Vista slow? Download this free performance E-book

Microsoft recently released a free e-book called Windows Vista Performance and Tuning. I just downloaded the 14 page e-book and it is definitely something that all Windows Vista users can benefit from reading it. Microsoft claims that Windows Vista along with the recent release of SP1 provide major advancements in usability, reliability, connectivity and security.

The following areas are covered in this e-book:

1) Improve PC responsiveness
2) Improve speed by using external hardware
3) Improve PC start-up time
4) Improve PC performance
5) Maintain & Monitor PC performance to help stop small issues from becoming big ones.

The article focuses on performance improvements for a single computer but there is a section that includes ways to use tools for enterprise environments as well. Right from the start, it mentions having at least 2GB of RAM for PCs that use Windows Vista. I wrote an
earlier post about RAM and how Windows Vista would barely boot-up with less than 1GB of RAM. You can never have too much RAM installed in your PC.

That is the summary of the free e-book titled Windows Vista Performance and Tuning which you can download here:
E-book download

How to convert VHD to XVA

Today I've been playing around with a Citrix XenServer and my Microsoft Virtual PC environment. I just learned about XenServer last week at a CDWG sponsored event. Basically, it just a Virtual Machine (VM) environment that can be used as server to host VM desktops or servers or both. I already had a Virtual PC lab I was testing with 3 Windows XP VMs. So I decided to see if I could successfully move one of the VMs to the XenServer. After scratching my head for a few seconds, I realized that there is going to have to be some type of conversion process because the file formats are not the same.

Virtual PC hard disks are called .VHD
XenServer VMs are called .XVA

Here is a log of what I did to get the VHD converted: (by the way, this took all day for me to learn from scratch)

C:\converter>v2xva /verbose:loud /config:"c:\documents and settings\cha13299\doc
uments\my virtual machines\new virtual machine\Windows XP SP2.vmc" /output:"c:\t
emp\new virtual machine"

Virtual Disk Migration Utility Version 1.2: A V2V tool to convert VMware
and Microsoft Virtual Server/Virtual PC virtual machines (with Microsoft
Windows VMs installed) to the Xen Virtual Appliance (XVA) format.

[XVA] Parsing configuration file c:\documents and settings\cha13299\documents\my
virtual machines\new virtual machine\Windows XP SP2.vmc:
[XVA] Path for config file = c:\documents and settings\cha13299\documents\my vir
tual machines\new virtual machine\
[XVA] Parsing wide character MSVS configuration file
[XVA] Amount of RAM in configuration file = 512
[XVA] Getting information for disk 0
[XVA] Disk file name = C:\Users\cha13299\Documents\My Virtual Machines\New Vir
tual Machine\New Virtual Machine Hard Disk.vhd
[XVA] Number of vCPUs in configuration file = 2
[XVA] Display name for MSVS VM being used is Windows XP SP2
[XVA] Information extracted from config file c:\documents and settings\cha13299\
documents\my virtual machines\new virtual machine\Windows XP SP2.vmc
[XVA] Number of vCPUs - 2
[XVA] RAM size - 512
[XVA] Display name - Windows XP SP2
[XVA] Number of virtual disks - 1
[XVA] Disk 0 - C:\Users\cha13299\Documents\My Virtual Machines\New Vir
tual Machine\New Virtual Machine Hard Disk.vhd

Convert VHD virtual disk image to XVA...
Total disks to convert: 1

Converting Disk 0...
[XVA] Reading VHD file C:\Users\cha13299\Documents\My Virtual Machines\New Virtu
al Machine\New Virtual Machine Hard Disk.vhd
[XVA] Found VHD footer at begining of file
[XVA] VHD Footer Summary:
[XVA] -------------------
[XVA] Features : (0x00000002)

[XVA] File format version : Major: 1, Minor: 0
[XVA] Data offset : 512
[XVA] Creator Application : 'vpc '
[XVA] Creator version : Major: 5, Minor: 3
[XVA] Creator OS : Windows
[XVA] Original disk size : 65536 MB (68719476736 Bytes)
[XVA] Current disk size : 65536 MB (68719476736 Bytes)
[XVA] Geometry : Cyl: 32896, Hds: 0, Sctrs: 16
: = 65535 MB (68718428160 Bytes)
[XVA] Disk type : Dynamic hard disk
[XVA] Checksum : 0xffffee4d|0xffffee4d (Good!)
[XVA] Saved state : No
[XVA] Read header for VHD file
[XVA] VHD Header Summary:
[XVA] -------------------
[XVA] Data offset (unusd) : -1
[XVA] Table offset : 1536
[XVA] Header version : 0x00010000
[XVA] Max BAT size : 32768
[XVA] Block size : 0x200000 (2MB)
[XVA] Checksum : 0xfffff3f7|0xfffff3f7 (Good!)
[XVA] Read BAT for VHD
[XVA] Block size = 2097152
[XVA] Capacity = 68719476736
[XVA] Writing to directory c:\temp\new virtual machine\hda
[XVA] Writing chunk c:\temp\new virtual machine\hda\chunk-000000000.gz
[XVA] Writing chunk c:\temp\new virtual machine\hda\chunk-000000001.gz
[XVA] Writing chunk c:\temp\new virtual machine\hda\chunk-000000068.gz
[XVA] Write out ova.xml

[XVA] Write out XVA configration file c:\temp\new virtual machine\ova.xml
[XVA] Wrote display name to ova.xml - Windows XP SP2
[XVA] Wrote memory as 536870912 and number of vcpus as 2 to ova.xml
[XVA] Wrote VDI vdi_hda size as 68719476736 to ova.xml

There were 68 .gz chunks in total but I deleted few so the post would not be so long)

The whole conversion process took about 30 minutes for a VHD that was about 28GB in size. The next step was to import the new .XVA into the XenServer and see if it boots up as a Windows XP Virtual Machine.

At the time of this post, the import is about 50% complete. I will write again after its finished.

Which Virtual PC/Server software do you use?

EOC Activation, Is Your IT Department Ready?

As some of you may know, there is a tropical storm/hurricane on its way to Florida. I am one of the chosen IT support guys to be available after the storm is over. In our Emergency Operations Center, I will be supporting all of the PCs/laptops making sure they continue to run as expected when our EOC goes to Level 1 activation 12pm on Tuesday. There are close to 60 PCs inside the EOC and most likely, all of the will be used at one time or another over the next 48 hrs. I've been through this 2 times in the past, once during Hurricane Charley and I forgot the other storm but Charley was definitely the biggest. During the storm, the EOC lost power but we did run on generator for about 2 days. There really was no issues with the PCs (our IT office is awesome and all of the IT techs do a great job "running" the place). I basically got paid to sit there and do nothing. I guess its ok, FEMA paid the bill. Anyway, just wanted to write a quick post about IT departments during a storm. We definitely do whatever we can to keep critical operations running just as smooth as if there were no storm.

Unable to Complete Genuine Windows Validation

Ok....time to give credit where it is due. Miekiemoes helped me finish getting my friend's laptop back to normal tonight. If you read her post about the VIRUS ALERT! next to your system clock, you will discover exactly how fix this issue...I mean joke....seriously. This post is so detailed that I actually made a joke in my comment to her asking if she created the virus! I worked on this laptop for 4 hours last night where at least I was successful in removing the virus categorized as Trojan horse agent.zak from his AVG scan. But the Trojan does some very strange things as Miekiemoes touches upon:

1) After pressing the start menu, most of your normal options are gone (like control panel, my documents, log off, etc). Apparently, the Trojan disables these items in an attempt to stop you from being able to remove the Trojan.

2)It also disables the registry (regedit.exe). Fixing spyware/virus laden computer in the past, getting into the registry is a MUST. I was shocked when I got a message saying "Your administrator has disabled registry access". Uh, hello, I was logged on as the Administrator!

3) Adds VIRUS ALERT! after the clock down in the system tray. Also in the Computer Properties area.

4)But the most annoying issue is the fact that the Trojan actually manages to delete your Windows Product ID. This then causes Microsoft to determine that your PC now has an illegal copy of Windows XP!!! Incredible! I've never seen a virus/spyware do something like this before!

As stated above.....I fixed everything based on the instructions listed here in Miekiemoes blog. If this ever happens to you, be sure to check her blog first.

IE7 slow to open

I finally figured out why IE7 has been opening slow for the past few weeks. At first, I blamed it on the fact that I have a totally wireless connection now on my desktop due to my current living situation. But that was not the problem. Then I decided to search Google for answers to IE7 slowness and I discovered some discussions but none related to me. So, I decided to add another hard drive to my PC with Vista preloaded on it to see if IE7 was still slow. And of course, it opened within 2 seconds (unlike the 17 second delay I had been experiencing).

side note: Firefox was slow as well.

The only difference besides the fact that this was a bare bones Windows Vista setup is that I did not have an Anti-virus program installed yet. Up until now, I had been using Computer Associates Internet Suite (free from Brighthouse). I had a stripped down version of only the Virus protection since Windows Defender is enabled by default on Vista. I decided to install the free version of AVG for Virus protection. Guess what....IE7 still opened within 2 seconds!

I guess I must have never noticed the slowdown or it just started. Maybe from the latest updates from Computer Associates. Anyway....AVG is now my virus protection software of choice for Windows Vista.

HP Certified Professional

Being an HP Certified Professional has its advantages. Sometimes we have to replace parts for desktop PCs and laptops. If you read my post a few months ago relating to a Toshiba tablet repair, you''l know that I was happy for repair shops. But in this case, our outside vendor (which will remain anonymous because they really are awesome...except for the prices) wanted $850 for the repair job of replacing a system board for an HP NC6230 laptop. I'm getting pretty good at these replacements so I decided to see if I could find the part online for a cheaper price. had the replacement board for only $354. Granted, it is refurbished, but I am Ok with that because if its not so a working board Upgradebay has a 30 day warranty for returns.

4 Hours later....I was done! Yeah, this has been the hardest replacement I've done to date....but I saved the client about $500.

Oh yeah.....the problem was with the PCMCIA slot, some pins were bent due to someone trying to jam a Sierra Wireless Sprint card into it.
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