Thursday, January 29, 2009

Jeff Beck

I just got back home from seeing Jeff Beck at the Brisbane Convex this evening. Wow. I'm not the world's biggest Jeff Beck fan, but I know a bit of his stuff and certainly appreciate his talent. He definitely surrounds himself with great musicians for this tour - Vinnie Colaiuta - (drums), Tal Wilkenfeld - (bass) and David Sancious - (keyboards).

Tal is a 23 year old bass player from Sydney. For a 23 year old, I was seriously impressed. Hell, for a 43 year old I would have been seriously impressed. She's definitely got the feel of a bass player with years more experience than she can possibly have!

As for the mix, well, I hope their sound engineer improves quickly - it wasn't great. I'll leave it at that. Actually, no - it was pretty bad. I'll leave it at that.

If you're a Jeff Beck fan, do yourself a favor and go and see him and his band - you're unlikely to get the chance in Australia ever again!


The Outspoken Wookie

Storage Technologies

Before I lose this link *again* I thought I'd blog it. IOMAX in Australia resells the Fusion-io SSD storage devices. The pricing is in the "oh, wow!" range, but they are rather snappy.

Samsung has made their 256 GB MLC SSD device available for sale finally. But to large OEMs only, unfortunately. They are going for about US$1k. That's not bad for an SSD that reads at 220 MB/ses sustained and writes sequential data at around 200 MB/sec sustained. I'm just waiting for them to become available at prices (and sizes) that will compete with tape drives, allowing us to finally replace tapes with a better, faster medium. Hard drives will never achieve those goals.

Speaking of hard drives, Seagate has had some *serious* issues with their 1 TB drives recently - crappy firmware. They released an even crappier firmware to replace it and then pulled that from the site. It appears as though they have released an update that they are comfortable for people to download now. There are also updated firmwares for other model drives available from that page.

Western Digital have released their WD20EADS 2.0 TB "Green" hard drive. It has a variable spindle speed, however despite this, it appears as though it can actually outrun the Samsung Spinpoint F1 1 TB drive which is quite impressive as that was the fastest of the 7200 rpm SATA 3.0 Gbps drives on the market. According to Hot Hardware, HD Tach shows an average read speed of 90MB/s and average writes at 80MB/s.

The joys of progress! :)


The Outspoken Wookie


I wonder if this guy just wants to be sure he doesn't miss out on one of these?

I have to admit, I *love* the link next to "©2009 Google". :)


The Outspoken Wookie

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Superbar Is Superhandy

Another thing I like about the new Superbar in Windows 7 is that if you're copying files and/or downloading files, the Superbar icon shows the progress. As you can see from the image below, I'm downloading stuff using MS Internet Explorer (out of choice, thanks, though the EU thinks that they know what I want better than I do) and also copying some files using Windows Explorer (again, out of choice) and you can see the progress as a green transparent progress bar placed over the Internet Explorer and Windows Explorer icons.



The Outspoken Wookie

Friday, January 23, 2009


It seems that anyone can Patent anything these days, especially in America. I'm sure someone will patent walking upright one day. Or breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. Or sharpening the edge of a piece of metal and using it to cut things.

So, here's another idea. You can't create nor destroy matter - that we all know - but you can convert between matter and different forms of energy. Well, as we all know, dark chocolate (which is not related to dark matter) is considered to be an energy food, not to mention it increases blood flow to the brain, increasing alertness and performance of certain tasks.


As we're producing more and more powerful computers which use more and more electricity, turning this energy into useful work (such as adding two binary numbers together) and wasted energy (as heat), why don't we build CPUs that convert electricity into useful work plus waste dark chocolate? There's a few benefits to this - it will decrease Global Warming (less heat, less warming) and it will give us a waste product that is directly usable that, as a bonus, increases our alertness, meaning we're less likely to vague out during our work times *and* the drive home - we'll be more productive, and it will reduce overall electricity consumption (no need for CPU fans as they are no longer getting hot, therefore we also need less air conditioning in the office).


The Outspoken Wookie

Microsoft To Cut 5000 Jobs

According to Microsoft's Q2 Earnings release:
Microsoft will eliminate up to 5,000 jobs in R&D, marketing, sales, finance, legal, HR, and IT over the next 18 months, including 1,400 jobs today. These initiatives will reduce the company’s annual operating expense run rate by approximately $1.5 billion and reduce fiscal year 2009 capital expenditures by $700 million.

Microsoft's Steve Ballmer stated that:
While we are not immune to the effects of the economy, I am confident in the strength of our product portfolio and soundness of our approach

I'm quite sure that the stupidity he brought to the company - the chasing of everyone else's tail lights instead of being a leader in the industry, the "we're a marketing company, not a software company" view that Steve Ballmer is trying to force onto Microsoft and the continual harassment of Yahoo with bigger and bigger offers for a company who has really had their day (oh, that's right, Microsoft wants them for their advertising potential and email boxes) - well, I know who's name I'd be placing at the top of the "Sorry, we've made some shocking decisions of late and we need to lay people off so we can afford to correct these errors" list.

Next would be a great many of the PAMs - they are contractors, not employees, however removing funding for the seemingly large number of below-par PAMs would save Microsoft a lot of cash, allow them to pay those who do a good job enough to remain on for a subsequent contract, and maybe generate better Microsoft/Partner feelings which are probably at an all time low right now, and therefore generate Microsoft more income by having satisfied Partners who are willing to fight for them in the marketplace.

At this point, they could probably take a step back and not need to fire anyone else because their profits would be growing!


The Outspoken Wookie

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

SBS 2008 Update Rollup 1

SBS 2008 Update Rollup 1 has been released which addresses 2 major issues:

Issue 1
The Security tab in the Windows Small Business Server 2008 Console incorrectly reports the spyware and malware status of Windows Vista Service Pack 1-based clients that are joined to a domain. Specifically, some security applications are reported as incompatible in the antivirus and malware status that is reported.

Issue 2
The Internet Address Management Wizard exits unexpectedly when you register a domain name. This issue occurs when you select as the provider, and then you click Register Now.

(Thanks to The Official SBS Blog for this heads up.)


The Outspoken Wookie

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Windows 70s

I thought this was funny. The Microsoft Connect Windows 7 Beta Testers were sent a link to a survey on Friday (Australian time) that contained the following questions:

I'm sure most of us answered this as "Extremely important". :)


The Outspoken Wookie

Windows 7 Firewall - Outbound Blocking

I was lead to believe that Microsoft has been designing their latest releases with a "Secure by Design, Secure by Default" process. Apparently this has not been mentioned to the Windows Firewall team. In Windows Vista, I blogged here about the poor choice of defaults that the Windows firewall employs. I also blogged here about the other poor choice of defaults - disabled logging.

So, with this now being 2008/2009, why does Windows 7 come with the same insecure defaults? Both outbound access and logging are configured, by default, in their least secure possible modes.


The Outspoken Wookie

Friday, January 16, 2009

Windows 7 Natively Boots VHD Files

OK, before I head out and do some real work, I thought I'd post this. Windows 7 can boot from a VHD. Sure, this is fairly common knowledge, but what real benefit is this to us when testing and/or deploying Windows 7?

Well, if you have downloaded both the x86 and x64 versions of Windows 7 and don't want to have to have multiple partitions (or disks) for booting these different versions of Windows 7, you can simply create a VHD, mount it, then get Windows 7 to install into it and there's your multi-boot system off a single hard drive without a multitude of OS partitions! Now, that's handy! :)

OK, I'll not repeat everything in here that is already on the web, but refer to other blogs and web-based information where appropriate. If you can create a VHD using Virtual Server or Hyper-V, then go ahead and create one, making it at least 40 GB in size - it *can* be a dynamic disk, but a fixed size will be faster. For the sake of doing this in a test environment, dynamic disks will save a fair bit of disk space. So they will do for a bit of testing, though I'd not recommend them for a production system.

If you already have Windows 7 installed and no other Virtualization platform available to create a VHD, then perform the following steps to create a dynamically expandable VHD file that is expandable to 40 GB which will contain out boot image of Windows 7 x64 Ultimate Beta 1:

Open a "cmd" prompt and type diskpart which will ask for elevation.
DISKPART> create vdisk file=c:\Win7x64.vhd type=expandable maximum=40960

You now have a small (82 MB) file that will expand up to 40 GB which will contain the x64 version of Windows 7. Now, insert the Windows 7 Ultimate Beta 1 x64 DVD into the drive and reboot the computer. When you come to the point of choosing your language, this is where we need to mount this VHD file and then install Windows 7 into it. Press Shift+F10 to open a cmd prompt.

Now, to save repeating what's already a decent step-by-step from this point, have a read of Adrian Kingsley-Hughes' ZDNet blog entry. Sure, there's a few other things that we could do and a few different ways of achieving this, but he's covered enough to get this all running!

What you'll end up with is an install of Windows 7 on hardware - the install you use for daily testing, and in addition to this, you can now have multiple installs of Windows 7 on a dingle drive, in a single partition, that all reside in their own VHD files. One thing to note - if you *do* boot Windows 7 from inside a VHD, you will not be able to hibernate the machine.


The Outspoken Wookie

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Windows 7 Superbar

OK, I'm a little confused by how many people are unable to see the differences between non-running apps, running apps and apps running multiple instances when using the new Superbar in Windows 7.

If you look at the image above, there is an item (Media Player) that clearly has no box around it - that' because it is a shortcut and isn't running. There are items with a box around them (Internet Explorer, Windows Explorer, Pidgin, Mozilla Thunderbird and Outlook) because they are currently running. There's an item (Pidgin) with what looks like 2 stacked boxes - because it has 2 windows open and there's even an item (Internet Explorer) with multiple stacked boxes because it has multiple instances (in this case, both tabs and individual instances) running.

All it takes is a nanosecond to look and see what state the application and/or shortcut is in. I cannot understand why this is so hard for so many people to work out!

And how does a user perceive the shortcuts/icons/whatever? They want to access some program and they click on it - if it was running, it is brought to the front, if it wasn't running it is instantiated and brought to the front - and don't (generally) care what it was previously doing. Nor should they. And the way the icons are handled in the new Superbar makes it really easy and clear to see what state they are in. I cann't honestly see why people find this so hard to comprehend. Maybe they just don't like change, even when it is definitely a change for the better.


The Outspoken Wookie

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

New Windows 7 Gestures

I just found an interesting new gesture in Windows 7 which I think could be rather handy at times, especially with touch screens. If you've got a bunch of windows open on your desktop (like pretty much anyone does all of the time) and you want to clear the crud out of the way so you can concentrate on one window, grab its title bar and shake it around. Woot - it minimizes all other windows. To restore them all again, just shake this window again! Nice, eh? Let's do the "Aero Shake"! :)

A couple of other gestures, while I'm at it, that could be handy are the "maximize" which is performed by dragging the window to the top of the screen and releasing it, clicking on the title bar will restore it to its former size and position, and the "left or right" which is achieved by dargging a window to the left- or right-side of the display which will "half maximize" the window, allowing the easy side-by-side display of two windows. Unfortunately, the latter gesture isn't really working well with multiple-display systems as only the extreme left- and right-sides of the whole display woork with this gesture.

Of course, there are loads more, including "Aero Peek" with the box on the right hand end of the new Superbar.

I do like the new interface - and considering Vista's interface was its one strong point, this is a really good thing! :)


The Outspoken Wookie

Technet Plus - Send Feedback on Windows 7

Thanks to Susan Bradley for pointing this out.

Keith Combs has given us information on how Technet Plus subscribers can register to submit Windows 7 feedback via Microsoft Connect. If you're a Technet Plus subscriber using Windows 7, then I definitely recommend doing this as you can help find and fix Windows 7 issues before they get set in concrete, hopefully making Vista R2^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^HWindows 7 a lot better than when Vista was unleashed onto the public.


The Outspoken Wookie

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Windows 7 Beta 1

I’m sure that by now you’ve heard that Windows 7 Beta 1 was announced at CES in Las Vegas. The MacBook Wheel was also announced at CES. If you are an MSDN and/or Technet subscriber then you can download it through these programs, along with the relevant keys. Other partners and the general public can download Windows 7 Beta 1 using the links below, the first link being the Windows 7 home page that may well be worth having a look through if you’ve not done so already. This seems only to be available to the first 2.5 million downloaders from what I’ve been hearing, so if you want it, get in quick.

Of course, there’s still the 30 day trial with the 30 day + 30 day slmgr reset for those who miss this 2.5 million cutoff. - the Windows 7 Home Page. - using this will take you through the Live sign-in and generate a valid Beta key for you.

Direct link to 32-bit ISO.

Direct link to 64-bit ISO.

Please note that the 32-bit Windows 7 ISO is 2.44 GB in size and the 64-bit ISO is 3.15 GB.


The Outspoken Wookie

Saturday, January 10, 2009



The Outspoken Wookie

HP Pre-Sales Support Needs Work

Ever been to the HP site researching products and seen their "Need help? Chat live with HP" offer? Ever clicked on that and found that there was no-one there to chat live with? Well, if you do, they say "Sorry we missed you. We are sorry, an HP Internet Representative is not available at this time. Please leave a message below and we will get back to you within one business day."

So you fill the form out in good faith that HP will follow you up.

2 seconds later you receive an email which would *normally* be an auto-responder informing you that they have received your request and will respond as soon as they can. Normally. This email says:

Unable to deliver message.
Error message: 550 5.1.1 <>: Recipient address rejected: User unknown in virtual alias table

Now, that's impressive use of technology! :(

And this follows the removal of the one extremely useful pre-sales configuration tool that HP Australia used to make available to us and replaced it with a tool that will happily configure a system with totally incompatible parts, some of which are not even available in Australia - the result of a system build went from 5 minutes with ConfigureAIDER previously to a dozen emails with pre-sales server support over a 2 week period for a recent HP Server we quoted on, and even then the pre-sales support at the supplier didn't ever respond with what we'd actually asked for.


The Outspoken Wookie

Friday, January 09, 2009

Which Would Be The More Enjoyable Way To Die?

With all the gloom and doom around concerning the obesity problem, well, here's some welcome relief for those of us who enjoy our food. It looks like the Turducken may have met its match in killer meals - the BBQ Explosion!

The Turducken is a partially deboned turkey stuffed with a deboned duck which is in turn stuffed with a deboned chicken which can be stuffed with a sausage or breadcrumb stuffing mixture. Yum, yum! Have a look here and here for more on the Turducken.

Now, thanks to David Harcourt, I've seen what maybe a worthy rival - the BBQ Explosion! I'm sure that if you could buy these off the shelf, they'd be highly recommended by the Australian Angioplasty Society (and their accountants)! :)


The Outspoken Wookie

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Where's Ollie?

OK, this is not an optical illusion, this is real. See if you can pick which one is Ollie and which is Fuzzy (a hint - they are not always on the same side). :)


The Outspoken Wookie

Some People Truly Are Sad!

In an effort to show how shortsighted and closed-minded some people can be, have a read of this blog entry. The Helios project aims to bring computers to disadvantaged kids and uses the Linux OS to make their task a little easier.

It appears that Karen Unnamed needs to pull her head out of the back of her throat (it seems to be rather firmly implanted up her own arse), wake up and smell the roses. Microsoft is *one* player in this game - Apple's OS-X is another, as is Linux/BSD and soon we'll have Google Android.

Monopolies are only *ever* good for the monopoly, not the people. I'm not saying that we need to level the playing field artificially, but people need to realise that there are multiple players in this game!


The Outspoken Wookie

Apple MacBook Wheel

"I'll buy almost anything if it's shiny and made by Apple." Brilliant.

This didn't cost US$30 million to produce, get canned halfway through the series, use a has-been comedian who was paid US$10m for doing nothing except help Bill Gates give a great example of how out of touch Microsoft is with the man in the street, and manages to show the Church of Apple for what it really is. :)

This is comedy gold! :)


The Outspoken Wookie

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Now, That Is A Party

How did we miss this announcement? :)

OK, now taking things seriously, we need a Party in Australia who can use reality and common sense to look at issues for what they are. We don't need an Internet filter that's forced on us like the filter forced by the Communist Government in China on its citizens - all this will do is limit things that a Government cronie committee wants banned (and not have to release the list nor the reasoning behind their decisions) and increase the cost of providing Internet connectivity to Australians, not to mention reducing our own freedom of choice and ability to teach our children the morals we wish them to take to heart and live by.

Can you imagine surfing the Internet and finding a Child Porn site that's open for all and sundry? Nope, nor can I. That's because they don't exist. The filth and scum who deal in this disgusting material know they are doing something morally and legally corrupt, so they hide behind closed doors to ensure people don't find out what they are doing. They make it hard for the police to infiltrate their society, so how can a member of the general population stumble across this kind of filth - they can't. These sites are carefully hidden away and known to the sick members of that sick society.

Will the Internet Filter make the Internet "safer"? No. Will it make it a nicer place for our kids? No. Should the Government be making moral decisions like this and changing them into a legally enforceable policy that's made, itself, behind closed doors with no-one to answer to? No. Should we have the right to choose whether we wish to filter the Internet for our own usage and that of our kids? Yes.

So, when a Party like this comes along that actually seems to have a clue, well, maybe we need to support them - or at least honestly investigate what they are actually standing up for and see if this is the sort of thing we need to encourage. We *know* that the main Parties are not really doing much in the general best interest of Australians - what infrastructure does Australia own now - no ports, no airports, no electricity, no telecommunications, and the list goes on. How many other stupid things are we allowing to happen by voting with the major Parties? Should we be looking at a rational, sensible minority Party that can hold the Government accountable?


The Outspoken Wookie

This Hash Is Stale

The MD5 algorithm has been considered cryptographically weak since around 1996. There were also known collisions (where two different "initialization vectors" - such as X.509 certificates - result in the same hash) in 1993, which shows that the MD5 algorithm had issues even back then. Another public announcement in October, 2006 mentioned that they made a Certificate/CA pair that collided (the pair was made in March 2005). The fact that it is now becoming "news" is a bit of an issue. Sort of like Microsoft taking over 7 years to release a Critical patch (like they did recently - see

Vlastimil Klima, on 18 March, 2006, even published an algorithm (based on his previous efforts) that allowed a collision between two different X.509 Certificates to be found in about a minute on a single notebook. A month later he revised the paper with new algorithms that reduces this minute to 31 seconds. On a 3.2 GHz Pentium4 based computer, the average time is only 17 seconds. This algorithm is far from being hard to crack!

Out of interest, Firefox users have the ability, through the use of, to be able to see if a certificate chain is still using MD5, therefore possibly not to be trusted. IE users are, right now, need to view the Details tab of the Certificate to see the signing and hashing algorithms used.

Verisign, probably the (or one of the) world's largest certificate issuers, has finally, because of this recent exploit, stopped issuing MD5 certificates. That's appalling - using a known weak security algorithm in a certificate when you're a big "security" company like this.

Lax security companies concern me greatly - they sell security, but don't practice it. :(


The Outspoken Wookie