Windows 7 Windows XP Mode, Live@Edu Customisation

One of the useful features of Windows 7 is XP Mode, but hitherto it was only available for computers which had hardware assisted virtualisation. This meant I couldn’t use it because even though this PC is only 2 years old, the Intel CPU is a model that doesn’t have vT support. MS has recently changed the implementation of this product so that it doesn’t mandate a vT capable CPU. This means I can install our SMS application onto my Windows 7 desktop (because the vendor hasn’t certified the application for Windows 7).

Another interesting thing I am looking at is having a custom control panel for our Live@Edu mailboxes. Obviously you can use the Outlook Live Control Panel to change the detail settings of mailboxes. However if you want to change the CustomAttributeX attributes of the mailbox you have to use the Powershell to set them, and of course this is not a GUI process. Other issues are:

  • you can’t rename the custom attributes
  • you can’t create your own attributes with useful names
  • you need some way to validate data input depending on what is to go into each attribute

Because of this I have started to play with Visual C# Express to see if I can do a form based app that can call Powershell to get and set the custom attributes. It would be able (I hope) to let me put a useful label on the screen for what each field is being used for, and validate data etc. VC#X will let me call Powershell from within the app so I could connect to a powershell remote session on the Exchange Live server hopefully.

The most useful thing I expect to be able to do with these custom attributes is to be able to set up dynamic distribution groups that run custom queries across them to generate the recipient list. If you have a situation where any user can end up being a member of multiple groups, it is probably a lot simpler to use these custom attributes and change them for each user than having to edit the multiple groups in turn.

I have made a slow start on getting my home PC rebuild project under way, buying and fitting a nice new Enermax ATX 2.1 power supply. It now requires the motherboard, CPU, RAM and a new 250 GB HDD to be purchased.

Also recently I am looking at desktop remote admin again, and trying out a few different programs. So far the best all round is a freebie called RD Tabs which is similar in principal to the old Remote Desktops MMC that first made an appearance in XP and reappeared in Windows 7. The idea is that you can open multiple remote desktop sessions simultaneously to administer desktop computers easily (for example, a suite). Since we only have one suite it isn’t too big a deal as long as you can also turn them on remotely using WOL. There has been a lot of fun in discovering that some computers aren’t responding to WOL commands and others are going to sleep and not waking again. I hope the next lot of computers we have in there are much better with WOL. Anyway this RD Tabs is a huge improvement over the usability of the MMC that MS provides, because you can change the settings for each tab individually and save them etc. And it is also free. So Avian Waves’ RD Tabs is definitely worth looking into for this kind of application.