Connecting Server 2008 R2 Wirelessly And The Service You Never Knew You Needed
I figured it's probably a pretty good idea to be able to boot into a few test VMs off my laptop if I was to ever get stuck at an airport for a long period of time without a good Internet connection (4 Hrs layover in SFO Feb 2011, it will be faaaaaaanatstic). I was in the process of dual booting my work laptop with Win 7 and Server 2008 R2 when I ran across this problem.
When I'm using Windows 7, my laptop is able to connect to wireless networks without a problem. This is expected out of the box behavior, duh.
(All on board the Serenity)
After installing 2008 R2 on my laptop and booting into it I did the whole driver dance where you try to get workstation drivers to work on a server operating system, which is always a challenge and surprising when it really shouldn't have to be. If you've done this dance you know what I'm talking about. I was able to load up a wireless network card driver without too much trouble. Alright time to connect to my network and start doing some updates.
(Where did all those networks go?)
There seems to be no networks for my laptop to connect to when it's booted into 2008 R2. That cannnot be possible since today you cannot go 20 feet without hitting some random wireless network. Let's talk about a wonderful service called the Wireless LAN service. Here is a description of what this busy little guy does.
" The Wireless LAN Service configures the WLAN AutoConfig service to start automatically, regardless of whether the computer has any IEEE 802.11 wireless adapters installed. When enabled, WLAN AutoConfig enumerates every wireless network adapter installed on the computer, manages IEEE 802.11 wireless connections, and manages the wireless connection profiles that contain the settings required to configure a wireless client to connect to a wireless network. WLAN AutoConfig allows you to connect to an existing wireless network, change wireless network connection settings, configure a connection to a new wireless network, and specify preferred wireless networks. WLAN AutoCofig also notifies you when new wireless networks are available. When you switch wireless networks, WLAN AutoConfig dynamically updates your wireless network adapter settings to match the settings of that new network and a network connection attempt will be made."
Translation, basically everything one would need to view, connect to and mange wireless network connections on your server. This is installed by default on Windows Clients (XP, Vista, and Windows 7). This is NOT installed by default on the server platforms. Secure by default FTW! Don't worry I've never tried to connect a server OS wirelessly either. This seems to be our problem though. This is installed by adding a new Feature from the Server Manager tool.
(There you are, thought you could get away didn't you)
After installing that you are now able to connect to the wireless networks but there is a minor gui bug maybe? The icon in the tray still shows you aren't connected even though you really are.
(Why must this icon shake my monkey tree?)
I'm not totally sure why it does that to be honest. If I ever find out I'll re-post something. So I had to use the number one tool in any techs tool kit and what I always tell my dad if he calls with a problem, reboot it and see if that fixes it. I'll tell him that for anything it doesn't even have to make sense. "Reboot the lawnmower see if that fixes it." He'll do it every time. I don't know how he reboots a lawnmower but that's his problem. (See Dell's Patent, I wish I was joking, http://www.bbspot.com/News/2003/08/dell_tech_support.html)
What do you know, it worked! I think I owe Dell a nickle or something.
So hopefully this saves all of you that are trying to do a similar mobile lab some connectivity troubleshooting. Until next time.
Mark "Man I Miss That Show" Morowczynski