Kevin Remde's IT Pro Weblog

  • Wireless Bozo

    I was just catching up on some IT news, and came across this AP article about the guy in St. Petersburg, FL who was arrested for using someone else’s wireless network.  In a nutshell, the guy (Ben Smith) sat in his SUV outside someone’s home, with his laptop, and used their unsecured wireless network.

    My question is: Who is really the criminal here?

    Yes… the owner of the wireless access point, who also paid for his own Internet connection, is right to want to keep others off of his network.  …let alone wonder about the stranger sitting in the car out front of his house with the strange glow coming from his lap.  But…

    Are you on my network?

    C’mon now, bozo!  It’s not that hard to enable basic encryption and protection of your wireless network!  If you don’t want someone using it, then take the extra 5 minutes to understand the clear instructions your wireless access point manufacturer gave you to turn on WEP.  It’s not Rocket Surgery.

    “But Kevin… Shouldn’t we have laws against unauthorized network access?”

    My opinion: Yes.  And no!  (wishy-washy?  Yep)  Okay… yes it’s not right that the guy used someone’s network and Internet access without permission.  However, one could argue that the very presense of unencrypted wireless access makes it fair game.  Perhaps what we need are laws that say that if it’s in the air, and unencrypted, then it’s assumed to be in the public domain. 

    What do you think?  If you were the judge or jury here, what would you decide?

  • Got IE? Of course you do...

    I saw a link recently to a spoof/parody site (domain and all) called “GetInternetExplorer.com”.  It even looks and links into the Microsoft site in various ways. 

    Cute.  Funny.  Somewhat malicious.

    Some of it is outdated (IE does support tabbed browsing now), but if you take it with a grain of salt, it’s definitely worth a good chuckle.

    It’s unfortunate that there are still some who see Microsoft this way. 

    What do you think? 

  • I'm refreshed!

    Our Destination!

    If you’re like me, sometimes vacations are hard to take.  You know you should.  You schedule them in advance.  You should visit your parents, or build memories with the kids, or whatever your reason is.  It’s something you simply must do.  But still, sometimes when the appointed time rolls around, it’s just hard to get away.  You go, but it takes your head a few days to really get into it.  Maybe you bring your laptop and even after a few days, you’re still working even though you’re in a different location.

    This, however, was not the case this time.  Whoo-boy, was I ready for the break!  And so were the rest of the family!  Eight days ago we pointed the Family Truckster (rented RV, actually) westward, and we were off to see Yellowstone.  We returned yesterday, having had our fill of mountainous scenery, wildlife, geothermal activities, horseback riding, and white-water rafting.  (And I have the pictures to prove it!) 

    Old Faithful Geyser  Family Truckster  Outdoor camp-cookin' on the portable grill!

    Today we finished unpacking, cleaned and returned the RV, and I even had time to pick up the new Weber Grill that I purchased for my birthday.  It’s a hot, but beautiful day.

    Tomorrow I start a week of SQL Server training.  Then mid-week of the following week I head to Atlanta, GA for a big global Microsoft meeting.

    Ah… Life is good.  And life in the summer in Minnesota after having just had a marvelous time with the family; even more-so.

  • SQL Server 2005 allows you to escape!

    Escape from Yester-world! 

    Yesterworld 

    This is great stuff.  Dean Andrew’s found it and blogged it on his TechNetWebcasts blog.

    Are you as excited as I am about SQL Server 2005?

  • Password? Passphrase?

    How secure is your password? 

    Security

    UK IT Pro Evangelist Steve Lamb blogged about some really good resources on password strength and some good ideas to make it even easier to be even more secure.

    Here is his blog entry.

  • Wow... I didn't even know it wasn't dead already!

    I read a “rumination” recently that went something like this:

    You know that strange feeling you get when you hear that some famous person has just died, but you had thought that they were already dead?  On the one hand, you’re happy to hear that they weren’t dead, but then again you are sad because now they are really dead.

    Thats sort of like how I felt when I saw this article about IBM pulling the plug (aka ending support) for *gasp* OS/2!

    I actually have a copy of OS/2 sitting on my shelf behind me here. Version 2.0, with some 20+ 3.5” installation diskettes.

    <sigh>

    OS/2; RIP

     

    Got any good OS/2 eulogies you’d like to share with us?

     

  • A Video-Taped Chat with Steve Balmer

    Blogging in the "better late than never" category...

     Channel 9's

    Robert Scoble interviewed Steve Balmer and posted the video up on Channel9 last week.  It's a great look at where Steve's head is at with regard to Developers, Microsoft Evangelism, and Blogging, so I thought you might be interested.

  • All the pretty colors...

    I happened upon postings for this upcoming Game Developer conference, and just thought it looked like fun. 

    Meltdown!

    Sorry I can’t go.  And that I’m not a game developer.  Or a even just a developer.  (I used to be, but that was years and several brain cells ago.  I’m much better now.  )

  • Are you a part of a "Midsized Business"?

    Midsized Business Portal

    And perhaps you’re one of the many people supporting a midsized business who have told us that you find it difficult to navigate Microsoft.com to find the resources that fit YOUR needs.

    Here’s our solution to your problem!

    Last Thursday Microsoft launched a new web resource for midsize business, specifically addressing and linking to resources that will be most useful to YOU. 

    What do you think?  Will this help?  Seriously.. what would you like to see this site grow into?

  • TechEd Video Blog #7 - Universal Chaos

    TechEd 2005 Attendee Party

    Here is my TechEd 2005 Video Blog entry #7!  We’re all headed towards the exits after the Attendee Party at Universal Studios – Orlando.

    You can also view it at The Blogcast Repository

     

  • I want a blog of my own!

    Some of you reading this blog may have wondered if you can set up a blog of your own. 

    “Well?  Can I?”

    Yep.  In fact, Tony Northrup (pictured here)

    Tony Northruphas written a really useful article explaining quite clearly how easy it is to set up your own blog for FREE using MSN Spaces

    Creating your own blog only takes a few clicks 

     

    Create your space, personalize how it looks, upload and share your photos, or just blog blog blog blog blog.

    And once you’ve set up your blog, you might also want to share your postings with other IT Pros and join-in on the discussion by signing up and submitting your blog to http://www.TechnetEventsBloggers.net.  That way when you blog about your new really cool idea for scripting new user setup, your post will automagically be pulled via RSS and included in the site.

     Blog on!

  • I love being flashed

    “Huh?!”

    Let me explain…

    Get it in a FLASH!

    If you’re an IT Pro, and you don’t mind the occassional email from Microsoft, you can subscribe to this bi-weekly email newsletter, the TechNet Flash, full of great tips and pointers to IT Pro-related resources.  And you can even tell us preferences about the kinds of products and technologies you work with so we can customize the emails just for your needs!

    Here’s a sample of the July 6th issue.

    All you need is a Passport account to set up your profile at Microsoft and subscribe to this or anyother great email resources.

     

     

     

  • It's not Longhorn, it's...

    Microsoft Vista!

    Yes!  Yesterday afternoon the Microsoft employees here at MGB in Atlanta were told that what was known as codename “Longhorn” is now officially called Microsoft Windows Vista

    Today the world learned the news as well.  Here’s the Microsoft Press Release about it.

    Also, today I sat through some instructor-lead demos of the beta.  Wow…  you are gonna want it.  It was also announced that the beta will be available soon.

    And here’s the hat I got for attending the demo.  Cool!

    Vista

  • TechEd Video Blog #8 - Final Thoughts

    TechEd 2005 Video Blog #8

    Here is my final TechEd 2005 Video Blog entry.  In it you get to see our winner, Ken, who won our Microsoft Across America “Where’s Rob?” contest grand prize, plus some additional random shots around the Hands-on-Labs.

    You can also view it at The Blogcast Repository

    Today (Wednesday, July 20) I and about 9,999 other Microsoft employees from around the world will be gathering in Atlanta, Georgia for Microsoft’s Global Briefing.  And maybe I’ll bring my video camera…

  • Presenting Outside the Box

    Channel 9

    As a technology presenter, I really appreciate hearing about how the really REALLY successful guys do it.  Even you back-office, deep-in-the-data-center IT Pros should be ready to present technology to the business management folks from time to time.

    Microsoft’s Don Box is well known for his entertaining and highly rated technical presentations  He was recently interviewed by Channel 9 about what he believes goes into a great technical presentation.

  • TechEd Video Blog #6 - A Musical Wednesday

    Influencer Appreciation Party

    Here we are with TechEd 2005 Video Blog entry #6!  This is a short couple of samples of the music that was heard on Wednesday, both at the Influencer Appreciation Party, and at the bar next door.

    (Found out the name of the band that was playing there, too.  “Pointe Blank”.  Quite a good cover band!)

    You can also view it at The Blogcast Repository

     

  • Exchange Server SP2

    For those of you curious about the next Service Pack for Exchange Server (SP2), Eileen Brown (UK IT Evangelist, blogger, and Exchange Expert) has provided resources and links to information on this blog entry here.
  • Visual Status of your Network Security

    If you have Visio, and you’re interested in MBSA (Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer), this tool is quite nice!

    Microsoft Office Visio 2003 Connector for the Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer (MBSA)

    MbsaVisioConnect

    Do you know the security status of your network? Get a visual. The Visio Connector for MBSA lets you view the results of a Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer scan in a clear, comprehensive Microsoft Office Visio 2003 network diagram. You must have both Visio 2003 and the Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer 1.2.1 — a free security tool from Microsoft — for this connector to function.

     

    “But Kevin, isn’t MBSA 2.0 out now?”

    Yeah… it is.  I understand that a version that supports the newer MBSA is in the works.  Until then, this might be a good way to get a diagram of your network easily collected and done.

  • Tell me how to keep my accounts secure

    Lock it down!  Okay… let’s say you’re an IT Professional (and who wouldn’t want to be, really) responsible for managing user and administrative accounts in your office or for your company.  But you sometimes ask yourself:

    “Do I use my administrative accounts wisely?”

    “Am I granting too many people too many rights in my organization?”

    And then you ask us:

    “What do YOU suggest I do about it, Kevin?  Does Microsoft have some prescriptive guidance for me?”

    I’m glad you asked! 

    I found a new document that might help.  It’s called “The Administrator Accounts Security Planning Guide”.  It is “designed to be an indispensable resource when organizations plan their strategy to secure administrator level accounts in Microsoft Windows NT-based operating systems such as Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP.” 

    It’s only 25 pages long, so it’s an easy read.  Here is the table of contents from the document, to give you a better idea of the topics covered:

    Chapter 1: Introduction
    Executive Summary
    Overview
    Who Should Read This Guide
    Planning Guide Overview
    Chapter 2: The Approach to Making Administrator Accounts More Secure
    Why Making Administrator Accounts More Secure Is Important
    Why You Should Not Log On To Your Computer as an Administrator
    Administrative Accounts and Groups Overview
    Administrator Account Types
    The Principles for Making Administrator Accounts More Secure
    Principle of Least Privilege
    Best Practices for Making Administrative Accounts More Secure
    Chapter 3: Guidelines for Making Administrator Accounts More Secure
    Overview of Guidelines for Making Administrator Accounts More Secure
    Separate Domain Administrator and Enterprise Administrator Roles
    Separate User and Administrator Accounts
    Use the Secondary Logon Service
    Run a Separate Terminal Services Session for Administration
    Rename the Default Administrator Account
    Create a Decoy Administrator Account
    Create a Secondary Administrator Account and Disable the Built-in Account
    Enable Account Lockout for Remote Administrator Logons
    Create a Strong Administrator Password
    Automate Scanning for Weak Passwords
    Use Administrative Credentials on Trusted Computers Only
    Audit Accounts and Passwords on a Regular Basis
    Prohibit Account Delegation
    Control the Administrative Logon Process
    Chapter 4: Summary
    Next Steps
    Further Reading

    Give it a look and let me know what you think!

  • Backup-Shmackup. Tell me about your RECOVERY strategy.

    Don’t talk to me about backup strategy, please.  Backups alone are not worth the media they’re written to.  The question you should MUST be able to answer is: “What are you doing to make sure you can RECOVER from catastrophy?”

    “I keep my stuff on tape.”

    Data Storage

    “…Lots of tapes.”

    Data StorageData StorageData StorageData StorageData StorageData StorageData Storage

    Good.  You’re better off than the people who were told by their consultant to just keep putting the tape back in every night, and expect that it has popped out with the backup done by the time you arrive in the morning. 

    Ahem… Did you know that your tape  is not guaranteed to contain any readable data if you use it over and over again like that?  Did you know that for the past several weeks/months/years you’ve been re-inserting a tape cassette that for all you know has a broken tape within it?!

    Who me?

    “Kevin… why are you so animated about simple backups?”

    Backups?  RESTORES!… BUSINESS INTEGRITY and CONTINUANCE!  Haven’t you been paying attention?!

    …but I digress… 

    Actually, what started me on this rant was a a very interesting email conversation I had with a new acquaintence from one of our live events in Madison.  This gentleman shared with us his site where we could download lots of funny videos.  (No… I won’t share the link to his site without his permission.  Sorry. )  And yesterday he emailed me with an interesting dilemma.  One of his customers (he is a consultant) is dead-set against tape

    They are dead set against tape.  The server is going to be high-end raid 5, but they don't want the "hassle" of tape.  They want a hard disk they can take home every night, like a Maxtor One Touch.  I always have a headache coming out of there.  Can you point me to a recent whitepaper on tape to help support the issue of backups?

    I’ll get to some resources in a minute.  But my first response to my friend was, “Hey, I agree.  Tape is not a good choice for backup.”

    “Huh?!”

    Well.. I think most people these days are using hard-disk backup solutions now, right?  At least as far as being able to QUICKLY RESTORE something that does awry, it’s a great solution.  Heck.. for many, the built-in support of Shadow Copies for Shared Folders is a great way to let your own users recover from their own mistakes.  What is it?  It’s a data backup and recovery solution that uses a disk volume.  Quick.  Easy.  No need to call you, Mr.-or-Ms. System Administrator, to have to pull out tapes or even run some recovery tool for them.

    “So Kevin… Maybe we should separate the topics of Data Backup and Recovery from Disaster Recovery?”

    BINGO! 

    Yes, disk solutions are good for backup and quick recovery of the most recent data.  But until hard disks are cheap enough to keep buying a new one every week just to store it in a vault somewhere, other, cheaper removable media will still be necessary. 

    There are many things to consider, starting with this great question my friend mentioned in his emails:

    When I started in technology 20 years ago, one of my mentors told me something that I still use today.  ‘The rule about backups is that you only backup as often as you can afford to lose data.  Tell your clients that and it puts the responsibility back on them.’  When you bring that up to a client and ask them, ‘If you had a major disaster, how much would it hurt your business to not have your data or current data?’  After they all get over the deer-in-the-headlights look, it's a no-brainer.

    Excellent. 

    Also – do you have any business requirements for data archival?  Are there any mandates or legal requirements to make sure you can recover any and all data that has ever existed on your file servers?  Databases?  Email data stores?

    And finally – you MUST test recovery.  If you’re a consultant, don’t let your customers down by assuming that their tapes are working.  Test the restore on a separate server.  Make sure you can recover to the level that is expected (and you’ve had that discussion with management at the beginning of developing this plan, right?  They need to tell you exactly what the expectations are to bring the company back to life in some acceptable way and timeframe… and you need to verify that this is now supported by TESTING the recovery.)

    Here’s a great PCWorld Article on Microsoft’s new System Center Data Protection Manager (DPM).  At the end of the article is a very telling statement from Ben Matheson, group product manager for DPM at Microsoft, about why Tape is not going away any time soon:

    "DPM doesn't really replace anything; it's designed to be complementary," Matheson says. "Ninety percent or more customers rely on tape backup, but when it comes time to do recovery, it's slow and unreliable ... we are advocating that customers have a disk-to-disk-to-tape backup scenario."

    Here are some resources for more information:

    Backup Technical Reference

    Disaster Recovery

    Best Practices for Backup

    And please, if you have any, stories, hints, rants, 2 bit opinions, or links to additional resources, add a comment below so others can benefit from your knowledge/wisdom/humor/experiences.

    Happy RECOVERY!

  • "Update Tuesday" rolls around again...

    If you’ve already subscribed to the Microsoft Security Notification Service, you already know about these.  But in case you missed them, there are some big/important/critical security updates that were released today:

    New: Microsoft Security Bulletins for July 2005 New: Microsoft Security Bulletins for July 2005
    This month's security updates affect Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office.
    Review the latest Security Bulletins.

    Don’t delay!  Take advantage of the resources provided, please!

  • Air Travelers: I'm not sure I should share this with you...

    I’d hate to think you got the seat that I wanted!

    SeatGuru.com -

    Here’s a site that helps you find a good seat.  It lists a large number of major airlines, and then what airplane types each one flys.  Then it makes it easy to pick where the extra legroom might be found, which seats don’t recline, or even where you might be missing a window! 

    Anyone else have any travel tips or useful sites they’d like to share?

  • Do you want Windows Vista Beta 1? Are you a TechNet Plus Subscriber?

    If you answered YES to both of these questions, you’ll be happy to know that you WILL be getting Beta 1 of Microsoft Windows Vista shipped straight to your door in September!

    Yes, our TechNet program folks have given us the green-light to let you TechNet Plus subscribers know that you’ll be among the first to receive the bits on disc when they’re available.

    TechNet Subscription PackageClick here to find out more about TechNet Plus Subscriptions.

     

  • NEWS: Windows Vista Beta 1 is officially "signed off"

    Windows Vista Website

    Robert Scoble interviews Chris Jones for Channel 9, where he makes this announcement, plus demos the beta for you.

  • PDC '05 - Convince Your Boss!

    WARNING: The following is targeted at developers.  You IT Pros can look away for just a minute.

    DEVELOPERS!  The Microsoft Professional Developers Conference 2005 is happening Sept 13–16 in Los Angeles.  You don’t want to miss it. 

    “I want to go, but my boss doesn’t see the value.  Help me convince him!”

    Okay… Will this help?

    Convince the Boss!

    Click on the picture above to be taken to a form that you can fill out.  Simply enter your name, your title, and your boss’s name, and leave the rest of the fields as their original values, and you’ll get a very meaningful letter. 

    Or… Have you ever seen “Mad-Libs”?  Have some fun and change the other words just to see what a fun letter you can generate! 

    I am sure I speak for many IT Pros in wishing that we had had this form to convince our bosses of the value of TechEd a few times.