Monthly Archives: December 2013

So what will I learn in 2014?

most of the last 18 months was spent studying for, failing and then passing my Microsoft Certified Master in Exchange 2010; i then had to spend four months in a darkened room recovering from the qual lab. there are those, like Richard Timmering, who can just breeze through this stuff, with their brains the size of planets, but it damn near saw me off.

finally, now though, i feel sufficiently recovered that i can contemplate learning something else, so i’ve been having a think about what i want and need to do. first off, there’s the stuff i need to learn for work:

  • Powershell; my skills are appalling. i need to get to the point where i’m happy writing mid-length scripts in powershell 2.0, and comfortable using 3.0.
  • Exchange 2013 – my mad skillz are kept sharp through troubleshooting, and as most of my customers are on 2010, that’s the product i’m comfortable with.
  • office 365 – as above. however, i know this year i’m going to be exposed to hybrid environments, so sticking my fingers in my ears and singing “lalalaaaa” is no longer a useful coping strategy.
  • lync. sigh.

and then there’s the things i’d like to get good at for work:

  • multi-tenant hosting with 2010/2013. we don’t do it, but people keep talking about it.
  • zimbra – always useful to have a different perspective
  • automated scripting of labs – something a bit like the lync online lab script, but for exchange 2010. i’m going to have to completely reconfigure my lab anyway this year, root out the 2003 and start building a decent 2013 environment, rather than the gimcrack thing i’m currently mucking about with.

it’ll be awfully dull if all i do is vendor stuff for the day job though, so i’ve been thinking about what i should be planning toward. i did a MSc 8 years ago, which i found to be a thoroughly rewarding experience, even if i’ve not done a lot with it, so i’d quite like to do something similar to that again. with that in mind, i’ve been browsing the University of Hertfordshire post grad site, specifically the list of PhD topics. However, it’s pretty clear that my 20 year old vintage undergrad maths isn’t going to stand scrutiny for the more interesting subjects, so first of all i need to get back up to speed with calculus and the rest of it. My programming is likewise ropey, so i shall be hitting the MOOCs in the first half of this year. the maths particularly will be handy – with a fifteen year old maths wiz daughter i need to be on my toes, and i’m fed up of being considered stone-age because i don’t recall the quick way to do quadratics.

so in short, this year i’ll also be:

i’ll be using this blog to keep track of what i’m doing, so please feel free to suggest anything that might be useful.

interesting things i have seen on the internet 30/12/2013

it’s been too long since the last one of these, but there were one or two challenges earlier this month (on the plus side, the overtime will pay for christmas). i apologise therefore for the unwieldy size of this post; hopefully you’ll have a quiet day or two before the post-christmas rush in which to go through and pick out items of interest. i’d like to think it’s all interesting, of course.

 

Exchange Design

mapi extensions for http. well, this is properly fascinating… instead of encapsulating the rpc call into an http packet, this adds mapi extensions for http, enabling outlook to connect to the CAS using nothing but http, if i’m reading it correctly.

there’s a new version of the 2013 server role requirements calculator. please don’t email Ross telling him he’s made a mistake. not unless you’re really really sure, anyway.

Tony Redmond has a cassandra post here about migrating to modern public folders. he’s never wrong, so i’d pay close attention to him on this.

Michel de Rooij has been playing with JetStress, and published this article on the differences in ESE performance between 2010 and 2013.

 

Exchange Troubleshooting

possibly the most useful article published in the last few months; the technet blog “top support issues” broken down by product, and in the case of exchange, by functional area as well. you’ll notice that issue number 1 is how to deactivate file level antivirus (FLAV) filter drivers. it amazes me how often disabling FLAV causes a problem to disappear. last month i posted a link to an exhaustive exclusions list for FLAV. here it is again.

there have been updates to the “current issues with Activesync and third party devices” article for exchange 2007 and exchange 2010 which may help explain some recent challenging behaviour. the fix for recent challenging behaviour has been to upgrade to SP3 RU2 for exchange 2010, by the way.

There are updates to the replacement for the MPS utility – the new Microsoft Diagnostic Tool. expect a more detailed post on how to use this in the near future, but for now, have a look at this KB article.

and here is the first unfixed bug in SP3 that microsoft will put their hand up to – attendees display incorrectly in outlook. not too serious, but i bet we’ll have someone moaning about it. workaround only, so far.

as previously mentioned, but it bears repeating, IE11 and OWA don’t play nicely together.

a quick and dirty guide to troubleshooting group policies and outlook. surprising how often group policies are at the root of weird outlook behaviour. not as often as third party plugins, though.

 

Exchange General

Earlier this month Tony Redmond had a great interview with Perry Clarke, the head of the Exchange Product Group at Microsoft. On premises exchange is definitely not doomed. definitely. While there isn’t that much technical content, it’s good to read the vision for Exchange, and an explanation of some of the problems experienced this year.

do i need DAC in a single AD site: Rhoderick Milne has a lovely summary of DAC here, plus a discussion of its use in a single AD site. (the answer is “probably”, by the way). it’s also worth reading his posts on RBACCU lifecycles and “6 mistakes to avoid with CU command line installations” You’ll be seeing a lot from me, and probably a lot of other people, over the coming months about CU lifecycles, service pack lifecycles and so on. for instance, read down a bit…

Rollup 8 for exchange sp2 and rollup 4 for exchange 2010 sp3 are released!

eh? it’s only five minutes since the last rollup was released! ‘sright – this IS the last rollup, but with security bulletin MS13-105 included – rollup 3 (for instance) has been withdrawn and replaced with rollup 4.

full details here:

Exchange 2007 SP3 RU12 – http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2903911
Exchange 2010 RTM RU5 – http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=2407113
Exchange 2010 SP1 RU8 – http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2787763
Exchange 2010 SP2 RU8 – http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2903903/en-us
Exchange 2010 SP3 RU4 – http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2905616
Exchange 2013 RU1 – http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=e5c9ecf5-e36f-4164-9960-c91d01a83521
Exchange 2013 RU2 – http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=35f891ce-8a0d-4d25-abe1-ea45ec81b4e0

if you’ve downloaded rollup 7 for sp2 with the intention of applying it after the change freeze is lifted, then you might want to download it again, now.

there are a lot of posts about the demise of forefront UAG, but the advice regarding TMG last year holds true – it’s still supported, it just won’t to be available for purchase, a bit like the vauxhall frontera. a lot like the frontera, in fact; overpriced and unpopular. WAP is the future for exchange 2013, we’re told, but configuration advice is pretty thin on the ground. i’ll have a more detailed post on options later.

here’s a nice post on the correct way to use new-mailboxSearch, which may be timely for some of you.

using powershell to get public folder permissions. a series of useful cmdlets for listing and manipulating public folder permissions in exchange 2010 and 2013.

you’ll all know how to add full mailbox access for another user; however you might not be aware of the way to disable the automapping that inevitably follows. Paul Cunningham also has a useful script to get an ActiveSync device report.

There is also a useful pair of posts on the EHLO blog about understanding the Activesync mailbox log, for those who’d like to dig a little deeper.

Techtarget’s top exchange server content of 2013. some of this is interesting. some of it is probably less so. very few people (other than me) care about the demise of the MCSM, for instance.

Tony Redmond has an article on running Exchange 2013 in the cloud. synopsis; it’s possible, but not supported. yet.

Steve Goodman’s article on important Exchange skills and topics is useful as a checklist – if you’re weak on any of this, now you know what you need to learn (hybrid deployments, in my case).

the EHLO blog has a couple of useful posts on the new litigation and in-place hold functionality in Exchange 2013 and Office 365, and a general introduction to managed availability. you may recall i’ve posted before on how MA is likely to affect customers who see every MDB x-over as a disaster.

Core General

how to build your ADFS lab on server 2012 part 1 & part 2.

we’re going to be seeing a lot of ADFS this year, i should think, so it makes sense to have a good play with it. as an added bonus, the lab includes a bit of message analyser work, the all-singing, all-dancing replacement for netmon. yes, i AM still using wireshark, as it happens, but i feel guilty about it.

how to monitor traffic to your DCs.

i am really excited about this post. now all i need is a spare day or two to play around with it. or someone to log a call which looks like it might benefit from this approach…

“hi nick, i’d like to log a call about out of office not resetting correctly”

“great, we’ll need to follow the method outlined in this article on DC traffic!”

A real life memory pool leak

i love this article – it details the troubleshooting process really clearly. he also calls out three rules at the end which are incredibly important, and, in my experience, always overlooked:

  • complex environments spawn complex problems – we need to co-operate with other teams, not just look for an opportunity to chuck a problem over the wall into their laps.
  • benchmarking, baselining, call it what you want – it’s vital. if you don’t know where you’ve been, it’s difficult to know where you are.
  • don’t assume you know what the problem is without looking at the evidence. it’s all too easy to spend a lot of money fixing stuff that isn’t broken.

Office 365

henrik Walther’s guide to configuring an office 365 trial subscription – well, you’ve got to start somewhere. I’d recommend keeping an eye on his blog, here, and also on the main msexchange.org website for more useful office 365 resources. i’m a bit of a novice when it comes to office 365, so if anyone has any useful resources that I have missed, then please let me know, and i’ll include them.

Paul Robichaux has a nice guide to the office 365 beta exams, for those who are thinking of taking them. the warning about the amount of Sharepoint Online material looks pertinent; i’m very proud of my total ignorance regarding sharepoint, but it looks like i may have to rectify that…

Timothy Heeney has an interesting post on why URL filtering is a better way to secure access to Office 365 than IP filtering.

There’s a list of recent and upcoming office 365 support webcasts from the ignite website here. some of these look pretty good, but i’ve not gone through any yet, so it may by hype… if the “hybrid config wizard and hybrid free/busy” presentation from Timothy Heeney (again!) is anything like his live presentation, it’ll be excellent. (Adriaaaan!)

Tony Redmond has this useful post on the use of Office 365 as a test bed for on-premise exchange, and how to get a heads up on the changes that are likely to be coming in future cumulative updates.

 

right – that’s it. there was lots more i could have posted about, but if you’ve made it this far, you’ve had enough, i should think.

Thank you all for your feedback and encouragement this year. I wish you all a peaceful and prosperous 2014.

Exciting things i have seen on the internet, 29/11/13

2013 sp1 has been announced – edge servers, support for 2012 r2 and a shift in how service packs work – from now on they’re going to be a lot more like cumulative updates, and we need to see them as such. SP1 will be in place of CU4, and CU5 will include SP1, which is different to previous releases where rollups were for a particular service pack – from now on it will all flow in together. in an earlier mail i suggested that the difference between a service pack and a cumulative update is a schema update, however CU1, CU2 and CU3 include a schema update, so that blows that out of the water. expect a post on how we need to redefine our services in response to this in the near future.

 

Exchange 2010 sp3 rollup 3 has also been announced. note the large numbers of fixes for CAS crashes. be aware that issues with the client access service crashing may be fixed (or substantially altered) by the code changes made in this rollup.

 

Rhod Milne has highlighted some useful Microsoft Virtual Academy courses in a post here. if you’ve not yet tried the MVA stuff then i urge you to find some time for it – it’s much better than free training has any right to be.

 

He has also posted an exceptionally handy list of things you should do to Exchange 2010.You should consider these things best practice, and think about how to incorporate them into your Exchange 2010 environment. if you are unsure if they apply to you, then please give me a ring. there are also some recommendations here that Rhod refers to; these are interesting and useful, but less likely to apply to everybody.

 

Scott Schnoll is always an interesting read, and he’s just published some new documentation for Exchange 2013 managed availability.

 

after last week’s post about IPv6, Microsft have updated their article on how to re-enable it or temporarily disable it for troubleshooting purposes only.

 

Microsoft have changed article 297019 again. this is the networked PST article. it no longer explicitly states that PST files accessed over a network are not supported (although it is still heavily implied). for the avoidance of doubt; PST files that are accessed on a network share are not supported. there are too many issues associated with it, and if MS find out that you have PST files stored on a network share then they will stop doing any troubleshooting until you disable them all. Please do not store PST files on a network share, and please don’t suggest to your customers that it won’t be a problem. it ALWAYS causes a problem. the MS document that is referenced in the kb article is titled “network stored pst files: don’t do it“. That should be a good clue as to what the product group think about it.

 

no-one has reported a problem with iOS 7 to me, but just in case, here’s a hotfix that Microsoft have released for a problem that iOS7 created.

 

and just to prove it’s not just apple, the latest version of android (kitkat, or 4.4) breaks active sync. google have marked the problem as “closed (to be fixed in a later release)”, so basically there’s a reasonable chance that upgrading to kitkat on an android device will BREAK exchange activesync for the long-term. not a good idea.