Windows Internals Study Group – First meeting

Last night myself and two others had out first planning meeting via google huddle for our Windows Internals Study group. We will be meeting next Wednesday 2012-11-17 at 20:30 EST to discuss the first two chapters of Windows Internals 6th edition. If you still want to participate its not too late, just let me know.

One thing we decided was to make all our notes public. Right now they are being stored in a google drive shared folder that is publicly accessible. The information there will grow with time.

Windows Internals Study Group Proposal

UPDATE: I’ve made a google group to move the discussion to.

While most of the code I’ve written to put food on the table has been for application development, I’ve always had a true passion for system development. Its a bit meta, sort of like being the mechanical engineer that just wants to make a better ratchet wrench. However, I think its important to understand, and if given the opportunity, help write the code that runs and supports the code that makes the end users productive.

As a result of this passion, I’ve been reading the 5th edition of Windows Internals by Windows Hacker extraordinaires Mark E. Russinovich and David A. Solomon. This edition covers Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008. While its been enlightening, and the exercises have helped reinforce the concepts, the book is still somewhat academic. It’s also not a book about programming or a book about system administration. Its a book that teaches concepts. Some of these concepts mesh well with my previous knowledge and are directly applicable to things I’ve done or want to do. I retain these concepts well. Other concepts, such as the finer points of windows objects, are not things I can relate to other concepts (yes I see the unix everything is a file parallel, but I don’t see the dd if=/dev/foo of=/tmp/foo.img parallel that makes it useful).

So I decided to form a study group. I’ve done this before for the ZCE in PHP5, with the Long Island PHP user group. Here is what I am proposing. All interested parties contact me via the comments or at @zippy1981 on twitter. We will meet once a week, each week covering a different chapter.  The expectation as participants would be as follows:

Before the meeting

  • Do the assigned homework for the previous chapter
  • Read the chapter. Take notes of what you did not understand. Make a list of hyperlinks and deadtree references that you used to supplement the chapter, if any.
  • Do all the exercises with the prescribed  Windows System Internals tools and Windows Debugger (these are all free downloads).
  • Do the exercises with equivalent third party tools including:

During the Meeting

  • Take a turn in leading on of the meetings. I suggest picking the chapter you are most intimidated by, not the one you are most confident in. This is a reinforcement tool.
  • Present your homework from the previous chapter. We will go around the room. Depending on the size of the group and scope of the assignment we might only have a subset of the group volunteer to present or break into small groups.
  • Discuss the chapter of the week. Share what you didn’t understand, help others who didn’t understand things that you did understand. (the whole point of a study group)
  • Last weeks discussion leader will demonstrate this weeks exercises using both the sysinternals tools and the third party ones we agree upon.
  • The group leader will assign us a homework for next week,
  • Next weeks discussion leader will act as secretary and do the following:
    • Collect everyone’s links to post to a wiki we will maintain.
    • Take minutes of what we discussed in the meetings for the wiki.
    • Where appropriate, filing bugs and feature requests for third party tools that lack the functionality to do the exercises.

Grading

Now, this isn’t high school, and we’re not getting graded. No one will chastise you if you don’t go to all the sessions or do all the homework. We all have jobs, friends, families, and sometimes a study group isn’t the most important thing. I expect the class to consist of mostly adults, but welcome any teenagers that think they can handle the material. Therefore, I will treat you all like adults.

That being said, I do want to run this as a pass fail course and give out certificates. Unlike the PHP ZCE study class I ran, there is no clear external goal. There is no certification on Windows Internals, except perhaps as parts of instructor lead courses. Passing will consist of doing all the homework, and actively participating in all the classes. If you miss a class, you can make it up my meeting later in the week with at least one other member of the study group. While a certificate seems kind of corny, especially coming from as unaccredited and aprestigious a body as the one we will be forming, I feel this  small carrot will help with commitment.

Location

There is no reason this can’t work remotely. I will not turn anyone down because they can only attend via skype. However, I’d like at least some of us to meet in person.

I live in Jersey City and work in Hoboken. I’ll travel to Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Hudson, Bergen and Essex counties, or perhaps somewhere a little farther if I can find a really convenient train. We can certainly have multiple physical meeting locations (e.g. a group of people from Chicago meet there and I meet with some people in Hoboken).

Ideally, I’d like a meeting facility with a projector for the group location((s). We’d probably need to use webex if we are all not in the same room.

What edition?

I’m reading the 5th edition (because I happen to own it). The 6th edition covers Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008R2. Its also a two volume edition. so its more expensive. I need to research if there will be an addition for Windows 8. I’m  proposing at this point the 6th Edition, because part 2 of the 6th edition was just released.

Flexibility

My proposal is mostly based on what worked for the PHP cert. This will be quite different though. We might want to break some chapters in half, or dedicate two meetings to a chapter.

I hope to get enough interest to make this happen. I think this could work out really well and prove to be a great learning experience for everyone.