Windows Vista Product Key Update

Earlier I wrote a blog entry about product key finders and how they still work on Windows Vista. Well, it appears that this does not work on the Enterprise edition of Vista. You can use a key finder to find what key comes bundled with the DVD, but once you activate it with a different key, the product key comes up with all B’s. Using a key finder on Vista Ultimate before and after activation, however, works fine.

Microsoft is working hard to protect its keys this time around!

– Soli Deo Gloria

Installing the Windows 2003 Admin Pack on Windows Vista

From Josh’s blog: we have a neat little trick to getting the Admin Pack tools from Windows 2003 working on Vista. I have uploaded FIXADMINPACK.CMD up to my web site. Just run the file after you install the Admin Pack and it should work. (Just verified that this works on RC2 and RTM; make sure you do a RunAs administrator on a command console, otherwise it won’t register the DLLs correctly).

Windows Defender: how the heck do I remove this program? I use my own anti-spyware solution in the form of Spyware Blaster and do not need Windows Defender. Defender blocks the autostart of my Quickspell 3.7 beta program unless I turn UAC off. It appears from my investigations that Defender is built into the OS and cannot be turned off. After removing the Defender using Autoruns and disabling the Defender service, it still runs. Eek! Tell me why I have to have the Windows Firewall running to use Remote Desktop? I’m behind a router Microsoft, why lock me out of this feature! I hate the Windows firewall, hate, hate, hate! Expect a lot of “hacks” to come out when Vista is released in January. I suspect there will be a section on my web site dedicated just to Windows Vista to help people turn off features they don’t need (and enable the ones they do).

Update (11/29/06): Windows Defender CAN be disabled using GPEDIT.MSC. Navigate to Computer Configuration>Administrative Templates>Windows Components>Windows Defender to disable Defender. It appears that the blocking of the startup program is solely due to UAC and not Defender as I stated above (even though picking “Show blocked programs” brings up Defender, the problem is actually an UAC problem. Confused? Good!)

Update (12/5/06): It appears from this MSDN article that RunOnce and POLICYRUN are exempt from this restriction. Indeed, if you run gpedit.msc and drill to “Computer Configuration>Administrative Templates>System>Logon>Run these programs at user logon” and add your executable there, it will run it elevated without prompting. The key in autoruns looks like this:

– Soli Deo Gloria

Installing The Final Version of Windows Vista

Well, I am like a kid in a candy store! The final version of Windows Vista was put up on Technet last night and I eagerly downloaded it. After downloading and burning the DVD, I booted from the DVD. The option to not put in a product key is still there. My guess is that the feature exists to further protect the product key. For example: you can take your PC into a store to have Vista re-installed and not give them the product key. The technician can skip the product key and then you can enter it at home. I decided to put the key in later, so I just clicked next. After a few more reboots, I was in Vista. Yes, I had Aero Glass! I have a 256MB PCI card because the AGP on my motherboard is shot. Aero glass unfortunately was a bit sluggish, so I turned it off (I was scoring 2.6). To be fair, PCI cards were not meant for high end graphics rendering, so this was to be expected. I then noticed I did not have any sound. I have a Creative Labs SB Live 5.1 card, so I headed to their site. No Vista drivers! Now most XP drivers should work in Windows Vista, so I just downloaded the Windows XP ones. Upon launching the setup program, it told me no qualifying products were installed on my machine. Yeah right!

Using the newly released Process Monitor from Sysinternals, I went in search of the files:

Ah ha! Before I hit finish (which would delete the files), I copied the drivers to my backup drive. I pointed the unknown device to the XP drivers and I now had sound! I zipped up and uploaded those drivers files here on my web site.

Another annoying problem was that Windows Vista switched all of my drive letters. My backup drive use to be F: and my download drive D:. Now my backup drive was D: and my download drive was E:! I was able to switch my drive letters back after rearranging a few drive letters, rebooting and then rearranging some more.

Folder and file permissions seem a bit screwy in Windows Vista. Upon trying to save a driver on my backup drive, I was told I didn’t have access to the folder, even though I created it in XP and I am an administrator in Windows Vista. It allowed me to take ownership and proceed. However, I do not want to get this prompt for every folder on my backup drive, so I went into the security properties of the partition and forced Vista to propgate the settings to all files and folders. Launching Xnews on my other partition produced a crash. I know that Xnews works fine in Vista because I was running it on my Vista workstation at work. I once again loaded up Process Monitor and saw that it was having problems writing to various files in D:xnews. I proceeded to force out all security permissions for this partition as well. However, that did not fix the problem. Even though I had set Full Control rights for administrators and told Windows Vista to propagate them to every file and folder, Xnews kept choking on various files. I ended up doing a RunAs on a command console and issuing “cacls * /g everyone:f” from the Xnews directory and then it worked.

Thinking about it, this makes sense. With UAC, users run as standard users. So even though I am in the administrator’s group, I don’t have the administrator’s token and therefore I only have read access to the said folder. So, instead of granting everyone rights to my folders as I did above, I took complete ownership of all files and folders on each of these data partitions. Then I granted myself full control of these folders. Problem solved! Now, for the partition that Windows is sitting on you will have to get use to the fact that you will need to RunAs programs that want to write to the C: drive. I realize how annoying this will be, but I’m slowly getting use to do it. I rather be a bit inconvenienced then have my machine comprimised by malicious programs (although for sanity sake I made a TEMP directory on C: and gave myself full rights to it so I can modify files in a “sandbox” without UAC in my face).

Another fun project: getting my Agfa Snapscan 1212U scanner to work in Vista. The drivers are from the year 2000 and the scanner itself is around 6 years old. I had to do the “snap the drivers from the temp directory” trick as I did with the SB Live! card. However, when I would launch Snapsan 1.4, it would just quit. Agfa doesn’t make scanners anymore, but I did find Scanwise 2.0 on their web site. The program would load, but it said it was having a communication problem with the scanner. I did some Google searching and found out about Vuescan. This software is extremely slick: it generically interfaces with your scanner and the company specifically supports Windows Vista! There is a generic scanner.inf file that works for over 500 scanners if you don’t have a 2000/XP/Vista INF for your scanner. I tried it on my PC and it worked great!

World of Warcraft was running decently under Windows XP, but it was a bit sluggish under Windows Vista. I tried the latest NVIDIA drivers from their web site, but that did not seem to help much. I decided to install Windows 2000 into the same partition as Windows Vista. I added an entry for Windows 2000 using VistaBootPro. This is a nice 3rd party utility that edits the BCD instead of using the command line utility bcdedit. Towards the end of the Windows 2000 installation, I realized that I shouldn’t have done that as it was updating files in C:program files and failing! Other than Internet Explorer not working in Windows 2000, everything actually worked out fine. After loading Windows 2000, it wiped out the Vista boot loader. I just booted from the Windows Vista DVD, picked Startup Repair and I was back in business.

For more information on Windows Vista, check out the Vista forums at ProNetworks.

Blog Comments Disabled

For some reason my blog is getting flooded with comments from spam bots.  I’ve also noticed a spike in visitor traffic the past few days (about twice the amount of visits I usually get).  Since I have to moderate each comment and either approve or deny them, I am disabling commenting at this time.  If you wish to comment on a specific article, please e-mail me your name, e-mail address, article you are commenting on and your comment to my e-mail address on the about page.

Thanks for your understanding.

Update: After loading the Akismet anti-spam plugin, I have re-enabled commenting.

– Soli Deo Gloria

Windows Vista RTM (Build 6000) Already Leaked

Yes, indeed. Two days after the announcement of Windows Vista going RTM, copies have already leaked to the Internet. Using a few files from build RC2 (no, I won’t tell you which ones), pirates have already figured out how to activate Windows Vista RTM. More than likely, Microsoft already knows about this work around and will soon “plug the hole”. Office 2007 is scheduled to be on MSDN and Technet on Sunday, November 12th. Windows Vista will be on MSDN and Technet on Friday, November 17th.

– Soli Deo Gloria

Sysinternals Web Site Has Moved to Microsoft

Systinternals is now at Microsoft and they now have Process Monitor 1.0 out which replaces Filemon and Regmon.  This version also works on Windows Vista. The Winternals part of Russinovich’s business is being bundled into the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack for Software Assurance.  More information about this product can be found here. In a nutshell, all the technologies that Microsoft bought from Softricity, Winternals, DesktopStandard, and AssetMetrix will be given to SA customers if they wish for $10 per desktop.  Sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me!

– Soli Deo Gloria

Behind the Scenes: A Look at Windows Vista

Here are a few snapshots of the environment that Windows Vista is being built in.  What’s interesting is that 1,000 applications are tested daily with each build of Windows Vista.  If you look at my earlier blog post which has videos of eariler Windows builds (2000/XP) and how they were made, you will see this fact is not mentioned any where.  This is because Microsoft is now using automated scripts to test applications instead of humans.

Windows Vista has RTMed as of 12:45PM CST!  If you haven’t gotten a Technet Plus Direct subscription, do so NOW!  You will get access to Office 2007 and Windows Vista for $350 within 7 days of RTM. 

Interesting article from CNET today: 

Vista’s Last Mile

By Ina Fried
Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Published: November 8, 2006 4:00 AM PST

REDMOND, Wash.–The last stop for Vista is a windowless conference room in
Building 26, on Microsoft’s sprawling campus in the Seattle suburbs.

Each day, members of the Windows team gather inside this “shiproom” to go
over the bugs that remain, and to debate which of these can still be fixed
in the days left until the product is declared finished, a milestone that is
expected any time now.

The intense “end game,” as these final weeks are known, is a well-worn
tradition inside the shiproom, which is on the third floor of the Windows
development building. The small room, with its dated, dark wood conference
table has been the war room for every Windows release since Windows 2000.

On the wall are knick-knacks from past projects, as well as clocks showing
the minutes ticking away in a dozen time zones. The clocks serve as a
reminder that Microsoft has a deadline to meet. The company has scheduled a
November 30 press event in New York to announce the availability to
businesses of Windows Vista, while computer makers need to get the final
code in order to finish their testing and get Vista on PCs in time for a
broad launch in January.

The once-daily shiproom meetings have become twice-a-day events as the
product has neared completion. Projected onto a screen is a list of
unresolved issues that need to be addressed before Vista can leave. There
were about five dozen such issues at a meeting last Wednesday morning.

Sven Hallauer, who heads up the process, moved quickly through the list as
about 40 programmers, nearly all with a laptop in tow, worked to keep up. At
each sticking-point, the person responsible for tracking the issue gave a
one-sentence report on where things were.

In one case, there was a bug in the Slovenian release of Vista. It was
quickly tabled as not pressing, given that Slovenian is not in the first or
even second wave of localized versions of Vista. Other reports came in–this
software program has a hitch, this particular laptop has trouble waking up
from sleep.

Some of the glitches were already known. Many were things that have already
been fixed, and a few were too new and need investigating. None appeared to
be a show-stopper.

Hallauer had predicted that the morning’s meeting would be fairly
short–maybe a half-hour. After 20 minutes, the group decided that things
seemed pretty good. Perhaps they wouldn’t need to revise the code again.

At the afternoon meeting, though, the team was forced to revisit that
decision. It turned out that there was an issue within Vista’s new
diagnostics: if a piece of software failed to install properly, the system
would nonetheless get a report that it had been successful. Hallauer and
team decided to spin one more build.

Weighing changes
It’s all part of the process. Several times, Hallauer and others have
thought that they had the final version of Vista done, only to find
something that meant the team had to put in another fix.

Two weeks ago, Microsoft thought it had something that promised to be the
final version. But within a couple of days, two new glitches had surfaced.
The issues were arcane, but significant enough. In one case, there was a
potential problem with burning DVDs. If a Vista machine attempted to burn
information to a blank DVD directly from a network drive, there was a chance
that data could be lost, if the network was slow. The other problem had to
do with offline folders: Under certain circumstances, applications weren’t
being notified if the cache was full.

“That could end up with users losing their data or having a really bad
experience,” Hallauer said.

While it seems natural to go ahead and fix such bugs, changing the code at
this point is a big deal. There isn’t time for the full regression testing,
which investigates whether a fix in one area has some hidden impact
somewhere else in the system. Instead, teams must create solutions that only
touch a part of the code and count on their ability to not break something
elsewhere.

And not everyone agrees which things need to be tackled. The battles inside
the shiproom can get testy sometimes. These days, there are certainly folks
who feel Vista is ready to send on its way. Others keep lobbying for
particular fixes, including some requests made late last week.

Hallauer said he doesn’t see his job as just saying “no”–but at this point,
it is certainly about only saying “yes” to the right things. “Through most
of the product cycle, the teams are fairly independent,” he said. “Now that
we are at the end of the release cycle, it is more (about) taking stronger
reins.”

Sharks and limpets
While Vista is not glitch-free, the product is finally coming together. When
Microsoft does find a bug, it gets classified into one of two categories.

One is “sharks”–bugs that everyone agrees need to be fixed before the
product ships. And then there are “limpets,” which are issues that can be
fixed, but where the need is less critical. In those cases, the fixes are
developed, but don’t get implemented unless a shark comes along that they
can use to float into the code.

Retiring Windows chief Jim Allchin doesn’t like the shark and limpet
analogy. To him, nearly every bug is a shark worth fixing.

“(If) there’s a fix, I want to put it in,” Allchin said. “It should be clear
that date means not much to me, that quality is much more important.”

But Allchin is finding plenty of resistance these days. Microsoft is under a
fair bit of pressure to get Vista out the door.

The latest shark, though, means that he can get in one of the changes he
wanted. For months, the company has been struggling with an issue in the
Vista set-up process. As the operating system was loading, the screen would
appear to freeze up, with no indication that the installation was still
progressing–although it was.

Developers put that problem right. But as a result, a dialog box that asked
users to identify the type of network they have was popping up twice.

To Hallauer, it was an issue that might or might not have justified a new
build. Allchin was convinced it did.

“When I heard about it, I thought, there’s no way…(We’ve got) to fix
this,” Allchin said.

The unrelated software-installing problem let Allchin win the day.

end their days putting the latest builds through their paces.

Until recently, Microsoft has issued a new internal release of Vista every
day. That’s a grueling process. Typically, its servers start cranking away
at the raw code around 7 p.m., compiling it through the night, with the goal
of releasing the new build by early afternoon the next day.

Down the hall from shiproom, Windows unit employees can pick up the latest
builds. About 500 people pick up a DVD with new code in person each day,
with many more getting the code over the network, and some even bringing
their home machines into the office.

That list includes rank-and-file Windows employees, as well as some of the
company’s top brass. Allchin and his technical assistant, for example, are
still trying to find bugs that the servers and development teams have
missed.

“I’m doing video calls with my mom in Boston,” Allchin said. “I’m doing
remote assistance to jump into a machine, and then I ‘remote desktop’ from
that machine to another machine.”

Elsewhere, Allchin is testing a multimonitor set-up with four displays,
including some in portrait mode. Paul Donnelly, who manages part of
Microsoft’s Vista test operation, has been doing the same thing for some
time. As the finalization deadline has neared, he has added more systems to
his office. As of last week, he had nine machines crammed into his office.
He is among those who nearly always picks up the daily build.

“Pretty much every day since at least May 2005, I think I have installed on
some machine,” he said.

Donnelly, who tinkers with old cars and classic pinball machines in his
spare time, said that he tries to do the opposite of what an IT manager
would recommend.

He changes all the default settings, for instance. And instead of testing a
clean installation on a new machine, he’ll try to upgrade an older model.

“You find bugs,” he said, “You absolutely find bugs that way.” Luckily, he
said, it is getting harder and harder to find issues that aren’t already on
the radar screen and being addressed.

“We’re on watch right now…keeping an eye on things to make sure that we
haven’t missed anything,” he said. “I haven’t had any ‘heart attack’ issues
arrive in the last few months.”

But Vista’s fortitude does not depend solely on the watchful eyes of Windows
veterans like Allchin and Donnelly.

With each day’s build, Microsoft is running a battery of automated tests
against around 1,000 of the leading software programs. It has written
750,000 lines of code just to create the test patterns, which take 355
servers the better part of the day to run.

“Our job is to try and break the apps and find the bugs,” said Mike Kirby,
who runs the automated test lab. These days, though, the team is just hoping
that each day’s build doesn’t bring up any new bugs.

Third-party support
In another building, individual software and device makers have their own
private offices, where they can work on their own Vista-related issues. One
of the key areas for Microsoft, beyond finishing its code, is getting
hardware and software makers to get their products ready for the new
operating system. To make that as attractive as possible, it has created a
building on its campus just for them: the Platform Adoption Center, better
known inside the company as the “high-touch” lab. The building, one of the
hippest on Microsoft’s largely bland campus, offers an inviting atmosphere
with private offices, a lounge with a Xbox 360 game console and plenty of
munchies.

“We try to keep them well-fed and well-caffeinated,” said Dave Wascha, who
helps lead Microsoft’s effort to make sure other software makers have their
products ready to go when Vista ships.

The companies that come also get their own rooms that lock with a code
combination that only they know. They can use PCs from Microsoft, or bring
their own machines. Either way, the computers can connect directly to the
Internet without going through Microsoft’s network.

“Essentially, this is their office,” Wascha said.

The center has been home to 16,000 people since 2004, and is booked solid
every week. It has been home to Microsoft’s traditional partners as well as
some of its fiercest rivals, many of whom did not want to be named.

One rival that has been public about the hand it received from Microsoft is
the Mozilla Foundation, creator of the Firefox browser. In August, the
open-source software maker an offer of help from Microsoft.

Another rival that credits Microsoft for helping it get Vista-ready is AOL.
The Internet services provider went through the Redmond lab in July, while
Microsoft engineers traveled to AOL’s campus in Dulles, Va., in August and
September.

“We worked through a ton of issues,” said Julie McCool, the AOL vice
president who manages the team that handled the Vista work. One of the many
efforts the two companies worked together on was coming up with a way to let
customers get a Vista-friendly version of AOL’s software when they stick an
older CD into a new PC. In the end, the companies figured out a way to alert
people that the CD they pulled off a two-year-old magazine doesn’t have the
Vista version and to get that software from the Web instead.

McCool said that AOL has continued to meet weekly with Microsoft. Initially,
the company had plenty of bugs it was working through, but in recent weeks
it has been smooth sailing. “I don’t think we had any big surprises in the
past week,” McCool said.

Eating their own dogfood
Microsoft’s own work force is a key arbiter of whether a release is ready to
go out the door. About 60,000 machines inside Microsoft are running Vista as
part of the company’s “dogfooding” process.

CIO Ron Markezich signed off last week, saying that Vista had met his
goals–a step that has to happen before a product can leave Redmond.

“It’s totally ready to go,” Markezich said.

Microsoft is trying to do a better job with the final testing of Vista than
it has in past versions of Windows. “We have to learn from ourselves,”
Donnelly said. “We don’t have the ability to go to somebody bigger than us
and go, ‘What were the problems with your last release?'”

Donnelly, who has been at the company since Windows NT 3.5, said he
remembers an early NT release over a Labor Day that was particularly hairy.
“I just remember the pizza boxes stacking up in the kitchenettes,” he said.

There’s urgency, but no panic this time, he said: “You just don’t see people
running around like crazy.”
 

– Soli Deo Gloria

Windows Vista RTM is Imminent!

From Paul Thurrott’s WinInfo:

My sources at the software giant confirmed this weekend that Microsoft is set to finalize Windows Vista as early as Monday and release the product to manufacturing. The final build number is expected to be 6000.16386.061101-2205, I’m told. (Readers may recall that WinInfo broke the news that Microsoft would iterate Vista to build 6000 for the final release way back on August 25.)

In its quest to finalize Windows Vista, Microsoft has faced two hurdles in recent days, one technical and one a bit more unusual. The proposed final build was marred by a few late breaking bugs, which the company expects to squash over the weekend. Meanwhile, a power outage in the Windows build lab Friday night prevented Microsoft from creating a new Vista build that night.

As I’ve related in my “Road to Gold: The Long Road to Windows Vista” series on the SuperSite for Windows, Microsoft was angered earlier this year when analysts at Gartner were granted unprecedented access to Vista’s bug database but published an opinion stating that the company would delay Vista past its January launch. This week, however, Michael Silver, the Research VP at Gartner finally admitted that his firm’s repeated predictions about further Vista delays were wrong, delighting those on the Vista team.

“It appears that Microsoft will beat our prediction,” Silver wrote in a Gartner blog. “We will congratulate Microsoft as they hit their dates.” Prepare to issue that congratulations, Mr. Silver: Microsoft is set to release Windows Vista this very week.

I’ll begin publishing a massive, multi-part review of Windows Vista on the SuperSite for Windows as soon as Microsoft OK’s its publication. This is expected to happen when the company announces it has finalized development of the product. Stay tuned.

Remove Novell and Microsoft Word Goes Ape

Here’s an interesting situation. Our company is moving from Novell to Microsoft for our file and directory services. We removed the Novell client from everyone’s workstation and that seemed to work just fine. Then we removed everyone’s rights to said Novell server and everything is still fine. Then shut down said Novell server and bam: opening some Word documents takes 2 to 3 minutes!

Tracing with Regmon and Filemon produced no viable results. No file activity was being done during Word’s hang. Executing “winword.exe /a” also resulted in a long hang. We tried this on three different machines with all the same results, so it wasn’t directly related to the PC itself. The problem? The documents were tied to a document template on the server we took down. The solution was to remove the path to the template under template addins. What to do, however, if you have hundreds of said files?

From here, I found this macro which loops through a folder and changes the template location for each file.

Note that I could only get this script to work by copying the document files to my C: drive and then pointing the script to C: (the script doesn’t seem to like folder names too much). It did, however, remove the template location as expected. Microsoft does have an explanation and a fix for this, including more VBA scripts that do the same thing as the above script.

However, the scripts will take 2 to 3 minutes per file and is just as bad as the original problem. I found out, however, by accident, that putting the offline server name in the HOSTS file with an address of 127.0.0.1 (localhost) works just as well. It is though Word is waiting for a ping response from the server and it waits 2 to 3 minutes for this response. If the hostname is at least pingable, Word in our case would carry on in 15 seconds which was a lot faster.

Update: There’s even a slicker way of changing the template location in each file without having the macro waiting 2 minutes to open each file: disable the onboard NIC. As soon as you do this the script will fly through all the files. I did this in a Virtual PC session running Windows XP. This lets you change the document files without interrupting your normal work. When you are done, simply turn the NIC back on.

– Soli Deo Gloria