Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP)

Jim Wilcox – 2019-2020 Microsoft MVP – Developer Technologies

This showed up in the mail today! Despite the April 1st date, it’s not an April Fools’ gag after all! I’ve only ever seen one of these trophies in person before this one. I’ve been trying to stay chill about it…. but heck, here it is…

I’m profoundly honored and thankful to say that Microsoft has chosen to award me with this 2019-2020 “Most Valuable Professional” (MVP) award, in the category of Developer Technologies!

If you’re not familiar with this award program, check out the program’s official web site:

I won’t deny it… the MVP award always struck me as “the big award” for Windows-realm programmers… the closest thing folks in my trade have to, say, a Grammy Award for musicians, or Oscars for movie folks.

As a young programmer, especially someone who used Microsoft tools constantly, I was in (sometimes grudging) awe of the Microsoft MVP program since its early days (in the mid 1990’s).

More than a decade later, circa 2010, I still remember the first seemingly mythical MVPs I met in person… folks like Dan Stolts, the “IT Pro Guru”, Chris Bowen, John Garland, “The .NET Gator”, and Jason Himmelstein, once aka “SharePoint Longhorn”. I remember the first time I saw Bob Familiar, curator of the “Undocumented API”… (I was fully too star-struck to introduce myself the first time I saw him.) Jim O’Neil, Chris McNulty, Chris Bortlik, Bob German, Scott Jamison, Rob Windsor, Adam Mechanic, Sade Van Buren, D’Arcy Hess, Marc Anderson, Julie Turner, Carl Barton, Jason Haley, Oren Novotny, Lance McCarthy… oh wow… so many… and many, many others… as a participant in software developer community events, I have enjoyed (then and now) the opportunity to learn from, even meet and talk shop with these brilliant people. [I don’t usually like to ‘name drop’ and there are lots of folks who are not (perhaps yet) MVPs (Thank you, too!), but when it comes to saying ‘thank you’ it’s hard to stop.]

Clearly these folks pulled me deeper into the high-tech community with them, even helped me find career adjustments that landed me sitting at desks next to theirs from time to time. I’d been building cool technology for years with some great folks when I got to Edgewater Technologies… From there, to Jornata / BlueMetal / Insight Digital Innovation… (I still geek out that my desk at the office is beside Jim O’Neil’s, and a ton of those other “mythical” people have also had nametags on desks in the office in Watertown in recent years, too.)

I’m also psyched to say that most of the folks I mention above (whom I’m still in awe of) have come to also know me… for being a community-enabled solution architect and coder… that’s to say… for being someone who helps them with their work.

In any case, the award’s not a goal. It’s a side-effect of helping to build great technology with a great tech community.

An MVP award is also a sponsorship. As a sponsorship, it provides additional connections and resources… all of which is to a) help me enable my clients even more, and b) to further strengthen community.

I’m psyched that I’m able to bring these new connections and resources to build up the Greater New Hampshire Area software development community (which includes, but is not limited to the Greater Boston Area). ūüėČ

I’m an application architect and coder by trade. Clients and their projects come first… and clients are strongest when community-enabled too. Better community makes better solutions. Better soluitons make heathier work lives. Healthier work lives make happier personal lives.

You are worth it.

Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

v.Next Enterprise (You & Kroger)

krogerI ran across this article from Forbes on LinkedIn.¬† It’s an interesting bit about how Kroger is reacting to the threat that Amazon/Whole Foods suddenly represents in its market segment.

The Amazon/Whole Foods merger represents a heavily modernized re-make of a traditional business, and it is expected to put grave pressure on the rest of the grocery segment.

If your market segment isn’t feeling this kind of pressure already, you likely will be soon.

Your business has only a couple of choices when it comes to modernization.

  1. React to the pressure that your market segment is under already.
  2. Begin preemptively, and be the pressure the rest of your market segment feels going forward.

I remember the days of building “nextgen” software.¬† That model has scoped up a few times, to vNext services, to next gen infrastructure / cloud, to vNext IT division.

Either way, it’s time to start developing your company’s “nextgen enterprise” strategy.



Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

Windows 10 and the Near Zero Hardware Liability Enterprise

With Windows 10, Microsoft is re-defining the BYOD (bring your own device)¬†game, and it’s a subtly aggressive move that many will probably appreciate.

No, really.¬† Like you, I have heard “BYOD game-changer” shticks¬†before, and dismissed it as marketing hype.¬† Hear me out.¬† (And also keep in mind that folks once often said “never” with respect to the cloud… but “never” is a lot longer than folks tend to look.)

Let me start by describing what I mean by “near zero hardware liability”.

There are already smaller organizations out there that have completely moved their hardware behind the wizard’s¬†curtain.¬†That is, they own¬†little to no¬†IT hardware themselves (with¬†little to no¬†capital expense, depreciation, or hardware liability.)¬†These companies are typically small, use the cloud to support their infrastructure & services¬†hardware, and BYOD for¬†their¬†employees’¬†desktop machines.

While cloud services are making serious headway into the enterprise, BYOD has been¬†an arguably¬†harder sell.¬†The whole concept of BYOD has been largely dismissed by most¬†larger companies because BYOD in¬†in the Windows 7 (and prior)¬†world can’t be managed.¬† Policy can’t be addressed and applied.¬† Data can’t be protected on an “unmanaged” employee owned device.¬† Hardware depreciation, liability, and support is kinda¬†small compared to the other liabilities involved.

Imagine a more classically European view of the world however.¬† In Europe, a user’s computer traditionally is considered to be only a step away from personal property.¬† Like the days of being given a company car, the days of being issued a PC by your employer may well be coming to an end.¬†

At the Windows 10 Pre-flight Summit in Redmond this week (6/1-2), it seems the word of the day isn’t so much about “upgrade”.¬† It is, but there’s a bigger word floating around.¬†

It’s “provisioning”, or enrolling a device in an enterprise.

In¬†Windows 10, the word “upgrade” is going to die.¬† It’s not just one platform for multiple devices.¬† It’s not just one platform for now, until Windows 11.¬† It’s one platform for the coming decades.¬† Upgrade to Windows 10, sure.¬† Update Windows 10, yes.¬† Upgrade from Windows 10, not in the works.¬† It’s also one very personal platform in more ways than one.

The day may be coming when part of a hiring decision (both by employee and employer) may be that an employee has devices of their own to bring to the table.  The employee will have their own support network, their own personal liability, and in order to accept the job, the employee must be willing to provision their devices with their employer.

Provisioning a¬†device means the device gets an enterprise managed workspace, as us developers would say, a sandbox where all managed apps and app data live.¬† Provisioning also sets a minimum acceptable standard policy on the device.¬† If the device can’t meet the provisioning policy requirements, it won’t be accepted…¬† (sorry Charlie, you need new hardware.)

I speculate on how much effort it would save companies if they could have the security & policy management without the hardware ownership overhead, but I bet, all told, it would be pretty significant. 

In many ways it will be similar to the car analogy…¬† you can’t expect to keep a job if you can’t manage your own transportation sufficiently to get you there when you need to be there.

This is also a very aggressive tactic. Imagine an enterprise deciding to implement BYOD, and it’s very successful… to the point where you can’t really get a job at that company without bringing a Windows 10 device.¬† Is that a labor issue?¬†

By kicking down as many objections to BYOD as possible, Microsoft may even be looking to drive adoption from the bottom up.¬†Rather than the CIO/CTO decreeing and pushing Windows 10 down, the BYOD user will¬†use Windows 10’s features to overcome the BYOD objections. ¬†Tired of the “golf cart” class standard issue machine at work, a power user brings in their own “hot rod”, and harasses IT until IT realizes the objections can be sufficiently mitigated with Windows 10… and the floodgates open.

I also speculate on the ramifications of the job market.  I could easily envision a day when the mark of a more desirable employee would be the higher end hardware they bring with them.  Imagine how it might re-invigorate the PC market if employee competition drove sales.  Imagine the PC becoming more important than the automobile in terms of employability-driving hardware, as a competitive attribute of an employee.  (The mark of a good chef is their knife set.  The mark of a solid information worker may be their laptop.)

It won’t hit all at once on July 29th.¬† It all has a ways to go.¬† It is a very thought provoking possibility.¬† What do you think? Is this on the path to Tomorrowland?

Edit 6/3:¬† Day 2 of the conference points out that Hyper-V 6.2 included in some editions of Windows 10 will enable virtualized Trusted Platform Module (v-TPM).¬† This means that an employer could provide a secure, Bitlocker enabled VM to an employee (which may or may not be provisioned), rather than provisioning the employee’s device as a directly provisioned system.¬†¬† Yet another way to make BYOD a more Enterprise friendly policy.

Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

Net Neutrality and the Return of AOL

For cable TV¬†customers, there’s something oddly familiar about the idea of channel providers.¬† Trading off television¬†channels by switching cable TV providers has¬†long been¬†commonplace in regions where there’s more than one cable TV provider, and long been the envy of those who don’t live in such regions.¬† If Time-Warner wants to cut off CBS over contract issues, and you live in a place where you only have Time-Warner, you don’t get your NCIS fix.

Flashback to a¬†couple¬†decades ago…¬† America Online, GEnie, and CompuServe WERE the “Internet”.¬† If you wanted IN on¬†the “online craze”¬†you had to go to one or more of these companies and buy your seat at their table.¬† Companies didn’t advertise their web URLs.¬† They advertised their AOL keywords.¬† CompuServe had great educational content providers, but AOL was king of chat at a time when chat was king.¬† Most companies flocked to AOL as a result, and so AOL wasn’t just an ISP, it was¬†THE digital content channel provider.

The¬†channel¬†model died with the rise in popularity of the Internet.¬†¬† Suddenly, all you needed to connect content¬†to customers was the same thing that everyone needed.¬† A connection.¬† Thanks to a convention called “Net Neutrality”, the channel¬†model built by services such as AOL & CompuServe were walls that were¬†knocked down.¬† Your connection was every “channel”, simultaneously, all the time, with no bundling.¬† As a business, wanting to publish and contribute your content as a channel, you had only to invest in your own connection, and a little technical infrastructure, and you were in.

Facebook has taken serious shots at bringing the channel model back.¬† If you want to play certain online games or see some online content, you must join Facebook… and content/gaming providers who want to participate in that must come to agreements with Facebook, of course.¬†

Yet, with the breakdown of Net Neutrality, the pendulum is swinging solidly back to the channel provider model.¬† Your ISP now has the right to decide what traffic they carry over their networks and/or throttle performance from different content significantly…¬† if they want to cut back on Netflix… they can.¬† If they want to nix Google services, whatever.

Clearly this happened almost instantly with recent judicial rulings…¬† The jinni is already out of the bottle.¬† Verizon has decided to effectively¬†drop the “Netflix channel” by cutting Netflix’ bandwidth down to reportedly unusable levels.¬† This means if you’re on Verizon and were using Netflix, you either have to find a new video streaming service, or you have to find a new channel service provider.¬†

How long will it be before this impacts every Internet service provider (and even cellular network providers, since VOIP services are reducing them to ISPs as well)?  

Here’s some fictitious¬†quotes from a not so hard to see future (roughly within the next decade):

  • “I left Verizon for Time-Warner because¬†Verizon¬†charges too much for¬†the Office 365¬†and¬†Facebook channels.¬† Comcast is tempting, though, because they have Google Hangouts and enhanced YouTube in their¬†HD package.”¬†
  • “I wish Verizon had the same educational channels as T-Mobile or Sprint, though, cause my kids could use that for school.”¬†¬†
  • “Thankfully my channel provider and my folks across the country both have enhanced Skype.¬† I can’t Skype my sister at all, though.”
  • “I had to switch banks when I switched carriers.¬† AT&T hasn’t come to an agreement with my old bank, so I couldn’t use their online services.”
  • “Amazon’s gone bust since they failed to become a viable¬†channel provider, and every other channel provider decided to compete against them.”
  • “Google is the new AOL.¬† Most folks can’t even get online except thru Google Fiber. Your business does not have an online presence unless it’s thru them.¬† It’s too bad your competitors already have exclusive agreements with them.”

ISPs love this, because as cable TV providers will tell you, there’s a lot of pricing power in being a channel provider, but not so much is being a connection provider.¬†

Businesses will struggle with this, however, because getting your website on the Internet will become a much more complicated proposition.¬† Sure, you’ll be able to get online the same, but your content won’t be carried the same.¬†¬† Essentially, small business content will be at the whim of “local access channels” provided by each channel provider.¬† They’ll all have their own rules and regulations, and even more importantly, their own fees.¬† Is your audience growing?¬† You’ll have to hammer out deals with each channel provider to make sure your content gets to all your customers.

Further, how long will it be before we start having a resurgence in custom network interface hardware to the point of ending Wi-Fi and Ethernet as we know it?¬† We’ve already seen netbooks and tablets that have wireless¬†Internet service tied to specific cellular carriers.¬† I’d be willing to bet that as channel providers gain hold and start to flex their newfound muscles, a breakdown in connectivity standards will take hold.

Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

What’s Hiding Behind "Low Resolution" Metrics?

100 data points

I’m a software¬†application developer, but I get this.¬† Metrics are¬†the¬†photographs¬†of business.¬†

While I’m at it, here’s¬†another classic¬†clich√© for ya…¬† “A picture’s worth a thousand words.”¬†

What if your picture has been reduced to a small number of data points? 

You get something like the image on the¬†left…¬† there’s actually 100 data points in that image:¬†¬†the resolution has been reduce to a very small number of pixels, each¬†expressed as a block of color.¬† (The image it was¬†originally reduced¬†from is¬†about¬†40,000 data points.)¬†¬†

Anyway, this is what metrics are to a business… data points that, when taken collectively, become the model or picture of the state of the company.

Standard GAAP accounting is supposed to provide a meaningful definition of metrics for any company, of any size, and for some purposes this may be sufficient.

Problems¬†generally come in with the specialization of¬†a company… the metrics it measures its own processes and performance by.¬†

Too many metrics, and it can’t all be taken in… like getting a close up of the whisker I missed when I shaved.¬† (From the “be careful of what you wish for” department.) ¬†Thankfully that doesn’t happen very often;¬† it’s hard to imagine justifying the expense of that kind of metric “resolution”.¬†

It’s far more¬†likely there are too few metrics.¬†

Imagine what it would look like if¬†we reduced the resolution of the picture¬†further… say to one data point.

Imagine, for example, if you only considered the price of a share of common stock in trying to get an idea of¬†how well¬†a¬†company is¬†performing.¬†¬† Indeed, that’s¬†definitely a¬†“single pixel” view, and it really won’t tell you anything about the stock or the company attached to it.

Now take this, again, to internal processes.¬† Let’s imagine a bank that measures its loan officers only by their average¬†ROI on loans.¬†

Ok… so that’s a silly extreme, but let’s just run with it for a moment…

Imagine trying to provide a bonus-impacting performance review of a loan officer when the only metric you had was the ROI on their loans. The average interest rate of the loan may be a valuable metric, but only when taken with other metrics. 

It won’t be long before all the loan officers are writing¬†a few extremely short term loans for a penny at hundreds to thousands of percent interest.¬† Hey, for $99.99, ROI on the penny just netted someone another $10k in bonuses, right?¬† Again, a goofy extreme example, but you get the point.

This is a problem that’s plagued more than just a few business units… more than a few businesses, corporations, conglomerates.¬† Really, it’s impacted more than just a region,¬†and even the nation.¬† Poor metrics beget poor metrics. In the global economy, poor metrics, taken¬†collectively,¬†have hidden a great number of sins that contributed significantly to the global downturn referred to as “The Great Recession”.¬†¬† (Who wants to know where they’re going when they don’t like the answer, I guess, huh?)

No one, from your boss, to world governing bodies, can point the ship in the right direction¬†without a clear picture of where¬†we’re at.

Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

Developing Business Intelligence Apps for SharePoint

I happened across a copy of “Developing Business Intelligence Apps for SharePoint” at the local Barnes and Noble today!¬†¬†¬†

How could I not be psyched that Jason Himmelstein, good friend and co-organizer of¬†the Granite State SharePoint Users Group, SharePoint Saturday New Hampshire, and the Granite State Windows Phone¬†Users Group has copies of his book (co-authored with¬†David Feldman) on the¬†shelf at the book store?!¬†¬† (and according to B&N’s website, it’s at stores all over NH…. and I’m sure well beyond that, too)¬†¬† (ISBN: 978-1449320836)

The guy even had the nerve to put my name in it, too…¬† ūüôā

I’ll post my (fully unbiased) review as soon as I’m done reading it…¬† ūüôā

I also figure that if I can be in any small way an inspiration to someone accomplishing something like that, I might possibly have to stop resting on my published apps, give myself a boot in the butt and get some pages out there, too…¬†as soon as I find time.¬†¬†

Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

Time to Remodel the Kitchen?

A few good reasons to consider keeping your IT infrastructure up to snuff…

(I’m honored to have¬†the post accepted & published on Edgewater’s blog.)¬† ūüôā¬†