Tech Strategy Trends

February 27, 2011  11:42 AM

Make Windows 7 Control Panel More Functional

Tony Bradley Tony Bradley Profile: Tony Bradley

I am sure you don’t have any problem, and that it is only me who finds the default Control Panel layout in Windows 7 dysfunctional. For whatever reason, though, I am not  afan of the “user-friendly” grouping of Control Panel tools by function.

By default, there are eight categories of tools displayed in the Control Panel: System and Security, Network and Internet, Hardware and Sound, Programs, User Accounts and Family, Appearance and Personalization, Clock, Language and Region, and finally Ease of Access.

I don’t know if it just counter-intuitive to me, or if I just don’t have the patience to bother trying to figure out what tool should go in what category, but I prefer to just see a complete list of the tools and pick the one I want.

Just go to the top right corner of the Control Panel and click the dropdown link next to where it says View by. Change it from Category to either Small Icons, or Large Icons and you get the full list of tools alphabetically rather than grouped by category.

LIke I said–maybe the “user friendly” categories are intuitive or make sense for some users, but I just want to see all of the tools that are available.

February 25, 2011  11:44 PM

Make Windows 7 Migration Smooth with MAP 5.5

Tony Bradley Tony Bradley Profile: Tony Bradley

It can be daunting when you are an IT admin tasked with preparing your organization for the switch to Windows 7. A significant amount of planning and preparation must be done up front to ensure that the systems can are ready, and that the software and tools the organization relies on will continue to work.

Thankfully, Microsoft has a free tool that can simplify the planning and preparation process and make the migration to Windows 7 much more efficient–the Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit (MAP). Microsoft recently launched MAP 5.5, which is described as follows in the Microsoft overview of the tool:

The Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit (MAP) is an agentless, automated, multi-product planning and assessment tool for quicker and easier desktop and server migrations and upgrades. MAP provides detailed readiness assessment reports and executive proposals with extensive hardware and application information, and actionable recommendations to help organizations accelerate their IT infrastructure planning process, and gather more detail on assets that reside in their current environment. MAP also provides server utilization data for Hyper-V server virtualization planning; identifying server placements, and performing virtualization candidate assessments, including ROI analysis for server consolidation with Hyper-V.

It’s free, so what have you got to lose? Take a look at MAP and see how it can help with your Windows 7 migration.

February 25, 2011  11:19 PM

Microsoft Plans New Cloud Certifications

Tony Bradley Tony Bradley Profile: Tony Bradley

Everything seems to be all about the cloud these days. Well, at least those things that aren’t about tablets. While there are many benefits and advantages to be found with cloud-based servers, applications, and storage, embracing the cloud also comes with unique challenges and hurdles.

Whether you’re developing software and applications for the cloud, or managing the cloud infrastructure and servers the software and applications will run on, it helps to have specific knowledge and skills related to the cloud.

A post from Microsoft’s TechNet site explains, “Cloud technology creates new opportunities and job roles, but it also impacts current ones. Over the next year, we will introduce new certifications on Microsoft cloud services and will update many of our current certifications to include cloud-related skills. We’ll provide training for these cloud computing offerings through Official Microsoft Learning Products, including Microsoft Press books, Microsoft Official Courses, and Official Microsoft E-Learning.”

Stay tuned. I will share more information on Microsoft cloud certifications as it becomes available.

February 25, 2011  10:55 PM

Welcome to the MVP Nation

Tony Bradley Tony Bradley Profile: Tony Bradley

Next week Microsoft MVPs (Most Valuable Professionals) from around the world will descend on Redmond for the annual MVP Global Summit. As the site describes it, “the MVP Global Summit enables MVPs to connect with other MVPs, build relationships with Microsoft program managers, and provide feedback on Microsoft products and technologies.”

It is a valuable opportunity for both Microsoft and the MVPs, but it is also decidedly Microsoft-centric. A new event kicking off this year, though, has the potential to make the trip to Redmond significantly more worthwhile–MVP Nation.

Developed by Harry Brelsford of SMB Nation, the event follows directly on the heels of the MVP Global Summit. Microsoft predicts that 1500 MVPs will attend the MVP Global Summit, and at least 200 of them plan to stick around for this inaugural MVP Nation event.

What makes MVP Nation both unique and valuable is that it provides an opportunity for the MVPs to act as ambassadors for Microsoft and engage both the vendor and customer audiences. The MVP Nation site describes it like this: “Customers, channel partners, consultants, and members of the public will be in attendance to learn from the MVPs. View it this way. A mid-level IT administrator at a Fortune 1,000 corporation (say Weyerhaeuser or Boeing) would attend to meet his favorite Windows Server MVP!!!! A Microsoft Partner who is a consultant would attend to learn from her favorite Exchange Server MVP! A member of the public will be thrilled to attend a panel discussion hosted by Microsoft Office MVPs. Hopefully you get the point – this is an amazing opportunity for the public to meet the infamous MVPs!”

Unfortunately, I will not be there. The timing of the MVP Global Summit has always been problematic–at least for security MVPs. The RSA Security Conference is generally right before the MVP Global Summit and makes attending both difficult. I have always been reluctant to make the MVP Global Summit a priority because it seemed to offer fewer opportunities or less value than RSA in terms of networking and potential projects. However, the combination of MVP Global Summit and MVP Nation is much more compelling and I look forward to attending both next year.

February 25, 2011  10:39 PM

Windows 7 Tablets on the Horizon

Tony Bradley Tony Bradley Profile: Tony Bradley

Apple already has a virtual monopoly on the tablet PC market with the iPad, and it has a media event slated for next week where it is expected to unveil details of the next generation iPad 2. Motorola just launched the Xoom–the first tablet based on Android 3.0 “Honeycomb”, and there are tablets expected later this year from RIM using the QNX OS, and from HP with a WebOS tablet. What is missing from this mix so far is a Windows 7 tablet–but not for long.

Micro-Star International, more commonly known as MSI, has three tablets coming soon, two of which will run Windows 7. All of the tablets are 10.1 inch models, but the difference between the two Windows 7 tablets will be under the hood. One will run an Intel CPU, and the second will be a more economical model built on an AMD processor.

An article from PCWorld quotes MSI marketing manager Luc Liao. “If you like the Mac OS, you’d choose the iPad, but if you prefer Windows 7 or Android, you’d choose ours. Business people who use Windows already will find that these tablets work with what they’ve done before.”

Personally, I still think that the tablet is not a PC and that vendors would have more success building tablets around a mobile OS like Windows Phone 7 rather than the Windows 7 desktop OS. But, what do you think?

February 19, 2011  7:41 AM

Countdown to Windows 7 Service Pack 1

Tony Bradley Tony Bradley Profile: Tony Bradley

In three days Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1) will be released to the general public. As of Tuesday, Windows 7 SP1 will show up as an option in the Windows Update service.

For the most part, there is no need to rush to apply the service pack. There is nothing revolutionary about it, and applying it won’t modify or add any critical functionality. As with any service pack, Windows 7 SP1 includes all of the patches, updates, and hotfixes that have been released for Windows 7 up to now.

The biggest changes in Windows 7 SP1 are an update to the Remote Desktop client to work with RemoteFX–a new feature introduced in Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1. RemoteFX improves the graphics performance of Windows 7 virtual machines hosted on Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 systems. Windows 7 SP1 also adds support for Dynamic Memory, a feature in Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 that enables IT admins to adjust the memory on guest virtual machines on the fly.

There are also minor improvements such as fixes for bugs in HDMI audio performance, and XPS document rendering, as well as better support for third-party federation services.

While there is nothing Earth-shattering about Windows 7 SP1, you should still download and apply it. Check Windows Update on Tuesday to get the Windows 7 SP1 update.

February 15, 2011  9:50 PM

Patch Tuesday Breaks VMware on Windows 7

Tony Bradley Tony Bradley Profile: Tony Bradley

VMware users who appiled the Windows 7 updates from the barrage of February Patch Tuesday security bulletins were frustrated to learn that the patches also made VMware stop working. Oops.

One of the reasons that there is often such a considerable amount of time between a vulnerability being identified and a patch being developed to remedy it is the extensive testing that goes into making sure that the patch works as advertised, and without breaking anything else. Sometimes, despite these efforts and the best of intentions, things slip past.

Apparently, a couple of the patches for Windows 7 (2482017 and 2467023) contained elements from the upcoming Windows 7 SP1 which adversely impact VMware. The good news is that Microsoft and VMware had already been working together in anticipation of the release of Windows 7 SP1, and VMware was already developing an update to address the problem. So, following the issues from February Patch Tuesday, VMware released an update within 24 hours that resolves the problem and gets VMware working properly on Windows 7 once again.

February 9, 2011  9:12 AM

Prevent Unauthorized Access with Stronger Authentication

Tony Bradley Tony Bradley Profile: Tony Bradley

While the familiar “bum-diddy-bump-bump…knock-knock” of the popular musical couplet “shave and a haircut…two bits” may have served as sufficient authentication as a secret knock for the tree fort you and your friends played in as kids, the valuable and sensitive data contained on your Windows computer needs better protection.

The traditional Windows username and password provides some level of protection, but passwords are often trivial to guess or crack. Swivel has developed PINSafe plug-in support for the standard Windows login credentials to provide stronger authentication and better security.

A Swivel press release explains, “The PINsafe plug-in can protect the user’s device for both on and off network authentication. Users of the PINsafe protected devices are presented with a randomly generated security string in the form of an obfuscated “TURing” image in addition to the standard Windows request for their username and password. To complete the login process the user extracts and enters a one-time-code from the security string using their fixed PIN to provide a much stronger authentication credential. This also prevents non-authorised access to data stored locally on the device.”

Chris Russell, Swivel’s CTO said: “The addition of PINsafe to the Windows login process not only prevents unauthorised co-workers accessing sensitive data in the office environment, but also provides added peace of mind in situations where company laptops are regularly used outside the network perimeter. I am thinking here particularly about the many high profile incidents where these have been left on trains or stolen from individuals’ homes. Without the user PIN number, accessing any data stored on the laptop protected by PINsafe will be very difficult.”

While I agree with Russell that stronger authentication can prevent unauthorized access to, and compromise of, sensitive information on laptops, I would not suggest relying solely on authentication to safeguard that data. Authentication is only one method or layer of security, and with enough time and resources it could be circumvented. Feel free to use stronger authentication as well, but for laptops it is important that the data itself be encrypted as well.

March 1, 2010  3:32 AM

Windows 7 Memory Consumption

Tony Bradley Tony Bradley Profile: Tony Bradley

If you believe Devil Mountain Software, Windows 7 apparently has some serious issues with memory consumption.

Of course, it turns out that the credibility of Devil Mountain Software could be…questionable.

Devil Mountain Software is a real company. However, the CTO–Craig Barth–is a pseudonym for (now ex) InfoWorld blogger Randall C. Kennedy.

I have been using Windows 7 since before the publice beta and never experienced any memory consumption issues. Kennedy/Barth stands by the data, though, so I’ve come up with a theory. Perhaps Devil Mountain Software is getting the metrics it is because its their software causing the memory consumption issue–which also explains why those of us not using Devil Mountain Software don’t see the problem.

It could happen.

February 23, 2010  8:54 PM

Windows Phone 7 Unveiled

Tony Bradley Tony Bradley Profile: Tony Bradley

Its only about a year or so behind schedule (or is it two years now?), but at the Mobile World Conference in Barcelona Microsoft finally revealed the reinvention of Windows Mobile, rebranded as Windows Phone 7.

Although Microsoft has been falling behind smartphone platforms like iPhone and Android, and steadily losing market share, it still has a solid chunk of the smartphone market, and an audience of companies and business professionals that rely on Microsoft operating systems and applications and are anxiously anticipating the reincarnated mobile platform from Microsoft to provide the sort of seamless integration only it can provide.

Windows Phone 7 smartphones are not expected to be available until the fourth quarter of 2010–in time for the holiday shopping season. But, the reviews thus far based on what analysts and journalists were able to ascertain at the Mobile World Conference seem quite positive. Suggestions that Microsoft should just give up on its mobile platform, and rumors of its impending death seem premature, or exaggerated at best, at this point.

Essentially, Windows Phone 7 is not simply an incremental update to the waning Windows Mobile platform–Microsoft threw out the blueprint and started over to create a mobile operating system that matches style and functionality to go head to head with the iPhone and Android smartphones to reclaim market share and maybe even claw its way to the top of the smartphone heap.

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