Dark days before Daylight Savings

It's time to deploy your Daylight Savings patches

Guess this is the big week to write about the Daylight Savings Time snafu. For those who might have missed it, DST starts in the U.S. on March 11 this year -- three weeks earlier than usual -- and ends on November 4, a week later than usual. It's a mite late to be worrying about prepping your systems for the change now, if you ask me. If you're hearing cries of "What do we do?!" from the executive floors feel free to throw a scornful glance or two. Bottom line: If they're complaining now, those guys waited a too long.

Only a couple weeks remain till dooms-time, so what's left to do is painfully obvious. Because there's no time to find or build an all-purpose DST fixit-tool, you're stuck using what you've got. That means using your centralized software management toolbox (if you have one), but it also means double-checking: A software manager such as Microsoft SMS (Systems Management Server) can manage patch deployments for all kinds of apps, but it can't guarantee the patches will be there.

Take a glance at that corporate software portfolio and then tell your hapless intern to Web scan or call each manufacturer and get the lowdown on where the DST patch effort is. Get dates and make sure someone on your staff checks them and makes sure to get those patches in-house. Start that remediation process as soon as you can. After that, make a list of all the manufacturers who answer "Duh, what DST patch?" and plan on managing those changeovers yourself. Tedious, time-consuming, and a real pitfall if you mess it up ... so don't. It's not hard, it's just a pain in that fleshy bodily region I'm not supposed to mention by name.

That's all I've got for the DST buzzword. The only other buzzword on everyone's lips is virtualization, mainly because Virtual PC 2007 just became available for free download from the big M. I've got it running on the Gateway E255-M notebook on which I glommed the Vista Business client. The basic package installed on Vista with no trouble. Then I installed Windows XP Pro as a guest operating system -- again, no trouble. Dug around a bit and found my Windows 2000 discs and installed that -- still no trouble, although the wireless client failed to work. I tore my office apart looking for Windows 98 discs, but all I could find were the MSDN versions and I've long since lost the product keys to those. I suppose I could have checked eBay for some OS/2 Warp disks, but ... why?

The rumour mill has it that you can install Fedora Core as a guest OS, but that died hard on my box. I'm not much of a Penguin modifier, though, and the Web says you've got to mod your display drivers, among other things, to get this to run properly, so I gave up pretty quick and went back to watching Patton. Microsoft has made a small deal out of the almost-Linux-compatibility, but I don't see giving the company credit for something it really didn't do. Virtual PC 2007 may be able to manage Fedora with some headaches on my part, but I get enough headaches.

If Redmond won't officially acknowledge the Penguin, and you think you need the Penguin, then forget about Virtual PC 2007. Simple as that. After all, there are other clients out there that can do this with no recourse to Advil whatever. VMware is the big name, and if you use that platform, you won't be sorry. If the VMware price tag bothers you, then check out the Parallels -- between US$50 and US$80 depending on which version we're talking about, and it supports Windows, Linux, and even OS X in some configurations. I'm using it now, although I'm saving the details of that little venture for future column fodder. Meanwhile, if you're testing Windows software for backwards compatibility, Virtual PC 2007 is fantastic. If you're looking to use your favourite apps on your favourite operating system, look someplace else.

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Oliver Rist

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