Professional Geek
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  • Christmas Cheer!

    This will probably be my last post for a while as i’m planning on enjoying my break!

    Found a game this morning called Qwerty Warriors (i think)

     The idea of the game is to shoot the oncoming enemy by typing a word that appears under their name

    Wish i had this when i was first learning to use a keyboard!

    Joking aside it’s a great learning tool as you have to look at the screen to make sure you can read what to type and you have to be accurate or you get shot!

    I gave it a go on the easy level and finished with the following

    Score: 59560

    Correct Words: 333

    Incorrect Words: 9

    Accuracy: 97%

    Total with Accuracy bonus: 60470

    Not too bad i think. I did find that as i started to get a couple wrong and was getting shot i got into a bit of a panic and my accuracy got worse!

    Good fun though!

  • Putting the cat amongst the pigeons

    I wasn’t going to comment on this but i’ve changed my mind

    Susanne blogged a while back asking about Microsoft’s strategy for Office & Vista in the small business marketplace and why they should make the move.(This was also followed up by a post by Vijay)

    At the time i agreed with many of her points so i started a post of my own but struggled to add anything extra to what she had already said so it stayed in my drafts.

    I’ve just been going through my backlog after my holiday and noticed a few posts in reply to Susanne

    The one i was most interested in was David Overton’s response.

    Couple of things of interested to me:

    [Susanne] The gadget toolbar that shows me the time (I can do that already thanks), RSS feeds (that’s what Outlook 2007 or IE7 or even Firefox** is for), and other applications that most Small Business Specialists would ban because they could potentially encourage time wasting – 2.5hrs a day is spent searching for information (I told you I listen Microsoft!) so why swap one problem for another?

    [David] The gadget tool bar might look like a “toy holder”, but we are beginning to see people building gadgets that return business value.  CRM can put out an RSS feed, having the top 5 issues appear there, or the latest actions to worry about has some value.  People spend serious time and money chasing information that if presented in a glancable way on the gadget bar would show business value in terms of productivity.  People also need to feel that their computer is personalisable to be useful to them.  Want to know the cricket scores – you can either have a gadget, repeatedly open a web browser to see, or make your staff unhappy by banning the cricket results from the business.  There will be more of these coming along, but Key Performance Indicator gadgets will be a boon, and worst case, you can have one written – isn’t that the value proposition for Open Source?? 🙂

    [Me] Nice reply. I complety agree with him on this. We all push SharePoint to businesses so that they can get quick access to important business data. Moving some of this to the desktop would be really useful. At the moment all the gadgets that are available to seem like “toys” but as Vista gets deployed i think lots of partners will get creative and develop gadgets that have lots of business use

    ———————————————————————————————————————–

    [Susanne] BitLocker – great! but oh wait… Enterprise version only

    [David] This is one of the features that some customers are willing to spend money on (or even already do on 3rd party solutions).  How can you get it for your customers – Open Value licensing, including my favourite of Open Value Subscription, which has a lower cost of acquisition due to the fact that you don’t own the software, but means it is quicker to obtain and some customers would much rather rent software – which means you then have an ongoing relationship over the years as to how you enable them to get the most from the latest software, which is part of the rental agreement (as is training, home usage right, staff purchase etc etc)

    [Me] Sorry i’m with Susanne on this one. Why should we have to get Enterprise edition just for this? I have lots of customers that runs SBS. Have between 10-25 PCs and a couple of laptops for sales and management staff to take off site. Bitlocker would be great here for if (when!) laptops get stolen/lost. This is one of those features that small businesses really could do with and dont want it to be complicated and dont want to spend a lot of money on (thats small business for you!). This generally rules out most third party offerings. Licensing for a couple of laptops seems a step too far

    ———————————————————————————————————————– 

    [Susanne]

    OneNote 2007 – great! but oh wait… Student and Teacher versions only (I’m seeing a trend here)

    Exchange 2007 is great but the voice messages via email is already available as an add-on

    Can the American Exchange Lady have a domestic accent instead please? You may tut at this but as a telephone specialist we always get asked to change the American voice to English.

    As much as Exchange has a ‘wow’ factor – I think small business clients CAN afford not to talk to their server

    [David] I will agree with the comments about Exchange – it is not a great fit in the SBS small business world due to it’s x64 server requirement, which is not something that SBS 2003 can do, so a 2nd server is required.  Having said that, for those where unified communication (or the lack of) is a problem then this is something to consider for them!!

    [Me] Ok you have agreed about Exchange. But you completely missed out her question about OneNote. Tons of people in business use OneNote as it’s so damn useful and i know from reading Susanne’s blog there is a reason she asked that question ahead of the Exchange question! She also brings it up again a bit later but it never gets mentioned. So is the solution here we should all be buying Enterprise and Ultimate edition? I dont think so..

    I have a similar bug bear with InfoPath to be honest. Even in the Office 2003 unless you buy Office 2003 Pro/Enterprise InfoPath never gets seen in the small business environment as it’s too expensive as a stand alone product. When we sell SBS2003 and show customers SharePoint and how well InfoPath works with it our customers are really interested. But they only want Office Small Business Edition so InfoPath never happens. Terrible shame in my opinion

    That’ll do! Any more comments and this post will take longer to read than the SharePoint resource kit

    Dont get me wrong. I really like Vista and Office and i’m looking forward to using them more fully in the new year. The way i see it working with our customers is that they wont be making the upgrade until they need to. Vista wont appear until new or replacement PCs are installed and apart from a few exceptions Office 2007 will be pretty much the same. However, as most office politics determine once one user has it everyone wants it!

    I’m glad that David went to the effort of replying in the first place because it means that Microsoft do listen!

  • Post Christmas Presents!

    My RSS reader is on it’s last legs.

    I use RSS Bandit and have been quite impressed by it since i started using it

    I do have a big problem with it at the moment. Posts have started appearing in other feeds

    A few days ago i clicked on Amanda Murphy’s Xbox & SharePoint blog only be treated to someone’s comments on the previous weekends games in the Premiership! A futher scout around has found other instances of this.

    Normally i’d either try and figure out what the problem is, start again from scratch or find another application to use but since i’m planning http://hesca.net/provigil/ on giving the RSS features in Outlook 2007 a go i thought i’d wait until we got our copy of it here.

    So imagine how pleased i was to learn the January action pack will have a copy!

    I found this out reading Steve Clayton’s blog and says the action pack is out on January 11th and will contain the following

  • Windows Vista Business
  • Microsoft Office Enterprise 2007
  • Microsoft Office Project Professional 2007
  • Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 with Business Contact Manager
  • Microsoft Office Visio 2007
  • Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007
  • Microsoft Office SharePoint Designer 2007
  • Microsoft Expression Web Designer
  • YAY!

  • Homebrew Games

    Something i’ve been watching with interest is Microsoft XNA

    I’m (just!) old enough to remember when games didn’t have huge budgets, teams of developers, HD graphics and orchestra like soundtracks and that anyone could write one in their own bedroom. When i first started to learn BASIC all i wanted to do was write games and was delighted when i finally managed to create a character that was really just a couple of coloured pixels that i could move on screen with my arrow keys. I don’t remember being that thrilled when I first created an ADO database connection (ok maybe it was different kind of thrilled <blush>)

    Surely all young geeks think this way?

    Who grows up dreaming of developing the best productivity suite the world has seen?

    So when i heard Microsoft were trying to spark a revival i was quite interested to see how it would pan out. I was never going to take the plunge though as my actual attempts at game creation usually stop when i realise i don’t have any original ideas!

    So i’m a little curious that you can download the tools for free but if you want to even play any of these games you need to be a subscriber to the XNA Creators Club. So if you create the next first person shooter that will rival Halo 3 you can’t actually show it off to the world? Instead you can only show them to other developers?

    Have i got the wrong end of the stick?

    Surely the whole point in creating games is so people can play them?

    I sort of understand charging developers and giving them access to resources that will help them develop new games

    I have lots of friends who have games consoles but no interest in programming and development. They have already paid for their console, their Live membership and tons of games. They even pay for the “classics” from Xbox Live Arcade so why are they going to pay a subscription on the off chance someone might create a classic?

    Can someone please explain to me how Microsoft expect this will work?

  • SMTP Relaying

    Uh oh, two rants in a row!

    We have a customer that uses a database application. Part of this application allows you to bulk e-mail people on the database (lets call them clients!)

    The software gives you two options

    1) Let Outlook do the heavy lifting

    2) Specify an SMTP server and the software will send the emails via that

    We can’t use the Outlook method as a security message is displayed for every email sent. If this were for 5000 clients that’s a lot of dialog boxes! 

    Now the software doesn’t authenticate with the SMTP server so as far as it’s concerned your trying to relay.

    We got the software working by allowing the IP address of the computer to relay on the SMTP server.

    I wasn’t too pleased about this setup for a couple of reasons

    Firstly while we’re only allowing one IP address to relay at the moment our customer would like any of the users to be able to use the functionality.

    Second, I don’t want any unauthenticated users to be able to relay. What if that particular computer becomes infected with some nasty software. It wouldn’t take much to scan the local subnet for an SMTP server and it would be SPAM for everyone!

    However, we have lots of different types of protection in place. Anti-virus on the desktop. Anti-virus at the mail server. Mail is filtered by a third party before it comes into the network and their IP address is the ONLY inbound SMTP traffic allowed. This means that the odds of the nasty scenario actually occurring are quite small.

    But it still could happen! The odds of it increase if we allow all users to relay so I told our customer I wouldn’t recommend this configuration.

    At the moment the software vendor have no plans to change their software.

    There is a user group for the software so our customer sent an email around to see how everyone else was using it.

    We had about 15-20 replies and only one of them agreed that there was a problem here.

    I believe that security starts from the INSIDE. Just because the SMTP server can’t be a relay from the Internet doesn’t make it any less of a threat.

    So am I in the wrong? I am really worrying over nothing or are all those other users exposing themselves? (so to speak!) Should the vendor be doing more with their software?

    Any comments would be greatly received

  • Good for business?

    Over the last few weeks i’d been to meetings with a company that i had dealings with at my previous company. Recently they have been increasingly frustrated and unhappy with the service they have been receiving and since i know some of the staff there personally they got in touch with me and asked if we would be interested in taking over the contract

    So earlier this week i went to check out the current state of the network so that we dont get any nasty surprises when the paperwork gets signed.

    Now normally when i do these sorts of visits there are one or two things i spot that makes me think “why are they doing that?” but i guess certain configuration and management techniques are a matter of opinion right?

    Anyway i was having a quick look around the newest PC and was a little disturbed at what i saw.

    First lets get establish a couple of things:

    1) The client in question uses McAffee Virusscan 7.1 on the desktop

    2) They employ “a.n other” company as their managed IT support company (lets call them ANO* from now on)

    I was just checking to see if the anti-virus definitions were all up to date but couldn’t find the “blue shield” you expect to find for McAffee. All i could find was the familiar yellow of the Symantec anti-virus offering. Turns out when installing the pc ANO* just hadn’t bothered to install the anti-virus software the client uses. The symantec anti-virus was a 30 day trial version shipped with the new pc which actually runs out next week

    Am i wrong for being really pissed at this?

    ANO* are effectively their IT department so why have they installed a PC and just not bothered with the anti-virus? I can’t think of a valid reason for not doing it.

    When we sell a PC we charge for the installation as i’m sure the other company. Installation means making sure it’s in full working order, placed on the domain, applications that are needed are installed and configured, printers installed, windows updates applied, etc etc.

    If they are missing something so basic what else is wrong?

    Quite a bit apparently.

    The PC had it’s default out of the name box. You know those random letters and numbers that all OEM Windows end up with? Looks like this: XXX-cc4ab20404

    Since this is an SBS (2000) network i’m betting it wasn’t joined to the domain using the setup wizards either. I know this isnt’ a major thing but it doesn’t look too professional

    Highlights of some other things i found included:

    None of the PCs or the server had up-to-date anti-virus definitions. Last update was sometime in September

    The only laptop (taken on the road by sales staff) in the company had NO anti-virus software installed.

    Two XP Pro machines didn’t have SP2 loaded

    All PC’s in various states of Windows Updates. None of them were totally up-to-date

    POP3 logged had been turned up to high so the event log was useless as every 15 minutes when the mail was collected it just filled the log

    The RAID utility on the server had no e-mail alerting configured. How would anyone know if a drive fails?

    Now maybe some of things are only minor in other peoples opinions? I think the anti-virus situation is far from minor but again my own opinion

    It’s also my opinion that if this site was a department in a large organisation the person responsible for the IT would have been fired!

    What annoys me is that they pay ANO* a lot of money each year to be their IT department. They had no idea about the issues until they were pointed out.

    Now its good for my business if other companies aren’t doing their jobs properly as more work may be available but bad for everyone elses if they are wide open to a virus attack!

    The sad thing is that companies dont always know if their suppliers are letting them down

    * ANO is just a fictitious name standing for A.N Other

  • Guess Whose Back?

    —26/01/07 Correction to the post. It should read TICK the box instead of Clear— 

    Back in the office today after a week on holiday. Work was so mad up until i left i didn’t get a chance to post much

    I did mention in my last post that i had a problem getting WSUS clients to update.

    I finally figured it out!

    I had another look through the event log and found the following:

    Event ID: 364     Source: Windows Server Update     Category: Synchronization

    Content file download failed. Reason: The server does not support the necessary HTTP protocol. Background Intelligent Transfer Service (BITS) requires that the server support the Range protocol header.Source File: /msdownload/update/v5/eula/officexpeula_fin.txt Destination File: e:\WSUS\WsusContent\115D075903CAA57C6F0A64061A2C596B8C601C311.txt.

    The sync hadn’t downloaded the files for the updates. The reason i didn’t spot it before was my lack of understanding about WSUS. Since i could see all the updates in the console i initially dismissed this error. Turns out it downloads the details first (the definitions if you will) and then the actual files later.

    After a little research it was the Sonicwall firewall that was giving me the problem.

    To fix it i did the following

    Login to the Sonicwall management webpage

    Alter the URL so that you can get at the internal settings..e.g   http://192.168.0.1/diag.html

    Find the “Enable HTTP Byte-Range request with Gateway AV” option and TICK the box (i initially was a little sceptical about this as we dont use the Gateway AV feature)

    Click APPLY (I didn’t reboot the firewall but it might be a good idea to.)

    After this the sync started working fine and the clients started installing updates as they were supposed to

    I was annoyed that i had spent so much time trying to figure this one out but i was pleased that i managed to learn just about everything i’ll ever need to know about WSUS (until version 3!)

    There is also a Microsoft Knowledgebase article on this. KB922330