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A Collection of Random Thoughts
Monday, October 23, 2006
My blog will be moving
With the recent issues I've encountered here at Blogger since moving to the Beta service (the inability to publish from Live Writer or Word is a big one), and since my joining Microsoft, I've decided to move my blog over to Technet blogs. There may be occassional posts here in the future, but most of my content will be published to my new blog. You can find my new blog at:


Make sure to update your bookmarks and your RSS subscriptions.

I've already got one post up there - let me know what you think of it, and also if you have any ideas for future topics.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Three items of note in the Sports world
First, the Bears offense didn't deserve to win last night against the Arizona Cardinals. Rex Grossman was terrible. 4 interceptions, and 2 lost fumbles. That's almost unheard of. However, give credit to the Bears defense. After being down 20-0 at the half, they came back to life, and literally got their team back in the game. They forced 2 fumbles that were returned for touchdowns, and with a punt return for a touchdown and a lone field goal earlier in the game, that's all Chicago needed. We'll see how they rebound from this dismal performance, but they certainly didn't look like a potential 16-0 team last night.

Second, I am absolutely disgusted at the brawl that occurred during the Miami - Florida International game this past Saturday. It was a debacle. It was an embarrassment to both schools. At least one of them seems to be taking it somewhat seriously. Unfortunately, it isn't Miami. Florida International dismissed 2 players, and extended the suspensions of 16 others to indefinite suspensions. Miami, on the other hand, has suspended one player indefinitely (the one that was swinging his helmet at other players), but 13 other players only received a 1-game suspension (including a player that was visually observed to be "stomping" on other players legs. You gotta be kidding me. Mike and Mike (on ESPN radio) are spot-on when they said that the players involved (or at least those that committed the more serious acts) should be kicked off their respective teams, and should then be banned from football for life (including the NFL). The piddly 1-game suspensions dished out by the conference (ACC and Sunbelt) and by Miami are nothing more than token penalties. ACC commissioner John Swofford says "These suspensions send a clear and definitive message that this type of behavior will not be tolerated," - yeah right. Gimme a break. At least FIU had the guts to make a strong statement by indefinitely suspending many of the players involved.

Third, I Believe! Actually, I guess I should say I'm a fair weather fan. Let me explain. I grew up near Ann Arbor, MI. We'd usually go to a few Detroit Tigers games per year, though I don't remember going to any games until after they won the 1984 World Series. I remember players like Chet Lemon, Alan Trammel, and Jack Morris. I remember the old Tiger Stadium. I remember that most years, the Tigers stunk, and didn't make it to the playoffs. In fact, they haven't been in the playoffs since 1987. I suppose it's no wonder, then, that I never declared myself a true fan. So when they squeaked into the playoffs this year (after blowing a rather large lead towards the end of the season) and were matched up against the New York Yankees, I didn't give them much chance of advancing. But they did! Then, they swept (yes, swept) the Oakland A's by winning 4 games in a row, and advanced to the World Series, where they await the winner of the NY Mets and St. Louis Cardinals. Could this be their year? I mentioned to my wife the other day that I hadn't heard of the names of any of the players, and her comment was that meant that they were a true team, with no real standout players. I think that's pretty accurate. Go Tigers!
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Outlook Delegates issues
If you aren't familiar with the Outlook Delegates functionality, it provides you with the ability to specify a Delegate for your Mailbox. Delegates can perform items such as sending items on your behalf, and responding the meeting requests, etc. When you add a delegate, you can specify that they receive copies of your meeting requests, which is quite typical.

Now, say you have a few delegates, and one of them leaves the company. Your IT staff diligently deletes the account (and mailbox). However, all of a sudden, meeting requests to you now generate an NDR. The cause? Delegates. For whatever reason, Outlook stores delegates separately (they are actually stored as a hidden rule on your mailbox), so that if you delete a user account that was set as a delegate, Outlook doesn't automatically remove that delegate. Ok - this is easily fixed. You need to go into Outlook, Tools, Options, Delegates, and remove the non-existent user.

What if you've already done that, and nothing shows up in the Delegates tab?
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/253557/en-us comes to the rescue. The KB article talks about a little different situation, but one that applies nonetheless. The problem is that this "hidden" rule has become stranded. You can't see it (with Outlook), but it's still there, and still functioning. The solution is to use the Mdbview utility to log on to your mailbox. If you've never used mdbview before, a word of caution is that the output is pretty ugly! Anyways, after logging on to your mailbox, the instructions have you go to your inbox and find the message that has Schedule + EMS Interface in the description, and then delete that message. Normally, this should remove the delegation, but you still want to go back into your Outlook settings and check. In some cases, you may now see an Unknown account in the delegation, at which point you can remove it.
SBS Migration hell
I recently helped a friend with a swing migration from one (really old) SBS 2003 server to another (new) SBS 2003 server. As there is currently NO process provided by Microsoft to migrate SBS servers (at least none that I am aware of), my friend had purchased the SBS Swing It Kit, provided by Jeff Middleton (SBS MVP) to assist us in this project.

SBS (Small Business Server), if you haven't worked with it before, is designed for small businesses and is also designed to run on 1 server. As such, your 1 SBS server is set up to host many roles on the same box - we're talking Active Directory, Exchange, SQL, Sharepoint, and optionally, ISA and some others. There are license limits in place that only allow you to have a certain number of clients (I want to say 75?), which is why it should only be used for small businesses.

On to our experience. The SBS box in question was just running SBS Standard, which probably made it a "little" bit easier, but not much. A brief overview of the swing migration process is that you have to bring up a temporary DC, transfer everything to that, remove all references to the existing DC, then add your new server (which has the same name as the old server) back in. This by no means details all of the steps involved (which are quite numerous), so I'd encourage you to check out the Swing It kit previously mentioned if you have to go through this process. Anyways - adding the new server didn't pose any problems. AD and DNS replicated with no issues and we were able to do the things we needed. The problems began when we tried to add the new server (with the same name as the old one). We couldn't get AD to replicate. After a few hours of mucking around, we found the issue. Ready? It was the Windows Firewall service! Why on earth the Windows Firewall would decide to prevent Active Directory replication is beyond me, but it did. Once the service was disabled, replication took place within a few minutes and we could then proceed.

Probably the most difficult part about a migration like this is getting the Exchange data transferred. Luckily, as long as the server name (along with a few other things) is the same, you should be able to mount the database from the old server with no issues. I've done this several times for regular Exchange servers, and it's the method that you used to have to follow with Exchange 2000 (build recovery Exchange server in a new forest that has same name, same admin group, same database name, etc.). However, another catch was that there hadn't been a successful full backup in a few weeks, so there were LOTS of log files. To be on the safe side, we brought those over as well, even though the stores were in a clean shutdown state. The biggest nightmare for us was actually getting the stores to mount, though. Let me state for the record here that at 4am in the morning, patience is not my strong suit.

I had applied Exchange 2003 SP2 while I was still copying the databases and log files from the old server to the new one (hooked up old drive via USB 2.0 enclosure), and even though the stores were dismounted when I ran the SP, after it was done, it tried to mount the stores, and replay all the log files. This *obviously* wasn't going to work, as the databases didn't even exist yet! Anyways, to make a long story short, I killed the store.exe process so the SP install would finish. Once that was done, and the stores and logs were transferred, I tried to mount the stores, only to have it fail with some comical error about files not being in the right state, or some such nonsense. I re-transferred the databases and logs again, and verified the databases were still in a clean shutdown state (eseutil /mh), but no dice. Running out of time, I thought I'd try to re-run SP2 and see if something had gotten mucked up the last time. This time, like the last, it replayed all the log files, then it purged them (I don't think I've ever seen an SP purge log files - hehe). With that done, all I had to do was mark the databases as being able to be overwritten, then I was able to mount them successfully.

The other problem we encountered was with the migration of the shares. Because there was a lot of data in the user shares, we decided we didn't have enough time to move the data, so we hooked up the old hard drive into the new server, and re-created the shares. Though I could have sworn that we checked, apparently the new share for the User Shared Files (where My Documents gets redirected to) was set to share perms of Read only. Remember that Windows uses the most restrictive set of permissions when you are accessing a share, so even if you have full control at the NTFS level, if your share permissions are read-only, you aren't going to be writing anything to that share, bucko. That was easy enough to clear up.

Sooo - 12 hours, and a severe case of sleep-deprivation later, migration is done. A few minor problems cropped up later on, but my friend was able to take care of those.

My observations:
1. Why in the world does an SBS migration have to be this difficult?
2. Has anyone at Microsoft tried to migrate SBS servers? If so, do they expect small businesses to ever do this without hiring an sbs expert?
3. I don't like SBS. I really don't. Some people love it. I'm not one of them. It felt like a very dummified [1] version of Windows Server 2003, with wizards galore, and progress bars that leave no indication of what exactly it is doing.

I've promised myself to never touch another SBS server, and above all to never do another SBS migration. I'll leave those to the SBS experts, something which I don't claim to be.

[1] I think I just made up a word.
Status Change for me
As of Monday, Oct. 2nd, I have now joined Microsoft as an Exchange Support Engineer. I'm not sure yet what that means for this blog, so for the time being, I will continue to post new content here. If the location of my blog changes in the future, I'll be sure to post an update.
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
UM Kit offer from the Exchange team
Are you part of the Exchange 2007 Beta, but haven't deployed the Unified Messaging bit because you don't have a VOIP gateway that you can integrate it with? Have no fear. Thanks to the effors of the folks on the Exchange team, for a limited time you can purchase a trial kit for $1000 that includes not only an analog IP Gateway, it also includes a full 2 hours of support to help get it set up and working with Exchange 2007.

One thing to note - the actual hardware costs far less than $1000. You can pick up the same piece of hardware (Audiocodes MediaPack 114 FXO) for ~$450, which means that the phone consultation bit is rather expensive. If you haven't had any experience with VOIP or setting up a VOIP gateway, this still might be a good deal, but if you have experience, I'd recommend just getting the hardware yourself and setting it up. The Exchange help file (and online documentation) is very good when it comes to information about UM. There are lots of places where you can get the VOIP gateway (note that currently, there are only 2 such gateways that are supported as being compatible for testing). Here are some links where you can get the VOIP gateway.
Friday, September 15, 2006
Office 2007 Beta2 Tech Refresh is out
Yesterday, Microsoft released the Beta2 Technical Refresh of Office 2007, and indicated that it would be free to download from the Microsoft Download Center. The main difference is that you must already have Beta2 installed (vs. removing the previous version).

I installed it yesterday afternoon (directly after downloading). Following completion of the install, I was required to reboot my computer. The first thing I noticed? There is a new theme available. Silver. Woohoo! I was sick of using the Slate Gray theme (it makes everything look darker), and couldn't stand the sky blue theme, so this was a welcome change. Also, since I use the Silver theme in XP, it blends right in.

Second, some of the UI has been changed. It seems like the Office button has been resized (smaller - about half the size it used to be). I still have a problem with my Word in that every time I open a new document, it starts with the zoom level at 10%, but I suspect that is more an issue with my computer, as I can't reproduce it on other computers. I'm also bummed that I apparently still have a problem with Outlook unable to act on mailto: links, but again, I think that's a problem with my computer, because it's not reproducible.

Third, icons (and splash screens) have been changed. They now feature a more updated, modern look, though so far I'm not extremely fond of the splash screen (it appears to be the same basic splash screen for ALL products, with just the name of the product being different

I'll be testing this out for the next while, but so far, I like the other UI changes. I haven't noticed much in the way of change in how the product works, but that could be simply because I am dense... :-)

Thursday, September 14, 2006
Which gaming console is the best?
There are lots of varying opinions out there, and each manufacturer states their console is the best (ok, with probably the exception of Nintendo, whom I haven't heard a lot of "smack" from).

The obvious players in the gaming console are the following:

Microsoft Xbox 360
Sony PS3
Nintendo Wii

let's do a quick comparison of the 3 and some of their basic features.

Xbox 360




$299 Core/$399 Premium



CD player

Standard DVD-Rom/HD-DVD optional accessory

Blu-Ray DVD Standard

Standard DVD player

Hard drive?




At first glance, the PS3 wins out in the features category, but does it justify the $200 premium over the 360, and even more over the Wii? That's for you to decide.

Also, note that I left out the processor/video specs. While there is much hype about the Cell processor in the PS3, I have to date seen nothing that indicates it will soundly trounce everything out there. In fact, it seems like each time there is an update, revised specs are released that show lower capabilities.

As far as availability, the XBox360 has the obvious advantage here. It's already been out for a year, and will have the most games available.

All 3 systems claim to be backwards-compatible with previous games, though the XBox 360 requires the hard drive (or a memory module) in order work with Xbox games, as they store information on the hard drive on the original XBox.

Nintendo clearly has the most innovative design for their controller, but it really remains to be seen if it will be accepted or not. Sony and Microsoft have stayed the conventional route with their controllers.

All 3 systems will be touting online gaming capability, but I'd give the edge to the 360 here as well. XBox Live is a well-established service, and has been around for several years. There is a subscription cost, but at ~$50/year, it's a relative bargain. Last I'd heard, the online gaming from both Sony and Nintendo will be free, but I don't think they really have much choice here. In order to get an online gaming forum up and running, you can't really start charging at the onset, or you won't get near as many people to join.

So - which one would I buy? I certainly won't put out $500 or $600 for the PS3. I paid $150 for my original XBox, and I'm not willing to quadruple the cost of that to satisfy my gaming craves. That leaves the Xbox 360 and the Wii. The 360 has been out longer, and is likely to drop in price sooner (at least I think it will), and since I've already got an XBox, my likely choice will be the 360, though I won't be rushing out tomorrow to get one. Which console others will choose may depend on the current gaming console they own. If you have a PS2, my guess is that you'd be more likely to get a PS3 and be able to play all games from it instead of having 2 separate consoles. However, Sony is going to have a distribution problem with the PS3. The launch date here in the US (and in Japan) is supposed to be mid-November, but reports I've heard indicate they are going to have limited numbers of units available for the US and Japan (Europe's launch date has even been postponed until Spring of 2007). This means the mark-up by retailers could be quite a bit.

Time will tell how this next generation of gaming console wars turns out.

Friday, September 08, 2006
550 relaying denied for local domains
Have you ever experienced your Exchange server suddenly (or not) rejecting all messages destined for local domains (i.e. the ones listed in your recipient policies)? Here are a couple of things you can check to see what is going on.

First, manually telnet to your Exchange server on port 25, and attempt to send a message. I won't go through all of the commands, but the Rcpt to: command is the most important here. If you are seeing this problem, as soon as you enter the rcpt to: command and enter the e-mail address of a user in that domain, you will see the 550 relaying denied message. A little trick here is that with Exchange 2000 and 2003, you can actually get away with just typing the username. For example, instead of typing

rcpt to: user@domain.com

you would type

rcpt to: user

When you do this, Exchange 2000 and 2003 will automatically append the smtp domain information and convert it to user@domain.com. In this case, performing this action resulted in Exchange returning user@sub.domain.com, which was not a part of recipient policies.

This gave me a clue as to what the problem might be, and leads to the next part.

Open Internet Information Services Manager, and expand your server name and check for the existance of an SMTP Virtual server in there. See, when you install Exchange, it requires SMTP to be installed, but during the installation, it takes over ownership (and managing) of the SMTP bit. In other words, SMTP should not show up in IIS Manager. If it does, then you know that Exchange isn't managing SMTP as it should. Fortunately, the solution to this problem is fairly easy.

If you have uninstalled/reinstalled IIS, then you have to reinstall Exchange. This is done simply by re-running Exchange setup and choosing Reinstall from the drop-down box for the install options. Don't worry - this doesn't touch the databases, it just reinstalls the Exchange binaries (\Exchsrvr\bin). Upon completion of this step, you would then need to reinstall any Exchange service packs and hotfixes.

If you have only uninstalled/reinstalled the SMTP component, then it's even easier. By following the instructions in http://support.microsoft.com/kb/290290/EN-US/, you can run smtpreinstall.exe and fix the relationship between Exchange and SMTP.

As also mentioned in the article, the other clue that will guide you to this conclusion is if there are missing SMTP verbs. When you type the EHLO command into your telnet session, all of the supported SMTP verbs will be listed.

If you don't see the following, then the Exchange verbs are not present, and you need to follow the above instructions to repair it.

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