Microsoft Support – Look Again

I have to admit the first place I go to for answers to problems with Microsoft products is Google. Years ago, I learned that I was more likely to get my answer starting outside of the Microsoft Support web pages. In many cases, I’d even find knowledge base articles faster when searching the whole Internet vs. starting directly in the knowledge base portal itself. That fact alone has kept me from starting out at “support.microsoft.com” for a long time. Old habits die hard.

But I’ve been giving Microsoft Support a second look lately and it’s improved over the years.

One of the areas you should check out when supporting home or office users is the Solution Centers which will tailor content to the OS or application you select. Depending on your selection, you might find options to access Microsoft Fix it, which can lead you to some automatic diagnostics and solutions. There are automated solutions for XP, Vista, Internet Explorer, Windows Media Player and others. Windows 7 has a lot of the automated diagnostic features built in and the Fix it web page provides alternate instructions for accessing those tools.

Another area to check out is the Microsoft Answers forum, which is geared toward more consumer level Q&A on desktop operating systems, Office products, Windows Live, Security Essentials.

Finally, if you seek more support information for enterprise applications and Windows Server, TechNet is the place to be. Check out Keith Comb’s recent post about improvements in TechNet Search. Don’t forget about the TechNet Forums and Community areas too – lots of great blogs and other resources are there, like the Fix it Blog that posts regular additions to the Fix it solutions, especially for more of the server products.

Happy Help-desking!

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Upcoming TechNet Event – Happening Near You!

The TechNet Events team is hitting the road again, bringing you presentations on Windows Azure, Hyper-V and demonstrations on simplifying Windows 7 deployments.

TechNet Events are free and with over 35 dates in cities across the United States, there’s bound to be one near you. The San Francisco session will be held on March 2nd. Registration is open now.

New Year, New Adventure

I was excited to wake up this morning to an email from the Microsoft MVP Program, congratulating me on earning an award for 2010 in the technology area of “Windows Desktop Experience.” I’m honored to have the chance to be part of this group and continue to contribute to the technology community.

After nearly 10 years of being part of the Pacific IT Professionals user group, I think this type of community might just be in my blood. I hope this award allows me to bring even more benefits to our growing group of IT professionals.

I’m looking forward to learning more about Microsoft and meeting other fellow MVPs at the upcoming summit in February. Here’s to 2010!

Takeaways from "The New Efficiency" Tech Series

Yesterday, I attended Microsoft’s “The New Efficiency” technical series, as part of the Windows 7/Server 2008 R2/Exchange 2010 product launch. I was a little disappointed at the turn out, since registration had been closed so early. I expected more people and generally “more” from Microsoft with all these new products coming out in just days. But I guess not every event can be hit out of the park.

That being said, there were several sponsor-led sessions that were interesting and then tracks for Windows 7, Server 2008 R2 and Exchange 2010. My original plan was to hit something from every track, but that proved difficult as the presenters from each track didn’t always keep to the scheduled break times. Thus I stuck with the server track, which was presented by Chris Henley.

Here are a few of the features that were touched on during the sessions:

  • The integrated Best Practice Analyzer covers more areas, such as Active Directory Domain Services and DNS. The BPA was mostly known for it’s use with Exchange, so it’s nice to see it expanded to other critical areas.
  • The Recycle Bin for AD. This feature makes it easier to restore deleted objects in Active Directory without having to resort to an authoritative restore, effectively extending your recoverablity of objects to nearly a year. While possible, its not recommended to reduce the lifetimes for deleted object and tombstone object below the 180 days each. Also, it’s important to note that the recycle bin feature is a schema change and it can’t be turned off once implemented. Finally, while item in the recycle bin can’t have their UPN used again until it moves out to a tombstoned object, but you can manually force items to be moved earlier.
  • In Server 2008 R2 there were changes in the core architecture which affected the networking stack to support IPv6 and IPv4 native to same Windows core protocols.
  • The Server Core installation option supports an additional role for WoW64 and IIS 7.5 also supports ASP on Server Core. Server Core has also gained a text menu environment called “S-config” to make it easier to configure basic server settings.
  • New features in Remote Desktop Services, such as virtual desktops via Hyper-V, improvements in RemoteApp, multimedia support and bi-directional audio.
  • DirectAccess as an alternative to VPNs for corporate network access. DirectAccess requires at least 4 servers and includes a setup wizard that details out how it all hooks together.
  • Improvements in Hyper-V, such as Live Migration and the ability to add some “hardware” (like Hard Drives)to virtual machines without powering them off. Don’t forget the Microsoft Assessment & Planning Toolkit, which can help minimize capital costs and reduce operating costs in your data center.

At the end of the day, the software giveaway was a copy of Windows 7 (32-bit) and the swag bag had the ever-popular XL t-shirt. Hidden among the product pamphlets in the bag was a cool gift from NetApp – a free copy of the book “Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V: Insider’s Guide to Microsoft’s Hypervisor”. Request your copy by November 20th. I’m sure the request will get you on a mailing list of some kind, but I’ll live with that for a free book.

MS Security Advisory

Keep an eye out for this one since there isn’t a fix yet, outside of a workaround disabling some COM objects in the registry for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003.

Microsoft Security Advisory (972890) – Vulnerability in Microsoft Video ActiveX Control Could Allow Remote Code Execution

I suspect we’ll see a patch very soon. Vista and Windows Server 2008 are not affected, so those running the Windows 7 RC are likely safe too!