Certified Mail: May 2002

Blocking e-mail attachments, boot camp training, and MCSA early achievers.

About Blocking E-mail Attachments
My company’s IT security folks and I have a list of attachments we’d like to block, but have been denied because blocking them would be an inconvenience for our developers. We currently block only three attachment types and are looking for information that we can use to convince management that we need to block more.
—Kenneth W. Adams, MCP
Orlando, Florida
[email protected]

The basic rule is to block any attachment that can be an executable. If developers (or anyone else) need to e-mail executables, they can zip them. Zipped files won’t be rejected, and it takes little time for them to be unzipped. Also, check out the book by Roger Grimes, Malicious Mobile Code (O’Reilly), for some more suggestions and backup to your arguments Remember, security first—convenience takes a back seat.
—Roberta Bragg

Open Exchange!
I enjoyed Chris Brooke’s March article, “Automate Your Administration.” Has anybody come across a script that will allow Outlook to open the Exchange mailbox of the person currently logged on? I know it can be done. I’ve seen it at several large companies, but I can’t figure out how they do it.
—Peter S. Graham, MCSE, MCP+I, MCP
Kettering, Ohio
[email protected]

This can be accomplished in a variety of ways, depending upon your particular circumstances. At issue are two things: login account and Outlook profile. If you’re running Windows NT 4.0/2000/XP on the computer in question, each user profile (login account) stores different Outlook settings (Outlook profile). Simply starting Outlook (Set objOL=CreateObject (“Outlook.Application”)) auto-magically opens that user’s mailbox. Case closed.

With Win9x/Me, the appropriate Outlook profile must be selected (if multiple profiles have been configured) when starting Outlook, as each user doesn’t have the equivalent of a “separate virtual computer” as is true with NT. Because the Outlook type library simply invokes the Outlook application, this is immutable. However, Microsoft provides a solution (not really meant for this situation, but it works): Collaboration Data Objects (CDO). CDO allows for dynamic creation of new user profiles. The steps involved are beyond the scope of this reply, but worth looking into if Win9x or Me operation is a requirement.
—Chris Brooke

How To Know You’re Ready for Boot Camp
Tough Training” is a great article on attending a boot camp in last November’s issue. I’m still a little nervous about Windows 2000. I feel I have a good working knowledge of NT 4.0, as I’ve worked with it for four years now. I also took several Win2K courses more than a year ago, more for knowledge than certification. I’ve had Win2K Pro on my desktop and now XP. I’m a systems engineer, but have never had to “implement” anything. I know my company will pay for a Win2K boot camp, but I’m afraid of failure. How do I know if this is right for me?
—David Syke
Minneapolis, Minnesota
[email protected]

Given your NT background, I’d say you’d be a good candidate for a boot camp. If you have the opportunity, I’d definitely get as much time on a real Win2K (with Active Directory installed) network as possible, even if it’s a couple of old servers and a desktop hooked up in your basement. Our June 2001 issue has a guide to taking the 70-240 (Accelerated) exam. Even though that test is no longer offered, the article contains great information that will help you prepare for your boot camp, as there are a multitude of concrete tasks listed for each section—server, directory services and so on. If you work through those tasks, you’ll be well prepared for a boot camp.
—Keith Ward

Classroom Prep Time-Saver
I work with Tech Data Education, a Microsoft CTEC, and teach most of our Microsoft higher-end courses. I’m writing regarding Microsoft Official Curriculum material, specifically automated classroom setup procedures.

Overall, Microsoft courseware gets better with every new OS “generation.” In addition to teaching the Microsoft courses as an MCT, I’m also in charge of developing automated classroom setup procedures for 12 centers nationwide. I’ve used Win2K automated setup procedures and appreciate that they’re automated, but I’d like to make a suggestion.

Use Sysprep (on Win2K and XP) and the third-party product Ghost Enterprise to create an image of a student machine. The instructor machine can also be built from a sysprep image. Ghost Multicast Server can then be used to “multicast” the student images to the student machines. Answer files (sysprep.inf, *.bat files with statements like netsh) can be used to customize each student machine. I’m currently using this process, and it cuts a standard classroom setup timeframe from about four hours to less than one hour.
—Wayne Pruski, MCT, MCSE, MCSA, MCP
Santa Ana, California
[email protected]

Scripting Tip
One thing Michael Feuda didn’t include in his “Brief Guide to Scripting Tools” in the March issue is the Microsoft Script Editor that comes with Office (different from the Windows version). It’s the Web Scripting option in the Office setup. Just create a shortcut to C:\Program Files\Microsoft Visual Studio\ Common\IDE\IDE98\MSE.EXE and you basically have Primalscript minus FTP and Source Control—and you keep your $149. One of the coolest features is the split-screen view, handy on large scripts to reference one part of the document and edit another without scrolling. It also has the best searchable jscript and VBscript source help file I’ve seen on any editing program.
—J.P. Davey, MCSE, MCP+I
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
[email protected]

MCSE—and Employed
I really enjoyed Steve Crandall’s January 2002 “Professionally Speaking” column, and I agree with him 100 percent. I obtained my MCSE in April 1998. I was employed full-time to support my family while learning the Microsoft stuff, had no time for my kids and spent $7,000 (which I’m still paying), all to become an MCSE.

After six months of being certified, I found my present job. I’m in charge of eight servers and 300 PCs in 17 locations in Northern California. I used to have my certificates hanging on the wall next to my desk. It was pretty impressive, but at work nobody really cared. As long as I keep everyone happy, my employers don’t really care about my certification. They know I know my field, and they don’t worry. So far I’ve gotten four salary increases and bonuses every year.

I was very nervous about getting Win2K-certified, but decided not to spend the money and time. I know NT and Win2K inside out and know that, if I need to, I can get re-certified. Now, I’ll keep waiting—maybe for .NET certification.
—Alex Roldan Leben, MCSE+I
Yuba City, California
[email protected]


The April review of Advanced Systems Concepts' ActiveBatch job scheduling utility included misleading pricing.

ActiveBatch costs $595 for the first server and $495 for each additional server. This makes the pricing competitive with the other utilities covered in the comparison. The article quoted a 10-server price that included technical support and version upgrade costs, which are optional.

The Real Early MCSA Achievers
We’ve gotten very excited by the concept of charter membership of the MCSA credential. I and another staff member studied several weeks to make sure we were ready to attack the exam. We both passed and, with the other exams we’d already taken, we now both have the MCSA.

I realize that Microsoft is honoring the first 5,000 achievers, but I would be interested in more specific information. One of my staff members finished the exam at 9:30 a.m. Jan. 22, so we would have to be some of the first achievers in the world (with Australia being ahead of the U.S. in time zones), and almost certainly some of the first in Australia. I tried it a little bit later and didn’t finish my exam until about 12:30 p.m., but I’d still expect to be fairly high on the list.
—Mathew Dickerson, MCSE, MCT, MCSA, MCP, MSS, MOUS
Dubbo, Australia
[email protected]

No One is Immune from Layoffs

I’m part of the group of professionals suffering from the mass layoff of 2001. I have a B.S. in Computer Science, with the following certifications: MCSE, Solaris System Administrator and Sun Network Administrator. I’ve been in the computer industry for almost 10 years.

Two weeks after Sept. 11, I was laid off from a company where I was working as a DBA and application developer. I have extensive experience with SQL Server 7.0 and SQL Server 2000. Since then, I’ve had many job interviews.

Nowadays, companies don’t care about certifications. You always hear, “But do you have five years experience in…?” They require having experience in so many different fields that even for me, with a bachelor’s in computer science, database experience, certifications and experience in Unix and Windows, it’s almost impossible to get a job.
—Cecilia Soto, MCSE
Detroit, Michigan
[email protected]

Having a Certification Does Help
I would like to respond to Mark Townsend’s letter in the March issue, about how he gave up because he couldn’t land a job after getting certified.

I was an avionics technician for nearly 20 years before my employer for the previous 10 finished its contract and laid me off. I determined I wouldn’t get myself into another situation where my livelihood was dependent upon government and/or corporate contracts.

At the time, the government was providing training assistance for laid off aircraft workers. A friend discovered that it would pay 100 percent of the cost for an NT 4.0 MCSE training class. I’ve always loved computers and technology in general, and this sounded like it could be my ticket to self-sufficiency, so I jumped on the wagon and attained my certification in October 1999.

In April 2000 I was finally laid off and began a serious search for a new career, one for which I had no resume, no referrals and no experience. I got several offers from local networking and PC repair shops, at $8 to $14 per hour to start, but I couldn’t have paid my bills on that.

In May 2000 I applied to a company that provides Oracle-based medical records software to hospitals and clinics nationwide. They were looking for a new support engineer to assist their customers. By chance, one of the supervisors was an aviation buff and after reading my resume, wanted to meet me. It was the break of a lifetime, and in late June I was offered, and accepted, the job.

On my first day the support manager took me on a tour of the facility. As we walked and talked he told me they’d interviewed several very good candidates for the position I’d filled, but I was the only one with an MCSE and that had been the difference.

So, Mr. Townsend, you are wrong on two counts. First, a certification without vast experience can get you in the door. And second, getting a paper certification never has, and never will, get you a lucrative career in the IT (or any) industry. As with all things, hard work and desire determine how much success you’ll achieve.
—Daniel Hodgson, MCSE
Hillsboro, Oregon
[email protected]

Laid Off, But Not Giving Up
I’m sure that my story is just one of thousands that are about the same. I work for a manufacturing company that makes enclosure boxes for the telecom and airline companies. I’m part of a two-person staff supporting eight NT servers and 100 NT workstations. Due to the nature of what the telecom companies are buying—or not buying—at the current time, cutbacks are imminent. I worked here for about 18 months after completing a year’s worth of schooling on NT 4.0. February 15 was my last day.

Right now, I’m telling myself this is a good thing, because I needed to get out of this crumbling company before it got sold or closed. This is also the perfect opportunity to continue my education. New Jersey will pay for up to $4,000 for me to take an MCSA class, and I’m definitely looking forward to it. In essence, what I’m saying is that by getting laid off, I get to advance myself and find something even better in the process. I know that it may not be the easiest time right now, but I’ll make it through and better than before. I’ll just continue to comb the local papers and Internet ads and keep applying for jobs until one comes up.
—Bob Limite, MCP
Parsippany, New Jersey
[email protected]

More Anger at Certification Decisions
Many of my colleagues are NT 4.0 MCSEs and will never pursue another Microsoft certification. The IT industry is extremely upset at Microsoft’s arrogance in its certification program. First, retiring the NT 4.0 MCSEs, then retracting it until further notice; then no retakes of the Accelerated Exam 70-240, on which you received no score and not even the chance to retake a section on which you were the weakest. I just finished taking seven Windows exams in two and a half months, including three design exams. Yes, it was tough, and the rewards for being an MCSE in the workforce aren’t that great. If you’re looking for a job outside your current company, it comes in handy; if you’re planning on retiring with your current company, the MCSE basically does you no good.
—Larry Leach, MCSE, MCP
Renton, Washington
[email protected]

Product Review “Inaccurate”
While Rick Butler made some fine points and was on balance favorable and fair in his March online review of Northern’s Quota Server Admin+, he issues several critiques without providing your readers with an objective basis for comparison. For instance, he complains that Quota Server requires 7MB of memory to run, when anyone simply needs to view their Task Manager to see that this isn’t an untypical requirement for a variety of standard applications. In another example, he suggests that Quota Server can become pricey as organizations purchase additional server licenses. He’s apparently unaware that Northern’s pricing is in line with its two nearest competitors (it can be argued—and Northern does make this case—that Quota Server delivers more value given its comparatively richer feature set and the free utilities it comes bundled with).

Butler picks at an assortment of other nits that, to be frank, even a casual reading of the manual would have either resolved or clarified—not to mention some old-fashioned common sense, as when he indicates he had trouble working on a Windows 2000 standalone server. Quota Server is explicitly an enterprise solution that doesn’t support a non-networked computer.

When a review has some flaws in basic methodology and doesn’t give an accurate, real-world representation of what the software claims to do, what it actually does and how well it does it (either implicitly or explicitly in context with competitive product offerings), I simply must respond.
—Charles Epstein
BackBone Inc., Marketing representative for Northern
[email protected]

I believe the review was more than fair and objective. Since this product professed to be a storage resource management (SRM) tool, I judged it in that regard. The table I published as part of the review included some pretty acceptable attributes for SRMs. Quota Server only provides half of those features. There are other products that address the entire list.

Quota Server’s manual mentions the product being only for domain environments. I don’t believe my comments expressed negativity about that. But some environments out there are workgroups. Also, I still consider the price elevated for what it does, not so much on what it claims to be.

All in all, this is a good product for what it is, an enterprise-level quota manager. It isn’t ready to be called an SRM yet, in my opinion.
—Rick Butler

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