Ramblings from another nerd on the grid
The Windows Vista SP1 x64 .ISO file is now online in the TechNet Subscriber Downloads center. It's the fully integrated SP1 thus allowing you to install the operating system from scratch. Although it says English, it's my understanding it includes French, German, Japanese and Spanish as well.
en_windows_vista_with_service_pack_1_x64_dvd_x14-29595.iso ISO-9660 DVD Image
This file contains the following:
Blair Bigger of Microsoft MCS Federal informed me today that a BIOS update gives Latitude D630 users access to 8GB of memory. This does of course assume 8GB is installed and you are running a 64bit OS.
Blair indicated it is the BIOS update dated 8/13/2008. Looks like it is sitting at http://support.dell.com/support/downloads/download.aspx?c=us&l=en&s=gen&releaseid=R194000&SystemID=LATITUDE%20D630&servicetag=&os=WV64&osl=en&deviceid=13457&devlib=0&typecnt=0&vercnt=12&catid=-1&impid=-1&formatcnt=1&libid=1&fileid=267710 on the Dell support website.
Go forth and prosper!
Over the past couple of quarters, my team has been demonstrating Windows Vista. The problem with some of the demonstrations is that my team is using top tier equipment sponsored by Lenovo. Some of you may not think that is a problem, but what if you don't have the bucks for new hardware?
There was a considerable amount of "buzz" yesterday about this program where high end laptops were sent to bloggers to review Windows Vista on. It appears Microsoft, AMD, Acer and others were probably involved but I don't have any facts. Of course, the story then became a story of ethics and credibility since part of the deal was that you could keep the laptop. Kewl!!! Someone send me one. My son needs one and he can't have my Dell D820.
The reason I'm bringing all of this up, is because I've been telling my audiences for the past couple of quarters that if they have a machine that runs Windows XP well, then they should not have too many issues running Windows Vista. I also mentioned at one point I'd install Windows Vista Ultimate on my aging Compaq Evo N620c laptop. Huh? Keith, are you kidding? Nope!
The Compaq Evo N620c I have is a little over 4 years old. It's been a trusty machine and has delivered a lot of value. It ran many a demo and has some great features. I've used it mostly for a download machine the past year and I'm pretty sure it's downloaded over 70 Windows Vista builds since last January.
My Evo specifications are Intel Pentium M 1.6 processor, 2GB of RAM, 60GB 7200rpm Hitachi drive, and for video it has the ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 with a whopping 32meg of memory. The LCD panel native resolution is 1400x1050.
Windows Vista Ultimate installed without issue and it recognized all of the devices in the machine including the 802.11b wireless module. I was surprised at that. My machine received the coveted 1.0 Windows Experience Index. Now before you fall out of your chair laughing, this score is misleading. The 1.0 is based on the low scores for the video card and gaming or Aero performance.
Obviously this isn't a gaming machine and it won't run Windows Vista Aero Glass. However, the processor rated a 3.3, the memory clocked in at 3.9, and the hard drive received a 4.5. This machine is plenty powerful and fully capable of running Windows Vista. In fact, the performance is rather nice. It's running the Windows Vista Basic color scheme along with all of the other services.
So here we have a laptop that is getting ready to be five years old running Windows Vista. This should give you a data point to think about. As always, the processor, amount of memory, and a fast hard drive are crucial, but that's the case for any operating system.
Time to join this bad boy to the domain and put it to work downloading Longhorn Server. Hmmmm... :)
Santa keeps bringing me toys and it isn't even Christmas yet. This time I received the long awaited HP 6910p notebook computer. I like to do first impression posts pretty quickly on new hardware because first impressions count, and I forget about the out of box experience later.
In the spirit of transparency you should know that HP is sponsoring my team this fiscal year although the year is half over and we just got the machine. I don't know what that means, but I'm guessing we'll have the HP 6910p long after the fiscal year closes on June 30th. I also have no idea why the 6910p was chosen. I would have picked a different machine but since I wasn't asked, I'll just accept what I was given and assume HP had a good reason. AT&T is also sponsoring our HSDPA cell module data connections in the unit. Thanks HP and ATT. We appreciate the goodies. Now for my initial thoughts on the machine.
I like the form factor. The 6910p is a 14.1" widescreen and the LCD we have runs a native resolution of 1440x900. This unit is going to make a nice travel partner. It isn't the slickest until on the market from a size perspective, but the dimensions are pretty nice.
The machines we received are full featured. It has the Intel PM965 "Santa Rosa" chipset, the Intel Core 2 Duo T7500 processor, 4GB of RAM, 120GB 7200rpm SATA primary drive, ATI Mobility Radeon X2300 discrete video processor with 128MB of memory, 3 USB ports, IEEE 1394 "FireWire" port, Intel 82566MM GigE Ethernet, Intel 4965AGN wireless, Sierra Wireless HSDPA cell wireless, etc. In short, pretty much all the bells and whistles.
Included with my package were a couple of Multibay hard drives. Those hard drives allow me to have two spindles in the unit which is a core requirement for my team when running the usual array of virtual machine demos. Unfortunately, the drives that came were 80GB 5400rpm PATA drives. What am I supposed to do with them? They aren't going to cut it so I pulled a 100GB 7200rpm PATA drive from a USB enclosure I have and replaced one of the 80GB drives with it. That wasn't a trivial chore. A NASA engineer must have designed the Multibay hard drive enclosure because it took some time to disassemble it, replace the drive, and reassemble it. Fun.
The LCD screen has a matte finish and is plenty bright. I've been running 1680x1050 or higher resolutions on my other 15.4" laptops so going back to 1440x900 seemed like a step backwards, but you get used to it pretty quickly. The ATI Catalyst drivers work on Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 RC1. We'll get to my units long term role but this is probably a good hint.
The 6910p includes an integrated smart card reader (I haven't tried yet), a PCMCIA card bus slot, S-Video out, VGA out, audio connections and a SD slot for memory cards. We received the standard battery (from what I can tell) but haven't tested battery life. I normally run plugged in on high performance so I don't worry too much about life.
One thing I would have liked in this machine is an ExpressCard slot. HP now makes other business notebooks with an ExpressCard slot so if that is important to you, you might want to consider one of those models.
I was pretty pleasantly surprised with the first boot experience. On the first boot, you are given the option of installing either the 32bit or 64bit version of Windows Vista Business. That is soo cool. I picked the x64 version and let the install proceed. The install takes a pretty long time. The installation routine partitions the primary drive into several partitions, installs the software, then takes a snapshot of everything for later recovery if needed. I thought that was nicely done although it takes over an hour for the process to complete. After logging in and checking a few things out, I did my usual best practice of creating the disk recovery set (which HP supplies a program for). I created the factory image recovery disk set which takes either 9 CDs, 2 DVDs or a single dual layer DVD. After it completed, I booted the disk set to see if it looked like it would work, then flattened the box.
Why would I flatten the machine?
Simple, Hyper-V baby!!! As you might suspect from the previous paragraph, I did not spend any time looking at the Windows Vista implementation provided for any significant period of time. It looked like the usual OEM stuff but I did notice it was not cluttered with a bunch of software I would not need. I did see a firewall product, a lite version of Roxio 9, a DVD playback product, etc. It looked like a well thought out mix. You know, business stuff.
But I need a server demo machine and wanted to see if this little bad boy would run Windows Server 2008 RC1 with the Hyper-V virtualization stack. I was not disappointed. Windows Server 2008 RC1 setup allowed me to nuke the partitions, re-partition the drive and install the Enterprise edition without issue. I turned on wireless support, audio support, installed the ATI Catalyst video drivers, etc. I also installed the ATT cell module software and confirmed it works with Windows Server 2008 Enterprise x64. It does. The 6910p is running Windows Server 2008 RC1 x64 with Hyper-V nearly as fast as my Lenovo ThinkPad T61p. This is a really good sign. I loaded up a massive MOSS virtual machine and confirmed it ran well enough. It did.
Looks like I have a nice little workhorse machine. I need another primary drive so I can easily swap operating systems if needed. I am also investigating the true capabilities of the Multibay. It would appear that although I received a PATA hard drive Multibay caddy, this unit also supports SATA drives in the Multibay. Time will tell on that.
When I receive another primary drive, I'll go back and install some other operating systems and try them out. Until then, I plan to keep on using it as a Windows Server 2008 RC1 demo server. Cheers.
[UPDATE for 1/19/2008] I finally got around to installing the x64 version of Windows Vista Ultimate on this machine so I thought I would offer some additional information. First, it appears there is an issue with the Intel AMT drivers, service and software. On my machine it hangs the Explorer shell at login. It eventually gets past whatever the error is but it isn't the best experience. After removing the software in add/remove programs, it plays nice. Something for HP and Intel to look into. Maybe us as well.
Second, I don't really like some of the hardware design aspects. There are intake/exhaust areas on the bottom. This means if you plan to use it on your lap, you'll definitely want to use a Targus Coolpad or something so that the machine can breath properly.
Third, it's a little noisy. It isn't terrible but it is noticeable. I am running default power and fan settings in the BIOS so I may experiment with that over time to see if I can reduce some of the noise.
To summarize, it runs Windows Vista x64 and Windows Server 2008 x64 fast and clean as expected. It's smaller and lighter than my Lenovo ThinkPad T61p so it's going to make it hard to decide what to take on the road with me. I would imagine it'll get the nod when I have to take two machines. Since I'm running x64 versions of the OS, I did not spend any time looking at the factory 32bit image that it shipped with. Enjoy.
Swiped from http://hacks.mit.edu/Hacks/by_year/2007/halo3_john_harvard/. ROFL !!!
I 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.”
“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.
It goes without saying that there has been a considerable amount of feedback around our release schedule for Windows Vista SP1. Don't think for a second that because I'm silent about such issues on my blog, that I am not working our internal communication channels to be your advocate.
Being an advocate means I get an opportunity to assess the situation with my "customer base", which is now world wide, and offer my opinion on what we should or should not do. I've done that in the past and will do it in the future. It doesn't mean I'll get what I want, but it doesn't hurt to ask.
However, I support our product groups and senior leadership decisions. If Microsoft chooses not to release some software when you think it should be released, we usually have a darn good reason for the decision. I am not privy to all of the details of those decisions so when I offer an opinion back to our senior leadership, I can't get away with the type of comments I've seen posted on a variety of blogs and websites this week. I have to be a lot more diplomatic. Diplomatic doesn't mean I can't be direct, and I'm known for being direct.
The good news is that there are some changes coming to the release schedule I think you will like. Keep an eye on the Windows Vista Product Group Blog @ http://windowsvistablog.com/blogs/windowsvista/archive/2008/02/11/windows-vista-sp1-availability-for-technical-customers.aspx for the update.
You should know that I, and members of my team take IT Pro satisfaction and dissatisfaction seriously. My team no longer just includes the US IT Pro Evangelists. I consider the IT Pro Evangelists world wide to be part of my team and I assure you, there is plenty of discussion around what happened this week. The release schedule was only part of the discussion.
Suffice it to say I listen. So do my peers. You may not always know we have your back, but we do. We try really hard to keep you informed, educated, entertained and happy. It doesn't always work out that way, but we try. So if you're so inclined, give us an F on our report card for the week or month. We'll try hard to get an A+ next time.
With that in mind, come see us at the launch events. We'll have some fun.
[UPDATE for 2/9] I thought Mike and the Windows team were going to provide an update yesterday. Obviously they didn't. Maybe we'll get one Sunday or Monday. Got a crystal ball?
[UPDATE for 2/11] Mike's update is now at the link above.
I need to come back to work, in order to relax. Ever feel that way? This week actually hasn't been that bad. I took some time off to catch up on honey dues. It's more like spring cleaning. April in Texas is the time to get the yard in shape before it gets hotter than hell. You certainly don't want to schedule major yard duty in June, July or August unless you want a stroke.
With that said, my pool is open for business. The trees are trimmed. The lawn program has been established with weed killer and fertilizer. We're rocking and Mommy is happy. She's having a party this weekend so everything is ready to go. Margarita time.
So what else to do?
I also used this week for some personal training. I installed and used Ubuntu, Red Hat Enterprise Desktop Workstation w/Multi OS v5 (RHEL 5), Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10 (SLED 10) and some other stuff (Parallels). The goal was to look at the installation, configuration, application mix, etc. This year (I do it every year), I added virtualization to the mix to see how well I could run Windows Vista on Linux. I figured if it's so easy on a MacBook Pro, I might as well see about living on linux for a week or more.
Linux Install Impressions
As usual, Linux continues to improve the installation process. Ubuntu was the quickest and easiest. Actually, I installed Kubuntu since I prefer KDE over GNOME. Kubuntu installs quick because it's a small distribution. It will also run just from the CD so you don't have to install it on a PC hard drive. Very Knoppix like. The RHEL 5 distribution is large but they didn't supply me a .ISO DVD image. The actual install from the CD's wasn't bad but it did kind of freak me out when it broke into text mode for a few minutes. In this day and age, I fully expect GUI installation unless I'm cloning and doing scripted installs. SLED 10 was an absolute breeze to install (as usual). I'm not sure my Mother-in-law could do it, but it's getting better.
Operating systems are interesting. When you install an unknown OS, you tend to want the OS to have everything so you don't have to hunt for the missing parts. Linux is certainly no exception to that, nor is Windows for that matter. Kubuntu had the lightest mix of applications. This is one of the reasons installation was fast for them.
RHEL 5 and SLED 10 both have a very comprehensive mix of applications for office, home and development. This year, I went looking for a blogging application. I didn't spend a lot of time looking but I didn't see an app that was installed on any of these distros that would allow me to post to this Community Server based site. In order to do that the tool would need to support the Metablog API. I'm sure there are Emacs or Firefox plugins but I just didn't have time to look this week since my time was very short.
I didn't really spend a lot of time in the usual applications (web browser, email, document creation). I will over time look more closely at OpenOffice, media tools, phone sync, etc. I shifted that allocation of time to looking at Linux virtualization.
Virtualization on the Desktop
I approached the virtualization topic like any other app. I figured as popular as it's become, it should just be a check mark in the distro setup or a simple download and install. I am comparing this to what would be needed to install Virtual PC or Virtual Server on Windows.
Virtualization was only tested on RHEL 5 and SLED 10. Xen on RHEL 5 was a bit too crude in my opinion. Even though I was using the graphical Virtual Machine Manager, it seemed primitive. I also didn't realize at first the virtual disk image must be located in a specific directory. RTFM! Of course linking the image to a high speed disk farm is pretty easy on Linux, but the key here is that you can't just create the virtual disk where ever you like via the GUI. After getting past that, I was disappointed to watch the VM I was building disappear on the setup reboot. At that point, I decided to shift gears to another virtualization product technology. I had had enough of Xen for the moment. I'll probably come back to it later after I've had a chance to study the RHEL 5 Xen Virtualization Guide more.
VMWare Virtual Server
After using the crude administrative tools for Xen, I decided to see what VMWare had to offer on the Linux platform. Low and behold, they have a Virtual Server for both Windows and Linux. I downloaded the binary, rpm package (which I didn't use), the management interface and client packages.
This time, I decided it would be prudent to follow the documentation for installation and use. The server, management interface and clients all installed with minimal fuss. I pretty much took the defaults although in practice if this wasn't a test laptop, I would have probably done some things different for image storage location, binaries, etc.
The VMWare Server Console is similar to the VMWare Workstation interfaces you might find running on a Windows machine. The GUI is pretty straightforward although I ended up turning off the toolbars after I got comfortable with the hot heys. I installed Windows Vista Enterprise from a DVD and although it took some time, it didn't seem like it was any worse than some of the installs I had done on Virtual PC 2004. Windows Vista installs much quicker on Virtual PC 2007. The virtual machine I created was bound and bridged to the host wireless network card so I pulled updates from windowsupdate.microsoft.com and installed them in the VM.
I've seen the vm lock up temporarily on a couple of occasions. On one occasion I was flipping in and out of full screen mode and the laptop froze. I could not recover from that one. I have to hold down the power button on the machine then boot back up. Fortunately SLED 10 replayed the transaction logs and booted fine. The vm booted as well so I am still messing with it. See the screenshot above and click the image for a full blown view. I'll probably see if I can establish a VPN connection from the vm to our corporate lan and possibly join it to a domain. That gets a bit tricky, but I'm a tricky guy.
So what did I learn?
I guess I need to get my hands on a Apple MacBook Pro and run Parallels for another data point, but it would appear we still have the edge in a few areas on the Windows platform (as far as virtualization is concerned). I thought the installation of the operating systems was easy enough for any IT Pro, but installing configuring and using the virtualization technologies wasn't a cake walk. VMWare made it a lot easier because they have good instructions. So even if you aren't familiar with downloading, unpacking and installing Linux archives or RPMs, you'll probably have few issues getting up and running.
Would I run for an extended period of time in this manner? Probably not. I'm far too busy keeping up with our own products but it might be fun to try to do an event with PowerPoint running from a Linux hosted Windows Vista vm, and the usual demos running from other vms. I'm not real comfortable with the stability of the platform at the moment, so it'll probably be a cold day in you know where, before that happens. Enough fun for now.
Back to my chores around the house...
You’ve seen me do literally hundreds of Camtasia captured screencast demos. One of the screencasts I did on Windows Server 2008 was captured using the Windows Media Encoder x64 product. That product has now been depricated and the screencast below was captured with a new product called Expression Encoder Screen Capture 3. This product ships with and is designed to run with Expression Encoder 3.
This new screen capturing tool does a great job of capturing high quality work you might like to demonstrate via a blog or webpage. The screencast below was captured where the source machine was running a display resolution of 1920x1200. In the demo I also execute and run a Halo 3 720p HD video. That Halo 3 video is 30fps and the data rate for the video is right at 6MB. Try duplicating this capture with other products on the market or the internet. Let me know how successful you were. Grin.
The following demo requires the released version of Silverlight 3. Install from http://www.microsoft.com/silverlight/get-started/install/default.aspx. I haven’t quite figured out the code to force that check in the blog post. So for now, there’s a little manual human intervention required. You can handle it. Smiles.
If you want to download the Windows Media Video file that was produced by Expression Encoder 3, right mouse click the following link and SAVE TARGET AS to a location local to your machine.
Some Notes on the Source and Output
The captured file size ended up being slightly less than 800MB. After selecting the Expression Encoder 3 VC-1 Screen profile and making some slight adjustments, I encoded to the Silverlight VC-1 format with a resulting file size of 40.5MB. That’s some serious crunching and compression folks.
The most impressive aspect is the quality of output. To truly appreciate this, run this screencast on a 24” monitor that has a native res of 1920x1200 and go full screen with the Silverlight 3 player control. The full screen button shows up if you move your mouse into the lower portion of the player and the controls pop up. The button I am referring to is bottom right. When full screen on a 24” monitor, the clarity should be nearly perfect with very little blurriness, artifacting, or other noise.
If you are using a smaller LCD panel like I am at the moment (15.4” laptop LCD at 1680x1050), you will see some blurriness but it should not be too bad. I haven’t yet decided what ot use in the future for my recordings so feedback now would be VERY welcome.
Since the data rate for this screencast is 4MB, those of you with slower internet connection may see some issues with playback buffering before the file is progressively downloaded. I am not using the adaptive bitrate streaming for this example.
Be sure to install the released version of Silverlight 3 at http://www.microsoft.com/silverlight/get-started/install/default.aspx. After that, be sure to download the trial versions of the Expression Suite 3 products at http://www.microsoft.com/expression/try-it/#PageTop when they come out (soon). Expression Blend 3 with Sketchflow is available now.
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Check out other Solution Accelerators! Visit the Solution Accelerators page on TechNet, http://www.microsoft.com/solutionaccelerators, for additional information. We appreciate your comments and feedback, please send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org . The MDT Team.
Join the beta @ https://connect.microsoft.com/Downloads/DownloadDetails.aspx?SiteID=14&DownloadID=8689
There is a saying in the world of IT technology… “When Pigs Fly”. Actually the term has been around for a long time and is used in a variety of situations. Pink Floyd’s Animals album cover has a pig flying over the Battersea power station in England. According to the article on wikipedia.org, they diverted air traffic at Heathrow airport to shoot the picture. Can you imagine flying for 12–16 hours and finally getting to England only to look out the window and see a flying pig?
Most people use the term to refer to something that will never happen. It’s a pretty cynical view of the situation being discussed, but hey, we aren’t the most optimistic carbon life forms now are we?
According to Michael Quinion, the phrase dates back to at least 1586. Quoting his webpage on the subject, “It seems to have been a traditional Scottish proverb, which was first written down in 1586 in an edition of John Withal’s English-Latin dictionary for children. This had an appendix of proverbs rendered into Latin, of which one was the usual form of the proverb in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries: “pigs fly in the air with their tails forward”. If they did indeed fly, the proverb argues, flying backwards would seem a small extra feat.”
If you happen to find a reference that goes back further in time, let me know. It would be kewl to find an Egyptian hieroglyphic of a flying pig.
I thought the “When Pigs Fly” game at the Discovery Animal Planet website was a cute idea. It’s interesting that there are all kinds of organizations, music CD’s, and movies that use the term.
I guess that’s what I get for picking a picture to use in a blog post that will be part of some documentation. I’ll be done with the documentation, my mid year review, and have all of my expense reports submitted by Monday. Yea, right… “When pigs fly!!!”.
Another of the top end machines on the market is now available for your config to order enjoyment. I am referring to the eagerly awaited HP Elitebook 8540w. This machine has it all and if you want it all, be prepared to drop some coin for the privilege of owning a highly engineered speed demon like this.
I configured an Elitebook 8540w with the following configuration: HP EliteBook 8540w Mobile Workstation, FreeDOS, Intel® Core™ i7-820QM Processor (1.73 GHz, 8 MB L3 cache, Mobile Intel QM57 Chipset, 15.6-inch diagonal LED-backlit FHD (1920 x 1080) Antiglare w/2.0MP Camera, NVIDIA Quadro FX 1800M with 1GB GDDR5 video memory, 16GB 1333 MHz DDR3 SDRAM, 160GB SATA 2.5 Solid State Drive (I’m assuming Intel Gen2 but unconfirmed), BluRay DVD+/-RW, Full- sized keyboard with numeric keypad and dual pointing devices (touchpad and pointstick) with scroll zone, HP Integrated Module with Bluetooth® 2.1 Wireless Technology, Intel Centrino Ultimate-N 6300 (3x3), HP Mobile Broadband (powered by Gobi™) with GPS Verizon Wireless, 56K v.92 high speed modem, Integrated Smart Card Reader, 150W Hardware Kit 8540w, 8 Cell 73Whr 8540w Battery 1 year warranty), Limited 3 year standard parts and labor warranty (3/3/3).
This came to $5722 on the public buying site this evening. I believe I’ll have an evaluation unit in a few weeks and will put it through it’s paces when I get my hands on one. Let’s hope the price of DDR memory drops like a rock, soon.
We’re a little over halfway done with the Interop Road Show I helped create. Last week Matt Hester did a simulcast of the live event from Chicago. Although he did a great job, I wanted to capture the demos with Camtasia v6.0.2 and provide some high quality audio and video of the demos, so here they are.
A Party of Protocols
There are a number of ways to invite Linux, UNIX, and OS X to the Windows Server Active Directory party. The operating systems we use today will interoperate in many ways because each includes some level of common protocol support. Support for HTTP is an obvious protocol they all share. SMB is also commonly used for access to Windows file system shares. In the UNIX world, NFS ruled the ether for years. Thankfully directory and security protocols like LDAP and Kerberos have also become common in the desktop and server operating systems.
There are pros and cons to any approach to integrating heterogeneous environments. Usually this means there will be tradeoffs on functionality. Thankfully, there is a robust market out there to lower the number of tradeoffs and attempt to provide near seamless coexistence and integration.
For those of you that get TechNet Magazine, you probably noticed the December 2008 issue devoted to this subject. You also probably noticed it isn’t necessarily trivial to do everything you might set out to accomplish. As Matt likes to say, get some sleep, get up early, and eat your Nerdflakes because you are going to need them.
I shopped the partner market. I wanted to see if there were some products you should consider that ease the pain. There are and you should by all means evaluate the products from Centrify, Quest, Likewise and others. You’ll notice I am using Centrify DirectControl.
The main reason for that is simple. Linux, OS X and UNIX and Windows include support for authentication, directories and file sharing. That capability is built into the OS. However, if you want to do desktop management, you really need help from an additional set of agents and code. You’ll see what I mean in demo number three below.
Adding SUSE Linux to Active Directory (AD)
In the video just below, we are going to add a SLED 10 SP2 virtual machine to the contoso.com domain. We’ll first check and verify the vm is able to find the domain controllers and that we have good connectivity. Then we’ll join the domain and reboot the vm. Check it out.
Now that our workstation vm is a citizen of the contoso.com domain, we can start doing the stuff that would be a normal next step. For instance, we would want to verify user principals from AD can login on the Linux machine and use it. We would also want to check the security model and verify share and file permissions are working as expected. Checkout this next video on that subject.
Bow to Group Policy
Now that we can see networking, authentication and security is working properly, we can start to take advantage of the management infrastructure. For this demo, we are going to make a simple change to the SLED 10 SP2 GNOME settings to verify Group Policy Object (GPO) settings are flowing from Windows to Linux.
There is obviously a lot more to this subject, but as you can see, interoperability between Windows Server 2008 and a number of other server and desktop operating systems is quite good. You can do this the easy way, or you can do it the not so easy way. It’s really going to depend on your needs. If you have no need for desktop management via group policies, then you should investigate the native integration possibilities. If you have more advanced management needs to get the wild wild west tamed, then I would highly recommend looking at the partner tools.
Now is a really good time to purchase the TechNet Plus Direct subscription. Think about it for a second, Windows 7 is already on the download area. So is Windows Server 2008 R2. Exchange 20101 just RTM’d and will be there soon. Office 2010 and many others are on the way. So what better way to get access to all of the technologies and build a strong project plan? There isn’t one.
Oh wait, it gets better. Use my US TMSAM07 promotion code for a 25% discount off the new subscription price. The prices in the pic below are the full USD advertised price so expect to see the 25% knocked off the new subscription price in the order cart.
Ready to order? Head on over to http://technet.microsoft.com/subscriptions/bb892754.aspx. Be sure to put in TMSAM07 are the promotion code and watch the price drop to $261.75 USD. Enjoy !!!
The years of war seem to have taken a toll on Master Chief. In the latest picture of him from Halo 3, he seems a little skinny. Maybe it's the angle of the camera with that big gun. What's he using that for anyway? Click on the image above for the full size image.
Oh, and if you haven't heard already, we are releasing Halo3 tonight at midnight to screw with the PS3 launch. Ok, that's a lie. I do remember someone in our company saying something to that effect months ago.
Interested in new Halo 2 maps, a new Halo 3 commercial, and getting in on the Halo 3 multiplayer beta? See http://www.bungie.net/News/TopStory.aspx?cid=9182.
Microsoft® Exchange Server 2007 introduces a new management platform called the Exchange Management Shell, based on Microsoft Windows® PowerShell, formerly codenamed "Monad". This topic provides a list of many frequently used cmdlets, important conventions, and useful tips. The information is presented by feature area, such as recipient, transport, and database administration.
Go get it at http://go.microsoft.com/?linkid=5719336
Verizon is making progress updating the drivers and VZAccess Manager software so that it is compatible with Windows Vista. Take a look at http://www.vzam.net, their official download site. For those of you using the PC 5740 card like I am, you can download the current version of VZAccess Manager directly from http://www.vzam.net/uploadedFiles/VZAccess_6.2.4_1641c-5740.exe. Keep in mind that this version and link are subject to change so it's probably best to start at the main website.
The software installed cleanly and so far I have not been able to reproduce the Blue Screen Of Death (BSOD) that was present in previous versions. The repro I am talking about is a normal scenario. Many times I forget I'm connected to the EVDO network via VZAccess Manager 5.x. I'd hit my power button to shut down and BOOM, BSOD. Nice.
Like I said, so far, so good. I'm posting this via the wonders of the cell network. Love it.
I'm grooving on the floppy drive. Required for Windows XP Bootcamp. Grin.
There’s an acronym from the past for you. Run Time Improvements (RTI). I am always looking for ways to squeeze another speed improvement out of Windows Vista. In fact, a few weeks ago I made some changes to my Dell Latitude D820 and it made a very real difference in how the machine performed.
Before I list out all of the stuff below, keep in mind I am willing to sacrifice some features for the sake of overall system performance. I’m usually looking for all of the horsepower out of my machine for a couple of reasons. Video encoding or virtualization workloads.
I don’t need eye candy for those two purposes. I don’t need a search index. I don’t need the system to anticipate what the next ten programs I am going to launch are going to be.
If I dial back some of these features in Windows Vista, am I losing some key features? Absolutely, positively yes. However, information is power so get ready because I’m going to arm you with some of my tricks and you can decide what you like and dislike. One thing before we move on… I don’t recommend turning off security features but I do make one exception to this rule. More on that later.
Fast And Easy
I like to keep things simple so we’ll start with the easiest first. Remember the dialog box just below? I know you’ve probably stumbled across it. It’s in nearly all of the operating systems we’ve produced yet most people don’t make any changes to it.
I do. These settings alone can have a rather profound change to the way application windows and dialog boxes display, move, minimize or disappear. Eye candy takes horsepower and don’t underestimate the visual impact. Before we get to the disable list, lets talk briefly about two of them.
Animation and fading take cycles from the CPU and GPU. When you have a weak CPU or GPU, the animation and fading effects end up looking like they are slow motion. I’m exaggerating a bit, but your eyes are actually very good at picking up motion changes. I have several machines ranging in age from less than a year old to more than five years old. And the speed of the CPU and GPU in those machines varies greatly. Therefore the new fast quad core machine can drive these effects the way they were designed to be seen. But even the quad machine will show a noticeable improvement.
The Performance Options Hit List – turn these off
Now you might be wondering how to get to these options since I neglected to tell you. You can get to them in a similar manner across most of our operating systems and as usual, there’s more than one way.
Now that you have made these changes, you should see the difference in how the applications behave. This made a dramatic difference on my two slowest machines. It was very helpful in particular on on my Dell Latitude D820. Now that we’ve made some changes to the user interface responsiveness, lets look at disabling some optional features and services in Windows Vista.
Optional Windows Vista Services
An astute observer of Windows Vista will notice the operating system is always doing something. The most visible activity involves the hard drives of your system. If you haven’t changed any of the default settings for Windows Vista, you’ll notice those hard drives are constantly reading and writing.
What services are using the disk that much? The obvious first guess is the indexing service. Or more accurately, the Windows Search service. When you first install the OS, it would seem reasonable to take the indexing hit for all of your documents and email. After all, that’s what gives you the instant access to nearly every document on your hard drive. But if you’re a highly organized person like myself, do you really need it?
Then there’s the Superfetch service. SuperFetch monitors which applications you use the most and preloads these into your system memory so they'll be ready when you need them. Windows Vista also runs background programs, like disk defragmenting and Windows Defender, at low priority so that they can do their job but your work always comes first.
This all sounds great on paper, but the reality is that those disk reads and writes use electricity, generate heat, and take away disk performance from other applications. The developers of the features will challenge that the services run as low priority I/O and will not impact the computing environment. My experience differs and frankly it really doesn’t matter what they say. I want the I/O gone so that I am not generating heat, beating up my hard drives, reducing their life, and taking any performance away from my other applications. Now to be fair, Windows Search 4.0 just came out and I haven’t installed and tested it yet, but I will. I’ll give it a shot at changing my mind. Until then, it’s time to disable some services, help save some electricity and reduce the heat my machine generates. Heat is evil.
Disabling the Optional Windows Vista Services
Like before, there are several ways to navigate to the Windows services and change the properties, or start and stop them.
There are a few other services you can safely stop if you aren’t using their services. An example is the Distributed Link Tracking Client. However, you aren’t going to see a noticeable improvement in performance of the system from that service change alone. By stopping the Indexing service and disabling it and Superfetch, you should see a dramatic improvement in performance and boot times. But like I said, you are doing this at a cost and the cost is the inability to use instance search in Windows Vista and Outlook. That’s a pretty high price to pay and it’s probably too high of a price for many people.
A Couple of Last Changes
There are a couple more changes I recommend making, then a therapeutic reboot will clean house on all of the processes and memory. The first change is disabling the disk defrag service. Now keep in mind that I regularly flatten my machine and rebuild from scratch. In fact, if I go as long as six months without re-installing the OS, apps and data I’m doing really good. Therefore, this particular trick isn’t recommended for the masses. Only for the nerds that are rebuilding every few months.
The last change involves a security change. I like to turn off one of the UAC features. I turn off the highly annoying “Switch to a secure desktop when prompting for elevation”. I know, I know. This should really be left on to prevent a malicious virus from impersonating a portion of the OS (also known as a shatter attack). To be honest, I originally started doing this in the Vista beta cycles because this feature was causing havoc with the LiveMeeting program and my ability to do desktop sharing during webcasts. I should probably turn it back on to see if I can live with it now. Maybe not.
How do you turn this UAC feature off? If you are using the Windows Vista default Control Panel settings, go to Control Panel | System and Maintenance | Administrative Tools. From there you are going to double click the Local Security Policy and respond to the UAC prompt since this requires administrative privilege. Expand the Local Policies node in the tree control and click the Security Options node. Scroll all the way to the bottom of the list and you see the secure desktop setting as the second to the last item. Go into the properties for the settings and disable it. Now would be a good time to reboot your machine and let all of the changes above take effect.
One Last Bombshell
I like to save a juicy tidbit for last in some of my articles. Larry Garcia, a friend and colleague hates that. He wants all the key stuff at the beginning in an executive summary so he doesn’t have to read the article. Ha! What fun is that? So here’s the last little “tweak” I like to do to my machine. I run in workgroup mode. Ok, pick your jaw off the floor. Speed is the primary motivating factor and giving the MSIT management policies the bird is the other. There are several reasons I can get away with this.
First of all, I always have two or more laptops/desktops for my job. Frankly, every technical person in my company needs more than one machine. I can do my job with one, but I am going to take a serious productivity hit. For instance, I downloaded 50GB of content yesterday from one of my machines, while I used another for different stuff.
By having more than one machine, I can always have a corpnet joined machine that is part of the Microsoft Active Directory forest and take the performance penalties associated with Active Directory lookups, System Center Configuration Manager inventory and patch management processes, etc. But that doesn’t mean my main production machine has to be that machine. In fact, it isn’t. Now the folks that are Microsoft employees reading this are wondering how I get away with that. Simple. Desktop OS virtualization.
Up until recently, virtualization wasn’t required. Our MSIT org would implement a new restriction for remote user connections, and I would find a way around it without violating our corporate security policies. But now they are starting to lock down the IPSEC policies more fully and with that, change the internal proxy server policies. Our internal Mac users are all too familiar with those policies.
So when the going gets tough, the tough virtualize. I have a virtual machine that is joined to our forest and in my time of need can be used to connect and use an internal application. Since our desktop virtualization products don’t today offer access to the smartcard reader, I use a handy trick. Once the VM is up and running, I establish a RDP connection to the VM and can use the smartcard with the RDP session. I only use this VM for applications that REQUIRE a machine account joined to the forest, or when a networking issue otherwise prevents connectivity to a resource on the corporate network. Those are few and far between. When I need long term use of a connection for something like downloads, I use my second machine that is joined to the forest. When I need to use an internal line-of-business application for a few minutes, I fire up the VM on my main production machine.
So there you have it. Some of my favorite runtime improvements to Windows Vista. Some are obviously controversial but like I said early in this article, my main motivation is speed from my system so that I can give that capacity back to other virtual machines I use to do my day job. It also makes Windows Vista very snappy and fun to use. I hope you enjoy the tips.
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.
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.
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.
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
The 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.
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?
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.
On 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.
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.
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.
When 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.
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.
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.
Question: I need to run a hyper-v virtual machine but Windows 7 is my production operating system. Do I need to re-build my machine?
Answer: Absolutely not.
If you are running Windows 7 today, there’s no reason to tear down your machine, re-partition your drive, and reinstall your world. Instead, you can simply install Windows Server 2008 R2 into a .VHD file and make it bootable. After that is accomplished you can choose the OS you want when you power up your machine. The following steps are the simplest way (currently) to do this. It really doesn’t get any simpler.
Implement Windows Server 2008 R2 the Easy Way
1. Install Windows 7. I’m assuming you have already done this and it’s your normal work environment. You are going to need the Windows Server 2008 R2 bootable installation disk later in these steps. If you haven’t done so already, download the .ISO from the products servers or the download area of MDSN or TechNet (subscriber area).
2. Do a full backup of your system. We aren’t anticipating any issues but you never know. You can create a Full System Image in Windows 7 Enterprise or Ultimate. This is an exact clone of your hard drive. To create the backup, go to Control panel | System and Security | Back up your Computer. You’ll see “Create a system image” in the task list on the top left corner of the screen.
3. Launch the Win 7 Computer Management console. This can be accomplished from the Administrator Tools or by right mouse clicking Computer and selecting the Management menu item.
4. Click Disk Management
5. Click the Action menu and select Create VHD as shown in the screenshot below.
6. You will be presented with the following dialog box. As you can see, I am creating a 30GB dynamic .VHD on drive C:. The assumption here is that C: is not BitLockered. When using BitLocker, the .VHD must reside on an unencrypted partition or drive. Since I routinely use drive D: for storage, this doesn’t present a problem for me. If you only have a single disk and plan to use BitLocker, you must create a partition to store the unencrypted bootable VHD’s. For now, we’ll assume BitLocker is not used.
Drive C must always have 30GB of free space whenever I boot the R2 .VHD because it will be fully expanded at boot. I may only be using 12GB of the 30GB, but all 30 must be there or you can expect a BSOD. I normally create my bootable .VHD’s on a high capacity drive in the multibay of my laptop. The target subdirectory must already exist.
7. You’ll notice when you click OK, the Microsoft VHD HBA driver is installed and the .VHD is created. It’ll be about 62KB in size initially.
8. Right mouse click the newly created disk in the disk management console and select Initialize as shown below.
9. After you init the disk, right mouse click the unallocated space and create a simple volume. Quick format the entire 30GB as NTFS. You are nearly ready to install Windows Server 2008 R2 at this point.
10. Place the Windows Server 2008 R2 installations DVD in your CD/DVD drive and reboot your machine.
11. When prompted, hit enter to boot from the install DVD.
12. Click the Install Now button in setup to proceed.
13. Select Enterprise (Full Installation) from the SKU selector.
14. Accept the EULA.
15. Click the Custom Installation button.
16. Proceed in the R2 setup program until you get to the dialog box where you select the target disk and partition. You’ll notice we do not see the .VHD file we created. Shell out to the command line via the SHIFT+F10 shortcut key sequence.
17. Enter DISKPART to launch the disk and partitioning utility.
18. Enter SELECT VDISK FILE=C:\R2\WS2008R2.vhd.
19. Enter ATTACH VDISK
20. At this point you can click refresh on the drive listings and the VHD will be available as the target of the install. Select the VHD and click next to proceed with the install. You can ignore the warning about installing Windows to the VHD target.
That’s it. After Windows Server 2008 R2 installs, you’ll have a dual boot system. You will of course need to install the Hyper-V role, learn how to create or import virtual machines, and do other tasks in the operating system but this should get you well on your way. And you didn’t need to re-install your entire world to do this.
[Note] As I have previously indicated on other blogs posts, this installation method is technically unsupported. In fact, the steps above have been covered before. I sent the information above to a couple of internal email distribution lists because some of our developers have not used Hyper-V and I wanted to give them the condensed, short form of the information.
If it wasn’t for the size, I would imagine Windows Vista would eclipse all download records. A more interesting number might be the number of gig we served up in the month of June.
Or maybe the number of hard drives that fried in the data centers around the world. (Pictures a dude in the data center with a fire extinguisher next to the racks)
By the way, if you click on the thumbnail to the right, it’ll display the large version which you can of course use as your background or keep a copy for future use. Enjoy.
You may have started to hear rumblings about the Sender ID Framework (SIDF). The SIDF technology takes another step towards curtailing spam and phishing. If your Inbox is anything like mine, it regularly receives a considerable amount of unwanted and offensive email. So how in the world do you block this stuff? Hopefully you are already using the IMF, RBL and client technologies. Lets take look at the emerging technologies in the Sender ID Framework and the enhancements to Exchange Server 2003.
The first thing you’ll want to do is download the Exchange Server 2003 SP2 Customer Technology Preview (CTP). This preview is for testing purposes and should not be used in production. You might consider Microsoft Virtual PC 2004 or Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 as your VM testing tools. Undo is your friend… We’ll get to installing and looking at the Exchange stuff later in this post.
Domain Name Service (DNS) and the Sender Policy Framework (SPF)
The first thing you need to realize, it that DNS is a core component to the framework. You’ll need to create some policy records in DNS to implement the authorisation aspects of the policy. The record(s) are called Sender Policy Framework (SPF). Since you are authoritative for your DNS zone, email systems are going to query the authoritative DNS Name Server for your zone and check for those policy records. We’ll get to the email systems in a few minutes so hang on.
Sender ID works in a three-step process.
Fortunately, there are several tools on the internet that will help you create and format the SPF records and implement them on your DNS server, or request that they be implemented on your ISP’s DNS servers. Microsoft has a wizard at http://www.anti-spamtools.org/SenderIDEmailPolicyTool/Default.aspx. You’ll also find another tool at http://spf.pobox.com/.
Lets take a look at an example for our favorite demo domain, contoso.com. In the Microsoft tool, we said that “Domain's inbound servers may send mail”, “All addresses listed in A records may send mail”, “All PTR records resolve to outbound email servers”, “No; this domain sends mail only from the IP addresses identified above.” and “Both” for the scope of the identities to validate.
This is what was generated:
v=spf1 a mx ptr -all
Ok, does everyone have their decoder ring handy? As usual, we have something that’s easy for computers to deal with but difficult for us mere mortals. No fear, we can download and review the draft documentation and pick the string apart to see what it means if we like. In the docs, you’ll learn about mechanisms, modifiers and redirection. For those of you that host several domains from a single server or have other complex DNS, web and email requirements, review the specifications carefully. Our wizard handles many cases but you’ll likely need to make some manual changes.
After we get this string, we need to add it to DNS. Easy! In Windows Server 2003, fire up the DNS management console and go to the forward lookup zone for the domain you want to add the record to. Right click the domain name and select the “Other New Records” context menu item. You’ll see the following dialog box and you’ll need to scroll down to the Text (TXT) record type (see screen shot).
Click the Create Record button and you’ll be presented with the following dialog box.
As you can see, all you need to do is paste the contents of the string into the Text: block area and click OK to save. If you go back and look at the properties for this record, it will look like the following screen shot.
Now that we have DNS implemented, you’ll probably want to test things. Port25 Solutions has created an automated testing tool to verify your Sender ID implementation. To use the tool, send an e-mail message to email@example.com. In return, you receive a reply containing an analysis of the authentication status of the message you sent.
Wait a second, we haven’t done anything with Exchange Server 2003 SP2!!!
Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 SP2 CTP Sender ID Feature
Like I mentioned before, download the Exchange SP2 CTP. Run E3SP2ENG.EXE and unpack the contents. Review the release notes, please. As usual, you’ll find update.exe sitting in the setup\i386 area. Update your test Exchange server.
After installation is complete, go to your Orgs Global Settings | Message Delivery properties (as shown in the following screen shot).
You are probably already familiar with some of the tab pages for Connection, Recipient and Intelligent Message filtering. Like those settings, you’ll want to set some globals, but apply those settings to one or more of your protocol virtual servers.
Click the Sender ID Filtering tab. As you can see, we have some pretty interesting choices. Although Delete is selected in the screen shot, I’m leaning towards the Reject option for my domains. This prevents email that doesn’t pass the Sender ID test from ever being sent to my server. I like the idea of preventing all those .zip, .scr, .cmd and other attachments from ever touching my hard drives.
Each of the Sender ID validation actions have value. You might decide to accept the connection and receive the email then later process the email (strip attachments, re-route, etc.).
Or you may decide to accept the connection, receive the message but immediately delete it, but never tell the sender what you did with the message. No NDR in this case seems like an invitation to continue sending email to me.
Or you may just reject the message. This will certainly stick it in the face of the sender.
Pick the option that makes the most sense for your organisation and click OK to save the change.
Now that we have the global setting implemented, we need to go apply the filtering to the appropriate protocol server. For small and medium organisations, this will most likely be the Default SMTP Virtual Server. In larger organisations that have multiple SMTP virtual servers, you’ll want to apply the filtering on the virtual servers handling inbound connections.
Go to the Servers | <server name> | Protocols | SMTP container and expand it. Right mouse click “Default SMTP Virtual Server” and select the Properties menu item. Click the Advanced button next to the IP Address: field. Highlight the appropriate ip address and click the Edit button. You should see the following dialog box:
As you can see, I am using all IP addresses for my puny VM instance and have applied Recipient filters, IMF Filters and Sender ID filters.
Now that we have this implemented on our SMTP server, it’s going to use the extension of the SMTP protocol called “Responsible Submitter”.
Sending SMTP servers (Exchange in this case) will stamp outgoing messages with the “purported responsible address” and include this address in a new header field called “SUBMITTER”. If this field is present and recognised by a receiving SMTP server (like our SP2 CTP SMTP server), it will do those fun little DNS lookups and validate the responsible address using the DNS SPF RR records.
If the SPF RR lookup fails, Exchange will handle the SMTP MAIL command stream in the manner you specified in the Global settings above.
Have some fun with this!!! I’ll probably post some telnet sessions of this in action later.
For More Information
For more information on all of this, keep an eye on the Exchange Server 2003 website, our webcast area, and Harold Wong’s blog. Harold is kicking off a ten part webcast series in October on Exchange Server 2003 SP2 and beyond. It isn’t advertised yet, but it is definitely coming.
You’ll also want to bookmark http://www.microsoft.com/mscorp/safety/technologies/senderid/default.mspx and some of the resources on that site.
I did some testing the past couple of days with my brand spanking new Lenovo ThinkPad T60p. The T60p is the current speed demon inside Microsoft. This won’t last long so let me explain why. Many of you have probably noticed we rate the performance of your hardware.
In the current builds (I’m using 5489), we do the rating just before you login. When you go to look at the rating, you’ll notice we rate the processor, memory speed, graphics card or chipset and the primary hard disk. You can run the tests from the command line or in the background.
The testing results are written to an XML file currently stored in your %systemroot%\performance\winsat\datastore folder. I don’t think that is going to change before we ship. You should definitely take a close look at the information inside that file. We only present part of the information in the UI. As you can see in the screenshot of my test, my little T60p did very nicely.
However, the current rating mechanism uses the lowest score to give you your score. I guess it seemed to make sense to derive the score from the lowest common denominator. Is that fair? I don’t think so. Here’s why…
What is the current fastest primary hard drive on the market for a laptop?
In general, you’ll find the laptop market is currently constrained by the 100GB 7200rpm SATA drive. There are some subtle and not to subtle speed differences in the drives. My rating was performed using the Hitachi HTS721010G9SA00. It’s a 100GB 7200rpm 2.5” SATA drive. See the specs at http://www.hitachigst.com/hdd/support/7k100/7k100.htm. As you can see, the hard drive received the lowest rating so that became my overall rating. Considering 100GB 7200rpm SATA drives are as good as it gets in the laptop market (currently), it doesn’t really represent my laptops stack rank in the pecking order very effectively.
For instance, lets say we have a bunch of dual core laptops with a variety of procs, memory and graphics chipsets. You could have a really smoking Dell XPS M1710 with the same hard drive that I have. It could have twice the memory, twice the speed in the GPU, etc. But we would end up with the same score due to the hard drive. This is going to change before we ship.
And while we are on the subject of shipping Windows Vista, what the heck is going on? Robert Scoble says, “This sucker is just not ready”. Well, that’s a pretty easy statement to make. We aren’t done yet Robert.
Oh, and before I forget, look for some new drives to hit the market before too long. ReadyDrive will boost the performance and save battery power. See the whitepaper on the subject at http://www.microsoft.com/whdc/device/storage/hybrid.mspx.
Core to any server is the ability to service networks requests. In some cases, raw I/O is the goal. In other cases, simultaneous streams might be the goal. Windows Server 2008 Core is the engine for many of those cases. Do you need a graphical user interface to run a server? Not really so lets see what this new Core implementations is all about.
The installation of Windows Server 2008 Core is nearly identical to a regular server install. However, the end result is VERY different. As with the previous screencast and install, we supply the product key, answer a few questions and we're off. The Core installation is much quicker because there's less "stuff" to install. This benefits you in a variety of ways. Core consumes less disk space. That's really obvious. Since Core is a much smaller set of applications, processes and services, the potential attack surface or vulnerability landscape is much smaller.
The Core installation will reboot your machine or VM a couple of times during device detection and installation. Eventually you'll be presented with the login screen.
[errata note] I made a mistake at the tail end of the setup portion of this screencast. I said we were going to promote the Core installation to a DC, then to a RODC. That is incorrect. We will convert directly to a Read Only DC (RODC).
The best place to get information on how to setup and configure Windows Server 2008 Core is of course the Step-by-Step guide. You'll learn a lot from this guide but of course doing is better than reading.
As indicated in the screencast below, one of the first things you'll want to do is set the administrator password. The guide shows the command line method. Regardless of the method used, do it, do it fast.
When you install the Core server, a machine name is generated and it isn't pretty like the one suggested by Windows Vista. It starts with LH- followed by a nice string of characters. You can of course create the machine name at setup if you are driving the setup process with an unattended installation script. Unattended installation is pretty easy but for the purposes of this screencast, we'll defer that magic. Make sure to use the following command to rename your server:
netdom renamecomputer %computername% /newname:<NewComputerName>
netdom renamecomputer %computername% /newname:<NewComputerName>
You can certainly use the command in the guide, but that means you need the generated machine name and I'm lazy. The command above will grab the machine name from the %computername% variable. Machine name changes require a reboot so you may want to hold off on that until you configure the network interfaces.
To activate or not to activate, that is the question. I would imagine you'll be testing and learning from your installation for longer than 30 days. If that's the case, you must activate. Activation is easy enough. The following command assumes you have network connectivity to the Microsoft activation servers.
Slmgr is a .vbs script present in Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008. It has a number of useful command line arguments. For instance, the -xpr command will tell you if your license period is about to expire.
Another useful argument is -ipk. It comes in handy if you burn through all of the activations for a particular key and need to change it. -rearm extends the grace period, but you can only rearm Windows a finite number of times.
The one role or service installed by setup is the file server service. You can bring up a computer manager and connect to the Core server and immediately create a share and start using it for file sharing purposes. Some configuration of the firewall will likely be necessary for some of your designs.
Installing roles is pretty easy. Make sure to remember the role names are case sensitive to the installation tools. I know, that's odd. In the screencast, we install the FRS-Infrastructure role. There are a number of other possible roles.
Role installation allows your Core server to potentially specialize. By specialize, I mean you could strategically position certain Core servers on your network to handle specific types of demand. This may seem contrary to the consolidation trend over the years, but also keep in mind that a Core server can run multiple roles, too. The bottom line is that it's flexible.
Just like it's big GUI brother, the Core server can also install a number of features. Those features include Failover Clustering, Network Load Balancing, Subsystem for UNIX-based applications, Backup and others. Some of the features are only available in the Enterprise Core option.
I'll be posting a screencast soon on how to convert a Windows Server 2008 Enterprise Core into a Read Only Domain Controller (RODC) and filter the authentication password list. It's a very interesting demo so keep your eyes peeled for it.
This screencast is longer than the previous screencasts. I combined the setup screencast with the configuration details screencast. It's still pretty short at 18 minutes. Let me know if you prefer smaller or bigger chunks of demo video. The more complex the demonstration, the more I'll have to capture so the topics will naturally start to get longer. Here's the direct link to the Windows Server 2008 Core Setup and Configuration screencast:
http://forums.microsoft.com/TechNet/ShowForum.aspx?ForumID=582&SiteID=17 - Server Core TechNet forum
http://forums.microsoft.com/TechNet/ShowForum.aspx?ForumID=582&SiteID=17 - Server Core TechNet forum
The Windows Vista SP1 image rollout continues and at this point TechNet Direct subscribers can download the Enterprise x86 DVD image. I'm sure the x64 image will arrive in the next day or so. Keep your downloader warmed up.
For those of you with subscriptions, you know there are VL MAK keys available so you can begin some serious testing with the 32 bit platform.
Enterprise has nearly all of the feature set you would ever want, but it lacks the Media Center shell and a couple of other features found in Ultimate.
See http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/windowsvista/editions/default.mspx for more information on the different versions of Windows Vista.
[UPDATE] The x64 .ISO file is now posted. Subscribers, go get it!
I was digging around looking for some good information related to Windows Server Directory Services and stumbled across a new guide that looks very nice. Although the guide states up-front that it was written with the healthcare industry in mind, I didn’t see anything in it that led me to believe you wouldn’t benefit regardless of the industry you serve.
Sound interesting? Sure it does. Head on over to http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?displaylang=en&FamilyID=88f0184c-8f03-4f0f-b3f9-5109255fb461 and snag your copy. It’s PDF format and easy to navigate.
Remember when you jumped from dial-up to DSL or a cable modem? You know what I mean. Those technology jumps that just make you smile really wide? Well, I have news for you. There’s another one coming that is going to rock your world. It’s called DirectAccess and although I am not particularly fond of the name, the name is accurate.
What is DirectAccess?
Simply put, it’s direct access to your corporate network across an automatically established tunnel. There’s a lot that has to happen in order for that to occur, but thankfully nearly everything is transparent to the user.
DirectAccess clients maintain constant connectivity with the intranet, and Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) provides the end-to-end addressing necessary to accomplish this. Since many organizations do not yet have IPv6 deployed, DirectAccess includes IPv6 transition technologies to help ensure IPv6 connectivity.
IP-HTTPS is a new protocol for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 that allows hosts behind a Web proxy server or firewall to establish connectivity by tunneling IPv6 packets inside an IPv4-based HTTPS session. HTTPS is used instead of HTTP so that Web proxy servers will not attempt to examine the data stream and terminate the connection.
Want to see this in action? Sure you do! And unlike a lot of the content you see us demo in virtual machines, this demo is the real thing. This is my production Windows 7 laptop. Our MSIT department is hardcore on security so I’ve already logged in using multi factor authentication via a Smartcard.
There is a ton of information on the internet about DirectAccess already. I would highly recommend you start studying and learning about IPv6 if you haven’t already. I would also recommend you start learning about the IPv4 to IPv6 transitional technologies that will help you get there. Here are some good references.
Errata and other Stupidity
I am constantly amazed at the stupid stuff I say, but don’t pick up on it until after I’ve published something. For instance, I said “a business people’s lives” instead of “a business persons life”. Close to the end I say, “this is some technical networking” instead of “this is some complex or advanced networking”. Wow. Major idiot moments there. LOL.
And I need a chair that shocks the crap out of me when I say “got” too much. Sigh… I probably won’t re-record the darn thing because I am time boxed at the moment. Maybe I’ll record it again when the Windows 7 RC is available and do it from a VM so you can see the full login process and experience.
It seems like every year around this time, I'm in exploration mode on the new gadget in my portfolio. This year is no exception and there were some unexpected surprises with my testing results. If you look back at last years post, you'll see we had the PSP, iPod Video, Zune 30 and Zen Vision W in the mix.
This year the Zune 30 has been replaced by the Zune 80 and I added the Archos 605 WIFI. The Zune 30 is a Microsoft asset so I gave it to Bryan Von Axelson and it not included in this years test round. The iPod and PSP were dropped from the testing. Which of course leaves the Zune 80, Archos 605 WIFI and Zen Vision W as the three players that made my cut for testing.
I cut the PSP because I am no longer interested in dealing with memory sticks. I cut the iPod Video because the screen is too small and the only reason I keep it around is to test iTunes podcast integration. Keep in mind the iPod isn't the iPod Touch.
So Which is my Favorite?
I might as well cut right to the chase. There are two answers. For audio, the Zune 80 is a strong favorite and it isn't just because I work for the evil empire. I like the new device, I like the new Zune software, and I like the Zune Marketplace Pass all-you-can-eat audio buffet. I would like for Robert Plant and crew to make some of the Led Zeppelin tracks available as part of Pass collection for "free" but I guess if you helped define rock, you can pretty much call your shots.
For video, the Archos 605 WIFI is the hands down favorite. This essentially unseats the Creative Zen Vision W because the Vision doesn't support the higher bit rates I would prefer. The Archos player is thinner, smaller, supports more video playback formats, has longer battery life (with the extra battery), is touchscreen, etc. Basically you'll have to pry it from my cold dead hands. It's a keeper.
What were the surprises this year?
I set out this year to see if I could move my transcoding to the H.264 standard. The Zune 80 adds additional video playback and output support for that format and others. Nope, no can do. I would need to buy plug-ins for the Archos, and the Zen Vision W doesn't support H.264. Since the Zune 80 doesn't support DivX AVI, it meant I need to move back to Windows Media Video (.WMV). The problem with moving back to Windows Media Video is that the Creative Zen Vision W doesn't support bit rates above about 768 on the video side. Drat. There's an upside and downside to that. The upside is that the video file plays on all of the players. The downside is the loss of resolution and that the WMV transcodes take quite a bit longer than going to DivX AVI or some of the other formats supported by my utility.
The Zune 80 screen is very forgiving with videos encoded at lower bit rates. The Archos and Zen are less forgiving because of their 4.3" screen size but thankfully the lower bits rates are still good enough. If the Creative Zen Vision W dies or I sell it, then I will probably double the bit rates. In the end I was able to come up with some settings and therefore output that would run on all three players in the test. This means I can transcode a DVD one time and use it across my main three players.
Tools and Formats Used
Like last year, I am still using the Xilisoft conversion tool. It has been updated and includes support for Apple TV, H.264. Zune, etc. It's pretty easy to use and it's faster than the version I was using last year. I like this utility because it creates video for a variety of popular players and formats. The other aspect I like is the ability to clone an existing profile in the tool and modify it for your needs. I usually test a variety of video sizes so I like lots of choices from the profile. My only complaint about the tool I'm using is it's cropping support. That really needs to improve if you want to chop black bars.
Here are the settings I am using for video conversion:
Here are the settings I am using for video conversion:
2.40:1 Widescreen - 480x270 video size, 768 video bit rate, 128 audio bit rate, Pan and Scan zoom.
1.85:1 Widescreen - 320x180 video size, 768 video bit rate, 128 audio bit rate, Pan and Scan zoom.
4:3 Fullscreen - 320x240 video size, 768 video bit rate, 128 audio bit rate, Pan and Scan zoom.
2.40:1 Widescreen - 480x270 video size, 768 video bit rate, 128 audio bit rate, Pan and Scan zoom.
1.85:1 Widescreen - 320x180 video size, 768 video bit rate, 128 audio bit rate, Pan and Scan zoom.
4:3 Fullscreen - 320x240 video size, 768 video bit rate, 128 audio bit rate, Pan and Scan zoom.
As you can see, I dropped support for a couple of players this time around and it helped reduce the requirements for video support. I am a bit disappointed in the Creative Zen Vision W player supported video and audio. I should have paid more attention to the lack of detail in the specs for that device before I bought it. The Zen makes up for it by having a great screen with rich color and contrast. My wife likes that player so we'll still use it for another year or two. Windows Media Video (WMV) is king this year so we'll use it as the playback format on my media players. I'll be writing a review shortly focused on the Zune 80. Until then, happy holidays.
[UPDATE 1] I think I posted this too quickly. I am already seeing an issue I don't think I can live with, so I need to make a decision. The tool I'm using is taking WAY too long on the WMV transcode. All of the testing above was done using short five minute clips so I didn't see how drastic a difference there was. I can take a couple of paths. I can still move to H.264 which would mean I can build a repository on that format the Archos and Zune 80 can play. This cuts off the Zen and would mean I would still need to transcode DivX AVI for it. Or, I can look for a new tool that does WMV very quickly. Time to write Xilisoft for their suggestion. If you have a tool you like, let me know. Thanks. Sad. Bummer. Back to the drawing board...
[UPDATE 2] The tool I'm using has three encoder settings. wmv1x, wmv2x and wmv3x. wmv3x is the one that is the default and takes forever. For instance, one DVD took 4 hours to convert. It worked perfectly after the conversion (the Zune 80 doesn't need to convert), but it takes much longer than I had anticipated. wmv1x and wmv2x both take a little over an hour, but the Zune 80 does a conversion on the sync. It would appear the conversion on the sync would eat any time gained by using the other settings. I'm more seriously considering a two format approach. H.264 for the Zune 80 and Archos 605 and DivX AVI for the Zen Vision W. This will be the easiest method since the Zen will be used infrequently by my honey. I'll wait to hear back from Xilisoft Support, but I'm guessing that's going to be the final solution.
Can we all just get along? :?)
Want a solid 14” business class laptop? Look no further than the Lenovo ThinkPad T410. It’s the upgrade from the T400 and like the T400, it’ll do just about anything you throw at it. My wife uses the T400 and loves hers. She likes it better than her previous T61p because it’s smaller, lighter and easier to carry around. Because the ThinkPad T410 has been on the market now for a little while, look for a good deal or promotion.
This review will be pretty brief. The machine is solid and I have few complaints. I took some pictures of the T410 sandwiched between a W510 and the X201 eval units I had. We’ll go over those in a few minutes. Let’s review the specs of the machine, screen, keyboard, performance and other traits first.
The Specs and Performance
Lenovo ThinkPad T410 Model 2522-K4U. Intel Core i7 processor i7-620M with dual-core, PC3-8500 1066MHz or PC3-10600 1333MHz DDR3, non-parity, dual-channel capable, two 204-pin SO-DIMM sockets, 14.1" (358mm) WXGA+ (1440x900) color, anti-glare, LED backlight, 220 nits, 16:10 aspect ratio, 300:1 contrast ratio, NVIDIA® Quadro® NVS3100M, PCI Express® x16, 512MB memory.
As you can see, this machine is well equipped. Most of the machines that have come on the market the past few months are trying to balance performance with battery consumption. Most machines in this class size and weight also have the same CPU, GPU and chipset. In the case of this T410, the chipset is identical to the HP 8440p I reviewed back in March. It also scored an identical result on the Windows 7 Experience Index (WEI). CPU = 6.8, RAM = 5.9, Graphics = 4.9, Gaming Graphics = 5.9, Hard Disk = 5.9.
Not exactly a blazing score, but very respectable for a 14” business class machine. It wasn’t designed to play Starcraft II or Call of Duty. Your call of duty are those spreadsheets staring you in the face. Grin.
The Keyboard and TrackPad
The Lenovo/IBM keyboards are legendary and this machine’s keyboard is also very good. I’ll leave it up to the old timers to rate this keyboard against the legends of the past. You really notice the keyboard when you attempt to use other brands.
I really did not like the keyboards on the HP machines for a couple of reasons. The biggest reason was that the keyboard was shifted to the left and not centered in the machine. There is no such issue on the T410. It’s centered right down the middle like it should be.
Like the W510 I have, I like the small little touches Lenovo has applied to the keyboard dressing. Little lights in the key for caps lock, mic mute, etc. I especially like the mic mute light. Comes in real handy on conference calls and such.
I am not a big fan of the new trackpads. I prefer a smooth surface and I still haven’t found the right settings for palm and finger sensitivity and pressure. On occasion the mouse does bizarre stuff and I have yet to figure out if it’s me or the trackpad. It’s probably me but I am still searching for the answer.
The LCD screen in the T410 isn’t anything special. It’s actually pretty average. Screen angles are ok, brightness is ok, colors are ok, etc. It’s just ok. On the upside, the screen resolution is 1440x900 which is a good res for a 14” screen. I really can’t tell if the screen is any better or worse than the T400. They look pretty similar to me.
Most of the laptops I use are plugged into a KVM switch when I am not traveling. Therefore, the machine is used more with an external LCD monitor than it is the built in LCD panel. So I wouldn’t get too hung up about the screen unless you use it 100% of the time. If you do, then that would be an important shopping point. The screen is certainly better than the HP 8440p. I found the 8440p dimmer in comparison.
Chassis and Build
The T410 chassis and build quality is very good as expected. There’s easy access to the two SoDIMM slots from the bottom cover. The battery is nicely integrated to raise the device slightly off your desk or lap. There is plenty of venting to keep the machine reasonably cool during normal operations.
Access to the 2.5” hard drive primary bay is relatively easy (one screw). You can swap the DVD drive with a hard drive caddy if you want to run with two hard drives. The DVD bay is called the Ultrabay and it’s 9.5mm high.
I didn’t detect any noticeable flex in the device thought the LCD lid does have some. The LCD lid is hinged with the famous stainless steel hinges which drop into the frame for a sturdy connection.
I don’t like the new speaker grills. This is true for the T410 and the W510. The look like great dust and crud catchers. I’m wondering what they will look like after three years. Probably pretty scary.
Photo Tour and Comments
Because I felt a number of Microsoft employees would buy the T410 for their daily machine, I tested Windows Server 2008 R2 on it with Hyper-V. That install wasn’t without its share of complications. As we have discovered in the prior generation of ThinkPads, there is no inbox driver for wired and wireless networking when it comes to the R2 install. You must still download the ethernet driver from lenovo.com then manually update the banged out ethernet device in Device Manager.
Be prepared to install the R2 SP1 beta because it resolves a number of issues trying to run Hyper-V on the T410 and W510 with this class of processors. To clarify, it’s required. After installation, I didn’t see any further problems. Ship that puppy. Grin.
I did not test VMWare Workstation 7 or Oracle VirtualBox and probably won’t before I return the eval unit. If you plan to run any of the virtualization products, you are going to want to procure the Ultrabay hard drive adaptor/caddy and add a second hard drive.
Another solid machine from Lenovo. If you are looking for a 14” machine that is easy to carry in a backpack or messenger, you’ll like this machine. With 8GB of RAM and a second hard drive, you have a small but powerful platform to handle a variety of scenarios and roles. This isn’t a gaming machine, but the GPU should be able to handle a variety of needs with the occasional gaming session. Enjoy and buy with confidence.
A 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 mwave.com 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!
About a month ago I received my Lenovo ThinkPad T61p and installed Windows Vista Ultimate x64 as the operating system. Like many of you, I was a little worried I'd run into a road block with an application I need. So far, that hasn't been the case.
Here's a list of the applications that are installed on my domain joined production laptop image.
I'll add and update the list as needed. In fact, I have two or three more apps to install today. Thank god for 200GB laptop hard drives.
[UPDATED on 10/15] Updated application list. Also note that IE7 x86 must be used with Flash 9.
I don’t know if the image at http://www.lenovo.com/images/products/nps/laptops/W530.png is a prototype or of the coming Ivy Bridge based ThinkPad W530, but it’s causing quite a stir in the ThinkPad community. Gone is the traditional keyboard. From the picture it appears Lenovo has gone with a keyboard similar to the one you find on the ThinkPad X1. Hope it is backlit.
I noticed this morning that Windows XP SP3 is now on the TechNet subscriber download area. See my download from Akamai above. To the best of my knowledge, the bits are being provided to TechNet and MSDN subscribers ahead of just about everyone else this time around. This is a direct result of your feedback during the Windows Vista SP1 rollout or lack thereof.
This is also a direct result of Viral Tarpara and myself raising the red flag, and Christine Betts for helping get this accomplished. For the moment it's the patch for existing systems. I'll see if I can find out when the fully integrated Windows XP disks might be posted. Here's a snip of the download description. Enjoy.
[UPDATE] If you weren’t already familiar, see the TechNet Windows XP SP3 forum for more information. And of course there’s the TechNet Windows XP TechCenter.
Looking back over my posts last month makes me want to hurl. Way too much marketing stuff and lacking in strong technical content.
Ok, take some IT Pro cred points from me. In fact, make me take a day off. Dare me, double dare me. If it just happens to coincide with the release of Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter, trust me, it’s purely coincidence.
Back to the original subject, I promise that for the months of March, April, May, June and beyond, I’ll focus more on killer screencasts and less on marketing fluff.
We’ll do current and future products. Since we have Security as the focus of our live seminars in the April-June time-frame, I’ll do a couple of things around that. Everyone wants to do Windows Vista and I plan to tackle a couple of complex issues there. I also plan to do some DNS and DHCP stuff. As many times as I do a webcast on the subject, it always amazes me how much demand there is for training and information on those subjects.
So if you want fluffy marketing stuff for the next few months, sorry, look elsewhere. I’ll still post stuff about Vista, Exchange 12, Office 2007 and Longhorn server, but I’ll throttle my coverage since it seems there are plenty of other folks doing those type of posts anyway.
I am currently working on a really long set of documentation. It’s an internal doc on how to create a blog, create blog posts, create audio and video for pod and screencasting, tools, techniques and publishing methods. I am far from being an expert, but it’s time to get what I’ve learned on paper so it can be leveraged inside Microsoft. Hopefully I’ll get it wrapped up pretty soon. As I write it, the scope keeps expanding. Scope creep. I hate that…
This morning at the Microsoft Management Summit we demonstrated a number of new technologies we’ve had under wraps for a while. See the press release for more information on Bob Muglia’s keynote. One of the products I really dig is System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008. No, that wasn’t a typo. SCVMM 2008 was demonstrated on stage and is now available for download through http://connect.microsoft.com. Once there, go to the Connection Directory then the Business Solutions area. Of course you could just try clicking the screenshot below. That might work as well. Hint hint.
Here’s a screenshot of the connect site and the beta download of SCVMM 2008. As you can see, you can go sign up and start downloading the bits right now. The sign up process is fast and painless. I know, highly unusual. Grin.
I’ll be doing some screencasts soon on the product. It looks like the product group is going to let me use their demo system so I’ll likely do a multi-part screencast series to show all the in and outs to managing Hyper-V and ESX. Should be fun.
Why do you care about this product?
There are lots of reasons, but there are a couple of key reasons. First, SCVMM 2008 will allow you to manage virtualization workloads running on Windows Server 2008 with the Hyper-V role. And of course the most requested feature is the ability to manage VMWare ESX server virtual machines.
Here are the Top 10 Features :
Other links and references
http://connect.microsoft.com for the SCVMM 2008 Beta.
http://forums.microsoft.com/TechNet/ShowForum.aspx?siteid=17&ForumID=1825&SiteID=17 for the TechNet forum area.
http://www.microsoft.com/systemcenter/scvmm/default.mspx for the product website.
http://www.microsoft.com/virtualization/default.mspx for the Microsoft Virtualization website.
http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/events/mgmtsummit/default.mspx for the MMS 2008 “Virtual” press room.
Windows 7 sure got the attention of a lot of you this week, but let’s not forget big brother, Windows Server 2008 R2 also shipped the release candidate. Considering Hyper-V is a core tool for me and many of you, I was eager to download and install the RC bits on my Lenovo ThinkPad T61p.
The good news is that many of the core drivers you’ll want, install directly from the Windows Server 2008 R2 RC DVD. These drivers are known as “inbox” drivers. A couple of drivers will also flow off the update.microsoft.com servers.
There is one notable exception. The video driver doesn’t install from the DVD and doesn’t flow off the update.microsoft.com servers. That was a little disappointing because it means you have to do some work to get all of the eye candy. Heck, even if you have no plans to turn on Aero, you’ll still want the video driver for multimon support. With all of that in mind, here are the steps I went through in order to establish my new Hyper-V v2.0 demo environment:
Some of you will likely want to install the other banged out drivers and try to make Windows Server 2008 R2 your daily workstation environment. I have no intention of doing that. I use Windows 7 Ultimate or Enterprise for that. Enjoy your new Hyper-V virtual machine execution environment!!!
Now that we're starting to open the floodgates to the masses, one thing that will likely become apparent is that there are some subtle user interface changes. For those of you that like to click the Windows Pearl (also known as the Start button), then click Search, you are in for a little surprise.
As you can see to in the screenshot at right, the Search menu item is missing in action. Why?
Well, for the gory details, you'll want to review the KB article at http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx/kb/941946 and some of the developer documentation at http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb776808.aspx.
From the KB, here are some of the changes to the user interface for Windows Vista SP1.
This update also sets many of the general search entry points in Windows Vista to use the new search protocol. The new search protocol calls the default desktop search application. These search entry points include the following:
Many of you have asked for a script we use in the TechNet ISA Server 2004 Technical Overview (TNT1–111) webcast. The blockwebsites.vbs script creates a ISA firewall access rule and builds a list of websites that will be blocked.
This script is obviously useful for a number of reasons. First, it could be used quite immediately to block websites you deem inappropriate to your companies day to day business. Second, it is a good example of how to use a script and create a rule inside ISA Server 2004.
The following set of code is very similar to the script we run in the demos you saw during my webcast. This sample is taken directly from the ISA Server 2004 CD so I would recommend reviewing the other samples that are there. Enjoy!!!
''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''' Copyright (c) Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.' THIS CODE IS MADE AVAILABLE AS IS, WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND. THE ENTIRE ' RISK OF THE USE OR THE RESULTS FROM THE USE OF THIS CODE REMAINS WITH THE ' USER. USE AND REDISTRIBUTION OF THIS CODE, WITH OR WITHOUT MODIFICATION, IS ' HEREBY PERMITTED.''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''
''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''' This script creates a new URL set in the URLSets collection of the firewall,' adds sites to the URL set, creates a new access rule, and adds the new URL set' to the objects referenced in the URLSets property of the access rule.''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''
' Define enumeration values. const fpcInclude = 0 const fpcSpecifiedProtocols = 1
' Create the root obect. Dim root ' The FPCLib.FPC root object Set root = CreateObject("FPC.Root")
'Declare the other objects needed. Dim firewall ' An FPCArray object Dim policyrules ' An FPCPolicyRules collection Dim urlsets ' An FPCURLSets colection Dim urlset ' An FPCURLSet object Dim newrule ' An FPCPolicyRule object
' Get references to the array object (firewall), the policy rules collection, ' and the URL sets collection. Set firewall = root.GetContainingArray Set policyrules = firewall.ArrayPolicy.PolicyRules Set urlsets = firewall.RuleElements.URLSets
WScript.Echo "Creating a new URL set containing sites to be blocked ..."
Set urlset = urlsets.Add("Blocked Web Sites") urlset.Add "http://www.northwindtraders.com" urlset.Add "http://www.widgets.com" urlset.Save
WScript.Echo "Creating a new access rule ..." Set newrule = policyrules.AddAccessRule("Deny Access to Some Web Sites")
' Define the source for the new access rule. newrule.SourceSelectionIPs.Networks.Add "External", fpcInclude
' Add the new destination URL set to the objects referenced by the URLSets property ' of the new access rule. newrule.AccessProperties.URLSets.Add "Blocked Web Sites", fpcInclude
'Set the protocols to HTTP and HTTPS. newrule.AccessProperties.SpecifiedProtocols.Add "HTTP", fpcInclude newrule.AccessProperties.SpecifiedProtocols.Add "HTTPS", fpcInclude newrule.AccessProperties.ProtocolSelectionMethod = fpcSpecifiedProtocols
' Set the user set to which the rule applies. newrule.AccessProperties.UserSets.Add "All Users", fpcInclude
'Save the changes to the new access rule. policyrules.Save WScript.Echo "Done!"