Friday, 27 June 2008

IE 8 Beta 1 - Check it out

Want to have a look at Microsoft's new Internet Explorer?

Then, head over to the IE 8 product page.

There you will find product information along with a link to download the beta.

IE 8 is among the rare few browsers to pass the CSS Acid2 Test (Previous blog post).

For Web Developers, check out the IE 8 Readiness Toolkit. This site will provide a quick reference on the features of IE 8 with you in mind.

In my mind, IE 8, and the push to have it standards compliant is huge. For those who know Web coding, and the quirks and struggles one needs to take to get a site to show up properly in multiple browsers, having all browsers standards compliant will alleviate a lot of coding stress ... and ultimately costs.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Seagate 750GB ES.2 Failure on SR1530AHLX swap experience

This is our second drive failure for this series within a short period of time.

The drive:
  • 750GB ST3750330NS Seagate ES.2
    • Firmware: SN04
    • Date Code: 08281
    • Site Code: KRATSG
    • Product of Thailand
In this case, there were two drives connected to the S3000AHLX on board RAID controller in a RAID 1 array.

The first indication of a problem was the lack of a server report in our reports folder for our client. The lack of response via RWW or VPN made it clear we were in for an on-site visit.

Once on-site, the hard drive light was solid. There was no response from the server when a monitor, keyboard, and mouse were connected. This particular 1U box is headless.

We pressed the power button for about 5 seconds to power the server down and pressed it again to power it back up and we were greeted with:
LSI RAID: Cannot detect array configuration
The only option we had was to enter the RAID BIOS. The server would not boot up.

In the RAID BIOS, we needed to tell the RAID controller what was going on. We entered the View/Add menu, chose the Port 0 drive, and was able to see that the drive on Port 1 was failed. We then needed to save the status update to the RAID BIOS.

Since we were there first thing in the morning, we booted the server up and verified that SBS 2003 R2 Premium was fully operational. Everything booted up fine. So, we left the server in that state for the business day.

When we came back at the end of the business day, we shut down the server and replaced the defective drive. This is a non-hot swap unit, so there was a little work involved pulling things apart and putting them back together.

And now comes the really big caveat: The RAID controller on this particular motherboard requires the rebuild to be accomplished while in the RAID controller BIOS. Thus, we needed to be back again first thing in the morning to reboot the server into the SBS OS. This is really surprising since all of the Intel Desktop Boards we have used the on board RAID controllers would run the rebuild in the background.

The rebuild was successful, and we had a fully functioning SBS box when it booted up, but the rebuild situation for the array was an eye opener as far as the need to initiate it manually in the RAID BIOS. FYI: The rebuild rate for the 750GB RAID 1 mirror was about 4-5 hours while the server was offline.

A little more research is in order for this situation. The new S3000SH and S3210SHLX boards show a download for the Intel RAID Web Console 2 available on the product Web page. We need to see if we can use the RAID Web Console to initiate a rebuild from within the OS. Having the ability to initiate the rebuild while the OS is online can be critical to a business with only one server.

Yes, performance will definitely be an issue as the on board RAID controller is busy trying to rebuild the array onto the new drive. But, there are ways to work with that situation versus not having the server online at all.

We were not able to install an add-in RAID controller on this particular 1U box since the only available slot was taken by a PCI-E Gigabit NIC.

For our smaller clients, there can be a struggle between cost versus performance and added redundancy and hot swap features. Having those features is just like having an insurance policy.

In this case, the insurance policy of an add-in RAID card and hot swap would have enabled us to change out the defective drive and rebuild the array without downing the server. That insurance policy would have allowed the server to keep on functioning too. It has been our experience that a drive failure on an on board RAID array tends to lock up the server or workstation.

And, one other thing: With our client having their ShadowProtect backups in place, with the last incremental taken just before the hard drive locked up, helped us to be quite confident once the situation had been assessed. Worst case scenario we were replacing the drive, recreating the array, and running the ShadowProtect recovery to recreate the SBS box's partitions. We had all of the bases covered.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

SMB Nation Toronto and SMB Nation Fall 2008 Conference

This post is a long time coming and an apology to Harry Brelsford for taking such a long time to get it together!

In April, I received an invitation and a complimentary conference pass from Harry Brelsford of SMB Nation to attend the SMB Nation event in Toronto (Previous blog post).

With the approval of my wife and business partner Monique, I setup the flights, lodging, and any other travel needs for the trip.

SMB Nation Toronto was my first venture into a full scale conference event that was not put on by Microsoft, Intel, or other vendors and that required a fee for entrance.

The contacts that were established at the SMB Nation Toronto event are priceless. Here were people who were serious about I.T, about their I.T. businesses, about sharing their experiences during the various sessions, and the attendees developing their skill sets both in the sessions and out.

A few of the presenters and their sessions that I attended:
  • Calvin McLennan SBS MVP
    • Calvin gave us a deep dive into the new Small Business Server 2008.
    • His presentations were matter of fact and involved all of us who were a part of the sessions. Calvin welcomed questions and worked through many of them as well as he could given the beta nature of SBS 2008 at that time.
  • Keith Benedict
    • Keith gave us an excellent and in-depth look into the inner workings of Windows SharePoint Services 3.0.
    • Have a look at his company's SharePoint 3 site to get an idea that he really knows his stuff!
  • Joe Schurman
    • Joe presented the new Response Point Service Pack 1 product features to us. Wow!
    • The product rocks and Joe did a great job on showing us the simplicity in managing RP's very advanced features.
Other presenters included Microsoft SBS and EBS Product Manager Constanza Zalba, Stuart Crawford, and Gavin Steiner.

When it comes to the people attending the event, there was a really neat thing: There was no need to sift through all of the attendees to discover the gems. Everyone there was passionate about what they do and the products they work with. The friendships that I established at the SMB Nation Toronto event have carried on to this day.

It is important to note that the time spent at an event of this magnitude and expense was seen as an investment by those who went. That, to me, is the key to the quality of the presenters and attendees that I met.

This fall, SMB Nation will be having their annual conference in Seattle:

SMB Nation - Fall Conference 2008

For those with the opportunity to travel to the conference, I highly recommend it. It will be an excellent opportunity to meet, speak, build business relationships, and friendships with your peers as well as build up the knowledge foundation.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

CCH Practice 8.x - Advantage Dbs on Server 2008 no go for now

A heads up for those running CCH products that are driven by an Advantage database back end: Advantage will not install and run on either x86 or x64 versions of Server 2008.

This is especially critical to note for accounting clients running SBS 2003 back ends that are looking to upgrade to SBS 2008 Standard or Premium this fall.

A new set of products structured around .NET and MS SQL are in the works with a hopeful release time in the fall of 2009.

CCH plans to release all information around the new products and the technologies to run them at their CCH User Conference in California October 2008. The conference brochure can be found here: CCH User Conference 2008 (PDF). More information should follow from there.

A list of the currently supported network configuration for CCH Practice:
  • File Server - 100% IBM-compatible Pentium PC (PIII or higher recommended); Memory per network operating system; 512Mb+ of RAM required. 32 bit compatible for servers.
  • Network Software - NetWare version 5.1 or higher, Linux (kernal [sic] 2.4 or higher), Windows 2000 Server - *Service Pack 4, Windows 2003 Server - *Service Pack 1, Windows 2000 Professional - *Service Pack 4**, Windows XP Professional - *Service Pack 2**. (* always upgrade to latest Service Packs)
    • **Note: When running in Peer-to-Peer environments, a dedicated server is required.
  • Network Clients - Latest versions of Microsoft Client for NetWare or Novell NetWare recommended; Clients for Windows 2000 Professional, Windows XP Professional.
  • Network Topology - 10 Mbps or greater (Ethernet); 16 Mbps or greater (Token Ring); For optimum performance 100Mbps, full duplex recommended throughput network including workstation and server network interface cards, switches and hubs.
Note the absence of Server 2008 at this time.

It is also important to note that only version 8.11 of CCH Practice will run properly on Windows Vista. While we do have clients that we have managed to coerce Practice 7.x to run on Vista, only the most advanced users would understand the implications and what needs to be done to keep things stable.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Microsoft Group Policy Team Survey - SBSers let your voice be heard!

Courtesy of Jeremy Moskowitz: Microsoft Survey: How Do You Use Group Policy on Your Servers?.
The Microsoft Windows Group Policy team is interested in your feedback on how your organization uses Group Policy to manage your servers. Thank you in advance for taking a few minutes out of your busy schedule to provide feedback.

The information you provide will be anonymous and confidential.

Microsoft Windows Group Policy Team
Please get in there and help the GP team out with some SBS related Group Policy usage!

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Vista x64 RTM - Stop 0x0000000A on EVGA nForce 790i Ultra SLI Mainboard + EVGA Support A++

The system we put together based on the EVGA nForce 790i Ultra SLI Motherboard (previous blog post) had a similar install issue as the Intel boards we work with: Vista setup would not run with more than 2GB installed.

We eventually had a successful install of Windows Vista Ultimate x64 RTM on the system. Once the OS booted up fine with the 2GB of RAM, we shut the system down and installed the additional 2GB for a total of 4GB DDR3 RAM.

When we went to boot the system up, we were greeted with a BSOD Stop Error: 0x0000000A with no indicators as to the problem.

Having struggled with Blue Screens to this point, it was time to place a quick call to EVGA support. For one, to test their product support system as it looked good from their Web site, and to see if there was a quick fix.

The requisite phone menu system was in place to guide us through to the correct support technician. Once the button presses were finished, and our call was transferred, the unthinkable happened: We did not wait on hold and got to speak to someone on the NA continent!

James was the EVGA support technician who helped answer the quick question: Who, what, where, and why are we getting this particular Windows stop error?

We were pointed to: MS Knowledge Base article 929777: Error message when you try to install Windows Vista on a computer that uses more than 3 GB of RAM: "STOP 0x0000000A".

From the description:
This problem occurs if the following conditions are true:
  • The computer uses more than 3 GB of RAM.
  • The computer uses a storage system that is running the Storport miniport driver.
  • The computer uses a controller that uses 32-bit direct memory access(DMA).
In our case, the first point definitely qualifies us for this issue.

We were given a support case ID by James, and we concluded the call, but not before indicating to him that in this day and age of off-shoring tech support and long hold times, we were really impressed by the level of tech support provided by EVGA.

With the system off, the extra 2GB of RAM was removed again, we booted the system up, and applied Windows Vista Service Pack 1. The service pack installed in very short order.

Once complete, the system was shut down, the 2GB of RAM reinstalled, and the system booted up again.


Completed QX6850, EVGA nForce 790i Ultra SLI in an Antec Nine Hundred

The above picture was taken quite late at night. We don't get a break on sunshine here! It stays light well past 22:00hrs (10PM) now. Otherwise, the LEDs would stand out a bit more.

Neat rig. Our client is sure to be quite happy with the end result. The final system configuration can be found in our previous blog post: EVGA nForce 790i Ultra SLI Motherboard near the bottom.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Vista x64 RTM - Stop 0x0000007e on EVGA nForce 790i Ultra SLI Mainboard

A relatively new client of ours wanted us to figure out why their system was not able to "SLI" on a pair of EVGA 8800GTX Ultra video cards in the system. They had recently picked up a game that they wanted to run on a larger high resolution monitor. There was also a need to tune up the system after about a year of usage.

The system configuration as it came to us:
Anyone catch the reason the nVidia SLI function was not available?

In this particular case, our client had gone to one of the local computer stores in the city to get the components needed to setup a new system.

At that time, about a year ago, DDR3 memory was hard come by and extremely expensive. So, it looks as though the sales clerk had move our client into the Asus Maximus Formula for its DDR2 capability.

The sales clerk missed something very important in the process: The Asus Maximus Formula was an ATI CrossFire enabled board! With the ATI setup, the video card bridge comes with the video cards. With the nVidia setup, the bridge comes with the motherboard. ATI CrossFire and nVidia SLI motherboards are not cross compatible. That is, one cannot plug in a pair of SLI video cards into a CrossFire based motherboard and expect to get nVidia SLI to function.

Since the video cards were also made by EVGA, and we had access to the EVGA nForce 790i Ultra SLI Mainboard, that was the direction that we recommended and our client accepted.

Once we had the EVGA motherboard and a set of 4GB DDR3 1,333MHz Kingston memory, everything went together relatively well.

One caveat we ran into was the length of the video cards versus the hard drive cage setup in the Antec 900. We needed to move the cages a step out to enable the video cards and the Raptors to work together in relatively the same space.

EVGA 8800GTX Ultra snugged up to the 150GB WD Raptor

We were fortunate in that the SATA data cable on the back of the Raptor was able to fit just so in behind the EVGA's plastic housing.

When installing Windows Vista Ultimate x64 RTM on the system, we had the full 4GB of RAM installed on the motherboard.

During the initial spool up of the Windows Vista setup routine we received a BSOD with a 0x0000007E indicator and that was it.

It has been our experience on the Intel side of things that Windows setup will fail with more than 2GB of RAM installed on the motherboard. It looks like the nForce chipset suffers the same problem.

Once we removed two of the 1GB RAM sticks to bring things down to 2GB on the motherboard, setup proceeded as expected.

The system was fast! Vista Ultimate x64 installed in no time flat.

One thing to keep in mind when setting the system up is to not plug in a network cable into either of the NIC ports. Make sure to install the EVGA nForce 790i board drivers first, then the nVidia video card drivers and the requisite reboots.

The EVGA motherboard had production BIOS P01 installed out of the box. No matter what we tried we could not get the second video card recognized without a Vista BSOD.

So, we needed to update the EVGA nForce 790i Series BIOS (EVGA support forum) to the most recent version which was P05p released the day before yesterday. P05 would not allow the second video card to be recognized either.

For the SLI or dual card setup to work properly for us:
  1. Single card to start.
  2. Update the BIOS (record those settings and restore to defaults before updating)
    • Note that any RAID configuration would not be lost when the RAID controller was disabled.
    • Make sure to enable the RAID controller and set the appropriate drives after the update.
  3. Reboot
  4. Make the requisite BIOS settings changes.
  5. Power down.
  6. Install the second SLI video card and the SLI bridge.
  7. Boot into the OS.
  8. The nVidia drivers will probably need to be reinstalled.
    • The BIOS update and second video card wiped out our nVidia driver setup.
  9. Reboot and engage SLI if required.
    • The driver will pop up the management screen after the reboot.
Once we finished getting the SLI function going, the system was pretty much good to go.

There was one more snag, but that one will go into a separate post.

There certainly is an art to overclocking systems. Looking through the forums with all of the discussions around system hardware configurations and BIOS settings for all of the different variables was mind boggling!

Here was the existing components with the components we added: Here is how the system spec'd out on the Windows Vista Experience Index:

5.9 across the board! Time to update that assessment. ;)

Neat :)

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

QuickBooks 2008 - Error: Adaptive server anywhere database engine has encountered a problem and needs to close

One of our accounting clients is starting to see the error while they are working on other things:

Adaptive Server Anywhere Database Engine has stopped working

A problem caused the program to stop working correctly. Windows will close the program and notify you if a solution is available.
A quick search turns up the following Intuit QB 2008 KB article: Error: "Adaptive server anywhere database engine has encountered a problem and needs to close".

The possible reasons for the error:
  1. The program was not correctly installed
  2. The program became corrupted after installation. In some cases this might be caused by a virus on the affected system
  3. Copying company file to a flash drive and then removing drive without closing QuickBooks
In this case, the user in question did not even have QuickBooks open when the error popped up.

So, none of the above count.

The resolutions for the problem:
  1. Make sure your antivirus is up to date
  2. Uninstall and reinstall QuickBooks
And, if the above steps do not resolve the issue, one can call Intuit Data Services.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

QuickBooks - Edit the Spell Check Custom Word Dictionary

Whenever a user accidentally adds a word to the User Dictionary in QuickBooks, we need to manually remove it from the custom word dictionary list.

The custom word User Dictionary is called UserDictionary.tlx found in the QuickBooks directory:

QuickBooks Spell Check User Dictionary

To open the file one right clicks on it and selects Open. When the Choose a program dialogue comes up, we choose from the list of programs and select NotePad.

A quick find will turn up the wrongly entered word. Delete the whole word line (MyWrongWord i) and save the changes.

QuickBooks will need to be closed and restarted to pick up the changed dictionary word list.

For us, knowing how QuickBooks stores that custom word list is important for those clients that use QuickBooks and need to upgrade one of their accounting workstations. For this type of client, part of our profile transfer steps will include copying and pasting the contents of the file into the new QuickBooks User Dictionary on the new system. By doing this, we just saved our client's user a bit of time and some frustration at having to rebuild that list.

UPDATE: Missed the reference link! QuickBooks Community: misspelled word in the dictionary.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

SBS 2003/8 - SharePoint Mapped Network Drive

For some of our clients we are facilitating the transition to SharePoint as a default document and file storage location by creating a mapped network drive to a folder on the Companyweb SharePoint site.

By default on SBS 2003 we have the startup script (SBS_LOGIN_SCRIPT.bat) that is located in the scripts folder under SysVol on the server. That is where the following entry would be placed.

Out of the box, SBS 2008 does not use a logon script. So, we need to create the logon script under the SysVol scripts folder and update the User Roles with the Logon.bat file name. Any users already created will need to be either updated manually or use the Change a User Role Wizard to redefine the appropriate user accounts once the User Roles have been updated.

To do this (note that the "" are required):
  • SBS 2003 Companyweb SharePoint v2
    • net use m: "\\companyweb\DavWWWRoot\General Documents"
  • SBS 2008 Companyweb SharePoint v3
    • net use m: "\\companyweb\DavWWWRoot\Shared Documents"
Note that the mapped drive is not at the root of the SharePoint site.

From there we can create a folder structure that will be accessible via Internet Explorer internally or via the Internet as well as Windows Explorer and any application with ease.

We find that once users get used to toggling the "Explorer View" in the SharePoint site they tend to forget about the mapped network drive for most tasks.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Blogging ... Going to be sparse for a day or two ...

Between finishing the SBS 2008 article for SMB Nation's magazine (which was polished up this morning), and client demands posts are going to be light.

BTW, never make assumptions about a product's specifications. It almost always comes back and bites ya!

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Friday, 13 June 2008

SBS 2008 - Setup disables that built-in Administrator Account out of the box!

There is nothing better for account security than having a really good passphrase on the domain admin account and all of the domain user accounts.

One of the practises we took to years back was creating a Group Policy Object (GPO) at the domain level and calling it the "Default Domain Security Policy - MPECS".

Into that GPO would go settings such as enabling encryption between domain members, servers, and others if they were able.

Default Domain Security Policy - MPECS

One thing to keep in mind when setting up such a policy at the domain level, or even attached to a given SBS OU, is to make sure that any GP settings in any of the other GPOs will not conflict.

We would also rename the default administrator's account in that GPO along with an Enforced GPO created and linked at the SBSComputer level that set the local admin account to "Administrator".

Today, out of the box, SBS 08 disables the default admin account during setup. In turn, the user account we created during setup or in the Answer File would be the "default" domain admin account.

This is awesome as it removes one possible attack vector altogether.

Since we are already used to having different domain admin account names at our client sites, this new setup will fit nicely with our already in place management processes.

We keep an audit of every client hardware and software configuration down to the server BMC passwords, UPS passwords, router and access point codes, and more. Access to the audit notes for our technicians can be via RWW or on a Windows Mobile 6 device with encryption enabled on the storage card.

An excellent article on Microsoft's position is by Jesper Johansson: Security Watch Why You Should Disable the Administrator Account.

Note item 6: Don't Rename It! Indeed, we did find resources indicating that renaming the Admin account was a good thing. We now know that this practice is wrong. So, we will be looking to work through our client's accounts and restructure them accordingly ... on our own time.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Books: Group Policy and Creating the Secure Managed Desktop by Jeremy Moskowitz

One of the first things we discover when we are searching about for answers on any Group Policy related issues is the name Jeremy Moskowitz. Jeremy is a Group Policy MVP, runs, and does a lot of in-person training on Group Policy. He knows his stuff!

Keeping up to date on the changes in Group Policy (GP) from RTM/Gold products through Service Packs can be a challenge. Structuring our OUs and GPs appropriately can also be a challenge, especially for the new GP structures introduced with Windows Vista and now Server 2008.

There are two fantastic book resources by Jeremy Moskowitz available to us:
  1. Group Policy: Fundamentals, Security, and Troubleshooting
  2. Creating the Secure Managed Desktop Using Group Policy, SoftGrid, Microsoft Deployment, and Other Management Tools
A nice touch for those who order from his Web site is they come autographed.

Given that we are currently in a major learning mode for Small Business Server 2008 and Essential Business Server 2008, picking these books up to facilitate our knowledge building on the new Group Policy structures is a good idea.

They are well written with a plethora of real world examples. Whenever a new edition of the books is available we make a point of picking them up. They are really that good.

For us, providing a secure and properly structured Group Policy setup is mandatory for our clients. Thus we make a point of learning the GP guidelines that are available to us.

From securing Terminal Servers to setting up OUs with computers or users with specific GPs defined for them, we need to understand how the various policy settings affect those OUs and any OUs nested within them. Jeremy's books provide one of the better ways to do so.

Also, the Web site is another great resource. There is a user community of very helpful folks to work with when it comes to Group Policy related questions and issues. Check it out, it will be well worth your time.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Jason Miller Presents: First Technical Look at SBS 2008

As mentioned in yesterday's post, I was in Calgary all day for the First Technical Look at SBS 2008.

It turns out that our presenter was Jason Miller SBS MVP.

The presentations were excellent as were most of the demos other than a few typical VM glitches.

Jason gave us a pretty thorough walk through of the SBS Console and the various features controlled and monitored there. The event size was small enough, roughly 25 of us, that we were able to ask questions and work with Jason through the demos. Since all present were mostly focused on SBS, we spent most of our time on SBS. He did give us a good overview of EBS and its features though.

Jason's presentation skills were excellent and I appreciated the fact that he made a good effort to keep us involved and things interactive. Well done Jason! :)

The time spent watching and listening to Jason, as well as the attendees and their questions/input, was well spent. The general consensus at the end of the event was very positive ... we all enjoyed ourselves and learned a lot.

Microsoft put in a good effort into providing us with a venue that worked with the tasks at hand along with a full breakfast and lunch. The food was excellent as was the service provided by the hotel. The event, venue, and catering was consistent with previous free Microsoft sponsored Partner Training events. This is good to see.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

First Technical Look at SBS 2008 and EBS 2008 - Calgary

By the time this gets posted using Blogger's Scheduled Post feature, I will be registered and getting ready to start the day at the Partner Learning Event: First Technical Look at Small Business Server 2008 and Essential Business Server 2008 (MS Partner Site authentication required).

The event is being held at the Calgary Four Points Sheraton on Bowridge Crescent.

I am looking forward to the day as I have been invited to write an SBS 2008 technical article for SMB Nation's SMB Partner Community Magazine. The Partner Training should put a good depth to the already intensive amount of time that I have personally spent with the Release Candidate version of SBS 2008.

There may be a few more of the First Technical Look events so have a look in the Partner Learning Center to see if there are any available in your area.

I personally receive a lot when I listen and watch. While reading a technical manual/book and doing is my primary learning method (especially since things get broken ;) ), spending time with knowledgeable people demonstrating a product's abilities is a very close second. Having someone knowledgeable in the room facilitates thought flow and almost always initiates a whole series of questions ... some good and some not so good. But, they get asked, and we all learn!

And, if you can, register and download the RC0 version of SBS 2008. Check it out. It only takes 30-90 minutes to install from scratch. You can use a consumer router to protect it for testing purposes and run the setup using an Answer File (previous blog post) so that there is only about 10 minutes worth of initial babysitting that needs to be done!

As has been mentioned here in the past, there is a lot to learn for this new version. The new SBS Console or the SBS Console in Advanced Mode (has links to the various server component MMC consoles) give us the ability to run virtually all of the basic server management needs at the big picture level.

But, if we need to fine tune the product, customize Group Policy (entirely new structure and policy distribution setup), user and computer settings, Exchange setup, Terminal Services configurations, and more then we need to understand how the SBS 2008 Wizards configure the installed server components.

This is not unlike the SBS 2003 Wizards and their interaction with the various server components. Knowing how they were intertwined with those components was an awesome way to establish a knowledge foundation on each server product installed on SBS. That foundation enabled us to develop a deeper understanding of Server 2003, Exchange 2003, SharePoint V2 & V3, and more. So far, it is looking like the same can be said of the SBS 2008 Wizards and their interaction with all that is installed on SBS 2008.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Watch out for those search results!

Having "Street Smarts" while browsing the Internet is very important.

Just as knowing the ropes when it comes to the city streets and the various areas within the city, so too one must keep in mind that there are many perils to be found on the Internet.

I am to be one of the Groom's Men at a good friend of mine's wedding in July.

The tuxedos for the wedding are being provided by a company called Moores Clothing for Men.

When searching for the business' phone number to inquire about timing for checking in with the tuxedo folks for measurements, Live Search brought up the following search results:

Moores Suit Live Search

The first number of search results seemingly have the right information that I am looking for without the phone number.

The very first link in the search results takes one to a page that indicates the computer is infected with a virus and that I should be downloading the site's antivirus tool.

So, what do we do when faced with this question? We close the prompt ... which leads to an IE Security Bar indicating a file wants to be installed (I am running Vista), and from there the IE Tab gets closed.

Since the information that is being searched for is not readily available via Live Search, we flip over to Google and we get:

Moores Suit Google Search

All links are pretty much legitimate. Not only that, we get the required information 4 search results down.

The Live Search results illustrate why one needs to be aware of what could possibly be lurking around the proverbial Internet Corner. In this case, if one decided to accept the invitation to download and install the "antivirus" software, one would surely be short on cash and possibly an identity in the not so distant future. This situation seems to arise on the other search engines too ... Live Search just happens to be the first place we will search for something here in the Shop.

And, as was indicated in a previous blog post about the Live Search Cashback situation, the Live Search folks still have a long way to go in fine tuning their search results into significant relevancy. :(

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Windows Vista - Asus A8N32-SLI 0x8004245F Install Error

We were asked to rebuild a client's existing AMD based box.

The motherboard was an Asus A8N32-SLI board with a 2GHz AMD part on it.

Once we started the Vista setup, the first thing that was readily apparent was the very long time the setup was taking to get to the initial install screen.

Once we did get to the setup screen, entered our key, and set Windows to install to the only hard drive available we were presented with:

Install Windows
Windows could not create a partition on disk 0. The error occurred while preparing the computer's system volume. Error code: 0x8004245F
Prior to this setup attempt we had imaged and wiped the drive on our newly restored data mule system. No physical errors showed themselves during these pretty intensive operations.

When searching the Internet, we only came up with one result on the Asus Forums: Topic : [Problem]Vista 64 install fails during HD partitioning.

The response was to verify that the motherboard did not have RAID mode enabled for the single drive setup.

When we rebooted the system and headed into the BIOS, we eventually found the setting for the SATA controller and it was indeed set to RAID mode.

After making the necessary changes in the BIOS, we again booted into the Windows Vista setup.

This time, the initial setup phase still took quite a while though not as long as the previous attempt.

Once we went through the setup steps and chose our partition to install to things continued on as expected.

Thanks to Ventsislav on the Asus Forum for the tip.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Friday, 6 June 2008

EBS 2008 to ship with the October 2008 Action Pack

From the Partner Online Community microsoft.private.directaccess.actionpack which is available for all Microsoft Partners we have learned that Essential Business Server 2008 will indeed be a part of the Microsoft Action Pack Subscription.

The tentative delivery date for EBS 2008 in MAPS will be with the October shipment.

For those of us servicing the SMB/SME market area where EBS is situated to sell this is important news.

If we rely on our MAPS for our product install base in our own office, then this heads up gives the opportunity to do some infrastructure planning. If we do not necessarily rely on MAPS, this gives us a good time frame for the EBS release and plan our infrastructure moves accordingly.

Either way, EBS will be a minimum 3 server install with the Premium Edition having a fourth server for a dedicated SQL 2008 install.

The EBS Standard 3 server setup makes the Intel Modular Server a very attractive option for those clients that are in a position to refresh their server infrastructure as the break-even point between a standard set of 1U/2U servers and the Modular Server is three servers.

Intel Modular Server

For EBS Premium with the fourth server required, the Intel Modular Server is an excellent infrastructure foundation.

Add a Terminal Services Desktop or Remote Applications publishing need and thus an additional server over and above the EBS Premium requirements and our clients will see a very quick return on their investment.

A point to ponder: Intel Associate and Premier Members receive a very steep discount on their first Intel Modular Server purchase from the Demo Advantage Program under the Sales Tools Store. Check it out.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Seagate Green Label RMA Return Drives

In some cases, such as the recent Seagate Enterprise Storage drive failure, we are able to return the defective drive to Seagate and obtain a new one without question.

A while back, we had a client's Seagate 7200.10 500GB drive fail. We RMAd the drive, sent it in to Seagate, and eventually received a replacement drive.

In the case where we are sending drives directly to Seagate, there is a bit of a risk as to what we receive back from them.

In some cases, we are fortunate and receive a new replacement drive.

In most cases though, we receive a Seagate Green Label drive:

Seagate Factory Refurbished Hard Drive - Green Label

Whenever this happens, we do not put the returned drive back into production. It is just too risky.

That point was proved to us today: This morning when I walked into the shop the data mule system sitting on the bench had a nice greeting: BSOD.

After a reset there was nothing but the click of death from the system's Green Label drive.

We built the data mule system on a 500GB 7200.10 Seagate factory refurbished drive about 6 months ago.

So, if we had supplied the refurbished drive back to the original owner of the original failed drive, we would now be in a situation where warranty work would need to be done and our client would be on the hook for it.

Instead, we will be out some time to swap out the Green Label drive with a new one as well as the time needed to obtain another RMA for the now dead drive. We won't restore from a ShadowProtect backup because this situation provides us with a good opportunity to reinstall the OS and only those utilities that we are using frequently.

Fortunately, this does not happen too often or we would have a small cache of the Green Label drives here in the shop!

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

SBS 2008 - The Daily and Weekly Reports

There are two types of reports in SBS 2008 by default:
  1. Daily Summary Report
  2. Weekly Detailed Report
This is what the SBS 2008 Daily Summary looks like:

SBS Summary Network Report

The weekly report has a Details hyperlink on the right hand side that would break out all of the items under each heading:

Detailed Network Report

After clicking on the Details link:

Security Details

We will now have a lot more information given to us via the built-in SBS reports. Also, the Reports section in the SBS console also gives us the ability to generate any number of report types at a moment's notice. As a result, it will be a lot easier to get to know a particular SBS box and its regular behaviours.

The new reports will also give those of us who have not taken the step into Managed Services the ability to at least bill on a monthly basis for the reports monitoring ... if we are not already doing so! They can also provide the foundation from which to build a case for a product like System Center Essentials to provide a more detailed monitoring setup ... and thus more revenue.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

SBS 2008 - Install Consistency = An Answer File + Migration Caveat

The new SBS 2008 install routine is pretty close to bullet proof. There is only one install phase with a couple of question screens early in the install routine.

To streamline the install and negate any need to input data into the question screens, we can answer them ahead of time using the SBS 2008 Answer File Tool.

The new Answer File Tool is found on the DVD under the \Tools\ directory. The application is called SBSAfg.exe.

When we start the utility from the DVD we are presented with:

Windows Small Business Server 2008 Answer File Tool

Ever wondered what to do with those small 32MB USB flash drives? Well, now we know. We can have one for all of the installs happening on our workbenches! ;)

With the answer file on the USB flash drive, the only input we will need to provide is the RAID driver and the OS partition setup at the start of the setup routine. Keep in mind that we need to configure a minimum of 60GB for our primary OS partition.

Once we have filled out our client's relevant information we have:

SBS Answer File Tool - Fresh Install Completed

When we choose to "Save As" an XML file will be generated in the location we choose.

If we choose to create an SBS 2008 migration answer file we need to fill out the following:

SBS Answer File Tool - Migration Install

Note the exclamation mark for the existing domain's administrator account name. The warning is telling us that there cannot be any spaces in the domain administrator's name.

Keep this in mind if a client or potential client has an SBS domain where the admin account name has a space in it. This means that the domain admin account will need to be renamed prior to the migration.

The time saved installing SBS 2008 from scratch is quite significant versus an SBS 2003 Standard install and post install setup.

There will be post install steps to take on a fresh SBS 2008 setup too. Things such as installing the server hardware's drivers and management software, creating the additional partitions that are to be used by the server and moving the relevant data stores to those new partitions, and more will be required.

All in all, it looks as though the SBS 2008 setup routine has been greatly streamlined. This means we can provide a more consistent setup structure for our SBS servers. Consistency means that there will be a lot less of an opportunity to make mistakes and cost our clients and us time and money.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Scheduling is intense ... means blogging will be slow ;)

We have had a few critical client issues crop up ...

So, blogging may be light for a couple of days!

Thanks for reading!

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Monday, 2 June 2008

Wildcard Certificates - Your recommendations?

We are in a position where we want to consolidate a subdomain set for a client setup.

One of the things we want to do is drop the self-signed SBS certificate setup for a wildcard SSL certificate setup.

So far, there seems to be a wide variety of SSL certificate providers with a huge variety of upfront and sometimes hidden charges for wildcard certificates.

In our research, we have looked at GoDaddy, Comodo SSL, GeoTrust, Digicert and others.

In this case we are looking at some of the following purposes:
  • A minimum of 3-5 SBS servers will be secured via the certificate
  • The subdomain names sometimes need to be changed
  • Remote Web Workplace, OWA, Exchange RPC/HTTPS
  • SBS 2008 RDP Certificate
So far, it looks as though the Digicert service will provide the best value for the cost of the service.

Please chime in on your experiences. Who have you used for these types of services and how is their ability to service and support your certificate needs?

Any input is greatly appreciated.

Thanks for reading.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.