Posts filed under ‘Microsoft’

Hyper-V in Windows Server 2008

My new server for my research finally turned up from Dell.  It’s a nice quiet machine and very nifty!  The Vostro 400 is equipped with a Quad Core processor, 750 GB HD (with 16MB cache) and 4 GB DDR2 Ram (thanks to an extra 2GB of memory from Crucial for only 50 EUR).  The entire setup came to only around 800 EUR and took 7 days from order to delivery with UPS.  I don’t know if UPS are having problems with their servers or not but the tracking updates were slow, poor resolution and often 12 hours late!

Buying the memory from Crucial saved me around 90 Euro on the Dell price and while it wasn’t easy putting it into the machine (the graphics card is a full length PCIe card and blocked access to the clips on one of the memory modules) – 10 mins later it was up and running.

 I have a SiteCom KVM (Keyboard, Video and Monitor) switch and it took a while to get it working with the 2 machines.  For some reason I had to unplug everything from the KVM and reattach the cables to get around some start-up keyboard errors.  It’s not a great KVM switch – you can only change machines by pressing a button on the box and it disconnects the keyboard/mouse from the OS when you switch – needing time for the OS to catch up when you switch back.

I don’t understand why KVM manufacturers charge so much for their kit – the Belkin KVM retails at about 150 USD (about 100 EUR) and only supports 2 devices.

 So back to the new server…

The machine turned up with reinstallation disks for Vista business (which was a worry with new machines where they sometimes hide the OS on a hidden partition) so it carefree that I installed Windows Server Enterprise with Hyper-V.  Some handy tips Windows Server 2008 and Hyper-V can be found on Virtual Varia‘s blog, on Joe’s MSDN blog here and Virtual PC’s Blog here

The installation went without a hitch – and was fast!  10 mins and the OS was installed.  The machine just whizzed through the installation and before I could finish my coffee I was playing with Windows 2008.

I made the mistake of changing the installation defaults for the OS and after adding the Hyper-V role I found the vmm service wouldn’t start. 😦  I have an Italian keyboard and while I have the OS in English – it’s a pain to try and remember the layout of the US keyboard.

A quick check on the connect forums found this was a known issue and a reinstall was required.  Not a problem with this baby!

Another 10 mins later and Windows Server 2008 was installed and the Hyper-V role added.  The machine just slipped through the process like a hot knife through butter – rebooting takes no time and within a minute you’ve rebooted and logged into Windows.

The Server admin with 2008 is very nice and slick – it handles like a dream and adding Roles or Features is as simple as following the wizard.  In fact it’s so easy that you worry that there are other stages you need to complete.  I’d like to see a little more handling of errors of failed services (such as the problem with adding the Hyper-V role I encountered – I know the locale issue will be fixed but the exception and fault finding should be in place now).

One the server was up and running it was time to create a Virtual Machine inside Hyper-V.  The process was painless and transparent – just answering a few questions, attaching the boot-time ISO image to the VM and you’re off.  I have to say – I was impressed.  The performance of installing Windows Server 2008 inside Hyper-V was as quick as installing the OS onto the physical machine itself.  You almost couldn’t tell the difference!   Microsoft have revamped the interface to connect to the VM from within Hyper-V and it’s much slicker and easier.  Nice menus, layout and rendering.  The Q6600 quad core processor from Intel has the virtualizing extensions – which makes the performance of the Host and Client OS’s great.

I’d love to have the resources to setup a couple of these machine/OS combinations – the mind boggles at what I can do with Edge computing for the NLP & MT.

The Dell Vostro 400 performs well but there are a few corners they’ve cut that are difficult to swallow; the network interface runs only at 10/100, the max memory supported is only 4GB and the lack of firewire ports hamper the use of fast external storage. 

Over the next few days I’ll finish setting up the environment I need and will update on how it goes.


Saturday 12th January, 2008 at 5:01 pm 3 comments

Vista SP1 and ReadyBoost

The new event entry for Readyboost shows a whopping 82% cache hit percentage!

Continue Reading Saturday 22nd December, 2007 at 3:31 pm Leave a comment

ReadyBoost on Vista

Recently I purchased an ultrafast Transcend 4 GB CF card from a MediaWorld for the lowly cost of 30 Euros (20 GBP / 45 USD) for use as a ReadyBoost drive with Vista – a replacement for my 2GB USB Drive – intended to give Vista a little xmas loving.

After plugging in the drive to the built-in USB multicard reader Vista refused to accept that the drive would support ReadyBoost.  A problem I’ve experienced before with a 2GB SD card which initially ReadyBoost accepted as a cache drive – then later (after removal and testing in a digital camera) decided the drive didn’t come up to scratch.  But this was a fast external memory drive for use with high-speed cameras – so I knew the drive was good. 

I had a little time to kill this time – so decided to dig a little deeper into the problem.

 Vista doesn’t give you any tools to determine what the performance characteristics of drives – apart from a meager Event Log message

"The device will not be used for a ReadyBoost cache because it does not exhibit uniform performance across the device.  
Size of fast region: 80 MB."

Not too helpful….

Now the drive that worked with ReadyBoost previously wasn’t being accepted any more.  Assuming the drive wasn’t damaged in any way – something must have changed for Vista to think that the drive wasn’t good enough.

Digging a little deeper I decided to change the policy for the hardware interface attached to the card – changing it from “Optimize for quick removal” to “Optimize for performance”.  You can find these properties by Opening Explorer -> Right clicking on the drive you want to optimise -> Properties -> Hardware.  You’ll need to select and double click the actual hardware drive (use the drive type to guide you – ie CF, SD, xD, etc) to open the properties of the device.  First you’ll need to click on the UAC enabled Change settings button on the General tab to elevate into Admin, then select the Policies tab (depicted).

SD Card Property Page

Now generally you should only do this for Hard Drives if your machine is connected to a UPS – otherwise you’ll run the risk of data corruption – but ReadyBoost includes a number of features that protect against cache corruption.  Enabling “Optimize for Performance” should be pretty safe – in a worst case scenario – the cache will fail and Vista will fall back to the standard HD.

You’ll need to reboot after making the change to the device properties.  After rebooting the ReadyBoost property page for the drive greeted me with the option of enabling ReadyBoost on the device.

Now some external memory manufacturers do use slower components in the assembly of their cards – so it might not work for you – but it’s worth a shot if you want to improve the performance of your machine and you happen across a flashdrive in the sales.

You can find a good introduction into how to setup your system for use with ReadyBoost at Tom Archer’s old msdn blog here – unfortunately the images are no longer available.  His new blog can be found here.

From what I’ve read SP1 for Windows Vista includes many fixes and enhancements to the ReadyBoost feature on Vista.  I’ve not managed to get it installed here yet – there’s a few problems with it’s x64 support…

Friday 21st December, 2007 at 9:15 am 3 comments

Surface Computing

If you’ve not seen or heard about Microsoft Surface yet then you need to visit:

Prepare to be gob-smacked!

It’s slated to hit the high-street at the end of this year (2007 for future readers) and the rumour mill put the price somewhere in the region of 5,000-10,000 USD.  

If it works anything like the demos suggest, and there’s no reason why it wouldn’t with the functionality available in supporting devices (mobile phones, cameras, PDA’s, etc), then it will change the way we interact – no only with computers but with each other.

Saturday 9th June, 2007 at 1:58 pm 1 comment

You’ll always be known by your 80’s hairstyle and that bright pink mini-skirt

I’m a people watcher plain and simple.  From the age of 15 I’ve always sat on a park bench off to one side and watched how people communicate with each other; both with the words they use and with the non-verbal body language.

An interesting twist however is how people communicate when the visual clues are removed – and here the blogging world is an interesting study.

I’ve found that the words people use to say something say far more about them than people realise.  Language gives far more away about a persons emotional state, their upbringing, how they perceive their status in the eyes of their peers and what they think about themselves.

The words, and importantly the combination of words they use, shed light on their anxieties, fears, hopes and their internal mental-emotional state.  By picking up on these clues you have an insight into their inner-world.

As people get older, their perspectives change – they feel the passing of the years and as they subconsciously look back on their life.  It’s a natural process of getting older and starting to see the sprinklings of grey.

Often people try to reinvent themselves in someway – and an interesting example of this is a recent post by Scoble.  Robert is a very popular blogger who, while he was at Microsoft, helped change the way that Microsoft deal with the outside world.    Microsoft owe a large debt to his abilities and, personally, I feel that during his time there he led the revolution that brought us Microsoft 2.0.  A major upgrade on the beast that was.

With the passing of the years Robert has moved onto pastures new and appears to be trying to develop more the creative side of his talents.  Many of which you can see in the interviews he did on the MSDN Channel9 site.

The Internet – the blogging world in particular – is struggling with a thorny issue.  The issue is one of reputation.  People are inherently social animals and reputation matters.  Usually reputation has bounds and is constrained; Fred has a reputation for people a great plumber, Angelo is known for his selfless energies spent with work in the society.  This doesn’t mean that you would ask Fred his opinion on the best way to make puff-pastry.

But people look to bloggers to be experts in all domains.  Why?  Is it that blogs are seen as a social dialog or social status and as such unconsciously people see blogs as measures of success?  Do blogs and the inherent linkage between them create a ‘nepotic’ or establish a network of cronyism?

The problem with trying to reinvent yourself in the current blog environment is that your previous fan-clan will always think of you as you were when they started following you – and you’ll always be known by your 80’s hairstyle and that bright pink mini-skirt.

Sunday 20th May, 2007 at 12:15 pm Leave a comment

IE 7 for x64

At last Internet Explorer 7 for x64 can be download here

Tuesday 25th April, 2006 at 12:21 pm 1 comment

Waking in the middle of the night..

I've never been one for tossing and turning in bed at night.  Generally I sleep like a log – out cold for the count.

However – if I wake in the night – I get up and spend a while working which usually chases away whatever demons are lurking about in the cognos.

The past month has been a little hetic with interviews and a couple of projects I am working on – hence the poor frequency of posts on the blog – and I have been waking in the wee hours more often.  In fact I have woken more times this month than I have in the last 10 years.

Tonight I cannot sleep and there are 2 reasons:

  • For some reason I am worried about our neighbours who are expecting their third child anytime soon.  Each time I wake – there is usually some activity going on next door and I check our front window that separates us from the lake and also looks down onto the road into the village.  This morning I saw their car driving into the village.  I hope all goes well – if things are hotting up for them. 🙂

As to why I am worried/anxious for them….

I have absolutely no idea.  They are great people – but we aren't particularly close.  We chat sometimes when we bump into each other – they are usually very forgiving of my Italian.  Last Christmas, Settimio, the husband came up to me in the supermarket and gave me a hug & an Italian kiss (both cheeks – no tongue) and wished me Auguri (seasons greetings) in the supermarket.  Being part English (by birth) I was surprised and a little mortified and being part Italian (by disposition) I was happy to feel part of the family.  They live in a small apartment and have 2 great kids already – we sometimes hear them running around, or coming in and out – often giggling and having fun.  Last summer they were outside with Settimio, all three sitting in their swimming trunks, throwing darts at one of the olive trees with varying degrees of accuracy.  I was a little worried about my car parked next to the olive tree….  But only a little.  A car can be fixed.  A bubble of happiness – playing in the sunshine on a summer day after a cooling swim in the lake – stays with us forever.  Even for me seeing it from the outside.

I guess what started me thinking of the above was Tforcram's post on where he and his wife are and the amazing and thought provoking Ventoletta at the Ventbox.

  • The second reason that I guess is an upcoming interview at Microsoft on Friday with the VSTA/VSTO team.  The onside interview is renowned for being intense – so I've been brushing up on my knowledge and researching topics I haven't touched in a long time.  The hard bit, I guess, is that I am interviewing for an SDE and a PM role with them.  The Product Manager (PM) role I feel fits my skills/experience/apptitude better – my coding in C# – for the Software Design Engineer (SDE) role -is, as I said on the phone interview, a little rusty. 

There is a lot, and I mean a LOT, of info out on the Internet on various websites, Wikis and blogs from people who have been through the Microsoft interview process.  I'm compiling a list of the resources I found most useful and I'll publish something once I have docked with the mothership.  The most helpful so far are:

I've also discovered the Safari bookshelf by O'Reily – a great resource of current and past books on a whole bunch of topics.  Great for swotting on topics you haven't touched in a while – or for just keeping yourself fresh with tech and tech thinking.

Finally – I stumbled over a couple of things over the past week that have been helpful. 

The first is OneNote from Microsoft – a superb app for taking and making notes.  It's been a big help in keeping the paper trail to a minimum.  It's web savvy – so you keep all your references when pasting from websites when you need to supplement your own notes.  It's a little quirky in places with some of the functionality not being intuitive but stick with it and you'll find yourself using it all the time.  It's so easy to use and incredibly useful.

The second is a quote that I found on Joel'swebsite that I think is relevant to those in the IT environment:

Thomas C. Gale, the famous Chrysler automobile designer who retired in 2001, meant when he said that "Good design adds value faster than it adds cost."

Sunday 9th April, 2006 at 3:54 am 2 comments

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