My Netbook and Ubuntu Linux

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A couple of weekends ago I was working on my Asus 901 netbook, and it was just running dog slow and spitting up multiple errors at boot after logging in. I loaded Windows 7 on it (using nlite) last summer, which was kind of a pain to load, but was a fun experiment and got my feat wet with Windows 7. Initially Windows 7 worked OK, but just started to slow down and give out random errors, then I would get Windows Update notifications that would not install for various reasons. It was becoming frustrating, as at times I just wanted to boot the thing up and check my e-mail or send out a tweet.

The netbook’s drives where a 4GB and 16GB. There might be ways around it now, but I had to load the Windows OS partition on the 4GB drive and do multiple links to program files on the 16GB partition. I upgraded the netbook to the max physical memory allowed, 2GB, but that was really the only thing I did to it. I also had a heck of a time searching out drivers for the Asus that would work properly. Again, to be fair, this was last summer so there may be a better way to do this now.

I browsed around on the web, contemplated various linux distributions (eeebuntu, which I think is now Aurora and easypeasy was another, and a slew of others). I decided to try out Ubuntu 10.04, the netbook edition, from a USB thumb drive to see how it would work. I picked the netbook version of Ubuntu because I didn’t see a need to load a bunch of applications that I wouldn’t be using my netbook for. I primarily use my netbook to check e-mail, surf the web, etc, not any real “hardcore” stuff. I backed up the original netbook, then downloaded a copy of Ubuntu, and got a running copy going on a USB thumb drive. After the first boot up, I was hooked. I was amazed at how things just worked. No messing around with drivers. The netbook’s wifi found my access point, I entered in my security info, and was out on in the Internet in seconds. After playing around with it for about a hour, I decided to select the install feature from the system menu, and had a clean system loaded in about 30 minutes.

I really like Windows 7, but after seeing what this did for my netbook, for me making it useful again, I am contemplating trying it out on my desktop (the full version) at home as well. I don’t really play video intensive games anymore (no time, grrr), so this maybe the way to go. It is an older machine, so I might be able to get a few more years of life out of it. I really like the fact I can try it out on a USB thumb drive and give a run through its hoops.

For reference, take a look at this blog for tweaking certain things for your SSD drives and this article for how to load the eee-control features as well.

Home/Small Office VPN Solution – OpenVPN

A few months ago I was asked by a couple of people, “What is a good product for connecting remotely to my machines at work/home, but isn’t going to cost me a bundle”. Good question, as I really never had a solid utility for my home lab environment. At work, we have always had some sort of enterprise VPN product like CheckPoint, F5, or Sonicwall. So I did some searching around, and of course there are many solutions out there. The criteria I was setting for myself was I wanted something somewhat easy to install, preferably open source, and something that could expand and/or grow if needed. I also wanted something that would work with my Windows boxes and Linux boxes. After playing around with a couple of products, I settled on OpenVPN (http://openvpn.net). The access server is available as Linux or Windows, or as a VMware or VHD appliance. The clients available are for Linux, Mac, and Windows. The server install was rather simple as I just downloaded and VMware image and added it to my existing ESXi environment. Made the proper changes after the install and on my firewalls and that was good to go. Of course you have to make sure you register so you can get your free 2 clients. The client software was pretty much the same. I loaded it on my Windows 7 laptop and my Linux netbook. I also tested it on Windows XP and no complaints there as well. The web GUI interface for the admin piece was pretty straight forward. Only problem I had going on was with setting up the profiles for downloading the client. Once I figured that out, I was good to go. Also one of the other things I really liked about the product is I could really test drive it and buy more licenses as I saw fit. Right now I don’t have a need for more than two connections, but that could change. I think this could be a happy medium solution for some home office/small business environments. They also have a pretty good community out there for help in case you get stuck.

Windows Server 2008 Only Comes on DVD

logo-ms-ws08-v

PLEASE NOTE, I TAKE NO CREDIT FOR WRITING THIS ARTICLE, ITS ORIGINS ARE/WERE FROM geekeleet.com. IT SEEMS TO BE DOWN AND MY REFERENCED LINKS TO IT WERE FAILING SO I HAVE REPOSTED WHAT THEY HAVE HERE. THAT IS ALL.

Well, last week I took my first stab at installing the all new Windows Server 2008 (Longhorn).  I must say that I was very frustrated when, a week later, it still wasn’t happily installed and working.  I ran into a couple of problems and I’m going to share them with you in the hopes that I might save you from the same aggravation that I endured.I’m an MSDN and TechNet subscriber, so I have access to the downloads of these products a few weeks before the general public.  I downloaded the English .iso and proceeded to burn it to disk.  When I took that disk to my server to install it, I hit my first hurdle.  It seems that the install disk for Windows Server 2008 only comes on DVD; the server is only equipped with a cd-rom.  I had a lot of ideas on how to fix this, but many of them didn’t pan out.  I didn’t have a large enough USB drive to create an install disk from, nor could I find anything on the web to solve my problem.  Suddenly, I was struck with the idea of the century, install from my network!  I copied the contents of the Server 2008 DVD to a common share on my network and searched for a boot disk to load the network from.  I tried loading a copy of WinPE 2004 (Windows Pre-installation Environment), which loaded just fine, however it threw up an error message when I tried to install Server 2008.  It would seem that the version of WinPE that I was using didn’t support Vista or Server 2008 installations.

After much hunting I discovered that there is a WinPE version 2.0, however I had no luck finding a copy that I could download.  Nope, the community wasn’t going to help me with this one, so I set out to create my own.  It actually wasn’t that hard.  You do need to have a Vista installation running somewhere to create the WinPE disk that will get you going.  For those of you who don’t know, WinPE is actually a replacement for DOS to some degree.  When you boot from the Vista or Server 2008 install disk, you are actually loading a WinPE environment, rather than a DOS one.  Think of it like a really compact version of the Vista kernel.

To build your own WinPE 2.0 disk, you have to start by downloading the Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK).  Warning!!!  Downloading this software does require you to validate your copy of Windows.  Just in case you happen to be one of the minorities that pirate software, I thought you should know.  Otherwise, download the software and install it using the wizard provided.  Once you have completed all of that, follow these instructions to create your disk:

  • Launch the “Windows PE Tools Command Prompt” from the start menu (Start –> All Programs –> Microsoft Windows AIK)
  • At the command prompt, type COPYPE.CMD x86 c:tempx86_PE (command  |  version  |  destination folder) and press <enter>

Note: the destination directory should not already exist.

  • Once the process completes, create a .iso by entering OSCDIMG -bc:tempx86_peetfsboot.com -n -o c:tempx86_peiso c:tempx86_pe.iso and pressing <enter>
  • Now you can burn the image to a disk with your favourite burning software (Roxio, Nero, etc.)
  • You’re done!

Now you have a WinPE 2.0 boot disk.  Once you boot to it, it will look like a fancy Vista background and a command prompt.  If you are network installing like I am, you need to mount the network share so that the install can take place.  That part is easy, just type:

net use z: \computernamefoldername

or net use z: \computernamefoldername domainpassword /USER:domainuser (if you are using a secured domain share)

Now you can type z:setup and you will be on your way to installing Server 2008.  This technique also works for Vista for those of you having a similar problem there!

Windows Server 2008 Hangs After Loading crcdisk.sys

logo-ms-ws08-vPLEASE NOTE, I TAKE NO CREDIT FOR WRITING THIS ARTICLE, ITS ORIGINS ARE/WERE FROM geekeleet.com. IT SEEMS TO BE DOWN AND MY REFERENCED LINKS TO IT WERE FAILING SO I HAVE REPOSTED WHAT THEY HAVE HERE. THAT IS ALL.

If you have been reading along, you’ll know that it’s been about a week now that I have been trying to install Windows Server 2008 onto an IBM x335. Until last night, I had been completely unsuccessful. The first time I ran the installation all went smooth. Well mostly. The installation appeared to be going as expected. The program told me that it had formatted the hard drive, unpacked and copied all of the files to the system directory, completed installation of the operating system, and rebooted a couple of times. Then it would show the Windows Server 2008 splash screen with the progress bar, but it would just get stuck there. I left it overnight the first time and in the morning it was still at the splash screen.

I did what any self-proclaimed geek would do, I tried to troubleshoot it. I tried loading in safe mode, which gave me my first big and important clue. When booting to safe mode, the console displays a list of the drivers that it successfully loads. It always froze as soon as it displayed the crcdisk.sys driver. My research indicated that this was an indicator that this driver was loaded without a problem, so I went on a mission to find out what driver was loading next, and failing. I spent way too much time on Google and really didn’t get anywhere. There were tons of MSDN forum posts about this, or similar, issues. The commonality between them seemed to be either IBM equipment or raid arrays. Still, none of the suggestions were helpful.

The answer though was so simple, I feel quite foolish even mentioning it. I will though, so that you don’t need to feel foolish hunting for it. This particular server is about 6 years old and is no longer being supported by the manufacturer. I did however find the most current firmware and drivers on the manufacturers website. The firmware is pretty easy to do, you need to download UpdateXpress (version 4.05 for this particular model) and burn it to a CD. This bootable disk will continually reboot and update firmware for each piece of hardware until they are all up to date. The second thing to do is download the raid drivers and create a boot floppy disk. Floppy disk you say? Yes, I say. It may be possible to load them onto a USB key, but I went with the traditional option.

Now here is what I did to complete the installation:

* Launch the installation of Windows Server 2008 again
* When presented with the option to select the installation partition, click on the Load Drivers link located at the bottom left-hand corner
* Select the floppy disk (or wherever you put the drivers)
* Select the driver that corresponds to your hardware
* Finish the installation

After many painful hours of troubleshooting, Windows Server 2008 finally installed. In the end it was nothing more than the raid drivers and was easily rectified. Make sure you are using updated drivers for your hard drive or controller to avoid this experience. Good luck with your installation and remember that this will work with Vista as well.

Running vSphere Client and vSphere Host Update Utility in Windows 7

I finally got around to updating my netbook with Windows 7 Ultimate this last week and all went well on it (for the most part). As most people have discovered, the vSphere client does not work native in Windows 7 and is stated here on VMware’s support site. I didn’t want to run it in Windows XP mode, but also didn’t want to wait until VMware fixes the issue either. So I did a trusty google search and found this article for the vSphere Client, and this article for the Host Update Utility. Both worked as advertised and haven’t encountered any problems since then.