Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Getting Microsoft Hotfixes via the Web

For many IT Pros supporting Windows systems, getting hotfixes from MS's Product Support Services (PSS) seems to be a black art. In theory, all you have to do is to call in to Microsoft, tell them the KB and you'll get an email with a URL to the patch and the password for  the zipped hotfix file. This should be easy - and judging from my last attempt it works as advertised.  However, I've heard a lot of tales from IT Pros (in newsgroups, etc) that suggest they've had a different and less pleasant experience.

Well - MS has done something cool and has put up the Hotfix Request Web Submission Form where you can ask for hot fixes. I'm told this is still in beta and does not yet handle all hot fixes, but it's worth a try.

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

How Windows Server 2008 Got It's Name

No doubt, most IT Pros are wondering how Microsoft managed to come up with the clever and innovative formal name for the server product previously known as Longhorn. It take some skill to turn a great sounding code name into such a boring and underwhelming product name. We've seen XP and Vista, but nothing so fresh and infesting in the server space. If you were wondering, well now the truth can be revealed. See the video at http://www.microsoft.com/winme/0705/30054/Windows_Server_Naming_HD_MBR.asx for all the details.

Of course, no matter WHAT it's called, or how they came up with the name, Longhorn rocks!!!


OCS 2007 Ignite -It Rocks

Last week, I was in Munich delivering the OCS Ignite workshop for a very interesting group of partners and MS employees from eastern Europe. It was a great couple of days - some great hands on lab exercises, good documentation and (thanks Microsoft!!) great hospitality. The Ignite workshops are being deployed around the works by Microsoft, assisted by Global Knowledge (i.e.me) in EMEA. 

We also discovered some very interesting issues with VMs - we hit what appears to be the bug described in KB Article 875485. I say "appears" - I now have the hot fix noted in this article but have not yet been able to test it. What is intriguing is that the problem did not exist on all machines - only 5 of the 14 were hit (copying updated VMs to these machines cured 4). This is not the first time I've seen Exchange based Virtual Machines have curious VPC/VS related issues - the Exchange UM training sometimes suffers from VM issues too.

For MCTs, this is great training to go on - and I hope to be able to run some Town Hall events later in the summer. Watch this space (or this one).


Saturday, May 19, 2007

Dell to Create Formal Channel Program (again)

According to the Dell to Create Formal Channel Program story reported on EWeek's Channel Insider site, Dell is about to launch a new channel partner programme. I say new - many years ago (late 1980s/early 1990s), I was one of a small number of Dell VARs here in the UK. We made a small profit in the days when PCs cost £2k or more, although we were hardly in the big leagues! It was heady times as we replaced earlier stand-alone word processing systems with networked PCs, first using Novell NetWare then using Windows NT.

Dell were great to the VARs in those days. As an example, I got a call one day from a customer whose office ceiling had collapsed reducing their main PC to debris. They desperately needed a new box, so I phoned my account rep. He organised for me to pick up a machine that afternoon from Dell's tiny factory in Bracknell. Effectively, he'd found a  system at the end of the production line that matched the spec I needed. He let me have it and had another system built to go to the person who originally ordered it. My account manager even met me at the door and helped me to load the boxes into my car. What great service - less than a day after the accident, my client was back up and running.

The phone support in those days was outstanding too. Today, sadly, much of it has been outsourced to India with a corresponding (and significant) reduction in quality. I blogged about one less than stunning episode  here. This is NOT an isolated incident sadly.

Then things began to change, and not for the better, in terms of the VAR channel. I had the opportunity to bid for a very nice PC supply contract for a firm in Yorkshire.  I checked with my then account manager to see if, for 100 systems or more, I could get a better discount. He never phoned back. A few days later I discovered a Dell employee had called on my customer offering them a discount greater than the one they were offering me! I complained and effectively got a shrugged shoulder response and that was it.  The end came when I went to order a machine and was told I was no longer a VAR. Dell had apparently eliminated the VAR channel and there'd be a letter (which I don't recall ever getting). I continue to provide machine installation  service, but had my customers order their machines direct.

Of course, this was all a very long time ago and I have no doubt that things have changed. I continue to be a Dell customer despite the untimely end to my VAR status and the continuing poor support from India.  Nevertheless, I doubt I could ever trust the firm enough to want to  become a VAR again. New channel/VAR partners need, as always, to be careful when entering in to any reseller agreements. Larger manufacturers don't always play nice.


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Friday, May 18, 2007

SecureZIP - Free Download

Those nice people at PKware have a very nice freebie - a fully licensed copy of SecureZIP for you to download. This is a full version and at least at present is free. Go to the  http://www.securezip.com site, enter an email address and they send you a link to the download.



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Thursday, May 17, 2007

TechEd EMEA 2007

TechEd is Microsoft's annual technical educations show run in multiple countries around the world each year. I'm one of the very few folks that has attended, thus far, fernery European TechEd.  I've been to  Bournmouth, Hamburg, Nice, Amsterdam and Barcelona (although Microsoft did not recognise this fact and omitted me from the list last year!).

The EMEA TechEd 2007 site is now up with some initial details of what to expect. One of the big changes is that the event is now 5 days (with no Pre-Conference day).

I'm looking forward to the, particularly the Unified  Communications track!


Sunday, May 13, 2007

Getting the "default" registry value entry with PowerShell

Want to get to the 'default' registry value using Powershell?. If so, set-itemproperty -path 'your path' -name '(Default)' -value 'your value'  should do the trick as shown here:

PS C:\> cd KHCU:
mkdir test

Hive: Microsoft.PowerShell.Core\Registry::HKEY_CURRENT_USER

SKC VC Name Property
--- -- ---- --------
0 0 test {}

PS HKCU:\> get-itemproperty test  # not no output - entry does not exist
PS HKCU:\> set-itemproperty -path test -name '(Default)' -value 'some value'
PS HKCU:\> get-itemproperty test
PSPath : Microsoft.PowerShell.Core\Registry::HKEY_CURRENT_USER\test
PSParentPath : Microsoft.PowerShell.Core\Registry::HKEY_CURRENT_USER
PSChildName : test
PSDrive : HKCU
PSProvider : Microsoft.PowerShell.Core\Registry (default) : some value



Using PowerShell to Examine Vista's Firewall

Using PowerShell, you can use the firewall COM object to obtain details of the Windows Firewall.

Here's how to get the object and the Firewall profile:

PSH [D:\foo]: # create com object
PSH [D:\foo]: $profile = (new-object -com HNetCfg.FwMgr).LocalPolicy.CurrentProfile

Once you get this object created, you can examine it and determine your firewall setup as follows:

PSH [D:\foo]: # determine global open ports (NB there aren't any!)
PSH [D:\foo]: $profile.GloballyOpenPorts | ft name, port
PSH [D:\foo]: # determine authorised applications
PSH [D:\foo]: $profile.AuthorizedApplications | ? {$_.Enabled} | ft name

Virtual PC 2007
Microsoft Office OneNote
Microsoft Office Groove

PSH [D:\foo]: # determine enabled services
PSH [D:\foo]: $profile.Services | ? {$_.Enabled} | ft name

File and Printer Sharing
Network Discovery

PSH [D:\foo]: # determine enabled services (ports)
PSH [D:\foo]: $profile.Services | ? {$_.Enabled} | select -expand GloballyOpenPorts

Name : File and Printer Sharing (NB-Session-In)
IpVersion : 2
Protocol : 6
Port : 139
Scope : 1
RemoteAddresses : LocalSubnet
Enabled : True
BuiltIn : True

Name : File and Printer Sharing (SMB-In)
IpVersion : 2
Protocol : 6
Port : 445
Scope : 1
RemoteAddresses : LocalSubnet
Enabled : True
BuiltIn : True

Name : File and Printer Sharing (NB-Name-In)
IpVersion : 2
Protocol : 17
Port : 137
Scope : 1
RemoteAddresses : LocalSubnet
Enabled : True
BuiltIn : True

Name : File and Printer Sharing (NB-Datagram-In)
IpVersion : 2
Protocol : 17
Port : 138
Scope : 1
RemoteAddresses : LocalSubnet
Enabled : True
BuiltIn : True

Name : Network Discovery (SSDP-In)
IpVersion : 2
Protocol : 17
Port : 1900
Scope : 1
RemoteAddresses : LocalSubnet
Enabled : True
BuiltIn : True

Name : Network Discovery (UPnP-In)
IpVersion : 2
Protocol : 6
Port : 2869
Scope : 1
RemoteAddresses : LocalSubnet
Enabled : True
BuiltIn : True

You could of course, do some better formatting of this information. And as you might imagine, this method only works on the current machine - the New-Object command does not allow you to remote the object creation.

Thanks to Jacques Barathon for this tip!!


Some More on Random Numbers

In a recent blog post, I wrote about random numbers and Powershell. As noted in that article, you can create a new random number object as follows:

$rand = New-Object  System.Random

This approach to creating the random number object seeds the random number generator with a pseudo-random number (current time). Therefore, if you try this at home, you're not likely to see the same result to $rand.next(), i.e. 129641862.

If you wanted to create a repeatable random number sequence (which is of course not actually random!), you could add a seed number as follows:

$rand = New-Object  System.Random 1234567

If you try this code at home, you should get the same result to the call to $r4and.next (i.e. 1673116976).


Saturday, May 12, 2007

Microsoft Cuts Key Longhorn Virtualization Features

This PC World article titled "Microsoft Cuts Key Longhorn Virtualization Features" is one of many on the web that describe Microsoft's decision to cut some of the key virtulisation features of Longhorn, code named Viridian. And to make matters less good, Microsoft has not said when, or even if, these features will surface again. 

For the official work, check out a blog entry posted on Thursday, 10 May where Mike Neil dropped the bombshell that some of the key features of Viridian are being dropped. And despite dropping cool and core features, there has been no improvement on likely delivery dates - MS is still saying Viridian will hit 6 months ("180 days") after Longhorn is complete. To be fair, MS are saying publicly that Viridian will ship "within 180 days of the release to manufacturing of Windows Server Longhorn."   Thus, it might be release4d earlier but given Microsoft's track record on meeting Windows release deadlines, I'm not holding my breath. Assuming no further slips, we should the public beta in November/December of this year, with RTM some time late sprint/early summer next year (i.e around a  year from  now). Naturally I'd love to see Viridian released earlier.

The three key feature cuts that were announced are:

  • The live migration feature
  • Hot-adding  resources (including storage, networking, memory, processor)
  • Support for  16 processor cores (e.g 4-way, quad proc is maximum to be supported)

The first two of these dropped features are a real shame. The decision to drop support for more than 16 cores may not be such a big deal.


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Network Monitor 3.1 Beta Is Launched

Netmon has been a product I've used for many years - using it to capture packet traces for the TCP/IP books I worked on. Netmon was first issued as part of SMS, and a crippled version of Netmon was shipped with earlier versions of Windows Server. After a long silent time, the Netmon finally issued a massively updated version, Netmon 3.0, a few months ago. Just the other day, Microsoft shipped the first beta of Network Monitor 3.1. You can get it via MS's Connect site.

Netmon includes a host of new features, along with a bias towards Vista.

Key features included in this beta are:

  • Wireless (802.11) capturing and monitor mode on Vista - With supported hardware, (Native WIFI), you can now trace wireless
    management packets. You can scan all channels or a subset of the ones your wireless NIC supports. You can also focus in on one specific channel. We now show the wireless metadata for normal wireless frames.
  • RAS tracing support on Vista - Now you can trace your RAS connections so you can see the traffic inside your VPN tunnel. Previously this was only available with XP.
  • Microsoft Update enabled - Now you will be prompted when new updates exist. 
  • New look filter toolbar - MS has changed the UI related to apply and remove filters. You can now apply a filter without having to UN-apply it first. 
  • New reassembly engine - The reassembly engine has been improved to handle a larger variety of protocol reassembly schemes. 
  • New public parsers - These include ip1394, ipcp, ipv6cp, madcap, pppoE, soap, ssdp, winsrpl, as well as improvements in the previously shipped parsers.
  • And numerous Bug Fixes -  MS has  fixed many of the confirmed bugs.

Netmon rocks!



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Saturday, May 05, 2007

VIsta Policy Based QOS

QOS - Quality Of Service - is a networking feature that provides for protection of bandwidth, e.g. to ensure you have enough bandwidth to stream a video without dropout. Vista provides policies to enable you to prioritise network traffic by configuring Policy-based Quality of Service (QoS).

See http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=59030735-8fde-47c7-aa96-d4108f779f20&DisplayLang=en for more details on how to implement QOS with Vista (and Longhorn!).


Want to Learn More about Longhorn?

Then download the Reviewer's Guide!

The Reviewer's Guide is a 276 page document provides a comprehensive look at the the new and improved features that are contained in Longhorn Server Beta 3. This is a massive document, and demonstrates just how much work has gone into the product.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Longhorn Server Core - Beta 3

One of the cooler features of Windows Longhorn Server is the Server Core role - Server core is a version of Longhorn without the GUI and all the stuff that comes along with a GUI. At first sight, it's a little scary to see a version of Windows with just a cmd.exe prompt. The tag line for server core has to be "the wow stops now!"

Andrew Mason, a superstar-Program Manager at Microsoft has setup of a Server Core blog - at http://blogs.technet.com/server%5Fcore/. The latest article in this blog is a useful description of what's new in Server Core for Beta 3.

About the biggest disappointment with Server Core is the absences of PowerShell. PowerShell is not supported since the .NET Framework is not installed on Server Core. This is more evidence that Server Core, a great idea, is still a little immature as a product. Hopefully the R2 version will support  PowerShell and close this embarrassing loss of functionality!



Thursday, May 03, 2007

Vodafone Wireless Access - Or Not

I'm in Italy today, trying to get onto the Internet. A valued client has brought a number of journalists from around Europe to see more about Longhorn - but the wireless if commercial (supplied by Vodafone).

Here's a snippet of the logs:


Thu, 3 May 2007 12:34:21 Collecting mail from POP3 server pop.newsguy.com
Thu, 3 May 2007 12:34:21 Timed out connecting to POP3 server pop3.demon.co.uk
Thu, 3 May 2007 12:34:21 Collecting mail from POP3 server pop.mistral.net
Thu, 3 May 2007 12:35:21 Timed out connecting to POP3 server pop.newsguy.com
Thu, 3 May 2007 12:35:21 Collecting mail from POP3 server pop.mistral.net
Thu, 3 May 2007 12:35:21 Timed out connecting to POP3 server pop.mistral.net
Thu, 3 May 2007 12:35:38 Collecting mail from POP3 server pop.mistral.net
Thu, 3 May 2007 12:35:38 Collecting mail from POP3 server pop3.demon.co.uk
Thu, 3 May 2007 12:36:38 Timed out connecting to POP3 server pop.mistral.net
Thu, 3 May 2007 12:36:38 Collecting mail from POP3 server pop.newsguy.com
Thu, 3 May 2007 12:36:39 Timed out connecting to POP3 server pop3.demon.co.uk
Thu, 3 May 2007 12:36:39 Collecting mail from POP3 server pop.mistral.net
Thu, 3 May 2007 12:36:59 Failed to connect to POP3 server pop.newsguy.com:
[translating host name to IP address]
Host IP address =
... trying to connect
Connection failed -
-- Winsock ERROR : Connection timed out



How impressive - NOT!


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