Welcome to Dirteam.com/ActiveDir.org Blogs Sign in | Join | Help

The things that are better left unspoken

a blog by Sander Berkouwer

Related

AD Manager Plus
 

Blog roll

News



Archives

CoreConfigurator brought back to life by Smart-X

I remember pretty well when Guy Teverovsky shared his CoreConfigurator tool, to help Server Core Systems Administrators perform everyday tasks through a Graphical User Interface (GUI).

I still remember the buzz it generated throughout the blogosphere, I still remember the amount of kudos to Guy for building and sharing this tool, I still remember the way I wanted the tool changed so it would actually help Confucius-style, but most of all I remember the way the tool disappeared due to intellectual property issues with his former employer.

This former employer, Smart-X, has now brought CoreConfigurator back to life.

About Smart-X CoreConfigurator

Smart-X dedicated a webpage to the tool. The page explains what the tool does and what it looks like.

coreconfiguratorlogoIt also explains the licensing:
The tool is free for personal use only.

You may use the tool without a valid license or license file for personal and non-commercial use, but you need to purchase a license from Smart-X if you need the tool in a commercial organization. The tool is licensed per organization and a license file can be purchased for $99.

Current version 1.1.0.5
Download size 2.19 MB
Supported Operating System Windows Server 2008 Server Core
Release date December 14, 2008
Download link CoreConfig_V1105_D141208.zip

The tool has been polished with a new sleek User Interface:

CoreConfigScreenshot

   

Working with the tool

I’ve used the tool to manage a Windows Server 2008 Server Core installation.

Download

The CoreConfigurator download package weight 2,18 MB. This package contains a User Guide in PDF format (608 KB) and the CoreConfigurator MSI package (1806 KB)

The package is only available as a HTTP download only. Making the download package available through a public FTP server might prove an interesting move. That way the package can be downloaded directly from the Server Core box itself, eliminating the need for a download box.

The user guide

For a commercial package a User Guide is a must. I think providing the user guide in PDF is a good move. It allows Unix and Linux guys to get started with the tools on their Server Core boxes too. (I feel Hyper-V with SuSe Linux Enterprise Server 10 guests make for a nice combo) Using a Word format would’ve been a huge barrier for these kind of guys.

The User Guide is pretty straightforward. I really don’t like the advertisement for other Smart-X tools though, but Page Dn fixed that little bit of irritation pretty quickly.

Too bad however the really cool features of CoreConfigurator are left out of the User Guide. I was really expecting a thorough write-up of the DCPROMO function, but unfortunately this feature is absent, just like the Backup Perf feature. Interestingly enough, these two features were part of later versions of Guy’s CoreConfigurator.

The User Guide gives me the impression a team at Smart-X has written a Windows Vista Configuration Panel-style window to accommodate all the buttons, left the features intact and actually didn’t know what these features do, so they kept away from them.

Installation

Installation is pretty straightforward for a MSI file, although I’m still unclear why tools like these need to be ‘installed’. A lot of other tools simply run off media. Joachim’s CCC even has a menu option to install the program on your Server Core box automatically.

Making CoreConfigurator available as a MSI file, instead of a package is not a really bad idea however. Since you’re installing a MSI, you can uninstall the program through wmic.exe if you don’t need it anymore. Other setup formats require a lot of fiddling to get uninstalled. Providing a ISO file next to the MSI file would make using CoreConfigurator in virtual environments more practical.

The installation itself is as simple as clicking Next > three times.

Auto Start or path cleverness

I don’t understand why some people still have a problem with making their program automatically start at logon or add the path to their executable to the PATH variable.

The developers at Smart-X seem to belong to this kind of people. Don’t you want me to use your program? Why do you insist I remember the directory I installed your program in? Why do you want me to manually change directories to your precious little
C:\Program Files\SmartX\Smart-X Configurator directory?

User Interface

The tool has been polished with a new sleek User Interface, resembling the Windows Vista Configuration Panel:

CoreConfigScreenshot

Since the adoption of Windows Vista worldwide is through the roof, this was a good decision. NOT!

Learn a man to fish…

The 13 tools available through the start screen are very useful. Unfortunately only the Activation tool shows the command used to retrieve the information. None of the tools show the commands used to set the information or the registry keys changed. This reminds me of an old saying:

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
- Confucius

I feel The CoreConfigurator Tool isn’t very helpful. It is helpful to Smart-X though, because people come to rely on CoreConfigurator to do these little choirs for them whenever they install a new Server Core box, driving sales.

The Exchange team does a very good job at this in the Exchange Server 2007 Exchange Management Console. Every time you click together a command it shows you the corresponding command before it executes it. That’s helpful!

Display information

CoreConfigurator does not display information in the start screen on the current box or current configuration, like the Windows Server 2008 Server Manager does.

Bugs

CoreConfigurator still has a few bugs unfortunately, that make it less useful in a lot of environments. For instance you can’t add Domain user accounts to local groups using Users and Groups but you can still use Users and Groups after promoting the server to a Domain Controller. Changing Display settings prompts for a reboot, while logging off and on again will change it (if there were a log off button, that is). The firewall configuration tool will not detect whether the firewall is turned off, rules have been specifically enabled or disabled or keep a log of it’s own activity and the Feature installation tool isn’t very thorough in displaying installed features.

Inconsistencies

To make matters worse the behavior between different tools is inconsistent. Some tools have a Close button, others don’t. Some tools have a Cancel button, others don’t. Some tools make button titles change, while others remain the same. Quirky, to say the least.

Missing functionality

The tool lacks a button for the Regional and Language Options. This functionality is included one of the remaining Control Panel applets in Server Core installations of Windows Server 2008: intl.cpl.

The Updates section allow to enable and disable Automatic Updates, but does not offer functionality to check for updates manually.

    

Concluding

I still feel it’s a shame a great free tool, written by a MVP, gets transformed into a paid tool.

On the other hand now a big company has made it dedication clear to a large community to develop and maintain a tool, addressing a basic need. If I were to license this utility I would insist on Smart-X squashing the reported bugs in the next version, provide a roadmap for future versions and make some smart technical choices to up the quality. 

In the meanwhile I’ll still continue to use Guy Teverovsky’s original CoreConfigurator utility. It provides the same functionality but remains free of charge for those who can find it.

Other tools are also available at no cost and won’t nag you with a license and splash screen. These tools offer a great alternative in some scenarios.

Tip jar: Thanks, SnirH.

Related posts

Overview of free Server Core configuration tools  
Making HVConfig work on a normal Server Core installation 
RIP CoreConfigurator (as we know it)  
My beef with CoreConfigurator 
A new gang in town – Server Core (W2K8) 

Further reading

Guy Teverovsky’s Windowmaker blog 
CoreConfigurator Clarifications  
HyperVoria: CoreConfigurator Tool discontinued  
LinkedIn: Guy Teverovsky  
Server Core Installation Option of Windows Server 2008 Step-By-Step Guide  
Download Free Windows 2008 Server Core Configurator 
Codeplex: Windows 2008 Server Core Configurator (CoreConfig) 
(Another) GUI-based Server Core Configurator 
Windows 2008 Server Core Configurator 
Server Core Configuration tool - now available 
Need a little Windows Server 2008 Server Core help? 
Core Configuration Console 
Windows Server 2008 Core Config 
Core Configurator is back!

Comments

ganotganot said:

Hi,

My name is Asaf Ganot and I'm CEO at SmartX.

We just went online with our site and I'm glad you've been able to find it even before google :)

First of all, I want to thank you for your feedback. We will surely fix the bugs, address your notes and publish the new version.

I think that an expense of 99$ is only symbolic for an organization. We believe that organizations will rather pay for a tool they are using and get proper support for it, than using a freeware tool that no one is responsible for it.

By the way, the original CoreCFG tool was developed by me and Sharon Haris way before Guy's version. The original version was introduced in Microsoft's TechEd 2008 in Israel by Sharon Haris. The publication of the mid-version made by Guy was a mistake that was corrected shortly after.

Please feel free to email me if you have further remarks / suggestions / ideas.

Sincerely,

Asaf Ganot, CEO

SmartX ltd.

# December 21, 2008 2:35 AM

Yoni Avital said:

Hello,

My name is Yoni Avital and I work at SmartX.

Just wanted to add a quick note regarding the "Auto Start or path cleverness" sub chapter of this blog.

The best way to allow running any application without using the full path is to add a key to the following Registry path:"HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\App Paths\ExecutableName" and then create a string called Path and populate it with the relevant path.

That way, you can start the application just by typing the Executable name. This doesn't require a reboot or a logoff/logon cycle.

I already tipped our developers about this and it will be included in future versions...

Thanks,

Yoni

# December 21, 2008 8:30 AM

baryt said:

Hi Yoni,

Thanks for the tip:)

tried this(no on the Core configurator) and it works great.

# January 5, 2009 5:43 AM

The things that are better left unspoken said:

Smart-X, the Israel-based company behind CoreConfigurator and former employer of Guy Teverovsky has released

# January 26, 2009 3:16 PM

The things that are better left unspoken said:

I just realized I like Smart-X CoreConfigurator a lot . This is not just due to the improving quality

# February 21, 2009 7:00 AM
Anonymous comments are disabled