So what’s been fun on the Internet lately?

First up, in case you missed out on some of the new things from Microsoft, Windows 8 and Server 2012 are coming soon!  When you have some free time, start learning more about Server 2012 or take a close up look at Windows 8. You can even download a 90-day trial of the new desktop client.

And here are some other links to some fun things I’ve seen online, mostly via Twitter:

For those of you who work on Exchange, don’t miss out on these:

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What’s A Techie To Do?

Or rather, what have I been up to lately?

Been doing a lot of “spring” cleaning at the office. Trying to tie up loose ends on lots of little projects.

1) Upgrading Shoretel – I’ve been using Shoretel since Shoretel 5. We’ve been through several upgrades since then and last week moved to Shoretel 12.3.  We have a fabulous reseller that did most of the work for me. Sometimes it’s nice to just sit back and watch the magic. The trickiest part was getting the MSI file for the new desktop software, Shoretel Communicator, out of the setup file so I could deploy it with a GPO.  This guy had a good blog post that helped me out.

2) Removal of Exchange 2003 – Back in October I migrated our mail to Exchange 2010 SP1. Our old server had going through several stages of being decommissioned and had been left turned off for several months as other more pressing project got to me. I finally turned it back on and ran the setup program to remove it.  It didn’t go completely flawlessly, but most issues were resolved by fixing a few public folder replication issues and then deleting the server from the Exchange 2003 ESM.

3) Training for Windows 7 and Office 2010 – We have finally reached the point where we are doing a bunch of hardware refreshes for staff in the office.  That means moving from XP / Office 2007 to Windows 7 and Office 2010.  I’m not doing the hardware deployments, but I’m responsible for providing basic training to the staff so they are prepared for some of the changes that will come.  My first two sessions were this week and I concentrated a lot on the new start menu and taskbar in Windows 7.  Also, Outlook 2010 has quite a few navigation changes that are notable.

4) De-cluttering My Desk – While not a super-techie endeavor, it needed to be done. I trashed piles of CDs and DVDs of very dated software, including diskettes for installing Windows 2000 Server. Diskettes!! Ah!!  If anyone is looking for the DVD to install Windows 95, I’m your girl. I’m hanging that in my cube for decoration.

Using Email Categories Within An Exchange Organization

Do you use the categories feature in Outlook to identify your mail?  If so, you might want that category information to be passed to others in your organization.  Starting with Exchange 2007, all categories get stripped from sent messages. Below is the PowerShell you can run to ensure that the category information stays put.

set-transportconfig -clearcategories $false

To turn it off again, change the flag to $true.

Junk Mail Settings via GPO & Exchange 2010

One of my most popular blog posts is “Control Outlook 2007 Junk Mail Settings via GPO“. I’ve used this policy and corresponding text file for nearly two years now, without any issues.

And then I upgraded the mail server to Exchange 2010 SP1.

It was reported to me (and the “interwebs” confirm) that the import and processing of the text file for the “safe senders” has a bit of a special “feature”.  If you have any addresses on the list that match your internal domain, they are removed a few minutes after the import happens.  And if you manually add any internal domain addresses to the safe senders list, they disappear too.  This happens with the Outlook 2007 and Outlook 2010 client. 

There is quite an extensive forum posting about the issue from early 2011 that you can check out. It includes some PowerShell to adjust transport rules so that domain mail has a reduced spam level. I haven’t tried that though, as this issue isn’t mission critical for our office.

But if you or your end users have noticed this behavior, it isn’t insanity. It’s just not working the way it did with Exchange 2003.

Customizing the Name of the Online Archive… Unfortunately Still Buggy.

With Exchange 2010 SP1, I have a lot more options for helping users manage their emails and help our company meet requirements regarding email retention policies, compared to past versions of Exchange. While the original Exchange 2010 RTM “Managed Folders” features are still available via PowerShell, the most current iteration of MRM involves Retention Tags and Retention Policies.

While our lawyers hammer out the details regarding how long we should be holding onto mail, I’ve been playing around with the tags and working out the most suitable way to implement the technology for our office. Part of this involves the use of the “Online Archive” feature as a way to eliminate the difficult to manage PST files and to ensure that the primary mailbox database remains small enough to restore quickly in the event of a system failure.

Online Archives act as an extension of the primary mailbox and the folders and mail within it are still subject to the retention tags that were applied to mail messages and folders. So for my needs, the “archive” is simply a place to automatically move the mail that is subject to our longer retention needs.

By default the label of the archive in OWA and Outlook is “Online Archive – User Name”, however for my office I’d like to change the name from “Online Archive” to something more appropriate for our use of the feature, like “Retained Mail – User Name”. 

The word “archive” seems to imply that any message put in that area will be saved indefinitely and I want to make sure it’s clear that those messages are still subject to the retention rules. It’s a cosmetic change and mostly semantics, I know, but I think it’s important for the scope of our project.

Within EMC there is a spot on each users mailbox settings where you can customize the display name of the title. I changed my test account and was happy to see it reflected in OWA and Outlook 2007.  We’ll be upgrading our users to Outlook 2010 in order to fully support the retention tag features, so I updated my lab workstation to Outlook 2010 as well.

Much to my dismay, I noticed the online archive title was not customized in Outlook 2010. It now read, “Archive – email address”.  Curious.  I did a little search on the Internet and found a detailed posted describing the problem from fellow MVP, Tim Harrington.  The post dates back to December 2010, so I’m disappointed that the bug still exists after a year’s worth of Office 2010 patches and updates.  But there you have it.

Another quick note on Office 2010… If you launch Outlook during your Windows session, then close it and launch it again, it may hang on the “Loading Profile” step.  Switch over to Task Manager and you’ll likely find several “agent” processes.  Kill them and Outlook will load properly when launched.

Recovering Exchange 2010 – Notes from the Field

With Exchange 2007/2010 more tightly integrated with Active Directory, recovering a server after a loss of hardware can be significantly easier than with previous version of Exchange. This is a boon for those of us in smaller offices where only one Exchange Server exists, holding multiple roles.

Check out this TechNet article with the basics for recovering Exchange 2010. However, there are some little tips that would be helpful, especially when you might be working under a stressful situtation to restore your mail system.

  1. Make sure you know where your install directory is if Exchange isn’t installed in the default location.  If you don’t have it written down as part of your disaster recovery documentation, you can get that information out of Active Directory using ADSIEDIT.
  2. Make sure you know the additional syntax for “setup /m:RecoverServer” switch. If you need to change the target directory the proper syntax is /t:”D:\Microsoft\Exchange\V14″ or whatever your custom path happens to be.
  3. If you are planning on using the /InstallWindowsComponents switch to save some time with getting your IIS settings just right, make sure you’ve preinstalled the .NET Framework 3.5.1 feature set first.
  4. Don’t forget to preinstall the Office 2010 Filter Packs. You don’t need them to complete the setup, but you will be reminded about them as a requirement. 
  5. Make sure you install your remote agent (or whatever components are necessary) for your backup software. Once the Exchange installation is restored, you’ll need to mark your databases as “This database can be overwritten by a restore” so that you can restore the user data.

As always, planning ahead will save you in times of trouble.  Happy disaster recovery planning (and testing)!

Customizing Distribution Group Management in Exchange 2010

One of the things I allowed certain end-users to do via Outlook was manage some of their own distribution lists. With a small office and a small IT staff, constantly changing distribution list membership was an easy thing to just delegate back to the people who really “owned” those lists. In Exchange 2003, it was an easy process to delegate that ability to end-users by making them the “manager” of the list.

Shortly after the migration to Exchange 2010, I started getting reports that the distribution lists could no longer be changed by the designated list managers. Exchange 2010 RBAC roles include a role called “MyDistributionGroups” that grants the ability for end-users to view and modify distribution groups. However, it also grants the right to create new distribution lists, which was not something I wanted for non-IT staffers.

I found this great blog post, Allowing End-Users to Manage Distribution Group Membership, in Exchange 2010 by Mike Pfeiffer on how to create a custom locked-down role for distribution group management using PowerShell. Written in early 2010, it’s still get lots of great comments and usage – it certainly made my day easier!