Microsoft Exchange Remote Connectivity Analyzer

 ExRCA

Leave it to Microsoft to create short an sweet names for their products. This time though, it’s a real pearl – and we’ll just shorten the name to ExRCA for the rest of this article.
(Edit: If you have suggestions for new name, or other comments, visit the site and click the Feedback-link)

Currently this tool is marked with “Beta”, and I suspect Microsoft are taking after Google here, notorious for their eternal beta products.

ExRCA is a gem in and of it’s own, and supplies great insight for those of us that really need it – the Exchange Administrator/Architect/Implementer/Troubleshooter.

It’s merely a troubleshooting tool in the form of a webpage that will, provided you submit it some information, connect and analyze your externally exposed Exchange Web Services! At the time of writing, these are your options:

  •  Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync Connectivity Tests
    • Exchange ActiveSync with AutoDiscover
    • Exchange ActiveSync (which is the one I’ve tested so far)
  •  Microsoft Exchange Web Services Connectivity Tests
    • ActiveSync Provider AutoDiscover
    • Outlook Provider AutoDiscover
  •  Microsoft Office Outlook Connectivity Tests
    • Outlook Anywhere with AutoDiscover
    • Outlook 2003 RPC/HTTP
  •  Internet Email Tests
    • Inbound SMTP Email Test

Are you still reading? I’ll give you the link to this site in a moment, let me just give you some background on the issue I was facing first:

I was recently tasked with setting up external services like Outlook Web Access and Exchange Active Sync for mobile devices for a client. The Exchange Server in question was one typical non-dedicated server – loaded with other services. There were several services installed in the “Default Web Site” in IIS, all of which had imposed *their* settings into IIS. The Exchange web services hadn’t been in use before, but my client desired a move into the future, and so they wanted to utilize email, calendar, contact and task synchronization to their various mobile devices.

The web services are automatically installed and set up by Exchange when you first install it, but since the other services had had their way with the IIS site, “nothing” was working – no SSL, no permissions, no configurations – seemed to be in order for Exchange web services.

As I started ironing out the creases, more and more functionality came in to place and to make a long story short, I had only one thing remaining that didn’t work properly, and that was the most important – device synchronization with ActiveSync!

I had already configured the service and was able to connect, providing a user name and password, but when it came time to move data, the device (an old HTC S710 I keep around just for testing) would throw an error message (It was “Support Code 0x85010014” if you’re interested) that I couldn’t quite get my head around, because every search for this code gave me different results.

In the end I stumbled upon a forum thread that seemed to be moving into the same problem I was having. A moderator suggested they go to the Microsoft Exchange Remote Connectivity Analyzer and use it to analyze the problem.

I did the same, and using a test user-ID (as recommended – do no use any production user-ID unless you absolutely have to) I ran the test. My client didn’t have a trusted SSL certificate installed on his IIS Server at the time, so I had to check “Ignore Trust for SSL” to make the tests pass.

After supplying the server name and user credentials and verifying to the service that I understood what this was going to do, the tests ran and a report was presented in the webpage. It informed me that connecting and communicating was working fine, but there was something towards the end that failed. It then supplied a link to a Technet article explaining what was wrong and a link to a KB Article on how to fix the issue. I needed to create a separate Virtual Directory for non-SSL Outlook Mobile Access, and once I had that I redirected clients to it using a registry key.

The information gathered by ExRCA was invaluable in resolving the issue, and will definitely be a part of my toolbox from now on!

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Google to launch Google Chrome OS

googlechromelogoThere probably was something to those rumours after all, then.. The Goole OS is becomaing a reality, and it will be good.. for Netbooks.

Read the pressrelease here

‘Cause, see, I don’t believe for one second that this is going to be any kind of challenger to Windows, as many of the comments to this blogpost (more than!) suggest.

We can probably agree that Windows XP and to a certain extent also 7 is wrong for Netbooks. But then there are those who actually do real work on their computer and require a real, mature OS, running on a real, powerful  computer. For this group, probably in the 98 percentile of computers world wide, a tiny linux-gadget that boots straight into a browser in three seconds isn’t going to get them very far.

Rather, the Google Chrome OS will be a challenger for other Linux-distros aiming at the same market, namely small, light-weight devices such as the CrunchPad and others.. Then there is the DOJ that surely will sharpen their pencils in light of another major player bundling the OS and browser, just as they have been investigating Microsoft. And, surely Microsoft will be lobbying the DOJ to pursue a case.

I will probably take a look at what Google Chrome OS can do for my wife’s netbook, and perhaps it can replace Windows 7 there.

But if you need something more than being able to surf the net and read email, all you need to do is butter up with a can of patience, ‘cause Windows 7 is just around the corner!

Some of the (hilarious) comments on the pressrelease:

 

“Google declares total war on Microsoft | Text Technologies” LOL2! [red anm.]

Here are some thoughts that add some nuance to this: Google Chrome OS – Bad Move for Google, Here’s Why

Movies, TV-shows for rent – what’s the hold-up??

We bought the Xbox 360 in 2005. We’ve had Windows Media Center ever since we got our first Vista-computer in early 2007. I’ve had my ipod touch since 2007 and Apple have also launched their Apple TV, but I haven’t got one yet for reasons which will become apparent when you read this.

All these platforms and devices have a few things in common; they are able to play movies and TV-shows from your local collection, but also by way of download or live streaming from the internet!

But alas, so far there isn’t a real offering in Europe, as far as I know, or in Norway in particular, which is where I happen to live. If I want to watch a movie on my ipod, I’m forced to go the “unlawful” route of ripping and converting my DVD’s to ipod-format. Which I don’t mind, except it requires a lot of effort on my part, and I just don’t buy DVD’s anymore.. Don’t even get me started on TV-shows.

I keep reading about all the great services available in the US, like Xbox Marketplace (soon to be replaced/enhanced by Zune Marketplace Pressrelease), Netflix, Apple’s movie and TV-show rentals, Roku and so forth and so on..

I’ve found one service offering movie rentals and live TV shows over on cdon.com and while I applaud the effort and move towards this model of content distribution, I haven’t really gotten this particular service to work. It’s unstable, it’s relying on available bandwidth for live streaming (ie no pre-download)and it’s payment model requires me to get out a credit card every time I want to purchase content.

So what’s the hold-up?? Why can’t we have the same services on the Xbox or Windows Media Center in Norway as what is available in the US? Why is music so different? Why haven’t Apple, which otherwise do a great job of offering global (ie Western) services, managed to put up movie and TV content for streaming or download, with or (preferrably) without DRM?

I get that launching such a service globally is a much bigger deal than “just” launching in the US, and that a domestic US launch yields the most payback for the least amount of effort, but come on!

It’s 2009! MS, Apple – get on the ball! 🙂

 

Thank you. 🙂

I <3 my Ipod touch!

This post started out as a little tip on song lyrics, but then I thought I’d join the rant on the ipod touch..

ipod-touch1I discovered this little golden nugget a good while ago, when my precious wife bought me *the single most useful device I ever came across*; the ipod touch. I got the 8GB version, and can’t see how I’d fill that up. I carry with me most of the music I listen to now, previously and some that I don’t listen to as much. I have about 30 new (as in unlistenend to) podcasts at any time, there are favorites in Safari for some iphone-adapted newspaper sites and of course – an ever growing collection of APPS! Gotta love the appstore… 🙂

 

Stocks – obvious little gadget. Instant heads-up on my tiny portfolio.

podcast-logoPodcasts – I admit it – the touch got me hooked on podcasts. I started out with Leo Laporte and Paul Thurrott’s Windows Weekly and soon discovered many of Leo’s other podcasts. A personal favorite is Security Now with Steve Gibson – a true geek to the bone! Then as I got into .NET and software development I’ve tipped towards such podcasts as the excellent .NET Rocks! with Carl Franklin and  Richard Campbell. Then, as a side-order I touched by the Mondays! podcast, hosted by the same crew + others. A word of warning though, while hilarious at times, Mondays! is NOT for the faint of heart. Expect vulgarities, profanity and such. All in all, the podcast community is enormous and growing, and I believe anyone can find a podcast for their particular interest.
I will typically listen to podcasts while driving, painting the house, chopping wood, frying pancakes or <insert mundane task here>. Makes the otherwise boring task into a fun and meaningful one.

Music – yep it *does* play music too. 🙂 Thousands of songs. I’ve tried different earphones in an everlasting quest of perfect wearability, comfort and sound-quality. I’ve had a pair of Koss PortaPros that I managed rip out the cord from, it was just too long. Plus they were a bit cumbersome to wear while doing manual labor. I also ripped cords from the original set of earbuds, so I stole my son’s earbuds, the ones that came with his Shuffle. The cord on those are a little shorter, so I struggle when I don’t have any “high” pockets to put the ‘pod in. I’ve tried getting earbuds that are supposed to close you out from your surroundings and provide excellent sound-quality, and I bet they do – but they’re not for me; Since I listen while driving, closing out ALL ambient sound is a *very* bad idea. Also I find that putting them on requires more effort. So as far as I can tell – nothing beats the original Apple earbuds.
Oh, and the tip I was gonna tell you about: You can add song lyrics to you songs! You’ll find most lyrics online with Google. Just search for something like “Nirvana Nevermind lyrics” and a ton of fansites will show up. Select and copy the lyrics to your clipboard or notepad or what ever. Then, in iTunes you can right-click any song (well, AAC or MP3), choose Info and in the resulting dialog, choose the pane called Text. Paste the lyrics in there, and resync you music. While the song is playing, you’ll be able to scroll through the lyrics right in there! Nice!

 

 

Movies – yes movies too. I rip my DVD’s (so sue me! :)) with DVD Shrink and reduce them with Handbrake on the PC, then upload the full movies in great quality on the go. A full two-hour movie is about 1GB in ipod-format. Great on long flights, which I have almost none of, but still. Battery on the touch is good for about 5-6 hours of movie-watching, I’m guessing the iphone can’t match that..

 

Apps – gotta love the Appstore! What an amazing collection of *very* useless software! And at the same time, an incredibly diverse collection of very *useful* software! If you can filter through all the iBeer, iFarts, iThis and iMrich (or what the heck that insanely expensive thing was called) you can actually find some really creative and well thought-through applications. Some personal favorites (excluding games) are:

  • Geocaching by Groundspeak – this one would really be more useful if you had the iPhone, as it integrates with 3G and GPS for downloading caches and location. But paired with my Windows Mobile Smartphone and a nifty little piece of software that turns the WM into a Wifi hotspot, I’m able to at least download the caches while out in the field. The WM also has a GPS, so I can get my location and type it in manually..

  • Twitterific by The Iconfactory – yes I sometimes twitter.. The same thing goes for Twitter as for the Appstore, and the Internet in general I guess – you gotta *filter out the crap* if you want to derive value from it! I follow some people that twitter useful links concerning .NET-related topics, development in general and other IT stuff. Plus I can search for terms of interest and find tweets from people that have discussed these terms.

  • Flash Drive by Readdle.com – this is a cool little piece of software that is… well… I guess what the name says, but the interface is somewhat different than you would think about a flash drive. It uses an http server to allow you to connect using WebDAV and map it like an ordinary network drive in Windows. From there you can upload documents to the device. Now, if they would only include search in the document contents, I’d be perfectly happy with it..

  • Units – allows you to convert units. Handy, when you need it, which I don’t very often, but still I like to keep it around.

  • Safari – yes the browser is nice, but the feature that allows you to make “applications” from webpages is particularly nice. I use the Google Reader for keeping up with RSS feeds, and so I made a Home Screen Favorite (or what you might call it) to directly launch Reader as if it was a local app! Google has made a great iphone-friendly interface for it, so it looks and feels like it’s local. Others I’ve “applified” are Gmail, StackOverflow and Hotmail. Click and go!

  • Google Earth – It amazes me that this is even possible – to have the Google Earth experience on a device this small! And with touch and tilt control it’s actually *better* that on the pc. Gotta love that!

  • Games – yes games games games. My son got hooked pretty early (he’s four now) on the games on the ipod, and “ipod night” has become a term we use frequently. Together we have played through the whole Toy Bot series (1, 2 and 3), both Dizzy Bee games, landed gazillions of planes in FlightControl and ATC 4.0, battled demons in TapDefense, tilted and slid our way through Labyrinth and Hydro Tilt and bounced around in JellyCar. Endless hours of fun for a price equivalent to a pack of gum in most cases. Gotta love that too!

And I could go on and on. But I’m out of time for now, and I’m gonna end this. I love the ipod touch…

Some things I learned these past few days…

A day without learning is a wasted day.

Don’t know who said that, but I live by this rule, and so I try to learn something valuable* every day:

 

  • You *can* serve confirmation dinner in your living room for 26 people. The only challenge is for the servant whose supposed to present the large tray of steak to each guest, when the guests are sitting shoulder-to-shoulder. 🙂
  • When your ASP.NET button click isn’t doing anything, the first place to look ISN’T the SQL query that’s supposed to run. Check that the button is hooked up with the onClick-event containing the code. That will save you a lot of wasted debugging-cycles. n00b. 🙂
  • If you are working on a virtual lab and have 20 minutes remaining of your alotted time, but only 10 minutes before your wife has dinner ready, she will “make it so” that the virtual lab crashes. Don’t ask me how.
  • If you plan for a nice day out, bicycling with your family, you will only get so far before you have a flat tire.
  • Your winner’s luck is thoroughly spent once you land any prize – no matter what it’s worth. So if you win a stack of bananas, that will count as much as winning the lottery. You can’t have both.

So these are some things that I learned. Your comments confirming or denying these claims are welcome.

 

 

* Valuable TO ME, that is.. 🙂

Creative and discrete Joomla hack..

Recently a client reported that their web-page had turned black! I was tasked with investigating, and this turned out a tad more interesting than I first thought it would be…

I soon discovered that there was indeed text on the page, it was just black on black, so you couldn’t read it. The only text on there though, was a PHP error message, stating that there was a syntax error in banners.php, which was a file unknown to me. When I opened the banners.php file, I found code in there which would do something like this:

  1. Check client, if it’s a normal web browser, return the normal webpage, nobody notices anything..
  2. If the client is a search-engine, however, return only these links: (then a whole lot of links to what looked like different articles on a blog, but the names disclosed them as selling some product) and then do nothing..

Crafted for silent operation, this hack would only affect indexing spiders and search engines! Thereby upping the rating for this particular “blog”, or whatever it was, in those search engines! This would indeed have gone unnoticed for who-knows how long, had it not been for the syntax error they had made in the file.

In trying to learn how this hack was done, I turned to the Joomla forums, but there wasn’t much help to be had there, as we weren’t running the very latest release of the Joomla CMS… :-/

I gotta admire the creativity of some people out there, in finding new ways of exploiting the web… You can only winder how many other site-admins are unaware of their websites returning SPAM to all indexing attempts made at their site.. Just goes to show, you should ALWAYS keep your software, be it on your computer or out on the web, up to date…

Windows Live Mesh on the iPhone!

Microsofts endeavour, or should I say one of Microsofts endeavours, into cloud computing is (currently :)) called Live Mesh. At first glance it might seem that all you can do with this thing is synchronize data across your computers, but there is more to come and it touted by some to be the next-generation application platform, supporting both Windows PC’s, Mac’s and mobile devices.

image

I’ve been using Live Mesh for a while now, synchronizing select folders between work and home computers. I’m able to keep documents I’m working on, code projects and scripts handy, so no matter if I’m at work or at home, I can find the latest version ready for me. Between two home computers we use it to synchronize our GSAK database, to make sure we’re always carrying the latest geocaches with us on the netbook. 🙂

So while I was really searching for an iphone app that would allow me to download documents to the iphone as a flash drive, index the contents and make them searchable (btw: I had no luck with that), I stumbled upon this article:

Windows Live Mesh on the iPhone!

I hadn’t realized yet that mobile devices were supported, but they are, through the Live Mesh Mobile web interface. And what’s more, you don’t need a Windows Mobile device to use it, it works just as well with an iphone or (I’d imagine) any other device. Granted, your mobile device must be able to read the document type.. So far I’ve been able to read Office documents, text-files and PDF’s with the iphone and they are all good.

Now, the *true* mobile support (as in mobile device installed application) isn’t out yet, and likely will be Windows Mobile only. At least in the first iteration. I do expect Mesh-enable apps to surface on the iphone App Store, it just makes sense..

And one more thing.. You can actually remote control your online Mesh members! Now, I don’t have a Mac, but I have tried remote controlling both Vista and Windows Server 2008 Mesh members, and it works well enough that you can get out of a tight spot or remote support someone else. I was toying with the idea of installing Mesh on my Windows Home Server as well, as I have never been able to get that remote control support working.

I’m very excited about Live Mesh, and now that I can have documents available both on my Windows Mobile phone and my ipod touch, it’s shaping up real good!

But, keep in mind – this is just a Tech Preview beta, and things could change dramatically! Don’t put anything valuable up there, something COULD break!