Eliza finds a new job as Microsoft’s PartnerBot

I saw Matt McSpirit‘s posting about Microsoft’s new PartnerBot IM agent and contest, and gave it a whirl.  The result was a bit disappointing, and then went downhill:

(4:45:55 PM) me: How can I combine SQL instances on SBS 2003?
(4:45:56 PM) MS PartnerBot: Welcome back…
Do you want more on How to buy SQL Server or SQL Server Product information?
(4:46:00 PM) me: no
(4:46:00 PM) MS PartnerBot: I’m sorry I couldn’t help – please try again
(4:46:16 PM) me: I’ll just ask Google.com instead
(4:46:16 PM) MS PartnerBot: Component Object Model
(4:46:20 PM) me: What?
(4:46:21 PM) MS PartnerBot: Partner Bot is unable to answer your query, please try again.
(4:46:30 PM) me: Like I said, Google will help.
(4:46:31 PM) MS PartnerBot: I’ll try to help – please type your question
(4:46:40 PM) me: No thanks.
(4:46:40 PM) MS PartnerBot: You’re welcome, please come back soon.
(4:46:55 PM) me: (for nothing)
(4:46:56 PM) MS PartnerBot: I cannot help you yet, could you refine your search?
(4:47:03 PM) me: Who’s asking the questions here?
(4:47:03 PM) MS PartnerBot: I’m sorry I can’t find that name in my directory – please try the Outlook Address Book
(4:47:17 PM) me: Ok.
(4:47:18 PM) MS PartnerBot: Partner Bot can’t understand your question. Please rephrase it.
(4:47:32 PM) me: Who is the Heartland District’s partner representative?
(4:47:33 PM) MS PartnerBot: Our partners are our priority – we want to help you develop and grow your business. Please visit the programme membership page at http://partner.microsoft.com/uk/40014052.
(4:47:43 PM) me: Why don’t you show me that information here?
(4:47:43 PM) MS PartnerBot: In a competitive environment, having the right business intelligence can be the deciding factor in closing a deal. Gain a competitive edge with the information your customer needs to make a decision in your favour. Learn more at: https://partner.microsoft.com/UK/40018122
(4:47:58 PM) me: You’re Eliza, aren’t you?
(4:47:59 PM) MS PartnerBot: I am Partner Bot – code with attitude. Please type your question.
(4:48:04 PM) me: ha

“Code with attitude” — if only it was helpful too.

Common SBS gotcha?

I’ve fought with this before, and am getting it again on a fresh SBS R2 install in monitoring reports (and the Event Viewer/System log):

The application-specific permission settings do not grant Local Activation permission for the COM Server application with CLSID {E579AB5F-1CC4-44B4-BED9-DE0991FF0623} to the user NT AUTHORITY/NETWORK SERVICE SID (S-1-5-20). This security permission can be modified using the Component Services administrative tool.

It took a long time to track down/fix the first time.  It was faster this time, but I’m documenting it now for future reference.  I underlined the important bits above.

First connect the dots:

  1. Looked up that CLSID with regedit in HKCR\CLSDID\{E579AB5F-1CC4-44B4-BED9-DE0991FF0623}
  2. Looked up its AppID there: {56BE716B-2F76-4dfa-8702-67AE10044F0B}
  3. Open Component Services: Start > Run > dcomcnfg
  4. (Guess that it’s VSS related since SBS often has VSS errors, and) open My Computer > DCOM Config > Volume Shadow Copy Service > properties dialog.
  5. Confirm Volume Shadow Copy Service has that Application ID: {56BE716B-2F76-4dfa-8702-67AE10044F0B}

Then actually make the fix:

  1. Open Security tab > Launch and Activation Permissions > [Edit] button
  2. [Add] Network Service,  [OK]
  3. Allow Local Activation permissions to Network Service,  [OK], [OK]

My opinion: connecting the dots shouldn’t be so nearly much more involved than making the fix.

(Credit to this article for documenting the basic troubleshooting process.)

Hoopla Roundup for Internet Explorer 8

I won’t say it’s “finally” coming, because it might be one of Internet Explorer’s fastest major upgrades.  But IE8 is coming, and better yet, I think it is “finally” catching up with the competition.

The news is all over the place, and this time I won’t dig into the tech like I did with the IE7 beta.  I have installed the developer beta for a little testing, and it looks pretty similar to IE7.  Since the UI isn’t changing much, I think it’s a comparatively developer-heavy release (yum!). 

Here are some good official links:

And the interesting progress & commentary:

My own/other thoughts:

New Direction: A lot of the most interesting new stuff is neither UI/security improvements nor core web technology improvements, but Web 2.0-type stuff like Activities and WebSlices which seem to be targeting easier mashups and 3rd-party browser extensions.

Bad Chrome: A later IE7 release added back the Classic file menu.  Now they’ve added the crap links bar back in, sacrificing that much more viewport to the biggest waste of browser chrome.  Those plus the infobar warning I got right away doubles the 3 rows it should be, meaning if it goes live this way, my various inattentive relatives are gonna be scrolling way too much:


Developer’s Browser Ecosystem: IE7 usage is still roughly even with IE6, and seems to have leveled off.  It’s frustrating that IE6 is still hanging on so much.  Let’s get IE8 in and IE6 gone!

Cool, Vista security improved too


Microsoft just published an interesting Windows Vista One Year Vulnerability Report

I especially like this graph:
 Graph showing decrease of security vulnerabilities from Windows XP to Windows Vista

I mentioned a few days ago that Vista seems to have picked up at XP’s current level of stability.  From this it looks like it’s done the same with security. 

I think what’s remarkable is that they’ve accomplished this while increasing the amount of Windows code (because of new features).  Normally more code creates more ways for it to fail and to get hacked, but the Vista team has done the opposite.  That’s impressive.

For bonus points, read through the report’s comments (pretty fun on its own) and then read this response on the MS Software Development Lifecycle team blog.

Windows Vista & SP1

I’ve been using Vista Business for about a year.  I’ve had it on a secondary work machine since around May, and as my primary work machine since November. Overall, it’s quite nice.

But it’s definitely had its quirks, mostly with waking from standby or hibernation. I put a couple hotfixes on, and they definitely helped, but it still did have an occasional strangeness. That said, in almost a year’s time, I only remember needing to hard-reset it perhaps 3 times, and needing to reboot it maybe 5.

Now, I think that’s great, considering these machines belong to a tweaker like me (read: not a grandma or Mac-type user who doesn’t try new things).  I’d say it’s comparable reliability to a current stable XP system. This is an important comparison — XP has been maturing since 2001, but Vista started out at the same level of reliability.

As an aside, I’ve had several non-technical folks ask me “is Vista as bad as they say?” and I’ve only been able to respond “as who says?”  The only negative reviews I’ve seen were some journalists who must have put Vista on old hardware without current drivers.  But IT professionals I’ve talked to who’ve used Vista for a while seem to like it.

So anyway, I still didn’t want that occasional quirk, so I tracked down hot-off-the-presses Service Pack 1, and applied it last night.  It took about 45 minutes, and went flawlessly.  Hooray for that, and hopefully it sails even smoother now…


Wow, I’ve been out of it for a while…

I’ve failed to mention my new job at TQL as Web Team Supervisor (best described as “all things web”).  Well, 2yrs ago isn’t “new” anymore, though.  The job was both a break for me and also an experiment to try A) being not a consultant, B) working for a non-IT organization, and C) working with bigger stuff.  The break/experiments are over now — my questions are answered and I’m back to working on Slingshot Solutions full-time (never actually stopped, but it was only for a few clients). 

Enough background.  Going into this, I wanted to start a “consultant-vs-corporate drone” comparison .  Coming back out, I do again.  So here it is.  I’ll just sketch it here and fill it in as I think of it.  Consider this in progress:


Working For The Man: Regular and Separate.
But too many, and for no extra reward but sacrifice to my own quest for perfection.

Working For The Me: Free and Easy.
“Working for the man” can mean “I’m the man!”  But sometimes it’s too free.  I often found/find myself working at odd hours I shouldn’t.  And often my boss was a jerk — time off doesn’t pay the bills, so no vacation and no sick time.  Chalk this up to I’m just a nincompoop.

Sense of Ownership

The Man: Good-ish.
Unfortunately, a strong sense of ownership without enough discretion = lousy follow-through and perpetual frustration.  Not my bag baby.

The Me: Great.
The only limit is my own capacity.  Time tends to be the biggest limit for me (I often suspect this is more a bachelor’s game).


The Man: High.
An uptight organization’s expections often venture outside of performance.  Uptight sucks.

The Me: High.
Remember that bit about Ownership?  It’s not all healthy.  While it’s great to own your own business, it really sucks when it owns you.  (works of my own hands … otherwise known as idolatry, I’d say).
OTOH, I noticed I smile, sing and play music, and play with my kids a lot more lately (at least when I’m not swamped).


The Man: Great.
It’s wonderful to let HR, Accounting, DBAs and Network Admins just do their thing, so I don’t have to.

The Me: Sucks.
Yes, I use good subcontractors, but everything is still ultimately my problem.


The Man: Consistent.
There’s always someone else watching (or at least the sense that there is), which keeps me on my game.

The Me: Variable.
As a lone consultant, motivation is more easily affected by other influences like mood or weather (these snow days are killing me!)


The Man: Convoluted.
When politics/red tape get in the way,
it’s sometimes hard to tell if I’m fighting for project’s success or just
my own ego.

The Me: Clear.
Simple: My customers’ success is my success.