Windows Client UPDATE, June 19, 2003

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Windows & .NET Magazine


1. Commentary: Scripting Administrative Tasks 2. News & Views - Microsoft Puts the Hurt on Spammers

3. Announcement - Guide to Securing Your Web Site For Business

4. Resources - Tip: Prevent Users from Installing Third-Party Toolbars in IE - Featured Thread: Passing Usernames and Passwords to Shutdown.exe

5. Events - Security 2003 Road Show

6. New and Improved - Install Blades as Desktops - Submit Top Product Ideas 7. Contact Us - See this section for a list of ways to contact us.

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==== 1. Commentary: Scripting Administrative Tasks ====
by David Chernicoff, [email protected]

Every so often, I offer a trick or routine for using batch files that makes a user's or administrator's life easier. I'm always astounded by the reader reaction to these articles: Usually, reader email pours in, asking for more details about how to use batch files and where to find more information about batch files. Having started in computers before the introduction of MS-DOS, and having worked through MD-DOS's permutations, I find throwing batch files together to be second nature.

Windows server administrators often spend a fair amount of time creating logon scripts for users. Windows Script Host (WSH) has been available for several years, and many administrators have learned how to write scripts in VBScript. Despite the obvious advantages of scripting and of using command-line tools in scripts, Windows hasn't given administrators the ability to completely script administrative tasks because many utilities require interaction with the GUI. This deficiency is one of the biggest knocks that Windows servers have taken from critics, particular the critics with UNIX backgrounds. In UNIX, all necessary tools can be scripted, and scripting administrative tasks is part of the UNIX systems administrator's daily routine.

Microsoft finally took heed of this administrative necessity with the release of Windows XP Professional on the client side and Windows Server 2003 on the server side. In these OSs, you can run all the administrative command-line tools from a script. You can call these administrative tools from the command line, from batch files running within the command interpreter, from logon scripts, and from WSH scripts. More than 175 command-line tools are available in the latest versions of Windows, and more than 30 of these tools are new to these OSs. You can find a wealth of information about the tools, including simple tutorials about how to use them in scripts, by launching the Help and Support Center (HSC) and searching for "Command Line Tools" within the HSC search parameters.

Although using the new command-line tools to automate administrative tasks can greatly simplify a systems administrator's life, one major problem exists: All the computers on which you want to run administrative scripts need to be running Windows 2003 or XP. Few administrators have computing environments that are so simple, and spending time automating your administrative tasks for a small percentage of the computers you need to support is hard to justify from both a time and a cost perspective.

Fortunately for systems administrators, third-party software vendors offer a variety of scripting solutions, ranging from enhanced batch languages to complete UNIX-style command shells. Such solutions can give administrators the ability to quickly, securely, and easily build scripts that automate complex or repetitive administrative tasks that would otherwise require direct interaction with every computer for which they're responsible. The scripting enhancements in Windows 2003 and XP don't make these third-party tools obsolete; if anything, the fact that Microsoft has acknowledged the need for improved command-line capabilities validates the intentions of third-party developers. Plus, Windows 2003's and XP's scripting enhancements are brand new, whereas many of the third-party tools have years of development behind them, some reaching back to the days when UNIX was the primary network OS. These vendors have had the opportunity not only to optimize their tools for the Windows environment but also to apply the lessons learned from years of use in other enterprise OSs. Thus, these vendors can provide the Windows systems administrator with well-designed and well-tested tools that can deliver real benefits. In addition, these tools let you create scripts that run across multiple versions of the Windows OSs, and that in many cases don't require specific OS capabilities.

If you haven't looked at the new Windows 2003 and XP command-line tools, sit down and at least examine the information provided within the OS about these tools. If you already understand the value of these tools, it's well past time you began looking at third-party enhancements.

More About High-Resolution Monitors

Regarding last week's column, dozens of readers have written to me asking about the results of my search for a high-resolution monitor. Have no fear: I'll report the finalists I've identified and the choice I make (and the reasons behind it) in a future edition of this column. Given these monitors' prices, I'm not rushing my decision.

==== 2. News & Views ====
by Paul Thurrott, [email protected]

Microsoft Puts the Hurt on Spammers

On Tuesday, Microsoft announced that it has launched 15 lawsuits against spammers in the United States and the United Kingdom. The lawsuits allege that the spammers have flooded Microsoft's email servers with more than 2 billion spam email messages that employed deceptive and misleading subject lines. The company said that some of the email messages contained pornographic images, dating service solicitations, and other related adult services, whereas others were used to harvest email addresses of Microsoft customers.

"Our customers have told us they're fed up with spam," said Tim Cranton, a senior attorney at Microsoft. "Over the past year, the volume of spam has escalated to critical levels and has reached the point where it's threatening the viability of email. Today, an estimated 40 percent of all Internet email is spam, and that number is expected to reach 50 percent by the end of the year. Microsoft and other ISPs have recognized that this is an industry-wide issue that needs to be addressed, and have committed substantial resources to the problem. Enforcement is one of those critical pieces, along with developing new filtering technologies, implementing strong legislation across jurisdictions, and creating industry best practices for sending legitimate commercial email."

Microsoft filed its US suits under Washington state's strong antispam law, which lets ISPs protect consumers by aggressively pursuing spammers. In the United Kingdom, Microsoft is pursuing spammers under the UK Misuse of Computers Act of 1990. In both cases, the company is targeting the most egregious spammers, with Microsoft specifically calling out an example in which a spam message ironically purported to be a software update designed to protect the recipient's system. In other cases, spammers are spoofing Microsoft's Hotmail service to make it appear that the spam is coming from Hotmail.

From a technological standpoint, Microsoft is adding pervasive antispam features to its various messaging products, including Exchange Server, Outlook 2003, and MSN 8. The company recently launched an update to MSN 8, and Exchange Server 2003 and Outlook 2003 will ship later this summer.

==== 3. Announcement ====

Guide to Securing Your Web Site For Business

Download VeriSign's new white paper, "Guide to Securing Your Web Site For Business," and discover the practical business benefits of securing your Web site. You'll also learn more about the innovative processes and technologies VeriSign uses to address Internet security problems. Download your free copy now!

==== 4. Resources ====

Tip: Prevent Users from Installing Third-Party Toolbars in IE
(contributed by David Chernicoff, [email protected])

A reader recently asked me how to stop users from installing third-party toolbars in Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE). These toolbars are from Web sites such as Yahoo! and Google and provide some tools for the user in exchange for screen space and a constant reminder about the Web site providing the toolbar.

The simplest way to prevent a user from installing these toolbars is to take the following steps:
1. Boot the computer.
2. Open the Control Panel Internet Options applet.
3. Click the Advanced tab.
4. In the Browsing section, clear the "Enable third-party browser extensions (requires restart)" check box.
5. Click OK.

Featured Thread: Passing Usernames and Passwords to Shutdown.exe

Forum member bstulack needs to reboot approximately 70 Windows NT 4.0 workstations once a month. He planned to use shutdown.exe from the "Microsoft Windows 2000 Server Resource Kit" for this task but discovered that he can't pass a different username and password to shutdown.exe to reboot the machines from his NT 4.0 workstation. Because the 70 NT machines are in a validated environment, he can't add his account to the Admin group, which would make the shutdown.exe process work. However, he has the local administrator passwords for the 70 machines. He'd like to know whether he can make the shutdown.exe process work without having to visit all 70 machines. If you can help, join the discussion at the following URL:

==== 5. Events ====
(brought to you by Windows & .NET Magazine) Security 2003 Road Show

Join Mark Minasi and Paul Thurrott as they deliver sound security advice at our popular Security 2003 Road Show event.

==== 6. New and Improved ====
by Sue Cooper, [email protected]

Install Blades as Desktops

Cubix introduced Data Center Desktops (DCD), desktop blade hardware that combines blade PCs and digital extension technology. A small connection box (housing the user's PCI video card) connects the blade PC's keyboard, mouse, and monitor on the user's desk to the CPU and hard disk in the secure, protected data center. With standard Category 5 cabling, users can sit as far away as 300 feet from their PC's processing components; with fiber, users can sit more than 2400 feet from the back-racked blade. A two-PCI slot connection box supports sound cards, biometric scanners, and magnetic-card or barcode readers. The PC's fans, enclosures, and power supplies are part of the blade enclosure, which simplifies and reduces the cost of hardware upgrades.

DCD can be an option wherever data security is important, when single users need multiple PCs, when noise and heat are a problem, or when PCs are subject to abuse, theft, or unauthorized changes. DCD lets you centralize storage and use drive-image software to deploy software changes. CubixVision management software lets you employ a Web browser to remotely support users with shadowing, monitor the status and health of blades, and set alarms and alerts. DCD blades range from 1.2GHz processors to 3.0GHz Xeon dual processors. Contact Cubix at 800-829-0550, 775-888-1000, or [email protected]

Submit Top Product Ideas

Have you used a product that changed your IT experience by saving you time or easing your daily burden? Do you know of a terrific product that others should know about? Tell us! We want to write about the product in a future Windows & .NET Magazine What's Hot column. Send your product suggestions to [email protected]

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==== 7. Contact Us ====

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