Entries Tagged as 'Windows'

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.

Computer Tid Bits

I haven’t sent one of these tid bit emails out in a long long time — this is just a collection of little points that you might find comes in handy.

Server 2008 is indeed out and available. I think I’m going to wait a few months (and I’m just about out of funds for MSFT store purchase, so doubtful I can get a copy for anyone else — I’ll probably do the MSDN OS subscription again). Hyper-V has not shipped as of yet.

Service Pack 1 for Vista can be downloaded or you’ll get it from Windows Update. If you’re updating more than a single machine, download the whole thing (Windows Update will swamp your connection). There are separate packs for 32-bit and 64-bit (you may need both if you have both machines). Also, copy the update file to the local disk (it will need elevated privileges to install).

Virtual Server 2005 R2 can be installed on XP, XP-64, Vista-32, or Vista-64. The management interface requires IIS, so that’s a little different with PWS version on non-server platforms. If you have VS installed on a server, you should be able to manage _all_ of your installations from one management interface (though Vista doesn’t make that easy).

Google GMail allows you to host your domains for email there for free… you basically get GMail accounts in your own domain. I’ve moved my mail services over there for the time being (I still archive all my email on my own server at home, but the active send/receive is done via GMail).

Parallels is coming out with a new server (64 & 32 bit) to compete with Hyper-V; I looked at the beta (definitely a beta, but useable), they may be able to get some of the market share — but my guess is they’ll get the share from VMware (I didn’t care for the Mac-ish look of the product on Windows).

2.5″ SATA disk drives continue to fall in price; Seagate 250GB drives were $104 @ Fry’s, and they still had some on the shelf on Monday!!!

Intel hasn’t release the most of the 45nm processor family yet; the older Core2 dual and quad processor continue to be a great buy. Remember that really none of the current Intel chip sets take advantage of the higher transfers the newer processors are capable of (well the X38, but that’s supposed to have major issues) — so you might want to wait for the next generation of Intel chips and motherboards to hit the market. FYI: Intel delayed the release because AMD missed their ship dates… their new cores had some rather serious flaws

Notebook and desktop memory are nearly on par with each other. You can purchase 2 x 2GB for under $100 (easily — even the really fast memory). $60 is actually the low price and $80 get’s you high quality with heat spreaders (notebook memory doesn’t have heat spreaders — no room). 2 x 1GB can be purchased for $40!!!

Originally posted 2008-04-01 12:58:23.

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.


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

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.

Microsoft Security Essentials

A few years ago Microsoft® provided a free Beta of it’s Anti-Virus solution; and Beta users were provided with one free license to continue to use the “One Care” branded Anti-Virus.

Now (as of 29 September 2009 – yesterday) Microsoft is once again providing a free Anti-Virus for “genuine” Windows.

Personally I use Avast’s free version; I’d consider using the Microsoft AV on servers, but the free version only support desktop versions of Windows (like Avast).


Originally posted 2009-09-30 01:00:29.

Browser Spelling Check

If you use Firefox you’re set, build of that have included a spell check add in for quite sometime; however, if you use Internet Explorer you’re going to want to look into a spell check add-on.

Some of the spell check add-ons depend on the presence of Microsoft’s spell check (you get that with Office products, like Word); but one of the better ones does not.

ieSpell works well, and some javaScript add-ins on web pages will automatically detect it (as they do Firefox’s spell check) and work the same; but when they don’t you have the ability to use the context menu to spell check the contents of a edit box.

For personal use ieSpell is toally free, for commercial use you should check the licensing.

Originally posted 2008-12-13 12:00:34.

Google Music – Beta

Google has launched their cloud based streaming music service as a beta; you can request an invitation (using a Gmail account) via the link below.

What does it get you?

Well, up to 20,000 songs in your cloud storage; play back support on most Android devices; play back support from a browser; and an upload program that will sync your library to the cloud.

Not bad for free.

Apple provides a similar service for $25 per year; there’s no limit to the amount of music you can store.  The main differences being that there’s no Android support (basically devices iTunes supports is supported), and Apple actually finger prints the files and serves their iTune version of the music rather than your copy (likely at a higher bit rate — they, of course, don’t incur the storage overhead).

Amazon provides a similar service for $20 per year (you also get some storage for other files); and there’s no limit to the amount of music you can store, but you might find their uploader is a little less friendly to use (OK — to be fair it’s been updated since I tested it — so maybe not).

You can play with the free 5GB version of the Amazon service and decide if you like it, and it’s worth the $20 (I was hoping they’d just bundle it into Prime — but if they’re serious about Hulu they really need to start Al-a-cart charges for services, or Prime is going to have to go up).

Anyway, if you have an Android device, I highly recommend you go ahead and request an invite to the Google Music Beta — you can try the Amazon out as well… if you have an iOS device, you’re probably stuck with the Apple solution (but you’re an Apple customer, so you’re used to having to shell out money for everything).

Also, the Amazon tablets will reportedly ship with a free Prime subscription, possibly a free year of cloud storage might be thrown in as well (that’s speculation on my part).


Originally posted 2011-09-10 02:00:28.

Virtualization Outside the Box

I’ve posted many an article on virtualization, but I felt it was a good time to post just an overview of the choices for virtualization along with a short blurb on each.

Obviously, the operating system you choose and the hardware you have will greatly limit the choices you have in making a virtualization decisions.  Also, you should consider how you intend to use virtualization (and for what).

Microsoft VirtualPC (Windows and a very outdated PowerPC Mac version) – it’s free, but that doesn’t really offset the fact that VirtualPC is aging technology, it’s slow, and it had been expected to die (but was used ad the basis for Windows 7 virtualization).

Microsoft Hyper-V (Windows Server 2008, “bare metal”) – you can get a free Hyper-V server distribution, but you’ll find it hard to use without a full Server 2008.  Hyper-V is greatly improved over VirtualPC, but it implements a rather dated set of virtual hardware, and it really doesn’t perform as well as many other choices and it will only run on hardware that supports hardware virtualization (I-VT or AMD-V).

VMware (Windows, Mac, Linux) – I’ll lump all of their product into one and just say it’s over-priced and held together by chewing gum and band-aids.  I’d recommend you avoid it — even the free versions.

VirtualBox (Windows, Mac, Linux, bare metal) – Sun (now Oracle) produces a commercial and open source (community) edition of an extremely good virtualization solution.  Primarily targeted at desktops it implements a reasonably modern virtual machine, and will run on most any hardware.

Parallels (Windows, Mac, Linux, bare metal) – a very good virtualization solution, but it’s expensive — and it will continue to cost you money over and over again (upgrades are essential and not free between versions).  You can do much better for much less (like free).

QEMU (Windows, Linux, etc) – this is one of the oldest of the open source projects, and the root of many.  It’s simple, it works, but it’s not a good solution for most users.

Kernel-based Virtual Machines (KVM — don’t confuse it with Keyboard/Video/Mouse switches, the TLA is way overloaded) – this is the solution that Ubuntu (and other Linux distributions) choose for virtualization (though Ubuntu recommends VirtualBox for desktop virtualization).  KVM makes is moderately complicated to setup guest machines, but there are GUI add-ons as well as other tools that greatly simplify the tasks.

Xen (Linux) – an extremely good hypervisor implementation (the architecture of Hyper-V and Xen share many of the same fundamental designs), it will run Xen enabled (modified) kernels efficiently on any hardware, but requires hardware assisted virtualization for non-modified kernels (like Windows).

XenSource (bare-metal [Linux]) – this is a commercial product (though now available at no cost) acquired by Citrix which also includes a number of enterprise tools.  All the comments of Xen (above) apply with the addition that this package is ready (and supported) for enterprise applications and is cost effective is large and small deployments.

My personal choice remains VirtualBox for desktop virtualization on Windows, Mac, and Linux, but if I were setting up a virtual server I’d make sure I evaluated (and would likely choose) XenSource (it’s definitely now a much better choice than building a Hyper-V based solution).

Originally posted 2010-05-03 02:00:58.