It’s Still Not Done

What to do about the ongoing to-do list.

Your faithful pundit was sorting through a few boxes from the attic the other night as an idle way to avoid working on this very column. At the very bottom of one box, under some old high-school yearbooks from the class of—well, never mind—there’s this very nice brown and red hand-knit sweater—or rather, three-quarters of a sweater. What with one thing and another, over the years, Auntie never did finish that particular Home Ec project—which is where Exchange Server 2003 comes into the picture.

That old sweater is fabulously warm, but with the needles still stuck in one arm and a ball of yarn trailing behind, it’s not quite perfect. And Exchange 2003 is a fabulous e-mail server, but it still has the odd bit of trailing yarn to trip over (and even a few needles to poke you).

So, what sort of things am I talking about? Here are half a dozen modest things that the Exchange 2005 team might add to its to-do list if it’s so inclined:

1. When I open the Exchange System Manager, it’s all squished up into a tiny corner of my high-resolution screen. I resize it and drag the splitter around so I can see everything that I want to work with. The next time I open System’s up in the corner again. What is it, shy? Would it be so hard to write half a dozen values to the Registry to persist the size and position of the window?

2. Auntie owns eight or 10 domains, all of which feed into the Exchange server (it’s like eating potato chips, you know). Of course, mail comes in to postmaster@ and abuse@ and webmaster@ and various-random-addresses@ all those different domains. So why can’t I set up a catch-all mailbox for everything that’s not delivered elsewhere? (And yes, I know about KB article 324021. I want to fill in a text box, not spend my time writing the part of the product that you left out.)

3. What’s with all these hooks, anyhow? I don’t want anti-spam hooks and anti-virus hooks. I want spam blocking and virus protection. After paying a boatload of money for Exchange, I don’t really want to shell out two other boatloads to finish the job. Sure, the companies that you call your partners would howl, and the antitrust lawyers would start sharpening their quill pens again. But who do you want to satisfy—your customers or a bunch of lawyers?

4. Yes, the new Outlook Web Access is very pretty. It’s also very fat. Now, I know no one in Redmond ever uses a slow dial-up connection from a hotel in East Nowhere, but those of us on the conference circuit must endure that fate from time to time. Where’s the low-bandwidth, eye-candy-free version of OWA?

5. Great, so services are turned off by default in the interest of security. I’m all for security, motherhood and apple pie. Now, if I click the Start button for the POP3 service in Exchange System Manager, that means I want to start the service. Get it? It doesn’t mean that I want to wait 60 seconds while the service fails to start, be directed to the event log, discover that there is nothing there, remember to open the services MMC console, enable the POP3 service and then start it from there.

6. There’s a bug in there somewhere that causes servers to take 20 minutes to reboot if you try to reboot with Exchange 2003 running. I’ve seen it with my own two eyes, and anyone who cruises Google Groups can find other reports. Please find this and fix it. Thank you very much.

Exchange suffers from the same problem as many a Microsoft program: It’s always easier (or more fun for the developers) to put in hot new features than to tidy up loose ends. A pity, because the loose ends stand out more than the features.

I could go on, but the wonderful Fabio just called me for dinner. We’re having lobster soufflé tonight, set off by a pretentious little Italian wine. I guess I’ll finish that sweater some other time.

About the Author

Em C. Pea, MCP, is a technology consultant, writer and now budding nanotechnologist who you can expect to turn up somewhere writing about technology once again.

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Reader Comments:

Fri, Feb 11, 2005 Anonymous Anonymous

i want spam

Thu, Dec 4, 2003 Stuart NZ

There is now an article on the shutdown problem - KB829361. There is still no fix, just the workaround of shutting down exchange first. I have had to write a batch file that shuts down the services first before shutting down the computer.

Sun, Nov 23, 2003 RiTch Netherlands

The slow shutdown made me sweat during installation for days... Indeed it is because of shutting down LSASS.EXE before the Exchange Services. But the shutdown sequence cannot be manually changed! This should not be the most difficult problem to fix I think... Ofcourse security patches are always top priority, but waiting for 20 minutes to shut the server down every time Windows makes me shut down after installation of a new program (or patch) does not make me a happy customer...

Thu, Nov 13, 2003 Tom New York, NY

When is MSFT going to fix things instead of releasing new headache?

Thu, Nov 13, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

1. When I open the Exchange System Manager, .....

A quick work around is to hold shift right right system manager shortcut and select author mode, adjust to your liking save..that's it :-)

Thu, Nov 13, 2003 Henrik Walther Copenhagen, Denmark

If Exchange 2003 is installed on a DC, it may take a long time for the server to shutdown. This is because the AD service (LSASS.EXE) shuts down
before the Exchange services, and DSAccess will go through several timeouts before shutting down. The workaround for this issue is to manually stop the Exchange services (specifically the Store) before initiating a system
shutdown or restart.

Heard MS are working on a MSKB, which will describe this issue.

Note: The long shutdown time only occurs on a Exchange 2003 server, which are also DC.

Wed, Nov 12, 2003 Colin Robinson

Well, you could also use the OMA client which is for mobile devices and built into Ex2k3. This client functions very well over dialup, and even using web enabled devices.

Wed, Nov 12, 2003 Shaj Chennai -India

very good article - i am waiting for these updates....

Wed, Nov 12, 2003 Kirk Lashbrook Anonymous

There are two versions of OWA in Exchange2003. Fat & Thin.
Take your pick !

Wed, Nov 12, 2003 SRobidas Edm - Canada

Just an FYI for those reading: I 'lighter' version of OWA can be enabled under the Exchange Virtual Server by going to its properties and enabling form based authentication. Next time a user logs on, they can select a 'basic' logon version. This isn't enabled by default - so I thought I'd mention it. Hope this helps - cheers.

Wed, Nov 12, 2003 regular reader FL

I seem to remember a 15-20 minute reboot time with Exchange way back in NT 4 days! Is this a resurrected bug, or just one that is about ready to collect Social Securit?

Wed, Nov 5, 2003 CCEA Switzerland

Yes, this is so true! I sometimes wonder if these guys actually have any experience administering their bubblegum applications. It would seem apparent that they don't.

Mon, Oct 27, 2003 mrobinson52 Florida

Excellent read as always! I appreciate your admoniton that Microsoft needs to realize that there is still a significant portion of the world that is not using broadband!

Mon, Oct 27, 2003 Anonymous Anonymous

Good read

Mon, Oct 27, 2003 Anonymous York, PA

Excellent article.

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