Blog Archives

FIOS customers – better DNS solution

If you have Verizon FIOS, and haven’t already customized your router to use better DNS Servers, do yourself a favor and do so asap.  By default Verizon uses “DNS assistance” on their *.*.*.12 DNS servers.  Set your router to use custom DNS servers and change the ending .12 to a .14.  Alternatively, using any of the other official Verizon DNS Servers in the range of 4.2.2.1 through 4.2.2.5 is also a good bet. 

If you don’t customize your DNS, the Verizon DNS assistance configuration can potentially cause issues for Tech Savy users who do VPN, host monitoring, etc.  You are also helping Verizon make more money by being served ads on their DNS assistance page. 

I came across this help link on the Verizon website that will guide you through changing your router config to optomize your DNS settings…

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Ran into issue with LCS 2005 and OCS 2007

LCS 2005 (Enterprise Edition) is installed on a single server with SQL 2005 server for the backend database. ?There is no warning or indication that this would cause any problem and up until now it?hasn’t.? The software does allow for this type of deployment and works fine in this configuration.? OCS 2007 server was recently installed and configured.? During initial testing it was observed that users on the 2005 LCS server could not see presence data and communicate with users on the OCS 2007 server (and vice-versa).??After searching online for solutions it was found that there are two critical hotfixes for LCS 2005 that were said to correct this issue.?

Installing the hotfixes:
Following the instructions on the first hotfix documentation, I installed hotfix 911996.? The installer completed successfully and there was no indication of a problem.? Next I installed the second hotfix 921543, again the installer ran successfully and there was no indication of a problem.? I then checked the services for LCS and found that the LCS Server services would start, but then stop on its own with an error:

Event ID: 12299
Source: Live Communications Server
Details: The service is shutting down due to an internal error.
Error Code: 0xC3EE78F8.

The hotfix documentation mentioned this error as a possibility if you install the patch on the front-end server before the backend patch is installed.? However, since this was a single server deployment with both the back-end database and front-end server components on the same physical server, the hotfix only installed the update for the front-end components.? Again, there is no documentation saying this is not a supported configuration and the installer will gladly allow you do install both components together without a problem in the LCS 2005 setup.? (NOTE: OCS 2007 server prevents this configuration in the installer and will not install both components on the same box when using Enterprise Edition).? There is also no warning in the hotfix documentation not to install the update if you have both components on the same physical box.?

For a resolution, I called Microsoft support services ticket number SRX080212602272 and spoke to an afterhours support specialist.? After some initial troubleshooting and research the technician was able to review a similar case they had a few months ago.? He attempted the resolution listed in their issue history which did ultimately fix the issue.? To resolve, a string value must be deleted from the LCS 2005 registry branch (HKLMSoftwareMicrosoftReal-Time Communications{Your GUID}.? This key “role=EE” ?had to be deleted from the registry in order for the hotfix to install on the back-end database.? Once this was done, the LCS 2005 server service started successfully and we tested connectivity with a test account to verify that the server was working normally.? Basically this tricks the installer into thinking that the server is the backend database only, and it will allow the hotfix to install the back-end components.?

This issue could have been avoided completely if Microsoft had updated their documentation for the hotfix, especially since they had issues with this months ago and should have updated the documentation.? I am recommending to the technical support manager that the documentation be updated since this is a known issue and others have experienced the same problem.? Hopefully this will get done and prevent others from having the same issue.?

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Communicator 2007 custom presence tool

I just came across this artile about a tool that automates the little known feature of custom presence in Communicator 2007.  Those of you familiar with other IM platforms will appreciate the incorporation of this feature in Communicator 2007.  Although as nice as this is, tell me Microsoft…why aren’t you building this into the GUI in the first place?

LCARS24 – GUI replacement

For those of us who are Star Trek fans and like to tinker with LCARS software, check out LCARS24, can run on any Windows PC, and turns it into a LCARS interface. 

The Mosquito – kids can hear it, most adults can't

Ok, I’m a little late, almost 2 years late, but I just heard about this and think its really cool.  I read this article and this one is also good, and got curious, so from there, I came across this link which will let you download a tone generator with which you can generate your own custom tones and test your hearing abilities.  I tested myself and can hear up to 18Khz (18000.00Hz), but nothing over that.  So I should be able to hear the teenager mosquito ringtone just fine, which is around 17Khz.  I could hear all the sample sounds out there on the internet, and with the tone generator I mentioned, I found the limits of my hearing abilities.  Just a warning here that listening to these tones is annoying, its not a pleasant sound, and leaves a bit of a ringing in your ears.  I would advise moderation here when playing around with it.

My Miata is home sick today

Last night my Miata came down with a fever and a runny nose.  I pulled into the garage to find my temperature gauge all the way to the H and white steam was starting to roll out from the engine compartment.  I immediately checked it out and found a crack in the top of my Radiator.  It was spraying out white steam from the top of the radiator. 

Since my baby was sick, I had to take Sarah to school in the van and then drive the van to work right from her school.  I was only a little late for work which wasn’t too bad. 

I checked around online for some prices for a replacement radiator and found a website radiator.com which I used to contact them about a radiator for my Miata.  They are a direct to consumer distributor, and have price matching and guaranteed lowest prices which was good.  I ended up getting a new radiator, with a lifetime warranty for my Miata for $169 with free same day delivery to my home. 

The miata.net forums have a good garage section with a guide showing step by step how to replace the radiator on your own.  So I will save a little money by doing the replacement myself.  On the way home I have to stop by an auto parts store and pickup some radiator fluid and hoses, but most likely I’ll have it all done tonight or at the latest sometime tomorrow.  I really hope I can get it fixed tonight, because Liz and I are going on a date tomorrow night to celebrate our 9th anniversary.

Sunbelt Software status

I previously mentioned that I’ve been trying to get the new Sunbelt Exchange Archiver installed for an evaluation and I’ve also mentioned the old “IHateSpam” product and the predecessor “Ninja” in previous blog posts.  Here is an update on my status…

Sunbelt Exchange Archiver:

   I am still unable to get the archiver to work, my issues at this point are with the database connection.  No matter what I try, I can’t get the database connection to function.  I finally did get the product to install but now you have to configure everything before it can start the services.  As usual the Sunbelt documentation is sub-par and contradicts what support tells you.  I will probably have to get a support rep on the phone and do a remote install session just to get the product running. 

Sunbelt Ninja:

   I upgraded my Exchange servers in my company to the latest build of Ninja which includes their new “STAR” engine.  This replaces the old Sunbelt heuristic filter with a definition based system like the cloudmark engine.  I was told by Sunbelt that their new engine “does not cause false positives” before I did the upgrade.  Pre-upgrade testing showed no problems with system resources such as CPU utilization and spam catch rates were the same as previous tests on the old version.  The problem comes in when deploying in production.  I found soon after enabling the new engine that we were having problems with lots of false positives and even some internal mail was being filtered and going to user’s quarantine.  I ended up having to disable their new engine and things are working much better now.  I also resolved an issue with the anti-spoofing feature that was marking lots of external mail as spoofed. 

   I think in general Sunbelt Software is on the weak side in the following areas:

1. Documentation, frequently I find their documentation is incomplete, does not answer questions users would have upon installing, and contradicts other documentation related to steps in the process and also their support staff directly. 

2. Internal testing, I know they test their products before releasing to the general public.  However its been my experience that there are always unexpected issues when installing or upgrading any of the three Sunbelt Products I’ve used.  Like with Ninja and their STAR engine causing false positives, and marking internal mail as spam when its not supposed to.  Not to mention the default configuration causes high CPU utilization on the host server.

Unfortunately there are not many other alternatives to do the job that Sunbelt’s software does.  I know there is no perfect software, and with software comes its share of bugs.  One last complaint would be in diagnosing errors.  I know that in Ninja when we would turn logging to high in order to diagnose problems (and you have to turn logging to high as the system logs only useless information in the low setting), the extra disk activity is a huge drain on system performance.  This alone is enough to make users complain.  But in order to get any useful information from the software, you have to perform this step.  Also, the queue folders often start to build as mail backs up into the queue.  Most of the time I am certain this is caused by Ninja or more specifically the SMTP event sink it uses.  Mail backs up into the SMTP queue folder and before you know it, you’ve got hundreds of messages stuck and not being delivered.  Of course you restart the services and try to clear the queue since its obviously a big deal, but then you don’t get any logging as to what caused the problem.  Support has no idea, and tells you to run a snapshot which is useless unless your logging level is set to high. 

Ninja also accounts for a large boost in disk activity, and shows a marked increase in the disk queue when viewed in perfmon.  This causes general GUI slowness and delays when opening MMC consoles. 

I will say that when Ninja works, it works well, but the slightest problem or glitch and your entire mail flow system can be affected.  I suppose this is a risk with any spam filter, but we’ve had a long history with Sunbelt products and it seems that the core issues we had with previous version of their spam filter have carried over into Ninja in one form or another. 

Ceiling Fan light malfunction – or so I thought

Ok, this is kind of embarrasing, but here we go. On Friday or so Liz and I noticed that the light on our ceiling fan in the living room was really dim. It was not normally this dim and nothing we tried seemed to help. I swapped light bulbs and took the cover off trying to find out why it was so dim. I finally resorted to the hunter website to try to track down the problem. I could not find my model on their site at first, so I submitted a support request via e-mail. Later I finally found our model on their website and was able to download the user guide. I read through it and found that the fan has a dimmer switch built into the remote. You have to press and hold the light power button and keep the buttom depressed, when you do this the light will cycle through its various brightness levels. What must have happened is the buttom got pressed long enough to dim the light while the remote was in a pocket or got sat on. So we thought something was wrong, but nothing was actually wrong, we were just ignorant of the features of the remote. Fortunately my support request to Hunter never went far enough for someone to actually tell me how stupid I was. I’m also glad I didn’t decice to take the fan apart or bring it down off the ceiling trying to do my own troubleshooting!

Crazy trip to the store

On Tuesday night, I was driving home when I get a call from Liz. She sounds irritated and explains that in an act of clumbsiness while in the kids in the kitchen, she accidently knocked over the box of shells (pasta) that she was prepairing for dinner, and they spilled all over the floor. She asked me if I could run to the store and pickup a box of shells. At this point it was 6pm, and the meal she was wanting to make takes an hour to complete. I tried to talk her into doing something else, but she refused and insisted she needed a box of shells. I reluctantly agreed and stopped by a local store on the way home. I went in and grabbed some banannas too since we needed those, this was in an attempt to increase the amount of money I’d spend at checkout, since I hate coming up to a register and the amount being like a dollor or so, and having to use my debit card since I don’t carry cash.

I should explain at this point that the other day I got tired of my wallett staining my pants and being uncomfortable in general (since I sit at a desk most of the day). So I took my wallett out of my back pocket and put it in my laptop case. Those of you who know me, also know that my memory isn’t so good.

I go into the store and grab the items I need, also grabbed a little something for the kids (ok and me too), and headed to the checkout. I put my items on the belt and reached for my wallett and was horrified to find it missing. I frantically put back the items I had picked out and went out to my car empty handed. I did however spent about 15 minutes in the store looking around and arguing with Liz on the phone about what kind of shells to get. But left with nothing.

I get home and fully expect to have an arguement about what had happened and Liz would rush out to the store to get what she needs on her own, etc, etc. It was not a pretty picture I had predicted would take place. I get home and she meets me at the door with a kiss and is perfectly calm. She had talked to my mom and had decided to do this meal another day. We had something else and it was no big deal. I was totally surprised that she was not going to push it and it actually turned out really nicely, except that I had to put back my cocoa rice crispies I was drueling over at the checkout lane… 🙂

Movie Review – The Final Cut

I got this movie from Netflix called “The Final Cut” starring Robin Williams. Its kind of a sci-fi movie, but actually more drama than anything. Williams plays a “cutter” who is basically a high tech audio/video guy who works to put together “rememberings” for deceased people who had this computer chip in their brains that recorded everything they saw and heard. He took the “bad” out and put together memories for family members and let them remember what they wanted to remember of the person who had died. Well he is the guy everyone goes to when no one else wants to the job because of how bad a person was. Williams character is tortured by guilt from a childhood memory shown in the beginning of the movie where apparently another kid dies basically because of his (Williams character’s) actions. He finds out that he actually has a chip in his brain (which is against the code of the cutters). So he quits doing that, and has a friend try to replay his memories while he is sitll alive. He finds that his childhood memory was tainted by age and inaccuracy and that the boy he thought had died actually lived. One of his high profile cases was for a lawyer in the company that makes these chips, and there is a group wanting to bring down this company. They end up trying to get the chip from Williams character and it ends up getting destroyed. However, Williams character (Allan) has watched the footage of this persons life and all this information is now stored in his chip. So the bad guy chases him down and tells him he wants to get the data from his brain. The bad guy can’t quite bring himself to shoot Allan, so his accomplice shoots him suddenly and to your surprise right at the end. The movie pretty much ends there, with a final scene of the bad guy looking through Allan’s memories and tell him (actually his reflection in the mirror) that his life will have purpose and that it won’t all be for nothing.

The movie was ok, but the ending sucks. Its almost like they were trying to prepare for a sequel, but I don’t think thats the point. I just don’t like movies with no closure. The bad guy pretty much got away with his acts of badness, and the movie just ends there. I probably would not have watched it if I had known this, but it was ok. Not something I’ll watch a second time. Cool idea with the brain chip thing, but it was kind of slow, no real action and low on the drama side. And the ending stinks.