Tag Archives: Microsoft

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!

Skype Collaboration Project, and quick tips to detect Phishing scams

skypeA few days ago I posted a quick post called Free Skype Premium for a year! and I got a few interesting questions about the voracity of the offer.  Some of you were worried that it was a scam, and believe me I am the first person to say you should be skeptical.  However before I posted about it I checked it out.

As one reader noted, the first thing I look at is the domain name.  Behind all of the mess of incomprehensible much, every URL you browse to on the Internet will begin http:// or https:// and will be followed by child domains, sub-domains, and eventually the parent domain – for example I might, if we were larger, have a page with the URL http://we.all.love.mitch.garvis.ca/And?Wish/himAndHisFamily/?Well.  The actual domain is directly to the left of the first (really the third, but I don’t count the two in http://) slash.  So while a phishing scam might use http://24.200.34.12/we.all.love.mitch.garvis.ca/And?Wish/himAndHisFamily/?Well the first slash is after the numbers, which means that it is a scam.

Unless my domain name itself has been compromised – if someone has actually hijacked the DNS (Domain Naming Service) of garvis.ca they cannot create a child domain to it… so they could no easier use http://scam.garvis.ca than I could http://garvis.skype.com.

The link to the Skype offer was https://collaboration.skype.com/promotion/?cm_mmc=AFCJ%7C1250_B1-_-11129583-1225267.  To the left of the first slash is collaboration.skype.com.  This means it came from Skype.

imageNow let’s look at the next objection I got.  ‘This page does not have a Skype logo on it, it doesn’t have Skype’s (or Microsoft’s) branding or look and feel.  That is a big red flag.’

That is something that you would definitely take pause at… the only thing on this page that looks remotely like Skype is the colour they used for the top line.  While this is a good observation, it is something that I throw away when determining the legitimacy of the page.  I have examined hundreds or more phishing schemes and hijacked sites, ranging from banks to credit cards to e-commerce sites to the White House and United States Department of Justice.  No matter how good the look and feel might be, they cannot get beyond the technical – if the domain name is right, then either the domain itself has been compromised… or it’s legitimate.  In truth, most phishing scammers spend more time on look and feel because they understand that most of us would look for that first… if they wanted to hijack your Skype password, they would spend the time to make the site look legitimate, including the colour scheme and logo.

The next concern was that we entered our e-mail address, ticked the appropriate box, and clicked on SEND… and nothing happened.  We didn’t get an e-mail right away (or even ten minutes later) as we were promised.  Actually we were not promised that… we were told to ‘Look out for the voucher codes coming to your inbox in the next 48 hours…’  Well most of us are not that patient, and we assume that while some sites do claim it will take that long, we should really be getting something in the next fifteen minutes.

We shouldn’t be so impatient… especially when out of the blue someone offers us something for free.  In fact, I posted the article just after 1:00am on December 18th (EDT) and received the e-mail at 10:27am on December 20th (EDT)… so in fact it was closer to 58 hours than 48.  Okay, no problem… It was later than they promised, but it came.  Thank you Skype for giving me a free service that I will absolutely use, and I forgive your slight tardiness Smile.

image

imageAs I had been promised in the original invite, I saw this screen – my vouched was successfully redeemed.  However it did say that it would take no more than 15 minutes, so it could still be a scam, right?  Well a few seconds later the bottom-right corner of my screen popped up with this Notification… and I knew I had gotten what I asked for.  Thank you Skype, I will use the Premium services well!

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!

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.