Minasi's Windows Networking Tech Page
Issue #71 July 2008
Document copyright 2008 Mark Minasi; please
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IT Expert Don Jones Tells You About
"Your IT Resume in 2018"
You Can Sysprep More Than Three
Times... Here's How
a Seminar to Your Site
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Hi all —
At our Forum meeting earlier this year, Don Jones did a nice talk on what
you need to do to stay employed for the next ten years. He's kindly
summarized that here in a short piece that I think you'll enjoy.
You'll also read about a pernicious myth that Vista can only be Sysprepped
three times. It ain't true, but it's quite hard to figure out how to
avoid the dread Sysprep Fatal Error... until you read this newsletter. But first, a word from our sponsor...
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the public class schedule arranged, but the MISAC folks, who've
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In this issue, I'm pleased to have a guest piece from Don Jones, a smart
guy with some thoughts about how you can find yourself still employed in the
IT business ten years from now. Then I can't wait to tell you about
some things I found out about Sysprep. Have you heard the rumor that
you can only Sysprep a Vista image three times? Turns out it's not
true, as you'll see later.
IT Expert Don Jones Tells You
About "Your IT Resume in 2018"
Don Jones is an old friend and one of the smartest guys
I know. One of Don's greatest strengths is that he can attack a topic,
assimilate it and explain it wonderfully well in very short order. I'm
posting something that he wrote because... ah, well, let me just hand it
over to Don:
"At this past April’s Minasi Forum Meeting in Virginia
Beach, Mark asked me to do a somewhat ad-hoc keynote address to help kick
things off. I decided to briefly discuss something that’s been on my mind a
lot lately: Keeping up with the competition. Specifically, making sure your
resume has the right things to make you a valuable member of a company –
whether it’s your current one or not – and to help ensure continued
promotion through the years. The talk went over pretty well, and so Mark
asked me to write up some of the salient points for your perusal. I
therefore give you..."
Your IT Resume in 2018:
A look at what the best IT professional resumes will contain in ten
In the coming years we’re going to see a polarization
of IT job roles within the Microsoft space. We’ll see entry level jobs which
pay less than they often do today, higher-end jobs which tend to pay more,
and a gradual elimination of middle-level jobs. High-end jobs will become
more efficient, and that’s what will drive the mid-levels out of business;
low-end jobs will primarily be manual labor (desktop config) and
customer-facing (help desk) positions where you need a body, but not
necessarily a very skilled one. We’ve already seen this sort of polarization
in other IT spaces, including Unix (where it’s been going on for years),
AS/400, Cisco, and so forth. There are eight specific things you can do
now to keep yourself on the top of the food chain in the coming years.
1: Be Business Savvy
You can’t be a pure geek forever. IT pros will be expected to take more
responsibility for aligning business needs and IT resources. Don’t just
implement technology – learn to analyze what the business needs, how to
speak CxO-talk, and make recommendations appropriately. Sure, what you
recommend might not be the best technical solution – but technology
is useless unless it aligns perfectly to what the business needs that
technology to do. Learn to make business justifications for your actions
Learn an IT management framework – ITIL, COBIT, whatever you like. High-end
IT pros will be able to develop and work within framework-based management
processes, which help increase stability, lower costs, and improve
efficiency. You’ll also need to focus on third-party solutions that lend
themselves to framework-based management. The latest tool cool doesn’t
support an ITIL process workflow? Then don’t buy it – find a tool that fits
better into your processes.
Learn Windows PowerShell, and do it now. Microsoft has never had anything
like this – don’t kid yourself into thinking it’s just a replacement for
VBScript. PowerShell is Microsoft’s way of finally giving you an operating
system and suite of related products that can be automated; take
advantage. Higher-end IT pros will do most of their work from the
command-line, and they’ll love it. They’ll write scripts that perform
management tasks in accordance with corporate policies and processes –
reducing human error, increasing consistency, stability, security, and their
paychecks. Do not kid yourself and think that you can skip this trend –
30 years of Unix administration ain’t wrong.
4: Stay Ahead
Keep on top of the newest product version. Yeah, I know, this is tough –
but don’t fall behind. You can’t afford to. You need to be the go-to person
for information on why to implement something new, why not to
implement it, and when, if ever, to actually do so. And your answers
need to be based on reason and reality, not religion and fear of change. Be
neither an advocate nor opponent of change; simply be ready to implement
what’s best for the business.
5: Go Hetero
The days of the homogeneous environment are gone. Companies are looking for
the best tool for the best job, and that means environments with a mix of
Windows, *nix, Mac, abacuses, slide rules, and whatever else works. Don’t
be known as the “Windows guy (or gal)” who has to toss a problem over the
wall if it isn’t on “your” operating system. Get the skills you need to
perform at least basic tasks in your field on a variety of operating
systems. Be the one who advocates a heterogeneous environment, either in the
data center or on the desktop – when it’s right for the business. The
added cost of supporting multiple operating systems is not necessarily
higher than the cost of making an operating system do something it’s not
well-suited for – remember that.
6: Become a Expert in Some Domain
Individual systems within your environment will become more complex –
messaging, directory services, systems management, health management, and
more. Don’t try to become an expert in all of them: Become a guru in one.
Sure, you may need deep ancillary knowledge – Exchange gurus know a bit
about Active Directory, for example – but carve a niche for yourself and own
7: Branch Out
That said, don’t ignore every other technology and product in the world.
Have secondary expertise in related and connected systems. Nobody wants the
Exchange admin to have no clue what’s going on simply because “it’s an AD
problem” – businesspeople want a person who can fix the dang problem. And
don’t ever let “your” niche be product-based! You might work with Exchange
most of the time, but make yourself a messaging expert, with
secondary knowledge in competing and connected systems (Lotus Notes). You
never know when integration, migration, or some other need will come along
that calls for a business-level expert.
I’m not talking about outsourcing your help desk to a foreign country – I’m
talking about “Software as a Service,” meaning outsourcing bits of your IT
infrastructure – such as messaging, since I’ve used that work a dozen times
already – to hosting companies. This is especially relevant for the
small-to-medium business sector, but also for enterprises. I’m not saying
you should outsource major parts of your infrastructure; I’m saying
you need to understand if you should do so. Know the pros. Know the
cons. Know what can be outsourced, what can’t, and what the tradeoffs are.
9: A Bonus
Here’s an extra point I didn’t bring out at the Forum Meeting, but should
have: Get Smart. One thing that’s always distressed me about Windows
admins is how many of them know so little about what’s going on inside the
product that pays their salaries. I realize Windows came from the world of
“just double-click Setup,” but that world is gone, gone, gone. Start to
learn why Windows works the way it does. How it does what it
does. Get fascinated by it. Read Mark Russinovich’s books, Bill Boswell’s
books, Greg Shields’ books and magazine columns – devour the
“insider” stuff. Doing so makes troubleshooting easier, but also makes
planning, deploying, monitoring, optimizing, automating – heck,
everything is easier to do more intelligently when you know what’s going
on under the hood.
So there you have it – you’ve got a lot of work lined
up. IT is moving fast, though, so don’t take the full ten years to get this
stuff under your belt; start now. Pick your head up from the daily
firefighting routine. Yeah, you may have to spend some non-work hours
improving yourself, but I promise, it’ll pay off. Take on new projects at
work, to help expose yourself not only to new technologies and products, but
to new business processes and needs. Read books. Take a class. Participate
in a community – yes, IT needs to be a hobby as well as a profession. Attend
conferences whenever you can. Treat IT as a career – you think
doctors earn the big bucks because they sit home all night? No, they work
long hours, attend conferences, read journals, take classes, and more – it’s
a lifestyle and a career! And you can do it.
Don Jones is a Windows PowerShell MVP Award
recipient and a co-founder of Concentrated Technology. Read his
PowerShellblog, Tech Arguments with Greg Shields, and contact him at
You Can Sysprep More Than Three Times... Here's
Back in 2005, I started hearing that Sysprep had changed in some irritating
way. Ever since XP's SP2, I'd heard, you could only run Sysprep three
times on an image. If you tried to run Sysprep more than three times,
you'd get a "fatal error," and Sysprep would work no more. I have heard
this refrain more and more loudly since Vista has appeared, and so I figured
hey, it must be true.
As it turns out, it's not, on two counts.
First, I am told that this only happened on the retail copies of XP and
Vista, and never happened on the copy of Vista that volume license customers
get. I've not verified this, but it makes sense given Microsoft's normal
stance vis-a-vis non-volume customers. And even if I'm wrong on this one, it
won't matter, because I'll show you how non-volume license customers can avoid the
"three Syspreps and you're out" problem.
Second... well, thereby hangs the tale. Yes, Sysprep will emit a fatal
error and refuse to work after three times if you
- Build a Vista box.
- Do not activate it.
- Install a few apps.
- Sysprep the Vista box.
- Boot the box up.
- Sysprep it again.
- Boot it again.
- Sysprep it again.
- Boot it again.
- Try to Sysprep it again, and get the fatal error.
What's really happened is this: you built the Vista box, and ran
Sysprep on it. That had the side-effect of "rearming" your Windows
activation, resetting the 30 day grace period on your Vista installation.
Vista doesn't let you rearm more than three times. (Yes, I know, there are
plenty of Web pages out there about how you might be able to get your Vista box
to give you more rearms, but I'm interested in this article on how to avoid the
three-Syspreps-and-you're-out problem, not how to enable pirates.)
Thus, three Syspreps causes three rearms, which causes the error.
If there were only a way to get Sysprep not to rearm your Windows
grace period/activation; they we could Sysprep to our heart's content.
Well, a bit of Googling kept pointing me to the Help file for Windows
unattended installations in the Windows Automated Installation Kit, and that
kept talking about how to set "Rearm" to "1" in an automated installation script
with Windows System Image Manager (which we discussed in Newsletters
and to set a setting I'd not noticed before named "SkipRearm" in
SkipRearm was to be set to 1. That, the docs said, would let me Sysprep as
many times as I liked.
The only problem was that WSIM showed that this SkipRearm setting only made
sense in Pass 3 -- "Generalize" -- and I had no idea how to stuff a Pass 3 WSIM
XML script into Sysprep. (I didn't then, but I know now; stay tuned.) But
that SkipRearm setting rang a bell, as there's a REG_DWORD value entry by that
name in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\SL, a
Registry key related to software licensing.
(Windows 7 note (August 2009): The Win 7 key seems to be
So I just opened up Regedit,
navigated to that location in the Registry, set SkipRearm to 1, did not
reboot, ran Sysprep, booted up the Sysprepped system... and found that my grace
period / activation status had not been changed. In explicit steps,
here's how to safely Sysprep a system:
- Open an elevated command prompt on the system.
- Start Regedit.
- Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows
- Locate the REG_DWORD entry "SkipRearm." If it's not there, just
- Set SkipRearm to 1.
- Close Regedit.
- Now Sysprep the box (this assumes that you actually intend to Sysprep
your system -- if you do not fully understand that Sysprep resets a ton of
things on your system and would make a personal system that you've been
working on for quite some time fairly useless, then please don't do this) by
typing c:\windows\system\sysprep\sysprep /generalize /oobe /shutdown and
- The system will do the Sysprep processing and shut down.
You can verify that Sysprep has not touched your Windows activation status by
turning on the system, logging in, going to the System applet in the Control
Panel (Windows key+Pause is the fastest way) and you'll see that your system's
grace period has not reset to 30 days. I've verified this on a retail copy of
Vista Ultimate by Sysprepping it eight times in a row with no change in my
remaining grace period.
So what was all that WSIM stuff all about -- how could I make use of a
WSIM script with "Pass 3" commands in it? A quick look back to Newsletter
62 provides the clue. WSIM lets me run Sysprep without rearming Windows
Activation and without running Regedit like so:
- Open up WSIM.
- Create a setup script with just one setting -- the SkipRearm option set
- Save the script. For the sake of example, call it norearm.xml and
that you stored it in c:\wsimscripts.
- Invoke Sysprep as before, but this time invoke it like
/generalize /oobe /shutdown /unattend:c:\wsimscripts\norearm.xml
Once it shuts down, you've got a system that's been Sysprepped... but not
rearmed. How's that an easier way? Well, if I had to do a lot of
Sysprepping, I'd keep norearm.xml on a USB stick, and save myself the trouble of
having to poke around the Registry.
If you don't want to have to fire up WSIM, just cut and paste this into Notepad and save it as norearm.xml:
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<component name="Microsoft-Windows-Security-Licensing-SLC" processorArchitecture="x86" publicKeyToken="31bf3856ad364e35" language="neutral" versionScope="nonSxS" xmlns:wcm="http://schemas.microsoft.com/WMIConfig/2002/State" xmlns:xsi="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance">
<cpi:offlineImage cpi:source="wim:c:/mystuff/install.wim#Windows Vista ULTIMATE" xmlns:cpi="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:cpi" />
I hope this helps someone!
Besides my public classes, I'm presenting at
- TechTarget's Vista Roadshow in DC, Atlanta and
Minneapolis -- info at
http://events.techtarget.com/vista/. I mentioned a 2008 road show in my mailing to subscribers but unfortunately it's not going to happen -- the events need sponsors and we couldn't put together enough to cover the road show's costs. Sorry!
- TechMentor in New York September 7-10. Note that 1105 is
running two events in the fall, the New York event and a show in
Las Vegas. I will be speaking in New York but not in Vegas
-- so if you're planning to attend TechMentor in the fall and would like
to see me speak then please plan for the New York show!
http://techmentorevents.com/2008/newyork/ for info.
- Windows Connections Vegas November 10-13: can't avoid Vegas in
the fall, it seems! Back to the Mandalay Bay -- how can you not
love a hotel with its own aquarium? -- to keynote and more.
for more info.
Bring Mark to
Your Site to Teach
I'm keeping busy doing 2008 and Vista seminars and writing the 2008 books, but I've still got time
to visit your firm. In just two days, I'll make your current NT techies
into 2008, Vista, security, XP, Active Directory or 2003 experts. (And
better yet, they won't have to sit through any Redmondian
propaganda.) To join the large educational, pharmaceutical,
agricultural, aerospace, utility, banking, government, telecommunication, law
enforcement, publishing, transportation, military and other organizations
that I've assisted, either take a peek at the course outlines at www.minasi.com/presentations.htm,
mail our assistant Jean Snead at Assistant@Minasi.com,
or call her at (757) 426-1431 (only between noon-5 Eastern time, weekdays,
Discount for On-Site Clients!
Well, sort of,. Since the dollar's currently so weak against the
euro, why not hire me now, before things change?<g>
Have a quiet and safe month.
Please share this newsletter; I hope that it is a useful source of Windows
technical information. Please forward it to any associates who might
find it helpful, and accept my thanks. We are now at over 48,000
subscribers and I hope to use this to get information to every one of my
readers. Many, many thanks to the readers who have mailed me to offer
suggestions, errata, and those kind reviews. As always, I'm at http://www.minasi.com/gethelp and
please join us at the Forum with technical questions at www.minasi.com/forum. Thanks for
letting me visit with you, and take care.
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