Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Getting Started with BitLocker on the QuickStart Blog

This month, I was asked to write a guest post for the folks at QuickStart Intelligence training center. I was excited that they remembered me fondly from their Windows training event this past April and was happy to help them out.

If you are looking to use BitLocker with a USB flash drive as your key storage, head over to their blog and check out what I've shared in Getting Started with BitLocker.

Friday, September 24, 2010

TechNet Events Presents: Deploying Windows 7

This week's "TechNet Events Presents" event in downtown San Francisco was on deploying Windows 7.  I've attended sessions, blogged and presented on some of these topics in the past year and it's still a hot topic.  There is clearly still a need to talk about the benefits and challenges of moving to Windows 7 and the tools available to overcome those challenges.

With the job market and the economy in its current questionable state, many businesses are truly doing as much as they can with less.  Sometimes that means delaying projects - if Windows XP is still doing it's job, the deployment of Windows 7 might be waiting in the wings.

If you are just beginning to think about rolling out Windows 7 you'll want to know about some of the tools like ACT and MDT.  Also, don't forget about App-V, MED-V or XP Mode which may help you keep some legacy applications in play while taking advantage of the new features in Windows 7.

Here are some links to tools and resources you might like to check out:

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Springboard Series Tour takes on Europe!

Just wanted to share some information I regarding the Springboard Series Tour, scheduled to begin in late October in Europe.  If you happen to be in any of the cities listed below, don't miss out.

Microsoft Windows, Office and MDOP Deployment Workshops
  • Amsterdam - 25 Oct
  • Stockholm – 27 Oct
  • Helsinki – 29 Oct
  • Reading – 1 Nov
  • Rome – 3 Nov
  • Vienna – 4 Nov
The Microsoft Get On the Bus Tour is taking a winter hiatus to bring you a new tour – the Springboard Series Tour: Microsoft Windows, Office and MDOP Deployment Workshops!  Amsterdam marks our first stop on a 6-city European tour, en route to TechEd Europe, in Berlin, Germany. Are you looking to plan, pilot or deploy Windows and Office? Our workshops will cover the Office 2010, key deployment strategies for Windows 7, the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack, as well as show you the value of getting trained and certified in these key products. 

Learn why Windows 7 has received rave reviews from IT organizations and is setting records as the fastest selling operating system in history, and find out why so many IT Pros are ready to deploy Office 2010. Give us five hours, and you will have a clear understanding of the tools, tips and tricks you need now to jumpstart the successful deployment and management of your Windows desktop environment today. Come join members of the Windows and Office US Product Teams, as well as local Microsoft Technology Evangelists for technical training, professional networking, and real world guidance. Don’t miss your chance to attend a workshop in the 2010 Springboard Series Tour, register today at

Get your Tour updates first! Follow us on Twitter, @MSSpringboard

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Goodbye Live Communications Server 2005

If you happen to be a regular reader of, you probably know that while I'm a big user of Microsoft products, I'm still happy to remove a MS product when something from a 3rd party will meet my needs. 

In this case, it was Live Communications Server 2005 that took the hit.  We have very few users that regularly "instant message" within the office and with our recent Shoretel upgrade, the conference bridge included basic IM services that could be integrated within our VoIP desktop software.  This would reduce the need for us to manage another server VM and free up those resources for other purposes.

I was concerned that removing LCS would be a chore, but it turns out it was quite easy with less than a dozen steps.  Find them here in TechNet.  I also love the great post-removal report that was generated, as I was able to add that to my change control documentation.

While the upcoming version of Microsoft Unified Communications looks like it will have some great collaboration features, sometimes it's easier to just go with something you might already have handy through a third-party, especially if you don't need a lot of bells and whistles.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

BlackBerry BES Small Business Edition – Where to Go Next

We hadn’t planned for 16 users. Several years ago when given the task to provide BlackBerry and other mobile device support, it was only planned for executive and IT users.  I cycled through several products over the years, including ones that supported Palm devices, but spent the last couple years managing a single BlackBerry BES SBE server.  This version has a 15 user license limit, which was a non-issue up until recently. However, the broader adoption of mobile devices smart phones has lead to our office being more willing to supply those devices to other staffers and recently I’ve gotten the request that has put me over the mark for our existing server.

BlackBerry offers two options for those in my situation – A) Upgrade to the full BES edition (Enterprise) or B) Switch to BES Express.  (There is also a hosted service available, but I'm only considering in-house services at this time.) Some pros and cons are as follows:

  • PROS: Easier upgrade path from SBE, no need to wipe and reactivate devices. 
  • CONS: There is a cost of about $2600 depending on where you get your server license; only supports devices with enterprise data plans.

  • PROS: Free; supports up to 75 users when installed on the mail server, supports more users when installed on separate server; supports devices with enterprise or personal data plans.
  • CONS: No migration or upgrade path from SBE or PRO editions of BES, but can be run in conjunction with an existing server; devices will need to be wiped and reconfigured for the new server.
For my scenario, I can’t justify the additional expense of a server OS to run Express separately to support extra users, even if my goal is to eventually migrate my SBE users over time.  Keeping two Blackberry servers is simply overkill for 16 users.  Wiping devices is painful for end users and a headache I don’t plan to go looking for.

While there are upgrade costs associated with going to the Enterprise version, its a one time change that will likely be cheaper in the long run once the costs of my time and the extra management that comes with an additional server is taken into consideration.  Guess it's time for me to place that software order...

Thursday, September 9, 2010

ImageRight 5.2 Growing Pains – 2 Bugs, Almost 2 Fixes

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, the recent upgrade to ImageRight 5.2 was highly successful, though we did find several bugs and oddities.  Most have been resolved with calls to ImageRight support and some, while interesting, just aren’t critical.  But I’ve got two tickets open that have been escalated to official defects and are worth noting.

Bug 1: Annotation Wrapping and Resize I’ve mentioned the annotation wrapping issue before and this stems from the new 5.x feature where you can control the ability to wrap and resize annotations on a per-annotation basis.  This is no doubt a great feature that adds a lot of flexibility to annotations and stamps.

In our 4.x environment, we have several long annotations that were resized and wrapped to fit specific areas of a page.  In 5.2 version, those 4.x “legacy” annotations are no longer wrapped, often spanning off the printable page area.  This stems from the fact that the older stamps do not have the “wrap” and “resize” flags activated, something that is controllable whenever you created an annotation in 5.2.  Upgrading from 4.x to 5.2 should have automatically defaulted the existing annotations to have those flags, as that is the native behavior of annotations in the older versions.

This will be corrected in the next revision of 5.3, but a hotfix is also expect to be available soon.  It's important to note that if a page has an affected annotation and a "new" 5.2 annotation is added to that page, all legacy annotations will be "frozen" and not corrected when the fix is applied.

Bug 2: The Red X – Desktop Can’t Display a Page Image When you see this red X in the viewing window instead of the page you selected from your file, you know you have a problem.  The big error message thrown by ImageRight Desktop that can close the application also makes it clear something is amiss.
Turns out some documents can have a DPI issue related to when annotations are placed on a page.  As I understand it, some third party import processes can put in images at a different DPI than expected and when annotations are added it makes the 5.2 software unable to load them in the viewer.  We’ve had some odd DPI issues in the past that were caused by our small Canon desktop scanners and I suspect these are the same images that are unable to be loaded by the viewer now.  We've been able to recreate the issue using the desktop scanners, so this issue is not only a legacy problem, but an ongoing one.

It’s possible to export the page to PDF and view it that way, so there is a temporary work around for viewing the page, but the user can’t annotate the file without printing that PDF copy back in.  This may be acceptable in some cases, but the document would then have a disconnect with the annotation history that might not be acceptable.

The fix for this issue is expected in version, but a hotfix is also planned for release.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Round Up: September Events and Windows Resources

As the summer draws to a close, here are a few thing that have caught my eye.  Check them out and see for yourself.

First up, a comprehensive article on by Greg Shields on "Avoiding Active Directory Disasters", particularly with Windows 2000 and 2003 versions of AD.  It might just be time to do a little end of summer health check for an important component of your network.

PacITPros will be holding their monthly meeting tonight starting at 6pm.  It's not to late to RSVP and get in on the action.  Compellent will be presenting on their data storage solutions and there will also be a presentation on the latest and greatest with Microsoft's OCS.

On 9/30, don't miss out on the Springboard Series Virtual Roundtable on migrating from IE6 to IE8 on Windows 7, starting at 9am.  This virtual, interactive discussion will cover migration strategies, standards, and support for organizations moving from Internet Explorer 6 to Internet Explorer 8.

Finally, check in with the folks at TechNet on 9/22 when they host an in-person event on Deploying Windows 7 at the Microsoft downtown office in San Francisco.  Learn more or register at TechNet Events Presents: Deploying Windows 7. This event will also be held in Irvine, CA on 9/20 and in Los Angeles on 9/21.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Network Clean Up: Don’t Forget About Your LAN

“The network is slow.” 

Probably the worst complaint a Systems Administration team at any small to mid-sized office can get.  The end users often can’t pinpoint what “slow” is or when it happens, it’s seemingly random, or they report it after the fact when there is nothing to actively troubleshoot.

I am not a networking “guru” by stretch of the imagination. Like many small offices, our NetOps team consists of several people who may have some areas they enjoy or “specialize” in, but are mostly jack-of-all trades, ready to jump in and sort things out whenever things need attention.  I enjoy the variety, but sometimes the ongoing project list leaves you in a situation where certain areas of your “kingdom” are left until they cry out in pain.

The LAN in my office was one of those lost souls.  Sure, I’ve got my Network+ training, I used to have a valid CCNA certification, I know the difference between a hub and a switch and I can find enough of the settings in my HP and Cisco switches to assign IP addresses for management access and use some basic features.  And then my skill set drops off there – because small networks are often “set it and forget it”.   

We think about collecting SNMP logs and monitoring traffic and all that cool stuff and then reality sets in: I wish I had the time to spend installing and learning enough about those tools so they can be really useful when someone comes knocking with a “slowness” complaint.  But I don’t.  So finally I brought in someone who actually looks at networks every day. Someone who knows the settings on network gear and can look at how they work together.  Yes, I can pull out some crossover cables and make packets move from point A to point B, but I wanted some advice from someone who really understood how it all worked.

It was eye-opening.  My switches that linked the users workstations to our servers were all connected, but they were naturally oversubscribed without taking advantage of trunking any of the ports together to pass traffic to core switch over larger pipe. Spanning tree was configured incorrectly and not at turned on all on some switches.

The end result was that while my Layer 3 setup looked fine to me, the Layer 2 traffic was actually taking an extra hop through a switch that was accidentally acting as the spanning tree root, adding unnecessary delay.  After correcting that issue and ordering up some gig modules to add trunking up to our core switch, upload/download speeds of files to servers appears to be coming close the maximum available from the desktops.

Next up - increasing the speed of our internet connect by switching from frame relay to fiber from our ISP and subscribing to a bigger pipe on that end.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Recap of the ImageRight Connection Tour in Las Vegas

I had a great time catching up with some of the ImageRight staff and some other ImageRight administrators in Las Vegas last week.  While nothing beats the bigger ImageRight conference that happens every odd year, this was a nice chance to chat about a product with others who enjoy some of the same benefits and experience some of the same pains as I do.

Below are some features and changes you can look forward to in v5. While I don’t do the workflow design and administration for our system, I’m happy to bring back some new workflow features to share.
  • Deadlines can be added to manual steps to help prevent tasks from stagnating in task lists if someone is out of the office.
  • “Split and Rendezvous” allows a single task the capability to break into sub-tasks that then don’t move forward until they all come together as completed.
  • "Authorized user checking" can help prevent tasks from being assigned to a user who can’t view a document.
Another great session was the “Tips and Tricks” for what’s new the “New Architecture” (versions 4.x and 5.x).
  • Attributes can be added at the document level, as well as at all other levels.  These attributes can also be used for reporting purposes.
  • The “thumbnail workpad” was replaced by a combination of the ability to launch additional viewers in new windows and to collect and reorder pages from multiple documents using the “send to” feature.
  • Redaction adds the ability to blackout information in a file that applies to all view of the document, even printing or copying without annotations, based on user rights.
  • Electronic signatures can be used to digitally sign versions of documents.
  • The new Outlook interface and the web desktop will bring new ways of easily accessing ImageRight without needing the full desktop program available.
Hopefully we’ll be able to make use of some of these new features in the coming months to help our office make ImageRight an even more useful part of our company’s day to day operations.