Monthly Archives: October 2004

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It’s two months and counting

It’s two months and counting…. to what you ask? 

To End of Life of Windows NT Server.  So for anyone still running SBS 4.5 [or heaven forbid SBS 4.0] the clock is ticking folks. 


Microsoft Monitor talks about the latest Steve Ballmer memo about Windows versus Linux and he says it’s related to the end of life of Windows NT and the announcement of Dell and Novell’s SuSe Linux.  For the small biz space, I still don’t see a huge move towards Linux especially as the main domain controller.  Medium firms, larger firms, but not down here.


So get ready to say goodbye to DIP switches.


Goodbye to no plug and play.


Goodbye to closing my eyes and thinking happy thoughts as I would reboot my SBS 4.5.


Goodbye to a platform that served us well, but it’s time is now over.


 

So I think Princess Aurora would be using a laptop, wouldn’t you?

My apologies, it’s a little hard thinking geek topics tonight when I’m standing here in a purple gown, flowing sleeves that keep getting in the way, a long red wig and a “Princess” hat on.  You see tonight is the tradtion of “trick or treat” called Halloween.  So at my door cats, witches, and other assorted characters come to my door asking for candy in exchange for yelling “Trick or Treat” at the door.  We decorate our house and I always dress up in a costume to answer the door. 


So right now in between “treak or treaters” I’m on the wireless, typing on the laptop and shoving up my sleeves.  But I think if Princess Aurora was around today, she’d be on the Internet and she and Prince Charming would be making sure they stayed in touch with their subjects.  You don’t have to be a member of the Geek Squad to be “online” and “in touch”.  She’d have a MP3 player, I think, along with a dvd player, either a TIVO or a Windows Media edition, and of course so she could swap photos with Snow White, a digital camera and what not and probably be a “mobblogger“.  She’d have a smart phone for certain.  She and Prince Charming would have RSS feeds of the latest happenings of the Kingdom.  You know… the latest of what’s up with Flora, Fauna and Meriweather and what not. 


Seriously, look at the technology that is now used in animation and entertainment that we take for granted.  Pixar has a product called “Renderman“.  Heck, who ‘da thought that “Ray Differentials and Multiresolution Geometry Caching for Distribution Ray Tracing in Complex Scenes“ was uber geek speak for “this is how we do that really cool animation at Pixar“.  Shrek 2 was done with faster better computers, and George Lucas used newer technology to update Star Wars.


So as I go to answer the door again, just remember that technology is all around us and is even entertaining us.


Happy Halloween everyone!

Is your Outlook posting appointments an hour off?

Note to all… if you have a sudden problem with one or two workstations in your clients’ offices that insist on booking appointments an hour off of everyone else, make sure they have the box checked “automatically adjust for daylight savings time“ by clicking on the time in the system tray and checking the second tab on the time screen that pops up.  I swear that EVERY OEM Dell I’ve ever purchased does not retain this setting, yet every workstation that I’ve personally installed has kept that setting.  Yet Dell support reps blame Microsoft, yet I know that cleanly installed XP machines retain this setting.


Bottom line, if you’ve bought a new Dell since April, double check this little box, otherwise that workstation may think it’s an hour different than everyone else.



Remember we’re changing the time tonight!

So what kind of VAR/VAP are you?

I was on the phone earlier tonight talking to a gentlemen about security and the impact of it on the Value Added Reseller and Value Added Provider marketplace.  As I was talking to the gentlemen, he was saying that consultants tended to install the networks and then just go on to the next network.  Hmmm… not the consultants that I hang around with.  Sure there is always the revenue from the new projects, but networks need maintenance.

Now before you say, well that’s because you run a Windows network.  No.  It’s because I run a NETWORK, period.  A living, organic, working environment that needs vigilence. 


Today in the Encase, Computer forensics class, the instructor was asking one of the students about his position and the student said that most of the time his job included “firewalls”.  So the instructor said well you probably just set them up once, right?  And the student said, “No actually on a regular basis we have to examine intrusion attempts, ensure that remote access to the network has only been done by authorized employees”.  You don’t just set things up and walk away. 


Take today for example, I got a couple of alerts about Bagle varients, next month, second Tuesday we will have another Patch day to review the patches for, and on a regular basis, I would argue that you should make sure that no one has changed the network you have configured.  To ensure that a network is secure, passwords and passphrases should  be changed, the network should be scanned for rogue wireless access points, to just make sure that everything is as you left it.


Look around us.  What we consider to be secure today will not be secure tomorrow.  Already RSA has announced a Small Business push for two factor authentication.  May of the folks in the class that worked for larger firms already do this.  That’s something I’m interested in checking out.


Think about the last few years.  What we take for granted now, we did nothing like this a few years ago.  Look at just what happened Thursday in the USA.  A law went into affect called “Check 21”.  No longer will you be getting copies of your paper cancelled checks, instead you will get a “digital” image.  This of how much we email, fax, send electronically, order over the web now than we did a few short years ago.


You know what this business is like, the things you did ten years ago, five years ago are not what you do now.  Heck, did we even know what Voice Over IP was a few years ago?  And now more and more businesses are intregrating it into their networks. 


Security is not an end goal.  It’s a process.  We don’t get a map, a final destination, it’s like life…. we keep growing, learning, changing, evolving.


Over the last four days, I used computer tools to search for emails that were deleted, for documents printed.  I remounted drives that were fdisked.  I made hashes of certain files that I was looking for and ran an exam against the hard drive to see if those files that weren’t supposed to be on that hard drive, were in fact, on there.  I learned that as we were there using the Internet on our lab machines, traces of our activity, our email from our offices were leaving there traces in our Internet temp files [just another reason to never use Internet kiosk machines to check email and to only use your own computer], that while one piece of circumstancial evidence might be explained away, that the patterns and history I was finding left trails behind.


Our “digital lives“ need constant attention.  Setting networks up, of any flavor, whether Linux or Small Business Server flavors, is not just about setting them up securely right NOW.   Keeping safe on the Digital Information SuperHighway age means that you will reevaluate that network on a regular basis.


Heck look at me now, sitting in a hotel room, connected wirelessly typing up this hopefully somewhat coherent post.  It wasn’t too long ago that I was pretty much dialing up on the road.  I haven’t used the phone cable in my laptop bag in ages. 


So getting back to the point of this rambling post, I don’t think you guys just set up networks and walk away.  I think more of you guys out here are the other kind of VAR/VAP.  The one who is the Outsourced Chief Information Officer and not just “the guy [or gal] who installed the network“.

What’s your favorite add on to SBS 2003?

Went out to dinner tonight with Jim Locke [founder of the LA SBS User/partner group] and we were talking about how we didn’t know if there was a web site resource that listed ALL of the products that had “SBS” versions that we had come across.  We were talking about how I had sent Dana to talk to Jim about the SBS marketplace and how it was really hard to find out sales numbers for our marketplace out here to give as a “carrot” for vendors to start coming into this space.  The best I”ve found is some Yankee Group research, but even then a lot of vendors have to, I guess go on faith.


I’d like to start blogging about those vendors that have made the effort to join the SBS family.  Kind of a way to keep track of those folks that have taken the time to be SBS family members. 


We already talked about those vendors that came and supported SMBNation


In Googling “Small Business Server 2003 version“ let me see what I can find:


Hmmm… got a little problem here Vern.  I’m not getting hits of programs that have SBS versions.  But I know they are out here.  I know for a fact that Yosemite Tape Backup has a SBS version.


There’s got to be more than this.


Okay folks… help me out here!  If you know of a third party program that has a SBS version, either post it in the comment section or email me at sbradcpaATpacbell.net and I’ll accumulate the programs that you’ve found to be “SBS Family members”.


 


<oops realized I screwed up my email address — it’s sbradcpaATpacbell.net>

Are you signed up for the MSSmallbiz update?

Microsoft Small Business Community (http://www.mssmallbiz.com) Update

Topics in this October 28th update:

1) Tuesday, November 19th Microsoft Small Business Channel Licensing Training Session
2) New MS Small Business Community User Guide Posted
3) Coming next week – Exchange Server 2003 SP1 and the Intelligent Message Filter Session posting
4) Microsoft Across America Events you can participate in for FREE
5) NEW – Microsoft Small Business Partner Engagement Program



1)
MS Small Business Licensing for Partners – Microsoft Small Business Channel Training Session

Many of you have asked for this session, and now it is here!

Join us for this exclusive, Microsoft® channel-only event.  The “MS Small Business Licensing for Partners,” sales training session is being offered to our Small Business Channel Community to provide you the information and resources you need to differentiate yourself and win more business.  This session was developed exclusively for our channel partners based on feedback and requests from the highly-rated “Triple Your MS Sales in 2004,” and “SA for Channel Partners” sessions we ran earlier in our Midwest Area.  Consider this a MUST ATTEND event if:


1)       You sell to companies with 75 PCs or less.


2)       You want to know the real differences between OEM, Retail, and Volume License software and which is right for your customers.


3)       You want to understand the differences between Open Business and Open Value and when to use each.


4)       You want to learn what Software Assurance REALLY is and how to sell it


5)       To learn about current rebates, promotions, and tools you can use to drive more business today


6)       You want to know how your customers may qualify for FREE Microsoft® Office licenses, or FREE training on Microsoft® Office or Server products they purchase from you.


7)       You want to build customer relationships that have them coming back to buy from you over and over.


8)       You want to learn about the NEW Microsoft® Small Business Channel Community



Knowledge IS power. 
Come learn how to win more business today! 
Presented by: Eric Ligman – Microsoft
® Business Development Manager – US Central Region

Don’t just take our word for it…  Here are just a few comments from other MS Channel partners that have attended these sessions in the past:

- “Your presentation outlining licensing and software assurance clarifications was quite the epiphany.”
-  “Excellent session.  I would like to attend more as everything makes more sense after attending.”
-  “Outstanding presentation.  Very happy I made the trip.”
-  “This session REALLY helps.”
-  “Wow – fantastic information…  Today was time well spent!”
-  “Excellent presentation.  A lot of information in a short amount of time.”
-  “Great session.  Lots of content at summary & detail level.”
-  “All partners should be required to attend a meeting like this.”
-  “Great presentation!  Very informative regarding licensing.”
-  “Topics covered were excellent, learned a lot.”

Tuesday, November 9, 2004 from 11:30 AM (CST) – 1:30 PM (CST)

To register or for more information on this session, please go to:

http://msevents.microsoft.com/CUI/EventDetail.aspx?culture=en-US&EventID=1032263703 or
http://www.microsoft.com/usa/events and enter Event ID 1032263703 in the Search box or call 877-MSEVENT and provide them with Event ID 1032263703.  Be sure to register today!




2) New MS Small Business Community User Guide Posted – We have posted a new Small Biz Community User Guide document in the MS Small Biz Shared Documents section of our site (http://www.mssmallbiz.com) describing how to do many of the most common questions we get asked.  Be sure to check it out and provide us your feedback on anything else you would like to see added to this Guide.


 


3) Coming next week – Exchange Server 2003 SP1 and the Intelligent Message Filter Session posting – Be sure to check out the Announcements section of our site next week (if you don’t already have an Alert set up on it) as we will be posting the registration information for Brad Billison’s (Central Region Small Business Technology Specialist) upcoming Exchange Server 2003 SP1 and the Intelligent Message Filter LiveMeeting session that he will be conducting in November.  The feedback on Brad’s Windows SharePoint Services session in October was great and the Exchange session is bound to be fantastic as well!


 


4) Microsoft Across America Events you can participate in for FREE – Did you know that you have the ability to participate in a local Microsoft Across America event in your area for FREE?  This is free marketing for you and an opportunity to meet new prospects, be highlighted as a Microsoft Partner, and give you more exposure in your local markets.  Participation can range anywhere from having a table in the back of the event to show your services to having a timeslot on the NEW Microsoft Across America mobile Technology Vehicles to bring your customers and prospects through and show off the latest Microsoft technologies!  And the best part…  it’s FREE!  Be sure to go to the Microsoft Across America section of our site for information on how to sign up, locations in the Central Region that we have openings for you to participate in and more (including pictures of the NEW mobile Technology Vehicles listed above.  (http://www.mssmallbiz.com)


 


5) Microsoft Small Business Partner Engagement Program – Enroll in the Partner Engagement Program for Small Business!  Designed for re-sellers with small business clients, involvement in this program will support your marketing and sales efforts for Microsoft® Windows® XP Professional (with Service Pack 2), Office Small Business Edition 2003, and Windows Small Business Server 2003.  As a member of the Microsoft Partner Program, you’re well-positioned to provide your customers with services designed to improve their business productivity while generating incremental revenues for you. To start expanding your service and revenue opportunities right away get involved and sign up for this Small Business Engagement Program!  Click here to learn more: https://partners.microsoft.com/Pep/default.aspx

From Today’s mailbag, James asks “Do you send emails to clients prior to the install?”

From today’s mailbag, James asks “What type of emails do YOU or others send to the companys employee’s to get them excited about the install that is coming soon?“ 


Good question.  I know in my firm we have training sessions to ensure that folks know how to use the new stuff and while the SBS box sends out an “welcome to your new server“ email, it certainly isn’t something that folks probably take the time to read. 


I know that Chad does indepth training in Outlook [and Sharepoint] for his clientele but I don’t know if he sends out emails “ahead“ of time. 


This is part of that “managing expectations“ process.  There does need to be a process where you communicate with your clientele and ensure they are aware of the process. 


In my firm, before the install is rolled out, I normally don’t send out notifications ahead of time, I do the training once the install is rolled out. 


So I’ll ask the community out here…. do you send out emails ahead of time to let the employees know what is in store?  How much training do you budget ahead of time for your install?

About that “Windows Validation”

I see folks on the web talk about how you MUST validate your Windows before downloading some things like the Microsoft Time zone tool.


That’s actually incorrect.  You can say “no” to validation and still get to the download page.  Personally, while I understand that any corporation needs to worry about piracy and what not, what I don’t like is how it penalizes those of us who are trying to do the right thing. 



At this point in time you “can“ say no.


In our MVP community several people have noted that even on OEM installs it has failed to validate the operating system and they’ve had to either “opt out” or dig up the product key code to make it validate properly. 


Before you penalize those of us that ARE trying to do the right thing, make sure this is bulletproof… especially for those OEMs, okay? 


And another thing.  While I’m in rant mode here tonight, can we do a little bit better job of communication when you bring out new initiatives like this and the new KB search and Microsoft support pages? 


I don’t know if it’s that Microsoft sends too many emails or not enough, or not the right kind, but I must have missed the memo about the changes to the Microsoft support web site and to the Validation initiative. 


A little less on some stuff and more on stuff that truly touches me, okay?

Why aren’t we?

So in the Encase class today we’re discussion hashes and file signatures.  And we discuss how you can change the file name but you can’t change the hash value.  So Gater.exe would still be identified as a bad program no matter what you renamed it.

So I’m chatting with Eric F and he brings up that much of this can be done with group policy.  So off to google I go to check and sure ’nuff, we can block this stuff like this.  So why aren’t we?


The article “To create a hash rule” talks exactly how to do this in Software restriction policies.  Now granted it would probably be tough to do this, and might be easier to build the “here’s the good program” database and just put in those programs that CAN be run, but why aren’t we utilizing more of this power that we have already under the hood?


Like all the running around with our heads cut off we’ve been doing for the gdiplus.dll issue.  Couldn’t we build a restriction policy to either allow only the good one to run or the bad one not to run?  Or am I oversimplifying this?


NIST has hash files that you can subscribe to along with other sources on the web.


I just think that as we go forward more of the “kewl” stuff like this will be more integrated and automated.

Well those of us in the USA have to get something in return!

 Last week I posted about how you guys in Australia were getting Wayne Small, Dean Calvert AND Jeff “Mr. Swing It!! Migration” Middleton at a HP and Microsoft SMB conference throughout Australia.  Well it’s only fair that we in the USA get something nice this week, don’t you think?

I just found that there’s a new TechNet Magazine that is free to techies in the USA


I just ordered my copy and you can review some of the articles online.  Dr. Jesper Johansson and Steve Riley are working on a book together and a sneak peak is included in the first edition of TechNet Magazine.  Anatomy of a Hack talks about what you need to know that the “bad guys” already know.