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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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RSS feed post limits

This is something that both annoys me and and yet I can understand its reason for existing.  Have you ever subscribed to an RSS feed and its limited to only a few posts/items (lets say 15 is a standard)?  I can certainly understand the need to limit RSS feeds content, there are plenty of reasons why a reasonable number for the history limit is a good idea.  However, 15 is a bit low, especially on sites that offer news or updates.  I recently subscribed to a feed that had posts of a humorous nature, and it limtied me to the last 15 entries.  If I want to see more of the history, I have to go to their website.  15 is also a low number, for a site that may post a few times as week, it won’t take long and I’ll start to miss posts if I don’t frequently check that feed.  On my blog, I allow the last 100 posts to be downloaded, and don’t mis-read me here, that is way too high, especially for a personal blog.  I’d suggest something like 25 or higher for personal feeds, 50 or higher for a site that posts a few times as week in any category, and more if the site posts many times a week, or even per day.

My IT Annaversary

I didn’t realize it until recently, but 2008 marks my 10th annaversary being in the IT industry.  It just kind of snuck up on me really, but when someone asked me how long I’ve been doing what I do, I had to count twice to verify it has been 10 years. 

I’m not quite sure yet how I would envision the next 10 years, since technology changes so rapidly.  I will probably slow down a bit one day soon and try to map out some plans for the coming years. 

It was 10 years ago now that I got my first IT job, a lowly rebate programming position using PICK.  From there what I consider to be a real IT position came along where I worked kind of like an apprentice for a local IT services shop.  I learend a lot from the other techs and eventually became the technician of choice for several clients.  I went on to work for state and local government and to obtain my certifications in 2004 after about 6 years in the field. 

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. 

Verizon FIOS billing issues

I’ve been having a difficult time lately with Verizon and their billing of my FIOS account. Sure my account history is a bit complicated. Let me recount the things that have happened in the brief history of my account…

1. Ordered online with a promotion offer (ordered with a landline phone service and had billing through the phone bill).

2. Got billed wrong amount, turned out they never applied the online promotion to my account.

3. Got an account credit of $60 to cover the promotion discount for 6 months. Also got my Target gift card mysteriously after complaining that I had not yet received it after my 12 weeks or service.

4. Ported my landline phone service to a VOIP provider.

5. Switched my billing method to credit card after phone service was ported away from Verizon.

6. Got a letter from Verizon saying I was in default and my account was terminated and sent to a collection agency.

7. Called CS AGAIN and found that my account is ok afterall, they had some kind of mixup with the other CSR that processed the port. My account is in good standing and no balance is due.

So as you can see, its been fun! I love FIOS internet, its fast, reliable and perfect for my home network, but dealing with a big company like Verizon is such a pain.

When you call in to customer service, you get a rep after going through their aweful phone system, and then they find out I’m in Florida and have to transfer me. I finally get someone in Florida and they tell me they can’t help me because they are normal Verizon and have to send me to a FIOS rep. I finally get a FIOS rep and then they have problems finding my billing history and account information. Its all straightened out now though, so I can take a breath of fresh air and not have to worry about this account any longer… until next month that is when they screw up my bill again.

Liz's new phone

For the first time in our cell phone history, we were able to take advantage of a cell phone upgrade offer from Cingular. Liz’s line was now ellibible for a new cell phone upgrade. We went online and checked out the various models and both picked out the LG CU400. It was totally free aside from an $18 activation fee. Its a nice little phone, a bit thicker than the RAZR but had most of the same features and was actually lighter with more talk time. We’ve had some quality issues with her RAZR and the battery was going bad. So it was the perfect time for an upgrade. I received the package from Cingular yesterday and got it all charged and setup. When I got home from work she had me transfer her custom ringtone and display picture to the new phone. I was able to transfer all her contacts from her RAZR to her new 3G SIM and then put it back in the new phone and transferred the contacts from the SIM to the phone. I gave her a quick tutorial on how to use it and she was set. While the RAZR is a cool phone, it was time to make a change. My phone is elligible for an upgrade at the end of the month, I wonder if I’ll get to pickup a new device? 🙂

Home Network Monitoring

I am again using OpManager from Advent Networks for my home network/server monitoring. I only have 3 servers, 2 PCs and some network gear to montior, along with a few websites (URLs) I need to keep an eye on, so this product is perfect for me. Since I’m a windows shop (not that I have anything against other platforms, I’d actually love to throw some Linux in there), this product works perfectly. I can monitor 10 devices for free, I can setup URL monitoring so I can keep tabs on my website uptime and keep detailed history. I can get notified of failures of any system on my network and even website downtime. I have a scheduled downtime window between 10pm and 7am where my desktop PCs are not monitored in case I shut them down for the night. This is an awesome product, with tons of features and amazing functioanlity. Fully supports, WMI, SNMP, custom montior and just some amazing features. I highly recommend it to anyone who needs to keep tabs on their systems, even for over complicated home users like myself.

Star Trek

Over the last few days, Liz and I have been watching a few episodes of Star Trek Voyager here and there. We both love that series and decided to watch a few episodes. Well this seems to have triggered a desire in both of us to watch the whole series all the way through. But it didn’t stop there. Now we are talking about starting with Deep Space Nine and watching it all the way through first, then do Voyager and then re-watch all of the Next Generation again. Now this is no small task, as it will likely take us a full year to watch all the episodes. We ususally can get in 1 or 2 episodes a night if we stay up a little late. I have a feeling this year will be our most busy year ever, so I have a feeling it might take us a while. For those of you who might be reading this and rolling your eyes (you know who you are), you don’t know what your missing. Star Trek is a very optomistic view of what mankind could become and accomplish in a distant future. Its full of great writing, fantastic characters and good moral lessons. The different flavors of Star Trek are quite different from each other and offer a diverse view of the Star Trek world. One thing thats almost a constant in Star Trek, is that you can’t give up on it after just watching the first or second seasons. In my opinion, each Star Trek series didn’t really become exceptional until the 3rd or 4th seasons, some earlier, some later, but you can’t just watch the first few episodes and judge it. It takes time to develop the characters and catch up on the history of Star Trek to really appreciate it. Star Trek the Next Generation is one of my favorites, that show has some awesome stories and wonderful characters. Voyager was hard for some people to take, because it had a female captain, but if you give it a chance and get into the 2rd and 4th season, you’ll see its a fantastic series. Deep Space Nine was the most like a soap opera, simply because it was always in the same place (usually), on a space station. It had a lof of drama, and some strange alien religious overtones, but the stories are great, the characters are great and its a great addition to the Star Trek world. I especially like the episodes with James Darren in them, since I like him anyway, he made a great addition to the end of the series. So give it a chance, if its on TV don’t just turn it off because you “don’t like it”, give it a chance and you’ll find its inspiring and optomistic and really a great piece of Science Fiction.

Financial grief

A. I recently (within the last 2 or 3 months) switched bank accounts from Bank of America, to Bank Atlantic. BOA is now closed.
B. Several of these items mentioned are setup with Auto payment methods

1. I decided to pay off my truck loan with another line of credit I have in order to get the title and attempt to privately sell my truck. Sounded like a good idea, I got a great rate (better than my auto loan) and it was great. I sent in the payment and viola, the truck is paid off. I should have the title in the mail within 2 weeks. But what, thats not all. Almost a week after the loan was paid off, somehow Capitol One (my auto loan provider) debited another months payment from my new checking account. Apparently their system did not catch the payoff in time to stop the next monthly payment (I guess one week is not enough). So here I am now with a paid off loan, and an extra payment made to the account. So I call Capitol One and ask about the payment history on my account. According to this rep, they received my payoff and the account was closed. No further payments show as having been posted to my account. However, looking at my bank statement there is definately an auto pay debit on my account from Capitol One for the exact amount of my monthly payment. So I call back later and was told that I would need to fax in a bank statement showing the debit with a 5-day running balance on the account. I sent in the fax and am still waiting on a resolution, meanwhile there is an almost $200 chunk of money missing from my account now.

2. At least 3 weeks ago I updated the banking information on my Citibank mastercard, which is what I used to pay off my truck loan using a special balance transfer offer. There was only section for updating payment information on the citicards website. So I assumed my job was done. Last week I received a notice in the mail from Bank of America with a payment rejection notice from Citicards. Apparently I originally signed up for Autopay on the citicards website (something that has since been removed, you now have to call and send a fax to activate this). So now that Auto Pay information has been removed from the website, I had no way of knowing my account was enrolled in autopay, so I updated my banking information in the only place available on the citicards website, which they call Click to Pay. Needless to say, they billed my old (now closed) bank account and the payment was rejected. Now I have to ask you the reader, have you ever read the fine print on any of your cardholder agreements? You know the part where they say the interest rate will go up to some ungodly number if you ever default on a payment or otherwise default on your account. Well, I am living proof that they mean what they say. After the 1st day the payment was rejected, my account was immediately flagged as in default and my interest rates were jacked up to over 32%. This raised my monthly payment which was due to almost $700. I received a phone call from an automated system from citicards saying my account was overdue and I could press option “1” to pay by phone and avoid the normal $14 processing fee. So I did and I made the payment which they pushed me into before they would even talk about resolving my issue (which would have reset my interest rates and brought my payment back to normal). So I made an almost $700 payment and then realized I was charged the $14 processing fee I was told I would not be charged. To citibank’s credit, they did refund the $14 processing fee, after I used their website to request a refund. After talking with Customer service at Citibank they initiated an APR reset, to put my rates back to normal (what they were before this all happened). I have to call back again on Friday to check on this and make sure it was done. Hopefully retroactive to cover the few days my account was in this state. Later I was transferred to an e-services representitive to try to figure out why my account billed from the wrong checking account. I was then told that I was enrolled in autopay and the only way to update banking information was to complete a form from Citibank and mail it in with a blank check. Again, this is something that was removed from the website. So right now, my rates are on their way back to normal, I still need to make sure they are retroactive. My banking info is saved on the website, so I am just going to use click-to-pay from now on (fortunately they have E-mail reminders for this). Once the rates are corrected, I am going to check to see if they can readjust my LARGE payment I had just made to reflect the changes of the correct interest rates and apply the bulk of that inflated payment to my principle balance. I have my doubts if they will be very helpful with this request.

So as it stands now, I am missing nearly $1000 from my checking account unexpectedly. And these major banks are in no rush to try to resolve any of my issues. With a 7-10 day turn around time, I guess thats just big business. Hopefully by tomorrow evening or early next week I can at least expect some kind of resolution to these issues. Although I don’t think they will be resolved to my satisfaction, but rather to the bank’s satisfaction. I wonder if Bill Gates has these kinds of issues? 🙂

UPDATE: 8-7-06 – I called Capitol One and Citicards again this morning. Capitol One agreed to refund the extra payment they took out, so I can expect a check from them soon. (Although soon in bank terms could mean months). Citicards said the interest rate reset went through and should take effect tonight. The change should be retro-active and correct any time the rates were messed up. This will also cause my finance charges to get re-calculated so the huge payment I made will get re-calculated and anything over the normal finance charges will go towards my principle balance! Looks like this is on its way to being fixed.

UPDATE: 8-17-06 – I did finally receive a refund of the extra monthly payment Capito One took out. They put it right back in my account. As far as Citibank goes, I’ll have to wait until the end of the month before I can tell if everything has been fixed with that.]]>

X-Men: The Last Stand

I went to see the new X-Men movie last Friday night. I thought it was very good, and enjoyed the story. There seems to be quite a fuss going on with the hard core fans over the new movie. Since I was not into the comics and don’t know the details of the X-Men history, I thought it was a good movie and didn’t have too many nit pickey things to comment on about it. Now I can’t wait to see the new Superman movie!