Keith Combs' Blahg

Ramblings from another nerd on the grid

July, 2012

  • Lenovo ThinkPad W530 - mini review

    Last week I received a Lenovo ThinkPad W530 evaluation unit.  I am always thankful for the opportunity to get an early look at a machine that will likely be used by quite a few people inside and outside my company.  I was especially interested to kick the tires on the W530 because of the hype around Ivy Bridge, the Intel HD 4000 integrated GPU, and other changes to the 15” portable workstation.  I won’t be recommending this machine just yet for reasons I’ll get to later.  Lets start with the good stuff first, then we’ll work our way towards the items that need improvement.

    Battery Life

    If you read my blog you’ll know I already did some fabulous battery tests.  The tests I conducted aren’t designed to peg the machine performance and kill the battery quickly.  I used to do that but I find that when I travel I am doing quite the opposite.  So I first tested the machine as if I was on a long flight with WIFI.  You travelers know the drill.  The red eye home from some conference and a backlog of email after all of your meetings and presentations.

    The Lenovo W530 did excellent on those battery tests.  The ThinkPad W510 routinely gives me 3-4 hours of life on a 9-cell battery.  The ThinkPad W520 nearly doubled that and would run for 6-7 hours.  This years model, the ThinkPad W530 eclipsed those times and survived for nearly 12 hours on my last test.  See http://blogs.technet.com/b/keithcombs/archive/2012/07/05/nearly-12-hours-on-battery-with-the-lenovo-thinkpad-w530.aspx for more details.  Incredible improvement.image

    In short, there are some pretty big improvements in this model on power management.  I need to dig in more deeply on how this is being accomplished, but I was happy to see the results.  International flights can now be productive on battery assuming of course you are in business class and have elbow room.

    Your battery life is going to vary but if you study the settings available in Lenovo’s Power Manager as I have, you can create a power profile that will manage the power effectively.  Getting 11-12 hours all this time will be nearly impossible, but achieving 7-10 should be pretty easy for most people.  The default configuration from the Lenovo factory is not optimal.

    GPU Changes

    There is good news for those of you that want to run more than two external monitors with this machine.  I have tested five different displays in an extended desktop display with Windows 7 Ultimate x64.  In the blog post at http://blogs.technet.com/b/keithcombs/archive/2012/07/03/lenovo-thinkpad-w530-optimus-quad-multimon.aspx, you notice four different external LCD panels on my desk.  This morning I slapped myself and realized I neglected to open the lid on the docked ThinkPad.  When you include the notebook LCD panel, it will drive five displays.  At the time of the test this morning, there was another unused port on the notebook (VGA) so I might dust off yet another LCD panel in the satellite garage on my property and see if it will drive six.  That would be quite a feat.

    The model I was shipped has the Intel HD 4000 integrated GPU along with a NVIDIA® Quadro K1000M discrete GPU.  They are combined to form the Optimus™ video chipset.

    The Intel iGPU drives only the laptop LCD panel.  The NVIDIA dGPU drives the remainder of the ports and displays.  This is one reason the machine gets excellent battery life.  The NVIDIA dGPU is not used as far as I can tell when the machine is undocked, set to Optimus in the BIOS Display configuration, and not attached to any other monitors.  The K1000M does all the heavy lifting only if needed.  The Windows 7 WEI score for the Optimus setting is 6.8 on both Graphics and Gaming Graphics for the K100M.

    One of the other complaints with the ThinkPad W520 is the lack of support for flipping to different display configurations on the fly while using Optimus.  The most cited complaint is the inability to clone or mirror the laptop display across a projector connection.  This is fixed in the W530.  The ThinkPad W530 is more like my W510 in that regard.  Because all of the display ports are being handled by the K1000M, a discrete processor, it handles these changes as expected using the built-in Windows 7 key sequences.  Unfortunately Lenovo still has a design limitation I have already reported.

    By default, all of the POST messages go to the Intel HD 4000 and the laptop LCD panel.  If you run docked with the lid down, you won’t see any hard drive passwords prompts, or BitLocker PIN prompts.  You won’t be able to stop the boot sequence and change the device you are booting from.  In order to see POST messages, you must flip the BIOS display setting from Optimus to Discrete if you want to see those messages on any display other than the laptop LCD panel.  As you can see, Lenovo fixed part of the problems inherit to the ThinkPad W520, bit not all of them.  This was never fixed with the W520 and I don’t know if it’s going to be possible with the W530. 

    Performance and Throttling

    There are quite a few items I haven’t tested, but one of the areas I wanted to investigate is performance on battery.  There’s a whole slew of people that think the quad processor portable workstation market should have no governors on the machine, and it should be able to run at maximum performance until the battery runs out.  For example, lets say you ride a train to work each morning and evening for 90 minutes.  That commute is enough time for you to run a simulation, but the simulation requires full processing power out of the CPU’s and possibly the GPU.  Or in another example, lets say you want to demonstrate something to a client on battery power with the full processing power so your demo looks good.

    So far in my testing the ThinkPad W530 will not run at full performance on battery power.  To test this I fired up an encoding job with Sony Vegas while on AC power.  Video encoding can be a taxing chore for a notebook computer but the quad core machines these days handle it pretty well.  During the encoding, the CPU utilization was at 70% across all cores.  The CPU clock speed across the core settled in at 3.40GHz.  The fan RPM was intially at 3800-3900rpm and as you might imagine, that gets pretty noisy. When you set Maximum Turbo+ in the Lenovo Power Manager, the fan RPM jumps to 4300.  This is too loud and I didn’t see the extra 500 rpm offer any additional cooling.  The temp for the CPUs was 70-75C which isn’t bad at all.

    Then I pulled the plug.  As soon as the machine was running on battery, the CPU clock speed dropped to 1.20GHz.  As you can see, the performance was cut in half on battery power.  If I hear of a workaround to the throttling, I will update this blog post.

    For those of you curious about the Windows Experience Index (WEI), see the screenshot below.  These are pretty respectable scores.  This is not the top of the line ThinkPad W530 but it should be pretty mainstream.  Sorry, I am not doing any gaming testing of the machine.W530_WEI

    Precision Keyboard

    The internet has been ranting for months about the change to the ThinkPad keyboards.  Lenovo dumped the classic keyboard for a new keyboard they call the “Precision” keyboard.  It’s a chiclet style board and is available with backlighting.  I see this as a positive change but there are plenty of people out there that won’t.

    The biggest source of complaints seem to stem not from the feel of the keys, but the layout.  I must admit, when I look at the layout the key size for some of the keys and their positions do make me wonder a bit.  This would have been the perfect time for Lenovo to swap the Fn and Ctrl key positions to the layout used by the rest of the planet.  Unfortunately they didn’t make that change on the Precision keyboard.

    Other Changes

    Lenovo tweaks stuff here and there every model year with new chassis construction, plastics, carbon fiber, etc.  I haven’t really studied the materials manifest for this model but it feels like a ThinkPad.  Good solid construction and the typical black finish.  Lenovo did change the port layout for the W530 and in my opinion it didn’t need to be changed.  The palmrest on the evaluation unit I have has a slight imperfection.  There’s a dent just to the right of the TrackPad.  It’s really minor but it’s like the first time you see a really minor door ding on your car.  You know it’s there and you don’t like it.

    Lenovo changed from the full size DisplayPort connector to mini DisplayPort.  I’m fine with that change since mini DP is becoming a defacto standard.  I wish mini DP was a requirement for the Intel Untrabook logo. There is still a VGA port on the left side to support the analog world.

    One change I dislike is the dropping of eSATA.  The model I have has a USB 2.0 port instead.  I am a pretty heavy user of eSATA and in particular eSATAp so this change is not welcome for me anyway.  I need to investigate if eSATAp is completely gone in the W530 models.  I think you can still get a eSATA port, but the eSATAp combo port is gone for good.

    If you have some batteries from a W510 or W520 you’d like to use with the W530, you can’t.  Although the batteries can be inserted and will power the machine, the W530 will only recharge the new batteries that are designed for the new ThinkPads.  I have no explanation for this change though I read one reason might be to prevent substandard after market batteries from being used in the machine.  This appears to mean genuine Lenovo batteries can only be used.  I’m ok with that.

    One change that you were probably hoping for is a change around the AC adaptors that are compatible.  I am sorry to say little has changed.  You can still use the 135W AC adapter from the the W510 with the W530, but the 90W adaptors from so many other models can’t be used.  Therefore, your travel choices for the ThinkPad W530 are still the 170W or the 135W brick.

    Operating Systems

    The timing for this evaluation is poor.  On the upside, Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 run great on the machine.  I had no problems running either including the Hyper-V role for R2.  R2 installs the Windows 7 ThinkPad W530 ethernet and wifi drivers with no issues.

    I can’t say that for Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012.  I had driver issues and asked the Lenovo team for some help identifying better drivers.  The response I received was totally expected.  They will iron all this out with the released version of Windows 8.  Considering we just announced today that Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 are on track for RTM next month, I am totally cool with that. 

    So I will not be testing Windows 8 and WS 2012 extensively with this machine.  I did however install the Hyper-V role on both Win8 and WS2012, create a test VM, confirm network connectivity from the VM, etc.  So the important cursory checks were made and I’m sure the video driver challenges will get ironed out over time.

    No Linux testing this time around.  There are a number of people running various Linux distros on the X230, T430 and W530s with their reports already on the grid so seek them out for answers to any questions you may have.

    Included Software

    Lenovo is starting to move back to the dark side.  There were a lot of programs installed on the factory image of the machine I received. You can still prune back the programs by uninstalling them via Control Panel | Programs and Features, but it’s now at the point where many people would consider the image bloated.  There are other colorful names for it but you should lobby for Lenovo to get back to a cleaner image.  There are 74 programs listed as installed on this factory image.

    If you opt to clean install Windows 7, your activation key is on the COA under the battery.  All of the core drivers needed are at support.lenovo.com. 

    Miscellaneous Stuff

    You might have noticed I didn’t mention the screen and other details about the ThinkPad W530.  The unit I am getting ready to send back has the 1920x1080 FHD screen.  It’s bright and colorful.  It comes a little over saturated for my liking but I almost always calibrate the notebooks I use heavily. The screen is the same screen on the W510 and W520 so you can look at the technical analysis all over the grid if you want to understand it’s properties and characteristics.

    I didn’t test the machine fully loaded with RAM.  The quad core ThinkPad W530’s have four sodimm slots so you can load it up with 4x8GB of high speed DDR memory.  In fact, if you look at the specs, Lenovo is supporting higher speed memory in the W530.

    The machine I received didn’t come with the RAID option so that wasn’t tested.  I also didn’t test SATA speeds and throughput in the Ultrabay or from the mSATA PCIe slot.  I’m pretty sure the mSATA slot is still SATA II speed and the Ultrabay is full SATA III.  It would be nice to have SATA III in all three especially with the emerging SATA III 256GB mSATA drives.

    The trackpad seems to be the same as what was on the W520.  The trackpoint seems different to me.  It appears to be a little lower in the keyboard than I am used to.  I don’t really use either much.  I am a mouse guy. 

    I have not tested the sound with movie playback but DolBy Home Theatre v4 did come installed on the factory image.  The speakers do sound better than my W510.  The Dolby app has a lot of configuration options.

    Lync support was not tested.  In order for me to do that means adding the machine to my production workflow and I am much too busy during the day for that right now.  For those of you that do test this, let me know how it works out.

    And Finally

    Last year when I evaluated the Lenovo ThinkPad W520, I didn’t spot some issues or design challenges that cropped up in the platform until much later.  You don’t always see the full character of a platform for months.

    One of those design issues was the Optimus design in the W520.  I underestimated how people would react to having to run in Discrete video mode for display mirroring and projection.  Lenovo has improved this, but we aren’t there yet.  The POST messages need to display in Optimus mode. 

    The second more serious issue was the famed sudden death syndrome reported in the Lenovo support forums. The challenge with the issue was that it didn’t impact everyone and it could be very intermittent in nature.  Some folks plagued with the issue only saw it on thirty to forty five day intervals.  Others would see it multiple times per day. Unfortunately I don’t think the root causes have been identified and fixed.  Needless to say that isn’t a good situation.

    For that reason, I am going to hang out and watch to see how the ThinkPad W530 does in the market before I give the ThinkPad W530 a thumbs up, a sideways thumb, or a thumbs down.  I want to be really sure this time.  For those of you that decide to be early adopters, by all means let me know how you are liking the machine. 

    [UPDATE for 7/13/2012] Sean Furguson, Microsoft Exchange Software Engineer, has the ThinkPad W520 now and tells me the CPU will clock above 1.20GHz if the BIOS is set to Maximum Performance instead of Maximum Battery Life.  He’s doing some testing on this.  I didn’t have the setting written down in my notes but I’m pretty sure I was on the max battery life settings from the battery testing that had been performed prior to the Throttle test.  I should have tested both settings.  More later.

    [UPDATE for 8/18/2012] notebookcheck.com published their review at http://www.notebookcheck.net/Review-Lenovo-ThinkPad-W530-N1K43GE-Notebook.80062.0.html.  In their review they indicate the CPU is throttled on battery which matches my findings.  In addition, you might want to keep an eye on the thread at http://forums.lenovo.com/t5/W-Series-ThinkPad-Laptops/W530-Windows-2008R2-andy-HyperV-won-t-work/td-p/830777 if you plan to run Hyper-V with Windows Server 2008 R2 , Windows 8 or Windows Server 2012.  Apparently this gentlemen is having all sorts of problems.  Seems like the jury is still out on this machine.

  • Warning: Upgrading your Samsung Series 9 notebook SSD could void your warranty

    imageI was doing a little weekend reading and stumbled across a thread about the Samsung Series 9 notebook computer.  In that thread, one of the forum posters had contacted Samsung about a drive upgrade for their Samsung Series 9 notebook.  Apparently the customer service representative for Samsung pointed them to the following link: http://www.samsung.com/us/support/SupportOwnersFAQPopup.do?faq_id=FAQ00032140&fm_seq=32308

    The contents of the FAQ entry is the following:

    “Notebooks: Can I Upgrade The Hard Disk Drive On My Notebook?

    Most Samsung notebooks use a standard 2.5” SATA hard drive. You can upgrade the hard drive as long as the replacement hard drive meets the specifications of the laptop. Upgrading the hard drive will not void the warranty. However, if your computer requires service and the problem is caused by the upgraded hard drive, Samsung is not responsible for the hard drive or problems caused by the upgraded hard drive.

    Note: The hard drive compartment door for the Q310 is located along the left side of the laptop case.

    Important: If you upgrade the hard drive on the X360, NF310 and Series 9 laptops you void the manufacturer’s warranty on the computer because you must open the notebook to access the hard drive.”

    I highlighted the important part in red.  I’ve heard of the OEMs calling these ultrabook designs “sealed case” but I don’t recall seeing a policy like this before.  It’s really a shame especially since Samsung is shipping 128GB mSATA SSD storage from Sandisk instead of their own flash storage.  I had planned to buy a 128GB model and upgrade it but looks like I won’t be doing that.

  • Lenovo ThinkPad W530 Optimus - Quad Multimon

    I received a Lenovo ThinkPad W530 evaluation unit this morning.  The very first thing I wanted to test was the multiple monitor (multimon) capabilities of the Ivy Bridge chipset and the Optimus implementation on this notebook.  As you can see in the picture below, I am driving four external Dell LCD panels with the ThinkPad W530.  Sorry about the picture quality.  I just took a quick snapshot and it’s a little grainy. Pay no attention to the color in the pic.  It’s always weird how cameras dork up things on “automatic”.

    The display configuration above wasn’t possible with the ThinkPad W510 or W520.  The W510 had a single discrete GPU.  The W520 Optimus implementation was design challenged.

    In the configuration above, I am using the ThinkPad W530 Quadro 1100M in a 135W Series 3 dock just behind the two display panels on the far right.  From left, that’s a Dell cheapo 24” connected via DVI to the DVI 2 port on the dock running 1920x1200. To it’s right is a Dell U2711 connected to the DisplayPort 1 connector on the dock running 2560x1440. To it’s right is a Dell 2407WFP connected to the dock VGA port running 1920x1200.  And on the far right is a Dell 2007FP connected to the mini DisplayPort connector on the W530 via a StarTech miniDP -> VGA adapter (part # MDP2VGA) running 1600x1200.  

    I’ll be torturing the ThinkPad W530 for the next 30 days so let me know if there’s a specific test you want.  The machine I have isn’t the top configuration available. Additional details and information to follow.  Back to real work right now.

  • “The World’s Most Advanced Desktop Operating System”

    Mountain Lion

    I am not sure how Apple determined Mountain Lion is “the world’s most advanced desktop operating system”.  Anyone know? Nice looking Puma. Here kitty kitty.

  • Nearly 12 hours on battery with the Lenovo ThinkPad W530

    W530Yesterday during our family gathering for the 4th of July pool party I pulled the plug out of the Lenovo ThinkPad W530.  It was 6pm and I figured it would die before bedtime. 

    Much to my shock and amazement, it was no where near done when I crashed last night so I decided to repeat the test first thing this morning.  I was thinking in my best wicked witch of the west voice, “I‘ll fix you my pretty”.

    So this morning after the coffee was made and the initial emails were deleted I pulled the plug again.  That was at 9:10am CST.  The damn thing ran all day long.  It didn’t die until 8:52pm CST tonight.  That’s nearly 12 hours on battery.

    Some Background on the Machine

    The model I have sitting here is not the top end ThinkPad W530.  It’s a 2447-A54 which is not listed in http://www.lenovo.com/psref/pdf/tabook.pdf.  It does have the Intel® Core™ i7-3720QM processor, 1920x1080 FHD screen, Intel HD Graphics 4000/NVIDIA Quadro® K1000M GPUs, 8GB RAM, 9 cell battery, and the new Intel Series 520 180GB SSD. The W530 I used didn’t have a slice or Ultrabay battery. The only battery used is the new 9-cell from Lenovo.

    Yesterday during cooling off breaks I would look at how the machine was behaving depending on different Power Manager settings.  I noticed while on AC power, the fan spins at 2700rpm most of the time.  I also noticed at the same time with Max Turbo turned on, this computer is running at 40C nearly all the time even when spiking up to 3.50GHz clock speeds.  This was at relatively idle tasks, but still.  Impressive cooling.  Fan speeds and noise, not so much.

    Someone has been doing their homework with this chipset and BIOS.  It’s clear from what I was seeing that the machine is tapping the upper end of the spectrum more often and staying nice and cool.  I wouldn’t get too excited.  It is after all brand new and the power and cooling characteristics can change over time.  They certainly did on my ThinkPad W510.

    If you are wondering how to look at what is going on, there are many ways.  At the moment I am testing Windows 7 Ultimate x64 which includes resmon.exe.  I also use HWiNFO64 but I’ll warn you, v4 of HWiNFO64 is crashing on this machine.  I had to back off to v3.95.

    Battery Testing

    Everyone has their idea of battery testing.  I like to keep it pretty simple so other people can repeat the test if needed.  Windows 7 Ult x64 SP1 was installed cleanly and full patched.  All of the drivers from support.lenovo.com were installed so that there were no banged out devices.  Lenovo Power Manager, Ultranav, Hotkey support, and fingerprint reader software were installed.  Very little Lenovo software other than that was installed. Office 2010 Pro Plus was installed and fully updated.  Adobe Air and Tweetdeck (the old good version) were installed.

    In the case of this test, I set my Lenovo Power Manager profile so that the screen never turns off.  The machine obviously never suspends.  Most of the other power management settings in the profile are really miserly.  I set the screen brightness to 7 which is pretty dim but certainly usable. The backlit keyboard was off.

    I started Outlook and had it connected to my Office 365 personal account the entire time.  Tweetdeck was up and running the entire time, thus the WIFI card (Intel 6300) was active presumably the entire time, too.  I did check email off and on, tweet a few times, hit a couple of websites, etc.  It was a pretty lightweight test.  Most of the time I wasn’t touching the machine.

    Silence

    One thing that became apparent early in this test was the near silence of the machine.  I don’t know exactly what was going on inside, but I do know the machine ran cold the entire day.  I mean really cool on the bottom.  Not only that, the fan wasn’t spinning much.  I could not hear it at all and I swear it was off most of the time.

    Whenever I fired up HWiNFO64, the fan would spin back up to 2700rpm.  I need to figure out a way to passively capture some data around this to see what GHz the CPU and GPU clock speeds are.  They must be really really low. 

    I have not done any high performance testing yet to see how the machine performs on AC power and battery when loaded down with a hardcore task.  If the W530 is like the W520, the CPU is throttled to some extent on battery power.  This battery test seems to be another indicator of that.  While on AC power, the CPU runs from 1.20GHz - 3.6GHz.  It sure seems like it goes lower on battery.

    Your Mileage

    When the ThinkPad W520 first came out, I did a similar test and the W520 got 6.5 hours on battery.  Considering that was about a 120% improvement over the ThinkPad W510, we were pretty giddy about that.  Finally, a workstation that doesn’t die after 2-3 hours. 

    Now that I’ve seen this machine test in this range twice, I am needless to say impressed with the result.  Just think, if International flights had WIFI (I know it is coming), you could remain connected to the world from Dallas to Berlin.  Obviously gaming, video, and other chores are going to take their toll, but Ivy Bridge and the work the Lenovo engineers have done is apparent.  Let just hope the reliability of the platform is better than it’s predecessor.

    I’ll be testing Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012.  There’s a lot to do so I will share more observations and findings later.

  • McLaren 12C Spider now available for Lotto winners

    If you recently won a lottery and are looking for trinkets to spend your money on, be sure to head on down to your local McLaren dealer for a test drive of the new 12C Spider.

    image

  • The New Porsche Boxster S Arrives

    wallpaper-i1900x1200

    http://www.porsche.com/usa/models/boxster/boxster-s/

  • New Office Customer Preview - available for download

    Download_Office“SAN FRANCISCO — July 16, 2012 — Today, Microsoft Corp. CEO Steve Ballmer unveiled the customer preview of the new Microsoft Office, available at office.com/preview. The next release features an intuitive design that works beautifully with touch, stylus, mouse or keyboard across new Windows devices, including tablets. The new Office is social and unlocks modern scenarios in reading, note-taking, meetings and communications and will be delivered to subscribers through a cloud service that is always up to date.”

    See the full press release at http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/news/Press/2012/Jul12/07-16OfficePR.aspx.

    Go get it @ http://office.com/preview

  • SALE: Microsoft Store Clearance on Samsung Series 9

    Earlier this year Samsung launched the second generation Series 9 notebook.  It’s a beautiful machine.  Today I noticed the Microsoft Store has the 13.3” Sandy Bridge model discounted $500 down to $799.  See http://www.microsoftstore.com/store/msstore/en_US/pd/Samsung-Series-9-900X3BA02/productID.247107300 and use promo code SUMMERPC2

    That is one excellent deal.  I’m sure there are limits to the number of units available or when the code expires so don’t delay.  I didn’t. Someone in my family is getting a new machine.  Let’s see, who has been naughty and who has been nice?

    clip_image002

    See http://www.samsung.com/us/computer/laptops/NP900X3B-A02US for the official specs.  See the link above on the Microsoft Store ecommerce site to see the changes they made to the software mix.

    [UPDATE for 7/20] Looks like the promotion is already over.  I’m sure they got slammed with orders and cleared the inventory.

  • Exchange Server 2013 Preview - now available for download

    Microsoft Exchange Server 2013 enables you to maintain control, increase user productivity, and keep your organization safe. You can move to the cloud on your terms with flexible migration options. Your users can do more on any device, helping them manage increasing volumes of email and work together more effectively as teams. You can also protect your business communications and sensitive information, while meeting internal and regulatory compliance requirements. With Exchange Server 2013, you can work smarter, anywhere.

    • Remain in control, online and on-premises.
      Exchange Server 2013 enables you to tailor your solution based on your unique needs and ensures your communications are always available while you remain in control, on your own terms - online, on-premises, or a hybrid of the two.
    • Do more, on any device.
      Exchange Server 2013 helps your users be more productive by helping them manage increasing volumes of communications across multiple devices and work together more effectively as teams.
    • Keep your organization safe.
      Exchange Server 2013 keeps your organization safe by enabling you to protect business communications and sensitive information to meet internal and regulatory compliance requirements.

    Ready to try it?  Get to downloading the 1.4GB download at the TechNet Download Center. For more information, see the Exchange Server team blog post on Exchange Server 2013.  The Microsoft.com product page also has more information.

  • Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn Trailer

    See if you can spot Anna Popplewell. At least I think that’s her.

  • Magnus

    6_TIRE_FRONT-copy

  • Introducing Windows Server 2012 - free ebook now available

    IntroducingWindowsServer2012In case you missed it last week, the Microsoft Press folks announced a new ebook download.  Introducing Windows Server 2012 is now available for free.  If you want paper, you can still get that for a nominal fee.

    Whenever you are ready, head on over to the Microsoft Press blog and checkout the table of contents and poke the download link and format of your choice.

  • Introducing Outlook.com

    There was a lot of news today.  I went to login into my Hotmail account this morning at 11am CST and was fascinated to find a whole new look and feel.  Sure enough, about two minutes later I see the press release and blog post about outlook.com. Very cool.

    Here’s a video showcasing some of the design elements for the http://outlook.com.  You can of course go signup for a mailbox right now and check it out for yourself. 

    For more information, see the Outlook Blog post “Introducing Outlook.com - Modern Email for the Next Billion Mailboxes”.  See the press release at http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/news/features/2012/jul12/07-31Outlookcom.aspx, too.

  • Micron and Crucial Start Selling mSATA SSD

    256GB Crucial m4 mSATA 6Gb/s SSDFor those of you that need a 256GB mSATA drive, you can add Crucial to the list of suppliers.  Micron announced production in a press release back in April and they are finally shipping. 

    In fact, I bought one directly from Crucial at http://www.crucial.com/store/partspecs.aspx?IMODULE=CT256M4SSD3.  The CT256M4SSD3 is a SATA III mSATA drive that already getting high marks from some of the reviewers. 

    See the review at http://thessdreview.com/our-reviews/micron-c400-256gb-6gbps-msata-ssd-review/ for details on the storage device.  I am looking forward to upgrading a Samsung Series 9 notebook with it.  See the review I did back in March on the 13.3” Samsung NP900X3B.

  • Yea, baby!!! Mark your calendar for October 26, 2012

    Win8GADate

    The Windows 8 general availability date is October 26, 2012.

  • Free System Center and Windows Server Training at the MVA

    mvaTime is money. We’ve all heard that saying. Getting trained is hard and many people don’t have the time to take off from work and go to a training class.  Some of those classes can be quite costly at well.  How would you like to get some free training on Microsoft products and technologies?  Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA) to the rescue.

    Anybody interested in growing professionally and to follow along in a training environment completely free of charge can take part in the MVA. The only thing the interested user needs to do to participate is to register on the platform with a Windows Live ID to get access to the training resources. There is no minimum level of technical expertise required.

    So setup a Live ID and get to studying.  There are a number of tracks available.  Here is a small list of the available tracks.  Click the pic for a full listing.

    image

    As you can see, there quite a bit of available information on the MVA siteTravis Wright recently blogged about the “System Center 2012 Guided Hands On Labs” as one example we wanted to bring to your attention.  This course is a set of fourteen labs and exercises.   There are certainly other fun courses that will help you build muscle around the Microsoft server products.

    Ready to move forward?  Well head on over to https://www.microsoftvirtualacademy.com/GetStarted.aspx and get started.

  • The Office blog network expands

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    The Office team has a blog network at http://blogs.office.com.  As you might expect, they post information on the various products in the Office family of products.  Today they added a couple of new blogs.  The Office Next blog and the Office News blog.  Add them to your favorites.  For those of you that are IT Professionals, be sure to add the Office IT Pro blog, too.

  • Who ordered a Nexus 7?

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    Anyone order a Nexus 7?  I think I need to try this and see what our friends are up to.  Jelly Bean eh.

  • //BUILD Announced

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    Register on 8/8 at http://www.buildwindows.com/.  Cool date.

  • Windows Server 2012 Editions Announced

    I know many of you have been testing the Windows Server 2012 product.  Today we released some information about the editions that we plan to deliver along with some pricing.  Be sure to head on over to http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/server-cloud/windows-server/2012-editions.aspx to get the official information.

    If you haven’t had a chance to download the product, go get the RC.  I’ve installed it under Windows 8 RP Hyper-V and VMWare Fusion 4.1.3 so far.  Tastes great.

  • Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit - now available for download

    The Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit (MAP) is an agentless, automated, multi-product planning and assessment tool for quicker and easier desktop, server and cloud migrations. MAP provides detailed readiness assessment reports and executive proposals with extensive hardware and software information, and actionable recommendations to help organizations accelerate their IT infrastructure planning process, and gather more detail on assets that reside within their current environment. MAP also provides server utilization data for Hyper-V server virtualization planning; identifying server placements, and performing virtualization candidate assessments, including ROI analysis for server consolidation with Hyper-V.

    Go get it @ http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?&id=7826. For more information, see the Solution Accelerator area for MAP.

  • Essentials 2012 Beta - now available for download

    This beta is a significant engineering milestone for Microsoft. We’d obviously like to get as much feedback on the product as possible and you can see and give feedback on the beta through the Windows Server Essentials 2012 Beta forum. We are working hard to deliver Essentials 2012 this year and so your feedback on the beta will be critical to us over the next few weeks as we work towards a release candidate and an eventual RTM.

    See the entire post at http://blogs.technet.com/b/windowsserver/archive/2012/07/11/download-the-beta-release-of-windows-server-2012-essentials-today.aspx.