Microsoft takes action against Comet for Counterfeit Windows

I’ve just seen this and it’s quite surprising:

“Microsoft Corp. today issued proceedings against Comet Group PLC for allegedly creating and selling more than 94,000 sets of counterfeit Windows Vista and Windows XP recovery CDs. The alleged counterfeits were sold to customers who had purchased Windows-loaded PCs and laptops.”

That is a huge number of copies and also from a large, well established high street name.

Website “TheNextWeb” have a statement from Comet which reads:

“We note that proceedings have been issued by Microsoft Corporation against Comet relating to the creation of recovery discs by Comet on behalf of its customers.

“Comet has sought and received legal advice from leading counsel to support its view that the production of recovery discs did not infringe Microsoft’s intellectual property.

“Comet firmly believes that it acted in the very best interests of its customers. It believes its customers had been adversely affected by the decision to stop supplying recovery discs with each new Microsoft Operating System based computer. Accordingly Comet is satisfied that it has a good defence to the claim and will defend its position vigorously.”

Their argument that it was in the best interest of customers won’t hold much/any weight if it’s found to infringe upon Microsoft’s IP rights. Microsoft will of course be very certain that this is the case and won’t have launched this suit without proper forethought and fact checking.

I do find this quite encouraging in a way, as it shows that Microsoft are not just targeting the small, local retailers (who tend to be the ones involved in things like this) but also scrutinising the big, well established retailers too…which can only be better for the industry and customers in the long run.

Microsoft XP OEM Downgrade discontinued

Microsoft Windows XP is still used by the majority of business around the world and it’s proving hard to get some people away from it. Well, Microsoft and it’s hardware partners are moving to make it more difficult to stick on XP and this is, in my opinion, a good thing.

What’s Happening?

From October 22nd 2010, downgrade restore media will not ship in PCs or Notebooks from HP.

If customers still require XP downgrade media, they will need to speak to HP support. A key bit of information is that this service will

“be available through HP Support until the end of July 2011”

which suggests in 10 months time, this service will be discontinued completely.

This isn’t specific to HP and is in fact a Microsoft directive that applies to all hardware OEM partners, although I believe the cut off dates may vary slightly.

Microsoft Windows Intune: Online Systems Management

Microsoft Windows InTune is the new Cloud based systems management tool from Microsoft, formerly known as “System Center Online” and has been long awaited. The ability to manage multiple locations/organizations from one central, online point is attractive to a lot of people for a lot of reasons…so let’s take a look @ InTune.

There are at least 10 sections inside InTune so I’m going to cover them in a number of posts, we’ll start with – System Overview:



This is the first screen you see when you log in to the Windows InTune Admin Console and it immediately gives you a great overview of yours systems. It shows:

  • If Machines are infected/unprotected
  • If there are updates for your machines
  • A number of other alerts

Malware Protection:

From here you can see which machines have Malware protection turned off completely and also if they have overdue scans or specific parts of the protection, such as USB device scanning, turned off.

1 click takes you to a list of machines, from where you can turn on protection.


This, not surprisingly, gives you a list of all the updates that are available for you machines be they for the OS or applications.

One issue with this is that, as default, it shows you ALL possible updates:


however, these can easily be filtered:



Another problem I have noticed is that it wants to give my laptop updates for Office 2007, as well as Office 2010; oddly, this doesn’t happen with my other 2010 machines. I had a number of issues when upgrading Office versions and I’m inclined to believe that there are some Office 2007 remnants on the machine that are being picked up by Intune.

Should you choose to approve an update for a machine/machines, you then reach this screen:


Choose the groups on which you want to install the updates, click approve and job done!

I feel it would be a smoother experience and require less clicks, if you could see the machine names on the same screen as all the updates. Currently, you must:

  • Select the update
  • click on “x computers need this update”
  • Check the groups/machines
  • Go back to the previous screen
  • Approve Update

Showing the machines names/groups on the initial screen would remove a lot of that.

You can also access the updates via the individual machine screen, I’ll cover that in a later post.

Alerts by Type:

This section, as well as the above, also includes other types of alerts…not just updates and malware. This is where InTune starts to differentiate itself from other products, for example:


If I click through, it tell me:


That is pretty cool, and something that is very useful for System Admins. I didn’t expect InTune to cover things like this, certainly not in the beta, so I’m pleasantly surprised Smile However, you can’t initiate the defrag from InTune.

The 2 options on the right hand side “Create Computer Group” and “View a Report” will be covered in later posts.


This is a brief look at just the first screen of Microsoft Windows InTune but I’m sure you will agree that it already looks very interesting. So stay tuned for the remaining posts in this series (at least 9!) and ask any questions you may have in the comments Smile



Microsoft Windows 7/Server 2008 R2 SP1 available

As expected, Microsoft have made the beta of the 1st Service Pack for Windows 7 & Server 2008 R2 available after the kick off of the Worldwide Partner Conference.

You can grab the download here:

although it does say:

This early release of Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 Beta is not available for home users. The SP1 Beta does not provide new end-user features, and installation is not supported by Microsoft.

It’s currently available in English, French, German, Spanish & Japanese.

Microsoft Windows Intune: Second Beta

Microsoft Windows Intune is a new product aimed at managing pcs in a new way. My original post can be found here:

Read Windows Intune

The initial beta was restricted to the US, Canada, Mexico & Puerto Rico and 1000 participants. Microsoft have now opened that up to another 10,000 users in the following countries:


To be eligible you need to deploy it to at least 5 machines and start within 1 week.

If you’re interested, go and sign up here:


The pricing of Windows InTune has now been confirmed for the States and it is:

$11 per user per month

That gets you:

  • Cloud based Desktop Management service
  • Anti Virus and Anti-Spyware
  • Windows 7 Enterprise Desktop Upgrades

and, for an extra $1 per user per month, you can get the whole MDOP suite too. More MDOP info here:

Read Microsoft MDOP

Partner Features

Many partners will be looking to InTune to provide them with a new way of generating revenue, through the ability to remotely manage their customers machines. This will reduce the need to travel thus saving money on hotels and petrol and increasing profit margins. Microsoft have quickly, and cleverly, added in a new feature aimed at making this as easy as possible…the “Multi – Account Console”:

This will allow partners to quickly and easily see a top level view of all the customers they manage and, through filtering, spot those needing urgent assistance immediately.


There is already a lot of positive feedback on Windows InTune from the first beta, such as:

“I save about 40% of the time I used to spend managing PC updates, thanks to Windows Intune. It frees me up to focus on developing more custom applications—and bring on more customers”

“I think we could expand our customer base by at least 10-15 percent immediately”

“It accelerates their (customers) decision to make the move (to Windows 7)”

The Future:

Early 2011 will see the general availability of Windows Intune in the countries listed in the 1st screenshot above. It will then move to more European & Latin countries as well as “select” Asian locations.

I’ve signed up to the beta and will hopefully have some post following up on that experience soon.

The MS Blog post can be found here.

Windows Intune

Windows Intune is the newest addition to the Microsoft Online Services stable…and it’s a biggie! Do you remember System Center Online Desktop Manager (SCODM)? Did you notice that it all went quiet on that front? Well here it is with a new name…

What is it?

Windows Intune is a cloud based, central management system aimed at SMB’s of up to 250 machines (or so).

“Windows Intune simplifies how businesses manage and secure PCs using Windows cloud services and Windows 7—so your computers and users can operate at peak performance, from virtually anywhere.”

Intune covers many of the areas that IT Managers find difficult and time consuming such as:

  • Managing Updates
  • Pro-active monitoring
  • Malware Protection
  • Asset Tracking (Hardware & Software)
  • Remote Assistance
  • Setting Security Policies

Windows Intune screenshot

Extra Features:

It’s not just great central systems management that Intune gives you also get:

Software Assurance: Subscribing to InTune allows you to upgrade all your machines to Windows 7 Enterprise and take advantage of features including:

    • Bit Locker to Go
    • Federated Search
    • Direct Access
    • and more

You also receive

“new features or updates to Windows Intune or the Windows operating system automatically as long as your subscription is active”

so say “Hello” to Windows 8 further down the line 🙂

Despite this, you can run Vista, or even XP, as your corporate desktop OS.

MDOP: The Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack is a great set of tools including MED-V & App-V that make managing your environment easier and more cost effective. See more info here. The Asset Inventory Service (AIS) component of MDOP is already included as part of InTune.

How can I get it?

It’s currently in beta, limited to 1000 customers in US, Canada, Mexico & Puerto Rico. If one of those is you locale, go sign up here:


Relation to existing Products.

Microsoft have had on-site management products for years. First SMS & MOM and now the System Center family such as:

  • SCCM (System Center Configuration Manager)
  • SCOM (System Center Operations Manager)
  • SCE (System Center Essentials)

These products are becoming more and more popular among both corporate customers and the education sector, and have been marked by Steve Ballmer as an area of big focus for the coming years. Microsoft have also put a lot of effort into their Online Services but could still do with a real killer product to help those small to medium businesses (SMB’s) fully embrace “The Cloud”. Thus it make sense that they’ve combined the 2 and created InTune.

My thoughts are all around how InTune will sit alongside products and offering that already exist. It is very much an online version of System Center Essentials, although InTune can’t do Application Deployment and SCE doesn’t include any ForeFront Protection. A breakdown is below:


However I do think that it could cause a lot of confusion when it comes to Software Assurance. As a Channel Licensing Specialist I, and my company, have done a lot of work around Software Assurance – especially as it relates to Windows 7. It seems to me that InTune may well undermine a lot of the work we (and other partners) have done in this area to show the whole range of benefits that SA offers…many of which aren’t included with the new offering.

It will also muddy the waters when it comes to purchasing Windows 7 & SA now. InTune is slated to be available in many more countries with 12 months of the beta; so companies considering Software Assurance within the next 6-12 months (say) may now push the projects back in order to evaluate InTune. Not great for partners or the channel.


As a product, I think InTune is great. I’m a big of BPOS (as a concept, although it hasn’t reached its potential yet) and adding management tools to the Suite is really good way of both bolstering the Online offering and helping more people reap the benefits of Microsoft’s management expertise.

I am however, more cautious about it’s effect on the perception of SA and project timelines over the coming 12 to 18 months.

To find out more about Windows InTune, go here:

Windows 7 Deployment Learning Portal

Windows 7 deployment is definitely a hot topic. The larger/more technically minded end end users are looking to get their IT teams skilled up and more Microsoft partners than ever before are looking to acquire these skills, and offer the services. Add into this the number of consultants and techie home users and there’s a real appetite for information across the board.

Microsoft have already made a lot of great information available via Technet as well as the MS Press books etc. For me, although Technet is great, I do sometimes struggle to find what I need for a certain situation/question and end up none the wiser. I also like online exams as a way of testing/tracking my level of knowledge, and also my (hopeful) improvements. Thus, I got pretty excited (more excited than a Rydberg atom in fact :-)) when I discovered the

Windows 7 Deployment Learning Portal

It’s aim is

“to help you identify the strengths and gaps in your knowledge around Windows 7 deployment and provide some targeted learning to help you reach the top of your game”

and, in my opinion, it does just that…and very well too. Going through the 11 modules showed me there were a few areas that I was already quite strong in as well as a number of modules I needed to work on. <—This is where the targeted Technet materials came in very handy. Rather than leaving me to my own devices, after each question I answered incorrectly there were a few links to specific Technet pages relating to the topic in hand; I was able to quickly read up on the subject, identify my mistakes, find the right answer and then re-take the module.



Learning Style

I really like the way that Microsoft Technet have approached this site. It’s much more about identifying, and then filling, any knowledge gaps you may have rather than simply passing/failing an assessment; this is a much better approach for all involved.

I failed a few of the modules and hugely benefitted from being able to read through the Technet articles straight away, and then re-take the modules. Once I’d read through the various suggested articles including how to guides/step by step procedures etc, I passed each module but, more importantly, retained the knowledge. If it had simply said “You’ve failed”, I wouldn’t have improved my skill levels anywhere near as much.

For anyone looking to become more au fait with Windows  deployment methods, be it for personal interest or work necessity, this site is a great place to start. Equally, if you’re looking (as I am) to complete the Windows 7 70-680 exam, there is a wealth of information available through this site and I would definitely recommend it! On the subject of the 70-690 exam, Microsoft are running an:

Early Bird Promotion

“The first 150 individuals to pass all modules will receive a free Microsoft Press Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP) self-study guide. The first 500 individuals to pass all modules will receive a free certification exam voucher.”

I have no idea if it’s still within the 150 pass limit (or the 500 for that matter) but if I was you, I’d head over to:

get registered and get taking those modules. Worst case you get a great, solid grounding in Windows 7 Deployment tactics and best case you’ll get some great free gifts 🙂 Friendly word of advice, make sure you select the “I want to be included” tick otherwise you won’t be eligible for the free book or voucher 😉

I hope you have fun over there and I just want to say, Thank You Microsoft Technet, for a great resource 🙂

Windows XP Mode: No more hardware virtualization

Microsoft introduced XP Mode with Windows 7 and it was great; a way to run XP only applications inside the new Operating System. However, there was one big caveat…it only worked on machines with processors that supported “Hardware Assisted Virtualization” (HAV) AKA Intel-VT/AMD-V…and these CPU’s aren’t all that prevalent (something my post here looked at). Many end users found it tricky to work out if their machine supported this technology and a huge number of people, both home users and small businesses, found they were unable to take advantage of this new innovation.

Well not any more!!!

Microsoft have re-written the XP Mode engine, allowing the need for HAV to be removed 🙂 This means that anyone running a genuine copy of Windows 7 Pro, Enterprise or Ultimate can now use XP Mode regardless of their hardware, opening it up to countless (probably 1000’s) more people.

This is a great move by Microsoft, extending the great work they’ve done with XP Mode to the masses and surely furthering Windows 7 adoption among home users and small businesses too.

You can download the update to remove the requirements below:



Windows 7 Cram Live Meeting

If you saw the Windows 7 Exam Cram session that was running on March 11th but missed the actual event (like me), the recording is now available online here:

So if you’re working towards some Windows 7 exams (at least 70-680 & 70-685) or would like to but not sure where to start, head over there and get started…I will be ASAP!

Windows 7 in Welsh

Nos da,

sut ydych chi?

Microsoft have released a Language Interface Pack (LIP) for Windows 7 to make it available in Welsh. This translates “a substantial portion” and all work has been funded by Redmond with translation done in Caernarfon:


I like Wales, I like the Welsh language and I like Windows 7 so this is pretty cool news…I’m tempted to put one of my machines in it 🙂

The Welsh Language Board are understandably happy about this:

as this is a big boost to furthering/keeping Welsh language usage.

Microsoft have said that they’re:

“glad to offer Welsh speakers across the globe the opportunity to use Windows 7 in Welsh”

Cael hwyl!

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