Installing Linux via PXE using Windows Deployment Services (WDS)

Tux hearts Windows

A couple of our servers, and even more laptops, are coming with no optical drives installed. This can be a problem when it comes to installing an operating system. I use the excellent Windows Deployment Services role on Windows Server (2000-20012 R2) to accomplish this. It works very well in deploying Windows Server and Windows 7 over the network via a pre-execution environment (PXE) and can even deploy Windows XP images if the need arises (see my “how to” article here). The one limitation it has is that you cannot install Linux distros. This is a problem because you are only allowed one PXE server on the local area network (LAN), so you would have to choose either a Linux PXE server or a Windows one.

Fortunately, I found a solution that lets both work together to give you every kind of boot solution you could dream of 🙂

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Using PowerShell to send a Windows Service Recovery Email Alert

recovery dialogue boxEach Service that runs in Windows features a Recovery tab in the Services.msc management console. Normally I only ever set this up to restart the service after 5 minutes in case something had conflicted with it’s initial start-up attempt. However, we recently had a problem with an IBM service that caused our Windows 2003 R2 x64 server to reboot if it crashed. I thought it would be very handy if we could get an email sent to the IT department if the service was failing. I had dabbled with using BLAT in the past but seeing as all of our servers already have PowerShell installed I thought that would be a more efficient option.

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Using Saved Queries to filter Active Directory Users and Computers

imageJust a quick article here for a late Friday afternoon article.

If you managed Microsoft Windows Active Directory based domains you should be very familiar with the management console Active Directory Users and Computers (ADUC). When you have a sprawling OU design it can be difficult to find the user, computer or group that needs your attention. I set up a few saved queries to give me an easy to read list view of certain object types. If you can’t figure out how to create a new saved query then you may be in the wrong job but the is a comprehensive guide over at the Petri IT Knowledgebase. The 3 I use most often are set up as follows

  • All Devices
    • A simple query where just the computer object must have a value to display
  • All Users
    • Same as above, just make sure you are focussing on Users not Computers
  • Locked accounts
    • My most useful time saver. This one is only slightly more tricky as you need to enter a custom search string. Credit goes to an article on WinodwsNetworking.com for this one. By using the string below, when somebody calls to say they have been locked out, I can quickly bring up this saved query and unlock them in a matter of seconds
    • (&(&(&(objectCategory=Person)(objectClass=User)(lockoutTime>=1))))

You can really go to town on these queries and there is a great list already created for you, back over on the Petri IT Knowledgebase

Offline Files versus VPN a.k.a. The case of the missing “Work Online” button

I have been having a nightmare of an issue lately with Offline Files and the Windows 7 Sync Center.

Offline Files is a very handy issue for people who work with laptops or who are regularly disconnected from the company network. The feature allows a seamless cache of you network files that can be accessed and modified when you are not connected to the Local Area Network (LAN). Then, when you are next in the office, or connected via a VPN, all modified files are synchronised with the file servers and any conflicts can be resolved. The feature is present in Windows XP but it isn’t the most efficient process and was modified in Windows Vista with the introduction of the Sync Center. This is basically a dashboard for Offline Files as well as Windows Mobile phones. The background process was also further refined in Windows 7. It was this refinement that broke our systems!

Read on for more info and the solution…

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How to add a Path to the System Variables in Windows 2008 R2

One of our tech bods was asking how to find the System Variables in Server 2008 R2. They had previously been using Server 2003 and, although the location hasn’t really changed, it can be a bit tricky to find it. So to help others here is an elaborate diagram Winking smile

set path

i.e. Control Panel>System Properties>Advanced System Settings link>Advanced tab>Environment Variables button>Scroll down the System Variables section to find Path

I’m glad to say, R2 also lets you simply type in “Path” to the Start Menu to bring up the same end target. Now that’s progress!

Fixing a failed Hyper-V Guest Network Adapter

Sometimes you have a day when you think, “Why did I ever get into IT?”. Just when everything seems to be running smoothly an unexpected “blip” happens that seems to have no logical explanation. Then you remember that you sadistically enjoy solving these ambiguous problems and you start to dig.

spider-senseI had such a problem this morning when I get an email from our overseas office telling me that they can’t log in. No problem, I thought, just a simple password reset and all should be fine. I fired up remote desktop to get to the Domain Controller but it wouldn’t let me log in under my admin account. Suddenly my server-spider-sense started to tingle. I knew this wasn’t going to be a quick fix. Oh, and I should say the DC is a virtual machine hosted in Microsoft’s Hyper-V (2008 R2 edition).

read more after the jump

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Installing Windows XP over the network using Windows Deployment Services

WDS IconMany years ago I used Remote Installation Services (RIS) on a Windows 2000 Server to install Windows 2000 Pro and Windows XP to clients on my network. Sometime in the Windows Server 2003 timeframe RIS evolved into the much improved Windows Deployment Services (WDS). I left that job and as time went on never really needed to use it since, until the other week. I was given a netbook with broken USB ports and a dodgy copy of Windows XP on it. Installing a fresh copy of XP over the network seemed to be the easiest way to do this. I was wondering how things had changed now Windows 7 & Server 2008 R2 have been released. I could remember it involving lots of huge downloads like the Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK) and the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit. I also am only going to be using it on rare occasions so I don’t need any of the Microsoft System Centre bumph.These always seemed like overkill for the simple task in hand. Doing a few Bings and Googles didn’t really seem to bring any up to date information so I ended up piecing together the info from lots of different blogs to get to the end result. I have included the steps I took (below) in case it is of any help to anyone else out there. I’ve kept them quite vague on purpose as putting to much detail tends to overcomplicate the matter, therefore, you do need some technical knowledge to get through this successfully.

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