Unable to Create a new blank workbook with O365 Excel Online app.

I recently had an issue with a client being unable to edit or create new workbooks or documents with the online web based versions of Excel and Word with the Microsoft 365 applications. If he logged into office.com and opened the Excel app and then clicked on the “Blank Workbook” he would get the following error.

Unable to create new workbooks
We’re unable to create a new workbook at this time. Please try again later.

The same sort of error would occur if he used Word to create a blank document. In addition any effort to open an existing document would result in an error message. An attachment in OWA could be previewed but if he attempted to edit it it would also error out.

Google searches of the error message turned up very few results and most of them ( like https://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/msoffice/forum/all/were-unable-to-create-a-new-workbook-at-this-time/87207107-a376-4ca4-9dc7-2abc0b3ff578 ) indicated a problem with his license or the cache in his browser. The user had a Business Standard license, the desktop apps all worked, and removing and restoring the license had no effect. The problem existed no matter which browser was used and across multiple systems.

The user was a relatively new addition to our tenant and there was an error when his account was created with the wrong username. The name change may have had something to do with the issue. I struggled with it for a bit and then put in a support ticket with Microsoft. Between the support agent and myself we finally determined that the problem was with the OneDrive storage. Although his account info said that he had OneDrive set up it did not exist. Any attempt to go to onedrive.com took you to Delve instead. After manually creating it everything worked.

From the support ticket wrap-up email.

Resolution Steps:=====

  • In the SharePoint admin center, Settings
  • Click user profiles, click Manage User Permissions.
  • Add users who require permissions to create their My Sites By default, this setting is set to Everyone except external users.
  • After you have added the user, users, or group, make sure that the added user, users, or group are selected, scroll to the Permissions section, and then select the checkbox next to Create Personal Site (required for personal storage, newsfeed, and followed content).
  • Click OK, and then have the user browse to the OneDrive ( https://portal.office.com/onedrive ) page to create the site.

I hope this helps someone with the same issue.

Dec 16, 2022 – A further note to this post. This has happened a number of times with this one particular tenant. The proper solution is to follow the steps above but instead of giving just the individual user the permissions required add the entry for Everyone except external users (the default was missing) and give that group the required permissions (Create Personal Site, Follow People and Edit Profile, Use Tags and Notes). https://learn.microsoft.com/en-ca/sharepoint/troubleshoot/sites/troubleshooting-guide-for-sites-stopped-at-provisioning?WT.mc_id=365AdminCSH_SupportCentral

Computer environmental crisis. (or why sysadmins drink)

In a previous post http://www.wiseoldcat.com/?p=176 I wrote about how to block dictionary attacks with iptables and an adaptive blacklist. I’ve moved the script to several different hosts and it worked on all of them but one. It’s an aging CentOS 5.5 system (I know, I know, it should be updated.) For some reason it wasn’t picking up on the active BLACKLIST entries. It would do its thing just fine when run from the bash prompt but not when run from crontab. Turns out it has to do with the environment.

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Blocking dictionary attacks with an adaptive iptables firewall. (CentOS)

As anyone knows who has ever administered a server that is exposed to the web the Internet is a hostile place. Our servers are continually bombarded with a never ending stream of attempts to guess user ids and passwords. The source is from countless botnets and is constantly changing. I’ve tried a number of approaches to counter these attacks and I think I have come up with a solution that seems to be working.

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Blocking SMTP brute force attacks with iptables on CentOS

Recently our email servers have come under sustained brute force attacks by script kiddies doing dictionary attacks. These go on for 24 hours a day from a variety of sources including pools of IP addresses that alternate probes from a common dictionary. These were flooding the maillog with authentication errors at a rate in excess of one every 10 seconds or so.

Iptables in the Linux network stack has the ability to look inside of a packet and match a string. We’ll use that feature to pick out authentication errors on the outbound side in order to block them on the inbound side.

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Filtering Spam by keyword in Microsoft Exchange Server

The latest wave of blackmail scam emails is becoming a genuine PITA. Script-kiddies are harvesting email addys, username and password combinations from the released lists from hacked sites like LinkedIn or MySpace or via dictionary attacks on mail servers and then sending out blackmail emails. They are kinda comical unless you happen to be really stupid and are in the habit of going to pornhub for 10 minutes at a time. There must be enough of those kind of lusers to make it profitable… Here are some sample emails.

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Windows Server Backup – Restoring files from a scheduled backup disk created on another system.

Restoring a Windows Server Backup to a Different Server

Something that is not very well documented is the process of recovering a backup created on one server to a different one using Windows Server Backup. When you browse a disk that was part of a scheduled backup the contents are protected by the security settings on the file system. We recently had to recover some files that were on a 2 TB hard drive that was part of a scheduled backup on a Server 2008 R2 system that had been subsequently virtualized and was running under Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V. Attaching the disk to the VM was not an option and the WSB utility in Server 2012 wouldn’t recognize any backups on the hard drive.

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Windows Server Backup – Email backup status notifications

Windows Server Backup does a reasonably good job of backing up a Microsoft Server. But like any backup it’s good to have some sort of notification about the success or failure of the backup. I first started to use it with SBS Server 2011 and as part of that bundle the server emails a daily report summarizing the health of the server. When we virtualized and moved a number of SBS servers over to Hyper-V hosts the backup chore moved to the host machine. The summaries still arrived but the backup status was no longer part of it. Besides, it would be nice to be able to see in the subject of the email the status of the backup and not have to open the email if all is good.

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