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Utilizing CAP (Common Alert Protocol) - June 20th, 2012

Rave Alert has been a major project that I have have been assigned to implement. This system provides an easy way of contacting students and staff in case of emergency via email, text message, voice call, Facebook and Twitter. We also use it for snow days and class cancellations. Not too long ago the helpful staff at Rave introduced me to the CAP XML standard. CAP is a standard not just specific to Rave, but many emergency alert systems. It is also used by various government agencies for sharing emergency information over multiple systems.

PHP CAP Alert Function

Once I heard of CAP, I knew we could use this XML standard in various ways to extend the reach of our own emergency alerts. One being the school web page. Here is a small function I put together using PHP that will display an emergency message on a web page:

Just include this code on your PHP page and then call it with the CAP URL location you want to pull from:


CAP Desktop Alerting Software

Taking this a step further, I decided to get a little more familiar with .NET. It was brought to my attention that we were missing a desktop alert component. There are server-based systems out there that require some setup and a good deal of money. After a little thought, I concluded we could meet these same goals with a simple desktop client that used the CAP XML feed to trigger an emergency message. And in a couple days I had something built.

I thought this project warranted creating a Github repository. It’s still a little rough, but by bringing it to git, I’m hoping to get some more interest and input in this project. I’ve made the source code available, so maybe someone will find this code useful to bolster their own emergency alerting using CAP. Please visit my CAP Alerting Desktop repository if you are interested. Any contributions to the code are welcome.

Mentioned Resources:

PHP CAP Alert Function
CAP Desktop Alerting Software

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The Power in Powershell: Creating AD Users From a SQL Database - June 5th, 2012

Part of my current job has become building automation processes for online student services. One of our goals was to get our Active Directory services populated with student data from our student information system, which uses a Microsoft SQL database. After talking with contacts from other schools that use the same system, I was introduced to Powershell.

At a recent conference I attended a presenter referred to Powershell as “Microsoft’s version of Linux bash scripting”. I would wholeheartedly agree with this description. It takes the power of .Net and brings it to the Windows command prompt.

Another nice thing about Powershell is that people have already developed Powershell scripts to interact with AD and SQL that are free to use. The script I am going to demonstrate uses Idera’s Powershell Scripts to do some of the heavy lifting.

I’ve searched the net for examples of scripts that already do this, but didn’t find anything complete enough for my particular situation, so I thought I would include my own solution.

Here is a breakdown of the script:

."C:\path to script\New-IADUser.ps1"

This is an include statement pointing to Idera’s New-IADUser script. This will allow you to later on call the function that creates a user in Active Directory.

$connString = "data source=database location;Initial catalog=database name;uid=user name;pwd=password;"
$QueryText = "SELECT * FROM user table name WHERE this='that'"

Then I’ve defined the strings for connecting to the database. The first string defines the database to connect to and the login information. The second Querytext string contains your query for selecting the desired user information from the database.

$SqlConnection = new-object System.Data.SqlClient.SqlConnection
$SqlConnection.ConnectionString = $connString
$SqlCommand = $SqlConnection.CreateCommand()
$SqlCommand.CommandText = $QueryText

This section creates a connection to the database and queries using the strings defined from the last example.

$DataAdapter = new-object System.Data.SqlClient.SqlDataAdapter $SqlCommand
$dataset = new-object System.Data.Dataset
$data = $dataset.Tables[0]

Then we create a data table object and fill it with information returned from the database. Lastly, I assigned the table data information to a value.

foreach ($data_item in $data.Rows) {
  $name = $data_item[2] + " " + $data_item[3]
  $response = [ADSI]::Exists("LDAP://CN=" + $name + ",OU=user organizational unit,DC=mydomain,DC=com")
  if($response -ne "false") {
    New-IADUser -Name $name -sAMAccountname $data_item[0] -ParentContainer 'OU=user organizational unit,DC=mydomain,DC=com' -Password $data_item[1] -Mail $data_item[4] -EnableAccount -UserMustChangePassword

This foreach statement loops through the various rows in the table object that we created. The $data_item values returned are assuming that the table rows look like this: id number | password | first name | last name | email. The values may vary depending on how you query your database. The third line uses ADSI to check if the user with the name in the row is the same. The next line is a conditional statement that will run the New-IADUser function if the user is not already in Active Directory.

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Rewarding Those That Like You (on Facebook) - April 15th, 2012

A client that I have been working for had an interesting request for me a couple weeks ago. He wanted to create a campaign for his Facebook page where an individual would get rewarded with a free music download for liking the page. This was already accomplished from the Facebook page, but I was curious if such a thing could be done directly from a web site, since Facebook’s button is generated through Javascript code.  What I really wanted to do was create a page redirect to this free music download page once the Like button was clicked.  Here are the steps I’ve done to make this work:

  1. Create an new application and get an app id by going here. Get started and follow the steps after clicking “Create New App”.
  2. Generate the Facebook button code by going here. After you’ve entered in the page you are putting the like button on, click on the “Get Code” button.
  3. When the box pops up, I selected “XFBML”. Also make sure to select the application you created in step one next to “This script uses the app ID of your app:”. Follow the steps that Facebook provides. You will need to add “xmlns:fb=”http://ogp.me/ns/fb#” to your <html> tag.
  4. After the first body tag, place the code that Facebook suggests. This is what I placed:
    <div id="fb-root"></div>
       (function(d, s, id) {
          var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];
          if (d.getElementById(id)) return;
          js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id;
          js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/all.js#xfbml=1&appId=Application ID that was created in the first step";
          fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);
       }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));

  5. Don’t forget to add the Like button where you want it on the page. This code can be placed anywhere you want to appear on the page:
    <fb:like href="The address of the page the button sits on" send="true" width="450" show_faces="true"></fb:like>

  6. Now that all the Facebook code has been added to the page, you’ll need to add a little bit of code for the redirect. Looking at the script that was placed right before the body tag add these lines as shown in bold:
    <div id="fb-root"></div>
    window.fbAsyncInit = function() {
       FB.init({appId: 'Application ID that was created in the first step', status: true, cookie: true,xfbml: true});
       FB.Event.subscribe("edge.create", function(targetUrl) {
         window.location.href = "The address of the page you want to redirect to.";
       FB.Event.subscribe("edge.remove", function(targetUrl) {

    (function(d, s, id) {
       var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];
       if (d.getElementById(id)) return;
          js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id;
          js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/all.js#xfbml=1&appId=Application ID that was created in the first step";
          fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);
    }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));

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Portrait of My Dog and I On a Harley - March 17th, 2012

Enjoying the good weather and the sights. It’s good to see spring here in full force.

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Playing with my Arduino (Board) - October 31st, 2011

Wait!  Although Arduino may sound like Italian slang for a part of the human body I assure you I’ve been occupying myself in other ways.

You may have heard of the Maker Movement and the wonderful interactive projects prototyped using these versatile little boards.  Well, I finally jumped on board myself.  If you look at the schematics below you will see the layout of my very first original project.

Electromagnet Layout

About a month ago I was experimenting with home-made electromagnets and posted this video on Youtube.  This weekend I integrated the electromagnet with Arduino controller.  I’ve put together a video demonstration below showing it in action.

I’ve also included the Arduino code:

const int SWITCH = 9; //pin for the MOSFET
const int BUTTON = 7; //pin for the Button
const int LED = 13; //pin for the LED
int val = 0; //used to store state of input pin
int old_val = 0; //used to store previous value of val
int state = 0; //1 = LED off and 0 = LED on

void setup()
pinMode(SWITCH, OUTPUT); //Map output to MOSFET
pinMode(BUTTON, INPUT); //Map input to Button
pinMode(LED, OUTPUT); //Map output to LED
Serial.begin(300); //Initiate a data connection between the board and a computer

void loop()
val = digitalRead(BUTTON); //Read input value of Button and store it

//check for change in value
if ((val == HIGH) && (old_val == LOW)) {
state = 1 - state;

old_val = val; //store the old value
if (state == 1) {
Serial.println("OFF"); //send off message back to the computer
digitalWrite(SWITCH, LOW); //turn off flow of electricity to magnet
digitalWrite(LED, LOW); //turn off LED
} else {
Serial.println("ON"); //send on message back to the computer
digitalWrite(SWITCH, HIGH); //turn on flow of electricity to magnet
digitalWrite(LED, HIGH); //turn on LED

If I haven’t plugged it enough in the video, I really got a lot out of Massimo Banzi’s “Getting Started with Arduino” book. I believe it to be a must-read for any noob using these controller boards. The illustrations and examples are very simple to follow. I also referenced the Arduino web site: arduino.cc in the video.

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