Building Windows 7 Enterprise x64 Image [5], Earthquake !!!!

On Friday I wrote about the difficulty I was having in getting proper support for software for schools making their own Windows images for HP laptops. After a very long and convoluted process involving the IT Helpdesk, Tela Helpdesk and Axon, which is the Tela laptop repair agent for HP, I have finally had my enquiry passed onto HP where they have advised me that software discs will be sent out to me. The process has been quite difficult but I hope that the HP discs will arrive soon. There is still uncertainty as to whether these discs will include WinDVD and Roxio DVD Creator which are supplied on the Tela laptop images. As it happens Windows 7 Pro/Ent include DVD playback in Media Player and the new Windows DVD Maker software for authoring, so it is not so critical now in Windows 7. However I have determined that the 6730b disks did include Roxio DVD Creator and have copied this to my new installation so that I can get on with it.

So I am continuing to put the image together with the necessary drivers in MDT, Windows includes some of these but one that will need to be injected is the network card driver, the same as I had to inject it into the Windows PE image, otherwise the deployment task fails partway through when it needs the driver to reconnect to the network share that contains the task. There will be some other drivers and bits of software like on the 6730b laptops. We are just moving ahead to get the deployment finished and the laptops out to their users as quickly as possible.

One thing we are changing with Windows 7 on laptops is utilising Offline Files as a backup system for documents stored on laptops. Basically we change folder redirection policy to put Documents onto the server and then sync it onto the laptop for offline use. We also change the policy settings so that Pictures, Video and Music are stored directly on the laptop itself and are not part of the offline files sync. Offline Files has been around since XP, but was pretty poor then. It is better in 7, although some users are reporting issues in Technet Forums.

Today what time I was able to focus on work was spent getting the Probook 6550b specific task sequence ready for a test run tomorrow. Basically there are three specific parts to the task sequence:

  1. Make the Windows 7 Enterprise x64 generic install image (operating system and software) which I described in previous steps. This becomes the basis of a custom install task sequence for deploying Windows to the target platform.
  2. Inject target platform-specific drivers
    1. Create a platform specific folder to store the drivers and import them to it
    2. Create a platform specific selection profile and include the above folder in it
    3. In the Postinstall group of the task sequence, following the generic “Inject drivers” stage, insert a new custom named “Inject Drivers” task and configure it to use the selection profile configured above.
  3. Install target platform-specific applications
    1. Create a platform specific folder to store the application items
    2. Determine the means of automating each application’s installation
    3. Add the applications to the above folder along with their silent installation command. Configure each application item by checking the box “Hide this application in the Deployment Wizard” to avoid distracting the user who runs the automated installation task.
    4. Create a custom group for application install in the State Restore group of the task sequence (suggested positioning is just before the generic “Install Applications”
    5. Insert an “Install Application” task into this group for each of the required applications. Configure each application install task by checking the “Continue on error” box.
    6. Determine how many reboots are needed and insert “Reboot computer” tasks between app install tasks as needed.

Now, err, that more delicate subject – the Canterbury earthquakes. There have probably been about 300 shocks in all since Saturday morning, but things took a bit of a new turn today when a number of shocks started to be centred in the Port Hills on the outskirts of Christchurch – or nearby, such as in Halswell or Quail Island. This explains why the Richter 5.1 quake at 7:42, widely cited as the most severe aftershock yet, centred in the Horotane Valley, could have such an impact with its far smaller magnitude than Saturday’s 7.1. I daresay that it has come as something of a rude shock for Cantabrians when things have seemed to be returning to normal. Civil Defence closed all schools in the region on Monday and Tuesday, then extended this to the whole week, then relented and left it up to individual Boards to decide if they wanted to open before next Monday – we will stay closed until then however.

The practical effect of the earthquake has been to throw a spotlight on our backup systems. The power has been off twice and each time a typical pattern of UPSs running down to flat batteries followed by servers going off has occurred. This brings its own challenges, on Saturday one of the UPSs failed to restart properly so that the servers could not automatically reboot as they kept losing power during POSTing in an endless cycle. Also the ISA server firewall service does not start automatically on a restart which means it has to be started manually each time. The UPSs don’t seem to last very long which suggests either inherent low battery capacity or battery life expired in any case.