Interview: Mike Terrill

Introduction

Each “interview” I’ve done has been a wildly different experience. This one was impacted by logistics and direction changes.  By that, I mean both Mike and I were in the midst of major scheduling demands, however, Mike is also navigating a job change, which is always a tough thing to try to insert extracurricular activities (like half-brained bloggers nagging people with questions).

Mike is one of my short-list, go-to people for information about things related to deploying and managing Windows devices via System Center technologies.  I’m not implying that’s all he’s good for, but that’s how I discovered his blog and Twitter feed. Mike is also one of several people I tried (and failed) to meet in person during Microsoft Ignite 2016 in Atlanta, due to crazy schedules, navigational challenges, and caffeine shortage.  I’m planning to be at Ignite 2017, so I’m going to be more diligent in meeting people (those that want to meet me in person, that is).

Name: Mike Terrill

Job Title: OS Engineer

1. Describe what you do for a living – to someone who has no idea what it means.

Architect systems to deploy and manage Windows devices electronically without touching them.

2. How did you get into this type of work?

I have always been interested in computers since the day when I got my first computer – C64. I was big into cars during high school and college, and I wanted to work on automotive computer systems when I graduated. I ended up getting into systems management instead.

3. What area or aspect of technology are you most excited about?

Self-driving cars and connected cars – people are idiot drivers and half of them should not be behind the wheel. It is exciting to see the progress in this area. The Systems and Industrial Engineering Department at the University of Arizona is one of the leaders in this space and have been ever since I was there in the 90s.

4. What gives you the most satisfaction today?

Family vacations, cart racing and Megadeth concerts.

5. Name the 3 most inspiring people in your life or career?

My parents and my wife. My parents taught me how to work hard to meet my goals. My wife has helped me make my career decisions, including my recent one (but she still thinks it is called SMS since I gave up talking to her about it a long time ago).

6. If I hadn’t gone into this field, I’d probably be…

an automotive engineer with an emphasis on engine (computer) management systems. I had a Mustang GT 5.0 growing up that I not only turbocharged, but I replaced the Ford computer system with a fully programmable after market computer system that provided engine management.

7. Favorite place to travel?

Hawaii (second to that would be Mars with skatterbrainz of course).

[edit: oh, this poor guy]

8. What 3 books, movies or other works have influenced you most in life?

Millionaire Next Door, Smart Couples Finish Rich, and of course one of Kent Agerlund’s books. The first two teach basic common financial sense and these concepts should be taught in high school. Kent’s books teach Configuration Manager common sense.

9. There’s never enough …

time in the day (or money).

10. There’s way too much …

hatred (and big government).

11. What’s your favorite sound?

Dave Mustaine’s guitar.

12. What would you say to those who insist that technology has only made life worse?

I would say “What about all of the technology that is now making things possible for disabled people that previously were only a dream?” Technology has made life better, not worse. Sometimes people use technology for bad things (like the recent WannaCry ransomware), but that is a people problem, not a technology problem.

13. How do you feel about the importance of college degrees, and certifications as it pertains to IT careers?

Do those credentials mean as much, or more, than they use to? Yes and no. There is still a need for advanced education. Formal college degrees and certifications show one’s desire and persistence to complete a goal (and hopefully learn in the process). However, there are plenty smart individuals out there that do not have formal education. As for IT, it is a mixed bag. Some people happened to fall in to IT as a career and probably should be in a completely different field (skatterbrainz knows what I am talking about – just read his tweets from his projects).

[edit: omg – I promise I did not bribe anyone for that mention]

14. You’ve crashed on a remote island along with 4 other engineers, and 5 sales people. There’s only enough food for five people total to last a week. What do you do?

The 5 sales people will end drowning since they believe they can walk on water. That will leave enough time for the engineers to come up with a plan and get off the island.

[edit: there is an alternate theory that the sales people will ultimately survive by way of verbally ‘synergistically envisioning’ the engineers to death]

15. If you could go back in time and change one piece of technology to end up better today, what would it be, and why?

Hmm…this is a tough one, but it would probably be with something that helps people or saves lives.

More about Mike

Mike’s twitter profile

Mike’s blog

Arizona Systems Management Users Group

 

Interview: Johan Arwidmark

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Preface

If you need an introduction for this guy, you’re reading the wrong blog.  That, or you don’t know what Microsoft Windows is.  From a personal aspect, Johan represents a particular sense of reality.  For example, when I start getting full of myself at work, I tune into a video, blog post or crack open one of his books, and get a fresh dose of, “sit down junior, you still have a lot to learn.

It’s been about 4 years since I last had the chance to bug him. And considering his crazy schedule, I was lucky enough to get him to agree to the following 15-question “interview”.  Anyhow, let’s go…

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Name: Johan Arwidmark

Job Title: Chief Technology Officer

Home town: Halmstad, Sweden

1. Describe what you do for a living – to someone who has no idea what it means.

Shorthand: I’m a computer geek. – Longer version: I help organizations implement automated solutions to deliver software (apps, operating systems, etc.) to computers. I also produce training content on the same topic.

2. What aspect or area of technology are you most excited about?

OS Deployment

3. What gives you the most satisfaction today?

Being able to combine consulting, training and authoring work with a decent amount of travelling.

4. Name the 3 most inspiring people in your life or career?

Mark Minasi, Michael Niehaus and Steve Jobs

5. What 3 books, movies, or other works, have influenced or inspired you the most?

Apollo 13 (the movie), Awaken the Giant Within (book), and A Beautiful Mind (movie)

6. Virtual Reality gear, or Augmented Reality gear. Which will see wide-spread public use first, and why?

VR, it is already here, and is backed by the gaming industry.

7. What new or promising technology do you see that can’t get here soon enough?

Cheap, shiny, computer hardware.

8. Do you think the general process of deploying operating systems and software will ever become so automated or simple that the need for customization will become extremely rare? If so, how soon?

Eventually, yes, but probably 15-20 years down the road.

9. There’s never enough…

time.

10. There’s way too much…

distractions.

11. Whats some thing that you wish you could change in the IT field? (Good or bad)

I would like see more talented women to consider a future in the field of technology.

12. In the future do you see major tech vendors divesting more, or less, of their customer-facing services to partners? Will it vary by service type? How and why?

Software services scale out well via partners, hardware sales, not so much.

13. How do you feel about the importance of college degrees, and certifications as it pertains to IT careers? Do those credentials mean as much, or more, than they use to?

Technically, for the job itself, they do very little. But a degree may be required to get a job because of policies, or at least it will put your application in front of others.

14. Will most people still be using desktop computers in 2022? Why or why not?

Mini-computers yes, like a media-PC at home, etc. Intel NUCs etc.

15. If you could transport yourself back to ancient times, like say the 1100’s AD, somewhere in Europe, and you brought along a Surface Book (with a full battery charge), and you turned it on and used it in a room full of town locals, what do you think would happen?

I would be hanged, roasted on fire, been drowned, have my head chopped off, or a combination of all 🙂

There’s more…

Deployment Research

Channel 9 videos

Blog Posts at TrueSec

Books: Amazon

YouTube videos

Conferences (past/present/future): Microsoft TechEd and Ignite, MMS, IT Dev Connections, more (just search his name)

 

CMWT 2017.04.24.01 Released

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I’m trying something different this time, so I will let you tell me if it’s better or worse than what I was doing.

What I was doing: Uploading raw files to the Github repo, and uploading a .ZIP to a separate repo under the same account.

What I’m trying now: Uploading raw files to the Github repo and let everyone download the entire stack using the Github “clone or download” feature.  The Download option makes a .ZIP of the entire mess, so it seems like a better option (so far).

What’s new in 2017.04.24.01

  • Bug fixes to AD users, groups and SCCM device details
  • AD user page now allows adding to AD groups
  • AD groups are filtered using the _protectedgroups.txt file (you can edit this to your liking)

More info here

SCCM Collection Queries by Server Role

MFfn7

Rather than spew forth a bunch of sample queries, I’ll just hand you a virtual fishing rod, a case of imaginary beer, and point you to the make-believe boat.  This little procedure came in handy today with a customer I was helping.  I hope it helps you as well…

  • Device Collections
    • Create Device Collection
      • Name: Servers – WDS Servers (example)
        • Limiting collection: (whatever has servers with clients)
        • Use incremental updates for this collection (check)
        • Add Rule > Query-Rule
          • Name: 1 (or whatever you want, I’m lazy)
          • Edit Query Statement:
            • Omit duplicate rows (check)
            • Criteria tab
              • “Select” button (click it)
              • Class = Server Feature
              • Attribute = Name (click OK)
                • Is Equal To (leave as-is)
              • Click the “Value” button
                • Select an appropriate Feature Name
                • Enjoy a cold one!

Interview: Jon Szewczak

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Name: Jon Szewczak

Job Title: Official: Programmer III
Job Title: Unofficial:  SQL Server DBA / .NET Web Architect / Windows / Intel Server Administrator / Pain in the a$$

Preface

I first met Jon somewhere between 2000-2004, while working on a rather large CAD software development project.  Me being older, and somewhat stuck in my ways, at first I had a tough time being questioned about “why” when it came to API choices and strategic decisions.  But it turned out to be a life-changing experience for me.  I had forgotten the adaptive mindset that has to exist when working with software, relying instead on hard-worn habits, some of which were from lack of being immersed in more dynamic environments.

After a few months of being a one-man-team, I had a tough time getting used to someone asking questions and offering other ideas to the project.  But Jon has a way of presenting ideas that make you listen, rather than just shoving it in your face.

We initially disagreed on quite a few technical aspects, but over time our thinking became more in sync, which I attribute much towards me learning to listen more.  Everyone I’ve ever worked with has rubbed off on me in various ways, and Jon is one of those who left a positive influence on me (I don’t have many positive attributes, so even one is better than none).  Anyhow, let’s get to it…

1. Describe what you do for a living – to someone who has no idea what it means.

Hmmm. That can be hard. My job title is Programmer III – like Superman III only not as cool and no Richard Pryor. That title means that I make computers do things by typing in commands that it can understand after a bunch of translating.

I have designed and implemented a vast majority of the programming code that runs the complex website at http://www.mdvnf.com. I also develop, maintain, and support several custom desktop applications that the associates at my company use on a daily basis.

But over the years, I have taken on other roles within the IT department. When I was brought in, I was immediately the “subject matter expert” on SQL Server, by virtue of having worked with it in my previous job. I was by no means an expert. However, lots of querying and reading and researching allowed me to actually morph into a much more competent data professional.

I manage the non-mainframe data warehouse, and I make sure that any applications or users that are touching it, do so in a manner that is nearly transparent to all parties involved. It’s a really tough job now because of aging hardware and increasing demands.

A few years ago, our parent company decided to implement a “Shared Services” IT model. Which means that all of the Network and Server support teams across many different locations were merged into one team – including the few that worked at my office. What that effectively did, was make all of team members work everywhere but my office and server room. The servers were suffering from neglect. So, since it was critical to my SQL Server(s), I started taking over the admin duties.

2. How did you get into this type of work?

I originally didn’t set out to be a computer programmer or an IT person. I was originally going to be a Drafter. I went to school to be a drafter and earned in an Associates in Computer-Aided Drafting (CAD) and Design. While I was there I took one class in CAD programming with AutoCAD. It was interesting, but I didn’t really see the huge potential of it at the time.

When I graduated and got my first job as a drafter in the Shipbuilding industry, I went to work for a place that used AutoCAD software, but it was highly-customized with the same programming techniques as I saw in college. That’s where I met an individual who is still a veritable genius in CAD programming.  This guy took me under his wing and showed me how AutoCAD could be made to do things that I never even dreamed of.  I started working right away on programming AutoCAD to do all kinds of things for me. Anything that I did more than once, I tried to figure out how to make it a one step command.

When some of my co-workers saw that, they wanted the shortcuts and macros and programs that I had developed too. So I started to share. Many more years later, I met Dave Stein (of this illustrious Blog [edit: his words, not mine, I promise, and no, I didn’t pay him for that]) and we (along with a few others) started really working on ShipWorks. ShipWorks was an automation tool-suite for AutoCAD that put the phrase “tool-suite” to shame. It was more of an application unto itself than a tool-suite.

Anyway, my CAD programming went on for many more years, but it was never my main job. It always was filler work. That is until I finally got an opportunity to program full-time – in the Modeling and Simulation arena.

3. What area or aspect of technology are you most excited about?

That’s kind of tough. There is so much cool programming out there that I look at and say “how did they do that? I wanna do that!” I am fascinated by wireless tech, and the way it has interconnected so many aspects of our life. Game programming is also another arena that amazes me. Getting 3D graphical characters to do things on the television screen with so much realism is just incredible.

4. What gives you the most satisfaction today?

I like to see things working the way they were meant to. Whether it’s an API, or a web page, or a desktop application, it doesn’t matter. I like to see it work and work efficiently. There is so much “just get it done” crap code in my company that it is really hard to describe. The people who originally wrote the legacy applications, really had no idea what they were doing to make an efficient application – it bugs every time I have to fix a bug or something. I have to fight the desire to rip it all apart and do it right.

5. Name the 3 most inspiring people in your life or career?

The first would be Brad Hamilton. He is the individual who took me under his wing as a “wet behind the ears” kid and showed me how and encouraged me to really dig into CAD programming to make things better, quicker, more robust, and more efficient.

The next would be Dave Stein – and no that’s not just a shameless “suck up” plug. Dave welcomed me as a partner in the ShipWorks venture and then handed the management of it over to me when he needed to move on. This allowed me to grow as an application manager and showed me that there is much, much, much more to programming and application development then just typing some lines of code.

The last, and most important is my wife. Without her I would not be where I am, I would not be as successful as I am, I would not be anything.

[edit: I’m hoping to get Brad involved with this interview effort as well.  Like Jon describes, Brad is someone who made a huge impact on me for many years.  Words like genius, visionary, and Grateful Dead fan, don’t begin to describe him.  I’m not so sure about that Dave guy.  But 2 of 3 isn’t bad.]

6. If I hadn’t gone into this field, I’d probably be ____?

Still working as a CAD designer in the shipbuilding industry. I am not one who changes things often or lightly, so I probably would have stuck to it. I am so glad that I did not.

7. Favorite place to travel?

I don’t really have one. Some place that is relaxing. I don’t do much of that, and I always think it would be nice to find a place where I can do nothing – guilt free.

8. What 3 books, movies or other works have influenced you most in life?

I am not a person who reads a lot of self-help or motivational things. I watch movies for the escapism, so there’s hardly anything influential there. I love the well written poetry of Robert Frost, Edgar Allen Poe and others.

But, really, the only two influential things I can think of here are controversial, depending on your personal beliefs and stances.  The first is The Bible. And I’m more specifically talking about the New Testament and the teachings of Jesus Christ. I am Catholic – but I’m also a progressive Catholic. I don’t always agree with everything the Catholic Church teaches or espouses, but overall I am in line with it. At any rate, the most important things I have taken from Christ’s teachings are acceptance and a need to care for those who cannot do it for themselves.

The other book that I always come back to is Six Hours One Friday by Max Lucado. In it he makes this point: Life is not Futile, Failure is not Fatal, and Death is not Final. It’s a wonderful way to try to live.

9. There’s never enough ______.

Time.

10. There’s way too much _____.

Stress.

But, That’s Not All…

I sometimes do work on the side for people, setting up websites and what not. One of the sites I helped out with is for THE UNBATTLE PROJECT (http://theunbattleproject.org). It is a non-profit organization helping to provide much needed counselling and therapy services to Veterans and Active Duty Military members.

It’s a very worthy cause, and (full disclosure) I am friends with the CEO of the organization. It’s in its beginning phases and could use all of the publicity and help that can be provided. So please spread the word.

Dave: Thank you!

NTP and DateTime and Space Colonies

I just finished up migrating a customer from Windows Server 2008 R2 to 2016 Active Directory.  Thankfully, it was only a single AD forest and domain; nothing too complex in that regard.  I also migrated their DFS namespace from 2000 to 2008 mode.  Afterwards, we gently wrapped their 2008 R2 domain controllers (virtual machines) in duct tape, smothered them in imaginary rags soaked in ether, and carefully loaded them onto little imaginary rafts to paddle out into the river, where they’d be sunk with an imaginary RPG round.

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During the process, we ran through the usual checklists of things; DNS, replication, and of course time.  Time, as in NTP.  w32tm, and all that.  Aside from having spent a lot of time on the micro- implications of time back in the early 2000’s, getting immersed in the concepts of NTP stratum, drifts, huff-n-puff, and intervals, I still think about the macro- implications today.  This is particularly apropos with the increased talk about SpaceX, Blue Origin, and so on, and all the talk about Mars expeditions.

That got me to thinking about time on Earth.  Julian dates, 24-hour time, leap years, and so forth.  These Earth-bound notions of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, seasons/quarters, years, decades, centuries, and millennia.  And, in turn, that got me into thinking about meetings.  After all, time and meetings go together like politicians and eggs, or ham and drugs, or one of those.  And, for the record, meetings are most closely associated with the time construct we refer to as an “eon“.

Imagine this:

50 or 100 years from now, we may have a colony on another moon or planet.  And that moon or planet is very likely NOT going to share the same cyclical frequency of rotations and revolutions as Earth.  In other words, the relative time from one day to the next, or one orbit around the Sun (or host planet), won’t be the same as that of Earth.  Their local “day” may be only a few hours of that on Earth, or may be much, much longer.

That said, will the concepts of an hour, a week, or a month, be relevant?

What if this imaginary colony rests on a planet that has a pattern of daylight that equates to 48 hours on Earth?  Or it orbits the Sun (or again, host planet) once every 3.5 months of Earth time?  What if one “year” on that remote place equates to less or more than a year on Earth?

Some would argue that their relative (local) perception wouldn’t be significant.  But that’s assuming they wouldn’t have seasons either.  Seasons are what give weight and meaning to relative dates and times on Earth.  Cold and Hot.  Crops grow or whither.  Animals graze or migrate.  You get the idea.  So, seasons have a HUGE impact on the significance of “annual” cycles, because they dictate much of the things on which human life depends.

Just because Earth has seasons, and the only remote places we’ve seen (Moon, Mars, Jupiter, etc.) don’t appear to have any reference of a “season”, doesn’t mean that in 50-100 years we wouldn’t have landed on (and colonized) another place that does have such a phenomena.

Will the locals of those colonies still insist on marking “time” and “date” in Earth units?  If so, why?  And for how long?

Keep in mind that even on Earth, we differ from one region to another on a great many things.  This includes social/civil things, like marriage, drinking, voting, enlisting for armed services, driving, and so on.  We also differ on time.  Some places recognized Daylight Saving Time, and some do not.  While others impose a half-hour offset, rather than a full-hour.  The basic point here is that even on this one ball of dirt and water, we don’t have uniform rules.

Now, add to that, our history of colonization and divestiture.  By that, I mean colonies that fought hard to win their independence (a-hem, cough-cough, no names please).  Some of those fared better than others of course, but, the takeaway is that many of the rules imposed by the former overlord were replaced or banished by the new management.

So, getting back to the plotted course of this diatribe, even if the initial colonization were established with strict Earth-centric rules, there’s nothing to prove, or even expect, that with enough time, the colonists might decide those rules make no sense and would therefore be replaced.

Now comes the fun part.

Imagine, during this interim period, being between the era in which the colonists follow the same rules (minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years) as on Earth, and the time before they revolt and declare full independence from Earth-mandated taxes, fees and regulations (akin to 1604-1776, let’s say).

There would likely be some business interests that exist on the colonized planet or moon which remain in contact with their Earth counterparts.  I would assume these would be contractors who are initially part of the expedition, much like those who are embedded with today’s exploration and military engagements (you can guess their names I’m sure).  Probably related to things like telecommunications, mineral extraction, human support (medical, subsistence, housing, entertainment, etc.)

At some point, one of the project teams on Earth will be scheduling a meeting with their counterparts on the remote colony.  They’ll click “Friday, April 23, 2117” and “9:00 AM EDT” and when it arrives in the inbox on the other end, what will that mean?

Pick up the voice comm…

(crackling sound)… “Hey!  How are you guys doing?”

“Great!  You sound pretty clear and your video feed is clear as well.  How are you?”

“Not bad. Not bad.  Say…. We were wondering if you guys are available next Tuesday, say…. around 9:00 AM our time?  That would be like 14:35 AM your time, tomorrow.”

“Hold on.  That’s actually around 14:55 AM, but yeah, we should be good.”

“What’s it like there ?  I mean…. how do you sleep and work and all that?”

“Oh yeah.  So, an hour for us, is like 4.25 hours for you, but 4 days for you is like 0.99 days for us.  So our sleep patterns are very different from yours.”

You get the idea.

I think like this all the time.  Like whenever I see a Sci-Fi movie and the aliens are always humanoid (a head, 2 arms, 2 legs, etc.)  I think “what if we can’t even imagine other life forms?”  Even the Star Wars bar scenes are filled with loose variations of this bi-pedal form, with other (Earth-centric) animal features glued onto various parts of the body.

What if they look like a coffee cup?

What if they “talk” in a way that, to humans, sounds like farting?

What if they think extending a hand for shaking is a gesture for sexual activity?

What if a Asian-protocol bow of formality, is seen as a request to be attacked or eaten?

What if?

So, all digression digestion aside, back to the time and date thing.  How will computers will be configured?  How much Y2K-ish work will become heavily in-demand, in order to handle such date/time offsets, especially across more than one remote colony?

I’m guess too, that AI/ML will be so commonplace by then, that we won’t even be aware of the translations that occur in the background.  It’ll be something that we’re taught in school as a “just-in-case the machines crash” scenario, and then will be forgotten.

Date and Time.