A Gift from Microsoft–HP ProLiant Microserver

HP_ProLiant_MicroServerIn the interest of full disclosure, I wanted to take a moment to announce that during the 2011 Global MVP Summit, Microsoft gave me an HP ProLiant Microserver.

The HP ProLiant Microserver is designed for the small business space, and is meant to be a first server for those that have no real IT infrastructure or are using a peer-to-peer network. The Microserver has a very low price point of only $349 for the base model with no OS.

The server supports RAID 0 and 1, and for those that want remote management, an optional iLO card can be purchased for an additional fee.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be installing Windows MultiPoint Server 2011, Windows Home Server 2011 RC, and Windows Small Business Server 2011 Essentials RC to test the software and the performance of the ProLiant Microserver. I may have just found my replacement for my aging HP MediaSmart EX475 server.

Thanks for the server, Microsoft!

Microsoft Surface – What is it and how does it work?

While in Seattle for Student Insider training, myself along with Jeremy Bray and Ryan Bucinell were fortunate to be able to meet with a couple members of the Surface team.

Below are the two segments of the interview. Apologies in advance, the first few seconds did not record, but the rest of the interview did.

Total interview length: 30 minutes

Interview with: Mark Hopkins, Programming Writer and Luis Cabrera, Software Design Engineer

Part one:

Part two:

First Impression: T-Mobile G1

Yesterday, I recieved a G1 from T-Mobile to try out and play with. The G1 is the first phone to offer Google’s Android Operating System.

The design and purpose of the Android operating system is to encourage openness and innovation.

The G1 is a 3G phone which means that data connections will be significantly faster than traditional EDGE connections.

So far after 24 hours of use, I’m impressed with Android and with the G1 itself.  The G1 weighs in at about 4.1 ounces and has a solid feel.

The G1 uses an HVGA (480×320) touch screen, and for someone like me whose has big fingers, the screen is very responsive, and I’ve had very few errors with using the on-screen keyboard.

This coming week I’ll be in Las Vegas for the International Consumer Electronics Show, and I’ll be making the G1 my phone of choice for the week.

Photo gallery will be posted soon and look for full review series over the new few weeks!

Litl : Unique and Innovative Webbook

The 'Litl' Webbook
In preparing for my first ever trip to the Consumer Electronics Show, or CES, as it’s commonly referred, I stumbled upon a company called Litl.
Litl makes a webbook. A webbook is a type of laptop computer that only has access to the web, and provides applications and other resources that require the internet. In some ways, Litl has done what Google will be doing down the road with their Chrome OS.
According to Litl, “…the litl webbbok was created with a fresh approach that makes enjoying online photos and using the web, simple, enjoyable, and fun.” 
This approach involves some unique features in design, usability, and the overall experience.
The Litl features a 12 inch screen, and can be used in laptop form, or in “easel” form, as illustrated in the photo.  In easel form, the Litl can be used to watch videos, photos, or even use it in the kitchen to look at a recipe while cooking.
Litl has partnered with several companies to create “channels” for the Litl. These channels can be used to display content in new ways. The Litl has a channel for Flickr and Shutterfly, enabling you to organize your photos, view your photos, and share them with family and friends. There is also a channel for Facebook that allows you to view your friends status updates and photos in new ways. The team at Litl has created a video about the Facebook channel, and I’ve included below for your viewing pleasure.
According to Litl, they are going to have a Software Development Kit available soon for any developers interested in creating channels for the Litl. No firm date has been set for release of the Litl SDK.
I’m going to be meeting with the folks from Litl at CES in January. I’ll have more details to share about the Litl in January. Until then, the Litl is available today at the Litl Store, store.litl.com

Lenovo IdeaCentre D400 – Photo Gallery

Lenovo IdeaCentre D400: In-Depth

After playing with with the Lenovo IdeaCentre D400, I think it’s time for an in-depth review. Before I go into the review, I’d like to answer a couple questions raised in my previous post. (Click here to read my first impressions.)

1. Is there warranty coverage if the user upgrades the amount of RAM in their server? The answer to this is no. While I understand why in some respects, I don’t like how there is not an option to either purchase an upgrade at the time the server is built, or an in-warranty option. HP does this (see here for details), I’m not sure about other vendors, but I think if one can do it, what’s preventing others from doing the same?

2. I was curious as to whether or not there was a product page on the Lenovo website as I was having a hard time finding it. Lenovo has sent me the link, and you can click here to go directly to the product page on their website.

3. I asked Lenovo about their feature set and am under the impression that they IdeaCenter D400 is designed to be a no-frills server. For advanced functionality like Photo Sharing, etc., you can go to WHSPlus (http://www.whsplus.com) and find add-ins for the server. In talking to Lenovo, they did drop a hint that sometime next year there will be an update to their offering. I look forward to what it is!

If anyone has any further questions, please let me know on Twitter (@tomontech) or e-mail (tom at tomontech dot com).

Now on with the in-depth review!

Installation:

Installation and configuration of the IdeaCentre D400 is fairly straight forward. Put in the Client Connector Software disk, let the installer download the software from the server, answer some questions and you’re all set and ready to go. However, there is one thing that I do not like about Lenovo’s installer. There are three items on the disk (Home Server Connector, LightsOut Client, and Lenovo’s EasyAccess software). Lenovo does not make it clear on the menu of the installer that to install everything, they each have to be installed separately. I think some clarification on the menu would go along way. Either that, or provide some automation where the user selects which of the three to install, and then they are installed in order automatically without further intervention by a user.

Ease of Use:

Like all of the Home Server offerings out there that use Windows Home Server, this one is no exception to how easy it is to use. Because Windows Home Server is designed to be as consumer friendly as possible, ease of use is very important. Lenovo does a great job of making the server easy to use, with the only exception being the confusion on the software install menu. There is a piece of software that Lenovo includes called EasyAccess, and this software automatically makes the shares on the server appear in your Computer window. Their tab they add to the Windows Home Server Console is very well thought out, and presents important information very clearly.

Server Recovery:

In the event that something happens to the server and a reinstallation of the server software is needed, Lenovo provides a DVD that will perform the recovery. The recovery software is wizard driven, and is very straightforward.  Recovery does take some time, depending on network configuration, and other factors, so be prepared to go for a walk, drink some coffee, read a book, or watch paint dry.

Price:

I’m in love with the price point of the IdeaCentre D400. $499 will get you the 1TB model and $599 will get you the 2TB model. With the holiday season rolling around, there may be some deals to be had on the IdeaCentre D400.

Overall:

Lenovo has a very strong offering here with the IdeaCentre D400. I like that it does not come preloaded with tons of potentially useless extras, and that documentation provided is very easy to follow. While I’m biased towards the design of the HP MediaSmart Server (been an owner since they were first produced), the design of the IdeaCentre D400 has definitely grown on me.  I definitely think that the IdeaCentre can be a great contender in the Home Server space, and I think that now that we have many vendors selling Home Servers we will see some great things in the future.

On a personal note, I’d like to thank the fine folks at Lenovo for providing the IdeaCentre D400 for review. Thank you Lenovo!

First Impressions: Lenovo IdeaCentre D400 Home Server

Lenovo IdeaCentre D400
Lenovo IdeaCentre D400

Thanks to our fine friends at Lenovo, Tom on Tech has been able to get an IdeaCentre D400 for review. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be providing my thoughts as I use the server in my everyday computing. To provide some background on the IdeaCentre D400, here are some specs and other details about the server.

Lenovo ships two versions of the D400. Here’s how it breaks out.

Model Number Processor Processor Speed Memory Hard Drive
3013-1AU Intel Atom 230 1.6 GHz 1GB 1TB (single drive)
3013-1BU Intel Atom 230 1.6 GHz 1GB 2TB (2 1TB drives)

 As you can see, both models are the same, with the only exception being the total storage space.

From the information that has been provided to me, the server does support 2GB of RAM maximum, however, I’ve read in the manual that opening the unit will void the warranty. I’ve asked Lenovo about this, and I will let everybody know what I am told.

With the IdeaCentre D400, setup was very straight forward. In the box was a quick setup poster, which not only included hardware setup, but initial server software setup (with screenshots!). While the screenshots on the poster are a bit small, I do like that they are included on the poster.

After installing the Windows Home Server Connector, Lenovo provides a utility that they call EasyAccess. After installing the utility, items are placed on the right-click menu that will allow you to right click on a file, and move that file to a shared folder on your Windows Home Server.

To see what, if any, extra software was preloaded on the IdeaCentre D400, I launched the Console, and was pleasantly surprised at what I saw. The only things that are preloaded are Lights-Out (from MVP Martin Rothschink), Lenovo’s custom tab, and FireFly Media Server (designed to stream music from the server to iTunes).

So far I’m impressed with Lenovo’s offering. I’ll be testing this server for awhile, so look for more hands-on information over the course of the next few weeks.