Monday 31 December 2007

Looking forward to 2008

2007 was a good year for us. We hope that it was a good year for you too!

We have had the pleasure to continue building client relationships with our long-term clients and begin the growth process with a number of new key clients.

It has been a year of growth in our client base and out products and services offerings.

For us, 2008 is looking to be a really exciting and challenging year.

It will be the year we formalize our training facility for both end users on applications and for SMB IT professionals on running an IT business, SBS 2K3, and SBS 2K8, and other SMB based products. We will also be formalizing our training materials for the Web too when we get our site updated and restructured.

2008 will be the year we actively work at starting an SMB/SBSC based Microsoft Support Group hopefully affiliated with our Edmonton Microsoft User Group.

It will hopefully be the year we can meet some of you face to face that we have been conversing with since starting the blog.

There are so many neat and challenging things happening in our industry right now!

Here is to embracing the challenges in our industry as well as within our own business in the year 2008.

Cheers and a prosperous new year for all of you from all of us here at MPECS Inc.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

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

Saturday 29 December 2007

Lenovo T60 - Recovering to Factory Default

A while back, we worked on recovering a Lenovo T60 from a crashed hard drive via the built-in Lenovo backup/recovery tools: Lenovo Rescue & Recovery experience.

Given our struggles to recover the laptop via the Lenovo Rescue & Recovery (R&R) to the most recent backup that our client had, we were expecting more of the same when we had another T60 come to us.

In this case, the laptop had a Trojan infection. Given the nature of the infection, we flattened the system.

Because we do not have any R&R system backups to recover from, we needed to restore the laptop to factory defaults and build up from there.

We were fortunate that we made a copy of the T60's recovery DVDs at the time of the last image as this machine could not be trusted to generate clean recovery disks.

After booting the first R&R disk to initiate the Factory Default recovery process, we were able to find our way to restoring to default.

Once we had made our selection though and we were told to remove the disk from the drive and click OK, nothing happened other than the OK window disappearing. The machine was left on the bench for about 10 minutes with no further action by the laptop to reboot.

We had to force power the unit down by holding the power button for about 5-10 seconds.

The R&R environment came up again, and asked us to insert the Boot Disk 1 again which we did. It rejected the disk and asked for Boot Disk 1 again. This time we put in the Product Recovery disk 1 in and it seemed to be happy.

Once the recovery process finished and we booted into the OS we still had to wait for the configuration scripts to run which took quite a while.

Keep in mind that besides the needed Microsoft Updates, the Lenovo update feature will need to be run and there will be a lot of Lenovo updates to pull down. In this case, with the optional and some of the features updates we hit 660MB.

All in all, in our experience, the Lenovo R&R setup needs to be refined. From poor documentation or instructions, to the R&R environment's own inability to follow through on our click commands, there is a lot of room for improvement.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

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

Friday 28 December 2007

New MS Blog: Security Vulnerability Research & Defense

A new blog to add to the RSS readers: The blog will discuss "more in-depth technical information about vulnerabilities serviced by MSRC security updates and ways you can protect your organization from security vulnerabilities."

From the About:
Launched in 2007, the Security Vulnerability Research & Defense blog’s intent is to provide more information about Microsoft vulnerabilities, mitigations and workarounds, and active attacks. During Microsoft’s technical investigation of security issues, information is discovered that we feel is important to share. Some examples include:
  • Workarounds are not 100% effective in every situation, every attack vector
  • Workarounds that are specific to a particular attack
  • Super complicated workarounds that work but cannot be recommended to all customers
  • Interesting mitigations that might not be present in all cases
  • “Best Practices” type guidance that applies to a particular vulnerability
  • Group policy deployment guidance
  • “Interesting” facts about a vulnerability Microsoft is fixing that will help customers learn more about Windows, the security infrastructure, or the way we conduct security investigations
  • Debugging techniques and information on how to triage security vulnerabilities
  • Overview of some of the challenges that we face when fixing specific security bugs
As always, security bulletins or security advisories are the ultimate authority but we’ll try to include juicy spill-over technical stuff in the SWI blog.
This is definitely one for the reader!

Via the Micrsoft Exchange Team Blog.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

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

The most terrifying moment in 2007 ...

Our data mule system has a lot of software tools loaded on it for the various tasks we require of it.

Recently we swapped out the Intel DG945 based board for an Intel DQ965GF running an E6600 Core 2 Duo.

The Pentium D 945 just wasn't cutting it anymore for the multiple tasks that can be running on the system at the same time.

The hardware swap caused Windows XP Pro to hiccup an activation request which was expected.

However, Symantec's Norton Ghost also coughed up an activation request. When we entered the key on the back of the CD sleeve it refused the key. Nothing we did could fix it and we just did not have the time to mess with it.

So, we called Symantec Support. The last time we did that, the script jockey (front line support) had us repeatedly delete registry keys all the while warning us that any modifications we were making may kill our system! Needless to say, we did not follow their directions while managing to decipher which keys we really needed to kill from their instructions.

Well, this time around the support call took us to a Symantec micro support site:

Connect to Support

After punching in the given code, the support person was able to take control of the system.

While the data mule may not be the prettiest thing to look at - the MB, PSU, HDD and extra USB ports are all mounted to an old Compaq desktop case cover - the system is business critical.

MPECS' Data Mule System

We do all of our imaging, virus cleansing, data transfers, and DoD style hard drive wipes (up to 11 SATA drives simultaneously), and more on this system.

So, surrendering the wheel to an unknown was not an option. The support person was completely grilled before allowing them to go anywhere on the system. There was no way someone reading from a script was going to proceed.

Fortunately, the person on the other end of the keyboard and mouse had a pretty good grasp of the product and the methodology needed to fix the problem. After monitoring their progress for while, we were able to work on other bench related tasks so as to could keep an eye on the Data Mule screen.

They ended up using the Norton Removal Tool, rebooting, cleaning out the registry and the software's folders, rebooting and reinstalling Ghost. The activation process was able to work after that. They were on the system for about 60-90 minutes.

Their remote support tool automatically reconnected to the support session after we logged in.

Doesn't that experience, and the gut reaction, say a lot about how we perceive manufacturer's penchant to save pennies by off shoring?

It is truly sad that, from where we sit, some companies just do not seem to care about anything beyond the initial sale.

And for us smaller I.T. support folks, it better be a lesson: Never ever leave a client high and dry after the sale - no matter what happens ... Be there for them!

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

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

Windows Vista - Folder Does Not Exist Error

We finished setting up a new Acer TravelMate 6592G Windows Vista Business laptop on a client's SBS network.

While working on the mapped network drive we were receiving the following error when we tried to create and name a folder, rename a folder, and more:

Copy Folder

The G:\ folder does not exist. The file may have been moved or deleted.

Do you want to create it?
Options are Yes and No with neither bringing about the desired result.

Apparently this has to do with some corruption on the original Windows Vista image that Acer used to deploy with.

The fix is as follows:
  1. Start -->regedit [Enter]
  2. HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\Csc\Parameters
    • In our case the Paramaters key was missing and needed to be created
  3. In the Parameters key create a new DWORD Value (Right click or Edit -->New)
  4. Name it: FormatDatabase [Enter]
  5. Double click (right click -->Modify) on the new FormatDatabase REG_DWORD
  6. Set the value to: 1
  7. Reboot
All will be well after the reboot.

This is your registry edit:

CSC\Parameters FormatDatabase = 1

The fix was obtained via search that pointed us to Microsoft KB 934160: Error message in Windows Vista when you try to rename a new subfolder in a shared folder on the network: "The folder does not exist".

It certainly was a little disconcerting having a client standing there to have a look at their new laptop and have it cough up an error! 8*O

Fortunately the fix was quick and simple. :)

UPDATE 2008-01-05: There is a quicker way to do this:
  1. Cut and paste the follwing into NotePad:

    • Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00
  2. Save the file making sure the extension is .reg: FolderFix.reg
An alternative is to export the key created above to a registry file for quick access later.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

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

Thursday 27 December 2007

Adobe Photoshop - Automating the same changes to a bunch of images

We have a client that we just finished scanning a whole bunch of architectural sketches into high resolution Photoshop files.

We now need to render those files to TIFF format for their access as well as small JPG format for email use.

There are close to 200 80-150MB files. Can you imagine opening each file then "save as" twice for the two required formats? We would be here for hours if not days.

So, to do that in Photoshop, we need to create a "Batch Process" that will automate the whole thing for us.

Initially searching across the Internet did not yield any results on the how-to because we did not know the proper terminology to use in the search. The keyword is "batch".

The best tutorials that we have found:
Now that we know how to run a batch job to render the images, we can sit back and have a tea while the system runs the job.

UPDATE: For doing the actual conversion process, there is a built-in Image Processor that the CreativePro link indicates. It works on both the PC and the Mac.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

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

SBS - QuickBooks 2008 - Problem with multi-user hosting setup

When installing QuickBooks 2008 with the intention of having multiple users access the same company file, you may receive the following error when opening QB and opening a company file located on a network share:

Problem with multi-user hosting setup

You are trying to work with a company file that is located on another computer, but that computer needs additional installation and setup. (H505)
In our case, the files are being hosted on the client's Small Business Server 2003 Premium box.

So, we need to run the QB setup disk on the server itself. Once we start the setup, accept the licensing agreement, we are greeted with:

Install QuickBooks Server 2008

Once the install has completed, we end up with a couple of new services on the server and an icon in the tray:

QuickBooks Services Icon - Far Left

Note the Simply Accounting 2008 server service is also running on this particular box.

Keep in mind for busy accounting offices whose SBS box is nearing its performance limits, these two server services may push the box over the edge when a number of company files are open at the same time.

We did run through the "Alternate Setup" process to configure the workstation as a host for the file and it seems to work okay. Users on a simply Internet Router setup may have issues with name resolution or changing IPs, but it will work. Note that any third party firewall software may interfere with connectivity too.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

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

QuickBooks 2008 - Install on Windows Vista

Just as we were finishing up the setup on a new laptop for one of our accounting company clients, Intuit's new QuickBooks 2008 (QB) showed up in the mail.

When we first fire up the setup procedure we are greeted with:

Guided or Expert Install?

We chose the Expert method since we need to see just what is happening.

We now have a number of options that were not present in previous versions of QuickBooks available to us:

Multi-User Host - Standard - Server Install Options

The first option would be used for those who are installing in a peer to peer situation and require more than one user to access the company file.

Keep in mind that larger company files that have not been purged of previous years' data should be setup with a full Gigabit infrastructure. Otherwise reports and other types of operations may take some time to complete.

The second option is the standard stand-alone setup. This is the default method for installing QB on a stand-alone workstation where no shared access would be required.

The third is to install a TSR to serve the company files from a server share on the network. A separate post will cover this.

In this case, we are installing on a system that will only be accessing QB' files via a network share so we will install using option 2.

We are installing QB on a new Acer TravelMate 6592G with a factory install of Windows Vista.

This next step may or may not happen depending on how up to date the workstation is:

Install .NET 1.1 Runtime

Once we have installed .NET, we are warned about the need to close any open windows or programs.

We are then greeted with an entirely new key code page:

License Number and Product Number

For those who obtain their install media via a QuickBooks Support subscription, the proper codes will be in a letter that accompanies the install media.

Once we have our correct codes entered, we were surprised to see the following:

Do you want to use Google Desktop in QuickBooks?

Google Desktop integration with QuickBooks? From the paragraph just above the "More About Privacy" button.
Google Desktop is customized to protect the privacy of your QuickBooks data. Existing users of Google Desktop may want to adjust your preferences to protect your data.
This definitely bears more investigation as we are getting prepared to install QB08 on our accounting systems here in the office.

For now, we will be answering "NO" to that question. We will run through the "Guided Installation" method on a Vista VM with undo disks enabled to see how this question is posed along with any other "surprises" that may appear there.

Once the installation routine has finished:

QuickBooks Installation Complete

We are no longer forced to reboot the system in order to initiate the QBUpdate Agent that runs in the background on the system.

We use the Sample company file to activate QB and to run the update process.

When we go to open the Sample company file we are greeted with:


You do not have sufficient permissions to the specified folder. ...
Note that the Sample company file is still in the \Program Files\Intuit\ folder and thus the permissions error.

All in all, other than the Google integration (our opinion), QB 2008 runs flawlessly on Windows Vista.

Note that updates will be required:

Update QuickBooks

And, they will require a reboot after the QB restart to install them:

You must restart your systems for the configuration changes made to QuickBooks to take effect.Close [sic] all other applications and click OK to restart now.
Kudos to Intuit for making things right!

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

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

Wednesday 26 December 2007

Hardware Review: Logitech MX Revolution

We took care of a friend's I.T. business for about 3 weeks while he and his family were travelling about Europe.

At one point I had to pop into his office to manage some server related issues at his principle workstation.

He had the Logitech MX Revolution (product page) installed on it.

Logitech MX Revolution

The mouse is impressive to look at and even more impressive the first time it is used.

It has a really good well balanced weight to it with the glide pads on the bottom of the mouse providing a seemingly friction free movement.

It fits the hand really well.

The mouse's button positioning, the ability to utilize Windows Vista's Flip 3D feature via the side mounted scroll wheel, the main scroll wheel's ability to smooth scroll while viewing long Web pages or click scroll when working in Word Documents (changes on the fly) demonstrates that Logitech put a lot of thought into the mouse's abilities and features.

The driver that shipped with the mouse was out of date. Make sure to visit the product's download page beforehand: MX Revolution Download Page.

Once downloaded, the SetPoint for Windows Vista x64 installed flawlessly and provided the ability to customize all of the buttons and scroll wheel actions.

Those who need mousing accuracy, such as CAD operators or professional publishers, will appreciate this mouse.

All in all, this mouse has made an excellent addition to our key workstations!

By the way, the MX Revolution is both PC and Mac friendly.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

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

Monday 24 December 2007

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, & Happy Holidays!

Hello folks!

Have a safe and wonderful Christmas, a happy Hanukkah, and Happy Holidays!

We take the Christmas break as an opportunity to implement larger projects at our client's locations while they are down.

So, we generally take Christmas day and New Years day off, but work the rest of the week days.

Our break will come sometime later in January.

Thank you all for the great support, contributions via comments and email, and for encouraging us to continue blogging by your readership.

We hope that 2008 will be a prosperous one for all of you!

Please note that posting may be a bit sporadic during the next couple of weeks! :)

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

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

Saturday 22 December 2007

Office 2007 - Config.xml Error - Whitespace is not allowed at this location.

For those of us with absolutely no HTML/XHTML/XML coding experience, we may run into a bit of a headache when setting up Office 2007 to install via Logon Script and Group Policy.

We may see this when proofing the Config.xml file located in the source file directory ..\OfficeVersion.WW\Config.xml:

The XML page cannot be displayed

Cannot view XML input using XSL style sheet. Please correct the error and click the Refresh button, or try again later.

Whitespace is not allowed at this location. Error processing resource 'file ://mysbsserver/clientapps/office2007ent/...

Note the dotted line under the last line in the original image: ----------^

It is pointing to the space just after the actual cause of the problem.

What we need to remember is the file is coded in XML. Therefore, we need to follow XML coding rules when trying to insert special characters like the '&' ampersand in the above example.

Here is what the raw source code looks like:

Config.xml Source Code - Wrong

You can see that there is an actual '&' ampersand in the COMPANYNAME value.

A list of the codes needed for special characters like the '&' ampersand can be found here at Wikipedia: List of XML and HTML character entity references.

This is what the XML code should look like:

Config.xml Source Code - Correct

Note the "&" Ampersand+amp+Semicolon in the COMPANYNAME value. This code value will cause the XML to be rendered correctly.

Thus, after double clicking on the config.xml file, in IE you will see:

XML Correctly rendered in IE

For a complete explanation of the various settings in the config.xml file go here: TechNet: Config.xml in the 2007 Office system.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

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

Friday 21 December 2007

Windows Vista - Caseware Working Papers 2006 Compatibility

We are in the process of installing our first Windows Vista based laptop at one of clients that run a large accounting practice.

Other than the usual fight to get QuickBooks 2007 installed on Windows Vista, we ran into an interesting error during the install of Caseware Working Papers:

The following files did not self-register or unregister

Once we were into the Caseware 2006 program though, everything seemed to start up as it should.

We opened an existing file, worked through its contents and previewed the reports in Caseview with no issues.

It does turn out that there is an update that addresses any Windows Vista compatibility issues: Download the version recommended and update Caseware for Vista compatibility.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

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

Thursday 20 December 2007

SBS + ShadowProtect + Swing Migration = A Good Combination

*Ack* ... hit the enter key once too many and it published! :( The original mistake post has been deleted.

One of the opportunities that a Swing Migration ( provides for us is the ability to clean up Active Directory (AD).

There are many times where the only real way to clean up a mess made in AD previously is to utilize Jeff Middleton's Swing method.

We have a client that has had their SBS 2K3 Premium installation in place for a number of years now. Their AD has a lot of GP settings that need to be purged along with some OU and group restructuring.

To facilitate a successful Swing Migration, we are going to utilize ShadowProtect IT Edition to image the original SBS box to new hardware along with a couple of the workstations to similar hardware here in the shop.

We can then proceed with the Swing Migration on their "production" environment to make sure that we do not hit any unforeseen problems. This method will also give us a good idea of how the workstations and the user's profiles will react to AD cleanup and the Swing.

For this kind of sensitive operation we prefer to work with actual hardware versus virtualizing everything. This gives us the opportunity to see if existing hardware and software drivers or OS installations will have a play on the success or failure of the Swing Migration.

We intend to utilize this method from now on to run through the Swing Migration before hand. We can then make sure we are not hit with any surprises on our more complex SBS setups that require tweaking before reinserting the new SBS hardware or the reinstall of the existing SBS hardware back into the production environment.

For the more sensitive or not so stable SBS environments where new hardware and/or upgraded SBS OSs are going to happen, utilizing this method will save us from having to clean up the production environment during the actual Swing process! We can leave the production environment alone until we come back with the new SBS box to copy newer data and shut down the existing SBS box.

Swing Migration Terminology references in this post are particular to the Swing Method. Out of respect for Jeff and his hard work, we suggest the you head over to his (Duet TechPro subscription page) site and sign up for a subscription. If you belong to a Microsoft User Group, check and see if your group is authorized for a Group discount before purchasing your subscription. If it is not, then talk to your group leaders about getting on the list. It will save you $45.00 on your first purchase or subsequent subscription renewal!

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

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

Windows Home Server Resources and Business Opportunity

Some Windows Home Server (WHS) resources: We had a chance to work with WHS during its beta cycle. Lately however, we have been pretty busy so there has not been too much opportunity to spend too much time with it.

We have ordered our Windows Home Server Eval Kit and are awaiting its arrival now.

We are starting to see some interest in WHS with our clients, so we will be delving into WHS when the Eval Kit arrives. While WHS is being promoted as a plug-n-play setup, many of our clients would prefer a professional set it up for them.

WHS is a possible niche market for us ... we shall see.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

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

Wednesday 19 December 2007

Microsoft Internet Explorer 8 - Passes the Acid2 Test...

Folks, for anyone who has worked at coding Web sites on HTML and subsequently XHTML + CSS, the advent of Internet Explorer 7 (IE) was a huge step in the right direction.

Coding sites for IE6 quirks was nothing short of extremely painful ... loss of limb levels of pain. :(

IE7 helped that process along by at least rendering Web pages without too much in the way of painful extra coding. Though, it is still a long way from pure coding pleasure.

The litmus test for properly rendering a properly coded XHTML + CSS based Web site is the Acid2 Web Browser Test.

The Acid2 test is brutal. Check it out with IE7 and see just how far away it is.

In my own experience, the only Windows based browser that can pass the test is the current version of the Opera Browser which is 9.

Today, that has changed!

The Internet Explorer team announced that the IE8 will properly render the Acid2 Test!

Since a significant junk of the world browses the Web with IE, this is a huge step in the right direction and a huge relief for Web site coders everywhere.

As long as Web Standards remain the focus of the IE Team, coders will no longer need to keep such a large stable of coding hacks to make sites work on all browsers.

And, with this announcement there is now pressure on the other browser creators that are not Standards compliant to pick it up and get their browser products compliant.

In the end, we are the winners! As Standards are adopted, Web sites will no longer look different or not render at all on the various Web browsers out there.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

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

WiFi - A way to control those radio waves

We have a number of client wireless installations in residential areas for partners of the firms we support. The competition between the various Access Points (AP) in the neighbourhood can be extremely frustrating to overcome.

To date, we would setup a couple or three APs to keep the home covered by the wireless signal and force out the competition.

There is however, a method that will enable us to focus and enhance our wireless signals within the house and virtually eliminate internal wireless signals passing outside of the house: The Cylindrical Parabolic (Wikipedia) Reflector:

Wireless Pattern with Parabolic Reflector

One can make one: Parabolic Antenna Template.

Or, one can purchase one: Tritium - Flatenna.

We will make a couple up for the home installation to see how it works as we have 13 competing APs in our own neighbourhood ... many of them unsecured.

Thanks to Scott S-A of Roderick Scott Corporation for pointing us down this particular path.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

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

Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 Books Released

With the advent of Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 (WSS), there has been a relatively small pool of resources available for those of us who need to install and configure WSS sites.

We have: The 5W/50 series is an excellent overview and run through the install and configuration of WSS.

While the Web sites can be very helpful, there is still a huge need to fill in the gaps.

Today, according to popular book sellers, we have a couple of excellent new book based WSS resources available to us: As soon as we found out about the MSBS Primer from SMB Nation we placed an order for some.

With the release of the MS Press book apparently being today, we will be ordering a copy or two of it as well.

Having the books around for reference, or to take along for a working trip to read and study, is an excellent way to delve into a product's install, configuration, and management methodology as well as a great way to discover the "why" things work the way that they do.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

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

Tuesday 18 December 2007

Microsoft (Hardware) Wireless Entertainment Desktop 7000 Replacement Procedure

One of our client systems with a Microsoft Wireless Entertainment Desktop 7000
decided that the mouse was no longer allowed to connect to the system.

The connection between the mouse and the system was repeatedly failing.

The reconnect dialogue would pop up to run through the time consuming process of getting the mouse reconnected. It was a very frustrating experience for our client.

We have since replaced the kit, but we now need to obtain warranty replacement ourselves.

To do this, we needed to find out what the procedure is to replace the defective unit: There are some phone numbers that are North America Specific in the article:
  • United States: (800) 360-7561, Monday through Friday, 5:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M. Pacific Time.
  • Canada: (800) 933-4750, Monday through Friday, 5:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M. Pacific Time.
  • TTY customers: Contact Microsoft at (800) 718-1599, Monday through Friday, 5:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M. Pacific Time.
The folks behind the Canadian help line were very helpful and efficient.

Make sure you have the product in front of you when calling so as to provide the PID that is on the bottom of the keyboard.

We will receive our replacement in the next couple of weeks via Purolator.

All in all, this was one of the better RMA situations we have had recently.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

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

Windows Vista - Simply 2008 EFT Module Issue

We have already chronicled some of our challenges with the new version of Simply Accounting 2008 on Windows Vista and SBS.

We have a new client that uses the Simply EFT (Electronic Funds Transfer) module.

In this case, we installed a new Vista Business workstation and configured everything to run with the exception of the EFT module.

Because our client carried forward the Company File EFT settings from the previous system, we were not expecting any issues. However, when they went to run their payroll, the EFT file creation failed every time the process ran.

The EFT module installs to: C:\Program Files\SimplyEFT with the data being created in a subdirectory called C:\Program Files\SimplyEFT\Data.

The problem we were running into was the EFT program did not have permission to create the EFT file in the Data directory.

Our options were the following:
  1. Create a new Company EFT setup and have the output written to an EFT folder under the user's Documents folder
  2. Change the NTFS permissions on the Data folder to allow Write/Change
Our client did not want to go through with recreating their company's EFT setup, so we went with option two.

After the permission change, they were able to run the EFT process and upload the file to their bank with no issues.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

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

Monday 17 December 2007

Intel SR1530HAHLX, SR1530AH, SR1530CL Technical Advisories + Engineering Timelines

With the release of the new 3200 series uniprocessor server board chipset and 1U chassis, we are in the process of looking into the new H series 1U server systems that will utilize the 3200 series chipsets.

We utilize uniprocessor 1U units for virtualization, Web application hosting, sometimes secondary domain controllers, and for a few other task specific reasons.

Before doing any system integration on a new platform, we like to know what we are getting into. So, here are a couple of technical advisories relevant to Intel uniprocessor and dual processor 1U units both new and existing: In the first advisory, the new 1U H series uniprocessor with SATA Hot Swap Backplane will fault with an amber LED. This is a manufacturing issue that can be resolved by calling into the Partner Hotline to obtain a replacement SATA hot swap backplane if the unit delivered is affected by the problem.

The second is also a manufacturing issue. The systems may have shipped with identical rack handles instead of one right and one left handle. A call into the Partner Hotline and a replacement will be had very quickly.

Being prepared when it comes to integrating new generation products means we can work a little "engineering" time into our timeline ETAs with our clients. Think Scotty of TOS (Wikipedia) or B'Elanna Torres (Wikipedia) - two of my favourite engineers. Their time quotes were usually 50% longer than the actual task would require under regular circumstances and 100% longer under duress. :D

As long as the delay we face falls within that timeline we are okay. If it doesn't, then a call to the client with an explanation of why we need to delay delivery is usually acceptable to our clients.

For the most part though, we end up with everything ready for delivery ahead of schedule. Nothing beats a phone call to our client stating that we are ready to integrate a new system ahead of schedule. It makes us look good and our client happy that they are going to receive their solution ahead of schedule.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

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

SBS - Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 2 Required ...

We have one client that we have been holding off the application of Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 2 due to the age of the hardware and stability issues we have encountered on this box after updates were applied.

We have recently installed ShadowProtect on this server and setup a backup regimen.

So far, we have had two successful backups. Since those two, we have been unable to get a backup to successfully write to the USB hard drive.

For now, we have modified the backups to stream across the network to their data mirror server which also serves as a backup server. The network version seems to write okay.

Going through the system logs, we are pointed to what could be a source of the problems we are experiencing:

Error: VSS Event ID 6013: Sqllib error: OLEDB Error...

There are a lot of these types of VSS errors showing up in the logs.

A quick search turns up VSS event 6013 on SBS at the TechArena forums.

The first three KB articles pointed to in the response are included in SBS SP1. We are working with a server that is up to date in this regard.

So, we go on to the others pointed out in the forum post: And, of course they all point to the newest Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 2.

This is one server we have been trying to avoid applying the service pack due to its history.

We are now in a position where we will need to be in the office after hours, run a full backup after booting to the ShadowProtect Server Edition CD to a USB hard disk, or the network if the USB drive fails, and boot the server up and make an attempt at the service pack.

At least we have great insurance in the ShadowProtect backup if the SBS OS decides to choke on the service pack.

Recovering the system partition will only take a couple of hours if the service pack does indeed kill the server.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

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

Thursday 13 December 2007

The Real Victim of Off Shoring Support

NOTE: Cranky Post...

Our ability to provide product support to our clients sometimes hinges on our being able to turn to someone more knowledgeable than we are on a particular software or hardware product.

When we encounter the first in line call jockey that is essentially reading from a script and gets totally lost when the question asked is not on the list, things get frustrating really fast.

We were working on a support issue for a popular accounting product. The company moved their support off this continent around two or three years ago.

Anytime we have called into the system it has been hit or miss.

Today, the first in line person kept putting us on hold to, "consult their mentor" when our questions did not fit on the script.

How in the world are we supposed to have confidence in the company's products and their support if they cannot provide front line support people at the other end of the phone line who have actually worked with the company's products and understand how things really work?

The frustration became too much. So, down goes the phone, then up it goes again to try calling into the system yet again. Hopefully the second time around we would land someone who actually knows something about the product.

We were fortunate ... this time. They did indeed know the product well enough to coach us through to the source of the problem and eventually how to fix it. This fellow was not reading from a script.

So, what are we to do?

Our clients, and those of us that support them, end up being the victims of a company's bottom line. We end up burning huge chunks of time in wasted efforts to get things working while in the mean time those who are supposed to help us in that endeavor are almost completely useless.

In the end, that product costs us a lot more in wasted time and lost productivity.

And, the really frustrating point: What choice do we have to influence those companies to provide us with people who can actually support their products and do so in a timely and knowledgeable manner?


Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

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

Wednesday 12 December 2007

Environment Canada is catching up: Weather RSS for your area now available

We do a fair amount of travelling on any given day for client visits where required.

Given the fact that our weather changes quite frequently, and we can be buried in work in the shop area with no windows, we need to know what is happening with the weather.

Environment Canada has helpfully added RSS feeds to our local weather conditions. Here are some quick links: We are supposed to get some pretty cold and snowy weather due to La Nina (Environment Canada Info Site). So, it is good to be prepared as much as we can when setting appointments with our clients.

For those that live and work in major metropolitan areas, your municipal road reporting service may be implementing RSS as well. This is something to research as knowing where traffic is bottlenecked can save a lot of hassle and pain with client scheduling.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

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

Windows Vista SP1 Guides for IT Professionals

There are some new guides for us to read on Vista's upcoming service pack 1. We haven't taken to applying the service pack beta release to any of our Vista installations yet as we haven't had any time to sit down and go through these documents at this point.

Once we have had a chance to go through the documentation and assess the impact of the service pack, we will start applying the service pack to our lab based systems. If they show promise, we will then acquire a few ShadowProtect images of client workstations to see how they react to the service pack.

Once the service pack formally releases, we will go through the process again to make sure that the changes made between the current beta versions and the actual release version won't cause problems.

We will then wait a few weeks and browse the Web to make sure that others are not having critical issues with the service pack's application.

It pays to be careful when it comes to service packs.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

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

Tuesday 11 December 2007

Microsoft Office 2007 - OPK Kits For Free (3 Only) via MS OEM Site

Folks, the original Office 2007 Basic, Small Business, Professional, and Home & Student OPK kits that we could get through our suppliers here for less than $10 each are no more. That reduced rate was some sort of introductory offer.

The part number, if you can find it was: 269-11458.

The OPK part number that now has a royalty attached to it is:
  • 269-13607 for Canadian English
  • 269-13608 for Canadian French.
  • Supplier search key words:
    • Office 2007 OPK
    • Microsoft OEM OPK
    • 2007 OPK
    • Basic SB Pro OPK
Our suppliers here in Canada have at least a few of the above key words in their descriptions. Part numbers and search terms may vary relative to your particular geographical/language area.

There is one other offer that one can take up via Microsoft's OEM Web site: Order 2007 Microsoft Office OEM Preinstallation Kit (OPK) Master Kits. Note that if a company is not registered with the OEM site, then one will need to complete the registration process before obtaining the kits.

A company is allowed to order 3 free copies of the kit before being referred to an authorized distributor to purchase the royalty based discs.

For those clients that insist on getting media with their OEM license, they can order a backup media copy from here: Microsoft Office system backup discs for medialless license kits.

NOTE: The client will be required to provide their OEM install key to complete the order for backup media. And, the offer expires 90 days after the purchase of their system or systems.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

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

SBS - SharePoint Version 3 - Service Pack 1 Released

We have some WSS v3 sites that will be updated soon with Service Pack 1.

Microsoft released Service Pack 1 for Windows SharePoint Services on December 8.

Some install related issues:
As always, read through the documentation to make sure none of the client's infrastructure will be impacted by the application of the service pack.

And, have a good backup in place and a recovery plan "B" in place before running the service pack on the server or server farm.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

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

Monday 10 December 2007

SBS - No Graceful Shutdown? Be Prepared ...

If the server does not have a UPS capable of at least shutting the server down gracefully ... what happens?

Well, if one of the hard drives in a RAID 1 array was just a little flaky, then it is very likely that the shock shutdown may kill it.

Or, if there were some sort of OS corruptions hanging in the balance, they may show themselves with a no boot situation.

How do we know that one of the drives is flaky after the power outage?

The OS will take an inordinately long time to boot, and may, or may not, have a service failed error after the outage.

So, in this scenario we can discover very quickly two of our weakest links:
  • UPS is not big enough to gracefully shutdown the server after a predetermined amount of time
  • Our backup restoration method has not been tested yet and it fails.
Or, if the UPS has no A/C power filtration capabilities at all, it may let the subsequent series of spikes through to the server when the power comes back up. This in turn may cause a problem. Keep in mind that the initial spikes may get filtered out by the existing UPS, but the smaller subsequent ones may not.

So, we learn a very valuable lesson:
  1. Have a UPS in place that is big enough to allow for a graceful server shutdown
  2. Have a UPS or UPSs in place that properly filters all A/C power or other power sources heading into the server including:
    • Telephone for fax and/or DSL
    • COAX for cable Internet
    • CAT 5E for all server ports
    • Network switches, DSL/cable modems, etc protected.
  3. Workstations have at least a 3K+ Joule surge arrest in place on their A/C, CAT 5e, and telephone if needed.
  4. Workstations used for database work have at least a 1000VA UPS with filtration in place for graceful shutdown of the database.
After installing a new UPS, one of the first things to do beyond the UPS' own self-test routine is to test it. We need to know how that UPS is going to behave in the environment it will be protecting. Unplug it after at least 24 hours after delivery and setup to give it enough time to go through a charge cycle.

Sometimes a factory defect may not show itself until the UPS flips over to battery mode for an extended duration. So, it is better to know that the unit is going to fail before an actual power event brings a defect out and causes even more grief.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

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

Friday 7 December 2007

Windows Vista - Recycle Bin Icon Errors

We had a client desktop running a Core 2 Duo E6420 based system with Windows Vista Business 32bit installed on it.

Lately, they had been having a weird experience with the Recycle Bin icon where it will not change from indicating "empty" to indicating "full" when something is deleted on the system.

Click on the desktop and hit the F5 key, and the icon changes. But, it would not automatically change with the Recycle Bin's status.

The process to fix it is actually quite easy:
  1. Right click on the desktop and choose Personalize
  2. Click on the "Change desktop icons" link near the top left corner
  3. Click on the Recycle Bin (full) icon
  4. Click the "Change Icon" button and choose the Empty Icon - it is just below
  5. OK
  6. Click on the Recycle Bin (empty)
  7. Click the "Change Icon" button and choose the Full Icon - it is just above
  8. OK
  9. Apply and OK
  10. Click on the "Change desktop icons" link near the top left corner
  11. Reverse the above process to bring the icons back to the way they should be
  12. Apply and OK
  13. Close the Personalize appearance and sounds window.
The icons should now behave themselves.

Thanks to commenter Sam about half way down on ItsVista: ItsVISTA Tip 19: Restore Your Vista Recycle Bin Icon.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

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

Thursday 6 December 2007

Product Review: OCZ ATV Turbo Flash Drive

When a business depends on a system or component's horsepower to accomplish things faster to improve efficiency and cost effectiveness, one looks for items that can help along those lines.

For 3DS Max (3D Studio Max), more cores plus RAM plus GHz means more frames rendered per minute. Having more cores across the corporate rendering "farm" means more frames rendered as well.

As we are delving into the creation, management, and deployment of Windows Vista WIM images via network share, we need to have a quick device to boot the system with since we have not graduated to Windows Deployment Services yet.

Using a network share based deployment will be the environment we will be working with at our smaller client sites where server transitions may not be as frequent as the larger ones.

So far, we have used an 8GB Transcend (JF V10) which had dismal performance. We did not keep this one too long.

The 1GB Kingston Elite Pro did pretty good. It managed to boot the WinPE environment is a respectable amount of time.

We ended up bringing in an 8GB and a couple of 4GB OCZ ATV Turbo flash drives to test out their ability to boot WinPE quicker.

We were pleasantly surprised. They are fast!

The online reviews were accurate. They definitely can pull their own weight when it comes to bringing the WinPE environment up at least 20-30% faster than the Kingston Elite Pro did!

This speed improvement will save our client's money where we will be required to be on-site for their deployments. It will also save us a lot of time for our training lab deployments.

They will also be our Technician's Thumb Drive and for booting DOS for BIOS updates and the like.

Links: Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

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

Windows Vista - Multi-partition Booting with Linux? Why?

With the advent of extremely fast USB flash drives and the ability to set them as Active, one cannot help but figure out that there really is no longer a need to have multi-boot partitions on a single hard drive.

Need to run Ubuntu Linux? Reboot to that flash drive and away you go: Ubuntu: How to install Ubuntu Linux on a flash drive.

Or, one could have an eSATA or USB external hard drive for the same purpose.

One really does not need to mess around with multiple partitions or have dedicated internal hard drives for a particular flavour OS anymore.

Another good information site: Pen Drive Linux.

Port 25: Using Vista's Boot Manager to Boot Linux and Dual Booting with BitLocker Protection with TPM Support.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

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

Wednesday 5 December 2007

HD-DVD vs. Blu-Ray HD - Voting by Wallet

For those of us old enough to remember some Sony related product format struggles and proprietary nonsense (wikipedia links):
In the last example, Sony did capitulate to Toshiba with the requirement that one technology aspect of the MMCD be brought into the SD spec ... and the DVD was born in 1997.

Are we seeing a pattern here yet?

Is there going to be a time where Sony will play in the sandbox nicely with others?

Given the company's history, there is very little doubt that Johnny is always going to try to keep that toy to himself.

It is unfortunate, because we lose. All of us.

Instead of having a plethora of manufacturers producing the stand-alone HD players and optical drives for PC/Laptop, we have one manufacturer producing one type of product and others producing another type of product.

Then there is the whole rigmarole behind which movie studio will back which HD disc format.


So, after our home DVD player tanked, we decided to weigh in on the battle with our pocketbook. And, we chose HD DVD.

There are many sides to this story, with who believes which product is better and why we should support it. For the last couple of weeks or so, I made sure to ask every representative at the various electronic stores I visited as well as doing some online research to see which would be the best choice.

In the process, there have been some very clear answers with good information, and a few passionate ones with less information. All in all, things came out fairly balanced.

Blu-ray does seem to have a bit of a technology edge, but the biggest factor: economics - that is the wallet - will win and that is where I believe HD DVD will come out ahead.

It seems pretty clear that when an HD DVD player at $250CA and a Blu-ray player at $500CA sit close together on a shelf, people will purchase the HD DVD player.

Most people, as many have mentioned to me in person as well as online, just want to watch a movie and do not really care of one disc can hold more data or has a bit more protection from scratches.

For many of us who have been burned in Sony based format wars before, the decision is fairly clear: Anything but Sony.

Some good information links: After bringing home the HD DVD player and plugging it into the Acer AT3505-DTV (true 1080p) LCD we have hanging on the wall, Monique and I were blown away. The difference between standard definition and the high definition was readily apparent.

While the Acer is not a 120hz (wikipedia on HD Blur) capable, the image clarity and detail was simply amazing.

In the market for an LCD television? Some things to watch out for:
  • 1920 x 1080 (not 1366 x 768) for true 1080P High Definition resolutions
  • 5-8ms grey to grey
  • 120hz capable for HD motion blur reduction
  • HDMI 1.2+ (wikipedia)
Now, if only The Incredibles was available in HD DVD format! ;)

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

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

SBS + ShadowProtect SBS 3.0 = Confidence Going Forward

We started testing StorageCraft's ShadowProtect (blog label search) product a while back.

While we haven't had a chance to blog too much about our experiences with the product, we have been quite pleased with our test results and are now in the process of migrating our client's backup solutions over to StorageCraft's ShadowProtect for both SBS and Windows Server as well as key client desktops.

We had one of those "Eureka" - light goes on - moments not too long ago when we were getting ready to apply Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 2 (download page) at one of our client sites that is protected by ShadowProtect Small Business Server Edition 3.0 (StorageCraft's Site): As we deploy ShadowProtect on our client's sites, our stress levels go down.

How is that?

In the above service pack example, we were working on an ageing server that may not be replaced by Swing Migration ( any time soon.

So, if the server choked on the service pack beyond uninstalling and trying to fix things, we were no longer in a position where we would have had to say, "Mr. Client, the server choked on the service pack we applied, we need to restore from the SBS backup and should have the server back up and running by tomorrow morning."

We were now in the position to say, "Mr. Client, the server choked on the service pack. We will need a couple of extra hours to recover it using the new backup system we installed not too long ago. Mr. Client, that backup system just saved us a lot of time and effort!"

Before we are going to run any major updates or install or update a client's Line of Business application, we make sure to run a full backup the night before we are scheduled to arrive. We then run an incremental backup just before beginning our work on the server or business critical desktop system. It only takes a short amount of time.

Having the risks of loosing a server and client data greatly reduced by having an excellent backup in place is a no-brainer.

We have seen a number of different software and hardware backup products over the years that have provided us with a good measure of protection. Each had its peculiarities and complexities to bring things back to the way things were if a failure happened.

Having the risks of loosing a server and client data virtually eliminated via a software application and a simple USB hard drive, Drobo (product site), or NAS (wikipedia) rotation is truly brilliant.

The ShadowProtect Server and Desktop Editions have a fully functional 30 day trial. For those of us working in the I.T. industry, the ShadowProtect I.T. edition provides a Hardware Independent Recovery option where one can install the necessary drivers before beginning a recovery onto different or newer hardware. There is a 30 day trial edition for this product as well.

Links: The trial version links will be found on the near the right hand side of the page in the second column as of this blog post.

For I.T. shops: Once you have checked out the product, StorageCraft has a Partner Program with good incentives: StorageCraft Partner Programs.

We are part of the StorageCraft Partner Program and have found the folks at StorageCraft very helpful in all aspects as well as very responsive on their product community and support forums.

And, to reaffirm: Our disclaimer still stands. We have not received any compensation for this post. The product is just that good. :)

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

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

Tuesday 4 December 2007

SBS - No "Safely Remove Hardware" Icon?

An option for our managed services clients is to pop in to their location to rotate their encrypted ShadowProtect USB backup drives off-site on a set schedule.

Today on a client's SBS server, we could could not find the "Safely Remove Hardware" icon:

There was no reference to properly removing the USB hard drive anywhere on the system.

After a brief search, we came up with:
  1. Right click on the desktop
  2. New
  3. Shortcut
  4. Cut and paste the following into "Type the location of the item":
    • RunDll32.exe shell32.dll,Control_RunDLL HotPlug.dll
  5. Next
  6. Name it: Safely Remove Hardware
  7. Finish
Once done, we end up with:

Shortcut Icon (Vista)
To give the icon a little bit more visual relevance, we can change the icon's appearance:
  1. Right Click on the icon
  2. Left Click Properties
  3. Click the Change Icon button
  4. Copy and Paste the following:
    • %windir%\system32\HotPlug.dll
  5. Click OK once
  6. Choose the icon desired
  7. OK
  8. OK
We end up with something like:

Shortcut Icon Modified (Vista)
Double click on the new icon and we get the ability to safely remove the USB hard drive:

Safely Remove Hardware
Click on the item we need to remove, click the Stop button, and voila ... we have the ability to swap out the USB hard drives.

Once the shortcut is created, it can be used on any Windows box. One can keep a copy of the shortcut on their Technician's Thumb Drive for future use.

Shortcut courtesy of: neil's world: Create a Safely Remove Hardware shortcut.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

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