Simon May

Client and cloud

July, 2010

  • Tools to help you deploy Office 2010

    The Office 2010 Engineering blog posted a great roundup of the tools that you can use to help deploy Office 2010 this week.  It’s a powerful tool set and I honestly can’t see a blocker to deployment that it doesn’t help remove. 

    • You don’t know what addins are out there…there’s a tool for that. 
    • Don’t know if you VBA code is compatible it 2010…there’s a tool for that. 
    • Want it in your standard image…there’s a tool for that. 
    • Want to customise what lands on a client…there’s a tool for that. 
    • Want help planning deployment…there’s a tool for that. 
    • Want someone to get your coffee whilst you deploy Office 2010…you might have to do that yourself!

    Microsoft Office 2010 Deployment Tools

  • Why VHDs are ace

    Andrew Fryer, my team mate and fellow IT Pro evangelist has posted a great article on why he likes VHDs.  I have to agree with him and I’ll add something else…

    VHDs are a file based format as opposed to the traditional sector based format.  This is very cool because it allows “offline servicing” for the OS, which means that you can service the VHD without it being booted.  This is cool because say you have a demo environment and you want to update a driver all you do is mount the VHD and use DISM like this:

    DISM /Image:V:\ /Add-Driver /Driver:M:\Drivers /recurse

    to add the driver, then on next boot it’s done.  Simples.

    More complicated is what’s going on under the hood, but essentially a VHD will consume less disk space than the same disk in a sector based format as each unique file is only stored once in the VHD format.

    Throw your brilliant VHD tips our way in the comments…

  • Microsoft Certification Videos

    image

    When I first started out one of the things that I did to get real world understanding (as opposed to at an Academic institution which is invaluable too but very different) was to get stuck into getting Microsoft Certified.  Back then MCSE was my goal and I did it entirely through self study, reading and doing.  That was on NT4 and I upgraded everything to 2000 through a single (and really hard!) exam.  Since then I’ve been doing BETA exams, 254 questions in one sitting was a bit much though, and kept things current.  Things have changed a bit now but getting certified is really valuable. 

    The videos we’ve produced and put up on landthegig.com are very extreme but I’m pretty sure I’ve interviewed a couple of these guys….

    Microsoft Certification Can Open Doors

    How do you view certs?  Nice to have, essential or something entirely different…

  • WAIK me up before you go go

    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:

    • Technician
    • Reference
    • Target

    WAIK in VM…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:

    • Download Ben’s scripts (I used the VB script)
    • Open a Command prompt on the machine running Virtual PC
    • Use cscript to run the VB script like this
      •  Cscript /vm:”my vm’s name” /action:vfd /floppy:”e:\blank.vfd”
    • In your VM you need to format the vfd
    • Copy your autounattend.xml to the floppy
    • Back in your command prompt
    • Disconnect the VFD from the technician VM with
      • Cscript /vm:”my vm’s name” /action:disconnect
    • Use the first cscript sample above again, but change to the reference VM
    • Make sure you have an ISO for the Windows 7 DVD connected
    • Start your reference VM
    • Marvel as Windows 7 installs without you having to do anything

    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.

    bios on VMFinally 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.

  • I finally have a blue badge…

    Whistler_2010_orginal_square_400x400I 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).