Blog Archives

Black logon screen for Server 2003

This is the first time I’ve run across this issue, but what was happening is I’d see a black screen both through RDP and from the actual server console.  You could see a little bit of the windows logon box, but it was cut off where the username and password fields would be.  If you can fumble your way through the logon screen you’d be able to logon but everything was still black, the only color you’d see would be in the desktop icons.  This makes it virtually impossible to do anything on the server.  This situation does not cause a work stoppage, as all the background services ran fine, you just can’t logon and do anything. 

So I started searching around and ultimately ran across a MS KB article 906510.  I’ll paste in the information below, but the KB said it was an issue with the color scheme, and the registry values were all set to “0”.  At least that is whats listed as the cause of the black screen symptom, but it does not offer an explanation of what would cause the numbers to get set to “0” in the first place. 

To resolve this I had to do the following:  (NOTE: the drive mapping step was only needed for my solution as the server was not on the domain and not using internal DNS, so I could not authenticate on the domain).

1. Map a drive from another network machine to this server using local admin credentials.
2. Open regedit and connect remote registry to the server in question. (this will not work unless you map the drive first – see above note)
3. Use an export from a working server of the registry key noted in the MS KB and import that into the remote server.
4. Attempt logon through RDP or at the console, the color issue should be resolved. 

I wish I knew what caused this issue, but I can’t find much as to the actual cause.  I heard talk that maybe it was a disk space issue, but my server had 10GB of free space, so that wasn’t it.  Hope this information helps someone in the future.

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Goodlink 5 deployment issue

I have been working on deploying multiple Goodlink 5 messaging servers recently, and came across a problem with the user migration feature in Goodlink 5.  Normally if you have more than one Good messaging server, you have the option to “change good messaging server” when you right-click on a user account.  So in my deployment when I didn’t see this option enabled, I had to call Goodlink support.  What I found out made sense, but is definately irritating. 

I called Goodlink support before deploying Goodlink version 5 to ask about deployment options and get some advice on my project.  I asked about the user migration feature and using multiple GoodAdmin mailboxes, and was told that it should work fine.  Now here is where the issue comes in.  In my deployment scenario, I wanted to deploy multiple individual Goodlink 5 servers in various locations/offices around the world.  The limitation here is network bandwidth and latency, due to the fact that the offices getting these Goodlink 5 servers are spread across the globe on various speed networks, and some of the offices in Asia for example, have very high network latency and bandwidth is limited.  To help with this situation, I asked if it would be advisable to use multiple GoodAdmin mailboxes, one for each new Goodlink 5 server, that way, each location that got a Goodlink 5 server and had a local Exchange server, would get its own GoodAdmin mailbox homed on the local Exchange server.  This would increase performance, reduce the time it takes to re-connect all the mailboxes in the event of a reboot, and provided a better solution for my deployment project. 

When you use a single consolidated GoodAdmin mailbox, and you have more than one Goodlink server which is connected to the network on a low bandwidth link or one that has high latency, it is a good idea to have separate GoodAdmin mailboxes, to keep network traffic local to the office in question.  Its faster, more reliable, and if the central Exchange server that houses the consolidated GoodAdmin mailbox were to go down, all your Good Messaging servers would be rendered useless until the Exchange server is back online and the GoodAdmin mailbox is available again. 

So my scenario of using more than a single consolidated GoodAdmin mailbox was a good idea, still works well and does help with performance and all the other reasons I mentioned above.  The drawback is that in this configuration, from within the Good Messaging console, you only see the server you are connected to under the “Good messaging servers” folder.  This also means that the “change good messaging server” option is grayed out and unavailable.  The fact is that the GoodAdmin mailbox is what keeps track of how many servers you have, but they all have to be configured to use the same GoodAdmin mailbox in order for the server to “know” about the other Good Messaging servers you have in your network.  This basically means that the user migration option is not going to work for us. 

This is not a problem, its just an inconvenience.  And it would have been nice to have known this initially when I talked with Good support eariler.  Lately no matter what company I deal with, I usually end up getting conflicting information about their products and features based on who you talk to.  The first time I call and get info on something, I hear one thing, then when I am working on the deployment and have a question or problem and call back, I hear something completely different.  This is irritating and can cause some major problems for large projects. 

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. 

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. 

Automate BPA Server 7

I looked at the BPA Server 7 from Network Automation today.  I am in the process of looking at a way to automate server uptime and scheduling of reboots.  Looks like this product can easily handle this and much more. 

Exchange diagnosis

Symptoms

Server: Event ID 9646 (user exceeded maximum of 32 objects of the type session).  Event ID 1021 (unable to connect…error 0x4de)

Client/Outlook: Unable to open your default e-mail folders.  The Microsoft Exchange server computer is not available.  Either there are network problems or the Microsoft Exchange server computer is down for maintenance.  OWA would work ok when logged on as either the user or an Exchange admin account. 

Diagnosis:

   Google searches of the events and error messages yield very little help.  A second round of google searching and pressing further through the search results yielded a page from MS indicating to ensure that the user had “view information store status” rights granted at the server or mailbox store level. This lead me to a diagnosis of permission problems on the mailbox.

   Proceeded with treatment by administering re-application of full mailbox permissions for the user and ensuring “view information store status” was selected in the allow column.  Attempting to open outlook again immediately after still yielded errors as described in the symptoms.  It wasn’t until a few minutes later when about to attempt a different method of treatment that the solution was revealed.  Before trying to create a whole new information store and move the user for testing, I decided to open outlook again.  This time, it opened no problem and did not give any errors or show any signs of a problem.  Apparently the original solution was the correct solution and the treatment was correct, I just didn’t wait long enough for the change to take effect.  Further attempts to work on the problem would have been useless as the issues was already fixed, I just didn’t know it yet. 

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. 

Sunbelt Exchange Archiver

I am working on evaluating trying to evaluate the new Sunbelt Exchange Archiver from Sunbelt Software.  It was just officially released yesterday (11–19–07) and made available for download from their website.  I went ahead and downloaded it yesterday, and spent most of my day today trying to get it installed and working so I can take a look at it first hand.  Right off the bat I had problems getting it installed.  The servers I’m using are test servers on an isolated network, so they are not routinely patched and maybe that is playing a role in my issues.  What I do know is that mcvcr71.dll was not properly registered and caused the installer to fail.  After giving up on fixing that for now, I went to another test server and trie the install.  On the second machine I got past the mcvcr71.dll issue and this time had an error when attempting to create a mailbox for the superuser account. 

I’m waiting for a call back from Sunbelt support to help me get the product installed.  I’m impressed by the software’s functionality and apparent ease of use.  I have a few questions about deploying it in a global diverse network, and need to get more information from them for testing and putting together a deployment plan.  I watched their hour long product walk through via LiveMeeting, and really liked what I saw.  I’ll post more about my experiences with this product as I go along.

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.

review – at&t TILT

I have had the TILT with at&t for about a week now. I have to say this is the best phone I have used to date. Here are some highlights of why I like this device..

1. Its sleek and visually cool looking, coloring is modern and glossy.

2. The weight of the phone is indicative of being well built, it feels sturdy and tough.

3. It has plenty of onboard memory; you can customize the device, install apps and have plenty of onboard memory left without the need of a storage card.

4. Onboard GPS radio is neat; this is my first phone with true onboard GPS. A perk is that both Google maps and windows live search work with the onboard GPS radio for free.

5. The speed of this device to a data network is amazing. Over HSDPA I can download at nearly 1mbps which is not bad, although this connection is theoretically capable of much faster sped, but it’s still way better than EDGE!

6. You can use this device as a wireless modem, so when you travel or go somewhere that doesn’t offer free internet access, you can connect over Bluetooth to a laptop and get on the internet for free using your phone’s data plan.

7. Windows mobile 6 pro seems much more stable and visually attractive.

8. Battery life is not bad, in one day I am only using less than 50% of the battery with normal to light usage.

9. You can be on the phone and receive e-mail and use the data connection at the same time. No longer does using the phone disable all other radios on the device. You can now get important e-mail while talking on the phone.

10. Mobility! I can browse the web, make a blog post, track my position with GPS, take pictures, connect to wifi, use bluetooth devices, conect to VPN, run Citrix applications and sooooo much more, all while on the go.

There is more I will post about this device later, but those are the main points…