Posts Tagged Microsoft

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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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

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The Seattle Bingball (er basketball) team

If you live in a European country, you’re probably used to seeing sporting teams wearing advertising on their tops…not so in the USA, until today. Microsoft play a key role in the Seattle community scene and have always supported the local soccer/football team the Sounders, however today they’ve announced an even larger relationship with the Seattle Storm WNBA team. The team will be sporting the Bing logo on the front of their jersey’s for the following season:

bing-basketball

As well you can see Bing is sponsoring in the background and it will be all over if you go watch a game.  Back to the Sounders FC, they announced new jersey’s also:

xbox jerseys

So, as you can see, Microsoft is putting back in to the community in which its involved.

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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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Windows 7 + MDOP + Office 2010 = One Big Bus

GOTB_MBbanner2

Do you have a passion for IT?  Do you want to learn more about Windows 7?  Do you want to know more about Office 2010?  Do you even know what MDOP is?

If any of the above questions intrigued your interest and you are close to the east coast of the USA, this is THE EVENT for you.  Two weeks prior to Tech Ed, the Microsoft Bus Tour returns and hopefully is coming to a city near you

Are any of the below cities near you?

Montreal, May 21 | Boston, May 24 | New York, May 25 | Philadelphia, May 26 | Washington DC, May 27 & 28 | Richmond, June 1 | Raleigh, June 2 | Charlotte, June 3 | Atlanta, June 4 | New Orleans, June 5

If they are, you need to head over to http://microsoftbustour.com/ and register NOW (not later, not tomorrow, NOW!!). Spaces are limited and they will fill up fast, I mean, c’mon…when was the last time a big rig rolled in to your town full of geeks giving knowledge away!?

Further, should you want to follow the Bus, we’ll be ending up at TechEd North America 2010 in New Orleans which if you haven’t registered for that either, what are you waiting for?!!?

Follow @thebustour on Twitter or join our Facebook Fan Club!

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Microsoft Virtualisation Just Got Even Better

We’re all eagerly anticipating Service Pack 1 as everyone does for things, but today the world got shook up with a pre-SP1 announcement that had loads of other “goodies” in it.  There was a webcast (Virtualisation Hour) that announced some cool things…Let’s look at them more in detail:

            • Windows XP Mode no longer requires hardware virtualization technology
            • Microsoft Dynamic Memory will allow customers to adjust memory of a guest virtual machine on demand to maximize server hardware use
            • Microsoft RemoteFX will enable users of virtual desktops and applications to receive a rich 3-D, multimedia experience while accessing information remotely.
            • New roaming use rights improve flexibility
            • Big partnerships with Citrix – http://www.citrixandmicrosoft.com/

So, what’s that really mean?  Microsoft is committed to improving virtualisation for you me and the rest of the world.  They’re also listening to the consumers as above is what people have been asking for.

Looks like the optimised desktop isn’t so far off or so difficult to manage is it?  (More on the optimised desktop in a later blog)

Source: Microsoft Press Pass

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Get On ‘Yer Bike (Trike) Google

get on your bike google

As if they aren’t in the news enough already for upsetting China and blaming Microsoft for a zero-day flaw in IE:

<soapbox>

By the way Google, I quote from the MSRC:

Based on our comprehensive monitoring of the threat landscape, we continue to see only limited attacks. To date, the only successful attacks that we are aware of have been against Internet Explorer 6.

We continue to recommend that customers update to Internet Explorer 8 to benefit from the improved security protection it offers.

And, albeit that the successful attacks are only confirmed against IE6, they’re still going to patch it, and they’ll even talk about it:

Please join us Thursday, January 21 at 1:00 p.m. PST for a public webcast where we will present information on the bulletin and take customer questions. Registration information:

Date: Thursday Jan 21
Time: 1:00 p.m. PST (UTC -8)
Registration: http://msevents.microsoft.com/CUI/EventDetail.aspx?EventID=1032440627

And interestingly enough Google, in your own blog post Thursday May 14, 2009 you state:

We work hard to keep our users safe and secure when using our applications, and we believe that making sure users have the latest software available using automatic updates is a key component of that.

Guess what, Microsoft suggest that and does that too, and if you were updated (similar to your suggestions above), you’d have IE 8 which is safer than Chrome and this attack wouldn’t have been such a big marketing hoo rah for you, but at any rate, I digress…

</soapbox>

Google have a bloke on a push bike riding around the UK taking imagery of the National and Historic landmarks…Quite an interesting contraption and if you’re interested more in imagery of this bloke on his pusher, visit the BBC’s In-Pictures review.

If you’re interested in the aforementioned rant about Internet Explorer, I ask you…Which version of IE are you running?  If you’re not running IE 8, why?  Do you not take your car in for service and make sure it’s “up to date”? When you go for an MOT each year to ensure you’re “safe” on the roads, do you not have to do what they suggest to make your car roadworthy?

Microsoft Update is your MOT and your service call all in one…Best of all, it’s free of charge 🙂

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Opinions in IT

The world of Information Technology as we all know is a very big world, and it only is getting larger and more diverse.  As such, it comes with choices – many of them for that matter.  With choice also comes opinion.  According to Merriam Webster the definition of opinion is:

a view, judgment, or appraisal formed in the mind about a particular matter

In most cases what bloggers write about is their personal viewpoints, or opinions on a topic at hand.  They often include facts, however at some point, if it’s IT related, there will be an opinion.  Let’s take a few examples that exist in the IT world today:

  • Browsers (IE v Firefox v Chrome v Opera)
  • Hypervisors (Hyper-V v VMware v VirtualBox)
  • Operating Systems (Windows v Linux v Mac)
  • Software (Exchange v Lotus v Scalix)

Looking at the aforementioned, there is loads of grey area and what defines the opinion of one versus the other really boils down to the project or question at hand.  IE might be best if you need ActiveX.  Mac might be best if you’re doing graphics design…

One of the greatest IT project management posters/comics I’ve come across is:

project-management

Which describes the IT lifecycle perfectly.  What it signifies in a sense is that everyone has a differing opinion.  Said best by Nietzsche:

“One often contradicts an opinion when what is uncongenial is really the tone in which it was conveyed”

And for that reason, IT is one of the most complex fields in the industry.  Everyone is allowed to think what they want and say what they want – it might cause controversy (as my opinion did the other day) – and due to the uncongenial way of reading blog posts, more opinions are formed.  Who is right, it really depends on how you look at it and what the point of the article/opinion was in the first place.  If we all had the same opinion, we’d all be running bland systems with no uniqueness to them whatsoever and IT wouldn’t be fun at all, would it?

So, here’s to another year of opinions, change and choice in the IT field, and just because I’m a Microsoft MVP and most of my day-to-day work is based on Microsoft technologies doesn’t mean that those solutions will be my defacto answer for everything.  What it does mean is that I have a passion for Microsoft technologies and I enjoy sharing that passion with the community, be it at conferences, on my blog, in forums or other various ways.  That said, I’m also got various other non-Microsoft certifications and have installed numerous variants of systems in my years as an IT Pro, henceforth, I’ll share my opinions, taking all of that in to consideration.

Here’s to hearing your opinions 🙂

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Google seems on the back foot

In an attempt to try and take more of the browser war, in a potential (what I’m guessing) effort to help bolster their anticipation for their new Chrome OS (and potentially Wave – see later), Google now realises their “footprint” isn’t as large as it seems and has put on what I’d call a heavy marketing effort…Over the New Year, I visited London only to be inundated with loads of Google Chrome adverts all over the London Underground:

google long adverts LUL

They were in almost every underground station as well as in Piccadilly Circus and other various locations in London.  According to W3Schools:

W3Schools is a website for people with an interest for web technologies. These people are more interested in using alternative browsers than the average user. The average user tends to use Internet Explorer, since it comes preinstalled with Windows. Most do not seek out other browsers.

These facts indicate that the browser figures above are not 100% realistic. Other web sites have statistics showing that Internet Explorer is used by at least 80% of the users.

It seems that 80% of most users today use IE in some way, shape or form.  Furthermore, what is interesting is if we look at Google’s ad:

google advert specifics

Down at the bottom it clearly reads:

A fast, new browser made for everyone

Also in their advert it says 6 tabs open, 0 crashes and 1 browser.  Well, I’m sure they’re aware, all browsers these days do tabs and rarely crash, unless you’re doing something dodgy with them.  However, when dissecting the “fast” bit, maybe Google HQ filters out Microsoft pages, as here is an interesting one to visit:

http://www.microsoft.com/windows/internet-explorer/get-the-facts/mythbusting.aspx

Interestingly enough, Myth 1 goes in to detail about speed and actually says that most web pages today, the speed differentiation is minimal if at all even there.  And, for those of you that say – Justin – you sing the Microsoft praises and that’s a Microsoft page, surely it’s going to have tainted facts, try visiting this independent third party review:

http://saunderslog.com/2008/09/02/head-to-head-chrome-vs-ie-8/

And, yes while his review does point out that IE was consuming more memory, his tests were with the initial launch of IE 8 on Vista.  If you look at IE 8 on Windows 7, you’ll find it utilises around 50MB, less than that of Chrome.

So, in summary?  I’m not saying Chrome isn’t going to take a chunk of the browsing market from Microsoft, but I think Google is realising with this mass marketing exercise that they aren’t the entirely big powerhouse they thought they originally were and when launching Chrome their anticipated numbers weren’t what they wanted them to be (and based on looking at this advert, it assumedably is trying to tie Chrome in with their new Wave offering as well as Chrome OS – lines 2, 4, and 5?).  Surely, watch this space, but until Chrome makes browsing *easier*, not faster (because in all actuality, it isn’t boys, is it – be honest), the mass majority of the public will continue using IE.

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Software Pirates – Named & Shamed – Then Helped

As an MVP, MCT, MCITP, MC*.* you tend to get loads of emails.  In fact, I work for a Microsoft Gold Partner which means I get even more email from Microsoft.  One of the most interesting ones came in today and I’d like to share it with you.  Dracula was at the top and it was entitled – For Sale: Spyware, Malware & Viruses.  Then as you read the text it went like this:

Pirated software can leave your customers open to security threats, as well as damaging your revenue and reputation. That’s why Microsoft continues to crack down on offenders; protecting customers and helping legitimate resellers earn the rewards they deserve.

Not bad, but here comes the fun part.  The names – yes NAMES – of 21 companies who last year pirated Microsoft software.  The good news is Microsoft is now helping them come clean and be legit.  In case you were wondering, here they are:

1Hr Computers, Denton, Manchester

Annecto Computers Ltd, Droylsden, Manchester

Boss Systems, Duns

Charisma Computers, Manchester

Comp-u-Tel, Thatcham

Computer Clinic, Bolton

Computer Port, Walsall

Computer Warehouse (Manchester) Ltd, Manchester

Eazy PC, Redcar

Goldcast Computers, Stockton-on-Tees

Hi-Tec, Cheadle

ICN Computers, Newbury

Matrix Computers, Stockton-on-Tees

PC Assist, Oldham

PC Support, Worcester

Personal Touch Computers Ltd, Portsmouth

Platinum Computers, Hartlepool

Spacebar Computers, Litherland, Liverpool

Swift Computers, Wellington

The Little Computer Shop, Griffithstown, Pontypool

Unique Computers, Leicester

Morale of the story? Keep legit and you won’t be named and shamed.  Other morale of the story?  Big bad Microsoft isn’t all that bad if they’re willing to help you get out of trouble, should you decide to go down that road and get yourself in it in the first place!

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