Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Book Review–Deploying Messaging Solutions with Microsoft Exchange Server 2007

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

Well, this book is designed to prepare you for Microsoft Exam 70-238.  In that regard, I give the book a 50% success rate at best.

 While the fundamentals of the book are good, there are a number of content areas on the exam that the book either gives no information about or very limited information.  If you are new to Exchange Server 2007 and want to use this book, it provides a good starting point, but DO NOT RELY ON IT FOR YOUR ENTIRE PREPARATION FOR THE EXAM!!!!

If you do, well, e-mail me and we’ll place a side wager on whether or not you pass your exam.

I could not review the included practice tests on the CD because my CD was defective and would not play on either of my computers.  I also found the Case Scenarios wordy and lacking truly technical questions like those on the exam.  Some of the Suggested Practices for hands-on work were very weak as well.

In summary, if you are new to Exchange Server 2007, this book has some good background information, but it is not a comprehensive review or learning resource for passing your exam.

James

Windows 7 Launch Date

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

We now have a release date for Windows 7, it looks like we’ll see the new product on October 22nd, 2009.

Woo hoo…..

http://blogs.zdnet.com/Bott/?p=1021

SQL Server Integration Packages–The Pain of Storage

Monday, June 1st, 2009

One of the largest pain points for me when Microsoft moved their ETL (Extract, Transform, and Load) technologies for SQL Server from DTS (Data Transformation Services) to SSIS (SQL Server Integration Services) has been their reduced editing functionality for packages saved in the MSDB database.

 As a DBA and not a developer, I have always been a fan of taking advantage of SQL Server’s built-in functionality to protect packages and their “secrets” (passwords for connecting to other systems, etc.) and to ensure that they get backed up along with the SQL Server system databases.  With the advent of SSIS, Microsoft has made this much more difficult to work with since there is no direct editing of packages stored in MSDB.  You end up having to export the package, edit it, and then re-import it into MSDB.  That is a pain in sensitive body parts for more than a couple of packages.

Developers advise us to use the file system to store our SSIS packages like they would store their VB or C# program code, projects, and solutions to work around these issues.  In my opinion, this has some significant disadvantages:

1.  To save secrets in the packages, you have to either encrypt the package with a password or with a user’s key.  If you use a password, that is one more thing to lose or forget, meaning no one has access to the secrets in the package or package source, or everyone does.  If you use a user’s key, then access to the secrets or package source is only available to that particular user.

2.  You cannot take advantage of SQL Server’s built-in roles in the MSDB database like db_ssisadmin to secure who has access to SSIS.  You are forced to rely on a combination of the security listed in Step 1 (user keys and package passwords) and NTFS file system security.  The introduction of having to worry about NTFS-level security adds yet another variable (and in large organizations, another team of administrators) to worry about.

Thankfully, someone has finally taken the time to write and make available an automated way to import packages to and export packages from MSDB.  The June 2009 issue of SQL Server Magazine has a reader solution that allows us to easily import and export SSIS packages from MSDB.  You can find the online version and code here:  http://www.sqlmag.com/Articles/ArticleID/101918/101918.html

Thank you Shaunt Khaldtiance and thank you SQL Server Magazine. 

Hope this helps someone else;

 James

Windows 7 First Look Classes Coming

Monday, May 18th, 2009

Acknowledge IT is proud to bring your First Look at Windows 7 to Southwestern Virginia.  We are offering two one-day sessions on Windows 7 and its new features on June 9th and June 10th, 2009.  Topics to be covered include DirectAccess, Bitlocker to Go, BranchCache, Libraries, AppLocker, and many others.  The morning session (Microsoft Course 6289) will include discussion and demonstration of the features, and the afternoon session (Microsoft Course 6290) will have hands-on labs to reinforce your knowledge.

If you sign up for one of these two sessions, we will cut the price to $199 dollars per student.  That’s a 60% discount over our normally daily rates.  Call or e-mail us today for more information, but space is limited and the classes are filling up quickly.

We hope to see you there;

James

Book Review–Delivering Business Intelligence with Microsoft SQL Server 2005

Monday, May 18th, 2009

 The first technical book review I’d like to post is for Delivering Business Intelligence with Microsoft SQL Server 2005.

If you are new to Business Intelligence (hereafter referred to as BI) theory, this is not the book for you.  The first chapters do a cursory review of the BI process and theory, but it is no where in depth enough for newcomers to the topic.

However, if you already have a grounding in basic BI concepts like OLAP, Data Marts, Measures, Dimensions, Facts, Star Schemas, Snowflake Schemas, etc. this book shines in walking you step by step in the setup, configuration, and management of basic pieces of Analysis Services, Integration Services, and Reporting Services. 

The strength of this book for me was the step-by-step Learn by Doing exercises.  These allowed me to get comfortable with the Business Intelligence Design Studio (BIDS) and its complex user interface.

If you are looking for a hands-on walkthrough of the BI components of SQL Server 2005, this is an excellent book to use.

 Hope this helps someone;

James

Office 2007 Updates Refuse to Install

Monday, May 18th, 2009

Of course, I can’t go through the week without breaking my own computer.  (Keeping in mind I don’t get paid to fix my own stuff…..)

 My Office 2007 installation has refused updates for a while, each one that attempted to install returned an error stating that I had a corrupted installation database.  I couldn’t repair or uninstall the Office 2007 suite as well.

 Thankfully, my Google searching skills were strong, so I was able to was able to find some success by following the instructions by dlauber in this thread:  http://forums.techarena.in/ms-office-support/729760.htm

 The gist is that you have to go into the registry, open HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Installer\Products and find the GUIDs corresponding to each MS Office product and component.  Once there, rename or delete the Patches key for each one.  (Yes, I know there’s a large number of them, and yes, I know that I could probably write a script to do it, but I’m not a good enough scripter that I could write the script quicker than doing the manual edits on this one PC.)

To help you find the appropriate GUIDs, on my machine, all of the Office-related GUIDs started with 000021.  (There were a couple of other programs from MS that had GUIDs that started with 000021 as well, but hopefully this will help you narrow the search.)

Now if I just knew what caused this to happen, I’d be in business.  Hopefully this will help someone else out there recover from this error.

 James

Book Reviews

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

One of the things I get to do as a trainer and consultant in various areas of technology is to constantly spend time reading about and experimenting with new technologies.

The hardest thing about this for me is that there is so much information available for consumption between the web, blogs, documentation, industry publications, and books.  When I’m trying to learn a new technology I get overwhelmed. 

I’ve given up a great deal of my learning time this year to spend more time with my new daughter and my wife (even though we’ve been married 11 1/2 years, I can’t say new daughter and old wife without getting slapped).  This has created a new challenge for me to overcome:  How do I decide what books I should pursue given my limited time?

For me, the answer has been using reviews posted by other readers.  This helps me focus on the books that will help me learn the most in the shortest amount of time.  Knowing that everyone has more things to learn than time to learn them, I’d like to help out.

I’ll post a book review here on the blog as I get a chance to finish pursuing technology books.  I’ll also be scattering in reviews of older books whose technologies are still relevant. 

 If you have books think I should be reading given the areas we cover here, please let me know.  I’ll be posting a couple of reviews over the next week to get us started.

James

Disclosure:  If you click on links to the books here in the blog and purchase them from Amazon we receive a small percentage of the sale.

Disabling Services on a Non-Responsive Computer

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

I was faced with a client that had a server rendered unresponsive but somewhat functional by malfunctioning anti-virus software.  The services would either hang upon being stopped, or automatically restart themselves.

 I could not get remote desktop to respond, and was not in a position to go to the client location to investigate.  Thankfully some remote administration utilities were working, and RegEdit was one of them.

 Remember that each service in Windows lives in the Registry under HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet\Services\<shortservicename>

 The shortservicename is that same name that you would use with the NET START or NET STOP commands, and can be found by opening the Services Administrative Tool and going to the properties of the service and reading the Service Name Property off the General tab.

 To disable a service from starting, navigate to its key as described above and change the Start value to 4.  4 is the numerical value for the Disabled status.  Then you can reboot the computer and the problematic services will not start.

Hope this helps someone;

James

Symantec BackupExec 12.5 Unknown Errors on HP Server

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

After installing Symantec BackupExec 12.5 on an HP DL380 running Windows Server 2008, the backups at one client were failing partway through the backup with this error message: 
Backup started on 3/22/2009 at 3:18:16 PM.
Backup Set Detail Information
Storage device “HP 1” reported an error on a request to write data to media.

Error reported:
A device attached to the system is not functioning.

V-79-57344-34036 – An unknown error has occurred.

Normally I would suspect hardware, but the same tape drive and SCSI controller worked the night before running BackupExec 11.0 and Windows Server 2003 prior to the upgrade.

The client called Symantec, and he was escalated to Level 3 support without a resolution before I had a chance to look at it.  Thankfully, my “Google-Fu” was strong that day, because I found this:  http://seer.entsupport.symantec.com/docs/305233.htm

Turns out there is a known conflict between the HP Server Management Agent and BackupExec.  Funny thing is, it does not appear to be consistent.  Some combinations of BackupExec and HP Agent versions work, some don’t, and I haven’t been able to figure out any rhyme or reason to which ones may or may not work, or why.

 Hope this helps;

James

Authentication Oddities after a Windows Server 2008 Upgrade

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

Here’s an “interesting” feature I ran into after upgrading one of a client’s domain controllers to Windows Server 2008.  (All DCs were on Windows Server 2003, and all except this one remain on Windows Server 2003 for the time being.)

I got a call the next day stating that three things were broken:  Backup Exec would error out in the middle of a backup job, you could not use RDP to log in to the Windows Server 2008 DC, and the client’s Websense Admin Console would not let the domain administrator login.  (We’ll save the BackupExec issue for another time.)

When investigating the login issues, I noticed that when you tried to use the domain administrator account to log into the server from the server console, it worked fine.  When you attempted to use RDP to log in, it failed.  When looking at the security event log, it reported that the domain administrator account was disabled.

Even though I knew the domain admin account was NOT disabled, I took a look at its properties anyway, and discovered that the Pre-Windows 2000 Login Name (SAMAccountName for those of your who script or program) was populated, but for some reason, the Login Name field and UPN Suffix was not.  Simply filling out those two fields made the login work, and fixed the Websense Admin Console login problem as well.

 Hope this helps someone else;

James