Keith Combs' Blahg

Ramblings from another nerd on the grid

November, 2006

  • Windows Vista Volume Activation 2.0 Technical Guidance - download here

    Technical documentation focusing on planning, deployment and operational guidance. It includes the Volume Activation 2.0 Step-by-Step Guide, Volume Activation 2.0 FAQ, Volume Activation 2.0 Technical Attributes list and Standard User Product Activation zip file.

    Go get it at http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=75674

  • Windows Vista Product Guide - download gold version

  • Has Master Chief lost weight?

     

    The years of war seem to have taken a toll on Master Chief.  In the latest picture of him from Halo 3, he seems a little skinny.  Maybe it's the angle of the camera with that big gun.  What's he using that for anyway?  Click on the image above for the full size image.

    Oh, and if you haven't heard already, we are releasing Halo3 tonight at midnight to screw with the PS3 launch.  Ok, that's a lie.  I do remember someone in our company saying something to that effect months ago.

    Interested in new Halo 2 maps, a new Halo 3 commercial, and getting in on the Halo 3 multiplayer beta?  See http://www.bungie.net/News/TopStory.aspx?cid=9182.

    Fragalicious.  :)

  • Exchange Server 2007 PowerShell Cmdlets Quick Reference - download here

    Microsoft® Exchange Server 2007 introduces a new management platform called the Exchange Management Shell, based on Microsoft Windows® PowerShell, formerly codenamed "Monad". This topic provides a list of many frequently used cmdlets, important conventions, and useful tips. The information is presented by feature area, such as recipient, transport, and database administration.

    Go get it at http://go.microsoft.com/?linkid=5719336

  • The holiday is over - back to work

    I don't know about you, but vacations never seem long enough and going back to work is hard.  You know, it's like kick starting a motorcycle that's been sitting in the garage too long.  Lots of kicks before it finally comes to life.

    In my case, the past couple of weeks have been filled with a number of events both joyous and sad.  I had a house full of children, their children, in-laws, friends, pets, car wrecks, family friends fighting cancer, football games, food and more food, tech projects, yard work, honeydues, shopping, etc.  You know, a typical holiday vacation.  Nobody got hurt in the car accident (except a bank account).  Cancer sucks (and everyone knows it).

    As for the fun stuff, it's been a fun two weeks.  The very first thing I did was buy Gears of War.  I'm close to the end of the campaign and will begin Xbox Live mutliplayer fun soon, although another certain Alpha test may derail that and consume my time.  You can probably guess which game.

    As for the tech projects, they have been mostly failures.  This years round was small in scope compared to last year.  Or more accurately, I just haven't achieved success with them.  I'm sure more time and research will solve everything.  So here's a few of the projects:

    1. Xbox 360 HD-DVD - purchased, installed and enjoyed three HD-DVD titles.  The current selection of titles at the retailers are too small and they are too expensive.  So the HD-DVD drive will collect dust some until the prices for content get more bearable.  Sorry, $25+ dollars for a movie is too much for me.  In fact, some of them were like $39.99 or something ridiculous like that.  Huh?  Someone is smoking crack if they think the masses are paying $40 for a HD-DVD movie.  I'm getting to the point where I won't buy until it's $9.99 or below.  Granted it's 480p content, but heck, my upscaling player still has a few months left in it.   
    2. Windows Vista Ultimate home install - I flattened my MCE 2005 machine and pulled the VBOX ATSC HD tuner and replaced it with the AVerMedia AVerTVHD MCE 180 tuner.  I did this because I had the inside track on some MCE QAM recording capabilities.  Don't get your hopes up.  It didn't work very well.  In fact, I never even tried to record because the live playback is slow and the audio and video are out of sync.  I'm hopeful someone will come out with a set of drivers that will work for the AVerMedia or VBOX tuners that will allow unencrypted QAM live viewing and recording inside MCE.  If so, then I won't have to buy a OCUR based solution next year.  I have not given up hope on this and will continue to test as I receive driver updates.  I'll flatten my box again soon anyway and retest with the VBOX.  I have not activated Windows Vista yet, and probably won't until I decide on a more final config.
    3. Portable Media Player - I have the Creative Zen Vision W (ZVW).  It has been a pretty disappointing out of box experience for me.  I'll probably detail this more in a separate post, but essentially it boils down to trying to find the magic transcoding software and settings to produce the video I need for the ZVW.  So far, I have not had good luck.  It's interesting to me that the player won't play MOV files that play perfectly on my PSP.  Nor will it play some of my WMV files.  Grrrrrrrr...  The whole video scene right now sucks in my opinion anyway.  Why?  Money of course.  I'll get on that rant later.
    4. VOIP change - Verizon, in their infinite wisdom, made some changes about 8 weeks ago to their VoiceWing VOIP offering.  It affected me a number of ways and I got some of them resolved.  Since the remainder went unresolved, I ordered and received the AT&T CallVantage VOIP offering.  So far, it's working very nicely but the proof will be better understood next week after a couple of webcasts.  I'll be canceling VoiceWing very soon.  It has a broken wing.

    Like I said, small potatoes compared to last years purchase of a HDTV, Xbox 360, extending my cable box with a eSATA drive, adding a VBOX tuner to MCE 2005, running CAT 5 everywhere, etc.  But, I had more success last year so it was less frustrating than this year.

    Oh well, back to work...

  • Do IT Virtually Anywhere

    Using the power of virtual machines, you can now quickly evaluate Microsoft and partner solutions through a series of pre-configured Virtual Hard Disks (VHD). You can download the VHDs and evaluate them for free in your own environment without the need for dedicated servers or complex installations. Start now by selecting a lab from the VHD catalog below.

    Windows Server 2003 R2
    Windows Server 2003 R2 helps to simplify branch server management, can improve identity and access management, helps to reduce storage management costs, provides a rich Web platform, and offers cost-effective server virtualization. In this VHD, you'll have the opportunity to road-test new and improved features and functionality of Windows Server 2003, including management and usability enhancements to Active Directory.

    Exchange Server 2007
    Learn how to take advantage of key features of Exchange Server 2007. This VHD provides an exploration of Active Directory and the new features in Exchange Server 2007, new features in Outlook Web Access 2007, enforcing compliance and retention policies in Exchange Server 2007, and more.

    SQL Server 2005
    SQL Server 2005 is data management and analysis software that helps deliver increased scalability, availability, and security to enterprise data and analytical applications while helping to make them easier to create, deploy, and manage. In this VHD, you will get to experience many of the new features in SQL Server 2005.

    For a complete list of Microsoft products and technologies in a VHD, visit the TechNet VHD Center.

  • Let the real Windows Vista testing begin

    It's my favorite time of year...  nerds know what I'm talking about...  It's the time of the year when the grass and weeds stop growing so you don't have to cut the yard, the air conditioner stops running, football and beer is in full swing...  Isn't Fall and Winter great?

    It's also the time of year I do major IT projects around the house and this year is no exception.  I'm getting ready to flatten a machine that has been faithful for over two years...  My MCE 2005 machine is getting ready to get the ole FDISK, FORMAT, Reinstall, do da.

    O do da day.  :)

    Bring on Windows Vista Ultimate!!!

    Mars isn't mad though. Mars is getting a new HDTV card and feature I cannot blog about... yet.  I also added eSATA capabilities to it and have started prepping for a SAN down the road.  By the way, wanna guess what my wife's machine is named?  Yep, Venus.

    Men are from Mars, women are from Venus.

    Oh, and I purchased the Creative Zen Vision W 60GB video player I wanted.  Expensive little sucker but super sweet.  More blog posts on that as I put it through the ringer this holiday.  My PSP's days are numbered.

    Eat some turkey and go to sleep!!!

  • Windows Vista and Office 2007 free promotion

    Yes, you read that correctly.  We have a viral promotion site that will ship you a free copy of Windows Vista Business and Microsoft Office Professional 2007 if you complete the requirements listed. 

    As always, this promotion is limited by the number of copies available and there is a deadline.  Looks like a pretty simple requirement.  Watch three webcasts for Windows Vista and watch three webcasts for Office 2007.

    I haven't watched the webcasts yet so I don't know how much time is involved, but I doubt the time requirement is very high.  I'm sure it's less than the required training I just completed today. 

    [UPDATE] Links pulled until I've confirmed this is legit or not. 

    [UPDATE to the update] I verified the website is indeed a Microsoft property created by one of our marketing agencies.

    The website is located at http://www.powertogether.com/ and the promotion fine print is at http://www.powertogether.com/OfferingDetails.aspx.

  • ADMX Migration Tool for GPO templates is released

    The ADMX Migrator is a snap-in for the Microsoft Management Console (MMC) that simplifies the process of converting your existing Group Policy ADM Templates to the new ADMX format and provides a graphical user interface for creating and editing Administrative Templates. The new XML-based format includes multilanguage support, an optional centralized datastore, and version control capabilities.


    You can select multiple ADM files for conversion. The ADMX Migrator creates a unique namespace which you can rename and will display a warning if a collision is detected due to duplicate names. Also, any items that cannot be validated against the ADMX schema are preserved in an Unsupported section. Please note that any annotations in ADM files are removed during the conversion process.


    Additionally, the ADMX Migrator provides an ADMX editor with a graphical user interface for creating and editing Administrative Templates. You can select settings from menus rather than entering them manually in a text file, speeding template creation and reducing the chance for error.

    See http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=0F1EEC3D-10C4-4B5F-9625-97C2F731090C&mg_id=10050&displaylang=en for more information and the ever important download button.

  • Office 2007 GPO Admin templates now available

    I would imagine many of you are going to become intimate with Office 2007 and Windows Vista deployment over the next year.  Get your knowledge jump started by looking at the templates for Office 2007.

    See http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=92d8519a-e143-4aee-8f7a-e4bbaeba13e7&displaylang=en for that all powerful download button.

  • The Glass is 10% Full

    Do you ever look to the past to see what the future holds?  You should.  I cut my computer teeth long before most people.  My computer heritage goes back to my diapers.  Dear Dad was a career IBMer and I was playing with IBM Selectric typewriters and dictaphones long before most people had ever seen Lotus 1-2-3.  During a recent discussion with Rodney Clark, a rising Microsoft executive and the leader of my org, I found out he and I have very similar roots in that regard.  His Dad was also a career IBMer.  We both have technology in our genes.

    The passion for technology was ingrained in me at a very early age.  Hugh MacLeod talks about the rebirth of Microsoft in "The Microsoft Question" blog post and why he keeps an eye on us.  He makes a lot of good points and gives the "Scoble Effect" a lot of credit.  I think the core for a lot of the rebirth he describes is passion.

    Have you ever seen Steve Ballmer on stage talking to Microsoft employees at our annual sales and technical pilgrimage?  Talk about passion.  His passion is strong enough to focus the troops in a direction, for months.  When you watch the channel9.msdn.com videos produced by Scoble, Charles and Rory, you see passionate Microsoft people.

    Successful companies hire passionate people.  Passion also means not resting on your laurels. 

    So back to my original question...  Do you look back?  Should successful companies and people look back?  I think they should.  It's especially refreshing to look back at the progress that's been made over the past 15-20 years.  Just look at Windows.  See the history of Windows at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/WinHistoryDesktop.mspx.  While you are at it, take a look at the Internet Explorer history.  Some would say IE helped Microsoft rise from the ashes.

    When I rewind, I think about Windows 3.x and the integration work I used to do with the Novell Netware 3.x of that era.  Anyone remember Network Courier or Microsoft Mail?  I still remember running my first COBOL compile with Microfocus COBOL on a personal computer.  I was in heaven.  Sure beats a 3270 emulator and CA Abendaide.

    Last week I was in Las Vegas.  We had just announced Microsoft Office 2007 had RTM'd and I knew the Windows Vista announcement would be coming soon.  I am totally energized about all of this and had an absolute blast demonstrating the products.  I was also working with some other Microsoft veterans of plus ten years.  All of the veterans were super stoked.  New products will do that. 

    Interesting enough, almost as soon as we announced the Windows Vista RTM, my brain had already placed the check mark next to Windows Vista and was on to what's next...  Exchange Server 2007, Longhorn Server, Virtualization management, network management, etc.

    Are great companies reborn?  Or do they hire passionate people who want to change the world?  Are passionate people ever satisfied?  Is Microsoft done?  What else is left to do?  I think the answer is obvious...

     

    The glass is 10% full.

  • PMP My Ride

    No it isn't a typo.  Let's face it, Portable Media Playas (PMP) are hot.  The question is, "Is my PSP still hot?"  I've had mine since 3/24/2005 but it seems like two years.  Now that the iPod versus everyone else battle is heating up, I've started to look more closely at replacements for my PSP. 

    My needs for a PMP are a little different.  I am much more into video than audio so the screen and storage capacity are key requirements.  With that in mind, here's the short list of announced products in my order of preference:

    Creative Zen Vision W - the 60GB Vision W hasn't started shipping yet, but it's likely to be my new Christmas (or Thanksgiving) toy.  It's a little thicker than I would prefer, but it has the 4.3" screen and a good sized hard drive.

    Archos 604 - the 604 rocks.  Everything I've read seems to indicate this is the one of the best video playas, and it might very well be the best.  However, the 604 only has a 30GB drive.  If they made this model in a 60 or 80GB model, I would probably move it to the top of my list.

    They also just announced the Archos 604 Wifi.  Wireless is cool and all, but I'm not really using the wireless capability of my PSP much so it isn't a feature high on my list.

    Archos 504 - the 504 comes in a variety of hard drive sizes all the way up to a whopping 160GB drives.  Unfortunately, the 504 is on the fat side as a result.  At .9", it's significantly thicker than the 604 or the iPod.  I was under the impression the 504 was offered in 40, 60, 80 and 160GB capacities but my most recent check only shows the 80 and 160.  That was probably by design to differentiate it from the 604.  Sneaky.  Like I said, the 604 would be perfect with a 60GB drive.  That's a hint Archos.

    Microsoft Zune - Zune has obviously received a lot of press, especially from us.  I'm hopeful I'll end up with a free one.  Unlike the offerings above with their 4.3" screens, the Zune only has a 3" display.  That's a pretty big difference compared to my PSP.  I would also like to see a bigger 60 or 80GB hard drive.  That moves the Zune down the list in terms of a video player for me.

    Apple iPod - the current iPod is still an audio player at heart.  Although the 80GB drive is attractive, the 2.5" screen is a big negative in my video book.  The iPod is the slimmest and lightest player of this group and it is a big seller for those reasons.  Considering the iPod doesn't play all the formats I have, it moves to the bottom of the list.

    If Apple is really planning on releasing a widescreen video iPod with a touchscreen, they'd better do it fast.  The holiday season has already begun.  Since I haven't seen anything official, I have my doubts it's going to happen until next year.

    Summary

    None of the portable players above meets my "needs" perfectly.  Maybe I'm too picky.  No, that can't be it.  I'd like a .5" thick, 60GB+, 4.3" video screen player at about $350-$375.  Some of the players above are close.  I'll probably cave and get the Vision W.  Decisions decisions.

  • US 2007 Launch - signup here

    By now I'm sure you know Office 2007 and Windows Vista have been signed off and are being manufactured.  We're getting close for Exchange Server 2007 as well.  With that in mind, make sure to come see all of the products in action at the launch events we have planned.

    Experience the next generation of Microsoft software at an upcoming launch event in your area. Join us to discuss your most complex challenges. Discover solutions. Bring your toughest questions (be nice to your presenter :) ).  Walk away with answers (I'll do my best).

    All of the launch events should be a blast.  If the excitement last week in Las Vegas is any indication, make sure to register early for the events.  We'll have lots of good information, great speakers, snazzy demos, and other goodies I can't tell you about yet.

    See http://www.microsoft.com/Business/launch2007/default.mspx for information on the products, partners and customer evidence. 

    If you want to preview the newly redesigned user interface (UI) that makes it easier to get more out of the 2007 Microsoft Office system programs or experience the breakthrough Windows Vista UI—the most finely tuned and elegant Windows experience yet, see the 100K, 300K, or 750K streaming demos.

    The really important link is just below... hint hint.  I signed up for the Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Austin events to confirm registration is working.  See you soon!!!

     

    http://www.microsoft.com/business/launch2007/signup/default.mspx

  • The HDTV holy grail of 1080p

    1080p nirvana has been reached in the HDTV market.  This is happening at a time when the HDTV sweet spot is about to be reached.  So lets talk about each for a moment.

    First, the sweet spot.  It's generally recognized in the high def industry (and by the analyst), that when HDTV LCD, DLP and other display technologies go below $999, that HDTV sales will start to really take off.  This is starting to happen.  I'm not talking about small TV sets either.  I'm talking 42"+ HDTV for below a grand.  If you don't spot the sets just yet, watch what happens after Black Friday.

    The second point I was going to make is around the 1080p nirvana.  1920x1080 progressive playback if the holy grail of HDTV.  However, in order to be able to see that resolution, you have to have a display capable of doing it, and you have to have content.

    Well, the displays are now everywhere.  This time last year, Samsung could do 1080p across VGA but not HDMI.  I made the conscience decision to buy a HDTV that could do 1080p across HDMI.  At the time, it seemed like the better choice since VGA is analog, and HDMI is pure digital.  Microsoft threw a little kink in my plan.  They shipped the Xbox 360 HD-DVD drive with 1080p output capabilities, but only across the VGA cable connection.  The Xbox 360 does not have a HDMI cable and the maximum resolution across component is 1080i.

    Regarding 1080p nirvana in general, it widely considered to be somewhat of a fad.  Maybe not a fad, but people like to poke fun at the 1080p enthusiasts for a couple of reasons.  In many cases, you really can't see the difference between 1080i (interlaced) and 1080p (progressive) except on HDTV sets at or above 55", and with the right content.  For a very good read on the subject, see http://www.xbox.com/en-US/hardware/accessories/20061003-hddvd.htm

    If however you have a large HDTV that supports 1080p, the market is catching up with devices and content.  HD-DVD and Blu Ray disk drives are becoming more prevalent.  They are still expensive as hell, but the price is dropping thanks to the gaming market.  The PlayStation 3 console started selling this week and it includes the Blu Ray drive.  Like the Xbox 360, the PS3 is capable of delivering a 1080p signal.  so as you can see, we now have millions of gamers in the quest for 1080p.  Now they just need mommy to buy a 56, 58 or 62" HDTV and some 1080p movies or games.

    It's widely acknowledged that the gamers are helping drive the HDTV market.  It's no coincidence that HDTV sales started going up pretty drastically right before the Xbox 360 launched.  I bought mine last October ahead of the Xbox 360 launch.  The PS3 fanboys will help drive the market as well.

    I have no plans to purchase a PS3 at this time.  I'm pretty sure they are already sold out until after Christmas anyway.  The problem in the industry now is the format war.  HD-DVD drives won't play a Blu Ray disk, or vice versa.  That means you have to make a conscience decision which format, and personal library to build.  Since I purchased the Xbox 360 HD-DVD drive, I've made my decision but it's still very hard to swallow the HD-DVD or Blu Ray movie prices.  The prices are generally at or above $24.99.  I'm not going to be buying many titles at those prices, not when I can buy the same standard definition title at or below $9.99.  Call me cheap.

    Currently, the selection of HD-DVD and Blu Ray content is pretty limited.  There are some decent movies, but I already own several of the titles.  Remember the millions of gamers?  Demand for movies on both formats will insure more selections keep coming out.  It'll be interesting to see if one format will win over the other.  I don't see a clear victor ayntime soon.  Microsoft threw down the gauntlet with the Xbox 360 HD-DVD drive.  Sony is behind Blu Ray with the drive built into the PS3.  Standalone players are out, and more are on the way.

    I watched a Pioneer Blu Ray disk player and movie the other day in the BestBuy Magnolia section.  The display was a top of the line Pioneer Elite plasma model.  The picture was incredible.  Toshiba has some new models coming out as well for the HD-DVD format.  The real bottom line on all of this is that the quest for 1080p has been completed if your are willing to make the investment.  It isn't a trivial investment so make your choices carefully.

  • Windows Vista Automated Installation Kit (WAIK) now available

    For those of you wanting to learn how to deploy Windows Vista, and use some of the core tools like Imagex, download the WAIK.  Be sure to check out the User's Guide that are part of the kit for some good explanations of common scenarios.

    Get it at http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=c7d4bc6d-15f3-4284-9123-679830d629f2&DisplayLang=en.

    Enjoy!!!

  • Anyone else have a 1.5 terabyte laptop?

    My team is in final launch content lockdown.  Part of that process involves functional as well as performance testing of the laptop platform we use.  On the performance side, we test the demos with a single laptop, multiple laptops, and other hardware.  Obviously one of the goals is to spot bottlenecks.  CPU, memory and disk testing is important.

    I have a number of hard drives and just for fun, I connected a bunch to my Lenovo ThinkPad T60p.  In the disk management screenshot, you'll see I have 1.5 terabytes of connected storage and three DVD burners.  With the SIIG ExpressCard eSATA RAID card, I could actually connect a pretty impressive storage array.

    Most likely I'll be doing my shows next January and beyond with the eSATA solution so if you are interested, let me know.  It's about six times faster that any of my other USB or Firewire connected drives.  Kewl stuff for sure.

    Nerds rule!!!

  • What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas...usually

    Last week, I flew out to Las Vegas Nevada for the Windows Connections Conference.  It was held in the massive Mandalay Bay Resort Conference Center.  Have you ever tried to walk around in a 1,000,000 square foot facility?  Bring your roller blades. 

    The conference looked to be a great success.  Lots of people, lots of great information and of course, everything Las Vegas has to "offer".  Harold Wong and I were going to tag team all three sessions we did, but in the end, we are so busy, it didn't make sense for each of us to prep for all three sessions.  So I did the Security Tidbits session and the Everything You Need to Know about Deployment in 60 Minutes.  I wasn't in my groove for the Security session.  It might have had something to do with the original slide deck Jesper had prepared sometime earlier.  I tried to "fix" it but it just wasn't one of my better performances.  However, I was definitely in my "zone" for the deployment session later.  One of the attendees commented to Harold they learned more in my 60 minute session than they did in the pre-conference 3.5 hour session.  Those are the kind of comments that get you up in the morning.

    Of course last week was also a big week for Microsoft.  We released Office 2007 and Windows Vista to manufacturing.  This generated a ton of excitement at the conference and lots of questions at the Windows Vista kiosks Harold and I were manning.  The questions fell into several categories. 

    • Hardware - will my current machine run Vista?  What should I buy?  Should I wait?  What are you running Keith?
    • Software - where can I get Windows Vista for testing?  When will the RTM bits be available?  Will my apps run?  What is it going to cost me or my company?

    Getting people to come talk to me at the kiosk was soo easy.  I started about 10 applications and then fired up some videos of Halo 3 and Halo Wars.  Every time my kiosk emptied, I would just use Flip3d to flip through the applications and waa laa, instantly fill the area around the kiosk.  Aero eye candy sells baby.  People were nothing but amazed when I was doing Flip3d demos with all of the applications and count them, TWO different videos playing.

    Harold and I pulled a sneaky.  I had downloaded the RTM build Sunday before we flew to Vegas.  In fact, we ran the RTM bits of Office 2007 and Vista during our sessions and exhibits on Tuesday and Wednesday.  I couldn't tell anyone until we officially announced it on Wednesday.

    So let me get to a few of those answers...

    Question: What are you running?

    Answer: Lenovo T60p with the Intel Core Duo T2500, Windows Vista x86 RTM, 2GB RAM, ATI Mobility FireGL v5200 with 256MB discrete video memory, Hitachi 100GB 7200rpm SATA 2.5" drive, Verizon EVDO wireless, etc.

    Question: Will my machine run Windows Vista? 

    Answer: I generally tell people if they are running Windows XP well, then they should be able to run Windows Vista.  Running Aero Glass will be dependant on the video card and amount of memory they have so there is no canned answer I can offer.  I demonstrated the Windows Vista Basic color scheme a lot so they would know what the experience would be like if their video card doesn't have enough juice to drive Glass.  I also pointed a lot of people to the http://www.microsoft.com/windowsvista/getready/default.mspx page because it is the one stop shopping area for hardware and application compatibility.  See the Upgrade Advisor link for some tests you can run right now.

    Question: Should I buy now or wait?

    Answer: This answer depends on the individual and their tinker skills.  It also depends on if they are a HDTV enthusiast.  Our hardware OEM partners are already shipping Windows Vista capable machines.  If your machine is on its last legs and is preventing you from doing real work, or having fun, buy now.  If you can wait, your wait isn't going to be very long.  We should have shrink wrap product on retail store shelves on 1/30/2007 and the pc makers will be shipping by then as well.  If you are a HDTV enthusiast, then you might consider waiting until the PC makers have started delivering the OpenCable Unidirectional Receiver (OCUR) Windows Vista solutions.  Contact your favorite OEM hardware maker for their release details.  This will allow you to record premium HDTV content to your PC.  Is that kewl or what?

    Question: Where can I get Windows Vista RTM bits?

    Answer:  We'll make the RTM bits available to our volume licensing customers, MSDN Universal and TechNet Plus online subscribers before the end of this month.  In fact, our target is 11/17.  That's a big hint folks.  If you had a hard time justifying the cost of the subscription before, you should have no problem now.  See http://www.microsoft.com/technet/windowsvista/get_it.mspx for more information.

    Question: Will my apps run?

    Answer:  Absolutely.  :)  Ok, that was a bit sarcastic, but if you want to do some testing, see http://www.microsoft.com/technet/windowsvista/appcompat/default.mspx for all of the available tools.  The Application Compatibility Toolkit v5.0 is still in development, but will be released very soon.  Goto http://connect.microsoft.com/ to signup for the download.

    Question:  What does Windows Vista cost?

    Answer:  It's free of course.  Ok, more bad sarcasm.  Windows Vista is not free.  However, if you buy a qualifying PC or laptop today, the OEM hardware maker will ship you your Express Upgrade later.  See http://www.microsoft.com/windowsvista/getready/expressupgrade.mspx for the promotion details.  You also need to look carefully at what each pc maker is offering.  See http://www.microsoft.com/windowsvista/getready/editions/default.mspx for the different Windows Vista editions.  Volume license customers should contact their account teams and resellers for pricing.

    Harold and I also did a lot of work outside the conference.  As you might suspect, we are just a tad busy getting ready for the Windows Vista, Office 2007 and Exchange Server 2007 launch events.  We are going to be running some intense demos that are going to require more than one powerful laptop.  I predicted this back in March, but we needed proof to justify the hardware purchase requisition.  Sound familiar?  Well, in the evening, in our spare time, we ran a bunch of the demos using a two machine configuration.  Now we need Santa to come through.

    Everything else that happened in Vegas is NDA.  What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas...  right Damon?  :)

  • Windows Vista - group policy settings spreadsheet here

    Here's a nifty spreadsheet for IT Pros.  It's the list of all of the Windows Vista Group policy settings.  Actually, there are more settings in the spread than for just Windows Vista.  Download it.  Study it.  There will be a test on Friday. 

    Here's the first question:

    1. How many GPO settings for Windows Vista force a reboot?

    The quiz key is at http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=41dc179b-3328-4350-ade1-c0d9289f09ef&DisplayLang=en

  • Come out with yer hands up!!!

    There is an interesting side effect of some advertising programming at http://gamespot.com/ps3.  Since I'm sure it will be "fixed" before too long, I grabbed a screenshot for your pleasure.

     

    We have you surrounded PS3.  :)

  • English x86 Windows Vista now available for download

    For those of you that took my advice, you'll notice the TechNet Plus download area now has the English x86 version of Windows Vista. 

    After downloading and burning the .iso file to DVD, you'll be able to install several of the SKU's.  Product ID's can be contained for the following:

    • Windows Vista Business
    • Windows Vista Home Basic
    • Windows Vista Home Premium
    • Windows Vista Ultimate

    So get to downloading people !!!

    [UPDATE] Some sneaky person added the x64 version after I posted this.  Kewl!!! For those of you with one of those hot new Core 2 Duo processors, check to see if your new machine with run the x64 version.  I can't wait to have a laptop with 8GB of addressable memory.  Then I can run like 10 virtual machines.  :)

  • Best of luck on your launch PS3!!!

     Competition is good.  Things start heating up in a couple of hours when the Sony Playstation 3 goes on sale.  PS3 fanboys are camped out all over the metroplex here in Dallas and interestingly enough, it's one of the coldest nights of the fall.  Hee.  Take that suckas.

    Here's the specs on the top of the line PS3:

    60 GB Version - $599.99

    • CPU
      Cell Broadband Engine™
    • GPU
      RSX "Reality Synthesizer"
    • Memory
      256MB XDR Main RAM 256MB GDDR3 VRAM
    • HDD
      2.5" Serial ATA (60GB)
    • I/O
      USB 2.0 x 4
      MemoryStick/SD/CompactFlash Slots
    • Communication
      Ethernet (10BASE-T, 100BASE-TX, 1000BASE-T)
      IEEE 802.11b/g Wi-Fi
      Bluetooth 2.0 (EDR)
      Wireless Controller Bluetooth (up to 7)
    • AV Output
      Sreen Size: 480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p
      HDMI: HDMI out - (x1 / HDMI)
      Analog: AV MULTI OUT x 1
      Digital audio: DIGITAL OUT (OPTICAL) x 1
      Blu-ray/DVD/CD DRIVE "read only"
    • Dimensions
      Approximately 325mm (W) x 98mm (H) x 274mm (D)
    • Weight
      Approximately 5 kg
  • Will Santa have enough Zune's?

    So what's the verdict?  Fast forward 3 weeks...  Are any Zune's to be had other than those on eBay?  I know where a stash is.  I could have purchased 20 today.  Will they be worth $350 in three weeks?

    Ok, for the record, I would never profit on a product like that.  If anything, I would buy them and sell them to my friends in Redmond for cost.  Imagine competing with 20,000 other nerds each product launch in Seattle.  No thanks. 

    From the reviews I've read, it appears we have a decent product launch going.  As with most gadgets, there have been a few issues reported.  For those of you looking for the Windows Vista Zune software, you'll have to wait a bit, we're still working on that version of the PC software.

  • Windows Vista Security Guide releases - download here

    Whatever your environment, you are strongly advised to take security matters seriously. Many organizations underestimate the value of information technology (IT). If an attack on the servers in your environment is severe enough, it could significantly damage the entire organization. For example, if malware infects the client computers on your network, your organization could lose proprietary data, and experience significant overhead costs to return them to a secure state. An attack that makes your Web site unavailable also could result in a major loss of revenue or customer confidence.

    Conducting a security vulnerability, risk, and exposure analysis informs you of the tradeoffs between security and functionality that all computer systems are subject to in a networked environment. The Windows Vista Security Guide documents the major security-related countermeasures that are available in Windows Vista, the vulnerabilities that the countermeasures help address, and the potential negative consequences (if there are any) related to implementing each countermeasure.

    This guide builds on the Windows XP Security Guide, which provides specific recommendations about how to harden computers running Windows XP with SP2. The Windows Vista Security Guide provides recommendations to harden computers that use specific security baselines for the following two environments:

    • Enterprise Client (EC). Client computers in this environment are located in a domain that uses Active Directory and only need to communicate with systems running Windows Server 2003. The client computers in this environment include a mixture: some run Windows Vista whereas others run Windows XP. For instructions about how to test and deploy the EC environment, see Chapter 1, "Implementing the Security Baseline." And for information about the baseline security settings that this environment uses, see Appendix A, "Security Group Policy Settings."
    • Specialized Security – Limited Functionality (SSLF). Concern for security in this environment is so great that a significant loss of functionality and manageability is acceptable. For example, military and intelligence agency computers operate in this type of environment. The client computers in this environment run only Windows Vista. For instructions about how to test and deploy the SSLF environment, see Chapter 5, "Specialized Security – Limited Functionality." And for information about the SSLF settings that this environment uses, see Appendix A, "Security Group Policy Settings."

      Warning - the SSLF security settings are not intended for the majority of enterprise organizations. The configuration for these settings has been developed for organizations where security is more important than functionality.

    The organization of the guide enables you to easily access the information that you require. The guide and its associated tools help you to:

    • Deploy and enable either of the security baselines in your network environment.
    • Identify and use Windows Vista security features for common security scenarios.
    • Identify the purpose of each individual setting in either security baseline and understand their significance.

    Although this guide is designed for enterprise customers, much of the guidance is appropriate for organizations of any size. To obtain the most value from this material, you will need to read the entire guide. However, it is possible to read individual portions of the guide to achieve specific aims. The "Chapter Summary" section in this overview briefly introduces the information in the guide. For further information about the security topics and settings that related to Windows XP, see Windows XP Security Guide and the companion guide, Threats and Countermeasures.

    Download Location:

    http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=A3D1BBED-7F35-4E72-BFB5-B84A526C1565&displaylang=en

  • Thanksgiving = Drama

    I need to write a script for a new National Lampoon movie.  This year has been exceptional.  :)

  • Zune reviews keep trickling in...

    Like you, I don't yet have a Zune.  I think the Zune folks should hold back 40,000 units for Microsoft employees.  Since that isn't going to happen, I have been checking out the various Zune sites to see what's up.  See http://www.engadget.com/2006/11/03/microsoft-zune-player-and-software-hands-on-gallery/ for the Engadget hands on.  There are some pretty nice pics of the software and screens. 

    See http://www.gizmodo.com/gadgets/portable-media/zune-first-full-review-212255.php for another review from the Gizmodo folks.  Excellent pics of the chocolate bar.

    Oh, and if you haven't checked out our new website, see http://www.zune.net/.

    [UPDATE 1] The folks at engadget finally put their thoughts on paper.  See their review at http://www.engadget.com/2006/11/15/zune-review/

    [UPDATE 2] Gary KraKow gives Zune a thumbs up at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15731676/from/RS.4/.

  • Ready for a new day?

    Yesterday is was 80 degrees at my house.  Today it's a little different.  We'll be in the single digit chill factors by this afternoon.  That's a pretty big swing even by Texas standards.  We call that a "Blue Norther".  See http://www.weather.com/weather/local/USTX0474 for the current mess.  I'm ready for a new day already.

    Oh, and today is a new day for other reasons.  Unless you've been super busy, you probably know today is the first day of availability for Windows Vista and Office 2007.  See http://msnewday.com/Default.aspx for the launch website blog complete with videos from the event in New York City.

    I wonder who got the first production support call today?  Bet it's an ImageX question.