Essential Business Server prep and monitoring

I’m a huge fan of Microsoft­’s inte­grat­ed serv­er prod­ucts — Small Busi­ness Serv­er and the new kid on the block, Essen­tial Busi­ness Serv­er. They pro­vide an incred­i­bly robust and reli­able IT core for any organ­i­sa­tion — espe­cial­ly because the in-built mon­i­tor­ing and alter­ing lets you know about poten­tial issues that require your atten­tion. And the inte­grat­ed prod­ucts in EBS for email secu­ri­ty and net­work-edge secu­ri­ty sim­pli­fy your net­work’s con­fig­u­ra­tion, and its cost.

If you are con­sid­er­ing migrat­ing or upgrad­ing to EBS (and I’d con­sid­er it even if you have an exist­ing mul­ti-serv­er infra­struc­ture,) there have been a num­ber of wiz­ards and white papers released recent­ly which may be of inter­est. They are:

Win­dows Essen­tial Busi­ness Serv­er Prepa­ra­tion and Plan­ning Wiz­ards

The Prepa­ra­tion and Plan­ning Wiz­ards help you pre­pare your envi­ron­ment and plan for deploy­ment of Win­dows EBS by scan­ning your net­work envi­ron­ment and iden­ti­fy­ing issues that you need to cor­rect to be able to deploy Win­dows EBS.

Win­dows Essen­tial Busi­ness Serv­er Prepa­ra­tion and Plan­ning Guide
This doc­u­ment explains how to pre­pare and plan for a deploy­ment of Win­dows EBS into your exist­ing net­work­ing envi­ron­ment. This doc­u­ment includes infor­ma­tion on how to install and run the Win­dows Essen­tial Busi­ness Serv­er Prepa­ra­tion Wiz­ard and the Win­dows Essen­tial Busi­ness Serv­er Plan­ning Wiz­ard, and it pro­vides plan­ning guid­ance.

Mon­i­tor­ing Win­dows Essen­tial Busi­ness Serv­er
This doc­u­ment pro­vides guid­ance to help you mon­i­tor your Win­dows Essen­tial Busi­ness Serv­er net­work by using the Win­dows EBS Admin­is­tra­tion Con­sole and by using the mon­i­tor­ing capa­bil­i­ties of Microsoft Sys­tem Cen­ter Essen­tials 2007.

This last one is, to me, the most inter­est­ing and impor­tant. Servers do need mon­i­tor­ing and care, but those are tasks that are eas­i­ly ignored in small busi­ness­es with per­haps no ded­i­cat­ed IT staff. Hav­ing the serv­er do the grunt work for you itself is very use­ful indeed — and the main rea­son I would def­i­nite­ly rec­om­mend that EBS is con­sid­ered care­ful­ly for any core infra­struc­ture refresh or renew­al in a small com­pa­ny.

Amish Hackers

The Tech­ni­um: Amish Hack­ers:

The Amish have the unde­served rep­u­ta­tion of being lud­dites, of peo­ple who refuse to employ new tech­nol­o­gy. It’s well know the strictest of them don’t use elec­tric­i­ty, or auto­mo­biles, but rather farm with man­u­al tools and ride in a horse and bug­gy. In any debate about the mer­its of embrac­ing new tech­nol­o­gy, the Amish stand out as offer­ing an hon­or­able alter­na­tive of refusal. Yet Amish lives are any­thing but anti-tech­no­log­i­cal. In fact on my sev­er­al vis­its with them, I have found them to be inge­nious hack­ers and tin­kers, the ulti­mate mak­ers and do-it-your­selfers and sur­pris­ing­ly pro tech­nol­o­gy.

Fas­ci­nat­ing arti­cle.

(Via Kevin Kel­ly.)

This is the Tablet PC I want

I’ve always been a fan of Tablet PCs. Main­ly because I’m com­plete­ly and utter­ly in love with Microsoft OneNote – it’s the killer app for Tablet PCs and for every­one in gen­er­al who needs to keep their ran­dom stuff togeth­er on a PC. Good­ness knows why it’s not pushed hard­er than it is.

Any­way. I still look around the tablet PC space from time to time, but have not found any­thing that’s inspired me recent­ly. This has changed.

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The Dell Lat­i­tude XT2 looks to have fan­tas­tic specs – small (an inch thick!) plus spec­c­ing it with a decent amount of mem­o­ry and a 6‑cell bat­tery comes in at around £1300. There’s an option­al 9‑cell bat­tery the slides onto the base but that obvi­ous­ly com­pro­mis­es size and weight.

I’m still not sure I’d want to have a Tablet PC (or a net­book!) as my only machine. But this would be an absolute­ly bril­liant car­ry­ing com­put­er, I think.

Free the postcode!

Post­codes are an essen­tial part of loca­tion ser­vices in the UK. How­ev­er, they’re not free – they are owned by the Post Office, who will charge you a hefty sum in order to get access to the data­base.

Ham­per­ing free and inno­v­a­tive loca­tion-based ser­vices? Like­ly. Easy to reverse-engi­neer? You betcha!

The Free the Post­code project intends to build a pub­lic domain data­base of post­codes, in the same way that the Open Street Map project intends to build a free map of all streets in the UK, thus break­ing the Ordi­nance Sur­vey’s hold on that infor­ma­tion.

How­ev­er, if you have an iPhone, Free the Post­code has a free appli­ca­tion that uses the phone’s GPS for loca­tion, com­bined with your sub­mis­sion of the post­code. This link will open it in iTunes. There’s also an app for Android phones.

This is an excel­lent idea and well worth sup­port­ing.

Found on TechCrunch UK

Fix it — great idea!

fixit.jpg

If you’re hav­ing a prob­lem with a Microsoft prod­uct, then the first stop for find­ing a solu­tion pret­ty much needs to be the MS Knowl­edge­base. It’s solved prob­lems for me and for clients times with­out num­ber. Often how­ev­er this has involved print­ing out the arti­cle in ques­tion in order to fol­low a series of steps on the com­put­er with the prob­lem.

A new, and very wel­come addi­tion to some arti­cles on the Knowl­edge­base removes the need for this — a “Fix it” but­ton, shown above, has been added. When this but­ton is avail­able, it will down­load a small file that con­tains a script or exe­cutable that per­forms all the steps for you. For exam­ple, if Inter­net Explor­er is miss­ing from your desk­top, the “Fix It” but­ton down­loads a small installer file con­tain­ing a script to put it back.

I can see this going far, and hope it’s a major change in fix deliv­ery. Help Desks in par­tic­u­lar should gear up to build local libraries of these script­ed fix­es, in order to push them out where required. And build­ing the serv­er-spe­cif­ic fix­es into Sys­tem Cen­ter Oper­a­tions Man­ag­er for auto­mat­ed behind-the-scenes prob­lem res­o­lu­tion would be a great next step too.

UAC Flaw — MS listens, promises to fix.

Good news on the User Access Con­trol flaw I wrote about a few days ago — the Win­dows 7 engi­neers have promised to fix it in the release can­di­date, and have gone even fur­ther in the fix than was asked.

The addi­tion­al pro­pos­al is to run the User Access Con­trol pan­el in a mode where oth­er pro­grams can­not manip­u­late it with­out first gain­ing ele­vat­ed rights. This should put and end to any poten­tial exploit via this route.

Good to see the engi­neers respond­ing to this. The fact that they had to, how­ev­er, leads me to won­der if they’re not a lit­tle insu­lat­ed – they talked about “Cus­tomer Dri­ven Engi­neer­ing” in their pre­vi­ous post clar­i­fy­ing their views on the flaw (now changed of course) but sure­ly a lit­tle bit of com­mon sense and engi­neer­ing expe­ri­ence should have told them that this was wrong, regard­less of what the behav­iour­al mon­i­tor­ing they per­formed sug­gest­ed?

Google earth defaulting to old imagery?

I’m hav­ing a weird prob­lem with the new ver­sion of Google Earth. Look­ing near me in Man­ches­ter, it’s default­ing to an old image set – around 2004 or so – when they have lat­er images avail­able.

Let me show you:

2009.jpg

This is the default image of a street cor­ner near where I live. I had­n’t paid much atten­tion to it until now. But using Google Earth­’s new fea­ture to go back in time, I start­ed to look more close­ly.

2005.jpg

This is the same cor­ner from a set of images from 2005. It’s clear to see the site has been cleared, ready for re-build­ing.

2003.jpg

But here we are, look­ing at the 2003 image set — and it’s exact­ly the same as the default view.

This is clear­ly wrong — Google def­i­nite­ly has more up-to-date images than the ones they are show­ing by default for Man­ches­ter. Has any­one else had this prob­lem? Can oth­ers check their locale to see if there are prob­lems where they live too?

Internet Radio saved: revenue-based royalties set.

Copy­right Board begrudg­ing­ly adopts rev­enue-based stream­ing roy­al­ties:

With explana­to­ry lan­guage that made it clear its judges did­n’t par­tic­u­lar­ly favor any­one at all involved in this whole process, the CRB announced this week it will apply roy­al­ties to stream­ing net ser­vices based on rev­enue.

I’m glad that this has been final­ly sort­ed out. It’s tak­en bills in the Sen­ate, court appeals and over two years of nego­ti­a­tion to find a solu­tion that enables inter­net radio broad­cast­ers – like my favourite SOMA FM – to pay roy­al­ties based on their income rather than on a notion­al amount per song.

The nego­ti­a­tion process clear­ly has­n’t been smooth, and it does­n’t seem as if any side ends cov­ered in glo­ry here. But the user-sup­port­ed inter­net radio sta­tions will con­tin­ue to play a more diverse and inter­est­ing playlist than any com­mer­cial sta­tion. I’ll boost my sub­scrip­tion by a dol­lar or two a month to ensure I can still lis­ten to that.

(Via BetaNews.)

UAC flaw “by design” says Microsoft

Microsoft dis­miss­es Win­dows 7 UAC secu­ri­ty flaw, con­tin­ues to insist it is “by design”:

Just because it’s by design does­n’t mean to say it’s right. This is exact­ly the blink­ered think­ing that we heard from the peo­ple work­ing on UAC in the Vista time­frame — “This is the way it’s going to be, we know bet­ter than you.”

Since that atti­tude was prov­ably incor­rect last time, what makes it any more right this time?

(Via I Start­ed Some­thing.)