Launching Windows 8 in Halton!

I expect that by now you will know that next month (October 26th) Microsoft is making Windows 8 available to the general public (GA).  This is very exciting for us in the Microsoft ecosphere.

In November, 2009 Cameron McKay and I hosted a Windows 7 Launch Event in Oakville, and it was a resounding success (see article).  A couple of local MVPs got over 50 people out to Artisano’s Bakery Café and showed people what Windows 7 looked like, and introduced them to a lot of new features.

That event was so successful that with the upcoming launch of Windows 8 I decided to approach a couple of the local (to Halton) user groups and ask them if they wanted to replicate the event.  ‘I have sponsorship dollars for you and I’ll come out and host it for you.  Throw a party!’

Carol & Rob Duvall from RDC Networks picked up that challenge and reached out to HalTech (and of course SIlicon Halton and Halton IT Pros) and put it together.  So if you live anywhere in the Halton Region you are invited to the Halton Region Windows 8 Launch Party

Join us at Emma’s Back Porch for an evening of fun and information, of demos and presentations, of networking, colleagues, and socializing.  You will learn all about Windows 8 – what is new and exciting, what has changed and why, and what has stayed the same.  You can learn all about application compatibility, secure boot, Windows to Go, client-side Hyper-V, and so much more.  You might even have the chance to try out some of the new devices for the first time!

Space is limited so register now… and if it is sold out make sure your name is on the waiting list so that if spaces do open up you will have priority.  This event will fill up fast, so make sure you don’t miss it!  Register by using this link!

Presented by Microsoft Canada, the STEP Program, and SWMI Consulting Group… in conjunction with HalTech and RDC Networks.

http://windows8halton.eventbrite.com/

Everything you Wanted to Know and Ask about Windows Deployment!

For those of you who are interested in deploying Windows (and with 707 days left until #EndOfDaysXP who isn’t?) there are a couple of incredible webinars coming up that you definitely should not miss!  Stephen Rose will be holding a couple of discussions with MDT Product Manager Michael Niehaus (if you have ever heard me talk about him you know that I hold him in extremely high regard!) and Deployment guru Johan Arwidmark (a fellow MVP and a really nice guy).  They are in May and you should mark your calendars and register now because you should definitely not miss.  Here are the details… and tell them I sent you!

TechNet Webcast: Everything You Wanted to Know and Ask about Windows Deployment (Part 1)

Registration URL: http://go.microsoft.com/?linkid=9807963  or  http://bit.ly/JLTQLM

Date/ Time:    Tuesday, May 15, 2012 – 9-10am (Pacific)

Abstract: In this demonstration-rich, question and answer webcast, Windows Product Manager Stephen Rose moderates an open conversation with Microsoft Deployment Toolkit Product Manager Michael Niehaus and deployment guru Johan Arwidmark. They discuss the new Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2012 release as well as tips and tricks from the experts about using the Windows Deployment Toolkit.

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TechNet Webcast: Everything You Wanted to Know and Ask about Windows Deployment (Part 2)

Registration URL: http://go.microsoft.com/?linkid=9807964   or  http://bit.ly/Kgny8y

Date/ Time:    Thursday, May 17, 2012  – 9-10am (Pacific)

Abstract: In this demonstration-rich, question and answer webcast, Windows Product Manager Stephen Rose moderates an open conversation with Microsoft Deployment Toolkit Product Manager Michael Niehaus and deployment guru Johan Arwidmark. They discuss the new Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2012 release as well as tips and tricks from the experts about using the Windows Deployment Toolkit.

On airline staff and Windows 7…

Yesterday morning as I walked up to the Maple Leaf Lounge at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport (YYZ) I was greeted by Tony Falcone, one of the Air Canada agents that I meet from time to time. As he looked up my Aeroplan number I fumbled with my Samsung Focus phone (barely avoiding dropping it), and he asked me how I liked it. I told him that I loved it… so much so that I actually have three of them – one on my Canadian carrier, one for my American carrier, and one for my wife. When he told me that he was familiar with Samsung phones but not the Focus I told him that this was the Windows Phone 7 version of the model he knows. His eyes lit up!

Tony, it turns out, is a computer hobbyist who builds and ‘soups up’ the computers for his family. ‘I have a computer at home that runs both Windows and Mac OS X, and I have to tell you… my kids wanted the Mac, but I love Windows.

Of course, these are words that make me smile… as a Virtual Partner Technology Advisor for Microsoft Canada, my job is to get people excited about Microsoft technologies, including Windows 7. I asked Tony what he loved so much about Windows. He had a great answer:

‘You know, I realize that some people these days seem to prefer Mac, but I really love Windows, especially Windows 7. I have been trying to figure out why, and I came up with a really great slogan that I want to send to Mr. Ballmer – maybe they’ll use it, and who knows… maybe I’ll get a free copy of Windows out of it!’

He told me what his slogan was, and I loved it. I am not going to share it with you here… he went on to say how he hates having a great idea that others take credit for. However I made him this promise: I am sending an e-mail to Mr. Ballmer introducing him to a real Windows enthusiast, and for the idea I am going to send him a book on Windows 7.

I am You, You are Me.

A couple of months ago I was in the cafeteria at Microsoft and I came up with an idea for a blog article, which I then gave to Rick Claus for the IT Pro Connection.  It was originally titled ‘I am You, You are Me.’  He added the rest of the title, but I didn’t object.  It’s all about participating at user group meetings… and help with the community!  Check it out at I am you, you are me. We are Community!.

Office 365–Complex or Options?

Last week Microsoft officially launched its cloud-based infrastructure offering, Office 365.  As a virtual insider I have been using this solution for the past six months for my IT consulting firm, and frankly had forgotten that it was a beta offering.  That is because while the packaging may be new, all of the applications – both client- and server-side – are mature products that released to manufacturing long since.

I am not surprised by the number of negative reviews; the different offerings and price points are complicated to understand, owing to the sheer number of them.  For the do-it-yourself guy who is not very technical it may be difficult setting up the DNS records properly.  Some of the features available in the rich client versions are not available in the on-line applications.

While I may disagree with some of the criticism I want to be clear that I share your pain; this morning I finally opened the e-mail that essentially said that ‘The Office 365 beta program is over; we hope you have enjoyed using it… now it’s time to start paying for it!’ I was disappointed that there was no link in the e-mail that would lead me to where I could do that.

When I did log into my management site (portal.microsoftonline.com) I was greeted with a simple, discrete line up top reminding me that I had 42 days remaining in my free trial subscription.  I was pleased by this because it takes the pressure off somewhat… until I click ‘Buy now’ and am told immediately that I need the E3 level subscription for my company. 

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Fortunately a closer read let me know that I had other options… I have already purchased the Office Professional clients for my computers, so that would save me a ton of money.  So now I had to look at my other options:

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These are the bundles available… but there are so many components, what if I only want to pick and choose the ones I want?

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What… there’s more?  Wow, keep scrolling!

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Ok at least I am near the end… all I have to do is expand Additional Services and I’ll know everything…

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All of a sudden this is looking daunting and expensive… maybe I should just buy a license of Windows Small Business Server 2011 to run my infra… wait a minute!  I had one of those ‘smack my forehead’ moments.  Doesn’t Microsoft usually put together special packaging and pricing for small businesses?  Certainly the six of us who use our corporate e-mail (and SharePoint, and and and) would qualify as an SMB… let’s see if I can find that anywhere on the page…

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Okay, let’s click here and see what turns up…

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Now wait a minute… $6/month per user?  There has to be a catch… scrolling down I see this plan offers me all of the services I need (and still many that I don’t)… I am still looking for a catch!

I haven’t found one… If you have the Office client (which I do) or are willing to use on-line apps (which have most but not all of the functionality, and have the pesky disadvantage of not being available on airplanes) then smaller organizations are in luck. $72 per user/year is not a lot considering the time I would have to spend installing, configuring, and maintaining my own Exchange and SharePoint servers.

So what about the confusing options for Enterprise?  There are absolutely a lot of choices.  There are people who will always say that Microsoft can’t get anything right, and the people who poo poo these editions and tiers are the same people who would complain that if they had fewer choices they would be restricted in their options.

For smaller businesses it is a no brainer, and for larger organizations they will have to sit down and plan what options they need.  Does Office 365 need more thought than competitive options?  Sure… but it also offers more choice.

It was Twenty Years Ago Today!

Ok, well it wasn’t, but I had the Beatles running through my head.  It is amazing what can remind you of the oddest things from the past…

In June, 1988 I was finishing Grade 10 and my last computer course on the Apple //e was behind me.  I had made the decision to sell my old Apple clone and buy a new PC – it was an IBM clone that I bought from my buddy Steven Rich.. it had 640KB of RAM and a 40MB hard disk.  It was absolutely amazing!

One of my best friends at the time was a kid named David Jedeikin.  David was, as I was, a computer fanatic.  He was one of the last hold-outs of the Atari 800 which I had gotten rid of in 1985, and he is definitely someone I respected when it came to computers.  He kept asking me what was so great about the PC?

It’s got 640KB of RAM!’

What do I need that much memory for?

It has a hard disk!

Yeah but it is still low-res graphics and has no sound.

It runs all of this great software!

But it still doesn’t have graphics that compare to my GR8 mode!

It does everything you could even possibly imagine!

Really?  Does it do Windows?

Yes!

Let’s put that conversation into perspective.  Today we live in a world dominated by Microsoft Windows.  Love it or hate it, there is no denying the impact that Windows has had.  It (along with Microsoft Office) are the only two consumer products in the history of the world used by over one billion people worldwide.  In 1988 Bill Gates was not a household name, and unless you worked with a very short list of applications (primarily desktop publishing) you probably had never heard of Microsoft Windows.

Like many IT professionals I make a decent living thanks to the preponderance of computers in the world.  Would we all be in the business without Microsoft Windows?  Well, maybe… Imagine an alternate History in which Microsoft didn’t make it big, either GEM or Apple or someone someone else would have won the war for the desktop. 

As a lot of people have pointed out to me, Microsoft doesn’t always get there first.  This is true with so many of the technologies I use every day – Apple released it’s GUI OS before Windows, and VMware pre-dated Hyper-V; several score companies released gaming systems before Microsoft came up with its X-Box and lord knows it took them a long time to get their smartphone right.  Before there was Microsoft Office Word there was WordPerfect, Word Star, and a hundred other word processors, just like Lotus 1-2-3 and VisiCalc pre-dated Microsoft Office Excel.

When people point these realities out they usually present them as a challenge.  That’s not how I see it though.  The truth is that first is not always best.  The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.  If you don’t believe me I ask how many of you listen to a Marconi radio, drive a Daimler, or enjoy your music on an Edison phonograph?

I haven’t spoken with David in a while, although I do plan to read his book.  I don’t know when he finally retired that old Atari of his, but I wouldn’t be surprised if his parents threw it out (or packed it away forever) when they moved off of Roslyn Rd.  I do know one thing though… whatever computer he is using today most likely does do Windows… if not in the way that he meant way back when.

Windows MultiPoint Server 2011: The future of the classroom and so much more!

One of the things I love about coming to events like TechEd is that I am able to see and learn about new products, as well as meet new friends and reconnect with old ones.  On the second day of TechEd 2011 I had the opportunity to do all three simultaneously!  I interviewed Dean Paron (whom I’ve known for years) and Michael Kleef (whom I met Sunday evening) about Windows MultiPoint Server 2011, a new offering that more than any product I have ever seen blurs the divide between the server and the client.

As a trainer I see this technology as the way every classroom I ever work in should be configured.  It eliminates the need to have a PC at every station, giving way to a simple thin client.  It allows the teacher to control the environment in a way that is both simpler and more robust than any other such tool I have ever seen.  Rather than writing a long, drawn-out explanation, I recorded the video for you to see what I got to see.  Check it out! –M

 

Mitch interviews Dean & Michael on MultiPoint Server 2011 at TechEd 2011

The Wonder that is TechEd

The quiet of the Exhibitor Hall is disturbed by the sounds of preparation.  To my left there is a crew frantically working to fix something with a carpet.  There is some hammering, more yammering, and the sounds of carpet tape being unfurled. To my right there are two security agents talking, but they are too far off for me to know what about.  Somewhere in the distance the beeping of a crane reminds us that conference centres are a weird mix of indoors and out. Slowly… VERY slowly, the vendors and the booth bunnies are filtering in, mostly sitting around, many checking e-mail, others chatting quietly.

Day Two of TechEd North America is underway upstairs, with sessions and breakouts and hands-on-labs.  I rather suspect that many of the people attending those sessions are moderately hung-over, which would be par for the course for any major IT convention.

Thirteen hours ago, midway through my last shift in the Microsoft Springboard Booth, there were thousands of people milling about.  A great mixture of people wanting to learn, wanting to teach. A lot of people were out to collect swag for sure – at our booth they would range from asking for a box, reaching in and taking a box, to reaching in and trying to take a handful of boxes.  A few actually asked what was in the boxes, but to many that mattered less than getting something for free.  Some people, when they asked, would get a spun yarn about the contents… it breaks up the monotony. 

In truth, the best thing that we are giving away at the Springboard booth does not come in a box.  It doesn’t even come on the lanyards in the form of passes to the hottest party at TechEd (the Springboard Community Event!) but rather a link… www.microsoft.com/springboard, which is the link to the Springboard site, the best place for the IT Pro to learn about all things related to Windows 7, Office 2010, Internet Explorer 9, Desktop Deployment, Application Compatibility, and the Optimized Desktop.  It has articles, KBs, forums, and blogs.  Whether you are just now thinking about transitioning to Windows 7 and you need help planning your deployment, or if your entire org is on Windows 7 and you have questions about support, it’s there.

Of course TechEd is much bigger than our booth… the Microsoft pavilion is the center point, but if you look to the left and right (as well as the front and back!) you will see vendor booths, community booths, and more.  HP is here in full force, as is EMC… I count at least three CPLSes represented as well as several on-line and video learning companies – companies that sell practice exams and other exam-prep material.  There are vendors demoing their hardware, others selling software.  Of course the new trend is people selling cloud-based solutions, which until recently was geek-speak for vapourware, but now is a very real and viable solution, and critical in this day and age.

There is an entire section of the Exhibitor’s Floor dedicated to community… the MCT Lounge, the MVP Lounge… Blogger’s Row, Microsoft Learning, GITCA and other User Group services.  There is a stage where I saw Richard Campbell interviewing Mark Minasi yesterday, and of course the Microsoft Company Store, your one-stop shop for Microsoft-branded crap, but also a 20% discount off all books which ROCKS!

Upstairs there is a section devoted to exam-crams, as well as an entire exam center where I know of several people who have taken my advice to GET CERTIFIED!  One friend, I hope, will be taking his FIRST EVER certification exam exam today or tomorrow… and I will be there to be the first to congratulate him and welcome him to the MCP fold.

What are you looking for? If it has to do with IT then it is here in Atlanta, at Microsoft TechEd 2011 North America!

IT Pro Connection & the TechNet Flash

A couple of weeks ago Microsoft released Microsoft iSCSI Software Target for download, and I was thrilled.  I immediately decided to write about it, but before publishing what would end up the first of three articles, I decided to ping my buddy Rick Claus, IT Pro Evangelist for Microsoft Canada, and ask him if he wanted the articles for the CanITPro Blog (http://blogs.technet.com/b/canitpro). 

The first article, entitled All for SAN and SAN for All,  was published on April 7th.  It was simply an overview of SAN technology, and why having a software SAN that was supported by Microsoft was hugely important.

The second article, Creating a SAN using Microsoft iSCSI Software Target 3.3, goes through creating the target (LUN).  I included explanations and screen shots, but stopped short of creating a cluster.  We simply create the LUN and then connect to it with the iSCSI Initiator.

The title of my third article was changed without anyone asking or telling me.  I had originally called it At Last… Redundancy for All! but I have to settle for a more descriptive Creating HA VMs for Hyper-V with Failover Clustering using FREE Microsoft iSCSI Target 3.3.  Fortunately that is all that was changed, and it went live this morning (Monday April 18), eleven days after the first in the series.

There was a bonus to this series too… Microsoft Canada sends out the TechNet Flash every week, with the top piece normally being an editorial from one of the IT Evangelists.  Last week they invited me to write 150 words introducing the technology and linking it to the articles.  If you’ve ever spoken to me, sat through one of my presentations, or read my blog (duh!) then you will know that I am not a man of few words… but my original submission was exactly that!  It was then extended by 30 to expand on a thought, but it was cool nonetheless.  I am told it is the first time the ‘top page above the fold’ piece was given to a community member, and I am very excited about that! 

I hope the pieces help you, and I look forward to hearing your comments and feedback!

Get on the Bus!

For the third year in a row the Springboard Bus Tour will hit the road leading up to TechEd.  If you have never met the bus you are missing out, because it delivers expert advice, great learning, and huge career benefits to IT Pros.  It delivers answers to questions you may have been having about desktop deployment, virtualization, managing consumer-devices in the office, cloud solutions such as Intune and Office 365, Application Compatibility, and much more! MSW-Tour-CityBanners

This year I am very excited, because my city (my adopted city, really…) has been chosen as the launching point!  That’s right, on May 2nd we will be taking over the MaRS Centre, South Tower at 101 College Street in downtown Toronto, CANADA!  (Yes, I know there’s a typo on the registration page… we’re fixing it!

So if you live in the Golden Horseshoe – or really anywhere from London to Kingston, Buffalo to Orillia, come join us for a great day of Windows 7, Office, MDOP, and more!

REGISTER NOW and save your seat for this free day of technical demos, Q&A sessions, and real-world guidance from Microsoft experts. We’ll see you on the road… and make sure to come say hi to me, Sean, and the rest of the STEP MVPs!

Oh, and remember… if you are not in or around Toronto, the Springboard Series Tour Bus is making stops in Detroit, Chicago, Indianapolis, Dallas, and Columbus… so you still have a chance to catch up and learn!

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Creating a Multi-OS Deployment Point with MDT!

Hey folks,

I know for months you’ve been on me because the screen shots in my Multi-OS Deployment Share post were lost. Today I am glad to say that I have created a video of it for the DPE team, and am glad to share it with you here!

Remember, this video creates the deployment point only; in order to put it onto a USB key, you would follow the instructions in my post Creating a Bootable USB Key.

I created this demo using my trusty HP ProLiant server running Hyper-V, and as always relied on Camtasia Studio for recording the video. Thanks to HP and TechSmith for the help… couldn’t have done it without you! –M

The Student Has Become The Master!

Monday evening I attended the monthly user group meeting of the Wellington Waterloo IT Pro User Group (http://www.wwitpro.com/) in Kitchener, Ontario.  The topic for the evening was called Windows 7 Deployment as presented by Sean Kearney (yes, THE Sean Kearney, a.k.a. The Energized Tech, a.k.a. (the former) Friday Funny Guy!) from SWMI Consulting Group and www.powershell.ca.  The title of his presentation was ‘Busting the Myths: There is no simple way to upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7.’  It was a great presentation… for a couple of reasons. 

In truth I know this presentation cold because I have presented it dozens of times… I brought it to Canada (it was originally a TechEd session done by Jay Ferron, Jeremy Chapman, and friends) for TechDays Canada, and have since presented it to dozens of audiences.  However to sit through it as presented by my colleague, who ‘learned deployment at my knee’ was great, to see not only that he really did get it, but also took my presentation, and truly made it his own.  It was great.

I have been working with Sean for a few years, and watching him evolve from the Friday Funny Guy into the Energized Tech has been great.  He truly has come a long way, to the point that I am willing to (and proud to!) have him represent my company, knowing that my reputation is at stake!

I met Sean about the same time that I met another good friend, Jacqueline Hutchinson.  At the time – early 2007 – I was visiting Toronto, and Jacqueline had recently taken over the president of WWITPro.  The group had been dropped in her lap, and she was doing her best to keep it going. Rick Claus asked me to spend a few hours with her and her team.  We sat down over Mongolian cuisine, and I gave them whatever wisdom and guidance I could.

Whatever challenges that user group leaders encounter (and there are plenty!) the greatest challenge to most groups traditionally has been what happens when the leader leaves.  Most groups are founded by people with strong personalities, and when they leave the void created has more often than not been the downfall of most groups that have tried.  To visit WWITPro, five years and three leaders later, and find it alive and well and thriving is really a testament to the power of community.

To be clear, I did not come to Waterloo to support Sean… he doesn’t need it; he knows his stuff, and does not need to be propped up.  I came to watch and enjoy (and deliver goodies and prizes from Microsoft and HP!), and to show my ongoing support for the IT Pro community in Canada.

I want to thank Sean for being such a huge community resource; he is a credit to his company, to the Microsoft MVP program, and to the Springboard Technical Experts Panel (STEP).  I also want to thank Terry Edwards, who stepped up and took over the group when it would have been just as easy to hope someone else would.  Being a user group leader may have its rewards, but it is also extremely taxing and demanding – and takes a huge chunk of time from their personal life.  Thanks Terry, and the rest of your team whose names I wish I knew to list here.

Oh… and thanks for the pizza!