Category: Technical Fiction

Office 365 and the backup/data loss conundrum

With GDPR on the horizon and many organisations rapidly moving to Office 365, Azure services, Skype for Business and SharePoint online it seems many are not 100% clear on the distinction of responsiblities between their organisation and Microsoft themselves.

The plain bare fact is that YOU and your organisation are responsible for your data. All of it. Not Microsoft, sure they provide the service and there are SLA’s associated with those services – but those SLA’s can still be met if even if all your data was maliciously or accidentally erased i.e. the service is still running (even though all your data is gone!).

Microsoft are not responsible for backup or restore of your data.

Again, you might say there is 30 days backup for Office365 and 14 days for SharePoint online – but this only provides a limited amount of protection against data loss. Believe it or not any restore requirements are on a best effort from Microsoft as oppsed to tied to a distinct SLA. As with all cloud services, functionality and features continually change and evolve, a good thing generally BUT when talking about backup/restore and data loss this uncertainty around continual change represents a significant risk to your critical data.

Granular restore of a specific document in SharePoint online? Forget it, it’s either the whole Site Collection (yes, everything!) or nothing.

What to do about it?

First the DON’T: Don’t rely upon Recycle Bins & Version control; Don’t rely upon Microsoft Support; Don’t wait for a best effort restore that might wipe more recent data

Much like the traditional backup method > to tape, offsite storage, cyclical backup procedure, testing restores you need an equivalent plan for your data stored in:

  • Office 365
  • Azure VMs
  • SharePoint Online
  • Skype for Business
  • Onedrive
  • and more

You need a service that backs up your data reliably & efficiently, that has SLAs associated with it and allows easy granular data based restores as & when needed. Here are some BaaS options:

KeepIt – www.keepit.com – Simple setup cloud to cloud backup storage; backup Office 365 or G-suite; Easy to restore

Metalogix Essentials – www.metalogix.com – Migration and backup/restore for Office 365

CloudAlly – www.cloudally.com – Office 365 backup within a few clicks; Non-destructive Restore

AvePoint – www.avepoint.com – DocAve has been backing up SharePoint before cloud was a thing; Now they do Cloud; It’s a good thing

Skykick – www.skykick.com – SharePoint & Onedrive backup; Fast search; One-click Restore

There are more options of course.

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Azure VM, Active Directory and a Dedicated Disk

Installing the AD DS role onto a Azure virtual machine? Creating a Domain Controller in the cloud? Are you sure you want to do this?

For all Domain Controllers you create on an Azure virtual machine, in addition to the system OS disk (C:\) you MUST add a dedicated disk and ensure thatyour AD DS install wizard or script uses this dedicated disk as the location for both the Active Directory database (NTDS) and the replicated system volume (SYSVOL) during the Role installation.

IMPORTANT: For this dedicated disk ensure that the ‘Azure Disk Host Cache’ is set to NONE

Failure to do this risks the corruption of your Active Directory database.

The relevant Microsoft documentation can be found here https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/azure/jj156090.aspx?f=255&MSPPError=-2147217396

I’ve extracted the exact section below, saves you going through the whole web page above:

“Data disk drives do not cache writes by default. Data disk drives that are attached to a VM use write-through caching. Write-through caching makes sure the write is committed to durable Azure storage before the transaction is complete from the perspective of the VM’s operating system. It provides durability, at the expense of slightly slower writes.

This is important for Windows Server AD DS because write-behind disk-caching invalidates assumptions made by the DC. Windows Server AD DS attempts to disable write caching but it is up to the disk IO system to honor it. Failure to disable write caching may, under certain circumstances, introduce USN rollback resulting in lingering objects and other problems.

As a best practice for virtual DCs, do the following:

  • Set the Host Cache Preference setting on the Azure data disk for NONE. This prevents issues with write caching for AD DS operations.
  • Store the database, logs, and SYSVOL on the either same data disk or separate data disks. Typically, this is a separate disk from the disk used for the operating system itself. The key takeaway is that the Windows Server AD DS database and SYSVOL must not be stored on an Azure Operating System disk type. By default, the AD DS installation process installs these components in %systemroot% folder, which is NOT recommended for Azure.”
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Did Microsoft Decode the Future in 2016? Not really

Microsoft Future Encoded
Microsoft Future Encoded

Billed as an event where the future direction of Microsoft (and its partner network) would head in the next 3-5 years I thought it worth heading to London for the ‘Technical’ Day. It was a 2 day event but day 1 on Tue 1st November 2016 was billed as ‘Business Day’, so of course I booked in for the geek chic on the 2nd Nov.

It was a well organised event at the Excel centre, smooth check-in & badge print out and well staffed. A little crowded outside the single escalator everyone was trying to use straight after lunch to get up to Levels 1 through to 3, which is where the breakout session were held in various meeting/seminar rooms. You are suposed to use the ‘Future Encoded’ app to set a schedule and browse the timetable/sessions – the app was pretty rubbish, it kept showing me day 1 (no way to change it) and didn’t work properly until day 2 actually arrived. Without the app you are stuck – no printed copies just dashboard screens outside each meeting/seminar room with the schedule for the remainder of that day for that room only.

You had the chance to explore the Expo area on Level 0 prior to the main AM keynote session. As well as the Bloodhound SSC they had a DeLorean, a RR engine and a HoloLens ‘VR’ area. It was lablled VR, silly really when MS themselves do not consider it Virtual but Mixed Reality – MR.

Microsoft Hololens
Microsoft ‘VR’ or ‘MR’? – Hololens

The Keynote

The main stage was occupied by Andrew Spooner from MS as the host, the hall was 2 thirds full (in contrast at closing keynote it was less than half). We had Joseph Sirosh (MS VP, via Amazon in 2013) talk about data, AI/Machine Learning – not all that great. Next Katja Hoffman talked about Project Malmo, an AI project and the progress her team has made. For me Chris Messina was the standout, his stuff on bots was interesting and has inspired me to look further especially into the social aspects of combining a chat interface (Messenger, WhatsApp) with service/retail opportunities.

Abe Davis (PhD researcher) claimed the work his group were doing – extracting sound/music via just silent video (using the movement of plants/objects in reaction to sound) – was for nice, rosy beneficial purposes. For me it was purely surveillance, surveillance, surveillance. To be able to (eventually) video someone from 100m away, then use the slow-motion capture video of vibrations to their coffee cup to extract local speech was very impressive, but i see no real commercial application except spying!

I will say if the onscreen subtitles are in fact real time and using MS tech then that was impressive, some forgivable errors but generally very responsive and in tandem with speakers!

Lunch – I had prepared and had some with me. The queues were too long, we only had 45 minutes. Plenty of eating places however and much quieter later on.

Future Decoded 2016
Did they really Decode it?

Breakout Sessions:

I decided to hedge my bets as I could only choose 1 of 20-25 sessions in each time slot. First I went to the ‘IDENTITY DRIVEN SECURITY & CYBER CRIME PROTECTION” (Dan Noakes, Zane Freame) expectig something useful. Instead I was hit by a (rather poor) sales pitch for MS’s Enterprise Mobility & Security (EMS) offering now based in the Cloud (the Azure one!). The big demo was where an end user with a ubqiquitious device (e.g. iPad) was accessing Office365 email to read a sensitive corporate message, the take away was supposed to be ‘protection’ of said email by Ctrl+V, then Ctrl+P into say Twitter, or Facebook. So they tried to paste a sentence from the email into twitter and it would not allow a paste. Awesome! NOT. I immediately thought of 3 ways my own non-IT literate wife would use to bypass that, which in order of difficulty are

  1. Re-type the entire sentence
  2. Screenshot the email and send as JPG
  3. Use your smartphone to snap your ‘iPad’ screen & simply share wherever you wish

Of course there are many more ways (print to PDF anyone?). I had now hopes pinned on my next session “FULL CLOUD MIGRATION & ACTIVE/ACTIVE HYBRID CLOUD” (Carl Holt). It was hosted by Kemp Technology who then proceeded to spend the next 45 minutes telling my why I should buy their ‘load balancing’ solution over anyone elses (e.g. Brocade, F5). These are called Application Delivery Controllers (ADCs). I didn’t learn anything about Cloud Migration that was technical or really meaningful, it was a pure sales pitch and how we are faster, better and more efficient.

Then came the session hosted by one of the 3 highest tier sponsor partners ‘Risual’, titled ‘DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION, THE RISUAL WAY‘ (Brian Cain, John Pittaway). Now hoping to get some insight to see how they actually did transform someone from slow/robust IT to fast Digital IT I should have known I would be disappointed. No technical information provided, this session was perfect for Day 1 ‘ the Business day’ and talked more about business processes leading to digital rather than any deep technical information.

Closing Keynote

The closing keynote was 2 things – Hololens and 3D printing.

Roger Walkden talked about Hololens from the MS world view, real life applications on how processes, services, efficiencies could be realised. All commercial dev, asking the crowd to go and create content for Hololens.

Avi Reichental (external speaker) then had the bulk of the keynote and talked a lot about 3D printing, especially on improvement both in terms of complexity and scale. Also cost reduction too. There were some nice videos of very promising use cases (cheap fabricated housing, medical enhancements) but as usual the reality is that commercial drivers would be more important for driving innovation in 3D printing than social ones. I see this picked up more by the Defence/Aerospace industry than anyone else.

Overall closing keynotes were OK but longer than needed with a cry out for both for those still in attendance to ‘go out, innovate, do stuff and help us sells lots of this Hololens stuff’.

B2TF DeLorean
Where’s Marty?

I didn’t stay for drinks/networking, there was really no point. I walked through the Expo and only spoke to people for those orgs that interested me in terms of my current role & future direction. The Lenovo iBook was a neat concept, but don’t see mass market appeal, MS only had 2 Hololens headsets so the queue times were silly, and there wasn’t much else. Overall, I won’t be attending a free event like this one again, I suppose my expectation was more TechEd than Sales 101, so for me best avoided in future and maybe consider a paid event in the future in the vein of VMworld.

It does however make me think what Fujitsu Forum (held in Munich and Tokyo) is like in comparison.

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Eid al-Fitr 2016AD 1437AH

So, I predicted at the beginning of this month that Saudi will announce Eid al-Fitr as Wednesday 6th July and therefore completing 30 fasts for Ramadan (for those who started on a Monday).

For once, it completely aligns with astronomical data regarding the visibility of the new moon (hilaal). Today, Monday 4th July, it will not be possible to sight the new moon from any of the Islamic countries in the Middle East, north Africa or Asian sub-continent. So you will be completing 30 fasts and Eid al-Fitr will be on Wed 6th July for you

New-moon Mon 4th July 2016
New moon Mon 4th July 2016

Please see tomorrows (evening of Tuesday 5th July) chart below, it shows clear new moon visibility in much of the Middle East, northern Africa, parts India, south east Asia and the whole Americas. If you started on a Tuesday in any of these regions, you will complete 29 fasts only and do Eid al-Fitr on Wed 6th July.

New moon Tue 5th July 2016
New moon Tue 5th July 2016

Now let’s talk about the UK, strictly speaking the chart above shows no local sighting is possible in much of Europe including the UK. No sighting at all. Therefore depending on how your local mosque or community make the decision the following might apply.

1. If based on sighting from NEAREST Muslim country (any North African country), your Eid al-Fitr is Wed 6th July. Whether you started on Monday (30 fasts) or Tuesday (29 fasts)

2. If based on GLOBAL sighting, the same principle and date as 1 above applies

3. If based upon a LOCAL sighting then strictly speaking the new moon is NOT visible on Tuesday 5th July (but will be on Wed 6th July, see chart at end). This is where it gets interesting…IF you started on Monday then you will have completed 30 fasts on Tuesday 5th July and therefore MUST do Eid al-Fitr the next day. You simply cannot keep 31 fasts. Only for those who started Tuesday would Eid al-Fitr on Thursday 7th July be valid – to me this validates the position of local sighting and my previous blog post on the start of Ramadan 2016.

To summarise, both Wednesday 6th July and Thursday 7th July 2016 are valid dates for Eid al-Fitr in the UK, strictly speaking neither is wholly right or wholly wrong. What does matter is how you came to the decision and that you stick to this principle all the time.

The sticking matter of the unification of start of Ramadan and dates for Eid in the UK are primarily based upon the differing (yet valid in most cases) decision making mechanism that is used. Don’t expect all mosques & communities to agree and for there to be a unified date going forward – this is unlikely to happen. One of the issues is the Umm al-Qura calendar.

Good luck, God bless and Eid Mubarak where you are.

In a future post I will attempt to demystify the lunar cycle and hopefully increase people’s understanding of this issue.

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Ramadan 2016AD, 1437AH – Clarity from Chaos

As usual confusion as to when Ramadan begins this year is abound. IT really does surprise me as to how a LOT of people cannot get their heads around basic astronomy and continue to ignore facts – oft blaming those using facts of being ignorant themselves.

Islam uses a Lunar calendar. From one new moon until the next is called a Lunar month and is usually 29.5 (29 and a half) days. So please understand clearly that a Lunar month doesn’t fit nicely into the category of exactly 29 or exactly 30 days, it is squarely in between.

Getting to the point. Sighting of the new moon (‘hilal’) for the beginning of any Lunar/Islamic month is NOT a religious matter. It is a scientific one. Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar, the month preceding is called Shabaan.

So when does Shabaan end and Ramadan start?

Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) said: “Observe fast on sighting it (the new moon) and break (fast) on sighting it (the new moon), but if the sky is cloudy for you, then complete the number (of 30).” Sahih Muslim; Hadith No 2379a

So the Islamic tradition is to attempt to observe the new moon yourself on the 29th of Shabaan, failing that because 1) it is not there to observe or 2) your view is obscured (cloudy evening/night) you are to complete 30 days of Shabaan and begin the 1st of Ramadan straight after. Hence why I stated that the observation of the moon is a purely scientific matter.

Was the new moon even visible?

Let’s get some visibility FACTS for the UK. For the evening of Sunday 5th June 2016 – was the new moon actually there to be seen?

Visiblity 05 June 2016

The chart above clearly shows that it was NOT visible from the UK. In fact, it wasn’t visible from ANY of the traditional Islamic countries in the Middle East, Asian Subcontinent and eastern Asia. So it would be impossible to report a sighting from anywhere in Saudi Arabia, therefore you should be completing 30 days of Shabaan and starting 1st of Ramadan on Tuesday 6th June 2016. However interesting to note is that it WAS visible from the continent of South America, and possibly visible from the far West of Africa using an optical aid (i.e. not with just your eyes).

Now lets look at the chart of Monday 6th June 2016:

Visiblity 06 June 2016

 

Now the new moon is clearly visible from the entire world, for the first time for this new moon it includes the whole of Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. So tonight it should be easy to spot the new moon BUT it is also the 30th day of Shabaan – so you would start Ramadan on Tuesday 7th June 2016 anyway!!! You don’t need to go out and find the new moon.

Just to validate this further with scientific fact:

01-06-2016 10-32-16

Global Announcements

So why are there so many announcements for 1st of Ramadan for today, Monday 6th of June when very clearly scientifically is WRONG. There are 2 possible reasons

1. Someone somewhere follows the principal of Global Sighting and accepts a sighting from South America (Sao Paulo in Brazil?) as valid for them in Europe, Africa, Asia or the Middle East. This position is actually valid but not many people follow it.

2. Someone saw something and mistook it for the new moon e.g. Venus, Saturn, a satellite or other object in space. Yes, this has actually happened before. But it is 2016. An age of science, of HD and 4K cameras, of advanced astronomy and astrophysics, advanced photographic capability. Yet not ONE single institution or government that declared Ramadan for today Monday 6th June 2016 has provided an iota of photographic or direct evidence. Not one. Says something doesn’t it?

Well onto reason 3. I did say 2 possible reasons, I know! But reason 3 is my conspiracy theory (sort of). A while ago Saudi Arabia adopted a standard calculated (yes calculated, NOT observed) Lunar calendar. This calendar goes by the name of the Umm al-Qura calendar, it contains key Lunar dates for the next 10+ years. Here it is in all its glory:

Umm al-Qura Calendar

My personal belief is that there is a single-minded decision to stick to these dates as much as possible, regardless of observation/visibility of the new moon. Why? Simply because of the headache of having to update many dependent systems both Financial and IT related which interact with global systems using the solar calendar. The headache is immense in having to do this every few months, but no excuse really.

Chaos in the UK

OK, so the Saudis make a decision to fit in with their calendar requirements. So why the big argument in the UK about the start of Ramadan repeated each year? Well the primary reason is the number of Saudi funded mosques in this country, adherents who never question the decision made, never seemingly ask for any proof and refuse to debate claiming it is a religious matter for higher authorities when clearly is purely a scientific matter. Is it that hard to ask for photographic proof from the religious ministers?

In fact the Director (no less) of the Astronomical Observatory at Majmaah University, Abdullah Al-Khudairi, actually claimed the day before (Saturday 4th June 2016) that the new moon will appear the next day for “20 minutes after sunset”. How on earth did he know this, and then if this was fact why not announce 1st of Ramadan as Monday 5th June 2016? Did they capture any photographic evidence on the Sunday to share with the world? See where this gets totally confusing. Here is the article as proof:

arab news ramadan 2016

Further Information

Anyway a cool new site (WebSurf 2) for technical data can be found here:

http://astro.ukho.gov.uk/surfbin/first_beta.cgi

Interestingly, it contains a section on Islamic Prayer Times as well as the Crescent Moon Visibility which is the important factor in selecting the 1st of Ramadan for the Islamic Year. I salute the organisation providing this information.

Some more reading: http://www.moonsighting.com/soomu-hadith.html

A positive attempt by Wifaq ul Ulama to unite on moon sighting issues in UK: https://docs.google.com/viewerng/viewer?url=http://www.wifaqululama.co.uk/images/pdf/Unified.pdf

And a very interesting and highly relevant approach to calculating Fajr time in Birmingham, UK: OpenFajr which has been accepted by Birmingham Central Mosque.

More about Umm ul-Qura: http://www.staff.science.uu.nl/~gent0113/islam/ummalqura.htm

Good Luck, God Bless and Ramadan Mubarak – whenever you decide to do it!

To be very clear: Whether you start on Monday or Tuesday – both dates are acceptable and neither is wrong!

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Hyperconvergence – what (the heck) is it?

The latest buzzword in virtualization, yet for me the technology it describes is old hat (in the I.T. world old hat isn’t all that long ago). Let me explain…traditionally a ‘converged’ system is simply a combination of 2 (or more) great bits of technology with very different roles combined into one. An example of a converged system is VCE, where I still think of it as the ‘V’Mware, ‘C’isco and ‘E’MC alliance:

  • VMware – provides the virtualization function
  • Cisco – provides the network and server layer (with a little help from Intel!)
  • EMC – experts in storage, so you can guess what they provide!

[With Intels contribution it should really be called ‘ViCE’ 😉 ]

Together that means a joined up system, a VBlock, that you simply deploy then use as a converged compute system. Want more performance? Then add more CPU or RAM or Storage…

…and that is where Hypercovergence differs. Instead of isolated blocks of converged compute you have ‘blocks’ that can work together and scale out, want more performance? Add another block to an existing one via a network cable and BOOM! You have more power. Add 10 blocks. Or 50!

Why did I say it was ‘old hat’ I hear you ask? Well, that’s exactly the way MongoDB works, it scales out in pretty much the same way. When your databases reach a certain size and you need more oooomph, traditionally you would need to migrate the workload to a beefier machine. What if there was a better way, one perhaps that could make use of some of the spare CPU cycles available in an existing machine or one that allowed a redundant piece of kit become useful again? I’ll explain with pictures:

single MongoDB box
single MongoDB box

Poor chap, a lowly P75 system crunching away at that data. Need to urgently number crunch the number of stars in the universe and the probability % of habitable planets? Well you need more ooooomph, so scale out like thus which MongoDB has been doing for years (since 2007 while VMwares bitter rival Nutanix first released their Virtual Compute Platform in Q4 2011) :

scale out baby
scale out baby!

OH look at that, my Xeon buddies have joined in the game. Now with all that Quad core Hyperthreading with a bit of clever sharding on the MongoDB config you’ll be finished calculating in no time.

So that’s what Hyperconvergence is pretty much. The ability to add more by simply using Ethernet. No need for messy transitions or complicated integration paths and reams of consulting days. Buy it, plug it in, switch it on, use it.

Of course Hyperconvergence is a little more than my simplistic analogy, it’s changing the landscape for virtualization and storage. Previously you would need to integrate 4 or 5 vendor offerings to get your virtual compute platform running. Now you don’t have to. Buy just one (very expensive) hyperconverged box and spin up 100’s of workload VMs to do your grunt work. Potentially you can reduce significantly the number of racks of servers you have, and power/storage costs anywhere between 20 to 80%. Impressive stuff

The following are ones to watch:

Openstack – cheap cloud (supposedly) particularly Red Hats based upon KVM

Nutanix – possibly more famous for rowing with VMware

SimpliVity – simple isn’t it! Get a free ‘For Dummies’ book here

PernixData – just like The Flash, these guys are fast

I wonder what NetApp are thinking right now…?

Probably enjoying the ever growing spat between VMware and Nutanix, my buddy Chuck started it all with this > 10 reasons why vmware is leading hyperconvergence

 

 

 

 

 

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Lync no more

Skype for Business‘ is here. After Microsoft’s acquisition of Skype 4 years ago this month they have been (slowly) integrating it with their own live communications offering Lync (previously ‘Live Communications Server’) as well as with their Outlook online mail client and with the upcoming Windows 10 (watch those EU legal hawks circle around this one, much like IE integration with Windows this may be deemed to be abusing a monopoly too against the likes of Google Hangouts etc.)

I only noticed it while downloading some ISOs via my technet subscription, so bye bye Lync and hello Skype.

skype for business 2015
Skype for business 2015

The end user client will look more like Skype as it will take on some of the blue branding elements. Although administrators on either on-premise or Office 365 can change the skin to match the previous Lync client thereby reducing end user chaos during any transition.

Here’s the l(y)nc for more info:

https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dn913785.aspx

I’ll probably run a lab migration and a blog post will hopefully follow.

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Being told what to do…

…when those things are idiotic!

One of those days. It started well, plenty of time to head down the M40 and get to Staines. Google Maps kindly estimated my ETA as 08:47, it wasn’t too far off and traffic generally gets worse as the morning moves along.

For 95% of my journey I was travelling over 60. The last 5 miles was just a crawl.

However once I was a simple 1.4 miles from my destination, at precisely 08:56, I made the first mistake…I got stuck in the far left lane having just come of Junction 13 of the M25. I took the left exit and was then treated to a wonderful detour trough Staines town centre to get to my destination.

So after ringing my colleague to get some idea of where to park I did arrive at my destination. The time was 09:11. However there was no parking at all and I wasn’t allocated to any of the few precious visitor spots. I went to the barrier to buzz the security chap and ask for alternative parking. First he asked me to try the already full ‘main’ zig zag of a car park. I told him it was full, so he told me to head to the other building a mere 0.3 miles away along the main road I had just come.

There was a security chap in a high viz jacket standing outside there (HighViz1) monitoring incomings/outgoings, and he immediately asked me what I wanted as I pulled in right. He asked me to pull over so we could chat. I enquired about parking, first he told me to go back and park where I originally went (no spaces, remember?!), I repeatedly and firmly told him they were full. He was adamant I couldn’t park anywhere on the site he was ‘guarding’. Then finally he pointed to a car park across the road and slightly to the right and said “park there then”. As I 360’d and pulled towards the main road he shouted “u can’t turn right, you have to go left and turn around”. Absurd.

car park
Reverse park damn you!

So I practically drove almost back to the original office just so I could turn around, then I drove back past HighViz1 before turning left into the wonderous sight of a car park with free SPACES. Result. So I quickly parked the car, got my bag out/jacket on/locked the car and made to walk to the office. A loud voice behind me “Hey you can’t park like that”, errrm “Excuse me?” I say to HighViz2withNoHair, he sternly replies “You MUST reverse park you car, your not allowed to park it like that”. Flabbergasted I blurt out a reply “Are you serious?”. “Yes, please reverse park. It is company policy. We get many accidents”.

I was taken aback. I hurriedly jumped back in my car and merely drove it straight forward 20 feet into a free spot which would satisfy HighViz2withNoHair. He then told me to wait for a shuttle bus to take me to the main office. It was 09:44. I waited until 09:56 and had had enough, HighViz2withNoHair had gone AWOL and there was no sign of the magical minibus. I walked out of the car park and across the road to ask HighViz1, he promptly pointed me to a minibus and said “There it is, it will take you where you want to go”. As I proceeded to head diagonally toward it I heard a booming voice from behind. It was HighViz1 “Hey, you must use the pedestrian walkway. Health and safety, you have to walk around”.

This time I stood my ground and decided to ignore him. Living in inner city Birmingham I never did learn how to cross a road properly, did I? I quickly headed to the minibus, only to realise neither of the 2 parked white minibuses were going anywhere. Then I spotted a nearby magical bus ‘stop’ with a timetable printed onto it in font size -8. Next bus @10:05. It was now 10:08. There was a lady waiting, I enquired “Are you heading to the main office”, she was and she also queried the status of the late minibus.

But then, like a phoenix rising a brown mini-van appeared. Yay. Praise be to mini-vans. WE (3 of us) hopped on and 5 minutes later we were finally at the office. A hop off and short walk to Reception. Official arrival time? 10:21.

Walking time from my parked car to Reception? 00:08 minutes. Yup. 8 lousy minutes. IF I had walked at 09:44 I would have got to the office at 09:52. In fact I would have saved a lot more time if I had parked directly there in the first instance. In fact, I would have been in Reception at 09:15 (estimated). A full 1 hour and 6 minutes earlier. Go figure.

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People who waste their own time…{Linked:In} Recruiters

It keeps happening and it is truly astoundingly annoying – and on their part amateurish. What am I talking about?

I’m talking about Recruitment agents who contact me via LinkedIn. It’s nice to get 2/3 LinkedIn emails (InMails they call ’em) per week asking about my availablity. Alas more than two thirds of them are simply wasting their own time in composing and sending me the e-mail. Why? Simply put if they had even bothered to take a cursory glance at the publically available portion of my Experience section they would quickly realise that I am not suitable and they shouldn’t even bother contacting me.

Yet still they do, and I’m pretty sure very very few of them actually look at my profile in any way shape or form until I reply and register interest back.

It seems a mass market e-mail is used to target individuals who have group sets of key words that match an open position, the e-mail is then personalised by LinkedIn’s Recruiter system from where such ‘mailshots’ can be sent. So it’s just the same old way as always – recruitment agencies randomly bombing people with e-mails/InMails in the hope that the needle in the {filtered} haystack responds.

We’ve got the technology make {use} of it!

Annoying!

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Will Microsoft get it right with Windows 10?

Quick Background

You might be surprised to hear there are a fair number of people out there who were/are very happy with Windows 8. You will be even more surprised to know that some of them are not using a touchscreen or tablet interface, yes indeed they are happy with just the good old keyboard and mouse.

However the majority were not. I believe it was a bit of arrogance from Microsoft in making large assumptions about what people wanted in Windows 8. Maybe they should have learned from the Vista failure, perhaps they did as that was a different problem related to speed (or lack of) and reliability and driver issues.

There is no denying that Windows 8 is fast and relatively stable but the biggest mistake was assuming user would have a touch biased interface available across all systems – particularly among Desktop PCs and non-touchscreen Laptops. As an IT professional when I first came across Window 8 I had it setup in virtual environment to ‘test drive’ it, that initial test drive put me off Windows 8 almost permanently. The frustration at the wholesale changes and inability to intuitively do what I needed was enough for me to tell all and sundry to avoid Windows 8. The culture shock with the UI was that significant.

Microsoft OS 1 Year sales figures
Microsoft OS 1 Year sales figures

It was inevitable however that newer PCs would eventually drop support for Windows 7 drivers, becoming Windows 8.0 only and then 8.1. Once they did so it forced the OS upon people as opposed to being a consumer choice. I suspect Linux, Apple and Google (ChromeOS) reaped some of that frustration.

So what now for Windows 10 and what advice to those thinking of buying a new Windows device, should they wait for Windows 10 General Release?

I have been using Windows 10 Technical Preview for a few months now and I have to say I love it. It is a natural progression from Windows 7, with the speed and – as development continues hopefully – the reliability of Windows 8. There are plenty of changes but it really does feel like a true successor to Windows 7 rather than 8 or 8.1.

Now the interesting part, when will Windows 10 be ready and available? There are no firm dates as it’s too early but end of 2015 or early 2016 is probably a good guess. Sales of PCs have been relatively flat in recent years and a release of a desirable new OS from Microsoft can often provide a boost to PC manufacturers such as Dell, HP or Acer. There is rumour that licenses may actually be free for specific versions of Windows 10, however I doubt very much if Microsoft will try to levy a subscription charge instead. That would be a fatal mistake for consumers.

What about Business and Enterprise users?

The good news rumour of free licenses for Windows 10 will not apply to business users at all. In fact the cost to business may be the winning formula for Microsoft in terms of its share price and profit forecast!

The bad news however is your business applications. Most large companies I know and have worked within are either already using or migrating to Windows 7. Huge efforts have been made to rewrite & redeploy these important applications to work with Windows 7. Sadly Microsoft will probably only support applications written for or that work on Windows 8.1.

The move to Windows 10 is inevitable, so I strongly urge you to dig out the ‘Windows 8.1 Upgrade Assistant’ and run it in your environment today. That will go some way in telling you if your Windows 7 apps will work with 10. Starting early means less headache later. Good Luck.

Conclusion

Sales of the Windows Operating System and its close cousin the Office Suite continue to be a huge revenue stream for Microsoft with little sign of it shifting significantly over the next 3-5 years. Often the lock-in is due to corporate IT strategy based around a Windows client and the Office suite, which extends to influence users to seek the same familiarity on their personal devices.

It is still hard for me to use an on-screen keyboard as well as I can the traditional mechanical clunk, click. I’m getting there and Google Apps are immense in providing ease of use via multiple devices. I suspect the traditional PC will still be around as the workhorse for corporate and fixed domestic use, however mobile tablet and cellular devices will allow easier and more expansive capability and multi-device working. Enabling that seamlessly and securely is the key, so Windows 10 with OneDrive is a move in the right direction as is Office 365.

Windows 10 will complement those products and enhance mobility, it will be the true client Cloud OS just as Server 2012 R2 is touted as the server Cloud OS! People will take to it, corporate decision makers may decide to try flavour of the month but most will stick to tried, tested and invested. I expect Windows 10 to be as successful as Windows 7.

Addendum

Since I drafted this blog post Microsoft have basically said anyone with Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 will get a free upgrade option to Windows 10 in the first year. Talk about kick-starting early adoption, a great move in my opinion – might stop me waiting for the first major service pack before upgrading to a newer OS. But hey habits are hard to break!

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