I’m a-Live!

by Shijaz Abdulla on 30.12.2008 at 16:14

The hosting company that hosts my website over at www.shijaz.com was upgrading their servers, and they wanted me to make some DNS changes so that I can point to the new servers.

I considered this a good opportunity to make use of Windows Live, the free hosting services from Microsoft. It rocks!

To make use of this service, you need to register a internet domain name, and then create an account at domains.live.com. This basically involves making some DNS changes. If you want to login to Hotmail (now Windows Live Mail) and send out & receive email using you@yourdomain.com email address, you just need to making your MX record point to Hotmail. You get a free 500 GB mailbox! The tasks mentioned in the website are easy to follow.

You can also "brand" Hotmail so that it looks like your own stuff. Here’s what I did with mine:

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I also installed the Outlook Connector on my PC, which lets me access my email using Outlook, and synchronize my email, calendar and contacts – just like Outlook Anywhere/RPC over HTTP!

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If you create an optional SRV record on your domain, you can even login to Windows Live Messenger using you@yourdomain.com as the sign-in name.

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Struck by lightning… twice!

by Shijaz Abdulla on 24.12.2008 at 16:16

Talk about computer systems gone completely crazy.

I recently brought one of my relatives here on a visit visa. Getting the visa issued, by itself is a fairly complex job involving a lot of legwork. As per the local law, I am supposed to deposit an amount of money as a security deposit, which will be refunded once my guest leaves the country.

My relative left, and so I went to the immigration department again – this time to get my money back. The dept. is a compound with a number of buildings. At the entrance, there was a person seated — no matter what you asked him, he would listen and then say "Rooh Daakhil" (go inside), which wasn’t very helpful. Sad 

Luckily, I was briefed by my friend about the complex process to accomplish the simple task of getting my money back. I was supposed to go to "the typing center" inside the compound where I had to get an "application" (apparently requesting the release of my money) to be "typed" (and paid for). The typed document needs to be presented with another amount of cash to another counter with the original receipt for my cash deposit, where they will provide me with a letter to the bank. (BTW the cost of "typing" the "application" and getting the "letter" to get the money back itself will cost 16-17% of the actual amount they owe me.)

Anyways, I went ahead to the typing center and found my place in a large queue. There was a row of desks with typists seated. After waiting for a long time we realised that the "typists" where just staring at the screens and weren’t quite "typing". After an hour and a half, we realised that "the system" is down.

After more than 2 hours of useless waiting I gave up and left. It cost me half a working day. I decided to check with a private ‘typing center’ outside. They informed me that "the system" has been "down" for 2 days.

A day later, I finally got the "application" typed outside. Off I went to the immigration department (again taking a half day off from work).

I presented the typed up application to the counter, where they issued me a letter for the bank instructing them to refund the money. The guy at the counter asked me to make a photocopy of the letter he just gave me (apparently, the 16% that they charge for giving me my refundable money doesn’t include charges for making a single page photocopy). I made a copy (at another queue) and after presenting this copy back at the same counter, the gentleman placed a seal on the original and told me to go to the bank. A lot of legwork indeed!

I found myself in a long queue at the bank inside immigration dept. The bank made sure that there is no token system and not more than two windows to service the large crowd. After an hour of standing in a queue that didn’t seem to be moving, I heard someone shouting –

"System down!".

This was the second time that "the system" let me down. Only that this time, it was the bank’s system! Ahh.. struck by lightning – twice!

It seemed ironical that IT Pros like us, who are committed to keeping systems alive in our own turf and write/talk volumes about infrastructure optimization, fall victims to such repeated mishaps elsewhere and feel pathetic when we realize how mismanaged information systems can mess up our own lives!

PS: After an hour, the system was back online, and I got my cash.


My adventures with Blackberry

by Shijaz Abdulla on 21.12.2008 at 21:51

blackberry-logo I like to visualize the BlackBerry server as a ‘black box’ – only because it is often difficult to figure out where the problem is. Perhaps my ignorance is to blame, or it’s just my love for the simplicity/transparency surrounding the inner workings of ActiveSync.

The other day, for instance, I was trying to activate a Blackberry Bold device. The activation kept timing out for no reason. Most of the time when this happens, one of the following usually solves the problem.

  • "Wipe" the device
  • Delete and re-create the user on the Blackberry server
  • Do a failover (we have NeverFail for Blackberry)
  • Do a full restart of the server.

But this time it was rather strange. All the above actions were in vain. So I decided to ‘troubleshoot by elimination’.

  • Check if same SIM card works on another blackberry enabled device. (yes)
  • Check if another user can be activated on same blackberry device with same SIM (yes)

I then deduced that there is nothing wrong with the Black Box .. er.. BlackBerry server, the device or the SIM card. "It must be something on the mailbox", I thought. But what exactly?

A quick call to our service provider, and a long wait for someone to get back to me revealed to me what I was missing — the user’s junk mail filter!

Blackberry activation involves sending an email to the user’s inbox, which would contain some kind of a hash. The user’s junk mail filter mistakenly thought that the emails from blackberry were spam and sent it to the user’s Junk Mail folder in Outlook, before the blackberry server could pick it up (from the Inbox folder) and activate the device!


DPM 2007 Service Pack 1

by Shijaz Abdulla on 21.12.2008 at 21:27

Service Pack 1 for System Center Data Protection Manager 2007 is now available for download.

Some of the improvements that have been included with this release:

  • Protection for Hyper-V virtualized environments (subject to Hyper-V hotfix)
  • Enhanced protection for SQL Server 2008 (supports mirroring, and simultaneous backup of multiple databases within same instance)
  • Protection of indexes in SharePoint Server 2007/WSS 3.0
  • Support for Exchange Server 2007 SCR (Standby Continuous Replication)
  • Local data source protection
  • Cross-forest protection for customers with multiple Active Directory forests
  • Support for protecting Windows XP and Windows Vista clients
  • Ability to work with third party vaulting

More information and download links are available here.

PS: I’m back!


Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi

by Shijaz Abdulla on 04.12.2008 at 12:36

I know this is beginning to look like a travel blog – but with the 13 days of holiday that I got for National Day and Eid Al Adha – I’ve got nothing else to do but go places! In the absence of having anything technically blogworthy to write while I relax at home during these days, I decided to share a different kind of experience online.

So, without further ado, here’s Sh. Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan mosque, which is Abu Dhabi’s grand mosque and an important tourist attraction:

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The Lobby

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Chandelier in the Main Prayer Hall.

Persian Carpet in Main Prayer Hall 

I’ve heard that these Persian Carpets in the main prayer hall are seamless – i.e. made of just one piece – no joints!

Persian Carpet in Main Prayer Hall

One of the doors... 

Open air courtyard

The Courtyard


“Morro”: Free-of-cost client security offering from Microsoft

by Shijaz Abdulla on 04.12.2008 at 07:54

Microsoft Windows Live OneCare will soon be replaced by a free-of-cost client security offering code-named "Morro". "Morro" will be standalone anti-malware protection for Windows XP, Vista and the upcoming Windows 7 OS.

Being a standalone security offering, this will be best-suited for home users and small businesses. Enterprise customers will still have the ForeFront Client Security Product for protecting their clients.

I believe providing "Morro" free-of-cost to home users is an intelligent investment, as the inputs from thousands of "Morro" users worldwide will help Microsoft gather more threat data for analysis and to respond to threats faster by reducing the time required to develop and release definition updates – for the enterprise customers that run ForeFront Client Security. Of course, "Morro" users will also receive these definition updates.

Microsoft will discontinue the Windows Live OneCare product in the second half of 2009 when "Morro" becomes available.

[ Source ]


The Cars Museum, Abu Dhabi

by Shijaz Abdulla on 03.12.2008 at 21:40

We went to the Cars Museum in Abu Dhabi today. This museum is also known as the ‘Emirates National Auto Museum’, and sometimes as Rainbow Sheikh’s car museum. The museum contains cars from the private collection of His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Hamdan Al Nahyan.

I’ll let the pictures do the talking Winking

We've got the whole world - in our hands...

Not sure what it is.. looks like the world on wheels.

A bigfoot mercedes!

Monster Dodge!

There are 4 bedrooms, a kitchen and a bathroom inside this monster Dodge!

The First Car

The First Car (1880s)

Mercedes Collection

11-bedroom moving villa!

This is a 11-bedroom villa on wheels!

Camels at the car museum 

Not cars exactly – but other means of transport.


Server service not starting: “Access Denied”

by Shijaz Abdulla on 25.11.2008 at 09:15

Recently, I noticed that many of the computers running Windows Server 2003 SP2 had the Server service in the stopped state. When I tried to manually start the service I got an Access Denied error. A restart of the server didn’t help.

The Server service is critical because file sharing depends on it. If the service is stopped, shared folders and administrative shares on the server cannot be accessed. This is especially critical on file servers, and on domain controllers for replication/access to SYSVOL folder for group policies.

The problem got resolved when I installed all the latest updates from Microsoft Update and restarted the machine. This is a security vulnerability listed in the security bulletin MS08-067 released by Microsoft this Sunday.


CAS running an ‘older version’ of Exchange?

by Shijaz Abdulla on 22.11.2008 at 21:18

Outlook Web Access is not currently available for the user mailbox that you are trying to access. If the problem continues, contact technical support for your organization and tell them the following: The Microsoft Exchange Client Access server that is proxying the Outlook Web Access requests is running an older version of Microsoft Exchange than the Client Access server in the mailbox Active Directory site.


If you have set up Exchange Server 2007 Client Access Servers in a CAS-CAS Proxy scenario, where the CAS server in the main site is exposed to the internet and the CAS servers in other remote locations depend on the internet-exposed CAS to proxy requests to them, users in the remote site may get the above error when they try to access their mailboxes via Outlook Web Access.

The cause is very simple. The Client Access Server in the remote site may have the latest Update Rollup for Exchange 2007 installed on it, while Client Access Server in the main site is still having an older Update Rollup.

I noticed this problem when the Client Access Server in the main site is running with Update Rollup 3, while the remote site has already got Update Rollup 4 installed.  A quick install of the latest Update Rollup on all servers solved the problem.


Hey, I’M A PC!

by Shijaz Abdulla on 20.11.2008 at 07:48

Can you spot someone familiar in here?

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I’ve made it on the Windows I’M A PC website, and there’s a picture of me with that sadistic grin on my face. Vampire Bat

PS: I’ve managed to get my own authentic "I’M A PC" T-shirt.


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