If I had a Dollar for Every time…

Skype for Business client said “You can’t add or remove Favorites at this time. Try again later.”

Someone on a conference call said (late): “Sorry, I was walking to mute

A web site says it only works in Chrome, Firefox or Internet Explorer (but not Edge)

My smartphone says “you have 24 app updates pending

Microsoft Outlook client says “trying to connect”

I heard “that will be fixed in the next version

Our power company insists a new project will benefit customer costs, but it never does

Health, Dental and Vision insurance premiums increased, while overall coverage drops

I pass a hospital in the midst of major renovation or new construction

I hear Siri say “here’s what I found…”

I hear Google Assistant saying nothing whatsoever (it pantomimes)

I hear a corporate line manager get excited over a cloud migration while saying it will help reallocate staffing

I hear a corporate executive get excited over a cloud migration while saying it will help reduce staffing

Netflix adds another stand-up comedy special

I hear someone bashing foreign markets while they’re holding a Chinese-made phone

I hear someone complain about how stupid and unreliable human vehicle drivers are, but they’re dead against self-driving cars

My little terrier bark at the sound of an ant tip-toeing over the carpet at 2am

I hear Webex say “at the tone, please say your name and then press pound…

I see some idiot named Skatterbrainz post some stupid crap online

Top 10 Reasons Your Job Might be Automated

10. Machines don’t give a shit about your favorite sports team, movie, TV or streaming series, cars, food, drinks, types of women or men, tasteless jokes, what you did last night or over the weekend, or what programming language you think is the best.
9. Machines don’t need restroom, smoke, vape, or lunch breaks
8. Machines don’t need to get their kid from the school nurse
7. Machines don’t ask for a raise or better benefits
6. Machines don’t need to rest
5. Machines work faster than you
4. Machines can do the work of more than one of you
3. Machines are better at analytical processes than you’ll ever be
2. Machines don’t horde information about their job
1. Machines don’t sue their employer

Even funnier, is that most people are convinced that THEIR job could never be automated.  No matter what profession they’re in.  Let’s list off some of the folks who were convinced of this as well:

  • Telephone operators
  • Mail sorters
  • Grocery store clerks (in many places)
  • Surveillance aircraft pilots
  • Security guards
  • Punch card handlers
  • Carpet weavers
  • Stock market traders
  • Food and drink vendors
  • Waiters (in many places)
  • Newspaper deliverers
  • Gas station attendants (in most places)
  • Librarians (in most places)
  • Milk delivery (in most places)
  • Movie set demolition experts
  • Camera Film Developers
  • Data center rack engineers (I already hear that giant sucking sound Mr. Perot mentioned)

Interview: Ami Casto

Preface

Ami is one of the people on my shortlist for information about Microsoft infrastructure management tips, news, and advise.  One of many people I’ve only followed online, but haven’t met in person yet.  Being a father of three daughters, I’ve always tried to find examples for them when it comes to charting a career path, and I’m happy to say that the list of impressive women in IT has continued to grow.  Unlike some career paths, technology is one in which you can’t flub your way ahead very long.  Sooner or later, skills become apparent and you either progress or find something else to earn a living.

Forbes posted a list of “The World’s Most Powerful Women in Tech 2016“, but in my opinion, the women who set the most valuable example are those in the trenches of IT.  They’re the ones who have proven they can handle the challenges that the majority of IT workers in general contend with every day.  They’re people that we can relate to (even if they often make us feel we need to catch up on our studying, ummm).   You’ll want to add Ami to your list of people to follow (online of course) when it comes to streamlining and automating your Windows environment as well.  Anyhow, let’s go…

Name: Ami Casto

Job Title: Technical Evangelist

Home town: Chicago

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

I get to travel the world and tell people don’t worry be happy 🙂

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

Peer to Peer tech

3. What gives you the most satisfaction today?

Helping people.

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

Mindy Kaling

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

Why Not Me, Yes Please, Atlas Shrugged

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

Intel’s Optane tech – it’s just now arriving and it needs to saturate, like NOW!

7. If you could magically introduce modern technology and supporting infrastructure to one place on Earth that currently doesn’t have it, would you? And if so, where?

Yes – Rural Appalachia.

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?

Yep. It’s already happening now, but I’m guessing it will be the absolute norm within the next 10 years.

9. There’s never enough …

Family Time

10. There’s way too much …

Housework

11. What are your thoughts about the roles of women in technology today? And does the discussion topic bring up hope or dread when you hear it?

I’m all for Women in Tech. I don’t want to force anybody into tech that doesn’t want to be there, regardless of gender. I don’t dread the topic, I just expect I won’t make any friends when I stand up for myself and other women.

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?

Yeah, it’s all about partnerships/relationships. If you want buy-in from the market, you need bring both the goods and the community that goes with it.

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?

College degrees are a great way to show your dedication to learning, they should not be the de facto standard to measuring a person’s suitability for a role. We all know tech changes so fast that it’s kind of pointless to major in “computers”. Get a business degree and learn to write and speak well. Minor in tech, get certifications, and get involved in the community. And don’t ever look down on yourself because you don’t have a degree. If you have real-world hands on experience and you can prove what you know, I’ll pick you over some stinky degree candidate any day of the week.

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

Yes, but they will get smaller and smaller. There are still a lot of things that smart phones can’t do, like drive a giant display and still have 4 days standby time on the battery.

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?

LOL. There would be some jousting I’m sure. While humans were (and at times still are) controlled by superstition and fear, let’s not forget how curious we are.

And there’s more…

Deployment Research articles

Adaptiva blog post

MMS Speaker Info

Deployment Artist channel (YouTube)

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

 

What Would it Take to Move from SCCM to Intune?

1wearandtear

Every week I’m on a conference call with customers who are using, or interested in using, SCCM and Intune/EMS.  Every single conversation finds its way into the following questions:

  1. “Should I use Intune to manage Windows 10 Surface Pro and Dell/HP laptops outside the network?”
  2. “Should I integrate SCCM and Intune?”
  3. “Can I just move all my SCCM infrastructure into Azure?”

Good questions.  Unfortunately, the answers aren’t yet fully-baked.  The answer to each is “it depends”.

But during one call in particular, we had a bunch of crusty old SCCM engineers discussing the past, present and future of the product.  This wound up in a discussion about “what would it take?” …to switch to Intune as the primary management interface, even for on-prem devices.  The gist of this was not about “eventually” or long-term, but rather, what could be dropped in our lap sooner, and make us say “oh, snap! time to reconsider!”

Anyhow, we came up with the following:

1 – Hybrid Deployments

The ability to configure application deployments in a cloud console, while directing clients to fetch the content from on-prem sources.  The reverse of cloud DPs, if you will.  The application configuration resides in the cloud, and the source content, and deployment content, are hosted on-prem.

This could be handled with the Intune client being equipped to poke for the on-prem location as a means to determine on/off prem status.  If on-prem, download the content from the on-prem DP.  Otherwise, follow the configuration (wait, or download from another source).  The goal would be to support cloud clients, mobile clients and on-prem clients, where each could pull content based on proximity, performance and least cost.

This would also span out to OSD as well.  If the WIM files, driver packages, and other bits were available from an on-prem source (via PXE/WinPE) it could work. Maybe it would require something like iPXE Anywhere, or maybe not.

2 – Expanded Deployment Types

Intune would need to be able to deploy more flexible types of instructions.  Such as EXE files with additional parameters (aka “switches”), MSI’s with MST transforms.  PowerShell scripts would be nice too.

3 – Full Inventory

This is actually two parts combined.  The first being a split inventory detection that pulls a complete (e.g. SCCM-style) WMI inventory data set from a full Windows client, but does the status quo for other clients.  The second part being a means for leveraging that extended inventory to save time/effort in other areas (targeting policies, apps, etc.)

And speaking of inventory, is there a CIM-like equivalent for mobile platforms like iOS, Android, etc.?

Summary

Granted, this is *not* enough for SCCM to throw in the towel and surrender.  But these seem to be the most-used features in SCCM which are not replaceable with Intune, yet.

If this is true, or “accurate”, then it doesn’t seem like such a tall hill to climb.  We were not entirely sober at the time, so it’s quite possible we overlooked something here.  Maybe something embarrassingly obvious, but hey.

Thoughts?  Substance or Garbage?  Let me know.

 

The Ballad of Orchestrator

wpid-chinese-take-out.jpgIf I had a dollar for every time I’ve had a discussion with someone who works with Microsoft System Center, while I stare at the floor, wondering why they never bothered to have that weird reddish-brown stain removed, and it’s in their main lobby, as they describe the pain, and effort they endured to build some crazy semi-automated chain of mouse traps using a wheelbarrow full of third-party utilities, truckloads of scripting, and a few crates of some long-forgotten Windows CLI utilities, registry hacks and whatever, and after they were done, I’d be thinking to myself “that was one stupidly-long run-on sentence”, but I end up saying, “You know? You could’ve knocked that out in a lot less time using Orchestrator”, well, I’d be rich enough to not have time to write a blog.  I’d be too busy having my toenails custom painted while skydiving from my private jet onto the deck of my private yacht. Floating in the lagoon of my private island.  Okay, that’s a big stretch.

Yeah.

First off, 99.999999999% of the time, here’s what the response is, “What’s Orchestrator?”

(15 seconds of awkward silence ensues)

Whatever Microsoft has paid their marketing folks, I would like to officially ask for 10% of it, just for doing my part to inform their customers, “well, it’s this amazing virtual Lego kit that you can use to build just about anything. Oh, and by the way, you already paid for it.”  That might help pay a few bills at least.  I think that I’ve earned it.  Or I could be delusional too.

Anyhow, for those who still begin every explanation with “it was called Opalis, once…”, and have ripped open that Christmas box and put the batteries inside, you know what I’m talking about.  You also know the dreaded feeling of hearing someone say one of the following:

“They didn’t make any changes to it in System Center 2016”

“It’s dead, Jim.  Long live the cloud.”

Sad.  Truly sad. It never really had it’s glory day (imho).  Isolated moments of sheer awesomeness are to be found, for sure.  But on a ubiquitous (see?  you didn’t think I could whip out a big word like ubiquitous, did you?) and pervasive scale? No; not what it really deserved. It was that incredible 2nd string player, drafted in the 2nd round, that was capable of smashing records, but never got on the field, and now it’s hitting retirement age.

Not so fast.

Just like Arnold Schwarzenegger (I cheated on the spelling, I had to), it can still press a few hundred pounds while smiling.  Maybe while clenching a cigar in it’s mouth at the same time.

Some interesting use-cases I’ve seen in the past year or two…

  • The typical New-Hire / Employee-Term scenario runbooks, but with extensions for ordering facilities services (phone, desk, chair, whiteboard), telecom (phone), computer equipment (HR app checkbox for “mobile user” triggers order for laptop or tablet), and notifying front desk security personnel with employee photo.  And don’t forget the standard AD group memberships, attributes, and OU management stuff.
  • Monitoring file system folder where app-devs upload final code check-ins, read specific files to create SCCM applications, deployment types, detection methods, requirements, as well as distribute to certain DP groups, and deploy to Collections (with additional parameters)

There have been a few others.  Some were just discussions around “what if…”, which could have easily turned into more amazing concoctions, but I didn’t stick around long enough to find out if they did.

Alas, before I toss back a ceremonial shot (of something cheap, like me), I have to say I’ve spent some time with Azure Automation runbook authoring and I have to say, it’s very, very promising indeed.

CMWT How-To: Enable Client Tools

CMWT Client Tools are a set of Javascript-based features which enable invoking local services in order to connect to, and manage remote clients.  This is much like the infamous “right-click Tools” for the SCCM Console.  The features provided in CMWT at this point are not as robust as the one mentioned, but that may change (as always – it all depends on user feedback).

The caveat for this feature is that it requires using Internet Explorer, rather than Google Chrome, or Firefox.  I have not tested this with Edge yet, as my site server is still on Windows Server 2012 R2.

The reason for this is in how IE handles clientside scripting and security controls.  So, to enable this in IE, you need to follow the instructions in the provided CMWT Installation Guide, but I will cover this process in this blog post as well.

  1. In Internet Explorer, open CMWTtools01
  2. Click the gear icon at the top right (settings), and select “Internet Options”tools02
  3. Select the Security tab.
    tools03
  4. Make sure CMWT is included in either the Local intranet, or Trusted sites security zones.
  5. Select the appropriate security zone.
  6. Scroll down to “Initialize and script ActiveX controls not marked as safe for scripting”
  7. Change the setting from “Disable” to “Prompt”tools04
  8. Click OK, and click OK again to close Settings
  9. Browse to select a particular Device you wish to manage or connect to.  For this example, I’m connecting to desktop “D001”, which I happen to know is online and accessible.
  10. Click the drop-down menu of options, and select “Tools tools05
  11. Click on one of the first four (4) tools, such as Manage.
    tools01
  12. If you set the ActiveX security option to “Prompt” you should get a warning…
    tools06.PNG
  13. Click Yes and the tool should open.
    tools07

Note that even if you cannot configure the options in IE to make this work (usually due to company security policies), or if you’re using Chrome, Safari, or Firefox, the actual command statement is shown to the right of each tool.  This allows you to copy and paste it into a Run command box and launch it directly.

That’s it!