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The things that are better left unspoken

a blog by Sander Berkouwer

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My beef with CoreConfigurator

Guy Teverovsky is an Israeli Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP), who blogs on the Israeli Microsoft Blogs website as WindowMaker. He is the author of CoreConfigurator.

About CoreConfigurator

CoreConfigurator is a tool that aims to configure most of the settings of a Server Core installation of Windows Server 2008 in a Graphical User Interface (GUI). Guy Teverovsky wrote this tool to help Core enthusiasts get started with Server Core and enjoy the benefits it brings. CoreConfigurator can be downloaded here.

I think this is a good initiative. I feel it's also a good thing Jorge blogged about this tool when he covered Server Core. As you might have noticed I have not blogged about this tool.
I have three reasons:

    

The concept

Using CoreConfigurator consists of basically admitting you're not a veteran. You basically admit you don't know how Server Core works when you use it. That's OK though, CoreConfigurator is aimed to help you work it out.

Too meager

The most logical thing to do from my point of view is to show the commands used to perform the actions you pointed and clicked together. CoreConfigurator doesn't do this consequently. CoreConfigurator shows the resulting command in the Activation and the Features screen. It also dumps a dcpromo.txt from the Dcpromo screen, but that's it! I feel that's too meager and pointed this out in the comments on Guy's blog on March 30, 2008.

A wise man supposedly once said:

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a life time.

Other graphical ways

As John Craddock has pointed out at TechEd EMEA (You had to be there...) there are other ways to configure Server Core besides the Command Line utilities. Using version 1.1 of the Windows Administrative Installation Kit (WAIK) you can configure most of the settings in your unattend.xml file. A bonus doing it this way is the tool will check your file. If you insist on using graphical tools, I feel this is your way to go.

No clear lifecycle

The problem with every one-man-show is continuity. Windows Server 2008 is going to be around for the next ten years and I guess CoreConfigurator is going to be used for the same period of time. I wonder what's going to happen to CoreConfigurator in this period:

  • Will there be a support policy other than "use at your own risk?"
  • Is Guy thinking of eventually charge users for usage of his tool? (Probably not...)
  • When is the next version due? What features will be in the next version?
  • What happens when Guy starts chasing bigger dreams?

Summing these questions up I come to the conclusion I haven't seen a clear vision of CoreConfigurator's lifecycle. I feel Guy might help himself putting his thoughts into writing.

   

The program itself

If you really want to use CoreConfigurator to configure your Server Core installation of Windows Server 2008 you'll find the program is flawed. When I was configuring two Server Core boxes lately I decided to configure one using CoreConfigurator.

I ran into the following issues with CoreConfigurator 1.1.3:

  • Entering Display settings abruptly ends the program.
    The program displayed a message stating 'Out of Range' and abruptly ended the CoreConfigurator program. I did not see the contents of the Display Settings screen. This happened every time I tried to enter the Display settings. Useless, basically. The resolution at that time was 1024x768 and I wanted it changed to 1152x864. I ended up editing the registry manually and logging off to let the changes take effect. (no need to reboot, really)
      
  • Retrieving licensing information stalls the program.
    Retrieving the licensing information using slmgr.vbs is time consuming. While CoreConfigurator retrieves this information you can't close the specific Licensing screen or switch back to the CoreConfigurator Main screen. Time remaining contains an excess ')' as well, but that's a cosmetic something...
        
  • The Account management screen doesn't offer the ability to make groups.
    Creating and deleting user account is a useful feature. Adding and removing users from groups can also be considered useful. In the same line of thinking the ability to create new groups might also be considered useful. The last feature is however not available...
       
  • Running DCPROMO ended in an error stating the SiteName was used twice. (Fixed in version 1.1.4)
    The DCPROMO section of CoreConfigurator offers the ability to enter the SiteName. When entering information in this field the original field stating SiteName is Default-First-Site-Name is also added to the dcpromo text file. I opened the text file with notepad.exe and edited it so there would only be one SiteName reference. Afterwards I ran the following command manually to start the promotion again:
      
         dcpromo /unattend:"C:\Program Files\CoreConfigurator\dcpromo.txt"
      
  • CoreConfigurator doesn't retrieve Windows Firewall exceptions you may have set earlier. This basically makes the program useful for initial deployment scenarios only. In non-deployment scenarios I recommend connecting the Windows Firewall with Advanced Security from a Full Windows Server 2008 installation or a Windows Vista installation. The steps are:
    1. Run the following command on the console of your Server Core box:
         
                 netsh advfirewall firewall set rule group="Windows Firewall
                 Remote Management" new enable=yes

          
    2. Run mmc.exe on a Full or Windows Vista installation.
    3. Open the File menu and select 'Add/Remove Snap-In...'. Select the Windows Firewall with Advanced Security from the available snap-ins. Press 'Add >'
    4. Select 'Another computer' and type the name or IP address of your Server Core box. Alternatively you can browse for it.
    5. Press 'Finish' and press 'OK' to close the Add/Remove Snap-In screen.
  • The CoreConfigurator Setup package doesn't check whether you're actually installing CoreConfigurator on a Server Core installation. After you've installed CoreConfigurator on a Full installation you're not prohibited to run it either. Most of the functionality of CoreConfigurator remains except for the stuff behind the Features button. I'm relieved nothing got broken on my Full Installation when I tried out CoreConfigurator.exe.
  • The program doesn't offer a Log Off button.
    Exit, Reboot and Shutdown are buttons on the bottom of CoreConfigurator. Unfortunately there is no Log off button.

  

The usage

the PATH variable

To run the program you need to actually go to the C:\Program Files\CoreConfigurator folder and run CoreCofigurator.exe from there. For some reason it appears Guy opted not to add the folder to the %PATH% variable. The %PATH% environment variable specifies the command search path.

Adding the C:\Program Files\CoreConfigurator folder to the %PATH% variable would enable running CoreCofigurator.exe without going to the folder first.

Note:
C:\Windows\System32, C:\Windows and C:\Windows\system32\Wbem are already included as %PATH% variables by default.

Virtual installations

Installing CoreConfigurator in virtual installations of Server Core could be made much easier with just a few tricks. Two tricks that I would definitely applaud are:

  • Downloading CoreConfigurator.msi from a FTP location.
  • Downloading CoreConfigurator as an ISO file to easily mount.
    (I use ISO Recorder to make an ISO from the folder I download CoreConfigurator in)

     

Concluding

I applaud Guy Teverosky's initiative to help Core enthusiasts get started with Server Core and enjoy the benefits it brings. I hope Guy keeps improving CoreConfigurator.

Please excuse me if I sound harsh. You might feel I'm scrutinizing the huge amount of work Guy has put in this tool. You might even feel it's unfair to compare CoreConfigurator with products from Microsoft; a product from one person with a product that was created by a whole bunch of people and perfected over the course of decades; a product made in someone's spare time with a product created by a multinational.

I feel people using Server Core deserve a tool that helps them. I believe Guy is the only person able to dedicate time and means to accomplish this.

Thanks so far, Guy! You're a hero!

If there's someone I can do, leave me a message!

Technical details

I used CoreConfigurator 1.1.3 in combination with an US English version of Windows Server 2008 Standard without Hyper-V x86, version 6.0 (build 6001: Service Pack 1) on a physical Dell GX260 box. (Intel Pentium 4 Processor 2,0GHz, 1024MB RAM, ATi Radeon 9800)

Further reading

Download location for CoreConfigurator (blogs.microsoft.co.il) 
Windows Server Core - CoreConfigurator to the rescue ...  
Easily Install Active Directory on Windows 2008 Server Core with CoreConfigurator   
Easily Manage Windows Server 2008 Server Core Settings with CoreConfigurator 
4sysops - FREE: CoreConfigurator - A GUI for Server Core 
CoreConfigurator - Graphic Management Tool for Windows Server 2008 ...  
Tool: Server Core Configurator 
CoreConfigurator 
Cool: Windows Server Core - CoreConfigurator GUI    
Server Core: CoreConfigurator Updated 
Windows Server 2008: Manage Server Core settings with CoreConfigurator 
Peering through Windows - Now this is GENIUS - Server Core Configurator... 
Server Core configuration tool from Guy Teverovsky 
Server Core CoreConfigurator 
GUI Love

Posted: Thursday, June 19, 2008 12:29 AM by Sander Berkouwer

Comments

dsmvp said:

Hi Sander,  I understand your concerns with CoreConfigurator.  I don't see large corporations using this tool since there is no support or lifecycle.  Although it should help those folks out with some common tasks.  I shared your frustrations with the commands myself and thus I wrote an article to help admins get Server Core up and running in their environments which you can read here - http://www.adminprep.com/articles/default.asp?action=show&articleid=102

There are also some really nice scripts included with Server Core which can be used for configuration of items.

Brian

# June 24, 2008 2:30 PM

Sander Berkouwer said:

Hi Brian, thanks for your comment.

I feel your article on Server Core and your blog posts are great! As Server Core and Active Directory are my two favorite subjects you're probably not suprised to find i'm a subscriber to your blog. I found and read the article earlier this month.

I hope the information on Server Core reaches systems administrators out there and allows them to get over their initial fear of the command prompt (if any) to put Server Core to good use in scenarios previously deemed impossible, inpractical or not costefficient.

CoreConfigurator surely plays a role for these people, but I feel it's capable of so much more.

# June 24, 2008 3:51 PM
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