64 bit Native VHD deployment [2], etc

Having completed the deployment of computers for student use the next task is to create the image for staff laptops. At this point we need a boot media for Windows PE x64 and traditionally I would have created a boot CD. But the Windows PE walkthroughs create one that seems to be a waste of time, really slow to boot, apparently running an older version of PE etc etc – so I have decided not to bother any more. The Probook 6550 card reader seems to be unable to boot my SD card so I set up a pen drive as a boot device and it copes with that OK. Pen drives are so much easier to set up than a bootable CD which has to be configured with extra steps to make it bootable and create an ISO file. You don’t need to do this with a UFD, it’s just a matter of copying files to the device after formatting it and away it goes. I have customised Windows PE by using startnet.cmd to start a custom script that maps up a network drive to an installation share which contains other scripts used to perform various tasks related to native VHD boot, which simplifies things a lot.

For the Probook 6550 I have run the HP applications installer over my basic installation VHD and am just about ready to sysprep the image – the next stage after that is driver injection with DISM. Then it will be ready to deploy.

We are now back having reopened yesterday. One of the things we had completed before the earthquake was the installation of Enable’s fibre connection. At the moment we are not switching to it but this might happen in the next few months. The biggest and best is a project to lay fibre between two of our sites. If this happens we can consolidate our servers with one main server and one backup. The current link between sites is using “54 Mbps” wireless (real speed around 15 Mbps) which is very slow and increasingly inadequate when transferring large amounts of data and it makes it necessary to maintain two full spec servers in order to reduce the amount of traffic on the wireless link or to give users a reasonable speed experience.

As I continue to explore the world of AIK, I discovered the Volume Activation Management Tool yesterday. The VAMT is primarily of benefit to those of us who wish to manage MAK license keys, as opposed to the use of KMS. It has been a lot more straightforward to us at the moment to use MAKs because the KMS hosts we set up don’t seem to be getting any activation requests and I haven’t got time to check this out. The VAMT lets me remotely activate computers that require a MAK which I guess would be for both Windows 7 and Office 2010. This means they don’t need to be manually activated.

Also part of the AIK is DISM which I previously mentioned. This works very well most of the time. The main problems being when it can’t unmount a WIM, this in fact happens too often in my view so I hope MS will address the many times as when it refuses to unmount then a reboot is the only option left.

Windows 7 SP1 has been released. There have been some issues which people have discovered when installing it. This seems to be mostly from using WSUS. Unfortunately DISM can’t be used to apply it offline. I wonder if this is yet another example of MS’s stripped support model that seems to be developing for everyone who isn’t using Azure or other cloud services. Everything that MS does these days seems to be geared towards pushing people onto Azure et al, everyone else gets a shrinking level of support on their stuff.