Free VMware and Microsoft Image File V2V Converter

StartWind famous company in the world of storage because of their free iSCSI target for Windows systems (which is supported inside VMware, Microsoft and Citrix virtual machines) has released a software tool to convert virtual machine between major vendors. (Between HYPER-V and VMWare…etc)

This will be a really good news for SMB and Enterprise customers who wanted a safe method to convert from one platform to another. From Microsoft point of view the only method to convert VMWare virtual PC to HYPER-V is using the SCVMM. Again this will be not a practical solution for SMB market since they don’t really need SCVMM if they are only managing one HOST. But with this free converter customer will get a relief to safely convert VPC’s between different vendors.

  You can download the software from here. Key Features of StarWind Converter:

— Converts from VMDK to VHD and vice versa

— Sector by sector copy

— Does not modify source image

— Easy to install and use

More information to come when i really test this in my lab environment 😛

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Virtual machine addins for Server Core

So you’re eager to get your hands dirty on Microsoft latest OS, maybe you already have. As techies we always intend to be on virtual PC’s to test the latest stuff and learn new settings and tweaks. Windows server 2008 has more to offer in this area. Windows core is pretty interesting method of using the windows server OS.

One problem I came across with server Core is how to install the virtual machine addins to it. I’m using Microsoft virtual PC 2007 and after the initial OS setup I ran the virtual PC addins from the actions menu. Well it suppose to star the installation automatically right… well too bad it didn’t happen. I hope you folks are well aware why we need the virtual addins to the virtual PC. Basically they are emulated drivers which enhance the response in the virtual machine and communication between the guest and the host PC.

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So in order to install the addins you need to mount the cd / iso image to virtual PC. Under action menu when you click install the virtual PC addins it automatically mounts the iso image to the cd-rom in the virtual PC. To verify that you can click the CD icon in the menu and see if you have the option Release "VMaddtions.iso" So rest we carry out in the command prompt.

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In my case the cd rom drive letter is D. If you have more than one virtual HDD installed then the drive letter can be different. Never the less you can browse the virtual CD and then get into the windows folder and then run the Setup.exe Once that start you’ll able the see the GUI installation of the virtual machine addition setup.

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In the above picture I have been prompted to remove the addins since I have already installed them earlier. But I hope you guys get the point.

Windows Server 2008 – Fine Grained Password Policy Walkthrough

Windows 2008 has lot of new technologies to offer and along with SP2 it has been increased. Branch office caching, Active Directory recycle bin..etc. Among those one of the cool feature is Fine grained password policy. Using this method you can given different set of password polices to selected users or group despite of the default password policy.

This may sound good if you have wish to have different password policy to managers and different password polices to general users and avoid the hassle you face when they forget their complex password. (you know what I mean..right 🙂 Of course you might have been using the password filter or deploy multiple domains to archive this but end of the day those are really frustrating and time consuming methods.

so now you had the taste of the feature let’s get our sleeves up for the work 🙂 To make things easier I am going to built this article based on a scenario based method.

Contoso.com is the default domain of the fictitious company and Neo parker has been the CEO. He don’t like the idea of having a complex password to remember and prefers to have a simple password as his account password. So without breaking the security on the entire domain level you’re going to reduce the password complexity and the minimum of 5 characters to his passwords.

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Requirements: your AD domain functional level has to be raised to windows 2008.

First have a look into your existing domain-wide default password policies,

  1. Start –> Run –> gpmc.msc
  2. Expand Forest: yourforest.com.
  3. Expand Domains\yourdomain.com.
  4. Right Click Default Domain Policy and Click Edit.
  5. Computer Configuration > Windows Settings > Security Settings > Account Policies > Password Policy.

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So now we need to create the Password Setting object (PSO). in order to do that we need to open the ADSI edit. I have to warn ADSI edit is not a place to mess around with unless you know exactly what you’re doing!

Go to Start–> Administrative tools –> ADSI edit –> select the default settings to connect to the domain. After that in order to create the PSO browse to Expand to Default Naming content\DC=Contoso,DC=com\CN=System\CN=Password Settings Container\

Right click and select new Object,

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After that you have to select msDS-PasswordSettings and click next

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After that we are coming to complex part of giving the parameters, this is the place you have to pay attention and provide the correct parameters. For detail step by step you can visit here

First setting being ask is to provide a name for the policy, you can give an fancy name but stick to a one that is meaningful,

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Next setting is msDS\PasswordsSettingsPrecedence. Assuming the user is a member of 2 or more groups and having different password polices the number you set here will determine which policy to take procedure. So set the value to 1 to make sure this policy will apply all the time to Neo

test

Next one is msDS-PasswordReversibleEncryptionEnabled which is self explanatory

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Next few option are really self explanatory so I’ll insert the parameter and the value until we come up with another interesting value 🙂

msDS-PasswordHistoryLength (Also self explanatory… you can keep up to 1024)
Value = 10

(domain default: 24)

· msDS-PasswordComplexityEnabled (Upper, lower, number, blah blah blah)
Value = True

· msDS-MinimumPasswordLength (If only everyone were using pass-phrases instead of passwords)

Value = 5

After that we are being request to provide values for MinimumPasswordAge, MaximumPasswordAge, LockoutObservationWindow, and LockoutDuration.

So let us walk through the first one of this kind, msDS-MinimumPasswordAge

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In the above picture I have provided the value of 1 day. First section is days, then hours, minutes and seconds. Next is

msDS-MaximumPasswordAge

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I hope rest process will be easy for you as we discuss here. so instead of the screenshots let me provide the values as follows,

msDS-LockoutThreshold

Value = 0

msDS-LockoutObservationWindow

Value =00:00:06:00

msDS-LockoutDuration

Value = 00:00:06:00

Once you complete the last step you will click the Finish button to complete the steps. If you encounter any errors please have a look into the values you have provided.

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so now we have provided Neo minimum characters 5 to his password and still enabled the Password complexity parameter and provide less time value for the Lockdown duration 🙂

but still we are not completed because we have to tell the system this PSO need to be apply to Neo. If we double click the
msDS-PSOAppliesTo parameter we have the option to provide the particular user’s or Group’s DN.
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so now what how to find the DN value? well my friends we have to walk to the Active Directory Users and computers, and enabled the Advances Features,

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After that we need to go to the properties of the Neo’s account and select the Attribute Editor which shows the DN of Neo’s user account.

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Copy that value and we go back to the ADSI editor CN=System –>CN=Password Settings and under the current PSO paste the values you have copied from Neo’s account,

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Wola that complete the lengthy task.

For more information you can refer here,

Windows 7 – Problem Step Recorder (PSR)

I have been using Windows 7 in a VMware PC and I’ve to agree this OS is really cool. I have only given 1 GB memory for that and the functionality wise this stable. I didn’t encounter any system crashes so far. Now looking around in the TechNet about further enhancement about this product I found a nifty tool integrated in Windows 7 called as PSR (Problem Step Recorder)

Basic idea behind this tool is allow user to do screen capturing of the problem they encounter and then send that to a technical person. Now this is a life saving feature for any technical person in order to provide support for a en user. Think about a helpdesk environment where end user and technical person spend endless time discussing about the error message. There are few key things helpdesk may fail to solve the problem properly to the end user,

1. End user cannot describe the problem properly since he is not very technical person.

2. Technical support person cannot recreate the problem in his side according to the information he is getting from the end user.

3. Problem can be a totally new one for both parties.

So using this screen capture tool end user will be able the capture the error he encountered and then send to technical person via e-mail or any other preferred method.

More information can be found over here.

‘Fix it” New approach to fix computer problems by Microsoft

Recently I notice a new icon appears in the Microsoft Support documentation. So what is interesting behind this fix it icon. Well let’s say that you know the problem what customer is facing and you’re pretty sure you can fix it in no time. Let’s say in order to fix that particular problem you have to do few mouse click and do some registry editing. Now doing this for one or 2 machine would be ok but think repeating this task for 30-40 computers or even more!!! well not a pleasant experience right ?

So what Microsoft has done is created a nifty script behind this icon to fix particular problem, and all you have to do is click it. (Though be careful to read the problem description and understand if that is the exact symptom you’re having in the PC you try to troubleshoot) I think this is very useful for most of the non technical people. If Microsoft adopt this for their Support documentation frequently end users will definitely going enjoy that. You can find a sample link to one of those Microsoft support document here.

New gifts to expect from Microsoft (pretty soon)

So Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 will be available pretty soon…

As part of today’s news, Microsoft announced that the company is anticipating that the next version of its client operating system, Windows 7, will be available to customers in time for the holiday shopping season. In addition, Windows Server 2008 R2 Release Candidate (RC) is available today with the final product releasing to market in the same timeframe as Windows 7. More information is very sketchy but windows team blog has some insight about it in here

What I’m more interested about is System Center Virtual Machine Manger (SCVMM) R2. This is also supposed to be out pretty soon and hidden with so much goodies. More information about the additional features can be found over here. As a summarize the key features are as follows,

  • Storage Migration
  • Queuing of Live migrations
  • Rapid Provisioning
  • Support for VERITAS Volume Manager
  • Host compatibility checks
  • Support for 3rd party CFS