Keith Combs' Blahg

Ramblings from another nerd on the grid

August, 2006

  • Windows Vista build 5536 now available for download

    WinvistaLadies and Gentlemen, Windows Vista build 5536 is available for download, as promised.  It was about 24 hours later than I anticipated, but that isn’t too bad.  So what’s the catch?

    Well, you must be a TechNet Plus Direct or MSDN subscriber.  However, this does demonstrate we listen.  It took way too long to get the TechNet download area, but it’s here now and it’s here to stay.  Not only that, you’ve got a whole team of people keeping an eye on the service and making sure the HOT downloads are being added.

    In case you haven’t noticed, the TechNet Plus subscription is a killer deal.  Support incidents, copies of our products, subscriber download area, etc.  Check it out!!!

  • Windows Vista Complete PC Backup and Recovery screencast

    Surely by now you've heard of Windows Vista Complete PC backup and recovery.  No?  Well, if you've ever managed to lose a hard drive, then you know how much fun it is to reinstall operating systems and applications.  Not to mention potentially losing ALL of your pictures, music, documents, and other business and personal data.

    Just yesterday, one of the managers in my group had the hard drive go belly up on her tablet pc.  If she was running Windows Vista, and if she had performed a Complete PC backup, she could have recovered from that catastrophic event in roughly 30-60 minutes (I'm guessing based on the average amount of data most people have).  This is only one isolated instance of bad stuff that can happen.  If you don't think it can happen to you, think again.

    Many of you have likely used some form of backup and recovery.  If not, you are in for a surprise the first time you boot Windows Vista.  We'll politely ask you to create a backup.  I would heed that advice and do it.  Right then.  After you've installed your favorite applications and copied personal data, do another backup.  Right then.  In fact, use Complete PC to do the backup to DVD and you'll now have a personal image of your shiney new Windows Vista installation complete with your personal touch.

    So how does Complete PC work?

    If you look closely, you'll see Complete PC borrows some ideas from the virtual machine world.  We do a physical to virtual state and data capture then write the results to the backup target media or drive in the form of a virtual hard drive.  Huh?  Yes, we write a bunch of information directly into a virtual hard disk file.  It has the .vhd extension and everything. 

    Can I mount the .vhd with Virtual PC or Virtual Server?

    I'm told you can.  I haven't tried it yet but may mess around with it a bit this weekend or next week.  I owe the Complete PC feature team some testing results so I can add this to the stuff I have planned.  Why would we allow this?  The only reason I can think of is to allow access to the data through another tool in case you manage to delete part of the backup set, but don't delete the .vhd file.  For instance, if you look in the directory that is created by the backup, you'll see a number of catalogs and XML files.  What if you manage to screw one of those up so Complete PC can't restore?  Well, as a last measure you could mount the .vhd in a VM and gain access.  You cannot boot the .vhd with our virtual machine products.

    So checkout the screencast demo below and see what you think.  If you are used to other imaging products, you'll be very happy with the simplicity of Windows Vista Complete PC.  For more information on this and some of the other backup technologies, see http://www.microsoft.com/windowsvista/features/foreveryone/backup.mspx and http://www.microsoft.com/windowsvista/experiences/backup.mspx.

    Screencast Demo

    You can watch my Windows Vista Complete PC screencast directly from our streaming media server or download and watch the video later on your laptop or podcatcher.  The attachment below is a RSS enclosure for you podsters.  If you want to keep the demos for offline viewing, right mouse click the attachment below and copy it local.  Subscribe to my screencast RSS feed at http://blogs.technet.com/keithcombs/rss.aspx?CategoryID=11416.

    "See you" again soon.

    Errata

    I was just listening to the recorded media file and noticed the following silly things I said, and one thing that was technically not possible:

    1. I said at the end of the backup that it was the end of a webcast.  Silly me.
    2. I said the .vhd file was 5.8 meg instead of 5.8 gig.  Dork.
    3. I said during the beginning of the restore discussion that hopefully you'll have the Windows Vista Recovery Environment (RE) on a partition so that you can run Complete PC.  Uh, hello?  If you lose the drive, you lose the RE partition.  This is where the Windows Vista DVD comes in handy.
  • Windows Vista 5536 is coming - let the downloads begin

    Over the next few days, you'll start hearing more and more about the Windows Vista August EDW.  This build is going to be released through a variety of channels.  What a lot of people don't know, is that there's a new download area in town.  The TechNet folks launched TechNet Plus Direct a few weeks ago.

    Windows Vista build 5536 will be on the TechNet Plus Direct download area very soon.  Now, instead of waiting for the DVD to show up in the snail mail, you can do your best to crater the internet.  So warm up that DVD burner and keep your eyes on that handy subscription.  More value is headed your way.

    For more information on TechNet Subscription benefits, see http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/subscriptions/default.aspx.  The TechNet Windows Vista resource area is at http://www.microsoft.com/technet/windowsvista/default.mspx

  • Windows 95 History - Start Me Up

     

    Here's an interesting article about how "Start Me Up" became the official/unofficial anthem for Windows 95. 

    See http://weblogs.jupiterresearch.com/analysts/gartenberg/archives/016913.html for Part I and http://weblogs.jupiterresearch.com/analysts/gartenberg/archives/016923.html for Part II.

  • Windows Vista Imaging screencast

    Are you up to speed on the new imaging alphabet?  ImageX, BDD, WIM, WSIM, WinPE and various other glorious acronyms are discussed in the screencast below.  In the meantime, let me set the stage for the some of the desktop imaging problems today, and the solutions Microsoft is delivering with the next generation operating system, Windows Vista.  Those technologies are being bundled into the Business Desktop Deployment (BDD) 2007 toolset.

    The Problem

    Ok, show of hands for those of you that have created a corporate desktop and rolled it out.  For all of you with your hand in the air, keep it up if it changed almost as soon as you deployed it.  In fact, I'd be willing to bet, the requirements for that desktop changed before you completed the rollout.  You can put your hand down.

    Every time the requirements change, a good desktop developer and integrator probably starts another version from the old desktop, or builds from scratch.  Many of you use the popular imaging tools on the market and they are life savers in terms of their ability to take a snapshot and blow those images down to a hard drive or do desktop replacement.  Thank god for multi casting, PXE and Windows Preinstallation Environment (WinPE).

    The problem is, every time you get a new driver, security patch, or requirement, you end up creating another version of that desktop and the number of images you maintain piles up.  Maintenance equals expense and studies have shown that the expense is considerable.  Enter from stage left, WIM.

    Windows Imaging (WIM)

    The Windows Imaging (WIM) format is new for Windows Vista.  It is the basis from which many of the tools are derived and is unique in many respects.  The WIM format is documented and used through the WIMGAPI SDK.  Documentation for the WIMGAPI is included with the Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK).  In other words, if you don't like our tools you can certainly make your own, and if history is any indication, there will be a healthy market for those tools when Windows Vista ships. 

    A WIM file is the store for the packages and components that are installed and make up Windows Vista.  The packages and components can also be non-Microsoft products.  This component specification is defined in the Component Platform Interface (CPI) reference.  This reference and guide is also included with BDD 2007 and WAIK.  Look closely at the CPI specifications, research, and test package management.  It's an important new set of services.  I don't demo the package management tools in this screencast, but I plan to cover it at a later date when I cover package creation, security patch updates and driver injection.

    ImageX

    ImageX is one of those tools that uses the API to do a variety of chores with one or more .wim files.  In the screencast, you'll see me use imagex to dump the content of a wim, mount a wim to a directory, export a particular image from a multi image wim into a new wim and other fun stuff.  As with all tools, the best way to learn this stuff is to experiment.  In my screencast, we use the install.wim from build 5520 which contains seven of the Windows Vista products SKUs.

    Imagex is also a core tool used to capture or take a snapshot of a hard drive after customization and sysprep.  A few of the imagex functions can only be used from WinPE and /capture is one of those. 

    Windows System Image Manager (WSIM)

    The Windows System Image Manager is the tool of choice for creating custom Windows Vista deployments and having an answer file implement your changes.  In the screencast, you'll see me open a .wim file, in this case the install.wim, create a new catalog of the packages and components, then start customizing those components.  WSIM will also validate those choices to make sure you have the correct expected parms and data for it to work with.  Once again, WSIM is using the underlying package management and storage capabilities in the new image technologies.

    Business DeskTop Deployment (BDD) 2007

    The BDD toolset brings all of the technology together into a single integrated environment.  For corporate desktop deployment, it is the supported methods and tools.  The emphasis for BDD 2007 is Windows Vista and Office 2007.  Surprise!  Please go signup for the BDD 2007 download at connect.microsoft.com.  You'll see the tools from June right now but we are getting ready to bring the toolset up-to-date with the RC1 codebase.

    The Solution

    Hopefully after you've read this and watched the screencast, you'll download and explore the BDD 2007 toolset.  You'll see we're serious about improving the underlying technologies and tools needed to create and maintain corporate images.  With the patch management technologies coming with Windows Vista, keeping those images secure and up-to-date will be far easier than in the past.  The end result should be less time and expense associated with creating and maintaining those images.

    Screencast Demo

    You can watch my Windows Vista Imaging screencast directly from our streaming media server or download and watch the video later on your laptop or podcatcher.  The attachment below is a RSS enclosure for you podsters.  If you want to keep the demos for offline viewing, right mouse click the attachment below and copy it local.  Subscribe to my screencast RSS feed at http://blogs.technet.com/keithcombs/rss.aspx?CategoryID=11416

    Oh, and if you want to go see an expanded version of the demos complete with slides, see the webcast I delivered on this subject a couple of weeks ago.  Go to http://msevents.microsoft.com/cui/WebCastEventDetails.aspx?culture=en-US&EventID=1032301598

    "See you" again soon.

    Additional Deployment References

    http://www.microsoft.com/technet/desktopdeployment/bdd/2007/default.mspx

    http://www.microsoft.com/technet/windowsvista/deploy/default.mspx

    http://www.microsoft.com/technet/windowsvista/deploy/winpe.mspx

  • I have got to get me one of these...

    Pink_psp

    Ok Rob, here’s what Santa is bringing you…

    Kitty

  • Windows Vista Performance and Reliability Tools screencast

    If you haven't had a chance to look at Windows Vista and it's instrumentation, eventing and monitoring toolset's, you really should grab a copy when the "release candidate" code becomes available.  You'll be pleased with the improvements we've made to the amount of information that is available, and the tools that let you monitor, analyze, and act on that information.

    In this screencast, we're going to take a brief drive into the tools that are installed locally on a Windows Vista implementation.  Make sure to checkout some of our webcasts on Systems Management Server (SMS), Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) and other enterprise tools to understand how the Windows Vista plumbing can be centrally managed and monitored.

    If you visit http://www.microsoft.com/technet/windowsvista/relperf/default.mspx, you'll see a number of good documents describing the built-in diagnostics for things like resource exhaustion, failing memory or hard drives, and even the failing human.  What?  Yes, you heard me correctly.  We'll tell you when you fail to backup your system.  I really like that feature.  Ninety percent of the people I know never backup their machines.  Hopefully that will begin to change with the new backup nanny.

    So how do you tell what's going on in the machine?

    Easy.  Go look at my screencast and then start checking out your system.  The Reliability Monitor generates it's report every day.  When you first install Windows Vista, you aren't going to see anything until the following day (on the reliability report).  And don't worry if you go check the next day and the report still isn't there.  It'll do it's thing, so please be patient.  Check your email, pay the bills, buy some stuff, chat with your honey, etc.  Come back in a little while and you'll see the first report.  Maybe if you are lucky, you'll have a perfect 10.

    Where else can I get information on Windows Vista reliability and performance?

    The link above has some good information, but please read http://www.microsoft.com/technet/windowsvista/relperf/suppcost.mspx.  It's really good.  The Performance Tuning Step-by-Step Guide is ok but looks to be in need of an update.  All of the guides and tuning advice are being updated.  In the meantime I think you'll have some fun exploring some of this on your own, especially when you get a chance to see the next public release.

    Screencast Demo

    You can watch my Windows Vista Performance and Reliability screencast directly from our streaming media server or download and watch the video later on your laptop or podcatcher.  The attachment below is a RSS enclosure for you podsters.  Subscribe to my screencast RSS feed at http://blogs.technet.com/keithcombs/rss.aspx?CategoryID=11416.  "See you" again soon.

  • Windows Vista Step-by-Step Guides Updated

    It was brought to my attention that my previous post about the Windows Vista Step-by-Step Guides is out of date.  Thankfully it is true because otherwise we'd still be looking at pre-Beta2 guides.

    You can get to the new guides a variety of ways.  First, head over to the Windows Vista IT Pro area at http://www.microsoft.com/technet/windowsvista/default.mspx.  From there, you'll see a link to the Microsoft.com Download Center area at http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=311f4be8-9983-4ab0-9685-f1bfec1e7d62&DisplayLang=en.

    Files in This Download

    File Name: File Size

    Deploying Vista Step by Step Guide.doc

    195 KB

    Managing Group Policy ADMX Files Step by Step Guide.doc

    150 KB

    Performance Monitoring and Tuning Step by Step Guide.doc

    209 KB

    Print Management Step by Step Guide.doc

    254 KB

    Step by Step Guide to Controlling Device Installation and Usage with Group Policy.doc

    640 KB

    Step by Step Guide to Device Driver Signing and Staging.doc

    748 KB

    User Account Control Step by Step Guide.doc

    146 KB

    Windows Vista Beta 2 BitLocker Drive Encryption Step-by-Step Guide (June 2006).doc

    203 KB

    Windows Vista Beta 2 Migration Step by Step Guide.doc

    152 KB

    Windows Vista Beta 2 Trusted Platform Module Services Step by Step Guide (May 2006).doc

    157 KB

    Windows Vista Beta 2 Windows Collaboration Step by Step Guide.doc

    333 KB

    Windows Vista Beta 2 Windows Shared View Step by Step.doc

    265 KB

    Windows Vista Mobile Device Center Step by Step.doc

    134 KB

    Windows Vista Speech Recognition Step by Step.doc

    118 KB

  • Windows Vista Aero Glass and Usability screencast

     

    Surely by now you've heard of Windows Vista Aero Glass. It's the sexy new transparency stuff you see in the operating system. It's very noticeable in a variety of the core applications. However, transparency isn't the only user interface improvement you see in Windows Vista.

    Of course the most visible change initially is the icon for the start menu, affectionately called the "Pearl". If someone sees an oyster coughing up Vista Pearls, please call me. The Start menu is now faster, more streamlined, and is more helpful than in previous versions of Windows. The Start menu features integrated desktop search through a new feature called Instant Search which can help you find and launch almost anything on your PC. Eliminating the cascading "All Programs" view, the new start menu can help you get something started more quickly than ever. You'll also notice some glass effects on the Start menu.

    So why does glass matter?

    This windows in your house or building allow you to see what is going on around you. For those of you that get claustrophobia, I'm sure those windows help you get through the day. I am not making fun of that at all, just making a point about the importance they play in giving us another dimension to our world.

    In the case of Windows Vista, it gives us a better view of the activity in our system. Seeing outside the box has a number of benefits. When we demo Aero Glass, it's all too common to see a video or some other animation indicating activity. In my day-to-day activities, glass lets me see progress bars more quickly. Downloads or installation status can be seen at-a-glance through glass transparency or via the Aero thumbnails on the taskbar. If you looked at my Flip3D screencast, you saw a demo of that.

    Sparkle

    Another really subtle usability enhancement is the highlighting that takes place around the minimize, maximize, and exit buttons for all applications. This gives the user a better sense of interactivity with the application and system. I just think it's a kewl feature. I wondered about this feature from an accessibility point of view. Does it help? I don't know.

    Fatter Frames

    What I do know is that there are new fatter frames around the application window. They don't seem that phat because the glass transparency makes them seem lean and mean. I personally like the new thicker frame for re-sizing purposes. Easy to grab!

    Taskimation

    After you get past the sexy stuff, start looking at the context sensitivity of the new Windows Explorer shell. As you move in and out of the different folders for pictures, music, documents and other stuff you'll see different tasks show on the task bar just below the address bar. Is that cool or what? I'm sure a few years ago we would have come up with an Intelli name for the feature. Intellitask. Intellidoodaad. Glad we seem to have dropped the Intellieverything.

    I would talk about search more, but I'm going to save that information for a post coming up.

    Screencast Demo

    So pretty picture clips are good and all, but how about a nice streaming video on the subject? You got it. You can watch my Windows Vista Usability screencast directly from our streaming media server or download and watch the video later on your laptop or podcatcher.  The attachment below is a RSS enclosure for you podsters.  Subscribe to my screencast RSS feed at http://blogs.technet.com/keithcombs/rss.aspx?CategoryID=11416.  "See you" again soon.

  • Windows Vista Instant Search screencast

    I'm guessing most of you think finding stuff is pretty important.  The Windows Vista development team also thinks search should be an easy to use core operating system feature.  The search feature set in Windows Vista is really multiple parts.  We like to call this set of features Windows Vista Instant Search.

    The Indexing Service

    As with most search technologies, you have an indexing service that is responsible for indexing the data.  Duh.  You might think it's easy to write such a service.  Think again.  The trick is to write such a service so that it doesn't suck all of the performance out of your machine.  I mean after all, you've got to pay the bills so you'll need some performance to run those mission critical applications like Live Messenger.

    So how do we do it?  Well, take a close look at the process list in task manager or the other performance monitors in Windows Vista.  You'll see the search service is assigned as a low priority task meaning it's not supposed to consume so much performance and I/O that you feel it doing it's job. 

    A nice test is to add a .txt document to your desktop and add a unique word to the body.  Save the document and search for the word from the Start | Search area.  You'll see it's already indexed the document.  Pretty cool eh? 

    The Search User Interface

    I never have been a big fan of the term "user interface".  It sounds a lot like "in your face".  That's actually the point.  When building search into the operating system, you don't want it to be intrusive.  You don't want the indexing service dogging the system, and you don't want big ugly in-your-face UI to have to do a search.

    Thankfully, the Windows team did a really nice job of adding searchability to Windows Vista.  The first place you'll notice it is on the Start menu area.  Just click the Windows Vista Start pearl or hit the windows key on most modern keyboards.  Up pops the Start menu area with search at the bottom.

    Or, while you are using the Windows Explorer tool, you'll see the Instant Search input field in the top right most portion of  the explorer shell.

    Search Results and Tagging

    If you've been a good doggie and added properties to your documents as you saved them, you'll find those properties are now really useful.  The search interfaces in Windows Vista allow you to search using advanced criteria and filtering.  Tagging is a kewl way to categorize incoming information for later filtering and searching.

    Think very strategically about the information you are saving NOW.  As you'll see in my demos, adding the extra information to your documents, spreadsheets, slide decks, pictures, music, etc. will be highly leveraged with Windows Vista Instant Search.  The following screencast is a quick look at the integral shell enhancements. 

    If you want the under-the-covers information on desktop search technologies from Microsoft, be sure to add a bookmark for my team's resident subject matter expert, Matt Hester.  You'll find he has a search category on the subject and a recent TechNet Magazine article as well.  He promised to add some more articles on Windows Vista Instant Search soon, along with some other "stuff".

    Screencast Demo

    You can watch my Windows Vista Instant Search screencast directly from our streaming media server or download and watch the video later on your laptop or podcatcher.  The attachment below is a RSS enclosure for you podsters.  Subscribe to my screencast RSS feed at http://blogs.technet.com/keithcombs/rss.aspx?CategoryID=11416.  "See you" again soon.

  • Windows Vista Release Candidate coming

    So how would you like to get your hands on a more recent build of Windows Vista?  If you're still using Beta 2, I would imagine you are ready for a refresh.  Well, it's coming.  According to Nick White at the Windows Vista team blog(http://blogs.technet.com/windowsvista/archive/2006...),  you'll be able to get your hands on the goodies soon.

    The key questions and answers are as follows:

    1. Will Microsoft open testing sign-ups again when RC1 is released?  Yes.
    2. Will the Customer Preview Program be available for those who missed out on Beta 2 to sign up and get RC1?  Yes.
    3. If I participated in Beta 2 by downloading a PID and the build, will I be able to participate in RC1 automatically?  Yes.

    After you start running the RC1 fork of the code, you'll see the improvements that have been made.  Good stuff coming folks.

  • ReadyBoost, ReadyDrive and SuperFetch podcast

    The Cast

    One of my colleagues, Michael J Murphy, recently interviewed some of the Windows Vista performance gurus, Matt Ayers and Alex Kirshenbaum. 

    Matt Ayers is a Program Manager on the Windows Client Performance Team working on features that help make Windows Vista a faster product including everything from SuperFetch to new technologies and innovations on the performance side of Windows Vista.  Alex Kirshenbaum is a Software Design Engineer on the ReadyBoost Team which uses Flash drives to improve system performance in Windows Vista.

    The Podcast

    This interview was recorded an posted to the TechNet Radio website area at http://www.microsoft.com/technet/community/tnradio/archive/ayers.mspx.  You can subscribe to the RSS feed there.  I downloaded the WMA file and re-purposed it here in case you have a podcatcher.

    Cheaters can right mouse click the attachment link below and pull the file down for offline use. 

    Performance References

    http://www.microsoft.com/windowsvista/features/foreveryone/performance.mspx

    http://www.microsoft.com/whdc/system/sysperf/accelerator.mspx

    http://www.microsoft.com/whdc/device/storage/hybrid.mspx

  • Windows Vista Flip and Flip3D Screencast

    This month my team kicked off a series of free live seminars.  We are doing a Windows Vista Technical Overview in the first couple of hours, and Exchange Server 2003 and 2007 in the second couple of hours.  So far, the Windows Vista interest has been huge.  In the next few days, I'll be recording all of the Windows Vista demos (as promised).  To kick things off, lets talk about some of the sexy stuff.

    I'm sure by now, you've seen some demo of Windows Vista.  Most of the webcasts we do are using Virtual Machines (VM).  VMs are great for testing and demonstrating software, but they lack the graphics card horsepower needed for Windows Vista and Aero Glass.  No fear, I'm going to show you in the screencast below, exactly what all of the fuss is about.  To do the demonstration, I'll use Camtasia to capture the screen.

    Background Information and References

    Before we get to the Flip3D screencast, lets look at some other information on the subject.  First of all, you should really invest at least 15 minutes watching the video at http://channel9.msdn.com/Showpost.aspx?postid=114694.  It stars Kam Vedbrat being interviewed by Robert Scoble.  Kam does a good job of giving you some of the background and design points about Windows Vista, Aero Glass and the Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) services.  Don't worry, the video is a high level discussion so I don't think anyone will get lost.  You'll notice this video was shot back in September long before Beta 2.  My screencast demo below was captured using a build for this week so you'll see some subtle changes.

    Next, head over to microsoft.com and read up on Aero.  It's a light weight article but useful for reference purposes.  If you want to go slightly deeper, see the Windows Display Driver Model (WDDM) article.  Most of the information in that article is useful for learning a little more about the requirements and mechanics.

    Screencast Demo

    My Windows Vista Flip3D screencast is available for viewing at a couple of locations.  It is of course published here in Windows Media Video (WMV) format and will stream from our server.  I also have a link below that says "attachment".  It's actually a RSS <enclosure> for the WMV file so that if you have a video podcast player with WMV enclosure support, you can download the demo and view it offline.  Maybe Zune will do that.  If you are truly lazy like me, you can just right mouse click the attachment below and save it local for later viewing.

    I have also posted this information to the screencast area of channel9.  It is located at http://channel9.msdn.com/Showpost.aspx?postid=226251.

    The capture and conversion process is still imperfect.  When you watch the video, please don't judge Windows Vista performance based on what you see in the screencast.  The conversion drops frames and the full fidelity of the true user experience.  I do think you'll get a pretty good idea of the feature though.

    Summary

    So what do you think about Aero Glass and Flip3D?  Hopefully you found the Windows Vista Flip3D information above useful.  As you can see, finding and "flipping" to an application is now very easy in Windows Vista.

    I plan to record all of the demos we're doing at the live events.  They are hardly a comprehensive look at the OS but hey, it's a Technical Overview so we're just sticking our toe in the water.  All of my screencasts can be seen easily in this blogs screencast category.  Subscribe to my screencast RSS feed at http://blogs.technet.com/keithcombs/rss.aspx?CategoryID=11416.  "See you" again soon.

  • Windows Vista CompletePC - backup and restore from DVD media

    WinvistaOver the past couple of days I’ve been finalizing my demo environment for this quarter.  Like many of you, disaster recovery is forefront on my mind when I hit the road, especially with a new laptop and desktop operating system.  Windows Vista CompletePC to save the day!!!

    I’ve been using Windows Vista CompletePC full drive imaging off an on for several months.  All of the backups and restores were using big heavy external hard drives.  Not exactly the kind of thing you want to travel with.  This time around, I wanted to build a DVD set I could throw in with my usual DVD road crew.  There are a few tricks you need to know about, otherwise your restore may fail needlessly.

    Doing the backup is pretty straightforward.  The laptop I have has a DVD+RW burner so that is what I used to create the DVD set.  I figured if it can create it, it damn sure better be able to read it later on a restore.  When you launch the CompletePC backup tool and tell it you want to do a backup, it will look at your attached hard drives and DVD burners and give you the option of choosing the target. 

    When you backup to DVD, CompletePC will write a bunch of information into some XML files on the first and last disk of the DVD set.  It will also capture the physical state and data and write it to a virtual hard disk file.  In my case, and in most of your cases as well, this .vhd file will be too large to fit on a single DVD so it will be split into chunks as you are prompted for blank media.

    The process of writing the disks is rather slow.  What else is new, right?  One of the reasons for the time consumption is the formatting of the disk, writing to the disk, and verification of the data written to each disk.  As long as it works, I don’t care about a little time up front.  As it completes the write of each disk, it will tell you to label it and request the next blank disk.  The format requested for the label is as follows:

    machinename mm/dd/yyyy hh:mm am/pm disk number

    As you can see, it’s a pretty straightforward set of information to label the disk with.  However, the disk number is slightly misleading so let me explain why I say that.  In my case, the hard drive I captured doesn’t have much installed.  CompletePC only needed to write two DVDs to make the disk set.  So I labeled them Disk 1 and Disk 2.

    When it comes time to restore, you take the Windows Vista media you have and boot from it.  This boots the Windows PE 2.0 environment from which you can do various things like install or recovery.  We should probably change the text of the link to something like “Recovery and Diagnostics” because there’s some kewl tools in that area.

    Running the restore on a laptop with a single DVD drive obviously means you’ll be swapping disks to do the restore.  After you have the WinPE recovery environment running and can see the CompletePC link, you can remove the Windows Vista media disk and insert the backup data disk. 

    What disk would you put in the DVD drive at this point?

    I think most of us would stick disk one on the drive at this point, but most of us would be wrong.  The first disk that is needed is actually the last disk that was written.  So, if you are paying attention, you would have removed the Windows Vista boot media, inserted the last DVD of your backup set, and clicked the CompletePC restore link.  CompletePC will read the XML and prompt you for confirmations on the backup, partitioning and formatting of the drive.  After you’ve confirmed everything, CompletePC will prompt you for Disk 1.

    When you insert Disk 1, do not click the big highlighted OK button on the disk prompt dialogue box.  The disk will be read and the dialogue will be dismissed automatically.  If you click OK, most likely the XML for the disk will not have been read yet and you’ll get an error.  I wonder how I know that.  So resist the temptation and be patient.

    Recovery will start and it will start laying down the bits.  You’ll be prompted for the remaining disks.  Again, resist the OK button and let those dialogue boxes disappear all by themselves.

    If you’ve been living right, the restore will complete and the system will reboot to Windows Vista glory.  The above testing was performed with this weeks daily builds and is subject to change.  In fact, I hope it does.  We need to clean the wording up and make it a little more intuitive.  I provided that feedback directly to the feature program manager.  You know, the guy that took the sledgehammer to the hard drive on stage at TechED 2006.  Reminds me of the demo we wanted to do for the SQL Server 2005 launch.  Sorry, that one is still a secret.  We may try it for the Microsoft Internal Demo Competition.

    Enjoy!

  • Microsoft Exchange Troubleshooting Assistant released - get it here

    Yesterday we released some new tools to help make your life as an email admin easier.  It’s called the Microsoft Exchange Troubleshooting Assistant v1.0.  Here’s the description:

    The Exchange Troubleshooting Assistant programmatically executes a set of troubleshooting steps to identify the root cause of performance, mail flow, and database mounting issues. The tool automatically determines what set of data is required to troubleshoot the identified symptoms and collects configuration data, performance counters, event logs and live tracing information from an Exchange server and other appropriate sources. The tool analyzes each subsystem to determine individual bottlenecks and component failures, then aggregates the information to provide root cause analysis.

    As you can see, there’s some good stuff in the new assistant.  Get it at http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=4BDC1D6B-DE34-4F1C-AEBA-FED1256CAF9A&displaylang=en

    We’ll be demoing this tool and a host of others starting next week as we launch the Q1FY07 Microsoft TechNet Seminars.  We start the morning off with a Windows Vista Technical Overview then later do a bunch of fun stuff with Exchange Server 2003 and Exchange Server 2007 Beta 2.  See the description of the events at http://www.technetevents.com.

  • What on earth is a labcast?

    I think we need to start a whole new dictionary with words the have “cast” in them.  Very recently I found out Harold Wong and Chris Avis are doing some labcasts.  I have bad rock and roll ears so I had to ask them what the heck they were talking about.  It’s an interesting way to deliver information.  Deliver a webcast and combine it with a virtual lab.  It would be similar to the hands on labs you take at events like TechED but using virtual machines and webcast technologies.  I think it’s a kewl idea.  

    See all of the information on the labcasts at http://blogs.technet.com/technetwebcasts/archive/2006/07/31/444231.aspx.  And somebody needs to add a definition at wikipedia.  My http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Search?search=labcast&go=Go search came up dry.

  • Current Windows Vista laptop speed champion

    T60p vista speedI did some testing the past couple of days with my brand spanking new Lenovo ThinkPad T60p.  The T60p is the current speed demon inside Microsoft.  This won’t last long so let me explain why.  Many of you have probably noticed we rate the performance of your hardware.

    In the current builds (I’m using 5489), we do the rating just before you login.  When you go to look at the rating, you’ll notice we rate the processor, memory speed, graphics card or chipset and the primary hard disk.  You can run the tests from the command line or in the background.

    The testing results are written to an XML file currently stored in your %systemroot%\performance\winsat\datastore folder. I don’t think that is going to change before we ship.  You should definitely take a close look at the information inside that file.  We only present part of the information in the UI.  As you can see in the screenshot of my test, my little T60p did very nicely.

    However, the current rating mechanism uses the lowest score to give you your score.  I guess it seemed to make sense to derive the score from the lowest common denominator. Is that fair?  I don’t think so.  Here’s why…

    What is the current fastest primary hard drive on the market for a laptop?

    In general, you’ll find the laptop market is currently constrained by the 100GB 7200rpm SATA drive.  There are some subtle and not to subtle speed differences in the drives.  My rating was performed using the Hitachi HTS721010G9SA00.  It’s a 100GB 7200rpm 2.5” SATA drive.  See the specs at http://www.hitachigst.com/hdd/support/7k100/7k100.htm.  As you can see, the hard drive received the lowest rating so that became my overall rating.  Considering 100GB 7200rpm SATA drives are as good as it gets in the laptop market (currently), it doesn’t really represent my laptops stack rank in the pecking order very effectively. 

    For instance, lets say we have a bunch of dual core laptops with a variety of procs, memory and graphics chipsets.  You could have a really smoking Dell XPS M1710 with the same hard drive that I have.  It could have twice the memory, twice the speed in the GPU, etc.  But we would end up with the same score due to the hard drive.  This is going to change before we ship.

    And while we are on the subject of shipping Windows Vista, what the heck is going on?  Robert Scoble says, “This sucker is just not ready”.  Well, that’s a pretty easy statement to make.  We aren’t done yet Robert. 

    Oh, and before I forget, look for some new drives to hit the market before too long.  ReadyDrive will boost the performance and save battery power.  See the whitepaper on the subject at http://www.microsoft.com/whdc/device/storage/hybrid.mspx.

  • Publish or perish

    That saying has been around a long time.  Some of us like to write.  Some people are just better at it than others.  Recently, Matt Hester wrote a nice article on the search technologies available to Windows.  His article was recently published in TechNet Magazine.  See http://www.microsoft.com/technet/technetmag/issues/2006/08/DesktopSearch/default.aspx for the article.  Paper is nice and all, but if you want to see the technology in action, see his screencast on the subject.  Great job on both Matt.

  • How much longer will my PSP last?

    The PlayStation Portable (PSP) is one of the best video players on the market.  However it lacks one key component, a hard disk.  I guess Sony thought the UMD optical drive would be sufficient, but they were wrong. 

    Now the market is finally catching up.  Each week a number of new portable video players are announced.  It appears Santa Claus is going to have a big bag of gadgets to distribute this Christmas.  I wonder if Santa will have a Zune video player this fall…

    Since I already have a 2gb, a couple of 1gb, and a 512mb Memory stick for my PSP, I’m not rushing out to replace it.  I usually travel with 5–7 movies loaded across my sticks. It sure would be nice to have a 30–40gb hard drive but then I’d have to figure out which 50 movies I want to take.

    By the way, the Core Duo T2500 chipset in my laptop has cut the conversion times down pretty significantly when compared to my Pentium 4 2.66 based MCE 2005 machine.