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Archive for January, 2012

Multicasting with MDT 2010 and WDS

January 26, 2012 1 comment

Today was the biggest test of my on-going experiments with MDT 2010 and WDS. With my new colleague, we deployed our customised Windows 7 image to our second computer lab. Unlike a few weeks ago when we did our first lab, this time we deployed the image to all the computers at once. I wanted to save time by not doing the computers in batches, but I also wanted to test out how the server would behave under a full load of 37/8 machines.

I’m pleased to say that despite being a positively ancient Pentium 4 class server, the server handled the load without issue. Here is a screenshot of the server delivering the image to 37 clients at once:

MultiCast

CPU Usage:

CPU Usage

Network Usage:

Network usage

The deployment was a success, with only 2 clients giving problems. One was a suspected RAM problem that was resolved by deploying the image again. The second machine received the image fine, but had an issue extracting it, which leads me to suspect that there could be bad sectors on the hard drive. I will give that machine my attention tomorrow and see if I can get it to image correctly.

Overall I am very pleased with the performance of the deployment. While I have pretty much got the nuts and bolts in place now, I plan to spend further time tweaking and tailoring the experience to reduce the number of screens that need information entered into. MDT 2010 has some quirks which can be annoying, and there are still many areas I need to get familiar with. I will continue to post my guide on setting up MDT and WDS once I’ve gone over a few more steps to double check my facts.

When dust strikes back

January 16, 2012 Leave a comment

Dust and dirt are the bane of computer users everywhere. Dust accumulates and blocks ventilation, which can then cause overheating when there isn’t sufficient airflow to cool a component down. Besides that, aesthetically speaking dust is also ugly. Today, I encountered the following air filter from a projector that was complaining about overheating:

WP_000102

Put simply, that is what happens when you have a busy classroom, wooden floors, ceiling fans and open windows nearby. Dust builds up really quickly in the air filter, causing the projector to overheat on a boiling day like today. Left too long, the overheating will cause various forms of damage: shorter lamp life, scorched LCD colour panels or permanent noisier operation of the projector.

Over the course of this year, I intend to use our newly reformed pupil computer service group to go around and clean these filters. Not a glamorous job, but it needs to be done. It’s one of those minor things that my ex-colleague and I always wanted to do but never got the time to do unless a projector overheated.

This just goes to show that IT isn’t all about the money and fame that some people think it is. Welcome to the dirty side Open-mouthed smile

WP_000103

MDT 2010: Getting the basics in place

As promised, I’m finally blogging about my experiences so far in using MDT 2010 to deploy Windows 7 in our computer rooms. It’s been a steep learning curve; frustrating at times, rewarding at other times. I’m going to split up my findings over a number of posts, which should make things easier to read.

For the deployment server, I recommend a bare metal server, or a server running under VM software that properly supports multicasting. I had a server all set up and ready to deploy, only to discover that Citrix XenServer is very fussy about passing on multicast packets. I haven’t had the chance yet to dig in depth to figure out how to sort that issue out. Instead, I returned an ancient Pentium 4 server to service, which so far is proving fine for the job.

Here are my first steps on the road to hopeful deployment bliss:

  1. Make sure you already have Active Directory, DHCP and DNS running on the network. Deployment needs these facilities to run properly.
  2. Install, configure, update and activate Windows Server 2008 R2. This includes network card drivers, even if Server comes with a driver out the box.
  3. Install both the Deployment and Transport Server roles of the Windows Deployment Services role. This is needed to enable multicasting.
  4. Optional – install Daemon Tools so that you can mount ISO images rather than needing to work with DVD’s. Makes life easier and faster from what I’ve found.
  5. Install the Windows 7 Automated Installation Kit (AIK), available from Microsoft’s website. File is about 1.7GB in size.
  6. Download and install the supplemental pack for the AIK, as this version matches the versions of Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2 Service Pack 1.
  7. Download and install the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2010 Update 1.
    At this point, stop working on the server. The basics are in place hardware wise, but the network needs to be checked if it will properly support multicasting. If you have unmanaged switches, you should be ok to proceed further without needing to change anything. If you have managed switches, make sure to turn the IGMP protocol on, as well as any IGMP filtering options if they are available. You will need to refer to the manufacturer’s manuals for this as each switch is different.
    We are well on our way to having the base of the deployment solution in place now. In the next post, I will continue with the configuration of the various components of the solution.

    Back to work tomorrow

    January 4, 2012 1 comment

    Tomorrow is my first day back at work for 2012. It also happens to be the day when the grade 12 learners of 2011 receive their results at the school. This means that the day will be chaotic and busy until the results are released, but it’s always interesting to see the reactions of the kids to their results.

    I also have a new colleague starting tomorrow, which means for the first time in just over 4 months, I won’t be working alone anymore. I’ve now been “promoted” to Senior Network Administrator, which comes with higher responsibilities but hopefully also a touch more freedom to oversee changes that need to be made. It’s a bit scary to realise that if anything goes catastrophically wrong, the buck stops with me. Then again, I’ve been in this spot the last 4 months, as well as at my previous job, so it’s nothing all that new I think.

    As for my new colleague, it’s going to be interesting training him and getting him up to speed. He doesn’t have too much experience in a school environment, which is both a blessing and a curse. Curse because he needs to be moulded and trained, blessing because he will most likely be open to ideas and suggestions. He is also 13 years older than me, which is a somewhat scary feeling to be in charge of someone so much older than myself. Time will tell how our partnership works out, and if we reach the same level of ease that my former colleague and I had.

    On a different note, I intend to blog a lot more this coming year. It’s about time that I start documenting my experiences with new software and tools and make this blog more useful again.

    I hope everyone has an interesting, fulfilling 2012. If nothing else, changes in the tech world are going to make things interesting for sure.

    Categories: General