Keith Combs' Blahg

Ramblings from another nerd on the grid

November, 2010

  • Lenovo ThinkPad T410s Optimus - mini review

    t410sMonths ago I sold my personal Lenovo ThinkPad T61p and wondered what could possibly replace that beloved machine.  There are many options on the market. Lots of people opted for a netbook over the past year or two.  No thanks. 

    I prefer higher resolution laptop screens.  For instance, my T61p had a 1680x1050 15.4” screen which in my opinion is the absolute perfect size and resolution.  There’s just one problem.  There aren’t many thin and light 15” laptops.

    Should I compromise?  I looked closely at offerings from Acer, ASUS, Sony, Dell, Apple, and other makers.  So many toys, so little time. On October 20th I listened to the announcement from Apple about the MacBook Air.  Now we’re talking?

    Planetary Alignment

    The tipping point came.  First, Lenovo created a ThinkPad T410s with the NVIDIA Optimus graphics chipset.  We’ll discuss this in more depth later. Second, Lenovo finally got the message and offered a SSD drive that supported the Windows 7 data management techniques referred to as “TRIM”.  This meant that I didn’t have to replace the Samsung 128GB SSD thus saving me at least $380 dollars right off the bat.  Third, I received a 15% off coupon in email that could be stacked on top of the Microsoft EPP price.  Done.  The planets had aligned.

    ThinkPad T410s Specifications

    Intel® Core™ i5-560M dual-core processor, 4GB PC3-8500 1066MHz DDR3 RAM (two 204-pin SO-DIMM sockets), NVIDIA® Optimus™ technology, auto-switch between discrete and integrated graphics, Intel HD Graphics in processor, and NVIDIA Quadro® NVS3100M, PCI Express® x16, 512MB memory, 14.1" (358mm) WXGA+ (1440x900) color, anti-glare, LED backlight, 300 nits, 16:10 aspect ratio, 300:1 contrast ratio, Crucial 128GB Solid State Drive (SSD) / SATA 3.0Gb/s, 1.8" wide, 5mm high, Camera on top of screen, 2.0-megapixel, fixed focus, Mobile Intel QS57 Express Chipset, 3-in-1 reader (MMC, SD, SDHC), Two USB 2.0 (one powered), one USB 2.0/eSATA combo, external monitor (VGA DB-15, DisplayPort), ethernet (RJ-45), (WxDxH): 13.3" x 9.5" x 0.83–1.02"; 337 x 241.5mm x 21.1–25.9mm, 6-cell: starting at 3.94 lb (1.79kg), Display cover: Carbon-fiber reinforced plastic (top),glass-fiber reinforced plastic (side walls); Base: Magnesium alloy.

    Photo Tour

    I take pictures of each machine I manage to get my paws on.  Since some of them are short term eval units, I need something I can refer back to.  In this case, it will be around for awhile but close up shots are great for talking about the machine.

    • Open - the open picture shows the keyboard layout, speakers, trackpad, buttons, etc.  For ThinkPad users, there are no surprises here.  The superior keyboard is still present.  The trackpad is nice and big.  It’s much bigger than the X201s.  The T410s keyboard has this generations look and feel with the large Esc and Delete key.
    • Front (stacked) - some of the shots I take give you some perspective by comparing the machine to other machines.  In this stack you can see the other laptops in the family.  Look closely.  You can see that the T410 and the W510 are nearly the same thickness as each other.  You can see a pretty dramatic difference in the thickness of the T410s compared to it’s brothers.
    • Right - on the right side you can see the Ultrabay CD/DVD drive.  This bay is the same size as the bay on the T410.  Therefore, you can use the Ultrabay III Hard Drive Adaptor in the T410s or T410.  It also works in the ThinkPad W510.
    • Back - in the picture of the back you can see the placement of most of the ports on the T410s.  Clearly visible is the VGA port, Ethernet, powered USB port, combo USB/eSATA port, DisplayPort, and a portion of the thermal system.
    • Left - in this stack we can see the remainder of the ports on the T410s.  For those of you keeping count, the T410s has far fewer ports than the T410 or W510.  Most of the port types are present except one.  You’ll notice it’s missing a IEEE 1394 Firewire port.  You’ll also notice it has the headphone jack on the left side along with the memory card reader.
    • Front - the front edge of the machine doesn’t have much to write about except the lid release switch, and the primary drive bay cover. 
    • Bottom - the bottom of a machine is normally pretty boring but the T410s has an exception or two.  First, look closely at the 6 cell battery.  This battery is very thin and it’s inserted on the front edge of the machine, not the back.  This gives the T410s a nice balance because it isn’t butt heavy like many of the 9 cell ThinkPad models.  Second, you can see the dock connector and it’s symbol for the position in the docking station.  Although the T410s can use the same dock as the T410 or W510, you do need to make an adjustment on the dock for the different size.  You can also see the rest of the primary drive bay cover on the lower right corner.
    • SSD Drive Bay - in this picture you can see the primary drive bay cover removed and the Intel 160GB SSD drive.  This is a 1.8” drive so it is much smaller than the 2.5” drives you normally see.  I also took a macro close up shot of the drive inserted in the bay complete with a few dust particles.

    The Screen

    If you read through some of the threaded forum discussions on the T400, T410, T410s and other machines like the X200, X201, X201s and famous X301, you’ll find that a considerable number of people fault Lenovo for the quality of the screens on those models.  I would rate the screen on the T410s as fair.  It isn’t great, but it isn’t poor either. 

    The main reason most people dislike the screen is because it has poor viewing angles.  That’s a fair comment.  However, with the proper angle and brightness setting, it’s perfectly fine for normal business work.  You can also change the screen calibration if you have the right software and sensors but I would not rush out to buy anything if it’s your sole machine.  Calibration equipment isn’t cheap.

    At 300 nits, the screen is really bright indoors on level fifteen. Keeping the screen on a brighter setting improves the viewing angle as well as the readability of email, documents, spreadsheets, etc.  I am usually using brightness level 10-12 at night and 14 during the day at my desk.  My desk is typically brightly lit due to the large windows in my home office and the sunny Texas weather.

    Because the screen native resolution is 1440x900, there’s plenty of resolution for email and other landscape oriented tasks.  Because it’s a 14.1” screen, you are compromising on some vertical resolution.  It’s a good trade off.  I much prefer this resolution on the 14.1” screen over the 12” screen of the X201s.  The 13” X301 was pretty nice as well, but it is no longer made.

    Size, Weight and Keyboard

    As you can tell from the pictures, this ThinkPad is slim and light.  At 3.9 pounds, it isn’t ultralight but it’s significantly less weight than my W510 which clocks in at 6 pounds with the 9 cell battery.  By comparison, the Apple MacBook Air 13” model is 3 pounds.

    I have been carrying around 6 pound laptops for years.  For many events we carried two of them. You wouldn’t think a couple of pounds would make much difference, but it does.  This becomes even more apparent when you are carrying a smaller and lighter power supply in your backpack or messenger bag as well.  You’re going to dig the size and weight.  It’s very nicely balanced.

    Because the machine is a decent size, you still get a full sized world famous ThinkPad keyboard.  Even the ThinkPad X201 manages that.  This generation keyboard has changed slightly but I like them.  They aren’t noisy when you type and have a very good feel.  The keyboard is also nicely centered on the chassis.  Why is it so many laptop makers fail to engineer good keyboards and design?  Once you go ThinkPad, you are going to have a hard time using anything else.  You were warned.


    Optimus Graphics and Performance

    So what’s all the fuss with Optimus?  Well, you’ve probably been hearing about switchable graphics for years.  The idea has been around for a long time. Switch to a low power GPU when you need battery life over performance.  Switch to a higher power GPU when you want performance.  This usually requires a reboot.

    NVIDIA Optimus takes the idea and does the work automatically for you.  It will use both GPUs and manage the workload so the lower power GPU is used until the workload is great enough to require the higher powered discrete GPU.  You have some controls over this.  In the ThinkPad T410s BIOS, you can set the machine to use Optimus and auto switch, use the NVIDIA Quadro NVS 3100m on a full time basis, or use the Intel HD Graphics.  I usually have my machine set to use the discrete Quadro GPU.  I want high power GPU processing most of the time.  However, there is one really cool Optimus trick.

    When the machine is set to Optimus, you can drive four displays.  Yes, that’s correct.  See my blog post at for information on how to do that.  That’s a pretty terrific feat for a laptop and people that want two or three monitors connected to a docking station are going to be very happy with Optimus based ThinkPad's.

    The machine performs as expected.  The i5 processor is no slouch and runs plenty fast on everything I’ve thrown at it so far including a couple of video encoding jobs.  It’s certainly faster than the new Apple MacBook Air 13” which I had on order then cancelled after I came to my senses. 

    As you can see in the Windows Experience Index (WEI) above, it’s a solid machine across the board and the Intel SSD is kick ass.  See for a blog post from my Austria friends on their endeavors installing Windows 7 on the MacBook Air.  Pay particular attention to the WEI there.  Grin.

    For those of you that are I/O speed demons, keep in mind you have several performance choices with this machine.  The 1.8” primary drive bay is one and as you can see, it handles 3.0 SATA speeds nicely.  The Ultrabay is also just as fast so you add a high capacity hard drive there, or another fast SSD.  Then of course you have eSATA via the port on the back of the machine.  The T410s lacks 6.0 SATA and USB 3.0 speeds, but this machine isn’t really designed to be a high I/O performance class machine.  But it will certainly hold it’s own depending on your point of reference.

    Any Flaws?

    I’ve had the machine for a month now.  Usually I find a flaw pretty quickly in any device if I’m doing comprehensive testing.  With my normal requirements, the ThinkPad T410s has one shortcoming.  It doesn’t have a IEEE 1394 “Firewire” port.  If I only had one machine, that would be a show stopper because my HD video camera uses firewire to dump the Mini DV tape data to my computer.  This means if I’m traveling and shooting video, I cannot process any of the video until I get home, or take another machine.  This is no big deal to me, but I thought I would mention it.  It’s not really a flaw, but I wish the port was present.

    The T410s I have runs nearly silent.  Oddly enough it runs the fan more on Optimus than it does with the discrete Quadro NVS 3100m BIOS setting.  It’s another reason I use discrete more than Optimus.  Silent is a good thing.

    Battery life is not terrific.  It’s about the same as many machines I’ve used. About 3.5 - 4 hours of battery life when using a balanced Windows 7 power management profile.  If I run the machine on Optimus with power conservation settings and a low LCD screen brightness, I can get another hour of life.  It certainly isn’t going to get you from Dallas to London.  If you are looking for 8-10 hours of life, this isn’t your machine.

    There are really no other flaws I can think of unless you count the LCD screen quality.  Lenovo really does need to improve their 14” screens.  Enough people complain about them so it should not be taken lightly.  The LCD screen cover also flexes more than my prior ThinkPad's but it’s been pointed out in the forums that the material is carbon fiber reinforced so it should hold up.  I’ll know in about three years.

    Coming Tests

    There are a couple of items I haven’t tested yet with this machine due to travel and holidays.  I have not tried Windows Server 2008 R2 and Hyper-V.  I’m sure it will work but you really never know until you test it.  I don’t think the Optimus graphics will present a problem with R2 and Hyper-V, but I’ll let you know later when my testing is complete.

    I also haven’t tested Linux.  I’ll probably wait a while longer on that simply because I don’t have a spare 1.8” drive laying around and I don’t want to mess with my current setup.  I’ll eventually get to it, but it isn’t a priority.


    I am extremely happy with the ThinkPad T410s and it deserves your consideration as well.  A lot of ThinkPad diehards don’t think the Optimus feature is worth the extra money, but I think now that we know it’s possible to drive 3-4 monitors from this machine and a docking station, they have quieted down. Right now the machine gets a big thumbs up.  Look for a discount coupon and buy with confidence.

    [UPDATE for 12/1] R2 and Hyper will install and run.  The Win7/R2 SP1 RC or higher is required otherwise big boom boom.  Like the ThinkPad W510 and T410, you need to install the Ethernet and WIFI drivers manually.

    This is a pretty limited test, but I did create a Win7 x64 VM to make sure it is really working.  I have no intention of running my machine as a hyper-v server so don’t make a purchasing decision based on this limited test.  If you do purchase with that intent, make sure you test the hell out of your machine before the return period expires.

    I also installed SLED 11 SP1 along with the accelerated NVIDIA driver.  The BIOS was set to discrete only so it was just using the Quadro NVS 3100M.  Looks like the T410s will do just about anything you throw at it.

  • Super Grandma - priceless !!!

    More priceless pics @

  • I should order this, right? I’m worth FIOS Ultimate


  • Wish I Was Sleeping in Seattle

    Dave_MatthewsToday would have been a fun day to be in Bellevue, Washington.  Bellevue is where I normally stay when I am in that area for meetings, training, etc.  It was a big day for Microsoft. 

    It was the first day Microsoft employees could fan out and purchase Windows Phone 7 devices. I’m sure many employees headed to the new retail store as a result.  They had several surprises in “store” for them when they arrived.

    It was the Grand Opening of the Microsoft Store in Bellevue Square Mall.  The first 2000 people through the door received Miley Cyrus tickets.  Surprise!  People camped out for that. Darn, I really wanted those. :-)

    And they had a very special guest and entertainer for the celebration.  You might recognize him. Dave Matthews.  Surprise!

    See the rest of the great photos of Dave Matthews and the store opening on the Microsoft Facebook web pages.

  • “You Had Me At 3TB”

    imageThe Hitachi Deskstar™ 7K3000 is Hitachi’s first hard drive to deliver an enormous three terabytes of storage capacity and 7200 RPM performance in a standard 3.5-inch form factor. The 7K3000 is also the first Hitachi hard drive with a 6Gb/s SATA interface, which along with its 64MB cache buffer delivers a big boost to performance over the previous generation product.

    The Deskstar 7K3000 is designed to allow manufacturers to leverage the benefits of the latest components and operating systems to deliver high-performance, high-capacity, power-efficient systems. Manufacturers planning to use the highest capacity 3TB drive in systems should consult the Hitachi High Capacity Technology Brief. Deskstar 7K3000 is also
    available in 2TB and 1.5TB models that accommodate existing systems, as well as new designs.

    Get the data sheet @$file/DS7K3000_ds.pdf.  More information @

  • Ordered: Samsung Focus


    The employee purchase program moratorium is finally over and I ordered the AT&T subsidized Samsung Focus.  I tried the HTC HD7 but didn’t have much luck with battery life so I am trying a different make and model.  I really hope this one works out.

  • Better start making your list, and checking it twice.


  • Lync Server 2010 Protocol Workloads Poster - now available


    This is only one section of the poster, but if you are trying to learn all about Lync, you’ll probably want this poster.  Go get it @  There will be a pop quiz on Friday.

  • Get the latest on the Waledac Botnet Takedown

    In this video I interview Richard Boscovich, Senior Attorney and T.J. Campana, Senior Program Manager both from Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit. Richard and T.J. discuss Microsoft’s legal and technical involvement in the Waledac botnet takedown.  This is a fascinating story.  See the details at

  • Driving Four Dell LCD panels with a single Lenovo ThinkPad T410s Optimus laptop and dock

    About three weeks ago a Lenovo coupon came out for 15% off ThinkPad laptops. This combined with our stacked EPP discount put the latest ThinkPad T410s in my target price range. In addition to that discount, you can now order this machine with the Intel second generation SSD instead of the Samsung SSD drives previously offered. That saved me at least another $390 because I would have replaced the Sammy right away. So I bit and ordered the ThinkPad T410s with the Optimus GPU chipset.

    For those of you not familiar with Optimus graphics, this is a switchable GPU chipset. You can set the BIOS to Intel HD integrated, discrete NVIDIA or Optimus which uses both and flips between the two GPU chipsets on demand without user intervention.

    At the time I ordered the machine, I didn’t know you could drive 4 monitors from the ThinkPad Mini Dock Plus Series 3 dock that came with my ThinkPad W510.  Well, it does.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I am currently driving four flat panel displays with a single thin and light laptop from the docking station.  I am not doing this with the ThinkPad W510.  The tested configuration is using the much thinner and lighter ThinkPad T410s with Optimus graphics.  The ThinkPad T410 and T510 are also now available with Optimus.

    See the Lenovo Support article at on this subject.  As usual, I ignored it and just did my own thing and it worked out just fine.

    Here’s what the display properties look like with the monitors connected.


    If you want to see my desktop, checkout the pic I took a couple of years ago. It’s essentially unchanged with the exception of the two 24” panels.  I flipped them so the Ultrasharp is now on the right side of the 27” instead of the left.  The fourth LCD panel used in this test is sitting on the floor next to my desk. 

    Let me be more specific.  Number 4 above is a Dell E248WFP 24” connected to the docking station via DVI and running at 1920x1200.  Monitor number 3 above is a Dell 2707WFP connected to the docking station via DVI and running at 1920x1200.  It’s the main monitor. Number 2 above is a Dell 2407WFP connected to the docking station via VGA and running at 1920x1200.  Monitor number 1 is a Dell 2007FP 20” display connected to the back of the laptop via DisplayPort and running 1600x1200.  To be perfectly clear about the last monitor, it’s connected to the laptop via a StarTech DisplayPort->DVI adaptor.

    I am running Windows 7 Ultimate and it’s the 64 bit version.  The driver for the T410s I am using is located at

    With all four monitors, that’s 4800 pixels of horizontal screen real estate.  Or for those of you with a small desk, you could stack the monitors in a 2x2 configuration with many of the arms now available on the market.  Pretty impressive for a single laptop and dock with no additional external help via another video card.  And for those of you wondering where my detailed review of the ThinkPad T410s Optimus is, it’s coming.  In the meantime I thought you might be interested in the above information. 

    There are a number of new laptops on the market with the NVIDIA Optimus. The Apple MacBook Air isn’t one of them.

  • TechEd Europe 2010 - Day 4

    There have been so many good sessions throughout the TechEd Europe 2010 conference I didn’t think it could get much better.  Wrong.  The sessions I attended on the fourth day were very good.  Really really technical sessions.  The kind of sessions that make your brain hurt.

    IMG_0889First up this morning was the session with Mark Russinovich and the “Mysteries of Windows Management” session.  As with all of Mark’s sessions, it was fast paced and deep.  Probably too deep although very informative.  He covered some of the history of Windows architecture then proceeded to show some of the tools you can use to see how and application is using memory, and the type(s) of memory the app is reserving or has committed. 

    This is certainly one of those sessions you’ll want to watch and listen to via the TechNet On Demand site.  See for the sessions that are currently available and check back in a few days if you don’t see what you are looking for.

    The next session I tried to get into was the “Understanding How Microsoft Virtualization Compares to VMWare” but the theatre area where they were holding the session was rather small and there were a LOT of people trying to get into the room.  I figured I’d do the right thing and not take a customer seat on that one.  Edwin Yuen was supposed to deliver the session but he did not make the trip.  I see about getting the slides or locating the on demand version.

    IMG_0895Kenon Owens and Michael Michael delivered a “Managing Your Virtual Environments” session next.  Michael Michael is one of the leading authorities on System Center Virtual Machine Manager so customers got a unique and rare opportunity to talk with him and Kenon about the current version of SCVMM 2008 R2, it’s design and the thinking behind how it works.

    A brief discussion about VMM Self Service Portal 2.0 was also part of the audience question and answer session.

    Kenon is on the left and Michael is on the right in the picture at left.  Both gentlemen discussed a wide variety of topics on the current shipping version of SCVMM as well as some information on what's coming next.

    Next up was the godfather of PowerShell and Distinguished Systems Engineer, Jeffrey Snover. He and Refaat Issa deliver the session with the longest title called “Windows Server 2008 R2: Tips on Automating and Managing the Breath of Your IT Environment”.  Whew,  what a mouthful.

    As you might suspect, this session started with some core concepts around PowerShell because the room had a considerable number of beginners in the room.  Jeffrey polled the audience to check this and did a short level set on what PowerShell is and isn’t.  He basically IMG_0903instructed everyone to stop thinking of PowerShell as a command line environment, and to keep in mind it’s really an engine that happens to also have a command line interface.

    He started off discussing WMI and the sessin got progressively deeper into the various objects and commandlets available in the Power shell and the IDE environment that can be used for debugging scripts.

    After that, the talk of course discussed a variety of other administrative chores you can accomplish with automation.  Like the memory management session Mark delivered in the morning, the Powershell topic is probably best learned from a book.  There’s simply too much to go over in sixty minutes to do the subject justice.  Jeffrey is a good presenter so the session should be easy listening when the on demand version is ready.

    IMG_0905After these sessions I headed to the Hands on Lab area to check out some of the sessions.  There were sessions on a wide variety of topics including setup and use of Lync, SCVMM, SQL Server, etc.  As you can see in the picture, the HOL area was busy and it stayed busy the entire conference.  This is a great learning area.  I wish I had a download of all of the HOL sessions and guides.

    That’s it for TechEd Europe 2010 for me.  Time to go do some shopping for my honey, get a bite to eat, and prepare for the long flights home.  Chow!

  • You know you are a redneck if…


    this is your home office.  See the Toyota PR at  Pretty cool truck eh?

  • Microsoft Community Contributor Award Launches!

    imageStarting this month, Microsoft will begin the progressive introduction of the Microsoft Community Contributor Award.  The Microsoft Community Contributor Award seeks to recognize notable contributors to Microsoft online community forums: TechNet, MSDN® and Answers in areas such as: moderation, content, translation/localization and feedback. 

    The value of these resources is greatly enhanced by participants who voluntarily contribute their time and energy to improve the online community experience for others.

    Awardees will receive a customized certificate, program award logo kit with the award year, and a complimentary online technical resource aimed to provide a way for forum participants to stay abreast of technology information.

    Additional information about the Microsoft Community Contributor Award program can be found at

  • TechEd Europe 2010 - Day 3

    micro0557Yesterday I forgot to mention I’ve been meeting people from all over the world.  It’s really cool to meet people inside and outside the company you’ve known for decade in the electronic medium, but have never met in person. 

    One such chance meeting was with Martina Grom and one of her colleagues.  About a month or two ago we managed to have a mutual friend on twitter.  I think we were tweeting about Windows Phone 7 or one of the other products.  I started following her or vice versa.  I don’t really remember who was first. 

    But low and behold she tweeted something yesterday a speaker had just said.  I replied back that I was in the room on the front row on the far left with the camera.  She commented I didn’t have my cowboy hat on.  Ha!  We chatted briefly after the session.  So kewl when that happens and you are 5000 miles from home.

    I think it’s probably time to either retire the cowboy pics or start taking my hat(s) with me when I travel so people can pick me out of the crowd easily.  The black Resistol is certainly an icon.

    The Sessions for the Day

    As usual, there were a ton of good sessions on Wednesday.  I woke a little late so I missed the first session of the morning.  Thankfully the session I had planned on going to, “Advanced Automation using PowerShell” is being delivered again tomorrow. Jeffery Snover, Lee Holmes and others are delivering that session.  should be really good so watch for the on demand recording when it becomes available.

    IMG_0873I went to go listen to Michael Kleef talk about Remote Desktop Services but got accosted in the Exhibit hall along the way.  I slipped in the back and took a couple of pictures and listened to the last part of the session. 

    After that session ended I headed over to Jeff Wettlaufer’s session on System Center Configuration Manager 2012.  Yep, that’s the official name for the new version of SCCM. Jeff did a great job of outlining the new features though before the session started, it looked like the Shuttle machine was having some issues with the KVM switch and the A/V for the room.

    If you are interested in joining the beta for SCCM 2012, see for more information on how to sign up.

    After Jeff’s session is was off to the Exhibit hall again to write the Day 2 article.  While there, I shot some pictures of the Edge team along with their stage and media recording setup.  Here’s Volker Will having a serious moment with Joey Snow.  Then of course there’s David Tesar.  And finally, the Edge stage shots.



    By the way, turned three years old today. HAPPY BIRTHDAY Edge !!!

    The last session for the day was a “Troubleshooting Group Policy” session delivered by none other than Jeremy Moskowitz.  Jeremy has a great website and blog at

    IMG_0882Jeremy has been delivering great sessions on Group Policy for years and knows his stuff.  He’s one of the best presenters I know so if you get a chance to go see him in action, make sure to take the time.  His session was very interactive as he discussed a variety of tools like GPOtool, sonar, Ultrasound, looking for event log data, etc. 

    Jeremy literally wrote the book on this subject and if you want one, be sure to head on over to his site at and order one.

    That’s it for day three.  I am probably going to review some of the hands on labs tomorrow especially since I spied a multiple monitor config in the area with four monitors.  I need to check that out.

    Off to dinner at Bacco and some good Italian food.  More tomorrow.

  • TechEd Europe 2010 - Day 2

    IMG_0877Day two was pretty interesting and normally I would have posted something before dinner, but I got hijacked into “extra curricular activities”.  We’ll talk about those later.

    As you can see at right, one of the most popular attractions in the Exhibit Hall is the XBOX 360 KINECT demo area.  Customers an partners have been trying their hand at the games and in this particular case, this gentleman is slamming the final shot for the match win.  I intend to buy one of the KINECT units when I get back to the states assuming of course I can find one.

    Day 2 Sessions

    IMG_0821The TechEd Europe team has strict policies around filling the rooms due to even stricter fire codes.  As a result, they really don’t like Microsoft employees taking seats for sessions that are high demand.  Joe Snow’s morning session on Azure for IT Pros was full so I was not able to listen.  However, they did let me take a few pictures and here’s Joey holding court.

    Later that morning I was able to sneak into the session Jeremy Chapman and Stephen Rose did on Physical to Virtual (P2V) migrations.  The context of this session was around the Pros and Cons to migrating physical Windows XP desktops to a virtual machine.  I would say the cons outweigh the pros in most cases.

    But in the event you have a particular desktop that must be captured in it’s entirety, and moved to a virtual machine environment to remove a Windows 7 deployment blocker, how do you do it?  All of the tools have actually been around for some time and it can be accomplished manually.  However, recently we announced the P2V Migration for Software Assurance which can be downloaded at

    IMG_0827Jeremy and Stephen demonstrated capturing the full Windows XP desktop environment of a Lenovo ThinkPad T60, installing Windows 7, installing the XP Mode virtualization environment, then bringing up the applications and environment so the user could access the applications that will only run on Windows XP.  From start to finish it took 50 minutes and I must admit it was a pretty impressive demo. 

    The best thing about the P2V demo and toolset?  Fully automated with the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit! Look closely at this new toolset and in particular, look closely at the three new sequencing scenarios that have been made available to support these types of deployment scenarios.

    After the deployment session, I headed over to the Michael Kleef’s “Hot Topics about R2” session.  This session was in one of the larger rooms and Michael proceeded to discuss a variety of the R2 services like DirectAccess and things to think about when deploying them in medium or large enterprises.

    IMG_0850One of the more interesting sessions I attended and recorded in full was the session on Office365 delivered by David Anderson.  I’m a customer of Exchange online and after seeing the new version that is coming it’s obvious this is going to b a huge release.  Although David showed a recent build on the data center, the environment looked very polished. 

    When I get back to the USA I’ll encode the session and publish the entire hour.  If I tried to do that here it would still be uploading by the time I got home.  The network speeds at the hotel are rather slow and as  you might imagine, uploading HD video at even low bit rates can take a long time.

    The last session I went to I got kicked out of.  Ok, not really.  I was asked to discontinue the use of my video camera.  Apparently there’s some conference law against it, even for Microsoft TechNet team employees. 

    So, being the law abiding citizen that I am, I packed up my gear and left.  I wish I would have known before I left the USA that the conference polizei were going to do that.  I would have been happy to leave the camera, tripod, tapes, battery packs and all of the other associated stuff in my office.  No big deal really, but I guess I should have checked beforehand.  Needless to say, David’s talk is the last recording I’ll post.

    WP_000012After the sessions, my manager invited me to a little get together at the Savoy Hotel or more accurately the Casa del Habano for some Cuban cigars.  I don’t smoke cigars but I tagged along anyway.  Bad idea. 

    There’s nothing worse than waking up the next morning and smelling your jacket and it smells like cigars.  Gross.  Thankfully it’s not holding the smell too richly.  Good thing it’s nylon and not wool.  If you are ever in Berlin, Casa Del Habano is an interesting place.  It feels like it has ghosts of past meetings on interesting subjects.

    The day concluded with a fabulous meal at a French restaurant not far from my hotel. The blurry cam shot it pretty appropriate because it accurately reflects my headache at about 5:45am.  LOL.  It isn’t clear if it was the wine or the final shot of absinthe.  I don’t think it was the real thing, thankfully.

    More later on the sessions I attended today (day3).

  • TechEd Europe 2010 - Day 1


    Early Bird Gets the Worm

    TechEd Europe 2010 kicked off today in Berlin, Germany.  My brain decided the conference needed to start at 4:45am Berlin time Monday and there was no convincing it to go back to sleep.  I think that’s like 9:45pm Sunday Dallas time. I knew right then I wasn’t going to last the entire day and into the reception that evening but there was no use fighting it.  So I got up and piddled around getting read for the day ahead.

    I met some of the TechNet and MSDN team for breakfast at the Kempinski and enjoyed a nice breakfast buffet.  The buffet was pretty elaborate and I took advantage.  They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  Although the buffet was fab, I’m not sure breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  A good German beer at the end of the day is a strong competitor.

    Meetings and Pre-conference Training

    Microsoft’s Developer and Platform Evangelism (DPE) team, along with a number of other Microsoft organizations held a summit that started at 8:30am.  Normally I wouldn’t mind participating in the meeting but unfortunately there was a schedule conflict.  The all day Windows 7 Deployment workshop was taking place at the same time downstairs. 

    I’d much rather see what Jeremy Chapman, Michael Niehaus, Chris Jackson, Steve Campbell and the other presenters are going to be up to in the workshop, so I grabbed a coffee and headed down. 

    The “Experience a REAL Windows 7 Deployment” session was very good and provided coverage on the Microsoft Deployment ToolKit, MAP, ACT, SCCM, application compatibility, gotchas, and a host of other topics.  I took my video camera and shot a little over 30 minutes of video throughout the first 4-5 hours of the session, but my hotel connection is pitifully slow so I may not publish anything until I get home.

    It’s funny, Jeremy Chapman indicated right up front that this session was going to be real so it’s likely we’ll see some issues and need to troubleshoot.  He was right.  Grin.

    IMG_0814During the lunch break, the Ethernet switch all of the machines were on took an error of some sort.  I actually think someone accidentally kicked the power switch on the multitap. 

    Regardless of how the error occurred, the MDT task sequence aborted with the red screen of fail.  In this case, that meant all of the user state had already been backed up and the previous OS had been wiped.  Since the task sequence had already aborted, it was time for some quick troubleshooting.

    Michael Niehaus (pictured at right) walked everyone through the manual steps to install a new OS and recover the user state.  The first order of business was making sure we actually had the user state stored off.  You have to be very careful here not to use another task sequence that going to wipe the drive.

    I didn’t see a camera crew in back recording the session in video form, but I’m sure there will be an audio recording.  Like many of our tools, you can watch these sessions over and over but until you actually roll up your sleeves and try the tools for yourself, you won’t know how easy it is to use them.  This session did a great job of providing the view of those tools to get you started.

    TechEd Europe Conference Keynote

    In the afternoon, TechEd Europe 2010 was officially opened with a keynote by Microsoft’s Brad Anderson.

    At last month’s PDC10 Microsoft announced enhancements to its Platform as a Service (PaaS) offering, the Windows Azure Platform. Today, Microsoft provided more information about how its comprehensive cloud strategy - spanning the public and private cloud - can help organizations meet their unique business needs. While PaaS represents the future of cloud computing, many organizations today require high levels of control or customization within their own IT environments. 

    Microsoft’s approach to the cloud includes Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), so customers and partners can build private cloud solutions on top of their existing datacenter investments. Windows Server, Hyper-V, and System Center comprise fully integrated server, virtualization, and management solutions.  And today, the company announced Hyper-V Cloud, a set of programs and initiatives that help customers and partners deploy private clouds on their own terms. The programs include:

    • Hyper-V Cloud Fast Track: For customers who need some level of customization, but also want to reduce risk and speed deployment, reference architectures can provide the perfect balance. Microsoft is collaborating with Dell, Fujitsu, Hitachi, HP IBM and NEC to deliver a broad choice of pre-defined, validated configurations for private cloud deployments—comprising compute, storage, networking resources, virtualization, and management software. These six partners collectively represent more than 80% share of the world’s server market.
    • In addition, HP and Microsoft are announcing jointly developed HP Cloud Foundation for Hyper-V, a reference architecture that combines HP BladeSystem Matrix and Microsoft System Center with Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V. This solution is part of Hyper-V Cloud Fast Track, and one result of the expanded partnership we announced together earlier this year. HP also will offer HP CloudStart for Microsoft, private cloud services that simplify and speed private cloud deployments using HP Cloud Foundation for Microsoft Hyper-V. To find out more, read blog posts by Dell, HP and NEC, and see Hitachi’s press release.
    • Hyper-V Cloud Service Provider Program: More than 70 service providers around the world offer infrastructure as a finished, fully-hosted service built on Microsoft’s technology. This option delivers the fastest, most cost-effective implementation for cloud services, both private and public. Service providers include: Korean Internet Data Center; Fasthosts (UK, US); Agarik (France); Hostway Corporation (US, UK, Netherlands, Germany, France, Belgium, Romania).
    • Hyper-V Cloud Deployment Guides: For customers who want to build their own private clouds on top of existing infrastructure investments, we are now offering tools and guidance based on expertise developed during hundreds of Microsoft Consulting Services (MCS) customer engagements over the past few years. This element of the Hyper-V Cloud program optimizes for the highest levels of flexibility, control, and customization.
    • Hyper-V Cloud Accelerate: To tie it all together, Microsoft is making significant investments to help customers and partners fund assessments, proofs-of-concept, and production deployments. These services will be delivered by MCS and pre-qualified members of the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN).

    In addition, Microsoft also announced:

    • General availability of System Center Virtual Machine Manager Self Service Portal 2.0 (first announced at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in July), a freely downloadable, partner-extensible solution that makes it easier for customers to pool, allocate, and manage their compute, storage, and network resources. A key element of a private cloud infrastructure, this solution is built on top of Windows Server 2008 R2, Hyper-V, and System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008 R2.
    • Availability of Forefront Endpoint Protection 2010 Release Candidate, which helps improve endpoint protection across client and server infrastructure. Built on System Center Configuration Manager 2007, Forefront Endpoint Protection allows customers to use their existing client management infrastructure to deploy and manage desktop security. Forefront Endpoint Protection will release to manufacturing by the end of 2010. 
  • Security Intelligence Report (SIR) v9 Video Series - Part 1 with Tim Rains and Botnets

    In this interview I sat down with Tim Rains, Group Product Manager from the Trustworthy Computing Group. Tim discusses the Security Intelligence Report and its relevance to the IT Professional. He also describes Botnets – what they are, how computers get infected and how to protect yourself and your organization.

    There are roughly ten parts to this video series and I’ll blog them weekly as we publish them to  Be sure to checkout the SIR portal at

    Part 1 - SIR Overview and Botnets - with Tim Rains (12 minutes)

  • New Technet Homepage Design Launches on 11/15 by guest blogger Mitch Ratcliffe

    Next Monday, November 15, TechNet will be introducing a new home page. We’ve designed the landing experience to provide IT Pros with more guidance about what news and issues Microsoft has that day. There will be fewer links, as we’re moving past our old “sea of links” approach to the TechNet home—I am sure all our customers know we have lots of resources on TechNet, so it’s no longer necessary to try to show links to all those resources at once.

    The big changes will be obvious immediately to frequent visitors. There’s more news and feature content at the top of the page, and we’ve moved the left rail navigation—the list of all the TechCenters and topic centers—to the bottom of the page. This was the result of extensive customer research and real-world feedback in our international network, where some sites have already made this move. We found people always find these links, at the same rate, as when they are at the top of the page. Our reasoning is that TechNet customers know the TechCenters and will find them quickly, wherever they are listed on the page.

    TN30 Homepage

    TechNet ON, our biweekly feature on a key IT Pro topic, such as the current edition on Windows 7 Deployment, gets more play at the top left of the page. A “Hot Topics” section, which gets the upper right corner of the new home page, is going to deliver day-of-release news about new products and services, something TechNet has often lagged behind news sites. Hot Topics is where you’ll find the latest insider perspective on Microsoft news for IT Pros.

    Today’s News, the traditional feed of news postings by Microsoft personnel, will remain “above the fold” on the home page, along with a new “Getting IT Done” section in the right column, where we’ll provide links to our new and growing set of IT scenario guides to help get visitors to the point in the explore-deploy-manage-maintain lifecycle they need. These scenarios deliver guidance about using Microsoft technology to achieve business goals, often involving multiple products. We are committed to getting you the very best of the information we have.

    Our scenarios are currently clustered into two hubs introduced last week, the Cloud Scenario Hub and the Virtualization Scenario Hub. Early in 2011, we’ll add a Business Intelligence Hub. What other areas of focus would you like to see? If you have any feedback, please email me at

    Local Community, a longtime feature of the home page, will get more room in the middle of the page, where we’ll be featuring local TechNet Edge video and opportunities to meet and talk with your peers in your region.

    Finally, we’ve moved that large subscription section at the top of the old home page to the bottom, because many people, upon their arrival, spend extensive time and energy trying to figure out what costs money on TechNet. All the content on TechNet is free, so we are going to emphasize this by showing that content and not asking people to subscribe. There’s incredible value in evaluation keys to Microsoft product and support events in a TechNet subscription, but subscribers know where to go to manage that – the “Sign In” link at the top of the page is the consistent #1 most-used link on the home page. For everyone else, we want you to know that TechNet is a vital growing and free resource for IT Pros.

    Come on by the new home page next week and give us your ideas about what you’d like to see. Later this year, we’ll be doing more work on the home page navigation to give you better access to featured content. This, however, is a very big step for us only seven months after the change of home page chrome. The new look is a statement, we hope, that Microsoft is here to serve IT Pros with the most important information they need, not just a sea of information that comes with little guidance.

  • Guess what I have? Yep, the Lenovo ThinkPad T410s Optimus

    Designed for portability and power.

    I’ll be blogging some thoughts and test results soon.  Impressive machine.

  • Windows Phone 7 Update - an Interview with Andrew Brown

    Windows Phone 7 launched in Europe last month and is launching in North America next week.  You’ve seen the commercials.  You’ve seen the demos.  But have you heard much about the update infrastructure we’ve put in place for the devices? Probably not.  It’s isn’t as sexy as the glorious AMOLED screens some of these devices have to show off the “Metro” interface.

    There has however been some discussion on the update process, especially after it became apparent we’ll be releasing some features after the devices are already in the field.  You’ve probably heard about Copy/Paste, right?

    How is that possible?  How does the device know it has an update?  How does the update process actually work?  Who is allowed to use the update process and what servers are used?  IT Pro inquiring minds want to know.

    Well one of the Program Managers for Windows Phone, Andrew Brown, was kind enough to let me interview him last week while I was in Seattle.  Here’s the interview.

    Andrew Brown - Windows Phone Program Manager (10 minutes)

  • IIS Media Services 4.0 Released to the Web !!!


    IIS Media Services 4.0 was released yesterday, just in time for Streaming Media West. Coming just one year after the previous major release, IIS Media Services 4.0 allows you to encode once and deliver adaptive streaming content to three screens across multiple file formats and protocols. Keep reading to learn more about the new features, or install it now.

    What's Included

    This IIS Media Services release centers on new functionality for the live and on-demand IIS Smooth Streaming components. Building on over two years of industry usage, IIS Smooth Streaming has become the primary HTTP adaptive streaming technology for delivering content online. Broadcasters worldwide have used it to deliver on-demand content and live events, such as the World Cup, Sunday Night Football, the Tour de France, and the 2010 Winter Olympics.

    With another year of customer wins and input on what would make it even better, the feature set in IIS Media Services 4.0 addresses some specific themes, focusing primarily on expanded iPhone support and a broad set of new live streaming features.

    Full details at

    Ready to install?  Head on over to and get the bits.