Friday, July 30, 2004

It had to happen - the Swiss Army USB Stick

I've had a Swiss Army knife for many, many years. It's an invaluable aid (and I just wish I could carry it onto airplanes - I often wish I had it when I travel). But those amzing folks at Victorinox have come up with the ultimate tool: a Swiss Army knife with a USB Stick. They even have one veersion for airplanes (although the value of Swiss Army knife that does not have a knife is less than clear!).  I sort of hate to ask "what will they come up with next??" 

Thursday, July 29, 2004

More about the DotNet Influencers

I blogged the other day about the .NET Influencer site. Since then, I've joined Steele Price and Mike Schinke as a Core Group Member with the aim of getting this site up and running.  I think Steele explains the goals and objectives on this site well in his blog entry. I look forward to working with Mike and Steele on this venture!!

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Microsoft Solutions for Small and Medium Business

Over the past few years, Microsoft has made a real shift in terms of focus of much of the Content, from descriptive to prescriptive. By Content, I meant all various documents produced in support of Microsoft software, including Resource Kits, on-line sites, TechEd, MSDN, MS Learning courses, etc. See www.reskit.com for some of the Content! In the early days of Windows 2000, Content was pretty descriptive. The AD design courses, for example, had very curious solution designs, based more on 'we did it this way because we could' than on hard exerience with AD in the real world.  This has changed - with Content such as the Windows Server 2003 Deployment Kit containing  great prescriptive guidance on how to pland and deploy Windows Server 2003. At first, Microsoft concentrated on the Enterprise space, rather than the smaller business. Recently, Microsoft has started focusing on the small business space. They've just released the Microsoft Solutions for Small and Medium Business: Medium IT Solution (Version 0.9) which cointains details of 4 separate IT solutions, including a peer to peer network (with Windows XP) and a Small IT solution (for up to 50 users). I'll try to blog more on this once I've had a chance to digest it!

OneNote Power Toys

OneNote SP1 shipped yesterday and I've already downloaded and installed in on my personal machines.  In a blog entry yesterday, Chris Pratley suggests that there will be "some awesome power toys out soon".  And today (well today my time), the first two toys are now available for download.

As I write this the OneNote Power Toys page at microsoft.com is not yet up. But the two toys are directly downloadable. These two toys are:

  • IE to OneNote Adds a button to IE that lets you send any page or a selection on a page to OneNote.
  • Outlook to OneNote Adds a button to Outlook so that you can send any email message (or group of email messages if you multi-select) to OneNote to keep them together with notes and other docs

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Office 2003 Service Pack 1 Ships

Microsoft has shipped Office 2003 SP1. You can get the Service pack from the Office 2003 Service Pack 1 download pageKB 842532 describes the Office 2003 SP1 in a bit more detail. But to find details on the bugs fixed, you also need to drill into another set of articles. One each for Access, Excel, FrontPage, Outlook, Word. The KB does list the bugs fixed in InfoPath, PowerPoint and Publisher. I couldn't find a KB article listing the bugs fixed on One-Note, but MS has posted a list of what's new in SP1.  If you used the OneNote SP1 Preview release, you are going to  have to de-install it, then re-install the full (aka licensed!) version before installing SP1. It's a bit of a pain, but in my cases, the de-installation, re-installation and upgrade was simple and straightforward (and did not require a reboot or access to the CDs!). Things are improving.  

MSN Sandbox - cool toys from Microsoft

Olga Londer just pointed me to a cool site - the MSN Sandbox. As the site says:, it's a "place to play with new MSN technologies, look at prototypes, and peek behind the scenes at some of our new ideas." In addition to Lookout coming here, MS have some other neat tools, including the Newsbot (a comptitor to Google's news service) and Netscan, a tool that searches Usenet news groups.  An interesting site - looks like the comptetion with Google is yeilding some neat products.

Monday, July 26, 2004

dotNetInfluencers Wiki

In Hawaiian, the word wiki means quick or fast. According to Stuart Celarier "as with many languages, Hawai'ian uses doubling for emphasis, so WikiWiki means 'very quick'". Also known as a Wiki, a Wikiwiki is a quick and easy way of building a web site, where everyone can contribute. You just start editing. Wiki's can be a great way to add knowedge back into a community. For more information on Wikis in general, see the FlexWiki site.

One example of a working Wiki is the dotNetInfluencers Wiki. The idea is to have a place where some of the leaders in the .Net Community can document their activities and provide information and reference material for others.

A neat idea! I hope it takes off.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Performance Monitor Wizard

The Performance Monitor Wizard is a free cool tool to simplify the process of gathering performance monitor logs. The wizard creates log files you can analyse 'off line' and you can also use the .blg file it creates to monitor the specific counters in real time.

You can download the Performance Monitor Wizard from the Microsoft download site.

On-line tutorials in HTML, XML, Broswer and Server Scripting

Using Google to search for a term this morning, I came across the W3Schools Online Web Tutorials site. This site has a number of on-line tutorials on:

  • HTML
  • XML
  • Browser Scripting (Javascipt, DHTL,VBScript, HTML DOM and WMLScript)
  • Server Scripting (SQL, ASP, PHP)
  • .NET

I've been meaning to do some more digging into XML and it looks like some study time is calling!

SharePoint Summit Training Comes to the UK

I'm really pleased to let you all know we've persuaded Bill English and Todd Bleeker to come on over to the UK and teach their SharePoint Summit.  This will be an intense 5-day look at the Share Point technologies from both administrator and developer points of view.

Details of these two summits are at:

I am quite excited about the ideas we're having around QA Academy.  It's got its own web site, http://www.qaacademy.co.uk/ which continues to evolve. The basic concept is short focused training for mid to upper management, run by the best in the business. The aim is to improving effectiveness both soft and technical skills areas. 

Let me know what you think!

Be careful loading cool software on corporate systems

I got in a bit of hot water for sending some folks inside my firm details about LookOut, a cool add-in for Outlook. I blogged about it yesterday, and sent mail to colleagues who were equally as keen. The internal IT department, however, had not vetted it, and were as ever concerned about the impact of users just downloading new stuff onto the carefully managed desktop. They have a point. Even though LookOut is an amazing product ( and I'm using it with great success), our IT folks IT folks folks hadn't checked it out.  The moral of the tale is that when you read about cool software you can download for free from the Internet, make sure you are allowed to download the onto your system before doing so! 

Friday, July 23, 2004

Free download Lookout V1.2

Now this is cool. Here MS has just bought Lookout and is already offering it up for free! If you are an Outlook user, get this tool!

Go to the Download page to download a free copy of Lookout V1.2

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Visual Studio Beta 1 Arrives in Cookham

COOL Stuff! That nice delivery man just rang the door bell and I now have Beta 1 of VS 2005) aka Whidbey. The package contains several bits and pieces:

  • VS 2005 Beta 1 (2 CDs)
  • R debugger (CD)
  • Visio tools (1 CD)
  • MSDN library (3 CDs)
  • 64-bit SDK (1 CD)
Additionally, Microsoft has shipped a copy of Amber Point Express, a web services management tool. AmberPoint Express allows you to manage, monitor, analyse, diagnose and test your web services. It's also fully integrated with Visual Studio. Neat! I'll post more once I get it all loaded up!

Saturday, July 17, 2004

CRN Interview: Jeff Raikes

I saw Jeff's speech on Monday in Toronto, and it was, as Steve Ballmer later suggested, lots of 'blah blah blah' (admittedly with some fun videos and nice demos!). To some degree, a better summary of what he meant is in the CRN Interview posted on Wednesday.

My key takeaway from the partner conference, and this interview, is that the partner model has totally changed big time. And this means lots of change for the partners. The focus is now on points and competencies where Partners earn points based on doing things as described on the Partner Points Page. Competencies become a key way to earn the points needed for Gold status. As a supplier of training, we look to train both MS customers and MS partners in many of the competency areas.

To some degree, the interview clarified the issue over his call for all partners to sign up for IW competencies. Jeff makes the point that the new partner programme is just getting going. We'll have to see where we are in 6 months. We certainly live in interesting times.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Kereberos Explained

David Tschanz has written a great article for Microsoft Certified Professional Magazine Online, called Taming Kerberos. This article describes how Kerberos works on Windows 2000 and later. It also provides some troubleshooting techniques.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

More security paches for Windows

Microsoft has now released the July set of patches. You can view the Microsoft Security Bulletin Summary for July, 2004.

There are 2 critical patches, 4 important patches, and 1 moderate.

Get downloading!

More security training

During the first 6 months of 2004, Microsoft has run a considerable amount of free security training around the world. The program, "Broad Customer Connection", set out to train 500,000 people around the world in the basics of IT security. I ran just about every format of this material in the UK (clinics, summits, one day events, evening events, web casts, etc) and found the material very, very well received.

The BCC (04) programme is now over - but the material lives on. Microsoft have now released this material in e-learning format. If you navigate to the Security Clinics elearining page on http://www.microsoftelearning.com, you can get FREE access to this material.

But to make matters even better - Microsoft have now added security to the individual assessments to their set of assessments. These assessments are at http://www.msmeasureup.com/test/home.asp#1. Great stuff!!

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Scripting Active Directory

Most experienced admins know the value of scripting. In KB 246530, titled Scripting Functions Provided by Iadstools.dll Microsoft sets out details of a DLL you can use to write AD scripts. Iasdtools.dll is a dll that is installed with the Windows 2000 support tools, which you can use to get a verity of information into (and out of) the AD.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Ten Tools Every Developer Must Have

Microsoft has published a cool paper, snappily titled Visual Studio Home: .NET Tools: Ten Must-Have Tools Every Developer Should Download Now.

The thing I most like about this page is that none of the tools are MS tools, but external tools. I'm familiar with a couple of these tools, but the rest are new to me - looks like more hours downloading and playing!

Thursday, July 08, 2004

QA is Microsoft's 2004 Certified Partner for Learning Solutions, EMEA!

For the third time in four years, (and 2nd year running), QA has been named Microsoft Certified Partner of the Year, Learning Solutions, EMEA! As Chieft Technologist, I have the happy task of collecting the award! This is an outstanding testament to our Microsoft technical expertise and our ability to design, manage and deliver complex, bespoke training projects to large organisations. This accolade reinforces QA's solution capability and quality of offering to our clients. No other training company in the UK can rival this achievement. Our entry for 2004 was based on a migration project with Cr�dit Suisse First Boston (CSFB). As part of the bank's migration of 40,000 desktops from NT4 to XP, two of our outstanding instructors Dave Britt and Brian McDermott designed and delivered a training programme to over 100 IT support staff and in-house trainers in the UK and US. Much of the programme was customised due to the non-standard IT infrastructure at CSFB. Last year QA went on to win the Global title. This year's Global winner will be announced at Microsoft's partner conference in Canada next week. We'll see if we win that award twice in a row too! I'm proud to work at QA!

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

TechEd Europe: Pre-Conference Sessions - We Did Well

As pointed out in Tim Sneath's blog entry our TechEd pre-conference session came in third. We'll do even better in Copenhagen!

ISA Server 2004 Standard Edition RTMs

Finally - ISA Server 2004 has made it to RTM. I can't get it down from MSDN yet, but it will be there soon. It's an awesome product - I look forward to working more with it.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Novell Linux Resource Kit - Free

Last week, I participated in some Open Source talks at Microsoft TechEd in Amsterdam. In these talks, we discussed the merits, or otherwise of Linux and open source. One thing I came away with was the perception - often far removed from reality. One cure for this is to actually try out Linux, and actually do the numbers. I'm pretty sure that the world will not suddenly move away from Microsoft and Windows, but nevertheless, I think it's a great thing that companies look at their IT infrastructure, at their cost base and at their user community and try to do the best. That means taking a long hard look at your processes and tools and at least looking at alternatives that might improve your productivity or impact TCO.

As if they were reading my mind, Novell are offering a nice set FREE DVDs containing SUSE Linux plus goodies. Head over to Novell's Customer Communities - Linux Resource Kit Order Form page and order. The cool thing - it's free, even outside the USA. It's not going to make me a convert, but more skills are clearly a good thing.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Sending Very Large Emails - for free

Now this is a cool idea for getting around the limits that mail administrators sometimes place on users. For example, I recently wanted to get a 150mb file from Belgium to the UK, but found it very difficult. The folks at YouSendIt enables you to "Email large files quickly, securely, and easily!" so it says on the web site (http:www.yousendit.com).

To use this service, you go to the transmission page, and enter the email address to receive notification of the file available for transfer. The recipient then gets an email, containing a URL on YouSendIt's servers. I just transferred a small PPT file and it's available at http://s11.yousendit.com/d.aspx?id=BF2CA0E2E83AC30C57A9E9D731C378E8. It will get deleted within 7 days (i.e. by 10 July!).

The idea is cool, and I can certainly see a use for it. But there are a couple of interesting questions. First, what is the business model for these guys? I mean, what is going to be their return on letting me mail someone 1gb of data at a time for free? While I like free, there really is no such thing as free these days - someone's got to pay for the servers and the bandwidth needed. Does the adware on the site pay for this? The second question is over security of data. While I don't mind sharing a picture or two - and having it out on the internet - but what other use might be made of this information or data? How do I know that it will only go to the people I actually send it to? The site has a nice security policy, and offers transfers via SSL. This latter feature is one that makes me vaguely nervous as it could be a potential attack vector, bypassing perimeter and network defenses.

What ever the answer, this service does seem to work, and as long as it's free, it's a neat way of sending large files to people across the internet.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

KB 841551 - Cluster preallocation algorithm in the NTFS file system white paper

Microsoft has issued a KB artilcle, which refers to a white paper, 841551 - The Description of the cluster preallocation algorithm in the NTFS file system which describes how NTFS pre-allocates space during I/O operations on an NTFS file.