Saturday, September 30, 2006

UK Partner Training for Exchange 2007

If you are a UK based Microsoft partner and you want to book some Exchange 2007 training, see the available dates. I'm pleased to say these are all at Global Knowledge locations around the UK. this is the Ignite tour - book now!

NB: this training is NOT free - depending on what level of partner you are, the cost is either £200 or £300 (plus VAT).

Disclaimer: I work for Global Knowledge as Chief Architect for our EMEA operation.

Installing Vista under VMware

I use VMware to run VMs and am about to create some VMs for VIsta and Longhorn. I came across a blog post by Joel Spolsky which explains that, currently, Vista has some issues running under VMware. It turns out that there's a simple work around which enables you to get it all working. I'll be testing this out over the weekend.

The third paragraph of this blog post is a little harsh - I do not expect this to be a deliberate snub to VMware. It does, however, suggest that the industry is not quite ready for Vista, and adds some frisson to the question of whether Vista is ready for the industry.

[Later]

My old friend Oz asks "Why VMware?" A couple of reasons. First because I could. Those nice people at VMware gave me the license and I can use it on my new 64-bit box. Second because it's more effieicent, particularly in terms of RAM. I have a 1GB VM running Exchange and hte host is using just 700MB of RAM.

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SLAs and all that

In an excellent post Eileen Brown discusses Service Level Agreements. There are a couple of points I'd add onto to end of this nice article.

First, you need to have SLAs before you can improve them. For many organisations, "it just works" is the expected level of service, whereas what's delivered is what's delivered and any gaps are just the way it is. Organisations should have SLAs for all critical infrastructure.

Second, you can't improve what you are not measuring. While I'm not hung up on measuring by dollar value, in order to improve any service you have to have some baseline and a method of detecting changes to that baseline. Thus you need to measure constantly. MOM and SCE help you do this.

This leads to the third point - why isn't MOM part of every EA/SA contract in some way? I was doing a bit of consulting for a large public body who planned to have 22 DCs spread out across hundreds of square miles. The plan was to monitor partly by driving around - MOM was "too expensive". A quick back of the envelope calculation reckoned you could get the licenses and hardware for £10k including basic installation. Seems cheap to me for an EA costing hundreds of thousands of pounds each year. Include it please!

Finally, in order to manage service you need processes in place. These include ITIL and Microsoft's excellent MOF. I don't know about you, but I find process a hard concept to sell. The sales guys don't get any commission for selling ITIL/MOF - they prefer to shift what pays them. As Drucker observed: People respond as they are measured. And,  I suppose, by how they are rewarded. Inside organisations, process means more work - and IT folks are already stretched. One good way to help here might be to include mandatory MOF or ITIL training for all IT staff as part of large corporate roll outs. How about making IT Pro focused MCTs have ITIL certification in order to be an MCT, and have operational processes discussed in every Microsoft course?

 

New York Times Reader Application

Microsoft has produced a really cool New York Times reader application - they showed it off at yesterday's MVP Open Day at TVP. Rather than tell you about it - head over to the NYT site and download it. One particularly neat feature - you can read the NYT offline using this application

 

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The MASIE Center's Learning Trends Newsletter

As a trainer, at least a trainer at heart, I look forward to the twice-weekly Learning Trends newsletter form the Masie Center. It's got two or three articles in it which are often very useful. Some entries contain a post I can use right away while some are quite interesting.

You can sign up for the newsletter by using the on-line sign-up form. There is also an on-line archive of past newsletters. Sadly, there is no RSS feed - Hey Elliot, get with the program!

 

Vista Shortcut keys

Another nice feature of Vista is all the short cut keys, in particular the Win key, to speed up the your use of Vista, as described over on Arlindo's blog.

Many of you know about bring up the Flip 3D by using Win-Tab or locking the computer using Win-L. But Arlindo tried them all and found a bunch of cool features including:

  • Win-Space - this shows the sidebar
  • Win-D - to show the desktop
  • Ctrl Win-Tab: Flip 3D but one that stays on the desktop, you can then scroll with up, down, left and right keys
  • Win-E - to open an explorer window
  • Win-R - to open the run dialogue box
  • Win-T - this tabs between running applications onto the taskbar
  • Win-Q - this appears to launch Office communicator
  • Win-G - pushes focus to the the sidebar the focus and when you press this key combination again it tabs between the gadgets on the sidebar
  • Win-M - Minimizes all windows and just shows the desktop
  • Shift Win-M - Undoes minimize windows
  • Win-Number: Press the Win key and then choose a number of the applications that are in the quick launch task bar. An example the third icon on the taskbar (starting from left) is IE so to run IE press Win-3 and it will launch IE.

Thanks Arlindo for this! 

 
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More on PowerShell RC2

In a recent blog post, I noted that Microsoft has shipped PowerShell RC2. There are a bunch of really cool features including:

  • Direct ADSI support which means you can create scripts to manage your AD.
  • Improved support for Windows Management Instrumentation through ability to change WMI properties via methods
  • Additional logical operators (in particular XOR and binary XOR) that make it easier to write sophisticated scripts
  • Significantly Improved help content and help functionality which includes views to make it easier to find the right information.

The current plan if for Windows PowerShell 1.0 will release-to-web in Q4 CY06, with this version being heavily leveraged by both Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 and System Center Operations Manager 2007. The Exchange Management Shell is how Admins will manage Exchange 2007 - about which more later in future blog posts.

 

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Hate the Office 2007 Ribbon - Here's One Partial Way Out

I love parts of Office 2007 - Outlook is fantastic, and Power Point is worth upgrading to, But I hate the ribbon. I want a Classic Editionm so I can be productive and not have to figure out where the Office Team have moved things. I hate the ribbon.

I found out a cool trick today Control+F1 hides the ribbon. It's NOT a full answer to my hatred of the ribbon, but it does help get the Ribbon our of your face when you are just typing away. Of course, just clicking on a menu brings the Ribbon back.

Orcas September CTP virtual PC images available

Orcas is the next version of Visual Studio/.NET. You can now download virtual PC images of Orcas September CTP  :) 
 
Note that the  CTP is available only as a Virtual PC image. You will need Virtual PC or Virtual Server to run this image. Depending on your hardware the download files may take between 30-60 minutes to decompress.
 

Public IM Connectivy (PIC) in Live Messenger

Microsoft has implemented a cool facility called PIC in Live Messenger. PIC stops you from registering email addresses that aren't yours. So if you try to register Michael@Dell.com, you'll be stopped (unless you come from inside Dell).

Friday, September 29, 2006

Is Windows Mobile Really That Bad?

I'm considering upgrading my phone to a smarter device, i.e. one running Windows Mobile. Then I discovered a post entitled "Why Windows Mobile Still Sucks".  Hence the question - is it really that bad? I currently have a Sony Eriksson k750i phone, and it works flawlessly. The real question for me is what is so good about Windows Mobile that would make me want to upgrade?

 

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

New Version of Live Writer

Microsoft has just released an updated version of their Live Writer blogging tool. I liked the older beta, but the new one is even better. Some key changes:

  • Tagging support
  • Support for Blogger Beta
  • Categories are sorted by name and support scrolling, plus improved support for reading categories from your blog
  • Improved startup performance
  • Paste is enabled for Title region and TAB/SHIFT+TAB navigation between title and body supported
  • Insert hyperlink added to context menu when text is selected
  • Title attribute in Insert Link dialog
  • Custom date support for Community Server
  • Improved keyboard shortcuts for switching views
  • Change spell-check shortcut key to F7
  • Add ‘png’ to insert image dialog file type filter
  • More robust image posting to Live Spaces
  • Improved style detection for blogs 
  • Fixed issues with pasting URLs and links
  • Remember last window size and position when opening a new post
  • Open post dialog retrieves more than 25 old posts

An altogether highly useful set of improvements. Well done!

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Powershell RC2 Ships

PowerShell's RC2 has now shipped. You can download it from the Microsoft web site. As it turns out, there are a bunch of different versions to PowerShell - so ensure you pick the right  one(s) for your environment.

 

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

IBM Patent Filings To Go On Line

According to a New York Times article, IBM is to put it's patent filings online. IBM is the USA's largest patent holder and hopes that this move will make it a model for other patent holders. I hope Microsoft, Sun, Oracle, Adobe et al take notice and take the same approach.

The policy includes standards like clearly identifying the corporate ownership of patents, to avoid filings that cloak authorship under the name of an individual or dummy company. It also asserts that so-called business methods alone — broad descriptions of ideas, without technical specifics — should not be patentable.

This is a brave move by IBM. Especially as patents can take several years from filing to acceptance - and the very act of filing gives competitors some heads-up info.

Fair disclosure: I own shares in IBM. My great grandfather sold steel to Thomas Watson in the 1930s, in exchange for shares.

 

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Visual Studio 2005 SP1 beta ships

Over at Somesagar's blog, he announces the availability of Visual Studio SP1 beta.The good news is that this beta is available although there's no indication when an RTM version will ship. But there is some bad news too.

In his post, Soma says: "Ensuring that VS2005 works well on Windows Vista is a core goal of ours.  Visual Studio 2005 SP1 will run on Vista but will likely have a few compatibility issues." He goes on to say: "We are working with the Vista team to understand those, to provide workarounds where possible and also work on providing you with a set of fixes beyond SP1."

At first sight, this seems highly reasonable. But think about it - Vista, 5 years on since Windows XP, may not run Microsoft's core dev platform without compatibility issues. And here is is just weeks before Vista is meant to go gold, and a core application's dev team is still working to "understand" the issues. Surely by now the Vista and VS teams should know about these issues and should have had a solid set of fixes for both products! I find it very unsettling that this issue is being brought up so close to Vista's RTM.

Maybe this is just a bit of text lost in translation. But it sounds more likely that this application compatibility is going to be an issue with Vista RTM. That leads to two conclusions. First that Vista really is not ready for release. Second, that corporate users should just wait for Vista SP1 to start detailed deployment testing.  Unless, of course, Microsoft does the right thing and delays Vista till it really is ready and able to support core applications like Visual Studio.

As an aside, I thought Microsoft used Visual Studio to develop Vista. If so, why were these issues not nailed years ago. And if not, why not????

 

Server Management Magazine

As some of this blog's readers know, I write for Server Management Magazine, where I'm Windows Editor. I just discovered that they have an on-line archive of some of my more recent articles.

Yale University to post courses to the Internet

Thanks to a post by Elliot Masie,I see that Yale University plans to post digital videos of some courses to the Internet for free. Additionaly, transcripts in several languages are to be provided, The idea is that thils will help to make Yale more accessible.

While Princeton University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and others already offer course material online without charge, Yale is the first to focus on free video lectures. This takes the Open Content movement to a new level, moving beyond course outlines to the actual lectures and presentations.

The 18-month pilot project will provide videos, syllabus and transcripts for seven courses beginning in the 2007 academic year. They include "Introduction to the Old Testament," "Fundamentals of Physics" and "Introduction to Political Philosophy."

The courses cannot be counted toward a Yale degree, and educators say they are no substitute for actual teaching.

Great News - a Great Feed Reader

Thanks to apost by Arlindo Alvess, I've discovered a cool new RSS feed aggretagor, called  GreatNews. It's a stand-alone tool which allowsyou to read content offline. There's alsoa plug-in for Windows Live Writer that provides integration between GreatNews, Live Writer and  my blog site (Blogger). Thanks Arlindo

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Monday, September 25, 2006

Office 2007 Beta 2 Technical Refresh

Microsoft has now released an updated beta version of Officd 2007. Some teams would have called this Beta 3, or even RC1, but the Office team have used the snappy term "Beta 2 Technical Refresh". This is a full set of the Office applicaitons that updates the Beta 2 version released in the spring of 2006.

You can get the refreshed code from The Microsoft Download Centre. This page also has the new Save as PDF feature.  You may recall that Adobe made Microsoft remove this feature from Office 2007. However, for reasons that only a lawyer could come up with there is no problem with it being available as a download and add-on.

The refresh is an update to Beta 2, and is not a stand alone version - you have to have Beta 2 installed for this refresh to refresh.

And like Vista, Microsoft are offering Office 2007 is a bewilderingly huge array of 8 separate edtions, with different feature sets and costs. See the System Packaging page for the details of the editions, and the System Pricing Page for details of likely (US) retail costs.

A point about costs. With new computers costing under £400, the idea of charging nearly $1000 for Office Ulitmate and Vista Ultimate seems hard to justify. Of course, MS can charge what it likes. At the same time, it is doing lots to stamp out piracy. But prices like this, Open Office and Linux look increasonly good value for money.

 

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Technet PowerShell Scripting Centre

Microsoft's upcoming PowerShell release promises a whole new world for admins. Exchange admins in particular are going to need to know PowerShell in order to administer Exchange 2007.

As part of the Technet site, MS has started developing a Scripting Centre around PowerShell. The 'home page' is at http://www.microsoft.com/technet/scriptcenter/hubs, which points off to a Script Repository of sample PowerShell Scripts.

The script repository is a bit thin thus far, but I'm confident that it'll get more and more scripts as time goes by. I'm hoping to add to my own script repository at www.reskit.net.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

419 Scams Still Working

According to an Ars Technica article, the 419 scam still seems to be working. This scam has been around so long, it's hard to believe anyone falls for it - but Ars Technica says not. The article describes one American woman who shot and killed her husband, along with a Florida lawyer who stole $300k in order to get his hands on the millions of dollars in a mythical offshore box.

The old adage that if it seems to be too good to be true it probably is seems apposite.

Updated Vista Beta Released

Microsoft has released an updated to Vista RC1, build 5278, as described on the Vista Team Blog. I downloaded this over night, but it does not install into a VMware VM. I'll have to cut a DVD and try it on my Vista PC. My new laptop has not arrived yet, so I'm not able to run this to see what improvements have been made.

This release is being made to the general public, and you can get the new build in the following languages:

Enjoy!

Microsoft does sometimes listen!

Like many users, the idea of Vista making sounds at startup that you can not turn off seemed pretty dumb. It seemed like an idea that made sense over Sushi, but out here in the real world - well can you imagine a large room full of PCs all starting up at the beginning of the day? Thankfully sensible minds prevailed. According to a blog post by James O'Neill of MS UK, here willb e a way to turn this off.

Thanks James for getting the word out - any chance you can post the method of turning this off??

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Library Part of ITIL

I got a good question in mail this morning - Where's the library for ITIL? Since ITIL stands for Information Technology Infrastructure Library, this is a pretty good question. 

For those unfamiliar, ITIL is a consistent and comprehensive documentation set of best practice for IT Service Management. It is in use by hundreds of organisations around the world. ITIL is also supported by a professional qualification scheme (See the ITIL qualification page for more details of the exams), and training to help you get qualified.

The library is a set of books, published by The UK's Office of Government Commerce. The books are not available for free on the Internet.

At present the library is as follows:

  • Software Asset Management - Book £35, CD-ROM £60 + VAT, ISBN 0113309430
  • Service Support  - Book £65, CD-ROM £150 + VAT, ISBN 0113300158
  • Service Delivery  - Book £65, CD-ROM £150 + VAT, ISBN 0113308779
  • Planning to Implement Service Management  - Book £65, CD-ROM £150 + VAT, ISBN 0113308779
  • ICT Infrastructure Management  - Book £65.00, CD-ROM £150 + VAT, ISBN 0113308655
  • Application Management  - Book £65.00, CD-ROM £150 + VAT, ISBN 0113308663
  • Security Management -  Book £44.95, no CD at this time, ISBN 011330014X.
  • The Business Perspective - Book £65.00, CD-ROM £150 + VAT, ISBN 0113308949

For further details on these books, go to the ITIL Publications page. For more information on ITIL itself, go to the ITIL Home Page.

ITIL is at present going through a major update, to become Version 3. See the ITIL Communications page for the latest status update (as of writing this blog article, the latest update is 1 Sept '06).

Friday, September 22, 2006

Evangelism and Exchange 2007

Last night, I had a wonderul dinner with Arlindo Alves and Ilse Van Criekinge. Arlindo is a MS Belgium IT Pro evangelist, with a nice blog.Ilse is an outstanding trainer who (sadly) has just left Global Knowledge for Atos Origin. Ilse is also an Exchange guru, and is one of the founders of an Exchange user group called Pro-Exchange. The dinner was in a lovely resturant, with great food, good beer, and a view over a small lake. The weather too was great - we sat outside, drank beers and watched the sun go down (and talked and talked and talked).

Over dinner we chatted about all things Exchange 2007 and PowerShell. As many folks who know me will know, I've never been much of a fan of Exchange. It always felt bloated, convoluted and way too complex for a simple email system. Well, with Exchange 2007 two things have happened. First, MS has, in their roundabout way, admitted the complexity and has made great strides to reduce the complexity. While still on beta, Exchagne 2007 B2 is awesome. Secondly, the Exchange team have seen the light and have adopted PowerShell as their core admin tool, with the GUI being layered on top. Both a great approach and the fulfillment of the vision expressed by the PowerShell team for years. WOW!

In Arlindo's late night blog post, he notes my recent coversion to the Exchange way of thinking. And while he's right that Ilse is a great evangelist, I think I'd already begun the conversion process after a great talk with Vivek Sharma of the E2k7 team. Having said that, had Vivek not given me the push, Ilse would certainly been responsible. Her talk to day was good, and I'm looking forward even more to working with this fantastic product.

But whomever was responsible, I'm really looking forward to getting into E2k7 a lot more in coming months as it moves from Beta 2 into RTM. The ability to combine the output of the management shell with cool tools like power gadgets is going to rock the Exchange admin's world!

Exchange 2007 - I'm excited!!

Network Monitor 3 in public beta

I've been a heavy user of Microsoft's network monitor. Delivered as part of Windows Server and SMS (the latter a fuller version), it's a nice tool for capturing and analysing network traffic. It's not been updated for years - allowing WireShark (Ethereal as it used to be known) to take a lead in terms of functionality.

But MS has been hard at work with Netmon 3, which is now in public beta. Network Monitor 3 is a total re-write of capture engine, parser engine, and user interface. It runs on Windows XP and Vista, Windows Server 2003 and Longhorn; and is available in 32-bit and 64-bit versions.

One of the coolest new features is display while capturing - you can see the packets as they are captured. Neat!

To get this, go to http://connect.Microsoft.com, logon using your MS Passport ID. Then click on Available Connections and select Network Monitor 3.0. The download is just 3mb!

Thanks to Nick Portlock for pointing out this cool beta.

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Power Gadgets - 2nd look

I recently posted about a cool new tool called  PowerGadgets. Sadly, when I  started to use it, it turned out to not be compatible with the new RC2 release of PowerShell. But after a few emails to the developers, I got an updated beta version that works with RC2. WOW - this is a seriously cool package. My next task tomorrow  is to work out how to integrate this into an Exchange 2007 dashboard - showing the numbers of mails, sizes, etc for an Exchange environment.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

How Many Divisions Does Microsoft Have?

Their corporate web site seems unsure. The Company Information Page says 7. But the Our Commitment to Our Customers page says 3. Presumably Microsoft maths at work? Either that, or further proof of the value ITIL and/or MOF.

PowerShell RC2 inches ever closer

From the sounds of the thunder, PowerShell RC2 is very, very nearly ready for release. This is the last planned update to PowerShell prior to RTM and contains some significant technical changes ( as well as bug fixes and some detailed feature changes). Perhaps the key change is that PowerShell is now a Windows Component, rather than an add-on application. This means the installer is no longer a nice .MSI file, and the installation folder now lives below the \Windows folder (earlier versions installed into Program Files). This is good news as it means updates and patches can be propagated using Windows Update.

Two small gotcha's. First, if you are using Exchange 2007 Beta 2, don't install this new version. To install RC2, you'll need to de-install the older version of MSH - and this will break Exchange 2007's Management. Secondly, all of the older cool applications that leverage PowerShell are broken and need to be updated.

And while not really a gotcha, if you have any significant PowerShell scripts, you may need to schedule some testing as the language/product changes may cause some earlier scripts to stop working. This is especially true for any Exchange 2007 scripts you may have written (e.g. you need to change the extension from .MSH to .PS1).

PowerShell's RTM date has not been divulged formally, but a betting man might look at the calendar and work out the next significant Microsoft conference and decide to celebrate PowerShell's RTM with some sun, sand and sangria. And even though Barcelona in the late autumn can be cold and rainy (from my experience), I'll sure be celebrating when RTM happens!

USBDumper - does what it says!

In a recent blog post, Bruce Schnier reports on an interesting tool called USBDumper. It does what it says - it dumps the contents of any USB stick inserted into your system, and does so silently. Perhaps the only 'weakness' is that USBDumper creates a folder on the desktop (thus there is a small visual clue - but you'd have to be aware and/or paranoid to notice!

As Schnier points out, security aware admins have long known about the issues surrounding USB devoices. But the folks who just use the devices without thinking could be in for a rude shock. Does your USB stick contain sensitive information (e.g. passwords, company financial information, etc)?

You can get USBDumper here - it's a RAR file that includes the source code.

 

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CamerAware

CamerAware is a Windows Mobile 5 Smartphone / Pocket PC app that helps to alert you when you come into the range of a safety camera. CamerAware makes use of an internal, wired or Bluetooth GPS to monitor you  current position. It then checks your position against a database of cameras warning you of a camera. Naturally, CamerAware's purpose is to help you be a safer driver. It also might help to avoid those  pesky points on your license.

CamerAware costs £19.99.This fee includes  life time upgrades. The database currently provides excellent UK coverage and partial European coverage, with nearly 10,000 cameras! USA support is also planned for future updates.

For more information and a picture of the application in action,see the article on the Modaco sitee (also if you  are a member of Modaco, the price is lower!).

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

TDK samples 32GB Flash disk

TDK have launched a 32GB Flash disk, according to The Register. It hooks up to a standard IDE connector,but is much smaller than the standard 2.5 inch notebook drive and consumes much less power. TDKSare sampling at present - and have not incdicated commercial ship dates or prices.

ORSN - European Open Root Server Network

The Open Root Server Network (ORSN) is a set of additional DNS servers for use in Europe and is funded privately. ORSN is operated in support of ICANN's politics for TLDs, thus no additional alternative TLDs are present (e.g. New.NET, etc).

The traditional ICANN operated DNS network consists of 13 Root-servers distributed among almost the entire world. However, the locations of these root servers are very dependent on the U.S.A as a result  of the development history of the Internet.

Anyone living in Europe wanting Internet access depends on the connections to the root servers being available and reachable for the name resolution. While a complete blackout is unlikely, dependence on one country and it's foreign policy may not be all that wise.

You can get the root hints for ORSN from:

http://european.nl.orsn.net/tech-hint.php

Current status of ORSN is at:

http://european.nl.orsn.net/servers.php

As of this morning, from Europe, 11 of the 13 ORSN servers are alive and are fairly well connected. One server (i.orsn-servers.net) appears not yet up. And another one (l.orsn-servers.net) has poor performance for European access. But as it's in the US it's not too surprising. Interestingly, l.orsn-servers.net is run by Paul Vixie!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Re-sizing an Image

I just stumbled across a cool on-line tool, ResizR. It's a web sit that resizes images, a useful thing when posting a digital picture to a web site.

A New PowerShell Wiki

The PowerShell bandwagon rolls on - in this case, a new wiki at http://powershell.wiki.com/Home. There's not much content there yet, but as it's a wiki, come on over and add some!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

More Live Writer Plugins

In a recent blog post, I wrote about an open source project Cyclone. Cyclone is a set of plugins for Microsoft's Windows Live Writer. Googling this morning, I discovered two web site/blog dedicated to plugins. The first is http://wlwplugins.com, and the second is http://blogging2007.blogspot.com.

I'm off there now to get more!

 

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MSDN Subscriber Downloads are Down

I just logged on to the MSDN subscriber site to download a version of Windows Server X64 for my shiny new custom built Xeon box (dual proc/dual core). When I try to access the site, I just get an ugly "SERVICE UNABAILABLE" screen.

It turns out the site is down and won't come back until Monday. The reason for the outage, according to the concierge service, is that MS are adding content. In other words, to add content, MSDN need to take the entire site down for the weekend.

Two points:

  • WHY does it take an entire weekend to update content? Surely it's just a matter of a bit of XCOPY??? Better yet, why not do the copy of the actual content then update the database?
  • If you DO need to take the site down for a couple of days, then how about using MOF or ITIL best practice (Release SMF for those in the know), and ensure your users are informed and are OK with the situation.

I have a better idea - how about investing in content management facilities that don't require an entire site outage for 2 days just to update content. We know that Microsoft are dropping MOF, but surely ITIL best practices should be being adopted??

Friday, September 15, 2006

Blogspot Downtime

It appears that Blogger is partly down (*.blogspot anyway). I can manage this blog, edit posts, but attempts to reach the blog result in a 500 Error (Internal Server Error). Sadly, http://status.blogspot.com is also down as is blogspot's rss feed site. I have no idea how long it'll be down or why. I suppose if you can read this message, the server is back up!

Why Exchange Server 2003 will not run on the x64-based versions of Windows Server 2003

I have become a real fan of Exchange 2007 - which may surprise some readers as I've previously been a non-fan. But with Exchange 2007, I'm finding that Microsoft has done something really pretty cool. Exchange 2007 is not a little mail system - it is an enterprise messaging solution (apologies for driving off into marketing speak, but the distinction is, IMHO, important.

At home, I've been running MailTraq, a nice SME mail server. It does mail as well as NNTP and also provides both mailing lists and web mail. Well I used to run Mailtraq - I now am running Exchange 2007 Beta 2 and it rocks.

One of the interesting features of Exchange 2007 is that, in production, it's 64-bit only. There are to be no 32-bit versions (for production), although for testing and training, Microsoft will provide a 32-bit version. This requirement is being made for a combination of performance and security. But in making the move, there are some backwards compatibility issues - not least of which is that Exchange Server 2003 will NOT run on 64-bit. Microsoft has issued an KB article, Why Exchange Server 2003 will not run on the x64-based versions of Windows Server 2003 to explain why. The answer, simply, is that Exchange 2007 installs a 32-bit IFS driver which for reasons not explained has not be recompiled into 64-bit (and is not signed). Thus it won't run on 64-bit Windows Server systems that require all drivers to be both native 64-bit and signed.

Welcome aboard (truth in announcements)

I travel a lot by airplane, and with my new job, am going to doing even more. The Economist has an amusing column entitled Fear of flying | Welcome aboard which takes a look at what a truthful flight announcment might sound like. I am not sure how accurate this is, but it sounds a lot more realistic than existing announcements!

Volume Activation Program for Vista

Ars Technica has a nice writeup of Microsoft's Volume Activation program for Vista complete with comments from readers. One reader notes: "I fail to see the advantages to any company of moving to a volume activation system vs. the current system." The answer is easy, unless you do, Vista will not deploy (or stay working) in your environment.

XP's activation was/is a pain - I've had classes where the activation becomes de-activated and have had to rebuild a machine. I can only see pain in the corporate sector - and an increase in support calls.

At the risk of upsetting Redmond product teams further, this is another reason for me to stay away from Vista for the forseeable future. XP SP2 is pretty darned good - I've not had a virus or any spyware for years, and VLK non-activation works well. For me XP SP2 is very much fit for purpose!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Cyclone - Plug-Ins for Windows Live Writer

In an earlier blog post, I discussed the Windows Live Writer blogging tool. There's a project up on the Codeplex site, called Cyclone, which has a bunch of plug-ins for Live writer.

The plug-ins include:

  • Windows Media Player Currently Playing (by Laurent KempĂ©)
  • Code Syntax Highlighter (by Alexey Raga)
  • Paste Clipboard as Html (by Bryant Likes)
  • Rhapsody Currently Playing (by Justin Braun)
  • Multiple Tags Plugin (by Peder Borg Poulsen)
  • Smart Link Inserter (by Dmitry Maksimov)

Nice add-ons for this cool tool!

Mailing BIG Files

Most of us, from time to time, need to send large files - files that typically are above email send/receive limits. I've found two source of help:

Both sites are free, and seem to rely on advertising. Of course, whenever you are sending anything on the Internet through a 3rd party, use care and discretion!

Yousendit used to support sending files up to 1GB, but the limt was reduced to 100MB (and up to 100 downloads) recently. For a monthly fee, they enable transmission of up to 2 GB and 200 downloads.

Can you resist clicking?

www.dontclick.it is a site looking at communication using the mouse,but avoiding clicking. For dedicated clickers, like me, it takes a bit of getting use to, but the idea that gestrure based navication is a good one.

Testing your network speed

Speedtest.net is a site that tests your upload and download speeds to/from a variety of locations. The UI is pretty cool too. This can be most useful to work out where holdsups are.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A View of Monad (PowerShell) - Another Cool Video

Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to get to deliver a "Best of IT Forum" talk on what we than called Monad (and now call PowerShell). It was recorded and much to my surprise, this talk is now up on the Microsoft TechNete site for your viewing pleasure.

A tip of the hat to Jeffrey Snover, Monad's architect, and a great presenter whose recent blog post alerted me to the existance of this talk! I love this stuff, but I'll never be as good as Jeffrey at presenting - he's the only guy that can get nearly perfect scores at IT Forum giving a talk on a scripting language!!

Vista Training in Europe

I've now joined Global Knowledge, and one of the first tasks I have is around Vista. It turns out that GK has its own Implementing and Maintaining Windows Vista class. The URL is a UK one, but we're running this course across Europe.

This is a 5-day class,which covers:

  • How to deploy Windows Vista in an Enterprise environment using powerful imaging tools
  • Test applications with the Application Compatibility toolkit and the built-in single session Virtual PC
  • Manage group policy using the GPMC
  • How to deploy workgroup group policy support with the Windows Shared Computers Toolkit
  • Use Enterprise troubleshooting tools for Windows Vista
  • Enable offline data storage using shadow volume copy services
  • Hands-on labs to reinforce your Windows Vista support skills

Monday, September 11, 2006

PowerGadgets: Reporting and Monitoring for IT/DB Professionals Who Don't Write Code.

I got a heads up to this upcoming product. Called PowerGadgets, it's a reporting and monitoring for IT/DB Professionals who do not want to write code. It's based on PowerShell and claims to be an enterprise reporting tool for reporting against multiple data sources including SQL, ODBC, the file system, WMI, and even system processes and the registry. This is another in the line of tools that will leverage the intrinsic greatness of PowerShell.

Great PowerShell Video

The Microsoft TechNet site has a great free video titled Windows PowerShell: Next Generation Command Line Scripting. This video is Jeffrey Snover's TechEd US talk on PowerShell. Jeffrey is both a very good presenter, and the architect of PowerShell - and is definately work listening to.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

MS a Glutton for Market Share Says Redmond Mag

In an interesting article titled Glutton for Market Share, Doug Barney make some interesting points about Redmond's desire for total domination of every market it ehnters. It's an article worth reading - whether you are a Microsoft customer or work for Microsoft. Some might say this gluttony was the cause of the US anti trust suit in the US, the huge fines in Europe. If so, it will almost certainly be the cause of future legal actions here in Europe.

Unemployed (for the weekend)

My previous contract employment was completed last Friday evening - so for this weekend I am unemployed. My new job as Chief Architect for Global Knowledge EMEA starts Monday morning, so I'm not out of work for much time. Sadly, I can't even collect employment!

For the first time in years, I spent Saturday afternoon doing something other than sitting in front of my PCs. I went to a yoga class, and then went for a long walk. I smelled the flowers, and talked to some of my neighbors. I came home and helped to cook up a nice dinner with a fine bottle of wine (a 1999  Spanish Ribera del Duero) then watched a DVD of House. I even went to bed early.

Tomorrow the new job starts, and I am really excited. I could probably even say I'm Super Excited. I am really looking forward to the opportunity to work across Europe - something I have wanted to do ever since I first came to the UK over 30 years ago. I've now met many of the folks I'll be working with and we share a passion for both IT Training and training excellence.

One of the first things I'm doing tomorrow is to get my new Laptop ordered. My old firm played dirty and refused to let me take my old laptop with me - but by doing so, they have done me a huge favor. I've discussed the spec with my new boss, and will be getting a Dell Latitude D820 - with the new Core 2 duo processor, lots of RAM, and nice graphics. While I'll be laptopless for the first time in over 10 years, the wait will be worth it. Intel briefed a few of us on the new Core 2 Duo processor over a year ago and it looked exciting then - it looks even better now and I look forward to getting it and to reporting back. One thing I didn't realise till yesterday, the Duo processor enables you to use a 64-bit OS! I can't wait.

MOF Train The Trainer

I'm back at home after a fantastic week in Zurich, where I had the privilege of conducting a Microsoft Operations framework TTT event for Swiss MCTs. It was a really good time and I hope the Swiss MCTs that attended went away as passionate about MOF as I am.

Like all TTT events, every one learned something - including me. I'd certainly run the class just a bit differently as a result. Asking other trainers how to make a course better was a fascinating experiment - and it got great answers!

The MOF MOC material (MOF Essentials and MOF Changing Quadrant) classes are several years old, but are pretty much as relevant today as when they were released. There are places where projections for the future, when made in 2001 are now reflections in the past, but these were few and far between (2-3 slides in total).

Sadly, Microsoft has decided to kill off the MOF material, which as I said in an earlier blog post seems to be a dumb decision. Naturally, MS never makes dumb decisions (so they tell me), but they do make ones that appear to be dumb. The justification for killing MOF MOC is that it never sells. Sadly, MSL and MS never really tried to sell or market MOF or MOF MOC, so it's not surprising.

While MOF can still be taught today, and will be freely downloadable from Jan 2007, there are simulations for each course that are no longer available. This is a shame - the simulations were fun, could be useful to reinforce the message, and were a useful diversion. With the best will in the world, training in process is dull. If you are an MCT and plan to teach MOF, you need to consider creating some sort of a case study for the delegates to play with. This can be simple paper and pencil exercises, but something to get the delegates to do.

I am very sad to see the end of MOF training. For a company that wants to dominate the Enterprise space with Enterprise products (and support), MOF would seem a vital asset. Sadly, MSL seems solely sales focused, and bad selling courses just get fixed.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Monday, September 04, 2006

Microsoft released Virtual Machine Manager Beta

Microsoft has released the System Center Virtual Machine Manager on the Connect site. Worth looking at if you use MS Virtual Machines!

Pastures New - 5 days and Counting

It would appear that there is some confusion about my new job with Global Knowledge, with some folks seeming to think I am on "Gardening Leave" until early October.For the voidance of doubt, my existing contract of employment expires this Friday coming (September 8th). From September 11th (perhaps not the most auspicious of days!), I take up the position of Chief Architect at Global Knowledge.

I'll be based in Wokingham in Berkshire, but have an EMEA-wide role. I've always wanted to work in and across Europe - it was one of the many reasons I left the USA in 1975 for pastures new. Like  many  a young man's dreams, it was something that had dropped down the priority list as I acquired a wonderful family. The new role is one I am really looking forward to and I can't wait to begin my new job.

As fate would have it, I'm not even in the country this week as I'm teaching a MOF TTT event in Zurich! Roll on Friday night!!

Browzar - great idea, poor implementation

Ajaz Ahmed, the man behind UK's ISP first "free" ISP, Freeserve, has launched a new tool, called Browzar. The web site makes great claims that Browzar can help to to protect the privacy of its users. However critics claim that the product is little more than adware.

Browzar is a small (264KB) application that is in reality little more than an Internet Explorer add-in. Browzar's home pate is, however, not able to be changed, and it's search facility appears to be based on sponsored links.

This is a neat idea, but the implementation seems pretty poor - and in reality does not offer what it claims to offer.

Sysadmin.IT looks like it's been hacked

Navigate to http://www.sysadmin.it/eng/news/news.asp?ID=13034&titolo=Windows%20PowerShell%20RC2%20Release%20Notes%20(DRAFT) - a hacker named aLpTurkTegin has decorated at least this page with some anti-Israel grafiti. While I sort of agree with the political sentiments, vandalising an Itallian IT web site is probably not very productive.

Back From Holiday

I've been off for a blissful week in Rhode Island. There was no computer at the house we stayed in - and the mobile got very poor reception just about everywhere (except oddly enough just next to the local cemetery - no idea how to explain that one!).

Being off for a while with no gadgets was hard, for the first 24 hours, then it was bliss. No pinging of IM, or Outlook, no temptation to spend "just a few minutes more" looking at mail and news. A wonderful break.

Now I'm off to Zurich to do something I've been longing to do for years - teach a MOF class. I'm running a MOF TTT for 25 MCTs - it'll be a gas!

The Sweet Sound of Windows Vista - what are they smoking?

I've just read an article on the Windows Vista Team Blog entitled "The Sweet Sound of Windows Vista". As the pages states, "right before the log on screen appears in Windows Vista, an animation of the new Windows "orb" appears with a non-customizable start-up sound".

Thus every single Vista system will be hard coded to be noisy at start up? There's a second sound that plays at logon (although you can apparently turn this off). What are these guys smoking? Can you imagine an office full of Vista boxes starting up every morning? According to one MS manager: "My own belief is that most users will adapt"

The justification is that it'll help users know their sound is working correctly. Oh - and the X-Box does it so that's OK?

I wonder if the PMs that think this stuff up have ever had a real job in a real office with real people? I can only imagine next TechEd when 5000 Geeks all turn on their Vista boxes during the executive Key Note (although that'll be too late for MS - but they might get the message)!

The Sweet Sound of Windows Vista - what are they smoking?

I've just read an article on the Windows Vista Team Blog entitled "The Sweet Sound of Windows Vista". As the pages states, "right before the log on screen appears in Windows Vista, an animation of the new Windows "orb" appears with a non-customizable start-up sound".

Thus every single Vista system will be hard coded to be noisy at start up? There's a second sound that plays at logon (although you can apparently turn this off). What are these guys smoking? Can you imagine an office full of Vista boxes starting up every morning? According to one MS manager: "My own belief is that most users will adapt"

The justification is that it'll help users know their sound is working correctly. Oh - and the X-Box does it so that's OK?

I wonder if the PMs that think this stuff up have ever had a real job in a real office with real people? I can only imagine next TechEd when 5000 Geeks all turn on their Vista boxes during the executive Key Note (although that'll be too late for MS - but they might get the message)!