Friday, October 27, 2006

Making a MacBook Pro my development machine, or Joining a Windows Server 2003 SP1 Parallels virtual machine to Active Directory

As I casually mentioned in my last post, work got me a MacBook Pro Core Duo to replace the aging IBM ThinkPad T42 I came to loathe on a daily basis.

Why the Mac? Easy, it runs Windows and OS X if we decide to support OS X in the future, and it came in $100 cheaper than an identically configured new Lenovo ThinkPad with our supposedly steep corporate discount, and no I am not kidding.

So how am I going to work? That was kinda the mystery part. I wasn't sure if I would use Boot Camp or Parallels, but the intention was to start using Parallels with a safety net Boot Camp partition for testing at full speed

I was also taking time with this change to move over to Windows Server 2003 SP1 because of work I have been doing on I did the equivalent of 40 hours worth of work on a feature that is basically in stasis because Jeff and I couldn't get it deployed since the config is so different between IIS 5.1 and IIS 6 for the feauture I built. I promised I would never let that happen again, for a work or side project, and just develop everything under IIS 6.

So I installed Win2K3 R2 SP1 in Parallels Build 1940 for my work VM, and then tried to join it to the domain and then I wait and wait until I see The remote procedure call failed and did not execute. I was stunned, fear stricken actually, that my whole scheme of using the MacBook Pro with OS X and Parallels had just gone up in flames. It took me a week of testing, Googling, forum crawls, and a fair bit of praying, but I finally cracked the problem.

You can read my Parallels Forum Post, I am murdocdv, for the solution, but I will repeat here. Windows Server 2003 SP1 changes the way RPC packets are formed to increase performance. The details are in this MS KB article. This change though causes some VPN and firewall software to block the RPC packets because it doesn't understand them, and it dawned on my at some point that perhaps the way Parallels bridges the OS X networking to the guest VM networking is close enough to a VPN connection that the hotfix and registry change in the KB article might allow Win2K3 SP1 to join the domain. That is exactly what happened, but you have to follow the directions exactly. Install hotfix first and reboot, then change registry and reboot, then join domain. Not having W2K3 in the domain would have been a dealbreaker, so I am exremely relieved to have fixed this problem.

Parallels Desktop 3.0 Build 5608 still has the domain joining issue, at least for me. You still have to manually change the way Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 2 (SP2) RPC works to disable RPC negotiation. I forgot about this issue for a few hours before using the right terms in Google the other day. Actually, I think I had eliminated this from the probability matrix for troubleshooting my domain joining problem because surely, *surely*, Parallels had updated their networking stack to work with RPC negotiation, but I was wrong. Also, I misremembered the Knowledge Base article. I thought that with SP2, the don't negotiate behavior was going to be the default, wrong again. I am probably going to have to print out this KB article and hang it on the cube so I don't forgot again :-)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

How iTunes saved my vacation

In my Email to Steve Jobs... I told his Steveness that
...I will not buy another video from iTunes until they reach full HD resolution, 1080p.
Allow me to now come clean and say I have already bought several videos from iTunes at 640x480, meaning I paid for them they were not free, and DVD ripping is pretty crappy and on anything but the latest hardware.

Why did I eat my own words? Well I travelled to Italy earlier this month (which was fantastic, highly recommended if you like historic stuff, beautiful country, or wonderful food) and had a pile of DVDs for my 2 year old son to watch on the flights. Well inexplicably, Alitalia refuses to let you use and CD/DVD drive while inflight, even once you have hit cruising altitude! I was actually furious, and thankfully going to Italy the Alitalia leg of the trip was only from London to Rome, but going home it was the Rome to NYC direct 9 hour flight, the kid was definitely not going to hold out that long. The first week of my trip was spent without Internet access in a Tuscan Villa, courtesy of Rentvillas (one of the sites I helped develop while at Vertigo Software), so I couldn't get Handbrake to start ripping DVDs on OS X until I got to Rome.

Once I got to Rome, another wrinkle was that I couldn't rip while I was touring the Collesium or walking the streets because the hotel room power was shutoff if you didn't have the keycard in a slot while in the room. So I only had 2 nights to rip some DVDs, and holy cow is it slow. On the iBook G4 933 MHz OS X machine, it was running between 6-8 hours to rip 1 hour of video! So unless I bought some video off iTunes, I was going to only have 2 hours of video for a 9 hour flight. Sure, some kids will watch the same video over and over again in a loop, but not my kid, he watches the same thing over and over, but there has to be breaks. So I bought a couple episodes of Dora The Explorer, Little Einsteins, and the Pixard movie A Bug's Life. This all downloaded in far less time than ripping a single hour of video and made the flight home a far more enjoyable experience for all.

Just for comparison's sake, when I got home I fired up my new MacBook Pro Core Duo (obsoleted yesterday Core 2 Duo MacBook Pros, damn you Steve Jobs) that work has provided as my main development machine (more on this latter) and ripped some video with Handbrake. OMG, it only takes about one hour to rip one hour of video! This is getting into the realm of usable and has be seriously considering making a run at ripping all my DVDs in preperation for the iTV. Also, my son just beats on the discs he uses and I can't imagine rebuying anything that he watches.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Review Update: Xbox 360 and the Xbox Live Marketplace

Just read a Blackfriars' Marketing: Zune Marketplace pricing too cute by half by way of MacDailyNews and it got me thinking about the 40 MS Points I have sitting in the Xbox Live Marketplace, time to provide another Xbox 360 Review Update
For all that Microsoft got right with Xbox Live, foisting an alternate currency on consumers to buy anything is just wrong. I am not complaining about that cost of the service because I think it's perfectly reasonable to charge for something like this, I am purely worked up because this is entirely anti-consumer, and MS is trying to expand their currency to the Zuna Marketplace and anything else that involves a monetary transaction.
Apparently MS doesn't have enough money in the bank. What gets me the most is that, as the Blackfriar's Marketing points out, you are giving one of the biggest companies in the world, $40 Billion in the bank, a LOAN. How is this? You cannot buy just the points you need for a transaction, you have to buy them in preset denominations that are almost guaranteed to leave you with a balance, so MS has some of your money and you get nothing.
MS Points make me LESS likely to buy, not more. Say I see something on the Xbox Live Marketplace that I want to buy, they are actually making it hard to spend money. I would nearly always have to add points to my Xbox Live account, then buy the item with points. If MS had just used dollars, the transaction would have been over a few steps ago. Why? I have to figure out the stupid conversion to dollars to see if the item is worth me spending my money on it. MS you really think people are stupid enough to not feel when they are getting fleeced just because you have this points barrier in the way?
What is that exchange rate again?Right now, $1.00 is worth about 78 points, so a point is worth $0.0125 dollars. Say I have 40 points sitting in my account, that's $0.50 worth of points. What happens when MS decides to inflate the minimum amount of points needed to buy something, my points are suddenly worth less than when I bought them. Can I "cash out" my points? No. Whatever balance I have in my account is totally at the mercy of Microsoft's accounting department, everything costs more than listed because you can't just buy that item, you have to buy a pack of points. Insane.
Bye Bye Xbox Live Marketplace. So with all that said, I have decided I will not be buying any more items from the Xbox Live Marketplace. The only way MS understands that the scheme they hatched sucks is if consumers vote with their dollars, or lack of dollars. I will still download demoes, videos, anything free, but MS you can forget about me buying anything ever again. Enjoy the 40P/$.50, I am sure you can compound interest that into hundreds of dollars before I die.