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Unintended Consequences

Know what to expect when something goes wrong

The back cover of my copy of Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park reads, "An astonishing technique for recovering and cloning dinosaur DNA has been discovered. Now mankind's most thrilling fantasies have come true. Creatures extinct for eons roam Jurassic Park with their awesome presence and profound mystery, and all the world can visit them—for a price. ... Until something goes wrong."

Unintended consequences—so often the springboard for a great story! But, perhaps, not so great a story line for systems administrators who are faced with troubleshooting them. In this month's cover story, "Troubleshooting Group Policy-Related Problems," page 32, contributing editor and Group Policy expert Darren Mar-Elia dives into the complexity of Group Policy, divulging the unintended consequences that might appear unannounced or heralded by cryptic error messages from this powerful and flexible technology. Darren shows you how to track down and identify the underlying Group Policy problems and provides tested techniques for dealing with them. You won't want to miss this one-of-a-kind article if you've implemented Active Directory and Group Policy.

Who Are the Players?
If you're not familiar with Darren Mar-Elia, let me introduce you. Darren has written for the magazine since 1996. And since 1998, his articles about Group Policy (starting before Windows 2000 Server shipped when he was playing with beta versions of GPOs) have been some of our most well read. Here's a quick guide to Darren's Group Policy series:

  • "Windows NT System Policies" (InstantDoc ID 3570)
  • "IntelliMirror Adds Manageability" (InstantDoc ID 5579)
  • "Introducing Group Policy" (InstantDoc ID 7066)
  • "Software Installation in Windows 2000" (InstantDoc ID 7886)
  • "Group Policy Logging" (InstantDoc ID 23832)
  • "Optimize GPO-Processing Performance" (InstantDoc ID 23831)
  • "GPMC Scripting" (InstantDoc ID 39529)
  • "GPO Security" (InstantDoc ID 40044)

In the cover story's Learning Path, page 37, you'll find other Group Policy troubleshooting resources. And if you want to chat with Darren in person, we're offering the opportunity on February 24, at noon EST. Go to, enter InstantDoc ID 44983, and click the Interact! link for the chat.

You'll also find a path to success in the cover article's IT Pro Hero story, "Call Center Dials 911." Ed Roth describes his call-center solution, which he put into place using GPOs and helped the call-center manager reduce troubleshooting time by two-thirds. Ed's story begins on page 33.

You "Need to Know" Paul Thurrott
In this column, I'm long overdue in highlighting Paul Thurrott, our news editor and the author of our Need to Know column, which this month appears on page 15. Need to Know highlights key technologies in the industry (Microsoft and otherwise) and provides Paul's recommendations about adopting them. Each month in the magazine, Paul also contributes Paul's Picks (see page 23), a column that summarizes his in-depth—and often controversial—product reviews from our SuperSite for Windows ( This month, get insider's information about the Dell Axim X50v and Microsoft's MSN Toolbar Suite.

Paul's history with the magazine goes back to 1996. If you don't' recognize Paul from his "colorful" articles on the SuperSite (e.g., check out his coverage of CES 2005), you might know him from his irreverent Friday Short Takes in WinInfo Daily UPDATE. (To subscribe to this free email newsletter, go to and enter your email address in the subscription textbox.)

CHEX Goes Weekly
You also may not know that Paul writes the commentary for the Windows IT Pro UPDATE ( and Connected Home EXPRESS (CHEX) email newsletters. I'm excited to announce this month that due to popular demand, we're taking CHEX back to weekly distribution. If you want to subscribe (and don't already), go to and follow the links to CHEX. While you're there, spend some time on the Web site; I think you'll find the resources you need to deal with technology challenges in your home and for your users who have home networks. As always, let me know how we can improve our publications to better serve you. Send your comments to [email protected].

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