Taking Advantage of Virtual Machines - IE 6 Testing VPC Image

2. December 2006 21:15 by Jaguilar in General  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

Microsoft released Internet Explorer 7 a few months ago, with some great features such as an RSS reader and tabs (my favorite). You, however, cannot run both Internet Explorer 6 AND Internet Explorer 7 on the same Windows installation. So if you are a web developer, and have to test your web pages in different versions of the browser, what can you do? Well, for one, you can thank Microsoft for releasing Virtual PC 2004 as a free download.

One of the known advantages of virtualization is the fact that you can run different configurations on the same machine. Microsoft is right now using this to help developers, by releasing AS A FREE DOWNLOAD a Virtual Machine image that contains a pre-activated Windows XP SP2 installation, Internet Explorer 6 and the IE7 Readiness Toolkit. With this VPC Image, you can run IE7 as the standard browser in your PC, and have and Virtual PC 2004 image with IE6 for testing purposes.

You can get more information about the VPC image in this post at the IEBlog. One of the downsides of the image, though, is that it has a "timebomb" and expires in April, 2007. But, between now and then, looks like the best alternative for running both browsers on your PC.

You can get the image from the Internet Explorer 6 Testing VPC Image download page

Virtual Server 2005 Performance Tips

30. November 2006 12:23 by Jaguilar in General  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

I found two websites that give tips on how to get the best performance out of Virtual Server 2005. Check them out:

One of the best tips came from the second article, when discussing SCSI and IDE virtual hard disks:

Still, the rule for performance is pretty simple. Use SCSI-attached VHDs whenever you can and use IDE-attached VHDs whenever you must.

 Both pages give excellent tips, and discuss things like the amount of memory you should have, how to optimize VHD placement, number of CPUs, and others. I recommend you look at them if you are considering installing Virtual Server.

Virtualization for Developers event in Redmond in two weeks

30. November 2006 06:47 by Jaguilar in General  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

The first Virtualization for Developers event will be held in Redmond between December 12–14. The registration is still open at the Virtualization Developer Lab Series webpage. We’ve been working hard on the content for this labs, and we are really looking forward to this event.

In these events you will learn how to work with the Virtual Server 2005 COM API in great detail. Once you complete them, you’ll be able to script common management tasks, and incorporate API calls to your own management applications. You’ll also get an overview of Virtual Server capabilities, and you’ll see how the System Center Virtual Machine Manager can make your life easier. You can review the complete agenda on this webpage: Virtualization 3 day Lab Agenda Overview.

SCVMM Self-service issues

10. November 2006 09:12 by Jaguilar in General  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

The self-service portal is one of the best features of System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM –  I have to say I can’t get used to the new name – Carmine still sounds more familiar), as it allows administrators to define policies for creating Virtual Machines, and then users themselves can create new VMs that comply with the limits set by IT (i.e.: Guest OS, amount of RAM, hard drive, etc). This greatly improves the efficiency of IT departments, and allows end-users to take control of the server and workstation provisioning process into their own hands.

During the development of our labs, we run into several issues with the Self-Service portal of SCVMM . After going through all the process to create templates and hardware and guest profiles, we kept running into issues with the template being disabled in the self-service portal. Well, it turns out that the issues had nothing to do with SCVMM  itself, but with the configuration on the target Virtual Server. Here are some points in the Virtual Server configuration you should check if you ever run into similar problems (the error messages are not that descriptive):

  • The host have enough RAM and disk space for the new VM
  • The host must have a default path for Virtual Machines. You can check this one on the web management console of Virtual Server, under Server Properties->Search paths->Default virtual machine configuration folder.
  • The host must have sufficient network adapters to support the amount specified in the template.

Our test Virtual Server installation, the default path was missing. Be sure to check these points out if you ever run into a similar situation!

Virtualization Labs registration now open

8. November 2006 06:34 by Jaguilar in General  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

Registration for the Virtualization labs we will be teaching next year is now open. The program will run from December, 2005 to May, 2006, and we will be presenting the content in Redmond, Spain, and several countries in Asia.

The labs are 3 days long, and in them we show you how to leverage the features of Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1 from a developer perspective. You’ll learn how to script common management tasks, how to use Virtual Server 2005’s API to manipulate virtual machines and develop your own management applications, and how you can setup the System Center Virtual Machine Manager (a.k.a. Carmine) to manage Virtual Server installations.

You can see the complete schedule and sign up for the events at http://www.virtualizationevents.com/ .

VHD Test Drive

6. November 2006 04:30 by Jaguilar in General  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

A couple of weeks ago I made a post about pre-configured virtual machine images. Well, it turns out that the program is now official, and it is called VHD Test Drive. You can read about it in this press release. With this program, you can download virtual machine VHDs that contain pre-configured Microsoft’s server products, so you can try them out easily. Third party support for the program is expected later. From the press release:

These virtual machines, which are provided in Microsoft’s virtual hard disk image format, are pre-built and pre-configured so that they can be downloaded or distributed for easy setup and evaluation. This allows customers to evaluate software in a fraction of the time it usually takes, such as setting up SQL Server 2005 in minutes instead of hours.

The VHD Test Drive Program is a first for Microsoft software and the more than 7,000 software vendors who can now deliver pre-configured applications within Windows Server-based virtual machines to their customers. Today the program launches with the latest versions of Windows Server 2003 R2 Enterprise Edition, SQL Server 2005 Enterprise Edition SP1, Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 (32-bit beta) with Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2005, and Internet Security & Acceleration (ISA) 2006 Standard Edition. Partners and customers can expect to see additional Microsoft software added to this program.

You can check out the press release here, and read more about the program on the VHD Test Drive page.

MSDN Pre-Configured Virtual Machine Images

24. October 2006 08:30 by Jaguilar in General  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

If you are a MSDN subscriber, you have access to Virtual Machine images that are preconfigured with most Microsoft’s products:

MSDN Subscribers have access to a series of Virtual Images containing a fully functional installation of Windows Server 2003, SQL Server 2005, Visual Studio 2005 Team Suite, and Visual Studio 2005 Team Foundation Server. These Virtual Images are a benefit of your MSDN subscription and are available for download from the MSDN Subscriber download area.

I copied the paragraph above from Visual Studio’s Evaluation page. You do need to have an MSDN subscription to access these images. They are a great way to evaluate Microsoft’s products without commiting a physical machine to the evaluation, or having to spend time installing and configuring a server.

This is another great example of how virtualization is making our lives easier!

VHD Spec Available for Download

19. October 2006 12:24 by Jaguilar in General  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

The VHD format specification is now available for download. The specification contains all the technical details for reading/writing and modifying VHD images. This has a lot of potential, and can be used for things like backup, antivirus scans, image management, disk conversion, and others. The spec was released under Microsoft’s Open Specification Promise:

As of Tuesday, October 17th 2006, Microsoft is providing access to the VHD Image Format Specification Document as a part of the Open Specification Promise (OSP). The OSP provides broad use of Microsoft patented technology necessary to implement a list of covered specifications. The goal of the OSP is to provide our customers and partners with additional options for implementing interoperable solutions. Please reference the OSP Website for complete details.

Link to the Press Release: Microsoft Enhances Interoperability With Open Virtualization Format
Link to download page: Virtual Hard Disk Image Format Specification

Using vhdmount.exe under Windows 2003 Server R2

15. October 2006 11:18 by Jaguilar in General  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

When you try to mount a VHD using the vhdmount tool, you may get this error message:

C:\VMs>vhdmount.exe /m DISK.vhd

The VHD file is successfully plugged in as a virtual disk device. However, VHD mount was unable to mount all volumes on the disk. Use Disk Manager to mount the volumes.

The issue is that the drivers are not signed for WHQL, so you need to follow the same steps as detailed in this blog post to make it work (as in Windows XP). Another option, however, is to set the WHQL signing option is to Ignore. This can be done through Control Panel->System->Hardware->Driver Signing:


Once you do this, you’ll be able to mount VHD files without any further errors.

Virtual PC 2007 Beta is out

11. October 2006 09:34 by Jaguilar in General  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

Virtual PC 2007 Beta is now available for download from http://connect.microsoft.com. As with other beta software, you need to register for the beta first.

This is a long overdue upgrade that finally supports hardware virtualization. It includes:

  • Hardware-assisted virtualization (both AMD and Intel)
  • Support for Vista both as host and guest OS
  • Support for 64–bit Hosts
  • Bug Fixes and Performance Enhacements