Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Replacing Windows Applications – the Safe Way

[This post courtesy of Ian Prest]

Many folks are probably familiar with the System Internals Process Explorer, which enables users to see all the processes on the system, and provides much more detail than the built in Task Manager that comes with Windows.

One of the neat features of Process Explorer is the option to replace Task Manager so when you (or the system) launches Task Manager, Process Explorer opens instead:


You may also notice that once you have replaced it, that you can simply un-replace it.  You might think that under the covers this is replacing taskman.exe with procexp.exe.  It is not.  Windows Protection will replace procexp.exe with taskman.exe at it’s next available chance.  What Process Explorer is actually doing, is “faking” to debug Task Manager.

This is a much better way to replace applications in Windows, because it doesn’t actually touch the original executable.  Instead it launches the “debugger” application and passes in the path to the original executable as the first argument.  Process Explorer just swallows this argument and launches itself instead.

So let’s say that you’re more of a fan of Notepad2 instead of Notepad (due to the awesome text highlighting), and you’d rather windows launch Notepad2 instead of Notepad when opening things in clear text.  You can manually do what Process Explorer does programmatically.

Warning: Editing the Registry can cause serious problems and the utmost care should be taken.  I am not responsible for a broken machine.

Here is how we can do this.  Assuming you downloaded and installed Notepad2, follow these steps:

  1. Open Regedit, and navigate to this location: HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Image File Execution Options\
  2. Create a new KEY for the name of the executable, for example “Notepad.exe” (without the quotes).
  3. In this new Key, create a new string value called “Debugger” without the quotes, and give it the value of the path to Notepad2. E.g. “c:\Program Files\Notepad 2\Notepad2.exe”

At this point you can run “Notepad.exe” and you’ll notice that Notepad2 opens with all sorts of garbage in it.  This is because Notepad2.exe is passed the path of Notepad.exe, and Notepad2 is opening Notepad.exe for editing.  Clearly we don’t want this, so we can use a “/g” which is a Notepad2 command to go-to line.

  1. Change the “Debugger” string to “c:\Program Files\Notepad 2\Notepad2.exe /g”

Now Notepad2 will be launched with the command to go to line “c:\windows\notepad.exe” which it translate to line 0, and you have a blank document. Voila!

Moral of the story, if you can tell the application your launching to ignore the argument after it, you can launch the application instead of the built in Windows Application, such as Notepad.exe

Want to go back to the built in application? simply delete the “Debugger” string-value.

Why is this better than replacing the executable itself?

  1. You keep the original file, so you can always go back to it
  2. You don’t have to worry about Windows Protection
  3. You don’t have to reboot

Monday, March 30, 2009

Scripting Hot Keys & Making Life Easier

This past weekend, I had a fellow geek in town visiting and I noticed he was doing some pretty wild things without touching his mouse.  When diving in deeper, I figured out he was using a program called AutoHotKey.

Mouse and keyboard macros and hotkeys.AutoHotKey is a small (2mb RAM footprint) program that intercepts keys from the keyboard and can perform actions on those hot keys.  It’s pretty flexible too! you can have it execute hot keys only on specific applications, or globally to the system.  The hot keys are all controlled and programmed by you, so you can add or remove any specific ones that you want.  You can have it change text for you, so if you say “BRB”, it’ll can automatically expand it to “Be Right Back”, and so on.  Once you’ve mastered the easy stuff, you can also use it create GUI!

What caught my intention was the ability to write a short script to “Paste as Clear Text”, if you want to strip out all that rich text for an email or some other purpose.  I find myself having to use specific clear text all the time!

You can download AutoHotKey and start immediately using their documentation.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Exchange Server Remote Connectivity Analyzer

The Official Exchange Team Blog just announced the release of their Exchange Server Remote Connectivity Analyzer. The connectivity check will allow you to choose what type of Exchange protocol you want to talk to your Windows Small Business Server on and prompt you for a particular user and it will tell you what the problem is for connecting to that server.


The Exchange Server Remote Connectivity Analyzer is a web site for IT Administrators to validate and diagnose end-to-end Exchange scenarios.  The site simulates multiple Exchange client access and inbound SMTP scenarios from outside the customer’s infrastructure and reports whether the test was successful.  If the test fails, we tell the IT Admin exactly where in the process it failed as well as provide troubleshooting tips on resolving the issue.  See the screenshot below.


In this version, the tool provides the following end-to-end tests:

  • Exchange ActiveSync (v2.5 and greater… including AutoDiscover)
  • Outlook Anywhere (OL2003 and greater… including AutoDiscover)
  • Inbound SMTP

Note: The Outlook Anywhere test will fail when the server is running MOMT (e.g. an Outlook.com mailbox) since the tool doesn’t currently test encrypted RPC… but check out the detailed and clear error message!

Coming Soon

We will be expanding the Exchange scenarios in the next few months to include the following:

  • Outlook Web Access
  • IMAP
  • POP
  • Exchange Web Services

Quick demo


Get Microsoft Silverlight

Check out the short video describing the tool on TechNet Edge.  Or try the high quality version.

Support Earth Hour


Earth Hour is a symbolic event. Turning off our lights for an hour won’t stop climate change but it does demonstrate that our individual action is important and adds up to make a big difference. More importantly, it sends a very powerful message to government and world leaders that people want policies and regulations put in place that can achieve meaningful emission reduction to help fight climate change

On March 28, 2009 at 8:30 pm, tens of millions of people around the world will turn out their lights for one hour

Let us demonstrate our concern for our living planet and send a loud message to our leaders that they support action on climate change.

Vote Earth New York City

Find out more at the Earth Hour Website.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Windows Home Server - Announcing Power Pack 2

We are pleased to announce Windows Home Server Power Pack 2.  Power Pack 2 fixes known issues and adds new features to improve the Windows Home Server experience.  Enhancements include: Improvements to remote access configuration, enhanced functionality for computers running Windows Media Center, and content streaming support for Windows Media Center Extenders.  Power Pack 2 adds Italian language support on new home servers.

Power Pack 2 will be made available via Windows Update.  Users need to have Windows Home Server with Power Pack 1 already installed on their home server. Power Pack 2 will automatically install as part of Windows Update if Automatic Updates is enabled on the home server.  (How to turn on automatic updates.)  The English version release date is March 24th.  Chinese, French, German, Japanese and Spanish will be available April 28th

Overview of enhancements:

Remote Access
  • The Remote Access Settings page is redesigned to make it easier to use.
  • A Web-hosted diagnostic service is used to more accurately test if remote connectivity is available from outside the home network.
  • New and improved initial configuration and repair wizards, as well as better troubleshooting guidance for common home networking issues that can prevent Remote Access from working properly.


Windows Home Server Console - Remote access settings


Windows Home Server Console – Configuring remote access


Windows Home Server Console – Troubleshooting guidance

Media Sharing with Windows Media Center Connector

When the Windows Home Server Connector software is installed or updated on a Windows Media Center computer, the next time a user starts Windows Media Center they will be prompted to install the Windows Media Center Connector.  

  • Windows Media Center computers will automatically have access to content stored in shared folders on the home server.  Music, Photos, Videos, and Recorded TV folders are enabled by default.
  • Windows Media Center Extenders can access and stream multimedia content stored on the home server.  Access permission can be granted on an individual folder basis.
  • Native support for MP4 files, a popular format for high quality multimedia, enables streaming to Xbox 360 and other devices that support the MP4 format.  Metadata such as title, artist, composer, album, and genre now appears in the music or video library.


Windows Media Center – Windows Media Center Connector installation reminder


Windows Media Center Connector – Installation wizard


Windows Media Center Connector – Installation wizard


Windows Home Server Console – Configuring Windows Media Center Extender access


Windows Media Center – Videos folder on Windows Home Server

For additional information, please read the Power Pack 2 Release Documentation.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Windows Mobile 6.5 Announced at MIX ‘09!

Windows Mobile 6.5 home

Looks like the new Windows Mobile 6.5 experience was announced at Mix ‘09 in Las Vegas just recently.  Updates include:

  • A new “Lock” screen to show alerts and notifications
  • Flick Scrolling
  • Details on a Windows Mobile Marketplace
  • An improved Internet Explorer Mobile

Hopefully they can updated my Samsung Jack II.  Time will tell!

Training on Migration – 5W/50

Tuesday of this week, our own Migration PM, Chris Almida, did a 5W/50 training session on Migrating from SBS 2003 to SBS 2008.  You might remember Chris from the first video he did for TechNet Edge, blogged about here.

As mentioned earlier, we have a whole bunch of 5W/50’s planned, and you can point your new IE8 browser to the Training Site to view the training on demand after it’s record.  The one that Chris did on the 17th will be up and available on demand shortly.  The session was going to be “Migrating from SBS 2003 to SBS 2008 on the Same Server Using Microsoft Virtualization Technologies”, however, due to feedback, this was changed to a “SBS 2008 Migration – common issues and potential failure points”


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Windows 7 has lots of New Keyboard Shortcuts!


Back when Vista popped out of the mother-ship, I posted a bunch of new hot-keys that could be used with Vista, and Win7 adds some more good ones!  I thought I’d list them out here, even though Windows Help provides a complete list:

Windows Shell Shortcuts

  • Win + Up: Maximizes the window
  • Win+ Down: Restore/Minimize the Window
  • Win+ Left: Snap to Left of Screen
  • Win+ Right: Snap to Right of Screen
  • Win+ Shift + Left: Jump window to left monitor (requires multi-mon)
  • Win+ Shift + Right: Jump window to the right monitor (requires mutli-mon)

Taskbar Shortcuts

  • Win+ T: Preview the first taskbar entry, press again to cycle
  • Win+ Shift + T: Preview the last taskbar entry, press again to cycle
  • Win+ (1-9): Launches an instance of the application in the 1-9 slots, (hint, use “SHIFT” as well to get a second instance

Desktop Shortcuts

  • Win+ Space: view the desktop (I like this one since I cycle my photography on the back and people always say “What’s your backdrop?”)
  • Win+ G: Bring the gadgets to the front of the screen
  • Win+ P: Open the projection options (this one is great for laptops!)

Explorer Shortcut

  • Alt+ P: Show/Hide the preview pane

Mouse Shortcuts

  • Shift+Left-Mouse : Open a new instance
  • Middle Click on Taskbar: Open a new instance

Internet Explorer 8 Released to Web!

Just as I was thinking that I’d been running RC1 of IE8 for long enough, Microsoft announced the release of Internet Explorer 8! I’ve been using IE8 for about a year now from Beta all the way up to today at RTM.  I know everyone usually says that Fire Fox 3 is better than IE8, but I really can’t tell much of a difference. 

Here are the things that I like about IE8

  • The "Accelerator" button – I used to only share pages on Facebook and Stumble, if they gave the “share” icon (similar to the one at the bottom of this post).  Now with the Facebook Accelerator installed, I can just right click a page and say “Share on Facebook”.
  • Compatibility View button – When developers haven’t had the time to update their IE code to the new CSS standards that IE8 conforms to, you can drop back to the IE7 rendering engine and view the page as it was designed.
  • This website now looks almost the same in Fire Fox as it does in IE8! Finally!
  • The IE team has a sense of humour with the Remembering the Internet video. Remember the Internet!

I still need to learn about Web Slices, but I hear they are useful, and there are about 1200 of them already!

Read More on Microsoft Technet Edge.

IMPORTANT: Do not install IE8 on Windows 7 Beta

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

SBS 2003 Groups don’t show up in SBS 2008 Console

For those of you who have Migrated from SBS 2003 to SBS 2008 are probably looking in the console wondering where your groups went. In Windows Small Business Server 2008 the group objects are “stamped” in a specific way in the Active Directory to filter out the standard groups from littering your console.  Remember that SBS 2008 is built on top of Windows Standard Server.

To help the administrator focus on the groups that are important for your business, and reduce the clutter in the console, the groups are “stamped”.  Unfortunately you can’t do the stamping yourself without some serious AD knowledge and ADSI edit (like the Registry editor, but a download and far more dangerous to your system).

As a result, the Windows Small Business Server 2008 Active Directory Group Converter, has been released to do this “stamping” for you.  Check it out if you want to migrate your groups into the console from SBS 2003.

Some of our MVPs have already blogged about this such as Wayne Small.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Home Server needs your help!

Windows Home Server is in need of your help, it’s in the running for the 2008 Engadged Awards for best Storage Device or Technology of the Year.  You can head on over to the voting forum to vote and put Home Server at the top.

Home Server Hacks as a page on exactly what to vote for:


So if you love your home server for home user, or business use, now is the time it could use your help.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Upcoming Web Training (5W/50 Series)

The SBS Official Blog has a list of upcoming training series available.  Check out the list here.  Time to update some skills!

Here are the list of courses:

Small Business Server 2008 and Windows Mobile - What you need to know to build your business


Migrating from SBS 2003 to SBS 2008 on the same server using Microsoft virtualization Technologies


The Network is Slow: Troubleshooting and Tools with no Budget

Prescriptive Guidance on How to Add Windows Essential Business Server to Your Infrastructure Practice

Response Point Technical Briefing

Managing your Desktops using Group Policy in SBS 2008

Small Business Server: What about those Best Practices Analyzers

Exchange Server 2007 on Windows SBS 2008 – Hot Topics for Partners

Business Continuity Plan and Disaster Recovery with SBS 2008

Inexperienced Users and Attackers:  A day in the life of Securing SBS 2008

Windows Home Server – The Next Version

Thursday, March 05, 2009