Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Testing AutoDiscover using Outlook

A while back on this blog, I discussed how Outlook AutoDiscover works and how it aids in mailbox configuration on the client side.  I also went into detail on a service the Exchange team provides to troubleshoot remote connectivity.

But I wanted to inform you of a handy troubleshooting tip that sits right on your desktop (provided you are running Outlook!)

In the notification area of the task bar (near the clock) there is an Outlook Icon( ).  This icon is your access to troubleshooting AutoDiscovery.  Here’s how:

  1. Hold down Control and then right click on the Outlook Icon, you’ll get two new options in the menu that you wouldn’t normally see if you were just simply right-clicking. Those options are Connection Status and Test E-Mail AutoConfiguration. The second one is the one we want, click on Test E-mail AutoConfiguration. Test E-Mail AutoConfiguration
  2. Type in the user you want to check E-Mail address and password and click Test

When the test launches you’ll get a bunch of results, reading through the results you’ll be able to determine what’s broken and where.  For example, here is mine that is fully functional:


Here is what you might see if the ports aren’t open on your router, or your SRV record is miss configured:

Play around with it, get use to it and use it to troubleshoot what’s going on with your remote Outlook over the Internet connections.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Help Configuring your Router for Remote Access

Windows Home Server

Windows Home Server and Windows Small Business Server 2008 depend heavily on the router protecting your network to allow remote access to your server while away from the home or office.  Both servers will attempt to use UPnP to automatically configure the router and keep it up to date, but on many routers, UPnP fails, or the router is reset etc.  As a result, sometimes it’s the right thing to configure your router manually to ensure it just always works, regardless of if a UPnP call fails.

For this, I have recently been alerted to a great Wiki on HomeServerLand that goes through the UI for a bunch of common routers.  Click here to find that Wiki database. While the database is designed for Windows Home Server, such that it creates DHCP reservations for the server on the network (Windows Home Server is configured with a Dynamic IP address on the Local Area Network (LAN) ).  It also talks about how to configure a port, which is all you need for Windows SBS 2008.

Each router model listed has step-by-step instructions on how to configure both the DHCP exclusions and the port mappings.

To modify these steps for Windows SBS 2008, simply ignore the DHCP reservation steps, and instead get the IP address of your server by typing ipconfig at the command prompt on the server.  The “IPv4 Address” is the address of the server you’ll want to give the router.  Remember for SBS you need 80 and 443 (same as Home Server), and also 25 for email, and 1723 (if you plan on using VPN).  Port 4125 is only used in Windows Home Server and SBS 2003 (the previous version of SBS).

And while you’re in your router configuration UI, make sure you turn the Wi-Fi security to WPA or WPA-2.  Remember, WEP is easy to crack, and isn’t considered secure.

Again, it’s the Remote Access Router Configuration Wiki

Friday, August 21, 2009

Digital Lifestyle: What’s all this Tweeting About?

Digital Life

Well, I’m back with another Digital Lifestyle corner post.

Today’s Topic is about Twitter and social networking.  I often witness the debate, “to Twitter” or “not to Twitter”, so I thought I’d take some time today to explain why I Twitter, and most importantly, how I tweet.

Think of Twitter as individual 140 character real-time updates.  Each 140 character update is called a “tweet”.  In fact, there is no reason for me to hash out all the basics here, as I have discovered this amazing beginners guide to Twitter Speak.  The key thing to remember, is if you’re updates are not locked, then it’s an update to the world.  Let me dive right into how I use Twitter.

I’ll be the first to admit, when I first signed up for my account at Twitter, and got a feed of updates from friends, I was a little underwhelmed, it wasn’t until I started using additional applications combined with Twitter search, that Twitter became useful to me.  Being able to get up to date information on topics that I care about and socializing with other people who care about the same topics is pretty powerful.

Your Own Updates


I struggled a while here on what I was going to update.  I mean I work from home so updates such as “I’m at my desk” or “I’m still at my desk” is just not that exciting.  I essentially use Twitter now to follow people, and update people on technology and such that I find interesting, or useful.  To me the most important thing to realize is you have 140 characters to say something interesting.  When you do that, your followers increase, and you’re more interesting.  I try not to reply to people about private conversations, unless it’s useful to the general public.  If you decide to join, or do already, here are some tips (albeit for Facebook, it still applies) about how to avoid being annoying.

I post a lot of URLs to my Tweets, with a limit of 140 characters, it’s important to use a URL shrinker.  Most of the Twitter applications will do this for you, but you can also go to many different places to shrink your URL, my place of choice is TinyURL, which will take something that can be > 140 characters and make it quite small.  Think of it as a forwarding service.  You send your reader to one place and they turn around and send them to the correct place on your behalf.

Who you Follow

This is where I think Twitter gets very interesting.  You can follow specific people, or searches.  You’ll need to be careful here, I find it’s super easy here to get information overload here by following too many people who’s updates are not useful.  I tend to keep it to a short list of key people who have interest to me.  I often follow someone, and after a day, remove them from my follow list.  I’ve also noticed that on Friday people tend to Tweet who they like following, so if someone is particularly interesting, sometimes I check out who they follow.

Following searches is just as important as following people.  On Twitter, people tend to use search tags, or “Hash” tags as they are called, such as “#WHS” (For Windows Home Server) or “#SBS08” (for Small Business Server 2008).  These allow you to generate searches on these hash tags and view common themes about specific themes.  I also follow #yyj, which is my airport code for my closest city, and #seahawks, although this is more beneficial during a game.  ;o)

One of the places where Bing and Google are currently lacking is this life search.  There is a site I found for Bing called “BingTweets” where you can search for something and get instant Tweets next to your search:


I use the instant search to keep tabs on what I care about, such as where I life (what am I going to do on the weekend, I can just search for what’s going on in #yyj.

Here is an example from today, simply by following #yyj,  Yesterday my town was considering a $200,000 investment in a 2 week Olympic Games party.  My wife said it was all the controversy yesterday (as I knew already from yesterday’s tweets).  However, I’d already read a tweet from a news source in town that said they had opt’d for the $50,000 viewing screen, which was widely accepted by the public.


I’ve tried a number of applications, including Twhirl, Opera, Witty, Blu and Seemic, but my application so far of choice is TweetDeck.  I’m a little disappointed it uses Adobe Air, as I dislike installing infrastructure pieces for applications, but it works well, and does what I need.  TweetDeck allows me to easily see everyone that I follow, and either reply or forward (re-tweet) their message, people who mention my me, my direct messages, and all my searches in one window. 


TweetDeck also supports some key features that I need.  Multiple Personalities is one of the key features for me.  Working for Microsoft I also can Tweet on behalf of @WindowsSBS and @WinHomeServer, so it allows me to easily jump between accounts, or post to multiple accounts at the same time.  Additionally, as you may have read in my last digital life corner post, I have a few PCs.  TweetDeck allows me to create an account with them and keep my searches and columns in sync between PCs.

As a note, Seemic desktop had similar (and in some places flasher and cooler features) than TweetDeck, but it drank the RAM as if it was going out of style, which doesn’t work for my netbook.

Extending Your Twitter Experience

Twitter is super accessible, you can configure it to send updates via SMS to your phone (US & Canada only I believe at this point), and you can also text twitter to send an update if you’re on the move.  You can also point your mobile browser to Twitter’s mobile page if you want to quickly check your friends on the go without the SMS.

Additionally, if you’re looking for a bit more with Twitter, like pictures and video, sign up with TwitPic, or TwitVid, allowing you to put links to videos or pictures in your tweets!  Since pictures are similar to 1000 words, maybe you can use this to expand beyond 140 characters.

Final Note

I’ve been asked a lot of times “Why do you use Twitter”, and I want to officially answer that question with “to stay up to date”.  I keep track of my friends around the globe, I keep track of changes in my home town, things to do where I currently live, trending issues, problems and exciting things to do with the products that I sell, and just all together engaging.  It’s like a public IM conversation, just like Blogs can be considered a public e-mail. 

I have seen plenty of other uses as well.  For example, our product teams are working on leveraging twitter to announce new things or problems with the product and how to go ahead and fix those.  If you’re going to consider corporate twittering, I suggest checking out HootSuite, which will allow multiple twitters to participate on the same twitter account without duplication.  I’d also highly recommend going against “Bots” to tweet for you, it’s obvious and people won’t listen, plus you never know what a Bot might re-tweet.  ;o)

A co-worker once told me that sending a tweet or reading a tweet is like tossing a stick in a large river.  Some people will notice you, and some won’t, and you shouldn’t feel like you need to start at the bottom of the river and read back.  Just plug in and unplug when you have time.

I hope to see you online in the future.

How to Participate in the SBS 2008 Newsgroups

Windows Small Business Server 2008

This morning I awoke to a mail in my inbox regarding participation in the Windows Small Business Server 2008 newsgroups.  Newsgroups are forums that are monitored by Microsoft Employees as well as Microsoft MVPs (or Most Valuable Professionals).  It’s a place where you can attempt to get free support before calling Microsoft, so you should know how to get into the Newsgroups.

First, point your browser over to the SBS 2008 Connect Webpage.  In the top left, you will see a link to “Newsgroups”.

From this link you can dive right in and start participating within the newsgroup.  But viewing on the webpage can sometimes be cumbersome.  Above the newsgroup list, you will see an “NNTP Setup Instructions” link:


This link will let you set your password for the newsgroups (this can take up to 5 hours to set in the system), and then give you instructions for configuring the newsgroup inside a newsgroup reader such as Windows Live Mail (Win7), Windows Mail (Vista) or Outlook Express (XP).

I usually like to change the options to download more than 300 messages at a time, and I always leave it running as to not miss anything.  When you set-up a newsgroup account, I’d recommend using an email address that a human could understand, but that doesn’t resolve directly to your mailbox to prevent “bots” from spamming you.  For example, if you’re email is, then consider entering it as, or

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

How to Prevent Interactive Logon using Local Policy

In some instances, a server is not a domain controller, it could be a Windows Client computer stuck in a corner of an office, or it could be a Windows Home Server, or some other type of windows machine.  The key thing here is that this computer is a sanctuary for data and usually accessed over the network, not by users logging into it.

By default, if you have a domain controller, such as Windows Small Business Server 2008, then disabling end-users from logging into such servers is done by default for you.  If you aren’t running a domain controller, you may want to ensure logon to the server is limited to just the administrators. 

To do this, you just have to change the local policy on this server.  Here’s how:

  1. Log in as an administrator to the client computer, verify that you are an administrator (this step is important, because if you make a mistake here, you could lock yourself out of the server!)
  2. Load up the local policy by going to Start, Run, and typing GPEDIT.MSC
  3. Once the Local Group Policy Editor loads, navigate down to to Computer Configuration / Windows Settings / Security Settings / Local Policies / User Rights Assignment.
  4. Select the Allow log on locally policy and remove the “Users” group from this policy and hit Apply

Local Group Policy Editor - Allow Log on locally policy

That’s it! you’re all finished.  Since this is local policy, there is no need to run a “gpupdate /force” to make it take effect.  Simply try to log in as a standard user account to the server again, and you’ll notice that access is denied, making your network more secure, even if you don’t have SBS!

Friday, August 07, 2009

Digital Lifestyle: Syncing Your Digital Life

digital life

I’m starting something new: The Digital Lifestyle corner.

On Friday’s (when I have time), I wanted to write a blurb on some different types of technologies, how I use them and how they have made my life easier.  Plenty of times my wife complains that “computers slow her down”, but that’s not what computers, software and the Internet do for me, and I wanted to share my usage with different technologies in hopes that you can leverage computers to save you time as well, for the fun stuff!

Today’s topic: I want to discuss some software that has changed the way I use multiple computers.  “Sync

I’m probably not a typical computer user in the fact that I use 4 computers almost daily, but I’m sure a lot of people use at least two.  I was talking to a friend the other day who has a desktop but wants to use a Netbook for taking notes at school, but then be able to work on homework using the bigger monitor and more powerful desktop.  Using Sync technology she need only have a hotspot at school to get those files home.  Ease of access *and* a backup! How convenient eh?

I primarily use two Sync technologies today.  Windows Live Mesh, and Windows Live Folder Sync.  Both have their pros and cons as I’m sure any other sync technology would.  Again, I am only covering what I have familiarity with, comments are open for other apps that you love.

Live Mesh

First, Windows Live Mesh provides a number of different services.  Synchronizing files is it’s primary function, but it also provides remote desktop functionality and sharing with friends, family or co-workers as secondary functions.  I primarily use it to Sync my own files and folders.  Mesh can sync files between many different PCs, you can choose any personal folder on your system to sync with any folder on different PCs, and you can choose it to sync with your “Mesh Desktop”.  This is the best part!  The Mesh desktop is a 5GB store that you can throw data up to, so you can use the “Mesh Desktop” as your always-on PC.  Plus I bet it has better bandwidth than any of your home or mobile PCs, so once the data is synced with the “Mesh Desktop”, it screams down the pipe to your other PCs.  The limit here is of course the 5GB limit of space.  Once it’s gone, it’s gone, and you’re doing PC-2-PC sync, which is slower, and requires your PC to be on.

Currently with Mesh, I sync

  • My Favorites.  Having my favorites the same on all my PCs is awesome, I can add a favorite on the couch watching TV at night, and it’s ready for me on my PC at the office the next day.
  • A Wallpaper directory. Windows 7 will rotate desktops as part of the OS, so I sync my wallpaper (280 pictures) from PC to PC and have Windows 7 rotate these.  Once I drop a photo in on my home PC, I see it on my work PC a few days later, without making a change
  • A Tools directory.  I have a directory that has a bunch of .reg files and .cmd files as well as some apps that I want to install on all of my PCs.  After installing Mesh, I’m set with everything else that needs to be installed all being local
  • The Live Writer Posts Directory.  I blog from 3 of my 4 different PCs, so having all the offline posts sync is great.  Start it on one PC, finish it on another
  • Collaboration folders.  I share some work with some peers around the Internet, and instead of emailing the file, we just drop or edit it out of the directory and the updates are handled and distributed to the peers.
  • Mobile Pictures. I run the Mesh beta client on my Windows Mobile device, such that when I take a photo, that photo syncs to the cloud and my home PC almost immediately!

In addition to the sync, you can access your files from anywhere in the world simply by going to the Mesh Homepage.  If you’re not at your PC, but just need that tool, or that favorite, or access to that file you know is up there, just log in and download it directly to the PC you’re at!  And finally, Mesh let’s me Remote Desktop to any PC turned on to boot! (Although I wouldn’t say it’s as fast as remoting to your PC directly, or using a product like Windows Home Server or Small Business Server directly, but it works in a pinch!)

Ok, so here is my problem with Mesh, it uses between 45-100mb of RAM depending on what it does.  Between the “MOE.EXE” (Mesh Operating Environment) and the “MOEMONITOR.EXE”.  This is problematic for those Netbooks that are limited to 1GB of RAM.  Especially when you jump from your 250MB Windows XP footprint to your 550MB Windows 7 footprint.  After your applications, you’re a bit limited.  For that I jump over to Windows Live Sync.

Live Sync

Windows Live Sync was born from an older technology called FolderShare.  Live Sync is will synchronize files between PCs without the cloud back-end, so you are limited to at least one of your PCs being on for the sync to occur.  But you still get to sync between PCs and you can also sync with other peers or co-workers that are using Windows Live Sync.

The good news for Netbooks about Live Sync is the foot print (as I’ve monitored it over time) is less than 2 MB!, perfect for a Netbook running Windows 7!  I use it to sync my documents that I create on my Netbook and my favorites.  Thus meaning that if I add a favorite on my Netbook, Live Sync will update it on my home desktop, which will then use Mesh to toss it around all the other client computers.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Microsoft in Real Life – Microspotting!


Today a friend of mine sent me a message about a whole new side of Microsoft that I hadn’t discovered before!  Microspotting.  Microspotting is a webspace run by a Microsoft employee, Ariel who runs around campus capturing life at Microsoft.

I’m still learning what I’m doing here, but Ariel and I have two things in common: we’re both geeks and we both like photography!

Microspotting is dedicated to de-bunking the rumour that Microsoft is just an Evil Empire, and exposing the people who are working their little tails off to bring you some of the best software in the world.  I say working your tails off, because it’s not as easy as it looks.

Head on over to her blog and website to learn more about the people who build the software that you make, what their passions are and where their inner geek lives.