Simultaneously updating your status on Twitter, Facebook and others

by Shijaz Abdulla on 12.12.2009 at 06:53

I came across this great tool that lets you simultaneously update your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and a whole bunch of other microblogging/social networking websites. It’s called hellotxt.

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They’ve also got a page for mobile devices, over at m.hellotxt.com. Great way to update your status on all social networking tools at once, wherever you are.

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Setting up a Windows 7 Media Center

by Shijaz Abdulla on 06.12.2009 at 07:31

I’m setting up a Windows 7 Media Center at home and thought I’d share feedback on how I went about getting it done. Being a tech enthusiast, and NOT much of the movies/music person, I went for something very modest and inexpensive.

 

The PC: Acer Aspire Revo R3600

 

  • Very sleek, black, ultra small form factor, can be mounted on the back of a flat panel TV or mounted on its own footing. Both mounting kits are provided in the package.
  • Intel® Atom 230 processor @ 1.6GHz (intel’s smallest processor)
  • 2 GB RAM, expandable to 4 GB
  • NVIDIA ION chipset
  • NVIDIA GeForce 9400 upto 896 MB
  • HDMI output, VGA output
  • 6 USB ports,
  • 4-in-1 card reader
  • eSATA port
  • Built-in wireless adapter, Ethernet port
  • HD Audio 7.1

The Display: Videocon Haute 32” Flat Panel LCD TV (VBL32HBG-FLA)

  • 32” LCD, 16:9 aspect ratio, 1366×768 resolution
  • 2 HDMI ports, VGA with audio jack
  • 3 RCA inputs
  • Proudly made in India :) 

videocon

Human Interface: Microsoft Wireless Optical Desktop 1000

  • Media Center keys
  • Spill resistant (living room/coffee table use)
  • 6 month battery life. (I recommend using rechargeable Ni-Cd batteries for keyboard and mouse)
  •  

    I would have preferred a keyboard with built-in trackball instead of a mouse for living room coffee table convenience, but I couldn’t get hold of one.

    desktop_1000

    Webcam: Microsoft LifeCam VX-6000

    LifeCam CinemaI used the LifeCam VX-6000 only because I had a spare one lying around. For those buying a new webcam, I would recommend the LifeCam Cinema, a great webcam that I had evaluated:

    • 720p HD widescreen @ up to 30fps!
    • Auto Focus
    • Digital microphone

    The LifeCam VX-6000 that I used is an older model, that has the following features:

    • 71 degree Wide Angle Lens (good for living room set up)LifeCam VX-6000
    • High Definition video
    • 3x digital zoom
    • Up to 30fps
    • Built-in microphone

    Why a webcam on my Media Center PC? OK, I like to use the living room computer for video conferencing with relatives, because this way the whole family can be on the couch *and* within frame 🙂

    TV Tuner:

    I am still looking for a good, locally available external TV Tuner/Capture card that is on the Windows Media Center Hardware Compatibility List (HCL). The ones that I found locally are from Lightwave – and that’s not listed on the HCL. I already have an STB with RCA composite output and RF out jack, and I’m looking for a capture card that will receive one of these and display it in Windows Media Center. I will post an update when I finally install a TV Tuner. 🙂

    Meanwhile, if any of you have got Lightwave TV tuner cards working with Windows Media Center, please post a comment and let me know of your experience.

    For now, the only thing I watch on my PC is Internet TV from IslamBox.TV.

    Other hardware:

    • Since the Acer Aspire Revo R3600 comes with no bluetooth, I have a USB bluetooth dongle plugged in.
    • The Revo comes with no DVD player/recorder and you might want to buy one. For me, I already have a DVD player hooked to my LCD TV, and I have other computers in my Windows 7 HomeGroup that have DVD recorders. Installation of Windows 7 on my Revo was done with a USB stick.
    • I had to buy an HDMI cable because neither the Revo nor the Videocon LCD TV came with one.

    Audio: HDMI output

    The audio from my TV is good enough for me. You can always connect a sophisticated audio system if your TV supports it. The Revo only has a headphone jack.

     

    Setup:

    • Unpack and set up the Revo as per the instructions enclosed, initially use the wired keyboard and mouse supplied with the Revo
    • Connect the HDMI cable between the PC and the LCD TV.
    • Power on both units, get connected to the internet, install updates, antivirus software, etc.
    • Install the wireless keyboard and mouse as per the instructions enclosed and unplug the Revo’s wired keyboard and mouse
    • Install the LifeCam as per instructions e
      nclosed. Plug the device in only when prompted by the installation software.
    • Uninstall any useless software that was pre-installed by Acer (some games, utilities and trial software)
    • Upgrade the Revo from Windows Vista to Windows 7 using a USB stick.
    • Connect your TV/STB to the TV tuner card and do the installation. Run through the Windows Media Center setup.
    • Set up a Windows 7 Homegroup to better share
    • Try not to mess around with the display resolution too much. I use 1024×768.

    Here are some pictures of my living room computer 🙂

    SNC00830 SNC00833

     

    What next?

    The next things on my list:

    Installing Windows 7 on a netbook without a DVD drive

    by Shijaz Abdulla on 02.12.2009 at 12:47

    I recently purchased an Acer Aspire Revo nettop for my home Media Center PC. Since the purchase was made before the official launch of Windows 7, the computer came pre-loaded with Windows Vista. The nettop itself is really cool, it comes with a tiny form factor and can be mounted on a mounting stand or stuck behind a flat panel TV. More on that will follow in another post.

    acer-aspire-revo-photo-gallery-2acer-aspire-revo-photo-gallery-9

    Today I decided to upgrade the nettop to Windows 7. There is however one serious consideration to be taken – like most nettops and netbooks, the Acer Aspire Revo comes with no DVD drive!

    Windows 7 comes on a DVD and I have no intention of buying a DVD drive :). This is why I am going to use a 4 GB USB flash drive for the Windows 7 installation.

    1. In order to prepare the USB drive, run DISKPART on any Windows computer. Type DISKPART on the Start menu and hit ENTER. 

      Note: DISKPART utility is usually available by default on your Windows installation. If you don’t have DISKPART download it here.

    2. Plug in your USB flash drive. You need at least 3 GB of space, I recommend you use a 4 GB flash drive. All data on the USB stick will be destroyed so make sure you don’t have any important data on the USB drive.
    3. Type the following commands inside the DISKPART command line utility:
      • LIST DISK (to see all physical drives on your computer)
      • SELECT DISK 1 (assuming disk 1 is your USB drive. Make sure you select the right drive here! Refer to the output from the LIST DISK command)
      • CLEAN (to wipe out any existing volumes on the USB drive)
      • CREATE PARTITION PRIMARY (creates a new primary partition on the USB drive)
      • ACTIVE (Marks the newly created primary partition as ‘active’)
      • FORMAT FS=FAT32 QUICK (formats the newly created primary partition in the FAT32 file system. The QUICK parameter saves time by doing a quick format)
      • ASSIGN (to give the new partition a drive letter)
      • Close DISKPART
        image
    4. Copy the contents of the entire Windows 7 DVD into the USB drive (drag and drop).
      image
    5. Eject the USB drive, and plug it into your nettop or netbook, boot from it. (You may need to change the boot sequence to get your netbook or nettop to boot from USB). In the Acer Revo, hit the F12 key to select the boot device. The computer will boot from USB and you can continue the Windows 7 installation.
    6. If you are upgrading from Windows Vista, just plug it in after Windows Vista has started and do an upgrade.

    Watch out for my next post on how to set up a Windows 7 Media Center PC at home.

    Threat Management Gateway 2010 now available

    by Shijaz Abdulla on 28.11.2009 at 18:24

    TMG LogoMicrosoft Forefront Threat Management Gateway has been released to market on November 16, 2009 after completing three beta releases and receiving extensive customer feedback.

    You can download the trial version of Threat Management Gateway here.

    From the Forefront TMG team’s blog:

    “Forefront TMG is a Secure Web Gateway (SWG) that improves security enforcement by integrating multiple detection technologies such as URL filtering, Anti Malware, and intrusion prevention into a single, easy-to-manage solution. We have seen a lot of interest in the features that comprise this solution, so here is some information on what they do and how:

    • URL Filtering: URL Filtering allows controlling end-user access to Web sites, protecting the organization by denying access to known malicious sites and to sites displaying inappropriate or nonproductive materials, based on URL categories. TMG features over 80 URL categories including security-oriented categories, productivity-oriented and liability-oriented categories. Forefront TMG uses Microsoft Reputation Services (MRS), a cloud-based categorization system hosted in Microsoft data center. To ensure the best bandwidth utilization and low latency, Forefront TMG has implemented a local URL cache. There is a lot more on URL Filtering available in an earlier URL Filtering post (on the TMG blog).
    • Anti Malware: Stopping malware on the edge significantly decreases the possibility that a virus will hit a computer with anti-virus signatures that are not up-to-date or a test computer without an anti-virus to protect it. TMG has integrated the Microsoft Anti Malware engine to provide world class scanning and blocking capability on the edge.
    • Network Inspection System (NIS): NIS is a generic application protocol decode-based traffic inspection system that uses signatures of known vulnerabilities, to detect and potentially block attacks on network resources. NIS provides comprehensive protection for Microsoft network vulnerabilities, researched and developed by the Microsoft Malware Protection Center – NIS Response Team, as well as an operational signature distribution channel which enables dynamic signature snapshot distribution. NIS closes the vulnerability window between vulnerability disclosures and patch deployment from weeks to few hours.
    • In addition, HTTPS scanning has been introduced to enable inspection of encrypted sessions, eased the deployment and management with a set of easy to use wizards and significantly improved logging and reporting to provide full visibility into how your organization is accessing the web and whether it’s compliant with your organization’s policy.
    • VPN, Firewall, Email Protection and Infrastructure.
      Significant investments have been made to ensure that we keep delivering top notch VPN and Firewall functionality. We made quality improvements in Web Caching and made sure it works well with the new Windows 7 BranchCache feature. We have added several new features, among them: Email Protection, ISP redundancy, NAP integration with VPN role, SSTP, VoIP traversal (SIP support), Enhanced NAT, SQL logging and Updated TMG Client (previously known as the Firewall Client). In addition TMG was built as a native 64bit product that supports Windows Server 2008 R2, and Windows Server 2008 SP2, allowing better scalability and increased reliability.”

    Adding a Bing box to your blog/website

    by Shijaz Abdulla on 21.11.2009 at 00:35

    bingYou can add a Bing custom search box on your website over at bing.com/siteowner.

    I replaced the default Google-powered search box on my blog with a Bing custom search box today. For a good reason.

    My regular readers may have noticed that I changed the URL to my blog about two months ago. I had set a “301 Permanent Redirect” on the previous domain (blog.shijaz.com) which means the old URL will automatically forward hits to the new one on the microsoftnow.com domain.

    Today, two months later, Google still hasn’t finished crawling my blog on its new domain! Here’s a simple test: Search for “ribbon interface” on Google with the “site:microsoftnow.com” parameter and you get no direct link to the original post on this blog. Search the same term on Google with the old domain in the parameter (i.e. “site:shijaz.com”) and you get positive results.

    Repeating the same test with Bing,  “ribbon interface” on Bing – with “site:microsoftnow.com” gives positive results with the new domain. I guess Bing crawled my site faster than Google :).

    I want to give reliable and up-to-date search results on my blog for my visitors, and hence I chose Bing.

    Google’s Chrome OS “too cloudy”

    by Shijaz Abdulla on 20.11.2009 at 23:51

    I saw an article on Engadget (“Google’s Chrome OS Revealed”) about Google’s new “operating system”.

    Google had a low-key event today to preview Chrome OS, its new operating system based on Linux and the Chrome browser. Things are still pretty early — it’s not even in beta yet, let alone on shipping products — but that’s the first official screen shot right there, and the big features are all roughed out. The entire system is web-based and runs in the Chrome browser — right down to USB drive contents, which show up in a browser tab, and the notepad, which actually creates a Google Docs document.

    Looks like something that boots a netbook off an SSD (the OS doesn’t support hard drives) and starts a browser, everything else is “in the cloud”? Not very impressive for an OS, if you ask me.

    One commenter on Engadget said it right: “Too cloudy”.

    Exchange Server 2010 Mailbox Role Calculator

    by Shijaz Abdulla on 12.11.2009 at 12:40

    The Exchange Team has released Mailbox Role Requirements Calculator for Exchange Server 2010.

    The calculator is broken out into the following sections (worksheets):

    • Input
    • Role Requirements
    • LUN Requirements
    • Backup Requirements
    • Log Replication Requirements
    • Storage Design

    For more information, read the entry on MS Exchange Team Blog.

    Windows 7 session for partners

    by Shijaz Abdulla on 10.11.2009 at 22:19

    Microsoft Qatar conducted sales and technical training for partners at the W Hotel in West Bay, Doha on 8th and 9th November 2009.

     

    SDC11014 SDC11048

     SDC11049 SDC11041

     SDC11013SDC11003

    Forefront Client Security beats Symantec, McAfee on VB100 test

    by Shijaz Abdulla on 09.11.2009 at 21:50

    RAP-quadrant-Apr-Oct09-med[1] 

    [Source: Virus Bulletin – virusbtn.com]

    Forefront is in pretty good shape here, especially when you compare it with McAfee, Symantec and the likes. Forefront also did well on the VB100 list, meaning it was able to detect 100% of the WildList malware samples without any false positives.

    Exchange Server 2010 now available

    by Shijaz Abdulla on 09.11.2009 at 21:10

    Today, at Tech-Ed Europe in Berlin, Microsoft announced the worldwide general availability of Exchange Server 2010.

    In a previous post, I explained some of the exciting new features in Exchange Server 2010.

    Here are some quick facts that you should know, regardless of whether you are a customer or a partner:

    • Exchange Server 2010 already has over 15 million users worldwide, through our Live@Edu service.
    • Today, Forrester released "Total Economic Impact” study which concludes organizations can expect a payback period of less than 6 months with Exchange Server 2010.
    • UK-based NEC Phillips is experiencing email storage cost savings of 70% with Exchange Server 2010 [more]
    • US-based TriWest Healthcare Alliance is saving approximately $250,000 with Exchange Server 2010, by avoiding the cost of purchasing an independent archiving & retention system. [more]
    • Organizations such as Aon Corporation, Glaxo Smith Klein, Lions Gate Entertainment, McDonald’s Corporation, University of Ohio and many others are satisfied customers of Exchange Online.
    • Global Crossing is saying bye-bye Blackberry, and implementing Exchange Server 2010.
    • Subaru Canada and Nasdaq OMX are other early adopters that have benefited from Exchange Server 2010.
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