System Center, Technology

Dave’s SCCM Current Branch Packing List (Updated)

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Going on a ConfigMgr installation hike?  Need to pack some useful stuff for the journey.  Drop them on a thumb drive; copy to cloud drives (more than one); strap onto an Alpaca with duct tape; roll-on/shove out of a C-17? whatever works.

Updated 11/26/2016 – includes newer versions.

Updated 7/21/2016 – added UserVoice link below.

Did I miss other useful links?  Let me know?

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humor, Personal

10 Questions, with Mr. Skatterbrainz

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“What do you see the IT employment market looking like in ten years?”

Well, given that I don’t have a crystal ball, I can only make a quasi-educated semi-guess.  But it would be something like this: infrastructure jobs will shift towards bottom and high end.  Mid-range jobs will be replaced by cloud services, devops, and gradual evolutionary automation.  The rest will be compressed into job titles like “Senior Engineering Administrator Architect” with salaries around $40k and no O.T. but 24/7/365 on-call responsibility.

“Geez!  That’s pretty bleak?  Why?”

Workers love it.  If we didn’t, we’d protest.  But we don’t.  So we bitch and whine and moan and cry, mostly on Facebook, but ultimately, we sit in traffic every day to get more of it tube fed into our brains.  We seem to crave the warm, comfortable caress of oppressive labor practices.  Sort of a Stockholm syndrome I suppose.  I’m not a psycho-analyst though, but I’ve pretended to be one at parties.

“What is the best programming language for an entry level IT person to learn?”

Whatever their boss tells them to learn.  And then add one or two on your own.

“What is the dumbest thing you’ve seen in your thirty years in IT?”

Humans.

“Any specific kind?”

The kind that make decisions in a vacuum, or who drink the full-retard vendor Kool Aid.  Oh, and the kind that say “Excel database”.  They should be flash-frozen, dipped in boiling oil, dropped into a running wood chipper, and tenderized with a football team wearing ice-climbing boots.  Next question?

“If you could pick any other career besides IT, what would it be?”

Hmmm. That’s a tough one.  I’d say, Senator or bus driver.

“Bus driver?!”

Yeah.  Like Senators, they take innocent people for a ride, and take their money as well.  Oh, and they get to travel to places.

“What do you feel is the best invention in the history of mankind?”

Government.  Because it gives people the illusion that they have control over their destiny.  After that, it would be Jack Links beef jerky.  The ‘Sweet ‘n Spicy’ kind.

“Favorite beer?”

Belgian strong ales or Barley Wines. Only those higher than 12% ABV.

“Favorite hobbies?”

Walking. Traveling. Listening to podcasts. Bicycling. Shopping.  More traveling.  Smooching my little dogs.  Singing along to the radio in my well-tuned Arnold Schwarzenegger voice.  Oh, and talking to myself in third person while strolling through store aisles.

(I might do ten more sometime, if I can’t think of a better topic.)

 

business, Technology

Meanwhile, at Microsoft…

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Being on travel, I have less time to slow my brain down to digest what I absorb from my senses, but sitting in Portland airport (PDX), feet propped on window sill, coffee, laptop, phone dangling from wherever, I had a few thoughts I need to export from the old cranial cavity before I board the flying tuna can to my next stop.  No segue, let’s go…

Microsoft is indeed an impressive company. People joke about them; Poke and pick at their products, strategies, marketing, and so on, even their product names (as I have quite often), but whatever, the final score is this: they earn billions, while you and I do not. They’re doing something right.

Call it what you want, they’re making it work. That said, they’ve earned the right to make a few missteps along the way. Because, while you and I can’t make more than a few mistakes in a given year, they make up for a few with more successes, which happen to earn billions of $$$$. So, anyhow, I bitch and moan and gripe, but they still have my respect.

And, what exactly is “they” anyhow? Our media-soaked senses seem inclined to wrap all groups into a new creature, as if Gov. Rick Perry’s insistence that corporations are indeed (legally and otherwise) “people”, we wrap “them” into a “it”.  Singular.  But really, after years of interacting with their employees, no two are alike, yet the common quality (95% of them anyway) is a sincere focus on results.

No, I’m not sucking ass just because they bought LinkedIn and I’m hoping for a magic phone call or anything.  I had my magic phone call, but I didn’t have enough pixie dust to sprinkle on it, but that’s another story.

Putting some perspective from 1980’s until now, I would sum up their path, from then to “now” as this: They won their battles as a result of their competition making poor decisions.

Whether it was Sun, Novell, IBM, WordPerfect, Lotus, Borland, or whoever. People like to point fingers, and I suppose I’m pointing mine as well, but… every one of those companies made strategic and tactical decisions that boxed them into a corner, and Microsoft simply opened the lunch box and ate the sandwich. Period.

We can argue about how their competition had superior technology, and all that, but that’s like saying the running back had the perfect football, but couldn’t get it across the goal line.

If you went back to 1996 and told ANYONE that Microsoft would embrace the strategy they’re applying today (open source, community involvement, cloud services, hardware, etc.) they would have called you insane. Not nuts or crazy, I mean insane.

While it’s been gradual enough for the public to digest without burping, a before/after snapshot comparison is close to being “mind-boggling”. Think about the MS-DOS and Windows 3.11 era for a full minute, and all the things that entailed. Then smack yourself in the face, dunk your head in a sink filled with ice water, and shout in the mirror “2016 man!!! Get a hold of yourself!!” and look at their present situation. If you still don’t feel it, put down the crack pipe and undo that tourniquet.

I hear a lot of whimpering about their purchase of LinkedIn, among other acquisitions, but it kind of makes sense, for what that’s worth. I say that because I’m not an MBA. I’m not a venture capitalist angel investor. They have a battalion of them. Ask me about making a patio deck, specific computer things, DoD technical manuals, or patent application drawings, and I can carry a conversation. Heck, you might even stay awake for most of it.  But, ask me about corporate business strategy and I’m like all the other hot-air spewing “pundits” out there who second guess everything AFTER it happens.

The problem I see is that IT people tend to analyze everything from their subjective POV. They don’t stop to consider the business and financial motives. That’s a generalization of course, and I do know a few that can be that objective.  But how often do all of us see our colleagues do a cheerful fist-bump over a successful automation project, which might eventually eliminate their own position?

So, the tactic I’ve adopted is this: whenever someone starts into pontificating about how “stupid” some particular strategy is with regards to a Microsoft press release, I ask them “where’s your corporate empire?”

I’m just %%%%ing tired of hearing people yap about things for which they have no relevant experience or credentials. I apply that to myself as well. Ask me about politics, religion, society and I’ll preface it with “my opinion”, but only when pressed. In most cases, (aside from my stupid blog) I will refrain entirely. “I dunno. I’m not a ____”.

I wish them (Microsoft) well on the LinkedIn decision. As well as others. Keep the pressure on. It keeps Amazon, Apple, Google, VMWare, IBM, HP, Dell, Lenovo, and all the others on their toes and pushing harder. Competition is good. If one team wins, the game becomes dull, even if only until the next season.

For what that’s worth.

Personal

What I Learned this Past Week

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  • Meticulously building a virtual lab to mirror a customer’s f-d up environment, down to every service pack, cumulative update, hotfix and custom GPO setting, service account, group and group membership, registry hacks, and then leaning back in the chair after 8 hours, clasping hands behind head, smiling, saying to yourself “I done did real good.” is almost as exhilarating as breaking the entire site by accident an hour later and realizing you forgot to back it up or make a snapshot of the VM’s when things were going well, and after another 4 hours of trying to save the ship, end up scrapping it all and rebuilding again, but this time, even better, and with snapshots.
  • My dog likes to terrorize crows.
  • We have a new bullfrog living in our backyard pond.  I named him Jeremiah.
  • Jeremiah is not amused by my singing the namesake song.
  • The free coffee at Trader Joe’s is not only a great source of dietary caffeine and raw sugar intake, but a great source of random conversation.
  • Insurance companies, like Vegas, never really lose a deal of any kind, anywhere, at any time.  Ever.  No matter what every attorney would have you believe. In fact, compare the real estate holdings of attorneys with those of the insurance company they are ‘fighting’ and it usually answers the question: who’s really in charge.
  • The most effective time to consume the strongest brewed coffee is immediately after donating blood.
  • Trying to function with an increased caffeine level, infused with a reduced blood volume, is somewhat like Leonardo driving that Lamborghini home in Wolf of Wall Street.
  • Ignoring DNS in your environment is like ignoring a medical test.
  • Noam Chomsky’s dissertative book on the Syntax of Linguistics, aptly titled “Aspects of the Theory of Syntax” is fantastic.  Dry, but fantastic.
  • People are generally content with being lied to, as long as the lie is delivered with style and flash.  And the louder it is, the more they love it.
  • Trader Joe’s has some incredibly good deals on food items.  But their beer selection is worse than Food Lion’s.
  • For pure entertainment value, asking 20 random people in public who their senator is, averages a 1% correct result.  Asking that one knowledgable person what the latest bill their senator sponsored nets a 0% result.
  • 99.999999999999999999999999999% of Americans don’t really care what happens in the world as long as someone else is doing the dirty work.
  • Banana-infused bagels are delicious.
Personal

Blog Updates

Just a quick note about some recent changes to the blog:

  • Sidebar links for tags and categories are now sorted alphabetically.
  • A new “Downloads” page has been added, but will hopefully evolve over time.
  • Post “voting” has been added.  Please use the little “Rate This” item at the top of a post to let me know if you like it or hate it?
  • Less frequent posting.  Based on traffic logs, the less I post, the more is viewed, so I’m taking a tip from Sun Tsu and shutting the **** up more.
  • Lately the stats show more interest in tech stuff than mindless rambling stuff, which is both good and disturbing at the same time.  If you have any opinion on this please share it in the comments below?
  • Thank you!
business, Society, Technology

5 Painful Misperseptions about IT

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It’s coffee time again!  Drink up; Sit down; Strap-in, or strap on, whatever your bent is, and enjoy this 5-point mindless rant about things commonly accepted as fact or truth, but do not hold up under scientific scrutiny.  Enjoy!

1 – Cross-Training Improves Agility and Efficiency

For the 5% of organizations that have enough staff to flex roles without impacting services, maybe.  And that assumes that the 5% are in a unique position of having nothing urgent to tend to in either the originating or temporary roles to distract from full-on focused training.  It also assumes the person(s) in cross-training are actually interested in learning the auxiliary role duties, and that they aren’t just doing it because they’re ordered to do so.

Also, if the training end of the scenario has such a demand for “surge” staffing that they need to cross-train, just spending time to provide the cross-training distracts from real work being done.

For the other 95% operating on less-than-ideal staffing levels, no.  Most cross-training involves a finite time period, whereby the cross-trainee eventually moves back to their original assigned role.  That means after a few days/weeks/months of distance from the temporary training environment, they need refresher training, and more time away from their original role.  If the trainee really wants to learn the new skill/role, they should apply for a transfer.

It’s like attempting a part-time marriage, or a semi-pregnancy.  Eithe go all in (transfer) or don’t bother.

Even if an organization is in a unique (and enviable) position of being able to apply full-on cross-role staffing, where nobody is king of their domain, they share equal duties, the results are often “jack of all trades, master of none.”  Even a so-called “multi-master” domain model has actual role masters.  Somone has to cook the meals while someone else gets the ingredients.  It’s how Nature works.

During a conversation once, following their presentation, with a very well-respected business consultant from a Fortune-100 consulting firm, I asked him if cross-training typically yields quantifiable gains for most organizations.  He answered, “No.  It’s an illusion.”

2 – Automation Frees Up Staff to Do Greater Things

In theory this should hold true.  Yet, in all the environments I’ve poked my head into, the automation projects seem to turn into career paths rather than one-time fire extinguishers.  Even when the motives are nobel and the engineer(s) *want* to follow this idiom, oftentimes the automation effort spawns follow-on work that wouldn’t have existed without the groundwork laid before it.  In those situations, the work that *was* waiting in the wings never actually gets the TLC originally intended.

In more recent times, the last two years in particular, the net results of automation improvements have leaned towards reduced staffing or, at the very least, elimination of vacant positions.  Good for business.  Bad for unemployed or misaligned workers.  But this rubs up against a much broader topic of automation versus human labor, and I’ll leave that for guys like Robert Gordon.

3 – Command-Line is Better

This is such a stupid belief, yet so pervasive.  It’s like saying “a hammer is the best tool”.  For turning bolts?  No.  For welding metal beams together? No.  No tool is perfect for every job/task.  Yet there seems to be a persistent view that the ever-growing range of tools and methods must mean that the existing ones are generally inferior.  It negates the possibility that maybe they’re fine for what they were intended for, but a new tool was needed for a new task.

Now, all that philosophical blabber over, let’s consider the quantifiable side.  If we apply the Quality-Productivity Ratio formula to contrast CLI vs. GUI we can start to see where the EOS or Economies of Scale come into play.  Yes, I’ve dranked my coffee, and I aced stats and calculus in college, so I know my pre-Med.  Mmmkay?

For example, in the QPR model, the “defective units” component can be positioned to drive from units of *human* task repetition; thereby resulting in a geometric increase in “potential” defects as a correlation of increase in human manipulation (smacking the keyboard and talking about last night’s DWTS winning couple).

Inversely, or conversely, or tersely, whatever, one can interpolate the inverse (there, I got it now) that tighter clustering of input targets reduces the inter-step times for accomplishing a task.  And that a mouse-click equates to a a finger press of one key on a keyboard, let’s take Function X which requires 20 user input options (buttons, parameters, etc.) and let’s assume that the inputs fall into the following types:

  • 10 are radio buttons
  • 5 are text boxes with keyboard entry (assume 10 chars each)
  • 2 are drop-down list picks
  • 2 are sliders
  • 1 is a date picker

Configuring by GUI:

  • 10 radio clicks = 10
  • 5 x (CH as Chars) = text box entries = 50
  • 2 x (1-click list open + 1-click select) = list selections = 4
  • 2 slider drags = 2
  • 1 x (1-click date picker open + date select year + month + day) = 4
  • Total user input actions = 70

Configure by CLI (assume PowerShell**):

  • 1 x (enter first 5 chars of command + press Tab to auto-complete) = 6
  • 1 x

** I have to specify a model for CLI since the GUI relies on standard input component types where CLI incurs syntactical variations. (sounds like a great band name!)

4 – Collocation of Project Team Members Isn’t Important

Anyone who’s been through a successful Agile/Scrum experience will absolutely disagree with that premise.  And they would be correct.  And again, this harkens back to the previous discussion about clustering of tasks, but this time replace “tasks” with “resources”.  The same logic fits everywhere it seems.  From gathering all your tools together before starting a repair job, to gathering your clothes to do laundry.

Gathering your team members together puts them in direct (or much closer) contact, reducing the time required to ask questions, propose ideas, provide or receive answers, distribute announcements, and so on.

As much as this might seem like “common sense”, whatever that is, more businesses ignore this than not; which tells you that their priorities are elsewhere.

5 – Telecommute Working is Bad

Every single quantifiable metric that can be brought to bear on this discussion ends up placing telecommute working models on top of the list.  However, it is still the exception for western businesses.

School teachers, consultants and marketers, often insist it’s the ‘de facto’ way of doing business nowadays, but the facts don’t back that up.

Whether you measure by low-hanging fruit such as:

  • Reduced facilities footprint costs
    • Leased space
    • Heating and Cooling
    • Lighting and Electricity
    • Furniture
    • Restrooms
    • Snack/break rooms
    • Parking
    • Fire and Security systems
    • Accessibility compliance
  • Reduced company-provided devices (BYOD)
    • Phones
    • Printers
    • Conference Rooms: tables, chairs, Polycoms, projectors, whiteboards
  • Auxiliary staffing
    • Custodial
    • Security

…or just the good old “morale improvement” factor (pick a number), the result is always always always a win-win.  So why then is not happening more?

MBO.  That’s right.  Management by Objective, which places a higher load on management to assign, track and measure worker output.  Managers don’t like to work, that’s why they become managers.  Delegation is everything.  But if a manager tells their workers to work from home, they can’t delegate the in-between anymore.  They have to do it themselves.

So, they more often prefer to walk around with a coffee cup to “see” that their staff are busy at work, rather than pull out the microscope and verify what they’re doing.  It just “feels” better.  But business doesn’t survive by feeling better, it survives by results.  Comfort factors into that, but all the coach pep talks mean nothing without the wins.

System Center, Technology

Microsoft IT – Comparing Build vs. Buy

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Build: Group Policy + Event Forwarding + Custom shares and permissions + proxy accounts + scripts + report writing
Buy: System Center Operations Manager

Build: Group Policy + Scripts + Event Forwarding + More Scripts + Database tables and Views + proxy accounts + report writing + more scripts
Buy: System Center Configuration Manager

Build: Database + Scripts + schedules and jobs and triggers + proxy accounts + report writing + custom shares and permissions 
Buy: System Center Orchestrator

Build: Scripts + Event Triggers + WMI queries + log file copying + scripts + scheduled tasks and jobs 
Buy: System Center Operations Manager + Orchestrator

Build: Spreadsheets linked with Spreadsheets linked with more spreadsheets linked with spreadsheets embedded in a Word Document
Buy: SQL Server and Reporting Services

Build:  Thumbdrives + DVD’s + more Thumbdrives + more DVD’s + more Thumbdrives 
Buy:  OneDrive (or take your pick of cloud storage providers)

Build: MS Access database + distribution + custom forms and reports + stuck on one Office version
Buy: a white van + duct tape + a photo of the MS Access developer to capture + a 50 lbs bag of cement