Keith Combs' Blahg

Ramblings from another nerd on the grid

October, 2008

  • My mailbox is lean and mean

    Hawaii I just put the archive kaa pai yow to my mailbox.  It just dropped some weight.  I was weighing in at nearly 1GB in size and it’s now down to just under 300MB.  Archive slash and burn is your friend.  So are those little search folders in Outlook that let you figure out where all of the attachments are hiding.

    Why have I cleaned house? 

    Cause I am getting ready to go on a vacation for a little over a week to Kauai with my wife and stick my feet in the sand.  We are still going to be taking a laptop.  It is after all her busiest time of the year.  She owns a costume shoppe. 

    Do you have any idea how hard it is for me to get her on a plane Sunday morning?  The only destination that would do that is Hawaii.

    I’ll probably blog a little between now and getting home, but it will likely be between Mai Tai’s.  Slurry words and all.  Grin.  By the way, if you think the pic above is kewl, click it for the super high res version.

  • Setting up your laptop to run SCVMM 2008

    SCVMM_logo Now that System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) 2008 has released, I’m sure many of you are wanting to kick the tires.  The good news is that we’ve made that relatively easy to accomplish on a laptop but there are some assumptions to make so let’s discuss a couple of them.

    First and foremost you’ll need a machine capable of running the x64 version of Windows Server 2008.  I’ll assume you are most interested in running Hyper-V.  With that in mind, you’ll need a decent CPU, ample memory, and hard disk space.

    File Systems and Boot Managers

    In my case I like to separate church and state so I don’t dual or multi-boot operating systems.  I purchase drives for Linux, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, Windows 7, etc.  It’s getting to be a harder decision because you can get good 2.5” 320GB 7200rpm drives at or below $100.  Higher capacity lower cost drives may change my workflow, but for now I’m still hard core about keeping things sandboxed.  I don’t like to lose work nor worry about a file system or boot manager stepping on something, so I am much more comfortable swapping primary drives.  Keep your production drive completely separate from your test partitions.  You were warned.

    Security Models

    Next, you need to make some decisions about your security model.  Once again I deviate from the well trodden path of using the production corporate forest.  Let me repeat that.  My test machines NEVER touch the company Active Directory (AD) forest.  I typically build up AD from scratch (with some batch files).  This is important because SCVMM expects an AD implementation to be present.

    You have some choices on how to implement Active Directory.  I am not going to get super deep on this topic because it will become more apparent on some design points to follow.

    Virtualization Partitioning

    In the world of computers there are physical and logical boundaries.  Hyper-V is no exception so you need to take this into consideration when testing and modeling designs you might use for training or proof-of-concepts.  In the case of Hyper-V, the partitioning nomenclature is commonly referred to as parent and child partitions.  The Parent is created at Hyper-V installation, and child partitions are created later on the construction of “guest” virtual machines.

    Communication between the partitions is controlled by you, and how you choose to implement the virtual networks.  This absolutely comes into play when installing System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) 2008 and the management agent.

    Parent or Child Partition?  Can you say, “Perimeter?”

    Now that SCVMM 2008 has released, you can pick and choose your partitioning and security model.  Prior to the RTM of SCVMM 2008, I was running it and Hyper-V in the parent partition.  I have switched to a different design and I really like the flexibility of the new implementation I built out over the course of the past few days.

    For starters I no longer have Active Directory in my Hyper-V parent partition.  In fact, the only role installed on Windows Server 2008 Enterprise x64 for my laptop is the RTM version of Hyper-V.  Everything else, including SCVMM 2008 is installed in various virtual machines.

    How do I do that if SCVMM 2008 requires an Active Directory (AD) directory and security model?  Well, when you start looking at the possible management scenarios for SCVMM, you’ll notice you can manage virtual servers on the “perimeter.”  In my case, the Hyper-V server is a perimeter server or more accurately the vmmAgent is installed on a trusted server.  This of course means you must have network communications between the VM running SCVMM 2008 and the Hyper-V parent partition.  This is pretty easily accomplished through the virtual networking I alluded to earlier and provides a very flexible approach for building out a complete set of System Center management virtual machines. 


    Keep your parent partition clean.  That’s the key takeaway of this article.  By putting Active Directory (AD) at the lower levels and hiding that from the parent, you have a very flexible hypervisor environment in which to implement a wide variety of ideas.  By using this approach, you can build a very complex yet flexible environment that is only constrained by disk space, available memory, and eventually CPU resources. 

    I plan to capture all of this in the form of screencasts around the first week of December, but in the meantime feel free to ask me any questions on my implementation and approach.  Enjoy.

  • ROCKBAND parties will never be the same

    pl3649 My team has many diverse skills.  We are the current Microsoft TechReady Champs in Halo 3 Singles, Guitar Hero,  and some of the other legacy arcade games as demonstrated at the last TechReady held in Seattle July 2008.  We destroyed all challengers.

    It’s looking like we are going to need to form up a band and go after more world domination at TechReady 8 or TechReady 9.

    Of course we’re going to need a few essentials to set the stage for the long and grueling hours of practice and adult beverage consumption.  Well, here’s just the ticket to help aspiring AC/DC wannabees.

    We’re going to need to add some fog and synchronized lighting to the Marshall stacks for some authentic rocking. PDP has just the ticket with their new ROCKBAND Home Stage Kit

    ROCKBAND parties will never be the same and kiss your apartment deposit goodbye.  Grin.

  • Azure Services Platform and Windows Azure Announced

    WindowsAzure The Azure™ Services Platform is designed to help developers quickly and easily create, deploy, manage, and distribute web services and applications on the Internet. Windows® Azure is a cloud services operating system that serves as the development, service hosting and service management environment for the Azure Services Platform. Windows Azure provides developers with on-demand compute and storage to host, scale, and manage web applications on the internet through Microsoft data centers.

    Get the low down @

  • Hyper-V “Needs Attention” after SCVMM 2008 RTM install

    scvmm_logo If you are like most people and start doing installs without Reading The Fabulous Manual (RTFM), then you’ll likely see the same issue nearly everyone I know has hit.  You see, after installing the RTM bits of System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 you’ll notice your Hyper-V server(s) have a status of “Needs Attention”.  Don’t we all.

    Fortunately this is documented in the release notes, right at the very beginning.  VMM requires an important update from Hyper-V and a critical update from Background Intelligent Transfer Service (BITS). Without these updates, VMM hosts display in the state of “Needs Attention” and the virtualization service version as “Upgrade available”.

    Download and install the following updates on all of your Hyper-V SCVMM managed hosts:

    I actually changed the link above to the x64 BITS update.  The Release Notes are pointed at the x86 update which will not install on a Hyper-V server.

  • Microsoft Security Bulletin MS08-067 – Webcast – Morning of 10/24

    On October 23, 2008, Microsoft released an out-of-band security bulletin. Join us for a brief overview of the technical details of the security bulletin. The intent of this webcast is to address your concerns. Therefore, most of the webcast is devoted to attendees asking questions about the bulletin and getting answers from our security experts.

    Presenters: Christopher Budd, Security Response Communications Lead, Microsoft Corporation, and Adrian Stone, Lead Security Program Manager, Microsoft Corporation

    Start Date: Friday, October 24, 2008 11:00 AM Pacific Time (US & Canada)

    Register @

  • Microsoft Security Bulletin MS08-067 – Critical

    This security update resolves a privately reported vulnerability in the Server service. The vulnerability could allow remote code execution if an affected system received a specially crafted RPC request. On Microsoft Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Windows Server 2003 systems, an attacker could exploit this vulnerability without authentication to run arbitrary code. It is possible that this vulnerability could be used in the crafting of a wormable exploit. Firewall best practices and standard default firewall configurations can help protect network resources from attacks that originate outside the enterprise perimeter.

    This security update is rated Critical for all supported editions of Microsoft Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, and rated Important for all supported editions of Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008. For more information, see the subsection, Affected and Non-Affected Software, in this section.

    The security update addresses the vulnerability by correcting the way that the Server service handles RPC requests. For more information about the vulnerability, see the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) subsection for the specific vulnerability entry under the next section, Vulnerability Information.

    Recommendation. Microsoft recommends that customers apply the update immediately.

    See the remainder of the details @

  • The best Windows Mobile 6.1 phone on the market?

    TreoPro I have a Palm Treo Pro arriving tomorrow.  It was a pretty tough decision to purchase the device.  The primary reason is because it is an expensive device.  But in the end the funding came through in some unexpected ways so I made the plunge.

    A little over a year ago, I managed to luck into a free Palm Treo 750.  We were at TechReady which is the internal training we go to each year.  At one of the Exchange meetings, the Palm folks handed out brand new Palm Treo 750’s to everyone at the meeting.  Nice.  I used the phone for a year and was nothing but pleased with that device.  Rock solid.  No issues at all with it.  But I could see the market was getting ready to change so I sold it in August and have been using a dumb device since.

    Then I got lucky again.  I received a Kindle eBook reader.  In fact, everyone on my team did but considering I already had one, I sold mine and suddenly realized I had enough from both sales to get the Palm Treo Pro.

    So I purchased the unlocked Palm Treo Pro at and it arrives tomorrow.  I’ve read some pretty glowing accolades for the device already so I am anxious to see if it really is worth every penny.  I hope so.  I really liked my Treo 750.

    I’ll either keep the Treo Pro for a couple of years or sell it after a year.  I’ve given up on the idea of having a combined phone/portable media player for another year.  An iPhone simply isn’t an option for me right now.  I still have at least a year left in the Archos and Zune players I have.  I might as well use them.  Here are a few of the specs on the Treo Pro.

    Microsoft® Windows Mobile® 6.1 Professional Edition

    Qualcomm® MSM7201 400MHz

    320x320 transflective color TFT flush touchscreen

    Tri-band UMTS – 850MHz, 1900MHz, 2100MHz
    Quad-band GSM – 850MHz, 900MHz, 1800MHz, 1900MHz

    802.11b/g with WPA, WPA2, and 801.1x authentication

    Built-in GPS

    Wireless Technology
    Bluetooth® 2.0 + Enhanced Data Rate; Infrared (IR)

    256MB (100MB user available), 128MB RAM

    2.0 megapixels with up to 8x digital zoom and video capture

    Removable, rechargeable 1500mAh lithium-ion; Up to 5.0 hours talk time and up to 250 hours standby

    microSDHC cards (up to 32GB supported)2

    MicroUSB™ 2.0 for synchronization and charging

    3.5mm stereo headset jack

    Length: 4.49", Width: 2.36", Depth: 0.53", Weight: 4.69 oz


    [UPDATE for 11/16/2008]  As much as I liked the phone, I can't see paying $500 for the phone then putting up with ATT's terrible pricing and wireless service.  I am pretty much done doing business with ATT so that was the kiss of death for the Treo Pro.

  • System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 RTM’s !!!

    vmm System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 provides a management solution for the virtualized data center that helps enable centralized management of IT infrastructure, increased server utilization, and dynamic resource optimization across multiple virtualization platforms.

    Highlights of System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008

    • Support for VMs Running on Windows Server 2008
      • System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 was designed to fully utilize the foundational features and services of Windows Server 2008 and Microsoft Hyper-V™ Server. This includes Hyper-V’s 64-bit architecture, attack hardened security model, fail-over cluster support (see below) and others.
      • Virtual Machine Manager 2008 (VMM) supports the management of hosts running Hyper-V and VMM can actually enable Hyper-V remotely from the VMM 2008 console.
      • VMM 2008 integrates with new clustering support in Windows Server 2008 to allow for fault-tolerant and cluster aware virtual machines to be created
      • VMM 2008 supports all Hyper-V functionality while providing VMM-specific functions, such as Intelligent Placement, the Self-Service Portal, and the integrated Library.
    • Multi-Vendor Virtualization Platform Support
      • In addition to support for Hyper-V, VMM 2008 integrates multi-hypervisor management into one tool with its support for virtual machines running on VMware ESX infrastructure and Microsoft Virtual Server.
      • VMM 2008 provides comprehensive support for VMware VI3 including moving virtual machines among virtual hosts with no downtime via VMotion, through integration with VMware’s Virtual Center.
      • VMM 2008 specific features such as Intelligent Placement, consolidation candidate recommendations and others can be run against virtualized infrastructure on any supported platform.
      • Windows PowerShell™ scripts for customization or automation are also supported across Hyper-V, VMware ESX or Virtual Server implementations
    • Host Cluster Support for “High Availability” Virtual Machines
      • With greatly expanded support for failover clusters, VMM 2008 improves its “high availability” capabilities for managing mission-critical virtual machines. VMM 2008 is now fully cluster-aware meaning that it can detect and manage Hyper-V host clusters as a single unit.
      • New in this version of VMM is automatic detection of virtual hosts that are added or removed from the cluster – thus easing the burden on the administrator to manage this function.
      • In VMM 2008, creating a high availability virtual machine (HA VM) has never been easier. Gone are the complex multi-step manual processes from before – now, an administrator clicks a simple checkbox which designates a VM as highly available. Behinds the scenes, VMM orchestrates the creation of that HA VA which includes instructing the Intelligent Placement feature of VMM 2008 to recommend only hosts that are part of a host cluster for the newly minted HA VM.
      • Improved HA VM management features of VMM 2008 include the Failover Cluster Management Console for various cluster-related tasks such as designation and management of cluster reserves, letter-less disk drives, guest clusters, among others.
      • VMM 2008 also supports VMware host clusters in which the nodes of the cluster are VMware ESX Servers.

    Go get it @

  • Halo 3 Master Chief Collectors Edition costume now available

    Looking for an official Bungie Halo 3 licensed costume?  Well, the Rubies officially licensed costume is finally out.  Check out the detail on the costume.  Get the costume at  High resolution image of the costume there. Have fun smacking the Covenant with your battle rifle.


  • Get Hands-on with Virtualization – 8 US Cities Left To Go


    Attend the event that lets you touch, talk about, and experience Microsoft® virtualization solutions. Hear from Microsoft virtualization experts on how Microsoft uses virtualization in its own data centers. Dive into robust hands-on labs and gain a technical understanding of the Microsoft virtualization strategy. Then, take home a valuable set of free products and readiness-focused giveaways to help get you started:*

    • A one-year evaluation copy of Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008
    • A copy of Understanding Microsoft Virtualization from the Desktop to the Data Center, by Mitch Tulloch**
    • Vouchers for Microsoft Server Virtualization Certification exam (70-652) and preparation course (a $316 value)
    October 21, 2008 Minneapolis , MN Hyatt Regency Minneapolis
    October 24, 2008 Dallas , TX Dallas Sheraton
    October 27, 2008 Chicago , IL InterContinental Chicago
    October 31, 2008 Boston , MA Boston Sheraton
    November 3, 2008 New York , NY Sheraton Hotel & Towers
    November 10, 2008 Washington , DC Omni Shoreham Hotel
    November 13, 2008 Philadelphia , PA Sheraton Philadelphia City Center
    November 17, 2008 Atlanta , GA Marriott Atlanta Marquis


    Welcome: Understanding Microsoft Virtualization from Desktop to Data Center

    Session I: Sever Virtualization and Management
    An inside look at Hyper-V and System Center Virtual Machine Manager from an architectural and a real world point of view. Complete with live demo’s of real life scenarios, and even a look at SCVMM managing VMWare ESX servers.

    Session II: How Microsoft IT builds Dynamic Data Centers
    A look at the current and future Microsoft Data Center. See how Microsoft IT, one of the world’s largest IT organizations, uses Windows Server 2008 and Hyper-V to provide dynamic, scalable, and real-time adjustment to business needs.

    Session III: Understanding Virtualization at the Desktop Level
    The future of the Enterprise Desktop is very exciting, and Microsoft Virtualization technologies like Softgrid (App-V), Med-V, MDOP, VECD and Terminal Services are in the middle of it all. This session will provide an understanding of the directions of the industry, and highlight the capabilities of the technologies available, as well as look at what the future will bring.

    Hands on Labs

    Technical Introduction to System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008
    Virtual Machine Manager 2008 (VMM) is the new Virtualization Management solution from Microsoft. VMM 2008 provides for centralized physical and virtual machine management, with support for both Microsoft and VMware Virtualization software. This lab will introduce VMM 2008, with an overview of the interface and the usages of management of Virtual Machines. Topics to be covered include creation of host systems and virtual machines, migration of virtual machines, as well as automation using Powershell.

    Technical Introduction to Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V
    Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V is the new Hypervisor software available with Windows Server 2008. Hyper-V provides a high-performance virtualization platform to leverage the rich capabilities of server virtualization. This lab will introduce Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V, with an overview of the installation, configuration, and operation of Hyper-V. Topics to be covered include configuration settings, creation of Virtual Machines (VMs), Virtual Hard Disks (VHD’s), configuration of Virtual Networks, as well as automation and security topics.

    Advanced Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V
    Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V is the new Hypervisor software available with Windows Server 2008. Hyper-V provides a high-performance virtualization platform to leverage the rich capabilities of server virtualization. This lab will cover advanced Hyper-V configuration, including clustering and quick migration of Virtual Machines.

    Windows Server 2008 Presentation Virtualization
    This lab is intended for IT professionals who wish to learn about the management, security and usability features available with Windows Server 2008 Presentation Virtualization. After completing this lab, you will know how to configure a TS Gateway computer to allow connections to an internal client from an external client. You will also learn how to configure a TS RemoteApp program, and access that program from outside the TS Gateway. Finally, you will learn how to implement TS Web Access on the TS Gateway computer and verify that you can use TS Web Access as a portal to access TS RemoteApp programs.

    Implementing Citrix XenDesktop with Hyper-V and SCVMM
    This lab is intended for IT Professional who wish to deploy virtual desktop computers using Hyper-V, System Center Virtual Machine Manager, and Citrix XenDesktop. You will work through the steps to simulate deploying multiple virtual desktops that will be used by bank employees. You will first capture a reference image using the Citrix Provisioning Server. You will then verify you can boot the computer from a diskless client PC. You will then create multiple virtual machines using the reference computer as a template. Finally you will use the Citrix Desktop Delivery Controller and System Center Virtual Machine manager to create a group of virtual desktops, and deploy them to thin clients running on bank computers. At the end of this lab you will have worked through all the steps required to implement Citrix XenDestkop using System Center Virtual Machine Manager and Hyper-V.

    Other lab topics included
    • Implementing Replaceable PCs for Mobile Workers Using Software Virtualization and Roaming Profiles
    • Microsoft Application Virtualization (Softgrid)
    • Technical Introduction to Data Protection Manager 2007 (200-level)
    • System Center Operations Manager 2007- Introduction
    • System Center Operations Manager 2007- Advanced Topics
    • Monitoring Unix/Linux with System Center Operations Manager 2007 Cross Platform Extensions Beta
    • Windows Server 2008: High Availability
    • Windows Server 2008: Remote infrastructure
    • Windows Server 2008: Security and Policy Enforcement
    • Windows Server 2008: Web and Application Platform
    • Windows Server 2008: Management

    *Free Microsoft evaluation software for all event attendees! You’ll take home an evaluation kit with versions of the latest virtualization products. The Microsoft Virtualization Evaluation Kit is available only for attendees of 2008 Microsoft Virtualization Launch event.

    **Registered attendees must be an IT Professional or IT Decision Maker and 18 years old by September 8, 2008 to attend this event. Limit one kit per person. All kits must be claimed at the event. This offer is non-transferrable and expires on December 31, 2008 while supplies last. Offer is not redeemable for cash. Taxes, if any, are the sole responsibility of the recipient.

  • Installing Windows Server 2008 x64 on the Lenovo ThinkPad W500

    ws2008 Now that I have the ThinkPad W500 back from the TS2 team, I decided to run back through the install of Windows Server 2008 Enterprise x64 using the instructions I documented for the ThinkPad T400.  As expected, the instructions are nearly identical.  In fact, the drivers for the W500 are the same as the T400 with the Webcam software being the only difference I could spot.

    Since the W500 I have doesn’t have the Verizon EVDO chip, I could not test the drivers but I wouldn’t expect to see any issues there.  See the updated instructions for the T400 if you are interested in that cell phone chipset.

    Be sure to checkout my mini review of the ThinkPad W500 at

  • Installing Windows Server 2008 x64 on the Lenovo ThinkPad T400

    T400 If you decide to flatten your Lenovo ThinkPad T400 or W500 and install another operating system, the good news is that all of the core drivers are on the Lenovo Support Downloads and Drivers area.  I installed two different operating systems to check this out.  Windows Server 2008 Enterprise x64 and Windows Vista Enterprise x64

    I did not install each and every software component you would normally see from Lenovo if you bought directly from them.  For instance, I do not install the Keyboard customizer or the Productivity Center.

    Usually for the server installs, I am perfectly happy installing the Ethernet driver, wireless, video drivers and a few other things and moving on.  Demonstrating Hyper-V doesn’t require all the fancy custom software.  However, the T400 and W500 require a little more work than my ThinkPad T61p.


    The ThinkPad T400 and W500 can be ordered with “switchable” graphics.  The only way to make the switch is to install the Power Management Utility.  Since this utility uses the .NET frameworks, care must be taken to install the Lenovo drivers and software in the correct order, or at least you need to make sure all of the prerequisites are installed unless you want to see the Power Management utility appcrash.  Since Windows Server 2008 does not have those prereqs installed by default, you will need to do that.  It’s covered in a couple of minutes in the instructions below.

    Instructions for Installation

    1. Download all of the drivers and software from the Lenovo Downloads and Drivers area for the T400 and Windows Vista to a USB stick or external drive.  I make it a practice to add a little name to the beginning of each driver package name since they are so cryptic.  See the screenshot below.  Keep in mind these are current as of 10/17/2008 but will obviously change as updates are published.image
    2. Install Windows Vista or Windows Server 2008.  You will of course need the media for this and I used the x64 version of the Enterprise VL media on both installs. 
    3. Install the Intel chipset drivers and reboot.  Running oss803ww.exe actually unpacks the drivers under c:\DRIVERS so pay attention to the directory created.  All of the Lenovo drivers do this so installing the driver is a two phase process for each one.  In the case of the chipset drivers, run c:\drivers\win\intelinf\infinst_autol.exe.
    4. The Intel ethernet driver does not install cleanly on Windows Server 2008 so the following is a workaround until Lenovo resolves this.  I hit the same issue on the ThinkPad W500. Run 7vrv15ww.exe to unpack the ethernet drivers to c:\drivers\vista\ethernet
    5. Start Server Manager and go to Device Manager.
    6. Right mouse click the banged out Ethernet Controller and click Update Driver Software
    7. Click browse my computer
    8. Click “Let me pick…”
    9. Select Network Adaptors and click next
    10. Click Have Disk
    11. Click Browse
    12. Go to c:\drivers\vista\ethernet\pro1000\winx64 and select e1y60x64.inf then click Open
    13. Click OK.
    14. Select Intel ® 82567LM-2 Gigabit Network Connection and click Next
    15. Click Yes on the warning and let the driver install.  Keep in mind this seems to work well enough right now but Lenovo engineering has been informed we would like to see this corrected.  At this point you should have wired networking so you might want to double check your Windows Update settings and prevent any patches or updates until you finish installing some of the remaining drivers.
    16. At this point I usually install the wireless driver.  On Windows Server 2008 you also need to install the feature that allows wireless networking.  We might as well install some other needed features while we are doing that so launch Server Manager again.
    17. Click the Features node then click Add Features.
    18. Add the .NET Framework 3.0, Desktop Experience, and Wireless LAN Service features.  The .NET framework is used by Lenovo Power Management and you’ll likely want the desktop experience if you plan to capture any demos with Techsmith Camtasia.
    19. Install the Intel wireless drivers using 7vwv15ww.exe and the resulting directory under c:\drivers.
    20. Install the Lenovo power management driver.
    21. Install the Lenovo system interface driver.
    22. Install the Lenovo power management utility.
    23. Install the ATI video drivers.  After all of the reboots from this driver and the drivers above you should be at a point where you can test the switchable graphics.  This is accomplished by left clicking the battery monitor running on the taskbar and selecting Switchable Graphics, then Energy Saving.  That will flip to the Intel video chipset.  Repeat and select High Performance to switch back to the ATI chipset.
    24. All of the drivers that remain are optional for Windows Server 2008.  I normally don’t install them because I have no need to.  I did try the Bluetooth drivers and could not get them to install so somebody else with have to figure out a workaround for that.  After installing the audio driver on Windows Server 2008, be sure to set the Windows Audio service to automatic and start it.

    The Windows Vista Enterprise x64 driver installs were much more straightforward.  I installed all of the drivers including the built-in webcam drivers and tested that with Office Communicator 2007.

    If you plan to use Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V with the ThinkPad T400, be sure to download the RTW version then add the role.  I installed Hyper-V, created a 64bit Windows Server 2008 Enterprise virtual machine and tested external networking across the T400 Ethernet card.  I didn’t spot any problems.

    The only driver I have not figured out on Windows Vista x64 is the “PCI Simple Communications Controller”.  I did a quick check on the internet and it appears I am not alone.  After digging around it appears to be resolved by installing the Intel AMT drivers.

    The process of installing Windows Server 2008 on the Lenovo ThinkPad W500 should be nearly identical except for the drivers you download and install might be slightly different.  I will be running through the process again and will post any significant errata I spot.  I already know you need to do the same thing with the Ethernet drivers, power management, etc.

    Next up, installing SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop…  wish me luck.  Grin.

    [UPDATE for 10/19]  FYI, the SUSE install did not go well on the T400.  I had to switch the SATA chipset from AHCI to Compatibility for the install to use the DVD drive.  The install didn’t recognize the wired, wireless, or video chipsets.  I really don’t have time to track down the kernel patches.

    Instead of spending time on Linux, I decided to spend the time to test the Verizon EVDO chipset and see if the cell connectivity works with both Windows Vista and Window Server 2008 Enterprise x64.  It does.  Make sure you run 7xwc16ww.exe and unpack everything to c:\drivers\C:\DRIVERS\WIN\WWANQL.  After that, be sure to run C:\DRIVERS\WIN\WWANQL\Driver\setup.exe and C:\DRIVERS\WIN\WWANQL\Firmware\setup.exe.  Once you have those drivers in place, you can download the Verizon VZAccess Manager from and install it.

    One other thing, for those of you wanting to install on a ThinkPad W500, the instructions above work.  The only driver difference I spotted was for the integrated webcam.

  • How about a $10,000 Dell laptop?


    Ok, this probably doesn’t qualify as a laptop.  But if you have money to blow and want the latest and greatest 17” machine on the market, what do you get?  How about the coveted Dell Precision M6400 Covet?  Here’s a sample shopping cart from the Dell buying site of one of the machines loaded with 16GB of memory.  I want it.  Someone buy me one.


  • Lenovo ThinkPad T400 - mini review

    T400 I have two of Lenovo’s latest and greatest machines sitting here side by side.  If I were forced to choose between the two of them, it would be a hard choice.  Since I already did a short review of the ThinkPad W500, let’s focus on the T400 for this article.  The ThinkPad T400 I have is model 2767-R9U.  Click the picture for a high resolution image.


    The T400 I received has the “switchable graphics.”  What this really means is that is contains two video chipsets and you can switch back and forth between them.  The T400 I tested has the ATI™ Mobility Radeon™ HD 3470 and the Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 4500MHD video chipsets.  The Intel chipset is used for battery consumption.  The ATI chipset is used for high performance graphics.


    The T400 screen is a beautiful 14.1" WXGA+ (1440x900) color, anti-glare, LED backlight, 250 nits, 16:10 aspect ratio, 300:1 contrast ratio screen.  This screen is much brighter than the W500 I have.  I also like the clarity, color and contrast much better.  It is very similar in quality to the T61p screens I have.  Probably better.  Like I mentioned in the W500 article, picking a screen is a really subjective decision but I can tell you this screen and the 1680x1050 T61p screens I have are much better than the 1920x1200.


    The T400 came configured with 2GB of DDR3 memory.  It uses PC3-8500 1066MHz DDR3 204 pin memory sticks.  You can see from the Windows Vista WinSAT results those memory sticks are fast.

    In fact, you can see the ThinkPad T400 puts up some impressive performance numbers.  For comparison purposes, take a look at the numbers for my T61p.  The T400 whips the T61p handily on the CPU and memory scores.  That means it’s going to be faster at encoding video and other CPU intensive chores.  The speedy memory is going to help ship those bits around the express bus.

    CaptureAs with the W500, finding 4GB memory sticks is going to be a bit of a challenge.  We’re at the beginning of the technology curve for DDR3 laptop memory so you’ll have a tough time finding sticks from any supplier at the moment.  Kingston and I traded email on the subject today so see the update at the bottom.


    If you look closely at the high resolution picture (click the thumbnail above) of the ThinkPad T400, you’ll see two vertical USB ports on the left side of the machine.  You’ll also notice there is no DisplayPort connector like the W500 has.  The VGA, ethernet and modem ports are also on the left side.  The model I received also has the 7in1 media card reader on the left instead of a smartcard or PCMCIA slot.  Some people I know would prefer a smartcard slot.  Other folks would like a PCMCIA slot.  Those are all options from Lenovo.

    On the front of the machine you’ll notice the IEEE 1394 firewire port and plugs for headphones and a microphone.  On the right side of the machine (not in the picture) is another vertical USB port.  I wish Lenovo had engineered the W500 in the same manner considering this is my preferred location to plug in a mouse.  Keep in mind all of the USB ports are in a vertical configuration so if you are using USB connected cell devices for internet connections, make sure to carry a USB extension cable.


    Back to the meat of the machine.  The machine I received has the Intel® Core™ 2 Duo processor T9600 1066MHz system bus 6MB L2 cache processor.  In short, it’s fast.  Much faster than my lowly T61p T7500.  Plenty of horsepower for just about anything you plan to throw at it.  In fact, the model T400 I am using has the same proc as the W500 sitting next to it.

    Case, Keyboard and Power

    The T400 case construction is rock solid like the T61p and W500.  The keyboard rocks.  I have seen some complaints on the internet about the T400 keyboard but the one I received seems identical in every way to the other ThinkPad keyboards I have.  Therefore I am not sure what is going on with the complaints.  I certainly don’t have one.

    A lot of emphasis has been placed on green computing with this machine and there are all sorts of power management profiles and “battery stretch” capabilities.  This machine advertises up to 9.8 hours of battery life with the 9cell battery.  I am going to test that this weekend and see how close I get to that number.

    Which brings me to my first complaint about the T400, or rather, the battery.  The 9cell battery is big and sort of ugly.  Since I don’t use battery power very often, I would rather order this machine with the flush 4cell battery and maybe keep a 9cell around for long trips. 

    See for a deeper discussion of the batteries that are available, weight, what they look like, etc.  See the full specifications on the website or in the tabook.pdf for the other models available from Lenovo, their specs and available options.

    OS Checks

    As expected, the machine arrived with Windows Vista Business x86.  I created the factory disk set and tested that the disks would put the machine back to factory shipped specs.  You should be aware that the factory config will partition your drive into three partitions for recovery and rollback purposes.

    I flattened the machine and tested that Windows Server 2008 x64 would install and run Hyper-V.  It runs Hyper-V very nicely. I also flattened it again and installed Windows Vista Enterprise x64 and all of the drivers to make sure everything that was needed was present on Lenovo’s download area.  There’s only one device I haven’t figured out yet (simple communications driver).  I see some posts on the Lenovo forums that indicate I am not alone.

    I am going to do a completely separate post(s) on the OS installations for Vista x64, Windows Server 2008 x64, and possibly SUSE Linux.  So check back on my blog for those in a few days.

    Things Not tested

    There were a couple of things I would have liked to test that didn’t make it into his review.  First of all, I would have preferred to receive both the T400 and W500 with 8GB of PC-8500 memory.  I know several employees in Microsoft will want to run this way.  But that wasn’t in the cards for this go around.  I’m sure I’ll hear plenty if there are any issues.  If there are, I’ll update this blog post with that information.

    I also have not received the Ultrabay Hard Drive Adaptor II that is supposed to allow for full SATA II 3.0GB throughput from a second hard drive.  Hopefully it will arrive before they need the machine back.  If it does, I plan to do some I/O tests to see how big a difference it really makes.


    If you are looking for a new machine and were worried about the replacement for the T61p, there’s no need to worry.  As expected the Lenovo ThinkPad T400 is a rock solid machine.  It’s a smaller slightly less powerful (video card) version of the W500 and for those of you that travel a lot, this machine should be on your short list.  Considering it is every bit as powerful as my ThinkPad T61p, I’m sure you are going to be happy running whatever operating system you choose.  The backlit LED screen is awesome.  1440x900 is the perfect resolution for the 14.1” widescreen and it is bright and clear. 

    Have fun trying to pick between the T400 and the W500.  I prefer the wider 15.4” screen and the 1680x1050 resolution.  But that means a slightly bigger and heavier machine.  I think if most people could play with them side-by-side, the T400 would win it’s share of the sales.  Enjoy either.

    [10/20 Update]  FYI, I received some email from Kingston (Jason Grubb). He is trying to get some 4GB sticks over to me as soon as he can but I don’t know if I’ll get them before I have to send these machines back.  When I have public information on parts and pricing I’ll share it at the bottom of this post or another post. 

    [10/20 Update]  I just completed a couple of interesting battery tests.  On the first test, I set the T400 in battery stretch mode then made a few tweaks like not allowing the machine to sleep, turned of indexing, defrag, etc.  It ran for 13.5 hours at idle.  I then recharged the battery and did a sustained DVD playback test using the extended Lord of the Rings DVD set.  The T400 played for nearly 5 hours.  Right at 4 hours 45 minutes.  That puts you well into the Two Towers.  Not bad.  Won’t get you from Dallas to Honolulu, but certainly well into your backlog of email.

  • Microsoft Volume Licensing Reference Guide

    It’s no wonder I am a little clueless on Volume Licensing.  Volume licensing is a pretty complicated maze but fortunately a nice new guide has just been published on the subject and it’s only 79 pages.  Only.

    Here’s the abstract from the download:

    The Microsoft Volume Licensing Reference Guide provides comprehensive guidance to help you select the best options for the size, type, and business needs of your organization. This 79-page document details each of the Microsoft Volume Licensing programs in addition to covering the basics of product licensing and Microsoft Software Assurance. Each chapter includes case studies, tips, and next steps to assist you with the decision-making process. An excellent resource for those who want an in-depth look at Microsoft Volume Licensing and the ability to easily compare programs.

    Go get it @

  • Windows Server 2008 NPS Technical reference

    The Windows Server 2008 Network Policy Server (NPS) Technical Reference provides information describing what NPS is, how NPS works, and NPS tools and settings. NPS is the Microsoft implementation of Remote Authentication Dial-In User Service (RADIUS), which provides authorization and authentication services for remote access clients. This technical reference also contains information about Network Access Protection (NAP) and its relationship to NPS, as well as some planning and deployment information about NPS.

    Get it @

  • Microsoft Security Assessment Tool 4.0 now available for download

    The Microsoft Security Assessment Tool 4.0 is the revised version of the original Microsoft Security Risk Self-Assessment Tool (MSRSAT), released in 2004 and the Microsoft Security Assessment Tool 2.0 released in 2006. Security issues have evolved since 2004 so additional questions and answers were needed to ensure you had a comprehensive toolset to become more aware of the evolving security threat landscape that could impact your organization.

    The tool employs a holistic approach to measuring your security posture by covering topics across people, process, and technology. Findings are coupled with prescriptive guidance and recommended mitigation efforts, including links to more information for additional industry guidance. These resources may assist you in keeping you aware of specific tools and methods that can help change the security posture of your IT environment.

    There are two assessments that define the Microsoft Security Assessment Tool:

    • Business Risk Profile Assessment
    • Defense in Depth Assessment (UPDATED)

    The questions identified in the survey portion of the tool and the associated answers are derived from commonly accepted best practices around security, both general and specific. The questions and the recommendations that the tool offers are based on standards such as ISO 17799 and NIST-800.x, as well as recommendations and prescriptive guidance from Microsoft’s Trustworthy Computing Group and additional security resources valued in the industry.

    After completing an Assessment, you will gain access to a detailed report of your results. You may also compare your results with those of your peers (by industry and company size), provided that you upload your results anonymously to the secure MSAT Web server. When you upload your data the application will simultaneously retrieve the most recent data available. To be able to provide this comparative data, we need customers such as you to upload their information. All information is kept strictly confidential and no personally identifiable information whatsoever will be sent. For more information on Microsoft's privacy policy, please visit:

    Get it @

  • Thumbs up or down for the new Macs?

    0810macbook_famMy current MacBook Pro is coming up on it’s one year anniversary.  It’s hardly old and in pristine shape.  I baby all the machines I have.  Scratch free is a good thing if you decide to sell.  But should I sell the one I have?

    Today Steve Jobs took the wraps of the new machines.  There’s plenty to like so I’ll start with the good stuff and work my way to the puzzles.  Since I haven’t actually seen one up close and personal, some of this will be a paper based review.  But some of it will be based on experience with other machines.

    The Case

    First and foremost, I like the new cases.  Like my MacBook Pro, you just know before you even touch one that they are going to be velvety smooth to the touch.  Luxurious.  You can tell by looking at the picture below and on the Apple site.  Attention to detail was job one.    Tight tolerances.  Sleek lines.  And Apple Marketing is all over it in their descriptions.  Comparing the process of building the new MacBook Pro to a spacecraft.  Just be careful you aren’t paying spacecraft prices.  We’ll look at that in a bit.

    imageYou notice a new and drastic change for the MacBook Pro.  In the picture above you see the new machine closed.  It looks similar in many ways to the machine I have.  Silver and kewl.  Obviously of Apple heritage.  But when you open it, there is a very different look.  Before we get to that and before I forget, don’t forget the bottom of the machine.  Apple has changed the bottom to give you better access for hard drive upgrades.  Finally.

    The Screen and GPU

    The first thing about the new look that is going to jump out at you is the glass glossy screen with the black bezel around it.  I haven’t seen the real deal yet but according to the descriptions, the backlit screen color and contrast is stellar.  And Apple has added new high powered NVIDIA GeForce 9600M video chipset to drive that beautiful screen on the MacBook Pro, and the 9400M for the MacBook.  The MacBook Pro actually has both GPUs and will use the 9400M for battery conservation.

    Apple also did the right thing in my opinion by moving to a mini DisplayPort for external monitor and projector connections.  Those connectors are going to run you $29-$99 extra since they didn’t include any with the machine this time around.  Most people with get the $29 VGA connector and move on.


    The keyboard has changed.  It’s black.  Big deal.  However, the new touchpad is a very big deal.  It’s a multi-touch glass device.  You know, like having an iPhone built-in to your MacBook.  This obviously has a lot of thought put into it.  I mean think about it.  We’ve been bitching about the single button for years.  What does Apple do?  They remove the freaking button.  That is just precious.


    Connections and ExpansionI’ve seen a lot of bitching about the ports on the new machine.  Whining about the mini DisplayPort.  A lot of noise about dropping IEEE 1394 (Firewire).  Not enough USB ports.  Then I realized they were talking about the MacBook, not the MacBook Pro.  The MacBook Pro has a Firewire 800 port as indicated in the picture at right.  The MacBook Pro also has a 34mm ExpressCard slot so you could add the Firewire even if it didn’t have the 800 port.

    Here’s the problem as I see it.  Power users, especially those that want high speed external hard drive connections are going to want to use eSATA cards.  Since Apple didn’t include a built-in eSATA port like Dell, an ExpressCard slot and card would be required.  That automatically excludes the 13” MacBook from consideration.  On the other hand a USB 2.0 connection to a hard drive is more typical of the majority of users.  So is the lack of a Firewire port and ExpressCard slot a show stopper for a power user?  Probably not, but I thought you should be aware of these differences.  Something to consider.

    Gripes on Looks

    MacBookPro 2007 Time to add some of the Cons as I see them.  In the beginning of this post I started talking about appearance.  I prefer the all silver look of my circa November 2007 MacBook Pro.  I like the silver keyboard. 

    If precision aluminum is the new gold standard, why didn’t Apple stick with silver?  Was it impossible to put a silver bezel around the screen?  If that’s the case, then I can understand the black keyboard.  I certainly hope it looks better in person because the pictures don’t excite me. 

    My ThinkPad is solid black.  Next thing you know Lenovo is going to start making two tone ThinkPads.  Ok, that will probably be a cold day in hell.  I must admit though, the new MacBook does look better than the white or black models of old.  I guess it’s the Pro that confuses me.

    Technical Gripes

    Where’s the Blu-ray drive option?  I mean come on Apple.  Do you really expect everyone to buy ALL of their video via iTunes and download it?  Well of course you do, but it would be mighty big of you to consider the one and only high def disk standard in your high end product.  It doesn’t have to be a burner, but a player would have been a nice option.

    Where’s the Quad Core?  Are you really going to let Dell and the other OEMs out gun you in performance this time around?  On the last wave of MacBook Pros the common comment was “the fastest laptop made”.  Are you even close this time around or is it time to be pragmatic?  Frankly, unless you really nailed the cooling on this machine it’s probably better that you didn’t add a Quad option to the 15.4” MacBook Pro.

    Where’s the certified 8GB or 16GB RAM configuration?  I know a lot of people running Parallels or Fusion for virtualization and could really use more than 4GB of memory.  I understand DDR3 1066MHz 4GB SoDIMMs are highly constrained right now, but it would have been great to at least see some certification in the specs for this go around with some comments about the supply side of the problem.  All of the other laptop makers are in the same boat, but at least many of the other OEMs are creating 8GB configurations.  Dell went crazy and has a 16GB monster coming.

    I know, a lot of this is likely to show up in an updated 17” MacBook Pro.  Where’s the updated 17” MacBook Pro? 

    And about the darn screen.  First of all, sticking with a 15.4” LCD screen at a native resolution of 1440x900 is pretty lame if you ask me.  That’s a great resolution at 14.1” but at 15.4” it really should be 1680x1050.  Especially for the price of the Pro.  And what’s with the glossy screen?  Have fun with that in airports and other situations with overhead lighting.  I’ll keep the matte finish of my current MacBook Pro and every other laptop I have.


    All I’m going to say about price is that money is in short supply, and the new Macs aren’t cheap.  I kept hearing about a MacBook in the $799-899 range.  The new 4GB RAM MacBook is $1749.  That’s a long way from even $899. 

    So back to one of the first questions in this post.  Should I sell my current MacBook Pro and run out and buy the new machine?  In my case the answer is absolutely not.  My MacBook Pro has at least 2-3 years left in it.

    So I guess we’ll see if the new machines are widely accepted and adored.  Apple has a good track record of late, but I’m not so sure about these machines at the current prices.  It will be interesting to see how quickly they start discounting them.  I wouldn’t look for any killer deals until after Christmas, but then again, larger economic forces may have an impact before then.  I don’t see many people spending a lot of cash right now.

    [UPDATE for 10/19]  I stopped by the local Apple store here in Southlake and spent about 20 minutes looking at the new 13” MacBook.  As suspected, it’s a great looking machine closed.  I don’t really care for it opened.  I like my MacBook Pro better.  Glossy isn’t for everyone and it certainly isn’t for me.

  • I wonder if Apple solved their heat issues

    Brick In a few more days Apple is expected to announce the details of their updated notebook line.  Speculation has been rampant about a variety of new features expected to debut.  Maybe Apple will have a tablet PC style device this time around.  Maybe Apple has this or that.  I’ll be interested to know if they’ve improved two things.

    First, I can’t wait to see the reviews to see if they spent some of those profits fixing the thermal issues with the MacBook Pro line of machines.  My machine could fry an egg after routine use and I would never refer to it as a laptop.  You definitely need a heat shield of some sort if you are going to consider using it on your bare legs. I wear shorts nearly year round here in Texas so it’s a must.

    Second, I wonder if Apple got a clue and improved the LCD screen native resolution on the 15.4” Macs.  Hopefully this round of machines will have 1680x1050 as their native resolution like many of the competing products on the market.  The current batch isn’t terrible, but it isn’t great either.  Time will tell and it appears we don’t need to wait much longer to find out.

  • MVP Screencast Contest now live

    As I indicated a few days ago, we have some cool prizes and the first contest started today.  Matt Hester has all of the details on his blog.  Like all Microsoft contests, there are official rules.  As you can see from the details on his blog, we are limiting the participation for this first contest to the US MVP’s. 

    mvp_contest We are doing that for several reasons.  First of all, Matt and I wanted to get through the legal process, purchasing process, etc. with a group that would be flexible with us if we made some mistakes.  So it’s really a learning process for us right now.

    We want to have a similar contest early next year and expand the scope so that we can bring in more of the experts in the community, beyond MVPs.  Unfortunately it will still be restricted to the US and I know a lot of you that read my blog are on other parts of the planet.  Sorry in advance.

    For those of you that want to participate down the road, it’ll likely be a screencast contest so you might look into the tools of the trade for doing demo captures.  The end result needs to be Silverlight compatible (.WMV).  Camtasia 5.x is the tool I use but there are others.

    Until then, sit back and relax.  Let’s see if the MVP’s bite and decide to participate, what they produce, and the end results.  We gave them a lot of room for creativity and we didn’t solve all the problems for them.  Should be fun to see what happens.  I hope you enjoy the show.

  • Microsoft US TechDays – registration open

    TechDays If technology is the backbone of your business, you won't want to miss out on the TechDays '08 event in Washington DC. Filled with exclusive product information presented by insider experts, TechDays '08 will show developers, IT professionals, IT executives, and partners how Microsoft technology can take their business to the next level.

    Whether you attend just one day or all three, you'll walk away with a greater understanding of the business value of Microsoft's technology solutions. Plus, you'll have the chance to take a closer look at Microsoft's latest development tools and technologies.

    Get more information at each link below including a detailed agenda for each day, registration links, etc.

    Washington D.C. – 10/28 – 10/30 – info @

    Costa Mesa, CA – 11/11 – 11/13 – info @

    Dallas, TX – 11/18 – 11/20 – info @  This link will be live shortly.

    Here’s how Rodney Clark, the GM for Microsoft Across America, describes the TechDays event series.

  • SharePoint Server 2007 Whitepapers now available


    Microsoft® Office SharePoint® Server 2007 Workflow solution delivers highly flexible tools like InfoPath Forms Services for data collection and workflow interaction and SharePoint® Designer for easy workflow design and customization including robust out of the box features to enable the rapid deploy solutions across the enterprise.

    Get the workflow whitepaper @

    Records Management

    Microsoft delivers a records management platform that can be extended to every information worker. By viewing retention and records management as a component of the overall document lifecycle, organizations can reduce risk and improve compliance with increased adoption of records management practices.

    Get it @

    Document Management

    Microsoft delivers an integrated solution that extends document management to all employees. By recognizing that a document’s lifecycle begins the moment it is created and does not end until it is destroyed, organizations can achieve wide adoption and enforcement of enterprise standards, resulting in decreased management costs and reduced corporate risk.

    Get it @

    Web Content Management (WCM)

    Microsoft delivers a WCM solution that combines the rich features of a traditional content management system with a unified, enterprise WCM platform—all delivered with the usability of Microsoft® Office SharePoint® Server 2007.

    Get it @

  • Windows Vista Springboard Performance roundtable transcript

    vista_wallpaper A few days ago I posted the video to the latest Springboard Series episode on Windows Vista performance.  It’s actually a pretty interesting 60 minutes video.  The transcript is now available and I’m sure you’ll want to dig around in it.

    Here’s the abstract for this particular episode:

    “Transcript from the 9/24/2008 Springboard Series Virtual Roundtable, "Under the Hood: Windows Vista Performance...Need Answers?" hosted by Mark Russinovich. From boot times and applets to common "misconfigurations" and how to fix them, Mark and a panel of customer IT pros and subject matter experts discuss how to optimize Windows Vista and what IT pros can do to improve overall system performance.”

    I’d be interested to know what you thought of the video.

    Get the transcript @

  • Halo 3 Recon Details Emerge

    Bungie has several projects underway within the studio, one of which is a brand new campaign experience for Halo 3 that they teased about two weeks ago. They have lifted some of the shroud of secrecy and shed a little more light on what they’ve been working on.  Here’s the peek…

    Click the big Start button to start the download, then click the Play button to actually play the video.  Enjoy.

  • We are giving away a Lenovo ThinkPad T61p

    t61pRight now I am installing Windows Vista Ultimate x64 on a Lenovo ThinkPad T61p.  I’ll add all of the drivers, service packs and fixes, verify it works properly on my network, etc.

    Then we are going to give it away on or about December 19th, 2008.  Just call me Keith “Santa Claus” Combs.  Matt's the Elf.  Ho Ho Ho.

    What’s the catch? 

    Well, Matt Hester and I will be announcing all of the details very soon on our blogs so stay tuned. Matt will be the keeper of the official rules, status, etc.  In the meantime, you can lust over the following specs of the machine we are giving away. 

    It’s a Lenovo ThinkPad T61p model 6458-F55.  This particular model is a Microsoft specific SKU but it includes the Intel® Core™ 2 Duo processor T9300, 4GB of RAM, 160GB 7200rpm hard drive, 15.4" WSXGA+ (1680x1050), 200 nits, 16:10 aspect ratio, 500:1 contrast ratio wide screen display, internal Ultrabay DVD burner, NVIDIA® Quadro® FX 570M, PCI Express® x16, 256MB memory video chipset, Mobile Intel PM965 Express Chipset, 9 cell extended life battery, and has three USB 2.0 ports, IEEE 1394 firewire port, a PCMCIA slot, an ExpressCard slot and fingerprint reader.

    In short, one killer machine.  Sorry, I’m all out of 4GB SoDIMM sticks so I won’t be giving it away loaded with 8GB of RAM. 

    Sound good?  Oh, and that’s not all.  We are also giving away a 60GB XBOX 360.  Is that kewl or what?  Oh, we aren’t stopping there.  We’re also giving away a 120GB Zune.  And a 8GB Zune.  Sound good now?

    And if you don’t qualify for this first round and win, I’m going to build another brand new machine and give it away early next year.  And we have another XBOX and Zunes for that contest as well.  Assuming of course you can pry all of these goodies from my cold dead hands.  Grin. 

    Stay tuned for more details… coming very soon.

  • New TechNet Subscription promo code – TMSAM07

    tnplus For those of you looking to kick the tires on some of our latest products, there’s really no better way than to purchase a TechNet Plus subscription.  The TechNet Plus Direct download area has nearly everything you could want in .ISO disk formats.

    As you can see in the picture, the US price is $349.  How about a better deal?  Ok, you got it!!!

    Click the picture and it will take you to the area to get started with the purchase.  Be sure to use TMSAM07 as the promo code to get an extra %15 knocked off.  If you are in a country outside the US, you are welcome to try the code.  It varies by subsidiary and I can’t guarantee it will work.

    You can also use the code for renewals.  It doesn’t add any additional discount to the already great renewal rates set by your locale, but it does help us understand who reads our blogs across the planet.

  • My Headset Search is Complete

    The thought of spending relatively big dollars for a headset still seems odd to me.  However, airplanes are really noisy and wouldn’t you pay to reduce the noise and enjoy your music or a video more?

    shure se210 Of course you would and a quick look around most flights will show you that a lot of other people will, too.  The real question is what to get?  That’s really going to depend on you.  I discovered on my latest journey that I really don’t like the big or small cups you see in the Bose headsets.  My ears get hot so after a while they aren’t comfortable to me.

    Ear buds to the rescue.  I’ve been using them for several years now, but until last week I was too cheap to buy an expensive set.  I figured they can’t be that much better, right?  Well I’m not so Shure.

    Microsoft employees get a killer discount on Shure products.  There’s just one problem.  You have to fax in the order and wait an undetermined amount for them to arrive.  I have a long trip coming up at the end of this month so I wanted to find something now.  I purchased a set of the Shure SE210 ear buds.  You can get them for around $100 if you shop for an online sale.  I paid a little more. than that.

    The SE210’s are really nice.  I wanted to get the SE310’s but I didn’t think the extra expense was warranted for what I need.  I could see buying the 310’s with my discount, but I took some 1600 mile flights  in the past couple of days and wanted to try something.  The SE210’s get the job done.

    The first thing you notice about the Shure ear buds is that they ship more tip options in the box than most other makers.  You get all sorts of sizes and materials.  I really like the foam tips.  You squeeze the tip and compress it, insert, then let the tip fill the ear.  This provides a great seal and locks out most of the airplane noise.  Crank up some volume and drown out the rest. 

    I wore them for four hours and the foam tips were still very comfortable.  They should be a fine pair to enjoy on my coming trips.

  • Register for the SQL Server 2008 Roadshow – act now!

    Come and learn more about SQL Server 2008 and the new enhanced capabilities of the product.  We will be exploring security and database management, how to best manage your data, and what’s new in business intelligence with SQL Server 2008. 

    Don’t miss this half-day event that will give you a better understanding of what Microsoft SQL Server 2008 has to offer and how you can best put it to use at your company. 

    Roadshow cities include:

    10/14 - Minneapolis, MN
    10/14 - Columbus, OH
    10/16 - St. Louis, MO
    10/16 - Chicago, IL
    10/21 - Indianapolis, IN
    SQLServer200810/22 - Detroit, MI
    10/29 - Portland, OR
    10/31 - Seattle, WA
    11/04 - Phoenix, AZ
    11/06 - Denver, CO
    11/11 - Washington DC
    11/11 - Costa Mesa, CA
    11/11 - New York, NY
    11/12 - Philadelphia, PA
    11/12 - Burlington, MA
    11/12 - Houston, TX
    11/13 - Atlanta, GA
    11/20 - Dallas, TX

  • Ironman looks great on Blu-ray

    Ironman As much as I would have liked to see HD-DVD succeed, I ended up caving and getting a Blu-ray disk player.  I purchased the Sony BDP-S350 player and have been enjoying it.  When I purchased the player a few weeks ago, I picked up a few titles but considering I already owned their SD equivalents I figured I’d wait until a good new title arrived before I wrote about it.

    Ironman arrived in stores this week and BestBuy had it for a “great” price.  If you’ve been tracking prices you’ll know I’m being sarcastic considering the prices of Blu-ray titles are pretty expensive.  I also said had because the title sold out in my area very quickly and I ended up getting the title at a store by my office.

    As expected, the movie looks great on my 58” DLP set.  The color and contrast look very nice and the sound is awesome.  I had a chance to compare the move in three different settings. 

    Charles Van Huesen has a 73” Mitsubishi set at his house.  But Charles doesn’t have a Blu-ray player so I watched a few portions of the movie on his big screen in standard definition (upscaled) with his rocking sound system.  The explosions rattle the house and neighbors.  His sound system is far better than mine and adds some punch to the movie.

    But the Blu-ray title is superior and adds some clarity so as soon as Charles returns the Lenovo ThinkPad W500 I loaned him, he’ll get the Blu-ray demo and you can imagine what’s going to happen after that.  I mean come on, if he can afford a 73” HDTV, he can afford a $300 Blu-ray player.  So much for the college fund for Austin.  Grin.

    I am also watching the movie right now on my Dell XPS 420 using the 24” and 27” I have.  Looks great on both although it looks much better on the big screen.  I’m looking forward to other titles that will be coming out this fall.  Now if we can just get them to reduce the prices of the movies, maybe they’ll see more adoption of the tech.  Right now it’s a pretty expensive proposition.  Enjoy.

  • Road warrior tools – Polycom CX100

    polycom_cx100 Ever wish you had a speaker phone when you were traveling?  Do you hate to use hotel phones?  Want to make long distance calls from your laptop?

    What’s stopping you?

    If you are using Microsoft Office Communicator 2007 and some of the other cool products and services we offer in the unified communication line of products, you’re nearly all the way down that path. 

    But you need one last piece of hardware and Polycom has just the ticket.  Check out the Polycom CX100.  It’s a compact little speaker phone that is about the size and weight of an external USB 2.5” hard drive.  It’s actually slightly bigger than a lot of the cases on the market now, but you get the idea.

    I just received mine today in the mail and will be taking it with me when I travel to Seattle Sunday for some events at Angelbeat.  I’ll also show it off there.  Looking forward to that.

    Thanks to John Weston for scoring the goodies for everyone on my team.

  • Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 RTW’s – download now

    Microsoft® Hyper-V™ Server 2008 is a stand-alone product that provides a simplified, reliable, cost-effective and optimized virtualization solution enabling organizations to improve server utilization and reduce costs. It allows organizations to consolidate workloads onto a single physical server and is a good solution for organizations who want a basic and simplified virtualization solution for consolidating servers as well as for development and test environments. Low utilization infrastructure workloads, departmental applications and simple branch office workloads are also candidates to virtualize using Hyper-V Server 2008.

    Hyper-V Server 2008 is a cost-effective solution that is convenient because it plugs into existing IT infrastructures enabling companies to reduce costs, improve utilization and provision new servers. It allows IT professionals to leverage existing patching, provisioning, management and support tools and processes. IT Professionals can continue to leverage their individual skills and the collective knowledge of Microsoft tools, minimizing the learning curve to manage Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008. In addition, with Microsoft providing comprehensive support for Microsoft applications and heterogeneous guest operating systems support, customers can virtualize with confidence and peace of mind.

    Go get it @

  • Gears of War 2 – Special Edition 120GB Zune


    If only it was a phone, too!!!  Click the pic for more pictures and information.