Category Archives: Windows

Gray “X’s” when navigating network shares

I had a user getting grey X’s when accessing a network share.  I tried some of the standard fixes including trying to get to other mapped drives, the internet, logoff-logon.  Nothing worked.  I started searching and found this post from SevenForums.  I tried it and it worked…

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Update the BIOS before installing Windows 7 on a Dell Optiplex 760

I tried installing Windows 7 Enterprise x64 on a Dell Optiplex 760.  I used the Windows Media.  The installation was so slow that I didn’t let it complete.  I tried a 32bit version and there was no difference.  I did some searching online and found a comment on Microsoft’s site that updating the BIOS should work.

I was using BIOS version A02.  Updating to the latest version (A08) worked.

I then had a problem where the Windows 7 installer couldn’t see the physical hard drives.  I went into the BIOS and changed the SATA mode from its default setting to something which I don’t currently remember and it worked.  Windows detected the disk drives.

I’ve seen talk about installing the drivers and the problem goes away, but that’s not practical in manual pre-installation.

Duplicate Machine SID’s are not an issue except when they are an issue.

I came across an article on InfoWorld about a blog post from a Microsoft tech regarding Windows Machine SID’s and the myths that surround them.  The InfoWorld article is mostly fluff, but the blog post is well worth the read.  Basically, machines that are imaged without being sysprepped usually have the same machine SID’s.  It’s long been believed that this is a security issue.  It turns out that’s not the case.  Machines can be on the same network with the same SID”s if the machine is not already connected to a domain, not going to be promoted to a Domain Controller, and if there isn’t an application that reacts badly to it.  (The example given is applications that use the Machine SID as their own ID’s.)  The bottom line is that machines SHOULD BE SYSPREPED to prevent any known and unknown issues.  Also, Microsoft will not support machines that don’t have unique SID’s.  Sysprep is easy to run.  Don’t slack off just because it might not cause a problem.

The reason that I began considering NewSID for retirement is that, although people generally reported success with it on Windows Vista, I hadn’t fully tested it myself and I got occasional reports that some Windows component would fail after NewSID was used. When I set out to look into the reports I took a step back to understand how duplicate SIDs could cause problems, a belief that I had taken on faith like everyone else. The more I thought about it, the more I became convinced that machine SID duplication – having multiple computers with the same machine SID – doesn’t pose any problem, security or otherwise. I took my conclusion to the Windows security and deployment teams and no one could come up with a scenario where two systems with the same machine SID, whether in a Workgroup or a Domain, would cause an issue. At that point the decision to retire NewSID became obvious.

I realize that the news that it’s okay to have duplicate machine SIDs comes as a surprise to many, especially since changing SIDs on imaged systems has been a fundamental principle of image deployment since Windows NT’s inception. This blog post debunks the myth with facts by first describing the machine SID, explaining how Windows uses SIDs, and then showing that – with one exception – Windows never exposes a machine SID outside its computer, proving that it’s okay to have systems with the same machine SID. Note that Sysprep resets other machine-specific state that, if duplicated, can cause problems for certain applications like Windows Server Update Services (WSUS), so MIcrosoft’s support policy will still require cloned systems to be made unique with Sysprep.

You can read the full article here.

You should also read this follow-up post by Microsoft tech Aaron Margosis that explains the difference between Machine SID’s and Domain SID’s.  The key statement in his post: “So while it’s OK to clone a system before it joins a domain, doing so after it joins a domain (and is assigned a domain computer account and a corresponding domain SID) will cause problems.”

TROJ_DLOADER.SPI is showing up on a few machines a day.

We’ve been getting sporadic, but steady reports of the TROJ_DLOADER.SPI virus being detected on machines.  Trend Micro claims it’s not “in the wild.”  That’s not true.  I haven’t seen this many virus reports for XP in a long time.  Trend Micro’s fix is to update DAT’s and scan the machine.  I’ve tried to figure out what other anti-virus program providors are calling this virus to see if they recommend a different fix.  The virus appears to come from webpages.  Here’s a sample error:

Threat Alert from Anti-Virus ServerOfficeScan detected TROJ_DLOADER.SPI on PCname in my domains.

File: C:\Documents and Settings\<username>\Local Settings\Temporary Internet Files\Content.IE5\XFE1E8MF\_YzFvdDRpbmc_NzI4X2FvXzM5NThfMF8xMDIyOF9hb18_a2V5aW4_[1].exe

Detection date: 11/13/2007 14:33:05

Action: Virus successfully detected, cannot perform the Quarantine action

 I’ll keep an eye on this.  Let me know if you see anything.

 UPDATE: I got some more info on this.  Some of our SA’s have been tracking it.  The virus alerts come up when people visit a certain media industry website.  The site either pops up another site, or somehow redirects to “malware-scan.com”.  Don’t go to that site unless you want to get infected.  You should consider blocking that site using Websense or other tools.  I hope this additional info helps.

My boss: “We should research Desktop Linux.”

What????  My boss dropped this bomb on us last week.  I was shocked.  There was no context for that remark.  No one had brought this up seriously before.  There was talk about migrating from Netware to AD.  There was talk of VDI.  There was even a rumor about Macs.  But this was new.  My first thoughts were:

  • how well did my boss think this out?
  • Am I willing to go to war with our users?
  • Am I willing to take such a high profile risk for really no return?
  • There’s a good chance that this is going to suck.

After the meeting adjourned, I took a moment to find out when Windows XP goes “End of Life.”  It turns out that XP goes End of Life April 8, 2014.  Also, I don’t foresee a justifiable reason to upgrade to Vista in the next three years.  That means that a Desktop Linux project doesn’t make financial sense until at least 2011.  That gives us three years to migrate off of XP.

I took the rest of the day to think about it and brought it up the next day.  I found out that my boss hadn’t really thought about it at all.  He was just throwing the idea out there as something to think about long term.  He understood my point of view and I think that’s going to be the end of that for a while.

Coincidentally, that afternoon I received the InfoWorld Editors Newsletter titled Is Desktop Linux for Real? from Steve Fox at InfoWorld.  Freaky huh?

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, Client Consolidation, and Blade PC’s… Oh My!

I’ve begun researching VDI because I believe that the PC is no longer necessary in medium to large environments that can operate with less than workstation class performance.  The potential advantages of replacing PC’s with Thin Clients that connect to full fledged XP installations are compelling.  I’ve been researching all of this for a couple weeks now, and I have to say that VDI, CCON, CCI, is in a pre-1.0 state.  I’ll explain it all below.

There are three terms going around to describe Client Consolidation technology.  They are:

  • VDI: Virtual Desktop Infrastructure
  • CCON: Client Consolidation
  • CCI: Consolidated Client Infrastructure

They all essentially mean the same thing.  My definition of CCON is centralizing desktop/PC systems by hosting them in the data center.  All computing functions other than KVM are hosted and managed in a computer room away from the user.  The user uses a client device or application to access the centralized computer.  There are multiple terms battling to be the methodological name for this technology.  VDI was the first term that I saw used.  VDI is the trendy name in my view, and has been co-opted by VMware and turned into a product.  CCON is the name used by an IBM employee named Massimo Re Ferre’ who is a heavy contributor to VDI technology research.  Client Consolidation happens to be the name of IBM’s implementation of VDI (what a coincidence).  CCI is a product name used by HP after they abandoned the use of VDI.  Another name that’s out there is “Centralized Computing.”  Centralized Computing is the term used to define the days of mainframes and dumb terminals. 

My preference for the academic name of this technology is Client Consolidation (CCON).  I believe that CCON is the most descriptive, most open name of all.  CCON is general enough to encompass all of diverse technologies in this area.

There’s a lot of overlapping information and noise out there.  I want to explain the bottom line as I see it.

The technology “models” (Re Ferre’, 2007) for CCON are:

  • Shared Services (Citrix)
  • Virtual Machines (VMware, Xen, others)
  • Blade PC’s/Blade Workstations (HP, ClearCube)

You will ultimately have to select one (or more) of those methedologies for a production rollout.

Client consolidation is all about the use of RDP to connect to Windows systems.  RDP is what it’s all about (some solutions prefer/support ICA).   If you know how to use Remote Desktop, you’re most of the way to understanding what CCON is all about.   Everything after this is about services and features built around the use of RDP accessed Windows systems (VM’s, Blade PC’s).

The components of CCON are:

  • Client Access Devices (thin clients, repurpossed PC’s)
  • Connection Broker (software)
  • Host Systems (VM’s, Blade PC’s)

 VDI-CCON

Client Access Devices are straight forward.  You need a device that can understand how to connect to remote systems using RDP.  The client device can be a full blown XP/Vista PC, or a thin client running the proper client software.  You’re going to hear a lot about Windows XPe in this space.  XPe is a stripped down version of Windows XP often used for development and loaded onto many thin clients. 

Host systems are also straight forward.  You can run your XP/Vista/Other hosts as VM’s or on Blade PC’s.

Connection Brokers is where all the fun is.  Connection Brokers handle the setup, and advanced features of CCON.  Brokers decide (based on policy) which VM/Blade should be assigned, the features that are available to the user, and in some cases the robustness of the service.  I think of Brokers as travel agents.  A client shows up to the broker with a request.  The Broker knows how to handle the request based on requirements and makes all of the arrangements including the connection.  The broker is usually finished at that point, though the broker is an intermediary in some solutions.

That’s basically what CCON is all about.

CCON is barely at a 1.0 level.  There’s very little information out there (other than Citrix) and all of the solutions are patch up jobs.  There’s no long standing, widely accepted solution.  Most of the solutions that I have found have been assembled piecemeal.  The absolute best information that I have found comes from Massimo at http://it20.info/misc/brokers.htm.  He’s created a table with extensive descriptions of all the features he’s been able to confirm for brokers and clients.  It’s not a complete list of brokers and features, so do your own research and testing (HP SAM, IBM TMP missing).  Regardless, it is a must read if you are going down the CCON road.

Two other items of interest are VMware’s VDI forum and HP’s CCI forum.  Notice that there is very little activity at those forums.  That’s because most people still aren’t working on this.  Also, VMware’s product is in Beta.  That’s right…VMware’s broker is vaporware, yet they’re calling it VDM 2.0.  Now that’s good marketing.

That’s it for now.  Please let me know if you have any questions or if you have something to add.  There is so much information out there that I’m positive there is more to come.

Trend Micro: Possible Internet Attack Imminent

An alert just came in from Trend Micro that says they are concerned about a potential Internet attack.  This is vague and I know it sounds like it’s coming from the US Department of “Homeland Security.”  Here it is:

High Probe Traffic Seen on ServerProtect Port 5168

PSP Announcement – 8/23/2007 6:53:13 AM – Proactive Notification: High Probe Traffic Seen on ServerProtect Port 5168 – Dear All:ICS [1] has reported a spike in the probe traffic on port 5168 which is used by ServerProtect. This might be an indication that hackers are preparing to launch an attack against this port. At this point however, we have not received any reports or samples which demonstrate the exploit.Please ensure that your Server Protect Systems have applied security patch 4 to ensure that known vulnerabilities are patched.

Please download the latest Server Protect Patch from the Trend Micro URL:

http://www.trendmicro.com/download/product.asp?productid=17

spnt_security_risk_notification_aug232007.pdf