Saturday, 31 May 2008

SBS World Wide Community Survey 2008

The Official SBS Blog announced the SBS World Wide Community Survey for this year.

The survey has become an annual event in the SBS community.

Please take the time to fill it out as the information is used by the SBS team. It will only take a minute.

The Survey site: SBS WWW Community Survey 2008.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Friday, 30 May 2008

Microsoft Small Business Specialist User Group is born ... almost

For anyone here in the Greater Edmonton Area, we are trying to get a user group started that is focused on the SBS/SMB market: The MSBSUG.

The group will be a part of or an the Edmonton Microsoft User Group. It is our intention to have some SBS/SMB focused sessions during the EMUG year.

I would also like to see the group built upon some focused meetings on our businesses and business practises, working with SBS 2003 and the various infrastructure products, as well as looking ahead to SBS 2008, EBS 2008, and the required infrastructure.

I am also hoping to form a study group for those who want to obtain the Microsoft Small Business Specialist designation for their I.T. firm.

So, please feel free to drop an email to me if you are interested in being a part of this new group.

We would like to have a group gathering for an initial Meet & Greet on Wednesday June 25, 2008 at a venue to be determined by the response we get.

Thanks to Microsoft and EMUG and all who have expressed interest so far.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Intel Server Board Memory Caveat

Each and every Intel Server Board, such as the S5000PSLSATAR, will have a list of tested memory for that board.

Tested memory list [PDF]

That list is far from static. It is constantly being updated as more and more manufacturers get their memory products validated with a particular server board.

Intel goes to great lengths for us in the Channel to make sure there is a list of components that will work as they should when configured in a server. These lengths give us the confidence to quote on a server setup knowing that we will have a stable server at the end of that particular build.

When we put a call into Intel to get some assistance with troubleshooting a server problem, one of the first questions out of the technician's mouth will be what type of memory was installed on the server board.

If that memory is not on the approved list, then the reseller/integrator will be responsible for purchasing and installing memory that is on the list before Intel will go any further with the troubleshooting.

This is especially important to keep in mind when faced with:

Kingston Product list for S5000PSL

Note that the part numbers with the "I" suffix are Intel validated. The others are not.

Given the plethora of memory chip manufacturers, PCB board manufacturers, and all of the other components on a memory stick, there are so many combinations that come together to defeat a server configuration out of the box or even a week, month, or year down the road.

The "I" suffix gives us the assurance that the components that make up the memory stick will work as expected when plugged into an Intel server board. The "I" memory sticks will cost more too. It is, however, a small price to pay when a server is due to be delivered tomorrow but decided to start spontaneously rebooting this afternoon near the end of its 72 hour burn in!

We were in that situation once ... and we learned a valuable lesson that day.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

EnergizeIT 2008 Certification Boot Camp at EMUG last night

We had the Canadian EnergizeIT Certification Bootcamp hosted at our Edmonton Microsoft User Group meeting last night.

We had about 240 or so register and it looked as though most of them showed up.

Our presenters were Kai Axford and MVP Kirk Munro.

The presentations were awesome. Kai has an excellent ability to make his point very clear and get a few laughs in between. Among other things, we learned that VMs must be managed in the same manner as a physical system: They must be patched, have A/V running on them, and share similar access permissions structures as physical systems.

Kirk did a good job getting into Server Core as well as a good overview of PowerShell's capabilities.

While working on Server Core, Kirk demonstrated a neat GUI tool that allows one to configure a Core install:

Server Core Configurator

The Server Core Configurator allows one to work with a Core installation without needing to run the various configuration commands at the command line.

This is an excellent little tool for those who are looking to get a Core installation up and running and available for RSAT (x86 download site) management via a remote Windows Vista SP1 or Full Server 2008 installation.

All in all, the evening was very rewarding with both excellent speakers and great content.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Java Setup Errors 2755 and 1624 on Windows Vista

We had a really strange fight to get the Jave runtime to install on a client's Vista Business SP1 laptop.

No matter what we tried while logged in as the user we would always get:

Java Setup: Internal Error 2755. 1624, ...

Note that the install .msi file is not in a temp folder but under its own subfolder.

Just in case we emptied out the Temp folders both under the user's profile and under the %windir% to no avail.

We went to the Java Manual Download page and downloaded the full Offline version for Windows.

Still we did not get anywhere.

A bit of searching turned up the following in Sun's Java forums: Java Install / Autoupdate - Help Please:J2RE Installation fails - "Internal Error 2755. 1624, ".

We followed each suggestion as we progressed down the various posts. None of them worked until the post by JimDenver on 09/18/07 to start the .msi install from the folder listed in the error.

We did that and we were eventually greeted with:

Java Setup - Progress: Installing Java

The install kept going until it hit the "Registering Components" phase. Then it just sat there.

We left it alone for about 5 minutes which was an abnormally long time for an install on a laptop as powerful as the one we were working with.

One of the notes in the forum posts talks about antivirus or antispyware blocking the install. So, we brought up the Task Manager and sure enough for every CPU cycle the Windows Installer was taking up Windows Defender was taking up twice as much. It looked as though there was a competition going on between the two.

We killed the Windows Defender process and within seconds the Java install showed:

Java Setup - Complete

Just to make sure the Windows Defender blockage did not cause any further issues, we went to the Verify Java Version page and ran the test. We were given a successful install of Java 1.6.6 page!

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

SPLA - Hosted Services 70-501 Free Online Courses and Exam Discount

For those of us on the SPLA, we now have an incentive to further our professional recognition in this particular niche:

Free Online Courses

The courses will provide the foundation that one will need to write and pass the MCTS: Windows Server 2003 Hosted Environments – Configuration and Management exam.

There are 5 E-Learning courses being offered:
  • Course 5238: Overview of the Microsoft Windows-based Hosting Solution E-Learning
  • Course 5239: Planning and Deploying the Microsoft Windows-Based Infrastructure Components E-Learning
  • Course 5240: Planning and Deploying Microsoft Windows-Based Hosted Services E-Learning
  • Course 5241: Running Microsoft Windows-based Hosted Services E-Learning
  • Course 5242: Optimizing, Reporting, and Maintaining the Microsoft Windows-Based Hosting Solution E-Learning
  • Course 5243: Troubleshooting the Microsoft Windows-based Hosting Solution E-Learning
A further incentive within the email we received is a discount voucher for writing the exam which looks to be 32% off the regular price. There is a Web form to be filled out to obtain them.

This is definitely an opportunity that one should not miss for their technicians as part of developing a strong SPLA based business.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Microsoft Action Pack Renewal Steps

We know we are having a bad day when ...

Renewing the Microsoft Action Pack Subscription (MAPS), the process is quite simple:
  1. Sign into the Partner Membership Centre.
  2. Click on View Your Membership Account button.

  3. Click the Membership Center button in the drop down list.
  4. Click the Orders & Benefits link.

  5. Click Additional Enrollment Summary in the drop down list.
  6. Click the Re-Enrollment "tab".

  7. Click the "Click here to renew" link.
The above "Click here to renew" link will appear if your MAPS renewal date falls before June 19, 2008. If the anniversary date is after June 19, 2008, then there will be an assessment requirement prior to being allowed to renew.

Once the assessment course and exam has been passed the organization will be required to complete an assessment every two (2) years.

I do believe that the assessment is definitely a step in the right direction.

... when we still manage to miss something in the steps and need to reach out for a bit of help! ;)

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Canuck Mac Users: Final Cut Tour Announced

Making a video on the Mac is probably one if the simplest tasks that we can do out of the box relative to our Windows PC based experience.

Besides our clients that are Mac based, the Mac's video making abilities are a big plus for us.

For those needing a more advanced video editing setup Apple has announced a 5 city tour across Canada for the new Final Cut Studio 2 and Final Cut Server product release:

Final Cut Tour

Seating space seems to be based on the specific venue with Edmonton at 112 seats. So, they are likely to go fast.

The links: For those outside of Canada, the worldwide registration page should get you to the appropriate geographical area.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Live Search to offer Cashback ... but what about the search?

Microsoft recently announced a cashback incentive for certain products that a user would click through and purchase via a Live Search.

The specifics:

Live Search Cashback Icon

A while back, Microsoft made a significant upgrade to the Live Search algorithms that greatly improved the search results.

We blogged about that: Windows Live Search vs Google. The improvements were significant as we were not able to find much of anything before the changes at that time.

This new approach to search advertising and the ability to track actual transactions as a result of a click through is awesome! If it flies, it puts pressure on Google to restructure things towards a similar system. Companies that will use this form of advertising will be able to measure with great accuracy the effectiveness of their advertising dollars on the search engine.

But, there is one huge caveat in amongst all of this: Microsoft's Live Search still does not produce consistent comparable search results to the other search engines. Driving traffic to the search engine for users who are specifically looking to purchase a product is one thing ... having that traffic wash over into Live Search's general search capabilities, and thus search share increases, is another.

Case and point:

Search Result for: MPECS Vista OEM

The post being searched for is on the OEM branding of Windows Vista. Unfortunately, that post did not show up in our results from the Live Search engine. This example is but one of many where we are searching for specific information and the Live Search results fall short.

By default, the first search engine we have been turning to when there is a need to troubleshoot a problem or search for specific information on products and services is Live Search.

Sometimes, the Live Search results are pretty similar such as in this case where we were troubleshooting an ActiveSync error on a Mobile 5 device:

ActiveSync Error 0x80070008 Search Results

We find that the above similar results are rare though. More often than not we find ourselves having to open a new browser tab or window to initiate a specific search on Google, Yahoo, or other engines.

Don't get us wrong. Live Search has made some huge steps in the right direction.

However, other than driving users to search for products that may or may not have the associated cashbacks, most users will probably stick with their usual search engines for their regular searches. This will especially be true when they see that their searches turn up better all around results in the other engines.

So, to the Live Search Team, you have your work cut out for you: Fine tune your algorithms to turn up more accurate results for searches and search engine users may actually stick around!

This is a huge challenge indeed! ;)

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Small Business Server 2008 - RC0 Public Preview will be available this week ...

For those of us on the private SBS 2008 "Cougar" beta program, we have been privileged to have access to the new RC0 build of SBS 2008 since late last Thursday.

The Public Preview will be available via link this Microsoft Web page: Windows Small Business Server 2008.

Note the "Be the First to Get a Public Preview" for SBS 2008.

The link should go live sometime this coming Wednesday May 28, 2008.

Since this is a Release Candidate version of the product, it should be installed for testing purposes only. Use of the RC0 software in a production environment will not be supported by Microsoft, so if things blow up and that is where the RC0 SBS box happens to be ... there will be no support.

There is a huge learning curve involved with this new product release.

While the install and administration has been simplified to meet the needs of those with no real I.T. background to setup an SBS 2008 box, there is a lot underneath it all that we can get our fingers into the customize those boxes! ;) A neat thing about those underlying features: It is a lot easier with this edition to set things up so that our builds will be greatly simplified, and identical.

Some of the new aspects we will need to grapple with:

  • Install options are now available: New and Migration.
  • Answer File for installs (fairly straight forward).
  • New Management Console.
  • New Remote Web Workplace features and capabilities.
  • Default data location on the C: drive with wizards to move to other partitions after the fact.
  • Active Directory, Group Policy, and ADMX management.
  • Exchange 2007 SP1 and its features and abilities
  • Windows SharePoint Services 3.0
  • Interet access management, filtering, and firewalling for prior SBS 2K3 Premium clients.
We will be putting together a box for RC0 this weekend, with a deeper dive into it this coming week.

We are now able to comment on the product publicly, so we look forward to sharing our SBS 2008 experiences here in the near future!

Will this be our first public comment? Not really, but: Windows Small Business Server 2008 will really ROCK! :D

For those of us who love to build solutions ... real solutions around a whole host of server products, services, and components available in the hardware and software we work with, SBS 2008 will be the "cat's meow".

We will be able to take SBS and especially Remote Web Workplace to that next level providing integrated solutions that will provide our clients with a really kewl plethora of workflow collaboration and data access abilities.

Check it out folks ... SBS 2008 is the bread to our services butter! ;)

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Microsoft Event: Accelerate your Business - Calgary

We are currently on our way down to Calgary for the Microsoft Canada Event for Partners: Accelerate Your Business.

The focus of the afternoon will be on business opportunities in the new Small Business Server 2008 and Essential Business Server 2008 product platforms.

There will also be an exclusive MSBS Small Business Specialist Community session at 17:00 (5PM) that is something to look forward to.

This event will also be held in the following cities:
If you have the time, please come on down and check it out!

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Intel SRCSASRB hot swap experience was excellent

A recent hard drive failure (previous blog post) of a drive connected to an Intel SRCSASRB gave us our first experience with the hot swap capabilities of the SRCSASRB.

The controller itself is relatively new to the market.

We had downloaded and installed the Intel RAID Web Console 2 on the server. We used the tool to verify that the beep code that our client had called about was indeed the RAID controller indicating a failed drive.

Once verified, we silenced the alarm so that those working close to the server closet would no longer need to listen to it. ;)

With the rebuild process moving along smoothly, we made a trip down to our client to swap out the defective drive.

Now, the Intel RAID Software User's Guide (download page) while useful, had a different GUI and menu layout than the product we were working with.

So, we needed to figure things out on our own to some extent. Nowhere in the manual was an indication that the drive needed to be stopped prior to it being removed from the server.

So, we pulled the drive. The SRCSASRB did not complain by firing up the alarm.

When we plugged the replacement drive back into the server nothing happened though.

It turned out we needed to launch a new drive scan:

Rescan F5

We ran the Rescan and once it finished we saw:

New Global Hot Spare

The new hard drive was automatically placed in the previous hot spare's spot! No messing around with the utility. Pretty sweet! :)

The fact that the rebuild did indeed end up taking about 4.5 hours for a 750GB RAID 1 array along with this hot swap being a breeze really shows how far Intel and LSI have come with their RAID technologies.

All in all, the stress levels relative to having a critical RAID array hanging on one more drive failure have been reduced significantly as a result of this experience.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Hyper-V RC1 Has been released for W2K8 x64

Via the Microsoft Windows Virtualization Team Blog: Hyper-V RC1 Release Available on Microsoft Download Center!.

The update can be found here: Update for Windows Server 2008 x64 Edition (KB950049).

Note that the x86 download is the integration and management components only.

Hyper-V is x64 architecture only.

Before starting the update for Hyper-V, make sure to properly shutdown any virtual machines on the server. Also, make sure to purge any existing snapshots as the RC0 snapshots will not be compatible with RC1.

The update initiated on one of our Server Core systems:

OK to install?

Once the update is approved, we are greeted with:

Updates are being installed

A server reboot will be required after the update process completes.

Once we were connected to Hyper-V via the Hyper-V Manager installed on our Vista SP1 system, we restarted our VMs, connected to the desktops, cancelled the New Hardware Found dialogue (very important) and proceeded to update their Integrated Services (VM Additions on VS2K5 R2 SP1 equivalent).

The Windows XP based VMs took the Integrated Services update without a problem. A reboot was required once the install routine concluded.

Prior to this, we had a lot of grief getting Vista x86 SP1 to setup properly on Hyper-V RC0, so we did nothing beyond configuring new Vista SP1 VMs with legacy NICs to get them connected.

Now, things seem to be working as they should:

Hyper-V Devices Properly Configured

We will now be able to experiment with assigning cores to the Vista VMs and measuring performance differences in the same OS as well as the performance impact on other VMs operating on the same Hyper-V server.

Thanks to The things that are better left unspoken blog: Hyper-V RC1 Released.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Seagate 750GB ST3750330NS Failure on SRCSASRB

We just had our first Seagate Enterprise ES.2 series drive failure on a client production server.

The server setup:
  • Server: SR1560SFNA 1U Dual E5440 Xeon server
  • Drive: ST3750330NS 750GB Seagate ES.2 7200RPM Enterprise Storage.
  • Controller: SRCSASRB RAID Controller
  • Array configuration: RAID 1 (2x ST3750330NS)
  • 750GB ST3750330NS Global Hot Spare
This server is running SBS 2003 Premium R2 Open License version.

A screen shot of the Intel RAID Web Console 2:

Seagate 750GB ES.2 Failed

One of the last times we had a RAID array fail on an add-in RAID controller was on an Intel SRCS16 RAID controller with a RAID 1 pair and the remaining 4 drives on a RAID 5 array for capacity.

One of the OS RAID 1 pairs failed. We had to down the server to replace the drive as that was a quirk with the SRCS16 and the then new SATA 300 drives.

The rebuild on the 250GB pair was over 20 hours with the server offline. Performance degradation while the server was online was tangible. This client ran CAD drawings off of the SBS box along with all of the other tasks required by SBS. We left the server on overnight in rebuild mode. It finished just after their office opened the following morning.

In this case, the rebuild rate on the SRCSASRB is significantly better:

750GB RAID 1 Rebuild: ~3-4 Hours: Server Online

Keep in mind that the above time may not accurately reflect the exact time the rebuild will take. Since this is our client's busy time, the rebuild times may be a lot slower due to the OS demand for disk time.

We will be popping in to hot swap replace the failed drive and subsequently setting up the replacement as the new hot spare.

The above mentioned SRCS16 failure was a nail biter. We did not have any ShadowProtect backups at that time and would have had to have rebuilt the server using the built-in SBS backup. While that would have worked, it would have been time consuming and our client would not have been pleased with the idea that their people would miss a day of work.

The most critical time in a failed RAID 1 or 5 array is the time to introduce a replacement drive and have it rebuilt.

In today's case we had an identical Seagate ES.2 drive setup as a hot spare.

In a case where there is no hot spare to begin a rebuild cycle as soon as an array drive member fails, there is that additional time for a technician to respond and replace that defective drive.

No hot swap? Then more time and lost production for the client to down the server and replace that defective drive. We then have to ask our client: Do you want to risk the possibility of total loss if another array member dies (goes for both RAID 1 and RAID 5 arrays), or do we down the server, replace the defective unit, and put the server back online in rebuild mode (a lot slower) - or leave it offline in rebuild mode (a lot faster)?

We must keep in mind that stress on the hard disks will increase markedly during the rebuild cycle too. This is because the RAID controller is demanding both the rebuild tasks and the regular server operations if the server is still online.

For clients with higher costs for down time, this is the primary reason to be promoting the hot swap option to them. There is a selling point for the add-in RAID controllers as well: The motherboard based RAID controller in this situation (S5400SF) would more than likely have locked up the server when the drive failed.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Ingram Micro Canada drops the ball ... yet again :(

We have mentioned in the past that we have had some difficult dealings with Ingram Micro Canada.

Well, a client of ours ordered some Lexar 1GB JumpDrives that were only available from Ingram.

All we needed were 5, so we placed the order online last Wednesday afternoon with the confirmation email for the order coming through shortly after that. We made sure to phone in and verify a number of times via the sales rep we were speaking with that the order was good to go and they assured us that it was.

We had already committed to our client that they would see them today as yesterday was a holiday here in Canada.

We received a call last Friday afternoon from another Ingram sales rep indicating that our order was still on hold and required approval.

We indicated to the Friday sales rep that we had done all of that with the previous Wednesday rep. They even indicated that our credit card was indeed associated with the transaction and that it should have gone through.

So, then began the "negotiations" to have that shipment overnight to us so that we would receive it today. After a successive amount of, "Please let me place you on hold" by the Friday sales rep, they received the go-ahead to get the shipment to us today by UPS overnight at no extra charge.

Guess what?

The transaction was still on hold this afternoon! This was found out because our regular UPS driver had not shown up by lunch. A quick check of the status for the transaction turned up today's date for the transaction being released.

This was after the Friday sales rep assured us that the product would reach us today, after the Wednesday sales rep had assured us that the product would be here by today, and now today the Customer Service rep letting us know that the product will be here tomorrow.


So, now we are in the position of having to apologize to our client for the product delay all the while providing them with an ETA for tomorrow. In the mean time the delay has caused a production issue with our client, so we will end up needing to compensate them in some way as a sign of good faith.

We are only as good as our word. If a client cannot count on our word, then what else is there?
Under promise and over deliver.
That motto takes on a while new meaning when it is our reputation and the food and shelter we provide our families on the hook for a client's lack of confidence in our word. They certainly would not be our client once they have lost that confidence in us.

We have certainly lost confidence in Ingram Micro Canada as a reliable source for product. It is disappointing, but true. :(

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Intel DX38BT Critical BIOS Update Available

Intel released a new BIOS update for the DX38BT Extreme motherboard.

This particular update is rather critical as it resolves a number of important issues.

This is definitely one update to add to the Technician's Thumb Drive.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Friday, 16 May 2008

Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack Links

These links should have been with the last post! :D

Microsoft Desktop Optimization: A snapshot of the toolset included in MDOP:

The above PDF is here: Microsoft Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

MDOP 2008 Available for download for Open Licensing Clients

This update must have appeared relatively recently, as we did not see it until we logged in today:

MDOP 2008 Download

The big thing for us and what was our current Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) 2007 edition was the discovery of not being able to work with a Windows Vista installation that had a lost local admin password. The user had set things up so that once they were configured they did not need the admin account for any changes.

Booting to ERD Commander 2005 (a part of MDOP 2007) to change that admin password led us to the message that ERD Commander could not find any supported operating systems!

The MDOP 2008 download is a compressed file that upon extraction we could see:

ERD Commander 2005 plus two new files for 2008

Prior to running the Recovery Tools setup, the following files will be needed: We ran the x64 version of the MSI file as this workstation is running Windows Vista x64.

Here are some highlights from the install routine:
  1. A Windows Vista DVD will be required to create the image:

    • Vista DVD required. ISO will not work.

  2. Note that if the ERD setup is being run on x64 architecture, then the DVD for the image must also be an x64 based Vista OS.

  3. The setup will ask which tools need to be installed onto the bootable disk, we left the default which was the complete set.
  4. Setup will ask for the Windows Debugging tools. Note the default folder location setup requests:

  5. Once the above files have been downloaded and installed, the folder location will actually look like this:

  6. The Standalone System Sweeper will request a definition download which we allowed. Note that the download may take a few minutes.
  7. We are then presented with a request for additional drivers to be installed into the WinPE environment:

  8. Because we work primarily with Intel products, we made sure all of the regularly used RAID and NIC drivers were extracted and ready to install:

  9. We are then presented with the opportunity to add any additional files and folders that will be accessible once we boot to WinPE:

  10. Remember that any additional drivers and utilities that would be made available must be in the x64 flavour to work. We have a couple of bootable flash drives, one for x86 and one for x64 WinPE. We use them to install our lab images onto our lab systems. So, we pulled some of the necessary utilities from them to this WinPE setup too.
  11. The ISO image will be generated to a folder we select.
  12. Once the ISO image has been completed, we are presented with the option to burn it to a DVD.
The ERD Commander utility has more than paid for our Windows Vista Software Assurance. It provides us with a simple way to get into any system, whether DC, domain member, or standalone, to change the admin password. Thus we do not have to go through the pain of trying to figure out the plethora of other "admin password change solutions" out there.

There are also a huge number of additional utilities included with Windows Vista Software Assurance. It is well worth the expense.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Server Core - From Scratch to Hyper-V Production

It is quite an adventure to find the necessary information on the various commands needed to get a Server 2008 Core install up and running and subsequently live in production.

This list is by no means comprehensive, but the listed commands are the required ones to make things happen!

Assume the following:

  • Intel Xeon X3220 Quad Core Server
  • 8 GB of ECC RAM
  • 750GB Seagate RAID 1 array
  • Dual Gigabit NICs
  • DVDROM Optical
  • Server 2008 setup names the server: WIN-35CVS22
The above hardware configuration will be the basis for all of our commands.

Once the Server 2008 Core install has been completed one will be greeted with the Logon for admin. From there:

  1. Out of the box the Admin password is blank. Set a new password for the local admin account that meets password complexity requirements.
  2. Find the new server's name:
    1. hostname [Assume Enter after each line]
  3. Rename the server to our pending production name:
    1. netdom RenameComputer WIN-35CVS22 /NewName:TN-CoreVS01
    2. shutdown -r -t 05
  4. Configure our partitions:
    1. DiskPart
    2. Select Disk 0
    3. Create Par Primary Size=13312
    4. Sel Par 2 (assuming partition 1 is the system drive)
    5. format fs=ntfs label="SwapFile"
    6. assign letter=S
    7. Create Par Primary (no size specified as the balance will be taken)
    8. Sel Par 3
    9. format fs=ntfs label="VirtualMachines" Quick (No Quick means a long wait)
    10. assign letter=G
    11. list vol (should see optical, C:, S:, and G:)
    12. exit [Enter]
  5. Move the Swap File over to the S: partition:
    1. wmic computersystem where name="TN-CoreVS01" set AutomaticManagedPagefile=False
    2. wmic pagefileset where name=”S:\\pagefile.sys” set InitialSize=8192,MaximumSize=12288
      • If the pagefileset command gives you grief, reboot, then try the command again and it should work.
    3. shutdown -r -t 05
  6. Join the SBS domain and place the server in a custom OU:
    1. netdom Join TN-CoreVS01 /Domain:MySBSDomain.Local
      /PasswordD:* (asterisk will prompt for the password)
      • If the command fails, check for typos.
    2. shutdown -r -t 05
    3. Post reboot login: MyDomainAdmin@MySBSDomain + password
  7. Create and share the base virtual machine folder:
    1. G:
    2. MkDir VMs (name whatever you like)
    3. net share VirtualMachines=G:\VMs /Grant:"MySBSDomain\Domain Admins",FULL /Remark:"My Virtual Machines"
    4. Net Share VirtualMachines (lists all settings relevant to the share)
  8. Install the Hyper-V role then update it:
    1. bcdedit /set hypervisorlaunchtype auto
    2. start /w OCSetup Microsoft-Hyper-V (Case Sensitive and a restart is required)
    3. On another system: Download the Hyper-V current release to a network share (assume M: via logon script)
    4. M: (location of the Hyper-V update bits)
    5. CD Microsoft\Hyper-V (relevant folder for you)
    6. Windows6.0-KB950050-x64-Hyper-V.msu (update will run and restart)
  9. Setup Windows Networking - Static IP and network DNS Server:
    1. On the domain DHCP server setup reservations for the planned IPs needed for the 2 NICs.
    2. ipconfig to get the currently assigned IP addresses in relationship to the NIC name.
    3. netsh interface ipv4 show interfaces (note Idx number)

    4. netsh interface ipv4 set address name="3" source=static address= mask= gateway=
    5. netsh interface ipv4 add dnsserver name="3" address= index=1
      • For the following, hit the F3 key (DOSKey for those who remember), then the up arrow key to scroll through previously used commands to make things easier than retyping everything. Just change the relevant IP setting.
    6. netsh interface ipv4 set address name="7" source=static address= mask= gateway=
    7. netsh interface ipv4 add dnsserver name="7" address= index=1 (please ignore wrapping)
    8. IPConfig /all to verify settings.
  10. Configure the Windows Firewall (MS KB947709) to allow RDP, folder sharing, and remote admin:
    1. netsh advfirewall firewall set rule name="Remote Administration (RPC-EPMAP)" new enable=yes profile=domain
    2. netsh advfirewall firewall set rule name="Remote Administration (NP-In)" new enable=yes profile=domain
    3. netsh advfirewall firewall set rule name="Remote Administration (RPC)" new enable=yes profile=domain
    4. netsh advfirewall firewall set rule name="remote desktop (tcp-in)" new enable=Yes profile=domain
      • This is the correct syntax for this one ... not the original in the post that came from the above KB article that has been struck out. Plus, a couple of extras were needed to make things complete.
      • NOTE: Check the current assigned profile and change the above profile setting as appropriate: netsh advfirewall show currentprofile
      • NetSH Reference Post.
  11. Enable remote firewall management:
    • Netsh advfirewall firewall set rule group=“Windows Firewall Remote Management” new enable=yes
  12. Enable Terminal Services Admin:
    1. cscript c:\Windows\System32\Scregedit.wsf /ar 0
    2. Test by mstsc /v:TS-CoreVS01 (from a remote workstation)
  13. Update the Server Core installation (previous blog post).
  14. If ISOs reside on a network share, configure the Hyper-V server to access the share via Constrained Delegation (previous blog post).

Now that we have a good grasp on what commands are required to complete a Hyper-V setup on Server Core, we can place all of the above commands into a series of batch files that can be ran at each step. Some quick modifications to tailor things such as names and not leaving our domain admin password in a plain text file would be a good thing.

Batching the above command sets would reduce the amount of time required to run post OS install setup steps significantly. It would also save us from having to retype that command or hitting the F3 key to bring it back to edit it yet again! ;)

With the Hyper-V Manager we are able to create, modify, update, and delete any virtual machines associated with any Hyper-V enabled Server 2008 instance on our domain. One can also use an MMC on Vista to connect to the Server Core machine and manage its settings to some degree.

The first task post Hyper-V Manager install on Vista SP1 is to change the default directories under Hyper-V Settings for the Virtual Hard Disks folder and Virtual Machines folder (configuration file folder) to:

  • Virtual Hard Disks: G:\VMs\Virtual Hard Disks
  • Virtual Machines: G:\VMs\Hyper-V
Once we are comfortable that the new machine will not need to be blown away for a fresh start, we need to activate it:

  1. start /w slmgr.vbs -ipk ABCDE-FGHIJ-KLMNO-PQRST-UVWXY
  2. start /w slmgr.vbs -ato
The new Microsoft Virtualization setup is quite slick, and, when Hyper-V is installed on Server Core it rocks!

UPDATE: Missed the Windows Networking setup step.
UPDATE 2008-09-01: Added the initial step to discover the host name, added the update Server Core step, and some minor tweaks to the commands. Updated the firewall rules to reflect the proper syntax.
UPDATE 2008-10-30: Added the Exit command for the DiskPart command set, and a link to our previous post on moving the swapfile in Server Core.
UPDATE 2009-02-20: Added the Constrained Delegation step as well as the opening up of the Windows Advanced Firewall to remote management step.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

SR1530AH + PCI-E Riser = SRCSASRB RAID Capable

In the current SR1530HSH/SH line of 1U uniprocessor server systems we no longer need to deal with a standard and LX version of the product.

The 1U SR1530HSH/SH server systems come in 2 SKUs and both have the same motherboard (MB):
  • SR1530SH: With fixed hard drives
  • SR1530HSH with 3 Hot Swap Drive Bays
The cost differential between the fixed hard drive and hot swap hard drive models is relatively small in comparison to the previous generation's steps:
  • SR1530AH: Base model with S3000AH MB and fixed drives
  • SR1530AHLX: Base model with S3000AHLX MB and fixed drives
  • SR1530HAHLX: Premium model with S3000AHLX MB and 3 hot swap drives
The cost differential between the base AH model and the hot swap AHLX model was quite a bit steeper than the current SH models.

So, in some cases we have configured the SR1530AH model with the add-in PCI-E PCB and subsequently an SRCSASRB Intel RAID controller for better drive performance without the need for the LX or hot swap features.

There is a proper sequence for installing and updating the RAID controller's firmware:
  1. Install the Intel RAID controller into the PCI-E Riser card.
  2. Install the riser into the 1U server.
  3. Boot the server and connect to the RAID controller BIOS.
  4. Setup the RAID array(s).
  5. Reboot.
  6. Download the newest SRCSASRB firmware.
  7. Boot to a bootable USB flash drive.
  8. Update the firmware.
  9. Reboot and check into the SRCSASRB settings.
  10. Download the newest S3000AH BIOS.
  11. Boot to a bootable USB flash drive.
  12. Update the BIOS
  13. Reboot and verify the SRCSASRB shows up in the BIOS' hard drive boot order.
  14. Boot into the Windows Server 2008 setup.
  15. Install the SRCSASRB drivers and go from there.
On our first build we updated the SRCSASRB firmware without touching the S3000AH BIOS. In this case, the motherboard revision was a couple of steps back.

After the firmware update and subsequent boot into the Windows Server 2008 setup we kept getting an error message indicating that there was no controller associated with the hard disks listed. The error is identical to the one experienced in a previous Windows Vista setup problem.

In this case though, we rebooted back into the BIOS and sure enough the RAID controller was not listed as one of the boot device options.

Once we updated the board's BIOS we were good to go ... the SRCSASRB showed up in the BIOS as a bootable device and Windows Server 2008 was happy to be installed on the configured array.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Western Digital Raptors and Intel On Board RAID Caveats

We seem to be experiencing some hardware related hiccups specific to the 150GB Western Digital Raptors when mirrored on an Intel on board RAID controller.

We have a large number of Seagate RAID 1 mirrors on Intel on board RAID controllers and to date have not experienced this same issue under similar circumstances.

What we have been seeing is the breaking of the mirror if there is a hardware stall or freeze due to either an incorrectly installed/configured hardware driver or a malfunctioning piece of hardware that locks up the system.

So far, the breaking of the mirror seems to be isolated to the Raptors.

In one case, we had a mirror break that also took out the OS.

Keep in mind that we are only installing the Raptors into high end systems that we build in-house for key clients. This is our first run back into Western Digital drives in over five years.

However, any systems that we have put together so far that have displayed the above issues have indeed experienced the RAID 1 mirror being broken and at least needing an array rebuild or in some cases an array reinitialization and now in one case a reload of the OS.

On initial observation, it looks like the Raptors are a little more sensitive to a break in the data stream.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Intel SR1530HSH/SH On Board RAID and Server 2008

Intel's site indicates that drivers are forth coming for the Xeon 3000 series servers.

When at the S3200SH choose your OS download page, if one chooses either the 32bit or 64bit versions of Vista we end up with no drivers available.

However, if we choose the Server 2003 x64 or x86 OS version, we do end up with a download option: Software RAID Driver for Windows version 09.23.1010.2007.

After extracting the drivers we see:

Windows Vista x86 and x64 RAID Drivers

Place the drivers on a USB drive and we are good to go.

Windows Server 2008 will pickup the RAID array(s) and the OS install can proceed.

By the way, the Intel Server Configurator gives us a SATA based DVDROM or DVDRW as options. Intel has a disclaimer on their S3200SH support site indicating that connecting the SATA based optical drive to an on board or add-in RAID card is "Supported but not tested".

We have done a number of Server 2008 installs for both Full and Core editions on systems configured with on board and add-in RAID. So far we have not run into a SATA based optical drive access or performance problem.

Keep in mind that we make a point of sourcing only the Intel specific part numbers from our suppliers. We will not purchase other branded or supplied slimline optical drives for our rack mount server setups. For servers, we always err on the side of caution.

This is one issue we will need to keep an eye on until Intel puts a "Fully supported and tested" indicator for the RAID controllers we work with.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Intel SR1530HSH/SH Server System Build Experiences

Not too long after our post Intel SR1530SH/HSH and S3200SH Series - Xeon X3350/60 Not Supported Yet ..., Intel released a number of updates for the server board S3200SH that the SR1530HSH Server System is based on. The links are available at the end of this post.

The BIOS update that was required to enable support for the new Xeon X3350/60 CPUs was released.

Since these particular systems incorporate hot swap capabilities, updating the BIOS alone is not an option. We also need to update the BMC, FRU, and other components. The Intel Deployment Assistant (IDA) that boots via the supplied Intel drivers CD gives us the ability to connect to the Internet and download any required updates and then apply them seamlessly.

We are finding that the updates available to the IDA via the Internet are out of date though. So, we end up having to go to the product's support page and downloading the newest update package manually.

Once we have downloaded the update, we do the following to update the server system:
  1. We extract the download and place it on a USB flash drive in an appropriately named folder.
  2. From there we boot the SR1530HSH/SH system up into the BIOS and enter the Boot Manager.
  3. We choose the EFI Shell option for boot device and wait until the shell finishes booting.
  4. A little *BSD/Linux experience pays off here as we need to access the USB drive: fs0: [Enter]
    • Once the EFI shell finishes booting it will tell you in the list of attached drives which "drive letter" to connect to.
    • Note that some standard DOS shell commands work as do *BSD/Linux ones.
  5. Once into the updates folder type: startup.nsh [Enter]
    • Note that the update initialization may take a while. Please wait until it generates the update options.
  6. Choose your update type (we choose both BMC & FRU)
  7. Options will be presented to enter user data such as part numbers, serial numbers, and the like.
  8. Once the process is complete, one will see: Updates completed. Please reboot using the front panel button.
Upon rebooting the system, make sure to head back into the BIOS to make sure that all of the settings are as they should be.

If using the on board RAID controller, we tend to setup and initialize the arrays before we do the updates. When using an add-in RAID controller such as the SRCSASRB, we will update the firmware on the RAID controller after updating the system BIOS and components as the newer RAID controller firmware may break the connection with the server board on an older BIOS.

Product related links: We are finding that the Xeon 3000 series 1U Server Systems provide a really good value for our clients that are seeking to virtualize a number of desktops for Remote Web Workplace access or for legacy Line of Business Application access.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Friday, 9 May 2008

iMac Safari troubles and Office 2008 for Mac

Our iMac has been sitting here in the office relatively unused for the last while due to high demands on the Windows side.

It has our HP 5590 ScanJet connected to it since the HP driver setup on Vista, our office is essentially 100% Vista now, is rather flaky. We cannot get documents scanned with relative ease into PDFs anymore on the PC.

The iMac doesn't make it any easier, as the HP Scan to PDF always wants to OCR the input. That doesn't work so well for all of the handwritten notes we like to digitize for archival and wiki purposes.

So, we use the Scan to Print HP feature to Save as PDF in the iMac's print dialogue! ;) A bit of a funky way to get around the problems we are having, but it works.

We have since installed Office 2008 for Mac on the machine and began to work our way through the new product.

However, we cannot for whatever reason get Safari to work on any secure sites or to log into Blogger and get the Blogger editor up and running. This we are not able to do any blogging via the iMac at this point.

Suffice it to say that Office for Mac 2008 is a really neat update to the Office for Mac product.

When our priority bench catch-up projects get done here over the next week or so, we will format and install Leopard on the iMac and run through the setup on our SBS 2K3 network, install and configure Office 2008 for Mac, and then blow it away to start fresh connecting it to our Beta 2 of SBS 2008.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

SBS - New User Workstation Setup Checklist


Being a professional, with all of our training and/or experience, means being consistent.

Every time we setup a new user, their experience should be no different than the last user to be setup, or the previous 5 users.

Keeping that consistency across the various hardware, desktop OS, and applications encountered can be extremely difficult at times.

However, there are a number of things we can do to make sure that everything relating to their network profile, Outlook, and desktop appearance on the machine and via the network out of the gate are consistent:

  • Create the new User Account in the Add User Wizard
    • First Last (We always use FirstLast or First.Last in some cases)
    • Note the Email Alias setting: This is their FirstL@ or FLast@ etc. for outside email.
  • Setup the user's email account on the ISP if required.
  • Setup POP3Connector to pull email if required.
  • Create local user as above with password on Vista machines for UAC local Admin priviledges (where domain user not local admin)
  • Logon to the user's workstation/laptop.
  • Start Word or Excel and setup the user name and initials first.
    • In some cases where we start Outlook first, Outlook will not show that little dialogue window! It flashes by, then Outlook gets hung up waiting for input that we can no longer provide.
  • Start Outlook and confirm the user's mailbox is correct.
    • Verify their connections to Exchange
    • Send a test email to technician's test email account (reply via PDA or RWW for two way verification)
    • Connect Outlook to the required Public Folders.
    • Connect Outlook to any required SharePoint site resources.
    • Copy the existing Outlook e-mail autocomplete name list.
  • Setup the workstation properties:
    • Right click My Computer (XP) Computer (Vista) and Set the user's name into the Computer Description field under the Computer Name tab (Vista under Advanced System Settings)
    • Set the proper identifier to the C: drive name: MC-UserName (MC= My Client initials - makes for easier system identification in Explorer)
    • Existing workstation/laptop rename and reboot.
    • Verify printers - connect to printer shares on Vista x64
    • Setup Fax on Vista (Start --> fax --> start a new fax and connect to \\mysbsserver)
  • Verify My Documents (Documents on Vista) redirection
  • Copy any existing user profile data into the relevant places if required:
    • IE: Favourites and an export to OPML for feeds
    • Desktop contents
  • Verify Internet connectivity and ISA Client Firewall settings (SBS Premium)
  • IE default home page: http://companyweb/
  • Start Windows Media Player and express setup and verify Internet connectivity
  • Clear the Start Menu recent list.
  • Configure and verify any required Line of Business Applications.
  • Verify the Anti Virus product's functionality with the new profile.
  • Run any required OS and Application updates while working on the machine.
  • Run GPUpdate /force to verify Group Policy is configured correctly.
  • Check the system logs for any anomalies.
  • Arrange the desktop icons accordingly (we have a snapshot of each client's out of the box desktop).
  • Have any required Acceptable Use Policy papers ready for the user to sign.
  • Meet and training (in person or via remote).
The above list is a fairly detailed one. There may be a few other details that are required that are more specific to a given client's needs.

However, the most important element to this list from the client's perspective:

  • User's hard drive name is their name for quick identification.
  • Network Neighborhood shows the user name properly under the Description field.
  • User's first time experience is the same as any other user.
  • Their local, Outlook, and Start Menu (Vista) names are correct.
  • All profile requirements are there and no post install support phone call is required.
The above list is one of the most prominent ways we make our abilities and professionalism known to our clients. When the user experience is consistent and positive across the board this reflects very well on us as a service provider. It establishes a level of trust with our client contacts ... they know that everyone will be productive from the moment the user sits down at their workstation. They know that when they request something to be done, it will be done promptly and properly the first time.

This setup list reflects our current SBS OS: 2003. We will create a new one that better reflects the admin`s experiences setting users up on SBS 08 when the time comes for the Beta to go public.

UPDATE 2008-10-21: Added the Outlook E-mail Autocomplete Names copy to the new workstation.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Windows XP SP3 via WSUS now available

It looks as though the Service Pack 3 update was released to WSUS a couple of days ago:

Windows XP Service Pack 3 in WSUS

For some of our clients, this update will be held off for a bit longer yet as we have not had the chance to do a full range of testing.

So, when going through the WSUS console or SBS R2 console acknowledging those updates, keep that in mind for your clients before hitting the Approve button.

In our case, we will take one of the more advanced users and manually update their workstation/laptop before other users. They are usually quick to point out improvements or not and whether their Line of Business Apps get broken or have issues with the Service Pack.

Prior to that update being applied we will snapshot their workstation/laptop with ShadowProtect for that "just in case" fall back.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Display Flicker - Change the Refresh

With the advent of LCD monitors, image flicker has become a thing of the past ... at least relatively speaking.

For the most part, a screen set to refresh at 60 Hz will provide a clear and flicker free image.

Some LCD monitors are a little more sensitive to outside electromagnetic interference (EM) than others. It used to be that one could change the refresh rate in the video card driver to 70 Hz or even 75 Hz to eliminate any EM interference.

On the newer and larger LCD monitors this does not seem to be the case.

Electricity cycles at 60 Hz. Sometimes, when the monitor is set to refresh at 60 Hz, the image will flicker.

Some may never notice it, but for those of us with relatively sensitive eyes we pick it up immediately. In the case of CRT monitors, the refresh rate was the first thing to get adjusted due to the annoying characteristics of the CRT's image flickering.

In this case, the monitor in question is a new Acer X243w. When the ATI driver was set to refresh at 60 Hz, there was no end to the amount of flickering in the monitor's image.

But, there was no option on that monitor to bump up the refresh rate to 70+ Hz.

There was however an option to bump it down:

Acer X243W Refresh at 59 Hz

Once the setting change was made and applied, the flickering was gone.

Having the refresh rate on the monitor set to 60 Hz along with the A/C being at 60 Hz when having EM issues is a bit like having two fans, one directly behind the other, spinning at the same rate but not synchronized. One will notice the lack of synchronization in the way of a flicker.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Hyper-V on Server Core - Hardware Considerations

Depending on an organization's needs and usage model, there are a number of configurations that can be used.

For those that require a number of virtualized desktops for remote access or perhaps a virtualized small Web server setup: Where more performance is required for virtualizing high volume Web sites, CPU intensive Line of Business Applications, or a couple of server and a number of desktop instances:

Another possible option for our larger clients is Intel's new 6U Modular Server that gives us the ability to install up to 6 blades that support dual Xeon Quad Core 5400 CPUs and up to 32GB of RAM per blade. The modular server supports up to 14 2.5" SATA or SAS drives that can be configured in many different ways relative to one or more of the blades. SBS on one blade, SQL on another, ISA on yet another, and the rest for virtualization or other needs.

There is a lot of flexibility to be had for virtualization and other server infrastructure needs on the Modular Server.

Whatever the virtualization requirements that our clients have, server capabilities today can bring about a very quick and reasonable Return on Investment and with their very efficient power consumption patterns significantly reduce the Total Cost of Ownership over the life of the server.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Airport WiFi Consideration

Since there is some time before my flight so I thought it would be good to RWW into one of our workstation VMs and work on a few things.

This is the first time that I have attempted to use an airport WiFi setup.

The airport WiFi here at Toronto's Pearson International is not free. The one time fee, or membership fee, for those using the Hotspot is quite reasonable.

But, for whatever reason, once connected to the HotSpot and into the sign up process, I needed to download and install some sort of software MSI package. At least, that is what was indicated during the sign up process for the one day pass.

The laptop that I am using is an old shop Pentium M machine. It is not the quickest system on the block.

In a way this is fortunate, as the download process went quick, but the setup routine for the HotSpot software took a bit longer ... long enough to see the "You are ready to use our HotSpot" message flash in between and under the first "Run" after the download completed, and the second "Run" to accept the unsigned publisher prompt.

This leads to a bit of a puzzle since the Terms & Conditions (T&C) did not indicate as the to outright purpose of the software other than the usual EULA statements.

So, here we are connected to our desktop via RWW without installing the software requested by the HotSpot Web page. Nothing in the T&C indicated that we had to install the software either. It was implied that we should install it.

When it comes to registering for a "free" or "paid" service, one needs to make sure that every "i" is dotted and every "t" is crossed. Read the T&Cs and any EULA that may be associated with the product or service. Read the Privacy Policy and Service Statements if there are any.

If a service provider does not outline in a very clear and concise language exactly what the T&Cs are for a given software package that looks like it needs to be installed as part of the service, then one needs to weigh in very carefully whether they are willing to open their system up to that software package.

In this case, the answer is a clear and resounding "No" ... especially since the software package is not a required part of the service and the HotSpot service itself operates independently of the software package.

This begs the question: Exactly what is the nature and purpose of the HotSpot software?

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Friday, 2 May 2008

Hyper-V on Server Core - Some initial observations and hardware planning

We have had a chance to have some production Windows XP and Vista virtual machines running in Hyper-V on Server Core Standard for a few days now.

We decided to copy over our production VMs to Hyper-V, because that was the only way we were going to get any real experience with the product.

All in all, the experience has been positive.

Some of the high points:
  • VM performance is faster than Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1 on W2K3 R2 Standard SP2.
    • Single core to single core on an identically equipped 1U Intel Xeon 3000 Series.
    • From VM boot times, to program start up, to running some pretty intense reports in QuickBooks, things move a lot quicker.
  • Adding a second core to the Hyper-V based VM increases performance significantly.
  • Server Core's overhead is a paltry 256MB of RAM, in this case leaving 7.75GB to the VMs.
  • Server Core's hard drive footprint is relatively small, and can be made smaller by removing not needed packages (Server Core blog how-to).
One of the first things we needed to do to get Hyper-V to work with the newer Intel S3000AH series NIC setup in our 1U was to download the Hyper-V RC0 and install it.

We downloaded the MSU file to a company folder share the Server Core system was connected to, copied it over to a local folder on the Server Core machine, then ran the update from the command line from that folder by typing it's full name and hitting Enter.

The RC0 install routine fired up with no issues, rebooted the machine, then ran some more install routines on login.

We needed to have Windows Vista SP1 on the workstation we were going to install the Hyper-V management console (x64 Console, x86 Console) on.

We have run into a few Hyper-V hiccups and a strange VM performance issue:
  • Our Windows Vista SP1 VM that came from a Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1 with Virtual Machine additions removed would not setup on Hyper-V at all.
    • This is a known limitation at this point
  • Our Hyper-V based server must have read/write permissions given to shared folder where any ISOs reside
    • Access to the ISOs on our Windows based storage server works fine
    • Access to ISOs on an Intel SS4000E in either Local Authentication or Active Directory Authentication Mode will not work.
  • The XP VMs go into some sort of near death pause for anywhere from 15-30 seconds periodically and somewhat randomly.
What we are also finding out with the current setup is that the performance bottleneck has moved from the Windows OS to the storage subsystem. We have discovered that we need a really good hardware accelerated RAID controller to reduce or eliminate that bottleneck.

All in all, as Hyper-V goes through its final development phase into RTM, things can only get better.

Working with both Server Core and Hyper-V has been a really good experience so far. A neat part of the whole endeavour is discovering all of the quick and simple ways one can manage the server from the command line. And subsequently, manage the Full Server 2008 Install in the same manner.

Next up ... PowerShell! ;)

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Trust in a 154,500lb tin can that flies to TO for SMB Nation

For some of us, flying is a marvel ... and for some of us flying is one of the most terrifying things one can do to get from one place to another.

Yes, we can know the physics, the way the shape of the wings work to produce lift, the "thrust" factor for the engines, and so on ... however, knowing all of that for some of us still doesn't put reality into focus: I am about to put my entire life into the hands of a couple of people steering what is essentially an aerodynamic tin can with huge engines pushing it forward ... and a bladder full of very potent gas/kerosene.

Don't get me wrong, I love to fly ... it just scares the *insert expletive here* out of me.

Perhaps that is why I love to fly ... the tension between the exhilaration in the take-off thrust (although only the 4 engined planes seem to come close or exceed that big block quarter mile) ... to the seemingly combat turns some of the pilots in our Western based airline seem to like taking to bring us about ... to the guaranteed roller coaster ride we will experience over Thunder Bay (almost any Western origin to Toronto route) ... and more ... it is always an adventure ... and that helps to allay some of the fear.

And yet, every time I fly, it is a real challenge to trust that things will happen as they are expected to.

So, here I am in Toronto, to spend a couple of days at the SMB Nation event happening at the Microsoft campus in Mississauga.

I am personally looking forward to it. This will be my first full I.T. conference outside of the Calgary or Edmonton events that Microsoft, Intel, and others have put on in the past.

More to come ... and thanks for reading!

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Some Media Kits Required to SPLA

As we work our way through the SPLA system to get our on-site and in-house hosting environment online, there have been a number of hiccups along the way.

One of the toughest so far was getting our media.

So, when starting down this particular road, the lesson we have learned is this: Order the needed media kits from our SPLA distributor of choice first.

Here are the kits we have ordered so far:
  • Windows Server 200x
    • P70-00299 Windows Server Web 2003 SP2
    • LWA-00039 Windows Web Server 2008
    • P73-02703 Windows Server Standard 2003 R2 SP2
    • P73-03830 Windows Server Standard 2008
    • P72-02472 Windows Server Enterprise 2003 R2 SP2
    • P72-02841 Windows Server Enterprise 2008
  • Windows Small Business Server 200x
    • T72-00551 Windows Small Business Server 2003 Std SP1
    • T72-01504 Windows Small Business Server 2003 Std R2 SP2
    • T75-00605 Windows Small Business Server 2003 Premium SP1
    • T75-01360 T75-00605 Windows Small Business Server 2003 Premium R2 SP2
  • Windows Desktop
    • 66J-01875 Windows Vista Business x64 Upgrade (SPLA licensed)
    • 66J-02077 Windows Vista Business x86 Upgrade (SPLA licensed)
  • Microsoft Applications
    • 269-06937 Microsoft Office 2003 Professional Edition
    • 021-08228 Microsoft Office 2007 Standard
    • 79P-00031 Microsoft Office 2007 Professional Plus
    • 086-03143 Microsoft Office Visio 2007 Standard
    • D87-03249 Microsoft Office Visio 2007 Professional
    • H30-02116 Microsoft Office Project 2007 Professional
SBS comes with the product key attached to the media and is associated with our SPLA number.

The rest require us to get in touch with the product licensing people to obtain our keys. Our agreement number and proper contact information is required for this call.

When it comes to obtaining the necessary keys, it is a good idea to wait 72 hours before placing the product key request as it may take that long, or longer for the agreement to register in the SPLA system.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.