Monthly Archives: July 2009

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Useful Links: July 2009

A list of items I’ve come across recently that I found potentially useful, interesting, or just plain funny:

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Hyper-V is now supported on flash drives

Last week I wrote about booting Windows from a USB flash drive.

This had been a “pet project” of mine for a few months and, just after I finally got around to doing it, Stephen Rose blogged about a tool to help you prepare the USB drive to boot from VHD. Oh well, that’s life – I can’t get the time back – but anyway, I enjoyed working out the answers for myself.

Today, I’ve seen a post from the Windows virtualisation team about the release of Hyper-V Server 2008 R2. It’s mostly a rehash of the long-running argument that Hyper-V (Server) costs less than ESX (i) and it probably does, even when factoring in the cost of the management tools but the real cost savings with virtualisation come from reduced power consumption (which will depend on the hardware used, and the consolidation ratios achieved) and operational improvements (i.e. not just running a virtualised infrastructure in the same way as for a physical one) so I’d take the messages from either Microsoft or VMware with a pinch of salt. Perhaps understandably for software companies, both focus too much on the cost of hardware and software rather than the cost of service delivery, which is what really matters to IT Managers.

More significantly from my point of view, the Microsoft’s Windows Virtualization Team also announced formal support for booting Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 from flash memory:

“Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 includes the unique ability (compared to Windows Server Hyper-V) to boot from flash. We’re making the documentation available to our OEM partners as part of the OEM Preinstallation Kit (OPK). Boot from flash is specifically designed for our OEM partners who want to ship an embedded Hyper-V hypervisor and thus will be supported via our OEM partners.”

“So what”, you may ask. Well, this means that Hyper-V Server servers can now be diskless (e.g. boot from SAN) and treated as a commodity appliance. For organisations that still see a version of Windows as an operating system (any version of Windows – even if it’s just server core running Hyper-V) and so internal cross-charging mechanisms effectively tax virtualisation hosts as a full operating system, this is a step forward. It gets even better when considering that Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 is based on the Enterprise Edition of Windows Server (the previous version was based on Standard Edition) so it supports clustering and hence live migration.

I had heard something about flash support from a contact at HP (after I got it working!) but had seen nothing formally via the MVP programme; however this is the way that OEMs “embed” VMware ESXi (at least one vendor told me that they use an internally-mounted USB drive for ESXi – I’m not sure if that’s the way it works for all of them). Of course, running the OS from an inexpensive USB flash drive may be fine for a hypervisor that, once loaded into memory, requires little disk access but it’s certainly not a recommended solution for a full operating system – for that you would need better quality flash memory, such as a solid state disk (SSD).

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Windows 7 E Edition update (and some ideas for downloading a browser from the command line)

After the Windows 7 announcements and late night blogging I was pretty burned out so I took a day off at the end of last week. As it happened, that was when Microsoft finally came out and made a statement about the whole European mess. Based on this latest statement, a ballot screen idea is definitely on the table and, if accepted, there will be no need for an E Edition without a web browser – Europe can have the same editions as the rest of the world (almost – I imagine there will still be legal requirement for N edition as that relates to a different, and equally pointless, legal case).

Ironically, Opera, who started this whole nonsense, will probably lose out. As Microsoft’s James O’Neill tweeted back to Mary Jo Foley (whose blog post on Microsoft’s decision to offer European users a browser choice in Windows 7 covers all the details):

“@maryjofoley If a ballot screen is alphabetical with opera last (after Apple, Google, and Mozilla) you can bet they’ll go crying back.”

[jamesone on Twitter]

“@maryjofoley Also – how many browsers on the ballot ? I don’t think opera is in the top 3 by share”

[jamesone on Twitter]

James is often pretty forthright in his views – and he works for Microsoft – but he’s spot on here. For what it’s worth, I think that most users will download Microsoft Windows Internet Explorer (IE) – because it’s from Microsoft, who make the operating system they will have just purchased – or Mozilla Firefox (for those who would prefer a third-party browser). Apple Safari, Google Chrome, Opera, etc. will remain also-rans, whatever their merits (of course, Safari will continue to dominate on OS X and Chrome will be integral to Google’s new Linux distro).

Even if you do get hold of E Edition (i.e. a copy of Windows without Internet Exploder built in), there are a number of workarounds posted, like Rafael Rivera’s suggestion of exploiting Windows Media Player to download a browser. Rafael is a smart guy but there’s a much simpler way – ftp.exe (the command line FTP client in Windows) – or, for that matter, FTP site access from Explorer. Actually, I put a port of wget onto many of my systems so that would even give me command line HTTP access to pull down a browser. The smartest idea I saw was using mshta.exe to access a website (e.g. mshta http://www.markwilson.co.uk/). I haven’t checked to see if that executable is still present when Internet Explorer is uninstalled (I doubt it), but it sounds like a nice command to know about anyway.

[Update: It looks like XP and Vista users will also get presented with a ballot screen - not sure how Microsoft Update will determine that we are in Europe though... IP address? Product SKU?]

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What (and where) is SharePoint Server 2009?

I came across an interesting dialog box last week whilst trying to connect to a Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 site with the SharePoint Designer 2010 technical preview.

Microsoft Office SharePoint Designer cannot be used to edit web sites on servers prior to Microsoft SharePoint Server 2009. To edit these sites, you need to use SharePoint Designer 2007.The dialog told me that Microsoft Office SharePoint Designer 2007 is needed to work with older versions of SharePoint Server but interestingly it referred to the version it wanted as SharePoint Server 2009… I’ve never heard of this (there is a new version of SharePoint for 2010, and presumably a new WSS 4.0 at the same time) but I guess no-one got around to changing the error message before the bits were shipped for the Office 2010 technical preview.

In the meantime, Bjørn Furuknap raises an interesting point… where’s the value in a technical preview of a product that doesn’t work with the existing server platform? There is a Technical Preview for SharePoint Server 2010 – but until that opens up to a wider audience it does seem a little strange that SharePoint Designer is part of the Office Technical Preview instead of the SharePoint Server one!

Technology

Running Windows from a USB flash drive

I’ve titled this post as “Running Windows from a USB flash drive” because the same principles should be equally applicable to all Windows 7-based operating systems (and even Vista if the Windows 7 bootloader is used) but my specific scenario was based on Hyper-V Server 2008 R2.

I got this working a few hours after Windows 7, Server 2008 and Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 were released to manufacturing but I was still using release candidate code – fingers crossed it still works with the final release!

Boot from VHD is a fantastic new technology in Windows 7/Server 2008 R2 and derivative operating systems and I’ve often wondered if it’s possible to use it to run Hyper-V from a USB flash drive (just like the “embedded” version of VMware ESXi offered by some OEMs). Well, as it happens it is – and this post describes the steps I had to take to make it work.

First of all, I needed to create a virtual hard disk and install an operating system onto it. As Keith Combs noted, there are various ways to do this but only one is supported; however there is also a handy video on TechNet which takes you through the steps of creating a VHD and booting from it.

Using the TechNet video as a guide, I issued the following commands from the command prompt to create my virtual hard disk and apply an image from the Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 release candidate DVD:

diskpart
create vdisk file=driveletter:\virtualharddisk.vhd maximum=15000 type=expandable
select vdisk file=driveletter:\virtualharddisk.vhd
attach vdisk
list disk

(make a note of the disk number.)

select disk disknumber
create partition primary
select partition 1
active
format fs=ntfs quick
assign
exit

(note the drive letter for the newly mounted VHD.)

imagex /info dvddrive:\sources\install.wim

(identify the correctentry.)

imagex /apply dvddrive:\sources\install.wim /check imageindex vhddrive:\
diskpart
select vdisk file=driveletter:\virtualharddisk.vhd
detach vdisk
exit

At this point, Hyper-V Server had been imaged into my new VHD, which could then be copied to the USB flash drive.

Next, to load the VHD from the Boot Manager, I edited the boot configuration data (which is what would be required in a standard boot from VHD scenario); however, as I found later, a different set of actions is needed for booting from the USB flash drive.

bcdedit /copy {current} /d "Hyper-V Server 2008 R2"
bcdedit

(make a note of the GUID for the newly created entry.)

bcdedit /set {guid} device vhd=[usbdrive:]\virtualharddisk.vhd
bcdedit /set {guid} osdevice vhd=[usbdrive:]\virtualharddisk.vhd
bcdedit /set {guid} detecthal on
bcdedit /set {guid} description "Hyper-V Server 2008 R2"

It’s worth understanding that the use of drive letters (which are transient in nature) does not cause a problem as the BCD Editor (bcdedit.exe) extracts the data about the partition and saves it in the BCD store (i.e. it does not actually save the drive letter).

After rebooting, Hyper-V Server loaded from my USB flash drive and ran through the out of box experience. At this stage I had Hyper-V Server running off the flash drive but only if my original Windows installation (with the boot manager) was available and, as soon as I removed the hard disk (I wanted to be sure that I was booting off the flash drive with no other dependencies), then the whole thing collapsed in a heap. Thanks to Garry Martin, I checked my BIOS configuration and made sure that USB device boots were enabled (they were not) but I then spent about a day playing around with various BCD configurations (as well as various attempts to fix my BCD with bootrec.exe) until I stumbled on a post from Vineet Sarda (not for the first time, based on the comments that include one from yours truly a few weeks back!) that discusses booting from VHD without a native operating system.

Following Vineet’s example, I booted my system into Windows 7 (I could have used the Windows Recovery Environment), reformatted the USB flash drive before copying my VHD image back onto it, and issued the following commands:

diskpart
select vdisk file=usbdrive:\virtualharddisk.vhd
attach vdisk
list volume
exit

(note the drive letter for the newly mounted VHD.)

Dirty Code

bcdboot vhddrive:\Windows /s usbdrive: /v

(i.e. copying the BCD from the operating system image contained within the VHD, to the physical USB drive. Note that, when running on a live system it is important to specify the target drive for the BCD in order to avoid overwriting the live configuration.)

I then shut down the system, removed the hard disk and booted from the USB flash drive, after which the Windows Boot Manager loaded an operating system from within the VHD.

Looking at my BCD configuration (shown here for reference), I can see the source of my many hours of confusion – the Boot Manager resides on the physical media (my USB key – which was allocated drive D: in this case) and loads an operating system from the virtual disk that is given another drive letter (in this case C:):

Windows Boot Manager
——————–
identifier              {bootmgr}
device                  partition=D:
description             Windows Boot Manager
locale                  en-us
inherit                 {globalsettings}
default                 {current}
resumeobject            {27f66313-771a-11de-90bb-00037ab36ab6}
displayorder            {current}
toolsdisplayorder       {memdiag}
timeout                 30

Windows Boot Loader
-------------------
identifier              {current}
device                  partition=C:
path                    \windows\system32\winload.exe
description             Hyper-V Server 2008 R2
locale                  en-us
inherit                 {bootloadersettings}
osdevice                partition=C:
systemroot              \windows
resumeobject            {27f66313-771a-11de-90bb-00037ab36ab6}
nx                      OptOut
detecthal               Yes

It took a while to boot (my flash drive was a freebie is not the fastest in the world) but, once loaded into memory, Hyper-V Server seemed to run without any noticeable delay. I figure that, as long as the workload is stored on another disk this should not present any problems and, given suitably fast flash memory, it ought to be possible to improve boot times as well. Running a full Windows operating System (e.g. Windows 7) in this manner is an entirely different matter - very few USB flash drives will be able to stand the constant writes and further testing would be required.

Now that I have Hyper-V Server running from an inexpensive USB flash drive with no reliance on my PC's internal hard disk, all I need to do is inject the correct network drivers and I will have a virtualisation solution for colleagues who want to run a full hypervisor on their corporate notebooks, without deviating from the company's standard client build.

Additional information

The following notes/links may provide useful background information:

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Getting ready to deploy Windows 7 on the corporate desktop

With Windows 7 (and Server 2008 R2) now released to manufacturing and availability dates published, what does this really mean for companies looking to upgrade their desktop operating system? I’ve previously written about new features in Windows Server 2008 R2 (part 1 and part 2) but now I want to take a look at the Windows client.

Whilst I still maintain that Windows Vista was not as bad as it was made out to be (especially after service pack 1, which contained more driver resolutions and compatibility updates than security fixes), it was a classic case of “mud sticks” and, in the words of one Microsoft representative at a public event this week:

“Windows Vista maybe wasn’t as well received as [Microsoft] had hoped.”

The press was less harsh on Windows Server 2008 (which is closely related to Vista) but, with the new releases (Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2), reaction from the IT press and from industry analysts has been extremely positive. In part, that’s because Windows 7 represents a “minor” update. By this I mean that, whilst Vista had deep changes (which contributed to it’s unpopularity) with new models for security, drivers, deployment and networking, Windows 7 continues with the same underlying architecture (so most software that runs on Vista will run on 7 – the exceptions are products that are deeply integrated with the operating system such as security products – and hardware that runs Vista well will run 7 Windows 7 well).

Indeed, under Steven Sinofsky‘s watch, with Windows 7 Microsoft has followed new approach for development and disclosure including:

  • Increased planning – analysing trends and needs before building features.
  • Providing customers and partners with predictability – a new operating system every 3 years.
  • Working on the ecosystem – with early partner engagement (ISVs and IHVs have plenty of time to get ready – including a program for ISVs to achieve a “green light” for application compatibility – and the other side or the coin, for those of us looking for suitable hardware and software, is the Ready Set 7 site.).

Having said that Windows 7 is a minor update, it does include some major improvements. Indeed, some might say (I believe that Mark Russinovich was one of them) that if you got back to a previous product version and miss the features then it was a major release. In no particular order, here are of some of the features that Microsoft is showing off for Windows 7 (there are many more too):

  • Superbar amalgamates the previous functions of the Taskbar and the Quicklaunch bar and includes larger icons to accommodate touch screen activities (Windows 7 includes multitouch support).
  • Live preview of running applications (not just when task switching but from the superbar too).
  • Jumplists – right click on a superbar icon to pin it to the superbar – even individual files.
  • No more Windows sidebar – gadgets can be anywhere on the desktop and are isolated from one another so if they crash they do not impact the rest of system.
  • Aero user interface improvements: Aero Peek to quickly look at the desktop; Aero Snap to quickly arrange windows such as when comparing and contrast document contents; Aero Shake to minimise all other open windows.
  • The ability to cut and paste from document previews.
  • The ability to deploy a single, hardware agnostic image for all PCs.
  • Group policy improvements to control USB device usage (no more epoxy resin to glue up USB ports!).
  • BitLocker To Go – encrypt the contents of USB sticks, including the ability to read the contents from downlevel operating systems based on a one-time password.
  • Integrated search shows where results come from too (e.g. Programs, OneNote, Outlook, etc.) and only indexes in quiet time. Search Federation extends this to include SharePoint sites and other corporate resources.
  • DirectAccess, point to point authentication for access to corporate resources (e.g. intranet sites) from anywhere including intelligent routing to identify corporate traffic and separate it from Internet-bound traffic avoid sending all traffic across the VPN.
  • BranchCache – locally cache copies of files, and share on a peer-to-peer basis (or, as my colleague Dave Saxon recently described it, “Microsoft’s version of BitTorrent”).
  • AppLocker – create whitelists or blacklists of approved software, including versions.
  • Problem Steps Wizard – record details of problems and send the results for diagnosis, or use to create walkthrough guides, etc.
  • Action Center – one stop shop for PC health.
  • User Access Control (UAC) warnings reduced.

All of this is nice but, faced with the prospect of spending a not-inconsiderable sum of money on an operating system upgrade, features alone are probably not enough! So, why should I deploy a new Windows operating system? Because, for many organisations, the old one (and I mean Windows XP, not Vista) is no longer “good enough”. It’s already on extended support, lacks some features that are required to support modern ways of working, was designed for an era when security was less of a concern and will be retired soon. So, if I’m an IT manager looking at a strategy for the desktop, my choices might include:

  • Do nothing. Possible, but increasingly risky once the operating system stops receiving security updates and manufacturers stop producing drivers for new hardware.
  • Stop using PCs and move to server based computing? This might work in some use cases, but unlikely to be a universal solution for reasons of mobility and application compatibility.
  • Move to a different operating system – maybe Linux or Mac OS X? Both of these have their relative merits but, deep down, Windows, Linux and Mac OS X all provide roughly the same functionality and if moving from XP to Vista was disruptive from an application compatibility standpoint, moving to a Unix-based OS is likely to be more so.
  • Deploy a new version of Windows – either Vista (which is not a bad way to get ready for 7) or 7.
  • Wait a bit longer and deploy Windows 8. That doesn’t leave a whole lot of time to move from XP and the transition is likely to be more complex (jumping forward by three operating system releases).

Assuming I choose to move to Windows 7, there are several versions available but, unlike with Vista, each is a superset of the features in the version below (and Enterprise/Ultimate are identical – just targetted at different markets). For businesses, there are only two versions that are relevant: Professional and Enterprise – and Enterprise is only available as a Software Assurance (SA) benefit. If you don’t have a suitable volume licensing agreement, Professional the only real choice (saving money by buying Home Premium is unlikely to be cost-effective as it lacks functionality like the ability to join a domain, or licensing support for virtualisation – and purchasing Ultimate Edition at full packaged product price is expensive).

There are some Enterprise/Ultimate features that are not available in the Professional Edition, most notably DirectAccess, BranchCache, Search Federation, BitLocker, BitLocker To Go, and AppLocker. Some of these also require a Windows Server 2008 R2 back end (e.g. DirectAccess and BranchCache).

In Europe, things are a little more complicated – thanks to the EU – and we’re still waiting to hear the full details of what that means (e.g. can an organisation deploy a build based on E Edition outside Europe, or deploy a build within the EU based on a “normal” editions sourced from outside Europe and remain supported).

The other variant is 32- or 64-bit. With the exception of some low-end PCs, almost every PC that we buy today is 64-bit capable, 64-bit drivers are available for most devices (I’ve had no problems getting 64-bit drivers for the Windows 7 notebook that I use ever day) and many 32-bit applications will run on a 64-bit platform. Having said that, if all the PCs you buy have between 2 and 4GB of RAM, then there is not a huge advantage. If you are looking to the future, or running applications that can use additional RAM (on hardware that can support it), then 64-bit Windows is now a viable option. Whilst on the subject of hardware, if you are considering Windows XP Mode as a possible application compatibility workaround, then you will also need hardware virtualisation support and hardware DEP. Steve Gibson’s Securable utility is a handy piece of freeware to check that the necessary features are supported on your hardware.

Whilst on the subject of virtualisation, there are four options (from Microsoft – third party solutions are also available):

  • The much-hyped Windows XP Mode. Great for small businesses but lacks the management tools for enterprise deployment and beware that each virtual machine will also require its own antivirus and management agents – which may be potentially expensive if it’s just to run one or two applications that should really be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century.
  • Microsoft Enterprise Desktop Virtualisation (MED-V). This is the former Kidaro product and appears to be a good solution for running legacy applications isolated at the operating system level but it still involves managing a second operating system instance and is part of the Microsoft Desktop Optimisation Pack (MDOP) so is only available to customers with SA.
  • Microsoft Application Virtualization (App-V). A popular solution for application-level isolation but requires applications to be repackaged (with consequential support implications) and also only available as part of MDOP.
  • Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). Whilst the concept may initially appear attractive, it’s not an inexpensive option (and without careful management may actually increase costs), Microsoft’s desktop broker (Remote Desktop Services) is new in Windows Server 2008 R2 and, crucially for partners, there is no sensible means of licensing this in a managed service context.

The main reason for highlighting virtualisation options in a Windows 7 post is that Windows XP Mode is being held up as a great way to deal with application compatibility issues. It is good but it’s also worth remembering that it’s a sticking plaster solution and the real answer is to look at why the applications don’t work in the first place. Which brings me onto application compatibility.

Even for those of us who are not developers, there are three ways to approach application compatibility in Windows 7:

  • Windows 7′s Program Compatibility wizard can be used to make simple changes to an application’s configuration and make it work (e.g. skip a version check, run in compatibility mode, etc.)
  • Application Compatibility Toolkit (ACT) 5.5 contains tools and documentation to evaluate and mitigate application compatibility issues for Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows Update, or Windows Internet Explorer (e.g. shims to resolve known issues) – there are also third party tools from companies like ChangeBASE.
  • Windows XP Mode. For those applications that simply refuse to run on Windows 7 but certainly not a solution for organisations trying to shoehorn Windows 7 onto existing hardware and upgrade at minimal cost.

After deciding what to move to, deployment is a major consideration. The Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) and Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK) have both been updated for Windows 7 and can be used together to deploy a fresh operating system installation together with applications and migrate the user data. There is no in-place upgrade path for Windows XP users (or for Windows 7 customers in Europe) and I was amazed at the number of Microsoft partners in the SMB space who were complaining about this at a recent event but a clean installation is the preferred choice for many organisations, allowing a known state to be achieved and avoiding problems when each PC is slightly different to the next and has its own little nuances.

I think I’ve covered most of the bases here: some of the new features; product editions; hardware and software requirements; application compatibility; virtualisation; deployment. What should be the next steps?

Well, firstly, although the release candidate will work through to June next year, wait a couple of weeks and get hold of the RTM bits. Then test, test, and test again before deploying internally (to a select group of users) and start to build skills in preparation for mass deployment.

As for the future – Microsoft has publicly committed to a new client release every 3 years (it’s not clear whether server releases will remain on a 2 year major/minor schedule) so you should expect to see Windows 8 around this time in 2012.

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Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2 released to manufacturing

After much anticipation, Microsoft has announced that Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 have been released to manufacturing (RTM). The build numbers are is 7600 and 7200 respectively and my post yesterday highlighted the dates when partners and customers will be able to get their hands on the software.

Congratulations to the Windows client and server teams on shipping two great operating system releases. They have their own blog posts on the subject (Windows client and server). I’ll be writing more Windows 7 (and Server 2008 R2) content over the coming days and months so stay tuned!

(System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 has also RTMed to coincide with will be released within 60-days with support for the new version of Hyper-V contained within Windows Server 2008 R2 and Hyper-V Server 2008 R2.)

[Update: edited SCVMM text to correct previous misinformation (which came from Microsoft PR!)]
[Update: removed erroneous reference to build 7200 (also sourced from Microsoft PR!)]

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Windows 7 RTM… nearly there

We’ve known for a while now that Windows 7 release to manufacturing (RTM) will be in the second half of July and we’re well into that timeframe now. Some people expected an RTM announcement at last week’s Worldwide Partner Conference and, looking at the Windows 7 events that are lined up for the next couple of weeks in the UK, I’d wondered if it might be last Friday or yesterday but still no news.

All of that is kind of irrelevant really as, a few minutes ago, the Windows Team Blog carried a post which tells us when to expect to get our hands on the RTM code.

General availability remains 22 October 2009 but here are some of the other key dates:

  • Approx 2 days after official RTM – OEMs will receive Windows 7 RTM software images.
  • 6 August 2009 – Windows 7 RTM English available to Microsoft TechNet and MSDN subscribers.
  • 7 August 2009 – Windows 7 RTM English available to Volume License customers with Software Assurance (SA) – other languages to follow within a couple of weeks.
  • 16 August 2009 – Windows 7 RTM English available to Microsoft Partner Program Gold/Certified Members via the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) Portal.
  • 23 August 2009 – Windows 7 RTM English available to Microsoft Action Pack Subscribers.
  • 1 September 2009 – Windows 7 RTM available to Volume License customers without SA.
  • By 1 October 2009 – non-English versions of Windows 7 RTM available to Microsoft Partner Program Gold/Certified Members, Microsoft Action Pack Subscribers, Microsoft TechNet subscribers and MSDN subscribers.
  • Around 22 October 2009 – Windows 7 pre-orders shipped.

For beta testers looking for a discount… that was the pre-order offer (that sold out so quickly last week) and there will be no free licenses (unlike for some of the Vista beta testers a few years back). There will also be a family pack for Windows 7 Home Premium in certain markets allowing for installation on up to 3 PCs.

From these dates I think we can say that RTM is imminent. For those who are running the release candidate, it will continue to function until 1 June 2010 (with periodic reboots starting three months earlier) but rebuilding onto RTM code is recommended in order to become licensed and supported.

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No new definitions or updates are available for Forefront Client Security? Try Microsoft Update

I’ve seen this problem before on my Windows 7 machines but I thought it was a Windows 7 issue… now I’ve experienced it in a Windows XP virtual machine and so I thought I’d blog it here.

After installing Forefront Client Security (FCS) (the next version of which will be known as Forefront Endpoint Protection 2010), Windows complains that it’s antivirus protection is out of date (and it is – the definitions date back to 2006) but Forefront says there are no updates.

No new definitions or updates are available for Microsoft Forefront Client Security

To resolve this, visit Windows Update and elect to use Microsoft Update instead. After the update settings are changed, FCS works out that there are some downloads available (and directs you to the Microsoft Update Catalog) but if you ignore that and let Microsoft Update run its course, FCS is updated automatically and no further intervention is required.

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Twitter: finally, I think I understand

I’m not really very big on “social networking”. That might sounds strange for a blogger but when I started writing this blog it was really an easy way for me to store my notes and a few links on the web. In fact, had I known about del.icio.us back then, I’d probably never have started the blog and would just have posted links up there. Hang on… I do have an account at delicious… is that social networking? Ah. I do Flickr too. That’s another one. Sometimes I scrobble at last.fm – so that’s another. I’m also on LinkedIn and occasionally seen on Facebook (which I detest… so really it’s just a place where my Twitter feed gets republished as my status and friends comment on it – whereas once upon a time we might have had a con-ver-sa-tion) and ah… that means I do Twitter too (actually I have two Twitter accounts… the one that feeds Facebook and another other for the geeky stuff).

Thinking about it, maybe I am into social networking after all!

Twitter logoTwitter was the one that mystified me for the longest. I just didn’t “get” it. I’d heard people banging on about it on podcasts and it just seemed to be a way of blogging the minutiae of the day (“I had Muesli for breakfast”, etc.). Then I signed up and figured it was like a big public SMS service combined with a direct message capability (a bit like e-mail?)… I still didn’t see what the fuss was about.

I started to understand where Twitter could add some value just over a week ago, when I was enjoying a meal in a local café and noticed that, in addition to free WiFi (I know where I will be going now when the kids are too noisy and I want to get some work done!), they were twittering their specials @muchadocafe. I guess the idea is that people can follow them, think “that sounds nice” and come over for a bite to eat at lunchtime. Nice idea. Shame they seem to have stopped posting updates.

The penny finally dropped last Monday when I was watching the live stream of Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference keynote presentation and the site was showing Twitter updates with the #wpc09 hashtag. All of a sudden I realised that, in real time, I could see the comments (or “tweets”) that other people were creating and understand what they thought about the content. That was pretty cool. So cool in fact that I signed up for my second account (the one with the geeky stuff on it). Now I can tweet the little things that aren’t really worth blogging (if you visit the website you may notice that I have the 5 most recent tweets on display in the right-hand sidebar – thanks to Anders Ross’s article on 10 Twitter hacks for your WordPress blog). I also use Twitterfeed to tweet my new blog posts for people that don’t subscribe to the RSS… and that should drive some traffic to the website. No wonder Microsoft has got so into Twitter recently – it’s a great site for creating marketing buzz.

I can understand why no-one has really managed to adequately explain Twitter to me before (not even the video I linked to when I originally signed up) – it’s something you have to see in action to get your head around but, now I’ve “got it”, I think I might be hooked. Oh dear!

As for the rise in popularity for the plethora of social networking sites that exist today… I can see where they have their place in modern society but I have to disagree with Microsoft’s Viral Tapara, who tried to indicate the importance of such sites at a recent event by commenting that people used to wish one another happy birthday with a card and today they do it on Facebook. Absolutely not. In the same way that ending a relationship by text is insincere and socially unacceptable, there are still some social activities that have to take place in the real world. As my friends and colleagues know only to well from someone who has refused to embrace SMS and instant messaging as effective forms of communication, sometimes there is no substitute for picking up the phone or meeting face to face.

Follow markwilson.it on Twitter @markwilsonit

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