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!

Introduction to Office 2010 Click-to-Run

Beginning with the introduction of Office 2010, Microsoft is introducing a new delivery mechanism for Office, called Click-to-Run. This technology enables a user to only download parts of the software that the need, rather then install everything at once.

As a part of the release of the Office 2010 Beta, you can download and try out Office 2010 Home and Business edition using the Click-to-Run technology. Click here to download Office 2010 Home and Business Edition.

The way that Click-to-Run works is that a user downloads a small file (2MB in size). This file contains information about the product to be installed, and creates shortcuts, sets file associations, etc. When an application in the suite is launched, it downloads certain parts of the software to allow them to be functional, and then downloads new features the first time they are launched.

Below are some screenshots of the Click-to-Run experience.

Beta Release: Microsoft Office 2010

Yesterday at the 2009 Professional Developers Conference (PDC), Microsoft announced the release of the beta of Microsoft Office 2010.

Office 2010 Beta Logo
Office 2010 Beta Logo
Yesterday at the 2009 Professional Developers Conference (PDC), Microsoft announced the release of the beta of Microsoft Office 2010.
 
Released are beta versions of the following products:
  • Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2010
  • Microsoft Office Visio 2010
  • Microsoft Office Project 2010

All are available for download at http://www.microsoft.com/office/2010

Office 2010 brings a refreshed and consistent look and feel across all applications. Also new are refreshed icons for the Office 2010 suite.

Icon_Word_web Icon_PowerPoint_web icon_Outlook_web Icon_excel_web Icon_access_web Icon_OneNote_web Icon_publisher_web

I’ve been playing with the beta for a few days now, and I’ll be providing my thoughts as well as reviewing each component of the Office 2010 suite right here on Tom on Tech.

I encourage everybody to download and try out the new Office 2010 beta, and if you have any questions or thoughts, please feel free to email me (tom@removethis.tomontech.com), send me comments on Twitter (@tomontech), or leave comments here.

Are you a student?

If you answered yes, then have I got a deal for you.

Microsoft is offering students either Windows 7 Home Premium or Windows 7 Professional for $29.99.

This offer ends January 3rd, 2010.

To be eligible for this offer, you must either have a .EDU email address, or be a student at a qualifying institution.

To check eligibility go to: http://windows7.digitalriver.com/store/mswpus/en_US/DisplayHomePage

For more offers for students visit http://www.win741.com or http://www.microsoft.com/student

Engineering Windows 8…coming soon to a blog near you?

Interesting find that a friend of mine let me know about. Apparently, somebody at Microsoft has reserved the blog “e8” on MSDN blogs.

When browsing to http://blogs.msdn.com/e8 , there is no content, and the title is <TBD>. I’ve included a picture below.

MSDN Blogs - e8

Does this mean that Microsoft is already going to start the discussion about Windows 8, or are they just holding on to this for a later date and time? Only time will tell.

Microsoft’s Signature Experience

Through the Microsoft Store, all PCs are sold with the Microsoft Signature experience. This service is provided at no-cost to the consumer and consists of software and PC setup assistance (physical stores only).

Software provided on all PCs sold by the Microsoft Store:

  • Internet Explorer 8
  • Internet TV Update for Windows Media Center
  • Microsoft Security Essentials
  • Silverlight
  • Flash Player
  • Adobe Reader
  • Bing 3D Maps
  • Zune 4.0
  • Live ID Sign-In Assistant
  • Windows Live Essentials
  • Windows Live Sync
  • Office Live Add-In

In-stores the Microsoft Signature experience also includes initial setup of your new computer, as well as the ability to get any questions that you have about your new computer answered by a store employee.

Overall, I think this service provides great value to the consumer by providing them with everything that they need to begin their experience with their new PC right out of the box.

It will be interesting to see how the Microsoft Signature service evolves over time.

Microsoft’s New Retail Experience

This past Thursday, October 22nd, Microsoft opened its first retail store in Scottsdale, Arizona. Fortunately for me, I live in Scottsdale, so I decided to make a trip over to the new Microsoft Store to see what it was all about.

I must say that I am impressed. When I walked into the store I was greeted by several store employees, and was given a special souvenir, a Bing t-shirt.

The store was laid out into multiple zones, and each featuring a different category of PC, from low-cost netbooks, all the way to the super expensive desktop replacement notebooks. Along one wall there were multiple XBox 360s and the screens for these consoles were projected through the walls on the sides of the store in stunning high-definition. Also featured were 4 Microsoft Surface tables, focusing on different aspects of the Microsoft experience.

Directly in the back of the store is the Microsoft Theatre, where there are presentations on Windows 7, Zune, Windows Phone, Office, and Windows Live. I sat in on a presentation about Windows 7, and I was impressed by the breadth and depth of the presenter. He gave an excellent presentation and all participants walked away to purchase either a new PC with Windows 7, or copies of Windows 7 itself.

Microsoft also offers the Microsoft Answers service, where customers can book 30 minute appointments to get technical support or just some questions that they have answered.

For all PCs sold in the store, they come with Microsoft’s new Signature service. According to Microsoft’s own literature, Signature is described as a “uniquely enjoyable experience.” As part of Microsoft Signature, each new PC comes with Windows Live Essentials, Zune music software, Microsoft Security Essentials, and a store employee helps each customer when they buy a new PC by setting up their PC and walking them through some of the features of Windows 7.

Microsoft also offers other services, which I will detail in another post.

Being as this is Microsoft’s first foray into the retail space on its own, I am going to have to give them a 9 out of 10 for their efforts. (1 point loss due to no literature and no demo setup next to either of the HP MediaSmart Servers on display.)

And now, I will leave you with some pictures of my trip to the new Microsoft Store.

Windows 7 Upgrade Paths

Are you trying to decide which version of Windows 7 you should buy? Considering upgrading from Windows Vista? Confused as to which version you’ll be upgrade to? Be confused no more. Below is a list of all of the Windows Vista versions and which versions can be upgraded to the new versions of Windows 7.

Source:Windows 7 Upgrade Paths whitepaper published by Microsoft.
From Windows Vista
Upgrade to Windows 7
Business Professional, Enterprise, Ultimate
Enterprise Enterprise
Home Basic Home Basic, Home Premium, Ultimate
Home Premium Home Premium, Ultimate
Ultimate Ultimate

How-To: Build Your own Windows 7 DVD

Update: Added step to change “Sectors to Load” field in Bootable Disc tab

For those of you who have downloaded Windows 7 through the Microsoft Store and used the download option that only provides you with the contents of the DVD and not the actual ISO, here are some steps you can follow to build your own DVD, as well as save time and bandwidth.

NOTE: These steps were only tested on the 32-bit editions, as I do not have the 64-bit editions in the format that the Microsoft Store provides.

Tools Required:

Windows 7 installation files (obtained through Microsoft Store download)

– ImgBurn (available at http://www.imgburn.com)

– Windows 7 DVD boot image (available here)

DVD Creation Steps:

1. Open ImgBurn and click “Create Image from Files / Folders”

ImgBurn-Step1

2. Click on the Add Folder button on the Source Column and select the folder where you’ve extracted the Windows 7 installation files

3 4

3. Click the Labels tab, and you can use your own label, or if you want your DVD to be just like the Retail DVDs, use the following labels. For 32 bit – GRMCFRE_EN_DVD | For 64 bit – GRMCxFRE_EN_DVD

9

4. Click the Advanced Tab, and then click the Restrictions Tab, then check the options as shown in the below screenshot

5

6. Click the Bootable Disc tab, and then check the box labeled “Make Image Bootable”

7

7. Click the Browse button next to “Boot Image” and then browse to where you downloaded the BootImage.ima file, and select it

8. In the “Sectors to Load” field change the 4 to an 8

9. Select a Destination to save your Windows 7 ISO

10. Click the big Build button

11. You will see the following error message. Click NO. If you do not click NO, your DVD will not work correctly.

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12. After your ISO is created you can use ImgBurn to burn your newly created ISO.

Good luck and happy installing!

-Tom

Windows 7 is now available!

Today is the big day!

Windows 7 has been launched with much fanfare. This morning I got out of bed early (tough for me to do), queued up Microsoft PressPass and watched the Windows 7 Launch Event live from New York City.

Over the next few days I’ll be posting an in-depth review series of Windows 7 for all to enjoy.

If you are interested in purchasing Windows 7 you can buy it directly from Microsoft and download it and install it today! To buy Windows 7 click here.

For those of you with Netbooks wondering how you can install Windows 7 without a DVD drive, Microsoft has tool available called the Windows 7 USB / DVD Download Tool. This tool lets you use your downloaded copy of Windows 7 from the Microsoft Store and a USB flash drive to create a flash drive to use on your netbook to install Windows 7. This tool is available at http://store.microsoft.com/Help/ISO-Tool

Stay tuned for more Windows 7 stuff over the next 7 days!

-Tom

UPDATE: Corrected link to Windows 7 USB Download Tool