Windows 8: Finally Made the Leap

11 Nov 2012
November 11, 2012

WindowsI have been messing around with Windows 8 since early this year. Never real seriously, but enough to keep an eye on it and play a bit. Last month I installed an evaluation version of my laptop (the VHD method) and exercised it a bit more. Enough to get to the point where I wanted to spend more time with it. However, since that was the eval version I didn’t really want to spend the time getting it all configured and then lose it after 6 months.

So this weekend I made the leap and and installed a non-eval version on my work laptop. I’m still using the VHD method (Scott Hanselman has a great walkthrough that I followed (but I skipped his boot from USB steps since I had a DVD…)). I then set it up with all of my work applications and have been in it ever since. Should I determine that I love it I will make a system image, then re-deploy it to my “real” hard drive to get a little boost by moving away from the VHD method.

The modern UI (formerly known as “metro”) take some getting used to, but if you’re more of a typer than a clicker you’re not going to have any issues. With Windows 7 I’ve always been in the habit of hitting the Windows Key (Winkey) and starting to type to find programs. That works great with Windows 8. However, if you always drag the mouse over to the start button, *click* and then scroll through all the programs you may find this a bit different… perhaps better though once you get the hang of customizing your Start page. Or perhaps your cheese has been moved too far. I’ll let you decide…

For me? I’m digging it. So far I have had no issues getting all setup with my normal work apps and configurations.

What follows are some stream of consciousness observations, tips and discoveries from the past two days. Maybe something in there will be found helpful to someone.

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Easy Test Drive of Win 8 / Server 2012

16 Oct 2012
October 16, 2012

I attended a small event last week at the local Microsoft office. It was called an “installfest” and was led by IT Pro Evangelist Harold Wong (what an awesome title he has!). This was an informal event geared towards helping folks quickly get up and running with evaluation versions of Windows 8 and/or Windows Server 2012. It also helped prepare those who were attending some of the labs at the launch event being held the next day.

What made this easy is the ability for modern versions Windows to boot from VHD (virtual hard drive) files. While VHDs are really just  big files with .vhd extensions, Windows can mount them alongside your “real” hard drives and, more importantly, event boot from them. That’s the magic sauce.

Today I noticed that Harold’s event invitation is still up and that invitation happens to include links to prebuilt VHDs for both Windows 8 and Server 2012. Temporary licenses, mind you but if you re-arm ‘em you can get some solid evaluation time out of each. Hopefully I’m not overstepping here…

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Need More Power

20 Feb 2012
February 20, 2012

dead_batteryThis weekend we had a bit of a family emergency and found ourselves driving  90 minutes north to find a hospital as quickly as possible. While en route we were using our smart phones for typical smart phone stuff: texting, calling, researching on the web and GPS. The phones did all that just fine.

Once we got to the hospital our phones got more use. More phone calls, more texting and some light web research.

We left the hospital (everyone was discharged and OK, thankfully!) and headed south to find the lot where a wrecked car was deposited. More phone calls, more GPS and…

Out of battery.

5 hours of steady use (not non-stop though) and both of our phones were dead. Crap!

I know there are folks out there who use their phones WAY more than I do. How are they solving battery issues? I often carry an extra charger with me to get a charge in the car but forgot it in all of the excitement when we left… What other options should I explore to be better prepared next time?

External battery-based charge packs? I remember some fun projects back in the day with AA’s and an altoid case. Solar? Good intentions?

Seriously, in this era of short battery life, what’s an effective approach?

Hyper-V VM Backups

19 Feb 2012
February 19, 2012

I was looking around for a quicker and easier way to do automated backups for running Hyper-V guests as part of a recent work project. As you might guess, there are tons of options – mostly it comes down to how much you want to spend.

I had been told that Microsoft’s System Center would be the way to go, but it sure looks expensive. I made a few phone calls on that and then decided to look for something more focused at backups.

backupChainBoxA few web searches later I turned up a product called BackupChain. I liked what I saw on their “Hyper-V Backup” link so I decided to try the free 20 day trial. 15 minutes later I had it installed and configured on three Hyper-V host servers and the first backups running.

Does just what it says on the tin and I’m now seeking the funding to purchase a few licenses. And to be clear: I’ve had no contact with the company or their marketing people. I just like the product!

I set up weekly backups for a big pile of live VMs and haven’t had to think about it since. And yes, I’ve tested restores too. That’s also dead simple – and a reasonable way to clone VMs to boot.