Keith Combs' Blahg

Ramblings from another nerd on the grid

October, 2006

  • What are we thinking? Lets sell this stuff!!!

    Man, the parade of free stuff just keeps coming.  First it was Internet Explorer 7 which everyone and their dog blogged about.  That reminds me, I need to check my dogs blog to see if Elvis wrote about it.  Then, if that wasn't enough, out comes Windows Defender.  It's free as well.  Download it now.

    Now, we're giving away Media Player 11.  Shouldn't we be selling this stuff?  Anyway, for those of you planning on using Windows XP for a little while longer, this is really good news.  A new world class browser, spyware security tool, and killer media player application.  Not bad for the past couple of weeks, eh?

    Here's some of the features of WMP11:

    Simplicity at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/player/11/design.aspx.

    More music at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/player/11/music.aspx.

    New device and sync features at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/player/11/everywhere.aspx.

  • CICLOPS - Cassini Imaging Central Lab for Operations

    Some of the most amazing pictures of Saturn I've ever seen have been posted to the NASA Cassini mission imaging site at http://ciclops.org/index.php.  In fact this picture is my new Windows Vista desktop background.  It certainly grabs your eye balls and attention immediately.  Click the picture to see the full image.

    All of the images are at the CICLOPS website.  Be sure to read up on how those images were taken at http://ciclops.org/view.php?id=2230.  Very very kewl stuff.

  • Guess who's giving away Xbox 360's ???

    Me and my posse, that's who!!!  We're going to give away an Xbox 360 to some lucky person at each live TechNet Seminar.  I'm still checking on the exact information, but here's what I do know... Starting next week, we'll have one Xbox 360 to give away at each live seminar.  You can get a view of all of the seminars at http://www.technetevents.com

    I am checking to confirm which Xbox 360 package we are giving away.  I'm hoping it's the Premium but probably won't know for sure until Monday around lunch.  I'm also checking to see how long this is going on.  I think we are doing this for the remainder of the quarter (close to Christmas).  I'll update this post when I have the details.

    As with all of our seminars, you'll be treated to some great information.  This quarter, we discuss Exchange Server 2007, the power of Windows Server Active Directory, and some information on Windows Vista.  

    I don't really know yet how the presenters intend to do their giveaway drawing.  Some presenters prefer to do it at the beginning of the event.  Others like to do it at the end.  Anyway, it should be fun!!!

    [UPDATE for 11/3/2006] Ok, it took a little longer for the confirmation of dates, but here they are:

    Attend a TechNet Event between October 31, 2006, and December 14, 2006, and submit a completed Evaluation Form to be entered into a drawing for a chance to win* an Xbox 360™ video game and entertainment system. To register for a TechNet Event, visit www.technetevents.com.

    * NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Open only to registered TechNet Event attendees. Must be present to win. For full rules, see TechNet Event Registration Desk.

  • How do I find ReadyBoost devices this holiday season?

    This holiday season we have the “Enhanced for Windows ReadyBoost” program.  Devices that are ReadyBoost capable may be labeled as “Enhanced for Windows ReadyBoost” on their packaging and in their marketing.  These devices must meet these criteria:

    • At least 500MB available for ReadyBoost™ cache
    • 5 MB/sec throughput for random 4k reads across the entire device
    • 3 MB/sec throughput for sequential 512k writes across the entire device

    We’ve provided exact terms and self-testing tools for UFD makers on our partner website.  (https://microsoft.mrmpslc.com/WindowsVistaPartner/secure/NextSteps.aspx?pt=9)  FYI, if you have a PassPort Id, you can get to the link.

    Beginning with the June 2007 logo program, being ReadyBoost capable will be a requirement for a flash drive to receive a premium logo.  Note that it’s not a ReadyBoost specific logo program, but rather part of the larger HW logo program.  (We’re trying to avoid a proliferation of logo programs…)

  • Remember your first 17 inch CRT ???

    I was looking at my desk today and reminiscing about what it looked like when I had it made.  It was 1986 and I had been in my new home a little over a year.  I was poor but had finally saved enough money to create my study which included some custom shelves and the desk in this picture.  I have a friend that is a craftsman.  He's really a structural engineer and artist with wood.  You should see the shelves he made me. 

    As I recall those days, I had a Viewsonic and a NEC 17" monitor sitting on the back corners of the desk.  However, those monitors were huge in comparison and took up probably one forth of the surface area of the desk, maybe more.

    Today, 20 years later, the desk is still awesome and and the display technology is superb.  Click the picture on the right for a larger view.  Now I have a 19" analog LCD on the left, a 24" Widescreen digital LCD in the middle, and a 20" digital LCD on the right.  All three are less than a month old and made by Dell.

    No I didn't go crazy and buy three LCD's in one night.  The 19" E197FP came with a machine I purchased for my mother-in-law.  She got my 17" Samsung LCD and a wicked fast Core Duo desktop. 

    The 20" 2007FP on the right was a replacement for an ailing 2001FP I purchased two years ago, but was under warranty.  Make sure when you buy an expensive component like this, that you think through the usage.  When you get a monitor with a machine, the warranty for the monitor is the same as the package.

    The 24" 2407WFP in the middle was a purchase I made last week and it is an utter pleasure.  It will spoil you because it is very bright and clear.  I set the brightness at 25 during the day, and 0 at night.  I've been wanting this monitor for a while.  I was hopeful to catch one of those 20% discounts but instead I jumped on the 15% promotion price.  I added a year to the three year warranty so it's covered for four years.

    I routinely have five to six machines hooked to the monitors.  Multitasking to the max.  The 19" console is for my SBS server and corporate network download machine.  The big boy is for gaming, work, email, etc.  Windows Vista and Outlook 2007 at 1920x1200 is a joy on it.  The 20" is usually playing MCE stuff so if you look close, you'll see Ghost Whisperer starting.

    Now you know what the bridge of my Starship looks like and where I get my stuff done.  Wow.  What a change 20 years has made.  The poor iPod crowd has no idea what they missed.  Hell, they probably don't even know what CRT means. 

    What's next for the next 20 years?  Should be fun. 

  • Get a Motorola Q for $99

    The phone I use, the Motorola Q is now on promotion for $99 USD.  See http://estore.vzwshop.com/so/motoqbiz/ for the promotion details. 

    It's a Windows Mobile 5 Smartphone so it's designed to be used with one hand.  If you want speed today, the Verizon and Sprint networks offer EVDO and you can use the new high tech cell phones as a connection to the Internet for your laptop.

    Cingular and T-Mobile are still fighting a good battle.  Cingular purchased spectrum and is rolling out UTMS. 

    T-Mobile is getting ready to start selling the T-Mobile Dash.  The Dash is pictured at left and is made by HTC.  Looks like a hot little unit for you GSM fanboys. It's supposed to be the Q killer but I have my doubts. 

    Where's the Dash speed?  The Dash has WiFi so I guess they are counting on people using hotspot locations.  No thanks.  I'd rather have a connection wherever I happen to be.

    Anyway, as you can see, things are certainly heating up for the holidays.

  • Why do you think they call it dope?

    Here's an interesting story about GPS.  http://www.engadget.com/2006/10/20/when-growing-pot-dont-leave-the-crops-coordinates-in-your-gps/.  Obviously the crop was vintage.

  • Seen the Windows Vista Tips and Tricks website?

    Hopefully the trickery will be kept to a minimum, but with the All Hallows Eve rapidly approaching, you never know.  Anyway, the site just launched so head on over to http://www.windowsvistatnt.com/ when you get a moment and check it out.  Hopefully it will become one of those little jewels that is deserving of a spot in the favorites you keep.

    Now what's with the .pdf format document?  I thought Microsoft Word was the intergalactic format these days.

  • Well that was fun - IE 7 installation results

    One of my older laptops (Compaq Evo n620c) is still running Windows XP Pro.  It will get upgraded to some form of Windows Vista when we RTM that product.  In the meantime, like many of you, I installed IE7 on it and have enjoyed tabbage (not to be confused with cabbage) ever since. 

    As you can see by the massive number of posts on this site, we shipped IE 7 and it is visible on the update.microsoft.com servers.  So I fired up the trusty old steed (first time in a couple of weeks) and headed directly to the update site.  I did my usual custom install to see what was available.  Holy smokes batman!!!  There were like 17 updates totally 54meg!!!  Ok, I lied, I wasn't at all excited about the size.  Remember the 56k modem days and how long that would take?  Fibre has made me a spoiled brat.

    So I hit the install button and head to the shower expecting everything to be done when I get back.  No such luck.  What's with my karma these days?  Geez, I bought my mother-in-law a dual core computer for heavens sake.  Can a guy get a break?  Guess I need to go to our internal giving campaign site and cough it up.

    In short, I hit every known issue it seems in the release notes at http://msdn.microsoft.com/ie/releasenotes/default.aspx.  Actually, every known issue is probably a stretch.  I did however have to do the registry key add for the DWORD InstalledByUser.  After I added the key, I was able to uninstall the old version and install the gold bits.

    Back to tabbage...  :)

  • If we can't break it, nobody can break it

    Want to generate enough dogfood data to feed the dog pound for the next decade?  See Larry's post on the subject at http://blogs.msdn.com/larryosterman/archive/2006/09/18/760981.aspx and a follow-up by KC at http://blogs.technet.com/kclemson/archive/2006/10/18/me-too.aspx.  And yes, I'd love to have a t-shirt.  I'll even pay for it.  :)

  • Been there, done that

    Ever wonder how some people seem to be in the upper ranks of players?  A good game and a lot of time on your hands can lead to some interesting results.  I never ever played any game this much, but some of my friends might challenge me on that.  Especially when it comes to my Halo and Halo 2 mad skillz. 

    Read http://soulkerfuffle.blogspot.com/2006/10/view-from-top.html when you get a chance.  Scary...  The story is of course about the game World of WarCraft (WoW).  See http://www.worldofwarcraft.com/index.xml for the game site.

    There is nothing new about addictive games.  There was a lot of press about Everquest long before WoW shipped.  See http://everquest.station.sony.com/ for information on that game.

    I wonder how many people who used to play EverQuest are now playing World of WarCraft.  Hmmm...

  • So what's going on?

    As you might have noticed, I've been ignoring my blog just a hair the past couple of weeks.  Well, there's a good reason for it.  First and foremost, there's this thing called Windows Vista that we are getting ready to launch.  Many Microsoft employees are deeply involved in launch planning and my team is no exception.  We'll be heavily involved in the key launch city events as well as the "non-key" cities.

    Trust me, nobody on my team considers a non-key city to be a lessor event and we are making sure the event experience is top notch.  We just use that type of nomenclature to separate tiers.  To go over this planning, my whole team met last week on the west coast.  The Microsoft Across America Event Services Group (MSAM ESG) has done a great job of thinking through the event experience from A to Z.  We have some kewl stuff we'll have at those events I cannot disclose. 

    As a member of the TechNet team, my focus is to make sure the IT Pro information we deliver will be awesome.  Harold Wong is leading our content planning effort and he is assisted by Matt Hester, John Baker, Blain Barton and a number of other stakeholders.  As with most TechNet projects, I have my fingers in that effort as well.

    Now that I am through the seven webcasts I've delivered in that past couple of weeks, I have some breathing room to do some more kewl screencasts.  They are coming soon.  I'll be doing some more Windows Vista stuff, Exchange Server 2007 and Office 2007.  You'll also see my focus shift over to our "Longhorn" server development effort.

    I also have a bunch of question and answer sessions to comb through from those webcasts so I'll start researching the tougher questions that came up.

    Oh, and IE7 is now gold.  As if you didn't know already.  :)

  • What 64bit machine should I get?

    I need to purchase or lease some 64bit laptops very soon.  I'd love to hear your opinions on what to get.  They will be used initially for virtualization, high performance and compute cluster testing.  However, I'd like to leverage the knowledge around the machines for the next platform refresh for my team.  With that in mind, I'd like to know if you encountered driver and application issues running IE, Office, Virtual Server, etc.

    So what would you buy and recommend?

  • The weekly install comes to a screeching halt

    As I’m sitting here moving data around, installing applications and getting ready for the all hands team meeting next week, the realization of where we’re at in the Windows Vista development cycle sinks in…  RC2 is likely to be my last installation of the Windows Vista product under development.  The next install will be the gold bits.

    Now for those of you that have been through this before, you understand what it’s like.  Seeing the end of a project is fulfilling and sad.  Nervous anyone?

    Many people have poured a ton of time, toil and effort into shaping the future of computing.  And I’m not just talking about Microsoft employees. 

    Microsoft customers and partners have helped make Windows Vista a really cool product.  It’s been fascinating to watch the product morph over the years.  It’s really amazing to think back over the past 12 months.  I think I have installed literally 70+ versions of the product.

    So there is sadness and joy as this comes to a screeching halt. 

    Ok, the pause is over.  Time to start cranking on Longhorn Server and all of the other products in the development pipeline…  life in the TechNet evangelist hamster wheel.

  • Early bird gets the RC2 worm...

    Microsoft has these kewl time off days called floating holidays.  You get two each year to use as religious holidays, unwind, whatever.  I took mine the past couple of days to get caught up on sleep, do some honey dues, run errands, etc.  In short, it's a holiday from email.  You know, the ole electronic ball and chain?  

    I haven't been paying real close attention to the daily build traffic on Windows Vista. But, after grilling up some brats, sauerkraut, and polishing off a couple of Leffe Blondes, I decided to peek into the Windows Vista folder I have.  I am on the busiest distribution group known to man and the Windows Vista DL averages over 500 email messages per day.  That's a lot of conversation topics dude.

    However, it became pretty obvious really quick that we had released Windows Vista RC2 internally and that it would be available to the rest of the world very soon.

    Sure enough, you can go to http://download.windowsvista.com/preview/rc2/en/download.htm and fire up the old fiber connection and get to downloading.  Now normally, I'd establish a VPN connection and pull it off the daily build server, but this time, I decided to compete with the rest of the world for .iso image.

    Where the hell is everyone?  Everyone must be sleeping because I am getting almost 2meg per second download speeds. In fact, it looks like I'm going to set a new download speed record.  It appears I'll have pulled the entire 2.49GB .iso image using the Akamai download manager in about 27 minutes.  WOW!!!  FIOS ROCKS!!!

    So I wanted to thank everyone for going to bed early tonight.  Got my RC2 worm in record time thank you very much.

    [UPDATE]  I posted this at about 1:30am but some interesting time issues surfaced.  We are currently investigating those.

  • Heads up... The Microsoft Genuine Software Initiative (GSI) has begun

    Have you had a chance to look at the most recent announcements we've made about the Microsoft Genuine Software Initiative (GSI)?  How about the Microsoft Software Protection Platform (SPP)?  Well, here's a heads up on some rather significant changes that are steaming your way and will be featured in Windows Vista.

    First, check out the press release at http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/features/2006/oct06/10-04SoftwareProtection.mspx.  Make sure to download and read the Software Protection whitepaper.  It discusses some of the history and mechanics behind GSI and SPP.

    Here's a couple of snippets from the presspass announcement:

    "Today we are announcing the Software Protection Platform –a new set of technologies that will help Microsoft make software piracy harder, help protect consumers from the risks of counterfeit software, and better enable small to large businesses to manage their software assets. The Software Protection Platform has been under development for several years. It brings together new anti-piracy innovations, counterfeit detection and tamper-resistant features into a complete platform that provides better software protection to programs that leverage it. Initially, the upcoming releases of Windows Vista and Windows Server “Longhorn” will be the first two products to ship with this technology included, and eventually more Microsoft products will adopt this technology.

    In addition, the Software Protection Platform enables the next generation of genuine validation programs such as Windows Genuine Advantage (product differentiation). In short, it introduces new ways for Windows Vista and Windows Server “Longhorn” to activate, validate as genuine, and behave when tampered with or hacked."

    "One of the things the Software Protection Platform enables is enhancements to the genuine experience in Windows Vista, thereby differentiating it from the non-genuine experience. Customers that use genuine Windows Vista product should expect, and will get, an enhanced set of features that will not work on non-genuine or unlicensed versions of Windows Vista. Customers using genuine and licensed copies of Windows Vista will have access to Windows Aero and Windows ReadyBoost features, as well as full functionality of Windows Defender and extra optional updates from Windows Update. Computer systems that do not pass validation will not have access to these features, although they will still have access to critical security updates. Aero offers Microsoft’s best-designed, highest-performing desktop experience and is available in Windows Vista Home Premium, Windows Vista Business and Windows Vista Ultimate. ReadyBoost lets users use a removable flash memory device to improve system performance without opening the computer to install additional memory. Both are key features that a user of non-genuine software will quickly realize are not running. Windows Defender helps protect a user’s PC against pop-ups, and security threats caused by spyware and other malware.

    In addition, users of non-genuine Windows Vista software will be notified if their copy of Windows Vista is determined to be non-genuine with the appearance of a persistent statement in the lower right hand corner of their desktop space that reads, “This copy of Windows is not genuine.” "

    What does this mean?

    Microsoft is developing and now releasing the first new technologies that form part of the Software Protection Platform (SP Platform). The platform will help fight piracy, protect consumers from the risks of counterfeit software, and better enable volume license customers to manage their software assets. The Software Protection Platform brings together new anti-piracy innovations, counterfeit detection practices and tamper resistance into a complete platform that provides better software protection to programs that use it.

    So what do you think?

    I'm guessing Cyrus at http://www.engadget.com/2006/10/04/microsoft-will-cripple-pcs-running-pirated-copies-of-vista/ doesn't like it too much.  The folks at http://blogs.zdnet.com/Ou/?p=339 seem to think it’s going to help promote open source adoption.  Hmmmm….

  • Tag clouds... love em or hate em?

    You may have noticed we made some changes to the blogs.technet.com site over the weekend.  My blog layout has changed a bit and you now see that the blog post categories are now called Tags.  The Tag cloud is interesting.  It lists all of the tags in an alphabetical word wrapping fashion.  The wrapping leads to some misleading interpretations of the text string. 

    So to help make the visual appearance more intuitive, I altered the CSS so that there are three colors.  The blue color I use with my theme will be for the tag categories with the most posts, followed by the use of silver then gray.  Hopefully this will help navigate the cloud a bit.  Sorry, I don't have a magic carpet.

    The problem with the tagging (to me) is that it seems to insinuate that the bigger bolder tags are more important.  Of course they aren't so it's a little misleading.  For instance, my Screencast tag is small and silver, but is has some important information and work behind it.

    I could override the tag cloud completely and take you back to a flat list of the categories but I think I'll roll with it for a bit and see how it does.  Maybe I'll just override the sizes and level the playing field there.

    Any other ideas?  Love it?  Hate it?

    [UPDATE]:  I flattened the font size and it looked like crap so I put it back to the multiple font sizes.  However, I updated the hover color to match the rest of my site.  That was a big improvement because now when you hover, you can clearly see the entire string of the tag highlighted.