Monday, 30 April 2007

SBS - Exchange 2003 Post SP2 Install MUST DO - Intelligent Message Filter

For those of us who do not read the release notes, when Exchange 2003 Service Pack 2 installs, along with it comes the new and improved Intelligent Message Filter (IMF) version 2.

If one had installed the original Exchange IMF version 1 add-on, one needed to uninstall it before running SP2.

Once installed, there is an important issue that is pointed out under the Known Issues area of the release notes:
Microsoft Exchange Intelligent Message Filter Exchange Server 2003 SP2 does not create the registry key named ContentFilter under HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Exchange during an upgrade from Exchange Server 2003 or Exchange Server 2003 SP1, where Intelligent Message Filter version 1 was not previously installed. Therefore, to obtain an extended functionality (for example, change the Archive directory), you must manually create the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Exchange\ContentFilter key and restart the SMTP service.
So, if you are like me, we both knew about the IMF and were looking forward to enabling the feature to bring down our client's spam levels right?

Okay, so after applying SP2 to Exchange we go and enable it:

Then we head up to our Message Delivery Properties and set everything as follows:

Note the Gateway Blocking Configuration setting to archive e-mail caught in the IMF.

If we read the release notes, then we would have discovered that when Exchange SP2 was installed along with the IMF, that the proper registry settings do not get inserted for the archive folder location!

We need to create that folder first of all, then run the registry editor to setup the following key and data:

The key is ContentFilter, the String Value "ArchiveDir" is your above created directory, in our case: "C:\UCEArchive".

If the above folder is not created, where does the e-mail go? Hopefully on to the e-mail client. If not, you can bet that your client will be calling you with the elusive "missing e-mail" complaint.

It should become second nature to follow through on the above configuration on all new servers that we build, or subsequent servers we come to service pack Exchange 2003 up to level 2.

Exchange Service Pack 2 Release Notes.

Exchange Server Intelligent Message Filter V2 Operations Guide.

FAQ about Intelligent Message Filter (MS KB555602).

MS KB912587: Exchange Server 2003 Intelligent Message Filter does not provide the functionality to exclude a particular recipient from anti-spam filtering.

The Microsoft Exchange Team Blog: Exposing SCL (Spam Confidence Level) in Outlook.

UPDATE 07-10-11: Made a technical change. Had ContentFolder instead of ContentFilter above. My bad, and my apologies for the mistake. P.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

System Builder Tip: Just because they say 200 GB doesn't mean it...

Had a pleasant greeting when I came into the shop this morning.

We had a failed drive on one of our production virtual server systems RAID 1 used for the OS.

RAID controller is an Intel SRCS14L tied to an Intel 4 bay hot swap cage.

The array contained two Maxtor 6V200E0 200 GB DiamondMax 10 drives.

I went to replace it with a 200 GB Seagate ST3200827AS.

Guess what? The Seagate is smaller and thus would not hot swap into the array and allow for a rebuild.

Since we don't have any of the Maxtors around anymore, I had no choice but to swap in a 250 GB Seagate for the array rebuild to begin.

I guess 200 GB just isn't 200 GB? Or, each manufacturer interprets the size their way?

Gadz! :*Þ

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

Thursday, 26 April 2007

Microsoft Volume Licensing - The Configurator is Back ... kinda

A while back, I had a beef about trying to muddle through Microsoft's product licensing programs to find the right product fit for our clients:

Office 2007 Open Business Licensing, Open Business + Software Assurance, and Open Value Licensing SKUs.

We had two options: A spreadsheet of SKUs, or call in several times to Licensing to get a consensus of what could be the right SKUs.

It seems that Microsoft has brought back the licensing configurator, but it is now called the Microsoft Product Licensing Advisor (MPLA).

I have run through a number of different licensing schemes and it seems to be a lot more thorough, and a lot quicker than the old Configurator.

The interface is also a lot cleaner and more intuitive:

There are a number of ways to go about finding the right licensing solution.

For those who know what products and licensing scheme we want to use, it is quick and painless. And, it looks like we actually get the right SKUs!

For those who are not too sure which licensing scheme is for them or their clients, there are a number of very well thought out survey type steps that will offer the best licensing scheme based on the answers received.

One bonus feature is links to info and trial version downloads on the various products being offered in the licensing scheme.

A really neat feature though, is the thorough explanation of what features are included with Software Assurance. This alone will go a long way to clearing up the air about what Software Assurance can do for a client!

So far, it works way better than the old configurator.

The new Advisor is a huge step forward!

UPDATE 2007-05-24: Updated the URL for the advisor as the original link no longer works.

Um, nevermind. The link within the updated link doesn't work either at the moment. Me thinks MS is having a bad link day. ... Time for some Tim's! ;)

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Business Principles: Keep that commitment ... or else.

I am just a little more than cranky right now! :*Þ

I don't like it when someone makes a commitment with me and then breaks it without even having the courtesy to call me ahead of time and let me know that they won't be making it. I then blow a bunch of time that could have otherwise been used productively elsewhere.

I myself had a real problem with not communicating with my clients when scheduling didn't work out. Fortunately, with a lot of coaching by my Dad and former employer Larry MacDonald, I have come a long way.

It really is important to communicate with our clients when we are not able to make an appointment.

We who do this kind of work in the I.T. industry know that our schedules can be very fluid. There are just too many variables that may come together to keep us at an appointment or service call a lot longer than we were expecting.

Some wisdom from a couple of my favourite Star Trek engineers in Scotty (original series) and B'Elanna Tores (Voyager): Quote 2 hours and get it done in 1!

Even then, we can fall behind.

So, what do we do?

First: We educate our clients by letting them know we prioritize our schedule according to the impact an issue may have on their business. The higher the impact, the greater the priority.

Second: We call ahead of time to let them know that we are on time, ahead of schedule, or running behind. We rework the scheduled appointment if need be.

The benefits to maintaining this manner of communicating with our clients are now obvious to me:
  1. Trust: Our clients come to trust that we have their best interests at heart.
  2. Clarity: Our clients know where we stand with regards to our appointment with them at all times.
  3. Reliability: We fulfil their I.T. needs in a timely manner.
  4. Honesty: Our clients know we will let them know ahead of time if we are unable to keep an appointment.
Most people understand how the priorities work.

Most people appreciate that they will be given preferential treatment if their business is impacted by a critical situation. Because if this appreciation, most people won't mind if they have a minor issue to deal with and they get bumped because of a critical issue with another one of our clients. They know we will get to them as soon as we can.

There are occasions where we drop the ball. We miss an appointment and do not let our client know. There are any number of reasons why this can happen. But, when it does, we make it clear to our client that we made a serious mistake, we apologize, and we offer to make it right by some form of restitution.

As far as this missed appointment, this is the third time it has happened. I have a three strike rule. Sorry buddy, but you are out. Don't expect any response from me again. By breaking so many appointments with me without the courtesy of a phone call or by calling 20 minutes after the appointment time, I am left feeling that you don't place any value on my time. Say, "Bubbye - cya".

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Mac Security - MacBook Pro & OS X - OWND

With the recent Windows ANI vulnerability and the patch fiasco we had to go through, a lot of attention has been on Windows security.

However, the CanSecWest conference in Vancouver Canada has made it clear that Macs are not in the clear either.

They placed two MacBook Pros out for the conference attendees to try and own.

As per this post on the CanSecWest site: First_Mac_Hacked_Cancel_Or_Allow - heh, well named I might add ;) - that MacBooks indeed have at least one vulnerability, 0day, that could be executed via the Safari browser visiting a Web site that worked through QuickTime and its interaction with Java.

So, another myth blown away! And, the following paragraph demonstrates that even Symantec admits that Microsoft has taken the lead in OS security!

Via David Overton's blog: Symantec "Microsoft Listed as Most Secure OS". Quoting from the original article:
During this period, 39 vulnerabilities, 12 of which were ranked high priority or severe, were found in Microsoft Windows and the company took an average of 21 days to fix them. It's an increase of the 22 vulnerabilities and 13-day turnaround time for the first half of 2006 but still bested the competition handily.

Then there's Mac OS X. Despite the latest TV ads ridiculing the security in Vista with a Matrix-like Agent playing the UAC in Vista, Apple has nothing to brag about. Symantec found 43 vulnerabilities in Mac OS X and a 66 day turnaround on fixes.
Via: Information Security Sell Out: Vulnerabilities Are Not Marketing Fodder.

And: SecurityFocus: A Mac gets whacked, a second survives.

As much as I see Microsoft maligned for different things, I even let them have it when I believe it is warranted, I do believe that they are paying attention and learning from their mistakes.

That in turn gives me greater confidence in their products and the solutions we provide on them.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

Help catch spammers and more - Project Honey Pot

A Honey Pot is a term for a computer, Web server, site, and the like that are purposefully left open to the Internet in an insecure manner so as to trap those trying to get unauthorized access to them.

Project Honey Pot is an organization that encourages us to get involved in the monitoring of malicious activity.

All of us who have Web sites, blogs, eCommerce sites, and more that are on the Internet are subject to many forms of malicious activities. Everything from e-mail address harvesting from our sites to comment spamming on our blogs are examples of the types of behaviours the Honey Pot Project is trying to monitor.

We can help by placing a hidden link on our sites and blogs to capture illicit robots/spiders that crawl them as one example. We can volunteer an MX record for a domain we own but do not use for e-mail. We can also setup a Honey Pot for them if we are so inclined.

Please, check it out, and if it suits you, get involved.

Honey Pot (Computing) definition on Wikipedia.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

Monday, 23 April 2007

Manufacturers - Don't bite the hand that feeds you!

I realize that in the grand scheme of things, us smaller resellers may seem like just that: Small, not worthy of consideration when it comes to gross sales numbers.

Or are we? And, I mean we as in the huge number of smaller I.T. shops out there that tend to sell tier 1 for certain products.

So, when a tier 1 competes and undercuts us via their own Web site for product sales that we would also sell, it bites us.

Need an example? I get a call from a client looking for an ultra-light laptop. Nothing in Acer's line, so he is considering a Dell.

I mentioned that Toshiba makes an excellent line of ultra-light products in the Portégé.

So, we settle on the R300 and low and behold we find the following:

Buy from Toshiba's site and receive the approximately $300 product bonus.

I let him know that I will call disti to see if we in VAR channel have an equivalent offer in the works.

None of our suppliers have anything on the books about any type of promo.

So, we loose the sale.

To Toshiba: Are you satisfied? I mean, you cut us out of the loop so you can make a couple of extra bucks. Okay, that works for you, but not for us.

Keep doing things like that, and we will keep selling Acers and others like them that are viable alternatives.

There is always Lenovo (shudder)! 8*O

Thus, in the grand scheme of things, Toshiba you lose.

To our client: Buy the Dell (ick). ;*)

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

Friday, 20 April 2007

Windows Home Server CTP - Are you sure?!?

Heh, I get the idea that maybe, just maybe, Windows Home Server is aimed at home users! ;)

How do I come by that?

The following:

I need to "acknowledge" that data is going to be toasted on the install drive or partition by placing a check mark in the appropriate spot before the Next button comes available.

And then, the following once the tick mark has been placed beside "I acknowledge..." and Next has been clicked on:

Let's make doubly sure that the installer understands that they are about to toast their drive or partition!

So, after clicking on the "Yes" button, off the install goes.

Not too sure on the plural of "... hard drives ... " in this window though. May have to look at what happens when more than one partition or drive sets exist on the system.

In all reality, those of us who install SBS on a very regular basis see this kind of warning/acknowledge dialogue at the beginning of the second phase of the SBS install regularly.

An example SBS based warning would be the, "more processors present than supported" when installing on multi-core systems with two physical CPUs. We acknowledge the warning and continue on with the install unimpeded.

In my opinion, this multiple warning for the setup of WHS is a good thing for the end user type to see.

If this type of hand holding continues on into the actual management of the Windows Home Server, it would be good for the end user. It may however, be a bit of annoyance for a support professional. We shall see...

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

The Character Map - How to get those special characters without mucking about with fonts.

I was typing up a note that needed a copyright symbol inserted.

In Word 2007 it was pretty straight forward.

Go to the Insert Tab and click on the Symbol icon on the ribbon:

However, what do we do when we are working in Notepad or Wordpad and have need for symbols?

In Windows XP and Windows Vista you will find the character map for inserting all sorts of different symbol characters with the Character Map feature.

In Windows XP:

In Windows Vista:

It is the second option under the System Tools folder.

Both the XP and Vista Character Map versions are pretty much the same.

Here they are side by side:

The XP version is the one on the left.

Essentially, find the character you need, double click on it and it gets copied to the clipboard.

Flip back to Notepad, or the program you are using, and paste the character in.


It is helpful to get the "é" in Resumé. ;)

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

Thursday, 19 April 2007

Windows Home Server CTP

Okay, I bit in:

I am not totally sure where WHS is going to end up relative to SBS in the grand scheme of things in regards to support needs.

So, I decided to look into it and see what can be seen.

I suspect, once it is released, that we will start fielding calls for support.

I also suspect that it will be another avenue of revenue for our company.

UPDATE: Oops... should have added some links.

Windows Home Server Beta Site. Fill out the survey near the bottom of the page if you are interested in becoming a beta tester.

The Windows Home Server Blog.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

SBS Premium and desktop security - BotNets, PWNED, & OWNED

Support Intelligence analyzes various aspects of, "eCrime including DDoS, Scanning, hosting Malware, sending Spam, etc".

They publish a list, called the Digest of Abuse Report, of the top 100 networks and the volume of incidents on them. One can subscribe to receive updates to the list.

The DOA report for Week 13, 2007.

An article, also written by SI, on Owned hosts of Banc of America Securities.

The above article, in my mind, is one really good reason to be selling the Premium version of SBS over the Standard version. Why? Because of the added network traffic security that can be found in Internet Security and Acceleration Server (ISA) 2000/2004 depending on what version of SBS Premium one is supporting.

One can closely monitor all aspects of network traffic being routed through the SBS server whether it is destined to an internal host or external network host. The type of traffic moving across the network or networks, from HTTP, SMTP, and all other protocol types is also monitored and reported on.

With ISA, one can also act on locking down certain types of network traffic, or sources of network traffic to mitigate a known threat, or even restrict a compromised system.

However, this takes a little bit of configuration on ISA and some monitoring on our part. It also takes learning to know the intricacies of configuring and tuning ISA.

Some questions that we need to ask when completing an SBS Premium install:
  • Have we setup the ISA reports to run daily?
  • Have we included an e-mail of those reports to us and a client contact if need be?
    • In many cases we are our client's only hope of mitigating network compromises.
  • Do we pay attention to those daily reports?
  • Have we configured the Server Performance Report to be emailed to us?
  • Do we look at them every morning?
One of the best ways to get to know the health and hiccups experienced on SBS based networks is to watch those reports every day. It is a good way to get to know the "personality" of each SBS server we support.

The threat of a client's network being compromised is real. The best that we can do for them is to provide a multi-tiered solution incorporating user Internet use training (yes ... this is # 1), layered system and software protection systems, and knowledge on our part of those threats. Of course, keeping in mind that a lot of our small business clients have limited I.T. budgets! :D

There is another business aspect to the configuration and monitoring of our SBS networks: A value added service for our clients.

I personally spend the first hour or two of my day going through the reports looking for issues or indicators for potential issues.

We offer this report monitoring as a "free" service, or value add, to our providing support to our SBS clients. They know that we are monitoring the health and well being of their SBS network because we let them know it, and that the service is free. To us, it is the cost of doing business.

One of the neat aspects of providing this service, is the proactive phone call: "Hi, this is Philip from MPECS, we see that there is a need for __ in the Server reports, could we schedule a time to address this please?" Or, something along those lines.

This instills in our clients a confidence and trust in our service. It is one of the ways to demonstrate that we care enough to be watching out for the well being of their business.

An excellent source of ISA information and tutorials can be found at

Via: Threat Level (27B Stroke 6), then TaoSecurity.

A definition of ASN at Autonomous System Number.

Trendmicro: Network Reputation - Estimated Spam Volume by ISP. (Secure Site).

Emergent Chaos' take on Support Intelligence: Month of Owned Corporations.

Keep in mind that ISA, layered security measures, and monitoring are only a some of the aspects to network and data security. This is by no means a comprehensive list!

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Office Excel 2007 - Sort and Filter Data for Print

Sometimes there is a need to print certain ranges of cells that contain a group of data values.

A fairly simple procedure that bypasses the need to create a Pivot Table is to use the built in filter.

Take a spreadsheet that tracks the number of hours for a task or tasks over a given period of time. In this case the period is one year.

The following screen shot shows the group of data after sorting by the last name:

  1. Once sorted, click in cell A1 to remove the A column highlight.
  2. Click on the Sort & Filter button on the Home ribbon.
  3. Click on the Filter option.
    • A down arrow style button will appear beside each heading in row 1.
  4. Click on the relevant data column's down arrow to find available options.
    • The following screen shot shows what you should see:
  5. In this case we are looking for people whose total in the last column is at or below the value of 10.
  6. We choose "Less Than Or Equal To..."
  7. The Custom AutoFilter dialogue window comes up where we punch in 10.
    • The AutoFilter:
  8. Click OK.
  9. Print the results.
The results screen shot:

This is a simple way to quickly pull some relevant data from what can be a very complex spreadsheet.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

Windows Server Virtual Calculator ... VS Licensing - A good deal or not?

I must admit, that licensing Microsoft products for virtualization has been at best a rat's nest.

Following a link from the Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2 web site, there is a link to that links back to Microsoft's site and the new Windows Server Virtualization Calculator.

Also contained within the comments on the site was a link to a fellow who built an Excel spreadsheet that can do the same thing as the online one. It is the Windows Virtualization Calculator at

Here is a screen shot of the Microsoft online calculator with some numbers arbitrarily punched in by me:

The tool is pretty neat. It does help to clarify some aspects of licensing Microsoft products, at least when it comes to Host/Guest OSs. It primarily deals with OLP style licensing and not OEM.

The following paragraph can be found, at least as of today April 18, 2007, below the above calculator:

The second line in the paragraph really caught my attention: "Standard Edition grants the use rights to run a single virtualized instance of Windows Server Standard Edition."

Um, Microsoft, what exactly are we doing here?!? I mean, "What the chicken!?!?"

The only remotely possible and viable solution that I can see that would work on a Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition Host OS on an established SBS network based on the above restriction is as follows:
  1. Two (2) Dual Core 51xx Intel based Server (or comparable)
  2. Windows Server 2003 R2 Standard x64 (for additional memory access) OEM or OLP - HOST OS
  3. Windows Server 2003 R2 Standard OEM or OLP - Guest OS
  4. Windows XP Pro SP2 or Vista Business OEM or OLP - Guest OSs
There are other solutions I am sure, but the above is the first one that comes to mind based on our experience implementing virtual environments for our clients and our own company.

The SBS RWW is the perfect stepping place for virtualized desktops.

I have spoken with Microsoft licensing on a number of occasions about licensing on Virtual Server. If we build a box, and sell it, we can install any number of Microsoft OEM licensed OS and Application products. OEM, of course, limits the OEM based virtual machine to run on that box only. An OLP licensed virtual machine is an option for companies that want to move those licenses (virtual machines) from box to box freely without any constraints.

In my mind, OEM licensing for virtualization may save $$$ in the short run, but, given the need to move virtual machines around, or the need to add virtual machines and thus replace an existing box, leaves an OEM licensing scheme costing more in the long run.

Okay, back to the subject at hand: Microsoft, we need some clarification here.

The above paragraph limiting the VMs on a Server 2003 Standard Host OS to ONE (1) Server 2003 Standard edition server guest OS DOES NOT WORK, in my opinion, in the SMB world.

Think about this for a minute: We can build a dual processor, four (4) core, based system with up to 32 GB of RAM, any number of drives up to 10 on the SC5400 based Intel chassis for a very reasonable price for the SMB market. The market I am thinking of is the 35 to 70 seat range which is the middle to upper end most Small Business Specialists would be dealing with.

The above system running the 64 bit Windows Server 2003 R2 Standard Edition could handle a number of Server 2003 R2 Standard Edition guest OS VMs along with a number of desktop OSs and do it at a very reasonable price point.

The above solution provides a very attractive solution for an existing SBS environment and doesn't conflict with current SBS CAL licensing schemes for additional servers on the SBS network.

Why would they need to spend the extra $2K+ for Server 2003 R2 Enterprise edition?

We get to address over 4 GB of RAM on x64 Standard Edition as all of our hardware is EMT 64 capable (64 bit), thus that negates the need for Enterprise Edition's extra memory abilities on the old 32 bit platforms.

We get to work with up to 4 physical processors on the x64 Standard Edition. Keep in mind there is an exponential jump in price when going from a server with two (2) physical processors to four (4) physical processors. The price is also affected significantly by the number of cores the physical processor has.

Rarely would we go beyond two (2) physical processors, especially with the availability of the 4 Core 53xx series Intel processors. Going beyond the two physical processors puts us closer to the Small to Medium Enterprise levels especially in pricing.

Thus, there is no need to run the Windows Server 2003 R2 Enterprise Edition for additional processor support.

So, Microsoft, prove me wrong.

Justify to me, and my SMB clients, why I need to tell my clients they need to spend an extra $2K+ for a solution that can be built quite comfortably on Windows Server 2003 R2 Standard Edition!

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

Virtual Server - VSS Service and Virtual Machine Memory Usage

We utilize Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2 on a number of different hardware platforms running a number of different operating systems.

One of the curious things that I have noticed is with regards to memory management by the VSS service.

The following is a screen shot of the server's Task Manager Process Tab:

The VSS service is using about 12 MB of physical memory.

The configuration of this particular machine is as follows:
  • Intel SR2300 2U
  • Two Intel Xeon 2.8 GHz CPUs
  • 6 GB ECC PC2700 RAM
  • Dual Seagate 76 GB SCA2 SCSI SW RAID 1
  • Windows Server 2003 Enterprise with PAE switch
We have loaded up two XP Pro SP2 and two Vista Business virtual machines with both having an allotted 1 GB of system memory.

The above Task Manager shot was taken while all four virtual machines were running. There is no evidence from the service memory usage that they are running.

However, on the Performance Tab, we see the following:

The server has a total of 4.21 GB of RAM allotted to running processes.

So, somewhere in there, the VSS has grabbed the necessary physical RAM and made sure that the respective machines are getting what they need.

To date, other than one glitch with one of the Virtual Vista machines blue screening on a boot up, we have had trouble free performance.

The primary purpose for this platform is to test virtualizing the desktop OS environment to provide our clients with a solid alternative to Terminal Services.

The Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2 site.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Office 2007 - Outlook Performance Patch KB933493

Here is a screen shot of my OST file (SBS Exchange 2003 SP2 integrated):

Yes, it is over a gigabyte. The second 800 MB OST file is the backup that was created when we did a Swing Migration to consolidate our multiple servers into one SBS server.

I have been having performance problems pretty much from day one of my Office 2007 install in Outlook 2007.

So, I have been keeping an eye out for updates for this and other Outlook issues.

Via the Exchange Team Blog, an update for Outlook can be found at the following Microsoft KB 932086: You may experience performance problems when you are working with items in a large .pst file or in a large .ost file in Outlook 2007.

This lead to KB 933493: Description of the update for Outlook 2007: April 13, 2007.

And, to the download patch here: Update for Outlook 2007 (KB933493) (.exe). Note, that validation will be required to download the update.

Vlad posted his bad experience this morning with this particular update: Why not to install Outlook 2007 Performance Patch (KB933493). So, I was pretty wary of the possibility of a broken Outlook after the patch.

I made sure to backup before beginning. Fortunately, the update took with no issues.

So, did the update work? On an initial observation, the answer is a profound YES!

So far, e-mail is actually opening when I click on it. Before the update, it would take anywhere up to 30 seconds before an e-mail would open up, be deleted, or a group would delete.

Thus, in my opinion, this update is good to go.

This is my previous blog post on Outlook Performance Issues.

UPDATE 07-04-25: The above link to Vlad's blog has since been removed and replaced by: Vladville volcano NOT related to 933493.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

Monday, 16 April 2007

SBS and moving Data folders.

On one particular SBS server, I have a need to free up the system partition. We have installed an additional pair of drives in a RAID 1 array to provide a dedicated data storage partition.

After a bit of searching, I came up with: Moving Data Folders for Windows Small Business Server 2003.

A Word document provides all of the necessary steps to move any of the SBS required folders and data such as the User's shared folder.

A complete list of data folders or files that can be moved:
  • Users Shared Folders
  • SharePoint Databases.
  • Monitoring Database.
  • Exchange Databases and Log Files.
  • Sent Faxes Folder.
  • ClientApps Shared Folder.
Of course, test the methodology within your virtualized SBS environment first!

A direct download of the document can be found here: SBS_MoveDataFolders.doc (.DOC)

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

System Builder Tip: Intel SR1530AH Integrated 1U RDP Server Solution

We have a number of SBS based networks serving RDP sessions from dedicated XP Pro SP2 and soon Vista Business RDP boxes.

For our clients that need one, two, or maybe three RDP boxes at most, we supply the 1U SR1530 and Xeon 3040 or 3050 integrated with either XP Pro SP2 or Vista Business on the system depending on the client's needs.

The cost for a dedicated RDP box is reasonable to about 3 dedicated boxes. When the client needs 4 or more, we look at virtualization on a 2U or 5U/Pedestal depending on load factors.

One of the significant changes the 1U chassis has gone through is in the type of fans used to cool the chassis.

Here is a screen shot of the SR1530AH:

There are no longer four (4) or more vertically standing fans trying to pull as much air as possible through the chassis. In the SR1400 and earlier chassis, these fans were rather deep, and quite loud.

There is one small vertically standing fan on the left hand side of the chassis in front of the DVDROM drive to pull air over to any add-in cards installed.

The rest of the cooling is provided by the two horizontally mounted fans about front centre of the chassis. Due to the much larger fan diameter, they are quiet. This is a huge improvement for smaller server closets where things can be somewhat tight, but closet airflow is cooled.

When running at their peak, these fans are still significantly quieter than the previous generation of 1U or even 2U Intel chassis.

Fan noise is an important factor when planning a client's server installation. Just ask the person who sits in the office opposite to the server closet what they think about all of the noise coming from the closet if there is no HVAC cooling whatsoever going on in there!

All in all, these units provide great value for our client's money.

Intel's Server System SR1530AH product page.

Intel's ServerConfigurator page.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

Windows Vista - Internet Connectivity Evaluation Tool

Microsoft is offering an Internet Connectivity Evaluation Tool to evaluate a user's Internet connection, or the router that is used to connect to the Internet for Vista compatibility.

After reading the terms of the License agreement, I get a bit of a kick out of the following at clause 12:
LIMITATION ON AND EXCLUSION OF REMEDIES AND DAMAGES. You can recover from Microsoft and its suppliers only direct damages up to U.S. $5.00. You cannot recover any other damages, including consequential, lost profits, special, indirect or incidental damages.
Why do I get a kick out of it? Because, our company, like other VARs or Integrated Solution Providers are on the hook when the software breaks! We are the ones directly responsible for our client's business well being.

Remember, we deal with small to medium businesses that can be wiped out by a full technology failure. Our own clients are protected, as we have worked very hard on DRP related "insurance" for their company.

But, there are a lot of companies out there that do not have any sort of real backup and DRP in place.

Once you have agreed to the terms you will be greeted with the following software add-on install request:

The machine this test is running on is an XP Pro SP2 box.

The XP Pro SP2 box is running behind SBS 2K3 Premium R2 with ISA 2004 SP2 installed and configured. ISA has all current patches and the SBS box has been RipCurled. W2K3 SP2 is not installed at this time.

Here are our results:

The NAT portion of the test failed and cascaded to the other portions of the test except for the Multiple Simultaneous States Test which ISA passes with no problems.

The bottom half of the page:

In reading the results information below the initial failed test, I can see the references pertaining to IPv6 being relevant as we do not have IPv6 installed and configured on the SBS/ISA box at this time.

So, what exactly are we talking about as far as the IPv6 stuff? I am not too sure yet. We need to wait and see as far as Internet wide implementation. And, we need to do a bunch of IPv6 learnin! ;)

As far as we can see with our production SBS/Vista implementations, Vista is functioning 100% with few complications.

UPDATE 07-04-16: The D-Link DI-624 Rev. C (Firmware 2.53) passed tests available to XP with the exception of the UPnP feature. I am updating the firmware to see if the test is successful after that.

I will hook up a Vista box to the unit to test again when I have a bit more time.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

Friday, 13 April 2007

As some things appear to change ... A toilet change experience.

Before getting into I.T. full time, I was big into working on cars. I am only a few hours short of my journey man's mechanic ticket along with some courses and a couple of exams.

I also did a lot of sub-contracting for renovators and house builders.

Along came computers, and the rest as they say, is "history".

One of the things that I still enjoy doing is working on cars, carpentry, plumbing, and electrical work. There is no shortage of these types of tasks in our own home and friend's homes.

We just moved into a house that is about 13 years old. Some things needed to be changed as they had seen their day.

Two of those things were the toilets. The old ones would not stop the water filling the tanks and thus were wasting water. They wouldn't stop the flush cycle, and they used a large volume of water for the flush cycle of about 20 or so litres.

One may not know it, but, there are many types of toilets that use different physics to get the job done. They also use different volumes of water for the task, and can even have two volumes of water to use depending on what is in the bowl. It is almost like shopping for a server! ;)

Here is a shot of my 1 year old, Raymond, clowning around in the unit we chose:

It is a Toto that comes highly recommended by a Master Carpenter friend of mine, Joe Stelmaschuk of Master's Custom Finishing. It uses a Push/Pull style of flow with 6 litres of water consumed per flush.

Going from 20+ litres to 6 litres is a huge savings in water consumption!

The process of swapping out a toilet is actually very easy and can be accomplished in under an hour for the one piece toilet that I was installing.

The reason for this post is because the technology that mates the toilet to the flange in the floor is ancient.

A shot of the floor flange:

And, a shot of what provides the seal between the toilet and the flange:

It is a wax donut. Yes, wax. Just think, a couple of hundred years ago, the wax candle was probably the primary form of lighting for most people. Wax was prevalent.

And, to this day, wax has survived as the material of choice for this task. The wax is pliable enough to mold itself to the bottom of the toilet and to the floor flange, thus providing a perfect seal.

A shot of the new donut sticking to the flange of the toilet:

There are two types of wax donuts, one with an additional flange extender (seen here), and just the wax donut. We needed the extender due to the fact that the flange on the bottom of the toilet was very short.

When changing out a toilet, one also needs to change out the cold water fill pipe/hose with a new braided hose to ensure no leaks form at that point.

The critical part of the whole procedure is making sure to centre the toilet over the floor flange before setting it down so as to not damage the wax donut. That can be a challenge if the toilet is heavy as the one piece ones are.

Given this information, there are a couple of very important notes to consider when it comes to something we take for granted: toilets (water closets).

  1. Never pour hot or boiling hot water, hot fluids, or hot solids down the toilet! This may melt the wax seal to the point where whatever is flushed can get under the toilet.
  2. Never seal the base of the toilet with silicon. If the wax seal gives away, you will see some yellowish sticky stuff coming out from under the toilet. This gives a visual clue that the seal needs to be replaced. If the toilet base is sealed, the eventual leak will build up under the toilet with ugly results.
  3. If something gets stuck deep in the toilet and a plumbing snake is needed, be careful with it as that may damage the wax donut seal.
All in all, putskying around like this is a great way for me to relax :D.

Wikipedia's history of the Water Closet (Toilet).

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

SBS and Server 2003 SP2

Microsoft's take on the subject:
Windows 2003 service pack 2 known issues on Small Business Server 2003.

I have been watching closely via RSS and Google searches for issues with the Service Pack on SBS.

By default, we do not install any service pack out of the box. We wait to see what the rest of the world is doing with it.

We also SP some of our virtual production imaged boxes. And, inveritably, they choke.

Nothing has really changed in all of the years of working with SBS and the standalone product's service packs. Test them first to see what happens, and verify with others out there that things won't break.

Virtualization makes this very easy to do. After obtaining permission from a client, retrieve a backup via USB drive and recover it virtually.

This tests your recovery skills, and it also gives you a production box sans data to play with.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Somebody over at Google has a sense of humour...

I subscribe to a number of e-mail lists.

My favourite is the list as I own a V8 1997 Ford Taurus SHO.

The following little funny came to me via that list.

You may have seen this one, you may not.

Do the following:

  1. Google Maps
  2. Click on the "Get Directions" link
  3. Start: New York, NY.
  4. End: Paris, France
  5. Check out line 21 and on.
Someone over at Google has a sense of humour.

And, I like it as it put a smile on my face! :D

Kudos Google!

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

Friday, 6 April 2007

Adobe Acrobat Reader versions 7 & 8 download links.

I do not like download managers. That is, I do not like having to install some vendor's piece of software in order to download and install another piece of the vendor's software.

So, when I am forced into a situation where there is a download manager, I look around for alternatives.

Adobe is one who wants a download manager installed first before I can download and install Acrobat Reader.

By looking for alternatives, I also get to avoid any other software pieces that get "tied" into the download such as the advert for the Google Toolbar. It is an option available via the Adobe download page.

So, after hunting around, I found this link for Acrobat version 8: Download Acrobat Reader Version 8 (.exe).

And, this link for Acrobat version 7.0.9: Download Acrobat Reader Version 7.0.9 (.exe).

These links are freely available via Softpedia Acrobat Downloads with the downloads directly from Adobe's site.

The links are current as of 2007-04-06. If they are broken, let me know and I will fix them.

UPDATE 2007-12-24: A link to the newest version: Adobe Acrobat 8.11 (MSI File).

UPDATE 2008-02-05: A link to the newest version: Adobe Acrobat 8.12 (MSI File).

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

Thursday, 5 April 2007

Easter Weekend Crunch - Busy time for blogging.

We have a lot of projects to complete before the end of this weekend, so blogging may be sporatic at best until after the weekend crunch!

From our family to yours: Have a happy Easter!

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

System Builder Tip: Vista Aero Performance Rating - ATI X1550 256 MB PCI-E

The ATI X1550 is a relatively new entry level video card.

It has the ability to be installed in a low profile case much to my pleasant surprise.

It has been installed on our Vista test system consisting of:
  • Intel DQ965GF
  • Intel Core 2 Duo E6400
  • 2 GB Kingston RAM
  • 2 Seagate hard drives in RAID 1
The system has an already installed Catalyst 3.6 driver set.

When the system booted up, it picked up the X1550 as an X1300.

The initial Windows System Assessment Tool put the X1550 at 3.4 on desktop performance for Aero and 3.8 for 3D graphics.

Here is a screen shot of the initial scores:

After downloading and installing the Catalyst 3.7 drivers, verifying that the card is now picked up as an X1550, I reran the Windows System Assessment Tool and received the same scores as the Catalyst 3.6 drivers.

In my opinion, the ATI X1550 represents a good step in performance over the previous generation X1300 for about the same price. Thus, it is great value for corporate systems or entry level CAD stations.

UPDATE: Wasn't paying too much attention to the title that was beyond the one line view in Blogger. Updated it by removing the "Intel" out of it. Also, in the second paragraph above this one, I updated what was "default Windows Vista drivers" to Catalyst 3.6 drivers. Oops :)

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

Office 2007 - Word stacks the letters on top of each other...

I am feeling a little bit on the cranky side right now.

I am trying to print to PDF a document that is due on my client's desk soon.

This is what is happening in Word:

This is what the PDF output looks like:

It looks like that whether generated for PDF, on the LJ 4600, or on the LJ 5Si.

Copy and paste the document into Notepad, then copy and paste the content back into a new document seems to cure it, though with all of the formatting stripped.

Must be a legacy Word codes issue with the template being is our default letter template that has been around for a long time!

Ack! Things always seem to break when on a deadline! 8*O

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

Monday, 2 April 2007

Office 2007: Microsoft Office Genuine Advantage

We were helping a client get ready for a presentation. I figured it would be quick to see what the Office site had to offer for a template to simplify the document creation process.

A legitimate Office 2007 is installed on the client system, and this is what we were greeted with:

Templates are only available to customers running genuine Microsoft Office."

I can understand this. And, I can understand the need to validate the installed Office software once. No biggie right?

Not so.

Next paragraph:

The status of your Microsoft Office software is validated each time you download templates.

Microsoft, is that really a good message to be sending out to your legitimate customers?

I.E. "We are watching you". Not the exact verbatim message, but you get the gist of my interpretation of the message.

Why not validate once and be done with it. Most people can accept that. But, to be validated each and every time they visit the Office site to download something is going a little too far in my opinion.

Point of principle: Oh, and offering the, "Do not show this message again." tick box just doesn't cut it either. The repeated process is still there, OGA message or no message.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

Windows XP: Pre SP2 WGA Message

When we were reinstalling the factory image on a Toshiba S1 whose hard disk failed, we ran updates from the update site before SP2.

It was just one of those days! :D

Here is the message we received from the new WGA tool just before we started up the SP2 routine:

"This version of Windows XP is no longer secure."
The screen shot was taken after the SP2 routine was started to show a bit of the irony. ;)

For those who haven't service packed XP yet, they probably are not running updates from the Microsoft site in the first place. Thus, they will never see that message!

I do hope that all users have at least configured automatic updates by now!

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists