Exchange and Outlook resource roundup

I mentioned that I’ve been attending an Exchange Server 2013 training course, when I wrote earlier in the week about creating dynamic distribution groups using custom directory attributes.

Our course instructor, Annette Gill, has curated a number of resources and links on her website for Exchange (2007, 2010 and 2013), Windows Server 2008, and System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM 2007 and 2012).  Of particular  interest to me right now are the Exchange Server 2013 Resources and Exchange Server 2013 Miscellaneous Links.

I also found something else of note during one of the labs. I don’t really use Public Folders and I was struggling to get one to display in the Outlook client after I’d created it and given access to a user.  Outlook MVP Diane Poremsky’s reply to a TechNet Forum post gave me the answer – Ctrl+6 refreshed the folder list (I already had it open) and the Public Folder came into view.  Incidentally, a full list of Outlook keyboard shortcuts can be found on the Microsoft Office website (that list is for 2010, but should work for 2013 too).

There are more “tips and tricks for Windows, Office and whatever” on Diane’s website.

Finally, one of the Microsoft consultants currently working with my team is one of the joint authors for the Microsoft Exchange Server 2013: Design, Deploy and Deliver an Enterprise Messaging Solution book that’s due to be published next month. Exchange 2013 texts are a bit thin on the ground at the moment but this book has been written by some of the best authorities I know on the topic – especially when it comes to designing, deploying and delivering solutions.

Book review: Complete Guide to Windows Server 2008, John Savill

A couple of years back, I was invited out to the Microsoft Campus in Redmond to learn about Windows Server 2008.  It was a fantastic week – not just because it was my first trip to Redmond but also because I met so many great people – many of whose work I had been reading in books, magazines and on the ‘net for years.  One example was John Savill, who, at the time, was working on a book… a rather big book as it turns out – and his publishers sent me a copy to review.

It’s taken me some time (I did plan to use it for my MCSE to MCITP:EA upgrade in 2008) but here’s what I found when I read John Savill’s Complete Guide to Windows Server 2008, published by Addison Wesley.

At over 1700 pages, this is not a lightweight read.  Having said that, it’s title of “complete guide” is pretty accurate – going right back to a history of Windows (although using the abbreviation of WNT for Windows NT is not something I’ve seen anywhere else, and was somewhat confusing).  Although the book is written in a style that makes it very readable, it’s size means that it’s not something that can easily be read in bed, or on the train, or anywhere really – and that means it’s most use as a reference book (a digital copy is available to purchasers of the hardback edition, but only for 45 days… not really much use for a book this size).

But what a reference book it is!  I’ve read many texts on deploying Windows and none have ever taken me through a network trace of a PXE boot, removing the need to press F12, or the structure of the XML that describes a Windows image.  Sure, we now have tools like the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit but John explores Windows Deployment Services (and the Windows Automated Installation Kit) in great detail – just the sort of detail I would need if I was an administrator looking to discover how Windows works and how to make it work for me.  These are just a few highlights though from one example of the 24 chapters (plus how to quick reference and index) – indeed I’ll list them here to show the breadth of coverage for this book:

  • Windows 101: Its origins, present, and the services it provides
  • Windows Server 2008 fundamentals: navigation and getting started
  • Installing and upgrading Windows Server 2008
  • Securing a Windows Server 2008 deployment
  • File system and print management features
  • TCP/IP
  • Advanced networking services
  • Remote access/securing and optimising the network
  • Terminal Services
  • Active Directory Domain Services (introduction)
  • Designing and installing Active Directory
  • Managing Active Directory and advanced concepts
  • Active Directory Federated Services, Lightweight Directory Services, and Rights Management
  • Server core
  • Distributed File System
  • Deploying Windows
  • Managing and maintaining Windows Server 2008
  • Highly available Windows Server 2008
  • Virtualisation and resource management
  • Troubleshooting Windows Server 2008 and Vista environments
  • Group policy
  • The command prompt and PowerShell
  • Connecting Windows Server to other environments
  • Internet Information Services

Each chapter goes into great detail, with plenty of screen shots, and command line output; yet remains extremely readable because the approach taken is to set the scene, before drilling down into the detail – rather than swamping the reader with a mountain of technical know-how.

If I had one tiny criticism, I’d say that there were a (very) few occasions when it left me hanging by referring me to the Microsoft website for more information (e.g. for details of storing BitLocker encryption keys in Active Directory); however, in general, this book provided me with the right balance between readability and technical detail – and I would not hesitate to recommend this text to anyone who works with, or is looking to learn about, Windows Server 2008.

Windows support lifecycle reminders

Last week, I wrote about the forthcoming service pack for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2.  At the other end of its support lifecycle, is Windows 2000, which finally reaches end of life (i.e. the end of extended support) on 13 July 2010.

Windows XP remains on extended support for a while longer (until 8 April 2014) but service pack 2 (SP2) also goes out of support on 13 July 2010 and, from that date onwards, Microsoft will no longer support or provide free security updates for Windows XP systems running SP2 or earlier.  Service pack 3 is available free of charge; however Windows XP users should really be planning on migration to a later version of Windows.  For details of how to obtain the latest service pack for Windows XP, see Microsoft knowledge base article 322389.

Also, on 13 July, Windows Server 2003 moves out of mainstream support and into its extended support phase.   Service pack 1 for Windows Server 2003 was retired on 14 April 2009, so service pack 2 is required in order to remain supported.  For details of how to obtain the latest service pack for Windows Server 2003 (and Windows Server 2003 R2), see Microsoft knowledge base article 889100.  Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2003 R2 are subject to the same support lifecycle milestones as each other.

Windows Vista with no Service Packs installed will also lose support on 13 April 2010.  Customers are advised to install service pack 2 for Windows Vista in order to remain secure and supported (although service pack 1 is still supported until 12 July 2011).  For details of how to obtain the latest service pack for Windows Vista, see Microsoft knowledge base article 935791.

Customers running Windows Server 2008 have plenty of time left in their operating system investment, although Windows Server 2008 service pack 1 will be retired on 12 July 2011.  For details of how to obtain the latest service pack for Windows Server 2008, see Microsoft knowledge base article 968849.  The same service pack is applicable to both Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008.

Announcing the Windows Server User Group (WSUG)

Back in 2008, I set up a LinkedIn group after the UK Windows Server User Group’s leader, Scotty McLeod, was involved in a tragic accident and it was originally intended to provide a temporary workaround until we got the Windows Server Team site up and running again.

Towards the end of last year Mark Parris and I had a conversation around combining the UK Active Directory User Group with the UK Windows Server User Group. The reasoning behind this was that Windows Server User Group meetings had become few and far between, meanwhile the Active Directory User Group is an active community. At the same time Active Directory touches almost every component of Windows Server (it does, after all, account for five of the Windows Server roles) and the division between Windows Server content and Active Directory content was becoming very blurred.

Consequently, the two user groups will now merge to become collectively known as the Windows Server User Group (WSUG).

Mark has set up a new website and forums and, whilst they still require some work, they share credentials and support both traditional user/password authentication and OpenID.

Meanwhile the LinkedIn group will still exist, but I’m honestly not sure that it provides any value and I would encourage members to sign up at the WSUG website, where we are trying to build an active Windows Server community with discussion forums and in-person meetings (generally held at Microsoft offices in the UK).

Twitter users can also follow @windowsserverug for event announcements, etc.

Please let us know what you would like to see on the forums and, if you would like to get more involved, please get in touch with either Mark Parris or myself.  You can find our contact details on the WSUG site.

Which service pack level is Windows Server 2008 R2 at?

Those that remember Windows Server 2003 R2 may recall that it shipped on two disks: the first contained Windows Server 2003 with SP1 integrated; and the second contained the R2 features. When Windows Server 2003 SP2 shipped, it was equally applicable to Windows Server 2003 and to Windows Server 2003 R2. Simple.

With Windows Server 2008, it shipped with service pack 1 included, in line with it’s client operating system sibling – Windows Vista. When service pack 2 was released, it applied to both Windows Server 2008 and to Windows Vista. Still with me?

Today, one of my colleagues asked a question of me – what service pack level does Windows Server 2008 R2 sit at – SP1, SP2, or both (i.e. multiple versions). The answer is neither. Unlike Windows Server 2003 R2, which was kind of linked to Windows XP, but not really, Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7 are very closely related. Windows Server 2008 R2 doesn’t actually display a service pack level in its system properties and I would expect the first service pack for Windows 7 to be equally applicable to Windows Server 2008 R2 (although I haven’t seen any information from Microsoft to confirm this). What’s not clear is whether the first service pack for Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7 will also be service pack 3 for Windows Server 2008 and Vista? I suspect not and would expect Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2 to take divergent paths from a service pack perspective. Indeed, it could be argued that service packs are less relevant in these days of continuous updates. At the time of writing, the Windows service pack roadmap simply says that the “Next Update and Estimated Date of Availability” for Windows Server 2008 is “To be determined” and there is no mention of Windows 7 or Server 2008 R2.

So, three consecutive operating system releases with three different combinations of release naming and service pack application… not surprisingly resulting in a lot of confused people. For more information on the mess that is Microsoft approach to major releases, update releases, service packs and feature packs, check out the Windows Server product roadmap.

Injecting network drivers into a Hyper-V Server (or Windows Server) installation

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about running Windows from a flash drive – specifically running Hyper-V Server 2008 R2. One thing I hadn’t got around to at that time though was injecting the necessary drivers to provide network access to/from the server – which is pretty critical for a virtualisation host! Under network settings, the Hyper-V Server Configuration (sconfig.vbs) showed that there were no active network adapters found but I knew this should be pretty easy to fix.

One of the strengths of the Hyper-V architecture is that it uses the standard Windows device driver model. This is in stark contrast to the monolithic model used for VMware ESX (and ESXi) and is the reason that I can’t do something similar with ESXi. In fact, adding network drivers to Hyper-V Server (or for that matter Windows Server 2008 running in server core mode, or even for command line administration of a full Windows Server 2008 installation) is pretty straightforward.

The network card I needed to support is a Marvell Yukon 88E8055 PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet Controller and, even though Windows 7 recognised the hardware and installed the appropriate drivers at installation time, I couldn’t find the drivers in the install.wim file on the DVD. That was no problem – Marvell’s download site had x64 drivers for Windows 7 available and these are also be suitable for Windows Server 2008 R2 and Hyper-V Server 2008 R2. Armed with the appropriate driver (yk62x64.sys v11.10.7.3), I ran pnputil -i -a yk62x64.inf on my Hyper-V Server:

Microsoft PnP Utility

Processing inf :            yk62x64.inf
Successfully installed the driver on a device on the system.
Driver package added successfully.
Published name :            oem0.inf

Total attempted:              1
Number successfully imported: 1

(oem0.inf and an associated oem0.pnf file were created in the %windir%\inf\ folder)

With drivers loaded, I restarted the server (probably not necessary but I wanted to ensure that all services were running) and Hyper-V Server recognised the network card, allowing me to make configuration changes if required.

To validate the configuration, I ran pnputil -e, to which the response was:

Microsoft PnP Utility

Published name :            oem0.inf
Driver package provider :   Marvell
Class :                     Network adapters
Driver date and version :   07/20/2009
Signer name :               Microsoft Windows Hardware Compatibility Publisher

So, that’s installing network drivers on Hyper-V Server, what about removing them? Here, I was less successful. I tried removing the plug and play package with pnputil -f -d oem0.inf and this removed the package from %windir%\inf but, after a reboot, my network settings persisted. I also used devcon.exe, the command line equivalent to the Windows Device Manager (making sure I had the amd86 version, not i386 or ia64) to successfully remove the PnP package (devcon -f dp_delete oem0.inf) as well as the network interface (devcon remove "PCI\VEN_11AB&DEV_4363") but this still left several copies of yk62x64.sys available in various Windows system folders. Again, after a reboot the network card was re-enabled. Uninstalling network drivers is not a very likely scenario in most cases but, with a bootable flash device potentially roaming between hardware platforms, it would be good to work out how to do this. Of course, my work is based on the release candidate – the RTM version of Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 is yet to be released to web.

Two more of my “How Do I?” videos available on the Microsoft TechNet website

Last month I mentioned that my “how do I” video on backing up a Hyper-V host with SCDPM had made it onto the Microsoft TechNet website and recently I noticed that the follow-up on backing up Hyper-V using the tools within Windows Server (Windows Server Backup) is now live on the site too (as well as one on creating a cluster on Hyper-V, which I freely admit would be more useful if it was about creating a cluster of Hyper-V hosts… for which I didn’t have the hardware available…).

There are a whole bunch of guys working on videos like these and the good news is that Microsoft has commissioned more for 2009/10. So, if you’re looking for step-by-step information on perform some common tasks with Microsoft products, then it might be worth checking out the TechNet How Do I? videos.

Copying files to/from a Hyper-V Server or Windows Server (server core) computer over RDP

It’s reasonably well known that it’s possible to expose local resources (including local drives) on a remote computer when connecting using the Microsoft Remote Desktop Connection client. Using this method, the local drives are exposed on the remote computer using Windows Explorer (e.g. drive on computername).

Last week, I was working with a Hyper-V Server 2008 computer (the principle would be the same for a server core installation of Windows Server 2008) and, even though I’d connected via RDP, I couldn’t work out where the drive connection was on a machine without Windows Explorer. Then I ran the net use command and saw that there was a remote mapping called \\tsclient\d with a network name of Microsoft Terminal Services, representing my local D: but without a remote drive letter assigned.

I ran net use * \\tsclient\d and the connection was re-mapped – this time with a drive letter assigned (in this case, the system chose Z:) following which, I was able to copy files between to and from Z: (i.e. to/from my local computer’s D:) using the remote host.

Hyper-V Manager cannot find the MSVM_VirtualSystemManagementService object

A couple of days ago, I was working with a colleague to build a Windows 7 proof of concept lab with a number of servers running Hyper-V and some virtualised server instances to provide the supporting infrastructure. The physical servers running are a mixture of Windows Server 2008 (full installation) and Hyper-V Server (the free of charge version of Hyper-V) but, after installing the Hyper-V role on one of the full Windows Server 2008 machines, we were still unable to manage the remote (Hyper-V Server) host – even after following John Howard’s 5-part series of blog posts to enable remote management.

Whenever I tried to connect to the Hyper-V server (or indeed the local instance of Hyper-V), Hyper-V Manager complained that:

The ‘MSVM_VirtualSystemManagementService’ object was not found

It turned out that the problem was related to not having the RTM version of Hyper-V installed on the server (a schoolboy error!) – Windows Server 2008 shipped with a beta of Hyper-V. After installing the update described in Microsoft knowledge base article 950050 (downloading Windows Server 2008 service pack 2 to bring the server completely up-to-date was a slow process over a poor Internet connection) the server was able to manage both local and remote Hyper-V resources.

Manually invoking the Windows Server 2008 Initial Configuration Tasks Wizard

This afternoon, after installing the Hyper-V role on a Windows Server 2008 computer, a server I was working on restarted and went straight into to Server Manager (without displaying the Initial Configuration Tasks wizard). Whilst Server Manager is a perfectly acceptable way of configuring a server, I wanted the administrators for whom I was preparing some build notes to use one tool (i.e. to provide some consistency) – and the Initial Configuration Tasks Wizard also serves as a handy quick reference. This is not the first time I’ve seen the wizard disappear after installing Hyper-V, so I decided to investigate running the wizard manually and it turns out to be quite straightforward.

Simply navigate to the Start Menu and in the search box type oobe. Once you know the filename (the full path is %windir%\system32\oobe.exe) it seems logical (OOBE stands for Out of Box Experience) but, until today, OOBE was something I’d equated with client operating system releases.