Keith Combs' Blahg

Ramblings from another nerd on the grid

March, 2011

  • Vvroooommmm - The Camaro ZL1 breaks cover


    Fuel efficiency @

  • What powered the Microsoft Management Summit 2011? Find out!

    Full details @  Fascinating comparison year-to-year.

  • Windows Thin PC Customer Technology Preview (CTP) - now available for download

    We are happy to announce that the Windows Thin PC public CTP is now available! Although the final release of Windows Thin PC will be provided as a benefit for Software Assurance customers, we heard feedback that you wanted us to broaden the access of the CTP, so we’re pleased to announce that this CTP is public and therefore available for all customers to evaluate.

    For those who have been following our updates, this CTP version includes some new features which we had not previously talked about:

    1. RemoteFX support for a richer, higher fidelity hosted desktop experience.
    2. Support for System Center Configuration Manager, to help deploy and manage WinTPC images.
    3. Write filter support helps prevent user and application writes to disk, thereby improving security at the end point

    More information and resources can be found on the CTP download site, and as always we encourage you to install the preview and send us feedback via the tools on the Microsoft connect site.

  • Verizon Wireless 4G LTE Hotspot now available


    Introducing the Verizon Wireless Samsung 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot SCH–LC11.

  • System Center Configuration Manager 2012 Beta 2 - download available

    SysCnt_h_rgbConsumerization is a growing challenge for IT organizations. System Center Configuration Manager 2012 helps IT empower people to use the devices and applications they need to be productive, while maintaining corporate compliance and control. The boundaries between work and life have blurred to where people expect reliable, consistent access to corporate services from wherever they are, on any device they're using. Using System Center Configuration Manager 2012, organizations can:

    • Empower people to be productive from anywhere on whatever device they choose. This includes the wide range of devices that connect to Exchange ActiveSync, including Windows Phone, Symbian, iOS, and Android-based devices. Through the new application model, the best application experience can be delivered to the user based on their identity, their device, and their connection.
    • Streamline operations with a unified infrastructure that integrates client management and protection across mobile, physical, and virtual environments. Improved capabilities such as Forefront Endpoint Protection integration, role based administration, and virtualization scenario support will simplify both infrastructure and processes for IT.
    • Drive organizational efficiency for IT with improved visibility and enforcement options for maintaining system compliance. This means fewer mouse clicks to accomplish tasks and higher degrees of automation in activities such as patch management and settings enforcement.

    Go get it @

  • Slate or sushi anyone?


    More details on the event at  Looks like it was fun.

  • Lenovo ThinkPad W520 - mini review

    thinkpad-w520-3High end portable workstations are a special class of computer.  The Lenovo ThinkPad W520 belongs to that class and in many ways sets the bar.  As a daily user of a ThinkPad W510, I was certainly interested in seeing and testing the new W520 to see what improvements were made.

    Keep in mind I don’t have a lab with instruments to scientifically measure power draw, consumption, clock speed of the cpu or gpu, etc.  But I do like to put notebooks through their paces with an interesting application mix.  This is why I call it a “mini” review.

    W510 owners should stop reading here.  It’s that much better. Really. I’m not kidding.

    Executive Summary

    The Lenovo ThinkPad W520 is twice as fast as my ThinkPad W510 at certain chores and eclipses it on battery life.  The ThinkPad W520 has superior battery life over the W510 and reaches 6-7 hours of battery life at a moderate screen brightness.  Lenovo continues to provide excellent thermal management cooling in the W520 workstation. See the performance and battery life sections below for more detail.  In short, the ThinkPad W520 with the new Intel Sandy Bridge chipset is a strong improvement to the Lenovo W Series of portable workstations.


    The unit I received isn’t the top of the line ThinkPad W520 but it has some of the top tier components. It’s a model 4284-A58.  It has the Intel Core i7-2720QM processor (quad-core, 2.20GHz, 6MB Cache), DDR3 memory controller (up to 1600MHz), Intel Turbo Boost 2.0 (3.30GHz), with Hyper Threading (HT) technology. This particular W520 is loaded with 4x4GB 204-pin SO-DIMM PC3-10600 1333MHz DDR3, non-parity, dual-channel memory. The screen is 15.6" (396mm) FHD (1920x1080) color, anti-glare, LED backlight, 270 nits, 16:9 aspect ratio, 500:1 contrast ratio, 95% Gamut.  The video chipset is NVIDIA® Optimus™ technology, which will auto-switch between discrete and integrated graphics.  The integrated graphics is the Intel HD Graphics 3000 in processor, and the discrete chip is the NVIDIA Quadro® 2000M, PCI Express® x16, with 2GB memory.

    The primary drive bay is a full height (9.5mm) 2.5” hard drive bay and will accommodate standard laptop hard drives as well as full size SSD drives.  It’s still bottom access and I don’t like that much.  I prefer side load like the previous generation ThinkPad's. The Ultrabay is still the same as the W510 and is 12.7mm in height. The W520 received included the Seagate Momentus 500GB 7200rpm drive in the primary bay. I tested the W520 with it and the Intel 160GB SSD.

    The W520 with the 9-cell battery is slightly lighter than the W510, but only slightly.  The port configuration around the machine is the same as the W510 though they changed the USB 3.0 chipset to another supplier. This did have an impact on flattening the machine and using an external USB 3.0 enclosure.  You must install the USB 3.0 driver before you use those ports. The new USB 3.0 chipset provider is Renesas.  I am not sure what happened to NEC but this is a change from the W510.

    The chassis dimensions are 14.68" x 9.65" x 1.29-1.44"; 372.8mm x 245.1mm x 32.8-36.6mm. This is exactly the same as the W510.  The W510 and W520 aren’t massive in size but it is a large 15” notebook computer.  It fits perfectly in the Wenger Synergy backpack which I have been using for the past 5-6 years.  Highly recommended.

    Although my W520 didn’t come with a mSATA drive, I have confirmed it is capable of using one in the PCI-E WWAN card slot.  In essence, you can put a tiny Intel Series 310 SSD drive in the slot and use it for OS boot.  This would allow for three drives total in the W520.  Lenovo is promoting RapidDrive for the usage of the mSATA drive but I think OS boot is more interesting.  Although the Sandy Bridge chipset in the ThinkPad W520 has SATA III 6Gbps support, I don’t have the new SATA III SSD drives yet to prove it works.  Sorry, but that’s a big budget line item so it will have to wait for later.  I intend to purchase some Intel Series 510 SSD drives when the price is right.

    The model I received has the Intel 6300 WIFI and Intel 82579LM Gigabit Ethernet chipset.

    Photo Tour

    Front - in this picture and the following shots, I have the ThinkPad T410s on top of the stack, the ThinkPad T410 in the middle and the ThinkPad W520 on the bottom.  There isn’t much to comment on for the frontal view.  Sorry I don’t have the T420 and T420s yet for comparison.  I use Windows 7 lid stickers for my machines so you’ll see that already slapped on the W520.

    Right - the W520 ports are positioned exactly like the W510. On the right side you’ll see the memory card slot, 34mm ExpressCard slot with a plastic filler, the 12.7mm high fatty DVD burner in the Ultrabay, and the Ethernet port.  I don’t like the placement of the Ethernet port here.  I would rather have it in the back where the silly modem is, and have a USB port instead like the T410 above it.

    Back - the one notable change on the back of the W520 is the power connection port.  It has a new design to accommodate the 170W power supply connector and is different from several generations of ThinkPad's.  You can still use the ThinkPad W510 135W power adaptor with this port.  You cannot however plug the 170W power supply into a W510 or W510 dock.  See the connector close up macro shot below.

    Left - the left side of the W520 is no different from the W510.  I will however point your attention to the eSATA port which is a combo port also known as a powered eSATA port.

    Open - I believe the W510 and W520 key layouts are the same although I haven’t examined them close up.  I did notice in this picture some of the keys are a slightly different color.  I think this is due to inconsistencies in the manufacturing process for those keys unless it’s actually supposed to be that way.  You wouldn’t normally see the color difference unless you were looking really hard for it.  It just shows from the flash photography.

    Thin - I usually take a lot of different shots of a machine from different angles and I thought this picture was interesting because it makes the W520 look thin like the T410s.  It’s an optical illusion.

    Power brick top - some people are freaking out about the 170W power supply brick.  It’s rather large and for comparison I have it lined up with the 135W power supply for the W510, and a 90W power supply for the T410.  It’s actually lighter than the 135W brick.  770 grams to 830.  It appears in my testing the 135W brick works fine so if you are short on cubic centimeters you might travel with the 135W.  You cannot use the 90W with the W520.

    Power brick side -  here’s another view of the bricks from a different angle.

    Power connecter - here’s a close up macro shot of the 170W power connector compared to the connector on the 90W and 135W power supplies.

    connectPower Management and Battery Life

    I mentioned in the executive summary above that the Lenovo ThinkPad W520 has significantly improved power management and battery life.  It appears from my testing that it’s at least twice as good as the W510.  After some initial testing, I quickly posted some information.  W510 owners everywhere are crying.

    Why is battery life important on a portable workstation?  In my opinion, it really shouldn’t matter too much.  Almost everyone one I know that uses a machine in this class probably has a smartphone and a slate device or they will soon.

    In the meantime, battery might be important in some situations but this isn’t a machine you’d be lugging from class to class, or meeting to meeting and taking notes on battery.  You could, but it isn’t designed for that.  It’s designed to run high performance workloads and you’d better be plugged into the wall for those. Enough of the lecture already.

    For the consultants in the crowd that have a single machine, you’ll be happy to know the battery life is dramatically improved.  In the tests at the blog post link above, this machine appears to get six hours of battery life quite nicely on the configuration I was sent.  That’s pretty darn good and welcome relief for the workstation crowd.

    Now you can watch a movie or two on that long flight home.  Assuming of course the guy in front of you hasn’t pushed his seat all the way back.  That’s where the T410s or a slate device will come in handy.

    Performance, Gaming and Thermals

    I do a considerable amount of work with high definition video. This seemed like the perfect test to see how much of an improvement the Sandy Bridge pipelining and chipset had improved over the W510.  I was shocked at the results. So shocked in fact I ran the tests several times with different drives to verify what I was seeing.

    w520 perfFor the encoding tests I used Sony Vegas Movie Studio Platinum 10.  I encoded to a 720p Windows Media Video profile at a 6MB data rate.  This is a rich high definition format and it will tax every system I have including the ThinkPad W520.  The source video is from my Sony high def video camera and I have a variety of subjects.  I decided to use last years Fort Worth Mayfest footage.

    The W520 completed the encoding job in 1.5 hours.  The machine did of course kick the fan up on high but wasn’t obnoxiously loud.  I was also pleasantly surprised to learn it didn’t fry the machine either.

    In fact, although the machine was warm on the bottom, it wasn’t scorching hot.  You wouldn’t want it on your bare legs, but it wasn’t bad at all.  That’s a real good sign.  During the encoding the four cores and four hyper threads hovered around 72% CPU utilization.  Plenty of head room to do other stuff if this is your only machine.

    The W510 completed the same exact encoding job in 3 hours.  You read that correctly.  The W520 was twice as fast as the W510 in all of the encoding jobs.  I even used a variety of drives internal and external to rule out I/O bottlenecks.  Yea, my jaw is still on the floor.

    I don’t know yet why the W520 is soo much faster.  I ran these tests six different ways on both machines and every time the W520 sliced through the work in half the time the W510 took.  I checked all of the BIOS, Power management and performance settings three different times to make sure everything was nearly identical except the hardware.  Hardware matters.

    After the encoding jobs, I decided to do some testing of the graphics for gaming.  I haven’t really done any PC gaming in a while since we use the XBOX 360 for that type of entertainment.  However, I still have Half-Life 2 Orange Box and it’s a pretty well known entity.  It was either use it or buy a modern game. I took the cheap route and used Orange Box.


    I installed Steam and all of the games then cranked up HL2.  I made sure to set the video settings in HL2 to 1920x1080 and all of the shading and stuff on high.  The game performed remarkably well.  I was getting some tearing and artifacts on quick turns and such but it wasn’t laggy or gross.  That was with the BIOS set to NVIDIA Optimus mode.  I changed it to NVIDIA discrete only and tried the game again.  Now we’re talking.  Smooth as glass and no tearing.  I haven’t checked frame rates but they are high.

    The W520 does an amazing job of cooling.  It spins the fan up under load and after things simmer down, spins back down.  When the machine is being used under light load, you can use the notebook on your bare skin. It runs nice and cool.  At least mine does.  My W510 also runs cool so they are pretty even on that count.  I’ve seen quite a few W510 reports where that wasn’t the case so I’m hoping Lenovo really has this nailed for the ThinkPad W520.

    Virtualization and RemoteFX

    Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 installed on the ThinkPad W520 with complete ease.  In fact, some of the nagging little workarounds I’ve been documenting for years have disappeared, finally.  I installed R2 SP1 using the usual boot from VHD techniques documented all over my blog.

    For those of you looking at the Lenovo Drivers and Download area, you’ll notice at the time of this review there aren’t many drivers.  Fortunately, everything you need is on the hard drive that came from the Lenovo factory under the SWTOOLS area.  The Ethernet and WIFI adaptors install correctly now with setup.  Everything else is straightforward.

    I installed the Hyper-V role and imported several virtual machines and confirmed everything was working as expected.  Boring.  My colleague Robert Larson asked me to look into making sure the W520 would run RemoteFX.  Now there’s something new and interesting to try.

    RemoteFX is a fascinating technology that lets you run a thin client machine from your desk, but take advantage of advanced graphics on the Hyper-V server.  There are a number of ways to take advantage of RemoteFX but I decided to try something that would really prove it works.

    Hmmm, what 3D application running on the VM would really prove RemoteFX is working?  Aero Glass is already running but you can do that with the right RDP clients so that isn’t good enough proof for me.  I need a game.  Duh.  How about installing Half-Life 2 into the VM and playing it across the wire from another machine on my network?  Muuhaahaa.

    hl2 install

    Here’s a screen shot of me using the Windows 7 SP1 RDP client and RemoteFX to install the game.  You can clearly see the Aero Glass effects in the RDP session.  All of those graphics are being handled by the GPU in the NVIDIA discrete chipset on the W520, not the machine I am using to run the RDP client.  I was pretty shocked at this point that Steam actually installed and worked.

    When I launched HL2, Steam complained about not having the RemoteFX virtual machine emulated 3D card in it’s card database.  I guess I was first.  It let me continue and play the game.  Since I had the RDP client session above set to 720p (1280x720), I ran Half-Life 2 with the same video settings.  HL2 suggested medium shading and such for the settings so I went with that.

    Actual gameplay was better than I expected.  I expected this to completely fail but much to my amazement the game actually worked. The mouse control was really erratic and hyper sensitive, but movement forward and back or side to side was pretty decent.  Certainly proof RemoteFX was working properly on the Lenovo ThinkPad W520.  I’ll go back later when I have time and look more closely at framerates native on the W520 and inside the VM.  I am out of time for this week.

    The Screen and Multimon

    Like the W510, the FHD screen on the W520 is fabulous.  It’s bright and has good contrast. The high Gamut screen has good color support and it’s probably the smart choice for anyone considering a portable workstation.  As with most if not all of the business computers Lenovo makes, it’s a matte screen.  I don’t think I will ever buy a glossy screen laptop.  Well, I haven’t yet.  Anyway, the screen is very nice and I haven’t seen any complaints with it on the W510.

    I am unable to run a test I wanted to run.  Although the W520 can be used in the 135W dock designed for the ThinkPad W510, it won’t drive more than two monitors.  You are going to need the 170W powered dock designed specifically for the W520.  So I could not test driving 3-4 external monitors.  I use three on a daily basis and have a fourth I could have used for the test, but until I have the right dock, it isn’t going to happen.


    Here’s a picture of what I am talking about.  In the pic above my Lenovo ThinkPad T410s NVIDIA Optimus notebook is driving three Dell LCD panels. That’s a cheap 24” on the left, a new refurb Ultrasharp U2711 27” in the middle, and an aging Ultrasharp 24” on the right.  It’s funny that the middle panel color differences are so pronounced in the pic.  I haven’t calibrated all three together on the T410s and this shows why you should.  Looking at this in person is different.  Your brain calibrates them real time.  More optical tricks.

    Because Optimus based machines have two active video chipsets, you can drive up to four external LCD panels with the Lenovo dock.  I think most people won’t need more than three but four is possible.  It’s the very first test I did with the T410s.  Sorry I could not prove it works with the W520.

    OS and Software

    The ThinkPad W520 I received came with Windows 7 Professional x64.  I was a little surprised to see it show up without SP1 already installed.  Not only that, it isn’t patched to current levels or at least reasonably close levels.  It’s sitting here waiting for me to install 29 important updates. This is pretty inexcusably in my opinion.  Lenovo should really take the time to engineer an image that is more up-to-date than that.  Make sure you update your machine to SP1 as soon as you get it.  Hitting the update button on mine now.

    As for the software that is pre-loaded, I give Lenovo a lot of credit for NOT loading the machine will a bunch of software I don’t want. On first boot you will be presented with some promotions for Norton AV, Bing, Office, etc. but you can politely skip those and move right on.

    Lenovo has added some interesting programs I haven’t fully tested yet.  Skype is installed and configured to use the dual mic and 720p camera built into the LCD panel bezel.  Lenovo spent a lot of time tuning their new systems to work well with VOIP and other conferencing providers like Microsoft Lync so you road warriors could attend meetings. Lucky you.

    In addition you’ll find facial recognition software for security.  I am soo going to test this.  I’m actually thinking of testing that with my Chihuahua Elvis to see if I can use him to unlock the machine.  That should be fun.

    Office 2010 Starter is pre-installed and there are options to purchase an upgrade at any time.  Office Start 2010 includes Word and Excel Starter editions.  Pretty clever.  Give you some core features and provide an easy way to upgrade if you so desire.

    Biztree Business-in-a-Box is there for installation along with Skype, Norton Internet Security, Windows Live Essentials, Corel WinDVD, Corel Burn.Now, Corel DVD MovieFactory, and a few other miscellaneous programs.

    If you intend to use Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 as your primary OS, make sure you save the SWTOOLS directory on drive C:.  You’ll want WinDVD and other apps that don’t come with R2.  I haven’t yet verified the location of WinDVD in the lower level directories but I will.


    I didn’t think the Lenovo ThinkPad W520 would be much of an improvement.  It’s the same keyboard, chassis, screen, etc. as the ThinkPad W510.  But the beauty is below the surface and in this case, the Sandy Bridge chipset offers much better performance while managing energy use much more efficiently.

    You’ll certainly want to watch for more scientific testing by the professional review blogs and organizations but it sure looks like a super machine for your consideration.  I look forward to seeing how it fairs against the competition in the shootouts.  This is a sweet machine ready to do some hard work.  Let me know if you have any questions.

    [UPDATE for 3/29/2011] just lit up the configuration wizards for the ThinkPad W520.  Here’s a sample configuration and price from the US public buying site.  Man, they have some nice new options.  I’d really like to test the RAID support.  Enjoy.

    W520 Sample Config

    [Update for 4/3/2011] Todays project was to flatten the Lenovo factory image and install SLED 11 SP1 x86. The install worked well enough though SLED installations are really slow from DVD. GNOME and KDE are both working with the inbox VESA drivers.  I downloaded and installed the NVIDIA accelerated graphics driver from without issue.  To be clear, I have the BIOS set to discrete only.  I don’t believe NVIDIA has Optimus drivers for linux. The accelerated drivers appear to be working pretty well at 1920x1080 with 16 million colors.  Menu fades, app movement, and moving graphics objects around on the screen is fluid.  Transparency effects are working.

    You also might have noticed I removed my “buy with confidence” remarks from the body of the blog post.  The main reason is due to the outstanding question on the support for SATA III SSD drives.  I don’t know if the W520 supports the SATA III 6GB standard. Hopefully an answer is clarified by Lenovo in the documentation, an official blog post at the site, or something soon. Eventually someone will benchmark the machine and provide some insight.  I won’t be in a position to do that for several weeks.

    I rather doubt the mSATA slot will be SATA III and I don’t think there are any SATA III mSATA devices anyway. The Intel Series 310 devices are SATA II 3GB speed. So the questions remain for the primary and optional Ultrabay drive interfaces. I supposed this also includes the Lenovo ThinkPad Serial ATA Hard Drive Bay Adaptor III since that is the currently supported hard drive adaptor.  I will be surprised to hear the 43N3412 adaptor is SATA III 6GB capable.

    So until the answers emerge, I would suggest making your decision carefully.  I certainly wouldn’t pay a premium for the new 6GB speed SSD drives until you know for sure the system can fully exploit them.  The machine is still a killer machine and if it fully supports 6GB speeds in all three of the possible SSD bays (mSATA slot, primary bay, Ultrabay), then it would certainly move it into the bad ass category of machines. It’s unlikely that all three bays support the 6GB speeds.

    [Update for 4/5/2011] Good news.  A number of people out there in the wild have received T420’s, T520’s and W520’s.  Several of them have run SSD tests with the Crucial and Micron drives and are reporting jumps in throughput that would be indicative of a SATA III 6GB speeds in both the primary bay, and ultrabay.  I’ve read this now at and from three or four different people in the various ThinkPad forums.

    I’m cautiously optimistic now.  Some of the test results I’ve seen lack detail but at least there are a handful of reports. I’ll feel better when I’ve run my own tests but I thought some of you might be interested.

    Here’s a nice infomercial on the ThinkPad W520.  It also covers a few features not normally mentioned in the reviews.  Notice it says battery life increase of 100% over the previous generation.  See, they put that in writing.

    [UPDATE for 4/6/2011] A little over a week ago I sent some questions into Lenovo around the drives and storage for the new Sandy Bridge based notebooks.  Here are the questions and the answers I received.

    1. Are the supported SATA interface speeds on the new ThinkPad's SATA III 6GB? Specifically, is this true for the T420, T420s, X220, X220t, T520, and W520?

    [Lenovo] Yes, The new Huron River ThinkPads will support 6Gb/s, but our current drives that have been certified are only 3GB/s drives. The current roadmap is showing Late 3Q or early 4Q is when we'll qualify 6GB/s drives. This is true for the T420, T420s, X220, X220t, T520, and W520.

    2. What SSD drives have been tested and are recommended for the new Sandy Bridge based machines?

    [Lenovo]These are all 3.0 Gb/ps.

    1. ThinkPad 160GB Intel X25-M Solid State Drive II - Released
    2. ThinkPad 128 GB SS Drive II - Released
    3. Intel 320 Series - Not Released. Lenovo engineering has completed testing/certification of the Intel 320 Series.

    3. What is the hard/ssd drive bay height and size for the new machines?  I need this for the primary bay, and ultrabay for each machine.  I understand some of the bays will only take 7mm height drives so if you provide a table of information on the machines above I would appreciate it.

    [Lenovo] Primary bay height for each system: T420, X220-X220T, W520  approx. 10.5 mm. Ultrabay height for each system: T420, X220-X220T approx. 10.5 mm.  W520 Ultrabay is 12.7mm. Machines with 7mm height drives: Yes The X220/ X220T, T420s will only take 7mm drives in their primary drive bay. 

    4. Which machines support the mSATA drive in the WWAN mini PCIE slot?  Do all of the machines support this? For the machines that do, is OS boot support supported?

    [Lenovo] W520, T420, T420s, X220, X220T. Yes, boot is supported for all of them.

    [UPDATE for 4/20/2011] I have confirmed with Lenovo that although the W520 has Optimus, it does not have Hybrid Optimus and thus cannot support four external displays like my T410s (see that test).  Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but there you have it.  On the bright side, I will test the T420s before too long and see if it really works.

    See for the official support document on the Hybrid Optimus technology and supported configurations.

    [UPDATE for 9/19/2011] It’s pretty rare for me to come back to update a review or comment six months after I wrote something but it seems there is a facet of this machine I didn’t really test fully back in March.  I still haven’t but I wanted to bring some information to your attention. 

    First, you notice in my blog post above I’m pretty wild about the new battery life for the ThinkPad W520.  That’s easily understandable because the battery life from the W510 isn’t nearly as good. 

    What you may not know is that the Quad Core CPU is limited to a certain performance level when running on battery power.  The term many people use is “throttled”.  I guess that term works.  Throttling is a well known way to govern something.  Cars and motorcycles have governors to prevent them from going over a certain MPH.  ISP’s and wireless carriers throttle connections when you’ve used a certain amount of data.  In that case of the W520, the CPU is throttled while on battery power.

    I haven’t seen an official Lenovo statement on why this is.  Some speculate they are doing this to prolong battery life.  That’s a pretty noble cause, unless you really need max performance on battery power.  I have seen other speculation that it was done due to some engineering challenge with supplying a hungry CPU with power when it is coming solely from battery.  Until Lenovo explains what is going on and why it’ll be open for speculation.

    Lenovo appears to be working on the problem. They have already published one BIOS that improves the throttling and I assume they are still working on further improvement. They have their senior Social Media folks and moderators involved in the threads. See Lenovo W Series Forum area.  There is quite a bit of activity in the threads there.

    I installed the v1.30 BIOS at the end of last month and can’t really tell much different on my machine with my typical usage models.  I haven’t traveled the past few weeks so I haven’t been running on battery power.  I did do a few quick tests three weeks ago and on my machine the CPU clock speed range is 800-1500 MHz on battery.  I did notice some bugs are still present on sleep/resume so I assume Lenovo is well aware of them and the reason I think they aren’t done with further improvement.

    There are couple of other rather large threads at the Lenovo site.  Thankfully I am not seeing any issues like those that are being reported.

  • The Lenovo ThinkPad W520 i7 Quad Core has seven hours of battery life? Really?

    thinkpad w520 3When the rumors of the Intel “Sandy Bridge” chipsets started to surface, I was skeptical. It sounded too good to be true and frankly I started dismissing it as marketing.  The claims seemed outrageous.

    Then I read one of the first reviews of a Sandy Bridge based machine, the Apple MacBook Pro, detailed by the highly respected AnandTech.  The MacBook Pros put in some rather respectable numbers for battery life.  I’m thinking, really?  A quad core with life beyond three hours?

    Sure enough, the Lenovo ThinkPad W520 I am writing this on turned in 6.5 and 7 hours of battery life in my first two tests. I haven’t even turned on the “battery stretch” mode of Lenovo’s Power Manager program, nor have I turned off Aero Glass and all of the bells and whistles of Windows 7.  This is double, and in some cases, triple the battery life over the previous generation ThinkPad W510.

    You might be thinking that the ThinkPad W520 clearly must be crippled and no longer deserving of the “workstation” designation.  Think again.  This baby is fast.  As you can see in the WEI result below, the W520 is knocking down a respectible WEI number.  As the moment I have the BIOS set in discrete GPU only mode.  Therefore the graphics number is for the NVIDIA Quadro 2000M side of the Optimus graphics chipset.


    How did I conduct my battery tests?  Good question.  On both of the tests I wanted to simulate realistic activity I might be interested in on a long flight.  Usually when I am on an airplane I like to watch a movie or surf the web if there is WIFI available.  I fly a lot of American Airlines flights so I use GoGo Inflight Internet.  Both of the following tests were with Windows 7 Ultimate x64.

    On the first test, I played some videos nonstop.  They were Windows Media Video (.WMV) files at various bit rates and screen sizes.  The video playback was either fullscreen or in a window.  Screen brightness was 11-13. WIFI was on and in use the entire time.  I had Tweetdeck running fullscreen during the entire time.  Tweetdeck is a really chatty program and I like to use it for this type of test because there’s no way the WIFI device is going to get powered off due to inactivity. This test lasted 6.5 hours.  I couldn’t believe it.

    For the second test, I recharged the battery overnight.  I disabled the WIFI device (Intel 6300) and didn’t use any other programs. Screen brightness was 11-13.  Most of the time it was set at 12 or 13.  I fired up a movie and let the test run.  It lasted 7 hours this time.  Obviously this wasn’t a fluke.  I’m impressed.  Most of the W510 owners I know get 2-3 hours of battery life so 6.5-7 is clearly miraculous.  I haven’t even tried the really harsh “battery stretch” modes of the ThinkPad Power Manager.

    I will write more detail later on this machine, impressions, and results but I thought you would be interested in the battery life which still has me floored.  I would certainly like to see that kind of battery life in my ThinkPad W510. 

    One other thing.  The picture of the ThinkPad W520 at top right in this article was doctored by me.  I took the stock W520 image then added a screen shot of my Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 desktop.  In the screenshot I have Hyper-V running, the Hyper-V management console, and a R2 SP1 virtual machine running.  Windows Server R2 SP1 installed very cleanly on the ThinkPad W520.  I also have themes and Aero enabled (just for grins). I’ll provide some notes on R2 installations later.

    Looks like another killer offering from the folks at Lenovo.  More details coming later. Enjoy.

    [UPDATE for 3/25] Someone asked about the power brick.  Here’s a comparison of the 90W, 135W and the 170W.  Keep in mind the 170W weighs less than the 135W.

    [UPDATE for 3/29] Both machines were using Intel 160GB Gen 2 SSD drives in the test runs above. The W520 was in Optimus graphics mode. I am running a test right now where the W520 is using the 500GB Seagate hard drive, and it’s set to discrete only video. After I run this a couple times, I’ll report back. My guess is that it will have a significant impact.  More later.

    [Update for 3/30]  My ThinkPad W520 is getting four hours of battery life when the BIOS is set to use only the NVIDIA 2000M discrete GPU.  For these tests I was also using the 500GB 7200rpm Seagate laptop drive to serve up the video.  The movie ran continuously during this time.  I also had the Intel 6300 WIFI adaptor enabled and Tweetdeck was covering about 66% of the screen.  The screen brightness was sitting at 11 during the entire time.  This is still pretty darn good considering. Moral of the story: use Optimus when you need to stretch your battery life.

    Also, I noticed in the forums people are curious about the use of the 90W adaptor so I ran more tests with it.  If the ThinkPad W520 is turned off, the 90W will charge the battery back up.  Therefore, you could re-charge the battery at night while you sleep.  However, the 90W will not maintain that charge when the machine is powered on an in use so I don’t think it’s a good travel strategy.  I don’t have a 65W charger.  I used to, but I think it went out the door with one of the children and never came back.  As usual.

    [UPDATE for 4/11/11] The previous tests were based on the Lenovo factory image.  Not long ago I flattened the machine and rebuilt it from scratch using the drivers on  I also decided to see what battery life was like with “Keith’s Max Power Savings”.  That’s a custom power plan and profile I created using Lenovo Power Manager and the Power Options Control panel applet. It’s basically my version of a power source optimized environment.  Very stingy on battery.  Very powerful but not maxed out when plugged in.

    The results were better but not earth shattering better. I did two tests that were similar to my previous test.  In the first test, the WIFI adaptor is enabled, Tweetdeck is running and updating the entire time, and a video is playing.  I noticed in my settings review that the WIFI adaptor wasn’t in the most miserly setting (see below). At the lower setting it might have added 15 minutes of life.

    For the video I used an HD 720p sized video with a 3.5MB data rate in .MP4 format.  The movie is 2:30 in length and I set it to loop continuously. The machine died on the vine at 6 hours 25 minutes.  I have the power plan set so that the critical percentage is 0 and to take no action.  It literally runs until it dies.

    For the second test, I disabled the WIFI adaptor and didn’t run any apps other than the video.  Both tests had the screen brightness set at 10.  This test managed to squeak out more time as expected and it died at 7 hours 23 minutes.  Both of these tests were using Intel SSD drives as the source for the video file.

    Here are some key notes on the settings I am using to achieve these longevity scores.

    BIOS - Graphics Device=Optimus, OS detect for NVIDIA Optimus=enabled, Intel SpeedStep mode for Batt=Battery Optimized, Thermal mgmt scheme for batt=Balanced, Optical drive speed=norm, CPU power mgmt=enabled, PCIE power mgmt=enabled,

    DC Power Plan Settings - system perf=low, cpu deeper sleep=enabled, fan=balanced, display brightness=10, optical drive power off=enabled, dim display=never, lower display refresh rate=15 minutes, lower to=50Hz, turn off display=never, stop hard disk=30 secs (but irrelevant), standby=never, hibernate=never, pcie link state power mgmt=max power savings, multimedia playing video=optimize power savings, USB selective suspend=enabled, slide show=paused, sys cooling pol=passive, low batt alarm at=0%, notification=none, action=nothing, reserve batt=0%, crit batt alarm=0%, action=nothing.

    DC Control Panel Power Settings - there is a lot of overlap between the two plans and they each don’t have all of the other’s settings so you need to watch carefully which plan clobbers the other.  Here are the unique settings only in the control panel applet. WIFI adaptor power saving mode on battery=medium (an error on my part), Intel Graphics Power Plan=max batt life, min processor state=5% (default), max processor state=5% (default), IE9 JavaScript Timer Frequency=max power savings.

    I have never messed with the minimum and maximum processor state percentages but I might do that on a future run to see if it has an effect.  I have not tested “battery stretch” mode either. I’m pretty much done testing battery life.  Seems pretty good for a quad core notebook to me.  Certainly good enough for my needs.

    IMG_1163IMG_1164 Click the image for a larger view.

  • Exoskeletons come to market

    This is fascinating and scary at the same time.

  • System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 Beta - now available for download

    SCVMM_logoSystem Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 delivers industry leading fabric managment, virtual machine management and services deployment in private cloud environments. Virtual Machine Manager 2012 offers key new features that include hypervisor creation and management, network management, storage management, private cloud creation, self-service usage and service creation. It features deep investments in server application virtualization, service design and service modeling all of which can be used to efficiently offer an on-premises private cloud.

    • Fabric Management
      • Hyper-V and Cluster Lifecycle Management – Deploy Hyper-V to bare metal server, create Hyper-V clusters, orchestrate patching of a Hyper-V Cluster
      • Third Party Virtualization Platforms - Add and Manage Citrix XenServer and VMware ESX Hosts and Clusters
      • Network Management – Manage IP Address Pools, MAC Address Pools and Load Balancers
      • Storage Management – Classify storage, Manage Storage Pools and LUNs
    • Resource Optimization
      • Dynamic Optimization – proactively balance the load of VMs across a cluster
      • Power Optimization – schedule power savings to use the right number of hosts to run your workloads – power the rest off until they are needed.
      • PRO – integrate with System Center Operations Manager to respond to application-level performance monitors.
    • Cloud Management
      • Abstract server, network and storage resources into private clouds
      • Delegate access to private clouds with control of capacity, capabilities and user quotas
      • Enable self-service usage for application administrator to author, deploy, manage and decommission applications in the private cloud
    • Service Lifecycle Management
      • Define service templates to create sets of connected virtual machines, os images and application packages
      • Compose operating system images and applications during service deployment
      • Scale out the number of virtual machines in a service
      • Service performance and health monitoring integrated with  System Center Operations Manager
      • Decouple OS image and application updates through image-based servicing.
      • Leverage powerful application virtualization technologies such as Server App-V

    Production Support:  The SCVMM 2012 Beta is NOT Supported in production environments.

    Get it @

    Resources and Feedback:

    Use the SCVMM Community Forums to obtain general help, guidance, and assistance with the SCVMM 2012 Beta. You are welcome to submit suggestions or bugs via the feedback link on the SCVMM 2012 Beta Connect Site. When submitting bugs, please attach trace log details to help our team diagnose the issue. Information on collecting trace logs is provided in the SCVMM 2012 Troubleshooting Guide on SCVMM 2012 TechNet Library. The SCVMM 2012 TechNet Library is the definitive content source for all step-by-step instructions.

  • Samsung NP900X3A thoughts and video

    As much as I’d like to own a Samsung Series 9 notebook computer, it just doesn’t make sense for me right now.  There are a couple of reasons but the main one is the relatively low resolution of the LCD panel.  I would not be happy with 1366x768 native resolution of the screen.  If Samsung had a 1600x900 res panel in the notebook, I would have one on order.

    This notebook is also rather pricey.  I’m a believer that you get what you pay for and sometimes that means you pay a premium price for a premium machine.  This looks like a premium machine certainly worth the price.  For instance, if you were to compare this to other premium notebooks in the 13” class, you’ll notice it’s only slightly higher than the Apple, Sony, etc. machines.  But don’t forget the Samsung comes with a three year warranty. 

    Want to see the machine in the hands of Ben for some perspective on size?  Check this out.

    Pilfered from  I’m sure he’ll do a deeper dive on the features later.

    For those of you that are corporate buyers and want stronger security, take a close look at the options.  You can order this notebook with a TPM chip and take advantage of BitLocker or other technologies like DirectAccess.

  • Windows Phone 7 March Update - details emerge

    windows phone WP_Brd_Blu_v_rgbSomeone just update the updated the history area of so you can see some of the details in the coming March Update.  Here are a couple of the items:

    • Marketplace improvements. We've improved the stability of Marketplace while you download apps. We've also improved the experience of downloading apps larger than 20 megabytes, upgrading from trial apps to paid apps, using a credit card with an address outside the United States, sharing links to apps via email, sorting Xbox LIVE games by release date, and creating an Xbox LIVE account from within the Games Hub.
    • Wi-Fi improvements. We now display your phone's Media Access Control (MAC) address in Settings. (You might need this info if you try to connect to a Wi-Fi network that uses MAC address filtering. To learn more, see Connect to a Wi-Fi network.) We've also removed the limit on the number of Wi-Fi profiles that you can store and reduced the time it takes to start your phone if you've stored lots of Wi-Fi profiles.

    See the full details at  Keep in mind that the update is “staggered” so it won’t be instantly available to you if you check for updates.  I’m not really sure about the algorithm used.  It’s finally coming so enjoy!

  • Internet Explorer 9 Administration Kit (IEAK) - now available for download

    IE9_v_rgbThe Internet Explorer Administration Kit (IEAK) 9 simplifies the creation, deployment and management of customized Internet Explorer 9 packages. IEAK 9 can be used to configure the out-of-box Internet Explorer 9 experience or to manage user settings after Internet Explorer 9 deployment. Now available in a wide variety of languages.

    See the Product Guide @

    See the Group Policy settings @

    See the system requirements @

    Get the download @

  • Prepping a new hard drive for “Native Boot from VHD”

    ws2008 r2 blog logoWhen was the last time you manually partitioned a hard drive? If you are using a modern operating system installation routine the answer is like to be a long time ago.  Nearly all of the setup processing for modern operating systems give you one click convenience. Taking a raw hard drive and partitioning it properly has become easy.  Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 are no exception and streamline the process quite nicely.

    But what happens when you’ve been running a “Native Boot from VHD” environment for a period of time and decide to upgrade the drive?  It’s not like you need to reinstall the OS from scratch. What are the core requirements to run Windows 7 and Windows Server R2?

    Disk Partitions and Volumes

    If you look at the default installation characteristics for Windows 7, you’ll notice the setup routine creates two partitions or volumes.  One is the system partition and the other is the boot partition.  This isn’t required if you have no plans to use BitLocker.  You can create a single partition that is both the system and boot partition but there’s really no need to and it’s a hassle doing this manually anyway.

    image In the screenshot above I assigned the drive letter S: to the system volume.  The drive we are looking at here is a 160GB Intel SSD.  Windows 7 is installed into C:\windows and is not using native boot from VHD.  I can change this pretty easily using the Physical to Virtual capturing utilities.


    If we look at the contents of S:, we’ll see the Boot Configuration Database (BCD).  How does that get there and how would we create it from scratch?  It’s really simple. If the BCD doesn’t exist and you use BCDBOOT to create a BCD entry, a template from C:\Windows\System32\config is used as the source.  BCDBOOT will only work if there’s an active system partition.  That’s the key prerequisite. 

    Putting It All Together

    The first thing you’ll want to do is make a copy of the data and VHD files you are moving to the new drive.  I typically use an external eSATA or USB drive for copies like this.  If you are converting a physical install of Windows into a “native boot from VHD” environment, see my blog post on that subject.  Install the new drive.  Boot from the Windows 7 DVD and run the following commands.  We are creating a 100MB active system partition, and another boot partition sized at the remainder of the drive.  The commands are abbreviated because DISKPART only needs enough characters to resolve ambiguity in it’s command set.

    1. Once the Windows 7 setup environment is running and waiting for you to click the Install Now button, press SHIFT+F10 to start an elevated cmd console.
    2. Enter DISKPART to run this utility.
    3. Enter CRE PART PRI SIZE=100 ID=07
    4. Enter SEL PART 1
    5. Enter ACTIVE
    6. Enter CRE PART PRI
    7. FORMAT QUICK each of the partitions
    8. Select the boot partition and ASSIGN LETTER=C if it hasn’t been done for you already

    The partitions are now ready for your data.  We haven’t yet created the BCD store and entry, but we are getting ready to do that now.  If you haven’t already, you’ll need to attach the drive containing the VHD you want to boot.  In my case, I’ll setup two different operating systems.

    1. Create C:\R2
    2. Create C:\WIN7
    3. Copy the Windows Server 2008 R2 VHD to the directory created in step one.
    4. Copy the Windows 7 VHD to the directory created in step two.
    5. Run DISKPART again if you aren’t doing so already.
    6. Enter SELECT VDISK FILE=c:\r2\r2sp1w510.vhd
    7. Enter ATTACH VDISK
    8. exit DISKPART
    9. Enter BCDBOOT e:\windows.  This assumes the drive letter E: was used on the attach in step seven.  This creates the BCD store from the template inside the windows instance, generates a unique GUID, and adds the entry to the BCD.  Since this is the first entry, it’s also the default entry.
    10. Run DISKPART again.
    11. Enter SELECT VDISK FILE=c:\win7\win7sp1w510.vhd
    12. Enter ATTACH VDISK
    13. Exit DISKPART
    14. Enter BCDBOOT e:\windows.  Once again this assumes the attach assigned E:.  This creates a unique GUID and adds a BCD store entry.  In addition, the Windows 7 VHD is now the default and will be loaded automatically after 30 seconds at boot.  I usually knock this timeframe down to 10 seconds.  BCDEDIT can be used to change the display order for the boot prompt, descriptions, timing, and other parameters.

    Congratulations.  You have manually partitioned a physical disk, moved the data and native boot from VHD files to the disk partition, added BCD entries, etc. 

  • Black Gold

  • Sprint HTC Arrive Reviewed just published a review of the Sprint HTC Arrive.  See  I’m a little miffed they got a device before I did.  I’m chopped liver?  Don’t answer that.

    Anyway, this is an interesting device for those of you that can’t stand the thought of going cold turkey with a soft keyboard on a device like the Samsung Focus.  In fact, review after review of the HTC Arrive praises the keyboard.

    I should have a device showing up in my mailbox in the next couple of business days.  I am planning on activating it and trying it for at least three weeks.  More later when that happens.  Until then, enjoy the Boy Genius Report and pic.

  • Phone updates: process and timing

    imageEric Hautala, General Manager of Windows Phone Customer Experience Engineering posted a blog post today about the Windows Phone 7 update.  Here’s and excerpt:

    “Who doesn’t love presents? Luckily, my new job at Microsoft is to deliver them to you. My name’s Eric, and I run the team responsible for sending software updates with new features and improvements to your phone. From time to time, I’ll be posting here to answer your questions or concerns—and tell you what useful stuff an update is bringing.

    Since my team started sending out the first phone update a few weeks ago, there’s understandably been a lot of interest in how we deliver them. I also know there are concerns around Windows Phone updates, and today I want to try to address them. I’ll provide a brief behind-the-scenes look at the process and bring you the latest news on the copy-and-paste update, which I know many of you are waiting for.”

    See the full article at

  • Heads Up! The 2011 Scripting Games are just around the corner!

    scriptingdudeThe 2011 Scripting Games begin on April 4, 2011, and run through April 15, 2011. The Scripting Games are the premier learning event of the year for IT pros and others who want to master Windows PowerShell. For each of 10 events, registered contestants have seven days to script a solution to a scenario-driven problem and post their code to an MVP-maintained script repository. A panel of internationally recognized judges scores each submitted script. And daily leaderboards and prize drawings help keep interest high throughout the two-week international, online event.

    Last year, people from more than 200 countries visited the Script Center during the Games. Interest is so high because the scripts are written for real-world scenarios and problems, and they are of immediate value to participants and spectators alike.

    Preparations for the 2011 Scripting Games are well underway, with step-by-step tutorials, videos, a learning guide, and other related resources being created on a daily basis. We encourage you to go to the 2011 Scripting Games all-in-one page, which is the portal for the Games themselves. The 2010 Scripting Games all-in-one page is still available, as are the events from the 2009 Scripting Games.

  • Tony Lama Celebrates 100 Years of Boots


    Yes, you read that correctly.  $50,000 for a pair of boots.  Pretty cool, but sheesh.

  • Microsoft Virtualization for VMware Professionals - Free Training - Register Now!

    ws2008 r2 blog logoJust one week after Microsoft Management Summit 2011 (MMS), Microsoft Learning is hosting an exclusive three-day Jump Start class specially tailored for VMware and Microsoft virtualization technology pros. Registration for Microsoft Virtualization for VMware Professionals” is open and will be delivered via virtual classroom on March 29-31, 2010 from 10:00am-4:00pm PDT. Our last two events -- Windows Phone 7 Jump Start and Developing Cloud Applications with the Windows Azure Platform" -- were very popular, so please register today for all three sessions.

    This cutting edge course will feature expert instruction and real-world demonstrations of Hyper-V and brand new releases from System Center 2012 (many of which will be announced just one week earlier at MMS). This course is designed for Data Center Managers, IT Professionals, IT Decision Makers, Network Administrators, Storage/Infrastructure Administrators & Architects. Attendees are in for a treat because this course will be team taught by two of the most respected technologists in the field:

    Symon Perriman | A Microsoft Technical Evangelist covering Virtualization, Windows Server, System Center and Private Cloud technologies, Symon is a recognized expert in high availability, failover clustering, network load balancing, storage solutions, mobile, domain and web services. Symon contributed to several technical books for clustering, virtualization and SQL, wrote technology articles for Business Today, and is the founder of Microsoft’s Failover Clustering & Network Load Balancing Blog.

    Corey Hynes | An IT Infrastructure consultant with more than 15 years in the field focusing on operating system virtualization, management and deployment. Corey has been working with products such as Hyper-V, VMware, and XEN extensively since they were introduced. Currently, Corey is working with Microsoft and Citrix to help partners design and architect enterprise class VDI implementations using XenDesktop and Hyper-V. Corey is also the owner and lead technical architect for holSystems, an online VM hosting engine for training and demo providers, which hosts thousands of VM instances in a custom thin provisioning engine, available on-demand worldwide.

    Register now for all three sessions!
    Session 1 | March 29, 2011 from 10am-4pm PST
    Session 2 | March 30, 2011 from 10am-4pm PST
    Session 3 | March 31, 2011 from 10am-4pm PST

    Please help us spread the word by posting this tweet: Mar. 29-31 "Microsoft #Virtualization for VMware Pros" @SymonPerriman Corey Hynes @MSLearning #Hyper-V

  • Windows Phone 7 Goes to Space

    imageThis is pretty interesting.  Friday a Windows Phone 7 device took a 90mph ride on a balloon to an altitude of 18,235 meters (over 60,000 feet).  I don’t know if that’s technically space but it’s a lot higher than you can throw an iPhone 4.  It landed 47 miles downrange.  This was all part of the University of Southampton’s ASTRA project.

    ASTRA investigates new technologies for making low cost observations of the physical parameters of the atmosphere. We develop and test platforms capable of delivering scientific instruments to altitudes ranging from the planetary boundary layer (hundreds of meters) to the upper stratosphere (up to 50km).

    And FYI, they used an Azure based application for the cloud service.  Grin. 

    See for the details.