Keith Combs' Blahg

Ramblings from another nerd on the grid

June, 2007

  • VMRCPlus goes public - download now

    For those of you running Microsoft Virtual Server, we have a new treat in store for you.  Originally developed by Paul Despe then enhanced by Matthijs ten Seldam, VMRCPlus is a new VM client display and management tool.  This tool will be available shortly on the Microsoft download center, TechNet online download centers, and in the companion disk of a new book written by Robert Larson & Janique Carbone.  As with most if not all of our resource kit type tools, there is no support for the tool.  However, here's a list of the goodies in the tool in case you are brave enough:

      • Direct control of local or remote instances of the Virtual Server service. IIS and IE browser are no longer required!
      • Tabbed interface to quickly jump between Virtual Server hosts and guest VMRC sessions.
      • Reusable saved states: this feature allows users to preserve a particular saved state and return to that state at any time.
      • Multiple guest selection supported for startup/shutdown/save/display.
      • Browse button navigation for media, hard disk images, ISO images, .VMC files, etc.
      • Drag and Drop support for .VMC files, ISOs images, VHD and VFD files.
      • Resizable desktop support for guests running Virtual Machine Additions (maximize VMRC window supported).
      • Limited cut and paste of text from host to guest (only).
      • A built-in utility to take JPG screenshots of running guests. Useful when filing bugs.
      • Built-in error notification with Virtual Server eventlog viewer.
      • A Virtual Networks Manager and Virtual Disks Manager that cover all features.
      • Keyboard shortcuts (e.g. Ctrl-S to save state a guest).
      • Create multiple guests at once.
      • Create guest from parent (or multiple guests)!
      • Automatic reconnect to a designated Virtual Server host.
      • Toolbars in both Guest and Console Manager for quick access.
      • Unlimited number of guests.
      • Maximum of 32 Virtual Server hosts.
      • Sorting on columns of guests so you can sort based on status and multi-select.
      • Automatic detection of Virtual Machine Additions and notification.
      • Detection of Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1.

    Download @ http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=80adc08c-bfc6-4c3a-b4f1-772f550ae791&DisplayLang=en

    [UPDATE 1]  The download link has been updated on 7/2/2007 to point to the official location on the microsoft.com download center as promised.  Matthijs also has a blog now for questions.  Enjoy.

    [Update 2]  In reference to the questions about the security model, see the post at http://blogs.technet.com/matthts/archive/2007/07/10/vmrcplus-and-authentication.aspx.  It probably isn't what you want to hear, but there you have it.

  • Pick the brains of the Vista Backup team

    You should sooo take advantage of this opportunity.  The team that brings you Backup, Complete PC and other goodies to Windows Vista is having a chat in a few weeks on 7/10/2007. See http://blogs.technet.com/filecab/archive/2007/06/07/mark-your-july-calendars-upcoming-chats-on-backup-recovery-and-offline-files-in-windows-vista.aspx for their post on the matter.

    Here are my questions for the chat (in no certain priority order):

    1. How do I secure the .vhd created by Complete PC ?
    2. How do I restore a specific file?
    3. How do I restore a hard drive signature so that a Complete PC restore doesn't require me to burn another activation when restoring to a new hard drive?
    4. How do I do Complete PC backups from multiple machines to the same external hard drive ?
    5. Is it possible to create a bootable restore disk that will run unattended?
    6. How do I create a restore that is hardware agnostic?

    That ought to get things going. 

  • Do Google employees use Windows?

    It's always fun to watch reactions to acquisitions.  We like to get into those spirited debates about Microsoft employees using competitive products, in public.  Give me a break.  If I need to use a competing product because it's better, most likely I will.

    So what products do I use?

    Camtasia Studio v 4.01 comes to mind immediately.  If you look at the screen capturing market, it was the best tool for my needs the last time I evaluated tools.  The Windows Media Encoding tools work, but when I did my testing they consumed too many CPU cycles.  That's super important when you are trying to capture something like Windows Vista and the Media Center Shell playing a high definition recording of a TV episode.  CPU cycles count.

    Ghost.  Anyone heard of Ghost?  Of course you have.  It's the industry leading imaging tool and has been for years.  After Symantec bought the PQI DeployCenter line, they pretty much owned the market.  We have world class competing technologies now in ImageX, WinPE, etc.  In fact, the latest version of Symantec Backup Exec uses WinPE v2.0.  I'm currently using Backup Exec because it does a great job of backing up and restoring my machines.  Better than Windows Vista Complete PC.  Complete PC is great, but it doesn't do as good a job of restoring hard drive signatures so it seems to trip out-of-tolerance activation more frequently.

    In the area of portable media players, the use of the iPod by Microsoft employees has been under public scrutiny since the Zune shipped.  Before the Zune there were products made by a wide range of partners. I have the Microsoft Zune, Apple 80gb iPod Video and the Creative Zen Vision W.  The Vision W gets the most use because I like to watch video and with the 4.3" screen, the Vision gives me better vision.

    Regarding high definition TV recording, look at the product I'm using called HDHomeRun.  I have three or four blog posts on it.  Is it competitive?  You bet.  I can buy a Windows Vista machine from an OEM that records high definition premium channels.  I probably will.  But right now, HDHomeRun gave me more time to let those machines come down in price.

    When we talk about the server space, if the Exchange team had refused to produce a 32bit version of Exchange Server 2007, there would be no doubt I'd be using VMWare Virtual Server to run x64 virtual machines.  I need to be able to test our x64 platform and demonstrate it.  In fact, we are getting ready to refresh the machines my team uses for that very reason.  The x64 wave has started and the wave is coming fast and furious.  Fortunately, the Windows development team has a hypervisor in development called Windows Server virtualization (WSv).  We'll start using it when we get closer to the public beta stages.

    Let's see, what else?  I've been testing and using Adobe Dreamweaver 8.  Microsoft Expression is a great tool, but I just wanted to live in the Dreamweaver world for a while to see why so many people are using it.  It's a great product although my wife is not happy with the way it handles image thumbnails.  I'm guessing we'll be back on Expression before long.

    Let's see, what else?  I use Adobe Premiere Elements v3.02.  I started with version 2 based on a recommendation from a fellow employee (Rory).  I upgraded to v3 for the Windows Vista compatibility.  I know, Movie Maker in Windows Vista rocks, but again, I wanted to use something outside the Microsoft world for a while.  My next little project is to learn how to do green or blue screen capturing of myself to insert me into your screencast views.  Don't worry, I have no plans to become the weatherman.

    Let's see, what else?  I've been using Roxio for CD and DVD burning for years.  I stopped buying upgrades because v7.5 is still good enough for my needs.  It still burns stuff.  I don't need the DVD and video tools anymore although the sound editor is very nice.

    And of course there's Linux.  I started running Linux before many of you were born.  Ok, that's a gross exaggeration but 1993 is a long time ago.  I still tinker with the products on the market simply because I'd be foolish to jettison those skills and ignore our competition.  I regularly look at the new versions of the leading distros and SUSE is still my favorite.  It's clean and professional.  I thought that long before we signed any agreements with Novell.

    So I use competing products for two reasons.  To discover what the non-Microsoft view looks like, and to use a superior tool when needed.  The latter is getting pretty rare thankfully because it saves me money when I can buy a Microsoft product at a deep employee discount.  The Xbox360 is an exception.  I bought mine at Costco and I usually buy games before they are available at the company store.   

    So I wondered how hard core Google is.  Do their employees use Windows, OS X or Linux?  If Microsoft had acquired Feedburner, would Google employees move their feeds?  I imagine a percentage of them would over time.  Does the Google internal IT department ban Microsoft products?  I doubt it.

    Competition is good.

  • Is Conan O'Brien live?

    Does anyone know if the NBC show, Late Night With Conan O'Brien is broadcast live?  If you wonder why I ask, review the footage of the Hans Klok illusion from Conan's show on 6/20/2007.  Interesting finish.  :)

  • HDHomeRun Update - Give Me Life!!!

    Just when I was about to write off my lowly single cpu Dell Pentium 4 desktop machine, it gets a reprieve.  In this case, the reprieve comes from an unexpected source, Windows Vista HDTV recording.  As you'll recall, I purchased the HDHomeRun product a little over a month ago.  I started using it with MCE 2005, then started testing it with some of the more powerful laptops I have.  HDHomeRun has been a joy so far. 

    The laptop comment should get your ears perked up.  Even if you don't have a high definition TV, you can still record and watch high definition programming with Windows Vista.  You see, Windows Vista doesn't force you to install an analog tuner first.  Therefore you can start using the dual high definition tuners of HDHomeRun rapidly.  Since it is a network device, there's nothing to plug into your laptop.  Install the software, configure and enjoy.

    I never bothered to re-test HDHomeRun with my desktop until this week.  Like many of you, real work has kept me busy.  Although I found my desktop is still underpowered for HDTV decoding and playback for smooth performance, it does a great job of recording.  Once recorded, it also does a great job of feeding my Xbox360 so I can watch the recordings on the couch in the den.  Best $169 I've spent in a while. 

  • Are you Windows XP free?

    I took another step towards running a pure Windows Vista household.  During my discussions this weekend with the fine folks at the AICPA Tech 07 Conference, I mentioned one of the barriers for my household is the HP All-In-One software for my printer.  I also realized at that point Monday it had been a while since I checked the HP website.

    Since I could never seem to locate a webpage or document that listed the printers that would make the Windows Vista cut, I just assumed my printers would not make the bar.  We have two.  One at my wife's retail store and one here at the house.  They are great little printers and the built-in networking  rocks.  I would never buy a printer that doesn't have networking although these days there are many ways to share a printer.

    Anyway, much to my amazement, HP has created the needed software for the Photosmart 2610.  See http://h10025.www1.hp.com/ewfrf/wc/softwareList?os=2093&lc=en&cc=us&dlc=en&product=421139&lang=en.  I suspect this software is used by a bunch of printers so be sure to check and see if your printer is now supported on Windows Vista.  After installation I immediately did a scan of some hotel receipts and emailed them.  Ahhhh, nice to have my scanner back.

    Thank you HP !!!  You have restored my faith in your brand again.  Heck, you may get my business for the next quad proc desktop personal computer or laptop purchase.

  • Windows Server 2008 IDS-3 is now on the TechNet Download Center

    For those of you that have a TechNet online subscription, the download center now has the latest build of Windows Server 2008.  IDS-3 or also known as the June CTP, has a bunch of fixes checked in, new admin password behavior, and some other stuff in server core I'll let you discover.  Here's the description from the download center area:

    Microsoft Windows Server 2008 IDS-3 helps IT professionals to increase the flexibility of their server infrastructure while offering developers a more robust Web and applications platform for building connected applications and services. Powerful new management tools and security enhancements offer more control over your servers and network and provide advanced protection for your applications and data.

    Windows Server 2008 IDS-3 Standard Edition
    This edition of Windows Server 2008 IDS-3 provides key server functionality across most server roles and features. It includes both full and Server Core installation options.

    Windows Server 2008 IDS-3 Enterprise Edition
    This edition builds on Windows Server 2008 IDS-3 Standard Edition to provide greater scalability and availability, and adds enterprise technologies such as failover clustering and Active Directory Federation Services.

    Windows Server 2008 IDS-3 Datacenter Edition
    This edition offers the same functionality as Windows Server 2008 IDS-3 Enterprise Edition with support for additional memory and processors, and unlimited virtual image use rights.

  • Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 Management Pack for Operations Manager 2007

    This Management Pack quickly brings any failures or configuration problems to your attention, which increases the availability and performance of Office SharePoint Server 2007. This Management Pack also provides the knowledge and expertise you need to leverage Operations Manager 2007 and get an immediate return on your investment.  Requires System Center Operations Manager 2007.

    Feature Summary:

    • Shared Services Provider (SSP) provisioning failed 
    • Site Directory scan job failed 
    • Enabling features failed on some sites 
    • Administration site for the SSP is missing 
    • Enabling features on existing sites failed 
    • The Office SharePoint Server Search service is not running 
    • The Microsoft Single Sign-On service is not running 
    • The Office Document Conversions Launcher service is not running 
    • Failed to connect to parent server farm 
    • SSP synchronization failed 
    • The Office Document Conversions Load Balancer service is not running 
    • Failures in content deployment jobs 
    • Poor cache performance 
    • Error during document copy or move operations
    • Errors with the Information Rights Management (IRM) features 
    • Failures in the Document Conversion feature 
    • Out of Memory exceptions coming from form business logic 
    • Denial of Service scenarios 
    • Failures during form processing or while loading business logic assemblies

    Download @ http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=e7bfee42-2d3c-4810-97f8-4d89d7428a5f&DisplayLang=en

  • Only a couple more weeks left to win an Acer Ferrari notebook

    It seems like ions ago that I posted http://blogs.technet.com/keithcombs/archive/2006/12/29/want-to-win-a-ferrari.aspx.  We're coming to the end of that promotion period but there's still a chance to win.  See the details in the post above with links to the official rules.  Good luck!!! 

  • Closing the books on Fiscal Year 2007

    First of all, I want to say thank you personally and on the behalf of my company!!!  Microsoft appreciates your business and the opportunity to help you solve problems, make money and have fun.  FY07 has been a blast for me.  Let's rewind a bit and see what happened.

    Back in July of 2006, the beginning of our fiscal year, we were heading into the final stretches of development for Windows Vista.  Many people at that point didn't think we'd ship on time.  Bad bet.  We also decided to make our desktop virtualization product, Virtual PC free.  No, not free like a puppy, really free.  We also said a sad goodbye to Windows ME.  Ok, maybe that wasn't so sad, but it closed the books on the Win9x era which frankly was very good for the industry.  It certainly set the stage for Windows XP.

    In August, I started doing some Windows Vista screencasts.  It also became apparent in August that my recommendation for the Lenovo Thinkpad T60p as the platform of choice for Microsoft Across America, was a sound decision. Friends, we've been in front of 100's of thousands of people in FY07 with these machines as we launched Windows Vista, Office 2007 and Exchange Server 2007.  I didn't even need to play the supplied promo videos and slides at my shows.  People were amazed at the stability and performance of our platform choice.  In fact, my last show Thursday in Little Rock was nothing short of amazing.  I decided to do an impromptu demo of the high definition capabilities of Windows Vista.  It was amazing because at the time I did this, Windows Vista was hosting three other virtual machines running Windows Server 2008 Enterprise, a Windows Server 2008 Enterprise Core Read Only Domain Controller, and another Windows Vista demo VM.  It shocked the audience.  It shocked me.  It was impressive.

    September was business as usual.  We released Windows Vista Release Candidate 1 with little fanfare.  What many didn't know was that many of the most technical people in Microsoft started using build 5600 as their production environment round the clock.  The volume of traffic on the internal Vista alias increases dramatically as people discover the subject matter experts in the company.  People talk about Microsofties being email centric, but trust me, you've never seen this kind of volume.  Multiple your Inbox volume per day by 100.  Laser focus is a good thing and I'm smack dab in the middle of it.  One of the interesting things that happened in September is the fuss over the Windows Vista startup sound.  Many people were concerned, present self included.  Way to much energy was expended over it, but in the end, the Windows team made the right choices.

    October, what can I say?  We started giving away an Xbox360 at each of my events.  Is that kewl or what?  We also shipped IE7.  I like IE7.  Do you?  We also shipped Windows Vista RC2.  We are getting close to release and I'm downloading weekly builds of Windows Vista.  That was a 6GB download at that time.  "Got fiber?" has a whole new meaning.  Thank you Verizon for FIOS.  I still love the photo at http://blogs.technet.com/keithcombs/archive/2006/10/29/ciclops-cassini-imaging-central-lab-for-operations.aspx.

    November... November was the beginning of the thrill ride.  Windows Vista RTM's.  I post gobs of information.  Lot's of people read.  My blog hits an unimaginable number of readers (thanks by the way), and life is simply rockin.  This is also the first anniversary of high definition TV being in my home.  It's also the first DLP lamp I burn out. That sucked. I start to set my sights on some toys for Christmas...  grin.  November was also the month Harold and I benchmark the Vista/Office/Exchange launch content and realize a single laptop isn't going to cut it.  Time to go shopping.

    December started with a mystery.  Remember that?  Viral marketing at it's best.  At this point of the year, I had been asked many times if Windows Vista would run well on x, y, or z machine.  So I decided to install it on a Compaq EVO N620c.  Pretty amazing results for machine that is almost five years old.  7200rpm drives certainly help.  Daughter totals Honda Civic but walks away with a scratch on her knee.  Scary. December was also the month Seattle got blasted, literally, by a wind storm.  It knocked down trees and cut communications and power.  Scary, too.  We also released Exchange Server 2007.  This completes the three amigos we'll be demonstrating at the huge launch events next month.  As you might suspect, we're rather busy prepping for that but I still manage to find time for some fun.

    January through March is a blur of humanity.  We are in full frontal launch mode.  Big events, huge crowds and we're giving away a copy of Office 2007 Professional to each event attendee.  I wonder how many copies have actually been activated.  Virtual PC 2007 goes gold and is available for free download from microsoft.com.  March is the month I start paying closer attention to my HDTV recording habits and realize how pathetic the HD DVR's I've been using are.  TiVo starts to look more interesting but the price is too high (back then).  I purchase a new Honda Civic Coupe.  I calculate I've already saved close to $2000 since that purchase on monthly payments, gas and insurance.  Nice.  I also posted some information about an episode of "Lost" and find out quickly that the episode won't be broadcast worldwide for another six months or so.  Spoiler.  People start to discover their hardware won't address all 4GB of RAM they purchased.  The frenzy around daylight "savings" time begins to build.

    In April, Halo 3 starts to take center stage in the world of gaming.  We're testing the product internally and getting ready to let the world have a shot at whipping Microsoft employees.  Fat chance.  We release Beta 3 of Windows Server 2008.  We rebuild our content, again.  I purchase a HDHomeRun HDTV recording gizmo.  This is one kewl device.  This is also the month I discover a flaw in the way Microsoft IT handles updates for Microsoft employees. Grrrrr.  The Windows Vista Resource Kit ships.  Nice.

    May was an interesting month.  Dell started shipping Ubuntu on some of their desktop and laptop machines.  I wonder how many have sold.  Windows Server 2008 Beta 3 momentum starts to pick up.  Intel officially announces the "Santa Rosa" chipset.  I see an 8GB laptop in my future.  Verizon starts shipping updated versions of the VZAccess Manager for Windows Vista EVDO users.  All of the beta and RC versions of Windows Vista expire.  We announce Microsoft Surface

    Then of course there's June.  At this point, Texas has been pounded by rain for days, weeks and now months.  Things are serious.  We need some sunshine.  I know, be careful what you wish for.  I buy a TiVo for $400.  Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1 is released.  We should have called it Virtual Server 2005 R2 D2.  Archos launches their fifth generation PMP.  Lust.  Windows Vista gets a great report card.  We release the June CTP build for Windows Server 2008.  Apple launched the iPhone.  Good luck Apple.

    Obviously lots of other stuff happened the past 12 months, but as you can see, it was an impressive year.  Today we officially close the books and will report earnings before long.  Thanks for your support.  Thanks for your business.  I look forward to another great 12 months.  Fiscal 2008 starts tomorrow.  Back to work!!!

  • The cat is out of the bag - Windows Vista Product Guide screencasts

    You'll notice over the next couple of weeks that members of my team are going to be posting Windows Vista screencasts.  Our goal is to produce a screencast demo of every feature listed in the Windows Vista Product Guide.  At a minimum, that would be about 200+ screencasts.  That's a lot of information my friends.

    To create those screencasts, we are using TechSmith's Camtasia Studio v4.01.  We purchased copies of the software for everyone on my team.  I also purchased Plantronics .Audio 350 headsets for everyone.  Of course some of my colleagues needed some assistance so we did a couple of rounds of training.

    This project was my idea but there's no way in hell to pull it off without help.  Matt Hester, Chris Henley, Chris Avis, Kevin Remde, Bryan Von Axleson and Shawn Travers stepped up and produced a bunch of the goodies.  We're no where near done, but when we are, we plan to have a hypertext version of the product guide online to you can use the guide as a tour of all of the features in Windows Vista.  Pretty kewl idea, eh?

    If there are any other Microsoft employees that want to participate in this project, please contact me.  You'll need a copy of Camtasia and a good headset as a prerequisite.  Sorry, I don't have the budget to buy any additional software and hardware.

    I'll be posting articles and links to the screencasts I did very soon.  I hope you enjoy them and let me know if there are any recommended changes to the video format and delivery.

  • Free SQL Server 2008 training

    I was going to post this but had to run catch my delayed and soggy flight.  If you are in North Texas, you know what I mean.  Anyway, Michael J. Murphy has posted all of the gory details at http://blogs.technet.com/mjmurphy/archive/2007/06/27/sql-2008-training-available.aspx.  Beware, he planning a clustered index and tuning exam.  :?)

    And for those of you that don't have a clue about the soggy reference, this is the third wettest spring and summer in Texas history.  To give you an idea, Lake Grapevine was like 12 feet down in January and we were looking at a bleak summer.  Now, the same lake is 8 feet above it's banks and after the past 24 hours is may be more like 12 feet in another 20 hours.  You have no idea how much water that is but suffice it to say that any more rain is going to wash the state of Texas into the Gulf of Mexico and the US will have a new southern border.

    Ok, bring on the smart arse comments... 

  • Who's taking the TiVo plunge?

    tivo-series3-esata-01 If you weren't aware, TiVo has slashed the price of their top of the line HD DVR also known as the Series 3.  Everyone and their dog has the unit discounted.  On top of that, TiVo is also offering a $200 rebate.  This brings the TiVo Series 3 to $400 or lower.  That's half the price of where is was at a few months ago. 

    Here's a few of those deals:

    http://www.weaknees.com/series-3-hd-tivo.php

    http://www.dvrupgrade.com/dvr/stores/1/series3.cfm

    http://store.tivocommunity.com/merchant.mvc?Screen=CTGY&Category_Code=S3TIVO&Store_Code=EA

    http://www.costco.com/

    Look carefully at the rebate.  Basically it's similar to a cell phone deal.  You want the the lower cost?  Sign on the dotted line for a year or two of service.  Another thing to consider for the Series 3 is that there are recent developments in adding external hard drives to it's recording pool.  See http://www.engadget.com/2007/05/04/how-to-use-your-tivo-series3-esata-port-to-add-an-external-driv for the "kickstart 62" method.

    Unfortunately, "kickstart 62" is unsupported by TiVo so it's entirely possible they could download a firmware update and turnoff the eSATA port.  That would pretty much hose anything recorded since the drives are "pooled".

    Look around...  do you see any better deal or integration on the market?  Sure, the local cable company HD DVR is cheaper by the gig, but how many gig are you getting exactly?  If you are lucky. it's a 250gig drive which means you'll get a weeks worth of HDTV recordings if you are an average consumer.

    Honey, I know what I want for Daddy's day...  :)

  • Windows Vista - 6 Month Vulnerability Report

    6mo-reduced-high You'll recall Jeff Jones did a 90 day security report on Windows Vista.  Well, Jeff just updated the report to cover six months. 

    In Jeff's words,

    "The results of the analysis show that Windows Vista continues to show a trend of fewer total and fewer High severity vulnerabilities at the 6 month mark compared to its predecessor product Windows XP (which did not benefit from the SDL) and compared to other modern competitive workstation OSes (which also did not benefit from an SDL-like process).

    If you share the opinion that Windows and applications ported to Windows get a higher level of researcher scrutiny than other OSes, then the 6-month results are even more positive.  If you don't share that opinion, then they still stand on their own ..."

    Check it out the full report @ http://blogs.csoonline.com/windows_vista_6_month_vulnerability_report or just click on the pretty bar chart. For the full report in .PDF format, get it @  http://www.csoonline.com/pdf/6_Month_Vista_Vuln_Report.pdf

    By the way, bigger is not better on the chart.  It's a great start for Windows Vista so let's hope the one year anniversary report looks good, too.

  • Texas breaks the record !!!

    It's official.  June 2007 is the wettest month on the books for the great state of Texas.  For that matter, 2007 is likely to be the top year.  For those of you not up to speed, watch the weather here closely this week.  There is literally no place for the water to go but UP.  We've already received our yearly allotment of rain, and it's pouring at my house right now.

    Something strange is going on...

    And for those of you that know me, I usually joke about such matters, but I am not this time.  It's a really serious situation here all across the state.

  • Ready, Set, TiVo

    I could not resist.  The recent promotions on the TiVo Series 3 HD DVR made me bite.  I tried to resist the temptation, I really did.  If you aren't aware, they dropped the price of the TiVo from $800 to $600 then offered a fathers day rebate of $200 on top of that.  So I ordered one from costco.com to take advantage of the $400 deal.

    My present arrived safe and sound a couple of days later.  As soon as it arrived, I picked up the phone and called Verizon to order a couple of $2.99 CableCard decoders.  Those CableCards decrypt the signal and give the TiVo the ability to record all of the channels I receive.  In effect, it duplicates the capability of the Verizon HD DVR.

    Why wouldn't I just continue to use the Verizon HD DVR?

    There's a simple answer to that.  The Verizon DVR only records about 20 hours of high definition programming.  In the fall and winter when many of the US broadcast networks are in full swing, you can fill the recording space very easily in a week.  If I'm traveling, that becomes a terrible situation.

    The TiVo comes with a 250GB hard drive.  I added an additional 500GB drive.  Now, I have about 100 hours of high definition recording capacity or roughly five times the capability of the Verizon HD DVR. 

    So why not use Windows Vista?

    I was really, and I mean really, torn with this decision.  Windows Vista Home Premium and Ultimate have similar recording capabilities.  However, in order to use a CableCard with Vista to record high definition programming, you must purchase a specially designed and certified machine from approved OEM's.  Those machines are referred to as "OCUR" capable machines.  OCUR is the acronym for the CableLabs standard called OpenCable Unidirectional Receiver.

    In essence, the timing was good/bad (depending on the way you want to look at it) for me.  The current market for shipping machines that are OCUR capable is pretty limited.  The machines that are shipping aren't cheap.  I don't mind spending a little extra money for an emerging technology, but I just haven't seen the right configuration to jump on.  When we see some x64 Quad proc based OCUR machines I can afford, I'll revisit the possibility of using Windows Vista. 

    The TiVo promotion was in the right place at the right time.  I wonder how many Series 3 units shipped in the past two weeks.  A bunch I bet. 

    So what will I lose by using TiVo instead of the Verizon HD DVR?

    CableCards are one way.  As a result, it's common to lose the Video On Demand (VOD) and Pay-Per-View (PPV) features.  In my case, this is no big deal.  We rarely use PPV.  We used VOD more frequently with Charter Communications, but that was because we had fewer premium movie channels and it was harder to find something live we wanted to watch.  That is not the case with my Verizon FIOS TV channel lineup.

  • Looking for a new home router?

    If you are in the market for a new home router, you should review the following list.  First of all, the routers have passed a series of tests and are logo'd as "Works with Windows Vista."  To get that logo, they must also pass the Xbox Live compatible tests.  As you you can see in the list at http://winqual.microsoft.com/HCL/ProductList.aspx?m=v&g=d&cid=712&f=86b, they are all wireless routers. 

    Why would I care?  I was trying to solve a problem.  I could not communicate with my friends via the voice communications possible with Xbox Live games.  I'm not really sure when that broke, but it became really apparent over the Christmas holiday.  Since I knew I was moving from the static business plan to the residential dynamic plan, I deferred looking into it.  Once I moved, I started using the originally issued router (D-Link) from Verizon because the Actiontec wasn't compatible with my ATT CallVantage VoIP.  But Xbox Live voice comm still wasn't working.

    I needed a wired only router.  My wired GigE backbone is wirelessly bridged using some small compact wireless bridges from Buffalo Tech.  They don't even make them anymore.  I guess there isn't a big market.  Oh well.  http://winqual.microsoft.com/HCL/ProductList.aspx?m=v&cid=710&g=d shows the wired only routers that have passed the logo testing.  So I ordered the D-Link EBR-2310 from newegg.com and so far, it is working flawlessly. 

    Xbox Live comm is fixed.  VoIP works.  The fiber speed is good.  Sustained downloads don't bomb out.  So far, so good.  If I hit any issues, I'll let you know but it's nice when $30 plus shipping solves a problem.

  • Archos Launches Generation 5 PMP

    ARCHOS_605_WiFi_front Last week, Archos rolled out the first product of their next generation portable media players.  These guys just keep making some of the kewlest PMP's on the market.  I prefer the 4.3" screen size because the players within that category are still generally small, thin and light.  Examples include the Sony PSP, Creative Zen Vision W and of course the Archos 6 series.

    The ARCHOS 605 WiFi lets you:

    • Play all your digital entertainment: movies, TV shows, photos and music
    • Record your favorite TV shows
    • Stream and watch videos from your PC
    • Download movies and music directly on your PMP using the ARCHOS Content Portal
    • Enjoy the new high resolution 4.3'' touch screen (800x480 pixels)
    • Internet enabled to surf the Web, share content, and access Web video sites (eg DailyMotion)
    • Customize your ARCHOS with great accessories and plug-ins
    • View, zoom photos and make slide shows with music and transition effects, for viewing on the PMP or TV
    • Listen to all your favorite music in more formats than any other player

    Video playback:

    • MPEG-4(4) (ASP@L5 AVI, up to DVD resolution)
    • WMV (MP@ML, up to DVD resolution)
    • With optional software plug-ins (available for purchase on www.archos.com):
      - Video Podcast plug-in: H.264 up to DVD resolution and AAC
      - Cinema Plug-in: MPEG-2 MP@ML up to 10 Mbps (up to DVD resolution) and AC3 stereo sound (5.1)

    Audio playback:

    • Stereo MP3 decoding @ 30-320 Kbits/s CBR & VBR, WMA, Protected WMA, WAV (PCM/ADPCM).
    • With optional software plug-ins (available on www.archos.com):
      - AAC stereo audio files
      - AC3 stereo audio and 5.1 sound files

    See http://www.archos.com/products/gen_5/archos_605wifi/index.html?country=us&lang=en for all of the juicy specs and facts.  Apparently they are going to sell a 30, 80 and 160GB version of this PMP.  160GB ?  Wow, that's like 140 ripped DVD's. Supposedly the 160GB fat boy is going to sell for about $399.  Let's see, you could buy the 80GB iPod Video with the teeny tiny screen, or the 160GB Archos 605 for $50 bucks more.  Unless you MUST have iTunes, that would seem like a no brainer.

  • microsoft.com availability - 99.83% YTD

    I was checking out a blog post by the IIS team.  Apparently the microsoft.com web farm was upgraded to Windows Server 2008 and IIS7.  Some of the statistics caught my eye.  Check it out at http://blogs.iis.net/bills/archive/2007/06/15/www-microsoft-com-is-live-on-iis7-beta-3-are-you.aspx.

  • I want one in copper

    Apparently at one point, Office Depot had an ad for the Zune with a bad color representation of the item for sale.  The pic showed the Zune in this cool copper color.  Look at all those o's and c's.  Anyway, see the link at http://www.zunerama.com/zune-versions.php for a nice tour of the various Zunes that have been produced.  I wonder if there are any serious Zune collectors that have one or more of each.  That would be quite a collection.

  • Now if we can just get this client into Xbox360

    MSTV_Experience_banner

    Microsoft Mediaroom.  I love the name.  However, what the name conjures up in my mind isn't what the new name is all about.  Here's the full marketing description:

    Microsoft® Mediaroom™ enables a new, personalized television experience. Consumers can easily find and discover TV, video, movies, and digital media at the touch of a remote control. Live programming and video-on-demand in standard-definition and high-definition formats, digital video recording, MultiView picture-in-picture, music, and photos are presented together with an intuitive on-screen interface. With Microsoft Mediaroom, consumers get the best in TV plus all their media in one place.

    Ok, sounds good.  When can I get it?  For me the answer is never until Verizon's name shows up on the list at http://www.microsoft.com/tv/Customers.mspx.

    The piece I thought is missing is gaming.  I'd like to subscribe to Microsoft Mediagameroom right now that includes everything mentioned above (the HDTV stuff anyway), plus all of the benefits of Xbox360 and Xbox Live.

    I want to subscribe to an all-you-can-eat service for about $100 per month.  I want to be able to select any TV program and watch it live or watch it later on demand in full 1080i HDTV glory.  You'll notice I didn't say record it.  Why should I record it?  It's already recorded somewhere.  Just deliver it when I want it, to my gaming mediaroom machine.

    Until then, I have to settle for the available hacks like everyone else.  Your choices today for HDTV when YOU want it are TiVo, Windows Vista OCUR, or your friendly neighborhood telco/cableco HD DVR (assuming you want premium channels).  Sorry for digressing.

    Anyway, click on the banner above for more information.  Be careful though, the Flash site they created sucks all of the performance out of my machine.  I'm sure there's a bug that will be fixed later.  Maybe they should have used Microsoft Silverlight instead. :?)

  • Windows Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1 available for download

    While I was in Las Vegas last week, the virtualization team wrapped another product release and made it available for web download.  I still think they should have called it D2 but I guess we wanted to avoid any trouble with the trademark Jedi knights.

    Not only that, the web Jedi cooked up a whole new look and set of resources for the virtualization nation. See the new Virtual Server resource center at http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserversystem/virtualserver/.

    Download VS 2005 R2 SP1 @ http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=bc49c7c8-4840-4e67-8dc4-1e6e218acce4&DisplayLang=en.

     

    Hosting Core Infrastructure Production Workloads Using Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2

    Microsoft® Virtual Server 2005 R2 provides a means by which to reduce or eliminate some of the costs, server count, and IT resource effort associated with operating and managing an enterprise infrastructure. Virtual Server 2005 R2 allows enterprises to host some production workloads in virtual machines reducing hardware and provisioning costs. Virtual machines allow multiple operating systems to run on a single physical computer. This can help reduce the total number of physical servers required to serve production workloads.

    Download the guide @ http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=e0a9e93a-c872-4926-82bf-85256db6b13b&DisplayLang=en.

     

    Creating High Availability Computing Solutions Using Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2

    This document describes Virtual Server host clustering and its benefits for both the information technology (IT) professionals and the end users in your organization. It also covers the factors to take into consideration when planning to deploy Virtual Server host clustering. Finally, it provides step-by-step guidance on how to configure and test your Virtual Server host cluster.

    Download the guide @ http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=34e7f287-a804-4fb0-afe1-18390fed6ab7&DisplayLang=en.