WSUS: Watch out!

Here’s a great way to waste time, network bandwidth, and storage space: download excess patches that you do not need.  For bonus points, download languages you don’t support. 

Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) is a great solution that has come a long way since it was introduced.  However it gives a lot of us functionality that we don’t need (and will cost).  Here’s an example: I support an environment where people speak English, Spanish, Urdu, and Hindi.  Between us we probably speak another six languages, but those are the mother tongues in this office.  So when the WSUS configuration screen asks what languages I want to support, it is easy to forget that every operating system in the joint is English…

Imagine you have to download 10GB of patches.  That could immediately translate to 10GB of patches per language.  Time, effort, and not to mention that you should be testing them all… it’s just not worth it.  What language are your servers in?  Mine are in English.  My workstations are also English, but we might have to account for a few French workstations – especially in Quebec.  That’s it.  Don’t go overboard, and your bandwidth will thank me!

Surface Pro 3 and Windows 8: Not everybody’s cup of tea

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… I do like my Surface Pro 3.  With that being said, I know everyone has different tastes, and some people are not going to like it.  A couple of months ago my sister, a long time Mac user (and Apple Fanboi) told me that her new job would be giving her a Pro 3, and asked what I thought of it.  I told her – it predated my realizing the extent of the network issues – that I loved it, and expected she would too.

Last week she e-mailed me to tell me that she really hated it.  It crashed a number of times in the first week, and she does not have the patience for these errors – she said her Macs (all of them) just work, and don’t have blue screens of death or other issues.

Now to be fair to the Surface team, a lot of the issues she outlined had to do with Windows 8.1, Microsoft Office, OneDrive, and the Microsoft Account.  I understand her frustration – if you take the device out of the equation, those are four different products from four different teams that are all supposed to work together seamlessly… but don’t.  I respect that Microsoft has a lot of different products, but if you are going to stop talking about products and start talking about solutions then you should make sure your teams work together a lot closer to make sure that seamless really is seamless.

I probably know Windows better than 99.5% of the population, and work very fluently across these four products… but one of the reasons for that is because I have come to understand that sometimes the seams between them are going to show, and like a Quebec driver I have learned better than most to navigate the potholes.  However if Microsoft really wants to stay at the top in an era where customers do want things to just work, they had better get off their butts, come down off their high horses, and start making sure that seamless really is just that.

I want to be clear… I am not trading in my devices for Macs (or Linux).  While I do have an iPhone (See article) I would just as soon have an Android or a Windows phone.  I love Windows 8.1, and even now at my office I cringe at having to work with Windows 7 (Ok, cringe is a strong word… I just wish it was Windows 8.1!).  However I have worked with iPads, Androids, Macs, and more, and I know that those solutions do make for a better experience with regard to some features than the Microsoft ecosystem.  I hope that under Satya things get better… but nearly a year into his tenure and I don’t see much progress.

In the meantime I am strongly considering going to open an account at one of the banks that is currently offering free iPad Minis to new account holders!

Cloning with Customization Specifications

Being back in a VMware environment, there are a few differences I need to remember from Hyper-V and System Center.  It is not that one is better or worse than the other, but they are certainly different.

Customization Specifications are a great addition in vCenter to Cloning virtual machines.  They allow you to name the VM, join domains, in short set the OOBE (Out of Box Experience) of Windows.  They just make life easier.

The problem is, they do a lot of the same things as Microsoft’s deployment tools… but they do them differently.  We have to remember that Microsoft owns the OS, so when you use the deployment tools from Microsoft, they inject a lot of the information into the OS for first boot.  Customization Specifications work just like answer files… they require a boot-up (or two) to perform the scripts… and while those boots are interactive sessions, you should be careful about what you do in them.  They will allow you to do all sorts of things, but then when they are ready they will perform the next step – a reboot.

I am not saying that you shouldn’t use Customization Specifications… I love the way they work, and will continue to use them.  Just watch out for those little hiccoughs before you go :)

Rock the Vote!

For over a decade I have been working on this blog, first on MITPro.ca, then a couple of different URLs and every year my readership has grown… and I have worked hard to maintain the level of posts that you have come to expect.  While this year has been a difficult one for me (more to come when I am ready) I am happy to say that I am back on my feet, and the writer’s block has for the most part abated.

So it is the time of year again where BizTech Magazine is asking for you to vote for the top IT blogs… The World According To Mitch has been on the list since 2011, and with your help, I am hoping to retain our place.  However I need your help!  Please vote for me here: https://list.ly/~ZTczk – it only takes a second!  Click on the VOTE button and let them know that The World According to Mitch still matters!

Thanks for your… I am looking forward to another year of IT (and whatever else I choose) blogging!

Mitch

Goodbye TechNet… But not quite.

TechNet

Microsoft is retiring the TechNet Subscription service.

September 1st came and went… most of us in North America enjoyed the long Labour Day weekend, whether we were with family, at the cottage, enjoying the CNE, or doing whatever people who don’t live in Toronto do for Labour Day.

What most of us did not feel was the hard stop of all of our TechNet Plus Subscriptions.  By all rights we should have, but last year, shortly after the TechNet team announced that they would be ending the benefit availability, they announced an extension.  So if you had purchased a valid subscription by August 31, 2013 you would get a 90 day extension… in other words, you can continue to access your benefits until November 30, 2014.

There was a huge outcry last year, and I was not part of it… partly because I was on contract to Microsoft, and partly because I will still enjoy my MSDN Subscription as an MCT and MVP.  However for the people who relied on TechNet, this is a sad end.  Fortunately you will still be able to use evaluation versions of the software… but we all know it’s not the same.

Even though we have another day, I will still say my fond farewell to the TechNet Subscription.

Back to … here.

I’ve been with Yakidoo for a little over a week, and it is great to be back in charge of a datacentre… albeit a smaller one.  One thing that I think surprised me though was, after all my time as a Microsoft Virtual Evangelist, I was so happy to be back in a VMware environment. 

Don’t get me wrong, I still like Hyper-V.  None of what I said over the course of the last four years is inaccurate – Microsoft’s virtualization and private cloud solutions are top notch.  However so are VMware’s.  My argument against vSphere was never the functionality, it was the cost.  As Yakidoo is a VMware Partner, that is not a factor here… and I am having a lot of fun implementing (and playing with) so many of the features that I have lectured about, but have not used in production because they are new features since I last ran a VMware environment (probably vSphere 4.0).

I will say though that everything I have said about virtual networking holds true… Microsoft’s stack is a lot easier, especially for smaller and less complicated environments.  The vSphere networking infrastructure is very robust… but I still don’t think most smaller companies will ever need them.

In the meantime, my hosts are in place, and I am virtualizing to my heart’s content!