Vista on Vista Virtualization using Virtual PC 2007

I can now confirm that the Windows Vista MSDN x86 ISO is fully installable using Virtual PC 2007 Beta on Windows Vista Ultimate 64bit.

Even though these are both MSDN images, neither of them was activated, nor did I enter a serial number during the install. Just click next when they ask you for a serial, and make sure to confirm that you do not wish to enter a serial number by pressing the “no” button.
(click on thumbnails for 1600×1200 images – the virtual machine is running at 1280×1024)

Vista on Vista VirtualizationVista on Vista VirtualizationVista on Vista Virtualization

The installation took some time, even with 1GB of RAM allocated to the Virtual PC 2007 virtual machine, but after about 30 90 minutes or so, Vista Ultimate x86 virtualized on Vista Ultimate x64 using Virtual PC 2007 is a definite go-ahead-and-try-it install.

Follow normal VPC installation procedure, select Vista as the guest operating system, and chug along as the install proceeds.

Coming up next: full installation instructions.

Note: Unfortunately Virtual PC 2007 is beta, and I don’t see any plans for adding 64bit virtualization any time soon. If you have info that states otherwise, please let me know is this appears to be the only viable option for Vista VMs at the moment.

Disco Disc Burner App Public Beta for Mac OS X

Why is it that I always find myself ponying up the small amounts of cash it takes to purchase Mac shareware applications? Black fire and a disco ball? I gotta have it.

Today I fell victim to MacZot‘s current promotion (ends in 23 hours!) that saw me gobbling up the public beta of the Disco CD/DVD burning application for Mac OS X, and boy am I content with this lil 700KB number.

Firstly, the hype: when you purchase the beta at the silly-low price, you also get the opportunity to send a free license to someone else. So here goes – the first person to leave an intelligent comment gets the license! (I’ll need a real email address) This is a great marketing idea that see people not only using the beta of a terrifically designed piece of software, but also spreading the word to others so they can try it as well. Good show.

Disco Windows

Next, the features: Disco copies discs in two clicks. Say that ten times fast. Disco can span CDs and DVDs automagically. They call it Spandex, I call it dead sexy. This is extremely handy when backing up iPhoto or iTunes, trust me. Disco can burn VIDEO_TS folders by just dragging them onto the application, which makes it great for burning your DVD backups. Disco has realtime 3D interactive smoke that actually wafts up from the application as you burn discs. If you blow into your microphone, the smoke will dissipate, and if you move your cursor around the smoke itself, it reportedly moves accordingly – but I didn’t get to see this on the low-end test box. Disco has an amazingly simplistic interface that is very easy to follow as it prompts you at every step. Last, but certainly not the least in terms of features, and should really be in caps: Disco remembers every single burn and keeps a catalog of the burn sessions using what it calls “discography” so that you can easily do things like print labels, disk jackets, or simply keep handy for when you need that dot release or the pre-altered code that you can never find. Let Disco be your personal sherpa.

Disco runs very well for a beta application. I have yet to see it crash under Panther, Tiger, or even Leopard (WWDC or the 9a ADC build). Oh, and it worked fine in Tiger server as well. Unfortunately the test box is a 1st generation Mac Mini (PPC), so there was no “smoke” to speak of (anyone have screenshots?), so that will need to be tested later. I burned some mix audio CDs, a backup copy of the disk image for Disco public beta itself, an ISO image of Ubuntu Edgy Eft Beta, and a bunch of Gentoo releases, for good measure. No hiccups. I erased a very old scratched CDRW. I even inserted a scratched blank CDR to see what would happen… Well it wouldn’t burn correctly but Disco kept on keepin’ on – like some sort of Disco inferno – no bouncing beachballs of death here. And you call this a beta? I expected flames, not smoke. No crash and burn here.

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In these screenshots you see the Disco app in full swing, from installation to a test burn, and a view of all the windows it provides. I really like the design of this app, and it was well worth the 15$ pricetag. If you’re new to MacZot, and need a referrer, feel free to use “blandname”. Now go write some optical media and dance around like a schoolgirl.

Oh and on the topic of Disco, and in the name of Halloween here’s a joke:

“Why didn’t the skeleton dance at the disco?”

“He had no body to dance with”

Beyond Firefox 2 – Testing Minefield (Firefox 3)

OK, so everyone is very excited about Firefox 2. I’m excited, your excited, all the social networks are ablaze.

But development does not stop at whole numbers, and the testing must go on – which is how we got here.

So I’m testing Firefox 3 (Minefield). That’s right, I won’t be outdone. I must run the most unstable software. Well at least on the test boxes. So currently the Vista, Leopard, and Edgy boxes are running “firefox-3.0a1”.

The first things you will notice are the graphics – everything has a nice sheen to it (in fact, looks just like Firefox 2!), while remaining true to the normal Firefox UI. Also of note is the fact that favorites are now run using a SQLite3 database. For the full list of features, head on over to the Burning Edge page.

Firefox 3 Minefield Toolbar
Firefox 3.0a1 Toolbar
Firefox 3 Minefield Tabs
New Tabs in Firefox 3.0a1 Minefield

As far as I can tell this is just as stable as Bon Echo was (that’s right – was stable for me), with inline spell-checking and some other fancy goodies.That’s all for now, some more screenshots from other platforms (other than Windows XP of course) and crash reports as they happen

Note: of course this is somewhat tongue-in-cheek. I’m sorry for the Mozilla devs. We all need to stop worrying about the cutting edge and appreciate what we have – fantastic browsers! Opera, Safari, IE7 and Firefox are all great, really.

9 Great, Free Applications that Work with Vista

This is a list of my favorite Windows applications that I honestly couldn’t live without that also work on Microsoft Windows Vista RC as well, much to my surprise. All of the software is free to download and use, and in fact most of them are open source.

ConTEXT – ConTEXT is a free and lightweight editor for programming or can be used as a notepad replacement. ConTEXT supports find and replace in multiple files at once so changing one method in loads of files is no longer an issue. Works in Vista with no problems whatsoever.

Synergy – Synergy is like a software KVM, but only shares keyboard and mouse capabilities. Synergy is multiplatform, and I currently use it to have my keyboard and mouse work in Ubuntu, Vista, and my Mac Mini running Leopard with no problem at all! This way I get to use my favorite keyboard and mouse and get to free up some space on my desk at the same time.

VLC – VLC has been my favorite media player for years now. VLC comes with most of the codecs you will need to watch videos on your PC already. VLC is very lightweight, and JUST WORKS, something that can’t be said about many media players. The only issue with VLC in Vista is that it turns Aero Glass off while it is playing.

FileZilla – I use FileZilla to interface with clients that still haven’t moved to SCP. FileZilla is an open source FTP client that gets the job done, supporting drag and drop, SSL, and NAT to NAT connections. The only thing it is missing is FXP support, but that’s not really a big deal in my case. Works fine in Vista with no problems at all.

IMGBurn – I love IMGBurn. This is hands-down the easiest way to burn .IMG, .ISO and BIN/CUE disk images to backup CDs or DVDs. Free, open source, and awesome. Works a treat in Microsoft Vista Beta 2 as well.

WinSnap – I use WinSnap to make many of the screen shots you see on blandname. WinSnap supports full screen and windowed screen shots, and also allows for rotation and drop shadows if you feel the need.

Electric Sheep – I often refer to Electric Sheep as “the best screensaver ever”, but truth be told, it’s really a collection of computer-generated screensavers that allow users to vote on them using a Digg-like system. On Windows, Electric Sheep uses bit torrent to transfer the sheep data. Again, working just fine in Vista!

Xming – Xming is my prefered interface to remote Linux boxes. Xming is for Linux what RDP is for Windows – you get a local X server and acceleration that displays data from remote applications running on Linux machines. Tested more than a few times to a remote Ubuntu computer, and one Gentoo box with no caveats.

WinSCP3 – SCP is now my preferred file transfer method. Luckily my favorite client also works on Vista, or I may not have used it at all. Much like FileZilla, WinSCP3 has a very simple, streamlined interface that is feature-rich and gets the job done, even on Vista.

So there you have it: 9 free applications I couldn’t live without that work just fine on Vista, and make it easy for me to do my day-to-day tasks. Hopefully someday this list will include F-Spot and Amarok, but I’m happy with this as a start considering neither of them work on Windows XP SP2 either!

Ubuntu Edgy Eft Knot 3 on VMWare Server

More and more people are turning to virtualization these days. One of the main reasons is in order to test pre-release, beta, or alpha software. When it comes to Linux, the operating systems are in a state of constant flux so there’s always something new to test. People routinely want to test beta versions of KDE and Gnome and other desktops before comitting, or simply want to see what features are in development.

We’d previously written an article about installing Ubuntu 6.10 Edgy Eft Knot 2 (it IS a long name) on a Mac Mini, so to do the same would be batty. Instead, this guide covers testing the newest Ubuntu 6.10 Edgy Eft Knot 3 on Windows XP using free (as in beer) virtualization. This guide would also apply to anyone testing on various flavours as well, as long as they can run our free virtualization software: VMWare Server 1.01.

Setting up the Ubuntu virtual machine in VMWare server is very easy (click the pictures for larger versions):

Connect to your local VMWare Server installation if you run it locally, or connect to your remote VMWare Server.

We’ll select “typical” for this virtual machine as VMWare Server includes a configuration for Ubuntu already.

And, speaking of which, here it is! Make sure to select the plain “Ubuntu” option, unless you are running a 64bit host, and downloaded the 64bit version of Edgy Eft knot 3.

Name your virtual machine and select the location. The defaults should be fine here but feel free to tinker.

I typically use bridged networking, but for added obfuscation you can use NAT (which creates a virtual network based on your host’s network connection). You could also select host-only if you only want to be able to contact the host operating system. In fact, if you really wanted to make sure the machine is isolated from the wiki wikid web, don it with a nice tinfoil hat and disable networking completely. Ubuntu won’t be happy, but it looks pretty nice in a tinfoil hat.

8 GB of diskspace is fine for testing.You’re not going to be leeching full seasons of Lost… at least we hope so.

Since we opted to allocate diskspace now, VMWare Server will start creating the 8GB file. This can take some time depending on your computer’s hardware. In my case this took a few minutes – I use SATA2 NCQ hard drives and have 2GB of RAM. Your mileage may vary.

You now have a default virtual machine set up, but it will need some slight tweaking in order to install Edgy Eft Knot 3 as fast as possible. Click on “edit virtual machine settings” and remove the floppy drive – we don’t need it. Set the memory to at least 512MB, but it really depends on your total amount. Since I have 2GB total RAM on my host I select 1GB normally. Edit the CDROM settings and point it at your Ubuntu Edgy Eft Knot 3 CD image. Click “OK” – we’re set for lift off.

Press start and drool over the new llivecd boot screen. Note the reflection on the logo. How original.

Now we’re at another original boot screen – the progress loader. Note the gradient progressbar, and the Crystal-esque Ubuntu logo. Reminds us of 3 years ago, doesn’t it precious? Yes, yes it does.

We’ve landed at the desktop. You may stop here if all you wanted was a secure browsing solution with no cookies and passwords to worry about. Should we wish to continue, our mission involves double-clicking that obvious “install” icon. Let’s go for it.

This is an easy 6 step process. Step 1 – select your language.

Step 2 – Select your location or timezone.

Step 3 – Select your keyboard layout. I normally recommend you test the layout just in case. We’ve typed in “blandname” here for demonstration purposes. You may wish to try typing “Ubuntu”, but nothing else lest ye be stricken down.

Step 4 – Identify yourself. This information will be used later in life to incriminate you. Be choosy with naming and passwords. Harry MacDonald that means you! Try typing in something other than your real name here – it works, I promise.

Step 5 – We’ve pre-allocated our diskpace, so no need to worry about this one. Just click the “forward” button.

Step 6 – There really isn’t a step 6. The Ubuntu team has decided to waste our time by confirming the already tedious and easy task. Onward, ho!

Installing – took me 30 minutes. It may take you an eternity, but with hardware prices where thet are, I seriously doubt it will take you long to be rolling with a virtual Edgy Eft install.

The eternity has passed, and we’re going to reboot. Don’t forget to disable or otherwise change the CDROM settings so you don’t end up installing again – that would be embarassing, right?

There you have it – the pretty login screen. Note those options. XDMCP looks very intriguing doesn’t it? We’ll get to that later…

And presto! What have we got here? Firefox 2.0b1 – Bon Echo Beta 1! Try it out and see what you think, I’m impressed so far to be honest.

So that’s it, you now have a working Ubuntu 6.10 Edgy Eft Knot 3 test virtual machine (edit: let’s make the name longer). And it weren’t hard neither! When Knot 4 comes out you’ll be able to do it in your sleep. If not, well we’ll see you searching for it again.

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.