Wednesday, September 27, 2006

PowerShell RC2 Released

Finally, the RC2 release is here. I havn'nt tried it yet but plan to do so soon - very soon.

You'll find it for XP x86 here.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

How to plan for and deploy certificates in Live Communications Server 2005 Service Pack 1

One of my contacts at Microsoft, Shawn Mahan, who is an expert in PIC issues and many other LCS subjects is presenting a webcast on the use of certificates in LCS on Thursday, September 21, 2006 10:00 AM Pacific Time.

This Support WebCast discusses the purpose of certificates in Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2005 and describes how to appropriately deploy certificates for common scenarios. These scenarios include Remote Access, multiple pools, Director or Access Proxy arrays, Microsoft Office Communicator Web Access, and public instant-messaging (IM) connectivity (PIC).

The use of certificates is often confusing to newcomers to LCS and Shawn is IMHO a very skilled Escalation Engineer, so if you are interested in the subject go watch his presentation here.

Monday, September 18, 2006

LCS 2005 Supportability Guide

Microsoft has released a new Supportability guide for Live Communications Server 2005.

This document identifies supported configurations for Microsoft® Office Live Communications Server 2005, Live Communications Server 2005with Service Pack 1 (SP1), and Microsoft Office Communicator Web Access.

It includes all sorts of info, coexisting LCS with other applications, Certificates required, SQL versions support (Now including SQL 2005 SP1), topologies, clients supported and you name it. You can find it here.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Office 2007 Beta 2 Technical Refresh has been released

Besides some (hopefully) useful updates, it also now supports Vista RC1

The update should be located here according to the Office Preview site and the mail I recieved from the Beta team and indeed all the other Office products and the now separate download for "Save as PDF / XPS" can be found here, but if you want the Office 2007 System TR you need to look here. Notice the following warning before installing

IMPORTANT: Please read the update documentation, referenced in the "To install this download" section on this page, BEFORE applying this Beta 2 Technical Refresh update. The documents list several steps that you must complete prior to installation to ensure a successful update. This is NOT a single click update.

Friday, September 08, 2006

CSTA and Reverse number lookup in Office Communicator

If you haven't worked with CSTA / 3PCC (Third Party Call Control) in Office Communicator, then Paul Robichaux has a nice write-up on how Office Communicator translates incoming phonenumbers to contact information (Retrieved from the AD or WAB) and also includes some information on normalization of phone numbers (That usually is a big deal

It also includes a nice little tip on how to forcibly update the locally downloaded Address Book (If you are using this). See more at his post.

Using LCS 2005 with multiple domains

Over at the new UCG blog there's a post on how to support multiple domains in LCS.

It will tell you how to use autoconfiguration of Office Communicator (Using DNS not Group Policies) in a multi-domain environment and it shows you how to enable Enhanced Federation for your primary domain, while allowing for Direct Federation for "secondary" domains in your company using Subject Alternate Names in your certificates.

Read more at Configuring LCS 2005 w/ SP1 for Multiple Domains.

I'm currently investigating where/if we can buy commercial certificates for the Access Proxies that support Subject Alternate Names and whose Root CA's are part of the standard Windows Server 2003 list of Trusted Root CA's. I chatted with a customer representative at Verisign and the answer was a firm no, but after some discussion she told me that they would get back with further info. The last time I looked I couldn't find anyone, but I've been told that some Microsoft customers have been able to do so - I will be back with further info.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Adding entries to visionapp Remote Desktop with PowerShell

Now that you have visionapp Remote Desktop as I wrote about, how do you populate it easy with all the servers you want? Easy! The configuration is stored as XML as one long string in the registry value hkcu\software\visionapp\vRD\Configuration. And as the registry and xml is native to PowerShell the choice was easy.

So here is my PowerShell scripts adding a test folder and a test connection -

# The registry key

$regkey = get-item 'HKCU:\software\visionapp\vRD'

# read the configuration value
$config = $regkey | get-itemproperty -name configuration

# save it to a file in %temp% - just in case (you can also use backup from the app)
$savedConfig = join-path $env:temp vRd.saved
$config.configuration > $savedConfig

# convert string to xml - cool huh!
$config = [xml] $config.configuration

# show part of the xml file
# and drill down into the ConnectionsFolder

# Create a Folder xml element
$newfolder = $config.CreateElement("Folder")

# Set its name
$newfolder.SetAttribute("Name","Test folder")

# and add it as a child to the ConnectionsFolder

# show the added folder

# Add some attributes - note that you can do this before or after
# adding the xml element - $newfolder is a pointer to the live value
$newfolder.SetAttribute("Description","Testing dude!")
# Link folder to a credentials GUID (I checked this beforehand)

# Create a Connection xml element with some attributes
$newconnection = $config.CreateElement("Connection")

# Add it to the new folder

# dump folder as XML

# we have to do this several times, so a small function is easier
function addElement($xml,[string] $elementName, $elementText) {
return $e

# these values must be child elements - not attributes - to the connection element

# note the double-parenthesis - the inner is used to call the addElement function
# and return the value to the appendChild method
$newconnection.appendChild((addElement $config "SmartCard" "false"))
$newconnection.appendChild((addElement $config "ResolutionX" "1024"))
$newconnection.appendChild((addElement $config "ResolutionY" "768"))
$newconnection.appendChild((addElement $config "AutoSize" "true"))
$newconnection.appendChild((addElement $config "Description" "Test server"))
$newconnection.appendChild((addElement $config "Printer" "false"))
# Take credentials from parent folder
$newconnection.appendChild((addElement $config "InheritCredentials" "true"))
$newconnection.appendChild((addElement $config "Credentials" "00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000"))
$newconnection.appendChild((addElement $config "SeparateWindow" "false"))
$newconnection.appendChild((addElement $config "Console" "false"))
$newconnection.appendChild((addElement $config "Serial" "false"))
$newconnection.appendChild((addElement $config "LocalDrives" "false"))
$newconnection.appendChild((addElement $config "Audio" "false"))
$newconnection.appendChild((addElement $config "Port" "3389"))

# dump again

# update configuration in registry

$regkey | set-itemproperty -name configuration -value $config.get_innerxml()

# folder and connection added!

PowerShell rocks! - did I mention that earlier...

A much better Remote Desktops

Remote Desktops - note the ending s - is a tool for collecting multiple Remote Desktop sessions in one console. I have used it a lot, but it has many drawbacks -
  • You cannot see whether you already have connected to a server or not
  • You have to change cached credentials for every entry
  • It sometime crashes - especially after resume from hibernation (you learn the good old advice: When you have do so much work that you do not want to do it again, you save your data)
  • And perhaps most annoying - you cannot sort/move/reorganize the entries

I have tried to figure out, how to either reorganize the entries or generate a new console based on data held in Excel - but failed so far pursuing this path.

One of my customers pointed me to an alternative: visionapp Remote Desktop from the German company visionapp. I have used it for a while now - and all the drawbacks are gone.

Thank you very much visionapp!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

LCS and Windows Server 2003 R2 known issue

As you might know Live Communications Server 2005 SP1 is now supported on Windows Server 2003 R2 and SQL Server 2005 SP1. Besides SQL 2005 SP1 it is also a requirement that you install the hotfix documented in KB911996 (Note the quirky installation procedure and that uninstall equals reinstall of LCS!!).

This time I was scripting the complete installation of LCS using LcsCmd and LCServer.msi (It's way easier to document, than "screenshooting" the GUI installation) and I also had a clustered SQL 2005 installation as a Backend Server.

After the installation I wanted to launch the LCS MMC on the Enterprise Edition front-end server, but it only presented me a window with the orange "Live Communications Server 2005" logo on top and a text in the middle "Live Communications Server 2005" - but no navigation pane.

I suspected it was either the scripted installation or SQL 2005 SP1 that was causing the problem, so this was where my trobleshooting efforts went. Two hours and a keyboard later I tried to open the MMC snap-in and manully add the Live Communications Server snap-in and voila, the navigation pane was back ;-)

I later chatted with one of my few contacts at Microsoft that really know LCS (You know who you are - and I'll keep my promise ;-) and was told that this was a "known issue", which they are investigating (Which is fine with me - since that means that my clustered SQL installation and installation scripts work as expected).

Interested in Network Bandwidth Usage of Audio/Video in Office Communicator !?

Then you should look at the NetMeeting Resource kit as the technologies used by Office Communicator 2005 are thosed offered by NetMeeting (Mainly H.323 and T.120). Chapter 4 also looks at the Firewall configuration and ports used by OC.