Sunday, July 27, 2008

A Nice Prometric Experience – part 2

In a post on Thursday, I recounted a good testing experience with Prometric. There are two more points regarding this.

First, when I got up on Friday morning, I found an email-from Microsoft congratulating me on passing and found the results were included on my MCP transcripts. That’s quick – and a great improvement on older days where it could take days or weeks. The speed meets expectations.

Secondly, a commenter (STIC)  sent me a link to a useful map: that shows the location of all the UK testing centres. Not sure how up to the minute it is, but it’s sure useful. It would be really nice to have this map linked off of the Prometric web site, and kept updated as sites are added/removed/etc. Is that asking Prometric too much?


I looked closely at the mail I got from MSL (noted above). It had a link to a page where I could order a welcome kit. So I tried – and failed. Despite logging out/in several times, the page continues to display an error: “Your session has timed out or network problems prevented the application from receiving the MCT enrollment information. Please try again. If the problem persists, please contact your Microsoft Regional Service Center."  Oddly – I am appear to be able to change my address on the page, I just can't order a welcome kit. MSL: please fix your web site! Or if actually running a web site reliably is too hard, then remove the form, and just point to the RSC. As an aside, is enrolment spelt with one L or two? My dictionaries say the site has a mis-spelling.

So far: Prometric get 8/9, MSL get 4/9. Please try harder MSL!

Friday, July 25, 2008

No Virginia – PowerShell on Windows 2000 is not available

I got a comment on an old article on this blog relating to PowerShell (then known as Monad) not running on Windows 2000. The comment asks if there a way to get Monad/PowerShell to run on Windows Server 2000. Sure – upgrade to Windows Server 2003 or Server 2008. I’m  not sure there’s any way, especially one that’s supported, that will enable this. I’m sure if you tried long and hard enough you might hack it – but I’m not sure what side effects that might have on the rest of the system. Sadly, for the commenter, PowerShell requires a newer OS.

Sorry if that’s not the message you wanted to hear.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Nice Prometric Experience

As a certified trainer, I’m required to take MS exams on what seems to be a far too regular basis. Following MSL’s unpopular (at the time) decision to dump VUE and go sole test provider with Prometric, I’ve avoided taking exams ever since. But as taking exams is probably easier than finding a new career, I finally succumbed and did the deed. I have to say, it was a surprisingly pleasant experience:

  • The call to book the exam took just over 10 minutes. Much of this time  was spent finding my prometric testing number. Turns out there are a lot of Thomas  Lee’s out there (now there’s a scary thought!). And it took time to find the testing centre  I wanted (the web site could be better in this respect).
  • One nice touch - the CSR even made it a point to enquire what if any discounts  (i.e. MCT) I might be entitled to. It took him a few seconds to realise that yes, there actually are 4 digit MCP ids, and yes, Prometric testing numbers can start with “DT”!
  • The promised email did not seem to arrive, so I phoned up again, and within around 2 minutes I had it. It was accurate and complete.
  • The exam room was clean, cool and the equipment more than adequate. No 15” monitors set to 60Hz!
  • The results (of course I passed!) were ready as I got to the receptionist’s desk. Thanks Terri!

I was sort of bummed out at how long it took me to do the exam (11 minutes <grin>). I’d hoped to break the 10 min barrier, but I guess my reading speed is not fast enough (the 40 questions  took a total of 11 minutes). But it was nice to get an exam without War & Peace as part of each question! In all seriousness, I found the exam pretty easy, given that I know the subject pretty well, and most of the issues raised in the exam were things I’ve seen lots in the public newsgroups where I hang out and answer questions. It goes to show that if you KNOW the product, the exam should (and in this case was) easy.

All in all, the experience was what I should expect (and given the tales of woe I used to hear on the MCT newsgroups, it certainly exceeded my current expectations).  Not sure if I can say Prometric rocks, but they don’t suck – which is something. I’ve got a bunch more exams to take in the coming weeks.


And if Stic mails me the link, I’ll gladly post details of his mashup (see comments for what I am talking about)

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

ESX Free? This is going to be interesting

Just read an article over on – VMware’s ESX product is to be made available for free. Apparently this news was made available during a recent Q2 2008 earnings conference call, ESX 3i will be made free – although that’s only the hypervisor itself. The rest of the product set, VMware Infrastructure, will not be give away.

There are a number of other key details about this over in the’s article. We certainly live in interesting times! Clearly HyperV is making  real impact – although going forward, the real money it so be made in the surrounding management infrastructure (SCVMMN in MS’s case).

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Thsrs – The Shorter Thesaurus

Thanks to a comment over on Twitter (by @SharnAtlanta), I stumbled upon found the Thsrs (the shorter thesaurus) site), which does what it says. You type in a word, and it finds shorter ones. Entering “glorious” returns: known, blessed, blest and some more.

Why bother, you might ask. Well first, for those addicted to Twitter, Thsrs can help you to get more bang for your  140 character tweet. If you don’t know what Twitter is, of if you don’t care, then this probably is no big deal. If yoiu are a twitter addict, then you can use it to fit more thoughts into your 140-character max limit.

The other place it’s useful is in writing and you want to find a simpler or shorter word. By using shorter or simpler words, you can make your writing a bit more accessible to the average person. This is doubly useful when writing for a global audience (some/many of whom may not speak English, or American, as their native language).

In some cases, for example when you are deliberately [NB: Thsrs suggests by design, by choice, on purpose] writing for a highly educated audience, longer words may be OK. Even if it sometimes feel like the writing is pretentious [NB: Thsrs suggests: flaunty, arty, inflated, showy, splashy] rather than educated. But for mass market, especially an international one where your thoughts are more important than the specific word, then Thsrs can be useful.

As noted on the blog entry, the source of the words used by Thsrs come from the Big Huge Thesaurus. BHT, in turn, gets from the WordNet database, created at Princeton University.

And one final thing – from the main Thsrs page (, you can get a search engine plug-in for FireFox (etc) that enables you to add this site for searches. That way, you can search directly from your browser. Neat!

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

ISO Recorder – Working Great on Server 08

Working with CDs and DVDs, especially in a virtual environment often means dealing with ISO images. An ISO is in effect a single file on a system that contains a full file structure as per ISO 9660 (including data and metadata). You can also burn an ISO image to a CD/DVD and then that disk can be use in other systems (e.g. burning an ISO of Windows Server downloaded from TechNet).

Sadly, Windows does not, by default, support burning an ISO image. You can burn a disk that contains one file (the iso image), but that will not work on another system – so it’s not very useful (unless you like creating coasters).

Just over four ago, I first wrote about a really nice free tool called ISO Recorder. Built by Alex Feinman. the ISO Recorder burns an ISO imate to a disk, but also rips a physical disk to an ISO image. Alex has improved the tool over the years, first with a version that worked with the latest version of XP and Server 2003, then with a version for Vista.

Today I downloaded a bunch of ISO files that I needed to burn. But I had no tools on my recently built Workstation, which is running a pimped Server 2008 64 bits (with no built in ISO burning feature). A quick Google brought up the relevant page from which I could obtain the tool (free). A few minutes later, and the 64-bit version was downloaded and has created my first burned ISO on the new box. Neat. It works fine on Server 08 which was a pleasant surprise.

Thanks Alex – this is a very useful tool. ISO Recorder Rocks!

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Friday, July 18, 2008

Reducing Vandalism on Public Wiki Sites

I’ve been reading an interesting article from the New Your times on Wikipedia’s experiment to cut down vandalism. The approach is rather simplistic: get the community to check the update for lack of valdalism before the article is made available for general use. It’s a bit more complex than that, but basically by making most posts subject to review before  general posting, vandals are much less likely to see their work. The hope is the vandals just pack up and move along. It’ll be interesting to see what success this approach has.

I contribute to MS’s TechNet and MSDN wikis (aka community contributions) where vandalism also occurs. The vast majority of what I’m seeing is pretty minor and there’s not a lot of it: 3 to 5 posts a day with what I call “non content” such as an article saying “great” or just containing an email address or a web link. I can see these posts by following the RSS feed from the two sites –but all too often, by the time I hit the actual web site, those non-content articles are gone or un-vandalised. As a result, the quality of the contrubutions is not really affected by vandalism.

I wonder if a ‘checking’ approach would improve the quality of the MSDN and Technet wiki sites?

Microsoft Optimization – an Introduction

One big focus areas for Microsoft as noted at last week’s MS Partner Conference in Houston is Microsoft Optimization. Renamed from Infrastructure Optimization, MO is clearly something big for MS. It’s got it’s own landing page: and there’s a growing body of material to support MO.

In effect, MO is an attempt by Microsoft at an IT maturity model which assess an organisation’s IT systems and provides guidance in how to make it better (i.e. to optomise it!). The basic concepts of MO are not new, but MS’s focus on them is new, and good news.

In Houston, it seemed like most of Microsoft was talking MO as part of their individual messages. Although, in some cases, the individual messages were immature and lacked depth and substance. But there’s some good thinking going on and I’m sure the messages will improve as MS works out what MO really all means.

Some of the material on MS’s web site is older, and uses earlier naming. The TechNet library site, for example, talks about Infrastructure Optimization. While IO is an important part of MO, MO is more. The term MO is still pretty new, and it’ll take time for MS to get all the documentation updated and fully aligned.

Another observation is that there’s no possibility of community content around the TechNet IO/MO pages. It would make sense for MS to open up these pages for community content and to enable the community to add value to the existing MS content.

I’ll be writing more about MO over the coming weeks. I see MO as something that MS customers should understand on two levels. First, customers will start to hear MO ad part of MS’s approach to selling so understanding what MO is can be helpful if only to understand MS’s latest sales and marketing approach. Second, MO has a lot of great ideas about how to make the most our of the infrastructure you already have. So ignore the Sales and Marketing fluff and concentrate on the real depth.

If you have views around MO, I’ve posted some questions around MO over on Twitter. I’m @doctordns, come on over and take part in the conversation.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Open Geek Goodness from Microsoft

I’ve been taking some time off the road and have been seriously geeking out with all the protocol information issued by Microsoft at the Open Specification site.

There is a HUGE amount of fairly low level information about the file formats used by Microsoft products and various protocols employed byproducts including OCS< Exchange and Office. There are thousands of pages of documentation here.

Much of this documentation was produced for/by Microsoft thanks to legal requirements. You can probably Google for that – I’m just glad MS published it. It’s fun to see where the writers left their tails – I wonder who has done some of the OCS related protocols for example (e.g. Nice Job Proseware).

Microsoft could also usefully enable the wiki functions on these pages. I’ve found numerous places where the content is correct – but could be improved.Currently there’s no way to document these areas for improvements.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Finding Your External IP address (with PowerShell)

For many of us, the IP address of our PC is not a publicly routable one.  If I run IPConfig on my workstation, I get something that looks like this:

Ethernet adapter Lan1BuiltIn:

   Connection-specific DNS Suffix  . :
   Link-local IPv6 Address . . . . . : fe80::3955:f42b:2d1e:1423%10
   IPv4 Address. . . . . . . . . . . :
   Subnet Mask . . . . . . . . . . . :
   Default Gateway . . . . . . . . . :

But if you were to try to ping me, you’d never get to my system, since I’m behind a firewall. My IP address on the Internet, the publicly routable IP address, is quite different.

There are a lot of ways you can find out what your IP address is – there are a bunch of sites you can use:

No doubt there are a bunch more!

Recently, I’ve seen two other sites used, via PowerShell, to get your IP address. The first is The nice thing about this site is that it returns very little data, so you can do some ‘screen scraping’ to extract your external IP address. With this site, as shown on Per Ostergaard’s blog, you could do this as follows:

$wc=New-Object net.webclient $wc.downloadstring("") -replace "[^\d\.]"

This is pretty cool – and in discovering this, I discovered the –replace operator that I did not know about before.

The second is also interesting. The source is here.  The script looks like this:


## Function to retrieve external IP address. ## the external address is retrieved from the ## title header of the webpage "" function Get-ExternalIP { $source = "" $client = new-object System.Net.WebClient $webpage = $client.downloadString($source) $lines = $webpage.split("`n") foreach ($line in $lines) { if ($line.contains("</title>")) { $ip = $line.replace(" <title>Your IP address is: ", "").replace("</title>","") } } $obj = New-Object Object $obj | Add-Member Noteproperty externalIP -value $ip $obj }

What this script does is to first call and return the page. This site is different form the earlier ones in that it puts the IP address into the title bar. The script then parses the returned page, gets the title directive, and pulls the IP address out.

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Saturday, July 05, 2008

Code Formatter for Windows Live Writer

As noted in a blog post yesterday, I’ve setup a PowerShell script blog. Sadly, the code formatting I was doing manually stunk and was hard to do anyway! So off to Google to discover Steve Dunns - Code Formatter for Windows Live Writer.

This is an excellent addin and works very nicely. It’s doubly cool that it supports PowerShell.

Friday, July 04, 2008

The PowerShell Scripts Blog

A new blog: PowerShell Scripts. Not much there yet but so far does what it says.

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Windows PowerShell Reference Card

Thanks to a posting I saw in the MSDN Wiki, I’ve discovered a very neat PowerShell reference card. Written by Bruce Payette – this is a most useful reference!

Note: Registration is required but is free.

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An Amusing PowerShell Script

Many years ago, when Usenet was in it's heyday, there was a funny Perl script ( making the rounds that calculated which day it was from September 1992. It was an in joke, and amusing at the time - and I've been meaning to work out how to do it in PowerShell.

Well - here is is:

# time.ps1
# based in from Usenet in days gone by
# original author unknown
$old = [system.datetime]" 1 September 1992"
$diff = ($now-$old).days
"Today is the {0}th of September 1992" -f $diff

I thought it was funny - hope you do too.

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Thursday, July 03, 2008

FireFox Live Writer Trials and Tribulations

With FireFox 3, the old Live Writer add-on no longer works, as I noted last Sunday. I especially liked the way this add-on added an icon to the FireFox tool bar. It's a shame, but as written the add-on does not work.

I've since found another tool, Live WriterFox, but it's not quite as nice. But works - well mainly. Oddly, using it to reference my blog, as I did for this post, does not bring up Live Writer.

Today, I got a comment on my Sunday post from the Live Writer Team that pointed to a potential fix. However, this fix does not seem to work - I do not have the file Joe's post refers to. I'm running the LiveWriter latest CTP on Windows Server X64.

More clues gratefully received!

FireFox Keyboard Shortcuts

If, like me, you use FireFox a lot, then these FireFox Keyboard Shortcuts can be valuable.

Shame this web page has a typo (shortctus)!

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