Archive for category Springboard

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!

DSCF1176DSCF1184DSCF1199IMAGE_078

Get Microsoft Silverlight

Tags: , , ,

How Microsoft Certification Can Stimulate Your Career

About three years ago I faced a challenge in my career…Do I take the exams to become an MCITP or don’t I. Today I’d like to share a story with you about how taking those few exams has changed my career.

As I sit here today typing this blog post, I’ve just been able to be a part of a Springboard Series Virtual Round Table hosted by Mark Russinovich…Here’s a behind the scenes view of it all:

How did this happen and why does my MCITP have anything to do with it? Well, three years ago when I re-uped my certifications to be an MCITP I also took the chance to become an MCT. It wasn’t an easy accomplishment, but one I thought might make me part of an interesting group of just over 16,000 individuals.

Becoming an MCT grants you access to numerous opportunities and also makes you part of a community of experts that love to share their knowledge and also get together and share that knowledge with others. One of these opportunities was at TechEd EMEA in Barcelona in 2008. I was given the opportunity to work on the Microsoft Learning Booth with a number of other MCT’s as well as MVP’s. It was there on the booth working with Chris Spanougakis and Nasos Kladakis (autoexec.gr) that I realised I wanted to be involved more. They got me more involved and after time, I got the chance to show my skills to the community and as such became an MVP and was part of the initial Springboard Technical Experts Program/Panel (STEP). That step alone challenges me to work harder each day…

Through the MVP Program I’ve met people like Stephen Rose, Melissa Bathum, Brad McCabe and my MVP leads Jake Grey, Akim Boukhelif, Vicki Collins and also have had the opportunity to work with other MVP’s like Erdal Ozkaya (we’ve made loads of TechEd videos, so you might have seen me/us there) and Elias Mereb. Further, through the MCT program, I’ve got to interact with people like Tjeerd, Joanne and Dana…

I’m sure there are many other people whom I’ve worked with and more whom I will work with in the future, especially seeing as I get to go on the North America Get on the Bus tour with Melissa, Dana, Tjeerd, Brad and Stephen and others whom I haven’t named but have been critical to my success along the way. However the whole point behind all of this is that by taking those certification exams, I gave my career a whole new extension that otherwise would have been non-existent if I would have just kept with the same certifications I had and only used “industry experience” as my leverage point.

So, in closing, if you haven’t taken any new exams, I challenge you to ask yourself why and looking at the above, see how much one exam can really give you what you need to take your career to the next level!

Tags: , , ,

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.

Tags: , , , ,

TechEd Europe 2009 – Mark Russinovich

EDIT: I’ve been showcased on the Springboard homepage in the community section, however they linked my blog to here 🙂 I’m sure most of you see the “Home” link above, but in case you want to get to the blog itself, here’s a direct link for you to click on http://www.227volts.com/

So, at TechEd USA in May I got to interview Mark and see how he was doing.  Well, today just hanging out, Mark came by our Springboard booth and we had a chat and catch up again:

DSCF0612 (1024x757)

he’s done quite a few sessions here at TechEd, even a cool 400 level one that went deep in depth regarding the kernel and other sorts.  Oh yeah, there’s also various of his old company Sysinternals tools in built to Windows 7, not to mention he’s a Springboard Advocate of ours. Yet another of the many reasons to come to TechEd.  Oh yeah, and to prove he’s an advocate of ours, here he is with Stephen Rose doing an interview about our new release of Windows 4.0 – http://bit.ly/1X2HUC

Tags: , , ,

Getting Your Windows 7 Problems Sorted

So we’re T-2 days away from the GA of the biggest OS launch in Microsoft’s history – Windows 7.  Everyone wants it, everyone is talking about it and everyone wants it to work in ways (Vista) other operating system’s didn’t.  They want continuity, they want security, they want they want – oh yeah, you want!  Well, in order to do that, we’re here to help.  The MVP’s, the MCT’s, Microsoft support and even you the community are helping each other in order to get the niggly bits sorted in ways they weren’t before.  So, what options do you have if you want support?  Well, let’s have a quick look:

Firstly, there’s Microsoft Answers:

answers-logo 

http://social.answers.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/category/windows7

It’s a forum for end users who have questions surrounding Windows 7.  My printer doesn’t seem to be detected…which is the best Anti-Virus programme to use…How does Aero Peek/Shake/Snap work…All the questions surrounding the daily usage of your OS in your private environment.

Next, we’ve got the TechNet Forums:

technet-header

http://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/category/w7itpro

TechNet is for those of you who are IT Pros and looking for solutions as to how to deploy, better configure and better manage your IT infrastructure or estate at work.  Same topical matter, but with a different perspective as many who visit answers won’t have tools like SCCM, MDOP, MDT, be using BitLockerToGo or other enterprise tools.

Lastly, you can always visit our flagship location – one stop shop if you will – that has resource after resource after resource for helping you with the client OS needs.  Yep, you got it – Springboard!

 

springboard-header 

Infact, you all should know it so well by now you don’t need the URL, but just in case you’ve never been there before:

http://www.microsoft.com/springboard/

Give these locations a once over and I’m sure you’ll have your answers and more information to be dangerous quicker than you can say Windows 7 Rocks!

Tags: , , ,

It’s Here, so download and install – but PLEASE * 27 – do a fresh install

For those of you technophiles who haven’t been living under a rock, you know that today, August 6th, 2009, Microsoft are releasing the code for Windows 7.  For those of you that have TechNet Plus or MSDN Subscriptions, the wait is over:

win7rtmdl

So, go out and download it now.  HOWEVER, PLEASE * 27 (why 27?  Well, it’s my favourite number), but anyways, PLEASE do a fresh install.  DO NOT UPGRADE.  Yes, I know you can upgrade it, but why would you want to?  The first thing anyone who is going to potentially support you will ask is – did you do a fresh install?  If your answer is no, ask yourself why!  If something went wrong during the Beta or the RC which you might have loaded, guess what, you bring that bad stuff along with you.  A fresh install is always better.

So, you ask, how do you get TechNet Plus or MSDN if you don’t have it?  Well, the easiest way is to visit TechEd.  Not only do you get good information from all the great speakers like my colleague Andy Malone, or even me & Erdal Ozkaya, you get a FREE YEAR SUBSCRIPTION to TechNet Plus and with it comes Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2 when it comes out.

So, now I’ve said that, what are you waiting for?  Go get the code complete, install it and let us know what you think…where you say?  Well, naturally over at Springboard – http://www.microsoft.com/springboard/ – you’re one stop resource for Discover > Explore > Pilot > Deploy > Manage

Tags: , , , , , , ,

I made it on The Windows Blog! (windowsteamblog.com)!!!

When you get awarded your MVP you really don’t have to do anything.  It’s given to you from Microsoft for the participation in the community for the previous year’s doings.  However, when you get it, you really want to work that little bit (well lot bit) harder to ensure you get it the following year.  For me, that meant getting more involved….

One of the opportunities we were offered was to write a guest blog for the Springboard program and potentially be featured on windowsteamblog.com.  I thought I’d give it a punt and sure enough, my article on DISM got posted….Wow, how cool is that?!?!  If you’re interested in DISM, pop over to the site and give it a look:

http://windowsteamblog.com/blogs/springboard/default.aspx

http://windowsteamblog.com/blogs/springboard/archive/2009/07/28/managing-windows-7-with-dism.aspx

If you’re not interested in DISM, visit the site anyways as they’ve got loads of good information over there!

Tags: , ,

Another Windows 7 Virtual Roundtable!!!

Join Mark Russinovich, Jeremy Chapman, Aaron Margosis and more for our Windows 7 Virtual Round Table on Application Compatibility, live on Thursday June 18th.

Windows 7, is approaching fast and from the application standpoint is very similar to Windows Vista. We’re going to examine Windows 7 application compatibility not only from the perspective of moving from Windows Vista, but also for those coming from Windows XP. Join us to discuss the most common challenges around application compatibility when coming from a legacy operating system, why changes were made along the way, compatibility technologies inside the OS and methods for getting incompatible applications to run on Windows 7. Along the way we share tips and tricks, demonstrate free tools to analyze and fix applications and answer your specific questions about application compatibility live.

In Part 2 of this Virtual Round Table discussion (planned for later this Summer/Fall), we’ll discuss the options and approaches for using virtualization tools In depth to address application incompatibilities – including presentation virtualization, desktop virtualization and application virtualization. We’ll be sending out more details and posting information to www.microsoft.com/springboard for part 2 as the dates are finalized.

As part of the "virtual" experience, you may submit your questions about Windows 7 Application Compatibility to the panel live during the event-or submit questions in advance to vrtable@microsoft.com.

Event Details:
Title: Windows 7 Application Compatibility: Your Questions Answered (Part 1)
Date: Thursday, June 18
Time: 11:00am Pacific Time
URL for Live Broadcast: https://ms.istreamplanet.com/springboard (will not be live till 10:45 am PST on June 18th)

Also don’t forget, starting July 1st, the Windows 7 Beta will reboot every two hours. If you have not download and installed the Windows 7 Release Candidiate, please do so now by going here: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/evalcenter/dd353205.aspx

Tags: , ,

If You Didn’t Go To TechEd USA (you should have)…This is what you missed

Sometimes it isn’t always possible to get to TechEd for one reason or another…If you didn’t get the chance to visit TechEd North America this year in Los Angeles, don’t worry.  We’ve got what’s being termed as the “Man On The Street Videos” for you to see what it was you missed – or even reflect on the experience that is TechEd.  Thanks to Springboard and STEP (Springboard Technical Experts Panel), Erdal Ozkaya, Justin Rodino, Elias Mereb, Aaron Tiensivu and Daniel Nerenberg came up with the videos below.  They’re in Alphabetic order for your convenience, but well worth watching when you have a few free minutes.  Also, thanks to the Springboard team – Stephen Rose, Caitlin Angeloff, and Melissa Bathum for putting up with all of us crazy characters and hope to see you all at TechEd Europe in Berlin!

One other note, there are still a few more to come, but these are the good ones we wanted to share with you right away!

Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: , , , ,

TechEd USA 2009 – Stephen Rose & Caitlin & Springboard

Synonymous – meaning similar things or often interchangable. Words like Springboard and Stephen Rose. Stephen Rose & Springboard colleague Caitlin. We had the pleasure of working for Stephen, Caitlin, Melissa (who is in a few other videos) and also Ali. However, this video focuses solely on Springboard so we found Stephen and Caitlin to tell us a bit more about it.

Tags: , , ,