Mark Minasi's Windows 2000/NT Newsletter

Issue #5 May 2000

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What's Inside

News

This month:  Christa Anderson tells us about dynamic partitions, MR&D gets a new staffer and readers offer some great questions and answers.

Another big month.  There were some great conferences, including Microsoft's W2K deployment conference in New Orleans as well as the Windows 2000 Connections conference in Phoenix.  I had the rare treat to share the stage with Alan Cooper, one of the brightest folks around when it comes to computer software interface design, as well as the chance to meet many of you.  If you missed out on that show then take a peek at the upcoming conferences in Boston in July (http://www.misti.com/conference_show.asp?id=NT00US), TechMentor in San Francisco in September (http://www.techmentorevents.com/) or the next run of the Windows 2000 Connections folks in Scottsdale in early October (http://www.winconnections.com).  And speaking of news this month, how could I forget -- the Justice Department revealed that they want Microsoft chopped up.  But that's a story whose ending we won't know for years.  (Can you imagine how long it'll take to explain browsers to the Supreme Court?)

This month welcomes several hundred new subscribers, as we exceeded 3000 just the other day.  What do you think of our first few issues?  Drop me a line at help@minasi.com and let me know.  This month we also welcome Jennifer Williams.  Jennifer arranges classes and talks, answers the phones, helps keep the Web site working and just about everything else.  She's at jennifer@minasi.com

May also sees the beginning of a cool new project that Sybex has initiated:  a series of books targeted specifically at very nuts-and-bolts, hands-on solutions to Windows 2000 problems.  They've asked me to assemble a set of very specialized W2K books by the best in the field.  I'll tell you more as it happens, but in short:  some great books are on the way!

Text or HTML?  (Or... Mark vs. Active Server Pages, Round 518)

I've noticed that for some reason Active Server Pages is saving some people's preferences as not "text" or "html" but as "text, html." This is no doubt some Win2K oddity that I've not figured out yet -- the NT 4.0 IIS server never did that -- but for those of you where the "format preference" field contains "text, html" I just sent you text. If this is NOT your preference then I apologize; if you'd like to change to HTML then drop me a line. (And if anyone knows what causes this then PLEASE drop me a line.)  I'll have an online page set up to let you modify your preferences soon but time doesn't permit it just yet.  Thanks for your patience.

We're Offering Windows 2000 Classes

For those who didn't see the announcement last month, I'm now doing Windows 2000 network administration classes on-site.  I've done about two dozen of these for companies in the past few months and the momentum seems to be gathering as people start to move Windows 2000 off the "things to do" list and onto the "things to do now" list.  In two days, I can take staff who are already NT-savvy and get them well on the way to designing and running a Windows 2000-based network.   And if you're still just exploring Win2K for a possible future rollout, I've got a great one-day technical overview that'll give you the straight dope on Active Directory concepts and planning, Intellimirror possibilities, strengths, and weaknesses, and suggestions for when and how to deploy Windows 2000, of course all from an independent point of view.  

For those looking into NT/Linux interoperability, I've got a one-day class that will take your NT techies and quickly teach them what Linux can do for them, what Linux might do to them, how to get the most out of Linux and how to intelligently decide where it can fit into your network, if at all.  As always, you'll get the religion-free version of the facts.  For more information, Contact jennifer@minasi.com or call (757) 426-1431.  You can see the outline for the Windows 2000 administration course here.  As always, we can customize classes as you need.

Discount Book Links

Mastering Windows 2000 Server, 2nd Edition is consistently in Amazon's top 400 and often the top 100 -- many thanks to those of you who've purchased it!   As always, the Windows 2000 book is discounted at Amazon via this link: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0782127746/qid%3D951327728/sr%3D1-24/103-1360566-4240609/markminasi/002-6700447-8468236 or just jump off from http://www.minasi.com/covers/booklink.htm.  Links to the Mastering Windows NT Server book are there also.

Tech Tips

ASPEmail:  A Terrific Free Tool

If you've tried to read the newsletter archives but forgot your password, then you might have noticed that I've got a new function on the Web site -- password recovery.  The idea is that if you've forgotten your password then you just punch in your e-mail address and the Web site then e-mails you the password connected to that e-mail address.

I'd been meaning to do something like this, but didn't know how to easily cause an Active Server Page (ASP)  to send SMTP mail.  (The site is all built out of ASPs because it makes recovery easier when I've got to rebuild the site, and because ASPs are free as long as you don't mind spending some time coding.)  There's no easy way "in the box" to have an ASP send mail.  That's why it's great that Persits Software (http://www.persits.com) offers ASPMail free of charge.  It's how I got the password recovery page working and it was simplicity itself to install and set up.  Highly recommended for those Web architects out there!

Feature Article: Should I Make the System Disk Dynamic?

This month, my co-author Christa Anderson offers some more detail on Windows 2000's new kind of disk partitions -- dynamic disks.

You need to use dynamic disks to use multi-disk volumes with Windows 2000. Does that mean that you should always upgrade disks to dynamic? The answer is no—not even to Microsoft. In multi-disk systems, dynamic disks can be very useful, but think about upgrading a disk before doing it. Here’s some more background about dynamic disks and what they’re doing.

Take an empty, unpartitioned basic disk and make it dynamic, and what you’re doing is adding a 1MB database located on the last cylinder in the disk. This database contains all the partition information for all the dynamic disks in the server, and identifies the disk type as system ID 42, which tells Win2K, “look at the on-disk database to find out what volumes are present.” The contents of the databases for each disk are identical. (The changes are time-stamped, so that if a disk happens to be missing for a while the newer changes will be copied to the disk when it returns. If you import a “foreign” disk (a disk belonging to another dynamic disk array on another computer) to the mix, then the database entries in the new array are copied to that new disk, and any entries on the foreign disk are copied to the database of the disk array you’re importing the disk into. In other words, importing the foreign disk merges the two databases.

When you upgrade a basic disk that already has partitions on it (as the system disk will) to dynamic, you’ve got a partition table to deal with. The contents of that partition table are copied to the database. The rest of the disk is then identified in the database as “42” and reserved for new volumes that will be recorded only in the database, not in the partition table.

Warning:  upgrading the BIOS is always a good idea with Win2K, and if you’re making the system disk dynamic it’s perhaps even more important. Some people—not all, and I personally have not had this problem on my computers although Mark has—have reported that the computer blue screens and shows the message “Inaccessible Boot Device” after they make the boot disk dynamic. Microsoft support is not yet sure what’s causing the BSOD, but says that upgrading the computer’s BIOS to its most recent version may avoid or fix the problem.

When you boot a computer with dynamic disks in it, the BIOS reads the partition table and reports the boot partition to work from. Finding the operating system, it goes through the boot process described in the later recovery chapter. The drivers for supporting dynamic volumes (DMLoad, DMAdmin, and (if the volume is a boot volume) DMBoot) are loaded early in the process of loading all Win2K drivers.

In practical terms, what this means is:

This doesn’t mean that you can’t protect system data with software RAID. If you upgrade the system disk to dynamic, you can mirror a volume containing system information. You could also put the system partition on a hardware RAID array.

Questions, Answers, and Reader Suggestions

(Also affectionately known as "the part of the newsletter when the readers do my work for me.)

Windows 2000 Machine Names Can't Be Longer Than 63 Characters

Believe it or not, I got an e-mail asking me to settle a bet about Windows 2000 names:  how long can a machine name be?

The answer:  it depends, of course.  For trouble-free integration with non-Windows 2000 Microsoft boxes (NT, Windows 9x) then it's best to keep a machine name to 15 characters or less.  But you can use a name up to 63 characters.

Note that the "machine name" is not the entire name, it's just the leftmost part of the name.  For example, a machine named "mypc.acme.com" has a machine name of "mypc."  The rest of the DNS suffix, which can be up to 155 characters long.

Use -p when creating static routes

Bob Smith-Vaughan reminds me in a letter this month that if you're typing in ROUTE ADD commands to create static routes in Windows 2000 (or NT or Windows 9x, for that matter) that it's a good idea to add the "-p" or "permanent" option so that your computer remembers the routes after a reboot.  Thanks, Bob!

When RAS Stops Working, Check Your Encryption Level

Dean Morrell mailed me recently asking why his formerly-working RAS server stopped working.  He started getting this error in the Event Log and his RAS server wouldn't accept incoming connections:

Initialization status: Found '2012862576' RAS ports but only have a license key that supports a maximum of '9777424' port. You must purchase a license upgrade.

I didn't have a clue about what was causing his trouble but Dean worked it out and helpfully filled me in afterwards:

"The whole difficulty," he explained, "seems to center on having a 128-bit encryption service pack and then installing the next release's standard 56-bit encryption pack. The way Microsoft labels these on their web site and the fact that the high-bit pack seems to be a few days later than the standard suggests I'm not the only person to have such difficulty."

So I guess the moral of the story is, as we've seen in the past, to give a very close look to any service packs before installing them.  Thanks, Dean!

Running NT Without a GUI Shell

I wrote a piece in Windows 2000 Magazine comparing Linux and NT/2000 and I commented that one of Linux's advantages over NT and 2000 is that you can run Linux servers without a GUI.  I reasoned that GUIs just suck up computer power and memory but give little back on a system that isn't a workstation.  Microsoftie Rui Maximo points out that there is a way to run NT without a GUI:

Hi Mark:

I just read your article.  You make mention that you can't run NT w/o the GUI shell.  I just wanted to point out that actually it is possible.  You can set the registry value to tell winlogon.exe to spawn any image desired instead of the explorer shell.  Coming from a Unix background, I sometimes do this by modifying the key to just start a cmd.exe.  From there I can do everything else.  Of course, certain activities are easier from the explorer shell.  In those cases, you can start explorer.exe, perform your activity, then terminate explorer.  However, w/ the strong scripting capabilities built-in Windows 2000, you can easily manage your machine w/o the GUI using Perl script (from ActiveState), VB script, or even Java script.  For those OS functionality that haven't been provided dual-interface COM support, it's a snap to create in-proc COM servers using ATL to provide their functionality for scripting languages.  As an example, last Friday I wrote a COM server to interface w/ the RunAs functionality from scripts.

For those command-line lovers, there's always a way... :-)

Rui Maximo

Great thought, thanks Rui!

Restoring the Control Panel's Ability to Install/Uninstall Applets

Windows 2000 users will have noticed that you can't use the Control Panel and Add/Remove Programs to install or uninstall things like Games, Communications and the like.  Blue Michael Plante, a reader, shares that there's a Knowledge Base article, Q223182, that tells you how to work around that.  He provides this link to find out more:

http://support.microsoft.com/support/kb/articles/Q223/1/82.ASP?LN=EN-US&SD=gn&FR=0

Many thanks, Blue Michael, I'd been wondering about that.

What is a schema?

Brett Sherpan writes:  "What is schema as it pertains to Windows 2000.  More specifically when someone talks about changing the schema what do they mean?   I've been told it's the overall structure of the AD database.  Several people have attempted to explain it but I remain confused."

Brett, think about designing a database.  You decide what fields it should have -- name, employee_ID, job_title, stuff like that.  You and I would call them "field names" or perhaps "columns."  In database talk, it's called a SCHEMA.  

So, for example, if you decide to expand Active Directory to include employee shoe size then you've modified the schema.   Why do you care?  Several reasons.

1) You can't undo schema changes.  

2) It is harder to merge two forests if they have different schema.  

More on NetMeeting

Several of you wrote to tell me that you liked the article last month that showed you how to use NetMeeting as a PCAnywhere-like remote control tool for NT 4.0, Windows 98, or Windows 2000.  Michael Horowitz is, however, clearly something of a NetMeeting maven, and offers the following suggestions:

Mark,

Below are some comments on the NetMeeting article in the April 2000 issue of your newsletter.

1. Remote desktop sharing is a new type of NetMeeting connection introduced in version 3. However, the old type also allows remote control. Also, using an old type of NetMeeting connection you can share the entire desktop in the same manner you share any other type of running application (the share button in the bottom left corner of the NetMeeting UI.

2. I have used remote desktop sharing with two net connected machines, one with a 28.8 connection. Its brutally slow without either audio or video. If you ever expand this to a longer article, you might want to mention lowering the number of colors to increase the speed.

3. NetMeeting is also for use with Win98 and Win95 and ships with Win98 (I think v2.11 ships with classic Win98 and V3.0 ships with Win98 Second Edition).

4. NetMeeting is not always installed into Start->Programs->Accessories->Communications. In fact, after running the initial wizard its location in the Start-> Programs hierarchy moves.

5. You mentioned that you run the initial wizard once. Its really once per version/release. After upgrading from v3.0 to v3.01 you have to run the initial setup wizard again.

6. In the section on "setting up slave to allow remote computer to control it" you say to go from "Tools" on the menu bar and select "remote desktop sharing". This is true under Win98, but omits a step under NT4 (not sure about Win2K). NT4 users first have to enable sharing and reboot before they see the option for remote desktop sharing.

7. You didn't discuss how to determine the IP address of the slave. A nice new feature in NetMeeting v3 is that Help->About shows your IP address. What's nice about this is that its consistent across Win98 and NT4 (and I assume Win95 and Win2K also). Those of us who bounce around multiple operating systems no longer have to recall "ipconfig" and "winipcfg". :-)

I mean these as constructive comments, I am a big fan of your books and newsletter.

Michael Horowitz

They are constructive, Michael.  You saved me a lot of time figuring that stuff out -- many thanks.

Using the Free EMWACS SMTP/POP3 Server Under Windows 2000

Long-time readers know that for years I used a free piece of software as my e-mail server, a tool called "EMWACS Internet Mail Service (IMS) for NT."  It's a great tool and many still use it, including reader David Pierron, who offers the following notes about using IMS under Windows 2000:

If you simply upgrade an IMS server from NT 4.0 to Windows 2000, then apparently you've got no problem.  But if you install IMS fresh on an W2K system, then certain Registry entries that IMS needs won't be there.  Add the following Registry changes:

HKLM\system\CurrentControlSet\Services\Tcpip\Parameters needs a value entry named "Domain" of  type REG_SZ.  Fill it with the name of your domain --acme.com, doe.gov, or whatever.

HKLM\system\CurrentControlSet\Services\Tcpip\Parameters also needs a value entry named "Nameserver," also of type REG_SZ.  Fill in the IP address or addresses of your DNS servers.  If this isn't there, IMS won't be able to resolve destination e-mail addresses; David says that in that case, the outgoing messages just sit in the holding directory.  He also notes that he found this information at http://www.sica.com/IMS.  Additionally, he says that if you're interested in downloading  IMS that you can use a mirror site at http://www.texasstar.net

David, many thanks.  I've not followed IMS all that closely recently because I've moved my mail system over to Linux running Sendmail.  Since Microsoft orphaned my Alpha server I needed to do something with the Alpha, so now it's running Red Hat 6.1 and delivering mail.  I'll get that "Linux for NT Experts" book done in the next month, I hope...

Until Next Month...

Please share this newsletter!  I'd like very much to grow this newsletter into a useful source of NT/2000 information.  Please forward it to any associates who might find it helpful, and accept my thanks.  We are now at 3100 subscribers and I aim to use this to get information to every single Mastering NT and 2000 Server reader.

Thanks for letting me visit with you, take care, and get away from that computer for a bit and enjoy Spring!  Many, many thanks to the readers who have mailed me to offer suggestions, errata, and those kind reviews.  As always, I'm at help@minasi.com

-- Mark

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All contents copyright 2001 Mark Minasi. You are encouraged to quote this material, SO LONG as you include this entire document; thanks.