Friday, May 9, 2008

It Feels Like Déjà-XP All Over Again

I have been using Vista since launch and love it! I am MCTS: Windows Vista Client Configuration certified and have presented on Vista for WWITPRO. Before this, I have used every Windows OS since Windows 2.0, yes that includes Windows ME but I don't want to talk about that one! Vista and ME were the only versions of Windows I used since launch, in fact, I waited in line for a midnight release of ME...I am still in therapy over that one! Why is this important, simply this. I have used all of the excuses on upgrading to XP that I have heard others speak about Vista.

I did a Live search on XP comments and found a few choice quotations for you. "It feels ridiculously slow.", "You want to avoid installing Windows XP on a system more than a year old.", "Memory may be cheap, but for an OS to have to use that much RAM to work well, that's just terrible,". These are just a few of the comments that columnists of the day were writing. At the time, Windows XP represented an revolution rather than the minimal changes that occurred between Windows 95, Windows 98 and Windows 98 SE. And as mentioned, I have a gaping hole in my memory about Windows ME so I can't remember if it was similar to 98 of XP!

Computing power is increasing by leaps and bounds on a daily basis, the operating system is no different. If you have a computer that can't run Vista, then don't! Simple. Microsoft Vista was not designed to run on every computer ever manufactured. And frankly, neither was Apple's OS X. I have an old iMac with OS 8.6 to testify to that fact. I don't hear a big cry from the Apple community! The Apple community understands this, and continually exploits this as a weakness within the Windows community. The truth is, as with Windows XP, Vista should install on most computers that are less than a year old...sound familiar...if you were paying attention, you would have read that same thing was being said about Windows XP.

I was having a conversation with an IT professional after my Windows Vista presentation and he was upset over the lack of a driver for both his five year old scanner and his one year old Ink-Jet printer. I mentioned the fact that Microsoft does not write device drivers, which caused the professional to accuse me of coping out on the answer. Fine, I said, we'll tackle the Ink-Jet printer driver problem first. When Microsoft starts working on a new operating system, they provide education, SDKs and most importantly, time for the hardware vendors to make sure that their products will have drivers when a new operating system is released. If the printer company does not have a driver, It is not Microsoft's fault! As for the scanner, you again have to speak with your hardware vendor. They may or may not feel obligated to support the hardware but the same principles as with the Ink-Jet printer apply here. Windows Vista currently supports over 54000 pieces of hardware so it is obvious that there are some vendors out there that do support their customers.

You may or may not have legitimate reasons about upgrading to Windows Vista, that's fine but the secret if to find the fine line between what is best for your clients and users and the comments that first jump to mind with out much thought or research. There are plenty of exceptional changes to Windows Vista, most notable the improved Search capabilities and the User Account Control, both of which I will be posting about in the next week or so.

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Thursday, May 8, 2008


Sorry for the delay guys, here is a copy of my slide deck...

The Real Secret To IT Success

I recently sent an email where I listed the real secret to succeeding in IT. Since this is not the first time I have revealed this method to someone, I have decided to reveal it to everyone.

I have learned the real secret to success in IT, and if you promise to share it with others, I’ll tell it to you. Firstly, be aware that you don’t have to know everything. In fact, I give you permission to not have all the answers. This is a mistake many IT people make. They think that if they admit they don’t know something, somehow they will be looked down upon, by their peers, bosses and clients. My personal experiences are quite the opposite. In fact, once you get into the habit of telling the truth about your skills, not only will your skills increase as you research the questions you are being asked, but people will have more confidence in your abilities because you will be known as someone who tells it like it is. 

Secondly, when you are trying to learn a new skill, there are two things to do. Get a “Dummies” book and read it. Don’t buy a thick book which looks good but you can't understand. Get the simplest book on a topic you can find. If you look at my bookshelf, you will see quite a few “Dummies” books and many other simple books on a wide variety of topics. The next thing to keep in mind here is to surround yourself with people you can discuss your IT difficulties with. This is why being involved with a User Group is so important. If your not plugged into the community, you are missing your greatest opportunity to increase your knowledge!

The last thing to keep in mind is this, be positive about your skills. If you are not positive, think about the problems you have solved in the past. I am sure you have solved many problems! This will reinforce the fact that you can do it! Sounds corny but it works. For those days where this is a challenge or you are faced with a problem that seems overwhelming, do this. Celebrate your small successes. Most problems in IT can be broken into chunks. For example, if the network crashes, don’t panic and focus on the final end result of the network coming back up. Instead, celebrate the fact that the server rebooted and came back up,  then celebrate that fact that Internet access has been restored, then celebrate the fact that the users can now print. Now when it comes to the users not receiving email, you have already had some success in solving problems so you can relax and work on the Exchange Server knowing you have fixed some issues already.  If there are areas you are not feeling confident in go back to rule number two, but this time you might not have time to read a book. The second part of this is the key. If you are talking to other IT professionals on a regular basis, you should have a list of contacts you can call on when you have problems you can’t immediately solve, then go back and read up on the problem. If you keep good notes about your problems, this will be easy. Now, you have effectively done two things, firstly you have something you can read up on and secondly, you now have a story to tell other IT professionals about!

The simple truth is IT is all about attitude. If you are arrogant and portray the image that you know everything, you will be humbled quickly. If you approach IT humbly, sharing what you know with others, you will be respected and trusted. The problem with IT is there are far more of the first type of IT people than the second, my promise to you is to be the second type!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The SMB Nation Conference...Community to the Extreme!

I spent this weekend at the SMB Nation Conference in Toronto and boy am I tired! I just spent two days completely immersed in all things IT Small Business! For those who don't know, The SMB Nation Conference is the baby of Harry Brelsford. Harry is one of the "Who's Who" of the Small Business Server community. I just wanted to say a personal thank you to Harry for bringing this event to Canada! Here's to many more years of successful Events, both in Canada and elsewhere!

I was very impressed with the quality of speakers, including Mitch Garvis, (who most of you know from his appearance at The WWITPRO Springboard Series:Vista), Calvin McLennan (who has spoken at WWITPRO on Small Business Server) and Rex Backman, Rex Backman is a member of the Microsoft Response Point team. (If you don't know what Response Point is look it up. I will be writing a post about it shortly, so stay tuned!) There were many other quality speakers, you can find all the information here! 

The real value here was the type of information that was conveyed! There was a session by Matt Makowicz on how to sell managed services that was worth the price of the conference alone! This type of session is not available anywhere else in this country, and certainly not at any of the free conferences that we all attend from time to time! There was a hands on lab for Response Point that flat out blew me away! I considered my admission price one of the smarted investments in my IT business I have made in a long time!

I must admit, for me, the best part was the sense of community that came from being in the same room with so many people with the similar interests for two days! Everyone was very approachable, from the other summit attendees, to the speakers, and especially Harry! I have a deep love for the IT community, from the Desktop level one tech support, to the Enterprise level Systems Administrator to the small business IT service provider and attending events like this provide a boost to my belief that the IT community in Canada is getting stronger every day!

Once again, thank you Harry for bring this event to us up here in the Frozen North!

Monday, May 5, 2008

PHP, Microsoft And EnergizeIT 2008???

Those of you are my age, which is in my late 30's, will remember the old children's show song, "One of these things is not like the other one!" Three weeks ago, I would have been singing this tune in reference to my title and I would have been right.

I am have been writing code since the early 80s as a hobby and as a profession from 1995 till 1999. I have been fairly Microsoft centric since I purchased my first copy of QuickBasic in 1990.qb45o . Fast forward to today...I am in a new position where, for the first time I will be spending much of my time writing code, this time with a focus on Internet programming. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I had to learn PHP.

This brings me to the purpose of this post. I have been asked by Microsoft to talk about my experiences with PHP at EnergizeIT 2008...(To hear my story as to why I had to start working with PHP, you will have to come to my session!)

It seems as if Microsoft has realized that ASP and ASP.NET might not be the only language you will need to code for the web! In fact the next version of Expression Web includes support for the language. I see this as a positive development for the language. I have fallen in love with PHP's simplicity, it's ability to run on such a large percentage of the web servers currently being used on the Internet and most importantly, the PHP community!

There are good IDEs to develop PHP sites on Windows. Personally, I use PHPED from Nusphere and love it. I fully expect Visual Studio to have support for PHP in the near future!

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