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

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.

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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!

The extended Easter..

Extending Easter by a week was an excellent idea, visiting the US was even better! Highlights have been (in no particular order) : driving a car on Manhattan at night in rain and fog, guided tour of a steel mill in Ohio, visiting Amish country, The Great Wolf Lodge in PA, the great warmth and hospitality of our american relatives and a fun Easter Egg Hunt! Now I’m back at the office, and I just feel a lot lighter than last time I was here. I’m probably not, though. 😉

I’ve joined up with the Linkedin .NET Users Group  (formally the “C# Professionals Group”) and they look set to make a real difference in the .net developers community. Being over 20,000 members strong already I think they really can.

Focus will be as before, on ASP.NET and learning all the facets of greatly scalable web-architecture. I’m kinda struggling to find the time outside office hours to get real deep into it, but somehow I’ll make it happen.

I’m getting into Microsofts Hyper-V working on a case for a client, and sorting out all the pros and cons vs the competition is proving a challenge, even if I have the local Microsoft experts only a call away.. 🙂 For instance – will Server Core support failover clustering with Hyper-V? Will the free Hyper-V Server support failover clustering? How do you convert existing physical servers to virtual ones, does it require System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM)? Somehow I’ll straighten it out, and if all goes well, we’ll bag this case as the first “win” over VMWare VI3.. Fingers crossed..