Blog Archives

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.

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What no one ever tells you about cluster hardware redundancy

I was recently reminded about this, so I thought I’d post about it and share the knowledge.  I use mostly HP hardware, so in this setup, lets say we have two HP DL585 servers for use in a Windows cluster.  I also have dual fibre channel interfaces in each server.  Externally lets say we have two separate fibre channel switches.  For storage, its an MSA1500 external fibre channel SAN with over 1TB of RAID storage, partitioned for use in a cluster.  The MSA1500 has dual controllers and each controller has its own fibre chennel interface. 

To connect it all together, each server connects one of its two fibre channel interfaces to one physical SAN Switch.  The MSA1500 SAN controllers each get connected to a separate physical SAN switch.  The goal here is to optomize hardware redundancy and make this configuration as fault tolerant as possible.  But here is where the issue comes in. 

No one tells you that you need special software running on each node of the cluster to handle the hardware redundancy.  If you don’t have this software in place, what you will find is that Windows will see two SAN storage arrays.  One of them will be inaccessible since you can only have one physical connection active.  I had to call HP support and go through several explanations of what I was trying to accomplish with all the hardware redundance before I was told about the software I needed.  Its called MultiIO or “Multi Path IO”.  If you do a search on the HP support website, you will find HP MPIO Basic (there are two versions, basic is fine for most people).  Download this software and install on each node and amazingly you will find that things work much better.  From the documentation I saw, there is no indication of needing this software, but in this kind of highly resiliant configuration it is necessary to use MPIO to control the hardware redundancy. 

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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Free Active Directory Reporting Tool

This should come in handy for lots of people.  Need to get some reports out of your Active Directory system?  Then this tool can help, its a called SmartR from Imanami, and its free.  There are additional report packs you could buy, but I’ve found it comes with just about everything I would need. It has a good wizard interface and can generate nicely formatted reports in a flash.  Output options are HTMl, XLS and XML. 

I needed to generate a report of all my AD users and find which groups they belonged to.  To be more specific, I was trying to get a list of all our Distribution lists and find out who was in each one.  I was able to accomplish both reports quickly and easily with this tool.

Free Light-Weight PDF Reader

I highly recommend this PDF reader.  Its light weight, less than 3MB total, its free, and works great.  It can easily let you quickly view PDF files on any Windows PC.  This is a lot better than the Adobe client which is bulky and slow.  Give it a try and speed up your PDF viewing.

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. 

Communicator 2007 custom presence tool

I just came across this artile about a tool that automates the little known feature of custom presence in Communicator 2007.  Those of you familiar with other IM platforms will appreciate the incorporation of this feature in Communicator 2007.  Although as nice as this is, tell me Microsoft…why aren’t you building this into the GUI in the first place?

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!

LCARS24 – GUI replacement

For those of us who are Star Trek fans and like to tinker with LCARS software, check out LCARS24, can run on any Windows PC, and turns it into a LCARS interface.