Keith Combs' Blahg

Ramblings from another nerd on the grid

July, 2008

  • Testing My Apple MacBook Pro with 8GB of RAM

    8gbMacBookProAnyone out there have an Apple MacBook Pro with 8GB of RAM?  No?  Don’t tell me you are going to let a Microsoft Windows evangelist totally beat you to the finish line on this one!!!

    All kidding aside, I decided to pull the two Kingston 4GB SoDIMMs out of my Lenovo ThinkPad T61p and test it with the machines I thought could handle it.  Since nearly all of the laptops I have are Intel “Santa Rosa” PM965 or GM965 mobile chipset based machines, unless the OEM did something specifically to block it I had high confidence they would work. 

    This includes the 15.4” Apple MacBook Pro I have.  Here’s a screenshot from my Mac showing it all booted up and running.  My Mac booted without issue and ran perfectly well. This is the original .tiff created by Grab.

    For those of you running Parallels, Fusion or other memory hungry applications, I’m sure you’ll be interested in the implications.  Now you can run a number of virtual machines with some pretty large memory allocations.  I would imagine an application like Final Cut Studio would really dig the extra memory as well.

    A couple of things that come up when I post stuff like this you can’t verify.  First, you won’t find this in the specs at apple.com.  That doesn’t mean I’m a liar or trying to pull some stunt with Photoshop.  I mean think about it, why would I do such a thing? 

    Second, more memory doesn’t automatically equal more speed from the machine.  The 4GB modules are still running at the same speed as the Samsung modules that are normally in my mac.  However, because you have more capacity, you now have the ability to run certain applications in a more efficient manner.  For instance, now you could allocate considerably more memory to a Windows Vista, Windows XP or Linux virtual machine.  That is going to make them run faster.

    [UPDATE for 7/6/2008] The model MacBook Pro I have is the late 2007 machine. It's model MA896LL/A and the exact specification for it are at http://support.apple.com/kb/SP13. Your MacBook Pro will need to be this machine or later to support more than 4GB of memory.

    [UPDATE for 7/7/2008]  I have had so many emails from internal and external that I have decided to do a long term test on my MacBook Pro.  Yep, I pulled the 4GB sticks back out of my ThinkPad and they're back here in my MacBook Pro.  So I'll run with them for a couple of weeks or longer and see if I encounter any issues. First up, run some virtual
    machine testing with some large allocations...

  • Pity OS X doesn’t like 8GB of memory in my MacBook Pro

    apple I received a flurry of questions via email when I posted information the other day that I had 8GB of memory in my Apple MacBook Pro.  At the time of my post, I had only intended to boot the OS and see that it appeared to work correctly, recognize the updated amount of memory and shutdown cleanly.  In other words, a short cursory test.

    But the questions kept coming so I decided last night to reinstall the memory and do more testing.  This time I decided to put my ThinkPad T61p back to it’s original configuration of 4GB RAM and do some longer term testing on the MacBook Pro.

    Now For The Bad News

    Unfortunately after running the MacBook Pro for almost 24 hours, it isn’t looking good.  One of the key scenarios for wanting to move to 8GB isn’t working worth a damn.  I’m talking about virtualization.

    VMWare Fusion Testing

    I started my virtualization testing using VMWare Fusion.  It’s my preferred Mac desktop virtualization product and considering I purchased it last October, it seemed to be the logical place to start.  I already had several virtual machines built and waiting in the wings for testing.  To be specific, I tested Windows Vista Enterprise SP1 x86, Windows Server 2008 Enterprise x64 and Red Hat Linux Desktop 5.1 x86. 

    The very first test I ran was to increase the memory allocation on the Windows Vista virtual machine from 1GB to 3GB.  Seemed like a simple enough test.  I mean after all, if that ran well, then it would be time to run Windows Server 2008 with a similar memory allocation, thus proving Fusion and OS X could handle the memory above the 4GB 32bit line.  Bad idea.  Booting the VM with 3GB of memory slowed the entire system down.  I mean really slow.  Firefox and Entourage were almost unusable to the point that they wouldn’t respond to mouse clicks.

    When I booted up the Windows Server 2008 virtual machine, the overall system performance ground nearly to a halt.  That’s not good.  The Windows Vista VM was set to 3GB and the Windows Server 2008 VM was set to 2GB.  Clearly something was wrong.  At the suggestion of one of our internal Mac enthusiast, I removed VMWare Fusion 1.1.3 and installed VMWare Fusion 2 Beta 1.  No change in the results.  So I’m thinking at this point there are still a number of variables to consider and we don’t yet know who the real culprit of the problem performance is.  How do we remove a variable? 

    Parallels Desktop for the Mac

    In order to remove one of the variables, the simplest solution seemed to be removing VMWare Fusion and installing and testing  Parallels Desktop for the Mac 3.0.  If by a stroke of luck Parallels worked flawlessly, then we would at least know there’s a bug in Fusion and it needs to be reported to the VMWare team.

    Unfortunately it doesn’t look like Parallels is going to fair any better than Fusion.  The maximum amount of memory you can allocate to a Windows Vista virtual machine is 2GB.  I didn’t look to see if there was a hack to allow for more.  I created a Windows Vista Ultimate x86 VM and allocated 2GB of memory.  The install was fairly painless and execution of the VM after installing the Parallels Tools was pretty good.  The overall OS X and system performance was no where near as bad as the Fusion experience.

    But that was only one 2GB virtual machine and we need more.  So I decided to create a Windows XP Pro x86 virtual machine.  So far it’s been installing for about five hours.  Now keep in mind nothing else is running on the system other than Parallels and this install.  The Windows Vista virtual machine isn’t fired up and running yet.  This isn’t looking good.

    So where does this leave us?

    Good question.  I don’t have a good answer yet.  When the XP install finishes, I’ll certainly run it and Windows Vista to see if they’ll behave and work correctly.  If they don’t, the next thing I’ll do is pull the 8GB of RAM back out of the machine and reinstall the 4GB of  memory to see if the virtual machines work properly (with smaller memory allocations).  I don’t see much point in testing a 6GB configuration by mixing a 2GB SoDIMM with a 4GB SoDIMM.  That is unlikely to solve the performance problem although it is probably an interesting configuration choice for a few of you.

    Assuming by pulling the memory out of the box, things settle down and perform properly, then Apple, VMWare, Parallels and Kingston have some work to do.  At that point it would not be apparent if the 4GB sticks are in fact faulty, or OS X needs a fix, or Fusion and/or Parallels need a fix.  This would certainly be out of my hands for any further testing.

    I’ll update this post tomorrow and as needed over the next few days to give you updates on my observations but I wanted to let you know things aren’t looking good at the moment.  On the bright side, the 4GB sticks have performed absolutely flawlessly in my Lenovo ThinkPad T61p with Windows Vista Enterprise and Ultimate x64, Virtual PC 2007 SP1 x64, Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1 x64, Windows Server 2008 Enterprise x64 and Hyper-V, and a whole boatload of applications. 

    It’s a shame I can’t say the same for the Mac.  Hopefully Apple will come out with a “certified” sku or configuration soon.  I have already informed Kingston and have requested an Apple SME if they have one.

    [UPDATE for 7/10]  As expected, Parallels ran slightly better but took a nose dive off the cliff when I started two virtual machines.  I pulled the two 4GB sticks out and reinserted the two original 2GB sticks from Apple and everything ran MUCH better.  At this point it looks like there is some sort of compatibility issue.  I’ll let the makers of the products figure it out.  Sorry, until they do you are better off running a good Windows machine with an x64 version of our OS if you need more than 4GB of memory.  Sad but true.  I tried.

    [UPDATE for 7/11] I configured my Mac for bootcamp and installed Windows Vista Enterprise x64.  I also installed Windows Server 2005 R2 SP1 x64 and ran three virtual machines with the 4GB  of system memory configuration.  No issues.  That ran well.  I shut things down gracefully and installed the two Kingston 4GB sticks bring the total system memory up to 8GB.  The machine would barely boot Windows Vista and run.  It is now apparent to me the memory sticks I have have some sort of incompatibility with the MacBook Pro I have.  My testing of this has now concluded.  It’s up to Kingston and Apple to resolve.

  • My Favorite Windows Vista Runtime Improvements (RTI)

    vista_wallpaper There’s an acronym from the past for you.  Run Time Improvements (RTI).  I am always looking for ways to squeeze another speed improvement out of Windows Vista.  In fact, a few weeks ago I made some changes to my Dell Latitude D820 and it made a very real difference in how the machine performed.

    Before I list out all of the stuff below, keep in mind I am willing to sacrifice some features for the sake of overall system performance.  I’m usually looking for all of the horsepower out of my machine for a couple of reasons.  Video encoding or virtualization workloads.

    I don’t need eye candy for those two purposes.  I don’t need a search index.  I don’t need the system to anticipate what the next ten programs I am going to launch are going to be.

    If I dial back some of these features in Windows Vista, am I losing some key features?  Absolutely, positively yes.  However, information is power so get ready because I’m going to arm you with some of my tricks and you can decide what you like and dislike.  One thing before we move on… I don’t recommend turning off security features but I do make one exception to this rule.  More on that later.

    Fast And Easy

    I like to keep things simple so we’ll start with the easiest first.  Remember the dialog box just below?  I know you’ve probably stumbled across it.  It’s in nearly all of the operating systems we’ve produced yet most people don’t make any changes to it.

    I do. These settings alone can have a rather profound change to the way application windows and dialog boxes display, move, minimize or disappear.  Eye candy takes horsepower and don’t underestimate the visual impact.  Before we get to the disable list, lets talk briefly about two of them.

    Animation and fading take cycles from the CPU and GPU.  When you have a weak CPU or GPU, the animation and fading effects end up looking like they are slow motion.  I’m exaggerating a bit, but your eyes are actually very good at picking up motion changes.  I have several machines ranging in age from less than a year old to more than five years old.  And the speed of the CPU and GPU in those machines varies greatly.  Therefore the new fast quad core machine can drive these effects the way they were designed to be seen.  But even the quad machine will show a noticeable improvement.

    imageThe Performance Options Hit Listturn these off

    • Animate controls and elements inside windows
    • Animate windows when minimizing and maximizing
    • Fade or slide menus into view
    • Fade or slide ToolTips into view
    • Fade out menu items after clicking
    • Show shadows under menus
    • Show shadows under mouse pointer
    • Slide open combo boxes
    • Slide taskbar buttons
    • Smooth-scroll list boxes

    Now you might be wondering how to get to these options since I neglected to tell you.  You can get to them in a similar manner across most of our operating systems and as usual, there’s more than one way. 

    1. Click the Start button or in the case of Windows Vista, click the Vista Pearl.
    2. Right mouse click Computer.
    3. Click the Properties menu item.  This effectively takes you to Control Panel | System in Windows Vista.
    4. Click the Advanced system settings Task item in the top left portion of the window.  This requires administrator privilege so you’ll need to respond to the Windows Vista UAC prompt.
    5. In the Performance section, click the Settings button.

    Now that you have made these changes, you should see the difference in how the applications behave.  This made a dramatic difference on my two slowest machines.  It was very helpful in particular on on my Dell Latitude D820.  Now that we’ve made some changes to the user interface responsiveness, lets look at disabling some optional features and services in Windows Vista.

    Optional Windows Vista Services

    An astute observer of Windows Vista will notice the operating system is always doing something.  The most visible activity involves the hard drives of your system.  If you haven’t changed any of the default settings for Windows Vista, you’ll notice those hard drives are constantly reading and writing.

    What services are using the disk that much?  The obvious first guess is the indexing service.  Or more accurately, the Windows Search service.  When you first install the OS, it would seem reasonable to take the indexing hit for all of your documents and email.  After all, that’s what gives you the instant access to nearly every document on your hard drive.  But if you’re a highly organized person like myself, do you really need it? 

    Then there’s the Superfetch service. SuperFetch monitors which applications you use the most and preloads these into your system memory so they'll be ready when you need them. Windows Vista also runs background programs, like disk defragmenting and Windows Defender, at low priority so that they can do their job but your work always comes first.

    This all sounds great on paper, but the reality is that those disk reads and writes use electricity, generate heat, and take away disk performance from other applications.  The developers of the features will challenge that the services run as low priority I/O and will not impact the computing environment.  My experience differs and frankly it really doesn’t matter what they say.  I want the I/O gone so that I am not generating heat, beating up my hard drives, reducing their life, and taking any performance away from my other applications.  Now to be fair, Windows Search 4.0 just came out and I haven’t installed and tested it yet, but I will.  I’ll give it a shot at changing my mind.  Until then, it’s time to disable some services, help save some electricity and reduce the heat my machine generates.  Heat is evil.

    imageDisabling the Optional Windows Vista Services

    Like before, there are several ways to navigate to the Windows services and change the properties, or start and stop them.

    1. Click the Start button.
    2. Right mouse click Computer.
    3. Click the Manage menu item.  This requires administrator privilege so you’ll need to respond to the UAC prompt.
    4. After the Computer Management MMC launches, expand the Services and Applications node on the bottom of the navigation tree control.
    5. Click the Services node. Now you’ll see a list of all of the services.
    6. Scroll to the bottom of the list.
    7. Right mouse click Windows Search and click the Properties menu item.
    8. Click the Stop button to shutdown and stop the service.
    9. Change the Startup type to Disabled.  Keep in mind this also disables Outlook 2007 integrated search for your email.
    10. Click OK to save those changes.
    11. Scroll the list of services and find Superfetch.  Stop the service and change it to manual.  Do the same for the ReadyBoost and Offline Files services.
    12. If you have Nero 7 or Nero 8 installed, scroll to the NMIndexingService and stop then disable this service.  I don’t yet have Nero 8 but I assume the indexing service is still there.

    There are a few other services you can safely stop if you aren’t using their services.  An example is the Distributed Link Tracking Client.  However, you aren’t going to see a noticeable improvement in performance of the system from that service change alone.  By stopping the Indexing service and disabling it and Superfetch, you should see a dramatic improvement in performance and boot times.  But like I said, you are doing this at a cost and the cost is the inability to use instance search in Windows Vista and Outlook.  That’s a pretty high price to pay and it’s probably too high of a price for many people.

    A Couple of Last Changes

    There are a couple more changes I recommend making, then a therapeutic reboot will clean house on all of the processes and memory.  The first change is disabling the disk defrag service.  Now keep in mind that I regularly flatten my machine and rebuild from scratch.  In fact, if I go as long as six months without re-installing the OS, apps and data I’m doing really good.  Therefore, this particular trick isn’t recommended for the masses.  Only for the nerds that are rebuilding every few months.

    The last change involves a security change.  I like to turn off one of the UAC features.  I turn off the highly annoying “Switch to a secure desktop when prompting for elevation”.  I know, I know.  This should really be left on to prevent a malicious virus from impersonating a portion of the OS (also known as a shatter attack).  To be honest, I originally started doing this in the Vista beta cycles because this feature was causing havoc with the LiveMeeting program and my ability to do desktop sharing during webcasts.  I should probably turn it back on to see if I can live with it now.  Maybe not.

    How do you turn this UAC feature off?  If you are using the Windows Vista default Control Panel settings, go to Control Panel | System and Maintenance | Administrative Tools.  From there you are going to double click the Local Security Policy and respond to the UAC prompt since this requires administrative privilege. Expand the Local Policies node in the tree control and click the Security Options node.  Scroll all the way to the bottom of the list and you see the secure desktop setting as the second to the last item.  Go into the properties for the settings and disable it.  Now would be a good time to reboot your machine and let all of the changes above take effect.

    One Last Bombshell

    I like to save a juicy tidbit for last in some of my articles.  Larry Garcia, a friend and colleague hates that.  He wants all the key stuff at the beginning in an executive summary so he doesn’t have to read the article.  Ha!  What fun is that?  So here’s the last little “tweak” I like to do to my machine.  I run in workgroup mode.  Ok, pick your jaw off the floor.  Speed is the primary motivating factor and giving the MSIT management policies the bird is the other.  There are several reasons I can get away with this.

    First of all, I always have two or more laptops/desktops for my job.  Frankly, every technical person in my company needs more than one machine.  I can do my job with one, but I am going to take a serious productivity hit.  For instance, I downloaded 50GB of content yesterday from one of my machines, while I used another for different stuff.

    By having more than one machine, I can always have a corpnet joined machine that is part of the Microsoft Active Directory forest and take the performance penalties associated with Active Directory lookups, System Center Configuration Manager inventory and patch management processes, etc.  But that doesn’t mean my main production machine has to be that machine.  In fact, it isn’t.  Now the folks that are Microsoft employees reading this are wondering how I get away with that.  Simple.  Desktop OS virtualization.

    Up until recently, virtualization wasn’t required.  Our MSIT org would implement a new restriction for remote user connections, and I would find a way around it without violating our corporate security policies.  But now they are starting to lock down the IPSEC policies more fully and with that, change the internal proxy server policies.  Our internal Mac users are all too familiar with those policies.

    So when the going gets tough, the tough virtualize.  I have a virtual machine that is joined to our forest and in my time of need can be used to connect and use an internal application.  Since our desktop virtualization products don’t today offer access to the smartcard reader, I use a handy trick.  Once the VM is up and running, I establish a RDP connection to the VM and can use the smartcard with the RDP session.  I only use this VM for applications that REQUIRE a machine account joined to the forest, or when a networking issue otherwise prevents connectivity to a resource on the corporate network.  Those are few and far between.  When I need long term use of a connection for something like downloads, I use my second machine that is joined to the forest.  When I need to use an internal line-of-business application for a few minutes, I fire up the VM on my main production machine.

    Summary

    So there you have it.  Some of my favorite runtime improvements to Windows Vista.  Some are obviously controversial but like I said early in this article, my main motivation is speed from my system so that I can give that capacity back to other virtual machines I use to do my day job.  It also makes Windows Vista very snappy and fun to use.  I hope you enjoy the tips.

  • Loading a HP 6910p with 8GB of RAM

    As you probably are already aware, I received a couple of 4GB 200pin DDR2 SoDIMMs from Kingston for testing with my ThinkPad T61p.  Almost immediately I received requests to borrow those SoDIMMs so they could be tested with other machines.  Phat chance.  Cold dead hands.

    But this weekend after getting the pool totally ship shape for the outlaws, BBQing some ribs, etc. I decided to pop these babies into my HP 6910p laptop.  As expected, they work fine.  I didn’t run my machine very long with them in, but it booted and worked properly.  Here’s a pic from that machine.

    8gb6910p

  • New Fad, Vertical USB Ports

    It’s pretty apparent to me the design engineers for some of the coming laptops have never used a USB cell phone data card.  I see a number of new machines coming out and they’ve decided to turn the USB ports so that they are no longer horizontal. 

    Lenovo has certainly done this with the soon to be released ThinkPad T500.  See http://shop.lenovo.com/ISS_Static/merchandising/US/PDFs/t400_and_t500_datasheet.pdf.  This is no big deal for the typical wired mouse, but what about the cell sticks, memory sticks, etc?  Lots of those devices aren’t going to work with the USB port in a vertical orientation.

    There are a couple of other things I dislike already (on paper) about the new ThinkPad T500.  They switched back to ATI for the video chipset.  What the heck is going on?  They change the chipset maker every model year.  I don’t like that.

    And then there’s the Intel Active Management Technology (iAMT) stuff.  I don’t want any “active” management taking place.  I want to set the darn thing on full performance with injected nitrous. 

    Oh well, I’m sure it’s a killer machine in person.  I wonder if they’ll send me an eval unit in the next few weeks.  Lenovo, if you have a 17” model coming, please send me one.  I would assume the model would be a ThinkPad T700 or something.

    Anyone notice in the specs is says, “Memory - Up to 8GB of PC2-8500 1066MHz DDR3” ???  Ok, that’s pretty cool.  HDMI is cool. And I would imagine a nice 17” backlit LCD at 1920x1200 would be kewl.  We’ll see.

  • Congratulations to Apple and at&t !!!

    image Regardless of the hiccups today on activation of the Apple iPhone 3G, you have to hand it to Apple and at&t on what appears to be a pretty decent product launch.  I mean after all, how many people played “sick” or “hookie” today in order to stand in line all day and buy an iPhone?

    Let’s see, what was the temperature at the Apple store today in Southlake, Texas where I live today?  101 degrees baby.  What was the temperature of my home office today where I was at?  74-75.  Ahhhhhh.  Unless you’ve attended a Texas Jam in the summer here, you have no idea what 101 will do to your mind over the course of… wait for it… ALL DAY.  Line waits were 5-6 hours all over the country.  No thanks, I’m not into that kind of pain for any technology.  Maybe in the winter, but not the summer.

    Things I like about the iPhone 3G and I don’t even have one:

    1. image Better speed – duh.  It’s about time.  Shall we go back in the blog posts to show what cell phone speeds I was getting 3 years ago?
    2. Touch interface – lets face it, Apple is doing a good job here and apparently the browser rocks.  Yes, I’ve tested it briefly on friends devices and in the store.
    3. App Store – who cares about the 500 initial apps.  It has the attention of people now.  I can think of dozens of apps Microsoft should do.  Will we?
    4. Exchange – the killer app is there and it’s THE corporate email system.  Let’s hope Apple’s client is bug free.  Software is hard and email is particularly picky.  We’ll see how fast Apple squashes bugs.
    5. Good size screen – 3.5” is a good size.  Great for watching movies when traveling and delayed in airports.  Does that ever happen to you?
    6. Storage – at least it’s at 16GB now.  You can get a few movies on the device now.

    Things I hate about the iPhone 3G and I don’t even have one:

    1. Battery – Hello? Anyone home?  Can we get a darn removable battery?  This is a portable media player and phone for heavens sake.  We need 9+ hours of juice man.  Sure, go ahead and tease us with the big screen, phone and web browser.
    2. Price – did we just rewind 5 years?  I don’t mind paying a little premium for a top shelf device, but is this it?  Do I want to lock myself to it for 2 years?  Hmmmmm…  Is the no contract unit really worth 500-700 bucks?

    I could probably nit pick on a few other things, but it looks like the unit covers my main two requirements.  It is a phone and has a good screen for video.  That’s attractive to me.  Not enough to go buy one, but still interesting.

    It’s always fun to see enthusiasm for a technology or device and Apple has it going on right now.  Gotta give them credit.  But we aren’t sitting still and there are some devices coming in the next few weeks and months I have my eye on.  Let’s hope they are competitive.

    Until then, rock on at&t and Apple. 

  • Microsoft Remote Desktop Connection Client for Mac Released !

    image Microsoft Remote Desktop Connection Client for Mac 2 features a redesigned user interface, improved customization options, and the ability to connect to multiple Windows-based computers at the same time. The following table lists the latest improvements to Remote Desktop Connection.

    • Universal binary - Runs on both Intel-based and PowerPC-based Macs.
    • User interface and menu bar - Simplifies the connection window and expands the menu bar to include menus for common tasks (File, Edit, View, and Help). Application preferences are now located on the RDC menu.
    • Remote Desktop Protocol 6.0 - Improves performance and compatibility with Windows Vista.
    • Multiple sessions - Connects to multiple computers when you save a connection file for each computer. Use the new File menu to open new, saved, and previously opened connections and to manage all changes to connection files.
    • Better customization than Remote Desktop Connection 1.0 - Accepts changes to application preferences, such as keyboard shortcuts, during a Remote Desktop session. Changes take effect the next time that you connect.
    • Automatic reconnection - Reestablishes a remote session when the network connection is lost.
    • Screen sizing options - Runs the Remote Desktop session in a resizable window or in full-screen mode.
    • Printing - Prints your Windows-based documents to any printer that is connected to the Macintosh computer.
    • Network Level Authentication - Verifies the identity of the Windows-based computer before establishing a Remote Desktop connection. You can select this option when you connect to a computer that is running Windows Vista. Network Level Authentication is more secure than authentication options in earlier versions of Windows.
    • Wide-screen resolution - Provides settings for improved resolution on wide-screen displays.
    • Server console sessions - Speeds login when you specify "console" as part of the computer name.

    Get it @ http://www.microsoft.com/mac/downloads.mspx?pid=Mactopia_RDC&fid=803F9438-8DF3-490F-92C6-0E0F92787DB8

  • The TechNet Plus subscriber download area is revamped !!!

    Not too long ago the TechNet Plus subscriber download area was revamped.  I wasn’t terribly fond of the navigation methods used on that revamp so of course I sent some email on various occasions asking for a change.  Apparently a lot of you did the same thing.

    imageTada!  Ask and we shall receive!

    The revamped download area has been revamped again and it’s a much flatter navigational view of the files that are available to you, the TechNet Plus subscriber.

    The following list summarizes the features and improvements in the new UI in this release:

    • The “twitchy” fly-out menu with the strange mouse behavior is gone.  RIP.
    • The product list is categorized. This was the most commonly requested organization structure. 
    • The table of contents has been flattened from three levels to two so finding products will be easier. 
    • The list of products can be narrowed easily by using the search filter. 
    • You can find products by using the filtered search or by browsing the table of contents. 
    • You can now search on part of a product name, e.g. “2007,” or on the name of an edition, e.g. “Ultimate” (as in Windows Vista Ultimate or Microsoft Office Ultimate).
    • If a file contains more than one product edition, the names of the editions are listed in plain view. 
    • File downloading, key related tasks, and product information are provided on the same page so you will no longer have to navigate from one page where you search for a product to another where you download files and claim keys. And if you encounter an error on the site, you’ll no longer be taken to a separate error page.
    • File downloading, key related tasks, and relevant information can be seen in a single row so you’ll no longer have to scroll to the bottom of the page to find product keys.
    • Download sizes are displayed prominently so you can see how big the file is before you initiate the download.
    • You can now sort product files by the date they were updated, or by their availability based on your subscription level. 
    • The site will “remember” your last settings for media type, e.g. “DVD,” and architecture, e.g. “x86.”  If no files match your settings, the site will automatically suggest less-restrictive settings.
  • What KVM switch are you using?

    image I recently upgraded my KVM switch.  The number of machines I use on a continual basis had grown beyond two and I really need a better 4 port unit.  I ended up buying the IOGEAR GCS-1744 (pictured at right).

    This particular KVM switch is also a dual monitor device that of course allows you to extend the desktop across those monitors.

    Right now I only have one machine capable of driving two monitors, but pretty soon I’ll have two.  The laptops of course cannot drive two monitors without help from a docking station or some other external device.

    I am considering trying the IOGEAR USB->DVI device to see how it works with the KVM switch for extending the desktop.  Unfortunately they list 1600x1200 as the max resolution for the device.  I need to check and see if it will do 1680x1050.  It doesn’t look like it will do that res and it would be my minimum bar.

    Anyone doing something similar?  I already tried the Matrox DualHead2Go.

  • Hitachi 320GB 7200rpm 2.5” laptop drive received

    7k320 It’s always Christmas around here.  I ordered and received one of the new Hitachi Travelstar 320GB 2.5” laptop drives and I am in the process of filling it.  It’s scary how fast that can actually happen these days.  This particular drive is for data storage only.  And what is the fastest growing data you have?

    You guessed it.  Virtual machine data.  I���ve been using 100 and 200GB drives for a few years but have decided not to buy anything less than 320GB now.  The 100GB drives have been the work horses of my stable and have performed remarkably well.  I’ve seen a lot of other folks crash drives but I’ve been extremely lucky.  The vast majority of the laptop drives I’ve relied on the past 5-7 years have been Hitachi. 

    Sure, I have my share of Toshiba, Seagate and Western Digital laptop drives but I have grown accustomed to the Hitachi drives because they’ve always run pretty cool for me, aren’t noisy, and are fast.  Fast is good when we are talking about VM performance.

    So what’s so special about this drive?  Well, as you can see at right, it has perfect balance.  Ha!  Actually, one of the reasons I purchased it was because I simply need more than 200GB of disk space in my laptop.  I end up running 3-4 virtualization products on a daily basis (VPC 2007, VS 2005, Hyper-V and VMWare Workstation) so I end up with a lot of VMs and a variety of operating systems.  I was really trying to hold out for a 500GB drive but got tired of playing the waiting game.

    You can get the specifications for the drive at the Hitachi GST website.  This drive has the SATA 3GB interface, 16MB data buffer, low power consumption and low heat (when I’m not beating it to death with I/O).

    I’m planning on purchasing one of the new Seagate Momentus 7200.3 320GB drives when they start shipping.  Right now I can’t seem to find anyone that has them in stock but I want to try one of them as well.  Before you know it we’ll be able to have two 2.5” 500GB 7200rpm drives in a laptop.  Nice.  More toys for Christmas.

    Wait till you see the “toy” I have coming in the next few weeks.  Montevina baby!

  • Does your Virtual PC 2007 VM seem choppy or sluggish?

    For those of you that are using Virtual PC 2007, there are lots of performance tip and tricks that come up from time to time that are pretty straightforward.  You know, using more than one hard drive, setting the global settings, the easy stuff.

    One trick that’s no so apparent is adding an option for virtual pc to prevent certain CPUs from entering a low power state, and therefore keeping everything running fast and smooth.

    Ben Armstrong documented this option back in March of 2007 in his “Last Resort” blog post.  To summarize, you need to add the following to the options.xml file that virtual pc uses when running.

    <enable_idle_thread type="boolean">true</enable_idle_thread>

    This setting needs to be part of the <virtual_machines> section so you can just make it the last line of the section.  The options.xml file lives under the %appdata%\Microsoft\Virtual PC directory if running Windows XP and the Roaming area under Windows Vista.

    Make sure at this point you are running the latest version of Virtual PC 2007 SP1 (updated 7/3/2008) and have installed the latest virtual machine additions if applicable.  The setting above will do wonders for linux or Windows.

    One last thing, everyone won’t benefit from this setting.  Apparently some OEM BIOS levels have fixed the CPU timer and power management problem that causes the choppiness.

    Credit to Ronald Beekelaar for reminding all of us on some internal email about the setting.  I know I totally forgot about it.

  • Pure Microsoft

    I’ve been listening to our customers a lot lately.  I get a lot of good feedback here, but it’s no substitute for the direct frank conversations we’ve had at the live events, launch events and conferences like MMS or TechEd.

    One of the complaints I’ve been hearing more and more is centered around our content.  The crux of the complaint is that we aren’t real world in the demos we do on webcasts, screencasts, live events, hands on labs, etc.

    As much as I’d like a raised floor data center at my home or office location to simulate more real work conditions, that just isn’t in my personal budget and I am unlikely to get much through our expense reporting process before it gets red flagged.

    So, what would be a happy medium?  Are there some core products that you use everyday that we should be including in our mix?  Software is probably easier to purchase and use, but keep in mind a lot of us don’t have racks of servers to use when we are out on the road delivering events or webcasts.  We typically carry one laptop and that's about it.

    Thoughts?

  • SQL Server 2005 Driver for PHP now available for download

    In its continued commitment to interoperability, Microsoft has released a new SQL Server 2005 Driver for PHP. The SQL Server 2005 Driver for PHP download is available to all SQL Server users at no additional charge. The SQL Server 2005 Driver for PHP is a PHP 5 extension that allows for the reading and writing of SQL Server data from within PHP scripts. The extension provides a procedural interface for accessing data in all editions of SQL Server 2005.

    Supported Operating Systems: Windows 2000 Service Pack 4; Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 2; Windows Server 2008; Windows Small Business Server 2003 ; Windows Vista Service Pack 1; Windows XP Service Pack 2.

    Peer-to-peer support is available in the SQL Server Driver for PHP forum. To submit feedback on this release, visit the SQL Server Feedback Center.

    Go get it @ http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=61BF87E0-D031-466B-B09A-6597C21A2E2A&displaylang=en.

  • Xbox 360 and Netflix Team Up

    imageLos Angeles—An exciting new home theater experience is coming to living rooms this holiday season. At E3, Microsoft and Netflix, the world's largest online movie rental service, today unveiled an exclusive partnership to offer the ability to instantly stream movies and TV episodes from Netflix to your television via Xbox 360®.

    Xbox 360 will be the only game system that lets you instantly watch movies and TV episodes streamed from Netflix. This movie-watching innovation will be available to Xbox LIVE® Gold members who are also Netflix subscribers, and will let those users enjoy streaming movies from Netflix on Xbox LIVE at no additional cost.

    " Watching movies at home will never be the same. Netflix on Xbox 360 is an entertainment first." — John Schappert, Microsoft

    A growing library of more than 10,000 movies and TV episodes will be available from Netflix when it launches on Xbox LIVE in late fall, with more choices added over time. Through this agreement, along with the existing Video Store, Xbox 360 will be home to more movies and TV shows on demand than any other device connected to the TV. Xbox LIVE quickly and easily connects you and your friends to the entertainment you want—with no PC required for viewing.

    Interact, Play, and Enjoy
    Netflix on Xbox 360 is an important component of the new Xbox experience, a new generation of games and entertainment experiences that will be available on Xbox 360 this fall. The new Xbox experience represents the first time in history that a mass-market consumer electronics device has been re-invented through free software, giving people more fun and intuitive ways to interact, play, and enjoy entertainment content.

    More details @ http://www.xbox.com/en-US/community/events/e32008/articles/0714-netflixteamup.htm

  • Searching for Windows Vista x64 Compatible Applications

    vista_wallpaper Sales of the 64 bit version of Windows Vista are starting to accelerate.  In fact, they’ve more than tripled the past three months.  You can get more information on what’s happening at http://www.microsoft.com/Windows/windows-vista/compare-editions/64-bit-ready.aspx.

    I was digging around on the site to look at the application compatibility search area.  the Windows Vista Compatibility Center is of course designed for looking up 32 bit applications.  But my 64 bit friends, you can search for 64 bit compatible applications by using the advanced search at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/compatibility/AdvancedSearch.aspx.

    Now is that cool or what?  I would be really tickled if it included a drop down selection or check box for Windows Server 2008.  Anyway, this is a great new way to check and see if an app you are interested in has been tested.

  • Did you survive BSOD Monday?

    I saw a lot of reports of people having issues with Windows Vista SP1 that were still on the release candidate as it expired 6/30/2008.  Of course I was heads down doing yearend data entry so I didn't get a chance to see what was happening on the grid.  Everyone survive and get upgraded from the release candidate to the released bits?  I'm betting the TechNet Plus Direct subscription came in real handy yesterday.

  • Windows Server 2008 management packs now available for download

    Clive Eastwood at the OpsMgr, SCM and MOM blog is reporting that some new management packs are now available for Windows Server 2008 and Exchange Server 2007.  I’m looking forward to having the full compliment of Windows Server 2008 roles covered but that is going to take a little more time.  The Hyper-V MP is still cooking.

    Windows Server 2008 Application Server (6.0.6278.22)

    Windows Server 2008 Base OS (6.0.6278.22)

    Terminal Services (6.0.6278.22)

    Exchange Server 2007 (6.0.6363.0)

    Key Management Service (6.0.6278.9)

    Group Policy 2003 (6.0.6278.22)

    Group Policy 2008 (6.0.6278.22)

    Swiped from his post at http://blogs.technet.com/cliveeastwood/archive/2008/07/28/windows-server-2008-support-mp-s-released.aspx.

  • A Guide to GPO Preferences for Users of PolicyMaker Standard Edition

    To help prepare Group Policy administrators who are familiar with PolicyMaker Standard Edition to upgrade to Group Policy preferences, this document provides a guide to the differences between Group Policy preferences and PolicyMaker Standard Edition. These differences include the following:

    • New folders have been added to the editing window of the GPMC, and extensions familiar from PolicyMaker Standard Edition have been incorporated.
    • New preference item types (formerly policy item types) have been added to support Windows Server 2008, Windows Vista, and Internet Explorer 7. Additionally, the Network Shares extension, previously available as PolicyMaker Share Manager, has been included with Group Policy preferences.
    • The names of some preference item types have been modified to specify which operating systems or Web browsers they support.
    • Filtering has been renamed item-level targeting, and the Targeting Editor window provides an improved user interface for configuring targeting for each preference item (formerly policy item).
    • The names of some options on the Common tab have been changed to clarify their purpose.
    • Features related to the Applications extension and Mail Profiles extension will be available for download separately to adhere to legal requirements, and Message Box filtering has been removed to improve security.
    • Support has been added for new operating systems, and support for some earlier operating systems has been deprecated and removed. However, client-side extensions (CSEs) for Group Policy preferences are available for download for many earlier operating systems. Additionally, GPMC reporting has been updated to support Group Policy preferences, and the Group Policy Software Development Kit (SDK) will be updated to replace the PolicyMaker SDK.

    Get the guide @ http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=8d5f2917-7b6d-460d-83c1-497b721d666c&DisplayLang=en

  • Sticking it to The Man

    image I’ve seen some horror stories this week.  Not surprisingly, they were about the iPhone buying process or more accurately, trying to move an account from a telephone company to at&t and the iPhone.  Wanna guess which phone company telephone number can’t be moved to the iPhone?  AT&T.

    As odd as it seems, several people have tried and failed to move their phone numbers from an at&t corporate account to the required at&t individual account.  As I understand it, the internal at&t systems won’t cooperate.

    That seems really odd to me.  Why wouldn’t those systems allow a port of the number?  If you can port your number from at&t to an outside entity, why wouldn’t it work for at&t consumer accounts?

    Well, I decided to do the next best thing.  I am moving my business to virginmobileusa.com.  I haven’t decided who I want to sign up with for my next phone, with so many coming in the next 4-6 months.  But Virgin is making it easy to move there.  I bought a $29 phone.  You can load the phone with minutes in blocks of minutes or pay monthly.  No long term contracts.  Simple.  And they use the Sprint PCS network.

    I’ll see how hard it is to port my number to the Virgin phone.  I’m guessing by this time next week, or earlier it will be done.  Then I can hang out at Virgin for a few months and let the market evolve.  I might get an iPhone, I might get a HTC Touch Diamond, or Touch Pro, or Sony X1, or Samsung i900 or whatever tickles me.

    What everyone in America should do is buy a $29 phone and move to Virgin.  Maybe then Sprint, at&t, Verizon and T-Mobile will drop the 24 month contracts everyone hates.  And maybe, just maybe they’ll also realize the corporate discounts aren’t deep enough to warrant the hassles sometimes. 

    Who knows, I may just chuck the whole idea of corporate email and just use a cheap phone, as a phone.  To be continued…

  • ISA Server 2006 SP1 now available for download

    ISA Server 2006 is a great firewall product.  As with all of our products, it continues to be improved and SP1 offers up some new goodies as well as a bunch of fixes. 

    Here’s the list of new features:

    • Configuration Change Tracking—Registers all configuration changes applied to ISA Server to help you assess issues that may occur as a result of these changes.
    • Test Button—Tests the consistency of a Web publishing rule between the published server and ISA Server.
      Traffic Simulator—Simulates network traffic in accordance with specified request parameters, such as an internal user and the Web server, providing information about firewall policy rules evaluated for the request.
    • Diagnostic Logging Viewer—Now integrated as a tab into the ISA Server Management console, this feature displays detailed events on packet progress and provides information about handling and rule matching.

    Improvements for existing features, including:

    • Support for integrated NLB mode in all three modes, including unicast, multicast, and multicast with Internet Group Management Protocol (IGMP). Previously, ISA Server integrated NLB-supported unicast mode only.
    • Support for use of server certificates containing multiple Subject Alternative Name (SAN) entries. Previously, ISA Server was able to use either only either the subject name (common name) of a server certificate, or the first entry in the SAN list.
    • Support for Kerberos Constrained Delegation (KCD) cross-domain authentication. Credentials from users located in a different domain than the ISA Server, but in the same forest, can now be delegated to an internal published Web site by using KCD.
    • Support for client certificate authentication in a workgroup deployment. This removes the requirement to map each client certificate to an Active Directory® directory user account when forms-based authentication is used as the primary authentication method and client certificates are used as the secondary method.

    For a list of the fixes, see http://support.microsoft.com/kb/943462.

    Get SP1 @ http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=d2feca6d-81d7-430a-9b2d-b070a5f6ae50&DisplayLang=en.

  • Wider is better.

    I like Sony’s new tagline for the VAIO FW series laptop that just came out a week or so ago.  I read about the machine on the grid then accidentally stumbled into it at the laptop section of Fry’s here in Texas.  This is one sexy laptop and the screen is something you really need to see up close and personal.

    Normally glossy laptop screens turn me off, but the screen on this machine is really nice. 16.4 inches nice and a great aspect ratio for watching movies.  Not surprisingly, a Blu-ray drive is an option for the machine. 

    image

    This machine isn’t small and it certainly isn’t razor thin and light.  But is has very respectable dimensions.  And it all starts at $1059 USD at the Sonystyle.com buying site.  If you are considering a machine for a college bound son or daughter, this should be on your list to look at.  Nice, very nice. 

    Shop wisely.  Maybe you’ll spot a deal on one at the retail stores.  Fry’s already has some in stock.  I would imagine they’ll be at other brick and mortar stores as well.  Then of course there’s the Internet.  Newegg.com has a nicely configured model at http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16834117792.  They also have some great pictures as well.

    [UPDATE for 7/28]  See http://www.notebookreview.com/default.asp?newsID=4519 for one review of this machine.  See http://reviews.cnet.com/laptops/sony-vaio-vgn-fw140/4505-3121_7-33088924.html for another.

  • Windows PowerShell – excellent screencast now available

    Jeff Alexander is perfecting the art of screencasting and his latest adventure with Windows PowerShell is certainly well worth watching.  He stole my intro but it’s all good matey.  I think in return he needs to tell us where he snagged that cool spinning globe on his desktop.

    So what is PowerShell you ask?

    I would imagine a lot of you have at least heard of PowerShell.  If you aren’t a developer you’ve probably steered clear of it simply because it looks like complex code.  Fear not, it isn’t that complex.  Here’s the description from microsoft.com:

    Microsoft Windows PowerShell command line shell and scripting language helps IT professionals achieve greater control and productivity. Using a new admin-focused scripting language, more than 130 standard command line tools, and consistent syntax and utilities, Windows PowerShell allows IT professionals to more easily control system administration and accelerate automation. Windows PowerShell is easy to adopt, learn, and use, because it works with your existing IT infrastructure and existing script investments, and because it runs on Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows Server 2003. Windows PowerShell is now included as part of Windows Server 2008. Exchange Server 2007, System Center Operations Manager 2007, System Center Data Protection Manager V2, and System Center Virtual Machine Manager also leverage Windows PowerShell to improve administrator control, efficiency, and productivity.

    Here’s the 20 minute screencast video Jeff created.  Jeff demonstrates some really cool tools so stick with him through the entire video. Double click the small window below while playing and it will go full screen.  If you want to download the video and watch it offline, right mouse click this link and SAVE AS to your local disk.

    [NOTE]  I removed the embedded Silverlight player until Jeff changes the properties so that it doesn’t automatically download.  It’s causing too much overhead to my blog.  You can see the screencast at his blog link above, or the direct link to the video in the previous paragraph.

    For more information on PowerShell, see the website at http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2003/technologies/management/powershell/default.mspx.

    See the TechNet Script Center at http://www.microsoft.com/technet/scriptcenter/hubs/msh.mspx.

    Get PowerShell version 2 (CTP) @ http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=7C8051C2-9BFC-4C81-859D-0864979FA403&displaylang=en.

  • Does the mortgage lending industry deserve a bail out?

    I rarely write about subjects that are outside the realm of the computer field, but I thought the current US mortgage lending climate deserved some air time.  Should American tax dollars be used to fix the mess the in the US mortgage industry?

    How the heck did it get to be the mess it is right now?  Did the people of the US buy homes well above their means?  Were the prices of the homes inflated?  Did the lenders allow this to take place knowing full well the bubble would burst?  So what, they got their commission.

    Where is the accountability for all of this?

  • Windows Essential Business Server - guides now available for download

    A whole bunch of guides were released over the past few days so here’s a nice little list for your download consideration.

    Windows Essential Business Server Product Overview – get it @ http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=01a0a2ec-18dc-4217-9591-ade0a1d7ae08&DisplayLang=en.

    Windows Essential Business Server Installation Guide – get it @ http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=11c34b73-a9aa-4beb-940d-2ab93b167fdc&DisplayLang=en.

    Migrating the DNS Role to Windows Essential Business Server – get it @ http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=09ba5591-5dc8-46c9-a22b-26f5ca090294&DisplayLang=en.

    Migrating Active Directory Domain Services Scripts, Roaming Profiles, Redirected Folders, and Home Directories to Windows Essential Business Server – get it @ http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=d79d7afd-df62-4353-9abf-7cbc8e49cd3d&DisplayLang=en.

    Migrating DHCP Server Service to Windows Essential Business Server – get it @ http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=e7087924-2d5f-4379-b083-14c7c0aea831&DisplayLang=en.

    Windows Essential Business Server Administration Guide – get it @ http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=b6bfebb0-9ec1-40c5-a41d-cc439e6fd9a4&DisplayLang=en.

    Windows Essential Business Server Backup and Restore Guide – get it @ http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=592dcbdb-7f10-44a2-a257-a3a2911fe3bd&DisplayLang=en.

    Migrating WSUS to Windows Essential Business Server – get it @ http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=4a9229be-e9dc-40f8-b90e-035bf7879716&DisplayLang=en.

    Migrating Microsoft Exchange Server to Windows Essential Business Server – get it @ http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=fb0f9f7e-8769-4585-a85c-509165a3f93e&DisplayLang=en.

    Migrating from Windows SBS 2003 to Windows Essential Business Server – get it @ http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=191b141e-3a1f-4c1b-bd2d-15623751e518&DisplayLang=en.

  • Fixing Silverlight for Firefox 3 Users

    logo About a week ago I started an internal thread about the incompatibility I was seeing on my Windows XP image with the recently released version of Firefox 3.  In short, the Silverlight videos would not play.  I did of course check the Silverlight requirements and Firefox 3 was/is MIA.

    Since FF 3 is a new baby and Silverlight 2 has yet to be born, I figured we’re in that weird state of limbo that can occur when the planets aren’t properly aligned.  Sure enough, that’s the case and there are several ways to fix the incompatibility issue.  Finger pointing aside, take a look at Tim Heuer’s detailed explanation of the problem at “Updating Silverlight.js for Firefox 3”.

    There’s just one problem with updating this file.  It’s EVERYWHERE.  Basically, I need to update every Silverlight application, all of my Expression Encoder 2 templates, and convince each site owner to update all of their settings as well.  Yea, it’s a hassle but now that we’ve released a semi supported method, I’ll get around to it over the next couple of weeks.  There are a substantial number of you reading this blog so I guess I should try and support you.  Grin.

  • Good stuff or marketing? See for yourself next week.

    image

  • User Privacy Issues Playing Out at YouTube

    It appears a new battle is brewing on the internet.  Several salvos have been fired.  And there will be lots of collateral damage. 

    I was just reading an article written by Michael Arrington at TechCrunch that discusses the implications of a recent court ruling.  See the article, “Judge Protects YouTube’s Source Code, Throws Users To The Wolves” for more information on what is happening.  I have no idea what the facts are in the case, but would you want a company to hand over your userid and other information to another company because of a court ruling? 

    As with all things, it seems a few bad apples ruin things for the rest of us.  This is going to be interesting to watch.  Love the comments.

  • Meet the MAP Program Managers - Assess Your Hyper-V Readiness

    The Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit (MAP) makes it easy for you to perform assessments for the following key scenarios:

    • Identify computers capable of running Windows Vista.
    • Identify servers capable of running Windows Server 2008.
    • Identify computers that can be upgraded to Microsoft Office 2007 and report currently installed Microsoft Office products.
    • Capture performance data for servers and workstations.
    • Create recommendations for server consolidation using Hyper-V or Virtual Server 2005 R2.
    • Report on the hardware and software installed in your organization.
    • Perform inventory and assessments of large networks.
    • Report on Desktop security settings such as Windows Firewall, anti-virus and anti-malware

    Want to learn more?  Head on over to http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb977556(TechNet.10).aspx.  Or if you would like to hear from the Product Managers, watch the following 16 minute video.

  • I’m Running Microsoft Mojave

    image

    What do you think about this? Interesting to say the least.