Schoolhouse Rock Meets WGA

supergeekChris doesn’t call me Doctor Codec for nothing – I LOVE playing with video and audio, especially when it’s of the Geek flavor. 

Today I found this video (run time 5:00) on the Microsoft Software Piracy Protection website, and it just smacked of Schoolhouse Rock, sans music, so I had to share it with everyone. 

It’s quirky and a little bit ‘Hey Arnold’ but it’s also very memorable and does an excellent job of reinforcing that Microsoft Volume Licensing is for UPGRADES ONLY – not naked PCs or home-built systems.  I don’t know why people don’t understand that licensing limitation this day and age, but hopefully this will help spread the word.


There is also a new series of videos called “Genuine Fact Files“.  They’re well done in a comic book / Dick Tracy / Geek Noir format:

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January 2007 Action Pack Update

Update kits for the January 2007 Microsoft Action Pack Subscription (MAPS) are scheduled to start shipping today (01/19/2007).  You should see yours before Jan 30.

Here’s what’s NEW in the Action Pack* this month:

(10 Licenses of each above, except for Sharepoint Server Enterprise)

And of course, we all know what’s MISSING IN ACTION:

  • Microsoft Office 2003 (all flavors) – shot down
  • Microsoft Windows XP Pro (full & upgrade) – shot down
  • Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 – MIA

I’ll spare everyone a rehash of the Windows XP & Office 2003 Action Pack removal flame war – Eric Ligman’s blog has the official word on that.  But, this interesting little tidbit may have slipped under your radar:

“The Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) Version Software Software Offer in the Action Pack has Expired. The Microsoft OEM version software for internal use offer in the Microsoft Action Pack Subscription expired on December 31, 2006. Software for internal use is still available via the volume licensing offering included with your Action Pack Subscription. “

(Insert blank stare here…)

Source:   Microsoft Partner Website

*North American version of the Microsoft Action Pack Subscription

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Office 2007 Beta Death Rattle

Can you hear it?  It’s getting close.  As stated in a previous post the life cycle of the Microsoft Office 2007 Beta is coming to an end.  Soon.  About 2 weeks away for those not on B2TR.

If you personally registered for the beta you should have gotten an email from Microsoft yesterday explaining the expiration dates.  But for the benefit of those who installed the beta beta bits from the DVD of a friend or co-worker, here are the details:

“Depending on whether or not you implemented the beta 2 technical refresh, you will not be able to use the 2007 Office beta 2 release after one of the following dates:

  • For the 2007 Office beta 2 release with no update: 02/01/2007
  • For the 2007 Office beta 2 release updated with the beta 2 technical refresh: 03/31/2007
  • For the 2007 Office beta 2 release server products updated with the beta 2 technical refresh: 05/15/2007

If you would like to continue using the 2007 Office release to create, open, or modify files, you may:

1. Receive a FREE copy of Microsoft Office Professional 2007 when you attend a launch event for the new versions of Microsoft’s most popular software. Register for an event near you.

2. Sign up for a FREE 60-day trial of the new 2007 Office release by visiting Microsoft Office Online.

3. Sign up to be notified when the new 2007 Office suites will be available by clicking here.

If you would like to use Microsoft Office 2000, Office XP, or Office 2003 to open and modify Microsoft Office Word, Excel®, and PowerPoint® files that have been saved using the 2007 Office release file formats, please download the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack.”

I have to wonder if the inclusion of Office 2007 in the Microsoft Action Pack this quarter will bring the same shocked response as the inclusion of Vista?

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70-282 Exam Prep Webcast PDFs

Quite a few people have asked where they can get a PDF copy of the slide decks for all 5 days of the 70-282 Exam Prep Series with Ron Grattopp and Bea Mulzer (Jan 8 – Jan 12, 2007). 

Here you go! 🙂

Thanks so much to Bea, RonKevin Clarke & the Microsoft TS2 Team for providing this webcast series for the SMB community!

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When AOL Blocks Your SBS Email

AOL is pretty much the bane of IT Pros existence.  Like garlic to a vampire, even the name AOL invokes a guttural response.  People devote blogs, websites and write songs about hating AOL (some songs as bad as AOL itself).  But, like Kmart, somehow AOL keeps plugging along.

So what do you do when SBS users complain that they can’t email their contacts / friends / mom / etc. on AOL anymore?  Cheer?  Well, I had an interesting AOL email situation today, and I’d like to share the experience with everyone.  Maybe this will save you some AOL pain down the road.

SBS Network in question:
One SBS 2003 Premium box, about 2 years old, ISA 2004 installed, completely patched, the only major change was switching ISPs about a month ago.  No major hiccups reported in the migration to the new iSP.

Reported Issue:
The SBS network users complains that any email sent to AOL users is not being received on the other end.  Users can get email FROM AOL, but can’t send it TO AOL.  Frustrations are high, people are fussy, yada yada yada.

It’s gotta be you:
I send a test email to a normal AOL user.  It bounces with the following error:

“There was a SMTP communication problem with the recipient’s email server. Please contact your system administrator. < #3.3.0 smtp;554-: (RLY:CH)>”

Gut reaction:
In plain English, that error message means that some time in the past one or more AOL user clicked the “Um, I think this is spam” button and now this SBS box is probably on the spam list.  You’ve gotta love AOL users! 

1) Contacting AOL
On the  AOL Postmaster Contact Information page is a link to the Before you call page that wants you to have 3 things before you call:
 1) your IP address (Checked)
 2) make sure your reverse DNS is working (Ignored)
 3) your AOL error message (Checked)

I ignore #2 because I think “Hey, the dumb AOL user clicked the spam button – not me.  This is an AOL problem, not something on my end, right?”

So I call the AOL postmaster (888-212-5537) to resolve the issue.  They get my error # and IP address.  Then check my Reverse DNS and say that it isn’t setup for this IP address.  DOH!  Now I have to get that fixed first and then call them back.  I get my case number and hang up.

2) Checking Your Reverse DNS
First, I go to  I enter the server IP address in the “Reverse DNS Lookup” box, and click RevDNS button.  Sure enough, there is no PTR record setup.  The test results says:

“No PTR records exist for  (Neg TTL=3600 seconds)”

Thinking to self – “Oh yeah… this SBS box is on a different ISP now.  They probably didn’t setup the PTR” (smacks forehead).

M’kay.  So I double-check the AOL Reverse DNS Lookup tool at  Same deal: 

RDNS Results
DNS Server Response:

Failure! Unfortunately we were unable to resolve Reverse DNS for the IP address you entered. Contact your ISP or e-mail administrator to modify these settings. Also please note the following points:

  • AOL does require that all connecting Mail Transfer Agents have established reverse DNS, regardless of whether it matches the domain.
  • Reverse DNS must be in the form of a fully-qualified domain name. Reverse DNSes containing in-addr-arpa are not acceptable, as these are merely placeholders for a valid PTR record. Reverse DNSes consisting only of IP addresses are also not acceptable, as they do not correctly establish the relationship between domain and IP address.”

Okey doke – so we need a PTR record setup for this box.  No problemo.

3) Contacting the ISP (for a PTR)
I call the ISP (Time-Warner in this case), give my info and hang up.  I wait a while and a Tier 2 tech calls me back.  He sets up the PTR record on his end and now it’s just a waiting game.  Since the TTL is 3600 seconds I wait an hour and then check the Reverse DNS Lookup on

Answer: PTR record:  [TTL 7200s]  []

Bingo!  I double-check the AOL page next – Success!

4) Setup a Feedback Loop Request (FBL)
The Postmaster at AOL mentioned that I should setup a Feedback Loop Request (FBL) after I get the Reverse DNS working.  In a nutshell, a Feedback Loop will forward any mail reported as spam back to a specific email address (more info on the AOL FBL click here). 

Example.  When Employee A forwards an internet hoax virus warning to AOL User B, and the AOL User B flags it as spam, the SBS administrator is going to know that people at AOL are manually kicking out some email.  Due to member privacy restrictions, AOL won’t tell you WHO complained, but the email from will let you know that you’re being reported as sending spam so you can take appropriate action on your part.

Note:  The best practice when setting up a FBL is to create a separate email alias, like or some other clever method (maybe a mail-enabled public folder).  Totally up to you.  Anyway, I setup the email alias on the Exchange server and I fill out the AOL Feedback Loop Request Form to setup the FBL.  Moving on…

5) Contacting AOL Again
I pickup the phone again and give the AOL Postmaster a ring.  They take the case number from Step 1 and check the reverse DNS.  It’s all good.  I give them the original email error number (554 RLY:CH) and they manually approve the server IP address.  Easy stuff.

The tech says it’ll take 24-48 hours before it bakes completely, so don’t expect any immediate action on the email front.  Think of it like domain name propagation.  Just hang tight for a day or so before telling everyone “The AOL email issue is fixed”. 

And your done.  You should be ready to email those AOL soccer moms and home-based businesses at will now. 🙂

6) Optional Final Step – Apply for the AOL Whitelist
If you email a LOT of customers that are on AOL, it may be a good idea to apply for the AOL Whitelist.  To be on the Whitelist you have to have Reverse DNS setup (duh), you have to send a minimum of 100 emails to AOL per month, and you have to meet some other conditions.  Like I said, it’s totally optional and not for everyone, but if you send a ton of email to AOL you may want to check it out. 

Footnote:  I do have to give some props by saying that the techs at the AOL Postmaster helpdesk were very professional and my wait time was minimal (under 2 minutes).  They called me sir more times than the kid at the video store.  And Time-Warner tech support wasn’t too bad today either (also under 2 minutes).  Nuf said.

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Windows Vista Hands-On Lab for Partners

The SMS&P Heartland District Partner team at Microsoft announced Windows Vista Hands on Labs taking place in February & March 2007.

Windows Vista Agenda


This course will provide participants with an experience of Windows Vista from a deployment and implementation perspective along with some of the service opportunities around Windows Vista.

  • Windows Vista new features & functionality
  • Business Desktop Deployment (BDD)
  • Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT 5.0)
  • Built-in Diagnostics
  • Group Policy
  • Windows Vista Hardware Accelerator

Training Location, Date & Time:

  • Southfield – Feb. 7th Microsoft Southfield Office – 19th Floor MPR  Click HERE for directions.
  • Columbus – Feb. 19th Microsoft Columbus Office MPR Click HERE for directions.
  • Nashville – March 14th Microsoft Mason Office MPR Click HERE for directions.
  • Louisville – March 16th University Of Louisville, Shelby Campus iTRC Click HERE for directions

Course commences at 9:00 am sharp and closes at 5:00. Continental Breakfast and Box Lunch will be included.

Cost: FREE

Requirements to attend:

  • Must be a Microsoft Registered Partner or above
  • Must Provide Hardware capable of running Windows Vista & Virtual Server
  • Must print Hands on Lab materials used in course work
  • Must provide external USB drive for Virtual Server Images
  • Must provide for own travel and lodging if necessary
  • Must provide long Ethernet cable for connectivity

Registration Details:

Seats are limited and will be secured on a first come; first served basis.

Southfield – Click Here to Register!

Columbus – Click Here to Register!

Nashville – Click Here to Register!

Louisville – Click Here to Register!

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MSNBC Web Parts Discontinued

I’ve been ‘rolling my own’ web parts for a while now like the Daily Dilbert, Local Radar, Bert&Ernie Terror Alert, Traffic Cam web parts, etc.  So it’s sad for me to see the default MSNBC Web Parts that are baked in to http://companyweb get the pink slip.  It’s kind of like watching Clippit die, but at least these web parts were useful.

On January 25, 2007, the following MSNBC Web Parts will no longer be offered through the online Web Part gallery for Windows SharePoint Services:

  • MSNBC Business News
  • MSNBC Entertainment News
  • MSNBC News
  • MSNBC Sports News
  • MSNBC Stock News
  • MSNBC Stock Quotes
  • MSNBC Technology News
  • MSNBC Weather

Personally, I think it’s bad form for Microsoft to nuke those and not replace them with something else that is just as easy to deploy.  MS suggests using RSS feeds instead.  But displaying RSS inside SharePoint 2.0 isn’t a cake walk for your average SBSer.  I’ve seen more than a few installs of Smiling Goat tank.   

Obviously the MSNBC parts aren’t ‘specific’ to SBS, but they are in the Online Gallery of every SBS 2003 install.  That’s a LOT of broken links.  Millions.

There’s currently an open thread on SharePoint University asking for alternative web parts.  So, you might want to check that thread periodically or just go ahead and delete web parts from your SBS installs before they timebomb.


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SBS Show 2.0

Unless you’ve been living on planet Marklar, you’ve no doubt heard of the SBS Show.  And if you’re smart, you’ve listened to some, if not all of the over 2 dozen episodes of SMB goodness!

Well, the beat goes on and the SBS Show is now in 2.0 mode.   For unbeatable price of exactly ‘zero dollars’ you can get your SMB learn on at the new website, sign up for the newsletter, download current and past episodes, and subscribe to the RSS feed to get it while it’s hot!

So be sure and join Vlad, Susanne and their guests as the SBS Show jaugernaught rolls into 2007!

P.S. Also, be sure to check out the Vladfire video podcasts and our good buddy Chris Rue!

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