Monday, March 24, 2008

Entrepreneurs making a difference

When I first heard about the work of Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunnus and his concept of the microcredit I thought that it was a fantastic idea. Basically, as wikipedia says :

 

"Microcredit is the extension of very small loans (microloans) to the unemployed, to poor entrepreneurs and to others living in poverty who are not considered bankable. These individuals lack collateral, steady employment and a verifiable credit history and therefore cannot meet even the most minimal qualifications to gain access to traditional credit. Microcredit is a part of microfinance, which is the provision of a wider range of financial services to the very poor."

 

Personally, I am also a big fan of the book "The World is Flat" by Thomas L. Friedman which in part talks about the concept that if you give people hope and say in their own future then they are much less likely to become militant against what they see as an unfair system (basically). Having started my own business I strongly believe that support budding entrepreneurs is a way to not only improve their lives but their families, their communities, and so on up the food chain.

 

Other IT people ask me why I spend time doing things like my free online videos, my blog, my Sharepoint site, my free documents, contribute to the local SBS user group, recycled computers at no cost, offer business mentoring and so on? Sure I ask for donations to assist with these but basically the donations so far haven't even reached double digits (no kidding), so they are basically done off my own back. Why do I do this? Simple, when I first started out in my own I had no one to assist me and I had to basically figure it all out for myself and I can tell you at times it was a REAL struggle. I vowed then, that I would never let that happen to someone else if I could help it, so today I do what I can.

 

One of my plans with the recycled computers was to eventually send machines overseas to try and help people who really don't have the opportunities that we today take for granted. Well, that plan proved too expensive once you start working out the costs of getting machines overseas. It did not however dim my concerns for places like Africa where they are just falling further and further behind everyday. If you are like me you feel that you should contribute to things like World Vision but you strangely don't feel fulfilled by simply donating money that gets dolled out as they see fit. You are also aware of the stories of the abuse of funds that sometime happens in these organisations.

 

However, while reading a recent article in Fortune magazine, I was alerted to kiva.org, which basically allows you to make contributions and allocate those funds to local entrepreneurs in places like Africa and Asia to expand their businesses. Based on the idea of the microcredit, the funds you provide are loans to these people who repay them over a set time period. The great thing is that you can start with as little as USD $25 and pick someone from a list of people on the web site. Once you have selected someone, others will also contribute until the required amount is reached. During the life of the loan you are provided with updates of the project and the repayments. Once the loan is repaid then you can allocate those funds to another project or withdrawn if you wish.

 

If you are still cynical I highly recommend you visit the Kiva we site to learn more. I also recommend you read the following article from Stamford University and finally this blog entry from Guy Kawaski (of Apple fame) as further evidence of the merits of what Kiva is trying to achieve. Still doubtful about loaning money to someone in Africa? The repayment rate is greater than 99.67 percent! And the chances are that if a payment isn't made it isn't because the person has absconded with the money, typically they have been sick (lack of medicine) or someone in their family has been sick (again, lack of medicine) or there has been a natural or political upheaval (how easy we believe WE are being ripped off when something we would never even think of has happened!). Each potential business you loan to also has a repayment rating to help you make your choice.

 

The Kiva website has all the details and makes it easy to get started via a credit card payment. You can track all the people you have loaned money to as well as other who are contributing from all over the world. I can't tell you what a GREAT idea I feel this really is and how technology has made it even easier to get funds to people to grow their business and improve their lives.

 

I am extremely proud to now say that I am a Kiva supporter and have also convinced my family to provide assistance as well. Now I am asking others out there to look at Kiva and see whether they too could lend a hand. I have been very blessed in my my life and I hope in some small way that with Kiva I can at least help someone else that once I was unable to.

The Vista debacle

Seems like the angst over Visa and Visa Service Pack 1 just won't go away. Have a look at this article from the Australian and take the time to read some of the comments posted by people. Then go and read this posting from Susan Bradley which kinda illustrates that we have seen this sort of karfuffle before.

 

I agree that Microsoft hasn't done a very good job getting Vista out to the market but I do think you have to take a step back and look at the reality of the situation here. Microsoft is a commercial organisation. The reason it releases new software is to make money. The sooner it gets people to buy this software the sooner it makes money. Sad, but true. If you want to run Vista and avoid potential issues, get it with a new PC that has enough grunt to run it (i.e. 2GB of RAM). If you upgrade on existing hardware or over the top of a previous version of Windows, sorry, but you are going to have problems. Sad, but true. If you think that all your old software is going to run on Vista, it ain't. You are going to need to upgrade. Sad, but true.

 

Look technology is all about change. If you want to use the latest features and benefit from the latest advances then you gotta upgrade. You can't usually retro fit airbags to a 1960's car can you? If you want airbag protection then you gotta go and buy a new car. Sad, but true. It is important not to over look the fact that these issues aren't solely the fault of Microsoft. Other companies that run under Windows have been slow to modify their programs to suit the changes in Vista. Why? Like Microsoft they are commercial organisations. They aren't going to spend money on developing something until it is worth their while. They are clearly waiting until there are enough Vista systems out there before they act. Sad, but true. Does this create a viscous circle, where everyone one is waiting for some critical point at which enough Vista is shipped? Yes. Sad, but true. Ladies and gentlemen, this is a commercial world we live in. If these companies don't make money, they go out of business and then who is going to write the applications your require? It's all about money. Sad, but true.

 

Sure Microsoft could have done a better job but they are working under a number of restrains here. Are other software companies failing to do their part to make Vista compatible software? Yes. Are hardware companies failing to provide driver updates for their products because they don't deem it commercially viable? Yes. Are people failing to appreciate that they really need to upgrade to new hardware (and software) if they want to go to Vista? Yes. And so on and so on.

 

Bottom line? If you want to reduce your chance of issues with Vista get new hardware and be prepared that some of your old software may not work. Is that fair? Nope. Sad but true. That that is the way with technology. So maybe it is just time to accept the fact that you are going to HAVE to move to Vista sooner or later and you are PROBABLY going to experience some issues. That's life with technology, so just get over it so you can on with it.

Here's an interesting observation

Of late we have been removing ISA 2004 (and 2000) from our clients SBS servers and implementing dedicated firewall devices that also do any spam and web content filtering. There are a lot of reasons for this, increased reliability, less load on the SBS box, more flexibility and so on. Once we learned that the new version on SBS (SBS2008) won't be supporting ISA on the same box as the other SBS software we decided that was further confirmation that this is the right thing to do moving forward. So the only reason that you'll be selling a client SBS Premium in future is if they want SQL Server?

 

Interestingly, after removing ISA from these SBS boxes we no longer see all these strange kerberos and failed authentication errors in our SBS monitoring reports. Now, all the client workstations did have ISA Firewall client installed but in our experience certain software (especially printer monitoring software) always wanted to get to the Internet and usually via it's own method (resulting in authentication errors). So remove ISA out of the loop and this software simply goes to the Internet out the default gateway. Whether that is good or bad is still debatable but interestingly in some cases we have had servers with thousands of authentication errors per day disappear to almost none. Interesting eh?

 

Now ISA did serve a purpose but lately we have found it to be more of hindrance than help. If you need to configure port forwarding sometimes you got issues, many of the usage reports didn't show totals correctly or in order or with actual user names and so on. Now I'm sure all of these could be solved but it is much easier to get the whole firewall function off the SBS box and onto a dedicated device. It also improves reliability in the fact that you can fiddle with the Internet without affecting the SBS box.

 

So, if you have a whole lot of authentication and kerberos errors in your monitoring reports and you are running SBS with ISA and two NIC's then have a look at ISA maybe being the cause of the errors. What you can do to prevent these errors I'm not 100% sure but I have found that perhaps taking ISA out of the loop is an effective solution. Today, if we sell a client SBS Premium because they SQL server we won't install ISA or WSUS for that matter (why we don't do WSUS is whole other story). Unless a client specifically wants SQL Server we'll sell SBS Standard with a stand alone firewall device, much easier and much cheaper for the client.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The more I do, the more I learn

Just learnt some more important lessons recently after being involved in another SBS Migration. In most cases these days we migrate existing clients using the SBS Swing Migration kit put together by Jeff Middleton. If you are in the business of upgrading Windows networks then I strongly suggest you take a look at Jeff's site (www.sbsmigration.com) and invest, since it is going to save you hours of work.

 

During the forklift of Exchange Server databases from the old server to the new server we discovered that they wouldn't mount. The reason was that the distinguished name of on the old server was different than the new server. The old server looked like /o=first organization /ou=first organization.. while the new server read /o=business name /ou=first organization. The reason for this? Well, it turns out the old server was an OEM installation which meant that Exchange had been configured BEFORE the client details had been entered. Thus, even using the Swing Migration kit, the same server name and domain name there was an issue. The situation can be rectified using LegacyDn, which allows you to change these values. Now, you have to be careful using this tool as the following Microsoft KB article says and make sure the values from the old server match the new server. We also found that after making the changes you need to reboot the new server so that the values will be flushed through the AD.

 

After the reboot you will also probably need to disconnect all the existing user mailboxes and then re-connect them so that all the details are correct. A pain, I know but it did the trick. So the lesson here is that if you are migrating from an OEM installation of SBS then more than likely you should run LegacyDn to record the Exchange database details just in case there is name mismatch after the migration.

 

Now, during the migration process we had some issues with Exchange public folders and I was trying to mail enable them while using Remote Desktop from a workstation. Now for some reason the option to run the Exchange tasks wasn't being displayed when I hit the right mouse button on the public folder. Turns out that it won't display unless I am using Remote Desktop as the console session. To to this you need to run:

 

%SystemRoot%\system32\mstsc.exe /console

 

It seems that there are somethings that just don't work unless you are remoted in as the console session. So lesson two is that if you plan to do any administrative work on a server via remote desktop (especially during a migration) always remote in as the console session.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Video 42 - Wireless security

I've just uploaded Video 42 to YouTube. To view it simply click here.
 
In this video I've focused on why implementing Wireless Security is important. All it takes is a single opening for someone to potentially gain complete access to your network and Internet. The video concludes with some recommendation about how to make sure your Wireless Network is kept secure.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Is this the end of the Blackberry?

Like the Ipod, one of the great technology revolutions recently has been the introduction of the iPhone. Both of these devices are probably not a massive technological revolution in real terms but they have revolutionized the look, feel, design and way a technology device has been marketed to the masses. Apple is to be congratulated whole heartedly for this, they are masters of the game.

 

One of the major appeals of the iPhone is not doubt its interface. The ability to drag pages, the appearance and more make it a stand out of design that few other suppliers seem to be able to duplicate (even though it wouldn't seem that hard). We are yet to see the iPhone here in Australia yet I know that one of the biggest drawbacks it has had is its inability to be used in a corporate environment. The major requirement here is the ability for the phone to sync up with corporate email servers, probably the most popular one being Microsoft Exchange Server. In many cases this has meant that executives had to choose whether to forgo the iPhone for the standard Blackberry (or Windows Mobile device) or carry around two devices.

 

Well no more. It would seem from this press release that Apple is going to allow the iPhone to work with Microsoft's ActiveSync technology, which will lay the ground work for the iPhone to sync with Exchange Server. The removal of this barrier will probably see the wide scale adoption of the iPhone in business markets. This spells trouble for Blackberry devices (and Windows Mobile devices as well mind you). The Blackberry maybe functional and maybe already widespread but it lacks one important feature when compared to the iPhone. Coolness.

 

As the iPod generation begins to make a greater impact on the business world, rising through the ranks, there seems little doubt they will demand the iPhone as the communications device of choice. The acceptance by both Microsoft and Apple that this is in both of their best interests, I believe, is going to make a significant change on the technology landscape in the years ahead. The biggest loser in this change, at the moment, would certainly appear to be Blackberry, however if I was selling Windows Mobile devices I wouldn't become complacent. Windows Mobile devices probably have one more development cycle left to challenge the iPhone before they too come under significant threat.

 

When it comes to market share, cool beats functional any day of the week.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Sometimes it pays to stop and think for a moment

So I was trying out some software that I'd heard about that would protect your PC from browser based attacks. I installed and rebooted and guess what? Blue Screen of Death. Damm. Now it wasn't the end of the world but it was still a pain since I stupidly hadn't attempted to install the software on a Virtual PC first.

 

So without thinking too much I booted into safe mode and attempted to uninstall the software using Add/Remove programs. No good, needs Windows installer which doesn't run in safe mode. Next option, hack the registry and remove all references to the product I just installed. Reboot, still Blue Screen of Death. Damm. Next, take out my image recovery CD and boot to it planning to restore my boot drive from an image I made yesterday. Boot to CD, start restore program, just about to press the Start button, when my logic finally catches up with my brain.

 

Wouldn't the simplest way be to boot into Safe Mode and do a System Restore? Yes, ladies and gentlemen it was and it fixed the issue but it does illustrate a point. In the world of IT we are faced with "disasters" everyday but we probably don't have a method of effectively dealing with them. I suggest that maybe the best idea is simply to take stock of the situation and then DO NOTHING. Well, not quite nothing. I'd suggest a deep breath and some time thinking about the problem and possible solutions. It is better to survey the land than charge into a battle with the wrong plan. Patience, grasshopper, patience.

 

It is too easy for even an experienced hand like myself to rush into the fray "knowing" the solution. In some cases it may even make it worse. A little time to think about the issues, even write down some solutions and then develop a strategy can make all the difference. Now I generally try to implement this strategy but as I found out here, it is so easy to slip back into the "full-steam" ahead mode. Human instinct after all I suppose.

 

Such a situation reminds me of a good book I recently read called Deep Survival: Who lives, Who dies and Why by Laurence Gonzales. It delves extensively into what makes some people survive while others perish. The psychology behind the findings are truly amazing and I would still recommend you read it just for the incredible stories of human survival. For a complete review hop on over to Goodreads and and link to my profile (director@ciaops.com) where you'll find my list of readings as well as reviews of the material. If you like reading, the Goodreads is a great site.

 

So in this world of rush, rush, rush more time actually thinking about a problem before acting can actually be a good thing and will more than likely save you time in the long run. Patience is a virtue that I need to constantly work at.

Ah ha, what I have now figured out

In my last post I mentioned how I was having some formatting issue posting updates to the blog using Windows Live Writer. Now that I have looked through the menu options on Live Writer I have solved that issue.

 

What you need to do under Windows Live Writer is go View | Update Weblog style. This will download a whole swag of formatting layouts and make then the default for Live Writer. Now, Live Write looks exactly like the format of the blog with the same fonts, backgrounds and what not.

 

So now, as you can see I have my paragraph breaks back! The bottom line is when you install the Community Kit for Sharepoint and you plan to use Windows Live Writer to post updates make sure you also Update the Weblog style in Windows Live Writer before you starting posting. All very simple when you know how eh?

Community kit for Sharepoint

Thought I'd do quick posting on what I've found so far about install the Community Kit for Sharepoint. To get it running all you need to do is download the source and then run the batch file that is included. When you run the batch file you will be asked for your Sharepoint server and then the blog site on the Sharepoint server. Once the batch file is complete your blog site will be automatically upgraded.


What I like


- The new look and feel is great. It really make the normal Sharepoint blog site look flash. Very much like Wordpress now.

- The fact that blog postings URL's have been changed to ...\blog\archive\2008\... rather than the normal Sharepoint links. even better there is translation so that anything that has already been indexed by something like Google will remain valid and accessible to visitors

- The fact that I can still get to my Sharepoint blog admin commands which remain in Sharepoint style screens.

- It didn't break my blog. I can still post via Windows Live Writer or manually via the blog. Also, all my existing entries remained.

- The automated trackbacks and links to del.icio.us, facebook and what not. You see it everywhere and it is now nice to have in Sharepoint blogs.


What I haven't figured out yet


- Why my postings from Windows Live Writer and manual interaction with the blog seem to remove my paragraph breaks. This make things more difficult to read. I'm sure that it is some simple HTML or CSS thing but as yet I haven't worked out how to get my paragraph breaks back.

- How to edit the theme and perhaps ad my own graphics and text. Now, I'm sure there is a reall simply way but you need time to sit down and fiddle with all this. Was really impressed with what has been done over at http://www.wssdemo.com/blog with moving icons and what not. Somewhere, I'm sure there is way to do that but as yet I haven't found it.


Gotcha's


- The only one so far is the fact that with the kit installed you can't easily roll back to the way the blog used to be just in Sharepoint. Now, I'm sure you could remove the kit files from Sharepoint and that would fix the issue but it would still be nice to be able to revert back to the original Sharepoint blog look and feel quickly.


Summary


So all in all I am pretty happy with the ease with which the kit can be installed and the "make over" it gives standard Sharepoint blogs. Sure there is still stuff I'd like to do to make the kit more personalized to my blog as well as few minor issues to resolve (which take time), but generally I think that the creators deserve a hearty pat on the back for an excellent effort and making it available for free. Well Done.

Threats from "new" devices

I've now seen a few stories about new IT devices containing viruses and malware. Here's an article from the LA Times that gives bit more details about how much more wide spread it is becoming. You would think that buying something as simple a new digital picture frame wouldn't mean you'd have to scan it for suspect software, but you do. Seems like the best idea with all these things is simply to reformat them and reload before you use them. What a pain!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Doing a new installation of Sharepoint?

Before you do make sure you download Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 with Service Pack 1 rather than having to apply the service pack after installation.

Rethinking managed services

This is my reply to a posting by Robbie Upcroft on getting into managed services.

You are right in saying that managed services are the way to go but I content that perhaps the time is too late. Why do I say that? If you haven't read the book the World is Flat then you should because it details how all this sort of work is going to be done from places like India. To get an idea of what they charge have a look at : http://www.supportresort.com/. As the site says "We hire out quality IT staff by the month for an hourly rate as low as US$3.36."

Problem with managed services is that they are so easy to replicate. If you have the cash go out and buy something like Kaysea and you're away. Sure you'll be able to convince most existing customers to come on board, not because of what managed services offer but more likely because they'll do what you tell them. Fine. Now what about new customers?

Why would I pay for you to manage a workstation? Will what they'll ask. I don't care if it is defragged, etc and if it fails I just use another temporarily. Sure, I'll take managed services on a server but on the desktops? No thanks too expensive. Is typically the response we have received.

Most clients in the SMB market space are looking to save IT costs and most won't pay a per month charge greater than say $10 because it doesn't make sense. If you have invested all that money in backend infrastructure like servers and Kaysea are you really going to a see a return on investment? Only if you get all client machines, including workstations onboard. As I said previously I think you are going to struggle to get any new clients on board with this.

Finally, what happens when people like HP and DELL enter the market by offering managed services on every PC they sell for LIFE (which they will)? These guys will be able to drive the costs right down simply because of their size. Even the best customer at some point will look at a cheaper prices (for essentially the same thing) and tell you, sorry but I'm going elsewhere.

So, in summary, yes managed service is an opportunity but it is not a saviour for a bad business model. You need to look at the setup and on going costs and license fees and ensure that you are going to get the numbers on board to cover these and make money. This is going to get harder and harder everyday as more people enter the market for "managed services" and drive the price down. I think it is too hard to differentiate yourself enough with a managed services product these days and there are not many barriers to entry. It is basically a volume business and SMB resellers really don't have the volume to make this work long term in books.

Only my opinion.

Can someone spare me a US based IP?

More wave of the future stuff (and currently only limited to the United States, Damm) is Hulu. Hulu is basically a new service from News Corp (was an Aussie company once) and NBC that allows you to download and view 250 shows (eg "The Office" and "The Simpsons" and classics such as "Arrested Development" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Hulu also provides 100 free, feature-length films, including "The Big Lebowski," "Me, Myself & Irene" and "Some Like It Hot," along with short video clips from 150 television series including "Saturday Night Live" and "In Living Color.") free and legal! Problem is that the system is smart and must track your IP address and if you aren't in the US then you can't view the videos (Damm).

You'll find an interesting article about what the service offers from the L.A. Times (which I read even though I am here in Australia). So if you are in the US I'd take a look because it doesn't sound really good and even allows you to nominate what style of commercial you want to view when you watch the free videos (they have to make money from it somehow).

Another example of what the future holds and how not so far away it is (unless of course you live in Australia!).

Almost famous

I'd like to thank Wayne Small who have given me a bit of plug in his blog. Appreciate that Wayne. He was mentioning how I have applied the Community Blog kit to my Sharepoint blog and how different it now looks (for the better). I am preparing a detailed post about my experiences with this update and how simple it is and some observations I have come across. I just wanted to wait a while to everything works as expected before I comment too much. However, since Wayne has now graciously given me a plug I better hurry on and do it eh?

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Video 41 - Configuring SBS monitoring

Our latest video is now available as always on YouTube. You'll find it by clicking here. This video focuses on configuring monitoring on Small Business Server 2003, which will email health reports and alerts from your server. Sure, it isn't that hard to configure but many people don't even know that this feature is available.

As always, we are trying to improve the quality and professionalism of what we provide but that is hard without any revenue for our efforts. As such we can only continue to offer these videos whenever we get some free time. Initially we thought that perhaps asking for a donation from viewers would provide at least some low level of assistance. However, to date we have been very disappointed with the response (thanks to those that did donate - the small number of you - we really appreciate it). We are not asking for hundreds of dollars, AUD $5-$10 from people would really go a long way if enough people saw fit to donate.

So in light of this poor response we have opted to now provide a set of show notes on each video we do for a minimum of AUD$5 donation. The show notes will cover what the video covers but also provide some more advanced information about the topic at hand. We hope that perhaps this enticement will encourage people to support the work that we do by helping us fund our planned improvements. You can find a list of these by clicking here.

Look familiar?


I've just started looking at the new Office Live Workspace offering from Microsoft because I reckon it is going to be BIG. From what I've seen initially so far is pretty impressive from a small business point of view. I always wondered how Microsoft was actually going to go about building this. As you can see from the above screen shot it looks very much like Sharepoint (the Sharepoint logo does give it away eh?)!
It is clear that Microsoft sees Sharepoint as the central point for business collaboration and I have to agree with that. Interesting, I have also begun looking at Google sites which is Google's answer to Sharepoint. Early days yet for that so I can't comment to much until I have had further time to play with the offering.
If you don't think that these offering are going to impact small business the you are kidding yourself in my opinion. These things are just what small business (and probably a lot of large businesses) want. All they want is to their work without the headache of providing and maintaining the IT infrastructure themselves. Sure, there are reliability questions but I'm sure that people like Google and Microsoft are going to make sure it is reliable in the long run.
Where does that leave the average small reseller? I think the writing on the wall is getting BIGGER everyday now.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Book review - "The 4 hour work week"

It isn't often that a book jumps to the top of my recommended reading list but this one from Timothy Ferriss has. Be warned you are going to have throw away many "traditional" concepts about work, career and life in general but you'll be better for it.

Too often, as Ferriss says, we make the excuse of working for works sake rather than experiencing life. Imagine how liberating having enough money to be able to take six months off at a time and travel anywhere. The technology to achieve this is available now, the only thing holding you back is you and and antiquated beliefs. Why should you preparing for retirement when you SHOULD be living your life now?

This book will show you how to eliminate the unnecessary, become more productive, challenge your preconceptions and start creating a life that works for you rather than the other way around. It is packed with plenty of great tips and resources that make it easy to get the ball rolling.

All this may sound like a get rich quick scheme and there are many part of the book that are difficult to implement, however if you approach it with an open mind then I'm sure you'll find something in here that will benefit you by making your life better. Remember, nothing in worthwhile in life comes on a silver platter!

Friday, March 7, 2008

10 critical things you should know about Small Business Server

We have just released an extensive report detailing 10 critical things you should know about Small Business Server.

The report was developed from the most common questions we are asked about networking with Small Business Server and doesn't just contain information about software. The report will provide relevant information about what hardware to buy as well what other considerations you need to make when thinking about networking. If you want a reliable and flexible Small Business Server network then you need to have this report.

This report also contains many resources (webs sites, books, etc) that can be used to gather more information about networking with Small Business Server.

For more information about how to obtain the report click here or email robert@saturnalliance.com.au.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Better hope you don't get this one

Here's an interesting blog post about the latest in Trojan technology that is specifically targeting internet banking. You'll find the post here :

http://www.symantec.com/enterprise/security_response/weblog/2008/01/banking_in_silence.html

If you take the time to read it you'll shudder at the sophistication of the thing. It can manipulate DNS entries, HTML code, track cookies and more. Nasty, nasty to say the least.

It shows how much effort the bad guys are investing to getting your banking details. Why? Simple, that's where the cash is - they are a business after all.

Gear up with Sharepoint

The drum beating around Sharepoint from Microsoft seems to be increasing (yeah!). They have just produced the following Gear Up web site that contains a whole host of information about driving adoption of Sharepoint within a business. If you are keen to get Sharepoint adopted in your business take a look at the Buzzkit available on the site.

On the site you find a huge amount of resources (videos, whitepapers, links, etc) that will help you through every stage of a Sharepoint implementation.

Hopefully now businesses will begin to understand the power that Sharepoint can unleash in their business. If you don't contact me (director@ciaops.com) and I'll explain why.

Search Server Express 2008 is now available

Man, have I been waiting for this. Microsoft has finally released an RTM version of Windows Search Server Express 2008. Better yet they haven't changed the price! It is still free. Yes free.

Why have I been waiting for this? Simply because, not only can I improve the searching ability of my Sharepoint sites BUT I can also now index every document in file shares on my network. How helpful is that going to be? You don't have to make any changes to your filing system, you simply tell Search Server Express 2008 to crawl you network file shares. It will index not only the documents but also the contents of these documents (ie Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc). So now you can use the Search Server interface to search for files as well as the contents of those files. How handy is that? Now all that information won't remained buried.

When you combine the power of Search Server 2008 and Windows Sharepoint Services you have a really powerful solution to help you find and collaborate with the information in your business. Best of all, both products are FREE to download, you can't get better than that can you? All you need is a Windows 2003 server to run them on.

Now that Search Server Express 2008 is available I'll be downloading and implementing it internally. I'll post my findings here and maybe even consider doing a video. If you want to download Windows Search Server Express 2008 you can do so from :

http://www.microsoft.com/enterprisesearch/serverproducts/searchserverexpress/download.aspx

Wireless insecurity

I was recently visiting some friends and needed to check my emails. Sure, I know they have a broadband hooked up to a PC in their den but I'm enjoying being outside so let's just fire up my Windows Mobile Device and see what's around.

Sure enough when I enabled the Wifi connector on my little Windows Mobile device I find a wireless network and guess what? It is unsecured! What does that mean? For starters, free access to the Internet. Even worse they had named their access point after themselves ( ie Susan's wireless). So I asked my friends if they knew any Susan in the street. Sure enough she lived two doors up. So now I know a few things, One - which house has a wireless LAN running, Two - that house is providing FREE internet access to anyone in range and Three - chances are there is a PC also in the house (since something has to be connected to the Wireless/Router to be used with the Internet connection).

If you are providing free Internet access to the world chances are that you haven't secured your router or your PC. So I do a quick check and find that I can browse to the routers configuration page. It is brand I know and guess what? It is still using the default password. So, not only have you allowed someone to access your internet for free, you've also given them access to your wireless router. They can change it's password, change its IP address, do all sorts of wonderful things because you haven't changed the password. You haven't even been bothered to implement basic security.

Next, I have a poke around a bit more and find a PC connected to the router and find that it isn't secured as well. Oh man, given enough time anyone could not only copy all the data from the PC but also view all its keystrokes. Understand what that means? FULL CONTROL! Every email, web site, every keystroke you type could be captured. Think the bank is going to give your money back if funds are withdrawn with the CORRECT password even though you say it wasn't you? I doubt it!

All it takes is one simple mistake like not securing your wireless with WPA and you have potentially let anyone in range into your system and depending on what else you have been too lazy to do, have potentially given them access to everything that happens on that PC.

I see it everywhere I go. Wireless is great as long as it is SECURED. Out of the box it isn't!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Microsoft joins the cloud

Well you know that it has been coming but Microsoft has announced that it is going to be offering hosted services. What is it going to offer? Firstly, things like Exchange, Sharepoint and Office but eventually I'm sure that you'll find all of Microsoft's software online.

So where does that leave distributors and resellers? As I have said for a while here, simple GONE! Microsoft writes the software, Microsoft hosts the software and eventually Microsoft collects the money directly. Sure, initially it may chose to resell through resellers but in the long run why would you bother? If they are doing everything else except send the bills doesn't it make sense to cut out the middle person and do everything directly with the customer? Makes a hell of a lot of sense to me from a business perspective.

If you think that this 'hosted software' is a fad I believe you are ignorant. If you are not changing your business models and skills to cope with this changing landscape then you are naive. But hey, that your choice but to me the IT world is clearly changing and there isn't going to much room left for the small companies that try and sell shrink wrapped computers and software to customers any more. Soon you'll only be in business if you can add VALUE to what is available from the big boys like Google and Microsoft.

To see what Microsoft is now offering online see  http://www.microsoft.com/online/default.mspx

Saturday, March 1, 2008

I'd heard this whisper

Recently I came across someone who told me that many top Microsoft executives were having their machines rolled back to Windows XP because they were having all sorts of problems. Now the source was reliable but you do have to treat these sort of rumours with a little caution.
 
Well, today I read the following article which says much the same thing. It basically says that Microsoft Executives had experienced all sorts of problem trying to get things to work with Vista. As I have said previously, this is no surprise since finding drivers for Vista has been a challenge.
 
Now the whole issue isn't something that can be totally blamed on Microsoft, even though they do deserve a fair share. The problem appears to be that many other companies didn't have much faith that Microsoft was going to deliver Vista on time so they hung off as long as they could before attempting to develop drivers. As we all know Vista did take a long time to reach market and thus we'll be waiting an even longer time for drivers. Why? Well, other suppliers won't develop Vista drivers until there are enough Vista machines out there to make it worthwhile. A self fulfilling tale if I ever heard one.
 
So, where does that leave the poor old consumer? If they listen to me I'd say stay on XP as long as you can but if you gotta go to Vista be prepared for some pain.