Smoking the competition with meat!

When I was living abroad I had two great friends – Mark Segal and David Goodman – and the three of us were inseparable.  The two New Yorkers and I had a lot in common, but one thing that we never agreed on was food… for some reason the two of them never understood the supremacy of Montreal smoked meat over New York pastrami.  (We also fought about bagels, but who doesn’t?)

A few years later we had all moved back to North America, and Goody (David) came to visit me in Montreal.  I picked him up at the airport and after dropping his gear at my tiny basement apartment I took him to Schwartz’s Hebrew Delicatessen on St. Laurent.  I ordered for both of us – a medium old-fashioned hot with mustard, fries, and a dry karnatzel for each.  We sat near the front of the crowded restaurant sharing a table with whoever else they sat with us, reminiscing about this and that.

When the food came he was still skeptical, but after a couple of bites he was sold.  You seldom hear a New Yorker admit that he was wrong about anything to do with food, but Goody admitted to me that day that I was right.  I doubt he would admit it today, but he did then!

Someone sent me the following link comparing the two meats.  I thought of Goody and Mark (who to my knowledge is still uninitiated) and the times we had together… then I got hungry for a good medium old-fashioned!

http://www.thrillist.com/eat/montreal/montreal-smoked-meat-seven-reasons-why-montreals-smoked-meat-is-pastramis-cooler-older-brother

Surface Docked

Earlier this week I posted an article about the versatility of my Surface Pro 2.  Actually it was a combination of an article (Battery Up- Windows 8.1 on the Surface Pro 2) and a Facebook status update (See here).  I bragged not only about the battery life, but also how cool it is that I can take a single device from tablet – to laptop (just add keyboard) – to complete workstation (plug the Surface Pro 2 into the docking station in my office, and it instantly extends to take advantage of the two large screen monitors, full sized keyboard, and regular mouse).

A Twitter follower named @Deskcovery asked if I had any pictures of the setup, because he wanted to see it in action.  Great idea!

Here’s the problem… my desk is usually a bloody mess.  I call it my secure, well-managed disaster zone.  It wasn’t always like that, but I don’t spend a lot of time there, so I don’t maintain it the way I used to.

Having said that, I try to do what I can for my readers… so your wish is my command.  Mr. @Deskcovery, here it is… I walk into the office and drop the device into the dock.  After a few beeps and blips, this is what I see:

Surface Docked

Over the next few weeks you can expect better pictures (and possibly even a video) of the area and the versatility of the device, but from this picture it is hard to see anything except the finished product.  As such, here are the components:

  1. A Surface Pro 2 256 with 8GB of RAM
  2. A Surface Docking Station
  3. Two LG 21” monitors
  4. One Microsoft Sidewinder X6 gaming keyboard (not once has it ever been used to play a game)
  5. One Logitech MX Revolution wireless rechargeable mouse

Now here’s the problem that I found… I have far too many devices to settle for four USB ports.  Rather than mussing about trying to plug and unplug devices as I needed them, I decided to leverage the USB 3.0 port on the Surface dock to connect… another docking station!  Actually that’s not entirely accurate… I connected the Lenovo port replicator that I bought with my X1 Carbon… seeing as that device is now listed for sale on eBay it won’t miss its port replicator.

surface-pro-docking-station-04

Thinkpad

Now, instead of simply having three USB 2.0 ports and a USB 3.0 port, I have:

  • 4x USB 3.0 ports
  • 3x USB 2.0 ports
  • 2x (mostly unused) Ethernet ports
  • DVI port
  • Mini-DV port
  • Audio out jacks

In other words… everything I need.

Don’t get me wrong… all of the USB ports are already accounted for, so if I do want to plug in another device I will have to unplug something… but the USB speakers and extra hiigh definition webcam are extraneous… I can unplug them any time I want…

I swear, I am NOT addicted!

How to Make and Choose Friends, and How to Influence People

According to Facebook I have seven hundred and ninety-five friends.  Of course that number includes people who asked me to be friends because we know someone in common… but I have have never met them before; it includes people with whom I have agreed with on matters debated or discussed, but have also never met.  This particular article is about someone I have met, have known for fifteen years, and with whom I had a serious disagreement this week, even though we are squarely on the same side of the political argument.

canada_flag_quebecWith apologies to all of my friends (in the meat world as well as in cyberspace) who share that name, I will call him Steve.  That is not his real name.  However to give you a profile, he is a Caucasian, English-speaking Montrealer of Jewish heritage.  He is passionate about several things, not the least of which are rock and roll and, as I discovered this week, the politics of the province of Quebec.

Since the premiere of Quebec announced the April election last week my friend Steve has posted several very strong posts on Facebook about voting against the Parti Quebecois (PQ).  While I no longer have a vote in Quebec (I left the province for greener pastures in 2007) I do have an opinion, and on this I happen to agree with him.  Were I living in Quebec there is no way I would ever vote for the PQ.  To steal a line from the comic troupe of Bowser and Blue, PQ stands for pack quickly.

Wednesday evening Steve posted another of his posts to the effect of ‘The PQ are bad.’  Several of us replied (none of whom disagreed with Steve) but then he posted something that worried me: ‘The PQ are evil… all of them.’

ViveLeQuebec_880Wow… strong words.  I responded something to the effect that while they are certainly (in my opinion) misguided, I doubt that they are actually evil.  He responded ‘The PQ and their #^%& leader are evil period! she is a racist @^%#$!

Wow… stronger words.  I answered that while I do not disagree that Pauline Marois is racist, that does not make every member of her party (and everyone who votes for them) evil. To this Steve replied:

TO ME EVERY MEMBER OF THE PQ IS EVIL BECAUSE FOR ME IF YOU LIKE THEM YOU ARE RACIST! FOR ME NO OPINION JUST A FACT!

Although our debate continued for a few lines on his wall, he then took it into private messaging, where he tried to clarify his position.  Unfortunately he continued to use words like ‘evil’ and ‘enemy’ claiming that he refused to speak to anyone who was on the other side of the question.  He said things like ‘I am fighting for the English, and for my rights, and I will fight until they are all gone.’  The following is the transcript of the private conversation:

Steve My mind set will never change to these PQ pigs and I don’t care who is part of it, I hate them all. they hate me for being English, they are racist towards Muslims, you don’t see it as you don’t live here anymore. if you did you’d think as me.

Mitch You are very wrong Steve. I agree with almost everything that you say… I just know that saying things the way you say them will never change anyone’s mind… except to make radicals MORE radical. Yes, they are the ‘enemy’ but if you want to change their minds then TALKING and not SCREAMING is the only way it will ever happen.

Steve As long as they are PQ they are my enemy. if they leave the PQ then it’s okay. anyone and I mean anyone in the PQ or anyone supports them enemy #1.

Mitch Then you are never going to accomplish anything. Dude, I served in the IDF – I know what an enemy is. I also know that when I stood in the room with Rabin and Arafat they were both trying to make things better.

Steve This is how I feel. I hate any PQ supporter and to me they are an enemy. I support all our Canadian troops and I thank them everyday. Canadian troops.

Mitch So let’s say they ARE the enemy… how are you going to change their minds if you refuse to talk to them?

Steve They don’t have minds. if I had my way I’d get rid of all of them.

Mitch So then what makes you any better than them? You are just as racist as they are.

Steve i am against them yes but i am fighting for everyone else they hate or insulted. I have no problem telling them how dumb, stupid, ignorant, no brain people they are. Sorry but i will not change my mind.

Steve Oh i am better then any PQ member.

Mitch You aren’t fighting for anything… you are yapping on Facebook and preaching to the choir. No, you are no better than them… not if you say they are all dumb, stupid, ignorant, and brainless they are.

Mitch By the way, I want you to remember that through all this YOU AND I AGREE WITH EACH OTHER… we just look at things very differently.

Steve they are all that and more. For example: 1) At the Jewish (General Hospital) one dumb bitch threw a tomato at a guy for talking English; he could have died cause he is allergic; 2) at the Verdun hospital a couple was thrown out cause they spoke English, now tell me to they deserve respect? Fuck no and my rants I am doing more.

Mitch You think that because of two assholes they are all evil? There are 8,000,000 people in this province, and frankly a lot of them are ignorant morons whose minds you will never change. However the rest of them might be willing to listen and those are the ones to talk to.

Steve One more time, if you support the PQ you are evil period!

Mitch For the record I have Palestinian friends… and more than two Palestinians have tried to kill me outright, no tomatoes. Does that make them all terrorists?

Mitch Then Steve you are simply closed-minded and will never change anyone’s mind. You can’t be any better than they are if you think they are all the same. Good luck to you, I’m never going to change your mind, and I am not going to waste any more time on a futile mission.

Steve Good!

Quebec1Wow… He has very strong words, and very strong opinions, but is as closed-minded as any separatist péquiste I have ever met.  It doesn’t matter that I agree with his basic position, it is even lost on me because of his fanaticism.  Even if anyone from the other side were to hear what he is saying he could never change anyone’s mind – if you start with the position that ‘you are stupid and brainless and a racist’ the other person is going to shut down immediately even before they hear your words… it is a simple fact of life, and one that took me far too long to really learn, to the detriment of many friends and opportunities.

cka_let-us-be-caI remember when I moved back to Quebec from Israel in 1997; there was a man named Howard Galganov was running a group called the Quebec Political Action Committee (QPAC), an organization aimed at fighting for the rights of Anglophone Quebecers.  I wouldn’t say that it was a militant group, but they were certainly outspoken.  A friend of mine encouraged me to join up ‘to protect our rights.’ 

Now I am all for protecting rights and freedoms, but having just come back from Israel where I spend thirty months in an army uniform (very often in parts of the country – and neighbouring countries – that were not friendly to Jews).  Maybe we were taught a different meaning of the word ‘enemy’ over there, but even having grown up in Quebec (I remember the referendum in 1980, and I remember holding my breath with everyone else for the results of the referendum in 1995) I could not picture the French Canadians taking up arms to kick out the English… this despite the FLQ that held the province hostage in 1970 (see article).

I asked my friend what the point of the group was, and his answer was simply to fight the enemy, to make sure that we were not pushed out.  He told me that we were going to have to fight for our freedom.

Harsh words…

I told my friend that I would not be joining QPAC.  He tried to protest, but I cut him off, and told him that if he wanted to see what real enemies were, what real strife was, then he should get onto a plane and visit places like Gaza.  I told him that I wanted to take Mr. Galganov and his equivalent on the separatist side to where I spent the last two and a half years to spend a week learning about what problems were; I said they would be French-kissing on the flight home once they saw what real problems were.

I don’t know when I learned it, but one of the more important lessons I have learned as a communicator is that even if more people hear you when you yell, more people listen when you don’t.  I can’t think of too many cases where I have yelled and convinced someone that I was right.  Speaking calmly and making a good case might not convince your political opponents to change their minds, but yelling at them will not convince them.  Your mother told you that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar… unless you are fishing I don’t know why you would want to catch flies, but she was right.

While I was in Montreal I was looking for a parking spot on Queen Mary Road (chemin de la Reine Marie) and I found a great one, right across from the restaurant.  I signaled, pulled in front of it to back in, and as I was backing up another car pulled into half the spot.  It really was just like that episode of Seinfeld (http://youtu.be/egsdc7tZ_xc).  I got out of my car and yelled – it was extremely loud – that he obviously knew I was backing into the spot, so why did he want to cause problems.  The driver of the other car knew I was right, but he yelled back – not to get lost, simply to stop yelling.  When I lowered my voice, he backed away and gave me the spot.

So what point am I trying to make?  It is obviously not political, as Steve and I agree on the salient points.

  1. Yelling, screaming, and name-calling will not convince anyone to do anything but dig their heels in.
  2. If you want to change peoples’ minds, you have to speak to them.  Simply yelling at people who agree with you will not change anyone’s mind.
  3. You may not agree with someone, but if you want to fix things you should try to understand their point of view – as offensive as it might be to you.
  4. Refusing to talk to the people with different views as your own will only ensure that they will always have different views as your own.
  5. Wisdom trumps loud.  Even when quiet wisdom is drowned out by loud screaming, it does not make the wisdom any less right nor the loud any more so.

If any of what I am saying sounds exactly like me, then you have probably not known me longer than five years.  By nature as well as by upbringing I am a loud, in-your-face type of person.  I have spent years trying to change that, and today I am (mostly) seen as a reasonable voice of reason type.  That did not come to me easy or naturally, but it was among the most important lessons I have learned as an adult.

I have not lived in the same city as my parents in several years, and as such they have not seen the transformation in me; so when my father says something like ‘you are exactly like your mother’ he doesn’t realize that it is among the most hurtful things he can say to me (aside from nagging me about my weight).  It may be in my nature, and it may be how I was nurtured, but that does not mean it is how I have to live my life.

I hope the Parti Quebecois do not win the upcoming elections in Quebec; if they do, I hope they do not win any referendum on separation that they may hold.  But more than that, I am truly hopeful that the people whose jobs it is to convince the moderates to vote against them is nothing like my friend ‘Steve.’  I hope they are reasonable and convincing, and do not just shout out and insult the opposition.

Stay out of politics!

A couple of years ago I went to Montreal with my colleague Damir Bersinic to do a presentation at the Montreal IT Professionals Community (www.mitpro.ca).  I was born in Montreal, and when I moved to Ontario in 2007 I found it interesting to see the point of view of the ‘Rest of Canada’.  Nearly five years after my move and shortly before that visit to MITPro I wrote an article (in response to one in the Globe and Mail) called ‘Does Quebec Have a Future In Canada?

If I do say so myself, Damir and I rocked the show.  We were discussing virtualization, specifically Microsoft Hyper-V, in the months prior to the release of Windows Server 2012.  We were a hit, and that was reflected in our evaluation forms that the packed house submitted after the event… all but one.

One of the evaluation forms that was returned to us had a comment ‘you should blog about IT and keep your nose out of Quebec politics.’  It was actually written in French, and included a number of colourful words to go with it.

Now I should mention here that while I was there as support, it was Damir who was running the show; Damir was the speaker, I was only there for support (and we went for a really nice dinner that night).  So why then should he get a negative evaluation from an attendee for something that I had blogged about?

If you enter the search term Quebec into the appropriate box you will find several articles return on my site, but only two have to do with politics – the one I referred to, and one about the Quebec student protests of 2013 (see article).  Having recently spent a lot of time in the province of Quebec it is amazing to discover that any blog anywhere does not focus exclusively on the politics of that province, but there you go.  Two articles in a decade of blogging.

However if you look at the title of this blog it is not IT According to Mitch, nor is it What Some People Think Appropriate According to Mitch.  It is in fact The World According to Mitch, and as such I write not only about computers and IT, but about any number of subjects, from IT and virtualization to airplanes, food, hotel, travel, martial arts, and yes indeed language and politics.  It is not only a professional blog (although it is certainly that) but a place for me to express my opinion about things that I observe during my travels through this world.

Starting tomorrow I have a series of articles that concern the politics of the Province of Quebec, as well as my observations of how the people are coping with the upcoming election.  It will not all be pretty and it will not all be popular, but it is all according to me, and I thank you for your continued readership!

Battery Up: Windows 8.1 on the Surface Pro 2

IMG_0031I have already bragged about the Surface Pro 2, and I still love it and that has not changed.  It took a lot for it to supplant my Lenovo X1 Carbon as my primary device (my original Surface Pro was always simply a companion device).  The device rocks, simply put.

One thing that I don’t particularly care for (and this is an issue with Windows and not with the Surface) is that the battery life indicator is wonky.  For example, a few minutes ago it told me that I have 10% of my battery left, or 25 minutes.  By that simple math, the theory is that the battery is good for 250 minutes – or a little under five hours.

IMG_0088That means I’ve already gotten five hours out of it, and there’s a bit under 30 minutes to go.  By my math that’s 5.5 hours right there.  I also know that I used it last night for an hour and did not charge it since… that makes 6.5 hours, not to mention that I have also used it today to charge my smartphone as well as my Kobo book reader.

I did not list my X1 Carbon for sale on eBay because I don’t like it… I really do, it is a spectacular device.  (If you would like to buy it by all means the bidding is open! http://www.ebay.com/itm/201053760576?ssPageName=STRK:MESELX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1555.l2649)  I am selling it because I do not need two nearly identical devices (as far as specs go).  The Lenovo has a 14″ multi-touch screen, and the keyboard does not detach.  I have the docking station for the Surface Pro, and when I am at my home office it automatically connects to two 21″ monitors.  When I am on the road (I am almost ALWAYS on the road) it is still a comfortable high-definition screen that will double as a tablet when I detach the keyboard.

My Lenovo came along with me wherever I went… along with it came whatever else I would pack into my Briggs and Riley rolling laptop bag… my ultrabook that weighs less than 4lbs ended up weighing in at 25-30lbs on a regular basis, just for what went with it.  My Surface, on the other hand, goes into a much smaller messenger bag, which in turn weighs less than 10lbs when completely filled… and carries everything that I need, rather than everything I think I might need.  Smaller bag, less weight, better on the back.

Add to that the battery life of over six hours, and that it runs Windows 8.1 with Hyper-V and all that entails, and I don’t see the need for another device… at least not now.  I am sticking with the Surface Pro, and hope to recuperate the entire price of the device when I sell off the Lenovo!

My Famous Pooch!

I had forgotten about this one… but apparently her story is still on-line!  Gingit has grown up some and earned some trust… but she is still one that has to be watched!  She is now six years old… this is from when she was 8 months. -M

I am so proud of Gingit… Yesterday she attained immortality!  At 8 months old she has vaulted to the Number Five spot (worldwide!) on the auspicious site… http://www.thingsmydogate.com.

To see her story, please click http://www.thingsmydogate.com/gingit.html!

Sigh… at least some good came of all that loss!

M

Certification Exams: Is there a value to failing?

Although it is not something I am proud of, I have failed a number (the exact number is quite secret!) of certification exams.  I am not proud of this fact, but the reality is I have taken a number of exams that I have been unprepared for, and that is a sure-fire way to come up short.  I have always (not true… since becoming more enlightened, maybe!) felt that if I was going to shell out USD$125 to fail an exam (Actually, the first two were at USD$100) I should at least walk away with something… the consolation prize should not simply be a sheet of paper telling us that we failed.

So then what can we gain from failing?  We can learn what we need to concentrate on in order to actually pass the exam.  Let’s say you are a desktop deployment specialist for his company.  You are responsible for the deployment of systems across the country, which you do using the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2008 and System Center Configuration Manager 2007.  Your manager informs you that there is a new deployment exam available (70-635) and that the new department policy is that all deployment specialists must obtain the MCTS: Business Desktop Deployment to be eligible for promotions or bonuses.  You schedule the exam, and as you sit there taking the test you realize that you do not know a lot about Windows Deployment Services, managing images for multiple languages, driver groups, and MDOP.  Crud, that makes up about forty percent of the exam, and lo and behold you fail.

You could hang your head in shame as you walk away from the testing centre… or you can go back to your office and learn what you are missing; you can set up a lab environment to deploy images in French with Windows Deployment Services; you can implement driver groups, and learn everything you need to know about MDOP, and you can go back to the testing centre a few days or weeks later and retake the exam… and pass.

I am ashamed to say that there are a couple of exams that I have failed and have not yet gone back to rewrite… with an emphasis on the word yet.  Most of the titles I have failed I have gone home, brushed up, and retaken successfully a few days (or weeks) later.  They are all things that do not apply to what I have been doing… but don’t worry, I’ll get to them!

It is simply a matter of attitude… ‘Why the heck would I have to know that?’ is the wrong attitude; if for no other reason, then you have to know whatever that is in order to pass the exam.  I know someone who failed an exam by fewer than twenty points – often a sign that he missed it by a single question.  He came out and said ‘I know what I got wrong… I’ll just retake the exam tomorrow and change that one question that I got wrong!’  He did… and failed by fewer than forty points – probably two questions.

Don’t waste it… if you find an exam tough, then you should be taking notes on the sheet they give you.  1) Windows Deployment Services.  2) Multiple Languages… and so forth.  Of course you have to surrender that sheet when you are finished the exam… but if at the very end you reread your notes, you should remember a lot of what you are missing when it comes time to study.

With Microsoft’s Second Shot Free promotion you can actually fail the first time for free… though I do not recommend this as a goal.  When you are prepared for the exam, register for it using the promotion, and then do your best.  If you fail, it costs you nothing to go home and study some more, and then rewrite it.  If you pass, then you get a pleasant surprise, a new certification, and a discount on your next exam.

Thomas Edison was once interviewed about the electric light bulb.  He did not get it right on the first shot… in fact it took him over two thousand tries and when asked he said ‘I never failed… I just learned two thousand ways how not to make a light bulb!’  Use that attitude when taking your next test.

… and good luck!