest Labs creates sandbox environments to test applications in development or to see how a feature in Windows Server performs before moving it to a production environment.

Administrators can add components to each lab, including:

  • VMs: Azure uses VMs from the Marketplace or uploaded images.
  • Claimable VMs: The IT department provides a pool of VMs for lab users to select.
  • Data disks: You can attach these disks to VMs to store data within a lab.
  • Formulas: Reusable code and automation objects are available to objects within the lab.
  • Secrets: These are values, such as passwords or keys, the lab needs. These reside in a secure key vault within the Azure subscription.

Administrators can modify configuration values and policies related to the lab, change the auto startup and auto shutdown times and specify machine sizes that users can create. To find more information on these items, select My virtual machines under MY LAB in the navigation list. Click Add at the top of the blade to insert a VM.

Add a new VM
Figure 4. Create a new VM with the Add button in the lab.

For the purposes of this article, select Windows Server 2016 Datacenter as the VM base image. The next blade shows the following items that are required to build the VM:

  • VM name: A unique name for the VM.
  • Username: The admin username for this VM — it cannot be administrator.
  • Disk type: Options include solid-state drive or hard disk drive — SSD provides better performance, but will raise the cost of operations slightly.
  • VM size: The number of CPU cores and amount of RAM — after selecting the one you want, click Select.
Configure the lab VM
Figure 5. Make selections to build the VM for the lab. The blades show the options and prices based on the size of the VM.

You can also select artifacts to install when the VM is created, and configure advanced options for the resource. Find more information about artifacts at Microsoft’s Azure documentation site.

For labs with more complex needs, advanced settings let administrators adjust the VM’s networking settings and set the VM as claimable.

When you finish the lab VM configuration, click Create. Azure will do its work, which will take some time to complete.

In the next installment of this article, we will look at VM management in Azure DevTest Labs and different testing scenarios within the service.

Next Steps

A Hyper-V lab can help with certification studies

Explore OpenStack’s capabilities with a virtual home lab

Keep a test VM from affecting the production environment

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For Sale – HP Z800 Workstation

HP Z800

2 * Intel® Xeon® Processor L5630

2.13 GHz

12 MB SmartCache

TDP 40 W

48 GB Ram

Nvidia Quadro 4000

4 2.5inch ssd adapters

500GB Hard Drive

Windows 10 Pro
London based.
Can post ( not sure how much but it is heavy)
£699

Price and currency: £699
Delivery: Delivery cost is not included
Payment method: paypal
Location: London
Advertised elsewhere?: Advertised elsewhere
Prefer goods collected?: I prefer the goods to be collected

______________________________________________________
This message is automatically inserted in all classifieds forum threads.
By replying to this thread you agree to abide by the trading rules detailed here.
Please be advised, all buyers and sellers should satisfy themselves that the other party is genuine by providing the following via private conversation to each other after negotiations are complete and prior to dispatching goods and making payment:

  • Landline telephone number. Make a call to check out the area code and number are correct, too
  • Name and address including postcode
  • Valid e-mail address

DO NOT proceed with a deal until you are completely satisfied with all details being correct. It’s in your best interest to check out these details yourself.

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Windows PowerShell DSC book trains IT to lock down systems

When a server configuration drifts from its approved baseline, bad things happen.

A seemingly innocuous setting change can trigger a catastrophic domino effect that ripples through the data center. A high availability cluster could crumble, or a disaster recovery configuration could collapse just when it’s needed most. To protect the business — and themselves — the IT department should implement a change management tool, such as Windows PowerShell Desired State Configuration (DSC).

Windows PowerShell DSC is a management extension in PowerShell that gives administrators more control over Windows machines. Introduced with PowerShell 4.0, Windows PowerShell DSC builds on that automation tool with its own cmdlets and language extensions to tighten controls on software deployments and server configurations. Windows PowerShell DSC sets a desired state for a server, which the IT department applies to existing or new machines. Administrators set up Windows PowerShell DSC to use push mode to send configurations to machines, pull mode to have the machines retrieve configurations from the server or a combination of these two modes.

In The DSC Book by Don Jones and Melissa Januszko, the authors explain these nuances and why administrators should use Windows PowerShell DSC for more than simple server deployments. The book, which comes in a Forever Edition format, meaning the authors will continually update and expand it, consists of six parts. After an introduction that details why Windows PowerShell DSC exists, the authors get into advanced territory, such as partial configurations and best practices for resource design. The book also covers common trouble spots and error messages in PowerShell DSC, with possible resolutions.

In this excerpt taken from the book’s introduction, Jones and Januszko describe the difference between Windows PowerShell DSC and the Group Policy management tool:

On the surface, DSC and Group Policy seem to serve the same high-level purpose. Both of them enable you to describe what you want a computer to look like, and both of them work to keep the computer looking like that. But once you dig a little deeper, the two technologies are grossly different.

Group Policy is part and parcel of Active Directory (AD), whereas DSC has no dependency on, or real connection to, AD.

The DSC BookThe DSC Book

by Don Jones and Melissa Januszko

Group Policy makes it easy to target a computer dynamically based on its domain, its location (organizational unit, or OU) within the domain, its physical site location, and more. Group Policy can further customize its application by using Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) filters and other techniques. DSC, on the other hand, is very static. You decide ahead of time what you want a computer to look like, and there’s very little application-time logic or decision-making. Group Policy predominantly targets the Windows Registry, although Group Policy Preferences (GPP) enables additional configuration elements. Extending Group Policy to cover other things is fairly complex, requires native C++ programming, and involves significant deployment steps. DSC, on the other hand, can cover any configuration element that you can get to using .NET or Windows PowerShell. Extending DSC’s capabilities is a simple matter of writing a PowerShell script, and deploying those extensions is taken care of by DSC’s infrastructure.

Editor’s note: This excerpt is from The DSC Book, authored by Don Jones and Melissa Januszko, published by Leanpub, 2016.

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The Better Together Beta for Minecraft is here!

The Better Together Beta for Minecraft is here!

The Better Together Update we announced at E3 2017 is designed to unify the console, mobile and Windows 10 PC versions of the game under one single Minecraft edition, which will include infinite worlds, the community Marketplace and community servers (which are coming to the beta later on!). It’ll introduce cross-platform support, allowing console, Windows 10 PC and mobile Minecrafters to play together for the first time! The Better Together Update also brings the biggest collection of new features ever to players on Bedrock Engine platforms (Windows 10, mobile), including the very long awaited and much in demand stained glass, fireworks, PARROTS THAT DANCE, customizable banners, armor stands, jukebox and music discs, recipe book and ravines. And for Windows 10 PC versions, integration with Paint 3D and Remix3D.com, making it easy to export and share 3D creations and inspire others.

It's easy to export and share 3D creations and inspire others.

Who can participate? Players on Windows 10 PC, Android and soon Xbox One are welcome to jump into cross-platform play with other beta testers across all three devices.

Xbox One and Windows 10 PC beta testers will need to have downloaded the Xbox Insider app, and players on Xbox One will need to own a digital version of Minecraft. Beta testers on Android will need to have devices that support Google Play and own a copy of the game purchased through the Google Play Store.

For the full announcement, head over to Minecraft.net!

Windows 10 Tip: How to use Surface Dial with Paint 3D

Whether you’re an artist, student or mobile professional, Surface Dial optimizes your digital workflow by bringing your most-used shortcuts and tools to your screen with simple presses and turns of the Dial. You can also use Dial to do things like play music or skip tracks in Groove Music, scroll through web pages in Microsoft Edge, scroll through documents in Microsoft Word off-screen, and so much more.

Today, we’re going to show you a couple ways you can get started using your Surface Dial with the Paint 3D app in Windows 10.* If you have the new Surface Pro or the Surface Studio, you can use the Dial with Paint 3D directly on your screen.**

Set-up

Make sure you have the Surface Dial connected via Bluetooth to your device. You should be able to press and hold the dial to see a context menu pop-up. Open the Paint 3D app to get started and make sure you are in the Paint 3D app when you are using the Surface Dial to access the features below. The dial will have haptic feedback as you use different features in Paint 3D.

Change the color easily using the color wheel

Change the color easily using the color wheel

It’s super simple to change brush colors. On the Surface Studio, press down on the Surface Dial to select the color palette and the color wheel will pop-up. Turn the Dial and the dot will move to show you what color you have selected. Press down to select the color.

On a Surface Pro device, press down on the Surface Dial to select the color palette. Turn the dial and the color selection in your tool bar will move to the right and left. Press down to select the color.

Be playful as you adjust colors & brushes

There’s no need to stop painting just to change the color or brush thickness. Create seamless tapered strokes by turning the Surface Dial to adjust color, brush thickness, and opacity while drawing.

Click on the art tools button, and select a brush.

Click on the art tools button, and select a brush. To change colors dynamically, press down on the dial and select color palette. Use your pen to draw and turn the dial simultaneously to instantly change from one color to the next. To change the thickness, press down on the dial and choose thickness on the context menu. Press down to select.  Turn the dial to the left to taper the line smaller and to the right to make the line thicker.

Rotate objects while painting

Click on the art tools button and choose a brush and color.

The Surface Dial makes it easy to rotate as you paint. Using your digital pen, use the 3D tools to draw a 3D object or pull a model from the Remix 3D community. Click on the art tools button and choose a brush and color. Start painting on your 3D model and keep your pen stationary while turning the dial to rotate the object underneath.

Hit undo

Press and hold for the context menu, and scroll to the last button, undo.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with easy access to the undo button on the Surface Dial. Press and hold for the context menu, and scroll to the last button, undo. Press down on the dial to select and turn the dial to roll-back any changes you’ve made.

Stamping and stickers

Click on the Stickers Tool and select a pre-made sticker, or upload your own.

Click on the Stickers Tool and select a pre-made sticker, or upload your own. Choose where to position the sticker 3D model and simply press down on the Dial to stamp the sticker onto the 3D object. It’s super fun and easy.

If you don’t have a Surface Dial yet, you can order one here from the Microsoft Store. Head over here for five things you need to know about Surface Dial, or check out tips on getting started using Paint 3D.

In case you missed it, here’s last week’s Windows 10 Tip:

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Have a great week!

*Surface Dial is compatible with any Bluetooth-enabled, Windows 10-enabled PC, laptop, and tablet running on Windows 10 Anniversary Update. 
** Surface Dial is on-screen compatible with Surface Studio and Surface Pro only. 

For Sale – MSI Nightblade B85 i7 4790, 16gb ddr3, GTX 970, Win 10

for sale my trusty gaming PC, only being sold due to having to downgrade to a laptop as i no longer have the space for a desktop setup. specs are as follows MSI Nightblade B85 i7 4790, 16gb ddr3 (2x8gb) i think the board can take upto 32 in 2×16’s, Nvidia GTX 970, Windows 10, 350W 80+ Bronze Power Supply, military grade small form case, this isn’t a giant tower its small and sleek, front has 2 x USB 3.1 Gen 1, 2 x USB 2.0(Bottom one with Super Charger), 1 x Mic in / 1 x Headphone out, back has 1 x PS/2, 1 x Clear CMOS Button, 2 x USB 3.1 Gen1, 4 x USB 2.0, 1 x S/PDIF, 1 x e-SATA, 1 x HDMI, 1 x Display Port, 2 x Antenna Connectors, 802.11 AC wireless, Killer E2200 Gigabit LAN 10/100/1000, bluetooth 4.0.

this is for collection only, from Middleton Manchester M24 area. will not post this. machine will be plugged in for anyone to view/test. can also throw in a gaming monitor (acer G246HLFbid 24 inch) for the buyer at an additional £60, open to sencible offers

pictures to follow shortly

Price and currency: 900
Delivery: Goods must be exchanged in person
Payment method: Cash
Location: middleton, manchester
Advertised elsewhere?: Advertised elsewhere
Prefer goods collected?: I prefer the goods to be collected

______________________________________________________
This message is automatically inserted in all classifieds forum threads.
By replying to this thread you agree to abide by the trading rules detailed here.
Please be advised, all buyers and sellers should satisfy themselves that the other party is genuine by providing the following via private conversation to each other after negotiations are complete and prior to dispatching goods and making payment:

  • Landline telephone number. Make a call to check out the area code and number are correct, too
  • Name and address including postcode
  • Valid e-mail address

DO NOT proceed with a deal until you are completely satisfied with all details being correct. It’s in your best interest to check out these details yourself.

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For Sale – 27″ iMac i7 4GHz | 24GB RAM | 1TB Flash | M295X

Selling my iMac due to lack of use. I do most of my work at home on my new MacBook Pro.

It’s in excellent condition and was bought new from Apple in May 2015 so it’s a little over 2 years old. All I’ve done to it is install 16GB RAM from Crucial to take it up to 24GB as I didn’t fancy paying Apple prices!

It comes boxed with a Magic Mouse and Magic keyboard (not the Keyboard 2 that’s shown in the pic or the trackpad).

Pics:
Imgur: The most awesome images on the Internet

Price and currency: £1650
Delivery: Goods must be exchanged in person
Payment method: BACS
Location: Gloucester
Advertised elsewhere?: Advertised elsewhere
Prefer goods collected?: I prefer the goods to be collected

______________________________________________________
This message is automatically inserted in all classifieds forum threads.
By replying to this thread you agree to abide by the trading rules detailed here.
Please be advised, all buyers and sellers should satisfy themselves that the other party is genuine by providing the following via private conversation to each other after negotiations are complete and prior to dispatching goods and making payment:

  • Landline telephone number. Make a call to check out the area code and number are correct, too
  • Name and address including postcode
  • Valid e-mail address

DO NOT proceed with a deal until you are completely satisfied with all details being correct. It’s in your best interest to check out these details yourself.

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For Sale – i5 6600k SSD PC for sale

Hi all,

Selling my PC as it’s no longer used. Just add a GPU (if required) and you’re good to go.

Purchased last October so still a bit of warranty left. Professionally put together with good cable management. Cooler has also been upgraded from stock.

Pics include spec of what you’ll be getting. No OS and HDD’s will be wiped before dispatch.

Thanks

Price and currency: 375
Delivery: Delivery cost is included within my country
Payment method: PPG, BT
Location: Gloucester
Advertised elsewhere?: Advertised elsewhere
Prefer goods collected?: I have no preference

______________________________________________________
This message is automatically inserted in all classifieds forum threads.
By replying to this thread you agree to abide by the trading rules detailed here.
Please be advised, all buyers and sellers should satisfy themselves that the other party is genuine by providing the following via private conversation to each other after negotiations are complete and prior to dispatching goods and making payment:

  • Landline telephone number. Make a call to check out the area code and number are correct, too
  • Name and address including postcode
  • Valid e-mail address

DO NOT proceed with a deal until you are completely satisfied with all details being correct. It’s in your best interest to check out these details yourself.

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