Disable firewall in Windows Server Core (R1 or R2)

6. May 2010

Note this also works for Hyper-V Server R1 or R2

 A quick and easy method to disable the Windows Firewall in server core is to use the following command

“netsh advfirewall set currentprofile state off”

I have had to do this in some situations to get the DPM (2007 or 2010) agent to install remotely for example.

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Change binding order in Windows Vista, 7 and 2008 and R2

2. May 2010

Login to the server with administrative credentials

clicking Start > Run , typing ncpa.cpl and press Enter

Press Alt+N to display the Advanced menu

Select Advanced Settings. On the Adapters and Bindings tab, highlight your NIC and use the arrows on the right hand side to adjust it’s binding order.

 

Simple as that but not always obvious.

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Windows 7 GodMode!

6. January 2010

Stumbled on this through twitter, check out this following post on cnet basically it is a method to access all the control functions for Windows 7 from one location.

http://news.cnet.com/8301-13860_3-10423985-56.html

nice.

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Windows 7 XP mode differencing disk blowout? Try compacting your VHD.

3. January 2010

If you find your virtual disk file growing exponentially with Windows XP mode under Windows 7 (Pro, Ultimate and Enterprise) this might be related to the fact that the virtual disk file used in XP mode is a “differencing” disk. A differencing disk is linked to a dynamically expanding or fixed disk and only saves the changes relative to the base disk. This protects the base pre-configured Windows XP install but a side effect of this is that the differencing disk only grows in size and never shrinks.

This shows the location of the differencing VHD and the Parent disk (From the settings screen in Virtual PC)

image

Recovering this space is a simple process but needs to be preformed offline and not while XP mode is hibernated. The process of “compacting” reduces the size the disk by removing unused space on the virtual hard disk.

First shutdown the XP mode virtual machine. Click Start then Windows Security within the virtual machine

image

Select Shutdown then Shutdown then OK

image 

image

By default the differencing .vhd is located in…
C:\Users\<PROFILE NAME>\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows Virtual PC\Virtual Machines

image (Size is 3GB)

From the parent Windows 7 machine select Start then “All Programs” then Windows Virtual PC

 

image

Right click on the Windows XP Mode virtual machine and select Settings

image

Select Hard Disk 1 and select Modify from the right side.

image

Select Modify then Compact virtual hard disk

 image

Select Compact

image

Done!

Post compacting my install I recovered 50% of disk space.

image Size is 1.5GB

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Tap water vs Bottled water

12. December 2009

Being a fan of tap water this really resonated with me…

The Facts about Bottled Water
http://www.onlineeducation.net/bottled_water/

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An error caused a change in the current set of domain controllers…

10. December 2009

 

If you receive the error “An error caused a change in the current set of domain controllers” in Exchange 2010 the simple fix is to run the “Collect Organizational Health Data” option from the actions plane.

image

 

image

This popped up after modifying DNS settings and promoting/demoting DC’s within our infrastructure.

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Exchange 2010 is here... so what is missing?

11. November 2009

Well at least for Technet and MSDN subscribers.

Exchange 2010 was built from the ground up with the “cloud” in mind and is the mail engine behind Microsoft’s online email offering(s) (part of BPOS). I did not want to do another “what is new in Exchange 2010” so I though it would be good to highlight what is missing, changed or discontinued when compared to Exchange 2007.

Architecture changes

Storage Groups GONE! that’s right it’s all about the database now and these are at the organisational level, so no more shared log files between storage groups.

ESE Streaming backup APIs GONE! Backup’s are now VSS based so you can now even use Windows Server Backup to protect your valuables.


Outlook Web Access (App)

Document access GONE! well in this release anyway. So no SharePoint libraries or file shares can be access via OWA :-(

Web Parts GONE! Not supported in this release.

OWA themes GONE! Not supported in this release.

Reading pane GONE! well not fully true, it can on longer be placed at the bottom of the window.

New posts can not longer be created in the mailbox, this can only be done in Public Folders.


HA Features

CCR, LCR, SCR GONE, GONE and GONE! but only to be replaced by “High Availability and Site Resilience” features which includes Database Availability Groups, Mailbox Databases Copies and Active Manager the replacement for Cluster service in previous releases.

Setup /recoverCMS is replaced with Setup /m:recoverServer

Clustered mailbox servers are also replaced with “High Availability and Site Resilience”
http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd638121(EXCHG.140).aspx


Recipient Related Features

Move-Mailbox (PowerShell) has been replaced with “Move Requests” more information can be found here. http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd298174(EXCHG.140).aspx

Exchange WebDAV GONE! has been replaced with Exchange Web Services or Exchange Web Services Managed API.
Further information on EWS can be found here. http://msexchangeteam.com/archive/2009/04/21/451126.aspx

 

My employer is looking to get the company onto Exchange 2010 ASAP so stay tuned as I hope to find time to blog about my migration experiences.

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Exchange 2010 RC is now available

20. August 2009

It has been a while since my last post as I have been busy putting together a couple of RFP responses based around Hyper-V R2 so until I find a little more time I will quickly post that Exchange 2010 Release Candidate is now available for download!!

This release will expire after 120 days but that should be more then enough time!

Check out the download here

[The following is taken from the Exchange 2010 website]

Flexible and Reliable

Pressure to optimize your IT infrastructure for ever changing economic conditions requires you to be agile and that means investing in solutions that provide you and your organization with choice. Exchange 2010 gives you the flexibility to tailor your deployment based on your unique needs and a simplified way to help keep e-mail continuously available for your users. With Exchange, choose from on-premises deployment with Exchange Server 2010, a Microsoft hosted service with Exchange Online, or a seamless mix of both. Microsoft’s commitment to Software plus Services ensures that you can decide on your timeline for taking advantage of the flexibility and power of both without interrupting or changing your users' experience.

Microsoft Exchange Server has always provided and continues to provide you with the choice of a wider range of storage hardware options than any other solution ranging from traditional Storage Area Networks (SAN) to low-cost, desktop-class Direct Attached Storage (DAS). In the latest release, continued innovation in the Exchange mailbox database means that you will experience up to a 50% reduction in disk Input/Output Per Second (IOPS) over Exchange Server 2007, and greater resiliency against data corruption.

Anywhere Access

Microsoft Exchange 2010 helps users get more done by giving them the freedom to securely access all of their communications – e-mail, voice mail, instant messaging, and more – from virtually any platform, Web-browser, or device through industry standard protocols. Enhancements in the latest release of Exchange provide users’ access to all of their communications from a single location while making it easier for them to collaborate with each other and their business partners. These enhancements include the ability to:

  • Offer your users a premium Outlook experience across the desktop, Web, and mobile device, including OWA support for even more browsers (e.g., Apple Safari® and Mozilla Firefox®).

  • Unify access to e-mail, voice mail, instant messaging, and text messages, enabling your users to pick the best way to communicate no matter where they are.

  • Add native support for virtually every mobile device, including a premium experience with Windows Mobile®, through Exchange ActiveSync®.

  • Share free/busy information with external business partners for fast and efficient scheduling, choosing the level of detail you wish to share

Protection and Compliance

The impact of a growing number of applications and devices accessing your e-mail infrastructure is evident; it is more important than ever that you take the protection of your mission-critical e-mail data into account when choosing a solution. From regulatory concerns to internal organizational governance and common sense protection of sensitive communications, Exchange 2010 delivers e-mail archiving and compliance capabilities that limit disruption of a user’s normal workflow.

Competitive Differentiation with Lotus Notes and Domino

Microsoft Exchange continues to deliver the leading messaging experience for end users and deliver on the business needs of IT. IBM Lotus Notes and Domino continue to play catch-up on features and functionality that are native to Exchange. Exchange differentiates from Lotus Domino in the following ways:

Superior User Experience: Don’t take our word for it, take our customers’.  In a recent case study by Brinks Home Security, Rob Trotter, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer for Brinks Home Security, stated that “Users understood the advantages of moving to the 2007 Office release and Outlook 2007 from the very beginning,” he explains. “In fact, when we first announced the move from Lotus Notes to Outlook 2007 at an all-managers meeting, we got a standing ovation and cheers.” Exchange 2010 delivers more for the user experience than ever before with an enhanced conversation view for mail triage, speech-to-text transcription for voice mail and MailTips to improve messaging efficiency and avoid accidental or unintended e-mails.

The Road to Enterprise Services: Microsoft is delivering multi-tenant scalable solutions that deliver advantages in TCO, flexibility and IT control. Services isn’t just about taking an on-premises server and putting it in a datacenter, it’s about architecting from the beginning for scalability and Exchange Server 2010 delivers that architecture natively. IBM does not offer this full range of deployment choices, providing only limited outsourced solutions.

A Single Unified Communications Platform: Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 continues to address users’ needs by providing new capabilities across unified messaging, integrated e-mail, voice mail, IM, SMS, etc., and mobility management.  All of this is provided within the single Exchange product vs. multiple, disparate products as IBM requires. 

Built-in Enterprise Mobility: Exchange ActiveSync is supported by virtually every major mobile platform available and is quickly becoming the standard for a premium mobile experience. ActiveSync enables rich, push experiences to major platforms such as Windows Mobile, Apple’s iPhone, Motorola, Nokia, and many more.  In contrast, Lotus Notes Traveler, Lotus’ mobile experience for Domino, provides a basic mobile experience that analysts have said should not be deployed without “a third-party security and management offering”.

Single, Industry Leading Directory Interoperability: The Exchange team built the first native active directory application, Exchange 2000, almost nine years ago. IBM announced this feature for Domino 8.5.x releases, and by the time it ships, Exchange will have a ten- year head start on interoperability with the leading directory service in enterprises today, providing rich, powerful experiences to end users and IT Pros alike.

Storage, Archiving, and Retention: Microsoft Exchange 2010 addresses the needs of what data gets stored and for how long with native e-mail archiving and robust retention policies that provide the tools you need to meet increasing compliance requirements. In addition, Exchange 2010 also enables powerful cross-mailbox searching capabilities that can be delegated through our role-based access control, ensuring that the right people have the right tools to protect your organization.

Microsoft Exchange 2010 furthers customers’ ability to choose cheaper, faster storage types including DAS, SATA and JBOD.  IBM provides Domino attachment object store (DAOS, but are unable to provide customers a true range of storage options to reduce costs.

Delivering Tools for the Global Economy: Microsoft Exchange 2010 includes the capabilities to share calendars with users outside your organization and associate permissions that you are comfortable with. In this release, secure messaging is not only supported within your organization, but with external users as well. Microsoft Exchange 2010 now enables secure communications with vendors, partners and customers that previously required third party tools or separate account management.

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Microsoft App-V – Moving beyond the overview

24. July 2009

In my previous blog here I provided an overview and “what is” application virtualization and Microsoft App-V. In this post I will attempt to move beyond the basics and try to address the good, the bad and the ugly of application virtualization with Microsoft App-V.

Desktop and Application optimization…
If you read my previous post you should now have an idea what application virtualization and Microsoft App-V is and what it can provide to a computer network. I remember reading somewhere that “a operating system is at it fastest and optimal post a fresh install and before any applications are deployed”. This is something I and I am sure any IT pro will agree with and while we would love to keep our machines in this optimal state usually an application or two is required. Now meet my friend App-V, this neat little application can conceivability keep your machine as close to a fresh install as possible as applications are not installed in the traditional sense.

What do you mean the application is not installed?
Microsoft App-V for example provides a virtual registry and  virtual file system. When a sequenced or virtualized application is deployed to a Windows Vista workstation the application does not sit in c:\program files\… or write to [HKLM\Software\Microsoft\…] it is truly sandboxed and held at arms length from the operating system. As far as the application is aware it is installed locally however when it writes to the local registry that application call is redirected to a virtual or “faked” registry, this also hold true for the file system. 
What you see is an application laid down on disk but does not “taint” the local operating system with crazy registry entries or participating in DLL hell.

Can I virtualize application xyz?
Now not all applications are created equal and not all applications are a candidate for virtualization, what I mean is not all application will function within a virtual environment or even sequence correctly in the first place. Generally applications that fit the following list may not be candidates however all applications are different and everybody's experiences are different.

  1. Applications that install a boot time service.
  2. Applications that use COM+ (check here for more info and workarounds)
  3. DLL’s that run in Dllhost.exe AKA COM DLL surrogate virtualization.
  4. MAPI applications check the following link for help.
  5. Internet Explorer (google or bing :-) this, some believe you can).
  6. Device drivers or any application that uses them (unless you can install the device driver separately and locally from the sequenced application)
  7. Applications for example that are tied to a machine or tied to a system’s MAC address.
  8. Helper applications such as those with a multifunction printer… the root of all evil for any virtual environment :-)
  9. Operating system hotfixes in any way shape or form.
  10. most (but not all) antivirus applications that use filter drivers that interact with the operating system directly.
  11. Some windows services.

So what is actually virtualized?
One of the great things about App-V or application virtualization in general is the ability to uninstall an application and ALL settings, binaries, registry entries, and random configuration files are removed no ugly desktop icons or folders in c:\program files or manually remove

When a file is sequenced the following is a list of what is wrapped up into well… a sequence.

  • Files
  • Fonts
  • Registry entries
  • INI files (oh the horror!)
  • Namespaces
  • Services
  • COM/DCOM objects

What methods are available for application virtualization?
There are three methods available for deploying application virtualization when utilising Microsoft App-V, standalone, streaming and full infrastructure.

Standalone – Enables virtual application delivery to businesses that may not have the backend infrastructure to support streaming or the full infrastructure model. The only software required is the sequencer which can sit on a workstation. Applications are sequenced and packaged into a MSI (Microsoft Installer) which contains all the information required to deliver and install the virtual application. This model requires a method of application delivery either manual (CD/DVD or USB) or automatic (SCCM, AD or some other package deployment tool). This model is also best suited to users who are remote or disconnected from the network.

Streaming – Model consists of the streaming server, the sequencer and the App-V client. Applications are placed on the streaming server where they are downloaded or streamed to the client on demand. When streamed a client receives what is called “feature block 1” then obtains further blocks when needed this leads to faster start-up times for applications.

Full Infrastructure – Requires the largest investment in “infrastructure” as it consists of one or more Microsoft System Center Application Virtualization Management Servers and the App-V client on workstations or Terminal Servers.

Allot of IT adman's find the “streaming” model works for them and can easily leverage existing servers and software onsite.

Client considerations…
Always ensure a large enough cache has been provisioned (2GB standard) perhaps 4GB is better. Ensure clients are pre-cached on Terminal Server’s for best performance and user experience, and remember at this stage only 32bit (x86) operating systems are supported. (This will change with App-V 4.6)

Sequencer Considerations…
Provision an isolated and dedicated workstation for application sequencing. Ensure this workstation does not have any background applications or agent software loaded. If you are not sequencing Microsoft Office but it is part of your base workstation image make sure it is also loaded to the sequencing machine. The sequencing machine must have a second drive letter that matches the virtual drive used by the client, this could be a network drive or USB drive for example. The default drive is Q. Deploying to a staging environment is recommended.

My first post on App-V is available here.

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Microsoft App-V application virtualization and streaming technology

20. July 2009

Microsoft Application Virtualization or App-V (fits in nicely within the *-V naming scheme, Hyper-V, MED-V...) is Microsoft’s application virtualization and application streaming technology that competes with the likes of Citrix XenApp streaming, VMware ThinApp or Symantec’s AppStream. Microsoft App-V was previously named Microsoft Softgrid which was acquired in July 06 through the acquisition of Softricity a Boston, Massachusetts software company.

Application Virtualization and streaming provides and enables the deployment of software into na isolated or sandboxed operating system environment without modifying the local OS file system or registry. This ensures operating system integrity, reduces application and DLL conflicts and reduces the need for application and environment testing on different hardware and operating system environments. Applications such as Office XP and Office 2007 can be sequenced then deployed and executed on the same end user device without any application conflicts.

Applications are profiled or sequenced (installed) usually on/to a dedicated workstation, these applications are as stated sequenced or packaged (think of this as the installation being monitored, looking for where files are installed to or registry entries are added) the binaries are bundled into a single file or .CAB and located somewhere accessible on the network (this is a highly simplified explanation!).

A sequenced application is then assigned to a user or group. Depending on how this application is assigned an icon is provided to the local desktop via the locally installed App-V client. When a user double clicks the icon the sequenced application is streamed to the local machine only downloading the parts of the applications required to execute into this isolated or sandboxed virtual environment on the local PC and executed. Often only 20-40% of an application is required to be downloaded before it can execute leading to improved start-up times. Downloaded binaries are cached on the local machine for faster retrieval when next required.

The network storage location provides a common set of binaries for all operation systems both desktop’s and server’s alike. If an admin needs to patch an application only the common source of binaries is patched/updated, the App-V client next requests this application the patched or changed binaries are automatically downloaded to the local machine and executed removing the requirements to visit each machine or deploy a patch through Active Directory, SCCM or your favourite deployment tool.

Microsoft provides a centralised management tool and core to App-V is the App-V management Web Service, this provides a central service for the admin of App-V servers and sequenced applications. Administrators communicate with the web service via the App-V Management Console through this console you can publish, assign, remove applications, configure settings, metering and permissions. The central management platform is not always required as Microsoft has provided alternative methods for deployment of streamed applications with a standalone mode, this allows the sequencer to package the virtual application into a MSI. This allows the delivery of sequenced applications to App-V desktops via the Microsoft Windows Installer with the Windows Installer loading and configuring the virtual applications. This in turn allows application delivery via your favourite ESD (Electronic Software Distribution) method or even from USB drive or CD/DVD.

While applications are retrieved from the network in real-time applications or end user devices can be configured for “offline” mode which allows the full application to be downloaded and cached on the local drive for full functionality offsite or while not connected to the network. Of course this is only possible when an application can function offsite or offline such as Adobe Reader or MS Office - don’t expect your SAP client to magically function without it’s backend database available!

At this time Microsoft only provide a 32bit (x86) client so this technology does not work on Vista x64 or Windows 2008 x64 however this is set to change in App-V 4.6 which is set to provide a x64 App-V client.

Not all applications are candidates for application virtualization and each IT professionals experiences with application virtualization are different. Some applications just plan refuse to sequence while applications such as MS Office may best be installed locally in the traditional manner to ensure all application can access Office outside of its sandbox. My only recommendations to you is test, test and then test again. With App-V 4.5 some say you can even virtualize windows services, however I have no such experience.

Microsoft Application Virtualization for Terminal Services or App-V for TS is the version of App-V that runs under Terminal Services (Remote Desktop Services) or Citrix XenApp (just to confuse) and extends its capabilities to profile management (among others) allowing the use of things such as mandatory profiles with the ability to capture user settings and configuration data and in turn saving this data to the network. This delivers a dynamic yet locked down profile that saves all user settings while providing all the stability benefits of mandatory profiles in Terminal Services environments. (Anyone remember flex profiles!)

Currently App-V is available via the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) to SA covered desktops for the cool price of $10 per end user device.

The following PDF while a little dated now with the new releases of referenced software versions still provides a good comparison of competing application virtualization products.
http://virtualfuture.info/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/vf-appvirtchart092008.pdf

Microsoft’s App-V site.
http://www.microsoft.com/systemcenter/appv/default.mspx

Microsoft App-V for Terminal Services.
http://www.microsoft.com/systemcenter/appv/terminalsvcs.mspx

Excellent community App-V blog.
http://www.softgridblog.com

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