Free e-book: Introducing Windows Server 2008 R2

Learn about the features of Windows Server 2008 R2 in the areas of virtualization, management, the web application platform, scalability and reliability, and interoperability with Windows 7. Sign in to download Introducing Windows Server 2008 R2, written by industry experts Charlie Russel and Craig Zacker along with the Windows Server team at Microsoft.

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 WServerNews.com 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 http://www.wservernews.com/705BYL/100816-Virtualization

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.’

A GREAT New Book on Office 2010

For the sake of full disclosure, I was Technical Reviewer for O’Reilly’s newest book on Office 2010 (Office 2010: The Missing Manual by Nancy Conner & Matthew MacDonald).  That being said, it has quickly become my go-to ‘bible’ for all things Office.

For years I have told my students, clients, and family that a computer expert is not someone who knows everything, it is someone who knows everything that he or she needs, and that it is impossible to be a maven in every aspect of computers.  Granted, I am pretty good with a lot of things IT-related, when I do have a question I like to have a good reference handy.

Like most courseware specialists I spend a lot of time in Word and PowerPoint.  I practically live in Outlook, and dabble in Excel, OneNote, and Publisher.  With the exception of the last two this has been true for the past ten years, and over that time I have both learned a lot and gotten used to what I can and cannot do in these applications.  Frankly if you were to track how I create and manage a Word document now, with a couple of notable exceptions, you will see little difference in how I did things in Word XP or even Word 97 for that matter.  As proficient as I am, I have also fallen into routines based on older versions of the software.

As I read through the book – and as Technical Reviewer I did read every page – I had the opportunity to learn a lot of the new features in the latest version of Microsoft’s application suite.  Much of what I learned was cosmetic – Chapter 21 has a section on arranging objects on a slide which I liked, and Chapter 22 (Editing a Presentation) was a godsend, especially with regard to Slide Masters).  Other features, such as Chapter 23’s Adding Multimedia and Movement (to your PowerPoint slides) outlined a whole new feature that I got to play with because of this book, and is definitely something I will be incorporating into future presentations – starting with TechDays!

The reality is that today’s Office is too big for anyone except the REAL experts to know everything, and having a good reference manual is crucial to your success with the advanced functionality of the suite.  My reference is certainly this book… as the sub-title read, it really is the book that should have been in the box!

Service Pack’s a comin’!

Have you downloaded the Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP Beta yet?

The Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 Beta helps keep your PCs and servers on the latest support level, provides ongoing improvements to the Windows Operating System (OS), by including previous updates delivered over Windows Update as well as continuing incremental updates to the Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 platforms based on customer feedback, and is easy for organizations to deploy a single set of updates.

The Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 Beta will help you:

o Keep your PCs supported and up-to-date

o Get ongoing updates to the Windows 7 platform

o Easily deploy cumulative updates at a single time

o Meet your users' demands for greater business mobility

o Provide a comprehensive set of virtualization innovations

o Provide an easier Service Pack deployment model for better IT efficiency

The public beta is best suited for IT pros, tech enthusiasts and developers who need to test the service pack in their organization or with the software they are developing.

In order to download and install the Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 Beta you must currently have a Release to Manufacturing (RTM) version of Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 already installed. The Beta is available in English, French, German, Japanese and Spanish.

To learn more about piloting, deploying and managing Windows 7, visit the Springboard Series on TechNet.