Entries Tagged as 'Software'

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.

Synchronizing Time on Your Home Network

If you’ve got a home network, and you happen to have a server machine you should consider setting up one of your machines as an NTP server and synchronizing all you other machines to it.

Just do a quick Internet search on W32Time and NTP if you’re using a Windows server; that will give you information on how to setup the server to synchronize to a reliable time source (if you have a GPS receiver you could use that), how to make it synchronize every few hours (to keep the clock accurate), and how to make it broadcast time on your network and allow other machines to synchronize to it.

Then simply change you time server synchronization settings on all your other machines and appliances to synchronize to your time server.

The Windows time service is actually a very flexible and well thought out piece of software; though to change the setting to what you probably want you’ll have to use the registry editor (or course on a *nix machine you’d have to use an editor and understand some equally arcane syntax).

Originally posted 2008-07-25 19:30:03.

iDialer (for Windows Mobile)

If you have a cellular plan that allows you to make air-time free calls to a set of designated numbers, then Google Voice might be able to save you some money by effectively giving you unlimited calling.

I’ve written up BLOG entries on how to use Google Voice to get “free” calling before; and I’ve included the caution that you might not want to use it for calls that might contain sensitive information…

Personally I find that when I need to call “customer service” (those people you speak to at a big company that don’t provide much service at all) it generally takes forever and would quickly exhaust my monthly allowance of minutes — and I personally don’t care of Google indexes the information in the call or not.

With a Smart Phone you can use the web interface to Google Voice any time you want to make calls, if you have an Android phone Google has already provided an app that allows you to use Google Voice directly from your contacts if not, there’s a number of apps you can buy or just download that achieve that.

For those who have Windows Mobile and an unlimited data plan (like me), I use iDialer (a free app) with the pre-fab configuration for Google Voice (you can configure it for other services as well — the Google Voice one just requires you download, install, and then provide your Google Voice account information).

Bottom line — it works… though I have to tell you it’s a little odd to “dial” a call and then immediately have your phone ring to complete it… but that’s how Google Voice works (in callback mode).

It’s free, it’s easy to install, and like I said it works.

http://www.supware.net/iDialer/

Originally posted 2010-04-18 02:00:45.

Video Editing on a PC

I purchased a Mac Pro and Final Cut Studio to do my video editing, simply because I felt that PC solutions were just not there.

Adobe Encore is a joke, the only thing it was good for was crashing (and thinning out your wallet).

Sony Vegas was a descent application (and solid), but difficult to use and didn’t seem to expose as much control as I wanted over DVD production.

Times change; and now I’m not as concerned with DVD production as I am with just video editing, and two of my friends have shown interest in video editing and really don’t want to invest in a Mac (there is only one real choice for video editing from Apple, and that’s a Mac Pro, and the combination of the hardware and software is a little scary).

One of my other friends has used Vegas for quite awhile, and he’s been happy with it (of course he’s never done video editing on a Mac).

I’ve decided my project for the next several days will be to evaluate Sony Vega Pro 9.  I’ll try it out on Windows 7 and write a BLOG post that tries to detail the strengths and weaknesses without directly comparing it to Final Cut Studio; though I may use Final Cut Studio as the “standard” for what a high end video editing suite should do.

Originally posted 2010-02-19 01:00:15.

Windows Symbolic Links

I really hate to use drive letters; that’s the one thing Windows has inherited from DOS that should have been eliminated a very long time ago; or at least made into an “alias” and deprecated as a “fixture”.

NTFS has supported reparse points for a fairly long time; you may well have seen the type “<JUNCTION>” when you did a directory list from the command line.

Reparse points are a fairly generic phrase for a set of features that have grown in NTFS over the years, and they’re effectively the same as *nix link (both hard and soft).

Here are some interesting things you can do with reparse points using the MKLINK tool that ships with Windows 7.

You can create a file reference in a number of directories; that only consumes a directory entry, the file only exists a single time on the disk… if you make it a hard link (the default is a soft link) the file isn’t deleted until all links are deleted.

You can do the same with a directory — make it appear in more than one location.

You can make references across file systems (including drives and the network) just as easily.

For me, I use it to create references to network resources so that they appear on a local machine (I used to use DFS mainly for this and map a single drive letter)…

Anyway, this is another seldomly used feature of Windows that can really help to make it a much more usable system — unfortunately for those it would benefit the most, it’s difficult for them to setup the symbolic links.

Originally posted 2009-12-16 01:00:22.

Microsoft WebsiteSpark

A program that offers visibility, support and software for professional Web Developers and Designers

If you company has ten or fewer employees, has been around for less than three years, and you provide services, support, and hosting to businesses that develop web sites and applications you might qualify for deeply discounted Windows Web Server and SQL Server Web Edition (like free or nearly free).

You can get more information at the Microsoft® WebsiteSpark page…

Microsoft® WebsiteSpark

Originally posted 2009-11-16 01:00:09.

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.

Virtualization Best Practices, Using UnDo

One of the most powerful features of virtualization is the ability to use undo disk (also called snapshots and checkpoints).

What this allows you to do is set the machine in a mode where you can decide at a later date whether or not you want to keep the changes — which is a great way test out new software in a virtual environment (NOTE:  Acronis TrueImage provides a similar capability in physical machines).

The penalty of using undo disks is that you have to commit all the changes or none of the changes; and the system will run slower.

An alternate to using the built in undo technology of the virtualization system is to copy the disk before you start the machine (it’s just a file on your hard drive), and restore it back afterwards.  Sometimes this is a better solution, particularly if you need the virtual machine to run as fast as possible and you’re not worried about the time it takes to make a copy of the disk before you run the virtual machine (NOTE:  you can simply delete the modified disk and move the copy into place when you’re done — that’s almost instantaneous).

One other thing you’ll want to be sure of is that you start the machine with undo disabled when you want to update the operating system and do maintenance.  You’ll also want to make sure that any checkpoints the operating system has created (Windows calls them “restore points”) are deleted before you complete your maintenance cycle; there’s certainly not any reason (generally) why you’d want multiple levels of “undo”.

I often use the “undo” feature to try out software I download from the internet.  I have a test machine setup with a virus scanner and I can monitor the changes the installation and running of the software attempt to make to the machine.  Plus I can try out the software and decide if it’s something valuable of not.  And there is the case where I will only need to run it once (or very rarely) and don’t want it polluting my real machine.

Developing the discipline of using virtualization with “undo” enabled can save you from a number of headaches, and is in itself a great reason to consider installing and using virtualization technology.

Originally posted 2009-01-14 12:00:42.

Fix It

About a year before Microsoft Windows 7 hit the street, Microsoft had started to introduce the “Fix It” logo associated with “solutions” to problems in Windows.

In Windows 7 Microsoft incorporated the solution center to partially automate finding and fixing issues that could cause problems with Windows.

Now Microsoft has expanded “Fix It” to include Windows Vista and Windows XP…

Thank you for your interest in Microsoft Fix it. We’re working hard to automate solutions to common software problems in an easy, intuitive way that is available when and where you need it. So whether you are looking for a solution in help or support content, or an error report, Fix it provides a way to apply automated fixes, workarounds, or configuration changes so you don’t have to perform a long list of manual steps yourself.

Microsoft Fix It

Fix It

Originally posted 2010-04-27 02:00:21.

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.