Microsoft Security Essentials


Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE), Microsoft’s free home user anti-malware tool, was today released in all it’s final glory to the world at large.

I’ve been running the beta for a few months now and I find it to be brilliant…it’s easy to install, easy to use, un-obtrusive and hasn’t let any nasties through (touch wood!). I was a Kaspersky user previously but I started to have some issues with the Windows 7 RC so MSE came along at just the right time :-) I’d definitely recommend that you give it a go, so download it from:

http://www.microsoft.com/security_essentials/

For more in-depth info and screenshots-see my July post here.

A look at Exchange 2010


I’ve been looking around the Microsoft New Efficiency site (blog post here) today and there are a number of great videos giving an overview and introduction to the new features of Exchange 2010. One of the key ideologies behind the new version of Exchange has been that it will behave the same whether it’s on-site or hosted in the cloud. The slide below shows the main pillars of Exchange 2010:

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The following screenshots go into more detail on the features behind the above:

 

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You’ll see here that Exchange 2010 now has integrated archiving capabilities. As you can see below, it gives users a 2nd mailbox which can be used to store archived data with all the familiarity and ease of Outlook.

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It also has a new “Legal Hold” feature which tracks all edits etc on a user’s email-even those that are deleted.

Other features/news:

I saw this week that Exchange 2010 has the ability to migrate users during an upgrade (from 2007) without any downtime! A huge bonus to System Admins everywhere :-)

Outlook Web Access is now called Outlook Web App, so still the same initials but it shows a different approach. Rather than it simply being a way to get your emails when you’re without Outlook…it is now a proper, defined entity in it’s own right. That is also shown by the fact that OWA 2010 will have around 95% feature parity with the full Outlook client. I don’t know what the percentage is currently but certainly in my opinion OWA 2007 is lacking a lot; so roll on OWA 2010! This will be of big interest to people looking at Exchange Online aswell…

Microsoft: The New Efficiency


At today’s “New Efficiency” launch event, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer spoke about Windows 7 deployments and how customers can save money with the latest OS. He particularly mentioned that Windows 7 “will bring $90-$160 saving per pc per year”.

He also discussed the “Consumerisation of IT”, where users bring/force change in Corporate IT via their expectations from using software at home. He said that it isn’t a new phenomenon (it just has a new name) and that it will continue to be a huge driving force in the way that software is designed and used-such as the extra social networking features being added into Office, Exchange & Sharepoint.

This all led to the launch of a new website:

http://vepexp.microsoft.com/thenewefficiency

which contains dozens of videos from MS execs covering topics such as:

  • Discover Windows Optimized Desktop
  • Learn about Optimized Server
  • Experience Unified Communications
  • Explore Business Ready Security

There are a bunch of videos on Exchange 2010 such as:

  • Upgrade & Deployment
  • High Availability
  • Mobility & Active Sync
  • Email Archiving

and more. These are a great source of information on Exchange 2010, some of which I’ve collected here.

The banner below is a great representation of the products & ideas behind the New Efficiency.

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There are way too many sessions to list here but MS have put together some suggested sessions listings for:

  • Enterprises
  • Mid-Size
  • SMB’s

They contain links to the videos on the New Efficiency site and can be downloaded from my SkyDrive here.

Tell No One


I’ve just finished watching an excellent film called “Tell No One”, the story of a husband’s turmoil when his dead wife seemingly re-appears. With intrigue, suspense, car chases, shootings, thoughtful twists and some wonderful acting, this 2006 film is definitely a hidden gem. It’s sits a little over 2 hours long but it makes use of the time very well with no real lulls in the pace and always making you want to find out what happens next.

One thing that may put people off, but I really hope it doesn’t, is that it’s in French with English subtitles. Often “World Cinema” is an instant turn off for people as the prevailing stereotype of foreign films is pretty much intellectual, self-important, boring and arty…and this perhaps applies even more to French films! Yes, there are some foreign films like that but there are also plenty of English/American films that fit that description, so I feel international movies should be given a chance.

Tell No One is a great example that foreign films can be just as engrossing, thrilling, fast paced and enjoyable as anything coming out of Hollywood and I’d highly recommend it :-)

1 Year anniversary


Today (24/09/09) is the first year anniversary of my first blog post :-) It wasn’t much, just a little hello to get me started followed the day after by a post on the MS Roundtable.

I’m not 100% sure what made me decide to start blogging, although I’d joined Twitter a few weeks before so I think that might have been part of it! Seeing people sharing information to help others to discover new things, solve issues being experienced and just generally being social with people all across the world was pretty great and I’m really glad to be part of it now :-)

Thank you to everyone who has visited, linked to and mentioned my blog. I’m happy that it’s been useful to you and I hope it will continue to be so :-)

Microsoft & Virtual Licensing


Microsoft and virtual licensing is definitely a hot topic at the minute. In particular an article written by Paul DeGroot from Direction on Microsoft keeps being re-tweeted on Twitter by all manner of people. Personally, I think people are being a little short-sighted and thus not being quite fair to Microsoft-or the people they’re advising.

Reading this article by Bridget Botelho over at www.searchservervirtualization.com, the crux of it seems to be that Microsoft licensing

 “defeats the purpose of building a dynamic data center”

due to the rules around re-assigning Windows server licences. True, if you’re using Windows Server Std or even Enterprise licences, licence re-assignment has the potential to cause a few issues. However, the example used is of a datacenter…and MS have a product called “Windows Server DataCenter”-which is aimed at customer running a “proper” datacenter. The example DeGroot uses is:

"You might want to run an automated data center with rules like ‘Move a VM when the CPU hits 90%,’ but that move may violate the 90-day rule…”

What’s the problem?

Example A:

Say you are licensed for 3 VM’s on server A and 2 VM’s on server B. The above rule could potentially leave you with 2 VM’s on server A and 4 VM’s on server B. If you’re licensed with Windows Server Std-that would leave you incorrectly licensed.

Example B:

Say you are licensed for 3 VM’s on server A and 4 VM’s on server B. The above rule could potentially leave you with 2 VM’s on server A and 5 VM’s on server B. If you’re licensed with Windows Server Enterprise-that would leave you incorrectly licensed.

However, Windows Server Datacenter gives you unlimited virtual licensing rights-rendering the above examples moot.

Check out this great video explanation:

Other analysts join in:

Chris Wolf from Burton Group said at this year’s VMWorld that “one of the most important changes Microsoft needs to make is to remove the mobility restrictions associated with Standard Edition Windows Server OS licenses”. He goes on to say

“Most enterprises wind up purchasing Datacenter edition licenses as part of a virtualization project…”

and he says this as though it is a bad thing! He only seems to be looking at the upfront costs and basing it on the assumption that there are no benefits associated with Datacenter licensing other than being able to move VM’s around; in my experience that isn’t true.

If a customer were to use Standard licences to cover every VM in their datacenter, It would also slow down expansion as each time you need to deploy a new VM-what do you need to do…that’s right, go and order a new licence.

You urgently need to provision a new server to cope with extra load etc but you haven’t got a spare licence-the proper thing to do is wait until a licence has been ordered from your reseller and then deploy the VM. What will actually happen is that the VM will get deployed anyway and the licence will get ordered after the fact…leaving the company non-compliant but “hey-it’s only for 24 hours” will be the mentality.

Then, once people become familiar with that “process” they may well not bother reporting the new deployment as, let’s be fair, most techies aren’t up on the licensing rules and so might not even realise there’s anything to report. On top of that maybe people will simply forget to mention it or the Asset management guy is on holiday so they’ll tell him when he’s back…but a fortnight’s a long time and it never gets done.

Even with Software Asset Management monitoring is place, it will be a job to keep track of it and may well still lead to non-compliance.

Alternatively, you can purchase Datacenter edition and use as many VM’s as your servers can handle. These days ease of management, and thus a reduction in management costs, is a huge focus for most companies so while Datacenter is more expensive that Std (or Enterprise) it gives cost savings in many other areas.

Wolf also said:

“The leap to licensing per VM instead of per physical machines is going to take a lot of pressure on the company," Wolf said. "But keep holding them to the fire, because it is working."

To me it would seem that licensing per VM would be more expensive, more complicated and more fraught with potential pitfalls. I’d be interested to see what you think on this subject…

Technical Differences:

Also, on a slight side note, Windows Server Datacenter is much more technically suited to that environment with features such as:

  • Hot Add Processors
  • Hot Replace Memory
  • 64 X64 sockets (against 8 for Ent)

when compared to Enterprise and:

Failover cluster nodes

  • Cross File Replication
  • 2TB X64 RAM (against 32GB)
  • 64 X64 sockets (against 4)

when compared to Std.

See more comparisons here.

Going to Pieces: Awesome horror documentary


I’ve just watched “Going to Pieces: The Rise & Fall of the Slasher movie” and it’s brilliant…interesting, enjoyable and it brought back memories of watching all those awesome 80’s horror films back in the day :-) It’s full of interviews with horror legends like John Carpenter, Wes Craven, Tom Savini & Rob Zombie among others as well as clips from all the films you love like:

It’s great to hear first hand accounts of what it was like to be part of (pretty much) creating a whole new genre with tales from the directors, FX guys and stars. It’s also great to see clips from films that you’ve forgotten about or perhaps never heard of…my LoveFilm list jumped up by about 15 films this evening with a bunch of films I’ve not seen for years like House of a 1000 corpses, Nightmare on Elm Street & Maniac Cop as well as films I never got round to watching like Maniac, Slumber Party Massacre & Prom Night :-)

Do you like Scary Movies?

If you’re into Horror/Slasher films in any way then you should definitely check this out. If you’re kind of interested in them and would like some help in choosing which films you should watch-check this out. If you don’t like horror or gore-then stay away ;-)

King of Kong: Donkey Kong Documentary


I’ve just watched a documentary called King of Kong: A Fistful of Dollars, about the battle to be classed as the World’s #1 Donkey Kong Player.

A documentary about 80’s video games perhaps isn’t to everyone’s taste but, in my opinion, this is a great film that you should definitely watch if you’re at all interested in Arcade games. To be honest, I think even if gaming isn’t your thing, this film is still worth watching…it does a great job of making you have real feelings (for and against) the main protagonists and I really cared about the outcome of the high-score battle. Seeing inside the world of competitive gaming is very interesting; it’s a lot more cut-throat that I previously imagined :-)

This film is entertaining, engaging, very well made and highly enjoyable…this, my second post on a film, urges you to go and watch it…but keep an eye out for barrels on the way to BlockBuster ;-)

For a few disputed facts, see Wikipedia here (but do it after you’ve watched the film!)

Tweetdeck & Bit.ly


I’ve been blogging for almost 1 year now and twittering for just over, but I’ve only just discovered the benefits of using the stat services offered by most URL shortening offerings.

I use bit.ly and it’s great-you sign into bit.ly, shorten the URL, post it in your tweet and viola-you can see how many clicks, when and where they were made, Twitter & FriendFeed conversations (retweets etc) and a bunch of graphs :-)

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The thing that caused me the biggest problem was the extra step in the middle of signing in to bit.ly to shorten the URL-which allows it to track the link. Often I forgot to do this…tweeting the link to a new blog post and then thinking “oh bugger”! I saw a few mentions that Tweetdeck (my preferred Twitter client by far) could link to bit.ly via an API key but following the directions on bit.ly’s site didn’t work. I eventually discovered that this was a feature in Tweetdeck’s latest version 0.30.04 so I downloaded the new version and hey presto I’m up and running :-)

Once you’ve got the new version, go to Settings –> Services and then under Bit.ly, you can add in your bit.ly API key. Then you can just post your links in Tweetdeck and it automatically updates the stats tracker…an excellent new addition.

On a slight side note-another new feature in Tweetdeck is it now links to MySpace…are enough people still using it to warrant that?!

Crystal Reports Server 2008: New Features


As I’m sure you’ve noticed, Microsoft is my #1 software of choice, both here and at work-but I am also a fan of Crystal Reports (now from SAP).

Crystal Reports Server 2008 is their very successful product for serving up reports with automating & scheduling capabilities-and this month, it got a Service Pack. It added a number of new features but the 2 that I find most interesting are:

Report Bursting:

Report Bursting allows you to run a report once and produce subsets of results specific to different users; this is used to generate bank statements for example. This feature was previously only available in the more enterprise products from SAP-but is now available to the mid-market :-) I see this being a huge benefit to a lot of our customers…

Auditing: Report Auditing allows companies to see who is viewing what reports, when, for how long etc, which can be very useful for ensuring that your Business Intelligence (BI) efforts are paying off and being found relevant by users.

There are a number of other features around Sharepoint and .NET integration that I will detail a little later…