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4:58PM

Shiny New Thing to Review: HP EliteDesk Mini 800 G1

I am in possession of the HP EliteDesk Mini 800 small form factor PC for review here at elitedesk_mini_product2_tcm_245_1545487AbsolutelyWindows.

This is one very compact device.

It is the size of an average hardcover novel, yet it packs in goodies such as a total of 2 DisplayPort ports, 6 USB 3.0 slots, up tp 16GB of RAM, up to 1 TB of spinning media or a 256 GB SSD.

A keyboard and mouse are standard, though you have to spring for a monitor yourself.

elitedesk_mini_product4_tcm_245_1545488This device came to me with Windows 7 Professional, though I understand I have upgrade rights for Windows 8.1. Disks included.

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© 2002 – 2014, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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4:46PM

Shiny New Thing to Review: HP Pro x2 612 G1

I am in possession of the new HP x2 612 G1 hybrid device.

pro x2 612 g1Nominally a 12.5” tablet, this tablet comes with a close-coupled but removable keyboard/cover that contains dual USB 3.0 ports, a DisplayPort, and RJ45 NIC port.

Screen resolution is full HD at 1080p, and the device shipped to me with both 8GB of RAM and 256 GB of solid state memory.

For 1st looks, it is solid.

Oh, and it came with Windows 8.1 installed.

© 2002 – 2014, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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11:34PM

Day 2 at Storage Field Day 6: Nexenta Systems

Nexenta Systems

Nexenta Systems is a company I have heard about for a while, since a couple of acquaintances Mike L. and Matt V. went to work for them.

All I knew was that Nexenta had developed a software-defined storage platform that folks liked a lot. B1yUo-oIEAQvxh9

As a result, I was was quite stoked when Nexenta was revealed as a sponsor, and one of the stops, for Storage Field Day 6.

So, who or what, is Nexenta Systems?

Founded in 2005 – they’re an aged company by Silly Valley standards – Nexenta was probably at the vanguard of the software-defined revolution, coming up with a software product that aimed to democratize storage by using their software on commodity hardware.

Going forward, I’ll chug a snifter of Grand Marnier whenever I write the phrase, “commodity hardware”.

I have noticed that Nexenta is well-received in the storage enthusiast community, FWIW.

Starting off our visit is Jill Orhun, VP of Marketing & Strategy led the introductions and welcome to Nexenta.

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She gave a brief bio on the company and their products.

For her, there was this shoutout from the Interwebs:

It was indeed very good to see.

What are their products?

Nexenta’s products can be described as a journey, where your first step is NexentaStor, followed by NexentaConnect. Your third step is NexentaEdge, and your journey concludes with NexentaFusion.

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NexentaStor
NexentaStor is software defined storage technology based on ZFS, and utilizing Nexenta OS, a variant of Linux. It is block and file storage.

Personally, I have to say that all the talk about hardware agnosticism and commodity hardware has me shuddering at the thought of the size of the hardware compatibility lists Nexenta must maintain in order not to have hardware failures incorrectly attributed to them.

Nexenta can install on bare metal or as a VSA (virtual storage appliance) on VMware vSphere or Xen today. Microsoft Hyper-V support is expected soon.

This, is annoying. It means that Logikworx cannot avail ourselves of this product until Hyper-V is supported. Most importantly, I cannot play with it until then.

Jill then gives us a few market statistics: Nexenta has approximately 5500 customers, about evenly split between enterprise and community (free, enthusiast) editions. It has close to an exabyte of licensed customer capacity. Their largest user has over 100 petabytes of storage. No, they didn’t reveal who that customer is.

Nexenta offers unlimited storage per license, but you must pay for Nexenta Connect on a per socket basis.

NexentaConnect
This is Nexenta’s orchestration and deployment layer for their storage management products.

It is tightly integrated with VMware Horizon and Virtual SAN. In VMware Horizon, NexentaConnect leverages a GUI in order to provide automation of storage management functions.

NexentaEdge
Next up is Robert Novak – no, not that Robert Novak, another one! – to talk to us about Nexenta’s new new thing, NexentaEdge.

Robert promises us that NexentaEdge 'will be superior to other things you've seen'

NexentaEdge uses UDP. Yes folks, UDP! Pretty interesting implementation of object storage from Nexenta: "Multicast UDP reliably”. Run Windows Storage Server for file services on vSAN.

While we had marveled earlier on about whiteboarding, Robert went old old school, and brought out a paper board, an easel, and colored crayons!

(In reality, colored markers, but this is my story, right? Thank you!)

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NexentaEdge is like BitTorrent storage.

It is Nexenta’s entry into the object storage space.

It is replicast much like BitTorrent: chunking & tracking with hashing over multicast groups and IPv6. for retrieval.

Using ZFS, NexentaEdge will allow for global dedupe, scale up to several hundred petabytes, allow snapshotting, cloning, and dynamic performance optimization.

It is being engineered to use the next gen server CPU platforms including low-power chips such as ARM and Intel Atom.

Targeted uses are for Swift, S3 and Openstack.

UPDATE: Corrected to reflect that it’s NexentaEdge that uses UDP, not NexentaConnect. Thanks, Enrico Signoretti

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© 2002 – 2014, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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4:40PM

Shiny New Thing to Review: The Epson Perfection v600 Flatbed Photo Scanner

Screenshot (18)I am in possession of a new Epson Perfection v600 flatbed scanner.Screenshot (16)

Recently feeling nostalgic, I decided to post some old photos to an online repository, and found out that they were less than ideal.

Since I have the film negatives – yes, we used film cameras back then, thank you – I decided to obtain a photo scanner with film negative scanning capabilities in order to volunteer my kids into scanning them.

I feel this scanner, despite being a consumer product, will be up to the job.

Screenshot (17)

Let’s do this!

© 2002 – 2014, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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7:40AM

The SmallBizWindows Logitech ConferenceCam BCC950 Review

smallbizwindows2The Logitech ConferenceCam BCC950 is a Superstar product.

I just have to let you know how impressed we are with this product at the very start!

It delivers a complete videoconferencing solution at a very affordable price point.

Based on my needs for a complete conference-calling solution, Ann F. at Logitech Business was kind enough to send me a pair of these devices for review.

The Logitech ConferenceCam BCC950oa-glamor-images

The BCC950 is quite full-featured.

It offers full 1080p HD recording, has Carl Zeiss lenses. It came with a remote control, and a built-in USB connector to a PC.

Each conference camera came in a diminutive cardboard box reminiscent of a takeout sandwich box. I applaud Logitech for their green packaging.

Unboxing & OOBE

WP_20141111_008I took out the BCC950, attached the camera extension rod, plugged the power supply into both the device and the mains, and that was it: the BCC950 was recognized, initialized, and made ready by Windows 8.1

No drivers needed, no Windows Update or WSUS hassles.

Review #1: Filming a whiteboard session
So far, all I had done was plug in the BCC950, set it up in a predetermined fixed point, and use it from there.

While filming a series of videos for a project, I acquired the use of a camera grip who thought me something new about the camera: it moves in two dimensions, and zooms. AKA, it pans, tilt, and zoom!

I had a BCC950 unit focused on my face, and the other focused on a nearby whiteboard which I asked my #1 Son to monitor.

To my surprise, he started panning, tilting, and zooming in on the areas of the whiteboard as I spoke. When asked, he show me that he was using the remote control unit, which allows for such movements.

This range of movement, from an inexpensive solution such as the BCC950, is huge!

Review #2: Lync between MedikLabs & LA
After initial config testing between our local sites here in NE CO, I sent one of the BCC950 units to my offices in LA for my EVP to use in our several-times-weekly conversations.

And for situations like that, the BCC950 shone.

Compatible with Lync out of the box, the unit displayed such clarity that I went back to look at the specs for the BCC950 again, and discovered that it has on-board H.264 encoding.

We also used it for a few WebEx meetings – hey, she wanted to use WebEx! – with a potential client. Again, the BCC950 worked very well, from her location to mine.

Review #3: Lync & Skype between Colorado & Accra, Ghana
One of the hats I wear is that of CEO at Blackfriars Capital, which is involved in angel and early-stage investments in indigenous solutions for standard-of-living improvements in West Africa.

As part of that, the BCC950 unit that was formerly in Los Angeles was sent on to Accra, in Ghana, when we held our last funding proposals, since I couldn’t be there in person.

I really cannot say enough about how the clarity of returned images helped me to note the two things I always look for at situations like that: the facial expressions and their body language.

Again, the clarity of the video, thanks to our speedy bandwidth in Ghana, which, shamefully, is so much better than what I get at The Orbiting O’Odua here in Colorado!

Review #4: Video Medical Consultation device
Once the event in Accra was over, the second BCC950 – I’m holding on tightly to the primary unit until I have to return it! – was taken to MedikLabs, where it was substituted for the webcam commonly used by the physician provider there for medical consultations.

Currently, unit #2 is used as a video capture device for some sensory testing being performed at MedikLabs.

Conclusions

 

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In every test, we substituted the existing conference calling solution with a BCC950. In my personal use, it took the place of the very capable Microsoft LifeCam Studio, itself no slouch with full 1080p video recording.

However, even the LifeCam was not capable of holding a torch to the versatility of this product.

I have not even mentioned the crisp audio, and the built-in speakerphone.

For a small team working remotely, this is an unbeatable solution, from a utility, feature, compatibility, and fiscal standpoint.

As a result, we have bestowed upon it both the Business Ready Award of Excellence and the SmallBizWindows Superstar honors.

Relevant SpecsWP_20141111_013

      • Motorized pan, tilt and zoom
      • Integrated full duplex omnidirectional speakerphone with 8-foot range
      • On-board H.264 encoding
      • Full HD 1080p 30fps video calling
      • Camera and speakerphone controls, speakerphone and remote control
      • 10-foot range remote control
      • Pan, tilt and zoom, Volume, Audio mute, Answer/Hang up
      • Carl Zeiss Optics with 9 point auto focus
      • 78-degree field of view
      • 180-degree pan, 55-degree tilt
      • 3.5mm analog headset jack
      • USB 2.0 compliant
      • 8-foot USB cable
      • 8-foot universal power adapter
      • 9-inch extender stem for elevation / eye level camera angle
      • Compatibility: USB video class (camera and H.264), Microsoft Lync, Skype
      • Windows 7, XP, and Mac OS X 10.6 and higher

App Compatibility:

      • Cisco WebEx and other Cisco Video Conferencing applications
      • Citrix Go to Meeting
      • FaceTime
      • Microsoft Lync and Office365
      • Skype

Package Contents

  • ConferenceCam base and attached US cable
  • Extender
  • Webcam head
  • Power cable
  • Quick Start guide

© 2002 – 2014, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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11:28PM

Day 2 at Storage Field Day 6: Coho Data

B14CP3MIQAAkPieStarted by a bunch of XenSource, Citrix, and storage industry folks, Coho Data is, according to them,

enabling businesses of all sizes to build their own high performance web-scale storage for their private cloud. Inspired by the highly scalable, commodity-hardware based approaches of public clouds, the company is developing the first flash-tuned scale-out storage architecture designed for private clouds that delivers unparalleled performance and simplified management at public cloud capacity pricing.

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So, what is Coho Data?

Coho Data’s is a software stack that runs, and ships on commodity hardware.

Coho Data targets mid to large enterprises, ISPs, application service providers specifically while open to all comers. Currently VMware-only, Coho Data uses NFS 3 as it’s underpinnings as that is where VMware sales currently are. It tries to resolve problematic VMs, SQL Server, Oracle DB.

"Network pain becomes storage pain a few years later"
says Coho Data's Andy Warfield

Right now, remote asynchronous replication now available in Coho Data’s v2.0 release.

Debuting here at Storage Field Day 6 is…tada…Coho Data v. 2.0

V2.0 starts out with a very cool UI.

We are walked through a demo by Coho Data’s CTO and co-founder, Andy Warfield.

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“..all storage arrays will be hybrid…but they won’t have disks."
Andy Warfield

Utilizing RESTful interfaces and APIs, and leveraging JSON, v2.0 is going to prove quite important in console management and process workflows in the enterprise. In the API walkthrough , Andy showed us the dev console, which had JSON and other graphs integrated into it. We learned how v2.0 uses NVMe data paths submission/completion Qs optimization of multi-cores and NICs. The API API also allows admins to build best-practices for special use cases, or workloads, and especially apps. It also allows for users to perform Big Data analysis and optimization.

With Coho Data v2.0, admins can declutter their NFS namespace trees for workload contention across multicores. Preparing TCP packet headers, and transferring them to other nodes is also a snap.

Andy also laid out a 3rd-party trust model for storage.

Preparing packet header like an envelope' for other micro arrays, only possible if correctly architected from start. says Andy Warfield

As I see it

clip_image002Coho data is a young company that has a fresh take on storage optimization. They are blessed with a management team that has Andrew Warfield as CTO.

Their vision is coherent, and very mindful of the meagre resources their startup has.

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While Andy said quite a few notable quotes, one of the things I best remember from this visit to the Coho offices is the graphic above.

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Thank you to all at Coho Data for their hospitality, and for this excellent LEGO minifig.

Me-minifig

© 2002 – 2014, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

00 - Ivy

6:33AM

Today at Storage Field Day 6

What a first day!

Of Storage Field Day 6, that is.

Today, we heard presentations from three companies, Avere Systems of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; StorMagic, coming in all the way from Old Blighty, and Tegile, located right here in Silly Valley.

I shall briefly recap the day.

Avere Systems
Starting out as a NAS optimization system, Avere Systems now bills itself as a ‘cloud enablement and NAS optimization platform’.

Let’s join them in finding out just what that is.

According to Avere, their flagship product

Avere FXT Series Edge filers were the first technology to deliver the benefits of performance tiering and scale-out clustering to any NAS environment. The FXT Series provides NAS optimization by enabling customers to achieve unlimited performance scaling for their applications, global access to their data independent of where the storage is located, and dramatic cost savings in both capital and operating expenses.

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In plain English, Avere delivers a product which is a NAS caching and abstraction layer that creates a single namespace both for local NAS and cloud, including existing, and cloud storage providers. This enables organizations to use the legacy storage constructs in their current environment while leveraging emerging storage options.

It incorporates technology dubbed FlashMove, which makes it possible to seamlessly move data from local NAS to cloud and back again.

Next, Avere Systems announced a software only version of FXT Edge filer, the Virtual FXT appliance, which promises full FXT functionality on EC2 compute cloud.

During this presentation, Avere made a very good point on why Amazon AWS storage is cheap: it is the nut that gets you to spend on their compute and services when you're hooked up to their storage.

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I clearly didn’t bring up the fact that their hometown team had shellacked mine just a couple of days earlier. No sense in either bringing up past defeats or re-living them, right?

StorMagic
From Bristol, in the UK, came StorMagic.

StorMagic produces a software-only solution delivering high-availability at the edge for enterprises.

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In their words,

StorMagic’s SvSAN is a software solution which enables enterprises to eliminate downtime of business critical applications at the enterprise edge. This is achieved by leveraging the existing server storage and presenting it as a virtual SAN.

StorMagic’s typical customer has anywhere between 10 – 10,000 edge sites, where local IT resource is not available, but uptime of applications is a must.

What I glean from that, StorMagic’s flagship product, SvSAN, is at once both software defined storage and a hyper convergence solution for the edge of the enterprise.

These are typically remote sites, with no local IT, and critical LOB apps.

StorMagic fits best for sites such as this:

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Pleasingly, StorMagic is available on Microsoft’s Hyper-v.

By the numbers, StorMagic has 1,226 customers, with over 57 petabytes managed, at ~2,200 customer sites.

Much thanks to Ray Lucchesi (@RayLucchesi) who reminded me of the potential utility of this software appliance to SMBs, and invariably to our remote users in emerging countries.

Resultantly, I shall be keeping a close eye, and probably getting in touch with StorMagic, in the near future.

Tegile Systems
Our final presentation today took place at the Newark offices of Tegile Systems.

It started out with a tour of their engineering datacenter, where my first tweet was a shout out to Jason Covitiz at Schneider/APC.

All racks at Tegile were APC, that’s why!

Next up, we walked to the presentation conference room.

Stepping into the conference room, I saw this: multi-colored chips and guacamole!

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Just what does Tegile do?

Tegile develops and delivers a storage array which could be made up of all flash storage, or a hybrid of flash and spinning disks in a hardware appliance.

According to my friend and fellow delegate Enrico Signoretti @esignoretti, Tegile is a small company that’s doing quite well in a very crowded space.

According to them, Tegile is a

manufacturer of intelligent flash and hybrid storage solutions whose flash storage arrays support a wide range of technologies, including iSCSI, NFS, SMB 3.0/CIFS and Fibre Channel. Tegile all-flash and hybrid storage systems leverage the performance of flash technology while using hard disk drives to lower cost per GB.

Not bad, not bad.

Next, we are presented with this, which fellow delegate Scott Lowe @theotherscottlowe – describes as a perfect representation of the “realities of application storage realities in a way that makes sense:.

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I kinda think he liked it.

Below, is a slide that shows what Tegile believes is their value proposition.

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As I see it, Tegile accelerates performance with a hybrid flash/non-flash devices. It has inline deduplication, compression, zero elimination, thin provisioning, and automatic blockbuster reclamation. (Thanks, Arjan Timmerman @arjantim.)

From what I see, there is a relatively large, and quite impressive bundled software features in with Tegile appliances.

Tegile also has IntelliCare, which is a cloud-based analytics and trouble-shooting, technical support platform for Tegile devices.

Tegile systems can address up to 16 TB of flash cache, without any loss of performance

That’s a quick summary.

More on these vendors subsequent to the event, after I have had more time to delve into their offerings.

© 2002 – 2014, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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11:46AM

Gestalt IT SFD6 Day 1 Live Stream

Please follow the live video stream here, starting with Avere Systems.

© 2002 – 2014, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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11:16PM

Gestalt IT Storage Field Day 6

I am in San Jose, California for Gestalt IT’s Storage Field Day 6, which, as you can glean from the event name, is the sixth event in the series.

Why does Storage Field Day Matter?

Simple: relevance.

Today, we are faced with two kinds of storage improvements: the first are evolutionary improvements from the legacy storage vendors, sometimes interspaced with some breakthroughs. Secondly, you have the truly revolutionary innovations brought to us by startups.

HP’s 3PAR is an outlier here, as it continually strives to think like a startup, and bring forth truly innovative products.

For that secondary category listed above, where is Gestalt IT’s Tech Field Day series.

The companies presenting at the Storage Field Day series tend to be startups with technologically advanced products that truly move the needle in the real world.

That, folks, is what SFD is about.

And that, is why I’m always ready to participate when invited.

Stay tuned.

More information on Storage Field Day 6 is here.

© 2002 – 2014, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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9:52AM

Moving MedikLabs to an All-Azure Cloud

For the past 120 days, the entire consumer computing assets here at The Orbiting O’Odua have been running off the cloud.

A hybrid cloud, that is.

My guinea pigs, namely Wifey, the kids, and everyone else, have been doing most of their computing via an Azure-based hybrid.

They consume AD and other services from Azure, and I have moved them completely to Yammer from SharePoint.

Yes, I made my kids suffer SharePoint. If I have to, why not them?

I still run a couple of on-premises projects, including my validation labs.

Starting tomorrow, I will start a project to gradually move all computing operation at MedikLabs, including both the physician practice, and the healthcare lab we use to test and validate concepts. The soon-to-be-opened cosmetic clinic will be all-cloud from Day One.

Unlike computing at the O’Odua, MedikLabs will be an all-Azure affair.

However, I’m not nuts: I intend to keep a daily local backup. Like I do at The Orbiting O’Odua.

I expect to have all systems validated the by December 22.

My target date for 100% go-live is January 5, 2015.

© 2002 – 2014, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

Blackground Media

9:50AM

Shiny New Thing to Review: The Fujitsu ScanSnap iX100d Portable Wireless Scanner

When you’re told of a device that purports to be “the world’s lightest and fastest wireless scanner”, you salivate at the prospect of reviewing it.

Well, I salivate no more.

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We are in possession of the brand spankin’ new Fujitsu ScanSnap iX100d.

This is a battery-operated, lightweight, and sleek device.

lithium_powered

I see sooo many potential uses, and revenue opportunities, for this device.

© 2002 – 2014, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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9:50AM

Shiny New Thing to Review: Epson WorkForce Pro WF-5690 Multifunction Printer

Epson WorkForce workgroup printer, since my introduction to them by M.A. over at Walt & Co.

As a long time HP printer user, I was skeptical.

However, I tried the device, and pound-for-pound, I mean, dollar-for-dollar, the Epson WorkForce WP-4540 handily beat every inkjet printer I had tried prior to then, and on price + consumables, it soundly thrashed every HP color MFC in production, on the way to being named our SmallBizWindows Printer of the Year for three years running, a distinction it holds even today.

Well, Epson has refreshed their printer line, and the new comparable offering is the Epson WorkForce WF-5690 of which once again, we have been offered the opportunity to review.

I know, I know: we review a lot of stuff so you wouldn’t have to. You’re welcome.

This device, the second all-white device we have here for review.

1-Front

My Princess helped me unbox it, and it has been installed.

© 2002 – 2014, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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9:44AM

Shiny New Thing to Review: Epson WorkForce Pro WF-5690 Multifunction Printer

Epson WorkForce workgroup printer, since my introduction to them by M.A. over at Walt & Co.

As a long time HP printer user, I was skeptical.

However, I tried the device, and pound-for-pound, I mean, dollar-for-dollar, the Epson WorkForce WP-4540 handily beat every inkjet printer I had tried prior to then, and on price + consumables, it soundly thrashed every HP color MFC in production, on the way to being named our SmallBizWindows Printer of the Year for three years running, a distinction it holds even today.

Well, Epson has refreshed their printer line, and the new comparable offering is the Epson WorkForce WF-5690 of which once again, we have been offered the opportunity to review.

I know, I know: we review a lot of stuff so you wouldn’t have to. You’re welcome.

This device, the second all-white device we have here for review.

1-Front

My Princess helped me unbox it, and it has been installed.

© 2002 – 2014, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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9:43AM

Shiny New Thing to Review: APC BackUPS Connect Network Battery Backup

APC has come up with a new product that really hits all the necessary buttons.

I mean, could Captain Obvious have created a more needed product?

The product in question is the new APC Network Battery Backup.

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Coming in white – my first-ever white APC product in over twenty years of using their products – the product has three 2-prong A/C power ports and two USB charging ports.

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It is supposed to have an extended life battery, giving up to 4.5 hours of runtime.

I will install it initially at The Orbiting O’Odua, then move it to MedikLabs where I can use it under several loads.

I have a post on how review came to be is here.

© 2002 – 2014, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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9:21AM

Shiny New Things to Review: HP RDX External Drive & Twin 2 TB RDX Cartridges

We are – in possession – actually, we have been for the past eight weeks – of an HP RDX external drive and a couple of HP 2 GB RDX cartridges.

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For those not in the know, RDX is HP’s hard disk-based backup and CDP solution.

It is ruggedized out of the box, and with data cartridges offering 2TB of raw storage space, it is poised to become the replacement for HP DATxx digital audio tape backup systems.

It is already the replacement for DAT backup solutions as far as HP is concerned.

We will be using this device as the primary backup solution for a forthcoming Proliant ML-series tower.

Stay tuned.

HP RDX External Drive Solution

  • RDX External Drive
  • Two (2) 2 TB RDX cartridges.
  • USB 3.0 connectivity to host computer.

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I will also be using seven (7) 500 GB RDX cartridges as part of this review.

© 2002 – 2014, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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7:15PM

The SmallBizWindows HP ElitePad 1000 G2 Review

Almost coincident with my receiving the HP Pro Tablet 610 G1 here at The Orbiting O’Odua for review, I received the HP EliteBook 1000 G2 for review as well.

I jumped at this.

Why, you may ask?

Well, back in July 2013, I purchased nine Windows 8 tablets for suitability-to-task testing by myself and staff at AbsoultelyWindows, MedikLabs, and at Logikworx for some projects we had in mind.

The tablets were:

    • Acer Iconia Tab
    • Asus ME400c
    • Dell XPS-10
    • HP ElitePad 900
    • Lenovo IdeaPad
    • Lenovo ThinkPad
    • Microsoft Surface RT
    • Microsoft Surface Pro
    • Samsung ATIV

Apart from the [original] Surface Pro, all devices were found wanting, which I reported in the November 2013 edition of my newsletter, The Interlocutor.

At that time, even Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2 were found to be unsuitable as a result of their cost.

A year and a device rev later, I wanted to see if HP had moved the sticks.

Let’s do this.

HP ElitePad 1000 G2

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The HP ElitePad 1000 G2 arrived in the usual brownish well-padded HP laptop box. The box also came with a proprietary-port-to-USB dongle, and a power supply.

Additionally, I was sent the HP ElitePad Productivity Jacket, which adds a rigid screen protector, two USB 2.0 ports, a MicroSD card slot, and a keyboard to the unit.

As a surprise, this ElitePad, as with all mobile devices I have tested from HP this year, came with built-in cellular connectivity, in this instance an LTE 4G radio with the required SIM slot.

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I saved the packing box and materials then plugged the system into the mains for a customary 4-hour initial charge

OOBE
Powering on and setting up the ElitePad 1000 G2 is just as simple as any other Windows device.

It booted up smoothly and showed Windows 8.1 Start. Since I’d selected my Surface Pro 2 as the device to pull down OneDrive sync settings from, all Metro apps from that device were listed.

I snapped the ElitePad into the Productivity Jacket, and off we went.

I installed the components I consider essential to a Windows tablet experience, namely:

  • Microsoft Office 365 with Lync
  • Remote Desktop (Metro)
  • Windows Phone
  • HP Scan & Capture
  • Microsoft Fresh Paint, Reading List,
  • VLC Player (Metro & Desktop)
  • Fotor, and
  • Games, including both Xbox One & Xbox 360 SmartGlass apps.

Testing regimen
Moreover, the cool thing with working with Ivy Worldwide is that they always assemble a very diverse team of reviewers for product reviews they are in charge of.

As a result, reviewers for this product have gone in all directions: education, consumer, productivity, business, and healthcare. I chose business, with a twist.

For this business-focused device, I wanted to test it in two realms: as a mobile transaction device in a retail environment, and 2) as a mobile design device, also in a retail establishment.

Review #1: Retail Tablet, Medical Clinic, Colorado
Attached to MedikLabs is a fully-functioning physician’s clinic.

Prior to this, new patients would register at the front desk, and wit to fill out registration forms if they hadn’t done so online. For the flu season, transient – that is, patients only coming to that clinic for flu shots – also need to register for audit purposes.

In order to ease constraints placed by space, and not have to increase non-medical staff, I proposed using an AIO as a kiosk for general information, and several tablets for data input for individual registrations. I also proposed the use of a tablet for obtaining payment.

Based on obvious reasons, I tasked myself with closely monitoring this part of the review.

We had decided against Surface Pro for two reasons: #1) an inexplicable unfamiliarity by the targeted group for the Surface Pro’s form factor, and #2 the cost of it.

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We connected the ElitePad to an ID scanner, the credit card scanner, and a receipt printer, all of them stationary devices in the front office.

We had hoped to obtain HP’s ElitePad Retail Solution Jacket, which comprises of a built-in credit card reader, and also a built-in barcode scanner, but it was unavailable to us for the duration of this review.

Over the four weeks the ElitePad was at MedikLabs, it completely helped smooth, and revamp the workflow for staffers and users.

We now know all about Windows tablets, which, as far as I am concerned, are the best of both worlds: mobility and Windows!

Right off the bat, by utilizing an x86 architecture, and running Windows Professional 8.1, all LOB applications in use at MedikLabs worked on ElitePad.

We installed the LOB apps on the device, attached a security/proximity dongle to the device, and let it into the wild of Northern Colorado Healthcare.

For the required tasks, users filled out online registration forms, had a photo of their insurance and ID cards taken, OCR’d, their identities verified, insurance eligibility as of that day verified, and any and all copays determined. In the absence of the Retail Solution Jacket above, all they had to do then was walk over to the front desk to swipe their credit cards for payment.

*Custom patient registration solution developed by GlobalÒjá.

I had initial misgivings using the ElitePad right away since I hadn’t validated the device for reliability. However, it is an HP device, and I have confidence in the brand. As it turned out, my trepidation was unwarranted.

It worked.

Review #2: A Bespoke Men’s Store, Hollywood, California
A longtime client runs a bespoke haberdashery in Hollywood, California.

While his business is smaller than our current norm, he has 20-year business relationship with me. Which means a lot more than business practices. So we still handle his business, which, thankfully, is a low-stresser.

Having yielded to the siren song of the Apple iPad – [let’s call the guy] Tailor – went ahead, and procured an iPad solution that he later found out was not compatible with the other devices he used for his business.

There we came in.

A solution was developed to take advantage of Windows tablets in order to leverage his design and tailoring backend devices.

Being a small business, he is mindful of costs, and wanted a solution that would be both cost-efficient and durable.

We gave him the ElitePad.

His custom-fit tailoring software allows him to obtain target sizes over a range, and project both available designs and/or modifications instantly to the customer. Fabrics, buttons, and styles from his inventory are also available from his backend Proliant server as needed.

He had the ElitePad for several weeks, and he is impressed enough with it as a front-end solution that he is already thinking of revving his software to a new iteration.

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Dislikes
1) The cost of additional devices. The pen costs over $50!
2) Incompatibility with other similar HP devices. The accessories, even the power supply for the ElitePad 1000 G2 is NOT compatible with the virtually identical Pro Tablet 610. 
3) Shortage of on-device expandability.

Conclusions
smallbizwindows1This machine, and its sister device, the HP Pro Tablet 610 (reviewed here) really surprised me.

As I put it earlier, the previous ElitePad 900 didn’t move me.

However, this device is firmly placed at the confluence of functionality, mobility, reliability, and price.

Furthermore, while I didn’t expect, in my quite unscientific tests using a Surface tablet, consumers visiting MedikLabs seemed to prefer this form factor to the Surface Pro.

Battery life is excellent, and at both locations, we availed ourselves of the embedded TPM 1.2 and HP Client Security applications.

While the need never arose, but was comfortable to note, was the fact that the ElitePad enjoys a special level of technical support created especially for the Elite-series of HP devices.

Resultantly, we are bestowing the SmallBizWindows “Business Ready Award of Excellence” on the HP ElitePad 1000 G2.

And just in case you are wondering: no, we haven't installed Windows 10 Technical Preview on the ElitePad 1000 G2. Yet.

Tested with & against:

  • HP Pro Tablet 610 G1
  • Logitech m317 Mouse
  • Logitech t630 Ultrathin Bluetooth Mouse
  • Microsoft Surface Pro 2

 

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Other reviews of the HP ElitePad 1000 G2 are:

Gear Diary looks at all electronic and consumer gear. Bookmark the site.

Geeks Room reviews products for both the local and South American Spanish-speaking markets. Bookmark it also! If you don’t speak Spanish, remember: Microsoft Translator is your friend.

Dave Taylor’s video review is here.

A review by Kathy Schrock is here.

© 2002 – 2014, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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8:49AM

Meaningfully using Twitter to connect with, preserve, and improve your brand

On June 22, 2014, I posted the tweet below.

This past August, Jason Covitz, Director of Marketing Strategy for Schneider Electric, the parent company of APC – formerly American Power Conversion – reached out to me with the following tweet.

Taking it offline, we got introduced, and as a result, I have one of their new products in The Orbiting O’Odua for a SmallBizWindows review.

The use of Twitter to make introductions and create, extend, or repair relationships is a skill most folks do not possess.

Personally, I would have purchased the APC product regardless. I have been an extremely satisfied, and completely loyal APC user since I procured my first unit, an APS BackUPS-100 back in 1990.

The device worked as advertised, and since then, it has been a 100% attach to every server we place, either as VARs, or for managed users.

Suffice it to say, I am quite impressed that Jason reached out.

Why?

Most marketing and PR folks see Twitter as a medium where they shout out supposedly meaningful platitudes about their wares to an unsuspecting public. They also see it as some sort of popularity metric, trying to acquire untold numbers of followers as a way of proving to themselves that they are doing work.

They are not.

For me, the most helpful corporate Twitter accounts are those that proactively take hold of users, whether in good times or not, and try to solve issues.

They attempt to solve your problems to the best of their empowerment, provide helpful information, and help even potential users navigate pitfalls.

I place Jason, and by proxy, Schneider/APC is that august group.

This group includes, but is not limited to the following:

    • HP @Proliant
    • HP @ConvergedSys
    • @HPNetworking
    • @SouthwestAir
    • @Thermador
    • @Logitech_B2B
    • Microsoft @Office
    • @XboxSupport

Each of the accounts above have responded to even the most mundane of tweets from me, and by so doing, endeared their charges to me.

I salute you all.

© 2002 – 2014, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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8:19AM

The SmallBizWindows HP Pro Tablet 610 G1 Review

For the past eight weeks, I have had the new HP Pro Tablet 610 G1 at the Orbiting O’Odua for a SmallBizWindows Review.

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The Pro Tablet 610 is by design, a prosumer device created by HP to address the upper consumer end of Windows tablets.

I wanted to test the Pro Tablet 610 because I was, and I still am, rather displeased with the pricing placed on Microsoft’s Surface Pro line of tablet computers.

The HP Pro Tablet 610 G1
From the specs alone, the Pro Tablet 610 G1 – hereinafter referred to simply as Pro Tablet – looked very good:

  • The latest quad-core Intel Atom processor
  • 10.1: full HD 1080p screen
  • 4 GB RAM
  • 64 GB Storage
  • Windows 8.1 Pro x64

Furthermore, it was priced just south of a comparatively-equipped Surface Pro 2*.

Unboxing & OOBE
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Pro Tablet came in a standard HP laptop box with a quick start guide and a power adapter.

I removed the protective wrappings, plugged the power and gave it my customary four hour charging interval in order to bring it to an adequate setup battery charge level.

I turned it on, and agreed to the standard Microsoft Windows 8x EULA and also to a combined HP device, software and services EULA. I entered my Microsoft Account credentials when prompted to, and upon being authenticated, selected my Surface Pro 2 as the device whose settings I wanted synched over to the Pro Tablet.

Windows setup then provisioned my account and my Metro apps.

Using Pro Tablet 610 G1
For me, work starts and ends with Windows.

The use of Intel’s latest Aton CPUs make this a snappy device.

I installed Microsoft Office 365, but only Outlook, OneNote, Lync, Visio, and Word. I find that using Excel is a bear, and I need larger screens in order to run PowerPoint and Publisher.

For comparative testing, I used the Pro Tablet against both the Surface Pro 2 and the original Surface Pro, several times lugging all three tablet with me.

I used several subjective tests to determine which of the devices snapped to it faster.

In this comparative testing, I finally validated an issue that my #2 Son had brought to me a while back: all screen savers are NOT the same! For some odd reason, he had complained of a generally unresponsive screen on this specific Surface Pro 2, which he used almost exclusively. I felt he was mistaken until I tried it out for this review, and found it lacking, showing up as even more unresponsive than the original Surface Pro. I finally trace it down to the generic screen protector I had purchased for the device. Caveat emptor, people.

The Pro Tablet comes with both a microSD card slot, and a micro-USB connector, for which I had to purchase a USB-to-micro-USB adaptor. A 64 GB microSD card was used to double the storage on the card.

My use of this device centered on what the typical consumer might use it for

Content creation/Work device
As a content-creation device, transcoding video, Word documents, OneNote notebooks, and Visio diagrams, the Pro Tablet functioned just like any other Windows tablet would. It was up to the task, though I wouldn’t use it for video transcoding for any appreciable time. It can do it, however, there’s no reason to.

Video device
Playing video on the Pro Tablet was smooth. I prefer VLC Player for Windows [desktop] to Windows Media Player, and one advantage of running full Windows 8 is that I can install any and all the productivity applications and Metro apps I like.

No exception here. It worked without any jerkiness or need to buffer.

2nd-screen device/Xbox SmartGlass
I like to use any tablet close at hand as a SmartGlass controller for my Xbox devices, and Pro Tablet does the job. No fuss, no muss.

Music player
Utilizing Pro Tablet as a music player with Xbox Music, and Windows Play To is another boon. Point Pro Tablet to Play To device, and off I go, having my music returned on 7.1 reproduction.

News reader/Twitter terminal
A news reader is one of the things that tablets are made for, and I add a Twitter terminal to that. I used the Pro Tablet to a great extent for just those tasks. It is light enough to use as a news reader even overhead in bed, and the Bluetooth keyboard carrying case I obtained for it made tweeting just as easy.

What about battery life? Battery life on the Pro Tablet 610 G1 is excellent. I used it on long trips and had it ready to go and with enough juice to last the day. It also nicely conserves battery life, being able to snap to it after several days of unused, though it does not come close to Surface Pro 2 in that regard.

Conclusions
absolutevistaaward2This is very nicely priced device that bridges two worlds: consumer and business.

The Pro Tablet has all the capabilities one expects of a Windows Tablet, and deliver very good performance to boot. It has a full HD screen, and boasts of both HDMI, USB, and microSD connectivity. It has Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, an 8 MP rear camera – in addition to the lower-resolution front camera, and I believe the screen is made of Gorilla Glass for durability.

It was a good, faithful companion, and it never ran out of power leaving me hung out to dry when I needed to use it.

And it runs Windows!

For these reasons, we are bestowing our Business Ready Award on it.

As tested

    1. 10.1” Gorilla Glass
    2. 1080p Full HD display, 16:9
    3. 4GB RAM
    4. 64GB Storage
    5. Quad-core Intel Atom
    6. Micro-USB, MicroSD, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi a/b/g/n
    7. Windows 8.1 Pro x64

Finally, the HP Pro Tablet 610 is future-proof, as seen in the image below where I have upgraded the operating system on the device to the just-released-for-beta-testing Microsoft Windows 10 Technical Preview.

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Tested Against

  • Microsoft Surface Pro 2
  • Microsoft Surface Pro

*As I post this, Surface Pro 2 devices are no longer available for purchase.

**I have also had the business-focused HP ElitePad 1000 G2 for the same duration as this Pro Tablet.

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My review of the ElitePad 1000 G2 will follow within the next week.

© 2002 – 2014, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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9:58AM

The New HP Workstations, and the HP Workstations DNA

The most basic thing that separates HP Workstations form the herd is simple: the HP Workstation DNA.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

However, the DNA from which HP workstations spring is nothing but simple.

I am reminded of this whenever a new line of CPUs are released by Intel to power professional workstations.

As I am wont to, I waited to see what, if any, supposed rivals to HP will deliver.

At the start of this month, I was at the 2014 HP Global Workstations Launch Event in Fort Collins, Colorado where HP debuted their latest HP Z Workstations.

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As in my past blogs about the Z Workstations launch events, a lot was new.

HP refreshed following mobile and desktop workstations:

HP ZBook 15 & ZBook 17 Mobile Workstations

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The 15” and 17” HP mobile workstations, known respectively as the ZBook 15 and ZBook 18, have new Intel “Haswell” CPUs, and the latest NVIDIA and AMD graphics. Building on their innovation of including Thunderbolt I/O technology, these two devices now include Thunderbolt 2. Storage isn’t neglected, as HP Z Turbo drives – see below – are included, along with a QHD display option. Both mobile workstations now have memory upgradeable to 32 GB of RAM. Three USB 3.0, a USB 2.0, and a DisplayPort port are available. Maximum internal storage is 2.2 TB for the ZBook 15, and 3.2 TB for the ZBook 17.

HP Z440 Workstation

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HP’s Z4xx line has now advanced to the Z440.

A 4U chassis is you want to rack it, the z440 has the new Xeon E5 v3 processor. It can address up to 128 GB of DDR4-2133 ECC Registered SDRAM and a range of drives from SATA to SAS, to SSDs. It also is compatible with the HP Z Turbo PCIe drive.

HP Z640 Workstation

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The Z640 is the latest iteration of the Z6xx series, of which I use the z600s as my everyday system.

This sweet baby has gotten a lot better over the years.

In this latest incarnation, the z640 has the ability to be connected to up to eight displays, and has support for up to 36 total cores spread over the two CPU slots on this workstation.

Accordingly, it has the new Intel Xeon E5 v3 CPUs, support for up to 256 GB of DDR4-2133 RAM*

HP Z840 Workstation

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Just look at this product!

LOOK!

I can’s say enough of the Z8xx workstations.

They are the baddest players in a field where bad just gets you an invite to play.

For the new Z840, the HP Workstation BU led by Jim Zafarana, Jeff Wood, and Z8xx PM Mike Diehl, threw away the old playbook, and raised the bar several notches.

Apart from using the latest-and-greatest Xeon CPUs, this rackable minitower workstation is able to address up to 1 TB of RAM – yes Kansas: 1 terabyte of RAM! – today, and up to 2 TB of RAM once the expected 128 GB DIMMs become available.

Thunderbolt 2 is standard, as are the usual plethora of I/O ports.

And, and liquid cooling has been completely eliminated.

“Are they nuts” you ask?

Exclaimed that, did I as well, my padawans.

Mike Diehl, who is in charge of the Z840, informed me that based on several innovations within the new Z840 chassis, HP has completely obviated the need for liquid. In its stead is the copper-colored air-cooled contraption shown in the photograph above.

Available as the premium cooling which replaces the old liquid cooling option, I understand that this new air-cooled device brings better cooling and thermals to the Z840, especially when used in a max or John Obeto Speciale configurations.

Understandably, I am eager to lay my mitts on this product.

For your benefit, of course.

All systems are available with Microsoft Windows 8.1 Professional x64, and with Windows 7 Professional x64 for enterprise customers who own downgrade rights, or on Microsoft’s academic license.

I understand that it is compatible with some non-Windows operating systems. However, I couldn’t lift an eyebrow to care for those OSs.

HP Z Turbo Drive

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The HP Z Turbo drive is an M.2 PCIe SSD drive which delivers a claimed minimum 2x performance increase compared to SATA SSDs due to its direct connection to the workstation’s PCIe slot.

It is available in 256 GB and 512 GB capacities.

I will be talking about the HP DreamColor & Z Displays professional-class monitors in another post shortly.

*Dependent on 32GB DIMMs

I will be devoting a blog to each of those lines, as well as to the Z Displays.

As I see it
As you can see, HP has a full, and complete line of extremely capable workstations.

For this post, I waited to evaluate the offerings by other workstations OEMs in order to see if their offerings were going to include new-fangled innovations that would set them apart.

That, is the HP workstations DNA.

I have sent the past several weeks doing just that.

I found none.

None whatsoever.

If they are counted upon as an HP workstations competitor, I have looked at, and in a couple of cases – with a national distributor, and a custom OEM, I have been briefed on their products.

All that was/is new, are the new Intel CPUs, and the use of DDR4 DIMMs.

That, however, is NOT innovation.

I came away from my search quite unimpressed.

What sets HP workstations apart from these box-slappers, is the fact that every workstation rev is a journey into delivering a vastly improved product that is made up of state of the art holistic and innovative componentry.

This is a huge difference, and it shows, both in the delivered products, and in the way those products have been marching forward and relentlessly gaining market share.

Sad to say it, but HP Workstations basically don’t have any competition.

More information on HP Workstations can be found here.

© 2002 – 2014, John Obeto for Blackground Media Unlimited

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1:52PM

From the ‘Bad Microsoft’ Files: The Bungled Windows Essentials Installer

Think of this: you are in the process of installing a Microsoft product you personally select and choose to install, and then you get this dialog box:

Screenshot (1)

Your first thought is then what:

a) Say what now?
b) What the f@&k is this nonsense?
c) Gee, Microsoft is so smart. They did not include .NET Framework 3.5 because they would be accused of bundling.

Actually, the first two above could be part of the same thought: incredulity that Microsoft could not design a smart-enough installer that would determine that .NET 3.5 is required, and include that in the install payload when your OS was detected.

My programming days are behind me, but I firmly believe that any code monkey today could come up with a modification to the installer in question, for Windows Essentials, that would i) detect the user’s target OS, ii) determine if the OS has .NET 3.5 installed, and iii) create an ad hoc payload with all necessary EULAs and permissions.

Seriously, how hard could that be?

You would be surprised, but my tweet on the dialog above earned me response #c above.

That assertion is beyond ridiculous.

It is also the reason for this blog post, because the brevity required by the 140-character limit of Twitter requires that I do this in order to put this ridiculousness to bed once and for all!

Microsoft may have been convicted of bundling in the past, but how is that relevant here?

Think about this scenario:

  1. The product in question is Microsoft Essentials.
  2. AFAIK, it is not bundled with any version of Windows. It has to be installed by either the user, or the OEM of the device a user utilizes.
  3. A user goes online, and selects Microsoft Windows Essentials for installation to their PC.
  4. The install app detects what version of Windows and what processor class – x 86 or x64 – that the user has, and asks the user to verify the install payload.
  5. It then starts the user-selected installation, and….everything comes to a screeching halt at the dialog box above.

For the purposes of this blog, we will assume a user install, since OEM installs would have installed the .NET framework.

Where does Microsoft’s bundling come into play?

Now IANAL, but trip this: a user-selected application requires that a Windows component be installed as well. Why couldn’t Microsoft create an installer that slipstreams the required .NET Framework as part of the install package?

Outside of ineptitude, how does this scenario get any connection to Microsoft’s antitrust conviction?

It is a woeful fail, period.

I would like to think that the commenter meant Microsoft’s “bungling” of the installation process.

Because that is the only thing that makes any sense in his tweeted reply.

And of course, the only no-brainer!

Oh yeah, and by the way, the said Windows Essentials installer still offers to install the discontinued Microsoft Messenger application. In September 2014.

Feel free to assume that no end user ever also came up with the reply in #C above!

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