Blog Archives

The voice of practicality

Its taken me a while to get here, but I have something to admit.  It saddens me to say this, and I can’t believe I’m actually thinking about this.  Its like the voice of reason or practicality has broken thorugh my mentality about owning a 2 seater sports car in a family of 5.  Yes, you got it, I am thinking of selling my Miata and getting a more “family” oriented car.  I am NOT selling my Miata because I don’t like it, or I think there is anything bad about owning one, even in my family situation.  I just think it would be much more practical and convenient to have a 4 door family car.  I am definately going to miss the fun “zoom zoom” my Miata brought into my life.  Liz and I will both miss driving it, going on dates together in it, and all the other fun things we experienced with it. 

A few people who know me, know that I’ve had over 15 different vehicles in the last 12 years.  So I have a bit of a record of not sticking with something for long.  I assure you its not one of those “get a different car” itches.  The plan right now is to get something more comfortable for the family, something we can all fit in and go on a short trip without having to take the van.  It will be more economical, more practical, and will simply fit our family circumstances better than owning a 2 seater convertible. 

One day, when the kids are older, I will definately get another Miata, its just too much fun not to.  And for the people who scorn the Miata or men who drive them, all I can say is you must have never driven one.  Or at least never ridden in one with a driver who can handle the abilities of the car.  As for me, I’m sadly parting with my Miata, but will one day be driving one again. 

**UPDATE**

I was talking to my wife about cars and options for replacing the Miata.  My youngest daughter Abby said “Why does he want to get rid of it…I like the Miata”.  It breaks the heart!

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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. 

Unread mail bothers me

I realized today that it really bothers me to have unread mail in any of my mailboxes.  I have two main e-mail accounts that I use constantly throughout the day, and sync them OTA on my mobile phone.  If I look at my phone while out and about, I just have to go through any unread mail, file away things I will keep, reply to what needs a reply, and delete or process any spam messages.  I wonder if there is a name for this disorder?

Phone number normalization in OCS 2007

I ran into this issue with OCS 2007 and thought it might come in handy for someone in the future.  Lets say you deploy OCS 2007 in your environment, and in AD you use the phone number field for the office ext, and you want to keep that format.  Lets also assume you are noticing that if you use this configuration you end up with warnings in communicator saying it cannot synchronize the addressbook.  When you check the event log on your OCS server you see errors and warnings about the addressbook server.  You won’t find a service for this component (at least I couldn’t find it), it appears to be built-in to the OCS server software.  You also find a list of invalid AD phone numbers in your C:Program FilesMicrosoft Office Communications Server 2007Web ComponentsAddress Book FilesFiles directory. 

So how can you keep your internal extensions in their current format and still communicator without having to see the annoying addressbook warning.  Its not simple, but the fix is not too complex to impliment.  Here is what to do.  This assumes that you use a format such as “x 5555” for your extensions in AD for the users in the phone number field. 

First, in the OCS 2007 console, right click on the forest, and go to properties, then select voice properties.  Next, click the “Add” button to setup a new default location profile.  Give it a name and a description.  Next, under “Normalization Rules” click the “Add” button.  Give this a name also and a description.  Under translation, enter “^(x|X|x |X )“ without the quotes in the “Phone pattern regular expression” box.  In the next box, enter “$`”  Thats a dollar sign, immediately followed by the key to the left of the number one key on the top number row of your keyboard.  To test this, enter an extension in the same format as you use in AD in the “sample dialed number:“ box.  If it works you should see the resulting number in the format you want in the bottom text box. 

Save you changes by clicking “ok” until you are back at the console screen.  Then you just need to issue some commands on the server to update the address list, which are listed below: (NOTE: CD To the directory of your abserver.exe location)

Click Start, click Run, type cmd, and then click OK. 

Type net start abserver, and then press ENTER.

Type abserver.exe –regenUR, and then press ENTER.

Type abserver.exe –syncNow, and then press ENTER.

Exit and re-start communciator on your PC/laptop and it should now load with no errors or warnings and you will now see your extensions listed.

RPC over HTTP(S) for Exchange 2003 – single server

I’m pleased to announce that I’m now able to access my exchange mailbox from anywhere in the world using RPC over HTTP(s).  This was a lot easier to setup than I thought it would be, and following the steps provided by Daniel Petri helped a lot!  I also utilized the RPCFrontend tool that he mentions in the link.  This made things very easy and I got it working the first time I attempted the configuration. 

What this means is that I can now access my mailbox on my Exchange server, from anywhere with the only requirement being an internet connection.  I can just open Outlook, and go straight to my mailbox as if I were on my home network.  I highly recommend this for anyone with Exchange servers, it makes remote connectivity so much easier and can be fully secured with SSL and other security options. 

So busy!

I am normally pretty busy, but lately its just been crazy!  Between some website development I’m doing in my spare time, my full time job and stuff going on with Liz and the kids; its rather hectic. 

We realized the other day that our washing machine was starting to leak, so we jumped on craigslist and found a nice newer set for a great price and the guy even offered to deliver.  They were dropped off yesterday, so after work I installed both a new washer and dryer and tested them out.  Then it was off to web work land for me, which I got carried away with and was up way too late!  I skipped my normal gym night in hopes of going tonight instead.  I don’t like to mess up my schedule, but this won’t be too bad, since Liz and the kinds will be busy on thursday night, so I can go thursday after work and it won’t be a big deal. 

With the web work I’m doing, I am finding all sorts of neat little tricks with flash and other cool tools.  I think I am going to integrate some flash stuff on my personal sites soon, once if things slow down for me. 

Better fitness

On Saturday I joined a local fitness club.  I have been entertaining the idea of getting a membership to a fitness club for a while now, but when I started out looking for one, I didn’t want one of those professional performance places where its a bunch of hulk hogans running around and all that.  So I found a family oriented club and went to check it out on Saturday morning.  I was a little intimidated by the size of the place, but once the manager started showing me around, it was really quite nice.  Everyone was friendly and they offer a lot of cool programs that come as part of the membership.  It is a bit expensive, but my plan is to stick with the club for about a year, get myself in better shape and then try to get some equipment that I can use to maintain my fitness level at home.  I need to go at least 3 times a week which is going to be tough with my schedule.  I realize that if I am going to do this, its going to cost something besides money, and that is my family time.  I’m going to have to go at night twice a week and once on Saturday morning. 

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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. 

Open Source Anti-Spam for Exchange

I have been a long time user of GFI software, relevant to this post is their Mail Essentials for Exchange package.  I find it to be a very powerful and easily setup anti-spam system for Exchange.  I have had very little trouble with it, and it is packed with useful features.  However, recently I had some configuration issues with my spam setup, with rollernet really, not even an issue with Mail Essentials, but it got me thinking about my spam filtration system. 

I am now on a quest to find an open source anti-spam solution for Exchange.  I’m open to Linux based solutions as a gateway of sorts, but would prefer something that resides on the Exchange server running under Windows.  Don’t get me wrong, I have a great respect for SpamAssassin and other gateway type spam fitlers, but it gives the end user a much better experience if the anti-spam software can interact with the user, especially if it integrates with Outlook. 

Surely there must be some kind of solution out there I could try.  At the very least I might install a few different packages under Linux and route incoming mail through them, and from there go to Exchange for evaluation.  I can use server virtualization to allow for an easy evaluation of various types of configurations.  ASSP I hear is very good and there was one other package that I found last night that sounds promising.  I think it could be beneficial to have an additional layer of spam protection at the gateway level before GFI gets the messages and does its thing.  My only concern is false positives.  Lots of services and companies on the internet today do NOT have the proper DNS/MX confiugration and even at a more basic level don’t have their network setup right.  All these network issues can have a major impact on e-mail deliverability.  Its always a risk then when dealing with spam filters that you may block legitimate messages.  I am always watching spam logs to ensure that I keep an eye on how the system is doing.  If web services and companies would do a little work to get their sytems in compliance with RFS’s for SMTP and DNS, and setup the proper network configuration and mail server options, it would be a much better world for mail delivery without false positives. 

Windows Vista Upgrade failed

Last night I was trying to upgrade to Windows Vista on my main XP computer.  I was 3/4 of the way through the installer when the install screen vanished and dropped me back to the XP desktop.  XP still seemed to work, and no matter what I tried, I could not get the installer to resume.  I had no choice but to reboot, but what I didn’t know was that Vista had already copied over its boot files and screwed with the MBR on my hard drive.  So upon reboot, I get a Vista boot loader, which goes to the setup screen, but promptly throws up an error saying (not exactly sure of wording) “Windows could not initialize the installer”.  So XP was dead at this point, sure there are some ways I could have gotten it back, but I really wanted Vista to install. 

I ended up using a Knoppix 4 bootable CD and using the file managers in linux to backup my data on my XP parition to a file share on a server in my network.  After the backup was done, I wiped the partition and loaded the full install of Vista and installed fresh on the clean XP partition.  I am not sure if I am going to go with Vista or not, so I’m installing from the media with no CD key, just to use it in eval mode.  If Liz likes it and can get used to it, we might go ahead and buy the Ultimate edition upgrade.  But for now we’ll give it a try and see how it goes.  So far its running great on my hardware, but I’m a little disappointed with the performance rating of 3.7.  I have a dual core P4 3GHz chip, 2 GB of performance DDR2 RAM, and 256MB ATI X600 PCIe video card running on a nice Abit motherboard.  I was expecting to get a score near or at a 5.