Smart phone/MID evaluation notes

I spent a ludicrous amount of time this Spring trying to find either the perfect MID (Mobile Internet Device) or smart phone. I’m posting my (admittedly quite rough) research/evaluation notes here, as some of this may be valuable to others, even if the technical information is not as current as it could be.

In brief, I was looking for the power and display of a MID in the size of a phone – which doesn’t exist yet. I also wanted a single device for mobile internet access, phone and mp3 player. Camera was less important. Continue reading “Smart phone/MID evaluation notes”

Hyper-V graphics performance is on the way… if you need a new laptop

Dell announced today that they are releasing Alienware and Studio laptops with Intel Core i7 processors. Why is this worth regurgitating? The Core i7 processors feature the Nehalem processor microarchitecture, which means that Hyper-V V2 (in Windows Server 2008 R2) can take advantage of SLAT (Second Level Address Translation). SLAT is implemented as EPT (Extended Paging Tables) in Intel technology and NPT (Nested Paging Tables) for AMD. Here’s Microsoft’s summary of the new Hyper-V support for SLAT: Continue reading “Hyper-V graphics performance is on the way… if you need a new laptop”

Hardening Windows 7 services

I’m in the process of hardening and optimising a Windows 7 build at present. Did you know it has 150+ services now? Windows is officially big.

If you’re interested in this undertaking, I can recommend the Black Viper resource. There are a considerable number of services that can be disabled for most users. That said, you should not take the advice in this or other hardening links at face value. If the recommendations or documentation on the service is insufficient to make your decision, either leave it be or research it further (or both). This is the best opportunity you’ll get to fill any gaps in your knowledge.

Once you think you’ve got it licked, always test, pilot and refine an image. It’s also worth creating a log of your decisions for each service from the start, both as a knowledge base and for tracking changes and differences from default builds. The process of documenting your choice will force you to think it through and will give the question the gravity it deserves. There’s no question this is a laborious undertaking, but it’s a valuable exercise and should yield a build that you’ll be happy with for some time.

Building virtual Windows Deployment Services images

While I’ve been ripping off Virtual PC Guy I may as well stay at it. He has a great tip in his geeking out with WDS post suggesting that custom installation images can be built up in a virtual machine and captured from virtual rather than capturing the physical build. This allows for ongoing maintenance of the build without worrying about capturing the same image multiple times by taking a snapshot before SysPrep. It’s a great suggestion.

I’d actually geared myself up for this approach with the release of Windows Server 2008 R2 RTM, since Windows Deployment Services supports deployment of VHDs now, but I deflated myself a bit when I realised this was only a means of deploying for native boot from VHD rather than deploying a VHD to hardware as though it was a captured WIM. When I figured this out I went back to capturing physical images, and blindly overlooked this option. Nice one!

Hyper-V graphics performance and SharePoint 2010 development

I’ve mentioned a couple of times that I’ve built a Windows Server 2008 R2 (with Hyper-V) laptop for SharePoint development but I haven’t mentioned one of the only major gripes that I’ve not been able to solve – namely that graphics-intensive operations bring the system to a halt. This is particularly noticeable when audio is playing and you launch a new program while Hyper-V is exporting (as if you have a sonic performance metric), or (to use the Microsoft example) when pressing CTRL+ALT+DEL.

Until the other day I had always chalked this up to something about this driver (an NVIDIA GeForce 8400 M GS on a Dell XPS M1330) and the Hyper-V role or Server 2008 R2 itself (since we didn’t have this problem with the same driver on Windows 7). However, one of our technical architects got a bit more annoyed by this than me and identified that it’s a known issue for almost every graphics driver on 64-bit-capable laptops. Continue reading “Hyper-V graphics performance and SharePoint 2010 development”

Article in the NYT about SharePoint adoption in the recession

…or so it’s billed. In fact it’s more of an overview of SharePoint’s place in the market and a sumary of its successes, but it’s interesting to see it get this sort of coverage/reception in a major daily newspaper. I certainly would find it surprising if Oracle’s UCM got this treatment!

Conflicting guidance on IPv6

I recently noticed that Cable Guy is saying “don’t disable IPv6“. While I broadly agree with the approach and the reasons he suggests not to, I’ve not yet seen any down-side to disabling it, and I know we aren’t using the IPv6 technologies that Cable Guy mentions. But why did I turn it off? SharePoint’s Hyper-V performance and capacity guidance suggests that performance is improved by disabling it.

Use IPv4 as the network protocol for Hyper-V guests. During the tests, better performance was observed when IPv4 was used exclusively. IPv6 was disabled on each network card for both the Hyper-V host and its guest VMs.”

In this case, I’m going with the SharePoint guys, especially when there’s a quantified test versus a theory, especially when it simplifies troubleshooting and not everyone is IPv6-fluent yet.

Monitor stroke and Ctrl+click in jump lists

I was just looking at the Virtual PC Guy blog about the combined on/offline VDI in a forthcoming VMWare release when I noticed that he says he has six monitors on his desk at work. Six!!! I remember having three (when I also had three computers) on my desk in 2001-2002, and I’ve definitely had that many again while working on crazy builds, but I’m finding it hard to fathom how cool it would be to have six (let alone enough desk space to accommodate them).

Then it occurred to me that this must require a fairly massive amount of added power, especially when you account for the monitor envy this would induce in his colleagues. In fact, I think Virtual PC Guy’s monitors probably account for an ice shelf or two singlehandedly. 😉

I’d struggle to justify it myself, especially with that new Windows 7 (and Server 2008 R2) taskbar. I’m particularly enamoured with Ctrl+click in the jump list. The jump list itself has been much discussed, and I reckon it may justify the upgrade to Windows 7 in its own right. This added functionality seals the deal though.

The length of the title of a document (or perhaps just a rubbish name for a document, or multiple versions of a document) sometimes makes it hard to identify a target in the jump list. If you click the taskbar icon for the application (Word, Notepad, Outlook, browser, etc) while holding down Ctrl it will cycle through the instances of that application, bringing each to the fore in turn for a peek. Think of it as ALT+TAB within a jump list. It’s an excellent way to unveil what’s hidden without introducing a requirement for seventeen screens.

The search for a good Acrobat Reader alternative

Back in April, Slashdot pointed me to a C-Net article in which F-Secure’s chief research officer recommended moving away from Adobe Acrobat Reader. Personally, I needed little incentive. I’ve disliked Acrobat Reader fairly intensely for some time and I’d already moved to FoxIt Reader.  Acrobat Reader is massive, it constantly prompts for updates and evidently it doesn’t prompt for update enough, given the number of holes that have recently been revelaed.

I thought FoxIt was a good alternative for the first year or so that I was using it, but (like an adolescent) as it matured some things about it started to annoy me and I thought it was worth trying out some of the alternatives on the market. Of the Windows options from the F-Secure recommendation, I didn’t get very far with Okular or Yap but I spent a good deal of time with Sumatra at work and MuPDF with the plugin for Firefox at home. I wasn’t unhappy with either of these options, as my PDF reader requirements are very basic. I love that Sumatra can be run without installing anything and is small enough to carry around on a memory stick. No more PDF readers on servers… However, after inflicting Sumatra on some unwitting recipients, I decided to find a heftier alternative, as they need more than up, down and zoom.

Enter: DocuTrack’s PDF-XChange Viewer. It’s got loads of features, is reasonably lightweight and does the job in every way that I’ve put it to the test. The only thing that irritates me is the size and number of toolbars running by default, but they’re easy enough to turn off. Admittedly my needs are few, but I’ve not had any other complaints about it since pushing it to about 20 other people. If you fancy taking the plunge and take me up on any of these suggestions, I’d love to hear feedback, as I’m discovering that it’s nearly as divisive as the media player question. I <3 Foobar, for the record.