Keith Combs' Blahg

Ramblings from another nerd on the grid

January, 2010

  • Quick Reminder – Windows 7 RC expiration looms

    windows7rc_bloglogo Effective February 15, 2010, the expiration notification process begins:
    • Windows 7 RC users receive an expiration notification in the task bar one time per day.
    • Windows 7 RC users are presented with the Notification Wizard one time every four hours and then one time every hour.
    Effective March 1, 2010, Windows 7 RC enters the next phase of expiration:
    • Expiration notifications in the task bar continue.
    • Computers that are running Windows 7 RC restart every two hours.
      Important When the computer restarts, your work will not be saved.
    Effective June 1, 2010, Windows 7 RC expires:
    • Windows starts to a black desktop.
    • Windows 7 RC users are presented with a Windows Activation screen. The screen states that the Windows that you are running is not genuine.
    • Computers that are running Windows 7 RC restart every two hours.

    See for more information.

  • Time is running out to win this HP Envy 15! Act now!

    We run fun contests from time to time.  Some are harder than others.  The entrance barrier for this one is pretty easy.  Submit an entry about your Windows 7 experiences and thoughts to the community.  The community votes and the best story wins!!!  Share a business or personal success.  Or write about a cool and innovative feature.

    image Prizes:

    1. 1st place - HP Envy 15 Laptop
    2. 2nd place - HP Mini 311 Netbook
    3. 3rd place - Intel 160GB Solid State Drive

    Contest Period: 11/23/09 to 02/23/10

    Get started: Click  If you haven’t already joined the Windows 7 Community there, you’ll be asked to create an ID.  It’s pretty painless.  After that, checkout the contest description and rules.  The contest is pretty simple.  Tell a good story and the community votes.  Good luck !!!

  • New TechNet Subscription 28% discount with promo code TNITE06

    • Microsoft software - licensed for evaluation purposes. Evaluate full-version commercial products without time limits or feature limits, including Microsoft operating systems, servers, and Office System software. With full-version software, you can make informed decisions about new technologies and deployments at your own pace.
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    • windows7_bloglogoProfessional Support Incidents - For the toughest technical questions, a TechNet Plus subscription includes two complimentary Professional Support incidents and a 20% discount on additional purchased support incidents. Talk to a Microsoft Support Professional to help resolve mission-critical technical issues fast.
    • Managed Newsgroup Support - TechNet Plus provides unlimited access to over 100 Managed Newsgroups. Exchange ideas with other IT Professionals and get expert answers to your technical questions within the next business day—guaranteed.
    • Technical resources for Microsoft products. Access the Technical Information Library containing the Microsoft Knowledge Base, security updates, service packs, resource kits, utilities, technical training, and product documentation to keep systems and IT skills up-to-date.
    • Microsoft eLearning courses - To prepare for certification or simply to help build your technical skills, TechNet Plus includes a selection of Microsoft eLearning courses for free each quarter.
    • Online Concierge Chat - Chat with a Microsoft Search Assistant online for help finding the technical resources you need or for assistance with non-technical questions.

    Ready to order?  Head on over to then just enter the Promotion Code:  TNITE06

  • IIS 6.0 FastCGI v1.5 released – download now available

    ws2008 r2 blog logo The FastCGI Extension 1.5 for IIS 6.0 and 5.1 enables popular application frameworks that support FastCGI protocol to be hosted on the IIS web server in a high-performance and reliable way. FastCGI provides a high-performance alternative to the Common Gateway Interface (CGI), a standard way of interfacing external applications with Web servers that has been supported as part of the IIS feature-set since the very first release.

    CGI programs are executables launched by the web server for each request in order to process the request and generate dynamic responses that are sent back to the client. Because many of these frameworks do not support multi-threaded execution, CGI enables them to execute reliably on IIS by executing exactly one request per process. Unfortunately, it provides poor performance due to the high cost of starting and shutting down a process for each request.

    FastCGI addresses the performance issues inherent to CGI by providing a mechanism to reuse a single process over and over again for many requests. Additionally, FastCGI maintains compatibility with non-thread-safe libraries by providing a pool of reusable processes and ensuring that each process will only handle one request at a time.

    x64 version @

    x86 version @

    Not sure who is running IIS 6 but there you go anyway.

  • Chevy Camaro – old lessons not learned

    image The past couple of trips I managed to get the rental keys to a new Camaro.  The first time in Houston was just for a day trip so I only blasted back on forth on the toll way to the event location.  Since it was a day trip, I didn’t really get a chance to see how I like the vehicle.  I did however start to form an impression then.

    This time I arrived at the Seattle airport on Tuesday.  As you might suspect, the rental car inventory was really low so they were trying to figure out what to do with me. 

    I said stick me in the Camaro.  Score.  They did.  A nice red Camaro for Tuesday through Friday.  This time I would get to drive the car a lot more and on different road types.

    Lasting Impressions 

    The first impression this time was about the trunk.  The opening for it is small, really small.  I’m traveling with a new Eddie Bauer Rainier 21” roll-a-board my wife gave me for Christmas.  It’s a small bag good for a few days so I was pretty shocked to have any sort of issue getting it into the Camaro trunk.  In contrast, my CIVIC Coupe has a much bigger trunk opening. According to the specs they both have the same cargo volume but is sure doesn’t seem that way.  The CIVIC trunk is deeper and far easier to use. Bad first impression.

    Next time you see a new Camaro on the road, look at it closely.  It’s rather big car.  In fact, it weighs 1000 pounds more than my CIVIC and you can probably tell already where I’m headed with this post.  The Camaro is 190” long and 75” wide (not including the mirrors).  The CIVIC is 175.5 x 68.9.  You’ll really feel the width when trying to park in a compact space in a Microsoft campus garage.  Don’t do it.

    The base model Camaro comes with a 304 horsepower engine.  When you press the gas, it goes. I’m sure the extra 122 horses in the SS model is very apparent but the rental car companies don’t have any of those.  By comparison the CIVIC has a 140 horsepower engine.  Not exactly in the same realm of an American made muscle car is it?

    The Camaro handles well enough but you can feel the size and bulk.  When you hit bumps you can feel the stiff suspension. I wondered how the car would sound after banging down roads for three years.  The steering was good and responsive.  The tires were tacky so it went wherever you point it.

    The interior and exterior of the vehicle is over stated.  Big dashboard.  Big center console. Big hood.  It’s a cool looking car and I guess that’s the point.  The drivers seat I had used electric controls and you could raise and lower the seat height. At the height I liked in order to see out, my head just barely touched the roof.  You six+ footers are going to have an interesting time.  I like the gauges and controls.

    I noticed while driving the Camaro that the gas seemed to disappear a little more quickly than expected.  Since I wasn’t burning rubber that was a little disconcerting.  The website specs say the EPA estimate is 17 in the city compared to the 25 of the CIVIC.  Not bad, but not great.

    Back Home

    After driving the Camaro around for a few days, I dropped it back off at the SEATAC airport and took my flight home.  We landed and I jumped into the CIVIC and started heading home.  Wow, what a difference.  This is when you can really appreciate the difference in the two cars.

    The CIVIC is not overstated in any way.  The trunk feels bigger.  The interior feels bigger but it probably isn’t because the overall car is smaller.  The CIVIC dash is just not as overstated nor is the center console.  The CIVIC feels small and nimble compared to the Camaro because frankly it is.

    But it left me wondering why the hell GM and the other American car companies build cars with such an old school mentality.  Now granted the Camaro is a car in a very different genre than the CIVIC Coupe, but I just couldn’t help but wonder if they even attempted to design one that was smaller, nimble, and sportier.  I used to own a Infiniti G35 Coupe, RX7, Mustang, Cellica GT Liftback and other cars.  I’ve driven many sports cars.  If GM and the other American car companies are going to make sports cars, so be it.  Just don’t make sporty tanks.  I’ll stick with my low horsepower, high gas mileage, nimble sports car.

  • DFW IT Professionals Meeting Agenda and Speaker for 2/4 Announced

    image Meeting Topic: SharePoint 2010 Overview for IT pros & Information Workers

    Topic Description: SharePoint 2010 represents a significant change in features and capabilities from previous versions of SharePoint. In this presentation, Jeff will go through a quick review of the capabilities and features found in SharePoint 2010 and the Sku’s that will offer from Microsoft. The remainder of the time will be spent in hands-on demonstrations of these new features and demonstrate how Microsoft is poised to increase the productivity of today’s information worker.

    Microsoft's Las Colinas Office
    LC1 Building (Right Tower)
    7000 State Highway 161, Irving, TX

    Speaker: Jeff DeVerter has been working with SharePoint since 2003 which is early in the “v2” product line. He has been involved in the following disciplines within SharePoint: System Planning and Architecture, SharePoint Governance and Taxonomy, SharePoint end user development, SharePoint Security Planning and Implementation and SharePoint Training

    Jeff DeVerter remains very active and respected in the greater SharePoint community maintaining an active SharePoint Blog and is a sought after public speaker. Recent speaking engagements include: Microsoft SharePoint Conference 2009, Microsoft Impact Conference, SharePoint Saturday Events in Chicago, Dallas, and San Antonio, and Many online screencast events

    Our Sponsor this month is Rackspace! ( We are the World's Leader in Hosting and Cloud Computing. All we do is hosting. And we do it better than anyone else in the world. We've set the standard for Cloud, Managed and Email Hosting with our world-class support, expertise and diverse solutions for customers of all sizes, kinds and needs.

    Cost: Rackspace is paying for the pizza but please RSVP to help predict the amount of food needed.

    6-6:30: Dinner and Networking
    6:30-7:00: Announcements, and Business meeting
    7 - 8:30: Presentation and wrap up


  • Lenovo ThinkPad Edge – first impressions

    Edge13_inch_red I received a Lenovo ThinkPad Edge Friday afternoon so it’s been a little over twenty four hours since I pulled it out of the wrapping.  I like to write about first impressions pretty quickly so I can focus on other matters later.

    Model and Specs

    The evaluation unit I received is the 0196-25U model in glossy black, not the gloss red you see at right.  The glossy finish attracts fingerprints and smudges. This is pretty surprising coming from Lenovo.

    The processor is an Intel® Core™ 2 Duo SU7300 Processor ( 1.30GHz 800MHz 3MB ).  The proc is x64 capable and includes Intel-VT capabilities.  It shipped with 4GB of PC3-8500 DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz memory.  Although the specs say the max is 4GB, I’ll probably try 8GB in my unit later to see if that’s really true or not.

    The video chipset is a Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 4500MHD (GMA 4500MHD), in GS45, external analog monitor support via VGA DB-15 connector and digital monitor support via HDMI™ (supporting HDCP to output protected content); Max external resolution: 2048x1536@75Hz.  I’ll have to look and see if my new Saumsung HDTV can handle that resolution.  I don’t think so.

    The screen is a 13.3" (338mm) HD (1366x768) color, VibrantView (glossy), LED backlight, 200 nits, 16:9 aspect ratio, 400:1 contrast ratio, Web Camera on top of screen, 0.3-megapixel, low light sensitive. Call me a high resolution snob but it’s not easy going from a 1680x1050 resolution on a 15.4” screen down to this level.  There is no way I could use a 10” screen netbook.

    The hard drive that came with the machine is a Seagate 320GB 7200rpm drive.  It’s a relatively cool running drive so it hasn’t generated a lot of heat or noise.  In fact, since there is no drive activity light on the Edge, it’s difficult to tell when the hard drive is being used.  I might try my Intel SSD in this machine before I ship it back so I can see how much performance is improved, and heat lowered.  It doesn’t generate much heat right now so the SSD will make it really cool running.

    The battery is a six cell Lithium Ion and is rated at 8 hours in the specs.  I ran it 6 hours today with a profile I created that is not an aggressive power miser. The profile only allows the screen to turn down to 50% brightness, not off.  The hard drive is turned off after 10 minutes.  The machine is not allowed to sleep.  I’ll probably run a few other tests, but it appears you can get 7 hours pretty easy.

    The keyboard is not one of the world famous ThinkPad keyboards.  Instead, it’s a chiclet style keyboard.  I have no problems using the keyboard.  It’s very easy to type on.  I did reverse the behavior of the function keys in the BIOS.  I did not like the default settings that were shipped.  And for those of you that hate the fact the CTRL key isn’t on the bottom left, you can reverse the FN and CRTL keys in the BIOS as well.

    ThinkPadEdgeWEI Performance and Usability

    I am pretty surprised at how well the machine performs. I expected performance to be much worse than it is. 

    As you can see in the WEI scores at right, the video chipset is just ok.  But for surfing the web, checking email, and doing other routine stuff like that it should be sufficient.  In the next few weeks I’ll stress the video with some games and video to see how it handles less mundane chores.

    The CPU and disk in the Edge are more than adequate for most peoples needs.  It isn’t blazing speed but it isn’t a dog like some of the netbooks either.  The SU7300 is a full fledged dual core CPU and includes everything you need to run a modern 64 bit operating system.

    In fact, I installed Windows Server 2008 R2 and enabled the Hyper-V role on this machine.  I also created and ran a copy of Windows 7 Ultimate x64 in a virtual machine under Hyper-V.  All of this was running from the single internal disk from a boot from VHD environment.

    How do you like the machine?

    The most noticeable thing about the machine, especially after having carried around a 15.4” machine for the past few years is that the ThinkPad Edge is pretty light.  Even with the 6 cell battery it’s less than 4 pounds. That combined with the texture on the bottom makes it very easy to grab and grip with one hand. 

    I used the Edge off and on for six hours today as I tested the battery life.  The light weight and low temperature made the little machine easy to use on your lap without protection from heat. 

    The keyboard is to use. The keys aren’t mushy and aren’t noisy like a lot of the other small machines.  Like I mentioned above, you might choose to change the function key controls in the BIOS, but that’s easily solved.  Thanks for making that option available Lenovo.  The little PgUp and PgDn keys are interesting and I like the placement at the bottom right instead of the top right like my T61p.  Great for scrolling web pages and such.

    For those of you looking for a multi touch device, the trackpad now includes some multi touch capabilities.  I need to dig out the users guide on this because I haven’t really figured out everything it can do.  Zooming in and out is easy but it keeps tripping me up on other stuff.  RTFM.

    The screen is plenty bright although it doesn’t match the T400 my wife has.  The screen has a glossy finish and it isn’t annoying me as much as I thought it would.  The 1366x768 resolution is probably a deal breaker though.  I think my minimum bar is 1440x900, but many people will be quite comfortable with it’s native res.

    Like I mentioned above, I installed Windows Server and Hyper-V.  I wanted to see how Windows Server 2008 R2 worked (if at all) and determine if networking and other stuff worked.  So far everything I’ve tried worked out pretty well.  Hyper-V works.  I created a VM and that works.  I installed the Windows 7 x64 Intel video drivers and they worked.  I installed the Intel wireless drivers and they worked.  I turned on Aero Glass just for fun and it worked.  Windows Server use is a fringe activity for a machine like this, but it does give you a pretty good idea of the feature set in the SU7300 CPU.  I’ll screw around with it more later, but not much.  I’m going to break the boot from VHD environment with BitLocker so it’ll be short lived.

    What’s missing?

    The most obvious component missing from this machine is an optical disk drive.  It sure seems like the chassis is big enough for one.  You are definitely going to want an external DVD drive.  Another obvious omission is any kind of slot.  No smartcard slot.  No PCMCIA slot.  And no ExpressCard slot.  Since you only have USB 2.0 ports, there’s no way to use IEEE 1394 or USB 3.0.  An ExpressCard 34mm slot would have been nice to have for eSATA or USB 3.0 expansion and use.

    If you use dial-up networking, you’ll notice there’s no built-in modem.  This is probably no big deal in this day and age, but I thought I would mention it.

    Another thing that appears to be missing on the inside is the pre-wiring for a cell phone card module.  The slot is in there for a module, but my eval unit doesn’t have any antenna leads.  I need to investigate this later to see what is required to buy and use a module.

    Also missing from the chassis and lid is the legendary ThinkPad look and feel.  It just doesn’t have the same quality as say a ThinkPad T400 or other small ThinkPads like the T410s or X301.  This is in part because of the roll cage construction isn’t included and the chassis is just different.  The ThinkPad Edge has some flex in the lid.  Flex that is unheard of in other ThinkPad models.  I guess we’ll find out in a couple of years how this holds up.

    Also missing is a backlit keyboard.  I realize in order to keep the cost down this laptop and other netbooks don’t include such features, but it’s a feature I want in the next machines I buy if possible.  Seems like a no brainer to me. 

    What’s next?

    Over the next 3-4 weeks I’ll put this little baby through some fun tests.  I want to see how it does with BitLocker in our corporate environment.  I want to see how it handles a wide variety of video.  I’ll do more battery testing.  Bill Steele has already claimed he got 9.5 hours out of some machine he has.  I’ll follow up on his challenge.  And of course we’ll see how the paint job holds up. 

    One thing is clear about this particular machine.  It isn’t a netbook.  It’s a small laptop.  So I need to be comparing it to the other 13” laptops on the market like the Dell, HP, Sony, ASUS, and Toshiba offerings.  More on those thoughts later.

  • Making the Next Technology Leap in HDTV

    You wouldn’t think you could actually make a technology leap in high definition television at home.  I mean after all high definition televisions are all displaying the same thing, right?  Wrong.  I did it this past weekend and the results are still blowing me away every evening.

    A few months ago I had decided to purchase a new HDTV and sell my HP 58” DLP MD5880n to my brother-in-law.  Buck was willing to give me a little money for it, but in the end I decided to just give it to him.  Pretty good deal for him, eh?

    I had narrowed my list of possible sets to a 58” Samsung Series 8 plasma, a 58” Panasonic V10 plasma, and the 55” Samsung Series 8 LED LCD.  I went to a BestBuy in far north Texas in Flower Mound because they had them all on display nearly side-by-side.  All three sets are impressive and after looking at the picture quality, fiddling with menus and settings, and kicking the tires I left the store in order to shop for the price I wanted.

    Waiting turned out to be a good and bad idea.  Just before the BestBuy visit, I noticed the supply of the Samsung LED LCD UN55B8500 I wanted was starting to dry up.  I knew CES was coming and Samsung was likely to announce a successor, but I hadn’t anticipated inventory disappearing already.  But the internal Microsoft employee deal was already gone.  Not a good sign.

    BestBuy put the UN55B8500 on sale.  In fact, as of this writing it still is but they didn’t have any in stock other than display models in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana.  Nothing in the central warehouse for shipping from either.

    I looked at and noticed they also had the set on sale.  I called the salesman I had talked to a week earlier and asked if he had one new in the box.  He said he had two.  I told him I’d be there in 30 minutes to buy one.  I already knew from prior dimension and weight research that the box would fit perfectly in my wife's Honda Element with one back seat folded up.  It did.  Perfect fit.  Made for each other.  Karma.

    samsung un55b8500

    The Wife Acceptance Factor

    My wife rarely comments about technology changes around the house.  After living with a nerd for so many years she is used to stuff coming and going.  I think she thought I was crazy to consider replacing the DLP set.  I’m not really sure.  I didn’t really ask because I didn’t have to get the purchase through the budget committee.  The purchase was funded by selling of stuff from my home office I wasn’t using.  I also won third place in a contest and that helped seal the deal. 

    We moved the HP DLP off the den entertainment center stand and into the garage for bro-in-law pickup. We then pulled the box out of the Honda and set it in front of the tv stand.  I think she was pretty surprised when I lifted the box cover off and we lifted the new set out of the box and on the stand.  Thin and light baby.

    I had the protective tape off, box removed and new HDTV up and running about twenty minutes later.  I had to go over and pick her jaw up off the floor.  I must admit, the out-of-box experience was fantastic.  There was absolutely no question from anyone that has been to my house since that this HDTV is a technology leap. 

    You want to see Verizon FIOS TV shine?  This set really does it justice.  The recordings coming off my TiVo are fantastic.  The Blu-ray 1080p playback is unreal.  It’s actually too good.  Is that possible?  Let me put it to you this way.  You actually feel like you are on the set where some of the movies or TV shows are being shot, while they are shooting it.  My wife commented, “It no longer looks fake.  It looks like we are on the set”.

    Watching the remaining football games last Sunday was a blast.  So clear and detailed.  I am looking forward to this coming weekends NFL games. I am also going to re-watch some of my favorite movies.  The XBOX 360 across HDMI at 1080p aint bad either. Gotta love winter. 

    The Samsung UN55B8500 is a phenomenal set.  I just hope I am not kicking myself in a few weeks for not buying the new Samsung Series 9000 LED with 3D capabilities.  Naw, this should keep me happy until the holodecks are available in 2015.

  • Lenovo ThinkPad Edge – hide this from the family

    Sometime today I should have a Lenovo ThinkPad Edge in my hands to evaluate for a few weeks.  I can hear it already.  My honey is going to take one look at it and say, “Let me try that”.  Then I’ll never get it back.  Look for first impressions this weekend if it arrives today.  Look for depression if it doesn’t. 

  • Honda CR-Z Revealed


    Looks interesting from the front.  Not sure about the side or rear.  See

  • Lenovo ThinkPad W510 – now available for order

    w510 Have some money to spend on the latest wares from Lenovo?  Here are the specifications for the new Lenovo ThinkPad W510.  Well, at least the one I would order if I could afford it.

    Intel® Core™ i7 Quad Core Extreme i7-920XM, 16GB PC3-10600 1333MHz DDR3 RAM, 15.6" (396mm) FHD (1920x1080) color, anti-glare, LED backlight,
    242 nits, 16:9 aspect ratio, 500:1 contrast ratio, 95% Gamut, and the NVIDIA® Quadro® FX880M, PCI Express® x16, 1GB memory GPU.

    It also comes with USB 3.0, eSATA, and other bells and whistles.  If you have to ask about the price, go order one at but this isn’t a $300 netbook.

    Full specs at Order this bad boy at

  • Changes in Functionality - Windows Server 2008 to Windows Server 2008 R2

    ws2008 r2 blog logo Windows Server® 2008 R2 adds new features and extends technologies introduced in Windows Server® 2008 to help increase the reliability and flexibility of server infrastructures.

    This document describes some of the new capabilities and management enhancements in Windows Server 2008 R2 and how they can be used to provide greater control and increased efficiency.

    Go get it @

  • HSPD-12 Logical Access Authentication and Active Directory Domains

    ws2008 r2 blog logo This document explains the interdependencies between Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS) and Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) related to USA Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 (HSPD-12) smart card logon. Topics concerning the Federal PKI Common Policy Root certificate, Extended Key Usage (EKU) requirements and validation of Personal Identity Verification (PIV) authentication certificates for smart card logon are addressed. This document is written for enterprise information technology professionals who are planning or implementing PIV-II smart card logon in accordance with the HSPD-12 directive. It is assumed that the audience for this document has basic knowledge of Public Key Infrastructure and Smart Card concepts.

    Get it @

  • Here’s the Arc Keyboard to go with your Arc Mouse



  • Kingston smacks their SSD drive with a baseball bat

  • It’s Official - The Hot HTC HD2 is coming to T-Mobile


    LAS VEGAS – January 6, 2010 –T-Mobile USA, Inc. and HTC today announced the HTC HD2 is expected to be available for the first time in the US exclusively from T-Mobile USA this spring.  With its industry leading, high-resolution, 4.3-inch capacitive touch display and high-powered features, the ultra-thin HTC HD2 phone delivers content in a sharper, brighter and richer way.

    The HTC HD2 comes equipped with the 1 GHz Snapdragon™ by Qualcomm mobile processor and utilizes T-Mobile’s high speed 3G network for a fast mobile data experience.

    “T-Mobile and HTC have a long history of partnering to deliver innovative, cutting-edge products to T-Mobile customers,” said George Harrison, vice president, marketing product innovation, T-Mobile USA.  “The HTC HD2 delivers a thin, sophisticated design and powerful features that we are excited to add to our dynamic smartphone line-up this spring.” 

    See the full press release at for more information.

    Click the pic above for the high resolution version of the picture.  See for more information on the device.  Keep in mind it’s the worldwide site and not the T-Mobile version the US will receive.

  • Ceton Announces new Multi-stream CableCard Quad Tuner


    The Ceton Digital Cable Quad-Tuner Card is the world's first multi-tuner PC card for watching digital cable TV on the PC, including support for premium cable channels. It enables Media Center PCs to play or record up to four live channels of HDTV at once, and stream live HD channels or recordings to multiple HDTVs throughout the home, all from a single cable connection and a single CableCARD™. Replace your cable set-top boxes and their costly monthly rental fees and enjoy premium cable TV throughout the home, all from a single PC. With the Ceton Digital Cable Quad-Tuner Card your Media Center PC becomes a complete entertainment platform for all your media, including premium cable TV.

    The Ceton Digital Cable Quad-Tuner Card will be available for sale by March 31, 2010 for $399 USD. See for more information.

  • Remote Control envy – Sling this into your den

    sling remote

  • Invitation for Comment: TechNet Forum Direction

    One of the not so little “projects” that landed in my lap on 12/10/2009 is TechNet forums.  Specifically, all of the forums that are used worldwide by IT Pros. is the start of the US English language area. There are many more forums for other locales and languages.

    About five minutes after my manager, John Martin, persuaded me to take on the project there was a flash fire.  You know the type.  The ugly type and this fire was no exception.  The spammers had decided to spam the hell out of a bunch of unmoderated forums.  They were smart enough to learn that the forum tag cloud was based on user defined categories for the forum posts.  As a result, the tag cloud had VIAGRA and many other non IT Pro related tags made clearly visible in large font sizes.  Wince. Needless to say, the tag cloud was taken down immediately as the tools team worked on cleansing the undesirable posts from the forum areas. 

    This incident led to a number of discussions before the Christmas break and after.  With that in mind, I would like to solicit feedback on how you would like to see the TechNet Forums handled.  In fact, I’d like to know what you think they should be used for and how the direction should be shaped.  Before I outline some of the problems, issues and opportunities, let’s review some of the history to see how we got here.

    The Past

    Forums are rooted in the past.  Remember CompuServe, AOL and dial-up modem bulletin board systems?  Remember the pain of searching for fixes then?  It wasn’t particularly fun and large fixes took forever to download.

    Usenet news servers weren’t much better but the hierarchy was pretty easy to navigate.  Usenet (NNTP) based client software was readily available for all of the operating systems and offline reading of subscribed usenet groups made collaboration easier for the subject matter experts of the world.  I still prefer usenet over web based forums.

    The web took off in the early 90’s and the web based forum areas were born.  Many popular forum applications are available on the grid and nearly anyone could setup a forum area to discuss whatever topic comes to mind.  Web forums were really the precursor to the social software revolution we see now.  However, lets not discount web based forums.  Many innovations have occurred in forums and development still takes place.

    For instance, presence became popular in forums.  This allowed for real time interaction and integration with other protocols and tools like IRC.  Other forum innovations include posting histories for members, badges and honors for contributors, moderation privileges for frequent contributors, voting, and many other features that provide for a great communal experience.

    Present Day

    Go where the people are.  This is a pretty important law of social computing and it’s one that the spammers live by.  If people are there, spammers will find a way to exploit things and ruin it for everyone.  It happened on email.  It happened in usenet.  It’s happening in twitter.  Our forums are no exception to this.

    How do you stop the spam?

    I welcome feedback on this question.  There are more questions that come up later but this one invites a little dissection of the problem, and some possible wildly different solutions.  Let’s look at the poles.

    First, we could create a forum environment that is totally policed by the community.  In fact, Microsoft could back away and let it be totally run by the community including answering the questions that are posted.  That would be very different than what we have today, but it would be an interesting test.

    It can be done.  It’s already done all over the internet.  In fact, I’d wager the vast majority of conversations, questions and answers about Microsoft products and technologies don’t occur at  Those collaborations occur elsewhere.  And when you search using or, you are discovering the threads and answers from all of those sites.

    So back to the community led forum, moderators and owners would have to deal with the problem of spam, terse threads, and other objectionable material.  You can certainly use software to spot obvious spammer carpet bombing, but you can’t totally get away from having human oversight.  Humans cost money.  Lots of money.

    This brings us to the opposite end of the spectrum.  The forums are totally Microsoft run.  All forums have moderators.  No posts become visible without being checked by a human.  Answers come from paid support professionals, MVPs, SME’s and other passionate contributors.  Spam is null and void but this highly regulated environment comes with a high price tag.

    As you can see, just by looking at the spam problem we’ve opened the door to a whole array of other interesting issues.

    Microsoft Answers, Reporting, Ownership and Funding

    Once the genie is out of the bottle, it’s really hard to put the genie back in.  For instance, if we shut down forums totally, where would people get authoritative answers?  I am not suggesting I plan to make such a drastic change, but think about it.  What if I pulled the plug tomorrow?

    We wouldn’t have to worry about moderators watching everything that goes on.  We could dump reporting.  We could use the budget for the staffing of answering the questions for something like improving products.

    For instance, we could shift that budget to produce high quality content in the form of webcasts, podcasts, and videos.  We could focus on high quality whitepapers and guides.  We could focus energy and money into online documentation that is easily searchable.

    What would you do?  What do the other companies you buy products from do?  Have any great examples? Or maybe a more important question should be asked:


    Do you use Microsoft TechNet Forums?