Recovering the MBR from a Windows machine

I was chatting with a friend the other day about recovering the MBR on one of my Windows systems. He is a seasoned admin and recommended the following:

1. Boot from the Windows XP CD (the UBC may also work) and select the recovery console.

2. Once the recovery console comes up you can run fixmbr to fix up the master boot record.

3. Reboot.

This is a pretty simple fix and one I want to note for future use. I don’t always use Windows, but when I do I like to have fixes for blue screens and MBR troubles. :)

A walk down DOS memory lane

This past weekend I started cleaning out a ton of old stuff. Like most geeks, I hate to get rid of things that may *one day* be useful. While reviewing the contents of one of my tech tubs, I came across some nostalgic DOS software and books from the early 90s. The first item was a stack of old software, which included Turbo Pascal, Turbo Assembler, Turbo C++, System Commander and DOS 6.22 on 1.44″ floppy disks:


I also uncovered my good old DOS beyond 640K book:


Ahhhhh — this led me down memory lane. DOS was the first OS I used, and was were I originally learned assembly language. I recall vividly the nights of staying up until 5am writing my first TSR program and debugging assembly code. Back in those days there was no google, only IRC and a debugger. :) Looking back on it, DOS and the Borland editors were a blast to use!

Getting started with Windows Server 2008

This past year I finally took the plunge and started learning Windows Server. At first I was extremely apprehensive about this, but as I thought about it more I realized that a lot of companies are successfully using Windows Server for one or more reasons. In addition, most environments have a mix of Windows, Linux and Solaris, so this would help me understand all the pieces in the environment I support.

Being the scientific person I am, I decided to do some research to see just how viable Windows Server was. To begin my experiements, I picked up a copy of Windows Server 2008 Inside Out. This was a fantastic book, and really set the ground work for how Windows, active directory and the various network services work. The book peaked my attention, and my true geek came out and I committed myself to learning more.

To go into more detail, I signed up for a number of Microsoft training courses. The first class I took was Maintaining a Microsoft SQL Server 2005 database. This course helped out quite a bit, and provided some immediate value when I needed to do some work on my VMWare virtual center database (VMWare virtual center uses SQL server as it’s back-end database).

After my SQL skills were honed by reading and hands on practice, I signed up for Configuring and troubleshooting a Windows Server 2008 network infrastructure and configuring and troubleshooting Windows Server 2008 active directory servers. These classes were pretty good, and went into a lot of detail on the inner workings of active directory, DNS, WINS, DHCP, DFS, role management, group policy as well as a bunch of other items related to security and user management.

While the courses were useful, I wouldn’t have attended them if I had to pay for them out of my own pocket (my employer covered the cost of the classes). I’m pretty certain I could have learned just as much by reading Windows Server 2008 Inside Out, Active Directory: Designing, Deploying, and Running Active Directory and spending a bunch of time experimenting with each service (this is the best way to learn, right?).

That said, I’m planning to get Microsoft certified this year. That is probably the biggest reason to take the classes, since they lay out the material in a single location. I haven’t used any of the Microsoft certification books, but I suspect they would help you pass the tests without dropping a lot of loot on the courses. Once I take and pass all of the tests I’ll make sure to update this section with additional detail.

If you’ve been involved with Windows Server, I’d love to hear how you got started. I’m hoping to write about some of the Windows-related stuff I’ve been doing, especially the stuff related to getting my Linux hosts to work in an active directory environment. Microsoft and Windows server are here for the foreseeable future, so I’m planning to understand their pros and cons and use them where I see a good fit. There are things Solaris and Linux do better than Windows Server, and things Windows Server does better than Linux and Solaris. Embracing the right tool (even if it is a Microsoft product) for the job is the sign of a top notch admin in my book. Getting myself to think that way took a LOT of work. ;)

Windows Server 2008 is a rather nice product

I’ve been crazy busy over the past few months. In addition to preparing for my RHCE exam in July, I have also been studying for the Microsoft Windows Server 2008 MCITP certification. This is a huge change for me, and I wouldn’t have thought in a million years that I would be so focused on learning everything there is to know about Windows. But the reality is almost EVERY company out there runs Microsoft software, and to truly solve problems you need to know what each OS and application is capable of.

The more I mess around with Windows 2008, active directory, Windows cluster server and the various applications that run on top of Windows Server, the more I’m starting to like it. While I don’t expect to become a full time Windows administrator (vSphere, Solaris, Linux, AIX and storage will continue to be #1 on my list of things to learn about), I definitely have found a new appreciation for Windows and hope to use it more in the future. If you are a heavy Windows Server user, please let me know what you like and dislike about it. I’ll share my list in a follow up post.