Bing and It’s Done. For Real.

I’ve been dreading planning some summer travel. Or more specifically finding reasonable flights for summer travel.  I spent the last several weeks checking some travel websites and have been frustrated with the prices – Would they go down?  Should I just buy them and be done with it?  Will I be kicking myself for not waiting another week or day or be annoyed that I waited to long?

It was suggested that I check out bing.com for travel.  Now I can’t say that I use Bing much for my regular Internet searches.  I’ve used Google since the beginning of time and I’m comfortable with it for what I usually need.  But hey, Bing is the “decision engine” and I wasn’t getting anywhere fast with my ticket search otherwise.  It was worth a shot.

And then it was mission accomplished. Bing. Done. Wow.

To be fair, the search results are powered by kayak.com, and I’ve used Kayak directly in the past but it never struck me as any better than Expedia, which had been my go-to travel site for years.  (Like my use of Google, old habits die hard.)  Though often, I’d find the flight on Expedia and then book it directly from the carrier to elimate the middle man, especially since I don’t often need travel packages.

With Bing you have all the features where you can customize your results based on number of stops, the travel times, red-eye or not, etc and you can look for hotels and other deals as well.  Once you select your flight, Bing redirects you to the carrier so you can complete the purchasing process directly.  From the main functionality standpoint, most flight search sites hand you the same base features and Bing doesn’t disappoint.

The big selling point was the prominance of the price predictor and the fare history.  This is where the “decision” with booking flights comes into play.  This was the cleanest presentation of the where prices had been and where they might be going – it was the perfect stock ticker for travel. 

Perhaps I just got lucky but according to those tools, I was finally hitting the right time.  Ticket prices were the lowest they’d been in about 4 weeks and would likely go higher – I finally had the information I needed to move forward and put my money on the line.

Now I can check that off my list and you can be sure I’ll use Bing for travel again in future. I guess everyone can learn a new trick now and then.

Ed Horley and Stephen Rose on RunAs Radio

Have you checked out RunAs Radio lately? 

Since 2007, RunAs Radio has been producing podcasts for Microsoft-centric IT Professionals and over the last few weeks has produced episodes featuring some of my favorite industry collegues – Ed Horley and Stephen Rose.  On 3/30/11, Ed Horley discussed the current state of the transition from IPv4 to IPv6 and on 3/23/11, Stephen covers Windows vNext, IE9 and Intune.

Here are a few other older podcasts from some others I know in the Microsoft technology space that you might enjoy.

  • 11/24/10 – Episode #187 – Mark Minasi on Cloud Technologies
  • 9/22/10 – Episode #178 – Alan Burchill on Group Policy Preferences
  • 9/8/10 – Episide #176 – Chris Jackson on app comp issues with those old IE6 applications

Shopping for Hard Drives? Pay Attention to Sector Sizes

Disk drive manufacturers are transitioning to the production of Advanced Format disk drives, which have 4 KB physical sector size instead of the traditional 512 bytes.  While larger sectors will ultimately improve performance, many applications are not written to take advantage of the change, so a transitional technology called “512-byte emulation” is used to support the 512 byte logical addressing.  These disks are known as “512e” disks, for short.
Advanced Format drives will ultimately be the future standard, however some applications may have issues with the transitional 512e drives, especially if you are imaging a machine to new hardware and the OS and applications aren’t expecting a difference in physical and logical sector sizes.
Microsoft has a hotfix available for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 than can address several potential issues introduced with this type of disk.  Check out KB 982018 for additional details and several known issues.  I’d be particularly aware if you are doing any P2P migrations of servers that support Active Directory, DHCP or act as a CA, as the ESENT engine is sensitive to the reporting of sector size, as detailed in issue #1 of the knowledge base article.

Redmond Bound!

I’ll be heading out this weekend to attend the MVP Summit at Microsoft in Washington.  This is my second opportunity to attend this event, so I’m looking forward to getting out there and catching up with some of the MVPs I met last year.  (Though I admit, I’m not looking forward to the chilly, wet weather.)  Meanwhile, enjoy the next few days and perhaps I’ll have some stories to tell when I return!

Check out the Malware Response Guide

Microsoft recently published the new Malware Response Guide, officially known as the Infrastructure Planning and Design Guide for Malware Response
I reviewed this guide in its beta stages a few months ago and it was a great read and a very useful guide.  If you have limited “official” procedures in place for handling infections on workstations, this is a great way to start that discussion with team members and use some of the tools mentioned to develop a plan that is specific to your organization.

I think the structure is well thought out and very logical. One can easily switch to the course of action that fits the needs of the user and the organization, as well as follow the instructions for preparing an offline scanning kit. I also appreciate the recommendations for additional reading so that I can go more in depth for the products I’m using.

While this guide likely won’t change my organizations use of a third-party solution at this time, it greatly complements it by providing other tools from Microsoft that can support my existing tools, or give me an alternate set of tools if my vendor isn’t as quick to produce a particular solution for new malware.

I think this guide shows that Microsoft is willing to support systems in all types of scenarios and the information is not written to exclude organizations who aren’t committed to only Microsoft software. It provides great processes and talking points to bring any organization closer to having a more cohesive malware response plan.  Take a moment to download it and check it out.

There’s Still Time to Win a Copy of Windows 7

If you are looking for a way to get your hands on a copy of Windows 7 Ultimate and you have a good story about how Windows 7 helped save your company money, solve a problem or somehow made your IT day, you have until the end of January to submit the story to Microsoft and win!

Microsoft will be giving away 10 copies of Windows 7 Ultimate to the 10 “Best Windows Stories”.  If you’ve got a great story, check out the contest rules and fire up your literary side.  The contest ends at 11:59pm on January 31st.

Coming Soon! – Chat with MVPs, Learn about IPv6 and Hang with PacITPros

October is starting out with a bang.  Here are a few upcoming events that you might want on your calendar.  Please visiting their listed sites for more information or to register.

October 5th – PacITPros Monthly Meeting – This month they welcome Chad Scott, Solution Architect with Infoblox who will be going over their DNS/DCHP/IPAM solution plus their newest solution of NetMRI from the recent acquisition of Netcordia.  Also featured will be Kenny Spade, Academic Developer Evangelist with Microsoft presenting on Windows Phone 7. This will be a sneak peak prior to the official launch date, so you will get to see the handset and OS in action.

Meeting location is at the Microsoft Office, 835 Market Street, Suite 700, San Francisco, CA 94103. Please RSVP at the www.pacitpros.org website.

October 14th – Chat About Microsoft Office and Windows with the MVP Experts, 10-11am PST -Would you like to learn more about the cool new features in Office 2010 and Windows 7 and what has changed since previous versions? Do you use Microsoft Office but would like to learn tips and tricks to be more productive at home, school or at work? Perhaps you are a new user who has questions on how to get started with Windows 7 or using the Office ribbon? Or would like to learn how to protect your computer from malware and viruses. Or perhaps you are just stuck and need answers. 

The Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals (MVPs) are here to help! The MVPs are the same people you see in the technical community as authors, trainers, user groups leaders and answerers in the Microsoft forums. For the first time ever we have brought these experts together as a collective group to answer your questions live.

MVPs will be on hand to take questions about Microsoft Office 2010 or Office 2007 products such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Access, Project, OneNote and more. As well as the Windows 7 and earlier versions such as Windows Vista. In addition to Microsoft Office, the chat will cover Windows related topics such as upgrading, setup and installation, securing your PC, Internet Explorer, personalizing your computer desktop or having fun with Windows Live Essentials to share photos, make movies and more. All levels of experience are welcome from beginners and students to intermediate power users.

Please join this informative Q&A style chat and bring on your basic and your tough questions!

November 2-4th – The gogoNET LIVE! and CAv6TF IPv6 ConferenceWith IPv4 addresses predicted to be depleted within 18 months we all need to start becoming familiar with IPv6. The California IPv6 Task Force is pleased to present the gogoNET LIVE! IPv6 conference at San Jose State University to:

– Get the knowledge you need from experienced IPv6 professionals
– Learn IPv6 theory in workshops
– Make useful technical contacts in the IPv6 world

 This is the only local West Coast IPv6 event for the remainder of 2010 and it is right here in the Bay Area so take advantage of this opportunity to increase your knowledge on all things related to IPv6.  gogoNET LIVE! is a live version of the gogoNET social network that has close to 30,000 IPv6 professionals as members.

Be prepared, don’t fall behind – this is your chance to get on the cutting edge of IPv6 deployment. Visit http://gogonetlive.com for details and to register.

Goodbye Live Communications Server 2005

If you happen to be a regular reader of Techbunny.com, you probably know that while I’m a big user of Microsoft products, I’m still happy to remove a MS product when something from a 3rd party will meet my needs. 

In this case, it was Live Communications Server 2005 that took the hit.  We have very few users that regularly “instant message” within the office and with our recent Shoretel upgrade, the conference bridge included basic IM services that could be integrated within our VoIP desktop software.  This would reduce the need for us to manage another server VM and free up those resources for other purposes.

I was concerned that removing LCS would be a chore, but it turns out it was quite easy with less than a dozen steps.  Find them here in TechNet.  I also love the great post-removal report that was generated, as I was able to add that to my change control documentation.

While the upcoming version of Microsoft Unified Communications looks like it will have some great collaboration features, sometimes it’s easier to just go with something you might already have handy through a third-party, especially if you don’t need a lot of bells and whistles.

Microsoft Resources on the Web

There’s more to Microsoft than www.microsoft.com. Most IT Professionals know about Microsoft TechNet, but there are many other great resources for professionals, consumers, students and businesses that provide access to great content about Microsoft products. Here are a few you might want to visit:

Talking About Windows – check out videos by IT Professionals and Microsoft Engineers as they talk about using and developing Windows. Submit your comments and feedback, or look for Windows related events in your location.

Microsoft Springboard Series – part of Microsoft TechNet, the Springboard Series focuses on the client OS. Find resources, blogs and forums for Windows 7, Windows Vista and Windows XP or connect with industry experts.

Microsoft Answers – real people from Microsoft and the tech community cover this forum for products like Microsoft Office, Security Essentials, Windows Live and the various client operating systems.

Microsoft Learning – the starting point for certifications, training materials and community resources for learning about Microsoft products and prepping for exams.

Because It’s Everybody’s Business – a portal site for businesses highlighting popular IT projects and the related software. Resources include production information, trial downloads and resources including case studies, news and blogs.

DreamSpark – a site dedicated to putting professional tools in the hands of students at low or no cost. Schools and students can register and start downloading Windows Server, SQL 2005 and a host of other development applications.

Working with Windows products, like any other software product that changes and evolves, can lead to frustration and confusion when trying to determine the right product for a project or business need. Knowing where to go to find answers and other valuable resources can be a key to success. It’s not always about what you know, it’s knowing where to look for what you need.

Looking at Microsoft’s Customer Experience Improvement Program

Microsoft has several ways of collecting data in order to improve the Windows experience. One of them is the Customer Experience Improvement Program. New installations of Windows 7 prompt you to opt in or out during the initial set up, but if you want to check or change your participation, you can find setting in the Control Panel.

CEIP

This data mining tool sits in the background of your computer collecting usage and “trouble” data, periodically sending it off to Microsoft. While the idea of that sounds a bit “big brother”, there are some benefits to having a sibling watch over you. While you may or may not believe it, Microsoft uses data from these tools to fix bugs and improve the Windows operating system.

If you’ve checked “Yes” in the box above, your computer is identified by a unique GUID and your IP address is captured in the data submission process. The GUID is used to determine wide-spread issues compared repeated events from the same computer and is tracked, however your IP address isn’t ultimately stored with the data reports, so your computer can’t be identified specifically.

The CEIP data that is collected from your computer generally includes:

  • Configuration – how many processors you have, your OS version, screen resolution, if you use Bluetooth or high-speed USB devices, etc.
  • Performance and Reliability – how quickly a program responds to a button click, how many problems you have with a program or device and how fast your network connections work.
  • Program Usage – what features you use most often, how often you launch programs, and how many folders you typically keep on your desktop.

If you want more details or to review the entire privacy policy regarding this program, visit the program webpage at Microsoft.