Sunday, October 30, 2005

Joint Status Report on Microsoft's Compliance with the Final Judgments : U.S. v. Microsoft Corporation

For any company, to be accused and then found guilty of illegal anti-trust practices has to be hard. The Microsoft anti-trust case must be particularly hard. I've seen first hand some of the issues raised by the consent decree issued 4 years ago. And I continue to feel that MS has been a bit hard done by.

The anti-trust case has been going on for a long time. And that makes the recently published Joint Status Report on Microsoft's Compliance with the Final Judgments : U.S. v. Microsoft Corporation interesting reading. It's very clear that Microsoft is doing a significant amount of work to comply with the judgement. Reading the progress report, I can't help feeling MS is doing a great job and taking it hard on the chin. Documenting the network protocols is a really hard job. I've done thousands of hours of Netmon tracing and analysis to contribute to my TCP/IP book efforts and I've written enough technical documentation on network protocols to know just how hard this is! The status report gives some praise where's it's rightly deserved.

The most interesting part, for me, is the discussion of Project Troika. The consent decree "... calls on Microsoft to create a series of Network Monitor (or "NetMON") protocol parsers and to use these parsers in conjunction with other proprietary components to compare the information in the documentation against actual client-server network traffic." This sounds at first sight like Netmon+++ and I'd love it! Please, please, please?!?!?!

Unfortunately, Troika has proved to be somewhat difficult to deliver. As the progress report says at the time Microsoft agreed to the Troika project, nothing like it had ever been undertaken. Quite frankly, Microsoft did not fully appreciate the scale, complexity, cost, and duration of the project. Further, Microsoft overestimated the capability of existing technologies to meet the requirements of the effort. This is unfortuante. but I can certainly understand the difficulties involved.

I'm sure Troika is going to be of great benefit to all us die-hard Netmon fans. FWIW: I want Troika!! Whenever it comes! And if anyone at MS is reading this, can I get onto the beta?? Like now??

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

MS Releases Details of New Certs

Thanks for my good friend Lorenzo Barbieri, I see that Microsoft has at long last released details of the new certifications. See

In the FAQ, you can see that MS have taken trouble to avoid actually saying that the current certs are dead, have no life and are now just being swept away. While you'll still be an MCSD, etc - those certs are no longer much use, since MS will be evangelising the new certs vs the older ones.

[sent from the train!]

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Monad and the command console

One of the things many old command line junkies got used to (in the MS environment anyway) was the CON: pseudo-file. Doing a "Copy CON: " is a common action in cmd.exe (and which most admins will have used at one time or another. Monad however, does not implement these CON: pseudo file. To get around that, based on a newsgroup post from "/\\/\\o\\/\\/", I've written a sample script (CopyfromConsole.msh) which I've added up on my Monad Sample Scripts page.

The script also defines an alias (copycon), and you can add both to your profile.msh. This script does wimp out a bit, and uses out-file to prompt for the output file name should you forget it. I should do a better job of prompting - maybe in Version 2!

Firefox hits 100m

I use Firefox as my default browser. I have an addin that places a counter at the bottom of my browser window that counts the number of copies of FireFox downloaded to date. Well a few minutes ago, the count hit the ONE HUNDRED MILLIONmark!!

Microsoft's Business Desktop Deployment Solution accelerator

The full name is a mouthful, I prefer MS BDD SA, or just BDD 2.5. Whatever you call it, it's cool technology! The idea behind BDD is to simplify the deployment of the business desktop through the use of automation and tools. BDD comes in two flavours: a "lite touch" approach based around disk imaging tools such as Ghost and a "zero touch" with deployment via SMS's OS Deployment Feature pack, and including monitoring via MOM. Zero Touch Installation (ZTI) can also lead to Zero Touch Provisioning (ZTP), which adds a self service Share Point Portal site where users can request provisioning services (e.g. be added to a group, request an application, etc. ZTP delivers the request by using Biztalk and Exchange. NB: There are some AD requirements too! ZTP uses pretty much the entire Microsoft product set in a compelling way. But in order to deliver ZTP, you have to deliver ZTI first.

BDD 2.5 is a minor upgrade in terms of both the product and the training. If you know BDD 2.0, you'd be very familiar with BDD 2.5. There is updated documentation, of course, and by the bucket load - IIRC, the full print out set runs to around 1000 pages! The BDD process model is updated with a new Feature Team, and more guidance around the centre - the updated process wheel is updated, but familiar. The training is slicker, with most of the FGO (firm grasp of the obvious) fluff removed. The course offered in Europe is a combined 4 day technical/management/sales course, with 3 days of labs and a day of other stuff. The labs are based on the scenario, but improved and extended to cover both MOM monitoring and a working example of ZTP. The course discusses both lite and zero touch - thus there are no longer separate courses and you get to do labs on both approaches. As an aside, the labs are tough and long, and as at BDD 2.0, there is a premium to both accurate typing and doing all the steps in the correct order. As I discovered!

Another new thing with BDD 2.5 is the partner competency exam, 73-139. Known more fully as Deploying Business Desktops with Microsoft Windows Server 2003 and Microsoft Office 2003, the exam coves the lite touch stuff only. See the MSL site for an exam syllabus.

If you are a MS partner who has attended this training before, there is still some value from attending the new course - if only to get some hands on with MOM and Zero Touch. If you are a MS partner who has not seen this stuff - get yourself booked onto this as soon as slots open.

My understanding is that MS will start to run courses in earnest by the end of this year, with full scale rollout starting in January. The training to be offered here in the UK will be an instructor led, 3 day technical session for technical staff, supplemented by additional training for sales and business management. I am hoping we can also offer this to the wider customer base, as it's a LOT of fun and uses an awful lot of the technology - some I'm not as familiar with as I'd like!!

A note for MCTs and MVPs: traditionally, the BDD 2.0 courses were not always completely full. There have usually been open slots which we could usefully fill. If you have any interest in attending this training, then let me know by email.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Microsoft ships MCE Update

Microsoft has shipped a major software update for XP Media Center Edition 2005. Known formally as Update Rollup 2 for Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005, this update provides several new features:

  • Xbox 360 Extender functionality - access stuff through any Xbox 360 game console in the house.
  • Away Mode - instant on/off functionality for MCE.
  • DVD changer support - integrated support for external DVD changers allowing you to watch movies and manage DVD selections from the Media Center interface.
  • DVD-burning improvements - updates to the Sonic DVD burning engine improves the performance and capabilities of DVD burning.
  • Additional HDTV tuner support - provides support for up to four TV tuners. You can now utilise two NTSC (analog) capture boards and two ATSC (digital) capture boards.

For more information on Update Rollup 2 see the MS web site page

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Monad Information and Where to Find More

In comment to a recent blog post, Mark asked where to go for more information about Monad, particularly newsgroups. A great question! When Microsoft released Monad Beta 2, they moved the discussions from a private beta newsgroup to the public newsgroups carried on and elsewhere. Specifically, MS moved all Monad discussion to the newsgroup. You can get this group on either using NNTP from, or via Google groups.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

MS Release VHD Format

Microsoft has now released the specification of the Virtual Server and Virtual PC VHD disk formats. This includes details of how to read and modify the contained data. NB: Full access to the detailed specification is available by signing the Virtual Hard Disk Image Format Specification License Agreement.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

A Word to the Spammers

This is a note to the the spammers that are clogging up my mail box (to the tune of thousands of junk mails per day). I do not want sex/porn (and find most of those mails quite offensive), I do not need cheap drugs (I get my drugs free on the NHS), and I do not want a fake Rolex (I have the real thing thanks very much). And as to the stock tippers: if I were Allixon International, I would be concerned about the tips that I am getting by the bucketload - these must be against SEC regulations. The advice is simple: I will never buy products advertised this way, and will go out of my way to boycott the firms "advertising" in this way. Perhaps sending all the spam back to them will help them to get the message - and that message is simple: SPAM sucks.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Another Day Another Wiki to Edit!

I've just stumbled over The New MSWiki Site. The site is a wiki where you can add details about MS products, or point to other wikis and related information. At present there's not a great deal of content there. So why not come on over and add some!

MVP Award!!!

I'm breaking out a good bottle of wine - I've been re-awarded an MVP award - this year for "Admin Frameworks" (aka Monad). I'm as excited about this award as I've been for many years. In fact, I'm super excited!!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Google formally declares war on Microsoft

This is going to be interesting. The Inquirer reports thatGoogle formally declares war on Microsoft and is to launch free online office functionality.

If I were MS, I'd be scared about this. I can't for the life of me work out the business model Google is thinking of, or see how they'll get around the security and privacy concern. But this is a bold move - and is going to be shaking some pretty tall trees fairly hard in Redmond. And if Google can launch this before MS launch B1 of O12, it will further spike Redmond's guns.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Google and Sun tie the knot

This article on Google and Sun from is interesting. As MS continue to promise new stuff and demo early carefully crafted demos of stuff (O12, etc, etc etc), Google are delivering. If I were Microsoft, I'd be worried about this.

MSF v3.0 Resources and 70-301 exam (ex-MSF Practitioner exam)

My good friend and fellow MSF fan Lorenzo Barbieri has put together a MSF Resources page. If you are an MCT or interested in MSF - take a look!

And in an earlier post, I suggested Lorenzo was an MVP which was unfortunately inaccurate. But if and when MS get around to appointing MSF MVPs, he sure should be!

BMI - Service (not) redux

On board BD 679 ABZ-LHR. After my earlier post, the service thus far just adds to the misery. The flight is nearly empty - maybe 20 passengers total. But the catering failed to turn up, thus I can't even BUY a (stale, appalling, over priced) sandwich.

When I made my displeasure known to the flight crew, they were highly apologetic. Turns out they get 6% commission, so the lack of food also hit them. Then the SCA, Ricardo Freitas reached down and handed me a tuna salad. He was genuinely sorry about the issue, and demanded I take the salad and refused payment. His colleagues: Chrissie Juniper, Sheelie Pirie, and Beccie Fuller all gathered around and were equally nice - and I had to argue to pay for a drink. As ever on BMI, service in the air and service on the ground are worlds apart.

So while I'll probably never fly BMI again, it's refreshing to know that at least some folks understand customer service.

[in the air - again]

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

British Midland - And Why I'm NEVER flying them again

It's been a long few weeks. Two trips to the US, a suspected heart attack en route (complete with flashing red lights, paramedics, etc) and some pretty awful flights and flight connections not to mention some hard work in each continent in between. I finally got back home at midnight on Sunday. On awaking and logging on (at 11:00 on Monday), I found I had been booked on a BMI flight at 15:00 on Monday up to Aberdeen. It was a challenge to get to LHR on time, but I made it - just. Once in the air, the steward came around and offered me food/drink - and I realised that I'd not really eaten proper mean since Saturday night prior to leaving Seattle. So I ordered a sandwich and a Diet Coke (well Pepsi since BMI do not stock real Coca Cola). I was asked for £4.00 and I handed over my credit card. But this was refused since the amout was under £5.00 (although I could buy some perfume to make up the charge to over £5). Ok - so,m following a bank machine run at LHR, I handed over one of the £20 notes - but they refused it since they did not have change. So I returned the sandwich and drink and went hungry and thirsty.

So today, after a very hard bit business presentation, I arrived back to Aberdeen Airport to find that BMI would not get us on the earlier flight (even though it was 25 mintues from departure and we had only carry on). Money was not the issue - but due to "regulations" they would not rebook us since we were within 30 minutes of depature. But after asking, I was tolkd I would be admitted into the BMI lounge as as an American Airlines Platinum card holder (I even showed the clerk my card to double check). Except no one told the lounge that - and the lounge person was fairly adamant that we were not allowed in since we did not have BMI cards. We eventually paid to get in (my colleague has a card that allows him to buy our way in) but the lounged lady was about as unhelpful and hostile as you could imagine. I wonder if she's ever heard of customer service?

In the end, BMI's entire attitude just plain sucks. I'm willing to buy my food (although not all that happy!), but I need the ability to pay. I am content to buy my way in to the lounge, but I need to have expectations managed properly. I am so angry that I refuse to fly BMI again and am in the process of changing my will to ensure that should I die, my remains will not fly in a BMI aeroplane. I suspect that BMI will ignore my anger, and will just laugh and note they had my money. But never, ever, again will I fly BMI. Even dead, there are airlines better than BMI.

Updated Monad Shell Beta 2 Documentation Pack

Microsoft has posted more documentation. Go here for the Windows "Monad" Shell Beta 2 Documentation Pack

Monday, October 03, 2005

Customising Monad via Profile files

Monad, or specifically, msh.exe, implements a set of cmdlets, providers etc. These are pretty basic, but you can extend and customise Monad easily through the use of profile scripts. There are up to four profile files which are loaded when you run MSH.exe:

1. "All Users\Documents"\MSH\profile.msh
2. "All Users\Documents"\MSH\<shellid>_profile.msh
3. "My Documents"\msh\profile.msh
4. "My Documents"\msh\<shellid>_profile.msh

The "All Users documents" is dependent on where you installed the OS, specifically %SYSTEMDRIVE%\Documents and Settings\All Users\Documents\MSH. Likewise, "My documents" is at %USERPROFILE%\My Documents\MSH.

The <shellid> field in the 2nd and 4th profile, is a name generated by Monad to uniquely identify a specific shell. The default name, which is contained in the $Shellid variable, is "Microsoft.Management.Automation.msh". At first sight this is a little odd, but there is a logic to it. In the current builds of MSH, you have to use the make-shell command to extend monad with new cmdlets and providers. By doing so, you create a new executable (mymsh.exe for example), which would have a different name (e.g. Microsoft.Management.Automation.mymsh). This means you can have shell specific profile files - for example to provide some functions on top of custom developed cmdlets.

In the early builds of Monad, I tended to just customise the "my documents\profile.msh". But more recently, I've created my own profile (profile.tfl.msh) and I run this from within the profile.msh. That way, when I install newer versions of Monad, I don't have to worry about losing my customised settings - I just add one extra line to the default profile.msh and all my customisations are included.

One small thing about executing private scripts from within a profile.msh. Whenever you run a script, by default any variables, functions, etc created by that script are recycled when the script is completed. You can do that's called "dot-sourcing" to enable the customisations in our private profile script to be added to your current context. Whenever you run a script and start the line with a dot (followed by a space), the results of the script are added to your current scope. Thus typing "profile.tfl.msh" results in no functions, variables etc being available once the script runs. But by typing ". profile.tfl.msh", my Monad customisations are available in the msh.exe shell. The four profile files noted above are all dot-sourced.

These features are some what more complex than you have in CMD.EXE (and most Unix shells). But they do provide for considerable flexibility in terms of configuring and extending MSH. They are worth playing around with.

[On The Plane - via Email]

Monad on Windows 2000

I was chatting to a fellow MVP last week about Monad (actually I chatted with a lot of MVPs about Monad, but that's another story), and he wanted to be able to run Monad on Windows 2000. His problem was that the installation did not seem to work.

The first suggestion include foot-printing the install on a supported OS, than manually installing on Win2k. This can be somewhat time-consuming unless you have the right tools. An alternative is to use the WIX tool kit, specifically dark.exe, to work out what is being installed where. Dark.exe creates an XML file that shows all the files, reg keys, etc generated by installing Monad.

But at the end of the day, this is probably a fairly pointless exercise as Windows 2000 does not have the necessary API support to enable Monad to run properly. One specific example is Monad's use of the Attachment Execution Services (added in XP SP2 and later), which Monad uses to work out where a script came, so that the signing policy can be properly enforced.

The Monad product team suggest that while parts of Monad would run, some parts are likely to either crash or not work at all. So if you want Monad (and what admin doesn't??), you'll have to move on to XP SP2 or later.

[Written on the aeroplane, sent via email]