The New Windows Admin

Redmond columnist Greg Shields use to be a full-time ITer. Before Redmond was Redmond magazine, it was called Microsoft Certified Professional. We had a contest for a guest editor and Greggo won. That launched a great second career for him that combined IT, writing, speaking and consulting.

In his latest column, Greg talks about the changing world of the Windows Admin. In many shops there is a gulf between IT and development. IT can code worth a lick and developers couldn't read a routing table if you paid them.

The cloud and virtualization are bringing this world closer together as both groups share an increasing number of tools. With virt and tools like System Center, developers are able to easily perform tasks that used to be IT's bailiwick. And development is changing such that IT can encroach on the code monkeys' turf.

"A further evolution stems from advances in the not-quite-coding, but not-button-clicking-either tools that bridge the gap between traditional admin and dev roles. Windows PowerShell is one of these tools, but even Windows PowerShell itself is but a framework for an entirely new post-Windows PowerShell generation," Shields explains. " This generation is known as 'DevOps,' and in the universe of Windows systems administration, its harbinger is Microsoft System Center 2012."

"The DevOps movement intends to increase cooperation between IT's disparate development and operations halves," Shields argues. "Such coordination isn't just procedural or cultural. Activities between the halves also are being increasingly facilitated by shared toolsets that extend each half's reach into the other's traditional purview."

Is Greg on the right track or just scratching the surface? You tell me at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on 01/14/2013 at 1:19 PM1 comments


SharePoint 2013 Deep Dive

Part of the rise of SharePoint is because Microsoft put all its collaboration/groupware (remember that word?) muscle behind the product (instead of dividing its attention between products like Groove and Exchange public folders).

Now Microsoft is up to SharePoint 2013, aimed at on-premises and the cloud. Here a few highlights, but we have a deeper 3,052 word analysis, found here:

The new software, now available to volume customers, has a new way of building apps that uses an online store for third-party distribution (thanks for the idea, Apple!). It also better synchronizes so you won't be working on an outdated version of the document. There is also better search, and through integration with Outlook, has a new approach to project/task management.

And like nearly everything Redmond does these days, there are huge social media hooks included.

Posted by Doug Barney on 01/14/2013 at 1:19 PM0 comments


IT: Put on a Happy Face

The image of IT that comes from Jimmy Fallon's Nick Burns "Your Company's Computer Guy" character  on SNL. Many think that IT pros are rude, condescending and inattentive.

Don Jones thinks if you are this way, you best change. Jones believes you are all going to have be a lot kinder this year.

His theory is that end users are more and more taking IT into their own hands -- just like they did in the '80s when they brought in PCs without IT permission.

Now they are bringing in smart phones and tablets, and accessing Web services such as DropBox.

"Our users are running all over the place, picking up IT services from wherever they want, because we aren't providing them with those services. It's not usually IT's fault per se; in some cases, we simply don't have the money or manpower to deploy things such as Internet-connected, secured, authenticated storage solutions. So our users sign up for a Dropbox account instead, which we promptly block at the firewall," Jones argues.

IT is put in the awkward position of telling end users "no, we can do this or that."  End users then do it themselves anyway. Say, users want a Web server. "No, you can't have a new Web server because you're going to be putting up content that we need to control and secure. We've got to put a system around that, and we don't have any budget or manpower to get it done. Get the executives to free up some resources and we can make it happen," Jones relates.

So the users set up unauthorized Amazon AWS accounts. A better approach is for IT to stand in the end user's corner, and say "You know, we don't have the resources to set that Web site up internally, but let's look at what you plan to do with it. If you've got budget, and if you're not going to be hosting any customer data, then I can help you spin up an AWS-based Web site."

This way you are still in control for security and compliance, the end user's needs are met, and you come out smelly rosier than Ms. O'Donnell.

Posted by Doug Barney on 01/11/2013 at 1:19 PM2 comments


Microsoft Never Found a Name It Couldn't Change

Every time Microsoft changes a name for no apparent reason (product managers have to do something) I give the company a good, sound beating.

This all starts with code names, which are usually pretty good. That almost always gets tossed for the first real name. After a while the company gets antsy and changes the first real name to the second real name. Think of all the names Windows has gone through. It's been based on versions like Windows 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0. Years like Windows 95, 98 and 2000. Random words and letters such as XP, Me and Vista. And back to numbers, as in 7 and 8.

Redmond columnist Mary Jo Foley is also perplexed by all this and actually began tracking all the name changes in a spreadsheet, presumably Excel -- one of the few products that still has its original name.

One problem is the new name can make an old product appear as if it's just released. Microsoft Account sounds new, but is really Live ID (which I still think of as Passport). Foley also notes that all the Live tools have had their names done away with. And SQL Azure, which sounds pretty cool, is now Windows Azure SQL Database. Catchy, eh?

Posted by Doug Barney on 01/11/2013 at 1:19 PM7 comments


SolarWinds Shines in Patching

I talk a lot about patching. Every month I give a preview of Patch Tuesday to get you all pumped to plug your systems.

But there is another side to patching, the tools used to get the job done. Microsoft has its own solutions such as WSUS. But in patching, as in nearly every other area, third parties push the envelope, invent the future and have the best answers.

SolarWinds is one of those third parties. Recently Redmond took a close look at SolarWinds Patch Manager.

The review kind of assumes you use WSUS, but don't like hassle of testing all the patches before releasing them on your machines. SolarWinds helps with that problem, at the same time adding much-needed features to WSUS.

One area of help is easing the deployment of non-Microsoft patches such as Adobe and Java, both of which have more patches than a Three Stooges' truck tire.

It also helps to schedule patching tasks, making it easier to manage and making sure that all this patching actually takes place. You can also decide when and how to deploy which patch.

Posted by Doug Barney on 01/11/2013 at 1:19 PM0 comments


Google Deactivates ActiveSync

Google is decommissioning old products, but for some reason it seems almost all of these retirements relate to Microsoft. Google Apps, for instance, is bailing on support of older versions of IE.

And more recently Google decided to stop supporting ActiveSync for Exchange (could the push to make all things Gmail have anything to do with it?).

Google Sync, which keeps Gmail, Google Contacts and Calendar all up to date, relies in part on ActiveSync. This is a benefit to Microsoft users, especially mobile folks, and their ability to keep Google and Microsoft-based item in line.

Google recently began charging for Google Apps for Business. Those customers will be weaned off ActiveSync where the change for free users will be more abrupt.

Do you use ActiveSync or Google Apps? Share your thoughts on either at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on 01/09/2013 at 1:19 PM6 comments


Microsoft's IE Self-Parody

Internet Explorer has always been ridiculed by computer know-it-alls for its entire existence. Much of this was due to security problems, and many of those were due to IE long being the dominant, default browser on Windows machines.

These days IE is less dominant, but actually a far better browser. I use Firefox more out of habit than preference.

Microsoft, in a rare show of deprecation, makes fun of itself and IE in a new promo video funnily found here.

Posted by Doug Barney on 01/09/2013 at 1:19 PM2 comments


Google Apps Ain't Free

The lure of Google Apps used to be its price: nada. Now if you are a business user, that price is no longer nada, but $50 per person per year. And for government workers it is the same half a hundred, revenue Google desperately needs to pay its 3.2 percent tax bill. Individuals can still get the apps free.

I have lots of bones to pick with Google but this isn't one them. The company doesn't have to give away this software indefinitely. 

There was no word on how Google will enforce the new rules.

Is Google Apps for Business worth $50? You tell me at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on 01/09/2013 at 1:19 PM8 comments


Google: the Teflon Company

The arrogance that is Google knows no bounds. That is because there are barely any consequences for what it does or what its executives say. It is amazing that Google can talk about doing no evil and not get laughed out of the room.

Here is a rundown on recent news: Google was found to be sheltering billions in profits in Bermuda (among other shelters), allowing it to pay a paltry 3.2 percent in corporate tax. Now let's not forget these profits come from co-opting the content of others -- Google, unlike Yahoo and AOL, produces no content whatsoever.

So what does Google get for this behavior? Reports came out that Google chairman Eric Schmidt was offered an Obama Cabinet post (information probably spread by Google) followed by reports that Google chairman Eric Schmidt declined an Obama Cabinet post (information probably spread by Google).

When we don't pay our taxes we lose our houses or go to jail. Google gets offered a key government positions. And you are not going to believe what the job was -- Treasury Secretary. Having Google run the treasury is like having Bernie Madoff watch your wallet.

After letting the world know that Schmidt was offered and declined the treasury post, the chairman was asked about his own company taxes:

"I am very proud of the structure that we set up. We did it based on the incentives that the governments offered us to operate," Schmidt said. "It's called capitalism. We are proudly capitalistic. I'm not confused about this."

Just because Schmidt is technically right about legally avoiding taxes doesn't make it right.

Posted by Doug Barney on 01/07/2013 at 1:19 PM16 comments


Ex-Windows Boss Off to Harvard

Steve Sinofsky, who recently left Microsoft after he lead the launch of Windows 8, is now a professor at the Harvard Business School.

So will Sinofsky make a good prof? I say yes. A few years ago he wrote a book, "One Strategy" with a co-author -- a book the publisher was kind enough to send me. The book is all about business organization. If I read the free book I'd tell you more.

Sinofsky changed the culture in the Windows division, enforcing some hard core message discipline and garnering some nice successes along the way.

His biggest legacy is Windows 8, and whether he did a good job here is a matter of opinion. The OS is clearly a love it or hate it situation, and that usually doesn't measure up to success in such a broad market. But then you have to look at the challenge he tackled by adding a new tablet interface while bringing along the legacy that makes Windows so useful.

My opinion is that the strategy is sound, but the task so complex it can't be made perfect all at once. Windows 9 and 10 should be the ones that make the transition between past apps and new devices more seamless.

Once Sinofsky is up to speed, maybe I'll ask my little sis, who's an exec at the business school, what she thinks. Good or bad, I'm sure it will have to be off the record!

Posted by Doug Barney on 01/07/2013 at 1:19 PM2 comments


Exchange 2010 SP Tweaks Fail To Thrill

Exchange 2010 SP2 users got a new rollup this week, but the way these are done has left some IT pros nonplussed. The problem is these fixes seem to go back and forth and aren't released in a cohesive manner.

In the summer of last year there was another rollup that had problems, problems that weren't fixed in the next update.

This rollup, Update Rollup 5 v2 for Exchange 2010 SP2, is really a big bunch of patches. While IT always likes a good fix, they don't always like how they're delivered, such as this blogger: "I for one find the product team's decision to fix security vulnerabilities only in Update Rollups completely unacceptable and at odds with many other products in the Microsoft product line,"  the blogger wrote as reported in Kurt Mackie's news piece. "A security vulnerability should be addressed by a small hotfix that addresses the vulnerability rather than part of a much wider rollup which includes additional functionality and a much broader change to the code base. For those in corporate environments, testing a large rollup is at odds with security patching."

How do you like the way Microsoft patches and rolls up? Thoughts can be shared at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on 12/19/2012 at 1:19 PM1 comments


Calling all Windows Phone 8 Users

I'm looking to do an in-depth article about Windows Phone 8 and am looking for real customer feedback. If you bought one of these puppies let me know at dbarney@redmondmag.com and I'll be in touch.

Posted by Doug Barney on 12/19/2012 at 1:19 PM1 comments


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