Saturday 22 March 2008

Windows 2008 Hyper-V

As I'm currently working for Diversus, a Microsoft partner, I was invited to attend the Heroes Happen {2008} event last Wednesday night. The invite promised a free copy of Windows 2008 (as well as Vista Ultimate with SP1--which ended up coming with a stinkin' 365-day license and a silly trial of Team Suite which I won't even waste my finger tips on--get real, Microsoft, and give us real stuff!) and knowing there would most likely be food and alcohol, I went along.

Despite Heroes supposedly being the simultaneous launch of Windows Server 2008, Visual Studio 2008 (which RTM'd late last year), and SQL Server 2008 (which isn't due to launch until Q3), the emphasis was squarely on Windows Server 2008 and Hyper-V. I've been using Microsoft's Virtual PC and Virtual Server tools for a few years now and after taking a close look at ESX Server lately, I was interested to see how Hyper-V would compete. I'm not a system admin or anything close but I reckon MS is headed in the right direction.

I wasn't sure the Heroes-supplied W2k8 disk would include Hyper-V; apparently Server will be sold with and without at a price difference of about $50. Why MS would do that is beyond me but I was pleased to see the Hyper-V check box listed in the Add Roles Wizard (Hyper-V is still in beta but the beta has been included with the Windows Server 2008 RTM build). The final Hyper-V release is supposed to be available on Windows Update around the same time SQL Server 2008 launches.

As a natural geek, I've got a handful of old PIII and PIV boxes lying around the place serving various roles within my home network. There's one box for AD/DNS/DHCP, another working as a dedicated file server, and others configured as web and database servers. By contrast, SharePoint being SharePoint, everything I do in relation to said software has been within a virtualised environment and it's been that way for a while now; I can provision new VPCs and backup existing VPCs as required. Having had success with Virtual PC and Virtual Server, I figure it's time to virtualise as many boxes as possible. I'm a Green at heart and running running multiple boxes in my small home office makes a hot Aussie day even hotter ;-)

The Heroes media included 32 and 64-bit editions of Server 2008 so I figured I'd go 64-bit just for fun. Apart from a few extra folders and Control Panel items referring to 32-bit, I haven't noticed a differece. The host box is only used as a server so I don't have weird hardware running and everything was detected automatically by the installer. Speaking of the installer, it's wonderful! Select your location and go. Not long after, the OS fires up and you do all the stuff you used to be promted for within the installer. I installed Hyper-V post-installation and everything went, um, fine... see below.

Apparently Hyper-V is supposed to be a "bare metal" (Type 1) hypervisor coming in at 650KB in size; I'm not entirely clear whether Hyper-V can be installed on a Windows Server Core base but at this point I'm still looking at Window and it's sitting right there between the metal and the virtualisation components. Apart from that, it seems like a pared-back version of Virtual Server: the admin screens are very simple and it just works.

I did have one issue after firing up the Hyper-V console for the first time: the Virtual Machine Management service wouldn't start and I had no idea why. Apart from a less-than-helpful UI error on attempting to start the service, the following event entry was logged:

The Virtual Machine Management service terminated with the following error:
The parameter is incorrect.

Luckily Ben Armstrong and Joe Hemmerlein from Microsoft were kind enough to weigh in on the discussion of this issue and pointed me in the right direction. As a I reside in Australia, I naturally selected English (Australia) as my location when I installed Windows but apparently that's not good enough for Hyper-V and it only likes the US. The link above goes through the configuration of your regional settings and language options to get the VMM service running without a Windows reinstall. I changed all my settings back to Oz after things started working but that's no good either: starting up the box today the VMM service failed again. This time I managed to get the service started without having to remove the role: I simply went through the necessary regional/language option config steps, applied to all accounts, and rebooted. I've since changed my account and the default account back to Aussie, leaving the System Accounts as they are. Long story short: this is really annonying and I hope Microsoft fixes this before launch.

After that rigamarole, I installed Windows Server 2008 in a VM, giving it 1GB of RAM (I've successfully installed 2003 on 128MB but Vista has made me wary). Performance at the UI hasn't been too zippy but this is a VM after all.

In the virtual world, I installed the AD role and it was a painless affair. I also turned off IPv6 because I don't know enough about it and those 128-bit hex addresses aren't going to give me much on a home network. DHCP was next and it too was uneventful. As mentioned previously, I'm not a system admin or a network engineer or a network anything--I was suprised when I managed to install AD on Windows 2003 so easily a few years ago and I've noticed the process is that much easier in 2008.

And so the network build continues. I'll soon be whacking MOSS onto a 2008 box for the fun of it and I'll let you know how that goes!

Great Subnetting Tutorial

The link below provides superb, in-depth information about IP addresses and subnetting. All the basics are covered: the breakdown of IP address ranges by class, converting decimal IP addresses to binary, and so on but lesson 6 explains subnetting more clearly than I've ever seen it explained. The author also covers routing and communications and the diagrams make it all as clear as possible.

You have to register to view the article but even if you think you understand subnetting, it's worth it.,289483,sid7_gci1016859,00.html

Friday 21 March 2008

Say Goodbye, Google AdSense

By the number of ads on this page you may have noticed I'm a Google AdWords user. I realised today it's been nearly a year since I signed up--mainly to track basic statistics and hopefully make a buck or two from page views.

On the stats side I've been very happy. I've watched my "readership" (or number of click-in/click-out visitors, at least--I've got no idea how many of you actually read what I write let alone who subsribes to this blog) grow steadily over the past year and it's been exciting to consider the off chance that some of you actually find my posts helpful or interesting or both.

On the financial side, however, I'm quite disappointed. As I expected, visitors don't click the AdSense links and as a result I've made a grand total of $0.63USD this year. Wow--luckily I'm not in it for the money! A New York Times article suggests only one in every six blogs receives 500 or more page views per day and at that rate you're looking at $45 a month. It's conceivable I've misconfigured something along the way but I've never found it that hard to use any of Google's numerous applications and it really shouldn't be that hard anyway.

Moreover, for all the extra clutter AdWords contributes to my blog and the internet in general, I've decided it no longer cuts the mustard. I've decided to remove the sprinkling of AdWords panels from the right column and leave a single ad in the footer of each page to continue tracking visitors. Harsh, but considering I can grab a free page tracker from anywhere, I perceive no value filling Google's coffers for minimal return.

Sunday 2 March 2008

Content editor web part dislikes neutral cultures

With the CurrentUICulture property of the current thread set to a neutral culture like 'de', attempting edit the content in a MOSS Content Editor Web Part results in the following exception:

Server Error in '/' Application.

Culture 'de' is a neutral culture. It cannot be used in formatting and parsing and therefore cannot be set as the thread's current culture.

Description: An unhandled exception occurred during the execution of the current web request. Please review the stack trace for more information about the error and where it originated in the code.

Exception Details: System.NotSupportedException: Culture 'de' is a neutral culture. It cannot be used in formatting and parsing and therefore cannot be set as the thr...

Very boring. On a hunch, I think you can probably get around this by using a specific culture but that may not be possible in very case. This was only an issue while in edit mode, for us, so I got around it by simply setting the CurrenUICulture as en-US whenever a page is in edit mode. Kind of a cheat but our content editors are all English so it doesn't matter.