Windows 7 and ThinkVantage Technologies

There is nothing like a good summer vacation to renew the soul, and it's why I've not posted anything in the last few weeks.  Now that Windows 7 has "gone gold" it seems like a good time to talk about Lenovo ThinkVantage Technologies and their relevance in Windows 7.  But first, Lenovo would like readers to know our official response to last week's leak of the Windows 7 OEM key:

Earlier this week, an ISO image (loaded on a Lenovo system) containing the Windows 7 RTM (release to manufacturing), OEM key and marker file, was stolen and placed on a hacker forum in China. The pirated OEM key is being disabled, and Lenovo strongly advises customers not to download Windows 7 from unauthorized sources. Downloading Windows 7 from peer-to-peer websites will expose users to increased risks, such as hviruses, Trojans, and other malware and malicious code. These risks can seriously harm or permanently destroy data and may expose users to identity theft and other criminal schemes.

Lenovo is committed to protecting customers from counterfeit and pirated software and recommends that customers use genuine Microsoft software, properly licensed, and fully-backed by Microsoft, as the surest and safest way to ensure that they have access to the latest features, security and support for Windows 7. Please visit Microsoft’s Genuine Windows Blog (link tohttp://blogs.msdn.com/wga/archive/2009/07/30/windows-7-oem-product-key-leak.aspx) for more information.

As previously announced, Lenovo will provide a free license upgrade to Windows 7 for customers who purchase a Lenovo laptop or desktop PC with an eligible Windows Vista version between June 26, 2009 and January 31, 2010.  (This offer applies to individuals and companies who plan to buy less than 25 PCs).

I have made passing references on previous blog posts about Windows 7 and how it seems to obviate the need for ThinkVantage Technologies.  In some cases that is so, but there are still some compelling reasons to use them on Windows 7. Tools Which Will Continue in Windows 7

  • Access Connections - There is no question that Win 7 has dramatically improved connectivity.  In fact, since I've been running Win 7 as my primary production operating system for over two months now, I have not  used Access Connections at all.  Has it outlived its usefulness?  That is possibly true if you're an individual user, but if you're a corporate user, you'll still find a lot to like.  First, it allows a consistent interface across all versions of Windows.  If you're like many, you won't be a 100% Win 7 shop for 2 - 3 years.  Having one consistent interface eases support issues.  Even if you do the oft cited, but seldom used, "big bang" upgrade, Access Connections still has much better centralized manageability and "push" capabilities than Windows.  Quite simply, it controls more of the things that corporate IT needs like firewall enablement settings, VPN integration, and provides more connectivity information in a central location.  Plus, security researchers have panned Windows 7's "promiscuous" wireless mode.  It will happily automatically connect to multiple networks.  This is a major security risk.  Access Connections can enforce only one connection at a time.
  • Rescue and Recovery - I've played with the new Win 7 recovery program, and it is much improved.  You can backup a complete image of your computer to a set of CDs/DVDs or to a second hard drive.  That is also its biggest weakness.  Windows will not let you put your backup in your primary partition (i.e. your c:\ drive).  This alone makes this an untenable tool for the corporate world.  Even if Windows 7 won't boot, you can boot into WinPE to launch your recovery -- no Windows CDs needed.  On top of this functionality, Rescue and Recovery offers far more granular control like enabling security for encrypted backups, choosing files to exclude from backups (e.g. only keeping the most recent copy of your email file), centralized control of settings, and the ability to recover, but keep your most recent personality settings.
  • Power Manager - Win 7 offers much better and comprehensive control than ever before to save power.  No matter how good it gets, though, Windows biggest problem is that it has to be generic enough to work on all vendors' systems.  Applications like Lenovo's Power Manager are written to work specifically with Lenovo hardware at the hardware level.  We can do a better job because we know how to manage our hardware best.  Power Manager also gives some additional features like Battery Stretch, support for switchable graphics, and easy-to-use slider control for changing power settings.  From an IT perspective, it allows control by tools other than SMS, like LANDesk and allows these teams to deploy power agenda profiles.  Windows does not yet allow this.
  • System Update - Windows is good at updating itself and other Microsoft applications.  It is not as good at distributing vendor hardware-specific things like BIOS updates.  There is a need for both Windows Update and System Update in a post Win 7 world.  It also has a version for IT professionals, Update Retriever, which allows IT teams to host and push out their own updates to their users.  Judging from marketing reaction when we tried to remove it earlier this year, I think most of you agree that this is a valuable tool.
  • Password Manager - I LOVE this tool.  I NEED this tool.  There's no overlap with Windows functionality, and thus it will continue.  From a security perspective, Microsoft stores Internet Explorer passwords in a known, less than secure location.
  • Lenovo System Toolbox (a.k.a PC Doctor) - I wrote about Lenovo System Toolbox not long ago.  If you are not familiar with this tool, it is a comprehensive hardware and software systems diagnostic toolset.  Other than ScanDisk and some improved performance monitoring, there is not a whole lot of overlap between this tool and Windows 7.  It also continues.
  • System Migration Assistant and ImageUltra Builder - These also continue under Win 7, but I have not played with their new versions yet, so I do not have a whole lot of detail to share.
  • Hardware Password Manager - Windows still does not have a solution for centrally managing all types of hard disk drive passwords.  No other vendor does yet either.

Discontinued Tools - Before anyone panics, know that the utilities listed below will continue to exist and be supported under Vista and XP.  We simply are not porting them to work in Windows 7.

  • Presentation Director - This is probably the most controversial of the tools we are not porting over to work on Windows 7.  The reason is that Windows has much improved external projector/display capabilities and configures many things automatically.  There are a few features that we wish Microsoft would have incorporated from our tool, but they aren't enough to justify the development expense of continuing to update this tool.
  • GPS application and Camera Center - These tools being discontinued is a good thing.  If you have a GPS or camera on earlier versions of Windows, only one application can use that device at a time.  Windows 7 provides a common API to allow "sensors" like the Active Protection System and GPS chips to be shared among all Windows programs.  You may not need this feature today, but you will in the future.
  • Productivity Center - This was always more of a business level tool.  Between our improved Lenovo System Toolbox and improved Windows 7 help, most of the function is duplicated and we decided that we could invest the development resources in better places.
  • EasyEject - I know there are devoted followers of this tool.  Personally, I've never found it to be of any use.  If you don't know what it is, EasyEject allows you to tell your system one time that you are going to disconnect all of your external peripherals, as when you are going to undock your system.  Without this tool, you need to find the Windows System Tray icon and manually stop each device one by one.  This made more sense in the serial/parallel days, but most modern devices don't care if you yank the cord.
  • Screen Magnifier - Most graphics drivers do this anyway these days.  It's duplicate functionality.
  • Keyboard Mapper - This is likely to be another controversial one, mainly because there is a significant minority that does not like the placement of our CTRL and Fn keys.  These people use this utility to switch them around in software.  Regardless of where you stand on the CTRL/Fn issue, remember that there are just as many people who like the status quo.  If we were to change, all we would do is swap one unhappy group of people for another.  Plus, our Yamato team is considering allowing these keys to be swapped in BIOS.

Future Tools I cannot tell you anything about these yet, but we're not just cutting development resources.  We are redeploying them to introduce a few new ThinkVantage tools as well.  One in particular is nothing short of "wow."  It demos well and once you've tried it, you're likely to love it. I hope this gives some clarity.  If I left your favorite tool out, let me know in the comments and I'll try and get you an answer.