My Thoughts On IT…

Brian Lewis's Thoughts on all things Information Technology related

I replaced my John Deere 48” residential riding lawn mower with the Gravely 54” zero turn mower in 2008. It reduced my mow time by two thirds. Specifically it dropped from 3 hours down to 1 hour to mow a little under 3 acres.

One of the main reasons I bought the Gravely 2554 XL lawn lawn mower is because it could also be a snow blower. I have been pretty happy with the snow blower attachment except for a problem throwing the main attachment belt off when under heavy load (i.e. deep snow). I have fixed that problem and have detailed it here in hope that I can help others get rid of that annoyance. 

The tension pulley is the important item here. I moved the spring off of the post on the right side to the left side side and rerouted the belt accordingly. In the pictures below you can see I have it ziptied to the left side of the snow blower arm. I may do something more permanent this summer but for now this is working great! Due to a blizzard yesterday I had the chance to try this on some three foot snow drifts and it chowed through it perfectly. Previously it always would throw off the belt with this kind of exertion.

The cost of this mower is a little higher than my frugal side likes but the performance I have been able to get from this machine is worth every penny. Now that I can go through the deep stuff without having to reseat the belt – it is close to perfect!

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Web and cloud may be all the rage, but many developers are still doing hardcore client development.  If you are among them, this Boot Camp is for you! In this full-day event, we will explore how to maximize your impact on the Windows client.  Our interactive sessions will include topics from throughout the Windows development platform.  We will look at application compatibility and transitioning your applications to Windows 7, integrating with the Windows taskbar, developing for IE9, utilizing the cool functionality in the Sensors and Location Platform so that your application better responds to its current environment, leveraging the multi-touch capabilities (especially in kiosk scenarios), and creating Silverlight 4 out of browser applications. This event is a unique opportunity, partnering classroom learning with hands-on-labs and leveraging experts to advise you so we can help you “win” with Windows 7.

Waukesha (Milwaukee), WI


Register Here

Downers Grove, IL


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Indianapolis, IN


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This is a 2-day deep dive program to help prepare you to deliver solutions on the Windows Azure Platform. We have worked to bring the region’s best Azure experts together to teach you how to work in the cloud. Each day will be filled with training, discussion, reviewing real scenarios, and hands on labs. Snacks and drinks will be provided, however we advise you to make your own lunch arrangements prior to the event. You will need to bring a computer loaded with the software listed below.  AGENDA: 1.    Intro to Cloud Computing and Azure;  2.  Web Roles; 3.  Messages and Queues; 4.  Using Azure Tables;  5. Using BLOB Storage;  6. Worker Roles;  7. Diagnostics and Service Management;  8. SQL Azure; 9. Connecting with AppFabric; 10. Cloud Computing Scenarios; 11.   Available Resources.  What do I need to bring:  During the boot camp you will have opportunities to practice what you learn with labs. Having all of your software ready will make it easier to dive into the yummy goodness of exploring the labs. The lab files package will be given to you during the event .If you want to have everything loaded into a virtual PC that would be even better. In order to run these labs you will need to bring:  Power strip or extension cord;  A computer or laptop:  Operating Systems Supported: Windows 7; Windows Server 2008; Windows Server 2008 R2; Windows Vista Service Pack 1; Windows Vista Service Pack 2  -  Microsoft Visual Studio 2010,  SQL Server 2005 Express Edition (or above);   Install the SDK and Tools

Waukesha, WI


Register Here

Chicago, IL


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Indianapolis, IN


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Downers Grove, IL


Register Here

Christmas Shopping?

Comments off

The  Holiday Season is upon us and it is time to think of the people we love and what to put under the Christmas tree for them. What better than an Xbox or a new Windows Phone? Well there is a great store that just opened in Oakbrook Illinois that can help you with your shopping needs. I was at the store for it’s grand opening on November 4th and it is a great shopping experience.


Microsoft Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset (DaRT). Things happen—especially when you’re touching so many computers when deploying Windows 7. For example, you might deploy a faulty device driver that previous Windows 7 from starting. A user might permanently delete important files when preparing for installation, and you need to recovery them. For many of these one-off problems, DaRT provides a set of tools that you can use to troubleshoot and repair them.


I have been showing DaRT lately and customers really want to get their hands on it. It is hidden pretty well so I have detailed how to download it. First you need access to Technet, MSDN, or the Volume Licensing Website.

On TechNet and MSDN you get it from the Subscribers download page:
Here is the link for TechNet. (Not a TechNet Subscriber? Join today…)


In the search products pane type “Desktop Optimization Pack” ( it lists under servers)

Download whole MDOP pack. The MDOP pack has 5 Programs in it and DART is one of them.

Hope that helps – Enjoy!

Silverlight Firestarter: The Future of Silverlight Starts Now

Keynote Starts December 2, 2010 at 9:00 pacific time
  • Hear what’s coming next from Microsoft’s Scott Guthrie
  • Training, labs & swag
  • Online or in-person at Microsoft HQ, December 2nd 2010
  • It’s just like an extra day of PDC, dedicated to Silverlight

Silverlight is a key technology for Microsoft and enables a full experience on the web as well as a key technology in our new Windows Phone. Hear from Scott Guthrie about our plans and commitment to Silverlight in the years ahead.

Signup here:


Purchase at the Microsoft Online Store:
Try the Dell Store for the best price I have seen on all Windows Phones ($149):

“Windows Phone 7 Easier To Develop For Than Android” Says Michael Dell

T-mobile – HTC –HD7 wp7

Dell – Dell Venue
You can get the Dell phone today at one of the Microsoft Stores. One just opened in Oakbrook IL at the Oakbrook Mall. Or you can order online from Dell starting November 15th.

BTW: I don’t have my phone yet. I have to wait until the 18th – company orders so we don’t take the phones away from (you) our customers. I would love to hear from you if you get one and what your initial experience is. Let me know! –Thanks.


win7boxService Pack 1 Release Candidate for Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2 has released. The final version is expected to release early in 2011. This service pack is a rollup of patches and adds two new features. Here are the two new features:

  • RemoteFx is technology that enables administrators to provide a very rich end user desktop virtualization experience including delivery of full-motion video, Silverlight and 3D applications independent of any graphics stack via server-hosted virtual and session based desktops.
  • Dynamic Memory allows Hyper-V administrators to pool available memory on a physical host and dynamically distribute it to any virtual machine running on that host. This allows virtual workloads to dynamically change their memory allocation without service interruption.

If you are interested in taking a look at the Release Candidate you can download it here:


So you may be asking “What is Office 365?”

Office 365 combines the familiar Office desktop suite with cloud-based versions of our next-generation communications and collaboration services: Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Lync Online.  It is easy to administer. Office applications are delivered down to the workstations over the web from the Microsoft Cloud. All the backend services run in Microsoft datacenters. No need to purchase servers, switches. electricity, and cooling to run your “backoffice” services. Exchange, SharePoint, Office Web Apps, and Lync are all  all run by Microsoft in our Datacenters. This means we take care of the basic infrastructure and empower your IT staff to work on security, quality of service, and new initiatives.

If that isn’t attractive enough, just wait there’s  more, it slides it dices… Oh wait that is the Ginsu. Office 365 is very cost attractive. It is a per user per month charge. So you don’t have the upfront costs of servers, datacenters, software. There are three main offerings – I listed them out below. For more information checkout the Office 365 site:


Office 365 for small businesses
An easy-to-use set of web-enabled tools for small businesses, sole proprietors and professionals looking for business-class productivity services. Works with the tools people know and use today. Benefits include:

  • Access email, important documents, contacts, and calendar on nearly any device, including PC, Mac, Windows Phone, iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry Internet Service[1]
  • Office Web Apps for viewing, editing and sharing documents
  • Large 25 GB mailboxes for each user and the ability to send attachments up to 25 MB
  • Easy-to-use design tools to build a professional-looking website quickly
  • Password-protected team sites for collaborating on documents and information
  • Industry-leading, automatically updated anti-virus and anti-spam solutions
  • Integrated IM, presence and online meetings with audio/video conferencing and multiparty data sharing
  • Financially-backed, guaranteed 99.9% service uptime
  • 24×7 moderated community-based support


Office 365 for enterprises
We have a variety of plans to meet the needs of businesses and government agencies of all sizes and varying IT needs. Each plan has the same 99.9% uptime guarantee and includes the security and support businesses expect from Microsoft. Office 365 offers great flexibility by allowing businesses to provide people access to only the services they need and pay-as-you-go pricing options. Benefits include:

  • Large 25 GB mailboxes and the ability to send attachments up to 25 MB
  • Financially-backed, guaranteed 99.9% uptime Service Level Agreement
  • 24/7, IT-level support over the phone, the web or email
  • Single sign on capabilities with Active Directory deployment
  • Latest version of Office Professional Plus – connecting users to communication and collaboration services
  • Office Web Apps for viewing, sharing and minor editing of documents directly from a browser
  • Industry-leading, always-up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spam solutions
  • Integrated IM and presence, online meetings with audio and video conferencing and multiparty data sharing
  • Team sites to share, manage and search for information and resources


Office 365 for education

Cloud-based services for educational institutions that can help save money and give students access to familiar, next-generation productivity tools – while helping educational institutions free up resources. By eliminating the time and effort spent managing servers, IT staff can deliver the latest services to students while still maintaining control. Availability is to be announced.


  • Large 25 GB mailboxes and the ability to send attachments up to 25 MB
  • Anywhere-access to email, important documents, contacts, and calendar on nearly any device, including PC, Mac, Windows Phone, iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry
  • Works with the programs students know and use most – Microsoft Outlook®, Word, Excel®, PowerPoint®, and OneNote®
  • Student access to Office Web Apps for viewing, sharing and light editing of documents
  • Team sites to share, manage and search for information and resources
  • Industry-leading, always-up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spam solutions
  • Optional student access to 25GB of free online storage on Windows Live SkyDrive
  • Latest version of Microsoft Live@Edu , which has thousands of schools and millions of student users today

For More information check out the Office 365 website:


Live, FREE events for IT Professionals

Hello all!  Below is the online version of the Resource Page that I’m handing out at the TechNet events that I am doing over the next several weeks. 

The PowerPoint slide deck is available here:


TechNet Subscription Professional – ($349 first year $249 renewal) 

The TechNet Subscription gives you access to over 70 Microsoft Products and Product IDs for Testing- Including Office 2010 and Windows 7!!! 
Purchase at|np:TNIT1112

Upgrading from Windows XP to Windows 7

Free Quick and Dirty Deployment Tools

Can We Bust This Myth?  (Upgrade Windows XP to Windows 7)
(MDT part 1)

Automate your Windows 7 Deployment Using the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) 2010 (MDT Part 2)

Check these other deployment blogs:

Other Links:

"WAG" = Windows Administrator Groups (on LinkedIn):
With Subgroups for user groups by geography –

Future Live, In-Person Event Information:
TechNet (for IT Pros):
MSDN Events (for Software Developers):

IT Managers Community Hub –

IT Manager Community Forum –