Wow, its not even been released yet, but IE9 is ahead of IE6 in my stats for the last few days. God bless Beta software, and all those who crash their computers with it. Just that IE8 mountain to climb now, then.
Friday, September 17, 2010
This is hardly rocket science, I’m mainly blogging it in case I have to find it in the future! Installing Windows 7 from USB key is a much more pleasant experience than messing about plugging an external DVD drive into your netbook…
To prepare a USB storage device as an installation source for Windows 7:
1. Connect the USB storage device to a computer running Windows 7 or Windows Vista. Ensure that the storage device has no data stored on it that you want to keep as you will wipe it. This needs to be 4gb or greater unless you have done something exciting like used vlite to slim down the Windows 7 installation files to just the ones you need.
2. Open an elevated command prompt (click Start, All Programs, Accessories, right click Command Prompt and select Run As Administrator) and type diskpart.
3. At the DISKPART> prompt, type list disk. Identify which disk connected to the computer represents the USB storage device.
4. At the DISKPART> prompt, type select disk X where X is the number of the disk that you have identified as the USB storage device.
5. At the DISKPART> prompt, type clean. When the disk is clean, type create partition primary.
6. At the DISKPART> prompt, type format fs=fat32 quick. When the format is completed type active and then exit.
7. After you have completed these steps, copy all the files located on the Windows 7 installation DVD to the USB storage device.
8. Configure the BIOS computer on which you want to install Windows 7 to boot from the USB storage device. Attach the USB storage device and then reboot the computer to start installation.
Monday, September 13, 2010
I love Windows Live Writer, I really do. Its the best way of blogging with blogger and one of the main reasons I have not completely abandoned Windows for Ubuntu on my netbook - but there is one annoying bug in it. When you try to add an image which is already open in another program you get the useful error “a problem caused the program to stop working correctly” – and it then doesn’t crash, but does not actually add an image. Anyway, just close the other program and try again.
A more useful error message please Microsoft?
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Windows 7 changes the default functionality of the System Tray to hide icons created there by default. Instead, users have to click a strange up arrow:
It can be fixed per user and per application by clicking Customise, and changing icons to “Show icon and notification”.
There is also a checkbox for “Always show all icons and notifications on the taskbar” – again, this is per user.
To stop this behaviour for all users you can force all System Tray icons to be visible on the Taskbar in regedit. Open Regedit and find:
Create a new DWORD value called EnableAutoTray. Leave its value as 0 (zero). Log off and log back on or reboot and regardless of what you have previously set, all icons are now visible. Setting it to 1 will set it back to default for everyone, and removing the key lets you define it per user by putting it in HKCU.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Now I know that Windows 7 already makes Vista look like an unpopular and almost forgotten relation who hasn’t come round for Christmas for years, but I was surprised to see on my stats for the last month (and I had quite a lot of hits this month, so these aren’t mostly me or anything) that Windows 7 had overtaken the aged and wrinkly Windows XP as the biggest Windows OS among my visitors.
Anyway, I’m quite glad to see this sudden and long overdue demise of Windows XP, since I had started to think in the Vista years that I would be seeing it hanging around more or less forever.
In non Windows operating systems, Linux came second with 5%, followed by Mac on 2.2%. I had one iPhone visitor. Crazy.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Something I’ve had to figure out for a script to uninstall any version of the Citrix client without prompting the user is to find how to uninstall any specific program.
This is saved in the registry for every installed program and the string for a program from one PC should work on any PC – providing its the same version of the program.
Open Regedit and go to this location:
Below this location are lots of folders with GUID names – press CTRL-F and type something from the name of the product you need the uninstall line for. It should jump to the right folder (check it has!) and then look for the value “UninstallString”. The contents of this are what you are after. Mostly this will start msiexec.exe…
You might well want to edit it before you include it in a script – for instance on an MsiExec.exe command adding the switches “REBOOT=ReallySuppress /qb!-“ will suppress a reboot and make it completely non-interactive, so the user just sees a brief status bar as it uninstalls. Without it, it might prompt for uninstall or a reboot.
Friday, April 2, 2010
It seems like a long wait (because it’s been a long wait) but finally the wait for XenApp 6 is over. This is something I’ve been waiting for after forming a low opinion of XenApp 5 in benchmarking and I’m looking forward to seeing what a more developed version of XenApp is like, especially running on Windows Server 2008 R2 (or “Windows 7 Server” as they really should have called it)
Downloaded the massive 4.8gb ISO of XenApp 6, so its time to install a test farm.
- Install Windows 2008 R2, with .NET 3.5 sp1
- Logon to the server again but NOT USING REMOTE DESKTOP! Use VNC, use ILO, plug a monitor in, just don’t use Terminal Services. It won’t work.
- Extract the XenApp 6 ISO to a folder on the network with 7zip
- Run autorun.exe (as administrator)
- Click Install XenApp Server
- Click Add Server Roles
- Select your XenApp edition. In my case, its Enterprise.
- Choose your server roles. You will need at least a license server as well, but if you have a spare machine (a virtual is fine) its a good role to have a dedicated server for. Remember it will have to be Windows Server 2008 R2 as well if its going to be serving your Terminal Services CALs.
- Choose your server roles. XenApp Server is the only required one for your first server, but the XenApp Management role might be a good idea for one of your servers so you can host the app on the farm. You can also install the XenApp Management tools to your PC, which is a good idea for when there’s a problem with your farm that stops you launching apps! I’ve also selected the EdgeSight Agent as well since I’m planning to deploy an EdgeSight server later on.
- That’s a lot of Visual C++ Redistributables. No Java pre-req though, thank God. Click Install to carry on, agree to any UAC prompts and log back in after reboots as needed. If you have not installed the Remote Desktop roles before install you’ll need to restart it manually when it tells you the restart was pending. After reboot, run XenApp Server Role Manager to carry on.
- After install, click Finish. Select the Role Manager from the Start Menu if its not launched and click Configure to set up your farm.
The server should now be ready to join to a farm or create a new one. After this it will need licensing – so the licensing components seen above need installing somewhere and some Citrix licenses adding. You will need Terminal Services CALs within 120 days as well.
The web interface install is the other requirement for actually using your farm. Older versions work fine with XenApp 6 (at least the XenApp 5 ones do), but the web interface 5.3 ships new with XenApp 6. All this can be installed on a single server but its best to separate the different functions if you can.
Thursday, April 1, 2010
We’ve had some fun with the new v12.0 XenApp Client – by default each user on web interface sites is asked when they launch applications that try to use the local drives. The message below pops up, which is nicely redesigned since the previous versions.
If the user clicks Yes, access to resources such as local drive mappings is then enabled (read only if the checkbox was clicked). Otherwise, you can get errors such as “The folder ‘c:\*.*’ isn’t accessible”.
If you want to avoid errors such as this, decide whether you want applications to have access to local drives (different for everyone I’m sure, but you probably do), create a text file called “webica.ini” at these locations automatically at logon:
Windows Vista and 7: C:\Users\%USERNAME%\AppData\Roaming\ICAClient
Window XP and 2000: C:\Documents and Settings\%USERNAME%\Application Data\ICAClient
The file contents for allow access and never ask is:
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Microsoft started down the long and painful road to delivering another version of IE, with hopefully less of a jump in system requirements and sites and apps that no longer work than was the case with IE8.
I’d still be an IE7 man if it wasn’t for Windows 7 leaving me no choice to be honest.
The Preview version (they don’t seem to want to use the “beta” word so I assume this is very early stuff indeed) is available for download from here:
Apparently a new Preview will be available every few weeks. It requires Windows 7 or Vista SP2 and installs alongside IE8. After testing it on a virtual with no issues I’ve installed it on my main Windows 7 PC. It wasn’t always stable itself but hasn’t caused any issues with my old browser yet.
What you get is a very stripped down browser with a funky home page packed with “useful” graphs on its performance that appear to mainly prove how bad IE8 is.
It does not even have an address bar – you can go to an address by clicking Page > Open though. You can also set its home page by editing the shortcut it creates in the Start Menu and adding an address after the file path:
There are few other features available in the menus – report an issue to Microsoft, run IE Diagnostics and the ability to force different IE Document modes – IE5, IE7, IE8 and IE9.
What happened to IE6?
These document modes do certainly seem to change the rendering engine – using IE5 mode on the UK MSN page messed it up completely! It appears to use IE7 mode quite often unless forced to do otherwise – this is because it is using IE8’s compatibility list. You can override this on a page and force IE9 mode though.
|Browser||Total time (ms)|
|IE9 Preview 1.9.7745.6019||1071.8|
|Google Chrome 18.104.22.168||1021.6|
I tried this on IE6 running on a busy Citrix server and it came up with an unimpressive score of 38119.8ms, but that wasn’t really a fair test.
Benchmarks are of course only an indication of what browser experience might be like but these numbers are at least encouraging that Microsoft might actually be closing the criminal gap in general performance between IE8 and Firefox, and especially Chrome. If it doesn’t have the shocking website compatibility issues that I experienced when I went to IE8 (which are to be fair mostly in the past – though mainly I suspect by lots of people fixing their websites) that would be nice too. IE running at Chrome speed would make me a very happy user. Shame I don’t quite believe it will happen.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
A tool that went past on 4sysops recently was a very good little app for helping with remote support of PCs – especially useful in fact for the dreaded “why is my computer running slowly” question off a family member.
PC Audit from MSI Utilities is a tiny application that can be executed without any installation (more apps should work this way…) and generates a text file which contains a host of useful information including motherboard type, what memory is installed (and how many slots are free!), disk size and space, the OS and service pack, all installed hotfixes and programs, everything that runs on startup and everything that was running when the report was generated. Phew.
I used this on my parent’s PC and could see straight away that they had too little RAM and (far) too many programs starting up each time they booted – the usual suspects of Acrobat, graphics card junk, PowerDVD, HP updater, etc. And I could see their XP product key oddly.
Anyway, if you get someone ask you to troubleshoot a slow machine, copy and paste these instructions…
- Go to this website: http://www.misutilities.com/free-pc-audit/index.html
- Click download, and Run the file it downloads
- It should open a program and say “Scanning ... Please wait”
- When finished it should display lots of information about the PC.
- Click File > Save As and save the text file somewhere temporary
- Email me the text file – you can then delete it.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
This is how to create a rotating random blog description in a Blogger Blog – I’ve tested it using a new style template and it works fine.
Click Layout > Edit HTML
Click Expand Widget Templates
Search for <data:description/>
var r_text = new Array ();
r_text = "Text string one";
r_text = "Text string two";
r_text = "Text string three";
r_text = "Text string four";
r_text = "Text string five";
r_text = "Text string six";
r_text = "Text string seven";
var random_i = Math.floor(7*Math.random())
Obviously, replace the strings with your random descriptions!
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Yes, support for Windows XP SP2 has now ended, you need to be on SP3 to be in support from Microsoft. Fair play though, SP2 was released in 2004.
But ending support for Vista? Did I read that right? I know that everyone thinks that Windows Vista is pants and Windows 7 is great (just a note to all you smug people who went straight from XP to 7 and think you’re so clever – honestly, Windows 7 is 90% Vista, you’ve just been missing out for 3 years) and Microsoft does want you to ditch Vista and go 7 as soon as possible, but ending support for their ex-flagship seems harsh.
Ah, its Vista without a service pack. You should have SP1 at least now to be in support. Quite right too, Vista without SP1 is a bit ropey – especially at copying files if I remember.
You know though, its funny that I stopped playing with Ubuntu since I got Windows 7…
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Interesting article on TechNet about the two versions of Office 2010…
I greeted the news that there was going to be a 64-bit edition of Office with a moderate amount of interest, mainly because this might be useful to deploy on our planned 64-bit XenApp farm. This article does mention though that for most users, Microsoft actually recommend installing the 32-bit version, even if you use 64-bit Windows, the reason being “compatibility with existing 32-bit controls, add-ins, and VBA”.
That sounds mighty ominous to me. I think I will take their advice and just keep a 64-bit copy handy in case some user (there’s always one) wants a million row spreadsheet or something.
Apart from compatibility issues, the versions are described as being “largely indistinguishable, except that 64-bit Office has a much higher memory capacity”, meaning 64-bit can have more documents open and still maintain a decent speed.
The setup process even guides you away from 64-bit Office. Running Setup.exe will install 32-bit version (unless you already have 64-bit Office installed) – to install a fresh 64-bit copy of Office, run \x64\Setup.exe.
Monday, February 8, 2010
I can’t take any credit for this, another member of my team came up with this nice solution to make a website download a PDF (or any file, we just needed to do this to a PDF…) as a file instead of opening it embedded in the browser. This is a change applied in IIS (on IIS 6 – not tried it in Windows 2008 yet) to either a directory or a single file. Watch out you don’t apply it to a directory with ASP or HTML file in it!
Right click the directory or file in IIS Manager, click Properties. Click HTTP Headers and Add. Use the name “content-disposition” and value “attachment”…
For added compatibility with different browsers (Firefox likes this) click MIME types, select New and enter the extension (.pdf in this case) and MIME type “application/x-download”…
And OK to finish. The clients might have to clear their temporary internet files to get the full effect, but its tested and working in Firefox 3.6 and IE8. A bit cleaner than the previous solution we were using of an ASP page processing each PDF download in memory…
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
I haven't used Picasa for a long time but always liked it and thought I would see what the new version was like and it has left me slightly freaked out. A popup asked me if I wanted to start naming people and up came a load of mugshots from my latest pictures (and even more worryingly, videos). I started naming them and the list of unknown people dropped and a gallery developed. It even knew people's second names and email addresses as I typed their names (I assume it ransacked my contacts). And it started correctly identifying people with incredible accuracy.
Now I know that Google's mission statement is to organise the world's information and make it instantly available and useful to everyone - I just didn't think that extended to what all my friends looked like and what their names are. I hope Google never does start to "do evil" as if it does going into hiding is going to be very hard now!
Very clever, Google. Very useful. And pretty scary too.
One of the more inexplicable omissions in Windows Server 2008 and R2 is a telnet client - maybe it saved 8kb or something, maybe it was a security thing but it was definitely annoying. On running telnet on a 2008 server by default you get the worrying message "'telnet' is not recognized as an internal or external command".
The command to restore this basic functionality is:
servermanagercmd -install Telnet-Client
It works in R2 too though it does whinge that you should be using Powershell. Yes, whatever, just get on with it.
Monday, January 25, 2010
I had a strange problem installing a Windows 2008 R2 virtual on a XenServer 5.5 server today. I gave it 2 VCPUs, 2000mb of RAM (there was not enough free to give it 2048mb), 20gb disk and booted off the ISO for 2008 R2, and it just sits there on "Starting Windows", with the CPUs running at a steady 50%. This looks wrong as it normally goes through in seconds.
After a quick trawl through the forums this seems to happen in VirtualBox as well and some people fixed it by changing the memory settings. I did give it 2000mb, which is a bit weird, so I adjusted the other VMs on the server to free up some RAM and upped it to a more normal 2048mb. Booted again and bam, works first time. You know its good because the very un-server animation of the Windows logo appears above Starting Windows and then its all go.
Turned off the machine, set it back to 2000mb, hangs again. 2001mb does not work either, but 2047mb does and so does the relatively inadequate 1536mb - but not 1024mb. I give up trying to find a pattern at this point.
Basically if you get this issue with 2008 R2 on a Virtual, pick a number (any number) and change the RAM to it. It might work.
Monday, January 18, 2010
Since I suggested SpaceSniffer a while ago it has rapidly spread around the office - its fast, accurate, doesn't require installation and has proved itself a few times in tracking down big data hiding on the network.
It becomes a lot more powerful with a filter applied though - once the scan is complete (which can to be fair take a while on a terabyte drive!) you can apply filters which take effect in seconds to only show certain file types, sizes and ages.
One filter I have been using a lot is what I call the big, old PST filter:
This shows any PST over 1mb, older than a year. Damn those users and their pesky huge email archives! We'll get 'em.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Pings should just always be allowed - checking quickly whether a server is still running happens more often than a Ping Of Death attack! The firewall will block them by default, so start an administrative Command Prompt and type:
netsh firewall set icmpsetting 8
Windows 2008 R2 and Windows 7 both whinge as below that you're using a deprecated command, but it still works.
So no, I won't "unblock" it and let your machine get infected with Malware.
Why do I feel that this is somehow all my fault?!
By the way - Rawlplug, your server has been done over. Please fix it.
Monday, January 11, 2010
Apparently this is quite a common problem with the SharePoint config database, but it still amused me. A 10 megabyte database generating a 38 GIGABYTE log?!
I'd say the disk space issues on that server have just been solved.
I could just set that database to Simple recovery model, but I think I will be good and put a daily transaction log backup on it.
I might truncate it first.
BACKUP LOG SharePoint_Config WITH TRUNCATE_ONLY
DBCC SHRINKFILE('SharePoint_Config_log', 2)
33gb disk space freed up. Now back it up!
Just a quick post recommending SpaceSniffer as an excellent (and free!) tool for helping resolve disk space issues. It takes a volume (or folder, or network share) and does a quick scan on what is using the space, converting the information into an image, with the biggest files or folders represented by proportionally big blocks. Quite often an inexplicably full drive just turns out to have a huge temp file somewhere you can blow away (or in a recent successful use of it, some user has uploaded 2gb of his wedding photos to the departmental shared drive.) and these tend to stick out like a sore thumb.
Its not the only disk space visualizer out there - there are several paid for ones and I've been using the also free WinDirStat for a while, which does much the same thing. SpaceSniffer does have a couple of distinct advantages though.
- Its quick - and while its working the scan builds up dynamically so you can start checking things out straight away. Other programs make you wait until the whole scan is done, which can be an age.
- You don't need to install it. That's a big plus when you're looking after tens, even hundreds of servers that should not have third party software installed unless needed. No need for paperwork (or spending time installing it just to use it once), just run it from a network share.
- You can scan network shares - even better when you are not happy about running things on a critical server, though its much faster to run it locally.
- It looks good! Okay, its not a key feature, but for once it does not seem to have had its interface designed by an engineer who doesn't get out much. Its got an intuitive interface, right click on folders to open them in Explorer, double click them to drill down into the contents. Genius.
- Did I mention its free? We like free.
Saturday, January 9, 2010
Some of Microsoft's more useful stuff recently has been in its Windows Live Essentials download - the Photo Gallery (which comes with a very good slideshow screensaver which plays videos too if your video card is up to it) is a great picture editor and much better than the one that comes with Windows XP or 7,
I've tried to use Live Writer before but it didn't like my "exotic" Blog set up, of a self hosted website whose front page was powered by Blogger, but the new version finally supports it just fine. I've always found Blogger's interface a bit questionable. It does the job, but its a pain to have to sign in, the FTP part takes far too long and frankly it doesn't work right in IE8 at all. It sort of works in Firefox on Windows 7 but putting Images in especially requires far too much hacking about in the HTML.
Anyway, its free, it doesn't need Windows 7 or anything (but you're using 7, right?) and it makes it easier to Blog, so that's another New Years resolution sorted. But the best thing must be its Polaroid picture plug-in!
Pointless? Yes. But fun.
Friday, January 8, 2010
Had a fun day or two installing the new Beta for XenApp 6, the Windows 2008 R2 only version. This is an version I had been waiting for for a while since I've found XenApp 5's performance on Windows 2008 to be rather underwhelming unless its installed on a beast of a server.
Anyway, XenApp 6 (okay, so Citrix aren't calling it that yet officially, but its plastered all over the thing under the hood and in the documentation - its XenApp 6, honest) is still a Tech Preview and is a little fiddly. I fell into the following elephant traps while installing it.
- License server. I didn't have a Windows 2008 R2 License Server (only R1), which Terminal Services (sorry, RDS, Microsoft have been at the renaming juice too) wasn't impressed by. Turns out Windows Server 2008 R2 makes quite a good Terminal Services License server since it can serve licenses for all the server versions from 2000 up to 2008 R2, so we now have a new License server for all our TS servers! The Tech Preview DVD image comes with the latest full version of License Server, 11.6.1, which finally has a user interface written this century. Sometimes Citrix change things for the sake of change, but this is a very welcome refresh.
- XenApp 6 Tech Preview licenses. In my simple way I thought I could just use actual Citrix licenses for the Tech Preview - nope, it needs fake ones! Could not find the things anywhere (they're not part of the download, annoyingly) so posted the question to the Citrix Forums site and got a response within about 2 minutes! That's service. Anyway, they're here:
- Mixed Farms. Yes, I tried to join my XenApp 6 servers to my XenApp 5 farm. No joy. No mixed farms.
- Program Neighbourhood. I was using this to test my apps but could not connect to the new farm - old habits die hard! Anyway, unless I am being a muppet, XenApp 6 does not support Program Neighbourhood - makes sense since it has been officially dropped for all products by Citrix and is not part of the client download since v11.1 last year. Connected with the XenApp Agent and Web Interface fine.
- License Server (again). Needs specifying for all the servers - and its not where it used to be. There is now a new "Policies" node in the XenApp Management tool which is basically a version of the Group Policies Management Console and this needed configuring. Entered my server name in the Unfiltered policy and finally was able to launch applications!
- Streamed Apps. Oh yes, and I wanted to use my existing streamed profiles. No joy, had to install ANOTHER 2008 R2 server (now up to 4 for this test environment - XenApp server, License Server, Profiler and Web Interface - oh, and a database elsewhere!) and the exciting beta of the new version of the Streaming Profiler. Okay, its not exciting, though I like the fact it supports services.
Anyway, its all up and running now and looking very nice. Its already performing better than our XenApp 5 Farm on the same standard hardware - specifically it does not have the same problems with ever expanding logon times above about 75 users per server. Its lovely. I want the full version now!
Thursday, January 7, 2010
This is a clever and mature product, known as Loadrunner by a lot of people, but it can be a little picky. You record your activity, get it all right, play it back and it just keeps getting stuck as things take different amounts of time to load or you get a popup.
Hair has been torn out.
Anyway, found this very useful resource from someone who has clearly spent longer than me using Loadrunner with Citrix apps.
Among the tips on the page I found one especially useful. I had great problems with windows of a specific name not being found by a ctrx_sync_on_window command and the test ending abruptly.
This tip got the Replay Log to report what window it actually did see in focus, which was very useful in finding why it was not working. At the top of the code add these lines once:
char window_name;long xpos, ypos, width, height;
Then before any ctrx_sync_on_window command, enter the following lines
ctrx_get_window_name(window_name);ctrx_get_window_position(window_name, &xpos, &ypos, &width, &height);
This will then log what window it does see - simple but very useful. Obviously your logging has to be sorted out if you're going to use this when the script is running outside Loadrunner on something like HP's BAC...