It’s been a while since I’ve posted. Not being a full-time programming, I get periods of time where I’m swapped with work and don’t get to do much coding or writing. Recently, I attended the Datto Partner Conference, followed by playing catch up, followed by my CEO coming to town, which means hunkering down and planning strategy, and finally catch up again. One cool thing I learned recently about Datto is they use python for their Shadowsnap agent. Pretty cool seeing python used in products we use.

Anyways, the reason for this post is I’m working on a project that requires a database. I started it with MySQL, but then decided I should check out some of the more modern databases. That led me to looking into MongoDB. For those of you not familiar, MongoDB is not a relational database management system. It store documents which are similar to a record in sql, but documents do not have to be strictly defined and populated. For example, you may have a users database. One user could have username, full name, and email address. Another user could have username, full name, email address one, and email address two. Also, you can embed documents within documents. For example, you could embed photos with name, description, tags, etc in the users document. It’s pretty cool stuff.

One of the things I needed to do was store usernames and passwords. In MySQL, you can use the password() function to hash the password and store it. From what I’ve read, MongoDB doesn’t have this feature, so you need to do it yourself. Since I first implemented this in MySQL, I had to figure out how to take the login information from a user, hash the password to match what’s stored in the MySQL database and compare it to authenticate the user. Having already did that, I figured why not just use that same method for hashing the password to store in MongoDB. The password would be hashed like MySQL’s password() function.

Here are some sample functions in which you can setup user logins that are specific to a company. This would be for a site or application that hosts a service for multiple companies. You can have duplicate usernames, because they are associated with the company document. The company documents are unique. You could easily change these to create user documents instead and have unique user logins.

If you have any questions or comments, let me know. This is the first time I’ve messed with MongoDB and still learning Python, so I’m sure there are some stupid mistakes. Don’t hesitate to point them out.

Oh yeah. The reason I had the Mongo connection lines in multiple functions instead of at the top of the file was with the app I’m working on, these were in a separate module. I called the functions from another python module.

Here’s sample output.


As with most of my python programs so far, this was inspired by a real need I had with my day job. We manage our clients networks utilizing Labtech’s RMM. Part of this is patch management. One of our clients needed some type of monthly report showing what patches got installed. Unfortunately, there isn’t a great canned report in Labtech to show this.

Labtech uses Crystal Reports, so I’m sure I could make a report to display this. The problem is two fold with doing it this way. One, I don’t know Crystal Reports, and two, Crystal Reports is as fast as a 28800 modem (how did we survive those?).

Since I’m learning Python and haven’t done anything with database access yet, I figured this would be the perfect place to start.

To talk to the MySQL database, I’m using mysql.connector. Here’s the run down of what this script does.

First, I wanted the ability to store the login information for the database, so I used code I wrote in the past to encrypt this into a file.  I put this code into a separate file called encryptconfig.py, which I import into the ltpaches.py file.

Also, I wanted to play around with the argparser module, so I used that to create all the command line parameters. It definitely makes it a lot simpler than the manual way I’ve done this in the past.

One last thing of note. You’ll notice the get patches function looks a little cumbersome. The reason is a record isn’t based on a patch. It’s based on an install of patches. That can be 1 patch or 100 patches. The record is one record either way. What I had to do was split the field that shows the patches installed and make each one it’s own record in the list. I also had to exclude the line that says “Updates require a reboot”.

Once I got this working, I simply ran the script with the -sl parameter to save the login details to a file. Then I created a scheduled task to run it with the “-ul passphrase” parameter.

Here’s the code from ltpatches.py.


Here’s the encryption.py code.





To date, I’ve only been able to write little command line programs that I needed for various tasks like getting average latency between offices. Command line utilities are great for sys admins, and they are fine when it’s just something I need personally. As soon as you want to provide a utility to a regular user, you better put a GUI in front of them, or they are going to act like you asked them to play Tank in the Matrix.

The first gui app I built was an expansion of a command line app I wrote for exporting the Exchange Global Address List. The command line app exported it to CSV, which was all I needed for my purposes. I wrote it so I could email an updated email list for a client of mine to their offices in Shanghai, which has it’s own email system.

Having been asked about how to print out the GAL many times over the years, I decided to write a gui app for regular users and give them the ability to pick the fields they wanted. Here’s what the app looks like.


So how did I learn to write this? First I watched a couple basic Youtube videos and skimmed through this PyQt4 tutorial. The tutorial was great to give me an idea of how the code functions. It gave me a place to start, although I still felt like I was missing a lot. The best way for me to learn once I have a little understanding is to just jump in and get at it.

Now, I know some people might not like this, but I learned the fastest by jumping into QT Designer. After poking around, I quickly figured out how to draw up my screens.  OK, I have the screen designed. Now what?

I got stuck here for a second until I found out how to convert the file you create with QT Designer into a python file. You do that with the “pyuic4” command. Here is the command I used.

“pyuic4 -x -o pythonfilename.py qtdesignerfilename.ui”

The -x will put a main function in at the end, so you can run the script and get your gui. This isn’t necessary with the way you will eventually want to write your app. More on that later. The -o is to specify your output file name and the last file name is the QT Designer file.

Wow, I can launch the gui now, but guess what? I doesn’t do anything. How do I put code in to make it work. I remember when I learned a little VB back in school. It was simple in VB. Just double click the object and start typing your code. Not so with with Python. Well, back to Youtube in search of how to make buttons, checkboxes, etc work.

After watching a couple videos, I found that you need to put something similar to the following line of code into the function you have that sets up your ui.

Self is referring to the class itself. btnClose is referring to the close button I drew on the gui. Clicked is what action is being taken on the button and connect is what calls the action (function) you want to take. In this case, it’s going to call a function called buttonClicked. Now all you have to do is put the code in the buttonClicked function. I basically used this same line for every button, and then my buttonClicked function checks to see which button was clicked.

In this example, lets say you click the Close button. That calls the buttonClicked function, which will have something similar to the following if statement:

This gets the text of the button and compares it to see if it equals “Close”. If so, the program exits. Seems pretty simple right.

Once you see how to do something for one object, it’s easier to figure out the other ones. Two invaluable resources are the list of PyQt classes and the list of PySide classes. Using these two sites, you can pretty much figure out how to change objects, how to read their properties, etc.

One example of reading objects properties would be the check boxes for the fields in the above screen. All I did (not sure it’s the best way) was check the value of isChecked for each of the checkboxes when the Export button was clicked. Using if statements to see if they were checked, I built a list of the fields the user requested. Here’s the code.

I’m sure you get the idea. Now,let’s get back to what I was saying about not needing the execution code at the bottom of the python file. You do not necessarily need that other than to test out what the gui looks like. When you actually write your app, you’ll want most of your logic in a separate python file. To get the gui, you’ll import the python file you made with pyuic4. The reason you’ll want to do this is in case you want to change your gui. If you change your gui and run pyuic4 again, you are going to lose all your code. By keeping your logic code in a separate file, you can change the gui and run pyuic4 until your hearts content.

One last thing you are probably wondering is what’s the difference betwen PyQt and PySide. From what I understand, it comes down to licensing. I don’t think I’m knowledgeable enough to talk about functionality. PySide has a much more flexible licensing model. The nice thing is they are very much a like. If you write your app in PyQt and want to change, simply change your import statements, and you should be able to get almost everything to work. I had a few exceptions.

On the second app I wrote, I had password fields. Changing the echo for the password field is different between the two, but not significantly. You just have to hit those two sites I listed above, and you can figure out the differences. I’ll be writing more about the second app here shortly and posting code. You’ll get to see PySide in action.

As always, let me know what you think. I learn a lot by just jumping in, but I’m sure I do a lot of bad things as well.


Last week, I was in Business Continuity training in Philadelphia with DRII.org. We were discussing RTOs, recovery time objectives, and it got me thinking about the backup/disaster recovery service we offer.

Our backup solution utilizes Storagecraft’s Shadowprotect to take snapshots of the server on a regular basis, typically hourly. Once a day, a snapshot if sent offsite to bi-coastal datacenters. In the event of a disaster, our clients can have their servers virtualized in the cloud and access them via a VPN or via Citrix if that client has Citrix servers also being backed up.

The reason this came to mind while I was in training about business continuity, where we really were not discussing technology at all, is although we know we are able to recover the servers in the cloud from testing them, we really haven’t had a consistent experience in bringing those servers online. There are several obstacles that present themselves when doing fail over testing. Some of these only happen during testing, but in a live event, wouldn’t matter.

First, we have management agents installed on each server for monitoring, maintenance, and support. These agents have unique ids associated with them. If we do a fail over test that has internet access, both the live and the test fail over server have the same unique ids leading to a ton of false alarms and confusion. The second problem is when the servers come up in the virtual environment, they have a new NIC. This NIC doesn’t have the same configuration it had in the live environment. It’s assigned an IP by the network you configured during the failover, which only gives you the options for network, subnet mask, and gateway. This creates the problem of none of the servers being able to find the domain controllers. You may quickly get the server booted up virtually, but try logging in and it could take quite some time. Then after you login, you  need to reconfigure the network on the DCs followed by all the other servers and reboot.

So I’m sitting in the class thinking about how to fix this, so when we do a test failover, it’s quick and predictable. Here’s what I’m working on to resolve this. Let me know if you see any flaws or have any advice on the best way to code this.

First, I’m going to have to create a python script that runs as a service, so that it runs before anyone ever logs in. In order for this to run on the servers we fail over to, it needs to run on the live servers as well. This is where I have to be careful. As far as what the script is going to do, here’s what I have figured out so far.

1. It’s going to check the IP address to see if it’s in the range I’m setting up for the failover test network. This network will not be the same network as any network at any of our clients. If it determines it’s part of the network, it moves on to the rest of the script. If not, it exits.

2. The script goes through all the agent services that we don’t want running and disables them.

3. After disabling the services, it goes through those services and stops them.

4. The last configuration change is the script will set the IP address to a predetermined IP address. These settings will be planned out before hand and saved to a configuration file on the live server. When the server is virtualized from a recent backup, the configuration file will be there.

5. Lastly, the script will reboot the server to make sure it refreshes communication with the domain controllers. When the service starts again after the reboot, it will have to check the configuration file to see if the IP has already been set. If so, it will exit. (Just thought of this as I was typing this up)

This should save us and clients a ton of setup time for failover testing and let us have a more predictable RTO in a live scenario.

So far I’m using the winreg module and the win32serviceutil module. I haven’t got to the IP configuration part yet. Once I get this coded up, I’ll put another post out with the code. If you have any input now or recommendations, let me know.