Windows Home Server Vail Public Preview Update

If you are using the Vail Public Preview that was released in August of 2010, please be aware that this build will be expiring on January 10th, 2011.

There is no workaround to prevent the build from expiring. If you have any data that you don’t wish to lose (which you shouldn’t as this is pre-production code), please back that data up before the 10th.

Microsoft announced in a forums post today that they are committed to providing an updated public preview build within the next 4-6 weeks.

Once a new build is released, you’ll find out about it here, the Microsoft forums, and the Windows Home Server team blog.

2011 Microsoft MVP for Windows Home Server


2011 sure has gotten off to a great start! I woke up yesterday to an e-mail in my inbox congratulating me on becoming an MVP for Windows Home Server.

Congratulations! We are pleased to present you with the 2011 Microsoft® MVP Award! This award is given to exceptional technical community leaders who actively share their high quality, real world expertise with others. We appreciate your outstanding contributions in Windows Home Server technical communities during the past year.

It is an incredible honor to join the ranks alongside the other Windows Home Server MVPs, and I look forward to helping the community in the year ahead.

What’s new with Windows Azure?

Last week at PDC 2010, Microsoft announced some new features in Windows Azure. Here’s a quick rundown of those new features along with my take.

New Management Portal: Azure’s management portal is getting a much needed facelift and better integration. If you’ve used Azure at all, you’ll know that there are three different management pieces and having to go back and forth can be a pain. Well, that’s all changing. Coming soon, the new portal will be Silverlight powered and the three sites will be integrated into one. I think this is great, and I wonder why this wasn’t done sooner.  Expect availability sometime before the end of 2010.

Admin Mode: I’m excited about this one. Currently, if you develop an application for the Azure cloud and deploy it and issues occur there currently are not many ways to diagnose the failure. Admin Mode, essentially Remote Desktop, changes things. With Admin Mode, you are able to RDP into your Web Roles and manage them just as if they were being run on a physical server in your own datacenter. Expect availability sometime before the end of 2010.

Full IIS Support: Currently when an application is deployed into the Azure cloud, it is deployed into a highly customized version of IIS. With the new Admin Role, Microsoft is extending Full IIS support. Meaning that you’ll be able to deploy your application into the Azure cloud with the same flexibility as deploying an app in-house. Expect availability sometime before the end of 2010.

Multiple Administrators: Right now, Azure is limited to two administrators per service account. Microsoft will now allow multiple administrators per service account. Expect availability sometime before the end of 2010.

VM Role: Microsoft will now offer the ability to create a Virtual Machine and host it in the Azure cloud. Windows Server 2008 R2 VMs will be supported first with Server 2003 coming later. Key caution is that these are not stateful VMs, they revert to the uploaded image upon restart. Expect CTP availability sometime before the end of 2010 and a final release in 2011.

Extra Small Compute Instance: Microsoft is now offering an extra small instance that includes a 1GhZ processor, 768MB of RAM, and 20GB of disk space, all for $0.05/hr. I think this is a great starter option and can be used for smaller scale cloud applications. Available now.

These are in my opinion some of the top new features in Windows Azure. There are many more, such as SQL Reporting Services support in SQL Azure, finalization of the SQL Azure Database Manager, and some updates to the Azure AppFabric.

For more information, I highly suggest visiting the Microsoft PDC website and viewing sessions related to Azure. Click here to visit the Microsoft PDC website.

Building icons for Internet Explorer 9 Pinned Sites

imageIf you are a web developer and are looking to take advantage of Internet Explorer 9’s unique feature set, you’ll want to check out this tool. It’s called X-Icon Editor and was shown off today at Microsoft’s Professional Developers Conference in Redmond, Washington.

With the X-Icon Editor you can make icons that will stand out, amaze, delight, and satisfy. (Ok, well, I took some creative license there, but your icons will stand out.)

The editor supports importing from .jpg, .ico, .bmp, .gif, and transparent .png, live drawing or editing, online preview on IE9, and support for high resolution icons.

You can check out the X-Icon editor at

Internet Explorer 9 – Review

On September 15th, Microsoft released the Windows Internet Explorer 9 beta at an event in San Francisco.

I’ve been using the beta for a while now and I can say that I’m impressed. Microsoft has made numerous improvements and it really shows through in this release.

The top features in Internet Explorer 9 are Hardware-accelerated HTML5, support for modern web standards, deep integration with Windows 7, and a new UI that emphasizes browsing over browser.

Internet Explorer 9 moves rendering of text and graphics from the CPU (processor), to the GPU (graphics card). What this means is that graphics will appear richer, text will appear clearer and crisper, and video will play smoother. I’ve included a screenshot example below to illustrate the difference between the new DirectWrite rendering engine and the GDI rendering engine that is used in older versions of Internet Explorer, as well as Internet Explorer 9’s Compatibility Mode. (The top screenshot is rendering with DirectWrite and the bottom is rendering with GDI.)


Internet Explorer 9 includes support now for HTML5, the next major revision to the HTML web standard. Features in HTML5 include direct embed support of video and audio, offline storage, enabling websites to become web applications, and drag and drop. Some of these new features work best with hardware acceleration, and Microsoft is taking hardware acceleration to a whole new level with Internet Explorer 9. Because Internet Explorer 9 uses APIs like Direct2D and DirectWrite, HTML5 websites feel less like websites and more like applications.

In the Internet Explorer 9 Product Guide that Microsoft published, they use the phrase “Your websites shine.” I completely agree with this statement. Because of the new user interface introduced with IE9, websites truly shine. IE 9 is, dare I say, one sexy browser. The browser has been simplified by combining the address box and the search box into what Microsoft calls “OneBox”, easier and clearer notifications, and hiding the unnecessary menu items. By simplifying the user interface, the focus is off of the browser and on the website.


If you’re a Windows 7 user, there is now more to love about Internet Explorer 9. With Internet Explorer 9 you can pin websites to the taskbar for easy access. Pinned websites open in their own browser windows and the browser and navigational controls integrate the site’s icon and primary color, improving the browsing experience.


Internet Explorer 9 includes Jump List support for Pinned Sites and makes it very easy to access areas of different websites that the website creator wants to expose.


Other features include tearable tabs, meaning that tabs can be moved to other windows or torn off and separated on their own, a download manager (finally!), and improved overall performance.

I am thoroughly impressed with Internet Explorer 9. The new user interface, hardware accelerated HTML5, and personal favorite, the integrated download manager. In my opinion Microsoft has done it right. Sure, other browsers have had download management and simplified user interfaces for a while now, but Internet Explorer 9 takes it up to the next level. If I was giving it a rating based on stars I’d say 5 out of 5.

If you are on the adventurous side, I highly encourage that you visit the Microsoft website and evaluate the beta today. You can find the beta by clicking here.

Introducing a More Beautiful Web

IE9DownloadBannerToday in San Francisco, Microsoft is officially unveiling Windows Internet Explorer 9, and releasing a beta version to the public.

Microsoft is touting Internet Explorer 9 as a release that is clean, simple, and enables you to focus on the content you care most about.

With Internet Explorer 9, Microsoft is introducing a new interface that puts you and your content first. Clutter has been reduced and the browser controls are being placed into glass. This means more room for content and a simplified browsing experience.

This is the first release to feature the use of the graphics card (GPU) for rendering graphics and text, using Direct2D and DirectWrite APIs. What this means for you the end user is that websites will feel more like native applications and provide for more immersive browsing experiences.

From a security standpoint, Internet Explorer 9 is shaping up to be the safest release yet. Internet Explorer 9 includes a new feature known as Download Reputation that uses reputation data to remove unnecessary warnings for safe files, and show warnings when a file is known to have a higher risk of being malicious.

Microsoft is partnering with renowned digital artist Joshua Davis, creator of the Endless Mural, Davis’ first project created in HTML5. You can learn more and contribute to the Endless Mural by visiting Microsoft’s Beauty of the Web site.

If you are interested in downloading and trying today’s beta release, you can either click the picture above, or visit