James O'Neill's Blog

February 21, 2009

IE 8 – something else I’m growing to really like

Filed under: Beta Products,Internet Explorer,Windows 7 — jamesone111 @ 11:40 pm

A few days back I wrote about acceleators in IE 8 and talked about how search box had been streamlined as well. I knew we’d re-worked how tabs worked but my first reaction was “yeah … but so what”.
I’m a big fan of tabs: IE 7 changed my experience of the internet. I guess other tabbed browsers did the same for other people – but tabbed browsing is such a huge jump forward I just can’t remember how I managed without it. IE gets opened up within a few minutes of my machine booting, and quickly gets to twenty open tabs. The beta of IE8 in Windows 7 beta isn’t perfectly stable, but I’m running it for days on end and saved a block a 57 tabs when I had to shut down . Following links from twitter means I’m getting more tabs open especially since I still make use of IE7 pro , which has a feature named “super drag/drop” –  if you drag a link and drop it on the same page it opens in a new tab. In practice this means a flick or a “smudge” of the mouse opens in a new tab. IE7 pro also trap pages trying to open in a separate window and open them in a new tab instead.

I’ve taken to colour coded tab groups in 8 in a big way: it sounds so trivial that I sat here and wondered if I dared call it out, but I will:

click to open in a bigger window

Open a page as new tab and it forms a tab group with the original page. You can see on the left the tabs are green, they’re the things I’ve jumped to from Twitter, then there are a couple which aren’t grouped, followed by a couple in a fetching shade of peach which were on Geo-coding, then some purple ones which where the results of a couple of searches, next come some green ones on Aviation accidents and finally some in blue from MSDN for something I’ve been working on in PowerShell. It’s just easier to get around; when you have dozens of tabs open you can lose track of where you are.

IE 7 pro remembers recently closed pages and lets you re-open them – with a short cut for the most recently closed one.. The problem is it just remembers the last URL: the tab doesn’t open in a group (you can drag it into one) and if you want to go back through the history on the tab, no joy. In IE8 if you click on the tab strip you get the option to reopen the last closed tab in the right place with its history.  The menu can also close a whole group in one go – done with the MSDN group? Right-click, click, 4 tabs gone!  There are some bits missing: there’s no option to refresh or save a tab group and grouping tabs which aren’t yet in a group is a bit long winded. Something for the IE 7 pro folks to add for IE 8 pro

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

February 17, 2009

Windows 7 : Photos, Gallery and AutoCollage.

Filed under: Beta Products,Photography,RSS,Windows 7 — jamesone111 @ 1:25 pm

imageWhen I first started using Windows Vista it was the better experience for photographers which really hooked me in. Most common image formats use the EXIF standard for embedding data about the picture (everything from the camera model and settings, to the title, keywords and so on. XP lets you look at this information in the file properties dialog, but vista introduced the the ability to set EXIF data from the main Windows explorer window, to search for picture titles from the start menu, and to sort, and build search folders based on Exif data (and it gives thumbnail previews – so you get the effect of a contact sheet). Storing data in EXIF is really important; photos get shared. If the data about a picture stays on the computer where it was edited and doesn’t follow the picture then someone who looks at it in years to come won’t get the “where and when” information. And if the data is stored in a database by a gallery package you’re locked into that package.

Vista also introduced “Windows Photo Gallery” , which added a little to what you could do from explorer. The Windows live team have adopted Photo Gallery, and it’s not pre-installed with Windows 7 (we have a link on the Getting started menu for Windows Live Essentials). As a 32bit app it actually works with the 32bit only RAW codec from Pentax so I can see what’s in those files. Photo Gallery does more than organize your photos: each version has introduced new bits under the heading of “fixing” photos:  PhotoShop it ain’t but it will crop pictures, straighten crooked ones ,reduce noise or sharpen soft images, fix red-eye; it’s got decent exposure correction features and will fix colour balance (if you haven’t seen the super cute demo* by 4 1/2 year on Kylie, the autofix combines these – as she says “I click – it’s better”)  and has even got the ability to do some black and white effects. It could do with a clone/heal brush, but otherwise its not bad. One annoyance is it has facial recognition – great – but it doesn’t seem to store the names of people found in the Exif data.
The other ambition for Photo Gallery is seems to be central point for “OK I’ve got my pictures … now what ? ” As Kylie shows, it has a hook into mail and there is the ability to upload pictures to web services – critically, the newest version supports plug-ins to support non-Microsoft sites (Facebook, flickr, smugmug and others).  You can start a new blog post in Live Writer with pictures in it too.
Then there’s also the ability to make a panorama – which has another cute kid demo, this time with 7 year old Alex. The panorama bits came from MS Research and they have a more sophisticated panorama tool “ICE” – the image composite editor. You can send images from Photo Gallery to ICE.  And this is the last of the extensions to the new version of Photo Gallery – the ability to send pictures to another program – so you can send them to Movie maker as well.

Now, in the 1.0 release of AutoCollage there didn’t seem to way to select photos other than giving it a whole folder to work with. This wasn’t too bad – I added a working folder to my send to menu and sent pictures to that before making my collage, but it was an extra step I could do without. The new 1.1 release (which doesn’t need a new key if you have bought 1.0)  hooks into Photo Gallery, so now I can select photos from where-ever and chuck them into a collage. If you take photos and haven’t tried AutoCollage yet you should get the trial version (And there is a flickr group to show what people are doing with it)

image Does Windows 7 do much more than Vista for photographers ? Not really – in fact since Gallery has moved into Windows live you could say it does less. But there is one feature which I’m almost ashamed to admit I love. It’s the menu you can see at the top – you can have multiple background pictures … as a slide show – Click on the thumbnail on the left to see how this is setup.

There is one other thing about this which can makes your machine nicer , and that is the ability to get pictures for the slide show from an RSS feed. There is a good post which describes this here. I must try creating my own feed for this.


* foot note. The kylie Demo is on Youtube, and there’s a great comment “Phrases you never thought you’d hear: (1) oh that’s the trombone player’s porsche  and(2) that new microsoft TV spot actually kicks ass.”

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

February 13, 2009

A Job or two saved for my “PowerShell configurator”

Somewhere in the queue of things to post is the remainder of my PowerShell configurator for Windows Server 2008 R2 Core and Hyper-VS Server R2. If you’re building a cluster the PowerShell CMDlets for clustering make that a breeze. Of course a cluster often calls for iSCSI and setting that up from the command line is tough, so I was going look at doing it in PowerShell. Quick tip of the hat to Ben, who’s blogged that the iSCSI Configuration UI is included in Hyper-V 2008 R2, just run iSCSIcpl.exe And there is an MPIOCPL.exe for setting up Multipath IO (when it is enabled.)

You can also run control.exe DateTime.cpl and control.exe intl.cpl to set time and international settings respectively. Then PowerShell V2 already has cmdlets for stop-computer and restart-computer, plus Add-Computer (to domain) and Rename-Computer, plus  Test-WsMan and Set-WSMANQuickConfig, so the number of things I need to implement is getting smaller…

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

February 12, 2009

Accelerators in IE8

Filed under: Beta Products,Internet Explorer,Windows 7,Windows Vista — jamesone111 @ 4:40 pm

Internet Explorer 8 seems to be  guided by the same “many little improvements” philosophy that has driven Windows 7 – or put another way it’s not packed with radical new features , and in some cases I find it hard to be sure if something really wasn’t there before:  I think the “Privacy Policy” is new and it lets find out where pages are including something which violates my privacy or which produces a hyper-active advert (where these are scripts they go into IE’s distrusted sites list ! )

image Here’s the kind of incremental improvement I’m talking about, look at the search box.

Image 1 on the left shows how things worked in IE 7, you needed to pull down the list on the right to select a different search provider.

Image 2 in the middle shows how things have changed with IE 8, the icons for the different providers show up under the search box, click the one you want to select and click off the search (3 clicks become one).

But what’s that on the right ? in image 3. Previously to search your history you needed to go to favorites tab, go to history, choose Search history, enter my search term and then click search. In 8, just type into the search box and the history gets searched as you type

One thing that is brand new in 7 is the idea of accelerators: when you highlight some text on the page you can take some actions with it. Highlight an address and you can go to a map, highlight a word and you can look it up in a dictionary. Use an a browser based tool for composing your blog entries (and I don’t) then jump to your blogging tool . The specification for the XMLfiles which describe accelerators is on MSDN. There were plenty of things I could have tried, but I decided to one one for Twitter… then found that David Sim has done that already, and here’s what the XML looks like

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ?>

<os:openServiceDescription xmlns:os="http://www.microsoft.com/schemas/openservicedescription/1.0">



<os:name>Send to Twitter</os:name>


<os:description>Send text to Twitter</os:description>


<os:activity category="Send">

<os:activityAction context="selection">

<os:execute action="http://twitter.com/home?status={selection} {documentUrl}" />




So once this is installed if I run my mouse over some text I get this ….


All very fine and good … except why do I have to go to a submenu ? and Why is the top menu filled with stuff from Windows Live – some of which I’ll use but some I won’t ? The answer is it has to default to something, but you can change it by going to Manage Add-ons from IE’s tools menu and clicking accelerators (and there is a short cut on the “All Accelerators” Menu)


I’ve removed the Email with Live mail and Blog with live spaces (I don’t use them) and just to show the search isn’t fixed I changed the default search to “My blog”, which changes the “Search with” entry. Each accelerator has a category – this one is “Send”, and one item in each category can be flagged as “Default” to appear on the top menu, which is what I’ve done for the twitter entry. Now that’s more like the “few clicks for common tasks” ethos of 7.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

Windows 7 federated search.

Filed under: Beta Products,Internet Explorer,RSS,Windows 7 — jamesone111 @ 1:08 pm

I was a little surprised to find it was nearly 3 years ago that I first wrote about Open Search… So first off… 

Open search provides a specification for XML to describe search services. It’s easy to build this XML, and there’s a Microsoft Page which builds it for you, so here’s an example for IMDB, which I need to add to my Windows 7 installation:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ?>

<OpenSearchDescription xmlns="http://a9.com/-/spec/opensearch/1.1/">


<Description>IMDB provider</Description>


<Url type="text/html" template="http://www.imdb.com/find?s=all&q={searchTerms}" />



The XML tells something like IE 7 and 8 that there is a search, with a name and a description, and the URL to search it and return data as Text/html. IE can use a Link tag on a page that you are viewing to enable a context sensitive search here’s an example from OpenSearch’s own site.

<link rel="search" type="application/opensearchdescription+xml" 
     href="/opensearch_desc.php" title="OpenSearch (English)" />

That was as far as my interest went when I first heard of Open Search, but there is a use for these descriptions in Federated Search. Federated simply means taking the results of more than one search and merging them together. But if every site comes back with an HTML page that is no good for merging, so Open Search defines an XML schema, or to be more accurate it defines extensions to RSS and Atom. Now the Description file can contain another URL line which specifies a type of “application/rss+xml”, or “application/atom+xml”. Each item in the RSS feed becomes a search result, and any search services which can return RSS format can be included in a federated search.

We already use that in our Enterprise Search products. What’s new for Windows 7 is that we use an OSDx (Open Search Description XML file) to add Federated Search parts to Windows Explorer. As far as I can tell, plain Open Search files can be used for this, but there is extra information which can go in, and the best place to start is this post by Brandon. So a OSDx file for twitter looks like this.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<OpenSearchDescription xmlns="http://a9.com/-/spec/opensearch/1.1/">
  <Description>Search for a person @name, tag, #tag or anything  else</Description>
  <Url type="application/rss+xml" template="http://search.twitter.com/search.rss?q={searchTerms}"/>

and the results look like this (click for a bigger version).


The key thing is that this could be any site (internet, intranet you name it) which can return search results as RSS or Atom, and once the search is defined you put a shortcut to it anywhere you’d have a shortcut to a folder.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

February 7, 2009

Windows 7 SKUs

Filed under: Beta Products,Windows 7 — jamesone111 @ 6:43 pm

We’ve announced what the “SKUs” will be for Windows 7 – I hate this term “Stock Keeping Unit” means anything with with a part number… But first a first a history lesson:
XP had 5 SKUs

  • Home
  • Professional
  • Tablet
  • Media Center
  • 64 bit

Bad luck if you want a 64 bit Tablet or a laptop which is Domain joined for the office and with Media functions for the road.
Vista stuck with 5 SKUs but arranged them more sensibly (at least to me)

  • Home Basic
  • Home Premium
  • Business
  • Enterprise
  • Ultimate

For each of these there was a 32 bit build and a 64 bit build, and the licence covered either. (Even if people had problems getting the installation media). Tablet and media functionality went across SKUs  There was a 6th SKU – starter edition – which wasn’t available in much of the world . And of course each of these was doubled up with the “No-media-by-order-of-the-EU-Office-for-Competitors” edition, normally shortened to “N”

It seems these are to stay with 7, with the changes being that Starter will be available world wide, and business will become “professional”. Small businesses have complained long and loud about the lack of bit-locker in Vista business, and they will now complain about the lack of bit locker in Window 7 “professional”. That is the about the only thing I wish we’d change in the SKUs. People can argue about whether there should be a SKU for organizations on volume licences. Since “Volume” begins at 5 there are very few organizations who can’t have the enterprise edition if they want it. There are many small business who don’t know that (which is our fault, and I hope we’ll do something about it).

I think there is clear case for separate home and business SKUs – and for an all in one SKU (ultimate). I’m hoping that we make it clear that “Home Basic” is a poor filleted  thing “Windows for a cheap PC” if you like. The feed back from netbook users has been that the beta of 7 (which is the “Ultimate” SKU) works great, so I hope never to walk into a store an see starter on a computer.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

February 6, 2009

Windows 7 and UAC

Filed under: Beta Products,Security and Malware,Windows 7,Windows Vista — jamesone111 @ 1:42 pm

From the start I thought User Account Control was a big step forward for Vista I tended to brush off any complaints about UAC, for 3 reasons

  1. Most of the appearances of UAC appear during the initial setup of the machine. If this is onerous, then you can re-enable the built-in Administrator account because by default this is doesn’t see the prompts.
  2. Normal users doing normal things just don’t see the prompt.
  3. If you’re a Power Users and you seeing the message multiple times a day you can switch the message off. (If you’re seeing it too often, and routinely OKing it then it loses its value). Though this is like taking the battery out of your smoke alarm because you keep burning the toast.

Nonetheless one of the persistent gripes about Vista was UAC. So in Window 7 we changed things


It’s no just on or off, but we now have “Notify me when Programs install software or make changes to my computer or I make changes to Windows settings” , “Notify me when Programs install software or make changes to my computer”  “Notify me when Programs install software or make changes to my computer but don’t dim my desktop” and “Lay out the welcome mat for all kinds of Malware”.

The middle ones are interesting because parts of the OS are signed as being trustworthy. The Management console is, regedit is not. Net result: no practical reduction in security, but a reduction in the number of prompts… at least that was the theory. I mentioned that  Long Zheng picked up that setting UAC levels was a trusted operation. If you can get the user to run something which (say) sent keystrokes to it, you could turn UAC off and then let rip with any kind of nasty you fancy.  We have now explained how this is going to change , and a good thing too. It appears it was planned to change before the beta, and the change moved back to Release Candidate. What has surprised me in all of this that I have not read a single comment which says “Oh for  pity’s sake Microsoft just get rid of UAC it’s too much of a pain”. Every comment has been that UAC should be there, should be enabled, and should be robust.

It amused me to see a comment to the write up on computer world

“About the only time I see the prompt [for elevation] is:
Installing software
Changing a system setting
Starting Wireshark (promiscious mode requires [it]”

The amusing part was the writer could be describing Vista, but he was actually talking about the prompt for root access on Linux, and he asks “Why do MS insist on making UAC so difficult to use ?”

Technorati Tags:

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

January 31, 2009

Live Migration in Hyper-V R2

Filed under: Beta Products,Virtualization,Windows Server 2008-R2 — jamesone111 @ 10:55 pm

There are videos on-line already showing Live-Migration in action and I’m working on one to show how it its set up. In the mean time if you have the beta of server 2008 R2 there is a good guide on TechNet on how to set it up for yourself.

Of course I particularly like the fact that you can set up a cluster, with one line of PowerShell, And add a clustered VM with a second, and live migrate it with a third.  With clustering in Hyper-V server R2, and PowerShell in it, and in the Core installations of Windows Server AND the remote support in PowerShell V2 I like the direction things are moving in.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

January 28, 2009

A couple more neat things in Windows 7 – printing and the task bar.

Filed under: Beta Products,Windows 7 — jamesone111 @ 5:21 pm

A while back I wrote about exhibiting Aspergers type behaviours and as well as hating background noise this also manifests itself in a powerful dislike of things bouncing round on the screen. Putting “Flash” into the search box on this blog will show you how I feel about web sites where the designers just can’t let things BE STILL

Of course it isn’t just web designers…. lots of things want to put something on your Windows System tray, and none of those wants to be still either. Our OEMs have a lot to answer for in this regard – and since the US courts clamped down on us telling them they must install this and must not install that, we can’t stop them. Toshiba loaned us a Machine recently and I couldn’t believe the pile of stuff that was on it; Ebay and Amazon sidebar gadgets , there were 16 Icons on the desktop and the tray looked like this


And that’s a NEW PC, it probably explains a good number of the Vista horror stories. Sometimes it feels like you’re in a battle of wits with the developer to remove these things – Apple now allow you to turn off the tray icon . 

Windows 7 has the ability to say “Hide these things from the tray” or “Only display them when they pop up a notification.”. That’s better already.  



When I printed something this morning up came the pop-up to say my document printed I wanted it killed off at source, rather than suppressed so off I went to the printers folder where a new item “default printers” caught my eye.

Oh, now that’s neat: when I’m on my home network make my home printer my default, and when I’m at work make the office printer the default.  Perhaps I should explain here for those who haven’t worked  with Vista, that it understands that different networks are … different. Oh that we could make everything network location aware. IE could use different proxy settings, Outlook could switch to RPC over HTTP when it wasn’t on the office network and so on. One step at a time I guess). Now to investigate whether I can get different site/subnet configurations to be different networks ….

Before I leave the task bar as a topic here’s one more thing that isn’t life changing but shows how 7 just has this drip, drip, drip of improvements.


Here’s my task bar from a few minutes ago. Notice how the background for the IE icon is green. The green spreads like a progress bar while a download is in progress. So I can tell the large download (whose progress Window is hidden underneath something) has completed. This idea of finding stuff which has vanished beneath your other windows is one the 7 team seem to have taken to heart.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

January 27, 2009

Managing Windows Update with PowerShell

I mentioned some of the server management and config tools I’ve been creating with Server 2008 R2 core in mind, and I’m going to put the major bits here. I’ll post the whole script at the end of the set of posts but for now here is the code to look after Windows update

First I created two hash tables to map the numbers used in the functions to some meaningful text

$AutoUpdateNotificationLevels= @{0=”Not configured”; 1=”Disabled” ; 2=”Notify before download”; 
3=”Notify before installation”; 4=”Scheduled installation”}

$AutoUpdateDays=@{0=”Every Day”; 1=”Every Sunday”; 2=”Every Monday”; 3=”Every Tuesday”; 4=”Every Wednesday”;
5=”Every Thursday”; 6=”Every Friday”; 7=”EverySaturday”}

Next, there is a COM object for everything relating to auto-update. It has a settings property which contains the notification level and update days, the hour at which updates are fetched and how recommended updates are processed.  Setting the properties is pretty easy, and there is is a save method to commit them  – I’ve been lazy here and haven’t got a hash table mapping names to numbers for the notification level so or multiple switches so the user would need to know that notification levels in the hash table (or enter  $AutoUpdateNotificationLevels at the prompt to see what is in the table) – I might fix that for the final script.

 Function Set-WindowsUpdateConfig

{Param ($NotificationLevel , $Day, $hour, $IncludeRecommended)

$AUSettings = (New-Object -com “Microsoft.Update.AutoUpdate”).Settings

if ($NotificationLevel)  {$AUSettings.NotificationLevel        =$NotificationLevel}

if ($Day)                {$AUSettings.ScheduledInstallationDay =$Day}

if ($hour)               {$AUSettings.ScheduledInstallationTime=$hour}

if ($IncludeRecommended) {$AUSettings.IncludeRecommendedUpdates=$IncludeRecommended}



To show what the settings are, I decode them and return a custom object with the decoded properties.

Function Get-WindowsUpdateConfig

{$AUSettings = (New-Object -com “Microsoft.Update.AutoUpdate”).Settings

$AUObj = New-Object -TypeName System.Object
 Add-Member -inputObject $AuObj -MemberType NoteProperty -Name “NotificationLevel”   `
    -Value $AutoUpdateNotificationLevels[$AUSettings.NotificationLevel]

Add-Member -inputObject $AuObj -MemberType NoteProperty -Name “UpdateDays”      `
       -Value $AutoUpdateDays[$AUSettings.ScheduledInstallationDay]

Add-Member -inputObject $AuObj -MemberType NoteProperty -Name “UpdateHour”        `
   -Value $AUSettings.ScheduledInstallationTime
Add-Member -inputObject $AuObj -MemberType NoteProperty -Name “Recommended updates” `
-Value $(IF ($AUSettings.IncludeRecommendedUpdates) {“Included.”}  else {“Excluded.”})

Checking on MSDN I found there is another object used in a script WUA_SearchDownloadInstall , which does what it says – it searches Windows update for updates, downloads them and installs them I added the logic to my function to over-ride the selection criteria, and auto-Restart if a restart is needed. Since it is sometimes useful to patch Virtual Machines, then shut them down, then Patch the host and then reboot it and bring the VMs back again , I’ve also put in a shutdown after Update switch.

The logic is simple enough, create a Session object which has CreateSearcher, CreateDownloader and CreateInstaller Methods. Then create a searcher and use it to get updates matching the default or specified criteria. If there are any updates, create a downloader object, hand it the list of updates found by the searcher and start a download. If the download completes successfully, filter out the successfully downloaded items, and pass those into a newly created installer object. Run the installation process and afterwards output a table showing the state of the updates. Finally reboot if needed.

Function Add-WindowsUpdate

{param ($Criteria=”IsInstalled=0 and Type=’Software'” , [switch]$AutoRestart, [Switch]$ShutdownAfterUpdate)

$resultcode= @{0=”Not Started”; 1=”In Progress”; 2=”Succeeded”; 3=”Succeeded With Errors”; 4=”Failed” ; 5=”Aborted” }

$updateSession = new-object -com “Microsoft.Update.Session”

write-progress -Activity “Updating” -Status “Checking available updates” 

if ($Updates.Count -eq 0)  { “There are no applicable updates.”}  
else {

       $downloader = $updateSession.CreateUpdateDownloader()
       $downloader.Updates = $Updates 
        write-progress -Activity ‘Updating’ -Status “Downloading $($downloader.Updates.count) updates” 
       $Result= $downloader.Download() 
       if (($Result.Hresult -eq 0) –and (($result.resultCode –eq 2) -or ($result.resultCode –eq 3)) ) {

       $updatesToInstall = New-object -com “Microsoft.Update.UpdateColl”

       $Updates | where {$_.isdownloaded} | foreach-Object {$updatesToInstall.Add($_) | out-null }
       $installer = $updateSession.CreateUpdateInstaller()
       $installer.Updates = $updatesToInstall

       write-progress -Activity ‘Updating’ -Status “Installing $($Installer.Updates.count) updates’
        $installationResult = $installer.Install()
        $installer.updates | Format-Table -autosize -property Title,EulaAccepted,@{label=’Result’;
                               expression={$ResultCode[$installationResult.GetUpdateResult($Global:Counter++).resultCode ] }}
       if ($autoRestart -and $installationResult.rebootRequired) { shutdown.exe /t 0 /r }
       if ($ShutdownAfterUpdate) {shutdown.exe /t 0 /s }

So now I can run
Add-WindowsUpdate –Auto to download updates and reboot if needed,
Set-WindowsUpdateConfig –n 4 –i to schedule updates (Including the merely recommended)  and

So next up it’s Get-RemoteDesktopConfig and Set-RemoteDesktopConfig.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

January 25, 2009

End of availability for the Windows 7 Beta

Filed under: Beta Products,Windows 7 — jamesone111 @ 6:59 pm

 Over on Windows 7 Team Blog, Brandon has a post explaining that we are coming to the end of the availability period for the beta.

Originally we said it would be available until at least this weekend, but downloads are going to continue into February – in case of a last minute rush we’re making sure that anyone who starts a download which fails, will be able to resume it for 48 hours after the cut off. If you’re a technet or MSDN subscriber, in which case it will still be on the download site; if not and you haven’t got a copy you have until Feb 10th to start your download.

For now I’m assuming the same applies to the server products.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

January 21, 2009

A Windows 7 Evening with Mark Russinovich

Filed under: Beta Products,Events,Windows 7 — jamesone111 @ 2:43 pm

I’ve mentioned Tom Lehrer before and one of his albums is entitled “An evening wasted with Tom Lehrer” which is often how I think of my own presentations. I got a mail about an evening event (7PM UK time) which is happening in February, given it is Mark Russinovich presnting it should be anything but wasted , despite the rather Buzz Lightyear title of  Windows 7: To the Beta and Beyond

It’s presented as part of the “Virtual Roundtable” in our Springboard Series

Date: Thursday, February 12th

Time: 11:00am Pacific Time , 7:00PM GMT


Here’s the blurb about it

Join Mark Russinovich and a panel of subject matter experts for a live discussion of what’s in store for IT pros with Windows® 7. Learn about the evolution of features like Group Policy, BitLocker™ To Go, DirectAccess, BranchCache™, and Software Restriction then get tips on troubleshooting, deployment, and application compatibility. Bring your questions—Mark and the panel will answer as many as they can during the hour-long event, then publish the rest in a Q&A after the event.

Find answers to your Windows client OS deployment and management questions with resources, tools, monthly feature articles, and guidance from subject matter experts and early adopters. To learn more, visit www.microsoft.com/springboard.

As part of the “virtual” experience, you may submit your questions about Windows 7 Beta to the panel live during the event—or submit questions in advance to vrtable@microsoft.com.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

January 19, 2009

A new bit of Windows 7 (for me)

Filed under: Beta Products,Windows 7 — jamesone111 @ 9:10 pm

Someone sent me a couple of good links about new bits Tim Sneath’s bumper list of Windows 7 Secrets, and Brandon’s list of Hotkeys. Both are worth a look. If [Window] [+] and [Window][-] zoom in Server 2008 R2 it’s going to help demos enormously.

On the subject of demos, I’m presenting tomorrow, and in a hotel overnight. The hotel charges £10 for internet access and there is a McDonalds across the Car park where internet is free. I got a message while I was at the check in, and needed to attend to it and decided to grab a coffee and a bite and use their internet, which is provided by “The Cloud” I noticed recently that Pret a Manger* are also providing free internet and I’d rather be there but hey … It turns out they also use the cloud.

So what’s the new thing in 7 ?  Well not only is it fewer clicks to connect to wireless (it’s all off the tray Icon) but if you’ve ever used a service like this you’ll know that you have to logon – even to the free service. So you play the game of “will outlook / communicator etc connect or do I have to go to IE” I always have a blank home page in IE, and it’s usually running when I logon so the instructions to “open your browser” which most places give wake up my inner pedant.
Windows 7 takes the guess work out of it.



* Really I noticed. I took a photo of it !


This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

January 14, 2009

Progress or Luddism … why Windows 7 isn’t an F1 car

Filed under: Beta Products,Windows 7 — jamesone111 @ 5:27 pm

Jason Perlow at ZD Net thinks I called him a luddite. Actually I said one of his colleagues barely stopped short of using the L word.


 Jason complained that “The “Run” option is no longer directly accessible from the Start Menu as a default behavior, you have to get to it via a Search. Once you get to Run via Search, you can click on it to execute any commands you like, such as the CMD.EXE prompt,”

As you can see in the picture on the left, Jason hasn’t quite got his facts right. You can add the Run option on the Windows 7 menu in same way that you add it under Vista. Why he wouldn’t just press [Window] R for the run menu or type CMD in the search box is beyond me, but I guess it’s an example of what an old friend of mine calls WIKIWIL – What I Know Is What I Like. 

 In his latest post Jason takes issue with the new fluent tool bars from Office 2007. I go back to Aldus PageMaker on Windows 1, and Excel 2 on Windows 2.03 (Excel 1 was a Mac only product); we’re talking 20 years ago, 640×350 was high resolution, VGA at 640×480 a pipe-dream. Every pixel was sacred. 20 years later, nobody has to live in 480 lines: if we don’t need to be so mean with screen space, so why are we using something which  was designed for CGA ? Applications are more complex, tool bars go everywhere: options are buried off a button on the 12th tab of a 24 tab dialog box (they seemed so clever at the time) which you can only get to via a sub, sub menu item; and 90% of feature requests are for things which are already in the product. The products have outNone of which is to say everyone takes to the new task bars like a duck takes to water; far from it. I am more productive now with it, the first day was horrible, then second better by the end of a week it was OK. Two weeks and I was getting back the time I’d lost at the start.

But then Jason goes on to say he uses Office 2007 partly because he is “starting to get more and more documents from people that have been saved in that format”. It’s as if he doesn’t know that a  compatibility pack to allow Office XP and 2003 to open the new formats has been around as long as the new release.

But one comment of his rattled round in my head. “I’m a heavy Word, Excel and PowerPoint 2003 user, and I know them quite well, like a Indy-car or Formula 1 race car driver knows where everything is by instinct and reflex because his life depends on it”

Well sure, it’s great to think of yourself as the Lewis Hamilton of Powerpoint. But here are my top 5  reasons why Windows and Office shouldn’t be like an F1 car.

* It takes years of work to get a seat in a F1

* You can’t get your  F1 car started without a team of people to help

* At any given time only 20 or so people get to drive one

* Of those 19 out 20 don’t get the results they want

* Even the people who produce them say they are too expensive


I want an OS to be more like a road car. Massa doesn’t have to worry about someone stealing his new Ferrari , but I want central locking for my car. Does any one really need air conditioning (in the UK at least): of course not, but I doubt if I’ll ever have another car without. If you can’t drive at a constant speed or get into a parking space you shouldn’t be on the road. I still want cruise control and parking sensors. The list goes on.

I like it that my car the radio now tells me the programme that is on as well as the station, a car without that would seem crude – cars make information easily available – navigation, traffic, state of the windscreen washer


If you look closely at the picture above you’ll see Windows media player has an arrowhead next to it . It’s a “Jump list”. A jump list can be recent files, IE navigation history or in the case of Media center, what it just recorded. So instead of opening Media center navigating to recorded TV and then to my programme, it’s right there. And if I don’t want it to vanish I can pin it to the list to play for evermore

Like the radio info in the car this isn’t a make or break thing, but it’s an example of a general class of improvements which give 7 that bit more polish.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

January 13, 2009

Fun and games with VHD files in the new OSes

Filed under: Beta Products,Windows 7,Windows Server — jamesone111 @ 9:53 pm

image One of the new features for both Windows Server 2008 R2 and the Windows 7 client is support for Virtual Hard Disk files built into the OS. You can create fixed or dynamic disks and “attach” the tools for Hyper-V call this “mounting” a VHD and early stuff on 7 seems to  have called it surfacing a VHD . You need to click the image on the left to see it full size but  Disk 3 has a different coloured disk icon, and it contains the full image backup of my Vista hard disk.

Disk part will do the job too. 

Create VDISK will setup a new VHD (Help Create Vdisk will tell you the parameters)

Select VDISK "<file name">” followed by “Attach” Vdisk  will bring a disk on-line.

Then you can partition it like any other disk, use it like any other disk and so on.


Now … during installation you can press [Shift][F10] to pop up a command prompt, and if the installation runs on the 6.1 build of Windows PE what do you think you might be able to do  ?

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

Downloading Windows 7 / Server 2008 R2

Filed under: Beta Products,Windows 7 — jamesone111 @ 11:09 am

It seems it wasn’t just our internal network servers which went into melt down – on Friday the rush to be one of the first 2.5 million to download Windows 7 was more than the exceeded capacity could cope with. On top of that, there’s a rumour doing the rounds that the problem with keys was because someone put the wrong number into the system so we had way fewer actually available than planned. 

Hopefully those issues are all sorted out, and we’ve made an additional change, the download limit is going to be 2.5 million copies OR two weeks up to January 24th – which ever comes later. I’m going to remain my curmudgeonly self and say that we only need a small number because there is a strong correlation between needing the beta and subscribing to technet. 

Wanting the beta is something else entirely , and after a few hours on it getting all the usual bits of software installed I’m feeling less reserved about saying people should run it. The positive reactions I’m seeing round the internet tell me that other people are feeling the same. But Remember there is no technical support available for for pre-release software, (although we’ve created a TechNet online forum where you can ask questions and get answers from other beta testers.) We always talk about people “participating” in a beta and part of my reason for saying we shouldn’t let everyone who wants it into the the beta is that they don’t give feed back – which plays a critical role in the development process. If there’s something you find confusing or annoying—or a feature you absolutely love—please tell us by clicking the "Send Feedback" link at the top of any window.

Remember that you’ll have to re-install Windows, by August 1st. It was nice to get a name check from Ed Bott, who talked about this. Ed’s convinced we’re going to ship in July. And I’ve said before that as far as Microsoft people talking about ship dates is concerned, those who talk don’t know and those who know don’t talk. Past experience has led me to a rule of thumb which says a beta runs for about 3 months, so with nothing else to go on that would suggest updating to next pre-release version around April (conveniently half way to the August 1st expiry date).  If that release is designated “Beta 2” it will suggest a ship date of the end of the year. If it’s designated “release candidate” then Ed and the others will be able to say “Told you so”. 

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

January 10, 2009

My first couple of hours with Windows 7

Filed under: Beta Products,Windows 7 — jamesone111 @ 5:02 pm

I don’t talk much here about occasions when Microsoft’s internal workings get silly, but the last couple of days have been funny. We were fore-warned that Steve B would be announcing Windows 7 beta availability in his CES speech, but to prevent leaks the software was kept on very limited distribution until it went public. Then the folks in Microsoft IT had to put copies on various servers for us to download. Those servers took an absolute pounding. Some people were downloading from Technet and MSDN because too many people where hitting the main European software distribution server – I could visualize network cables glowing red hot. Since nobody told the people who manage the stationery cupboards what was about to happen, blank DVDs were in short supply – I was slow off the mark and had to get mine from another building.

I installed Windows Server 2008-R2 on Thursday evening, I’ve been doing my 3 laptop virtualization demo using a second hard disk to turn my every-day working dell into a second server.  I want to be able to show the new virtualization features with R2 but still show what they can do with the software that’s shipping today (and it will be a little while before the SCVMM team have an update to support R2). So I need these to Dual boot;  you may have read that R2 adds support for booting from a VHD file, and I decided to make use of that -  give or take a minor headache with the initial configuration it works well. This feature is public, but the only document I have with instructions has got confidential on it, so I’m going to wait a bit before posting instructions or a community clips video on how to make it work.

The next question was what to do for a Windows 7 client. My Vista machine’s hard disk needs a major clear out, and I really wanted to use a clean disk, and my only “spare” is dual booting the two server OSes. So I needed another drive and off I went to Scan where a 120GB 7200 RPM disk is £25 plus taxes and delivery: ordered on Thursday, the courier tried to deliver it at lunch time on Friday. The longest part of installing 7 turned out to be going to the courier’s depot and fetching the drive. Installation from Power-up to first logon was 30 minutes including formatting the drive. Incidentally , Viral has coverage of an issue affecting Product keys I got a key from Technet, but I’ve opted not to enter it yet, there’s a 30 day grace period.

I don’t wimageant to turn into a broken record here, but it is a beta and that means for testing not production. The licence is pretty clear on this .


I’ve said before that testing a client OS tends to mean running it as an every day OS, even though you can’t put it into full scale production. Is it up to the job ?

It’s not a major release, but a .1 release building on existing work so it shouldn’t have too many rough edges. And it doesn’t. The first impression is it feels like a finished OS. It also shouldn’t be a radical departure from the .0 release. And it isn’t. I was a little surprised to find that there was no Nvidia driver in the box, but the Vista drivers for that and for my Hauppauge TV stick installed with no problem at all. My generic web cam and Express-Card SD reader were no trouble, I’ll grab some other USB devices and see how they fare over the weekend.

Since I mentioned the TV stick, the beta is ultimate edition so includes Media Center, which has had a minor face lift and looks … crisper is the word which springs to mind. Media player on the other hand carries has a 2006 copyright date on it and is barely changed. (No podcast support). And at least as far as my Pentax PEF files are concerned support for previewing RAW images in explorer still left to the camera makers (Maybe it’s different for Nikon and Canon – I don’t have the files to check). I’m sure a basic photo gallery was there but  Movie Maker has gone, but there is a link to download Live Photo Gallery (which disables the built in one instead of having two) and the new “Windows Live Movie Maker”.

Live Movie maker sports the new, Office 2007 style, “fluent” tool bar as do Wordpad and Paint. Actually that’s a sign of something else. When Windows 95 came out 800×600 was considered high resolution. We couldn’t spare the space at the top of the screen for the bigger toolbars, and the task bar was skinny.  7 has a fatter task bar and handles “stacked” items much better than vista does. There are also a bunch of improvements in Window management, previews and so on. Viral was making very positive noises about these innovations on Friday. My take is that in Vista we took advantage of the capabilities of modern graphics cards  for the first time, it’s very rare that you exploit a technology to best effect at the first go. Peeking– bringing a window to front when you hover over its preview , and putting it back if you move the mouse away – is the kind of thing that comes in a second release. We’ve also got the ability to peek at your desktop without minimizing everything , useful if you use the new sticky notes app. The new sidebar metaphor is not to have a bar on the side – gadgets still start life there but now they can go anywhere on the desktop. Finding something when there are many windows on top of each other is now much easier. And I’m sold on a feature called “jump lists” – basically your recent or common actions show up on the right click menu for a toolbar item – or a fly out menu from the start menu. So for example IE’s history, or “Watch Live TV” for Media Center, so two clicks gets me where I want to be straight away.

Elsewhere, software explorer seems to have gone from defender, (shame), and there progress indicator hasn’t been put back into defrag. Calculator has had an update – including a useful unit conversion tool, which I hope can be customized.  PowerShell V2 is installed as standard.  The Most annoying change from XP to Vista (to my mind)– the inability to drag files from explorer to a command prompt– has been reversed , you can drag into PowerShell too. And the most annoying change (to everyone else it seems), User Account Control , is more configurable, and a lot less intrusive. I’m guessing its using digital signatures to decide if something can be elevated without prompting.

Next job(s) try installing the usual raft of software (to date I’ve only got Live writer, gallery and movie maker + Community clips) and plugging in every bit of hardware I’ve got and seeing where I get to .


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This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

January 9, 2009

Technet and betas

Filed under: Beta Products — jamesone111 @ 3:47 pm

Later today we will make Windows 7 beta available to anyone who wants it . “Anyone” is stretching the point, because there will only be a finite number of downloads/ product IDs available – 2.5 Million.  Some of my fellow evangelists saw red over this, one arguing that with an installed base of 700 million PCs providing only 1 copy per 300 PCs out in the world and we’d have 299 angry customers for every happy one. That’s a pretty extreme view and I hold an opposite – and perhaps extreme view.

As far as the number goes the official PR quote from the product group goes

we’re setting the download cap at 2.5 million – higher than the download limit set for any previous Windows Beta release. 2.5 million downloads should satisfy strong customer demand, while providing the breadth and depth of feedback we need to finish Windows 7.

I don’t think everyone should run beta software. In fact licenses for the software say it is for testing only and not for production use – although the best test for a client OS way is to copy what you would do in production – and the only to do it reliably is to use it as a production OS. I wouldn’t put my parents on beta software for example. Nor would I put anything business critical on it – in fact given the trouble of getting people to move to a newly released OS gives a pretty good idea of who won’t want a beta.

A Beta is there to prepare for the real product. If you want to get the skills to work with it or test the software you deploy (or develop) works with it or both. It’s not there for people who want to run something new and exciting to get a way to do it sooner – that’s a by-product. My argument is that anyone who is doing a job where they need to do that should have Technet – or if they’re developing software MSDN. If I fly on a plane – that’s a complex system and I expect the people who work on it to have access to all the documentation from Boeing, Airbus or whoever.  If I consult a lawyer I expect them to have a shelf full of books about their area of the law (another complex system). If you work, professionally, with Microsoft software you should have technet (or MSDN if you’re a developer). Any organization which doesn’t have technet probably doesn’t have the resource to put into doing a proper beta evaluation. 

Back when a few people complained that we closed the office 2007 beta after a huge number of downloads, I said that if you don’t have a subscription to get the software AND you can’t manage to be one of the first couple of million to download a beta then there probably isn’t a very convincing case for you to have it (but if you can make such a case , I’ll make it my business to get the beta for you). 

Incidentally if you’re thing that you should get a subscription to TechNet Plus you can get a discount of 20% if you enter the promotion code  TNCARE09 at the on-line order site.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

January 8, 2009

Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7 client Betas on Technet

Filed under: Beta Products,Windows Server 2008,Windows Vista — jamesone111 @ 3:33 am

I’m not exactly delighted to be be blogging at 3:13 in the morning, but I’m watching the keynote from CES. In the last 45 minutes we’ve published a press release about Windows 7. Steve Ballmer said that “Technet and MSDN subscribers can download it now”. I was watching site propagate and the downloads are there. now. What do you mean you’re not a technet subscriber ? Well you’ll be able to get it in a few days.

I picked up from Mary Jo’s blog that there was a live friend feed for those watching. Mary Jo picked up that everything says “the beta” not Beta 1 or some such. Someone else who was thinking in the lines I outlined in the my previous post and suggested that shipping 7 or July 7th (7/7) was too good to miss. Touch in Windows 7 is going to get a lot of attention. I can see quite a few “lightweight surface” type apps being built with that.

Bonus info: Halo Wars will be out in February and a new Halo 3 game (Halo 3 ODST) will be out before the end of the year.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

Windows 7 – not a very well kept secret

Filed under: Beta Products,Windows Vista — jamesone111 @ 1:55 am

We’ve got a projector in the office which gathers various streams of news and shows them on the wall, and today it keeps talking about Windows 7. It seems SteveB is making a speech tonight and everyone expects it to announce the beta of Windows 7. (Mary Jo has some more ideas what he might say)

So in preparation for its arrival here are a handful of thoughts about beta testing , and the next version of Windows.

1. Remember what a beta is for. It’s a two way thing; you discover what might have problems, what’s new and great and what’s new that you just don’t like. You test thoroughly. Try those crappy old apps and old bits of hardware (I’m told that some things which need coaxing to work on Vista are more likely to work on 7 out of the box. If it can’t be made to work on Vista with the app compat toolkit,  it probably can’t be made to work on 7 either). It might also be your first tilt at IE 8.  But it is a two way process: if you find something which doesn’t work we want you to report it. That was our reason for  letting you have it.

2. Products ship when they are ready part 1. I’ve seen all kinds of rumours about when Windows 7 client and Server 2008 R2 will ship. One intriguing one is that PCs shipped after July 1 will get a free upgrade. Free upgrades from RTM onwards used to be the rule. With Vista we had upgrades 24th October 2006, and RTM was in November. If this rumour is turns out to be true that says a release will not be much after July 1. I’ve always reckoned on 3-4 months for a beta and a month for a release candidate as a good rule of thumb. There isn’t time to do usual two betas and two or three release candidates by July, which makes another rumour – of only one beta the only way that will work. I don’t have any inside scoop on this.  We said the new client OS be 3 years after Vista. Exactly 3 years means RTM in November and launch parties in 2010 – nice fit for my timescales for 2 betas and 3 RCs .  Unless something is said in the Ballmer speech remember my old saying, those who really know don’t talk and those who talk don’t really know. Some great things are already being said about 7, but

3. Products ship when they are ready, part 2. A beta, by definition is not ready. Life will not be free of all disruption I’d be surprised if anything in the a beta OS trashes my data. But staring at a dead file system with nothing to do but mutter “that was a surprise” * isn’t something I’m going to let happen. So I’m going to try to get a fresh hard-disk and copy my data to it and leave the old one alone. And I’m going to be sure to test the backup and restore system :-) 

4. A lot will be written about the OS, much will be junk . Jason Perlow at ZDNET gives a great example. “There’s no run menu”. Press the [Window] key instead of [Window] & [R] or click start (rather than click start, click run) and type what you would have typed in the Run box. It works the same, and its quicker. And it finds things before you’ve typed the whole name. The mentality of saying “I must have my run box in floating window named run and it can’t be merged with search” is just… well, Jason’s colleague  Ed Bott just stops short of calling him a luddite. There are other good points in Ed’s post too. I’ve long held that he knows what he’s talking about.




* Back in my days in Microsoft consulting services , we would be asked to review designs and tell the customer that they good be guaranteed to work. I’d always explain that such guarantees are impossible but we can say we’ve reviewed it and if competently implemented nothing about it leads us to expect a problem. Of course if a problem arises we will say “COR ! That was unexpected”. That always raised a laugh, but the serious point was we




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