Keith Combs' Blahg

Ramblings from another nerd on the grid

August, 2009

  • Halo 3 ODST Gamestop Tour Underway


    This looks like a fun promotion and the tour is coming within five miles of my house later this week.  See for more information or a list of the dates and cities.

  • The Fall Cell Phone Parade Begins

    sprint-touch-pro2 It’s an interesting time of year.  New cell phones are launching.  T-Mobile launced the HTC Touch Pro 2 a week or two ago and now Sprint has announced their model will be available for order on September 8th.  Here are a couple of snips from the press release:

    The latest in a series of best-in-class Windows Mobile devices, HTC Touch Pro2 features a large 3.6-inch WVGA variable-angle tilting touch screen and an ultra-wide, slide-out keyboard that is larger than its predecessor. Touch Pro2’s high-speed connectivity over Sprint’s 3G network (EVDO Rev. A) with Wi-Fi and world phone capability ensures that customers stay connected on the go.

    Additional business features available on HTC Touch Pro2 include International Quad-Band capability (CDMA, GSM); Straight Talk™ Technology with dual speakers; dual microphones and a mute button to provide a professional speakerphone experience; full HTML browser from Opera; stereo Bluetooth wireless technology; WorldCard Mobile Business Card Scanner; Facebook integration; and Linked inboxes, which easily link personal and work contacts.

    Full press release @

  • Apple OS X Snow Leopard – the first 24 hours

    image On my way to meet the wife for dinner last night, I stopped by the local Apple retail store in Southlake, Texas to pick up a copy of OS X “Snow Leopard”.  The packaging and even the website for the OS proudly claims this version of OS X is “The world’s most advanced operating system. Finely tuned.”

    My expectations were high after reading all of the hype over the past few months.  I was also anxious to see if Apple had really delivered a 64bit operating system for my relatively new MacBook Pro.  What a let down.

    In-Place Upgrade

    Like many people, I popped the DVD into my Mac and kicked off the upgrade.  The setup program informed me it would be about 45 minutes until it was complete.  The upgrade was painless.  All of my applications still worked.  I have a short list of apps on my Mac so I wasn’t too surprised.

    I decided at this point to see if the 64 bit OS would do what I really want.  Virtualization.  So I removed the 4GB of memory and replaced it with 8GB of DDR2 PC2-5300 667MHz memory.  It appeared at first that all was well but as it turns out, that would not be the case.

    Since I own a copy of VMWare Fusion, I figured I’d see what happens when I allocate a bunch of the memory to a Windows 7 Enterprise x64 virtual machine.  I started off with a crazy allocation, 6GB.  That didn’t work well.  In fact, I started backing down the allocation all the way back to 1GB and still had problems.  This seems familiar.  Time for bed.  Investigation to proceed later the next morning.

    64 Bit Kernel Mode

    Much to my surprise, my Mac was not running the 64 bit Snow Leopard.  I give Apple a break up to this point because if they had converted from a 32 bit OS to a 64 bit OS via an in-place upgrade, that would have been magic.  But they didn’t so there’s the first strike for the “most advanced” title.

    As usual I started digging around the internet via and to see what I could uncover.  I eventually stumble across which does the best job of spelling out some of the tricks to force OS X 10.6 to load the 64 bit kernel.  I had already checked my EFI version and knew it was EFI64.  I implemented the nvram boot-args AND the Kernel Flags in the /Library/Preferences/SystemConfiguration/ file.

    Neither worked.  In fact, holding down the 6 and 4 keys at boot don’t force the 64 bit kernel to load either.  WTF?  Sorry, a little cussin is warranted at this point.  I got tired of messing around with this and figured it might be time to change direction.  So I flattened the box.

    Flatten the Box

    This particular figure of speech is in common usage among geeks.  In operating system parlance, it means to reinstall the OS after first repartitioning and formatting a hard drive.  It’s a really destructive step and one that “normal” users don’t do very often, if ever.  Most users have no clue how to really backup and restore a machine, so the notion that you are going to wipe a hard drive is a scary thought.  I do it frequently so I am well aware of the implications regardless of the OS.

    Most of the instructions on the internet imply that a clean install of OS X 10.6 isn’t possible with the $29 DVD unless you already have 10.5 present on the target disk.  I tested this theory.  Sure seems like the theory is wrong.  I purposely whacked 10.5 with a hard drive wipe, powered off mid stream, wiped again, etc.  I was still able to boot from the Snow Leopard DVD and install.

    Where’s my 64 bit kernel?

    After the clean install completed, I set out again to force the 64 bit kernel to load.  None of the techniques worked.  Neither did the program at

    The world’s most advanced operating system?  Bull crap.  Here I have a rather expensive MacBook Pro that isn’t even two years old and STILL can’t run Apple’s premier operating system in full 64 bit mode.  By comparison, the Lenovo ThinkPad T61p I am typing this on is six months older and runs 64 bit versions of Linux, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Vista, and Windows 7.  In fact, R2 on my recent SSD drive is nothing short of breathtaking.  OS X 10.6 is not the most advanced operating system by my standards and I hold a really high bar.

    Some Good News – Exchange mail support

    After spending way too much time screwing around with trying to get the 64 bit kernel to load, there were some bright rays of light in my OS X 10.6 journey.  The new Mail program and it’s support for Microsoft Exchange is rather good at first glance.  Setup was easy and the sync process was ultra fast.  The preview pane sucks.  It only displays at the bottom and reminds me of a circa 1996 email program.  It’s threaded discussion view is pretty decent, so there are some aspects I like.  It’s also “free” with the OS.

    I installed a number of other applications on Snow Leopard.  I first re-installed Office:Mac 2008.  After that, I headed over to and grabbed Entourage Web Services Edition, Messenger 7 and the latest RDP client.

    The Entourage experience was much improved over prior versions I’ve used.  The initial sync was fast compared to the positively glacial speed of prior versions.  I like the Erage UI and like the OS X Mail client, setup was really easy.


    I would hardly call OS X the most advanced operating system in the world.  Sorry, it just isn’t.  The 64 bit stuff should just work and I shouldn’t have to try and hack kernel settings via configuration files and non volatile boot args.  We kick Apples ass in that regard on a much wider array of consumer hardware, at a lower cost.  There is no debate on that.

    If someone figures out why my Mac won’t run the kernel in 64 bit mode, let me know.  I’m probably going to take it to the local store and let the “Geniuses” there take a shot at it.  And by the way snarky people, don’t bother sending me a screenshot of your unibody Mac working perfectly.  My MacBook Pro hasn’t burned through it’s first Apple “Cares” agreement so this should not be happening on a Santa Rosa based mac.

  • Captcha Arrives for TechNet Blogs – feedback welcome here

    As you can see from my blog and all of the other blogs on the and areas, comments now require using the captcha codes.  This is of course to fight off the spam bots and other nefarious creatures of the web. 

    So what do you think? Will this have any effect on you?  Still planning to comment?  Is it just one more nuisance you don’t need?  The upside is that we are still allowing anon comments.  I moderate comments because bot or not, I still need to make sure someone isn’t posting porn links, using outrageous profanity, etc.  So I’m curious if the catcha stuff will deter you from commenting.  I worry the answer is yes.  I am hopeful the answer is no.  Thoughts?

  • System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2 – RTM and download


    System Center Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) 2008 R2 RTM is now available for public evaluation download. VMM 2008 R2 RTM is the latest upgrade to VMM 2008, Microsoft’s comprehensive management solution for the virtualized datacenter which enables consolidation of physical servers, rapid provisioning of new virtual machines and unified management of physical and virtual infrastructure through one console. VMM 2008 R2 now manages many of the great new features of Windows Server 2008 R2 RC Hyper-V including:

    • Live Migration -- for moving virtual machines between hosts with no downtime

    • Additional enhanced migration support for SAN migration in and out of clusters

    • Multiple virtual machines per LUN using Clustered Share Volumes

    • Hot add of virtual machine storage

    Additional features:
    • Functionality to migrate storage for running VMs

    • iSCSI target and SAN-based migration across clusters

    • Template-based rapid provisioning

    • Maintenance mode to automate the evacuation of VMs off host machines,

    • Live Migration host compatibility checks

    Get the eval @

  • How do you pick your next laptop or technology?

    ibmpc Criteria.  Each of us weigh our wants and needs differently.  Wants are different than needs.  Matt wanted a slim light weight machine.  Who doesn’t? 

    The more advanced a computer user, the quicker you can reach a decision.  I had a friend contact me yesterday.  You might recognize his name because it was used in the Server Quest game.  Matt Berg sent me an email that it was time for a laptop refresh and wanted some feedback on the options he was considering.

    I’ve known Matt for years now so I knew I could ask a couple of quick probing questions and see where he was leaning.  Here was my first question to him, “What is your preferred laptop LCD screen resolution?” 

    Right out of the gate he mentioned 1440x900 was not quite big enough for his needs.  That immediately knocked two of the three machines off his list because that was the max native resolution of the laptop LCD screens on those models.  His third candidate offered 1680x1050 and 1920x200 screens so I told him what I thought about each.

    We of course talked about the weight of the machine, size, battery life, performance, etc. but all of that was really a moot discussion at that point.  Don’t under estimate the screen.  It isn’t a place you want to sacrifice your wants versus your needs.

    What about a netbook?

    We really didn’t enter into that discussion although it did come up yesterday under a different context.  In fact, I have seen a number of interesting discussions in the past couple of days.  Let me ask you a question.  When you buy technology today, what do you expect it’s lifespan to be?

    Let me ask the question differently.  When you buy something today, do you expect to upgrade it or run it into the ground?  Here’s more context.  If you buy a $299 netbook, how do you answer the questions?  What about a desktop or laptop?

    Until recently many people opted for future proofing their purchases by looking for machines that could be upgraded.  This would help them jump from one generation to the next with something like an operating system.  However, we all make bad decisions or get “burned” by a business decision some other hardware provider makes.  For instance, what if a video chip maker decides not to create a Windows driver for your video card?  It happens.  You bought the card and it worked at the time you bought it.  But 2, 3, 4, or 5 years later they end-of-life the card and you hit a dead end.  Trust me, I feel your pain.  I have a couple of video cards for sale if interested.

    I have already started to reset my expectations.  When I purchase technology now, I expect that it will run what it runs at the time I purchase it for a reasonable period of time.  If I purchase a phone, I expect the phone to work with the OS that came on it for the life of the contract.  12 or 24 months, no more.  Video cards I now buy for the here and now. 

    What is your strategy?

    My computer purchases are typically pretty powerful.  Even for personal purchases.  I know my hand-me-downs will serve my family and extended family well.  But it’s becoming clear that strategy is probably flawed. 

    Would I be better off buying cheaper machines up front and expecting a shorter life span?  This is really something you need to think more carefully about as well.  This is especially true if you are recommending machines for customers.  You can look at some recent trends for examples of this.  I’m sitting in a room right now with fifty customers and there are several netbooks on the tables.  Instead of being a device worth thousands, it’s worth hundreds.

    The decision that gets made in a larger organization is different.  Usually you are buying thousands of devices so the capital expenditure and amortization schedule is different.  But lifespan, management, future proofing and a dozen other factors are still in play.

    I’m interested to know if you have changed your purchase habits.  What is driving it?  The economy or the technology?  How big of a consideration is the the software?

  • Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) 2010 RC - now available

    ws2008 r2 blog logoWe are pleased to announce the immediate availability of the release candidate of MDT 2010.  This release contains numerous bug fixes since MDT 2010 Beta 2.  MDT 2010 RC has been tested and will work with Windows 7 RTM and Windows Server 2008 R2 RTM as well as all previously supported operating systems.

    Improvements to MDT 2010 RC allow you to:

    • Access deployment shares from anywhere on the network and replicate files and settings across organizational boundaries or sites.
    • Organize and manage drivers, operating systems, applications, packages and task sequences with an improved UI.
    • Automate all UI functionality utilizing the new Windows PowerShellTM.

    For more information, see

    To grab the bits, head to

  • Exchange Server 2010 RC – now available for download


    Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 Release Candidate helps IT Professionals achieve new levels of reliability with greater flexibility, enhanced user experiences, and increased protection for business communications.

    • Flexible and reliable - Exchange Server 2010 gives you the flexibility to tailor your deployment based on your company's unique needs and a simplified way to keep e-mail continuously available for your users.
    • Anywhere access - Exchange Server 2010 helps your users get more done by giving them the freedom to securely access all their communications - e-mail, voice mail, instant messaging, and more - from virtually any platform, Web browser, or device.
    • Protection and compliance - Exchange Server 2010 delivers integrated information loss prevention, and compliance tools aimed at helping you simplify the process of protecting your company's communications and meeting regulatory requirements.

    Go get it @

  • Brush your teeth and shave – LifeCam Cinema HD on the way?

    LifeCamCinemaI have not seen an official announcement so I have no idea if it’s real or a mock-up.  But if it’s real, I want it.  Especially if it works with Camtasia, Expression Encoder 3 and Vegas Movie Studio Platinum Edition 9 and above.  My screencasts will never be the same and it’s looking like it’s time to buy my green screen.

    [UPDATE]  It's official now.  See

  • Vote for my SXSW Panel – Screencasting Lessons Learned !!!

    I submitted a panel proposal to this years South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Conference.  The title is, “Screencasting Lessons Learned” and I’ll try to do the subject justice with the knowledge I’ve accumulated over the past four or five years.

    I am getting ready to record a number of Windows 7 screencasts using both Camtasia Studio and Expression Encoder 3.  I’ll be putting some of them through the ringer with adaptive streaming and Silverlight 3 so the information will be fresh and new.  I may try to get my hands on the new version of Camtasia for OS X and give it a whirl on my Apple MacBook Pro, too.  No promises on the later, but it would be a great comparison if I have time.

    ia-logoScreencasting Lessons Learned (

    Your vote: Yes No
    Event: Interactive 2010
    Level: Intermediate
    Type: Solo
    Category: Blogging, Online Video, Writing / Technical Writing
    Organizer: Keith Combs, Microsoft - IT Pro and Developer Evangelism

    1. How long should a screencast be?
    2. How do I publish my screencast using Silverlight?
    3. What do I need to worry about for a good client experience?
    4. Where do I store my video?
    5. What is the difference between progressive download and streaming?
    6. What format should I use for the source recording?
    7. What type of machine do I need for editing and encoding?
    8. Should I use a demo script or wing it?
    9. How long does it take to create a technical screencast?
    10. Should I worry about my accent?

    Description: Learning to publish screencasts online can be a challenge. Come learn some tips and tricks that will help you use Camtasia or Expression Encoder more effectively with your blog. I am actively recruiting other Microsoft MVPs and speakers with the goal of turning this into a panel.

    NOTE: In order to vote, you need to first create an ID at  It’s a quick and dirty registration app.  Very little hassle. Please register and vote even if you aren’t going.  Thanks !!!

  • SouthCentral invite errata on the Q1 Azure events

    I noticed this morning that some SouthCentral district marketing folks had some old and therefore erroneous information in some event invites.  The events I am referring to are at

    The invites I read this morning mentioned we are handing out a Resource Kit to each attendee.

    That isn’t true.  We are not handing out resource kits.  Apparently someone accidentally pasted that into the invites from an old boilerplate.

    So sorry for any confusion on the matter.  It would sure be kewl to have some nice resource kits but we simply don’t have the budget and  materials for this round of events.

  • Who’s up for some nine ball? Bring cash. Lots of it.


    WARNING: I grew up on pool tables.  Not quite like this one, but I’ve been know to sink a few balls. Want more information on the Predator pictured above?  Head on over to  My kind of place.

  • Get some Tru Blood for those late nights


    HBO’s hit show is freaking weird.  But if you can beat em, join em.  Here’s a case of Tru Blood for your next watching “party”.

  • Windows Server 2008 R2 now available on TechNet Plus Downloads


    The Windows Server 2008 R2 .ISO images are now on the TechNet Plus subscribers download area.  The English DVD is also on the Top Downloads area so you can use the high speed multi threaded AKAMAI download client.  Enjoy.

  • Outlook for Mac Announced

    Well, it looks like my MacBook Pro is going to have some fresh new software to run pretty soon, courtesy of the Mac Business Unit here at Microsoft.  Pre-orders start later this week on August 18th.

    There are some pretty interesting developments in the announcements this morning.  My personal interest will be in the new Outlook for Mac product. Outlook for Mac is being built from the ground up as a Mac OS X application using Cocoa. It will have a new database that delivers a reliable, high performance, and integrated experience with Mac OS X.  Users will be able to back-up with Time Machine and search email, calendar and contacts with Spotlight. Additionally, Outlook for Mac and the rest of Office will include Information Rights Management, which helps keep sensitive information for only audiences that you intend. IRM compatibility will make it possible for Mac users to share and receive sensitive information using Microsoft Office tools.

    image We also released a free download for Entourage 2008 for Mac, Web Services Edition.  Microsoft Entourage 2008 for Mac, Web Services Edition uses Exchange Web Services as the primary protocol to communicate with Exchange Server. In addition to several calendaring improvements, this new version of Entourage synchronizes notes, tasks, and categories with Exchange Server.

    We also announced some SKU changes.  Office 2008 for Mac Business Edition will launch September 15, 2009.

    See the press release @ for more information.

    Get Entourage @

  • Remote Server Admin Tools (RSAT) for Windows 7 – now available for download

    windows7rc_bloglogo Remote Server Administration Tools for Windows 7 enables IT administrators to manage roles and features that are installed on remote computers that are running Windows Server 2008 R2 (and, for some roles and features, Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2003) from a remote computer that is running Windows 7. It includes support for remote management of computers that are running either the Server Core or full installation options of Windows Server 2008 R2, and for some roles and features, Windows Server 2008. Some roles and features on Windows Server 2003 can be managed remotely by using Remote Server Administration Tools for Windows 7, although the Server Core installation option is not available with the Windows Server 2003 operating system.

    Go get em @

  • T-Mobile Launches the HTC Touch Pro 2

    HTCTouchPro2 The HTC Touch Pro 2 has been a pretty heavily anticipated device.  T-Mobile is selling them now on their website at

    The fine folks at give you a review of the product at

    I haven’t had a chance to spend any quality time with one yet, but I would keep in mind we haven’t launched Windows Mobile 6.5 yet.  According to the internet rumors, ATT and Verizon are launching the Touch Pro 2 pretty soon as well.  That’s probably a good thing because $349 is out of my range for a device these days.

    Looks like a cool device.  If T-Mobile’s 3G network is providing good coverage across the US now, I know a few T-Mobile customers that are going to be very happy.

  • Get your Windows 7 RC kit keys fast – 8/20 is the deadline

    For those of you that have received a Windows 7 Release Candidate (RC) kit at a loadfest event, or have downloaded the bit from, be sure to request an activation key.  After 8/20/2009 we will not be issuing keys.

    Remember expiration dates: Please plan ahead for the RC expiration dates. To avoid interruption, you'll need to rebuild your test machine using a valid version of Windows before the software expires. Windows will notify you that the expiration process is beginning and two weeks later your PC will begin shutting down every two hours. The RC will expire June 1, 2010, and the bi-hourly shutdowns will begin on March 1, 2010. In both cases, you'll need to rebuild your test PC to replace the OS and reinstall all your programs and data.

  • has been updated !!!

    As you’ll recall over the years we’ve used the area to list the content descriptions and links to events happening in your area of the USA.  We just updated the events listing there.


    But I want to draw your attention to something new.  The three USA regions (East, Central and West) are independently choosing the subjects they deliver each quarter.  So when you click the pic above and head over to the site, keep that in mind.  It should not be too big a deal unless you are planning to cross regions to see an event you might have missed.

  • Windows 7 RTM is now available for TechNet subscribers !!!


  • TechNet Events Presents: Real World Azure with Microsoft IT


    TechNet & MSDN Events Present: Real World Azure with Microsoft IT

    Come spend a day with us to explore Windows Azure, Microsoft’s platform for building and deploying cloud based applications from a real world point of view!  During this event, we’ll review critical lessons Microsoft IT has learned migrating internal line-of-business applications to Windows Azure.

    What is Windows Azure™? When should I use it? How does it apply to my job?  Whether you’re an IT Professional, Developer or Architect, we’ll address your top of mind questions about cloud computing.

    TechNet Presents – for the IT Professional from 8:30am to Noon

    • Azure architecture from the IT professional’s point of view
    • Why an IT operations team would want to pursue Azure as an extension to the data center
    • Configuration, deployment and scaling Azure-based application
    • The Azure roles (web, web service and worker)
    • Azure storage options
    • Azure security and identity options
    • How Azure-based applications can be integrated with on-premise applications
    • How operations teams can manage and monitor Azure-based applications

    Dates and Locations Registration Link

    August 18, 2009 Columbus, OH
    August 19, 2009 Mason, OH
    August 19, 2009 Downers Grove, IL
    August 20, 2009 Indianapolis, IN
    August 20, 2009 Dallas, TX
    September 16, 2009 Grand Rapids, MI
    September 17, 2009 Southfield, MI
    September 17, 2009 Overland Park, KS
    September 17, 2009 Houston, TX
    September 22, 2009 Bloomington, MN
    September 22, 2009 Cleveland, OH
    September 24, 2009 Waukesha, WI
    September 24, 2009 Austin, TX
    September 29, 2009 St. Louis, MO
    September 29, 2009 Nashville, TN
    September 30, 2009 Knoxville, TN
    October 1, 2009 Chicago, IL

    And don’t forget, the second half of the day at each location is developer focused.  Here’s the general description of the MSDN sessions in the afternoon.

    MSDN Presents – for the Developer & Architect from 1:00pm to 5:00pm

    In this session, we will discuss:

    • Cloud computing architectures in general and the Azure architecture in particular
    • Several aspects of Azure from the developer’s and architect’s perspective
    • Azure roles (web, web service and worker)
    • Azure storage options
    • Azure security and identity options
    • How Azure-based applications can be integrated with on-premise applications
    • Configuration, deployment and scaling Azure-based applications
    • How development teams can optimize their applications for better management and monitoring

    Dates and Locations and Registration Link

    8/18/09 Columbus, OH

    8/19/09 Mason, OH

    8/19/09 Downers Grove, IL

    8/20/09 Indianapolis, IN

    8/20/09 Dallas, TX

    9/16/09 Grand Rapids, MI

    9/17/09 Southfield, MI

    9/17/09 Overland Park, KS

    9/17/09 Houston, TX

    9/22/09 Bloomington, MN

    9/22/09 Cleveland, OH

    9/24/09 Waukesha, WI

    9/24/09 Austin, TX

    9/29/09 St. Louis, MO

    9/29/09 Nashville, TN

    9/30/09 Knoxville, TN

    10/1/09 Chicago, IL

  • Netflix Culture – should this be your Culture?

  • Windows Virtual PC and Win XP Mode RC - now available

    windows7rc_bloglogo Microsoft is pleased to announce  the availability of Windows Virtual PC and Windows XP mode Release Candidate. RC is an important milestone in our path to final delivery of Windows Virtual PC and Windows XP Mode.

    Please make sure to read the Release Notes and the Installation Guide before installing.  Also please note that a Beta to RD upgrade is not supported.  You must uninstall the Beta before installing the RC product binaries.

    Here are just a few highlights for the product:

    • Manage USB devices with virtual applications: You can attach and detach USB devices while running virtual applications. The USB device management UI can be easily accessed form the right click context menu of the Virtual Applications icon, on task bar.
    • Jump list for virtual applications: Right clicking on the virtual application icon, on Windows 7 taskbar, displays a jump list that allows one to easily launch virtual applications from the taskbar.
    • Drive share settings: You can select the host computer drives that you would like to share with the virtual machine; in the virtual machine settings.
    • Windows XP Mode tutorial: A tutorial that introduces the user to Windows XP Mode features is displayed during Windows XP Mode Setup.
    • Faster Windows XP Mode setup: Improvements have been done to reduce the setup time for Windows XP Mode.
    • Compact differencing disks: You can now compact the differencing virtual hard disk to reduce the size occupied on the disk.
    • Support for optional components install in XP Mode: Windows XP optional components can be installed in Windows XP Mode.
    • Choose destination location for XP Mode files: You can choose the destination folder to store all virtual machine files for Windows XP Mode during XP Mode setup.

    Go get Windows Virtual PC @

    Go get Windows XP Mode @

  • How important is marketing?

    I wonder if the Palm Pre electrical engineers and software developers ever see comments like the one in the article at where Gary Koepke is quoted as saying, “The Pre is probably being talked about more than other phones right now because of the marketing and advertising, and that's a good thing.”

    I have news for Gary.  Marketing is important to get the word out but ultimately the device needs to work well for the customer.  It has to feel good in the hand.  It’s has to have the features people are willing to pay for.  And it has to be reliable and have a decent battery life.

    All the marketing in the world isn't going to help if the device doesn’t work, so lets not under estimate the value of good engineering and a solid product.  That’s true for Palm, Microsoft and anyone else.

  • Windows Native VHD Boot Deployment Scenarios

    ws2008 r2 blog logo I trade email with a lot of people inside and outside the company.  Unfortunately I am not Sir Richard Branson so I don’t have an airline and unlimited funds to travel the globe and meet the folks I converse with.  With that in mind I use the poor man’s communication tool, email. 

    One of the people I have been conversing with for a while now is Michael Waterman.  Michael is a Consultant with our Netherlands office and has recently started a new blog and his very first post has some great information about the topic of virtual hard disk files, how to use them, and other scenarios. 

    So say hello to Michael over at and download the guide he wrote.  It’s extremely well written and informative.  Enjoy.

  • Virtual Hard Disk Getting Started Guide – download now available

    windows7rc_bloglogo Remember that cool blog post a little over a month ago where I show how to build a dual boot machine?  Remember each of those operating systems were contained in a single .VHD file on the hard drive?  Confused by all of the terminology and techniques?  Well Trina Gorman has written a guide on the tools, terminology and techniques to help get you up to speed on virtual hard disk files.  Here’s the introduction to the guide:


    The virtual hard disk file format (.vhd) specifies the format of a file that represents a virtual hard disk. To use VHDs on Windows Server 2008 and previous versions of Windows, you must install Hyper-V role, Microsoft Virtual Server, or Windows Virtual PC. However, with Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, you can create, configure, and boot physical computers from VHDs without a virtual machine or hypervisor. This functionality simplifies image management because it enables you to:

    • Standardize the image format and toolsets in your organization.
    • Reduce the number of images to catalog and support.
    • Enable increased server utilization to conserve energy.

    Get the guide @

  • Security Audit Events for Win7 and R2 – download now available

    ws2008 r2 blog logo You can use Windows security and system logs to record and store collected security events so that you can track key system and network activities to monitor potentially harmful behaviors and to mitigate those risks. You customize system log events by configuring auditing based on categories of security events such as changes to user account and resource permissions, failed attempts for user logon, failed attempts to access resources, and attempts to modify system files. The information in this download can help you analyze the data included in event log data.

    Get it @  Happy hunting.

  • Looking for an external 2.5” SATA enclosure? Check this out

    My stash of mobile 2.5” hard drives keep growing.  I still have a number of PATA drivers, but the SATA drive pile is growing at an exponential rate.  The primary reason is that the drive capacity goes up right about the time I need more capacity for virtual machines and such.

    I typically use multibay hard drive caddies that fit in the DVD slot of the laptop series we have deployed for the team.  OEMs like to brand that slot with a cool name.  Lenovo calls it the Ultrabay, although I’m not sure I would have called it that.  Other OEMs have different names.  This works really well for travelers because you don’t have to tote along an external contraption with the wires, power supply, etc.  It also protects the drive from being dropped assuming you don’t drop the entire machine.

    In my collection of drives I have acquired several external enclosures that are 2.5” size and SATA I/II interface on the inside.  However, they are USB 2.0 only on the external interface.  This is convenient for quick and dirty work, but not exactly the state-of-the-art case a speed demon might want.  So I went looking for a case with an eSATA port.

    Mistake Number One

    My first stop as usual was the local Fry’s in Irving, Texas.  I wish they would open one a little closer to home.  Scratch that, it’s probably better if they don’t.  As I perused the isle with the cases, I spy a case from IOGEAR.  One of my favorite PATA USB 2.0 cases is made by IOGEAR so I purchase the GHE7125S3.  Big mistake.  The drive I am putting in the case is the latest generation 2.5” Hitachi 320GB 7200rpm

    Although the IOGEAR case seemingly powered up the drive, there is apparently a problem.  The drive is never detected by Windows 7 or any of the other operating systems I try.  Scratches head.  So I start trying other drives.  Most of the 100GB drives work (Seagate and Hitachi).  None of the 200 and 320GB drives work (Seagate and Hitachi).  That’s not good.  Time for a return to Fry’s.

    I explain to the Fry’s return agent what happened and smartly instead of putting the back-to-shelf label on the boxes, he marks them return to maker.  As it should be.  I’m not sure what the issue is with the IOGEAR enclosures, but considering I bought two and they both exhibited this behavior, it looks like there is an engineering issue to me.  Fry’s issues my credit card credit and head to the isle one more time.

    Score !!!

    nst-260su-bkThis time I spy the Vantec NexStar 3 case.  I’ve been using the NexStar cases now for about 7-8 years so it’s always nice to go back to a maker and brand you are familiar with.  I only see one box of the 2.5” NexStar 3 NST-260SU-BK case so I snatch it up.  Snatching in Fry’s is required if there is only one item on a busy day.  

    I have been using two variations of the NexStar cases (now three).  For 2.5” drives, I have been using some cheapo NexStar PATA cases for years.  They aren’t anything fancy but the case is a solid aluminum design with a single USB 2.0 connector.  There is no fan so heat could become an issue with long term sustained use.  These cases are no longer made so I didn’t bother trying to find a link to them.

    For 3.5” drives, I’ve been using the NexStar 3 NST-360SU-BL.  This case is an ok design although it isn’t particularly impressive.  There is no fan so if you are looking for a case that cools really well, you should probably look elsewhere.  See for the case I use with my TiVo.  It runs 24x7 365 so cooling is important. 

    The reason I use the NST-360SU-BL is because they work (a key requirement).  When I use external storage, it’s usually for a relatively short period of time. Backups, file copies and working on a webcast.  So the drive never really gets scorching hot and stays there for a long period of time.  Less than 4-5 hours is typical.

    This is also my typical usage pattern for an external 2.5” enclosure so when I purchased the NST-260SU-BK I wasn’t worried about a fan for cooling.  Not to mention the new drives are running cooler all the time.  As expected the Vantec case works perfectly with all of my drives.  When you first plug the case into Windows 7 using the USB cable, the drive spins up and is detected without issue.  In fact, I tried a number of different USB cables to see if there was really a need for powering the case with two USB ports.  I didn’t see any issues in my testing.

    When you plug an eSATA cable into the case, it automatically switches from the external USB port to the eSATA port for I/O.  USB is just supplying the power at that point.  Again, I tested 3-4 different cables including a RoHS power only cable from a Lenovo enclosure.  They all worked just fine with the eSATA cable attached and provided excellent throughput in the data transfers I observed.

    So now I have a small form factor 320GB SATA II drive and enclosure capable of handling whatever I throw at it.  No more lugging around a large clunky 3.5” enclosure and power supply.  Rock and roll baby.