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A Collection of Random Thoughts
Monday, November 28, 2005
Outlook 12 First thoughts

1. I like the new Ribbon UI design. Sure, it will take some getting
used to, but it would appear to be more functional than using the menus.

2. I like that there is a built-in RSS reader. I don't quite like the
functionality yet, but we'll see how it does. So far, comparing it to
my previous RSS reader (Intravnews), Intravnews is still a much better
choice. Since this is still Beta 1, I'd suspect that Outlook's handling
of RSS will get better.

3. So far, I'm not so fond of the memory usage. When I first
installed, I upgraded from Office 2003 SP2. Perhaps that was my first
mistake. After the upgrade, my CPU frequently shot up to 100% and
memory usage went as high as 700mb (I have 1GB installed on my laptop).
YIKES! It seems that the solution ended up being deleting and
re-creating my profile. Why (or how) my profile would have caused this
is beyond me, especially since my laptop was just recently rebuilt and
Office 2003 had only been on there for about a week. Anyways, now that
the CPU usage is under control, Outlook is still using quite a bit of
memory. I'm told that this may be by design, but I don't see any
documentation (yet) that references this.

4. There is a new cool "To-Do Bar", that identifies upcoming things.
It shows you a condensed Calendar view (month view), upcoming meetings,
and tasks. It doesn't take up a lot of space, and is quite
informational. This is definitely a big plus.

5. Word is now your default E-mail editor. All I will say is, let's
hope that Word as e-mail editor has vastly improved. That used to be
one thing I would always turn off.

As I continue testing Office 12, I'll post additional thoughts.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005
New announcements at IT Forum

Lots of new announcements at IT Forum in Barcelona.

1. Exchange 12 will be 64-bit only. This is sort of a bummer for
anyone that has non 64-bit hardware, but honestly, there is quite a bit
of hardware that is x64 capable right now, and that will only increase.
Let's review what current processors support x64.

Intel's moniker for x64 is EMT64. The following processors from Intel
support EMT64:
Xeon (2.8Ghz and above)
Pentium D (2.8Ghz - 3.2Ghz)
Pentium 4 Extreme Edition (3.2Ghz)
Pentium 4 with Hyper threading support (most 2.8Ghz and above with some
Celeron D (some starting at 2.53Ghz and above)

AMD also has quite a few products that support x64:
Opteron (all)
Athlon 64 (all)
Other mobile-based 64-bit processors weren't mentioned...

Many of these products have been out for quite a while now. In fact,
you may be surprised to find that your system already supports x64. It
may perhaps require a BIOS update, but if you are running an x64 capable
processor, odds are that the rest of the hardware supports 64-bit
computing as well.

Really, it makes sense - in order to lift some of the memory constraints
(we're talking virtual memory constraints here), 64-bit is really the
only way to go.

2. The pricing for Virtual Server has been dramatically reduced.
Virtual Server R2 Standard
Was: $499
Now: $99

Virtual Server R2 Enterprise
Was: $999
Now: $199

VMWare - watch out :-)

Seriously though, this is a pretty substantial change. With the new
licensing changes, If you buy one license of Windows Server and are
running Virtual Server 2005 R2, you can run up to 4 additional instances
of Windows Server at no extra cost.

3. Several other products will be 64-bit only as well. Among those are
Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003, Windows Server "Longhorn" Small
Business Server and another server product code-named "Centro". Other
applications will be (or are) optimized" for 64-bit, including SQL 2005,
Visual Studio 2005 and Virtual Server 2005 R2.

The Microsoft Press release can be found here
and a related article on Infoworld can be found here

Thursday, November 10, 2005
Followup on Sony DRM Rootkit
I'm really not sure how this can get much worse for Sony.  I've been following Mark Russinovich's blog regarding this topic.  If you haven't followed his posts, you can read the series here.
First post: Sony Rootkits and Digital Rights Management Gone Too Far
Second post: More on Sony: Dangerous Decloaking Patch, EULAs and Phoning Home
Third post: Sony’s Rootkit: First 4 Internet Responds
Fourth post: Sony: You don’t reeeeaaaally want to uninstall, do you?
more to come???
Let's just say that his discovery has made a lot of folks look at DRM in a whole new light, especially the method that Sony is using.
As a result of the information that Mark discovered, several Antivirus vendors have already classified the hidden rootkit software as varying degrees of spyware.  On top of that, Microsoft is now "concerned", but hasn't decided yet whether to detect/remove the rootkit software or not.  Sony is also facing a potential criminal investigation by Italian Police (that can't be good).  You can read more about that here.  There is also a lawsuit that has been filed in California.  Now, admittedly, there are lots of lawsuits filed every day, and I'd suspect a fair amount of them simply get thrown out, but if this does end up going to court, not only could it hurt Sony, but also the artists whose CD's are protected by this DRM  technique.  I'm not sure I would want to be a musician on a Sony label right now...
Finally, Sony was quite adamant that their "rootkit" could not be used for malicious means.  To rebut that, BitDefender (among others) has detected the first Trojan that is using the Sony DRM to hide itself.  So much for that.  Read more about that here and here.
Obviously, Sony has a lot invested in DRM, but this is going way too far.  I'll be following the developments in this and I am very interested to see how things turn out.

Friday, November 04, 2005
New Exchange tools released
Microsoft released a bunch of new tools on November 2nd.  Along with PFDAVAdmin, which I mentioned the other day, they have released the following tools:
1.  New version of Exchange Best Practices Analyzer (ExBPA).  The new version is version 2.5 and includes some enhancements and additions to both the UI and the database.
2.  A new tool called the Exchange Server Performance Troubleshooting Analyzer Tool (ExPTA).  At first glance, this would appear to be a tool to help admins determine root causes for performance problems.  It will be able to gather perfmon counters, tracing information, etc. and then analyzes that data to present information on what the root cause could be.  It seems like this functionality could be compared to tools such as Quest's Spotlight for Exchange.  Though obviously more advanced, Spotlight allows admins to see potential bottlenecks and act accordingly.  Still, it's nice to see Microsoft release a product that does some of this natively.  I don't think it's meant to serve as direct competition for 3rd party providers of tools like these such as Quest.  It's kind of like comparing NTBackup to 3rd party backup tools.  NTBackup works, but it doesn't have some of the value-add functionality that 3rd party software companies can provide.
3.  Another new tool called the Exchange Server Disaster Recovery Analyzer Tool (ExDRA).  This should be a great tool for Exchange admins to have in their toolkit.  According to the overview on Microsoft's website, it will basically gather configuration data and header information from both the databases and log files, then analyze that data and give you a list of problems as well as instructions on how to resolve the problem.  I see this as a tool that is meant for the seeming trend of less-experienced Exchange admins.  However, it's a tool that should be beneficial to any Exchange admin, even the most experienced ones.  I know I'll definitely try it out.
You can find these tools on Microsoft's site at the following location.  http://www.microsoft.com/technet/prodtechnol/exchange/downloads/2003/analyzers/default.mspx
In addition, the Exchange Team blogged about these new tools here.  My feed reader (IntraVnews) didn't pick up that post for some reason, so this may be old news to you.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005
New version of PFDAVAdmin released
Microsoft has released version 2.4 of their PFDAVAdmin utility.  You can find the download here.  PFDAVAdmin can be used for a multitude of things, including replicating permission, fixing permissions and exporting/importing permissions among other things.
Of note is that this was previously an unsupported utility.  Although it was likely fairly widspread in it's distribution, it could only officially be obtained by contacting PSS and having them send you a copy (that would help fix a problem you were experiencing), or by grabbing a copy from the relatively unknown (or not) PSS FTP site.
Any Exchange admin who has to deal with Public folders should have this utility.  It's a great tool that basically allows you to make bulk changes, and to do so easily and quickly.

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