Aug 16

Windows Server code name ‘Aurora’ Preview now available!

I’ve just received an e-mail from Microsoft announcing the release of Windows Server code name “Aurora” Preview. This version of their Server Operating System is part of their Small Business Servers lineup. It was announced last month during the WPC. They are marketing this release of the operating system as a “bridge” between on-premises software and the cloud. Microsoft says that it is ideal for small businesses with 25 or less users.

Here’s an excerpt from the e-mail I received:

We believe that most small businesses need a server; however not all of them know it yet. That is why we designed Aurora, which is the ideal solution as a first server for those millions of Small Businesses worldwide that have less than 25 users and are still using a peer to peer network or have no network at all.

For those businesses, Windows Small Business Server Codename “Aurora” provides a cost-effective and easy-to-use way to simplify those businesses’ IT infrastructure, reduce cost and spend more time focusing on core business’ needs and less time worrying about their IT.

Aurora offers small businesses the help they need to ensure their data is safe through advanced backup and file restoration features. Aurora’s users can quickly set automatic, daily backups of every computer and server on the network and if problems with files arise, the customers will be able to restore individual files, folders, or an entire PC or server with simple recovery tools.

In addition, we are giving our users the power to utilize their files and documents to address business challenges even when they’re away from the office. By using a personalized web address, Aurora’s users will also be able connect to the server from virtually anywhere and access their computers and documents from any common web browser.

Finally, Aurora offers our customers the possibility to run their critical line of business applications on a stable, reliable platform based on Windows Server 2008 R2.

If these on premise functionalities are not enough, Windows Small Business Server Codename “Aurora” is a true “bridge to the cloud” designed to integrate between on-premise and online services and to use pay-as-you-go online services to extend the server functionality without increasing workload and maintenance needs.

I will download the beta version and start testing it as soon as I can. If you are interested, and if you didn’t register for their beta program a month ago, you can visit Microsoft’s connect site and register to download the Preview software.

Until next time.

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Jun 26

Are you backing up your data?

I often come across customers who have lost their important  documents to a computer disaster. Most times they didn’t have a backup strategy in place, or they did, but they weren’t implementing it. I always stress this to my customers. Backup your data. Set up a backup strategy and stick to it. One key aspect of a successful backup strategy is keeping your data in as many places as possible.

Most operating systems include some sort of backup feature that allows you to set up a backup schedule. There are also services that backup your important documents online (services such as Mozy Backup or Carbonite for instance). You can always purchase an inexpensive external hard drive and copy your files manually or with a backup utility. Anything you choose to do is better than not doing anything.

If you are running any flavor of Windows 7 on your computer, you have access to an easy to use and reliable backup utility. It takes a few minutes to set up, and you just need to plug in an external hard drive. Getting two external hard drives and alternating between the two is not a bad idea either. As I said, keeping your data in as many places as possible is a key part of a successful backup strategy.

If you run a business, it is a good idea to hire a professional to help you come up with a reliable backup strategy that fits your business needs and policies. You can always give us a call. I may post something related to business backup strategies in the future.

On your personal computer, a backup strategy is something simple to set up.You just need to use a backup utility to set up a schedule and make sure the backup runs.

You can always use a third party utility or copy the files your self, but, if you are running any version of Windows 7, you can set up the backup schedule in a few easy steps.

Click on the start menu and type “Backup” in the search box. One of the items you will find is called “Backup and Restore” – click on it. This will open the Backup and Restore center. In this window you can check the status of your existing backup schedule if you already have it set up. You can also modify the backup settings or set up up a new backup schedule.

Plug in your external hard drive or thumb drive (make sure there is enough space to hold your data or complete system drive). Click on “Setup Backup.” This will open the Setup Backup Wizard. The wizard is pretty straight forward. Just select the destination on the first section (the external hard drive.) Select what you want to back up (you can let Windows choose for you or select the option to choose yourself if you want to add locations outside of your libraries – documents, pictures, videos, etc). Modify the schedule on the next window. Then click save settings and run backup. That’s pretty much it. Now you just have to make sure the computer is on and the hard drive is plugged in whenever the backup will run.

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Jun 24

Find out what caused a Blue Screen of Death in Windows.

If you’ve used a computer with any flavor of the Windows Operating System, you’ve certainly experienced the infamous Blue Screen of Death (BSOD). These BSODs or Stop errors, as Microsoft calls them, occur when the Operating System detects a problem with either hard-ware or software, and it “stops” to prevent damage to the system. Depending on the computer configuration the computer may restart or simply wait for your input. It also writes a file to the hard-drive. This file is called a memory dump file, small memory dump file, or minidump file. This file contains information that may help you identify why your computer stopped responding.Your computer has to be configured to write this memory dump. It also needs to have a paging file of at least 2 MB on the boot drive.

To verify that your computer is set to write the minidump file and that the paging file is the correct size and in the right location follow the next steps:

  1. Click the Start Menu, Right Click “Computer” or “My Computer” and click “Properties…” Alternatively you can press the Windows Key and the Break key at the same time. This will open the System Properties.
  2. Click the “Advanced Tab” if you are using Windows 2000, Windows XP, or Windows Server 2003, or click “Advanced System Settings…” if you are using Windows Vista, Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008.
  3. Click the Settings button under the performance section.
  4. Click the Advanced tab and click the Change button under the Virtual Memory section.
  5. Make sure the boot drive is selected and that the size of the paging file or virtual memory is 2 MB or more. I like to set it at 1.5 times the size of your RAM or 4096 MB, whichever is less. It is also safe to let Windows manage the paging file for you.
  6. Click Set and then OK to set the paging file size.
  7. Click the Settings button under Startup and Recovery.
  8. Select “Small Memory Dump” under debugging information and click OK.

Microsoft offers tools to read and debug this memory dump file (Dumpchk.exe, WinDbg, and KD.exe), but there are other tools available that are a lot easier to use. One of the tools I like to use is called Blue Screen View. This utility is lightweight and easy to use. You run it and it detects and debugs the memory dump files for you. The information provided in these dump files is really useful when troubleshooting these kind of errors. Most of the times you will be able to find out what driver was causing the problem. The next step would be to remove or update the driver that caused the BSOD. Some times the cause of the problem may not be so clear even when looking at the contents of the minidump file. In these cases, more tests will be required, but that is a conversation for another day. These simple steps should help you pinpoint the cause of the issue if the issue is caused by a bad or corrupt driver – most stop errors are. When the errors are caused by a hard-ware malfunction, running a hard-ware diagnostic utility will usually help you pinpoint the problem (Memtest to test the memory modules for instance.).

You can get the Blue Screen View utility from the www.nirsoft.net website.

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Jun 21

Services fail to start and you may lose network connectivity after installing MS08-037 on a Windows Server 2000, 2003 or 2008 Computer.

This is an old issue. I first came across it about two years ago. Most Sys Admins or IT Consultants are probably familiar with this issue, and they probably know how to fix it already. Still, I thought it would be a good idea to write about it. In the past few months, I’ve had three calls from new customers that were experiencing issues caused by this update. They either didn’t update until now, the issue didn’t present itself until now, or their previous IT Consultant didn’t  bother to make the required configuration changes to prevent the issue.

In any case, after installing the Microsoft Update described in the Knowledge Base Article 953230 and rebooting the server, some network services will fail to start and your server will lose network connectivity.

MS08-037 is a security update published by Microsoft designed to prevent DNS Spoofing. This update is described in the KB953230 article.

The update changes the way the DNS Server Service allocates the UDP source port  for DNS queries. DNS by default will randomly pick 2500 ports when the service starts up. If another service is already using one of those ports, the service will fail to start. This problem occurs when the MaxUserPorts registry entry is present. This registry entry is added by default by Microsoft Exchange Server 2003, Microsoft ISA Server, and Microsoft Small Business Server 2003.

Microsoft is aware of this issue and they’ve published a Knowledge Base article detailing the instructions to solve it. The steps are outlined in the KB956189 article .

The following steps are taken from the previous article:

To resolve this problem, add the port that is needed by the service to the ReservedPorts registry value. This prevents the DNS Server service from listening on that port. The following ports are known to cause conflicts:

Collapse this tableExpand this table
Ports Program that uses the ports
1645-1646 IAS
1701-1701 L2TP
1718-1719 H.323 Gatekeeper (ISA 2000 only)
1745-1745 ISA Server 2000 or ISA Server 2004
1812-1813 IAS
2883-2883 AUTD
3500-3619 ISA Server 2000 only
4500-4500 IPSEC

To configure the ReservedPorts registry value, follow these steps:

  1. Click Start, click Run, type regedit, and then click OK.
  2. Locate and then click the following subkey:
    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\Tcpip\Parameters
  3. Right-click ReservedPorts, and then click Modify.
  4. Type the range of ports that you want to reserve.

    Notes

    • You must type the range of ports in the following format:
      xxxx-yyyy
    • Do not replace the existing values. Instead, add the additional values.
    • To specify a single port, use the same value for x and for y. For example, to specify port 4000, type 4000-4000.
    • If you specify the continuous ports separately and if one port is reserved and is not used, the next port is not reserved correctly, and the port is used.
    • ISA Server settings only apply to Small Business Server 2000 or to Windows Small Business Server 2003 Premium Edition.
  5. Click OK.

    Note If you receive the following warning message, click OK

    Warning:
    Data of type REG_MULTI_SZ cannot contain empty strings.
    Registry Editor will remove the empty string found.
  6. Exit Registry Editor, and then restart the computer.

Notes

  • You must restart the computer after you make these changes for the changes to take effect.
  • If you are using any third-party applications on the server that might require you to use a static UDP port that is higher than port 1024, you should also add it to the list of reserved ports.
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Mar 05

Microsoft will end support for some versions of Windows in 2010.

Support will end for Windows Vista with no service packs on April 13th 2010 and for Windows XP with Service Pack  2 on July 13th 2010. If you are running any of these versions, you should consider updating to the latest service pack.

What does this mean? This means that after these dates these products won’t be able to receive the latest security patches from the Microsoft Update website. If you want to stay protected, you should upgrade to the latest Service Pack.

Windows XP 64 bit is an exception. If you are running Windows XP 64 bit SP2, you have the latest version of the Operating System, and you will continue to receive security updates.

How do you find out what version of the operating system you are running? The easiest way to do this is to click on your Start Menu, right-click My Computer (or Computer for Windows Vista), and click Properties.

How do you install the latest service pack? The easiest way to do this is to turn on Windows Update and select a time to install the updates automatically.

To turn on Automatic Updates in Windows XP click on the start menu and click run, type sysdm.cpl and press the enter key, click on the Automatic Updates tab, select Automatic (recommended) Automatically download recommended updates for my computer and install them, and finally select a time to install the updates. Windows will connect to the internet for you and check for the latest updates and install them on the schedule you specified.

To turn on Automatic Updates in Windows Vista click on the start menu, click all programs, select Windows Update, in the left pane – click change settings, and choose the option you want. In this case we want to select the option to install the updates automatically.

Another option is to check for updates manually and install the latest service pack.

To do this in Windows XP open up Internet Explorer and go to the following site – windowsupdate.microsoft.com. Once you are on the site click the “Express” button to check for updates.

In Windows Vista click on the start menu and type Windows Update on the search bar, select Windows Update from the items on the search results, select check for updates in the left hand pane, and select install updates to install any found updates.

It is always good to keep your computer up to date with the latest security updates. This will protect your PC from attackers and viruses that may exploit any security holes on the operating system.

If you need any assistance with any of this don’t hesitate to contact us, and we will gladly help you.

Click Here for more information.

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