Hyper-V Beta is out!

14. December 2007 08:05 by Jaguilar in General  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

For those of you who missed it, Windows Server 2008 RC1 was released yesterday, with the Beta of Hyper-V. Finally!

You can download it here, and there is some more information on the Virtual PC Guy's WebLog.

Doing business in Latin America

6. December 2007 06:05 by Jaguilar in General  //  Tags: ,   //   Comments (0)

Even though most of our clients are from the US and Europe, lately we have been getting more and more projects in Latin America, specially in Mexico. You’ve probably heard about a large project we started in Mexico recently. We also signed two smaller projects in the last month, and last week I was on-site at a customer in Mexico D.F. working on yet another one.

The thing is that in Mexico, even though still in Latin America (remember that we are based in Costa Rica), there were a couple of cultural differences that really caught my attention.

First of, the schedule. We in Costa Rica usually have lunch between 12 and 1. In Mexico it is usually between 3–4pm, 3–5pm or 2–4pm, depending on the company. That is a bit late for us… let’s just say that by 3pm I was starving.

The second one was the dress code. Normally in Europe and in the US, IT departments are very laid back, and have a very lax dress code. Through out Latin America, however, it is mostly suit and tie. Only in a few places can you show up with “business casual” or even “casual” clothes. This is changing, though, and going more and more casual.

All in all, going to Mexico was a nice experience. The people I worked with were really nice, and treated me well (other than keeping me hungry until the mid-afternoon  ). I hope we sign this project, so I’ll be able to go back!

Quoted by El Financiero on an article about moving to 64-bits

30. August 2007 10:45 by Jaguilar in General  //  Tags: , ,   //   Comments (0)

Some time ago I was interviewed (via email) by El Financiero, a weekly business-oriented newspaper from Costa Rica, regarding 64–bit technologies. A small quote from the interview was published a couple of weeks ago, along with some information I gave them on the advantages of moving to 64–bits.

The technical journalist from the newspaper did an article on how the Costa Rican Central Bank, BCCR, is moving their payments system (SINPE) from 32–bit to 64–bit servers, and the benefits they are getting from the move. These benefits include enhanced speed and database performance, given the large memory capacity of the new architecture. This is a fairly large system that handles over 3 million financial transactions per month.

ArtinSoft had some involvement in moving this system from Visual Basic 6.0 to Visual Basic .NET some time ago, in the dawn of the .NET era. There is even a published case study on the system – you can find it here.

Their plan currently is to slowly move all their systems to 64–bit over a period of 2 years.

You can check out the article here:  BCCR ajustó tecnologías (you may need to be registered with the site).

The importance of the Ready analysis

29. August 2007 10:57 by Jaguilar in General  //  Tags: ,   //   Comments (0)

A large percentage of the work I do here at ArtinSoft is related to what we call  Ready programs. The Ready program is part of the Ready-Set-Go methodology – a migration project methodology developed here at ArtinSoft that has given us great results.

The Ready assessment program, or Ready, is the first stage of this methodology. As you are probably aware, the more planning you put into a project, the higher the probability that the project will be succesful. Well, with the Ready, we do a an in-depth analysis of the project before we start, and come up with a detailed project plan that takes into account any risks and possible issues with the migration.

The first step in a Ready is a thorough assessment of the size, complexity, migration goals, and testing procedures for your current application. This step involves a 5– to 10– day on-site analysis of an application. During that week(s), we perform interviews with the development, PM and testing teams, to get a feel for the project and gather enough information to proceed with the project. Once we come back to our office, we work alongside the development team to create an accurate estimate of the effort required to perform the migration.  This normally includes any customization of the migration tools necessary to minimize the manual effort in the project.

The final product of the Ready program is a detailed written report that includes a fixed-cost proposal for completing the migration. This is usually delivered two or three weeks after the on-site visit. This report, on its own, has tremendous value for the organization. It summarizes the requirements for the migration, and the issues that need to be addressed even if the project is not performed by ArtinSoft. It can also help in justifying the need to modernize outdated applications.

The Ready program is a low-cost, low-risk approach to getting detailed information on your migration project. For more information on the ready, and on the overall methodology, check out the Ready-Set-Go methodology page at ArtinSoft's website.

I/O x86 Virtualization at last!

28. August 2007 06:54 by Jaguilar in General  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

Ever since we started working on the Virtual Server seminars, we’ve been hearing about I/O Virtualization, and how it will improve the virtualization landscape as the VT instructions did. Well, today Intel unveiled its vPro platform, with this new technology.

 The technology is called Virtualization Technology for Directed I/O or VT-d. VT-d controls access from Virtual Machines to memory at the physical page level, preventing one VM from accessing other VM’s memory. This has the side effect of virtualizing interrupts and DMA tranfers, which in turn should increase the performance of virtual machines since the VMM would no longer need to trap and emulate the behavior from virtual machines.

For more information, check out or this article at Intel’s website, which contains a detailed explanation of the platform. For a more digested approach, check out this coverage at Arstechnica.

MS Virtualization has a new home

21. August 2007 06:33 by Jaguilar in General  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

In case you missed it, Microsoft recently unveiled a new Virtualization Website. This website centralizes the information about all of Microsoft’s virtualization products.

I especially like the page about the different Virtualization Solutions offered by the company. It also caught my attention that they now have Softgrid application virtualization fully integrated with the virtualization stack.

Java Books for business managers

14. August 2007 04:17 by Jaguilar in General  //  Tags: ,   //   Comments (0)

The other day I had a meeting with a client that is considering converting his Informix 4GL application to Java, using our tools. It was an interesting situation, since he was a in business development, and not really a programmer. He then asked me if I could recommend him some books on Java from a business perspective. I agreed – without knowing how difficult that task could be.

I couldn’t find any recent books that would give an overview of the platform for non-technical personnel, especially decision-making managers. I found a couple of books from the start of the Java era, 1996/1997, that talked about what I was looking for, but they are out of print and it doesn’t look like they were ever updated. They are:

Does anybody know a good Java book that meet the criteria that I’m looking for?
Leave a comment with your recommendations!

Extracting Files from MSI Installers

6. July 2007 13:32 by Jaguilar in General  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

Sometimes you need to extract one file from an MSI file. A typical example is when you need just one DLL in order to make a project compile, but in order to get it you need to download and install a complete application. The ideal solution is to get the DLL file from the MSI file without having to perform the installation.

Some installers allow you extract the files to create a network installation. This is normally done using the command msiexec /a . Not all of them extract all the files, though.

Well, there is a small utility hilariously called Less MSIérables that allows you to extract files from msi installers. It works great – it has been around for a while, and I’ve used it several times to get me out of tough spots. I definitely recommend that you check it out!!

Error when installing SQL Server Express 2005

4. July 2007 11:06 by Jaguilar in General  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

Recently I kept getting this error when trying to install SQL Server 2005 Express Edition:

An installation package for the product Microsoft SQL Server Native Client cannot be found. Try the installation again using a valid copy of the installation package 'sqlncli.msi'

After re-downloading the installation package and running the setup several times, I found this page. There I found a solution: go to Control Panel->Add or Remove Programs, and UNINSTALL the Microsoft SQL Server Native Client. Run the installation again, and this time it should work correctly.

Featured on IT Now Magazine!

4. July 2007 07:37 by Jaguilar in General  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

I was featured on the June issue of IT Now, on an article they wrote about blogs. For this article I talked about how some attendees to one of the virtualization seminars in Zaragoza, Spain, recognized us from a solution he found here on our blogs. Since the magazine is in spanish, this is a rough translation:

Jose Aguilar, one of the most recognized company bloggers, comments: "I think that the most important thing is the communication channel that you open with the readers. Another importat thing is the name that you create for yourself, your reputation. Recently, on an international seminar, one of the attendees recognized us from a problem he was having, and he found the solution on one of our blog posts.”

Click on the image below to get a high-resolution scan of the article:

bitacora empresarial

IT Now is a magazine about business and teconology for the Central American market. You can check out their website here.

XML documentation in the C# source code

28. June 2007 14:04 by Jaguilar in General  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

In order to fully take advantage of the XML source code comments available in C#, you need to use all the features offered by the XML comment system.For this, the best guide I’ve found so far is this: XML Comments Let You Build Documentation Directly From Your Visual Studio .NET Source Files .

Also, in order to extract the XML comments that work as and input to the Sandcastle tools, follow these steps:

  • Inside the Visual Studio 2005 Solution Explorer, right click on your C# project
  • Select Properties from the popup menu
  • Select Build
  • Make sure the checkbox XML documentation file is selected. Enter the path and file name where you want the XML file to be generated.

With that setting, the next time you build your application the XML file will be generated for you.

WDS Image Capture Wizard disappearing drive letter mystery solved

28. June 2007 07:19 by Jaguilar in General  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

Some time ago we had some issues with the WDS Image Capture Wizard that WDS inserts into WinPE to create capture images . When we got to the screen where you select the drive letter you want, the WDS Image Capture Wizard didn't list the drives, not even the C: drive. We could get to it using the command prompt, though, so we created those test images by running imagex manually.

Well, it turns out that we were just documenting the processes at the time, with a full OS install on the hard disk. In what could be described as a RTFM moment, we finally figured out what was wrong – the WDS Image Capture Wizard only lists Sysprep’d drives. Once we ran Sysprep on the OS installation, everything worked smoothly with the Capture Wizard.

The moral of the story is that sometimes it pays to read the manual (and follow the instructions) before jumping head-first into a project.



Playing with Sandcastle

28. June 2007 06:44 by Jaguilar in General  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

Some time back I blogged about the Sandcastle project over at Microsoft, a tool that allows you to generate MSDN-style documentation from the comments in the .NET code (among other things). I recently downloaded the Sandcastle - June 2007 Community Technology Preview (CTP) to generate some documentation for a project we did with the HPC team at Microsoft. Even though it is still a CTP, it works great – right now I am able to add comments to the code and then generate sufficient documentation semi-automatically, killing two birds with one stone.

If you are interested in using this tools, make sure to check out post Creating a Chm build using Sandcastle at the Sandcastle blog . Remember that Sandcastle will extract and transform the comments from your files, but you still need the HTML Help Workshop to create the actual *.chm file.

Virtualization news

13. June 2007 09:52 by Jaguilar in General  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

This has been a very exiting week for virtualization, at least on the Microsoft side of things. Microsoft made two significant anouncements between Monday and today:

  • First of, Virtual Server R2 2005 SP1 was finally released! You can download it from Virtual Server’s website. Make sure you check out the details about the release as well. BTW,  the website also got a new “modern” look. Nice job!
  • Also, today Microsoft released the whitepaper “Licensing Microsoft Server Products with Microsoft Virtual Server and Other Virtual Machine Technologies”. This whitepaper details the licensing requirements to run Microsoft’s products in Virtual Server, VMWare, and other virtualization solutions. It also covers some restrictions for scenarios like moving virtual machines from one server to another, virtual machine libraries, products licensed by CPU/Virtual CPU, and others.

For the licensing, remember that you can also use Windows Server Virtualization Calculators to figure out the licensing cost of running Microsoft’s server products on a virtual environment.

Changing the login authentication mode for SQL Server Express 2005

24. May 2007 10:10 by Jaguilar in General  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

Here’s another time-saving tip. If you select Windows Authentication when installing SQL Server Express 2005, and you need to change it so it allows SQL Server Authentication later on, all you need to do is change a registry key. To do this, shutdown all SQL Server-related services, run regedit32, and in the registry key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Microsoft SQL Server\MSSQL.1\MSSQLServer, change the value of LoginMode to 2.

Restart all services, and that should do the trick. You can get more information in this KB article (talks about MSDE/SQL Server 2000, but it also applies to SQL Server Express).

Assigning Computer Names to Windows 2003 installations when using WDS

23. May 2007 16:03 by Jaguilar in General  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

Here’s a tip that should save you some time (I spent several hours trying to figure this one out). When you deploy a .WIM image with Windows Server 2003 using WDS, you can have that machine take on the name you gave to it in Active Directory (when prestaging the computer). To achieve this, do the following:

  1. Create a copy of the sysprep.inf file on the folder c:\RemoteInstall\Images\\\$OEM$\$1\Sysprep
  2. Edit this sysprep.inf file and make sure you have the following lines in place:



  3. Remove the file c:\Sysprep\sysprep.inf from the image (if necessary, mount it with imagex)
  4. The next time you re-image the machine, the WDS client will place this sysprep.inf file inside the image, and will grab the name you gave to the machine in Active Directory when you prestaged it.

100 Posts Milestone!!

17. May 2007 00:26 by Jaguilar in General  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)
A quick note – I just noticed I recently went over the 100-post mark here in my blog... yoohoo!! I never thought I would get this far with it. I have to accept that it took me a little over a year to make it, but I finally did it. Hooray!!

All Good Things...

16. May 2007 12:13 by Jaguilar in General  //  Tags: ,   //   Comments (0)
Right now my colleague Stephen is delivering the last hands-on lab of the Virtualization for Developers Lab Series. This means that one of the most interesting trainings I have delivered is now over. It has been a good run, and, even though we sometimes didn’t get the attendance we wanted, a great experience. Some of the highlights of the series include:
  • Meeting all sorts of interesting people with interesting (and crazy) projects at every location
  • The experience of getting the setup process for the labs almost fully automated - learned a lot about Windows in the process
  • See Windows Server Virtualization live for the first time on a presentation by Arno Mihm at a Redmond event
  • Going to a tapas bar (“de tapeo”) in Huesca with some of the attendees at the Zaragoza event

For the next few months we’re going to be working on some new trainings and in some other exciting projects. I’ll keep you all posted. In the meantime, remember about the HP Integrity labs – that’s where I’ll probably head next!

Changing the PXE ROM Boot Program for a Specific Machine with WDS

16. May 2007 10:42 by Jaguilar in General  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

You can specify the rom boot program to use with a specific machine when using WDS. This allows you to set the machines to always try a PXE boot first, and control its behavior from WDS.  WDS comes with three x86 boot roms, each with different functionality (this also applies to x64 and Itanium – since I only have x86 machines available for testing, I’ll use those roms):

  • Boot\x86\pxeboot.com: Normal boot ROM. It presents the prompt for F12 and boots from WDS ONLY if F12 is pressed
  • Boot\x86\pxeboot.n12: Boots directly from the network (PXE) without waiting for F12 to be pressed
  • Boot\x86\abortpxe.com: Aborts the PXE boot process and continues booting from the next boot device

In order to change the boot rom, you need to have the machine pre-staged in Active Directory, and use the wdsutil command line program. You also need to know either the name or the MAC address of the machine. With that information, you can issue the command:

      wdsutil.exe /set-device /Device:SERVER01 /BootProgram:Boot\x86\pxeboot.n12


      wdsutil.exe /set-device /ID:AA-BB-CC-DD-EE-FF /BootProgram:Boot\x86\pxeboot.n12

The previous lines change the boot rom to pxeboot.n12 of the machine SERVER01.

By using this, when you have to restore an image to a machine, you can just change the boot rom to pxeboot.n12, and the process will take place automatically (depending on how you have it configured). Once it is restored, you can change it back to abortpxe.com, and it will continue booting from the hard drive every time.

HP Integrity Developer Workshops next month in NJ

14. May 2007 10:31 by Jaguilar in General  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

Next month we’ll be at the last planned HP Integrity Developer Workshop, in East Rutherford, NJ, between June 12-14. We’ll be in charge of the Windows 64–bit track.

This is the last workshop planned for this year, so make sure you take this opportunity to get hands-on training with HP’s Integrity Servers using Dual-core Itanium CPUs. You can choose to receive training in either Windows, Linux, HP/UX or OpenVMS, and get help with your ports to the Itanium platform. Plus you get to take back home the server you worked on! Check out the benefits from the class (from the Workshop Overview):

  • your dual-core Itanium-based application porting efforts well underway or in many cases, completed.
  • The HP Integrity rx2620 server that you used in the classroom sent directly to you from the workshop for your continued porting and testing efforts.
  • free software development tools
  • membership in HP's Developer & Solution Partner Program that allows you to take advantage of GTM and lead generation programs once your port is completed.

Make sure you reserve your spot for the workshop!