Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

Retirement of the Corporate PC

Remember the company car?  Neither do I.   There’s a good chance the company-provided PC that most information workers are issued is trending toward extinction as well.

The net result could be a boon for PC retailers.  Policy agreements become SLA’s with the employee, and the budget moves out of IT and into HR.

Posted on Linked In:  Retirement of the Corporate PC

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/retirement-corporate-pc-jim-wilcox

Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

KB3035583 – Where is the Windows 10 Invitation to Upgrade?

I’ve had a lot of folks express confusion over Windows 10…  It is FREE for the vast majority of existing Windows users. (Only some corporate PCs may run into a cash register.)  It’s also very easy to install for the vast majority of users.  I’m so confident with the upgrade process that I’ve handed off one of the URLs below to my folks, and told them to call me if they have a problem… 

The invitation to reserve Windows 10 is triggered from an update that rolls out over WSUS, described by Knowledge Base article KB3035583.  The reservation is essentially passed since the software is officially released, but here’s some detail on it if you’re curious…

The following URL is the KB article, which describes update that triggers the invitation to reserve Windows 10, mentioning that Enterprise machines do not apply:
https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/3035583


The following article indicates that once installed, the KB3035583 update will also exclude itself from being applied Domain Joined machines:
http://rainesy.com/what-is-the-update-kb3035583-you-might-ask/


But the most important question to answer at this point… 
HOW TO UPGRADE TO WINDOWS 10 NOW:

I’ve had a couple links at the ready since I’ve been answering questions like this a lot lately across both business and personal connections…  here’s a post on how to download & install Windows 10 immediately for an individual system: 
www.microsoft.com/en-us/software-download/windows10

If you’re looking for more information on how to roll Windows 10 out across a company infrastructure, there’s a high level set of options, outlined in the following post:
https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/mt158221%28v=vs.85%29.aspx?f=255&MSPPError=-2147217396

There’s a ton of great reasons for a company to deploy Windows 10, including

  • Universal Apps that enable you to extend your code base and/or future code effort across the entire Windows spectrum
  • A host of attractive, industrial-strength BYOD options for more than just tablets and smartphones
  • The most efficient and consistent use of latest generation hardware including touchscreen and security measures

Microsoft is preparing to *upgrade* over a billion Windows devices to Windows 10.   We’re proud to be a part of that, and very happy to help in any capacity we can getting the bits pushed out to all your machines. 


As a developer, I’m very happy to promote the platform I most want to work on… I really feel that Windows 10’s success is the foundation of a lot of others’ success, including my own.

Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

Windows 10, Industrial-strength BYOD

“Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) is not new. It’s the term companies use to describe company policies that enable an employee to connect employee-owned devices (typically a smartphone or tablet) to company resources… resources such as email or company document repositories.

In order for BYOD to work, a device must meet criteria for security and manageability minimally agreed upon by the company and the employee.

Mock-up of a woman using a Razer laptop in a classic work setting.

One of the things I love about Windows 10 is the multitude of security and manageability features that really make “BYOD” attractive to both employees and employers.

Being the tablet and smartphone platform that Windows 10 is, there’s been a lot of attention to making Windows 10 able to address many of the objections Enterprise IT has with IOS (iPhone and iPad) and Android devices. (In light of recent issues like #StageFright on Android, I find it hard to figure out how Android is supportable in BYOD scenarios.)

Windows 10 comes stock with not just one, but several viable BYOD solutions that present industrial-strength solutions to these BYOD objections.

Also, being the Universal OS that Windows 10 is, these objection busters apply to traditional laptops and even PCs. The magic here is that you can intentionally & willfully enroll your computer, laptop, tablet, phone, what have you with your company’s computing device policy, and be sure that your device will comply with company policy to the extent that the company requires.

If only for this reason, the fusion of work and play in one machine, Windows 10 makes the PC personal again, as promised.

As a Microsoft Partner-Technical Solutions Professional (P-TSP) with BlueMetal, I’ve been issued an awesome company laptop… but for a number of reasons, I found myself wanting to explore Satya Nadella’s vision for one device that co-mingles business and pleasure.

Having heard Nadella’s call for one device for work and personal use, I selected a laptop that could meet the needs of a higher-end gamer as well as meeting the needs of my role as a Senior Software Engineer in the Devices & Mobility group at BlueMetal.

What I ended up with is a rocket ship of a laptop, (a Razer Blade 14 laptop).

After taking a few precautions like Bitlocker-encrypting my laptop and upgrading to the Pro edition of Windows 10, I was comfortable enrolling my laptop with the company Intune policy. What I get is a stand-out kick ass trophy machine with enough display resolution to make 2k-display smartphone emulators seem quaint, that kicks ass developing apps, which I can then take home and kick ass in Azeroth & Draenor… without skipping a beat.

Imagine allowing employees to opt some portion of their personal hardware into your compute and/or sensor fabric in a way that does not interfere with that employee’s personal computing.

The possibilities add up to a win-win-win.

Employees win because they aren’t stuck with cheap, sub-standard-issue equipment at work.

Employers win, because 1) employees are happier with their better performing equipment, 2) employers aren’t in the hardware maintenance business anymore, and 3) can potentially leverage some of that hardware as an extension of human resources.

OEMs win because employees will gravitate toward hardware that gives them a leg up at work, rather than settling for the sub-standard-issue machine.

The most notable NEW ways to present BYOD in the enterprise are these:

1) Mobile Device Management and Mobile Application Management (App-V) with VPN isolation, making it so that devices have an encrypted sandbox for company applications and data, as well as a dedicated, isolated channel for VPN connectivity that 3rd party apps on the device can’t touch.
2)  Bitlocker-encrypted Hyper-V Virtual Machines with virtual Trusted Platform Module managed by the enterprise, typically where the guest OS is Active Directory-Domain joined.

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

Looking into Continuous Delivery / Lean Enterprise

After a conversation with my boss I just downloaded Continuous Delivery to my Kindle reader (Windows 8 / Windows Phone app). 

On first brush, I can see it’s akin to the next phase of a process I’m somewhat familiar with.  I’ve referred to it as Software Factory in the past, and even have a label for it in this blog.  I designed and delivered a “Software Factory” solution around some of these concepts at one of the few product based companies I worked at in my career…  

“Software Factory” took Continuous Integration (CI) up a  few notches by automating not just builds, but code generation, deployment packaging, and then an early stab at what might now be called a private cloud, where we automated spinning up an instance of target test systems, deployed the fresh baked product, ran smoke tests, and (if smoke tests looked good) notified the folks in QA for more complete testing of a solid candidate.   


I’ve been a fan of Domain Specific Language (DSL) for the purpose of custom build & automation ever since. 

For that company our solution was an on-premises deployment, so it was still a matter of convincing customers to deploy the updates…  but our automation produced both full install kits as well as patches that would upgrade a running system from a known build to a target build.    


That company was preparing to take the product into the SaaS model which was very new at the time, and this would have been a part of that, as well.   

I’ve worked with TFS to integrate smoke testing and build automation, as well.  That could easily extend to this sort of thing. 

That company suffered from lack of customers, unfortunately, but it was a process I’ve been looking forward to getting back to, and expected we’d get back to in the consulting world some day.    It’s interesting that Software Factory (as Continuous Delivery) is working it’s way back to top of mind relevance through the cloud…  I’m looking forward to reading what the authors of this book have to say about it.
Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

Hedging Against The Risk of Becoming A Monopoly

First Microsoft with their late entry into the mobile market (and flubs leading up to it)… then Apple… now Facebook…  anyone notice that they kinda suck lately?  

Apple, clearly getting bored with it’s iPhone, is now turning its attention to it’s iWatch… which doesn’t make much sense to me;  I purposely gave up all other devices, including a wristwatch, in favor of a single unified mobile device.  It will take a lot to convince me to add a wristwatch back in, and I’m sure having to pay for it will be a deterring factor.   (Next thing you know, they’ll add electroshock notifications, and make it so that authorities will have the ability to lock it to the wearer’s wrist and cause it to electromagnetically bind to the nearest metal object in order to detain people… (but that’s another whole story)).

I’m always toying with social media, so when I ran across a Facebook post from an entrepreneurial acquaintance recently, wondering if his content was being suppressed, I had to check it out.   As an experiment, he posted a really cute puppy, and it picked up a fair number of responses.  His concern was that his regular posts were not getting the response he’d grown accustomed to.  To add yet more anecdote, there was recently a post on the New York Times’ blog about similar observations, tied to tweaks Facebook has made recently.  It seems posts that are engaging or paid for are prioritized, and posts that are not quite as popular are at best “deprioritized”.  It seems likely that even engaging posts tied to commercial products are likely suppressed unless paid for.  Anyone who dabbles in trying to build an audience through Facebook must pay or make sure their content is very engaging.   I like knowing about the books friends of mine are publishing.  I like knowing about their small mom & pop shop.  These posts are getting hidden from my newsfeed.  It’s not the most engaging stuff, but it’s part of what I use Facebook for.  Having this stuff drop off my radar makes Facebook start to suck more.  Yes, they want to make money, but I think there may be even more to it.

I digress.

But I have to ask…  with all the Big Data that companies like Apple, Intel, Microsoft, Qualcomm, Facebook, Google, and the rest have…  and rest assured, they have it… the analytics.  How can they really not recognize the things that are hurting their business? 

Is it intentional?

If modern history has shown us anything, it’s that free markets do not tolerate monopolies.  In every case, any time a company takes advantage of its own strength in the market, the market has pushed back, forcing one of a number of “bad” things upon the company.  Just about every global company has seen this.  I recall hearing about the Rockefeller oil breakup, but in our time, it was the Microsoft / Internet Explorer shakedown…. and there have been many others.

I long suspected the reason Linux existed and was not thoroughly stomped on by the powers that be (Microsoft) was to allow Linux to be a “competitor” in the market… something that would never have a unified corporate focus that could actually unseat Microsoft.  I know that Microsoft even supported some Linux components, which anecdotally supports my theory.  I’m sure they supported it as much as they felt they necessary in order to make sure Linux was a viable competitor.

When it became clear that Linux’s strength was flagging, a more corporate competitor became necessary.  It seems Apple filled that gap very nicely in the PC market for some time.

While Apple began to dominate the mobile market, Google stepped up to become a competitor there, partially because Microsoft wasn’t committed to the market space.  (It wasn’t enough of a threat to the PC market.)  Android has the same problems as Linux… too decentralized to be a lasting threat, so while Apple had it’s heyday and now lets itself slip in the market, Microsoft will target Google.  Eventually, I predict Apple and Microsoft will take turns with market dominance with Google there to provide another safety net.

So back to Facebook…  It seems like Twitter has become a haven for market bots, but not much more of real use to the average person.  Facebook’s power grew to near monopolistic levels over 2012, but I predict that Facebook will actually allow this unhappy situation to persist for entrepreneurial folks, encouraging them to explore Google+.  This leadership transference to Google+ will bolster Google+ as a competitor, enabling Facebook to remain free of  the shackles of being a monopoly.  I suspect they’ll both start taking turns with market dominance, but despite the market competition, I bet both will claim better results in their marketing campaigns, thus leading to higher advertising prices on both.

The nasty part, here, is that the reason for preventing and sanctioning monopolies is to prevent them from strong arming their markets.  Unfortunately, what it seems like we’re getting instead is very small oligarchies taking turns to be the dominant, but not quite monopolistic force in the market.  They take advantage of each other to develop brand loyalty which improves their profit margins and gives them near monopolistic power among their followers, yet they maintain their monopoly-free, unsanctioned status.

Tech in the 603, The Granite State Hacker

Reliving "Revolutionary" with Windows 8

“What do you think of Windows 8?”   I hear this question all the time… everywhere I go.   I hear people talking about it on the bus, in line at coffee shops, and even in odd places like hospital rooms.  It’s the biggest change we’ve had in the PC in well more than a decade.  Everyone knows this is as big as broadband in everyone’s home.

But… more than a decade?   Really? 

Definitely.  How old would a child be if it was born the last time there was a *true*, major version iteration of Windows?   3?  8…? 

How about…  18?   Yeah…  18… old enough to drive.  Old enough to be looking at colleges. The Daytona (Windows NT) / Chicago (Windows 95) user experience, were it a child, would now be looking at an opportunity to suffer the choice between Romney or Obama.  The experience unleashed on IT and the public introduced us to the Start menu, the Desktop, managed application installs, and several other major features that the enterprise and private user alike have now literally grown up on.

Some might argue that Windows XP was a hefty revision that almost qualifies, but I would say not so much.  Improvements abounded, but the core user experience hasn’t changed by more than revision increments in Windows 98, ME, 2000, XP, 2003, 2008, 7… really…  since Windows 95. 

But, with Windows 8, this changes.  Windows 8 brings us a whole new user experience in the “Modern UI” formerly known as “Metro UI”. 

If you recall, Windows 95 still essentially lived on top of DOS, and had enough of the Windows 3.x framework to run all the apps we’d already come to depend on (like Word 6, Excel 5, and Windows AOL 2.5).  While those programs ran in Chicago, there were compatibility issues, and the user interface really started to look crusty on legacy applications.  I was actually a relatively late adopter, waiting until Windows 98 before I finally succumbed to the dark side. (I had discovered IBM OS/2 Warp and become a fan… it actually took a 1-2 punch to Warp to get me to switch.  1:  When Warp was stable, it was unbeatable, but when it crashed it was unrecoverable, (and crash, it inevitably did).  2:   Command & Conquer / Red Alert, which had an improved video mode that was only available when installed in Windows… and it was even more awesome in that improved resolution mode. )

Just like Windows 95, Windows 8 is a transitional OS.

One of the big things I keep hearing about Windows 8 is… what a P.I.T.A. is is to figure out. “Microsoft is taking a huge risk with this… why are they breaking my Windows?”, I hear.  Or…  “I’m open-minded.  I subjected myself to it until the pain became unbearable.  (I can’t wait until Mac OS X takes over.)”

Transition, though?  Yes.  Transition.  Again, this is the first real full version increment of the Windows user experience that we’ve seen in years, and it all comes down to this Modern UI thing.  It does exactly what Windows 95 did to Windows 3.x on DOS.  It wipes the slate clean and re-imagines how we operate our computers from the ground up using modern human interface devices… (HIDs). 

Touch screen, movement, gestures, enhanced 3D graphics… these are things that started to accelerate development not long after the release of 95, but the world was still on the Windows 95 learning curve.  Hardware was too immature & expensive to develop an OS around them then… So, while you were getting comfortable with your desktop, (if you haven’t noticed) your cell phone’s user experience surpassed your desktop.

So on the surface (no pun intended) this is what Windows 8 is…  it’s a full OS-deep refresh that catches home computing back up to what people have gotten used to in their cellphones.

“Common sense” says this all implies a true P.I.T.A. for people and companies that dig in on it. 

Let’s look a little deeper, though, at what else this represents.  Again, this is a transitional OS.  It does everything the old user experience did… if you dig a bit.  It does this to support the old applications with their freshly encrusted-feeling user experience.  People can continue leveraging your old technology investments.  Indeed, you can continue making investments in the old user experience…  just know that the writing’s on the wall. 

It’s only a matter of time before people do what they inevitably did with Daytona/Chicago… adopt, extend, and embrace, or be extinguished.  

Why?  Because… when it comes down to it, the part that people really hate is not the “user experience” part.   It’s the “NEW” part that hurts.  Once the “NEW” wears off, what you’ve got left is a really genuinely cleaner, better, more efficient UI that leverages new hardware in important ways, and puts it years ahead of desktop OS competition, both in terms of capability, and even in terms of price point…  and pushes that same advantage out seamlessly to a myriad of other devices.  So getting past the sharp learning curve on one device means you’ll be rocking the new UI everywhere in no time.

Like the glory days of the Dot-Com boom, the days of Daytona & Chicago, these will be days of learning and technical renovation, even re-invention.  This is what I see coming with Windows 8 in the desktop, with an added benefit of being even more ubiquitous than it was back in the 90’s.  With the coming of Surface, Windows Phone 8, your apps will have more opportunity to run in more places, on more machines, than ever before…. using more “Star Trek” functionality than we’re yet used to. 

Those looking to remodel that kitchen… here’s your wake up call.  Windows 8’s user experience is representative of what made the Dot Com days so great… (and there were some plus sides.)  It was when leveraging any of the revolutionary new technology became a competitive advantage all by itself.  Early adopters will feel the pinch of the initial investment, but… with some planning, will reap the rewards by having that pain behind them by the time Windows 9 rolls around. 

I, for one, look forward to my new OS overlord.