I’ve been using the new Outlook social connector with Facebook and Live for a while and as a newbie here, I have to say it’s been making things easier. I’ve been having coffee meets with people to chew the fat (or the scone) over Windows 7, Windows Server and other fun stuff and being able to see who I’m going to see when I’ve never actually met them before has been ace. It’s also been cool being able to have something non-work related to connect on over a coffee.
Take a look at the Outlook blog for more info. Remember though protect your identity online and make smart choices. Also check out this video all about it.
Details and dates for the PDC (Professional Developer Conference) have been announced and for the first time ever it’s going to be on the Microsoft Campus in Redmond. What’s so cool about that? You love going to Vegas? Well getting access to guys behind the best platforms in the world on their home turf is something special. The labs will be open and the engineering teams and leaders will be there. That is super cool. Makes me wish I worked in Redmond…
Microsoft PDC10 | October 28 — 29
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.
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]
That title isn’t as self-questioning as it may sound; I think I know the answer….I think. The first thing I’m doing is a bit of a back to basics review of Windows 7 deployment and I still think there’s plenty of folks out there who are going to be doing the same right now; so I thought I’d share.
We (eek I can say we!) have a group of fantastic tools that help with deployment on Windows and if you’ve not really looked at Windows deployment since Windows XP you’ll be needing the same kind of refresher that I’m doing. Even if you’ve deployed Vista you need to take a look at the latest tools.
Note: Important note here, I’m skipping bit. I’m skipping out the bit where you’ll have planned the ass off of your deployment – I’ll come back to it – but for now I’m skipping the Application Compatibility stuff, I’m skipping the bit where you make sure you know what you’ve got in your company.
So let’s take a look at the tools, what do you have to play with. WAIK up!
The Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK) is a really good place to start and can be downloaded from here. There’s a whole bunch of features packed into the WAIK and it’s an essential first step in terms of tools. I’m not going to go through a list of each tool, that’s kind of boring at this stage, but the documentation is the rocket to moon in terms of getting started with deployment.
This is where we have a step by step guide to doing your first deployment (install through imaging to deployment) – more on this in the next post, including the tricks to do it using Virtual PC so you can play in your own sandbox without annoying the other kids. There’s also the full documentation for every entry possible in the unattended answer file which is now a single XML as opposed to the old multiple text file stuff we used in the deployments of yore.
Ok, that’s it for now…go download the WAIK, next time I’ll impart some tips for playing with the step by step guide in a VM environment.