Microsoft Exam Second Shot Vouchers


Microsot exams are a pretty integral part of any IT certification plans and now, thanks to a recent expansion of Microsoft’s schemes, I can offer free 2nd shot exam vouchers!

What are they?

If you’ve got an upcoming MS exam, the 2nd shot vouchers can help alleviate any worries you might have around not passing and having to pay for a second exam attempt :-)

They are valid for

“all Microsoft IT Professional and developer certification exams and all Microsoft Dynamics exams (all 070 exams).”

and can be redeemed via Prometric testing sites.

“Each voucher is valid for one exam retake (if the first attempt failed) and one Practice Test discounted 40% before June 30, 2010”

So this gives you a great cushion in knowing that you can re-take it for free should something go wrong the first time you take it. Relieving that pressure can often give you the freedom you need to get it together and pass the exam first time anyway!

How do I get them?

If you’ve planning on taking a Microsoft exam and would like one of these vouchers, simply email me on:

richfrombechtle@live.co.uk

and I will get the voucher created and sent over to you ASAP :-)

Expiry:

Currently, the vouchers available are valid until June 30th 2010 which is a little over 2 months so there’s not too much time to dawdle!

Get emailing and get certified…good luck!

Office 2010 Components


Office 2010 has hit RTM (Release To Manufacturing) and is just about to start making itself available to users in it’s final version. Most people are aware that there have been some changes with what is included in which Office editions but I don’t think I’ve seen a full breakdown yet, so here you are :-)

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A couple of major changes are:

No more Office Enterprise

New Pro Academic Option

and one that is quite big but isn’t really getting mentioned:

OneNote is now in ALL versions of Microsoft Office 2010 (except Starter); previously it appeared in just the Enterprise SKU. OneNote is a great application (What is OneNote?) and this will help increase it’s adoption among home users and also within Corporate Environments.

You can see more on Technet here.

Windows Azure: Free Developers Course


Windows Azure is a key part of Microsoft’s “Cloud” strategy moving into the future but of course, it needs people to use it and develop for it for it to be truly successful. They are piloting a new way of training developers & architects Azure, via self paced, web based training…best of all it’s FREE!

The method is one that I’m quite familiar with which aims to offer the best features of classroom training without the hassles and expense of travel, hotels, being out of the office for days etc. It utilises:

  • Interactive Live Meeting sessions with a tutor
  • On-line videos
  • Hands on Labs
  • E-Learning
  • Weekly Assessments

to cover off the topics, and you don’t need to go anywhere! The course lasts for 6 weeks from:

May 10th – June 18th

and covers:

Week 1 – Windows Azure Platform
Week 2 – Windows Azure Storage
Week 3 – Windows Azure Deep Dive and Codename "Dallas"
Week 4 – SQL Azure
Week 5 – Windows Azure Platform AppFabric Access Control
Week 6 – Windows Azure Platform AppFabric Service Bus

and did I mention it’s FREE?!

This is aimed at developers, architects, programmers and system designers and recommends at least 6 months experience programming in .NET and Visual Studio.

It will take around 4 to 5 hours a week to research and complete the tasks and there are timelines etc for submitting the work. However, successful completion gets you a “Microsoft Certificate of Completion” :-)

This is a new approach from Microsoft and one that I hope will be expanded out to other product areas.

Register:

You can find more information and sign up here:

https://msevents.microsoft.com/CUI/EventDetail.aspx?EventID=1032449971&Culture=en-GB

If you’re technically minded and interested in Azure, sign up…and get any colleagues/friends that would be interested to sign up too!

I’ve registered and am looking forward to it so hopefully I’ll see you there :-)

Windows Intune


Windows Intune is the newest addition to the Microsoft Online Services stable…and it’s a biggie! Do you remember System Center Online Desktop Manager (SCODM)? Did you notice that it all went quiet on that front? Well here it is with a new name…

What is it?

Windows Intune is a cloud based, central management system aimed at SMB’s of up to 250 machines (or so).

“Windows Intune simplifies how businesses manage and secure PCs using Windows cloud services and Windows 7—so your computers and users can operate at peak performance, from virtually anywhere.”

Intune covers many of the areas that IT Managers find difficult and time consuming such as:

  • Managing Updates
  • Pro-active monitoring
  • Malware Protection
  • Asset Tracking (Hardware & Software)
  • Remote Assistance
  • Setting Security Policies

Windows Intune screenshot

Extra Features:

It’s not just great central systems management that Intune gives you also get:

Software Assurance: Subscribing to InTune allows you to upgrade all your machines to Windows 7 Enterprise and take advantage of features including:

    • Bit Locker to Go
    • Federated Search
    • Direct Access
    • and more

You also receive

“new features or updates to Windows Intune or the Windows operating system automatically as long as your subscription is active”

so say “Hello” to Windows 8 further down the line :-)

Despite this, you can run Vista, or even XP, as your corporate desktop OS.

MDOP: The Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack is a great set of tools including MED-V & App-V that make managing your environment easier and more cost effective. See more info here. The Asset Inventory Service (AIS) component of MDOP is already included as part of InTune.

How can I get it?

It’s currently in beta, limited to 1000 customers in US, Canada, Mexico & Puerto Rico. If one of those is you locale, go sign up here:

http://www.microsoft.com/online/windows-intune.mspx

 

Relation to existing Products.

Microsoft have had on-site management products for years. First SMS & MOM and now the System Center family such as:

  • SCCM (System Center Configuration Manager)
  • SCOM (System Center Operations Manager)
  • SCE (System Center Essentials)

These products are becoming more and more popular among both corporate customers and the education sector, and have been marked by Steve Ballmer as an area of big focus for the coming years. Microsoft have also put a lot of effort into their Online Services but could still do with a real killer product to help those small to medium businesses (SMB’s) fully embrace “The Cloud”. Thus it make sense that they’ve combined the 2 and created InTune.

My thoughts are all around how InTune will sit alongside products and offering that already exist. It is very much an online version of System Center Essentials, although InTune can’t do Application Deployment and SCE doesn’t include any ForeFront Protection. A breakdown is below:

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However I do think that it could cause a lot of confusion when it comes to Software Assurance. As a Channel Licensing Specialist I, and my company, have done a lot of work around Software Assurance – especially as it relates to Windows 7. It seems to me that InTune may well undermine a lot of the work we (and other partners) have done in this area to show the whole range of benefits that SA offers…many of which aren’t included with the new offering.

It will also muddy the waters when it comes to purchasing Windows 7 & SA now. InTune is slated to be available in many more countries with 12 months of the beta; so companies considering Software Assurance within the next 6-12 months (say) may now push the projects back in order to evaluate InTune. Not great for partners or the channel.

Conclusion

As a product, I think InTune is great. I’m a big of BPOS (as a concept, although it hasn’t reached its potential yet) and adding management tools to the Suite is really good way of both bolstering the Online offering and helping more people reap the benefits of Microsoft’s management expertise.

I am however, more cautious about it’s effect on the perception of SA and project timelines over the coming 12 to 18 months.

To find out more about Windows InTune, go here:

http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsintune/default.aspx

Windows Phone 7: Unlocking the Emulator


Windows Phone 7 is going to be with us later this year but it’s still a fair way away. Don’t fret though, there is a way to play with Redmond’s upcoming mobile OS…Unlock the Emulator.

Gizmodo have got a great, easy to follow guide on what you need to download etc to get up & running…find that here. It only took about 15 minutes to get up & running and that includes the download time and re-starting the machine, so it’s not particularly arduous!

I’m now going to take a look through the various screens, sections and folders of the WP7 emulator and see what’s hiding. This post will be resplendent with screenshots of course :-)

Homescreen:

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The 1st hub is

“People”:

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Clicking the “+” next to “all” allows you to add new people to your contacts:

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Social networking is also handled by this hub and the default accounts available to set up are:

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Click any of those, enter your address and password and setup begins.

The next hub is

Messaging:

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Not a huge amount to show for the Messaging hub really :-) Onto the

Calendar

You get the standard “day” view:

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but I’m a big fan of the “Agenda” view:

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It makes it nice and easy to see what you’ve got coming up. Also, the homescreen hub shows upcoming appointments:

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Up next,

Internet Explorer

Here’s this very blog as viewed in “Desktop” mode on WP7 IE:

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Here’s Bechtle’s UK site:

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and here’s Gizmodo:

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One new addition that I’m very pleased to see is this:

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You are now able to open multiple browser windows at the same time, and switch between them:

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This is one of my favourite things about mobile browsing on my Android phone and something I definitely wouldn’t want to lose in my next phone, so it’s great to see it in Windows Phone 7.

The extra settings screen in IE:

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Pin to Start does what it says on the tin and pins that site to your start screen:

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That’s the Microsoft site in the bottom corner there.

“Settings” doesn’t bring anything up at the moment, at least not for me.

The next hub is one of the most exciting:

XBOX Live & Games:

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Don’t ask me why the New York Times is classed as a game but click on it and you get:

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You can see the easy “Try” & “Buy” options there, a huge improvement over app interaction in previous Windows Mobile editions.

I can’t get the Emulator to connect to Windows Live, so I can’t explore the Xbox integration any further. I have asked Twitter if it can be done though!

Our next stop is:

Pictures:

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The extra settings button gives you:

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Again you can see sharing as an integral part of the OS. Currently its only option is text messages but I assume that, once set up, your other social media accounts (Twitter, Flickr, Facebook etc) will appear there too.

This next hub is the one I am most excited about…Microsoft mobile devices, welcome:

Zune:

I’ve been using the Zune desktop software for a few months now and I love it. It’s cool, clean, sexy, swish, awesome and fully featured…to be able to continue that experience on my mobile device will be fantastic!

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It’s not just the look and UI (User Interface) of Zune that I’m a fan of, there are 2 main things and the first is:

Marketplace

Clicking the link above takes you to the Marketplace, where you can see:

imageimage image image

So a huge range of media available to purchase directly from your mobile…awesome :-)

The arrow at the top right of the homescreen gives you access to the other features of the OS:

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The “Convert” option is a nice addition, I use the new conversion features of the Windows 7 calculator a lot so I’m definitely a fan of this:

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All the Office Mobile Apps are there but there’s also a “Microsoft Office” option, allowing access to all the programs at once:

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Excel:

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A new feature that shows the direction MS are taking with Office integration can be found in the “personalize” section in Excel:

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This is a clear tie in with Sharepoint and one that will be welcomed by many mobile users and fits in well with the Office 2010/Wave 14 message of Increased Productivity.

Word:

Word has got an easy to use commenting feature:

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and there’s the option to send files directly from Word:

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Sharepoint:

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This gives you quick and easy access to your corporate Sharepoint sites from your Windows Phone 7 device.

The settings for the Sharepoint Client are:

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Built in support for UAG (Unified Access Gateway) isn’t something I was expecting to see, but perhaps isn’t surprising.

OneNote:

OneNote currently gives this error message:

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This is the first time I’ve seen Skydrive integrated into any other Microsoft products, and I think it’s a great idea. The 25GB of free storage sitting in Windows Live is under-utilised by almost everyone I know which is a shame, as SkyDrive is a brilliant, and generous, offering.

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OneNote has lost none of it’s rich media inclusion in the mobile version, with the ability to add pictures & audio recordings right on the device.

Powerpoint:

Oddly, Powerpoint isn’t listed in the Office App but it is still there! However there are no .pptx’s built into the emulator so there’s nothing for it to open:

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All in all, Office on Windows Phone 7 certainly looks a lot sleeker and easier to navigate than on Windows Mobile 6.1.

Other apps in the OS include:

Maps

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That is a very well rendered image of the London Eye in the Windows Phone 7 Maps app.

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The above shows that it’s very clear and well designed application, easy on the eyes and easy to see where you’re going.

Camera:

One camera setting I really like is the top one:

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Being able to wake the phone up with the camera button will allow you to grab those snaps that little bit quicker…which can be the difference between a great picture and a picture of nothing!

Settings:

The settings menu shows that Microsoft MyPhone, the online backup service Microsoft released last year, is now integrated into the Operating System rather than being a separate add-on.

Myphone Features:

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Themes:

If you’re not a fan of the dark default theme, you can brighten it up as so:

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System Info:

This gives a screen familiar to PC users across the world:

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ands also:

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The “Shortcuts” menu also gives you access to the file structure:

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I think it would be a good idea to keep these in the final version of the OS; it makes it more consistent with the desktop Windows experience and is also usual to many users. However, Jason Chen of Gizmodo said something similar and Long Zheng said he was a “moron” who deserved to “be sacked” so I’ll stay away from that hornet’s nest ;-)

Conclusion:

There are still bits of the OS that aren’t present in the emulator as well as a few areas that are a bit glitchy, but that is to be expected with something that isn’t even a beta but simply an expanded emulator!

However there are plenty of things in here that make it clear this is Microsoft’s greatest Mobile Operating System ever. Gone are the confusing menu layers and different styles of previous Windows Mobile editions and in are smooth, sleek lines of the new Metro User Interface. I’m an Android user now and am pretty pleased with it but Windows Phone 7 has a real chance of winning me back…however, it’s going to be all about the apps at the end of the day. My HTC Hero is an e-book reader, a barcode scanner, a food tracker, a translator and more…if Windows Phone 7 can’t be all those things, and more, then it’ll have to be “thanks but no thanks Redmond”.

So I think image

Links


I do like it when my blog is linked to by others and this last week I’ve had a few really good links, which is nice :-)

These are:

Mary Jo Foley over on ZDNet linking to my post on VLSC 3.5

4sysops linking to my post on VLSC 3.5

CRN (Channel Reseller News) linking to my post on VLSC 3.5

So something of a theme ;-)

Thanks to everyone who reads this blog, and thanks to everyone who links to it :-)

Windows 7 Deployment Learning Portal


Windows 7 deployment is definitely a hot topic. The larger/more technically minded end end users are looking to get their IT teams skilled up and more Microsoft partners than ever before are looking to acquire these skills, and offer the services. Add into this the number of consultants and techie home users and there’s a real appetite for information across the board.

Microsoft have already made a lot of great information available via Technet as well as the MS Press books etc. For me, although Technet is great, I do sometimes struggle to find what I need for a certain situation/question and end up none the wiser. I also like online exams as a way of testing/tracking my level of knowledge, and also my (hopeful) improvements. Thus, I got pretty excited (more excited than a Rydberg atom in fact :-)) when I discovered the

Windows 7 Deployment Learning Portal

It’s aim is

“to help you identify the strengths and gaps in your knowledge around Windows 7 deployment and provide some targeted learning to help you reach the top of your game”

and, in my opinion, it does just that…and very well too. Going through the 11 modules showed me there were a few areas that I was already quite strong in as well as a number of modules I needed to work on. <—This is where the targeted Technet materials came in very handy. Rather than leaving me to my own devices, after each question I answered incorrectly there were a few links to specific Technet pages relating to the topic in hand; I was able to quickly read up on the subject, identify my mistakes, find the right answer and then re-take the module.

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Learning Style

I really like the way that Microsoft Technet have approached this site. It’s much more about identifying, and then filling, any knowledge gaps you may have rather than simply passing/failing an assessment; this is a much better approach for all involved.

I failed a few of the modules and hugely benefitted from being able to read through the Technet articles straight away, and then re-take the modules. Once I’d read through the various suggested articles including how to guides/step by step procedures etc, I passed each module but, more importantly, retained the knowledge. If it had simply said “You’ve failed”, I wouldn’t have improved my skill levels anywhere near as much.

For anyone looking to become more au fait with Windows  deployment methods, be it for personal interest or work necessity, this site is a great place to start. Equally, if you’re looking (as I am) to complete the Windows 7 70-680 exam, there is a wealth of information available through this site and I would definitely recommend it! On the subject of the 70-690 exam, Microsoft are running an:

Early Bird Promotion

“The first 150 individuals to pass all modules will receive a free Microsoft Press Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP) self-study guide. The first 500 individuals to pass all modules will receive a free certification exam voucher.”

I have no idea if it’s still within the 150 pass limit (or the 500 for that matter) but if I was you, I’d head over to:

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-gb/windows/ff470986.aspx

get registered and get taking those modules. Worst case you get a great, solid grounding in Windows 7 Deployment tactics and best case you’ll get some great free gifts :-) Friendly word of advice, make sure you select the “I want to be included” tick otherwise you won’t be eligible for the free book or voucher ;-)

I hope you have fun over there and I just want to say, Thank You Microsoft Technet, for a great resource :-)