Sunday, May 04, 2008

A Confluence of Microsoft Bits


CC Photo Credit: by Choctopus on Flickr

Yep, Word of the Day again. Look it up.

Here comes the Microsoft link dump-truck, Valca-style...leaving it on your pavement at no cost to you!

XP SP3 Slipstreaming Warning

Robert Moir reminds us that while you can "slipstream XP SP3" it is best not to attempt to do son an a Vista system.  Why? Apparently a bug has been reported and will invalidate the licence keys. I did make a successful slipstream version of XP SP3 RC1 earlier in the year with no issues at all on my XP Home system.  Got to do one next weekend for XP SP3.  There are a couple of techniques that work well.  I'll try to pas them on soon.

Improving Vista and XP Performance Troubleshooting

Looking for Windows Vista Performance Issues - Josh's Windows Weblog.  Josh's post is ridiculously awesome for Vista troubleshooters.  He does a nice and simple walkthrough of the major performance choke-points of most Vista systems; Applications, Services, and Drivers.  Josh points out some tools that might be useful.

One of which he mentions is the new Microsoft tool for Vista and Server 2008 called Windows Performance Tools Kit.  It and the xbootmgr look to be pretty neat utilities for hard-core Windows Vista troubleshooters.  And it has some nice GUI reports.

Microsoft Windows Performance Tools Kit, v.4.1.1 (QFE)

The Windows Performance Tools (WPT) Kit contains performance analysis tools that are new to the Windows SDK for Windows Server 2008 and .NET Framework 3.5. The WPT Kit is useful to a broad audience, including system builders, hardware manufacturers, driver developers, and general application developers. These tools are designed for measuring and analyzing system and application performance on Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, and later.

The tools currently include an xperf trace capture tool, an xperfview visualization tool (also known as Performance Analyzer), and an xbootmgr boot trace capture tool. The tools are designed for the analysis of a wide range of performance problems including application start times, boot issues, deferred procedure calls and interrupt activity (DPCs and ISRs), system responsiveness issues, application resource usage, and interrupt storms. The MSIs containing these tools are available in the SDK bin directory (one per architecture).

The tools are built on top of the Event Tracing for Windows (ETW) infrastructure. ETW enables Windows and applications to efficiently generate events. Events can be enabled and disabled at any time without requiring system or process restarts. ETW collects requested kernel events and saves them to one or more files that are referred to as "trace files" or "traces."

Tip: The MSI installer downloads (x86, x84, and Itanium versions) are on the right hand side in a little gray box.

More details on usage can be found under the following Microsoft Developer Network Page: Windows Performance Toolkit (WPT)

XP users and technicians have had a similar tool from Microsoft for many years: BootVis.

Unfortunately, it is no longer offered directly for download by Microsoft.

There are a few locations that still offer it in mirrors, my trusted source: |MajorGeeks| BootVis

Contrary to popular myth, it really doesn't do much of anything, in-of-itself, to automatically speed up your XP boot times.  It can do a defrag if that helps.

What it does do is provide statistical and reporting logs on a system's boot process to help you identify possible areas and processes that are causing slow boot times for your XP system. How you deal with that information to improve the boot time probably is a good test of how good your "Root Cause Analysis" skills are!

For good starting place resources on the BootVis tool check out these links:

Welcome from XP SP3 - The Microsoft Management Console (MMC)

(For Geeks and hard-core Windows admin folks, not average home users.)

Previously included in Windows Server 2003 RC2 and Windows Vista, this handy console window provides almost "one-stop-shopping" for system logs, events, settings, and other system elements depending on which elements you have available and "install".

You have been able to manually download it for XP, assuming you have .NET Framework 2.0 or higher installed: MMC 3.0 update is available for Windows Server 2003 and for Windows XP.  Early indications were that it would only appear if you installed XP SP3 on XP Professional.

Since I did install XP SP3 on a XP Pro system, I went to Start - Run and typed in "mmc". It launched, but was a bare console window.  I did have to manually "populate" it with all the snap-in components that I wanted (I picked everything it would give me). Nice!

But when I got home and eventually installed XP SP3 on my XP Home system, I wondered....might it just work here as well?

So I did the same thing, and, yep. Thar she is!  I again had to "create" my own console by adding in the components I wanted, but it worked just fine.

I also found a forum post that reported that if you uninstall XP SP3 it seems to "break" the Windows Disk Defragger due to the new MMC 3.0 software.  Fix is to put SP3 back. I wonder (but have not tested) if just installing the individual MMC 3.0 package would get it working again in that scenario.

New Microsoft BitLocker Drive Prep Tool

I haven't had the opportunity to work or play with the new Microsoft BitLocker drive encryption environment yet.

However, I did pick up that you must properly prepare and configure a target hard-drive first before you can safely use BitLocker.

Microsoft has released a new tool to do that for you: Microsoft Download details: BitLocker Drive Preparation Tool.  Only for Server 2008, and Vista Enterprise and Ultimate systems.  It doesn't need to be "installed" but does need to be used on a running system.  Umm.. Duh?


Windows BitLocker Drive Encryption is a feature that encrypts one or more volumes (drives) attached to your computer and that can use a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) to verify the integrity of early startup components. Because BitLocker encrypts the entire volume of data, it requires the computer to be configured with an active partition, used for startup, which is separate from the operating system volume. This is called a “split-load configuration.” User data is stored on either the operating system volume or additional data volumes, which can also be encrypted by using BitLocker.

The BitLocker Drive Preparation Tool automates the following processes to configure the hard disk drive correctly:

  1. It creates a second volume, if one is not already present.
  2. It moves the boot files to the correct volume, and ensures that the operating system is correctly configured to find them at startup.
  3. It configures the correct volume as the active partition on the drive for startup.

When the tool finishes, you must restart the computer. The computer’s hard disk drive will then be configured correctly for BitLocker.

Note: In addition to having its hard disk drives configured correctly, your computer must meet specific hardware requirements to enable BitLocker, and you may need to initialize or configure the TPM before BitLocker can be enabled.

Yes, I know, not for everyone, but it was easy to miss in the XP SP3 news this past week.

New Vista Update Tanks Audio on Some Systems

Must be a really slow day on the ISC-SANS Handlers watch when the only thing to post is a warning about bad Vista drivers.  Bless them anyway.

Windows Vista Update Causing Loss of Audio on Some Systems

According to some users, a recent update for IDT (Sigmatel) high-def sound driver causes grief for some Dell users.  Update is called IDT High Def Codec.  May have been one that held up Vista SP1 release on some systems. 

Original story here:

Users Fuming Over Vista Audio Driver Glitch - Software - IT Channel News by CRN and VARBusiness

Winning UAC Wrestling Techniques

Finally, Ed Bott provides a wonderful post illustrating some winning methods for identifying a program which doesn't play well with UAC.

Finding programs with UAC issues - Ed Bott’s Windows Expertise

He explains that some programs attempt to write data and settings back to the original Program files folder.  In XP, 2000, and older versions of Windows, that's generally allowed with no complaints. Under Vista, that is a no-no because the Program Files folder is a protected location under Vista with UAC enabled.   Ed Bott then clearly and simply explains why this is the case, and what/where Vista puts those files in those cases: the VirtualStore folder.

It's a great post and provides a wonderfully easy method to inspect your own Vista system(s) to see which applications you are running on Vista that just don't play very nicely with it.

See also:

Now, go clean off your sidewalk.  I'm just responsible for the delivery...



Digger P said...

Hey bro, head over to:

and you can download a vrml plug-in then play with some virtual dumptrucks/cranes/etc. It's tonka toy fun.

- Digger

Claus said...

Digger...that is really cool stuff. I know there is a virtual Lego builder software around somewhere. I think I posted a link somewhere to it in to go find it again.