2009
09.25

Hitting The Road

I’m lucky that I’ve just gotten a new fuel efficient car.  I’m joining the MS Ireland crew on the road to do the official public/community launch events for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2.  We head to Galway on Sunday to do the event on Monday afternoon.  We then roll down to Cork on Tuesday to set up the Wednesday event.  I’m back home again on Thursday morning to work.  We then head to Belfast on the 13th of October before returning for the final event in Dublin on the 15th.

These aren’t going to be the typical launch event wrapped up in endless PowerPoint decks and videos of gigantic American corporations that have no relevance to us.  This is a demo intensive session where we’re going to give real world demonstrations of some of the key features in action.  Dave Northey will be running the show and myself and Wilbour Craddock (both of the guys are from MS Ireland) are doing demos.  There will also be some content on Exchange 2010.  Attendees (you have to actually go, registration is not enough) will be picking up a free, fully functional, not-timebombed copy of Windows 7 Ultimate.  That’s worth several hundred Euros.

In the evening there is an IT @ Home session featuring Windows 7, Windows Home Server and the XBox 360.  That’ll be a good session too based on what I know about it so far.  Will will be running that one.

Be sure not to heckle and hopefully I’ll see/talk to some of you out there!

2009
09.24

Microsoft announced the RTM of the Web Platform Installer (Web PI) and the Web Gallery.  The Web PI is a simple little tool that saves a lot of time.  Install it on a server that will be a web server.  Then browse through it to pick and choose the bits you want to download and install, e.g. PHP, FTP 7.5, WordPress … yeap, those were non-MS products listed in a MS solution.  The Web PI downloads the installers and installs the programs.  I’ve deployed the RC with customers with great success.  They liked it a lot because it made customisation easy for them.  Heck, it simplifies my job too.

2009
09.24

WebsiteSpark

Microsoft today announced a new program for small web development companies (less than 10 employees) called WebsiteSpark.  Similar to BizSpark, it offers free software for 3 years for companies who develop websites for others.  This software includes:

  • 4 processor licenses of Windows Web Server 2008 R2
  • 4 processor licenses of SQL Server 2008 Web Edition
  • DotNetPanel control panel (enabling easy remote/hosted management of your servers)
  • 3 licenses of Visual Studio 2008 Professional Edition
  • 1 license of Expression Studio 3 (which includes Expression Blend, Sketchflow, and Web)
  • 2 licenses of Expression Web 3

That’s a nice tidy some of money these company’s will save.  My employers registered as a WebsiteSpark hosting partner today – that means customers of ours who are web developers can get free production licensing (Web Server and SQL Web Edition) for their hosting needs.  They also get the DotNetPanel control panel – devs like to use a control panel because they’re often not familiar with the ways of Windows/IIS management for backend website management.

Note that it’s Windows Web Server 2008 R2?  These folks are getting the very latest web platform to run on.  This is a 64bit platform offering support for up to 32GB of RAM, 4 CPU sockets, IIS7.5, and PowerShell 2.0.

2009
09.24

Microsoft has released supported for running Operations Manager 2007 SP1 and Operations Manager 2007 R2 on Win7 and W2008 R2.  This also includes an operating system management pack for Windows Server 2008 R2.

There are a few workarounds to note on the page, e.g. for when servers are upgraded from Windows 2003 x64 or when push installations fail due to COM issues.

2009
09.21

Claus Neilsen (PowerShell pro) posted an alert on the Minasi Forum this morning regarding an issue where Windows Server 2008 R2 can blue screen if the Hyper-V role is enabled on HP Servers.  Claus reports that “the fix he has found so far is disable Intel Core C3 State option in the BIOS”.

EDIT #1:

There is a hotfix that will probably fix this issue.  KB974598 refers to when "You receive a "Stop 0x0000007E" error on the first restart after you enable Hyper-V on a Windows Server 2008 R2-based computer".  It goes on to say "This problem occurs because the system uses a C-state that is supported by the processor. However, the C-stateis not supported by Hyper-V".  This problem is not specific to HP computers.

2009
09.18

I got an interesting email from a major software publisher the other day.  They develop, sell and support solutions that run on the Windows platform.  Their integration with Microsoft is pretty tight and it’s important for their support staff to know about Windows Server Active Directory. 

The Irish Windows User Group is running a session on Windows Server 2008 R2 Active Directory on September 25th at 09:30GMT.  The presenter is Microsoft Ireland’s Wilbour Craddock.  We’ll be running it as an in-person event but there will also be a live webcast. 

The leader of this company’s EMEA support team asked if it would be OK to set our LiveMeeting webcast on a projector and speakers.  He had a team of 30+ staff that he wanted to attend the session so they could start learning about the new functionality.  He also said he was thinking of getting other support teams in other regions to do the same thing.  What an absolutely brilliant idea!  He asked if this was OK?  Absolutely.  If one person on his site managed the keyboard to ask questions our moderator would read them out to the presenter so they could be answered.  Now this company’s support staff could virtually attend the session without a massive road trip and abandoning the office.

So if you want to do something similar:

  • Set up a PC with LiveMeeting installed on it in a meeting room and tune into the web cast.
  • Set up a projector and decent external speakers for the PC.
  • Assign one person to locally moderate questions and type them into the LiveMeeting client.

It’s a simple and cheap way to start the education process for your staff.

2009
09.17

Microsoft announced the release of VMMCA 2008 R2 for analysing the configuration of Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2.  You can do this before your installation of any of the server components or afterwards to troubleshoot.  This will save you endless hours of troubleshooting and chatting with PSS.  You can download it now but make sure you install the x64 edition of the MBCA (Microsoft Baseline Configuration Analyzer) first.  Check out the original announcement for more details and scenarios.

2009
09.17

ACT 5.5 Tutorials

Microsoft has released a set of tutorials and videos to show you the ropes of using the Application Compatibility Toolkit.  When moving from a legacy OS like XP to Windows 7 then application compatibility is your big worry.  You’ve a few alternatives:

  • Get the vendor to upgrade the app: *ROTFLMAO* Yeah, like they’ll do that!
  • Side by side legacy machine: Yuk!
  • Legacy OS terminal servers: Double yuk!
  • XP Mode: Fine for small organisations.
  • XP Mode with MED-V management: The choice for larger organisations that can afford Software Assurance and the MDOP licensing
  • Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT)

ACT allows you to create “shims” to simulate your legacy OS.  This fools the application into working.  There’s a huge library of these for applications out there that you can reuse.  You can also create your own for apps not already in the library.

2009
09.17

There’s a story on SiliconRepublic where I have been quoted.  Microsoft TechNet Ireland ran a survey and found that 2/3 of respondents said budgets were being cut.  At the same time, the business was looking to IT to find more cost effective ways for the business to operate.

Some simple solutions?  If you virtualise using Hyper-V then you can slash your server OS spend and your systems management costs.  An Enterprise license assigned to a host allows 4 free guest Windows Server operating systems.  A Datacenter license assigned to each physical CPU on the host allows unlimited Windows Server guest operating systems.  So a dual CPU machine (maybe 8 or 12 cores) could run unlimited Windows Server licenses for just €5000 or thereabouts! 

The same applies to Microsoft System Center.  You can assign and Enterprise (for 4 VM’s) or DataCenter (for unlimited VM’s) System Center CAL/SAL to manage your VM’s with Data Protection Manager, Operations Manager, Configuration Manager and Virtual Machine Manager.

What it you already have an Enterprise Agreement with MS for your existing physical servers?  Virtualise them and “true-down” on your report.  Let your managers know how much your saving and suggest a commensurate bonus :-)  Then send me a cheque! :-)

There’s much more to virtualisation of course.  There is a spend at the front end on hardware and storage.  Maybe on consulting too.  But over the long run you save big time on power (especially with Windows Server 2008 R2 Core Parking).  You also separate yourself from being tied to hardware so hardware replacement becomes a lot easier.  That’s more true with Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 quick storage migration where a hardware replacement for a VM (move a VM from one device to another) has maybe 2 minutes of downtime (this is different to Live Migration or VMotion).

39% of those surveyed said virtualisation was what they were doing.  Other solutions included business intelligence and unified communications.  Give it a read for yourself.

2009
09.17

Using Windows Server 2008 R2 Remote Desktop Services and Hyper-V you can run a VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) solution where users RDP into virtualised desktops running in the data centre.  Microsoft published two guides yesterday:

Uh, I think MS got the intro text mixed up.  There’s two ways to do VM’s in VDI.  The first is to deploy dedicated or personal desktops.  This stores customisations for the assigned user.  When a user logs in, they always get the same VM.  It gives the same functionality as 1 user sitting at 1 PC all of the time.  A pool of VDI desktops is like hot-desking.  The user never knows which machine they’ll log into.  So you need to cater for this, e.g. roaming profiles and/or folder redirection, lockdown/prevent storage, automated s/w deployment, etc.

2009
09.17

This document was published by MS yesterday:

“This document provides guidance to help organizations understand and manage the security of the Microsoft® BranchCache™ feature introduced in Microsoft Windows Server® 2008 R2 and Microsoft Windows® 7. BranchCache is a wide area network (WAN) bandwidth optimization technology. To optimize WAN bandwidth, BranchCache copies content from your main office content servers and caches the content at branch office locations, allowing client computers at branch offices to access the content locally rather than over the WAN.“

2009
09.16

Hans Vredevoort posted an interesting article where he compares VMware’s VMFS with Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V CSV (Cluster Shared Volume).

2009
09.16

VMM 2008 R2 Documentation

Microsoft has released documentation for installing and using Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2.

2009
09.16

Microsoft has released the AD Management Gateway Service AKA the Active Directory Web Service for Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2008.

Windows Server 2008 R2 includes a new role called the Active Directory Web Service.  This is an interface for MS native PowerShell based tools to it interact with and manage Active Directory, i.e. Active Directory Administrative Center (ADAC) and the PowerShell module for Active Directory.  Obviously you need to locate installations of this service close to your AD administrators.  What if they are running legacy domain controllers?  What’s where the Active Directory Management Gateway Service comes in.  Here’s what MS says in the download page:

“The Active Directory® Management Gateway Service provides a Web service interface to Active Directory domains and instances of Active Directory Lightweight Directory Services (AD LDS) or Active Directory Application Mode (ADAM) that are running on the same server as the Active Directory Management Gateway Service.

You can download and install the Active Directory Management Gateway Service on servers and domain controllers running the following operating systems:

  1. Windows Server® 2003 R2 with Service Pack 2 (SP2)
  2. Windows Server 2003 SP2
  3. Windows Server 2008
  4. Windows Server 2008 SP2

Note: You can install the Active Directory Management Gateway Service on writable domain controllers as well as Read-only domain controllers that are running Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2008 SP2.

After it is installed on any of these operating systems, the Active Directory Management Gateway Service runs as the Windows Server 2008 R2 Active Directory Web Services (ADWS) service and provides the same functionality. For more information about ADWS, see What’s New in AD DS: Active Directory Web Services.

Note: The Active Directory Management Gateway Service does not support instances of the Active Directory Database Mounting Tool running on Windows Server 2008–based servers.

The Active Directory Management Gateway Service enables administrators to use the Active Directory module for Windows PowerShell and the Active Directory Administrative Center running on Windows Server 2008 R2 or Windows 7 to access or manage directory service instances that are running on Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2003 operating systems in the previous list.

Note: Installing the Active Directory Management Gateway Service on your Windows Server 2008–based or Windows Server 2003–based servers does not make it possible for you to install the Active Directory module or the Active Directory Administrative Center (which is available only on Windows Server 2008 R2 or Windows 7 operating systems) on these servers.

If the Active Directory Management Gateway Service on your Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2003 server is stopped or disabled, client applications, such as the Active Directory module or the Active Directory Administrative Center will not be able to access or manage any directory service instances that are running on this server.”

2009
09.15

Hewlett Packard has released the Proliant Support Pack v8.30 with support for Windows Server 2008 R2.  Excellent news: we’re getting closer and closer to when I can schedule our Hyper-V cluster upgrade.

2009
09.13

Twitter Offline _Again_

Twitter has become so important to people but it has become increasingly more unreliable.  It’ has gone offline during the NFL’s kick-off weekend.  I wonder how much tweeting Chad Ochocinco is up to.

Oh, by the time you read this Jason Elam will be unemployed.

2009
09.11

Microsoft Ireland has announced the launch events for Windows 7 and W2008 R2.  Like with the TechDays tour earlier this year, there will be events in Galway, Cork, Belfast and Dublin.  The day is split into two events: a technical session aimed at the business during the afternoon and an event in the evening aimed at using Windows 7 at home.  You have to register for each event if you want to go to both.

Each attendee will receive a free copy of Windows 7 Ultimate.  It’s a legit copy you’ll be able to use.  Seats are limited and demand will be great.  That’s why Microsoft has set up a lottery for the tickets instead of the usual first-come, first-served approach.  Anyone who is already a member of the Windows user Group in Ireland will have gotten a special registration code in their mail in the last few minutes.  That will give them a better chance to get a seat because community members have a reserved allocation of seats.

I’ve been a part of the planning of the events.  I can promise that the focus is demo, demo, demo.  No one will die from allergic shock to PowerPoint.  There is a huge effort to squeeze as much as possible into the events as possible.  The Windows User Group will be trying to follow up these events in the coming months to add more detail and to cover functionality that couldn’t get squeezed into the time available at the launch events.

Here is the communication from Microsoft:

“Join us at the Windows 7 Technical Community Launch and be part of Windows history! Windows 7 is launching all over the world in the coming weeks and Microsoft Ireland are offering IT Professionals and Developers in your area, a chance to see the operating system uncovered.

Click the links below to go the event page, where you can *register your interest.

Windows 7 Technical Community – General Launch Session
Galway 28th September
Cork 30th September
Belfast 13th October
Dublin 15th October

Microsoft @ Home with Windows 7
Galway 28th September
Cork 30th September
Belfast 13th October
Dublin 15th October

*Places allocated on lottery basis one week before each event.”

I have to add that Wilbour, Dave, Enda and Ronnie and a huge crowd of others are busting their butts to make this an amazing event.  They deserve a lot of credit.

2009
09.10

Microsoft has published a document to walk you through evaluating Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V in a test lab environment.

“This guide provides detailed step-by-step walkthroughs for testing Hyper-V on a pre-production environment. You can use this guide to become familiar with Hyper-V and the process of creating and managing virtual machines. Also included in this guide are useful scenarios that you can test to better understand how Hyper-V can address the business goals of your organization.”

2009
09.09

Thanks to everyone who tuned in and helped advertise the session that was just run on Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V and System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2.  As promised, it was a quick session.  We focused on the new features. 

For those of you who were not able to make it, you can fine an online recording of the session here.

The presentation is posted here:  

Whats New In 2008 R2 Hyper V And Vmm 2008 R2   

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2009
09.09

Microsoft announced the future for ConfigMgr (SCCM) with a 2007 R3 release.  The focus appears to be squarely on power conservation on the desktop.  Expect a beta at the end of October and a RTM in Q1 2010.  More details of features will be released later.

2009
09.09

MDT 2010 has been released overnight.  This is the free OS image deployment product that will find its way onto a lot of networks to help people migrate to Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2.  You can also deploy older operating systems.  It uses task sequences to allow you to graphically program the process of not only deploying an operating system but also drivers, patches, applications, etc.  Out of the box, the sequence templates are very powerful, e.g. you can migrate from XP to Windows 7 while restoring data, you can do clean builds and you can capture sysprepped builds.

I’ve done some documentation on MDT 2010 to help you get started.

According to the Springboard blog:

“Michael Niehaus did a great series of blog posts on most of the new features of MDT 2010.  You can review those posts here.

Please make sure you review the release notes for instructions on how to upgrade from MDT 2008 or one of the beta releases of MDT 2010 here”.

2009
09.02

Thanks to David Gargan for trying to moderate – if only I hadn’t muted my speaker *embarrassed* I couldn’t hear David when he was moderating the question.

As promised, you can find the unattended answer file (autounattend.xml) for a silent installation of Windows 7 Professional here.  Just be sure to stick in a product key and change the regional settings to suit your organisation.

The webcast was recorded and is available here.  It’s around 47 minutes long.

Thanks to you folks who tuned in.  We’ll be back next week (better organised!) with a session on Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V and VMM 2008 R2.

 

Unattended Windows Installs

 
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2009
09.01

Stephen Rose has announced a highly desired trial program where you can get your hands on a 90 day evaluation copy of Windows 7 Enterprise.  This means you can check out the really uber-cool features that are only found in the Enterprise and Ultimate editions.  Enterprise is only available to those who have software assurance for the desktop (or MSDN/TechNet) so it’s been a bit of a chicken and egg situation on getting to play with it.  Thanks to Springboard, you get it for free and can use that trial in your decision making process on Software Assurance.

And it’s going to be really handy for anyone doing certification who doesn’t have TechNet or MSDN.

Please read the full post by Stephen.  There will be only so many downloads.  The eval lasts for 90 days.  You will have to wipe the system at the end of the 90 days.  Please only use this eval in a lab environment.

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