Stupid Mistakes: Why we should always pay attention!

In September I gave a lecture at the Toronto IT Professionals Community on different deployment technologies available to small and medium business – specifically Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) 4.1, Windows Automated Installation Kit (Windows AIK), and Windows Deployment Services (Windows DS).  Essentially I was showing them how easy it is to create and maintain a deployment infrastructure to deploy their desktops and applications without having to purchase additional software.  I had verified that the venue had a stable Internet connection, and was simply going to log into my server at home for all of my demos.

The day of the presentation I had a very simple schedule.  After dropping Theresa and Aaron off I would come home, do a complete run-through of my demos, then reset them all so that they would be ready that evening.  I would then have a leisurely lunch and spend the afternoon relaxing before driving into Toronto around 4pm.

One of the demos involved creating a ‘Gold Image’ in a virtual machine based on Windows Vista… install the OS and any patches, applications, anti-virus, and policies.  I would then run the System Preparation Tool (SysPrep.exe) in that machine to generalize the image, strip the Security Identifiers (SIDs), so that it could then be captured into Windows DS and deployed to multiple systems.

The phone rang as I was getting this demo ready.  It was a call that was not very important, but it was deep enough that I should have stopped what I was doing until the call was over.  I always tell my son to pay attention to what he does, and simply put I should have followed my own advice.

The SysPrep.exe tool looks the same in every current version of Windows.  it sits in the same directory (<systemdrive>\Windows\System32\SysPrep).  It gives you the same warning, and then does the same thing.  If it didn’t I might have noticed that I was not running it from the virtual Vista box, but rather from the physical Server 2008 box.  It did not take me more than a second to realize what I had just done… and how much damage I had caused.

For those of you who are not familiar with the System Preparation Tool, it essentially takes your installed operating system and reverts it into a not-yet-installed operating system… it strips licenses, security identifiers, and any other globally unique IDs… so when you boot into it you are starting from what is called the Out-of-Box-Experience (OOBE)… and go through setup essentially from scratch.

I was fortunate in that most of my workload – including anything that I was doing for various client projects – was being done in virtual machines which were untouched… but needless to say I did not get to have my leisurely lunch and relaxing afternoon that day.

By the time the server was installed, patched, updated, tweaked, and accessible externally it was 4:30 and I was late… I would get to the venue on time, not forty-five minutes early.  Most unfortunately I did not have opportunity to do the complete run-through of all of my demos, so I was working without a net.  Most of them worked fortunately, but it could easily have gone either way.

In my old life we were always told that it is better to lose a minute in life than our life in a minute, and they were right… take the extra time to do things right, and focus!

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