Script Day: Cloud-init for MS-Windows, The Poor Man’s Version

Thursday, August 20th, 2015

Cloud-init is a Linux technology that allows easy setup and automation of virtual machines. The concept is very simple – the VM infrastructure provides some way of setting some custom data for each virtual machine (many providers call this “user data”), and when the operating system starts the cloud-init service reads that configuration, loads a bunch of modules to handle various parts and let them configure the system. As a user it is very convenient – you write a setup scenario using the variety of tools offered by cloud-init, you can store the scenario in a source control to allow to develop the scenario further, then just launch a bunch of machines with the specified scenario and watch them configure themselves.

The situation is much worse on the MS-Windows side of the fence: want to have an MS-Windows server configured and ready to go? Start a virtual machine, connect to is using RDP and Next, Next, Finish until your fingers are sore. Need to deploy a new version? either retrofit an existing image (again, manually) and risk deployment side effects, or do the whole process again from scratch.

Here’s a script to try to help a bit with the problem – at least on Amazon Web Services: a poor man’s cloud-init-like for MS-Windows server automation.

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The sorry state of mail user agents

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

I’ve been moaning on and off about how much e-mail clients, or more specifically – “personal information managers” – simply suck. All of them – there isn’t one client software that is useful in all aspects.

I mean – if you are a simple e-mail user: have one account with which you send a few emails, receive a few e-mails and sometimes forward something to your list of friends – then you have several good options including a few web-mail systems.

If, on the other hand, you are more serious in your communication requirements and you need to:

  • Work with multiple e-mail accounts and manage them separately but with the option of moving stuff between accounts.
  • Connect with MS-Exchange (still most companies in Israel use MS-Exchange for their groupware backend)
  • Work with multiple mailing lists with different policies and different internal filing requirements
  • Keep all your past communications for reference
  • Inter-operate with multiple shared calendaring systems, and specifically with other people’s calendars in a heterogeneous environment (some people do not believe there are e-mail clients other then MS-Outlook)
  • Do all this on multiple computers so that e-mail, address books, calendars and what-not are transparently available on all computers
  • Use Linux as your computing platform of choice.

Then you are basically out of luck. The Linux requirement is not that of a problem really (contrary to what many people keep saying when they nag me about moving to MS-Outlook) as the situation isn’t really better in Windows or Mac except that you can’t get Evolution to work there and theoretically Evolution could provide what I need.

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