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Back from the Microsoft Parners Conference

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 21-Sep-2007 18:52

This week I attended the Microsoft Partner Conference (ConnectionNZ) in Auckland. Mind you I am no partner, but I was invited to speak about Windows Mobile 6 in one of the sessions, thus being granted access to the conference grounds and sessions.

Great work from Microsoft New Zealand organising the first of its partners' conference in the country. The Day One keynote with Michael Moore was really good. Michael is a former Prime Minister and previously a Director-General of the World Trade Organisation.

On Day One I attended the "Co-opetition and Interoperability" session (Brett Roberts) and spoke at "Everything You Need, Everywhere You Go - Welcome to Windows Mobile 6". After drinks I managed to catch a ride with a Geekzone reader to the Wireless and Broadband Forum monthly meeting. Antonios was in Auckland that day, so we ended up meeting for dinner.

On Day Two Rod Drury did a good job speaking about partnership and how Microsoft helped him and his team get his startups off the ground - including AfterMail and lately Xero.

I then managed to attend another two sessions ("How Innovation Drives Revenues" and "Event Marketing for your Business").

At lunch time I met Paul Brislen, External Communications Manager with Vodafone New Zealand, and then had just enough time to rush to the airport.

Leaving that afternoon means I missed the black tie dinner at the Auckland Museum (picture courtesy of Microsoft), where Provoke and Xero won Partner Solution of the Year and Software Solution of the Year respectively. Other winners include Axon, Kinetics, IGA Systems, Intergen, Auldhouse, Integral, Koorb.



Testing a Windows Home Server configuration

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 18-Sep-2007 11:20

Yesterday afternoon we had a nice surprise here: a box arrived from PC Gear with a Windows Home Server build, ready to review.

If I don't hear from anyone else I'd say this is the first New Zealand company building dedicated Windows Home Server machines.

It's a nice box, with an ASUS P5S-MX SE motherboard, running an Intel Pentium Dual Core Processor. I don't know the exact memory and disc configuration yet, because I am right now packing and leaving to the airport - I will be back in a couple of days and then put this machine through testing.

I have now a copy of PerformanceTest 6.1 that I am using to test a Lexar SSD Express Card and will use to test this Windows Home Server too. Stay tuned!



Why Peter Gutmann is wrong about Windows Vista DRM

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 17-Sep-2007 16:15

Ed Bott is writing a series of articles to debunk New Zealand Reseearcher Peter Gutman for ZD Net:


Last month, I wrote about the FUD surrounding Windows Vista and DRM. The FUDmaster is Peter Gutmann, a New Zealand researcher who wrote a paper last December that made a series of outrageous and inflammatory claims about Windows Vista. Since then, Gutmann has expanded the paper to more than four times its original size. The current version available on Gutmann’s website clocks in at more than 26,000 words, making it longer than some recent works of fiction.

And length isn’t the only thing Gutmann’s paper has in common with the average pulp novel. Gutmann’s work is riddled with factual errors, mistaken assumptions and unproven assertions, distortions, contradictions, misquotes, and outright untruths. In short, it’s a work of fiction all on its own.

Gutmann is a clever writer, and he’s able to string together nouns, verbs, technical terms,and acronyms in ways that sound persuasive. In this three-part series (look for Parts 2 and 3 later this week), I’m going to dig deep into Gutmann’s work and show you just where he got it wrong.

I’ve been working on this story for months. Part of the problem is that Gutmann’s paper is a rambling, sloppy, disorganized mess, and nine months of additions have made it even more difficult to pick out the serious arguments from the scare stories and snark. Gutmann’s favorite technique is to string together anecdotes he’s plucked from magazines and websites, juxtapose those stories with sentences from presentations by Microsoft engineers and developers, and then speculate on the implications, often with wildly incorrect results. And worst of all, Gutmann appears to believe everything he reads—as long as he can fit it into his anti-Microsoft world view.

The other part of the problem is Gutmann’s lack of hands-on experience with modern consumer electronics gear and with Windows Vista itself, which shows in nearly every sentence he writes. I’ve done extensive hands-on testing and have personally seen Vista do things that Gutmann says are impossible. Rather than write 26,000 words of my own, I’m going to pick out more than a dozen substantive errors in Gutmann’s piece and explain why they’re wrong.



Peter is a "Professional Paranoid" as he describes himself on his page. You can read Peter's paper "A Cost Analysis of Windows Vista Content Protection" on-line for more information on his theories.



Managing disc space on Windows Home Server

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 3-Sep-2007 18:04

One of the most interesting features of Windows Home Server is how easy it is to add storage, move files from one drive to another and then pull out the drive you want to replace.

The Simpletech 250GB external drive I have here is very noisy, so I got a Seagate 500GB to replace it. I plugged the new drive in and I can now click "Remove" to take the 250GB drive out of the pool. The 1TB disc you see in the screenshot is a Maxtor OneTouch 1TB external drive.

As it is now, my Windows Home Server is currently managing 1.7 TB (terabytes) of disc space, soon to be reduced to 1.5 TB.

Any file on the 250GB drive will be relocated to the other storage, and when the drive is empty I get a message telling me it's ok to remove it. Since it is a USB drive I can do this with the server running - I added the 500GB with the server up and didn't have to stop to add it to the pool.



Windows Home Server works by creating a 20 GB system partition on your primary drive, and the rest of the disc is used to store files. If you have more than one drive, the other drives can be used for storage and you can enable "duplication" for shared folders.

Duplication ensures files are copied to different drives so that you have a copy in the case of a disc drive fault affecting one of the units. It's almost like mirroring, but it's at folder level.

When a file is copied to the server it will land into the data partition on your primary drive, and over time it will be moved out to make space for new files. After being moved out a special pointer ("tombstone") is created in the data partition, pointing to the actual file in the storage pool.

The "balancing" operation moves the files out of the data partition into the pool and makes sure duplication is happening.

Of course you don't have to know this at all. You just have to use it, set duplication for some folders and the rest is automatic.



Windows Vista Service Pack 1: what is and what is not

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 30-Aug-2007 09:20

With the official announcement of Windows Vista Service Pack 1, a lot of people will need to answer some questions from friends, staff, managers: What is it? What is not? How we deploy it?

First Windows Vista Service Pack 1 will not be available until sometime in Q1 2008. A small beta group will be able to test this release soon.

Windows Vista SP1 will address specific reliability and performance issues, support new hardware and support several emerging standards. The company says however that organisations can benefit from the security, management and deployment benefits of Windows Vista today without waiting for Windows Vista SP1.

The plans are to deliver the first Service Pack for Windows Vista in Q1 of the 2008 calendar year, but a beta programme will collect customer feedback before setting a final date. The SP1 beta will be released to approximately 10-15,000 private beta testers in a few weeks.


For users in general that are interested in finding out more about this release, I suggest reading the Windows Vista SP1 Beta White Paper.



Windows Vista Update for users of 3G cards

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 29-Aug-2007 20:16

The article KB940646 doesn't explain if this affects some cards, all cards, built-in cards, or what, but it's worth trying the update:


Symptoms:
You use a 3G wireless wide area network (WWAN) data card on a Windows Vista-based computer. The WWAN data card uses a connection that only receives data. However, you may find that the throughput is much less than the throughput of the same 3G WWAN data card when you use it on a Microsoft Windows XP-based computer.

Cause:
This problem occurs because of the way that TCP receive window auto tuning is used in Windows Vista for connections that only receive data.

Windows Vista obtains a round-trip time (RTT) estimate at the time of connection setup and every time that a new segment of data that is transmitted. A connection that only receives data is limited to the single RTT sample that is obtained at the time of connection setup. Because the connection only receives data, the connection cannot "converge" to the actual RTT of the connection. For example, because the RTT data may fluctuate for various reasons, a "converge" operation is performed to estimate a meaningful RTT by using blending current and previous RTT data. However, if the connection cannot converge to the actual RTT of the connection, the bandwidth delay product (BDP) estimate that Vista obtains is also incorrect. Therefore, the connection's receive window is limited, and throughput of the connected transmission network is reduced.




Windows Home Server: can you write something without experiencing it?

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 28-Aug-2007 17:06

I have been posting here about my experiences with Windows Home Server. I know it's a a bit different from what some "consumer" level users will experience themselves because I have actually installed the OS form scratch on my own hardware, testing some configurations, performance, storage options, etc.

I believe most users will actually purchase a turn-key solution, a box ready to go from some partners, such as HP (pictured) and others.

But then you read some "expert" blogger comments such as this, and you have to really start thinking where this comes from:


On August 27, 2007, Windows Home Server is supposed to be released, and I'm in no hurry at all to buy it. I think there is no purpose for it! Who is really going to spend money on buying a new computer and operating system, just so they can share their files with other people? Home Server is said to cost around $500!



Wow! $500 is cheaper than some NAS devices. And it's not only for sharing files with other people. It's for home LAN management and maintenance, automatic backup with mirroring, easy restore tools, media distribution and more.

But if you keep reading it's clear he doesn't know it:


Before you go bashing me, just remember – I have not tried Home Server, and not many people have!

What I just said could be completely wrong! Home Server could be a huge breakthrough in technology, for all I know! I just think it's too expensive and too limited to Windows XP and Vista.



So you have not tried it and issue an expert opinion anyway?



Windows Home Server arrived!

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 27-Aug-2007 08:26

Great Monday morning here... I just received my Microsoft Windows Home Server pack and I will be installing this really soon, replacing the beta version on my previous install.

Why I am so excited? Because Windows Home Server is really different from everything else in the Windows world we've seen before - it's easy to use, it's server grade software, it's an important element in an easy-to-use backup and recovery setup, it can automatically mirror your data across attached drives, and lots more.

Note that I didn't say "it's easy to install"... It's really is, but I see it coming ready to use in bundles with special server hardware, tested and certified. Users who can install any Windows version can install Windows Home Server, but this will be for more "geek" types. Consumers in general will be happy with the option to get a turn key solution - which have been already announced by HP and others.

I currently have a test setup running as a virtual machine, with SlimServer providing streaming services to my Squeezebox and a couple of plugins installed (see my previous post).

Currently Windows Home Server is only available in New Zealand and Australia, but it should be available in the U.S. from next week sometime.









Microsoft take note: your customer services people don't know what's going on

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 26-Aug-2007 09:26

It appears the Windows Validation server was FUBAR for a while... As it is expected when a single point of failure, well, fails, you would have people screaming - even more if this failed component labels you as a pirate and it's an essential part of the software distribution model a company implements:



This is not the tip of the iceberg. One of our Geekzone users contacted Microsoft Activation phone line, and the customer (dis)service representative instead of providing the correct information about the validation servers having a server problem, decided to call the user a pirate, and disconnected the call.

Way to go with customer services Microsoft...

UPDATE: Microsoft admits there were problems with its WGA server (validation) and it should be working again. No word on what's gone wrong.


We've been receiving reports on our forum and through customer service starting last night that Windows Vista validations have been failing on genuine systems. It looks now as though the issue has been resolved and validations are being processed successfully.

Customers who received an incorrect validation response can fix their system by revalidating on our site (http://www.microsoft.com/genuine). We encourage anyone who received a validation failure since Friday evening to do this now. After successfully revalidating any affected system should be rebooted to ensure the genuine-only features are restored.


Now, I really, really think customer services people who fail the "services" part should get the boot. Or retraining under fire.

Bad service is the worst thing in any industry.

UPDATE: I have just received an e-mail from Microsoft New Zealand, copying the user in question. Microsoft apologised by this incident, and agrees this should not be the way the customer service handled the call - even more because it was a worldwide meltdown in the company's own WGA servers.

UPDATE:
This is an update on what happened durig the meltdown.



Windows Home Server and Squeezebox

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 24-Aug-2007 11:47

I have been running Windows Home Server for a while now, currently as a virtual machine, alongside other three virtual machines on the same desktop box I have here.

Now that Windows Home Server is available here in New Zealand and Australia (the rest of the world needs to wait!) and seeing it doesn't look like it will be making into MSDN subscriptions anytime soon, I decided to buy a copy now, and should have it here tomorrow morning.

The plan is to install Windows Home Server as the host OS, and keep running Windows Virtual Server on it, plus a couple of really cool plugins I found through wegotserved.co.uk.

This will reduce the number of virtual machines on this hardware by one, freeing up 1 GB RAM (out of a total 2.5 GB on this host), which will be enough to run the Windows Home Server as host. The host has an internal 160 GB SATA drive, plus two external drives for a total of 1.45 TB storage, so this should be enough.

I currently run Hamachi Premium on my Windows Home Server, which means I am always in my home LAN, regardless of where I am connected to the Internet.

As part of this master plan I am also getting a Logitech Squeezebox. I have tested the SlimServer software and it works really well under Windows Home Server, and the SoftSqueeze emulator played all my music content and radio, so adding the Squeezebox to the network is not going to be a problem.

Windows Home Server is a great home LAN solution, allowing you to automatically backup your PCs, and keep the content safe by automatically "balancing" the content between your drives. Adding or removing more disc space is easy, and all the "magic" mirroring happens behind the scenes.

Some of the plugins I have installed are the Add Website and Whiist.

If you haven't seen Windows Home Server yet, here are some screenshots:









freitasm's profile

Mauricio Freitas
Wellington
New Zealand


I live in New Zealand and my interests include mobile devices, good books, movies and food of course! 

I'm the Geekzone admin. On Geekzone we publish news, reviews and articles on technology topics. The site also has some busy forums. Also worth visiting is TravelTalk NZ, a community for travelers!

Subscribe now to my blog RSS feed or the Geekzone RSS feed.

If you want to contact me, please use this page or email me freitasm@geekzone.co.nz. Note this email is not for technical support. I don't give technical support. You can use our Geekzone Forums for community discussions on technical issues.

Here's is my full disclosure post.

A couple of blog posts you should read:

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