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February 18th, 2010

Three Easy Pieces

A new issue in the post means that there are a batch of recent hands-on and tutorial pieces at IT Expert.

Backing up Exchange
Like any other database, Exchange needs a little TLC if you want to recover from any downtime.

There’s more to backing up Exchange than just running a server backup. For one thing, like any other database, Exchange’s databases can’t be safely copied without temporarily dismounting the Exchange Store. Installing Exchange on a Windows Server doesn’t add Exchange support to its built-in backup tools, and Exchange 2007 doesn’t have its own backup tool either – unless you’re using Exchange 2007 SP2’s new Volume Shadow Services plug-in (which backs up the entire store but doesn’t give you the granularity of specialised tools).

Finding the right Exchange backup tool can be hard. There are many different tools out there, with many different feature sets. However certain features are essential, and should be at the top of your shopping list. The first, and most important, is a tool that can back up and restore the entire Exchange mail store – including primary and secondary storage groups. Coming a close second is the ability to work with individual mailboxes, allowing selective recovery if an end user manages to completely wipe their mailbox. Then there are archive tools, which can archive individual messages, while still leaving them indexed and accessible, reducing the demand on disk space without causing compliance problems. If you’re considering Exchange backup and recovery as part of a disaster recovery plan, a continuous replication system can help keep primary and recovery mail servers in sync.
Read more.

Working with BES 5.0
A new BES brings a very different way of working with BlackBerrys, with a new Web-based administration console that makes life simpler and more complicated at the same time.
The latest version of Research in Motion’s BlackBerry Enterprise Server is a very different beast. You might think you’re installing the same old BES when you upgrade your customers’ systems, but once it’s up and running you’re going to find a lot of changes – and a lot of really useful features that will make managing your clients’ BlackBerrys a lot easier.

End users won’t see many changes at first, unless they’re using devices that have the new BlackBerry OS 5.0 (which will be new BlackBerry models and upgrades to existing handsets from the start of 2010). Once devices upgrade to OS 5.0, they’ll get significant improvements to the BlackBerry messaging tools, making them behave much more like Outlook. Where BES 5.0 excels over previous versions is the new Web console ‘administer anywhere’ capability, along with improved policies and enhanced management tools.
Read more.

Configuring and Using the 3CX Skype Gateway
Save money by connecting an IP PABX to Skype for low cost international calls from IP desk phones, not just PCs.

Skype is turning into an effective business tool, giving your clients cheap international calls, and free access to 800 numbers all over the world. But not everyone likes making calls from a PC. If you can bring Skype into a VoIP network with IP handsets, it can become just another way to make calls, only at much lower rates.

If you’re using the 3CX VoIP system, this is simple. You can treat Skype as just another gateway for VoIP calls, alongside the supported hardware and software gateways. 3CX has another advantage; unlike many other VoIP systems, it’s both simple and free. It runs on Windows Server and the management tools use the built-in IIS Web server (and run as an ASP.NET Web application). Installation is easy and the free version provides many of the telephony features that a small business will need. If your clients need more, you can add functionality with the pay-for options, which also include support. If you find 3CX popular among your clients, there’s a reseller programme.
Read more.

Don't you just love the little BlackBerry guy they used to illustrate my piece on BES?


Social Mail and 360 Video

The ZDnet First Takes blog is one of the site's group blogs, where Mary and I regularly post quick reviews of devices and applications we've found on our travels...

Here are a couple of recent posts.

Outlook Social Connector beta 2 and the LinkedIn connector
Outlook gets LinkedIn.

Microsoft today rolled out the latest version of the Outlook Social Connector, its Xobni-like tools for exploring the social network in your mailbox. Built around Outlook’s own search tools, the Social Connector adds a new pane to Outlook’s reading view, filling it with links to mails you’ve exchanged with your correspondents, meetings you’ve had and will have had, as well as feeds from external social networks.

This is the second beta of OSC, the first shipping with the Office 2010 beta. The new release adds support for Outlook 2003 and 2007, as well as changing some of the connector’s APIs. Microsoft has been working with social network partners since the release of the first OSC beta, and this release adds functions and features that simplify connecting with external social networks. It’s a quick and easy install, and once you’ve downloaded and installed OSC you can install the first third-party plug-in, from business social network LinkedIn.

Configuring the LinkedIn OSC plugIn
Read more.

Sony Bloggie PM5
Sony’s PM5 Bloggie HD video camera was unveiled at CES 2010 in Las Vegas. They’re Sony’s answer to Cisco’s popular Flip, and they could have been just another pocket video camera. Instead the Bloggie is innovative and interesting, and together with Sony’s desktop software suite, it’s doing something very different with video.

At first glance the Bloggie looks very like a Flip. Designed to fit in a pocket, it’s small and compact, with a lens that rotates 270 degrees. Point the camera lens one way, and it’s a standard video camera, recording 720P HD video and taking 5MP still images. Rotate it the other, and you can film yourself while still seeing what’s being captured. That’s why Sony calls it the Bloggie, suggesting that video bloggers can use it to record themselves before using the built-in software to upload videos to the Internet.

The real innovation comes if you’ve bought the optional 360 degree lens adapter. All you need to do is swivel the camera so it’s vertical, and connect the adapter to the lens. The result is a recording of everything that happens around the camera – in a distorted fisheye view. You can see what’s going on, but it’s hard to parse the images. That’s where Sony’s software comes in. It unpacks the 360 degree view, turning it into a long, thin, undistorted panoramic video.
Read more.


One beach, with elephants

The elephant seal rookery at Piedras Blancas is busy in January.

It's the only time of the year that you'll see bulls, cows and pups on the beach together. The two tonne bulls have fought their dominance battles, and the cows have given birth to last years pups. While the young suckle, the males start to round up their harems. Overhead the turkey vultures gather, slope-soaring the dunes looking for in the inevitable fatalities, as pups get under flipper the barraging males.

We usually stop there on our way from CES to the Bay Area, and wander down to the viewing areas. It's noisy, and not a little smelly, but it's also one of the few places you can get up close to such immense creatures.

Mother and child

The pups are just a couple of weeks old with big wide eyes and high-pitched yips. The cows bark incessantly, trying to find their young in the hustle and bustle of the crowded beach.

What are you looking at?

The bulls are still aggressive, chest shields scarred and pink from their recent battles. They roar out challenges as they round up their harems.

Waiting it out

Sometimes it's best to just lie there and soak in the January sun...

Feeding time

...or just grab a quick meal.

Under the vulture

After all, the waiting turkey vultures are always there...

Piedras Blancas, California
January 2010

The Voight-Kampff CAPTCHA at work.

I wonder if it immediately disqualifies people using Android phones? Especially those with the Nexus One...

Via theweaselking