Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Outlook Actually Does Speak Human

I like understanding computers, I like knowing how they work, what happens when you do this, what happens when you do that. I know that computers ultimately resolve things down to a 1 or a 0. But when a computer turns around and understands you, that's a completely different story!!!

I was setting up a task the other day. I use tasks like crazy, it's the only way I'd get anything done. Plus it feels good to put the "Check" into the box to say that baby is DONE!

Well, I was shocked to find out that in the Date field, I could use plain english! Not only is there the ability to type in the numeric date, select it from the drop down, but it understands what I want.

For example, I type in "Today" and I get today's date resolved. I type in "Yesterday" or "Tomorrow" and those dates resolved. Now let's get tricky "Three weeks from today", I get the date. WOW! I type in "Christmas", I get the 25th!

I can't say it works for every holiday, but this is pretty cool, you can even use things like "Next Sunday" or "Three weeks from last Monday"

Finally, an application that understands dates the way I like to think about them.

Friday, May 27, 2005

US Weather App for Windows Mobile 2003 SmartPhone

I'm always on the hunt for a good mobile applications. I don't like installing bloat on my phone, but useful apps are great! The best public application that's totally free (obviously you can donate if you like it) is the Connected Bits Weather application. It uses your GPRS data connection to download today's, tonight's and the next 3 days worth of weather.

My biggest gripes so far?

  • Only works in the US

  • Only shows Fahrenheit

Grrr... Why can't I change it to Celcius?

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Changing the Windows Mobile 2003 MRU Applications

So naturally, after my first success changing the wireless network friendly name: I'm a registry junkie. I found yet *another* registry change I can do. When the phone boots up it shows some MRU Applications (that's Microsoft speek for "Most Recently Used") applications. It gives me E-Mail, Calendar, Contacts and IE.

What for?

If I had a new message, I just click on that section of the home screen, if I wanted to see my calendar, I just click on that section of the home screen and if I wanted to get to a contact, I'd just start typing it in. IE's useful though.

I managed to point my PHM registry editor at HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Shell\StartMRU, switch to the Values and edit the "Initial Order" registry key.

This one is a little trickier, the all the .lnk files start at the start menu in the file system, so if you want to launch something in a sub folder you have to put Games\Solitaire.lnk.

Now I have my weather, My traffic, ActiveSync and Worms World Party on my MRU.
Schweet! This just made the home screen more useful directly after bootup!

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Registry Fun with Windows Mobile 2003

So I recently got an Audiovox SMT5600, except that mine was shipped in from over sea's. I hooked it up with Cingular service here in Washington state, it works great. However, the phone that I had wasn't programmed to understand the Cingular network, it said "31041" instead of "Cingular" as the service on the screen.

Lucky for me I got to be friends with the guys in the Cingular store who told me it's just a simple registry edit that I could do if I have the time...

If I have the time?

I am a geek and nothing would make me happier than dig around in the SmartPhone registry. So naturally I found the PHM Registry Editor. It's free, it install's easy, and it's also easy to use.

One warning here is editing the registry can seriously mess up your phone, so be EXTRA careful!!

Once installed, I opened it and browsed to HKLM\Software\Microsoft\RIL\OperatorNames, then clicked the Values button. I created a key called "31041" (the string for the home network). Inside the key I simply typed, using T9, "Cingular Wireless". Then rebooted the phone. Whamo! Now my home screen says "Cingular Wireless" instead of "31041"!

Pretty sweet Eh?

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Making sure Terminal Services on Your Domain Controller Times Out

If you're an avid reader, you know that I manage the dogfood server at Microsoft for the Small Business Server team. If you don't know that, now you do. :)

One of the biggest problems I have is there are anywhere from 4-10 domain administrators on the box. We have a rotating administration policy (so everyone get's a chance) and also, since we dogfood the product (even the beta's!) before the general public, we usually run into problems from time to time and more people need to be administrators to investigate what the heck is going on.

Well, this causes a headache for remote access. Every time I try to remote desktop into the server I get "Connection Limit Exceeded". Of course the work around is to TS directly to the console with the every so handy command:

mstsc /console /v {servername}

It's still annoying.

So, Group Policy comes in handy here again. I created a policy to automatically remove idle and disconnected sessions. Life is much easier now. Here's how to do it!

  1. Open Server Management and expand Advanced Management, Group Policy Management, Forest: {domain}, Domains, {domain name}.

  2. Right-Click on Domain Controllers and choose Create and Link a GPO Here...

  3. Give your GPO a friendly name so you can recognize it. I gave mine Terminal Services Timeout and choose OK.

  4. Find your Policy Object in the list under Domain Controllers and Right-Click it and choose Edit.

  5. In the Group Policy Object Edtior, expand Computer Configuration, Administrative Templates, Windows Components, Terminal Services and click on Sessions.

  6. In the right-hand pane, you have your configuration options, I set:

    • Set time limit for disconnected sessions - to 15 minutes

    • Sets a time limit for active but idle Terminal Services sessions - to 1 hour

    • Terminate session when time limits are reached - to Enabled

    And that's it!

Also, since this policy resides in the Domain Controllers OU, the policy will only affect the SBS box (unless of course you're rich and have backup/replica domain controllers).

Having this policy turned on makes the box *much* more easy to manage as I can always get to it, on the first try. Heck it may even save some resources, but I highly doubt it.

Monday, May 23, 2005

In Addition to "Subst" ...

A good friend of mine, Ian, pointed out that in addition to Subst, there is another way to map drives. This one is specific to network shares, but you can use the command net from the command prompt.

The syntax is pretty simple: net use {drive} \\{computer}\{Share}

Now you *can* replace {drive} with "*" to use the next available drive letter. If you use the command net help use, you can get more help on how to use it.

In addition, on the last blog post, and also from Ian, there is apparently a free tool that I haven't used to create "junction points". SysInternal provides a free utility.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Small Business Server appears on Channel9 - Microsoft's "geek" blog

If you' haven't heard of Channel9, then where have you been? Channel9 is the inside scoup to all things geek at Microsoft. Real video's, real Vice presidents, and finally a real video on SBS!

Check out the quick 9 minute video on Windows Small Business Server 2003.

Timely for SBS SP1. Heck you might even recognize the person who stars in the video. :)


Thursday, May 19, 2005

SBS SP1 -- Availability at LAST!

It's been a while, too long in my opinion, but we finally did it! Windows Small Business Server 2003 Service Pack 1 is available! Get it today from here.

Why should you install it?

Well, other than it being the *most* secure version of Windows Small Business Server, we are running it here at the office, I run it at my home, and all of our MVPs are running it also!

Make sure you read (or at least skim) the release notes before you install. The release notes are available for:
The clean install version
The standard upgrade version and
The premium upgrade version

Enjoy the new service pack, I do.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Using "Subst" to Easily Access Folders with a Long Path

My fiance says that I'm a little OCD, that's medical speak for Obessive Compulsive Disorder. I don't actually believe her because finding the garden hose in my garage is impossible, but when it comes to my computer, I like to be organized.

I guess at a young age, when my first Computer Science teach, Mr. Rush, wanted me to keep my computer organized, we were required (for marks) to ensure our 3mb of space in our user directory was completely organized, and that was back when it was 8.3 filenames!

I guess starting there, I just got in the habit of organizing my files using directory structures. So what is this long winded approach for? Partly because I'm killing time before the 2nd half of my class starts, and partly to tell you how important I find the comand line ulility called "subst".

SUBST is actually pretty cool, it takes a fully qualified path and abstracts it out to a drive letter on the local machine. For me, I have a folder called C:\Documents and Settings\Sean\My Documents\My Pictures\Digital Camera\Favourites\RAW ... Phew, and I bet you had to take a breath just saying that path!

Well, simply crack open the command prompt and type:
subst P: {long winded fully qualified path}

Now you can simply change to your picture drive P: and view all the files from there and below. Makes it rather easy to access files doesn't it?

Monday, May 16, 2005

Makin' it Easy to Access Your Desktop

I like watching people use computers. Yes, sometimes it's extremely painful watching someone do something very slow that you could probably do it in about 2 seconds, but hey, you learn new ways to do things.

Here in the office we have a lot of mail to send with attachments (links to bugs, log files, etc). Naturally, like any user, when you're saving things, its easiest to save to the desktop. Unfortunately, when you want to drag and drop these things into the desktop, you can't get at them if you've got a full screen mail client going on (again, like most users).

Should you scrap the attachment?

No! You can get easy access to your desktop simply by adding the "Desktop" tool bar to your task bar. Simply right-click the task bar at the bottom of the screen (or where ever you put it) and point at Toobars and select Desktop.

Now you can click on the arrows next to word "Desktop" and you can see all the items on your desktop!! You can drag and drop from here too, which makes it nice and easy to drop log files into those email messages.

Moreover, you can put any folder here by simply going to the same location, but choosing to create a tool bar from any specific folder. You can drop shortcuts to programs in this folder and create your own quick menu's!

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Manage your IE add-ins

A pretty cool feature that the The SBS Diva blogged about recently that comes with XP Service Pack 2 is the control you have over the IE add-ins.

In Internet Explorer, go to Tools, Manage Add-on's. From here you can enable or disable different add-ons that have been installed into Internet Explorer. Just be aware of what you disable doesn't work, it can't even give you an error message.

But you can block those annoying add-ins.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Outlook Autocomplete Information

Sometimes you make a change to your network that invalidates all the email addresses that it remembers. You know the autocomplete? That list of email addresses that drops down in Outlook 2003 when you start typing?

Yeah, sometimes that's wrong, especially if you're doing a migration, or like in my case, you re-create 1,000's of contact objects.

Well, what's the easiest way to get rid of all of these and start from scratch?

Using the Reset the nickname and automatic completion cache Office KB.

To boil it down to a short and sweet list

To Delete One Entry
use the arrow key to select the entry and press DEL.

To Delete all entries
  • Close Outlook

  • Browse to %appdata%\Microsoft\Outlook

  • Delete any *.nk2 files

It's that easy

Friday, May 06, 2005

Changing the Monitoring Alerts & Server Status Reports "from" address

I'm not a Value Added Provider, or Value Added Reseller, but I do manage more than one Small Business Server site, and I tell you, it gets VERY confusing when you have a bunch of server status reports show up in your inbox and you have to dig through them to figure out which server they are for.

Well, we can change all this.

Server Status Reports
The server status and server usage reports get the company name from the registry. Primarily the "HKLM\Software\Microsoft\SmallBusinessServer" key under the "RegisteredOrganization". Whatever this is set to, is the displayname of the server status reports.

Instant Alerts
Many times the server sends you an instant alert (like when the WWP service is stopped, or something is consuming too much memory). You can change who this is from by going to:

  1. Start, Administrative Tools, Health Monitor.

  2. Opening {ServerName}, Actions, and then right-clicking on Email ... and choosing Properties.

  3. On the Details tab, you can specify the email address you want to send to and from (although the to is easier to set in the Monitoring Configuration Wizard).

Now you'll be easily able to distinguish alerts for each site

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Removing whitespaces in services.msc

If you're an avid follower of my website, you probably know by now that I don't keep things exactly standard. Little tweaks here and there just to make the system mine. Sure if I was a VAP I'd use the cookie-cutter approach, but I'm not, so I don't.

One thing that has been driving me nuts is the amount of whitespace the services snap-in uses. I mean check out the whitespace in the services snap-in!

Now if you want to make it look more like this:

Just follow these simple steps!

  1. Open c:\windows\system32 and find the services.msc file in the list

  2. Right-click on services.msc and choose Author

  3. Make any changes you'd like to the snap-in, make it look EXACTLY how you want it to look when you open it next time

  4. Close the snap-in and save the changes

Now the next time you go Start-->Run and type in services.msc, the snap-in will open as you left it.

In fact, you can use this for just about any .msc file to customize the look and feel

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Giving any Folder in Windows Explorer a Backdrop

About a week ago, I get an email from a good friend of mine, Bob. Bob recently upgraded to Windows XP (tisk tisk) from Windows 98. I couldn't believe he'd been using Windows 98 for so long! Whatever happened to Windows 2000? Even (gasp) ME?!

Anyways, he came to me with a problem. Bob had been using backdrops in Windows Explorer to help him easily identify folders. In Windows 98, you simply went into the advanced folder properties and chose a backdrop file and life was all good.

Apparently, the designers of Windows XP decided that this feature wasn't used that much, perhaps it was for geeks like Bob, and not for the general public. Well, I did some hunting around and found a PC World article entitled Windows Tips: Simplify Your Windos Desktop Cleanup Chores. This article explained exactly how to do what Bob was looking for!

Let me sumarize the steps here:

  1. In the folder you wanted a backdrop, create a file called desktop.ini, if it already exists, just edit it.

  2. Copy the picture you want to use as your backdrop in the form of a .bmp or .jpg into the folder.

  3. Open the desktop.ini file and type in the following text:


    Where {filename}.jpg is the name of your file in the current folder and 0x00000000 is in the form of 0x00RRGGBB where RR is a hex number from 0-255 indicating how much red there is, GG for Green, BB for blue. (i.e. the above is black and 0x00FFFFFF is white). This indicates the colour of the text for the files and folders that show up in this special folder.

  4. Mark desktop.ini and filename.jpg as hidden (so you don't have to look at them)

  5. in the command window, change directories to the folder directly above the folder you want to have the background image and type the following:

    attrib +s {folder}

And you're all finished!

Now when you use Windows Explorer to browse to that folder, you'll see the background image you wanted! Hopefully this makes your system a little more customized.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

One way to "send as" when using multiple domains

If you remember a while back, I made a series of blog posts on how to How to Host Multiple Domains on SBS 2003. Since that day, many people have asked how you can send mail as a specific user@domain.com, when the user has accounts in multiple domains.

I asked a few of my Exchange guru buddies around here, and I got an answer that I thought I'd share with you (later rather than never). I haven't tried these out yet (hey, it was the choice of testing this, or giving you SP1... :) )

Here they are, from the horses mouth!

  1. Create a mail-enabled group (aka Distribution List) representing each one of the incoming addresses. The primary SMTP address (that is the upper-case SMTP type address that you see in Active Directory Users and Computers) should reflect the correct inbound domain. So, for example, you can create the following groups with the associated SMTP address:

    • Group 1 - SMTP: Mailbox1@domainA.com

    • Group 2 - SMTP: Mailbox2@domainA.com

    • Group 3 - SMTP: Mailbox1@domainB.com

    • Group 4 - SMTP: Mailbox1@domainC.com

  2. So, hopefully you can see what I'm doing here ...the inbound mail destined for a specific mailbox and domain actually resolves to a group rather than an actual mailbox. From here, you can just add whichever mailboxes you like to the group, and of course, those users will receive the mail via the group.

  3. The next step is to allow your users "send as" permissions on each group object (you do this through Active Directory Users and Computers as well). So, when a user replies to a mail, then can use the optional FROM: box in Outlook to pecificy/choose the name of the group that they want the message to be from.

  4. When your user sends the reply, the message is stamped as coming from the group e-mail address, which of course will have the correct domain name stamped on it (this comes from that upper-case SMTP type address).

Good luck, let me know if there is something that needs changing and I'll update it so we have the most accurate information here.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Outlook never wonders what folder to update first, but do you?

Ever wonder when you open Outlook 2003 which folder it's going to choose to update first?

When Outlook is in cached mode (or rpc/http), Outlook will download the mail/objects in specific folders in the background while you work. But sometimes, when you restore from hybernation mode, you want it to update the inbox, but it waits to do that last! What's up with that?

Well, according to the Outlook documentation, Outlook gives weights to the folders on which it will update first. This means that sending or replying to items is given the most weight (ie outbook is probably updated first, or calendar since it has to reply to requests etc), and reading is given a lower priority.

But how come it doesn't do what *I* want?

Well, when you return from Hybernation mode, Outlook doesn't know it's been hybernated, and it just knows it hasn't talked to the server in a while, so it follows it's algorithm, not knowing that the current folder needs updating so you can work.

You can push the folder you in (like your inbox) higher in the queue by simplying changing folders and changing back to the inbox, this tells Outlook that you're waiting on the Inbox and it will be given a higher priority.

It pays to know how things work, now you'll save an extra one or two seconds every time you hybernate. I just can't wait for the study on how many hours an average human spends waiting for email to download.

... Then you have to ask the question, am I average?