Windows & .NET Magazine UPDATE--September 23, 2003

This Issue Sponsored By

Tackling the FCC's New FAX Regulations (Technical Whitepaper)

Windows & .NET Magazine VIP Web Site/Super CD


1. Commentary: Wireless-G: Faster, Cheaper, More Secure

2. Hot Off the Press
- Microsoft to Solve Enterprise Problems with Office Accelerators

3. Keeping Up with Win2K and NT
- How Good Is the Windows Server 2003 Basic Firewall?

4. Announcements
- Get Problem-Solving Scripts That Will Simplify Your Life
- Active Directory eBook Chapter 4 Published!

5. Instant Poll
- Results of Previous Poll: Patching Your Systems
- New Instant Poll: IT-Related Problems

6. Resources
- Featured Thread: Joining a Windows XP Workstation to a Windows Server 2003 Domain
- Tip: How Can We Prevent Windows XP from Logging Off the Current User When We Activate the XP Installation?

7. Event
- New Web Seminars on Exchange, Active Directory, and More! 8. New and Improved
- Learn Wireless Computing Basics
- Optimize Memory
- Tell Us About a Hot Product and Get a T-Shirt!

9. Contact Us
- See this section for a list of ways to contact us.

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==== 1. Commentary: Wireless-G: Faster, Cheaper, More Secure ====
by Paul Thurrott, News Editor, [email protected]

Two years ago, I wrote extensively in Windows & .NET Magazine UPDATE about 802.11b (later marketed as Wi-Fi), the hot wireless technology at the time. Today, 802.11b-based wireless networking products are hugely popular, both in commercial and home settings, and 802.11b-based wireless networking adapters are standard components in notebook computers, PCs, and other network-capable devices. The problems with 802.11b, however, are legion, with performance and security topping the list. This week, I look at the technology that will likely replace 802.11b in the coming months. Later this year, I'll look at some specific products.

Because of the widespread popularity of 802.11b, its immediate successor, imaginatively titled 802.11g, is also marketed under the Wi-Fi umbrella. The 802.11g standard, or Wireless-G as it's sometimes called, runs significantly faster than 802.11b. Whereas 802.11b topped out at 11Mbps, 802.11g speeds can reach 54Mbps. However, these speeds are theoretical. Most 802.11b networks have trouble achieving more than 5Mbps of bandwidth; Wireless-G, in my experience, averages around 22Mbps. However you measure it, Wireless-G is about five times faster than 802.11b. Another competing standard, called 802.11a, also offers speeds up to 54Mbps, but because it's incompatible with 802.11b, you can't access an 802.11a network with an 802.11b card. Wireless-G, meanwhile, is backward-compatible with 802.11b, an important consideration for businesses that have already rolled out wireless technology.

The performance difference between Wireless-G and 802.11b is dramatic. Although 802.11b is fine for email, Web browsing, network printing, and, on an underused network, light file sharing, it's too slow for heavy-duty file sharing, video streaming, or other high-bandwidth tasks. Further complicating matters is the fact that all Wi-Fi networks share bandwidth. Unlike a dedicated wired Ethernet network, in which a router provides the full bandwidth of the underlying network to each attached device, a wireless network shares the total available bandwidth. Thus, more users mean slower speeds. Setting up wireless networks can quickly become complicated because you need to factor in the number of wireless Access Points (APs), based on users, as well as their placement, based on the layout of your office and any obstructions that might hinder performance.

Security is, perhaps, an even bigger concern. Today, most wireless networks are unsecured, which could lead to data theft. The biggest reason for this problem is that although 802.11b devices ship with a security technology called Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP), this technology generally isn't turned on by default and is easy to circumvent even when it's enabled. For these reasons, enterprises often enable complex and expensive wireless network security infrastructures that bypass the problems with WEP. But today, numerous large and small businesses, not to mention millions of homes, remain unprotected against wireless intruders.

To protect against this problem, Wireless-G ships with a new wireless security technology called Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA), which some hardware makers are back-porting to their 802.11b products as well. WPA, currently moving through the standardization process, overcomes WEP's limitations and provides what I think is the first generally viable security solution for wireless networks. Here's how it works. WPA automatically changes its rigorously created encryption keys, on the fly, at short intervals. This functionality contrasts sharply with WEP, which generates encryption keys once, allowing network sniffers to examine the wireless traffic and, using widely available tools, break the encryption and break into the network. Also, WPA uses an 8- to 63-character passphrase (what we might call a "password," although it can also include spaces and special characters) to secure the wireless network; this passphrase must be entered in both the wireless AP and in the configuration for any connecting NIC. In contrast, WEP requires inane lengthy keys (26 characters in 128-bit mode) that must be specially constructed.

Although virtually any modern Windows version will work with Wireless-G equipment thanks to vendor-provided drivers, users running Windows XP Service Pack 1 (SP1) will see significant ease-of-use improvements by downloading the WPA Wireless Security Update from Microsoft ( ). This update lets XP's auto-configuration features work with WPA-equipped wireless networks. The first time you hit a WPA network, you simply supply the required pass phrase and you're good to go. From then on, you'll automatically connect to that network whenever you're in range. You might recall that Microsoft enabled this feature for unprotected 802.11b networks in the initial XP release but removed it in SP1 for security reasons. With WPA, wireless convenience again returns to XP.

Naturally, you'll still want to employ basic security skills for any wireless network, even if you're using WPA. For example, you shouldn't use an overly simple passphrase or increase the encryption rekey interval of your wireless AP (the default is generally 60 to 120 seconds, depending on your wireless AP). Small businesses and home offices should still consider setting up their wireless APs to allow connections only from machines registered with the WAP's media access control (MAC) address filter, which lets you manually identify your own machines. And perhaps most obviously, consider not broadcasting your wireless AP's Service Set Identifier (SSID), a unique name that publicly identifies the device. But if you do hide the SSID, be sure to change its name from the default (i.e., your Linksys wireless AP shouldn't be named "linksys").

I've been testing Wireless-G hardware at my home for a few weeks now and have been impressed with the performance and security of this relatively new technology. I'll be examining these devices in a future issue of Windows & .NET Magazine UPDATE, but if you're interested in my thoughts about the new Microsoft Wireless-G hardware, a review is available on the SuperSite for Windows at the following URL:


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==== 2. Hot Off the Press ====
by Paul Thurrott, [email protected]

Microsoft to Solve Enterprise Problems with Office Accelerators
This week, Microsoft announced numerous Microsoft Office Solution Accelerators, each of which is an integrated set of software components, templates, and Microsoft-authored architectural guidance aimed at extending Office 2003 to offer complete solutions for specific enterprise scenarios. The solutions address common organization needs in enterprises, including finance, human resources (HR), operations, and sales. The Solution Accelerators will be available this fall and will continue rolling out into 2004, Microsoft says, and they can be implemented internally at large companies or by Microsoft solution partners serving smaller businesses. To read the complete story, visit the following URL:

==== 3. Keeping Up with Win2K and NT ====
by Paula Sharick, [email protected]

How Good Is the Windows Server 2003 Basic Firewall?
I recently spent a few weeks testing Windows Server 2003 by using the Microsoft Small Business Server (SBS) 2003 release candidate (RC). One of my goals was to evaluate the efficacy of the Routing and Remote Access firewall. The basic firewall is a new component in Windows 2003 that uses an enhanced version of the firewall software that Microsoft first shipped in Windows XP. My test system had two network adapters: one for the internal network and one for the Internet connection. I enabled the RRAS basic firewall on the network adapter that's connected to the Internet and configured the server to accept incoming and outgoing SMTP mail, permit secure and nonsecure browser access to the internal Web site and to the Remote Web Workplace, and accept incoming VPN PPTP and Layer Two Tunneling Protocol (L2TP) connections. To read the results of my tests, visit the following URL:

==== 4. Announcements ====
(from Windows & .NET Magazine and its partners)

Get Problem-Solving Scripts That Will Simplify Your Life
OK, so you're not a programmer. But if you read Windows Scripting Solutions every month, you don't need to be. Tackle common problems and automate everyday, time-consuming tasks with our simple tools, tricks, and scripts. Try a no-charge sample issue today!

Active Directory eBook Chapter 4 Published!
The fourth chapter of Windows & .NET Magazine's popular eBook "Windows 2003: Active Directory Administration Essentials" is now available at no charge! Chapter 4 looks at what's inside Windows Server 2003 forests and DNS. Download it now!

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==== 5. Instant Poll ====

Results of Previous Poll: Patching Your Systems
The voting has closed in Windows & .NET Magazine's nonscientific Instant Poll for the question, "Have you patched your systems against the most recent Windows bug--a vulnerability in the RPCSS service?" Here are the results from the 188 votes:
- 88% Yes, we patched our system immediately
- 10% No, we haven't yet patched our systems, but we plan to
- 2% No, we probably won't patch our systems
- 1% I haven't heard about the latest vulnerability

(Deviations from 100 percent are due to rounding error.)

New Instant Poll: IT-Related Problems
The next Instant Poll question is, "What has been your company's most challenging IT-related problem this year?" Go to the Windows & .NET Magazine home page and submit your vote for a) Lack of funding for hardware/software upgrades, b) Lack of funding for hiring/training IT help, c) Network security (viruses, intruders), or d) Other

==== 6. Resources ====

Featured Thread: Joining a Windows XP Workstation to a Windows Server 2003 Domain
User TJ2004 has a new Windows Server 2003 domain and wants to join 50 Windows XP Professional Edition PCs to the domain. When he tries to join them to the domain, he receives the following message: "There are no logon servers available to service the logon request." To read the details and offer your advice, visit the following URL:

Tip: How Can We Prevent Windows XP from Logging Off the Current User When We Activate the XP Installation?
by John Savill,

If XP informs you that the grace period has expired and that you must click Yes to activate the software, the OS can sometimes log off the current user when you click Yes. To resolve this problem, perform the following steps:
1. Insert the XP installation CD-ROM, then reboot your computer.
2. When the system prompts you to "Press any key to boot from CD," press a key.
3. At the main menu, press Enter to set up XP.
4. Press F8 to accept the license agreement.
5. Select your current installation location, then press R to repair your installation.
6. Follow the onscreen instructions to perform the repair.

==== 7. Event ====
(brought to you by Windows & .NET Magazine)

New Web Seminars on Exchange, Active Directory, and More!
Check out the latest lineup of Web seminars from Windows & .NET Magazine. Prepare your enterprise for Exchange Server 2003, discover the legal ramifications of deterring email abuse, and find out how Active Directory can help you create and maintain a rock-solid infrastructure. There is no charge for these events, but space is limited, so register today!

==== 8. New and Improved ====
by Carolyn Mader, [email protected]

Learn Wireless Computing Basics
O'Reilly released Wei-Meng Lee's "Windows XP Unwired," a book that teaches you the basics of wireless computing. Topics include Connecting to Wireless Hotspots, Putting GPS Technology to Use, Wireless Security, Selecting the Right Data Plan, Mapping Wi-Fi Hotspots with NetStumbler and a GPS, and Wirelessly Synchronizing Your Palm or Pocket PC. The book costs $24.95. Contact O'Reilly at 707-827-7000 or 800-998-9938.

Optimize Memory
Elcor Software announced TweakRAM 3.31, a memory-optimizer tool that supports Windows 2003/XP/2000/NT/Me/9x computers. To increase the size of free RAM, the tool finds all unnecessary libraries accumulated by Windows and other programs and unloads the libraries to swap files. TweakRAM costs $19.95. Contact Elcor Software at [email protected]

Tell Us About a Hot Product and Get a T-Shirt!
Have you used a product that changed your IT experience by saving you time or easing your daily burden? Tell us about the product, and we'll send you a Windows & .NET Magazine T-shirt if we write about the product in a future Windows & .NET Magazine What's Hot column. Send your product suggestions with information about how the product has helped you to [email protected]

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==== 9. Contact Us ====

About the newsletter -- [email protected] About technical questions -- About product news -- [email protected] About your subscription -- [email protected] About sponsoring UPDATE -- [email protected]

This email newsletter is brought to you by Windows & .NET Magazine, the leading publication for IT professionals deploying Windows and related technologies. Subscribe today.

Copyright 2003, Penton Media, Inc.

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