Keith Combs' Blahg

Ramblings from another nerd on the grid

November, 2012

  • Surface with Windows 8 Pro – Pricing

    See the official post @

  • Windows Azure Active Directory Processes 200 Billion Authentications

    WinAzure_rgb_Blk_DAt Microsoft, we have been on a transformative journey to cloud computing and we have been working with customers every step of the way. Millions of customers have embraced the cloud and we are excited to share the news that we’ve reached a major milestone in cloud scale computing.  Since the inception of the authentication service on the Windows Azure platform in 2010, we have now processed 200 BILLION authentications for 50 MILLION active user accounts. In an average week we receive 4.7 BILLION authentication requests for users in over 420 THOUSAND different domains. This is a massive workload when you consider others in the industry are attempting to process 7B logins per year, Azure processes close to that amount in a week.

    See the full story at

  • Top Bing Searches of 2012


  • Dear Santa, “I’ve been good this year, really!”


    If someone is going to the 2012 LA Auto Show, pick me up one of these.

  • Windows 8 BIOS Keys - embedded goodness

    imageA couple of weeks ago I purchased the Samsung Series 9 NP900X3D-A02US notebook.  It came with Windows 8 Professional pre-loaded.  I’ve been wanting a Series 9 machine for quite some time, but I waited until the Ivy Bridge based silver model landed on USA shores.  When I saw that had them in stock, I purchased one. This particular model has a TPM chip and a three year warranty.

    When I received the notebook and fired it up, I was a little dismayed at the bloated Windows 8 installation.  Not only that, the 128GB mSATA SSD was half consumed already.  Not a very good start. Since my family already owns the Sandy Bridge model, I knew it would run Windows 7 well and with a pending trip fast approaching, I wiped the drive and installed Windows 7 Ultimate x64.

    Prior to doing the wipe, I did attempt to create the factory DVD disk set with Samsung’s built-in recovery solution.  I could never get that program to create the boot media.  After looking at the user guide, I noticed they no longer create DVD disk sets and expect you to store the image on an external hard drive.  That appeared to work though I am unsure how to do a successful restore without the boot media.

    Windows 8 to the Rescue

    The machine has been running great.  But the entire time the whole Windows 8 question has been nagging at me.  I ordered a Crucial M4 mSATA 256GB SSD and waited.  I also picked up a retail copy of Windows 8 Pro at the Microsoft employee store.  When the Crucial drive arrived, it was time to test some new Windows 8 features.

    Now maybe I haven’t been paying attention, but in addition to secure boot and all of the other work in the BIOS and UEFI area, we have also worked with OEM’s on a new licensing model.  If you look at the bottom of my machine, you’ll notice there is no Windows 8 Certificate of Authenticity (COA).  There is an official Windows 8 logo sticker, but no product key.

    The good news is that you no longer have to worry about it fading or getting scratched.  The 5x5 key is embedded in the BIOS.  Therefore all I had to do in order to install a fresh clean copy of Windows 8 was attach an external DVD drive, boot from the retail DVD, and run setup. As soon as I connected to the internet, the machine activated.  It never asked me for a key.  No fuss!!!

    And in case you are wondering, all but three of the device drivers for this machine came right off the Windows 8 Pro DVD.  Two were resolved by running Windows Update and installing from the WU servers.  The remaining device it probably an Intel management driver or something.  I’ll look into it later.

    I really dig this feature.  I don’t have to worry about the key and I know I can re-install whenever I want.  Pretty freaking cool.  Enjoy!

  • Multiple Monitors (Multimon) with the Lenovo ThinkPad T430s

    Lenovo continues to make perplexing choices with some of their machines.  One such choice is the change to how Optimus operates on the ThinkPad T430s notebook computer.  The T430s Optimus implementation with the Ivy Bridge chipset is very different from the implementation in the ThinkPad T420s.

    Lets review some of the evolution of Optimus.  Way back towards the tail end of the ThinkPad T410s sales cycle, Lenovo introduced a dual GPU implementation branded Optimus which is a NVIDIA trademark.  I blogged about the T410s at  As you can see in the picture, I am driving three external LCD panels.  There is actually a fourth LCD connected sitting on the floor out of the field of view.

    When the T420s came out, obviously this was tested right away and it passed with flying colors.  Three of the LCD panels are connected to ports on the Series 3 docking station and the fourth is connected to a port on the notebook itself.

    Last week my wife’s ThinkPad T430s arrived and like any good geek I started testing it to make sure it is a keeper.  One of the first tests I did was to test multimon.  I dropped the T430s into my dock and… uh oh.  It would only drive two LCD panels.  Now to be perfectly honest, I had already read this was an issue with the T430s but didn’t believe it.  Why on earth would Lenovo cut a feature like that?  I know MANY people that use more than two displays at a time.  Probably everyone in Microsoft Support does.

    I tested this several different ways using the connections on the 135W Series 3 dock I have.  It simply wouldn’t work.  I shot a message off to our internal Lenovo discussion list and Michael Jeremica looked into it.  As it so happens, there is a Lenovo KB making the rounds at  There is a key hint in the Solutons section of that document.  In order to get a third LCD panel to display, you much use a connection from the laptop itself.  After connecting my StarTech mini DisplayPort -> VGA adapter into the mini DP port on the T430s, the LCD panel lit up.

    This is not ideal, but three external panels is better than two.

  • IE 10 Release Preview Now Available for Windows 7

    IE10_rgb_Cyan_2_rgbIn Windows 8, we reimagined the browser with IE10. We designed and built IE10 to be the best way to experience the Web on Windows. With the IE10 Release Preview for Windows 7 consumers can now enjoy a fast and fluid Web with the updated IE10 engine on their Windows 7 devices. The release preview of IE10 on Windows 7 is available for download today.

    IE10 on Windows 8 brings an entirely new browsing experience and set of capabilities to the Web, such as a new touch first browsing experience and full screen UI for your sites, security improvements that offer the best protection against the most common threats on the Web, improved performance, and support for the HTML5 and CSS3 standards developers need.

    See the full post at

  • Salt flats anyone?


    Hold on to your butts.  See for a bonafied record holder.

  • The Empire is Back

    sw_logo_lg_defaultI recently caved and bought the Star Wars movies on blu-ray. I got them on sale and although I didn’t think I would be that thrilled with the purchase, I was dead wrong.  I have been watching the standard def 4:3 ratios for so long, that it was like watching them in the theatre all over again.

    Needless to say the news of Disney purchasing the Star Wars franchise from George Lucas was more than fascinating. Rumors of a new movie cropped up immediately and they have now been confirmed at

    I’m sure all eyes and ears are now on the casting for the movie. This is going to get interesting.

  • New York in the Dark

    Wow. New York Magazine has a fantastic cover photo (pictured below) of New York City at shot by Iwan Baan.  Amazing. See the backstory for the shot at

  • The Oldest Trees on Earth

    Wired has a really cool article with pictures of the oldest and biggest trees on our planet.  See for the full gallery and a short write-up on each.  General Sherman is pictured below.  If you are ever in California, give him a hug.


  • Microsoft Exchange Server 2013 is Now Available

    Exchange2013Three weeks ago the Exchange Server team announced the RTM of Exchange Server 2013 on their team blog.  Since that time the team has been working diligently to get the product ready for general availability via the various channels.  We’re happy to say Exchange Server 2013 is now generally available.

    Microsoft Exchange Server 2013 enables you to maintain control, increase user productivity, and keep your organization safe:

    • 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.

    You can go get the download off the evaluation center at  See the product information at

    Technical information for all of the Exchange Server products can be found at  For those of you with TechNet or MSDN subscriptions, head on over to the subscriber download center and grab the DVD .ISO file.

  • Windows Azure Powers Halo 4 Universe

    MasterChiefEmergesThe average gamer probably doesn’t think about the virtual machines, cloud services and other technologies that power their fun – at least not as long as everything runs smoothly. When “Halo 4” launches Nov. 6, millions of fans around the world will simultaneously push the game’s back-end scaffolding to the limit. Any glitch, any hang-up, and the engineering team gets thrust into the spotlight.

    See more details on the guys making this happen at

    See the story behind the “epic transformation in the Principality of Liechtenstein” at

    For more information on Windows Azure, be sure to checkout the Windows Azure Blog at