Get Started with Active Directory Certificate Services

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Today I happened to read about Active Directory Certificate Services while setting up certificate based authentication between SCOM agents in DMZ and the management servers. I felt I should jot down the stuff I’ve read about AD CS in layman terms so that it helps a newbie (like me) to quickly get started with Certificate Services.

What is Active Directory Certificate Services?

Active Directory Certificate Services provide services to issue and manage digital certificates used by either software applications, computers or users to ensure authenticity between the two communicating parties.

It involves a Certificate Authority which will receive certificate requests, verify the information in the request and identity of the requestor and issue the certificates. It can also revoke the issued certificates if needed and it publishes the revoked certificates to a location called Certificate Distribution Point (CDP) and periodically updates clients with the changes made to Certificate Revocation List (CRL).

How do I install Certificate Authorities?

Certificate Authorities are generally maintained by third party Certificate Authorities like VeriSign, GoDaddy, Comodo, etc. However, for internal use, CAs can be installed by the individual firms within their domain or forest. Internal CAs are cheaper to configure and unlike certificates issued by external CA, there is no cost for certificates issued by internal CAs.

CA is a windows component in Windows 2003 Server which can be installed through Add/Remove Components feature in Add or Remove Programs wizard. And in Windows 2008 servers, it is a server role that can be installed through Server Manager.

Are there any types of CAs?

Yes, CAs are of two types – Enterprise CA and StandAlone CA.

  • Enterprise CA allows creation of custom templates for certificates but StandAlone CA do not.
  • Enterprise CA let you leverage AD services (e.g., Kerberos authentication and Group Policy) to automate many of the tasks associated with PKI.
  • Computers part of a domain automatically trust certificates issued by the enterprise CA in the domain. In case of StandAlone CA, you must explicitly add the CA’s self-signed certificate (Root Certificate) to the Trusted Root CAs store on each computer in the domain.
  • Enterprise CA allow you to automate certificate request and approval process whereas the certificate requests have to be manually approved for issuing a certificate in case of StandAlone CA.
  • Enterprise CA stores its certificate information in AD and they have to be configured as domain controllers.
  • StandAlone CA stores its certificate data in a shared folder which can be accessed through a Web URL (Default: http://<CAServerName>/CertSrv).
  • Also, Enterprise CAs have been tested for clustered installations.

What are the methods available to request a certificate?

A certificate can be requested from Certificate Authority in three methods:

  1. Using Certificate wizard that comes in IIS 6.0 and using Server Certificates feature in IIS7
  2. Using web URL of CA (Default: http://<CAServerName>/CertSrv)
  3. Creating a INF file with the certificate properties and submitting the request using CertReq.exe command line tool.

What are the consoles available for managing Certificate Servers and Clients?

Certification Authority console: It is a MMC snap-in used to configure CA properties, issue and manage certificates, publish CRLs, etc.

Certificates Console: The MMC snap-in allows you to browse the certificates stores (Personal, Trusted Root CA, Third-Party Root CA, etc.) of a user or a computer and import/delete certificates.

Certificate Templates console: The MMC snap-in allows you to create and manage certificate templates.

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Sri Kalahasti-Kanipakam-Tirupati-Sripuram-Vellore Fort-Jalakandeswarar Temple-Arunachalam

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From quite a long time we wanted to visit Tirumala and Sri Kalahasti but we were unable to make it.  And all of a sudden on a Thursday we tried booking railway tatkal tickets & the tickets were confirmed for Friday night’s journey.  Now we have tickets but we neither have accommodation nor a plan but we had a luxury to spend four days if we wanted to.  After some pondering we shortlisted the places to visit.

Day 1 

Sri KalahasthiStarted at 8:05 PM on Friday from Kacheguda by Venkatadri Express and reached Tirupati at 8:30 AM.  Got accommodation near the railway station and freshened up.  As planned, took a bus to Sri Kalahasti after the breakfast and reached there by 12:00 PM.  This temple is 36 Km away from Tirupati and took an hour to reach.  Lord Shiva represents 5 basic elements of nature in Linga form and this temple is one of the Pancha Bhoota Stalams representing Vayu (Air).  There are legends of Bhaktha Markandeya, Bhaktha Kannappa etc here.  Once you get down of the bus and start walking towards the temple you will see many shops on both sides of the lane telling you that they are the Devasthanam’s cloak rooms and the electronic items, footwear and luggage can be left there as they are prohibited inside the temple.  But those are cloak room services from villagers.  You can trust & leave your belongings in their lockers or politely deny and walk ahead.  Once you reach near the temple gate, on the right side you can see the footwear stand of Devastham.  Once you leave your footwear and get into the temple you will see Devasthanam’s lockers on to your right that deposit luggage and electronic items.  Once done you are all set for the divine blessings of Lord Sri Kalahasteeswara.  Also many come here to perform Rahu Kethu Sarpa Dosha Nivarana Puja to get rid of any doshas they have.  There are three kinds of tickets to perform the puja – 300, 750 & 1500… all the puja materials are provided along with the ticket.  This puja is done on all days every one hour from 6 AM to 6 PM.  Also in the temple premises there is Sri Pathala Vinayaka temple (an underground temple of Lord Vinayaka).  It has a very narrow entry into the temple, one has to bend & kneel to get in.  After the Lord Sri Kalahasteeswara’s darshan we spent some time inside the temple wondering at the architecture and the stone sculptures.  Inside the temple there is a shop that sells Sri Kalahasti Dairy Products like Abhishekam Milk, Ice-cream, Badam Milk, Khoya (Mava) etc… prices are cheaper compared to the cities we live in and the taste is good too.  By the time we went to buy, Badam milk & all other flavours of ice cream were sold out.  So watch out the next time you go.  After having ice creams we started back to Tirupati.

KanipakamFrom Tirupati’s APSRTC bus station we took another bus to Kanipakam at platform# 41 and it was 7:00 PM by the time we reached.  It is around 80 Km from Tirupati.  The temple closes at 9:30 PM but the last bus to return to Tirupati was at 8:30 PM.  So we effectively had 90 min for darshan.  There is an entry from Kanipakam bus station towards the temple.  We have to deposit the luggage, footwear and electronic items in three different counters and make an entry.  There is a sheegra darshan ticket available but we took dharma darshan entry as we asked around and got to know that there isn’t any queue inside.  We got darshan in 15 min and spent some time inside relaxing.  Once you come out of the exit there is a gundam (pond) and to the other side of the gundam you will see a temple of Lord Venkateshwara.  Also there is Ardhagiri Anjaneya Swamy temple at around 15 Km distance from Kanipakam.  Looks like there are buses available from Kanipakam in the morning but autos are available throughout the day.  It is believed that one who drinks water from Sanjeevaraya Pushkarini (lake) here gets rid of all diseases.  We did not have enough time to visit this place and headed back to Tirupati at 7:45 PM.  We reached Tirupati at 9:30 PM, had dinner and retired for the day.

Day2 

Srivari MettuThe next day we planned to wake up at 3:00 AM in the morning and climb up the seven hills.  Generally most of the devotees walk from Alipiri which takes around 4 hours to reach Tirumala.  Due to the previous day’s streesfull journey,we couldn’t wake up on time and we reached bus station by 6:00 AM.  While waiting for the bus, we got to know that there is another walk way from Srinivasa Mangapuram called Srivari Mettu to reach Tirumala.  This is the path taken by Lord Venkateshwara and Sri Padmavathi Devi to reach Triumala after their wedding.  It has around 2500 steps and takes about 1 hr 30 min to reach Tirumala.  We were excited to take this new route as we haven’t seen it earlier and it takes less time.  We hired an auto and reached Srivari Mettu.

So we started climbing up the steps at aroud 6:30 AM.  Note that foot wear is not allowed on walkways.  Unlike Alipiri, this route is a continuous array of steps without even a yard of plain.  Initially we were full of energy and we climbed around 1200 steps rapidly.  We then started feeling pain in the legs, feet, thighs and a steep rise in pulse.  We had to take breaks for every 50 to 70 steps.  Finally, we reached the hill top by 8:15 AM and it is a very exhaustive exercise.  We were issued Divya Darshanam (exclusive tickets for people taking walk way) tickets while climbing up the stairs.  Usually there are 3 to 4 varities of Darshanam tickets – Sarva Darshanam or Free Darshanam (takes the longest time of all), Special Darshanam for people who buy Rs. 50 ticket (takes moderate amount of time),  Seeghra Darshanam for people who buy Rs. 300 ticket or who book Sudarshan tokens online and Divya Darshanam for pedestrians  walking up to the hill top, be it from Alipiri or Srivari Mettu (takes approximately the same time as Seeghra Darshanam).

Uyyala SevaViews from hill top are scenic.  We spent some time admiring the nature and capturing it in camera.  We joined Divya Darshanam queue at Vaikuntam Queue Complex# 1 at around 8:30 AM and sat in a waiting hall for around 5 hours.  Then the gates were opened and people plunged out of the hall.  We walked through different corridors, barricades and walk ways before reaching the temple main gate.  First gate is silver plated and the second is gold plated.  Tirumala is one of the richest temples in the world.  After Darshanam we visited temples of Vakuala mata, Vinayaka, Varaha Swamy etc located in the same premises.  Free lunch and dinner will be served at Tarigonda Vengamamba Anna Prasada complex.  We had dinner and it was tasty.  After coming out we watched Uyyala Seva of Lord Venkateshwara.  Also there is a Kala Vedika where the cultural programmes are performed.  It starts at 6:00 PM in the evening & continues for an hour.  That day there was a Kathak dance performace by Kankana Bhattacharya from Kolkata.  We watched both events and took a bus back to Tirupati.  It was 9:00 PM and we were off to bed after dinner.

Day 3

The following day we checked out and went to railway station.  We bought a ticket from Tirupati to Katpadi station.  Sheshadri Express arrived at 6:00 AM to Tirupati and reached Katpadi in 1 hour 30 min.  From Katpadi we hired an auto to Sripuram and it was a 20 min journey.  We could have also taken a bus from Tirupati to Vellore which is around 120 Km and will take two and a half to three hours.  And from Vellore we can hire an auto or take another bus to Sripuram.  Secured our luggage, electornic items and foot wear in the counters available at temple.  Similar to other temples, it has free and special darshan modes.  As it was early in the morning, temple was not crowded and we joined free darshan queue.  We sat in a waiting hall for about 20 min.

SripuramThe temple is built in 100 acres of land and depicts the contemporary style.  You will find a well oragnised and maintained gardens, lights and fountains around the place.  In the center of the garden, a pond is built and filled with water from sacred rivers in the country.  Lakshmi Devi temple is built in the center of this pond.  The temple doors, pillars, roof, gopuram is all gold plated and well crafted.  On the whole, it is a very good treat for eyes.  The place looks even more spectacular in the evenings with the gardens and fountains illuminated with decorative lights and the temple illuminated with large chandeliers.  To reach temple from the waiting hall, devotees should walk through the long corridors and they are built in such a way that devotees will get a full view of the beautiful place before reaching the temple.  After Lakshmi Devi darshan, we collected our luggage and headed to Vellore old bus station.

JalakandeswararIt was 11:00 AM by the time we reached Vellore bus station.  We went to Vellore Fort located right opposite the bus station and Jalakandeswarar Temple inside the fort.  Main deity of the temple is Lord Shiva & it has finely crafted huge gopurams.  One thing we noticed different in the temple is they decorated a cow and worshipped it as Gomatha.  People were allowed to feed Gomatha with green grass.  It is believed that all the 30 million Hindu deities reside in Gomatha and Goseva (serving cows) will nullify the person’s sins and gets good fortune.  We then visited a Naga devatha temple located inside the fort and reached Vellore old bus station.

TiruvannamalaiWe took a bus at 1:00 PM to Tiruvannamalai also known as Arunachalam.  This temple is located around 82 Km from Vellore and is dedicated to Lord Shiva.  Lord Shiva represents 5 basic elements of nature in Lingam form and this temple is one of the Pancha Bhoota Stalams representing Agni (Fire).  We reached Tiruvannamalai bus station and from there we have to walk for around 15 min or can hire an auto to the temple.  We reached temple by 3:00 PM and deposited our luggage in lockers.  The first impression you get is the humongous size of gopuram, this is considered to be the second tallest gopuram in South India and is 217 feet tall.  I have visited temples earlier but never seen such a gopuram.  It looks reaching the sky and as we get closer you will notice the sculptures on the gopuram, every possible inch has been sculpted.  There are 4 such gopurams on four directions and the entrance is from the east gopuram called Raja Gopuram.  The other three are called Thirumanjana gopuram, Ammaniammal gopuram, Pei gopuram.  After the security check you are allowed to roam inside the temple.  The first temple you see is of Lord Bala Subramanya and a thousand pillared Mandapam.  I guess the distance between outer East & West or North & South gopurams is close to a kilometer.  Inside the outer compound wall there is another compound wall having 3 smaller sized gopurams except West.  In the center we have the temple of Lord Arunachaleshwara.  The temple is a scenic beauty with the back drop of Annamalai hills behind the west gopuram and in the evening with the sun setting it was a feast to watch.  You will be stunned, I bet.  After the darshan we were heading back to the Raja gopuram and a train of thoughts were running in my head like I wanted to spend the night inside watching the awe-inspiring temple.  We picked our luggage and headed back to Vellore at 5:30 PM.  On the way back booked online bus tickets for Hyderabad from Vellore.  Reached Vellore New bus station, had dinner & boarded the bus.

 That is it –the three day pilgrimage ends there.

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Rava Laddu

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Ingredients:

Upma Rava/Suji/Semolina – 3 cups

Grated coconut – 2 cups

Sugar – 2.5 cups

Any dry fruits/nuts – 1 cup or as many you like.

Elaichi/Cardamom – 6 nos

Milk – 3/4 cup

Ghee – 1/2 cup

Preparation:

Making Rava LadduPlace a wide mouthed bowl on stove and add ghee.  Once the ghee heats up add Rava to it and fry it till it just starts to change color.

Then add grated coconut & fry together with Rava till the mixture turns into light brown.  Turn the stove off.

Rava LadduNow grind sugar along with cardamoms/elaichi and add it to the mixture.  Take another pan, add ghee and fry dry fruits/nuts till they turn color.  Now add it to Rava and mix it well.  Then add milk to the mixture & mix it nicely.  Now take a small portion of the mixture and using your palms make them into balls of desired size.  That is it… Repeat the process till all the mixtue is used up.  Take care not to let the mixture cool down completely otherwise it will be a bit difficult to make balls.  Let the Laddus cool down.  They are ready to eat now.

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Import calendar items from a pst to another

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Every year I create a new pst and make it default to receive emails from exchange server.  Now the new pst starts receiving new emails / calendar items but you will be loosing the  calendar items from last year’s pst.  You might be needing the recurring calendar items.  Here is how you can import calendar items from a pst to another.

From outlook select File | Import and Export

From the wizard select Import from another program or file and clik Next

Then select Personal Folder File(.pst) and click Next

Browse to location where the last year pst is and select one of the Options and click Next

Select Calendar from the pst and choose to Import items into the same folder in and click Finish.

Your calendar items will be copied over from last year’s pst to the one you selected

All the calendar items are copied over but it should not be problem… the ones that occur in the past are anyway not going to give you reminders again.  The recurring items would be the ones that reminds you.

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