Keith Combs' Blahg

Ramblings from another nerd on the grid

June, 2011

  • Organizational Charts

    2011.06.27_organizational_charts

    From http://www.bonkersworld.net/2011/06/27/organizational-charts/.  Hee hee. 

  • We have lift off - Office 365 blasts off into the clouds

    imageNEW YORK — June 28, 2011 — Today, at media events around the world, Microsoft Corp. announced the availability of Microsoft Office 365, the company’s newest cloud service. Office 365 is now available in 40 markets, and it brings together Microsoft Office, Microsoft SharePoint Online, Microsoft Exchange Online and Microsoft Lync Online in an always-up-to-date cloud service, at a predictable monthly subscription.

    See the full press release at http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2011/jun11/06-28MSOffice365PR.mspx.

  • Sony updates the Vaio Z and adds Light Peak Media Dock

    SonyVaioZ

    Here are some excerpts from the Sony EU press release:

    Weighing little over a kilogram, the new VAIO Z Series notebook PC from Sony is created for mobile professionals who demand absolute performance and portability.

    VAIO Z blends ultra-desirable styling and premium carbon fibre with no-compromise specifications and innovative productivity features.  All-new VAIO Z takes cutting-edge styling by Sony to new extremes, with a ‘full flat’ body and display lid that are crafted in tough, ultra-light carbon fiber.

    At just below 1.2kg and 16.65mm slim, the new VAIO Z is the perfect partner for business travellers who demand ultimate power with less to carry.

    On-the-go usability is enhanced further by the backlit keyboard with extra-wide palm rest and ergonomic new ‘button-less’ touchpad. With a resolution of 1600x900, the 33.2cm (13.1”) VAIO Display Premium features an anti-reflective coating that cuts glare from direct light sources and ensures crisp color reproduction.

    Performance is everything you’d expect from the most sophisticated VAIO notebook yet. Latest-generation standard voltage Intel® Core™ i7 processors are teamed with speedy DDR3 SDRAM and up to 256GB SSD RAID storage to blaze through the toughest workload with ease.

    Power Media Dock™

    The performance of VAIO Z Series is taken to new extremes by the unique Power Media Dock2, a monolithic expansion module that links with VAIO via an optical cable. The proprietary port can also be used to attach regular USB devices to VAIO when it’s not docked.

    VaioZMediaDockFeaturing high-speed I/O data transfer based on the architecture codenamed ‘Light Peak’, Power Media Dock boosts graphics performance while adding numerous extra connectivity options. It includes an optical drive for even greater business productivity and satisfying HD entertainment. The module comes supplied with a stylish design-matched stand.

    With Power Media Dock added, VAIO Z can manage up to four displays (including the notebook screen) via HDMI™ and/or VGA output ports. In this configuration, VAIO Z makes a compelling choice for design, finance and science professionals who need to work across several screens simultaneously. New-generation AMD Radeon HD graphics with 1GB VRAM effortlessly handle demanding graphics tasks, from 3D CAD to gaming.

    When docked, connectivity options are boosted by additional USB ports plus VGA and HDMI outputs. Power Media Dock also sports an optical drive bay that can be specified with a Blu-ray Disc™ or SuperMulti combo drive. Games and movies on DVD or Blu-ray Disc sound as good as they look with latest Dolby® Home Theater® v4.

    See the full list of features and details at http://presscentre.sony.eu/content/detail.aspx?ReleaseID=6836&NewsAreaId=2.  See the datasheet at http://presscentre.sony.eu/ImageLibrary/DownloadMedia.ashx?MediaDetailsID=199966.

    [NOTE] This information is from Europe.  I hope the US site will be updated soon. Looks like a promising machine.

  • Can you do this on your MacBook?

    Be sure to check this out at full screen 720p.  Nice teaser from NVIDIA.

  • BMW M1 - swoosh

    image

    http://www.bmwusa.com/Standard/Content/AllBMWs/ConceptVehicles/M1/Default.aspx

  • Ready, Set, TiVo TiVo TiVo TiVo

    image

    Quad tuners, 2TB of disk space for 180 hours of HD recording? You had me at quad. See http://www.zatznotfunny.com/2011-06/tivo-premiere-q-headed-to-retail-as-premier-elite/.  I’d love Window 8 in a box, but this might be in Santa’s sleigh this year.

  • Security in Office 365 White Paper - now available for download

    ofc365_h_rgbMoving productivity services to the cloud requires a serious consideration of security and privacy issues and technologies. Office 365 is designed to deliver the enterprise-grade security you require to move to the cloud with confidence. Our data centers are designed, built, and managed using a defense-in-depth strategy at both the physical and logical layers, and our services are engineered to be secure using the Security Development Lifecycle. Office 365 makes it easy for users and administrators to access and use data and services while following security best practices. We have built our cloud-based productivity services with you in mind, helping you embrace the advantages of the cloud on your terms and at your own pace. Learn more about the enterprise-grade security that Microsoft has provided for many years.

    http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/en/details.aspx?FamilyID=3e2cda3d-b9fd-4bb3-85fe-0010da503fd6

  • Lenovo ThinkPad X1 - mini review

    X1Executive Summary

    I had a lot of pre-conceived notions about the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 before it arrived.  It turns out that some of them were wrong but others were right on the mark.  If you are looking for a 13.3” notebook computer that is battle worthy, then the X1 should be on your list for consideration.  It is as tough as a tank.

    Specifications

    Here are specifications for the machine I am testing. It has the Intel® Core™ i5-2520M processor (dual-core, 2.50GHz, 3MB Cache), DDR3 memory controller (up to 1333MHz), Intel Turbo Boost 2.0 (up to 3.20GHz), and Hyper threading (HT) technology. Intel X-25M Solid State Drive (SSD) / SATA 3.0Gb/s, 2.5" wide, 7mm high. 13.3" (338mm) HD (1366x768) TFT color, anti-glare display with glossy infinity Corning® Gorilla® Glass, LED backlight, 350 nits, 16:9 aspect ratio, 300:1 contrast ratio. Intel HD Graphics 3000 integrated graphics processor, external digital monitor support via HDMI™ or Mini DisplayPort. Dimensions of 13.26" x 9.1" x 0.65-0.84" with a weight of 3.73 lbs. Trusted Platform Module, TCG 1.2-compliant. Bluetooth 3.0 wireless, LED indicator. Intel Centrino® Advanced-N 6205, 2x2 or Intel Centrino Ultimate-N 6300, 3x3. One USB 3.0, one USB 2.0, one powered USB 2.0/eSATA combo port, external monitor (Mini DisplayPort, HDMI), Ethernet (RJ-45) Intel 82579L(F/M) Gigabit Network.

    Memory and Storage

    The machine I received is the standard ThinkPad X1 but this particular unit has a single 8GB SoDIMM for RAM and the Intel 160GB SSD drive.  The SSD drive is a second generation Intel X-25M drive in the low profile 7mm form factor.

    I didn’t crack open the case to see the manufacturer of the RAM SoDIMM stick, but you should know that 8GB sticks are extremely expensive right now. For example, these sticks go for nearly $2000 from Dell. When you add the 32GB RAM option to the Precision M4600 notebook it’s adds $7700 to that config.  As you can see, the 8GB X1 is a bargain with that in mind.

    As I mentioned, the SSD drive that came with it is the second gen Intel, so it is not a SATA III 6Gb/s drive. The X1 like many of the other new ThinkPad's comes with the Mobile Intel QM67 Express Chipset so it should be able to handle the newer SATA III SSD drives when Lenovo gets around to certifying them.

    Processor

    The standard ThinkPad X1 comes with the Intel® Core™ i5-2520M processor and is plenty powerful.  It has many of Intel’s latest feature set including wireless display, anti-theft, and virtualization.  With the 8GB configuration and an external storage drive, it is perfectly capable of running several virtual machines if needed via Windows Server 2008 R2 Hyper-V or a desktop virtualization product like VMWare Workstation.

    I am particularly interested in the anti-theft capabilities. Intel® Anti-Theft Technology is an intelligent way for you to help secure the mobile assets of your workforce. This intelligent laptop security technology is built into select 2nd generation Intel® Core™ and 2nd generation Intel® Core™ vPro™ processor families.

    Intel Anti-Theft Technology (Intel AT) is built into the processor of your laptop, so it is active as soon as your machine is switched on—even before startup. If your laptop is lost or stolen, a local or remote “poison pill” can be activated that renders the PC inoperable by blocking the boot process. This means that predators cannot hack into your system at startup. It works even without Internet access and, unlike many other solutions, is hardware-based, so it is tamper-resistant.

    Gorilla GlassScreen

    The screen is a 13.3” 1366x768 native resolution TFT panel protected by a glossy infinity Corning® Gorilla® Glass finish.  Gorilla Glass is an environmentally friendly alkali-aluminosilicate thin-sheet glass. This combined with the other lid materials makes the X1 lid incredibly strong.

    The LCD panel is a 350 nit bright panel so it’s plenty bright.  The colors are ok.  The contrast is ok. Strangely the contrast looks better at night in lower light conditions.  The viewing angles are also just fair.  Lenovo should have put an IPS panel in this machine.  It was a mistake not to.  It should certainly be offered as an option.

    If you follow my blog, you’ve probably read my blog post and complaints about the LCD panels of the current generation of notebooks.  When you get a chance, go read it.  And for the record, I wrote that article nine days before I got this machine and it didn’t change my opinion. It just reinforced it.  I still detest the 1366x768 resolution.  Arrrgggg.

    I don’t like glossy screens.  The X1’s screen is certainly very glossy and has nearly edge to edge glossiness via the “Infinity” look.  On the upside, that glossy glass is nearly impossible to scratch.  My Lenovo rep told me to try and scratch it with anything but a diamond.  I tried to key the darn thing and it just laughed at me.  Now that’s impressive. We’ll talk more about the benefits this screen provides in a minute when we get to the chassis and weight discussion.

    One other thing about the screen, if you look really closely you’ll see some graininess or a “screen door” effect.  This has been pretty widely reported on the ThinkPad T420s.  If you are looking at the screen in the 12-18” range with good eyesight, then you can probably discern this.  It’s pretty hard to see outside that range. I don’t consider it a show stopper.

    Keyboard and TrackPad

    X1_detail_06The keyboard isn’t the ThinkPad traditional style.  In order to support backlighting and the liquid drainage, Lenovo went with a new Chiclet style keyboard. I haven’t used it long enough to get used to it yet but I can tell it would be not problem.  I am writing this blog post using the X1 to see if I stumble.

    I like the way it feels and I certainly like the backlighting.  Backlighting should become either standard or an option for all of the business class ThinkPads.  I hope they’ll figure out how to do it with the classic keyboard.  See “ThinkPad X1: Designing the Ultimate Keyboard” and “ThinkPad X1: Stradivarius Keyboard” for deeper insight into the design.  Of the Chiclet keyboards I’ve tried, this one is certainly a stand out.  I’m not sure it deserves to be called a Stradivarius, but it is pretty good.

    The backlighting comes in two brightness levels.  Running the backlighting on full does have an effect on battery consumption but it’s pretty minor.  I have not tested the drainage through the keyboard and have no intention of trying it.

    Lenovo also made a change to the TrackPoint and TrackPad.  I am a mouse guy about 95% of the time but the TrackPad on the X1 seems to work well enough for my needs.  It’s a buttonless pad but as you might suspect, you left and right mouse click on the bottom left and right portions of the square.  It’s also multi-touch scroll and zoomable.

    Battery Life

    One of the first things I did with this evaluation unit was test the battery life.  I was interested in two aspects.  I had heard the X1 didn’t have good battery life, and Lenovo claimed it could quick charge the battery to 80% charged in 30 minutes.  Now that’s an interesting claim.

    As it turns out, one of those was wrong.  I didn’t find the battery life to be poor.  In fact, on the unit I tested it was pretty decent. In the last test I ran, I had the backlit keyboard on high brightness, the screen dims at 1 minute to 20% brightness, WIFI active, Outlook receiving email from Exchange Server, Tweetdeck and IE9 were running.  That test lasted five hours.  Without the backlighting and few apps, I managed to get 6 hours out of the X1.  So I figure realistically most people are going to get 4-5 hours.

    RapidCharge is ultra cool.  In fact, after seeing it in action on the X1 I think Lenovo should include this on every ThinkPad.  On my battery tests, I let the battery literally die on the vine.  The battery would run down to 0% then shut the machine down.  RapidCharge charged the battery back up to 85-87% in 30 minutes.  The X1 ships with the 90W power cord and I was using the 135W cord that came with my ThinkPad W510.  So I cheated some but you have to admit, that is impressive.

    So think about it.  You can run around all morning going to meetings, then plug it into the wall during your lunch break, then have another 4-5 hours of juice for the afternoon.  Don’t you wish we could recharge our bodies like that?

    X1_standard_01Ports

    The X1 has a healthy mix of ports.  Along the back is an eSATA+USB combo port also known as eSATAp in the industry.  This allows you to use a powered eSATAp cable for SATA drives.  It’s also the port you would use to charge a cell phone or slate device if you are leveraging it in that manner overnight. There’s a SuperSpeed USB 3.0 port on back as well.  I picked up an external FileMate 2.5” enclosure not long ago that works really well and only uses the USB port for power.  You can find them for $12-19 USD.

    If you are interested in driving external displays, you have a choice of using the mini DisplayPort or full size HDMI ports on the back.  I have not tested either of them and probably won’t before I turn the machine in. There is a SIM card slot on the back of the X1 that is used for the internal cell phone wireless chipset option if present.  The eval unit I have does not have the cell wireless chipset. The last connection on the back is the RJ-45 Ethernet jack for the Intel Gigabit network card.

    X1_standard_03On the right side is the memory card slot and the cover for the 7mm SDD/HDD drive bay.  On the left side of the machine is a combo headset/microphone jack and a USB 2.0 port.  Those two ports are covered with a rubber cover.  I guess Lenovo figured they would not be used much.  In my case, they would be right.  I would always look to using the back ports first BECAUSE of the cover.  Annoying little bugger.

    Chassis

    The ThinkPad X1 is build like a tank.  It’s probably the most solid notebook I’ve ever had in my hands. It is incredibly rigid and I have no doubt this thing could take a serious amount of abuse.  My Lenovo rep told me to let my daughter stand on it.  That’s a pretty interesting challenge but since she was not available for the test I had to improvise. Grin.

    Yes, you got that right. I closed the lid and placed the X1 on the floor in my home office.  I took off my shoes and placed my size eleven left foot squarely in the middle of the lid cover and stood on the X1.  Two hundred plus pounds of weight in my left foot squarely crushing the latest technology from Lenovo.  Except for one thing.  It didn’t do squat.  No cracks in the lid.  No cracks in the LCD panel or gorilla glass.  No bends or cracks anywhere else for that matter.  This is one tough chassis and lid.

    X1_hero_11

    Lenovo brags about the toughness of that carbine fiber rollcage and construction. They’ve shown lots of demos on YouTube but it’s the first time I’ve ever tried to break a machine on purpose, and couldn’t.  Made me a believer.

    Like the ThinkPad's of era after era, the X1 has the flat black rubberized finish.  It isn’t as sexy as the shiny black Samsung Series 9 900X3A, but it also isn’t a fingerprint magnet.  Another benefit of the finish is the ability to easily grip the X1.  At 3.7 pounds, it isn’t an ultra light notebook, but it’s easily grabbed with one hand.

    Wireless

    1345028094When I tested the Samsung 900X3A a few weeks ago, it suffered from poor wireless connectivity.  The Broadcom card in that machine would only work with one band of my 802.11N network.  The ThinkPad X1 and its Intel chipset suffers no such issues in my testing.  It was rock solid reliable and fast.  No fiddling with your access point and it supports 2.4/5.8GHz dual band access points.

    Merge

    The 13 -14” notebook computer market is really odd right now.  As far as I can tell, there are only a couple of 13” notebooks with a screen resolution above 1366x768.  The Sony Model S and the Apple MacBook Air.  In fact, the Air is one of the few machines left with a 16:10 ratio display running at 1440x900.  I really wish the X1 had a screen like that.

    Therefore, in order to create the perfect notebook computer I would borrow from the best machines on the market and merge them into a single machine. The perfect machine would start with the X1 chassis and lid.  But the perfect machine needs a 14” IPS LCD panel.  Keep the Gorilla Glass but make is a matte design.  Since they are all 16:9 ratio screens now, it would need to be at least 350 nits with a 1600x900 native resolution.  And just in case you were wondering, the ThinkPad T420s 14” lid is the same size at the X1 lid so it should be possible.

    The keyboard isn’t a hard decision.  Although the backlit keyboard is very cool, I wouldn’t trade light for the stellar keyboards that have been on ThinkPads for generations. I’ll take a NMB keyboard any day.

    As for the ports, the Lenovo engineers almost got this one correct.  I would remove the cover from the ports on the left side of the X1 to promote the use of that USB port.  In fact, I would either move the eSATAp port or the USB 3.0 port there.  It’s more convenient to use it for an external DVD or SSD/HDD drive enclosure.

    As for the TrackPad, I would like to see Lenovo move to a black glass design.  It seems like Apple has that figured out so it would be great to see the ThinkPads improve that area.

    And for heavens sake, put a docking station connector on the X1 or whatever the next version is.  It certainly looks like it is thick enough and rigid enough to handle one.  Not having a docking station is a rather big deal to me.  Especially considering the ThinkPad T420s has one and will drive four external displays.  Fix this Lenovo. A single monitor via the USB 2.0 Port Replicator doesn’t get it done.

    Summary

    The X1 is a nice machine but it misses the mark for me in some key areas.  I could deal with the keyboard if forced but I won’t sacrifice my productivity with a 13” low resolution screen.  That’s a deal breaker for me.  I know a lot of you won’t care about the screen, but I would at least like some choices. I’ll pay extra for a bigger high resolution matte IPS screen.

    Until that happens the ThinkPad T420s is a better fit for my preferences.  I like having the 1600x900 resolution matte screen, Ultrabay, traditional keyboard and docking station.

    The X1 size, weight and chassis rocks. Keep improving battery life and by all means, add RapidCharge across all the ThinkPad product lines if possible.   The next generation X1 could be the perfect machine.  Your move Lenovo.

    [UPDATE for 6/22/2011]  Here’s a short update.  I took a few pictures of the X1 stacked on top of the ThinkPad T420s so you could clearly see the lid size is that same.  There’s the back picture of all of the ports.  I took pictures of the left and right side, too.  And of course I took a close-up macro shot of some of they keys.  Be sure to see the official photos at the X1 Picasa webfolder.

  • Never seen this at an Apple store

  • Look kewl while recording

    image

    These should make for some new and interesting video recordings. Grin. Yea, the shades are a 720p camera. Get the specs on the specs.

  • The Centurion - IBM hits 100

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    http://www.ibm.com/ibm100/us/en/icons/founded/

    Congratulations IBM !

  • AT&T HTC HD7S - mini review

    HD7S_Front_3Executive Summary

    HTC redefined the smartphone market when it launched the HTC EVO 4.3” screen smartphone last year. Size does matter and the new AT&T HTC HD7S doesn’t disappoint. Windows Phone 7 really shines on the HD7S with the terrific performance, big bright screen, and good battery life.

    For those of you looking for a smart phone with decent storage capacity and a large screen, the HTC HD7S should be in the list of your candidates. It was for me and I have decided to keep it.

    Screen

    The screen is big and bright. I like big and bright, especially considering how near sighted I am. I don’t consider the HD7S screen to be the top of the food chain. That belongs to the Samsung Focus in the Windows Phone 7 devices.

    For pure resolution, the iPhone 4 is certainly the device to beat. However, the iPhone 4 screen seems tiny in comparison to the 4.3” screen smartphones on the market. You don’t really notice a whole lot when you go from 3.5” to 4.3”, but give it a week and try to go back. That’s when the size really jumps out at you.

    I spent some time comparing the HD7S screen and resolution side-by-side with the iPhone 4. I compared my inboxes, web browsers, twitter clients, apps available on both platforms, etc. The iPhone 4 does an amazing job with the screen real estate but the HD7S is very easy on the eyes, too. It’s a really tough call.

    There is one thing about the screen defaults I am still experimenting with, even after nine days of HD7S use. I still haven’t decided on the auto brightness setting. Auto certainly saves battery life, but I really prefer the HIGH brightness setting on the HTC.  I still need to experiment more in the Texas sun to make a long term decision.

    There’s something else about the HTC screen I am curious to know if anyone else is seeing.  On my device, the colors look better if I am holding it in my right hand.  If I look at the device straight on, or hold it in my left hand thus angling the right edge slightly lower, I see a minor green tint.  The device seems more perfectly color calibrated in my right hand so the left edge is sloping away.  This is a hard one to describe.

    I noticed this when I loaded some pictures for wallpapers.  I have several pics I use for color calibrating my laptops, desktop LCD screens, etc. The first pic is Reach.  The second is Spartan vs Elite.  I noticed the HTC HD7S screen color variation when I started looking at these pictures on it more closely.  I’ve been using these pictures for quite some time so it was something I picked up on right away.  This is really minor and an untrained eye will likely not notice.  In fact, most right handed folks won’t.  And I’m guessing a small percentage of the lefties would assuming of course all of the devices are like mine.

    Chassis

    When I reviewed the HTC EVO last year, I noticed the device chassis wasn’t fitting perfectly. In fact, the lines on the unit I had were a little off leaving some gaps between the frame and the plastic. This seems to have been corrected for the most part with the HD7S. The chassis and frame seems more rigid and less prone to denting or bending.

    imageJust to be on the safe side, I purchased a SPECK case to protect the back and edges. I don’t like the thin plastic back on the HD7S but considering it’s mostly housed inside the SPECK case, the device is protected. It also covers the gap/crack in the lower third of the back of the device where the back cover meets up with the fixed bottom. If you have the habit of sitting your phone on a wet counter or bar, you’d better get a case.  The seam in the back is asking for trouble otherwise.

    The ATT store I bought the HD7S at didn’t have any cases on the day I bought the device.  I had to go get the SPECK case at a T-Mobile store.  The rubber power button on the case I bought kept the actual HD7S power button pressed continually resulting in a perpetual reboot.  I resolved this by cutting the button out of the case with a razor sharp Gerber knife.  I’m sure I could have whittled some of the rubber out on the inside, but I didn’t really like the way it stuck up, so off with its head!

    Battery Life

    When I tested the HTC EVO and HD7 last year, neither phone had stellar battery life.  In the case of the EVO, you could drain the battery pretty quickly with all of the radios turned on.  The HD7 wasn’t great either.  You could probably get through a day (8-12 hours) but that was about it for moderate to heavy users.

    HTC seems to have improved the HD7S.  I ran several battery tests and my worst test was 34 hours.  In that test I had the screen brightness set to HIGH, two Exchange email boxes syncing at 15 (work) and 30 (personal) minutes intervals, GSM and WIFI radios active, and moderate to heavy use of the device.  Please note that WIFI is off when the device is sleeping on battery power.  It does wake up and connect when you are using the device, and I used it quite a bit during the 34 hours.  If the GSM radio is turned off or not in use, the device squeaks out a couple of more hours of use.

    The last test I ran was what I’d call more typical of my usage for a device when I am not traveling.  I would define it as light use.  Email was still syncing both Exchange inboxes, a low number of text messages to the spouse, a phone call here or there, but with long idle periods in between those activities.  That test lasted 48 hours.

    I haven’t taken some conference calls on the phone yet so I don’t know how long the battery lasts on talk time.  I wouldn’t expect more than about 3-4 hours.  The ATT website lists 4.5 hours of talk time.  If you need more, you should probably consider a second battery to carry, extended life battery (and bulge in the back cover), or a cover that doubles as an extra battery.

    Storage

    The HD7S specs indicate it has 16GB of storage.  The Settings | About information says it has 14.63GB of total storage.  I currently have 9.88 of available storage on my device and that’s after syncing quite a bit of music via Zune. I don’t really have a ton of applications, games and pictures installed yet.  I have no doubt I could fill it up easily and this is one of my few complaints about the HD7S and the rest of the Windows Phone 7 devices.  I would like at least 32GB of onboard storage.

    I worry about storage less now.  I gave up the idea of combining a smartphone with an audio/video player.  If you really can’t afford but one device, the HD7S will work, but these days I carry around three different computing devices.  A slate device for reading, surfing and other leisure activities, my notebook for work, and a smartphone. The slate is now used for video playback.  I have given up on the idea a smartphone can do it all.  Thus storage is not longer as big an issue to me.

    Performance and Applications

    As you might expect, performance of the Windows Phone 7 OS is very good on this device.  You have to give the WP7 team some credit for defining a platform and experience that has been consistent across the devices and carriers.  I have personally tested the main four USA carriers at this point in some form or fashion.  The user experience across them all has been very good.

    I did notice a couple of the applications in this round of testing that have some performance issues.  The Seesmic application seems to have some scrolling issues.  I like the look and feel of the application but the performance is bad enough for me to punt and use the regular Twitter application instead.  The point I’m making here is that developers can still ship apps that aren’t perfectly smooth. 

    Another example is the USA Today app.  It’s never been a strong performer on iOS, but it also leaves a lot to be desired on Windows Phone 7.  It’s still usable, but I don’t like the data download delay.  There isn’t much excuse for this when the device is using my home WIFI network that is tied to the Verizon fiber optic network.  No excuse at all. 

    When I compare the apps I like and use on iOS, it’s refreshing to see that the Marketplace in Windows Phone 7 is slowly but surely catching up to the iOS app store (for the Top applications).  I haven’t looked at the Android Market lately so my basis for comparison there is old.  I do however plan to purchase a “state-of-the-art” Android based slate soon so my point of reference will get refreshed after that.

    clip_image001Because of the apps, the HTC HD7S is really much more useful than its cousin the HD7 was back when I tried it in November.  A lot of progress has been made in eight months. 

    I’m still missing some favorite applications.  I would like to see a Chase, Fidelity, and America Airlines app.  It would be nice to have a Speedtest.net app.  The Engadget app for the iPhone is cool.  Instagram should port their app. A msnbc.com app would be nice. 

    I would like to see feature parity between the iPad Bing app and the one on my HD7S.  And for heavens sake, ship Photosynth for WP7.  That’s a must!

    The Music and Video Experience

    The WP7 platform does have some unique apps, or apps that work quite well on this phone.  The connection to my Zune subscription totally rocks.  Being able to surf the Zune Marketplace when I am bored on the road is very cool. 

    To clarify, because I have a Zune subscription I can view the Zune Marketplace and listen to any of the music that is there.  I don’t even need to download it.  I can just click the play button and it streams right to the device.

    If you decide to purchase a Zune subscription, I highly advise looking at the yearly price.  You get 12 months for the price of 10.  And don’t forget you get 10 songs each month in high quality .MP3 format which are DRM free.

    I can of course rent movies or buy other music videos in the Zune Marketplace.  The HTC HD7S supports playback of a wide variety of audio and video formats.  With the 4.3” screen, watching a movie is very comfortable and easy on the eyes.  I really don’t plan to use the device for video so I haven’t tested power consumption.  If one of you does do some testing, let me know how your HD7S fares.

    Radio reception on the HTC HD7S is far superior to any of the previous Windows Phone 7 devices I’ve tried.  I can easily pickup all of the stations in the air over the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex complete with the RDS information.  That simply wasn’t possible with the Samsung Focus. The headphones you plug in are used as the antenna and I am using the same SHURE ear buds I always have.

    Equalizer settings would make the experience even better and although HTC ships an equalizer application in their WP7 hub, it doesn’t do anything for radio playback and very little on playback of stored audio or video.  Hopefully this is being addressed in the platform with the “Mango” release for Fall 2011. 

    Speakers and Microphone

    I have seen some comments about the sound of the HD7S being tinny.  I have sensed this too.  I can’t tell exactly what is causing it, but it appears the microphone is too sensitive and might be picking up the speaker at the top of the phone during phone conversations.  That’s just a guess on my part.  I have been using my phone with the volume on max.  This is most likely causing the problem which is very minor. I asked my wife if she noticed any call quality differences when I am talking to her and she said she hasn’t really noticed a change.  Therefore, the tininess might be just how it sounds to me when I am using the device. Time to lower the volume a bit and see if that helps.

    The speakers are typical.  They are good enough for a speaker phone (so you don’t have to hold it to your ear).  But don’t expect big bass or full range with the little speaker on the front and rear.

    Camera

    I haven’t used smartphone cameras much.  I carry a Canon G11 for point and shoot work and it does a superior job over all of the smartphones I’ve ever used.  The HD7S isn’t bad but I wouldn’t trust it for family events or other precious moments.  If you really want high quality shots, buy a device designed for photography.

    As smartphones go, the five megapixel camera in the HD7S isn’t terrible.  I’ve taken some pretty decent macro shots so far.  I get comments on indoor group shots.  The most common comment is around the super bright dual led flash.  Most people don’t like the flash on the device.  It’s TOO bright.  This was also true for the T-Mobile HTC HD7.  A control setting for that would be nice.

    I’ve seen a lot of comments about camera controls in WP7.  It will be interesting to see what improvements are coming in Mango for the camera features on devices like this. 

    Unlocking

    I’ve been an ATT customer for a while now.  I was curious to see if they would unlock my phone.  I figured they would and sure enough I was able to get a unlock code from ATT Customer Service today.  I will likely actually unlock the device tomorrow or the next day.  I need to hook up with a T-Mobile friend and borrow a SIM to do that.

    Summary

    I really like the phone.  I am keeping the HTC HD7S.  Microsoft paid for part of the phone, and I paid for the rest.  It was a hard decision.  I like the screen on the Samsung Focus due to its brightness and clarity.  I’d say the HD7S is number two in he screen department but I liked the larger form factor, chassis and other aspects over the Focus.  It’s probably too big for a lot of people but I dig it.

    I’ll continue to update this blog post over the next few weeks as I test more stuff.  Let me know if you have any questions.

  • Here kitty kitty

    Ok, the family outing videos are getting weird.

  • Microsoft Analytics for Twitter - free download

    twitterMicrosoft Analytics for Twitter allows users to query Twitter directly in Microsoft® Office Excel 2010. Utilizing the free PowerPivot Excel Add-in users can perform their own analysis such as who are the top Tweeters, what #hashtags are they using and do they have a positive or negative tweet tone. Sample code, used to create this application, is included as a sample and how-to.

    Microsoft Analytics for Twitter allows users to search Twitter and get dashboard views on Tweet statistics inside Microsoft® Office Excel 2010.

    With this FREE add-in, you can:

    • Perform up to 5 parallel Twitter Searches (limited to 1500 results per query per day).
    • Drive ad-hoc analysis of tweets by day, by hour, by tweeters, by #hashtags and @mentions.
    • Customize your views (using slicers, DAX formulas or reference tables).

    Go get it @ http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/en/details.aspx?FamilyID=07a56b57-5f60-4a2f-a010-bebf40a94eae.

  • The slate market heats up - HP TouchPad launches July 1

    image

    32GB WIFI model available everywhere in the US on July 1st. 3G model to follow later this year.  For more information, see the HP Palm blog at http://blog.palm.com/palm/2011/06/hp-touchpad-its-a-date.html or the product webpage on hpwebos.com.

  • Windows Phone 7 promotion - get a killer phone for $0.01

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    See http://phones.microsoftstore.com/mobile/?referringdomain=microsoft. Looks like the offer is good until 7/1/2011.  Hit the link for full details on the terms and conditions. Enjoy.

  • Plains Milky Way by Randy Halverson

    Plains Milky Way

    Be sure to click Plains Milky Way or the picture above for Randy Halverson’s amazing video work.  You won’t be sorry.  When you start playing the video at his site, be sure to go full screen with the HD video.  Very kewl.

  • Darth Vader goes to Disneyland

    LOL.  Some brilliant moments in this video.

  • TRON Legacy - graphic novel for IE9 users

    image

    If you haven't seen it yet, checkout the TRON Legacy graphic novel for IE9 users.  One of the TechNet editors asked me why we should put this on the Hot Topics area of the TechNet homepage. I thought it was interesting for IT Professionals for several reasons.  First of all, it's just cool.  But realistically, take a look at the applications your developers can create now. This is going to have an impact to the infrastructure you guys design, test and operate whether it's inside or outside the corporate firewall.

  • Behind the scenes at Tech Ed 2011 - "Bytes by TechNet" Studio

    Ever wonder what it takes to make pro quality video?  Well, you don't need a lot of room but equipment is a must.  During one of the breaks at our Bytes by TechNet shoot a couple of weeks ago, I took some shots of the studio to give you some behind the camera perspective.

    IMG_1496

    In the picture above, you can see the producers point of view which is situated left of the full front camera. In the left side of the frame is camera number two which is trained exclusively on the guest being interviewed.

    IMG_1492

    Here's the side view of the set.  I wish I had some of the cameras and lighting for a full time studio.  We have 22 videos coming your way very soon so stay tuned.

  • Halo - Combat Evolved Anniversary - coming 11/15/2011

    image

    http://www.xbox.com/en-US/Marketplace/Product/Halo-Combat-Evolved-Anniversary

  • It is summer

    R8 Spyder

    If you hit the lotto and need some ideas on how to spend some money, here's one.

  • Do you use a 1366x768 resolution screen? Really?

    1000px-Vector_Video_Standards2.svgCaution, we are getting into rant territory with this one. You were warned. Grin. What make and model notebook are you using?  What is the size of your screen?  What is the native resolution of the screen?

    I really wish I had kept track of all the notebook computers I've used or tested over the years.  Somewhere about 2003 I became a high resolution screen snob.  I mean really.  Remember the first time you saw a 14.1" SXGA+ 1400x1050 screen?  Pure bliss.  How about a 15.4" WSXGA+ 1680x1050 screen?  Bliss again.

    By the time these competing standards were pervasive, it was official.  I became a high resolution snob. Is it any wonder I detest the current crop of notebook computers?

    Resolution isn't the only issue. The aspect ratio movement has really screwed everything up.  Somewhere along the line someone decided notebook computers needed to have widescreen formats so they all switched from 4:3 ratio screen and resolutions to 16:10 ratio screens and resolutions.  That switch by the screen suppliers and OEMs wasn't terrible.  In fact, it gave us my favorite screen.  The 15.4" 1680x1050 WSXGA+ screen.  Perfect vertical and horizontal real estate for business professionals and technical personnel.  The font size is on the small side for the elderly and my wife certainly doesn't dig it, but adjusting the DPI up to 125% is a pretty good workaround for most people.

    Around the same time things started to get a little overboard.  Suppliers and OEM's started making and supplying 15.4" high resolution WUXGA 1920x1200 screens.  If you have really good eyes, and the screen is good and bright, this was a great resolution for coders or spreadsheet fanatics that need more horizontal resolution.  My first notebook with this screen was the legendary Dell Latitude D820.  The fonts were too small so upping the DPI to 125% was pretty much mandatory for me and my poor eyesight.

    Then comes the 16:9 revolution.  I totally get that we need killer HDTV screens at this aspect ratio.  I can almost understand consumer notebooks and netbooks might be more attractive with this widescreen ratio, but business computers?  Not so much. 

    I've heard and read some of the arguments on the internet.  Supposedly it's cheaper to manufacture 16:9 screens. I'm not sure I buy that.  Even if I do, what's up with the crazy screen resolutions on the market?  You basically get three choices now. 1366x768, 1600x900 and 1920x1080.  If that isn't bad enough, the actual quality of the screens being made seems to have eroded, too.  I am referring to the "mainstream" "business class" screens for 13, 14 and 15" notebook computers. Combine a 1366x768 resolution with a matte screen with poor viewing angles and you have a recipe for dissatisfaction.

    I really hope the notebook makers do something creative with the ultra thin and mobile machines coming out.  The ThinkPad X220 with the 12.5" IPS screen was a step in the right direction but I'm still concerned about the resolution for the machines being made now.  You should be too.

    [UPDATE for 6/6/2011]  Here's a real good example.  Look at the new Acer TimelineX Series information at http://www.engadget.com/2011/06/07/acer-announces-redesigned-aspire-timelinex-series-laptops-price/.  1366x768 resolution across the 13.3", 14" and 15.6" models.  What?  Really? 

  • Watch the XBOX activities Live @ E3 on June 6th

    image

    Stay tuned to http://www.xbox.com/en-US/Community/E3 for some interesting information to come.

  • Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 - Server farms Planning Guide

    ShrPt-Svr10_h_rgbThis book provides information and guidelines for making decisions about system architecture for a deployment of Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010. Subjects include system requirements, authentication, and business continuity management. Capacity planning information is provided in a separate book (link follows).

    The audiences for this book are business application specialists, line-of-business specialists, information architects, IT generalists, program managers, and infrastructure specialists who are planning a solution based on SharePoint Server 2010. This book is part of a set of four planning guides that provide comprehensive IT planning information for SharePoint Server.

    Go get it @ http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/en/details.aspx?FamilyID=bbd414c5-00fe-4a65-8a35-d52c9aa84609.

    And if you are looking for a good SharePoint Server 2010 Technical Reference, grab it @ http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/en/details.aspx?FamilyID=a3b9fa1b-0300-489e-8d67-f14deb4c3a56.

  • Microsoft Lync Server 2010 Resource Kit - now available for download

    Lync-grid_h_rgbThe Lync Server 2010 Resource Kit is the technical reference for the product. This book extends the product planning, deploying, and managing documentation in the Lync Technical Library. This book serves as a companion to the product documentation to learn how the product works under the hood.

    Get it @ http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/en/details.aspx?FamilyID=8c64a1e1-f0b3-479c-a265-e480875c61d8.

  • Previewing ‘Windows 8’ - screenshot and video

    win8REDMOND, Wash. – June 1, 2011 – Today, at the D9 Conference, we demonstrated the next generation of Windows, internally code-named “Windows 8,” for the first time. Windows 8 is a reimagining of Windows, from the chip to the interface. A Windows 8-based PC is really a new kind of device, one that scales from touch-only small screens through to large screens, with or without a keyboard and mouse.

    The demo showed some of the ways we’ve reimagined the interface for a new generation of touch-centric hardware. Fast, fluid and dynamic, the experience has been transformed while keeping the power, flexibility and connectivity of Windows intact.

    See the full press release and video at http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/features/2011/jun11/06-01corporatenews.aspx.

    For those of you that like video, check out this short one on Windows 8. Enjoy!