Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Exchange Connections questions

Greetings from Exchange Connections! I had a few attendee questions that I wanted to post and share.

1) Is it possible to preserve the COLOR of the text that is logged in the PowerShell transcript (if you are recording a transcript). I talked to Jeff Hicks about this and he said that it was not easy to do since you would actually have to intercept some of the error code using additional code. So, no, not out of the box.

2) Can you do a report of all users that have ActiveSync enabled? Yes, you use the Get-CASMailbox cmdlet. Here is an example:
Get-CASMailbox where {$_.activesyncenabled -eq $True}

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Where do technical books go from here?

Even though the Mastering Exchange Server 2007 book has been out for nearly a year, I have just had an opportunity to review some of the comments on the book for the first time. I do read the comments and take them seriously. After writing or contributing to nearly 10 technical books over the past 8 years, I wanted to share some insight on the process.

Often, the publisher approaches the writer with "their vision" of what the book will be. The writer has to work within those constraints. The publisher's vision of the book often sets the tone, voice, and target audience for the book. We (the writers) then have to figure out what to leave in and what to leave out based on the publisher's expectations for the title. We are usually constrained by factors such as "keep things simpler", "no more than 600 pages", "fewer graphics", "more graphics", and "make it a broader audience."

Reader T. Rhodes was not particularly pleased with the Mastering Exchange Server 2007 book (and I *don't* disagree with his observations about the material that I wrote.) Here was one salient point:

"I only read the first 1/3 of this book before I got involved in an Exchange 2003 to 2007 transition. Some of what I read was applicable, however doing further research on the topic on TechNet I was able to find practically the same information for free, and often, in greater depth than this book offers."

The other bad review of the book was from reader C. Gilbert. He was looking for a book that would help him get started as a messaging administrator. His experience was almost the opposite of T. Rhoades. And, he is right, the Mastering Exchange Server book will not help you if you are just getting in to messaging administration, we did make some assumptions about your previous skills.

Though I have ten years of IT experience, this book has not yet helped me with my first venture into e-mail server administration. It summarizes topics without providing implementation guidance and real-world tips. Though it was written during the beta cycle, isn't some of the authors' Exchange 2003 hands-on experience applicable to 2007? Perhaps I'm spoiled by Minasi's "Mastering Windows Server". Beginner e-mail administrators may want to look elsewhere.

Now, this brings up an interesting side question (at least from the perspective of someone that writes such tomes). Would a chapter or two on the basics of e-mail and messaging administration be useful for some people. Obviously, Mr. Rhoades does not need this, but Mr. Gilbert does. I contemplated putting in about 50 pages as an introduction to messaging administration (such as basics of messaging, SMTP, client/server versus shared file messaging systems, how Outlook works, etc....) in to the Mastering book. But I was honestly afraid it would be shunned by most readers. Thoughts?????

Often, when writing on a new topic, such as Exchange Server 2007, when we write the material (during the beta phase most of the time), the material exists no place else (at least publicly). However, shortly after the product is released, you can find the same ideas, concepts, and information in 100 different places. When I first wrote the Exchange Server 5.5 24Seven book, I would like to think that I had shared some useful experiences and information that was not found (at least not easily found) any place else.

Over the last 10 years, Microsoft has gotten better at documentation. A LOT better at documentation. The Exchange 2007 documentation is just about some of the best production documentation ever produced. Seriously, it is quite good, easy to read, has practical examples, and good documentation.

As the product gets released, TechNet ends up with literally thousands of pages of material on Exchange Server. Much of this is practical advice and real world (though usually from the Microsoft view) material.

However, on a product such as Exchange, Microsoft often has dozens of writers all churning out technical material. Some of these folks have the specific job of being a technical writer, some of them are people from the Exchange team, others are Microsoft Support personnel, some of them are even Microsoft coders/programmers, and still others work for Microsoft consulting services.

So, where does that leave independent writers (like me) and publishers like Sybex? I really don't know, to be honest. From the perspective of a customer and an Exchange implementer, it is a very good thing. LOTS of information that is widely available and all free.

From the perspective of someone that spends his nights and weekends trying to generate useful material for others, I'm not sure I'm thrilled with it. Maybe we are seeing the end of "independent" texts on the subjects like this and only the BIG sellers (like Minasi's Mastering Windows Server 2003) will remain on the book shelves? I'm just musing here, but encourage comments from people that have read my books as well as others.


Friday, April 25, 2008

Regular Expressions library

Regular Expressions (REGEXs) are not something I would expect to be blogging about about, but I have had more exposure to them recently since my company's software (Directory Update and Directory Manager) use Regular Expressions for data validation. So I am frequently either asking one of the programmers to create me a REGEX that validates some string or number. One of my developers politely showed me the Regular Expressions library site. I must say this is a nice site and VERY helpful. (By the way, you can use REGEXs for string/number searching with Exchange 2007 Transport Rules!)

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Anti-social networking

Tired of social networking? Do people with a sunny outlook just get on your nerves? Do you want to let everyone in the world just how evil your co-worker really is? Is the Facebook generation getting on your nerves? Maybe it is time for,, or allows you to "classify" your enemies and "keep your friends close, and keep your enemies closer". is "an open forum for abuse and aggression" and allows you to put your enemies "on notice" or that they are "dead to me."

I'm certainly not the guy with a sunny disposition (at least not first thing in the morning). I usually somewhat upbeat and positive but with a sarcastic edge. However, I think one of these sites might be great fun to make up some evil (and humorous) things about my "enemies". I already have some entries for my hatebook:
  • Devin Ganger turned my dog against me with crack-laced kibble.
  • Julie Samante hacked the phone company and had the Crack Ho's Anonymous Hotline redirected to my home phone.
  • David Elfassy replaced my shampoo with Nair
  • Songsak Yongyingsakthaworn loosened the bindings on my skis before I went off the "widow maker" slope
  • Bharat Suneja convinced my kids that I was Carlos the Jackal.
  • Mike Brown photoshopped Osama bin Laden and me on to a picture with Britney Spears and sent it to my boss.
  • Paul Robichaux replaced the air in my scuba tanks with laughing gas.
  • Jordan Chang put itching powder in all my shoes
  • Peter O'Dowd removed the lug nuts from the tires on my SUV before I went off-roading on Kilimanjaro
  • Dan Holme had me put on a "no fly" list
  • Stan Haskell started the rumor about Angelina Jolie and me so now I have to have a restraining order to keep Brad Pitt from beating me up
  • Matt Suriya told the Paparazzi where to find me WHILE Brad Pitt was beating me up
  • Mark Spotswood blew that whole "Jennifer Anniston-restraining-order-thing" out proportion.
  • Clay Kamiya told my neighbors that I was going to vote for Ralph Nader. Now I can't leave the house without being egged.
  • Ben Schorr tricked me in to an audition for Queer Eye for the Straight guy; they rejected me and told me there was nothing they could do to help me.
  • Kevin Wile steals my newspaper every morning.
  • Ryan Tung told me to buy Enron stock and that they were going to turn around
  • Laura Robinson replaced my sunblock with Icy Hot

Too bad I don't have oodles of free time, I could make a bigger "enemies" list. :-)