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Virtualized Aero Goodness


Windows 7 with Aero running in Mac OS X 10.6

On Tuesday, VMware announced the latest in their product lines, VMware Fusion 3 and Workstation 7.  While I have been a fan of VMware Fusion on the Mac for a while – this latest version is fantastic.  As well as Snow Leopard fixes, there are lots of improvements in how “Mac-ish” the product feels. Best of all Aero is now fully supported inside a virtual machine.

I’m currently writing this post from my MacBook Pro running Snow Leopard running Windows 7 as a VM.  I have to say that running Windows 7 inside the virtual machine is actually a much better experience than I’ve been having running Windows 7 as the BootCamp partition lately.  This is largely due to driver issues, but also the muscle memory for my fingers when typing on my MacBook is to use Cmd+C and Cmd+V all the time when copy/pasting – and I forget to press Ctrl instead.  Luckily VMware keesp an eye out for this and just do the right thing.

All in all, it is a very good experience that I’d recommend to anyone that has to run multiple operating systems. Windows 7 works well in a VM where Vista used to struggle a little.  It also allows for my favorite Teamprise demo.  I set up the session so that I’m driving it from my MacBook Pro with VMware running full screen using Spaces to have it set to the right hand of the two spaces that I run.  I start the demo in Windows and then half way through use Ctrl+Left to instantly move to Mac OS and carry on the Teamprise demo from the completely different OS.  Really wakes people up after I’ve done my best to put them to sleep for 15 minutes.

Freezing Time in VMWare

tfs2010_on_mac One of the many pains of working with the October 2008 CTP of VS2010 (aka Rosario) is that on top of everything else, it actually timebombed on January 1st 2009. This means that you have to run the virtual machine disconnected from the clock. Unsurprisingly all of the virtualization packages on the market try their hardest to do you doing crazy things like that.  For a start, both VMWare and Virtual PC will set the CMOS clock date/time to be the time that you created / converted the machine.  This means you have to be lightening fast on your F2 button to get into the BIOS setup screen to set the clock back.

You also need to tell the virtual machine to disable clock synchronization.  Brian Keller has a blog post on how to do this with Microsoft Virtual PC.  However, I needed to figure it out on VMWare Fusion. Luckily the following PDF from VMWare came to my rescue (  The document is a little painful to read through, but basically all you need to do is open up the .vmx file in TextEdit and add the following entries:

tools.syncTime = FALSE
time.synchronize.continue = FALSE
time.synchronize.restore = FALSE
time.synchronize.resume.disk = FALSE
time.synchronize.shrink = FALSE = FALSE

Two of these caused me problems, first tool.syncTime was already set to false (likely because the Virtual PC image I converted already had time sync disabled).  Next was “ = FALSE”.  This stops the VMWare tools from setting the guest OS time on OS startup and was missing from all the other posts I saw online about dealing with this issue.

I recently moved my domain email over to Google Apps for Domains. So far I have been very happy with it and all my family have been set up with accounts, and all is working well for them to. I decided to move my old mail archive into GMail so that I have the messages available for searching from whatever machine I happen to be on.

To do this, I used the Google Email Uploader, and it worked well (but did take a long time to complete against my rather large Outlook archive dating back to 2001).

The only problem was that I now had an awful lot of messages in my inbox that I didn't really want to see - also because I use IMAP to connect my mail clients up to GMail I didn't want them to download all that mail again.

It took me a while to figure out how to archive all the old mails, so I am logging it here for future reference. I exclude stared mail as I will flag a message in my email clients that I might want to respond to later and unflag when I am finished with it. The exclusion means that I won't archive the flagged messages which isn't so important this time round but will be handy if I use the query again to prune my inbox Hope it may also be helpful to you.

To archive old mails in Gmail:

  1. In the search box type "in:inbox -is:starred before:2008/06/01" where the date is in yyyy/mm/dd format.
  2. Press the Select All link. When you press this link, but you have more than a page of results a new link will appear that says "Select all conversations that match this search" - press that
  3. In the Action drop down, select Archive.

The old mails will now be available when you search, and when you look in the "All Mails" folder - but will not be included in your inbox.

No Hyper-V for Windows Vista

When I saw the news about the upcoming Windows Vista SP2, there was a little note right down at the bottom that got me quite excited.

"Windows Vista SP2 includes Hyper-V™ technology, enabling full virtualization of server workloads"

I know a lot of people that run Windows Server 2008 on their laptops, specifically so that they can run Hyper-V virtual machines rather than using the much inferior Virtual PC 2007 - so this looked like exciting news. This point was carried on through as news about the Service Pack Beta spread (see Mary-Jo Foley, Gizmodo) among others.

Microsoft have since clarified the position. SP2 does not add Hyper-V capabilities to Windows Vista SP2. The confusion all comes from the fact that the SP2 is actually a service pack to both Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 - which goes to show how similar the two code bases are now. There is a good explanation over at Springboard.

I wanted to post this here because I'd seen the announcement from Microsoft and mis-understood exactly what SP2 was providing and I know of others that were equally confused. Luckily Microsoft virtualization guru Brian Randell corrected my understanding - but not everyone is lucky enough to have a Brian Randell in their pocket so I thought I would share the clarification :-)

It is also very interesting to see how excited people were when they thought that Hyper-V was coming to Vista - I hope once the fuss of the confusing press release has settled down, Microsoft take note.

Windows 7 on the MSI Wind



For the record, I like Windows Vista.  However, for those of us who remember the Vista beta program and even early days of running Windows Vista it wasn't always fun - largely due to the driver support but there were plenty of bugs to avoid even in the later betas. When I purchased my MSI Wind (OEM rebadged as an Advent 4211 here in the UK) XP was pre-installed.  I remember when I picked up my Wind from the local computer store the salesman tried to sell me on the fact that it came with XP rather than Vista which is not a good sign of Vista's reputation with consumers.  That said, XP didn't last long on my Wind before Vista replaced it.  The stock Wind runs a 1.6 Ghz Intel Atom processor on the Intel 945GSE chipset.  As part of the initial batch of Winds, mine happily has the Synaptics touchpad.  One of the many things I like about the Wind is that it is end-user upgradeable, but the only addition I have made was to upgrade it to 2Gb RAM as the stock Western Digital Scorpio 120GB hard drive is a pretty good one for a budget netbook.

Remembering the early days of the Vista beta program, I had to contrast this with the absolute delight that installing and running the PDC build (build 6801) of Windows 7 has been on this diminutive device.  For a start stable drivers for the Wind were all available from Windows Update.  To get them I first had to install the Realtek WiFi driver for Vista by changing the compatibility settings to trick the installer into thinking I was running Vista RTM.  But once I had an internet connection, Windows Update found updated drivers for the graphics card, Wifi, Ethernet and even the SD card reader.  Everything on the device appears to be working, including bluetooth and the built in webcam.

I then ran the "blue-badge" unlock hack from Rafael Rivera Jr because I wanted some of the shiny eye-candy showed off on stage at PDC2008 that is not active in the standard 6801 build.  Note that after running the hack, I had to manually set the security permissions on the following files that the tool modifies to grant the "Users" group read permissions - but this was just because of my hackery and because I want the device to support multiple users, not something that a normal user would have to do.

  • \Windows\Explorer.exe
  • \Windows\System32\wisptis.exe
  • \Windows\System32\ieframe.dll
  • \Windows\System32\shell32.dll
  • \Windows\System32\stobject.dll
  • \Windows\System32\TabletPC.cpl
  • \Windows\System32\themecpl.dll
  • \Windows\System32\themeui.dll
  • \Windows\System32\powercfg.cpl

Then I was up and running, and ready for the ultimate test - leaving the laptop on the kitchen table for my wife to pick up and use.  I warned her that I'd been "messing about" with the laptop - but she logged in, checked her mail (using the shortcut to the Windows Live Mail application in the fancy new taskbar) and did her online banking using IE8 (again from the pinned shortcut in the new taskbar).  All without issues.  Windows 7 = Passed. It is now the official operating system on my netbook.

Resume from standby is noticeably faster in Windows 7, and general system usage is also a lot snappier than Vista on this underpowered device.  Not sure what I think to the new "Libraries" but at first pass I class them as "not too annoying". 

I am liking many of the new features in Windows 7.  "Aero snaps" (where you can drag a window to the top of the screen to maximize or to the left and right) is good, the new magnification tool (press Win and "+" to zoom in, Win and "-" to zoom out) will replace ZoomIt as the tool I use during on-stage demos and it was nice to see that the calculator has had a revamp (programmer mode will now be my personal mode of choice for it).

Despite all the additional stuff, what is really nice about Windows 7 is what they have taken away.  The overall experience is just less noisy than before.

I am very excited to see how useable this very early build is and what the later builds, betas and eventual release of Windows 7 will bring.  Windows 7 is looking to be exactly what Microsoft need - it will probably be known as "the release that Vista should have been" which is a little unfair as Vista obviously laid down a lot of the ground work in terms of architecture.  That said, at this early stage it looks like Windows 7 is going to be a very popular release.

Update (5 Jan 2009): The new version of the Blue Badge unlock tool doesn't require system files to be modifed so hopefully it will be easier to run. Also from what I read on the internet this tool will not be necessary from Windows 7 beta 1 (build 7000) onwards as the features will be enabled by default.

Thomson Reuters I am proud to announce that Microsoft have just published a joint case study with us on the success Thomson Reuters have had using Team Foundation Server in a mixed development shop.  This customer is particularly interesting, not just because they keep giving us great feedback on our product that we have been incorporating into Teamprise, or because they are a large, well know and well respected brand.  From the case study;

"The Online Services group at Thomson Reuters is responsible for the storage and retrieval of online assets. Of the 220-member team, approximately 150 are development engineers or quality engineers. Although the team does some programming using the Microsoft® .NET Framework, the group primarily develops in Java on computers that run a variety of operating systems, including Linux, Linux 64, UNIX, Macintosh, and Windows®. About 90 percent of the programmers in Online Services work in Eclipse or Rational Application Developer (RAD), and up to 50 percent of the testers work in Eclipse. All of the team’s build computers run UNIX or Linux."

Anyway, thanks to Mac and the people at Thomson Reuters for agreeing to share their experiences.  Hopefully other organizations considering Team Foundation Server to manage the whole software development process will find the case study interesting.

To read the case study in full, see Microsoft Case Studies: Thomson Reuters Unify Development Processes with Team Foundation Server and Teamprise.  I've also got a PDF version available here.

I am currently playing with SP1 of VSTS 2008 and TFS 2008 in a Windows Server 2008 VMWare instance I have.   Whenever I created this particular instance I kept the disk space at 16Gb which is normally plenty for these play instances but after installing the service pack of VSTS my disk space was getting low.

I thought I would try extending the size of my virtual disk and it was suprising easy.

  1. First, I had to take a fill clone my image to remove the snapshot history.
  2. The on the new clone's disk I executed the following command:
    "C:\Program Files (x86)\VMware\VMware Workstation\vmware-vdiskmanager.exe" -x 32Gb win2008-000004-cl1.vmdk
  3. This extended the disk size, now I need to extend the size of the partition.  Boot up the virtual Windows 2008 server, right click on "My Computer" and select "Manage".  Go To Storage, Disk Management and then right click on the C: partition and select Extend to extend the partition the the size of the remaining disk.

Tada.  No third party tools (like Partition Magic etc) needed.


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