Cursory Distractions

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First off, I need to apologize to all those people who have been reduced to reading my previous "Hyper-Ventilating" posts hoping to find some crumb of comfort to alleviate their crippling medical condition. It seems from the analysis of Web search requests for those posts that more people are ill than are using Hyper-V. I suppose that's reasonable, and will perhaps teach me to stop using misleading (and often incomprehensible) titles for my posts. A bit like this one, I guess.

Ah, but no, this week's title is actually highly accurate! Because, despite endlessly installing and re-installing the Hyper-V integration components in my Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 virtual machines, Hyper-V seems totally incapable of displaying the appropriate cursor or mouse pointer. It always starts off OK, leading me to believe that it was just some intermittent aberration last time, and from now on I'll be able to see the pointer wherever it gaily wanders across the multiple windows and icons of the vast 800 x 600 pixel screen estate it has to play in.

And then it changes to a thin black "up arrow", or an hourglass, or even the tiny little square that's supposed to indicate that Hyper-V is letting you see the virtual machine even though you haven't clicked on it yet. But I'll say one thing - it's certainly making me learn where the "hotspot" is on each of the multitude of pointer and cursor shapes. No doubt that will be useful in some future life after the Government of the People's Republic of Europe bans all pointer shapes except "East-West-Arrow" or "No Drop". Maybe Microsoft should be planning their court appeal now, along with the one where the EU decide that MS has to take keyboard support out of the operating system in order to "level the playing field for competitors" (OK, so I made that one up).

Anyway, I know I'm not alone on this one. There are literally several people complaining on the Web about the same problem. Of course, I was quietly confident that they would fix it in this month's Patch Tuesday selection, but it seems not. Although, so far, the pointer appears to be firmly jammed in "standard arrow pointer" mode now, which isn't so bad. I can probably risk changing the desktop background back from sky blue into something that doesn't require me to wear sunglasses, and still be able to find the pointer on the screen. Before you ask, yes I did try changing the mouse pointer scheme in the virtual machine to one that's easier to see, but it's obvious after doing that (with its total lack of effect) that it is the Hyper-V runtime that's actually generating and managing the mouse pointer. So perhaps I should be grateful I actually get a pointer at all. I suppose I could try changing the mouse scheme in the base O\S instead...

And, while I'm ranting about Hyper-V, can we have some absolute guidance on how to do time synchronization please? After the aforementioned medical condition, this seems to be the second most popular search that finds my posts. Despite the fix I put in place some weeks ago, I was still getting a raft of errors in the Event Logs. Some helpful feedback from Virtual PC Guy and his colleagues suggested that there is a delay in the time synchronization from the Hyper-V base O/S, and that can cause synchronization failures against external time providers or domain controllers.

The problem I found is that, even if I remove all time provider details from domain member virtual machines, they insist on searching for a time provider and inevitably end up snuggling up to the domain controller (as you'd expect). I did wonder about disabling the Windows Time service on virtual machines and just allowing the base O\S to set the time - I reckon I can live with being half a second adrift from the rest of the world. But I have no idea if that would break anything else, and nobody seems able to tell me. And other than disabling the service, I can't see how else you can prevent it from searching for time providers. The other alternative, and the one I've now settled with, is to set up the domain controller(s) as reliable time servers and turn off the Hyper-V "VM IC Time Synchronization Provider" to prevent time synchronization from the base O\S.

Start by opening the Hyper-V Manager and select the virtual machine - it doesn't matter if it's running or not. Open the Settings dialog and click on the Integration Services section near the bottom. Then simply uncheck the setting for Time Synchronization. Now go to Configure the Windows Time Service and follow the instructions. To find an NTP server to use, check out the NTP Pool Project. A bathing costume is not required.

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Cursory Distractions