Archive for category Windows General

Dear Columbia, you need a java update

So, the winter season is upon us and so are the updates. Yep, I’ve found another one. Was shopping for a new winter jacket the other day in the Columbia store, and what did I come across? You guessed it, another kiosk infraction (and it’s running XP – yuck)!

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Let’s take a closer look at that there kiosk:

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Hmm, how about a bit closer?

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Yep, Java Update Available. Yet another reason why automatic updates are a bad idea (especially on kiosks).

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Adding the cool factor to Microsoft

With the upcoming release of Kinect for the Xbox (everyone should have gotten a system update within the past few days), Microsoft has added one other “cool” factor to the marketing push for Kinect. The executive team at Microsoft, who are prominently displayed on the Press Pass site:

http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/exec/a-d.aspx

have all been turned in to avatars, with the exception of Sinofsky.

execs

I don’t see Apple doing this any time soon, nor does Nintendo have Wii characters for their executive board Smile

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Dear SeaTac, I upgraded your kiosk for you

So the other day I flew in to SeaTac thinking, wow, I haven’t seen any blue screens or problems recently (ok, I did see a few but didn’t have my camera), when BANG. At that moment, walking to catch the bus (yes I take the bus to and from the airport), I came across a kiosk and it had a dialogue box up. Most of the time when I come across a kiosk with a dialogue box it is usually stating it needs a reboot, however this one, strangely enough wanted to upgrade…something I don’t think should/is/was supposed to be a consumer task. At any rate, here is the kiosk:

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and the close up of the kiosk:

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so, I went ahead and clicked update for the version update for SeaTac. Not sure if you’re now out of EULA or your license allows you upgrades to LogMeIn or not, but hey, you gave me the chance/option to upgrade and as we all know, the newer the better and with software always use the latest and greatest, right?! Smile

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Why Yahoo! never made it too far

Disclaimer: I am not a programmer. I did a bit of programming in college and I “dabble” occasionally. I by no means consider myself hard core but the following might assume I think I am.

We all know the hype of IE9 right? It’s the latest and greatest out of the halls of Redmond. They’re suggesting for all of us to upgrade and try it out and see for ourselves it’s the best thing since sliced bread. OK, I took the plunge, I upgraded just like many others will – in order to try it out as well as try to be ahead of the IT curve, in such a case I get asked any questions.

Today, I took my browser to Yahoo! Answers because Bing told me it would have the answer to the question I was looking for. I got there and Yahoo! told me IE9 wasn’t a new enough browser and I should upgrade:

yahoo-answers-upgrade-ie

What’s even more comedical is when I click on the Upgrade Now link, in lieu of taking me anywhere it takes me to a page that says:

yahoo faux paux 2

Yep, that’s right. IE8 isn’t available for my system. So, three learning experiences we need to teach Yahoo! in order to get them up to speed:

1. When testing for browser compatibility your programmers might want to use $browser >= $version and not just hard code specific versions

2. P.S. I’m running Windows 7 which runs IE 8 fine although you don’t seem to think so

3. IE8 is not ONLY available for XP, Vista and Server 2008. It comes bundled with Windows 7 which makes it available for that OS too (see number 2 above).

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Spring, Samsung, Google and WinMo

I use Sprint for my cellular service like many other Americans. It’s reliable, it’s fairly inexpensive, it has an unlimited data plan and, well it works (I won’t mention friends and colleagues who love their fruit machines, but can never get them to work due to the network, but alas that’s another story). When I initially signed up for service I thought I’d try something new, something different. For that, I opted for the Samsung Moment:

samsung moment

pretty sleek device, had a QWERTY keyboard and overall looked and felt nice. Over time it had some issues (airplane mode, upgrading from 1.5 to 2.1, being s-l-o-w and sometimes non-responsive) but nothing too drastic that the ole IT cure all (turn it off and back on again) couldn’t fix.

Well, with TechEd Berlin coming up, I’ve got to go to Berlin to speak which means going overseas. Sprint for those of you who don’t know run on a CDMA network and 99% of their phones are CDMA. What does this mean? Well, it means that their phones won’t work overseas, so there goes the moment out the window. So, being a Microsoft MVP and one who is always sticking up for their technology and software I pushed out the boat and had them issue me an Intrepid:

Search-Bing-via-Voice-on-Samsung-Intrepid-2

Runs Windows Mobile 6.5 and so far, not too bad. Now that I’ve got the history out of the way, here is the intent of the article. The Moment versus the Intrepid or essentially Android versus Windows Mobile.

Andriod

At first I wasn’t sure I’d like it as Google makes you log in to the device and their primary goal no matter what anyone says is that they want to track you and use your information to their advantage. It’s their business model. So, no gmail account, no phone services (or limited ones at that). However, once that was past, it was a pretty streamlined experience. I can’t say it was perfect but it was good. The default OS seemed to work ok, it had functionality and worked pretty well. However, I never ended up getting a full day’s battery out of the phone at normal use and I can only equate that to the OS.

As for the breadth of applications, not too shabby, however this is where they need some work. The Android Marketplace is at best a Moroccan Bazaar. No quality control, no real information, just put your app up here and we’ll help tout it to the Androidians (that’s my new name for those who use Android).

Windows Mobile

After the first few days of having the Intrepid, I found it pretty straightforward and easy to use, however I missed the bigger screen. The keypad on the Intrepid wasn’t as nice either, but that’s not really an OS drawback/feature, but it’s noticeable. Now, back to the OS. I will say Google seemed to trump Windows Mobile 6.5 here as when I click the start menu on my Windows Mobile I get some strange fandangled layout of applications which reminds me of some tetris like game on Xbox. You can’t rearrange them, you can’t ABC order them, you can only send to top and hope for the best. Mail however works a treat and the battery life allows me to have a full day of work on the phone without needing to reach for my charger. The Windows Marketplace too seems much more streamlined and groomed compared to that of the Android Market, however my concern with the WM Marketplace is pre-requisite checking. Bing has an app that requires special resolution, however it doesn’t say that anywhere and not until after I downloaded it and the .cab tried to install itself did it error out telling me I had an incompatible device. These kinds of things should be checked prior to download or even better yet WinMo, don’t show me them if my device is uncapable.

Summary

In short (I know I didn’t do too much comparison, but I like to keep these articles below 1000 words), they’re both good solid devices. I will say I feel more productive with my Intrepid Windows Mobile device but knew I had more “fun” options with my Moment. I have a full days battery life with the WinMo, but had more of the community behind the apps on the Android. All in all, if Windows Phone 7 Series is more crafted and well refined these two players, Android and Windows Mobile could easily take back some of the market that Apple has had the stronghold on for some time now and the competitionwill only make the devices strive for betterdom in the long run.

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Bytes by TechNet

If you missed TechEd North America this year, they launched a new initiative called Bytes by TechNet. I was lucky enough to get interviewed by Keith Combs from TechNet…Check out the interview here:

Alternatively find the entire interview on TechNet here

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Reflections of a Bus Trip

It’s been almost one month since my last blog post and for that I apologize. For those of you who know me will know that I was on a bus for two weeks down the entire east coast of the USA followed by a week at TechEd and then a two week stint (back again) in Montreal.

Flying home from Montreal, I’ve had the chance to reflect on it all and I’d like to share my thoughts and experiences with you Smile

Everyone asks, how was the bus trip. Most one word verbs could easily describe it…Exhausting, fun, tiring, busy, stressful, intense, hard work…the list could go on and on. In the end though I could easily sum it up with the phrase “an experience of a lifetime”.

We met over 3,000 IT Professionals from various walks of life all with differing jobs and backgrounds. Ones that manage environments with 10 computers to those in charge of over 10,000 devices. Some had cloud services implemented, some still had Exchange 2003. Many of them ran Office 2003 and most of them still were hanging on to Windows XP, but wondering how to magically get to Windows 7. Lots wanted to know about the idiosyncrasies of Office 2010, while others were more interested in seeing how to deploy a new OS.

In the end, I hope most of them learned something new or took something away from the stops we made along the way. I know each city challenged me in thinking “outside the box” and also gave me a completely new perspective on the same tasks I do every day and for that I thank them.

If you didn’t know about the bus tour, here are some of the highlights of it. We had a videographer with us so we could capture the best bits of each city, and of course on the overlapping weekend, we had some fun too. If asked to do it again, would I? I’m not sure, but I can strongly say if you’re ever given the opportunity to do something like this, don’t think twice and jump on it immediately.

If you talked to us along the way, leave your comments. If you didn’t see us, here’s just some of what you missed!

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Get Microsoft Silverlight

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Windows UI Wierdness

The User Interface (UI) in Windows is more friendly than ever now that Windows 7 has been released. Furthermore, it syncs and matches that of the Windows 2008 R2 interface, so if you know your way around one, you can easily navigate between the two. I’ve been doing loads of work with both lately on laptops, and I came across a strange thing and thought hmph and was wondering what you thought…

Try this for yourself and then ask, “Why is that in the UI”?

Click on start and type “power set”.  It should come up with change battery settings:

power-settings

When that window comes up, simply click on “Change plan settings”. My example screen shows my machine on the balanced setting, yours may vary:

change plan settings

That will bring up the basic options/settings for the specified power plan. On that screen, click “Change advanced power settings”:

change advanced settings

Now you’ve got the advanced settings open, expand the battery section and then expand “low battery level” for example (you could also choose critical battery level):

low battery level

OK, so is it me, or why is there a plugged in percentage in the UI? If I hover over it the tool tip reads:

Percentage of battery capacity remaining that indicates the low battery action

which is all fine, but can you tell me, if I’m connected to a power supply (a.k.a. plugged in), how can my battery be diminishing it’s power and how will I ever see it “drop” below a certain percentage?

UI flaw?

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Yet (another) reason why I don’t like Google…

As someone who uses a computer on a daily basis to do my work (you tend to do that as a computer engineer and consultant), I have various Operating Systems installed and I also have various browsers installed. One of those browsers happens to be Google Chrome. Admittedly I rarely use it as I most frequent IE – and no it’s not because I’m a Microsoft “Fan Boy” or an MVP, I just find it easier to use, not to mention most websites are designed for it (for whatever reason)…Anyways, today I went out to get a new mouse mat as my new desk is reflective and my infrared mouse won’t track anywhere on it…Upon my return home, I was greeted with the following in my system tray:

google update or not

Hmm, “There’s a new version of Google Chrome available…Try it out (already installed)”. Ok, bells and whistles. New version, but it’s already installed you say…Did you install it or did I? If I did, is there really a new version? Is this from Google or is it some sort of Malware/Spyware and maybe my Security Essentials definitions are out of date…Let’s try the link and see what that returns (for those wondering, the link points to http://www.google.com/support/chrome/bin/answer.py?answer=150752).  Essentially that page says:

When Google Chrome hasn’t been used for an extended period of time, you may see a little pop-up appear on your screen, asking whether you want to give the latest version of the browser a try or whether you want to uninstall the browser from your computer. Since Google Chrome updates itself automatically, you’ll have a new and improved version of the browser waiting for you to try if you select the first option. If you decide that you’d rather not use Google Chrome, you can uninstall it. We hope you’ll tell us why in the survey you’ll get as part of the uninstall process.

Wow, so essentially that means Google has installed code on my system (even though when I installed it I wasn’t made aware of this nor did I have a choice to disable what is the “Google Update Service (gupdate)”). So similar to a time bomb, just waiting to go off, as it has today they have installed a service…Interesting as these guys are the ones who say Internet Explorer is doing wrong by being part of the Operating System…Last time I checked, I had options with Internet Explorer as to what it did, how often it did things and least of all, when it was running (and moreover, what data it is sending and when)…

So, Google, want to tell us what else your “Google Update Service (gupdate)” might be doing? I know one thing’s for sure…You won’t be getting any more data from my machine, as there is no more Chrome on it…

Oh, by the way, I uninstalled Chrome, yet guess what, you’re “Google Update Service (gupdate)” service is still there, albeit in the definition of it, it clearly states:

Keeps your Google software up to date. If this service is disabled or stopped, your Google software will not be kept up to date, meaning security vulnerabilities that may arise can’t be fixed and features may not work. This service uninstalls itself when there is no Google software using it.

Aah, how marketing companies like to lie, lie and lie again.

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Getting Started with Intune

Earlier this week Microsoft announced a new program called Windows Intune:

intune logo

The concept behind it is simple…Management via the cloud – including licensing. Now, that simple sentence means a lot more under the hood.  Let’s take a look at what Intune is and what it has to offer.

Licensing

One of the more difficult things SME (small / medium enterprise) customers have is getting the right software licensing.  Intune helps address this by giving you a license to Windows 7 Enterprise and also includes in it the rights to Software Assurance. Right away you should be jumping up and down…Why?  Because SA includes MDOP, a small set of tools that have more bang for their buck than you know.  If you’ve not heard of MDOP before, check it out and if you’ve got SA, try and get your hands on it to learn more about it (you can also test the bits via MSDN and TechNet).

Interface/ux/ui

Ok, so we now know what the licensing is like, how does it work? As with more and more tools these days, Intune is a cloud based service.  Simply navigate to a URL and you’ve got your management console in one location.  The biggest benefits to this are Anywhere access and the lack of need for a complex back end infrastructure (you don’t need your own SQL server, you don’t need your own SCOM server, you don’t need your own…). So, you want to know what it looks like?

intune console

Simply login using your LiveID and away you go…More in to management with LiveID’s later…

It runs entirely on Silverlight so no need for ActiveX components of old (yay), which also means for those of you who prefer to use something other than Internet Explorer, yep, it works in Firefox (p.s. say hello to cookie monster there 😉 :

console firefox

What’s Included
software reporting

So, you now know about the licensing and the console, what is it that’s under the hood that Intune can do for you? First off, it does Inventory…For those of you familiar with MDOP you’ll recognise some of the screens to be similar to the AIS (Asset Inventory Service). It tells us the software title, publisher and a category as well as the count of computers it’s installed on:

intune software listing

Further, we can drill down on the software title and get more information on it if the software title offers it up to the agent/console.

licensing amalgamation

Wow, Microsoft teams are starting to collaborate (joke). No, really though, for years we’ve had eOpen, we’ve had tool B and then we’ve had the different licensing agreements from here there and everywhere…Well now with Intune, there is a licensing module that will bring all of that mess tidily (is that a word?) under one roof. Simply import a .csv file with the agreement and license numbers or if you don’t have that, manually add them and watch your licenses appear magically in the same console that manages the software (woo hoo!!):

intune licensing

software update management

As noted above, one of the biggest challenges for smaller organisations is infrastructure. To get the functionality of what Intune offers, you’d need SQL, SCOM, SCCM, WSUS and a full time position (benefits, health care, pension, vacation pay, agro)…Intune takes care of that and software management is no exception. With Intune you can manage software updates with a simple click, no need for the infrastructure and even better yet, no need for the disk storage to hold all of the potential updates!

intune updates

and again, as integration is key, simply click on any update to get further information about it:

update drilled down

You can also approve and decline updates on a one-by-one basis this way too (don’t worry you can globally manage multiple updates too).

reporting

So, all of the above is great (as an IT person) however what about the people in management who want pretty reports? Yep, Intune has those as well. Three basic categories:

  • Update reports
  • Software reports
  • License reports

As they allude to, the first one tells which machines (based on your filtering criteria) meet or don’t meet specifications of a certain classification, status or grouping.

The software report does what it says on the tin – reports on the software you’ve got installed. Again, filter on the publisher, category or specific computer groups/departments.

software reporting

And then the licensing reporting, the most critical to the number crunchers…Installation report and puchase report – again filtered against all agreements or selected agreements, depending on what is entered in to the licensing module (explained above).

Interaction

Ok, so there is loads included above but what determines how this information gets to Intune and how exactly does it get there? Well, similar to GPO’s, Intune has policies that are controlled by it’s agent. Simply download the x86 or x64 client from the administration area and install it (from what I can tell it embeds your Intune information in to the .msi installer). No questions, simply double click the installer, reboot and let a few more updates trickle down and presto, you’re Intune. All traffic to and from Intune is encrypted over an HTTPS tunnel to keep it secure, and once an agent checks in, it can, like GPO’s be assigned policies, when to update, what to include and what software/patches to send to the machine.

Further one cool thing is the agent allows the user to request remote control from the administrator over this SSL connection. They simply open their Intune agent locally (on the desktop by default) and click on Microsoft Easy Assist:

intune agent launch 

This triggers an email to whomever is set up in the console (in their language even), with detailed information about the remote control request and includes a link to directly remote control the user:

intune error

Summary

So, to wrap it all up, Intune is the remote system admin toolkit without the need for local infrastructure and expertise.  It gives you:

  • Windows 7 Enterprise Licensing
  • MDOP
  • Software Assurance
  • Inventory
  • Patch Management
  • Reporting
  • Remote Control
  • Monitoring & Alerting
  • Malware Protection
  • Licensing Control

…all in one simple location for one simple price.

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