Category Archives: Uncategorized

Surface Pro 3: A VERY different experience

If you are a long time reader of this blog you may remember how thrilled I was when I bought the first Microsoft Surface Pro sold in Canada.  I wrote about it (including videos) that week (Microsoft Surface with Windows 8 Pro: It’s Here!) and quite a bit subsequently.  It was… well, it was a nice device, don’t get me wrong, but it was really a companion device to my laptop.  It simply didn’t have the oomph to replace my HP EliteBook (which I soon thereafter replaced myself with a Lenovo X1 Carbon).  I need more than 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage to be comfortable.

This past February I decided to sell that device and trade up to a Surface Pro 2.  I was absolutely thrilled with the new device (Surface Pro 2: Oh yeah!) because it really was a replacement laptop for me… okay, it wasn’t… but only because the screen size was just too small.  However because of the amount of travel that I do I decided that was a small price to pay for a lighter load – and anyways, most of the offices I worked in and hotel rooms I stayed in had another screen I could connect to.  The 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage really did make the difference, although I was hesitant… I decided that before I actually sold my Lenovo I would put it away for a fortnight, and see if I ever missed it.  I didn’t, and when I decided it was time to sell I never looked back.

Okay, I looked back a little… I had been considering this as an option for a while, and in May I went out and purchased an external USB screen (There was a sale on the AOC model and I broke down and bought it).  The fact is that while I am on writing assignments – I don’t mean blog articles, but full length courses – I simply need more  desktop real estate, and I was not working from my home office so it was simply a necessity.

A few weeks ago Microsoft released the Surface Pro 3.  They didn’t release all of the models – there will be one with 512GB of storage, and one with a Core i7 CPU among others – but they released the equivalent model to my own… which really is all that I would ever need, as I use other devices (either servers or high-end laptops) to create the courseware that I am writing about.  I decided to roll the dice and see what I could get for my Surface Pro 2 on the open market. 

Jackpot!! I won’t say that I got my full purchase price for it, but I did get enough for it that the new device would not cost me too much… actually it wouldn’t cost me anything because I had a voucher!  I ran to the Microsoft Store at Yorkdale Mall (Toronto) and asked the associate to bring me a shiny new Microsoft Surface Pro 3, complete with 8GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, a navy blue type cover, and an extra stylus.  For good measure I purchased the Complete Care warranty too… that has saved my bacon a few times in the past!

For the first time in a very long time I found myself without a computer configured as my own, so I rushed home and opened it up… and I recorded the process of opening it up, narrating all along (including through the dropping thunk).

There are a couple of things that I noticed pretty quickly.  The Surface Pro 2 stylus was essentially a dumb device.  Not so with the Pro 3, and it comes complete with a AAAA battery.  You discover immediately when configuring the machine that it is also a Bluetooth device, and is pretty easily configured.

Did I mention how incredibly light it is?  Wow… 1.76lbs (800 grams) makes it 10% lighter than the Surface Pro 2…  and only about 10% heavier than the Surface RT.  As for thin, at 9.1mm thick it is 33% slimmer than the Pro 2 and only .2mm thicker than the RT.  All that with a larger screen (12”) with a better display resolution (2160×1440 compared to the 1920×1080 of the Pro 2).

Opening and getting to know the Surface Pro 3

Once you have watched the videos you should know that there were a couple of things that went wrong later on… For some reason out of the box I was getting a message that there was no battery detected, and I could not even turn the device on if it wasn’t plugged in.  I suspected at first that had to do with the battery type cover I have heard about, but when I looked up a solution on-line it seems that people had the same problem with the Surface Pro 2… I don’t know what it is, but it’s something… fortunately it was fixed by a couple of firmware updates.

Speaking of firmware updates and patching the device, it would not let me do any further patching until I had plugged the device in and charged the battery to 100%.  All this to say that rather than being ready to go right away, I spent the evening at the Niblick Pub in Oakville (which is no hardship I assure you!), and only when I got back a few hours later could I truly set it up.

Once that was done I have had no further issues… on anything.  I am sitting at Starbucks as we speak with my external AOC screen connected, but the truth is that I don’t need it; I probably would if I was on a writing assignment, but while the 16” external screen is larger than the 12” screen on the Surface Pro 3, the resolution of the Pro 3 beats the AOC hands down.

Is it a true laptop replacement?  I got into a bit of a debate with a friend about that on Facebook – it probably is for the vast majority of users, but for people who truly need higher resources – the friend in question truly does need 16gb of RAM to run the array of virtual machines he walks around with – it doesn’t cut it.  For most of us I suspect the Pro 3 really can replace our other laptops.

I was a little concerned by the size… next to the 10.6” Pro 2 the Pro 3 looks positively huge, and I was worried it would not fit into my messenger bag – when I shed the Lenovo I stopped lugging my huge laptop bag and have been happy carrying my kit in my messenger bag (not this exact one, but similar) and saving the added weight.  I was glad to see that while it truly is the maximum size I could comfortably fit into the bag, it did indeed fit.

Will the romance last? I don’t know.  For the time being I am thrilled with the device – not simply the size and form factor and novelty of it, but the performance is what I need to do my work.  I have been running a single Windows 8 virtual machine in the background and I haven’t seen any degradation in performance whatsoever.  Now granted, I have been writing, surfing, checking e-mail, and editing videos… nothing to truly test the mettle of the machine.  However with the 4th generation Intel Core i5 I don’t anticipate I will be disappointed.

Is it for you?  I don’t know.  Is it for me? Absolutely… all 800 grams of it!

P.S. I stand corrected… in the video I claim it is just under or over $1200, when in fact the model I have sells for $1,349, and the Complete Care Warranty would have added an additional $149, but there was a bundle of the Complete Care, a Type Cover keyboard, and a sleeve.  I don’t remember the exact deal, but the long and the short is that I walked out of the store $1,600 plus tax ($1,807) poorer… and one great machine richer!

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

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

Sick of Special Categories…

Earlier this month the headlines in the sporting world – rarely taken  off of the Olympics – was on a ‘brave Missouri football player who came out of the closet and announced he was gay before the NFL draft.’  Commentators said that while it was brave, it could have been costly, possibly dropping him in the upcoming NFL draft.

Last month there was a call for applicants from either the Federal or Provincial government (I cannot remember which) specifying they were hiring African American women only… or rather people who identified as African American women.

This week the pundits on talk radio in Toronto were discussing the benefits of legislating that a minimum number of directors of public corporations must be women.  Women are under-represented on Boards of Directors as well as in politics.

And of course, let’s not forget the entire Women in IT movement, because there are not enough women working in IT, and the ones who are feel discriminated against and discouraged.

Now here’s the deal… it may seem hypocritical for me, a Jewish Canadian, to say that I do not like all of these special treatments for special groups.  After all, go to Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital, or the Young Men’s Hebrew Association… every city with a major older Jewish population has their own institutions, so if the Jews got special treatment, why should I deny the same to gay men, African American women, or women in general?

It’s simple.  In today’s world – certainly in Canada and the United States – not only are all people treated equal, it is codified into law that we are all equal.  In the forty-one years that I have lived on planet earth (yes, I am only 41 years old before you ask where I lived the rest of the time) I have never looked at a woman, an African American, or a homosexual, and said ‘that person is less of a person than I am… they should be discriminated against.’  While I do not deny that there is and has been racism and sexism in my life (and still today) there are no laws that make it easier for me (a white male) to succeed than an African American woman.

When the Jewish General Hospital and other institutions were established for the Jewish community of Montreal they were done so for a simple reason – Jewish doctors were not allowed to practice in public hospitals and Jewish patients would not be treated in public hospitals… which were all run by the church.  They had to establish their own sports teams not simply because they wanted to hang out together, they were actually banned from joining existing clubs.

Now here’s the thing… I understand that in today’s world there are still people that discriminate, and some of those people are hiring managers.  I take absolutely no issue with companies establishing policies that require their hiring managers maintain a balance of genders and skin colours and religions and ethnicities.  That will ensure that at the entry level everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed.

In the 2013 NFL entry draft 254 college players were drafted… out of tens of thousands who dreamed of it.  If this college player was expected to go in the first round this year, it is proof that he is one of the best players in the country.  Any team who does not pick him because of his sexual preference is stupid because at that level it is not about ideology, it is about business… and teams that want to win had better draft the best players.  If you don’t draft a guy because he is gay then the team with the next selection will draft him, and your defense will have to spend the next ten seasons trying to solve him.  It will be up to you to explain to the fans why you wouldn’t hire the best player.  Don’t believe me? I remember the scandals when the Montreal Canadiens went out of their way to hire French management, and ended up with a lot of losing seasons under their belt (including their longest ever Stanley Cup drought).

A company is mandated by its shareholders to make money.  Workers in the trenches, even supervisors, should be hired as evenly as possible.  However in the senior management positions the companies not only should be allowed to, but actually required to hire the best people for the job so as to make money for their shareholders.  The corporate world cannot be managed by restrictive laws, especially in the day and age where companies do business in many countries, unless we find a way to enforce the same laws equally in every country where any company may do business then it is not reasonable to try to tell companies to hire someone because of their gender… they should be hired based on ability.

On the other hand, I feel that companies are finally learning that diversity in ethnicity and colour and gender is actually an asset, and that it behooves them to seek out the best candidates for the job that will help them… including African Americans and women and even African American women.  However to specifically restrict hiring to any group is akin to saying ‘Sorry Mitch, you are a white male so we are going to discriminate against you based on that.’  It also, in my opinion, belittles the fights won by every African American and woman who have fought for their equality.  Guess what… they are now equal, why shouldn’t they be treated as such?

I have worked in IT at a pretty high level for the past fifteen years.  I am a huge believer in supporting the up-and-comers in the field.  With that being said, I don’t think anyone should be specifically encouraged or coaxed into the field.  It should be what someone wants to do… and if it is not, then they should find something else.  I know many women in IT who have succeeded at very high levels – Presidents and VPs of companies such as Microsoft, a former CEO of HP, the CEO of Yahoo, and so on.  I have asked female friends and coworkers if they feel they have been outwardly discriminated against, and the majority of them will say there have been minor incidents, but overall they have succeeded, and love what they do.  Those are the type of people I want in IT – because guess what, I have had incidents and setbacks as well, and I succeeded because I wanted it.

The television series The West Wing may have been pure fiction, but the issues and dialogue were very real and well thought out.  In an episode called 17 People (original air date April 4, 2001), Ainsley Hayes (a Republican woman played by Emily Procter) debates Sam Seaborne (a Democratic man played by Rob Lowe) about the ERA… and she picks the side of NO.  In this clip (5m30s long but worth it) she explains many of the reasons behind her position, but the long and the short of it are that ‘I am a person, the law already proclaims that I am equal, and passing other laws proclaiming that I am equal would imply that prior to the passing of that law I was not equal.  Her position is extremely well written and well spoken, and very clear.  The US Constitution proclaims that all men are created equal.  Fortunately the 14th Amendment to same clarifies that all people are equal… so let’s stop treating them as if they are not.

Our world is not a perfect one; I have clearly outlined my position in this article to limit the discussion to Canada and the United States of America.  To not focus would necessitate discussions of anti-gay legislation in Russia (as well as most of the Middle East and Africa); the subjugation of women (again, in much of the Middle East and Africa), racist laws (in scores of countries, and arguably even in the Province of Quebec), and so much more.  This is not a perfect world, and I applaud many of the people and organizations who dedicate their lives to trying to change that.  However the examples I outlined at the beginning of this piece are not from Saudi Arabia, Russia, or Somalia… they are from the US and Canada.

I am not proclaiming that our countries are perfect; in fact they are far from that.  Despite my belief that Canada is among the best countries in the world to live in, I know we have problems.  There are plenty of social issues that we should be dealing with.  However by focusing on the directors of companies we are taking focus away from the 99% – the people who actually work for the companies.  Every hour that we spend discussing gender imbalance on Boards of Directors is an hour that we are not discussing minimum wage, work conditions, poverty, and how the single mother who wants to work at a company can do so without paying 95% of her weekly salary to child care.  By posting a job opening for African American women our government opened the door to a discrimination lawsuit from a whack-job white male who, despite their litigious craziness, would likely win the case because the law says he is right.  By focusing on a football player’s sexuality we are making sure that every time he makes a great play the announcer might say ‘what a great play… there was no sexual attraction at all when he tackled the quarterback!’

…and with regard to Women in IT, let me be clear: I want more women in my field.  I often prefer working with women than men.  However more than whether their private parts are innies or outies, I am primarily concerned by their competence and ability to perform the tasks required of them.  Beyond that, if a woman is competent she should be hired, and if a man is competent he should be hired.  If women feel uncomfortable working in IT then let them work in another field… but if they are intentionally made to feel uncomfortable in their field – whether that be IT Pro, or doctor, or subway operator, or anything, then she should take legal actions, and there are a lot of us who would back her up.  However I have no interest in working with someone who had to be coaxed or cajoled into the field… more often than not they won’t enjoy it.  So for new hires throw career fairs, but do not focus on gender… focus on interest and competence.  Trust me, you’ll get a lot of women interested.

Now, if you want to have groups of women who are established in IT, knock yourselves out… because those within the profession may have insights to how to fix issues.  However those issues will not be fixed by simply dragging more people in.

Rant over.  Enjoy your week-end!

Getting to Know Windows Server 2012 R2

Originally posted on Small Business Tech Support:

I know it’s been a few weeks – okay, maybe six – since my last post. Things at work have been really busy, I came down with that awful bug that was going around, and there were some changes in my personal life. Now that things have settled down and I’m in a new routine, I will be able to get back to posting IT for SMBs. Sorry for the delay. 

ImageOne of the awesome projects I am working on at Microsoft is a webinar on Server 2012 R2 that is scheduled for next Tuesday, Feb. 24. I’ll be talking about the need to move from Server 2003, and how to do it. Yes, it’s coming to an end and we need to start planning for it. And if you are on SBS 2003, what are the options you have to move to Server 2012 R2? (Trust me there are…

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Welcome to Cote St. Luc, Montreal

I came to Montreal to visit my father this week.  I arrived Tuesday evening and picked my father up at his apartment in the Cote Saint Luc section of town.  After dinner we drove around looking for a place to park.  I found two spots that looked good, but my father found the signs (well hidden as they were) prohibiting parking there.  Oh well… we kept looking, until finally one opened up right in front of his building.  Perfect!

Of course, we had to look at the signs again… I was parked right in front of a sign that read (in French and English): No parking Wednesday mornings from 10am-2pm between April 1st and December 1st.  As we were February 11th we agreed we were fine.  Just to be safe, we looked up and down the street, and did not find anything else marked.  Good, we went upstairs.

As we were sitting and talking throughout the evening I told him that it was such a good parking spot that I was considering driving him to work in the morning in his own car rather than in mine… so that I wouldn’t have to relinquish the spot!  I decided against it though… I like my car, and he is a nervous passenger when someone else is driving his car.

This morning we walked up to my car, and sure enough there was a parking ticket on it.  As we sat in the car examining it I noticed that the agent writing the ticket must check one of three boxes:

  • Parked illegally
  • Parked in a spot marked as illegal
  • Visiting from Ontario so likely won’t appear to contest the fine.

CSL_overnightparkingsign2008_120pxOkay, the third box doesn’t exactly say that… it says ‘Parked on the street between 3:00am and 6:00am.  But really, there were hundreds of cars parked on the street, so who could have imagined there was anything wrong with it?

As we drove downtown we joked about it, and my father told me I should fight the ticket.  I couldn’t imagine taking two days off of my life to drive 550km each way to fight a $38 ticket?  In other words, pay $75 in gas… you get the picture.  It was a ridiculous idea.  However I was still a bit miffed about the ticket.

Later in the day my father called me and told me that if I called Cote St. Luc Public Security they could give me a temporary permit for the duration of my visit.  I called, they took my information, and thanked me for paying the ‘Visiting Residents of Ontario’ tax.  Okay that isn’t exactly what they called it, but let’s call it like it is… how is a visitor supposed to know that overnight parking requires a temporary permit when the resident himself doesn’t know?!

Once I had spoken with Security they suggested I speak with the City Secretary about last night’s tax ticket.  The secretary, every time I added something new, repeated the same phrase that signs are posted at every entrance to the city.  I am reasonably sure she was a robot or a repurposed robo-caller machine.

Okay, I will pay my tax… I am big enough to admit that they have me beat.  Apparently it was an initiative of the new mayor.  I almost asked what he was smoking but then I realized as a resident of the Greater Toronto Area (or the Rob Ford Bong Show) it would be like throwing stones.

Thanks Montreal… at least I was able to get myself a decent smoked meat sandwich while I was here!

Microsoft Store Grand Opening Weekend

ImageThis week-end’s grand opening of the Microsoft Store in Square One (Mississauga, Ontario) has been a truly amazing time.  Saturday was busy all day – people lined up to buy Microsoft Surface devices, Xbox One, games, software, accessories, and some simply came to get concert tickets.  Whatever the reason, there were hundreds of people here from morning until night.

I arrived at 8:15 – well over two hours before the scheduled opening.  I was surprised to see there were hundreds of people lined up in three different lines – people who specifically wanted concert tickets (they were giving away tickets to see Weezer Sunday at the Powerade Centre in Brampton), people who wanted to buy the Surface Pro (the door crasher special was a Surface Pro 128 for $399), and people who just wanted to come in to see the store.  Additionally there was a fourth ‘V.I.P. Area’ for partners, MVPs, and guests from the four charities that were invited to take part in the opening festivities.

Although there was music, a Twitter Wall, and a couple of Xbox One stations set up, there was not a lot to see before 11:00.  The staff came out a few times to give out prizes ranging from portable speakers to Xbox prizes and even a couple of Weezer-autographed guitars.  However aside from that the only thing we were able to look at was the Microsoft curtain – the entire store was blocked off by a white curtain… and from time to time we would hear some pretty exciting stuff from behind that…

At 11:00am the staff came out.  Steven Grebenc is the store manager, and he was the first to speak.  After that Claudia Ferris, the vice president of Marketing & Operations of Microsoft Canada, spoke for a few minutes.  She and Steven gave away over a million dollars in software donations to four charities, including Community Living Mississauga and Girl Guides of Canada.

Although the local Member of Parliament made an appearance, the real Belle of the Ball was Hazel McCallion, the 94 year old mayor of Mississauga.  She was as energetic and engaging as any speaker I’ve heard, welcoming the Microsoft Store into her city and congratulating Microsoft on being such a long-standing corporate citizen of her city.  She was invited to cut the ribbon officially opening the store, and when she did the curtain was dropped, and dozens of Microsoft Store employees were waiting behind it cheering, dancing, and welcome everyone in.  They welcomed and high-fived everyone who came in, and really made everyone feel welcome.

Over a thousand people were lined up to buy the Surface Pro, and that line did not abate right into the evening.  At closing time there were still dozens of people in the store, looking around, asking questions, and buying products of every shape and size.

Although the tablets and laptops were the big sellers, there was a lot of curiosity around the 3D printer, a desktop device selling for $2,199.  It was busy making tchotchkes of all sorts over the week-end, including models of airplanes and rocket ships, hearts, key-chains, and more.

Although Alec usually works out of the Yorkdale Mall store he was on hand all week-end drawing caricatures on his Surface Pro.  He does great work, and if you find yourself in one of the stores see if he is around to draw yours!

Of course every Microsoft Store has a theatre, and that space in Square One is managed by Justine.  At noon she handed me the mic, and I was the announcer/emcee for the day announcing several Microsoft MVPs speaking on all sorts of topics, as well as community events such as the gaming session with We Got Game.

A great time was had by all, and if you have never been to a Microsoft Store opening week-end you really should try to get to one (there is one coming up in Calgary in the next few months).  However even if you are not able to get to an opening, you should drop into one of the stores because they really are great places to see and experience new technologies, try out devices, and learn from experts – whether as one-on-one or in the theatre as a member of the audience.

The tech is great, the deals are amazing, and the staff are just incredible.  Come on down and see what I mean!

Microsoft Store #84 (Square One!)

What a day… I arrived at Square One reasonably early this morning expecting to be one of the first people in line to get into the new Microsoft Store.  I wasn’t even in the first 200!  Fortunately I had registered as an MVP and was ushered into the VIP section.

This is not my first Microsoft Store opening.  I was at the opening of the Yorkdale store in 2012, and it was amazing.  I suspect that today’s opening however shattered any records.  There were well over 1,500 people waiting when Mayor Hazel McCallion cut the ribbon shortly after 11:00am.

The ongoing flow of traffic lasted all day – at 4:30 there were still hundreds of people lined up to buy a Surface Pro 128 for $399.  While I do not know how many they sold, I am sure it was well over a thousand.

As was the case at Yorkdale the CSM handed me the microphone to emcee the events at the theatre, and I got to announce a few fellow MVPs, a gaming convention brought in by We Got Game, and even a world renowned Call of Duty player who goes by a name that I can only remember as Goom Jar (I will confirm that later).

As I have been busy all day I have not had time to blog, but I promise to sit down tomorrow or Monday and post the pictures I took… if you follow me on Titter (@MGarvis) you would have seen some of them already.

Congratulations to the crew here for a great event, and I invite you down to the store to see what they have… a lot of great stuff, and a lot of great people!

A New Look to The World…

MITCH…Not the entire world, of course, only The World According to Mitch.  I have made some changes, most of them cosmetic, that I hope you will appreciate.  WordPress (the platform on which I blog) has hundreds if not thousands of themes available, and every year or so I try out a new look.  I try to keep it simple and elegant.

This theme is called The Twenty Twelve Theme, and is one of the more popular themes according to WordPress, but I did not know that until I had already selected it.  It is simple, professional, and I would love to hear your thoughts.

Something that I have added (for the first time ever) is a Donate button.  As you know I do not and never have charged for my blog, nor have I ever accepted payment for product reviews or endorsements.  What I used to see on other pages as a blatant hand out I now feel has a place.  There is no obligation of course, and you will not be missing out on anything if you don’t donate.  However if people are interested, I will gladly accept them.  If you have followed me for any amount of time you must know how hard I work to maintain the site, and 320,000 hits can’t be wrong! Smile  Well… they can be, but I hope you don’t think they are… especially if you are a return visitor!

If you do not feel I should ask for donations I want to hear from you… I am not promising anything, but if there is enough negative opinion I will likely take it down.  Otherwise feel free to press it… or not Winking smile

Thanks again for three incredible years!

Mitch

Free ebook: Introducing Microsoft System Center 2012 R2

Folks you will not want to miss this!  Microsoft Press is giving away the ebook Introducing Microsoft System Center 2012 R2: Technical Overview.  It is written by Mitch Tulloch, Symon Perriman, and the System Center team… and is a great way to get up to speed on Microsoft’s private cloud!

Check it out at http://blogs.msdn.com/b/microsoft_press/archive/2013/12/16/free-ebook-introducing-microsoft-system-center-2012-r2.aspx.

Become a Virtualization Expert!

For those who missed the virtualization jump start, the entire course is now available on demand, as is the link to grab a free voucher for exam 409. This is a single exam virt specialist cert. I would encourage you to take the exam soon before all the free spots are booked.   Full info at http://borntolearn.mslearn.net/btl/b/weblog/archive/2013/12/17/earn-your-microsoft-certified-specialist-server-virtualization-title-with-a-free-exam.aspx

Thanks for your support!

Image representing Microsoft as depicted in Cr...

Image via CrunchBase

Over the past few days I have received an incredible number of you asking what happened, if I am okay, and if I will be alright.  I can assure you I am.  Let me explain.

A great many of you have known me as a Microsoft contractor.  I have been for quite some time, first as a Virtual Partner Technology Advisor, then as a Virtual Technical Evangelist, and most recently as a member of the Server and Tools Business.  So when e-mails to my @microsoft.com account started to bounce (Tuesday this week) a lot of people expressed their concern.  I am quite touched by the outpouring of support!

I have always contracted to Microsoft through its Canadian subsidiary, Microsoft Canada.  In September of this year I accepted a contract with Rakuten, Inc – a Japanese company – that would see me spending most of my time in Tokyo.  Although we tried, there was no good way for Microsoft Canada to keep me on.  It was not done maliciously – in fact, my skip-level (my manager’s manager) did everything he could to a) keep me on, b) communicate the issues with me, and then c) accommodate my request for a timeline extension.

So let me answer some of the ‘Best Of’ questions… the ones that seem to be coing up most often.

1. Did your decision to leave Microsoft have to do with being turned down for a particular position?

No. Although over the past year I have indeed been turned down for a position, it has worked out very well for me in almost every way imaginable.  While taking that role would have been good for me, I have been able to grow in the direction I have wanted to grow.  Because of my independence I have been able to accept the consulting project I am currently working on, which is one of the mot exciting projects I have worked on in years.

2. Did you leave Microsoft because of a disagreement?

No… and yes.  I suppose in the end we disagreed on geography – my consulting role needed me to be in Japan, and Microsoft Canada would have needed me to be in Canada.  Other than that there was no disagreement whatsoever.

3. Did you leave because you did not like the direction in which the company was heading?

Not at all.  In the army I topped out at Staff Sergeant, and as such I learned quickly that some things were above my pay grade.  At Microsoft that was the case as well – I know that a lot of things are out of my control, but I also knew that whatever direction the company would take, my position (should I have elected to keep it) was safe.  Whatever decisions the company made, as a VMware Compete expert I was reasonably safe :)

4. Do you feel any disdain toward Microsoft, Microsoft Canada, or anyone you worked for or with?

ABSOLUTELY NOT.  I loved working there, and while I may have had the occasional issue with someone they were always resolved.

5. Did you leave Microsoft to work with competing technologies?

NO.  Although over the past couple of weeks I have made a habit to wear my non-Microsoft branded shirts more than usual, I have not ‘gone over’ to any other competing technology.  With that being said, I am carrying an iPhone now not because I left Microsoft… because Windows Phone 8 is not available in Japan, and this is what the company I am working for gave me.

6. Will you be going back to Microsoft?

That is a very good question. What I once thought of as my dream job no longer holds the same appeal to me.  With that being said, there are a lot of jobs at Microsoft, and should the right opportunity present itself I would be glad to go back, either for the right contract or for the right full time position.  However one thing is for certain: I no longer view Microsoft as the Holy Grail of companies.  I think they are a great company to work for, but there are a lot of other great companies out there.

7. What will you miss most about it?

I had to give this question a little thought.  My first knee-jerk reaction was the people, but then I realized that the people I got to know are still there, and are still available to me.  I am still a Microsoft MVP, a Microsoft Certified Trainer, and an influencer.  My friends are still my friends.  When it comes down to it, I suppose what I will miss most is having Lync… having the ability to call my family from Japan was a great tool!

8. Any regrets?

None at all… for the remainder of my time in Japan I will continue to work closely with Microsoft, but not with the Canadian team.  It is a really exciting project, and I would not trade it for anything.

I want to thank you all again for your concern and support, and hope to be able to continue working with you in the future!