Entries Tagged as 'Windows'

bootrec.exe

Bootrec.exe, available as part of repair from the command line can resolve a number of start up issues on Windows.  It comes in quite handy for replacing the master boot record (MBR) and boot loader (a good way to remove a multi-boot manager like GRUB).

 Be sure you understand what you’re doing it you choose to use it.

 Use the Bootrec.exe tool in the Windows Recovery Environment to troubleshoot and repair startup issues in Windows

Originally posted 2013-11-13 17:00:09.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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

Windows 6 Service Pack 2

It’s out… it’s been in BETA for quite some time.

Just so you’re clear; Windows 6 covers all the Vista family and the Server 2008 family, and there’s an installer for 32-bit and one for 64-bit; there’s also a DVD image that you can install either from.

You can find a number of articles on the web telling you all about what was originally supposed to be in SP2, and what ended up in it… other than Bluetooth 2.1 and Blu-Ray support there isn’t that much that caught my eye as for “features”.

The big thing you will notice is that this makes Vista noticably faster… and includes the compcln.exe tool that allows you to remove previous component versions (saving disk space — of course once you do so, you cannot go back to previous versions… but if your machine is stable after SP2 you probably wouldn’t want to).

You must have SP1 installed first (Server 2008 comes with SP1 “pre-installed”).

You can access the Microsoft TechNet article via the link below and download the file(s) you desire.  At the moment SP2 is not included in automatic updates, but it will likely be pushed out soon.

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/dd262148.aspx

Originally posted 2009-06-07 11:00:22.

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.

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).

http://www.microsoft.com/security_essentials/

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.

Vista Activation

Over the past couple weeks I’ve had to “reactivate” two copies of Vista; now I did update the video cards and the optical drive (which is likely what triggered it), but interestingly enough, these are the two oldest copies of Vista (the first two computers installed with it).

It’s not difficult…

You try the online activation, it fails.

You call the automated telephone activation system, it fails.

You request a transfer to a Microsoft activation specialist, you read them the codes, answer a couple simple questions, and they give you the activation code which you type in and then you’ve activated.

Hopefully my activation is good for another twenty months (or more)!

NOTE:  While I’m sure that changing the hardware triggered this, I suspect that Microsoft has implemented a more rigorous inspection of the computer fingerprint to defeat bulk copies of Vista by questionable computer manufactures.

Originally posted 2008-12-28 12:00:06.

Internet Explorer 8

Microsoft released Internet Explorer 8 quite a while ago, and I’m not sure they fully realized how many web pages it would break.

Sure, they put a compatibility mode in it to allow some older sites to run; and they have the facility to “update” IE8 to configure it for more sites with know issues, and developers can add a header or a meta tag to their web pages to force IE8 into compatibility mode, and of course a user and select compatibility mode.

A truly sad thing is that in all this time Microsoft hasn’t issued a fix to Virtual Server 2005’s web management interface (the only way you can control Virtual Server 2005); and it requires compatibility mode to work (come on guys, how tough is it to just update the web pages to include the meta tag — or maybe you could actually fix what’s broken in the page).

My personal feeling is that we didn’t need another version of Internet Explorer; and we certainly didn’t need another version of any software rushed out the door riddled with severe bugs and deficiencies.

Why software companies spend so much time and energy making things worse (work on thing that are BROKEN) is beyond me…

Your potential. Our passion.

Maybe they should consider we could all achieve our potential if we didn’t have to waste so much time finding works around for their psychoses.

Originally posted 2009-08-26 01:00:09.

Remember when…

Remember when it was just so darn easy to share files with other computers on your local area (home) network?  It was ever simple to share files between PCs and Macs.

Have you noticed that while Windows was once a very easy platform to share files with others from it’s become almost impossible to even share files between two PCs running the same version of Windows?

If Microsoft is seeking to make their operating system more secure by making it unusable I they are getting very close to realizing their objective.

I really have grown tired of the complexities of sharing folders between PCs, more and more I’m finding that just using Box or Dropbox, or Google Drive is a much more efficient way to transfer small numbers of files between two machines — even if it’s a one time transfer.  I mean, yeah, it’s kinda retarded to send files to cloud storage potentially on the other side of the country to just copy it to a machine that’s a few feet away — but let’s be serious, it’s quicker than figuring out why Windows say the same user (with the same password) on two different machines, who should have unlimited rights to a directory can’t copy a file from and certainly can’t copy a file to a machine.

Yeah, it may seem retarded, but the days of using *nix copy command between remote machines seems easier…

Microsoft needs to take a hard look at human factors, and not of all the wizzy new feature they keep adding to their operating system, but to the foundation features that people (all people) actually use day in and day out for productivity — after all, we don’t all have domains at home… and not only do we sometimes move files between machines we own, but occasionally some of us might have a friend with a laptop come over.

I guess that’s why I keep a few fairly large USB drives around, because Microsoft certainly doesn’t want to actually make computers that run their operating system usable.

Originally posted 2013-11-03 10:00:23.