Blog Archives

Sansa to IPOD conversion

I have been using an 8GB Sandisk Sansa for my mobile media needs…that is up until last night.  I traded a new graphics tablet I bought at a CompUSA closeout for a 4GB IPOD nano with video.  At first I was going to give it to Liz, but after tinkering with it for a while I decided to keep the IPOD and give her the Sansa.  There are several reasons for this..

1. She won’t use the IPOD to its fullest extent (I will)
2. The Sansa has more storage space so she can put more photos on it and use it for client demos for her photography clients
3. I already have accessories she would need such as the carry case with clip so that she can take it with her more easily.
4. I would use the video playback more than she would.

So it worked out great for us both, she got a device she can use to store her favorite music, use in her photography business and its easily portable and easy to use.  Plus the Sansa has a built in FM radio so she can listen out and about. 

So now I have to convert all my WMA files to mp3, since some of them were DRM protected, I have to obtain the non-DRM protected versions so that I can import them into my itunes library.  I use both Rhapsody and Itunes now, I think Rhapsody has a nicer interface, but itunes is definately easier to get podcasts and audiobooks, etc. 

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Mobile Music

I have never been willing to spend a large sum of money to purchase a mobile MP3 player such as the IPOD or similar.  But this past week I found a great deal on TigerDirect for a Sandisk Sansa 8GB player.  My gracious wife made no objections to me getting it, so I happily placed the order.  It arrived on my doorstep on Saturday afternoon in the mail, and I began goign through the options and setup.  I can play video, music, photo slideshows, FM radio and even use it as a voice recorder.  It works with Rhapsody which has recently become my favorite online music source.  I like ITunes too, but I find I use it more for podcast subscriptions than music, only because I don’t have an IPOD so its not as useful for me.  I spent a few hours this weekend searching for and adding new music to my new player.  I know I am years behind and people have been doing this for quite a while, but having a mobile music player and being able to sync playlists and media and take them with me anywhere, is really cool! 

Vista image resizer

I used to use the Windows XP powertoy “image resizer” which added a quick context menu resize ability to any image file. This was handy if I needed to quickly adjust or resize my images. Now in Vista, that ability is missing, and the powertoy from XP won’t work in Vista. So I found this Vista Image Resizer which is a free alternative. It also adds a context menu option to resize photos. And while it does work ok, I found it has a bug when resizing multiple images, if you leave the option set to resize the originals, it fails to do anything, but if you set it to make copies, then the copied images actually get resized.  This is only an issue if you have multiple photos selected and attempt to resize the originals.  Overall it’s a good replacement, and I recommend it as a replacement for the old XP powertoy.

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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My Pick for screen recording

I have tried several software packages to do screen recording, and I must say that my favorite by far is Camtasia studio by TechSmith.  Their software is visually appealing with a modern and intuitive interface.  It also outputs your projects in a variety of configurable formats and makes your work look very professional.  Several neat features I enjoy are smart focus and a neat little mouse trick.  With Smart focus, the video can zoom and pan as you move your mouse around while recording, this way the viewers get a close up view of what you are doing and you are not wasting as much viewing space with unused area on your desktop.  I also like the feature of using the hotkeys to pause recording so you can make changes or do other tasks, and when you un-pause, the mouse is returned exactly to where it was when you paused the recording, eliminating the annoying mouse jumps you get in many other packages. 

Its not free, and in fact is one of the most expensive solutions I looked at.  But the user experience is ver good and the output is the best I’ve seen in screen recording packages.  This is a great tool for many professions and specific tasks, but particularly useful in IT as you can record tutorials or how-to videos with ease, and make them very easily viewable and portable!

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. 

Monday night shows

Admittedly Liz and I are hooked on a few shows, specifically Heroes and Journeyman that come on Monday nights.  I also like Chuck, but thats more of a geek/tech show so Liz isn’t as interested in that one.  Heroes last night was awesome, yes slightly predictible but still a great story and an episode that gave more answers to questions raised in previous episodes. 

***SPOILER***  I did know what was going to happen when HRG (Noah) was shot in the eye, and was not surprised at the end to see the blood bring HRG back to life and fix his eye. 

Journeyman was good, the previews for next week look awesome.  The whole interaction with Dan and his brother Jack are very interesting and the characters are really starting to develop well.

Microsoft SharedView

I recently stumbled across this awesome free beta of Microsoft Shared View.  This reminds me a lot of the Windows Live Meeting client, it has the same basic look to it, same type of toolbar at the top of the screen, but its a more cut down version that seems easier to use.  It does NOT have as many advanced features, but would be very handy for a variety of uses.  Right now its in a free beta stage, and hopefully it will remain a free service. 

My wife does digitial photograpgy, so this could be extremely useful for her when doing photo demo’s for clients.  With this application she could share a folder of pictures or her graphics programs and let customers see real time what she is doing.  This opens up a whole range of options for her for allowing clients to see what she is working on for them, and to interact more with them in deciding in exactly what they might want without having a need for a physical presence.

Favorite time of year

This time of year is one of my favorites! Holidays approaching, cooler weather and more outdoor activities. To be honest, it only gets really hot for about 12 weeks out of the year, most of the rest of the time its perfect here in Tampa! It might get a little chilly at night, but 70’s and low 80’s during the day are the norm.

I had a beautiful sunrise to watch this morning during my drive to work. The sky was clear, and the stars still still visible when I left the house and a cool crisp clean feel to the air greeted me as I left the garage. I watched the sky during my commute, which turned into an awesome shade of blue that enveloped the entire sky. Following this was a large orangeish yellow spot as the sun crept over the horizon. All of this viewed behind the relaxing scene of nicely landscaped palm trees touching the blue sky as I drove by. Sometimes I stop and remember the things that made me stop in awe when I first moved to Tampa. This really is a nice place to live.

My Today Screen

I really like my new Tilt from at&t. I’ve added some plugins and tweaks which make this an awesome device. I’ll post more of a thorough review later, but I really love the HTC home plugin. I also have GPS and various other apps that definately make this the most reliable, stable, usable, and fun phone I’ve used to date.

TodayScreen