A tale of two XML document formats

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 Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

Once upon a time, there were two competing standards for XML-based document formats. The big bad company that everybody loves to hate created an XML-based format for its Office Suite and called it Office Open XML (OOXML – also referred to as OpenXML), even producing converters for the many business customers that were working with old formats (except if they used a version of Office for a competing operating system). Meanwhile, some guys who like to share things (because all well-brought-up children know that sharing is A Good Thing) had already decided that the big bad company’s idea was too proprietary and developed a competing XML document standard called the Open Document Format (ODF).

The big bad company had been told off many times for not playing nicely and they wanted to show everyone how they were changing their ways, so they made Open XML an open standard and submitted the format to some standards bodies. One of the standards bodies was happy to endorse the format, but the biggest and most relevant of the standards bodies took its time, initially favouring the other format, even though the big bad company’s software had become the de facto standard in many markets around the world. Eventually both OpenXML and ODF were agreed as standards, allowing everybody to be confused by the proliferation of so-called “standard” document formats with similar names.

When the big bad company heard that their document format had been approved, they were very happy and decided that competing formats were no longer a threat. They were concerned that customers would be confused by the various standards with similar names and announced that they would include support for competing formats in the next service pack for their Office suite – even allowing users to select a competing standard as the default. They also said they would include support for a well known portable document format (PDF) that competes with their own XML paper specification (XPS) portable format, despite previously having had to remove PDF support from their Office suite because the company that owned the format threatened to sue them (they had already made it available as a free plug-in).

Everyone was happy. Or nearly everyone was. The European Union said it would be investigating whether the new file format support was good for consumers (they don’t like the big bad company). And some of the guys who say they like to share everything were unhappy because the big bad company was sharing with them and they didn’t really want to play. This made the big bad company very sad because it wasn’t really such a bad company and most of the people who work there just want to write great software. But, now we can share our documents and know that people can read and write to them, at least most of us can live happily ever after.

Microsoft Licensing: Part 7 (how to buy Microsoft software)

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.

Continuing the series on Microsoft licensing, I’m going to look at how to buy Microsoft software. Basically, there are three ways to buy a license:

  • Full packaged product (FPP) – purchased from a retailer and typically a single box contains a single license.
  • Original equipment manufacturer (OEM) – software supplied with a computer and which “lives and dies” on that machine.
  • Volume licensing – purchased from resellers with a variety of programmes to suit different types of organisation.

Technically, there is a fourth method too – software may be made available for download free of charge from the web (although this is still subject to an end user license agreement).

There’s not much to say about buying FPP software – except that it’s the most expensive way to buy software and should be avoided where possible.

OEM software packs are intended for system builders only and are not intended for distribution to end users unless the end users are acting as system builders by assembling their own PCs. Often, it’s possible to purchase OEM software from distributors but there are conditions attached. OEM software is intended for system builders and the system builder license agreement is effectively accepted when the shrink-wrap on the software is broken and acceptance of those terms involves offering support on the product.

Effectively, if I buy OEM software from a distributor and build a PC for someone (even family) with that software pre-applied, I need to offer end-user support.

OEM software requires product activation, is only available as a full product (no upgrades – although software assurance may be available if enrolled by the end user within 30 or 90 days, depending on the product) and must be pre-installed with the certificate of authenticity or proof of license label attached to the hardware. Once installed, the product is only available for use with that computer and cannot be transferred.

Certain OEM software may be legally downgraded, for example Windows Vista Business and Ultimate Editions may be downgraded to Windows XP Professional and Windows Server 2008 may be downgraded to Windows Server 2003 or Windows Server 2000. One notable exception is Office 2007, which cannot be downgraded. Instead, Microsoft has the concept of an Office Ready PC – a 60-day trial version of Office 2007 for pre-installation by the OEM, sold with a medialess license kit (MLK). The end user can upgrade to a full version of Office when the trial ends and end-user technical support is offered by Microsoft, rather than by the OEM.

OEM copies of Windows also include the rights to produce images of the software for deployment.

Before moving on to look at Volume licensing, let’s examine licensing Windows desktop operating systems, where there is one point I need to make crystal clear – FPP and OEM are the only ways to purchase a full Windows desktop operating system license.

This means that if an organisation thinks it can save money by buying PCs without Windows (certain vendors will do this, e.g. a grey box PC with Linux pre-installed) and then apply copies of Windows obtained through a volume license programme, they are not licensed to use Windows. The only way to become legal from this situation is to an FPP copy of Windows. Windows Vista Business upgrade licenses sold though volume license agreements are upgrades only (for Windows XP Professional computers) and are not intended for installation on a “naked” PC.

For any organisation with more than 5 users, Volume licensing programmes are available. Volume licensing separates the license from the media, packaging and support as well as offering flexible rights such as:

  • Downgrade rights.
  • Transfer and reassignment rights (except Windows Vista upgrade – and FPP products have a one-time transfer right).
  • Imaging rights.
  • Flexible payment options.
  • Alternative language use rights.

The type of agreement will depend on the number of users, and whether or not the software is to be purchased (a perpetual license) or leased (non-perpetual):

5-250 PCs >250 PCs
Owned Open License Select License
Open Value License (with SA) Enterprise Agreement (with SA for all PCs)
Open Value License Company Wide (with SA for all PCs)
Leased Open Value License Subscription (with SA for all PCs) Enterprise Subscription Agreement (with SA for all PCs)

In the case of leased (non-perpetual) software, the agreement can be converted or re-purchased upon expiry but if these options are not exercised then the organisation is no longer licensed to use the software.

Open Licenses are sold by resellers via the distribution channel, whereas Select and Enterprise agreements are sold by specialist Large Account Resellers (LARs) via Microsoft.

For organisations looking to standardise their PCs (e.g. for support reasons), Open Value Company Wide or Enterprise Agreements (EAs) can be advantageous.

Software Assurance (SA) includes upgrade rights for all software released as long as the agreement is current. It also includes a number of other benefits (which is why I’ll save a full explanation for another post). SA can either be purchased as part of a volume license agreement or on an individual product.

There are also a number of special licensing arrangements for educational establishments – in addition to Open and Select licensing, Campus Agreement subscriptions and School Agreement subscriptions are available to schools, colleges and universities, as well as local education authorities, public libraries, public museums and some charitable organisations.

Further details of Microsoft Volume Licensing arrangements are available in the Microsoft Volume Licensing Reference Guide.

Microsoft also takes part in the Charity Technology eXchange (CTX) programme, donating software to eligible organisations with a very heavy discount (all that is charged is an administrative fee). Charities can request up to 50 licenses from each of 6 titles (selected from 13 available products) in a two-year product. Eligible charitable organisations are defined as non-profit or non-govermental organisations holding charitable status with the aim of releif to the poor, advancement of education, social and community welfare, culture, the natural environment or other purposes that are beneficial to the community. An FAQ is available with further details on Microsoft’s involvement in CTX.

In the next post in this series, I’ll take a more detailed look at software assurance.

Microsoft Licensing: Part 6 (Forefront security products)

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.

Continuing the series on licensing Microsoft software, in this post I look at the various security products that Microsoft offers. Many of these products are the result of acquisitions, so it may help to look at the old and new product names:

  • Sybari Antigen is now integrated into Forefront Server Security and Forefront Client Security.
  • FrontBridge services are now sold as Exchange Hosted Services (EHS).
  • The Whale Communications product is now offered as Internet Access Gateway (IAG).
  • Sybari Antigen Enterprise Manager has become the Forefront Server Security Management Console.

The Forefront security products make use of multiple anti-virus engines, with five engines included in the base cost (CA InnoculateIT, CA VET, Microsoft Antivirus, Norman DataDefense and Sophos) and four more optional engines available (AhnLabs, Authentium, Kaspersky and Virus Busters). Included within the Forefront Security Suite is:

  • Forefront Client Security.
  • Forefront Client Security Management Console.
  • Forefront Security for Exchange Server.
  • Forefront Security for SharePoint.
  • Forefront Server Security Security Management Console.

All products are offered on a subscription basis although the Enterprise CAL (ECAL) suite includes the Forefront Security Suite with no extra licensing requirements.

The Exchange Enterprise CAL is also available to Select and Enterprise customers with services included, adding Forefront for Exchange Server and Exchange Hosted Filtering to the Exchange Enterprise CAL. This option is not available with retail licensing or to Open license customers) and must be taken up on a company-wide basis.

In the next part of this series, I’ll finally move on to take a look at the various methods that are available in order to buy Microsoft software.

Microsoft Licensing: Part 5 (virtualisation)

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 written previously about Microsoft’s software licensing rules for server virtualisation but in this post, I’ll pick up on a few areas that I haven’t specifically covered before.

Just to summarise the situation with regards to Windows:

  • Windows Server 2008 standard edition and later includes the right to run one virtualised operating system environment (OSE).
  • Windows Server 2003 R2 enterprise edition and later includes the right to run four virtualised OSEs, as does Windows Vista enterprise edition.
  • Windows Server 2003 R2 datacenter edition and later, and Windows Server 2008 for Itanium-based systems include the right to run an unlimited number of virtualised OSEs, provided that all physical processors are licensed and the requisite number of client access licenses (CALs) have been purchased.
  • Each OSE can be the same, or a downlevel version of the Windows product running on the host; however a Windows Server 2003 R2 enterprise edition host is not licensed for Windows Server 2008 guests.
  • Multiple licenses may be assigned to a server (e.g. multiple enterprise edition licenses to run up to 8, 12, 16, etc. OSEs – saving on the cost of licensing the OSEs individually). Standard and enterprise edition licenses can also be re-assigned between servers (but only once every 90 days) and it quickly becomes more cost-effective to use datacenter edition, with its right to unlimited virtual OSEs.
  • If the maximum number of OSE instances are running, then the instance of WIndows running on the physical server may only be used to manage the virtual instances (i.e. it cannot support its own workload).
  • The same licensing rules apply regardless of the virtualisation product in use (so it is possible to buy Windows Server datacenter edition to licence Windows guest OSEs running on a VMware Virtual Infrastructure platform, for example).

When looking at the applications running in the virtual environment, these are licensed as they would be in a physical environment – and where per-processor licensing applies to virtualised applications, this relates to virtual CPUs.

SQL Server 2005 Enterprise Edition allows unlimited virtual SQL servers (using the per-processor licensing model) to run in a virtualised environment, providing that SQL Server has been purchased for the physical server, according to the number of physical CPUs. Similar rules apply to BizTalk Server 2006 R2 enterprise edition.

When using Windows Vista enterprise edition as the virtualisation product (e.g. with Virtual PC) and running Office 2007 enterprise edition, the virtual OSEs can also run Office (even mixed versions).

Microsoft offers two Windows Server virtualisation calculators to estimate the number and cost of Windows Server licences for a variety of virtualisation scenarios (based on US open agreement pricing).

Looking at some of the other types of virtualisation that may be considered:

  • Presentation virtualisation (Terminal Services) requires the purchase of Terminal Server client access licenses (TSCALs) in addition to the server license, the normal per-device/user CALs and any application software. There are some other complications too in that:
    • Microsoft Office is licensed on a per-device basis, so non-volume license customers will also need to purchase a copy of Microsoft Office for the terminal server if clients will use Office applications within their terminal server sessions.
    • If users can roam between devices then all devices must be licensed as roaming users can use any device, anywhere. So, if 1000 terminal server devices are provided but only 50 users need to use Office applications, 1000 copies of Office are required if the users can access any device; however, if the 50 Office users use dedicated devices to access the terminal server and never use the other 950 devices, then only 50 Office licenses are required.

Microsoft Application Virtualization (formerly SoftGrid) is only available to volume license customers.

In part 6 of this series, I’ll look at licensing for some of Microsoft’s security products.

Re-ordering my Flickr photostream

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.

Flickr logoI’ve started to use Flickr recently (I’ve had an account for 3 years, but I haven’t done much with it until now) and tonight I started to upload a selection of my photos.

I used the Flickr Uploadr tool and then set to work adding location details and generally familiarising myself with the site. After a while I noticed that, even though Flickr had read the EXIF data on the images to pick up the date taken, the photostream was ordered by the sequence in which I had uploaded the pictures (which was not chronological).

It seems that, even though individual sets can be re-ordered, photostreams are always presented in the order of posting, so effectively the only method to edit the order of images in a photostream is to change the posted date – an operation that cannot be performed in bulk, at least not with the Flickr interface.

After reading Jennifer Lyker’s post about bulk photo management in Flickr, I was just about to try out h4ppierphotos until I stumbled across details of a Mac OS X application called PhotoStream Sortr. The download link didn’t work but I found a copy on MacUpdate.

PhotoStream Sortr

Despite its name, PhotoStream Sortr only seemed to recognise sets (not the photostream) but, by adding all of the photos that I wanted to re-order to a new set, I was able to use it to update the posted time to match the date taken. Following this, I deleted the “re-order” set that I had created in Flickr, leaving my PhotoStream in the order that I’d like it to be viewed.

Microsoft Licensing: Part 4 (System Center products)

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 week, I wrote about licensing Microsoft Server products but I deliberately ignored Microsoft’s family of systems management products. This post continues the series on Microsoft licensing, taking a look at the licensing considerations for the main System Center products.

System Center products that rely on SQL Server for database functionality, for example System Center Operations Manager (SCOM) 2007 and System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) 2007 are available both with and without SQL Server 2005 standard edition included (which option to select will depend on the database arrangements in use). No SQL client access licenses (CALs) are required if the per-processor model is used, or if the inclusive SQL Server license is used; however SQL CALs are required for every managed device if SQL Server is licensed using the server and CAL model.  It’s also important to note that if the included SQL Server licensing is used, then SQL Server may only be used for System Center products – not as a standalone server or with any other application.

The main System Center products do not require CALs but a Management License (ML) is required for each managed device.For SCOM, there are some exceptions:

  • Devices that SCOM has merely discovered the presence of but for which SCOM is not being used for management.
  • Devices functioning only as network infrastructure devices (layer 3 and below).

Different MLs exist for client devices and servers with two server MLs available for SCOM – standard for monitoring basic workloads such as the operating system, networking, file and print services and management of the hardware, enterprise for other workloads (referred to by Microsoft as application and premium workloads).

In a virtualised environment, each operating system instance (OSE) is considered as a device and requires an ML. If the OSE is running a client operating system, then a client ML is required; if the OSE is running a server operating system, then a server ML is required.

SCCM follows similar rules, with a standard server ML being limited to operating system and basic workload desired configuration management, whilst an enterprise server ML is required for full application and server desired configuration management, including the proactive management of systems for configuration settings.

System Center Data Protection Manager (SCDPM) 2007 also has two types of server ML – standard for recovery and backup management of file servers and enterprise for applications including SQL Server, Exchange Server, and Office SharePoint Server. The Enterprise server ML also includes the Microsoft System Recovery Tool (SRT), DPM to DPM replication, and host-based virtual server backup functionality. In the case of host-based virtual server backup, a single enterprise ML on the host is required for performing virtual hard disk (.VHD) backups of any guest OSEs running on that host; however this does not include granular recovery of files or applications in the virtual machines and an individual ML is required if a DPM agent is installed on a guest to support granular application or file backups.

The most cost-effective way to license multiple System Center products is generally through the purchase of a System Center server management suite licence:

It’s important to note that SCVMM 2007 is only available as part of the enterprise suite and cannot be purchased as a standalone product; however there is a standalone workgroup edition that is limited to management of 5 physical host servers per management server console.

System Center Essentials 2007 replaces Operations Manager 2005 Workgroup Edition and is designed for management of mid-sized organisations, with some limitations to restrict it to a single installation per domain, managing up to 500 client OSEs and 30 servers OSEs. Licensing follows the same rules as for the full SCOM 2007 product – i.e. that System Center Essentials is available with or without SQL Server standard edition, that MLs are required for each managed OSE and that SQL Server CALs are not required if per-processor or inclusive SQL Server licensing is in force but are required if SQL is licensed on a client/server basis. Third party solutions can be managed and do not count towards the limits but do require an appropriate ML. A ML is not required for the OSE that is running System Center Essentials.

System Center Mobile Device Manager (SCMDM) 2008 is licensed with the standard server license plus CALs model, with both per-user and per-device CALs available. SCMDM is available with or without SQL Server licensing included and is subject to the same rules as the other System Center products that are sold with SQL Server.

The last member of the System Center family is System Center Capacity Planner (SCCP) 2007.  This is actually a free download, with capacity planning models currently available for Exchange Server 2007, SCOM 2007, Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) and Office SharePoint Server 2007.

In the next post in this series, I’ll explain how licensing works for Microsoft software running in a virtualised environment.

Hyper-V: RC1 is released – not long to wait now

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.

A few days back I gave the strongest hint that I could without breaking any NDAs that Microsoft’s Windows virtualization product group were about to release something special . I couldn’t say what at the time but it’s no longer a secret – RC1 of Hyper-V is available for download.

This second release candidate is expected to be the last before the final product ships although, as for when that will be, the only public commitment that Microsoft has made is that it will ship within 180 days of Windows Server 2008 RTM (I think that works out as 2 August 2008). Personally, I don’t think we’ll have to wait that long, although it should be said that I have no information to back this up.

Unfortunately, the current beta of System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) 2008 is not compatible with Hyper-V RC1 although I understand that the product team are working on a fix and, to be fair, that’s one of the perils of running pre-release software. As is the fact that I need to collapse all my virtual machine snapshots before upgrading my Hyper-V hosts – it seems that Microsoft’s previous statement that “With RC, Hyper-V is now feature complete and provides a seamless upgrade path to RTM of Hyper-V.” doesn’t include snapshots (at least the VMs themselves no longer need to be recreated as part of the upgrade).

For those who used earlier versions of Hyper-V, there is one more thing to watch out for – in RC0, Windows Server 2008 guests needed to have an update applied to support the integration components but that changes in RC1 – just use the integration services setup disk as for other operating system versions.

Diary of a business traveller: when it all comes together

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.

Ask anyone who travels a lot on business and they’ll tell you it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. After a while, every hotel room is pretty much like the last one. Driving gets tiring. Trains run late. And airports are my idea of hell.

Most of my travel is within the UK but today has been an exceptionally long one. Up at 5.45, out of the house by 6.10 and onto the first train to Manchester. Taxi across town to spend the day on a training course (soft skills stuff – nothing technical for this blog…) then travel south again (fighting to keep a VPN signal on Vodafone
‘s 3G/GPRS networks as the Virgin Pendalino sped across the Midlands and I wrote my presentation for tomorrow’s client meeting) to pick up my car and drive to London to check into the hotel that I will call home for the next three nights (it takes about half the time to travel down at night that it would in the morning). All in all, I’ve travelled about 500 miles and managed to fit in a full day’s work as well.

So imagine my surprise when I checked in to the Hilton London Docklands tonight. First of all I was greeted by name (that’s why I use that particular hotel when I’m in town – it may be a bit shabby around the edges but its within my budget limits and I’m treated well – and I don’t stay that often). Then I was told that my room had been upgraded. It turns out that “home” for the next few nights is a suite – with a bedroom, two bathrooms, a living room and a view over the Thames to Canary Wharf. It might not be the Hilton Auckland (where my wife and I stayed on the first night of my honeymoon) or the Shangri-La in Sydney (where we spent Christmas the year before – back when it was the ANA Harbour Grand) but, compared to some of the dives that my company’s booking agency puts us in, this is great – it’s just a shame that I’m here on my own!

Canary Wharf  from Rotherhithe

The picture above is the view from my room. For those who don’t know London, it shows the Thames and Canary Wharf (one of London’s two financial districts – the other being the square mile that is the City of London itself). The small version of the image for the blog is a bit difficult to view, so click through for a larger version.

The final image is a cropped photomerge of three separate pictures taken using my Canon Digital Ixus 70 (not even my DSLR), cropped and resized. What I hadn’t appreciated before was just how easy this is to produce using Adobe Photoshop CS2 (even better in CS3, as Alex Lindsay describes in episode 12 of This Week in Photography) – just go to the File menu, select Automate and then Photomerge. After this, select the images, and let Photoshop work out how to join everything up. It’s incredibly simple and it even handles perspective (I don’t know how – it’s just amazing).

Photomerging in Adobe Photoshop CS2

Business travel may be a bind but I do like it when it all comes together – especially when I get a good picture out of it.

DVD burning issues in Mac OS X fixed by restarting Finder

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 was just packing up my stuff for another few nights away from home and thought it was about time I backed up my photos (been a bit slack on the backups again recently…).Unfortunately, Mac OS X didn’t want to burn a DVD for me, reporting that:This disc could not be used because the disc drive is not supported (Error code 0x80020025)That seemed strange as the drive in question is the superdrive that came with my MacBook.The Apple discussion forums are down right now (displaying a page that says “We’ll be back soon”) and most of the “advice” I found on other sites (or in Google’s cache) was concerned with people having problems after upgrading old Macs from CD to DVD, or was telling people that there are different sorts of optical media (yeah, I know – all I want to do is burn a few files to a DVD – as data, not as something that will play back in a consumer device – how hard can it be?).Thankfully, I found Chris J. Davis’ post describing the issue which suggests restarting the Finder. It worked too (force quit Finder and relaunch).I guess Apple is just trying to make switchers feel at home – forced application restarts on the Mac feels just like running Windows (Explorer)…

Virtual PC and Virtual Server updated to support the latest Windows releases

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.

Those who thought (as I did until a few weeks back) that there would be no more Virtual Server development as Microsoft focuses its efforts on Hyper-V may be interested to hear that they have just announced an update for Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1, providing host and guest support for Windows Server 2008, Windows Vista Service Pack 1 and Windows XP Service Pack 3. Further details can be found in Microsoft knowledge base article 948515.

In addition, Microsoft has shipped service pack 1 for Virtual PC 2007, providing guest support for Windows Server 2008, Windows Vista Service Pack 1 and Windows XP Service Pack 3 as well as host support for Windows Vista Service Pack 1 and Windows XP Service Pack 3. Further details can be found in the accompanying release notes.

Both of these products take the VM Additions version to 13.820.

This information has been floating around for a few weeks but was under NDA until yesterday. Watch out for more news from the virtualisation labs in Redmond soon…