Windows 8 Server

After a great evening with James Akrigg at Microsoft on Thursday I spent the weekend really pushing Windows 8 Server.

The test rig is an HP Microserver with 4x2Tb drives and 2Gb Ram. The Ram will get increased later – but I’m to lazy to open up the case again at the moment.

Issues we are testing: Windows Distribution Server

I want to test Windows 8 “To Go” and so I need to get the installations out from the ISO files.

Gotcha: You need to install the “Desktop Experience” in order to get Win8 to mount an ISO file.

Once the server is added to the domain and WDS installed we added the files from the Win8 Consumer and Server Previews. This gives us both 64 bit and 32 bit boot environments.

Next we need the AIK – so lets download 1.6Gb of the the kit. This is going to be installed directly on the server. Usually we would install this on another server, but as the server has a limited life (I would be surprised if it did not get reformatted in the next week) we are going to throw everything all on the same box.

Now the AIK was taking forever to download so I got bored and took the files from another machine.

So with a copy of ImageX in hand I go to the WDS console and Export the .wim file I want – in this case I call it Win2GoCP

imagex.exe /apply Win2GoCP.wim 1 g:\

Give this about a week to install (it might be done before RTM on Win 8)

bcdboot.exe g:\windows /s  g: /f ALL

Now to test it.

The plan is to get rid of the ERD disks we use daily and start using “2Go” instead. Lets see how that goes shall we …

How NOT to share your screen

We have just had a sales call from YELL and the guy was really pushing and adword campaign. He even did a remote session to show us what they could do for us.

Now remembering that we are an IT company and have been building web sites since about 1993 it was interesting that he offered us so little for so much. But his biggest mistake – when he finally got of the phone – was to leave his screen share running while he wrote up the call.

We watched as he went into SAP and entered the details of the call. He was rather detailed in that he thought we needed to spend at least £1000 to get any return on an “investment” and that we would probably be out of business soon. He added that he was going to send us a follow-up email but did not expect us to take up the offer – you think?

So when using remote tools remember not to INSULT the client while they are watching.

Also – if your name is James Miller and you work for Yell and you are told that the person you insulted last time is OUT of the OFFICE – please believe us that frankly we cannot be bothered to lie to you. If you cannot leave a contact number then how can we get back in touch with you to tell you how much of a great customer services job you are doing.

Managing through a Power Outage

On Friday night (13th) there was a localised powercut at about 11pm and we got to see if all the APC kit worked as intended. In our main server room we have a number of systems including Hyper-V Hosts and NAS devices.

After first finding a candle I walked into the office heard that distinctive buzz of APC batteries off the mains. We had clusters of lights flashing in parts of the room as the workstations sat silently. After checking outside to see that the power was off in about 3 blocks all round us I went back in and wondered how the servers would cope.

A few minutes later it was obvious that this was not just a quick blip so it was time for the network to go down. At about 5 minutes the NAS boxes powered down – leaving about a half charge in the units supporting them. This is important as the devices are not active units with detailed battery status so I would rather keep them charged and under load than flat for any period of time. If power cuts were more common (which thankfully they are not) then this would have a long term effect on the life of the battery units. A full discharge seems to take a few % of the total capacity each time.

Now the servers started to busy themselves with activity. The noise levels rose as the APC units triggered the boxes to shutdown. Now if they had been all physical boxes I would have put them all into hibernate mode earlier, but you cannot run Hyper-V and hibernation on Server 2008 R2. All the hosted servers were quickly suspended and then the systems did a full managed shutdown.

With silence all around it was a good oportunity to see what re-cabling could be done, although with no mains lighting any work was not a good idea.

About an hour later the power came back on and all the servers started to roar!! Remembering that a virtual box has to startup twice I watched as everything settled down, modems, routers,l access points, NAS boxes, and even a workstation. About 10 minutes later my phone buzzed at me to tell me the email was back and flowing – now for bed.

The next day most of my servers were happy and unconcerned about the previous nights “issues”. Only one little server in the office had no APC unit (well it had but there was no battery in it!) and it complained about the power state. So with a little bit of planning I can trust the network to handle a power outage with no interaction and no real disruption.

SMB MVP Community Roadshow

We have been proud to assist in the organisation of the SMB MVP Roadshow which landed in Edinburgh this week.

Taking over the Corn Exchange for the day we had about 50 IT professionals from as far as Aberdeen and Liverpool attending to give our visiting MVP’s a warm welcome.

The tour now continues across Europe and America, so if you missed it then check out the details at http://mvptour2011.sbsmigration.com/


The ‘Naked’ PC

There has been a lot of debate on the selling of computers with and without operating systems and I though I should give my opinion. Selling a computer as components is fine if the end user knows what he is doing and has FULL RETAIL copies of the software he is going to install on the system. Computer software is licensed and not owned so it is important that the license is read and clearly understood.

Selling built computers without an operating system is great for my business, but dreadful for the end user or poor buisness owner who thought he might save a few quid. Selling a naked PC is a public statement that the company does not know how to install an operating system properly, because if they did they would be doing that and only that. Why, because without a well installed operating system you have no way of knowing that the sytem is operating properly as so cannot offer a warranty. Imagine buying a car of the production line which has never been turned on or had a battery installed, it might work, or it might fail, either way once you have taken delivery you then have to prove it was nothing you did to break it.

This is the main reason that we took the descision not to build our own systems, although we can if required. We have organised systems for people in the £3-4000 price range but we get specialist to build them and test them. For general use we supply machines from well known manufactures with a recomendation of a 3 year warranty. Now some people do not believe in warranties, but I do. A well build machine should have a life of 3+ years and if the system has any problems during that time I want to know that I can rule out all hardware issues. We see a lot of machines which are 2+ years old with failed components where you just cannot get the parts (at a reasonable price), so you have to get a new machine. Our business machines all have the option of a 5 year warranty if required.

Glasgow SBSC Event

Why would I drive to Glasgow to sit in a room and watch slides on a bright October afternoon? Well its because a fair number of Scottish Microsoft Small Business Specialists have gathered to get an update from microsoft on what is happening in the next few years.
Currently Sven is presenting a session on virtualisation, powershell and server core 2008. Powershell (Monad) has become a very powerful tool for managing remote servers.

More later …

PCA Confidence Assured

We have now signed up as Confidence Assured members of the Professional Computing Association. Why has it taken so long? Well I have been a personal member for a number of years, but felt that as a company it would be good to post our colours to the mast.

As Confidence Assured members we are bound by the PCA code of conduct. If anyone has any problem with anything we have done and does not feel they can come in and have a chat about it then the PCA can help. 

Netgear Roll into Town

On Thursday Netgear are holding a training day which our staff will be attending. This is one of those chances to take a day out of the office and see all the latest technologies and ask those awkward questions.

In particular there will be a focus on the latest Wireless kit with mention of the HomePlug ranges.

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