Keith Combs' Blahg

Ramblings from another nerd on the grid

December, 2007

  • Dell XPS 420 First Impressions

    xps420_graphics My first impressions of the Dell XPS 420 can be summed up in one word, "Solid !"  I've only completed a couple of phases in my new machines metamorphosis, but so far I'm pretty impressed with the machine and it's future.  So let's dive into what it was like when I received it, and the road we're on.

    What is the goal?

    When I purchased the machine Sunday, I had a couple of goals.  First and foremost, it's a video editing workstation.  I wanted a Quad core machine that could handle intense high definition and standard definition encoding, decoding and transcoding.  Second, I figured if I held out long enough, the Windows Vista market would mature and I could add premium high definition television recording.  TiVo is still handling the bulk of those duties at the moment.

    The Package

    The box arrived via Fedex in a light rain.  I'm glad it wasn't a heavy rain because the hand holds are open into the box.  There was no water damage.  Inside the box was the typical foam enclosure and a special XPS branded pack of goodies including a mouse pad, wire ties, wiping cloth, binder for disks, etc.  Nice job Dell.

    The Hardware

    Since I already have an array of LCD panels, I didn't order one with the unit.  If you can afford the Dell 24" widescreen LCD, get one.  I love mine.  I also have a 20" 4:3 aspect ratio LCD sitting right next to the 24" in a multimon configuration.  This gives you a ton of viewing options for the various applications and media you might view.  The 24" is running 1920x1200 and the 20" is running 1600x1200.  I use a KVM switch with these two monitors for the machines I own and use for work.

    The XPS 420 computer is a medium to large size case.  There's easy access into the unit and it is designed to hold up to three hard drives, one or more DVD drives, media readers, etc.  I ordered my Dell with the cheapest hard drive they offer knowing I will be immediately replacing the drives through other sources to cut costs.  I also ordered it with the standard 3GB of memory.  The main two hard drive bays are quick access requiring no screws.  There is power routed to both bays.  If you order like I did but plan to add another drive, make sure you buy a SATA cable with the right angle end.  A standard SATA cable will protrude too much and prevent case closure.  I already knew that and had a cable in my drawer already.

    xps420_bigtime The machine is very quiet.  There is plenty of ventilation through the case and it will be easily vacuumed when it's time to get rid of some of the dust.  The case itself is pretty attractive with the piano black front and silver sides. There are lots of USB ports front and rear, IEEE 1394 front and rear, GigE ethernet on the back, and an eSATA port on the back.  I see a future for that port.

    The XPS 420 comes with a Sideshow LCD panel on the front top.  I haven't decided what if anything I'll use it for, but you can add all sort of Vista Sideshow gadgets and have it display stuff like the weather, number of unread inbox messages, stock ticker, etc.  It'll be fun to play with that later but it's a back burner item for now.

    I fired the machine up and took a look around but that was pretty short lived.  I installed Ghost 12 and made an image of the factory install then pulled the 320GB drive out of the box.  I installed a 1TB drive for the OS and applications, then another 500GB drive for additional data capacity.  Although the XPS 420 comes with RAID on the motherboard, I am currently not using RAID 0 or 1.  I do frequent backups so I really don't need the data protection, and I don't have an I/O bottleneck at the moment that would require building a volume with more than one drive.

    The machine configuration I ordered comes with two ATI Digital Cable tuners.  I'm not particularly impressed with the tuners because I think their design and stands are too big and clunky looking.  They are external tuners and connect to the XPS 420 via USB.  Good thing the XPS 420 has lots of USB ports.  The tuner cases are designed to let the heat dissipate.  I have both of my tuners hidden behind one of my LCD panels.  Easy access to them, but out of eye sight.  They are ugly (to me). 

    AdobeElementsSuiteThe Software

    Although Dell lets you deselect a bunch of software normally referred to as "crapware" in our industry, this machine comes with an impressive set of software.  Now don't get me wrong, there's stuff installed I would uninstall like the Google Desktop, but all in all it wasn't totally hosed by a bunch of crud.  One of the suites you cannot deselect on the ordering site is Adobe Elements Studio.  This includes Adobe Premiere Elements 4, Adobe Photoshop Elements 6 and Adobe Soundbooth.

    I've been using Premier Elements for a while and like it.  I have never used Photoshop before but it's time to learn considering we dropped development and sales of the Digital Image Studio product family.  I've also never used the Soundbooth product, but if it works well, I know we can put it to use.  Dell supplies the product disk and serial numbers for the Adobe Elements Studio products in case you want to reinstall.

    The Operating System (OS) and HD Television

    Dell ships the XPS 420 with a number of OS choices.  Unfortunately none of the ordering configurations had what I want.  So when the tough get going, the tough flatten the box and re-install from scratch.  I considered running Windows Vista Home Premium, the 32bit version that the XPS 420 shipped with, for at least five minutes.  But I decided to roll the dice and install Windows Vista Ultimate x64.  I was a little worried about it for one reason and one reason alone.

    xps420 HD Overhead The XPS 420 can be configured to support high definition recording.  Not just any high definition recording, premium cable high definition recording.  This is called OCUR and it's a Cable Labs certified and approved configuration that is required.  The BIOS used by OCUR machines is special.  So is the activation process.  As it turns out, it was pretty easy to switch to the x64 OS and config.  You just install a retail copy of Windows Vista Ultimate x64.  When you fire up the Media Center shell and go through the TV tuner configuration, you will be prompted for a special product key.  That key is on the COA sticker on the back of the XPS 420.  After you plug it in, the tuners are activated.  In reality, this sets up the PKI key sets used for the DRM required to be in place for OCUR systems.

    After activating the tuners in the Media Center shell, it was a simple manner of downloading the guide and watching the standard definition channels.  Verizon is coming by on Tuesday to deliver the CableCards that plug into the tuners.  After those are in place and properly paired to the Verizon FIOS TV system, I'll be able to view all of the channels I pay for and record any content.  In the meantime, there's a menu item under the TV setup area that lets you scan for "other TV services".  This scan will detect any unencrypted QAM channels and add them to the guide listings.  Most cable systems carry ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, PBS and others "in the clear".  My scan found those channels so I mapped them to the appropriate channel for my area thus replacing the crappy standard def signal with the unencrypted QAM HD version.  Nice.  The machine plays high definition absolutely smoothly and fluidly.  It should.  The little screenshot at right shows me watching ABC in HD while directly connected to my Exchange Server mailbox (non cached mode) and surfing the net with IE7.  It's not even batting an eye.


    There has been a lot of discussion in the industry about Windows Vista, it's performance and usability.  The Dell XPS 420 really makes Windows Vista shine.  I ordered mine with the Intel Quad Core Q6600 processor, 3GB of memory (2x1GB and 2x512MB), 320GB 7200rpm SATA drive and the NVIDIA 8600 GTS video card.  This is far from being a top of the line machine but it's still a very respectable platform.  Like you, I have a budget so I didn't order the Extreme Quad processor, a RAID array, etc.

    From what I can tell of the performance so far, it's going to meet my needs nicely.  I'll know by the time the weekend is over.  I plan to do some transcoding and video work tomorrow.  When I decide to pull the 3GB of memory and bump it up, I will probably load it with 8GB of 800MHz RAM.  That will improve the overall platform some and give the applications plenty of headroom while watching HD programming.

    If you are a serious gamer, look closely at the graphics card and power supply options.  I decided the 8600 GTS would meet my needs, cut down on power consumption, and lower the heat generated.  So far it seems to be the right choice for the roles my machine will play.  If you are a serious gamer, I'm not sure the other 475W power supply would meet your needs.  Then again, that's why Dell makes the XPS 720 and purchased Alienware.


    Like I said, this seems to be a very solid machine.  If you can find one for $1500 delivered to your door, you should jump all over it.  The case and construction offers a lot of flexibility and expandability.  Ask me in 3-4 years how I like the machine.  I hope to have this one that long.  I'll write more about this later after the CableCard install.  Buy with confidence. I am changing my rating to buy with some caveats.  See the 12/29 update below.

    [UPDATE for 12/21/2007]  The CableCard install happened Tuesday without issue and I can see all of the FIOS TV channels in the guide.  I can watch and record the HD channels.  However, I have had a number of recording failures when the machine resumed from sleep.  I am trying to spot a pattern so I am testing various sleep states (S1 and S3).  More later...

    [UPDATE for 12/22/2007]  I updated the tuner firmware to the latest available production firmware from ATI.  I also applied the Windows Vista updates that were recommended in the firmware release notes.  This did not resolve the sleep/wakeup and record issues I'm seeing.  In fact, it made it worse.  Fortunately this isn't the core mission of my machine otherwise I'd be upset.

    ATI Firmware updates:

    [UPDATE for 12/27/2007] I have been running my machine for the past five days without letting it sleep.  It has recorded each and every program without issue on a variety of HD channels I receive with my Verizon FIOS TV package.  In fact, extender Xbox 360 HD playback has also been flawless.  I am researching the power states supported by the machine and will experiment with sleep again before too long.  I wanted to establish a baseline to verify the tuners are really working properly when fully powered and connected at all times.  I'd say 5 days and 500GB of recorded HD content has done that.

    [UPDATE for 12/29/2007]  It appears I have the suspend/resume issue resolved with my XPS 420 when recording high def premium channels.  I have a bunch of programs set to record over the next few days so I'll document my config and post a completely separate post on the subject Wednesday or Thursday of next week (assuming we can declare success).  Spoke to soon...  the machine missed a recording this morning so this issue is not fixed... sigh...

    I also seem to have identified a bug in the eSATA port implementation.  In order to use the eSATA port, the Intel ICH9R SATA RAID controller must be in AHCI mode.  My eSATA port didn't work with the factory config they shipped me (x86 Vista Home Premium).  I checked this morning since I still had the factory hard drive in original install state.  I reset the BIOS to factory settings and checked things there, too.  I'm assuming if you buy a machine directly from Dell with a RAID config implemented (two or more drives), that the RAID and eSATA port works.  However, that's a x86 32bit implementation.  I'd be interested to know the drivers and versions implemented on that configuration.  Send me email if you have it.  Dell is aware of this issue and looking into it.

    [UPDATE for 1/11/2008]  I have rebuilt my machine from the ground up.  I am still on BIOS A02 and have the SATA controller in RAID AHCI mode.  My eSATA port is working properly.  In order for me to do this, I had to reinstall the operating system again, which is unfortunate.  I could not figure out how to get it to work any other way even though I received feedback inside and outside Microsoft.  I do not recommend doing this. If you reinstall the OS more than one time, you'll likely break the OCUR HD recording capability if you have the ATI digital cable tuners.  I recommend you wait for Dell to come up with a supported solution from their engineering team.  They may end up fixing this will a BIOS update or something.  I certainly hope so. 

    At this point the only remaining problem I have with my machine is sleep/resume/record/sleep.  I was sent a list of KB articles and their associated fixes.  I will look more carefully at this over the weekend as time permits.  I can certainly live without this working correctly but I would prefer to get it fixed. 

    So where do I stand on my buy recommendation?  I still think this is a super machine.  Dell is very aware of the AHCI RAID issue, sleep/resume and other minor issues.  If you don't need to attach a big freaking hard drive or cluster of hard drives to the XPS 420, then buy with confidence.  If you need the eSATA port and you buy a machine today, most likely the machine will arrive properly configured and this issue is effectively only valid for people that purchased prior to today.  They can be fixed a number of ways right now but obviously a reinstall of the OS would be a last resort.

    [UPDATE for 5/8/2008]  See for my six month report card.

  • Congrats to the Pats !!!

    Congratulations to the New England Patriots!!!  Awesome season.


    Can anyone stop these guys?

  • HP 6910p notebook received - first impressions

    HP6910p Santa keeps bringing me toys and it isn't even Christmas yet.  This time I received the long awaited HP 6910p notebook computer.  I like to do first impression posts pretty quickly on new hardware because first impressions count, and I forget about the out of box experience later.

    In the spirit of transparency you should know that HP is sponsoring my team this fiscal year although the year is half over and we just got the machine.  I don't know what that means, but I'm guessing we'll have the HP 6910p long after the fiscal year closes on June 30th.  I also have no idea why the 6910p was chosen.  I would have picked a different machine but since I wasn't asked, I'll just accept what I was given and assume HP had a good reason.  AT&T is also sponsoring our HSDPA cell module data connections in the unit.  Thanks HP and ATT.  We appreciate the goodies.  Now for my initial thoughts on the machine.

    The Hardware

    I like the form factor.  The 6910p is a 14.1" widescreen and the LCD we have runs a native resolution of 1440x900.  This unit is going to make a nice travel partner.  It isn't the slickest until on the market from a size perspective, but the dimensions are pretty nice.

    The machines we received are full featured.  It has the Intel PM965 "Santa Rosa" chipset, the Intel Core 2 Duo T7500 processor, 4GB of RAM, 120GB 7200rpm SATA primary drive, ATI Mobility Radeon X2300 discrete video processor with 128MB of memory, 3 USB ports, IEEE 1394 "FireWire" port, Intel 82566MM GigE Ethernet, Intel 4965AGN wireless, Sierra Wireless HSDPA cell wireless, etc.  In short, pretty much all the bells and whistles.

    Included with my package were a couple of Multibay hard drives.  Those hard drives allow me to have two spindles in the unit which is a core requirement for my team when running the usual array of virtual machine demos.  Unfortunately, the drives that came were 80GB 5400rpm PATA drives.  What am I supposed to do with them?  They aren't going to cut it so I pulled a 100GB 7200rpm PATA drive from a USB enclosure I have and replaced one of the 80GB drives with it.  That wasn't a trivial chore.  A NASA engineer must have designed the Multibay hard drive enclosure because it took some time to disassemble it, replace the drive, and reassemble it.  Fun.

    The LCD screen has a matte finish and is plenty bright.  I've been running 1680x1050 or higher resolutions on my other 15.4" laptops so going back to 1440x900 seemed like a step backwards, but you get used to it pretty quickly.  The ATI Catalyst drivers work on Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 RC1.  We'll get to my units long term role but this is probably a good hint.

    The 6910p includes an integrated smart card reader (I haven't tried yet), a PCMCIA card bus slot, S-Video out, VGA out, audio connections and a SD slot for memory cards.  We received the standard battery (from what I can tell) but haven't tested battery life.  I normally run plugged in on high performance so I don't worry too much about life.

    One thing I would have liked in this machine is an ExpressCard slot.  HP now makes other business notebooks with an ExpressCard slot so if that is important to you, you might want to consider one of those models.

    The Software

    I was pretty pleasantly surprised with the first boot experience.  On the first boot, you are given the option of installing either the 32bit or 64bit version of Windows Vista Business.  That is soo cool.  I picked the x64 version and let the install proceed.  The install takes a pretty long time.  The installation routine partitions the primary drive into several partitions, installs the software, then takes a snapshot of everything for later recovery if needed.  I thought that was nicely done although it takes over an hour for the process to complete.  After logging in and checking a few things out, I did my usual best practice of creating the disk recovery set (which HP supplies a program for).  I created the factory image recovery disk set which takes either 9 CDs, 2 DVDs or a single dual layer DVD.  After it completed, I booted the disk set to see if it looked like it would work, then flattened the box.

    Why would I flatten the machine?

    Simple, Hyper-V baby!!!  As you might suspect from the previous paragraph, I did not spend any time looking at the Windows Vista implementation provided for any significant period of time.  It looked like the usual OEM stuff but I did notice it was not cluttered with a bunch of software I would not need.  I did see a firewall product, a lite version of Roxio 9, a DVD playback product, etc.  It looked like a well thought out mix.  You know, business stuff. 

    But I need a server demo machine and wanted to see if this little bad boy would run Windows Server 2008 RC1 with the Hyper-V virtualization stack.  I was not disappointed.  Windows Server 2008 RC1 setup allowed me to nuke the partitions, re-partition the drive and install the Enterprise edition without issue.  I turned on wireless support, audio support, installed the ATI Catalyst video drivers, etc.  I also installed the ATT cell module software and confirmed it works with Windows Server 2008 Enterprise x64.  It does.  The 6910p is running Windows Server 2008 RC1 x64 with Hyper-V nearly as fast as my Lenovo ThinkPad T61p.  This is a really good sign.  I loaded up a massive MOSS virtual machine and confirmed it ran well enough.  It did.


    Looks like I have a nice little workhorse machine.  I need another primary drive so I can easily swap operating systems if needed.  I am also investigating the true capabilities of the Multibay.  It would appear that although I received a PATA hard drive Multibay caddy, this unit also supports SATA drives in the Multibay.  Time will tell on that.

    When I receive another primary drive, I'll go back and install some other operating systems and try them out.  Until then, I plan to keep on using it as a Windows Server 2008 RC1 demo server. Cheers.

    [UPDATE for 1/19/2008]  I finally got around to installing the x64 version of Windows Vista Ultimate on this machine so I thought I would offer some additional information.  First, it appears there is an issue with the Intel AMT drivers, service and software.  On my machine it hangs the Explorer shell at login.  It eventually gets past whatever the error is but it isn't the best experience.  After removing the software in add/remove programs, it plays nice.  Something for HP and Intel to look into.  Maybe us as well.

    Second, I don't really like some of the hardware design aspects.  There are intake/exhaust areas on the bottom.  This means if you plan to use it on your lap, you'll definitely want to use a Targus Coolpad or something so that the machine can breath properly.

    Third, it's a little noisy.  It isn't terrible but it is noticeable.  I am running default power and fan settings in the BIOS so I may experiment with that over time to see if I can reduce some of the noise. 

    To summarize, it runs Windows Vista x64 and Windows Server 2008 x64 fast and clean as expected.  It's smaller and lighter than my Lenovo ThinkPad T61p so it's going to make it hard to decide what to take on the road with me.  I would imagine it'll get the nod when I have to take two machines.  Since I'm running x64 versions of the OS, I did not spend any time looking at the factory 32bit image that it shipped with.  Enjoy.

  • And a Dell XPS 420 in a pear tree...

    DellXPS420 I've been resisting the urge to buy a new machine, but I think the wait is over.  I've been wanting a Quad processor to help speed along transcoding as well as providing a better platform for high definition editing.  I figured I'd just have to live without the CableCard capabilities since it seemed the expense ROI just wasn't there.

    Well Dell is being disruptive again and is changing the game nicely.

    Introducing the Dell XPS 420.  It has everything I want and with my EPP pricing, is right in the ballpark for what I have saved (and budgeted) to spend.  My current desktop machine is 3.5 years old.  It still works nicely and is currently running Windows Vista Ultimate x86 SP1 RC1.  It's great for email, surfing the web, gaming and recording over-the-air high definition television.  It isn't great for transcoding standard def video or encoding high definition video.  Its single processor just can't keep up.

    It's funny, just the other day my wife says she needs a machine for her retail store.  She needs a machine to store order information, customer information, etc.  Her plan is to use Access for this information.  I told her then she can have my Dimension then along comes this Dell update.  Sure seems like the planets are aligning nicely.

    If history repeats itself, we'll never see a significant promotion (discount) to the XPS line.  Of course as soon as I buy one, history will change.  In the meantime, check out the specs and configurable features at

    [Update] Ordered Sunday, shipped Tuesday, received Wednesday.  Man that was fast.  I'm moving some data around and begin the fun stuff tomorrow or Friday.  Work is getting in the way of my fun.  Oh well, work takes a back seat until next year starting Friday 12/14 at 5pm. 

  • If you see one of these in your conf room, call security!!!

    ps3 I know this story broke a couple of weeks ago, but I was on vacation.  But I did think this was interesting for a couple of reasons.  First, the game consoles we use are really powerful computers so don't underestimate their capabilities.  Second, what should we be doing to react?

    What am I talking about?

    I was cruising some of the blogs I link to so I naturally hit Kim Cameron's Identity blog.  An article there caught my eye.  That blog of course links to the BBC story which as far as I can tell is the source.

    Here's an excerpt from the BBC story:

    "Security researcher Nick Breese used a PS3 to crack supposedly strong eight-character passwords in hours.   Typically, previous attempts to crack such passwords took days to get the same result."

    As you can see, it's a pretty scary thing to think about.  Now what do we do about it?  Sixteen character passwords?  Multifactor authentication?

    So like I said, if you see someone using a game console in your conference room, they may not be blowing off some steam after a hard days work.  They may be hacking your network.

  • Would someone please bring a good phone to the US ?

    TouchDual Let's face it, the Windows Mobile device market in the US just isn't as fun as the markets in other parts of the world.  Sure the Apple iPhone is fun and popular, but it doesn't sync my email. 

    I'd like a kewl phone that is first and foremost, a phone.  I would like it to be small.  I would like a keyboard that is unobtrusive.

    I need my phone to access my corporate email.  It needs to have a delete key.  Grin.

    It would seem the HTC Touch Dual fits the bill nicely.  Maybe the HTC S730.  Sorry, I am reluctant to make the plunge into the HTC Touch with no keyboard.

    HTC_S730_frontThere's just one problem.  Neither is sold in the US.  Sure I can buy one, but have you looked at the prices?  Anyone know where I can get one for $150 US new?  How about $300?  Exactly.  Nowhere.

    Most of the sliders in the US are too big.  The HTC TyTN II style devices are a little too big and clunky to me.  I had a Mobile 5 PPC device that was similar and didn't like it.  I am a Smartphone fan and love the candy bar form factor.  The HTC Touch is small and cute.  The iPhone is sexy.

    I think the iPhone would be perfect if it had 32GB of storage, had Microsoft Exchange server email support, and cost about $300.  I know it's a pipe dream but dreams are free.  Anyone want to speculate on what Apple will announce in January?

    So I'm here stuck in the US and have four carrier choices where I live.  Verizon appears to have the fastest most stable cell network.  Their EVDO network rocks but their device choices don't.  Then there's Sprint.  Better device choices but the network isn't up to par, yet.  And of course there's AT&T or T-Mobile.  AT&T is supposed to have 3G coverage at my house but after reporting it three weeks ago, it still isn't fixed.  T-Mobile really needs to get into the game.  GPRS/EDGE, give me a break.

    So until the market changes, I guess I'll stick with the GSM ATT Palm Treo 750.  The honeymoon is over with it already primarily because of the AT&T billing hassles I've had which started day one in July.  I'm hopeful they may actually be fixed, finally.  After five months, one would hope so.  Good thing I got the phone for free.

    Merry Christmas or ba humbug?  Any better in Europe?

  • Which is more important, WinXP SP3 or Vista SP1 ?

    Sound off at

    Let us know what you think!!!

  • Verizon FIOS Turns Three - ups the ante

    The Verizon fiber optic data service called FIOS is having it's third birthday here in the US, and to celebrate, Verizon is rolling out new plans.  I'll be calling them later this morning and if the news is true, I'll have to decide what new service I want.  Considering uploading video and other large binary blobs is getting harder, I'm very tempted to sign up for the symmetrical 20/20 plan.  Yea, that's 20meg speeds both directions.

    I have the 15/2 plan at the moment, and I believe if I do nothing, my plan will automatically change to the 20/5.  It could be changed to the 10/2 plan.  I really don't know, but I know it's going to change since I'm month-to-month and they no longer offer my plan.

    Here are the plans for my zip code. Just think, 100meg speeds are just around the corner.  When that happens, HD movie downloads become a reality. Rad man.


    Looks like the ante for the cable providers just got increased.  Get some popcorn.  Turmoil to follow.

  • Merry Christmas !!!

    I know this is a bit late in the day, but Santa's helpers have been busy.  I hope each and every one of you have had a chance to reflect on the true meaning of this day, hug someone close or even a complete stranger. 

    My wife and I got a wonderful phone call today from my sons E-8C J-STARS as he was on patrol in the Middle East.  So while we were eating Christmas cookies and opening presents, he was serving his country over seas.  Makes you think.


    Have a wonderful week and close to 2007.  I'll be back online right after the new year starts so until then, enjoy the holidays and stay safe.

  • Gee, I wonder when Hyper-V will be available.

    Windows Server 2008 RC1 with Hyper-V Beta is publicly available here:

    Beta Integration Components for Linux available through

    1. Login to

    2. Click on Available Connections in the left panel.

    Review the available programs and apply for the Linux Integration Components for Microsoft Hyper-V.

  • I wonder if this has a Zune dock...


  • Merry Cluster Christmas !!!

    Hyper-V Are you into big iron?  Well, if you are the heavy metal sort and get your jollies by building clustered server configurations, then we have new tools for your tool belt.  The latest tool you should be checking out is known as Hyper-V.  It's part of the latest shipment of Windows Server 2008 RC1.

    Fortunately Robert Larson gets you started right way with his latest blog post on "Building a Host Cluster with Hyper-V Beta 1".  Check it out.  Good stuff.

    If you haven't downloaded Windows Server 2008 RC1, you should.  I am totally amazed at how fast it is on my Lenovo ThinkPad T61p notebook computer.  It's also interesting because it shares a common code base with Windows Vista.  That's a different subject we'll get to later...

  • Office:mac 2008 RTM's - coming in January

    heropanel Last week our Mac Business Unit (MacBU) completed Office:mac 2008.  This was released to the manufacturing process which means the elves are busy getting it ready.  No, Santa isn't going to bring it for Christmas so you don't need to worry if you've been naughty or nice.

    We do however plan to have it ready January 15th for MacWorld 2008.  See the Mac Mojo blog post on the subject.

    If you absolutely need Office for your Mac right now, go ahead and buy Office 2004 for the Mac.  We have a killer promotion going right now that gets the next generation Office:mac 2008 Special Media Edition into your hands for the cost of shipping.  Here's an excerpt from the promo:

    Super Suite Details

    If you buy Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac Standard Edition, Office 2004 for Mac Standard Edition Upgrade, or Office 2004 for Mac Student and Teacher Edition, we’ll send you Office 2008 for Mac Special Media Edition (a $500 value) for FREE - you only pay shipping and handling. Offer valid for purchases made between November 1, 2007 and January 14, 2008.

    Promo full details @

    Office:mac 2008 version details @

    Office:mac 2008 features @

  • Happy Blahg Birthday !!!

    My blog has a birthday today.  It's three years old, but in blog years I think that makes it about 24 or something.  I still remember the first two posts at like they were yesterday.  I was trying to figure out what to write.  Then it hit me, just WRITE !!!

    Write about nerd stuff happening around you.  So the first blog post on my blahg is very fitting I think.  I mean who else gets excited about a big orange spool of fiber optic cable sitting in front of the house other that a computer nerd?  Which reminds me, in about 6 weeks my Verizon FIOS fiber optic data service celebrates it's 3rd year anniversary as well.  Yea, you read that correctly.  I've had if for three years and you still don't.  Na nu Na nu boo boo !!!

    It's been fun writing the past three years.  I hope you like my style.  I plan to keep it up.  Happy Holidays everyone!!!

  • The Face of Windows Server 2008

    In Your Face

    Join in the fun at  This is an interesting new resource area for Windows Server 2008.

  • Windows Vista SP1 IT Pro Guides now available

    Five new Windows Vista SP1 Guides have just been made available on the Microsoft download center.  The deployment, app compat, security, hotfix and general overview should give you plenty of reading while you wait.

    Get them @

  • Windows Vista SP1 RC1 now available to the galaxy !!!

    vista_wallpaper Ready to begin testing Windows Vista for real now?  Good!!!  The Server Pack 1 Release Candidate 1 is now available to the public.  There are several ways to get it. 

    Get Windows Vista Service Pack 1 RC (Update for existing Windows Vista users)

    There are 3 different ways to access the Windows Vista SP1 RC depending on the unique business needs of individual users and their organizations.

    Be sure to read all the details at before you do anything.  And please make a backup before you start the install process.

  • Got RC1 ???

    ws2008rc1 The RC1 wave has begun.  First up at bat is Windows Server 2008.  If you've been following my screencasts or other blog posts on the subject, you know it's going to be a strong server product.

    But what about the desktop products?  Well, after you head on over to grab Windows Server 2008 RC1, keep those downloaders all warmed up because Windows Vista SP1 RC1 and Windows XP SP3 RC1 code are on the way.  Lot's of stuff to test.  As soon as their links go live, I'll post another blog post.

    The links to everything are just now getting propped to the production areas so things aren't quite settled at the moment but everything should be nice and pretty before the weekend.  Enjoy.

  • Are You A Hero?


    Do you have the ability to move through time?  Can you self heal?  Can you fly?  No?  Well, how about something for us mere mortals?

    We have an exciting launch coming and you have the opportunity to participate in a big way. On December 7, technical communities around the world will have the opportunity to participate in a virtual train-the-trainer and launch execution program consistent with the 08 Launch Wave of Windows Server 2008™, Visual Studio 2008™, and SQL Server 2008™.

    See more information @

  • Windows Service Pack Blocker Tool Kit - now available for download

    Today we released a service pack blocking tool kit.  You can probably guess what's coming very very soon. This blocking tool is available for organizations that would like to temporarily prevent installation of Service Pack updates through Windows Update. This tool can be used with:
    • Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 2 (valid through March, 2008)
    • Windows XP Service Pack 3 (valid for 12 months following general availability)
    • Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (valid for 12 months following general availability)
    This toolkit contains three components. All of them function primarily to set or clear a specific registry key that is used to detect and block download of Service Packs from Windows Update. You only need to use the component which best serves your organization’s computer management infrastructure.
    • A Microsoft-signed executable
    • A script
    • An ADM template
    1. The executable creates a registry key on the computer on which it is run that blocks or unblocks (depending on the command-line option used) the delivery of a Service Pack to that computer through Windows Update. The key used is HKLM\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\WindowsUpdate.
      When the '/B' command line option is used, the key value name 'DoNotAllowSP' is created and its value set to 1. This value blocks delivery of a Service Pack to the computer through Automatic Update or Windows Update.
      When the '/U' command line option is used, the previously created registry value that temporarily blocked the delivery of a Service Pack to the computer through Automatic Update or Windows Update is removed. If the value does not exist on the computer on which it is run, no action is taken.
    2. The script does the same thing as the executable, but allows you to specify the remote machine name on which to block or unblock delivery of Service Packs.
      Note that the executable and script have been tested only as a command-line tool and not in conjunction with other systems management tools or remote execution mechanisms.
    3. The ADM template allows administrators to import group policy settings to block or unblock delivery of Service Packs into their Group Policy environment. Administrators can then use Group Policy to centrally execute the action across systems in their environment.

    Please note that this toolkit will not prevent the installation of the service pack from CD/DVD, or from the stand-alone download package. This simply prevents the service pack from being delivered over Windows Update.

    Get it @

  • New Pre-configured Virtual Machines and Demos now available

    So you have that fancy new terabyte drive all dressed up and no dance partner, right?  Well, our server folks have been busy making plans on how to fill some space.  In fact, here's some killer (yet massive) downloads you should consider:

    Exchange Server 2007 SP1 VHD - 1.8GB download

    SQL Server 2008 November CTP VHD - 2.2GB download

    ForeFront and System Center Demo Toolkit - 1.8GB download

    System Center Essentials 2007 - 2.6GB download

  • Kai "Ninja Goalie" Axford talks about Microsoft premise security

    Kai gets to go where many of us don't.  Secretly he wants to start CTU and be Jack but until that happens, he still gets to see inside many of the places you and I never will.  Kai interviewed Johnny Walker who heads up the security force for Microsoft physical assets.  You can download the interviews and listen on your Zune or iPod.

    See for more information.

  • Windows Vista SP1 RC1 is now available for download

    VistaSp1Rc1x64 Windows Vista SP1 Release Candidate 1 is now available for download.  If you are a TechNet or MSDN subscriber, the bits to get the process started are now on the subscriber download center.  Those of you that are subscribers get to go to the head of the line and install right now.  Everyone else will have to wait a few more days.


    Want a subscription?  See for more information.

    [Note]  I highly recommend doing a full backup with Complete PC, Ghost, TruImage or your backup software of choice before doing anything.  You never know if something might happen and having a good backup is a best practice.  You should also be aware that installing this RC1 turns on a time bomb that expires next summer.  When SP1 ships in production form, installing it removes the time bomb.