James O'Neill's Blog

August 30, 2008

IE 8 is coming: are you ready ?

Filed under: Beta Products,Internet Explorer — jamesone111 @ 12:59 pm

IE8 has features to please users, which makes me expect a pretty rapid uptake (Read Eileen for a user’s eye view of accelerators) .

We’ve also tried to remove the standards issues which annoy developers. Here’s the problem though. If you have diverged from official standards in the past, then what do you ? (a) preserve that difference for ever – so the product is always broken in the eyes of some, or (b) insist that "we have the biggest share of the market. What we do is the standard or (c) Fix it and know that it will break some things.
Path (b) is very "old Microsoft" behaviour, so let’s cross that one off the list straight away. We can have a compatibility mode to deal with the old stuff, but here’s another problem: HTML is HTML – how does a the browser know if it needs to be in compatibility mode ? The browser could tell which code would render differently in "standards" mode and "IE7 and prior" mode but which did the author intend ?

There are two solutions to this, one is that the user can toggle compatibility mode at will, and the other is that if you know pages rely on one of IE7’s "divergences" instead of correcting them, you can add a header to tell IE8 to go into IE7 emulation mode.

If you have externally facing web sites, and you’re not testing already with IE8, you need to start. Seriously. How many of your users do you want to annoy ? 1 in 50 ? 1 in 20 ? 1 in 10 ? How quickly do you think IE8 will get to 2% , 5%, 10%  share ?  If people see your pages breaking because you didn’t flag them, some won’t go into compatibility mode. They’ll just see the site is broken and wonder "for how long did they know a new browser was coming, and not fix this ? What does that tell me about their responsiveness  ?" 

What abut internal sites, ? Apart from the handy collection of links here that is ?  I had a mail this morning about what we’re doing internally

IT is actively testing all applications with the goal of providing timely and accurate information regarding compatibility. To find more information about which Line of Business (LOB) applications are supported and which are currently being tested, please go to {URL} for up-to-date information. The site will be updated continually by IT as additional applications complete testing

That’s very Microsoft IT. "Yes you can deploy it but be warned the apps still are catching up". So if you’re responsible for IT, what is your plan for IE8 ? Are you doing compatibility tests ? If you’re a theory Y company which lets users have some control over their software are you being pro-active in your role as trusted advisor and telling them what you’re doing and how long to wait before they can feel safe about using IE8 ? Or, if you’re a foot-dragging theory-X IT department which just tells people to be grateful for IE 6, then are you preparing your excuses for when a company bigwig demands to know why his children have better tools to get information from the web at home than he has at work ? (I always assumed those kind of people don’t read blogs. )


This post originally appeared on my technet blog.


Mornington Crescent and Geoffrey Perkins.

Filed under: Uncategorized — jamesone111 @ 12:01 pm

A couple of years ago I had occasion to pass through Mornington Crescent station in London and was touched to find that someone had thought to put a plaque up in memory of I’m Sorry a Haven’t A Clue regular Willie Rushton , I guess if they haven’t planned one already, one must be in the pipepline for Humphrey Lyttelton. 

I got a shock this morning when my wife told me that Geoffrey Perkins had died. I first heard of him in the credits for the Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy in about 1980, and if you’ve laughed at anything on British or Radio in the last 25 years, there’s a good chance that it was touched by Perkins at some point; part of Mornington Crescent lore  is that he invented it. (An alternative version is that the panelists invented it to confuse a producer.)

Geoffrey Perkins listing on IMDB is immense, if there is anyone working in British comedy who hadn’t worked with him, then have all worked with someone who has. That would make him one very few people of whom you could say "The world will be a less funny place without him."  I don’t know the first thing about his private life, but if any of his friends or family happen to read this,  I hope there’s some crumb of comfort to be found in the fact that a lot of people feel that they share your loss.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

August 28, 2008

A Nice little Milestone for my PowerShell Hyper-V management library

Filed under: Powershell,Virtualization — jamesone111 @ 7:00 pm

As is the way for these things I never wrote in a diary "Started work on a  PowerShell management library Windows 2008 Hyper-V " I know that I first showed it during April’s road show and so it must have begun in March.

In June I opened up a site on Codeplex for it and the first version to see the light of day "0.8" got 139 downloads, "0.9" got 709 and "0.95" and a quickly issued "0.95a" – with 3 bugs fixed – needed to get 152 downloads to break the 1,000 barrier. A lot of the work on it has been done in outside the normal working day, and I guess that it probably adds up to a couple of hundred hours to learn, write and debug. It would be pretty sad if it was only used by a few people. I guess I can stop worrying today downloads of 0.95 moved into the 160s so that’s the magic 1,000 downloads.  I guess this is how proper developers feel at the million download mark.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

Blogcast part 2 – and one of my favourite bits of feedback

Filed under: Blogcasts — jamesone111 @ 3:52 pm

Jonathan mailed me to say that part 2 of our interview is now posted and he’s off to the same event in Sweden as Richard and hopes to record some more stuff while he’s out there.

Part 1 – which Jonathan called the "Pilot" seems to have been well received – in fact he sent me one of the nicest things I’ve had for ages.

I’m having an absolute blast with it! I’ve had around 100 downloads, but more importantly I’ve had some great feedback from people including some who have said they have been inspired to take Powershell back up again where previously they had been put off by seeing loads of lines of complicated looking code and thinking it was not something for them.

It’s that kind of thing that makes my job worthwhile.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

Mail stress.

Filed under: Exchange,General musings,Outlook,Working at Microsoft — jamesone111 @ 1:15 pm

Click for full size image I started typing this blog post at 07:21. Outlook has already received the first 50 items of the day. Most of which were from night-owls in the US, a few from Asia/Pacific, and only a couple from European insomniacs. Yesterday it pulled down at least 426. I know this because yesterday I set up 3 new search folders. I’m not 100% sure when search folders came into Outlook – and which version of Exchange they need behind them, but they’re a useful feature – particularly for the "where are all the huge mails which are taking me over my quota" and the like. A few weeks ago Microsoft IT doubled the size of my mailbox so I’ve got a huge deleted Items folder at the moment – 8000+ items. But that means the except for items which I "shift deleted", all my mail is in still there somewhere. 2026 from last week 1139 since Monday of this week.

This is ridiculous. I am up at 7 in the morning to do mail. I sent a mail at 0:05 this morning. And this is not just a "Look at how hard I have to work post". The modern working environment is doing this to lots of people – the problem is worse than average at Microsoft, but it’s not confined to us either.

In an 8 hour day there are 480 working minutes. If I just did mail for those 480 minutes each of those messages would have had 68 seconds. That’s 68 seconds to read and action it if I did nothing else all day. I’m not a slow reader, and many of those mails can’t be read in 68 seconds. For quite a large percentage I can’t work out what the person sending them actually wants to happen as a result with 68 seconds…

What does all this mean…

  • Mail makes mediocre meeting manners. Eileen tries to ban laptops from meetings. But how many times do I go to a two hour meeting and find everyone has their laptop open and is trying to multi-task doing mail ? Why ? Because at peak times of the day when you get back to your desk after 2 hours there can be 100 new messages. If you can delete the junk and deal with the ones which are read and file/forward/or reply with one word – leaving the "go-back-to" ones for later – the classic triage – then you’re no so behind when you get back. (Of course the meeting wouldn’t be two hours if people could actually express themselves clearly, and not just vomit everything into Powerpoint, but that’s another story).
  • Mail mountains mean missed matters. I’ve had several incidents recently of missing something and having someone plaintively cry "But I sent you a mail about it 2 weeks ago" . This will get the reply. "I’ve had over 4,000 mails since then. What made you think yours would be remembered ?"
  • Ballooning Bystander syndrome. Mail a big enough group of people and everyone will assume that someone else will do it. Eileen recently had had cause to grumble that none of our team had volunteered to contribute at an event. The organizer had sent a diary placeholder to a huge group. She didn’t ask for help. If it had occurred to anyone that speakers and so on were needed they probably thought someone else would volunteer: that’s the Bystander effect.
  • Selfish Senders Suffer Silence. This is linked to the bystander effect and is actually a bit childish: if you don’t ask nicely I won’t help you. The classic "selfish sender" in Microsoft is one who mails to technical Discussion lists. "Here is a screen shot / log file of my problem , please tell me how to fix it " . No explanation of what was done, and no text description "It said Error 4096 had occurred – there are no fettlable widgets in this container". Mail clients on phones usually don’t download bitmaps, and Outlook Voice Access can’t process them. Blind readers can’t with screen reading software can’t read them either. I can only answer the question if I’m at my PC. If I’m somewhere else.. [DELETE]. So if the message is archived, it won’t be found if someone searches for the error in future.  Not the people who send these messages would check an archive anyway, but the next person to hit the problem will have no choice but mail their question out to the whole list. Those mails get the [SHIFT]-[DELETE] treatment (I don’t even keep them in deleted items.).

Next week I’m presenting on "Microsoft’s vision for unified communications" and I’m sure some of these will creep in. And the mail count for this morning is now past 100.

Update It’s 22:44. 15 hours into my day.  8 hour work days belong in fairy stories. Message number 407 of the day just arrived. Chillingly, George sent two mails at 21:22 and 21:31 – the latter had a reply within 6 minutes (from a UK person) and the former has grown into a 5 message thread (again all UK people).

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

A novel password policy

Filed under: General musings,Security and Malware — jamesone111 @ 10:40 am

Setting up some demo servers recently Steve and I tripped over the Windows 2008’s default password policy: it needed to be relaxed to get to easy password we use in demos. Steve advocates pass-phrases "IHateChangingmyPasswordEvery30Days" is better than "o^1bKK%19#"

However I read this article this morning about having a bit of trouble with their passphrase.* I don’t think that was a case of "computer says no"

This reminds me of two things, one was Steve (again) telling realising that one of the "secrets" he shared with his bank was known to people it shouldn’t be, starting a call to them with "Hi, I need to change my ‘mother’s maiden name’ " . Steve just viewed that as a kind of password which should be changable – the bank employee (and it’s computer system)  couldn’t cope with the idea that Steve’s mother would change… And it also reminds me of man called Michael Howard who, after a spat with his bank, changed his name by deed poll to "Yorkshire Bank are Fascist bastards". The Bank apparently asked Mr Bastards to take his business elsewhere, he replied, sure just write me a cheque for my outstanding balance.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

August 25, 2008

Photosynth – follow up

Filed under: Photography — jamesone111 @ 4:30 pm

My post last week on Photosynth was best with gremlins – first I managed to link to PhotoSyth (missing the N). The www.Photosynth.com stopped re-directing to www.photoSynth.net. Then the interest was so high that the servers couldn’t keep up and more capacity had to be added … so the synths I tried to build all failed. Grrr. It involves uploading a lot of files and with my Internet connection running at 8Mbits/Sec download and 256bits per minute upload (or so it seems) it’s a long process to have fail.

As of this morning it all seems to be working. So I re-synthed the set of Pictures I shot of Blenheim Palace  and Microsoft UK’s campus for the version we were able to play with last year. The current generation of synther is much better than what we had then. But what I shot at Blenheim doesn’t join up to a single synth (but click the "three dots" icon or press M and you can move between sub-syths. As a demo I quite like to Zoom in on the inscription on the base of the triumphal column then zoom out and pull the camera back.

Paul Foster has also a synth from some Pictures I shot of the London eye – three of us shot about 5GB of Photos in a couple of hours and I’m going to be trying various things with mine – so have a look at the "All Jamesone’s synths" page

Sadly, some of the great synths we built with the BBC have gone in the the process of doing the update. I’d love to see their Trafalgar square one re-done – possibly even with the new Trafalgar Square synths merged in. On the plus side, the original St Marks Square synth from the preview has been re-done. Now it is possible to link to a specific place- so if you want to find Stephen Hawking in there (and the comments tell you how) you can click the icon on the right outside the picture and get a link to your friends. Although we only see what someone standing in a public place would have seen (so it’s not invading his privacy) I don’t feel right posting the link myself.


Update. Some more of my London eye pictures have synthed up quite nicely I’d start here

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

PowerShell in Sweden… Get-Audience -location Stockholm

Filed under: Events,Powershell — jamesone111 @ 2:08 pm

Richard, who runs the UK PowerShell user group is on our "Most Valuable Professional" programme as one of those all round good guys who other new user groups talk to for advice. He’s had a hand in launching other PowerShell groups and this morning he sent me this

September 16th brings a PowerShell event to Sweden.  In the morning I will be speaking on PowerShell in two sessions :

  • PowerShell Overview
  • Learning Powershell
  • Using WMI
  • Break
  • Administering Active Directory
  • Administering IIS 7

Registration for the event is here http://msevents.microsoft.com/CUI/EventDetail.aspx?EventID=1032386415&Culture=sv-SE

In the afternoon there will be the first meeting of the Swedish\Nordic PowerShell User Group

All welcome.  If you are in the area please join us

The location on that web page seems to be Stockholm.  Richard is a speaker I can recommend although perhaps I would draw the line at flying to Sweden. If you’re within a sensible distance of Stockholm … go.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

August 21, 2008

Server Virtualization Validation Program (SVVP) take 2.

Filed under: Virtualization — jamesone111 @ 11:01 pm

Various people noticed that VMware were not on the list of companies participating in the SVVP. Any player in virtualizing Windows workloads needs to be on the program: don’t participate and your customers don’t get properly supported. There is no valid justification for staying out.

In the last 48 hours two new names have appeared on the list: VMware and Unisys. And you can read VMware’s view from the top on this

Regular readers know that I’m not exactly a friend of VMware’s, but when they do the right thing I’ve tried to say "fair’s fair".  If anyone tries to make out this is VMware giving in to Microsoft in any sense, I hope they’ll get knocked back. That reduces the two companies to the level a couple of children saying "I don’t want to pay in your game" and then "I had the best game, you had to join". Microsoft and VMWare (and Unisys and the 5 vendors who were on the original list) are acting like adults and doing the right thing for customers who are both simultaneously "theirs" and "ours". I wasn’t party to what went on behind the scenes – whether the delay was foot-dragging or perfectly valid legal to and fro. If I’m quite honest what seemed like a valid criticism a couple of days ago seems a bit mean spirited of me this evening.

Technorati Tags: ,,

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

Photosynth – 3 words. Create Your Synth

Filed under: Photography — jamesone111 @ 1:32 pm

I’ve mentioned Photosynth a few times, and I had a mail this morning which said we’ve have gone live with a public version. You can read the press release here, but really just go to http://www.photosynth.net/ . Have a look at what others have done, but I’d really encourage people to try it : you’ll see the words “Create your synth” at the bottom left – Click it, install it, Enjoy it.

I’ve had access to some pre-release versions and I need to rebuild them for the public site, links will follow shortly.

Update. Thanks to Steve J and Matt M for pointing out the typo in the link. Fingers not as fast as Brain – and not for the first time !
Update 2. Yesterday I the documents I had were using the .COM address, which redirected to Photosynth.net. The site seemed to have a few first day nerves, and this morning the .com redirect is not working. (Sigh. Go straight to photosynth.net)

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

August 19, 2008

Virtualization: Licensing and support changes

Filed under: Virtualization,Windows Server,Windows Server 2008 — jamesone111 @ 3:33 pm

I was briefed a few days ago about changes to licensing to make life easier for people doing virtualization.  I think our server applications have done a good job of adapting their licences for a world where they run in virtualized machine. That’s all fine and good, but the situation wasn’t so clever when those virtual machines weren’t tied to a single physical server.  The announcement is now up on Presspass. Previously if Exchange, SQL or the others could run on a physical computer, then that computer had to have a licence: unless a physical server was being replaced, you could not move a licence between two servers more than once every 90 days. Build a 16 node cluster with Hyper-V with one SQL VM meant buying 16 licences; as yet relatively few customers have built systems like that, but they have with VMotion and I’ve faced hostile questioning about this point in the past. I suspect a lot of customers thought they only needed as many licences as running VMs: that’s basically the position from today. You should read the Application Server License Mobility brief for yourself, because (a) it gives some good worked examples. (b) It makes it clear what kind of moves are still excluded (c) It makes it clear which products are eligible and which are not. I’ll steer questions to Emma

But there’s more. We’ve updated our application support policy for a whole crop of applications to cover support on virtualization.. The note on Presspass simply links to http://support.microsoft.com and says this covers 31 applications. The full list is in KB article 957006  I’ll try to find an definitive list (I have a list, I just can’t call it definitiveExchange is in though )

But that’s not all. We have a new version of the KB article, 897615 which outlines how we support people running on non-Microsoft Virtualization

for vendors who have Server Virtualization Validation Program (SVVP) validated solutions, Microsoft will support server operating systems subject to the Microsoft Support Lifecycle policy for its customers who have support agreements when the operating system runs virtualized on non-Microsoft hardware virtualization software

I’ve mentioned the SVVP before. There are 5 companies signed up so far with certified products

  • Cisco Systems, Inc.
  • Citrix Systems, Inc.
  • Novell, Inc.
  • Sun Microsystems
  • Virtual Iron Software

The internal briefing said we’d reached out to other vendors.  If they’re not on the list, it’s because they don’t want their customers to be properly supported. Enough said.

Update 1 The Exchange team blog has a post on this.

Update 2 Just be clear that the list on SVVP page is for those who have signed up to get their solution validated and the support statement in KB 897615 talks about having Validated solutions and It should be obvious that one comes  before the other. But I made the mistake of saying the 5 signed up as of August 19th had all completed validation.


This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

August 16, 2008

Cars, jobs, and retailing. Why belief matters

Filed under: General musings,Working at Microsoft — jamesone111 @ 4:12 pm

A few days ago now, I ordered the replacement for my company car. If you don’t live in the UK, it’s probably news to you that our tax system means that many people get a car and fuel as part of their salary. Those who qualify at Microsoft get to choose between a car with fuel paid for, money and fuel or just money. Even allowing for tax (which is based on a formula using the list price of the car and it’s CO2 emissions rating) – it’s not possible to run a newish car for same money.

When I joined Microsoft in 2000, I took the lease car and sold my beloved Citroen XM. I looked up its CO2 rating: 246g/KM. In "old money" that means it glugged down an imperial Gallon of petrol every 27 miles. Its huge tank would now cost over £100 to fill.  These days Microsoft won’t lease me a car with a CO2 figure above 220g/KM (that’s 30MPG for Petrol  and 34MPG for Diesel). My 2005 car has a rating of 157g/KM (it takes 47 Miles to sip it’s way through a Gallon of Diesel);  According to the AA the cost of fuel has nearly doubled in the last 8 years, but I’m using not much more than half the volume of it, so the value of my company fuel has remained the same. Microsoft hasn’t changed the allowances for each of the bands in the scheme since I joined: but a change in leasing companies has brought the Citroen I want this time round into reach – the previous company quoted 15% more to provide it. That’s like getting a pay rise without the company having to pay me any extra. It’s not the first time they’ve done that, introducing nursery vouchers  a few years ago was the same.

This will be my 7th Citroen in 20 years. I do wonder about that loyalty. I tried a BMW which matches the Citroen for power beats it on acceleration and leaves it in the dust on fuel consumption. I calculated Horse Power/C02 rating for all the cars in the lease company’s spreadsheet:  BMW dominated the top of this table. Even their X5 "Chelsea Tractor" can sneak under the 220g/KM barrier when in diesel from. So efficient are BMW diesels that the Sunday Times though it would be a wheeze to pit a 520d against a Toyota Prius on an economy run to Geneva: the Prius used more fuel. I had to applaud the BMW as an exercise in engineering excellence – and its CO2 figure would have saved a chunk of tax, but I never liked it. Just as I like the way that Pentax make cameras, I like the way Citroen make cars.

After my trip to Seattle some of the things that Simon Sinek said continue to resonate… Do Citroen (and Pentax) stand for something ? Maybe, but I can’t articulate the beliefs behind the brands. Maybe BMW stands for something I can believe in, but I haven’t found it. I guess Simon would say that a sense of shared belief is the root of loyalty which leads me to spend more (after tax) on the Citroen…  though they seem to be undermining that with  UK marketing for the new C5 saying, in effect "You could mistake it for an Audi A4": I’ve nothing against Audi – this ad of theirs shows someone who wouldn’t buy the product, as a way to invite others to share the beliefs of the brand (ask yourself what car the guy in their ad would buy… maybe that’s what put me off BMW). But if I want an Audi, I know where to get one.

But there’s more to this. I’ve raved about Robert Townsend’s Up the Organization, and in several places he talks about McGregor’s "Theory Y"  (which is actually a repackaging of "Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs" ) Theory X says  the average person won’t naturally  work towards organisational objectives: they need to be pushed: only money (or the threat of taking their secure income away) can motivate them.  Theory Y says the opposite – people want to be involved in their work, to believe in what they do, to use their imagination, ingenuity and creativity. Sadly, I see a lot of theory X behaviour from IT departments. Maslow’s hierarchy had 5 levels: at the base of the pyramid are Physiological needs- you need  to be able to breathe, have enough to eat, basic warmth and shelter. Then came safety- freedom from fear, anxiety and chaos (things that cause stress)… Most of us have heard (or said) "They don’t pay me enough for this kind of stress".  Money matters, but there comes a point where people prefer job security and less stress to more money. Given enough money and a reasonable security, Maslow said people’s next need was "belonging and love": to be part of community. I’ve twice linked to Thomas Kuhn’s “The structure of scientific revolutions”. and its idea that communities share beliefs. What does a leader do in business (or politics or anywhere else) but set out their beliefs and encourage people to unite behind them ? (See my post about Ray Ozzie)   The upper echelons of a company can’t be filled entirely with leaders: Simon gave us a fantastic sound bite "Vision without execution is hallucination", you need great operations people who can realize the vision. At the peak of Maslow’s pyramid is Self Actualisation – what humans can be – they must be. And thinking back to Simon, he talked about Microsoft’s  "Your potential …" tag line and of course what’s good about it- when you drill into it – is that it appeals to people’s desire for Self-Actualisation.

I’ve said in a couple of presentations Success in a knowledge economy depends on getting more than your share of the smart people. We have to sell jobs to people: Microsoft salaries are nothing special, because it does such good job on the higher levels people are willing to accept them [and if people complain about pay, their part of the business is probably not satisfying the needs higher up the pyramid] .

So here’s a thought: Do we only want these things from job ? The same upper level things community, esteem, self actualisation have the important roles when people have some choice in a purchasing decision.  Buying this product (or not buying that one) , shopping in one place rather than another says something about who we are and lets us buy our way into a community. Ford owners aren’t a community, Alfa-Romeo owners are; some people buy a prestige marque like BMW to meet their esteem needs. Buying CDs at Tesco doesn’t say anything about you, buying Second Hand LPs from a little backstreet shop does. Which brings me back to Simon’s idea that businesses should be looking for customers who buy its approach as much as it’s product. 

I’ve mentioned Nicki and Mark, my friends who run a small independent bookshop, Mark wrote recently about being wound up by a piece on the radio because the interviewer, it seems, thinks that all that mattered in selling books is price. The representative for the independent booksellers said suggested that "we need a mechanism that rewards honest bookselling, not just fulfillment". But what mechanism *is* that ?  Mark knows – it’s about the market, the local market – a small book shop doesn’t have to go highbrow to succeed. His advice to anyone who wants to follow him: "understand your local environment, marketplace, customers – listen to them, work with them, put on great events, develop a community, give them an excellent experience – and the enterprise can flourish."

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

Terminal Services Easy print

Filed under: Events,Windows Server,Windows Server 2008 — jamesone111 @ 10:33 am

At the end of Wednesday’s session in London, we got round to Terminal services easy print.

For those who weren’t there, Easy Print is a mechanism for re-directing printers through the Terminal Services Client (MSTSC.EXE aka Remote Desktop Connection).  Trying to match printers up between different OSes – say 32-bit XP and 64 bit Server 2008 sounds like a driver nightmare. So in the 6.1 version of the client (in Vista SP1 and XP SP3) and the Server 2008 implantation of terminal services , the client can send printer details to the server. The server then prepares the print job as in an XML paper specification document, guided by the printer capabilities of the client – the client then prints renders the XPS for its printer.  Hence the server never needs a driver for the client’s printer. (There’s a good technet article which explains how it is configured for Windows XP with SP3 , and the group policy settings that are available).

When a the client connects through the TS Remote-App web portal you see 5 check boxes for what will be redirected to the server; Drives; Clipboard, Printers, Serial Ports, Supported Plug and Play devices. The drives can be blocked to prevent files being copied to or from the server; my own main use of the terminal services is to make local drives on the server available when I’m connected to a virtual machine.

The question came up – what happens when you have more than one printer ? Does the client just redirect the default one or all of them ? The check box says Printers not printer , but for some reason I had it fixed in my head that the client hooks up with the default printer only: wrong.

Here’s what you see if you look in the printers folder with a full remote desktop

Click for full size image

and here’s what you see in the print dialog for a remote-app program.

Click for full size image

If you click the properties button, a little shim dialog box appears an the local printer properties dialog box appears over the top of it. Changes to things like the paper size are sent back to the server by the Terminal services client.

One other thing where I had a mental block was where you find the option to configure a server as a member of a Terminal Services farm. Under Terminal Services / Terminal Services configuration in Server Manager, it is at the bottom of the middle pane. I think with the reduced resolution we were using for the display I needed to scroll down to find it. At least that’s the story I’m sticking to.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

August 15, 2008

Windows 7

Filed under: Uncategorized — jamesone111 @ 4:48 pm

Not surprisingly I get a lot of questions about future versions of products. Typically I get things like

  • When Vista shipped Microsoft led us to expect to have a 3 year life, that would mean a replacement at the end of 2009. What’s the news on that ?
  • Server 2008 is out and the roadmap slides you showed in 2007 had an R2 version. Microsoft haven’t paid off the development team, so what are they working on ?
  • Will product X have feature Y in the foreseeable future. More than 50% of these questions are "Will Hyper-V have an equivalent of VMware’s VM motion ?"

There are several reasons why I can’t answer these questions. The most common one is that I simply don’t know; past experience lets me make better guesses than most people but I’m always aware that my guess "Project Basingstoke* just went to beta x , so knowing a beta takes this time and a release candidate takes that time , that mean a release round about such-and-such a date" turns into "Microsoft said it would be out…". If someone asks me if they’re looking at next week, or 5 years I’ll tell them I don’t have the information and share how I’d get to a guess, but I won’t broadcast it.

The other reason I can’t answer is that for one reason or another the people who own the product aren’t ready to say. I was at an event in Seattle a couple of weeks ago and various teams gave peeks at what they had in the pipeline. If I go out and say "I’ve seen Widget fettling in the Basingstoke release", then that feature might get cut. It might be the heavyweight punch that we to deliver at a big event. It might be a trade secret. But it’s someone else’s baby – and I think it’s rude to break their news for them. I won’t say unless the news is out.

With some of these things – particularly live migration of VMs, we’ve at least announced the pregnancy if not the birth. Bob Muglia, is our Senior Vice President, Server and Tools Business and here’s an edited extract from the transcript his keynote at Microsoft Tech•Ed 2008 – It Professionals in Orlando on June 10, 2008, he had Rakesh on stage with him.

BOB MUGLIA: Many customers have VMware inside their environment, and they’re interested in Hyper-V, but they wanted to have a single management solution that really was able to combine these two, and provide a great runtime experience for both. So there’s only one console for the administrator to work with.  {Rakesh Shows Hyper-V quick Migration}

BOB MUGLIA: With quick migration what we do is we actually save the VM to disk, and then re-instantiate on the other physical machine. And the speed of it is really based on the size of the VM together with the speed of the underlying SAN.

RAKESH MALHOTRA: [VMotion]  allows me to migrate running virtual machines between physical hardware without any downtime at all, as perceived by the end user. You can drive that with Virtual Machine Manager 2008, as well. So just like the Hyper-V experience, I’m going to click on a VMware VM, and I’m going to choose the migrate option [in SCVMM] {Rajkesh shows SCVMM intelligent placement of a VMware VM and managing the VMotion }

BOB MUGLIA: Now, live migration is a great feature, and it’s something we’ll add in the next version of Hyper-V, it’s certainly something we have up and running right now, and it will be present in the future. But, one of the things we wanted to do, again, with this idea of having a single console that manages both, is it’s a clearly an important feature for VMware, and we anted to make sure that all of the capabilities of VMware that users want were present in Virtual Machine Manager, so that, again, you would have one environment that really took advantage of the best features of both, and you could use it across both environments.

So "we’ve got it running right now" and "We’ll add [it] in the next version"  … but that leads to more questions, mainly do the cycles for Hyper-V and Windows line up to make the ship vehicle for the next hyper-v the next version of Windows ? or is it something else ? I can’t answer that either way without giving away details of both Hyper-V and Windows which I don’t want to. But I’ve been sticking to the line "it’s too soon to talk about the next version" – but that inevitably that leads to people saying "But shouldn’t it be out at the end of next year. Is it delayed ? ".  

Fortunately help is at hand. Steven Sinofsky and Jon DeVaan are writing for a new blog Engineering Windows 7.  And in the first post it says

The Professional Developers Conference (PDC) on October 27 and the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) the following week both represent the first venues where we will provide in-depth technical information about Windows 7.

So that gives you some idea when these questions will start to get answered. And that blog looks like it will be required reading.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

Virtual Machine clustering in London, how we did it.

Filed under: Events,Windows Server,Windows Server 2008 — jamesone111 @ 2:18 pm

Wednesday’s event in London was fun, and we managed not to talk too much about VMware’s mishap: I joked at one point that once the VMware folks would be making T-Shirts in a few months with "I Survived August 12th, 2008" . (Buried in the back of my mind was an Old post of KC’s about the a "Bedlam event" The thought came up afterwards that maybe we should get some done with "I was running Hyper-V " on the back.

We took the same "Scrapheap challenge" approach to build a Virtualization cluster that we used for Virtual Server a year ago: scavenge what you need from round the office and build a cluster: with the message: "You can do this at home folks – just don’t do it production". Seriously. We had two cluster nodes and their management network, heartbeat network, shared storage network, and network for serving clients was the same 100Mbit desktop hub. It works; use it to learn the product, but don’t even think about using in production. By the way, these days we have "Computer Clusters" and "Network Load-balanced clusters" so we try to makes sure we refer to traditional clustering as Failover Clustering.

One of our computers was a Dell Inspiron 5160 which is 4 or 5 years old.  It ran as a domain controller – both cluster nodes were joined to the domain – it hosted DNS to support this and gave us our shared storage; using a "hybrid" form of Windows Storage server – basically the internal iSCSI target bits on Server 2008. I think machines of that age have 4200 RPM disks in them, Steve thinks it’s 5400, either way with the  network we had for iSCSI it was no speed demon (again this was intentional – we didn’t want to show things on hardware so exotic no-one could replicate when they got home).

We set-up two iSCSI targets on the the 5160, each with a single LUN attached to it. One small one to be our cluster quorum, one big one to hold a VM. In rehearsal we’d connected to these from one of our cluster nodes and brought the disks on-line (from the disk management part of server manager), formatted them and copied a VHD for a virtual machine to the large one. I’ve found that once the iSCSI initiator (client)  is turned on from the cluster nodes, the iSCSI target (server) detects its presence and the initiators can be given permissions to access the target.

Our two cluster nodes were called Wallace and Gromit. They’re both Dell Lattitude D820s although Wallace is 6 months older with a slightly slower CPU and a slightly different NIC. Try to avoid clusters with different CPU steppings, and mixing Intel and AMD processes in the same cluster can be expected to fail. Both were joined to the domain, both had static IP addresses. Both had the standard patches from Windows updated, including – crucially the kb950050 which is the update to the release version of Hyper-V. We didn’t install the optional enhancements for clustering Hyper-V. On each one, in the iSCSI initiator control panel applet we added the 5160 as a "Target Portal" (i.e. a server with multiple targets) and then on the targets page we added the two targets, and checked the box saying automatically restore connections. The plan was to disconnect the iSCSI disks on Wallace but they were left connected at the end of rehearsal.

Gromit had Hyper-V and fail-over clustering installed, but we wanted to show installing Hyper-V and failover clustering on Wallace, so we installed Hyper-V – in server manager, add a role, select Hyper-V and keep clicking next. On these machines it takes about 7 minutes with 2 reboots to complete the process. One important thing if you are clustering hyper-V the network names must be the same on all the nodes of the cluster. It usually best NOT to assign networks to Hyper-V in the install Wizard and do it in Hyper-V’s network manager (or from a script) to make sure the names match.

Then we installed Failover clustering from the features part of server manager, no-reboot required. We went straight into the Fail over clustering MMC (on the admin tools part of the start menu), we chose Create a cluster and it only needed 3 pieces of information.

  • We added servers by giving the names for nodes 1 and 2 [that is "Wallace.ite.contoso.com" and "grommit.ite.contoso.com"]
  • We Named the cluster and give it an IP address [e.g. VMCluster.ite.contoso.com ,] 
  • We then hit next a couple of times and the cluster was created.

At the end of the process we had a report to review – you can validate a cluster configuration and check the report without actually creating it. In the disk manager part of server manager we the state of the ISCSI disk had changed to to reserved on both nodes, and one node will see the disks as available  – in our case this was Wallace. We found that the cluster set-up Wizard made the big disk the cluster Quorum and left the small one for applications, to fix this we right-clicked the Cluster in the Failover clustering MMC, and from the "more actions" menu, went through cluster settings/Quorum settings and changed it

The next step was to build a VM, and we just went through the new Virtual Machine Wizard in the Hyper-V MMC on Wallace. The important part was to say that configuration was not in the default location  but on the shared clustered drive. We didn’t connect the demo machine to a network (we hadn’t configured matching external networks on the two nodes) , and picked a pre-existing virtual hard disk (VHD) file on the same disk. We left the VM un-started, and we should have set the Machine shutdown settings for the VM – by default if the Server is shut down the VM will go into a saved state, which is not what you want on cluster (if you follow the link to the clustering information from the Hyper-V MMC it explains this).

Finally back in the Failover clustering MMC, we chose add clustered application/service, selected Virtual Machine from the list of possible services, and the clustering management tools discover which VMs exist on the nodes and are candidates for clustering. We selected our VM and clicked through the wizard. In Clustering parlance we brought the service on-line – or as most people would  say we started the VM. Steve showed the VM – which was running Windows server core – we don’t bother to activate demo VMs and this one had passed the end of its grace period, it was still running [Server 2008 doesn’t shut you out when it decides it’s expired]. I killed to power on Wallace, switched the screen to Grommit to see the Virtual Machine was in the middle of booting back into life. From starting the presentation to this point had taken 35 minutes.

We showed "quick migration" – which is simply moving the cluster service from one node to another. With the quick migration we put the VM into a suspended state on one node, switch the disks over to the other node and restore the VM. How quick this is depends on how much memory the VM has and how fast the disk is. We were using the slowest disk we could and it took around 30 seconds. If total availability is critical then the service in the VM should be clustered, but if isn’t there’s a short period where the service is off-line. Matt chipped in and showed his monster server back in Reading doing a failover and it was very quick – round the one second mark – but each of his disk controllers cost more than our entire setup.

I’m going to try to capture a video of what we did and post it next week. Watch this space as they say.



This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

August 12, 2008

PowerShell from Excel (oh oh, VMware again)

Filed under: Office,Powershell — jamesone111 @ 5:34 pm

VMware are a competitor and so when things go wrong for them I’ll point it out (and to answer Nick, a regular commenter: No, that’s not FUD. Saying "VMware had a failure here, so you can extrapolate from that to unspecified future failures" would be spreading Fear Uncertainty and Doubt. I might lapse into that now and then, but aspire not to. If I do then I expect to get a tough time).

But competitors do good things sometimes, and I’ve praised them for their use of PowerShell before now. Using PowerShell was good for them (it’s much easier for them to develop a PowerShell snap-in than a raft of command line tools), and it’s good for customers (no need to learn special purpose tools).

Now they’ve done another clever thing with PowerShell: not rocket science, but great application of sense. Sometimes it makes sense to have your user interface in an Office application, like Excel (with the business logic implemented with Macros).  But sometimes this gives rise to tasks to be carried out from PowerShell. How do you knit together PowerShell scripts and Excel Macros (or any other scripting language).  Provided that a language can write files and invoke other programs you can do it. Someone pointed out this page on the VI Tool kit blog , it says

If an ESX host you want to manage doesn’t appear in VirtualCenter, you need to add it. This is a bit tricker than reconnecting since there’s no inventory in VirtualCenter to tell you the IP addresses of all the hosts you use, and you also need to know a host’s password in order to add it. This is another case where entering things in a spreadsheet can really speed things up

Not only is there a video of the spreadsheet in use but it’s available for download as well, so I had a look and (like so many good ideas) the code is remarkably simple, start by opening a file

    Handle = FreeFile

Open "script.ps1" For Output Access Write As #Handle

Then use Print # to output the lines of script to it

    Print #Handle, "add-pssnapin VMware.VimAutomation.Core" & vbCrLf

And when you’ve print #ed the whole script, close the file and run it

    Close #Handle

Call Shell("powershell -command .\script.ps1", vbNormalFocus)

Not exactly Rocket science, but smart use of the right tool for the job; I can’t find a name on the blog post, but whoever you are a tip of the hat is due to you.


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This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

It’s rude to laugh at other people’s misfortunes – even VMware’s

Filed under: Virtualization,Windows Server — jamesone111 @ 8:26 am

That was one of my mother’s regular sayings when I was young. OK Not the bit about VMware. So I didn’t laugh when I saw a thread on VMware’s community forum entitled BIG bug in ESX 3.5 Update 2 – If you’re using 3.5u2 read this now! – A general system error occurred: Internal Error.

Starting this morning, we could not power on nor VMotion any of our Virtual Machines. The VI Client threw the error "A general system error occurred: Internal Error".
Further digging lead us to messages like this one in /var/log/vmware/hostd.log, and the log file for any virtual machine we tried to power on or VMotion:
Aug 12 10:40:10.792: vmx|
http://msg.License.product.expired This product has expired.

A bit further down another poster comments

Just got off the phone with tech support and they’ve been inudated by calls about this very problem. It only affects ESX and ESXi 3.5 Update 2. Setting the time back a day in ESXi should be ok because if memory serves, VMware Tools will only reset time forward and not backwards.

and at the bottom of the first page of the thread

Dear VMware customers,
We are actively working on rootcausing the problem. Once we know the appropriate action to take here, we’ll provide an update.
Apologies for any inconvenience.
The ESX Product Team

Obviously laughing heartily at this would mean laughing at the Microsoft customers who are also VMware customers. And before poking fun at other people’s bugs one should probably think "there, but for the grace of God go any of us" – and avoid getting into what Steve calls the "Your product sucks" , "No! your product sucks" level of debate. Still, any time I hear someone from VM talk about testing, quality assurance or the like I might just smirk and say "August 12th" under my breath.

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This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

August 8, 2008

Interesting Citrix event, London, September

Filed under: Events,Virtualization,Windows Server,Windows Server 2008 — jamesone111 @ 11:35 pm

Chatting to my opposite number at Citrix today I found that they have a Virtualization event coming up. Entitled Unlock the Power of Virtualisation it’s taking place at Old-County Hall in London on 17th September, and the details are registration link are available via  http://www.citrix.com/virtualisation

The site says the day will include the following 3  presentations

  • Citrix XenDesktop™ – Virtualising Windows-based desktops.
  • Citrix XenApp™ – Delivering Windows-based applications.
  • Citrix XenServer™ – Virtualising Windows-based servers.

Interestingly the notes they sent me describe a fourth session

Virtualisation with Citrix and Microsoft:
For nearly two decades, Microsoft and Citrix have delivered significant value to customers, and now both companies are working together on desktop and server virtualisation technologies. Hear how Microsoft and Citrix are working together on product integration so that customers have access to comprehensive and flexible virtualisation solutions, all controlled by an integrated management platform

Why I am recommending this event ?

I often find myself explaining to people that this or that feature added to Terminal Services isn’t a full on attack on Citrix, and the fact they have a HyperVisor and we have one too doesn’t mean we want to kill each other. When I do I’m always aware that "that’s what the Microsoft guy would say". I’m also aware that I’m so immersed in Microsoft products that I can’t always describe how partners like Citrix deliver value. This is something that you can best get from the source, not second hand. I make no secret that I think VDI solutions are over-hyped (they have their uses, but I’m a "PC on every desk" kind of person, if you don’t need a PC on every desk then a presentation virtualization solution, will usually be more efficient). Since we don’t have broker to distribute users among pools of VMs we look to Citrix for that. Again I’m aware that since we’re missing a piece people might think that colours my view. Citrix have the products to deliver a service either way, and no axe to grind so I’d recommend them as a vendor to talk to when weighing up different central models for application delivery.


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This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

August 6, 2008

Microsoft Virtualization User Group

Filed under: Events,User Groups,Virtualization,Windows Server,Windows Server 2008 — jamesone111 @ 12:57 pm

I think I can claim a first for the UK, we have a Microsoft Virtualization User Group.  I’ll wait and see if anyone from another Microsoft subsidiary corrects me and says their has been running for years. When we recording our Podcast, Jonathan told me that there is a well established VMware user group. 

Their web site has just gone live and they are advertising their inaugural meeting , which  will be at the Microsoft office in London (not Reading, London) on the evening of September 24th. You can register on the site, or by mail. I’m hoping to make the meeting available through live meeting for those who can’t attend in person – if that sounds like something you’d want please use the registration process to let us know.

Many congratulations to Patrick and Mathew for getting this up and running.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

August 5, 2008

Looks like September for SCVMM

Filed under: Virtualization,Windows Server,Windows Server 2008 — jamesone111 @ 5:50 pm

The most senior Microsoft person ever to tell me off for something did so for my repeating of something which was circulating at IT-Forum last year – that there was a plan to sync up the release of the new version of System Center Virtual Machine Manager and Hyper-V. Obviously the two product teams want the smallest gap between the two, but syncing  up the two really was never in the plans. Product groups prefer to be vague about dates; they’d much rather say things like "Second half of the year". – which until recently that was the line on SCVMM. According to Computer World, our Chief Operating Office, Kevin Turner announced that it would be September, and that’s confirmed on Rakesh’s blog. That’s within a nice round 90 days after Hyper-V Released; not that anyone authoritative ever gave that timescale.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

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