New Windows Vista Base Policy open for testing

For the last few months we’ve been developing a new version of the Windows Vista Base Policy. The current version, which has not been updated since Vista’s release , has suffered from a number of problems, particularly with Folder redirection. These have now been addressed and we are pleased to invite you to help us test the new Policy before its full rollout in the few months of next year

These improvements will allow seamless switching between Windows XP and Vista machine on CAMPUS and will make the rollout of the Vista OS viable for the majority of campus users.

To apply the Policy apply to a machine use ‘TEST 0 Windows Vista Base Policy.’ Please note that the test policy should replace the original policy.

New Windows Vista Base Policy Features

Folder Redirection Fixed!

All standard Vista user folders are now redirected to the Network and any duplicate folders are removed but only if they are empty.

This means that users who have accidently saved files to their local machine will not lose them upon the new Base Policy being applied. The table below shows details on the redirection paths. Notice that where applicable, folders have been redirected to the exact location of their Windows XP counterparts i.e. ‘My Music ‘ rather than ‘Music.’

This means that users moving between XP and Vista are using the same folder and will not see duplicates under drive H:\ or C:\Users

Windows Vista Folder Name


New Location


Default Location for Users’s Contacts



Desktop items, including files and shortcuts



Default location for all user created documents



Default location to save all downloaded content



Internet Explorer Favourites



Default location for user’s music files

\\towerx\homex\username\My Music


Default location for user’s video files

\\towerx\homex\username\My Videos


Default location for user’s picture files

\\towerx\homex\username\My Pictures


Default location for saved searches



Default location for user application data and binaries (hidden folder)



Contains Windows Explorer Favourite Links


Saved Games

Used for Saved Games

\\towerx\homex\username\Saved Games


Start Menu

The existing base policy removes the ‘Documents’ label from the Start Menu and replaces it with the full UNC path to the users home directory. This is unhelpful and unsightly. The new Base policy renames the ‘Documents’ label Documents (H:\). This will provide a consistent point of reference for support calls. The Drive map label will also have the same name.

My Pictures and My Music shortcuts reference the new redirected (correct) location.

The computers network name also appears on the start menu providing an ‘at a glance’ view of the computers name.

New Start Menu


To help distinguish Campus Managed Desktop machines branding has been added.

The University crest now replaces the default logon pictures.


The Crest is also visible on the Start Menu

Start Menu

System Properties have also been updated.

System Properties

Other Features

Local Administrators

When using ‘Run as Administrator’ the UAC dialog box will list all local administrators on the machine.

Local Admins

Offline Files

Offline files are now automatically Encypted.


System Drive Permissions redesigned.

The new policy sets stricter permission for the system drive preventing creation of folders by non Administrators as well as creating the C:\TEMP folder on which so many of our packaged applications depend.


We really need feedback on your experiences with the new Policy. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with any comments, questions or issues.

Summary of Server 2008 Performance and Security Improvements

Mark Minasi’s latest newsletter has a very compelling list of Windows 2008 improvements.

I was lucky enough to meet Mark at Tech-Ed Barcelona this year as well as attend a number of his seminars and I think it’s safe to say that he is one of the greatest Microsoft experts in the World today. It’s well worth checking out his site here.

Windows Live Wave 3 Online Services Launch

I posted about the update to SkyDrive before, but the Windows Live people haven’t just been busy there. They’ve just launched a load of updates and new online services. ties all of your existing Windows Live services together (such as Spaces, SkyDrive, Hotmail and Events) and they’ve added Groups, Photos and Windows Live Profile.

Check out the Windows Live Team Blog for the details.

Coming soon to SkyDrive

I’m generally happy with Windows Live SkyDrive (Microsoft’s “USB stick in the cloud”), but there’s a couple of features that have held it back for me. I’m glad to say that they appear to be getting added in the next update!

  • You’re going to have the ability to download an entire folder as a single zip file (this is easily my most-wanted feature)
  • Share files without requiring people to use a Windows Live ID
  • Move and copy between folders
  • Better photo handling: improved slideshow, download photos to Windows Live Photo Gallery

And they’re increasing the storage limit from 5 to 25Gb!

Good news, and that’s not all – you can read the full list on the SkyDrive Team Blog.

Windows Vista Service Pack 2 Preview

We received some information on Vista Service Pack 2 in a session today.

As you might expect, the news is not all that thrilling. Vista SP1 is already the most stable, feature packed OS Microsoft have released to date so this is really only a Service Pack in the traditional sense.

  • Default power management policy will be 10% more efficient
  • Hyper-V support incorporated.
  • Native Blu-ray burning and new explorer icon.
  • Even greater application compatibility.
  • New feature pack for Wireless including Bluetooth 2.1 support.
  • Better wake-up for WiFi coming out of sleep mode.
  • RSS gadget side-bar improved.
  • TS licensing bugs fixed.

‘Windows Server’ 7 aka Windows Server 2008 R2 Feature list

Last week at PDC Microsoft announced that Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 will be the server variant of Windows 7.

Here at TechEd we are seeing demonstrations of some of W7/R2’s features. Here is a quick run through. More detail to follow.

  • Live Migration
  • Remote Desktop Services which will supersede Terminal Services.
  • Bitlocker to go
  • Direct access (a possible killer app for Server 2008 R2 and IPv6)
  • BranchCache.
  • SMB enhancements
  • Offline file enhancements including a ‘Usually offline mode.’
  • Wake on Wireless LAN.
  • Improved power management and increased control via Group Policy.
  • Group Policy scripting with Powershell.
  • Programmatic interface in to performance and reliability systems.

Monday II: Keynote

The keynote was given by Brad Anderson the General Manager of Microsoft’s Management and Services division and focused on ‘Dynamic IT.’ One of the main elements was Virtualization and its management. The video of the Keynote will be available online soon if it is not already but here are some notes that I jotted down.

Some interesting figures were mentioned.

  • Most servers across the word are running at less than 10% utilisation
  • ‘In the future’ a predicted 5% of the worlds energy consumption will be by the Datacenter
  • Microsoft’s use of Virtualization has seen energy savings of up to 90%.

We saw a demo if System Center Virtual Machine manager including the live migration feature in Windows Server 2008 R2. Application virtualization was also mentioned and we were told that this will make application compatibility issues a thing of the past. Brad Anderson also said that Microsoft had observed a trend in enterprises towards only running server services on physical machines ‘by exception’.

A demo of Microsoft System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2 Beta then followed which supports cross platform extensions and will be able to monitor Solaris, Suze, Redhat, MySQL, Oracle on top of the services it can currently manage.

The keynote then went in to detail on Windows Server 2008 R2 (M3 available for download) but I will post separately on this.

The Keynote finished with an overview of Microsoft Online services focusing on a mixed local and hosted implementation of Microsoft Exchange. The service is due for release in EMEA during spring 2009.

There were also demonstrations of features of the next version of SQL server ‘Kilimanjaro’ and some other areas which Jonathan may like to discuss.

Microsoft Tech Ed EMEA 2008 IT Professionals

Next week Jonathan and I are off to Barcelona to join 5000 other IT Professionals at Microsoft Tech Ed EMEA 2008 for IT Professionals.

Tech Ed will give us the opportunity to learn about new the new products and features coming from Microsoft as well as drilling down into our own areas of interest. So far I have booked some sessions on Group Policy, Server Core, Security and Windows 7.

I will be trying to make at least a couple of blog posts each day and I am sure Jonathan will too.

Feel free to make comments, suggestions and ask questions. We will have the opportunity to put questions directly to Microsoft and we will be happy to do so on your behalf so please let us know.

You can also keep up with the action as it unfolds on Tech Ed TV.


Hyper-V Server 2008: First Impressions

Hyper-V Server 2008 is a free virtual server offering basic of virtualization features, making it ideal for, test, development and basic Server consolidation.

I have been giving Hyper-V Server 2008 a quick run through.


The installation is built on the PE model just like Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 so working with the disks is very easy.


After the installation things will still look familiar.


User Interface

The User Interface at the on the physical machine is made of of 2 simple command Windows. One for managing the Server and the other, an ordinary command Window.


All basic operations such as joining the Domain, setting the Computer Name and an update schedule can be called from this menu. At this point you can also enable Remote Desktop.

Creating a Virtual Machine.

Fortunately you do not do this using the Hyper-V Server ‘Interface.’ You need to use the Hyper-V Manager Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-in. Once connected you can create the First Virtual machine.


First Impressions

Hyper-V Server 2008 seems like a simple and efficient way to run Virtual machines. The footprint of the Hypervisor is tiny in terms of RAM and Hard Disk usage and the amount of patching compared to Server 2008 should be greatly reduced which means more uptime.

The downside is that unlike other versions of Server 2008 each Windows guest VM requires it’s own license. You see a feature matrix of the different versions of Hyper-V here.

In summary, this product would be a good choice for departments working with test servers and an good way to get the most out of your older server hardware while making Migration to new hardware easier when the time comes (i.e. put the guest machine on another Hypervisor).