Tough week! Here are the kind of things that fill my days. And bear in mind, these are all stories about software and services that I love dearly – this is the good stuff, these are what I recommend because they’re better than the rest!

Client with hosted Exchange mailbox at Mailbox doesn’t connect this morning, so no incoming or outgoing mail. Try it from a different computer, try Outlook Web Access – nothing works. Call tech support in India and get through without delay. “Very sorry! That server is down. The experts are working on it.” Any idea when it will come back? “No, I’m sorry. But the experts are working on it.” It’s been down a day and a half now, still no word.

Putting Jungle Disk on a Windows Home Server for online backups. The process to sign up for Amazon’s online storage system is not completely straightforward but I’ve done it before, I know about the “Access Key ID” and the “Secret Access Key,” so I’m in business in short order, except the Jungle Disk software delivers an error message, error 403, “NotSignedUp.” There are a few dozen lines of gibberish in the detailed error message but it’s clear that Amazon doesn’t think the service is set up correctly yet. Log in to the Amazon Web Services portal and there’s a message about problems with payment for the account – payment that was set up on an Amazon credit card. Hmm. Spent half an hour wrestling with payment options, putting in one good credit card after another and getting more error messages about payment problems, and just about gave up – I was actually drafting the note to the client about the failure when Amazon showed the service was working just fine, thanks, even though I hadn’t actually changed anything for a while. Jungle Disk started doing a backup. What was that about?

Setting up Live Mesh to transfer large files between people working in several locations. Installed it on the client’s desktop and laptop, created a folder, it started syncing all over the place, everything was automatic and swell, great stuff! Set up Windows Live IDs for three employees, shared a Live Mesh folder with employee number 1, went to that employee’s computer and clicked on the invitation to Live Mesh that appeared promptly in the mailbox. Web site pops up inviting me to “Connect,” then “Sign In,” then displays a message that Live Mesh is only available in the US and they’re happy to put me on a waiting list when it’s offered in my country. I looked around. It looked a lot like the US where I was standing. I poked around in the Live Mesh forums and found a suggestion that the Windows Live ID account information needed to be updated with the correct country information so I went over there and found it was completely hosed – no matter how many times I picked “United States” and clicked Apply, the front page would stubbornly complain that no country had been chosen. I could change it to the Virgin Islands – that worked fine! It was only the US that it ignored. I dropped it, wrote off the hour that had been spent fussing with it, went back a couple of hours later, and everything worked right away, Live Mesh installed immediately, no issues at all.

Client with a SonicWall firewall/router and a Small Business Server that hadn’t been set up to use Remote Web Workplace or the other features that make SBS so lovable. There were a few odd networking settings on the SonicWall but nothing alarming. I set up port forwarding on the ports that make SBS do its tricks (80, 443, 4125) and bang! the network went down, all Internet traffic stopped, the workstations couldn’t connect to the server, couldn’t browse or ping anywhere. Spent an hour and a half backing out of anything that I might conceivably have touched, nearly gave a credit card number to SonicWall tech support, when it came back up. Two days later I set up port forwarding in what I swear was exactly the same way and it works like a charm. I still don’t have any idea what that was about, but it scared the hell out of me.

Tried to buy licenses online for StorageCraft’s remarkable backup program, ShadowProtect. Everything went perfectly, right up until the final “Finish” button when I was told that the billing address for the credit card didn’t match the information on file at the bank. Just for fun, I tried three different credit cards at two different addresses – all of them plausible choices, not trying to pull anything. Same message each time. (Just for fun, I logged in to my bank’s web site and confirmed that there were six or eight “pending” charges showing on the various cards. They went away eventually.) Couple of days later, went back and the transaction went through immediately. (And this story doesn’t really count, because after I dropped them a note that night, the company immediately put me in touch with a reseller who would have sold me the licenses, then had one of the company’s business manager follow up with a phone call to make sure the problem was resolved. Nice folks, great software, great support.)

Set up Netgear Rangemax USB wireless adapters on three workstations. Windows XP doesn’t have any builtin drivers so the CD is required, and the CD doesn’t have the drivers stored separately – the Netgear software has to be installed, which of course demands to take over control of the wireless settings from the perfectly adequate Windows XP wireless controls. The next morning, no one can get online, all the networking is mucked up, I have to travel onsite and get the stupid Netgear software to stop popping up with its incomprehensible dials and control panels and graphs. I couldn’t find any way to get the Netgear software to hand control back to Windows – that required removing and reinstalling the software to get the startup dialog to appear again so I could check the box telling the Netgear software to get out of the way. Once I did that, the connections were immediately rock solid.

And so it goes. This is the good guys, the cream of the crop – I’ve also had battles with spyware and rootkits and the rest. Some weeks are more tiring than others. Back to the news soon, I promise!

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