g4u and Virtualization

A quick note about g4u – g4u (Ghost for you) is a hard disk imaging tool similar to Norton Ghost, but without the cost. g4u allows you to image hard disks to both files and physical media. This can be accomplished within a physical machine, a virtual machine, or by using an FTP server on either of the two.

Running Virtual Machines on Windows Vista

In the coming weeks I will be working more on Microsoft’s Windows Vista as it ramps up to release to manufacture (RTM) status.

Although you can currently run Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 in 32 bit mode on a Windows Vista physical machine, I’ve learned that I was recently accepted into the Virtual PC 2007 beta tester program, and that Virtual PC 2007 can run on 64bit Vista.

If you are interested in joining the Virtual PC 2007 beta program, I highly suggest you sign up, then play some fantastic Rod Stewart albums until you are accepted.

By the way, this does in fact mean you can run Vista on Vista reliably now. VMWare Workstation and Server still don’t work at this point, but it’s on the way, just stay tuned.

Virtual Server VM Disk Usage via WMI

Via MSDN:

Continuing on our saga through the undocumented Virtual Server WMI interfaces, we now arrive at disk usage information. Here is a sample script that will create a list of the currently running virtual machines, and display the amount of disk activity they have had since they were powered on.

Set vsWMIObj = GetObject(“winmgmts:\\.\root\vm\virtualserver”)
Set vms = vsWMIObj.ExecQuery(“SELECT * FROM VirtualMachine”,,48)
For Each vm in vms
Wscript.Echo “==============================================”
Wscript.Echo “Virtual machine: ” & vm.Name
Wscript.Echo “MiB read from disk: ” & vm.DiskBytesRead / 1048576
Wscript.Echo “MiB written to disk: ” & vm.DiskBytesWritten / 1048576
Next

As you can see these disk counters usually report values in bytes. It is important to note that these counters are also reset to zero every time the virtual machine is turned off.

Copy Files From a Mac to Windows Using SCP

Whenever you start adding funny-flavored operating systems to a network, you eventually run into filesharing problems. Even if you only have a few machines, coming to a consensus on how to get files from point A to B can be quite taxing – especially if there’s work to be done.

Over the years I’ve tried FTP, Samba, NFS and a host of others. When configured well they work like a charm. However, when a new node joins the network (that shiny new Mac Pro of yours), things need to be reconfigured and can generally be a royal pain that´s why i always chose the best web hosting.

That has changed, though. We now have an acceptable solution that is free, easy to use and above all, secure. Introducing… SCP.

SCP has been around for a while now, and is gaining quite a bit of traction in the hosting world where it is (albeit slowly) starting to replace FTP for upload and download tasks. SCP stand for Secure Copy (CP being Copy on *nix variants). SCP works a lot like FTP in that you require an address to connect to, a username (login) and a password (we won’t get into stored keys today).

Now that we’ve decided what to try in our ad hoc network, how do we set it up? If you’re blessed with any variant of Linux or Unix, the work has been done for you already – the tools come with the operating system, and are generally found under the network tools in your fancy menus.

Fugu on OS X Server

It’s a different story on Apple Macs and PCs, though. For example, Tiger comes with an SCP server, but no client. Right, about the Mac server. In order to activate it in Panther, Tiger and even Leopard, head on over to the System Preferences pane, and choose the Sharing applet (the folder with the caution sign on it). Once it has opened, check the Remote Login checkbox. This will enable SSH, and in turn, SCP. We’re halfway there. You can connect to an SCP server by using the Terminal on a Mac, but from what I can tell most Mac users are frightfully scared of it. But that gives me the oppurtunity to tell you about one of my favorite applications – Fugu (japanese for blowfish – and sporting a suitably cute icon to boot). Fugu allows you to connect to an SCP server to both download and upload files. Fugu is quite easy to use, so we won’t get into that, but will save it for another time if need be (just like stored keys). Oh, and as the screenshot shows you, it works with Mac OS X Server 10.4.7 too! (as well as Leopard)

WinSCP Screenshot

In the PC world, WinSCP is Fugu’s sibling. You get an extremly easy to use interface, complete with drag and drop. Installation is a breeze, and best of all it’s free as in both beer and speech. Just like those soapbox ramblers. Getting a Windows SCP server is a bit more difficult, but currently exists in the form of BitVise WinSSHD. WinSSHD is slightly complicated, but most of the configuration is done during the installation procedure. They supply you with the needed variables, and one you have finished you will have set up an account you can use to test from your other workstations. The screenshot above was taken with the wonderful WinSnap – it comes highly recommended.
Let the cross-platform filesharing begin!

If you have any questions, or would like to suggest a topic for a future article, head on over to the blandname contact page and we’ll see what we can do!

Oh, and by the way, since you’ve noticed I always talk about virtualization, this certainly applies to getting files to and fro from your virtual machines in VMWare Server, Virtual Server (Virtual PC if need be) and Parallels – I have even found it to be faster than any other technique!

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.