Windows Client UPDATE--Remote Desktop: A Cure for the PC Shuffle--June 10, 2004

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Implementing Client Security on Windows 2000/XP


1. Commentary: Remote Desktop--A Cure for the PC Shuffle

2. Reader Challenge
- May 2004 Reader Challenge Winners
- June 2004 Reader Challenge

3. News & Views
- Microsoft's Monthly Security Updates Only Moderately Alarming

4. Resources
- Tip: Accessing Windows Update Through the XP SP2 Preview
- Featured Thread: Win2K Clients in an NT Domain

5. New and Improved
- Symantec Product Eases Enterprise Migration
- Tell Us About a Hot Product and Get a T-Shirt!

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==== 1. Commentary: Remote Desktop--A Cure for the PC Shuffle ====

by David Chernicoff, [email protected]

Given the nature of my job, I spend a lot of time in email, lots and lots of email. I average about 5000 messages a week, spread across 10 different email accounts. Because I subscribe to several mailing lists and many technology newsletters, I use two different email applications and a variety of rules, filters, and antispam tools to keep the email manageable and separate the wheat from the chaff.

One challenge I continually face is moving between computers. Although I have a notebook that could be a capable desktop replacement, I enjoy my desktop's high resolution (2048 x 1536, 32-bit) too much to settle for the lower resolution of my notebook (1600 x 1050, 32-bit), even if I use two monitors. The ability to keep multiple open documents full-sized on the screen is just too useful. And frankly, I hate having to do any extended writing on the notebook keyboard. I realize I could just add a real keyboard and mouse, but then I'd have to make room on an already crowded desk (two computers and three monitors used daily) for yet another console setup.

Since I'm not willing to use the notebook all the time, I must move the data contained within both email applications back and forth between the two computers. Because I need the historical data contained in the email and its attachments, I have to move all of the data in my email data stores. The PST file alone is close to 600MB, and the various data files used by Eudora, plus its attachment directories, are about the same size.

Every time I switch from my desktop to my notebook, then, I have to migrate more than a gigabyte of data. This process recently became a bottleneck when I made a number of short business trips. The trips were long enough that I had to take my email with me, and during the spaces between the trips I did a lot of work on my desktop. While I prepared to migrate the data between computers once again, the solution finally struck me. Sometimes it's tough to see the forest for the trees, as it were.

Because I use Windows XP on my desktop and notebook, the simplest thing for me to do was to configure the notebook to allow Remote Desktop sessions. (To configure Remote Desktop, open the System Properties Control Panel applet, select the Remote Tab, and in the Remote Desktop box enable the "Allow users to connect remotely to this computer" check box.) I didn't worry about anyone else gaining access to my notebook because when you configure Remote Desktop you can specify which users you want to let connect to the computer via Remote Access. Furthermore, the notebook is covered by the same firewall protection enjoyed by the other computers on my office network.

Configuring an RDP session on my primary desktop lets me open a 1280 x 1024 window to the remote notebook. I leave my two email applications running on the notebook 24 x 7 and haven't had any problems accessing email.

Running Remote Desktop on my notebook provides an additional benefit. I tend to play with software I'm considering for review on my desktop computer. I've been known to crash this system on more than one occasion because of this activity, and a corrupted PST file from Outlook getting killed in the crash is more than just a remote possibility. With my email running on another computer that does nothing but email, I've managed to add another buffer to protect myself from myself.

A simple solution to a simple problem. Sometimes it's just that easy.


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==== 2. Reader Challenge ====

by Kathy Ivens, [email protected]

May 2004 Reader Challenge Winners

Congratulations to Dan Nease of Corvallis, Oregon, whose correct answer wins first prize in our May 2004 Reader Challenge. Second prize goes to a couple, Paul and Susan Laudenslager of Rhoadesville, Virginia. Both winning entries receive a copy of "Windows Server Undocumented Solutions: Beyond the Knowledge Base," by Serdar Yegulalp (McGraw-Hill Publishing). Visit to read the answer to the May Reader Challenge.

June 2004 Reader Challenge

Solve this month's Windows Client challenge, and you might win a prize! Email your solution (don't use an attachment) to [email protected] by June 24, 2004. You must include your full name and street mailing address (without that information, we can't send you a prize if you win).

I choose winners at random from the pool of correct entries. Because I receive so many entries each month, I can't reply to respondents, and I never respond to a request for a receipt. Look for the solutions to this month's problem at on June 25, 2004.

The June 2004 Challenge: All authors receive tons of mail from readers, asking questions, offering suggestions, and requesting support. Some of the mail I receive makes some interesting assumptions. Your challenge this month is to tell me what incorrect assumptions are in the two email questions I present here.

Reader Mail #1:
I added a hub to my network, and now the computers can't connect to the Internet. I think the hub is trying to distribute DHCP addresses to the computers, which already have an IP address assigned by my router. The computers are confused and don't know which IP address to present to the ISP to access the Internet.

Reader Mail #2:
I'm a security freak, and I want the tightest possible security for my network. My network is self-contained in one room. I'm planning to buy all wireless-G products instead of wireless-B and use Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA). I'll use a wireless router to share my Internet connection through a cable modem. I was told that I have to buy an access point to have the security of infrastructure mode, instead of ad hoc mode. Is this true?

==== 3. News & Views ====

by Paul Thurrott, [email protected]

Microsoft's Monthly Security Updates Only Moderately Alarming

Each month, Microsoft issues a monthly set of security updates on the second Tuesday of the month, and this month's offerings are slightly less alarming than usual, with only two patches, both rated moderate by the software giant. According to Microsoft, the patches fix problems with DirectPlay and a third-party product called Crystal Reports Web Viewer.

Microsoft says it recently discovered a Denial of Service (DoS) vulnerability in DirectPlay and is fixing that problem in this month's security patch releases. Part of the DirectX multimedia gaming libraries, DirectPlay is a programming interface used by certain online games, and the vulnerability in this code affects a variety of DirectX versions, running on a variety of Windows versions. "If a user is running a networked DirectPlay application, an attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could cause the DirectPlay application to fail," Microsoft's support bulletin describing the flaw reads. "The user would have to restart the application to resume functionality."

Crystal Reports Web Viewer is a third-party product, but because Microsoft has distributed it with some of its own products, including Microsoft Visual Studio .NET 2003 and Microsoft Office Outlook 2003 with Business Contact Manager, the company says it's responsible for fixing the problem. Also, the vulnerability affects Crystal Enterprise, which Microsoft ships with Microsoft Business Solutions Customer Relationship Management (CRM) 1.2. "An attacker who successfully exploited the vulnerability could retrieve and delete files through the Crystal Reports and Crystal Enterprise Web viewers on an affected system," the support bulletin reads.

So far, Microsoft has issued 17 security fixes in 2004, which fix a number of vulnerabilities. By comparison, Apple has released 6 sets of security fixes, also fixing a wide number of vulnerabilities, for various versions of Mac OS X, a much less widely used OS family that's often cited as being more secure than Windows.

Users who are interested in keeping their Windows systems up-to-date with security fixes should enable the Automatic Updates feature or visit Windows Update regularly. Otherwise, you can visit Microsoft's Security Web site to download patches manually and find out more about the latest security patches.

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==== 4. Resources ====

Tip: Accessing Windows Update Through the XP SP2 Preview

(contributed by David Chernicoff, [email protected])

I recently received some email messages in response to columns I've written about keeping user computers updated with the latest service packs and hotfixes. The first few readers wrote to tell me that the Windows Update Web site didn't work with the Technical Preview of Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2), and the others sent me various error messages that they received when they tried to access the Windows Update site from an XP system.

The solution to the first problem might seem a little silly, but it works. When you install the XP SP2 preview, the pop-up blocking that's added to Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) blocks the installation of the ActiveX control that Windows Update uses, giving the site the appearance of doing nothing. To fix this, simply allow pop-ups and downloaded content from the Windows Update site.

The second set of problems is probably the result of firewall software that blocks Windows Update from working correctly. As a general rule, if you can't get the Windows Update site to work correctly and receive error messages from XP when you try to access the site, temporarily disable any firewall and antivirus software you're running and try again to access the site.

The problem might be something simple, like the firewall blocking traffic on ports 80 and 443, both of which Windows Update requires, or it might be more complex. In either case, disabling firewall and antivirus software makes troubleshooting the problem easier, even if it doesn't solve it.

Featured Thread: Win2K Clients in an NT Domain

Forum participant "jamesd3rd" wants to know why some Windows 2000 clients in a Windows NT Server domain appear as NT rather than Win2K systems in Server Manager, while other Win2K clients don't appear in the browse list. If you can help, join the discussion at the following URL:

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==== 5. New and Improved ====

by Anne Grubb, [email protected]

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