I started life as an IT Pro so long ago that I can’t even remember when I started, it was all different back then, when I needed to know something I got out the first CD and searched TechNet for some nugget using specific keywords (ntstop, and all that jazz). I loved it. TechNet had a deep impact on me professionally and starting a blog on TechNet with my own name is monumental for me.
Hi, I’m Simon May, I’m a new part of the IT Pro team in the UK – I’m an IT Pro Evangelist – to give me my full title. It’s our job to help UK IT Pros understand Microsoft’s plethora of technology and make the most of it. So what does that mean for you? Well it means that we’re here to help by introducing you to new tools and techniques and to get you testing, deploying, managing Microsoft technologies and getting the types of results you need.
Previously I’ve worked in banking, healthcare and energy, written about Windows, helped seed and inspire communities and I hope fixed hundreds of peoples PCs and worked with a few people who are reading this – drop me a line please. I’ve fixed virus outbreaks, rewired data centers, made it possible for people to shop quickly (sorry can’t tell you how) and helped doctors and nurses get the latest info on their patients before caring for them. Mostly I’ve had fun.
Okay, Okay, let’s talk about the job title, Evangelist. Lots of people have asked me about it and all I can say is it’s the coolest title and job in the world (to me). Basically it means I explain the world Microsoft to IT Pros.
I’ll be here and there, mainly here, sometimes there introducing new stuff and explaining current stuff and helping you get off the old stuff…cough…IE6…cough…XP…. But it’s not all about work.
Almost as much as I love being an IT Pro community I love our (I can say OUR now) consumer focused technology so I’ll be talking about that too probably, although I only get to see what everyone else gets to see, there’s no inside track here.
Follow me on twitter and say hi and you might as well subscribe to my main RSS feed (it’s not just tech stuff).
This isn’t a post about pop icons of the 80s, 90s, 00s and today it’s just that I can’t resist a pun in a headline. It’s time to have a little better look at the WAIK and we’ll start with the zero to hero guide that is the step-by-step guide.
This time I’m going to give you some tips for using the step-by-step deployment guide to get you started. The guide is simple stuff, I’m not going to go through it line by line, but it gets you from install to deployment in a couple of hours. It’s almost all you need if you’ve only got a couple of handfuls of clients to deploy.
I love a virtual environment, so I created 3 VMs to use with the step-by-step (ooh baby) guide:
…and on the first, Technician, I installed the WAIK. You could always use physical boxes but where’s the fun? Then I came to the fun - trying to do this in a virtual environment. One of the key steps in this zero to hero guide is that you need to get the answer file you create (the WAIK shows you what to do) onto a removable drive. Why a removable drive? Well Windows 7 setup looks at any removable drives for an answer file to guide it through install.
Removable storage…oo er… that’s a bit tricky in a Virtual PC world. No you can’t even use USB device pass through and use a physical UFD (USB flash drive) since the option to connect a device isn’t available on a VM with no OS, which is what you’ll be using as your Reference PC for a start.
So how do we get that answer file onto removable media in a VM? The answer comes in the form of VFD (virtual floppy disks) and scripts which Ben Armstrong has documented on his blog. One thing is that you’ll also need a .vfd file for your disk…the way I created this was to use Hyper-V manager on a Windows 2008 R2 server (Action > New > Virtual Floppy Disk…) but there are lots of other ways.
All you need to do is:
If you’re new to deployment you might be thinking something like “I’ve created an answer file now so haven’t I got an automated deployment?” I guess the answer is yeah… but no.
What you’ve got at this stage is an easily repeatable deployment. From now on every time you want to build a Windows 7 machine it will end up with the same stuff on it sure. It won’t have ALL your stuff on it and it’s still really labour intensive. At this point to do your deployment you’d still need a DVD and a USB key, feet (or a good wheely chair) to get between PCs and lots of time. You could stop here if you only needed to hit say 10 or so machines but more than that and you’ll get bored.
TIP: If you’re in the UK, there’s a couple of gotchas with answer files…The code used for UK layouts isn’t en-UK as you might first guess, it’s en-GB (cy-GB for Welsh). If you use en-UK you’re fine automated install will get stuck on the first screen. There’s a second part to this gotcha too, you’ll need to leave Components\WindowsPE\Microsoft-Windows-International-Core-WinPE\UILanguage set to en-US , but don’t worry everything will work out and you’ll have a UK locale everywere.
The rest of step 2 is pretty easy to follow…and so to step 3…
There’s a minor problem in the step-by-step guide here, that you need to fix, or it won’t work…oops! (you get a 0xc000000f error when booting the WinPE disk). Easy to fix though. Work through to the end of step 3 bullet 3 and then go to c:\winpe_x86 or whatever name you used, and copy winpe.wim to the ISO\sources folder and rename it to boot.wim. That’s it, all fixed!
The 5th bullet in step 4 says to burn the WinPE ISO you create to a CD, kinda obviously you don’t need to do that, you just need to get the ISO file off the VM. A simple way I like to do this (if I don’t have networking available) is to have a USB key inserted into my host PC and just attach it to the technician VM (USB > USB Mass Storage Device) copy the file to the key, then release it and copy it to the host.
Finally mount the ISO from your host onto your reference VM and boot it. Immediately hit SHIFT + ESC then on the black screen, hit DEL, then in the BIOS change the boot order to boot from CD first. That’s an extra little tip, if you need to boot from a CD or ISO in Virtual PC when you see the progress bar showing the VM loading do the above and you can access it’s BIOS.
That’s it for now, my longest post so far, and more to come.
Lots of people are looking at how they should go about deploying Windows 7 in their organisation, a few I’ve seen first hand are struggling to understand how to migrate. One of the major steps in planning your deployment is probably to build a proof of concept to see just how easy it is and just what the pitfalls are in your organisation. Have you thought about your application compatibility, are you making the most of things by deploying Office at the same time?
Our Springboard Series resources around Building a Proof of Concept came up in meeting the other day and there really is some great stuff in there.
I’ll be back looking at some of the fun around various aspects of a deployment soon, but if you want a specific question answered then post a comment and I’ll try – or if you want to keep your identity secret because you work for a criminal mastermind in his secret-but-very-expensive volcanic layer filled with retro furniture then drop me an email using the form.
One of the hurdles that I’ve personally experienced when trying to move people to the latest version of Office to help them be more productive is that those little tools they rely on – that excel add-in that they bought that’s become a core part of their process - just isn’t known to you, the IT Pro dude that has to take responsibility for it.
You’ve never heard of the thing before and you don’t know who the vendor is and you don’t have the time to do a full background check to make sure it works. Then you do your deployment and that supery dupery add-in tanks. Finally you have to roll that persons install back and they stick as a thorn in your side for years and you can’t explain away not having hit your target for 100% deployment. Familiar?
Well we’ve got you an answer…
Take a look at the Microsoft Office 2010 – Compatibility Resource Center we’ve got tools for inspecting VBA code and a tool that helps you to findout what Add-ins are actually running in your business. Cool stuff… oh yeah and a list of Add-ins that have been tested. Nice stuff.
Yesterday at WPC Bob Muglia announced something I think is very, very cool for Azure and bridges a gap that no other player in the cloud space can. The Windows Azure appliance is essentially a container that can be placed on your site and runs Windows Azure and SQL Azure. We look after the software, you look after the container. Bob explained it very succinctly as “IT as a service”.
I see this doing something very special in cloud terms, and I see it as a redefinition of private cloud (has anyone actually got the definition right yet?…we have!).
There are tons of ways this solution could be used, I particularly like the “data control” aspect, having the container on your own soil removes any confusion around geo-location and gives you a nice warm fluffy feeling of safety. You could use it for performance testing too (of specific aspects, not all). The solutions intended for the really big boys, like the first customer, Ebay, who need to scale to hundreds or thousands of servers.
You can find out more about Windows Azure Appliance in this Chanel 9 vid and I’ll be getting into some of the topic of how you manage Azure with the rest of your enterprise soon. How do IT Pros out there feel about Windows Azure Appliance – personally I think its a tidy solution.
[Image from roblisameehan on Flickr – NOTE: none of these as an actual Windows Azure Appliance, it’s just to remind you what containers look like]