Exchange Autodiscovery

I really like Windows IT Pro and find most of the articles very informative and on track, which is why I was surprised to read John Savill’s answer to the question, "How can I quickly verify that my Exchange autodiscovery is working?" (InstantDoc ID 139558). The answer he provided, I think, not only doesn’t accurately answer the question but also neglects to mention probably the best way to check full autodiscovery functionality on all devices. When it is set up this way, additional SSL certificates aren’t necessary and it will work with multiple domain names.

For me, the correct (and Microsoft-recommended) answer is documented in the Microsoft article “A new feature is available that enables Outlook 2007 to use DNS Service Location (SRV) records to locate the Exchange Autodiscover service” (support.microsoft.com/kb/940881). This method doesn’t require an additional SSL certificate. After completing the instructions in the article, you should go to the Microsoft Remote Connectivity Analyzer (www.testexchangeconnectivity.com) to test, verify, and help troubleshoot any Autodiscover problems.

—Matt McHugh

Thanks for writing! The FAQ you reference is for checking only whether the autodiscovery component is responding and functioning rather than checking full connectivity. For checking full connectivity, see my followup FAQ, “How can I check on the health and accessibility of my organization’s ActiveSync service?” (InstantDoc ID 141374).

—John Savill

Old-School Backups vs VSS

In the first paragraph of his FAQ “What command can verify that the Hyper-V Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) writer is registered?" (InstantDoc ID 139638), Greg Shields describes old-school backup procedures. He writes, "Any changes that occur during the backup are then incorporated at the job's completion." VSS backups don’t operate this way. When VSS signals quiescence, every block that changes is written elsewhere, leaving the old block intact. The old blocks are used by the backup procedure; the new blocks are used for the normal operation of the database. When the backup finishes, it doesn’t incorporate any of the changes that occurred during its operation. This is desirable. With VSS, we obtain point-in-time backups—the point-in-time being the beginning of the backup procedure.

—Dimitrios Kalemis

Phone-ification of Windows 8

I realize the purpose of Windows IT Pro is, well, Windows—but "The Wonderful Phone-ification of Windows 8" (InstantDoc ID 140642) is too much. Paul's gushing love of Windows Phone is fine. He is, after all, paid to have an opinion, and at least he admits to being in a tiny minority that loves the phone enough to not only buy one but also write a book on the subject. But remember that Windows Phone isn’t a 1.0 product. Microsoft has been in the phone business for years. Long before Apple got into the business, before Android was even conceived, Microsoft was putting Windows on phones that few people bought. That history of missing the mark says something. And let's not even start about tablet computing—a miserable failure until Apple showed people how to do it.

The new interface is interesting, to be sure. It seems actual users were consulted this time. But to a casual observer, it's not that different from the competition. It is nice that “you just go to the Photo hub” to look for pictures; a data-centric view rather than programmatic view is something we should have had long ago. But it might be instructive to explore why the world is ignoring Windows Phone. Could it be the reportedly buggy OS? The lack of (at this point at least) multi-tasking? Poor performance? Or is it the lack of continuity? Each Windows smartphone incarnation has been heralded as “brand new,” or “redesigned from the ground up.” A few rounds of that makes a consumer wonder what was so bad with the previous version that the company was forced to throw it out and start over—to say nothing of replacing applications after buying the new version. And where are those applications? Those take time to develop, and with a history of OS replacement, it will be hard to get developers to commit to the new platform.

I suspect, however, that the biggest problem with sales is the “Me too!” syndrome. The new interface for Windows 8 looks a lot like what Apple has done with OS X Lion—a good move, but Apple released its OS two months ago while Windows 8 is a year or more out. Likewise, the blurred line between mobile and desktop computing, and the apps store—you get the point. It's not that Microsoft is heading in the wrong direction. It's just that it appears to be following the crowd. If Microsoft can catch up, it might gain some market share. But to actually lead in the mobile market, it has to completely change its business model for rapid development. It will need to develop useful new ideas that can be implemented now—ideas that consumers actually want. And it will need to pick a direction and stick to it. Otherwise, people will ignore the new hotness for something that works.

—Randy Grein

 Cloud, Cloud, Cloud … and PowerShell

I completely agree with the comments made by Stoney Heflin on the November Windows IT Pro Community Forum page (InstantDoc ID 140714). Cloud, cloud, cloud—every time I read about this great vision of the cloud, I wonder how many IT managers are ready to stake their careers on that vision. I, for one, am not. I realize that you have two different audiences to please: those who are pushing the cloud (the sellers) and those who have to decide to use it (the buyers). But please try to present the stories as unbiased as possible. Until cloud computing is as trustworthy as all the sellers want you to believe, every article dealing with the cloud should come with serious disclaimers as to its reliability.

Does anyone remember Novell NetWare? I do. I installed the first NetWare 3 file server at our company. In fact, we’re still running a NetWare 3 server! It just runs, and runs, and runs. We restart it every few months. My only complaint with NetWare was the plethora of commands required to configure and manage it. Then along came Windows. Wow, what a change! Instead of a thousand commands to remember, everything is handled with a point-and-click GUI. Out with NetWare, in with Windows. Little did I realize that the time would come when Microsoft’s engineers would forget how to make a GUI. Or, perhaps its servers are too complex to manage with point-and-click. Now we have to use PowerShell to manage Windows. That’s bad enough, but even worse is the fact that Microsoft markets PowerShell as the greatest innovation since sliced bread. I realize that complaining about PowerShell will be as effective as spitting in the ocean. I can only guess that Microsoft hopes that, some day, Windows will be as good as NetWare. Because—thanks to PowerShell—it’s getting just as difficult to manage.

—Alf Flowers

I completely agree with the comments from reader Stoney Heflin. I have no plans to move anything to the cloud in the next five years and would appreciate more articles focused on servers, applications, and administrative procedures.

—Robert Matthews