Accessing USB devices from within Microsoft virtual machines

This content is 16 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

In my Hyper-V presentation on Wednesday, I said that USB support was one of the things that is missing from Hyper-V. That is correct – i.e. there is no ability to add USB devices as virtual hardware – but, in a conversation yesterday, Clive Watson pointed out that if you connect to a virtual machine using RDP, there is the ability to access local resources – including hard drives and smart card readers.

The way to do this is to use the Local Resources tab in the Remote Desktop Connection client options, where local devices and resources may be specified for connection:

Accessing local resources in the RDP client

If you click more, there is the option to select smart cards, serial ports, drives and supported plug and play devices (i.e. those that support redirection). In this case, I selected the USB hard drive that was currently plugged into my computer:

Accessing local resources in the RDP client

And when I connect to the virtual machine using RDP, it is listed the drive as driveletter on localmachine:

Accessing local resources via RDP - as seen on the remote machine

This is really a Terminal Services (presentation virtualisation) feature – rather than something in Hyper-V – and so it is true to say that there is no USB device support in Hyper-V for other access methods (e.g. from a virtual machine console) and that the RDP connection method is a workaround for occasional access. Microsoft see USB support as a desktop virtualisation feature and the only way that will change is if they see enough customer feedback to tell them that it’s something we need on servers too.

PowerShell running on server core

This content is 16 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

Aaron Parker saw my presentation on Windows Server 2008 server core earlier this week and it got him thinking…

I said that Microsoft don’t see server core as an application platform but there’s no real reason why not as long as the applications you want to run don’t have dependencies on components that don’t exist in server core. I even suggested that, with a reduced surface attack area and less patching required, server core is a great platform for those applications that don’t rely on the shell, Internet Explorer, the .NET Framework or anything else that has been removed.

I also mentioned that PowerShell doesn’t run on server core because it relies on the .NET Framework.

So Aaron used SoftGrid to repackage the Microsoft .NET Framework and Windows PowerShell for server core – and it worked! He says there are a few errors, but as a proof of concept it’s a great idea – and a good demonstration of how flexible application virtualisation can be.

Adding Windows Live Messenger presence to a web page

This content is 16 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

For a while at the end of 2007, this blog had a feature where it showed presence information for me (with the ability to send me an IM) based on my status in Windows Live Messenger. I’ve removed that functionality now because: a) I find IM to be a distraction and so am very rarely logged in; b) I use a private IM system using OCS when I’m working; and c) I use a variety of IM systems (and three different Windows Live logins), so my presence on any one Windows Live Messenger account is not really relevant.

Even so, if this is something that might be useful, there is a page on Windows Live to generate the necessary HTML (I found this information from Michael Niehaus’ blog).

PowerPoint 2007’s Presenter View is a fantastic tool

This content is 16 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

Today has been a big day for me. I’ve given presentations before but typically to colleagues, or occasionally to customers. Never to a large group of technical people – some of whom will also be extremely knowledgeable on my chosen topics (perhaps using a competitive product) – and never at Microsoft’s UK Campus in Reading, where I have attended many presentations, but never presented.

I really enjoyed myself at today’s Microsoft UK user groups community day – and if you were in one of my sessions I hope you found it useful and thank you for your support.

Because this was such a big deal for me (and because I didn’t know who would be watching), I put a lot of effort into my preparation. I had virtual machine snapshots and demonstration screen grabs (just in case the demo gods decided that today was not my day) as well as full speaker notes (with printed copies just in case). I also used the presenter view in PowerPoint for the first time ever and have to say it is fantastic.

PowerPoint 2007 Presenter Mode

The notebook PC I was using doesn’t have an high-powered graphics adapter – just an Intel GMA 965 chipset – but the standard Intel Graphics Media Accelerator for mobile driver helped me configure multiple monitors (1280×800 on the notebook display and 1024×768 on the projector – both in 32-bit colour). After this, I switched PowerPoint into presenter view and the audience could see the slides (or whatever I was demonstrating on the projector), whilst I could view the current slide, my speaker notes (at whatever text size I wanted), thumbnails of upcoming and previous slides, a clock and an elapsed time counter (there’s full details on delivering a presentation on two monitors by using presenter view in the Microsoft Office 2007 online help).

Trying not to bore the audience with “death by PowerPoint” is one thing, managing to accurately type commands in demos is another and only experience will teach me how to manage audience questions to stay on track but the PowerPoint presenter view really helped me out today – I’ll be using it a lot more regularly now I know how useful it is.

My slides from the Microsoft UK user groups community day

This content is 16 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

I’m presenting two sessions at the Microsoft UK user groups community day today on behalf of the Windows Server Team.

The first is an introduction to Hyper-V and the second will look at server core installations of Windows Server 2008. I’ve included full speaker notes in the slide decks, as well as some additional material that I won’t have time to present and screen grabs from my demos. Both decks are available on my Windows Live SkyDrive, along with a couple of videos I recorded of the Hyper-V installation process:




The T-qualiser

This content is 16 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

T-qualiser t-shirt with graphic equaliserEarlier this evening I won a t-shirt in a quiz (thanks to Phil Cross at Microsoft). I already have many Microsoft t-shirts, but this one is a little bit different… it has a battery pack sewn in and a graphic equaliser on the front that responds to the ambient noise. Cool huh? Now, where can I go clubbing in Reading on a Tuesday night? (On second thoughts I’ll wait a while as I need to lose a few pounds before I can squeeze into it!)

Groove, SharePoint or OCS Group Chat – which works for you?

This content is 16 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

Earlier today I was in an interesting session at the Microsoft UK user groups community day when Art Ho gave a presentation on group chat and discussion forums. What became apparent in Art’s presentation is that Microsoft has a number of products which, on the face of it, offer similar features and functionality, but each has its own strengths and weaknesses:

Groove Discussions SharePoint Discussions Groove Chat OCS Group Chat*
Persistent Yes Yes Yes Yes
Federation Yes Yes Yes Yes
Integrated Sort of Yes No no
Search Yes Yes (strong) No Yes
Realtime No No Yes Yes
Collaborative Yes Yes No No
Offline Yes No Yes No

* OCS Group Chat is still a beta product at this time and was formerly Parlano MindAlign (Parlano were acquired by Microsoft last year)

Basically, it breaks down like this. Think about the purpose of the collaboration and what end users need. Do they need search? If so, then SharePoint is the clear leader. Are you looking for one product, or can a mixture of products meet the requirements (e.g. collaborate using a Groove workspace and publish the final document to a SharePoint document library)? Finally, you can have real-time or collaborative working, but it seems you can’t have both (at least with this technology selection).

(Note that other solutions are available, this just compares three Microsoft products that all seem to compete in the same space.)

Publishing handouts from PowerPoint to Word

This content is 16 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few weeks preparing a couple of presentions to deliver at the Microsoft UK user groups community day on Wednesday. Even though my slides will act as an aide mémoire, I’ve written full speaker notes, which are included in the slidedecks that I’ll be making available for download, as well as all the extra material that I chopped because it didn’t all fit into the hour-long presentation slots.

Publish handouts from PowerPoint to WordI wanted to print some notes pages from my presentation, but PowerPoint doesn’t allow multiple pages of notes for a single slide. What I discovered it can do though is publish notes pages to Word, where you have much more control over the formatting.

The help that I originally found on the Microsoft website was for PowerPoint 2003 but the image here shows the PowerPoint 2007 equivalent.

Removing phantom network adapters from virtual machines

This content is 16 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

Last night, I rebuilt my Windows Server 2008 machine at home to use the RTM build (it was running on an escrow build from a few days before it was finally released) and Hyper-V RC0. It was non-trivial because the virtual machines I had running on the server had to be recreated in order to move from the Hyper-V beta to the release candidate (which meant merging snapshots) and so it’s taken me a few weeks to get around to it.

The recreation of the virtual machine configuration (but using the existing virtual hard disk) meant that Windows detected new network adapters when I started up the VM. Where I previously had a NIC called Local Area Connection using Microsoft VMBus Network Adapter I now had a NIC called Local Area Connection 2 using Microsoft VMBus Network Adapter #2. The original adapter still configured but not visible. Ordinarily, that’s not a problem – the friendly name for the NIC can be edited but when I went to apply the correct TCP/IP settings, a warning was displayed that:

The IP address ipaddress you have entered for this network adapter is already assigned to another adapter Microsoft VMBus Network Adapter. Microsoft VMBus Network Adapter is hidden from the network and Dial-up Connections folder because it is not physically in the computer or is a legacy adapter that is not working. If the same address is assigned to both adapters and they become active, only one of them will use this address. This may result in incorrect system configuration. Do you want to enter a different IP address for this adapter in the list of IP addresses in the advanced dialog box?

That wasn’t a problem for my domain controller VM, but the ISA Server VM didn’t want to play ball – hardly surprising as I was messing around with the virtual network hardware in a firewall!

In a physical environment, I could have reinserted the original NIC, uninstalled the drivers, removed the NIC and then installed the new one, but that was less straightforward with my virtual hardware as the process had also involved upgrading the Hyper-V gues integration components. I tried getting Device Manager to show the original adapter using:

set devmgr_show_nonpresent_devices=1
start devmgmt.msc

but it was still not visible (even after enabling the option to show hidden devices). Time to break out the command line utilities.

As described in Microsoft knowledge base article 269155, I ran devcon to identify the phantom device and then remove it. Interestingly, running devcon findall =net produced more results than devcon listclass net and the additional entries were the original VMBus Network Adapters. After identifying their identifier for the NIC (e.g. VMBUS\{20AC6313-BD23-41C6-AE17-D1CA99DA4923}\5&37A0B134&0&{20AC6313-BD23-41C6-AE17-D1CA99DA4923}: Microsoft VMBus Network Adapter), I could use devcon to remove the device:

devcon -r remove "@VMBUS\{20AC6313-BD23-41C6-AE17-D1CA99DA4923}\5&37A0B134&0&{20AC6313-BD23-41C6-AE17-D1CA99DA4923}"

Result! devcon reported:

VMBUS\{20AC6313-BD23-41C6-AE17-D1CA99DA4923}\5&37A0B134&0&{20AC6313-BD23-41C6-AE17-D1CA99DA4923}: Removed
1 device(s) removed.

I repeated this for all phantom devices (and uninstalled the extra NICs that had been created but were visible, using Device Manager). I then refreshed Device Manager (scan for hardware changes), plug and play kicked in and I just had the NIC(s) that I wanted, with the original name(s). Finally, I configured TCP/IP as it had been before the Hyper-V upgrade and ISA Server jumped into life.

Just one extra point of note: the devcon package that Microsoft supplies in Microsoft knowledge base article 311272 includes versions for i386 and IA64 architectures but not x64. It worked for me on my ISA Server virtual machine, which is running 32-bit Windows Server 2003 R2, but was unable to remove the phantom device on my domain controller, which uses 64-bit Windows Server 2003 R2. I later found that devcon is one of the Support Tools on the Windows installation media (suptools.msi). After installing these, I was able to use devcon on x64 platforms too.

Xtremely Technical Seminars

This content is 16 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

If I was asked to name an industry expert on Active Directory, one of the names that would come to mind consultant is John Craddock of Kimberry Associates, who I have seen present with Sally Storey many times on behalf of Microsoft. John has formed a new company called XTSeminars (Xtremely Technical Seminars) and I’m pleased to see that John and Sally are working with another speaker whom I hold in high regard – Rafal Lukawiecki of Project Botticelli.

XTSeminars are a business venture – and as such the events are chargeable; however, based on previous events I’ve seen John and Sally present, I have absolutely no issue in recommending them – as they suggest:

Attend one of the seminars and not only will you rapidly get the real details but also an XTSeminars workbook packed with useful tips and techniques and a DVD with narrated videos of all the demos. Attend the seminars as a sponge and absorb the knowledge. All for a fraction of the cost of working with a lead consultant!

Definitely worth a slice of the training budget for anyone looking to improve their in-depth technical knowledge of key Microsoft technologies.