PowerShell running on server core (without resorting to application virtualisation)

PowerShell evangelist (and Microsoft deployment guru) David Saxon dropped me a note this morning to let me know that Quest Software’s Dmitry Sotnikov has got PowerShell running on Server Core.

Nice work Dmitry. It’s not a supported configuration (as Jeffrey Snover notes in his post on the PowerShell Team blog) but something that people have been wanting to see for a while now.

(Aaron Parker managed to get this working another way – using application virtualisation)

What’s it like to work at Microsoft?

I’ve often thought about applying for a job at Microsoft (and actually went along to a recruitment evening last year) but have held back for a variety of reasons (one of which is that if I didn’t get the job, I’d be gutted).

Anyway, I found a blog post, written by a Microsoftie in Redmond, in which he attempts to dispel some of the myths about working at Microsoft – no great revelations but an interesting read nevertheless.

Sadly, we don’t have free soft drinks where I work, so I can’t go cold turkey on the Diet Coke to save up for a tablet PC!

In the meantime, Ken’s follow-up article on how not to get hired at Microsoft is a sobering reminder that if I do submit my CV, I may well end up disappointed.

Microsoft Licensing: Part 3 (server products)

In the first two parts of this series, I’ve looked at how many products need to be licensed for both the server and the client as well as licensing without client access licenses (CALs).

Because nothing is ever straightforward with licensing, this post takes a look at some of the complexities around licensing major Microsoft server products.

Starting out with Windows Server 2008, standard or enterprise edition, with or without Hyper-V, the server can be licensed using the per-seat model (with per-user or per-device CALs) or on a per-server basis (enforcing a number of connections for which the server is licensed). Web edition does not allow per-seat licensing (per-server only), whilst Datacenter edition (with or without Hyper-V) and Windows Server 2008 for Itanium-based systems use a hybrid model with the server licensed per-processor and CALs required for end-user connectivity.

There are some changes to Windows Server 2008 licensing (compared with 2003 R2):

  • Windows Server 2008 standard edition now includes a license to run a virtual operating system environment (OSE) – previously an enterprise edition license included 4 OSEs but standard had no such provision (I’ve written previously about Microsoft’s licensing arrangements for virtualisation). The physical and virtual instances can each run the current or any prior version of Windows (as long as the edition matches the licensed version).
  • Windows Server 2008 for Itanium-based systems is a new edition, licensed on the same basis as Datacenter edition (which is now available through volume licensing as well as OEM channels) with processor plus CAL licensing and unlimited virtual instances.
  • Windows Server 2008 web edition now allows any type of database software to be installed on the server with no limit on the number of connected users (previously limited to 25 users).

With respect to downgrade rights: Windows Server 2008 standard edition can be downgraded to a previous standard edition product (back as far as Windows 2000 Server); Windows Server 2008 enterprise edition can be downgraded to a previous enterprise edition product (back to Windows 2000 Advanced Server); and Windows Server 2008 datacenter edition can be downgraded to a previous datacenter edition product (back as far as Windows 2000 Datacenter Server).

Looking at the various SharePoint technologies:

  • Windows SharePoint Server (WSS) is included within a Windows Server license.
  • Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007 and Office Forms Server (OFS) 2007 are licensed according to the required features with standard and enterprise CALs or, for Internet-facing sites, there are MOSS 2007 for Internet sites and OFS 2007 for Internet sites licenses.
    • MOSS/OFS for Internet sites licenses are only for Internet-facing (non-employee access) or extranet-facing (internal and external access for employees and non-employees) sites and cannot be used for sites that are only for internal organisational use.
  • MOSS for Search standard edition is limited to indexing 500,000 documents (there is no such limit for enterprise edition); however there are no CALs required – just the server license.

It’s also important to remember that the underlying SQL Server database also needs to be licensed.

Exchange Server 2007 is licensed as a server product (standard or enterprise edition) and with CALs (standard or enterprise) for access with Office Outlook Web Access, Office Outlook Voice Access, Office Outlook Mobile or a third-party client. Where Office Outlook is used, this must be separately licensed. This is an important change – the Exchange Server 2003 CAL included the right to use Outlook, whereas an Exchange Server 2007 CAL does not; however an Exchange Server 2003 CAL purchased with software assurance (SA) retains the right to use Outlook.

Office Communications Server (OCS) 2007 is licensed in a similar manner to Exchange – as a server product (standard or enterprise) with CALs (standard or enterprise) for access with Communicator Web Access (CWA) or Communicator Mobile. The Office Communicator client is licensed separately and Live Meeting access requires an enterprise CAL.

In the next post in this series, I’ll look at licensing System Center server products.

Microsoft Licensing: Part 2 (licensing without CALs)

In last night’s post about Microsoft software licensing, I looked at the concepts around client and server licensing components – including the various client access license (CAL) models that may be applied. In this post, I’m continuing the series by looking at products that are licensed using a per-processor model.

The first thing to note is that Microsoft’s per-processor licensing model relates to physical CPUs – it is effectively a per-socket model – and there is no consideration as to the number of logical CPUs that a multi-core CPU provides. Put simply, one processor license is required for each processor in the server and no CALs are required.

The per-processor model also covers unlimited internal and external users and the three main Microsoft products available using this model are all products that could be expected to form part of an infrastructure that requires access from outside the organisation (and so for which purchasing CALs would not be practical):

  • BizTalk Server.
  • Commerce Server.
  • Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server.

SQL Server 2005 is available using either a per-processor or a server plus CALs model. Where CALs are in use, they are equally applicable to direct connections, or to multiplexed connections where some sort of device is used to pool hardware or software. The important point to note is that any transfer of data using hardware or software needs CALs (e.g. Excel reports that are automatically updated from a SQL Server) but manual reports that do not subsequently access the server (e.g. a snapshot of data forwarded by e-mail) do not require a CAL.

The licensing model for SQL Server 2008 is yet to be announced; however SQL Server 2005 supports three types of failover:

  • Database mirror.
  • Failover cluster.
  • Backup log shipping.

In all three of these models, an active/passive model is used and one server is designated as the passive server with its sole purpose being to absorb the data and information held on another server until it fails. Passive servers do not need to be licensed as long as the processor count is less than or equal to the number of processors in the physical server. The passive server can run for 30 days before it is considered active and must be licensed accordingly, although it is possible to transfer the license from the active server if that is no longer online.

One model that would require licensing is using a passive database mirror for snapshot reporting (whilst the active server answers standard database queries). In this scenario, the passive server is effectively active and would need to be licensed.

Whilst describing per-processor licensing for BizTalk, Commerce Server and ISA Server, I commented that it can be difficult to judge the number of CALs that are required where external connectivity is concerned. For this reason, an external connector is available for organisations that wish their business partners to be able to access their network. There is no requirement to count CALs as each external connector license assigned to a server permits any number of authenticated external users to access it; however the external connector is in addition to the server license and there are rules to apply in order for users to qualify as external – namely that they must not be employees, onsite contractors or agents of the company or its affiliates. Employee access will still be subject to client access licensing and there is one further exception in that the external connector cannot be used for hosted services.

External connectors are available for:

  • Windows Server.
  • Terminal Server.
  • Exchange Server.
  • Office Communications Server (OCS).
  • Office Project Portfolio Server.
  • Office Project Server.
  • Office Performance Point Server.

Another special licensing condition is for Internet-facing websites where there is an Internet Sites Edition available for Office SharePoint Server 2007 and Office Forms Server 2007 (replacing the 2003 Internet Connector license). Again, this does not cover hosting scenarios and all content, information and applications must be for non-employees (for employee use, the normal CAL model would apply).

Finally, for all those hosting environments that the licensing models above specifically exclude, Microsoft does make provision for selling software as a service using a service provider licensing agreement (SPLA). This allows for a service to be provided to customers through the Internet, a telephone network or a private network on a subscription basis within a hosted environment (e.g. hosted Exchange Server mailboxes, charged on a per-mailbox, per-month basis).

That’s a summary of the main models for licensing Microsoft software without CALs. In the next post in this series, I’ll look in some more detail at the licensing models for each of the main server products.

More on high ISO levels

Chatting with a freind earlier this evening, I realised that I may have confused things slightly when talking about high ISO levels in my post explaining why not all megapixels are equal.

Higher ISO film has traditionally been used to take photographs at a higher speed or in poor lighting conditions (it’s not always possible, or desirable, to use a flash) although high ISO films typically introduce grain into an image. Similarly, using a higher ISO setting on a digital camera can help in the same situations – albeit at the expense of introducing digital noise. That situation is changing as modern DSLRs such as the Nikon D3 are reported to take acceptable images at very high ISO levels (e.g. ISO 6400 – that’s six stops faster than standard daylight film used by most of us a few years back and four stops faster than the film that many consumers would have used for “action” shots).

For those of us who can’t afford a D3, it’s worth noting that squeezing more and more megapixels onto a tiny sensor will increase digital noise. For the reasons I described in my original post (the type of sensor, the technical differences between pixels and photosites, the firmware and software supporting the imaging chip and even the size of the pixels) the only real answer is a larger sensor, which is why a full frame DSLR will produce appreciably better low-light images than a digital compact camera or a cameraphone and why my Canon Ixus 70 produces terrible night-time shots on its high ISO setting.

Microsoft Licensing: Part 1 (client and server)

A few weeks back, I found myself spending the evening in a conference room at Microsoft’s UK headquarters, listening to a presentation about software licensing. For those who say I should get a life – you’re probably right and I’m sure there are better things that I could have been doing on one of the UK’s rare sunny evenings, but I’ve missed this session before and, whilst I have a pretty good grip on the technology, it’s often handy to understand a bit about the minefield that is Microsoft’s software licensing policies.

I learnt too much that evening to repeat here in one blog post, so I’m planning on writing a series on this subject. This post is part one, in which I’ll attempt to explain the basic licensing concepts around clients and servers.

All Microsoft software products (even those offered free of charge) are subject to a license to use the software – an end user licensing agreement, or EULA. For many products, there are client and server components – and it’s important to license the operating system as well as the application.

Common mistakes are that Windows client (e.g. XP or Vista) licenses include connections to Windows servers – in fact, a client access license (CAL) is required to use Windows Server functionality. Similarly, Microsoft Outlook is included within the Microsoft Office system but not the connection to an Exchange Server system to access e-mail and other collaborative technologies.

A CAL gives a client the right to access the services of the server. It is not software and is not “installed” on a server (although it may be recorded in certain circumstances). In addition, only one CAL is needed for a given device or user to access a server, regardless of which servers it is accessing.

When considering client access licenses, for many products, there are two models:

  • Per-seat licensing – with a CAL required for each device that connects to the server.
  • Per-user licensing – whereby a user CAL is covers the total number of devices owned by a user who accesses or utilises the server service, regardless of the number of devices that they use.

Whilst user and device CALs cost the same as one another, for many organisations, a mix of per-seat and per-user licensing is appropriate – for example a sales team with a mixture of notebook PCs and mobile devices could use per-user licensing to cover all of their many devices whereas a warehouse with many users sharing a PC, or an office with shift workers would be better served with a per-seat model.

Per-seat licensing is available for Windows Server, Exchange Server, Office Communications Server (OCS), Office SharePoint Server (MOSS), Project Server, SQL Server and Small Business Server (SBS).

The important thing to remember is that CALs are associated with a particular product version and that it’s the server that defines the CAL version that is required – i.e. when a Windows Server 2003 machine is upgraded to Windows Server 2008, the CALs must be upgraded too; however, in a mixed environment, CALs can be used to connect to servers running downlevel operating systems.

For volume license customers (only), a core CAL suite is available covering Windows Server, Exchange Server, Office SharePoint Server and System Center Configuration Manager. Always sold with software assurance, the core CAL is less expensive than buying all of the individual CALs (approximately 2-3 times the price of an individual CAL).

Microsoft confused many customers with many of the 2007 products (e.g. Exchange Server 2007) by introducing a new CAL model with a standard CAL for basic functionality and an enterprise CAL for more advanced functionality (e.g. Exchange Server 2007 Managed Folders). The important points to remember are that:

  • The standard and enterprise CALs (a poor choice of nomenclature, in my opinion) have nothing to do with whether the server application is a standard or enterprise edition product – i.e. an enterprise edition product is not required in order to use an enterprise CAL and enterprise or standard CALs can be used for either enterprise or standard edition products (if this is confusing, it may help to think of standard and enterprise CALs as “basic” and “advanced” respectively).
  • Enterprise CALs are additive – i.e. a standard CAL is required as well as the enterprise CAL (an enterprise CAL “adds to” the functionality associated with a standard CAL).

It’s also worth noting that if a user connects to a server product there is no enforcement of standard or enterprise features. As with all licensing, the responsibility is with the customer to correctly license their software although, from a technical perspective, some advanced features need to be enabled manually and this would present an opportunity to record the use of enterprise functionality.

Select and Enterprise customers can buy an Enterprise CAL (ECAL) suite for twice the price of the core CAL. This includes:

  • Core CAL (with each component counting as a standard CAL).
  • Forefront Security Suite.
  • System Center Operations Management license (a CAL to allow a client to be managed using System Center Operations Manager).
  • Windows Rights Management Services CAL.
  • Office Communications Server standard and enterprise CALs.
  • Office SharePoint Server enterprise CAL.
  • Exchange Server enterprise CAL.

The ECAL suite is always sold with software assurance and customers without a Select or Enterprise agreement can buy enterprise CALs for MOSS and Exchange Server to top-up their Core CALs.

In the next part of this series, I’ll look at products that are licensed without CALs (e.g. per-processor licensing and special cases external connectivity and hosted environments).

Keeping up with developments in photography

I love to take photographs – and friends and family tell me I’m good at it – but it’s been a much maligned hobby in recent years, which is part of the reason the planned photo gallery has never made it onto this website (it will one day). I do dream though of making a living one day from creating fantastic images – making photographs rather than taking them (combining the art of creating a pleasing image that tells a story with the science of a technically perfect exposure) – and so I like to take in other people’s work for inspiration.

For many years, I have read photographic magazines like Practical Photography but, over time, I grew tired of the features (except for the odd two-page pages of commentary accompanied with a stunning image from professionals like David Noton) and found it all a little bit repetitive.

More recently I found alternative titles that catered to my needs like Digital SLR Photography but I just don’t have enough time to read photography magazines, computer magazines, IT trade publications, RSS feeds, and still fit in the odd interesting book, so I’ve started to listen to a new photography podcast when I’m in the car – This Week In Photography (TWIP).

I’ve not always been a fan of Scott Bourne’s work but Alex Lindsay really knows his stuff and, so far, TWIP has managed to avoid some of the pitfalls that have resulted in other podcasts (notably This Week In Tech – TWIT) from being removed from my iTunes subscription list, by keeping the show times down to around an hour, largely staying on topic (sticking with the content, rather than indulging in the “personalities”) and having interesting and varied content – covering the news. It’s also great that they use the chapter markings and enhanced functionality available in an AAC audio file (it’s really helpful to have an audio feature about photography that can actually show some images) as well as mixing video content into the feed to demonstrate some of the concepts.

The TWIP podcast also has a great blog – but, whilst there are other excellent resources on the ‘net (like ShutterBug and DP Review), it’s the podcast format that works for me – an hour of audio whilst I’m in the car or out walking, interjected with the odd short video. In the past I’ve tried other podcasts – like The Digital Story (audio) and PixelPerfect (video) but I’m surprised to find that the mixture of audio and video in the same feed has really worked for me.

In the last few weeks I’ve learnt a whole load of new stuff – like creating high dynamic range images (remembering to shoot using a tripod to keep the camera steady and aperture priority to control the focus); that not all megapixels are equal; that the rules of composition are different for panoramic images; how to stitch photos together in Adobe Photoshop (and that it may be necessary to adjust a stitched image as the exposure may vary slightly between the edge and the centre); how to create a Photoshop Action to emulate the saturation of Fuji Velvia film; and that Lexar cards are optimised for Nikon cameras (that’s lucky as that’s what I use, although I’ve not been able to find any evidence to back up that claim).

Definitely recommended.

Not all megapixels are equal

I suppose it was enevitable but photographic film products are slowly slipping away. I’d still like a Hasselblad Xpan II, but they are rare (and expensive) – and even if I did get one, I’m not sure that I’d use it (when I bought a DSLR, I kept my film body but it’s been sitting in the kit bag ever since). Over the last few years, we’ve seen film companies struggle, whilst the likes of Nikon and Canon announce record profits. I hope that film doesn’t die completely (there is something magical about developing photographic film with chemicals and producing prints) but film products will inevitably become expensive and niche.

Digital photography has many advantages but one of my main frustrations has been the lack of dynamic range that the current crop of cameras can capture. Whilst negative film has around 12 stops of latitude, and slide film has around 4.5 stops, digital cameras can be even more restrictive at times and, in order to capture shadow detail, burnt out highlights become apparant although, just as when shooting slides, using neutral density filters can help (a lot).

Then there is the issue of noise. With film we could push film a couple of stops beyond it’s intended levels and correct it at the processing stage – there was a corresponding increase in grain and some colour shift too but it helped to grab images in low-light situations or when there was fast-moving action. Try that on most digital cameras and you’ll see a lot of noise (the digital equivalent of grain but far less attractive) although this is starting to change and the latest digital cameras are reaching new levels with perfectly usable photos at high ISO levels and some reports of being able to shoot handheld at twilight and still capture a good image.

Meanwhile, the digital camera manufacturers have induced a state of megapixel madness. Consumers now know to look at the number of megapixels that a camera has but it seems that not all megapixels are equal – the images on my 7Mpel compact camera are fine for snapshots, but no-where near as good as the ones that my 6Mpel DSLR produces. It’s all down to the technology in use like the type of sensor (CCD or CMOS), the technical differences between picture elements (pixels) and photosites, the firmware and software supporting the imaging chip and even the size of the pixels. Even after all of this, the quality of the lens through which the light must travel to reach the sensor is still a major factor (ditto for filters).

A new DSLR is not an option for me (I have a 4-year old Nikon D70 that will last me for a while longer – at least until Nikon release an FX-format prosumer SLR) so, for the time being at least, I’ll be continuing to use a tripod and long exposures in low light and hopefully this summer I’ll have a go at creating high dynamic range (HDR) images (one image from multiple exposures) to increase the dynamic range.

A few iPhone bits and bobs

Yesterday, I found some notes I made when I was preparing my one month with the iPhone post last year – including a bunch of iPhone tips (parts 1, 2, 3 and 4).

If you’re based in the UK, and you’re looking for free Wi-Fi courtesy of Apple’s agreement with The Cloud – they have a hotspot location tool on their website (I’m not sure if you can change the browser agent and enter a phone number associated with an iPhone for access from any device as AT&T users could at Starbucks outlets in the States until the service was removed).

Lego man unpacking iPhoneFinally, I stumbled across what has to qualify as the best set of unboxing photos I’ve ever seen. Lego men unpacking consumer electronics is certainly geeky but somehow it’s very cool at the same time.