Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Microsoft and their frequent product name changes

Today I learned that the Microsoft Federation Gateway was rebranded to Azure Authentication System some time ago. This reminded me of that one time when we made a marketing video and had the narrator use the name Windows Azure when Microsoft decided to rebrand the service to Microsoft Azure. We had to pay the voice actor again to record the text for a second time, now with Microsoft Azure.

Word Cloud-1Sometimes a new name makes perfect sense, for instance when Microsoft renamed the RPC over HTTP protocol to Outlook Anywhere. Or when they rebranded Business Productivity Online Suite (deskless worker anyone?) to Office 365.

In the Exchange space the favorite buzzword today seems to be Modern. The newly architected Public Folders in Exchange 2013 and Exchange Online became Modern Public Folders. The smoother ADAL based authentication became Modern Authentication and I overheard someone jokingly using the term Modern Outlook Anywhere for MAPI/HTTP.

Smart branding can add tremendous value to a product, but inconsistent and frequent renaming will confuse customers and hurt the recognizability of a product. An example that comes to mind is the product we know today as Skype for Business, this product received a new name with every single release. Another bad example is the recent rebranding of the Exchange web interface to Outlook on the web. I always grin when I find another ‘Outlook Web App’ in an Exchange 2016 TechNet article. It looks like even the technical writers have a hard time keeping up with the name changes. I can’t blame them.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Focused Inbox for Outlook is delayed

When Microsoft announced Focused Inbox for Outlook and Outlook on the Web (OWA) in July they planned to release the new features to First Release customers starting early September 2016. Roll-out to the 4th ring of customers was scheduled for October.


One month between First Release and GA may seem much, but for organizations that need some more time to understand the impact and communicate the changes with the end-users, a month isn’t that much time.

But more importantly, September has already passed and we have not seen the new feature to appear nor any new updates on the Office Blog or documentation for administrators.

Last week I attended Microsoft Ignite in Atlanta and had the pleasure to speak with some members of the Outlook time. My understanding is that the feature is ready, the documentation has been written but the actual deployment has been rescheduled to the November/December timeframe.

Microsoft has promised to do a better job than they did with the roll-out of Clutter. Documentation for admins should be published before launch to First Release tenants. If you want to be prepared, read up on Focused Inbox admin controls in my previous article.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Exchange Online and the new email address limit

Exchange Online, just as any other cloud service, is a shared environment where resources are pooled between multiple tenants. This means that certain limits need to be enforced, either to ensure that the services is being used as intended or to prevent that some users consume an uneven share of the available resources.

Luckily most limits, not all, are documented quite well in the Exchange Online Limits section of the Office 365 Service Descriptions. One of the tables on that page contains some limits with regards to recipients. See the following screenshot of this table as it was on the 10th of July, 2016: (click to enlarge)


And here is what recently changed:


A new Recipient proxy address limit was added to the table and immediately enforced.

Interesting is that the column for Exchange 2013 is populated with the value of 200 now too:


Unless a recent CU introduced a hardcoded limit I don’t think this is accurate. By my knowledge the real limit in the on-premises world is the character limit of the proxyAddresses AD attribute.

Now this may not apply to you, but there are an awful lot of people out there who have up to 300 or more proxy addresses. Some users created custom addresses for each mailing list of vendor account as Exchange never implemented a wildcard email address feature (jetzemellema+amazon@gmail.com).

And to make matters worse, the admin interfaces do not allow to remove individual email addresses and then save the object again. A possible work around is to export all proxy addresses to CSV, remove them all, clean up the CSV to contain <200 entries and add them again with PowerShell.

The easiest long-term solution appears to be to add additional Distribution Groups where your mailbox is the only member. Now add a bunch of those addresses to the DG to ensure you can still receive all messages sent to the addresses.

In hindsight this would’ve been a perfect topic for Microsoft to announce before implementing the change, including guidance for customers who are impacted by this change.

Make your HCW experience even more fun

Ever wondered what happens when you click through the new and shiny Hybrid Configuration Wizard? Wouldn’t it be awesome to be able to see what happens when you wait in real time? Now you can.


People with a background in Unix or Linux are probably familiar with the tail program. tail reads the output of a file and keeps doing so when the file is updated with new data. This is an ideal tool to view log files in real time.

PowerShell offers similar functionality in Get-Content with the -Wait switch. With that in mind, all we need to do is find the most recent log file in the directory as every instance of the HCW creates a new log file and then read the contents of that file.

Start the HCW first, we need the log file to be there before we can read it, and then enter the following one-liner in PowerShell:

Get-Item "$ENV:appdata\Microsoft\Exchange Hybrid Configuration\*.log" | Sort LastWriteTime | Select-Object -Last 1 | Get-Content -Wait

You like that? Then try using Get-Content -Wait against C:\ExchangeSetupLogs\ExchangeSetup.log the next time you’re installing or upgrading Exchange. Have fun!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

How to fix ALT+S in Firefox

Key combination ALT and S is commonly used to save or submit data in web application, such as Exact Online, phpBB and vBulletin. Since Mozilla Firefox 2.0 this is not working anymore.

This can be fixed by editing two settings in the advanced settings of Firefox.

  • In Firefox, visit about:config
  • Change ui.key.chromeAccess to 5
  • Change ui.key.contentAccess to 4


The changes are immediately effective, no need to close and reopen the application.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Update, fixed: KB3176934 breaks remote PowerShell

Update: This issue has been fixed in the re-released KB3176938 update.

Today I ran into an error message on one of my systems. PowerShell was unable to import my remote session to Exchange Online.


Import-PSSession : Could not load type 'System.Management.Automation.SecuritySupport' from assembly 'System.Management.Automation, Version=, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=31bf3856ad364e35'.

A quick Google search learned that this KB3176934 update was released a couple of days ago and is known to break DSC, remote PS and probably other stuff.

Microsoft scheduled an updated update to be released on the 30th of August 2016. If you can’t wait for some reason, for instance you planned to do some actual work today, uninstall the update and reboot your system.

wusa /uninstall /kb:3176934

Source: PowerShell DSC and implicit remoting broken in KB3176934

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Focused Inbox admin controls appear in Exchange Online

Back in 2014 Microsoft acquired Acompli, a company that had developed the popular mobile apps with a feature called Focused Inbox. A server side algorithm was used to “learn” the difference between important email and less important email, providing the users a very clean view of their mailbox showing only the most relevant messages.

The Acompli apps have then been rebranded to Outlook Mobile and the algorithm was migrated to Office 365 and Azure’s machine learning capabilities. The next step is to bring Focused Inbox to Outlook and Outlook on the Web, which Microsoft recently announced. See Outlook helps you focus on what matters to you.

I’m sure that any Exchange Online admin remembers how Clutter was introduced, a new and potentially confusing mailbox feature without any admin controls. With Focused Inbox Microsoft is planning to do a better job and has announced admin control before the actual roll-out to the Office 365 tenants.


Admins will be able to disable or enable Focused Inbox on the tenant level with Set-OrganizationConfig and the -FocusedInboxOn parameter. Similar to Clutter there will be cmdlets to manage the feature per mailbox as well, expect something like Get-FocusedInbox and Set-FocusedInbox.

Focused Inbox will begin to roll-out in the September-October timeframe, starting with First Release customers. More information on admin controls will be available before roll-out, giving admins more time to develop a strategy on how to handle the implementation of this new feature.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Outlook 2013 June 2016 update causes Mail applet to stop working

Many issues with opening the Mail applet in the Control Panel have been reported in the technical communities recently. Apparently this applies to Office 2013 Click-to-run (C2R) installs with the most recent ‘June 2016’ update installed. The build number of the affected installs is 15.0.4833.1001 and newer.

Microsoft is aware of the issue and will have this fixed in the upcoming July 2016 update. While the issue prevents the user from opening the Mail applet in Control Panel, there are several workarounds to access the Outlook profile settings to either select a different or create a new profile, or to open the Control Panel applet to edit existing profile settings.

Method 1

Start Outlook with the /profiles switch:

Outlook.exe /profiles

Method 2

Toggle the ‘Prompt for a profile to be used’ setting with a registry key.


Value type = REG_SZ
1 = "Prompt for a profile to be used"
0 = "Always use this profile"

Method 3

Add two missing registry keys:

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Control Panel\Cpls]
"MLCFG32.CPL"="C:\\Program Files\\Microsoft Office 15\\root\\office15\\MLCFG32.CPL"

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\WOW6432Node\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Control Panel\Cpls]
"MLCFG32.CPL"="C:\\Program Files\\Microsoft Office 15\\root\\office15\\MLCFG32.CPL"

Method 4

Revert the Office 2013 C2R install to 15.0.4823.1004, the May 2016 update.

  1. Exit all Office applications.
  2. Open an elevated command prompt. To do this, click Start, type cmd in the Start Search box, right-click Command Prompt or cmd.exe, and then click Run as administrator.
  3. At the command prompt, type the following command, depending on your bitness of Windows, and then press Enter:
    For an Office 2013 installation and a 32-bit version of Windows:
    cd %programfiles%\Microsoft Office 15\ClientX86
    For an Office 2013 installation and a 64-bit version of Windows:
    cd %programfiles%\Microsoft Office 15\ClientX64
  4. Type the following command, and then press Enter:
    officec2rclient.exe /update user updatetoversion=15.0.4823.1004
  5. When the repair dialog box appears, click Online Repair.
  6. Click Repair, and then click Repair again.
  7. After the repair is complete, start Outlook.
  8. Click File, and then click Office Account.
  9. In the Product Information column, click Update Options, and then click Disable Updates.
    Important note This step is very important. The repair process re-enables automatic updates. To prevent the newest version of Office Click-to-Run from being automatically reinstalled, make sure that you follow this step.
  10. Set a reminder in your calendar for a future date to check this Knowledge Base article (3175861) for a resolution for this issue. Enable automatic updates in Office again after this issue is fixed. Enabling automatic updates again will make sure that you don't miss future updates.

KB article in the making

The instructions in Method 4 mention a KB article with id 3175861. Unfortunately that article was announced but has not been published yet.


To learn more about this issue I recommend to check https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/3175861 in a few days to read more.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Multiple Transport Rule conditions and the OR operator

Here’s something I ran into today and would like to share. Exchange transport rules, also known as mail flow rules, can have multiple conditions, actions and/or exceptions which makes them flexible and a powerful tool. However, if you add multiple conditions an AND operator will be applied. This means that the rule will be triggered only when all conditions are True.

How can we replace the AND with an OR? For instance, if we want to apply a certain action when the sender is member of a group or a specific person? The answer is that we can’t do this with a single transport rule. There is an easy solution, simply create a copy of the transport rule and update the condition. Now the action will be applied when either of the transport rules is triggered because the single condition is True.