Sunday, December 28, 2008

Microsoft Offers Free Consumer Antivirus Software

A few weeks ago, Microsoft announced that it will discontinue its Live OneCare security product line in June 2009 and release a free consumer antivirus solution in its place.

We're surprised by this move, especially since a server version of Live OneCare was included in the recently released Small Business Server 2008 line. Besides a quick look over during testing, we never deployed the server product.

We did use the consumer version for several months. As far as consumer products go, Live OneCare was OK. It included a few utilities to check and back up disks which in turn led Symantec to develop its Norton 360 product.

MS must have a good reason for this. Time will tell.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

December '08 MS08-078 Critical Update

In late October, Microsoft announced a critical issue that required an immediate update. Click here for more info.

On Wednesday, Microsoft announced a another vulnerability that allows a malicious user to remotely control your PC without your knowledge, however this time it affects Internet Explorer.

If you haven't already, install the update ASAP on all PCs and servers.

The update may be downloaded from Windows/Microsoft Update or from here: http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/bulletin/MS08-078.mspx

Saturday, December 13, 2008

SonicWall Licensing Issue

Our colleagues at SonicWall had a hiccup of sorts with one of their licensing servers this week. It erroneously suspended subscription services including gateway anti-virus/antispyware and web content filtering.

While most units were unaffected, the unit in our office was.

We received at least four communications on the topic asking us to check the devices we manage to ensure everything was OK. They also released an online tool to alert you of any units affected by the issue.

It's nice to see SonicWall be so open and proactive about this issue.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Second Beta of Service Pack 2 for Windows Server 2008 and Vista is Released

This week, Microsoft released beta 2 of its Service Pack 2 for Windows Server 2008 and Vista operating systems. If you're so inclined, you can download the 32-bit version or the 64-bit version to test on your systems. YMMV, of course, as these are intended for testing only and not for production systems. So go ahead and check 'em out in your sandbox.

According to Microsoft, the Service Pack is intended to improve performance and stability, increase hardware support and make it easier to manage both products in large deployments.

It's interesting to note that both Windows Server 2008 and Vista are now based on the same code, so they get the same service packs.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Microsoft Distributes Home Server to Partners

This month, Microsoft made its Home Server product available to its partners. After a very rough start with a nasty data corruption bug, Microsoft released a major update (referred to as a "power pack") during the summer.

This month, Microsoft released another batch of updates addressing more bugs and anomalies.

Although the product is aimed squarely at families, Microsoft is now gently suggesting that its partners offer it to home and very small offices.

We going to err on the side of caution with this product. While it has great possibilities and tools to make computing easier and simpler for micro-offices, this is the second batch of fixes that address file system and data related problems. Will this round fix all of the important issues?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Looking Out For You Instead Of Your Client

Good grief. I can’t tell you how many sites we see where the prior IT tech has taken the path of least resistance. That’s where they’ve avoided confrontation or more work.

It’s self-centered and safe.

Instead of explaining that going cheap is not smart and dealing with a little push back, they’d rather get the job and pocket the cash without considering how it affects the business.

What’s also safe is pushing corporate solutions on SMBs. Why do a little homework and learn about more appropriate solutions? Because it’s easier to just go with the ones they worked with in their large corporation days.

The result is the client is unhappy, gets a lousy solution and now has a bad opinion of IT service providers. And that’s just a minor example of what we see. I won’t get into pirated software that’s sold as genuine, highly over spec’ed solutions, intentionally crippled installations that can only be worked on by the same tech, etc, etc.

There ought to be a law. And a real certification or licensing process like most professionals have. I’ll step off my soapbox now.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

AVG Antivirus Update Paralyzes PCs

For those using AVG antivirus software localized for certain European languages, you probably had some extra work this week.

A signature update on Saturday, November 8th mistakenly identified the Windows system file "user32.dll" as a trojan horse program. The AVG software quarantined the file and then deleted it. If you restarted your PC, it would display a blue screen error message indicating that Winsvr could not be found.

AVG quickly corrected the signature file and distributed it to all users.

This is not the first time AVG has had this type of problem. Let's hope they review their updates more carefully going forward. Or you could always choose not to use AVG.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Should You Care About EBS?

Microsoft MVP Jeff Kane discussed the new Windows Essential Business Server (EBS) product line on Thursday, November 6 in San Marcos. Targeted at 50 to 250 users, the product is typically beyond the needs of most customers in the small business arena, however Jeff made the case of why it’s relevant to SMB consultants.

Although the product was thoroughly covered at the SMB Summit conference in April, it was fascinating to hear Jeff’s unbiased assessment of the product. Thanks, Jeff!

Have a look here for a “click-through” demo of EBS.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

SharePoint RSS Web Part

I heard this great idea from Jim Locke. He uses a RSS Feed web part in his SharePoint installs as a way to quickly distribute announcements and other information to his clients.

While I haven't tried this one out yet, there are a few RSS web parts suggested by Microsoft to try.

Off to the sandbox to test this one out!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Windows Server Service Vulnerability

Microsoft has notified all of its partners about a critical vulnerability in the Windows Server Service. Rather than wait for the usual update cycle, Microsoft published this fix immediately as even a fully patched machine can be compromised without any user action.

MS TechNet has posted an article explaining the issue from a technical standpoint. Click here for more info.

So, patch your all servers and workstations today.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Trend Micro hosts SMBTN members in Lake Forest, CA

On Saturday, Bill Kam, Nicole Sharratt and their colleagues with Trend Micro hosted an all day workshop session for SMBTN members at the Lake Forest facility. The event covered the technical aspects of their SMB product line :

  • Worry Free Business Security 5.0 and the upcoming 5.1 (includes support for Small Business Server 2008 and the soon to be released Essential Business Server 2008
  • Interscan Hosted Messaging Security 1.9
  • Worry Free Business Security Hosted 1.0
  • Worry Free Remote Manager 1.7
  • Worry Free Secure Site 1.0
  • Message Archiver 1.1

A big thanks to Bill, Nicole and everyone involved. It was very informative and helpful!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Acronis True Image Echo Server update released last week

A new maintenance release, version 8163, addresses the in place upgrade problem we experienced earlier this year. There are numerous other bugfixes and a handful of enhancements as well.

StorageCraft ShadowProtect 3.3 released yesterday

StorageCraft updated ShadowProtect yesterday with version 3.3. The update corrected some issues and added these enhancements:

• Shrink volume (for restoring to smaller volumes)
• Support for additional languages (Supported languages are English,French,German and Japanese)
• ShadowProtect’s recommended recovery environment is now based on Vista SP1

I wish Acronis would let its partners know when minor software updates are released.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Windows 2008 Backup now image based

Similar to Acronis and StorageCraft products, Microsoft has dumped the old file by file backup strategy used since Windows NT and has replaced it with an image backup.

More interesting, however is Small Business Server 2008 does not support tape drives. According to several Microsoft employees assigned to the SBS project, tape is too slow, too fragile, unreliable and inconvenient for the large files generated by the new backup software.

I've heard grumbling about the lack of tape support. Since external disks are so inexpensive, what's the problem?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

SBS 2008 requires 64-bit hardware

It won't be possible to upgrade a Small Business Server 2003 installation to one of the new 2008 editions. You'll have to perform a migration to 64-bit hardware.

Why?

It's all because of the Exchange 2007 component included with SBS 2008. Since it's 64-bit only, the Windows 2008 version must be 64-bit as well. And because of that, you won't be able to insert the install DVD and have it upgrade the existing 32-bit OS. (Even if it worked, you really wouldn't want to do that on a server anyway.)

More on migrations and SBS 2008 to come.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Certificate issue/domain name ownership

This week we were working on what we thought was a web site certificate issue when it dawned on us - someone altered the DNS records for the domain without our knowledge.

How did this happen? Because the company's domain name is not registered to the business. It's registered to a third party. And we see this more often than not.

Since the third party owned the domain name, important entries were removed without any notification. You'd think they'd check with the user first to understand why the entries were there.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Updates for the iPhone 3G and iTunes 8

This week saw two updates from Apple; update 2.1 for the iPhone was released and a fix for iTunes 8 came out.

The iPhone update fixes phone reception issues, backup speed and improves battery life. You must have iTunes 8 installed in order to get the update.

And that's where the problem comes in. iTunes 8 installed a buggy USB driver that caused blue screen errors on PCs. From what I've heard, the problem cannot be resolved just by installing the new version over the old. The existing version must be uninstalled before the new, updated version is installed.

Sounds a bit laborious, however I'm certain many believe it's worth the trouble. Anyone for a cup of calming, relaxing iTunes Tea? (grin)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Missing IE7 Start Menu icon

After installing Internet Explorer 7, its Start Menu icon in Windows XP changed to a generic program icon. Did some quick research and found the answer here.

Go to HLM\SOFTWARE\Clients\StartMenuInternet\IEXPLORE.EXE\DefaultIcon

The value is probably this:
C:\Program Files\Internet Explorer\iexplore.exe,-7.

Change it to this:
C:\Program Files\Internet Explorer\iexplore.exe,-32528

Restart the PC. As with all registry edits, back up first and YMMV.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

iPhone sync issue

A good friend and colleague discovered this issue. An iPhone configured to sync with a Microsoft Exchange server would not permit any edits to calendar items. All other Exchange data could be edited without problems.

A recently released and very large firmware update was installed in an attempt to resolve the issue, however this did not help.

Oddly enough, the problem was caused by capitalizing the name of the server in the dialog box that configures the iPhone's connection to the server. Once the server name was corrected, all was OK.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

SBS 2008 is RTMed

Microsoft's Small Business Server 2008 was released to manufacturing on Thursday, August 21, 2008.

We've attended seminars from Microsoft, listened to colleagues who've deployed beta versions of the product in their client's businesses and had hands on experience with the early bits.

So, it's time to put aside the betas and start working with the real thing.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Baseless Windows bashing

I strongly believe criticism should be constructive and positive. Lately, Apple and its supporters have been bashing Microsoft using misinformation.

Take a look at this post from Jeff Jones' blog over at TechNet. He ran into an Apple evangelist at the recent Black Hat conference who quoted a percentage of Windows systems with security issues, yet could not state the source.

Why not remain silent if you can't substantiate your comments? (sigh)

More on this to come.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Serious DNS issue resolved

A threat to DNS was mitigated over the past week. The issue, left unresolved, would have made it possible to have legitimate websites impersonated. The fallout from this would have been catastrophic. Software companies around the world carefully patched their systems before releasing any information about the threat.

If your systems are not updated automatically (i.e., servers), patch them now!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Windows Backup and VSS - part 3

The saga continues...

Per the folks at Microsoft PSS, there's a rollup package for VSS at http://support.microsoft.com/kb/940349. This is a hotfix, so note that regression testing is not complete and you should proceed with caution. You'll need to reboot after installing this package.

After the reboot, you'll need to re-register VSS's corresponding DLLs. Enter each line in a command window and press enter after each.

cd /d %windir%\system32
net stop vss
net stop swprv
regsvr32 ole32.dll
regsvr32 oleaut32.dll
regsvr32 vss_ps.dll
vssvc /register
regsvr32 /i swprv.dll
regsvr32 /i eventcls.dll
regsvr32 es.dll
regsvr32 stdprov.dll
regsvr32 vssui.dll
regsvr32 msxml.dll
regsvr32 msxml3.dll
regsvr32 msxml4.dll

(the last entry may not run successfully)

Reboot the server again.

This procedure may not be applicable to your situation, so back up your system before proceeding.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Customize Trend server notifications

Our friend Bill Kam at Trend Micro showed us this a while back. If you want to show the server name in the subject of the notification email you receive from Trend Worry Free Security, edit the dashboard.ini file. You can find the file in this folder:

\Program Files\Trend Micro\OfficeScan\PCCSRV\Private

Add the server name anywhere after the "=" sign.

For example:

[NOTIFICATION]
LicenceExpire=1
LicenceExpire_Subject=Attainity [Trend Micro Security Server]License expiration
LicenceExpire_Message=Your license will expire within %CT days or may already be expired. Contact your Trend Micro reseller to purchase a new Activation Code and reactivate your license. Refer to the Live Status screen on your Security Server for further instructions.

Etc., etc.

If you wish, you can customize these messages to whatever you choose. Just do your editing after the "=" sign.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Windows Backup and VSS - part 2

We weren't quite done with the VSS issues.

In this bulletin, MS tells us the Exchange VSS writer is turned off by default in Small Business Server installations. This is to permit the backup wizard to properly backup Exchange and the system state in the same job.

However, when using a third party backup solution, Exchange VSS support may be needed. Please note, MS cautions you twice in their bulletin about using the SBS Backup Wizard to backup Exchange and system state with Exchange VSS turned on.

So, if you really want to use SBS' Backup and a third party backup solution on the same box, turn on the Exchange VSS writer and make sure you don't run SBS Backup to backup the system state and Exchange in the same job.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Tests show certain online backup services vulnerable

The UK website Heise Online reported some online backup services failed a "man-in-the-middle" attack. Only Mozy was able to detect something was wrong. Since the test, online backup software provider Ahsay has released an update to address the issue.

Check out the full article here.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Windows Backup and VSS

One of the SBS 2003 servers we support has had a puzzling issue. On random days, the server will become unresponsive when Windows Backup runs. After restarting the server, all is OK for days, even weeks. What makes this so odd is that there's been no error in the server logs to indicate a problem.

We discovered Microsoft issued a Post SP2 hotfix for this problem and the issue is related to the Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) that takes a snapshot of the file system to ensure a complete backup.

Please note that hotfixes have not completed regression testing, so proceed at your own risk. Check out the bulletin at http://support.microsoft.com/kb/949391/en-us.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

New Trend Micro SMB security software released

The name for Trend Micro's flagship small-medium business product was always a mouthful - Trend Micro Client Server Messaging Security for SMB.

In order to clarify the names for their SMB products, Trend Micro released version five of this product on June 2, 2008 under a new "Worry-Free" product line. Trend introduced the "Worry-Free" brand last fall with their Remote Manager product for IT service firms.

The new version includes web threat protection, location awareness, application behavior monitoring and improved spam blocking. We have been testing the product since it's beta release and we're pleased with the improvements.

Our clients with current Trend Micro maintenance agreements can move to this version for free.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

StorageCraft updates ServerProtect to version 3.2

The folks at StorageCraft updated their ServerProtect product with some significant features.

Most notable is support for 64-bit platforms including Windows 2008. Also helpful is their improved support for removable disks.

The improved removable disk support adds a feature that purges outdated disk images before a job starts. This resolved an issue we saw where a job would fail due to a lack of disk space.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Acronis True Image Echo Server upgrades

You'll probably want to pass on any in-place upgrades of True Image Echo Server for the time being. There's a problem with the Snap driver not upgrading correctly and preventing the software from locking the volume for an image backup.

According to the readme file from build 8076, the upgrade issue was to have been resolved, but there seem to be some more issues that may need to be worked out. We've reported it to Acronis Tech Support.

Until another fix comes out, just uninstall the existing version, reboot, install the new version and restart again (!) If that seems like a lot, it's less painful than manually removing the previous version via Regedit and Windows Explorer. Acronis Support can provide the exact details if you need it.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Office 2007 OPK

The Office 2007 System Builder Pack comes with a "hybrid" build of Office 2007. The purpose for this is not documented, however it's intended to allow the end user to decide which version of Office 2007 to buy if a license is not delivered with the system.

By using the Office Activation Assistant, the user can get a trial license key and check out the apps in the "hybrid" build prior to purchase.

To install this prior to delivery, create a folder with an admin image of Office 2007. Copy the config.xml file to the root of the admin image folder and edit as needed. Restart the PC and install the admin image. We've found if you don't restart the PC, the installer does not see the .xml file.

After the System Builder install is complete, install the Office Activation Assistant.

If testing is needed, run the "AUDIT.REG" file provided in the pack and then install Office 2007 from the admin image folder. Use the "hybrid" product key provided. You cannot activate the product with this key.

After testing is complete, run the OEM12.bat file provided in the pack to restore the image to a "pre-first-run" configuration and you're all set for delivery.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Vista networking tweaks

Even after Vista Service Pack 1, some folks are still tweaking Vista's networking to improve performance for file operations. Susan's post suggests using these three command line entries to speed things up:

netsh interface tcp set global autotuning=disabled

netsh interface tcp set global chimney=disabled

netsh interface tcp set global rss=disabled

Saturday, May 10, 2008

SharePoint 3 DCOM error - Event ID 10016

After a parallel SharePoint 3 install on SBS, DCOM errors began (event ID 10016):

"The application-specific permission settings do not grant Local Activation permission for the COM Server application with CLSID {61738644-F196-11D0-9953-00C04FD919C1} to the user NT AUTHORITY\NETWORK SERVICE SID (S-1-5-20). This security permission can be modified using the Component Services administrative tool."

While Google turned up several solutions, MS PSS determined what permissions where missing. Add them as follows:

1) Click Start -> Run, type "dcomcnfg" (without quotation marks) and then press ENTER.
2) Expand Console Root -> Component Services -> Computers -> My Computer -> DCOM Config.
3) Under "DCOM Config" locate IIS WAMREG admin service, right click it and select Properties.
4) Click the Security tab, under "Launch and Activation Permissions", click "Edit", add the NT AUTHORITY\NETWORK SERVICE and WSS_ADMIN_WPG accounts and add the following permissions:
Local Launch
Remote Launch
Local Activation
Remote Activation

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Viewing SBS faxes in Vista

Vista's Windows Fax and Scan (WFS) applet does not properly display .tif files created by SBS's fax server. The page is forced into a landscape orientation, distorting the text. Changing the view using the tools in WFS does not allow you to correct the display.

To work around the the problem, install Microsoft Office Document Imaging (MODI). It's installed by default in Office 2003. In Office 2007, however, you must select MODI from a custom installation.