Unlocking USB Drives with Cipher
I appreciate Mark Minasi’s Cipher tip in his Windows Power Tools column (“Manage Your EFS Keys with Cipher,” February 2008, InstantDoc ID 97735). I have a USB drive that I move between two machines. Because of company policy, the contents of any USB drive connected to a laptop are encrypted with Cipher. The encryption occurs during the logoff sequence (a GPO logoff script). The first time, the process can hang the logoff sequense as it processes your USB device (in my case, a 200GB drive at 25 percent capacity). After that, it scans for deltas and runs quicker. Mark’s technique let me export/import my keys to the second machine and continue to access the data.

—ajrinaldi

PowerShell Intro
Robert Sheldon’s article in the February 2008 issue of Windows IT Pro (“PowerShell 101, Lesson 1,” InstantDoc ID 97742) provides a terrific introduction to PowerShell. I would’ve liked to see some mention of Get-Command and Get-Member because these tools, together with Get-Help, comprise a great selection of tools for learning the capability of PowerShell cmdlets. The article also should have mentioned the fact that PowerShell, as initially installed, can’t run scripts. If readers can’t get simple scripts to run, they’ll conclude that PowerShell doesn’t work. The use of Set- ExecutionPolicy, as detailed in the Help file, will overcome this restriction. Robert does give a good overview of aliases and how you can use them. I hope he includes, in follow-up articles, some guidelines about not using them in scripts.

—Richard Siddaway

Thanks for your valuable feedback! You raise a good point about running script files, and you’re correct in pointing out that if users want to run a PowerShell script file, they must first use the Set-ExecutionPolicy cmdlet to set the execution policy. They can find information about the cmdlet by retrieving its Help file in PowerShell.

In later installments, I do plan to discuss how to run script files. We’ve divided the information into two series: PowerShell 101 and PowerShell 201. In addition to the topics I cover in the first and second installments (February and March 2008), the PowerShell 101 series will cover how to use operators and work with expressions, how to work with string values in your commands, how to use variables in your commands, and how to work with PowerShell providers to access various data stores. The PowerShell 201 series will cover how to implement flow control in your commands, how to work with data types, how to create and use functions, and how to persist PowerShell scripts through script files and profiles. I hope this series provides a solid foundation for using PowerShell.

—Robert Sheldon

Hyper-V vs. ESX
I want to thank Michael Otey for his look at Microsoft’s Hyper-V thin hypervisor (“A First Look at Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V,” February 2008, InstantDoc ID 97857). In principle, I agree that Hyper-V might drive adoption of Windows Server 2008. However, I disagree that Hyper-V levels the playing field with VMware’s ESX Server. Here’s why:

  • VirtualCenter—Michael mentions System Center for managing Hyper-V. Although I agree that managing some aspects of ESX can be tricky, VirtualCenter simplifies the management of resources, performance, migrations, and virtual machine (VM) creation across your enterprise.
  • HA and Distributed Resource Schedule (DRS) clusters— These VirtualCenter features let you move VMs among ESX servers. DRS is particularly useful because you can create rules that prevent redundant VMs from being hosted on the same ESX server. (Think domain controllers—DCs—or MSCS nodes.) Keep in mind that all the migrations occur live.
  • Community—The VMware Technology Network (VMTN) is a vibrant, technically strong community that solves many challenges of using ESX autonomously.
  • VMFS and .vmdk files— VMware’s VMFS file system and .vmdk are far more elegant than the partition model that Hyper-V uses. Instead of requiring individual partitions for guests, you create large VMFS volumes. Several VMs can happily coexist on a VMFS volume. The virtual disk file (.vmdk) is essentially a virtual partition in a file.

Hyper-V might be fine for the SMB, but in my opinion ESX is still the only real contender from an enterprise perspective. That said, Michael’s article got me excited by Microsoft’s progress because I’m sure it’ll spark innovation from VMware. The recently released ESX 3.5 is early evidence of VMware’s initiative. Several new experimental features have been integrated to improve the overall ESX experience.

—Brent McCraney

Thank you for writing. Watch for Michael Otey’s virtualization shootout, in which he compares Hyper-V with ESX Server 3.5, in the June issue.

—Amy Eisenberg

Create SPF Records Automatically
I read the very useful Reader to Reader article by Nolan Garrett and Jeff Jones about SPF records (“Fighting Spam and Phishing with SPF,” InstantDoc ID 98034, March 2008). I just want to add that Microsoft provides an easy Sender ID Framework SPF Record Wizard that automates the procedure of creating SPF records. You can find it at www.microsoft.com/mscorp/safety/content/technologies/senderid/wizard.

—Apostolos Fotakelis