Home » Community

Category Archives: Community

Helping Others… Helping Myself.

Many of you probably think that because I have this great blog that I am smarter than others.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The reality is, sometimes I just research a problem that I am having until I find the solution… I blog about it, and then I usually forget about it.

So this week I spent a couple of hours getting my new system (Microsoft Surface Pro 4… Stay tuned for the video and review!) ready, and one of the first things I wanted to do (you know, so I can write the articles and all!) was install Windows Live Writer.  Yeah I know, it is an old application, but I still haven’t found anything I like better.

Unfortunately I started getting this weird error.  No matter what I did I got the error.  Drat!

Now wait a minute… the computer might be new, but I have been using Windows 10 (and blogging all the while) since July.  Maybe I had the same issue before, and just forgot?

I navigated to this very site, clicked in the Search window (look up top!) and typed in Install Live Writer Windows 10Sure enough I got the following response:


I followed the instructions.  I downloaded the file, I ran the command as typed in PowerShell, and sure enough, there it was:


I was glad to see that, as promised by this site, Windows Live Writer was installed.  You want more proof?  Here I am working on it!

This is not the first time I have turned to www.garvis.ca for help.  I often use it as a reference for things that I know I have done before, but did not feel important to commit to memory.  Anytime I use a dism command or a PowerShell command with a long tag of switches you can be sure that I referred back to the blog.

There were several reasons I started blogging way back when.  One of them was, as I have told people a hundred times, to help build my brand.  It sure has served me well over the years.  However another is as a resource tool for myself… I know that if I have to do something once, I might have to do it again.  So rather than having a private file that is only good to myself, I have a blog that everyone can use.

You may wonder what I am getting at, and here it is.  It doesn’t only apply to IT – you can be in any field and benefit from this.  Start blogging.  If you do, your own notes will be available to you wherever you are… but more importantly, you might just help someone else along the way.

Transitions & Changes

I received an e-mail this week from the Montreal IT Professionals Community (MITPro) inviting me to the 2014 Annual General Meeting.

I remembered a day nine years ago in January, 2005.  Later in the day I would be heading to the first meeting of the group who had been brought together to build a user group for Montreal IT Professionals.  As I sat in a client’s office applying patches I quickly jotted down a list of topics I felt that we should discuss, which turned into the agenda for that first meeting.

Around the table were Daniel Nerenberg, Maxime Viel, Thomas Kroll, Randy Knobloch, and a couple of other people I am sure I am forgetting. 

Two months later we held our first official meeting, attended by some thirty people from all walks of the IT Pro spectrum.  It was amazing that we had brought it together… but how long would it last?

The first real test of that was not when I stepped down as president, but when the leadership team clashed with my successor.  The heated battle took its toll, some people left, others joined, and in the end the organization continued.

It had been written into the organization’s charter that I would always have a vote as the Founding President, and for the first few years I used it.  However as I became more distanced from the organization (both in time and geography, having established myself in Southwest Ontario) I used it less and less, having decided that might no longer always know what is best for the organization that I was once the public face of.  In September of 2012 when I joined the DPE team at Microsoft Canada I officially resigned my position with MITPro (along with ITPro Toronto, the group I went on to start and lead after leaving Montreal).

It is funny, looking at the Board of Directors from MITPro as it stands today I know… some of them.  None of them were at that first meeting, and only two of them (out of eight) sat on the Board when I led it.  Far from complaining, I am thrilled that the group is not only surviving but thriving… Dan and Majida and I are all gone, and yet the group is going strong.  That tells me that it is one of the true Canadian IT Pro community success stories… because a few of us raised our hands and wanted to get involved a little under a decade ago.

So my question to you is this… are you a member of your local IT Pro user group?  If so, do you participate?  Do you attend events?  Would you be willing to speak at one?  It takes people like you raising your hands and volunteering to make these groups work.  If you are not a member, why not?  Look up your local group and get involved… attend, learn, and when you feel comfortable enough see what else you can do.  Believe me, there are a lot of people out there who will benefit from your participation… starting with you!

Resign as an MVP? No…

It is with great regret that I am told today that I must resign from the Microsoft MVP Program because I am unable to (or unwilling to) help the community.

As many of you know I walk a fine line between community leader (Microsoft MVP, MCT) and a member of Microsoft Canada’s DPE team (Evangelist).  This line has at times resulted in internal conflicts, and has resulted in several discussions between my manager, my MVP Lead, and myself as to whether I should (or can) remain a member of the program.  Thus far we have determined that I can continue to be both, as long as I am mindful of the fact that my contract contains not only a morality clause, but also a clause to not speak out against the company.  It is complicated sometimes, but for the most part it works.

This, of course, does not mean that I am required to actively and vocally defend the company when I disagree with it… it just means that I cannot speak out against it.

On July 1, 2013 the announcement was made that Microsoft was retiring the TechNet Subscription program, through which many IT Pros (including but certainly not limited to MCTs and MVPs) have gotten their software for non-production use over the past several years.  It is a shame that it happened, and I happen to agree that it will be a decision that will cost community members who are used to spinning up environments without time limits.

I was told about this announcement on a specially convened call of MCT Regional Leads the morning of July 1st (Canada Day) which I listened in to as I drove with my family from Montreal to Toronto.  I am sure the general consensus of the RLs was that we were not happy.  There is a very good chance that had I been sitting at my desk in the office I would have fired off a blog article with my opinions (which we should never do when angry).  However I was in the car with my family driving the 401, and by the time I got to my office the next day I was much calmer.  In fact, I went so far as to ask one of our newsletters if I could write a position piece on the subject which was approved… until someone higher up made it clear that I was not allowed to do so.

Now there are a group of MVPs railing against the elimination of the benefit… as I fully expected there would be.  In fact that group asked me to help by vocally speaking out against Microsoft’s decision.  I declined, stating contractual reasons.

I have now been told that I have lost the moral right to be an MVP.  I have been told that ‘honorable folks would resign as MVP since you can’t help the community.’

This is obviously someone trying to make being an MVP a one-issue decision, which it is not.

I have been a champion of the IT community for a decade, well before being awarded as an MVP in 2006.  I have founded and led user groups and fought for my members when it came to getting benefits, and while I have fought when some of those benefits were taken away I also realized that they cost Microsoft money, and it is ultimately their decision (and NOT ours) what they are willing to give us and what they are not.

I have presented at more user group meetings than any MVP that I know of – consistently over the past three years.  I have spoken at conferences and conventions, I have traveled tens of thousands of miles every year (sometimes with a dual-purpose agenda but often solely to speak to community groups) talking technology and helping those communities.

I have written no fewer than 500 articles on technology over the past five years and given them away on my blog as well as on other sites.

…and yet one MVP tells me that I have moral right to be an MVP anymore.  He tells me that I have no honour, and that I am being selfish.

It has been a very long time since anyone has accused me of either not being honourable or of being selfish.  For one person to call me both in one day is absolutely astounding.  I am likely as angry about these accusations as he is about the termination of the TechNet subscription program.

It is the old statement brought to life: ‘If you aren’t for us, then you are against us!’  Well guess what… in most cases this is pure manure.  This isn’t a case of a German citizen not standing up against the Nazis or passers-by watching idly as a woman is violently raped… I am NOT against the idea, I am just not permitted to be vocally FOR it.  If some people are offended by this concept or just don’t get it then that is their prerogative… just as it is mine to not sign a petition or join a campaign whether or not doing so might result in my termination.

I live in a free country, as does my esteemed MVP colleague (albeit a different free country) and as such I am allowed to pick my causes and he is allowed to criticize me for it… but the name-calling and calls for my resignation is (for me) a little over the top.  He is passionate, I get that.  However in all of my years as an MVP I have never been told by anyone that I didn’t have what it takes to be an MVP.  While he is free to be the first, I respectfully disagree… and while I refuse to stoop to his level I will use the forum and pulpit that I have at my disposal – that of this blog – to refute his accusations and state my position.

We are all adults, and swearing and name-calling are not the way civilized adults behave in public (and yes, Twitter is a PUBLIC forum).  I resent the statements made and am glad that I took the time to breathe before instinctively engaging in such childish behaviour.

With that being said, I do give him credit for one thing: He said it to me, and did not start a conversation behind my back.  For that reason only he is not named herein.  I would have rather he had opened the dialogue privately, but at least he did address his comments to me.

In any event I will not be resigning my MVP Award… at least not now, and not over this issue.  Will I be an MVP for much longer?  That depends on a number of factors, not the least of which is that I have to be re-awarded on October 1st.  That remains to be seen.  I am honoured to be an MVP in good standing, I feel my reputation is intact, and I will continue to honestly and selflessly support the community that I have served for many years!

An Introduction to Windows 8: Mitch on Halton Tech TV

I am surprised that with all the hype and talk I have been doing about Windows 8, I have not blogged about this yet.  Halton Tech TV is a show on our regional cable network in the Oakville/Burlington/Milton area that focuses on different technologies.  Hosted by Robert Duvall of RDC Networks, it brings the newest and most interesting technologies to life.

In mid-August I was invited onto the show to discuss Windows 8 which, at the time, was still in the late preview stages.  Robert and I had a great discussion of the value of Windows 8, and I did a bunch of demos from my HP EliteBook laptop which, although it is still a Windows 7 device, runs Windows 8 beautifully.  HP Canada invited us to film on location in their Canadian Centre of Excellence, where they had a great 40” touch screen for us to use.

It was a great experience, and for IT Pros who are not able to come out and see our sessions live, this TV show is a great way to see what’s new and exciting in Windows 8.

You can watch the show in three parts here:

As always I welcome your comments, and hope that you enjoy the show! –MDG

The Social Side of Microsoft TechEd – My evenings in Orlando


This week was a real roller-coaster of ups and downs… in more ways than one.

I have been attending Microsoft TechEd for the past five years, and this year’s conference brought me back to where it all began for me… Orlando, Florida.  The Orange County Convention Center is not the worst of them – although in a building that size it can take even the best of us some time to get our bearings!  The show was great, the people were great, and the information was incredible.  I learned a lot, met some great folks, and do not regret for one minute coming down to the show.

Monday evening after the opening cocktails (which they always do on the show floor) I went back to one of the hotels and played poker with some friends and colleagues.  It was a nice time, and I am glad I only had a salad despite the terribly unhealthy menu options available to me.  It was probably the only night I was good with my diet.

Throughout Monday and Tuesday I was stressed because I was hosting a modest get-together for all Canadian attendees.  Of course not all of them came, but it would have been easier to know just how many people were going to come.  In the end we had nearly fifty people attend, and we all had a great time.  We took over half of the sports bar in the Renaissance Hotel from 5:30 to 8:00, and talked technology, hockey, family, friends, and of course business.  We compared stories; we talked about everything we could. 

I made a toast to Graham Jones, a longtime user group leader from Vancouver, who when I first decided to start MITPro in Montreal was already a longtime veteran UG leader.  Graham announced his retirement last month, and has hosted his last event.  I was honoured to present at the penultimate event under his leadership, and thanked him for his long time service, and for honouring me with his friendship and wisdom.

After the Canadian party I headed out to the Microsoft Learning party at Howl at the Moon.  It was a blast – I spent most of the time outside on the patio drinking and smoking cigars with a group of friends with whom I do not have the pleasure of seeing very often, but when we do get together we have a great time.  Brian Blum, Carnegie Johnson and a few others (you know who you are ;)) started at the restaurant next door then made our way over the Howl… Great to see them all!

Wednesday was the Springboard (Windows Community) party, and I arrived in a foul mood.  I just didn’t appreciate sitting on a bus for nearly an hour (as the driver got lost) then show up 45 minutes late.  The lineup for the buffet was ridiculous, and after speaking with a few key people three of us decided to leave and head back to one of the MVP parties at D&B.  It was smaller and a lot more fun, and without the hoity-toity ‘even at our invite-only party we are going to have a roped off VIP section’ of the previous one.

The one good thing about the Springboard Party, I should mention, is that I found out that Sean Kearney, a long-time dear friend, became a grandfather.  He is only a few years older than I am, but some people start early.  May Dimitri live to be 120!!

After the MVP party I went back to one of the hotel bars with a friend and talked until we realized it was 1am, and I made my way back to my own hotel – I had an early start to the next day!

Thursday evening was the closing party, and I nearly blew it off to go to Tampa.  I am really glad that I didn’t, because Universal Studios Orlando is a lot of fun, and I hung out with Sean Kearney, David Trupkin, Skand Mittal, and Nikhil Balagopalan.  Sean is an MVP, the others work with the Windows and MDOP teams at Microsoft.  None of them were strangers.  They even convinced me to go on a few of the rides (which I generally hate), starting with a Doom ride which took us hundreds of feet straight up then shook us like a ketchup bottle.  I never understood the appeal.  The Spiderman ride was incredibly cool though, with 3D effects that were absolutely amazing!  The Pterodon ride in Jurassic Park was… well, a bit of a letdown.  It was fun I guess, taking us on a winding course over the park.  I skipped out on the other Jurassic Park ride because my knee was really bothering me, and I am not sure what from.  When I say bothering me, I mean I was limping in agony.  Weird.

We met up with a few other friends for the Harry Potter ride at Hogwarts, and had a great time in line with Erdal Ozkaya and his clan, as well as Ali Parker, Liz Bennett, and company.  I was pissed when they told me I couldn’t do the ride – with all the weight I have lost, I guess I am still too fat for Hogwarts.

Possibly the best ride we did was the Dudley Doo-right water ride.  We all got soaked, but it was a blast.  The five of us in a log boat going up and down.  WOOHOO!  I love the water!

Today (Friday) I woke up to terrible news.  Eriq Neale, a longtime Microsoft MVP, passed away.  He has been battling cancer and we all knew it was going to happen, but that does not make waking up to the news a lot easier.  I have known Eriq for years, and got on the phone immediately with a couple of other friends who I know are much closer with Eriq.  Most of the people I would have called are still on the cruise following Jeff Middleton’s conference.  I will speak with them all in the next few days.  Rest in Peace Eriq.  My thoughts and prayers are with you and your wife.

Erdal Ozkaya and his family picked me up from my hotel this morning and we went to Downtown Disney.  It is an incredible place to be sure, and a license to print money for the Disney Corporation!  We had lunch at T-Rex (an amazing experience!) where I was good and had a lightly glazed piece of salmon.  We then went around some of the shops, and I bought Gilad a giant Mickey Mouse stuffed animal and Mickey ears with his name embroidered on the back.  I love being able to make my kids happy… Gilad is still easier than Aaron – he sees Mickey, he’s happy.

I have work to do this afternoon, but tonight I am heading to Tampa with David Trupkin for dinner at the best steakhouse in North America – Bern’s.  I have been salivating thinking about it for months, and it is tonight.  We could only get a reservation for 10:30pm (which is ridiculously late!) but I’ll sleep on the plane in the morning… which has already been upgraded to Business Class on account of my knee.

All in all the social side of Orlando and TechEd have been great.  I’ll talk about the technology stuff another time!

Why We Support Communities

I wrote this article a few days ago, and decided that before I posted it here I would offer it to the CanITPro Team – IT Pro Connection.  They published it on January 31st as a guest blog post. 

I am now republishing it here, so that it can get the most exposure.  I have spoken to so many people across Canada and around the world who ask me why I spend so much time helping the IT Pro Community, and what value I see the MVP Program as having to me personally.  Sometimes it is not supposed to be about what it can do for me, but what I can do for others.  I can think of no better example of that than this article, an interview with a man who saw me speak at a user group that I founded five years ago, and whose life changed because of it.

If you are an IT Pro then you should be involved in your community.  Most of us start by attending meetings, absorbing information, and learning.  Later on you might join a committee, help run a study group or events, or join the board.  At a certain point you may realize you know something as well as or better than others, and you can put together a presentation – whether that be for an entire session or for a fifteen minute session, such as Sean Kearney’s IT Pro Toronto ‘PowerShell Snacks’.  But remember… like any other community you are responsible for giving back what you put in so that those who follow you will be able to benefit from your knowledge and experience, just as you benefited from the knowledge and experiences of others.

Last week I met a man at the Microsoft Virtualization Boot Camp who nearly made me cry.  His name is Andrew Thomas, and he is the reason I have spent the last eight years building, running, and supporting IT Pro user groups.  I asked him if he would be willing to answer a few questions for me by e-mail and he did.  For those of us who have worked for years to build the user group community in Canada, there is no more gratifying and inspiring story, because this is why we do what we do.  User groups do not build and run themselves… they require a lot of hard work and dedication from all sorts of people who seldom get any recognition for it.  That is why when I ran user groups I made a point of thanking the people who helped me, and when I speak to user groups today I try to always thanks and recognize not only the UG Leader, but those who help him along the way.

This is Andrew’s story:

Five years ago I was working as a Bench Technician with one of the large retail chains.  I had managed to work my way up to Tech Manager but was not very happy in my job.

I don’t know when I went to my first ITProToronto meeting or even how I heard of it, but I was on a number of mailing lists and would go to events when I was invited.  The first meeting I attended was held in Mississauga (which puts the timeline around early 2008).  I live in Scarborough but was working in Mississauga at the time.  I was hooked after my first user group meeting and was happy when the events were moved to Toronto because of the commute.

I went to the first few meetings thinking that I would meet people whom I could network with to try and find another job but I lost my nerve when I realized the depth of knowledge of the members.  I felt a bit out of my depth, but I kept going to the meetings because I kept learning from the presentations as well as from the other members.

The turning point for me came when we had a meeting about the then NEW HP Media Smart Home Server.  I had purchased one a month earlier and had been playing with it.  Suddenly I was having conversations with members about how the Server worked, what it did and how, and since nobody else had played with one yet I quickly realized that now *I* was one of the experts in the room!

It dawned on me that I was smarter than I thought… I had already earned a couple of certifications (including MCP and A+), and had implemented so much of the advanced technology in my basement (including Windows Server, DNS, DHCP, Exchange Server, Linux, and IIS) but it never occurred to me that I was good enough to work for a company as a systems administrator or domain admin.  I was really good as a bench technician, but did not have the confidence to turn my hobby into a career.

After that Home Server meeting I dusted off my résumé and hit the pavement looking for work.  My certifications were a little weak, but I had experience in all sorts of different technologies.  I took a job with a small financial company in Scarborough that was looking for an assistant for their system administrator.  I took the job only to find out that the sysadmin was mostly a trainer with no experience in networking, hardware or domain administration; they were having everything done by contractors and he was doing his day-to-day stuff by using search engines and the literally administering by the seat of his pants.  However he was a smart guy and did manage to keep their systems running for 2 years.

As luck would have it he got another job so I inherited the Network.  It was an opportunity for me to show what I could do on my own.  Unfortunately the company went bankrupt three months later, and I was looking again.

I decided to take a year off to travel, and was surprised when I returned to the workforce to find out that I no longer had the qualifications I needed to get the jobs that I wanted.  My Windows 2000 certifications were just not good enough, as Windows Server 2003 was the standard and Windows Server 2008 was about to be released.  I decided to invest the time to spend a year at school, where I studied all of the newest technologies, and became certified in Windows Server 2008, Exchange Server 2007, as well as Linux.

Now that I have all of the right credentials I have set a lower limit for any job I would ever accept, and that lower limit is more than twice what I was earning as a bench technician.  I am working on projects that include all of those technologies and more, including Server Virtualization (which I am now comfortable with thanks to the Microsoft Canada IT Pro Virtualization Boot Camp!), and more.  I support users and environments, and the list goes on and on.

It may look like you just go to a meeting but the user group (for me anyway) is a lot more than that.  I learned things – both about technology and about myself.  I never would have had the courage to make such drastic career changes if it was not for the user group meetings.  Now I can go out and put all my skills that I have learned over the years to work for me and I thank the group for that.

The Dawn of a New Community

I had no idea when I was scheduled to come to Buenos Aires that I would be here to watch such a momentous event.  A month ago Elias Mereb, a fellow MVP from Venezuela, found out I was coming down and introduced me to Daniel Levi, a DPE at Microsoft Argentina.  Daniel told me that on the evening of November 8th Microsoft was hosting a ‘Virtualization Launch Event’, and if I wanted to come I was welcome.  He actually looked into getting a simultaneous translation service so that I could speak, but that did not work… which is good, because as I sit here at the back of the room I am a bit jetlagged and have slept 30 minutes since yesterday morning!

I should mention that my Spanish is horrible… but I understand a lot more than I can speak.  That is why as I sit at the back of the room listening to Daniel present, it is like déjà vu all over again.  It could easily be November, 2004 in Montreal, and Rick Claus speaking instead of Daniel.  Not only are we discussing virtualization – that first meeting 7 years ago Rick presented on Virtual Server – but he and Harp Girn also covered the importance of community, and asked us who was willing to participate.

On that fateful day Daniel Nerenberg and I raised our hands and stepped forward.  I would be hard pressed to come up with a more crucial junction in the formative years of my career as that moment.  Today it is Rodrigo de los Santos and Leandro Amore who are running the show as the inaugural presenter-volunteers, along with four others whom I had the opportunity to meet earlier.  I am so psyched to see this community – la Comunidad de Usarios de Tecnologias de Nube Privada (Public Cloud Technologies User Group) – coming to life.  I remember Steve and Fred from GUMSNET who were our spark, and I remember Thomas Kroll, Max Viel, Randy Knobloch, and a couple of others who were our initial leadership group.  MITPro started the same way as la Comunidad de Usarios de Tecnologias de Nube Privada is, just a few years earlier.

I tip my hat to these guys… and I will be honest, although I know that they are discussing heterogeneous virtualization host management in System Center Virtual Machine Manager, and can see the SCVMM screen on the overhead, I cannot understand a word that they are saying.  However the audience is enthralled… as a professional speaker I know what indifferent audiences look like and I know what captive audiences look like… these guys are captive, and the house is packed – two MPR rooms and hardly an empty seat, plus 10 people at the back of the room.  It is amazing to see.  This is a user group that has the potential to succeed, and as long as they have the right people at the helm (and they seem to!) then they will do great.

Interestingly enough, I met my first Microsoft MVP that night in 2004… tonight I had the opportunity to meet a fellow MVP who is a fellow member of the STEP Program – Roberto Di Lello.  We had spoken before, but we had never met.  It is great to see that just as they do in Toronto and Montreal and all of the other cities where I have visited, the local MVPs come out to support the user group community.  Thanks Roberto!

As Leandro and Rodrigo go on about the Cloud in Spanish I am ever tempted to raise my hand and ask the only question that I could easily ask in Spanish… ‘Que?’  Of course I would get a laugh, but I won’t do it.  I wouldn’t want them to do it to me!  However in complete seriousness, if you are in or around Argentina, you should reach out to Daniel and ask him about the IT Camp that he is planning for March, which will be the real Launch for this amazing group.  There will be a lot to learn, and I am just hoping that I will be able to come back to speak then.

While they will be serving pizza at the end of the meeting, what really impressed me is what they had set up at the beginning… six laptops encouraging attendees to sign up for the Microsoft Virtual Academy (See Free Online Training and Resources from Microsoft).  There were two lovely ladies helping explain what it was, and giving away swag for every registrant.  Yet another idea that I may just have to borrow!

Good luck Argentina… you are launching nicely!

To join the conversation join the la Comunidad de Usarios de Tecnologias de Nube Privada (Public Cloud Technologies User Group) or look for them on LinkedIn.com!

%d bloggers like this: