Archive for the 'Microsoft IT' Category

A Simple Tool For Installing Windows

More and more frequently, I don’t put an optical (cd/dvd) drive in many of my computers – especially it is a completely new build or a new build into an old case that has just an IDE drive but the motherboard supports SATA only.  In the past I have done many an install from USB thumb drives of windows operating systems.

There is an issue with using USB drives for installs, however.  They are tiny.  Constantly, I am spending more time looking for the USB thumb drive than actually installing the operating system.

This morning, an epiphany.  I looked into my back pack and what was there?  Two external portable hard drives.  You can use those too, I discovered.  As a bonus, it is actually faster than  my janky old 4GB thumb drive to copy files too and installation time is still vastly quicker with a hard drive than it is using a DVD or CD.  A couple links (I used the first successfully, follow it step by step and it will work…)

http://www.istartedsomething.com/20081104/tip-make-your-pdc-2008-usb-hard-drive-a-bootable-windows-7-install-disk/

http://sqlblog.com/blogs/john_paul_cook/archive/2009/01/19/11249.aspx  <– xcopy commands for those that favor that.  NTFS support, too.

I hope this helps you as much as it has helped me – finally I can quit fuming about where that little black thumb drive is.  I’ll probably start misplacing my hard drives now, though…

–Nat

Server 2008 R2 – Free for Students

Don’t want to drop the money on a Windows 7 license and have a .edu email address? For sometime you have been able to get the latest and greatest Microsoft Server operating system, here:

https://www.dreamspark.com/Products/Product.aspx?ProductId=17

Next up, you can enable the full desktop experience by following the steps in this photo gallery:

http://www.zdnet.com/photos/converting-free-windows-7-server-into-a-workstation/444308?seq=3&tag=content;get-photo-roto

For a long time, this was a great money saving idea but you had to run without an antivirus.  The latest version of the awesome, free Microsoft Security Essentials installs just fine in Server 2008 R2 (tested myself!), visit this address from the server itself after you have installed the OS:

http://www.microsoft.com/security_essentials/

Now you are set!  Given it has the same “kernel” as Windows 7, you’ll be able install video drivers and games without issue.  This wasn’t true for Server 2003.

Enjoy :)

–Nat

An adventure in storage expansion

In this great age of rapidly expanding storage, I’ve decided to stop throwing things away in a digital sense.  We are talking storage that is under $0.07 per gigabyte.  This means that each 3.5 megabyte picture I retain costs $0.00002.  Someday the real issue will be keeping track of these things, but that is a separate discussion.

First up, the fun part of this post.

Before

Before, 1.59TB of available space

After

After, 2.96 TB of available space

One 1.5TB just doubled the storage capacity of my Windows Home Server.   When I put the 750 GB and 1TB drive in there, those were the $100 drives of the time.  The 1.5TB drive cost $102 shipped.

Now, here is the complicated part.  They (the hard drive industry as a whole) are changing how the data is laid out on hard drives that is not very compatible with Windows XP and Server 2003 (which is what WHS is based on.)  There are a number of technological issues at stake here that a number of sources like Ars Technica have covered this in depth so I will spare you that.  Basically, you get bad performance with the new drives on old operating systems – and WHS is effected.

What do you need to do?  Well, you basically have two options.  On most drives, there will be jumpers on there like there were on hard drives for a long time that limited their capacity to 2GB for 16 bit file systems that will fake out the operating system.  The caveat?  You can only have one partition per drive.  If you read the above article, you’ll know that this is intended for big drives, so you’ll be committed to something like a 2TB C: drive if you go that route, which is pretty ugly.

The second option is to use software to “realign” the partition after it has been created which allows for whatever layout you want.  The caveat here?  You could lose your data and any time you redo a partition you are going to be using this software.

Being the idiot I am, I didn’t use the jumper to fake out the operating system and I promptly put data on the drive by adding into the WHS storage pool (which you have to do to get the partition created that you can later realign.)  I tried to go back in and save myself with the bootable software, but this dropped the 1.5TB drive out of the pool and corrupted all my PC backups.  Then I shut it all down and did the jumper thing, which also made WHS freak out until I told it I really wanted to drop the drive out of the pool permanently and added it back in again.

Moral of the story – I wasted about three hours of my life and lost about 300GB of PC backups because I didn’t take time to set the jumper first.  If you are buying a hard drive for WHS or XP in the next few months, you are going to need to be aware of this issue.  Trust me, the jumper is easier and apparently neccessary with WHS as covered in the forums over at www.wegotserved.com.

–Nat

An hour of my day.

This sounds like basic functionality to me – the ability to export a VM from Hyper-V into a single file for mobility/delivery.

10:00 am – logged into SCVMM to perform the task.  Couldn’t find it.

10:10 am – typed “export” into the help console.  Nothin’ – I don’t care about exporting reports.  I want *vm* related help.

10:20 am – Google-fu hit paydirt – except this most only pertain to Hyper-V in plain 2008.

10:30 am – Technet Hyper-V forum, let the fun begin.

10:55 am – realize you need to actually log in to one of the Hyper-V servers directly and run the Hyper-V manager.  Evidently the central console doesn’t have this functionality.

10:56 am – queue some reading about GUIDS & such pertinent to Hyper-V exporting.

10:57 am – decided to just export a VM to see what happens.

10:59 am – realize there is no local space to drop the exported files.  Need to map a drive or something to make this work…

11:00 am – lunch.  Tasty.

–Nat

Microsoft DNS

I am willing to bet that most implementations of Microsoft DNS are those that are integrated with Active Directory.  When setting up DNS with AD, setting up multiple DNS servers is fairly trivial because AD takes care of the zone transfers, etc.  I am resisting putting the Blaine-Juchems household into a domain because I really don’t want to have to fight the same fight at home as I do at work.  Frankly, the DNS is more work than it should be, but the fact we are hosting websites that I would like to actually visit inside of our network dictates the need for DNS.  A quick and dirty definition of DNS (Domain Name System) is what turns a site address/name (like www.google.com) into a piece of data that gets you where you want to go on the internet.  In my case specifically, www.teamjuchems.com was not a valid name inside of my network and so I couldn’t access my own blog inside of my own house.  Lame.   If you don’t care about DNS, I would suggest you come back when I have a friendlier post.

Installing and configuring DNS is pretty easy.  Depending on what version of Windows Server you are running, you either add DNS as a network service or as a new role.  From there, you setup a forward zone, which is were you catch local DNS traffic and turn names into IP addresses, and a reverse zone, which turns IP address into names.  I won’t go into extreme details here as it gets kind of messy, I am sure that Google will get you much better walkthroughs than what I feel like providing right now.

What will cause you some grief is that if you aren’t running a Active Directory Domain along side of your DNS implementation is that your hosts won’t have a fully qualified domain name, which will really come into play when you want to setup zone transfers and DHCP with a default DNS suffix.  I was at a loss at how to do this as the trick of configuring the network adapter to have a specific suffix wasn’t working for the DNS services even though ipconfig was showing the correct FQDN.  Well, there is a button for that!

These are the magic buttons!

These are the magic buttons!

Once I had setup the actual DNS suffix in a place so close to where I have been hundreds of times before (almost the same spot where you would add the computer to a domain) the error messages went away and the StartOfAuthority issues I had been seeing went away.

Now, I also made the wise choice of  burning two valuable hours of sleeping time trying to get another zone transfer completed successfully.  Turns out that the zone files had been corrupted in the DNS share of the primary DNS server, so I exported it out to a .txt file and manually recreated the two records.  Once again I added the second DNS server as a name server for the zone and on the second server configured the secondary forwarding zone and poof, it worked.  How does a DNS record get corrupted on a clean server?  How does Microsoft have error codes that they don’t have in their resolution database (DNS error 1501, I feel pretty special…)

It works now and I am ready to enable DHCP on my Windows Home Server and flip my primary router into access point mode, effectively flattening out my network and resolving some lingering port forwarding issues.

Kristin makes comments about how overly complicated our home setup is and usually I brush them off as I am learning a lot as I go along.   Sometimes, though, I definitely agree.  Like at 1am this morning.

–Nat

Frustrations with Hyper V

From the title, you might think I would be griping about Hyper V, Microsoft’s server virtulization technology.  The truth is, I am only frustrated by the prerequisites of Hyper V, one of which is particularly troublesome.  Mainly, that you need to have a Virtualization Technology (VT) enabled processor from either Intel or AMD to run Hyper V.

This effectively makes it impossible to have a virtualized Hyper V test/development environment by ensuring that all of your Hyper V hosts are indeed physical.  With vSphere, it is very possible to run an entire cluster on a machine that has enough enough memory through using a product like VMware workstation.   In that scenario, you are limited to 32 bit guest operating systems on that cluster because vSphere requires the VT bit for 64 bit virtual machines.  In the end, that is A-OK because what you are truly learning about is how to setup and configure the hosts along with vCenter.  Hyper V is a fairly complicated beast, so it would be nice to be able to completely go through its configuration (not too mention testing configuration changes) in a virtual environment.

It’s been a frustrating day at work because of this requirement.  Supposedly, Sun’s Virtualbox could pass along this VT bit capability to the VMs you were running, theoretically enabling the the running of a Hyper V host in a VM.  I am here to tell you that doesn’t work, at least in the latest 3.1 release of Virtualbox.  Other than that, I have no beef with Virtualbox, its actually pretty speedy and simple.

–Nat

WSUS is up and working!

The last straw was confiuring the 2008 R2 server to act like it was on a home network and not a public one.  I think that allowed the some relaxed firewall rules.  As soon as  I did that and logged back into my XP test box some 17 updates were downloaded and ready to be installed.

 

After a few hours of effort, at least it doesn something...

After a few hours of effort, at least it does something...

Being the cool guy I am, I skipped reading any documentation and jumped right to the adding roles in 2008, which is really too darn easy.  That downloaded and installed WSUS 3.0 SP2, I believe and installed IIS as well.  The only piece that needed to be added manually was the 2008 report viewer.  After figuring out how to manipulate windows upate settings in the local GPO settings byrunning  gpoedit.msc and navigating to computer configuration, administrative templates, windows configuration, windows updates and setting the intranet server I was good to go.  There is a command to manually check for updates that I didn’t have to use: wuauclt.exe /detectnow  which could be very handy…

Now I need to figure out how to get it to work with Windows 7 and Vista and I’ll be set.  After that I’ll need to look at fixing DNS – basically I need to add something from my DHCP server  so that leases including a dns suffix, like atlas.xxxx for which I can make my DNS servers authoritative.  It would be cake if I had a domain but running Windows Home Server complicates that a bit…

Moving from one issue to another, I guess.  At least we finished the laminate flooring in the office today so I can mark down at least one real accomplishment :)

–Nat

Messing with Widgets, installing WSUS

Do you see that cool looking “Linkedin” badge over there?  Yeah, well, when I added it all of my widgets were reset in WordPress.  What’s a widget, you ask?  A widget is what you see over there as the archives, calendar, meta, etc.  All gone!  Hopefully it is close to how it was but that was quite annoying.  I thought it was going to be a straight up plugin like the google analytics thing and add it at the bottom of the page or something.  Glad it was easy to resolve.

Since I took the trouble, go check out my Linked in profile and write a recommendation for me if you have a few minutes ;)

Another challenge I took up today was configuring WSUS for the local network here.  I am tired of constantly getting prompted to install updates!  I plan on scheduling a once a month forced push and reboot so that I don’t have to deal with that annoyance anymore.  It should also speed up bringing newbuilds (especially XP) online.  This has so far led to me to the fact that my DNS is still pretty much half baked and to really get it done right I need to setup DHCP on a server and stop trusting my router.  The cool gigabit wireless-n router doesn’t allow for any DHCP configuration.  I really need to make sure I can flip it all the way into bridged mode…  I’ll be sharing more about the WSUS adventure as I have it.  Right now the server 2008 R2 VM I setup to host it is tanking the WAN and itself trying to build down what I can only guess is several gigs of updates and service packs.

–Nat

Windows Server 2000, where art thou?

Working with a couple Server 2000 boxes that just recently became VM’s the lack of RDP  just became a bigger hassle as the only way to access them is to use root in the VI client.  So, now I needed to setup Terminal Services on these boxes in administration mode.  Easy, right?  Until you realize that you need the CD/.iso to install it, that is.

So, I logged onto my handy Tech Net account and guess what?  You can download 3.11 with workgroups but not any flavor of 2000.  How great is that?

I looked through the local trove of Windows CD’s, no luck.  Searched on our admin file share, no luck.  Looked longingly at the dead HD that had my personal .iso collection on it.  And finally, a coworker scrounged one up out of their desk.  Way more trouble that it needed to be!  I’ll update the post with how my TS enabling goes…

It went just as described, but it takes a reboot to enable.  Dammit.  Going to schedule it now…

Hah – so if you read that documentation I linked to you’ll see that it relies on shutdown.exe – which happens to be part of the Windows Server 2000 Resource Kit.  Neither of which are available for download from Microsoft.  I pulled it from a 2003 server though and scheduled it up.  We’ll see what happens!

–Nat

Long day slugging against AD, GUID and DNS problems

Huge links on a draining day:

What I thought was the root issue.

Closer…

And this got the issue over the hump.

After getting the DNS tests to pass, I did a topology rediscovery on the troublesome DC.  It came up with a new replication link with a funky GUID, and event logs all over the place indicated that AD said, “Oh crap, we had the wrong GUID for the PDC emulator all along!”

At least it (NTDS Replication) appears to work now.  Off to class.

–Nat