ReactOS Rising?

by Dmitry Kirsanov 2. May 2012 02:03

ros_logo_08Have you ever heard about ReactOS? It’s an operating system which was in “alpha” state for the last 16 years (!) and is basically a free, open-source Windows clone. It looks just like Windows XP / 2003, but the code base is written from scratch. However, the software written for Windows should work just fine on ReactOS. That’s the goal, at least. For now, applications like WinAmp and uTorrent work stable on current release.

Just about now the founder of this project, Aleksey Bragin, sent an e-mail claiming he is fundraising to actually hire full time developers for his OS. Until now it was a hobby for everyone, but now he is about to make it real. Taking into account that his goal is quite modest 30 000 euro, I think he’ll make it in no time, so the only question that is left open – what’s next?

Either he is going to ship this OS (to potentially free millions of PCs from the inevitable upgrade of Windows XP), or he wants to rise the price of the project to sell it. In a latter case, the question is who would buy it – would it be some social network, financially capable to have a pet operating system, or would it be some ill management addict company, which is buying new projects and technologies to substitute previously acquired and dying ones?

More questions than answers, but anyway, I wish these guys a well deserved success.

Microsoft User Experience Virtualization (UE-V) in action

by Dmitry Kirsanov 20. April 2012 14:41

A few days ago Microsoft released beta of their new technology called User Experience Virtualization, or UE-V. The name implies that it has something to do with virtualization, but it’s just a buzzword. What UE-V does – it synchronizes user settings across workstations, in real time.

Imagine, that you have to log into multiple workstations, and what you want to have is the same settings of all applications you are using in your work. For example, spelling options in Microsoft Office, the layout of buttons, menus and colors – all the little pains that accumulates into the strong headache of roaming for some.

UE-V vs. roaming profiles

The roaming profile could be the answer, but for most of us it’s not. Some of us don’t even have the Active Directory profiles, but still desire the same user experience throughout the environment (translation to human language: every desktop of yours looks and behaves the same).

The difference with roaming is also in fact that in UE-V you only synchronize what you want to, not everything. So it works faster and has less space for errors.

More...

7 Rules of Building High Availability Kiosk Applications

by Dmitry Kirsanov 17. February 2012 19:19

RigasSatiksmeWhat could be easier, for a software developer, than to write a kiosk application? You set the rules, you have only 4 buttons to deal with and users just can’t do anything bad or unexpected. What could be wrong with such solution?

The absence of proactive thinking.

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And one ring to rule them all

by Dmitry Kirsanov 27. November 2011 13:08

As discussed previously, there is a noticeable trend in casual IT these days – cut spending on IT infrastructure management as much as possible. Companies are using all chances to eliminate the “human factor” from systems administration, and while it’s scary for incompetent administrators, it adds to the innovation factor of modern IT management offering.

So it’s quite controversial trend. But trends of that kind are very natural for innovation. Let’s see what it’s all about.

There are two questions, depending from who you are – either CEO or IT professional. If you manage the company, any company, then the question is – how much your IT infrastructure costs, and how much – the IT department?

By IT infrastructure I mean all the computer devices you are using in your business, your internet connection and costs of ownership. The IT department, on the other hands, are people and servers used to make the rest of the company operational.

Depending from your personal qualities, chances are that as CEO you dream about getting rid of all the IT guys, as usually keeping own system administrator looks like having own telecommunications specialist just because you own a bunch of phones.

The trend these days is to fulfil that dream. To create service which would substitute your entire IT department without your employees noticing any change. Imagine, that you give up all your expensive servers, all your expensive IT administrators and their rooms, by simply signing up for online service for a fraction of previous monthly expenses of your IT department.

If you are system administrator, on the other hands, then perhaps you think that it’s hard to replace you and your knowledge, so the question for you is simple – what do you know?

What if that service will care about antivirus, updates, backups, software deployment, license management, asset management, various policies and would provide users with answers to all their questions and arrange local company to fix hardware problems at the best price and speed? What would you do against the power of totally automated workflow system, backed up by top IT professionals somewhere in the middle of nowhere?

One of the first birds of the trend is system called Microsoft Intune. You probably know their Windows Small Business Server (SBS) – the Windows Server for poor, available since 2003 and now it’s Small Business Server 2008. The difference between normal Windows Server and SBS is that you don’t have to be a professional Windows System Administrator to operate it. Wizards replaced the command line tools (literally, replaced – some tools are simply not available), you can do anything using your mouse. Also, it comes together with Exchange, which is installed and managed automatically. If you have a decent server hardware – it will everything you need to power a company with up to 500 workstations. Still, you would need to have an IT guy who would take care about stuff.

Well, the reason why I mentioned SBS is that Microsoft Intune is a natural enhancement to SBS offer, but now you can go to the web page and manage your environment without all that Computer Science – everything through one nice looking Silverlight powered web page. And it allows you to do most of the stuff I mentioned before, allowing your CEO to fire half of your IT department.

But you know how it works – someone should provide a platform, and others will build their offers on it. That’s true for just about every product of Microsoft – the network of partners doesn’t fail. So expect Intune to become a platform to something more dramatic, as well as inspiration for copycats. Most likely we’ll see similar solutions from Citrix, VMWare or whoever else. And this will end the system administrator career as we know it.

So, CEOs should enjoy the new offering and take a waiting stance, while still employed system administrators should plan their training – if what you do can be covered by some cloud offering, your next and last assignment will be to implement it in your company.

I will publish video presentation of Windows Intune soon, so you will see what I am talking about.

Introduction to scripting for systems administrators - Windows Scripting Host, part 1

by Dmitry Kirsanov 20. November 2011 08:42

Some time ago, which seems like yesterday, I made an attempt to introduce Windows Systems Administrators to PowerShell. Even before doing that, I realized that professional Windows scripting is still impossible without using of VBScript, or Visual Basic Scripting Edition. And teaching someone PowerShell without at least showing the main concepts of VBScript is not right.

While I am trying to show the work with VBScript from more like practical point of view, I am also not trying to substitute the training course on the subject, so if VBScript or Windows Scripting in general is about to become your main responsibility at your company, please get yourself a reference on it, preferably something as good as VBScript bible.

However, we’ll get closer to VBScript during later sessions and cover even so exotic topics as using VBScript custom actions in Microsoft Installer packages (MSI).

Introduction to scripting for systems administrators - Windows Scripting Host, part 1

Windows 8 Classic Start Menu

by Dmitry Kirsanov 14. November 2011 21:35

This one will be quite short.

Windows 8 comes with new tablet-oriented Metro graphical user interface. However, just like in previous versions of Windows, there is the possibility to revert to alternative start menu. In Vista and Windows 7 we had ability to switch back to Windows XP style of menu, now we have ability to switch back to Windows 7 style.

In order to do that, you need to switch one key in Windows registry, which is HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\RPEnabled . This video shows how to do that:

Windows 8 Classic Start Menu

Previously we’ve discussed how to run Windows 8 on VMWare and what are the most interesting changes in Windows GUI for end-users.

Deploying Windows 7 by Using Windows AIK

by Dmitry Kirsanov 9. November 2011 19:20

Another aspect of corporate systems administration is ability to deploy anything and everything at once without even leaving your chair. In Windows world, we had that ability from Windows 2000 and it evolves with every new version of operating system.

One of the key tools to install the operating system itself is Windows Automated Installation Kit (AIK). Windows is using so called “answer file” to not ask you for things with known answers. And it’s not only serial number, user and computer name, but also partitions, drivers and other things that could take hours to install and configure otherwise.

As a potential scenario of deployment, imagine that you’ve just received a 100 new computers from hardware vendor. 100 brand new machines with no operating system installed, as you will use Windows 7 corporate – version which you can’t buy at local store. Your task is to install it as soon as possible – it’s Friday evening and you don’t want to waste your weekend on it.

So you prepare the image of one machine and deploy it on all other machines using local network. Very simple thing to do when you know what you are doing.

The following walkthrough lab is from the Microsoft Official Curriculum 6294A: Planning and Managing Windows 7 Desktop Deployments and Environments. It shows you how to create bootable media with image of your reference workstation and deploy it on other machines. Enjoy!

Deploying Windows 7 by Using Windows AIK

File Synchronization Utility

by Dmitry Kirsanov 26. September 2011 18:31

Yet another command line utility written to do some useful stuff in the background. This time it is about file synchronization.

It’s quite often that we need to make 2 directories in our local network in sync. For example, you may want to synchronize folders with photos, backup files or even production files of your web application between IIS web farm nodes.

This program utilizes the Microsoft Synchronization Framework, so basically it does very little apart from what Microsoft already provides. Personally, I am using it to pull backups from TFS server on daily basis and to synchronize shared folders among load balancing cluster of production web server. In  both cases utility is running as Task Scheduler task and everything happens in background.

It doesn’t require installation, just unpack it to your utilities folder and it’s ready to go. It requires .NET framework 4 Client Profile in order to run. Another dependency is Microsoft Sync Framework 2.1 (Two components required - Synchronization and Provider Services).

FileSync.rar (114.45 kb)

Browser Wars, 09/2011

by Dmitry Kirsanov 9. September 2011 07:06

As a web developer, I do care about browsers performance a bit less than typical web surfers do. I care more about the supported functionality. Whether my website can be viewed on this browser or another and how it will behave.

However, typical web surfers care more about speed and resources of their computers, so when I hear that people prefer Chrome to Firefox, this means my website should look well in that browser as well.

So here is a relative chart of today’s most popular web browsers after testing on my notebook. All numbers are totally relative, but tests included both graphics and data manipulations, the same for each test.

BrowserPerformance08092011

I don’t want to comment on it, as I find these results quite reasonable, but would like to look at the difference between MSIE 9.0 and MSIE 10.0. As you may notice, the Internet Explorer 10’s performance is promising.

So what did I understand from this graph? First of all, I will continue measuring performance of my applications using MSIE 9. And will make sure they are compatible with Chrome 13. And if that’s worth the effort, I will display demos using either MSIE 10 or Chrome. You can keep tracking the performance of browsers on your own equipment using PeaceKeeper website.

File Replacement Utility

by Dmitry Kirsanov 25. August 2011 06:48

Ok, here is another command line tool. This time - for developers who create software made of many components.

Imagine, you have a product which consists of main executable file and multiple dll files. And different people are working on these. And you are deploying it all on multiple machines and never know where it could be hiding. Maybe in some build directories, maybe somewhere else.

So this utility will find all instances of that file and replace with the newest one. Moreover, you can even select the older file, but all files will be replaced by the newest found. Well, there are parameters, of course.

As the searching for files is time consuming, the end result of this utility could be a batch file (.bat) which contains commands to repeat operation. It will take the same source file and put it to the same destinations as during the first run. That way, continuous replacing won't be a problem or take more than a couple of seconds.

So, here it is. Requires .net framework 3.5.

filereplace.rar (5,32 kb)


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