Get Vista Express Upgrade on Your Next PC

You can receive an Express Upgrade to Windows Vista when you buy a qualifying PC running Windows XP Media Center Edition, Windows XP Tablet PC Edition, or Windows XP Professional. 

If you’re in the market for a new computer, be sure to ask your retailer about the Express Upgrade to Windows Vista, being offered by participating PC manufacturers. When you buy a qualifying Windows Vista Capable PC between Thursday October 26, 2006 and Thursday March 15, 2007, you may be eligible for an Express Upgrade to Windows Vista.

Express Upgrade to Windows Vista offers from participating PC manufacturers include:

Note: Several of the manufacturers have only ‘coming soon’ pages since this program just launched this week, so check back often. Price, terms, and conditions may vary. Additional shipping, handling, and other fees may apply. See your PC manufacturer for availability and applicable offer details.

Source:  Microsoft Express Upgrade to Windows Vista

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Webcast – Managed Services Practice – Part 3

Webcast: The Recipe to Build a Successful Managed Services Practice from Scratch – Part 3 
Powered by: TS2 Wed on the Web 
Date: Wednesday November 29, 2006
Presenters: Ron Grattopp & Erick Simpson
Event Time: 3:00 PM Eastern, USA & Canada (DST) = GMT -05:00
Duration: 60 minutes

Registration URL:
Description:  This is a follow-up to Erick’s June 30th and August 18th Managed Services Webcasts. This Seminar will focus on pricing, marketing and selling your Managed Services Deliverables, and will include a discussion of different pricing models and sales and marketing strategies. We will feature a live Q&A with Erick, which we did not have time for in the first Webcast.

Recipe to build a Successful Managed Services Practice from Scratch – Part 1:

and Recipe to build a Successful Managed Services Practice from Scratch – Part 2:

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SMS Link for Microsoft Outlook 2007

SMS Link is definitely one of the coolest feature I’ve seen in Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 so far.

With SMS Link, now you can set rules in Outlook 2007 that will forward important e-mails, tasks, ect. right to your cell phone via SMS text messages. You can also send SMS messages to other people from Outlook, even if you don’t know who their mobile carrier is.

Check out the Shockwave video demo of SMS Link for details.  The video is a quick download, and it gives an excellent overview of the capabilities of SMS Link. 

Once you’re done with the video, click the Getting Started link. They have a nice FAQ too.

Note:  SMS Link is a free download and a free service, but remember that not everyone has free incoming SMS text messsaging.  So be sure and touch base with your addressee before you run up their mobile phone bill.


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Alienware Celebrates 10 Years

Sure, Acer has their Ferrari notebook and ASUS has their Lamborghini laptop, and both are pretty cool. 

But if you really need the fastest PC in the universe, any geek will tell you that there’s only one place to go…


They are big, they are bad, and they totally & completely rock!  And we’re not just talking desktops. The notebooks kill too.  Mark Mulvany has one and I’m totally jealous! 

So, you don’t really need$4,499 Assassin notebook rig with a 400 GB hard drive and a 19″ display?  That’s OK. They’ve got Core2 Duo notebooks too that start around $999.  And they’ll spank a MacBook Pro any day of the week. 

And here’s the cool part – for their 10-year Anniversary, Alienware is having 10 sales in 10 days

IMPORTANT – Each sale ends at 12:00 Noon Eastern (USA GMT -5).  So jump on over there before you miss out!!

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Outlook 2007 RAM Issues

I was experiencing the joys of IE7 tonight (multiple 404 errors trying to enter Passport sites after XP SP2 resumes from Standby Mode) and decided to give up and reboot.  After the reboot I hit to Ctrl-Alt-Delete and launched the Task Manager to watch the show.

So as I sit patiently watching, my 1.5 GB of RAM gets slowly eaten by the loading applications: Anti-Virus, MSN Messenger, ZoneAlarm & FolderShare, etc. And when the hard drive activity stops, I launch Outlook 2007 B2TR. 

Little-by-little, the RAM usage climbs slowly as Outlook 2007 connects to RPC over HTTPS, syncs with SBS, and then continues to climb as Outlook updates the RSS feeds.  Eventually, RAM usage for Outlook peaks at 110 MB (pictured below).   

But 110,428 K of RAM usage isn’t the odd part.  A few minutes later, Outlook 2007 drops down to 15 MB of RAM.  It stays there for 2 minutes, and then climbs back up to 49 MB and sits happily ever after (even as I type this). 

So my question is, ‘How in the world did Outlook go down to 15 MB of RAM, and why?’  As you can see from the screen shot above, even MSN Messenger uses 15 MB.  This isn’t one of the great mysteries of life – just a curious observation to which I haven’t been able to Google an answer.

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Internet Explorer 7 Available for Download

IE7 is finally out of Beta.  Like a lot of folks, I ran the Beta on test machines and have been waiting for the final version.  I took the plunge Friday and installed the final version of IE7 on my main production machine, and so far, it works great!

Tabbed browsing (as in Firefox) is sweet.  And I love the ability to simultaneously open multiple ‘home’ pages at the start of the day (http://companyweb, the blog, etc.).

The search box in the top right rocks.  All good things aside, there is still one ‘weirdism’ that has persisted.  IE7 still renders WordPress pages odd at times, specifically; bullets don’t show up half the time, if you need assistance to get this in your business network you first have to start by hiring an IT expert an a service similar to this UK Business broadband provider .  It does this on XP & Vista, but it’s only a minor annoyance.  Anyway, here’s the low-down:

Minimum Requirements:

  • Processor – 233 MHz or faster (Pentium recommended)
  • OS – Windows XP with Service Pack 2 (SP2) (32 or 64-bit)
    or Windows Server 2003 with Service Pack 1 (SP1)
  • RAM – 87 MB (for IE, 168-218 for 64-bit systems)
  • Display – Super VGA 800×600 x 256 colors

(Nope, no Windows 98, ME or XP SP1 support because they are dead).

Download URLs:

Important Internet Explorer 7 info for the SBS space:

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Vista Step-by-Step Guides for IT Pros

Windows Vista logoMicrosoft has released 15 ‘Step-by-Step Guides for IT Professionals‘ to assist in deploying or migrating to Windows Vista.  Each whitepaper is available as an individual download in Microsoft Word 2003 .doc format, and WGA is not required to access the downloads.

Date Published: 9/11/2006
Document Format:  Microsoft Word
Download Size: 118 – 748 KB, or 4.1 MB for all 15
Download URL: Click here

  • Deploying Vista (19 pages, 195 KB) 
  • Managing Group Policy ADMX Files (13 pages, 150 KB) 
  • Managing Roaming User Data Deployment Guide (39 pages, 414 KB) 
  • Performance Monitoring and Tuning (23 pages, 209 KB) 
  • Print Management (25 pages, 260 KB) 
  • Controlling Device Installation and Usage with Group Policy (49 pages, 640 KB) 
  • Device Driver Signing and Staging (44 pages, 748 KB) 
  • Managing Multiple Local Group Policy (24 pages, 274 KB  
  • User Account Control (11 pages, 146 KB)  
  • Windows BitLocker Drive Encryption (16 pages, 169 KB)  
  • Windows Vista Beta 2 Migration (14 pages, 152 KB)  
  • Windows Vista Beta 2 Trusted Platform Module Services (14 pages, 157 KB)  
  • Windows Vista Multilingual User Interface (14 pages, 158 KB)  
  • Windows Vista Speech Recognition (9 pages, 118 KB) 
  • Windows Vista Windows Meeting Space (44 pages, 388 KB)


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Gone In 6,000 Seconds

Question:  What do you do when Vista RC2 (2.5 GB) is taking over 10 hours to download?

Answer: Download the ISO from an international server instead of a USA server and be done in about 90 minutes.

  • Log in to your account
  • Navigate to the desired ISO and click on the download link
  • When the Microsoft File Transfer Manager opens, click Options
  • Change your local language to something other than English (for example, German), click OK
  • Close the Microsoft FTM and confirm that you want to abort the transfer
  • Now, click on the download link again, and this time the Microsoft FTM will launch in another language
  • Your download will proceed as normal but much faster if it’s the middle of the night in the country you’re downloading from
  • When your download is finished, switch the local language back to English (this is the tricky part since the buttons are no longer in English)
  • The next time you use the Microsoft FTM, your buttons will be back to normal

See, the “Windows Vista (v5744-16384) for X86 and X64 (English)” ISO on an international server is the same ISO that’s stored on the USA servers. And since it was 5:00 AM in Germany when I started my download, I’ll be done before Oliver even wakes up.

Danke schoen Olli! 😉

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Bittersweet October 2006 ActionPack Update

The Good News – Microsoft Action Pack Subscription (MAPS)I’m happy to see that SBS 2003 R2 has finally made it into the Microsoft Action Pack Subscription this month. 

The Bad News – It’s disappointing that moving forward Microsoft has chosen only include the Windows XP Professional upgrade instead of the full version of XP Professional. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m ABSOLUTELY in favor of fighting software piracy.  And the word on the street is that the move to only include upgrades instead of full versions of operating systems is designed to fight the bad guys pirating Windows.  Considering that Vista is just around the corner, it’s pretty smart to slip this in before the launch to avoid any more bad Vista press.  Unfortunately this wounds two birds with one stone – the pirates and the legitimate partners.

Now legitimate Partners who build their own PCs for internal use will have to purchase copies of XP Home for each box, and then upgrade them to Pro using the Action Pack.  So that’s up to an $870 investment ($87 per XP Home PC x 10 XP Pro upgrades in the Action Pack) that will a) tie up Partner capitol, b) trickle down to Microsoft in additional XP Home sales, and c) supposedly help curb piracy.

Who can get the Microsoft Action Pack in the first place?  According the Microsoft Partner website:

“The Microsoft Action Pack Subscription is available exclusively to consultants, value-added resellers, value-added providers, system integrators, developers, system builders, hosts, and service providers who are enrolled as Registered Members in the Microsoft Partner Program and who distribute or influence the acquisition of Microsoft software and Microsoft-based solutions by end customers.”

And where is it written online how Microsoft decides exactly what the “service providers… who distribute or influence the acquisition of Microsoft software” qualifications are?  Does a white shirt & black tie Geek Squad employee count?  Does a blue shirt Best Buy employee in the computer department?  What if they do consulting on the side?

My point is, this ham-handed move will immediately cost Microsoft Partners more money the next time they have a new hire, and it will ultimately cost Microsoft more money too.  How?  Ignoring the obvious open-source discussion, if Microsoft is serious about curbing MAPS piracy, after they shake out most of the ‘fakers’ with this move, the next step is they’re going to have to enforce those compliance audits that you agreed to when you signed up as a Microsoft Partner.  Remember those?  The ones saying that when you would document what you’ve done with the software and for 3 years afterwards they can come to your business with 48 hours notice and inspect you?  Unless of course they already thought you were pirating software, and then they didn’t need to give you any notice.  No?  Let me refresh your memory:

“Microsoft Partner Program Agreement

5.   Verifying compliance. You must keep all usual and proper books and records relating to your performance of this agreement.  This standard takes into account the accounting rules, regulations, authoritative pronouncements, principles and practices accepted in your jurisdiction.  At a minimum, you must keep documents related to acquisition, delivery and destruction of licensed software and hardware. You must keep these documents during the term, and for 3 years after this agreement ends. During this same period, our audit team may conduct audits of your applicable books, records, operations, processes and facilities during any selected period to verify your compliance with the terms of this agreement, as described further in the guide. Except for audits related to counterfeit software and hardware, we will give you 48 hours’ notice of the audit.  Audits related to counterfeit software and hardware do not require prior notice.  You will promptly correct any errors and omissions disclosed by the audits.  We reserve the right to validate all customer references supplied by you in accordance with the program requirements.

Any audit will be conducted during your normal business hours and in a manner that does not interfere unreasonably with your normal business activities. You will provide us with access to all applicable books, records, operations, processes and facilities that we may need to review to complete a proper and thorough audit. If an audit is conducted with notice, you will have all applicable books, records and operations available to us at the beginning of the audit. You will pay us the costs for the audit if an audit uncovers a terminable breach of this agreement as defined in section 8.3 or a discrepancy of 2% or more in your use of license benefits during the applicable audit period. If the audit team makes any commercially reasonable recommendations to you on record keeping, you will implement the recommendations within a mutually agreeable timeframe.”

Audits cost money, for everyone.  But does that mean that Microsoft won’t audit you.  Who knows?  But even if you, as a Partner, decide not to renew your Action Pack and you get that cease-and-desist letter, you’d better document removing that software and keep that documentation for 3 years.  Or if you do renew your Action Pack and decide to retire that home made Pentium III in the reception area, are you allowed to move that MAPS copy of XP Pro to a different box?  You’d better find out, and document it that too. 

Here’s a better idea – Instead of kneecapping the single biggest benefit Registered Partners have, how about raising the bar for becoming a Registered Partner? Or at least only getting the Action Pack if you are a SBSC or above?  Give the regular Registered Partners / Members 180-day demos so they can still learn the software and ultimately graduate to SBSC.  

Microsoft stock has been slowly climbing back from the nosedive it took in April on the earnings announcement.  And I know you guys have got to answer to the stock holders.  Squashing piracy + launching Vista + launching Office 2007 is the correct formula for raising share prices.  We all know that the MAPS move will only slow the pirates down – it won’t stop them.  So please don’t alienate the Partner Channel before your products have even left escrow. 

I want to close with a quote from Allison Watson at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2006:

“I talked to you about building a People-Ready Business, having the skills to deliver, having the right conversations, having compelling conversations, showing it off and building your partner network. But there’s something I haven’t hardly spoken about at all. And, you know it’s really, really, really important to driving our business next year. With the release of Microsoft Office and Microsoft [Windows] Vista, there’s over 600 million users of these products in our marketplaces today. How and who is going to be the first to show them the power of this technology? It will be us. It’s our imperative to become the first, best users of this technology.” – Allison Watson 

The Registered, SBSCs, Certified & Gold Partners are the sales force of those products. 

So Microsoft, please focus on weeding out the MAPS posers and the pirates, and leave the legitimate Partners alone.  We’ve got enough to deal with already without someone pulling tools out of the toolbox or driving up op-ex.  Raise the bar, put in full versions of operating systems, and put some hosted E-Learning certificates in the Action Pack now that you’ve killed MELL.  If you’d give us the tools and the training we need to do our job we’d really appreciate it, and so would your stockholders.

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XP SP1 Sunsets Next Week

On Tuesday October 10, 2006 (which is coincidentally Patch Tuesday) we’ll reach end of support for Windows XP Service Pack 1

If you’ve got any stragglers out there that haven’t installed XP Service Pack 2 yet – better get to it!

And this would be a good time to remind everyone that support for Windows 98 & Windows Me died back in July 2006.  So listen to Susan and kill those 98’s!

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