Safer Internet Day: Educating parents on Internet safety for their children

This content is 14 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 Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.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 weeks ago, I mentioned that today is European Safer Internet Day and, here in the UK a number of organisations are working with the Child Exploitation and Online Protection centre (CEOP) to educate parents and children in safe use of the Internet.  I don’t work for Microsoft but, as an MVP, I was invited to join in and tonight I’ll be delivering a session to parents at my son’s school, using Microsoft’s presentation deck (although it has to be said that this is not a marketing deck – it’s full of real-world examples and practical advice about protecting children and young people from the specific dangers the Internet can pose, whilst allowing them to make full use of the ‘net’s many benefits: turning it off is not the answer).

The BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones has reported some of the activities for Safer Internet Day; although the Open Rights Group’s suggestion that this is all about scoring a publicity hit for a little cost are a little cynical – Microsoft has a social responsibility role to play and by working with CEOP to produce an IE 8 browser add-in the UK subsidiary’s activities are laudable.  If other browser-makers want to follow suit – then they can also work with CEOP (ditto for the social networking sites that have yet to incorporate the Report Abuse button).  Indeed, quoting from James O’Neill’s post this morning:

“We are part of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) and Gordon [Frazer – Microsoft UK MD and VP Microsoft International]’s mail also said ‘This year as part of the ‘Click Clever Click Safe’ campaign UKCCIS will be launching a new digital safety code for children – ‘Zip It, Block It, Flag It’. Over 100 Microsoft volunteers will be out in schools in the UK teaching young people and parents alike about child online safety and helping build public awareness for simple safety tips.

Our volunteering activities today mark our strong commitment to child online safety. Online safety is not only core to our business, as exemplified by particular features in Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) and our work in developing the Microsoft Child Exploitation Tracking System (CETS) which helps law enforcement officials collaborate and share information with other police services to manage child protection cases, but it is also an issue that our employees, many parents themselves, take very seriously. As a company we put a great deal of faith in our technology, however, we are also aware that the tools we provide have to be used responsibly.”

Anyway, I digress – part of the presentation I’ll be giving this evening will include a fact sheet, produced by Microsoft, that I’ll leave with parents and I’d like to repeat some of the advice it contains here (with a few edits of my own…).

Safety Considerations

The Internet is a fantastic resource for young people but we must remember that the same as in the real world, there can be potential dangers to consider:

  • Control – Personal information can be easily accessed if it is posted online. Consider what information about your child someone could access online.
  • Contact – Paedophiles use the Internet to meet young people and build up a relationship.  This is often done in a public environment such as a chat room or online game before trust is built up to become an online friend for 1-1 conversations.
  • Cyberbulling – Other people may make use of technology to bully a young person 24/7.  By using online technology a bully can gain an instant and wide audience for their bullying. Cyberbullying can be threats and intimidation as well as harassment and peer rejection.
  • Content – The Internet can contain inappropriate images of violence and pornography that you might be unhappy for your child to have access to.

Top Tips for Parents

These simple rules can help to keep children safe:

  • Keep your PC in an open space where possible to encourage communication.
  • Discuss the programs your children use.
  • Keep communication open with regards to who they are chatting to online.
  • Discuss their list of contacts and check they know all those they have accepted as friends.
  • Consider using the same technology so you can understand how it works.
  • Talk to your children about keeping their information and photos private using privacy settings on sites such as Bebo and Facebook.
  • Teach your children what personal information is and that they shouldn’t share it online with people they don’t know.
  • Make use of Parental Controls where available. These can allow you to control the amount of time your children are online, the sites they can access and the people they can talk to.   Controls are available for many products including Windows (Vista and 7), Mac OS X, Xbox and Windows Live (Family Safety), or more technical users might consider using an alternative DNS provider such as OpenDNS.

Some useful links include:

How to Get Help

For Young People:

For Adults:

  • Adults can speak to The Samaritans. The Samaritans provide confidential emotional support for people who are in emotional distress. If you are worried, feel upset or confused and just want to talk you can email the Samaritans or phone 08457 90 90 90.

I forgot that presenting at a school where I have an association means that some of the people in the audience are my friends (blurring my personal/professional boundary…) but hey, there are some important messages at stake here.  If all goes well tonight, I’ll be contacting other schools in the area to do something similar.

[Updated 24 November 2014: CBBC Stay Safe link updated; Metropolitan Police link added]

Installing Windows from a network server without Windows Deployment Services

This content is 14 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’d like to start this post with a statement:

Windows Deployment Services (WDS) is a useful role in Windows Server 2008 R2.  It’s free (to licensed Windows users), supports multitasking, and is a perfectly good method of pushing Windows images to clients…

Unfortunately that statement has a caveat:

… but it needs to be installed on an Active Directory-member computer.

For some, that’s a non-starter.  And sometimes, you just want a quick and dirty solution.

I have a small dedicated server at home to run Active Directory along with basic network services (DNS, DHCP, etc.) for my home IT.  I also run Philippe Jounin’s excellent TFTP Daemon (service edition) on it in order to support image loads on my Cisco 7940 IP Phone.

In order to rebuild the Hyper-V server that I use for infrastructure test and development, I wanted to boot across the network and install Windows Server 2008 R2 – and a few days ago I found Mark Kubacki’s post about TFTPd32 and DHCP Server – Windows Deployment Services without WDS. Perfect!  No need to install another role on my little Atom-powered server – particularly as, once this server is built, I’ll probably install WDS on it  to deploy images to my various test virtual machines!

So, this is the process – with thanks to Mark Kubacki, and to Ryan T Adams (who wrote about installing Vista without a CD Drive using TFTP – for instance, installing Windows on a netbook) who were gracious enough to blog about their experiences and give me something to build upon:

  1. Download tftpboot.exe from Ryan T Adams’ site and run it to extract the contents to a suitable hard drive location (i.e. the TFTP root folder).  Unfortunately, you probably won’t need most of this 154MB download (more on that in a moment) but it will get you started.
  2. Start tftpd32.exe (or copy the files to your TFTP root, if you are already running a TFTP service, as I was) and add tftpd32.exe (or tftpd32_svc.exe) as a Windows Firewall exception (you could just disable the firewall but I don’t recommend that approach).
  3. Either set TFTPD32 to act as a DHCP server and specify the boot file options (as Ryan describes), or configure DHCP options 066 and 067 (boot server host name and boot file name) on another DHCP server (Mark shows how to do this for the Windows DHCP Server role) using the IP address of the TFTP server and the boot file name of boot\
  4. Make sure that the TFTP Server is set to include PXE capability in the advanced TFTP options and that it’s DHCP Server capability is turned off if you are using another DHCP server.
  5. Restart the TFTP Server (or service) to pick up the configuration changes.
  6. Boot a computer (or virtual machine) from its network card, press F12 when prompted and wait for Windows PE to load, then map a drive to another machine on the network which is sharing the Windows media (I use Slysoft Virtual Clone Drive to mount an operating system ISO file and I’ve shared the virtual drive).
  7. Switch to the newly mapped drive and type setup.exe to run Windows Setup.

Unfortunately, the version of the Windows Preinstallation Environment (Windows PE) that Ryan has supplied in tftpboot.exe is a 32-bit version (of Windows PE 2.0, I think).  When I tried to use this to install Windows Server 2008 R2 (which is 64-bit only), I was greeted with the following message:

This version of Z:\setup.exe is not compatible with the version of Windows you’re running.  Check your computer’s system information to see whether you need a x86 (32-bit) or x64 (64-bit) version of the program, and then contact the software publisher.

I needed a 64-bit version of Windows PE.  No problem.  That’s included in the Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK), so I overwrote Ryan’s winpe.wim with the one from %programfiles%\Windows AIK\Tools\PETools\amd64, and restarted the computer I wanted to build.  This time Windows Setup ran with no issues and Windows Server was installed successfully.

Even though I used the TFTPD32, this method could be used to install Windows from just about any TFTP server (it could even be running on totally different operating system, I guess), or even to load another WIM file (i.e. not Windows PE) from a network boot. I’m sure if I had more time I could come up with all sorts of scenarios (boot Windows directly from the network?) but, for now, I’ll stick to using this method as a WDS replacement.

Windows Azure: avoiding charges; feature voting; UK Azure Awareness week

This content is 14 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.

Windows Azure logoToday is the day that Microsoft’s cloud-based computing platform, Windows Azure, which has been running through a phased launch over recent months, becomes a chargeable service.

I don’t know if it’s expensive or not – it looks a bit steep to me – but I don’t have a reference point (other than simple web hosting) and, because of the granular charging structure, it’s difficult to get a true idea of what the charges might be for any given application.  Expensive or not – what Azure provides is flexibility (i.e to mix on-premise and cloud-based infrastructure), elasticity (e.g. to cope with bursts in computing resources requirements) and familiarity (i.e. the code deployed to the web is still Microsoft .NET code, or  indeed it could be something else - like C++, Java, Ruby or PHP… although you might need a small amount of .NET “veneer”).

I don’t pretend to understand all of the details of Windows Azure – I’m no developer – but Steve Marx has produced a great introduction to Azure video for non-techies:

If this sounds interesting to you, then read on… because, last Friday, I was at Microsoft UK’s offices, where I was fortunate to see Microsoft UK Developer Evangelist Eric Nelson (Twitter @ericnel) present his seven things that may surprise you about the Windows Azure platform. In his presentation, Eric also highlighted a couple of offers that can be used to avoid paying for Azure – for example if you have a small cloud-based app (perhaps a demonstration), or if you’re just dipping your toe into the water:

If you’ve already been having a look at Azure, you might want to take a look at the Windows Azure Feature Voting forum where it’s possible to vote (up to 10 times) for Windows Azure features – as the site is run by Mike Wickstrand, who is Microsoft’s Senior Director for Windows Azure Product Planning, it should be somewhere that opinions get noticed (and I’d like to see a few more Microsoft product groups take on this idea…).

If you want to know more about Azure, then the Windows Azure Team Blog would be a good place to start but, for those of us in the UK, 20-27 February 2010 is UK Azure Awareness week – watch the UK fans of the Windows Azure Platform site for more information.