Posts Tagged ‘Windows’

Microsoft Windows Server 2012 Tips

August 16th, 2012

One of the benefits of working for Dell Compellent is having the privilege to collaborate with some very smart people who are subject matter experts in areas of technology I don’t get as much time to spend time on as I’d like to.  I get to share information with team members about vSphere, as well as Exchange, SQL, *nix, Oracle, and you might have guessed it… Microsoft Windows (including Hyper-V).  One of my colleagues has been working with Windows Server 2012 lately and he drew up a quick guide on some of the findings he had made.  Not only was he gracious enough to share it with his teammates, he was more than happy to share with the community when asked.  When I say community, of course I’m referring to readers of this blog.  So without further to do, here are some Windows Server 2012 (and perhaps even Windows 8) tips to get you started.

Navigating the New Server 2012 GUI

The look and feel of the Server 2012 GUI is quite different than Server 2008. While most of the familiar options and features are still available, the process of getting to them is quite different, and in some cases, more difficult.

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1)      The “Start” button no longer exists in Server 2012.  To expose Start, jiggle your mouse in the lower left corner of the desktop and the Start option will appear as shown above.  This is a bit cumbersome in RDP sessions and takes some getting used to.

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2)      The Start Menu presents applications and other options as tiles.

3)      To access Lock and Sign out, click on the User in the upper right for a drop-down menu.

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4)      To access All Applications, right-click on any tile under Start, and then an options bar will appear at the bottom of the screen.  On this options bar, click on All Apps in the lower right.

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5)      Under All Apps, you can find all the rest of the familiar (but now more difficult to find) options such as Command Prompt and Run.  To make these more easily accessible, pin them to the taskbar.

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6)      Another hidden menu exits off the right side of the desktop.  To access it, move your mouse to the far right or lower-right corner of the screen and hold it there for a couple seconds.   Again, this is cumbersome in RDP sessions and takes some getting used to.

7)      As you can see above, the Restart and Shut down options are now buried a few layers deep so accessing them is a bit tedious.   Some customization suggestions below will help alleviate this.

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8)      To stop the Server Manager window from automatically starting every time you log on, edit the Server Manager Properties and check the box Do not start Server Manager automatically at logon.

 

 

 

Customizations to Facilitate Better User Experience with Server 2012

You may find yourself a little frustrated with the changes introduced with the Server 2012 GUI because many apps/options/tools have been relocated and are therefore more difficult (and more time consuming) to find.

Below are some quick and simple customization changes to “restore” some of the of the Server 2008 look/feel/agility to the 2012 GUI.

 

1)      The first step is to install the Desktop Experience as found under Features.  Once installed, then the (My) Computer icon can be added back to the desktop.

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a)      Launch Server Manager from the taskbar.

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b)      Click on Add roles and features to launch the Add Roles and Features Wizard.  Under Features, check the box for Desktop Experience and then complete the wizard (requires a reboot).

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c)       After rebooting, from the Desktop, right click and choose Personalize, Change Desktop Icons, and add the desired icons such as Computer and Control Panel.

d)      Right click on the Desktop again, and under View, set icon size to Small, and set Auto Arrange and Sort By options according to your preference.

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2)      Customize the taskbar by pinning shortcuts for I.E., Run, Command Prompt, and other frequently used apps (as found under Start and All Apps) that you want to be quickly accessible.  For directions on how to access the Start and All Apps menus, see Page 2.

3)      Right click on the taskbar, select Properties, and select Use Small taskbar buttons, and under the Toolbars tab, add the Desktop toolbar.

4)      If you desire to add the Background Info (BGI) utility to your Windows 2012 server desktop, then complete the following steps:

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  • From your network share or software repository containing BGInfo, copy the folder BGInfo to C:\BGInfo.  Edit the BGInfo.bgi config file to customize (if desired) the BGInfo settings.  (this is the latest 64-bit version of BGInfo)

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  • To automatically refresh BGInfo each time you log on to the server, add a reg key (string value) called BGInfo with value of C:\BGInfo\LaunchBGI.batto:HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run

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  • If using mRemote, change the Display Wallpaper setting to Yes under the configuration settings for your server (the default setting is No).  Otherwise the BGInfo screen will not be passed to your display.

 

5)      To work around the cumbersome process of having to navigate to log-off, shutdown, or reboot commands under the hidden menus, place shortcuts to these operations on the Server 2012 desktop.  To make this process quick and easy, pre-defined shortcuts can be saved on a network share and copied down to each server installation.

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  • From the network share, copy the desktop shortcuts to Libraries\Documents\Public Documents on your 2012 server.

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  • Once copied, open the Desktop_Icons folder, and copy and paste the icons found there to the public desktop (a hidden folder) which can be accessed at C:\Users\public\desktop (manually type this path in Windows Explorer as shown above to get to it).
  • Add or create other shortcuts as desired here so they will show on the public desktop.
  • By placing them on the public desktop, they will be there for all users, and will be preserved even when the server is sysprepped.

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6)      When finished, your desktop will look similar to the above screen capture:

  • (My) Computer and Control Panel icons added to the desktop
  • Shutdown, Logoff, and Restart icons (which are shortcuts to the shutdown command) added to the desktop.  This is much quicker than having to access these options from the hidden menus on the left or right sides of the desktop, and it skips having to provide a reason for shutting down.
  • Shortcut to launch Disk Manager added to the desktop (add other shortcuts as desired)
  • Shortcuts to I.E., Run, and Command Prompt added to the taskbar
  • Desktop toolbar added to the taskbar
  • Background Info (BGInfo) provides for a blue background with the server name and other essential server specs on the desktop.  This will automatically refresh at each logon due to adding LaunchBGI.bat to Run in the system registry, and it can be refreshed manually at any time by clicking on the LaunchBGI icon on the public desktop.

 

 

Sysprep Suggestions

 

1)      When building a new gold image of a Windows 2012 server, include the above customizations before running Sysprep to allow cloned copies to boot with these modifications in place.  Most of the changes will be preserved in the sysprep image saving configuration time.

2)      Other suggested modifications you may want to consider making to a Windows 2012 image before sysprepping it to use as a gold image it include:

  1. Enable RDP
  2. Install Adobe Reader
  3. Using Roles and Features, install .Net 3.5 (set the path to <driveletter or UNC path>\sources\sxs when prompted); Failover Clustering, MPIO, and Hyper-V
  4. Disable the firewall
  5. Disable I.E. security
  6. Disable User Account Control security (set to never notify)
  7. Fully patch the server
  8. If a physical server, run the applicable driver and firmware management/update utility to apply the latest drivers and firmware.
  9. Set the time zone to Central
  10. Install JRE (version of your choice, both the 32bit and 64bit versions)
  11. Other apps and features as desired

 

 

Update VMware Tools via Windows System Tray

May 31st, 2012

A Windows platform owner may inquire why he or she is unable to update an Out-of-date VMware tools installation using the VMware Tools applet in the system tray.  Clicking on the Update Tools button either produces an error similar to Update Tools failed or nothing at all happens.

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Although the option to update VMware Tools is generally available via the system tray, the functionality is disabled by default in the VM shell.  The solution to the issue can be found in VMware KB 2007298 Updating VMware Tools fails with the error: Update Tools failed. Edit the virtual machine’s vmx file.

Shut down the virtual machine and add the following line to the virtual machine’s .vmx configuration file via Edit Settings | Options | General | Configuration Parameters:

isolation.tools.guestInitiatedUpgrade.disable = “FALSE”

Power on the virtual machine.  From this point forward, a VMware Tools update can be successfully performed from within the guest VM.

VMware Workstation & Fusion Christmas In August Sale!

August 2nd, 2011

30% off through August 4th! All boxed and shrink wrapped copies of VMware Workstation (for Windows & Linux) and VMware Fusion (for Mac) must go!  Hurry while supplies last!  Use promo code PREHOLSALE at checkout for your 30% discount.  Mention boche.net and it is likely that nothing additional will happen.

8-2-2011 11-12-56 PM

USB Thumb Drive Not Recognized – 3 Fast Beeps

July 27th, 2011

No Earth-shattering material tonight.  In fact this tip isn’t even VMware/virtualization related other than the fact that the problem came up while working in the lab.  It has been several months since the last article I wrote under the “General” category which contains no VMware/virtualization content.

Anyway, I was working in the lab when…

My Windows 7 OS would no longer recognize my USB thumb drive.  Inserting the thumb drive into any of the USB  ports produced three quick USB-style beeps.  Having cut my x86 teeth in the days when A+ certification amounted to quite a bit, the three beeps told me something wasn’t right from a hardware standpoint but with a hint of driver hence the USB audio indicator.  I was mildly concerned because I sometimes carry data around on this drive which hasn’t been backed up or cannot be quickly reproduced.  A warm reboot of the OS produced no joy.  Neither did a power off.

Back in Windows Device Manager, the device was shown as disabled with an option to re-enable.  This did not work however.

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This being a USB device which can easily be reinstalled, the next step was to uninstall the driver by right clicking on the device and choosing Uninstall (notice the “down arrow” depicted on the device indicating it is disabled):

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After the uninstall of the driver, I unplugged the USB thumb drive, waited a few seconds, plugged it back in, and immediately heard the friendly USB sound I had been wanting all along.  Windows 7 went through a device discovery process, installed drivers, and I was on my way.

New Diskeeper White Paper: Optimization of VMware Systems

June 28th, 2011

diskeeperDiskeeper Corporation reached out to me via email last week letting me know that they’ve released a new white paper on optimizing VMs.  I’m making the three page document available for download via the following link:

Best Practice Protocols: Optimization of VMware Systems (416KB)

Scripted Removal Of Non-present Hardware After A P2V

June 11th, 2011

After converting a physical machine to a virtual machine, it is considered a best practice to remove unneeded applications, software, services, and device drivers which were tied to the physical machine but no longer applicable to the present day virtual machine.  Performing this task from time to time manually isn’t too bad but at large scale, a manual process becomes inefficient.  There are tools available which will automate the process of removing unneeded device drivers (sometimes referred to as ghost hardware).  A former colleage put together a scripted solution for Windows VMs which I’m sharing here. 

Copy the .zip file to the virtual machine local hard drive, extract it, and follow the instructions in the readme.txt file.  I have not thoroughly tested the tool.  No warranties – use at your own risk.  I would suggest using it on a test machine first to become comfortable with the process before using it on production machines or using on a large scale basis.

Download: remnonpresent.zip (719KB)

network bandwidth transfer.xlsx

March 19th, 2011

SnagIt CaptureMany years ago, before I got involved with VMware, before VMware existed in fact, I was a Systems Engineer supporting Microsoft Windows Servers.  I also dabbled in technology related things such as running game servers like Quake II and Half-Life Counter-Strike on the internet.  One area where these responsibilities intersected was the need to know the rate at which data could traverse a rated network segment in addition to the amount of time it would take for said data to travel from point A to point B. 

At that point in time, there wasn’t half a dozen free web based calculators which could be found via Google search.  As a result, I started an Excel spreadsheet.  It started out as a tool which would allow me to enter a value in KiloBytes, MegaBytes, or GigaBytes.  From there, it would calculate the amount of time it would take that data to travel across the wire.  This data was useful in telling me how many players the Counter-Strike could scale to, and it would provide an estimate for how much the bandwidth utilization was going to cost me per month.  I also used this information in the office to plan backup strategies, data transfer, and data replication.

I’ve expanded its capabilities slightly over the years as well as scaled it up to handle the volume of data we deal which has increased exponentially.  In addition to the functions it performed in the past, I added a data conversion section which translates anything to anything within the range of bits to YottaBytes.  It performs both Base 2 (binary) and Base 10 (decimal) calculations which are maintained on their own respective worksheet tabs.  I prefer to work with Base 2 because it’s old school and I believe it is the most accurate measure of data and conversion.  To this point, WikiPedia explains:

The relative difference between the values in the binary and decimal interpretations increases, when using the SI prefixes as the base, from 2.4% for kilo to over 20% for the yotta prefix.  This chart shows the growing percentage of the shortfall of decimal interpretations from binary interpretations of the unit prefixes plotted against the logarithm of storage size.

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However, Base 10 is much easier for the human brain to work with as the numbers are nice and round.  I believe this is how and why Base 10 became known as “Salesman Bytes” way back when.  I’ll be darned if I can find a reference to this term any longer in Google.

Long boring story short, this is a handy storage/network data conversion tool I still use from time to time today when working with large or varying numbers.  For those who don’t have a preferred tool for whatever use case, you’re welcomed to use the one I created.  A few notes:

  • Due to the extreme length of two of the formulas in the workbook, I had to upgrade it to Excel 2007 format at a minimum which is the reason for the file extension of .xlsx.
  • The data transfer section assumes the most optimal of conditions, no latency, etc.

Download network bandwidth transfer.xlsx (22.6KB)