Get On The Bus!

Last year Microsoft launched a great way to get to TechEd… the Get On The Bus Tour.  Unfortunately for me, last year’s bus tour was restricted to US citizens.  Some of us were none too pleased about that, but met the bus in Los Angeles when they all got off.

It seems that our voices were heard, and someone at Microsoft was more than eager to make up for it.  That is why I am thrilled to tell you that Get On The Bus 2010 will not only accept Canadians… it will actually be STARTING in Canada!

Yes folks, you heard right… the famous cross-country tour is starting in the city I know and love… Montreal!  That will kick off a 10-city road tour down the East Coast toward New Orleans and TechEd 2010!  At each city the experts will offer a deep-dive into Windows 7 and Office 2010, and present specific learning paths for the latest Microsoft Certifications… and the best thing about it is IT’S FREE!

The Get On The Bus crew will include Brad McCabe, Stephen Rose, Andy O’Donald, Tjeerd Veninga, Dana Calleja, Dan Stolts, Blain Barton, Chanel Chambers, Justin Rodino, and Melissa Bathum.  I know most of these folks and all I can say is I WISH I COULD RIDE ALONG!  As it stands, I hope to be able to get down to Montreal to see the bus off… as well as catch some of the break-out sessions :)

The tour will kick off in Montreal on May 21st, and will wind its way through Boston, New York (Manhattan), Philadelphia, Washington (two days!), Richmond, Raleigh, Charlotte, Atlanta, and finally will arrive in style at the site of TechEd 2010, New Orleans!  (For a list of tour dates as well as registration links click http://microsoftbustour.com/tour-dates/)

As this tour is a huge COMMUNITY FOCUSED initiative, you can follow them on either Twitter (@thebustour) or on Facebook (Find us on Facebook).  But most importantly don’t forget to register today and meet the van in your city of choice… and if you choose Montreal make sure you say Hi to me!

The Importance of a Properly Configured DNS Record.

If your e-mail server is managed by Videotron, Rogers, Bell, Hotmail, or any of the myriad services that have a huge infrastructure then this article, while possibly interesting, will likely not apply to you. Likewise if you work for a large corporation, or frankly any corporation and someone else is in charge of DNS and your mail servers, then it is unlikely that you will be saved by this. However if you are responsible for your mail servers, or those of your clients, and the Internet DNS (Domain…(read more

If this is the iPad’s target market they have a problem…

As I drove to the train station this morning I tuned the radio to my usual Talk Radio station and was interested to hear that ‘After the break John’s guest will be the man who got the first iPad in New York City.’  I admit I have not been following the craze too closely but I know that Apple’s flagship store is in Times Square, and that if people were lining up anywhere it was there.  If I were not a few minutes late for the train I would have sat in the parking lot to listen to the end, but from the first few minutes of the conversation I suspect I would have been wasting my time.

Let me start by saying that when it comes to some things Microsoft I am not only the first guy running it, but am usually a year ahead of the curve as a beta tester.  That goes for Windows Client, Server, Microsoft Office, and a plethora of other products.  If asked why I tend to live on the ‘Bleeding Edge’ of these important technologies it is simple; my professional edge relies partly on my being able to demonstrate, support, and teach these products before everyone else.  I suppose at one point there was an aspect of ‘bragging rights’ involved, but that particular thrill passed long ago. 

This guy (his name is Greg Packer) wants to be first too – he was the first iPhone owner a couple of years ago as well.  As I listened to the interview I realized that this guy was in it for exactly that reason – bragging rights.  The interviewer (John Moore) had a hard time getting straight answers out of him that would be of interest to anyone outside an enthusiasts’ forum; it turns out that several days later (the product was released two days ago) he still has not opened the box.  Moore asked him numerous times why that was the case but never got a straight answer.  Taking a different tack Moore asked if he would be willing to ship his unopened iPad to him in Canada.  The answer he received was less appropriate to a radio interview and moreso to the sort of convention where the less-avid participants or only wearing pointy ears.

Let me be clear… I love technology and understand others who are avid about technology.  I also understand collectors – people who buy something and leave it in the original packaging in the hopes that the value of the mint condition product will go up in value.  However the melding of the two in this particular case amounts to a waste of time.  Firstly there would be no difference in value of a sealed iPad sold at 9am on the day of release and one sold at 9:05am on the same day… or at 12:15pm the following day for that matter.

(As a matter of interest it looks like Packer, dubbed a professional line sitter on at least one reference site, did NOT get the first iPad from the flagship Apple Store on 5th Avenue.  See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greg_Packer)

I have never seen the value of being the first, at least not to that extreme.  I read the Harry Potter books like most parents I know, and enjoyed them immensely.  When the seventh book in the series (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) was released on July 21, 2007 the world seemed to go mad standing in line the night before to get the book at 12:01am.  Lines were crazy, and I bought the same book without standing in line some 14 hours later.  In fact I bought two copies because I was with a friend who wanted it.  However once I got it I read it… I did not examine the cover for hours or days, I simply plopped down in my favourite chair and started reading.

One more bit that makes me wonder about Mr. Packer stems from two (rather, three) questions posed this morning:

  • When did you get into line? 7:00am, Tuesday morning.
  • When did the next people start lining up? 11:30pm, Thursday night.
  • Did you take breaks or did you stay the whole time? From the time other people lined up he stayed without taking a break.

I have, in my youth, camped out in line… mostly for concert tickets and the like.  I remember one of the most important considerations was getting friends to help out by spelling us for bio-breaks, meals, and so on… and it was simple because they would get their concert ticket too for helping out.  At the beginning of the interview I assumed that he would simply ask friends to help out.  By the end I admit I suspect he does not have a very deep pool of friends to choose from… I may be wrong, but from what I heard he does not sound like someone I would want to be friends with.  (I know, there are plenty of people out there who wouldn’t want to be friends with me either…)

I wish I could have heard the end of the interview.  I cannot fathom that that was all there was to it… to this person.  He seems to be a professional ‘man on the street’ with more than a hundred such references… but there must be more to this person!  Wikipedia (the only semi-credible source with any real information about him) claims he is a 47-year-old highway maintenance worker from Huntingdon, New York.  However his bio, at least on Wikipedia, and it seems his only real talent is trying to be noticed.

It’s sad… I hope he finds this to be satisfying, but I also wish that for all of that he said in the interview this morning that someone would give me those precious moments back.  As it stands I consider having listened to him time wasted.

On Open Box Special Surprises, and what to know before returning your new camera.

If you are looking for a good deal on electronics, you should consider heading to one of the big electronics stores in the weeks after Christmas. .Not only do they have pretty good specials,  but you are also very likely to find open-box specials – returned items that are complete, new products that people bought (or received as gifts), opened, and then returned.  I was interested in a Panasonic camcorder that was on sale for $450, but the open box saved me another $50.  As the proud father of a newborn baby I was glad to save the money… especially considering that once all was tolled – extended warranty, memory card, carrying case, et al – the bill still came out to $700.

Camcorders today are amazing; Just like my still camera this camera accepts Secure Digital (SD) cards, but it also has a 60GB hard drive built in.  They are so easy to use that I was able to take it home and start recording right away.  I got some decent videos of the baby and my entire family.  Later in the evening I connected the camera to my computer to view my videos.  I clicked on the first file, and was a little surprised… there was indeed a baby in the video, but he (or she) was not our baby.

It seems that the camera had been purchased by a young couple from Eastern Europe; they have a toddler and a newborn, and shall we say a lot of imagination in the bedroom.  If you are curious to know how I know this, I assure you that it did not take any sort of deductive reasoning on my part.  It was all there in living colour on my new camcorder, along with the cute videos of my baby and family.  Their adult-themed personal videos were there for anyone to see… at least, anyone who decided to take advantage of the open-box special on a previously used camcorder.

My first instinct was to blame the store.  How dare they sell me a video camera with home made pornography on it!?  I thought about it for a few minutes and realized that maybe it was really not their fault – after all, when most people think of cameras they don’t think ‘Wow, I’d better reformat this before putting it back on the shelf!’

The truth is that nobody here is really to blame, at least not completely.  That does not change the fact that three people who engaged in an act that they (I assume) intended to be private have now shared the sordid details with an unknown outside party.

Let me be clear at this point that I deleted the videos right away, but what if I were the type to post them on-line?  What if I were to sell them (and from what I am told there is always a market for homemade pornography) for profit?  Those videos that were intended (I assume) for private viewing only would now be all over the Internet, and as we all know that is a bell that is impossible to un-ring.

I went back to Best Buy twice and asked them if they would like to comment, and got different answers from different people.  The first Shift Supervisor I asked told me that it was not their policy to check the media on returned cameras, which I respect (I got the same answer from Fry’s in the US).  The second Supervisor told me ‘It sounds like a privacy issue, in which case we should make sure to wipe all media that we are going to resell.  I decided to try for a tie-breaker; the store manager told me immediately that she would not comment, and that I should contact their head office.  (She gave me a toll-free number; when I reached them they told me that they could not give me a direct number for Media Relations but could give me a mailing address for head office)

So with all of the confusion and ducking it would seem the onus is on you as the consumer to protect your privacy.

There is an interesting footnote to the story… I ended up returning the camera a few weeks later (I decided to buy a high definition (HD) video camera).  Before I did I connected the camera to my PC, wiped it clean, formatted it, and made sure that no video of my family (yes, that’s all there were) could ever be recovered from it.  I told the customer service rep at Best Buy, who told me that I shouldn’t have bothered because they do that for us.  This was of course false, or at least contradictory to some of the statements that I had previously and have since received from the store.  Now *I* know that, but what about the unsuspecting customer who would believe her… and a year later finds her private pictures and videos on www.IBoughtYourStolenVideosToResellThemOnTheInternet.com?  I wonder if she would have a legitimate case against the retailer.

Let’s go one step further: let’s assume for this scenario that I am not an innocent consumer, but a malicious hacker intent on infecting the computers of the world.  I buy a video camera with internal memory, and decide I am not happy with it.  Before I return it to the store I plant a virus on it which will infect any (unprotected) computer it connects to.  Of course I could also plant malicious files with such enticing filenames as ‘scantily-clad-wife.jpg.exe’ that would hit the unsuspecting from both ends.  That’ll teach the retailer to sell me a camera that I won’t be happy with, as well as the poor sap who buys their open-box specials!  The unsuspecting consumer then buys what they assume is a bargain, takes it home and after taking a few pictures connects it to their computer to send her family snapshots to grandma.  What happens instead is that her computer is infected with malware that starts sending all of her private information to Kazakhstan and beyond… including the snapshots that she really did not intend to send to grandma who would receive them anyways because one of the data mining viruses planted would send all of those pictures randomly to people on her contact list.  Oops.

If it were me, and of course with the protection I have in place (plus my common sense) it would not be, I would contact a lawyer and sue the retailer.  It would be difficult to trace but if they could it would prove that my first instinct – to blame the retailer – was correct.  It would also prove to me that it is irresponsible for retailers large or small to resell returned products that include electronic media without first checking that there were no incriminating or compromising photos and videos or malicious files.  It might take their geeks (lower-case) an extra five minutes when they check that all of the cables are in the box, and I am sure that multiplied out over hundreds or thousands of cameras across the country it would become a line-item in their budget… but that number would be insignificant next to the legal costs and hassles as well as damage to their reputation should this happen just once.

In the meantime if I should decide to return a camera again (I am quite fond of the HD one I bought but did have to return it at first because it was defective) I will make sure to do my due diligence and make sure that all of my private – if G-Rated – photos and videos are completely removed first.