March 2004 - Posts

People who've read my articles know I'm a fan of Cassini and have written several extensions for it already. Another guy, Michael J. Carter, has come up with CassiniEx some days ago with some great results. CassiniEx adds support for (copied from the CassiniEx homepage):

  • Run multiple web applications in a single instance of CassiniEx
  • Each ApplicationHost is loaded only on demand
  • CassiniEx loads in system tray
  • Supports multiple host headers and ports per web application
  • Supports multiple virtual folders
  • Each web app has a log file in W3C extended log file format
  • Each web app can allow or deny remote connections
  • Custom default documents per web app
  • Now supports Keep-Alive connections
  • Support If-Modified-Since and Last-Modified headers to reduce bandwidth
  • Automatically unload AppDomain when Idle for user-defined time
  • More info can be found on http://www.systemex.net/CassiniEx/. I'm contacting Michael to put pieces of our work together to create yet a better Cassini :-).

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    The 'technology preview' of Visual Studio 2005 (formerly known as "Whidbey") has become available as a download on MSDN Subscriptions (Universal) this week. It's a download of *only* 2.67 GB (a big hit on my monthly volume on my DSL line) but I couldn't wait to see in action and decided to download and install it :-)... If you decide to try it yourself, just keep one thing in mind: it's a "technology preview" which is even not an alpha! (technology preview < alpha < beta < RC < RTM).

    Waiting for the daylight saving change right now (the - what I call - "lost hour"). Enjoy the summer with Visual Studio 2005!

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    I just downloaded and installed the beta of the "Issue Tracker" starter kit to complete my collection of 'ASP.NET starter kits' installed on my machine. Although it's still in a beta stage, it's a really useful application to ... 'track issues'. During the installation, there are various options to set up the database (using Access or SQL Server) and to set up authentication (can be done with forms authentication or using Windows Authentication with or without Active Directory). You can find the solution via the well-known ASP.NET official homepage on www.asp.net.Del.icio.us | Digg It | Technorati | Blinklist | Furl | reddit | DotNetKicks

    Had to download quite a lot of files from the same server on the internet today. Unfortunately, Internet Explorer only allows three concurrent connections to the same server at a time :-(. The good news is there is some magic registry key to change this setting. If you're experiencing this limitation as a disadvantage like I do, this is really something to check out.

    Key: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Internet Settings
    Value: MaxConnectionsPerServer

    Regedit is your friend once more :-)

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    Do you have enough of those annoying pop-ups? If this is the case, there are two options: you wait for XP SP2 where pop-up blocking will be included in the Internet Exploer 6.05 browser, or you can download the new MSN Toolbar which includes the next features:

    • pop-up blocking
    • access to search engine
    • easy links to My MSN, Hotmail, Messenger
    • a highlighter tool

    Try it out on http://toolbar.msn.com/. Enjoy!

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    As I mentioned in my previous post on my blog, it's like that I've forgotten some great products in my list. Virtual Server is one of those products which I was confronted with some minutes ago on Microsoft's BetaPlace. I'm using this beta right now on my machine to test it when developing the SchoolServer solution since it's allowing me to run another instance of Windows Server 2003 in the background as being a real server machine somewhere on the network. As the site mentions: "Virtual Server is Microsoft’s virtual machine (VM) solution that enables Windows servers to run multiple operating systems concurrently" and I can't describe the functionality of the product better myself. The last beta release is a lot better than the initial customer preview which was released some months ago. However, in my opinion, I believe there are still a lot of things which can be improved towards the final release. One of the things I'm confronted with is the lack of a unified way to "connect to another computer". Today we have the Remote Desktop Connection (mstsc.exe) to connect to a machine running Terminal Services or some other RDP-based system such as Windows XP boxes, the tool to view Virtual PCs and a tool to connect to Virtual Servers (using the vmrc protocol). I guess people would like some "unified" way to connect to other desktops in a transparent way. Beside of this remark, I'm missing:

    • For Virtual PC, a real "Microsoft-fashioned" integration of the product with the OS when it's installed. Let me explain: today we have that great "My Pictures" folder that allows you to manage your images in some simple way by displaying the images in slide shows, in a filmstrip view, and so on with access to other tools to open the images etc. Personlly, I'd like to see another folder in the file system that displays the Virtual PC computers in the Windows Explorer instead of having another tool sitting in the system tray (think of a thumbnails folder of all the VPCs).
    • Windows Server 2003 supports things such as hot-add memory which is great to have higher uptimes on servers running Windows Server 2003 on hardware that has support for this feature of course. However, Virtual Server does not support things such as "hot add memory" which would be great to have a higher uptime on the Virtual Servers as well. This is only workable if you're running W2K3 as the guest OS of course (maybe this is not the number one guest OS that will be running inside Virtual Servers since the Virtual Server product is developed to allow a smoother upgrade to a new infrastructure by allowing you to run other OS on top of W2K3 in virtual machines).
    • As mentioned earlier, some integrated tool to connect to several types of 'external desktops'.
    • Some visualization tool of the collection of Virtual Servers running in a network on a particular machine (think of network layout displays in MOM, the new ISA management, Whitehorse, etc) to allow you to see the IP-adresses, NICs, etc of all the Virtual Servers in one place.
    • Beside of a web administrator module for Virtual Server, I'd like to see a MMC snap-in as well.

    I'm collecting some feedback right now to submit later on to the dev teams via the beta websites. "Huge testing of Virtual Server" is one of my Outlook tasks since a few days :-)

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    It's an exciting time to see new releases of Microsoft products appear on several places. Today, the release candidate 1 of Windows XP SP2 was release on the Windows Beta website @ Microsoft (installing it right now on my Virtual PC Windows XP Pro installation). But there's more, let me give you an overview of upcoming releases which were announced:

    • Windows Update v5 is on its way; RC1 was brought on-line today as well. More info can be found via http://test.v5.windowsupdate.microsoft.com/
    • MOM (Microsoft Operations Manager) 2004 has been renamed to MOM 2005 (take a look @ http://www.microsoft.com/mom/evaluation/future/mom2005.asp). Note: I'm relatively new to this stuff in the field of network management (in fact I'm more a developer than a system administrator) but I attended the pre-conference day on 'Enterprise Managability' last summer at TechEd 2003 in Spain and I like to play with it as well :-).
    • System Center (which is a combination of Microsoft Operations Manager and System Managements Server together with a new tool codenamed "Indy" for reporting) will ship later this year (being part of the Dynamic Systems Initiative or DSI)
    • Whidbey (the next release of the .NET Framework and Visual Studio .NET) and Yukon (the next release of SQL Server after SQL Server 2000) are in beta stage as well (announced for 2005)
    • Portable Media Center is a light-edition of Windows Media Center and will be shipped later this year (a portable multimedia device; something like iPod but with video, pictures, etc)
    • Windows Updates Services are the second version of SUS (Software Update Services) and allow you to host your own copy of the Microsoft updates on your company network to deploy it on the machines in the network. WUS goes somewhat further than SUS and allow you to distribute updates of Office, SQL Server and Exchange as well (whereas SUS could only cope with Windows updates). Further info on http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserversystem/sus/wusbeta.mspx
    • ISA (Internet Security and Acceleration) Server 2000 will be refreshed as well with the release of ISA Server 2004 later this year (http://www.microsoft.com/isaserver/beta/default.asp). I've been testing this in my test domain (available via MSDN Subscriber Downloads) and in my opinion it's a very huge improvement over ISA 2000 with a cute interface, nice wizards and a lot of power under the hood.

    Hot products (recently released) include BizTalk 2004 (http://www.microsoft.com/biztalk/) - which is the third release of BizTalk after BizTalk 2000 and 2002. I'm sure I've forgotten some other great releases but this will do for now. Off for Paris tomorow, woohoo!

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    Exchange 2003 does not provide a built-in method to block certain attachments in mailmessages. However it's possible to set up such blocks in OWA using the registry (more info on http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;555001 and http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;823486). Although this is a nice way to block attachments, it's not the best thing to use if a lot of users are working with POP3 or IMAP4 access to the server. In that case, attachments can be blocked in the mailclient itself but in my opinion there should be a better way to do it. Fortunately, there's a thing called "SMTP Event Sinks" that can be used to develop your own plug-ins in the SMTP server software in Windows Server. Thanks to interop it's possible to get rid of the C++-way of working to write such an add-on. For more info see http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/default.asp?url=/library/en-us/dnsmtps/html/writingmngsinks.asp?frame=true#writingmngsinks_topic2 which is a great article on this topic. Let's dive into this stuff tonight :-)Del.icio.us | Digg It | Technorati | Blinklist | Furl | reddit | DotNetKicks

    The VLOD event ("Vlaamse Onderwijs Dagen", www.vlod.be) is over now. Just arrived at home from our last presentation of the SchoolServer 2004 solution today. It was just great (not only my opinion but the opinion of a lot of visitors on the event). Thanks to the whole team that was over there in Ghent during the event representing Microsoft and promoting this solution: Annelies, Jan, Hans, Danielle and Björn. The demos went very well (after a few problems yesterday with beamer resolutions) and I think the attendees got the message: SchoolServer really wants to make the life of IT-coördinators in schools easier by providing some simple-to-use tools for the everyday management of the Windows Server 2003 domain.

    For those of you who're interested in the project status: currently, I'm developing with the SchoolServer team the internet blocking solution and the teacher tools (for the moment being this piece of the solution is in an early alpha stage). We expect to have a release candidate ready by June this year to be able to extend the number of pilots and to test the solution on a large scale. The RTM is planned for Q1 2005.

    If you missed the presentation and want to get more info, you can stay in touch with me or you can attend the next event where we'll present SchoolServer (possibly this will be the AAL summit in Hasselt on May 10th - more info on www.aal.be). I'm off the development for a few days now (relax and think of the further development schedule).

    Thanks again to the whole team. Cheers,
    Bart

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    This week we're going to present the Microsoft SchoolServer 2004 solution to people from the educational field in Flanders on VLOD (Vlaamse Onderwijs Dagen) in Flanders Expo - Ghent. Can't believe it but the whole setup on the demo machines over here is running fine. To present the internet blocking solution for example we need to simulate the internet because we can't rely on having a (working) internetconnection in Flanders Expo during the event in the presentation rooms. This is why we require quite a complex setup with one machine simulating the "real World Wide Web" running DHCP, DNS, FTP, POP3, SMTP and HTTP on Windows Server 2003. With a router in between the SchoolServer machine and the internetsimulator it seems to be a real scenario.

    Just a little check and then I'm going to bed, it will be a long (and heavy - with two laptops, one router, one hub, a few FTP-cables, some extra batteries, an external harddrive and a Pocket PC) day tomorrow on our "dry run" of the presentation for a limited audience. Thank goodness we have that powerful Virtual PC solution which has really helped me out for lots of demos already. I like the "undo disk" functionality most of all. Using the feature it's possible to start your Virtual PC, try some demos and discard the changes when you're done if you want to do so. It's just great to know everything is then back in its original state as it was before the try-out of the demo. Useful when you're presenting alpha and beta stuff in particular (our internet blocking tools are in an early alpha stage right now... risky to show :-)).

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