Microsoft 365 Certified

In mid-September, the recruiting department of my company introduced me to the man who would become my manager at my new client.  He told me he reviewed my CV, and did not see Microsoft Office 365 listed on it.  I told him honestly that while I have worked with the technologies before, I never felt it was one of my areas of expertise.  With that said, if he accepted me for the position we were discussing, I would focus and make sure I got the relevant certifications.

At the time, I did not know exactly what was meant by Microsoft 365, so when I started the new role, I was in for a bit of a surprise.  It seems that the Office 365 certs that I would be pursuing were actually Microsoft 365 certs, and that Microsoft 365 comprised both the modern desktop – Windows 10, which would extend to include a good knowledge of both operating system and application deployment technologies (so I would get to dust off my knowledge of System Center Configuration Manager and Microsoft Deployment Toolkit), management technologies (Config Manager and Intune), and the cloud side of the house, including all of the server components of Microsoft Office (Exchange Server, SharePoint Server, OneDrive for Business), Azure Active Directory, Azure Advanced Threat Protection, and a bunch of others facets used to implement and manage a modern (and secure) desktop and application infrastructure.

I should mention that there was a time that I was really involved with Microsoft Learning, and I knew practically everything there was to know about the certification program… at least, for the infrastructure side of the house.  I was never too involved in the dev side of things.  I fell out of that habit when I ceased being a MCT Regional Lead, back in the fall of 2013.  That may not sound like a long time, but in dog years it is 42 years, and in IT years it is nearly an eternity.  I found out that nearly everything was different… and that is not a bad thing.

microsoft365-fundamentals-600x600Back in the spring, I took my first Microsoft Azure exam, the Azure Fundamentals exam AZ-900.  I wrote about that experience in this article.  When I went to look at the Microsoft 365 certification path, I discovered that there was a similar exam, MS-900: Microsoft 365 Fundamentals.  While it was an optional exam as far as my certification path went, I decided it would be a good way to get my feet wet.  I spent a few hours studying for a couple of days, and then I passed it.  As with the AZ-900 exam, I finished it extremely quickly. 

Energized by my initial success, I decided to go back home and hit the books… and with my manager’s encouragement, I worked feverishly to pass the next four exams, which included:

exam-md100-600x600MD-100: Windows 10.  This one was also theoretically optional for me, as I had already passed both 70-697 and 70-698.  However I did not want to take any shortcuts, and I know it had been nearly two years since I sat those exams.

exam-md101-600x600MD-101: Managing Modern Desktops. This would be a little more challenging, as it would require knowledge of many of the on-line tools that I might have used and managed, but was not fluent in.

When I first started getting certifications, there was a simple path: After passing a single exam, you became a Microsoft Certified Professional.  After that… well, you had a long way to go to earn your next certification, which was Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE), and which required six more exams to pass.  And then one day Microsoft Learning announced what I thought of then as an intermediate certification – the Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA).  The MCSA only required four exams, which meant that after the original exam, I only needed three more for what I thought of as a ‘senior’ certification.

microsoft365-modern-desktop-administrator-associate-600x600While things have changed a lot since then (apparently you now get a new logo for every exam that you pass), I see that Microsoft Learning has stuck with the concept of ‘intermediate’ certifications.  With these two exams under my belt, I was now Microsoft 365 Certified: Modern Desktop Administrator.  This is what they are calling Associate certifications, which I suppose is about the same as the MCSA that I earned so many years ago.

Of course, I was far from done.  Once I had those two exams passed, which were essentially Windows 10 focused, I had to go on to the exams that were mostly focused on the cloud technologies.

exam-md100-600x600MS-100: Microsoft 365 Identity and Services was almost (but not entirely) all based in the cloud.  Like it’s partner exam, you need to know all of the cloud services, but you also need to know on-premise features such as System Center Configuration Manager (Current Branch), as well as Active Directory, and even though they are not supported in Azure AD yet, you needed to know Group Policy, and when and how it would be used.

exam-md101-600x600MS-101: Microsoft 365 Mobility and Security spent a lot of time focusing on managing devices and security from the cloud, as well as protecting a company’s data.  There was a bit of a focus on what devices were supported, including Apple iPhones and iPads, as well as Android devices.  You not only needed to know how to deploy them to the managed environment, you also need to know how to implement multi-factor authentication (MFA), conditional access, and how to segregate data on a BYOD device so that users who use the same device for both business and personal could not accidentally share sensitive corporate data.

While it took a lot of studying, I was very happy, after having passed this last exam, to receive an e-mail that read:

image

I have received many of these e-mails before… but this one had something that I had never received: three stars.

microsoft365-enterprise-adminstrator-expert-600x600

Yes, if you look at the modern Microsoft certifications, they progress from the Fundamentals level (one star) to the Associate level (two stars) to the Expert level (three stars).  thinking back on many of the other certification logos I have had, I have to admit, I like these.  Don’t get me wrong, the certification logos were once really snazzy, but over the years the logos went from:

This:      MCP_SE_c

To this:      mcse

To this:      Microsoft-Certified-Solutions-Expert-MCSE-Server-Infrastructure-logo

…yeah, they spent a lot more on style in the old days, and I’m not going to lie… I may like the original MCSE logo, but the most recent iterations of them were somewhat lacking stylistically.  So the new ones, with the multi-coloured shield design is like fresh air breathed back into the program.

So at this point, I will probably take a bit of a break from the certification track.  I do not know what will be next, but I suppose the most likely candidate is going to be something Azure related… but it is not going to happen right away.  I have spent a lot of time studying and preparing for these exams, and my client has been very understanding.  Now is the time for me to get to work, putting what I learned studying for these certs to good use!

Juju Revisited

jolly-rancher-pieces-assorted-5lb-16It is hard to believe that thirteen years ago I sat down at the Java U café at the corner of Queen Mary Rd. and Circle Rd. in Montreal and wrote an article about superstitions.  It was called Don’t Mess with Juju! and it was one of the most popular articles that I wrote that year.  At the time, I had sat fourteen Microsoft certification exams, and my record was 10/14… not bad, if I do say so myself.  I wrote about how I never wore a Microsoft-branded shirt the day I was sitting an exam, and I always had a package of Jolly Rancher hard candies on the desk when I did.

Thirteen years have passed since that article, and while I do not know for certain how many people read it (I moved my blog from the original platform to WordPress in 2009, and I have no statistics from the old site), I do know that when I did publish it (and for a couple of years thereafter) it generated a lot of conversation and jokes.  When I wrote it, I was living in Montreal; I have since lived in Mississauga, Oakville, Burlington, and then Ottawa (Ontario), and am now living in Los Angeles.  I have successfully passed over fifty certification exams (48 of them from Microsoft), and while I am not willing to disclose how many I have failed, suffice it to say that the ratio of failed:pass is much worse than the 4:10 that is was when that article was written.  A lot of water under the bridge… and a few times my eyes were bigger than my stomach.

In September my company introduced me to the man who would become my manager at my new client, and he asked me if I knew about Microsoft Office 365, and why, with all of the certifications I have, were none of them in that technology.  I told him if he accepted me for the position we were discussing that I would gladly put my nose to the grindstone, and within a few months I would have Microsoft 365 certs.  After a bit of a hiatus from exams over the last couple few years (I passed none in 2016, one in both 2017 and 2018, and one earlier this year) I set my mind to it… and in the past three weeks I have sat (and passed) four exams on the topic.

This morning I was driving to Beverly Hills to take the latest of them, and I thought back to the Jolly Ranchers.  I have been trying to remember when I stopped bringing them to my exams… and why?  I remember buying them to take with me when I was living in Oakville because I remember Gingit (my wonderful Basset Hound / Pug who left us earlier this year) once found them, and enjoyed the whole pack of them.  I know I sat one exam while I was in Japan in 2015, and I doubt I would have been able to find them there… although I probably tried.  I doubt I could have had them for any of the on-line proctored exams that I took, chiefly because they insisted on a perfectly clean desk. 

I have taken two exams at a testing centre in Glendale, where I know they would have barred me from taking them in… the testing coordinator insisted not only that I put my phones into a locker with the rest of my stuff, but he insisted on watching me turn them off (not silent mode… OFF) before I did.  He and I do not get on at all, and I would rather drive the hour through LA traffic to get to Beverly Hills than go back there, when I have the choice.

My worst era for exam results spanned the time from January, 2014-June, 2017… if I could wipe that entire time period from the record, my pass:fail ratio is much more impressive.  Were I a Spanish cubist artist, that would be my blue period… the sixteen months following my separation from my now ex-wife, when I was down, depressed, and full of despair.  While nobody really understands the ways of the universe, I am doubtful that a pack of hard candies would have made the difference during that spell.

If my exam transcripts are any indication, things started getting much better for me shortly before I met Liza… which I suppose means that Liza was part of that ‘things getting much better’ trend… Post hoc ergo propter hoc… I do not know if she was part of things getting better, or if things got better because of her… of my current 7-exam passing streak, I only passed one of them before I met her… and five of them since I moved to Los Angeles to be with her.  Whichever it it, life is good now, and I am back to passing exams.

I am still one exam shy of my Microsoft 365 Certified: Enterprise Administrator Expert credential, and if things stay on track, I will sit the last exam before the end of the month.  I do not know how well I will do on the exam, but there are two things that I do know:

  1. The evening I pass the exam, I will come home (or go to the lounge) and smoke a fine Cuban cigar to celebrate; and
  2. When I do take the exam, there will be no hard candies on the table.

Jolly Rancher CherryAm I superstitious?  To a degree, I suppose I am.  I don’t know of a single combat soldier who wasn’t… to one degree or another.  I do know that in a lot of ways, we make our own luck.  I spend hours and hours studying and cramming for these exams; I take the time to read each question carefully, I read and consider all of the options, determine which are obvious distractors, and then decide which is the right answer.  To this day, I have only had a perfect score on one certification exam, but that doesn’t matter… with certification exams, every pass is graded the same way, so good enough is always good enough.  I do remember what it was like, way back in my early days of certification exams, taking every extra step to hopefully get over that pass/fail line.  Today, rather than going out of my way to find a pack of Jolly Ranchers, I’d rather spend those extra few minutes reviewing my material.

…and while it was not because of all those candies that I gained all of my weight, I am sure they did not help!

Not All Docks Are Created Equal…

Last week I was onboarded at a new company.  I will be working from home for the first time since I moved to California, so it was necessary to equip my home office.  I should clarify, I am an employee of the company that contracts me to them, so when it comes to equipment, some things can get muddled.  For example, the company I work for provides me with external monitors, as well as a keyboard and mouse.  The company I am contracted to provided me with a laptop, as well as a dock (both of which are Dell).

I was happy to receive two monitors to connect to my laptop; I saw the boxes and realized they were Dell, so there should be no issues, right?

Wrong.

Okay, I should clarify that the only problem is that someone at the company included video cables with the monitors… more specifically, DisplayPort cables.  The Dell docking station that was provided (Dell WD15) has two video inputs… neither of which are DisplayPort.  I figured I was going to have to go out to Staples and pick up a couple of cables… until I remembered that I brought with me from Canada a bunch of technology to set up a home office.

The Boss Dock from Juiced Systems, which I wrote about in Spring of 2018, was sitting in a box, complete with everything that I needed…

BossDock-Back.png

As you can see, there is not one but two DisplayPort inputs for me to work with.  Not only do I not have to look any further, I also do not have to worry about getting one HDMI cable and one Mini-DV cable, which the provided Dell dock would have required.

I was able to get to work without having to go out hunting for cables, and all was once again well in the world.

Thanks JuicedSystems!

Shana Tova uMevurechet!

Every year at about this time I send all of my friends and loved ones a post wishing them the best for the new year.  It is not always an easy task to sit down and enumerate the goods and the bads of a year.  Looking back on 5779, it has been an incredibly full year, replete with mostly good changes and experiences.

As I am sure you know (if we are friends, relatives, or even if you are a frequent reader of my blog), last November (Cheshvan/Kislev on the Hebrew calendar… but I will stop with that) I was recruited by a company called Taos for a position as Senior Windows Engineer for Sony Pictures Entertainment… in the Los Angeles area.  This was not something out of the blue… As Liza and I had been getting more serious, I decided the best way to see where that relationship was going was for us to live in the same city, if not the same house.  I had visited a few times (and she had visited me as well), but it was time to make a move.  On December 7th I boarded my flight to Los Angeles, leaving Ottawa behind me.  Well, not completely behind me… but I would no longer be living there.

My first month in California was wonderful but hectic – while I had rented an apartment, I still did not have any furniture there, and I would have to wait at least one and probably two pay periods before buying some.  I spent three weeks living at Liza’s house… with her and her daughter.  The daughter and I did not get on very well, but I will not go into that.  After three weeks I was able to finance a bed, and I moved into my apartment on December 30.  Yay!  It would not be so simple in the coming months…

The job was great, but it was very different from anything I had done before.  Their systems were different, their policies and procedures were different, and I was told from the outset that they usually expect people to get up to speed in about six months.  At the time I thought that was ridiculously generous.  I would come to reevaluate my position on that.  Two weeks after I arrived, Sony Pictures closed for the holidays, and I had ten days paid vacation to enjoy California.  Unfortunately this time coincided with Liza’s busiest period, so I had a lot of time alone… Liza owns a retail store, and any retailer will tell you that December is where they make their bones.

I went back to Ottawa to finish up some business in January; unfortunately my visit was met with a blizzard, and I was not able to get nearly as much done as I had hoped.  Crap.  To put the icing on the cake, I came back to California with a very bad head/chest cold.  Thanks Canadian Winters… I will not miss you!

In April, my older son (Aaron) came to spend a week with us here, and it was great to have him.  We have been evolving our relationship over the years, and I really like spending time with him.  I also respect that while he likes me too, he also wants his alone time.  I understand because I do too.

I mention that the apartment I rented here was actually a sub-let, and the owner came back from traveling abroad, expecting to be there for two to three weeks.  Liza and I agreed that I should stay with her (and her daughter) during that period.  Unfortunately, the 2-3 weeks turned into… well, it’s nearly October and he is still there.  As Liza and her daughter was going off to Europe and Israel for the summer, and then after the summer the daughter was going away to university, we decided that I would hop AirBNBs during the week, and I would stay with them only on the weekends.  By mid-June they went off on their adventures, and I had the house to myself (and Princess Sophie) for six weeks.  I would not be spending the next month in the house though.

Liza and I have a friend who had an apartment in Hollywood.  She was moving to New York at the beginning of August, and rather than give up the apartment then, she sub-let it to me for the month of August.  It was more comfortable, or at least more stable, than hopping between AirBNBs.  While there was some drama with the building manager (about whom I had already been warned), the stay was reasonably uneventful.

In June I planned a trip.  My friend Josh wanted me to go to Cuba with him and show him around.  It is still much easier to get to Cuba from Canada than from the US, and I decided it would be a great opportunity to visit friends and family.  I planned for a day in Oakville/Hamilton on the front end, and another day on the back end.  I got to see my kids, my friends, and nearly everyone I wanted to see… if not everyone.

Havana was wonderful… as always.  I got to see a lot of friends, and I made some new ones.  I am always happy and relaxed in Cuba, and this trip was no different.  Unfortunately, on my last day there I came down with a cold… which meant it would be bad to see my kids on my one day in Canada because I did not want to get them sick.

Sick or not, the day I spent in Canada was my 47th birthday, and my friend Lyle threw me a cigar party.  All of our cigar smoking friends came over, and we spent the afternoon and evening sitting outside, smoking cigars, and sharing stories.  A great day to be sure, and I only wish I hadn’t been sick for it.

I had been bragging to all of my dog-loving friends that I was not only seeing my kids, but I would be seeing my Gingit.  I started counting down the days, and my friends would ask me almost every day how much longer until I saw them.  It was 23 days out when I got the message from Theresa that was like a kick to my gut.  Gingit was hit by a car and died.

I was so saddened by this that some people suggested I take a day off work to recover, but that is not how I am.  I was sad, so terribly sad, but I would persevere.

That weekend, Liza and I went to Griffith Park.  We were not hiking, but we went to sit in nature, and we had lunch at the shack.  The area was replete with dogs and their owners, and Liza, knowing how sad I was, but also knowing that she has been saying all along that we probably would never get a dog, started compiling a list of things that a dog would have to fulfill for her to be ready to adopt a dog.  I was not thinking we would be getting a dog… firstly I was too sad about Gingit, and secondly, I knew that she had been saying all along that we were not getting a dog.

Two hours later we were sitting at The Alcove having a coffee when everything changed.

We sat outside, as we almost always do at The Alcove, a restaurant-café-bar in the Los Feliz neighbourhood, just a few doors down from Liza’s store.  A dog came up to us to say hello… and both Liza and I were smitten.  I say hello to every dog I meet, but Liza is not like that.  Within three minutes, this dog (Sophie) was on Liza’s lap… and not for a quick appearance.  The human she was with (a nice guy named Zeeshan) told us she was not her real human, but a foster parent for an organization called Dogs Without Boarders.  We had a great chat, and Liza fell in love.  “Mitch, we need to adopt this dog.”  I explained how I loved her enthusiasm, but that she was getting on a plane the following Sunday for six weeks; following that, she and Hannah would be home for a month (Hannah does not like dogs), and then she would be gone for another ten days, taking Hannah to Boston to settle her in at school.  If she was still interested, we could start looking for a dog in September.

“No, this is our perfect dog.  We should adopt her… now.”

Obviously I was not going to talk her out of it.  Over the course of the next few days I filled out forms, was interviewed, and approved to foster-to-adopt.  Friday evening, a very quiet and nervous (but still friendly) Sophie came home with us.  Nine days later, after Sophie and I had literally had a week together (remember, I was still in AirBNB for two of those days because Liza and Hannah were getting ready to go) I took Sophie to the adoption clinic in Beverly Hills, and she was ours.  It didn’t take more than a couple of weeks to crown her Princess Sophie.  She has become a wonderful and irreplaceable member of the family.

I have had four dogs in my life… Kelev, a stray mutt puppy who lived on my Army pase in Qiryat Malachi, Bailey, Jacob, and Gingit.  I like to think that the four of them were over the Rainbow Bridge in Doggie Heaven, looking down at me, and seeing how terribly sad I was.  I think the four of them picked Sophie to come to cheer me up and make my life whole again, knowing that she would also make Liza’s life whole.  I still miss all of my doggies… and I thank them all for sending Sophie to me.

If you know me, you know I am a cigar smoker.  I love my cigars.  When I was in Cuba, I spent a lovely evening with friends of mine, one of whom is a Habanos Sommelier, and her husband, who is not Cuban, but who is a Master Certified Cigar Sommelier (and who is creating his own line of cigars in the Dominican Republic).  We had a lovely conversation and several wonderful cigars.  We discussed pairings and much more.  Following that evening, it seems they recommended me to someone at the International Association of Cigar Sommeliers, and I was invited to attend their course in Los Angeles.  I had to do a lot of pre-course work (and studying), but I enjoyed every minute of it.  The second weekend in September I showed up at a gorgeous house in the Hollywood Hills, and over the course of the weekend I (and eight other attendees) dove deep into subjects ranging from History to processes to terroir to rolling to etiquette, and so much more.  The class was delivered in Spanish, and somehow because of my rudimentary knowledge of Spanish but rather deep understanding of the subject matter I was able to help with the simultaneous translation of the class.  We all had an amazing time, learned a lot, and smoked some very nice cigars.  We also all walked away with a certificate of completion; it was not for another two weeks when I took the actual exam that I became a Certified Cigar Sommelier, but I achieved it, and I am quite happy about it.  I am hoping to expand on that early next year by taking the Master class to become a Master Certified Cigar Sommelier.  We will see about that.

I earned my Black Belt in Taekwondo in June of 2010, and two years later I achieved my Second Dan Black Belt.  After that, life got very complicated.  I will not rehash old wounds, but there were several very bad years that prevented me from going forward with my Taekwondo.  In 2017, after having lost a tremendous amount of weight, I started up again, and sometime in early 2018 I pre-tested with my friend and Master Dimitrios Beis.  I then got very busy again, and since I was living in Ottawa (Master Beis lives in Mississauga, a city adjacent to Toronto) it fell by the wayside.  I started gaining all of that weight back again, and I forgot about it… until April or May of this year, when I decided to go try a new club in California.  I asked Master Beis’ advice and blessing, and got it… on the condition that based on my pre-test (and the essay I helped him with for his Sixth Dan Black Belt) he would bestow upon me the rank of Third Dan Black Belt.  It was truly an honour, and I was amazed to be there… but I did not really feel like I had earned it, so I would go out of my way to do so.  Don’t get me wrong, I accepted, and I am proud of my new rank.  But I have focused a lot of my energy on losing the weight I gained over the past two years, and am looking forward to being able to fit into all of my old clothes; the only article of clothing I do not want to fit into is my 2nd Dan Black Belt… I want that to forevermore be too small on me!

Things at Sony Pictures did not go according to plan.  Don’t get me wrong, I think I stepped up to the plate technically, but there were a couple of people there who was never a member of my fan club; that is going to happen anywhere you go, and really shouldn’t be a problem.  Unfortunately, these people were very influential, and in August I was informed that I probably would not be able to make things right and should look for something else.  I looked outside of Taos, but I also reached out to our Recruiting department.  Earlier this week they told me that they wanted to talk to me about another client who had a role that might suit me.  Tuesday we discussed, Wednesday I interviewed, Thursday we signed the paperwork.  I am now looking forward, right after Yom Kippur, to starting at my new position.  I am excited, and that excitement is likely amplified by how nervous I was that I might find myself unemployed.  That is now behind me.

To add to the wonderful news of this week, my friend was able to sell my car in Canada, so not only can I stop making monthly payments, I am also getting a few sheqels back for my trouble.  I will be buying something nice for her kids as a thank you for all of her help.

IMG_4484Have there been bad things this year?  Sure.  Every year has those.  The important thing is having a positive balance… Someone who buys Five Million Dollars in lottery tickets and wins $3,500,000 is still down… I feel like my balance this year weighs heavily in favour of the positive.  I have a good job, wonderful friends and family, and the love of a wonderful woman… and the undying love of a 15lbs Terrier Poodle named Princess Sophie.  What more could a man ask for?

Shana Tova uMevurechet – Have a wonderful and blessed New Year to all.  Happy תש״פ!!

Change the Way You Change Text

I remember when I first discovered the mail merge feature… it amazed the twelve-year-old me that I could write a letter once, and then AppleWorks would address that letter to the several hundred people in my database.  I was thrilled with it.

PowerShell_thumb.jpgLast week, I was working with a client who moved a server.  No big deal, right?  Well unfortunately, this was a server that collected information from every other server in the environment… several hundred of them, to be precise.  If the collection application were programmed differently, there would have been an option to send out to all of the servers the changed IP address.  This application did not work that way.  Even though we have an agent deployed to every server, there was no automated way to make the change on the agent side… at least, not out of the box.

It turns out that the information we needed to change was in a file I will call ‘c:\Program Files\Collector\agent.conf.’ The file consisted of three lines:

[Collector Agent Settings]
Collector Hostname: servername.domain.com
Collector IP Address: 10.201.15.72

While the collector hostname was not changing, the IP address had to, because it had been relocated to a different datacenter.  The new address was going to be 10.205.119.70.  (Obviously none of these addresses are the actual addresses from my client… don’t go looking for them!)  I had to change the IP address in this file… but I had to do it across about 600 servers.  Fortunately I have my deployment tool that allows me to send the script to every server… and I have PowerShell, which let me build the following script:

# Variables

$s1
= 10.201.15.72

$s2
= 10.205.119.70

$file
=”c:\Program Files\Collector\agent.conf”

# Stop the service

net
stop Collector

# Make my change

(Set-Content -path $file) -replace $s1, $s2

# Restart the service

net
start Collector

So:

First I set my variables, which are the original IP address, the new IP address, and the file name.

Next I stop the service, because while the service is actually running, the configuration file is protected.  In some cases, you may also have a Process protecting it, so you would then have to add a Kill command.

The Set-Content command does the following:

  • Selects the file (from the variable)
  • Replaces the first variable with the second variable.

And lastly, I restart the service.

Now, I used this script for a configuration file, but there is no reason it cannot be used for any other purpose.  Changing text in ASCII files is something you might need to do on a regular basis.  Scripting it will save you a lot of time and effort.

Windows to Go Lives!

Sometimes the universe is talking to me.

This weekend, for reasons I cannot recall, I was thinking about the fact that Microsoft announced that it will be deprecating Windows to Go, and that sometime this fall I would be faced with the choice of either:

  • Keeping my supported Windows 10 v1903 Windows to Go key; or
  • Using a non-supported method of building a new Windows to Go key on Windows 10 v1909.

I was sitting on the patio enjoying a cigar when something occurred to me: when twice-yearly I rebuild my Windows to Go key (on my Spyrus Worksafe Pro 128) I do not use Microsoft’s Windows to Go Creator Tool, but rather a proprietary tool provided by Spyrus that handles their security encryption and all.  So, I wondered to myself, is my Spyrus tool really running Windows to Go, or is it simply Windows 10 installed on a USB device?  If so, might it continue to work with future versions of Windows 10?

It is not often that I am excited by a press release in my morning e-mail.  This morning I read about a scandal in Canada that won’t go away (and with good reason, but enough already!), another in Israel involving Sara Netanyahu, the Ukraine, and a piece of bread… and then there was one from Spyrus.

2019-08-20_9-25-30Last month I published an article called Windows to Go… Going Away.  Microsoft has announced that it is deprecating the Windows to Go functionality in future releases of Windows 10, which in theory meant that those of us who work with the tool would be stuck on Windows 10 v1903, the last version of the operating system to include the Windows to Go workspace creator tool (pwcreator.exe).

In my article last month I wrote that “There were ways of [installing Windows on a USB key] before Windows 8, and so there will be ways of doing it after Windows to Go is completely deprecated.”  I am happy that I am not going to have to rely on that.

On August 20, 2019 Spyrus announced that they are committed to securely supporting Windows to Go for the next decade, and that their solutions are to be the only secure USB device manufacturer certified by Microsoft.

Spyrus devices are certified FIPS 140-2 Level 3, offering the best security in the industry.  Because of their proprietary technology, they have always used their own creator tool.  As it does not rely on Microsoft’s continued development of WTG, Spyrus is able to continue to develop and support Windows to Go on all six Windows to Go devices, and thus continue to provide this functionality to their customers.

Spyrus

For those of us who use Windows to Go on a regular basis, this announcement was a welcome one.  I have confirmed with a company spokesperson that their Spyrus Widows to Go Creator Tool will continue to support bi-yearly releases as well as the Long Term Service Builds (LTSB) in the LTSC.  This is great news, and in honour of that I am planning on building a new tool with the LTSC release for a future article.

SpyrusHaving gone through several WTG devices over the last seven years, ranging from the cheapest to the most expensive, I decided last year that Spyrus was the device I was going to use – primarily if not exclusively – for my Windows to Go tools.  I have either met with or spoken to representatives (or agents) of a number of competing companies; I have not been able to reach any of them for comment.  I am glad to see that the device that I deemed over a year ago to be my favourite is not only still in the game, going forward they are going to be the only company still in it.

While Spyrus does offer solutions up to 1TB it is a little pricey, and with easily accessible wireless Internet and cloud storage solutions, it is likely that the smaller devices will fit the bill perfectly for most users.  I recently upgraded my primary device from the 64gb Worksafe Pro that I had since 2015 to the 128gb model that is identical in every way except capacity.  I understand the 512gb and 1TB versions are larger and while it would be great to have that terabyte at my disposal, by paying attention (e.g.: I do not synchronize my OneDrive, and I only maintain a week of e-mail) I find myself with 66GB of free space on the device.  I am so comfortable, in fact, that when I re-create the key with the Autumn release of Windows 10, I will likely expand my storage partition to accommodate larger files.

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I don’t know why Microsoft decided that Windows to Go was not worth its continuing development; I suspect it has something to do with Azure VMs that will eventually run Windows 10, but that is not something I am privy to.  I am just glad at least that one company recognizes the value and importance of the technology, and will continue to provide WTG in a secure manner that is affordable and reliable.

…now if only they would deliver a tool to install Windows Server onto their keys! Smile

You can learn more about Spyrus and their solutions at www.spyrus.com.

Nothing Domestic About It

There were two more mass shootings over the past weekend.  Nine are dead in Dayton, Ohio; twenty-one are dead in El Paso, Texas.

The talking heads this morning were discussing and debating whether or not these incidents were acts of domestic terrorism.  I want to know how anyone can argue that these were not acts of terrorism; I also want to know why they should be labeled ‘Domestic Terrorism?’  Why should we differentiate these terrorists from any other?  Are their victims any less dead because the shooters are white?  Are they any less dead because many of them are not?

In the years following 9-11 there was a lot of discussion of homegrown terrorist – which was intended to describe terrorists who were born in North America, yet subscribed to the fanatical religious beliefs of Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations.  In the first couple of days following the El Paso shooting, evidence suggests that the terrorist was a white man intent on shooting Mexicans and Hispanics.  In other words, he wanted them dead because they were not like him, and did not fit his idea of what Americans should look like and talk like.  The shooter was no less of a homegrown terrorist than any fanatical Muslim who shoots up an Army post for his beliefs. 

Terrorists are terrorists, and by labeling them ‘domestic’ makes me think of my girlfriend’s cats.  The www.bing.com dictionary defines the word as “relating to the running of a home or to family relations.”  There is nobody in my home who would kill anyone because they were different.  Applying adjectives makes it sound like they are somehow different from someone who would strap a bomb to their body and detonate it in a night club or pizzeria.  The shooters this weekend are no different, no smarter, no better, and no more moral than the shahids who do just that.

Let’s not separate these criminals from the others.  Let’s hope that they are relegated to the same circle of Hell as the others.  If nothing else, let’s still call them what they are: TERRORISTS.

United Nothing: Do you really need more proof?

I have been speaking against the United Nations for decades. I did not do so out of ignorance.  Aside from having taken a number of courses on the UN in college, I was a senior NCO with the Israeli Defense Forces Liaison to UN Forces (Lebanon) for a year and Liaison to UN Forces (Golan Heights) for another six months.  Additionally, I long suspected there was a room, or at least a filing cabinet somewhere in the UN headquarters in New York City dedicated to complaints against me.  My understanding of that organization is non minimal and it is not second-hand.

Over the past few years I have curbed my commentary, especially in writing, because I felt that it could, in some cases, hamper my professional development.  ‘Don’t be political, it can only offend people who decide on jobs and promotions.’  For the most part, I have stayed quiet.

Today I cannot… I will not stay quiet.

The United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) passed a resolution last week condemning Israel as the only nation on earth that violates women’s rights.

Are you kidding me?

Let me give a little context to how absurd this charge is:

Saudi Arabia, where women were only recently given the right to drive a car, where it is illegal for a woman to be alone anywhere with a male non-relative, and where a woman who goes out in public without wearing an abaya (think of a tent with eye holes) might be stoned, voted in favour of this resolution. 

Egypt, China, Sudan, and Yemen, where human rights are seldom respected, voted in favour of this resolution.

India, where incidents of women getting gang-raped on public busses hardly makes the news anymore, voted in favour of this resolution.

Iran, whose recent leaders have only been considered slightly moderate when compared to the mad man Mahmoud Ahmadinejad but in truth are still mostly interested in developing nuclear weapons and supporting terrorism so that the Little Satan should never sleep peacefully, voted in favour of this resolution.

Who else? Andorra, Angola, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Benin, Cambodia, Colombia, Denmark, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ethiopia, France, Ghana, Ireland, Japan, Kenya, Luxembourg, Mali, Malta, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Paraguay, Philippines, South Korea, Russia, St. Vincent, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uruguay, and Venezuela all voted in favour of this resolution.  That brings the total to forty nations condemning Israel.

So that they might look slightly less hypocritical and racist than their bolder brethren, nine countries abstained.  These feckless cowards are Brazil, Cameroon, Germany, Jamaica, Mexico, Romania, Togo, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom.  A total of nine nations refusing to stand up and call this resolution utterly ridiculous.

Only two nations on the ECOSOC – two out of fifty-one nations – stood up and said ‘Are you kidding?  We refuse to put our signatures on that absurd statement.’  Who are they?  It is not difficult to guess… Canada and the United States.

I am an Israeli citizen of Canadian birth who is currently a resident of the United States.  I get around.  I have seen oppression, I have seen the rights of people violated.  I have seen women oppressed by governments and by groups and by corporations and other organizations.  In Israel, to the best of my knowledge, there are no civilian jobs that are not accessible to women, with the exception of orthodox rabbi (which has nothing to do with Israel and is the purview of the religion).  Women are allowed to do everything that men are allowed to do.  They sit in the government and have risen to the seat of Prime Minister.  They run corporations, they run organizations large and small… and they are allowed to go anywhere they want – on foot or behind the wheel of a car – alone, in a group, wearing anything they want (and if you have ever seen pictures of the night life and beaches in Tel-Aviv, you will know that they do exactly that).

The world has condemned Israel for many things, and I am not going to say that we are perfect.  However most of the reasons we are condemned are pure racism – we are condemned for defending ourselves because it is the traditional role of Jews to die without putting up a fight.  Israel is condemned for its treatment of people whose stated goal is our annihilation.  It is condemned for closing its borders and building a wall when the people on the other side of that border regularly cross into the country, strap bombs to themselves, and blow up busses, night clubs, pizzerias, and other places where civilians congregate.  It is condemned for retaliating against missiles that were stored in and launched from buildings that were supposed to be hospitals and civilian locations.  Okay, fine… but to condemn Israel as the only nation on earth that violates women’s rights?  That is like saying that the one hockey player who wouldn’t drop his gloves to fight should be penalized for being out of uniform when everyone else was bare-knuckled.

If you are going to boycott, divest, and sanction Israel go ahead… but stop being hypocrites.  Go all the way… boycott all of the technology that was invented or perfected in Israel (that includes your cell phone and computer, along with the networks they communicate on, by the way)… boycott all of the medicines and vaccines.  Do you have a rooftop solar powered hot-water system? Disconnect it, it’s Israeli.  Drip irrigation? Forget about it, Israeli.  Pill cameras and tiny endoscopes to check your digestive tract and bowels? No, they’ll cut you open using a non-Israeli technique to see what’s wrong with you because those inventions are Israeli.  Drugs to treat Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis? Sorry, those are Israeli too.  USB flash drives? Israeli.  The Intel 8088 (the first CPU that powered the IBM PC) was invented by Intel’s Haifa laboratories.  Voice over IP (VoIP)?  STOP!!! A big Israeli invention.

I could keep going, but the list would be too long.  By the way, many of these inventions were invented by women.  Israeli women.  Women who are not oppressed.  Women who have the same rights as men.  Women who serve in the Army in almost every job you can imagine.  Women who go to university and women who will give as good as they get in any conversation… and yes, women who will slap you hard if you say something or do something that is highly inappropriate.  Israeli women don’t take guff off anyone, and if you think that it would be easy to violate their rights then you just don’t know Israeli women.

If you are going to hate Israel then there is nothing that I can say or do or write that will change your mind… but you know what?  Every time I relax on my disrespect of the United Nations they seem to step up to remind me why I disrespect them.  You want to tell me about violating the rights of women?  Well UN, you have not had the moral authority to tell me baseball scores since the 1960s.

Which Patches?

It came up in conversation with a friend recently that he believed that a Windows Update (hotfix, patch, whatever you want to call it) broke something on his computer.  What can I say? It happens… sometimes.  No problem Fred, all you have to do is roll back the updates that were applied last week and if that was really the problem then it should resolve the issue.

“Well, it wasn’t quite last week…

It turns out that Fred (his real name is protected to protect the usually intelligent friend) has had this problem for a couple of months, but didn’t say anything to me, because he didn’t want to bother me.  He figured he would just ask me about it the next time he came over.

For a decent analogy of why this is a bad idea, I want you to imagine getting a splinter on the side of your foot.  If you sit down, remove the splinter, clean the wound, and put a bandage on it then sometime in the next few days your foot will heal.  The alternative is to wait… keep up business as usual, walk through the pain, keep sweating and getting it dirty.  In the same few days as before you will likely have something with the adjectives festering and infected applied to it.

Okay, here we are.  Fred’s computer has a festering infected wound, and it’s my job to clean it up.  He goes home and asks me what to do first.

“Please send me a list of the updates that have been installed since you realized there was a problem.”  He sent me a screenshot of Windows Update.

Okay, that is one way to go… but a screen shot is a lot less useful than a text file. So here’s what you would do:

  1. Open a Windows PowerShell console.
  2. Navigate to a directory where you can save files (hint: NOT the root of your profile… try c:\Users\YourName\Documents).
  3. Enter the following cmdlet:

Get-WmiObject -class win32_QuickFixEngineering –Property Description,hotfixID| Export-Csv Updates.csv

This will create a CSV file of all of your patches, which if you were to open it in a text editor would look like this:

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Not very nice, huh?  But if we were to open it with a spreadsheet that recognizes comma separated value files, this is what you will get:

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This is a much more useful file for an IT Professional to work with, as you have data, and not simply an image file of data.

I hope this helps!

Windows to Go… Going Away.

WTG.pngIn April of 2012 I was extremely excited as I walked to the stage at an event in Redmond, Washington and did my first ever presentation on Windows to Go.  I loved the idea of being able to take my installation of Windows – operating system version, applications, documents, the works – with me anywhere I went.  I have written myriad articles about it because I have had a real passion for it – not to mention the evolution of USB keys I have gone through that support it.

Windows to Go came with me to Japan twice, and allowed me to use my own hardware in lieu of selecting a corporate laptop.  It has come with me to many different sites, allowing me not only to use my own environment, but also to troubleshoot the hardware that friends and family have asked my help with.  It has traveled extensively with me, occasionally eliminating my need to bring a bulky laptop with me, where loaner hardware would be available.

The feature originally released with Windows 8 has not changed much through how many iterations (Windows 8, Windows 8.1, and 8 versions of Windows 10).  It is not a feature that Microsoft seems to have expended a lot of energy on following its release (the most current documentation lists a number of discontinued devices as available and certified (https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/deployment/planning/windows-to-go-overview).  Nonetheless it works, and has always worked very well – provided you use the appropriate hardware.  By this, I do not only mean a robust and hopefully certified USB key (I swear by my Spyrus Worksafe Pro, but have had several other keys as well).  I mean it is important that your USB port is not just a little loose, so that when your dog walks past his wagging tail jars your computer and forces a reboot (yes, that really happened to me).

Last month Microsoft announced that Windows to Go is no longer being developed, and that it will be removed from future versions of Windows.  I do not know if that means it will be gone in the Autumn 2019 release, but it is safe to say that it is heading out to pasture (See article).

I never understood people who continued to use older legacy operating systems and software, especially when the newer versions were better (or at least just as good) and available at no cost.  I remember a couple of years ago someone asked me for support on their Windows 8 device, and they really were running Windows 8; I had assumed that Windows 8.1 had replaced 100% of Windows 8 installations, but I was wrong… and when I asked why, he said to me ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! I like Windows 8, and I’m sticking with Windows 8.’  That was his choice and his right, even if I didn’t agree with him.

Now I sit wondering if I will be that guy in five years… “Hey, Mr. Garvis… why are you running Windows 10 v1903? Don’t you know how much better v2409 is?”  Maybe… but as long as my Spyrus Worksafe Pro is still spinning, this is my operating system and likely always will be.

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Okay, who are we kidding here? There are several ways to put Windows 10 on a USB device without having to rely on Microsoft’s sanctioned and precious red-headed stepchild.  There were ways of doing it before Windows 8, and so there will be ways of doing it after Windows to Go is completely deprecated.  Stay tuned later this autumn… because if the next version of Windows 10 truly does not include the Windows to Go Creator Tool, I will be exploring my options, and I will be discussing them in this very space.  Until then? Stay safe and patch regularly!

Game Over… Soon.

MSNMicrosoft announced this week that they are going to shut down the servers that support on-line games for Windows 7, XP, and ME.  These include:

  • Internet Backgammon (Windows XP, ME, 7)
  • Internet Checkers (Windows XP, ME, 7)
  • Internet Spades (Windows XP, ME, 7)
  • Internet Hearts (Windows XP, ME)
  • Internet Reversi (Windows XP, ME)
  • MSN Go (Windows 7)

I have read a number of articles on this pending closure (July 31, 2019 for Windows XP & Windows ME, January 22, 2020 for Windows 7) claim that this may not be sitting well with gamers who will lose their platforms.  To this I ask two questions:

  1. Is there anyone out there who cannot find a free Internet site on which to play these games; and
  2. Is this really a proper usage of the word ‘gamer’?

I understand that people who like having the game client on their system (as opposed to playing in a web browser) will be a bit put out… they may have to look slightly harder for an alternative.

Yes, I understand and hear your complaints… but to quote Q from Die Another Day (ably played by the amazing John Cleese): “Yes, but it’s called the future, so get used to it.”

I don’t know that I truly “mourned” the death of many of the applications that Microsoft has retired over the years… the closest was probably Live Writer (see article), which they actually released to the open-source community.  It has been years since I played Internet Backgammon (the only title listed that I was interested in).  I still play backgammon on-line occasionally, and have found many alternatives.  I suggest, if you are mourning this news, that you do the same.

Upping My On-the-Go Game

WTGIt has been seven years since my buddies Raymond and Erdal and I got on stage at a conference in Redmond and demonstrated – for the first time ever to a non-NDA crowd – the functionality of Windows to Go (WTG)… and nearly four years since I picked up my Spyrus Worksafe Pro 64GB key that I have been using as one of my WTG keys ever since. 

Two weeks ago Microsoft announced that they would no longer be developing Windows to Go… to be brutally honest, I thought they had stopped developing it years ago, and it was just another stagnant component that is extremely functional, but does not get a lot of love.

While I understand they will no longer be developing it I truly hope that they do not remove WTG from Windows, which would be a real shame.  I use Windows to Go almost every day, and working how I work, I cannot imagine being as productive without it.

SpyrusFar from calling it quits, I have doubled down on Windows to Go… somewhat literally.  This weekend I formatted and configured the environment on my new WTG device – my new Spyrus Worksafe Pro 128GB.  I am not quite sure how it is that I ran out of space on my 64GB drive (for someone who has been in computers since 180kb floppy drives were a really neat idea, it is hard to imagine we have come this far), but I did… and so I made the decision and picked up the new device… all of the functionality with twice the capacity.

The 128GB device looks exactly like the Worksafe Pro 64GB that I have had in my pocket since 2015; I still do not know if the sleeker feel of the actual metal is how my original key felt when it was new, or if they have changed it somewhat.  I suppose only time will tell. 

The Spyrus WTG Creator Tools software (stored on the unencrypted boot partition) has changed since I bought my original key, but not since I last downloaded the update from Spyrus in December.  I like the new graphical challenge screen the new software includes, but as I said, that is a function of the new software and not the new key.

Over the next few weeks I will run the device through its paces – I will run side-by-side speed comparisons between the old and the new, and I will test its reliability.  What I will not do (which I am told it would survive) is to run over it with my car.  I am all for putting new devices through their paces, but aside from reviewing it for my blog I also plan to use it for a long time – whether or not the next few versions of Windows 10 support it.

Thanks Spyrus… even if Microsoft doesn’t appreciate Windows to Go, I do… and I appreciate your dedication to the product!

Running Out of Room: A WTG Tip

windowstogo_thumb.jpgI have written and posted myriad articles over the years about Windows To Go (WTG); I have been running Windows off a USB device on-and-off since Windows 8 was in beta, but very consistently for the past three years.

While larger devices are available (at greater cost) I have been satisfied with my 64GB Spyrus Worksafe Pro for a few years, and I cannot imagine spending the money to upgrade.  Th 64GB device that I currently use costs $218.50; even upgrading to the next largest device (128GB for $427.50) would be a large expenditure for what I use the device for.  (In comparison, the 256GB version of the same device would cost $593.75, the 512GB version would cost $736.25, and the largest 1TB version would run you $1,187.50)

Spyrus-WSP.jpgThe bottom line is this: I do not want to spend the money to upgrade; with that said, I keep getting notifications that I am running out of drive space.  So what can I do to avoid these?

I should mention that I am not actually using the whole 64GB for my C: Drive… I have also allocated (along with the other system partitions that Windows creates) a 16GB data partition.  All of that leaves my C: Drive with a seemingly respectable 38.81GB of storage…

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Unfortunately, from that space, the following is taken off the top:

c:\Windows: 22GB
c:\Program Files: 2.1GB
c:\Program Files (x86): 3.7GB
c:\ProgramData: 3.8GB
Pagefile.sys: ~4GB

While you may question if I actually need all of the applications I have installed on the device, let’s assume that I do… and if I am using the defaults for both Windows and Office, I am going to run out of free space very quickly.

So… what do I do to mitigate this issue?  I ran into the issue this weekend, and I was literally at 114MB free on the drive.  Here’s what I did:

1) There was a legacy profile on my device; I had the device running for a couple of months before I joined it to my Azure Active Directory, and switched from my Microsoft Account to my AzureAD account.  By deleting the legacy profile (which had several months of e-mail in it) the free space on the C: Drive climbed up to nearly 2GB… and then dropped in a big hurry.  Why?  I expected that, and was not concerned; that issue would be resolved in Step 2…

To delete unneeded user profiles, see this article.

2) Set your system’s paging file to a static size.  I use my WTG key on a few different computers, with RAM ranging from 3GB to 32GB.  There was a time that I recommended all computers have static paging files of 1.5x the system RAM… but those days are long gone, and if you do the quick math, that would be impossible on my 38GB system partition anyways.  For what I use the system for (chiefly as an Information Worker, but also for VPN and RDP), I have found that Windows works just fine with a 2GB paging file, and so that is what I use.

To resize your Paging File size, see this article.

3) I do not like to disable Cached Exchange Mode in Outlook… I like to have my e-mail available to me, even when I am not connected to the Internet.  By default, Outlook caches three months worth of e-mails (and calendar items, etc…) for each configured account.  On my WTG installation, I maintain two accounts, so that amounts to roughly 180 days of items (which not only includes important texts, but also PowerPoint presentations, videos, and family photos).  All in all, this weekend I discovered 625MB of Outlook items stored on my local device.  I went into my Account Settings in Outlook (for each account), and changed the cache to one week on one account and two weeks on the other.  This lowered the used space from 625MB to just over 200MB (which includes all of my contacts, which I want to maintain).

By performing these three simple steps I went from having 114MB free on my C: Drive to a very comfortable 6.7GB free.  While that would not be very much on one of my servers, for a device that I carry around in my pocket I am quite satisfied with it.

The People Have Said Nothing

An article came across my feed this morning about last week’s elections in Israel.  It read: The people have spoken. They want to live in Netanyahu’s Israel.  I find that a deceptive headline.

Many of us who are familiar with the country have joked for years about how difficult it is to come to a consensus in Israel, especially when it comes to politics.  If you ever want to ensure something never gets decided decisively, give it to the Knesset.  How do you get 120 clones to completely disagree with each other and turn on each other completely? Elect them all to the Knesset.

Netanyahu Gantz

Israel is a nation of wonders and miracles.  It helped the Jewish people rise from the ashes of the Holocaust and became a mighty nation.  It is a country that is a world leader in medicine and other sciences, with more patents and start-ups per capita than any other nation on the planet.  And yet, in nearly seventy-one years since its independence has never elected a majority government; it is not strange for an Israeli government to comprise five or more parties in a coalition. 

In the West we may discuss the Likud Party and the Blue and White Party today (as it was once Likud and Labour), the truth is that Benjamin Netanyahu’s ‘Likud’ government, elected in 2015, consisted of members from Likud, Kulanu, Shas, United Torah Judaism, The Jewish Home, and New Right parties.

To the uninformed, and frankly to a lot of people who are pretty informed, it is easy to classify the Israeli political parties in the following camps:

  • Right Wing
  • Left Wing
  • Centrist
  • Ultra-Orthodox
  • Arabs

And yet here we are… Here are the parties that (in the most recent elections) won seats:

  • Likud (Right Wing)
  • Blue and White (Centre-Right Wing)
  • United Torah Judaism (Ultra-Orthodox)
  • Shas (Untra-Orthodox, but Sephardic rather than Ashkenazi)
  • Hadash Ta’al (Socialist, Jewish-Arab)
  • Labour (Left Wing)
  • Union of Right-Wing Parties (Right Wing)
  • Yisrael Beiteinu (far-Right Wing)
  • Meretz (Left Wing)
  • Kulanu (Moderate Right Wing)
  • United Arab List-Balad (Islamist / Arab Nationalist)

Note that this is a list of parties that actually won seats in the Knesset… a number of parties on the ballot did not actually win any seats, including New Right-Wing, Zehut (Identity), and Gesher (Bridge).

So to say that “The People Have Spoken” is almost silly… Likud won the election and has the first right to build a coalition; they did this by winning thirty percent (30%) of the votes.  The next party (Blue and White) lost by less than one percent… with slightly over twenty-nine percent (29.2%) of the votes.  The two parties with the greatest number of votes – bitter rivals who disagree on nearly everything, from territorial concessions for peace to the economy – still have just under sixty percent (60%) of the votes.  That means that forty percent (40.2%) of the people want something else… whether it be Left Wing peaceniks or Arab nationalists or Ultra-Orthodox Jews who believe that the state should be run by the laws of the Torah or whoever else.

While it is, in the writer’s opinion, unfortunate that the Likud Party, led by Benjamin Netanyahu (who is facing corruption and bribery charges and may land in prison before he has the opportunity to run for office again), came out ahead.  It is not simply a question of the party – in my time as a voter I have voted both for and against the Likud party – but frankly we have seen both in Israel and abroad that when one party is in party for too long it becomes complacent (at best) or corrupt (at worse). 

Netanyahu and his Likud party were behind in the polls until a few big events and announcements happened in the weeks leading up to the election, and were it not for blatant outside interference (President Donald Trump announcing that the USA would, for the first time, recognize Israeli dominion over the Golan Heights), and wild promises from Netanyahu (such as vowing that he would annex Israeli settlements in the Yehudah and Shomron occupied territories, known in the west as the West Bank) then it is very likely that the elections would have come out differently…

…But these things did happen and the elections did not come out differently… and yet again, Israel will continue to be run by a man many believe to be a corrupt, right-wing automaton.  This does not mean that “The People of Israel Have Spoken.”  If anything, it says that the electoral system in Israel is broken.  Israel is a country that for decades has suffered from electile disfunction.  Maybe it is time we stop blaming the people, and look for a way to fix the system.

Trusted Senders…

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I have received a lot of spam in my day, and I have looked at some of it to see what tricks the bad guys are playing.  I received this e-mail on my phone this morning.  Please note, it was in my Inbox, and did not go into Junk.

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Does Microsoft use contractions? You’ve in place of You Have?  Usually not… but the truth is there are a lot of cases where I have seen Microsoft try to get chummy with us.  That is not a decider.

Do they send e-mail from microsoftexchange5297e09415b…? Usually not… but they certainly used to, so this is not really a guaranteed decider.

When I looked at it on my computer (in Outlook), it looked a bit different:

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Wow… what a difference! But here’s the problem… how does the average layperson who may only check his or her e-mail on his phone know what to trust?  It is getting harder and harder.  For those of us who are tech savvy enough to know that you can press the e-mail address and see that it does not end in @microsoft.com, but in @bluemail.ch, we are good.  My father would never know to do that… or even think that it might be an issue.  Seeing this email on his phone he might wonder how eleven messages failed to get to him, and run to click.

I saw a debate on a Facebook group that debated the pros and cons of anti-malware software versus common sense and careful training. For the average user, anti-malware and spam filters should not be an option, it should be a requirement.

Then what? What happens if I (or my father) would have clicked on the Review Messages button? Well, I am not interested in trying it to find out… but I would not be at all surprised when one of the two things were to happen:

  1. The link would install malware on my phone, sending all of my information (including passwords for financial institutions) back to… whoever the scum behind the scam are; or
  2. I were taken to a page where I was asked to reconfirm my credentials… for security purposes.

imageFriends, the Internet is not a safe place.  Every step you take on the net is a minefield, and around every corner someone is going to try to hijack your data. They are going to try to steal your identity and rob you blind.

The problem is worse than it sounds… if you are walking through Downtown L.A. and someone pulls a weapon on you and steals your wallet, watch, keys, whatever… you know.  You get to a phone and call the police, and then you cancel your credit cards and get a new driver’s license.  When you are robbed online you do not know until you realize that your credit cards are maxed out and your credit score is ruined.

When I talk about the Wild West, I am not kidding… there may be a sheriff in the occasional friendly town, but for the most part you are in the wild, and the banditos are everywhere… and there is nobody you can call and if there was there is nothing they can do.

So what do you do?  You have to arm yourself… with knowledge.  You have to be ever-vigilant, you have to know how to protect yourself… you have to know what alleys not to turn down, what rivers are safe to cross, and where there be dragons and only the fools dare go.  Several years ago I developed a ninety-minute lunch-and-learn session called ‘How to Scare the @%!# Out of End Users.’  It was a session I delivered for a client whose systems had been hacked because of careless user activity… sort of like closing the barn door after the horses left, but it would have helped them going forward,  Maybe it’s time I – or someone – develop a similar session to protect people on-line.

Who’s it going to be?