Monday, January 29, 2007

Vista is soo cool...

Hey .. Wake up!

Vista Shipped today (View Bill Gates at 500K)!

Today I wanted to share what I consider an incredible story of Vista. Yes, I'm "Wow'd" by the 3D flip. I'm depressed that my un-upgradable PC still has blue title bars instead of glass. I'm rely more on local search now than good organization skills, but that's not what I want to talk about.

Today, my team had a conference call with some of our partners in Shanghai, China. Lucky for me, Microsoft provides some pretty sophisticated Video Teleconferencing Systems. Unluckily for me, having to go through a specific receptionist to book the room, and some terrible web UI to book the equipment, which by the way, is supposed to come with help and didn't. It wasn't the best experience. Thinking I had it all setup, I found out that my converstion from Redmond time to Shanghai time, was incorrect, and I had booked the room an hour off in China, and it was already taken by another group of folks.

Dropping back to our standard "voice-only" call, we started. A few minutes into the chat, I figured... "hey, there is only one person on the call from China, at least we can see him.", I fired up my IM client and started a video conference. Un-pixelated by packets being crushed under the ocean, he popped onto the screen.

Looking around, all we had was the highly complex video phone, Microsoft's "RoundTable".

This is where Vista gets really cool

We quickly discovered the USB cable attached to the device and plugged it into my Vista laptop. Automatically Vista began searching for drivers. Clicking the "Show Details", we realized this is really a high-tech device, with at least 8 different services to provide to Vista PCs. My co-worker tells me to push play on my video feed, as soon as the driver is installed for the Video camera portion of the phone.

Instanly, our images were broadcasted over to China, and our peer over there started laughing. You see, what we hadn't counted on was the camera provides a 360 degree image, squished into a 4:3 picture frame. You can imagine how "pancaked" we looked to our peer in China.

Anyways ... Vista rocks, no reboot needed for camera install *AND*, I started using the camera *BEFORE* the phone was completely installed.

Enjoy the latest, greatest, and most secure operating system from Microsoft...

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Did you know there was a change in Daylight Savings?

If you didn't realize it. The US Government has made a change to the way Daylight Savings works for 2007. Here is some FAQ from the SBS team:


Q: I’ve heard something about Daylight Savings Time updates or DST 2007? what do I need to know?

A: In August of 2005 the United States Congress passed the Energy Policy Act, which changes the dates of both the start and end of daylight saving time (DST). Updates to several Microsoft products are required to fully implement this change on an SBS Server. Full details on the updates required are available at At this time there are no unique SBS 2003 updates required, although there are updates required to several SBS components (windows Server, Exchange Server, Outlook 2003, Windows SharePoint Services). Please follow the detailed instructions at


This applies to all versions of SBS, That's SBS RTM, SBS SP1, SBS R2, etc.

Hopefully this will make it so I see more sunlight during the winter months... oh wait, that's the rain and cloud cover, never mind.

Monday, January 15, 2007

SBS doesn't have to be your only server...

I've been hearing that people aren't buying SBS because you can't add additional servers to your SBS 2003 networks...

This is just plain wrong.

Sure, SBS is required to be the root domain controller, the primary domain controller, and can't trust any other domains. But you can have file and print servers, line of business application servers and... get this, AND backup domain controllers, backup Exchange Servers, ISA servers on the edge*, secondary SQL servers*.

Need more information?

* The ISA and SQL software that comes with SBS 2003 Premium Edition cannot be installed on seperate servers, but you can purchase this software individually and install it as neccessary.

Friday, January 12, 2007

UPnP & your Router

Recently I've come across what some would consider anomalies with their routers and UPnP support. Since I've spent the last 2 years working with UPnP routers, I figure I'd try to shed some light on the subject.

So you just bought a router, and it says it supports UPnP. First you want to know what UPnP is and why you should care.

UPnP stands for Universal Plug 'n Play. It's a generic name used across many different devices for devices that are supposed to "just work".

So why is UPnP a good thing?
UPnP's primary purpose is to make things "just work". You'll find UPnP on many low-end routers (think less than $150 usd). Many of these routers end up in homes, protecting one or two PCs from the internet, while providing automatic lan configuration via DHCP. The introduction of the router greatly simplified home networking, but made it much more difficult to "play" on the internet. In many cases services need to talk across the router, and to do that ports must be opened. Since the majority of the people are more interested in IM chat, IM video, email, and voice, they don't care how it works. Every UPnP router will support the ability to dynamically open ports on your router and close them as neccessary. For example, I bet you didn't know that your favourite IM client was poking holes in your firewall so it could talk to your friends PC. There are other optional components UPnP that allow additional configuration methods, although with it being optional, your router manufacturer is probably not going to implement it because it costs money, money is only recovered by increasing the price of the router. To keep the prices low, no one implements optional components, so when you see UPnP on your router, know that it's helping you out by opening ports and closing ports dynamically for you.

So why is UPnP questionable?
UPnP was created pre-2001, and hence, pre all security pushes of the Internet. UPnP's goal is to make things "just work" remember. Security was never a goal of UPnP. Picture this. You just finished writing a webpage on your network and want to share it with a friend, you make a UPnP call to open port 80 to point it to your system, but your roommate wrote a different webpage to share with a different friend, if your roommate asks last, he gets the port directed to his machine, and your friend is confused. With UPnP, anyone can make a programmatic request (without authentication) to your router to change your request.

This isn't such a big deal in a home, because typically there are no malicious users, and not so many PCs. It could be a problem in a business.

So what is Microsoft doing? We're investing in Web Services for Devices. Web services for devices is similar to UPnP, except it requires authentication to request the device to do what you want. Unfortunately you'll have to wait another year or so for WSD router devices to hit the market.

What other gotcha's should you pay attention to with UPnP?
Since the UPnP specification focuses on functionality and not user experience, all router manufacturers versions are slightly different. For example:

  • Some routers keep the list of opened ports in the User Interface, seperate from those open in the UPnP interface. Hence if you look at the firewall ports in the web interface, you could feel secure, but you could have every port open on your system.

  • Some routers can only hold up to 10 port mappings (it's a memory issue), and hence you can't have more than 10 port mappings at a time

So, don't be afraid of UPnP. Used correctly with a secure network, there is really no harm in enabling it, in fact, it's quite convenient. :)

Oh, and by secure, I mean WPA-PSK not WEP. ;o)

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Friday, January 05, 2007

How to create Contact Objects in the Active Directory

I've had a few questions on this, so I figured I'd answer it out right. If you want to use the White List with contact objects that have external email addresses, you need to create contact objects for them.

To Create a contact object for an external user, you have to:

  1. Click Start, Administration Tools, Active Directory Users and Computers.

  2. Expand your domain.local, MyBusiness, Users, and select SBUsers.

    (Of course you can place them almost anywhere in the AD and they will show up. I mearly suggest this location as it's the holding place for all your users as well, helps keep things organized.)

  3. In the right hand pane, right-click and choose New and select Contact.

  4. The new Contact Object Wizard opens, enter the First name, last name, etc. and click Next.

  5. Ensure Create an Exchange e-mail address is selected and click Modify.

  6. From the list of New Email addresses, select SMTP Address and click Ok.

  7. On the General tab, enter the email address of the external receiptient, and click Ok, then click Next followed by Finish.

Now you're contact object will exist in the GAL. You can start using it to create your whitelists or distribution lists immediately on the server. However, you won't notice the contact object showing up on clients until the Offline Address Book has been built on the server, and the Outlook clients has downloaded it. Once downloaded, you'll notice that all contact objects have a little globe next to it, so they are easily identifiable in the GAL.

Hope this helps with any questions regarding adding Contacts to your system.