email@example.com -- That has been my email alias at Microsoft for over 10 years now. You would think that I could have had chrisavis@ or cavis@. But nooooooo. They had to drop the "s" and make me sound like a video file.
I don't know for sure, but my guess as to why it ended up that way is that it is fairly standard for companies to use one of the following formats for generating user names --
1) cavis - First Initial + Last Name / truncate to 8 characters max (what I would have liked to have had) 2) chrisa - First Name / up to 7 characters + Last Initial 3) chrisavi - First Name + Last Name / truncate to 8 characters max (what I ended up with)
1) cavis - First Initial + Last Name / truncate to 8 characters max (what I would have liked to have had)
2) chrisa - First Name / up to 7 characters + Last Initial
3) chrisavi - First Name + Last Name / truncate to 8 characters max (what I ended up with)
I didn't get option number one because, at the time, there was a Craig Avis at Microsoft and he had cavis. We ordered business cards about the same time one year and they cross-shipped them. That is how I discovered him. We even exchanged some genealogy info to see if we might be related. Nope.
I never checked on chrisa but I imagine there was at least one other person at MS who's first name was Chris and last name began with "A". There is one now so I bet there was back then as well. So I ended up with chrisavi.
A couple years ago, the MS IT Staff sent out an email blast with a link to a utility that would allow us to claim alternate dotted email names. I tried to get just chrisavis but the tool wouldn't let me. So I settled on chris.avis which is what I typically hand out these days as it is easier to remember. My blog links to firstname.lastname@example.org and my business cards list it as well but either one works just fine.
I thought about getting email@example.com because I sign my name using my middle initial and I have been using my middle initial as a differentiator since early in the days of the Internet so I could be found more easily and to distinguish myself from the myriad of other Chris Avis types that mistakenly stumbled upon the World Wide Web. I just spot checked Live, Google, and Yahoo! and all of them put me on top.
My evil plan is working....
I am a BIG Guitar Hero fan. I have been playing about a year now ever since I stumbled onto the game at a Microsoft training seminar. I started with Guitar Hero 2 for the XBox 360. It took me about 6 months to get through the whole game on Expert. I never did finish Jordan but that had a lot to do with picking up GH3 late last year. Maybe I will go back and try to beat it later tonight. I then moved on to GH3 which I started on Expert and worked my way backwards for the achievements.
You could say I am a GH junkie at this point. I am anxiously awaiting the Aerosmith add-on pack that is on pre-sale in many game stores right now. My wife despises the game though I am sure it has as much to do with how much time I play it as it does to listening to me screw up the same songs over and over and over and over and over..... Heart's "Barracuda" is a bad ass song, but you can only listen to it 20-30 times in a row before it gets a little stale. But I have to admit that when she tells me "You could have learned to play a real guitar in the amount of time you have invested in that game!", she is probably right. Maybe it's time to pick up the acoustic, tune it, and learn some real chords.
Yesterday I received my copy of Game Informer which had Guitar Hero 4 info plastered all over the cover. My heart started racing at the prospect of a bunch of new songs. But after reading and seeing they were adding support for a drum kit and vocals, I started to reconsider my desire to get Rock Band. I like to sing Karaoke (my wife and I go almost every Saturday night) so Rock Band has been pretty attractive up to now. I suspect I will still pick up Rock Band at some point but I am not in as much of a hurry now. According to the articles, GH4 will have pressure sensitive drum pad so the game can tell the difference between light tapping and beating the crap out of the drums a la Keith Moon. Sweet.
But my favorite part is being able to create custom songs. I have been quite jealous of all the custom song postings on You Tube by the PS3 GH players. It's about time that we get the same capability on the 360. The songs I would like to add to the game are endless. I imagine some people will add some very, very obscure tracks or just compose there own original songs. The possibilities are endless!
You can get additional details on GH4 over on GameSpot.
Something that might humor you....I am entering a Guitar Hero Tournament this Saturday. If you happen to be in Kirkland, Wa with nothing to do, stop by TechCity Bowl between 3:30 and 6:30. I should be easy to spot....look for the oldest guy there!
Normally this time of year is slow and I enjoy the downtime by doing summery stuff. I will still get that fun and leisure in, but I am working on a few projects right now.
I am writing a session for our Q1 content tentatively called "Why Vista?".
I am writing two sessions for delivery in Second Life on June 28th
I am working on some screencasts to discuss more in depth some of the new FTP services in FTP 7 for Windows 2008
The work on the screencasts and encoding the work has raised my interest in the variety of encoding formats and codecs used in the audio/video world so you might see some sessions on that in the future.
And I am still, very slowly, migrating my home network over to Windows 2008 AD. I am documenting this as well.
Keep your eyes peeled!
Not that I should have to point this out, but I have not been very active since my screencast posting on FTP(S) about a month ago. If you read my post on June 16th you will get a feel for why. It has been and continues to be a busy time for me. Add in that it is review time, and things are pretty active even though I am not on the road. I am still slowly converting the home network and I am still working on some additional IIS related screencasts. I had a specific request for one on User Isolation which I believe I will get posted by the end of next week.
However, starting Monday, July 21st, I am going to push for a goal of posting at least one post every day for the next year. I have a secondary goal of one screen cast every week. These are my own goals and I am posting about them here because I want to be held accountable for those goals. I would like the 18 people (up from 11 last year!) who read my blog to help keep me accountable. :)
It is also a part of my master plan to overtake my buddy Keith Combs. Keith has established himself as a well respected blogger both inside and outside of Microsoft. This is reflected in his hit count. I challenged him last year and told him I would beat him out (I may have even said double his hits) by the end of this fiscal year.
That didn't happen.
But I have to confess that I didn't make a very concerted effort toward beating him out. This year I want to see if I can make it happen.
I have received a lot of email questions in the past few months from people asking about Windows 2008 features or how to diagnose or troubleshoot specific issues. Those requests will be some of what fuels my daily postings. Keep them coming. I also have my own topics I like to post about that will get tossed in as well. I am a big fan of Media Center, ISA (did you know that ISA 2006 SP1 is available?), and SBS. With the new deal with NetFlix announced, I am now more interested in what my Xbox 360 adds to my media mix as well.
Of course there is also all of the social networking stuff. Particularly in the virtual world arena. There are some interesting things to look at regarding places like Second Life and Google's Lively.
For now though I have to take a break and talk to the guy who is going to tell me how much money it is going to cost to fix the underground leak in the swimming pool that I only get to use 2, maybe 3 months out of the year. Depending on the cost I may just have to drain it and buy a skateboard....
Updated - 7/18/2008 -- Corrected my FTP(S) reference (Thanks Alun!)
I am in San Diego today where I will be chatting with Partners about our Response Point offering. Way cool product for small business and I think some partners are going to do very well offering solutions around this product.
But that is not why I am posting this....
This is my last road trip until approximately August 1st. I have a few local events, but I don't have to get on a plane for work related stuff for the next 2 months. In the past 6 years I have never gone 2 months without a plane trip somewhere. I don't want to come across as a whiner but....whew! Two months at home is going to be fabulous. Especially with the amazing Northwest summers.
This doesn't mean I won't be working though. I have been trying to get cracking on some online activities with video interviews, screencasts, interviews, etc to post to my blog and sites like Technet EDGE for a long time now. I have just spent so much time on the road that when I am home I tend to unplug completely. But now I have two months home to work with the tool sets that some of my peers have been using and I want to start getting things online (I still owe you all that BitLocker Interview!).
With that in mind, I want to know what you want to know about. I am happy to post about things I think you want to know about and I will do some of that regardless, but I am very interested in know about what Microsoft products and technologies you want to know about. The topics can be broad or very specific. Some will be best suited for screencasts or webcasts, while others may be interviews with product managers, industry experts. The important thing is that I am delivering content you want vs what I think you want.
So let me know if you would like to see a screencast on managing WSUS 3.0 or if I should go track down a Windows PM to ask them some tough questions on Vista.
Tell me what you want!
I won the Guitar Hero contest last night! The contest was set up with two rounds and then a final elimination. In Round 1 there were five sets of two playing Pro Face-Off. Players had to agree on song and skill level. I was the only one that plays on expert with any regularity so I let my opponent pick the song and level. He chose "Bulls on Parade" by Rage Against the Machine and HARD difficulty. The song is actually pretty easy even on Expert. Lots of repeating notes and a short, simple solo. I haven't spent much time on anything except for expert so it was a challenge to play a level down and "skip" notes I was used to playing. But I beat him handily and even showed off a little by playing with my back to the screen.
Once Round 1 was complete, that left us with 5 winners which they then let the crowd vote with applause for their favorite two. I was chosen and had to face off against the other chosen player from Round 1. They upped the ante by requiring us to play on Expert and with a pre-determined song - "Rock You like a Hurricane" by the Scorpions. This is also a pretty easy song and given that I have been air-guitaring it for last 20+ years and playing it on Expert pretty regularly I won that one as well.
Round 2 repeated the format of Round 1 leaving myself and the Round two overall winner to compete. They also required Expert and the chosen song for this round was "Cliffs of Dover" by Eric Johnson. I love the song but I can't play it for squat. It is the one song where the timing just seems squirrelly to me and I have a hard time with it. Just before we started play I congratulated the other player expecting to lose.
I started out behind and stayed behind through the first 3rd of the song which is the hardest part for me. I missed every star power while he hit his. I thought it was over at that point but we hit the 2nd third and I managed to grab the star powers which if I remember correctly he missed. I started to catch him and the crowd started to get into it (for the record....it was a little lopsided in the crowd...most of my team and several other friends and acquaintances were there cheering me on). I started to see the power meter swing back my direction which gave me some hope and I finally caught him in the final 3rd and stayed in front for the win. My score sucked but I only had to win by 1 point. I think I ended up about 10 or 15 thousand ahead.
I am the Guitar Hero.....
btw......my XBox Live ID is "loper". Feel free to add me as a friend and let's play some Guitar Hero!
I am really starting to enjoy Twitter. Actually, I am enjoying the experience that certain applications give me with Twitter. If you aren't familiar with Twitter, it is a service that allows you to send very short messages - 140 characters max - in the form of "tweets" to people that follow you. Think of it as subscribed IM's. I use it to let people know what I am doing and find out what they are doing. Many of the World Wide IT Evangelists have used it this week to comment live on sessions, make plans for lunch and dinner, and generally just update each other on what is going on. Since it is real time we are always in touch.
Twitter is the service that makes it happen but there are a bunch of apps out there that make it useful.
twhirl - this is a Twitter client that helps organize your Tweets as well as who you follow. I know there have to be other clients out there but this was the second one I loaded and I like the interface and the layout so I have stuck with it.\
Tiny Twitter - This is a client for Windows Mobile devices. I didn't like this one too much until this week when I updated to the latest build. Prior to that it was killing my phone dozens of times a day. Now it runs smooth as glass. Great for Tweeting on the go.
OutTwit - This is an add-on for Outlook that helps organize tweets for you. I only loaded this one this past week so the jury is still out on whether I will get much out of it. It archives tweets in Outlook which means I can use the built-in search to find messages. Great for finding that tweet from someone that has a link to a news story or other interesting information. I have a lot more playing around to do with this app so I will post more on this when in a week or so.
twistori - This is a dynamic web site that scans Twitter Tweets for certain key words and scrolls those messages across the screen. Not particularly useful (to me anyway) but interesting when you have some time to kill and you want to be a little voyeuristic.
twitterfeed - I posted about this one a few days ago. This app leverages RSS to grab your blogs posts and tweet them for you. I set mine up so that it only grabs the blogs posts that have my twitterfeed tag associated with them. That way I don't over tweet if I decide to go on a blogging frenzy (yet to happen....).
You can follow me on Twitter here.
What other Twitter clients are out there I should look at?
On July 21st, I challenged myself to make a blog post at least once a day for the next 365 days. Here I am a week and a half later and I am happy to report that I have made good on the promise so far. They say it takes 21 days to form a habit so I have 11 days left to make it stick. I think I will make it. I will likely post more often then once a day once I really get into the swing of things though. I would ideally like to post 2-4 posts a day but I am taking it slow. I have a tendency to be a little wordy so I think 4 posts a day would consume a LOT of time. I will leverage Twitter for items that are short an interesting.
I went back and read some of my posts and one thing I want to change is to add more technical posts geared directly towards IT Pros and computer geeks in general. I have a list of topics I will be posting about and I have some screencasts in the works that will get posted here as well as the TechNet Edge site. I won't have any difficulty finding topics to post about, but I do want to make sure they are relevant to you.
I enjoy working with SBS, ISA, Exchange, Windows Client and Server, Hyper-V, Media Center, and networking technologies so you will see a stronger focus on those topics. You won't see much in the way of SCOM, SharePoint, and SQL though. They just aren't my bag.
What do you want to see information about?
This afternoon I started typing up a post with links to a bunch of interesting tech stuff. Then I ran across this post by Scoble and realized he had already done all the heavy lifting. I scrapped my post and will share a few other tidbits....
WaMu sold to JP Morgan Chase - To this all I have to say is......Bwahahahahahaha! You would have to know my history with WaMu to understand why I am tickled that they went under. Suffice it to say I wrote an angry letter to them about 4 years ago predicting their failure. I feel vindicated. I have gone out of my way to NOT do any business with them for years now. They bought up my credit card company a couple years ago and I have been shopping ever since for a new company. Now I don't have to. I already have a Chase card...now I guess I will end up with two.
Kentucky Governor award control of 141 gambling related domain names - Again.....Bwaahahaha! This won't fly. The gambling sites aren't even in the US. If the state doesn't want their citizens gambling then send some IT people over to China to learn their nasty tricks. Block the sites. I am not for that, just saying it is a better option than seizing domain names. The gambling sites are businesses and should be allowed to operate.
Mistrial Declared in RIAA trial - Everyday People - 1 / Oppressive Recording Industry Regime - 0
We can make fun of Bush now....right? - Nuff Said....
....well....this would be a good reason to anyway.
Was perusing the news today and ran across this article over on SlashDot - Japan to get 1gbps Home Fiber Connections. Reading the article, it also notes that this is a synchronous connection so that is 1gbps in both directions. Talk about an awesome BitTorrent connection!
subtitled.......where to go if you want to be absolutely guaranteed NOT to see the Bill Gates/Jerry Seinfeld commercials
Millions of people have watched them on TV.
Anyone with an Internet connection can go to the Microsoft Press Pass site and not only view them online, but download them and watch them over and over and over again.
They are on YouTube.
There is one on the Windows Home Page.
They have been blogged about, linked, indexed, questioned quizzically, praised adoringly, bashed, laughed at, and skewered by all sorts of media....but I can't show them at my event in Berkeley California tomorrow.
Some members of my team followed the rules and asked if we could show the videos during our live events but we were shot down. I am sure there is all sorts of legalize in the background that is the real reason for not being able to show them. I could conjure up all kinds of reasons about why we are being told we can't show them, but that isn't really the point. The point is.....
The pee is in the pool....unless the pool gets drained completely, you can't help but be exposed to the pee.
The videos are out there. ANYONE can watch them. In fact, it is pretty difficult to not be exposed to them at this point.
Unless!....... you come to my event tomorrow. My event will be a Shoe Circus Free Zone. *I* can't show you the videos. But if you bring your own laptop, and you have an Internet connection, YOU can watch them.
Just don't do it while I am in the room.....
If you are interested in downloading the slides used at our current TechNet sessions, you can grab those below
August-September 2008 Powerpoints
August-September 2008 Powerpoints
If you would like additional resources, my co-worker - Kevin Remde - created an excellent resources sheet that is posted to his blog
Kevin Remde's Full of I.T. blog
Michael Arrington over at TechCrunch posted about the new commercials we are showing. I like them because they show the many different kinds of PC users that are out there. It really only scratches the surface though. Think about it.....when you are walking down the street, most of the people walking with you have a computer at home or work. Most of those people are using PC's. Now pay attention to who they are - everyday people. Extraordinary people. Normal people. Fantastic people. Common People.
*ding*! (Light Bulb moment!)
Maybe we can get William Shatner to do a commercial for us based on his version of "Common People"!!
This has been a less then productive, much less enjoyable week. Email issues, a phone issue that got fixed, and now, just a bummer of a phone issue....I dropped my Treo 750 tonight and *blink* it hard rest. As some of you know, I am not a big fan of cell phones anyway. Ask me why in the comments and I will write up a post later on it. But this phone I like(d) because it made having a cell phone less blah. It was reasonable reliable, single hand operation, and it had a few apps that *I* loaded that I actually made use of (I have asked this before...please....if anyone knows of a Windows Mobile equivalent of PC Decrapifer, please let me know!).
I see the hard reset as a sign that it is time to get a new phone. Given that I am not a big fan, I don't keep up on what is cool for phones. I mean you can't help but see iPhone ads, Blackberry Bold, and HTC Touch ads. I know there are ton of other phone out there though. I would like a Windows Mobile Smartphone/PDA with a decent camera. That's it. Nothing fancy.
What phones do you have and like?
There are so many posts out there repeating everything already that I am going to skip linking a bunch of stuff from PDC and link to just the one thing that has me jazzed. I have recently taken an interest in working with Visual Studio and doing some very basic app development. The Windows Azure announcement gives me the added nudge to really pursue it. I have had a couple of app ideas floating around my head for a number of years and now seems like a good time to start figuring them out. Knowing that the same in developer tools will be used for the Azure services means it is a skill set that will be around for a while and is worth learning. Win - Win for me.
Beyond the PDC Buzz, I setup an Exchange 2007 server at home in a VM. I tested things today and finally have mail flow. Next is to move mailboxes over from the hardware based Exchange server I have and then re-task the old Exchange Server. One idea is to build a huge multi-terabyte Windows based file server. Do some hardware RAID on it and move all of my current spread out content into one large redundant array. My two Buffalo Terastations have been running 24x7 for about 5 years now with one of them giving me occasional fits. They have served their purpose and need to be given a break.
I am also prepping to install SCVM2008 to my Hyper-V server. I am cleaning up an existing SQL install for use as the DB storage for the SCVMM database and a few other housekeeping items. Once that is in place a mass P2V migration will be taking place as I virtualize everything I can. Storage and RAM are cheap so Hyper-V here I come! This would also be another good reason for a large, fast redundant array so I can store and run VM images there.
For those of you that have attended recent Technet Briefings and picked up the complimentary copy of Vista Ultimate, you will notice that we only provide the 32bit media for Vista. However, if you can get your hands on the 64 bit media (ie; borrow it from a friend), the key you receive after you get registered online will work and is valid to use with 64 bit media.
While posting my previous article, my eye caught a link on the PCPro.uk site stating "Microsoft bulks up Windows with Blue-ray support". The article says we are developing a feature pack that will add native support for burning to Blu-Ray media to Windows along with some feature to lock down portable devices and some new smartcard features. My favorite part of the article is this line though --
"The move may surprise some, as Microsoft heavily backed rival HD DVD during the format war."
"The move may surprise some, as Microsoft heavily backed rival HD DVD during the format war."
Why is that surprising? HD-DVD lost the physical format format war. That means people are buying Blu-Ray media instead and we need to support what the public is using, right? I am sure that is one of the reasons why we are adding support for Blu-Ray but according to this article, Blu-Ray player sales are down or flat as of April of this year. Other sites report sales of Blu-Ray players are sky-rocketing. I don't know what the real sales levels are and I really don't care. Personally, I won't be buying a Blu-Ray player. It has nothing to do with MS backing HD-DVD and Blu-Ray being the competitor. I just feel that Blu-Ray has a very limited lifespan.
DVD's have been around for a little over a decade now and they have had a good run. I don't think Blu-Ray will make it that far though. I believe that online digital distribution will supplant physical media before we hit the 10 year mark for Blu-Ray. Very few people I know burn discs for audio or video any longer. They simply plug their iPods, Zunes and other players directly into the devices and go. Some might argue that Blu-Ray would be used for storing massive amounts of computer data. I argue that is won't find a place there either because sold-state drives are starting to pop-up with more frequency and the price will start coming down. Storage capacities on solid-state drives already dwarf that of Blu-Ray so why fumble with plastic disc based media? I suspect there will also be more breakthroughs in networking technology that will provide much faster data transfer which means having local copies is not required as often.
But! For the short-term, getting Blu-Ray support into Windows is a good thing. People have invested in the technology and have media they want to use.
What do you think?
In my search for interesting things to post about, I ran across a new blog that tracks Microsoft product team blogs. BlogMS tracks over 100 blogs that are written by Microsoft product teams and other interesting Microsoft news. The most recent post talks about using Microsoft Connect to provide feedback on Microsoft products. A post from a couple of days ago points to the announcements about licensing and support changes that impact Virtualization.
This is just the tip of the iceberg though. There are literally thousands of blogs that are maintained by Microsoft employees. Many developer related blogs can be found at the main MSDN blog site. There a similar site on Technet for IT Pro related topics (where this blog is located). We also have a Community Blogs site that helps you search through and find blogs you might be interested in.
This little tidbit came across Twitter via @Carnage4Life (Dare Obasanjo)....
Mark Russinovich, known for his work on Sysinternals and now a Technical Fellow at Microsoft, along with Bryce Cogswell, also from Sysinternals and also now with Microsoft recently released an awesome little virtual desktop application....and when I say little, I mean to the tune of 120k once the package was on my disk.
Desktops v1.0 allows for up to 4 virtual desktops to be used on a Windows based system. The download page doesn't list any system req's that I could find but it seems to work just fine on my 64 bit Vista Ultimate+SP1 laptop. In fact, I am writing this blog post with Live Writer launched on desktop #2 and everything else running in desktop #1.
I am a big fan of apps that you can install and figure out without every reading any docs and this one fits neatly into that category. Just install it and all the instruction you need pop up on screen.
On my system, the first time I switched to each of the 4 desktops, it took about 10 seconds to refresh and fill in the tray icons, but each subsequent toggle to the desktops is instantaneous.
I have never been a big fan of virtual desktop apps because they never seemed to actually work. This one is working just fine and is super simple.
There is a new edition of TechNet Radio online that is available to download in MP3 and WMA formats. In this edition, Bill Sisk, Greg Lenti, and Shomik Ghosh discuss the September 2008 Security bulletin. We also lead off the segment with a TechNet tip of the Week.
"What the Hell? Developer stuff on Chris' Blog?!?!?!?!?"
Yeah.....well I would love to avoid the developer stuff but in the interest of assisting people with their questions I am making my inaugural post with the "Tech Support" tag and about developery stuff...
Question from Email -- "I am sort of the guinea pig for Vista in our area. We work with communications. I don't have any sort of feeling as to how Microsoft has transitioned to 64-bit sockets. I was wondering if you might be able to suggest some books or publications or even Microsoft classes on socket programming with Vista?"
Answer -- Well. I don't have a clue about that stuff so I sent an email to some coder types I know to see what they could provide. Zain Naboulsi, one of our developer evangelists got back in touch with me and referred me to one of our forums that is specific to the WinSock Kernel API's. Zain pointed out there is an "Introduction & Guidelines - Winsock Kernel" guide at the top of the forum that is recommended reading.
I also did a few quick searches myself to see what I could blindly add to the mix....
MSDN Article - Developing Applications for 64bit Windows MSDN Article - What's New for Windows Sockets MSDN Article - Windows Sockets: Blocking Blog Site - Windows Core Networking blog
MSDN Article - Developing Applications for 64bit Windows
MSDN Article - What's New for Windows Sockets
MSDN Article - Windows Sockets: Blocking
Blog Site - Windows Core Networking blog
Reader....let me know if this get you going in the right direction!
We are going ahead with our afternoon events! The power has been up since 10am with no blinks so it appears we are good. Of course, I can't control if someone knocks out another transformer, but barring that, we are all set for ALL the 1p-5p events in Redmond.
I met Robby Sparks and his wife Misty when my wife and I traveled with a group to the UK. At that time I didn't know that Robby was a science fiction fan. Not long after moving to Washington, Robby emails me and asks for my mailing address. I didn't think anything of it at the time and didn't think about it all when some weeks later I received a small manilla envelope in the mail. Inside was Volume 1: Issue 6 (Summer 2006) of APEX - a quarterly Science Fiction and Horror magazine.
I have been a sci-fi/fantasy/horror reader since I was a kid and figured it was something I signed up for somewhere or that it was a promotional copy sent to me. The mag sat for a day or two and then I started thumbing through it. I read a few of the short stories and started hitting a few of the web sites for the authors and assorted other places advertised. Then I stumbled upon one of the short stories and recognized the name - none other than Robby Sparks!
Apparently Robby is now helping promote APEX and also branching off into acting and directing because he recently posted a short movie to YouTube entitled - The Door of APEX - which he wrote and stars in. His wife Misty did the camera work. The basic premise is a man sees troubling images and wants to know why so he goes to see a psychiatrist. I will leave it at that.....
Btw.....the image of the man that flashes at the beginning of the video is the covert art from the issue above that he was published in.
Robby.....remember me when you become famous!!!
I have been joking around this quarter during my System Center presentations that I don't need a System Management solution on my home network because my wife alerts me of any and all issues. Exchange Server down? My phone rings with my wife on the other end letting me know. Proxy Server down? My phone rings and she lets me know that she can't get to eBay. The only piece missing is the automated actions that System Center can take to resolve the issues without human intervention. I suppose I should relinquish some control and show her how to do some basic troubleshooting on the services she uses the most frequently. Or deploy System Center at home.
But I digress.....how did Exchange Edge and Forefront save my marriage? Well.....a little history is necessary.....
I have been running my own Exchange server at home for about 10 years now. I started with Exchange 4.0 back in 1997 connected to a dedicated dual channel ISDN line at a whopping 128k. I registered and used a domain name for about two years before registering a different domain name which I am still using 8 years later.
Ten years ago, spam was more of a nuisance than a hazard. The occasional chain letter claiming that if I didn't forward the email to at least 6 people I would suffer from bad luck. (Really. You will have bad luck. Trust Me.) Someone sending an email to everyone they know to go look at a "Mr. T ate my ....." web site. The point being that we didn't get much spam back then and what we did get was relatively harmless.
Fast forward a decade and spam now makes up more than 50% of the inbound mail to most mail servers and carry nasty payloads or phishing scams and that makes spam more than just a nuisance. Spam chews up bandwidth that could otherwise go toward higher bandwidth applications like HD video streaming and all of the other cool Web 2.0 activities. Mail servers are spending more and more CPU cycles processing spam reducing overall performance which impacts end users. Spam payloads contain malicious software and links to phishing sites aimed at collection personal account information or links to sites that have embedded code designed exploit un-patched vulnerabilities.
The long and the short.....spam is bad. Mmmmkay?
Stay with me.....
About 6 months ago I was still running Exchange 2003 Enterprise and the Intelligent Message Filter with Real Time block lists and blocked domains configured and I was at about the same level as I was 10 years earlier. About 10 or so spam messages would make it through. Not bad for a domain that has been around for 8 years and is probably on every spammers list in existence today. I didn't have any idea how much spam was being filtered out because I had been running this config reliably for several years.
But I was about to find out.....
I longed to upgrade to Exchange 2007 which gave me an excuse to also jump into the 64bit world. I sprung this on my wife one day promising that her email experience would be better and I could eliminate virtually all spam with the new hardware and Exchange 2007. The wife spends a fair amount of time using email so I thought this to be the perfect attack vector to persuade her that more computers in the basement would be justifiable. Much to my surprise, she agreed!
She had a few conditions though.....
Request: She wanted to access her email from work Resolution: Outlook Web Access Request: She wanted to access her email from her cell phone (she has a Blackjack) Resolution: Get her connected using Exchange ActiveSync Request: If you get two new servers, I get a new car (I felt this was unrelated but she felt otherwise...) Resolution: Get her a new car
Request: She wanted to access her email from work
Resolution: Outlook Web Access
Request: She wanted to access her email from her cell phone (she has a Blackjack)
Resolution: Get her connected using Exchange ActiveSync
Request: If you get two new servers, I get a new car (I felt this was unrelated but she felt otherwise...)
Resolution: Get her a new car
I agreed to her conditions, and picked up two AMD 64bit machines with the intention of deploying a two server Exchange 2007 configuration. Server1 would be my Exchange Hub, Mailbox, and Client Access Server and Server2 would be my Exchange Edge role and also Forefront Security for Exchange.
I installed Server1 easily enough, migrated my mail databases over, configured OWA and Outlook Anywhere. Mail was flowing and after a little wrangling with getting my wife's cell phone to connect to Exchange, life seemed great.
Until Day 2...
The next day, the wife asks me "why am I getting all of this spam? I thought you said Exchange 2007 would be even better at filtering out spam???". I explained to her that I had not yet configured any of the spam filtering options so we would be getting "a little more spam than usual" until I did. This prompted me to check my own mailbox which has been in constant use for 8 years (hers has been used regularly for about 4 years).
In about a 36 hour time span I had received over 1000 spam emails. An amazing increase over the 10-15 I received with NO spam filtering just 10 years earlier. My wife was receiving about a 10th of what I was but that meant 100+ spams a day in her inbox when she was accustomed to getting 3-5 in her junk mail folder. I knew my mail server was dealing with tens of thousands more than just what we were seeing because the spammers are sending email to non-existent mailboxes too. I plan on firing up PerfMon next week and getting a count of what my server processes in a week. I will report those results in a later post.
Stay with me....
The plan was to make sure that Server1 (Hub, Mailbox, Client Access) was stable before proceeding with the provisioning of Server2 (Edge and Forefront). I was also delaying configuring any spam filtering until I installed the Edge server. I also have to admit that I was in awe of how much spam was coming in and I was curious to see just how bad it was. I cleaned my mailbox out on Day 3, asked my wife to do the same and just move spam to the Junk Mail folder as needed using Outlook and start building out her blocked senders list. I left everything alone for a week. On Day 10 I logged back in and an unbelievable 10,000+ emails were in my inbox! My wife had graciously started moving mail to her Junk Mail folder but gave up after day 5. She started just highlighting and deleting it all. She ended up with about ~800 spams after that week long test.
Here is where things start to go south.....
A series of events occurred which prevented me from finishing the Edge server installation in a timely manner. My travel schedule went a little nuts, we had a series of house guests over the summer (I blame Matt!), I worked several other honey-do list items and then I just got plain lazy about fixing the spam issue. I fell into the routine of logging into my mailbox every 2-3 days doing a CTRL-A, DEL and then filtering through the Deleted items to find any real email and create a rule for it.
This didn't work for the wife though....
For almost 6 months she suffered through hundreds of spams a week that she patiently deleted and gently reminded me of every few days. She finally broke down and gave me an ultimatum -
Fix the spam issue or I am getting a GMail account!
Fix the spam issue or I am getting a GMail account!
What?!?!?! Get a GMail account? I believe in this day and age I could actually use that as grounds for a divorce, but I wisely opted to save my marriage by fixing the spam issue.
I stayed up late one night determined to accomplish two goals - 1) Reduce spam on my server and 2) Save my marriage!
I had never actually built out an Edge server myself much less configured Forefront Security for Exchange. I have demoed both to live audiences but that was using a canned demo environment provided by the corporate content team. I decided to check out the Technet Virtual Labs to see what was out there for learning. Sure enough I found the following Virtual Labs -
Configuring an Exchange 2007 Edge Server Implementing AntiVirus Defenses on Exchange 2007 with Microsoft Forefront Security
Configuring an Exchange 2007 Edge Server
Implementing AntiVirus Defenses on Exchange 2007 with Microsoft Forefront Security
There is another Lab I want to take but it isn't going to be available until October 24th
Forefront Security for Exchange Server 2007
Forefront Security for Exchange Server 2007
I did the first two labs while I had Remote Desktop sessions to my Exchange servers and configured my servers while I was walking through the labs. I also took the time to configure Exchange 2007 Real Time Block Lists and some of the other filtering items. It took about 2 hours to complete the labs and the configuration of my own servers.
After I made the final tweaks for publishing my Edge server to the web in place of my Mailbox server, I tested mail flow successfully and packed it in for the night. I decided to wait 48 hours to see how much spam came in. Two days later I checked my inbox and amazingly I was back down to my 1997 levels of spam. I am receiving about 5 spams a day to my actual Inbox and 2-3 to my Junk Mail folder right now. My wife is getting that much in a week which is even better than when we were using Exchange 2003 and the IMF. I will be tweaking things more over the next week or so to see if I can get it down to zero.
The primary goal was to reduce the amount of incoming spam (and thus save my marriage!). Using the native Exchange features alone would have accomplished this. But spam today is more than an email hawking a product that claims to make some part of your body larger or smaller. Much of the spam today carries malicious software or links out to phishing sites. I want to keep that stuff from ever making it into the database if I can help it. So I took things a step further by implementing Forefront for Exchange to address the malicious payloads that are common today.
Forefront for Exchange can leverage up to 5 antivirus engines to scan for and eliminate malicious payloads in spam. In addition it can also do content, keyword, and file filtering. I have not configured things to that level yet but i plan to and will post some entries on those results at a later date.
For now though......the wife is happy about her email. She has withdrawn her threat of getting a GMail account. I don't have to leave her now! Marriage saved!
Save your marriage! Implement Exchange 2007 Edge services and Forefront for Exchange!
Oh yeah! Another question from my event....
"What versions of Windows Mobile does the Windows Mobile Device Center support?"
"What versions of Windows Mobile does the Windows Mobile Device Center support?"
I knew we supported WM5 and WM6 because I have used both version with it. We actually support Windows Mobile 2003 and later though which is great news for people with older devices.