Saturday 17 November 2007

Techies have kids too

Without a bang!

One cannot say that Microsoft TechEd IT Forum in Barcelona ended with a bang, the last session stretched to 16:30, everyone collected their bags and many had checked out of their hotels in the morning and made their way to the airport for their flights back home.

There was no social after-party and it did not appear any had been arranged impromptu; I can understand that many companies having lost the physical presence of their techies for a week but kept them on leash through their Blackberrys, phones and ubiquitous laptops would not countenance the idea of a free weekend in the beautiful city of Barcelona, especially if they are paying.

Many were missing their young families already and that is if they did not have duties stacked up for them to do the moment they land back at home.

There were some that brought their families but they never had them for company except after the sessions which ended late everyday.

Techies have kids too

One sight that impressed and amused me was a session called Internet Safety for Kids delivered by Laura Chappell, usually when a session is full, the spillover is a monitor outside the door with probably 3 people observing the session, I even attending one like that.

This session had a large spillover, with people sitting on the floor outside, I would suppose this means a larger forum and place needs to be setup for such a seminar, next time. More importantly, if no one has ever noticed, techies, geeks and propeller-heads are flesh and blood, like you and me, they breathe, they feel and they are human-beings affected by everyday things.

Wait for it! Techies have kids, nieces or nephews and they are just as concerned about technological advancements at work as they are about the safety of children when they roam the Wild-West of the Internet.

Besides, many are engaged in other activities as de-facto consultants at home, to neighbours, to schools and other community services that require learned people pro-bono to ensure their systems are safe and the users are even safer.

Internet Safety for Kids is where you can find information, material and detail about this presentation.

Server Core Command Prompt

I have always said I cannot be a UNIX geek because I do not have long enough hair to grow a pony-tail if any at all – Windows Server 2008 is taking us back to the days of the command prompt with a lightweight but extensible base installation called Server Core.

Yes, you get a command prompt, you can use a Graphical User Interface if you elect to install a fuller version of Windows Server 2008, but this was geeky and we all need to dust off our command-line skills as a demonstration of edlin showed how long we had been in this line of work.

Anyway, it means respect has arrived at the door of Windows experts and now Linux town-criers who think the world revolves around their geekery might suddenly find themselves grudgingly admitting Microsoft buffs to the fold of nerds.

Advent of the management techie

If anything, all that I learnt at this forum was everything we do from this time on requires serious planning; point-and-click does not deliver solutions and technical people need to take on a management perspective of business needs and goals, and then tailor solutions to meet them.

Well, that has never been far from my mind and perspective, but there are many technical people who need to review how they see ones and zeroes and what makes a business gain competitive advantage through IT solutions.

Preparing for Microsoft TechEd IT Forum 2008 already – over and out!

Friday 16 November 2007

The Vista from my Windows

Melee with meals

The past 5 days, one can say life has revolved between the hotel and the daily conferences which could be exhausting to say the least.

Despite the issues I have with the hotel I ventured into the hotel restaurant last night for a meal because I could not be bothered trawling the whole of Barcelona for a restaurant and a table for one.

As I got there, there was no way of knowing that one room was meant for groups and the other for non-groups, waiter spoke no English and reeled out probably 20 sentences to me on Catalan and I just looked at him like I had just seen an alien.

Eventually, someone came round to show to be some nondescript room with no atmosphere and left me there as if I was in detention. I managed the entrée and touched the main course, refused the desert, which left them worried that I did not like the food nor the service - this time someone from reception came up to chat and find out what was wrong.

Well, what I hated was the fact that being a lone eater the room should have had a bit more atmosphere, a waiter about, probably some music and maybe more people - in the end, eating alone takes away from the pleasure of dining and definitely, in my case, the food would not go down.

It is amazing that one is in Barcelona, an international city that once hosted the Olympics and has quite a big tourist throughput but very few people in the hospitality industry speak any English.

I believe

I attended 4 sessions again and Microsoft might just have won a convert and that is what I said about these events. They are like evangelistic crusades with apostles, prophets, teachers, evangelists and pastors preaching the gospel of Microsoft and performing miracles in the name of Microsoft.

The wonder, the excitement and hypnotism - you get carried along, carried away and voluntarily brainwashed as the mass hysteria consumes every opportunity to resist the urge to succumb - when I get back home, I would be installing Windows Vista.

I came here a sceptic and would be returning a believer; the cynicism has been cast out with evidence of glorious vistas of operation, performance and technical goodies you cannot ignore.

The jewel of the conference has to be Mark Russinovich; a super-geek that looks nothing like the geeks you know - the man knows the internals of Windows and how to look under the bonnet better than any Windows mechanic I have ever seen - he makes tools for every single thought or idea he might have had about extracting information from Windows about what is going on.

He leaves you wanting to go home and get your hands really dirty, solve problems by really finding out why the problem is there, break it down and then fix it up nicely, whatever session he has going, I think I would be lapping that up.

Blogging for whatever

I attended an afternoon session about blogging, and I have been thinking about how to do a bit of technical blogging and veer a bit away from the general stuff that I regularly write about.

I have not decided if I should host that on a separate blog and leave that in this setup; the panel views differed on that matter, but the most important advice was to keep your personality within what you do.

Obviously, people blog for all sorts of reasons, some are fully technical and others are light-hearted - there is a broad spectrum of opinions and views.

Quality and quantity really depends on what you are writing about and they are relative issues, it appeared my blogging frequency was a lot higher than those on the panel, but then I suppose if I had to write purely technical stuff, I might not be delivering stuff with this kind of regularity.

Someone asked about blogging trolls, people whose existence is exemplified by rotten commentary and rude inserts - we agreed that each person's blog space is purely theirs and people who do not respect that principle do not have to be acknowledged.

Whilst I accept anonymous comments I expect people who leave negative insulting comments to also present an identity, if not, I just delete the stuff. If you cannot stand by what you have to say, you are a non-person and non-entity - whilst I would know your IP address, it is a waste of time giving such people time.

If I do go technical with some of my blogging entries, I would suppose it would still revolve around my experiences with analogies, allegories and inferences - I suppose that is the best way to blog - your views and well-researched opinions about how you observe things or how things affect you.

TechEd IT Forum a must

On already with the last day of Microsoft TechEd IT Forum and I am already planning for next year - thankfully, I do not have to run the gauntlet of corporate inertia in arranging for these conferences, I would expect any technical mind that manages and builds infrastructure in the enterprise should be here.

If only CIOs and IT Managers realised that this is no freebie holiday jaunt but an essential element career development that their staff should enjoy. I mentioned this at work months ago, but it all fell through for them and many other projects do because of the lack of adequate exposure to how things are done implemented elsewhere.


Mark Russinovich

Sunday 11 November 2007

Microsoft does micro-courtesy

Do Not Disturb!

If I ever have a tombstone, it would probably read – He always expected …

I expect that if I put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on my hotel room door that is exactly what it means – the sign is even generous enough to announce that stated intention in Catalan, Castellano and it defaults to English, just in case the housekeeping staff forgot.

Having burnt my candle on three ends last night, the last thing I wanted was for some stranger to walk in on my sleep and wake me up for reasons other than if there was a fire that required evacuating the building.

It transpired that I was disturbed twice and just as I was about to remonstrate, I found that my “Do Not Disturb” sign had disappeared.

In fact, I spoke to at least 3 other guests on my floor that had these bizarre walk-ins upsetting their Sunday morning lie-ins, just because the signs they put on their doors had evaporated, self-destructed or for some other funny reason like a kid collecting door signs.

I would hate to think that the housekeepers took it upon themselves to become this villainous beside the fact that the lady tried that English trick on me too; speaking Catalan slowly with a very loud voice; I did not understand a word but she felt she was communicating loud and clear – she should try that trick in English.

Open for seating at least

Organising a conference for 5,200 delegates in a foreign city can be a logistical nightmare, and from tomorrow the Microsoft TechEd IT Forum for Europe kicks off in Barcelona and we were advised to visit the conference centre to register from 10:00AM on Sunday – smart idea.

However, I having arrived the day before, I was not that travel weary but finding the place was not as easy as it should have been, the organisers assumed everyone would approach the conference centre from one direction, I happened to come from another angle, so the signs to the registration area were not that evident.

So, I got my conference kit and wanted to look into all I had collected, I saw quite a few people sitting on the floor, which I felt was just not on. I then asked the registration desk if there was some place to sit down and I was told the conference was not yet open and they did not have full access to the building till tomorrow.

Tosh! You cannot invite people to a place to register, some of whom are on the tail-end of a long journey and not provide seating – it should not be a requirement per se, it is just a matter common courtesy. I am sure there is a breach of certain health and safety rules in that framework as there were some areas cordoned off for seating the speakers but none for the delegates.

You could see the organisers speaking into their walkie-talkies and scrambling to arrest an uncomfortable situation, in fact, I am surprised no one else had asked that this be done or considered.

I expected something to be done about it and then I was offered the “favour” of being allowed in the speakers corner; sometimes the most mundane things get overlooked when even in Jesus’ time, some cities risked the wrath of Sodom and Gomorrah just for not being good hosts.

When I left the centre, there were more people allowed into this “hallowed corner”, but for all Microsoft’s greatness, this aspect of micro-courtesy or the lack of it is a structural logistical error and leaves much to be desired – I hate to think of what might have happened had I the need of the lavatories.

I must be getting old-fashioned, I probably am too staid in those ways, but common courtesy costs nothing, generates goodwill and keeps people happy; when we begin to lose that from the big picture of all our activities, a whole chunk of humanity deserts us.

Friday 2 November 2007

Dusting off my marketing literature

Never changing recurrence

Did I attend a meeting twice and find that one of the people who should have done something came to the meeting without having progressed any further?

It was the very last straw that broke the laden camel’s back, as I returned from Stockholm on Wednesday evening, it had come to a head for me, it was already reminiscent of every other endeavour we have tried to undertake – someone just cannot be arsed to do something.

At which point, I phoned my project manager and informed him that an email would be arriving the same night with the decision to seek other challenges.

Anyone would have seen this coming, the question would have been when; only that some had thought I had settled into a complacency that allows for these things to be ignored or treated as par for the course – they know different now.

Done or almost done

I would clear my desk at the end of November if no one has been hired to understudy me and take over what I am doing, else, I would consider suffering this ordeal till the end of the year.

Maybe, I am too demanding in my requirements that people deliver on what they are supposed to do, probably, I apply too much logic to scenarios requiring immediate resolution, apparently, I am impatient with organisations that are so clogged up in bureaucratic morass, we cannot get anything done.

This would normally not be evident because large organisations are able to cover a multitude of sins because their sales figures allow for other management deficiencies to be excused.

In any event, this job no more represents a challenge and more a running frustration; it would require a root-and-branch realignment of perspectives to change things, however, since I am just a contractor/consultant, my kind of professionalism might be creating business disruption in what is essentially the corporate culture of this organisation – it is time for me to move on.

This might momentarily leave my team in a bit of a quandary, but I hear from certain sources that a fresh-from-school guy might be hired in my place – and really, you can get anyone to do the job; but getting someone who really knows what to do, why it is done and how to fit it in that organisation requires experience – that is what I am selling to anyone who wants real solutions to chronic problems in the enterprise.