Joint user group meeting (Windows Server UK User Group/Active Directory UK User Group)

This content is 15 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

After lying dormant for some time, the Windows Server UK User Group (and the associated LinkedIn group) and the Active Directory UK User Group are pleased to announce a joint user group meeting on 11 March 2009 at Microsoft’s offices in London (Victoria) (map and directions).

The draft agenda is:

  • 18:00 for 18:25 arrival and registration
  • 18:25-18:30 Welcome and introductions
  • 18:30-19:45 James O’Neill takes a quick tour through the new features in Windows Server 2008 R2 (just to whet your appetite).
  • 19:45-20:00 Refreshments
  • 20:00-21:15 Amish Lukka (from Microsoft PFE) will be presenting an insight into new Active Directory features in Windows Server 2008 R2.
  • 21:15-21:30 Wrap-up.
  • 21:30 Adjourn to a nearby public house where Mark Parris will be happy to share his experiences of the Microsoft Certified Masters: Windows Server 2008: Directory class that he attended last November.

If you are interested in attending the meeting – please send an email to with your name and we’ll see you there. For those who can’t make it in person, we will set up a Live Meeting session (which will be recorded) and details will be made available closer to the event.

One more “How Do I?” video on the Microsoft TechNet website

This content is 15 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

Last month I mentioned that I’d produced a video for Microsoft TechNet on preparing for and deploying Windows Server 2008 Read Only Domain Controllers (RODCs) and I’ve just seen that the follow-up video which looks at RODC password replication policies went live a few days ago.

I plan to record some more videos soon (the next few that I do should be on virtualisation) but if you want to keep up to date on these (and there are many other people producing videos on a variety of topics), subscribe to the TechNet How-to Videos RSS feed.

Copying Outlook profiles, looking up SIDs and rediscovering Outlook 2007’s autodiscovery functionality

This content is 15 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

One of the benefits of not being so “hands on” these days is not having to mess around with Outlook profiles but, after joining my Windows 7 workstation to my employer’s Active Directory domain last week, I was faced with the prospect of migrating certain settings between the profile for a local user account and the profile for my cached domain logon. It should have been easy to set up a new profile, but for some reason I couldn’t get Outlook to connect to my server, so I decided to copy the working profile from the local user account.

There are various ways to do export Outlook account information but I decided to fall back to direct registry manipulation, exporting the registry values at HKEY_USERS\SID\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Windows Messaging Subsystem\Profiles\Outlook (thanks to Dave Saxon for that tip), then massaging the resulting .reg file to change the SID and re-importing.

Incidentally, to find out which SID relates to which username, I followed a Microsoft Scripting Guys article to run the following VBScript:

strComputer = "."
Set objWMIService = GetObject("winmgmts:\\" & strComputer & "\root\cimv2")
Set objAccount = objWMIService.Get _
Wscript.Echo objAccount.SID

The main problem with this method was that my profile included an offline folder file (.OST) which was not accessible for my domain user account. It did, however, allow me to verify the settings that were required and to attempt to set up an new profile.

As it happens, even that was unsuccessful, so I tried the Repair button in the Outlook account settings, which invoked Outlook 2007’s autodiscovery functionality. If only I’d thought to use that in the first place… Still, at least it exposed me to the workings of an Outlook profile.

Incidentally, whilst researching this post, I came across some more information that might be useful if you’re trying to move Outlook data around.

There are two key locations containing many of the Outlook data files:

  • %userprofile%\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Outlook (also accessible at %userprofile%\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook)
  • %userprofile%\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Outlook (also accessible at %userprofile%\Local Settings\Application Data\Microsoft\Outlook)

Some of the useful files (which may exist outside those two folders, and which may vary according to the version of Outlook) include:

  • profilename.NK2 (or .NICK) – nickname files with auto completion information.
  • profilename.xml – navigation pane settings.
  • .PST files – personal folders.
  • archive.pst – archived data (my personal preference is to turn off auto Archive and manage it manually).
  • .PAB files – personal address book files.
  • .FAV files – Outlook Bar shortcuts.
  • .RWZ files – Rules Wizard rules.
  • .DIC files – dictionary files.
  • views.dat – customized system folder views.
  • outcmd.dat – customised toolbar settings.
  • extend.dat – references to extensions (add-ins).
  • files – RSS subscription names.
  • .xml.kfl – RSS known feed list.

Signatures, Stationery and Templates have their own folders under %userprofile%\AppData\Local\Microsoft:

  • \Signatures (.RTF, .HTM, and .TXT files).
  • \Stationary (.HTM files).
  • \Templates (.OFT files).

You may also find some send and receive settings (.SRS) files. These are workstation specific and appear to be created on the first run of Outlook for each messaging profile. Consequently they do not need to be migrated.

Similarly, offline address book (.OAB) files should be downloaded from the server.

Finally, just as I was about to post this, I found an Outlook Backup Tutorial covering both Outlook and Outlook Express, which might be useful if you want to back up just your Outlook data (I tend to back up the whole machine).

Upgrading to Windows 7 – it’s all about reliability

This content is 15 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

There’s been plenty written over the last week or so about Microsoft’s plans for users upgrading to Windows 7 and, in short, customers will be able to purchase an upgrade license, but there will be no in-place upgrade path from Windows XP (direct in-place upgrades from Vista will be supported but are not recommended).

After all the anti-Vista press, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see that much of what’s been written about Windows 7 has been relatively positive (I even wondered if they should market the product as Windows Mojave!) but now the critics have found something to complain about.

“What! No direct upgrade path from my 8-year old (n-minus-2) OS?”

Yes. Exactly. And that is A Good Thing.

I’ve often wondered why Windows gets such a hard time with stories of system crashes and general unreliability but that’s just not been my experience. I thought that maybe it was because I’ve been running NT-based systems (including Windows 2000, XP, 2003, 2008, Vista, 7) for the last thirteen years – after all, I certainly experienced that sort of chaos at one company where I worked but when we migrated the 4000 European employees from something approximating 4000 customised installations (mostly Windows 95/98, with users rebooting several times a day) to a standard Windows XP image, reliability improved significantly.

Ironically, it was buying a Mac that helped me to realise why people think that Windows is buggy and unstable. My Windows systems are my workhorses. I install standard software and I use them. I might install the odd application here and there, but it’s generally well-written software and it’s not a succession of installations and uninstallations. I also tend to dump the OEM installation and to perform a clean installation of Windows with each new operating system (although I have also used upgraded machines). On the Mac I’m much more of a novice: I have to learn how to do things; I download things that look interesting, then take them off again – and then I have reliability issues. Not a huge problem – but probably the cause of more forced restarts than I experience on my Windows PCs.

So what exactly is my point? Well, firstly this is not a Mac vs. PC discussion. The point I’m making is that, on any platform, the key to stability is only making configuration changes where necessary (i.e. incessent tweaking is generally not a good thing). The other point is that starting from a known baseline (i.e. a clean OS installation) is highly recommended.

When Apple shipped the last major update of its operating system (Mac OS X 10.5 “Leopard”) the general advice was to perform an “archive and install” installation. Basically, that’s what Microsoft is offering for XP users moving to Windows 7 but, unlike Apple, who have the benefit of a closed system with only a few devices (at least at a hardware and operating system level), Microsoft has to support almost infinite permutations of hardware and software for its operating system. And, from a brief conversation yesterday with one of my colleagues, it seems the situation is no different on Linux – if I want to move from an old distribution of Ubuntu to the latest version then I should expect to have to reinstall.

There was one comment on the article that Randall C Kennedy’s wrote for his enterprise desktop column at InfoWorld which just about summed this up for me:

“[…] I’ll bet if Microsoft did allow for an upgrade his next article would be bitching about all the upgrade problems Windows 7 caused from XP systems.

Next blog we’ll probably see how puppies (really cute ones too) are slaughtered in the process of making Windows 7. Desperate stories call for desperate measures.”

Even his colleague J Peter Bruzzese at InfoWorld can’t agree when he argues why Microsoft’s XP-Windows 7 upgrade strategy is right.

Opinion aside, for most corporates, clean, imaged, installations will be the preferred deployment option for Windows 7. Meanwhile, the majority of consumers will run an OEM-installed copy of Windows that came with their PC. Only a relatively small number of consumers, small business users and hobbiests will want to upgrade directly from Windows XP or Vista to Windows 7 (and the Vista users will be able to do this in-place, if they so desire) and, from Microsoft’s perspective, limiting the options to reduce the likelihood of users experiencing upgrade issues makes sound business sense.

A real use for Google Maps Street View

This content is 15 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

If all has gone to plan, by the time you read this, I’ll just have returned from a romantic weekend in Paris with Mrs. W. In itself, that’s not particularly relevant to a technology blog but, whilst booking the hotel for the weekend, I found Google Maps incredibly useful. Not just because the search results were integrated with people’s reviews on Trip Advisor and other such sites but also because Google Maps Street View really came into its own.

If you’re reading this in the US, then you’re probably wondering why the fuss? Well, here in the UK street view is not available (Google’s cameras have started to photograph the country, much to the dismay of privacy campaigners) but for me to have a look at our prospective hotels (albeit on a very grey day) was really useful and provided a real-world view (to compare with the hotel website’s slightly more enticing images).

The map shows a link to street view:

Google Maps France with a link to street view

And this is what it looks like:

Google Maps France in street view

Previously I’d failed to see any use for this technology. Now I can’t wait for it to come to the UK.

Photographic filters

This content is 15 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

In these days of digital photography and post-production, the need for photographic filters is greatly reduced (polarising filters cannot be emulated in PhotoShop through and I still find my Lee Filters 0.6 ND grad useful); however, as I was clearing out my office last weekend, I found a useful list of the various filter types (possibly supplied with an old Hoya or Cokin filter) and I thought it was still useful information although some of the descriptions were a bit odd (so I’ve modified them slightly based on some Internet research):

Filter Description
Skylight Absorbs ultraviolet rays (and blue/green). Often used for lens protection.
1B Used to eliminate blue cast in distant scenes and in shade.
UV(0) Absorbs only ultraviolet rays. Makes distant scenes sharp and clear.
80A (blue) Colour conversion filter. Allows daylight-balanced colour films to be used with 3200°K lamps (tungsten bulbs).
80B (blue) Colour conversion filter. Allows daylight-balanced colour films to be used with 3400°K lamps (professional studio lamps).
80C (blue) Colour conversion filter. Allows daylight-balanced colour films to be used with 3800°K lamps (clear flash bulbs).
81A Light balancing filter. Allows Type B (tungsten balanced) colour films to be used with 3400°K (studio) lamps.
81B Light balancing filter. Eliminates strong blue cast when buildings, trees, etc., are photographed in daylight.
81C Light balancing filter. Prevents blue cast in cloudy or rainy weather.
82A Light balancing filter. Allows Type A (studio-balanced) colour films to be used with 3200°K (tungsten) illumination.
82B Light balancing filter. Type B filters can be used with 2900°K illumination (home bulbs).
82C Light balancing filter. Reduces the reddish cast found when shooting in early morning or late afternoon.
85 Colour conversion filter for use of type A (studio-balanced) colour films in daylight.
85B Colour conversion filter for use of type B (tungsten-balanced) colour films in daylight.
85C Colour conversion filter. Used to convert 5500°K (daylight) lighting to 3800°K.
FL-D Eliminates green cast when daylight-balanced films are used under fluorescent lights.
FL-W Eliminates green cast when tungsten-balanced films are used under fluorescent lights.
ND Used to lower intensity of light striking the film to enable larger -apertures for shallow depth of field, slower speeds and special effects.
K2 (yellow) Absorbs part of the spectrum between ultraviolet and violet. Makes clouds stand out. Also used for natural rendition of colors in black and white tones.
G (orange) Absorbs part of the spectrum between ultraviolet and bluegreen. Provides stronger contrast than K2. Especially effective for distant scenes.
25A (red) Absorbs the spectrum between ultraviolet and yellow. Provides the strongest contrast. Makes daylight scenes appear as though photographed at night. Also used in infrared photography.
XO (yellow-green) Transmits green and absorbs part of the spectrum between ultraviolet and blue. Natural rendition of skin and lips of female models. Highly effective for outdoor portraits.
X1 (green) Absorbs more red than XO. Effective for reducing the reddish cast of lights for indoor photography. Suitable for photographing green trees and colourfu! subjects.

This table just lists the technical filters but special effect filters are also available from the major filter manufacturers. For more technical information, check out Ken Rockwell’s post on how to use camera filters.

Replacing text with special characters in Microsoft Office Word

This content is 15 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

This evening I was trying to take a few Exchange Server distribution groups and import their membership to Excel. There’s probably a way to script this but the method I used was to expand the distribution group membership in Outlook, then copy and paste the contents to a text editor before reformatting for Excel. The problem was that I wanted to move from a list of names separated with semicolons to a vertical list of names separated by line breaks.

Using Word (2007) as my editor, I tried to replace ; with a line break copied and pasted from another document but that didn’t work. It turns out that there is a method to replace using control characters though, as described in a Microsoft help and how-to article about finding and replacing text.

For my situation, I needed to type ^p (or ^13) as the replacement for ; but other options include:

Find/replace Type
Paragraph mark (¶) ^p (except with wildcards) or ^13
Tab character ^t or ^9
ASCII character ^nnn where nnn is the character code
ANSI character ^0nnn where nnn is the character code
Em dash (—) ^+
En dash (–) ^=
Caret (^) ^^
Manual line break ^l or ^11
Column break ^n or ^14
Page (when replacing) or section break ^12
Manual page break ^m
Non-breaking space ^s
Non-breaking hyphen ^~
Optional Hyphen (¬) ^-

These may be useful to know – and there are more find and replace options in the article, including wildcards.

Installing the Cisco VPN client on Windows 7

This content is 15 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

I haven’t been able to run the Cisco VPN client on the notebook PC that I use for work (because there is no 64-bit Cisco VPN client) but, after a forced rebuild when my hard disk started acting erratically, I am no longer running my Windows Server 2008 workstation and I put the Windows 7 beta on it instead, choosing to go 32-bit so that I didn’t have to run a VM just to access corporate applications.

Most applications that work on Windows Vista should work on Windows 7 but the ones that will cause trouble are the ones with hooks deep into the operating system… like VPN clients – and the Cisco VPN client is no exception.

Even under Windows Vista, v5.0.3.0560 of the Cisco VPN Client needed a Windows Update to be applied prior to installation but I took the chance that was already included in the Windows 7 code. Installation was actually quite smooth and completed successfully but then, after the initial reboot, a glimpse of a blue screen of death before the PC restarted. Thinking that my hard disk error had been misdiagnosed (it hadn’t) I started to Google and came across Aaron Tiensivu’s blog post on preventing Cisco VPN client (v5.0.4.0300) installation from bluescreening Windows 7 (32-bit build 7000). That sounded interesting… it refered to a later version of the VPN client but otherwise it was exactly what I’d just seen.

After a System Restore had got me back to a running system, I followed the steps in the post, but they have been updated several times now, so what follows are the exact steps that worked for me:

  1. Install the Citrix Deterministic Network Enhancer (DNE) update (direct link to the installer file) and restart the computer.
  2. Take ownership of c:\windows\system32\drivers\ndis.sys and c:\windows\system32\drivers\en-us\ndis.sys.mui, then set permissions to grant Full Control to Administrators, before deleting the files.
  3. Install the Cisco VPN Client (I used v5.0.03.0560 but this is also reported to work with v5.0.04.0300 and v5.0.05.0280) and restart the system.
  4. Allow Windows 7 to perform Startup Repairs and then click Finish to shut down the computer.
  5. Start the computer, log on, and the Cisco VPN Client should now be available for use.

Following this, I was able to initiate a successful connection to my company’s network.

Incidentally, for those who need to run 64-bit Windows, Nicholas Caito’s workaround looks interesting – running the VPN client in a virtual machine, sharing the connection, and providing a static route on the host.

Extracting individual files from setup executables

This content is 15 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

A while back, I wrote about using a Windows Server 2003 resource kit utility called dvdburn.exe to write ISO images from the command line. I needed to do that on one of my systems today but couldn’t find dvdburn.exe on my software share. It turns out that’s because it is one of many utilities that are embedded within the installer package for the resource kit (rktools.exe). Because the machine in question is my main Hyper-V host, I didn’t want to install unnecessary software on it but I figured the executable file must contain all the necessary resources for setup, so I set about extracting its contents.

First up, I ran rktools.exe /? to see what command line options were available and it confirmed that rktools.exe /c: /t:path would allow me to extract the contents to a path of my choice but when I checked there was an .MSI and two small .CAB files there. The .CAB files can be opened with a zip utility but the .MSI is a little more difficult as msiexec.exe doesn’t appear to have an option to extract the contents of the installer to a folder.

Luckily there is a utility, based on WiX, which will do this for me – Scott Willeke’s Less MSIérables (lessmsi.exe). Using this I could successfully extract the contents of the .MSI without installing the software. Then I could run dvdburn.exe (as I needed) and delete the extracted files without leaving any trace of the Windows Server 2003 Resource Kit’s existence on my system.