Thursday, May 29, 2008

Awh ma gawd!

Just have a look at what we found when we opened up a prospect's server recently to take a look:

 

bad_server_2

 

Notice something outta place? Maybe that hard disk lying on the bottom of the case is a hint? What about the fact that two hard disks actually in the case are disconnected? Now, that's not all folks. It is an SBS 2003 R2 server with only 1GB of RAM! Apart from SBS 2003 and Anti virus, the server is also running in this 1GB of RAM, a virtual machine that had a linux distro to do the anti-spam (not very well either - hello Intelligent Message Filter).

 

Strangely enough (well, not really), the old IT person moved interstate and now won't return any of the client's phone calls. Strange that eh?

 

This is the battle we face everyday trying to convince potential customers:

 

A. All IT companies aren't trying to rip them off.

B. There is a big difference between IT providers. You get what you pay for basically.

 

However, I do understand this from a customers point of view. How the hell do they know if an IT person is good or bad? They don't know IT, that is why they pay someone to do this. It seems today that businesses only understand the difference after they have been burnt! However, it really does give the rest of us that are trying to do the right thing a bad name. Thank goodness that I believe in karma (really nasty payback karma, but karma none the less).

Monday, May 26, 2008

HP ML110G5 Unknown device

Having recently setup a Proliant ML110 G5 Server with Windows 2003 SBS we encountered an unknown device in the Device Manager. The reason for this was that we prefer to blow away the OEM setup and rebuild from scratch. That way we get the server exactly the way we want it. This is a bit of a pain since you need to reload all the drivers manually. Everything seems OK except there is one item in Device Manager with Unknown Device Properties.  The details of this item have a Device Instance ID of ACPI\IPI0001\0 and Hardware IDs of ACPI\IPI0001  *IPI0001.

 

Turns out that this is for the Remote Lights Out board (RILO) even though one isn't install in the server. Even better, there isn't a driver listed for the device on the HP drivers page for the ML110G5! Turns out you have to go back to the ML110G4 page where the RILO driver is located. You can also get there directly by clicking here

 

Boy, they certainly make it hard don't they?

SharePoint online videos

If you are a Microsoft partner and have a Windows Live Id then you can login and view the following online Sharepoint videos:

 

Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 Series 1: Foundations - Session 1: Introducing Windows SharePoint Services https://training.partner.microsoft.com/plc/details.aspx?systemid=1786628&page=/plc/search.aspx

 

Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 Series 1: Foundations - Session 2: What’s New — Document Management and Collaboration https://training.partner.microsoft.com/plc/details.aspx?systemid=1786629&page=/plc/search.aspx

 

Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 Series 1 Foundations - Session 3: What’s New — Business Process and Workflow https://training.partner.microsoft.com/plc/details.aspx?systemid=1786627&page=/plc/search.aspx

 

Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 Series 2 Session 4: Site and Site Collection Administration

https://training.partner.microsoft.com/plc/details.aspx?systemid=1786631&page=/plc/search.aspx

 

Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 Series 2 Session 5: Farm Administration: Maintenance, Optimization and Best Practices DONE https://training.partner.microsoft.com/plc/details.aspx?systemid=1786632&page=/plc/search.aspx

 

Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 Series 2 Session 6: Authentication, Permissions and Security https://training.partner.microsoft.com/plc/details.aspx?systemid=1786633&page=/plc/search.aspx

 

Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 Series 3: Customization and Development with Windows SharePoint Services 3 Session 7 https://training.partner.microsoft.com/plc/details.aspx?systemid=1786636&page=/plc/search.aspx

 

Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 Series 3: Customization and Development Session 8: Customizing Sites and Applications with SharePoint Designer 2007 https://training.partner.microsoft.com/plc/details.aspx?systemid=1786635&page=/plc/search.aspx

 

Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 Series 3: Customization and Development Session 9: Developing Custom Applications using Visual Studio https://training.partner.microsoft.com/plc/details.aspx?systemid=1786634&page=/plc/search.aspx

 

Windows SharePoint Services Exam 70-631 Prep, Part 1 https://training.partner.microsoft.com/plc/details.aspx?systemid=1775029&page=/plc/search.aspx

 

Windows SharePoint Services Exam 70-631 Prep, Part 2 https://training.partner.microsoft.com/plc/details.aspx?systemid=1775030&page=/plc/search.aspx

 

Windows SharePoint Services  Exam 70-631 Prep Session 1 (a second series with a different instructor) https://training.partner.microsoft.com/plc/details.aspx?systemid=1798707&page=/plc/search.aspx

 

Windows SharePoint Services  Exam 70-631 Prep Session 2 https://training.partner.microsoft.com/plc/details.aspx?systemid=1798743&page=/plc/search.aspx

 

Windows SharePoint Services  Exam 70-631 Prep Session 3 https://training.partner.microsoft.com/plc/details.aspx?systemid=1798744&page=/plc/search.aspx

 

Overall they are pretty good and run for about 90 minutes each. Some of the earlier ones I found to be a little disjointed and rather rushed but I suppose they needed to get all the content covered. I think however this illustrates the problem with communicating the value of Sharepoint. far too often people try and show you everything it does rather than just what the viewer want to do.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The very last version of Small Business Server

As most techie types salivate over the imminent release of Small Business Server 2008 I will contend that this will in fact be the last version every produced.

 

What do small business customers want? Simple. They want access to their "stuff". What is their stuff I hear you ask. Well, it is probably "stuff" they create as well as "stuff" other people send them. In more technical terms "stuff" they create are documents and "stuff" other people send them is emails. Why do they need a server to access their "stuff"? They don't. Managing a server for their "stuff" has become way too complicated and way too expensive for most small businesses. They have to firstly buy the equipment, next they have to run it up and get it all working. Next, they have to keep it secure and so and so on. If they can't do this themselves they pay someone else to do it for them but it still pretty expensive just to access their "stuff".

 

Customers don't care about servers. They also don't care about software. They just want something that will allow them to do their job - i.e. get access to their "stuff". It seems that things like servers and software are simply getting in the way of this. I reckon more and more are going to be migrating to "cloud computing" since it all far easier to access their "stuff" here.

 

Look, Small Business Server (SBS) has been a great product over the years. It really has. It has been an extremely cost effective method of doing much that a small business needs but not any more in my books. Everything that SBS can do is now begin done in the "cloud". As a customer, why would you ever want to maintain your own mail server? Put it in the "cloud" and let someone else manage the problems of spam a smart operator will say. If you really think about it there isn't really much that SBS has over "cloud" computing.

 

Now sure, many clients aren't comfortable with the the idea of accessing their "stuff" somewhere on the Internet but hey if I tell them that they can do it for half the cost, guess how long it will take most to change their attitude? Half a nano-second I'll bet! So no customer really cares about SBS and all the technical gee-whiz. If they can find a cheaper and easier way to get their "stuff" they go for it.

 

The second front on which SBS faces annihilation is from Microsoft. Microsoft seems clearly to moving towards the concept of "medium" rather than "small" business servers with its release of Essential Business Server (EBS) which basically is similar to the current SBS but allows all the software to run on multiple machine (unlike SBS). Why? Businesses that are going to run EBS are bigger and far more likely to spend far more dollars on IT than "small" businesses who buy SBS. For those clients even Microsoft is pitching its own "cloud" computing solution, which is even evident in the upcoming version of SBS 2008. The way I see is that SBS is being "stripped" down and "consumerized" so all it does is simple store "stuff".

 

Since it has been 5 years now since the last version of SBS was released (and SBS 2003R2 doesn't count as a "new" release). I can't see that in another 5 years we'll have SBS 2013. I'm sorry, but I think it will be gone. If you are selling and supporting SBS then I reckon your time left to make money with the product is fast dwindling. You have either to move up market with EBS (which will be tough for one man bands) or embrace "cloud computing" (but if everything works right why do customers need you?).

 

So maybe it is not only the end of SBS as we know it. Maybe it is also the end of the SBS only reseller?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Not that there is anything wrong with that


(stolen from www.vladville.com)

HP ML110G5 hanging on array utility (F8)

So you want to configure the embedded RAID array on a HP ML110G5? Well, first thing you have to do is go into the BIOS (via F10 at boot) and select the Advanced menu. From Advanced menu item select Advanced Chipset Control. Then set the Serial ATA field to Enabled, select SATA Controller Mode Options -> Enhanced field and set the SATA RAID Enable field to Enabled. Press F10 the Yes to save and the server will reboot.

 

Now as the server is booting you should see a message about the SATA RAID controller and how you must press F8 to configure. Ok when I did that I received the message:

 

Utility found, Loading wait ....

 

and the server hung. Bugger! Reset, try again, disconnect some things, try again. Still no luck. Bugger x 2! Ok, the BIOS Build date was 1/11/08 and as it typically turns out there is a later version (2008.04.03 (A) (18 Apr 2008)) that fixes the problem although it doesn't appear to be noted in the release notes. You can download it from here:

 

http://h20000.www2.hp.com/bizsupport/TechSupport/SoftwareDescription.jsp?lang=en&cc=us&prodTypeId=15351&prodSeriesId=3577708&swItem=MTX-c97c6477ae454b5289fd5a7011&prodNameId=3577715&swEnvOID=1005&swLang=8&taskId=135&mode=5

 

So you download the file, unpack the files to you workstation hard disk and run the utility that allows you to create a bootable USB device (anyone know what these things called floppies are? I can't remember ever seeing one <grin> ). Insert that into the server, the server boots to the device, runs some updates, reboots, finishes updating and when I now press F8 at the RAID controller config I can finally get in and configure my drives for RAID.

 

Generally, it is always a good idea to update all the firmware prior to the installation of any new server. Why? Simple. It's the first thing the manufacturer is going to ask you to do if there are problems and I'd sure as heck rather do it on a system I'm running up rather than a production server if I can avoid it!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Sharepoint v3 via Remote Web Workplace

Normally the first question I get asked after I tell people that they can run Sharepoint v3 on a Windows Small Business Server 2003 is whether it will work through Remote Web Workplace. Problem is that, by default you must install Sharepoint v3 on Small Business Server 2003 in parallel to existing Sharepoint v2 that comes with Small Business Server 2003 (in place upgrades break things!). Now, Sharepoint v2 is known as http://companyweb to users within a Small Business Server 2003 network. So to work with Remote Web Workplace you would need to have http://companyweb point to the new Sharepoint v3 site installed in parallel on the Small Business Server 2003.

 

Is this possible? It certainly is. You basically need to do some swapping of DNS records and extending of Sharepoint virtual servers (in both v2 and v3). However, the bottom line is that you can get a Sharepoint v3 site to appear in Remote Web Workplace. Buuuuut, the question is that this certainly would be "non-standard" and unsupported by Microsoft. There is also a good chance that any updates that come out in future may have a problem because they are expect to see Sharepoint v2 at http://companyweb not Sharepoint v3. However, if you REALLY, REALLY want to do it, then it can be done in a way that allows you to roll back if necessary when updates come out.

 

So how is it done? If you want to know then I suggest you subscribe to my Windows Sharepoint Operations Guide at http://wssops.saturnalliance.com.au. In here I have documented the steps as well as providing screen shots of just about every step to make it nice and easy. That section alone is currently over 50 pages and growing but relies on other parts of the guide to illustrate the process, which I do not plan to replicate here. I should also mention the fact that I have spent quite a few hours testing and documenting the whole process.

 

If you are planning on working with Windows Sharepoint especially on Windows Small Business 2003 then, I believe, my Windows Sharepoint Operations Guide represents a very small investment for the time savings it is going to give you. A really good example of that is getting Sharepoint v3 working as http://companyweb on a Small Business Server 2003.

 

The good thing is that existing Windows Sharepoint Operations Guide subscribers will get all this information as part of their next subscription update!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The relationship bank

Now I think this applies as much to personal relationships as it does to business relationships but I'll examine this in light of a business relationship.

 

So you "network" with someone new and you exchange business cards and promise to contact each other in the future, as we all have at sometime or other. Now what has really happened is that you have both opened up a "business relationship bank account". In most cases neither party actually uses it because they go their own separate ways and never talk again (great networking eh?) but let's say that the parties do want to develop this relationship into something.

 

So both parties now start conversing, meeting and getting to know each other. In other words both are making deposits into their "relationship bank account" in more or less equal amounts. Now let's suppose one party needs something from the other party. To do this they must make a withdrawal from the "relationship bank account" but that is no problem since they have plenty of credit built up. Once they have made this withdrawal they will continue to make deposits to pay back this loan and continue improving the health of the account.

 

In a perfect world this continues on with both parties investing more and more in the relationship and making withdrawals when required. However, as time goes by each party is happy to keep the "relationship bank account" open and making payment because they know they are getting a return on their investment. Neither party's account is ever in the red and the relationship continues to flourish.

 

Ah, now to the real world. Typically, these days when someone opens a "relationship bank account" with you in business they want to make withdrawals immediately. They want a line of credit before they have even invested dollar one! Also, in many cases the contributions they make are so small that the other party begins to question whether they are getting taken for a ride. So many people in business want to have a relationship with your business but then either don't contribute to that relationship or want to start making withdrawals immediately.

 

If people don't try and make withdrawals immediately from the account they try and deposit bad cheques. You know this when you hear, "Oh, yes I'll do that and get back to you" or "Let me arrange something and let you know". What happens? You hear nothing. These people aren't interested in making "real" deposits into the account. Clearly they don't see any value in holding up their end of the bargain so they simple deposit bad cheques that that are worthless but are easy to write. Come on, if you don't want to contribute to our "relationship bank account" just say so and we'll go out separate ways.

 

Unfortunately, many people in these sorts of relationships don't look at the relationship with a "banker's eye". By that I mean they need to assess whether the partnership they have formed is actually providing them value. If they are providing credit to the other party and making the bulk of the investments in the relationship are they getting a good return? At some point they should say, look this isn't working out so either you invest more in our mutual "relationship bank account" (with interest and penalty fees for being a fathead) or I'm closing the account.

 

Sadly, most "business relationship bank accounts" you have should be closed if you examine them pragmatically but for "emotional" reasons people don't. If you feel you are getting the short end of the straw somewhere, examine the relationship in terms of an investment. Are you getting good returns? Are you likely to get good returns in the future? If not, cut you losses and invest elsewhere because relationships of all forms are a two way street!

Video 45 posted

I have just completed another video that is now available on YouTube. This video looks at the recycle bin facilities available on Windows Sharepoint V3. You'll see how the two stage process allows users and administrators to recover deleted files if necessary. The recycle bin is one of the major improvements of Sharepoint V3 over previous versions and makes life much easier for users and administrators.

 

Click here to view the video directly on YouTube. Don't forget all my other videos on YouTube which you can access via http://www.youtube.com/saturnalliance. As always, comments and feedback are welcome.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Why people don't use Sharepoint

There are two markets here that I plan to address with this post. Firstly, the SMB technology reseller and secondly the client.

 

I hear everywhere in SMB community that Sharepoint is the great untapped product (that's right), we should be doing more with it (that's correct again) and it has greater revenue potential for the reseller (right again). So why the hell isn't it being implemented? Simple. Firstly, the SMB reseller has probably never looked at Sharepoint, they don't understand what it is, how to install it, how to maintain it and so. "I've already got too much to do" is the common catch cry. Ok, but is the stuff your doing generating you profit or is it just fund to play with? Is there a way you could be more efficient? Or do you just love playing with the technology?

 

Most SMB resellers seem to run their business in total disarray. Put simply, they don't have a business, they have a hobby!  They enjoy "fiddling". They don't want to get involved with running a business, marketing and stuff, they just want to "fiddle". I have no idea how some of these people stay in business (but they do admittedly). Most are technically excellent but business paupers. They make money sure, but do they actually make a profit? Could they walk away from their business for even a week? Could they put a value on their business if they wanted to sell it? Are they getting value for all the time they "fiddle"? I doubt it. All they want to do is "fiddle" believing the better they "fiddle" the more they'll get paid.

 

They believe that their technical skills are superior to other resellers and that's why they have their clients. Wrong! Search engines and blogs are levelling the playing field. Now anyone who knows how to search properly can be just as skilled as anyone else. Every day, technical knowledge is being devalued simply due to the reach of the Internet. So what's left? For some who "fiddle" not much because they don't have any other skills to offer. They don't understand their own business so how the hell do they hope to understand their customers'? If something breaks, they are there promptly to fix it but when it comes to helping a client be more efficient in their business processes they are lost because their own business is a mess.

 

So a "fiddler" looks at Sharepoint, shrugs their shoulders and continues on installing Windows updates. "No use to me", "I don't understand it", "It doesn't do very much" and so on and so on. They want to be the technician and nothing else. Unless you use a tool like Sharepoint in your business you are never going to understand it. Imagine not using Excel in your business. Guess what? It's a tool just like Sharepoint and there doesn't seem to be any problems using that does there? But enough bagging of resellers, I'll let them get back to manually installing Windows updates while I continue ranting.

 

Now if the reseller has no idea about Sharepoint then the poor old client isn't going to either are they? The stuff that comes from Microsoft is confusing and targeted at Office Sharepoint Server simply because that makes revenue for Microsoft (understandable). So even if they slightly cotton onto the benefits of Sharepoint who is going to install it for them? Not their reseller (who is still busy in background installing Windows updates). Even if the client finds someone to install it, who is actually going to help them integrate their business processes into it? Not the reseller because they have no idea about running a business, they're too busy with their hobby.

 

So sadly Sharepoint sits in a corner neglected and unused. Finding resellers and customers with the drive to want to change their business for better and become more efficient is almost impossible these days. So many places I see should have the sign "We do things the same way because that's the way we have always done them" plastered above their front door (wouldn't do any good on their web site since if they even have a web site they don't make use of that either!). In these tougher economic times doesn't it make sense to look at improving your business? Most say "nahh, takes too long" which translates to "I'm too afraid to try something different and potentially fail".

 

Sharepoint has a lot stacked against from every angle and boy is it an uphill battle. The saving grace I see is that eventually all our technology will be living in the cloud and Sharepoint (or some iteration of it) will happily fit inside, unlike some resellers and customers. But, I could be totally mistaken because, as I said, some people seem to do pretty well out of their hobby! Maybe I'm the one who has it upside down?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Sharepoint and inbound emails

One of the benefits of locating a Sharepoint v3 server on a member server rather than a Small Business Server 2003 is that it can be configured to receive inbound emails. This means that you can create a standard Sharepoint v3 list and assign it an email in your domain and then have any emails sent to that address routed directly to the Sharepoint list.

 

So what good is that? Initially I thought that we could use it for customers to send support requests via email. That way they could go directly into Sharepoint, be assigned to various people and the whole support process tracked. However, I thought that an even better idea would be if all the SBS monitoring reports were sent there! This has a lot of benefits when you think about it. Firstly, all the reports are stored where everyone in the business can access them. Secondly, they are all saved together in one library but more importantly they are all sortable and indexable now. This means that if I want to compare a report of one customer from one day to the next all I do is filter the current Sharepoint view to only show that customer. I can then easily view every report for that customer and compare.

 

If you now extend this further and have alerts and reports from anti virus, firewalls and what not all going to the same Sharepoint then it creates a very powerful monitoring tool. Using the inbuilt power of Sharepoint you can really create some useful means of viewing your data using views. Say for example I only want to see all the Trend Antivirus warnings that have come in, I simply create a Sharepoint view and bingo I have the information I need, in the format that I need. I am yet to see a CRM package that can do that. I can even create totals for these emails so I know how many have come in over a period.

 

So far the major downside is the fact that I can't preview the emails that come in like I can in Outlook. To view the contents I have to actually click on the item and open it. Given some more time I'm sure that I can overcome this. However, this is more than offset by the ability to search all the reports that come in. For example, if I think I have seen that error before but unsure when I simply do a standard Sharepoint search and all is revealed. I have already used this a number of times and wonder how I did without it before.

 

I continue to be amazed at the versatility that Sharepoint can provide, it is all just a matter of understanding what it is capable of and then putting your mind to it. It is also amazing to me that Windows Sharepoint Services is FREE! But sadly, it is also amazing how many people (especially IT providers) don't use it. Their loss I say because I can say without doubt that Sharepoint has changed the way that my business operates.

Planning

Ask a room of people who would like to make $1 million dollars and you'll probably find that most hands are high in the air. Now ask, of those people with their hands up to leave them up if they ACTUALLY have a plan to make $1 million dollars? I will bet that almost every hand in the room will drop.

 

Interesting isn't it? The gulf between desire and achievement is very wide for most people. Most seem happy to wish, wish, wish for something, hoping with blind luck that they'll achieve their goals. There is a chance that they will, don't get me wrong, but generally that chance is so slim that it isn't worth contemplating but there still is a CHANCE. So how do you increase the odds of achieving something you desire? Planning.

 

If you want to get somewhere what do you need? Two things. One, you need to know where you currently are and two, you need to know how to get where you want to go. Planning helps you work out how to get where you want to go. Planning is really not of benefit once you are in motion it needs to be done before you act. Now, I'm not saying that you won't have to adjust your plans along the path to your goals but planning involves investment up front before committing resources towards the goal.

 

Planning may also help you realize that perhaps the goal that you thought you wanted is not really what you wanted after all. Smart people and businesses plan. Why? Simple, they want to increase their chances of success. You can never guarantee success in this life as luck does play a part but planning greatly improves your odds so the chances of failure are almost minimal.

 

If it is so simple why doesn't everybody do it, you may well ask. Again, simple. Planning requires work, effort, sweat, investment, etc prior to any result. In today's society we have brainwashed into the concept of have now, pay later. That works for a while but sooner or later the bills come in (sorta sounds like the current financial mess the world is in at the moment eh?). I am always surprised by the number of people I know who live by the seat of their pants. Many seem to be able to skate by but I know that sooner or later there is bus with their name on it coming around the corner.

 

Sure planning does involve work up front but it is a little like financial interest, you gotta invest before you can get paid any interest don't you? The more you invest the bigger the payoff becomes right? Problem is most people want to start drawing on their interest BEFORE they have even invested a dollar. Come on, get real. Don't waste your time telling me you're going to be a millionaire unless you are going to tell me how you are planning to do it. Anyone can claim they are going to be a millionaire, very few can actually back it up with a plan!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Going all the way

I've been frustrated of late with my ISP at home not being able to provide ADSL2. Finally, there was little option but to change ISP's, no big drama there. When I started to think about making the change I also decided that perhaps now would also be a good idea to get rid of the normal phone provided by the telco and go totally VoIP. Would that be possible? Would there be any savings? Read on for the story.

 

The first step was to have 'naked' ADSL installed. With normal ADSL you need a phone service connected before you can get ADSL. This means that even if you don't use the phone you still need to pay the line rental charges. Now, 'naked' ADSL means that you can have ADSL BUT you no longer need a normal phone line. All you require is a copper connection. The good thing about getting 'naked' ADSL with my new ISP was that they would install the ADSL2 service and disconnect the existing phone for me automatically. No argument there boys, go for it.

 

On the nominated day my old ADSL service stopped, I reconfigured my modem/router with the new ISP details and bamm, I'm running ADSL2! Nothing could have been simpler. Now, phase 2, a VoIP phone that supported inbound calls.

 

When you think about it, having a phone line is still a very good idea, especially in case of emergencies whether your own or someone you know. My next challenge to work out the best way to have a phone without having a 'traditional' phone line. Initially I considered a pre-paid mobile phone but decided that being a technology bloke I decided to bite the bullet and get inbound VoIP working. Next stop my new ISP.

 

I logged into my client console, clicked on the application for VoIP and within a few clicks I had an inbound phone number and a plan that cost me nothing per month in rental and allowed 10c un-timed calls nationally - bonus! So now I had faster ADSL, no line rental and a phone that people can still call me on! All of which added up to a significant monthly saving. The only issue was how to use my existing handset on the new VoIP service.

 

The solution turned out to be the installation of a Linksys Internet Phone Adapter (model PAP2T around $60). All you do is plug it into the broadband modem/router, logon and configure via a web page and connect an analogue phone and bingo, you're in business. Now, I must admit that it took me a little longer to work out the Internet Phone Adapter simply because I'd never used one before. Once I determined where to put all the login information for the VoIP account I was up and running. I have to say that there are hundreds of settings on this device, I really wonder what they all do? Maybe, one day. The cool think about this Internet Phone Adapter is that it has the facility for two lines. This means I could configure a different VoIP account to work on the second line. I could even get a VoIP account from a different provider. Thus, if someone in your house calls interstate a lot you get the cheapest VoIP provider for that on the first line and if someone else makes a lot of mobile calls you get the cheapest VoIP provider for that on the second line. The potential savings and possibilities here with VoIP are mind blowing.

 

So bottom line is that I have faster broadband, no line rental, ability to utilize my existing telephone handsets, have cheap calls, will save a packet each month and it was all really, really easy to get up and running. Truly amazing. Now I can say that I have gone all the way with technology at home!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Networking basics course starts tomorrow

It's not too late to sign up for my latest Networking Basics course to be held at Macquarie Community College on Marsden Road Carlingford from 7-9 pm over the next three weeks.

 

The upcoming Networking Basics course will provide you with a solid foundation to understanding the technologies around things like TCP/IP, Windows Network and Internet programs and protocols. Each attendee will have access to their own machine to work with and the sessions are highly interactive with a focus on understanding the concepts through questions and hands on work.

 

For more information about this course (or any others that I run at Macquarie Community College visit :

 

http://www.macquarie.nsw.edu.au/index.php?action=course&course_action=list&cat=IT+TRAINING&subcat=NETWORKING

 

I am also happy to announce that from term 3 I will now be presenting networking courses at Chatswood, also through Macquarie Community College. More details on these courses as the time nears.

 

If you would like to know the content of any of my courses and whether they would suit your needs, please don't hesitate to contact me.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

SQLVDI and Shadowprotect errors

Do you have ISA 2004 and Shadowprotect installed on your SBS2003 server? Seen these types of errors in the logs?

 

VSS 6013
Sqllib error: OLEDB Error encountered calling ICommandText::Execute. hr = 0x80040e14. SQLSTATE: 42000, Native Error: 3013 Error state: 1, Severity: 16 Source: Microsoft OLE DB Provider for SQL Server Error message: BACKUP DATABASE is terminating abnormally.

 

SQLVDI: Loc=SVDS::Open. Desc=Open(control). ErrorCode=(2)The system cannot find the file specified. . Process=1908. Thread=8372. Server. Instance=MSFW.

 

It would appear that the MSDE database used by ISA2004 for logging (as demonstrated by Instance=MSFW) isn't very VSS compliant! Worse still given the right set of circumstances the ISA Services would fail and the whole server would be brought to grinding halt.

 

The best solution seems to change the logging in ISA2004 from MSDE to text file. To do this:

 

  1. 1. In the Microsoft ISA Server Management console click ‘Monitoring’ -> ‘Logging’ tab in the centre pane.
  2. 2. In the right pane, click the ‘Tasks’ tab, and then click the appropriate task: 
        • To log the Firewall service data to a file, click ‘Configure Firewall Logging’. 
    • To log the Web Proxy service data to a file, click ‘Configure Web Proxy Logging’.
    • To log the SMTP message screener service to a file, click ‘Configure SMTP Message Screener Logging’. 
  • 3. On the ‘Log’ tab, click ‘File’.  
  • 4. In the ‘Format:’ field, ensure that ‘W3c Extended log file format’ is selected. 
  • 5. Click ‘Options’ to confirm or to modify the following parameters: (This step is optional.)
    • ‘Store the log files in’
    • ‘Log file storage limits’
    • ‘Maintain log storage limits by’ 
    • ‘Delete log files older than’ 
    • ‘Compress log files’

 

Hopefully that way when Shadowprotect runs, since nothing is being logged to the MSDE database, hang ups won't occur. The general result I found on the Net is that logging of ISA 2004 should be set to text file only as it is more stable.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Great Game

Did anyone else out there ever play Spycraft: The Great Game? I did, probably 10 years or so ago now but I still remember not eating or sleeping until I finished it! Now. I have played plenty of fantastic computer games over the years but Spycraft must rank as in top three.

 

So what is Spycraft about? Well you can look it up on Wikipedia but basically you are a CIA operative having to solve a case that leads you through a maze of twists and turns, requires complex solutions and choices. Best part is the outcomes change depending on what decisions you make. Thus, you can play the game over and end up with a different result. Even better the game plays like a movie because it is extensively filled with video interaction which back then was truly amazing. Don't be fooled, this was a quality production that included many top listed actors of the age.

 

Anyway, I could drone on and on about how great this game is but I will refrain. After playing the game, I lent it to a friend who also loved it but promptly lost it after playing (isn't that always the way?). That was until recently when it turned up during a clean up. Now, as everyone knows the world has moved on and we have Windows XP as the standard PC platform these days. Guess what? Spycraft won't run on XP. DAMM. Since my friend couldn't get it running they returned it to me.

 

Now I am not that easily defeated. So I tried it on my XP machine and sure enough, no go. The problem has something to do with the video drivers. Back then Spycraft needed a pretty flash graphics card so it could do the videos and perhaps that ability has been removed now in XP. Who knows? Bottom line is it won't run. I checked the Internet and had my worst fears realized, Spycraft and XP = no go.

 

Hmmm...I wonder. The games was designed for Windows 98/95 so my next idea was to use Windows 98 in a Microsoft Virtual PC. Unfortunately, I didn't have a Windows 98 Microsoft Virtual PC at the ready. I wonder if it run in Windows 2000 Professional which I did have at the ready? Guess what? It does!

 

So the solution is to download Microsoft Virtual PC , which is free, install that on your XP machine, then install Windows 2000 Professional into Microsoft Virtual PC, which you didn't hear from me, doesn't need activation but hey you are only evaluating it right? Next, install Spycraft. Sure you get a few warnings during the install and one when the game runs but from what I've seen so far everything WORKS! Magic. If you need help with Virtual PC see my Youtube clip on Microsoft Virtual PC.

 

Guess what I'll be doing this weekend? Reliving my Windows 98 gaming days. They just don't make 'em like this any more.