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.
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TechEd!!!

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 http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=40895

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.

TaskBarProperties

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: http://aka.ms/Win814Biz

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 http://preview.windows.com, 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.