Microsoft has published a new white paper, titled Microsoft Virtual PC 2004 Development and Debugging which talks about development and debugging using VPC.
Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
WIth Windows Vista, the boot process for Windows has changed. I just found a cool tool, VistaBootPRO that helps you to manage your settings. There is a console application shipped with Vista, but VistaBootPro is far easier to use!!
An attempt at a blog post from One Note...
Thanks to Chris Pratley’s blog post pointing out that this is slightly broken but can be fixed with a quick copy.
As it happens, this feature first send the post to Word 2007. At first thought this was weird, but as I think about it, it’s kind of a neat idea.
Now that the teething problems of Office 2007 B2 are behind us, I've now started to use these products. The versions available from the Beta site are not quite the same as those for corporates (i.e. no /admin switch) sadly.
The initial download was problematic, but a week on, and the download and registration sites are working OK. Activation is quick too. The basic installation process for all the Office client application is nice - and I really like the side by side capability. as I want to run both Office 2003 while testing Office 2007 Beta 2.
The first application I loaded was Visio 2007. WOW - seriously nice. I'll have no problem ditching Visio 2003! The new version just plain looks better as well as already enabling me to produce better diagrams. And thankfully the Ribbon Police have not ruined the UI!
Running Word 2007 brought up the dreaded Ribbon. I continue to both loathe and love it. The idea of, in effect, unfolding the menu structure to a visual ribbon is a good one. But much like parts of Vista, I think the Office designers forgot who was in charge of the UI. The Ribbon is very inflexible. You can't drag and drop things to it to change the appearance. And if you click, say on Mailings, you have to re-click on Home to get the Editing ribbon to come back. Then there's the floatie - Office 2007's re-incarnation of Clippie.
Upgrading Outlook was a particular fear, especially as I could not get Outlook 2007 to sync properly when testing it on Vista Beta 2. The upgrade to Outlook 2007 however has hung (the first time I ran it). Not an impressive upgrade, but restating Outlook in safe mode seems to work OK.
Like the curate's egg, this upgrade is good. In parts. Some bits are dreadful, but others I love. I just wish the ribbon were implemented with a bit of intelligence.
This is a test blog post from inside Word 2007 B2.
Word 2007 supports posting from Blogger and other blogging services. We'll see what this post ends up looking like!
The post was OK, except for a small problem with single quotes - these were not quite rendered right. But it works OK!
Monday, May 29, 2006
Over on Chris Pratley's blog, there's an article regarding Ultimate OneNote 2007. The article also points out that the teething troubles over Office 2007 beta downloads and activation problems are over.
The Offfice 2007 Beta 2 downloads now work fine, with the server overloads solved. And the emails now contain keys too!
But even better is news of Ultimate One Note. I love OneNote - it's a great product and even better in Office 2007. It's cool that it'll be included in Ultimate (although at US$679, Office 2007 Ultimate is certainly on the pricey side).
I am using One Note 2007 B2 and can't wait for it's release! OneNote rocks! Now if only there was a PowerShell interface...
Sunday, May 28, 2006
Also known as "The Book of Vista", Microsoft has a new updated version for download of the Windows Vista Beta 2 Product Guide. Available in either .XPS or .DOC format, this is a big document - roughly 300 pages.
I use Virtual Machines along with ISOs a lot in my testing, writing and teaching. Up till recently, I've used Daemon Tools, but this does not seem to work very well in Vista. Thanks to two great MCTs, Matthew Roche and Jeffrey Roach, I've found a good solution. The tool is called SlySoft Virtual CloneDrive and you can download it from their site. The main page suggests that the product is free, but the download page suggests all products are pay (wiht 21 days grace for eval) so I am not sure if this is a free or commerical product.
Microsoft has released Office 2007 Beta 2 to the world. The Office team decided to use a brand new method of distributing the code. As almost could have been predicted (by anyone who knows ITIL), the release proces has been very poor - loads of server time outs, .NET exceptions, mails that were supposed to have PIDs were pid-less, issues with activation, etc. Hardly much of an example of how to use Microsoft technology well. But one enterpring blooger has saved us from a lot of hassle - see Bahaa Beih's blog Bahaa here for quick download and PIDs for Office 2007. Thanks Bahaa - this page saved me some time today! And the keys are the same as mine!
Saturday, May 27, 2006
I am now running Vista Beta 2, build 5384.4 on my Dell Inspiron 9300 laptop although it's not been a very easy install. My laptop has three partitions (C:, D: and E:), with C: being the "safe" XP build, E being for my data and D: room for Vista betas. I has loaded 5381 on this partition, but it proved hard to remove - after several hours of playing around,I finally moved imporant data off the drive, and reformatted.
Next I booted from CD - or tried to. Due to the previous Vista Builds boot from CD required I used the one-time boot menu. I installed Vista, which took a long time, and far longer than I'd expected and I think I understand why. The Vista DVD image ship with the OS image contained in a single WIM file instead of the x86 folder. Nice, but itit appears that the files are copied from the WIM file to "C:\$Windows.~LS" and _then_ copied to c:\window (thus doubling the amount of disk I/O). And since Vista is around 5-6 times the size of XP, that means a lot of extra disk I/O. Another problem when I tried to install from DVD - Vista insisted on re-naming the partitions, with the 1st partition changing from C: to D: and the 2nd partition changing from D: to C: - which is pretty brain dead and I thought had been fixed a long, long time ago. Sadly, it looks like all the new Program Managers are going to have to re-learn why some things are not a good idea in real life.
After getting Vista running, I see UAC is no better than on earlier versions . Fortunately MSConfig allows me to turn it off.
The discomfort of Vista continues as I start to settle in and get it setup the way I want it. The first think I do when I load any version of Windows to tweak the desktop settings. Sadly, doing so just shows another example of the "let's move some stuff around because we can, whoops we don't have budget to do it right" syndrome - customising the UI is now much harder than it used to be. Right clicking on the desktop you now have to "personalise" (the old standard or right click and selecting properties on ALL objects seems gone, except where it remains. You are presented with a nice HTML based screen that nearly mimics the Display Prperties dialog in XP,but using far more code/dialogs/windows to do it. Instead of one tiny multi-tabed dialog box you had in XP, there are now there several screens that come up. Some appear as menus but others as 1-tab dialog boxes (i.e. the single tab from XP) with tab and window headings not consistent. And for reasons I really can not understand, the desktop icons facility is moved to a different place totally from XP. Thus instead of the one dialog box, you now have three different and inconsistent styles of setting properties for the display and more code/woindows too. While Microsoft Focus groups may have tested well on this, I think it's just plain awful - and hardly very cool. The worst thing about this is that soemone took XP's dialog box and then spent the time to design it this badly. Highly dissapointing.
Thus far, I do not see Vista as anything like ready for prime time and not even ready for self hosting. I always said I'd try to self host at Beta 2, but I do not mind admitting I am not looking forward to it. I am sick (after 20 minutes) of UAC, and the new UI is harder for me to use than XP but that should change as I get more familiar with the OS. I just wish MS has not made Explorer shell extensions (e.g. my Turnpike mail/news product) look so darned awful - and if the choice is XP/Turnpike vs Vista - I may just wait for Vista's Beta 3. And before any one points out that there is not going to be one, I'm betting on a B3 before shipping. But we'll see!
Thursday, May 25, 2006
Microsoft has now "shipped" Vista Beta 2. When I say "shipped" - I no longer quite know how to describe this on line deliver model. It's not quite released to the web. Or is it? Whatever, it's out and folks are running it.
The real question is whether the beta is indicative of a product on the shipping glideslope set for launch as previously advertised. With MS suggesting at WinHEC that things might be delayed a bit (more), the question os when will Vista ship? I am planning on self hosting at least one of my main workstations on Vista Beta 2. But to be honest, and based on beta tester feedback - I am not certain this will be a good idea. We'll see!!!
The firm I currently work for is the target of a takeover bid. The bid was formally announced 3 three weeks ago and the 21 day period is effectively now up. As a shareholder I have still not had my formal offer document, which is very dissapointing. I can only guess that the larger share holders have made their minds up, making my tiny shareholding irrelevant and not worth the time of the bidder. I would have liked to have had the legal documentation and to have seen the detailed offer in writing.
As an employee, I have had not any word as to the progress of the bid, aside from view of the formal regulatory announcements on our web site. Thus many of us begin the bank holiday not even knowing whether we have a future to come back to next week.
I was in our London office today, for one last look around at the company as is is and to say goodbye. Despite the obvious sadness, it was a proud day too. I left the office knowing I'd done my best, and so had the folks I worked with. I was so lucky to have had such great people to work with; people who made a difference to me, to our delegates and to our customers. It may not be done and dusted yet, we'll see. But it looks like the sun has set on something truly special. I shall miss the place.
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Microsoft has released Beta 2 for Windows Vista, Windows Longhorn Server, and Office 2007. WOW - all three at once. It's going to be a bugfest weekend of software installation!!
Well it might be - if I can get the software downloaded. The betas for Vista and Longhorn are being provisioned from Microsoft's new Connect site. Right now, I'm downloading Longhorn server and the download is saturating my 2mbs adsl pipe! It was no problem to et on and the download has been very steady. But there are big (6 GB for both).
Office 2007, however, has been harder to get. First, you must register (again on yet another site). This took me around an hour due to over loaded servers, lots of retries, etc. Once this is completed, you are required to download (yet another) download manager called SmartSource. When this runs it asks for the email address you registerd with and prompty fails in my case. So after 2 hours, I've got the keys, but no Office.
Why does the Office 2007 team has to reinvent the wheel and use yet another 3rd party tool that breaks the first time they use it? Especially when Connect works. So far as I can tell, Connect is standing up very well to the strain. Well done to the Windows beta team!
Have a question about Office 2007, Vista or Longhorn>? Come on down to the TechNet Forums now featuring Office 2007 and Longhorn Forums. Sadly, for true IT Pros - there is no NNTP access yet. But come on over, set a spell and ask away!
Monday, May 22, 2006
Sunday, May 21, 2006
Microsoft is closing in on RTM for Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003. According to Microsoft, it is imed to be complted by the "first half of this year and is still on target", cunning code for RTM in June barring any last minute hitches. Full release will be "in the Summer", apparently more code for August.
The Compute Cluster product is pretty cool, and shouuld bring super computing to the masses or to a mass anyway. It's as easy to install as Windows and you manage it like it like Windows box - complete with a MOM management pack. Oh, and it's as easy to use as Windows apps tend to be. Application development with VS integration makes applications easier although hardly easy to develop. And it all runs on commodity X64 or EM64T boxes. Charlie Russel has written a nice paper entitled Overview of Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003 which tells you more about the product.
I often get asked the question "How do I get onto Microsoft betas?". Technet now has a Pre-Beta Release Registration page where you can sign up for some upcoming betas.
If you are an IT Pro that is not yet on the Vista and/or Office 2007 beta, then head over and sign up. You've nothing to lose!!
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
I spent some time today on a conference call around the support that Microsoft plans to provide around the Vista/Office 12 Beta 2 releases that are due out very soon. The idea is that there will be some web based forums, plus a bunch of stuff. The web only forums are to be moderated by an elite group of MCTs. This is a great reach-out to the community! While the concept of equipping beta users with great support is fantastic, there are some flaws in the approach, IMHO. First, there is NO support for NNTP based newsgroups - the web is the way and the only way. As a member of the Big-8 Managagement Board, I think this utterly sucks. Why on earth cut OFF an important avenue of support. Heck - Community Server handles this fine! But I suppose I would say all of this. Another concern is over the role of the moderators. It's one thing for a moderator to remove ads for Sindy's Eexxyy Syn Syte, but it's much different than enabling somone to edit the post or just silently delete it. The moderator is allowed, for example, to edit a post for profanity (I think the term was 'inappropriate language'). Inappropriate "to whom" was not answered thus this probably means inappropriate for anyone in a US Sunday School deep in the Bible Belt mixed with that of the Chineese censor :-(. I guess I find it unacceptable for anyone to tamper with my language or my words, even with total transparency - is a non MS employee really able to tamper with my copyright here? Sure - fix my typos (and $Deity knows that there are enough of these), but tamper with my words and you change my meaning a privalege I may not want to give a moderator I do now know. I don't think the team putting this together fully understood these points. But we'll see. In summary, full marks for what's comming in terms of Beta support. I can't give all the details just yet, but MS is really stepping up to the plate to help beta users. There are however some really blinkered views (no NNTP - what's up with that - which I hope to widen!
Microsoft has released the latest version of Expression Web Designer for free download. As many of you know, Microsoft are ditching Front Page in Office 2007. In effect, it's morphing into two products: Sharepoint Web Designer and Expressions Web Designer.
Unfortunately, it looks like the web site is overloaded - I get this error message when I try to download EWD as shown here. Assuming the error message is accurate, it means waiting 24 more hours or so. Hopefully the site will come back soon.
Saturday, May 13, 2006
Microsoft has posted an update to the PowerShell RC1 package. You can get this update from the Microsoft download site, as described on PowerShell Team Blog posting. There are a few bug fixes included which make it a recommended download. If you are a Windows admin, you really should be looking at PowerShell. And if you're an Exchange admin, you really need to get started (assuming you ever plan to use E12 and beyond!). I've got this update on my laptop and it works well. If you are upgrading from MSH, there are some changes you may need to make to your older MSH scripts and setup environment, but the changes are not massive.
I've put up a bunch of MSH scripts on my web site (www.reskit.net/monad) and I am in the process of updating them from Monad to PowerScript. Be patient - I'll get these up there soon!
While uploading, however, I ran into a problem. In order to download PowerShell RC1, you need to 'register', which means in this case, logging in with your Passport. Or is it Windows Live? Anyway, on both my laptop and several of my desktop systems, Passport fails to log me in and insists on alternative credentials (none of which work). I'm also unable to get to the Passport site to create new credentials. Finally, I went off to a machine I very rarely use interactively (my ISA server) and was able to download the code. It took me nearly an hour to finally get the download. But to add insult to injury, I got one of those "would you like to take a survey on MS download" popups. OH YES! So after getting PSH RC1, I filled it out. During the survey, on 8 separate occasions, clicking Next on the survey brought me up a HTTP 500 error page. You have to see the funny side.
Sunday, May 07, 2006
Friday, May 05, 2006
Thursday, May 04, 2006
Blue Security has an intersting approach to spam. For each spam you get, they send one complaint to the (real) sender. That means when a spammer sends you hundreds of junk mails, they get hundreds back. Naturally, some of the spammers are angry - this is getting in the way of their money making and the spammers are fighting back. Their latest tatics include sending aggressive emails to Blue Security "members" and a sophisticated DDOS attack on Blue Security's site. This DDOS also took down the TypePad and LiveJournal sites, as reported by Netcraft.
I've been trying to get onto Blue Security's page to download the Frog. After several attempts last night, I managed to get the software down, but can't get to their site to register.
Looking at the tatics being used by the spammers, it's clear they are scared. Sending aggressive and threatening emails must be borderline extortion (get off the list or else), and the DDOS attacks must be illegal. Frankly, if they want to send more spam, it's just more spam the Frog can return to them with an opt out request.
I'm tired of spam, and I suspect most of you are too. The spammers tactics here convince me more than ever that they need to be stopped. Arguably, there is a place for direct e-mail - but what we're seeing sure is not responsible, ethical or helpful to their cause. I suggest you wait till the latest attack blows over then register. And the report each and every spam you get till the spammers just get tired and move on.
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
According to Vunet, Gartner is warnning of additional delays to Vista. Naturally, MS are disagreeing with this. We'll see. My personal take is that the earliest we can expect RTM is (no sooner than) 6 months after the release of B2 (which has not happened yet). Unless MS either agree to lower the quality bar or are willing to cut still more features. We'll see.
As readers of this blog may know, I'm not enamoured with Vista's UAC feature. I'm sure I'm not along judging from other web posts. In disgust, I filed a bug (titled "UAC Utterly Sucks") and it has just been closed. It was closed "BY DESIGN".
That's right, MS actually designed UAC to be this bad. The bug was closed with apologies for invoncenience caused, and offered a workaround to login as admin. Actually, this is not a great workaround - a much better way to deal with UAC is to just turn off the service using MSConfig.
So when you spend the rest of your life hitting the "yes" just remember that MS designed your experience to be this poor.
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
Over at his ZDNet Blog, Ed Bott has a post titled A fresh look at Vista's User Account Control where he walks you through the details of UAC. I've already posted my views on this feature previously. Nothing that Ed discusses makes me think any more highly of the implementation. Mileage, as always, varies, but Vista is just plain easier to use with UAC turned off.
I've just installed the RC of the re-named PowerShell (Monad, MSH, etc). To upgrade, you need to de-install the older version of MSH and install the new version of PowerShell. But there are some changes that took a while to work out. If you know MSH and are about to upgrade, there are some changes you need to know about as they may impact you!
First, the name of the exe has changed as has its location in %programfiles%. The target of your shortcut has changed to "%programfile%\Windows PowerShell\v1.0\powershell.exe" (NB: there's a space between the Windows and Powershell.
The first time you run PowerShell, you get the sadly now standard "security" warnings due to the "secure" default setting of Powershell's Execution Policy. The location in the registry where PowerShell stores its policy settings (and where most admins are going to want to change the Execution Policy to Unrestricted) has also changed. The registry key is now: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\PowerShell\1\ShellIds\Microsoft.PowerShell. It would also appear that UnRestricted is not quite Unrestricted - every time I run a script off of my Intranet, I get asked if it's OK. YUCK!
Another minor annoyance is that the extension for Powerscript scripts has changed to ps1. What the heck is this name - clearly the markeing droids were on overtime when these names were invented! If you try to run an old MSH script,eg fix.msh, the OS just pops up in the text editor (not quite what was wanted). But a quick rename of my scripts got them working again.
Monad wraps .NET objects with additional properties. These names began with MSH, but now begin with PS. Also, somecmdlet names are different - New-Drive becomes New-PSDrive. If you have used these properties in your scripts you need to change the names - this took some careful editing in my case, but was not a hard problem!
As with earlier versions of Monad, PowerShell has a default profile script that is run at startup. The name of this script is held in the variable $profile. This means you should be able to type Notepad $profile to edit this default script. Well you would if the folders that are pointed to, or the file itself,were actually created by the installation program (as once was the case). The setup routine is distinctly admin hostile. Sadly.
All this means most of my more complex scripts no longer work without modification and setupp/installation takes much more time to setup than should be necessary. Fortunately, the changes are minor, but I'm annoyed at the extra unnecessary work needed. Some of the changes were always going to be necessary - that's a price I'm willing to pay as an early adopter. But some of the work (setting up $profile, making un-restricted mean what I say it means, etc) just seem to be throwing road blocks in the way without good reason.
Allegedly, this stuff is due to "security". However, this level of "security" is just plain overkill in my view. It also ruins the first experience for a new admin since it's just harder than it needs to be in order to get things up and running (and even then why doesn't "unrestricted" actually mean UN-RESTRICTED??). This approach just tends to reinforce bad habits and something to be exploited by social engineering. For example, I run a bunch of scripts off of a remote machine in my intranet - on a mapped X: and M: Drive. These scripts examine files in these mapped drives and print important statistics. Every time I run these remote scripts with PowerShell it asks me for permission to run them (this despite an UnRestricted Execution Policy). Thie means I have to type "r" to run the script, something I find my self doing this without thinking. Due to overuse, the value of this warning is lost and is open to social engineering. This is the same issue plaguging UAC in the latest builds of Vista.
At the end of the day and despite the utterly naff name, I love the product. I love the underpinnings and what you can do with it. But this approach to security is just plain dumb.
Monday, May 01, 2006
The latest TLA from Microsoft is IOI - Infrastructure Optimisation Initiative. The basic idea of IOI is that every organisation can improve their infrastructure, and by doing so both reduce TCO and improve ROI. One key pillar in IOI is the automation. With automation, tasks take less time - the more you automate the better. The original MS Script center (half a dozen scripts and grand ambitions) has morphed into today's Script Center Technology Areas. Wow - scripts for everything, including PowerShell. This is a site that should be in every IT Pro's favourites list.
You can download the latest beta of IE7 from the Internet Explorer 7: download page. I've been playing with this beta, and it appears stable. I'd switch to it in a second if it had half of FireFox's add on features (including various extensions including blog this, tiny url maker, and most importantly Adblock.
Squeet is an interesting service - it converts RSS feeds to email so you get emails with each post. You can get to it from Squeet home page.
The concept is good, but the service is pretty flakey. I can't get this blog's feed to be validated (Blogger strips out HTML comments when creating the RSS feed, thus the feed can't be validated), and I am repeatedly getting errors trying things ("An unknown error has occurred in the application. Please contact the site admin or try again."). So while I like the idea, the service offered does not appear to be quite ready for prime time.
Life is hard as a beta tester. Take it from Rob La Gesse, who bares his soul in a blog entry entitled TechWrecked: It's hard to be a Microsot Beta Tester (and how it could be easier!).
Rob has some almost legitimate complaints. But I see them more as the whine than genuine complaints to be urgenly actioned. He seems to want beta testing across the company to be run like a complete product group in its own right. And he wants the product team to take him seriously and to provide a way to get his feeedback. Maybe I'm being a little unfair, and the masters of "customer love is always right" will disagree with me, but I don't buy some at least of his argument.
Rob's main issue is that he's testing a bunch of products (13 or more) and there's no apparent joined-up ness between them. Yup - while he's right about this, I'm not sure it's really a problem. I see a beta test being all about one product's team vision - their vision for the product and how it's to be used and suported. Hence, betas have been product team specific with different rule, procedures and "benefits" for each one. And that's fine by me. Rob also wants a single beta portal. This is what connect.microsoft.com has in essence become or is becomming - a single connection portal to MS. Not all beta are there yet, but of late, I'm seeing a lot more products on Connect than ever before. The download service from Connect seems fine to me (saturates my 2mbs pipe regularly!).It also provides a mechanism for feedback, direct into product studio, IIRC.
As an aside, Rob complains about feedback and his difficulties in providing it in some cases. I can see the product team's dilema here. In order to test something as big as Live, you need a very large number of people playing. And with that large number, unless the team has huge resources, they could not possibly take deep comment from every person on the beta test.
So my message to Rob is this. First try to test fewer products - IMHO anyone with a full time job (and/or a life) can't realistically test 13 individual products beyond a trivial level. When you download something, you might like to consider using new and old technologoy to help you - pen/paper or use notepad to write stuff down. And finally concentrate on the product rather than on the mechanics of the beta programme. Be thankful that you have the chance to affect the product's development. And one last thing - try Connect.