A few months ago, I wrote an article for TechTarget called Windows Registry Hack Improves Offline File Access for Mobile Users (http://searchwindowsserver.techtarget.com/tip/0,289483,sid68_gci1319562,00.html#). The basic idea behind that article is that Windows’ Client Side Caching feature is great if you only need to cache a limited amount of data. If you have a lot of data to cache though, you can use a registry hack to redirect the client side cache to use a dedicated hard drive.
Being that I travel a lot, I use this technique extensively. I have a laptop with two 360 GB hard drives in it. The first hard drive contains the Windows operating system, my applications, and a bunch of virtual server instances that I use for working on the go. The second hard drive is used exclusively as an offline cache. I actually cache an entire network drive so that the full contents of my primary file server are available to me while I am on the go.
For several months now, this technique has worked flawlessly. A couple of days ago though, I temporarily copied a pair of 50 GB files to my file sserver. As luck would have it, my laptop cached the files, and ran the dedicated hard drive completely out of space. I tried to remove the files from the network and resynchronize my laptop, but apparently once the cached drive has been filled up, you can no longer perform synchronizations.
Fixing the problem was a little unnerving, because I didn’t want to accidentally cause all of the data to be deleted from my network server, which is probably what would have happened if I started to manually delete files from the cache.
To fix the problem, I disconnected my laptop’s network connection (as a precaution), and then copied any files that resided on the laptop, but that had not yet been synchronized to the network. After doing so, I opened the Disk Management Console (diskmgmt.msc) and deleted the volume containing the cached data. I recreated the volume, and rebooted the computer. When the computer rebooted, Windows eventually rebuilt the cache from scratch.
I’ve never made any secret of the fact that I prefer Windows Vista over Windows XP. Even so, I seem to be in the minority. With Microsoft no longer selling Windows XP, and Windows 7 now on the horizon, I have been getting a lot of E-mail lately from companies who depend on Windows XP, asking me what they should do.
For those of you who are in this situation, my initial advice would be to see if Windows Vista will work for you. Of course going to Vista isn’t always an option. Aside from any potential compatibility issues, some businesses lack the budget for an upgrade and are understandably reluctant to simultaneously support two different desktop operating systems.
For those who are heavily invested in Windows XP, there is some good news. You don’t have to switch to Windows Vista. Remember, a Windows XP license entitles you to use Windows XP indefinitely. Furthermore, Microsoft has committed to continuing to support Windows XP until 2014. Given Windows XP’s popularity though, I would not be a bit surprised to see the support timeline extended or see a third party company begin to support Windows XP when Microsoft stops.
The other good news is that you can still buy Windows XP. Microsoft officially stopped selling Windows XP in June, but you can still occasionally find copies on various Websites (just be careful to make sure that you are buying from a reputable source).
Microsoft also offers something known as a downgrade license. If you buy a copy of Windows Vista Business or Vista Ultimate, you have the right to downgrade to Windows XP Professional.
Although Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 were created from the same code base, they do have their differences. One of those differences is that Windows Vista does not contain Windows PowerShell. Microsoft is changing this in Windows 7 though. Windows 7 will be the first client OS to natively bring PowerShell to the desktop.
The version of PowerShell that will be included in Windows 7 is 2.0. One of the more notable features is that you will be able to use Access Control lists to restrict commands, command parameters, and scripts. That way, if you want to prevent users from running certain commands, or want to protect desktops against malicious scripts, you can do so by locking down certain parts of PowerShell.
Although details are a bit sketchy at this point, Microsoft is also telling me that in Windows 7 you will be able to use PowerShell to create login scripts. I have also heard that you will be able to create scripts that will allow you to create group policy object settings that directly modify the Windows Registry.
Blog – Extending a Virtual Hard Drive
By: Brien M. Posey
A few months ago, I made the decision to virtualize the majority of my physical servers. At the time, the migration went very smoothly, and there were no real issues when the process had completed. What I hadn’t planned on though, was a change in the way that I use disk space.
For many years now, I have been a full time, freelance writer. As such, I write a lot of books, articles, and blog posts like this one. Text really doesn’t take up that much disk space. A lot of times my work includes screen captures, but again these do not consume that much space.
When I virtualized my file server, the volume containing my work was 200 GB in size. It was only a little over half way full, so I decided to leave it as it is. What I didn’t realize at the time though, was that I would soon start doing a lot more work with digital video. For example, I recently recorded a screen cast for another TechTarget site that demonstrates Exchange Server’s unified messaging feature. The point is that digital video consumes a lot of space, and I soon found that my 200 GB volume was no longer enough.
Because the volume existed in the form of a virtual hard drive file, it was sitting on a high speed disk array with a bunch of other virtual hard drive files. There was plenty of free space on the array, but I had to expand the .VHD file to use some of it.
The process was actually fairly simple. I shut down the virtual machine that the drive belonged to, and then I used the Edit Virtual Hard Disk Wizard in the Hyper-V Manager to increase the size of the drive from 200 GB to 500 GB. 500 GB isn’t the limit or anything, it was just the size that I wanted to expand the drive to.
I started the process at about 7:00 last night, and it finished sometime between 2:00 AM and 8:00 AM. In any case, the process takes a long time to complete, and the virtual server is not available during this time (unless you disconnect the virtual hard drive from the server), so you will need to plan for that.
It is also important to remember that extending the .VHD file alone is not enough. You still have to expand the volume on the virtual hard drive to fill the newly allocated space. My virtual machine is running Windows Server 2003 R2 X64, so I used the DISKPART command.
To do so, enter the DISKPART command.
Next, enter the LIST VOLUME command
Each volume will have a corresponding volume number. Make note of the number of the volume that you want to extend.
Enter SELECT VOLUME volume number
Now, enter the EXTEND command. If you use the EXTEND command without any parameters, the volume will expand to fill the remainder of the free space on the hard drive (or virtual hard drive in this case). You can however extend the volume to a specific size. There is a good Knowledgebase article on the subject at: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/325590
Lately, I have been spending quite a bit of time trying to learn all about Windows 7. Although there are certainly worthwhile features in the forthcoming operating system, the one feature that seems to be getting the most attention is a feature being called multi touch.
Touch screens are nothing new, but multi touch takes touch screens to the next level. Most of the touch screens in use today will only recognize one touch point at a time, but Windows 7 will allow for multiple touch points. I realize that most people don’t currently use touch screens, so the best way that I can think of to illustrate the point is to compare a touch screen to the touch pad on a laptop. If you have ever accidentally touched a laptop touch pad with more than one finger, then you know that the laptop gets thoroughly confused – especially if your fingers are moving in different directions.
In Windows 7, you will be able to use any number of fingers at the same time to interact with Windows. Microsoft has already made it clear that you will be able to use multi finger input to perform zoom, scrolling, and resize functions.
All of the Windows 7 demos that I have seen so far exploit this new technology in applications primarily geared toward consumers. For example, Windows 7 is tentatively slated to ship with a finger painting application and a piano keyboard. But I have to wonder how businesses can benefit from multi touch technology.
My initial thoughts are that there probably will be some benefits to businesses. I haven’t heard any official word on new applications that benefit from this technology, but I strongly expect Microsoft to produce a version of Microsoft Office that has been optimized for multi touch. I can just imagine using touch screen capabilities to create a Visio diagram or to format the objects in a Microsoft Publisher document.
Having said that though, I think that it will be mobile users who benefit the most from multi touch technology. As I sit here composing this post on a desktop computer, I simply can not imagine that touching my monitor would be a more efficient interface than my mouse. My mouse is at an easy arm’s reach, where as I would have to completely change positions and lean way forward to reach my monitors.
Over the weekend, I had to make an unexpected trip to Kentucky. Since traveling can be a little dull and time consuming, I used the opportunity to catch up on my reading. One of the magazines that I was reading had a story titled “It’s OK to Skip Windows Vista”.
I have to admit that the story’s title bothered me enough that I did not read the article. It has always been my opinion that Vista is a much better operating system than Windows XP, if for no other reason than that it is much more resistant to malware infestation.
Of course we all know that the main reason why so many people have shied away from Vista is because of rumors of compatibility problems. It is important to remember though that every version of Windows has had some kind of compatibility problems, and I’m sure that Windows 7 probably will too.
Believe it or not, Windows Vista is not the version of Windows that has received the worst reputation for compatibility problems. Early versions of Windows NT actually had far more compatibility than Windows Vista ever has. I distinctly recall reading articles in computer magazines stating that NT stood for things like Nice Try or Not Today.
The compatibility problems with Windows NT were so bad that Microsoft created the hardware compatibility list (HCL) and refused to support machines that were not running on approved hardware. I find it interesting that Windows 2000, XP, 2003, Vista, and 2008 are all based on the NT Kernel. Even so, when was the last time that you heard of anybody checking the hardware compatibility list to see if the hardware is certified to run Windows XP or Vista? It just doesn’t happen most of the time.
Even so, Microsoft does maintain a list of hardware and software that will work with Vista. The list is at: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/compatibility/ If you are thinking of upgrading to Vista, but are concerned about compatibility issues, then this list is a great place to start your compatibility research.
If you have read my previous blog entries, then you know that I have been writing a lot lately about the next version of Windows, called Windows 7. Earlier this week though, Microsoft announced another Windows release named Windows Azure. I wanted to take the opportunity to clear up any potential confusion about the two new releases.
Windows Azure and Windows 7 couldn’t be more different. Windows 7 is slated to be the successor to Windows Vista, and it is not scheduled to make its debut until sometime in 2010. In fact, Microsoft has notified the beta testers of their inclusion in the Windows 7 beta program, but Microsoft has not officially released any beta code yet.
Windows Azure on the other hand is available now. It isn’t something that you would install on your PC though. Microsoft is trying to compete with Google and some other companies by creating an infrastructure that allows applications to be run in the cloud. Windows Azure is a platform for developing, testing, and hosting applications that are to be run over the Internet.
It remains to be seen what all Microsoft will eventually do with Windows Azure, but for right now, it is primarily of interest only to developers. If you want to read more about Windows Azure though, you can read more about it on the Microsoft Web site at: http://www.microsoft.com/azure/windowsazure.mspx
Over the weekend, I got a frantic call from a friend who had decided to take the plunge and upgrade his organization to Windows Vista. Although he had done his due diligence in performing the necessary compatibility testing ahead of time, he had a rude surprise when it came time to actually begin the upgrade; he had failed to account for the version to version Windows upgrade requirements. Unless you match Windows versions correctly, Setup does not allow you to upgrade to Windows Vista, but rather requires a clean install. Here is a quick breakdown of the upgrade path.
Windows XP Professional
If you are running Windows XP professional, you can upgrade to Windows Vista Business or Ultimate. Installing Vista Home Basic or Home Premium requires a clean install.
Windows XP Home
If you are running Windows XP Home edition, then you can upgrade to Vista Home Basic, Home Premium, Business, or Ultimate.
Windows XP Media Center
Windows XP Media Center is the edition of Windows XP that my friend’s organization was running. He chose it because it gives you the best of both worlds. It provides domain connectivity like Windows XP professional, but also includes the various bells and whistles of Windows XP Home. Being that my friend owns a creative marketing company, the various multimedia capabilities were important to his organization.
He had initially intended to upgrade to Windows Vista Business, but an upgrade from Windows XP Media Center Edition to Windows Vista Business Edition is not allowed. Microsoft only allows an upgrade to Vista Home Premium Edition or to Vista Ultimate Edition. The Home Basic and the Business editions of Vista require clean installations.
Windows XP Tablet PC
Tablet PC users can upgrade to either Vista Business Edition or Ultimate Edition. Upgrades to Vista Home Basic or Home Premium are not allowed.
Windows XP X64
The 64-bit version of Windows XP seems to be the big exception to the rule. Upgrades from the x64 version of Windows XP are not allowed. A clean install is always required.
Windows 2000 Professional
There is no direct upgrade path from Windows 2000 Professional to Windows Vista. Organizations wanting to make the transition will have to either perform a clean install or upgrade to Windows XP and then to Vista. I tend not to recommend this approach though, because multi step upgrades tend to leave behind a lot of the remnants of the previous operating systems, and stability may possibly be an issue in some cases.
If you are using Windows 2000 Professional or Windows XP x64, you are still eligible for an upgrade license (which costs less than a regular Vista license), you are just limited to performing a clean installation.
I have lost count of the number of rumors that I have heard regarding Windows 7, which is due to be released next year. Since there is so much mis-information floating around about this new release, I wanted to take the oppertunity to give you my two cents worth and tell you what you can expect out of this release. Keep in mind that the information that I’m giving you is credible today, but anything could potentially change between now and the time that Windows 7 is actually released.
The first rumor that I want to discuss is the rumor that Windows 7 is going to be a major new release with an entirely new kernel. Microsoft has discribed Windows 7 as a “Major release”, but my own impression based on what I have seen so far is that it is going to be more like Windows Vista R2. Contrary to speculation, it seems that Microsoft is going to continue to make both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows available, and that Windows 7 is going to be based on a modified version of the Windows Vista kernel.
As new features go, by far the biggest new feature is going to be the touch interface. I saw an interview with Bill Gates about a year ago, and someone asked him if there was anything about the evolution of the PC that surprised him. His response was something to the effect that he was surprised that we were still limited to interacting with a PC using a keyboard and a mouse. He claimed that one of Microsoft’s goals was to make interfacing with a PC more natural using things like speech and touch. Although HP makes a PC today that features touch screen capabilities, it is limited in comparison to what will be available in Windows 7.
Windows 7 will allow you to use both hands to touch multiple points on the screen simultaniously in an effort to perform various tasks. If you want to see what I am talking about, take a look at the video at: http://gizmodo.com/393568/windows-7-features-revealed
Most of the fetures that are being demonstrated in the video are consumer focused, but I expect the touch screen capabilities to have an impact in enterprise environments as well. After watching the video, it is obvious that marketing departments, or any department that produces creative media will benefit from the new touch capabilities. It is purely speculation, but I would not be at all surprised to see Microsoft produce touch enabled versions of Microsoft Office. I can just imagine a version of Excel that allows you to create and modify charts from a touch screen. Perhaps Microsoft Word users will be able to insert comments into documents just by tapping the screen. Touch screen capabilities could also make Power Point a lot easier to use.
In any case, I think I will buy some stock in a company that makes screen cleaners, because I’m sure that fingerprints will be an issue.
As you might have heard, Microsoft announced last week that the next version of Windows is going to be called “Windows 7”. Unfortunately, most of what I know about Windows 7 is under a non disclosure agreement with Microsoft, but I wanted to at least answer two of the questions that I keep being asked.
For starters, there seems to be a lot of confusion over the name since there have been way more than seven Windows releases already. From what I have been told, Microsoft limped all of the Windows 9.x releases and Windows ME in together, and considers them Windows 4 (at least for naming purposes). Windows 2000 was Windows 5.0, but Microsoft considers Windows XP to be Windows 5.1. Windows Server 2003 is classified as Windows 5.2, and WIndows Vista / Windows Server 2008 are classified as Windows 6.0.
Does that make sense to you? Me neither, but oh well.
The other question that I want to answer is regarding Windows 7’s purpose. There seems to be a lot of speculation on the Internet that Windows 7 is going to be WIndows Vista SP2, disguised as a new release. I can tell you with certainty that this is not the case. Microsoft is currently working on Service Pack 2 for Windows Vista although I can not disclose any specific details at this time. Once the embargo has been lifted, I will talk about what the service pack accomplishes in this blog.