The Microsoft Office Blogs

Almost everyone I know uses Microsoft Office.  And, everyone of those do not use all of its features.  Fortunately, help is on the way.  The employees of Microsoft who actually make the Office product suites have their own blogs with many useful tips.  Here are just a few:

The Microsoft Excel Blog

The Microsoft Word Blog

The Microsoft PowerPoint Blog

The Microsoft Outlook Blog

I hope the links above help.  I have found many useful tips on those blogs that have saved lots of time.  Be sure to check them out!

James

Hyper-V Tips That I HIGHLY Recommend

I’ve been using Hyper-V for a couple of years now and there are a few things I’ve seen that just plain work, and if you go a different path you are either taking your chances or wasting your time.  Of course, let me point out first that I am not the true authority on Hyper-V, Aidan Finn is, and you will see me reference his blog from time-to-time.  You can visit Aidan’s blog here: www.aidanfinn.com (it’s also in my links area to the right).  I’m pretty confident, however, that Aidan may agree with me on most of what I’m about to say.  Here goes:

  1. Do not use a dynamic disk with any relational database.  This includes, but is not limited to:  SQL Server, Oracle, DB2, Microsoft Exchange (yes, it uses a relational database to store your email based on the Jet Engine from Microsoft), and so forth.
  2. Always provision 4G of RAM minimum for the host operating system.
  3. Always provide the host operating system with its own NIC.  Do not let is share a connection with a VM.
  4. If you are in a small environment (e.g. 5 or fewer host operating systems), do not join the host to the domain.  The benefits do not equal or exceed the hassle.  For a few host operating systems, it’s easy enough to log on to them individually to update them or check stuff.
  5. Always disable time synchronization if your guest VM’s are Windows XP or higher (I cannot speak for older Windows guests or non-Windows guests) and have Internet connectivity.  I cannot think of a single reason to have that feature on in Hyper-V – especially if the guest is a member of a Windows domain.
  6. Unless you have a solid reason to do otherwise, always set the Hyper-V host to properly shutdown the guest operating system if the host is shutdown (the default is to perform a save).  This is especially true for guests that have a relational database such as SQL Server, Oracle, Exchange, etc..
  7. Do not go out of your way to use SCSI virtual disks for your VM’s.  The IDE and SCSI virtual disk adapters have almost no differences in performance.
  8. Unless you have a bleeding need for speed (i.e. you run the New York Stock Exchange), do not go out of your way to use pass-through disks.
  9. If you are putting your virtual machines on a physical RAID 5 array, your controller should have a minimum of 512MB of RAM on the board – more if all or most of your VM’s are doing heavy writes.  From what I can see, 512MB is pretty much the minimum these days, but there are still some used/cheap controllers out there.
  10. If you are going to virtualize a Terminal Server, stop what you are doing and read the free white papers here:    http://www.projectvrc.com/
  11. If your machine is to be a Hyper-V machine, then that is the only role it should do.  Install no other roles or features.
  12. If your machine is to be a Hyper-V machine, then the backup software agent you are using should be the only software you install on the machine.  Furthermore, you should not install the entire backup suite (e.g. BackupExec), just the agent needed.  If your only physical machine is a Hyper-V host and you need back up software that isn’t some big suite like BackupExec, check out www.backupassist.com.
  13. Never leave your host machine logged on. Once you are done administering the machine, log off.
  14. Guest VM’s on the same machine that need to communicate with one another often should be on the same virtual NIC when possible.
  15. Aidan’s going to kill me for this one, but:  It is OK to install a VM on the same partition as the host operating system as long as the VM is low impact.  Meaning it does not do any heavy reads, does not do any heavy writes, does not consume heavy CPU.  For example, we use Team Foundation Server 2010 as our source code repository.  There are only TWO developers.  How much work do you think that TFS guest does?  Barely noticeable.

That’s pretty much all I have for now.  I may add more to this list as I learn more or read more about Hyper-V.  Of course, comments either confirming or un-confirming what I say here are MORE than welcome.

James

Working From Home

One conversation I find myself getting into often is how nice it must be to work from home.  While working from home most certainly has its advantages, like everything else there are some disadvantages that must be dealt with.  Consider the following:

  • Family buy-in.

If you have a spouse and/or kids, they have to understand that once you walk through the door of your office, even though that office may be a converted bedroom, you are at work.  You are not available for family stuff.  My wife, in the beginning, had a very difficult time with this concept.  To her, it just didn’t make sense that I couldn’t spend 10 minutes vacuuming the living room or emptying the dish washer because “you’re right there in the next room.”  Also, husbands have to understand that you can’t always stop to cook for them or do some other “wifely duty”.  If your children are home for the summer or on some other type of vacation from school, then you may have to put them in some daycare or your spouse, if available, will need to keep them occupied for you.  You cannot have a six year old demanding food or play time while you’re on a conference call with a client.  Also, family must understand that just because you step out of your office to get a quick drink or have lunch doesn’t mean you suddenly have all kinds of free time to give to them. 

  • Hygiene

It’s easy to not worry about combing your hair, shaving, getting dressed, brushing your teeth, etc. when you work from home.  However, you really should keep those things in mind and you should still do them.  Once you start letting yourself go, you’ll be surprised at how those bad habits will creep into your social life.  Next thing you know, you’ll be at friend’s houses or family reunions looking/smelling like trash.  Despite the fact that you have no co-workers around you and that your journey to work is a mere walk across the house, you should continue to maintain good hygiene and dress like you are going to work.

  • Get a Gym Membership

Most of us barely exercise enough as it is.  At least the walk from the car to the office of a real firm is something and you do walk a little bit when going to meetings or looking for co-workers for help.  When you work from home, however, your already low amount of exercise turns to a flat out zero.  You’ll find yourself getting out of shape even worse than you are now which will not bode well for your work performance.  You must, when working from home, make some time for physical activity.

  • Avoid the Living Room and Kitchen

The living room, with all of that entertainment equipment, will do nothing but distract you.  Do not turn on the TV, do not turn on anything.  You may think you’re just checking the weather real quick, but I can assure you that 10 minute weather forecast can easily turn into the third episode of a Star Trek marathon on Spike TV.  As for the kitchen, marching there to get snacks or something to drink every few minutes will do nothing but drain your productivity while stacking on the pounds.  Avoid the living room altogether and make sure your visits to the kitchen are measured and infrequent.

  • Expect Some Prejudice

Co-Workers who have to drive to the office will always be jealous of you.  Your boss will always be suspicious of your productivity.  These are things you’ll just have to accept and deal with.  While you’re dealing with distracting family members and trying to stay focused, they all think you’ve got it made. 

I hope these tips help.  I may revisit this topic in the future if I think of anything else.  Working from home does have advantages, such as the amount of money I save in fueling the car, but there are clearly some negative attributes to deal with as well.

James

Windows Cannot Be Installed to the Selected Location. Error: 0x80300001.

For my first blog post, I thought I would start off with something simple.

When you are installing Windows to a new computer/server, or reinstalling on an existing one, and you have to use the hard drive adapter drivers from another CD/DVD, you may get this less-than-helpful error message.  The error makes you think there is something wrong with your new computer or existing one, but fear not, all you have to do is put the Windows DVD back in the drive and click Refresh (remember, you removed the Windows DVD to put in the CD/DVD for the hard drive adapter driver).  The error message is telling you the truth, Windows can’t install since it can’t read its own installation files, but the error could be a little more. . . direct.  For example, it could say “Please reinsert the Windows DVD so setup may continue.”

You can actually replicate the error over and over by removing and replacing the Windows DVD and clicking refresh each time.

James