Category Archives: Podcasting

Confusing behavior in Exchange 2007/2010 when changing Hub Transport DNS configuration

I recently ran into a configuration issue in Exchange 2007/2010 that left me scratching my head in bewilderment.  After noticing some DNS resolution issues between several hub transport servers I began looking at individually and manually configuring DNS resolution settings on specific Exchange servers.  In ESM I went to “Server Configuration > Hub Transport” and viewed the properties of each server.  On the “Internal DNS lookups” and “External DNS lookups” tabs you get the option to choose either the DNS configuration from a specific network adapter or manually enter the DNS servers to use.

To save time, I began using the drop down selection of specific network adapters to grab the DNS servers I wanted.  However, there is an important “gotcha” here that is not indicated in the GUI or anywhere else that I’ve seen.  Basically what is happening is that when you use the drop down NIC selections to grab DNS, what you are doing is querying the NICs of the server on which you are running ESM.  So what happened in my case is that incorrect DNS servers were being assigned to remote Exchange servers because I assumed that the NICs being listed in the drop down were the NICs physically installed on the remote server for which I was viewing the properties.  Big mistake!

I started noticing events in the logs complaining about inability to resolve DNS hosts.  Once I started investigating this it dawned on me that the names of the NICs in the drop down listing never changed as I viewed the properties of different servers.  It just happened that the NIC I chose did not have any DNS servers configured, so I was basically configuring those specific Exchange servers with no DNS at all on the hub transport DNS resolution configuration.

To resolve the issue, I manually specified the DNS servers to use for each specific Exchange server.  That completely resolved the problem and got mail flowing again.

Just kind of curious why Microsoft would allow you to manage remote servers from one location/instance of ESM but only show you the NICs on the local server when configuring remote server hub transport properties.

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De-evolving technologically

A lot has happened since I last posted, but I thought it would be good to post a quick update on the changes I’ve made technologically over the last few months.

The first major change is the decommissioning of my personal Exchange mail system.  My home server setup was getting far too complex and expensive to maintain so it was decided to do some downsizing and basically get rid of a bunch of servers.  At the time I began to remove servers, there was 6 being used full time.  It got to a point where I had built a powerful white-box server on which to run VMWare ESXi 5 which allowed me to virtualize all of my servers.  There were 2 for AD/DNS/DHCP and 2 for Exchange 2010 in a DAG and 1 for simple/general tasks like backups and game servers.

To be honest, my wife and I got quite accustomed to having enterprise level features in our home e-mail solution.  As someone with about 12 years of Exchange experience I had it setup right which included custom domain names, SSL certificate, networking to support ActiveSync for our iPhones, etc.  I had wanted to simplify things for quite a while, but never could find just the right solution to handle our e-mail and calendaring in a way that would remain highly functional and not be difficult to migrate to.  Then along came a new service by Microsoft called Outlook.com.  Long story short, outlook.com is everything we needed to get rid of Exchange and simplify the home setup.

Our email, calendars, contacts, etc – were all easily migrated to Outlook.com.  Of course I had to dump about 8GB of archived messages to PST files out of Exchange, but thats a normal part of the process.  For the time being, we’re still using Microsoft Outlook to grab old messages, but for all new messaging features we’re going with Windows Live Mail.  It integrates nicely with Outlook.com and gives us a very nice user experience with pretty much all of the features that we were accustomed to while using Exchange.

Unfortunately, the networking side of things hasn’t transitioned quite so easily.  When we had all of these servers running they were responsible for most of our networking services, like DNS/DHCP.  Transitioning to router based network services was a bit of a challenge.  I ended up buying an Asus RT-N66U dual band 802.11N Wi-Fi router.  The Verizon FIOS router is forwarding all traffic to the Asus router (DMZ).  In the Asus router I’m doing all my port forwarding rather than having the Verizon router handle of that.  Mainly because the ASUS router won’t allow many of its advanced features if its configured as a mere AP, it must be in router mode for the bells and whistles.

An unfortunate side-effect of this transition is that all of our Apple Devices appear to be rather slow on Wi-Fi using the new home network setup.  I’ve run lots of diagnostics and tried many tweaks but nothing I’ve done so far has restored pre-transition device speed for the iDevices.  Strangely enough my laptop works fairly well on both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi Networks.  I suspect there is some advanced tweaking that could be done to improve the iDevice performance over Wi-Fi, but so far I haven’t figured it out.

At this point, my office has one nice PC in it, a PC that is quiet and easy to maintain. The big server is now going to go up for sale, hopefully on Craigslist.  After adding everything up, it seems I have approximately $1,200 worth of server/parts available for sale.  This was a great machine, dual quad core Opteron 2.2GHz CPUs, 32GB DDR2 memory, 6 SATA HDD for over 5 TB of disk space, etc.  This machine was perfect for virtualizing servers, the only downside is the noise and heat.

To sum up, I’m no longer running a bunch of servers at home.  No more Exchange for home messaging, no more noise, no more extra heat in the office, its all gone.  And its interesting how quickly we grew accustomed to the noise in the office and how much we enjoy the quiet now that its gone.

In addition to the servers being removed, I also finally got us off the Ooma VOIP service.  Someone purchased the Ooma box from me via craigslist and took it off my hands.  Since we’ve bundled phone services with Verizon FIOS there was simply no further need for an additional home phone service.

Outlook.com is handling our messaging needs very nicely.  The web interface is easy to use and very clean.  It supports Active Sync via the Hotmail connector in the Apple Mail client, which is very nice.  The only things we really miss are server based Distribution lists and shared calendars.  However, none of that was a deal-breaker for us.

As a result of the downsizing, it looks like we will be saving approximately $600 a year in services and fees from all of the various resources I needed in order to run such a system at home.  That includes Microsoft licensing and domain names, SSL, etc.  Needless to say this transition is going to be a cost saver with only a few minor networking kinks to work out.

Drive failure in my personal Exchange 2010 server

A few months ago I upgraded my home Exchange mail system from Exchange 2007 to Exchange 2010.  During this process I added a secondary server that was identical to the main server.  By having two Exchange 2010 servers I was able to utilize the DAG feature that is new in this version of Exchange. 

All that to say – yesterday my main Exchange server disk drive failed.  I got home from work and shutdown the server, removed the hard drive and tried to run some tests.  All I got was clicking, it won’t even see the partition table.  Fortunately, since I was running Exchange 2010 with a DAG for redundancy, I was able to quickly activate the database copies on the secondary server thereby eliminating any downtime or data loss of my Exchange system.  Currently, the secondary server is actively hosting my databases.  My mobile phone still works through ActiveSync, OWA works, incoming and outgoing mail also, no problems! 

I’ve purchased a replacement drive which should be here in a day or two.  The downside is the drive that failed has failed to a degree where recovering the drive is highly unlikely.  Since I don’t have RAID on any of my servers (due to cost) I will end up having to rebuild this server.  My next steps will include reinstalling the Operating system and Exchange 2010.  I plan on using a recovery mode install of Exchange 2010 which should restore all my Exchange settings and configuration leaving very little left to do but tweak a few things and make sure my DAG is re-created.  My only other option is to manually remove all traces of the failed server from Active Directory and then re-install Exchange in normal mode.  This would be a little more work so I’m hoping the recovery mode install will work properly. 

I LOVE EXCHANGE 2010!

Change mailbox alias or re-create Exchange mailboxes results in NDR from bad Outlook recipient cache

In the past when renaming or re-creating mailboxes in Exchange I’ve had issues where the Outlook cached entry for the user no longer works when internal users send mail to the specified mailbox. This is because of our dual Exchange environment running mixed versions of Exchange. The original mailbox was created under Exchange 2003 and ultimately moved to Exchange 2007, but preserving the Exchange 2003 Mailbox reference for X500. When a mailbox is re-created or the alias is changed, it can break these cached entries in Outlook. Today, I discovered a way to work around this issue from this article.

In the future if I need to change alias (due to name change) or if there are problems resulting in a need to re-create the mailbox, the steps in the article can be used to avoid having mail delivery problems for the affected user.

• The listed steps will allow the cached Outlook entries to properly resolve the user mailbox. No user action is required to make this work.
• You can find the proper alias for the user in an NDR message or by going to the cached entry in outlook and viewing its properties. It will be a string in one of the values displayed on the properties. (Note, this only works before you make the changes above).
• The updated string for the Exchange 2007 environment is automatically added to re-created mailboxes in X400 form. The old pointers can be added using X500.
• This issue only affects mail sent from internal clients using the cached entry in Outlook, all SMTP mail flow and external mail will continue to flow to the user uninterrupted regardless of this issue.

Yes you can activate a clean install of Windows 7 with an upgrade product key

I am not promoting piracy, but I ran into a nasty little problem when I tried to activate Windows 7 on my home computer.  Maybe this post will help others like me who can’t get help anywhere else. 

In anticipation of obtaining my Windows 7 Pro upgrades (which I ordered in July on the pre-order 50% off sale) I installed Windows 7 Pro using a clean install without entering a product key for activation on two of my computers.  My laptop and my main home computer.  Both computers were clean installs on either a new hard drive or a new partition.  On my laptop I resized my partitions and installed Windows 7 on a new partition separate from Windows Vista.  So now its in a dual boot configuration with Windows Vista and Windows 7. 

On Thursday, I got my upgrade product keys from the Microsoft store and went to activate my computers.  On my laptop the activation was successful wtihout a problem.  Then I went to activate my home computer and got the error telling me that I can’t use an upgrade product key to activate a clean install of Windows 7.  So now I am left with a fully loaded PC running Windows 7 with only 10 days left to activate before I either have to re-arm or enter a new product key.  It takes hours to backup and restore the data on this PC, its my wife’s main computer and we have tons of stuff to backup and move around.  I’d pay a fee to avoid having to do this! 

The home computer was running Widnows Vista 32-bit Home premium edition.  It got upgraded to Windows 7 Pro 64-bit using a clean install method.  A while after I had installed Windows 7, I decided to cleanup the old hard drive that had the Windows Vista install on it because I wouldn’t need it anymore.  So I can’t even go back to Vista without having to do a clean install of Vista first which is something I want to avoid.  But from my understanding you can’t upgrade a 32-bit OS to the 64-bit version, so I have to do a clean install anyway.  But now that I’ve wiped out the hard drive that had Vista on it, so the activation wizard can’t see the old OS and won’t let me use my upgrade key.  I heard hints in various forums that the activation wizard looks for partitions with an upgradable OS on it. 

On my laptop, I still have the partition with Activated Windows Vista home premium 64-bit because of the dual boot setup, so I think thats why the activation wizard let me activate my laptop without a problem.  So what can we do in a situation like this?  Call Microsoft, take a huge risk and investigate non legit options?  

I had thought about trying to run the Retail upgrade install of Windows 7 on my home PC and use my upgrade key for activation.  The reason I had hope that this might work is because my home PC was loaded using the RTM Windows 7, and the download I got from Microsoft was the official retail media, so there is a very small chance it may have let me do another upgrade using my upgrade key and then possibly activate successfully.  My other thought was to install windows Vista on a spare hard drive and just leave it in my PC when booted up to Windows 7 and see if the Windows 7 Activation wizard will recognize a valid copy of Windows Vista and let me activate using my upgrade key. 

I was getting desperate since it could easily take two days to reload my home computer and go through all the trouble to get Windows 7 running again!  This is such a pain!  It shouldn’t be this hard for legit customers to use Microsoft software!!!

Ok, now that the rant is over, let me tell you how to get around this problem and get your Windows 7 systems activated.  This is actually very easy and only took a few minutes.  To my knowledge there is nothing underhanded or risky about this procedure.  Its also not well documented, it took me two days of google research and massive searches to find the information that helped me. 

Thanks to Winsupersite.com community for this information!

After performing the clean install, ensure that there are no Windows Updates pending that would require a system reboot. (You’ll see an orange shield icon next to Shutdown in the Start Menu if this is the case).  Install the updates and reboot if necessary before proceeding.

Then, open regedit.exe with Start Menu Search and navigate to:

HKLM/Software/Microsoft/Windows/CurrentVersion/Setup/OOBE/

Change MediaBootInstall from “1” to “0”.

Open the Start Menu again and type cmd to display a shortcut to the Command Line utility. Right-click this shortcut and choose “Run as administrator.” Handle the UAC prompt.

In the command line window, type: slmgr /rearm

Then click OK, close the command line window and reboot. When Windows 7 reboots, run the Activate Windows wizard (go to system properties and click the activate windows link at the bottom of the window), type in your upgrade product key and activate windows.  It should activate successfully and you are now finished!  Congratulations on saving yourself hours (or days in my case) of wasted time jumping through hoops trying to get your genuine Windows 7 installation activated!

Migrating to Windows 7

Yesterday, I upgraded my work PC to Windows 7 professional.  I wanted to give the upgrade a try and see how it would go, but normally I prefer to do clean installs.  The upgrade process took about 2-3 hours but did retain all my applications and most settings.  I did have to remove some HP software that came with the PC, but overall it wasn’t too bad.  I had some additional trouble with Ultramon that caused some errors and weird behavior with the taskbar.  Here are some observations so far:

1. The taskbar is taller and takes up more screen real estate.  This isn’t necessarily bad, but takes some getting used to.  It makes the icons look smaller. 
2.  The quick launch bar has been transformed into something different, mabye better, not sure yet.  I was dismayed to find out that the upgrade had wiped out my quick launch folder completely, all my pre-arranged shortcuts were just gone!  I found a way to work around this by creating a new quick launch folder manually and moving shortcuts that I wanted in the list.  I wish I had backed up my quick launch folder before the upgrade! 
3. The transparency is nice, but at times a little weird.  Since the top inch or so of many apps is now transparent, it seems like your apps are not maximized or as if there is a big gap at the top of the screen. 
4.  I think its cute how the new network connection icon in the task bar looks like it has a pitch fork in it.  🙂
5.  I like the new start menu, specifically the ability to expand options for programs such as RDP.  Now when you go to RDP in the start menu, it gives you an expandable list of recent connections, which I think is nice, even though I use mRemote to organize my RDP connections.  
6. Performance seems good, the PC boots up pretty fast especially considering it was an upgrade install. 

The official upgrades for my home computers will be available in a few weeks, so I’ll post back later on with more observations.

Have to click user icon to unlock Windows Vista

Something happened to my Windows Vista desktop that I use primarily at work.  To explain the issue, here is some background information.  I normally lock my computer anytime I step away from it to prevent un-authorized access.  It used to be that I could just hit CTRL+ALT+DEL and type in my password and press (Return|Enter) to unlock my machine.  However, in the last week or so instead of bringing up the password field for the logged on user when you hit CTR+ALT+DEL, what you get instead is an icon for the username which you then have to click or just hit enter before you type in the password.  Now this may not sound like much of a problem, but when you are used to something happening a certain way, changing that makes a difference.  I didn’t change any of my user options in Vista, so I am guessing that this is a change from a recent update or something from Microsoft.  I don’t have access to many Vista machine to test this on, but I am curious if anyone else has seen this before and if you know how to fix it.  If I find a solution I will post it here, but for now I am still looking.  I just want to hit CTRL+ALT+DEL and type in my password to logon, I don’t want to have to click on my user icon or have an extra key press before I can put in my password.  Maybe thats just me being set in my ways…

Add recipients of sent items to the Outlook auto fill cache

This is a great utility (also free) that will allow you to add the recipients of your sent items to the Outlook auto fill cache.  This is great if you reload a PC or in any number of other solutions.  Click here to read more about it and download this great utility.

Outlook auto fill list management

Here is a great little tool from NirSoft that allows you to edit, backup and manage your Outlook auto fille cache file or .n2k file.  This is great for backup or combing through to fix a corrupt or otherwise incorrect entry without having to scroll through the list in Outlook.  Click Here to read more about it and download this completely free tool. 

Bizzare issue without outbound faxing through e-mail and Public folders

I recently ran into some very strange issues with an older fax through e-mail solution.  The setup is a mixed Exchange 5.5 (unsupported) and Exchange 2003 site with an old version of RightFax from Captaris (version 8.5 – unsuppored).  After years of working in this configuration, suddenly the outbound fax abilities quit working and you would receive NDR messages anytime you sent an outbound fax.  Incoming was working without problems, only outbound fax through e-mail was a problem.  I checked the Exchange connector for RightFax on the Exchange 5.5 box which was fine, there were some side issues there where some .tmp files weren’t getting purged properly, but I couldn’t find a cause for the issue we were having.  Reboots were done in hopes this would help resolve the issue, but they did not help.  The only errors I was receiving were as follows:

Exchange cannot determine a route for this message or no next hop can be determined.   A routing group topology does not have a routing group connector set up between the routing groups.  Mail destined to a routing group that does not have a routing group connector to connect it to other groups cannot be sent.   

Solution: Add or configure your RGC between RGs

 

and

 

The domain ‘$MSGWIA$.FAX.*’ is unreachable.

 

No route was found for the recipient server.  Please contact your system administrator.
            <servername.domain.private #5.4.4>

After a few days of researching and trying to find a solution to this issue, I happen to notice that I had another problem.  In the Exchange 2003 ESM I could not browse the public folder tree.  I’ve had this issue before and seen various things cause it, so I began researching the exact error codes I received.  (sorry I didn’t write those down, but they said something like “503 service unavailable” when I tried through OWA). 

I ended up restarting the Exchange 2003 HTTP Virtual server from ESM, and also dismounting and re-mounting the public folder store.  After I did that I noticed some events in my application log basically saying the route for FAX was online and mentioned our fax server name.  Out of curiosity I tried sending an outbound fax through e-mail and it worked!  I then asked the staff in the location where the issue was originally reported to try sending some test faxes through e-mail but they reported back and said it was still not working.  I then performed the same steps I mentioned above on all Exchange 2003 servers which seemed to fix the issue of not being able to view the public folder tree in ESM, but also had the side effect of fixing the outbound fax issue. 

I have no idea how an old fax system could possibly be tied into the public folder system of Exchange 2003.  I have no support for either Exchange 5.5 or the version of RightFax we are using, so I will probably never know.  I do know that the two issues were related somehow and the same solution for fixing the public folder tree view in ESM also fixed our outbound fax issues.  I think this is very strange but am glad the system is working again.  I hope this will not delay replacing these old systems and they still need to be replaced asap.