Windows 7 Service Pack 1 arrives to little fanfare

Maybe it’s just me, but the release of service pack 1 for Windows 7 ought to be a fairly big deal, but because this release coincides with sp1 for Server 2008 R2, the message seems to been a little lost and garbled.

In a TechNet flash email I received this week, entitled “Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7 SP1 Arrives” the only reference to a service pack was this:

“Windows Server 2008 R2 with Service Pack 1 is ready with new virtualization tools, web resources, management enhancements, and Windows 7 integration.”

Not a resoundingly clear message about Windows 7 sp1 availability. So I checked my Windows updates which had a handful of Office things, the usual Malicious Software Removal tool update and a couple of vaguely worded items which I included as well. No service pack to be seen. Next step, search engine!

Read on to find out how to download and install Windows 7 service pack 1 (fairly) painlessly»

Microsoft Second Shot is back again for 2010

After a very long wait (and some said it might never happen), Microsoft have reintroduced their Second Shot campaign so that you can register to take an exam and if you fail you get a second chance to do a free retake. You register with Prometric,  then they email you a code. You use this voucher code when you register online to take your chosen exam, for which you pay the normal fee (or reduced rate for students, if applicable). Last time round you could not use second shot and a discount voucher (eg one from a Self-paced training kit) since you can only put in one code. Once I actually get a breathing space to take an exam (things are pretty busy right now) I’ll update to let you know if this is still the case.

Offer details:
Dates: January 13, 2010 – June 30, 2010.

Details: You must register, obtain a voucher code, schedule, pay, and take the first and (if necessary) the retake exam before June 30, 2010.

Applicable exams: This offer applies to all Microsoft Learning IT professional, developer, project management, and Microsoft Dynamics exams, including academic exams. Visit the Learning Catalog and search for your next exam

Eligible countries and regions: This is a worldwide offer that is available at Prometric test centers only.

Note Only one Second Shot voucher is available per purchased exam.

Notice that the deadline for taking the first time and retake is the same – June 30th 2010. Previously the first exam had an earlier deadline and the retake had an extra month or so if you were taking one.

Read more about Second Shot »

Windows 7 RTM, Server 2008 R2 and IE8 group policy settings lists

Microsoft have updated their usual Group Policy settings lists following recent releases of new Windows versions. On one page you can now get 4 downloads to include pretty much all current versions of desktop and server OS, and v-1 (so Windows 7 and Vista, server 2008 and 2003 sp2).

Group policy settings for Windows Vista sp1, Windows 7, 2003 sp2 2008, 2008 R2

Group policy settings for Internet Explorer 8 are also available (on a different page).

Note that the latest files are all in Excel 2007 format so if you are not yet using Office 2007 or 2010TP you would need to install the Office compatibility pack to allow you to view these on a previous version of Office, or the Excel 2007 viewer (+ service pack 2 as well) to view them (but not be able to edit or save changes). Both of these downloads are free.

Hat tip to Jeremy Mosokowitz at GPAnswers.com

Windows 7 64 bit experiences, my current software stack and that pesky CSC folder

Recently, like many others, I have been through the process of installing various releases of Windows 7, from the Beta, through RC1 and finally the release-to-manufacturing (RTM) version. I decided to take the plunge and install 64 bit on my Dell D620 and everything went really well, no driver issues or any other hiccups. Had to do a manual download of a driver for my old(ish) Epson scanner, but it still installed straight off first time. RC1 needed a bit of manual intervention to get the NVidia drivers working for some reason (Beta and RTM both just worked, strangely), and it was a bit temperamental with docking and undocking while running, but RTM seems to have cleared this up, and is now way more stable than Vista ever was at doing this (I used to get a full system lock about 1 time in 10).

I did as advised by Microsoft and did this as a clean install every time, rather than doing a hack to allow me to run an in-place upgrade. Thanks to James O’Neill’s blog article I did this from a bootable USB drive, and this was lightning fast since I also recently upgraded my hard drive to a 120GB OCZ Vertex SSD.

Applications, applications, applications

A bit of a pain re-installing applications again each time round, but it does mean I have a nice shortlist of the apps and utilities that I actually need and use regularly enough to merit an install. Without being an exhaustive list, the apps that made the grade every time, in approximately the order they got installed are:

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