New Year + New Laptop = Better Productivity?

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I’ve spent some time between Christmas and New Years resting up and enjoying being with my family – in the background I’ve been building up my new laptop.  I decided before Christmas to take the plunge and buy myself a new laptop.  I settled on the Toshiba Portege R500 with the 64GB Solid State Disk.  This little beauty claims to have a 12 hour battery life – something I plan to test out.  It also weighs in at around 800grams – that’s about the same as a dozen eggs!

In the past, I’ve been used to purchasing big / heavy / grunty laptops so that I can run virtual machines on them whenever I want.  Now with the availability of high speed broadband over 3G and HSDPA, I’ve changed things around.  I now have a nice big HP Proliant ML350G5 at the data centre that I use to do my virtual machine work.  Combine that with the new laptop and I can be doing virtual machine demos from the beach if I really want to.  Ok so I’m loading up the new laptop and I thought I’d give you an idea of the suite of software that I consider to be mandatory for me on a day to day basis.

Windows Vista Business – well – it came with the laptop and I’ll probably upgrade it to Vista Ultimate later so I can get Bitlocker on the drive.

Vista Gadgets – Digital World Clock, Multi meter, Server Ping

Office 2007 Ultimate – this does everything I need and more (yes I know – I didn’t like the ribbon at first but I got over it)

Outlook 2007 with BCM 2007 – I use BCM to manage all my contact tracking, time tracking, opportunities, mail outs and the like.  It’s very cool indeed and it’s integration with the Office suite is very tight.

Visio Professional 2007 – for network diagrams, flow charts and the like

Sharepoint Designer 2007 – for the work I do with Sharepoint v2.0 and V3.0

FrontPage 2003 – even with SPD 2007 above, I still find that there are things I can do faster in FrontPage with the FrontPage Server support that I’ve not been able to do in SPD 2007.

Trend CSM 3.6 Client – to protect me from the bad stuff out there.

Windows Home Server Connector – ensures my laptop is backed up each night when I’m at home

StorageCraft Shadow Protect – ensures my laptop is backed up to a portable USB hard drive when I’m travelling.

Adobe 8.0 Professional – I use this to PDF the writing work that I do, and to produce training manuals and the like.  Yes there are cheaper alternatives out there, but to be honest, this is one area where I would like to go with the flow and use the original product.

Skype 3.5 – my main Australian and USA phone numbers come to be via Skype – it allows me to redirect to my mobile when I’m offline and gives me huge flexibility when I travel.

Windows Live Writer – which I use to do these blog posts.  It’s nice and simple and I love its simplicity.  I used Word 2007 to do this before, but live writer is simpler and faster than word.

Windows Mobile Device Center – to connect my Windows Mobile Devices up.

Windows Mobile Office 6.1 Upgrade – for the ultimate in flexibility and gives me the chance to review Office 2007 documents on my HTC TyTnII phone when I’m really on the go.

Colligo Contributor 2.2 – this is a real gem for me.  I use WSS 3.0 to store all my info for SBSfaq.com and this gives me easy access to my content offline.  Without this I don’t think it would be as easy for me as it now is to take this on the road.

Feedghost – my RSS reader of choice, allows me to quickly skim through the various tech and business feeds that I watch.

RoyalTS – allows me to group my RDP connections together in various groups and makes it dead easy to see which servers I have active connections to when I’ve logged into a number of sites at a time.

Techsmith Snagit 8 – gives me all the screen captures I need for the writing and documentation I am working on – a very nice tool indeed.

Techsmith Camtasia – I’m playing with this now and am planning to produce a number of informational videos on SBS Cougar and more advanced things in SBS 2003 R2.

VMWare Server Console – yes – I know – VMWare – well what can I say – it’s the only thing right now that I can run a 64 bit guest operating system on and I need to do that so I can test out SBS Cougar and the various bits of Windows Server 2008.

Live Messenger – just to stay in touch with everyone when on the go.  I’ve found that IM reduces my email chatter as it allows answers to quick questions faster than email chains.

Windows 2003 Admin Tools – from this I use the Remote Consoles application for some remote work as well as a number of the other Admin tools.

SQL 2005 Express Management Studio – to manage a few SQL instances on my laptop.

Firefox – I’ve found this works much better with the HP iLo remote management systems on the HP ML and DL100 servers than IE7 does.  It also allows me to test out web development work I’ve done with Firefox (even though only 12.5% of the people visiting my sites use it) for my sites.

ISO Recorder – great lightweight tool that will turn a CD or DVD into an ISO very quickly.  I save these to an external USB hard drive to keep disk space under control on my laptop.

Slysoft VirtualCloneCD – mounts an ISO image as a virtual CD and allows me to install things on the laptop when I want.

 

That’s it for me.  I’m off to celebrate New Years with my family and a few close friends.  I hope that 2008 brings whatever you desire and that it’s not too hard to get those new Years Resolutions under control.

Drink responsibly and drive safe tonight.


Published: 31/12/2007 7:39 PM

Dear Santa…

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Dear Santa,

You might think that I’m a little old to write to you asking for things for Christmas, but I live in hope that my dreams will one day come true.  I’ve been a very good boy this year Santa, I’ve refocused my life on my family and it’s showing good results.  I’m less stressed now and really enjoying the work I am doing in the community.  This year Santa, I really only want one thing for Christmas.  I’d like software to work as it’s advertised.  I know your a busy man and all Santa, but here’s a just one of the things that have occurred over the past few months that really should not have.  Maybe your Christmas elves can work some magic over at Microsoft and make things happen for the new year.

Outlook 2007 keeps crashing on my computers and it just does not like the fact that I have a large mailbox at all.  I’ve been told by many people that it’s not designed to handle anything much over 2GB, but naughty Bill Gates and his team decided to make the limit 20GB, so I figure it should work to at least half of that right?  Unfortunately no – my OST is only 5GB right now and it’s performance really is not nice at all.  Not only that, but naughty Outlook often decides to crash on a regular basis resulting in long wait times while it rebuilds or tests it’s OST file.  I’ve been told that maybe it’s my anti virus software, or third party applications that cause it problems.  Well – I can now disprove that too Santa.  I was lucky this year and bought myself a nice new laptop just this week – it’s a Toshiba Portege R500.  Very nice indeed.  So right out of the box, I installed Office 2007 Ultimate, and then as a good security conscious boy, I went and patched it with Office 2007 Service Pack 1.  Well – it’s been all day now and it’s crashed 3 times in just doing the initial synchronisation.  I am really worried about how it will work after it’s all up and running.

Santa – I don’t think it’s nice at all that Bill and his friends won’t make this work the way it should do.  Maybe you need to revisit the naughty and nice list and see where he and his team should be on it.  I think that if they promise things should work then they should keep their promises.

Anyway Santa – thanks again as always for all the cool toys and stuff.  I hope you like the beer and chocolate cake we’ll leave out for you this year again.  You always seem to eat it all.  I don’t know how you get away with it really.

Best wishes

Wayne


Published: 23/12/2007 7:29 PM

And…. breath….

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Yes – I can breath again… We’ve moved the servers in the data center and all appears to be fine.  This is the start of a number of changes that I’m making to provide better facilities across the board.  More on this in 2008.

The observant of you will note that our IP’s have changed – we’re now on a new network with our ISP and hope that speed will be much better.


Published: 21/12/2007 2:48 PM

Ingram Micro – are they getting serious with SMB IT Resellers?

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Over the last week, I’ve had two meetings with local Ingram Micro in an attempt to help them better understand the needs of the SMB IT Reseller so that we might be able to do better business with them.  These meetings came out of a phone call from John Walters – Ingrams’ Sales Director here in Australia.  Yesterday, John had a team meeting with his state managers and I was invited to come along and spend some time with them to take the message from the coal face right back to these guys.  Ryan Spillane – my business partner at Correct Solutions came along too and we both gave them what we saw from our perspective and from the issues we hear about out there in the community.  When talking to Vendors and distributors I like to be able to give a balanced view of what they do and how we see them.  I honestly struggled though with giving some positives about the relationships that SMB IT resellers have with them.  That’s not to say it’s all bad, but just that I’ve not seen all that much good in it.  During the meeting, Ingram Micros’ Vice President and Managing Director of Australia, Guy Freeland joined us. 

To their credit, John and his team took lots of notes, asked lots of questions and I think really are trying to understand exactly what we need to do more / better business with them.  We stressed to them that we think it’s a two way relationship and it’s not all about what we can get from them, but what we can do together.  Communication was the number one issue that we felt was the cause of the bad reputation and issues that we had with Ingram.  Funny though – it’s been something I have been thinking about for some time – in fact I wrote a guest column for CRN Magazine for it last month – it’s here if you want to take a read. 

Coming out of these meetings, Ingram have committed to attending the SBS Groups around Australia in the first quarter of next year, not to present per se, but to listen directly to the needs of the SMB IT reseller and then not only that, but to return the following month with a plan of action based on the things that they have heard from us.  If your not in an SBS User/Reseller group here in Australia then you might want to look at joining one – you can find your local group here.

One of the biggest passions of mine is the SBS / SMB IT Reseller community, not just here in Australia but also around the world.  Ingram have committed to help us in Perth with facilities for starting an SBS/SMB IT Pro focused Usergroup – we hope to have the first meeting in February 2008.  If you are interested in being part of the Perth SBS Group then please email me – wayne@sbsfaq.com and I’ll ensure you get on the list for the invite to the first meeting.

It was great to see such high level support of the concerns that we were raising, and we obtained serious commitment from both John and Guy to seriously take action to improve the relationships with the SMB IT Resellers here in Australia.

I personally feel that they are serious about investing in the SMB IT Resellers and hope that you all will give them a fair go as they try to get into what it takes to be in our space.  Time will tell and I hope that in 3 months we can do an update on where things are at with Ingram and the SMB IT Resellers here in Australia.

Thank you John for the chance to make a difference. 

Published: 20/12/2007 8:06 AM

Exchange 2007 SP1 fixes lots more than is documented

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I’ve been wrestling with Exchange 2007 on my one of my larger sites now for the last 7 weeks.  I’ve had the case with MS PSS here in Australia for that long too and they have not been able to make ANY progress on it at all.  When I first lodged the case, Exchange 2007 SP1 was in beta – and at that time I asked if the issues we were experiencing were resolved by it at all – apparently they could find no such solution to our problem in the notes for SP1 – therefore they did not (and as at last Friday – a week and a bit AFTER SP1 was released) suggest or recommend we install it.  Their words were "you can try it if want but you don’t have to and we don’t know of anything that will fix it".

Despite all this – the customer is getting increasingly frustrated at the lack of progress with this issue – we have put a workaround in place using Virtualised Exchange 2003 servers on each of the remote sites, but that was a band aid solution.  I decided that I had to try as I know from experience that not all the fixes documented in a service pack actually fix things the way the software vendor intended them to.  So I applied Exchange 2007 SP1 to the sites and it worked!!!  I got a few funny error messages along the way and I’ve detailed them below in case you strike them yourself.

Remember – when your working with a software vendors support team – don’t assume that they know it all.  Ask intelligent questions and always question what they ask you to do so that you know where you are heading with the fault investigation.  If they don’t have a plan of attack with the next few steps thought out then ask for another engineer.

Issues we had that were directly fixed with Exchange 2007 SP1 included;

1. Mail was backing up in mail queues on the remote site servers and no mail flow was possible between the remote servers (although strangely mail would flow from the remote sites OUT via the Head Office Exchange 2007 server to the net, but not the other way).

In the mail queue viewer we got the following messages depending on if we were looking at the headoffice or the remote servers mail queues;

421 4.4.2 Connection Droppedthis was seen when the HO server was talking to some remote sites

451 5.7.3 Cannot Achieve Exchange Server Authenticationthis was seen when the HO server was talking to ONE remote site

The SMTP troubleshooter when run on all remote servers gave even more cryptic messages including;

530 5.7.1 Client was not authenticated - this was seen when the remote sites were talking to ALL other remote sites (except ONE)

Remote server servername.domain.local failed the mail acceptance test. BDAT command: Respond = Remote socket is not available. Check for firewalls and applications that can possibly block the BDAT command. - This was seen when the both the head office site and remote sites were talking to ONE remote site

We applied Exchange 2007 SP1 to all sites and mail flowed again without a problem.

 

2. The second issue we had on ONE server only (and this may be a side effect of the investigations done to date) was that whenever we tried to assign a certificate to the SMTP service we got the following messages;

And further more when we went to install Exchange 2007 SP1 we got this message;

Hub Transport Role

Failed

Error:

Active Directory operation failed on servername.domain.local. This error is not retriable. Additional information: Insufficient access rights to perform the operation.

Active directory response: 00002098: SecErr: DSID-03150A45, problem 4003 (INSUFF_ACCESS_RIGHTS), data 0

The user has insufficient access rights.

We resolved this issue by deleting cached credentials (go figure) using the following command;

Start > Run > "control keymgr.dll" and then delete all entries that were there

We then reapplied Exchange 2007 SP1 and it worked fine.  This site was the one that gave funky authentication messages and the BDAT message listed above – I don’t know how the cached password could have caused this issue or even if it was the fault – but I mention it for sake of completeness.

 

3. The last issue was that when applying Exchange 2007 SP1 to a health server, it stopped part way through with an error indicating that the Application log file was full.  We cleared the application log and restarted the SP install – but it then failed with an error indicating that IIS was not running or installed or disabled.

I looked and found that the following services were stopped and set to disabled IIS Admin Service, HTTP SSL Service and World Wide Web Publishing Service.  I set them to automatic and started them and then restarted the SP1 install – all went through without an issue.

 

Hopefully my experiences will save you from a similar fate – good luck :-)


Category: Software

Published: 18/12/2007 2:37 PM

The first day of writing – SBS Cougar Administrators Pocket Consultant

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I’ve landed my first book on my own being the SBS Cougar Administrators Pocket Consultant.  Today is the first real day of writing for me focused just on this and it’s harder than I thought.  Given that Cougar is not due out until "some time next year", writing about a product that is still very much in the process of being built is not an easy task.  Hopefully I’ve made it easier for myself and I’ve chosen to get my first chapter out based on the SBS console itself – something that I hope should be fairly well baked at this point :-) I probably should not say anything more than that though as my NDA might suddenly rip me to shreds.

Anyway – here’s the preliminary cover of the book due out around the time that SBS Cougar is available on the shelves next year!  That’s about all I can say as the NDA comes into effect from this point forward.

image


Category: Cougar APC

Published: 17/12/2007 1:46 PM


My new phone – HTC TyTn II – 2 days in

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This week I finally replaced my aging HP iPaq rw6828.  It’s become more and more unreliable over the last 6 months, with issues like the screen shaking badly, call dropouts, funky noises coming over it from time to time.  I’ve had it for what feels like 2+ years and it’s been the longest Windows Mobile device I’ve owned.

So the challenge was to look for something to replace it.  I looked around, asked a number of people and there are many options out there.  I decided early on that it would be a Windows Mobile 6 device.  I have no desire to get into the Blackberry discussion as I want full integration with the Microsoft stack and you can only get that with Windows Mobile devices.  All roads seemed to lead back to the HTC TyTn II device.  One of the guys in the office had one of these and I was pretty impressed with it.  So I looked around and found the best price I could get was $1194 AUD inc GST including CoPilot 7.  I got it from Press Digital – here.  Ordered it and waited for it to arrive – it arrived within 24 hours which was great service.

So far, I’ve used it with HSDPA linked to my Vista Laptop and the experience of using RDP from my laptop over the link was just like I was in front of the servers screen.  Amazing.  All other functions of the device have been equally amazing and so far, I’m yet to find a downside to it.  I’ll post more in the coming weeks about it and my experiences.


Category: Hardware I use

Published: 14/12/2007 3:09 PM

TrendMicro CSM 3.5/3.6 Patch Released

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Slightly ahead of schedule, Trend Micro today released a rollup patch of for their CSM 3.5 & 3.6 for SMB Products.  You can download it direct from them here http://www.trendmicro.com/download/product.asp?productid=39

Amongst the patches included in this rollup are the recent performance issues that many people experienced as well as improvements to allow CSM to better deal with PDF spam.

Give it a go – read the README file first of course.


Category: TrendMicro

Published: 14/12/2007 11:46 AM