VM licences

Here’s an odd one. Install Windows Vista Home Premium into a VMware virtual machine and then activate it. The virtual machine is up and running and seems completely stable. Then, after a few weeks or so, you notice that a little pop-up has appeared in the taskbar area, telling you the machine has just been activated – you might not even notice this since it doesn’t stay onscreen for very long. Then it happens again. And again. And if you were using an MSDN ten-activation licence key, it might trundle on like this until it runs into the buffers after ten or so repeats, and then the activation fails. This isn’t amusing. I fully accept that the domestic retail version of Vista Home Premium isn’t supported for running in a VM, but this was a developer build with a developer key being used for development work.

VM licences

It seems I’m not the only person to notice this, and others are reporting that Microsoft Activation can sometimes throw a little activation wobbler after a while, despite nothing apparently happening. In my case, I was trying out some firewall and security software, and some of this stuff installs its own drivers into the driver stack. One website I found showed that merely changing the version of a single driver could cause Vista to launch an activation check at some almost random time after the installation, once it had decided this was actually new hardware rather than just a new driver.

What to do about it? Well, this sort of nonsense was almost inevitable, I’m afraid. Hardware is exposed to Windows via its driver, and so changing the driver to a newer version shouldn’t present any problem provided that the new driver reports something similar to the old one. But if the whole wording or description changes, it seems it can get Vista all over-excited and cause the activation mechanism to kick in. This is true whether your OS is running on the bare metal or in a virtual machine, of course – it’s just that in a VM you might be tempted to make more and more rapid changes to the prototyping environment.

Running out of MSDN licences is entirely my own fault, of course, because I shouldn’t have bothered to activate the machine at all and then I’d have been granted some 30 days of life in the VM before it died, which would have been long enough to do the work I needed. But I’d just clicked on the right boxes when doing the install in a tired sort of way, and ended up activating the damn thing. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a tool to de-activate an installation? Better still, wouldn’t it be nice if we could go online and peer into the master Microsoft database and see just whether and when a particular key has been used? It would certainly help to track down some of these problems if we could see what had been happening, and the reasons why the software felt that an activation was necessary.

Mobile Device Manager 2008

It’s been announced to some fanfare, but the importance of this platform to Microsoft’s plans for the business phone space can’t be underestimated. Basically, MDM gives you a set of integrated and centralised management tools for all the smartphones that are on your network, which includes remote wiping, reset, management and so forth. This is one of the first such attempts at a true enterprise management toolset for corporate phones, and doubtless will be seen as just the ticket by all the Microsofties out there who manage their Outlook addiction via their mobiles. For the SME marketplace, though, I wonder if it’s almost one tool too far.

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