Monday, October 30, 2006

Robocopy GUI

Robocopy is one of those utilities I use a lot for copying files across a network. It does what Xcopy et al doesn't - it handles network outages, and can be restarted. This makes it ideal for all  sorts of copy uses. Robocopy is found inside the Windows Server 2003 Resource Kit (a tool kit I install on all my systems). As Rodney Burke notes in his blog, Robocopy is a command line tool - but now there is a GUI. You can download Robocopy GUI here!

The download is an executable file that unzips to an MSI that you can then run. Yet another way of deploying software, but it works I suppose. The GUI is a little basic - and it sure helps if you know the switches for the Robocopy console command.

Thanks to Rodney Burke for his tip about RoboCopy's GUI.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Exchange and PowerShell

Exchange 2007 makes use of PowerShell for administrators. Microsoft has just released a white paper describing this in more detail.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

On the Crest of the Vista Wave

I was brought up on the New Jersey shore - some of my earliest memories are of the beach. As kids we surfed a lot (mat, board and body). In surfing, there's the moment where the wave picks you up and you begin the journey after what can be a long wait. I feel a bit like that now with the Vista wave of products. I should call it EVO (Exchange, Vista and Office). EVO represents the three big ones, which have yet to RTM. But some of the other pieces in this puzzle have!

We've seen the release of both IE7 and Desktop search. IE7 is Vista's default browser, while Desktop Search is or particular importance to Outlook (and pretty cool). We've also seen Defender reach RTM. And we're seeing the start of Vista training. Microsoft has some early First Looks, while my firm, Global Knowledge, is running those, along full week classes on Vista across EMEA. And today, I saw the first advert for a "buy a new PC now and get Vista later" offer.

The Vista wave, and the Vista hype (aka marketing) machine are now cresting. After 5 years of incubation, the Vista wave ride is now beginning. It should prove to be an interesting time!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Microsoft Delays SP3 for Windows XP

Microsoft has recently updated the Service Pack Road Map. Microsoft is committed to providing a 12 month roadmap of upcoming service packs and security rollup packages and these are describe on the Service Pack Roadmap page, which was updated late last week. The main change is that MS are delaying XP SP3 for around a year. SP3 had previously been planned for mid-2007, and is now shown as not being ready till mid 2008.

Two years between service packs is a long time (SP2 was released 2 years ago), but 4 years is a long time. The more cynical reader might argue this is one way to get users to upgrade to Vista, but that would be unfair. It's more likely that MS does not have the resources to both support Vista (and while not announced the almost certainly needed Vista SP1), complete/ship Longhorn and deal with an SP for XP.

In this regard, note the comment on the road map page: "Microsoft recommends that business customers use the above table to plan for the evaluation of new Service Packs as soon as they become available and to allow for the fastest possible transition time, in order to maintain all PCs on current service packs." Of course, is MS change a date by a year without any warning, I find it hard to see how this table can have much use except after the fact.

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Sunday, October 22, 2006


RoundTable is the name for a new conferencing camera from Microsoft. This was discussed during a recent Live Communications Server Train the Trainer class in London. The basic idea is that this camera sits on a  (round) table in a conference room, getting a 360 degree view of the room. It then displays pictures of the participants in a band at the bottom of a Live  Meeting window. The cool part is that RoundTable works out who the speaker is (i.e. the person with the loudest voice) and presents them in a separate part of the screen.

This is pretty neat technology due to be sold for around US$3000, according to a Microsoft PressPass interview with Gurdeep Singh Pall, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Unified Communications Group. In the interview, Pall describes the device and how development is going. As I understand it, this device will be supported in the next version of LCS.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Invirtus - VM Disk Optimiser

Like many in the IT industry, I use virtual machine technology for demonstrations, lectures and in classes, as well as to learn more about products in a safe environment. If you really screw up a VM, you can just recreate it, or roll back the changes to a known good state. I use VMware workstation on my home systems, as it's more efficient, more stable and has a richer set of functionality. I use Microsoft's VPC and VS products on my corporate laptop since I get so many VMs from MS that I need to use. One downside to using VMs is the size of the underlying virtual disks.  A simple installation of, say, Windows Server R2 takes over 2GB in disk space. Multiply this by 10 (I have that many VMs on my laptop), and disk space quickly becomes an issue.

I've been testing the Invirtus VM Optimizer 2.5 on some of my VPC virtual hard disks - and I'm quite impressed by this product. Here are two data points from this afternoon's testing:

  • My core VPC VM is a forest root domain controller in my test and demonstration forest. VMO reduced the size of the hard disk from 2,644,648KB to 1,458,567KB – just under half the size.  
  • The master VM Server R2 VM that I use to clone new VMs was next. This VM is setup, fully configured as a workgroup server with IIS and a few other services, and is ready to be sysprepped.  The before size was 2,788,043kb, and the after size was 1,526, 167. Again a savings over 1GB.

As should be obvious, shrinking a VM by 1GB makes for enormous savings in disk space, make transfers (from backup hard disk to main system, or from a laptop to classroom computers, etc) much much faster.

Now the less than good news:

  • VDO does not work on Vista VMs. I’ve got a Vista RC1 VM that does not compress. The error message is a tad misleading – it says that the ability to compress Vista won’t come till Vista goes RC. But I’m running it on RC1!
  • VDO Does not support difference disks. This is a real issue for me in my day job - where use Microsoft provided VMs as part of MOC training courses. The MOC course 7034A (Live Communications Server 2005) for example uses 18 VMs based on difference disks. These take up a total of around 35gb.  If the results here were what we saw with stand alone disks, this would be compelling evidence for use in justifying a site license. 
  • The price is high - US$169 for a single user version, and US$591 for a 5-user version.

So while there is a bit of bad news, this package is fantastic for those of us who use independent VMs for testing and demo purposes. If you build and use VMs on a regular basis, you should have this tool. But don't take my word for it - go to their download site and get the evaluation version. The evaluation version is fully functional, but timebombs after 14 days.


Monday, October 16, 2006

ODF PlugIn for Office

According to Beta News, Microsoft is close to releasing an ODF plugin for Word. The article says the plug-in, which can read ODF but not save in ODF initially, is due for release on Oct 23. To some degree this support is a huge about-face from Redmond. But it's a sensible move and goes a long way to stifling some criticism.

Friday, October 13, 2006

A New Look To This Blog

Asute readers will have noticed a new template to this blog. I'll be making more changes to the details of the layout in the coming days. Comments welcome

Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK) User's Guide for Windows Vista

A bit of a mouthful, but the WAIK is the IT Pro's new method of deploying Windows Vista. Microsoft has just published an updated User Guide, which you can download from the MS download site at:

This download is a zip file containing the following:

  • getting_started_pro.rtf - A 12 page Word doc that provides and overview to the WAIK
  • readme.rtf - the obligatory readme with a set of known issues etc.
  • unattend.chm - a help file containing details of  all aspects of unattended installation for the Windows Vista.
  • waik.chnm - a help files with details of the WAIK

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Is Vista Really Ready for Release?

I've installed Vista RC2 over the weekend. The installation was relatively painless, and pretty much everything seems to work. However, I still do not think it ready for release. I have four reasons for this view:

  • There is a lack of working anti-virus packages for Vista. Trend does have a package and One-Care (folks in the UK get a giggle saying this fast!) appears to be available, but where is the choice? The lack of a usable anti-virus package is a major concern to corporates. We use Network Associates Virusscan and would prefer to continue using it.
  • PowerShell does not install. Now this may seem a curious point - but we are being told that the reason PowerShell can't install is due to the new installer. The PowerShell installation, so far as I can see, does three things: copies a few files to \system32, adds a few reg keys, and runs ngen to install the PowerShell binaries into the GAC. Hardly rocket science - but if one of the smartest teams at Microsoft can not get this stuff to work, mere mortals have no hope.
  • Turnpike is not stable under Vista. Turnpike is a mail and news program heavily used in the UK. Produced by Demon, the UK's first major ISP and still one of the larger ones, Turnpike is a great package. But the reader part, which is implemented as a shell extension, GPFs all over the place. This is a package that works very well under Windows NT4, Windows 2000 and XP (RTM, sp1 and sp2), but is highly unstable under every Vista build issued to beta testers this year. I can't get it to stay up for more than a few minutes before a crash (which typically then requires a full rebuild of my mail/news databases to start working again). This is simply unacceptable and I am running XP SP2 on my laptop.
  • The Vofafone 3g data card drivers do not work. I rely on this card for connectivity and need to dual boot back to XP for support. For core connectivity like this, lack of support is a huge negative for corporates.

These are just four pointers - the lack of antivirus must be a huge negative for corporates. Why would any large company want to deploy an OS without a working AV program? The new installer is a support nightmare waiting to happen, as it means customers can not install Exchange 2007 tools on Vista. If programs like Turnpike are so unstable, what else is going to break? And finally, for a lot of corporate customers, tools like the Vodafone 3G data card are mission critical. All in all, these issues point to an OS that, however good, is not ready for corporate use.

MS has made great strides in improving Vista, and it is pretty close to being useable. I genuinely want to run it on my day to day machines. But I can't. At the end of the day, Vista is not ready - but seemingly Redmond have only one objective, which is to ship it. Ready or not MS appear to be willing to ship this puppy.

My advice to my corporate customers is to get to know Vista - go on the training and start experimenting once RTM occurs. Treat Vista RTM as the Beta 3 that MS should have declared and act accordingly (i.e. don't deploy big time). Wait instead for both the the consumer versions ship (e.g. what should be called an early SP1) and consider installing then.


Monday, October 09, 2006

Vista to cost HOW MUCH???

In an article in Small Business, James Gaskin estimates that Windows Vista is likely to cost USD$3.5k-$5k per user. Of course, this includes the upgrade to Office 2007, but also for new hardware. This seems very high to me, but Gaskin defends his views here.

With just a few days to go till MS declare Vista Gold, this can not be great news. Many readers will know that MS released RC2 late last Friday. I have it running on my laptop, but only as a test - I'm back to XP for day to day use. Sadly. The reason why is simple: my main mail and news reader, Turnpike does not work well - it continually crashes (requiring an entire re-build of the mail and news databases and the address book. I also appear to have lost mail, which is not acceptable.

If I have a choice between a working mail /news client and the latest RC from MS, there is no question which I'll take. I want to use Vista, but it's just not stable enough with my set of apps. I continue to believe it's not ready for release - and my advice to our customers is that while they should investigate it, and get to know it, they should wait for SP1 to move into volume deployment. Not a popular bit of advice in Redmond sadly.

TechNet Virtual Labs

Summary: Great Idea - shame about the implementation.

I've been testing out the TechNet Virtual Labs for Live Communications Server. The idea is great: you go to a web site, click a few links and you have some "real" machines to lay with. The machines are of course Microsoft VM's, based on Virtual Server. The nice thing is that they're all loaded and pretty much all you need is a web browser to access them.

The principal downside, at least today, is performance. They are VERY slow. It took around 45-seconds just to get Active Directory Users and Computers up and running. The VM seems to go dead - clicking on the VMRC client has no effect for long periods of time (30 sec - 1 min). To just add a user, and install LCS 2005 SE took nearly 35 minutes - most of which was waiting for response from the VM farm.

Another issue is the tools and the ports they require. Unfortunately, there is a combination of Java, Flash, and other tools, some of which require "non-standard" ports to be opened at the firewall.I am working with one client who has issues around opening seemingly random ports.

So while the idea is great, the performance is slow. And you need a fairly open firewall which is increasingly a rarity in today's security conscious world.


To add insult to injury, I attempted to provide feedback. Clicking on the Take The Virtual Labs Satisfaction Survey button produced: Microsoft Events is currently experiencing technical difficulties. Please check back with us later. If you believe you have received this message in error, please contact Microsoft Events Support. :0(

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Helping Delegates to Understand RAID

I sometimes find that training delegates have a hard time remembering RAID levels.

I used to point to some content, but the owner of that content seemed to take offence and changed the graphic to something pretty offensive. Sorry.

And a tip of the hat to Mark Hions for pointing out the original graphic.

How Small Can A Computer Get??

Shimafuji, a Japanese company, has created an amazingly tiny computer, as described over on the Mind Blogging Stuff site. This computer measures 2"x2x2.5", contains a 300 MHz processor and  uses a 64MB SDram card (which doubles as the hard disk). It also has a number of ports, including USB< Ethernet RS232 and a 1280x1024 Video connector. Naturally, with space to tight, this box does not run Windows, but runs a version of Linux. Still, it's pretty neat!


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Moved over to Blogger Beta

I've just moved this blog over to the new Blogger Beta. Maybe a dangerous thing to do, but we'll see! 


The integration between Blogger beta and Live Writer is not perfect - LW could not download the styles from Blogger. I had to reset the Live Writer settings for the blogs and in doing so, I can't seem to download the blog's styles into Live Writer. I can still post, which is probably good enough.

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Sunbelt Software Adoption Poll For Exchange

Sunbelt Software is running a poll on likely adoption rates of Exchange 2007.  The Exchange 2007 adoption poll attempts to validate Gartner claims that adoption of Exchange 2007 will only begin in 2008, with the installed base reaching 40% in 2010. Personally, I think that adoption will be faster than Gartner suggests, and the early numbers in this Sunbelt Software poll seem to show that.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Microsoft Publish Vista Step-by-Step Guides for Vista

Microsoft has just published a series of step-by-step guides for Windows Vista covering a number of core topics. You can see the full list at the TechNet site (, or for individual guides:

October Patch Tuesday - A lot of patches!

It's that time of the month - time to start preparing for the latest set of Microsoft Security patches. As described over on the MSRC blog, Microsoft is planning on releasing a total of ELEVEN security updates this month:

  • There are SIX patches for issues that affect Windows - with some marked as Critical.
  • There are FOUR patches that affect Office, with at least one marked as Critical.
  • ONE bulletin affects the .NET Framework - but this is just marked as moderate

You can use MBSA to detect the need for these updates. Accompanying these updates will be an updated version of the Microsoft Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool.And as ever, some updates are going to require a reboot.

MS is also planning on a technical Webcast on Wednesday, October 11th 2006 at 19:00 UK  time - you can register for it at the MS Events page.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Exchange 2007 TTT Links - and a correction

I spent the first two days this week on an excellent TTT event run by Eileen Brown and colleagues. We asked them a LOT of questions, and Eileen has blogged some of the answers on her web site.

Just one small correction to her excellent set of answers: You can modify the EdgeSync default, but not through the EMS. You have to modify the EdgeSyncConfig.xml file.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

More Details on WGA in Vista

In an article on ZD.NET, Mary Jo Foley does a great job of describing some of the key elements of WGA and Volume Activation 2.0 which comes with Vista. There were some interesting things - if your system fails WGA checks, claims Mary Jo, it won't run aero. The article has some good detail on how this all works.


Thanks Clive

I can't post a comment to Clive's blog article about a video I did for MS. Comments are sadly closed.

But thanks Clive for the article and the mention. It was fun doing this session as folks can see!

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Exchange 2007 Ignited - I'm Burned Out!

I'm burned out (in a good way, that is) after two intense days of in-depth Exchange 2007 training. Delivered by Eileen Brown with assistance from James O'Neill and Exchange Ranger Greg. The sheer amount of information was overwhelming - 2 days of drinking from the fire hose.

It's clear that Exchange 2007 is a very different product with some aspects that seem odd at first, but which make a lot of sense once you think it through. E2k7 is 64-bit only (well for production), which means you can not perform a direct upgrade since you'd need an OS upgrade at the same time.

And there is no interoperation with Exchange 5.5. Now most 5.5 users should have upgrades years ago, but that's a different story. To perform the upgrade from a 5.5 to E2k7 environment requires going via E2k3 (Add E2k3 and AD, migrate the 5.5 mailboxes to E2k3, move the forest/Exchange into Native mod. Then add E2k7 server and move the mailboxes again). This sounds a pain, but it avoids the actual act of upgrading - which has always been an issue. Since the 'upgrade' is via data transfer that is well tested, this approach should be much more reliable.

The new architecture is awesome although I suspect old Exchange hands will take some getting used to the new architecture. By separating the various roles (hub transport, mail box, client access, unified messaging and edge)  the installation is cleaner and I think will be easier to administer.

One of the cool things is that you administer Exchange 2007 by PowerShell (well you will when it all ships). At present, E2k7 Beta 2 uses an ancient version of PowerShell and if you install the latest version of PowerShell, you'll break Exchange. But this is just a small glitch in the schedules of two separate product teams and will be sorted out for RTM. This is a shame, since I can't play with integrating PowerShell, Power Gadgets and Exchange 2007. I'll have to save that fun for another day.

There are a lot of other new features, including continuous replication for higher availability, a range of compliance features, and an updated OWA (which works well with FireFox!). At the same time, there are a lot of features being removed. Some are just going away totally (e.g. OWA 2007 access to public folders), while others are being discontinued, but will still continue to work for some time.

If you are currently running some version of Exchange, you'll like the new version once the shock wears off! There is a large learning curve, but worth it I think. The new features are certainly ones you'll want.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Full RSS Feeds

I've just read and took a closer look at this blog. Turns out that the posts from this blog were truncated in the RSS feed. I'm guessing I must have set this in Blogger, but I can't recall doing it. Anyway - full feeds are back on. Apologies for setting this wrong.

Ignite Day 2

The second day of Exchange 2007 Training. Today we have Eileen Brown again, plus Greg Taylor. Great is an MS Exchange ranger (MCA Messaging) and a great presenter. Like yesterday this is mainly PPT slides and chat - virtually no hands on or demos. I'm overwhelmed with all this information! I'm considering sitting in on this training again it's so good.

The Press Release

This press release is kind of cool, but I'm biased. To avoid the suspense, this is a press release describing my new job at Global Knowedge. I knew that Global Knowedge was sending this out, but I did not know it woud hit the Training Press Releases site.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Gaming Google

In my day jobs over the past few years, I've worked for a MS certified training organisation. As such, we are always looking at ways to improve Google hits. Those hits, and the results of those hits, makes Google an important aspect in the marketing of my employers. Using tools like Adwords to give a better shot at eyeballs is one way. But the main Google (and MSN Search for that matter), unsponsored, results that I belie help with the way the company is perceived by the web-using public. It can also drive business in an increasingly transaction-driven commodity market.

In a recent post, Robert Scoble discusses gaming of Google, via PayPerPost. Their business model is described in a post by John Chow: "What PayPerPost does is allow advertisers to buy a blog post – often referred to as a paid plug. Instead of buying normal banner advertising, the advertiser would pay the blogger to write about their product or service. This of course raises many ethics and credibility issues.".

And Scoble seems to agree with Chow about the ethics. I agree that most of the more respected technical writers (and this includes bloggers and traditional print journalists) are not likely to go in for this.

No respected writer is going to say they like something, if they don't. I expect them to say they think something is cool (or it sucks) is because they genuinely believe it so, and certainly not because they were paid $2 for it.  

Scoble asks if PayPerPost's approach is likely to lead to more sales. Of course any firm wants loads of inbound links. But Robert is probably right that if this takes off, Google will find a way to remove the bias, leading back to the status quo. We will see.

Exchange Ignite TTT

I'm sitting on an Exchange 2007 TTT in Wokingham at Global Knowlege. This is a 2 day class, being taught by Eileen Brown and James O'Neill (both IT Evengelists from Microsoft UK). What a class!! I'm sitting next to the delightful Claudia Woods, with trainers from around Europe. The training is not around MOC, but based on the Ignite training material (and the first morning is wonderfuly presented death-by-marketing-powerpoint. The VM image is based on Beta 1, but the slides are Beta 2 (draft).

We're asking loads of questions, and Eileen has said she'll blog the answers. Some things that have come up:

  1. Why are public folders begin dropped from Exchange - see
  2. MS Exchange Team Blog - a must read at
  3. Eileen's blog is at
  4. James O'Neill's blog is at

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Some Good Exchange 2007 Links

BretJo is a MS employee working in Reading. He's published a useful set of Exchange Server 2007 links. Take a look if you are interested in Exchange.


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Boosting your Blog Traffic

There are a number of ways to boost traffic to your blog, such as traffic exchange systems (Blog Soldiers, Blog Explosion, et al) and link exchanges. A new link exchange, Ex-Link, is about to start up and they are using a viral mechanism to promote it. The site itself gives little away, other than an invite to sign up. When you sign up, you get a somewhat cryptic message thanking you for signing up. It'll be interesting to see if this succeeds.


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Exchange 2007 - Some slides

Daniel Petri is an MVP with a nice technical blog. In a recent post, he provides a link to some slides by Ronen Gabby around Exchange 2007, complete with some useful speaker notes. You can get the PowerPoint slide deck from Daniel's blog.