Keith Combs' Blahg

Ramblings from another nerd on the grid

February, 2010

  • Lenovo ThinkPad W510 – first impressions

    w510 Friday afternoon I received two Lenovo ThinkPad W510’s. The one I decided to look at first is the model with the 1920x1080 Multi Touch screen.  Let me first say I am not a big fan of this high a resolution on a screen that is 15.6”.  I have two other laptops with 15.4” screens that have native resolutions of 1920x1200.  But this machine is very different.

    The Specs

    Here are specifications for the machine I am currently reviewing. It is a ThinkPad W510 Model 4389-2UU. It has a Intel® Core™ i7-820QM quad-core processor 6MB Cache. I loaded the machine with 4x4GB PC3-8500 1066MHz SoDIMM memory sticks for a total of 16GB of RAM. The machine arrived with a Seagate 500GB 7200rpm hard drive.  I pulled that drive and set it aside then installed my Intel 160GB Generation 2 SSD drive.

    The screen is 15.6" (396mm) FHD (1920x1080) color, anti-glare, LED backlight, 242 nits, 16:9 aspect ratio, 500:1 contrast ratio, 95% Gamut, MultiTouch (touchscreen supports two-finger touch).  To keep the screen calibrated, this model includes a Pantone huey™PRO X-Rite® Colorimeter.  The color calibration sensor is in palm rest near the fingerprint reader.

    The video chipset is the NVIDIA® Quadro® FX 880M with 1GB of discrete memory. The chassis has a VGA DB-15 connector which is typical. It also includes a DisplayPort connector (supports single-link DVI-D via cable 45J7915); and has a Maximum external resolution: 2560x1600 (DisplayPort)@60Hz; 2048x1536 (VGA)@85Hz; 1920x1200@60Hz (single-link DVI-D via cable 45J7915).

    The W510 is 15.6W" (WxDxH): 14.68" x 9.65" x 1.26-1.41"; 372.8mm x 245.1mm x 32-35.8mm. The 6-cell weight starts at 5.66 lb (2.57kg); 9-cell: starting at 6.01 lb (2.72kg).  For those of you keeping score, this machine is slightly wider than a T61p, and slightly heavier.  If you are used to carrying around a T61p or W500, you aren’t going to get bent out of shape by the difference.  This isn’t a T400, T410 or T410s so don’t bother comparing them on size and weight.  This is a bigger and heavier machine.  But it isn’t a huge, fat, 17” pizza box either.

    The eval unit I have includes the 5-in-1 reader (MMC, Memory Stick, Mem Stick Pro, SD, SDHC), Two USB 3.0, one Powered USB 2.0, one USB 2.0/eSATA combo port, modem (RJ-11), Intel Gigabit ethernet (RJ-45), and an IEEE 1394 FireWire 400 (4-pin connector; 1394a-2000 standard).  I have no idea why Lenovo still includes a modem and connector. In fact, I’m a little perturbed with it’s placement because it’s in the location where I would expect a couple of USB ports.

    Under the Covers

    I needed to go pretty deep into the case right away because I wanted to change the memory configuration and hard drive.  The W510 has four 204 pin DDR3 memory slots.  Two are easy access from the bottom of the machine, and two are underneath the keyboard.  In case you are wondering, the ThinkPad T61p uses 200 pin DDR2 SoDIMMS that are not compatible with the W510.  I have other machines that use the 204 pin DDR3 sticks so I pulled the memory out of all of them and loaded this machine with 16GB of memory.  In the next 30 days I’ll put all of that memory to use with virtualization.

    Lenovo also changed the primary hard drive bay.  It’s underneath the machine and accessible from the bottom.  It isn’t hard to swap drives, but it’s nowhere near as easy as the T61p, W500 or T400.  I don’t really like the new design because I do a lot of drive swaps, but I can live with it.  It certainly isn’t a deal breaker.  The machine is designed for people that don’t swap drives often so you need not be concerned.  Be happy there is relatively easy access.

    Multi Touch Screen

    Touch interfaces are the rage.  They’ve been around for years and thanks to Apple and the iPhone, people have started to discover them en masse.  The model I received for evaluation has the 1920x1080 resolution Multi Touch screen. I was eager to see he brightness and color of the screen because I fell in love with the screen on the W700.  I plugged in the laptop and fired it up.  The first time I saw the screen it had a slight rose colored hue to it.  I just grinned. 

    I launched the Pantone hueyPRO X-Rite application and started the color calibration process.  That is so kewl. You shut the lid, it does it’s thing then beeps on completion and you get to see the results.  MUCH better. I am not a Pro photographer so I’ll let the Pros chime in on the screen from their reviews, but it looks pretty good to me. Extremely good for a touch screen device. The screen itself is listed as an anti glare screen but I noticed more glare on it than my T61p or other laptops. It appears there are some anti glare coatings on the screen. I’m not really sure.

    I do know this, I would not order the multi touch screen. I don’t have a big use for multi touch applications on a device like this so I would order the FHD 1920x1080 without the multi touch option.  For developers, it would seem to be a no brainer to get this option, but I’m planning on getting a slate style device this year so I would forgo the option on this laptop. 

    The FHD is super bright. That is the biggest gripe I have with the other 15.4” 1920x1200 based laptops I have. Those screens don’t have nearly the brightness and contrast as this screen. I still detect a slight graininess but I believe that is due to the touch screen.  The other W510 evaluation unit I have has the HD+ 1600x900 screen and it is bright and extremely clear.  However, that screen dropped the resolution below the tolerable limits for me, so the 1920x1080 FHD screen is going to be the one I get when it comes time for a purchase.  Windows 7 and the DPI settings allow fine adjustments to font rendering to suit your preferences.  I run 1920x1080 at 115% or 125% DPI.  Looks great and it’s easy on my eyes.  Lenovo has a winner with these screens.

    My manager, John Martin, will snicker at the next comment or two.  You see, I was in Seattle a couple of weeks ago and we were reviewing some data I had on my T61p.  I turned the machine so he could see the screen and he had a surprised look on his face.  I said, “What?” He remarked at how clean the screen was.  I must admit I do like my screens fingerprint and dust free. I cleaned the screen just before I flew to Seattle. You can imagine my shock of all of those fingerprints on the W510 screen after just a few hours of use. Not sure I could live with that.  Clean freak.

    Other Stuff

    Let me tell you about a couple of minor things I thought were pretty cool before I get into a Windows 7 re-install and the tips and tricks associated with that.  First up is my favorite new button.  The Microphone mute button.  Press it an it kills the microphone and lights up a nice, bright, amber orange.  Because I use my computer now for a lot of phone calls, this is a life savor.  If you’ve ever done or said anything you wished you had not on a live mic, you know what I mean.

    I also like some of the power management that has gone into this machine. I will fully explore it in testing over the next 30 days, but I really liked how the management software just shuts down power to the DVD drive until you need it.  Nice. I’ll be testing the power management for real at the MVP Summit.  I haven’t decided if I am taking this machine because I can’t use my data card in this machine (it’s PCMCIA).

    The W510 seems to be running fairly quiet and cool, especially for such a powerhouse machine. I have not taxed the system yet.  I have also not tested battery life.  I did observe one thing I am going to re-test.  I noticed if I put the Microsoft Wireless Mobile Mouse 6000 micro USB transmitter in the USB 3.0 port, the machine fails to boot.  In fact, it seemed to overheat the machine.  Strange.  I am going to try a repro on that tomorrow or the next day.

    The machine has two cool looking blue colored USB 3.0 ports.  I was going to trek down to Fry’s today and see if they have any USB 3.0 hard drive enclosures, but I never made it over there.  I am going to try and make the trip after I work out in the morning.

    I have a gripe about the Ultrabay.  Once again Lenovo has changed it so that you cannot use hard drive adaptors from a previous generation of ThinkPad's.  Therefore, the T400/W500 Ultrabay hard drive adaptor will not go into the W510 bay.  I looked closely at it, and it appears I could make it work, but I would have to use an exacto knife on the W500 hard drive adaptor I have.  I guess I’ll have to wait and see if the come out with one.  I don’t see it listed yet.

    w510_winsat Installing Windows 7 x64 – Tips and Tricks

    This is going to be a relatively short section but let me give you some advice.  The eval unit I received came with the 32 bit version of Windows 7 Professional.  Strange.  Nobody in their right mind is going to fill four slots with 1GB DDR3 sticks so everyone has the potential to go well over the 4GB limit for x86 versions of operating systems.  I know, people have 32 bit app compat concerns.  This machine wasn’t designed for them. This is a power user work horse. Use 64 bit operating systems.

    When I started looking at the drivers at the Support and Download area, my sixth sense told me something was missing.  My sixth sense was right.  Fortunately I paid attention to that and instead of flattening the original drive, I pulled it from the machine and set it aside. 

    I had to go back to that drive and get some files in the SWTOOLS directory.  The SWTOOLS directory has all of the drivers and software that is factory installed.  Be sure to copy this directory to a safe place.  Be sure to use the installed ThinkVantage tools to create a factory disk set.  It’s always the first thing I create when I get a new machine.  It takes three DVDs.

    The Lenovo W510 Support and Downloads area currently doesn’t have the power management driver for the W510.  Huge oversight.  This is a key requirement for the Pantone color calibration sensor and software.  It’s also a key prereq for the MIC mute button and other components in the machine.

    You’ll also find out most of the USB ports don’t work well with some external enclosures until the power management and NEC USB 3.0 drivers are installed.  My external 2.5” Vantec NexStar 3 enclosure would only work in the combo eSATA/USB port.  It would not work on the powered USB port or either of the USB 3.0 ports until the drivers were installed.  Thankfully it worked because there were some key drivers needed on it.

    I had already downloaded all of the 64 bit drivers I could find and had them stashed on the NexStar 3.  Good thing.  Windows 7 Enterprise x64 doesn’t recognize the ThinkPad W510 Intel(R) 82577LM Gigabit Ethernet or Intel(R) Centrino(R) Ultimate-N 6300 AGN wireless chipsets using the driver base in the RTM build of Windows 7. That means you cannot talk to the internet and Windows Update until you download and install them from the Lenovo Support and Downloads area.

    Fortunately, nearly everything you need for a 64 bit install of Windows 7 is on the download area.  The rest is in the SWTOOLS directory including software for burning DVD’s and other stuff.  The ThinkPad W510 I received did not come loaded with “crapware”.  In fact, there was very little pre-loaded.  Thanks Lenovo !!!

    Some Final Thoughts and What’s Next

    So far I am very impressed with the physical build of the machine, fit and finish, and performance. I have a lot of planned testing coming the next 30 days including running Windows Server 2008 R2, Hyper-V, Red Hat, and Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop if I have time.

    I like the layout of the ports with the sole exception of the RJ-11 port.  Dump that. I’m glad the USB ports are now horizontal instead of vertical.  I am planning on getting a USB data card soon so that will be helpful for it.

    That’s it for now.  I wanted to give you some first impressions in the first 24 hours of having the machine.  I went a little over that because it took some time to back up other machines, move memory and SSD drives around, research the missing drivers, etc.  I have not hit any show stoppers so far and Windows 7 Enterprise x64 is flying (as evidenced in the screenshot above).  Click on the screenshot for a larger view of the data.

    [UPDATE for 02/10/2010] I have gone through the process of installing Windows Server 2008 R2 and documented the steps I took at http://blogs.technet.com/keithcombs/archive/2010/02/10/install-windows-server-2008-r2-on-a-lenovo-thinkpad-w510.aspx.  I hope you find this useful.  Please ask W510 R2 comments there. 

    Thanks.

  • TechNet 2.0 – Episode 6 – Wiki

    Each of you has likely used one of the world’s most popular Wiki’s known as http://wikipedia.org. The English section of that site has 3.2 million articles and there are many more supported languages. An excerpt from the mission of the site is “to empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop educational content.” We have a similar TechNet mission.

    As you’ll recall from TechNet 2.0 – Episode 1 – Core Scenarios and Branding, three big things we focus on for all TechNet scenarios are Content, Discoverability, and Participation. We really want to invite participation from everyone and what better way to combine that with discovery and content than to use Wiki technology?

    Later this year TechNet and the Server & Cloud Division will partner to launch the new TechNet Wiki.

    home

    There are a number of interesting features that are part of the Wiki implementation. You’ll notice a very visible tag cloud. If the pic is hard to read, click it or any of the remaining screenshots for a larger version. Tag clouds are great for navigating large number of articles as well as seeing at a glance where activity is taking place. The Wiki has different views depending on whether you are logged in or not. You’ll notice I am not logged in above and we can see quickly the activity taking place, contact information, and how to use the Wiki.

    Once I login, I can see additional information. In fact, I decided to click the Windows Server tag cloud and I get a listing of tagged articles as seen in the following screenshot.

    tagcloud

    I immediately spot an article I am interested in. You can see the one I am referring to above with the Event ID 3112. It’s the third article down. I click the article link and I am presented with the following information. As you can see, Tony Soper is writing about how to go through the process of troubleshooting a Hyper-V virtual machine issue. If you don’t know Tony, he’s one of our virtualization subject matter experts.

    article

    This particular article and condition was interesting to me because after modifying the Boot Configuration Data (BCD) for my machine, I inadvertently dropped the parameter to start the hypervisor on the Windows Server 2008 R2 boot entry in the BCD store. Tony’s article details this and how to fix the issue or points you to an article for additional help. Been there done that.

    Another interesting aspect of the Wiki is the ability to see the changes that have occurred leading to the current version. You have the ability to run a compare if you like to see the revisions. In the screenshot below, I am getting ready to run the compare against the current version and version # 16.

    history

    After I click the Compare Versions button, I can see the revisions that have occurred as depicted in the screenshot below.

    compare

    As you can see, Tony is correcting his own article but one of you could be adding or changing information as well. In this particular article’s case, you might add some information about using “Boot from VHD” technology and how to be careful not to step on a BCD entry and lose the hypervisor autorun parameter. Wiki’s are great for collecting knowledge like that and we are anxious to get this in your hands soon.

    We believe a public wiki for technical content on TechNet has the potential to be a big step forward in all three areas:

    • For content, while Microsoft teams write some great content, we cannot possibly author all the content customers need to be successful, and a wiki that offers content from the community will increase the breadth and depth of technical content available for IT Pros.
    • For participation, the wiki is a great new way for any IT pro to create and share technical knowledge, engage with other technical people and with Microsoft, and build an identity and reputation within the TechNet community.

    I used the word "potential" above because Microsoft cannot succeed with the TechNet Wiki on its own - success ultimately depends on the direct engagement, support, and ongoing feedback from the IT community.

    It’s a "big bet" for all of us, but one we believe in and are ready to take.

    So, let's start with your feedback - what do you think of a TechNet Wiki? Let us know in the comments below. Thanks !

    [NOTE] The screenshots are of our internal beta staging server so there may be some subtle differences by the time we provide access. Enjoy!

  • TechNet 2.0 – Episode 1 – Core Scenarios and Branding

    The TechNet team at Microsoft is planning some big changes to the website over the next few months – they call the project “TechNet 2.0” or “TN20” for short. John Martin leads the TechNet team, (he’s also my boss!) and he and I decided to partner on a new blog series to introduce all the new things the team has planned and get feedback from the IT community.

    So, each Tuesday and Thursday in February I’ll post a new episode here that covers some important aspect of this project.

    Last week I sat down with John to record a podcast on episode one of this series.  In this episode we are going to go over the vision for TechNet, the core customer scenarios we think are important, the TN20 project, and some new things we are doing with branding. 

    Here’s the podcast on those subjects and below is a summary of what we talked about. You’ll also noticed at the end of this post I have provided the podcast in .MP3 format for podcast subscribers.

    Episode 1 Podcast

    Get Microsoft Silverlight
    Get Microsoft Silverlight

    What is TechNet?

    TechNet is Microsoft’s site for IT professionals, here to make you successful with Microsoft products and as a technical professional by providing the best technical content, essential tools for the job, and connections to Microsoft product groups and the technical community.

    What are we trying to do with TechNet?

    We are on a mission.  We want to make TechNet the best possible online experience for IT Professionals. As you can see, our mission goes beyond just providing product documentation and whitepapers. Sure, we still want to provide the essential architecture and planning guidance for our products and technologies, but we also want to connect you to people inside and outside Microsoft and enable you to actually participate in the TechNet experience. 

    And, in order to do that, we focus on five key scenarios.

    1. Help Me! - Help me find technical content and solve technical problems, quickly
    2. Keep me Smart - Provide me with content and resources to increase my technical skills and stay up-to-date with the latest developments in my area
    3. Connect me with the product - Show me your future plans and let me provide feedback
    4. Connect me with people - Help me find and engage smart people at Microsoft and in the community
    5. Downloads - Make it easy for me to find and download the bits, tools, and resources I need to do my job

    Across all five scenarios, we invest in:

    1. Content quality, relevance, and timeliness
    2. Ease of discoverability
    3. Opportunities for community participation and contribution

    John does a great job in the podcast of describing each and what we think they mean.  Is he correct?  Feel free to comment below.

    What is TechNet 2.0 ?

    TechNet 2.0 is a broad initiative kicking off this month to increase your success with the core scenarios above. We especially want to make sure to improve the way you discover information. 

    This of course includes site navigation but as you’ll see in other parts of this series, we have a few tricks up our sleeve I think you’ll like, that go beyond just navigating the site. 

    TechNet 2.0 project goals also include better content quality and timeliness, and new opportunities for you to participate in the site.  I am not going to steal the thunder from all of those key areas right now. We’ll describe those more fully in future episodes of this blog series.

    Now that you have an idea of the strategy and mission, let’s take a look at one of the new features of TechNet 2.0 since it’s going to be immediately visually apparent.  In fact, you don’t even need to wait to see some of the changes I am alluding to.

    Stacked New TechNet brand and Product-branded centers

    As you can see in the screenshot at right, the TechNet brand has been updated to a new look-and-feel and the TechNet home page reflects the new design and color scheme. But, as you can see in the picture (click the pic to see a much larger version), TechNet will no longer be a vast sea of blue – TechCenters are changing.

    When we launch TechNet 2.0, you’ll see each major product TechCenter will be “themed” with its own unique brand elements.  For IT pros, TechCenters are the online face of each product and each product will have its own unique home on TechNet.

    The most striking example of this will be Office with the orange theme, but all centers will share some important common elements in their design. This will provide a consistent experience across the TechCenters which should make the site easier to use and the content more discoverable. 

    I like the product oriented branding.  The color and theme immediately registers with me and helps me determine if I am looking for information in the right place.  For instance, check out the Exchange TechCenter.  Their logo is there, theme, and versions.  We will dive deep into versioning, and other changes to TechCenters in later blog posts.

    Summary

    TechNet 2.0 is a broad initiative to make you more successful with core scenarios on TechNet. The TechNet team focuses on Content, Discoverability, and Participation across five core customer scenarios. One major change to TechNet will be how TechNet and TechCenters are branded. But that’s not all. We will dive deeper into all the new features that make up TechNet 2.0 release in the next seven parts of this series.

    Please comment.  We would like to know in each part of the series what you think.  We take your feedback seriously and it helps us frame and prioritize what we do now, and in the future.  It’s one of the reasons I went to work for the TechNet team.  Where else could I have a more measurable impact on the IT Pro customer base than technet.microsoft.com?

    I’m also part of the v-team already thinking about TechNet v.Next so it’ll be important to get your feedback on what you like and dislike over the next few weeks and months.  We look forward to that conversation.

    On Thursday I’ll post TechNet 2.0 - Episode 2 – TechCenters. In that episode we’ll talk about the new TechCenters design and how they help you find what you need, quicker. See you Thursday!

  • HP Elitebook 8540w – now available for config to order

    8540wAnother of the top end machines on the market is now available for your config to order enjoyment. I am referring to the eagerly awaited HP Elitebook 8540w.  This machine has it all and if you want it all, be prepared to drop some coin for the privilege of owning a highly engineered speed demon like this.

    I configured an Elitebook 8540w with the following configuration: HP EliteBook 8540w Mobile Workstation, FreeDOS, Intel® Core™ i7-820QM Processor (1.73 GHz, 8 MB L3 cache, Mobile Intel QM57 Chipset, 15.6-inch diagonal LED-backlit FHD (1920 x 1080) Antiglare w/2.0MP Camera, NVIDIA Quadro FX 1800M with 1GB GDDR5 video memory, 16GB 1333 MHz DDR3 SDRAM, 160GB SATA 2.5 Solid State Drive (I’m assuming Intel Gen2 but unconfirmed), BluRay DVD+/-RW, Full- sized keyboard with numeric keypad and dual pointing devices (touchpad and pointstick) with scroll zone, HP Integrated Module with Bluetooth® 2.1 Wireless Technology, Intel Centrino Ultimate-N 6300 (3x3), HP Mobile Broadband (powered by Gobi™) with GPS Verizon Wireless, 56K v.92 high speed modem, Integrated Smart Card Reader, 150W Hardware Kit 8540w, 8 Cell 73Whr 8540w Battery 1 year warranty), Limited 3 year standard parts and labor warranty (3/3/3). 

    This came to $5722 on the public buying site this evening. I believe I’ll have an evaluation unit in a few weeks and will put it through it’s paces when I get my hands on one.  Let’s hope the price of DDR memory drops like a rock, soon.

  • Installing Windows Server 2008 R2 on a Lenovo ThinkPad W510

    w510 front I am testing one of the new Lenovo ThinkPad W510 models. If this machine is going to be considered for future purchase, it really needs to be able to run Windows Server 2008 R2 and Hyper-V.  In order to do that, certain minimum requirements must be met for the drivers that are supported.  This typically involves running a video driver beyond the standard VGA driver so that you get projector support. Networking must obviously work as well.

    In order to install and configure Windows Server 2008 R2, some up front planning is a good idea.  You should download the latest drivers from the Lenovo.com Support and Downloads area.  You should also make sure and keep a copy of the SWTOOLS directory that came with the machine.

    The order you install drivers and software does matter in a couple of cases.  I always manage to figure that out by trial and error.  Mostly error. For that reason, I take notes as I go along and here are some recommended steps and pitfalls to avoid. Enjoy.

    Installation Steps I Followed:

    1. Download all of the drivers and software from the W510 Windows 7 area paying close attention to get the 64 bit versions where available.
    2. Make sure you have a copy of the SWTOOLS directory that came with the factory image of your machine.
    3. Since I am using Windows Server 2008 R2 in a dual boot environment, I created a .VHD to install R2 into.  See http://blogs.technet.com/keithcombs/archive/2009/10/15/using-hyper-v-without-re-installing-your-world.aspx for some simple procedures on how to do what I am doing. Keep in mind that install method is technically unsupported.
    4. After installing R2, you’ll probably want to install USB 3.0 support if you have an enclosure that support Superspeed USB.  I installed 6my204ww.exe.  This version may change after this writing and some of the other drivers are likely to change as well.
    5. Install the Intel chipset drivers via oss909ww.exe
    6. Install the NVIDIA video drivers via 6md617ww.exe
    7. Install the Power management drivers.  This is in the IBMPM directory from SWTOOLS.  They are not currently (as of 2/10/2010) on the Lenovo Support and Download site. 
    8. Install the Ethernet driver.  This driver is not in the inbox drivers for Windows so you must download it.  Like the T400 install I did, the package doesn’t install correctly so you have to do some manual work. Here are those steps:
      1. Run the 6irf10ww_v64.exe install.
      2. Launch R2 Server Manager and go to the device manager node.
      3. Right mouse click the banged out Ethernet nic.
      4. Select Update driver.
      5. Select browse my computer.
      6. Click “Let me pick from a list of device drivers on my computer”
      7. Click the “Have a disk” button
      8. Click the browse button
      9. Go to c:\drivers\win\ethernet\pro1000\winx64\ndis62
      10. Click e1k62x64.inf then click the open button
      11. Select the 82567LM-3 nic from the list and click the Next button (see screenshot below for the list displayed).  Also note, other nics may work but this is what I am using until a better solution comes along.nic list
    9. Install the Intel 6300 wireless card drivers using 6mws14ww.exe
    10. From the R2 server manager, install the “Wireless LAN Service” from the list of installable features. 
    11. Verify the “WLAN Autoconfig” service is set to automatic.  If you haven’t already done so at this point, reboot to picked and verify all of the changes are working properly.
    12. Install the audio drivers via 6na112ww.exe.  Verify the audio service is set to automatic. It’s default it manual.

    The rest of the software installs without incident with one exception.  The Bluetooth stack did not install, and I have no desire to troubleshoot that so you are on your own.  It should also be noted that the Pantone X-Rite drivers and application also installed and worked for me.  Make sure you have the power management drivers and audio already installed.  The screen calibration drivers and software are in the X-Rite directory under SWTOOLS.  This driver set and software is not on the Lenovo download area at the time of this post.

    I have not been running Windows Server 2008 R2 very long so I cannot tell yet how stable this configuration is.  But I was frankly pretty shocked that most of the drivers and software installed without issue including the screen calibration tool.  I did see one BSOD but I haven’t determined the cause.  I believe my USB 3.0 hard drive enclosure might have been the culprit because I heard it make a funny noise before the BSOD occurred.  I will keep watching this situation but I haven’t seen any issues for over a day now.  I’ll certainly know how stable this environment is over the next 3-4 weeks. 

    After installing all of the above, I installed the Hyper-V role.  Make sure you have the BIOS set to support Intel-VT.  If you had it disabled then enabled it, make sure to power off your machine to pick up this change.  Once Hyper-V was running, I created a 64 bit Windows 7 Enterprise virtual machine.  Just for fun, I allocated 8GB of memory to the VM to see if the W510 was really using all 16GB of memory properly.  It sure appears it is.  Here are those screenshots.  In the first screenshot, I captured the allocation when starting the VM.

    8gb alloc

    In the next screenshot, I grabbed a screenshot of the OS already installed looking at the properties. Click the pics for larger views of the screenshots. Enjoy.

    8gb vm properties

    [NOTE for 2/23] If you decide to install the Lenovo Power Manager, make sure to install the two prerequisites. The power management driver is the first one, and the .Net Framework 3.5.1 Features that can be installed from Server Manager.

  • TechNet 2.0 - Episode 3 – TechNet Search

    If you've been reading my blog about TechNet 2.0, you know we have some great new improvements coming. One of my favorites is the improvements we've made to the TechNet Search experience at the http://technet.microsoft.com website. I think the reason for this is because I have spent an unusual amount of time using search on the microsoft.com web properties over the past 7-8 years. Working on webcasts, chats, and researching blog questions will do that.

    Another reason I am extremely interested in search is because I have received my share of feedback about the tools you use to do searches for answers. Mainly feedback about the search firm "that shall not be named". Grin. It's ok. We can say it. Google is a key site and tool you use and we know it. But we want to be better than Google when it comes to helping IT Pros find information about Microsoft products and technologies.

    With that in mind, I called up John Martin to record his thoughts around the topic of TechNet Search and what we have in store for you. Here's the podcast recording for Episode 3 and as before, you'll also find an .MP3 version attached at the bottom for your iPod or Zune pleasure. I'm recapping some of the main points just below the Silverlight player

    Episode 3 Podcast

    Get Microsoft Silverlight
    Get Microsoft Silverlight

    Introduction

    We know a lot of you come to technet.microsoft.com to find something. It could be information related to an error message. It might be information on architecture and design of a product. Finding stuff like articles, scripts, downloads, and error message explanations have all been traditional scenarios we want to support.

    Much of what you see coming in TechNet 2.0 is information architecture at work – that is, how we organize our sites, centers, pages, and content. And that’s one important way to improve discoverability. Site search is the other big way. Millions of customers use TechNet Search every month and it’s also one of the top areas we hear that you want to see improved.

    Strategy

    We want technet.microsoft.com to have the best search for IT Pros looking to find technical information about Microsoft products. That means going beyond “10 blue links” on a page to something smarter and more useful. Because we own a lot of great assets like the TechNet Library, TechNet Blogs, Knowledgebase, Download Center, Connect, Video, and TechNet Forums, we have a lot of previously untapped data we are getting ready to surface.

    TechNetResultsHighlights

    In the screenshot at right (click the pic for a large view), you’ll notice we spent some time making the result set easier to read. Fonts, colors, and other formatting help the readability. But you’ll also notice “refinements” that help re-shape the query to improve the end result.

    Now for the cool part. For result items from certain sources, we’re going to start showing you more data in the result set. The core idea is that with more data about the result item, you can make a better decision about whether its what you need or not.

    We’re getting started later this month by surfacing more data in search from Microsoft Connect and TechNet Forums. In the screenshot, you can see that for the forums items, you can see if the thread has been answered or not, which might be helpful if you are troubleshooting and want answers, not discussions.

    You can also click on the button on the right side of the result item to filter your results to show only that item type (e.g., Forums threads).

    We’re just getting started with this using Connect and Forums data, but we will increase the amount of data we bring into search and might even be able to include Profile data, which would mean not only could you see that a forums thread was answered, but you could also see who answered it. We’ll talk more about profiling in a couple of episodes, but it’s just another example of an information domain we can tap and use in search to provide better answers.

    We are just beginning. This is really the first step. We will continue to provide improvements to search for all of the rich data types. We are modeling some of the searches around decisions you might make for key scenarios like Troubleshooting. As you start to use the new search, please provide feedback on the direction we’re taking search.

    When can I see the new Search?

    Fortunately you don’t have to wait long to start using the new search. We anticipate making it available before the end of the month. By all means come back here and comment about your likes and dislikes with the way it works, results you are getting and is it helping you find information.

    On Thursday of this week in Episode 4, we’ll look at the Troubleshooting feature in the TechNet 2.0 wave. In addition to that, we are also going to discuss improvements to the download control which I think you find interesting.

  • TechNet 2.0 – Episode 5 – Videos and Profiles

    TechNet has recorded thousands of videos in the past ten years in the form of webcast replays, screencasts on blogs, and in the product TechCenter “How Do I” areas. Video is the fastest growing content type on TechNet and I see no slowdown in growth. In fact, we have some interesting plans I think you’ll like. Let’s talk about where we’re at and where we are headed.

    Years ago the videos we posted were really pretty bad in terms of the user experience. It wasn’t the message in the video, but rather the quality of the video. They were blurry, jerky and prone to buffering. At the time there was little else you could do. People simply didn’t have the bandwidth necessary to watch something in near HD quality from their home or office internet connection.

    TechNet is investing in the video experience to increase the overall quality of the content experience, discoverability, and provide opportunities for community participation.

    Video

    You can see in the screenshot we are providing a wide array of audio and video types so you can watch or listen to the demonstration or training while on the go, in the gym, or at your desk. We provide a larger player for the in browser experience. If you prefer a full screen view, that is available as well. You can of course download to your Zune, iPod and later this year we’ll have supported formats for the Windows Phone 7 Series.

    Our strategy is to provide you with a rich video portal experience complete with comments, voting, rating, rich meta data support, and a large pipeline of great technical content from Microsoft experts and the community. We want to automatically surface and link other related videos, or other videos an author has produced in addition to social syndication with platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Sound good? We’re just getting started.

    Because we are using Silverlight, we can take advantage of the underlying content delivery network and platform improvements. In fact, we are moving the platform to IIS Smooth Streaming soon to support the plans we have for the coming video portal experience. You can see some examples of this at the Microsoft.com/video portal today.

    Profiles

    Commenting on videos is just one way to participate. Library annotations, forum participation and uploading scripts are all ways you can participate on the TechNet platform online properties today.

    Wouldn’t you like a little credit and love for all of your contributions? Well I’m happy to say we are making some improvements soon that will recognize your contributions to TechNet and enable you to build and identity and reputation within the TechNet Community. In order to do that, we are overhauling the TechNet Profile Page.

    As you can see in the screenshot below, the profile has been improved. We provide a much larger area for your picture or avatar. There is an area for your blog or website, employer, other Microsoft profile affiliations, and how long you’ve had a TechNet profile. You’ll also notice a much larger area for your biography.

    Profile

    One of the things I noticed in the series comments is that some people don’t like blogs. They don’t trust the technical accuracy and would like to filter them from search results. Our coming profile system can certainly change that. If my content is consistently getting votes and rated for quality and accuracy, someone that comes to technet.microsoft.com for the first time can look at my work and profile and make a decision with better supporting data. This will be apparent in search results. This will be apparent all across our profiles.

    Take a look at Lex Green in the sample screenshot above. It’s immediately apparent he is a high contributor, Microsoft employee, and has garnered a lot of points from the voting and rating system. Would you still write off his blog? What about all of the forum thread answers?

    You’ll see profile information in areas like the Forums. This is really a key area because you can easily spot Microsoft employees, MVPs, and other top contributors and experts. It’s going to become important for all types of content like the Script Gallery, Library, Video portal and other areas we’ll discuss more in the future.

    The data about you is important for several reasons. The breadth and depth of your contributions will be on full display. This goes beyond street cred. This allows you to learn about other people you encounter at the various sites we have and engage with them at different levels.

    We are shipping the new profile system this week so by all means, let us know what you think!!!

  • TechNet 2.0 – the big reveal starts tomorrow

    Tomorrow I’ll be releasing Episode 1 of a series of blog posts and podcasts on TechNet 2.0.  TechNet 2.0 (TN20) is the project name for a series of improvements we are making to the IT Pro services at http://technet.microsoft.com.

    It would be helpful for me to know how many of you would like more than just Windows Media Audio (WMA) for the episodes that include podcasts.  For instance, tomorrow I’ll be posting the first episode with a Silverlight audio player embedded in the blog post.  I’ll also provide a link to the .WMA file at an attachment to the post.  The attachment will be a properly constructed <ENCLOSURE> so you can subscribe to the feed for the series from a Zune or other player.

    Should I just blow off even providing WMA and instead use MP3?  MP3 seems to be the happy medium because it can be used everywhere that I know of, including an iPod.  Chime in and let me know.  I figure someone out there has an iPod.

    You’ll also notice I created a tag for this series of posts.  This will give you a unique RSS feed for the information. TN20 is the project acronym so it seemed like a nice string to use for a blog category and feed.  I’ll likely use TN20 as a has tag on twitter as well.

    More information and a interview with Microsoft Group Program Manager John Martin here tomorrow. 

  • What is this?

    Bullet Falcon Motorcycle built by Ian Barry

    Click me to find out.

  • Windows Phone 7 Series Announced

    image

  • TechNet 2.0 – Episode 4 – Troubleshooting and Download Finders

    Have you ever received an error message or number in some software product, and wonder what it means or how to resolve it? Where is the first place you search? In my case it really depends on the browser I happen to have launched. The vast majority of the time that’s IE8 so I enter the error message in the search field and hit enter. My default search engine is bing.com and it typically returns a huge array of information from sites across the planet.

    What I would rather have is a smarter way to search the Microsoft information domain. We discussed some of that in Episode 3 Search, but this week we are going to talk about some of the new “finders”.

    With that in mind, I called up John Martin to record his thoughts around the some platform features that will help you find Troubleshooting information and Downloads. Here's the podcast recording for Episode 4 and as before, you'll also find an .MP3 version attached at the bottom for your iPod or Zune pleasure. I'm recapping some of the main points just below the Silverlight player

    Episode 4 Podcast

    Get Microsoft Silverlight
    Get Microsoft Silverlight

    Introduction

    Last week we talked about search, search result formatting, and other aspects of search that will take advantage of the platforms that are part of the TechNet brand. Searching is tricky and care needs to be given to crafting a query that will return great results. For key scenarios like finding a Download or Troubleshooting an issue, we want to help IT Pros get past that challenge with new features specialized for finding things. Informally we call those features “finders”.

    Let’s talk about downloads first.

    download finder

    The Download finder offers three fields for making selections. They are short menus that help you filter and find the content you are looking for. For example, let’s say you don’t have a TechNet subscription but you want the Exchange Server 2010 Evaluation download. This download finder lets you quickly and easily scope that search. This Bing query returns the Top 5 or so results and are shown right under the finder. If you want to see more information, you can click More and see the full results in TechNet Search.

    Where can I find the Download finder?

    Everywhere!!! You’ll see the Download finder as a standard part of the Downloads pages in the various TechCenters across the site. When you are in a product TechCenter, there will be no need to supply the product name. That will be done automatically for you. This is very similar to the TechCenter scoped searches we talked about in Episode 2. In addition to download finder, we also added another feature that will help with troubleshooting issues you might be seeing.

    Troubleshooting

    A week or so ago I rebuilt one of my machines. During that process I needed to sync the offline address book Outlook uses but it was failing with a particular error message. It wasn’t apparent to me what the issue was so I plugged the hex error message into the IE8 search field and searched Bing. Just for grins I also searched Google. As you might imagine, I received a ton of information back from those engines and many of the results were at a variety of sites.

    We know from the site usage at technet.microsoft.com, many of you come to do searches. Nearly one fourth of all visits are for that very reason. With that in mind, we wanted to improve the features that help you troubleshoot an issue like the one I was having with the Offline Address Book (OAB).

    troubleshooter finder

    The troubleshooting finder has several input fields you can use.

    • Search all resources: Enter keywords here and find matching content in the TechNet Library, Forums, KB, and Downloads
    • Search the KB: Enter a KB number and the feature executes a scoped search of the KB only
    • Search Events & Errors: Enter an Event ID or Error Code and the feature executes a scoped search of the Events & Errors database only.

    In each case the Troubleshooter feature takes your search and builds a smart query using the target database(s) in order to bring back the best results. This feature would have been especially helpful with the Outlook error message I received in the sync results for my attempt at downloading the OAB.

    In another case, I was trying to fix a shutdown issue with a laptop. A smart hardware god I know was aware of the issue and told me to go grab the hot fix for a KB article. All I had in hand was the KB number. Again, the troubleshooter above would have been perfect for that scoped search.

    What do you think? Let us know!!! Keep the great feedback coming. Very soon you will be able to try all of these features right at technet.microsoft.com. In the meantime we’ll continue blogging and podcasting to inform you on the cool stuff that is coming.

    Next Tuesday we’ll publish Episode 5 on the Video experience. Come on back and join in the conversation. If you’re using twitter, please add the #TN20 hash tag. See you online.

  • It’s Alive !!! – TechNet 2.0 Search and Profiles Launch !!!

    boot from vhdThis afternoon we turned on the new TechNet 2.0 Profiles.  In addition to that, we also lit up the new TechNet 2.0 Search.  If this is new to you, let me recap briefly from TechNet 2.0 - Episode 3 – TechNet Search and TechNet 2.0 – Episode 5 – Videos and Profiles what’s going on.

    Search

    We want technet.microsoft.com to have the best search for IT Pros looking to find technical information about Microsoft products. That means going beyond “10 blue links” on a page to something smarter and more useful.

    Because we own a lot of great assets like the TechNet Library, TechNet Blogs, Knowledgebase, Download Center, Connect, Video, and TechNet Forums, we have a lot of previously untapped data we are now starting to expose.

    Search Highlights

    In the screenshot, you’ll notice we spent some time making the result set easier to read. Fonts, colors, and other formatting help the readability. But you’ll also notice “refinements” that help re-shape the query to improve the end result.

    Now for the cool part. For result items from certain sources, we’re going to start showing you more data in the result set. The core idea is that with more data about the result item, you can make a better decision about whether its what you need or not.

    Interested?  Click the screenshot just above right to see for yourself!  Keep in mind the “boot from vhd” query is using the EN-US locale and language since that is my normal default.  You’ll notice if you change it to say Spanish, the query result is very different.

    Profiles

    tony mannLibrary annotations, forum participation and uploading scripts are all ways you can participate on the TechNet platform online properties today. More are coming.

    Wouldn’t you like a little credit and love for all of your contributions? Well I’m happy to say we are making some improvements today that will recognize your contributions to TechNet, and enable you to build and identity and reputation within the TechNet Community. In order to do that, we are overhauling the TechNet Profile Page.

    As you can see in the screenshot, the profile has been improved. We provide a much larger area for your picture or avatar. There is an area for your blog or website, employer, other Microsoft profile affiliations, and how long you’ve had a TechNet profile. You’ll also notice a much larger area for your biography.

    This picture at right is Anthony Mann’s profile who is one of the owners for the TechNet Windows 7 IT Pro forums.  Click the picture and you’ll be taken to Ronnie Vernon’s profile who does a ton of work helping people in the Windows 7 IT Pro Setup and Deployment forum.

    It’s apparent very quickly Tony and Ronnie are high contributors in the forums area for Windows 7.  There are many heroes all across the TechNet properties and now you can spot the experts much more easily. 

    Let us know how you like it.  Enjoy!

  • Largest Snow on Record for Dallas/Ft. Worth

    RecordSnow2010

    Here’s Casa de Combs at about 3:15pm CST on 2/11/2010.  At this point I have about 9 inches of snow depth.  It reached over one foot.  That’s impressive for Texas and it’s the largest single day snow fall in recorded history here. Sorry I don’t have a professional camera.  It would have come in handy yesterday.  So purdy.

    Here’s another pic of the trees in the back I took this morning.  Makes a pretty kewl wallpaper. Click the pic for large version.

    Flocked

  • TechNet 2.0 Is Getting Smarter – Join the Conversation

    TechNetResults Yesterday was a fascinating day. We broke the snowfall record in Dallas.  I think we broke another record at my blog with the interest in TechNet 2.0.  Many of you came here after reading the TechNet Flash. So here’s the scoop on what is happening.

    The TechNet team is hard at work rolling out a brand new set of platform features code named TechNet 2.0 (or TN20).  We started blogging about those features and you can keep up with them here on my blog.  I made it easy to see via the TN20 tag.  You can further filter that tag if you just want the audio podcasts.

    Each week in February, on Tuesday and Thursday, we’ll post a new episode in the series to enlighten you on some new aspect of the platform changes that are coming. Here are the episodes so far:

    TechNet 2.0 – Episode 1 – Core Scenarios and Branding

    TechNet 2.0 – Episode 2 – The New TechCenters

    TechNet 2.0 – Episode 3 – TechNet Search

    TechNet 2.0 – Episode 4 – Troubleshooting and Download Finders

    Episode 4  is now posted on some of the new tools for troubleshooting issues or downloading products, updates and fixes.  Enjoy!!!

    Please provide feedback.  We want to hear what you are thinking!!!  If you decide to use twitter, please use the #TN20 hash tag. We’ll be happy to join the conversation there as well.  Tweet tweet.

  • SIIG 2.5” Hard drive SuperSpeed USB 3.0 enclosure rocks!

    Do you store pictures, video, music or other large blobs of data on an external hard drive?  Sure you do. Many of you that read this blog also store virtual machines and I’m guessing you have quite a collection of data.  Isn’t moving all that data around fun?  I am of course being sarcastic because I know how time consuming the chore is.

    The good news is that there’s a new standard in town, and it’s much faster. Introducing SuperSpeed USB 3.0. Here’s the marketing pitch from usb.org:

    • SuperSpeed USB has a 5 Gbps signaling rate offering 10x performance increase over Hi-Speed USB.
    • SuperSpeed USB is a Sync-N-Go technology that minimizes user wait-time.
    • SuperSpeed USB will provide Optimized Power Efficiency.No device polling and lower active and idle power requirements.
    • SuperSpeed USB is backwards compatible with USB 2.0. Devices interoperate with USB 2.0 platforms. Hosts support USB 2.0 legacy devices

    Needless to say I was more than interested in this new standard when I received the ship notification from Lenovo for the ThinkPad W510. The new W510 includes two USB 3. ports so I was anxious to test them and see how well they really perform.

    image Time to Get a Case

    There’s just one problem. I don’t have a USB 3.0 case. Time to trek down to the local Fry’s to see what they might have.  I actually stopped by the local BestBuy on the way, but they didn’t have anything yet. Too fringe for them I guess.

    Fry’s had three options.  They had the new Buffalo Technology DriveStation for $169 which includes a 1TB drive. 

    I wasn’t particularly looking for another hard drive so I headed to the empty enclosures isle.  On the shelf they had two SIIG cases.  One for 3.5” drives, and one for 2.5” laptop drives. I grabbed the SIIG Model JU-SA0312-S1 SuperSpeed USB 3.0 2.5” case and headed for the register.

    When I got home, I inserted a Seagate 2.5” Momentus 500GB 7200rpm drive into the enclosure and connected it to my production ThinkPad T61p. I started a copy of my documents, music, pics, videos and other stuff.  This is about 35GB of data right now.  I could tell already from that copy that the case and drive were performing very well.  As fast or faster than any other USB 2.0 case and drive I have.

    The moment of clarity arrived when I connected the drive to the ThinkPad W510 USB 3.0 port and started to copy the data to my Intel 160GB Gen 2 SSD drive.  WOW.  It had to be the fastest file copy I had ever seen with any of my equipment.  I don’t have any big RAID arrays and it’s apparent now that for my needs, USB 3.0 connectivity is going to be very helpful.

    The SIIG case is a typical part aluminum, part plastic design.  It comes with a nice neoprene carry case but I don’t think the carry case will hold up to the wear and tear mine usually get. I have other heavy duty carry cases and this little drive enclosure is so small, you can stuff it nearly in any backpack or laptop briefcase pocket.

    The SIIG product comes with a USB 3.0 cable for data, and an extra cable for power.  I have not needed the extra power cable.  The enclosure itself was $49 which is expensive in my opinion, but the technology was just born so you’ll be paying the early adopter tax for a little while.  There isn’t much competition in the market yet, but when more products become available the USB 3.0 cases will go down in price.

    I haven’t had a chance to run any benchmarks and probably won’t for some time. I’m buried in real work and I’ll leave the data analysis to the folks at Tom’s or Ars Technica.  So far, I haven’t seen any issues but I’ve only had the case for a week and it’s had light duty on file copies and supporting Hyper-V virtual machine execution.  It’s been doing both of those extremely well.

    eSATA has a new competitor. Buy with confidence.

  • You know you are a developer when…

    TheDarkSide

    Scott Hanselman was doing an experiment and got sucked into a motorized Dell laptop. Developers, can’t live with em.

  • TechNet 2.0 Is Coming – Join the Conversation

    Stacked The TechNet team is hard at work rolling out a brand new set of platform features code named TechNet 2.0 (or TN20).  We started blogging about those features and you can keep up with them here on my blog.  I made it easy to see via the TN20 tag.  You can further filter that tag if you just want the audio podcasts.

    Each week this month, on Tuesday and Thursday, we’ll post a new episode in the series to enlighten you on some new aspect of the platform changes that are coming. Here are the episodes so far:

    TechNet 2.0 – Episode 1 – Core Scenarios and Branding

    TechNet 2.0 – Episode 2 – The New TechCenters

    TechNet 2.0 - Episode 3 – TechNet Search

    Later today we’ll post Episode 4 on some of the new tools for troubleshooting issues or downloading products, updates and fixes.  Stay tuned for that.

    Please provide feedback.  We want to hear what you are thinking!!!  If you decide to use twitter, please use the #TN20 hash tag. We’ll be happy to join the conversation there as well.  Tweet tweet.

  • Windows 7 Battery Notification Messages – update from the Engineering Windows 7 blog

    windows7rc_bloglogo “Over the past week we have seen a little bit of blogosphere activity regarding Windows 7 and batteries, specifically the new Windows 7 message “Considering replacing your battery”. Since this is related to the engineering of Windows 7 we’re going to use this blog to provide an update to people. As we have talk about many times, we have a relentless focus on the quality of Windows 7 and we take seriously any reports we receive that indicate a potential problem that could result in a significant failure of the OS.

    In a previous post we talked about the steps we take when we receive a bug report, in particular when we start to see several reports that appear to be the same. For the past week or so we have been diligently working through these steps and more to see if there is anything in Windows 7 we need to address regarding this issue. At this time we have no reason to believe there is any issue related to Windows 7 in this context.”

    The above excerpt is the first paragraph from blog post at http://blogs.msdn.com/e7/archive/2010/02/08/windows-7-battery-notification-messages.aspx.  Please go there and read the entire article. That article was written by Steven Sinofsky, President, Windows and Windows Live Division.

  • Dual Boot on a stick? Kingston launches 256GB DT310

    dt310

    Kingston Digital, Inc., today announced the release of DataTraveler® 310, the first 256GB USB Flash drive in the United States.

    DataTraveler 310 Product Features and Specifications:

    • Capacity: 256 GB
    • Fast: data transfer rates of 25MB/sec. read and 12MB/sec. write
    • Safeguarded: includes Password Traveler
    • Convenient: does not require Administrator rights to access the Privacy Zone
    • Dimensions: 2.90" x 0.87" x 0.63" (73.70mm x 22.20mm x 16.10mm)
    • Guaranteed: five-year warranty

    MSRP (U.S. only) = $1,108.00

    See the full press release @ http://www.kingston.com/press/2010/flash/02d.asp.  Let me know when you receive your order.

  • 4G is here. What are you waiting for?

    Last week I had the pleasure of testing 4G cell phone speeds for the first time.  I must say it’s pretty impressive and just like the start of the internet, it’s only a glimpse of the future.  I say that because I still remember making the jump from multi-link PPP DSL to cable modem speeds. It felt like that again.  Here’s the full story kiddos.

    Last week was the 2010 MVP Summit.  You know, the gathering of 1300 bandwidth sucking Alpha Geeks from all over the planet. Like any good geek I formulated plan A, B, and C to support my bandwidth loving needs.  Plan A was of course to use the Microsoft Employee WIFI.  But plan B was a well thought out high speed alternative.

    Breath of Fresh Air

    sprint u301 Enter from stage left, Sprint 3G/4G. Plan B could very well have been Plan A if it weren’t for the fact a couple of the meetings I went to last week were in the dungeons and EMI blocked rooms on the Microsoft campus.  No cell signal was present so you either used the company WIFI or you didn’t have internet.

    Everywhere else the Sprint U301 worked with flying colors using Windows 7 Enterprise x64.  I tested the speed at dslreports.com and speedtest.net to get an idea of the download and upload speeds.  I averaged 5MB down/1MB up last week.  Of course the first time I demonstrated the device and plan to Mitch Ratcliffe I was down to a single bar and 1MB speeds on the 4G network.  The curse of Mitch.

    5MB Speeds

    5MB on a cell phone card. Let that sink in for a sec.  What happens when the number is 20?  They actually have the ability to support higher data rates or so I’m told.  5MB download speeds are great.  It’s nearly the speed I had when I switched from DSL to a Cable modem years ago.

    Keep in mind to get those speeds you must be in a city with 4G coverage and near a tower offering a strong signal. The unit I picked at right is the Sprint U301 3G/4G stick.  I picked it because I wanted something that would work well if no 4G coverage was available. 

    I also picked this stick because many of the new machines coming out don’t have PCMCIA slots.  That leaves USB or ExpressCard.  I decided to go with the USB stick because they are small and easy to plug in.  The USB plug pivots to the front or rear and it perfect for laptops with horizontal USB ports.  Since it doesn’t swivel, you might have issues with vertical ports.

    I tested the U301 with Windows 7 Enterprise and Ultimate x64 on a Lenovo ThinkPad W510 and ThinkPad T61p.  It worked very well on both. I have not tested this device on my Apple MacBook Pro with OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard.  I also didn’t test the device with Windows Server 2008 R2.

    The Competition

    I returned the device for a couple of reasons.  The main reason is that I want to try the Clear devices before I commit to a longer term relationship.  I’m told both Sprint and Clear use the same network so it seems silly to make a choice until I’ve at least kicked the tires on both.  That and this week the device price was reduced compared to what I paid two weeks ago.

    I’ve had Verizon for years and I am fully aware of their current EVDO capabilities.  I’ve also had AT&T and although I can get a corporate 3G plan for much less money, it’s 3G and I have to fight for bandwidth with the iPhone bandwidth hogs.  No thanks. I’d rather pay more for 4G.  I’ll try Verizon when the launch LTE later this year, and ATT again if they offer 4G.

    Summary

    Unless Clear just really blows my socks off, I’ll have no problem going with the Sprint U301 and 3G/4G plan.  Why would you get anything else?  If there’s no 4G coverage in the city you happen to be in, you use the 3G signal and are capped at 5GB of data like the rest of the world. 

    If you have a 4G signal and speeds, it’s unlimited data per month.  Seems like a no brainer to me.  Why pay 3G prices when you can get 4G? Any questions?

    [Update for 2/25]  The advertised price for the data plan for this card is $59.99 at sprint.com.  That’s the going rate at T-Mobile, ATT and Verizon for a 3G plan (capped at 5GB of data transferred per month).  Clear is $55 per month on a month-to-month plan.  Here’s the kicker.  When you are using 4G, it’s unlimited data per month and at a faster speed. 

  • TechNet 2.0 – Episode 7 – The Homepage

    The TechNet 2.0 release is nearly here and soon you’ll be able to see the homepage displayed at technet.microsoft.com. The TechNet homepage has been challenging to use in the past because the IT Pro audience is so large and diverse.  TechNet never made consistent decisions about what kind of content we should be publishing there. As a result, the TechNet homepage has been pretty static. There weren’t a lot of updates to the page. Nothing changed, sometime for weeks.

    With the new TechNet 2.0 homepage, we are making a stronger commitment to prioritizing news and information for IT Pros. You can see some of that already on our current homepage with the small “Today’s News” section and RSS feed.

    With TechNet 2.0, we will increase our commitment to making the TechNet homepage a dynamic source of news that helps you judge what requires your investment of time to learn and how new information may change your job in the future. Below you can see the new page.

    For major news and announcements, there will be a visual headline feature that provides super-easy access to information on major events, launches, and more.

    Additionally, we’re enhancing our news feed to show the person who’s behind the news, as you can see in the feeds displayed on the page below. After all, even news from Microsoft actually comes from a real human. Grin.

    clip_image003

    What does TechNet mean by “news?” , Don’t expect to see juicy gossip. This isn’t etonline.com or something along those lines. New technical content like videos, webcasts, v-labs, trials, KBs – resources that help you get things done, get smarter, and be more successful -that’s what is news on TechNet.

    There’s more. Remember the Troubleshooting helpers we discussed in Episode 4? We’ll have that on the homepage, because we know a lot of people come to technet.microsoft.com to research an issue they are trying to resolve. They may not know the product TechCenter URL, but technet.com or technet.microsoft.com is easy to remember, so we’ll make it easy to start troubleshooting from those pages, too.

    You’ll continue to see our efforts to increase ease of navigation along the left rail of the page. With one click, you can jump into the major technical areas of the site and platform. You can also browse the tabs at the top of the page for access to things like the Forum area, Downloads, the Library, and soon the TechNet Wiki. The familiar navigational structure will still be there, even as the main body will change as news takes place inside and outside Microsoft. Yes, we’ll be incorporating more insight and opinion from outside Microsoft to help you make decisions, build strategies and prioritize projects based on the widest possible perspective.

    News is just the beginning. We are starting to plan new experiences for the homepage that provide more in-depth content on important technical topics like Cloud Computing, Mobile, and more. Keep our home page in your reading list to stay on top of more waves of new features, enhanced programming and, we hope, the development of the most useful stop an IT Pro can make when judging the news of the day.

    Question: What kind of topics would you like to see TechNet cover better?

  • TechNet 2.0 – Episode 2 – The New TechCenters

    Welcome back to another installment of our podcast series on TechNet 2.0. As you’ll recall from Episode 1, we discussed some of the core scenarios that drive many of the services and features we are putting into the technet.microsoft.com platform. You may think of the TechNet website as the library of information on Microsoft products, or the forums area for asking questions. It’s really much more than that and I asked John Martin some probing questions via interview and captured that here for Episode 2.

    As before, I have created and attached an .MP3 version of this audio in case you want to download and listen offline with your Zune HD or preferred portable media player.

    Episode 2 Podcast

    Get Microsoft Silverlight
    Get Microsoft Silverlight

    What is a TechCenter?

    There are many services provided to IT Pros in the TechNet platform. A couple that probably come to mind are the TechNet Forums or the TechNet Library. But TechNet is actually a network of sites – and TechCenters are special sites on the network that are dedicated to specific products and technical topics.

    Product TechCenters are the online face of Microsoft’s IT products. In the Windows Server TechCenter you’ll notice a number of areas an IT Professional would be interested in. Get started by grabbing a download, or watching a “How To” video, as well as other content areas like Featured Downloads. In short, all of the relevant information on Windows Server.

    With TechNet 2.0, we have a lot of new things planned for TechCenters.

    Product Branding

    Big visual changes are coming. I don’t know about you but sometimes I get a little lost on what section of technet.microsoft.com I might be on. John calls this the “vast sea of blue” because today everywhere you go on the current TechNet site you'll see the same logos, colors, fonts, etc. It’s time for a face lift. You can see that in Episode 1 from Tuesday, and the picture I created with some product-branded TechCenters stacked on top of each other.

    Product-branding gives each product a unique home on TechNet. You can certainly see that in the Windows Client TechCenter screenshot below. The color is vibrant and unique to the Windows Client.

    Windows

    Version Scoping

    Almost all of our products have two or more versions that are currently being deployed, used, and supported by our customers. But we have been inconsistent and ineffective with providing easy access to version-specific technical content on TechNet. That is changing with TechNet 2.0.

    The first place you’ll notice version scoping is in the navigation bar (or masthead) for the TechCenter. In the case of the Windows Client screenshot above, you can see three generations of desktop operating systems.

    Here is what it will look like in the Office TechCenter:

    Office 2007-DL

    In the Office image above, the selected page will display Downloads for version 2007 only – simple. This organization of content is based on the mental model of information-seeking technical people. Product -> Version -> Version-specific content.

    Another way we “scope” the center experience is with Search. Based on customer feedback, new centers will offer center-scoped search from the Bing search control in the masthead. This means that when you are in a center and use the search at the top of the page, the search results will be scoped to product area of the center, instead of searching all of TechNet. More on the actual search experience in Episode 3.

    Task-Oriented Pages

    We’ll talk about fonts and layout in minute but first things first. Our TechCenter page needs to be relevant and useful for the tasks you face every day. From Episode 1, you know we are focused on several core scenarios like learning, troubleshooting, and downloads. Our goal with TechCenters is that our home pages and version pages provide easy access to the best tools and content for those tasks. On the new center pages, you will see prominent features for news, How Do I videos, troubleshooting tools, and top downloads, to help you quickly find what you need.

    The Windows Client TechCenter above is a good example of this, with a commitment to news, tools for troubleshooting, learning resources, and product group bloggers all on the home page of the center. This is one way we are trying to make it easier to find the most useful content and resources.

    And finally, in order to make the pages easier to read, we are improving the style by going to a fixed width template and making the font sizes larger. John makes fun of my vision but fonts and styles are an important part of the online experience. I really look forward to these changes so I can reduce the amount of printing I do and reduce eye strain.

    Summary

    As you can see, the visual elements of TechNet 2.0 continue to play an important part in the overall experience of the site. But we are going beyond visuals to change the way TechCenters are organized and how we design our pages – so that you can find things faster and be more successful.

    So far, we’ve only talked about improvements to browsing for content – what about Search? I get a lot of feedback on why people use Google and how they’d like TechNet search to improve. We are going to tackle the subject of Search and the search experience in Episode 3 next Tuesday, so come on back!!!

  • Windows 7 Valentines Day Theme – now available

    image

    Now you have a nice desktop to go with all of your Hello Kitty gadgets!!! Go get it @ http://download.microsoft.com/download/7/f/2/7F2F0382-FAA4-4CBE-B567-AB49ED8A3F24/LacyHearts.themepack

    Perfect for that rad new Quad Core Calpella laptop. Grin.

    Ok, now that we’ve had our fun with that, back to Mass Effect 2.

    image

  • System Center DPM 2010 RC – now available for download

    DPM 2010

    Continuous data protection of Windows application and file servers to seamlessly integrated disk, tape, and cloud — with support for a growing list of Microsoft technologies, such as:

    • Windows Server from 2003 through 2008 R2

    • SQL Server 2000 through 2008

    • Exchange Server 2003 through 2010

    • SharePoint Server 2003 through 2010

    • Dynamics AX 2009

    • Essential Business Server 2008 and Small Business Server 2008

    • SAP™ running on SQL Server

      Along with new workloads and support of the latest generation of Microsoft application servers, these platforms are gaining several new protection and recovery capabilities. Some enhancement examples include:

    • SQL Server database administrators will see up to 2000 databases protected by a single DPM server and will get a self-service restore capability so that authorized DBAs can restore data themselves. Also, you will be able to protect entire instances of SQL Server, where all new databases will be automatically protected.

    • SharePoint administrators will also see new content databases be automatically protected and will no longer need a recovery farm for Office “14” servers to do individual item recovery from DPM 2010.

    Robust and flexible protection and recovery for the following Microsoft virtualization environments:

    • Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2

    • Windows Server 2008 with Hyper-V

    • Windows Server 2008 R2 with Hyper-V

    • Hyper-V Server 2008 and 2008 R2

    • Protection of Live Migration-enabled servers running on CSV in Hyper-V R2

    • Flexibility to protect virtual machines from Windows guests or from the hypervisor host

    • Host-based backups will now enable single-item restores from within the VHD

    • Ability to restore virtual machines to an alternative host

    Industry-leading Windows client protection:

    • Protection of Windows XP through Windows 7

    • Centralized policy management from DPM 2010, while backups occur while laptops are online or offline by managing policies within the local VSS client/backup tools

    • Restores can also be done while online or offline—from the local repository or the DPM media

    • Intelligent and customizable filtering to ensure the right data gets backed up

    Scalability, reliability, and manageability:

    • Up to 100 servers, 1000 laptops, or 2000 databases protected by a single DPM server

    • Significant auto-protection, auto-healing, and reduced alerting for a more “fire and forget” experience

    • Enhanced disaster recovery options for long-distance data protection and business continuity initiatives

    This list is a partial representation of the full feature set planned for DPM 2010. Test out it yourself by downloading DPM 2010 RC.

  • Security Compliance Manager - beta signup now available

    The Security Compliance Manager will enable you to plan, deploy, operate, and manage your organization’s security baselines for Windows® client and server operating systems, and Microsoft applications.

    • Centralized Management and Baseline Portfolio: The centralized management console of the Security Compliance Manager provides you with a unified, end-to-end user experience to plan, customize, and export security baselines. The tool gives you full access to a complete portfolio of recommended baselines for Windows® client and server operating systems, and Microsoft applications.
    • Security Baseline Customization: Customizing, merging, and reviewing your baselines just got easier. Now you can use the new customization capabilities of the Security Compliance Manager to duplicate any of the recommended baselines from Microsoft—for Windows client and server operating systems, and Microsoft applications—and quickly modify security settings to meet the standards of your organization’s environment.
    • Security Baseline Comparison and Export: Security Compliance Manager enables you to quickly adopt the latest Microsoft product releases. Side-by-side baseline comparison features allow you to identify any changes to setting configurations and merge baselines within a product family with ease. Export and deploy baselines in your format of choice, including Desired Configuration Management (DCM) packs, Security Content Automation Protocol (SCAP), XLS, or Group Policy objects (GPOs).
    • Security Baseline Compliance Monitoring and Verification: Keep current with the latest releases from Microsoft; automate your security baseline compliance process, and take advantage of baseline version control and automatic update features. The planning, customization, and export features of Security Compliance Manager quickly enable you to leverage monitoring and verification technologies, automate policy deployment, and produce compliance reports.

    Interested? Get the beta @ https://connect.microsoft.com/InvitationUse.aspx?ProgramID=2682&InvitationID=SUN-TJKJ-7XWY&SiteID=715.