Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Get a Free Windows Azure One Month Pass


Microsoft is offering a free one month trial of their Windows Azure platform for you to use with no credit card required.  This is a great way to experience Microsoft's Platform as a Service (PaaS) to see what it is and what it can potentially do for you.

PaaS delivers a computing platform (Windows) and a solution stack (your application) from the cloud for your business and/or customers.  Microsoft Azure offers both Windows and SQL as PaaS offerings.

The free offer website also has links to videos about the Azure cloud computing platforms, virtual labs, demos and more.

Friday, August 27, 2010

How to Create Certificates with a Longer Validity Period

So, you have your own Windows Certificate of Authority (CA) server and you want to create some new certificates that are valid longer than the default certificate templates.  You duplicate the User Certificate, and set the validity period to 5 years.  You issue a new user certificate using the new template and discover that the certificate expires two years from today.  What's up with that?

The validity period of any certificate generated by a Windows CA is the lesser of these three values:
  • The remaining lifetime of the root CA server 
  • The value specified in the certificate template
  • The value specified in the CA server registry (default is 2 years)
So even if you set the certificate template validity period to 10 years, certificates issued using this template will be valid for a maximum of two years with the CA's default settings.

Increasing the CA Lifetime
Most root CAs are typically valid for 5 years. To increase the lifetime of the root CA, create or edit a text file in %SYSTEMROOT% called CAPolicy.inf with the following text:
[Version]
Signature=”$Windows NT$”


[certsrv_server]
RenewalValidityPeriod=Years
RenewalValidityPeriodUnits=10
Adjust the values above as needed, save the file, and restart the CertSrv service. Then renew the CA Certificate using the same public and private key pair.

Warning: If you generate a new public and private key pair you will need to reissue all your old certificates, so don't do it unless that is your intent.

Setting the Maximum Validity Period in the Registry
The default certificate validity period configured in the CA's registry is 2 years. To view the current registry value, run the following commands from a CMD prompt on the CA:
certutil -getreg ca\ValidityPeriod
certutil -getreg ca\ValidityPeriodUnits
To configure the registry value to 5 years, run the following command from a CMD prompt on the CA:
certutil -setreg ca\ValidityPeriodUnits 5
Adjust the value above, as needed. Then restart the CertSvc service to affect the changes.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Fix for OWA always uses Light Mode for some users

This article explains the difference between OWA Light Mode and Premium Mode and why some users may only see the Light Mode client, even though they haven't selected it at logon.
Note: If you are seeing OWA light mode after applying Windows Updates, which includes Internet Explorer 11, this is a known bug. The fix is to have your network administrator install Update Rollup 3 for Exchange Server 2010 Service Pack 3 or Cumulative Update 3 for Exchange Server 2013.  Have your network administrator read KB2866064 or send them this article.
Exchange 2007 Outlook Web Access and Exchange 2010 Outlook Web App offer two different modes for viewing OWA - Premium Mode, with all the bells and whistles that Internet Explorer can muster, and Light Mode, which provides fewer features and is sometimes faster.  You would usually use the Light client if you are on a slow connection or using a computer with unusually strict browser security settings.

If you are using a browser other than Internet Explorer 6 or later for OWA 2007, you can only use the Light client.  OWA 2010 supports the full Outlook Web App experience (aka Premium Mode) on Internet Explorer 7 and some other browsers on Windows, Mac, and Linux computers.  To check out all the supported browsers and operating systems for OWA 2010, click here.

Here's a comparison between the Outlook Web Access 2007 Light and Premium clients:


And here's a comparison between the Outlook Web App 2010 Light and Premium clients:
Normally, users will default to use the Premium Mode client if they are using IE6 or better for OWA 2007 or IE7 or better for OWA 2010.  However, you may hear complaints from some users that they always get the Light Mode client, regardless of whether they selected to use it or not when they logged in.  This happens if the user selected to use "the blind and low vision experience" when logging into OWA for the first time.


To disable this mode and allow IE to use the Premium Mode, have the user login to OWA and open Options in the upper right corner.  Then select Accessibility and clear the checkbox for Use the blind and low vision experience, as shown below.


Now have the user sign out of OWA and sign back in.  They should be using OWA Premium Mode, provided they are using a supported browser.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

How to Turn Off the Outlook 2010 Social Connector

Outlook 2010 features a new Outlook Social Connector that integrates Outlook with several social networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and My Space.  The idea is to provide a pane at the bottom of each message that shows the recent social networking updates from the senders and recipients in each message.  Outlook 2010 will also pull photos or avatars of the senders and recipients from these social networks to provide a fuller, richer and more personal messaging experience.


For more information about the Outlook Social Connector, see Announcing the Outlook Social Connector on the Outlook product team's blog.

While this might be a good idea for home users or businesses that are more open to social networking, I find that most corporate networks block access to social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and My Space.  This renders the Outlook Social Connector useless and takes up valuable screen real estate, as shown below.


If you happen to click the "People Pane" (highlighted in red above) it expands to show more information from the configured social networking sites, taking up even more room.  Here's how to get rid of it.

On the Outlook 2010 main screen click the View tab, then People Pane, then select Off.  Viola!