I'm currently working on creating a standard image for my company's desktops, and I'm playing with a neat Linux-based imaging application called FOG. It really is a nice piece of software to use, after flailing my arms trying to make the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit to do what I wanted. Seriously, I just want to make an image and deploy it. Is there some reason Microsoft can't make a more streamlined approach for an IT shop that doesn't have someone completely dedicated to this project?
So I built a domain controller and configured my FOG server, then built an VM that I wanted to be a base image. I installed Windows 7, all of the updates and the service pack, then more updates (jeesh there's a lot of updates) and a few static pieces of software that our employees use. I got everything just so, and shut down the VM. I made a copy of the VM's folder so I could go back if I found there were things I forgot to do while in testing. Makes sense, right? I didn't want to go through the entire process again; the updates were brutal! I made another copy after I had sysprepped the Windows install. I recommend doing this because I needed to PXE boot the machine, and trying to boot to something other than the hard disk in a VM on an SSD is nearly impossible. Especially since you can't get focus on the VM inside of workstation until it starts booting, and you have 2 seconds before "Starting Windows" comes up. On this point, please VMware, give us somewhere to adjust the BIOS screen delay before boot!!!
Sure enough, I didn't get everything quite right the first time through. So I powered the VM down, copied the backup I'd made back over, and went to open the VM only to see a strange message stating that it looked like the VM was in use. The actual error states "This virtual machine appears to be in use. If this virtual machine is already in use, press the Cancel button to avoid damaging it. If this virtual machine is not in use, press the take ownership button to obtain ownership." Taking ownership fails. Pressing cancel doesn't help you in your quandary either. The fix is to look in the folder and delete any .LCK files you see. Then you can use the VM again.
Also in my virtual machine playground, I've been toying with Windows 8. Not a big fan. I can adapt and overcome, but I can just picture my users eyes glaze over as I tell them that to shut down the computer, they have to open up the charms bar. The fact that Microsoft is FORCING this UI change on everyone is ridiculous. Admins know how to manipulate just about everything via group policy, and the fact that they're not giving us control over whether our users' boot into the Metro screen or to the desktop is maddening. Actually, the fact that they're forcing everyone to make this transition is, but especially those of us who have help desks to run and need to manage (dictate, whatever) as much as we can. Also, the windows look blocky. Remember when Vista came out everyone hated the GUI and called it the Playschool GUI? Well, this actually looks like a Playschool GUI. The sleek edges are gone, and everything looks blocky. Like.... Legos. I hereby dub this the Lego interface.
On the other side of this coin, I'm really excited about Windows Server 2012 (what little I've used in it). Yeah, the Metro interface rears its ugly head there as well, but there are actually features in it that make the annoyance worthwhile. Personally, I can't wait to have the time to play with IPAM, which is supposed to track all of my IP address space for me, instead of me fumbling around with spreadsheets (and trusting others to accurately note changes when they make them). Also, we've finally got DHCP failover, which is at least a decade overdue, in my opinion. I'm a VMware guy right now, but if Microsoft keeps on like they are I could be a Hyper-V convert. ESPECIALLY if VMware keeps ticking off its customer base like they did last year with that offensive vRam Entitlement cash grab (which they've relented on, to be fair). Microsoft is making some serious inroads, and VMware will need o step up its game if it wants to keep ahead.
If you need a good overview of what's new in Server 2012, there's a really good series of articles over at 4sysops.com that delves into it.