Windows SBS backup fails because of SPSearch4 VSS Writer error

On Windows SBS 2011 the backups can start failing because of an SPSearch4 VSS Writer error.  You might see this in the Application logs, but more importantly if you list the VSS writers with the command below you can explicitly see the inconsistent status:

Log Name: Application
Source: VSS
Date: 9/4/2011 10:53:27 PM
Event ID: 8230
Task Category: None
Level: Warning
Keywords: Classic
User: N/A
Computer: SBS1.domainname.local
Description:
Volume Shadow Copy Service error: Failed resolving account spsearch with status 1376. Check connection to domain controller and VssAccessControl registry key.

Operation:
Initializing Writer

Context:
Writer Class Id: {afbab4a2-367d-4d15-a586-71dbb18f8485}
Writer Name: Registry Writer

Error-specific details:
Error: NetLocalGroupGetMemebers(spsearch), 0x80070560, The specified local group does not exist.

 

You can see that when you list the VSS Writers that are running on the server, that the SPSearch4 has an error, here’s the sample output:

C:\Windows\system32>vssadmin list writers
vssadmin 1.1 – Volume Shadow Copy Service administrative command-line tool
(C) Copyright 2001-2005 Microsoft Corp.

Writer name: ‘Task Scheduler Writer’
Writer Id: {d61d61c8-d73a-4eee-8cdd-f6f9786b7124}
Writer Instance Id: {1bddd48e-5052-49db-9b07-b96f96727e6b}
State: [1] Stable
Last error: No error

Writer name: ‘VSS Metadata Store Writer’
Writer Id: {75dfb225-e2e4-4d39-9ac9-ffaff65ddf06}
Writer Instance Id: {088e7a7d-09a8-4cc6-a609-ad90e75ddc93}
State: [1] Stable
Last error: No error

Writer name: ‘Performance Counters Writer’
Writer Id: {0bada1de-01a9-4625-8278-69e735f39dd2}
Writer Instance Id: {f0086dda-9efc-47c5-8eb6-a944c3d09381}
State: [1] Stable
Last error: No error

Writer name: ‘ASR Writer’
Writer Id: {be000cbe-11fe-4426-9c58-531aa6355fc4}
Writer Instance Id: {b0f2783a-6e0c-4a74-be4f-99f436eb2558}
State: [1] Stable
Last error: No error

Writer name: ‘FRS Writer’
Writer Id: {d76f5a28-3092-4589-ba48-2958fb88ce29}
Writer Instance Id: {147db49d-ba4b-43d5-b502-dcd5fa42e03f}
State: [5] Waiting for completion
Last error: No error

Writer name: ‘SqlServerWriter’
Writer Id: {a65faa63-5ea8-4ebc-9dbd-a0c4db26912a}
Writer Instance Id: {9197eb87-567f-4b82-a43e-6a83c2b2143c}
State: [5] Waiting for completion
Last error: No error

Writer name: ‘SharePoint Services Writer’
Writer Id: {da452614-4858-5e53-a512-38aab25c61ad}
Writer Instance Id: {9f84aa92-2d1b-42d3-888c-7568b5d3e641}
State: [5] Waiting for completion
Last error: No error

Writer name: ‘NPS VSS Writer’
Writer Id: {35e81631-13e1-48db-97fc-d5bc721bb18a}
Writer Instance Id: {b7c76691-117f-4007-bba7-19aa463b301b}
State: [5] Waiting for completion
Last error: No error

Writer name: ‘IIS Metabase Writer’
Writer Id: {59b1f0cf-90ef-465f-9609-6ca8b2938366}
Writer Instance Id: {439fa64e-0b6e-4b4f-91eb-71bb7aeac17b}
State: [5] Waiting for completion
Last error: No error

Writer name: ‘BITS Writer’
Writer Id: {4969d978-be47-48b0-b100-f328f07ac1e0}
Writer Instance Id: {334fb27b-67c1-4b83-a8b9-39994dc5a729}
State: [1] Stable
Last error: No error

Writer name: ‘SPSearch4 VSS Writer’
Writer Id: {35500004-0201-0000-0000-000000000000}
Writer Instance Id: {269a555e-cd55-4982-b6a3-04f0f7a704cf}
State: [8] Failed
Last error: Inconsistent shadow copy                                      <————————————–    ERROR  ——————————————

Writer name: ‘MSSearch Service Writer’
Writer Id: {cd3f2362-8bef-46c7-9181-d62844cdc0b2}
Writer Instance Id: {5499666f-dfae-405b-8b82-5e279669e13a}
State: [5] Waiting for completion
Last error: No error

Writer name: ‘Microsoft Exchange Writer’
Writer Id: {76fe1ac4-15f7-4bcd-987e-8e1acb462fb7}
Writer Instance Id: {62fd1212-320f-48ae-a517-20a5b89ca625}
State: [5] Waiting for completion
Last error: No error

Actual output of the SPSearch4 Writer results:

SPSearch4error
SpSearch4 VSS Writer Error

 

 

 

 

 

1. Open the command prompt as administrator.
2. Go  to C:\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\Web Server Extensions\14\BIN
3. Execute the following command:

PSConfig.exe -cmd upgrade -inplace b2b -force -cmd applicationcontent -install -cmd installfeatures

After completing the above command restart the server and try to perform the backup operation again.

 

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How to get a list of users sorted by their mailbox sizes in Exchange 2007

You can simply run this command from the Microsoft Exchange Management Console to show you what your mailboxes are using in a readable format.  Without the specified options below the formatting can be hard to read.

Get-MailboxStatistics | Sort-Object TotalItemSize -Descending | ft DisplayName,@{label=”TotalItemSize(KB)”;expression={$_.TotalItemSize.Value.ToKB()}},ItemCount

Posted in Exchange, Microsoft | Leave a comment

Demoting Domain Controller fails with msg: The directory service is missing mandatory configuration information, and is unable to determine the ownership of floating single-master operation roles.

While trying to demote, dcpromo out, a domain controller the operation might fail with the following error

“The directory service is missing mandatory configuration information, and is unable to determine the ownership of floating single-master operation roles.”

As you can notice, in my case, the partition at problems was DC=ForestDnsZones,DC=domain,DC=int.

To investigate more the problem I issued a dsquery command

dsquery * CN=Infrastructure,DC=ForestDnsZones,DC=domain,DC=int -attr fSMORoleOwner

The result clearly shows, as indicated in the event viewer, that the fSMORoleOwner is set to an orphaned object CN=NTDS Settings\0ADEL:xxxxxx

I opened ADSIEdit.msc and connected to: CN=Infrastructure,DC=ForestDnsZones,DC=domain,DC=int

right click -> Properties on “infrastructure” and looked for the fSMORoleOwner attribute and remove the \0ADEL:xxxxxx from CN=NTDS Settings\0ADEL:xxxxxx. I have seen instances where the domain controller was still active but it is just the \0ADEL:xxxxxx part that was wrong and I have also seen it where the server simply didn’t exist anymore.

 

The Value of the fSMORoleOwner should be in a similar format to: “CN=NTDS Settings,CN=SAMPLEDCNAME01,CN=Servers,CN=SampleSiteName,CN=Sites,CN=Configuration,DC=sampledomain,DC=com”

All looked pretty good, however when I tried to apply the changes I was faced with another error “The role owner attribute could not be read“.

The error above is from a Windows 2008 server, but the 2003 server error is a little different and it simply says “The role owner attribute could not be read.” and the solution is to connect to the server that actually has the Schema Master role and this shouldn’t be an issue.

Posted in Active Directory, Microsoft | Leave a comment

Change Internet Explorer’s Default Search Provider to Google

When using Internet Explorer, you might notice that Bing is the default search provider and when you want to change it by clicking the “Find More Providers…” option under the looking glass next to the search box it takes you to a page that makes finding your specific search provider hard.  My search provider of choice is Google and you can imagine that it’s not the first option.  I have included a link below that takes you straight to that page instead of having to use their list.

http://www.iegallery.com/en/addons/detail.aspx?id=813

 

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Windows 7 Systems will meet the requirements to run Windows 8

New computers that were purchased with Windows 7 on it will meet the requirements for Windows 8.  If you’ve wondered whether or not the next version of Windows will force a whole new line of computer to be purchased you can safely bet that the answer will be no.  Even though the “Minimum Requirements” will allow Windows to run, you generally don’t want to run the minimum requirements because there usually is a “recommended” configuration that will run better than the minimums.  You can generally double the RAM and hard drive space requirements and be perfectly set.  That same guideline should apply for Windows 8 except for the additional features of the new OS like touch-screen, microphones for voice recognition, and smart card readers for alternate authentication methods.  This is of course if you want to use those features.

Tami Reller, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Windows division, revealed the tidbit to attendees at the company’s Worldwide Partner Conference 2011, which took place yesterday in Los Angeles, California. She said any PC capable of running Windows 7 today would be capable of running Windows 8 when it is released.

“The breadth of hardware choice is unique to Windows and is central to how we see Windows evolving. In both of our Windows 8 previews, we talked about continuing on with the important trend that we started with Windows 7, keeping system requirements either flat or reducing them over time,” Reller said. “Windows 8 will be able to run on a wide range of machines because it will have the same requirements or lower. And, we’ve also built intelligence into Windows 8 so that it can adapt to the user experience based on the hardware of the user. So, whether you’re upgrading an existing PC, or buying a new one, Windows will adapt to make the most of that hardware.”

Here are Windows 7’s system requirements:

  • 1GHz or faster 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
  • 1GB RAM (32-bit) / 2GB RAM (64-bit)
  • 16GB available disk space (32-bit) / 20GB (64-bit)
  • DirectX 9 graphics processor with WDDM (Windows Display Driver Model) 1.0 or higher driver

Microsoft announced earlier this year that Windows 8 will support Intel, AMD, and ARM architectures. The company gave its first preview of Windows 8 earlier this month, showing off a new touch-oriented UI: icons are replaced by big tiles that can be customized to show live information or launch applications.

Windows 8 could hit the release to manufacturing (RTM) milestone as soon as April 2012. Although a rumor suggests that Windows 8 will arrive on January 7, 2013, we expect that the operating system will ship in time for the 2012 holiday season. In fact, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has said Windows 8 is coming in 2012, but Microsoft quickly claimed this was a misstatement.

 
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FBI takes down $74 million scareware operation

FBI takes down $74 million scareware operation.

There are lots of different names for viruses and malware, but the biggest and most recent term right now is called scareware.  It is largely the category of malware that pretends to be beneficial to your computer like “Home Security 2012”, etc.  Beware of this stuff and only download well known and recommended antivirus softwares for your computer systems or you could be inducing a problem that could be more dangerous than it is annoying.  Here’s the full story about the bust:

The Department of Justice, the FBI, and multiple international law enforcement partners, announced this week they have indicted two individuals from Latvia and seized more than 40 computers, servers, and bank accounts. Part of Operation Trident Tribunal, which targets international cyber crime, the latest raid disrupted cyber crime groups that caused more than $74 million in losses to more than 1 million computer users via the sale of scareware.

Warrants obtained in the US led to the seizure of 22 computers and servers while 25 computers and servers located abroad were also taken down as part of the operation, including equipment in the Netherlands, Latvia, Germany, France, Lithuania, Sweden, and the UK. The computers were used to operate a scareware scheme, which consists of tricking users into paying for fake security software.

Scareware refers to malicious software that poses as legitimate antimalware software and purports to detect a variety of threats on the affected computer that do not actually exist. Users are then informed they must purchase a tool to repair their computers and are bombarded with notifications until they supply their credit card number to pay for the fake product.

The FBI is warning users they should avoid purchasing computer security products that use unsolicited “free computer scans” to sell their products. Instead, they should maintain an updated operating system and use legitimate up-to-date antivirus software, which can detect and remove fraudulent scareware products. If you think you have been victimized by scareware, you can file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. The organization gives three tips for spotting a scareware scam:

  • Scareware advertising is difficult to dismiss. Scareware purveyors employ aggressive techniques and badger users with pop-up messages into purchasing their products. These fake alerts are often difficult to close and quickly reappear.
  • Fake anti-virus products are designed to appear legitimate, and can use names such as Virus Shield, Antivirus or VirusRemover. Only install software from trusted sources that you seek out. Internet service providers often make name-brand anti-virus products available to their customers for free.
  • Become familiar with the brand, look and functionality of the legitimate anti-virus software that is installed on your computer. This will assist you in identifying scareware.

Operation Trident Tribunal was conducted by the following groups:

FBI’s Cyber Division, Seattle Field Office and Minneapolis Field Office; the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota; and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington. Operation Trident Tribunal was the result of significant international cooperation and substantial assistance from the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs. Multiple foreign law enforcement partners provided invaluable assistance in this operation, including the Cyprus National Police in cooperation with its Unit for Combating Money Laundering (MOKAS); German Federal Criminal Police (BKA); Latvian State Police; Security Service of Ukraine; Lithuanian Criminal Police Bureau; French Police Judiciare; the Netherlands’ National High-Tech Crime Unit; the Cyber Unit of the Swedish National Police; London Metropolitan Police; Romania’s Directorate for Combating Organized Crime; and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

“Scareware is just another tactic that cyber criminals are using to take money from citizens and businesses around the world,” Gordon M. Snow, Assistant Director of the FBI’s Cyber Division, said in a statement. “This operation targeted a sophisticated business enterprise that had the capacity to steal millions. Cyber threats are a global problem, and no single country working alone can be effective against these crimes. The FBI thanks the participating foreign law enforcement agencies for their ongoing partnership and commitment in disrupting this threat.”

Posted in Internet Security, Malware, Scareware, Viruses | Leave a comment

Virtualization is a Cinch for SMB with Citrix VDI-in-a-Box

With virtualization, VDI, VMWare, cloud services, etc. happening in a million different formats I believe that there has to be a balance between usability and price that historically hasn’t been had until Citrix has started the downward march to the SMB market.  They have acquired Kaviza which allows them to offer streamlined and an “in-a-box” approach to desktop virtualization that is similar to what they did with their XenApp Fundamentals.  When they released the simplified version of the MetaFrame product and made it easier to deploy, it was apparent that they were ready to bring their products to the SMB market and this is no different.  Read the press release here that goes in detail about their new offering.

Virtualization is a Cinch for SMB with Citrix VDI-in-a-Box.

Posted in Citrix, Cloud, VDI | Leave a comment

SQL Azure Core promotional offer for Microsoft SQL Server in the cloud

Windows Azure Platform
SQL Azure Development Accelerator Core

SQL Azure is a tool from the Windows Azure platform which provides you with the database services you need. It gives you the time to focus on developing applications without having to worry about building, administering or maintaining databases.

This promotional offer provides SQL Azure database at a deeply discounted monthly price. The offer is valid only for a six month term but can be renewed once at the same base unit rate. Customers may purchase multiple Base Units to match their development needs.

Base Unit Pricing:

$74.95 per Base Unit per month for the initial subscription term of six months, which can be renewed once at the same Base Unit price.

Monthly usage exceeding the amount included in the Base Units purchased will be charged at the rates indicated in the Overage Pricing section.

This is a one-time promotional offer and represents 25% off of our normal consumption rates.

Subscription term: 6 months
Base Unit Includes:

SQL Azure
1 Business Edition database (10 GB relational database)

Hide All
Overage Pricing:Monthly usage exceeding the amount included in the Base Units purchased will be charged at the standard rates:

Windows Azure

Compute*
Extra small instance**: $0.05 per hour
Small instance (default): $0.12 per hour
Medium instance: $0.24 per hour
Large instance: $0.48 per hour
Extra large instance: $0.96 per hour
Virtual Network***
Windows Azure Connect – No charge during CTP
Storage
$0.15 per GB stored per month
$0.01 per 10,000 storage transactions
Content Delivery Network (CDN)
$0.15 per GB for data transfers from European and North American locations
$0.20 per GB for data transfers from other locations
$0.01 per 10,000 transactions
SQL Azure

Web Edition
$9.99 per database up to 1GB per month
$49.95 per database up to 5GB per month
Business Edition
$99.99 per database up to 10GB per month
$199.98 per database up to 20GB per month
$299.97 per database up to 30GB per month
$399.96 per database up to 40GB per month
$499.95 per database up to 50GB per month
Windows Azure platform AppFabric

Access Control****
$1.99 per 100,000 transactions
Service Bus
$3.99 per connection on a “pay-as-you-go” basis
Pack of 5 connections $9.95
Pack of 25 connections $49.75
Pack of 100 connections $199.00
Pack of 500 connections $995.00
Caching*****
128 MB cache for $45.00
256 MB cache for $55.00
512 MB cache for $75.00
1 GB cache for $110.00
2 GB cache for $180.00
4 GB cache for $325.00
Data Transfers

North America and Europe regions
$0.10 per GB in
$0.15 per GB out
Asia Pacific Region
$0.10 per GB in
$0.20 per GB out
Inbound data transfers during off-peak times through June 30, 2011 are at no charge.
*Compute hours are calculated based on the number of hours that your application is deployed. Please refer to the Compute Instances section of this offer for further details.
**Extra small compute instances are available in beta and are billed separately from other compute instance sizes.
***The Windows Azure Connect service is available in Community Technology Preview (CTP).
****No charge for billing periods before January 1, 2012.
*****The Windows Azure AppFabric Caching service is provided at no charge for billing periods prior to August 1, 2011.

Payment Options:Customers may pay by credit card, debit card or invoice. Invoice requires an initial monthly base commitment exceeding $500 per month for customers in the United States and $250 per month elsewhere. Customers choosing to pay by invoice may have their service activation delayed pending credit verification.
Pricing Details:Windows Azure Storage is billed based on your average usage during a billing period of blob, table, queue and drive storage. For example, if you consistently utilized 10 GB of storage for the first half of the month and none for the second half of the month, you would be billed for your average usage of 5 GB of storage.

For Windows Azure Drive storage, you will be billed only for the storage space used by the page blob and the read/write transactions to the page blob. You will not be charged for read transactions that utilize the local drive cache. Windows Azure Drive usage is billed at the same rates as standard Windows Azure Storage and is included in these totals on your bill. There will not be a separate line item for Windows Azure Drive on your bill. Windows Azure Drive storage is currently in its beta release and a service level agreement is offered for this service.

We charge a monthly fee for each SQL Azure database, but we amortize that database fee over the month and charge for the number of databases used on a daily basis. This daily fee is dependent on which database type (e.g., 1 GB Web Edition, 10 GB Business Edition, etc.) and number of databases you use. You pay based on the total number of databases that existed at any point during a particular day. For presentation on your bill, all usage for Web Edition databases is converted into the 1 GB size and all Business Edition usage is converted into the 10 GB size. For example, if you utilized a 50 GB Business Edition database, your bill will display this as five 10 GB databases.

During the six month term of this subscription, you may increase the number of Base Units you purchase at any time. Any increase in Base Units will be effective as of the next billing cycle. Base Units may only be decreased at time of renewal.

Any unused portion of a Base Unit will not be refunded or carried over to the next billing cycle. The amount of service included in each Base Unit will not change during the term of your subscription.

You will be notified at least 30 days in advance of any changes to the above standard rates. Your price per Base Unit will not change during the duration of your subscription term.

The Windows Azure Connect service is available in Community Technology Preview (CTP). There is no charge for this service during the CTP and no service level agreement is provided.

New services may be added periodically to the Windows Azure platform. We will notify you in advance of these new services and any fees that might be charged for using them. However, you would only be charged if you elect to use the new services

Any taxes which may result from receiving services at no charge are the sole responsibility of the recipient.
Compute Instances:
Windows Azure compute instances come in five unique sizes to enable complex applications and workloads.

Compute Instance Size CPU Memory Instance Storage I/O Performance
Extra Small 1 GHz 768 MB 20 GB* Low
Small 1.6 GHz 1.75 GB 225 GB Moderate
Medium 2 x 1.6 GHz 3.5 GB 490 GB High
Large 4 x 1.6 GHz 7 GB 1,000 GB High
Extra large 8 x 1.6 GHz 14 GB 2,040 GB High

* There is a limitation on the Virtual Hard Drive (VHD) size if you are deploying a Virtual Machine role on an extra small instance. The VHD can only be up to 15 GB.

Each Windows Azure compute instance represents a virtual server. Although many resources are dedicated to a particular instance, some resources associated to I/O performance, such as network bandwidth and disk subsystem, are shared among the compute instances on the same physical host. During periods when a shared resource is not fully utilized, you are able to utilize a higher share of that resource.

The different instance types will provide different minimum performance from the shared resources depending on their size. Compute instance sizes with a high I/O performance indicator as noted in the table above will have a larger allocation of the shared resources. Having a larger allocation of the shared resource will also result in more consistent I/O performance.

Windows Azure offers an extra small compute instance that is appropriate for the following purposes:

Web roles that have very low traffic or requires only short burst of processing capability
Worker roles that require little CPU processing power or low memory consumption
Prototypes of a Windows Azure service
Demonstrations of how Windows Azure works
Roles that are used for monitoring purposes which need to wake up infrequently

We suggest that you try out the extra small compute instance to verify its suitability for your applications before deployment to production. For predictable performance, we suggest that you use the small, medium, large or extra large instances.

Our Virtual Machine (VM) role is currently in beta. This role provides support for more types of new and existing Windows applications and enables moving more existing applications to the cloud by deploying the same VHD to both the cloud and on-premises data centers. During the beta period, compute instances running a VM role will be charged in the same manner as other compute instances. You will also incur charges at our normal storage rates for the costs incurred to store your VHD image. A service level agreement is provided during the beta period of VM role.

Calculating Compute Hours

Windows Azure compute hours are charged only when your application is deployed. When developing and testing your application, you will want to remove the compute instances that are not being used to minimize compute hour billing. Please note that suspending your deployment will still result in compute charges since the compute instances are still allocated to you and cannot be allocated to another customer. Compute hours are billed based on the number of clock hours your service was deployed multiplied by the number of compute instances. If you have two tenants deployed for a hosted service, one for staging and one for production, both will be charged as both are utilizing Windows Azure platform resources.

All compute hours, except for extra small compute instances, are converted into small instance hours when presented on your bill. For example, one clock hour of a medium compute instance would be presented as two small compute instance hours at the small instance rate of $0.12 per hour on your bill. This table describes how each of the compute instance sizes correlates to the number of small compute instance hours:

Compute Instance Size Clock Hours Small Instance Hours
Small 1 hour 1 hour
Medium 1 hour 2 hours
Large 1 hour 4 hours
Extra large 1 hour 8 hours

Compute Instance Conversion Rate Table

Compute hours are billed based on the number of clock hours your service was deployed multiplied by the number of equivalent small compute instances included in your deployment. Partial compute instance hours (prior to conversion) are billed as full compute hours for each clock hour an instance is deployed. For example, if you deploy a small compute instance at 10:50 AM and delete the deployment at 11:10 AM, you will be billed for two small compute hours, one hour for usage during 10:50 AM to 11:00 AM and another hour for usage during 11:00 AM to 11:10 AM. For other compute instance sizes you deploy, your hours will be converted into the equivalent small instance hours by multiplying by 2, 4 or 8, depending on the compute instance size deployed. In addition, each time you delete your deployment and redeploy your service, you will be billed a minimum of one clock hour for each compute instance deployed. However, any instances deployed for less than five minutes within one clock hour will not be charged.

Extra small compute instances are calculated in the same manner as noted above except they are billed separately. The monthly compute hours included in an offer cannot be used towards extra small instances. Extra small compute instances are currently in beta and a service level agreement is provided.
Data Transfer Details (except for CDN):Our data transfer rates are determined by the region in which your solution is deployed. Data transfers between Azure Services located within the same sub region are not subject to charge. Data transfers between sub regions are charged at normal rates on both sides of the transfer. A sub region is the lowest level geo-location that you may select to deploy your applications and associated data. Below is a list of our regions and sub regions:

Regions Sub Regions
Asia Pacific East Asia
Southeast Asia
Europe North Europe
Western Europe
North America North Central US
South Central US

Peak vs. Off-Peak

Off-peak times are 10:00 p.m. – 6:00 a.m. during weekdays and from 10:00 p.m. on Friday to 6:00 a.m. on Monday for weekends as determined using one standard time zone for each region. The standard time zones utilized for each region are listed below:

Region Time Zone UTC
North America Pacific Standard Time UTC-8
Europe Western European Time UTC
Asia Pacific Singapore Standard Time UTC+8

The off-peak time periods are not adjusted for daylight savings time. For example, during daylight savings time, the off-peak times in the North America region will be 11:00 p.m. – 7:00 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time (PDT) during weekdays and 11:00 p.m. PDT on Friday through 7:00 a.m. PDT on Monday for weekends.
Content Delivery Network
Windows Azure CDN data transfer charges are based on the data center location from where the traffic was served, not based on the end user’s location. The four data center regions for CDN include:
•Asia Pacific
•Europe
•Latin America
•North America

Developers cannot control which locations are used to deliver content, so bills may reflect delivery charges from any of the Windows Azure CDN billing regions. User requests are directed to CDN nodes based on their Internet service provider’s routing tables as well as network conditions. Users may be routed to locations that are preferred by their ISP, and/or nodes that are judged as “closer” in a logical sense, not necessarily physical proximity. For example, if a developer deploys content on the CDN and end users are in both Europe and Asia Pacific, the developer would likely see charges for delivery in both Europe and Asia Pacific. However, some users may be served from one of our other geographic regions such as North America, based on routing tables and network status, if for example an Asia Pacific CDN node became unreachable. In this example, the developer would be charged for data transfers at North America rates for those users.

When the Windows Azure CDN receives a request for an object it does not have at an edge location, it will make a standard request of Windows Azure Storage to obtain the data. CDN charges do not include fees associated with transferring this data from Windows Azure Storage to CDN. Any data transfers and storage transactions incurred to get data from Windows Azure Storage to CDN will be charged separately at our normal Windows Azure Storage rates. CDN charges are incurred for data requests it receives and for the data it transfers out to satisfy these requests.

Availability of content in the Windows Azure CDN’s local caches (often called “cache efficacy” or “offload”) is nondeterministic but is influenced by multiple factors including:
•Expiration (“max-age”) header values
•Overall total size of the developer’s content library (how much could be cached)
•Active working set (how much is currently cached)
•Traffic (how much is being served)
•Cache churn (how often are objects being added to cache, or aging out)

For example, a developer with a large (“wide”) library with high churn and high traffic will have less cache efficacy than other users, because cache turnover is higher, so objects will be swapped in and out more frequently. This developer’s overall Windows Azure Storage data transfer charges will be proportionally higher, since more origin requests are required. The overall end-user experience in this example will also be slightly slower on average since fewer requests are served from cache.

The main cost control for developers to affect cache efficacy is the “max-age” HTTP header. Longer max-age headers allow the CDN to hold objects longer, reducing the need to make origin requests.
Cancellation Policy:You may cancel without penalty during the first 30 days of each subscription term. You are still responsible to pay for the base commitment and any overage for that first month. Cancellations after the first 30 days of a subscription term require full payment of the base commitment for the remaining months of the subscription and any overage incurred.
Renewal Policy:After your initial six month subscription term, you will have the option to renew only once for another six month term at existing promotional rates at a 25% discount off standard consumption rates in effect at the time of your renewal. At the end of your second six month subscription term, you will have the option to renew your subscription at whatever renewal rate we have at that time, which currently is $79.99. You may change the amount of your base commitment at time of renewal but you must commit to at least one Base Unit in order to renew.

In the Microsoft Online Customer Portal (MOCP), your subscription will by default be automatically set to renew. You will be notified via e-mail when your term is about to renew. You do have the ability to opt out of auto renew in MOCP at anytime.
Offer Availability:
This offer is available for purchase through June 30, 2011 to customers located in one of the following countries and will be billed in the currency noted:

Austria € EUR
Australia $ AUD
Belgium € EUR
Brazil $ USD
Canada $ CAD
Chile $ USD
Columbia $ USD
Costa Rica $ USD
Cyprus € EUR
Czech Republic € EUR
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Usage Quotas:As a default, we set the following monthly usage quotas. Because we understand that you may need more than these limits, please contact customer service at any time so that we can understand your needs and adjust these limits appropriately.

For all resources except compute, your default usage quotas are the greater of either twice the amount included in your purchased Base Units or the standard quota, as calculated on an item by item basis with usage aggregated across all of your subscriptions. For compute instances, your usage quota is as noted below:

Monthly Commitment* Quota**
0 – 150 Greater of 20 or 2 times your monthly commitment
> 150 300+ (1.2 times your monthly commitment greater than 150)

*Monthly commitment represents the number of equivalent small compute instances (i.e., per 750 hours) that you have purchased on a commitment basis.
**Quota represents the maximum number of small compute instances (or their equivalent) that you can have running at any point in time. For purposes of this quota, an extra small compute instance is counted the same as a small compute instance.

Standard Quotas

Windows Azure

Compute

20 concurrent small compute instances or an equivalent number of other sized compute instances as determined using the Compute Instance Conversion Rate Table. For purposes of this quota, an extra small compute instance is counted the same as a small compute instance.
Virtual Network*
Windows Azure Connect
20 endpoints
350 GB of total data transfers per month
Storage

5 concurrent storage accounts
Content Delivery Network

10 TB of total data transfers per month
SQL Azure

150 Web Edition databases
15 Business Edition databases
AppFabric

100 million Access Control transactions per month
500 Service Bus connections
20 GB of Caching per month
Data Transfers (excluding CDN)

10 TB of total data transfers per month
*These quotas apply to the Community Technology Preview. They will be adjusted for the service’s commercial release.

While we do reserve the right to disable a customer’s account that has exceeded its usage quotas in a given month, we will provide e-mail notification and make multiple attempts to contact a customer before taking any action. Customers exceeding the above quotas will still be responsible for charges that exceed the quotas.

There are additional situations that may require us to disable a customer’s account, including non-payment of fees. For further details, please refer to our Online Services Use Rights for the Windows Azure platform that is published at http://www.microsoft.com/licensing/onlineuserights/english.
Service Level Agreements:
We offer a set of robust service level agreements for each of the Windows Azure platform services. More details on each of our SLAs can be found at the links below:

Windows Azure Compute SLA
Windows Azure Storage SLA
Windows Azure CDN SLA
SQL Azure SLA
Windows Azure AppFabric Service Bus SLA
Windows Azure AppFabric Access Control SLA
Windows Azure AppFabric Caching SLA
Service level agreements for the Windows Azure extra small compute instances beta and VM role beta will be the same as the Windows Azure Compute SLA above. Service level agreements are not provided for services during a Community Technology Preview (CTP), which currently includes Windows Azure Connect.
Resource Commitment:
Microsoft will provide services to you up to at least the level of the associated usage included in the base units you purchased (the Service Commitment), but all other increases in usage levels of service resources (e.g. adding to the number of compute instances running, or increasing the amount of storage in use) are subject to the availability of these service resources. Any quota described in the Usage Quotas section is not a Service Commitment. For purposes of determining the number of simultaneous small compute instances (or their equivalent) that Microsoft will provide as part of a Service Commitment, this is determined by dividing the number of committed small compute instance hours purchased in a month by the number of hours in the shortest month of the year (i.e., February – 672 hours).

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Retail technology and office supply chains are not good for your computers

An original post from The Consumerist shows the kind of training of Best Buy, or Geek Squad, staff members receive and how they treat you as a customer. I have gone into the store to purchase hard drives or other consumables only to be amazed at how little everyone in the store knows about computers. The same goes for all the other retail chains like Office Depot, Circuit City, and even Micro Center.

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Mac malware and viruses are becoming a reality

The most recent variant of the Mac Defender malware for Mac computers has surfaced and is actively spreading. Malware is commonly accepted in the Windows world but the reason this is even a story is because Mac computers are heralded as “immune” to viruses and spyware.

Windows has always been a target for malware mainly because it was easier and the marketshare was there to be had. This is just proof that all computers are succeptable to viruses and other forms of malware.

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