Throwback Thursday: Sessions from TechEd Houston

Today is my final installment of highlights from TechEd Houston! Below are some of my session picks from the last day of the conference.

  • TWC: Hacker’s Perspective on Your Windows Infrastructure: Mandatory Check List (DCIM-B366)
  • Windows 8 Security Internals (WIN-B350)
  • Real-World Windows 8.1 Deployment Note from the Field (WIN-B358)
  • Providing SaaS Single Sign-on with Microsoft Azure Active Directory (PCIT-B326)
  • Delivering Disaster Recovery Solutions Using Windows Server 2012 R2, Microsoft System Center 2012 R2 and Microsoft Azure (DCIM-B421)
  • How IPv6 Impacts Private Cloud Deployments (DCIM-B373)
  • Windows Server 2003 End of Life Migration Planning for Your Workloads (DCIM-B376)
  • Upgrading Active Directory the Safe Way: Using Virtualization Technologies (PCIT-B341)
For my lists of sessions from the other days, you can find them here: Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.


Today starts off Day 2 of TechEd!  Yesterday, I spent a lot of time working in the Microsoft Solutions area (MSE) talking about Windows and Mobility.  You can find me in the “Device Bar” today and I’ll also be at the “Ask the Experts” event this evening.

So great announcements came out during the keynote yesterday.  I can’t wait to get started with Azure Files and the new site-to-site VPN tunnels between Azure VNets.  Also, being able to deploy Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 clients to Azure for testing and development is a great addition.

While I’m here at TechEd, my fellow colleagues have been busy blogging about what’s been going on as well.  Check out some posts below:

Don’t forget, even if you aren’t here in person you can still stream a lot of great TechEd content from ch9!

Beloved Desktop, Where Art Thou?

Windows XP is coming to the end of its life in short order, tablets and small form factor machines are becoming exceedingly popular, yet many are still wary about adopting Windows 8.1 on their primary computer or laptop, particularly in enterprises and offices.

Ask anyone who uses a computer for every day work tasks, they might say that they LIVE on the desktop and can’t be bothered with the new modern start menu and interface of Windows 8.1. I’ll tell you that I also live on my desktop. I use a Surface Pro as my primary machine and have been since I started at Microsoft 8 months ago.  Before that, I was using Windows 8 on an HP Envy X2.

I use Outlook, Word, OneNote and Excel, Lync, LiveWriter and IE 11 for a crazy number of line of business applications for work.  For native apps, I tend to find myself in the PDF Reader or the native mail app to checking personal email. Most of the social media I consume I use apps for Twitter, Facebook and Yammer. I think the default full screens used by native apps are great for viewing and interacting with my friends, watching video and reading news.

Slide from Windows 8.1 Quick Guide for Business.  For the complete guide visit

I go back and forth between using the touch screen and the mouse regularly. Sometimes it’s easier to just reach out and touch the screen when my hands are already on the keyboard. Doing your “regular” stuff with Windows 8.1 is completely doable. But there are some things you can do to make the experience a little more seamless.

The Start Button (aka Windows Logo Key) – The Start menu is easy to get to via mouse, keyboard or touch. I find myself using the keyboard one the most, but it’s on the bezel of my Surface and on the bottom left of my screen for access with the mouse or finger. Right click on the on-screen version to access several useful tools like the Command Prompt, Control Panel and File Explorer.

Task Bar – You can pin regularly used desktop apps right to the taskbar just like you’ve always been able to do in XP and Windows 7. With your favorites there, you could easily go all day without ever having to switch to the Start screen to launch an application.

The Taskbar properties bring a few other key changes you can make.


Show my desktop background on Start – This setting makes the background behind your Start screen tiles the same as the background you are using on the desktop.  The result makes the switch from your desktop to the tiles less visually jarring.

When I sign in or close all apps on screen, go to the desktop instead of Start – This setting brings you to the desktop directly when you start out each day.  Going to the Start menu becomes something that only happens when you need to.

Show the Apps View when I press the Windows Logo Key – This brings you to the full list of apps and applications installed on the device instead of the tile view. Normally you’d have to swipe the tiles up to show the full apps list below it. You can also type the name of the application you are looking for when you are on the Start screen, you don’t have to click on the Search box to begin. Typing will automatically bring you into the Search tool.

So if you have been shying away from Windows 8.1 because you love your mouse and love your desktop, don’t grumble just yet. Make some of these changes and just see if you don’t start to love what Windows 8.1 can bring. 

One device for everything in your life? Well, Windows 8.1 is working for me.

This post is part of our March series of articles entitled “Windows 8.1 for Business”you’re your Microsoft Technology Evangelists.  For the full list of articles in this series please visit the series landing page:

Future Users of Windows 8.1 – Ready, Set, Go!

A question that has been presented to me a lot lately is “How to I prepare the users I support for Windows 8.1?”

I will admit there isn’t a lot of “live” training out there for end users – when it comes to training for your business, you might want to consider my favorite way of getting users up speed on new tech – the “lunch and learn” or other optional/required training meetings.  With these models, you have the opportunity to figure out what features and changes are best to highlight for your office and customize it from there.

However, if you are looking for some online resources to get you started as you plan your training agenda or just want give people some online resources to reference themselves, here’s a short list:

Microsoft is also developing videos for more advanced Windows 8.1 features, like advanced desktop (file explorer, customizing taskbar, task manager), Internet Explorer 11, Windows To Go, device encryption, SkyDrive, SkyDrive Pro, PC settings, and more.

Do you have a short list of things users need to know to get started? What are your pain points with user training?

The Dell Venue 8 Pro: Ups, Downs and In Betweens

Shortly after it became available I purchased a Dell Venue 8 Pro. I partly blame Ed Bott, who had one at MVP Summit and it was a lot of fun to play with. The form factor is great for consuming content and playing games and I thought it would be great to keep at home so that family members would stay off my work-issued Surface Pro.

Setup was quick an easy, as it is for Windows 8.1 and my Mac-loving hubby enjoyed using it for about a week. The screen is awesome, the battery life is great and it’s small enough to use comfortably when reading in bed or as a “coffee table” device.

Then one evening when I wasn’t home, I got a message from my husband about it being stuck in Narrator mode (where it reads the screen if you are visually impaired).  I assumed he turned that on my accident and he left it aside for me to fix when I got home.

When I had time to look at it, I started out to fix this, the device was acting a little sluggish and I was having trouble navigating. I mostly blamed this on not being familiar with dealing with Narrator and decided to simply restart the device.  It was prompting for updates at the time, so I selected to install them and restart.

At the next restart it presented me with BSOD. It didn’t recover after another reboot and then attempted to self-repair. No love.  I tried a few more reboots without much success and resigned myself to contacting Dell Support. I used the “chat” method of contacting Dell, which is serviceable, particularly for me since I really don’t want to be tied up on the phone.

The representative had me want through the diagnostics testing, with no real issues. I got a complaint about the battery, but the device was likely not fully charged and wasn’t plugged in at the time. (To get into that menu, press the Volume Up key before the Dell logo appears after a reboot. Once in the menu, the Volume Down button acts as the Enter key.)

He suggested resetting the device and the unfortunately there isn’t any way to kick off that process from the diagnostics menu. The recommendation was to restart the device twice, each time after I got the spinning wheel at the boot screen, which did eventually kick off the Windows Advanced Repair options. I selected to “Reset” the OS, which was going to wipe everything.

Because Window 8.1 tablets are BitLocker protected by default, I was prompted to get my BitLocker recovery key. The Dell representative asked me if I needed a Product Key.
Our conversation went like this —

Agent: “Is it asking for a product key while resetting the system?”

Jennelle: “It’s asking for the recovery key (Bitlocker)”

Agent: “I see. Let me check what best we can do for you in this case. May I please place this interaction on hold for 3-5 minutes; I need to do some research on this issue?”

Jennelle: “Sure.”

Meanwhile, I recovered the BitLocker key using the Microsoft ID system.

Agent: “Thank you for staying online. I appreciate your patience.”

Jennelle: “I got the key myself. It’s currently resetting my PC.”
Agent: “May I know from where did you get the key?”

Jennelle: “With Windows 8.1 the devices are already encrypted and it’s tied to your Microsoft Live ID. There is a website you go to and can recovery the key there.”

Agent: “Okay.”

Jennelle: “I’d be surprised if you’d have a way to get that for callers, but it can be challenging if you have to explain to someone else where to get it.”

Agent: “I appreciate your expertise in resetting and getting the key, Jennelle.
Please let me know the current status.”

Jennelle: “It’s 64% done on the recovery. If the OS doesn’t work properly or it crashes again after this recovery I’ll just contact support again.

The agent assured me that I’d get a follow up call the next day and I continued on with the process. Once it was working again, I ran all the current Windows Updates and it crashed again.  I tried starting another recovery, but couldn’t get it to kick off properly and sent the device aside for the day.

The next day I did get a call back from Dell. I reported that the device was continuing to have trouble recovering the operating system and the representative immediately made plans to send me a replacement, which should arrive this week.

So while I’m not impressed with the knowledge level of the first tier support when it comes to BitLocker and Windows 8.1, they do want to make sure customers are happy and taken care of.

Stay tuned.  There is a lot I like about Dell Venue Pro 8 and I’m hoping the replacement will work without issue!

It’s All New on October 18th!

What’s all new on October 18th?  Windows, of course!

Check out these announcements made this morning:

With all the downloading that will be going on that day, there won’t be time for much of anything else. 🙂

Your Enterprise – Windows 7? Windows 8? Both?

Corporate IT can be a funny place. As a Systems Admin, I was always torn between wanting to be able to install the latest software and making sure that the primary business needs were being met. For a long time, Windows XP met those needs. The required applications ran, the staff was comfortable.

And then came the push for getting to Windows 7.  It was a long road to get applications working on Windows 7 and getting those desktops upgraded. The road has been so long in fact for some, that many are facing a fork where they feel they have to decide between Windows 7 and Windows 8. But there really isn’t a decision to be made. Windows 7 and Windows 8 can both be used in the enterprise, depending on the needs of the workers in your organization.

Let’s consider the existing Windows 8 Enterprise version, which I’m running on a Surface Pro. Now, since I’m just an end-user here at Microsoft, I can really only guess what they do to manage my device.  (A strange experience for me, I admit.)

It’s got MDOP MBAM on it for BitLocker management, System Center Endpoint Protection and it’s domain joined with a nice collection of group policies pushed down to it. It’s running Office 2013 with SkyDrive Pro.  Connecting to work via DirectAccess has been completely painless from my end and I’ve managed to tie in both my personal SkyDrive accounts (I have two Live IDs, don’t get me started) and my SkyDrive Pro. And all of that syncs to my Windows 8 phone. Plus some 3rd party stuff I’ve used for long time to sync other data, like Evernote and SugarSync, works just fine.

Has it taken some getting used to?  Sure.

Can I generally get to everything I need easily? Yes.


Do I still live mostly on the classic desktop? Yes.


Does the Start menu bug me?  Nope.

Windows 8 might not be right OS for every person in your organization – a tablet might not be the right device for your accounting department, a touch screen might not be what your HR
department needs to do their job.  But for those people in your office that are laptop users, juggle meeting after meeting with the notes and the slides and bouncing from remote work to hanging out in the office, well, Windows 8 might just be the ticket to their greater success.

There are a crazy amount of machines with different form factors that make using Windows 8 fun. And this is just with the current release of Windows 8. With the coming of Windows 8.1 (check out, if you haven’t already) it’s even MORE enterprise ready.

Connecting your laptop to a monitor? Windows 8.1 makes improvements to the UI that take advantage of different screen resolutions, provides better support for keyboards and mice and allows you to boot straight to the desktop.

Need to multitask between several modern apps?  You can have up to 4 modern applications on screen and have multiple modern applications on different screens if you have more than one monitor connected.

Embracing BYOD in your organization? Use Workplace Join to grant access to corporate resources. Automatically sync data back to your data center with Work Folder. And with Remote Business Data Removal, only wipe corporate information when a user leaves your organization with heir device.

Need to know more? Check out the Springboard Series post “Windows 8.1 Preview: An Enterprise Call to Action” for more details about how evaluate the preview and review updated deployment tools.

New Toys: HP Envy x2

I landed myself a new toy a few weeks ago, an HP Envy x2 laptop/tablet convertable. The screen is detachable so you can opt to just take the tablet portion with you.  I was considering a Microsoft Surface Pro, but I was facing some upcoming travel at the time and wanted to go with a device I could be sure would arrive before I left and I REALLY wanted a real keyboard.

The HP Envy x2 is has 2 gigs of RAM and 64 gigs of storage space, basic Windows 8 pre-installed with a 32-bit Atom processor.  This is NOT a workhorse machine.  I consider it more like RT-plus; able to install all sorts of Windows applications, but doesn’t have any of the enterprise features. 
However, it makes a great “portal” to the Internet, any of your cloud storage and the battery life is pretty decent. I’ve taken it to several conferences and it’s lasted all day connected to WiFi and performing the type of tasks you’d often do while attending a conference – taking notes, checking email, browsing the web, social media, etc.

The majority of the guts of the machine are behind the screen – battery and hard-drive, etc, otherwise it wouldn’t work when disconnected from the keyboard base.  The keyboard contains another battery and it will use the keyboard battery first when connected to that, leaving you the most charge possible while you are in tablet mode.

Couple things that bug me:

  1. The screen is top heavy compared to the base when it’s connected.  It will sit fine on your desk, but tends to want to topple backwards if it’s on your lap. Also, it will rock if you are tapping moderately hard on the touchscreen.
  2. When the two parts are connected and folded closed, the machine is slim and slides in and out of a laptop bag easily. When the screen is disconnected the hinge where the screen snaps in is locked in it’s open configuration, making it easy to snag on the edges of a bag and difficult to stow when you only need the tablet part. I find myself wishing for a little latch I could switch to swing it back into closed position.
  3. The spacebar is really sensitive, often giving me an extra space when I’m not expecting it. That just takes a little getting used to. I’m not a big fan of the “island” or “chicklet” keyboard style – with all the keys evenly spaced in straight rows – but that’s my own personal issue.

Good things:

  1. The touch screen is bright and responsive.
  2. The power cord isn’t very bulky or huge. It has a proprietary connector that’s flatter than most laptop connectors to allow for the cord to power the device in laptop or tablet mode.
  3. It has a great all metal casing, so it feels sturdy. Of course, this means it can’t be serviced by the user, or probably much at all. 
  4. At least one of the USB ports is powered even when the device is off, so you can charge your phone. I discovered this when I was at a hotel where the available plugs were pretty far from the bed. I was able to use the longer computer power cord as an extension to bring the laptop closer to the bed and then charge my phone from the laptop, allowing me to keep the phone on the bedside table.  (A must when your phone is also your alarm!)

The bottom line, I’m pretty happy with the device overall.  It’s pretty unique its design and meets my needs. 

To Trash or Archive? That is the Question…

I’ve spending most of the week here in chilly Bellevue, WA at the MVP Summit!  For this trip, I’m staying connected with my Windows Phone 7 and my new HP Envy X2 with Windows 8. I’m  accessing my Gmail account from both OSes and I noticed something interesting with the handling of mail within their individual apps.

On the Windows Phone, the mail application has a trash icon for deleting messages.  When I delete from the phone, the API call to Google is “archive” and that message is simply archived and moved out of my inbox.

On the Windows 8 native Mail application, the trash icon sends the API call for “delete” to Google, sending the message to the trash, which is removed after 30 days.

Perhaps the reason is because when you are on your phone, you probably aren’t actively “managing” messages and archiving them allows you to remove them from your device, but not really delete them.  From your computer, you might be more actively sorting and addressing messages, where a true “delete” function is more desirable.  Or maybe I’m over thinking it.  Since the applications were developed by different Microsoft product groups, they simply selected different API functions. 

While it might be desirable to have the same experience across both of my Windows devices, I can use the difference to my advantage – making sure that my mail ends up where I want it, depending on where I delete it from.

Girls in Tech LA hosts Windows 8 Unleashed!

Here’s a great event for you tech ladies in the LA area… Jessica is a friend of mine, so I know she organizes and gets behind some fabulous events!

WHAT: Girls in Tech LA partners with Microsoft and UberGeekGirl‘s Jessica DeVita (Microsoft MVP) to present a class on Windows 8 mobile and desktop apps! At this all-day workshop, Microsoft evangelists will thoroughly train from soup to nuts. By mid-day you’ll be building an app with an all-star team!

WHO: Calling all FEMALE college students and professionals throughout LA – aspiring and experienced female coders, developers and app-builders! Required: Very basic programming experience.

WHERE: Microsoft Office in Downtown LA

WHEN: Date: Saturday, January 19, 2013

WHY: Girls in Tech LA realizes the untapped pool of aspiring female developers and we make it our goal to provide opportunities for growth, education and exciting challenges.

Why Windows 8? Microsoft Surface is selling out, Windows 8 mobile is going gang busters! Join Microsoft and Girls in Tech LA to learn how to make money with your app and capitalize on the next generation of tablets. We’ll even show you how to market your app in the Microsoft app store!

BRING: A laptop (Windows or Mac)

To register, go to