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23rd September, Newcastle: Three fantastic Microsoft enterprise IT presentations

We are very pleased to be able to announce a stellar line up of technical presentations and speakers from Microsoft at the September VBUG Newcastle IT Pro meeting...

The Dynamic Desktop Experience – Windows 7, Windows XP Mode, App-V, MDT, MDOP and System Center (Dan Oliver)

Windows 7 offers Microsoft’s customers with an opportunity to deliver a platform that releases new capabilities that deliver real business benefit and significantly reduced cost of ownership. The challenge for most companies is that deploying and migrating desktops is time consuming and traditionally offers service continuity risks with Application Compatibility that can prevent progress. This presentation will show capabilities, architectures and strategies that allow companies to move forward cost effectively to the benefits of a modern operating system. Level: 100

Dan Oliver is a Pre Sales Architect within Microsoft UK’s Speciality Technology Unit with some 14 years’ experience of Microsoft-based solutions primarily in the virtualization and systems management fields. Dan has a background that covers a broad spectrum of industry sectors ranging from Financial, Telecoms, Partners, Legal, Professional Services and Healthcare. Dan has also had the opportunity to work as a Chief Technology Officer for the Faculty of Advocates in the Scottish Legal Sector.

Novell and Lotus Notes – Migrating to Microsoft (Conrad Sidey)

The business value of implementing Microsoft technologies like Active Directory, Exchange 2007 and SharePoint are clearly understood within Microsoft. For our customers that are still running their organisation on technologies like Novell and Lotus Notes they are starting to gain an understanding of the value of migrating to Microsoft technologies. The purpose behind this presentation is to provide the technical community with an insight into leading a project and architecting a solution to migrate environment that are running both Novell Netware and Lotus Notes. The presentation will discuss envisioning & planning of a Novell and Notes migration project, approaches to undertaking the migration depending upon the business drivers, providing an overview of the approach we are taking in migrating a UK Local City Council while providing coexistence, as well as presenting a number of migration & coexistence recommendations or lessons learnt from the project. Level: 200

Conrad Sidey is a Solution Architect within Microsoft Consulting Services with some 17 years’ experience of Microsoft-based solutions primarily in the infrastructure field. Conrad has a background that covers a broad spectrum of industry sectors ranging from Financial and Insurance, Manufacturing, Aero-Engineering, Defence, UK and European Government Agencies, Power Generators, Retail and Brewing. Conrad has also had the opportunity to work with large scale outsourcing services providers.

Implementing the “Black Box” – Performance Monitoring and Analysis for proactive and reactive support, server baselining and capacity planning (Richard Diver)

All current versions of Windows come with a free tool that can prevent server downtime and solve many mysteries – Perfmon!

A little bit of practice with this tool can really help to solve issues with servers that may not even be performance related. Working at the OS level, you can find cause to most performance bottlenecks regardless of server function (Exchange, DC, Web etc).

This is something that has even more focus in future versions of Windows; a brief overview of these benefits will be shown also! Level: 300

Richard Diver is a Premier Field Engineer with 10 years experience implementing and supporting a range of Microsoft technologies, specialising in Active Directory, Server Platform and Virtualisation.

Wrap up Q&A with all presenters at the end.

Location: Room 118, Claremont Tower, Newcastle University, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE1 7RU, GB

Time: 18:45

Price: FREE

Please register for your place at the VBUG site so we can make sure we have enough space and refreshments. :-)


Windows 7 E

[UPDATE] Microsoft is scrapping the E editions of Windows 7. See this post for details.

Now I'm sure you've heard this news before reading this, but in case you haven't prepare to be shocked and bemused...

Following on from various wrangling and threats of fines after a complaint to the European Union from browser maker Opera about Microsoft's bundling of Internet Explorer with Windows being anti-competitive, Microsoft has stated that it will release special E editions of the different Windows 7 versions in Europe. Windows 7 E editions will not contain a web browser, and unlike the old N (which didn't contain Windows Media Player, to try to please the EU, and which nobody bought), there's no option this time - if you're in Europe, you get the E edition and you can't purchase a version of Windows 7 that contains IE.

Funnily enough Opera isn't pleased about this, presumably because they have to now provide a distribution mechanism for people to get their browser onto a PC that doesn't have a browser already with which to download it, and increasingly may not have an optical disk drive. Opera would like Windows 7 to include a "ballot screen" which would provide a selection of browsers that the user could choose from. It doesn't take a genius to see why Microsoft would be reluctant to do that since however they ordered the options, someone would be bound to complain (and by "complain", I mean "probably take legal action").

It's not all bad though. The majority of consumers who use Windows get it with a new PC, and the OEMs who manufacture those PCs aren't going to send one out to retail without a web browser. They'll undoubtedly do deals with one browser company or another to bundle their offering as they do with anti-virus and other software. The vast numbers of Windows users in a corporate environment don't need to worry either since their IT department will sort them out. The only people who are really affected by this are the small percentage who buy a boxed (or downloaded) copy of Windows 7 to upgrade an existing computer. It's a small percentage of people who buy Windows this way simply because the numbers of corporate users and PC buyers are so large, but I expect that the number will be larger with Windows 7 simply because it's so much better suited to running on existing hardware than Windows Vista was - I'm running it quite happily on my netbook and I also put the release candidate on my mother's creaking "built for XP" laptop with 512Mb RAM; it works fine!

I said this affects people who are buying a copy to upgrade, but the other caveat to this is that because there were no Windows Vista or XP E editions, Microsoft isn't providing Windows 7 E upgrade versions as they have done previously. They are providing the full version of Windows 7 E, in the UK, for roughly the equivalent of the upgrade pricing they're using outside the EU if you pre-order from selected suppliers between now and the 9th August.

So, if you're moving your old PC to Windows 7 E, not only will you not have a browser, but you're going to have to do a clean install too. Microsoft have put up a web page which takes you through the steps you can take to make the transition as painless as possible. Obviously it tells you how to get to running Windows 7 E with IE8, but if you already use a different web browser I'm sure you can work out how to switch it in at that point.

Of course it's not only people using Windows in Europe who are impacted by the release of the E editions. Software developers worldwide, who may have used the fact that IE was present in every version of Windows in their applications, will have to look at ways around it being missing, or another browser being in its place. There is some excellent advice for developers on the Windows blog about this. I'd recommend that Windows sys admins check that out too, since it'll help them in testing software before rolling it out across their Windows infrastructure.

Some further reading regarding Windows 7:
...for IT Pros: Talking About Windows and IT Pro at Home
...for people building hardware or developing software: Ready. Set. 7.

NB. If you're yet to try out the Windows 7 Release Candidate, don't wait too long - the download page says it's only available until the 20th August. Windows 7 will be available to volume license customers on the 1st September, and on general release from 22nd October.


Office 2010 reaches Technical Preview

Yesterday, at their Worldwide Partner Conference, Microsoft announced that the next release of Office has reached the Technical Preview milestone. The announcement included demos of some features, and there are more on their site Introducing Microsoft Office 2010 Technical Preview (unfortunately the site appeared to be struggling under the load, but Long Zheng contacted me to say he had reliable mirrors of the videos on his fantastic blog).

Office 2010 isn't the revolutionary product that Office 2007 was, where Microsoft introduced it's new Ribbon interface, but the Ribbon has evolved (and spread to the places where it wasn't last time round, like Outlook), and they appear to have added some handy new features. You should check the videos out to see what may be most appealing to you, but there are some things that I think will give productivity gains to most users (albeit small ones, but they all add up over the lifetime of a version of version of Office).

I particularly like the new printing UI in Word which incorporates the printing dialogue options along with the print preview - it removes at least one step (checking the preview before going to the print the document), but it could potentially remove several iterations of checking the preview, altering the print options, checking the preview again, etc. This feature is actually part of what Microsoft call Backstage, which should be consistent across the whole Office suite. Also in Word, the Navigation Pane looks like a handy way to search and manage the order of sections in a large document. 

In Outlook, if you're going to send a message to someone on your Exchange infrastructure who has an out of office auto-reply setup, the new MailTips will tell you that when you add them to the recipient list, rather than you composing the message and sending it before you find out that the person isn't there to read it. Something else in Outlook that got a lot of positive feedback on Twitter from the people watching the streaming video of the WPC keynote was the option to ignore a mail conversation, which would throw out all the past and future messages in a conversation (the conversation view of your inbox has been promoted to be the default in Outlook 2010).

For the first time, Office has an online version - Office Web Apps provide trimmed down versions of the desktop applications in the browser (IE/FF/Safari). This won't be part of the Technical Preview, instead debuting later in the year. I don't know if this has been announced before, but when you look at Google Docs it's probably an obvious step - Office Web Apps will be free to consumers with a Windows Live ID. In addition, Microsoft will provide a hosted version for businesses (like Google do), but they also allow companies to host them locally, in case you don't want to give your data to Microsoft (not an option with Google Docs).

Although I'm not a heavy user of Office (other than Outlook), I'm a bit of an Office junkie, so I expect I'll post more about it up to the release, but in the meantime you can go and check out those vids and you might want to check out Paul Thurrott's write-up of the Technical Preview on his SuperSite for Windows. If that makes you desperate to get your hands on the Technical Preview, you can add yourself to the Waitlist.

[UPDATE] Robert Scoble seems to like Office 2010 quite a bit and has a bunch of videos on his blog.


Postscript: Key Features in Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2 event

Last Wednesday we had a great evening covering some of the great enterprise features of Microsoft's upcoming OSs. In a last minute speaker change Richard Fennell did a great presentation that was very well received by an enthusiastic audience (it seems over half the crowd are running Windows 7 RC as their main OS right now, and all of the others had at least tried it!).

We're hoping to record future presentations, but unfortunately couldn't make it happen on this occasion. You can see the slide deck though.

We're going to take a break in August, so there won't be a VBUG Newcastle event next month, we are going to be working on putting together a great set of events for developers and IT pros from September onwards. Keep checking here and Andrew Westgarth's blog for details.


8th July, Newcastle: Key features in Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2

If you're a Windows sys admin, the biggest contacts on your approach radar right now are Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, due to release later in the year (but be complete and released to manufacture next month). This free event, on the Newcastle University campus, couldn't be much more timely then.

Rik Hepworth, the IT Director at Black Marble, will cover some of the great new features of the two operating systems, including BranchCache, XP Mode and what I personally think is the number one feature (after PowerShell V2 of course), DirectAccess.

This is bound to be a popular event, so sign up early over at the VBUG site.