Monday, October 31, 2005

Exchange Server 2003 24seven errata

On page 39-40 and page 99 of the Exchange Server 2003 24seven book, I claimed that you can copy the EXCHMEM.DLL, ESCPRINT.DLL, ADDRESS.DLL, and MAILDSMX.DLLs in to the \windows\system32 folder, register them, and that would provide the Exchange specific property pages for Active Directory Users and Computers. While this was a neat trick in Exchange 2000, it does not work with the Exchange 2003 DLLs.

This is very embarassing because I pride myself on testing everything that I write. This procedure does NOT work with the E2K3 DLLs and this was an oversite on my part that it made it in to the book. Even when just Exchange System Manager is installed, it installs the Microsoft Exchange Managment service. For these DLLs to be registered, that service must be installed. I have not found a short-cut or workaround. So, you must install all of the Exchange management tools using Exchange setup even if you only need the ADUC property pages and not the Exchange System Manager. Sorry for the bogus info. If I find a work-around, I'll post it here.

Page 373 includes a reference to Veranda by Tally Systems. Tally is no longer in business, they have been assimilated by Novell. It appears that Veranda is no longer being marketed. While I'm no crazy about putting links in to a book, often that is the best way to convey information. Unfortunately, this is the reason I'm not crazy about URLs in computer books; things change too quickly!

Thanks to a diligent Steven S. for pointing these errors out to me.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Virtual Server 2005 nightmare

I am frantically finishing up my demonstration machines for the Exchange Connections conference. I built all of these virtual machines running on a desktop using Microsoft Virtual Server 2005. However, when I copied them over to my new Dell D810 laptop (2gb of RAM, 2.1GB Pentium M, 7200RPM drive) , the performance is absolutely terrible. The VMs are sometimes just fine and other times they are slow, they hang up/freeze up, the mouse stops responding, file copies from a shared folder on the host fails, and they keyboard shortcuts work sometimes and sometimes they don't. And, often the performance is bad even with just one VM running.

I have spent the past couple of days trying to get this thing tweaked. Apparently, based on what I have read, I am not alone. So, here is some things I have learned that might (or might not) help you when you are running virtual server (or Microsoft Virtual PC) on a laptop. These are in no particular order, though the power configuration / speed stepping features seem to be the most important.

  • Check for a more recent version of the system BIOS
  • Disable antivirus and antispam software
  • Disable the CPU's speed step features that slow the CPU down when it is on battery or goes idle. This is designed to save battery power, but it throws the Virtual PC in to disarray. On some laptops, this is done in the BIOS, others have got software settings that do this.
  • If you are having networking problems, see if KB 888750 applies to you
  • Update the virtual machine additions to a later version (see KB 900076 - at this time, only the beta version of the next SP is available)
  • Disabling all unnecessary services
  • Setting Windows to maximum performance (to turn off a lot of the interface enhancements)

Virtual Server 2005 is not great on a laptop, but at least it has become tolerable. Thanks to Scott Schnoll for sitting down with me and helping me tweak and tune the laptop a little more.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Exchange Connections schedule in San Diego

In case anyone cares, here is where you can find me at the Exchange Connections 2005 conference in San Diego the week of Oct 31.

Mon - 10/31 - 9:00 - 4:00 - Exchange 5.5 to Exchange 2003 Migration
Tue - 11/1 - 11:30 - 12:55 - Anatomy of a Disaster Recovery
Tue - 11/1 - 2:15 - 3:30 - Exchange Migration Panel: Expert Insights
Thu - 11/3 - 10:00 - 11:15 - Outlook 2003: Is RPC over HTTP Right For You?
Fri - 11/4 - 1:00 - 4:00 - Clustering for Exchange

The rest of the week, I'll be wandering around in and out of keynotes, exhibitor boothes, and other sessions. You can definitely find me at Chris Scharff's "HA Best Practices for Exchange" session, Paul Robichaux's "Exchange Security: Tips and Tricks", Dan Holme's "AD Design, Delegation, and Security Brainshare", Brian Komar's "PKI Horror Stories", and Hasslauer's "Best Practices for Disaster Recovery: Lessons Learned from Exchange Server 2003 Stretched Cluster Deployments". I'm definitely looking forward to seeing a lot of the faces and friends from the last Exchange Connections conference!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Be an Exchange Insider

The folks that work in Microsoft Product Support Services (PSS) have seen it all! They have a tremendous amount of knowledge of the inner workings of Exchange and how it behaves in all manner of different circumstances; their knowledge is probably as good as the folks working in the Exchange Product Group. Much of this information is documented and published internally, but in a "raw" format that is not easily publicly disseminated. For example, the information may not have step-by-step instructions, have been edited for typos or grammatical mistakes, or even formatted to be "readable".

A lot of folks might say "just publish it anyway", but when you become a larger company like Microsoft, you have to stand by the information you produce and publish on your web site so casually written material often does not stand up to the scrutinity of the general public. That is why I like blogging; I can disseminate something really quickly without editorial oversight (for better or worse). And, if you follow this blog, then you know that typos and grammar don't stop me from clicking the Publish Post button. :-)

PSS is now pushing to get this knowledge in to a format that is acceptable published to the Microsoft web site. There is a new Exchange TechCenter section called Exchange Insider. Keep checking back to this site because over the next month or two, I expect a lot of their internal goodies to be cleaned up and published!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Exchange 2003 Service Pack 2 is here!

Exchange 2003 SP2 is finally ready. You can download it from links found at the Exchange site. The release is available in English, Chinese, German, Spanish, French, Japanese, and Italian. Here is a list of the Issues that are fixed in Exchange Server 2003 Service Pack 2 And, SP2 is cumulative, so you don't need to apply SP1 first.

Before you do anything else, read the Exchange 2003 SP2 Release Notes Test the release on a test server that closely duplicates your environment. If you have third party applications (antivirus, antispam, backup, SAN, NAS, etc...) then check with the vendor to make sure there are no known issues. And, of course, make sure you have good backups and documentation before applying any type of update or service pack. :-)

If you are planning to use the Sender Id functionality of Exchange 2003 SP2, then make sure that you apply the Windows 2003 SMTP hotfix 905214. Since this is a W2K3 Post SP1 fix, it is not included with E2K3 SP2.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Monad is coming? Are you ready?

Okay, so what is Monad?
Monad is the new Microsoft Command Shell (MSH). Microsoft is currently working on (but not yet released) a new command-line interface and scripting language for Microsoft operating systems. The final release of Monad will probably be sometime near the release of the new Windows Vista operating system. This technology is designed to provide a better shell and scripting language than previous technologies such as batch (BAT), command files (CMD), or Windows Scripting Host (VBS or WSH).

New features include the MSH "command-lets" treat all parts of the OS as .NET objects, it is object oriented, digital signatures, object inheritance, data passing between "command-lets", improved security, and output of commands can be directed to applications (such as Word or Excel).

Notably, all Exchange 12 administrative functions will be accomplished via Monad (but the administrative GUI will still sit on top of the "command-lets". So many of those maddeningly repetetive tasks you do in Exchange 2003's admin program can be scripted with Monad. Of course, you can still use the admin interface.

But, why "Monad"?
I had to do a little research on this. The term comes from a philosophy of Gottfried Leibniz called Monadology. This philosophy says that everything is integrated in a pre-established harmony and the fundamental elements of this philosophy is called Monads. Obviously, someone at Microsoft Reseach is doing some recreational reading in to something other than technology.

So, how does this affect me?
Ironic that I'm writing this blog entry since I can't even write a good, solid VBScript. Almost everyday, I find administrative and management tasks that are better served by using scripting, CDO, ADSI, or WMI, but if I can't find work that someone else has done, I'm left out in the cold (and doing the work manually). MSH is going to be integrated completely with Windows Vista and will have legacy support for Windows 2003 and Windows XP Pro. Further, it will probably be tightly integrated with other Microsoft server applications so that management of those applications can also be handled through Monad. So, this is really something I can't afford "not" to learn. I'm already behind the curve with some of my fellow MCSEs, MCTs, and MVPs that have embraced this technology and are quickly learning it.

Where can I learn more?

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Dell 24" wide screen monitor for $779

I bought one of these a few months ago and love it. Side-by-side, this looks even better than the Samsung 24" (around $1,800) and the Sun 24" (around $3000!). The monitor retails for $1,199 (already a bargain). I just found a Dell coupon code that will get you 35% of this montior (or $779). This is an incredible deal. When checking out, use coupon code WFQ9X9GW1VT?2R. Hurry, it expires 10/18 or after 5,000 uses.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Setting up a W2K3 cluster using Virtual Server 2005

I'm setting up demos for some presentations I'm doing for Exchange Connections in San Diego. One of these demostrations will include building a 2-node active/passive cluster. I have done this before using VMWare. There is a really good article called A VMWare Clustering Recipe by Chris Wolf that was helpful in getting this working. Unfortunately, I can't find my VMWare license keys and they have been less than forth-coming in getting me another one.

So, I figured I would use Virtual PC, since I use that frequently in the Exchange Server 2003 Course 2400 class. However, clustering is no supported using Virtual PC since it does not support shared drives (and naturally, both nodes of the cluster need to access the shared disks).
Even though I'm not crazy about Microsoft Virtual Server 2005, I guess I'll give in and use it. I found a couple of great "how to" articles on doing this, but the best of the bunch is Setting Up A Windows Server 2003 Cluster in VS 2005 by Bob Roudebush. Thanks Bob! You have made one of my tasks this weekend somewhat easier.

If anyone from the Microsoft VS team is listening, I find the whole web interface to Virtual Server 2005 really klunky. I much prefer the VMWare or Virtual PC interfaces.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Serenity Rocks!

I saw Serenity last night. Joss Whedon has outdone himself. Great movie, lots of action, River kicks butt, and Kaylee gets two of the funniest lines of the movie. River gets the vote for best facial expression. I won't give any of the movie away, though. I plan to see it again while it is still on the big screen. See the movie and tell Fox to bring back the series!