Windows Automated Installation Kit–Save your time!

Some of you (chiefly those interested in Windows deployment) may have noticed that there seems to be a new Windows AIK available for download today (actually October 28, 2010).  Please DO NOT rush out to download it.  Here’s why, direct from Jeremy Chapman (Windows Deployment & Compatibility, Microsoft Corp):

“The reason for the edit was a bug on the Download Center page; Windows AIK for Windows 7 was mismarked “Version 1.0” until last week.  No other changes were made and the ISO is the same file as was released in July 2009.”

In other words: there is NOTHING new about this file, and the only change is a correction to the download page itself.  If you have the latest version (KB3AIK_EN.ISO, released July 2009) then you will only be wasting bandwidth… and at 1.7GB, you will be wasting a lot of it!

Flying the Friendly Skies

As I write this I am aboard a WestJet 737-700 plane bound for Halifax, my third (of five) TechDays Canada city.  Halifax will almost be a forced two-day vacation for me (excepting my TechDays duties) because I (very uncharacteristically) forgot my cell phone at home.  I will still be on-line via e-mail and such, but until Thursday afternoon anyone who calls me will get my voice mail.

It has been a long time since I have written about the importance of community, especially within the context of the IT Professionals community.  Although I live that life so regularly, the last three days have given me a lot of opportunity to think about that community feeling, why I first got so heavily involved, and why six years later despite such drastic changes in my life that community remains so important to me.

In November, 2004 I met two people whom I am proud to still call friends.  Actually that is not entirely true, because I had met both Harp Girn and Rick Claus at previous events, but it was that fateful day in November when I first sat and spoke to both of them, following a usergroup meeting of the Groupe d’Usagers Montreal .NET (GUMSNET).  (I trust my friends from that organization will forgive me if I got that name wrong.)  At that fateful meeting at the Montreal office of Microsoft two life-changing things happened… for me, anyways.

The first of those things is that Rick presented a new Microsoft product called Virtual PC 2004.  It was my first exposure to virtualization (outside of the Novell world, and forgive me Willem, you probably explained it well enough but I never understood what you were showing me).  It would be over a year before I would give my first ever full-fledged usergroup presentation of my own on (you guessed it!) virtualization, this time using Virtual Server 2005R2.  Today my title at Microsoft is Virtual Partner Technical Advisor, specializing in virtualization.  Imagine that, from one captivating usergroup meeting – one single community event – my transition from Technician to Senior IT Pro Consultant and Courseware Specialist (and yes, v-PTA at Microsoft Canada!) began.  Without community I wonder how far removed I would be from The Tech Doctor.

The second fateful occurrence that evening was when Harp asked for volunteers to help start a new IT Pro usergroup in Montreal.  Six or seven of us raised our hands – including one one-time Microsoft MVP and two pishers who didn’t know any better – I am not sure I had even heard of the MVP Program before that night – named Mitch Garvis and Daniel Nerenberg.  I don’t think that any of the others are still involved, but Dan and I are both MVPs (and MCTs) today, not to mention very close friends.  The group that was supposed to be named the Montreal IT User Group (MITUG) and which (not soon enough for my money) became the Montreal IT Professionals Community (MITPro) was conceived, and would be born at a meeting of the seven of us in January, 2005.  This week-end I had opportunity to speak to the long-time Vice President of that organization, my friend Majida Rhazi.  She and I would never have met let alone become such good friends without the IT Pro community.  She has recently formed a partnership with two other members of MITPro consulting in and around Montreal… would she and her partners have ever met without the group?  Maybe yes and maybe no, but I remember those three meeting at our events, and have watched their careers evolve thanks to – right again! – the IT Pro community.

TechDays is a great opportunity to meet with peers in your city, and for those of us lucky enough to be members of the touring cast across the country.  It is important to note that none of us (TechDays Speakers) are compensated for the creation, preparation, and delivery of our sessions.  As for travel there might be partial reimbursement for some cities, and not for others.  I mention this because several people have asked me why I do it… in my case for 2010 I have blocked off five weeks that I could otherwise have worked.  The truth is that not only do I love the concept of TechDays – giving back to the community at a paid conference – but I love the people that I meet; truthfully I do occasionally meet someone who would engage my services at these events, but that is secondary, as is helping Microsoft Canada.  While I understand many of the people who would not agree to speak at these events – either in their own city for a few hours or in other cities for a few days – I am glad that my job role allows me to do both. 

And what about the people you meet?  Friday afternoon I sat at a Coffee & Code event at Timothy’s in Toronto with several Microsofties but also with a group of developers – two of whom were troubleshooting their new game for the soon to be released Windows Phone 7.  Their Sudoku3D looked amazing, and they were putting the finishing touches on it right there in front of me.  I was probably one of the first people in the world to be stymied by this incredible puzze!

This morning as I passed through the security checkpoint at Terminal 3 the CATSA (Canadian Air Transport Security Agency) agent said ‘congratulations!’.  I thanked him but asked for what.  I was (am) wearing a Microsoft MVP shirt, and he recognized it and the contributions required to earn the award.  How far we have come from the days where I didn’t even know about the program!

I got an e-mail this morning from Dave Fulton, the president of the Calgary IT Community.  This past June I presented my third presentation to that group since 2007, so when Microsoft Canada asked me to start planning a usergroup tour for Q! of 2011 he was one of the people I reached out to.  It turns out that he is going to be in Mississauga this week for training at Microsoft Canada – how closely that opportunity is linked to his community involvement is not mine to say – and we are going to have lunch.  I tried later to count the friends I have made at usergroup presentations across the country – having presented at groups in Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Sarnia, Waterloo, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Halifax, and probably several others that I cannot remember right now – but even without any others that makes seven out of ten Canadian provinces (I am not counting my international presentations… those are too many to list) and myriad friends along the way.  I can’t wait to sit down with Dave later this week and catch up.

So what is the IT Pro community?  I can say what it is to me, and what it was a few years ago, but that is not really important.  What is it to you?  How has it benefitted you – personally and professionally – over the years?  Have you made friends, met new colleagues?  Have you learned about new technologies, or new aspects of old ones?  Whether it is the free pizza at some of the events, or the nuggets of knowledge you get from your peers and such, the IT Pro community is important, and a resource that every IT Pro should tap.

As I look at my calendar of projects for the next year I have to thank an old sponsor in Microsoft Canada and a new one in Hewlett Packard for facilitating all of my usergroup events, but I also have to thank you – all of the community members who come out and remind me at every event – whether it is paid or free – of how much my presentations help.  When they help one person I am pleased; when they help an entire community to learn, I am thrilled.  When I inspire others to follow in my footsteps and start giving back to the community – either by presenting at, sponsoring, or organizing a usergroup and usergroup events – I know that Harp and Rick were right on that fateful evening six years ago: the community is important, it can be vibrant, and it needs people like you to grow and to thrive.

Windows Phone 7… Catch It!

Over the last few weeks I have had plenty of opportunity to play with a number of Windows Phone 7 devices, and I am loving it!  Windows Phone 7 is as friendly and simple as any other Phone OS I have come across, and much moreso than the myriad Mobile 6, 6.1, and 6.5 devices I have gone through since making the transition from dumb phone to smart phone. 

The phone I am playing with currently is the Samsung Taylor, which is slightly larger (but slimmer) than my HTC Tilt 2, with the same size screen.  That is where the similarities end.  It’s multi-touch intuitive interface is extremely responsive and friendly… what many would call Sexy.  It is a prototype model that will not be available to the public, and will be replaced on November 8th by the Samsung Focus (, which has some REALLY impressive features, including:

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon QSD8250 1GHz CPU
  • Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, 16M colours
  • 480×800 pixels
  • Proximity sensor for auto turnoff
  • 512MB RAM/512MB ROM
  • 8GB internal storage
  • MicroSD card slot
  • 802.11 b/g/n
  • MicroUSB 2.0 port
  • 3.5mm audio jack
  • 5MB camera (2592×1944)

…and so much more. 

What can I say about Windows Phone 7?  It is, in a nutshell, everything that Mobile 6.5 isn’t.  It is intuitive, friendly, and geared toward end-users, while still being completely business-friendly and centrally manageable.  It only took a few seconds to connect to my Exchange 2010 account, and its high-speed connections (you have the options of GSM, EDGE, HSPDA, Wifi, and more) ensured that my data came down FAST.

Web browsing is amazing… My blog (complete with Autumn Leaves theme) came down measurably quicker than it did on my Tilt 2 (which is still the best Mobile 6.5 device I have!) and even at full screen (not easily legible because of the size) it was extremely clear; but when I put to fingers on the screen and flicked it open, the instant zoom not only made the page clear and legible, but made me fall in love with the platform!

Of course all of the expected functionality is there… Live Messenger, Adobe Reader, Maps, and the Windows Phone 7 version of Office 2010 which is the only mobile platform that will allow you to natively edit .PPTX, .XLSX, and .DOCX files.

To test out PowerPoint I decided to e-mail two of my own decks to the phone because I not only wanted to see how fast 2.5MB came down, I also wanted to see how easily you could open an e-mailed document… and WOW was it simple (clicked on it, saw Slide 1, complete with 2010 theme!).  However that was the ‘101 level’ of the experience.  What came next made me stand and take notice!

My presentation (Installing and Configuring a Hyper-V environment on Windows Server 2008 R2) not only ran FAST, it ran BEAUTIFULLY.  I expected the first couple of ‘text & theme’ slides to behave well, but when I got to the slide ‘Installing Hyper-V’ – a slide with 15 different transitions between full-screen images and saw now well it presented – complete with all of my custom transitions with no speed difference as compared to my HP laptop with 8GB RAM and an i7 CPU – I was shocked, awed, impressed, and in a nutshell I WANT ONE!! 

As a Virtual Partner Technical Advisor for Microsoft Canada I spend a lot of time visiting partners and switching between demos on one laptop and PowerPoint on the other.  Imagine now I can connect my PHONE wirelessly to the overhead projector and BAM… I no longer need two laptops!  WOW!  I WANT ONE!

Of course it didn’t occur to me until after I had done playing that I hadn’t tried what was once the main purpose for these devices… I called my wife.  The call was clear, high quality, and no matter how I held it neither lost reception (as my Tilt 2 is prone to do) or disconnected (as I heard might happen with SOME competitive devices).  Another big win!

Overall I am definitely excited about the platform… my personal preference will be for a phone with a keyboard (I have really big hands) but even so the on-screen keyboard was easy to use, and whichever model I end up with I expect I will love it!

More to come… these devices are coming to Canada November 8th, which will be the dawn of a new era in mobility… don’t miss it!

Product Review: Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Ultra-Portable Drive (500GB)

I use a lot of external hard drives.  When I travel I generally carry three of them – two 500GBs and a 250GB.  I have gone through a lot of them over the years, including Maxtor, Western Digital, Seagate, Toshiba, and more, to say nothing of the drives I have put in enclosures.  Most of the ones I have are Western Digital for no good reason, but they have been reliable.  I have never thought to write about any of them, because they all do their job, and although some may be faster or slower than others none have really had features that have wowed me.  I should mention that I never use their proprietary software and I am sure if you like one or the other for backup or encryption then I am glad you are happy with it.

One of my clients handed me four 500GB Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Ultra-Portable Drives the other day for a project I am working on, and when I unpacked the first one today I was pleasantly surprised by a few features:

  1. The size is noticeably smaller than the drives I usually carry.  My WD drives (I love them, and always have at least two of them) measure 4 7/8” x 3” x .5”.  The GoFlex (minus the SATA adapter) is 4 3/8” x 3 1/8” x 3/8”, making it noticeably smaller in the hand (although it is 1/8” wider).
  2. The connections on the drive itself are standard SATA connections, meaning I have options in how to connect it.
  3. The SATA-USB adapter (which admittedly makes it much similar in size to the WD) is detachable, and can be exchanged with connectors for USB 3.0, eSATA, or Firewire 800.

It comes with a very solid-feeling 18” USB 2.0 cable.  When I plugged it into my laptop Windows 7 recognized it and installed the appropriate drivers automatically (the box claims that it is also compatible with Windows Vista and XP, as well as Mac OS X 10.4.11 or higher).  The LED lights on the adapter are bright, and my only question is why they don’t change colours or flash for activity.

I was disappointed that the drive does not come with a case of any sort, but then the newer WDs don’t either, so that is not a mark in favour or against either drive.

Of course all of these features are meaningless if the drive doesn’t perform.  To put it to the test I put it up against a relatively new 500GB Western Digital drive that I have been using for a while.  I had an ISO file handy that weighs in at 11,376,840KB and did a straight copy – using the same sturdy USB cable.  I/O performance between the two drives was comparable with the Seagate coming in a little faster than the WD (7m05s to 7m30s) but it was more of an anecdotal test than scientific – The Seagate was cleanly formatted (NTFS) and the WD is a production drive, likely fragmented, and encrypted (BitLocker to Go).  With all of those factors considered I would assume the performance is near-identical.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not going out to replace all of my ultra-portable (2.5” external) drives with new Seagates – I replaced all of my smaller drives with 500GB drives just six months ago – but I will definitely give the Seagate a favourable BUY rating, and am glad that this project is ‘forcing’ me to use one 🙂

An interesting tidbit about BitLocker to Go

Now here’s a great feature!  I have grumbled in the past that encrypting a drive with BitLocker is a slow process, and although I do it so rarely, I was reminded yesterday that decrypting is equally time-consuming.  I have a 500GB external drive that I need to decrypt because it is being repurposed, and because the data that I am leaving on it is not confidential.

The Problems:

  • I started the VERY long process at 10pm last night, while I was working in my Server 2008R2 boot partition on my laptop (I love Windows 7, but I need Hyper-V!).
  • Before the decryption was half done I would have to leave the hotel – turning off the laptop.
  • Part of what I need to do today requires me to be in the Windows 7 boot partition on my laptop.

Fortunately as the drive decrypts you have the option to easily pause the operation, and I planned to do that before packing up the laptop.  My original plan was to work in Windows 7 in the cafe, at the airport, on the plane, and at home tonight… and when it was time to go to bed I would reboot into Windows Server 2008R2 and resume the decryption overnight.

I got to the airport lounge and plugged in the laptop, and after booting into Windows 7 I plugged in the wrong external drive – the one that I was in the process of decrypting.  How cool is this?  The BitLocker Drive Encryption window and continued the decryption from where it left off… no hiccoughs!  I can even access the data on it while it decrypts.

Another #WIN for #Windows7 and #BitLocker!

Can they really be THAT inefficient?

It is the morning of September 9th, 2010.  For the last week I have been tracking a package’s progress on – they make a big deal that you can do that.  So when Intel sent me an e-mail that my replacement motherboard had been shipped, I was glad that I could get on-line and watch it go north.  Little did I know…

I was happy this morning to see that the package has arrived in Mississauga, Ontario – that’s where my office is, which means it has likely been on its last airplane.  With that being said, if there was a Frequent Flier program for UPS, this package would be eligible for free flights already. 

‘As the crow flies’ the distance from Louisville, Kentucky to Mississauga, Ontario is 471 miles.  Of course I wouldn’t expect a direct route… but I would NEVER have expected this!  The route taken from source to destination:

Louisville – Philadelphia – East Midlands (Nottingham, England) – Philadelphia – Louisville – East Midlands – Louisville – Philadelphia – East Midlands – Philadelphia – Louisville – Mississauga


  • Louisville – Philadelphia: 575 miles
  • Philadelphia – Nottingham: 3476 miles
  • Nottingham – Philadelphia: 3476 miles
  • Philadelphia – Louisville: 575 miles
  • Louisville – Nottingham: 3969 miles
  • Nottingham – Louisville: 3969 miles
  • Louisville – Philadelphia: 575 miles
  • Philadelphia – Nottingham: 3476 miles
  • Nottingham – Philadelphia: 3476 miles
  • Philadelphia – Louisville: 575 miles
  • Louisville – Mississauga: 471 miles

By my math, that adds up to 24,613 miles, and 11 flight segments.  With Air Canada’s Aeroplan program my motherboard would be 387 miles short of Prestige Level.  With that inefficiency I would expect the UPS truck to deliver it from Mississauga (Pearson Int’l Airport) to my office in Mississauga through Calgary… four times.

…at least I’m not at home waiting for it to arrive! 🙂

  • MISSISSAUGA, ON, CA 09/09/2010 6:29 ARRIVAL SCAN
  • LOUISVILLE, KY, US 08/09/2010 12:32 ARRIVAL SCAN
  • 08/09/2010 6:46 ARRIVAL SCAN
  • 08/09/2010 6:43 ARRIVAL SCAN
  • 08/09/2010 4:05 DEPARTURE SCAN
  • 07/09/2010 19:57 ARRIVAL SCAN 07/09/2010 19:22
  • 07/09/2010 6:12 ARRIVAL SCAN
  • 07/09/2010 5:52 ARRIVAL SCAN
  • 07/09/2010 4:23 DEPARTURE SCAN
  • EAST MIDLANDS AIRPOR, GB 06/09/2010 6:57
  • LOUISVILLE, KY, US 05/09/2010 1:07 ARRIVAL SCAN
  • 04/09/2010 8:58 DEPARTURE SCAN
  • 04/09/2010 8:58 ARRIVAL SCAN
  • 04/09/2010 8:41 ARRIVAL SCAN
  • EAST MIDLANDS AIRPOR, GB 04/09/2010 6:20
  • 04/09/2010 6:08 DEPARTURE SCAN
  • EAST MIDLANDS AIRPOR, GB 03/09/2010 23:12
  • 03/09/2010 20:16 ARRIVAL SCAN
  • 03/09/2010 8:14 DEPARTURE SCAN
  • 03/09/2010 6:32 ARRIVAL SCAN
  • 03/09/2010 6:28 ARRIVAL SCAN
  • 03/09/2010 4:58 DEPARTURE SCAN
  • 03/09/2010 1:30 ARRIVAL SCAN
  • 03/09/2010 1:20 DEPARTURE SCAN
  • 03/09/2010 0:24 ORIGIN SCAN

Free e-book: Introducing Windows Server 2008 R2

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To download the book click here.

(Thanks Jay!)

Virtualization Has A Scary Side

MDG NOTE: After this note (in bold & blue and somewhat long-winded) there is nothing within this post that I wrote, but I agree with it and as a virtualization expert find it interesting, and mandatory reading for virtualization administrators and IT Pros considering virtualization as a solution.  As I have stated a thousand times, virtualization is often a huge benefit to an organization in terms of both one-time and recurring costs, but is never to be seen as a way to avoid managing, monitoring, and patching your systems including the virtualization hosts, be they Microsoft, VMware, XenServer, or any other.  This excerpt is from an e-mail from that I received last week.

Computerworld compiled a list of issues that IT executives are concerned with regarding the vulnerability of their virtualized architectures. The list of things that could be security problems is quite interesting actually. They range from virtual servers being "stolen", or being moved from a secure network segment onto physical hosts in an unsecured segment, to creating new, undocumented and perhaps unpatched virtual servers. The problem might be that you don't know you have a bunch of virtual servers out there.

Sure, virtualization saves large amounts of IT budget, but if 50% of your mission critical servers are running on VMs, are they all secure? To a large degree it boils down to adopting best practices, something we do not all have the time to do. In larger organizations, a single admin can roll out new VMs to their heart's delight, and the security team does not know about it until much later. Recipe for dropped balls.
Let's face it, VMs are not very visible, and the infrastructure to control them is only just getting mature. If some one hijacks a hypervisor and penetrates all the VMs that are riding on it, who would know? So, you have to make sure that system admin best practices are really being applied. The hypervisor must be patched just like any other OS system to plug security holes, says KC Condit, senior director of information security at Rent-a-Center. "VMware has issued nine significant security advisories already this year, and XenServer has also issued a number of security fixes," Like I said, this is an interesting article, and the excerpt above is only a teaser to get your interest. The best approach: Bake security in before you begin. Read More at

How NOT to handle a Situation

The story of the day yesterday was that Steven Slater, a flight attendant with JetBlue, wigged out on the tail-end of a flight from Pittsburgh to New York’s JFK.  He said that he’d had it, cursed at passengers and quit over the PA system before grabbing a beer, deploying the emergency chute, and sliding away from everything he had worked for.

I am glad that this story got some attention because so often it is the ill-behaved passengers who are highlighted.  What do these poorly behaved passengers and Mr. Slater have in common?  Firstly they all belong in jail; secondly they should not be allowed to profit, advance, or benefit in any way from their behaviour.

Depending on who we are to believe, Mr. Slater was angry with a passenger or possibly with a number of passengers who either disobeyed his instruction to stay in their seats until the Fasten Seatbelt sign was off, or was yelling at him because the bag that he had insisted they gate-check was not immediately available to them.  By most accounts somehow Mr. Slater was conked on the noggin with a piece of carry-on, probably accidentally.  To put things in perspective, I don’t care what happened.    I am a very frequent flier, and know that I have to comport myself a certain way when I am on the airplane.  I know that some of their regulations are stupid, but I abide by them because it is a federal offense not to.  Let me say that again: It is made quite clear to us that not complying with the instructions of the cabin crew is a federal offense. That is why my smartphone remains off until we are on the ground; that is why I leave my seatbelt on when I am in my seat (well, mostly); that is why I remove my headset on take-off and landing; that is (only one of the many) reasons I do not smoke on the airplane or tamper with the smoke detectors in the lavatory; and yes, that is why I remain seated until the fasten seatbelts sign is off.  The crew on board the airplane has the authority of law, and failure to comply with them can result in being escorted off the plane by federal marshals (or in Canada someone else… not quite sure who).

So by all accounts a passenger or passengers misbehaved, probably mouthed off at the FA, and possibly (though likely accidentally) caused a piece of carry-on to hit the FA on the head.  The Flight Attendant had a number of possible courses of action.  Which would you have taken?

  1. Let it roll off his back, do nothing, and write a blog about how terrible some passengers are (and for the record I read one or two of those from time to time, and commiserate with the FAs);
  2. Warn the passenger that failure to comply with his instructions would result in his being arrested and charged upon arrival (and indeed following through and having the plane met by Marshals); or
  3. Throw a hissy fit, quit, then burn your bridge – making you a star for a day and a (unemployed) criminal for the rest of your life?

Some people have given him points for style, and credit for ‘sticking it to the man’ or whatever protest he was trying to achieve.  The bottom line is that his behaviour, while spectacular, was neither heroic nor indicative of any real brain activity.  It is a scene that you would expect to see in a Hollywood movie demonstrating that the character was going through a mid-life crisis and simply needed a career change (Bill Murray’s character in the 1981 hit comedy Stripes demonstrates a similar breakdown in the opening scene where as a taxi driver he picks up a snooty woman (played by Fran Ryan) and starts driving erratically before stopping his car in the middle of a bridge, blocking all traffic, and throwing the keys into the river).  The only part that never makes it into the movies is that law enforcement are not impressed by grand gestures, only by law, and indeed are often forced into making an example of the guy whose grand gestures might cause others to follow in their footsteps.

There are many who have pointed out that the FA is now going to become a star, profiting from his celebrity status.  I only hope that the prosecutors enforce the law that makes it illegal for criminals to profit by telling their story.

The sad part of the story is that until he got onto the PA system, the FA was (by all tellings) completely in the right.  He did not do anything wrong, and even getting onto the PA system, cursing  and quitting, while stupid, would not have been a crime.  I am a great believer that when authority figures break the law their punishment should be harsher than when a civilian does, because not only is he breaking the law but he is also shirking his responsibility and betraying our trust.  Aboard that airplane it was Mr. Slater who was the authority, and in addition to being charged with mischief and endangering the public, it should be remembered that Mr. Slater was responsible for the safety of all of the passengers on board the plane, and when he deplaned (by illegal and expensive means) he abandoned that duty.

He’s had his fifteen minutes (and more, to be sure).  Let’s stop talking about him, not let him appear on talk shows, and let the next two headlines about him read: ‘Flight Attendant’s Trial Begins Today’ and ‘Slater Convicted on all Charges, to Spend XX Years in Sing Sing.’

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