Group Policy Setting of the Week – 6 Add Logoff to the Start Menu

This weeks simple Group Policy Setting of the Week (GPSW) is called “Add Logoff to the Start Menu” which can be found under User Configuration > Policies > Administrative Templates > Start Menu and Taskbar. This option adds the “Log Off <username>” to the users start menu and is normally configured to be enabled on Terminal Servers where you don’t want them accidently shutdown the server.

  

Now hopefully your normal users don’t have admin access to your Terminal Servers however if you are a Server Administrator then you could have admin access and as such having the shutdown button on a desktop that looks a LOT like you local computer could be very dangerous. So this is one of the few group policy settings that should be configured to loopback that should be applied to the server administrator via a Loopback merge setting (we will talk about Loopback setting another day).

But how do I shutdown the server then I hear you ask? No prob you can either run the “shutdown.exe” command line (tshutdn.exe on Windows 2003) or by CTRL-ALT-END and then shutdown from the secure desktop.

My review of the Intel X-25 M 160gb Hard Drive… O.M.G.!!!!!

At long last my Intel X-25 M 160gb Solid State Disk (SSD) drive arrived in the mail and I joyfully ripped open the packaging like a kid on Christmas morning to see what had arrived (like I didn’t already know). To my absolute delight it was a brand new box with what I hoped contained the saviour of my now aging (slow) Dell Dimension 9150 with a 2.8ghz Dual Core CPU which was in desperate need of an upgrade.

As you can see below the drive is 2.5” so it will fit into most laptops but it also comes with a 3.5” caddy for installing into desktop computer. While I did not take the smaller size into account when I bought the drive i realise this is a real bonus as I can easily use it in a laptop in the future if I ever decide to get something more portable to replace my current desktop at home.

I also decided to the get the 160gb model because it now has a faster write speed than the 80gb version with the release of the its latest firmware from Intel.

It also comes with a very important “my SSD Rocks!” sticker to show as a badge of honour (or to tell someone that your computer it worth stealing for the parts).

 Intel X-25 M 160gb Box Contents

As I was un-boxing the drive I kept think to myself that “gee I hope this drive was worth it” and “I hope it will make a difference with my computer”. My initial worry was that the drive was not going to be able to run at 3gb/sec to take advantage of the full throughput of the drive. But I was relieved to see that the drive and motherboard were 3gb/sec capable and so it negotiated its link speed at full speed. nice… so I continued my tests…

Intel X-25 M 160gb

Benchmarks

OS Load Time (12m:09sec)

So I found my USB stick of Windows 7 64bit, plugged it in an turned it on…

12min 9sec (see timer below) after I pressed the power button I was at a default desktop…. Nice…  This was good and I was starting to feel a little confident that the drive was going to make the system faster. Note that this also included all the time it took me to click the buttons using the OS install Wizard. I would estimate that this would have added at least an extra minute to this overall time.

Intel X-25 M Windows 7 Install Time

 

Windows Experience Index (7.8)

The Windows Experience Index is a bench mark that was introduced with Windows Vista that allows people to assess the performance of the individual pieces of hardware in a computer. This benchmark helps people determine what part of their computer is slowest and can help guide people to what upgrade they perform next to get some more speed out of their system. In Windows 7 the rating numbers go from a minimum of 1 to a maximum value of 7.9 (which is up from 5.9 in Windows Vista).

As you can see the drive rated very well with a 7.8 although I was hoping for a 7.9 because I have to wounder what drive on the market could possibly be better that this drive (maybe 2x Intel X-25 M in a stripe).

Intel X-25 M 160gb Windows 7 Experience Index 

OS Boot Time (20.1sec)

The other really important stat about the drive is how quick it takes to boot up and shutdown. Now Google claims that it can get 8 seconds boot from with it uses a SSD drive so I was really keen to see how fast it compares with Windows 7. Now the total overall boot time from power on to desktop was 32.8 seconds however this included the 12 seconds BIOS post tests. Now bear in mind that my system is almost 5 years old and BIOS start up time for computer now are a lot quicker.

If you take a look at the lap time (top right) the whole OS boot only took 20.1 seconds.

Intel X-25 M 160gb OS Load time

OS Shutdown Time (3sec)

Now this I have not measured exactly yet however this is now a near instantaneous from fully loaded desktop to powered off takes no longer that 3 seconds.

Windows Media Center (much better)

Now my desktop computer also acts as a server for Windows Media Center on my two Xbox 360 which was always bit sluggish to navigate through the menus which I put this down to the lag from the IR remote to the Xbox 360 via the Ethernet to the Computer back via the Ethernet to the Xbox and onto the screen. However even though my media files are stored on a 1tb 1.5gb/sec SATA WD Green plater based drive the over all navigation and load time has much improved.

Better with Windows 7

Its also one of the first SSD drives to offer native support for the Trim SATA command with Windows 7 which all but eliminates any performances degradation over time with SSD drives.

Windows 7 also recognises SSD based drives and disabled the defragmentation option as this offers no benefit due the drives low random seek speed and can even cause premature wear out of drives if performed to often.

Overall (5 Stars)

Needless to say I am very, very, very impressed with the performance of the drive and this upgrade has now turned me into an absolute speed demon. It definitely seems that drive I/O is now the most constraining factor with computer as ever relatively slow CPU’s on a modern Operating System such as Windows 7 seem to be more than capable.

I also find that doing multiple tasks at one is much smoother and seems to have almost no performance impact at all. This is obviously due to the less than 1ms random seek time of the drive and the native command queuing that allows the drive to handle a massive amount of simultaneously commands.

Another advantage of the drive is that is has no moving parts which should mean that the reliability of the drive is (hopefully) going to be more reliable with a predicted 1.2 million hours Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF) which is nearly double that of 750,000 hours MTBF that most other spinning platter based drives have.

This is a drive that I will probably using in my next 3 computers so I really see it as a long term investment even though it cost a little (ok a lot) extra. If you are looking for an upgrade to your system that will really give it a killer punch in performance then this is it even thought its a bit pricey still it is totally worth the cost.

But for I can truly say I no longer wait for my computer to load program anymore… 

Rating 5 out of 5 stars.

For a more in-depth review of the drive including some of it’s issues (which have been fixed via the latest firmware) see the following PC Perspective Articles:

Intel’s specification sheet on the drive can be found Here

Link tot he latest firmware that  the drive Here and instructions can be found Here

Link to an eBay store stocking the drive can be found Here

Disclosure cmp.ly/0/llruwy

Mozilla says if you are using Firefox you should change your search engine to Bing – Really its true!!!

   Asa Dotzler one of Firefox’s (Mozilla) co-founders has recently did a blog post that recommends that all Mozilla’s usersbing should

“switch Firefox’s search from Google to Bing

due to the privacy issues with Google.

No…  Really, really!!!!

I have to admit that this is just about as believable as Bill Gates praising Apple Computers or Microsoft saving Apple from Bankruptcy. Asa makes some good points however on his Blog that Google and it certainly seems to be getting complacent with data private after the video of Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO saidgoogle

"If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”

I think the reason that Bing’s privacy policy is better than Google’s is that they have already been through the anti-trust ringer and don’t want a repeat of history. Where as Google still thinks it can do know wrong and are willing to push the boundaries a little further.

I also have to wounder weather this means that Microsoft are also paying Mozilla just like “Google (and Yahoo and others) pay for search traffic”. This would be very interesting if this was the case as it would mean Microsoft would effective be paying IE’s biggest competitor. While this sound unlikely just remember that the Exchange team licences Active Sync to both the iPhone and Android even thought they compete against Windows Mobile so I think it is definitely possible.  FirefoxIE

You can read Asa’s Blogs articles below:

More Christmas gift ideas that go along great with Windows 7

Just paid another visit to Officeworks Milton and I noticed a few cool things that would great gift ideas for Christmas for someone who already has Windows 7 installed on their computer. These two devices very small boxes that you plug in power and ethernet cable into and a HDMI cable into your TV so you can play all your music, photos and videos from you Windows 7 computer. The reason that these two different brand devices can support playing information from a Windows 7 computer is because they both support DLNA (Digital Living Alliance) which is a standard used by a number of electronic manufactures to share media across a network. One of the nice feature of the Netgear Digital Entertainer is that you can also plug in a Wireless USB Adapter (EVAW111, Sold separately) that means you don’t need to run a network cable from your computer if you already have a wireless access point.

Western Digital WD TV Live Costs $196.00 (Officeworks Milton) for more information see WD TV Live HD Media Player (WDBAAN0000NBK) 

Netgear Digital Entertainer Live Costs $234.00 (Officeworks Milton) for more information see Netgear – Digital Entertainer Live

WD TV Live HD Media Player Netgear EVA2000 Digital Entertainer Live

But If you are a gamer in any way then the Xbox 360 is also a DLNA compatible device and you can pick up and one at EB Games for only $299 (with a free game). This give gives you all the functionality of the above devices but also a full game console, DVD player, Windows Media Center Extender, Facebook and Twitter client as well.

Microsoft Xbox 360 Cost $299 (EB Games) for more information see Xbox.com | Console Overview 

xbox 360 arcade

Disclosure cmp.ly/0/llruwy

How to precisely align your Photosynth with Bing Maps

Looks like Microsoft has just enabled an ability to exactly alight you Photosynth with the location on maps. This feature allows you to change the scale and the orientation of you Photosynth so when you zoom in using Bing maps it is aligned correctly with that location… Looks very cool and I have not seen any word from Microsoft about this feature so I am not even sure if this  is supposed to be public yet.

Photos and video showing how it work below:

Chose your Photosynth and click Edit Synth

image

Click the Geotag Tab

image

Under Allignment Click the Start button

image

Rotate the layover point map with the <> and + – controls

image

Align the point map to the features on the map

image

Click Test

Cool PC Geek gift ideas for Christmas

In the past couple of days a few new PC products have been appearing on the shelf just in time for Christmas. If you are wondering what to buy that computer geek in your life then below are a few gift ideas:

Bamboo Input Device

This is a really good way to touch enabled you desktop computer with out having to replace your monitor. I recently bought a Dell 21.5” Multi-touch monitor and while the screen it self is very nice having a touch interface on a traditional sit down desktop computer is just not very practical as you quicker get tired arms and you are forever pressing in the wrong sport because you can see where you are touching because your finger in are in the way. Well i reckon this is a much better (and cheaper way) to touchify your computer… The Bamboo Touch does supports Windows 7 but also support Vista and XP so this should please pretty much any Windows PC user. However to really take advantage of the touch input Windows 7 is recommended.

You can buy it now from Harvey Normal for $99.95

See Bamboo Touch for more information

IMG_0493 

Microsoft LifeCam Cinema

If you are like me and you now use Skype to call you family and friends when you are away for work then you will know how frustrating it is to only be able to see them via a really grainy image. Well Microsoft have now released the LifeCam Cinema (a.k.a. Microsoft HD Web Cam) that will transmit 720p 30fps video (depending on bandwidth). This has only just

Get it now from Harvey Norman for $169.95

See LifeCam Cinema for more information

IMG_0494

Windows 7 Family Pack

Now if you have a geek that you want to buy something for it is very likely that they have more than one PC in their home so ll this is defiantly the deal for them. This limited time offer give you three licences of Windows 7 Home Premium for $247 total. Which works out to be $83 per copy or a massive 51% off the RRP of a single copy. Also this is a limited time offer so definitely buy it soon as they have just stopped selling it in the USA so i expect this offer will only last until January at the latest.

Get it now from OfficeWorks for $247.00

See Windows 7 Family Pack Limited Pilot now Available in Australia for more information.

IMG_0497

Disclosure cmp.ly/0/llruwy

Group Policy Setting of the Week – 6 Add Logoff to the Start Menu

This weeks simple Group Policy Setting of the Week (GPSW) is called “Add Logoff to the Start Menu” which can be found under User Configuration > Policies > Administrative Templates > Start Menu and Taskbar. This option adds the “Log Off <username>” to the users start menu and is normally configured to be enabled on Terminal Servers where you don’t want them accidently shutdown the server.

image 

Now hopefully your normal users don’t have admin access to your Terminal Servers however if you are a Server Administrator then you could have admin access and as such having the shutdown button on a desktop that looks a LOT like you local computer could be very dangerous. So this is one of the few group policy settings that should be configured to loopback that should be applied to the server administrator via a Loopback merge setting (we will talk about Loopback setting another day).

But how do I shutdown the server then I hear you ask? No prob you can either run the “shutdown.exe” command line (tshutdn.exe on Windows 2003) or by CTRL-ALT-END and then shutdown from the secure desktop.