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Windows 7 Inside Track: Printer, Scanner, and Fax Installation (pdf download)

By William R. Stanek

Letís embark on what Iíd like to call ďAdventures in Printer, Scanner, and Fax Installation.Ē Last Thanksgiving, I did something I rarely do: I went shopping on Black Friday. Picked up some great buys on USB flash drives, SDHC cards and a fantastic deal on a HP Officejet All-in-one. By now installing new devices, hardware and even entire systems is old hat around my house. One of my kids usually does the dirty work. Ah the benefits of the life of IT gurus in the makingÖ Not really but Iím sure you know how it goes. ;-)

The point is that the little experiment in All-in-One installation took a few interesting turns and the process to complete the installation may help you as well. Set up of the All-in-One itself was pretty easy. Pull the machine out of the packing box. Put the pieces together. Start pulling off the blue tape holding things down. Pulling off one bit of blue tape opened the ink bay so the ink cartridges could be inserted, but the machine needed to be powered on for it to go into cartridge insertion mode.

When the machine was turned on, the display prompted for input language and then location. Easy enough for just about anyone. Most of the time. Right?

After inserting the ink cartridges and closing the door, the display prompted to insert paper into the paper tray so the machine could print out a cartridge alignment sheet. Once this was printed, the device prompted to open the scanner door and insert the sheet that had just been printed. The device then aligned itself.

Quite a few steps to get through the setup but lots of good prompting. No more prompts after that though, so what was next to do? Well, the device is a wireless printer, scanner, and fax. Printer and scanner set up were done, so next up connect the phone line so the fax could be used. The fax didnít share lines with a phone or other device in the room so connecting the phone line was easy. Connect the included phone line to the Ext 1 jack on the device and then plug the other end into the wall. Snap. Snap.

And that concluded the basic device setup. There was a lot more to it than it seemed.  These devices seem to be getting more sophisticated all the time.

So after basic setup, the All-in-One was good to go, except for the printer software, the wireless features, and the fax. The device comes with an installation CD, so insert the CD, run setup and go right? Well, almost, but not exactly. Follow the prompts and then uh-oh. ďDad, it says it doesnít run on this version of Windows.Ē Huge problem? Real reason the device was so cheap? No, not really.

Start the browser. Visit the manufacturerís web site. HP in this case. Click the ďSupport & DriversĒ option. Follow the steps. Step 1, specify that you want to download software and drivers. Step 2, enter the product name and number. Click Go. Select the operating system, which in this case is Windows 7 64-bit, click the appropriate download link, and then follow the prompts to install the software.

Since the device is wireless, and not yet connected to the wireless network, you need to connect the device directly to your computer using the supplied USB cable to work through the setup. Simply plug in the cable when prompted and Windows 7 will do the rest.

When the wireless network setup prompt appears, select your wireless network name from the list provided or enter the wireless network name if you have a hidden network that doesnít broadcast the name. Next, enter (or copy and paste in) your wireless key. Follow the prompts and all should be goodómost of the time.

After the software installs, youíll next proceed through the fax machine setup. Your answers in this phase configure the hardware settings on the fax, including the fax configuration, the fax phone number and the name used in fax headers.

When you complete this process, the fax itself is configured, but thereís still one important step remaining. That step is to set up the digital fax, or Fax-to-PC feature, using the option provided in the software. Setting up the digital fax allows you to receive faxes directly to your computer.

So there we are with a configured wireless Printer, Scanner, Fax machine complete with digital faxing capabilities. After basic setup and installation of the printer software, the wireless features, and the fax, the All-in-One was good to go and running on Windows 7. Setting up the Fax to PC (digital fax) also provided Scan to PC (digital scan). So there we were with wireless everythingÖ All was good, right?

How did the device documentation do in this case? Pretty good: 4 pages on the basic setup, 12 pages on the wireless setup, and 7 pages on the fax setup. A lot of help, but not always easy to follow.

Missing was a master numbered list (that could have been only 1 glossy page with pictures but would have tied the entire process together).There were lots of procedures and they werenít necessarily all connected together in clear fashion. Plus, the actual processes were much simpler than the setup documentation made it seem, as youíve seen if youíve followed the process in the previous discussions.

In this case, an additional gotcha was encountered during setup. The software said device installation had failed and the computer needed to be restarted so the software could be uninstalled. On the support site, the driver page had instructions for what to do if this happened. Normally, thatís a blessing, but this time it was a mixed blessing. The instructions said to use Devices And Printers to complete the installation. In Devices And Printers, you were supposed to click Add A Printer and follow the steps.

The problem is this: Set up installed the printer itself properly along with the wireless and most of the related software. Restarting the computer didnít actually initiate any uninstall process. It was only the fax/scanner part of the process that had failed. My solution to this was simply to re-run the setup software and this allowed full installation of the management software and completion of the fax/scanner setup part of the installation process. When this finished, the appropriate printer, fax/scanner devices were available and everything was set up.

However, the All-in-One wasnít necessarily configured exactly as Iídíve liked and it certainly wasnít optimized at this point either. So where and how to do thisÖ HmmÖ

This particular All-in-One is from HP. After installation, there computer has an HP folder with all the software goodies (if youíve installed the complete software and not the drivers only). This includes:

        HP Document Manager, which is similar to Windows Fax And Scan

        HP Solutions Center, which provides access to the device for management

        Reconfigure Network Settings, which allows you to reconfigure networking by connecting the device via USB.

You use HP Document Manager to:

        Start and manage scans.

        View faxed or scanned documents

        Convert faxed or scanned documents to editable text

        Send selected documents as email attachments

        Fax or print selected documents

As I said, itís very much like Windows Fax And Scan. HP Solutions Center was what I wanted to work with next, however. HP Solutions Center is the dashboard for the All-in-Ones.

The Home page, shown in the figure below, provides the current status of the device and the graphical display of ink levels. It also provides quick access to scan, fax and conversion features.

The Settings page, shown in the figure below, gives you good control over the device settings:

        Scan Settings allow you to control what the front panel Scan button does as well as what the Solution Center scan button does.

        Printer Settings allow you to configure printer settings. The available Printer Shortcuts provide collections of saved print settings that you can select whenever you print.

        Printer Toolbox allows you to access test, diagnostic and alignment tools.

        Fax Settings allow you to configure personal information, fax forwarding, digital fax and ring settings.

        More Fax Settings allow you to configure speed dialing, re-run fax setup, access the fax log and more.

        Network Settings opens the web management interface for the device, which includes a Networking tab. On the Networking tab, you can configure automatic or manual IP and DNS settings and also modify the wireless networking details.

        Other provides access to auto prompt settings, HP update and usage data settings.


Lots to optimize as you might imagine. For starters, I went through the fax configuration. Some fax and other settings, however, can only be configured using the front panel display on the device itself, including the fax dial speed, which I knew I wanted to modify from Medium to Fast.

Thanks for reading! Hope these posts help you work better and smarter with All-in-Ones.

William R. Stanek

williamstanek at aol dot com

Twitter at http://twitter.com/WilliamStanek

 

 

 

Note that this is excerpted from an earlier blog. Send comments or corrections to williamstanek at aol dot com

Windows 7 Inside Track: 64-bit and Beyond (pdf download)

By William R. Stanek

Know the classic rock song that says ďI did a bad, bad thing, a real bad thingĒ? Well, Tunnel Vision is a bad, bad thing, and this article hopefully will help you avoid it when you deploy and install Window 7. As Iíve stated before, when it comes to favorite technologies, call me a zealot because I probably am. Iím not afraid to proclaim that I love technology that works, and I think Windows 7 is the best desktop OS Iíve seen. But even the best operating systems need to be installed, configured and operated properly to run as expected. So heading in with your eyes wide open, prepared and ready is the best way to go. As you work with Windows 7, I hope youíll take a look at my books: Windows 7: The Definitive Guide and Windows 7: Administratorís Pocket Consultant. Together, they should be able to help go further and do more with the operating system.

If you havenít thought about 64-bit, now is the time to seriously evaluate going to 64-bit installations. The majority of desktop PCs sold in the last three years are 64-bit capable and can run a 64-bit edition of Windows 7. With laptops, itís a slightly different story. Although many laptops sold in the last 18 months or so are likely to be 64-bit capable, donít necessarily expect this, especially with netbooks designed for Windows XP.

Youíll find that 64-bit Windows 7 editions perform much better than their 32-bit counterparts. There are some gotchas, however. 64-bit Windows editions natively run 64-bit drivers and thatís it. In the past, this might have meant using generic drivers, in some cases, with sound cards, video cards, etc but the good news with Windows 7 is that weíre finally at the sweet spot for 64-bit technology. Hardware vendors are ready. Theyíve been doing their 64-bit homework for quite some time now and they have implemented and proven 64-bit drivers for the vast majority of their current products. Thatís good news. Almost good enough to make a techno zealot like me have a big old happy grin. But (and you knew there was a but didnít you ;-) if you canít live with the possibility of using generic drivers, donít jump ship without ensuring vendor-specific 64-bit drivers are available for your hardware components.

Although hardware finally is at the sweet spot for 64-bit, the same is not true with software. 64-bit software is increasingly becoming available, but weíre a long way off from that sweet spot. Best case scenario: We likely are 18 to 36 months away from the greatest software ďcatch upĒ race in the history of computing. And while I could of course be wrong, I call it a ďcatch upĒ race for a reasonóand thatís because increasingly, to be competitive, software vendors are going to have to offer the real deal: full on 64-bit architected software (and not 32-bit software masquerading as the same). When it comes to current 64-bit offerings, be sure to read the fine print. Some applications in a particular application suite may be 64-bit; others may not.

So if youíre wondering why upgrade to 64-bit if softwareís not entirely there yet? IĎll say this: the 64-bit operating system itself runs faster and better and the benefits to using 64-bit drivers are phenomenal performance. Not to mention that 64-bit Windows can natively access more than 4 GB of RAM. Home Basic can have up to 8 GB of RAM; Home Premium can have up to 16 GB of RAM; and higher editions can have more than 128 GB of RAM.

Youíve probably heard some grumblings about the upgrade and migration options that are available for Windows 7. Mac users seem to voice the complaints the most (though few seem to remember the OS 9 to OS X days (you know: classic, blue box, Carbon, etc.) or the fact every release from Cheetah to Snow Leopard has been a dot rev of 10).

The simple truth is Windows Vista represented a radical departure from previous releases of desktop Windows operating systems. Windows 7 is the continuing evolution of this brave new world. This brave new world brought PC users truckloads of new features and capabilities, including

         Language independence

         Modularization

         Hardware independence

         Windows imaging

         Windows PE 2.0 (to replace the MS DOS)

         Windows Pre-boot environment

This brave new world put up a dividing line between earlier desktop releases of Windows and everything that comes after. It is the reason why you canít upgrade Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows ME, or Windows XP to Windows 7. Setting aside Windows XP for a moment, why in the world would you want to drag forward Win 95/98/ME baggage? That would be a nightmare even if you could as youíre coming from what was primarily an MS DOS and 16-bit world to full on 32-bit (and 64-bit options largely didnít even exist back then).

Now back to Windows XP. You canít upgrade directly from Windows XP to Windows 7. Only Windows Vista includes upgrade paths from Windows XP. This is because the baggage required to support the transition from Windows XP (a legacy OS) to the new architecture is enormous. If you absolutely must upgrade, you could upgrade Windows XP to Windows Vista and then upgrade Windows Vista to Windows 7. Licensing options should be available, as you likely only need a few Vista licenses to support such a transition (but would need to confirm for enterprise scenarios). But again, why drag around legacy baggage? Why not make a clean break to the new architecture? Your installations will be cleaner and your PC operations will run more smoothly.

As both Windows Vista and Windows 7 implement the new architecture, you can of course upgrade Windows Vista to Windows 7. The upgrade options are fairly straightforward but there are some gotchas and these gotchas exist because Windows gives you so many options.

To get started, youíll need to ensure your computers are running at least Service Pack 1 (SP1) to upgrade. Only Windows Vista with SP1 or SP2 can be upgraded to Windows 7. Generally, you can upgrade like or higher editions. This means you can upgrade from:

         Windows Vista Home Basic to Windows 7 Home Basic, Home Premium or Ultimate

         Windows Vista Home Premium to Windows 7 Home Premium or Ultimate

         Windows Vista Business to Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise or Ultimate

         Windows Vista Enterprise to Windows 7 Enterprise

         Windows Vista Ultimate to Windows 7 Ultimate

If youíve purchased a computer with a home edition of Windows Vista, you may want to go to a business edition of Windows 7. You can do this, and without having to shell out the additional cash for Windows 7 Ultimate. As with Windows Vista, Windows 7 supports anytime upgrades. With an anytime upgrade, you can go from more basic editions of Windows 7 to higher editions of Windows 7. This means you can upgrade from:

         Windows 7 Home Basic to Windows 7 Home Premium, Professional or Ultimate

         Windows 7 Home Premium to Windows 7 Professional or Ultimate

         Windows 7 Professional to Windows 7 Ultimate

Thus, you could upgrade a home edition of Windows Vista to a home edition of Window 7 and then anytime upgrade that home edition to Windows 7 Professional. And if youíve done an anytime upgrade before, you know itís fast and easy.

Upgrades and Migrations

So far weíve discussed upgrade paths to Windows 7 from earlier releases of Windows. There are a few more gotchas in the upgrade process we should talk about before we go into migrations. The most important ones have to do with:

         Cross-architecture upgrades

         Cross-language upgrades

         Cross-variant upgrades

When you upgrade from Windows Vista to Windows 7, you must upgrade to the same architecture, language and variant. This means that you must:

         Upgrade 32-bit Windows Vista to 32-bit Windows 7 (and likewise 64-bit Windows Vista to 64-bit Windows 7)

         Upgrade to the same language version, such as US English to US English (rather than say US English to Japanese). If you have a particular language version with add-on language packs, you also might have to remove the add-on language packs to upgrade.

         Upgrade to the same or higher edition in keeping with variants. You cannot upgrade from Windows Vista to the Windows 7 N, K, KN or E variants.

I can hear the groaning and grumbling already, but these restrictions make perfect sense. For instance, 64-bit Windows is an entirely different animal than 32-bit Windows. Trust me, you donít want all that 32-bit OS baggage on your 64-bit computers. 64-bit is where computing is going and you want to be there bathing in all the high-power 64-bit glory. And there are always options and workarounds. An example? Sure. User State Migration Tool (USMT) 4.0 makes it possible for you to migrate 32-bit settings to 64-bit environments. To do this, youíll need to extract the current state before installing Windows 7.

When you upgrade from Windows Vista to Windows 7, a Windows.old directory is created with the settings and files from Windows Vista. As long as you do a straight installation (and donít modify or remove partitions during installation), the Windows.old directory is available for you to use. USMT 4.0 can use this directory to transfer settings and files from Windows Vista to Windows 7 and it can do so after the upgrade (in most cases). More on this later but first letís circle back to Windows XP.

Although you canít upgrade Windows XP directly to Windows 7, you can maintain your Windows XP settings when installing Windows 7 on a computer running Windows XP. To do this, you must migrate files and settings prior to installing Windows 7. One tool that allows you to migrate settings is Windows Easy Transfer (Migwiz.exe). Youíll find it on the Windows 7 installation media in the Support\Migwiz folder. You can use Windows Easy Transfer to transfer settings and files from any computer running Windows XP or Windows Vista to Windows 7.

You can transfer files using a network drive, a USB flash drive, or an Easy Transfer Cable. Of the three options, my favorite is the USB flash drive. With network drives, you have to transfer the data over the network. If you have a lot of data to transition, you likely will find the process very slow and frustrating on a 100 Mbps network. Even if you are on a 1 Gbps network, this process will seem fairly slow but doable for the patient technician. And thatís why I prefer a USB flash drive. Just make sure you purchase a newer flash drive with high-speed memory and a lot of capacity, such as 16 or 32 GB. A 32-GB flash drive will handy most any transfer and it will do it much faster than a network transfer.

Keep in mind that you cannot use Windows Easy Transfer to move program files or system files, such as fonts or drivers. Windows Easy Transfer only moves program settings and files. Youíll need to migrate, then install your programs, fonts and drivers as needed.

If you canít perform an in-place upgrade of your computer, you may be able to migrate file and settings. Migration is supported in several scenarios. You can:

         Migrate files and settings from Windows XP or Windows Vista to Windows 7 on the same computer.

         Migrate files and settings from Windows XP or Windows Vista to Windows 7 on a new computer.

With either scenario, the migration techniques you use are similar. In one scenario, you are moving to a new operating system and in the other, you are moving to a new computer. The two main migration tools youíll use are Windows Easy Transfer and User State Migration Tool (USMT). Although both tools are old standbys from migrations in the past, there are some changes that make the tools easier to use and work with.

With Windows Easy Transfer, you normally transition files and settings in two stages. First you use Windows Easy Transfer to copy them to a network folder or USB flash drive then you use Windows Easy Transfer to move the copied files to the new operating system or the new computer. You also can use an Easy Transfer cable to copy files and settings directly from an old computer to a new computer. Keep in mind a standard USB cable is not an Easy Transfer cable. Youíll need to purchase the cable if you donít have one.

You use Windows Easy Transfer to move program settings and user files. Generally, the files transitioned only include those files in the user profile folders, such as the contents of C:\Users\%UserName% and all subfolders. Windows Easy Transfer does not move program files or system files, such as fonts or drivers. Youíll need to migrate, then install your programs, fonts and drivers as needed.

In the past, the biggest problem with Windows Easy Transfer has been that the more data you have, the longer it takes to complete the migration process. Transferring a few gigabytes of data over a network twice (once for the copy; once for the final move) is slow (very slow at 100 Mbps and painfully slow at 10 Mbps). The good news: many more computers have 1 Gbps network cards these days, which is 10X faster than 100 Mbps and 100X faster than 10 Mbps. If youíre computers donít have 1 Gbps network cards, thereís never been a better time to upgrade (and upgrade before migrating if you plan to use Windows Easy Transfer over the network).

You can safely skip all the copy/move over the network craziness by using a USB flash drive (UFD) or an external hard drive. A 16 GB or 32 GB UFD can handle just about any single-computer migration. If youíve going to use a UFD, make sure you use one that has 100% high-speed flash RAM--youíll have a smoother, faster migration. Stay away from cheap UFDs. Most of the cheapos have a mixture of slow and fast flash RAM, especially if they are a few years old.

Although Windows Easy Transfer is a good choice for transitioning several computers from Windows XP or Windows Vista to Windows 7, itís not a good choice for transitioning many computers. When you have a lot of computers, youíll want to automate the process and this is where USMT comes in handy.

Performing Migrations

In the previous section, I talked about migrations and the options for using Windows Easy Transfer. So now letís look at the actual migration process. Keep in mind that migration is only necessary if you canít perform an in-place upgrade. Generally, in-place upgrades are supported when you are moving from a like edition of Windows Vista to a like edition of Windows 7 but there are many gotchas as discussed in my previous blog entries.

Also, last time, I forgot to talk about using external hard drives with Windows Easy Transfer. With external hard drives, youíll want to look at speed as well. Most external hard drives have USB 2.0 connections. Generally, USB 2.0 has a maximum transfer rate of 480 Mbps with sustained rates of 10 to 30 Mbps. As with UFDs, transferring multiple gigabytes will take a while. In contrast, FireWire 400, FireWire 800 and eSATA generally will be much faster (up to 3X faster with eSATA) and there are a few high-performance external hard drives that support these interfaces. The catch is that your computers (both old and new if you are transitioning from one computer to another) must support the interface and removable media type.

With Windows Easy Transfer, your migration has two phases:

1.       Copy the data you want to transition.

2.       Move the data to its destination.

You kick start phase one of the migration process on the old computer or operating system using the Windows 7 installation media. The process is similar to the following:

1.       Insert or attach the Windows 7 installation media while running Windows XP or Windows Vista. On the installation media, in the Support\Migwiz folder, double-click MigSetup.exe to start Windows Easy Transfer.

2.       When the wizard starts, click Next, select the ďAn external hard disk or USB flash driveĒ option and then click ďThis is my old computer.Ē You can specify that you want to migrate all user profile data, select specific user profiles or customize the process.

3.       Enter a password to protect the data you are transitioning and then click Save. Next, select the external location or external media where you want to save the data. Click Save again.

4.       Click Next and then wait for the copy process to complete. Click Close.

Once youíve confirmed that the data has been transitioned, you can move the data to the new computer. Or you can upgrade the Windows XP or Windows Vista computer to Windows 7 by performing a clean installation and then move the data back to the computer. Remember, this migration process with a clean installation is only necessary if you canít perform an in-place upgrade.

To move the user data to its final destination, the process is similar to the following:

1.       Attach the UFD or external disk to the computer or make sure you can access the shared network location where the data is stored.

2.       Insert or attach the Windows 7 installation media while running Windows XP or Windows Vista. On the installation media, in the Support\Migwiz folder, double-click MigSetup.exe to start Windows Easy Transfer.

3.       When the wizard starts, click Next, select the ďAn external hard disk or USB flash driveĒ option and then click ďThis is my new computer.Ē

4.       Click ďYes, open the file,Ē and then browse to where the Easy Transfer file was saved. Click the file name and then click Open.

5.       You can transfer all the files and settings you saved or only those files and settings for specific users. To transfer all the saved data, click Transfer. To select the saved data to transfer, click Customize, select the user profiles to transfer, and then click Transfer.

6.       Wait for the copy process to complete. Click Close.

That in a nutshell is how the copy/move processes work. Hope this gives you the core details you need to successfully migrate your computers using Windows Easy Transfer!

Now letís kick it up a notch and look at automating migrations using User State Migration Tool (USMT) Version 4.0.

As you learned from my earlier blog entries, Windows Easy Transfer is best suited for personal use or for transitioning several computers from Windows XP or Windows Vista to Windows 7. When you have a lot of computers to transition, youíll want to automate the process using USMT 4.0.

Unlike Windows Easy Transfer, which doesnít require much pre-planning, youíll need to perform some fairly extensive planning before you use USMT to transition your computers. As part of your planning, youíll need to identify the settings you want to migrate.

USMT 4.0 can help you migrate operating system settings, application settings, user data and more. As examples, operating system settings that you can migrate include:

         Appearance settings for the desktop, menus and the overall user interface.

         Keyboard and mouse settings as well as folder options

         Internet options for home pages, favorites, bookmarks, cookies, security, connections and proxies

         Mail settings, rules, contacts, views and signature files

USMT 4.0 allow you to configure your migration using these migration rule (.xml) files:

         MigUser.XML Sets the rules for migrating user profiles and user data

         MigDocs.XML Sets the rules for automatically finding user documents that should be migrated

         MigApp.XML Sets the rules for migrating application settings

To control exactly which files and settings are migrated, youíll need to modify these scripts to suit your environment. You may need different versions of these rule files for different departments or different types of users.

USMT also allows you to configure user account migration using ScanState and LoadState command-line tools. You use ScanState to collect settings and data, and LoadState to restore settings and data. As USMT 4.0 now supports offline migrations, you can run ScanState in Windows PE and you also can perform migrations from previous installations of Windows contained in Windows.old directories.

As part of the migration process, you can use the MigUser.Xml file to define the user data to migrate and also to control how access control lists (ACLs) for user data are migrated. By default, all user folders from each user profile are migrated including Desktop, Downloads, Favorites, Links, My Documents, My Music, My Pictures, and My Videos. Folders from the All Users in Windows XP and Public profiles in Windows Vista are migrated as well, which ensures any shared data is migrated.

If you use the MigUser.Xml file, ScanState searches fixed drives, collecting and migrating files. The files collected are determined by the file extension. Although you can edit the MigUser.Xml file to add or remove file extensions, the default files collected include those with the following file extensions:

.accdb, .ch3, .csv, .dif, .doc*, .dot*, .dqy, .iqy, .mcw, .mdb*, .mpp, .one*, .oqy, .or6, .pot*, .ppa, .pps*, .ppt*, .pre, .pst, .pub, .qdf, .qel, .qph, .qsd, .rqy, .rtf, .scd, .sh3, .slk, .txt, .vl*, .vsd, .wk*, .wpd, .wps, .wq1, .wri, .xl*, .xla, .xlb, .xls*.

USMT 4.0 can migrate ACLs along with user data. However, to do so, you must specify the folders to migrate. The source ACL information is migrated only when you explicitly specify the folders to migrate.

 

William R. Stanek

williamstanek at aol dot com

Twitter at http://twitter.com/WilliamStanek

 

 

 

Note that this is excerpted from an earlier blog. Send comments or corrections to williamstanek at aol dot com

Group Policy Preferences A-Z  (pdf download)

By William R. Stanek

Okay, so call me a zealot, I probably am but when a technology works Iím not afraid to say it (and Iím not afraid to proclaim it from the rooftops either) so here I go with a bold statement. That statement being this: I just donít understand why Group Policy Preferences (GPP) arenít being used everywhere. I first started exploring GPP when I was doing research for my book Windows Group Policy Administratorís Pocket Consultant. Although months had passed since, I still wasn't finding as many organizations using GPP as I thought there should be. My thought: Some people just donít understand the technology, so I wrote a series of blog entries about GPP for Microsoft that I hoped would change that and might also help administrators get management to say ďYes, we want GPP.Ē So here's the entire GPP blog series, as one long (and hopefully very useful) post:

First of all, you may be wondering what GPP is all about and thatís where Iíll start. Group Policy preferences differ from Group Policy settings in many ways. If you think of GP settings as set of rules that you apply to computers and users, you can think of GP preferences as a set of guidelines that you apply to users and computers. Alternatively, you can think of GP settings as managed settings for computers and users, and GP preferences as unmanaged settings for computers and users.

You use settings to control configuration of the operating system and its components. Often settings you apply prevent users from making certain changes to their computers. On the other hand, you use preferences to establish baselines. Users can change settings applied through preferences (though you can have GP re-apply preferences automatically as part of the policy refresh process). So itís apply once or reapply with refresh for preferences.

Other things to keep in mind:

         When you configure GP settings, changes typically are made in policy-based areas of the registry and original settings are not overwritten. When you configure GP preferences, changes are made in the same areas of the registry used by the operating system and applications, which overwrites the original settings.

         When you remove a GP setting, the original settings are restored. When you remove a GP preference, the original settings are not restored.

Bottom line: GP settings are enforced, GP preferences are not enforced. So if thatís the case why use preferences?

Unlike GP settings which apply to both local computer policy and Active Directory policy, GP preferences only apply to Active Directory policy. You use preferences to configure many areas of the operating system, including:

         System devices, including USB ports, floppy drives and removable media.

         Network shares and mapping of network shares to drive letters

         System and user environment variables

         User and group accounts for the local computer

         VPN and dial-up networking connections

         Printer configuration and mapping

         Registry settings, schedule tasks, and system services

         Settings for Folder Options, Internet Options, Regional and Language Options

         Settings for power schemes and power Management

         Start Menu properties and menu items

Preference also can help you manage files, folders and shortcuts. You can use preferences to create shortcuts and folders on computers. You also can copy files from a source location to a specified file path on computers.

Previously many of these features were configured with logon, logoff, startup, or shutdown scripts or by manual configuration of system images. Therefore, with GP preferences, you may able to replace these types of scripts or manual configuration. Applying configuration through preferences is easier than you think as well. For example, if you donít want computers to run a service such as the FTP service or the World Wide Web Publishing service, you can configure a preference to disable and stop the service. Although preferences are unmanaged and not enforced, you can set the preference to be applied each time Group Policy is refreshed. As a result, if a user started the service, it would be stopped and then disabled whenever GP is refreshed.

So whatís the scoop. Here it is: GP preferences allow you to configure many areas of the operating system and they may allow you to replace certain types of scripts and manual configuration tasks.

Unlike GP settings which you set to an Enabled, Disabled or Not Configured state, you configure most preferences using one of four actions. These actions are: Create, Replace, Update, and Delete, which you can remember using the handy acronym C-R-U-D.

The Create action creates a preference if it doesnít already exist. For example, you can use the Create action to create and set the value of a user environment variable called CurrentOrg on computers where it does not yet exist. If the variable already exists, the value of the variable will not be changed.

The Replace action creates preferences that donít yet exist, or deletes and then creates preferences that already exist. For example, you can use the Replace action to replace a file on computers. If the file exists, Group Policy removes it from the target location, copies it from a specified source location and then overwrites the existing file in a designated target location. If the file doesnít exist, Group Policy simply copies it from the source location to the designated target location.

The Update action creates preferences that donít yet exist or modifies preferences if they exist. For example, you can use the Update action to modify a local group on computers. If the local group exists, you are able to rename the group and update its settings with the settings youíve defined for the preference item. This allows you to add users and groups as members while ensuring current membership in the group is not modified. However, as with many preferences, you have action modifiers, which act as additional update options, as well. With these update modifiers, you could choose to delete all member users, delete all member groups, or perform both actions.

The Delete action deletes preferences if they exist. For example, you could use the Delete action to delete a specified network share from computers. Action modifiers allow you to perform other tasks as well, such as deleting all regular shares, all hidden non-administrative shares, all administrative drive-letter shares or any combination thereof.

So thatís CRUD and thatís how it works. In addition to preferences you manage using C-R-U-D, there are preferences you manage using an interface similar to the actual Control Panel interface. Generally, these preferences have both CRUD actions that can be applied and editing states. For ease of reference, I call these special preference and they include preference items for:

         Start Menu settings

         Regional and Language settings

         Internet options

         Folder options

         Power options

You can identify special preference items immediately because settings are underlined using a solid green line or a red dashed line or have an icon depicting a green circle or a red circle. These elements indicate the editing state of a particular item. Green items are delivered and processed. Red items are not delivered or processed.

One thing to point out and if youíve been working with Windows for a while, you wonít be surprised as youíve probably come to expect that things arenít always clear cut. And indeed, there are standard preference items that have extended interfaces. For example, when you create preference items for scheduled tasks to run in Windows Vista or later, you have the CRUD actions and an extended interface similar to the standard interface used by Windows Vista or later. However, these preference items wonít have green and red editing state indicators. The green and red indicators tell you that you are working with a special preference item.

The best way to show you how special preferences are used is just to start right in and go. When you are configuring preferences for the Start Menu, you specify whether you want to create a preference item for computers running Windows XP or computers running Windows Vista and later. You can then define general settings, including icon size for programs and then number of programs to list on the Start Menu as well as configuration options for the Classic Start Menu, the simple Start Menu or both.

Preference items for folder options and power options are also divided into separate items for computers running Windows XP or computers running Windows Vista and later. For Windows XP, you can configure Power options and Power schemes. For Windows Vista and later, you can configure Power plans.

With Internet options, you can configure settings based on the browser version. There are separate preference items for Internet Explorer 5 and 6, Internet Explorer 7, and Internet Explorer 8. You specify the desired settings using a dialog box similar to the Internet Options dialog box you see when the related browser version is installed.

Although most Group Policy preferences support only the CRUD management actions, a few also support editing states and youíll know them as soon as you see them because they have UIs similar to what youíll find in the relevant operating system or application. For example, the Internet Settings preference is specific to the version of Internet Explorer installed while the Power Options preference is specific to the Windows version installed.

Wondering what other preferences support editing states? Well, hereís a complete list:

         Start Menu settings

         Regional and Language settings

         Internet options

         Folder options

         Power options (to include Power Schemes)

The editing state of a particular option is depicted visually as follows:

         Green means the setting will be delivered and processed by the client.

         Red means the setting will not be delivered or processed by the client.

Or put another way:

         Green (go; processed)

         Red (no go; not processed)

When an option is green, you can enable, disable or configure the option to a specific value to control how the option is used. When an option is red, it is not applied so the current value is irrelevant.

Use the function keys to toggle the editing state. To enable all options on the currently selected tab, press F5. To disable all options on the currently selected tab, press F8. To enable current, press F6. To disable current, press F7. For quick reference:

         F5 = Enable All

         F6 = Enable Current

         F7 = Disable Current

         F8 = Disable All

Well, there you have itóa whole lot of discussion about Group Policy Preferences, which I hope more folks will start using to master the enterprise PC. Thanks for reading! And as Bob Dylan croons, "You better start swimming or you'll sink like a stone."

 

William R. Stanek

williamstanek at aol dot com

Twitter at http://twitter.com/WilliamStanek

 

 

Book Pirating

Recently, I found that from just one Bit Torrent site, 30,000 people had illegally downloaded my book Windows 7: The Definitive Guide. A quick check of several other Bit Torrent sites brought the number up to 57,000. On a book that's sold 12,000 copies after 2,000 hours of work, that's downright discouraging. Even worse, some of these same people who got the book for free then trashed the book in reviews.

Obviously, with that many downloads, a lot of people found the book to be useful and were telling other people where they could get the book for free. I understand that some people think publishers / corporations are evil or such, but on the other end of that are writers like me who make a living from their work.

Some people don't care or may not realize how much work goes into writing a book. But I would like to think there are honest people out there in the world too. If you got this book or other of my books for free through an illegal download or otherwise, I hope you'll take the time to do the right thing and either purchase the book from an actual store or an online retailer. Alternatively, simply donate directly to me what you think the book is worth:

If you think the book is worth $10 or $20 in the form you have it in, works for me. If you want to pay the full list price of $59.99, works for me too. Certainly someone's hard work is worth paying for, and your honesty is much appreciated.

So yeah, the above was my initial rant. I've since talked about it more with others. I am, of course, successful in writing. But behind that success is an enormous amount of effort. I work on average 100+ hours a week, so you bet I get a lot done and write a lot of books. However, if I didn't love the work and wasn't passionate about writing, the many hours of work each year just would not make sense. The hours I put in are the equivalent of 2 1/2 full-time jobs. Sure I can do it in the comfort of my own home at any hour of the day or night, but I do so 7 days a week and usually at all hours of the day and night. If all my effort was about money, I would have stopped writing long ago.

But I love writing. I love sharing what I know and what I've learned with others. Like my friend Ed Wilson, author of many fine books, said so well in a recent post about piracy: "Money is not the primary motivation but it does provide some incentive to go without sleep for days on end as one strives to meet the deadlines." He went on to say that when he figures out his time spent and compensation that he'd actually earn more mowing grass for a living (but he's allergic to grass). Ditto. I've figured out compensation for some of my books and it came in at not much more than minimum. Books that sell well make up for those that don't, but still the actual compensation on an hourly basis isn't much for the tremendous effort that goes into the writing.
 

Latest Books

Since completing work on Active Directory Administrator's Pocket Consultant, Group Policy Administrator's Pocket Consultant and PowerShell 2.0 Administrator's Pocket Consultant, I've been heads down working on a slate of new books. The first of these books is Windows 7 Administrator's Pocket Consultant, which ships to the printers on Wednesday (8/12) and is being released on 8/26. Windows 7 Administrator's Pocket Consultant is 672 pages and meant for administrators and developers.

Next is Windows 7: The Definitive Guide. I just finished writing the final chapter. The book's being published on 10/22. Lots of work to do between now and then as I'm just starting the editing and review phase. The book's 1025 pages. It's huge!

The final book is Exchange Server 2010 Administrator's Pocket Consultant. I'm writing the final chapter and front matter this week, then will start editing and review. Exchange 2010 essentially is a new product as everything about Exchange has changed from basic security on up. Exchange Server 2010 Administrator's Pocket Consultant is being published on 10/7.

Completing 2200+ pages of writing was exhausting. Definitely needing some R&R, especially as this follows 1000+ pages of writing previously. The next few months of editing and review are going to be intense.

Hope you enjoy the books!


Your Help & Next Up

Really need your help spreading the word about Active Directory Administrator's Pocket Consultant and Windows Group Policy Administrator's Pocket Consultant, released in January and February 2009 respectively. These are books readers asked for and I wrote on faith that they'd have strong support from readers. The books apply to Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 Release 2 on the server side and Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 on the client side.

Currently working to complete Windows 7 Administrator's Pocket Consultant. I'm deep in the edit and review phase. Officially, I'm counting it as my 100th book. Pretty good milestone after 20 years as a professional writer. ;-)

Also working on a new Exchange Administrator's Pocket Consultant and Windows 7 The Definitive Guide. Not sleeping much (and won't have time to sleep much until these are done). Hopefully, all the hard work will mean really great books for readers!


PowerShell 2.0 APC - Finally

Finished up work on Windows PowerShell 2.0 Administrator's Pocket Consultant. The book released on May 27, 2009. Fun stuff you might not know that you can do with PowerShell? How about image conversion and manipulation using System.Drawing.Bitmap. Using System.Drawing.Bitmap you can work with BMP, GIF, JPEG, PNG, TIFF, and WMF images. You can convert to/from any of these formats:

BMP - Bitmap format
GIF - GIF format
JPEG - JPEG format
PNG - PNG format
TIFF - TIFF format
WMF - WMF format

The following example loads the required .NET assemblies, gets an object reference for the image, then displays height and width of the image. The variable $i holds the image reference.

[Reflection.Assembly]::LoadWithPartialName("System.Windows.Forms");
$i = new-object System.Drawing.Bitmap test.tiff;
$i.height;
$i.width;

Here, the test image is in your working directory and called test.tiff. You can substitute whatever you've named your image (or reference a file path).

Now that you have an object reference you can work with the image. You could rotate the image 90 degrees by entering:

$i.rotateflip("Rotate90FlipNone");

Alternatively rotate 180 using Rotate180FlipNone or rotate 270 using Rotate270FlipNone. Also can FlipX, FlipY or FlipXY instead of FlipNone. The complete set of options are as follows:

RotateNoneFlipNone - Uses no rotation and no flipping.
Rotate90FlipNone - Uses a 90-degree rotation without flipping.
Rotate180FlipNone - Uses a 180-degree rotation without flipping.
Rotate270FlipNone - Uses a 270-degree rotation without flipping.
RotateNoneFlipX - Uses no rotation followed by a horizontal flip.
Rotate90FlipX - Uses a 90-degree rotation followed by a horizontal flip.
Rotate180FlipX - Uses a 180-degree rotation followed by a horizontal flip.
Rotate270FlipX - Uses a 270-degree rotation followed by a horizontal flip.
RotateNoneFlipY - Uses no rotation followed by a vertical flip.
Rotate90FlipY - Uses a 90-degree rotation followed by a vertical flip.
Rotate180FlipY - Uses a 180-degree rotation followed by a vertical flip.
Rotate270FlipY - Uses a 270-degree rotation followed by a vertical flip.
RotateNoneFlipXY - Uses no rotation followed by a horizontal and vertical flip.
Rotate90FlipXY - Uses a 90-degree rotation followed by a horizontal and vertical flip.
Rotate180FlipXY - Uses a 180-degree rotation followed by a horizontal and vertical flip.
Rotate270FlipXY - Uses a 270-degree rotation followed by a horizontal and vertical flip.

The working copy of the image is not saved yet to the file system. You can save the modified image as BMP, GIF, JPEG, PNG, TIFF, or WMF. Keep in mind that you may lose quality going from a format like TIFF to a format like JPEG. The following example saves as GIF format:

$i.Save("test.gif","GIF");

To display the properties of the image object you are working with, enter:

$i;

To display the complete set of methods and properties for System.Drawing.Bitmap objects enter:

$i | get-member;

The complete example comes together like this:

#Load required assemblies and get object reference
[Reflection.Assembly]::LoadWithPartialName("System.Windows.Forms");
$i = new-object System.Drawing.Bitmap test.tiff;

#Display image properties including height and width
$i;

#Play with the image
$i.rotateflip("Rotate90FlipNone");

#Save with the image in the desired format
$i.Save("test.gif","GIF");

Although image manipulation isn't really an admin feature discussed in the PowerShell 2.0 Administrator's Pocket Consultant, the .NET Framework is. Hopefully fun to play with and maybe will help in getting started with .NET Framework and objects. Back to work...
 

Elevate America

If you haven't heard about Microsoft's Elevate America initiative yet, I'd like to be the first to introduce you to this innovative program that provides unemployed American workers with immediate access to free and low-cost tools and training designed to build the critical job skills that are needed to be competitive in todayís marketplace. As a long-time Microsoft author, I'm proud of the part the folks that I work with every day will have in this program, which will provide one million training and certification vouchers to help people across America acquire and build their skills and get a job. Read more about this program.

Read all about it...

My newest books were just released by Microsoft. They are Active Directory Administrator's Pocket Consultant and Group Policy Administrator's Pocket Consultant. You can learn more about the books and read the introductions here and here.

Graphic Novels

Battle for Ruin Mist: The Graphic Novels
Experience Ruin Mist Like Never Before
Live the Books
www.ruinmistmovie.com



Free Books Going... Gone...

Well, I got out 185 books to 150 folks, and hope the books are put to good use. Apologies to those who inquired but didn't get a book. I tried my best to only promise books where I knew I had a copy of a book on hand. I didn't actually charge anyone postage, but I knew if I said I'd charge postage only those who really wanted and needed a book would ask for it. The most expensive postage: $58.97 for sending one book to Poland, runner up was the cost of sending out the Windows Server 2003 Resource Kit. Ouch, that thing weighed more than a pair of bricks.

Tech Blog

Over the years, I've tried to keep in close touch with you, the reader. I update this site (when time allows), and have a number of other initiatives. One of those initiatives was TechCraft but I never had enough time to get it fully off the ground. I'm kicking around the idea of a writing a regular technology blog. As a reader, would you tune in to a free tech blog? Yes | No | I'd rather See Your Next Book On....

Even Better Value

Training budgets often are the first to go when budgets tighten and the economy is in a recession. To help squeezed budgets and offset increasing travel costs, I've slashed seminar prices yet again. If you're looking for training and want to learn from one of the best, I don't think you'll find a better value anywhere. Currently, I offer technical training at $1895 for 5-day training and $3995 for 12-day training in areas of my technical expertise. Sign up in a group of 2 or more and get an additional 10% off each.

Print or Ebook

Months ago, I wrote about book piracy and how my tech books were being illegally downloaded. If you enjoy my books, I hope you'll support my work by buying the official print or ebook editions. Without your support, the books may not be available in the future. My recently published books include:

Windows Server 2008 Administrator's Pocket Consultant
Amazon | BN

IIS 7.0 Administrator's Pocket Consultant
Amazon | BN

Exchange Server 2007 Administrator's Pocket Consultant 2nd Edition
Amazon | BN

Windows Vista Administrator's Pocket Consultant
Amazon | BN

Windows Vista: The Definitive Guide
Amazon | BN

MCSE Core Required Exams in a Nutshell: The required 70: 290, 291, 293 and 294 Exams
Amazon  | BN

If you've read and enjoyed these books, I hope you'll tell others about them. I also have two new books:

Windows Command-line Administrator's Pocket Consultant 2nd Edition
Amazon | BN

SQL Server 2008 Administrator's Pocket Consultant
Amazon | BN

You can also get my books at Audible, Borders, BooksAMillion, BookPool, and more.

Thank you for reading.

Sincerely,

William R. Stanek

Keeping the Faith

Well, the book giveaway got off to a bumpy start as real life commitments, deadlines and an unreliable assistant all got in the way. Also I learned a lesson about how expensive overseas postage is, without resorting to cattle class (media mail) or better known as your-package-will-get-there-eventually mail.

 

100th Book

Since I've been locked away in my office writing like crazy for the past several years, I have a storeroom chock full of books from my publishers. Normally, I give these away to IT folks who write to me via email or care of my publisher or to IT staffers who will put them to good use. If you'd like a free book, please send an email to william @ williamstanek.com for details.

I have about 200 books to give away. This book giveaway is an early celebration of sorts to mark a special event, my 100th published book (which is being published in 2009).

Thank you for reading,

William Stanek

Features

Group Policy help is a click away... You'll find 800 pages of GP help in two separate references:

Active Directory Group Policy Reference
Group Policy Programmer's Reference

Windows Vista Articles:

New - Get tips and advice for installing Windows Vista Service Pack 1
New
- Resolving Boot and Installation Issues After Installing Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1) or Windows Server 2008

New - Getting to know Windows Vista
New
- Windows Vista Feature Differences

New - Nitty gritty installation guide for Windows Vista
New - Where Is It In Windows Vista: The Reference
New - Resolving Sleep/Resume and iPod, iTunes, My Book problems

 

Web Presentations

Want the latest cutting edge advice on Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008? Okay, here you go... ...three web presentations that'll change how you view Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008.

New - 1. Windows Vista: the Diagnostics and Problem Resolution Framework

New - 2. Windows Vista: the Boot and Pre-boot Architecture

New - 3. Windows Vista: the User Account Control Architecture

 

Tech Craft

Looking for how-to, tips and tricks for working with Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, Exchange Server 2003, IIS 6.0 and SQL Server 2005? Check out Tech Craft my feature technology columns.

 

Bugville Critters

I've written 5 to 7 books a year since the early 1990s, so readers often ask me what I do other than work. Though I typically work 7 days a week, I do find ways to have fun. One of those ways is to write fictional stories. Some of my latest creations are the critters featured here. More than twelve Bugville Critters titles are available in print and in audio.

Get the books at Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.com. Look for premium, extended editions priced at $19.95, deluxe editions priced at $9.95, and treasury collections priced at $29.95. Learn more at bugville.reagentpress.com.

Buster

Cat

Barry

Sarah

Lass

Mom & the Twins

 

More...

You can learn more about what I'm doing in my writing and life at http://stanek.reagentpress.com/.

Other sites of interest:

www.bugvillecritters.com
www.robertstanek.com 
www.ruinmist.com
www.themagiclands.com
www.ruinmistmovie.com
www.reagentpress.com
www.tvpress.com
 

Thank you!

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The obligatory copyright statement:
©William R. Stanek 2004-2011. All Rights Reserved.