Monthly archives: May, 2013

Could the Xbox One emulate the 360?

There will not be any backward compatibility for the Xbox 360 on the Xbox One. Unusual position for Microsoft as typically they are all about the compatibility with older versions of their products. However in this case it makes sense as the hardware is significantly different between the two systems.

But I do have a thought about this. Given that the Xbox One is running three operating systems could the hypervisor in the new console run an emulated version of the Xbox 360 operating system?

It would not be a simple task to accomplish this but I believe it is within the realm of possibility. Even back in 2011 people were talking about creating an Xbox 360 emulator on a PC, and there is apparently now a working Xbox 360 emulator available for both PC and Mac.

I’ve just entered the #TechEdChallenge

I’ve just entered the #TechEdChallenge to win a funded place at TechEd Europe

One platform: how the Xbox One could change everything

One platform: how the Xbox One could change everything at Microsoft via @verge

VMDK reconstruction

The office move meant shutting down the VMware hosts and one of the side effects of this was that a couple of the virtual machines that had been happily running didn’t come back up.

One didn’t matter at all so I could safely ignore it, but the other was a demo server used by one of the company directors to show off our software to prospective clients and therefore needed to be working asap.

I was faced with quite a mystery as it seemed to have disappeared completely, it wasn’t listed in the inventory of the host in Vsphere and the datastores connected to the host didn’t contain the expected files either.

However I wasn’t completely at a loss as there was a message in the hosts inventory indicating that something had gone wrong and a virtual machine it had been hosting was missing and I knew that some of our VMs have been renamed and so the corresponding files in the datastores do not have matching names.

So I went looking for some orphan files. I found the files in question but it was just the VMDK files and they seemed to have been missing the VMDK metadata files also.

So in order to rebuild the virtual machine I needed to reconstruct the VMDK files so that I had usable virtual hard disk to the attach a new virtual machine to and given that we are using the free vSphere ESXi 4.0 version this meant using the unsupported Tech Support Mode and instructions from here

To use Tech Support Mode:

Log in to your ESXi host at the console.
Press Alt+F1 to switch to the console window.
Enter unsupported to start the Tech Support Mode login process. Note that no text will appear on the console window.
Enter the password for the root user. Tech Support Mode is now active.
Complete tasks in Tech Support Mode.
Enter the command clear to clear the screen of any residual data from step 5. This may be required by your local security policies.
Enter the command exit to exit Tech Support Mode.
Press Alt+F2 to return the server to DCUI mode.

So I logged into the terminal of the ESXi host.

Then to recreate the virtual machine disks I navigated to the directory that contained the virtual machine disks with the missing descriptor file using the following command (having previously found the relevant volume from browsing Storage in the vSphere client on my PC:

cd "/vmfs/volumes/4bfd0ee1-48e6535e-7d30-0026b97ee7d2/CRJ test/"

The instructions then asked me to identify the type of SCSI controller the virtual disk is using by examining the virtual machine configuration file (.vmx). But I didn’t have the .vmx file so I took a look at similar VMs and they used the SCSI controller type lsilogic.

I identified and recorded the exact size of the -flat file using the command:

# ls -l VS030-Srv08Tmpl-flat.vmdk
-rw——- 1 root root 32212254720 May 29 12:30 VS030-Srv08Tmpl-flat.vmdk

Then used the vmkfstools command to create a new virtual disk:

# vmkfstools -c 32212254720 -a lsilogic -d thin temp.vmdk

This command uses these flags:
-c (This is the size of the virtual disk).
-a (Whether the virtual disk was configured to work with BusLogic or LSILogic).
-d thin (This creates the disk in a thin-provisioned format).

Note: To save disk space, the disk was created in a thin-provisioned format using the type thin. The resulting flat file then consumes minimal amounts of space (1MB) instead of immediately assuming the capacity specified with the -c switch. The only consequence, however, is the descriptor file contains an extra line that must be removed manually in a later step.

The files temp.vmdk and temp-flat.vmdk were created as a result.

I deleted the unneeded temp-flat.vmdk using the command:

# rm temp-flat.vmdk

And renamed temp.vmdk to the name that match the orphaned .flat file (or VS030-Srv08Tmpl-flat.vmdk, in my case):

# mv temp.vmdk VS030-Srv08Tmpl-flat.vmdk

Then the descriptor file needed to be edited to match the .flat file:

Under the Extent Description section, change the name of the .flat file to match the orphaned .flat file you have.

Find and remove the line ddb.thinProvisioned = “1″ if the original .vmdk was not a thin disk. If it was, retain this line.

This completed the reconstruction of the first virtual hard disk, I did the same for the second disk and then I was in a position to rebuild the machine.

Building the VM was straightforward and not worth writing in any great detail as it is simply a case of using the wizard in the vSphere client and then selecting “Use Existing” option instead of “Create New” when it gets to the section about virtual hard disks.

Xbox One thoughts

So Microsoft revealed their forthcoming replacement for the Xbox 360 last night and I sat down and watched it with my wife as we are both gamers and were excited about this event.

I’m still excited about the Xbox One even if the presentation didn’t go down particularly well with a lot of people. Hardcore gamers are annoyed that there was very little about games last night, but that wasn’t what last night was really about. E3 will be the big reveal for the games.

My favourite comment by Amy was when she talked about how cheap she thought the suits were. Can’t Microsoft employees afford better suits!

The Xbox One was being heavily promoted as the entertainment hub of the living room which is fine with me. We’re pretty much using our 360 as the entertainment hub already, we used to watch DVDs on it until we finally got a Bluray player about 6 months ago and still watch BBC iPlayer and 4OD on it. I have no complaints in that regard and I’m sure given that the Xbox One is designed with that in mind from the start it will be better at these kind of things.

I don’t give a fuck about the partnership with the NFL, they never even explained what the fuck that entailed anyway. Halo television show was a cool bit of news but not really relevant.

The most interesting thing for me last night was this line from Marc Whitten.

The soul of the new system is the Xbox One architecture. Three operating systems in one.

Three operating systems in one and the instant switching between gaming and other Xbox features made me think straightaway that they are using virtualisation. I’ve since seen that this has been confirmed.

So it will be running a hypervisor, and then two virtual operating systems a cut down version of Windows 8 and then the Xbox gaming OS. This is a very sensible thing to do in my opinion and the instant switching if it works exactly as it did in the demo will be great.

Amy wasn’t as fascinated as I was with the underlying technologies of the system but she did like the design of the controllers a lot and the responsiveness of Kinect to voice and hand gestures. In addition she was excited by the idea of full screen Skype on it using the Kinect’s 1080p camera.

Overall even despite not seeing much in the way of gaming this household will be purchasing One on release.

Windows Server 2012 in production

As part of setting up the new office for my company I needed to set up a server to act as a RODC in what would effectively be a branch office until the rest of the company moved in sometime later.

This gave me the perfect opportunity to use Windows Server 2012 in a production environment and as such gain some real world experience with the new OS in preparation for sitting the 70-417 exam to gain my MCSA: Windows Server 2012 certification.

I had previously downloaded a trial version of Server 2012 but after a failed attempt to install it as a VM on VmWare’s ESXi 4.1 I didn’t do much more with it lacking the resources and time. I have since found a method that would enable it, also for Windows 8 which could be useful for our developers who may need to be coding applications for Windows 8 and need test environments.

Installation on our new Dell R620 could have been easier, but this was not the fault of Windows at all. The server arrived sometime yesterday and without a disc so I’d assumed that the OS had come pre-installed. It had not, which caused a little panic. But once I actually received the Windows Server 2012 disc from our suppliers and then pre-configured the server for the OS (which was somewhat straightforward but didn’t work as it should in my opinion) it was very quick and straightforward to install Server 2012.

My experiences were pretty much as described here

Microsoft has been radically improving Windows Server with every release and Server 2012 is possibly the most radical of all. It is fast, efficient and has made server configuration and management a breeze. The new Server Manager has had a very welcome upgrade in functionality. From a single server I can now monitor and manage the critical production servers in my domain, being able to view server infrastructure via role as well as individual server is extremely useful.

Controversially it has the ‘Metro’ interface as it was developed in parallel with Windows 8. Unlike others here I don’t have an issue with it at all, I rarely have to see the dreaded Start Screen spending what time I’m connected via RDP into the server in the desktop environment and Server Manager. Going forward I can see that the new interface will be useful when I’m wanting to do minor server admin tasks via my smartphone or tablet.

I haven’t due to our environment been able to make full use of the native data deduplication that now comes with Server 2012 but it is again a brilliant new feature.

New and improved Hyper-V is a real contender against VMware’s ESXi now.

The only downside is that the RSAT tools to manage it remotely rely on having Windows 8.

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