Teched hands on lab – behind the scenes.

A 3 or 4 minute video on the infrastructure behind the 900 machines used to build the hands on labs at TechEd. It was interesting to see that most of the main servers were all virtual servers and that the virtual images stored on the lab pc’s themselves were deployed using Ghost but the actual OS of the desktop was deployed using Windows Deployment Services (WDS). I’ve never been to TechEd but hope to go one day but it makes me wonder what they used to do before virtual machines existed?

Hyper-V Release candidate 0

I upgraded to the latest version of Hyper-V this evening but none of the VM’s would start. This is because the new version is unable to read the old machine configuration files (nice integration there!). The trick is to delete the machines and then create new ones pointing to the old vhd files that do not get deleted. The only thing is that an xp sp2 machine will not be able to use the integrated services disk for it’s network adapter as the integrated service is xpsp3, vista or w2k3/8 only. Instead you have to delete the network adapter and create a legacy network adapter. At that point you could download sp3 (if you don’t already have it) and then use the integration cd or just carry on without the integrated services.
I didn’t bother with the sp3 upgrade (yet) and the machine had a problem with the vga controller and an “unknown” device. The VGA works after XP boots up, detects it is running at a low resolution and offers to change it to 800*600 which is acceptable for the testing I am doing in a lab environment in preparation for the next exam. The unknown device didn’t seem to be causing any problems so I’m not worrying about it for the moment.
The Windows 2003 server needed the integration cd inserted and offered to upgrade my previous components and then worked well with all the components being recognised.

Mounting cd images in Windows 2008

I downloaded an evaluation copy of Windows2003 for my MCSE training tonight from Microsoft. The cd image is in an img file that of course can not be read by Hyper-V! Now I could burn the file to a cd and then capture the image within Hyper-V but that was too much work and I’d have to hunt for a blank cd. I knew that VirtualCloneDrive wouldn’t work in Windows2008 as I had already tried this for something else earlier on, but I did find MagicISO – a package I had also used on XP – it said it would work on 64Vista and as Windows2008 seems to have a lot of similarities with Vista I thought I’d give it a go….I ran the install of MagicISO and then mounted the img file with it and explorer recognised the drive. I closed down the Hyper-V console, re-opened it and was able to capture my new drive for my new Windows 2003 installation. It’s working very well – highly recommended.
Hopefully this will come in handy for others as I couldn’t find any useful information on mounting a virtual iso img or cd image in Windows 2008

Triple boot management

5 if you include the couple of Dell partitions! The Dell pc comes with two hidden partitions – one is the diagnostics partition and the other is the system restore partition so you can get back to factory image if you ever need to. After I had installed Vista on the machine I then attempted to install Windows2008 but the installation process wouldn’t let me proceed as it couldn’t make a new partition due to the limit of 4 primary partitions on a hard disk. I therefore booted back into XP, blew away the Vista partition, created a new extended partition and within that created two drives – one for Vista and one for 2008. A quick reboot off the dvd and Vista was soon installed, then a repeat of the process, this time with Windows2008 and that was installed quickly too – I think Windows 2008 took about 20 minutes.

This evening I was preparing for an adminstrator password change that I need to do tomorrow on a Windows 2000 box so to check everything worked ok I created a new virtual machine in 2008, loaded the Windows 2000 cd and 26 minutes later I had installed Windows 2000 in a vm, rebooted, changed the password using the Offline NT Password cd and rebooted back into Windows 2000 and was able to log back in again. I suspect on old hardware it will take that long just to boot the machine up and change the password and log back in again!

I also really wanted the ability to select the Operating System that the machine would boot into after it was rebooted. The default installation of any OS is going to prompt you for the installation but that isn’t much use when the reboot is happening remotely.  I remember some software I used back in the NT4/2000 days that would do this but couldn’t remember what it was called. That wouldn’t actually help though as the boot structure in Vista and Windows2008 is radically different requiring the use of BCDEdit……  Alternatively EasyBCD could be used to edit the boot configuration. This is well worth downloading as it makes editing the boot configuration much nicer. I was able to use this utility to remove the extra Vista configuration as a result of the dual installations of Vista. What is even better is their iReboot software. Install this on all the OS’s and then you can select which OS to boot with from a Task Notifier icon and restart the machine – just what I needed. (Note this does require .net framework so I had to install this on the new xp installation as it didn’t have it already! Also note that the first result for .net framework 2 comes up with a page can’t be found on Microsoft’s site and the second hit is for the beta version! Use this link instead and don’t forget to check Windows Updates afterwards)

Virtual pc 2007 images incompatible with vmware player

I had downloaded the Vista vhd image from microsoft but wanted to use vmware player as I already had that installed on the home pc and vmware tends to be quicker than virtual pc but vmware is unable to convert the image which it has been able to do before. In fact when doing an SBS migration I had to convert from virtual server to vmware when virtual server stopped being able to access the image for some reason.
Anyway, it turns out that 2007 versions of image files are not compatible with the vmware player 🙁

PocketPC Emulator

Microsoft have released a Windows Mobile 5 emulator that you can run on your pc, normally for developing software for the windows mobile. However, you can also use this to test and debug the setup of Direct Push with Microsoft Exchange 2003 service pack2. This is great to try before you blow up a users phone as you test stuff out. Seeing as though Direct Push has only just started being available on the phones, it is unrealistic to know how to get it working out of the box.

Virtual Server -> VMWare

I tried to import my SBS server from Virtual Server into vmware player as I was fed up with Symantec complaining that the program was trying to tamper with the virus protection. For some reason the import would not work with an error message stating “err -2147213293: The source virtual machine is paused. To convert it, please shut down and close the virtual machine”. It actually turns out that vmware doesn’t like a virtual server name ending in a period. Renaming the file let the import go through ok. I’ve logged a bug about this on the vmware forums but so far I’m impressed.
The vmplayer logfiles are stored in %temp%
Update Just wish I could work out why the server takes forever to get past the Applying Computer Settings when it boots up (in both virtual servers) – I think it is something to do with only using a wifi access card for the internet and it is somehow trying to access dns records or something strange

Ubuntu under Virtual PC

I downloaded Ubuntu this afternoon and tried it out as a virtual machine. Unfortunately the screen was garbled as the default installation uses 24bits for the screen resolution andVirtual PC can’t cope with that.
It can be fixed (each time you boot the virtual pc) by doing the following that I have added to the Ubuntu faq

  • Press Ctrl Alt and Backspace at the same time. This will kill the xserver and drop you down to the console.
  • cd /etc/X11
  • sudo vim xorg.conf
  • Now, scroll down to Section “Screen” and find the entry named “!DefaultDepth”. Change the setting you find there from 24 to 16.
  • Move the cursor to the “2” in 24.
  • Hit the D key. Spacebar key. (You now deleted the “2”.)
  • Hit the D key. Spacebar key. (You now deleted the “4”.)
  • Hit the I key for insert. Type “16”. Hit Ctrl-C to stop inserting.
  • Hit a colon, cursor jumps to bottom left. Type a “w” as the command and press Enter. This saves your changes.
  • Hit a colon, type a “q” as command and press Enter. You are now back at shell prompt.
  • startx to get back to the xserver screen.

Note that you will have to do this each time you boot from your livecd.

ASR recovery

I’ve been running an ASR recovery on a windows2k3 server running in virtualpc today. Restoring off a backup file image on a virtual disk and a captured virtual disk, it has taken about 5 hours to restore the 1.6GB of data to the machine (and has 10 minutes left) – VirtualPC is great for doing whatif tests but not if it takes this long to do anything!