James O'Neill's Blog

February 25, 2010

Retirement Planning (for service packs)

Yesterday I wrote about end-of-life planning for OSes and so it makes sense to talk about the end of a service pack, as retirement – it is after all the word that is used on the product lifecycle pages. Of course we don’t mean retirement in go and live by the seaside sense…

Special police squads — BLADE RUNNER UNITS — had orders to shoot to kill, upon detection,any trespassing Replicants.

This was not called execution. It was called retirement

that sense. Service packs, like OSes (and replicants) get an end date set well in advance, having explained OSes I want to move on to service packs (and if you want to know about Replicants you’ll have to look elsewhere).

The rule for service packs is simple. Two years after the release of a Service Pack we stop supporting the previous version. So although Windows Vista will be in mainstream support until 2012, and extended support until 2017, that doesn’t mean you can run the initial release , or Service Pack 1 and be supported until then. Lets use Vista as a worked example – I explained yesterday

Windows Vista [had] a General Availability date [of] Jan 2007.For Vista, five years after GA will be later than 2 years after Windows 7, so Vista goes from mainstream to extended support in or shortly after January 2012. We’ve set the date, April 10th 2012. The end of extended support will depend on when the next version of Window ships, but it won’t be before April 11th 2017.

Service pack 1 for Vista became available in April 2008, and Service Pack 2 became available in April 2009.
So, the life of the original Release to Manufacturing of (RTM) version of Windows Vista ends on April 14 2010.
In the same way the life of SP1 of Vista should end in April 2011, actually because we don’t retire things on the exact anniversary, SP1 gets an extension until July 12 2011.

If you are on Vista you must have upgraded to SP1 or SP2 (or Windows 7) by April 14 if you want to continue being supported.

So here’s the summary for what is supported with Vista, and when

Jan ‘07 – April ‘08  Only RTM release available

April ‘08 – April ‘09 RTM and Service Pack 1 supported

April ‘09 – April ‘10 RTM , Service Pack 1 and Service Pack 2 supported

April ‘10  – July ‘11 Service pack 1 and Service Pack 2 Supported

July ‘11 – April ‘12 Service Pack 2 only supported

April ‘12 – April ‘17 Extended support phase on SP2 only.

To simplify things, that assumes there is no Service pack 3 for Windows Vista, and that the successor to Windows 7 ships before April 11 2015.

Vista SP1 coincided with the release of Server 2008, and  Windows XP service pack 3 came very shortly afterwards. The extra few days means the anniversary for XP SP2 falls after the cut off date for April retirement and the end of life for XP SP 2 is July 13th 2010 (the same as day Windows 2000 professional and server editions). Mainstream support for Windows XP (all service packs) has ended,  after July 13 XP is extended support ONLY on SP3 ONLY.

I should have included in yesterdays post that July 13th 2010 also marks the end of mainstream support for Server 2003 (and Server 2003 R2), the  RTM and SP1 versions are already retired. It would be very unusual to see a new service pack for something in extended support. If you still have 2003 servers, you need to decide what you will do about support / upgrades before Jul 13th

Server 2008 shipped as SP1 to sync up with Windows Vista  and SP2 for both came out on the same date, so there are no server service pack actions required until July 12 2011. I explained yesterday why I have sympathy with people who don’t plan, but if you are on Server 2008 SP1 don’t leave it till the last minute to choose between SP2 or upgrading to R2  and then implementing your choice.

Update – Fixed a few typos. 

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.


July 22, 2009

How to activate Windows from a script (even remotely).

I have been working on some PowerShell recently to handle the initial setup of a new machine, and I wanted to add the activation. If you do this from a command line it usually using the Software Licence manager script (slMgr.vbs) but this is just a wrapper around a couple of WMI objects which are documented on MSDN so I thought I would have a try at calling them from PowerShell. Before you make use of the code below, please understand it has had only token testing and comes with absolutely no warranty whatsoever, you may find it a useful worked example but you assume all responsibility for any damage that results to your system. If you’re happy with that, read on.  

So first, here is a function which could be written as  one line to get the status of Windows licensing. This relies on the SoftwareLicensingProduct WMI object : the Windows OS will have something set in the Partial Product Key field and the ApplicationID is a known guid. Having fetched the right object(s) it outputs the name and the status for each – translating the status ID to text using a hash table.

$licenseStatus=@{0=”Unlicensed”; 1=”Licensed”; 2=”OOBGrace”; 3=”OOTGrace”;
4=”NonGenuineGrace”; 5=”Notification”; 6=”ExtendedGrace”}
Function Get-Registration

{ Param ($server=”.” )
get-wmiObject -query  “SELECT * FROM SoftwareLicensingProduct WHERE PartialProductKey <> null
AND ApplicationId=’55c92734-d682-4d71-983e-d6ec3f16059f’
AND LicenseIsAddon=False” -Computername $server |
foreach {“Product: {0} — Licence status: {1}” -f $_.name , $licenseStatus[[int]$_.LicenseStatus] }


On my Windows 7 machine this comes back with Product: Windows(R) 7, Ultimate edition — Licence status: Licensed

One of my server machines the OS was in the “Notification” state meaning it keeps popping up the notice that I might be the victim of counterfeiting  (all Microsoft shareholders are … but that’s not what it means. We found a large proportion of counterfeit windows had be sold to people as genuine.)  So the next step was to write something to register the computer. To add a licence key it is 3 lines – get a wmi object, call its “Install Product Key” method, and then call its “Refresh License Status method”.  (Note for speakers of British English, it is License with an S, even though we keep that for the verb and Licence with a C for the noun).  To Activate we get a different object (technically there might be multiple objects), and call its activate method. Refreshing the licensing status system wide and then checking the “license Status”  property for the object indicates what has happened. Easy stuff, so here’s the function.

Function Register-Computer
{  [CmdletBinding(SupportsShouldProcess=$True)]
param ([parameter()][ValidateScript({ $_ -match “^\S{5}-\S{5}-\S{5}-\S{5}-\S{5}$”})][String]$Productkey ,
[String] $Server=”.” )


$objService = get-wmiObject -query “select * from SoftwareLicensingService” -computername $server
if ($ProductKey) { If ($psCmdlet.shouldProcess($Server , $lStr_RegistrationSetKey)) {
                           $objService.InstallProductKey($ProductKey) | out-null 
                           $objService.RefreshLicenseStatus() | out-null }

    }   get-wmiObject -query  “SELECT * FROM SoftwareLicensingProduct WHERE PartialProductKey <> null
                                                                   AND ApplicationId=’55c92734-d682-4d71-983e-d6ec3f16059f’
                                                                   AND LicenseIsAddon=False” -Computername $server |

      foreach-object { If ($psCmdlet.shouldProcess($_.name , “Activate product” ))

{ $_.Activate() | out-null

$objService.RefreshLicenseStatus() | out-null

If     ($_.LicenseStatus -eq 1) {write-verbose “Product activated successfully.”}
Else   {write-error (“Activation failed, and the license state is ‘{0}'” `
-f $licenseStatus[[int]$_.LicenseStatus] ) }
                            If     (-not $_.LicenseIsAddon) { return }

else { write-Host ($lStr_RegistrationState -f $lStr_licenseStatus[[int]$_.LicenseStatus]) }

Things to note

  • I’ve taken advantage of PowerShell V2’s ability to include validation code as a part of the declaration of a parameter.
  • I as mentioned before, it’s really good to use the SHOULD PROCESS feature of V2 , so I’ve done that too.
  • Finally, since this is WMI it can be remoted to any computer. So the function takes a Server parameter to allow machines to be remotely activated.

A few minutes later windows detected the change and here is the result.



This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

June 25, 2009

How to: have nicer Active Directory management from PowerShell – without upgrading AD

One of the first books I read on PowerShell  had a comment about using AD from the PowerShell V1 which amounted to “It’s too hard, don’t bother use VB Script instead”. I’d taken against the book in question (no names no pack drill) – in fact it reminded me of something Dorothy Parker is supposed to have said*  "This is not a book to be cast aside lightly, it should be hurled with great force."  When I was asked to contribute to the Windows Scripting Bible (out of stock at Amazon at the time of writing!) someone had put a chapter on AD into the outline, so I had to write one. This gives me enough expertise to say it can be done, and having written scripts in VBScript to work with AD it is easier in PowerShell, but it is ugly and not done in true PowerShell style.

All that changed when we took the covers off the Beta of Windows Server 2008 R2 , it has PowerShell V2 with Cmdlets for Active directory. A quick scratch of the surface revealed these work with a new Web Service which is (you guessed it) on in R2. This quickly led to questions about whether it would be back-ported… and I had to answer “I know customers are asking for it, but I don’t know if it will happen”. There is a post on the  AD Powershell blog announcing the beta of a version for Windows Server 2003 and 2008 version for Windows Server 2003 and 2008.  

(Quick tip of the hat to Jonanthan who tweeted this)



* If in doubt about attributing quotes which don’t sound like Shakespeare or the bible, Churchill, Mark Twain or Dorothy Parker are always good bets. 

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

May 7, 2009

Customizing the Windows 7 logon screen: no additional tools required

Filed under: Beta Products,Windows 2003 Server,Windows Server 2008-R2 — jamesone111 @ 2:39 pm

A few of people have noticed that I’m running Windows 7 with a customized logon screen, and a couple of them asked me if I used “logon studio” which (as I understand it) rummages round inside some of the image resources buried in DLL files.

In Windows 7 we have provided a registry key for OEMS to turn on custom backgrounds it’s under HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Authentication\LogonUI\Background and the name is OEMBackground, you can add it if it isn’t there – it’s a DWORD 1 indicates use the custom backgrounds and 0 means don’t. Beware, if you change Windows themes this gets reset – which implies the theme covers the background as well.

Once the option is enabled you need to create files in the   %windir%\system32\oobe\info\backgrounds folder, the names are BackgroundHeightxWidth.JPG and BackgroundDefault.jpg so for this laptop I have a default and Background1920x1400.You can use this make your corporate Machine all more corporate or your personal machine that bit more personal.  According the Windows 7 center  where (I think) I first saw the tip the file size need to be under 256KB. If you want to customize the original background you find it’s named background.bmp in the OOBE folder (oobe for those who don’t know is Out Of Box Experience in Microsoft speak).

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

January 5, 2009

Lies,Damn lies and licence interpretations.

From time to time people ask me who I write for, and I always say I write for myself in the hope that there are enough people out there like me to make a reasonable size audience. It always surprises me how many people inside Microsoft read this blog, not to mention the number of competitors who come here to read my impeccably researched and completely impartial comments (and in return I read their lies, twisted truths and false malicious implications. Ha. Ha.)

Someone pointed me to a post of Mike DiPetrillo’s from just before Christmas with the so charming title of “Microsoft lies to their customers again.”. Mike’s beef is that people who work for Microsoft have said things to customers which contradict what we have posted in public. Unwilling to resist a good title, he’s chosen to make this ineptitude sound like some sort of corporately organized conspiracy… The odd thing is that he is complaining about something you’ll hear people from his company say. During  2008 people from VMware complained that Microsoft was playing dirty with licensing rules for virtualization – that VMware could not use the bundled instances of the operating system included with Enterprise and Datacenter versions of Server 2003 R2 and Server 2008. Allowing customers to do less with your product if they also buy someone else’s product tends to have regulators beating your doors down. If customers get a certain number of bundled instances with a licence that has to apply regardless of the virtualization technology. Indeed, I constantly have to explain to people the reason that you can’t use anything but virtualization on top of Windows Server Enterprise with the full compliment of 4 VMs is that if you did that you’d have 5 working copies of Windows vs 4 with VMware and someone would cry foul. We put out a Licensing FAQ to try to make things clear. (I wish we lived in a world where the licence agreements could be so clear that no FAQs were needed but legal documents and clarity rarely go together).
However… Not everyone at Microsoft understands all the nuances of licensing, or government regulation. Every so often I see someone saying “VMware told my customer they could assign a server licence to a box and use that licence for windows VMs running on VMware. Where do I find something to fight that lie” and some kindly person has to point out it is no lie, and steer the poor chap to the FAQ.  If anyone out there meets Microsoft people who are still getting this wrong (and don’t have a better channel) mail me and I’ll gently set them straight.

[Update] The rest of this post has been overtaken by events – it is easier to remove it than to explain…

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

September 24, 2008

Active Directory User Group, first meeting with John Craddock and Sally Storey

Filed under: Events,Windows 2003 Server,Windows Server,Windows Server 2008 — jamesone111 @ 8:35 am

We now have a UK AD user group (ADUG) And they have their first meeting set for October 23rd at Microsoft’s offices in London, from 6 till 9 in the evening. They’ve managed to secure John and Sally – probably the best established AD double-act in Europe (their tech-ed sessions are always among the top scoring ones). When I first came to work at Microsoft Sally was in Microsoft consulting Services with me and I’ve got a lot time for her and for John. They’re going to focus on new features Server 2008 for this one. Their sessions tend to get full, so although it’s still a month away I wouldn’t waste any time booking if you want to go. I’m hoping the event will also be relayed by Live Meeting, but that has yet to be confirmed.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

July 31, 2008

UK Windows server user group

Filed under: Events,Windows 2003 Server,Windows Server,Windows Server 2008 — jamesone111 @ 10:44 am

The title says it all ready. Mark Wilson has created a group on Linked in to help get the ball rolling again – he explains why this was needed and what to do on his blog. Please take a look.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

June 16, 2008

How I get the server I want: #1 Disabling the shutdown event tracker

Filed under: How to,Windows 2003 Server,Windows Server,Windows Server 2008 — jamesone111 @ 8:21 am

shutdown2 I think that the shutdown event tracker came in in Server 2003, and I’m sure that in some data centres it is a very useful tool for logging why servers were manually shut down.

On a demo system, it tends to be a nuisance. Hyper-v, for example, disables Sleep and hibernate so if you have it on a laptop you have to shutdown if you’re going to be on the move for any length of time. If you’re asked Why ? every time it grates pretty quickly.

Some time ago I found how to disable it, and I was setting up a new build in the office a few days ago when a passing colleague said  "I never knew how to do that… you should blog it".

It’s simple enough, you can control it through group policy if the machine is a domain, or via the local group policy object. In the latter case start the MMC and load the Group policy Snap-In and point it to the Local Computer.

Once you can see the network or local policy , navigate to Computer Configuration, then to Administrative templates, then to System. In the system container there are a number of sub-containers, scroll down past those and you’ll find some settings, you’re looking for "Display Shutdown Event Tracker". You can set it to Enabled, and display Always, on workstations only, or on Servers Only. Or you can set it to disabled. If the setting is not present it seems to be enabled/Servers Only by default.

Click for full size image

Once it is disabled. the dialog disappears . Job done. 

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

May 20, 2008

Hyper-V RC-1 available for download

Filed under: Beta Products,Virtualization,Windows 2003 Server,Windows Server — jamesone111 @ 7:40 pm

There was a slight hiccup which meant news appeared, disappeared and then re-appeared. But all the right announcements are posted, notably this one from Taylor Brown on the Virtualization team blog.

Windows Server 2008 Patch KB950049 – the Hyper-V RC-1 update – is available.  

I gave some general guidance about moving between versions and that should all hold for this one. I know what people are asking

(a) Will there be an RC-2 or is the next stop release ? and

(b) When will release be ?

At risk of sounding like a broken record; I don’t know the answer to the first, and the answer to the second is we’re committed to release by August 2nd (180 days after server 2008 Released) and we’re looking good to beat that date: I’m sure there’s an office somewhere in Redmond where the wall calendar has the date circled, but as I’ve said before those who know the date aren’t talking and those who talk about it don’t know.

Update1 : A new release of the Vista tools to manage Hyper-V is also available.

Update 2: Network World quotes Jeff Woolsey as saying “This is the last planned Hyper-V milestone before RTM.”  This had been rumoured but no-one had committed to it that I’m aware of.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

January 8, 2008

Search: A quick round-up

Filed under: Events,Office,Virtualization,Windows 2003 Server — jamesone111 @ 12:48 pm

I’ve been meaning to have a play with Search Server since Viral demo’d it on the last roadshow. We have a downloadable VHD for it with a very good walk-through, I can say that honestly because I’ve just spent a couple of hours walking through it.

Of course since I’m doing all my virtualization on Server 2008 and Hyper-V now, I thought I’d try it out on there and rather annoyingly the VHD was built with an out of date set of Virtual Server extensions which won’t un-install under Hyper-V.  So I downloaded Virtual PC 2007, which warns me that it is not supported on Server 2008 (and I’m running Virualization on top of Virtualization – a silly thing to do) but it works all the same. So I fired up the VM, removed the extensions, shut it down, booted back in Hyper-V, added the integration components and off it goes. I’d run search server with more than the 1GB specified but even with that it runs OK.

Now I’ve been playing with Microsoft Search technologies since we introduced Index Server for IIS 2.0 back in about 1996, and at one stage of my life I was a Sharepoint Portal Server Guru. Back in 1999 when I was first interviewing for a job at Microsoft I brought in the some of the work I had done with digital dashboards – stuff that evolved into Web parts. Doing the walk-through for Search Server express two things leap out at me; first was how much easier it is now than I remember it. The other is how simple but how clever federated search is. Some while back I mentioned open search and that seems to me to be a clever technology based on two simple ideas (a) Provide an XML document to tell people how to query your site. (b) return the results as XML to make it easy to consume them in something else. (Use the RSS XML-Schema to make this doubly easy).  Several people are keeping lists of services which support OpenSearch, OpenSearch.org has a list of such lists.

According to Sharon’s blog we’ve booked her to do a series of workshops on search, which will cover search server unlike the walk through I haven’t seen the content for these, but knowing it’s Sharon doing them, I feel safe recommending those too. Someone is bound to ask her the perennial question “Can I index a database” – answer “What constitutes a match ? What is the URL you’re going to click, and what will that open ? – but you can create a web pages to crawl data and return records”. I don’t know if she’s going to cover things like adding PDF support, or whether Viral will have that on his blog sometime soon. I guess if he’s going to blog about Virtualization I’ll have to blog about configuring iFilters.

Finally this morning I got a mail saying we have Announced an Offer to Acquire the Norweigian search company FAST , I don’t know anything about them or how their product will fit in with our other technologies


This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

December 5, 2007

Product life cycles (and Virtual Server 2005)

It’s always nice when someone says James O’Neill, IT Pro Evangelist at Microsoft, reveals that Virtual Server 2005 support will end in 2014 – except that then people come and demand to know why you’re revealing product plans.

So, lets start with a basic question. “Where do I go to find out when support for [Product X] expires ? (or if it has already expired)”
Answer:  http://support.microsoft.com/gp/lifepolicy , It’s quite a long FAQ but two key pieces are:

Microsoft will offer a minimum of 10 years of support for Business and Developer products. Mainstream Support for Business and Developer products will be provided for 5 years or for 2 years after the successor product (N+1) is released, whichever is longer. Microsoft will also provide Extended Support for the 5 years following Mainstream support or for 2 years after the second successor product (N+2) is released, whichever is longer. Finally, most Business and Developer products will receive at least 10 years of online self-help support.


The Support Lifecycle policy went into effect October 15, 2002, with a major revision on June 1, 2004. This policy revision covers most products that were available through retail purchase or volume licensing as of June 1, 2004, and most future products versions. For information about end-of-support timelines and Extended Support options for all products, visit the Select a Product for Lifecycle Information site.

I commented recently on the life of Virtual Server 2005. Since it released in the last quarter of 2004, you can easily do the sums and work out that mainstream support runs to the end of 2009 and paid extended support runs to the end of 2014 – in fact because of the way we set the dates support ends early the following year. The dates are given here , 12th Jan 2010, and 13 Jan 2015.

What about the R2 versions ? It’s simple: Windows server 2003 and Windows Server 2003 R2 are treated as one product. Since the product is getting near to it’s 5th birthday, mainstream support will be covered by the “2 years after its successor” rule. Virtual Server 2005 R2 is listed as a separate product with its own expiry dates. Because it was launched in Q1 of 2006, mainstream support ends at the of Q1 2011, and extended support at the end of Q1 2016 (again the actual end date is a few days into the next quarter).

You may be thinking …What about applications which launch late in the life of an OS ? as the FAQ puts it

If the problem is specific to the program, Microsoft will provide support. If the problem is a result of the combination of the operating system and the program, that particular problem will not be supported.

The other question is What about Service packs ? from the FAQ again.

Microsoft will provide 12 months of support for a service pack after the successor service pack is released.

There’s a detailed break down here. So when Service Pack 1 comes out you have 12 months before we require that service pack in order to be supported.

However  if we need to support a product or service pack beyond these limits we will. For example, because we knew that Windows XP Service Pack 2 was a bigger change than most service packs we extended that one year deadline.

Spare a thought for the people in Redmond who have to test software on different OS/Service pack combinations. If we are have service packs coming out frequently (as was the case with NT4) then they might have to test on as many as 4 different service pack levels. Testing becomes so long and so complex that another service pack is out before you’ve finished testing your product. If the service packs are widely spaced, you might be lucky enough to have only one supported version of a given OS. When new service packs or Operating Systems come along they have to test their product against those. Generally it is acceptable to say a product will not work against a whole new OS (e.g. Exchange 2000 didn’t work on Windows Server 2003), but we don’t like to say that something only works with an out of date service pack – that tends to bring a patch for the application.  [And please note these are generalizations].

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

September 18, 2007

PowerShell and Telnet.

I’ve got a backlog of posts at the moment. Steve and I have been getting ready for the Road-show, and Windows deployment services, System Center Virtual Machine Manager, Virtual Server Clustering, iScsi, dual booting Windows Server 2003 & 2008, and Windows Server Virtualization mean I could be hunch over the keyboard and Windows Live writer for hours.

I’ve been writing Scripts for OCS and one of the issues I’ve had to deal with has been remoting .It’s easy enough to remotely connect to a WMI object but I can’t seem to create a new instance of an object.
This code will get me the Installed OCS components on another machine

Get-WmiObject -query "select * from MSFT_SIPServerInstalledComponentData"-computername $server -credential $user 

and this function will add a new server to a list maintained by OCS.

function New-OCSEdgeInternalServer
{Param([String]$IntServer=$(throw "You must specify an interal Server"))
 $oInstance.InternalServer= $IntServer
 $oInstance.put() | out-null

However the put fails if the \\.\root\cimv2 path is changed to \\serverName\root\cimv2

PS in telnet Running PowerShell on the machine your sitting at, in order to manage a remote machine seems OK, but it does seem like some things are best run with PowerShell on the remote machine. Of course one can use Terminal services but this seems a bit heavy so I thought I would enable the Telnet service and try running PowerShell on the remote box from a Telnet Client. It works, including things which might not be too nice on a terminal: scrolling back through previous commands, tab completion and so on. The telnet client isn’t quite as smart with its handling of colours as it appears in the screen shot below, and Telnet is out of favour because too much flows round the network in plain text. But that’s not the point, it’s another way to get a result. Now I’m trying to invent a scenario where you’d want to manage Virtual Machines, by issuing PowerShell commands in a telnet window !



This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

September 14, 2007

"Perfidious Microsoft"

Filed under: General musings,Windows 2003 Server,Windows Vista,Windows XP — jamesone111 @ 10:34 am

I don’t know whether to be angry or frustrated, and whether the target should be journalists who make mountains out of molehills, or the people in Redmond who give them the molehill to start with.

Here’s the story. The Windows update software changes sometimes. If Windows update keeps itself in a working state if is in use; that is to say outside well run IT shops which use WSUS, SMS or some other in house way of pushing out updates, and outside those people who turn the service off altogether.  Windows update logs changes to itself in the event log. However if the user has selected “Check for updates but let me choose whether to download or install them” updates to the update service don’t check with the user first.

One or two readers will go scouring everything I’ve ever said to find a contradiction for what I’m about to say. I don’t think people should automatically trust Microsoft. I don’t think they should automatically distrust us either. We need to earn trust, and sensible people will keep re-evaluating “In this case should I or shouldn’t I”. There are plenty of people out in the world who think no-one should ever trust us, a great many of them post on line to discussions and blogs, some write for magazines. Giving these people ammunition is stupid. And any manager in Redmond who does should be made to write out “I should never do anything which undermines public trust in my employer” 10,000 times. Preferably while sitting in a set of stocks (I’d locate these under the campus flag poles outside Building 10)

To me, the whole premise of this argument is stupid. First off when I went to grab the screen shot I’ve modified here it says at the bottomWU
  “Note: Windows Update might require an update before you can update Windows”
Granted I had to read that twice, as obviously WU can’t update the OS if there are no updates, the word “Itself” should be in there. But I’ve been imagining a conversation with some of the people who are making this fuss, (who seem to want to the WU dialog to appear like this version)

Me: You selected a radio button which said check for updates, so do you want it to stop checking if we change something at the server ?
Them: No… but… WU shouldn’t change a single byte on my computer without my permission !
Me: Not one ?
Them: Not one.
Me: So how does it maintain a list of available updates to offer you ?
Them: Err… Well that doesn’t count, it shouldn’t change Executables
Me: So you told it to just get the list of updates
Them: … yes
Me: and to take the steps that are needed to get the list ?
Them: … obviously, yes.  
Even if that means updating the software that gets the list …

Scott Dunn, got some key facts wrong when he started the story. He opens with
 Microsoft has begun patching files on Windows XP and Vista without users’ knowledge, even when the users have turned off auto-updates.

  • “Has begun patching” ? Sounds like the latest shady activity by Redmond ? Windows update has always done it.
  • “Even when the users have turned off auto-updates” Sounds like your PC “phones home” even when you select the ‘Never check for updates”  box. He means “even if you have updates set to manual”

Having a commitment to his story which can’t be inconvenienced by facts (or lack of them) Dunn turns to invention
“Many companies require testing of patches before they are widely installed,” [true] “and businesses in this situation are objecting to the stealth patching.”

Un-named, businesses object.  No. Because companies which test patches before letting be widely installed don’t use Windows update. That would rely on users seeing the “New Updates are available” message and only processing the items IT told them to, when they were told. Not a system you’d rely on is it ? Over on  Microsoft watch at least Joe Wilcox got that aspect right (and did get a quote), but he downgraded it from “Stealth” (Dunns term) “sneaky”, and included screen shots which reveal – shock horror – if you tell the Windows update service to look for updates, then it does start up and it records in the event log that Windows update has updated “Windows Update”. Stealth ? Sneaky ? Records it’s actions in the event log ? Reminds me of this story

Meanwhile over  ZD Net Adrian Kingsley-Hughes was positively screaming “If Microsoft (or other companies) start updating systems without consent, this will lead to all sorts of trouble. On top of that, it paves the way for companies to make silent updates to technologies such as DRM and anti-piracy features.” seems to me to be equivalent to saying “If Microsoft make sure users can find about new updates, that means they could smash up your system if the don’t like you”  

Kingsley-Hughes like Dunn and Wilcox (and Andrew Garcia who checked the facts for him) conveniently ignore the “Windows Update might require an update before you can update Windows” message.

Over on the Windows Update team’s blog Nate Clinton, explains what’s going on. Sorry Nate, despite feeling the reporting has been pretty shabby, if it were left to me you’d be in the stocks for giving them the ammo.  


Technorati tags:

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

September 12, 2007

Sun to become Windows Server OEM.

Filed under: Windows 2003 Server,Windows Server,Windows Server 2008 — jamesone111 @ 9:16 pm

That’s a title I never expected to type. Check calendar. No it’s not April 1st. I got a mail annoucing this, but it’s not yet on it’s now on Presspass, but and it’s on Sun’s home page right now with a link to “Get the news and replay audio cast

Considering some of the things we’ve said about them and they’ve said about us in the past – not to mention a little law suit between us – I’m off to check how many moons there are in the sky tonight: I need to check which planet I’m on.


This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

September 7, 2007

Virtualization on tour, SCVMM Released and a peek at WSV

Filed under: Virtualization,Windows 2003 Server,Windows Server,Windows Server 2008 — jamesone111 @ 12:25 pm

I remember the first time I saw the comedian Eddie Izzard perform live, he walked onto the stage in Oxford, and looked around the audience. There wasn’t a single empty seat. He said “I’ve sold out! People always say ‘Stay true to yourself and never sell out’ but I say NO!!! ”  Somehow I managed not to blog that we’re on road when the news first came out. George announced it and Eileen blogged it, and in no time flat most of the venues were fully booked. Anyhow Steve and I are going to be doing “Creating and Managing a Virtual environment on the Microsoft Platform”  On 20th September in Manchester ,  on  21st September in Reading (TVP), on 25th September in Newcastle, 27th September in Falkirk,  3rd October in London.  George is working on have more places next time to improve the coverage – having got involved in this a little it’s a far more complex business than I thought We might keep on Selling out.

We’re showing Windows Server Virtualization on the tour, and in preparation Steve and I have both been trying out a Microsoft internal build.  I’ve used my second internal hard disk (£28 from Scan, or over £100 from Dell with a small piece of plastic attached). Of course that means the disk with everyday work on is out of the machine when I’m doing Virtualization. Outlook web access is very useful at times like that. 

What I can say about WSV is limited right now. It’s not my baby, and it’s for its parents (the product group in Redmond) to talk dates and features. But, from the first build we had, they’ve been happy for us to demo it. Stuff posted to the Internet can take on a life of its own, I don’t want to describe something which is the correct today and have it quoted in 6 months when it’s no longer the case.  Steve and I both used WSV yesterday for a presentation of some other stuff to an audience of 30-40 people. It worked well. Actually a minor networking issue I had with a VM on virtual server went away in the move process.

On the road-show, we’re also going to show System Centre Virtual Machine manager, which has just been released after a fairly long beta. We want to talk about managing a virtualized environment so we’re going to show this technology working with Virtual Server 2005. You can read what the product manager for it has to say about the launch and the future – the SCVMM team are looking to the next release syncing up with the release of Windows Server Virtualization (which is due within 180 days of Windows Server 2008), and it will also manage VMWare and Xen virtualization. The Xen product uses the same virtual hard disk (VHD) format as we do and we have tools to migrate physical machines to virtual ones.What worries me at the moment is that with SP2 Windows Server 2003 seems to be fussier about changes of hardware needing re-activation, so moving platforms may have an extra step for some cases.


This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

June 29, 2007

Announcing the Virtual server Res-Kit and a great tool.

Filed under: How to,Virtualization,Windows 2003 Server — jamesone111 @ 6:07 pm

The tool is VMRCplus – an alternate UI as opposed to the Virtual Server web interface. VMRCplus uses the documented Virtual Server COM interface and is a great example of what can be accomplished with it. In due course VMRCplus will soon be available via

For the moment we have internal access to it, and my colleague Keith Combs has set up a download facility for it. Please not that like other ResKit tools there is no support for it.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

June 12, 2007

Vista’s network throughput improvements

Filed under: Windows 2003 Server,Windows Server 2008,Windows Vista — jamesone111 @ 1:48 pm

There is a rule for presenters: every time you put an equation on the board/screen you lose about half the audience. I think that can also apply to presenting on the ins and outs of a network stack.  We’ve got clever with the stack in Vista, and Server 2008, and some of the improvements have been ported to Server 2003.  When I explain the details I can feel the boredom from the audience.

We’ve just posted a study by Tolly Group , and here’s the main conclusion.

Just upgrading client PCs to Microsoft’s Windows Vista can yield throughput and time-to-completion improvements of up to 2.5X over Windows XP.
Complete migration of servers to Windows Server 2008 can yield throughput and time-to-completion improvements of up to 3.5X over Windows XP/Windows Server 2003.

The improvements are most pronounced on networks with a lot of bandwidth, but high latency – so I notice the improvement downloading large files from Redmond to the UK.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

April 23, 2007

Optimization – or how long will some jobs last.

Filed under: General musings,Windows 2003 Server,Windows Server 2008 — jamesone111 @ 12:36 pm


Hugh’s Cartoons seem get straight to the heart of the matter. Service functions like Accounting, IT, Personnel, PR and Purchasing don’t deliver product and they don’t influence customers to buy it. They are there to help the others to do get on with their jobs.  How do you assess whether they’re delivering or not ?

When I first heard about “Corps I/O” I had no idea what it meant or why I should be interested. I learnt that it wasn’t I/O in the sense of input/output but “Core-infrastructure optimization“. Still: who cares it’s just a Buzz-phrase… isn’t it ? I’ve talked before about confusing language making people switch off. Late last year Eileen got someone to explain it in plain language for the whole our team. If you’re work in IT, this model is about how well an IT department does its job, whether your job is worth doing and will it be there in a couple of years. It came up again last week in Athens. So here’s my take on it….

The ideas in our model aren’t new, we’ve used other work in the field – notably by Gartner. However some of documents are still written in “Gartner-speak.”

  1. It’s not about the brand or version of technology you use. Buying the latest from Microsoft isn’t optimization. Old technology, can be done well and new technology can be done badly.
  2. Looking at an organization’s skills and the ways it uses product features (its processes) we can assess how well IT is optimized.
  3. We have 4 levels of classification “Basic”, “Standardized” ,”Rationalized” and “Dynamic” – personally I find these names unhelpful. Our infrastructure datasheet puts more helpful labels on them.
    Basic=”We fight fires”,
    Standardized=”We’re gaining control”,
    Rationalized=”We enable business”,
    Dynamic=”We’re a strategic asset”
  4. A worrying number of companies are stuck at the “Basic” level.

We have an on-line self assessment, but here’s a “pop quiz” way to see where you sit. Complete the ten sentences below; the more your answers come from the right the more “basic” your level, the more they come from the left the more Dynamic.

The rest of my company …. involves the IT department in their projects accepts IT guys have a job to do tries to avoid anyone from IT
My team… all hold some kind of product certification read books on the subject struggle to stay informed
What worries me most in the job is… fire, flood or other natural disaster what an audit might uncover being found out
My department reminds me of… ‘Q branch’ from a James Bond movie. Dilbert’s office trench warfare
Frequent tasks here rely on… an Automated process a checklist Me
What I like about this job is… delivering the on the promise of technology it’s indoors and the hours are OK I can retire in 30 years.
If asked about Windows Vista I… can give a run down of how its features would play here repeat what the guy in PC world told me change the subject
New software generally is… an opportunity a challenge something we ban
My organization sees “software as a service” as a way to… do more things do the same things, more cheaply do the same things without me.
Next year this job will be… different the same Outsourced.

When the subject came up in Athens, one of the other evangelists said “Our IT professionals don’t like to talk about it – they see it as a stick to beat them”. To me that sounds like saying “Sure we could deliver a better service, we just hope if no-one talks about it we’ll keep getting away with the status-quo”.

More information here.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

April 9, 2007

Windows 2003 SP2 slipstreaming – a gotcha with R2.

Filed under: How to,Windows 2003 Server — jamesone111 @ 11:11 pm

You know that manager saying about “Don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions ?” It took me a long time to see it as “Think a bit longer and tell me what you think we should do.”  But in either form it’s something I couldn’t say to a customer. And some of the questions I get are really difficult to answer. So it’s great when I get a mail that goes like this.

—–Original Message—–
From: Scotty
To: James
Subject: Windows 2003 SP2

Online instructions for deploying this for R2 are wrong. Working on a blog entry detailing it the fix.

Fantastic. Found it, fixed it, written it up. The way you would naturally slipstream the Service Pack will install Server 2003 SP2. Since the R2 components remain SP1 they won’t install.

Scotty’s described it all on his blog, a more detailed run down of the problem and the steps to work round it. Great work.

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

March 18, 2007

On Time-zones…

Filed under: How to,Windows 2003 Server,Windows Vista,Windows XP — jamesone111 @ 10:26 pm

Spring is here, Spring is here … I think the loveliest time of the year is the spring, yes I do, don’t you ? course you do.

Actually when I look at the weather it’s doesn’t look like spring. But unlike Tom Lehrer, the one thing that makes spring complete for me is the changing of the clocks. All of Europe changes it’s clocks on the last Sunday of March and October. The UK keeps pondering if we should move onto the same time as most of Europe who are an hour ahead of us – the argument for being that the 30 million people who live in the Southern half of England would save Energy and reduce their risk of accidents. The argument against being 5 million Scots would have to go to work in the dark.

I got thrown a question which I didn’t know the answer to –  At what time does Windows  change its time forward an hour on the 25th March 2007 in the UK.

“2AM” I thought… but then does that mean jumping from 1 to 2 or from 2 to 3 ? And going back does it jump from  2 to 1 or from 3 to 2 ? Rather than give the direct answer (the former in both cases) here’s how you check.

The Time Zone information is stored in the registry under HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Time Zones (which you can export and re-import if needed) . However the critical bits are stored as block of Hex, and it’s not immediately clear how to decode it, instead there is a downloadable tool called TzEdit which lets you view the settings and check for yourself.



Technorati tags: , ,

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.

Next Page »

Blog at WordPress.com.