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The Evils of Offices…

I have really been enjoying working at Yakidoo.  The people are really nice, I am enjoying the work, it’s all good.  However they are out to get me, the lot of them…

As I have mentioned in the recent past I have been losing weight.  It is, as anyone who has gone before me knows, not an easy journey.  So when the culture of an office is ‘Hey, I want to be nice to everyone, and since I am going to Tim Hortons anyways I might as well pick up a box of doughnuts for the gang.’ the need to maintain discipline is more important than usual.

chocolate_chip_cookieYou see, at home I have been good.  I don’t keep the fattening foods that I love in the house, so if I am in the mood for something it is more than just ‘go to the fridge and get some.’  I actually have to get up, go out, and either walk or drive to the store.

Last week I was very proud of myself for ignoring the doughnuts.  Today I was not as good when Lorena (she looks so sweet and innocent, but I am about to prove she has her diabolical side) came in from lunch with a box of chocolate chip cookies.  I had just gone downstairs to pour myself a cup of coffee and there they were… I decided that since I had been so good yesterday (aside from burning over 2000 calories walking, I also didn’t come close to hitting my calorie limit for the day) I was going to indulge.  I opened the box and grabbed a couple.

The first bite was already in my mouth when I realized that even when indulging (or especially when…) I have to track what I eat.  I pulled out my iPhone, opened the MyFitnessPal app, and scanned the barcode on the box.  I learned two things… the cookies were from Whole Foods, and they are more calories than I wanted to waste on a cookie… or at least on two of them.  I would have put the second cookie back in the box, but since I have been coughing all week I played it safe and threw it out.  The one cookie (at 160 calories) was very good, and complimented my coffee well.

Truth be told, it was a good cookie to be sure, but not much better than the nutrition bars I keep in my desk for mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks… the whole bar (1.76 oz of minty chocolate) has 210 calories (60 from fat), but it also has 14g of protein, nearly zero cholesterol (the cookie has 30g).  The carbohydrates are the same, but aside from that the cookie has no nutritional value.

In the end the single nutrition bar is more satisfying than a single cookie (although two would have been tough)… I’ll stick to them.

And as for the Diabolical Lorena… I’ll get you! :)

Losing a Part of Me… What I would like to share.

Last week I posted on Facebook that I have lost 25lbs in the past three months, and a lot of people offered words of congratulations and encouragement. I want to thank them for that.

The truth is, I have struggled with my weight for the past twenty years. Since before I got out of the army I have been gaining weight, and have not had the willpower to really reign it in.

When I was engaged to my first wife I started at Weight Watchers, and had some pretty good success with that. I was also jogging – a lot – and that helped too.  However after she left me, I was in a terrible funk; I went to a Weight Watchers meeting and they told me I had gained a couple of pounds, and I said something like ‘screw this.’ I dropped my tracking card into the trash bin and walked out.  I remember that nobody tried to come after me, nobody tried to call me and see if I was okay, and I was done losing weight.  It wasn’t their fault, it was mine.

Early in my relationship with Theresa she and I tried to lose weight together. We joined Weight Watchers, but she and I were not cut from the same weight loss cloth, and it just didn’t work out.  I think the truth is that I need things to be a lot more structured and regimented with regard to weight loss, and she was more fluid with it.  Especially when I was traveling as much as I was, dieting was just not something I was good at.

I joined Master Kim’s Oriental Martial Arts College.

While my joining OMAC did not do anything in the immediate, over the years it would be extremely important to my weight loss and overall health status.

In April, 2010 Master Beis and I decided that I should train to achieve my Black Belt in June. I told him I was going to work my ass off (which I did), and that I was going to lose weight (which I did).  For seven weeks I did not eat meat, I deprived myself of a lot of the foods I love, and only under his careful supervision did I cheat a little.  I lost 35lbs in that time frame, and when I tested for my belt I was feeling great.  The problem was I was depriving myself… it was a temporary solution.  That night I went out with some friends to a pub in Oakville, and for the first time in nearly two months I ate (beef) ribs, chicken wings, and drank beer.  It was only supposed to be a one night splurge… it did not work out that way, and over the next eighteen months I gained all the weight back… and more.

In January, 2012 Master Beis and I decided I should train to achieve my Second Dan Black Belt that June. He told me that I needed to lose a lot of weight, and I dedicated myself to doing so.  Unfortunately I fell in with a bad crowd – I knew that any diet that involved meal replacement powders and that crap would ultimately fail, but she sold me on it, and Theresa tried it too.  I actually did pretty well on the program – it was easy to do while I was on the road because I took all of those packets and supplements with me – but as Master Beis warned me I was doomed to fail because the minute I stopped following that program I would gain back all of the weight.  As is usually the case, Master Beis was right.  I lost nearly fifty pounds using that program, and when I tested in June I was the slimmest I had been in five years.  Six months later I had gained back twenty pounds, and after a car accident in December I gained back the rest… and more.

In August, 2013 I made the decision to speak with my doctor. Although he was and continues to be a great support, the most important thing he did was to refer me to a weight management clinic.  I started going that month, and with the exception of the time I was in Japan, have gone every few weeks ever since.

I lost some weight when I was in Japan, and I was feeling great. It wasn`t that I was following the program that I had learned from the WMC; it is just that living in Japan (as long as you like Japanese food) it is very easy to eat properly, and because I loved to walk around it just was easier.

Unfortunately (for many reasons) when I came back to Canada my marriage came to an end. The life that I had grown accustomed to and comfortable in ended quite abruptly.  I became very depressed, and (as we discovered when my first wife left me) when I am depressed I tend to eat.  I started to gain the weight back, and by the middle of May I was within 8lbs of where I had started (I weighed more than I ever have in August, 2013).  I was still going to the appointments at the WMC, but I was slipping backwards.

In May the doctor at the WMC suggested I consider bariatric surgery. Someone close to me had very good results with it, and swore by it.  I told them I would consider it.  I sat down and had a very long, hard think.  I looked at myself in the mirror and hated what I saw (both physically and otherwise).  I made a few decisions that I hope will affect the rest of my life.

  1. I started following the weight management plan. It is not a diet; it is an alteration of my eating habits that should stay with me for the rest of my life. This involves tracking the food that I eat, so if you ever eat with me you will likely notice that I track everything in my smartphone (using an app called My Fitness Pal).
  2. I returned to Taekwondo. The sedentary lifestyle I had been leading was not conducive to losing weight, nor living healthily. I told Master Beis that I wanted to work toward my Third Dan Black Belt, but not in November (which was certainly doable) but for next June. I was going to tell him that I wanted to lose at least 75lbs and hopefully more before I tested, but he beat me to it – he told me that he would not let me test unless I lost a lot of weight.
  3. I have once again begun to live my life remembering that I am a Black Belt, and there are serious discipline implications to that. I believe there is a difference between people who have a Black Belt and people who ARE Black Belts. The discipline that I need can be found in that, as can the will power.
  4. When I was asked by Master Anthony Godoy if I was interested in teaching, I jumped at the chance. I was apprehensive at first for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that at my weight then (and still) I do not LOOK like a Taekwondo instructor. I suspect there were a few students and parents who looked at me with a very hesitant eye, and I have worked hard every class to make sure I can not only allay their fears, but surpass their expectations of what they expect in an Instructor.

I am sure that anyone who has ever been severely overweight knows that there will be people who give them no end of grief about their weight. In my experience those people, who are trying to help, are doing anything but helping.  I have told my parents (and several other people) that I do not want their input on my weight, even as I am losing weight.  Honestly, the people who stressed me out with their grief as I was gaining weight, will continue to stress me out even with their encouragement.  So there are fewer than five people who have the right to open a conversation about my weight with me, and trust me reader, you are not on that list.  In most cases it is nothing personal.  In some cases it is.  However let me be clear: my being fat is personal, so live with it.

So what does it feel like to lose the first 25lbs? It feels good, yes… but for everyone who asks, it is probably not something I want to talk to you about. When I comment on Facebook that I am wearing pants that I have not been able to wear for eighteen months please feel free to offer words of encouragement.  However it does not mean you can talk to me about how I am dodging a bullet, and lecture me on all of the negative health effects of being overweight.  I think most of you know I am a pretty smart guy, and I know what the health implications are.  You are not helping, and I would sooner not have the conversation with you.

For those of you who have been encouraging, I thank you. But think back since you have known me: if you have ever said to me anything along the lines of ‘you should lose weight’ then kindly refrain from saying anything more than ‘keep up the good work!’… I don’t want to hear it.

Along the same lines, please don’t ask me how much I have lost, what my goal weight is, how I did it, do I ever get tempted, or anything like that. Don’t ask me how much I weigh or how much I weighed when I started.  Unless I decide to share any of that with you, it is none of your business, and yes it will bother me when you ask.

If you see me eating something I shouldn’t (and yes, occasionally I indulge) don’t say it. If you are going to temper it by starting your sentence with ‘You know, I probably shouldn’t say, but…’ THEN DON’T! Anything you might say after that will piss me off, and if I respond either loudly or snidely then you deserve it… If you know you shouldn’t (as you said) then don’t. Period.

I am not looking to be an inspiration to anyone… I just want to be a better person, and a better martial artist. If you want to encourage me, and I am still on the right path by then, ask if you can come watch me achieve my Third Dan Black Belt.  If you’ve never watched a Black Belt testing, you don’t know what you are missing!

(And yes, you can buy me a drink afterward!)

Surface Pro 3: Two weeks later

Are there problems with it?  Yes.

Do I absolutely love it? I love my kids and my dogs… but I suppose I do like it as much as I have ever liked a laptop or tablet… and I have had quite a few of them over the years!

What are the problems? There is really only one that you should be aware of if you are thinking of going out to buy one.  It’s the patches and the battery.

How, you may ask, do patches and batteries wind their way into a single problem?  Simple… as you probably know, everything in computers is managed by software drivers… and that includes the battery to some extent.  When you buy the device (or any device) you are prompted to apply patches, and at this point a couple of them for the Surface Pro 3 are firmware updates.  You apply the first one, and then you have a problem…

…Windows tells you there is no battery detected.  Worse, if you unplug the device it shuts off immediately.  The firmware update actually tells the computer that there is no battery installed.

BUT THERE IS! Wait a minute!  I was using it unplugged just a few minutes ago!  Where did it go?  Oh… I get it!  The pesky firmware is what screwed me up.  Let’s check to see if there is ANOTHER firmware update.  Plug it in, connect to the Internet, run Windows Update… By Jove, there it is!  Install it, and presto changeo, there’s my battery!

…and what a battery it is!  My original Surface Pro probably gave me 3 hours of battery (with Hyper-V and a bunch of other things draining it).  The Surface Pro 2 was probably closer to 5.  The Pro 3? I haven’t had it run dry on me yet… for the first time in my laptop-owning life I am not afraid to leave the house in the morning without the charger.

THE SCREEN BOSS, THE SCREEN!
(Imagine the voice of Hervé Villechaize if you would…)

Yes, there are a lot of improvements over the Surface Pro 2, but wow I never would have imaginged that the 1.4″ difference in screen size (12″ over 10.6″) would make that much of a difference.  As I told you recently I have an external 16″ screen that I keep in the trunk of my car so that I can have the dual screen experience on the go.  I don’t know that I have pulled it out once since I got the Pro 3… the combination of the slightly bigger screen and the much improved screen resolution make the extra screen redundant… at least when I am on the go.

Don’t get me wrong… the day the Pro 3 docking station is available I am buying it – I have pre-ordered it from the Microsoft Store, and I have the voucher for it (from something else I returned).  All I need is the e-mail saying it is in… and I expect that to be around the same time the remaining Surface Pro 3 models (with the Intel i3 and i7 CPUs) are released, sometime in August.  When I am at home (or an office) I will still want the multi-screen experience.  On the go?  Not necessary anymore.

A lot of people are saying I should have waited for the Intel i7 version, but the reality is I have not found myself lacking.  The Surface Pro 3 runs everything I need it to with 8GB of RAM and the Intel Core i5 CPU, and frankly I don’t want to spend the extra money (the i7 version will come in two models – 256GB storage for $1,599, and the 512GB model for $1,999.  Too rich for my blood, but thanks!

Conclusion

I am asked pretty often (including 3 minutes ago, as I sit at the Microsoft Store in Square One Mall blogging) whether the Surface Pro 3 is really a laptop replacement.  The answer, as with everything, is that it depends.  I would think that for the vast majority of people the answer is yes.  If you are a true hard-core gamer? Maybe not; there are some gamers who need more than 8gb of RAM.  If you are a coder? I have a friend who is a programmer who needs to run virtual machines running more than 8gb of RAM at all times.  (Did I mention that I LOVE the fact that it runs Hyper-V?  Well I do…). Aside from them?  I don’t know too many users – even power users – who need more than 8gb of RAM ever, not even occasionally.  For them (like myself) I would say that this is the device for you.

If you are in the Greater Toronto Area come down to the Microsoft Store at Square One or Yorkdale Malls to check it out! :)

MVP? Martial Artist? Read on!

Over the eight years I spent as a Microsoft MVP I was honoured to meet so many wonderful people, fellow MVPs and MicrosoftBLeeGr04 (800x600) employees alike.  While we are usually viewed as IT Pros, Developers, experts in our field, I have learned that none of us is one-dimensional, and often have a lot of other interests in common.  For example, I am a martial artist, and I know that many other Microsofties and Microsoft MVPs are as well.  Some probably do it for sport, others for much different reasons.  Of course there is probably not a martial artist in the world who does not know and respect (revere?) Bruce Lee.

In November many of us – a great many of us in fact – will descend upon the Seattle / Redmond / Bellevue area for MVP Summit.  During my past few visits there I have made it a point each time to visit the grave of The Dragon, Bruce Lee.  Eighteen months ago, at the last MVP Summit I attended, I spoke to a few people informally about it, and they wanted to go… but nothing came of it, and I went with a friend.

This time I would like to know if any of you are interested in going with me.  If you are, I propose that we all wear our gis, duboks, or whatever you wear when you practice your art, and head down as a group.  We can take a group photo there, and possibly even teach each other some of our patterns (although not in the cemetery)…

For the time being I have not given any thought to how we would get there, and that would ultimately depend on just how many of you reply that you want to go.  However I think the best day to plan it is either Sunday November 2 or Friday November 7.  If you are interested, please reply here… and send me an e-mail to MVP@garvis.ca.

I am looking forward to seeing so many of you at the upcoming Summit… See you then!

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My parting words as a Microsoft MVP

I want to thank all of you who commented – both publicly and privately – on my losing my status as a Microsoft MVP.  Let me sum it all up, and hopefully answer all of your questions.

1) I was informed on Monday that I was not being renewed.  However this was several weeks after I sat down with my MVP Lead and told him that I suspected I was not going to get renewed.  My suspicions, by the way, were not at all based on my community contributions throughout the last year – which were substantial.  I believed that there are people at Microsoft actively working against my advancement.  This has actually been proven to me in the past few months, and I suspected that it would manifest itself again on October 1.  I will not elaborate any further.

2) Whether it is ‘fair’ or not is irrelevant.  Microsoft can (and does) decide to award who it chooses to award, and no, I do not plan to appeal the decision.

3) The Microsoft MVP Award is not for people proficient in their technology; it is for people who share their proficiency with community work, such as blog articles, speaking events & presentations, tweets, forums, and such.  For the record I submitted (when asked) more than 15 articles on Hyper-V that I have written over the past year, as well as in excess of six public and unpaid presentations I have given on the technology.  I also wrote a course on Virtual Desktop Infrastructure using only Microsoft technologies, something that nobody (including Microsoft) had ever done before.  However this was determined to be inadequate to be reawarded.

4) What’s next: I continue to do my thing.  I did not get into IT communities to be awarded for it, and my blog (which has been acclaimed both critically and popularly every year for the past five) will continue on its path.  However it might be noticed by some regular readers that over the past several months my pro-Microsoft bias has been curbed, and I am a lot more willing to be critical of them publicly than I was in the past… and yes, I am using VMware in my professional work, but I am using Hyper-V as well.

5) I am not (as some of you have) badmouthing Microsoft.  I am not calling them names.  I am just realizing that they are not the company they once were, and to deny that would be unworthy of an industry commentator that I am considered to be.

6) It is not a sad day for me.  I do not feel sad.  I feel sleighted, I feel insulted, but I do not feel sad.  I am not angry with anyone in particular, least of all my MVP Lead – Simran Chaudhry has been a good lead, and a good friend over the years.  For the record I think he took the news harder than I did.

7) For those who say they are pruning the tree from the bottom, I appreciate the sentiment.  I have done my best over the years to foster community growth, and to help develop new community leaders.  There are several Microsoft MVPs who are that because of my guidance, and I hope they will continue to do their good work.  If anyone is doing their community work because of me, and decides to stop doing it because of this, well then maybe they shouldn’t have been MVPs in the first place.

8) No, I have not joined Microsoft.

9) I am still coming to MVP Summit in November.  This was my greatest worry, not because of the parties (which I would miss) and frankly not even because of the airfare (which is already spent) but because of the people.  I have made a lot of friends in the MVP community, and I am looking forward to seeing them all next month.

10) The truth is I did NOT receive a proper explanation… nor do I expect to.  If my suspicions are correct then any truthful explanation would embarrass the company.  They do not owe me an explanation, and on a similar subject, as the MVP Award is not an employment, the severance package looks like this: ‘Buh-bye!’

Now: I am not trying to burn any bridges, and I am not trying to offend anyone.  Might I be re-awarded in the future? Who knows?  I am not going to seek it out, but anyone who wishes to nominate me is free to do so.  If it happens, that is fine… and if it doesn’t, well that is fine too.  I am proud to have been an MVP for 8 years – in several different categories (I think I hold the record) – but if it is time to move on then that is what I will do.

If you are looking for a speaker for your event, whether it be on Server, Client, Virtualization, Private Cloud, Office 365, or any of the other myriad technologies that I have been a subject matter expert on, please feel free to contact me.  If you have a technical question on any of these (or other) subjects then please feel free to ask, and if I can get it into a blog article I will.  If you feel that I have been wronged, then feel free to say so to whoever it is you would say it to… but it might be more productive for you to go to http://mvp.microsoft.com/en-us/nominate-an-mvp.aspx and nominate me again.

Thank you all for your support, and I look forward to helping you all in the future!

Mitch

Cloud-Based VDI!!! No.

I was having a conversation this week with a colleague about his plans to create a hybrid-cloud environment by moving many of his datacenter workloads onto Windows Azure. After all, it makes plenty of sense – eliminating new capital expenses and reducing ongoing operational expenses just makes sense.

“And once we have tested it, we plan to roll out a thousand pooled VDI clients running on Windows Azure. It is great!”

No, I’m afraid it is not. Unfortunately, while there is no technological reason why you couldn’t do this, there is a legal reason.  There is no license for the Windows Client (not even Enterprise Edition) that you can deploy in someone else’s datacenter.  In order to legally deploy VDI you must own the physical hardware on which it is installed.

By the way, let me be clear, that is not only an Azure thing, and it is not only a Remote Desktop Services issue. The same licensing limitation is true on Citrix’s Xen Desktop and VMware’ Horizons.  It is true of Azure, Amazon Web Services, Rackspace, and Joe’s Datacenter Rental.  If you do not own the hardware you can install Windows Server… but not Windows 8.1 (or 8, or 7, or XP for that matter).

I had this conversation with the VP of Sales for a major Microsoft partner in Ontario recently, and I was so flabbergasted that I went back and looked it up. Sure enough he was right.  So when I spoke with my colleague the other day I was able to save him a lot of time, effort, money, and frustration.  Unfortunately I forgot to turn on the meter, so he got the advice for free.  Oh well, I’m sure he’ll remember around the holidays J

Consultants, I want you to remember this lesson: Your customers may not always like the news you have to tell them… but you do have to tell them.  Of course, this is one of those places where good communication skills will help you out – don’t just say ‘Wow, you are scroo-ooed!’ Tell them what they need to say and offer alternative solutions for them to accomplish what they are trying to do.