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Smoke ‘Em While You Got ‘Em!

Okay, as many of you know I am stuck at home with pneumonia, so I am not smoking anything this week.  With that said, many of you know that I am a cigar lover, and have over the past couple of years accumulated a decent collection of them.

The thing is, whenever I speak to someone about cigars (which seems to happen more often than I would have thought) I seem to have a lot to say, and a lot of people who enjoy cigars do not know a lot about them.  Those people (especially the ones who enjoy but do not really know) really appreciate learning from me, and I have found myself reading and ‘studying’ to learn more about them.

My question is this: Would you, my readers, be interested in reading a series of articles on the subject?  Routines, brands, reviews, opinions?  Please let me know… It’s something I have been swirling around in my mind for a while.


Saying Goodbye to My Best Friend

I have sat down several times over the past fortnight to write a goodbye to my best friend, but have not found the words.  Jacob-pup was the best friend a man can have.  He was not always well behaved, but he was fiercely loyal to me and to his family.

Jacob joined our home when he was only seven weeks old, and he stole my heart that day.  It was funny… nobody thought I could be soft and kind.  A friend of mine visited from Montreal and after spending an evening with us at the house he told me he came up with a new equation:


That stuck with me… I’ve spent nearly the last decade trying to be a nicer Mitch, and it has been a tough road… I don’t know how much of my success can be attributed to Jacob (and Bailey and Gingit and Gunter), but I think I am a much better person today than I was in 2006.

My initial plan to get a puppy was really as a way for me to bond with Aaron.  I was dating his mother and things were getting pretty serious between us, and I thought that if I got a puppy I could share it with Aaron… the dog would live with them during the week when I was traveling and with me at the condo on the week-ends when I was home.  I guess the intent was to adopt a means to an end. 

The week before the Saturday when we adopted him I was in Omaha teaching for Microsoft, and during my down time I would skim Craig’s List and Kijiji for puppies.  I did not know then that adopting from the Humane Society was the more humane way, but that is a different story.  Theresa and I exchanged several ads for puppies throughout the week, and we narrowed it down to three that we would go to see on Saturday.

Saturday morning I drove to Oakville to collect them, and realized I had not written down the addresses of any of the dogs we were going to see.  I went down to her computer room and logged onto Craig’s List.  The first ad I clicked by accident because I had bookmarked all three that we were going to see… and I saw Jacob.  Of course, Jacob wasn’t his name yet… He was just the oldest of a litter that was birthed on August 31 (which made him about seven weeks old).  He was a Boston Terrier/Beagle cross, and he was the cutest ball of fur I had ever seen.  ‘That’s my puppy!’ 

Theresa and Aaron fell in love too, but being the practical woman Theresa is we decided to go look at one other puppy first – a Jack Russell/Pug cross if I remember correctly.  It didn’t matter, we would go look but I knew that our last stop would be in Hamilton where Jacob was.

Jacob ready to blow out the candle

Jacob was definitely a family dog… but from the very beginning it was clear that he was my buddy.  When I was in town he was attached to me… When I was on the road he missed me terribly.  There were a couple of longer trips when I would get an e-mail telling me to call home because Jacob wouldn’t stop crying.  As soon as he heard my voice he would calm down and be happy again.  Theresa would bring Jacob to the airport to pick me up, and he would be so happy he would go nuts… until he was in my arms, and then he would just snuggle in.  That is where he learned his favourite trick… Whenever we said Puppy Power he would start licking my face.  He did that right up until the end… when I went to visit him in the hospital.

Mitch & Jacob 4

I came home from Asia sick as a dog, and I needed to essentially sequester myself in the bathroom. Jacob would not move from his spot outside where he sat vigil crying for me.

From the very beginning, Jacob seemed to take it as his primary job to lick my legs dry after I got out of the shower.  He did it as a little puppy… he did it last week.  If he was in the house (and later the condo) when I showered, he was ready to fulfill his duties.  My legs would not leave the bathroom wet if he had anything to say about it!

Because we were always cognizant that a new puppy coming into the house would disturb the balance, we took Bailey (our Wheaton terrier) to Hamilton with us to meet Jacob before we brought him home, and Bailey approved.  The two would later fight for dominance, but they loved each other from the beginning.  When we said goodbye to Bailey a few years ago Jacob was very sad.

Jacob 6

Just like we had brought Bailey to meet Jacob, six months later we took Jacob to the same house in Hamilton to meet Gingit.  He approved of her right away, and they became lifelong friends… but it did not take us a month to realize who was dominant in that relationship.  Gingit never backed down from any dog, he always stood his ground; but Gingit could walk all over him… and did from the very beginning.  He loved her, and just like we took Jacob to meet her, I took Gingit with me to the hospital to say goodbye to Jacob.  She was very sad… and still is, and I suspect she will be for quite some time.

Jacob & Gingit 2Jacob was not always the best behaved dog… but he was always my best friend.  He was always happy to be as active or lazy as I wanted.  When I took up jogging a few years ago he was always excited to see me put my runners on, and would go nuts because he knew where we were going.  He even learned to behave on our runs… and it didn’t matter if we ran 2km or 15km, he was just as happy.  The only difference would be how much water he would drink when we got home… and how long he would nap.

The outpouring of support from friends far and wide has been amazing, and I want to thank every one of you who reached out.  Some have been dog lovers who understand exactly what I am feeling; others are people who may not understand why, but know nonetheless that a dog is a member of your family, not a possession.

Aaron & Jacob (Couch) 6

I have spent the last two weeks telling people stories about my beloved Jacob, and yesterday for the first time I was able to tell some of those stories with a smile and no tears.  I have looked at all of the pictures and videos, many of them that much harder to watch because they showed me happily married to Theresa, reminded me how young Aaron was (and how much he has grown!), reminded me how much I still miss Bailey and what life was like before all of the changes. 

Yesterday evening my friend Dimitrios came over for a chat.  We were sitting at my kitchen table talking about this and that, but as we chatted I saw a picture pop up on my screen saver… It was one taken of Jacob the day he came into our lives.  Dimitrios always joked that whenever Jacob would see him he would greet him by jumping at his groin.  Of course

 Jacob3this was an exaggeration, Jacob was just jumping up looking for affection… but it reminded me of the not-so-well-behaved dog who Jacob was perceived to be.  Like many of my friends, Dimitrios met Jacob after his second birthday… a grown dog.  I showed him the picture that displayed on my screen, and his face changed in a heartbeat.  ‘Mitch, now I know why you fell in love with that dog.  What a gorgeous puppy he was.  I wish I had met him at that young age as well… I would probably have fallen in love the way that you did.

That’s what it was… Pure love.  But as with my sons, Jacob did not remain small.  I loved him every day of his life, and even when he misbehaved (also like my sons) that love never diminished.  My period of mourning Jacob is over… but I will remember him forever.

Goodbye my friend.

Jacob Face

Since When…?

Those of us who have been in the IT industry for a while remember the heady days of never having to reboot a server… otherwise known as ‘The days before Windows Server.’  Those days are long gone, and even non-Windows servers need to be patched and restarted.

But how do you know when it last happened?  If you have a proper management and monitoring infrastructure then you can simply pull up a report… but many smaller companies do not have that, and even in larger environments you may want to figure out up-time without having to go through the entire rigmarole of pulling up your reports. So here it is:

  1. Open a Command Prompt
  2. Type in net statistics server

There will be a line that says Statistics since m/dd/yyyy… That is when your server last rebooted.

If you want to shorten it, you can also just type Net Stats SRV.  It provides the same results.


Incidentally, while the command specifically states Server, it works for workstations too.

…And now you know.

The Bands: Who should I believe?

You think you have problems?  I’m lopsided.  It would appear that my right arm has taken 1,717 steps this morning, while my left arm has only taken 1,520.

For the last few days I was thinking that either the Fitbit Charge or the Microsoft Band was more accurate than the other… but I couldn’t figure out which.  I started to think that to solve the problem I was going to have to buy a third device and let it be the tie-breaker, but then it dawned on me… there are several factors that could affect the devices registering steps, and it would not necessarily mean one or the other was inaccurate, rather that my body is lopsided… or more accurately, my lifestyle is:

  • When I walk down the stairs at my girlfriend’s house in the morning my left hand is on the bannister;
  • When I walked Gingit this morning I held her leash in my left hand (and picked up after her with my right, but that is probably inconsequential);
  • I carry my laptop bag with my left hand.

All  of these behaviours and more can affect how steps are registered… and it is entirely possible that (and in fact likely) that were I to switch the wrists of the devices, the ‘bias’ would weigh in favour of the Microsoft Band rather than the Fitbit – in other words, the bias would weigh in favour of whatever device is on my right (and non-dominant) hand.

Another day, another lesson.  Everything I learn puts a different… slant? on things! Smile

Server Core on VMware

When I was a Virtual Technical Evangelist for Microsoft Canada I spent a lot of time telling you why you should use Server Core… especially if you were on Hyper-V.  Why?  You save resources.

It is now over two years since I turned in my Purple Badge, and I still think Server Core rocks.  In fact, when Windows Server 2016 comes out I will probably spend a lot of time telling you about the new Nano Server option that they are including in that version.  More on that to come.

Of course, I still like Hyper-V, but as an independent consultant I recognize (as I did quietly when I was with the Big Blue Machine) that the vast majority of the world is still running VMware for their enterprise-level server virtualization needs.  That does not change my opinion of Server Core… it still rocks, even on VMware.

Of course, in order to get the full benefits of the virtualized environment, a VMware machine requires the installation of the VMware Tools (as Hyper-V requires the installation of Integration Services).  With a Server with a GUI that is easy to do… but since Server Core is missing many of the hooks of the GUI, it has to be done from the command line.  Here’s how:

1. As you would with any other server, click Install VMware Tools


2. Connect to and log on to the virtual machine.  You will have to do this with Administrator credentials.

3. navigate to the mounted ISO (if you only have a single hard drive attached it will usually be D:)

4. type in the following command line: setup64.exe /S /v “/qn reboot=Y”


Once you have done this, the VMware tools will install, and your server will reboot.  Nothing to it!

Smartphone Etiquette

I have often heard discussions on how rude it is to pull out your smartphone during meetings, during meals, and so on.  Personally I am against it, but I understand where there may be mitigating circumstances – sick parents or sick children for example.  With that said, there are a lot of people who will disagree with me, and that is fine… it is their right to be wrong Winking smile

Yes, I say that as a joke… some people will accept it more readily than I would, just like some people would sit in a restaurant wearing a hat.  According to the etiquette of polite society that is completely wrong, but welcome to 2016, right?

Because it has not been drilled into me (the way the hat thing was) I am never tempted to tell people sitting at other tables in restaurants to put their smartphones away.  It’s not my business what they do, and frankly I don’t care.  It doesn’t even bother me.  Yes, hats in restaurants do bother me, but again, I can’t save the world… I can only be responsible for myself.

So the question is, when does it become my business?

Several times over the past couple of years I have been sitting in a restaurant when someone at another table starts playing a game, watching a video, having a speakerphone conversation on their smartphone.  They make no effort to silence it – they don’t wear headphones, they don’t mute it, they don’t even turn the volume down.  That disturbs me.

Let me clarify… I am not talking about loud restaurants or fast-food joints like McDonald’s.  I am talking about sit-down restaurants with menus and cutlery and wait staff and all that.

What should I say?  So far I have not said a word… I have just sat there grinding my teeth at the disturbance.

I had the conversation about this with a friend recently, and he was on the fence about it.  After all, he said, except in the hoity-toitiest of restaurants patrons are not expected to remain silent… is their electronic device (smart phone, tablet, hand-held game machine) not simply an extension of them and if so, is the noise from said device not simply the same thing as them talking and having a conversation?

I thought about this for quite some time, and I do not agree with this position.

I am not an audiologist; I am not a sound engineer.  I am however a pretty observant person.  There is a difference between the noise generated by conversation and the noise generated by an electronic device – especially if one is watching a movie or playing a video game with diverse sounds effects such as beeps, explosions, music, and whatnot.  Sitting in a coffee shop with people having conversations all around is not at all the same thing as walking into the middle of a video game arcade or a movie theatre.

And then there was the family who decided to call grandma while they were having breakfast together.  Everyone else in the restaurant was having a nice, quiet meal, and then all of a sudden this family has grandma on the speakerphone… and I have no issue with grandma, but when speaking into a speakerphone and especially speaking to grandma… and especially speaking to grandma on a speakerphone where there is ambient noise trying to compete with you… you are going to raise your voice; it is natural and expected behaviour.  That is not to say that in the middle of a restaurant it should be acceptable behaviour.

I know society has changed… and G-d knows I do not think that I was raised well in a lot of respects; but when it comes to manners in public my parents made it very clear: behave according to polite society, or face the consequences.  The consequences with my mother were not idle threats – they hurt.  While I am completely against corporal punishment, I think it is a shame that when I see someone wearing a hat in a restaurant or playing video games or watching movies at full volume the answer is not to confront them, rather ‘Hey, it’s the new millennium… what can you do?’

Unfortunately I seem to be in a minority… and the words ‘publicly acceptable behaviour’ seem to have been changed from what I was taught to what is not specifically against the law.

Sigh.  Welcome to the new millennium.  Have a great week-end.

The Bands: Battery Fail!

Had you asked me last night which device was winning, it was a pretty easy call… I am really loving the Microsoft Band 2.  So when I went to bed and turned out the light, I was happy to click the appropriate buttons to set my Sleep cycle… which was really easy to learn on this device.  I was glad that when I woke up in the morning I would know exactly how well I slept.


When I woke up I pressed the Action Button on the side of my Band and… nothing.  The screen was blank.  The battery, obviously, was dead.

I am not unreasonable.  I know that batteries die.  Heck, in the First Impressions article the other day I even stated that the Fitbit had a better battery life than the Band.  Andrew at the Microsoft Store told me that the life span would be about two days.  I was ready for all of that.

But let me show you an e-mail I got the other day.  It came from Fitbit, and it came when I left the Microsoft Store having just given the new device a very short charge:


See that?  Fitbit told me that my device needed to be charged.  What did I get from Microsoft?

Silence… a dead device is what I got.  And because I had left the charging cable in my car, I would not have an opportunity to charge it until I got to the office.  Result?  Right now my right hand says I have taken 3,747 steps and climbed 5 flights of stairs, while my left hand says I have taken 1,728 steps.  Oddly enough, because the two systems count ‘flights of stairs’ differently, it also thinks I have climbed 5 flights of stairs.

Ok… so now I know.  There is no warning or notice, there is simply DEAD BATTERY.  I’ll know for next time.  But if you guys are listening, hey Microsoft Band Team how difficult would a LOW BATTERY notification be?


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