Blog Archives

Sun and Rain

I just love the fickle weather here in Tampa.  One minute it can be pouring down rain, and the next it will be clear and sunny, or even a mixture of the two.  Check out the images I took with my phone yesterday.

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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.

Quirky thing with my TILT

I noticed recently that if you press the PDA power button on an at&t TILT during a sound event (such as the slider sound or new message sound alert), the sound will immediately stop where it is, but when you press the power button again, the PDA will resume right where it left off, sounds and all.  I have a habbit of sliding my TILT closed quickly and immediately pressing the power button.  When I do this, the PDA powers off mid-sound, and then when I press the button again, it powers on and plays the remaining part of the sound.  This is not a problem by any means, it just interests me and gives me some insight into how this software was designed. 

at&t HTC 8525 phone buttons not working

Recently saw an issue where a user with an 8525 had problems with the phone buttons, where they would just stop working.  A little google search revealed that other people have had this issue, ROM version didn’t make any difference and it seemed to be sporadic.  This forum on the cingular website had a post by a user who said to slide open the keyboard, and loosen the screw on the back of the keyboard closest to the navigation buttons.  I initially completely overlooked the word “loosen” and asked the user to tigten the screws on the back.  After this was done, the phone buttons worked perfectly.  Then I re-read the forum post and realized the recommendation was to actually loosen the screws.  I don’t personally buy the overheating explanation, but slightly tightening the screws resolved it for us this time. 

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. 

Mourning the death of my…..TILT

Today is a sad day, its a day of separation, of death (tech people call it “end of life”) and severe sorrow as I accept the death of my TILT. For a little over a month now I’ve had an at&t TILT and really enjoyed it. I loved the crisp call quality, and sturdy feel of the well built phone. The Windows Mobile 6 features and cool apps and customizations I had were really something special.

I called at&t and they won’t replace the phone since it was physically damaged. I then called HTC and they said they were not yet prepaired to repair the TILT since its so new. They couldn’t even find my part numbers in their database yet. So at this point in time, I have a $1000 phone thats functioning as a paper-weight.

Beautiful sunset

I’m sorry I don’t have a picture to go along with this post, but I could have had an accident trying to snap a picture with my phone… I was driving home last night heading east on I-4 and looked in my mirror to see the most beautiful sunset. The sun was large and firey orange and visible between a few highrise buildings in the distance. It was a beautiful sight on a crisp clear day and was really amazing to see. The sad thing is that it wasn’t even 6pm yet and the sun was already going down. Its tough spending all day in an office, you get up before the sun comes up, go to work, and come home when the sun is going down and then have no daylight left to play with the kids outside. Fortunately its only lasts a few months.

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.

Trick or Treat – lock the door

I feel really about this, and everyone is telling me not to worry about it, but still, it bothers me that I did this, even though it was purely by accident.

Last night we got home around 8:15 or closer to 8:30, and I was getting Sarah in bed and also working on my phone which had to be re-configured (long story). Liz got home just a few minutes after me and I had already gotten Sarah in bed, but when she got home she saw our neighbors outside and they invited her over with Abby to get more candy. So Liz and Abby and Michael went over to the neighbors house. I get a call a few minutes later from Liz and she says I may want to turn off the porch light (that she had left on) because she thought someone might see the light on and come to us for candy (of which we had none since we go out with the kids and don’t stay home to hand out candy). By this time it was probably 8:45pm and I’m on the phone with Liz on speaker, and I go and turn off the porch light, and also lock the deadbolt on the door. I start walking away from the door and hear a boys voice say “trick or treat”.

Turned out he was on the porch and I flipped the light off on him and locked the deadbolt as I walked away from the front door. The poor kid probably thought I was some old ratchety crank being mean and turning him away empty handed. I got off the phone with Liz and looked out the window to see a car in our driveway, so I guess they just moved on, but still I felt bad about what happened.