6 Things You’ll Love About Longhorn

Forget Windows Vista.

The real new, exciting operating system from Microsoft is on it’s way and is supposedly slated for January.

Here’s a shortlist of reasons why you should care and what to look for:

LLMNR – Have you ever had master WINS browser woes? Name resolution problems? Microsoft wants to make this a thing of the past. In my experience this has been one of the largest pains – when the master browser goes down you lose name resolution. LLMNR fixes that. I’m happy. Testing the current Windows Server Codename Longhorn on virtual networks has shown so far that it works as expected already. I’m still happy. Basically this is multicast DNS (mDNS). Follow the link for a nice wiki article that will surely convince you.

Core Server Mode – Longhorn has a new locked down mode meant for bare-bones brass tax servers. They call it Core. What this means to the regular Windows admin is that there are no more wizards. Heck, there’s no more standard graphical UI. You get a command-line shell (DON’T call this DOS, they’ll find you!) to play around with. Servers are configured via preconfiguration scripts, this shell, and remote administration tools. If this is as fast and secure as it is supposed to be, it’ll be gravy. What you DO get: DHCP server, DNS server, file server, active directory, read-only domain controller, cluster services, load balancing, and services for Unix. That’s right, services for Unix is there too.

Windows Server Core

Application Publishing – I covered application publishing in Longhorn previously, and it’s what I am most excited about, to be honest. Pick an application, fire up the wizard, make an RDP file and send away to clients (even older XP terminals) – it’s that easy. While this will take the bread out of a lot of app vendors hands, it also allows for a wealth of innovation and I simply can’t wait to see what happens here.

Remote Desktop Connection 6.0 – In the same vein, and under the Terminal Server umbrella, the Remote Desktop Connection client gets an update that adds some much-needed and oft-asked-for features. Namely: PnP redirection for media players and digicams, multiple monitor support (I’m talking to you, Bill), desktop theming, and single sign-on. Whew. I’ll have to get into this one later.

Sharepoint V3 – It’s bigger, badder, and better code for Sharepoint. Better integration with Office 2007, faster load times, more features (of course), and item-level access control. Not to mention RSS by default – that’s was the deal-closer for me. Nor more need for infinite emails sent via alerts – just use RSS! Much like Apple, Microsoft has become a fan of RSS and it’s good news all around.

IIS 7 – You’re laughing. I see you snickering. Yes IIS is used externally, and its market share is growing right now, funnily enough. In IIS 7.0 you get reduced attack surface through feature modules. This is marketing-speak that means you can disable IIS services you don’t need. You get easy replication using web configuration files. And lastly you get better admin tools. Well slightly better anyway. This isn’t Plesk, Ensim or CPanel, but it’ll have to do ’til those guys get around to supporting Longhorn.

That about sums up the good things I’ve seen and tested to date on my virtual machines (VMWare Server, Virtual Server R2 and Parallels). Feel free to chime in about what tickles your fancy or rattles your chains, I’m all ears.

Publish a Remote App Using Longhorn Server

A thumbnail of the result

First you will need to add the Terminal Services Role to your Longhorn installation either through the Roles Wizard or by using the Software Manager. You may also wish to install the Web TS Role while you are there to allow users to connect to a website, authenticate, and run a remote app easily. Once this has been completed, restart the system as required and head to the Administrative Tools Control Panel. Here you will find the Remote Programs applet. From here we can browse to an application to publish, and export it as an RDP file compatible with both Vista and current versions of Windows. You may also wish to add authentication to the file, but remember that if the file will be used on another system the authentication settings will be lost. In my case I used Word 2007 Beta – so I log in, and the window goes full screen with only Word loaded! This is a great way to securely publish apps with the right config, and I can’t wait to see what happens in the final version. This is very similar to what Citrix does, but presumably (keeping fingers crossed).