Quick and illustrative communication with your Tablet PC

I don’t come across many Tablet PC users in the field as most users of this platform tend to be vertical markets like FedEx, UPS or doctors, but when I do meet one you can usually tell they are very enthusiastic about the device.  I have been using a HP TR-3000 ruggedized TabletPC for over a year now and it has been very useful particularly in meetings for taking notes.  I originally based my decision to purchase a ruggedized device on the fact that I am often in the field at customer sites.  On my particular device I sacrificed screen real estate for toughness.  To be honest, if I had to make the same decision now knowing what I know after living with my device I would now choose the larger screen.  My TR-3000 does 800×600 and I sure would like to have 1024×768 a lot of times to save scrolling.  On the other hand my device survived a serious car accident.

Most people don’t consider Tablet PC’s when they look for a portable computing device and tend to default their purchase decision to notebook or laptop computers.  You would be surprised how often people get that “gee whiz” look in their eyes when I let them try my TabletPC.  It was like that for me too.  As soon as you start using a TabletPC it doesn’t take long for you to say to yourself “why didn’t I get one of these sooner?”

At any rate, this article is targeting a smaller audience.  But even though the content is mostly about the Tablet PC there is a very good tip for using MSN Messenger version 7.5 (the current version as of this writing) to send messages to your employees or co-workers cell phones via text messages (SMS) even if they are not registered MSN Messenger users.  Check it out, I think you will find this information useful.

If you are in the market for a new notebook or laptop computer you owe it to yourself to look into the Tablet PC, you may be very surprised about what it can do for you.  Find a local dealer where you can get some hands on time with one and see if you don’t have a gee whiz experience too.

Click here to go to the MS article.

Installing SharePoint Portal Server 2003 on a Server with Windows SharePoint Services

Abstract: Learn how to install Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003 on a server that already has Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services 2.0 installed, and incorporate existing SharePoint sites into the new configuration.


Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003 builds on the technology of Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services 2.0. Users who have installed Windows SharePoint Services will often want to take full advantage of that technology by installing SharePoint Portal Server 2003. SharePoint Portal Server 2003 includes Windows SharePoint Services 2.0. However, to preserve information from your existing deployment, you must perform several additional steps when installing SharePoint Portal Server 2003 on a server that already has Windows SharePoint Services installed.

Click here to download the full MS article in Microsoft Word DOC format.

Dell PERC RAID Multiple Drive Failure


This article is to help you get your Dell PowerEdge servers equipped with the PERC RAID controller back online if you experience a multiple drive failure.  A multiple drive failure will be indicated by flashing amber lights on more than one physical hard drive in your RAID array.

Background:  Some Dell servers equipped with PERC RAID controllers can experience multiple drive failures.  These RAID arrays can usually tolerate a single drive failure without any impact on the servers availability in your network environment.  However, if more than one drive fails the server will not be available on the network.  In this case you will usually see amber flashing status LEDs on the failed hard drives.

In most cases multiple hard drives do not fail at the same time so it is very likely that one of the drives is still good but may have gone offline when another drive failed.  In some cases this can be due to timing issues between the PERC RAID controller and the drives firmware.  As of this writing Dell has released a firmware update to bring hard drives in many PowerEdge systems up to level JT00.  If you have drives in your server with a lower revision level firmware you should consider this a urgent update.

Getting Back Online
These step require that you enter the PERC RAID controllers BIOS and making some changes.  We recommend that you leave this to experienced server administrators as you can cause permanent drive damage, or data loss.  As usual you should be backing up your server as by the time you have to perform these steps it is too late to do so.

Restart The Server
Power down the server, or perform a soft restart if possible.

Enter The PERC RAID Controller Setup
You will see the <CTL-M> message on screen.  This key combination will get you into the PERC controllers setup mode.

Force Drive Online
Choose a failed drive to force online.  This is a coin toss as you cannot be sure which drive (if not both) is actually failed.  Select objects and then physical drives from the menus.

IMPORTANT: Make a note of which physical drives are marked bad before making any changes.  Drives will be numbered starting with 0 so your first drive is not 1.  Example: If you have a 5 drive array they will be numbered 0-4.
Select one of the failed drives and select force online.
ESC out of all menus and quit the RAID controller setup by selecting yes.  Soft reboot the server with CTL-ALT-DEL.

Allow the server to boot completely.  If you see the operating systems startup logo you are probably ok.  If you see a message indicating corrupt data which does not allow the server to start you will have to go back into the RAID controller’s BIOS setup and force the drive you just forced online into a forced offline state.  Next you will have to repeat the above procedure forcing the other failed drive online and soft restarting your server.

Normally by following this procedure you will be able to get your server back online with only one drive indicating a failure mode.  You will be able to replace the failed drive with a drive of equal or higher capacity, but not lower capacity.  Dell, or your server manufacturer can ship you the replacement drive via overnight delivery.  you do not want to operate your server in a failed drive state for a prolonged period as it will not tolerate a second drive failure.

There have also been cases where the problem was not solved following these steps due to a defective backplane or controller card.  Usually replacing these components resolved the issue without data loss, however if the rebuild process is not completed successfully you can experience file corruption.  In these instances you will have to perform a complete system restore, or worse a complete re-installation of your server.

When you purchase a new server from any manufacturer you should be opting for the 3 year minimum full warranty.  Dell for example has been able to deliver us with replacement components the same day because the client had purchased the full warranty when the server was ordered.  In fact, on one occasion we had the parts delivered in two hours because Dell works with UPS logistics and they have caches of replacement parts.  In this instance the customer happened to be in close proximity to the UPS resource location.

We see most servers as having a three year life expectancy due to the technology advancement and the fact that many small and mid-sized businesses are not operating their servers in clean climate controlled environments.  Additionally most companies seem to be able to amortize their server investments sooner than 10 years ago.  If you intend to amortize your server assets over five years or more you should definitely opt for the maximum warranty during your purchase phase.

I hope this article helped you get your server back online and getting the angry users off your back!  If you have any questions about this article contact me.

How to configure connection filtering to use Realtime Block Lists (RBLs)

How to configure connection filtering to use Realtime Block Lists (RBLs) and how to configure recipient filtering in Exchange 2003

You can use the connection filtering and recipient filtering features in Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 to help reduce unwanted mass e-mail or unsolicited commercial e-mail (UCE) in your organization.

Connection filtering is used to configure Exchange Server to contact a Realtime Block List (RBL) provider to determine whether the computer that an e-mail message is sent from appears in a list of "blacklisted" computers. You can also configure exceptions to these connection filters.

Additionally, you can configure recipient filters to prevent e-mail from being delivered to certain members of your organization or to recipients who are not members of your organization.

This article describes how to configure these filters and how to assign them to a particular SMTP virtual server. Additionally, this article contains a sample mail-flow process to describe where each filter is applied during the mail flow conversation.

To read the full MS KB article click here.

SMTP tar pit feature for Microsoft Windows Server 2003

This article explains tar pitting your Windows 2003 Server.

Important This article contains information about how to modify the registry.

Click here for the full MS KB article (opens a new window).

What is SMTP tar pitting?

Tar pitting is the practice of deliberately inserting a delay into certain SMTP communications that are associated with spam or with other unwanted traffic. To be effective, these kinds of communications typically rely on generating a high volume of traffic. By slowing an SMTP conversation, you can dramatically reduce the rate at which automated spam can be sent or at which a dictionary attack can be conducted. Legitimate traffic may also be slowed by tar pitting.