Tag Archives: Microsoft Windows

Warning!

Wednesday morning I was sitting at my desk when a pop-up appeared on my screen.  It was actually an Internet Explorer window, and although it was written entirely in Japanese, I suspected immediately that it was a scam, a fraud, malware, or something.  Why?  It had a very old Microsoft logo on it (from the Microsoft Certified Partner days).  I asked my boss to confirm, and he started laughing at me that the sites I was visiting were not secure.  Since I was planning to re-image my system when I was back in Canada, I didn’t really worry about it.

As I sit in the airport lounge in Vancouver, I got a different albeit similar pop-up, this time in English (it is always nice when malware knows where you are…)

imageHere is a simple way to know if the warnings you are getting might be legitimate, or if they are completely bunk:

1) Legitimate programs do not display their warnings in Internet Explorer.  They would have their own windows appear.

2) I do not use a product called Advanced System Protector.  That being the case, if it were legitimate (it is not) it would still have no business scanning my system.

My recommendations? firstly do not click in the window.  The only place you should click is in the upper-right hand corner… the X.  Note that they are sneaky buggers… under the real X there is their own X, which would have you clicking in the window.  Do not be fooled.

Once you close the window, make sure you run your legitimate anti-malware system – do a complete system scan.  It is not necessary in my case because I simply shut down the machine, and the next time I turn it on I will re-image it (format it and re-install Windows).  However most of you will not want to do that… and yes, you do have malware in your system.

Windows To Go: Disk Behaviour

BitLocker Drive Encryption

BitLocker Drive Encryption (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently I was explaining Windows To Go at a client site.  We had a few interesting discussions about the power as well as the limitations of the security features.

One attendee asked a couple of good questions:

1) Is there any way to block the ‘on-lining’ of your Windows To Go key in other installations of Windows?

2) Is there a way to block users from bringing local disks on-line from within Windows To Go?

While I did not have the answers off the top of my head, after some consideration they are actually quite simple.

1) Windows To Go is the equivalent of any hard drive.  Because the machines that you are meant to use them on will be unmanaged, it is impossible to prevent this.  However Microsoft does provide several different levels of protection:

  • The WTG drive is off-line by default;
  • When building the WTG key you can enable BitLocker
  • Although BitLocker on the WTG key cannot be tied to a TPM chip, it will have a password associated.

In other words, in order to compromise the key from another installation of Windows, you would have to bring the WTG key on-line, unlock it, and provide a password.  In other words, if you trust the person to whom you gave the key.  If you don’t, he probably should not be on your systems in the first place.

The second answer is probably a happier one.  Because Windows to Go is (or can be) a managed environment (including domain membership, Group Policy, and even System Center management) the key can be locked down as you see fit.  How you would do it depends on which of the tools you have at your disposal… but yes, this can be done.

I hope this helps you to make your environment more secure using Windows To Go!

What’s New in Windows Server 2012 R2 Lessons Learned Week 1

Dan Stoltz asked me to republish this article, and it is well worth it!  Check out all of the links – a lot of great material! -MDG

It has been an incredible start to the Windows Server 2012 R2 Launch Series.  Here is brief summary of what we covered so far…

  1. Windows Server 2012 R2 Launch Blog Series Index #WhyWin2012R2 the series, opening and index page we learned that from Oct 18th and every day until Thanksgiving we should visit http://aka.ms/2012r2-01 to learn all about Windows Server 2012 R2. You can also follow the excitement on twitter at #WhyWin2012R2. Download the calendar .ICS to populate your calendar here.  This post started the new launch series where Microsoft platform experts would cover  why Windows Server 2012 R2 is important, how to deploy, manage, configure any number of components in Windows Server 2012 R2, how the new OS capabilities stack up against competitors, how R2 integrates with and leverages cloud services like Windows Azure and many, many more categories. This series is deep technical content with lots of How To’s and Step-By-Step instructions. You will learn about storage, cloud integration, RDS, VDI, Hyper-V, virtualization, deduplication, replica, DNS, AD, DHCP, high availability, SMB, backup, PowerShell and much, much more!
  2. Why Windows Server 2012 R2 Rocks! #WhyWin2012R2 - You are probably like most people and realize that Windows Server 2012 was a very substantial upgrade over Windows Server 2008 R2. What would you say to Microsoft doing it again, and even better? WOW! That is exactly what Windows Server 2012 R2 has done. In this post we will look at some of the coolest additions and improvements to Windows Server 2012 R2. Regardless of which of the four pillars of focus (Enterprise-Class, Simple and Cost-Effective, Application Focused, User Centric) you are most interested in, you will find plenty in this post to appreciate! @ITProGuru will show you as he counts the top 10 biggest, most relevant and/or most differentiated new features in Windows Server 2012 R2.
  3. Where Are All The Resources For Windows Server 2012 R2? – We learned where to do go get free resources for Windows Server 2012 R2 including downloading a Free Trial of Windows Server 2012 R2, Free online cloud serversFree EBook on Windows Server 2012 R2, Free Posters, Free Online Training from Microsoft Virtual Academy, and much more.
  4. Implementing Windows Server 2012 R2 Active Directory Certificate Services Part 1 &
  5. Implementing Windows Server 2012 R2 Active Directory Certificate Services Part 2PKI is heavily employed in cloud computing for encrypting data and securing transactions. While Windows Server 2012 R2 is developed as a building block for cloud solutions, there is an increasing demand for IT professionals to acquire proficiency on implementing PKI with Windows Server 2012 R2. This two-part blog post series is to help those who, like me, perhaps do not work on Active Directory Certificate Services (AD CS) everyday while every so often do need to implement a simple PKI for assessing or piloting solutions better understand and become familiar with the process.
  6. Step-by-Step: Automated Tiered Storage with Storage Spaces in R2 – Windows Server 2012 R2 includes a number of exciting storage virtualization enhancements, including automated storage tiering, scale-out file server re-balancing and performance tuning for high-speed 10Gbps, 40Gbps and 56Gbps storage connectivity.  IT Pros with which I’ve spoken are leveraging these new enhancements to build cost-effective SAN-like storage solutions using commodity hardware.In this article, we’ll begin part 1 of a two-part mini-series on storage.  I’ll provide a technical comparison of Windows Server 2012 R2 storage architecture to traditional SAN architecture, and then deep-dive into the new Storage Spaces enhancements for storage virtualization.  At the end of this article, I’ll also include Step-by-Step resources that you can use to build your own Storage Spaces lab.  In part 2 of this mini-series, we’ll finish our storage conversation with the new improvements around Scale-Out File Servers in Windows Server 2012.
  7. iSCSI Target Server – Super Fast Mass Server Deployment! – #WhyWin2012R2 – There have been some significant updates to Windows Server 2012 with the R2 release. One of these updates helps IT Pros deal with a growing problem – How do I deploy a large number of servers quickly, at scale without adding massive amounts of storage?The updates to the iSCSI target server technologies allow admins to share a single operating system image stored in a centralized location and use it to boot large numbers of servers from a single image. This improves efficiency, manageability, availability, and security. iSCSI Target Server can boot hundreds of computers by using a single operating system image!
  8. Why Windows Server 2012 R2: Reducing the Storage Cost for your VDI Deployments with VHD De-duplication for VDI – Windows Server 2012 introduced a data deduplication for your storage workloads customers saw phenomenal storage reduction.  Windows Server 2012 R2 deduplucation now supports live VHDs for VDI, which means that data de-duplication can now be performed on open VHD/VHDX files on remote VDI storage with CSV volume support. Remote VHD/VHDX storage de-duplication allows for increased VDI storage density significantly reducing
    VDI storage costs, and enabling faster read/write of optimized files and advanced caching of duplicated data.
  9. Importing & Exporting Hyper-V VMs in Windows Server 2012 R2 One of the biggest benefits of server virtualization is the ability to backup or restore entire systems easily and quickly.  Though they are infrequently used features, Hyper-V import and export are very fast, versatile, and easy to use.  In Windows Server 2012 R2 these features get even better.  I will take a look at how this functionality works and why it is useful.  I’ll also discuss how they are very different from the commonly used checkpoints in Hyper-V, and how you can automate this process.

Keep plugged in to the series to continue learning about Windows Server 2012 R2

- See more at: http://itproguru.com/expert/2013/10/whats-new-in-windows-server-2012-r2-lessons-learned-week-1/#sthash.JWWX9vKZ.dpuf

Creating a New AD Forest in Windows Server Core (Revisited)

Several years ago Steve Syfuhs and I sat down and figured out how to create a new Active Directory forest in Windows Server Core.  It was an interesting experience, and even though I later gave rights to that article to the Canadian IT Pro Team (at the time it was Damir Bersinic) when you search Bing.com for the term ‘Create AD Forest Server Coremy article still comes up first.

R2 I have gotten a bit more adept with the command prompt of late (especially with my diving into Windows PowerShell recently, but even before), so when I had the need to create a new AD Forest for a courseware environment I am building, I decided to revisit this topic, and see what changes I could make.

In 2009 I had to create an answer file, or at least I believed I did.  It turns out that now I can get away with one command line string, which is as follows:

dcpromo /InstallDNS:yes /NewDomain:forest /NewDomainDNSName:alpineskihouse.com

/DomainNetBIOSName:SKI /ReplicaOrNewDomain:domain /RebootOnCompletion:yes

/SafeModeAdminPassword:P@ssword

For the record I had to break up the text into three lines, but obviously this should all be typed onto a single line.

Warnings:

The first time I ran this command it failed.  I suspect this is because I had a DHCP address assigned.  Before embarking on this trip, I suggest you assign a static IP address to your Server Core box.  While it is simpler to do it with the sconfig text-mode configuration menu tool, you can also use the following netsh command:

netsh interface ipv4 set address name=”Local Area Connection” source=static address=172.16.0.10 mask=255.255.0.0 gateway=172.16.0.1

At this point you should be ready to go… remember that with Windows Server 2012 (and R2) once you have the OS installed it is easy to manage it remotely using either PowerShell or the Server Manager console.  Just make sure you have the right credentials, and you are good to go!

A Tour of the Surface Pro with Tom’s Hardware

On the day that Microsoft released the Surface Pro I sat down with Alex Davies from Tom’s Hardware (www.tomshardware.com) and gave him a little tour of the device.  He recorded it and that recording went live on Monday.  Check it out and let me know what you think! –MDG

http://www.tomshardware.com/news/Microsoft-Surface-Pro-Hands-on-Demo,21030.html

My First Surface Article

Ok, so maybe it is not my first article on Microsoft Surface, but it is the first article that I am writing from one.  A friend here was kind enough to loan me one for a few weeks, and even though my EliteBook is within arm’s reach I decided to spend my morning on this device exclusively… to get used to it and all.

The keyboard was the first challenge that I anticipated… the flat, waterproof keys reminded me at a glance of the chicklet keyboard of the Atari 400.  How wrong I was… although the keyboard does take some getting used to, it is really quite friendly and easy to use.  The missing function keys also struck me as a worry… I use the F-keys pretty regularly, and it did not take long for me to notice their absence.  I expect that I am in the minority on this point though… IT Pros and Devs will miss them, but the vast majority of end users will likely not even notice that they are missing**.  The responsiveness is another thing worried me (I noticed it as I was writing this paragraph).  I seemed to be typing faster than the keyboard could send the keys to the screen.  That however turned out to be not a problem with the Surface, but rather with the app that I am using to write.

**Edit Feb. 1: The top row of keys is indeed the function keys, but on the keyboard I have the numbers are not printed.  As with many keyboards, you need to press the Fn key to shift to the Function, so Alt-Fn-Play is the same as Alt-F4.

Theresa Garvis, my lovely wife and very capable business manager, has been using her Surface since the end of October, and she has been loving it.  When I discussed my concerns with the keyboard she assured me that she used the keyboard… but the truth is that she gets along without it just as easily. ‘I have used the on-screen keyboard without any problems, and it works great for me.  The only reason I use the external keyboard is because it is there, and have never had any problem when I left it at home.’

The Surface RT does not have nearly the kind of horsepower that I need for my day to day computer use.  However I am not your average computer user, and I expect that with 2 GB of RAM, a 1.3GHz NVIDEA TEGRA 3 Quad-Core CPU, and 32 GB of storage (a chunk of which is used for the OS) most end-users will be happy with it.  My son Aaron started high school this year, and was eager to swap out his EliteBook for the Surface.  He found that the only thing that he couldn’t do with his Surface was a school app that requires Flash Player… and I have not yet looked into a solution for this.  In the meantime he is happy using one of the home computers for his French homework, and the rest of the time he sequesters himself in his room with his Surface.

The Surface is not intended to be a desktop/laptop replacement, but it could very well be that for many people.  But what about the rest of us who absolutely need more power?  What about those of us who need legacy apps? I personally immediately felt the missing link in the Office chain – no Outlook.  In fact, this is a complaint I have heard from quite a number of people who have gone out and bought Surfaces… what do I do without my Outlook??

Outlook is not the only app that people are missing on the Surface (or, more accurately, on Windows RT) but it is a big one.  Most of the functionality of Outlook that I use is actually available in Microsoft Mail, Calendar, and Contacts (all of which come standard with Windows RT).  However let’s be honest… if you are used to Outlook there really isn’t a viable alternative.

So what do we do? On the one hand we have a really powerful tablet that runs Windows 8, and on the other we have a device that isn’t quite powerful enough for us.  But what if we could harness the power of our desktop from the Surface?  What if we could use all of our apps and resources of the great but heavy desktop that is always connected directly from Windows RT? Wouldn’t that be great?

We can… and in my next article I will show you how you can do it too, using a few simple tricks and some free tools.

Oh and by the way, I wrote this entire article using the free WordPress app that I downloaded from the Windows Store, using the regular keyboard!

A Quick Tip for Hyper-V Users: Product Keys

I keep telling people that the best way to activate your servers and desktops is to have a Key Management Server (KMS) in your environment.  However not everyone has volume license keys, and when an IT Pro (or Dev) builds a lot of lab environments using their TechNet, MSDN, or MAPS licenses that is not an option.

If you hate typing and retyping product keys, here’s a trick that will make your life a little easier:

1) Navigate to the Subscriber Downloads page on your TechNet Plus, MSDN, or other site and find the operating system that you are looking for, then click Product Keys next to the desired product.

image

2) Once you have the key available (you may have to click Get a Key first) click on the clipboard icon next to that key. (you may have to allow Internet Explorer to access your clipboard).

3) Now bring up the Hyper-V Virtual Machine Connection for your virtual machine and begin installing the OS.  When you get to the screen where you would have to type in the product key, select the Clipboard option in the menu and click Type clipboard text.

image

You should see the product key being typed into the appropriate location.

image

I use this technique whenever I have lab environments to build, but it would work just as well for copying any text  from your desktop (or server) into your Hyper-V virtual machine.  It is simple and effective… just like Hyper-V!

Clarity: MCSA vs. MCSE: the what and why

This article was originally published in June, 2012. Due to the relevance and current interest in certifications I decided to republish. -MDG

When I found out that Microsoft Learning was (again!) revamping the certification stack, I thought to myself that after all these years it might be time to stop chasing certifications.  After all, when they created the MCTS/MCITP model I had to essentially start from scratch, and if they were doing that again it might not be worth the effort.

Let me clarify that statement… Certifications are extremely valuable and necessary to an IT Pro, but at a certain point you have proven yourself… I have by now passed over 35 Microsoft exams, and expect that by now people know that I am established.

I stated in an article earlier this month that certifications are not for our current job, they are for your next job.  Unfortunately, as a contract worker, I am always working for my next job.  That means that I always have to maintain my certifications current, or at least I cannot let them get stale… Once I became an MCITP: Enterprise Admin on Server 2008 I might have gotten away with not taking my exams for Windows Server 2012… but because the new generation revolves around solutions rather than products I expected I would need at least my MCSE: Private Cloud… then people looking at my credentials would know I knew at least Windows Server 2008 R2 and System Center 2012.

Cert StackI like the way the new certification ‘pyramid’ is designed.  The ‘junior certification’ is the Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate, which is product-focused.

As I stated earlier, the requirements for an MCSA: Windows Sever 2008 are the same requirements you previously needed for the legacy MCITP: Server Administrator.  It is three exams, and you are certified.  I assume that when Windows Server 2012 comes out there will be a new MCSA for that platform, and I have no early insight into what that will look like, nor how many exams will be required.

My point is this though.  Now that the junior certification is now three exams deep, it is going to be harder for people to claim the title.  When I first got certified any exam you took earned you the title Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP).  I knew people who passed one exam, and coasted on that certification for years.  Heck, I was one of them for about a year… at least the first exam that I took was for Windows 2000 Professional, and not a sales-related exam, which gave you the same MCP title.

That problem was supposed to be resolved in the next generation, the MCTS/MCITP era.  At the beginning there was talk that not every exam would earn you that MCTS certification, and I believe that on the dev side there were a couple of those.  However on the IT Pro side there was never an exam that did not give you a cert… so when I passed three exams to get my MCITP: Virtualization Administrator cred, I had three certs, including two MCTS and the one MCITP.

I was asked this morning by Veronica Sopher of Microsoft Learning what I thought of the 70-246 exam, and my first response was it was ugly.  However that was my way of saying that it was tough, and that it tested your knowledge of a lot of different products in a relatively small number of questions.  In truth I am glad that it was as tough as it was (now that I have passed) because it means that Microsoft is trying to make earning your senior certifications more difficult, which means that you will really need to know your stuff.  A step in the right direction, no doubt!

As for the Master level – the Microsoft Certified Solutions Master – I assume this is still going to be out of my grasp, until I decide to take a job running the infrastructure for a major international company.  I like what I do, so I don’t know that is in the cards.  However If you are an MCSM (equivalent to the former Microsoft Certified Master / MCM) then you are certainly recognized as a very top expert in the technology.

If the MCSM is anything like the old MCM then you not only have to know the technology, you then have to spend several weeks in Redmond on the Microsoft Campus learning from the product team, and then have to pass a series of exams and boards.  There is a reason they are called Masters… it is not for the faint of heart!

I appreciate Microsoft Learning’s revamped certification plan.  It makes it harder to ‘just get by’ and easier to distinguish IT pros by the exams they have passed.  I think it’s a step in the right direction, and look forward to seeing what other MCSE tracks will be revealed as the next generation of Windows operating systems launch later this year!

Getting Certified: Things have really changed!

This article was originally published to The Canadian IT Pro Connection.Boy has it been an exciting year… Microsoft’s busiest release year ever!  On the IT Pro side we have System Center 2012 (a single product now, but truly seven distinct products for managing your environment!), Windows Server 2012, Windows 8… we have Windows Azure (which for the first time is really beginning to show true relevance to the IT Pro and not just the devs), and of course the new Office (both on-prem with Office 2013, and in the cloud with Office 365).  There is of course Windows Phone 8, Windows Intune, and the list goes on.

With all of these new versions out many IT Pros will be looking to update their certifications to remain current, while many more will be looking for their first certs.  For the first time in six years Microsoft Learning has completely changed the way you will be looking at certifications going forward.  If you are like me (and so many others) and do want to get certified in the latest and greatest, then you will need to know what is out there, and how certifications have changed with the newest product cycles.

Solutions-based Certifications

In the last few years Microsoft Learning focused on what they referred to as task-based certifications (MCTS) and job-based certifications (MCITP).  However IT Pros started to see more and more components in learning and exams that were not actually in the product – so for example an exam on Windows Server might have included a question on the Security Compliance Manager (SCM) and System Center.  Although it made sense to the SMEs writing the questions, the unprepared found themselves facing questions that they couldn’t answer, and a resounding chorus of ‘we didn’t realize we would be tested on that!’ was to be heard across the blogosphere.

This year the new certifications have been revamped to be solutions-based.  That means you are not focusing on a role or a product, but rather on the solution as a whole, which will very often include technologies not included in the product, but that are complimentary to it.  Microsoft’s Solution Accelerators are a good example of this.  The Solution Accelerators are a series of free tools available from Microsoft and include the Security Compliance Manager, Microsoft Deployment Toolkit, the Microsoft Virtual Machine Conversion toolkit, and others that are free downloads and may not be required knowledge to everyone, but every IT Pro should know about them because they really do come in handy.

Additionally you are going to see a strong interdependence between Windows Server 2012, System Center 2012, and Windows 8.  After all very few companies have only one of these, and in fact in any organization of a certain size or larger it would be rare to not find all three.

Of course it is also likely you are going to see questions that ask about previous versions of all of these technologies. ‘Your company has 25 servers running Windows Server 2003 R2 Enterprise Edition and 5000 desktops running Windows Vista Business Edition…’ sorts of questions will not be uncommon.  This will make some of us scour our archived memory banks for the differences between editions, and may seem unfair to IT Pros who are new to the industry.  Remember that every certification exam and course lists recommended prerequisites for candidates, and 2-3 years of experience is not an uncommon one.  To that I remind you that you do not need a perfect score to pass the exams… do your best!

What was old is new again

In 2005 Microsoft announced the retirement of the MCSE and MCSA certifications, to be replaced by the MCTS/MCITP certs.  During a recent keynote delivered by a guest speaker from Redmond I heard him say that this was actually Canada’s fault, and unfortunately he is partly right.  The Quebec Order of Engineers won their lawsuit regarding the usage of the word engineer in the cert.  While it may have made their lives better, it complicated the certification landscape for a lot of IT Pros and hiring managers who never quite got used to the new model.

SolAssoc_WinServ2012_Blk SolExp_PvtCloud_Blk

In April, 2012 Microsoft Learning announced that things were changing again… we would again be able to earn our MCSA and MCSE certs, but they would now stand for Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate and Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert.  In fact they thought it was a good enough idea that although they were intended as next-generation certs, they would be ported backward one generation… if you were/are an MCITP: Server Administrator or MCITP: Enterprise Administrator on Windows Server 2008 you immediately became an MCSA: Windows Server 2008.  You were also immediately only two exams away from earning your MCSE: Private Cloud certification.

associate-blueMicrosoft Learning bills the MCSA certification as ‘the foundation for your professional career.’  I agree with this because it is the basic cert on the operating system, and from there you can jump into the next stage (there are several MCSE programs available, all of which require the base MCSA to achieve).

Of course now that Windows Server 2012 has been released, so too has the new certifications.  If you want to earn your MCSA: Windows Server 2012 credentials then you are only three exams away:

Exam # Title Aligned course
70-410 Installing and Configuring Windows Server 2012 20410
70-411 Administering Windows Server 2012 20411
70-412 Configuring Advanced Windows Server 2012 Services 20412

Instead of taking all three of these exams, you could choose to upgrade any of the following certifications with a single upgrade exam:

MCSA: Windows Server 2008

MCITP: Virtualization Administrator on Windows Server 2008 R2

MCITP: Enterprise Messaging Administrator 2010

MCITP: Lync Server Administrator 2010

MCITP: SharePoint Administrator 2010

MCITP: Enterprise Desktop Administrator on Windows 7

The upgrade exam is called Upgrading Your Skills to MCSA Windows Server 2012, and is exam number 70-417.

expert-blueMicrosoft Learning calls the MCSE certification ‘the globally recognized standard for IT professionals.’  It demonstrates that you know more than just the basics, but that you are an expert in the technologies required to provide a complete solution for your environment.

The first IT Pro MCSE cert announced focused on virtualization and the System Center 2012 product.  Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert: Private Cloud launched first because System Center 2012 was released earlier in the year, and the Private Cloud cert could use either Server 2012 or Server 2008 certs as its baseline.  If you already have a qualifying MCSA certification (such as the one outlined above, or the MCSA: Windows Server 2008) then you would only require two more exams to complete your MCSE:

Exam # Title Aligned course
70-246 Monitoring and Operating a Private Cloud with System Center 2012 10750
70-247 Configuring and Deploying a Private Cloud with System Center 2012 10751
70-6591 TS Windows Server 2008: Server Virtualization 10215A

1This exam can be taken instead of exam 70-247 until January 31, 2013 to count towards the Private Cloud certification.

The next new-generation MCSE cert for the IT Pro is theMCSE: Server Infrastructure.  Like the first one the basis for this cert is the MCSA.  Unlike the Private Cloud cert, the MCSA must be in Windows Server 2012.  The required additional exams are:

Exam # Title Aligned course
70-413 Designing and Implementing a Server Infrastructure 20413
70-414 Implementing an Advanced Server Infrastructure 20414

Are you starting to worry that your current Server 2008 certs aren’t helping you toward your goal?  Never fear… the following certifications are upgradeable by taking three exams:

MCITP: Virtualization Administrator on Windows Server 2008 R2

MCITP: Enterprise Messaging Administrator 2010

MCITP: Lync Server Administrator 2010

MCITP: SharePoint Administrator 2010

MCITP: Enterprise Desktop Administrator on Windows 7

Which exams?  I’m glad you asked.  The upgrading IT Pro needs to take:

Exam # Title Aligned course
70-413 Designing and Implementing a Server Infrastructure 20413
70-414 Implementing an Advanced Server Infrastructure 20414
70-417 Upgrading Your Skills to MCSA Windows Server 2012 20417

In other words, you will be upgrading your pre-existing cert to MCSA: Windows Server 2012, and then taking the remaining exams required for the MCSE.

The third MCSE that will be of interest to IT Pros is the MCSE: Desktop Infrastructurecert.  As with the others it requires the candidate to earn the MCSA: Windows Server 2012, and then take the following exams:

Exam # Title Aligned course
70-415 Implementing a Desktop Infrastructure 20415
70-416 Implementing Desktop Application Environments 20416

If you previously held the MCITP: Enterprise Desktop Administrator 7 then you can upgrade by taking the following exams:

Exam # Title Aligned course
70-415 Implementing a Desktop Infrastructure 20415
70-416 Implementing Desktop Application Environments 20416
70-417 Upgrading Your Skills to MCSA Windows Server 2012 20417

There are actually five other MCSE paths, which are:

MCSE: Messaging

MCSE: Data Platform

MCSE: Business Intelligence

MCSE: Communication

MCSE: SharePoint

That I do not discuss these is not a judgment, simply they are outside of my wheelhouse as it were… If you would like more information about any of these, visit Microsoft Learning’s MCSE landing page.

The Unfinished Pyramid

You will notice that the MCSA and MCSE pyramids that we use are progressive… the MCSA has one level finished, the MCSE has two levels finished.  That is because there is another level of certifications above these, which is now called the Microsoft Certified Solutions Master.  This is the highest certification that Microsoft Learning offers, and only a few individuals will qualify.  It is a real commitment but if you think you are ready for it, I would love to point you in the right direction.  Personally I am happy with my MCSE: PC and don’t expect I will ever be a Master.

At present there are four MCSM tracks:

MCSM: SharePoint

MCSM: Data Platform

MCSM: Communication

MCSM: Messaging

It should be noted that of these only the MCSM: Data Platform is currently available; the others will be made available in 2013.

Also at the very top of the pyramid there is one more level – the Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA).  There are currently four MCA certifications:

MCA: Microsoft Exchange Server

MCA: Microsoft SharePoint Server

MCA: Microsoft SQL Server

MCA: Windows Server: Directory

Achieving the MCA requires a lot more than just exams.  It is a long and grueling process which in the end will likely leave you drained, but with the highest certification that Microsoft offers.

I should tell you that these last two senior certs are not for most people.  They are only for the very top professionals with in-depth experience designing and delivering IT solutions for enterprise customers, and even then only for those who possess the technical and leadership skills that truly differentiate them from their peers.

Keep it up!

Several years ago Microsoft Learning tried to retire older MCSEs – Windows NT and such.  They were unsuccessful because had they done so they would have breached the terms of the original certification.  In other words, because they never told candidates in advance that they would retire them, they couldn’t retire them.  It is not uncommon for me to hear from someone who is an MCSE, but they haven’t taken an exam since the 1990s.  In fact the logo for MCSE on Windows NT is the same logo as for MCSE on Windows Server 2003, and those MCSEs will be allowed to use that logo forever.

In 2006 they made it a little easier to differentiate.  Not only would certifications be by technology (MCITP: Enterprise Administrator on Windows Server 2008) but they would, in theory, be retired with support for that technology.  So an MCITP on Windows Vista would not be able to use the cert past a certain date.  Unfortunately I found that people did not refer to their entire cert, they would simply say that ‘I am an MCITP!’  In other words, without some clarifying it was pretty difficult to determine what technology they really knew.  Additionally it is not uncommon for some pros to have several MCITP certs, making it quite difficult to list on a business card or e-mail signature.

Now Microsoft Learning has really made an improvement to this issue.  The new MCSE certifications will require that you show continued understanding of the latest versions of the technology area by taking a recertification exam every three years.  While there was some talk of this with the MCITP program it did not come to fruition.  Today however this recertification requirement is clearly outlined on the MCSE pages.

While recertifying may seem like a bother for some, as we discussed earlier it is something we choose to do every three years to remain current anyways.  For those of us who do want to always remain current it is nice to know that we don’t have to start from scratch with every new product cycle.  For those for whom remaining current is not as important they will always be able to say ‘I was an MCSE, but I let my certs lapse.’  It shows that they do know the technology, just not necessarily the most current version,  This should be sufficient for a lot of people who often tell me ‘my clients don’t need the latest, and are not going to upgrade every three years!’

What About Small Biz?

I spent several years specializing in SMBs.  The first time I took a certification exam I remember coming out of it upset about questions that started ‘You are the administrator for a company with 500 server…’  No I am not!  At the time I couldn’t even fathom what that would be like.  So when Microsoft Learning started writing exams for SBS I was glad not because I wanted to limit myself (I didn’t, and am glad of that today) but because I knew that there are lots of IT Pros out there who do work exclusively on smaller networks.

I do not know what will become of SMB-focused certifications now that Windows Small Business Server 2011 is to be the last SBS release.  I do not have any insight into whether there will be exams around Windows Server Essentials, but could envision a cert around the tying of that product with Windows 8 and Office 365.  I have not been asked, but it would make sense.  However I have heard from a lot of SMB IT Pros that certifications are not as important to them and their clients as we feel they are in the enterprise, and I accept that; the needs of the larger do not necessarily align with the needs of the smaller.  However only time will tell if Microsoft Learning will address this market.

So in the end, should I get certified?

I have long been of the opinion that certifications are key for any IT Professional who is serious about his or her profession.  It shows that they have the respect for their profession to be willing to prove not that they know how to do it, but to do IT right.  Certifications are not for IT hobbyists, or people who dabble.  They are for the professionals who earn their living in IT, and who wish to differentiate themselves from other candidates for jobs, contracts, or promotions.

Whether you have been working in IT for years, or are fresh out of school and looking to embark on a career in IT, there are likely scores if not hundreds of candidates who will be competing with you for every job.  Why not take this opportunity to distinguish yourself?  No matter how much some people will denigrate their relevance, I have spoken to many hiring managers who have confirmed for me time and again that they are a key indicator of a candidate’s suitability to technical positions.

Refresh Your PC – Save your bacon!

Thursday morning I did something to my main laptop that I really should not have done, and the results were disastrous.  I succeeded in completely wrecking my installation of Windows 8.  I was able to boot into the OS, but as soon as I tried to launch any application my system went into an endless flash-loop, and was completely unusable.

I want to be clear that Windows 8 is a very solid and stable platform – it is built on the foundation of Windows 7 which most people agree was the most stable OS that Microsoft had ever released.  Unfortunately when you tart to play under the hood (where the vast majority of users would never be) things can go wrong… and indeed that is what happened to my system.

Normally under these circumstances I would simply reformat the laptop, or at the very least re-install Windows on the existing partition (so as to not wipe my data).  However because my system is protected with BitLocker I would have had to extract the BitLocker Recovery Key, which I have on file… somewhere.

Because my laptop has a Microsoft corporate image on it I could have gone to the IT Help Desk at the office and had them work it out with me… but it was Thursday, I wasn’t going to be in my office until Monday, and I had several presentations to do over the course of the week-end… not to mention blog articles, e-mail, and whatever else I might have had to do.

Since I was able to boot into Windows 8 I decided to try to Refresh my PC.  This is a new feature of the OS that is found under Settings – Change PC Settings – General that refreshes my PC without affecting any files.  Essentially it reinstalls the OS in place which restores anything that I would have messed up – and I know just how badly I messed it up.  However it retains my data and settings for all users – including domain membership, files, desktop… everything.

Refresh is BitLocker-aware, and warned me before starting that it would temporarily disable my BitLocker protection and then re-enable it when the process was complete.

It took about 15 minutes.  Refresh rebooted the PC a couple of times, fixed everything that was wrong, and when I booted back into Windows it prompted me to log on as b-mitchg – my alias in the Microsoft Active Directory.  My password worked, and so did my PC.  The desktop was exactly as I had left it – a little cluttered, although not as bad as it would have been on Windows 7.

Refresh restores all of your Windows 8 apps that were installed from the Windows Store; any applications that you installed ‘the legacy way’ will have to be re-installed.  However that was a small price to pay considering that most of my apps (with the exception of Microsoft Office 2013) are all from the Store, so I didn’t have a lot of loss.

My settings were all correct, my documents were in their place, and my SkyDrive connection was intact.  Everything was as it was before the refresh… except it all worked!

Of course there is a ‘one step further’ – Remove everything and re-install Windows.  This will not preserve any of your files, settings, or even your account.  Imagine you are selling your PC, giving it to your kids, or whatever.  You don’t have to do anything but click through to the Settings – Change PC Settings – General tab and click the option to Remove Everything.  You don’t have to go looking for your Windows media, it just takes care of everything for you.

Between these two options I can imagine that technicians will spend a lot less time trying to clean malware out of their PCs… the Refresh option is much quicker and just as effective.

I know it saved my bacon last week… it saved me from something far more dangerous than malware… it saved me from myself!

The Microsoft Store: The place to be this week-end

WP_000870If you are in or around the Greater Toronto Area this week-end then there is no better place to be than the Microsoft Store in Yorkdale Mall.

The first international store and the largest in the chain, the opening of Microsoft’s newest retail store can only be descried as a huge success, with literally hundreds of people lined up hours in advance to get their first glimpse of the retail marvel.

Microsoft Canada president Max Long was joined by Tami Reller, Corporate Vice President and CFO of Microsoft’s Windows Division were on hand to open the store with a crowd of 700 onlookers.  They did not only welcome the crowd and talk about the store, they also announced that Microsoft Canada was making a new donation of $1.500,000 to local charities – presented by store manager Alison Evans.

When the curtain dropped the entire staff was leading the cheers, and then lined up to form a passageway into the store where they high-fived the first visitors.  By the time this VIP got in the door (in the first minute) the store was already bustling with activity, a level that has hardly abated at all thus far.

I spoke to a lot of people lined up and they were all here for different reasons – deals on new hardware, Xbox and laptops and accessories… but the two things that drew the most people were the Microsoft Surface and the new Windows Phone 8 devices.

While the Surface has been available since the launch of Windows 8 on October 26th, the only place you were able to see it in Toronto was at the pop-up retail kiosk in the Eaton Centre.  Now that the full retail store is open there are dozens of Surfaces everywhere, as well as Sony, Acer, Asus, Dell Samsung devices ranging in size from 9" ultrabooks and tablets to 27" all-in-one machines.

The greatest thing about the store in my opinion is that the display machines are all available for visitors to try out — as I write this article from a handy Sony Vaio T, complete with multi-touch sreen and reasonably priced at $899.  They are all internet-connected, and nobody is telling visitors not to touch, try, and in the Xbox corner play.  It is a great hands-on experience, and the store associates are as welcoming and helpful as I have ever seen.

In the Windows Phone corner there are representatives not only from a couple of the local carriers but also from the manufacturers as well.  Although the platform released October 26th, this is the first time I have even seen the devices outside the Microsoft offices.

Everywhere you look people of all ages and knowledge levels are asking questions, learning, and trying out great devices.  Of course every PC is running Windows 8, so it is a great opportunity for people to get their first glimpse of Microsoft’s flagship product, barely three weeks old.

In the back of the store there is an area called the theatre where during the regular hours people can play on the Xbox connected to an incredible 103" touch screen.  This afternoon (and tomorrow and Sunday) the Microsoft MVPs are taking over – we will be presenting sessions every hour on topic including Windows 8, Office 2013, Office 365, Xbox, and of course Windows Phone 8.  I have several sessions over the course of the week-end, but am more interested to sit in and listen to what my fellow enthusiasts have to say (I usually know what I am going to say so I am seldom surprised).

It is definitely the place to be this week-end.  Even though the initial ‘line up and wait’ is over, the store has been consistently hopping since it opened, with no signs of slowing down.  I spoke with several members of the management team who are all pleased by the turnout.  Alison Evans, the store manager, told me she is ‘ecstatic about the turnout.’

To make things even hotter, there will be an exclusive concert with the band Train tomorrow evening, and store staff are handing out wristband passes to the lucky few; and this afternoon The Great One – Number 99 himself – Wayne Gretzky will be in the store, and people will be lined up to meet him, get autographs, and get the chance to play Kinect games with him!

So if you haven’t come down yet what is stopping you?  Trust me, you will not be disappointed… your only regret will be if you do NOT come down!

The Haiku Goes On…

Zen......

Zen…… (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn_BE_BACK_on_10th_OCT)

Yesterday I began my journey to improve the world through haikus about Windows Server 2012.  Here is my second Windows Server 2012 haiku!  And remember… if you like the poem, you will love the product!  Download your evaluation copy today!

Also… if you have a poem about Windows Server, Hyper-V, Windows 8, or Office 2013 I will publish it here for you!

Hyper virtual

V will lead the industry

Competitors cringe

Windows Server 2012 Haiku

Terrible photo of my zen sand garden

In 2009 there was a contest to write haiku about Windows Server 2008R2.  On Monday I was in a meeting with a colleague who reminded me of this, and I went back to my blog to see if I could find my original entries (A Windows 2008 R2 Haiku!).  It got me thinking… what would I write about Hyper-V in Windows Server 2012?  I spent a few minutes trying to come up with one, and once I got into it I couldn’t stop.

For the next few days I will be publishing one poem per day for your enjoyment (or groans).  Either way I would love to hear your feedback… and if you have a good Windows Server 2012 (or Windows 8… or Office 2013) poem (haiku rocks but they can be any style) I will be glad to post them here and give you full credit!  I may even dig up a prize or two for really creative ones!

So enough about me… here is my first Windows Server 2012 haiku!  And remember… if you like the poem, you will love the product!  Download your evaluation copy today!

Reduce footprint now

Server Core saves energy

MinShell compromise