Keith Combs' Blahg

Ramblings from another nerd on the grid

January, 2007

  • Singing in the wrong key

    As many of you are aware, I actually test our stuff to make sure it's working.  I signup for my webcasts and test that process.  I signup for our live events and test that.  I have a TechNet subscription.  I do this so I can see what you see and hopefully head off any issues.

    So I grabbed one of the Launch 2007 Resource Kits at my show on Thursday and just got around to testing the Office 2007 download.  I encountered the following instructions:

    Office 2007 Product Download Procedure

    To install your copy of Office Professional 2007 and Office Groove 2007, please follow these steps:

    1. Click on the link below for the product you'd like to download and install - a new window will open.
    2. On the product page, click "Try now for FREE!".
    3. Log-in to Passport (Windows Live ID).
    4. Please provide Registration information and click "Continue".
    5. On the download page, click "Download Now". Please use the Product Key provided in the kit you received at the launch event to unlock your product. Disregard the trial Product Key presented on this page*.
    6. Product download times will vary.
    7. Once the download completes, click "Continue".
    8. You will receive an email during the download process – please DISREGARD the Product Key in that email and ONLY use the Product Key provided in the kit you received at launch.

    The net net is that the key you received with your kit, is the non time bombed key to use.  Sorry for any confusion on this.  I guess we decided to leverage the download area which is very very fast.  I received the download at 1.8meg per second.  Smokin.

  • What is the most commonly used screen resolution these days?

    A couple of my colleagues sent me email a few minutes ago complaining about my latest post and the screenshot.  They said the picture was overlaying the text.  Huh? So I investigated...

    Hmmmm.  It sure looks fine to me.  Of course I'm running a 1920x1200 resolution on a 27" widescreen monitor.  Hardly pervasive I'm sure.  By the way, the monitor I use is on sale for $674.  See for details.

    I then bumped my resolution down to 1280x1024.  The post still looked fine at that resolution.  Keith scratches head...  So I bumped my resolution down to 1024x768.  Gag!!!  Yep, the post is pretty much hosed at that one.

    I actually made a semi conscience decision on this long before those complaints.  When I was resizing the screenshot, you lose pixels and clarity as you downsize.  At some point, you might as well not even include a screenshot if it's so blurry you can't read the button text.

    So, I'll try an accommodate people running at 1024x768, but in this case, you'll need to be at 1280x1024 or higher.

    Anyone have any stats on what the pervasive resolution is these days?  I've asked my audiences that question a few times recently and the answer I received was 1280x1024 and higher.  Majority rules.  :)

  • In case you haven't noticed, it's time

    Click the image for today's festivities and some other interesting videos.

  • Imagine Halo3 in this bedroom...

    Ok, now I really have to save my money.  If you look at this demo shot, it appears there are sixteen 50" HDTV's making up the two walls.  Just imagine playing Gears of War or Halo 3 on that...  Would you need a rack of liquid cooled Xboxes to drive it?  I'd probably need to change the bed spread and frame though.


  • Hey, the mouse wheel does something new!!!

    I stumbled across something new and kewl.  During my journey to find a spiffy picture of the Reclusa keyboard, I noticed we had finally posted the IntelliPoint and IntelliType software that is compatible with Windows Vista.  So I installed it and was looking at the properties for my aging IntelliMouse Optical.

    In reviewing the properties, I noticed the Wheel button property was linked to something called Instant Viewer.  So being the dive first and hope you don't hit a rock type, I clicked the Wheel button and BAAAAAMMMMMM Batman, an Instant View of all of the running applications.  It's like thumbnails on steroids.

    So in the spirit of kewl pictures, I fired up a bunch of applications to give you a peek.  Pretty rad eh?  Click the image for a larger view.

  • How would you like a complimentary copy of Office Professional 2007?

    Unless you're still partying like it was 1999, you realize it's now the year 2007.  A little bit has happened since 1999 and we've been busy producing great products.  We're going to give away one of those products at the TechNet events...  you might have heard of it...


    Microsoft® Office Professional 2007 !!!


    What's the catch?

    There's always a catch.  First of all, you need to come and attend one of our events.  How do you attend?  Well, you need to go register at  Keep in mind the event venues have a finite capacity and we also have a limited number of copies of the product to give away.

    Here's the legal language around this:

    *FREE copy of Microsoft Office Professional 2007 and Microsoft Office Groove 2007. Offer good only to registered attendees of event on the date they attend, while supplies last. This offer is nontransferable. Limit one item each per attendee. Taxes, if any, are the sole responsibility of the recipient. The free software will be distributed as a downloadable file. To download the software, an access code will be required. The access code must be claimed onsite at event.

    So register, come and have fun!!! 

    Oh, and for those of you that are developers, you'll also notice the MSDN developer events are strategically placed on the TechNet website as well.  They are also doing the same thing, however, you cannot get a copy of the product from each event.  Only one per person per event day.  Sorry. 

    [UPDATE]  I updated the legal language above.  It's still very similar but we added detail around the download (hope you have fiber), and we added Groove 2007 as another product you'll receive.  Fyi on the download... I've been downloading Office Beta and RC bits for months and it's far smaller than Windows Vista so don't get too worried about the download. 

    [Second Update] I updated the registration link since it will scale for more visitors.

  • Office 2007 Pro BCM download mystery solved

     For the past couple of weeks, attendees of the US "Ready For A New Day" launch tour have been receiving the Launch 2007 Resource Kit.  There has been some confusion about two key areas so here's some clarification about both.

    First, there are several downloads.  There are two for Office Professional 2007 and one for Office Groove 2007.  That's a total of three and trust me, it threw me for a loop as well.  When you go to download Office Professional 2007, you'll be presented with the screen at bottom.  I doctored the image slightly to blank out the key displayed.

    Now many of you have been trained so that when you see a page like this, Download 1 and Download 2 are just mirror sites so pick which one suits your fancy.  That would be incorrect.  Download 1 is Office Professional 2007 CD1.  Download 2 is the second CD that contains Office Professional Business Contact Manager for Outlook 2007 and the Accounting Express 2007 software.  The Office downloads are a little over 350MG each.  The Groove download is a little less than 180MG.

    This leads us to the second set of issues around what key to use.  I already blogged about that at  The bottom line, install the downloaded .exe's using the key inside the Launch 2007 Resource Kit.  Ignore the email you receive.

     After you install the first Office download, you are free to install the BCM and Accounting Express 2007 components from the second download.  They aren't required installs and in fact, you can install them individually.

    The second CD install of the BCM and Accounting software will install SQL Server 2005 Express and create the databases used for storage of the data.  Prior to doing that it'll likely install some fixes to the Dotnet Framework v2.0 components.  The install is pretty straightforward.  I had no issues on my Windows XP MCE 2005 machine.

    In the case of Business Contact Manager 2007 for Outlook, the actual install happens the first time you launch Outlook 2007 after running the installs above.  It's a pretty painless process and you can either take the Express or Advanced routes in the install.  If you take the advanced route, you can pick registration options, pick the database name, etc.  The default values should be sufficient for most people.

    I hope this clarifies any remaining questions on what you get, how to download, how to install, etc.  The rest of the fun is totally up to you.  Belated Merry Christmas !!!

    [UPDATE]  Ok, I caved.  When someone tells me they have 1000's of people running 1024x768, I need to adjust.  So I moved the screenshot to the bottom out of the way of the text.  Hopefully this is better.  Cheers.

  • High Definition TV is evil

    High Definition Television is like the lure you cast into the glass waters of an April morning.  If you're a Black Bass who's been starving on standard definition cable provider signals all winter, you'll bite that worm as fast as you can.

    The lure is a nice juicy long one.  It starts with those warm plasma screens in torch mode at the local retailer.  All bright and shiny.  Maybe you don't bite, but instead you decide to nibble at the DLP buffet.  Eventually, it's going to get you, and it's only the start.

    Eating at the HDTV buffet is a feast.  But as with all things, moderation is the key to longevity... right?  Longevity?  Screw that, this is battle.  Time to chow down.

    If you thought the CD ripping and audio battle has been fought and won, you haven't seen anything yet.  Let me explain.

    How many of you have subscriptions?  You probably have more than one.  One for your beloved iPod or Zune.  One for your television habits.  How much do you pay for the television?  Do you feel you have a good deal?

    I'm a bonehead.  I actually pay Charter Communications for their "all you can eat" cable offering.  In other words, I pay for a bunch of channels I never use.  Part of the reason for this is because my teens like certain shows, and the parental units like others.  The channels I actually watch can be counted on my two hands and I have the normal set of fingers.  Being the typical American, I watch ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, HBO, SHOWTIME, CINEMAX, HDNET, HDNMV, DHD and some ESPNH. 

    Last October I purchased my HP DLP HDTV.  It's been absolutely great.  We love it.  When we purchased the HDTV, we of course purchased the HDTV tier of programming from Charter.  We also swapped the standard box for the HD DVR at the same time.  The SA 8300 HD has been great and I enjoyed extending it with a bigger hard drive.

    All of that joy has been shattered.

    Charter Communications sends me a letter.  Apparently the parent company of the local ABC affiliate wants additional money for the HD feed.  I have no idea how much money Belo Broadcasting is asking Charter for in order to supply the feed.  I don't really care.  Charter refuses to pay Belo, and they drop the HD feed from the HDTV tier.  The letter explains we can still get the standard definition channel.  Not only is the channel dropped from the encrypted HD tier, they also drop the unencrypted QAM channel which I thought was against FCC regulations.

    Charter is going to lose a customer...

    Of the channels I listed above, some of them are requirements.  ABC is one.  Boston Legal, Grey's Anatomy and Lost simple won't do in standard definition.  We could probably get by with Boston Legal and Grey's in SD, but there's no way in hell I'm putting up with Lost in SD.  Why should I?

    What to do?

    This is where I get really upset.  Now, I have to evaluate the market and make changes.  I don't know about you, but I'm a busy person and this is an unwelcome distraction. 

    If I go with Verizon FIOS TV, then I have to switch to the FIOS Residential plan because they won't put TV on my FIOS Static Business connection.  Combine that with the fact I then need to move my web and email services from my house back to a hosting provider and worry about outages, again.

    I could keep the FIOS business plan and get my TV signal off DirecTV.  I had DirecTV many years ago.  I really liked having both the east and west coast feeds of everything.  That was before DVR's were invented and you still had a chance to catch your favorite show if you missed the early time zone slot.  The problem with the DirecTV HD DVR is it's only 50 hours of recording space.  I have over three times that right now and it comes in handy because my wife is a busy person.  We routinely have four weeks of shows sitting in the DVR for her to pick and choose from.

    So why is High Definition TV evil?

    Because even after you pay thousands or hundreds for the set, you are still at the mercy of the cable companies, telcos, and satellite providers.  Now those same providers might use the argument that the HD signal is provided free over-the-air (OTA).  Don't believe it.  Yes, some of those stations are provided.  However, ask people in the Seattle metropolis about their OTA.  Hell, I live in a flat state and can't get... wait for it.... ABC!!!  Isn't it interesting that all of the channels that are over-the-air in my area are UHF except ABC???  All of the UHF stations come in fine, but the ABC VHF signal is borderline and ends up being jerky.  You need a rooftop antenna to get good reception.  Evil.

    So make sure before you get addicted, you know who your dealers are.  Don't expect the FCC and the state and local government to clean this up.  There seem to be some gray areas and if the ABC fiasco is any indication, you haven't seen anything yet.  I have no idea who's at fault.  It certainly isn't the consumers fault.  Ok, maybe it is.  The poppy and coca growing nations wouldn't grow their crops if the US didn't buy drugs.  Whew, there's a political debate to step in.  Maybe we'll do that one down the road.  Not!!!

    So it must be my fault I can't get ABC.  HDTV is evil.

  • Interested in Windows Vista Digital Cable? Check this out!!!

    Ok, so you invested in Windows XP Media Center 2005.  You've been using a lovely analog tuner for a while and finally purchased a HD tuner and have endured over-the-air programming (OTA) for the past couple of years.  Sure, OTA high definition TV is better than nothing, and it sure beats a 120GB HD DVR from the local cable company.  But your lust for premium cable channels has been gnawing at you for months...  What do you do?

    Well, if you haven't been paying attention to the Internet this weekend, then you should check out the post at  Looks like someone received a nice package from Microsoft (as evidenced by the MS Asset tag).

    Robert, we are jealous as hell.  Now that we know you have it, tell us how well it works.

    [UPDATE] Be careful what you wish for...  When you have an exclusive on a product, and engadget points to you, you are going to get "some" traffic.  Apparently the server is having some scale issues.  I get a "Critical Error: Data Store Unavailable" when I try to go there.  Bummer Robert.

  • Gefen announces a Digital PVR - close-up pics

    Gefen is well known in the home theatre ranks for the HDMI switches and gizmos we need for our various "needs".  Many early HDTV adopters only had one HDMI port on the back of their HDTV, so the Gefen 2to1 and 4to1 switches became rather popular.

    HDTV sales have taken off, and as a result we are seeing a number of interesting offerings come out of CES.  Gefen announced some interesting units.  At, you can see they are planning on shipping a SD and a HD Personal Video Recorder.  According to the press release, you can record digital TV and use the box to copy the content in MPEG 4 format to an external USB storage device and take it with you.

    The details are vague, but I'm sure someone will get their hands on one of them soon and tell us what you can really record, and what you can't.  I'd be happy with clear QAM recording.

    In the meantime, checkout the close up photos Doug McKnight snapped while at the Gefen CES booth.  Here's the SD PVR front, back, and the HD PVR front.  They don't really look like the finished product to me, but we'll see soon enough.

    More information is also available at

  • Desktop Deployment Tools - one stop shopping

    Each week for the next couple of months, my team will demonstrate a variety of tools that make operating system and application deployment easier.  The demos of course show off how to deploy Windows Vista and Office 2007.  However, you can also use the new tools to deploy Windows XP and Office 2003 if needed.  If you have not looked at the tools yet, you should spend some time getting familiar with them.

    I would recommend starting with the Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK) first because it will be core learning that can be leveraged across all of the other tools.  I have the download link for the WAIK below.  Next, I would look at the BDD tools referenced below because it simplifies many of the steps in a deployment process.  You have some work cut out for you, but understanding the mechanics of the new tools will pay dividends for years to come.


    Where To Start

    First, you should probably bookmark  It's the de facto area for the whitepapers, guides and tools.  If you are specifically interested in Windows Vista, then another good area is  Dig the kewl blue color.  Some of the information there is a bit dated in my opinion, but things will get updated over the next few months.

    You'll notice a heavy focus from Microsoft on the new business deployment tools.  Along with this focus is a heavy emphasis on looking at the roles and responsibilities in a deployment project.  To support those projects, we have created a Solution Accelerator called the Business Desktop Deployment (BDD) toolset.


    Business Desktop Deployment (BDD) 2007

    The main BDD areas is at

    This Solution Accelerator provides "proven" tools and practices that enable IT professionals to:

    • Create a software and hardware inventory to assist in deployment planning.
    • Test applications for compatibility and mitigate the compatibility issues discovered during the process.
    • Set up an initial lab environment with deployment and imaging servers.
    • Customize and package applications.
    • Automate desktop image creation and deployment.
    • Ensure that the desktop is hardened to improve security within the environment.
    • Manage processes and technologies to produce a comprehensive and integrated deployment.

    The Solution Accelerator for BDD contains guidance, sample templates, and technology files (such as scripts and configuration files). It presents deployment guidance as feature team guides that thoroughly explain each deployment process.

    I put quotes around the word proven because as you know, this will really get proven by you in the field.  We have of course tested the tools in a variety of environments along with our TAP customers and Partners, but if anyone can break things, you can.  Right?  :)

    You can download the BDD directly at  I thought it was interesting you must subscribe to the TechNet Flash to get it.  Don't worry, you can always go to the profile center later and turn that off, but it's a very worthy newsletter so you might want to try it for a few months first.

    Be sure to pay attention to all of the prereqs so you can grab all of the goodies needed prior to starting.  I'm probably going to build a DVD that includes everything then add it to my DVD portfolio.


    Windows Deployment Services (WDS) for Windows Server 2003

    One of the tools we show in the demos is Windows Deployment Services (WDS).  WDS is an update to Remote Installation Services (RIS). Or more accurately, it's a replacement for RIS with the ability to handle the newest versions of Windows PE, Windows Vista and the WIM file format.

    WDS provides the following benefits:

    • Reduces total cost of ownership (TCO) and complexity of deployments.
    • Deploys the Windows operating system to bare metal computers.
    • Supports mixed environments including Microsoft Windows XP and Microsoft Windows Server 2003.
    • Provides an end-to-end solution for deployment of Windows operating systems to client and server computers.
    • Built on standard Windows Server "Longhorn" setup technologies including Windows PE, WIM and Image Based Setup (IBS).

    If you start to dig around, you'll notice this service is mostly discussed in the context of a Longhorn Server service but it does in fact install into Windows Server 2003.


    First, you'll need to download and install the Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK) from  This download is in a .IMG format.  Don't ask me why.  I would have put it on the download center in .ISO format.  I used WinImage to extract the contents since I've had a license for it for years.

    Next, you'll need to make sure you've installed the Windows Server 2003 RIS role.  After that, it's a matter of updating the RIS service.  You can run the update from the Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK) install DVD you created, (see screenshot) or you can install from the WDS directory on the DVD.  Be sure to print and read the WDS Step-by-Step Guide.  I gave you the online link but for printing purposes, you'll probably want the Word .doc on the DVD.  This guide discusses the modes WDS will run in, installation steps, boot image installation steps, etc.

    I'll probably do a WDS Screencast very soon on all of the low level details of installation, configuration and use of this service. 

  • Cult of Mac blog - Windows Vista review

    I don't have a Mac although I've been tempted on occasion to see how one might work in my life.  Are they really better for website and video editing, or anything else for that matter?  I have no clue but I have friends that swear by them.

    The folks at Wired, or specifically the Cult of Mac blog at recently did a review of Windows Vista running on a Mac Pro.

    I just couldn't believe the quote, "The Mac Pro is a very fast and capable OS X machine, but it’s an even faster Windows Vista machine."

    Now granted the Pro in question has "two dual-core 2.66GHz Xeon chips; 3GBs of RAM; and a medium-range NVidia GeForce 7300 GT graphics card." 

    Windows Vista had better fly on a machine like that.  The review is mostly anecdotal so people will tear it to shreds, but what the heck, it's still an interesting data point.

    So what does a Mac Pro with two 2.66GHz Dual-Core Intel Xeon "Woodcrest" processors, 1GB memory (667MHz DDR2 fully-buffered DIMM ECC), NVIDIA GeForce 7300 GT graphics with 256MB memory, 250GB Serial ATA 3Gb/s 7200-rpm hard drive and a 16x double-layer SuperDrive go for???  Click the pic above.

  • Key learning's from last weeks launch events

    As you know, we started our US Windows Vista, Exchange Server 2007 and 2007 Office System launch events last week.  If you have not already signed up for one, go to and do it fast.  Many of the venue locations are already at capacity and beyond wait listing.

    Last Tuesday, the MSDN and TS2 teams had some challenges in the morning getting some of the registration systems off and running.  This of course created a bottleneck at the registration desks and just like rush hour traffic, it is very hard to clear the backlog.  We made some adjustments after that and I think you'll find the registration process was much smoother on Thursday and should be from here on out.

    Another thing we learned is that the ink in the Launch 2007 Resource Kit isn't waterproof.  That's a huge hint folks.  If you want to inspect the kit, don't do it in the rain.  The download product key is on the inside and if you get it wet, you may mess up your chances of getting the free download of Office Professional 2007 and Office Groove 2007.

    Another thing we learned is that we are pretty good at estimating drop off rates.  Usually for a live seminar, about fifty percent of the people that register actually show up.  When we do product launches where free software is in play, that percentage is much lower for obvious reasons.  With that in mind, we book rooms around those estimates.  This is similar to what happens with the airlines.  Essentially, you overbook the room by a percentage and if you're good you don't have to turn anyone away.  We turned away eleven people last week.  By turned away I mean we didn't have a seat.  They still got the software.  Out of close to ten thousand registrations, I'd say we did pretty damn good.

    We learned you have lots of questions.  The IT Pro track is a little different than prior TechNet content modules.  We have reduced the number of PowerPoint slides to such a small number, it's almost a joke.  So now, instead of "Death by PowerPoint" it's "Death by Demos".  I think this is very healthy.  You get a little over three hours of pure demos and question/answer time. 

    Questions are very hard to manage in such large crowds so don't be surprised if you aren't called on.  Presenters aren't trying to ignore you, just manage the time and keep things moving so they cover all of the ground they are expected to cover.  There is another thing to keep in mind about breaks and after the presenter is done.  During breaks, we are usually shutting down the prior module virtual machines and starting the VM's for the next module.  Doing that and trying to answer questions is extremely difficult, by we try hard.  Same thing for after the IT Pro Track has concluded.  Usually we have the Develop Track presenter standing behind us wanting the stage.  We have several hours left in the day so please be patient in that timeframe around 11:50am - 12:15pm.  After we get our stuff packed up and out of the way of the next presenter, we can chat at length.

    The last thing I wanted to say about last week is thank you.  Thanks for coming.  Thanks for being engaged.  I had a lot of fun in New Orleans and Baton Rouge.  Lots of good questions and several I'll be following up on via email and my blog.  I hope you had fun.  It certainly looks like the IT Pro Track content is a hit and I look forward to the events coming up.  Hopefully Oklahoma City and Tulsa will thaw out.

  • Windows Vista Family Discount

    Windows Vista Family Discount

    Enjoy the security, performance, and entertainment capabilities of Windows Vista throughout your home. Purchase the Windows Vista Ultimate retail boxed product, and you can upgrade up to two additional PCs in your household to Windows Vista Home Premium for only $49.99 ($59.99 CAD) each.* Order online, and within minutes you’ll be ready to upgrade your computers at over 60% off the estimated retail price!*

    Full details of this offer is at  More of the fine print is just below...

    How to Order

    Once you determine that you qualify for the Windows Vista Family Discount, you can order online to immediately get up to two upgrade licenses for Windows Vista Home Premium—so you can upgrade your household PCs today using the following:

    • A Windows Vista Home Premium product key (or keys), which you will receive with your Windows Vista Family Discount online order receipt

    • Your Windows Vista Ultimate DVD, which came in your Windows Vista Ultimate retail boxed product

    With digital delivery of your new product key(s) and the software disc you already have, you can begin installing Windows Vista Home Premium on your additional compatible home PCs right away.

    Order Now

    * The Windows Vista Family Discount is available to customers in the United States and Canada who have purchased the full or upgrade Windows Vista Ultimate retail boxed product. Customers may purchase up to two additional licenses to install the Windows Vista Home Premium Upgrade on other PCs within their household for $49.99 ($59.99 CAD) per upgrade license, a discount of over 60% off the estimated retail price. The price for the product excludes all taxes. You are responsible for any taxes that you are obligated to pay or that we may collect from you. Currency exchange settlements are based on your agreement with your payment method provider. Customers must use the operating systems primarily in their home, meaning the dwelling where they live, by members of their own household; for personal use; and may not transfer the operating systems to others outside their household. Offer may be discontinued at any time. Software licenses purchased through electronic transmission online or over the Internet are not eligible for a refund. View Microsoft's Retail Product Refund Guidelines.

  • Loads of stuff happening tonight at 8:30 CST

    On Sunday night, join Bill Gates at as he keynotes 2007 CES, demonstrating how the company is delivering a new generation of connected experiences. Bill will be joined by Robbie Bach in announcing several new offerings from Windows Vista, Xbox 360, Microsoft TV and more.

    The 2007 International CES starts Monday and Microsoft will be there introducing new technologies and demonstrating its latest innovations. Microsoft at CES will follow the action with in-the-moment video from the show floor.

  • Launch 2007 post event resources

    One of the most common questions that comes up after our live events is, "Where do I get the slide decks?"  Well, the slides and a bunch of other relevant materials are organized at  The slides I am using for the IT Pro Track are listed in the Microsoft Across America Events section.

  • CES thoughts from the first day

    Like many of you other nerds, I surfed a bit yesterday while I watched the Jets get destroyed.  I didn't even bother to watch the Philly game because I knew how it would turn out.  I reviewed the CES coverage at engadget.  I looked around at the articles on gizmodo.

    What am I rushing out to buy?  Most of the stuff I see is too expensive for my wallet.  Some of the machines that are coming out have high hardware margins written all over them.

    I mean after all, you need to be in the big B club to afford one of the new Sharp 108" LCD HDTV's because $70,000 is pocket change for the truly rich, right?

    Sure, the OQO Model 2 pictured at right running Windows Vista looks rad, but at what cost?  Try about $2000 configured the way I'd order it with an accessory pack.  Maybe Microsoft will buy me one. 

    Sony announced some kewl devices.  They always have neat stuff.  Their new living room PC is small, white and cute.  Their new Micro PC is awesome but expensive as hell.  Their new video editing system is rad and the XL3 DVR is way kewl, but at $3300, I'll have to wait for a discount coupon... like forever.

    The new HP Microsoft Home Server (pictured at left) sounds interesting, but I'm holding out for a bad ass HDTV recording rig.  I'm hoping we'll get some news today on the Windows Vista Digital Cable Tuner offerings from Dell, HP, etc.  Then I can finally figure out if I'm going to have to sell my Harley or what. 

    Oh, and as you might suspect, Microsoft announced a few things.  We announced some new services coming to the Xbox family.  Namely something we're calling IPTV for the Xbox.  I don't recall if Robbie said the current generation Xbox360 would work or if the next gen Xbox360 would be required.  I thought I recall him saying it would be up and running next holiday season.  Maybe that's a hint.  It probably doesn't matter much for me anyway.  I'd be surprised if Charter Communications or Verizon will be selling the service in my area.

    Anyway, I'm sitting here looking at all of these gadgets and wondering who can afford all this stuff.  Beyond my realm for sure.

  • But does it dice?


    Everyone should have the HP TouchSmart PC in their kitchen.


  • Now this is kewl - bring a mirror

    Everyone knows Leonardo Da Vinci wasn't normal.  The man wrote in mirror image (backwards) for heavens sake.  You can find some of his works on a new website at  I particularly like the study on reflection of the moon and earth.  If you hit the M key while looking at the Leonardo Da Vinci Codex Arundel, it will flip the text to a more "normal" view.  Experiment with the magnifying glass.  Very very kewl indeed.

    There are some other rather fascinating works there as well.  For more background on the project, see

    One last question... was Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci the greatest painter of all time?

  • Complimentary T-Mobile HotSpot Coverage when using Windows Vista


    T-Mobile and Microsoft Windows Vista are pleased to offer you a complimentary trial of T-Mobile HotSpot wireless broadband Internet service.

    As a special thank you for purchasing or upgrading to the new Microsoft Windows Vista operating system, we are pleased to enhance your mobile life by providing a complimentary T-Mobile HotSpot trial. Your trial account will provide T-Mobile HotSpot wireless broadband Internet service at no charge when you access the network on your mobile PC powered by Windows Vista. Complimentary service ends April 30, 2007, so sign up now!

    Stay connected. Even on the go. T-Mobile HotSpot lets you stay connected to what matters most in your life. With more than 7,000 convenient HotSpot locations across the country, you can share photos, watch streaming video, download music, IM, and access your e-mail at blazing fast broadband speeds.

    Signup details at

  • After five years of waiting...

    The week has finally come.  Years of development.  Years of re-development.  Did we get it right?  History will tell... 

    Is Windows Vista the lowest cost, most secure, most intuitive, most manageable, most entertaining and therefore the best operating system Microsoft has ever produced?

    Now before you answer the question, consider how well Windows XP has done.  Windows XP is rock solid.  The security for Windows XP and IE have been dramatically improved since it's release.

    Have you tried Windows Vista?  Are you planning on buying it on Tuesday?  Are you waiting and getting a new computer with Windows Vista on it? Which version are you interested in?  Why?  Why not?

  • Download the Exchange Server 2007 Helpfile here

    Ever get tired of looking up information via an RDP session to the server or on when it comes to Exchange Server 2007?  Well how would you like your own personal copy fo the Exchange Server 2007 helpfile instead?

    Grab the Exchhelp.chm from the Microsoft download center.  It's a self extracting archive so you can unzip it to the location of your choice.

    This file includes a weath of information including the Getting Started, Planning and Architecture, Deployment, Operations, Security and Protection, Technical Reference and Development sections.

  • Matt's most excellent Launch 2007 answers

    I was looking around at my team's blogs and I see Matt Hester has posted some questions and their answers from the Launch 2007 events we did.  Being the efficient (lazy) person that I am, I'll just link you right to "Matt's Most Excellent Answers".  Now I can play more Xbox360 and a cerrtain game that will not be spoken.  :)

  • Solid State SATA Drives are coming - utter lust

    Although this drive size barely meets my minimum needs (64GB), the thought of booting Windows Vista from solid state memory in the primary SATA slot of my laptop give me goose bumps.  I mean think about it...  No moving drive heads, lower heat, lower power consumption, etc.  

    Technology is freaking great.  We live in some great times and this is going to change everything you know about boot times, disk speeds, etc.  Here's the press release from PQI: 

    Taipei, Taiwan ~ PQI, the leader in industrial storage solutions has just released two new products to start the new year. PQI's Turbo SATA DOM and Turbo SATA Solid State Disk (SSD) 2.5” 64GB both are PQI patented. The application of SATA technology and specially designed clip-on connector on SATA DOMs provide stability and prevent connectors detaching unexpectedly. The implementation of SATA interface on industrial storage is a world’s first. Another breakthrough is the maximum capacity of 64GB on Turbo SATA SSD 2.5” drives. If you are looking for fast and large capacity industrial solutions, PQI's got them!

    PQI DiskOnModule Manager, Bob Chu states, “With flash storage technology catching up to traditional disc platter storage devices and motherboard designs being more compact than ever, most IDE connectors have been replaced by the smaller and faster SATA interfaces. At the same time, available spaces for device(s) have been reduced dramatically and hence, SATA DOM was developed. SATA interface takes up less space and provide faster transfer rate (up to 100MB/sec) than IDE connectors and maximum SATA DOM capacities will likely reach 128GB in 2007.

    Apart from the benefits of clip-on feature of Turbo SATA DOM, the SATA connector is designed directionally. Meeting the needs of current motherboard SATA connectors, as they are closely packed together, PQI Turbo SATA DOM is actually available in 2 flavors – left and right directional designs. The left and right directional placement design allows motherboard SATA connectors to be fully populated without interference.

    As a leader in industrial storage, PQI's experience, long list of customers and excellent customer relations have long been a favorite. Once again, offering the perfect storage solution, PQI's DiskOnModule have come out on top providing performance, capacity and unsurpassed value.

    For the latest PQI news and product information, please visit PQI at

  • Escaping Dallas to the land of, "Who Dat?"

    As you may or may not know, old man winter decided to flex his muscles this week.  Considering 2006 was the warmest year on record, I guess he decided to start 2007 off a little differently. 

    The Dallas metroplex finally got hit in the past 48 hours with a blast of cold Arctic air and dropped the temps from 71 to 31 and below.  As usual, instead of a lovely snow, our fair city is getting a dose of rain, sleet, ice and snow.  So far, it's been ok but with the huge launch events next week, traveling from Dallas has been very worrisome for the Microsoft crew.

    In fact, today might very well be the worst day for Dallas with ice accumulations expected above an inch.  Now consider that the temp is currently hovering at 32 with ice pellets expected all day and night.  This could very well be a travel show stopper Monday.

    With all of that in mind, and having no control on what ice balls old man winter is going to hurl, Charles Van Heusen and I escaped Dallas yesterday afternoon.  We got on the phone with American airlines and took the 6:35pm flight from Dallas to New Orleans. 

    Little did we know what was in store for us...

    The flight left the gate on time.  They always do.  We did the 30 minute de-ice thing out on the runway tarmac.  We took off and of course the captain comes on and says the ride is going to be bumpy and First Class passengers Keith Combs and Charles Van Heusen will not be served any "beverages" during flight.  Drat.  The flight was bumpy as he indicated.  It wasn't too bad but Charles is sitting next to me and just a little skittish after his recent trip back from Hawaii.  They almost did a "Lost" over the Pacific.  After we made it over the cold front, it got gradually smoother as we approached New Orleans.

    The approach was interesting.  I've never seen a pilot do a spiral in a MD80 but we did.  We did one 360 and I looked at Charles and said, "That was pretty kewl".  Charles didn't think so of course.  He looked like he was going to spew.  Then we did another one.  By the time we got done doing those circles, it appeared we bled off 10,000 or more feet.  I could be wrong about that, but I've never seen an approach like this.  The landing was uneventful and we got off the plan in a humid Louisiana 69 degree climate.

    As we walked through the empty terminal, we realized the New Orleans football game was on and it was halftime.  We also realized at that point we'd be driving right by the stadium they are playing in.  Time to boogie.

    So we boogie into downtown New Orleans.  We have food and drink on our minds so we throw our stuff in the hotel room, and head to our favorite local haunt, Gordon Biersch Brewery.  The hotel next door, Harrah's, is finally complete so as we walk the block to it and round the corner, we suddenly realize they've opened the courtyard between the two buildings.

    In the courtyard, there are 300 New Orleans fans there to greet us.  In fact, the restaurant has rented a bunch of high definition plasma TV's and projectors for the crowd.  They have a 20 foot screen setup and of course the crowd is going nuts watching the game.  Our arrival is right at the 14:00 minute mark in the fourth quarter.

    As you might suspect, the beer, food and drinks are flowing so we wade into the crowd and get into the spirited "Who Dat?" chants.  The New Orleans Saints don't disappoint the crowd and coach their way through the fourth quarter for the dramatic nail biting win.

    The crowd goes nuts!!!

    At a rather quick pace, the restaurant starts to empty as people close their tabs and bolt.  I'm thinking, "Where the hell is everyone going?" knowing all to well what the probable answer is.  Surely they aren't all going to the French Quarter and Bourbon Street...

    Oh yes they are!!!

    The city erupted in a blare of honking horns, chants, and general merriment.  We avoided Bourbon Street.  If you have never been there, last night would have been a good indoctrination into the wonders that is Bourbon Street.  We saw some live shots on the plasma screens and I just looked at Charles and grinned.  100,000 people going nuts on screen.

    I don't know what the actual number of people there actually was, but it looked like Mardi Gras on steroids.  Pandemonium for sure.  Guys and girls gone wild.  :)

    Congratulations New Orleans!!!  You deserve it!!!

  • Don't "Frost" Kai Axford - UAC revisited

    I've worked with Kai directly for a number of years.  He doesn't get all riled up easily.  But he does take security very seriously.  If you don't know Kai, you should.  He's a Microsoft Senior Security Strategist and knows his stuff.  He is routinely called upon by the FBI, Secret Service and Jack Bauer when "stuff happens".

    So follow the trail at and you'll see what I mean.  I don't know what it means to "frost" him, but considering he used to be an Army Ranger, I don't want to find out.

  • Now if I can just get this in a 2.5" model, I'm set

    Let's face it, it's great to be a consumer.  What we really need is a hard drive trade in program.  Some may say we need a gadget anonymous program. 

    Anyway, for you hard drive filling maniacs, Hitachi just announced their 1.0 Terabyte 3.5" Deskstar offering.  Now you might be thinking that's going to cost an arm and two legs, but apparently the suggested retail price is $399. 

    We'll see what the street price is when they hit the channel.

    See the Hitachi Global Storage Systems site for the drive specs and details.

    I really wish more emphasis would be placed on 2.5" SATA and PATA drives.  I could use a 500GB 2.5" SATA drive for my laptop.  Actually, two would be perfect.  Imagine having a 1.0TB laptop.  I know, I'm a nerd.  :)

  • One of my favorite Zune things

    Are you stuck on Windows XP for a while?  Are you sick to death of the blue, silver and olive themes?  Well, the Zune team created a Windows XP theme that is very nice.

    The shaded brown theme is similar to the Zune software colors.  Imagine that.  If you have not seen the Zune software, click on the thumbnail for a larger view. As you can see, the overall look and feel is pretty dark.  I prefer dark colors although I think many of us are used to white backgrounds with black text.  A dark background with lightly colored text is a welcome break for my eyes.

    The downloadable theme only themes the borders, task bar, start menu, etc. for Windows XP programs.  If you want to further alter operating system background and foreground colors, go for it.

    To get the theme, either head on over to the Zune website at or go directly to the download at

    Oh, and for you Halo 3 fans, the picture of Master Chief on matches the Zune theme very nicely.  Coincidence?