Monthly Archives : November 2010

Windows XP Mode

With the push to migrate to Windows 7, and the added urge to upgrade to 64-bit computing, a number of legacy programs are being left in the dust. Most 32-bit Windows apps will run in 64-bit Windows and on Windows 7, but a few will not – and sometimes these are important!

Fortunately, there is an answer: Windows XP Mode. With the advent of Windows 7, a specific version of Microsoft’s Virtual PC was introduced, and if you are licensed for either Windows 7 Professional or Windows 7 Ultimate, you can freely download and install Windows XP Mode to your computer. This is a licensed version of Windows XP Professional, running in virtual mode, and sharing resources with your existing computer. It is useful for running those legacy apps, or programs depending on 32-bit drivers that have not, or in some cases, will not be upgraded themselves.

For more information, and to get the download, go here

BVA Cloud Offering – Virtual Servers – Cloud Servers

For about 2 years now BVA has developed and tested an offering that allows organization the opportunity to move their physical servers off-site into the cloud.  There are several advantages with this type of architecture that really helps business grow and increase their overall up-time and satisfaction.  This offering is important for BVA as well as organization here in the valley.  The days of replacing physical servers are over for the small to medium size businesses.  It’s important to reevaluate your long term strategy so that it falls in line with what is going on in the technology world.  Too many times do we see organization’s continue with the old-line of technology due to inexperience and lack of confidence in change.  This offering that BVA has decided to adopt, truly leverages virtualization in a very robust and redundant infrastructure.  This offering is housed at a local data-center that is a tier 1 facility.  The virtual cluster/farm is roughly 40 physical servers hosts leveraging the VMware virtualization platform.  This offering can provide a public and private cloud solution. Both solutions are very reliable and offer a 100% SLA on hardware up-time which is quite beneficial and worth the cost associated for this type of infrastructure architecture.  This environment has redundant switches, firewalls, power, and bandwidth.  There are three different ISP’s (Internet Service Providers) which allow true redundancy when it comes to back-bone connectivity.

The biggest difference between the two offerings is pretty straight forward:

  • Public Cloud Server – a host environment that is a 40 physical server environment that is not dedicated to your organization
  • Private Cloud Server – a host environment that is a 3 physical server environment that is dedicated to your organization

The cost is really aggressive and I feel its realistic for a small to medium size business looking for advanced IT solutions.  Here is a great example of the cost structure because it is varied depending on the specifications needed via physical server.

  • 2 Processors, 2GB of RAM, 250GB of 15k rpm Disks = $350/Month
  • 4 Processors, 8GB of RAM, 250GB of 15k rpm Disks = $610/Month
  • 4 Processors, 16GB of RAM, 350GB of 15k rpm Disks = $950/Month

Microsoft SharePoint Online Not Ready

BVA has taken an active role in trying to take organizations in the cloud and it has been an upward battle to say the least.  BVA (technology consulting companies) has had some great success with Microsoft Exchange Online even though we have had some limitations, but overall we are happy with the service from Microsoft.  SharePoint in the cloud is a good product and works well but there are some pricing concerns as well as migration process.   I am somewhat of a fan of SharePoint Online itself via functionality and overall performance yet the cost is unrealistic and until Microsoft gets on board it will never take off below the Enterprise Space.  It’s a reliable, convenient service that allows companies to take advantage of SharePoint without having to host it themselves. It’s software-as-a-service at its best with no hardware or software investment upfront which is great.  SharePoint Online today is based on the 2007 version but with the new wave it should be up to the 2010 version by the end of the year.  I have been told that some of the service is currently on 2010 but it’s interesting because I cannot get a clear answer, to be blunt.  My thought is that some of the users are for testing purposes before the full release.  The service online does a good job providing some of the core SharePoint capabilities. At the end of the calendar year, SharePoint Online will be updated to SharePoint 2010 at which point it will be even more powerful & provide even greater parity with SharePoint 2010 “On-Premises”. This is largely due to all the investments Microsoft made in the 2010 wave.  With SharePoint 2007 today, a site collection serves as a tenant boundary delivering some of the core WSS 3.0 features along with some of the MOSS 2007 features such as web content management. However, when it comes to MOSS 2007 especially, not all of the features are optimal for multiple tenants.  With the 2010 wave,  SharePoint Online has significant improvements and enables a wide range of scenarios from small cosmetic changes to custom code solutions:

SharePoint Browser UX . The new SharePoint UX allows end-users to very easily modify the site theme, switch the site chrome (master page) and modify site content (web content, rich media and documents). The new wiki-like interface and new SharePoint Ribbon really make it easy to interact with and make SharePoint look and work the way you want.

Web Services. This builds on the existing extensibility we have with SharePoint 2007. SharePoint 2010 will continue to expose web services that external applications can call into.  

Business Connectivity Services (BCS). New to SharePoint Online, with SPD 2010 & BCS, you’ll be able to model business entities by connecting to WCF end points. This will allow you to connect your SharePoint Online application to external systems.

Client OM. New to SharePoint 2010, the client OM allows developers to develop solutions that don’t run on the server. This becomes a powerful way to develop .NET applications that integrate with SharePoint. A really great example of this: Silverlight applications. With the SharePoint Client OM & Silverlight, developers will be able to create really rich applications on top of SharePoint Online that run on the client, interact with the server (SharePoint Online) and are accessible across multiple browser technologies.

Sandbox Solutions. With the new Sandbox Solution feature, developers can now upload custom code into the SharePoint Online environment. Specifically, developers can use the new Visual Studio 2010 SharePoint Tools to develop partially trusted code (Sandbox Solutions), package them up as a WSP and upload them into SharePoint Online. Examples include custom web parts and event receivers. While full-trust solutions will not be supported, this goes a long way to extending SharePoint Online with custom business logic. For some complex scenarios, I even envision developers developing hybrid SharePoint Online Sandbox Solutions with Windows Azure.


SharePoint Online SKUs for the 2010 Wave
.

  • $5.25 per license/per user
  • 250 MB per user, aggregated across the organization
  • $2.25 per additional GB (can get quite pricey for an organization)
  • 100 site collections
  • Enterprise USL Cals is self-explanatory as it provides Enterprise CAL functionality
  • Internet Sites offer provides a public facing website portal with underlying web content management (WCM); the Partner Access offer enables company employees to collaborate with authenticated external partners within SharePoint Online.
Still one of the greatest things about SharePoint Online is the low cost of ownership and being a very valuable Intranet.  Keeping everyone up to date and provide the starting point to search across the company for important documents and people.  Being able to share documents and insights securely with partners as well as internal and external customers.  Also an great value add was the Extranet Sites that are easy to set-up it and designed to keep you in control of the information you share with customers and partners.

Technical requirements for Local Desktops

Windows 7: 1 gigahertz (GHz) Pentium processor and 1 gigabyte (GB) of system RAM (32-bit) or 2 GB of system RAM (64-bit)

Windows Vista: 1 GHz Pentium processor or faster and 1 GB or more of system RAM

Windows XP: 500 MHz Pentium processor or faster (recommended 1 GHz) and 256 MB or more of system RAM

HP Touchscreen Is Impressive – TouchSmart 310

I had a client here recently request a notebook that they needed to be a touchscreen for their sales people via purchase orders and presentations.  We did some research and found some cool products that could fit their needs.  As a consulting firm its crucial that we look at all alternatives.  BVA does not always have the capability of trying out first hand all the models available but in many cases free test models are provided.  The HP TouchSmart 310-1000z pushes touchscreen use to the next level. This is the fourth version of  HP’s touchscreen technology.  The TouchSmart 310 retails for $1,159.  HP is normally pretty good about providing test models to lab with, such as HP, DELL, and Motorola.   The all-in-one touchscreen desktops fourth version of the TouchSmart interface intelligently replaces the vanilla Windows 7 interface with a touch-oriented playground that finally shows normal people what you can do with touchscreens on a PC.  While a base version of the TouchSmart 310 can start as low as $700, this upgraded version hits the sweet spot between savings and performance. The unit has a black plastic design with a speaker bar beneath a 16 by 9 screen and a webcam above the screen.  The 310 breaks a little from tradition by providing a shelf under the screen to store the wireless keyboard. The system has a good tilt mechanism, so you can find a comfortable position while computing.  The computer has a 20-inch widescreen with a 1,600-by-900 resolution.  The desktop comes with a 1TB, 7,200-rpm drive, which is great for downloading. Live TV is integrated into the system’s Windows 7 Media Center software.

Are you new to VMware?

Server virtualization has been popular for many forward thinking IT consultant companies for the past number of years. However, in recent years small to mid-size companies are now taking advantage of the benefits that virtualization can offer. VMware has continued to lead the charge when it comes to virtualization software. If you are new to server virtualization and VMware you may have heard of the benefits of V-Motion and high availability in terms of host servers, but a less known feature of VMware is Storage VMotion.
During a recent disk storage upgrade to a network storage device, we were able to move our production virtual disks from one physical array to another on the same device without downtime or an extensive maintenance window. Storage VMotion is just another tool that has made systems administration a joy to work with. Check it out the next time you need to do maintenance on your VMware SAN/NAS storage device.
I will admit VMware is not for everyone; but server virtualization and server consolidation will continue to be the wave of the future when it comes to technical architecture.

New Samsung Galaxy Tab Unit – T-Mobile

T-Mobile’s has come out with their first Android tablet, the Samsung Galaxy Tab.  It is a good piece of hardware, but it doesn’t have enough great apps to be compelling.  It’s hard to compete with other units like it for a variety of reasons, I feel not having enough apps is the largest one.  The iPad makes it difficult to set itself aside from the others.  Sprint also has its own version that actually came out two weeks ago, but just last week had the chance to play with this version.  Both are part of the same line of device and make up the first true tablet competitors to the iPad. I will say this, this unit is sort of a new breed, because unlike the iPad, they’re truly small and light enough to be used on the go. In any case, they’re well built and worth watching, though they need more custom apps to be truly useful.  The Samsung Galaxy Tab is about $399-$599. After playing with the unit I feel that the speed is great, nice camera that takes good pictures, and overall great performance.

This unit has 16GB of internal storage plus a memory card slot and the T-Mobile’s 3G network is very fast and reliable which is key.  The Galaxy Tab can’t hit T-Mobile’s maximum HSPA+ speeds of 7Mbps, but its got a healthy 2Mbps on the Galaxy Tab’s HSPA 7.2 modem using the Ookla speed test app. The device also has 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, and it had no trouble connecting to our WPA2 protected network. There’s no Wi-Fi sharing mode, though, but there’s a USB tethering mode.  Looking over the web reports it is documented that some people have achieved 7.0 hours of video playback time, with screen brightness set to automatic.  The battery life for the galaxy is shorter than the iPad’s battery life, but Apple’s tablet is larger, thus the larger battery.  The Galaxy Tab model runs on Android 2.2. But here’s the biggest problem with the Tab: there is currently one good app for Android tablets. It is the new Wall Street Journal app, and it’s just beautiful, with a ‘virtual newspaper’ look and feel that is far easier and more fun to read than, say, the New York Times’ or the AP’s list format.  It is reported that more apps are coming, but who really knows when that is happening.

Device Specifications
Screen Size- 7 inches
Storage Capacity- 16 GB
Dimensions- 7.48 x 4.74 x 0.7 inches
Weight- 13.4 oz
Networking Options- 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n, 3G
Email Access- Dedicated email app

Is Android Better than the iPhone!

Ever wonder why many people are adopting the Android OS and quite frankly why it’s better than the iPhone? Well that is something I’m going to be touching on here today. Being a Droid X android user, I absolutely love the capabilities of android and what it can do. So hold on tight here we go.

First off, the android OS is open source, which pretty much means to each his own.  You can develop whatever application you would like, or download any app that you would like, without your big brother (Apple) telling you what you can and can’t do on your device. The android marketplace is full of all kinds of apps all created without anyone telling them they can or can’t. You can go to many different websites and download apps, but the marketplace for the most part, is one of the better places to go. Some of the apps from third party sites can be shaky and unstable at times, but you can still install and use if you would like to.

Second, android offers a complete multitasking experience. Now with the iPhone they claim to have “multitasking,” but it’s not true multitasking like the android devices support. You can be listening to Pandora, while downloading an app, and checking your email all at once. It is a very nice feature.

Next, the android OS supports flash, allowing end users to have a full web browsing experience. You don’t’ have to download individual site apps like you do on the iPhone. Since Froyo (android 2.2) I have been nothing but pleased with the flash browsing experience it provides the end user. It also runs fast and smooth.

Another reason I enjoy the android devices better than the iPhone is that you have choices. There are close to 80 android devices on the market compared to the 2 that Apple has. You can buy phones with the features you want or don’t want. You’re not stuck buying the only device available on the market. With the ever increasing trend to be individual and have your own style, this definitely helps you achieve that goal with your electronic devices.

Lastly, and probably one of the better reasons that android is better than the iPhone, is the fact that there are multiple carriers that carry the devices. If you do not like the network you are on, you can change to another and you will still be able to get an android device. This one is a definite must for me as I think this is a great OS and being able to have all these choices is a big selling point.

There you have it, these are my reasons why android is better than the iPhone. Hopefully this has been educational for you, please check back soon!

Expand Your Anti-Malware Toolkit

When dealing with malware and viruses on Windows systems, often one tool is not sufficient.  You may need to expand your tool set to include multiple applications in order to effectively clean off an infection or threat.

  • Turn off System Restore. This can be done in the System control panel. Don’t forget to turn it back on when you’re finished!
  • Clear temporary internet files (IE cache) for all profiles.  If you’re only dealing with a single-user computer, this is easily accomplished with the Internet Options control panel. If multiple users login to the infected computer, rather than manually deleting for each user, you can use ICSweep to view and delete the IE cache for all users.  Originally designed for terminal server environments, ICSweep works well on desktop operating systems, too.  You can download it here:  http://www.ctrl-alt-del.com.au/CAD_TSUtils.htm
  • CCleaner is also effective at cleaning out the IE cache, but only for the currently logged in user. http://www.piriform.com/
  • Boot the computer into Safe Mode with Networking, if possible, and launch your anti-spyware application. Safe Mode prevents many unwanted services & processes from running, but if you use the networking version, you can still update the definitions for your apps.  However, this isn’t always possible, depending on the nature of the infection, so you may need to boot to Safe Mode (with no networking) and manually update from another source (eg. USB drive).
  • I have had success using Malwarebytes’ quick scan for basic infection & removal. http://www.malwarebytes.org/.  Recently, I’ve found Hitman Pro to be very effective in detecting and removing root kits and boot sector viruses, such as Alureon.  http://www.surfright.nl/en/hitmanpro
  • You may need to boot to a CD, or use another method to scan externally, if you’ve got something that’s really entrenched.  There are many Linux-based “Live” CD images available for free download: http://www.knoppix.net/ or you can manually create your own Windows Preinstallation Environment (PE) CD http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc766093%28WS.10%29.aspx Microsoft’s Diagnostic & Recovery Toolset (DaRT) includes ERD Commander disc images, and also includes Microsoft Security Essentials for offline scanning.

Windows 7 & Windows Server 2008 R2 Service Pack

It’s now been over a year since the release of Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, so that means it’s just about time for the first service pack.  With the core operating system being based on the same code, the service pack release will be for both products.  A release candidate for Service Pack 1 is available at the link below, but I highly recommend you read the FAQ’s in the link below also.  Once you install the SP1 Release Candidate 1, there is no upgrade path to the released version of SP1. Consulting companies must either reinstall the operating system, or uninstall the RC version, which is likely not a clean process.  As usual, this service pack is a colletion of security updates and hotfixes, but there are a few enhancements as well.  The ones that caught my eye as I read through the notes are RemoteFX and Hyper-V Dynamic Memory.  First, RemoteFX is an enhancement to the already revamped Remote Desktop Services in Windows Server 2008 R2.  RemoteFX offers support for remote USB devices, 3D graphics and video, as well as enhanced encryption and management.  The idea is to be able to provide high quality multimedia experiences in a Remote Desktop session that is similar to the experience that a user can have on their local Windows 7 computer.

Second, Hyper-V Dynamic Memory is a technology that allows a Hyper-V host to dynamically allocate memory to virtual machine guests as needed.  VMWare supports overallocation of memory, which is allowing more memory to be allocated to guest virtual machines than there is physical memory.  With Hyper-V, guest virtual machines could not be configured for more memory than what is available on the host.  In my opinion, this was a critical shortcoming in Hyper-V and it appears that Microsoft has addressed this with Hyper-V Dynamic Memory in SP1.

It appears that we will have another 3 to 6 months before we can see SP1 released.  You can use the links below to download evaluations, check out the FAQ’s and find out some more in-depth information about the new features in this release.

Download
http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=194726

RemoteFX
http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ff817578(WS.10).aspx

Hyper-V Dynamic Memory
http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ff817651(WS.10).aspx

FAQ
http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/evalcenter/ff384134.aspx

Removable Disk Drives vs. DVDs and USB Drives as Archive and Backup Media

Removable Disk Drives vs. DVDs and USB Drives as Archive and Backup MediaThe benefits of using high-capacity removable disk cartridges are clear when compared to alternative media such as tapes, DVDs, and USB drives.  Rugged, removable disk media such as the Dell PowerVault RD1000 cartridges are very durable, built to withstand a fall from nearly one meter.  They are also small and lightweight and can be easily stored off-site for better disaster recovery protection.

The drives themselves, when ordered with a Dell server, add only about $200 to the cost.  External drives, which can be connected to any server or workstation via USB, are only about $30 more.  The removable disk drive cartridges are typically available in 160GB, 320GB, 500GB and 640GB native capacities.  With data compression, a cartridge can often backup twice that amount of data, or more.

An archived collection of disk cartridges takes considerably less shelf space than a similar amount of DVDs or CDs — it would take 36 standard DVDs to hold the volume of a single 320GB removable disk cartridge.  This solution is also easily expandable – if you outgrow the 320GB cartridges, for example, just start using 500GB cartridges.  There’s no need to buy a new drive, and you can still read the files archived on the smaller cartridges.

Combined with the backup software best suited to your needs – such as Symantec Backup Exec, Acronis Backup and Recovery, or the backup software native to Windows Server 2008 and Windows 7, removable disk cartridges provide easy-to-use backup and disaster recovery capabilities to protect files, as well as all user data to help provide faster restores and reduced downtime.