Entries Tagged as 'Software'

Web Servers

For several years I’ve used a combination of Microsoft IIS and Apache, which fits in with my belief that you choose the best tool for the job (and rarely does one tool work best across the board).

About a month ago I “needed” to do some maintenance on my personal web server, and I started to notice the number of things that had been installed on it… like two versions of Microsoft SQL Server (why a Microsoft product felt the need to install the compact edition when I already had the full blown edition is beyond me).

As I started to peel  away layer upon layer of unnecessary software I realized that my dependency on IIS was one very simple ASP dot Net script I’d written for a client of mine and adapted for my own use (you could also say I’d written it for my use and adapted it for them).

I started thinking, and realized it would take me about ten minutes to re-write that script in PHP and in doing that I could totally eliminate my personal dependency on IIS and somewhat simplify my life.

In about half an hour (I had to test the script and there was more to uninstall) I had a very clean machine with about 8GB more of disk space, and no IIS… and the exact same functionality (well — I would argue increased functionality since there was far less software that I would have to update and maintain on the machine).

Sure, there are cases where ASP dot Net is a good solution (though honestly I absolutely cannot stand it or the development environment, it seems to me like an environment targeted at mediocre programmers who have no understanding of what they’re doing and an incredible opportunity for security flaws and bugs)… but many times PHP works far better, and for very complex solutions a JSP (Java Servlet / JavaServer Pages) solution would likely work better.

My advice, think through what your (technical) requirements are and consider the options before locking into proprietary solutions.

Originally posted 2010-03-24 02:00:33.

Restoring Windows Boot Manager

If you’ve tried Linux (or another operating system) on your PC, and you’d like to return to just the Windows boot manager (and perhaps remove the other operating system) or if the boot manager that was installed is no longer working here’s a quick way to recover.

First, find your Windows installation disc (or an equivalent Windows installation disc).

Boot into install; on the first setup screen hit Shift+F10, that will open up a command prompt.

Execute the following commands:

  • bootrec /FixMbr
  • bootrec /FixBoot

Now reboot…

The Windows boot manager should be in control — you may need to correct the BCD entries, but generally those will be fine.

You may also want to review: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/927392

Originally posted 2013-12-30 12:00:31.

Microsoft Office

Microsoft Word for MS-DOS shipped in September 1893.

In January 1985 Microsoft shipped Word 1.0 for Macintosh and Word 2.0 for DOS.  In September they followed with Excel 1.0 for Macintosh.

In September 1886 Microsoft shipped Microsoft Works for Macintosh.  Followed in October by Word 3.0 for Macintosh (skipping version 2.0) and Word 2.0 for DOS.

In July 1987 Microsoft acquires Forethought and with that the basis for PowerPoint.  In September PowerPoint 1.0 for the Macintosh is shipped.

In July 1988 Microsoft ships PowerPoint 2.0 for the Macintosh.

In June 1989 Microsoft ships Office 1.0 for the Macintosh.

In May 1990 Microsoft ships PowerPoint 2.0 for Windows and in October Office 1.0 (which includes Excel 2.0, Word 2.1, and PowerPoint 2.0).

In January 1991 Microsoft ships Excel 3.0 for Windows.  In October Word 2.0 for Windows.

In August 1992 Microsoft ships Office 3.0 for Windows (includes PowerPoint 3.0, Word for Windows 2.0, and Excel 4.0).  In November Microsoft ships Access 1.o.

In September 1993 Microsoft ships the one millionth copy of Access, and Access 1.1 is the number one selling PC database.  In November Office 4.0 for Windows ships and by the end of the more than ten millions copies of Word are in use.

In May 1994 Microsoft ships Access 2.0 for Windows and Office 4.3 Professional for Windows (adding Access 2.0 to the Office 4 package).

In August 1995 Microsoft ships Office 95 supporting it’s new flag ship operating environment Windows 95.  By the end of the more than 30 million people now use Excel.

In April 1996 Exchange Server 4.0 is released as an upgrade to Microsoft Mail 3.5.

In January 1997 Microsoft Outlook 97 ships.  In March Exchange Server 5.0.  In November Office 97 is introduced and sells more than 60 million copies.

In January 1998 Office 98 for the Macintosh ships (Word 98, Excel 98, PowerPoint 98, and Outlook Express).  In March Outlook 98 is introduced on Windows, and over 1 million copies are sold by May.

In March 1999 Access 200 is released which enabled integration with Microsoft SQL Server.  In June Office 200 ships and attempts to bring web integration to the office platform.

In October 2000 Exchange Server 2000 is shipped and integrated e-mail, voice mail, and fax.

In March 2001 Office SharePoint Portal Server 2001 is shipped.  In May Office XP ships to support Microsoft new flag ship operating system.

In October 2003 Office 2003 ships along with Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003.  OneNote and InfoPath are introduced as parts of the Office system.  SharePoint is offered as a free addition to Windows Server 2003.  The Office logo is updated from the old puzzle image to it’s current form. Exchange Server 2003 is shipped.

In April 2005 Microsoft acquires Groove and adds it to the Office suite.

In December 2006 Exchange Server 2007 is shipped.

In January 2007 Microsoft ships Office 2007 and SharePoint Server 2007.

In March 2008 Office Live debuts, by September 1 million users are signed up.  In October Office Web applications are announced.

In April 2010 Exchange 2010 is shipped.  In July Office 2010, Project 2010, and SharePoint 2010 are previewed.  In September Office Web Apps are previewed.  In October Microsoft introduces Office Start 2010,  In November Office 2010, SharePoint 2010, Visio 2010, and Project 2010 are available as a public beta.  Office Mobile 2010 is announced and available as a public beta.

__________

Microsoft certainly deserves a great deal of credit for pushing the envelope for office productivity applications.  Gone are the days of archane key sequences in Word Perfect and hardware incompatibilities in Visi-Calc…

Many companies choose to use Microsoft products because that is what they know, and that is what Microsoft’s huge sales force promotes… is Office 2010 in your future or will you choose a different coarse?

Microsoft Office Timeline

Originally posted 2010-01-19 02:00:07.

Cyberduck

For those who like the “keep-it-simple” model, and don’t need advanced control of a FTP, SFTP, SCP connection, you might want to consider a long term Mac solution now available for Windows as well.

It’s a very simple, clean interface.  On the Mac it’s a pretty seamless experience, but not integrated into finder.  On Windows the interface isn’t completely Window-like, but quite easy to use and navigate (it leverages a bit much off the Mac version)

While I think this is a very good, and certainly good value (free) I tend to use FileZilla; but I probably have more specific needs for file transfers than many users.

http://cyberduck.ch/

Originally posted 2011-09-14 02:00:27.

Office Applications for Windows 7

Microsoft has announced the release of Office 2010 first quarter of next year available in both 32-bit and 64-bit; and I’m sure it will be a fine application suite; I’m sure it will also be expensive.

I tried Office 2007 when I first moved to Windows Vista, but I found it very difficult to figure out how to do even simple tasks; so I stuck with Office 2003.

Now I’m at the point that I’m reconsidering my needs in an office suite, and I’m finding that I really only use very basic features, and I value a consistent, simple interface over most anything else (well, that’s assuming that the software works).

A good friend of mine has been using OpenOffice for quite sometime now, and he’s been extremely happy with it.

I’d looked at OpenOffice a few years ago, but I’ve never really been a fan of any software written in Java that requires the JRE (I’ve always found it to be sluggish).

Nothing ventured, nothing gained as they say.

I downloaded OpenOffice (for Windows) and installed it on my work station.

My initial test was to open up some of the more complicated documents I had; not that I really have any documents that are that complicated.  It worked, it worked well, and it was fast.

I played with it a little more, and then I decided to take a look at how much disk space it consumed… it was tiny compared to Office 2003.

Then I decide to create a few new documents and spreadsheets with it — no problem, it seemed to do everything I needed.

WOW.

I just don’t know what else to say… why would I pay Microsoft for a huge suite of office applications that I rarely use; and use only a small fraction of the features???

OpenOffice is available for a number of operating systems, and works fine on Windows 7.

A good way to save some money on your computer needs is switch over to OpenOffice when you upgrade to Windows 7.

OpenOffice.org

Originally posted 2009-11-15 01:00:48.

Hyper-V Server

With the release of Windows Server 2008 Microsoft made a huge step forward in releasing thin, high-performance hyper-visor for machine virtualization – Hyper-V.

Microsoft has also baited the market by offering a free version of Windows Server 2008 specifically designed to be a virtualization host; Hyper-V Server.

I decide to play with Windows Server 2008 with Hyper-V and Hyper-V Server to get a feel for what it could do.

Installation is a snap; much the same as Vista.

With Windows Server 2008 with Hyper-V everything goes very smoothly and just works.  You can use the Hyper-V manager to setup virtual machines, run them, stop them, etc.  But one thing you want to while you have Windows Server 2008 up and running is figure out everything you need to do to remotely connect to manage Hyper-V and Server 2008 from your workstation because Hyper-V server isn’t going to allow you to do much from the console.

To say it’s a little complicated to get remote Hyper-V management working is an understatement; after I figured it out I found a tool that can help automate the setup — makes like much easier.

The one thing I never got working from Vista x64 was remote management of Windows Server 2008 – and you really need that as well (remember you don’t get much capability from the console).  I’ll probably play with that a little more; and certainly I’ll get it working before I deploy any Hyper-V servers (it’s not a huge problem if you have a Windows Server 2008 machine already, remote management of other Windows Server 2008 boxes just works).

Now after the headache of getting everything configured properly it was time to put Hyper-V through it’s paces.

First task, migrate a machine over from Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP2… piece of cake — copy over the VHD files, create a machine, hookup the disks (back track since Hyper-V seems to have a fairly set directory format for machines and disks — so if you create a new machine on Hyper-V first you’ll see the layout).  Boot the machine, connect, remove the virtual machine additions, reboot, install the new virtual machine files — asks to update the HAL (say yes), reboot, and finally install the new virtual machine files, reboot, re-generate the SID and rename the machine (I still have the old one, and I don’t want confusion)… and everything works great.  Shutdown the machine, add a second processor, start it up… and a dual processor virtual machine is born.

I migrated over 32-bit XP Professional; did a test install of 64-bit Server 2003… and every thing worked just fine.

Don’t get carried away just yet.

There’s a couple gotchas with this.

  • To effectively use the free Hyper-V Server you either need a Windows Server 2008 (full install) or you need to get the remote tools working from your workstation; that’s non-trivial.
  • To run Hyper-V Server or Windows Server 2008 with Hyper-V you need a machine with hardware virtualization and execute disable (which really isn’t that uncommon these days, just make sure your BIOS has those features enabled).
  • Once you migrate a machine to Hyper-V there’s no automated way to go back to Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP2 (sure you can probably do it — but it’s going to be a pain).
  • To get performance out of Hyper-V you really need to use SCSI virtual disks; right now Microsoft doesn’t support booting from SCSI disks in Hyper-V since they only support the para-virtualized SCSI interface.  So to get performance you have to have an IDE boot disk and run off SCSI disks (not exactly a common installation, so you probably won’t be converting any physical machines like that — and seems like it’s a nightmare just waiting to unfold).

Fortunately I’m not in a huge hurry to move to Hyper-V; I’m fairly certain since it’s a corner stone of Microsoft’s push to own the virtual infrastructure market I suspect we’ll see the issues that prevent it from being all that it can be resolved quickly.

And I’ll close with an up-note… WOW — the performance was very impressive… I really wish I had a test machine with lots of spindles to see what kind of load I could realistically put on it.

Originally posted 2008-11-15 08:00:52.

Docker – Lightweight Virtualization

Docker lightweight virtualization is based on Linux Containers (LXC) and provides an interesting way to insulate applications from the host operating system and efficiently use constrained resources.

You can watch the video on Docker and read more at:

https://docs.docker.com/

https://www.docker.com/whatisdocker/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Docker_(software)

Originally posted 2014-07-24 12:30:37.

avast!

A couple weeks ago my avast! anti-virus popped up a Window that wanted to reboot the machine, then indicated to me I had NO protection.

Apparently my one year (actually fourteen month) free subscription was up, and it wanted to enter a new registration code.  The software takes you to a screen where you can purchase a subscription, or you can navigate to the free avast! site and request a new registration code (that’s good for another fourteen months).

Now I think a great deal of avast!, it seems to find more mal-ware than most of it’s competitors, is clean and easy to use,  doesn’t try to take over your computer, and you can’t argue with the price.  But I think it’s a HORRIBLE thing for a anti-virus program to just stop working.  I don’t have any problem with it prohibiting updates of the program or signature file until you update; and I certainly don’t have a problem with it popping up a warning every time you boot (or even including  a warning right above the systray like it does when it detects a potential virus) — but to stop providing the service that you depend on it for without any warning before hand… that’s just wrong.

I certainly hope the avast! people reconsider this draconian behavior; I can’t continue to recommend avast! as a good anti-virus solution if it’s just going to leave you high and dry without a reasonable warning.

Originally posted 2009-02-25 01:00:39.

Virtualization Picks

Let me preface this by saying that I’m making recommendations for virtualization based on:

  • Cost
  • Robustness
  • Ease of use
  • Performance

You’ll note I put performance as the last item since it generally is not a huge differentiator for most virtualization needs.  However, you individual criteria may vary, and you should make your own decisions.

The “thumb nail” information below should help you in evaluating virtualization solutions; and the links at the bottom will help you locate solutions.

__________

If you need cross platform virtualization, and will move virtual machines from one host to another, the only realistic choice is VirtualBox.  While vmware and Parallels will run on most host operating systems.  While vmware offers some free solutions, I’ve found their new version of Fusion (for the Mac) could have used ten minutes of QA before shipping; on my MacBook Pro, my Mac Pro, and my Mac Minis it crashes when shutting down a virtual machine that used to work just fine under the previous version (yes it was converted), and even worse, it crashes OS-X on my MacPro.  Parallels is just too expensive, not only is the acquisition cost high, but he maintenance cost is high; it’s very nicely done, but simply not worth the investment.

__________

For Windows Server 2008 on both 32-bit and 64-bit the uncontested choice should be Hyper-V, unless you’re running on a processor/motherboard that lacks hardware virtualization (and even then I’d say you should upgrade your hardware).

For Windows Vista, Windows Server 2003, and Windows XP on both 32-bit and 64-bit the uncontested choice should be Virtual Server 2005 R2.  You should always use Virtual Server over Virtual PC.

For OS-X on an Intel machine you should use VirtualBox (if you feel you need to purchase a commercial product, choose Parallels over vmware; it works well, and has good performance and stability).

For Linux on an Intel machine you should use either VirtualBox, or if you’re a more savvy user Xen.

For BSD on an Intel machine you should use either VirtualBox, or if you’re a more savvy user Xen.

__________

There are other virtualization solutions, but they tend to be rather expensive.  And yes there are non-Intel virtualization solutions that allow you to run Intel guests on non-Intel hosts (other than older Macs, that’s probably not a very common requirement, and outside the scope of my recommendations; the only product I’ve ever used on a G4/G5 is Microsoft’s Virtual PC for Mac).

Hyper-V and Xen use a very modern approach to virtualization, and overall have the greatest potential for future growth.  The OpenSource version of Xen; however, needs a fair amount of polish before the average computer user (not to be confused with computer professional / geek) finds it very usable.

Companies like vmware and Parallels might have nice solutions for large deployments, but I see little advantage in smaller deployments; and for single machines why not use something that’s free and works (well).

__________

Originally posted 2009-02-10 01:00:22.

Windows 7 – Virtualization

So you’ve upgraded to Windows 7 and now your considering the options for running virtual machines…

If you have a PC that’s capable of hardware assisted virtualization (I-VT or AMD-V) and you’re running Windows 7 Professional or Ultimate the decision is fairly easy; use the virtualization technology from Microsoft that provides you with Virtual XP mode (as well as generalized virtualization).

However, if you don’t have a PC capable of hardware virtualization or you didn’t spring for the more expensive version of Windows you have some good (free) choices.

While Microsoft doesn’t officially support Virtual PC 2007 SP1 on Windows 7, since it was designed to run under Vista it will work.  The real downside is that you have fairly old virtualization technology emulating an antiquated hardware.

You could consider buying VMware or Parallels, but why spend money when there’s a better free alternative for personal use…

That would be – VirtualBox (yes, I’ve harped on VirtualBox for the Mac before, and now it’s time to harp on VirtualBox on the PC).

VirtualBox is a project sponsored by Sun Microsystems.  They’ve actually been working on virtualization technology for a very long time, and their virtualization technology is top notch. 

VirtualBox will run on several different operating system, you can even share the virtual machine files between operating systems if you like.  But one of the really nice things about VirtualBox is that it will support machines with or without hardware assisted virtualization and it emulates very modern hardware (which makes the paravirtualization of devices much more efficient).

Unless you have specific requirements that force you to choose other virtualization software, I would recommend you take a good look at VirtualBox.

VirtualBox

Originally posted 2009-11-14 01:00:43.