IT Market Stalled, but Still Good

I came across two contradictory reports recently about IT jobs. The Huffington Post, which elevates story stealing to an art form (and yet still I go there) listed IT jobs as an area employers are struggling to fill.

But this doesn't jive with federal stats showing IT jobs are as stagnant as a damned up Mississippi swamp. While some segments are slightly up due to seasonality, others such as data processing and hosting are down. Net it all out and we are flat. Of course so is the economy -- and in these days just keeping steady is a plus in my book.

How are things in your neck of the woods? Share at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on 06/11/2012 at 1:19 PM1 comments


Does Anyone Care About Chromebooks?

Devices running ChromeOS is the 21st Century version of the Network Computer -- a dumb device that depends almost entirely on the smarts of the network. When Google first talked about it, tablets weren't quite as on fire and no one cared about Chrome-based notebooks. Now that tablets are fully engulfed, included those based on Android, no one still cares about Chrome-based notebooks, I'd say. That didn't stop Google from announcing new stuff recently in the form of some software updates and a new user interface.

Samsung, one of the few OEM partners, announced a couple of new boxes. Being Johnny on the spot, I rushed to Best Buy see one of the beauties, which start at only $300 -- the same as a decently featured Windows 7 laptop. The only problem was there weren't any Chromebooks to be found! Since I already have a decently featured Windows 7 laptop, I walked out of the store with a brand new iPad, which has already been taken over by my five-year-old daughter Kiley. I let you know how I like it after I pry it from her sweet, little fingers. One thing I do know is that it is resistant to blue Slushies, which is great since I didn't buy the insurance!

Has anyone out there actually used one of these things and am I wrong to be so down? Set me straight at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on 06/08/2012 at 1:19 PM7 comments


Doug's Mailbag: Bloatware Diet

Readers discuss vendors loading new systems up with unwanted software:

Now you understand why having the original operating system disks are so valuable --  you can wipe out all the bloat-ware, freeware, malware, crap-ware and vendor specific garbage overhead by doing a complete install. If that approach doesn't appeal to you, buy a second hard drive (they're still cheap) and clean install the operating system. You'll be amazed by what changes.

If you have been using your system for a while, I recommend the second hard drive approach. But if it is new, before you load on stuff you'd regret losing, refresh the operating system with a clean install.

You'll never miss the crap. But if you truly suffer withdrawal symptoms or your co-workers make you think you've thrown the remote out with the trash, you can download from the vendor or the OEM.

Remember, it was advertising from the beginning.
-Rick

This is yet another reason why I build my own pc and install the software myself. Microsoft sells OS to OEMs, which in turn puts bloatware on it to try and take even more money from the customer. Now, Microsoft wants to take even more money by removing the software that was designed to take money... I'm liking Linux more and more each day.
-Anonymous

This never made sense to me. In the past I saw PCs sold with small amounts of RAM, and literally 20 or so startup items from third-party crapware. Usually from manufacturers like HP or Sony. Holy crapware, Batman! Why do they sell PCs that can't even handle the software they ship on it? System using more than double the installed RAM out of the box? Oye!

Now it isn't so bad today since most new PCs are a lot faster and with more memory. The crapware is still there but at least most machines can boot up within five minutes.
-Chris

Share your thoughts with the editors of this newsletter! Write to dbarney@redmondmag.com. Letters printed in this newsletter may be edited for length and clarity, and will be credited by first name only (we do NOT print last names or e-mail addresses).

Posted by Doug Barney on 06/08/2012 at 1:19 PM0 comments


That Microsoft Certificate Is Bogus, Man

The Flame virus may not have spread like wildfire, but it packed a little heat, nonetheless. This thing never would have got around at all were it not for fake security certificates purporting to be from Microsoft. Using these, the malware was able to sign on as if it were an actual honest-to-goodness Microsoft product.

It appears the vulnerability is not widespread, is limited to older revs of Terminal Services and only cracks unpatched systems.

Microsoft's advice? Get patched! If you have automatic updates, you are probably already all set. More on this will be learned and perhaps more patch code released next Tuesday.
The Flame virus could be real bad news in the long run as some security folks think it was built with spying and international troublemaking in mind. Like some hunks of malware, this could stick around in various forms for years to come.

Posted by Doug Barney on 06/08/2012 at 1:19 PM0 comments


Talking TechMentor

When I first went up to Microsoft the company had just moved over from Bellevue, Wash. I reckon this was either late 1986 or early 1987.

Bill Gates still got a cheeseburger and fries every day for lunch from a local fast food joint. The new Redmond campus had two buildings with a cafeteria in between (the burgers apparently weren't good enough for Bill) -- apps folks one on side, OS jocks on the other. This was all so the two teams could share ideas and make the two families of software get along together.

TechMentor, an IT training event run by Redmond magazine, is not nearly as ancient as Microsoft, but at 14-years-old is no spring chicken by show standards.

This August, for the first time, TechMentor will be held on the Red­mond campus. We started using the Microsoft head­quarters as a show site with Visual Studio Live -- an event for Visual Studio developers -- and it got rave reviews.

Redmond, Wash., might not be your typical tourist mecca, but Redmond magazine readers aren't your typical tourists. I bet you'd think being on campus is pretty darn cool. Last time I was there I ran into Steve Ballmer and my ex-brother-in-law in the same building by accident. Surprisingly, both at least acted happy to see me!

There's another change in TechMentor: We've combined our traditional content from gurus and magazine authors such as Don Jones and Greg Shields with a new set of sessions based on Microsoft TechNet that are driven by internal Microsoft experts. Kind of the best of both worlds.

Another cool thing: Mark Russonovich -- who's now a Microsoft Technical Fellow -- will give a keynote address, and guaranteed showstopper Mark Minasi is scheduled as a breakout speaker.

The show starts on Aug. 20, 2012 with pre-conference workshops. The following day is all about Microsoft TechNet content, and the next three days are pure TechMentor -- independent, hands-on and in-depth training.

And while Las Vegas and Orlando, Fla., our usual loca­tions, have casinos and amusement parks, the Microsoft campus has Lake Washington, Pike Place Market, Pioneer Square and Puget Sound all nearby. This makes it a good place not just for you, but for a spouse and family too.

If you want more informa­tion, the address is simple: TechMentorEvents.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on 06/06/2012 at 1:19 PM1 comments


John McAfee: That's One Way to Code all Night!

The stereotype of the code jock is pizza and Jolt Cola. The founder of McAfee was allegedly working on a more potent weapon -- something that no number of cans of Mountain Dew could stand up to -- meth. At least that's what they say in Belize.

After making a mint from McAfee Inc., John McAfee somehow found himself nude in Belize in bed with a 17-year-old woman (or would you call her a girl, she's clearly on the cusp). Sounds good so far.

But they weren't alone for long. McAfee has an unlicensed gun, so the cops busted in, busted him and knocked off his dog. Like any self-respecting ex-exec, McAfee ran away.

Here's where it get's complicated: The Belize Police claim McAfee was running a meth lab. Now he did, it appears, have lots of lab equipment since he started an antibiotic company in that country. And he claims he had a veritable cache of legal guns. So why would he then have one that was illegal?

The whole thing is in some crazy limbo, with McAfee back in the open and speaking on the record."

That, my friend, is some weird wild stuff.

Posted by Doug Barney on 06/05/2012 at 1:19 PM5 comments


You Want Windows 8 in the Enterprise

Some 1,400 Redmond Report and Redmond magazine readers were kind and patient enough to respond to our Windows 8 survey, and it turns out that Windows 8 is pretty intriguing, at least for 60.9 percent of you. That's how many are very interested (20.7 percent) or somewhat interested (40.2 percent) in using the new OS in their shops.

Win 8 may be good news for OEMs. Perhaps because of its touch interface and new graphics, nearly 60 percent say they will likely buy new hardware to run the new OS.

Redmond readers are still unsure about the exact nature of Windows 8 backwards compatibility, and its migration plans depend on learning more. More compatibility equals more and faster migration. Less compatibility and the opposite happens.

On a personal level, a bit more than a quarter of readers are very interested and a bit less than a third somewhat interested in Windows 8. Top features? Smartphone and tablet integration.

 

Posted by Doug Barney on 06/04/2012 at 1:19 PM7 comments


Gartner Wants You To Know XP Is Old

I'm thinking of not covering Gartner news anymore -- its prognostications are usually too self-serving and rarely provide any useful purpose. If I want any industry insight I'll ask Redmond Report readers a question and wait for your questions.

The latest example? The famous and (for some reason) highly-profitable research house just announced to the world that if your shop hasn't moved away from XP, then you are
"really, really late."

Hmm. Did Gartner just happen to stumble across the Vista or Windows 7 Web sites? Did it read that XP support ends in less than two years and that it actually takes a while to make a major OS migration, what with new PC hardware, apps and peripherals?

I happen to think that Gartner might once again be dead wrong. For some, ditching XP makes total sense. But certainly not for all. Microsoft always wants you to jump from OS to OS, and never skip a one. That way they paid for each and every OS they produce, even Vista.

But here's where XP shops are in the catbird seat: XP works, will be supported for two more years and will surely work just fine after April 8, 2014. That gives you plenty of time to look at Windows 8 and decide whether Win 7 or Win 8 is the best next move. If Win 8 wins the bet, you save by skipping 7. That could be an immense amount of money.

Posted by Doug Barney on 06/04/2012 at 1:19 PM3 comments


Pricey Win ARM Tabs

I have no idea if this is true, but one story has it that OEMs in the Far East won't be able to make Windows ARM tablets as cheap as iPads. If true, I guess I know what tablet I'll be using this Christmas.

The theory is these manufacturers will have to give Redmond close to 100 clams for the OS itself -- something that sounds sketchy to me.

The other reason this story makes zero sense is Android tablets have busted the $200 market -- way cheaper than the $500 iPad starting point. Even if Microsoft did go mental and charge $100 for Windows, we could still theoretically see $300 Windows tabs.

Posted by Doug Barney on 06/01/2012 at 1:19 PM2 comments


As Windows 8 Nears, the Server Is More Dear

This week Microsoft gave the IT community two gifts:  nearly complete versions of Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012.

Here's what Microsoft did: It releases a "release candidate" (RC) of Windows Server 2012 and a "release preview" (RP) of Windows 8. That's right, two names for the exact same thing -- nearly complete software! How dumb is that? Is Microsoft just messing with us?

Windows 8 and its Metro interface will get all the attention, but Windows Server 2012 is the real workhorse. This puppy is the thing that will be in all back rooms, keeping all the key operations running. In many cases it will be serving up virtual Windows 8 sessions.

We are looking at Windows Server 2012 in the July issue of Redmond and find an awful lot to like. I edited the story just yesterday, and without giving too much away, there is a new more resilient file system, the ability to team up NICs more effectively for better throughput and stability, better use of storage through deduplication and smarter storage transfer options.

Is any of this as sexy as a touch screen and tiles? Maybe not. Does it get the hard work of IT done? You bet.

On the Win 8 side, the release preview, which I'm sure a whole heap of you downloaded the second it was available, has a mess of new items. This thing is getting closer and closer to release, and the closer it gets the more life I see in Windows 7.

I think Windows 8 will be a surprisingly strong and good OS. But it is so different that few will migrate away from Win 7 (or XP) any time soon. It will be more like an iPad, where Win 8 machines will be used in addition to what it already in the shop. I don't see desktops making the shift or most laptops.

Then again, I am just a humble observer. I always stand to be corrected by the experts in the field which is the sometimes loyal but always vocal base of Redmond Report readers.

How will Windows 8 play in your shop? Set me straight at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on 06/01/2012 at 1:19 PM8 comments


Doug's Mailbag: True Cost of Migrating

Readers share their thoughts on the latest IDC and Microsoft migration study:

This whole attitude of business sticking with XP gives off the vibe that they want to keep their employees in a vacuum.

Most employees of these companies have their own computers running windows 7, so the argument of retraining I think is only partially correct.

Legacy software is an issue, but at some point if you persist to hold onto the old technology, you become like the IRS with boxes of card punch decks stuffed in heating vents a decade or two later.

Security is also like insurance -- it is expensive when you are humming along (i.e. weighing the cost of upgrading to latest OS when everything is working OK), but cheap when it saves you. Windows 7 is fundamentally more secure.

Also, very old hardware becomes a bottleneck. This causes  a block to develop new applications because the existing hardware cannot run them, which then continues in the avalanche of falling behind.
-Michael

This is why most professionals view consulting firms with a jaundiced eye. We are still running some XP stuff, most of it for legacy issues. The cost per machine, as far as maintenance goes, is actually a little higher for Win 7 than on XP. Not enough to matter.

Of course we maintain our network, application control and Internet access. We monitor thumb drives and other detachable storage. At home (and in my nonprofit support role) the same seems to apply. The reality is that there are things intelligent user communities do. If you do not, it will hurt.

If you take the maintenance cost matrix in context, this will make Win7 pretty expensive after you buy new PCs, upgrade older PCs and replace peripherals. Oh, that really is why we don't upgrade. I guess intuition is not nearly as bad as we thought.
-Anonymous

I see Microsoft propaganda machine is back in full swing. Windows 7 cheaper than Windows XP? Yeah, and Windows is better than OS/2...
-Johnny

Share your thoughts with the editors of this newsletter! Write to dbarney@redmondmag.com. Letters printed in this newsletter may be edited for length and clarity, and will be credited by first name only (we do NOT print last names or e-mail addresses).

Posted by Doug Barney on 06/01/2012 at 1:19 PM0 comments


Giving the Boot to Windows Boot Wait

Many things can be done while Windows boots. Some are trivial: toe nails clipped, coffee made, restroom runs ran. Other things I'm sure we couldn't talk about here. Let's just say plenty of cribs and jail cells are now plum full thanks to Windows!

Microsoft is now looking to end the waiting game. Windows 8 promises to boot so fast that we'll all have to find another excuse to commit our trespasses or make whoopee. In fact, the OS will load so quickly that you won't even have enough time to hit the F key to invoke the various boot options.

How do the clever engineers in Redmond get around this? You still have a shift key, don't you? Just hit that when you hit the power button. Or you could even do this once the machine is running  -- all your boot options will pop up via the new (but poorly named) Windows recovery environment called WinRE. WinRE does come up when the system fails to launch and can, in fact, do repairs in Safe Mode.

WinRE will also be used to boot Linux, another version of Windows or load from another device such as a thumb drive.

What do you usually do when Windows loads? Confessions heard and Hail Marys given at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on 05/30/2012 at 1:19 PM8 comments


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