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Hello all --
I hope your holidays were good ones! I spent mine finishing writing the Fourth Edition of Mastering Windows 2000 Server and, before you ask, it'll probably be on the stands in late March. Next I'm working on a Second Edition of Linux for NT/2000 Administrators and then work begins on Mastering Windows .NET Server... but that won't be for a while. My apologies that we didn't have a December newsletter; the Fourth is the last edition of the 2000 Server book and I wanted to be sure that I included everything, so it took up all my time. In a future newsletter I'll update you on exactly what's new in the Fourth, but I think you'll find it a worthwhile acquisition.
This month, we're announcing another try at a Canadian seminar (with a special price), progress on the audio recordings, and a pretty nifty Tech Section. You'll read about some good experiences that I've had with FireWire on XP and 2000, some XP questions, a set of updated free support tools for 2000, and a feature article from my co-author Christa Anderson about automating printer setups.
We're going to try again in Canada late this March or very early in April, in Ottawa for a special price -- US$799 for this session only! The remaining January seminar is our Columbus, Ohio seminar this Wednesday/Thursday. I am told that Columbus is the town with the best proximity to the most towns on the Eastern Seaboard, so we'll see if that makes it a good seminar town! They've certainly always welcomed me electronically, as their CBS affiliate AM station, WTVN, has me on regularly to chat about techie stuff. More cities on the way, but we're still figuring out which ones -- Portland (the one in Oregon) and Seattle are neck and neck, and we're going to return to Pasadena probably in April -- if you'd be interested in attending a seminar in your city, please consider voting at http://www.minasi.com/pickcity.htm.
Our two-day Windows 2000 seminars have been a lot of fun and the attendees have been great. Built atop the Third Edition, we add coverage of things even more up-to-date than the Third; I've already added coverage of Windows .NET Server enhancements, a big section on troubleshooting group policies and some major enhancements to the Active Directory replication info, stuff too new to have made it into the Third -- and there's more coming. Visit www.minasi.com/pubsems.htm to see specific session dates and locations, seminar outline, and how to sign up.
As I announced last newsletter, we're working on getting our two-day Managing, Installing, and Troubleshooting Windows 2000 Server class on audio or video. I recorded the New York City class and am in the process of chopping it up into 30-minute pieces so that I can put it on CDs and cassettes. For $199 ($225 for CDs, they cost more to duplicate), you'll get about 12-14 hours of lecture as well as a bound printed copy of the class's accompanying PowerPoint slides. If you'd like to be notified when they'll be available -- I anticipate around the end of January -- then please sign up at www.minasi.com/audiosales; it does not oblige you to buy.
If you experience any troubles with credit cards when signing up for a class, then I beg you to please be patient with us. Our e-commerce vendor -- They Whose Name Shall Not Be Spoken -- went belly-up and so the new vendor thinks that they can triple our fees while reducing service. So I'm working on doing all of the credit card handling from our site directly. (I guess the old saw's right -- "if you want something done right" and all that.) The cards are still secure, fear not; it's just the web-site-to-credit-card-company link that's making us nuts. For now please just go to the links on the Web site to pay; if there's a problem then Jennifer will be in touch and get it all worked out. And thanks for your patience.
Unpaid endorsement: I travel a lot and try to drive wherever possible, particularly after 9/11 (not due to fear of air travel but because the new rules have made air travel an even more unpleasant experience than it was before, hard as that is to believe), so I love book tapes. But I like learning things too, so I was delighted when a friend steered me to The Teaching Company, www.teachco.com. They take university courses and ask the professors to break them down into a series of 12, 24, 36 or 48 half-hour lectures. The courses are often around $150 but when they put one on sale then it's $35 and only once have I been disappointed. I've been through their lectures on Neolithic Europe, Ancient Greece, Ancient Egypt, The History of the English Language, The Historical Jesus and Thomas Jefferson: American Visionary, every one of which was sensational. I just ordered a bunch more and can't wait for a long road trip! They also have audio CDs and videotapes for some of their classes.
Many of you know that I write a couple of columns for Windows And .NET Magazine, which used to be named Windows 2000 Magazine, which used to be named Windows NT Magazine. Most of us who contribute to the magazine are tech enthusiasts who do more tech-wise than just work with Microsoft operating systems. Some of us are into "smart" house technology, others bring cutting-edge networking into our homes (there is more than one home running gigabit Ethernet among our columnists and as to wireless, well... it's a wonder that most of us don't get regular visits from the FCC), and I doubt that any one of us could find a camera that still uses film without rooting around the attic. But making all of this stuff work and work together, the editors realized (they've got this stuff in their houses too -- it's all one big geek family), is not simple. So they asked us to write pieces about how we've made all of it work, and put those pieces together into a new periodical called Connected Home Magazine. But it's not just another "here's what you could spend your money on" magazine. Instead, you'll find that every article is a "how to" article. I think there's a bit of something for everyone -- sections on Home Theater, Networking, Home Controls, Home Office, Audio and of course the place that I'm contributing -- Visual. Give it a look at http://www.connectedhomemag.com. You'll find links to subscribe as well as a signup for a free Connected Home e-newsletter.
I got a new workstation this month, a 1.8 GHz Pentium 4. As I suspected, the move from a 400 MHz Pentium II to a 1800 MHz Pentium 4 wasn't all that impressive, as the P4 isn't really four-plus times faster than the P2; instead, its front-side bus (the link from inside the CPU to the outside, to things like RAM and disk) is only 133 MHz as compared to 100 MHz for the P2. The net result is that for what I do -- documents, Web development, and network administration -- the effects are tiny. But I can see differences in at least one place: audio editing. I've begun work editing the two-day lecture into smaller pieces using Sound Forge and it's noticeably faster on the P4 than on the PII.
Sound Forge is, by the way, an excellent product. They're at www.sonicfoundry.com. I paid about $200 for it but now that I know more about it I think I probably would have been perfectly happy with Sound Forge XP, which runs about $50. The difference seems to be that you get a ton of audio "cleanup" and special effect filters with the $200 version as well as a few other programs.
Anyway, the new workstation came with XP Pro installed. I thought that as long as I had a new system that it was time to re-examine the market for Firewire/IEEE 1394 adapters. I own a couple of miniDV camcorders and as you probably know, miniDV camcorders all feature a FireWire interface. FireWire adapters used to be expensive and involve a ton of drivers, or at least they did the last time that I bought a FireWire adapter back in the NT 4.0 days. But I was able to pick up three adapters -- Pyro's three-port Basic DV, Western Digital's two-port FireWire PCI Adapter, and SIIG's three-port 1394 adapter. They all ran around $50 and each came with a board, a FireWire cable and some video editing software. (Ulead's Video Studio in every case, unfortunately -- I've never liked it, but Premiere is a bit out of my price range.) I was a bit worried about whether they'd work under XP, as only the SIIG board is on the Hardware Compatibility List. So I tried them all using the "I'm too busy to configure this junk" test -- I just opened the computer and plugged 'em in.
All three of them, at the same time.
I fully expected some backtalk from the system, but got none at all. Device Manager showed them all installed and working. But did they work? To test that, I used two devices -- one of my miniDV camcorders and a Pyro CompactFlash reader built for FireWire. In every case, no problems. Can you imagine just tossing three SCSI $50 host adapters or ATA/100 adapters into a system, not configuring them at all and having them all work together? Even better, a later test showed that Windows 2000 is every bit as FireWire-friendly. It makes me think that I should looking more closely into FireWire-compatible peripherals! Which leads me to...
While on a site looking at prices on FireWire hardware, I noticed a CF reader that used FireWire instead of USB, so I thought I'd give it a try. It's a real winner for two reasons: it's easier to use and faster.
I have found the USB-based CF and MemoryStick readers very cumbersome to use. You plug them in the first time and you've got to load the drivers, which is no big deal, and then you shove the CF or MemoryStick into the reader. It shows up in My Computer as a removable drive, which is good -- no fancy software needed to view, delete and copy the files. So far, so good. But then you want to remove the media (that is, the CF or MemoryStick) from the reader, and the trouble starts. Windows pops up a message basically saying that you've been a baaaaad user and ejected something without saying "Windows, may I do this?" So, the next time you decide to right-click the "Safely remove hardware" icon, tell it that you're going to remove the media, and no complaints.
None, that is, until you put the media back in the reader. Then things start breaking again. You open up the removable drive, or try to, and get a message along the lines of "please insert a disk in drive G:." And no amount of shouting "there is a disk -- that is, a CF card -- in the drive, you idiot!" will compel Explorer to stop asking for you to insert a disk in that drive.
Here's what happened. You wanted to just eject a removable disk, but "eject" doesn't work (try it and you'll see) so you instead told the system via "Safe hardware removal" that you'd uninstalled the entire drive. You must "reinstall" the drive to make Windows able to see it, and the media in it, again. How, you ask, do you "reinstall" the drive? Unplug it from the USB port and then plug it back in.
Given the fact you'll be inserting and removing CF cards from a USB-attached CF reader on a regular basis, then, you have two options to make your CF reader work. You can just yank the cards out without warning, which will not damage Windows or the card as far as I can see (unless, of course, you're modifying the contents of the CF card in some way while you do that), but you'll have to put up with the irritating message. Or you can warn Windows when you're about to yank the card... but then you'll have to unplug the reader and plug it back in to make Windows recognize the card the next time that you insert it. A real Hobson's choice.
I was, then, pleasantly surprised to find that Pyro's FireWire-attached CF reader had none of those problems. Just plug it in and it works, no drivers needed. Insert a CF card and it shows up as a drive. Remove it, no complaints. Re-insert it, it's back. But that's not all -- the speed improvement on large files is dramatic. One of my cameras creates 14 MB TIFF files in maximum resolution and they took about 25 seconds apiece to fetch on a USB connection. That time drops by a factor of nearly five, to about five and a half seconds, on FireWire. (That's for a Viking 256MB CF card -- an IBM Microdrive delivers the picture in 3.5 seconds.) Makes me wish the camera had a FireWire connector! You can find info on the Pyro Compact Flash Reader at www.adstech.com. The bad news is that it's not cheap -- PC Connection had it for about $65 whereas USB-connected readers run about $25-$45. But if you do a lot of work with CF cards and your system is FireWire enabled then I think it's a good buy. (As always, I'm not getting money for endorsing anything here -- except my seminars, I guess!)
A reader wrote to ask why "fast user switching" disappeared after he joined a domain with his XP box, and was there something that he coudl do about it? As far as I can see the answer is no -- when you join an XP Pro box to an Active Directory domain (I didn't try an NT 4 domain) then fast user switching gets shut off and stays off.
The eagle-eyed Al Degutis pointed out to me that XP has a program called shutdown.exe which will shut down a system from the command line. It also lets you shut down systems remotely. I even tried it out on a Windows 2000 system and was pleasantly surprised to find that it runs on 2000 without a hitch.
Reader Paul Knuth tried to roll out XP with a Remote Installation Server and found that it wouldn't work. He asked me how to do it and I had to admit that I hadn't a clue. He bugged Microsoft and got an answer, which he shared with me.
"From long phone conversations with MS today - there are two known problems with using RIS and XP clients.
"Firstly, Risetup.exe fails to copy the ASMS and LANG folders from the CD into the image area. You can copy them by hand or use a patched version of risetup.exe as per Q287546. There is a hotfix to do this.
"Secondly, windows 2000 server Riprep.exe fails with an entry point error on XP. This can be fixed by getting updated riprep.exe and a couple of other files from MS. They are essentially the versions from .Net server beta 3. There is no official hotfix for this yet but there will be soon and it will be Q313069. However, they will send you the files you need in 'expand' format if you ring them up."
Thanks, Paul, you will save many of us a pile of time.
Odd, isn't it, how badly XP integrates with Active Directory? The Administrative Tools don't work, RIS doesn't work, fast user switching is disabled ... it's almost as if Microsoft is saying that XP Pro is a fun-looking operating system that SHOULDN'T be used in conjunction with AD, at least not until .NET Server ships.
Al Degutis also pointed out an interesting free download that's worth looking at. As you probably know, Windows 2000 comes with a kind of mini-Resource Kit called the "support tools." (They're on the CD in \Support\Tools.) Just as the operating system gets bug fixes with service packs, so apparently also do the support tools. Al tells me that Knowledge Base article Q292003 discusses this, and sure enough, it does. A bit of poking around Microsoft's site shows that the URL to download the revised support tools is http://www.microsoft.com/windows2000/downloads/servicepacks/sp2/supporttools.asp.
This month, Mastering Windows 2000 Server co-author Christa Anderson joins us to offer a solution to what has to be one of the Top Ten Most-Asked Questions: "how do I set up a user with a printer... automatically?" Christa's new book Windows 2000 Automated Deployment and Remote Administration is a guide to scripting. So it's no surprise that Christa's answer is a script... but don't be scared away, it's a nice, simple one.
If you donít mind doing a little preliminary work, then you can automatically install a printer by running a noninteractive program independently or as part of a logon script. Creating this program takes a little work up front. However, for any task youíll be repeating on a regular basis, scripting it will save you an awful lot of time and trouble, allowing you to almost instantly install printer support and set a default printer without requring any input from the person sitting at the computer. The example Iíll show you here will only fully work on NT-based operating systems such as NT, Windows 2000, and Windows XP, but if you pre-install drivers on to Windows 9x computers the script will work there as well.
(A Resource Kit tool called PrintAdmin allows you to programmatically install and manage printers on the local computer or remote computers running NT or Windows 2000. To use it, youíll need to know how to use VBScript, and, to be perfectly frank, I think the method Iím describing here is easier and perfectly adequate if installing is your main goal.)
I donít have space for a complete treatise on scripting Windows 2000 here, but the basic idea is this: Win32 operating systems support a scripting environment called Windows Scripting Host (WSH) that allows you to run VBScript and JScript scripts to perform tasks that youíd normally have to perform by hand. In scripting, real objects such as printers are represented by scripting objects, which you manipulate by addressing the properties (characteristics) of those objects and exploiting their methods (things they can do). Objects are nouns, properties are adjectives, and methods are verbs. WSH is supported on all Win32 operating systems. WSH abstracts the interface to a number of Win32 objects. One of these objects is WshNetwork, which represents network resources--shared drives and printers.
(For those whoíve never touched scripting before, create scripts in a text editor like Notepad and save with a .VBS extension. Windows 2000 cannot interpret VBScript--this isnít a command-line language like the net commands.)
You can use the printing-related methods of WshNetwork to automatically install one or more printers on a Windows 2000 or NT computer and, if you like, make one printer the default. To do this, youíll rely on WshNetworkís .AddWindowsPrinterConnection and .SetDefaultPrinter methods. Such a script could look like this:
Dim oNetwork, sPrintPath
Set oNetwork = CreateObject("WScript.Network")
sPrintPath = "\\sandworm\printer"
Set oNetwork = NOTHING
Set sPrintPath = NOTHING
Letís walk through this example one step at a time. First, Iíve told the script to not let me use any variables other than the ones that I explicitly define, so that if I mistype a variable name then Iíll get an error message instead of a new variable. Next, Iíve created a connection to the WshNetwork object so I can call on its properties and methods and assigned the oNetwork variable to represent that object. After that, I set the value of sPrintPath equal to the UNC name of the printer Iíd previously shared with the network, to make that UNC name easier to work with.
At this point, Iím ready to build the connection. Since oNetwork represents the WshNetwork object, I can call on the .AddWindowsPrinterConnection and .SetDefaultPrinter methods, using the sPrintPath variable as an argument representing the path to the shared printer. Finally, I release the memory required to store values for the sPrintPath and oNetwork variables. Cut and paste this script into Notepad and substitute the name of one of your shared printers in line 4, then save it as addprint.vbs. Youíll have a script that will work to install printers on your NT, Windows 2000, and Windows XP computers.
This is just a very simple example of how you can script the automatic installation of a shared printer. WshNetwork has other properties and methods you could exploit to add a particular printer based on the computerís name or the name of the person currently logged in, and you could even create a script that allowed the user to provide location input (e.g. ďthe libraryĒ, ďthe reception areaĒ) so that you can easily build a universal script to install printers for the appropriate location without having to take every single computerís identity into account. The fourth edition of Mastering Windows 2000 Server includes some more complex examples of scripted printer creation, and Windows 2000 Automated Deployment and Remote Management (Sybex, 2001) explains administrative scripting with VBScript in much more detail. But even this simple script allows you to install a printer on any NT-based computer in less than a second.
I hope you'll join me for a seminar but if you can't attend a class then please consider attending one of these conferences:
A Richmond, Virginia-area NT user group has invited me to speak on .NET Server in the evening this February 28. E-mail Paul Greiner at firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
The benchmark for computer shows returns and continues its NT-oriented technical track, featuring among others my co-authors Christa Anderson and Doug Toombs. I'm doing my "Future of Windows" and "Unattended Installs... With Style" talks. The whole thing's run by my buddy George Spalding, Minnesota's premier Alpha Geek. Find out more at http://www.key3media.com/comdex/chicago2002/conferences/windows.html.
A reliably good show, and one gaining in popularity, as it seems that every one that I attend is larger than the one before. It's got great sessions and is back in Orlando. Info at www.techmentorevents.com. Last time, they had a very cool feature in that you could take any Microsoft cert test for half price, so on the off-chance that you didn't see any sessions that you wanted to sit in on (an unlikely event!), then you could take a test. They even ran tests until about 9 at night.
I'm doing "Securing Your Network -- A Dozen Tips," "Troubleshooting Group Policies," and "Active Directory Replication" as well as a general session. If you can make it then I surely hope to see you there!
The same folks that put on that Windows 2000/Exchange 2000 Connections conference in Scottsdale are coming to Palm Springs in early May of next year. I get to open the conference with a keynote and I'm also doing some breakouts; my "AD classic" talk (an overview of Active Directory with Whistler updates), an explanation of what Windows XP and 2002 will do for (or to) you, and my "DNS Fundamentals" talk.
Find out more at www.winconnections.com.
The searchwin2k.com folks (who run a great portal offering tons of Windows 2000 information as well as jumping-off points to other great resources) have put together an interesting conference in The Windy City early this November, but world events have prompted them to move it to May. (Better time for good weather in Chicago anyway.) John Enck, one of my former co-workers at Windows NT (now Windows And .NET) magazine, will be offering his unique perspectives, as will Laura DiDio -- Laura's been an NT industry watcher for as long as I can remember. They'll also have geek talks, including my look ahead at .NET Server (and what will be by then a look BEHIND to XP) as well as an AD/migration talk.
Interestingly enough, the conference is free. Free, that is, if you meet their criteria and no, I don't know what those criteria are -- but it only takes a minute or two to apply. Give it a shot and perhaps I'll see you at the Chicago Hilton!
Find out more at http://www.windowsdecisions2002.com/.
I'm keeping busy doing Windows 2000/.NET Server seminars and writing, but I've still got time to visit your firm. In just two days, I'll make your current NT techies into 2000/2002 techies. To join the large pharmaceutical, agricultural, aerospace, banking, government, transportation, and other organizations that I've assisted, either take a peek at the course outline at www.minasi.com/w2koutln.htm, mail Jennifer Williams at email@example.com, or call her at (757) 426-1431 (between 1 and 5 Eastern time, weekdays, please).
Have a quiet and safe month. Please share this newsletter; I'd like very much to expand this newsletter into a useful source of NT/2000/.NET Server/XP information. Please forward it to any associates who might find it helpful, and accept my thanks. We are now at over seventeen thousand subscribers and I hope to use this to get information to every single Mastering XP, NT and 2000 Server reader. Thanks for letting me visit with you, and take care -- may we all weather this current industry slowdown! Many, many thanks to the readers who have mailed me to offer suggestions, errata, and those kind reviews. As always, I'm at http://www.minasi.com/gethelp.
To subscribe, visit http://www.minasi.com/nwsreg.asp. To change e-mail, format, etc., link to http://www.minasi.com/edit-newsletter-record.htm. To unsubscribe, link to http://www.minasi.com/unsubs.asp. Visit the Archives at http://www.minasi.com/archive.htm. Please do NOT reply to this mail; for comments, please link to http://www.minasi.com/gethelp.
All contents copyright 2002 Mark Minasi. You are encouraged to quote this material, SO LONG as you include this entire document; thanks.