Well, that was fun...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Being that Windows Server 2008 Service Pack 2 was released today, you just know I had to load it up on my production machines. So confident in the build quality, I am, I decided to install it on all my physical and virtual servers over an RDP connection.

The installs went perfectly. So good, in fact, that I even ran the CompCln.exe utility that's included in SP2 that deletes all the backup files created during the SP2 installation process. No turning back now, and why would I? Everything installed just fine.

...until I got home to my server and found that the display, keyboard and mouse were unresponsive. I RDP'd into the server and restarted it. Fail. Started in Safe Mode. Fail. Last Known Good. Fail. Fail. Fail.

Not relishing having to rebuild my main Hyper-V server, I gave it one last shot by starting up in Safe Mode Command Prompt Only mode. I suspected it was the VGA driver, so I changed to the Windows\System32\Drivers folder, renamed the ATI video driver (aitkmdag.sys) and restarted. Success! The server started up normally using the Standard VGA Graphics Adapter. Crisis averted.

I can't blame SP2 for this mess. I attibute it to the buggy beta ATI drivers I had installed. In any event, I'm glad I got the server up and running without having to rebuild it all.
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Windows Server 2008 and Vista Service Pack 2 Released

Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Today, Microsoft released Service Pack 2 for Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista.

Service Pack 2 (SP2) for Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista is an update to Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008. It provides customer and partner feedback-driven fixes into a single service pack, minimizing deployment and testing complexity. In addition to all previously released updates since SP1, SP2 supports new types of hardware, and adds support for several emerging standards.

Details and download links can be found at http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/dd767623.aspx?ITPID=wtcfeed.

Notable changes in Windows Server 2008 SP2 and Windows Vista SP2 can be viewed from this link.

Along with all the other fixes and rollups that are currently available through hotfixes and rollups, it includes improved power management and new Group Policy settings.
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PowerShell Script to get Exchange Version, Build and Rollup

Friday, May 22, 2009
It's not easy to tell which version and build is installed on Exchange 2007.

I wanted to find a way to display the Exchange version, build number and which Update Rollup is installed on all servers in the organization. I found the perfect script written by Paul Faherty to do just that. I modified the script slightly to work better in Exchange 2003 / 2007 mixed environments.

Download Get-ExchangeServerVersion.ps1 here: Get-ExchangeServerVersion.zip

When you run it from the Exchange Management Shell prompt you will see output similar to the following screen:

The output displays the server name, Exchange roles installed, version (Standard or Enterprise), version number, and the Update Rollups installed and their installation dates.

For you code monkeys, here's the Powershell code:
#v1.2, 09/17/2010
#Written By Paul Flaherty, blogs.flaphead.com
#Modified by Jeff Guillet, http://www.expta.com/

#Get a list of Exchange servers in the Org excluding Edge servers
$MsxServers = Get-ExchangeServer | where {$_.ServerRole -ne "Edge"} | sort Name
#Loop through each Exchange server that is found
ForEach ($MsxServer in $MsxServers)
 #Get Exchange server version
 $MsxVersion = $MsxServer.ExchangeVersion
 #Create "header" string for output
 # Servername [Role] [Edition] Version Number
 $txt1 = $MsxServer.Name + " [" + $MsxServer.ServerRole + "] [" + $MsxServer.Edition + "] " + $MsxServer.AdminDisplayVersion #$MsxVersion.ExchangeBuild.toString()
 write-host $txt1
 #Connect to the Server's remote registry and enumerate all subkeys listed under "Patches"
 $Srv = $MsxServer.Name
 $key = "SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Installer\UserData\S-1-5-18\Products\461C2B4266EDEF444B864AD6D9E5B613\Patches\"
 $type = [Microsoft.Win32.RegistryHive]::LocalMachine
 $regKey = [Microsoft.Win32.RegistryKey]::OpenRemoteBaseKey($type, $Srv)
 $regKey = $regKey.OpenSubKey($key)
 #Loop each of the subkeys (Patches) and gather the Installed date and Displayname of the Exchange 2007 patch
 $ErrorActionPreference = "SilentlyContinue"
 ForEach($sub in $regKey.GetSubKeyNames())
  Write-Host "- " -nonewline
  $SUBkey = $key + $Sub
  $SUBregKey = [Microsoft.Win32.RegistryKey]::OpenRemoteBaseKey($type, $Srv)
  $SUBregKey = $SUBregKey.OpenSubKey($SUBkey)
  ForEach($SubX in $SUBRegkey.GetValueNames())
   # Display Installed date and Displayname of the Exchange 2007 patch
   IF ($Subx -eq "Installed")   {
    $d = $SUBRegkey.GetValue($SubX)
    $d = $d.substring(4,2) + "/" + $d.substring(6,2) + "/" + $d.substring(0,4)
    write-Host $d -NoNewLine
   IF ($Subx -eq "DisplayName") {write-Host ": "$SUBRegkey.GetValue($SubX)}
  write-host ""
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Twitter Client Twikini is Released

Wednesday, May 20, 2009
I became a Twitter convert at this year's TechEd North America. It really was the best way to communicate and send status among friends and colleagues about session information, locations for swag, and "Let's meet outside the TLC" messages.

I tried a lot of Twitter clients for my Windows Mobile device, but by far the best was Twikini by Trinket Software. The application is fast, lightweight, and highly customizable. Even better, it integrates well with other online apps like TwitPic.

Trinket Software released the non-beta version of Twikini this week. If you're a Twitter user, I highly recommend you check it out.

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Exchange 2007 SP2 due Q3 2007

Tuesday, May 19, 2009
On May 11, Microsoft announced that Exchange Server 2007 Service Pack 2 will be released in the third quarter of this year. SP2 extends the feature set of Exchange 2007 to include more functionality and sets the foundation for migrating to Exchange 2010.

Key new features of Exchange Server 2007 SP2 include:
  • Enhanced Auditing - New Exchange auditing events and audit log repository enable Exchange administrators to more easily audit the activities occurring on their Exchange servers. It allows the right balance of granularity, performance, and easy access to audited events via a dedicated audit log repository. This simplifies the auditing process and makes review of audited events easier by segregating audited events in a dedicated location.
  • Exchange Volume Snapshot Backup Functionality - A new backup plug-in has been added to the product that will enable customers to create Exchange backups when a backup is invoked through the Windows Server 2008 Backup tool. Exchange Server 2007 didn't have this capability on Windows Server 2008 and additional solutions were required to perform this task.
  • Dynamic Active Directory Schema Update and Validation - The dynamic AD schema update and validation feature allows for future schema updates to be dynamic deployed as well as proactively preventing conflicts whenever a new property is added to the AD schema. Once this capability is deployed it will enable easier management of future schema updates and will prevent support issues when adding properties that don't exist in the AD schema.
  • Public Folder Quota Management - SP2 enables a consistent way to manage quotas by improving the current PowerShell cmdlets to perform quota management tasks.
    Centralized Organizational Settings - SP2 introduces new PowerShell option that enable centralized management of many of the Exchange organization settings.
  • Named Properties cmdlets - SP2 enables Exchange administrators to monitor their named property usage per database.
  • New User Interface for Managing Diagnostic Logging- SP2 enables Exchange administrators to easily configure and manage diagnostic logging from within the Exchange Management Console.

Exchange SP2 will be a free download to all Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 customers. It will be a requirement to migrate to Exchange Server 2010.

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TechEd 2009: Day Five. And so it ends...

Friday, May 15, 2009
The last day of Teched 2009. It always feels a little weird and sad to see things getting packed up and crated off.

I attended a pretty good session on VDI and Remote Desktop in Windows Server 2008 R2. Cracked me up when the presenter told us that RemoteApp uses "something technical called Forms Based Authentication" and at one point asked the audience if they were familiar with Computer Objects in Active Directory.

I then attended an awesome session on Windows Crash Dump Analysis, presented by David Solomon of SysInternals. This one was so cool, even Mark Russonivich attended it. Lots of good technical stuff.

After a brief lunch, it was off to LAX to grab my flight home. Luckily, I only have an hour and a half flight back. Unluckily, the flight is oversold and delayed. Looks like I'll be home after dark now.

The technical content of TechEd 2009 was excellent, as usual. Logistically, I'd have to say I like Orlando much better. The venue layout suits TechEd very well and they have larger rooms. I can only imagine how many more sessions would have been booked to capacity if attendance had been normal.

Pros: Great technical content (especially for Exchange 2010 and Windows 7),easy access to experts in the TLC, fewer people in attendance meant it was easier to navigate, and lots of great vendor and Microsoft product team parties.

Cons: Getting shut out of a couple of sessions, the LA Convention Center layout was weird and confusing, most of the escalators were broken or running the wrong way, and the epic fail of the "Jam on IT Party."

Of course the pros greatly outway the cons, and I'm really looking forward to TechEd 2010 in New Orleans next year. Put it on your calendar, the dates are June 7-11, 2010.
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TechEd 2009: Day Four

Friday, May 15, 2009

I'm not quite sure what to write about today.

The sessions were great, as usual. I started the day at Mark Minasi's excellent and entertaining talk about Windows UAC, followed by Mark Russinovich's session on improvements to Hyper-V V2 in Windows Server 2008 R2. I also saw two sessions on Exchange 2010 and got to sit in a chalk talk with Evan Douds of the Exchange Management Shell Team.

Thursday evening is traditionally the famous Microsoft Attendee Party. This usually entails a fun-filled evening at a venue such as Universal Studios or Sea World, where the park is open solely to TechEd attendees. Attendees are free to wander the park and partake of free food and drink throughout the evening. It's a great way to unwind after an intense week of training sessions and hands on labs. Attendees also have the option of purchasing additional passes for family members, so they can enjoy the same experience.

This year Microsoft decided to scale back the attendee party and did so in a huge way. The Jam On IT "social gathering" was held in the same venue we've been in all week, the LA Convention Center. Attendees were limited to two drink tickets each and were not allowed the option of buying passes for guests. There was no entertainment, other than a DJ playing music and the "jam sessions" where anyone who wanted to can try to play instruments on stage. The general consensus I heard from attendees was that this was an epic failure.

Now, I can understand why Microsoft did this. Attendance is way down - estimates are more than 40% of last year - and it's really hard to justify spending the same amount of money for that fewer number of people. But the attendee party was cancelled more than two months after registration opened for TechEd 2009, leaving those who already booked their tickets and travel with a sour taste. Microsoft didn't offer any refund or reduced cost because of the cancellation. People have an expectation based on the events that happened in years past, and to replace the traditional attendee party with a DJ and two drink tickets is terrible.

When you got a good thing going, keep doing it. Don't mess with tradition.

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TechEd 2009: Day Three

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Today turned out to be Exchange day, where most all of my sessions were around Exchange 2010. I gotta tell you, Exchange 2010 is really, really impressive. All the Exchange sessions this year are packed with attendees and I think Exchange 2010 is going to be the big take-away from TechEd this year.

I organized an Exchange Roundtable tonight for anyone who wanted to talk about Exchange, share their challenges, and bounce ideas around. We met at the Yard House bar just across from the LACC venue. I also invited Scott Schnoll from the Exchange Team to drop by.

I was surprised when Scott showed up with the entire Exchange product group here at TechEd, along with Paul Bowden, Product Release Manager for Exchange Server. We ended up having about 30 people. I had a fascinating conversation with Paul about how Microsoft uses Exchange 2010 in their production datacenter. Very impressive. There were other lively conversations and mass quantities of beer was consumed.

In the end, Paul picked up the check for everyone. It turned out we had an Exchange Server party this year after all. Thank you very much, Paul and the Exchange 2010 Team!

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TechEd 2009: Day Two

Wednesday, May 13, 2009
There are about 7,800 attendees, by my calculations, at this year's TechEd. Down from about 13,000 from last year. Those ~7,800 attendees got their money's worth on day two of TechEd, with a heavy dose of Exchange 2010 sessions, developer sessions, and other Microsoft technologies.

I arrived on-time for one of the most popular sessions, the Exchange 2010 Migration Deep Dive, only to find that the session was already filled beyond fire marshal capacity. People continued to stream to the session, only to be turned away. It's obvious that Microsoft has a lot of customers interested in Exchange 2010, and this will transfer to an increased number of implementations and migrations in the near term. I, along with many others, will have to wait to see the session as it's streamed from Microsoft in the next 24 hours.

Mark Minasi was in excellent form during his Security session, taking the gauntlet of former Microsoft Employee Steve Riley. As usual, his session was as entertaining as it was useful. I was particularly pleased when Mark stood on a chair in the first row and asked the audience, "Where is Steve Riley?" There's an enormous amount of support for Steve, both within and outside the Microsoft community.

I attended two excellent sessions, one for Microsoft Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 Direct Access and Remote Desktop (formerly Terminal Services) and the other for Exchange 2010 archiving and retention. There's a lot of HUGE advances being made in this area, and I'm really excited to see this.

The night ended with two FABULOUS parties brought by our friends at Double-Take Software and the Windows Embedded Group. The Double-Take ClusterFunk Party takes us all back to what TechEd parties were all about: Good music, good food, good drinks and most of all, good fun. Nothing beats a good live band and ClusterFunk delivers! We thank Double-Take Software for their continued support and engagement of the TechEd community!

The Windows Embeded Group also had a party at the Lucky Strikes Bowling Alley next door to the ClusterFunk party and across from Staples Center, where the Lakers were in playoff game. I honestly can't tell you who one because I was having so much fun at both of these parties. Bowling, booze and good ol' rock and roll make a great combination!

Here's to a great set of sessions tomorrow.
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TechEd 2009: Day One

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

After breakfast at the LA Convention Center (LACC), I attended the keynote session, presented by Bill Veghte, Vice President of Windows Business. The venue had five high-definition screens for our viewing pleasure.

Bill's topics included the pain points of the economy, doing more with less, and the need to connect to business data from anywhere.

Microsoft has made significant investments in training (over 1 million trainings over the web last year and over 1 million Springboard trainings per month) and will continue its R&D investments over the coming years. Dynamic IT will enable IT pros and developers across the IT lifecycle, and Bill predicts that Software as a Service (SaaS) will be huge.

Anywhere access is one of the key themes in Win7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. This is something I predicted over two years ago. A lot of investments have been made in these technologies.

Several announcements were made at the keynote, but none with much excitement, other than Windows 7 will ship "by holiday," aka Christmas 2009. This is expected to include Windows Server 2008 R2.

Demos were performed by Mark Russinovich (Windows 7) and Iain McDonald (Windows Server 2008 R2), which were very engaging and demonstrated the advances of both operating systems.

This is all wonderful and what we expect Microsoft to feed us during the keynote. It sets the tone for the week and lets us know what the emphasis is and where to direct our attention for the next 12-18 months. But what was more interesting to me is what happened behind the scenes.

Tracy McElroy is an IT professional from Louisiana who had the opportunity to meet Bill Veghte on a stairwell at the LACC and told Bill thanks for the information in the keynote. Bill asked Tracy what Microsoft was doing right and what they were doing wrong. He was genuinely interested in what Tracy had to say and had a frank discussion with him for over 20 minutes. Bill even took out a notepad to take notes. It was clear to Tracy that his input was valued and was impressed that a executive at Bill's level would take the time and effort to listen to him.

This is the value proposition that TechEd brings to each and every attendee. You may get the opportunity to spend 20 minutes voicing your opinions with a vice president, but each and every one of the talented program managers and product team members are here at TechEd, waiting to hear your opinions and pain points. Together, we can make business easier and more productive for everyone.


On the entertainment front, the Krewe met up at the vendor exposition where mass quantities of swag was collected and a few beers were consumed. After that, we all headed over to the epic Springboard Party at the Standard Hotel's rooftop pool and bar. Suffice to say, we all had an outstanding time and didn't get back to our hotels until the wee hours of the morning.

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TechEd 2009: And so it begins...

Monday, May 11, 2009
I arrived yesterday to check in and attend a Microsoft MVP meeting at the LA Convention Center. The bag is nice -- Good quality, durable zippers, lots of pockets and a decent size, if not a little big. I think this one's a keeper.

The LACC was really quiet when checking in yesterday. A long line of greeters and registration people all vying to register me. My sense is that attendance is way down. I've heard that attendance last year was around 13,000 and this year is around 6,000.

Last night the Krewe got together at the Bonaventure Brewing Company (BBC) to warm up before Party with Palermo. The beer and food were good at both locations, but after we used our one drink ticket at PWP we moved back upstairs to the BBC. Being told, "that'll be $9.50" for a Corona will do that to a party.

This morning's breakfast scores about a 2. Probably the best parts are the grapes and Apple Jacks cereal. The "cheese omelet" was Egg Beaters and Cheese Whiz. Yum.

The keynote is this morning at 10:00am. This will be a good gauge of attendance, since the room is huge and is usually packed. I'll give my comments after the break...
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TechEd 2009: Here I come!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Last day before leaving for TechEd. We're having mother's Day today since I'll be leaving early tomorrow morning.

Can't wait to see what TechEd 2009 will be like. With all the changes in the economy, it will be interesting to see the effect on attendance, vendors, swag, and TechEd itself. I expect that there will be a lot less of all of it. Better to be pleasantly surprised than dissapointed.

My blog readership is way up (about 25%) over the past month or so. Hopefully, that translates to higher interest and attendance at TechEd.

If you'd like to follow me during the week, I can be found on Twitter. This will be the Krewe's primary means of communication for the event. I'll try to make blog postings at least once a day about the conference.

If you see me wandering about the conference floor or in a session, be sure to stop by and say Hi!

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New Tee Shirt for TechEd

Thursday, May 7, 2009

(Idea shamelessly lifted from Douggg on Mark Minasi's Forum)

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Video of What's New in Windows 7

Thursday, May 7, 2009

This interesting 6 minute video covers the key new features and improvements in the Windows 7 Release Candidate. This includes areas like performance, networking, security, PC management as well as everyday tasks.

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Steve Riley let go from Microsoft

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Wow, here's a shocker. Steve Riley, a popular Microsoft security expert, has been let go by Microsoft just 5 days before TechEd begins. Steve writes,
"... as a part of Microsoft’s second round of restructuring, my position was eliminated yesterday and my employment with Microsoft has ended."

Steve was scheduled to provide several sessions at this year's Teched, most of them I scheduled myself to attend. I can't say how many sessions he had since Microsoft has already removed his name as a speaker from the TechEd session schedule.

Steve’s career at Microsoft began in 1998 in the telecommunications practice of Microsoft Consulting Services. When he left he was a senior security strategist in Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing Group. He promises that he's not disappearing and will remain in the security industry.

Good luck, Steve! We'll miss you at this year's TechEd.

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Windows 7 and Windows 2008 R2 RC is Available

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Today, Microsoft released the Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 Release Candidate (RC) for general IT users.

What's new in RC?

In addition to improvements in performance, reliability, and compatibility, the Windows 7 RC has two new features that we think you will like:

Windows XP Mode (beta): We know that compatibility is a big issue for many small businesses. Which is why we are excited to announce the availability of Windows XP Mode (beta). This new feature allows Windows 7 Professional users to run many Windows XP productivity applications seamlessly in Windows XP Mode. Utilizing Windows Virtual PC, Windows XP applications can be launched with a single click directly from the Windows 7 desktop. (Please note that Windows XP Mode is currently not included at the time of downloading Windows 7 RC.) Install the Windows XP Mode (beta).

Remote Media Streaming: Remote streaming enables you to securely access your digital media libraries regardless of where you are. Simply associate two Windows 7 PCs with the way you connect to the Internet and allow Internet access to your media on both of them. Windows Media Player displays and plays the media libraries from those remote PCs in the same manner as other shared media libraries on a home network.

There is a lot to be excited about. So go ahead, Install Windows 7 RC today and experience for yourself why this operating system a great choice for your customers - and a great opportunity for your business.

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TechEd 2009: Rock and Bowl Party

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Registration has opened for the Windows Embedded Rock and Bowl Party!

To register, go to https://microsoft.crgevents.com/windowsembeddedrockandbowl and then show your printed confirmation to pick up your blue wristband (required to enter the party) at the Windows Embedded Technical Learning Center. Party is for Windows Embedded community and Certified Developers; be prepared to show your MCP ID or a transcript when you pick up your wristband.

More details on Trika's site: http://blogs.msdn.com/trika/archive/2009/04/27/you-don-t-need-a-visa-to-go-bowling.aspx

Be sure to visit the Krewe Party Calendar for a list of ALL the TechEd 2009 Extracurricular Events!

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TechEd 2009: Windows Mobile Experience

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Here's your chance to test a brand new Windows Mobile 6.1 Palm Treo Pro smartphone with free data and voice service to use during your attendance at Teched 2009.

Microsoft, in partnership with Palm, Enterprise Mobile, and Sprint, will be loaning 150 of the newest Windows Mobile 6.1 Palm Treo Pro smartphones to Tech·Ed North America 2009 attendees to use as a trial during the conference. Each smartphone is enrolled in a Mobile Device Manager (MDM) demo domain and receives software and policies that showcase how easy it is for an IT department to centrally manage Windows Mobile devices over the air. You will have the chance to experience first-hand how MDM brings highly scalable Windows Mobile Device Management and Security to the System Center family of products. Participants are entered for a chance to win a Palm Treo Pro smartphone with Windows Mobile 6.1, which will be given away at the end of Tech·Ed 2009.

Register and reserve your trial device here.

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The REAL TechEd 2009 Bag

Friday, May 1, 2009

Here it is, folks! Finally, a picture of the TechEd 2009 bag courtesy of Brian Marble. Much better looking than the man-purse of previous years. I actually think I might use this. Nice moss green color, too.

Thanks, Brian!

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