Friday Apr 06, 2007

Friday Blues Blogging: Dr. John to Be Inducted to Blues Hall of Fame

On Wednesday, May 9, in Memphis, Tennessee, The Blues Foundation's Hall of Fame committee will honor Blue Note/EMI recording artist and Blues legend Malcolm John “Mac” Rebennack Jr., famously known as Dr. John, as an inductee into the Blues Hall of Fame. Here he is bluesing it up with another fave of mine, Johnny Winter, working out on J.B. Lenoir's "Mama Talk to Your Daugher" (video quality is not the greatest, but some good jamming is going on):

Thursday Mar 08, 2007

Wassup With our Support Center?

I guess everyone has a bad day now and then. That's the only way I can explain the lack of support I got from our own "Support" center. I had to travel for meetings to our Santa Clara facility this week. There are plenty of guest offices there to use, all equipped with Sun Rays, so you don't have to worry about finding a place to land and get work done. Most buildings, and even the cafeteria, have an abundance of available offices, cubes, and kiosks with Sun Rays.

So I try to log in, type my user name and password, nothing happens, no error message. Try a couple of different Sun Rays, same result. Finally, I call our support center, log a trouble ticket, wait for a call back. In about 30 minutes the front line calls back, we do some troubleshooting on the phone, figure that it has to do with the Sun Ray trying to mount an old home directory for me that no longer exists. Okay, I can buy that. Back-line support will call me back. We make it a higher priority trouble ticket to make sure I get a call back sooner. I leave my cell phone number as the way to get a hold of me.

I go back to my meetings, waiting for the call. Hours go by. I finally get out of my meetings and call the support center back. A nice person looks at my trouble ticket history and says the back-line person sent me an email. The status on the ticket: awaiting user action!!!

I have a good laugh with the person on the phone, so that I don't start screaming. She types in a note to the ticket, asking the back-line person, "er, how is the user supposed to get this email when he can't log in???"

Even funnier: I traveled back home today, and just now got a call from the back line person (6pm mountain time), over 24 hours later from when I was having issues. He left a message, asking me to edit my .cshrc and .login files. Er, again, how am I supposed to do this, when I can't log in???

Guess we all have a bad day from time to time.

Wednesday Feb 28, 2007

Communications Suite Users - Check out Jhawk's Blog

Heads up: Jonathon Hawkins, Sun Unified Communications Architect, has some great new posts up on his blog, including:

  • Directory Scalability at Telcoms
  • Communication Express: Authentications Between Components
  • Communications Express Deployments in 6.3

CIOs - The Building Maintenance of Info Technology?

This was forwarded to me this morning:

http://www.longtail.com/the_long_tail/2007/02/who_needs_a_cio.html

The money graf:

"CIOs, it turns out, are mostly business people who have been given the thankless job of keeping the lights on, IT wise. And the best way to ensure that they stay on is to change as little as possible.

That puts many CIOs in the position of not being the technology innovator in their company, but rather the dead weight keeping the real technology innovators--employees who want to use the tools increasingly available on the wide-open Web to help them do their jobs better--from taking matters into their own hands.

The consequence of this is that many CIOs are now just one step above Building Maintenance. They have the unpleasant job of mopping up data spills when they happen, along with enforcing draconian data retention policies sent down from the legal department. They respond to trouble tickets and disable user permissions. They practice saying "No", not "What if..."

So next time you talk to your CIO, keep this in mind.

Friday Feb 16, 2007

Communications Suite - Suggestion Box

My email server was down from around 6pm last night until noon today (sendmail, not Messaging Server), and once back up, I decided to do some cleanup on my--ahem!--out of control inbox. (Afterall, a smaller inbox WILL help in times of system recovery.)

In the process of my cleanup, I came across an email thread that I thought I'd post, to see if the Comms Community cares to discuss. The topic: What information pertaining to Comms could we (Sun) provide more in-depth training/knowledge coverage on? Here are the responses. Granted, I'm only one tech writer on Comms, but the more feedback I can gather on issues such as this, the better off I can come to my SMEs and try and argue for what the customer needs. (Note: I believe this was initially a "training" request, but from where I sit, waiting for training courses to come out (no offense to our training coordinators and developers) takes too long to address the info/knowledge gaps.)

Messaging Server:

  • Practice with channel rewriting, including:
    • Special channel for outbound mail to a problematic host
    • Secure submission channels
  • How to use aliasdetourhost
General Comms Topics
  • Migrating events out of Microsoft Exchange and into Comms
  • Co-existence with Microsoft Exchange
  • Supporting large deployments of Connector for Outlook
  • Synchronizing with PDAs
  • Use of Non-Comms Express clients with Comms
  • Sizing Workshop
  • Sieve Topics
    • Vacation filters
    • System wide filters
    • Channel filters
    • Options/commands available in the Sieve scripts

Just for grins, I took a look at what some of us have been discussing about general Comms topics we "think" we should be working on in terms of Comms training/knowledge enhancement:

  • Deployment Architecture and Planning
  • Installation & Deployment Strategies
  • Planning Single Sign-On (Access Manager, Messaging SSO, Hybrid SSO)
  • Securing your Internet MTA
  • Customizing UWC
  • Migrations from Messaging Express to Comms Express
  • Deployments in Solaris 10 Zones
  • Automating Installations / Configurations for Production Deployments
  • Tuning UWC (incl. Solaris 10 DTrace and JVM Tuning)
  • Troubleshooting UWC (incl. Outlook, Calendar, Access Mgr, Directory & Messaging)
  • Transitioning Deployment Architectures to Comms Suite v5 (next release)

Now, for more data points. I did an internal survey of our field/engagement forces a few months back, with the same question, and got these responses:

  • Messaging Server Best Practices Guide
  • Configuring Communications Suite for SSL
  • Sizing a Communications Suite 25K User Deployment, including Communications Express
  • Initial Patch Levels for all Communications Suite Products (by release)
  • Gathering Debug Data for Messaging Server (data a customer needs to collect before calling Support)
  • Calendar Coexistence Using SyncML/Synchronica
  • Messaging Server Benchmark Data
  • Best Practices for Backup Up Lots of Data
  • Deployment Example: Comms Suite on T1000/T2000 and Solaris Zones
  • Deployment Example: Comms Suite in a Two-tiered Architecture

In an ideal world, we'd be working on all these topics, but unfortunately, we have to prioritize them and assign what resources we have accordingly. The good news is, some of these topics have already been addressed, or are in the process of getting addressed by documentation. Now that I have this list assembled and am looking at it in its entirety, I see that another post is in order to recap where we're at, and where we hope to go. Stay tuned for details.

And as always, drop a line if you have any suggestions on what docs/information you'd like to see us work on.

Thursday Feb 15, 2007

Calendar Server - Get Yer Appts Emailed To You

I like it when I can say, here's some new information for you. As I mentioned yesterday, we were close to getting out a cool article (and it's actually the script that is cool) for generating an automatic email to your Calendar Server users, containing that day's appointments and tasks. Have at it:

Receiving a Daily Summary of Sun Java System Calendar Server Events and Tasks by Email

Thanks to Mike d. for contributing this info.

Wednesday Feb 14, 2007

Heads Up: Cool Calendar Server Article Almost Here

As I wrote about in this previous blog entry, I've been working in conjunction with one of our Calendar Server gurus to document how to provide your Calendar Server users with a daily summary of their Calendar Server events and tasks, emailed to their inbox or mobile device each weekday morning. I've got the article on our internal staging site, and it should be pushed out this week to BigAdmin.

While were at it, for more fun with Calendar Server, see this post by a new Sun employee (formerly with SeeBeyond) and his positive experiences with Thunderbird and the Lightning extension that is part of the Sunbird Mozilla project, to access his Calendar Server data from w/i Thunderbird.

Tuesday Feb 13, 2007

Mac Users in Sync with Sun Java System Calendar Server: JSCalendarSync

I'm not a Mac user (yet)--actually, I'm thinking about making my next computer purchase a Mac, but that's another story--but for those of you who are, and are using our Sun Java System Calendar Server product, there's good news: You can use JSCalendarSync to synchronize data between Calendar Server and Mac OS X’s iCal.

JSCalendarSync uses the native synchronization framework provided by Mac OS X 10.4. Note that JSCalendarSync development is in progress, it is not to be considered as a finished product. Mac users can also benefit from Lightning, the Mozilla Thunderbird extension, created by Sun's StarOffice developers. Indeed, several Sun teams are using Thunderbird+Lightning to collaborate.

Monday Feb 12, 2007

Communications Express Browser Support

With the proliferation of browsers and versions of specific browsers, it's only natural that we get the question, and quite often, which browsers does Communications Express support? As always, start with the Release Notes to find out. For the current version, that is, Communications Express 6 2005Q4, the "supported" browsers are Netscape 7.2, IE 6.0 SP2 or later 6.x version, and Mozilla 1.4.

Though this is the "officially supported" browser list, we are always working to certify the most commonly used browsers over time.

Thursday Feb 08, 2007

Adding Capacity to Sophos PureMessage AV/AS

The self-described "lone sysadmin" has a good post up on adding capacity to his Sophos PureMessage AV/AS configuration for his Messaging Server (and sendmail) deployment.

Messaging Server supports Sophos, and a number of other AV/AS solutions, as I posted here.

Messaging and Calendar, Say Hello to Norway

Norwegian Governmental Services To Be Powered by Sun Solutions, Including Messaging Server and Calendar Server

The Norwegian government announced a deal with Sun to use the Solaris 10 Operating System, and Sun servers and software, including Messaging Server, Calendar Server, and Portal Server, to enable citizens to have secure, browser-based public access to government services through a secure and personalized portal interface. The complete end-to-end Sun solution allows the government to drive innovation and provide an online platform for citizens to vote, pay taxes, obtain social security benefits, register and manage automobiles, communicate with public officials and conduct other civic initiatives and services.

» Read the Entire Article

Wednesday Feb 07, 2007

Messaging Server and Email Disclaimers: Pros & Cons

So you want every sent email from every employee to carry a company disclaimer message. Whether because of increased awareness of confidentially, legality, or fashion, appending disclaimer messages to out-going mail is here with us.

But before asking how to do this with the Sun Java System Messaging Server MTA, step back and ask if you really need to do this. Start by reading the following:

http://www.goldmark.org/jeff/stupid-disclaimers
http://www.goldmark.org/jeff/stupid-disclaimers/apply.html

Here's perhaps the money quote:

"In the end, I think, although I am vastly ignorant of the law here, that adding disclaimers only makes you more vulnerable. This is because without disclaimers reasonable conventions and existing law apply. But once you add the disclaimer you had better get it exactly right and on exactly the right messages, and you sacrifice reasonable convention."

Okay, let's say that in spite of this advice, you want to proceed full steam ahead anyways and get every outgoing message from the MTA to bear this disclaimer stamp. Our experts advise the following:

  1. First, be aware that there is no way to fully implement this at the server level. The only proper way to do disclaimers is to have a policy requiring users to insert them in their mail clients.
  2. The next best approach is to write a conversion channel to add the disclaimer. The conversion channel can be used to perform arbitrary processing on each message on per body part basis. In this case, you want the processing to be that of appending a disclaimer. You end up modifying the MTA configuration files so that all your mail passes through this conversion channel. At a minimum you'd want to construct one conversion to account for text/plain message body and one to account for html. You'll need to add more if the actual messages being sent have some other sort of MIME structure unique to your deployment.

For more information, see the following:

http://docs.sun.com/app/docs/doc/819-2650/6n4u4dtr3?a=view

Some Troubleshooting Advice

If you configure the MTA as described above, and run into problems where the disclaimer is not appearing, you should begin by looking at your conversions file, and get a master_debug conversion channel debug log file. (The tcp_local_slave.log-\* file, and the mappings file, are just about getting the message to the conversion channel. The appending of the disclaimer would be done by the conversion channel, so you need to see what the conversion channel itself is doing.)

Tuesday Feb 06, 2007

Communications Suite Hub: Spreading the Word

Did you know that the Communications Suite Hub provides:

  • A downloadable zip file of all the Communications Suite 2005Q4 documentation (PDF format)?
  • A listing of Comms scripts and third-party tools?
  • A friendly "Library" landing page to find documentation, by product and release?
Have a suggestion for improving the Comms Hub? Do you want to contribute an article, white paper, case study, or other kind of information on Communications Suite products (and in the process receive a one-of-kind Communications Suite coffee mug)? Drop me a line: joseph.sciallo@sun.com.

Monday Feb 05, 2007

New in Messaging Server 6.3: MeterMaid

In the current version of Messaging Server 6.x (and for that matter, 5.x), to limit email coming to the Messaging Server MTA from a particular sending host (IP address), you use the shared library, conn_throttle.so in the Port Access mapping table. Limiting connections by particular IP addresses can be useful for preventing excessive connections used in denial-of-service attacks. This technique is also referred to as "throttling" a host (or IP address).

Messaging Server 6.3 will extend this ability with MeterMaid. MeterMaid enables throttling by determining when an IP address has recently connected too often and should be turned away for awhile. MeterMaid represents the officer patrolling the streets, looking for those who have exceeded their allotted amount. It is a repository process that supplants conn_throttle.so, providing similar functionality but extending it across the Messaging Server product. In addition, MeterMaid is more configurable than conn_throttle.so. Of note: No further enhancements will be made to conn_throttle.so going forward.

Improvements

The primary improvements by MeterMaid are that it is a single repository of the throttling information that can be accessed by all systems and processes within the Messaging Server environment. It continues to maintain an in-memory database to store this data to maximize performance. Restarting MeterMaid will lose all information previously stored, but since the data is typically very short lived, the cost of such a restart (done infrequently) is very low.

Configuration

MeterMaid is accessed from the MTA through a mapping table callout using check_metermaid.so. It can be called from any of the _ACCESS tables. When called from the PORT_ACCESS table, it can be used to check limits based on the IP address of the connection which will be the most common way to implement MeterMaid as a replacement for the older conn_throttle.so. If called from other _ACCESS tables, MeterMaid can also be used to establish limits on other data such as the envelope from or envelope to addresses as well as IP addresses.

Only one entrypoint in check_metermaid.so is defined. The throttle routine contacts MeterMaid providing two subsequent arguments separated by commas. The first is the name of the table against which the data will be checked, and the second is the data to be checked. If the result from the probe is that the particular data being checked has exceeded its quota in that table, check_metermaid.so returns "success" so that the mapping engine will continue processing this entry. The remainder of the entry would then be used to handle this connection that has exceeded its quota.

Again, your definitive source of information on MeterMaid, once 6.3 is out, will be the chapter 19 in the Messaging Server 6.3 Administration Guide.

Friday Feb 02, 2007

Messaging Server 6.3 Spotlight: Messaging Archiving

As we get closer to releasing Messaging Server 6.3 (part of Communications Suite 5), I thought I'd provide a bit more detail on some of the major feature enhancements. This entry focuses on Message Archiving, also known as AXS-One Archiving.

What Is Message Archiving?

A message archiving system saves all or some specified subset of incoming and outgoing messages on a system separate from Messaging Server. Sent, received, deleted, and moved messages can all be saved and retrieved in an archive system. Archived messages cannot be modified or removed by email users so the integrity of incoming and outgoing is maintained.

How Is the Archiving Support Provided?

In 6.3, Messaging Server supports archiving through the AXS-One archive system.

How Is Message Archiving Useful?

There are two ways to look at archiving, compliance and operational. Compliance archiving is used when you have a legal obligation to maintain strict retrievable email record keeping. Selected email (selected by user(s), domain, channel, incoming, outgoing and so on) coming into the MTAis copied to the archive system before being delivered to the message store or the internet. Archiving can be set to occur either before or after spam and virus filtering. Operational archiving is used for mail management purposes, for example to reduce storage usage on the Messaging Server message store by moving less used (older) messages to an archiving system which uses lower cost storage (that is, an alternative for data backup). Note that compliance and operational archiving are not exclusive. That is, you can set up your system so that it does both compliance and operational archiving.

Where Can You Get More Information?

The Messaging Server 6.3 Administration Guide will have overview information on message archiving. The Message Archiving Using the AXS-One System technical note will contain detailed deployment instructions. As usual, you'll be able to get these docs through the docs.sun.com web site, or better yet, through the Communications Suite Hub Library tab.

Note: If you have access to the Beta, you can read the AXS-One technical note now at (sorry for those who don't, it's password protected):

http://docs.sun.com/app/secure/doc/819-6991

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Reporting about Unified Communications Suite Documentation, including news, Comms 101, documentation updates, and tips and tricks.

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