Saturday, August 29, 2009

The MSDN Wiki – a look after nearly 6500 edits

Last summer, I posted a blog article about the MSDN wiki, better known as MSDN Community Content (there’s also an equivalent set of content around IT Pro type information, namely Technet  Community Content. This morning I got a comment on that entry which complained about a) not being able to find stuff and b) that the community content idea had been killed. I posted a response to that comment – the Community content is still alive and kicking. In the past year, I’ve added over 6000 updates, the latest of which was a few minutes ago! I’ve also added around 2500 edits to the TechNet equivalent, or nearly 9000 edits in total – and I’m not even an MVP!

The Community Content represents some really great information – and not a few criticisms where the content (or the product!) is at fault. Sadly, as I noted last year, there is a degree of vandalism on this site, which has grown somewhat over the past year. I am fairly ruthless (although as not up to date as I’d want!) with reviewing new comments and removing what I call “non-content”, as well as duplicate posts which some times get made. I also try to ensure good tags. One trend that has accelerated is for posters to see the MSDN community content as a place to ask questions – a couple of posters including my self, point them to the community forums and the Microsoft newsgroups. I also try to ensure the tags on the each community content are relevant.

As ever in publishing, the MSDN content contains errors – usually minor typos, etc. While these are regatable, given the sheer scale of the MSDN (and TechNet) library, these are probably inevitable. Thanks to the sharp eyes in the community, these are found, and have been tagged “Contentbug”. Microsoft are slowly working through these and updating the content proving that the community review process is working, albeit much slower than I’d like.

All in all, the MSDN and TechNet Community Content  are fantastic resources, and are growing daily. Thanks to the MSDN/Technet content teams for providing the platform and working with the community to improve the content

Monday, August 24, 2009

Installing Windows 7 From USB Drive

Surfing around this morning, I found an interesting blog article: Installing Windows 7 From USB Drive 3 Steps Easy Process. Basically, this article shows how to prepare a USB stick from which you can install Windows 7. This is specifically useful for Netbooks or other systems that come without a DVD drive.  This method uses the UltraISO trial package. You do need a big USB stick, 4gb or more and make sure you have the latest version of UntrlISO.

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Sunday, August 09, 2009

Windows 7 and Virtual Server

With Windows 7 now at RTM and in my hands, the time has come to start to migrate over. I got the ISO images I needed last week, and immediately started to get things running. One specific thing I needed is to get Virtual Server running on Win 7. I am teaching a class on Aug 13/14 and need to prepare – the class is a Windows 7 upgrade class for Microsoft Partners.

I thought, given we’d achieved RTM, that it would be cool to have the Labs running under Windows 7 RTM. To do that, I just needed to get Virtual Server running and install the course files on my laptop. Now I know it’s not officially supported, but I wanted to see if I could make it work. If so, I can then run and demo the labs with Win7 as the host.

There were only two problems with that. The first is that the labs that come from Microsoft Learning require Virtual Server. But Virtual Server is not supported under Win 7, and is actively blocked. And even if I did get VS running, MSL assume that you will be using earlier OSs to run the labs – and installing these on Windows 7 is specifically blocked by the MSI installer.

After a bit of Googling using my favourite search engine and perusing the MCT private newsgroups, it appears that there are two solutions. However, both involve some hacking (and are probably NOT supported).  The solutions were either to get the labs working under Virtual PC 7, or install VS into Win7 and get it running. While both are possible, I chose to do the latter since this seemed to provide an easier to use solution (if it worked of course!!!).

Naturally, a third (and preferable!) option would be to wait for Microsoft Learning to come up with a supported solution. But that is not likely to happen any time soon and I have a course to teach now. So down the road I went with two main tasks: first, installing Virtual Server on Windows 7 and then installing the Microsoft Learning labs on Windows 7.

Installing Virtual Server under Windows 7

To install Virtual Server under Windows 7 is straightforward, although it involved registry editing (and is NOT supported). The steps are as follows:

  1. Disable the application compatibility fixes. You first need to disable all the application compatibility fixes that would stop you from installing Virtual Server. In Windows 7, bring up the local Group Policy editor and Computer Configuration\Administrative Templates\Windows Components\Application Compatibility\ and enable all of the “Turn off” entries. As here;image
  2. Then go to the Computer Configuration\Administrative Templates\System\Troubleshooting and Diagnostics\Application Compatibility Diagnostics\ folder and disable all of the entries there. Like here:
  3. Reboot to ensure the settings take effect. You could, I suppose, just do a gpupdate /force, but I prefer to reboot.
  4. Install Virtual Server. Download the binaries from Microsoft .com and install it.
  5. Install VS SP1 – depending on what download you get, you may may need to install SP1. NB: Installing SP1 is more difficult once you have completed this process, so why not do it now?
  6. Change Application File Name. To enable the next step to work properly, you need to rename the Virtual Server application file name, by going to the Virtual Server directory (typically C:\Program Files\Microsoft Virtual Server\ ) and rename Vssrvc.Exe – I used Vssrvc_Win7.exe.
  7. Change the registry settings for this new file name.  Run regedit, then find and replace all occurrences of "vssrvc.exe" to vssrvc_Win7.exe. There are around 5 or 6 entries to fix.
  8. Undo the group policy changes you made at step 1 above. This turns all those application compatibility fixes back on (which is probably what you want!).
  9. Reboot.

Once the reboot is completed, you should have (the renamed) Virtual Server running on your Windows 7 box. If you want to just run VMs, off you go. you can create and use VS just as you did on XP or Server 2003. Hoevere, if you want to install a MSL Lab onto the system, you have just a bit more work (hacking) to do.

Install course files for Lab Launcher into Win7

Once you have Virtual Server running, you need to fix the installation file for the lab you want to install, e.g. 6291.MSI. Normally, you just run this MSI file on your master system (and use Ghost et al to then blast it to the rest of the systems in the classroom). The only problem with this approach is that Microsoft Learning have put in an installation block on Win7. That means when you try to run the installation MSI, it fails with an error message (”the operating system version does not meet the minimum version required”). Turns out this is really easy to fix – but you do need an MSI editor.

There are two MSI editors you can use (and both are free):

  • ORCA – this is a free MSI editor from Microsoft and comes as part of the Windows Installer SDK. It’s a bit of a pain to get as you first have to download and install the SDK, and then install Orca.Msi. You can find copies of orca.msi out on the internet, but downloading it from Microsoft is probably safest even if it is a bit tedious.
  • InstEd - you can also use InstEd, a free tool you can get at I like Instead and blogged about it a while ago. It’s still cool!

Once you your MSI editor loaded, you need to remove one line from the Launch Condition table. If you are using Orca, you’ll see something like this:


Just delete the first line of this table, then save the MSI (File/Save As) to a separate MSI (just in case). Then exit out of Orca and you can run your newly saved MSI. You should be good to go.

Minor issues

I found that, after playing around a bit, Virtual Server was complaining about access permissions of VHDs on the host. I just gave all users full access to the C: on the host and the problem went away.

An important issue to consider is that this is not supported. Yes, it works and works reasonably well. It also involved editing registry entries, and using a MSI editor. From personal esperience, both can be dangerous. So use this information at your own risk.


Thanks to a couple of posters for helping me to do all this. First, the details of how to get VS running were obtained from a TechNet  forum post. Hacking the MSI to get around version limitiations is an old trick, but thanks to MCT Super-Star Michael Buchardt who pointed me to InstEd! And finally a thanks to Chris Randall for the motivation to write this up.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

The Flood Gates are Open – Windows 7 has hit TechNet and MSDN

Well, after a long wait, it’s finally there – Windows 7 RTM release is on TechNet Plus for download. As I type this, I’m getting speeds varying between 100kbps and bursting to 200kbps. Not stunning but OK. Hopefully the download will finish tonight and I can spend tomorrow with installing Win7 onto my Laptop. Horray!

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Static vs Dynamic WMI Methods with PowerShell

In yesterday’s  PowerShell and .NET Framework – Similarities and Differences! article, I wrote about how there was stuff you have to know in order to use PowerShell efficiently. In a recent Hey, Scripting Guy! Blog article, The Scripting guys talk about the differences between a static method on a class and an instance-based method. They use the WMI Win32_Process class as an example. In this WMI class, there is an instance based method, Terminate, that lets you terminate a specific process. As the Scripting Guys point out, there’s no Create method. That’s because the  Create method is a static method which you invoke a slightly different way.

To create a process, you’d do the following:

PSH [C:\foo]: ([wmiclass]"Win32_Process").Create("NotePad")

__GENUS          : 2
__CLASS          : __PARAMETERS
__RELPATH        :
__DERIVATION     : {}
__SERVER         :
__NAMESPACE      :
__PATH           :
ProcessId        : 8828
ReturnValue      : 0

This is yet another one of those things you need to know about using WMI with PowerShell: how to access static vs. instance based methods.

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

PowerShell and .NET Framework – Similarities and Differences!

When I teach PowerShell, I point out the consistency within and across the product. When you learn something, it can be broadly used in other circumstances. This is the power of knowledge transfer – learning things once and using that knowleldge to solve other problems.

Of course, despite the consistency that’s there, there is a level of in-consistency to manage. There are things that are just not particularly intuitive – and you just have to learn those differences. There is definitely a learning curve when it comes to learning PowerShell! I’ve published what I learn as I go along – I posted an article about .NET and Powershell last December where I looked at how you access .NET from PowerShell.

With a bit of learning, via posts like mine or from Newsgroup.Forum posts, most PowerShell users can look at a bit of documentation on .NET or  WMI, and work out how to access the relevant class,  method, etc. But every so often, stuff that looks obvious isn’t! This fact (feature???) bit me over the weekend when I was working on the Get-System.Environment script that I published over on my PowerShell Scripts blog.

I was playing around with the System.Environment class, and in particular the Environment.SpecialFolder enum. Just looking at it, I felt if I can use one enum like this,

PSH [C:\foo]: [system.Enum]::GetValues([system.dayofweek])

Then I should be able to to do something like this (which as you see I can’t):

PSH [C:\foo]: [system.Enum]::GetValues([System.Environment.SpecialFolder])
Unable to find type [system.Environment.SpecialFolder]: make sure that the assembly containing this type is loaded.
At line:1 char:60
+ [system.Enum]::GetValues([system.Environment.SpecialFolder] <<<< )
    + CategoryInfo          : InvalidOperation: (system.Environment.SpecialFolder:String) [], RuntimeException
    + FullyQualifiedErrorId : TypeNotFound

Then, after some searching, I discovered may mistake!  Instead of [System.Environment.SpecialFolder], I needed to specify [System.Environment+SpecialFolder]. As shown here:

PSH [C:\foo]: [system.Enum]::GetValues([system.Environment+SpecialFolder])

Sure – that was obvious, NOT! But another hurdle on my learning curve!

PowerGui Version 1.9 is Released

As Dmitry discusses over on his blog: The most popular PowerShell freeware tool has just got an update. He and his team have reached into the “I want” list and they’ve produced a stunning new version, just in time for the release of PowerShell V2 (effectively tomorrow or thereabouts). You can download the new version from the PowerGUI Website at:

If you are already running an older version of PowerGui, you should be able to check for updates (Help/Check for Updates).  But on my main workstation, that gives an error. So I am downloading the new version manually. The download (PowerGUI. is 8.1 mb – so not a massive download! In my case, I also needed to install the Active Roles cmdlets (another 8.45MB) before I could finish off installing PowerGui.

While I prefer PowerShell Plus for my day to day editing and development tasks, I have to say PowerGui is a nice product – especially as it’s free. The new version has a number of neat new features, including: Version 2 Module Support, and more intellisense. Perhaps the biggest feature is full Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2 support. It might be tempting fate to release 1.9 the day before Microsoft opens the floodgates that will be the waves of Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2. I suspect like many people, I have a browser window open at the TechNet Plus download site just waiting for the downloads to begin!!

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