Keith Combs' Blahg

Ramblings from another nerd on the grid

May, 2006

  • How much do 40,000 gallons of water cost where you live?

    I drained and refilled my pool.  That’s 40,000 gallons of fresh water.  Look at your water bill and rate, do the math, and post the result back here.  It’ll be interesting to see what a gallon of fresh water goes for around the world.

    Is water hardware or software?

  • Come watch me bomb !!!

    Today I deliver a webcast on Windows Server 2003 R2 Storage improvements.  This particular webcast will be unique.  It’ll be unique because I’ll be using Windows Vista Beta 2 as the host environment for LiveMeeting 7.5, Virtual Server 2005 R2, etc. 

    Come see me bomb !!!

    Actually, I don’t anticipate many issues.  I did a pretty detailed shake down cruise on Windows Vista Beta 2 with LiveMeeting last night.  Of course the main concern is desktop sharing so you can see the demos.  I’ll be running a few workarounds which I’ll detail later.

    Kevin Remde is also doing a webcast today and wants to do the same thing (run Windows Vista).  We’ll see if he chickens out and uses Windows XP.  Kevin is doing the Active Directory Fundamentals webcast.  See all of the registration links at

  • Windows Vista - turning on Aero Glass

    One topic that comes up pretty frequently is how do you get Aero Glass enabled on Windows Vista?  I installed Beta 2 on both of my laptops last night and by default it didn’t come up enabled.  There’s a simple solution and I was going to create a detailed blog entry, but Steve Lamb already has the instructions at

    By the way, now that Beta 2 is out I can finally start doing some public screencasts on the product features.  Look for some of those soon.

  • Windows Vista Beta 2 download registration

    Well I got all excited…  I was poking around on the MSDN developer site and noticed they have this enticing link to become a member of the Windows Vista Beta program called the Windows Vista Beta Experience.  The link takes you to a site where you can pick your country.  Of course I looked for the country of Texas and to my horror it wasn’t listed.  So I picked the United States and ended up at  On that page they have a registration link that takes you to

    Ok, we are finally through the “experience” and down to the meat of the issue.  I started going down this path to see if we’ve actually offered Windows Vista Beta 2 for download.  Just below the download button is the following statement:

    “The Windows Vista Beta is not yet available. The Beta Experience newsletter will inform you about the availability of the Windows Vista Beta.”

    The download capability is expected to happen around June 5, 2006.  Signup and we’ll see. 

    I ended up also clicking on the ORDER button and purchased a copy of the Office 2007 Beta kit.  $4.95 plus $2 shipping brought my USD total with taxes to $7.52.  Of course I could get this for free internally (and already have), but I also like to see what type of process we are using with our customers.  It indicated 2–3 weeks for delivery.

    UPDATE:  I received my Office System shipment yesterday (6/2/2006).  Pretty fast eh?

    When I find that you can download Windows Vista Beta 2, I’ll let you know.  I have also pinged the TechNet team to see if TechNet subscribers have a way.  No promises, but I’m working on it.



  • Got 2007 Office System Beta 2 ??? - now available for download

    Are you Groovey?  Got SharePoint Designer?  Got Project 2007?  Office 2007 Pro?  NO ???  Dude, what are you waiting for?  This is the first time we’ve made all of those products immediately available on such an intergalactic scale.  I heard the Klingons were into Groove.  Sorry, we’re still working on the localization for the Klingon language.  Apparently it isn’t as popular on Earth as we thought.

    Office signup smallHead on over to and get with the program.  If you want us to ship you glass, click into the Receive by Snail Mail link.  Got a hot fibre connection and you want to download all of the products in the next few seconds?  Well head over to the download link and we’ll generate a purdy page complete with your own product ids and download links.  The screenshot to the right is a pic of me going through the process (click it to get a larger image).  I selected all of the products and after hitting enter it generated download url’s, product ids, etc.  Way kewl!!!

    I am really impressed the Office Team did this.  I do believe it’s the first time we’ve had such a mass quantity of Beta products directly available to the entire planet.  Can you imagine the amount of data that will be downloaded in the next few months.

    Now that you have all of them, what are you going to go?  I’d love to hear about any applications developed, impressions of Groove, see good project plans, and more importantly how Microsoft is saving your business money. 

    We need to just put all of the beta products on and beat the living daylights out of those hard drives.  You game?

    Where the heck is Vista? 

    Enjoy my friends.

  • It's back !!! - The Book of Windows Vista - download now

    Windows VistaAs you’ll recall, I posted a preliminary version of the Windows Vista Product Guide (also known as “The Book of Windows Vista”) a few weeks ago.  It was in .xps form and initial feedback was very good.  However, in order to view and print the must have information, you needed to install WinFX.  XPS is the XML Paper Specification.  Well, we got some good critical feedback and guess what, we listened. 

    Now, you can download this puppy in Microsoft word or XPS format.  Careful though, it’s not your daddies download.  It’s 60MB of rich knowledge transfer.  It’s a comprehensive view of the feature set in Windows Vista.  There are consumer oriented chapters.  There are chapters devoted to the IT Pro feature set.

    You’ll need to decide if you are going be eco friendly or not.  Use it in “digital” form or send it to your trusty duplex printer.  Either way, I think you’ll enjoy this guide as you take your journeys to the wonderful world that is Windows Vista.

    It’s my understanding this will also be printed and sold in a hard back format.  I think it would make a nice edition in my library.  Maybe I can get Brian or Jim to autograph one for me.  Now that would really be kewl.

    UPDATE 5/25/2006: contains the links to the .xps and .doc versions.

    Enjoy my friends!!!

  • Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor Beta - now available for download

    The parade of new utilities and tools continues.  If you were paying attention, you noticed the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor was posted to, then promptly disappeared.  I hate it when that happens, but I’m sure we found a bug that needed to be corrected.  Well, it’s back and you can download it right now

    Please keep in mind this is beta code so your mileage may vary.  There’s a bunch of information in the form of a FAQ at

  • Wireless on openSUSE 10.1

    openSUSEI’ve been evaluating the Lenovo ThinkPad T60.  It looks like we’re going with the T60p so you can come to my shows soon and see it in action.  During the course of my eval, I always install the core Microsoft operating systems I use for my job.  Today that means Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 and Windows Vista.  Windows Vista is of course still under development and hasn’t been released yet although we’ll be releasing Beta 2 this quarter.

    This morning I downloaded openSUSE Linux v10.1.  I downloaded the DVD .iso and burned a disk.  Install went fine.  However, as usual, the wireless detection and configuration programs didn’t properly create a wireless connection to my home network.  I took a look at the System | YAST | Network Devices | Network Card control panel applet and plugged in the appropriate security settings.  This isn’t rocket science.  My network isn’t THAT secure.  My network is protected by SiGARMS

    I verified the operating mode, network name, auth mode, etc.  I did a few changes to see if I could get it work.  A few reboots later… nada.

    Ok, back to Windows Vista I go and it’s networking magic.  I do love the Linux screensavers though.  Fractals are kewl.

  • Is blogging with Word 2007 a big deal?

    Tons of people have discovered a new feature in the Office 2007 Beta 2 version of Word.  It allows you to write fantastic dissertations in Word and post them to your blog.  I am currently using BlogJet v1.6 and it does the job, but it has this weird little European dictionary and doesn’t like my spellins fer things here in Texas.  Go figure.  Anyway, it will be good to see my real-time grammar and spelling errors in Word 2007.

    Next week I’m on the road doing TechNet seminars in Tennessee.  When I get back, my poor little laptop gets another therapeutic flattening and I’m going to install the best current build of Windows Vista and Office 2007 Beta 2.  I’ll blog from Word then.  Big deal?  We’ll see…

    If you want definitive information on this feature and others in Word 2007, see  You can also see a demo of the feature at this screencast.  Maybe someday Kevin will stop using all of the awful spaces in the filename.  8.3 rulz.

  • Windows Mobile Device Emulator now available!!!

    MotoQA lot of you have seen our Exchange and Windows Mobile demos lately that included the remote wipe demos.  However, unless you have the Visual Studio product and mobile SDK installed, you couldn’t run the kewl emulator.

    Well, we now have the standalone emulator out on the Microsoft Download Center.  Go get it at

    Oh, and if you are interested in my next phone (seen to the right), here’s some information on the Motorola Q…  The Motorola Q is the thinnest, full-function Windows Mobile powered device offered by Motorola. Wherever business takes you, your Microsoft Outlook e-mail, contacts, and calendars are with you and up-to-date. And all the responsiveness you require is tucked stylishly in to your pocket.  (click the image to go to the Motorola site).

    The Motorola Q features:  

    • Microsoft Office Outlook Mobile for corporate e-mail, calendar, contacts, and tasks
    • Integrates with up to six work/personal e-mail accounts
    • Windows Mobile 5.0 software
    • Full QWERTY keyboard
    • Bluetooth wireless technology
    • Large, vibrant 2.4” color screen
    • Superior voice quality, data and multimedia
    • Stereo speakers for great sounding video and MP3 payback
    • Voice activated dialing
    • A 1.3 megapixel camera with photo lighting
  • Windows Vista User Account Control (UAC) - love it?

    There has been a raging debate inside and outside of Microsoft about the new security feature in Windows Vista called UAC.  UAC stands for User Account Control.  The debate has raged mostly about the effectiveness of the feature.  Do a search on for vista uac and you’ll see what I mean.  The mainstream press has even  decided this topic is worthy of  “debate”.

    By effectiveness, I mean that most of the negative articles mention that your are prompted so often for elevation consent, that you become a drone hitting the enter key without really looking closely at why you are being prompted.

    Let’s get one thing straight about the feature set… you can control this.  In the snip I have posted, you can see the policies that are available that control the behavior of this feature.

    UAC policy

    The policies can be set and controlled locally via secpol.msc, or via a Windows Active Directory Group Policy.  In the snip above, you can see I took a harsh stance on the policies for my machine.  I’m currently running a Windows Vista Beta 2 release candidate and have been running with these policies for over three weeks.

    Keep in mind Windows Vista is in development.  You get to tell us what is the right balance of security and control.  Windows Vista Beta 2 is almost ready.  Install it and try it for yourself.  Post feedback to the UAC blog at where they’ve outlined the settings and their meanings.

    See the Step-By-Step at

    See for more information.

    See the Application Compatibility article at  This is a very nice resource and you should devote some time to reading that article (recently updated).


  • Feed Your Habit rss feedsSomebody has been doing some very nice work on  Take a close look at  We’re starting to get our act togethor on the plethora of content you can suck into your machine via RSS. 

    We have all kinds of nice little categories for developers, IT Pros (the most stressful job in the world), home users, etc.

    And of course, you’ll find this blog sprinkled across some of those categories.

    What I didn’t see was a category for podcasts and screencasts.  Ok, nobody is perfect.  Enjoy!!!

  • Desktop Search - new screencast available

    MongoMatt Hester wrote an article for TechNet Magazine on Windows Desktop Search (WDS).  The article is in the publication pipeline so it’ll be out in the next few months.  In the meantime, Matt used Camtasia Studio to produce a screencast on the product technologies.  This is an excellant preview of the article (which I’ve already reviewed).  Matt did a great job of recording the demos (too good) and you’ll see they stream nicely off our media server.

    See his post at for more information, references and the link to the screencast.

    For infomation on WDS see

  • Managing the WSUS Automatic Updates Client Download, Install, and Reboot Behavior with Group Policy

    Bobbie Harder has recently published an excellent article about the WSUS Automatic Update Client.  Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) clients can be configured to provide update installation and reboot behavior best suited to your environment and your business needs. You can use Group Policy or Local Group Policy to modify Automatic Update configuration on your WSUS clients to determine what notification, download, install, and reboot behavior your WSUS managed clients will experience in updating from WSUS. Although there are policy settings for WSUS that control additional configuration, this article focuses on configuration options that define update notification, download, installation, and post-install reboot behavior.

    For the remainder of the article, please see

  • Marvel Entertainment Halo Graphic Novel due in July

    Halo graphic novel thumbFans of the Microsoft Bungie game Halo will get a treat in July.  A number og highly talented artists and writers have teamed with Marvel entertainment to produce a new book about the award winning game.

    From the Marvel website, “Marvel Comics, Bungie Studios, and Microsoft Game Studios are pleased to announce the creation of the Halo Graphic Novel. The Halo Graphic Novel (HGN) is an all-new hardcover anthology, consisting of one lengthy story and three shorter stories set within the Halo universe--all adding to the Halo mythos. In addition, there will be a collection of gallery pages featuring Halo inspired artwork from a variety of artists. By joining forces with an experienced industry veteran Marvel as the publisher and recruiting some of the comic industry's most talented artists and writers, Bungie Studios hopes not only to expand upon the incredibly popular Halo storyline but also to raise the bar and set a new standard for what a graphic novel can and should be.”  See the remaining details of that announcement @

    Many book retailers are already taking preorders.  The book ISBN number is 0785123725.  Here’s a direct link to the Barnes & Noble website catalog entry. 

    Oh, and if you didn’t see the action at E3 yesterday, checkout the Halo 3 trailer.  Make sure to right mouse click the link and download before viewing.  See for additional details on the presentation, wallpapers, screenshots, etc

  • The Exchange Team Blog has moved!!!

    Exchange Team BlogOne of the most popular IT Pro blogs in the world just got a new face, and more importantly, a new video section for screencasts.  If you frequent, you’ll notice it now redirects to

    Make sure to update your favorites and RSS feeds.  And of course, check out the video section.  We’ll be adding both Exchange Server 2003 and 2007 demos.

  • My visit to an Apple store

    AppleAfter dinner yesterday evening, we swung by the new swanky Apple store in my neighborhood.  It was an interesting experience.  We used to have an Apple store when they first built the Southlake Town Square complex (Phase I).  However, that store didn’t make it.  It was also right before the iPod revolution.  Well, they are back.

    The Good

    I liked the store layout.  Just like the machines, everything was clean and modern.  As I walked in the door, I was greeted by 4–5 employees congregated in the front door area. 

    As I scanned the room, I saw the first set of machines I wanted to look at.  They had an entire island of 15.4” MacBook Pro laptops.  Ooo la la.  I messed around with one for about 5–7 minutes and someone finally asked me if I had any questions.  I did of course and we’ll get to that. 

    MacBook ProI picked up one of the machines to see how heavy it felt.  It’s a lot lighter than my current laptop.  The case is smooth and beautiful.  The screen was plenty bright even in the brightly lit store.  I’m used to running my laptop at 1400x1050 so the 1440x900 resolution looked natural to me.  I played around in OS X to get a feel for the performance.  It performed very nicely.  I didn’t see any decent game loaded on the exhibit machines so I had no time to see how it handled something like Half Life 2.  I did play some videos, worked with the picture viewer, and compared it to Windows Vista (in my mind).  The MagSafe power connector should become an industry standard. 

    In the back of the store, they were having a class on business blogcasting.  Very very kewl. 

    Oh, I almost forgot (and the reason for this update), there was a kids section right next to the public class section in the back.  I watched a youngster playing a game on the iMac (I think it was an iMac) while Mom or Dad learned to blogcast.  Now that was a very very good idea.

    I kept circling the store clockwise and arrived at my preferred destination.  The Mac Mini.  I agree, small is beautiful.  I spent some time playing around on one.  Really decent performance in a small package.  I don’t really need a laptop but would love to have one of these.  $599, I’ll take it. Then it dawned on me…  What was I running?


    The Not So Good

    I moved next to look at the display of displays.  Gotta love those 23” and 30” Cinema displays.  As with the other products, excellent fit and finish.  However, and this is where it starts to get into the not so good, what’s up with the price?  The Apple 23” Cinema is $1299.  Dell had their 24” widescreen on sale this week for $639.  The Apple 30” is $2499.  Are they worth it?  You tell me.

    On the not so good note, the employees I did talk to weren’t very knowledgeable about the products.  They couldn’t or wouldn’t articulate the value of OS X on the new laptops versus the G4.  They couldn’t really tell me which was faster.  I asked how difficult it is to move from the Windows world to the Mac hardware and software… blank stare. 

    iPodThey looked bored.  They actually said that to me on my way into the store.  Bored?  With the goodies in this store?  How is that possible exactly?  My daughter and her boyfriend were having a blast with the camera and some photo booth software.  They were laughing and showing me their art.  The employees looked annoyed that they were having fun.

    I then arrived at the iPod section.  I have often considered buying one.  Not just any iPod, the most expensive iPod on the planet.  The 60gig video iPod.  There’s just one or two problems.  First, the iPod needs to knock the current small form factor video king off the block.  Sorry, I like my Sony PSP better for playing video.  I wish the PSP had a 60gig drive, but I’ll take the screen over the drive any time.  Second, price.  Please reduce it.

    I also asked one of the employees how to transfer video to the iPod.  He said to use the Apple iTunes store to buy videos.  I said, but what about videos I have on my Mac?  He said, I don’t know.  Excuse me, but if you are a product rep for a product like the iPod, please go find out.  You might first check into other Apple products like QuickTime Pro (which I own).   

    Regarding my comments on the Mac Mini, most if not all of the tags next to the display machines read $599.  I turned a couple of the cute little boxes over and they were the $799 dual core versions.  Grrrrrrrrr.

    All in all, it was a worth while trip.  I got to spend about 35 minutes touching the various products.  The common theme for me was price on most of the products.  The MacBook Pro 2.0GHz Duo, 2gig RAM, 100gig 7200rpm drive laptop goes for $2899 from the online Apple store.  The Lenovo ThinkPad T60 similarly equipped is about the same price.  The Dell Latitude D820 is currently discounted several hundred dollars below. 

    There’s no doubt Apple has some kewl products.  I looks like they’ve priced the MacBook Pro very competitively.  Go touch.  Go feel.  It will be interesting to see how they do. 

  • Windows Vista App Compat Readiness Labs @ TechEd06

    An unique opportunity to get one-on-one time with our Windows Vista application compatibility experts during the Windows Vista Readiness Applications Compatibility Labs at TechEd 2006. Bring your own Applications to test and troubleshoot and/or try out our self paced labs to test and catch up on the exciting new enhancements and opportunities Windows Vista has to offer – all in a single room.

    Windows Vista Readiness Labs TechEd06

    June 12th – 16th, 2006

    Room 108, First Floor

    Boston Convention & Exhibition Center (BCEC)
    415 Summer Street
    Boston, MA 02210

    Application Developers (ISV and IT) are invited to the Windows Vista Readiness App Compat labs at TechEd06!

    • Use our test application to learn about changes that could affect applications in the Windows Vista environment.
    • Bring your Applications to the Vista Readiness Lab and have our experts assist in evaluating and debugging compatibility issues in your app.
    • In a single HoL session you will understand how to setup, run and uninstall scenarios for Vista and learn more about new features like UAC and how they can impact applications.
    • Spend 1:1 time with our Vista App Compat experts – learn how to fix your applications directly from Microsoft Development teams and experience the enhancements and opportunities Vista has to offer.
    • This is a great opportunity to learn about the (ACT) Application Compatibility Toolkit that would help enterprises to evaluate upgrade and deployment to Windows Vista options while reducing testing and other costs to a minimum. Additionally, ACT can be used by developers to learn about areas in their applications that need to be addressed.
  • Jesper speaks - Windows Vista firewall is goodness

    Jesper Johansson  is one of our Security Strategists and like all good evangelist, dishes out his share of fire and brimstone.  Unless he’s taking shots at fellow security expert Steve Riley, you can count on the topic to be interesting, technical and relevant to the world of IT security.

    This week is no exception and you find his latest post on the Windows Vista firewall to be an excellent read.  Jesper does a great job of explaining the goals of the service, default rules, how to create custom rules, group policy control and other dimensions.

    Now we just need to get Camtasia studio in his hands and we can get some cool demos streamed from his blog…