Thursday, August 18, 2005

Clustering with VMWare 5.x...

Contrary to most things you'll read, it actualy is possible to share disks in VMWare 5.x. So now you don't have to have 3 VM's with one being an iSCSI host to do clustering. The trick is to create your primary OS disks as IDE drives, use vdiskmanager to create a SCSI based disk for the quorum, then add the following lines to the .vmx files of the servers you want to cluster:

scsi0:0.present = "TRUE"
scsi0:0.fileName = "..\wherever_disk_is_stored\QUORUM.vmdk"
scsi0:0.redo = ""
scsi0:0.mode = "independent-persistent"
scsi0:0.deviceType = "disk"

Then follow the normal cluster build process. The cluster service will ensure you don't get both nodes trying to write to disk at once.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Boot Windows PE from HDD to RAM

Here is how it is done...

Create your winpe ISO using whatever method and whatever source you like.

Grab ntldr, ntdetect and ramdisk.sys from a Windows Server 2003 + SP1 source. Replace the ramdisk.sys in your PE ISO with the one from 2K3 + SP1 (if you used a different source for your PE build).

In the root of the target HDD, put ntldr, ntdetect and the winpe ISO. Make sure the name of the ISO is in 8.3 format.... for this example, I will creatively use the name 'winpe.iso'.

In the root of the target HDD, create a winnt.sif file with the following entries

BootDevice = "ramdisk(0)"
BootPath = "\i386\System32\"
OsLoadOptions = "/noguiboot /fastdetect /minint /rdexportascd /rdpath=winpe.iso"

So now you have 4 files on the target HDD, being ntldr (W2K3 + SP1), (W2K3 + SP1), winpe.iso (any build you like) and winnt.sif.

Now when you boot the machine next, you'll see winpe fly into RAM and you can do anything you like without having to wait for CD / disk reads etc. Go ahead, format c: from within Windows PE... see if windows pe cares!

So now you can use Windows PE for remote server builds by taking a ghost image with the 4 files, booting the remote server off a floppy and dumping down the image, then rebooting. no more waiting for Window PE to crawl across a WAN from your laptop to the target server!

Saturday, August 13, 2005


As I've said before, WiX pwnz. But as an admin wanting to pack a whole bunch of files into an msi that will install to wherever I want it to without any dialogs etc, I needed a script to generate the bulk of the .wxs file. That being the Component and File entries.

So I wrote wxsgen.vbs. Download it here. And enjoy.

I'm on the 'Longhorn' Server beta!

Just finished installing Longhorn server on VMWare... will report back sometime in the next 48 hours with initial thoughts...

Somewhere along the way I must have lost my desktop mindset... the Windows Vista beta was so disappointing, and I wasn't even that excited about it before I saw it! But just after reading some of the beta documentation I'm excited about Longhorn server. Like the whole 'Core' concept for example... about time Microsoft! The 'core' build gives you the ability to install a server role, and add nothing else. It is stipped completely of a lot of extraneous stuff, like the explorer shell. 'What the!?!' I hear you say! That's right, you can now install a DHCP,DNS,File Server or Domain Controller WITH NO EXPLORER SHELL. It just has the CLI. Makes perfect sense - when was the last time you logged onto a Domain Controller to manage AD? Or a DNS server to create a new record? It just doesn't happen. So now you get the option of doing a role based install that uses bugger all disk (~500Mb) and next to no resources for anything other than what it's dedicated role uses. Double thumbs up to whoever at Microsoft got this concept up and running!

Now that there is a common code base, and the presentation and communication layers are becoming more compartmentalised, I am sure we will see a slew of role based server releases from Microsoft. Storage Server and the upcoming Cluster Server are just the beginning... thanks Linux - without you I'm sure none of this would have happened. We'd still be getting monolithic 'install everything just in case something will use it someday' server OS'es.

Friday, August 05, 2005

VMWare - Remove Virtual Adapters from the summary page...

One thing that has always annoyed the hell outta me with VMWare Workstation, is that for some reason when you remove a Virtual Adapter, it doesn't get removed from the Virtual Network Editor summary page.

It's happened in every version from 4 onwards... it might have happened in 3.x too, but I've never used that! Anyways, to get rid of these entries, fire up regedit and go to the following key

HKLM\SOFTWARE\VMWare, Inc.\VMnetLib\VMnetConfig

and sure enough you will see subkeys with the names of all Virtual Network Adapters, past and present. Blow the keys away that correspond to non-existent adapters, restart the Virtual Network Editor and you're good!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

TechEd 2005 Here I come!

I'm completely stoked! The company is sending me to TechEd this year, on the Gold Coast (yes I'm Australian). It will actually be the first TechEd I've been to. Ever since I found out Steve Riley will be presenting, I've been itching to go. I saw him a few years back at the first Microsoft security summit in Sydney. If you ever get a chance to see this guy present, do so... he's bloody awesome!