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Windows 7 SP1.

So you are probably one of those that postpone Windows Updates and never get round to that “Later” when you “Promise” to install them.

Now is the chance to redeem yourself and also collect a few nice easter eggs in the process…

 

Windows 7 SP1 is now available HERE

Changes you will notice on Windows 7 Include:

*Improved HDMI Audio Performance (For those that like to hook up the laptop to the TV)

*Better XPS document support

*Enhanced IPSEC and RRAS support

* AVX support

* 512e Storage Support

 

And Much More which you can have a look at…. Here

 

Part 2  – Requirements Continued…

In this blog entry we look at the requirements as it relates to hardware.

So now that we have our business requirments in place, we need to ensure that the computers are up to the job.

To do this we need to establish our system minimums (the absolute essentials) and the system maximums (the ideal world).

It is a good idea to document each system in an Excel spreadsheet where you can identify each system by asset tag, hard drive capacity, RAM, CPU, OS, Warranty Tag, Optical drive (Yes thats right alot of software comes on DVD now) Available USB ports (excluding Keyboard, Mouse) Ports in general. You may also wish to document additional information in this process such as if the graphics are VGA, DVI, or HDMI and the tower form factors etc. This information is ambiguous in relation to our mission however it may be useful to have for future planning.

Next its time to set the benchmark and ensure the systems match up to it. To set the benchmark you must take your requirement maximums and ensure that all systems satisfy the maximums, for example if a software package needed requires 4gb of ram and one or two of your systems have only 3gb then you clearly have a problem. This issue is easily resolved by upgrading the RAM assuming the board will take a RAM upgrade, if not then it is determined that the particular system is not policy compliant and therefore must be removed, upgraded, or replaced.

If several systems fall below the maximums, it would be a good idea to refer this to the school board where the powers that be can make a business decision by either financially commiting to the systems upgrade or replacement, or indeed by parking the software application until such time as the systems upgrade naturally over time. This comes down to a financial decision and as a systems admin you should only provide the information and try not become involved in the financial runnings of the school…. (It aint worth it) :)

Ok so we will assume that all systems are compliant with the requirement maximums. Next we look at the server requirements.

Is a server needed? I always recommend YES! Absolutely! for 2 reasons

1) A server allows you to have a single administrative point on the network for managing the overall system

2) A server combined with group policy offers better security control over all the attached systems (if configured properly)

The latest and greatest in the Server OS market at present is Windows Server 2008 (various editions). Others will argue Linux Samba etc, and Im sure they are great but they are not simplistic. You must think of that scenario where you move to australia, or getting hit by a bus, lets face it we are not going to be around forever, but chances are the school will be, so we need to make sure the choice of OS satisfies the market standard which is Windows presently.

Windows Server 2008 Standard Edition is perfect for any small school with basic needs.

Things To Consider With Server 2008:

* x86 or x64 (32bit or 64bit)

* Number of Processors being used

* Ram

* CAL’s (Client Access Licenses)

* Disk Setup (Raid, Standalone etc)

* Hardware (Server Type – Blade, Tower, Rack)

A typical school when it comes to CAL’s would operate on a per-seat basis (Per Computer) instead of the per-user basis that often large companies use.

My advice on this is to speak to your local Microsoft Licensing representitive who will be able to explain the various licensing options available to you. Don’t go to your average computer retailler for items like Server, Windows 7, XP, and Office licensing as they will be unable to offer you the special educational rates that Microsoft have available to you. Some wont even have Server OS’s in stock.

Microsoft offer schools special educational rates on their volume licensed products, this is extremely beneficial when it comes to keeping that shoe-string tight.

When it comes to server hardware, this is entirely at your own discretion. I personally go for someting simplistic like a tower server. Its a school, not Megacorp!

Just consider the RAM, and storage space as the two most important aspects and refer to the System Requirements for the Windows Server edition you intend to use.

Remember that X86 (32bit) applications will run on a X64 (64bit) system but NOT vice-versa so it may be worth putting good thought into your server applications at this point.

Consider the warranty levels available on your hardware, remember this is a business asset that will loose value daily, it will also operate 24/7 so options like next day parts replacement and on-site service are nice things to have. The hardware is only as good as the warranty behind it. If you can only obtain a 3 year warranty, its a good idea to think of the server being replaced after 3 yrs.

In the event of hardware failure, more specifically hard drive failure, some vendors offer a keep your drive service for a small nominal fee. Depending on your schools data security policy, this may be an offer worth taking up as it allows the school to retain the failed drive for destruction. Other vendors offer a certified destruction service, this is also a viable option as again it ensures proper industry recognised data destruction.

In the next section we will discuss Network architecture and connectivity.

Thanks For Reading!

Martin

As a voluntary IT consultant for some schools in my area, the subject has often been mentioned as to how to plan a server environment for a school/classroom situation. With the introduction of sophisticated technology being used in the classrooms today we have everything from several desktops in class, to interactive whiteboards, document readers, tablet pc’s and various educational softwares.

This is the first part of a 10 part blog of successfully planning a Windows Server solution for a school and taking it right up to installation

Part 1 – Your Requirements & Understanding What You Need.

Keeping in mind the technology available today and the constant changes in the marketplace, we must start with the all important question of what do we need to (1) create an effective system, (2) leverage that system to its maximum potential, (3) future proof it (to an extent) and (4) ensure it is cost effective.

I like to start this by summarising the goal of the project. What is your goal? What would you like to change or enhance from the current situation.

Often a goal is defined as “The harmonisation of IT across the school site”

Taking that goal into consideration we can understand that the school wishes in this case to ensure that all computers are “singing from the same hymn sheet” and they are uniform across the school in terms of software versions and updates. A nightmare prediciment for the school administration is to have computers in classrooms that do not have the same abilities of those in other classrooms, as a result the teaching staff loose out and more importantly so do the students.

So what next?

Gather the teaching staff and obtain their wishlist. Ask them what they would like to see available on the computers in class. After-all they are the ones who will use them in conjunction with their education plan.

Wishlists also need to be converted to reality in terms of cost and scalability – we will address this in a later blog entry, but for now assume the sky is the limit.

Start with software, what software is used frequently on the computers, most of this will be educational and from various publishers, some of which never heard of network licensing so keep this in mind.

Test the software, examine its capabilities, can it be installed on a server or must it reside on a local PC, does it require the CD-ROM to be inserted while using it and more importantly what are the licensing implications. Extensive conversations with the software vendors and publishers will occupy a significant amount of time during this process. You will be glad to know that this is possibly the most difficult challenge of rolling out any system in a school/educational facility.

From your research on the software, you can then categorise the software into groups, I like to use groups such as, Network Installable, meaning that the software can be installed on a Server and distributed hassle free, Local Machine Friendly, meaning it can be installed on a local PC and does not require any CD-ROM to operate, and the third category, PITBBWRNI which is “pain in in the b** but we really need it” or the short name of “the troublesome 3″ category.

Ok so congratulations, we have our software categorised and negotiated any support or license issues with our vendors and publishers.

Next we must look at the infrastructure, meaning hardware such as computers, network, printers, scanners and anything else which plugs into a computer or interacts with it.

If you are lucky enough to plan an environment where computer hardware is identical across all classrooms, then you can pass “GO” and collect $200.00, for those of us that are not so fortunate we must take the following into consideration.

What is the best spec computer in the environment? What is the worst spec computer in the environment? and What is the happy medium. The happy medium is best defined by your software research as to “What is the ideal hardware requirements for all my software to run happily on my PCs”

Take your highest resource demanding software and compare it with your lowest resource demanding software. Use the highest resourse as a system baseline while also considering future expansion and perhaps other softwares that the school may wish to use in the forseeable future.

A good baseline example for today’s classroom is:

CPU – 3GHZ, RAM 3-4GB, DVD Drive, 2 USB Ports (Excluding Keyboard, Mouse), NIC Card, VGA Card, Sound Card

For those computers that do not currently meet the baseline requirements, independantly benchmark the processor (e.g. a 2.8GHZ processor may cut the mustard with some more RAM available)

I personally combine a cost benefit analysis on how to best proceed with Upgrading Components Vs Replacing Computer. This is up to the individual as is how best to proceed.

Cabled networks are often very upgrade friendly except for those still running a BNC based network, in which case, how are you even viewing this blog?

T-10 switches are a thing of the past, while they work great in some cases, most broadband packages have surpassed them by now and are a major bottleneck risk factor for that reason alone. Most schools should now be running T-100 minimum. Some schools currently run gigabit LAN’s with 10meg FC backbones, which is impressive indeed but very expensive. T100 /Gigabit is perfectly fine for now and indeed the forseeable future.

Test your network cables, ensure they are all healthy and working as they should be. Label them if they are not already labeled, this will be crucial for your documentation and any future troubleshooting.

Establish if any of the switches require upgrading to meet your baseline requirements. If so, cost this by obtaining quotes from a few local computer hardware providers.

Printers/Scanners/Other hardware, research the various make/models online via the respective manufacturer websites and datasheets, ensure that you note the compatibility of each with respect to system requirements/operating systems and driver availability. It’s usually a good idea to populate all of this information into a matrix using something like Microsoft Excel. Put the printer make/models in the left column and on the top row put your specs and simply tick each box, it will become obvious where the rubber will hit the road as the tick’s populate in. I like to call this the “Hardware and Peripheral Sweet Spot”. Once this spot meets your baseline hardware requirements, you are all set (keep in mind USB ports for this section, more often than not, this is where we realise that we need several USB ports and a decision is required on PCI bridge USB ports or a USB hub)

In Part 2 we will continue our requirements phase as it applies to user and capacity requirements.

As always comments and suggestions are always welcome.

All the information in this blog is posted to the best of my knowledge, ability and experience. As with everything there is possibilty that some of the information may not be accurate or out-dated. If this is the case please do let me know as I would like to correct it and also learn from it.

Thank you for taking the time to read today!

Martin Evans

IE10

The Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) 10 is now in it’s test drive phase and I must say despite previous experiences of IE test-drives, I am impressed.

It looks like alot of R&D went behind IE10 and yes, it’s all about the tablet PC.

For the next 2-3 years it seems Microsoft are focusing big-time on the tablet PC market and IE10 is no different. It includes a new feature called “Pinning” which is very familiar to Apple iPhone and iPad users. The “Pinning” functionality is the MS answer to the interactive app icons that Apple has used for some time now. Microsoft are currently encouraging developers to create their “Pinning” site at the following link

Some of the IE10 demo apps include games like “Lasso Birds” who are not as angry as perhaps the ones on my iPhone, and other games such as Mr “Potato Gun”

You can experience these games and download IE10 test-drive here

 

I am officially a blogger!

Something I have never found the time to do is set up a blog. Folks keep telling me to get a blog online to capture my random bursts of crazy-ness especially when it comes to IT

Let’s clear a few things up, I am a “glass half-full” theorist and believe that their are no errors in programming, they are all simply un-documented features! My approach to Beta Testing is usually concluded at the stage where the compiler returns the value “Success”

What to expect on this page? I suppose general babble about whatever I stumble across in the IT world and perhaps alot of help articles pertaining to my penance work on the Microsoft Forums!

And that concludes our broadcast day!

Martin

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