Office 2003 Deployment with Local Installation Source

The Local Installation Source (LIS) seems to be the way Office is headed. It’s still using the Custom Install Wizard and Transforms to install, so its not a major change in that area, only in where the files come from. Patching is also a bit of a change, since you have to start using the client patches and OHOTFIX.EXE on the client, not patching the install source like you do with an admin share. MSI takes care of keeping the correct version of files if/when you need to do a repair , using its database of hotfixes/file versions.

There is also a tool coming in the near future to manage the LIS without calling the full setup.exe, which seems like a good idea.

I’m still thinking LIS is probably not the best method for our well connected lab environment, but I’ll probably just have to try it to find out for sure. The setup looks pretty easy.

Birds of a Feather and something else

So, I went to the BoF thing last night on small IT shops and how we keep current. Nobody had any really earth shattering suggestions, other than if you are in any way eligible for any of the Microsoft Partner programs, definitly sign up.
One of the other people in the session happened to mention that he was ‘just down the road’ from U of I and sometimes got interns from there. That peaked my interest and I had to stop him on the way out and talk to him. Turns out he had sent me a meeting invite via Rio just a few minutes before the session. Randomness strikes again. He works for KruppGerlach in Danville, but the similarities don’t end there. We went out for a couple beers at the Top of the Hyatt bar afterwards. He was in the Air Force and stationed at Langley about the the same time I lived there, he knows a couple people that I know at DACC, he’s been a driver in the Sweetcorn Festival Demo Derby (in a V-8 Monza in the Bumblebee class), etc.

So, we flew more than halfway across the country to run into each other.

Exchange 2003 Anti-Spam

It looks like Exchange finally got the features that SpamAssassin, Amavis/amavisd-new and Postfix have had for some time: connection blocking by IP, RBL support, spam ‘scoring’, multi-level actions on spam, reject messages for invaild recipients, etc. The recommended email infrastructure even looks like what most people running Exchange have now with a bridgehead doing tagging/blocking. The main thing is you could now switch to having Exchange out there, if you so choose.

There’s a fairly interesting Birds of a Feather session at 7pm on small IT shops, might head on down there.

Harbor Tour

So, I bolted on 2 sessions and took a harbor tour. It was pretty cool, lots of US Navy vessels and planes. The narration was informative, and the boat was no where near full. I’d definitly reccommend Hornblower Tours to anyone at TechEd. They are up Harbor Drive just past the USS Nimitz USS Midway, too bad the Midway isn’t open yet it is going to be a pretty nifty museum. Now on to learning about spam control with Exchange 2003 and the Intelligent Message Filter.

Update:Thanks to Rob Caron for pointing out that I got the ship names confused. I shouldn’t trust my memory for anything anymore.

Planning your Office 2003 Deployment

It’s on the plate (along with about a billion other things, just like everyone else in this business), figure I might as well get some guidance.
And I was not disappointed in the least, lots of nifty features type things, but no real demos, that comes tommorrow. Local Installation Source (LIS) is now the reccommended way of installing, unless you have a good reason not to, which I think our computer labs have. The Profile Wizard is supposed to be able to make outlook profiles now, though I wonder how well that works when you have something installing the applications in another user context in the background. Patch managment (as usual) was also mentioned, with the contrast in LIS vs Admin install point being the major focus. OHOTFIX.EXE from the client install patches is the favored way to install, if you are using LIS, otherwise its the same old story of patch the admin share and reinstall on the client. Another nifty thing is chaining of installs directly in setup.ini, sounds useful for the lab installs where we have lots of duplicate machines that need exactly the same thing, but not so useful for admin machines where we need Frontpage here, Word there, Project here, etc.

Now for lunch and a session on either SQL 2005 Deployment or Group Policy Best Practices. It’s pretty much a coin toss at this point.

I’m also looking around at the chances for a Harbor Tour with Hornblower Tours, might skip out on the last session today and try to get there. Theres also the chance that both sessions will suck and I’ll head up there earlier than that.

SQL Server 2005: DTS

Lets start with the best quote: “We’re not even sure it’s still going to be called DTS.” That pretty much represents how much things have changed. There’s a new development environment (as yet unnamed) with different panes for work flow and data flow (how novel). There is now flow control (for, foreach, etc loops), security on packages is role based and built in error flow on most transforms: if it succeeds, it goes out the green arrow, if failed the red one. There’s an advanced session tommorrow, but I think I’m going to another session at that time. Next up: snacks and Planning your Office 2003 Deployment.

Deploying Office 2003 and XP, Audit Collection Services

Nothing remarkable in this session, mostly just the same as last year: use WinPE, script everything to make it reliable and repeatable, use the tools available. Something I hadn’t seen before was the BDD , a toolkit for accelerated desktop deployment. Looks nifty, but probably needs some work when deploying Windows 2000 and Office 2000.

After that, Windows Audit Collection Services. This is a not yet released product for collecting security event logs from servers and workstations into a central SQL database. Looks pretty cool, has some amazing volume capabilties (>20,000 events collected/second, assuming the database can handle inserts that fast), uses encryption and compression for streaming events over the wire, allows filtering with WMI Query Language, uses single instance store in the database for repeated items via normalization, etc. Now, the downside: release date is ‘to be determined’, license is ‘to be determined’. So, will the average operation need to pay for it? I would certainly hope not. It comes with MSDE as the store by default, so that *might* be a good sign.

Visual Studio 2005 Team System

The new project management features in Visual Studio 2005 Team System is going to be interesting. Work item tracking, source control, policies on checkins, etc. The session was aimed more at the project manager than the end user, but it still showed off some features that we’ll definitly be able to use. It even comes with a feature to build an intranet/portal site for the project (on top of SharePoint, of course). All the project management tools (Project, Excel, etc) can pull data directly from the database, allowing for real time checking of project status. This also lets the manager manage issues instead of spending time having meetings to find out where team members are. The developer interface is part of the IDE, not some seperate form/interface. More on the source control on Thursday.

Morning keynote

The morning keynote announced some nifty things mostly related to making IT work in general less burdensome. Some really cute scenes were played out between fictional an ‘IT Professional’ and an ‘Information worker’, showing the things we all know: IT is overworked, never has enough time and the employees are constantly stacking projects on top of an already endless list of things to do. Nifty things: client inspection and isolation, intregrate everything from the ground up, build it all on a foundation of .Net, etc. Some new tools were announced/demoed: Best Practices Analyzer tools for SQL Server (and others are coming), SMS will get more tightly integrated patch management, lots of nifty features in the soon to be released ISA Server 2004. And, last but certainly least, every attendee gets a free copy of SMS 2003, Windows Services for Unix and Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) 2005. The speaker mentioned this was nearly $10 million dollars in software licenses….

The session after that was Windows Update Services (WUS), the new name for Software Update Services (SUS) 2.0. Lots of neat features, all web managed: date based deadlines, scan for needed updates and quite an array of reporting capabilty. And the speaker pointed out that SMS is still needed in large environments, but WUS should handle smaller shops well. Still no support for NT4, but does anyone really expect that?

After lunch: Visual Studio 2005 Software Project Management. Hopefully, work item tracking and source control will both get demoed.