Tuesday, January 21, 2014

VMWare 5.5, Vconverter and VSphere Client tips

Let's face it, when you think virtual servers, Microsoft isn't the first name to jump into your head.  VMWare shows up a whole lot more than Hyper-V and chances are if you're in a large enough organization it's the one you've got to manage.

The latest incarnation is version 5.5 which is primarily an answer to a laundry list of bugs that started with the 5.0 platform. 

For most people, the first time they get to play with virtualization is in a sandbox like VirtualBox or VMWare Workstation.  But what if you want to go beyond just taking Ubuntu out for a spin on your Windows desktop?

That's where ESX comes in and even in a large deployment you're going to find out that your most important tools are deceptively simple.  That being the VSphere Client and VConverter.

The whole concept of Virtualization revolves around the Host.  It's the container (hardware) that all your virtual machines live on.  While VMWare's VCenter suite has a number of tools and features to help you manage the virtual enterprise nothing really ever strays that far from those two tools.  Know them and you've got a handle on 80% of what VMWare is all about.

The VSphere client is your portal into managing a single VMWare host and while you can learn a lot by creating a Virtual Machine from scratch on it most people take a shortcut.  That shortcut is provided by VConverter which lets you take an image of your physical PC and migrate it to and ESX Host.  It's called Physical to Virtual Migration or P2V for short.

As VMWare has matured so have the tools.  VConverter now allows you to use backups from programs like Acronis True Image and Symantec to create a new virtual machine.  It also allows the import of Microsoft Virtual PC and HYPER-V images and a few other formats as well.  In fact, VConverter is so versatile that its VM's can often be used in other virtualization platforms like VirtualBox. 

That's the good but of course there's always a few bad apples in the bunch.  The most annoying of which is the fact that VConverter still needs Windows.   Speaking of windows, migrating a Windows installation often requires having full administrative privileges on the machine running VConverter as well as the disabling of UAC (User Account Control) on the Windows P2V target.  Those aren't exactly best security practices in my book.

That there isn't a native Linux version of the VConverter utility only exacerbates nagging problems with migrating Linux deployments to the VMWare platform.   

That doesn't mean you can't move Linux PC's to ESX or even Workstation.  The option is there, it just doesn't always work and requires a lot of configuration of the Linux host just to find out it doesn't.
Still, getting familiar with the tools is a worthwhile endeavor and can only add to your arsenal of IT skills. 
It's said a picture is worth a 1000 words so a video should be worth at least twice that, so I've provided one below...


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Dealing with the latest Java Security update for your legacy apps

Java's gotten a bad rap lately and with good reason.  It's got so many security holes that it triggered an alert last year from Homeland Security.  Since then we've been getting pretty regular updates from the folks over at Oracle.

If you happen to administer networking equipment, especially Cisco branded devices, you've no doubt run into issues that come with Java updates.  If you have to manage different generations of networking equipment, for example, there's not doubt you have to maintain multiple versions of Java to manage them.

The latest Java security update for Java, 1.7.0_51, has finally made good on a threat.  It's activated functionality that effectively blocks any Java applet that doesn't have the "security manifest" parameters enabled.

That can leave you dead in the water.  Except, if you know how to work around it.  The video below shows you how to set an exclusion for trusted connections and applets.

Remember, this is only for connections and applets that you have complete trust in.

Monday, January 13, 2014

9 comes after 8 and that's Windows' new name

Leo Laporte may have officially proclaimed the death of Windows 8 last year but Microsoft made it official this week.  The operating system previously known as "Threshold" has a real name, "Windows 9" and a real release target, April 2015.

According to Paul Thurrott, Windows 9 is meant to be everything Windows 8 wasn't.  For one thing, the desktop will regain its prominence as will the Start Menu.  Metro 2.0, as it's called, will be somewhat deprecated as more of a windowed app instead of a GUI mandate.

The bones have been rolled and the Shaman was right, Windows 8 couldn't succeed in spite of its futuristic aspirations.  It's not that Windows 8 is a flawed operating system, it's not and its performance and security underpinnings are second to none in the Windows world.  But that GUI...That collection of pulsating tiles that consumers were forced to swipe away just to get to their email spelled doom for the Windows known as 8.

Metro isn't a bad idea and I still hold firm to the belief that one day we'll see a workforce happily swiping, typing and talking to their monitors as easily as they send a text message now.  I get it Microsoft.  You were trying to push the concept of a Kiosk operating system that was not only visually attractive but with all those annoying menu bits out of the way. 

Microsoft saw how consumers eschewed scrolling down menus and tiny keyboards on their smart devices for simple taps and swipes.  The proof still exists with the success of Apple and Android devices while Blackberry languishes for all but the most faithful.

But it didn't translate well to the office.  With a stated 25 million copies sold with most of those likely pre-installs on new PC's (whose sales numbers were already suffering,)  Windows 8 just wasn't going to fly with the bean counters.

Incompatibility with legacy applications, an interface inconsistent with current workflows and no real justification to move from windows 7.  When you consider that many businesses are still just in the throes of moving off of XP, the  picture becomes clear.

Windows 8 was an operating system ahead of its time if not its market.  Consumers may be used to scratching and tapping away at their smart devices but not their PC's.  They still expect that "legacy" experience and that translates to corporate America as well. 

That's why 8 failed, If the Fortune 1000 isn't buying it, you just have to call a Microsoft operating system dead. 

Windows 9 is a pullback from the brink.  Still, in the long run the great experiment will cost them little.  There was no upstart, no competition waiting in the wings to unseat the giant from its throne.  Apple? the enterprise is more nuisance than market to them.  Expect OSX to disappear into an API for IOS within the next 10 years.  Linux?  If corporate customers won't tolerate a tightly integrated kiosk experience they won't stomach the wild West of an open source operating system either. 

At this point the best thing Microsoft could do to advance Windows is to split the development  between consumer and business releases again.  If you want one interface across all "consumer" devices then by all means do it.  Let it grace the likes of phones, tablets and yes, consumer PC's.  Just don't try to force it down corporate America's throat.

People don't like to be forced to do anything.  They need time to get used to it.  Windows 95 brought the desktop to the next step in its evolution.  It was more about clicks than menus and command lines.  Consumers got used to that and were soon demanding the same from their business PC's.  Thus came Windows 2000 which was really just windows NT with a facelift and some beefier networking bits. 

It was all about the interface and customers both corporate and consumer asked for it.  

That's the key, consumers have to feel like it's their choice.  If they want to be told what's good for them they'll buy an IPAD.