Microsoft IT Environment Health Scanner

It's essentially a server for business.
It’s essen­tial­ly a serv­er for busi­ness.
Most peo­ple have a fear of tak­ing their vehi­cle to the mechan­ic for even the sim­plest tasks just to find out they need their trans­func­tion­er adjust­ed because of wear to the dri­ver’s side steer­ing wid­get.  For many in the SMB mar­ket, that same fear can be found in their tech­nol­o­gy invest­ments.  “Did that last IT guy wrap our SQL serv­er in duct tape and tie it to the web serv­er with shoe string?”  The real­i­ty is often not that bad, but it can be unset­tling not know­ing.

The first thing I want to check when prepar­ing any SMB (or large scale Enter­prise) for a project is the over­all health of their envi­ron­ment.  I typ­i­cal­ly use a few cus­tom scripts, the invalu­able tools from Joe­ware and Sys­in­ter­nals, plus a few oth­ers offered by var­i­ous ven­dors to col­lect the data for analy­sis.  The stan­dard ser­vices are checked, like DNS, DHCP, WINS (ugh), Exchange, AD, NTP, Group Pol­i­cy, CAs, etc. for over­all health and mis­con­fig­u­ra­tions.  Even with the rich ecosys­tem of tools, this process can be time con­sum­ing so I am always look­ing for ways to stream­line the process.

It seems a lot of oth­ers were look­ing for a quick method as well; at least one that can get a quick assess­ment of whether you are deal­ing with a dis­as­ter or lim­it­ed pieces to fix.  The Microsoft Essen­tial Busi­ness Serv­er runs a check on the envi­ron­ment to assess its health before instal­la­tion.  From this Microsoft Tech­net blog, “[the EBS team] noticed that Prepa­ra­tion Wiz­ard was wide­ly used, not just by cus­tomers who were deploy­ing EBS, but any­one with Active Direc­to­ry in their net­work who want­ed to ver­i­fy the health of their envi­ron­ment.” This gave birth to the Microsoft IT Envi­ron­ment Health Scan­ner in the sum­mer of 2009.

This free tool does the basic checks I’m going to do any­way but it gives that quick assess­ment that often tells me whether I need to dig fur­ther. Microsoft­’s down­load page states:

When run from a com­put­er with the prop­er net­work access, the tool takes a few min­utes to scan your IT envi­ron­ment, per­form more than 100 sep­a­rate checks, and col­lect and ana­lyze infor­ma­tion about the fol­low­ing:

  • Con­fig­u­ra­tion of sites and sub­nets in Active Direc­to­ry
  • Repli­ca­tion of Active Direc­to­ry, the file sys­tem, and SYSVOL shared fold­ers
  • Name res­o­lu­tion by the Domain Name Sys­tem (DNS)
  • Con­fig­u­ra­tion of the net­work adapters of all domain con­trollers, DNS servers, and e-mail servers run­ning Microsoft Exchange Serv­er
  • Health of the domain con­trollers
  • Con­fig­u­ra­tion of the Net­work Time Pro­to­col (NTP) for all domain con­trollers

Whether you have a small Microsoft IT envi­ron­ment or are Enter­prise large, this tool is great for catch­ing those things often over­looked dur­ing set­up or changes or mis­con­fig­ured. Down­load link: Microsoft IT Envi­ron­ment Health Scan­ner.

Aggregate and Translate: Moving to Google Reader

For years, I have been bounc­ing between RSSOwl, Fee­dRead­er and Feed­De­mon.  I have built the ulti­mate feed list for the tech­nolo­gies, blogs and news sources I care about.  The real beau­ty of RSS is it enables one to quick­ly get up to date on news and indus­try trends with­out wast­ing time.  New posts are there, you pick the ones that inter­est you, star or share the ones you care about and ignore the rest.  While many of my peers are wast­ing their time hit­ting all their favorite sites and going page by page, I have already read it and moved on to real work.

I decid­ed it was time to lis­ten to a good friend and move to Google Read­er.  I’ll nev­er look back.

The killer fea­ture that guar­an­teed my love for Google Read­er is their trans­la­tor.  The one feed I fol­low that has the most traf­fic and is most per­ti­nent to me and my job is the Microsoft Tech­net Blogs’ feed.  It includes all the tech­net blogs in one aggre­gate feed.  I have asked Microsoft over and over for a feed based on lan­guage or local­i­ty to help fil­ter out all the non-eng­lish feeds.  All I have been told is that it is com­ing…  Well, they can stop work­ing on this (assum­ing they actu­al­ly were).

Google Reader - Translate Feed
Google Read­er - Trans­late Feed

So, @niceguyscott sends me an e-mail of a screen­shot from Google Read­er.  A lit­tle option says, “Trans­late into my lan­guage.”  What?!?  Well, ever since I enabled that lit­tle option on the mul­ti­lin­gual tech­net feed, I for­got about the fact that about a third of the posts I read are not even native­ly in eng­lish.  I don’t need Microsoft to give an eng­lish only option any­more.  Instead of exclud­ing these feeds, I can now track news and trends in any tongue sup­port­ed by Google Trans­late. (Note: This isn’t a new fea­ture. It debuted back on Nov of ’08.)

RSS feed read­ers, whether desk­top, mobile or web, all offer their own set of spe­cial fea­tures.  Some are sex­i­er.  Some are min­i­mal­ist.  Some have the whole kitchen sink.  Google Read­er gives that func­tion­al­i­ty you need to quick­ly digest con­tent, share and save what is impor­tant to you and gives you a cou­ple killer fea­tures with­out get­ting in the way.  That has made it my new favorite.

I am excit­ed to explore what oth­er con­tent I am miss­ing due to the lan­guage bar­ri­er that tech­nol­o­gy con­tin­ues to tear down.