Archive for March, 2010

British Airways – A (corrupt) UK Institution

So it’s been all over the news, BA cabin attendants who have been on strike about pay.  Then there’s Willy Walsh who says BA can cover the issues…Well I’d like to address both issues as I’ve had the “pleasure” to fly with BA in the midst of all of this malarkey!

The strike began on March 20 and I was set to fly from Seattle to London – a BA Hub…Heathrow even.  Beautiful Terminal 5.  Well, that’s the only beautiful I had the chance to experience.  Due to what I can only equate to the strike, about an hour after take off from Seattle we were served “dinner”.  This was some iceberg lettuce with a piece of cold chicken topped over it.  No hot food, no choice of meal, just splat, a cold chicken breast on some lettuce.

Now, I’m not one to normally complain, but NEVER before in all my 1,000,000+ miles of travel (and especially on a 9+ hour flight) have I ever been fed a cold meal (I’ve been on over 50 trans-atlantic flights), which would probably cost less than $5 based on the looks of it.  I didn’t pay for the ticket, but doing some quick research, reveals it would have cost about $750 or even more.  What else did I get from the institutional UK airline that needs a real kicking (see what I think of the cabin attendants in a minute)…a cold hard turkey, ham and cheese roll just before arriving.  So cold that the wrap that encased the turkey, ham and cheese was breakable.  This added with the fact that you could tell the cabin staff didn’t want to be there made the flight oh so much more enjoyable.

Now, let’s take a look at the later part – the cabin staff.  Strike because you’re unhappy right?  You inconsiderate fools.  When you took the job, you knew how much you were going to get paid.  You signed the contract and the terms of your employment, didn’t you?  Oh and maybe you haven’t recently realised that there are loads of people at the moment who are unemployed and would love a job – even at less than what you’re getting paid.  Do you care?  Obviously not, as you want to put the rest of us who are working and rely on flying at peril because you’re mad at Mr Walsh.  Good way to earn the respect of the British public who are already cynical without you needing to go on strike.

I’ve got three solutions – all of which would easily fix the problems at hand:

1) Get rid of the sodden airline and give the business to someone who cares

2) Get rid of Unite altogether, as what is the point behind an airline union these days unless you’re really being treated badly (and by the way BA cabin staff, you aren’t…you’ve got jobs and paychecks – more than a lot of others do today)

3) Replace the staff who think they’re better than everyone else, currently those striking, with people who would love to have a paying job and can’t get on the employment ladder at the moment due to the economical crisis.

Look BA, get your act together as I’m not flying with you any more and trust me, I’m not the only one who’s called time on your silly antics.

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Microsoft’s Virtualisation Announcement & XP Mode

After today’s Virtualisation Hour there was a lot of buzz surrounding the announcements Microsoft made about memory and naturally XP Mode.  I wanted to take a minute though and look more closely at the XP Mode story and hope to help you more clearly understand it.

xp mode

XP Mode…First off, what exactly is it?  Well, it’s virtualisation functionality that allows your Windows 7 machine to run legacy Windows XP applications.  Subjectively looking at it, what it does is allows you to migrate to Windows 7 while still having “backwards compatibility” with older, potentially legacy XP apps.  Maybe you’ve got an app that was developed a long time ago and the developer left…Maybe you’ve got an app that is being developed for Windows 7 but in the interim you need to support it on XP…Maybe you’ve got an app that is part of a merger or set of existing apps that needs deprecated.  XP Mode serves the needs of all of the aforementioned.

XP Mode, however, when it first came out, required what is known as HAV or Hardware Assisted Virtualisation.  In the Intel world it’s Intel VT, in the AMD world it’s called AMD-V.  Essentially it was a BIOS switch you needed to flip in order to ensure that your hardware could run the virtualisation stack more seamlessly.  If you’ve done any 64 bit virtualisation before, surely you’ll have seen this setting.  However, the draw back of this meant that the value sell proposition of Windows 7 was less attractive.  One of the main benefits of Windows 7 was that it didn’t require all of the resources previous operating systems did and hence you could easily upgrade your older hardware to Windows 7.

However, if you were to upgrade legacy hardware, what did this mean?  You guessed it, no Intel VT or AMD-V in most cases, which also now meant no XP mode.  With today’s announcement however, you can now virtualise XP without needing HAV.

This gives you a seamless experience and supportability for those legacy XP apps on any piece of hardware.  That’s the good news.  Here’s the IT spin on it though and where most people go wrong or don’t think of the consequences…

Windows XP mode is a STOP GAP.  It is not an enterprise solution.  Just because you know certain apps work fine on XP and they don’t pass the acidity test to run on Windows 7 DOES NOT mean simply roll out XP mode.  XP mode in a sense is a stand alone machine that is isolated from everything.  Now you ask, wait, it’s part of the domain surely?  Well, yes, however it only gets fired up by the end user when it is needed, therefore the manageability factor of this workstation is VERY difficult to handle.  Let us also not forget that XP SP2 is going End of Life on July 13, 2010.

Also, as an IT admin, ask yourself (if you know about .vhd technology), do you really want .vhd’s floating around in your environment with potentially lucrative company data and applications?  Also, each time you rebuild a workstation, now not only is it one rebuild, it’s two – per workstation!

Sure there are times in an enterprise when you need “XP Mode” but there are much nicer enterprise tools available…Take for example MED-V.  Alternatively, you could always try to run the app in App-V which would centralise it and make updating much easier and put less overhead and burden on your network.  There is further, the option of RDS, but that’s a lot of infrastructure to just support one app. 

My point is that while, yes, it is nice to see the XP Mode caveat of HAV taken away, take it with a grain of salt.  Play your legacy Flight Sim games at home in XP Mode…Use Microsoft BOB in XP Mode, but please don’t take this announcement to mean that now you have a get-out-of-jail-free card to go deploying XP Mode in your corporate environment.

So, without further adieu, here are the distributables you need to make this happen should you wish to remove the requirement for HAV, making XP Mode work in Windows 7.

32 bit MSU Package

64 bit MSU Package

and, should you want some more bedtime reading, here is the KB article which corresponds to the announcement and the MSU’s above.

Enjoy!

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Microsoft Virtualisation Just Got Even Better

We’re all eagerly anticipating Service Pack 1 as everyone does for things, but today the world got shook up with a pre-SP1 announcement that had loads of other “goodies” in it.  There was a webcast (Virtualisation Hour) that announced some cool things…Let’s look at them more in detail:

            • Windows XP Mode no longer requires hardware virtualization technology
            • Microsoft Dynamic Memory will allow customers to adjust memory of a guest virtual machine on demand to maximize server hardware use
            • Microsoft RemoteFX will enable users of virtual desktops and applications to receive a rich 3-D, multimedia experience while accessing information remotely.
            • New roaming use rights improve flexibility
            • Big partnerships with Citrix – http://www.citrixandmicrosoft.com/

So, what’s that really mean?  Microsoft is committed to improving virtualisation for you me and the rest of the world.  They’re also listening to the consumers as above is what people have been asking for.

Looks like the optimised desktop isn’t so far off or so difficult to manage is it?  (More on the optimised desktop in a later blog)

Source: Microsoft Press Pass

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Acronyms!

Note: This post was inspired by two full days of tech talk while on campus in Redmond.  It’s not meant to be too informative, but more so funny than anything else.  I hope you enjoy and it might make sense :)

Today I was talking with a PM from WCL about some NDA stuff, pretty cool.  We talked about MDOP and the fact it had some cool bits in it, including MED-V and App-V.  There’s also AGPM and DEM – which if when collecting its bits shows you a BSOD , you’ve got DaRT to remedy things.  If you want a DaRT heads up, there’s always AIS.  DaRT, by design isn’t supported on USB but creates an ISO for a CD/DVD.  It used to be ERD but now’s DaRT.  Ok, enough about DaRT.

Now, WRT MDOP, there’s the EULA and the VLK agreement.  You need either SA or an EA for MDOP.  Easy right?  Well, it also has some tools that integrate with SCOM and SCCM. You do know also you can use SCCM to do things related to WDS and WSUS?  They all revolve around the OS which can be deployed with the help of MCS.

Well, that happened all within 24 hours.  If it seems too intense, stick to word as WYSIWYG.

TTFN!

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T-180 and counting Heathrow (and that’s not a terminal or gate number)

So, travelling to Seattle today I got the joy of using London Heathrow’s new Terminal 5 for the first time.  Normally I fly with Virgin, so I’m usually flying from Gatwick or the posh terminal 3.  However today saw me seeing this:

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I must say, two thumbs up to the architects.  Clean, airy, light, fancy.  However, beauty is only skin deep right?  Let’s look at the monitors:

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Oh, well done.  Nothing on them but an XP task bar.  First off guys, you do know that XP support ends soon?

http://windowsteamblog.com/blogs/springboard/archive/2009/12/06/windows-2000-server-windows-2000-client-and-windows-xp-sp2-support-ends-july-2010.aspx

Good news is though, they didn’t reveal too much in the task bar.  There’s sound on these machines and one other small applet, but aside of that, there’s nothing revealing security wise like the folks in Las Vegas have.

http://www.227volts.com/?p=1373

What is more worrying though is that I think they need a System Management Package (have you guys heard of System Center), because it seems they knew about these problems, but had to record it manually.  What do I mean…Well, covert ops photos show us the following:

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See the bloke in the two photos above staring at the two “broken” monitors (revealing the XP task bar)?  Yep, he’s one of the IT guys at Heathrow doing asset control and what does he have?  You guessed it, pen and paper!

I guess looks can be deceiving.  Beautiful airport strung together with IT that is powered and audited by sneaker net.

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Now Departing – PAGE_FAULT_IN_NON_PAGED_AREA

First off, in the words of Microsoft’s Zune “Hello From Seattle”.  If you don’t get that flip your Zune over on the back and see what it says :)  This week, I’m in Seattle for various things and as such, what does that imply?  Yep, I’m travelling again and when you travel, you have to go to airports.

Today’s selected airport of choice is a double post whammy.  Yep, they didn’t just have one issue, they had two, so a double dip of fun at none other than London’s new Heathrow Terminal 5.

All checked in with the new kiosk (although it did have difficulty reading my passport) – third time lucky – bag dropped at the desk and the attendant says to me “You’ll be departing out of the B Gates.  Watch the monitors for details”.  OK, no problem, go through security and have a Starbucks (as you do) and let’s have a look at the monitor:

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Hey, not to bad.  Here’s a close up for those of you interested in what’s wrong:

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You know what causes this most often?

This Stop message occurs when requested data is not found in memory. The system generates a fault, which normally indicates that the system looks for data in the paging file. In this circumstance, however, the missing data is identified as being located within an area of memory that cannot be paged out to disk. The system faults, but cannot find, the data and is unable to recover. Faulty hardware, a buggy system service, antivirus software, and a corrupted NTFS volume can all generate this type of error.

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc957625.aspx

There’s also a tool called the Diagnostic and Recovery Toolset (DaRT) you might look at downloading as well which will further help you diagnose your problems…

Ok, no problem right.  Maybe it’s just one dodgy monitor that has decided to pack it in for the day.  Nope, even better yet, I go to the next bank of monitors and PRESTO:

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There she is again in all her glory!

So, Heathrow IT, you might just want to check TechNet!

Happy travels!  

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What You Missed at TechEd Middle East 2010

There was a first this year.  Microsoft hosted a TechEd in the Middle East.  Dubai to be more specific.  For those of you who missed it, here’s just a little taste of what you missed:

First there were the welcome signs:

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Then there was the information about it being the first in Dubai and all the support that the Middle East was to get:

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Then there was the first day’s trip to the President of Dubai’s house:

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…and the desert tour in Land Cruiser 4×4’s

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Which ended with a camel ride:

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Then there were sessions (look that’s my session – ILL 018):

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Then there was the MVP dinner at a magnificent Lebanese restaurant:

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Which overlooked a Ski Slope in the Mall of Emirates:

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And the view from our hotel rooms of the Dubai skyline:

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Of course, there was the Tuesday night party, where the Nigerian’s stole the stage and sang Spice Girl’s Classics:

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…and the funky Microsoft Lighting:

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More banners to have your photos taken at (what a geeky photo):

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A fabulous convention centre & location:

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Shopping galore, with Mall’s that had Ice Rinks in them (The Dubai Mall)

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and Waterfalls in them as well:

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Then of course there was the dancing water shows:

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…and you can’t go to Dubai without visiting the world’s tallest building the Burj Khalifa

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So, if you didn’t go to TechEd Middle East 2010 this year in Dubai, you should really be kicking yourself.  It was spectacular and second to none…Good news is though, it’ll be on again next year.  Hope to see you there, and thanks again to all of those who made the above the great event and experience it was!

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Ever feel like you’re being watched?

A picture is worth 1,000 words they say.  You think that having your internet filtered is being watched, try being here :)

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Which Browser Would You Like?

As from March 1, Microsoft has been made to show a browser ballot screen in the European Union in order to give users more “choice” over their Internet browsing experience.  The BBC have covered this and contacted an “external source” Richard Quick, who is a web designer and is criticising the ballot choice for lack of options:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/8545237.stm

Interestingly enough, I really see this as a PR stunt for Mr Quick, who’s website is linked from the BBC Article (It’s called Successful Sites) and on it says coming soon.  However, as a graphics designer, I’d like to pose a question to Mr Quick (who if he’s a designer – uses a Mac)…

Mr Quick, can you tell me which browser options you get when you use an Apple?  Answer: Safari only.  Why is that not an anti-trust lawsuit?

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