Category Archives: Windows

Microsoft made it easier to plan certs

I really appreciate that Microsoft has made it easier to track and plan one’s certification with their Certification Planner site. Currently, I use a program I wrote that tracks all the requirements for each certification or body of knowledge in which I’m interested in attaining the credential or knowledge and experience. Periodically, I’ll revisit those details and confirm their accuracy or adjust their priority/weights.

Using Microsoft’s applet was simple to use. It lists each possible track one could take to a certification goal in a simple tree structure where folders provide key information such as whether you currently meet all the requirements and if not, the number of objectives remaining and which ones qualify.

Aside from the link I include in this post, one can get to the site from the Microsoft Certification Home Page and then selecting “Certification Planner” from the  “View My…” button list in the left navigation menu.

Microsoft's Certified Professional website.

Once you select the track that you’d like to pursue based on your in-progress certifications, a pop-up will launch with that certification at the top level. What I really like here is that the system knows by the tests you’ve passed or failed what tracks are possible and only lists those tracks. A neat side effect is that it allows for some enlightening discoveries like simple specialties that can be added. For example, one might not know that by substituting one exam for another not only can the same base certification be achieved but that with another one or two exams, a specialist track can be attained as well.

Microsoft's applet showing a single track and its status and criteria.

Look how lazy I was to not have taken a simple test on a product which I am very familiar! The shame! ;->

There are a few improvements I’d like Microsoft to make:

  1. Allow for selections of test criteria which can then be downloaded (or stored on Sky Drive)
  2. Support other browsers and operating systems better.  (I’ve not gotten the applet to work under OSX browsers.)
  3. Allow attribute such as font size to carry from the main style sheet.

Overall though, I give Redmond some props for continuing to improve their educational and related training and certification systems.

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Clearing incorrect saved form field entries in Entourage or Firefox

Someone called me today with an all too common occurence that needed remedy: He entered his password mistakenly in the login name field of a webform. While the easy route would be to clear private data (doing a bulk erase), that’s like killing a cockroach with a bazooka. When you find yourselves in a similar situation, be it a mispelled streetname, login, address or whatever, there is a very simple (and keyboard driven) way to fix this problem.

To remove individual values from saved formed data within Firefox and Entourage (and probably other applications that I seem to not have had the need to test), perform the following, very simple procedure.

1. Put your cursor in the field on the form in which your mistaken entry lies.
2. Hit down arrow key (start typing the incorrect entry) and then hit the down arrow key until the incorrect entry is selected.
3. Press SHIFT + DEL to delete the offending entry.

(Note: This trick doesn’t seem to work in Apple’s Safari browser so if anyone can help document that for me I’d appreciate it.)

Windows Active Directory as Virtual Machines

There are several major considerations for running virtual domain controllers. While I support and recommend VDC use, some common sense precautions need be taken.

  • Ensure the basic virtual networking configuration for the VDC is within Windows Sites definitions and their appropriate subnets.
  • Confirm connectivity for full Microsoft DS IP-suite ports to the Virtual Hosts Farms. This means routing and firewalls should be in place and tested. Note that bridgeheads are applicable in more constrained environments but any type of autotopology support is usually preferable – especially with Windows 2003 and 2008.
  • If using DCs with Virtualization HA features such as VI3′s, make sure the above is true and safely test.
  • Don’t treat VDCs like regular Windows servers – they aren’t. You can risk serious issues if you think you can just fall back on a snapshot or a prior image file. MSDS like DNS uses a serial number of sorts (the USN). You don’t want to cause issues in one of the most important systems in your environment.
  • Exercise care when restoring with backup software whether Microsoft certified or not. Use the principle of doing the least required. Restoring a DC from even a trusted backup application still should be treated with gravity.

Microsoft themselves further recommends the following to prevent the domain’s Update Sequence Numbers (USN) being rolled back from causing issues (from Technet).

  • Do not take or use a snapshot of a domain controller virtual machine.
  • Do not copy the domain controller VHD file.
  • Do not export the virtual machine that is running a domain controller.
  • Do not restore a domain controller or attempt to roll back the contents of an Active Directory database by any other means than a supported backup solution, such as Windows Server Backup.

Now, really, all the above applies to _physical_ DCs as well (or for that matter, P2Ving, V2Ping, P2Ping, or V2Ving), but the point is that with the proliferation of Virtualization that it is much too easy to shoot yourself in the foot.

For more information, please see my Microsoft Systems Resource page.

Crossover Office or Bordeaux?

Bordeaux or CrossOver?

I am an avid user of virtualization and emulation since as long as I can remember. However, what a heavy-weight solution it is to support an application only by means of a virtualization host.

For example, I use a great program to learn German called the Rosetta Stone. Unfortunately it ships only with a Windows installer and no means of running on my other two primary OSs, Linux and OSX (Leopard and Panther), other than by means of some emulation/encapsulation/virtualization layer. Here is where CrossOver and products such as VMware can readily and reliably step in (especially the latter).

As it has been for a while, I first try to run the application in CrossOver then should that fail, I’ll install it into as a guest into my VMM, usually VMware nowadays. Of course there are programs I will install straight into a VM for other reasons, such as interaction, dependencies or data exchange between existing or planned programs.

The downside to both of the above solutions is cost. Now aside from running free virtualization products (which I do), I don’t see cutting ties to VMware any time soon (not just because I’m certified and therefore must proselytize).

A CrossOver license is required for each machine that I install it on, regardless of whether or not there isn’t concurrent usage.

The pros for Bordeaux are:

  • Inexpensive! (I can afford to dish out for a copy for each of my key systems)
  • Supports Linux (I use BSD for servers only right now really so its BSD support is neither a pro or con)
  • Office 2007 support (CrossOver still lists their support of 2007 as primitive)

The cons for Bordeaux are:

  • Less official application support
  • Doesn’t support OSX installation officially

Right now, I’m betting on CrossOver over Bordeaux only in that it is the established player. Once I see Bordeaux support Office 2007, I’ll reconsider. I run a few Windows VMs on my MacBook Pro so I’m well covered regardless and can wait patiently.