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.
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!