Keith Combs' Blahg

Ramblings from another nerd on the grid

April, 2005

  • Halo 2 Update Releases tomorrow 4/18/2005

    Awoz_avatarWell at long last there is an update coming for Halo 2 and it will be available on Xbox Live tomorrow.  The update will fix a number of multiplayer exploits and that is welcome news for many of us that love the game.  In addition to the multiplayer fixes, the developers are changing some of the characteristics of the weapons.  One of the things I’ve had to really suppress in Halo 2 was the use of a melee attack (cracking a weapon over someone’s head).  Melee attacks in Halo 1 were deadly but in Halo 2, it was like tapping someone on their shoulder and inviting them to unload a clip on you.  Well, that is getting ready to change (for the better).  There are a number of other weapon changes.  I didn’t see anything mentioned about the battle rifle but I would not be surprised to see single shot mode, and more muzzle velocity and power.  See the Bungie website story for more information.

    The update precedes a number of new maps on the way.  We’ll see two new free multiplayer map downloads before the end of the month thanks to Mountain Dew. Two additional maps will be available for purchase as premium downloads.  All four maps will be available before the end of April.  When June rolls around, we’ll release a DVD with a bunch of maps.  See the details of the map releases at the Halo 2 area

    Man, this summer and fall is looking good.  New Halo 2 stuff, the next generation Xbox details on MTV May 12th, and I presume we’ll have some new hardware to play with for Christmas.  Yee Haw!!!

  • Microsoft Updates The Virtual Server 2005 Support Policy

    Wss_masthead_ltr Great news! I just started catching up on the email and noticed we have released new information on the products now supported inside a Virtual Server 2005 VM. See for the latest information. See for the products not currently supported within a VM. Enjoy!
  • Windows Server 2003 SP1 - firewall program exceptions

    One of the questions that comes up at each of our Windows Server 2003 SP1 seminars is around the new firewall, and specifically how it handles program exceptions.  One of my attendees asked when the ports for a program are enumerated.  Are they discovered when you add the program and click OK or is this handled later?

    Well, the good news is that the ports used by the program are not enumerated and opened at the time you add the program unless the program is running.

    In our seminar, we use the Windows Server 2003 DNS service as our guinea pig.  So we add c:\windows\system32\dns.exe to the program exceptions list.  This isn’t the greatest demo in the world, but you get the idea.  In the case of DNS and the Virtual PC 2004 VM used in the seminar, the ports are opened because the service is running and responding to queries.

    If you look at the screenshot below and the programs in my Windows XP firewall list, you’ll see some other interesting entries.


    You first notice some greyed entries.  Those entries are controlled by group policy and are pushed to my machine.  As you can see, Microsoft has a number of IPsec policies in place on our network so they’ve opened the appropriate ports for that.  You’ll also see an entry for the new and improved MSN Messenger v7.0.  Would you rather just point to the .exe for Messenger or try and figure out all of the ports it uses for chat, pics, voice, video, etc.?  I’d rather just point to the .exe as demonstrated in the screenshot below.


    After you’ve added the program to the list, the Windows Firewall will dynamically open ports needed by the program while the program is running.  When the program closes, all of the ports are closed as well.  This is a very flexible approach for programs you trust.  Never add a program to the exceptions list that you aren’t familiar with.

    For more information, go to “Configuring Program Exceptions” in our beloved TechNet area.  Everything you ever wanted to know about Windows Server 2003 SP1 is at  Enjoy! 

  • Comparing blogs - decisions decisions

    It’s been fun but decision time is rapidly approaching.  I mean after all, how many blogs can a person afford to invest time in?  I’m tempted to keep the blog totally work related and have everything else (family, hobbies, rants) on my personal domain blog.  What do you do?

    During the blog adventure over the past few months, the hype meter around blogging has gotten crazy.  I mean is RSS going to solve world peace or what?

    I have been looking at several sites to use.  Like many of you, I want to be able to share information and get feedback on our products and services like live seminars and webcasts.  So here are the sites I’ve looked at, and some thoughts on each: – love the domain name.  Some of the styles are ok, but most of the colors were funky.  I did a few CSS overrides to come up with some colors I could live with.  Good statistical reporting (needed for the managers). Good spam controls.  BlogJet posting supported.  Only Microsoft employees are allowed to create a blog on this domain.  Anyone can reply if the blog allows it. – kewl themes!  Ok, this is a fun consumer area although I doubt I’d use it for any of my business oriented communiques.  MSN keeps improving and this will be very welcome by many.  Easy to create and setup. Free. Picture support is integrated so you don’t need a separate server to store pictures.  BlogJet is not supported.  Dog slow. – a decent selection of themes.  I really like the black theme I’m using.  As with the site, I changed some of the template settings to suit my needs (made the posting col wider).  Decent control of the site via the settings.  No statistics!  This is a show stopper for my needs.  BlogJet supported.

    So it appears this is going to boil down to two sites short term.  The site for business, and blogspot for personal.  If after a few weeks I see that BlogJet wants to play nicely with b2evolution, then I’ll probably just use my domain.  It’s probably better that way since it will force me to update my website more often. 


  • Converting .DVR-MS to MPEG4 for use on a Playstation Portable (PSP)

    PSP BackDo you have a Sony PSP?  If you are also lucky enough to have Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005, you might be considering converting a few of those recorded television programs into a format that can be viewed on your new toy.  Fortunately, there are a number of ways to do that.

    The biggest challenge you face is converting the MCE file format to something other converters can understand.  The .DVR-MS file contains XML for information related to the date the program was recorded, channel recorded on, etc.  Many of the video converters have no knowledge of this XML wrapper so they cannot convert correctly. 

    If you really want to know the gory details of the .DVR-MS format, see the Smart Client Development Center article, “Fun with DVR-MS”, by Stephen Toub.  This is a great little article for you propeller heads.

    For those of us that like to install and run, Sony created a nice little software program called Image Converter 2.  I like this program for a couple of reasons.  First, it’s relatively inexpensive at $19.99 US.  The second reason I like it is because it works.  In fact, this program will take a .dvr-ms file and convert it to the required PSP MPEG4 format in one step. 

    Image Converter 2 is simple to use and isn’t overly cluttered with a vast array of settings.  You can pick from four different output formats.  I settled on the 192kbps setting until I get some larger memory sticks.  I’ll likely move to the 384k setting later.  At first I was put off by not having a bunch of settings to mess with, then I realized I really don’t need any.  The program works, and it’s VERY fast.

    There was one thing I didn’t like about the program.  By default, Image Converter 2 will automatically break the output into chunks if the movie is over 120 minutes.  You can alter this behaviour by changing the following registry setting:

    [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Sony Corporation\Image Converter 2\2.1]

    I doubled the setting for my machine (as shown above in hex) and will probably increase it again if I decide to convert a really long movie.