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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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. <domainxyz.com #3.3.0 smtp;554-: (RLY:CH)   http://postmaster.info.aol.com/errors/554rlych.html>”

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 http://www.dnsstuff.com.  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 xxx.xxx.xx.xxx.  (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 http://postmaster.info.aol.com/tools/rdns.html.  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 DNSStuff.com

xxx.xxx.xx.xxx PTR record:  mail.domain.com.  [TTL 7200s]  [A=xxx.xxx.xx.xxx]

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 SCOMP@aol.net 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 feedback@domain.com 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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Register for the Louisville Vista / Office 2007 Launch

Register today for the: 

Microsoft Across America Vista / Office 2007 Launch Event
Louisville, Kentucky
Tuesday January 30, 2007 

IMPORTANT:  These events will fill up completely so be sure and choose one or two events below and SIGNUP TODAY! 


Event Location:
Hyatt Regency Louisville
320 West Jefferson Street
Louisville, KY 40202 

Morning Events 

Small Business Track – Vista / Office 2007 / WSS 3.0 / Accounting 2007
8:00 AM – 12:00 PM

IT Pro Track – Vista & Office 2007 Deployment / Exchange 2007
8:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Afternoon Events  Partner Track – Presenter:  Ron Grattopp
1:00 PM – 5:00 PM

IT Executive Track – Deployment / BitLocker / GPO / SharePoint 2007 / Dynamics
1:00 PM – 5:00 PM

Developer Track – Connected Applications / Office 2007 Server Platform
1:00 PM – 5:00 PM

FYI – The Kentucky Small Business Server User Group (KYSBSUG) is scheduled to have a booth at the morning IT Pro Track, so be sure to stop by and say hi! 🙂 


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SMS Link for Microsoft Outlook 2007

SMS Link is definitely one of the coolest feature I’ve seen in Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 so far.

With SMS Link, now you can set rules in Outlook 2007 that will forward important e-mails, tasks, ect. right to your cell phone via SMS text messages. You can also send SMS messages to other people from Outlook, even if you don’t know who their mobile carrier is.

Check out the Shockwave video demo of SMS Link for details.  The video is a quick download, and it gives an excellent overview of the capabilities of SMS Link. 

Once you’re done with the video, click the Getting Started link. They have a nice FAQ too.

Note:  SMS Link is a free download and a free service, but remember that not everyone has free incoming SMS text messsaging.  So be sure and touch base with your addressee before you run up their mobile phone bill.

Source:  http://www.microsoft.com/smslink

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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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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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