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Readers Review Hot Products - 28 Feb 2007

Simplify Product Key Extraction
NirSoft's ProduKey

I won't go on and on about how scripting can save you a lot of time. It has been said thoroughly, and all serious IT integrators know that scripting is one of the keys to a successful implementation. So, when trying to extract Windows and Microsoft Office product keys, I was especially happy to find Nirsoft's ProduKey. Although there are plenty of freeware utilities that will extract product keys, ProduKey is among the only ones to support command line parameters. It lets systems administrators and network consultants script and automate Windows and Microsoft Office key recovery. The tool also offers great flexibility with its parameters, from providing methods to extract the keys to methods of generating the output to HTML files or plain text, and so on.

Before ProduKey, I used other freeware programs or expensive asset inventory and audit management software. The problem with some other freeware solutions is that you can use only a GUI to extract product keys. Although this can be good for a small company or department, it becomes really tedious whenever you need to extract keys from dozens or hundreds of computers. As for asset inventory and audit management software, this is just overkill when you simply want to recover a Windows product key. With ProduKey, extracting keys from dozens of computers is no longer a burden and can be fully automated by putting a few lines of code inside an existing logon script.

Reader:
Alexis Laliberte
Senior technical consultant
Product:
ProduKey
Company:
NirSoft
Contact:
www.nirsoft.net

Let Users Easily Print Screen shots
Hardcopy

My company's support staff needed an easier way to let our end users print screen shots for the programs they use. We use the screen shots mainly to troubleshoot errors in programs or explain clerical errors that need to be fixed. We are currently using Hardcopy, and the results have been good so far. Hardcopy places a printer icon in whichever object a user has open, and all the user needs to do is click and it's done. The software supports direct emailing after creating the screen shot or hard copies for print. Our heaviest use so far has been for documenting intermittent error messages. This visual aspect of Hardcopy is easier to explain to users than "copying" and "pasting." From our central office, we handle 25 remote locations, so we save a lot of time because we don't have to retrain users each time we need them to send us screen shots. We highly recommend the product.

Editor's note: Hardcopy offers a number of print screen options. By utilizing keyboard shortcuts or by clicking on the printer icon in your objects, you can print the current screen, current window, or a partial window. Hardcopy works with all versions of Windows, including Windows Vista, and is available as a free download on Hardcopy's Web site.

Reader:
Gerald Adams
IT network/systems supervisor
Product:
Hardcopy
Company:
Hardcopy
Contact:
www.gen.hardcopy.de

Migrate to a Virtual Infrastructure
VMware Converter 3 Beta

Starting a new datacenter in the virtual machine (VM) world would be a snap, but what if you already have physical servers running and configured? Most infrastructure departments simply don't have the time to manually move each server to a VM. Fortunately, VMware has a product called P2V Assistant to automate the process. The next-generation P2V (Physical to Virtual) and V2V (Virtual to Virtual) conversion tool is called VMware Converter 3, which is currently in beta testing. Converter can migrate physical, virtual, and even disk images like Norton Ghost. Once a machine has been converted to a VM, it can be used on VMware ESX Server 2.5 and higher, VMware Workstation 4 and higher, VMware GSX Server 3.x, VMware Server 1.0, and even VMware Player.

Converter comes in two editions: Starter and Enterprise. The Starter Edition is a free download from VMware's Web site and can migrate only one server at a time. Enterprise is a licensed product (licensing costs have yet to be determined) that can perform multiple migrations all at once. Converter supports cold as well as hot migrations. Cold migrations require you to completely shut down the physical server and restart it using a special boot CD, while a hot migration lets you keep the source server running during the migration. Strangely, cold migrations are only available in the licensed version of Converter. P2V was good, but Converter is simply amazing. Hot migrations greatly reduce the amount of downtime for a conversion. Converter also deals with the "utility partitions" that are found on HP, Compaq, and Dell servers much better than earlier versions of P2V. What makes this version really worth looking at is that the Starter Edition is free, and what's better than free?

Reader:
Eric Rux
Systems administrator
Product:
VMware Converter 3 Beta
Company:
VMware
Contact:
www.vmware.com

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