Saturday, March 27, 2010

Back to Basics: RTFM

Purchased a new brand of print server this week. As usual, every product has it's quirks. In this case, I needed to know the port name used for LPR/LPD printing on this device.

The print server came with a tiny (literally physically tiny, like you get with kids toys) set of instructions that worked great only for the basic windows printing scenario. Unfortunately, I was in the ancient NetWare printing zone (NetWare 5.1, shiver...).

So, the basic manual did not provide enough info. Step 2....Vendor web site.

Nope, same tiny manual as came with the box.

Step 3....Google.

Unfortunately the product is sold by so many places that all I got was sale listings.

I was about to give up when it occurred to me that perhaps there was some thing on the CD that came with the product. Turns out there is a one hundred and some page manual that covers just about everything conceivable, but only on the CD.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Free Tool for Remote Control of Customer Desktops

I always want to be able to remotely control client computers quickly when needed. There are a number of solutions out there but most cost a fairly significant chunk of $ for something I only need a few times per month.

Well, I finally found a freebie. Mikogo is free presentation/remote control software. It appears to be originally designed for more collaboration, but works well for servicing clients remotely.

The application does not require an install. They visit a web site, put in a sessionID, and then download and run an executable. A person with standard user rights can do it.

Obviously this won't help in advanced scenarios when you need to reboot and retain control or go into safe mode. However, if all you need to do is a bit of configuration or show/see steps on the remote computer, it works great.

Check it out at

Your List of Passwords

Everyone has a list of passwords somewhere. The question is, how do you store and where?

I'm asking myself this question because a client recently had a breakin where a server storing backups was stolen. The server happened to contain a file that had a list of passwords. Lots of passwords. This particular organization was storing not just a few admin passwords for devices and such, but also the passwords for all users.

First, I'd argue that there is no need to store user passwords. If I need to log on as user, I can reset the password and then inform the user. Unfortunately in this scenario, we needed disable remote access, force password resets, and then enable remote access again only after passwords were changed. A hassle for everyone.

Now, for the ones you need to document, what do you do? Storing them on a server protected by file permissions is apparently not enough, because if anyone steals the server, getting around file permissions is trivial.

At this point, I'm thinking that encryption is the obvious solution. AxCrypt is a nice free solution for encrypting files as an EXE. It would be a bit of pain but it's certainly a step up from just putting a password on a Word doc.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Blackberry Server on the Exchange server

I've been a little slow to see this one, but Blackberry has released a new product this month called Blackberry Enterprise Server Express. This replaces Blackberry professional which was originally designed for smaller offices, but had not been updated to run on 64-bit operating systems.

The biggest changes:
  • total freebie, no licensing
  • runs right on the Exchange server or SBS server
  • runs on 64-bit and supports up to Windows Server 2008

From my perspective this means we can start installing BES right on the SBS box and save our clients a Windows Server license fee and hardware costs. In some cases, it will mean we can retire an old box that was being used just for BES.

While I think of this from the perspective of our smaller clients. It is scalable up to 2000 users on a dedicated box. There are a number of policies and add-ons that don't work with BES Express, but if all you need is the basic e-mail, calendar stuff. This one is a winner and helps compete with ActiveSync on the iPhone which is effectively free.

Learn more at:

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Resolve Random Problems with Update Installation

I've been seeing a number of Win2008 servers with issues installing updates for no good reason. Turns out it's an internal Windows thing that is getting corrupted. Microsoft has released a tool to resolve a number of potential issues as described in KB947821 (

The error I was trying to resolve was was 0x80070490 when installing update KB967723 via Windows Update. However, it did not successfully install for me afterwards and the logs indicated that no errors were found or fixed.

I was able to manually download the file and install it. So, it seems to be a specific issue with Windows Update.

A repair install is the next step, but I don't think I'll go there yet. As only one update would not apply. If it becomes an issue for all updates then I'll do the repair.