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Hello all --
Other than the snow (I moved to Virginia Beach so I wouldn't SEE the stuff again, dagnabbit -- I want my money back!), it's been a quiet Winter and I can't say that I'm complaining. This month, I've got an update on the CD/cassette recordings, some neat new tips, and some really good news on a FREE set of talks that I'm doing next month in North Carolina and Georgia (for Microsoft, no less).
I know that training bucks are tighter and so this year I asked Jennifer to put together the whole 2002 seminar schedule all at once so that you can see at a glance where we'll be throughout the rest of 2002.
April: Ottawa 10th/11th, Minneapolis 15th/16th, Seattle 22nd-23rd and Pasadena 25th-26th. We didn't do too well with our last try in Toronto and Montreal so we're going to try Canada in Ottawa for a special price -- US$799 for this session only! This will be our only Canadian seminar this year, so if you're from the land of that nifty silver-and-gold duobuck coin then please consider joining me then. While there I will be visiting my buddy Dan York, who's helping me with a Second Edition of the Linux book and who will by then be a proud poppa.
June: Chicago 3rd/4th, Denver 5th/6th. (That way I have a whole weekend to get out of the Denver airport...)
July: Dallas 15th/16th, at my buddy Todd Lammle's GlobalNet Training site.
September: Boston 10th/11th, Atlanta 13th/14th, Washington DC 16th/17th, New York/NJ (Mahwah) 19th/20th, when I can watch Fall break out up and down the East Coast.
November: Tampa 4th-5th, New Orleans 6th-7th: I've never run a seminar in New Orleans but I KNOW the restaurants are good!
Those are all the publics we'll be running this year, so if you'd like to get to one of my seminars then please plan to join us for a session.
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.
A few months ago I asked you subscribers if you would be interested in audio recorded versions of my two-day seminar. I've gotten a very positive response -- many thanks! -- and so I've been working on it. But I expected to have the cassette and CD versions ready by now -- but I don't, so I wanted to update you on the recordings.
My original plan was to do a couple of classes with a wireless mike, recording the lectures and then editing the recordings. I did that, recording all or parts of three classes, but after a couple of week's work editing the recordings I've decided to just record the lectures from scratch, without an audience. I did that for several reasons. First, wireless mikes aren't all they're cracked up to be -- they eat batteries, and if you don't feed them new batteries every hour or so then they start getting noise-ridden and prone to interference. Further, they don't always work well around computers. The recordings tended to take on a buzz whenever I did demonstrations. And I was puzzled by a series of annoying small explosion-like sounds until I realized that the wireless remote that I use to advance my PowerPoints used radio signals that apparently interfere with the wireless mike!
With enough editing work, however, I could have fixed all of that. The biggest problem that I faced was that significant hunks of the class just plain would not work for anyone listening to the lectures without seeing me. In particular, the demonstrations wouldn't mean much. So I re-created the Powerpoints that I use to drive the presentation, adding the screen shots and other backup information needed to make the talk useful to a listener rather than a viewer.
In mid-February I spent four days recording about 13 hours of lecture directly to digital audio and my buddy and old publisher Gary Masters did the rough edits on the files. I need to do a closer edit, organize the modules into logical groupings, record short introductions to the sections and burn some master CDs, and then get them recorded. I really hope to have the packages ready for sale by the end of February. If you are interested in buying them when finished but have already signed up at www.minasi.com/audiosales then you need do nothing, I'll drop you an e-mail when they're ready for sale. If, however, you haven't signed up and are interested, then please visit that link. And thanks for your patience. I know that many of you would like to attend my class but just plain can't afford it... I'm thankful for your interest and support, and you're why I'm putting this together.
Oh, and by the way -- some of you have asked me about whether people who've attended my seminar will be able to buy the CDs or cassettes for a reduced price. The answer is yes -- I know that the class is pretty fast-paced and I'm happy to offer the recordings to people who want to review what we did. I haven't figured out the exact rates but there will be a lower cost for previous attendees. I'm also toying with the idea of selling smaller chunks online as streamed data, but that'll be for the future.
As they say, "free is good." But sadly most free stuff isn't any good. Let me tell you about an exception, however -- my friend Sean Daily's outfit Real Time Publishers, www.realtimepublishers.com.
Sean's a first-rank technical writer whose work you may have seen in Windows NT Magazine (which became Windows 2000 Magazine and is now Windows and .NET Magazine, at least for the moment). He also put together a few really terrific books on NT and 2000. But his latest venture, which is a bit over a year old, puts him not in the role of writer but rather in the role of publisher. Real Time Publishers brings together corporate sponsors and top-notch technical authors to produce useful and timely techie books. The corporate sponsor pays for the book and puts it on its Web site. As the technical content is really good, that drives people to the site, which benefits the sponsor. And, as the sponsor gives the content away (at least at every site I've seen), techies get access to some really good text at no charge. Sean also puts the books on his site as well, www.realtimepublishers.com.
In the perfect world, publishers and editors of technical work should be technically literate. But in the real world that's not always the case. RTP is an impressive exception -- Sean and his staff are uber-geeks who really know what folks in the trenches need to know. Give his site a look and I think you'll find a piece or two (or fifty) worth viewing.
You may know that I'm doing several sessions on Windows 2000, .NET and the like at March's upcoming Comdex (see "Conferences" below for dates); if you've been thinking of attending then you might find this interesting.
I'm guessing that the Comdex registrations are down, as with virtually all conferences these days -- money's tight and no one wants to travel. That's probably why the Comdex folks sent me an e-mail offering a 25 percent discount to any of my "associates, friends and colleagues." (I figure you guys qualify.) Anyway, if you've been thinking of signing up and would like to get that discount (which applies to any educational offering, like my seminars), the Comdex people tell me that you need only use 237 as your "Coupon Code" and a "Priority Code" of EKSP. If you're interested then you can register online or by calling 888-568-7510. Chicago Comdexes are small (I've often talked to crowds of a few dozen) but attendees like them because it's easier to interact with the speakers -- perhaps I'll see you there!
I've been getting a lot of letters asking me about various "one-way network mysteries," oddities like "machine A can ping machine B... but machine B can't ping machine A." Or perhaps machine A can see machine B in Network Neighborhood but cannot access the file shares on machine B... but B can access A's shares, or something like that, a puzzling asymmetric condition. Many of those cases seem to involve at least one XP system, but not always. In every case, I eventually get around to remembering to ask, "do you have a personal firewall installed?"
The word "firewall" is used to describe many things but "personal" firewalls are often mainly software that are essentially one-way doors in front of a computer's networking software. Consider the example of computer A, which has a firewall, and computer B, which does not. A's firewall rejects all incoming traffic save for traffic that it expects to hear -- and I'll define "expects" in a minute. If B were to ask A a question, like "are you there" (PING), or "can I attach to your file shares" (NET USE) or the like, then A's firewall software would say "hmmm, B's trying to talk to me... I've not asked it any questions... so I'll reject the incoming request," and ignores B's request.
But now suppose that computer A, with the firewall, asks a question of computer B, perhaps PINGing it. As that request leaves A, the firewall notes it and remembers that A's now got an outstanding question for B. Then, when B tries to respond, then A's firewall sees the incoming message from B and says to itself, "am I expecting something from B?" As the firewall is expecting some information from B, it passes the message. In effect, this kind of firewall says to other systems, "only speak when you're first spoken to." That's why A could PING B but B can't PING A. (Note that there isn't really a standard definition of what a personal firewall does, and different products will work differently, so you might not see this particular behavior on a given firewall. Also, firewalls are configurable so with some work you could get around most firewall-related problems so long as you don't mind doing a bit of digging.)
This hasn't been an issue for me until recently because most people don't have personal firewalls right on the computer; either the machine is sitting on an intranet behind a network's firewall, or it had no firewall at all. But more and more folks are directly connected to the Internet and are concerned about attack by external dirtbags, and so have installed free or inexpensive firewalls. If they forget that they've installed those firewalls, then they can start seeing this kind of odd one-way behavior -- machine A can ping machine B but B can't ping A -- and lose a lot of time before remembering to disable the firewall before running diagnostic tests.
So the next time you're facing a network puzzle, permit me to add an item to your list of things to check: "is the firewall enabled?"
But I've run across a growing number of people who swear that they don't have a firewall but that are seeing this asymmetric behavior. After scrutinizing some of these, I noticed that they were all running XP, Pro or Home... and I remembered: XP has a firewall! If you are running XP and are (1) not a domain member and (2) are connected to the Internet, then XP turns on its simple firewall. So let's add one more item for your troubleshooting checklist: if you're running XP and seeing something odd, then check to see if Internet Connection Firewall, the built-in firewall, is enabled. Do it like so: right-click My Network Places, choose Properties and locate the object for your network card, usually called "Local Area Connection" or something like that. Right-click that and choose Properties. You'll see a page with three tabs labeled General, Authentication and Advanced. Click Advanced and look for the check box labeled "Protect my computer and network by limiting or preventing access to this computer from the Internet." If checked, the firewall's on. If un-checked, it's off.
Reader Dean Morell offers this:
"I just stumbled across this and thought you might like to see it. In Win2k open a command prompt and type in several commands. Now tap F7. Other F keys perform similar functions. Worth noting if you live and die by the command line."
Thanks, Dean. I remember finding this years ago and then forgetting it... now that you've reminded me I'll make good use of it!
While doing a class recently for the Georgia State Board of Regents, an attendee passed along a terrific tip about figuring out those cryptic Event Log items.
Ever looked at your Event Logs and seen items that called themselves errors but that, well, weren't too clear? Nothing ruins your day like getting an item in a log that really looks like the sky's about to fall, but that doesn't really explain itself well enough for you to DO anything about it. Can you safely ignore it? If not, what should you do? Look it up at www.eventid.net.
It's not a Microsoft site, but instead a public service sponsored by a consulting firm called Altair Technologies. They've got the site set up so that anyone can contribute information -- "I had an event ID 50042 and it meant this, I fixed it this way." Some event IDs have more information about them than others, and the site will let you launch a search either on Google or Microsoft's sites for information on the event ID. It even has a top ten list of event IDs searched for that week. A very nice service -- I recommend that you not only use it, but contribute to it when you learn something about an event ID.
I'm a big fan of scripting installs. Just a networked I386 and an answer file gets a hands-off setup rolling. But there's a chicken-and-egg problem about doing those installs in that you can't get to the networked I386 without a network-aware operating system. But if I had a network-aware OS on my system then I wouldn't be installing an OS! One way around this has always been to create a DOS boot floppy with Microsoft's MS-DOS network client. But finding the client has been a challenge for a few years -- a search of the Web site often yields nothing.
Reader David Chamberlain tells me that he's found the client in its current hiding place -- ftp://ftp.microsoft.com/bussys/clients/msclient/. David says that "it is the link for the MS DOS Client disks 1 & 2 available for download to anyone." My advice is to download it and squirrel it away somewhere just in case you need it some time, before they move it again. (Thanks, David!)
Technologies seem to have magic times, "inflection points" where all of a sudden everyone wakes up one morning and says, "yup, gotta have it."
January/February seems to have been that time for me.
For the past ten or so years, I've wired wherever I live to support networking. But cabling a house for networking is truthfully a pain in the neck and so I think that many people who'd LIKE to be networked have put it off, hoping for an easier answer. The whole issue becomes more critical once a house has a DSL or cable modem connection, as now everyone wants hot and cold running Internet in every room. Wireless networking removes the need to pull wires through the walls, although it introduces problems of its own. This month, several friends independently decided to go wireless, and I got elected to put them on the air. I'd not really done much with wireless before, but at this point I've played with a few different vendors' products. Here's a few brief thoughts about what I've learned.
Basically wireless Ethernet -- and here I'm talking 802.11b -- replaces normal Ethernet hubs and switches with things called "wireless access points" or WAPs. They're small plastic boxes about five inches by five inches by one inch and have one or two plastic antennas about two-three inches long. (And of course they have blinking lights... Minasi's Law of Data Communications Devices states "the more blinking lights on a DC device, the better.")
If you have a network that's already connected to the Internet and want to go wireless, then do this.
1) Go buy a WAP or, as I'll explain later, a few WAPs. The WAPs have a power plug and an Ethernet RJ-45 connector. You run an Ethernet patch cord from the WAP's to one of your hubs or switches and, unlike hubs and switches, you don't need a crossover cable -- a regular straight-through patch cable works fine.
2) Next, you have to configure the WAP. WAPs vary in what they need, but basically every WAP supports the idea of a "network name" or "Service Set Identifier" (SSID) which is very much like the router notion of a virtual LAN (VLAN). The idea is this: suppose I want to create a wireless network and the wireless technology works within a radius of 100 feet, as 802.11b does. Suppose also that you want to create a wireless network, but are within 100 feet of my wirelessly-connected boxes. We don't want to be on the same network, but are so close that your devices could interfere with one another. If I assign my WAPs and client computers one SSID and you assign your equipment a different SSID, then our systems won't be bothered with each other's network chatter.
An SSID is just a case-sensitive phrase, like "Default" -- setting the WAP's SSID to "Default" and your PC's SSID to "default" would cause a failed connection between PC and WAP. So if you're setting up a wireless network at home and decide to call it "Home," then remember the SSID's exact spelling -- you need it to get clients connected.
The WAP will also ask you about WEP, the Wireless Encryption Protocol, but disable that for the moment. (I SAID this was the oversimplified part.)
Oh, oops, I should have mentioned... actually getting to the WAP to configure it is, well, interesting. So far no two WAPs seem to be configured the same way. One comes with a USB port that I can jack into it to directly configure it, two use a proprietary SNMP-based tool, another uses something based on... well, I'm not sure what it's based on. But basically if you want to have 10 WAPs then resign yourself to either buying all of your WAPs from one vendor, or having 10 WAP configuration programs on your hard disk. Ah, for the days of Telnet or a simple Web interface... but that only works if you know beforehand what IP address the WAP has, and that's not possible. All WAPs that I've played with except the Netgear use DHCP thankfully -- Netgear, get on the ball, OK? -- but there's no easy way to find out what IP address they settle down to save with the WAP-specific control program.
3) Now that your WAPs are configured, time to get the clients -- the desktops and notebooks -- on the air. Buy a wireless NIC for each of the systems and ... well, before we go any further, let's talk about buying those NICs.
So far, I've purchased or worked with Netgear, DLink, Linksys, Cisco (Aironet), Lucent (Orinoco), and 3Com 802.11b PC Cards or PCMCIA cards. The Ciscos and the Lucents are the coolest... but, not surprisingly, some of the most expensive. What makes them better or worse? A few things.
I said before that you'd probably need not one but several WAPs. Here's what I meant. In theory, 802.11b connections work over a 100 foot radius. I should be able to place a WAP in one part of the house and go sit 80 feet away with my laptop and get on the Net, but that's just not possible. In fact, I estimate that the distance between the two farthest points in my house is no more than about 57 feet, but in actual fact I needed to install three WAPs to get full coverage. Clearly part of the reason for that is the amount of computers in the house, wireless telephones, and the fact that the 100 foot number for 802.11b is a number for unobstructed line-of-sight connections. Nevertheless, I was surprised that I needed that many WAPs.
What I've just described will work fine, but it might not be the answer for you. If you live in an apartment or in a house that's pretty close to your neighbors then there's the outside chance that your neighbors might live within your broadcast range. I heard a Microsoft guy recently tell an audience that inasmuch as he lives in a "Microsoft neighborhood" in the Redmond area that he can pretty much walk down his street and check his e-mail with his palmtop device's 802.11b adapter -- in other words, he's saying that (1) there are a lot of home wireless networks on his street and (2) the sidewalks are close enough to the houses to be within their broadcast ranges.
He's also saying that his neighbors don't secure their networks.
You don't want people being able to piggyback on your wireless network for a few reasons. First, they'd probably take some of your Internet bandwidth, and if you wanted slow download times they you'd have kept dialing up, right? Second, there are programs around that will allow you to "sniff" every packet on the wireless network. Every time you start up Outlook Express or Eudora to go check your Internet e-mail, your user account name and password gets sent over your wireless network in cleartext, meaning that someone else in the house or broadcast range could capture your account name and password. And finally you don't want random people on your network because if they do something malicious and the malicious act is tracked to its source then you'll be the one accused of the electronic wrongdoing. (It's believed that it's been so hard to find the initial source of the Nimda worm because the original creators drove around technology-rich areas looking for accessible wireless networks and used those networks as jumping-off points to spread the worm.)
Gathering information about wireless networks is fairly simple. XP's wireless support actually goes out and detects all of the SSIDs within "earshot." If you don't have XP, some NIC's utility software will detect and report SSIDs. Or you can download and run a program called NetStumbler from www.netstumbler.com to do the same thing. It doesn't work on every wireless NIC, but it works on many of them.
You can secure your network in a couple of ways. First, some WAPs let you restrict access to just a particular set of wireless NICs. You tell the WAP to deny access save to a list of acceptable MAC addresses. Yes, it has been a pain to gather MAC addresses in the past, but in my experience every 802.11b PC Card that I've handled has the MAC address printed right on it.
Alternatively you can run the Wireless Encryption Protocol (WEP). With WEP, you can specify one or more short (40 bit) keys or one long (128 bit) key on your WAP. You then use that same key or keys on your client computers. WEP's good because its encryption defeats the sniffers, and it also keeps people off your network who don't have the keys. Yes, NetStumbler or XP can still sense that you're on the air and pick out your SSID, but that won't get the invaders on your network, as they need to get the key or keys. There is a Linux-based program around called AirSnort that can apparently crack 40-bit codes, given a week or two, so if you're going to do WEP then I'd recommend using 128-bit encryption. The only problem with that is that some wireless cards can't yet support 128-bit encryption, so check the WAP and the NICs before going 128-bit.
A WAP is, as I've said, nothing more than the wireless version of an Ethernet hub. But you can also buy wireless versions of DSL/cable modem routers that will let you share a high-speed Internet connection. I've installed the D-link router in a few places and I must say that I was quite pleasantly surprised. The D-Link 713P is a dedicated hardware router/firewall that acts as a WAP and includes three CAT5 connections for wired Ethernet systems. It's got a nice Web-based administration tool and I have to say that I was dumbstruck by how complete the product is for the price -- it has true network address translation rather than the more common port address translation, so you could designate a machine inside your firewall as a Web server or mail server and folks on the public Internet could then access that server. This is not a simple process to accomplish when using 2000 as your Internet gateway, but D-Link makes it easy. It's also got packet filtering, some nice monitoring abilities and was all in all a snap to install. It wasn't perfect, though, as it included a kludgy print server. The idea is that you connect the printer directly to the D-Link box and then load a special driver on every client machine so that the client can use the printer... yuck. I'll stick with 2000's print sharing; at least I've figured out how to get past most of its problems.
If you don't have DSL or cable modem where you live, then you can still use the 713P. It's got a serial port on it and will dial out to your ISP once you supply it with phone number, password, account name etc. I take it with me when I'm going to hide out at a remote location for a few days and it's a great way to instantly convert any house to a wireless Internet-enabled dwelling. D-Link wants $180 for the router but I've seen if for less. Well worth considering.
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. If you're thinking about this show, then don't forget that they'll give you a 25 percent discount if you use 237 as your "Coupon Code" and a "Priority Code" of EKSP. Find out more at http://www.key3media.com/comdex/chicago2002/conferences/windows.html.
If you're in Georgia or the Carolinas and would like to hear me do a couple of free talks, then take a minute and check this one out.
You may know that Microsoft's TechNet folks put on a regular series of free briefings around the country. The US Southeast TechNet folks have invited me to do one in the latter part of March in three cities -- Charlotte on the 19th, Atlanta on the 26th, and Raleigh on the 27th. I'm doing my DNS-for-Active-Directory-administrators talk and my "Securing Your Network -- A Dozen Tips" talks, and that's not all -- there's another speaker as well, so it looks to be a pretty content-laden day. (And, of course, the price is right -- they even do a few giveaways.)
Sign up here:
http://msevents.microsoft.com/events/USA/ENU/detail/ED103631204.asp for Raleigh, http://msevents.microsoft.com/events/USA/ENU/detail/ED103636408.asp for Charlotte, and http://msevents.microsoft.com/events/USA/ENU/detail/ED103631186.asp for Atlanta.
In case Microsoft re-arranges their Web site and those links don't work, you can find the signup info by going to www.microsoft.com/usa/events. Then look for Event Codes 103636408 (Charlotte), 103631186 (Atlanta), or 103631204 (Raleigh).
If you're in one of these three areas, then I hope you'll come join me. The DNS and Security talks are two of my favorites, and I'd really like to be able to share them with you.
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 educational, 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.