Aug 192012
 

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Overview

Well I’ve been officially running the RTM version of Windows 8 for two days now.  I’d previously upgraded (‘bare metal’) from Windows 7 to Windows 8 Release Candidate a couple of weeks ago, so the experience is not exactly new for me.

Fresh Installation

The main difference at the moment is that my current install is actually a clean one – not an upgrade.  I decided to start with a fresh, clean, slate.  The main consequence was that I did not inherit any of my previous settings.  This was most evident in terms of my desktop background and some personal settings.

Opting to use a ‘Microsoft Account’

The second major difference is that I decided to use a ‘Microsoft Account’ (Live ID) instead of a local user account this time round.  I decide that if I was to adopt Windows 8 as a primary operating system on my laptop, I might as well buy into the intended experience.

Installations

Being clean, I installed Office 2010, Visual Studio 2012 (RTM) and SQL Server 2012.  This is probably the main flavour of configuration I usually have (I prefer RTM versions, where possible).  There seems to be a trend in the reduction of times the system needs to reboot.  This is a good thing!

I also enabled the local Internet Information Services, which is enabled in the same way as it was under Windows Vista and Windows 7 (Control Panel –> Programs and Features –> Turn Windows features on or off.  Just as a side note – it’s probably still best to install in the following order, as historically installing IIS later can cause problems:

  • Office,
  • IIS,
  • SQL Server 2012,
  • Visual Studio 2012

There are a couple of extra things I install (sort of by default):

  • 7zip,
  • Prish photo resizer,
  • Windows Live Writer & Messenger,
  • Skype,
  • Combined Community Codec Pack,
  • VLC Player,
  • Winamp (I’m old school!)

Plus I have a “toolkit” which I copy by default – it contains some standard SysInternals applications plus some additional developer tools which I’ve found handy over the years.  You can get the whole SysInternals suite here.

Personalization

One of the first things I do is to establish a few system-side personalizations.  For starters, I make a couple of changes to Windows Explorer, so that it doesn’t hide file extensions (what a stupid setting), and that it shows me all files and folders (only recommended for users who know what they’re doing).

Next, I wanted to use my own photo for the Windows 8 lock screen.  After some digging, I found this on the left hand side screen under Settings –> Change PC Settings –> Personalize.  There’s a “Lock Screen” option on the left hand side.  You can browse to and select a photo of your own choosing.  Here’s mine, by the way:

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In the RTM version, there’s no way to select your own background image for the (formerly named ‘Metro’) Windows 8 Style UI.  You can only select from some selected images and a custom base colour.  A reason suggested for this change (from the earlier pre-releases) was that, due to the expanding nature of the formerly-metro UI, a user-specified image wouldn’t work. 

I have some bitmaps which tile well, I’d have liked to have seen what it looked like.  In usual Redmond fashion, the removal of functionality has been downplayed with suggestions that since you’d hardly be able to see it, it wouldn’t be a big deal.  Why not let users decide for themselves?  I suggest that users should have been given the choice regardless. 

Windows 8 without a touch screen

Since I don’t possess a touch screen, it’s hard for me to review the touch interaction.  Windows 8 without a touch screen can be a bit of a nightmare at times.  In some circumstances, it appears obvious that touch was the primary consideration, such as when viewing images in the Metro image viewer.

Other examples include when splitting the screen and dragging/resizing metro apps.  This must be a cleaner interface  for touch gestures than with the mouse.  Unfortunately the mouse experience (for me at least) has been somewhat counter-intuitive.

Windows Explorer, where for art thou?

The explorer shell continues to receive facelifts with each successive release of Windows.  This time around there’s endless clutter, but this can be cleaned up with a few mouse clicks.

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The ribbon bar marks a fairly significant change, and so far I haven’t been able to find a way to view a menu bar.  This means I’m stuck with the ribbon (for now) and I have to say, I’m not a huge fan of the ribbon over a traditional menu.  A menu takes up considerably less screen real estate, and requires less clicks to access the settings/commands I want.

Speaking of.. the one most drastic user interface change I noticed was the flattening and ‘boxy’ nature of the new windows user interface.  I’m not sure I quite like it.  I’d been quite happy with Windows 7 and its predecessors, the new UI feels like a step backwards.

No Start Menu

This change has been somewhat controversial, but what I’m going to say on the matter might surprise you. 

According to Microsoft’s review of user feedback, they claim that few users are using the Start menu, and instead are launching most applications from pinned task bar shortcuts.  I know that I used the start menu heavily, so I wonder if their research wasn’t either too limited or not comprehensive enough.

I’m actually OK with the start menu being replaced by formerly-Metro.  It was a shock when I noticed its absence in the early pre-releases, but since I’ve been running on ‘bare metal’ (from the Release Candidate) and now the RTM, I’m becoming quite accustomed to hitting the Windows key and just typing. 

Although the user experience is markedly different (whole screen changing instead of just the lower left hand corner), the extra real estate is good, and it’s becoming less and less obtrusive as I get used to it.  Fundamentally, the new formerly-Metro UI is much more functional, and it’s been growing on me each day now.

Faster.

The operating system sure boots faster.  No argument from me.  Whether the OS performs faster, I think, is debatable.  For starters, I’m having to use the WDM drivers as none of my previous drivers (for Windows 7 x64) appear to be compatible.

Time will tell, if I’m able to get a driver refresh, if the performance will be comparable.  For now though, the newer operating system seems a little more sluggish.  I have, however, noticed that CPU usage is down on average which, in turn, has meant slower fan speeds and that the laptop itself hasn’t gotten quite a hot.

Summary

Well, all things being equal, it’s still early days.  There are a number of annoying things about Windows 8 which I’m not yet ready to pass judgement on.  I’d say the jury is still out on the formerly-Metro display mode (and the apps within).

At this stage, if you are happy with Windows 7, you might find the jump to Windows 8 a bit hard to swallow; especially if you don’t own a touch screen.  The “blockiness” of the user interface suits the Windows Phone and the Xbox, but I’m not sold on it for the desktop/personal computer.

I’ll revisit this in a few months, so stay tuned.  Next up: a review of Visual Studio 2012 RTM.

Jun 022012
 

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Today I installed the new Windows 8 Release Candidate build into a virtual client.  The installation procedure was more or less identical to the installation experience for the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, so I won’t go into detail on how that works.

My main intent was to view the differences between the Public Beta and the Release Candidate edition.  However, this time I decided to install the Visual Studio 11 Release Candidate as well.  There’s been a lot of discussion about the upcoming release, and this is my first real look at the improvements and changes.

The Installation

First, props to the Windows 8 team for including native support for mounting .ISO files.  This makes the process of preparing to install Visual Studio 11 far easier:

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From here it is a simple matter of launching the installation program (with elevated credentials).  This is the first time we’ll see the new Visual Studio 11 logo:

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Which launches a revamped installer in the new metro look and feel.  First thing to note is that, by default it seems that Visual Studio wants over 8 GB of your hard disk space (so plan accordingly!).

In the RC, participation in the Customer Feedback programme is not optional.  Agreeing to the terms and conditions takes you to a page where you can opt in or out of some additional options for Visual Studio 11.

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The rest of the installation can then proceed.  The slick new visuals give you a good idea of the progress.  Now.. I opted to install the whole enchilada (all options) and it took about 15 minutes on a machine with a 2.50 GHz (virtual) processor and 2096 MB of RAM (and a VHD mounted on a RAID-5 volume).  Your experience may vary.

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Post-Installation

Once we hit the massive bold “LAUNCH” option at the end of the final screen, we get the familiar screen asking us to configure Visual Studio with a default configuration option. There are a couple of new options here, but I’ll just stick with my tried-and-tested ‘General Development Settings’ for now:

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Once we elect to ‘Start Visual Studio’ we are greeted with the pain-in –the-ass configuration dialog – the developer’s nemesis since the days of integrated offline help index merges were introduced:

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Once this annoying dialog has completed whatever it does, we get to see the Visual Studio 11 IDE in all its glory.

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But wait!  Why is Visual Studio SHOUTING AT ME?  No, you haven’t inadvertently hit the ALT key (which used to capitalise menu items).. this is the default for menu items in Visual Studio 11.

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Don’t worry, as Richard Banks discovered (thank mercy) – a simple registry key can fix all that.  Open RegEdit and enter the following key:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\VisualStudio\11.0\General\SuppressUppercaseConversion
REG_DWORD value: 1

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Now all you have to do is restart Visual Studio for the change to take effect:

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Next Steps

The next step is.. we’ll switch over to our Windows Server 2012 Release Candidate and install Team Foundation Server (TFS) 2012 Release Candidate, so that we have our entire Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) solution fully deployed and ready.

Once TFS is installed, we’ll return to the Visual Studio machine and install Team Explorer.  Then we’ll take the whole lot for a bit of a “development spin”.  Join me for Part 2 shortly.

Links

For links to where you can download the release candidate versions of Windows 8, Visual Studio 11 and Windows Server 2012, refer to this article: http://www.sanderstechnology.com/2012/big-release-candidate-day-microsoft/11192/

Jan 012012
 

Introduction

In December 2011, Microsoft released an early Release Candidate (RC) of SQL Server 2012 (formerly known as codename Denali).

There are a bunch of new things in SQL Server 2012 – here’s a list of just a few:

To find out more about what is coming in SQL Server 2012 check out the following “What’s New?” page

Downloading SQL Server 2012 RC 0

I’ve found the easiest way to proceed with the RC0 is to obtain a DVD .iso (image) of the whole kit, otherwise, you can download it in component parts to keep your download footprint minimal.

The following location is the “correct” download link: http://www.microsoft.com/download/en/details.aspx?id=28145 or you can just go directly to the beta experience website here: http://www.microsoft.com/betaexperience/pd/SQLDCTP3CTA/enus/

Installing SQL Server 2012 RC 0

SQL Server, in recent years, has had one of the best setup and installation experiences of any Microsoft product on the market.  Well, based on y experience with the 2012 RC 0 release, this is getting a little more complicated.

The next few screenshots will guide you through a fairly straightforward configuration, using the latest release.

Installation Screenshots

1. Execute the installation package
2. In the SQL Server Installation Center, select the Installation option
3. From here, jump right in and click on “..new installation”
4. You’ll get all the prerequisite checks and loading of setup files, just proceed as you would with a prior
    edition of SQL Server
5. Once the main installer kicks in (you passed all the prerequisite checks etc), you’ll get to the intro page
6. Click through to the licensing page – note we’ll keep it on Evaluation:

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7. Next, we’re going to select the first option (feature installation):

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8. In the feature selection page, I’m selecting all features, but you should select just what you’re going to want
    to evaluate:

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9. Skipping ahead through some screens now (they are unchanged from 2008 R2), the Server Configuration page has changed, requires you to individually set service accounts.

Best Practice: Use a different account for each service
Best Practice II: In a domain environment, if you wish to use Kerberos, ensure you use a Domain account for the service identity, and ensure the proper ADSI settings are set

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10. Assign some user accounts as System Admins.  I always assign the local machine admin (in non-Production environments) and a Domain Admin (in a Domain environment) so that we don’t get accidentally locked out.

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11. Same procedure for Analysis Services (if applicable):

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12. Reporting Services has changed a little since 2008 R2, you have a few options for configuring native mode or SharePoint Integrated mode.  The native configuration is handy if you don’t have any exotic configuration requirements:

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13. The Distributed Registry Controller (optional) is new to 2012.  You can only assign user accounts (not groups).  If you accidentally add a group, it’ll complain – and then (in my experience) crash..

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13.1. Oops, a soft crash when trying to remove the offending group (best to avoid this situation):

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14. If you’ve chosen it, the Distributed Replay client needs a Controller name:

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15. Finally, assuming you’ve accepted most of the defaults, you may arrive at the summary screen:

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16. When you are happy, you can kick off the install.  It may take a while, if you’ve selected a number of features.  Finally, if all goes to plan, you hopefully will end up with a success:

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..and it’s probably time for a reboot. 

Post-Install Sanity Check

After the system has restarted, we can check out all the new stuff installed:

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Summary

Well, this was a lesson in patience from my perspective.  Whilst nowhere near as challenging of some other products, there are a few new things to consider when installing SQL Server 2012. 

As always, it helps to read the installation guide.  There are a number of new changes this time around, so even if you’ve done plenty of SQL Server 2008 installs, it might pay to do a quick skim of the install material first.

Lastly, as always, it pays to properly plan your infrastructure.  I’m usually installing into sandboxes, so what I’ve presented here is by no means what I’d recommend for a production system.  If you are planning a production system with a pre-release edition, all power to you (brave).

Please always keep these issues in mind when planning your SQL/Infrastructure:

  • Disaster Recovery,
  • Fault Tolerance,
  • Availability and Scale,
  • Persisted Storage requirements,
  • Physical hardware limitations, and,
  • Backup and test your backup strategy!

Further Reading

Tutorials and Samples for SQL Server 2012 RC 0

Microsoft SQL Server Data Tools (SSDT)