Keith Combs' Blahg

Ramblings from another nerd on the grid

December, 2008

  • Verizon Samsung Omnia - first impressions

    In the initial first day of use with the Verizon Samsung Omnia, I was pretty frustrated.  Much of that frustration was misplaced and was a hold over of the HTC Touch Pro I now have boxed and ready for return.  What lowered my frustration with the Omnia?  The first is clearly seeing that a device with no keyboard must be used differently.  If it weren't for the ability to assign key commands for two keys, I would have already boxed the Omnia back up as well.  So let me give you a run down on what I've learned and unlearned in the past three days.

    VZ Samsung OMNIA The OS and a few tricks

    I've been using the Windows Mobile operating system for a pretty long time now.  Now to be perfectly clear, I've always been a Smartphone guy, not a Pocket PC guy.  I prefer single handed operation without a stylus.  So as you might imagine, using Windows Mobile Professional 6.1 on a device with no keyboard, four buttons, and an optical mouse presents a huge challenge for me.  What I realized after using the Omnia for three days is that Windows Mobile really needs a very different UI for devices like this.  Thankfully Samsung did something about that and built an extension to the WinMo Today screen (pictured at left).

    As you can see in the screenshot at left, the Samsung Today screen has twelve easy to use icons that allow you to launch an application or take you to another set of panels to run programs or change system settings.  So far with the Omnia I haven't even cracked open the stylus and used it with the device because there's no need for one.  The screenshot at left is doctored.  It's the standard Samsung Omnia pic with the Samsung Today screen (actual) layered over the top of it.  So about the only difference in the pic and the real unit sitting in front of me is the lack of the VZ logo and the fact the VZ unit doesn't have a front facing camera.

    I made several subtle changes to the the settings of the device that helped enormously.  There are two buttons on the right side of the Omnia.  One for the Main Menu and one for the Camera.  I decided to change the Main Menu button so that it's press action is actually <OK/Close> instead.  This change is very useful for going back, or closing an email message without exiting Outlook.  It's nearly impossible to press the little X in the top right hand corner of the screen otherwise.  The UI for Windows Mobile will need to be changed in the future to account for difficulties like this. 

    Since the Main menu is frequently used, I also changed the Camera button action so that it goes to the Main menu when pressed.  You can still get to the camera functions via this button but you must press the button and hold it to do so.  Now with both of those changes, one handed operation of the device is MUCH easier.

    I also decided I like the optical mouse button to act like a mouse.  The default setting is four way navigation but after making the button changes above, I decided having a mouse was more useful for that button. We'll talk about a couple of other matters regarding input in a few minutes when we talk about the soft keyboard.  But first, let's talk about the overall device looks, screen, battery life, etc.

    Groundbreaking Looks?

    This phone looks familiar to another device on the market.  Hmm.  I wonder which one?  The Samsung Omnia shell is slightly smaller than the iPhone.  Not much smaller though.  The screen on the Omnia is 3.2" while the iPhone is 3.5".  In other words, the form factor is nearly identical.  Coincidence?  I doubt it.

    The Omnia is a nice looking phone.  Chrome edges around the screen in the front are a nice touch.  The black back has a slight texture making it pretty easy to hold on to and cut down on fingerprints.  The pic just below is from the Samsung stock of photos and lacks the Verizon logo on my unit.

    The screen is nice and bright although it suffers from a relatively low resolution.  It isn't bad.  It just isn't a super high resolution screen.  Regarding the brightness, the screen comes dangerously close to being unusable in bright sunlight.  Regarding the resolution, colors and contrast, I am withholding judgement until I've had a chance to watch some video on it.  More on the video later.

    Samsung OMNIA - croppedSo while the unit isn't probably breaking any new ground here, it's a nice looking and feeling phone.  I don't think the screen material is nearly as nice as the iPhone or other phones I've seen and seems to be a common complaint in the reviews I've read before I received mine.  I guess it remains to be seen how well the material will hold up to the wear and tear of a touch screen.

    Battery Life

    So far the battery has been doing a good job.  I have not really put it though it's paces yet, but it doesn't appear that the usage of the screen sucks the battery as badly as the HTC Touch Pro.  I am running a series of battery tests this week and will have a much better idea in a few days on any shortcomings if they become apparent. 

    Regarding the battery testing, I do plan to run some sustained video playback tests with this phone.  I figure if you are going to include DivX decoding support and a large screen, you are certainly inviting folks to use it to watch movies and video from the Internet or your private collections.  So I'll be torturing the little guy this week in your honor and report back on how well it faired, or not.

    Until that happens I'll be doing the usual battery tests with Exchange ActiveSync set to check for messages every fifteen minutes during prime time, and every thirty minutes otherwise.  After I get done running some of those tests, I set things to Direct Push always connected and see if it has a material impact.

    The Applications

    The application mix is pretty much the standard set for a Windows Mobile Pro 6.1 device.  Noticeably absent compared to the Sprint Touch Pro device is the Live Search and GPS apps.  In fact, the GPS capability on the Omnia appears to be locked to the Verizon VZ Navigator GPS application.  The problem I have with the application is the additional $9.99 USD they want per month for using the feature.  It probably isn't a show stopper for me, but I won't be paying the extra money for the feature.

    The Omnia comes with two web browsers.  Pocket IE and Opera.  Opera is pretty nice and easy to work with on the screen.  Panning and zooming is straightforward.  I won't be spending hours reading the news on this screen, but it certainly gets the job done in a taxi or train.

    With the large screen of the Omnia, reading and responding to email is pretty easy.  Portrait mode is great for looking at the list of messages.  Flipping over to landscape for replies is super easy and the soft keyboard seems to work nicely.  The screen size is also going to come in handy while viewing spreadsheet data with Excel.

    The Verizon Omnia also comes with a Touch Player audio/video playback application.  I copied a DivX .AVI video from my Archos 605 WIFI PMP to the Omnia and it would not play.  I am now looking for the precise video specifications the Omnia supports.  I was surprised it didn't play the video.  If someone spots the video specs that are supported, let me know.

    The Phone

    The phone functions of the Verizon Samsung Omnia are very good.  Call quality and clarity is excellent. I have no problems using the phone in single handed operation with one very big exception.

    With my previous phones, finding a contact in my contacts list is very easy.  Press a couple of characters on the keypad to filter the list on last name, or simply scroll the list quickly with a navigation pad.  Neither technique is easy on the Omnia, especially if driving.  If you are driving it's really rather impossible.  I am going to have to investigate voice commands more deliberately as a result.  Or simply don't attempt to use the contact list while driving.

    For those of you that like to use headsets, you'll notice there is no 2.5 or 3.5mm jacks on the phone.  You can however use one of the adaptors that came in the box for both sizes of headphones.  The adaptor for 3.5mm also includes a volume adjuster, microphone and mute button.  I thought that was a nice touch.  However, the phone really needs an equalizer.  I could tell by listening to the FM radio with my Omnia it's going to be needed.  Not enough bass for me and my Shure earphones.

    The Camera

    Finally someone decided to produce a WinMo phone with a decent camera.  The 5 megapixel camera shoots in still or video camera modes, and has a variety of settings.  Two of my favorite still camera modes are the Smile Detection and Panorama options.

    Smile detection takes a picture when the subject being shot has gone from their usual bah humbug frown face to a nice fake smile.  This is actually a great mode to use for babies and other subjects that are hard to grab that perfect shot with.  I have no idea how it does with dogs but I can tell you my dog Elvis was not happy when his Mommy put an angel costume on him this weekend.  You weren't going to get a smile outta him.  No way.

    I need to go skiing in Colorado or something to put the Panorama mode to the test.  That mode automatically stitches eight pictures into one huge picture.  Really cool stuff.  You don't have to use all eight to create a widescreen shot.  Two or more works.

    The Verdict?

    The jury is still out right now and deliberations aren't expected to be complete, at least not in this household, for another week.  I am now used to the navigation nuances and have gotten used to using the application mix.  A trusted friend hates the phone but he doesn't have the shipping Verizon version.  I'm liking it more and more.  It's small, light weight and powerful.  It doesn't display any problems with performance and it appears the battery will last a couple of days.

    After I figure out what video formats it will accept, I will torture the battery more and report back.  Until then, if you are looking for a Windows Mobile Pro 6.1 device that looks similar to the iPhone and will work well with your corporate Exchange email, look no further.  You'll get used to the software based keyboard in a few days and will be able to peck out short responses to burning email in no time.  Just don't expect to write a novel on the thing and your expectations will be set appropriately.  More later in about a week or so.  By then I'll know if it's a keeper or not.  Happy Holidays.

    [Update for 12/2/2008]  I am now using Voice Command very effectively for calling contacts instead of using the soft keyboard.  I am no longer worried about using the device in an automobile.  See http://www.microsoft.com/windowsmobile/en-us/help/more/voice-command-tips.mspx for some great tips. 

    clip_image001And on the battery life front, things are looking really good.  So far my Omnia has been unplugged from the charger for two days (about 40 hours) at this point.  I'm pretty confident it's going to pass the 48 hour mark later this morning.  Usage during the past 40 hours has been pretty light but I have made a few calls, read a few articles on msnbc.com off and on during the past couple of days, read a lot of email from the phone, messed around with various properties and settings, etc.  I guess it's been a little heavier than light but it hasn't been a big voice call day, nor have I performed any video playback.  That's coming later this week.

    I did spot one bug yesterday morning.  Our corporate EAS policies force PIN protection after fifteen minutes of idle time.  It stopped doing that on my Omnia yesterday morning until I rebooted.  Shhhhh.  Don't tell our IT folks.  Grin.

    [Update for 12/3/2008]  After fully charging my phone today, I unplugged it from the charger at 6pm and ran off for dinner with my wife.  After I got back home, I transferred some movies to the phone (.wmv format) and kicked off the sustained video playback test.  For this round, the phone was able to handle 4.5 hours of sustained playback before it started complaining about remaining battery juice.  Basically it has enough juice right now to make a short call and that's about it.  Not bad.  That's better battery life than my Zune 30 or Zune 120.  I'll run another test later today and see if I get the same mileage.  After that I start running Exchange direct push tests to see if that changes any of the times I've observed.

    So far the only reasons I've spotted for a return is the fact my contract with Verizon is 24 months.  The lack of a keyboard isn't bothering me and frankly we all need to get used to it.  I have a feeling the voice recognition and control revolution is getting ready to really take off.  Telling your phone what to do seems very natural.  14,000,000 iPhone users can't be wrong, right?  Night.

    After sleeping on this overnight, I'm beginning to wonder how important the GPS feature is to me, and the fact I can't use it with Live Search.  The more I think about it, the more I dislike being locked into a phone like that for 24 months.  Is there any such thing as a perfect phone?  My search hasn't turned one up yet.

    [Update for 12/5/2008]  Exchange direct push cut the battery life nearly in half on my Verizon Omnia.  I still got well over a work day with it turned on, but it's certainly a consideration.  I have my prime hours set from 7am to 10pm M-F.  When I have ActiveSync set to grab email every 15 minutes during prime hours, and every 30 minutes in off hours, I get a little over 50 hours of battery life.  It was about 27 hours with direct push enabled for prime hours.

    [Update for 12/7/2008]  I have good news and bad news.  The good news is it appears after testing fours devices since 10/24 I have reached a decision on what to use as my smartphone for the next 12 months.  The bad news is that it isn't going to be the Omnia.

    If you are a regular on my blog you know I started with the Palm Treo Pro on ATT.  I then tested the HTC Touch Pro on Sprint.  After that is was the Samsung Omnia on Verizon.  And now I am testing yet another Palm product, the Treo 800w on Sprint.  All I have to say is that it's good to go home.  The Palm Treo really fits my style very well.  I'll write an article about the 800w so let me wrap this one up.

    In the end on the Omnia there were a couple of things I didn't like.  The 24 month contract was the deal killer. I didn't like the contract duration, price for voice and data, and the incremental $9.99 for using VZ Navigator and the GPS chip.  It just added up.  I can use the Sprint Palm Treo 800w for half the price and only lock myself to a 12 month contract. 

    Second, I don't think the current version of Windows Mobile does the device justice. The Omnia is simply the best WinMo competitor to the Apple iPhone on the market I've tried but it isn't enough.  A year from now I hope we'll have a better Windows Mobile OS out the door that a screen only device like the Omnia can really take advantage of.  Until the, I am sticking with my keys, buttons and simplicity.  That and real work needs more of my time.

    I think a lot of people are going to be very happy with the Omnia.  It has a lot of great features and it taught me to use Voice Command.  A slightly larger, higher resolution screen with an improved UI will make it a very strong competitor.  I figure in 12 months that will be the case.  Cheers.

  • Running LAMP on Windows Server 2008 - webcast and screencasts now available

    ws2008 I don't know about you, but that title sounds odd to me.  Why on earth would you run the LAMP stack on Windows?  Well for one thing LAMP commonly refers to Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP.  So running LAMP on Windows Server 2008 really means running it in a virtual machine and the only supported method for doing that at the moment is via SUSE Enterprise Server from Novell.  This was discussed in the webcast Running Open Source Software (OSS) on Windows Server with IIS7 that I delivered yesterday.

    In order to take one or more open source applications to the Windows platform, you might choose the prudent and safe route.  First running the entire LAMP stack in a VM.  Next, you might decide to remove the L and run the AMP portions on Windows Server 2008.  That's where the meat of the webcast I did today really starts.  You'll see in the second webcast demo we install Apache.  Later we install PHP, MySQL then Drupal on top of all of that.

    The purpose of the webcast is to highlight the migration and coexistence that is possible.  You don't have to totally tear down everything you know and love then replace it.  Windows Server 2008 will be happy to run Apache, MySQL and PHP.  If you decide to replace pieces of that solution over time, you can do so pretty easily and that is demonstrated in the webcast replay.

    I decided to record a higher fidelity version of some of the demos and instead of using the Drupal software used in the webcast, I used a common blogging software product called Wordpress.  So here are the screencasts.

    Part 1 - Installing PHP on Windows Server 2008 and IIS7 (length 8:51)

    Downloading and installing PHP is pretty easy.  Testing that it is installed successfully is super easy via the phpinfo() function.  Learning to use PHP effectively is a little harder but the product has been around for years so there are a ton of books on using it with Linux or Windows.

    Get Microsoft Silverlight

    Part 2 - Installing MySQL on Windows Server 2008 (length 5:39)

    MySQL is a popular database product used for a variety of applications on the Internet.  Just like Apache and PHP, MySQL can be installed and used on Windows Server 2008 as well.  In the linked webcast replay above I spent some time creating a table, inserting some data, the executing a query against the database to confirm it works. 

    In this short screencast, we just go through the motions of installation, configuration, and creation of the database we'll use with the blogging software.  We'll know soon enough if we made any mistakes.

    Get Microsoft Silverlight

    Part 3 - Installing Wordpress on the Windows, IIS7, MySQL, PHP (length 5:13)

    Wordpress is blogging software widely used on the Internet.  I actually have a Wordpress blog but I haven't posted anything to it in six months.  It's part of the hosting plan we use for my wife's websites so you'll likely run across it in your hosting adventures.  One of the reasons it's so popular is because it's so easy to install and customize.  Check out the screencast below. See what I mean?

    Get Microsoft Silverlight

    There were several important points made in the webcast.  You should consider downloading it and watching the entire 90 minutes when you have some spare time.  I think you'll find that there are some nuggets of information there that you may now be aware of.  Like:

    • Apache runs really well on Windows Server 2008
    • MySQL runs really well on Windows Server 2008
    • PHP runs really well on Windows Server 2008
    • You can replace Apache with IIS7 and the applications will hardly notice
    • All of the above runs really well on Windows Server 2008 Core.
    • Migration is easy but not perfect so as always, test, test, test
    • IIS7 stores a lot of configuration data in XML and is easily edited like Apache, but unlike Apache, picks up the changes dynamically without a restart
    • And lots more!!!

    Enjoy!!!

  • I know where you can get Windows 7 Beta 1 DVD's... shhhhh

    Windows7

    Remember that post I did a couple of days ago about the Microsoft Developer Conference (MDC)?  You might want to consider going more seriously now.  See http://blogs.technet.com/keithcombs/archive/2008/11/24/did-you-miss-the-pdc-this-year-here-s-another-chance.aspx for the details around the conference.

    Looks like Bob Familiar at http://blogs.msdn.com/bobfamiliar/archive/2008/12/02/windows-7-beta-1-for-mdc-attendees.aspx broke the news first.  According to him, each attendee will receive a copy.  Sounds good to me.

    [UPDATE] The MDC website has been updated so you now have another official source of information around this topic.  See http://www.msdndevcon.com/pages/about.aspx#giveaways for some additional information on Windows 7 Beta 1 DVD's.  It's coming folks.

  • Is the Lenovo ThinkPad W500 SATA 300 speed?

    One of the questions that has come up from time to time about the ThinkPads is the speed of the SATA interface.  Usually the question is about the Ultrabay hard drive adaptor.  But more recently this question came up about the T400, W500 and W700 machines.  This question is primarily from the Virtualization SME's trying to get every ounce of performance out of their laptops.

    siig After reading an interesting story on the Lenovo Blog - Inside the Box about SSD drives, I decided it was time to run some tests on the W500 sitting in my home office.  I have a new eval unit sitting there needing a beating so I decided to hook it up.

    For the tests, I ran a bunch of copies to see if I could spot a material difference between the Lenovo ThinkPad T61p and the new W500.  For my test harness I used an external SATA 300 eSATA enclosure with a SIIG eSATA ExpressCard.  The laptop drive used in all cases was the Hitachi 2.5" 320GB 16MB model HTS723232L9A360.  All tests were conducted using Windows Vista Enterprise x64 and Windows Server 2008 Enterprise x64 using the SIIG Windows Update drivers.

    Much to my surprise, there was no material difference in the time it took to copy 39GB of data using the ThinkPad T61p or ThinkPad W500.  How would you interpret that?  It seems like there are two possibilities.  Either the primary drive bay on the T61p is SATA 300 and so is the W500, or the primary drive bay on the W500 is SATA 150.

    I asked Matt about this in the comments of the Lenovo blogs SSD Drive article but have not seen an answer yet.  In all fairness he might be on vacation and has not had a chance to check.  You'll also notice in his article he believes the unit he is testing is also running in SATA 150 mode and there is either a BIOS or driver issue preventing the SSD drive from delivering the full speed.  Sure sounds familiar.

    So I don't think any definitive conclusion can be drawn from my tests other than both machines accomplished the chores in the same amount of time regardless of direction (internal->external or external->internal), regardless of OS, etc.  I'm hoping a driver or BIOS update will change that before I have to turn the W500 eval unit back in.

    One thing did floor me in the early tests I later corrected.  Initially I was using a Hitachi TravelStar 100GB SATA 150 laptop drive.  That drive spins at 7200rpm and has a 8MG memory cache buffer.  The copy times improved dramatically when moving to the 320GB drive and assuming it was running in SATA 150 mode, the only difference between the two is the increased 16MB cache buffer.  But the copies completed in half the time.  That's a pretty big change between the drives.  Moral of that story?  If you are holding on to 2-3 year old 2.5" 100GB drives, do yourself a favor and move to the newer drives.

  • Understanding Microsoft Virtualization Solutions - eBook download

    image

    Great eBook download.  Go get it @ https://www.getvirtualnow.com/usevents/education/download/693371eBook.pdf

  • Death By PowerPoint in the cloud

    image

    Ever wanted to publish your latest PowerPoint slide deck masterpiece to the internet so that the rest of the world can catch up on a subject near and dear to your heart? 

    Well the kind folks at  SlideShare.net have made it a lot easier in the past few weeks with their PowerPoint 2007 ribbon bar.  Get it @ http://www.slideshare.net/developers/apps/pptribbon.  Keep in mind this ribbon is only supported in PowerPoint 2007.

  • 250+mph, 800+hp, $650,000

    Even Santa Claus would be impressed with the Koenigsegg CCXR.  The worlds fastest production automobile?

    ccxr_rear_700x335

  • Blue Zune 120 now available

    image

    Click the pic or get it @ https://zunestore.net/us/catalog/Customize.aspx.

  • Lenovo ThinkPad W700 - first impressions

    W700 This is going to be short and sweet.  I'll write a more detailed set of blogs posts later.  Yesterday I received a Lenovo ThinkPad W700 evaluation unit.  Wow.  What a fun machine.  Big, but fun.  I immediately created the factory recovery disk set and flattened the machine.  I'll return to looking at the OEM factory image later, but I wanted to test a few things right off the bat.

    I installed Windows Server 2008 Enterprise x64 and you guessed it, Hyper-V.  I also installed a few other applications I wanted to see on the gorgeous 17" screen.  Sony Vegas Movie Studio Platinum 9 is installed.  Visual Studio 2008 Professional is installed.  And yes, I created and compiled a quick WPF application.  I can still code.  I also installed the Expression Studio 2 products.  I wanted to see how all of these products looked at 1920x1200 on the 17" display.  The answer is that they are amazing looking.  Office 2007 is of course installed and Outlook never looked better, at least not on a "laptop".

    Which brings me to my first surprise.  I wrongly assumed this machine would not be useful on my lap on my couch.  Wrong, very wrong.  Much to my surprise the additional weight doesn't bother me.  It might be because the machine distributes the weight more evenly across a much larger bottom surface.  I was also TOTALLY shocked to find out I don't need a heat guard.  I ran the machine for about five hours sitting on my lap while I was wearing jeans.  I can't stand to do that with most machines so that's a great testament to the excellent thermal design of the W700.  Now keep in mind this machine has the Intel Core 2 Extreme processor, bad ass NVIDIA video chipset, two internal RAID hard drives and a DVD burner which I used to install all of the products above with. 

    Wow.  Simply wow.  Is that kewl or what?  I'll write some more details on the likes and dislikes over the next few weeks of the eval period, but I thought a quick twenty four hour impression was in order.  Now the question comes to mind if I would trade a desktop machine or a couple of laptops for a single W700?  We'll explore that question, and installs of Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2 over the coming days.  Stay tuned for more fun!  In the meantime, see a good infommercial at http://www.lenovovision.com/lv2/mediaplayer.php?fid=thinkpad_w700.

    Happy New Years!!!

  • MVP Screencast Contest Status and Results

    t61p As you might recall, a little over two months ago Matt Hester and I announced a screencast contest.  Matt has the official contest announcement and official rules.  We limited the contest to the Microsoft MVP community for a couple of reasons.  We wanted to test the contest waters and make sure if we made any serious errors that we had a friendly audience.  There were other reasons, too.

    Unfortunately we did not receive any contest submissions by the deadline last night.  I'm sure we'll get some feedback on why, but suffice it to say that the Lenovo ThinkPad T61p I configured and resealed is still gathering dust in my home office.  Now that's just wrong on soo many levels.  I mean you know how hard it is for me to look at that box knowing there's a laptop in that box that isn't going to be used this Christmas?  Blasphemy!!!

    Funny thing, if you look at the contest official rules on what we wanted recorded, then compare that to the screencast post just above on installing open source software. You'll probably find some striking coincidences. Here's a portion of the contest description:

    "This is a skill-based Contest. The object of this Contest is to create a video that will showcase the integration of PHP into IIS 7.0 on Windows Server 2008. The contestant will also have to install a PHP application of their choice (i.e. Wordpress) on the IIS server. Additionally the application will have to be demonstrated inside of Internet Explorer 7 or Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2, and verified it is running inside of the IIS 7 environment."

    So now that the contest is officially history, what shall we do next?  We'll likely still do another contest as planned.  I'll get with Matt soon and pick another idea.  It will most likely involve one of our products being demonstrated in a competitive setting.  And we'll likely open the contest to everyone in the United States this time. 

    What can you do to prepare?  Pick a screencasting tool and get used to recording demos.  We'll let you know after the holidays what, when, where, etc. on the next round.  And don't count on it being as easy as this contest.  Happy holidays.

  • Your USA tax dollars are hard at work

    KinCheung pic of corp jets

    I rarely wade into political or religious territory on this blog, but I think it's time to speak up some on a subject that is bugging me.  Like most of you, I work pretty hard for my money so I would prefer that my tax dollars are used for things like road improvements, building schools, etc.  You know, common infrastructure stuff.

    When I first started hearing about the dire straights of the mortgage lending companies, credit companies, and other financial institutions I wondered what I did to contribute to this mess.  I certainly sympathize with people who have lost their job and can't pay their mortgage, but I wondered what percentage of the loans that fell into default were legit. 

    Like you, I just bit my lip and tried to play along and hope things would get better.  What's $700,000,000,000.00 among friends?  But along comes the following AP wire story.  I don't know about you, but it sure looks like there is no accountability for how that money is being spent, and that needs to stop.  Here's an excerpt from the story:

    NEW YORK - Crisscrossing the country in corporate jets may no longer fly in Detroit after car executives got a dressing down from Congress. But on Wall Street, the coveted executive perk has hardly been grounded.

    Six financial firms that received billions in bailout dollars still own and operate fleets of jets to carry executives to company events and sometimes personal trips, according to an Associated Press review.

    The jets serve as airborne offices, time-savers for executives for whom time is money — lots of money. And some firms are cutting back, either by selling the planes or leasing them...

    Full story @ http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28338918/.  Merry Christmas.  Now what are we going to do about it?

  • Last cell phone post for a while

    800w my home I'm sure at this point you're tired of hearing about my trials and tribulations in the world of cell phones.  I can't say I blame you.  It's time to move on to more important things like Windows 7 Beta 1, Windows Server 2008 R2 betas, and some of the other goodies we have in the virtualization pipeline.

    If you read the bottom of the Samsung Omnia post, you saw that I returned the device and have settled on the Sprint Palm Treo 800w as my device of choice for the next 12 months.

    I ended up deciding that at this point in time I wasn't going to give up my precious hardware buttons for a software based keyboard solution.  The Omnia is kewl and all and there were many things I liked about it, but I am personally more productive with a device like the one pictured at right.

    Now before you rush off to do the same thing, let me make it clear my device usage habits are probably different then yours so keep that in mind.  For instance, I don't use a cell phone on a regular basis unless I am traveling or running around town doing errands.  Because of that, the battery life for me is longer than most users and that really comes into play with the Palm Treo 800w

    Battery Life

    The 800w doesn't have a high capacity battery so those of you that talk a lot on the phone should plan on carrying car chargers, spare battery and charger.  The flip side of that is that because the battery capacity is pretty low, it also recharges REALLY fast even when plugged into your laptop via the supplied USB cable.

    treo 800w spb today screenMods

    I installed some software I really like called Spb Mobile Shell from Spb Software House.  I don't use it to totally replace the Windows Mobile Professional 6.1 shell.  Instead I use the Now screen for quick glances at information on my device, and for some Today items that you can see in the picture of the device above.  Those little icons at the top of the screen are the items I am referring to.  They provide quick access to battery life, time, weather and contacts information.

    The Spb Mobile Shell Now screen (shown at left) comes in real handy for quick views of information without having to unlock the device.  Our Exchange EAS policy forces device locks after 15 minutes.  With my 800w, I can hit the Power/End button to have the Today screen display.  If I want to look at it for a slightly longer period of time, I can unlock the keyboard by pressing the Palm key in the middle of the directional D pad.

    As you can see on my Now screen, I can see information pertaining to text messages, call log, phone vmail, weather, battery life, date, time, upcoming appointments, unread email messages, etc.  See the other screens and modifications possible with Spb Mobile Shell @ http://spbsoftwarehouse.com/products/mobileshell/screenshots.html?en.

    This is a welcome extension to WinMo 6.1.  Be sure to checkout all of the other modifications you can make to your WinMo 6.1 device with Spb Mobile Shell and all of the other software from Spb Software House.  Their stuff rocks and is priced very nicely.  Microsoft employees reading this should checkout our internal http://wmstuff website.

    Summary

    So there you have it.  I ended up going back to a Palm device in order to use it effectively as a phone, quick access to email and calendar information, and the other traditional needs I have.  The Omnia did teach me to use Voice Command so I am now using that with the Palm Treo 800w as well.

    I am also starting to get GPS religion.  The Palm Treo 800w allows me to use all of the kewl Live Search Mobile GPS capabilities and I must admit, it's an amazing experience.  It's so easy to look across the gas stations in my area and check prices.  It's super easy to find restaurants and hotels close to my GPS position, and Sprint doesn't charge extra for the feature.  Now that's a nice benefit.  I'll do a screencast on this really soon.

    And while I'm thinking about it, I must say I am super impressed with the corporate plan prices I receive from Sprint.  Of the corporate plans available to me, they are the most economically priced plans.  Saving money right now is a good thing.

    I'll probably write some more about the devices after CES in early January.  Lots of rumors flying around about what will or won't be announced there.  Should be a good show.  Cheers.

  • Windows Server 2008 SP2 Beta - now available for download

    ws2008 Windows Server 2008 SP2/Windows Vista SP2 Beta is prerelease code offered to the public through our Customer Preview Program. Please see the Windows Server SP2/Windows Vista SP2 Customer Preview Program page on TechNet/MSDN for additional details, documentation, and forums.

    Windows Server 2008 SP2 CPP TechNet technology area

    Windows Server 2008/Windows Vista SP2 Beta apply to people, organizations, and technical enthusiasts who are comfortable evaluating prerelease software. This prerelease software is provided for testing only. We do not recommend installing this software on primary or mission-critical systems. Installation of Service Pack 2 Beta will result in Microsoft collecting information about the installation process, even if the installation is not completed. Wet recommend that you have a backup of your data before you install any prerelease software.

    SP2 is an update to Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 that addresses feedback from our customers and partners. By providing these fixes integrated into a single service pack, Microsoft provides a single high-quality update that minimizes deployment and testing complexity for customers.

    In addition to all previously released updates, SP2 will contain changes focused on addressing reliability and performance issues, supporting new kinds of hardware, and adding support for several emerging standards. SP2 will also continue to make it easier for IT administrators to deploy and manage large installations of Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008.

    Service Pack 1 is a prerequisite for installing Service Pack 2. Please make sure that your system is running Service Pack 1 before you install Service Pack 2.  This is a DVD ISO image contains Service Pack 2 for Windows Server 2008 SP2 for x86, x64, IA-64 and Windows Vista for x86, x64. This image is only applicable to computers that have one or more of the following languages: English, German, French, Japanese, or Spanish. If you have an OS or language pack that is not one of these languages please use the "All Languages" version of Service Pack 2.

    Go get the x86 .ISO @  http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=0a3d7a63-46af-4e04-ac8c-91b8bc476450&DisplayLang=en

    Go get the x64 .ISO @ http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=361d0ca3-4b2c-4f1c-8b3e-de376fdb1de8&DisplayLang=en

  • Storage Manager for SANs Step-by-Step Guide - now available

    With Storage Manager for SANs, you can create and manage logical unit numbers (LUNs) on Fibre Channel and iSCSI disk drive subsystems that support Virtual Disk Service (VDS) in your storage area network (SAN). This guide provides server and storage subsystem requirements, an introduction to managing LUNs, and step-by-step walkthroughs for creating and assigning LUNs using Storage Manager for SANs in Windows Server 2008.

    Get it @ http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=06556478-838c-450e-9173-9851378271ad&DisplayLang=en.

  • Look what flew over my house today

    The NASA Shuttle Endeavour made an unplanned stop into Ft. Worth, Texas this afternoon due to weather between Texas and Florida.  I think they just decided to have a few of our world famous margaritas and a taco.  Grin.

    Endeavour

  • Backing up Hyper-V with DPM 2007 SP1 - screencast now available

    dpm logo If you weren't already aware, Data Protection Manager Service Pack 1 released last week and is now available.  Senior Program Manager, Jason Buffington, is cranking out the information on his blog and via the screencasts he is recording. 

    Jason tells me has about four of five other screencasts in the pipeline, but knowing Jason and tis the season for Xbox 360 gaming, look for those videos in January.  In the meantime, checkout his latest on how to protect Hyper-V virtualization workloads with DPM SP1.

  • Gadgets That Make You Look Like a Jerk

    The msnbc.com article, "Gadgets that make you look like a jerk" by Daniel Harrison is very funny.  I was flipping though it and hit the second to last page.  ROFL.  Neck-beard.  Ha ha ha!!!  Click the pic to take you to the original article and beginning.  It's worth it.  Nothing says power like a borg ear piece.

    image

  • Windows Server 2008 SP2 CPP Resources

    ws2008 r2 1680x1050 Product Evaluation

    Frequently Asked Questions: Windows Server 2008 Service Pack 2 Beta and Windows Vista Service Pack 2 Beta - This article provides answers to some of the most common questions about the Beta release of Windows Server 2008 SP2 and Windows Vista SP2.

    Notable Changes in Windows Server 2008 SP2 Beta and Windows Vista SP2 Beta - This document describes the notable changes made to the Beta release of Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista in Service Pack 2, which were focused on addressing specific reliability, performance, and compatibility issues, supporting new types of hardware, and adding support for several emerging standards, and lists all the hot fixes and security updates included in this service pack.

    Windows Vista SP2 Beta and Windows Server 2008 SP2 BetaTest Focus Guide - This guide provides scenarios for testing and evaluating the changes in Windows Vista SP2 Beta and Windows Server 2008 SP2 Beta.

    Getting Started

    Release Notes for this Beta Release of Windows Server 2008 Service Pack 2 - These release notes address late-breaking issues and information related to Windows Server 2008 SP2 Beta.

    Hotfixes and Security Updates in Windows Server 2008 SP2 Beta and Windows Vista SP2 Beta - This document lists all the hotfixes and security updates included in Beta release of Windows Server 2008 SP2 and Windows Vista SP2.

    Installing this Beta Release of Windows Server 2008 with Service Pack 2 - This document provides information about installing the Windows Server® 2008 operating system with Service Pack 2 (SP2). It also provides information that you can use to troubleshoot problems that may occur during the installation.

    Deployment

    Windows Server 2008 SP2 Deployment Guide - This guide includes technical information, procedures, and recommendations for deploying Windows Server 2008 SP2 Beta in a business or corporate environment.

  • Top 10 IT Pro Tasks Made Easier by Windows Server 2008 R2

    ws2008 r2 1680x1050 Do more with less. This has been the server manager’s mantra for several years but never moreso than now. Fortunately, Windows Server® 2008 R2 has got your back with numerous and varied features designed specifically to address IT’s current challenges while making day-to-day life a little easier. Here are the top 10:

    #1. Migrating VMs Without Service Interruption

    Windows Server 2008’s Quick Migration was an adequate feature, allowing administrators to move VMs between physical hosts with only short downtime. Trouble is, even that delay was long enough to drop any currently connected users or applications and that tends to arouse help desk ire. Windows Server 2008 R2 meets this challenge with Live Migration.

    Live Migration leverages Windows Clustering Services and the Cluster Shared Volumes technology to transfer VMs in milliseconds. That means no dropped connections and a much more dynamic data center management environment. We’ve also added Live Migration features to System Center Virtual Machine Manager, including the ability to perform migrations based on policy. It’s a brave new virtual world.

    #2. Branch File Access Performance Up; WAN Costs Down

    Branch offices can be the bane of both server and desktop administrators. Remote workers can’t find files due to lack of access or can’t get them fast enough because of bandwidth constraints. Enter another key Windows Server 2008 R2 feature: BranchCache™.

    Administrators can use BranchCache to track file access requests at the branch office, and the files can be cached there. Files can be retrieved from other branch office client PCs (a peer-to-peer caching model, known as distributed mode) or from a dedicated BranchCache™ server at the remote site (also called hosted mode). A central BranchCache™ server keeps track of both existing file requests and file updates to ensure all requests receive only the most current content.

    The result is an easy-to-configure and easy-to-maintain caching solution that speeds the servicing of remote client requests and lowers WAN bandwidth utilization at the same time.

    #3. Self-adjusting Server and Data Center Power Management

    Green IT may be the single hottest mandate from upper-level business management to IT in 2008, and the trend is likely to continue in 2009. To help harried IT managers go green quickly and easily, Microsoft is doing its part with new power management updates in Windows Server 2008 R2.

    First, there’s an exciting new feature called Core Parking. When this feature is enabled, Windows Server 2008 R2 will constantly monitor the various workloads running across multi-core server systems. If certain processor cores are under-utilized or unnecessary, Core Parking can set just those cores into sleep mode, thus saving significant power. If workloads suddenly increase, R2 can spin up dormant cores in a matter of milliseconds. So a server with 64 logical cores can drop to just a 4-core machine during low-utilization times and rev back up to full CPU power as soon as workloads increase.

    In addition, Windows Server 2008 R2 enables administrators to design active power policies that can cause servers to ‘throttle-down’ during off-hours by using DMTF-compliant remote management interfaces. Throttling down also extends to storage area networks (SANs), which R2 will be able to send into a lower power state when they’re not being fully utilized.

    #4. Remote Server Management

    Doing more with less includes traveling. Managing servers effectively no matter where they are physically located is always a problem. Windows Server 2008 R2 addresses this challenge with a Server Manager that can be installed on workstations and pointed at servers from afar. In addition, Server Manager has new management consoles devoted specifically to remote management tasks across all server roles.

    #5. Squeeze the Most From Your Hardware

    Virtualization might be a major boon when it comes to server consolidation, but the other half of that equation is squeezing every last drop of performance out of your virtualization hosts. Windows Server 2008 R2 has several new features designed to take full advantage of all any hardware config.

    First, because it takes advantage of the last two years of 64-bit server CPU manufacturing, Windows Server 2008 R2 is the first Microsoft server operating system to take only the 64-bit road. Your 32-bit applications will continue to run flawlessly on R2, but the 64-bit operating system is much better designed to take advantage of those high-end server CPUs from AMD and Intel.

    And more of them, too—with Windows Server 2008 R2 scaling up to address as many as 256 logical processors in a single server, and Hyper-V in R2 is able to use more than 32 logical processors in a single VM. That’s twice the CPU support of Hyper-V 1.0! R2 can also take advantage of advanced CPU features, including Second Level Translation for much-improved memory management. It all adds up to more server muscle for your data center dollar. When combined with the consolidation power of Hyper-V, it means R2 can make a significant dent in your annual IT spend.

    #6. Do Better At Managing Virtual Data Centers

    Data centers have gone virtual with a speed that’s surprised even the experts. But although the technology’s potential is easily realized, tools to effectively manage large pools of virtualized resources have been slower to emerge. Windows Server 2008 R2 helps fill that void with a slick update to Hyper-V™.

    The new Hyper-V™ sports numerous improvements over the old, including support for both 32- and 64-bit VMs, larger memory support (up to 64GB per VM), pass through disk access, and new hardware sharing architectures for resources like disk, networking, and video. But Hyper-V™ hasn’t left managers out in the cold—it includes new consoles for Live Migration and high-availability clusters, support for WMI management extensibility, and day-to-day tools to make life easier such as Virtual Machine snapshots. And last (but definitely not least), Hyper-V™ also sports a host of new support from PowerShell 2.0 with a slew of new dedicated cmdlets.

    #7. Create Customized and Automated Management Tools

    Canned management tools are great, but in large scenarios and especially vertical environments, being able to build your own management tool box is critical. Microsoft took an exciting step in this direction with the release of PowerShell 1.0 with Windows Server 2008. With Windows Server 2008 R2, we’ve reacted to the hugely positive customer feedback around this feature with a revamped and updated PowerShell version 2.0.

    PowerShell v2 carries improvements across the board with improved remote management via WS-Management, better security with features like constrained runspaces, extended scripting functionality, and even improved script portability via XML. You’ll find a new Graphical PowerShell that adds pro developer-class IDE features, including colored syntaxing and better debugging tools for building your own cmdlets. And lets not forget about the over 240 new cmdlets that ship with R2 right out of the box.

    #8. Use Virtualization to Ease Desktop Management

    The Hyper-V™ server virtualization feature is only half of the virtualization message in Windows Server 2008 R2. Desktop and application management has always been a troublesome task because of the distributed nature of its targets. With R2, however, Microsoft presents a centralized solution to many of these difficulties via presentation virtualization.

    The new Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) in Windows Server 2008 R2 figures largely in this vision, and builds on the solid presentation virtualization foundation we built into Windows Server 2008’s Terminal Services. With the advent of Window Server 2008 R2, this is now called Remote Desktop Services under which VDI encompases a centralized desktop delivery architecture that allows customers to centralize the storage, execution, and management of a Windows® desktop or application in the data center. This capability gives desktop and application administrators a whole new toolkit for better enablement of flexible work scenarios, including work-from-home and hot-desking as well as increased data security, compliance, and more efficient management of the desktop operating system and applications.

    #9. Broaden Remote Access Adoption While Making it Easier to Manage

    Green IT, skyrocketing gas prices, a slow economy, and a need to get the job done no matter where it might be—all these factors combine to make remote computing one of the most important and difficult IT management tasks at the moment. Windows Server 2008 R2 addresses this with an exciting new feature that seeks to turn your clunky VPN into something as easy to manage and reliable as a dial tone.

    DirectAccess (DA) is a comprehensive anywhere access solution that enables organizations to provide always-on, secure connectivity to on-premise and remote users alike. It improves security and lowers total cost of ownership (TCO). DA eliminates the need to connect explicitly with the corporate network while roaming and provides organizations with the next generation of policy-based, secure connectivity. To end users, the concept of remote computing goes away because DA and Windows 7 combine to present them with an always-on connection to their corporate network whether they’re attached to a local, remote or even public network.

    DA uses technologies already included with Windows Server 2008, including IPsec and IPv6, but combines these with an easy wizard-style configuration and management toolkit that enables administrators to build and maintain DA. To maintain reliability and security, DA also takes advantage of many of the innovations found in other Microsoft products and services such as Network Access Protection, Server and Domain Isolation, and Forefront™ Client Security. In addition, the Microsoft Forefront Intelligent Application Gateway (IAG) can enhance deployment and management.

    #10. Take Your Web and Application Serving To The Next Level

    Web applications are easier than ever to develop, and this has spawned a surge in the need for IT administrators to host and maintain custom applications, including Web services, full-on Web apps and SOA architectures. Windows Server 2008 R2 helps enable this trend with several technologies aimed specifically at making R2 Microsoft’s most powerful application server to date, including most prominently Internet Information Services (IIS) 7.0.

    IIS 7 receives a significant boost in R2 with an upgraded management interface, new support for PowerShell cmdlets and an extended API for easier development of IIS Extensions by Microsoft and third-party developers. In addition, IIS has rolled up a number of the most popular Windows Server 2008 Extensions and made them internal features, including URLScan 3.0 (now called Request Filter), an updated Administration Pack, and more.

    But other facets of Windows Server 2008 R2 are designed to help with application hosting as well. The new fail-over and clustering technologies in R2 serve to increase availability, and its new hardware technologies mean you’ll be able to run heavier workloads on your servers with fewer locks and greater parallelism. The new PowerShell, reduced overhead for Hyper-V™, and significantly improved storage performance also come into play. It all adds up to a more powerful, more flexible, and a much more easily managed server operating system than Microsoft has ever built before. Welcome to Windows Server 2008 R2.

  • SCVMM 2008 Configuration Analyzer - now available for download

    SCVMM_logo The VMMCA is a diagnostic tool you can use to evaluate important configuration settings for computers that either are serving or might serve VMM roles or other VMM functions. The VMMCA scans the hardware and software configurations of the computers you specify, evaluates them against a set of predefined rules, and then provides you with error messages and warnings for any configurations that are not optimal for the VMM role or other VMM function that you have specified for the computer.

    Note The VMMCA does not duplicate or replace the prerequisite checks performed during the setup of VMM 2008 components.
    Before installing VMM, you can use the VMMCA to help you evaluate the configuration of computers that you might use for the following VMM roles:

    • VMM server
    • VMM Administrator Console
    • VMM Self-Service Portal

    After installing VMM, you can use the VMMCA to evaluate the configurations of computers that you are now using or might use for the VMM roles listed above, as well as computers that you are using or might use for any of the following VMM functions:

    • Windows Server–based host
    • VMware Virtual Center Server
    • P2V source computer
    • Operations Manager agent

    Important
    • You must install and run the VMMCA on the computer that either currently is or will become your VMM 2008 server.
    • You should use this version of the VMMCA with VMM 2008 only. To download the VMMCA for VMM 2007, go to http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=132136.

    Go get VMMCA 2008 @ http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=02d83950-c03d-454e-803b-96d1c1d5be24&DisplayLang=en.

  • SQL Server 2008 Upgrade Technical Reference now available

    A successful upgrade to SQL Server 2008 should be smooth and trouble-free. To achieve that smooth transition, you must devote plan sufficiently for the upgrade, and match the complexity of your database application. Otherwise, you risk costly and stressful errors and upgrade problems. Like all IT projects, planning for every contingency and then testing your plan gives you confidence that you will succeed. But if you ignore the planning process, you increase the chances of running into difficulties that can derail and delay your upgrade. This document covers the essential phases and steps involved in upgrading existing SQL Server 2000 and 2005 instances to SQL Server 2008 by using best practices. These include preparation tasks, upgrade tasks, and post-upgrade tasks.

    • Chapter 1 gives an overview of the technical issues and decisions that are involved in an upgrade to SQL Server 2008, as well as recommendations for planning and deploying an upgrade.
    • Chapter 2 addresses issues related to upgrading to SQL Server 2008 Management Tools.
    • Chapters 3 through 8 focus on upgrade issues for SQL Server relational databases.
    • Chapter 9 addresses upgrading to SQL Server 2008 Express.
    • Chapters 10 through 14 focus on upgrading to SQL Server 2008 Business Intelligence components: Analysis Services, Data Mining, Integration Services, and Reporting Services.
    • Chapter 15 addresses the implications of upgrading to SQL Server 2008 for other Microsoft applications and platforms.
    • Appendix 1 contains a table of allowed SQL Server 2008 version and edition upgrade paths.
    • Appendix 2 contains an upgrade planning checklist.

    Get it @ http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=66d3e6f5-6902-4fdd-af75-9975aea5bea7&DisplayLang=en

  • Who was on the nice list?

    Anyone out there get a great Lego set or something for Christmas?  No, I didn't get my Ferrari.  Of course it would be silly for me to own one anyway.  My CIVIC Coupe will be two years old in March of 2009.  It will still have fewer miles than what most people drive in a year.  I wonder what the average mileage is for a typical worker now.  I'm sure the number has come down some with telecommunications and home office arrangements.

  • TechNet Radio - SCVMM 2008 with Edwin Yuen

    Here's the latest installment of the popular TechNet Radio program.  In this audio only episode, I had the chance to catch up with friend and colleague Edwin Yuen.  Edwin is a Senior Program Manager in the System Center Virtual Machine Manager development team.

    Get Microsoft Silverlight

    Download the audio - length: 0:36:00

    WMA | MP3 High | MP3 Low

    Download the Evaluation

    New to System Center Virtual Machine Manager?  Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 provides a comprehensive, cross-platform management solution for the virtualized data center that helps enable centralized management of virtual infrastructure, increased server utilization, and dynamic resource optimization of virtual IT infrastructure. And when you download the 180-day trial software, you're automatically registered to receive valuable resources delivered at convenient intervals throughout the software evaluation period.

    Other Resources

  • On this date in 1903...

    WrightFlight

    The Wright brothers ushered in manned flight.  A few years later I was born.

  • What’s your team meeting like?

    clip_image001

    Here’s a picture from ours today.