Things I learned about Windows 7 this week

  1. So I’ve been running some virtual servers on my laptop for some time now but when doing some network testing I found I was unable to use a virtual DHCP server on the Internal network, until I found this nice article on how to enable a hidden feature in Virtual PC:

    http://jagbarcelo.blogspot.com/2009/10/disable-builtin-dhcp-server-for.html

  2. Another BIG problem I had at work this week was about 5 users calling in about a c0000034 error after Windows 7 SP1 was installed.  This seems to be isolated to 64-bit systems only but these articles helped to get the systems back up and running without a complete rebuild:

    http://support.microsoft.com/KB/975484

    if that doesn’t work, this one did it for me:

    http://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/w7itproinstall/thread/1c9a7151-b48c-4a98-aae7-a4b82682ea8e/#bcabda57-7338-499f-aee2-d708e76df315

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Getting Wireless to work with Ubuntu

Over the past 6 months (on a very very limited basis) I’ve been struggling to get my wireless network working with Ubuntu 10.  I have this old Acer C100 TravelMate Notebook which originally ran Windows XP Tablet Edition but with only 256MB of ram it ran like crap.  I decided that instead of junking the thing I would instead save it from the landfills and give the system to my 6 year old son.  While I’m a big fan of Windows I know from experience that when resources are limited and performance is a paramount concern, a Linux distribution is the way to go.

Since the TravelMate C100 does not have a built-in CD-ROM and USB boot is not supported I had to setup a Network Boot-able server that could load the Ubuntu setup program.  I can’t even remember how I did that but there are plenty of examples on how to do this on the web.  After my initial hiccup I was impressed at how easily Ubuntu installed and detected all the hardware including the ability to use the pen input; but there was one major problem.. wireless.

My first challenge was that Ubuntu has no way of switching between wired and wireless on my Acer.  This was a bad hardware design in my opinion (switching requires a reboot); making it necessary to have another computer beside you for troubleshooting.  This option can be set in the BIOS before boot or simply toggling the wireless button before Ubuntu starts.  Once logged in the wireless networks in range were all visible.  The problem was I could not connect to my network using WEP or WPA2.  I tried Wicd but that did not work either.  Tried Windows Wireless network drivers, no luck either.

After about a day of fooling around with the settings I finally managed to get it to work.  Here’s what did it for me:

WEP or WPA2 will not work, so I resorted to trying WPA.
DHCP does not work so I entered a static IP for the Wireless.

BINGO!  This post comes courtesy of my Acer C100 running Ubuntu 10.10 on my WPA enabled wireless network.

I’ve seen many posts from different people buying separate USB adapters or routers and trying different wireless managers.  If WPA is good enough security for your needs I suggest you give it a try using the built-in network manager.  Since I already have a complex passphrase (letters, numbers and special characters) I’m not too concerned about getting hacked at home.  And my son loves his new system!

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Exchange Restore from Hell

February 13, 2011 Leave a comment

Devil  So here I am finishing off the last pieces of a Exchange 2007 disaster recovery scenario two weeks after the original problem.  Here’s all the different things I learned and hopefully this helps another Exchange Admin save his skin down the road:

1.  Surprised smile  Exchange 2007 SP3 May break your EDB.. as to why I still do not know however this is what started my problems with one client who originally was having issues with mail items disappearing from one user’s mailbox.  They were on SP1 and everything I read indicated that it was time to upgrade their software.  My recommendation:  Dismount your mail databases before the upgrade and make a copy on the server.  This may not be possible due to storage constraints but if you don’t you could be costing yourself a lot of downtime.

2.  Crying face  iSCSI is not your best friend.. while this technology is great by allowing a direct drive mapping to a virtual volume on another server it can be painfully slow when trying to perform any merge, restore or move tasks.  My suggestion: add a storage controller to expand your mailbox database.

3.  Nerd smile  Keep your databases small.. I know Exchange 2007 supports large database sizes but if you have problems with a single database all of your users could be affected.  Split them up into smaller chunks like 25GB each.  Exchange 2007 Standard supports 5 of these guys so use them.

4.  Angel  Keep your .ost files handy as they may just save your hide.

5.  Steaming mad  RestoreMailbox doesn’t always work.. don’t rely on this tool.  If the users have bad folder items in their dumpster (Deleted Items) you can try everything under the sun but the mailbox will not merge.  My suggestion:  Install Exchange with the Mailbox Role only on another box and mount the database there, then create a new user account without a mailbox, attach the problem mailbox, export the data from Outlook to a .pst and then import it into the problem user mailbox.

6.  Thumbs up  Exchange Recovery Procedure.. If you have a corrupt database follow these simple steps and all will be well:

a.  Don’t panic
b.  Get your backup restored (if you don’t have one God help you)
c.  While your backup is restoring create a blank mailbox database to get mail flowing
d.  Once the backup is complete, swap the databases
e.  Merge the content from the new mailbox with the one that was restored

7.  Annoyed  Repairing a damaged database.. this takes forever and could cause data loss.  If you must get data out of the damaged database try to do so only if absolutely necessary.  Take the database offline and do the work on another mail server so as to not impact the production environment.  Virtual Servers are great for this as you can download and install the software to accomplish your goal and then keep them in case of emergency.

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Windows Faxing in an Exchange 2007 Environment

January 29, 2011 Leave a comment

It never ceases to amaze me how setting up a new service for a client that can seemingly be so trivial can become so complicated.

While setting up a new Windows Fax solution for a client I ran into some challenges after deploying the solution.

1. Windows Server 2008 Standard only supports 4 fax modems.  Not such a big problem considering the client has a 6 server environment.  Since they were running on the Microsoft EBS 2008 suite I decided to use the Management and Messaging systems to double as fax servers.  Using 2 Digi Rapidport 4-line USB modems I managed to configure their 6 fax line setup with relative easy.

2.  After configuring the fax routing for e-mail the client also requested the ability to send inbound faxes to a single printer in their Estimating department to print the faxes during a job closing.  Again not a big issue until they requested the ability to do this themselves.  Since the fax service was running on two different servers I tried to configure a single mmc console to provide a centralized management interface however every time I would close the console it would “forget” one of the servers and just say local.  To get around the issue I setup a RemoteApp on each server and customized the RDP file to place on a mangers system.  However this proved to be another challenge as the app would prompt for user account control but not display the request without clicking on the details button.  So i created a little script to call the mmc which automatically prompts the user for UAC after login.  With a little training the Manager was able to turn on and off printing at will.

3.  My final hurdle came when about 20% of the faxes were not routing through e-mail properly.  This proved to be very frustrating since it was only an issue with the Fax service on the Exchange server.  I tried multiple log on methods (anonymous, basic, integrated) and ports to no avail.  It would work for a while but then just stop routing.  I tried a hotfix from MS as well but this did not work either.  Since EBS has a 2 Exchange Server environment I decided to send the faxes through the Security (Edge Transport) server on port 25 using integrated authentication.  BINGO!  Everything is working properly now.

In the future if I’m dealing with a 4+ fax environment I’m going to recommend a separate server and Windows Server Enterprise to keep things simple.  Nonetheless I feel like I’ve gained some useful knowledge and hope this helps someone else in need.

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Hello world!

October 21, 2010 1 comment

Welcome to WordPress.com. This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!

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Microsoft HQ Redmond, WA – A taste of the future

Well it’s been a while since I’ve blogged about anything as micro blogging seems to be consuming more and more of my free time.  That being said I’m really excited about my trip to Redmond, WA to visit Microsoft HQ.  It was very nice of the Microsoft folks to invite me down as I’ve never been to Redmond and am eager to check out the Microsoft campus.  My flight leaves in about an hour so I’m relaxing in the Maple Leaf lounge complete with free Wi-Fi, snacks, pop and drinks.  A guy could get used to this kind of thing!

This will also be my first flight in Executive Class which I’m sure will forever change my tolerance for Economy class.  Oh well I guess there are worse things in life. :)

As for the purpose of the trip I’m not quite sure what I can and cannot say about what they will be presenting to me but knowing Microsoft it should be very cool.  I’ll post again after I check in to my hotel.  See you in a few days Canada!

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A Small Business Server Migration Story (not for the faint of heart)

June 7, 2009 20 comments

11:24 PM – After a 48 hour period of intense installation and troubleshooting I decided to write a little bit about my experience during my first Windows SBS 2003 to 2008 migration.

Background:  A client of mine had a Small Business Server 2003 in dire need of replacement.  Their office has 5 employees at the main office and 2 at a remote office.  About 2 months ago their server crashed requiring an in-place upgrade as they had no backups (see previous blog post).  An added bonus came when their second server at a remote site office started having a hard drive failure.  They finally decided to bite the bullet and spring for a SBS 2008 migration.  I needed to act quickly in order to save the business from a potential catastrophe.

Plan A:  The plan was to install and configure the new SBS 2008 O/S on an HP DL380 G4.  I originally thought I could do a hyper-v install of both SBS and a Terminal Server on the same hardware.  Although the G4 has a 64-bit capable processor (which is required to run SBS 2008) it did not support hardware assisted virtualization (Grr).

Plan B:  I decided to install SBS 2008 as the host and use VMWare to add a 2008 Terminal Server guest.  With 12GB total RAM in the system, this worked out really nicely.  I was ready to start the migration process.

At first the pre-installation tasks went smooth.  The existing SBS server needed some minor tweaking and I followed the Microsoft documentation to the letter.  After starting the migration to the new hardware that’s when thing got a little harry.

Issue #1:  Exchange Server 2007 Cannot be installed

Okay so that’s a major problem.  I did some searching online and found that the recommended path was to start the migration over again from scratch.  This meant restoring the source server to its pre-migration state from Backup.  I’m not one to give up without a fight so I decided to perform a repair install of Exchange using Programs and features.  As it turns out the reason exchange did not install is because of a rouge DC at the remote site not responding to DS queries.  Since I was replacing the DC anyway I decided to purge all references to the DC from AD using ADSIEDIT and attempt the Exchange repair again.  Exchange installed properly and activated all the required roles.  Or so I thought.  Although Exchange was installed all the Virtual sites were showing up in IIS 7 under the Default Web Site and not under SBS Web Applications.  To fix this I needed to setup a temporary SBS 2008 server in our lab and compare the configuration.  There were a lot of differences, almost too many to repair.  Then I discovered the following website:

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/941201

I replaced “Default Web Site” with “SBS Web Applications” and all the required settings were applied in IIS.  Other kb articles used to repair Exchange included:

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/970445/en-us
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/936907
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/954034
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/947168

Issue #2:  Windows Small Business Server Policies cannot be configured

What this actually meant was that the Group Policy objects were not created at all.  Since I had my vanilla server already I exported the missing policies using GPMC and then imported them into the new server.  I also used the migration table editor to change any references made to contoso.local (the name of my test domain).  Once the GP objects were created I compared the settings against my troubled server and made the appropriate links and wmi filters.

The remaining issues were minor and easily repaired using the Fix my network wizard.  While I do not recommend following these procedures without a deep understanding of ActiveDirectory and Group Policy it may help if you are trying to fix a botched or improper migration without first having a good backup.

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