Posts Tagged ‘Windows 8’

Miracast – the technology with 100 names

Some of us in ETS have been experimenting with wireless display technologies in the hopes of finding solutions that will work for those of us who don’t have an Apple client devices and an Apple TV.   (To those of you with Macs, we are indeed jealous.  AirPlay truly dominates the wireless display market at this time).

Much noise has been made of late concerning a technology called “Miracast”.  This is an open standard for wireless display.  It is built into the new Windows 8.1 OS, and Android 4.2 and later.  When you can get a functional receiver (we tested the NetGear Push2TV with some success) it is a pretty slick technology.  However, issues getting the required drivers and firmware in place can be quite frustrating and lead to failed deployments.  If you are working on a wireless display deployment, we would love to share notes with you to see if we can reach some configuration recommendations for the rest of campus.

In the interest of information sharing, here are some factoids that we discovered:

Miracast = The “Wi-Fi Alliance” marketing name for the rather boringly named “Wi-Fi Display” standard.

Miracast = Sony “screen mirroring” = Panasonic “display mirroring” =  Google “Wireless Display” = Samsung “AllShare Cast” = LG “SmartShare” = Intel “WiDi 3.5″
(e.g. Implementers of the Wi-Fi Display protocol don’t have to call it Miracast.  The question is, why would they want to call it something else?)

Miracast Intel WiDi versions prior to 3.5. AirPlay DIAL (ChromeCast) DLNA

(e.g. Intel WiDi has been replaced with a Miracast implementation, but maintains the name WiDi when deployed with support for back-level WiDi implementations.  Also, don’t confuse Miracast with ChromeCast (a DIAL implementation), AirPlay (an Apple technology), or DLNA (a media streaming solution.)

References:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miracast
http://www.theverge.com/2013/9/25/4753264/is-the-airplay-killer-already-dead

Dell XPS 12 – The Windows 8 Flagship?

Regular readers of my blog (all two of you) may recall the “series” I started this fall on Windows 8 launch devices (concerning the HP Envy X2 and the Samsung SmartPC Pro 700t). These devices both had strengths, but failed in other ways that made them difficult or impossible to support in an enterprise environment. This month, I got my hands on a device that breaks though that barrier and satisfies in a big way. The new Dell XPS 12 finally arrived on our campus about two weeks ago. We immediately were taken with its light weight (3 lbs.), sleek styling, and novel materials (full carbon fiber base, carbon fiber and aluminum lid, and that unique flip-over touch screen). The 8-second boot time is another impressive feature. A longer battery life would have been appreciated, but I can live with it. Other helpful enhancements would be the inclusion of an active stylus. I also would appreciate slightly more resistance in the keyboard.

Others have weighed in on the appearance, performance, and usability of this fancy Ultrabook, though, so I will forgo further commentary on those aspects of the XPS 12. What most concerned us was the ability to support OS redeployment, BitLocker encryption, and hardware servicing on our Campus.

We unboxed and re-deployed the computer with Windows 8 Enterprise within one day. There were a few deployment hiccoughs, but in general re-deployment was what we have come to expect from Dell. All required drivers for the XPS 12 were made available in a single downloadable CAB file. We extracted this CAB to our MDT/LiteTouch Deployment Share, rebuilt our boot media, and initiated a LiteTouch deployment. There was a brief problem getting LiteTouch to start… we needed to disable the “Safe Boot” option in EFI/BIOS, and we needed to set the EFI boot mode to “Legacy” to allow our boot media to operate. Once those changes were made, the XPS 12 booted to our USB WinPE media without complaint. Upon completion of deployment, all devices in the device manager reported as functioning. There were no “poorly-behaved” drivers that required un-scripted installation. We did find that the track-pad was behaving strangely. Investigation revealed that the PnP process had grabbed a Windows 7 track-pad driver from our deployment share. We corrected this manually, then separated our Windows 8 drivers from our Windows 7 drivers in the Deployment Workbench… this should prevent the problem from recurring in future deployments.

BitLocker was easy to implement. The TPM chip readily was recognized by the OS, and TPM-with-PIN encryption was accomplished in minutes. I spent half a day trying to encrypt an older Dell Latitude E6500 a few months back. This was a breeze by comparison.

On the servicing front, we have good news. Dell now is allowing on-site servicing for all XPS models, with full reimbursement for parts and labor for qualified technicians. Physical serviceability is a big concern for newer Ultrabooks. A troubling trend in tablet and notebook design is the use of solder on drive mounts and glue to hold batteries in place (the latest “Retina” MacBooks and the MS Surface tablets suffer from these problems). Fortunately, it appears that all major components of the XPS 12 can be removed and replaced without the need to re-solder or remove glue. The most frequently swapped components such as the battery, mSATA drive, and memory chips look pretty easy to access. The keyboard is a bit of a pain to get to, but at least it can be serviced.

If only more Windows 8 launch products had been this good… I hope we see more products of this quality coming from Dell (and other vendors) in the near future.

Update:  2013-11-1

Five months into using the XPS 12, I started to have trouble with the trackpad.  It would not click anymore!  Since we are working with an evaluation unit, I do not have warranty coverage, so I figured I had no warranty to void by attempting to repair it on my own.

Some digging in the Dell support site revealed that the so-called XPS 12 “User Manual” is actually a service manual!  The readily available PDF document illustrates step-by step how to remove the carbon fiber base plate and the battery in order to get to the track pad.  (The only challenging part was locating a #5 Torx screwdriver to take off the base plate.)  Within 15 minutes I had removed the click pad, and cleaned the trapped grit out from under it.  (Within a half hour I had the unit re-assembled.  In another 15 minutes I had taken the base plate back off, reconnected the battery power connector, and re-attached the base plate, again.)  The unit powered back on as normal, with the track pad working like new.

At a time when consumer devices are moving towards non-serviceable designs (think MacBook Retina), it is nice to see a device that is thin and light while still maintaining serviceability.  Perhaps the track pad on the MacBook Retina is less prone to trapping grit, but imagine if it did?  With all the components glued together, you might be out $2000 because of a bit of sand.  I really have to hand it to Dell.  These XPS Ultrabooks are really nicely engineered.

 

Evaluating Windows 8 Tablets – Samsung ATIV SmartPC Pro (700T)

The journey continues…

The boss approved purchase of a Samsung ATIV SmartPC Pro (the “700T” model).  I wassoooexcited… this was the tablet PC I had been waiting for.  Thin, light, and fully convertible from Ultrabook to slate.  Stylus included, 1080 high-definition display, full Intel i5 processor.  So much to love…

First impressions were really positive.  The build quality seemed really high… solid magnesium case, good keyboard response, fast boot, very responsive Wacom digitizer stylus.  As a tablet, this thing is awesome. And while it is expensize compared to an iPad, it is very cheap compared to the Tablet PCs of yesteryear.

However, I quickly ran into trouble.  When typing with the SmartPC on my lap, the keyboard would frequently disconnect from the display.  It would not fall off, but the tablet component would lose electrical connection to the keyboard, causing typing input to stop.  Sometimes this would happen as often as five times in a single line of text.  Awful!

There were other problems as well.  Like the HP Envy X2, the screen does not tilt back far enough to allow comfortable use of the keyboard on a countertop.  The 1080p display, which is very crisp and bright, is inconvenient to use for remote desktop connections to Server 2008 R2 and earlier hosts (the fonts do not scale for remote desktop sessions, leading to comically tiny print size and rediculiously small buttons and window controls).  The system did not include a TPM chip (that is only available on the models that ship with Win8 Pro… something that was not clear when ordering the device).  And finally, Samsung does not bundle drivers for the SmartPC in any way that is convenient for business deployment.  Re-imaging the systems would be a pain.

It also is worth noting that Microsoft decided that in-place upgrades of retail versions of Win 8 to volume license editions woudl not be supported.  If you want simply to install Win 8 Enterprise over the factory-shipped consumer edition of Win8, you are out of luck.  I also experienced this problem with the HP Envy X2.  For corporate users, volume license installs are strictly a nuke-and-repave operation.  Booooooo!  This is not Samsung’s fault, but the lack of support for business deployment (i.e. driver bundles or driver repository building tools) is a killer for the SmartPC in the enterprise.

I really wanted to love this device, but I really just have to return it.  Consumers seeking a top-performance tablet may love it, but it does not work for this sysadmin.  I am hoping that the Lenovo ThinkPad Helix will work out better.

Evaluating Windows 8 Tablets in the Enterprise – HP Envy X2

In desperation over our inability to tell University employees what they should be looking for in a Windows 8 tablet, I asked the boss if we could get our hands on one of the new Intel “Atom” processor-based Windows 8 tablets (these are the “Clover Trail” Atom processors, designed to compete with ARM-based devices).  I had been wanting to eval a Samsung ATIV Smart PC 500T, but these have been hard to get locally.  Instead, I bought a hot-off-the-shelf HP Envy X2.  This device boasts a well-engineered all-metal shell, full size keyboard dock with full-sized HDMI and SD card readers, and an extra battery in the dock for a claimed 15-hour run life.  It also claims to support an optional digitizer stylus.

I only have just started putting the machine though its paces.  My first impression is that it performs surprisingly well as a standard notebook, but that there will be significant challenges in supporting these types of devices at the same level as our existing business-model Dell systems.  I am not going to bother “reviewing” this tablet… others in the trade can handle that.  Rather, this blog post is going to address the challenges of supporting a consumer tablet in a business environment.

  • Processor:  The new “Clover Trail” Atom processors are 32-bit only.  Surprise!  I though the industry was leaving 32-bt behind, but it appears to be alive and well.  We had made the initial decision to support only 64-bit Windows 8, and have developed only 64-bit baseline images.  I see that this choice will need to be reconsidered.
  • EFI/UEFI:  These new systems boot using EFI, with emulated BIOS, with the “SafeBoot” option enabled.  Out of the box, you cannot boot to USB because the SafeBoot prohibits this.  You need to load your OS to change EFI options.  EFI is not identical between systems, so navigating the process of booting to deployment/maintenance media will be a tough challenge for technicians to work through.  I actually was completely unable to boot the Envy X2 to an USB flash drive, running either WinPE (MDT boot media) or the FreeDOS-based(?) CloneZilla  live CD.  Bummer.
  • Drivers:  Most new tablets are aimed at the consumer market.  As a result, the vendors make little effort to package drivers in a way that is convenient for local IT staff to integrate into on-premise Windows deployment tools.  The Envy X2 is no exception.  A small handful of one-off driver installers are available, including a big bundle of Intel Chipset drivers.  The chipset drivers were critical in getting a freshly installed Windows 8 Enterprise OS working with the hardware.
  • Windows Editions:  This tablet shipped with “Windows 8″.  Not “Home”, not “Professional”, not “Ultimate”.  I tried performing an in-place SKU upgrade to Windows 8 Enterprise, but setup.exe said that this was not supported, so I needed to do a full OS install.  This process worked, but it was seriously aggravating to have to boot to the OEM OS, start the Enterprise OS install, re-install all of the required drivers, then clean up the original OS install.  Our users will not want to have to deal with this, and it will make our IT support staff very tired.
  • Hardware:  No Ethernet.  Unfortunately, our MDT/LTI deployment tools are designed to run over Ethernet, not Wi-Fi.  The LTI scripts actually will terminate if a Wi-Fi connection is detected.  Of course, application-only LTI task sequences really should run just fine over wireless, but the scripts still will not run over wireless.  We either will have to comment out the Wi-Fi checks, or require that the person launching LTI have a USB Ethernet dongle handy.

So… a lot of challenges.  More details as time permits.

Oh, one small “review style” note.  I decided to evaluate this tablet because HP claims that it supports an optional stylus.  However, the stylus for this device is not actually available for sale at this time.  Further, the device does not use the common Wacom or N-Trig digitizers, so buying a spare “Bamboo” stylus will not help you here.  HP has chosen to use the new “Atmel” integrated touch/pen sensors, and as such an Atmel-compatible stylus is required.  I cannot find these on the market anywhere.  As a result I cannot make any recommendation for or against the purchase of this device for Tablet PC enthusiasts.  I don’t even know if the stylus will be available for sale before the return period for this device expires.

UPDATE:

I returned this tablet.  Why?  It was not the screen resolution, which I though would be a problem but was not.  There were three primary reasons:

  1. It was not possible to determine the quality of the digitizer within the return period of the tablet.  I was unwilling to accept the risk of having a low-quality stylus for note taking.
  2. Keyboard dock quality was low.  The keyboard itself was reasonably good, but the trackpad was very annoying.  The texture was awful, and it was overly sensitive to the slightest palm brushes.  Given the small size of the keyboard deck, it was impossible to avoid brushing the trackpad, too.  Also, the screen did not tip back far enough for comfort when used on a countertop or other waist-height surface.
  3. Business deployment essentially was unsupportable.  HP support could not assist me with initialization of the TPM chip for BitLocker.  It appeared that a TPM was present, but there was no option in BIOS to reset the TPM, and the OS could not get ownership of the chip.  Also, the total lack of driver bundles would make deployment using MDT very difficult.
  4. The graphics card could not drive my external display at native resolution.  It maxed out at 1080p.

I did quite like this tablet, though.  Consumers seeking an additional computer for the road may really enjoy using it.  For fussy power users like me, it was close butnot quite there.

WiFi Profiles for Windows 8

So Windows 8 is here, to little fanfare at the University.  While I am always happy to have an updated version of Windows to work with, I see that I have yet to blog anything about it.  Perhaps that is because, unlike with the release of Windows 7, there was so little that was relatively “wrong” with the previous release.  I find myself with not much “to do” to get the enterprise ready for Windows 8.  Other reasons for the lack of hype… Windows 7 applications seem, for the most part, to “just work” on Windows 8, thus necessitating very little in the way of application compatibility planning.

Still, we have run into a few hiccups.  I spent most of the last two days updating the UVM WiFi Configuration Tool scripts and experimenting with Group Policy settings to make WPA2-protected wireless working consistently (Previously discussed here, way back in ought-eight.).  In the end, there was very little that I did to the WiFi policies that was Windows 8 specific.  The WiFi profile that we are using maintains backward compatibility with both Windows 7 and Windows Vista.

Here are the details:

  • The 802.1x settings in our WiFi profile was updated to use “user authentication” instead of “user or computer authentication”.  Under XP, this option was called “user reauthentication”.  “ReAuthentication” meant that the computer would attempt to log on as the computer account, but that if the connection was lost, it would re-authenticate as the logged on user.  Under XP, it was not possible to prevent computer authentication attempts.  However, under Win7/Win8, user authentication is just that… only user authentication is attempted, computer authentication is excluded.  We have verified this by looking at the RADIUS server logs.  Switching to “user authentication” will cut down on log errors on the RADIUS servers, and will result in fewer errors on client systems as well.
  • We have added a new trust anchor for our RADIUS server certificate in the WiFi profile.  This was necessitated by mergers and acquisitions on the CA business.  “Equifax” provided our original WPA2/PEAP certificate.  When we went to renew our certificate, we found that Equifax had been acquired by GeoTrust, and that new certificates would be issued from a GeoTrust intermediate CA.  However, this intermediate CA would be cross-signed using the Equifax root CA, so the Equifax trust anchor would still work.  The problem is that if a system has both the GeoTrustandEquifax certs present in the local trusted roots certificate store, it will validate the “radius.uvm.edu” up to the GeoTrust anchor, and will ignore the cross-signing with Equifax.  This results in WiFi connection errors.  When I add the GeoTrust cert as an additional trust anchor, the problem goes away.
  • The VBScript I use to install the WiFi profile is packaged inside a 7-Zip self extractor.  The use of this self-extractor triggers the Windows “Program Compatibility Assistant”, which in turn raises a “This program might not have installed correctly” error after the tool runs.  This problem is corrected by embedding a “manifest” file into the tool.  Typically, this is done using the “mt.exe” tool included in the Windows SDK.  Unfortunately, MT.exe corrupts self-extracting 7-Zip archives (this also is a known problem with WinRAR, and perhaps other similar tools).  Fortunately I was able to work around the problem using “Resource Tuner” from Heaventools.  I needed to add “trustInfo” and “compatibility” sections to the manifest.  My blog engine is really bad about posting XML content in a page, so I will forego posting the manifest here. You can find sample manifests pretty easily though Google.
  • When we run the packaged configuration tool, we get a warning that the application package is unsigned and may not be trustworthy.  I used “signtool.exe” from the Windows SDK to add a signature to the executable, so now it is considered somewhat more trustworthy.  Good instructions on the use of signtool.exe can be found here:
    http://www.tech-pro.net/code-signing-for-developers.html
    I am using a code signing cert that we obtained from the InCommon.org certificate service, hosted by Comodo.  It works.
  • Finally, I updated the profile installer VBScript to make reconfiguration a bit easier (subroutines were converted to functions so that variables set at the start of the script can be passed down to the function.  We then can set things like the trust anchor name, WiFi network name, and log file name at the start of the script where they are more easily edited.  Also, I removed support for Windows XP… no more Service Pack detection, Hotfix installation, or third-party profile installation utilities are needed by the script.  I was able to hack the script down to about a quarter of its original size as a result.  The new script is included below, for those who like that sort of thing…

 


Option Explicit
'On Error Resume Next
'Install UVM WPA2-Enterprise wireless profile
' Version 1.3 by J. Greg Mackinnon, University of Vermont
' Supported platforms:  Windows Vista, 7, and 8
' Requires external tools:  "CertMgr.exe" (from the Windows Platform SDK)
' Requires external files:  Root CA certificate file, 
'                           WiFi XML configuration files for Vista+ Windows OS.
'                            (obtained by running "netsh wlan export profile UVM .\"
' NOTE: modify variables in the "Define variables" section to suit your environment.

'History:
' Version 1.0 - Supported UVM WiFi using WPA2, Equifax certs, Windows XP SP2+ and Vista OS
' Version 1.1 - Updated to support Windows 7
' Version 1.2 - Updated to support Windows 8.  Removed support for XP 
'             - Removed third-party "ZWlanCfg" utility and OS Hotfix installation functions (were only needed for XP support)
' Version 1.3 - Converted existing subroutines to functions to allow for easier switching of CAs and WiFi networks.
'             - Moved Global Variables to the top of the script for easier modification.
'             - Updated CA cert and WPA Profile supporting files to use "GeoTrust" instead of "Equifax".

' Create constants
Const cLogFile = "install_UVM_WiFi.log"

' Declare variables
Dim oShell, oUserEnv, oFSO, oFile, oRegExp
Dim iSPVer
Dim sTempEnv, strComputer, sOSTest, sOS, sCertName, sCertFile, sNetName, sProfileFile
Dim bReRun

' Define variables
bReRun = False
strComputer = "."
sOSTest = "Vista|Windows 7|Windows 8" 'Regular Expression for OS compatibility testing
sCertName = "GeoTrust Global CA"      'Friendly name of the trust anchor certificate
sCertFile = "GeoTrustGlobalCA.cer"    'Name of the trust anchor file
sNetName = "UVM"                      'Name of the WiFi Access Point
sProfileFile = ".\Wi-Fi-UVM.xml"      'Name of the Vista+ wlan profile file.

' Instantiate global objects
Set oShell = WScript.CreateObject("WScript.Shell")
Set oFSO = CreateObject("Scripting.FileSystemObject")
sTempEnv = oShell.ExpandEnvironmentStrings("%TEMP%") & "\"
Set oFile = oFSO.CreateTextFile(sTempEnv & cLogFile,True)
Set oRegExp = New RegExp
oRegExp.IgnoreCase = True
oRegExp.Global = True
oRegExp.Pattern = sOSTest

'''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''
' Define Functions
'
Function fDetectOS(sOS, iSPVer)
'Detect OS Function - detects OS Caption string and Service Pack integer from WMI WIN32_OperatingSystem.
'Expects to varibles passed, returns the full OS Caption String, and SP Major Version intger
	'Declare variables
	Dim colItems
	Dim objWMIService, objItem
	'Instantiate local objects/collections
	Set objWMIService = GetObject("winmgmts:\\" & strComputer & "\root\CIMV2") 
	Set colItems = objWMIService.ExecQuery("Select * from Win32_OperatingSystem")

	For Each objItem In colItems
	  sOS = objItem.Caption
	  oFile.WriteLine "Detected Operating System: " & sOS
	  iSPVer = CInt(objItem.ServicePackMajorVersion)
	  oFile.WriteLine "Detected Service Pack Version: " & iSPVer
	  oFile.WriteLine "Service Pack Minor Version: " & objItem.ServicePackMinorVersion
	Next
	
	'Clean local objects/variables
	Set objItem = Nothing
	Set colItems = Nothing
	Set objWMIService = Nothing
End Function

Function fInstCert(sCertName,sCertFile)
' Installs cert with sCertName root CA cert into machine "root" store.
' Requires:  certmgr.exe from the Windows Platform SDK (available with VS .NET or VS 2008 installations), 
'	sCertName variable - contains the friendly name of the root CA
'	sCertFile variable - contains the name of the root CA certificate file
' Requres:  Root CA cert file
' Notes:  We use the "root" argument to certmgr.exe to install into the "Trusted Root Certificate Authorities".  
'		We also could use "ca" to install Intermediate Certificate Authorities.
'		In a previous version of this script we used "oShell.Run", but his returned unexpected results on the
'		Windows 7 platform... using .Exec now.
	
	Dim bCertPresent, bInstSuccess
	Dim oExec
	Dim sOut

	bCertPresent = false
	bInstSuccess = false
	
	set oExec = oShell.Exec("certmgr.exe -c -s -r localMachine root")

	Do Until oExec.StdOut.AtEndOfStream
		sOut = oExec.StdOut.ReadLine()
		if InStr(sOut, sCertName) Then
			'oFile.WriteLine sOut
			'WScript.Echo sOut
			bCertPresent = true
		End If
	Loop

	if bCertPresent = false then
		oFile.WriteLine "Root Certificate for """ & sCertName & """ needs to be installed.  Attempting install..."
		set oExec = oShell.Exec("certmgr.exe -add -c " & sCertFile & " -s -r localMachine root")
		Do Until oExec.StdOut.AtEndOfStream
			sOut = oExec.StdOut.ReadLine()
			if InStr(sOut, "Succeeded") Then
				'oFile.WriteLine sOut
				bInstSuccess = true
			End If
		Loop
		if bInstSuccess = true then
			oFile.WriteLine "Certificate installed successfully"
		else 
			oFile.WriteLine "Certificate failed to install... You will need to install the " _
				& "certificate manually.  See the instructions at https://www.uvm.edu/ets/wireless " _
				& ", then run this script again to compelte installation of the UVM wireless profile."
			WScript.Quit -2
		end if
	else
		oFile.WriteLine "Root Certificate for """ & sCertName & """ is already installed."
	End If
End Function

Function fImportProfile(sProfileFile,sNetName)
'Imports Vista+ Wireless Profile using NETSH command.  
'Requires: a Vista+ wifi profile file exported using NETSH, 
'	sProfileFile - string containing name of the wlan XML profile file to be imported
'	sNetName - string contining the name of the wlan profile name (WiFi Network Name)

	'On Error Resume Next
	Const cUserScope = "all"
	
	Dim iStrMatch
	Dim oExec, oStdOut
	Dim sStdOutLine
	
	oFile.WriteLine "Executing command: netsh wlan add profile filename=""" & sProfileFile & """ user=" & cUserScope & ""
	Set oExec = oShell.Exec("netsh wlan add profile filename=""" & sProfileFile & """ user=" & cUserScope & "")
	Set oStdOut = oExec.stdOut
	While Not oStdOut.AtEndOfStream
		sStdOutLine = oStdOut.ReadLine
		oFile.WriteLine(sStdOutLine)
		iStrMatch = CInt(InStr(sStdOutLine, "Profile " & sNetName & " is added on interface"))
		If iStrMatch > 0 Then
			WScript.Echo "The " & sNetName & " wireless profile was added successfully to your system"
		ElseIf iStrMatch = 0 Then
			WScript.Echo "The wireless profile failed to import.  Please see the manual profile " _
			& "configuration instructions available at http://www.uvm.edu/ets/wireless.  A " _
			& "log file named " & cLogFile & " which contains the full error message can be " _
			& "found in the " & sTempEnv & " directory."
			WScript.Quit -3
		End If
	Wend
	
	Set oStdOut = Nothing
	Set oExec = Nothing
End Function
'
' End Functions
'''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''

'''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''
' Begin Main
'

fDetectOS sOS, iSPVer

If oRegExp.Test(sOS) = True Then
	fInstCert sCertName, sCertFile
	fImportProfile sProfileFile, sNetName
Else
	oFile.WriteLine "Your operating system is not supported for use with this script."
	WScript.Quit -4
End If

oFile.close

' Environment cleanup 
Set oFile = Nothing
Set oFSO = Nothing
Set oUserEnv = Nothing
Set oShell = Nothing
Set oRegExp = Nothing

'
' End Main
''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''

.NET Framework 2/3 Installation on Windows 8 Release Preview

Trouble getting applications developed using .NET Framework 2 or 3 to install on Windows 8 Release Preview? “Error message 0x800f0906:  “Windows couldn’t connect to the Internet to download necessary files. Make sure that you’re connected to the Internet, and click Retry to try again.”?  Me too…

Windows 8 features a new “install on demand” model for optional OS features.  In Win7 and Vista, all optional components were cached on the hard drive for later install.  With Win8, all optional components are on the DVD, and available at install time.  However, if you want to enable features later, they will be downloaded from “the cloud” via Windows Update.  One problem… it does not work with WSUS (at least, not yet?).

There is a page on this on MSDN:
http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh506443(v=VS.110).aspx

Their suggestion? “Please ask your administrator to enable the policy to use Windows Update instead of WSUS.”  Um… I don’t think so.

Instead, insert the Win 8 DVD (or mount the ISO, using the native Explorer right-click “mount” option… THANK YOU MICROSOFT!), then run the following command:

Dism /online /enable-feature /featurename:NetFx3 /All /Source:x:\sources\sxs /LimitAccess

(where you use your DVD drive letter in place of “X:”)

Now I will need to look into enabling .NET framework 2-3.5 using unattend.xml. I don’t want everyone at UVM to have to do this, too.

Windows 8 Hardware – Waiting for Godot?

I have been running Windows 8 CP on my primary workstation for about two weeks now.  The experience is surprisingly good, although I am sure that work-a-day users of Windows are going to freak out at the site of the Metro, especially when accessed from the traditional Windows keyboard and mouse.  To that end, I though it might be useful to get my hands on some touch-enabled hardware.

This has tuned out to be less than feasible.  According to the Windows 8 build blog, Win8-certified touch devices will have to be capable of handling five-point touch input:
http://blogs.msdn.com/b/b8/archive/2012/03/28/touch-hardware-and-windows-8.aspx

This is an interesting point of data, because Windows 7 “touch ready” devices only needed to support two-point multi-touch.  Thus, the almost then entire mini-ecosystem of touch devices that were built for Windows 7 will never get a Win8 certification.  Those touch monitors from Dell and HP?  Nope.  All-in-one touchscreen PCs from a multitude of manufacturers?  Nope. 

It looks as though the Win8 touch interface has been designed with the capacitive multi-touch displays that are commonplace on tablets and smartphones in mind.  But even a number of current Tablet PC and Windows Slates with capacitive multi-touch will be out in the cold, as a lot of them only support four-point multi-touch.  As for multi-touch monitors, the only that I can find that support 5+ points of touch are the 3M displayes referenced in theWin8 Build blog (see above).  Since these displays retail for over $1000, I think most people would be better off buying a tablet like the ASUS EP121, ASUS B121, or the Samsung Slate 7.

I suppose you might be able to get some mileage out of multi-touch track pads.  Most newer laptops have pads that support multi-touch, but my venerable Dell E6500 does not.  To that end, I am going to try out a Logitech TouchPad Wireless to see if having a gesture-supporting track pad buys me anything in Win8-ville.  I’ll post back with results.

In any event, it seems that those wanting to see what the Windows 8 touch experience will really be like are going to have to wait on some hardware that does not yet exist.  Touch screen ultrabooks?  Hopefully this will be more fruitful than Waiting for Godot.