Gone In 6,000 Seconds

Question:  What do you do when Vista RC2 (2.5 GB) is taking over 10 hours to download?

Answer: Download the ISO from an international server instead of a USA server and be done in about 90 minutes.

  • Log in to your https://connect.microsoft.com/ account
  • Navigate to the desired ISO and click on the download link
  • When the Microsoft File Transfer Manager opens, click Options
  • Change your local language to something other than English (for example, German), click OK
  • Close the Microsoft FTM and confirm that you want to abort the transfer
  • Now, click on the download link again, and this time the Microsoft FTM will launch in another language
  • Your download will proceed as normal but much faster if it’s the middle of the night in the country you’re downloading from
  • When your download is finished, switch the local language back to English (this is the tricky part since the buttons are no longer in English)
  • The next time you use the Microsoft FTM, your buttons will be back to normal

See, the “Windows Vista (v5744-16384) for X86 and X64 (English)” ISO on an international server is the same ISO that’s stored on the USA servers. And since it was 5:00 AM in Germany when I started my download, I’ll be done before Oliver even wakes up.

Danke schoen Olli! 😉

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Bittersweet October 2006 ActionPack Update

The Good News – Microsoft Action Pack Subscription (MAPS)I’m happy to see that SBS 2003 R2 has finally made it into the Microsoft Action Pack Subscription this month. 

The Bad News – It’s disappointing that moving forward Microsoft has chosen only include the Windows XP Professional upgrade instead of the full version of XP Professional. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m ABSOLUTELY in favor of fighting software piracy.  And the word on the street is that the move to only include upgrades instead of full versions of operating systems is designed to fight the bad guys pirating Windows.  Considering that Vista is just around the corner, it’s pretty smart to slip this in before the launch to avoid any more bad Vista press.  Unfortunately this wounds two birds with one stone – the pirates and the legitimate partners.

Now legitimate Partners who build their own PCs for internal use will have to purchase copies of XP Home for each box, and then upgrade them to Pro using the Action Pack.  So that’s up to an $870 investment ($87 per XP Home PC x 10 XP Pro upgrades in the Action Pack) that will a) tie up Partner capitol, b) trickle down to Microsoft in additional XP Home sales, and c) supposedly help curb piracy.

Who can get the Microsoft Action Pack in the first place?  According the Microsoft Partner website:

“The Microsoft Action Pack Subscription is available exclusively to consultants, value-added resellers, value-added providers, system integrators, developers, system builders, hosts, and service providers who are enrolled as Registered Members in the Microsoft Partner Program and who distribute or influence the acquisition of Microsoft software and Microsoft-based solutions by end customers.” https://partner.microsoft.com/US/program/managemembership/actionpack/mapsfaq

And where is it written online how Microsoft decides exactly what the “service providers… who distribute or influence the acquisition of Microsoft software” qualifications are?  Does a white shirt & black tie Geek Squad employee count?  Does a blue shirt Best Buy employee in the computer department?  What if they do consulting on the side?

My point is, this ham-handed move will immediately cost Microsoft Partners more money the next time they have a new hire, and it will ultimately cost Microsoft more money too.  How?  Ignoring the obvious open-source discussion, if Microsoft is serious about curbing MAPS piracy, after they shake out most of the ‘fakers’ with this move, the next step is they’re going to have to enforce those compliance audits that you agreed to when you signed up as a Microsoft Partner.  Remember those?  The ones saying that when you would document what you’ve done with the software and for 3 years afterwards they can come to your business with 48 hours notice and inspect you?  Unless of course they already thought you were pirating software, and then they didn’t need to give you any notice.  No?  Let me refresh your memory:

“Microsoft Partner Program Agreement

5.   Verifying compliance. You must keep all usual and proper books and records relating to your performance of this agreement.  This standard takes into account the accounting rules, regulations, authoritative pronouncements, principles and practices accepted in your jurisdiction.  At a minimum, you must keep documents related to acquisition, delivery and destruction of licensed software and hardware. You must keep these documents during the term, and for 3 years after this agreement ends. During this same period, our audit team may conduct audits of your applicable books, records, operations, processes and facilities during any selected period to verify your compliance with the terms of this agreement, as described further in the guide. Except for audits related to counterfeit software and hardware, we will give you 48 hours’ notice of the audit.  Audits related to counterfeit software and hardware do not require prior notice.  You will promptly correct any errors and omissions disclosed by the audits.  We reserve the right to validate all customer references supplied by you in accordance with the program requirements.

Any audit will be conducted during your normal business hours and in a manner that does not interfere unreasonably with your normal business activities. You will provide us with access to all applicable books, records, operations, processes and facilities that we may need to review to complete a proper and thorough audit. If an audit is conducted with notice, you will have all applicable books, records and operations available to us at the beginning of the audit. You will pay us the costs for the audit if an audit uncovers a terminable breach of this agreement as defined in section 8.3 or a discrepancy of 2% or more in your use of license benefits during the applicable audit period. If the audit team makes any commercially reasonable recommendations to you on record keeping, you will implement the recommendations within a mutually agreeable timeframe.” https://partners.microsoft.com/partnerprogram/Reenrollment.aspx

Audits cost money, for everyone.  But does that mean that Microsoft won’t audit you.  Who knows?  But even if you, as a Partner, decide not to renew your Action Pack and you get that cease-and-desist letter, you’d better document removing that software and keep that documentation for 3 years.  Or if you do renew your Action Pack and decide to retire that home made Pentium III in the reception area, are you allowed to move that MAPS copy of XP Pro to a different box?  You’d better find out, and document it that too. 

Here’s a better idea – Instead of kneecapping the single biggest benefit Registered Partners have, how about raising the bar for becoming a Registered Partner? Or at least only getting the Action Pack if you are a SBSC or above?  Give the regular Registered Partners / Members 180-day demos so they can still learn the software and ultimately graduate to SBSC.  

Microsoft stock has been slowly climbing back from the nosedive it took in April on the earnings announcement.  And I know you guys have got to answer to the stock holders.  Squashing piracy + launching Vista + launching Office 2007 is the correct formula for raising share prices.  We all know that the MAPS move will only slow the pirates down – it won’t stop them.  So please don’t alienate the Partner Channel before your products have even left escrow. 

I want to close with a quote from Allison Watson at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2006:

“I talked to you about building a People-Ready Business, having the skills to deliver, having the right conversations, having compelling conversations, showing it off and building your partner network. But there’s something I haven’t hardly spoken about at all. And, you know it’s really, really, really important to driving our business next year. With the release of Microsoft Office and Microsoft [Windows] Vista, there’s over 600 million users of these products in our marketplaces today. How and who is going to be the first to show them the power of this technology? It will be us. It’s our imperative to become the first, best users of this technology.” – Allison Watson
http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/exec/watson/07-11-06wwpc06.mspx 

The Registered, SBSCs, Certified & Gold Partners are the sales force of those products. 

So Microsoft, please focus on weeding out the MAPS posers and the pirates, and leave the legitimate Partners alone.  We’ve got enough to deal with already without someone pulling tools out of the toolbox or driving up op-ex.  Raise the bar, put in full versions of operating systems, and put some hosted E-Learning certificates in the Action Pack now that you’ve killed MELL.  If you’d give us the tools and the training we need to do our job we’d really appreciate it, and so would your stockholders.

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XP SP1 Sunsets Next Week

On Tuesday October 10, 2006 (which is coincidentally Patch Tuesday) we’ll reach end of support for Windows XP Service Pack 1

If you’ve got any stragglers out there that haven’t installed XP Service Pack 2 yet – better get to it!

And this would be a good time to remind everyone that support for Windows 98 & Windows Me died back in July 2006.  So listen to Susan and kill those 98’s!

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Will That Work With SBS?

Has a customer ever asked you if CRM 1.2 will run on SBS 2003 R2? 

What about Small Business Accounting 2006 on a pre-SP1 SBS box? 

Is Vista RC 1 supported in an SBS environment, or is Office 97 supported by WSUS?

The answers to these and many other SBS-related questions can be found on several handy charts you should bookmark today (and Microsoft says that these charts will be kept updated):

The charts have easy-to-understand red, yellow & green symbols to indicate compatibility: 

Green check = The product is an integrated component of Windows SBS, or it is known to be compatible with Windows SBS. The product was tested and you can obtain support for this configuration.

Shield Mark = The product has not been fully tested on Windows SBS and support for this configuration is not available from the Windows SBS product support team. Other groups may offer support for this configuration; contact the appropriate group for information. Some product features may not be fully functional in a Windows SBS environment.

X Mark = Not compatible. The product is known not to work and you should not install the product in a Windows SBS environment.

Each entry also has a notes section with hyperlinks to more information where applicable.

Source:  The Official SBS Blog

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2006 SBS Tour Photos

SBS Tour in LouisvilleThe pictures I took at the SBS Tour in Louisville last week on 18 September 2006 are now online on Flickr.  Our presenters were Ron Grattopp from the TS2 team and Paul Fitzgerald who is the Lead Program Manager for SBS.

If anyone else has event pictures that they’d like to share from the Louisville event or one of the other 12 cities, Flickr is a lot easier than emailing pictures back and forth, and it’s free for a basic account.

Direct link for the Louisville pics:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/timbarrett/sets/72157594302123073/detail/

Also, when uploading my pictures to Flickr, I saved them under the tag “2006 SBS Tour”.  That way if anyone else uploads pictures to Flickr with the same tag (be sure and enclose the tag in quotation marks), all the pictures from the entire tour will show up in one single location:
http://flickr.com/photos/tags/2006sbstour/

(If the Louisville link above breaks, just go here and click ‘2006 SBS Tour’ on the right). 

Happy uploading! 🙂

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R2 or Not R2

SBS 2003 R2The 2006 SBS Partner Tour that rolled through town last week really sparked a lot of dialog.  For example, I got a call from an SBSer today asking for clarification on SBS R2.  They wanted to know if they need to upgrade a client to SBS R2 just to increase the Exchange store limit.  In a word – no. 

Exchange Service Pack 2 is included in SBS R2, but SP2 is also available as a free download (109 MB). SBS 2003 R2 does offer enhanced functionality that Paul and the gang worked hard on. But if all the client needs at this point is larger mailboxes (and not SQL 2005, integrated patch management or FSRM) Exchange SP2 should fit the bill nicely.

CAUTION:  Before you make the jump to Exchange SP2, you need to take some steps first:

Also, doing a test deployment of SP2 in a virtual server environment is always a good idea because; a) there is no ‘undo’ for this service pack, and b) and breaking a production Exchange server could result in an RGE (Resume Generating Event).

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