Vista Bug Forcing Reactivation

February 27, 2007

It didn’t take too long for this to crop up. A Windows Vista bug that forces reactivation. This bug in their highly touted Software Protection Platform forces a user to reactive their copy of Windows Vista over things as simple as a device driver update, installation of a program, the running of a program or removal of program. Apparently in some situations the only way to resolve the issue was to call Microsoft.

This is one of the biggest reasons I despise all the activation hoops and genuine windows detection Microsoft has so heavily been investing their time in. Problems such as these cause the paying customer (often times corporate customers – where hassling with reactivating OS’s is $$$ lost) trouble. Meanwhile the software pirates will continue to use their tricks to avoid having to deal with any of this. The person that suffers is Microsoft’s legitimate customer!

I understand that Microsoft is plagued by software pirates not paying for their operating system or other applications. Inflicting troubles such as these on customer is not the answer though. It’s bad enough for a non-technical home user to have to deal with this. It is equally unpleasant for corporate help desk folks to have to deal with this as well. There are enough other issues that aren’t directly inflicted by Microsoft to deal with on a day to day basis that people don’t need even more issues.

Now Microsoft does acknowledge this is a bug with the OS. However they failed to actually announce this patch until it started hitting the tech news sites. Then they admit that they released a patch at the end of January. Of course you can only get the patch from Windows Update if your operating system is proven legitimate. Brilliant! Microsoft is their own worse enemy these days.

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Hosting Provider Outage

February 25, 2007

My hosting provider was down in the early morning hours today. The first portion was due to an emergency planned outage to repair a building UPS. When the power came back on there were issues with one of their core routers. Looks like things are back to normal now though.


DSL Upgrade…

February 24, 2007

I finally got around to calling the phone company today to see if there were higher DSL speeds available and to make sure I was getting a fair price on our DSL server (cable isn’t available in our area). Turns out I am getting kicked up to 3x our current DSL speed – 512kbps to 1.5mbps – and saving $15 a month! I guess sometimes it does pay to talk to the phone company! The change is supposed to take place on Monday.


Google Launches Business Applications

February 22, 2007

Google has announced the launch of Google Apps Premier Edition. The Premier Edition will have the following applications available:

Email
Calendaring
Messaging and Talk Applications
Word Processor
Spreadsheet

You can get all of this for $50 per user. The email limit is 10GB and things can supposedly be made ad free. They are also guaranteeing 99.9% uptime for email.

This looks like a pretty good deal to me. There are some reservations, but at an early step forward I think this is a strong start. Several years ago Microsoft stated that common applications would be hosted on the web. And while Microsoft has their Windows Live, it appears that Google is much more structured and organized in their pushing these applications to the corporate customer.

I have recently started making more and more use of the Google Calendar, Docs and Spreadsheets. The Calendar largely due to some repeated issues I have been having with my PDA. I was tired of it failing while I was at home over a weekend and not having any calendar or contact information, so I finally started making more use of the calendar and contacts portion of the Google apps. I have also started using the Docs and Spreadsheets more often as well. I find it convenient to access from multiple computers and operating systems. The links they have added to GMail to open documents in Google Docs has been pretty useful as well.

I am still not comfortable with certain confidential documents up there though, so that is a limiting factor. I also have some issues with margins in certain docs when I print them. I may just be overlooking a setting though. I am looking forward to seeing these hosted applications expand in the future in their features.


"Windows Vista Capable" Hardware

February 21, 2007

I was browsing /. this evening and someone has linked to a hilarious Dell page touching on the hardware requirements for Windows Vista. The page is here. Once there choose the hardware link and browse the Hardware Requirements portion. The page is covering the various labels they have been putting on computers in preparation for Windows Vista – you know the ones like, “Windows Vista Capable” or “Windows Vista Premium Ready”.

On Dell’s page here is what they say “Windows Vista Capable” is good for… are you ready? Here it is:

“Great for… Booting the Operating System, without running applications or games.”

Great! So Dell is saying that if your computer is only labeled as “Windows Vista Capable” you had better not be wanting to do much more than boot the OS! Good luck to you if you actually want to run an application and use your computer! Of course they are listing the “Windows Vista Capable” hardware as only having 512MB of RAM and I know there are “Windows Vista Capable” machines out there with a GB of RAM. Still sort of funny though!


Virtual Server vs. SQL Server

February 16, 2007

It looks like I have run into my first real issue with VMware Server. After many successes I have finally come across a problem. We are ramping up for some testing for an ERP upgrade. To help allow us more complete testing I decided to role our current physical test ERP server into a VM. Day to Day operations in that test VM have been working fine. I have done some DB restores, people have been using the VM for normal testing and no issues to report.

Last night we tried our first upgrade of the software. It failed part way in saying it had lost connection to the database. We looked at the errors just a bit, but decided to roll back to our shapshot and then re-run it. No point wasting time on what could have been a fluke. The second upgrade also failed. There were several errors including ones saying we needed to run DBCC CHECKDB on the database. We did that and it returned clean, no errors. Running it again though resulted in a lost connection with the server error. More digging in the SQL logs also showed I/O timeout errors as well.

Doing some searching through the VMware forums show there are several others that have had this problem. So far, no one has a good solution to the issue. The best I have seen so far is to create a VM in GSX Server and then upgrade to VMware Server. I would rather avoid doing that, so I have not tried it yet.

In looking at the VM it appears it is using the buslogic driver (the OS is Windows Server 2003). That is not the ideal driver, so I will try switching that to the LSI driver tomorrow and also increase the amount of RAM available to the SQL VM to see if that can help us get by the problem. If not it looks like I will have to go back to a physical box for a bit to keep from holding testing up at this early stage.

Seems so odd that I am seeing this issue though. I did some serious testing in VMs with Exchange upgrades, restores, etc and had no issues at all. Some of the Exchange restores included 15GB restores, much larger than the DBs I am working with now. Hopefully I will get this figured out or VMware will come up with something – it doesn’t appear I am the only one facing this issue.


PayPal Security Keys

February 10, 2007

There has been talk of PayPal offering security keys for use with their site – as well as eBay’s website. The story recently surfaced on digg.com (it’s probably been on there 50 times before – it is digg.com after all). PayPal’s page on it is here. It is still in beta testing phase now, but if you give PayPal $5 then they will send you one of the key fobs. You then activate your account for use with the new key fob and your new login process will include entering your normal username and password, as well as the 6-digit number displayed on the key fob (which changes every 30 seconds). Two factor authentication.

This move is obviously due to the fact that eBay and PayPal customers are frequent targets of phishing attempts. By using a method as above those attacks become much, much more difficult to be successful. I applaud PayPal for making this move as a solution to the problem. There are several people that criticize PayPal for charging $5 for the key fob. I see no issue with that, it’s a token amount of money. These devices are not free and I am sure they realize if you charge just a little for something, only people who will really use it will ask for one. Why send a key to someone who has no real intention of using it. And if you give stuff away for free people will take it even if they have no intention of using it (my closet is full of T-shirts that I have and never wear only because they were given away for free from some convention).

The largest issue I see in the future with these measures are that one has the potential to end up with several of these key fobs from various banking sites and such if this becomes more of widespread practice. Just from sites I frequent I can think of three or four that I would like to see move towards this type of system. Despite that, I still think this is a good move by PayPal and am anxious to see how the system works for them.