Microsoft Ignite…My Initial Game Plan

Greetings True Believers,

So with Microsoft Ignite just a couple of months away, seems like a great time to talk about what I’m looking forward to and how I plan to spend my week. As Microsoft brings together many of it’s major conferences, it will be interesting to see if how everything works out.

2015 for me is going to be a year of learning the cloud, specifically Office 365 and Azure. To that end I’m planning to take the Office 365 MCSA exams at Ignite. While not announced yet, usually Microsoft provides some sort of benefit for testing on site and hopefully we’ll see the same this year.


For me, that is one of the top reasons for going to Ignite (or TechEd previously). The connections I’ve made throughout the year have provided many personal and professional growth opportunities. That is where The Krewe got it’s start and I look forward to catching up with old friends, along with meeting new ones.

For the more social side of Ignite and the IT Pro community, check out The Krewe at We have an active Facebook community that will start buzzing with all the happenings at Ignite, and how to get the most of out your “Evening Sessions”.

Once the Scheduler Builder is available, make sure you plan to have time for “hallway sessions”. These are those times when you just need a break from content and spend time networking with others at the conference. IMHO you can always revisit a missed session, but you can never revisit a great conversation that you cut short to get to a session.


Reviewing the session catalog, it looks like a lot of stuff I’m interested in. I’ll most likely focus on deep dives into Office 365 and try to catch some 200-300 sessions on Azure and Windows 10. Normally I don’t do hands on sessions but may if a topic peaks my interest.

One downside of the current session catalog is that you can only share a session with others. There is no way to mark them for later viewing. Until them, I won’t spend much time pouring through the sessions until I can actually mark them for later viewing. Also, speakers are not listed (which is not surprising). I normally base many of my session decisions off of speakers so expect a post later on my session guide.

Also, I haven’t seen the listing of pre-conferences on Sunday, May 3rd so I’m not sure if I’ll attend one of those. Traditionally, I pass on those as Sunday is usually a busy day preparing for the week ahead.
Updated: I found the list of pre-cons. Looks like some nice offerings. If I was to take one, probably lean towards  Microsoft Azure Cloud for IT Pros. Unfortunately, 6 days of content is just too much for me. As I’ve told the peeps as Microsoft, I’d gladly pay additional funds to be able to access materials and a recording of the pre-con that I could view at a later time. I doubt that will ever happen but you never know.


I am a HUGE Chicago fan. It’s one of my favorite cities and I can’t wait to share all of the cool things in the city with many of my friends visiting for the first time. From Food, Coffee, to Craft Beer, there is some much to offer compared with other conference cities I’ve been to…I’m stoked! May is usually quite nice in Chicago so you’ll get a chance to see the “Windy City” at it’s best. For some great city info, follow @chooseChicago on twitter.

What You need to Know if Going

Knowledge is power and having a game plan is key.  In the current post, my good friend Denise Begley shares some new info about the session catalog and other things. Check out the Channel 9 MS Ignite Blog to keep current on what Ignite is doing, Also, make sure to follow  the official Twitter Handle for Ignite @Ms_Ignite. Also, get engaged on the Channel 9 forum for MS Ignite

And save some time on will take place on February 3rd at 11 AM Central Time for  an #IgniteJam . The Ignite team, speakers and other conference attendees will be there to discuss all things Ignite. Great time to catch the wave and get engaged!

Not Going?

Well you should. If you are a Windows IT Pro, it’s a great place to continue “leveling up” your career and get much needed training. Also, it’s a great way to make professional contacts. If you need to convince your boss, check out this.

Can’t wait to see you in Chicago!


Windows Server Administration Fundamentals – Part II is LIVE!!!

At long last, Part II of my Windows Server Administration Fundamentals course on has made it through the gauntlet of production, and it’s now available to all Plursalsight subscribers. Many of you have reached out to me inquiring about the status of this course and I’m happy it’s finally available for you.

Like part I, it is based around the Microsoft MTA exam, 98-365. While the MTA exam is based on Windows Server 2008 R2 (and thus the videos as well), I created the course to provide you rock solid fundamentals on DNS, DHCP, AD, and File/Print Services that will translate to whatever Windows OS you are using. It’s a great foundational course for those new to IT or needing basic knowledge of servers.

To get an idea of the style of the course, check out the video below:

If you are not a Pluralsight subscriber, you can sign up for a free 10-day trial here.

Till next time…Mike

Information on The Krewe Blog Challenge…

Welcome to the Krewe Blog Challenge 2014!

The purpose of this is get more people into blogging. With the popularity of twitter and facebook, there are many important things that get lost in the noise of the Internet due to the volumes of content being created every second. Our facebook page is a great example. There are a number of great posts related to fixing specific issues or things people have done. Unfortunately, there is not an effective search mechanism for finding these and they get lost in the every changing timeline. Blogging fixes that. By posting a fix to a problem on a blog, it get’s crawled by search engines, indexed, and is ever available. Also, blogging is a great way to increase your reach and brand if you are looking to build a bigger presence on the web.

So How is this going to work? Well, here are the rules…

1.       Anyone is free to join. To participate in the prize portion of the contest, you need to blog a minimum of 1x a week through August 24th, 2014.

2.       Send you blog feed URL to, and we’ll add you to The Krewe RSS feed.

3.       Talk about the challenge on twitter with the hashtag of #KreweBlogChallenge

4.       We’ll be promoting all blogs posted to The Krewe Bloggers feed on twitter, but you should make sure to promote yourself on twitter, facebook, or wherever else makes sense.

5.       Hopefully, we can create some blog bling for your blog site.

6.       Just post…

Prizes??? Yes…we will have prizes. I’m still working on what they are and how many we’ll have, but we should have some good stuff. Everyone will get something, just not sure what at this pointJ

Questions…Feel free to ping me on Twitter via @MichaelBender if you have questions or wonder how to start. I’ll be happy to help as well as many other bloggers in the group.


Surface Pro 3: Just what I was looking for

Like many of you, I spent the morning watching and tweeting about the Surface Pro 3 announce at the Surface Event in NYC. Many people were expecting a Surface mini to be released, but in hindsight, Surface Pro 3 makes much more sense from a customer standpoint and sales standpoint. With the lukewarm acceptance of Surface RT, a 8″ tablet running RT is not going to set the world on fire vs. this device announced today. 

You be able to read numerous articles about the new Surface Pro 3, and I’m not going to bore you with all of the details. Especially since I’m not hands-on with the device. I can only go on what’s been announced and put in the wild. Here’s what I know from a hardware perspective:

  • Comes in 3 processor flavors (i3, i5, i7) w/ up to 8GB of RAM and 512GB drive
  • Price point starts at $799 and goes to $1999
  • Weighs in at 1.76lbs without keyboard, pen, etc and super thin at .36 inches
  • 12-inch ClearType Full HD display will be awesome to view content as well as creation
  • Pen is wicked cool with push-button to open OneNote when device is office and new styling
  • Type cover is articulated to provided much improved laptop experience
  • Hinge allows for multiple angles for a multitude of uses
  • The new integrations with OneNote are fantastic. I can’t wait to begin putting them into action.
  • See the full specs here (Word doc so be advised…Not a webpage)
  • Check out the Surface Teams blog for a great write up on the announcement

From my standpoint as a trainer, presenter, author, and technologist, this is the device I have been looking for since Surface was released. It will allow me to have one device for consumption, creation, and presentation of content. I was looking at purchasing a Dell XPS 19 to use as an electronic white board replacement. The idea was to place the device on a lectern for presentations. This will allow me to fully interact and present without switching devices, or using a white board. This is particularly helpful in the classroom where I spend a lot of time diagramming. Now, I envision students viewing and having access to my whiteboard diagrams in real time. Plus, I now have a historical record of these diagrams. No more smartphone pics of the whiteboard here!

I am already putting the request in to my employer to forgo a new laptop and get me a Surface Pro 3. It will actually save them money since many of the other instructors choose MBPs.

To that end…TAKE MY MONEY!!!!

 (Courtesy of Ben Rudolph aka @BenThePCGuy)

Devices go on sale tomorrow Jun 20th at 12:01AM EST.

F5, F5, F5…


My Two Cents on TechEd Retirment – Repost

Repost of a previous blog post from my now-dead wordpress site so formatting may be poor…
On Monday, I received a email (see below) from Microsoft telling me about the discontinuation of TechNet, even though I knew about this hours before via Twitter. As a long time TechNet subscriber/user, I have a lot of thoughts on this. Personally, I am disappointed as I believe this is a great tool for IT Pros to keep current. I have championed TechNet as a resource for many years to students and IT Pros I have engaged. While the new resources available are nice, I don’t believe there is a single product available know that fills the needs of IT Pros at an affordable price point.
My Thoughts…
§  Ed Bott wrote a great post breaking down this news. Check it out here.
§  As an MCT, MVP, and a faculty member at a school with MSDN-AA, I have access to everything I need to build & maintain a testing environment along with keeping my skills sharp. That is not the case for many of you…
§  I run no scenarios (at this time) in lab that a 90-180 day eval will not cover. That is not the case for many of you…
§  At $1199 intial subscription/$799 renewal, MSDN is not an acceptable substitute even with Azure credit. Office 365 Developer is not comparable to the Office 365 E3 trial available through TechNet.
§  My belief is much of this decision is driven by licensing and years of “not following the licensing rules” by many subscribers. I would guess many IT Pros have not purchased a copy of software for personal use in eons.
§  TechNet gives you no credit in Azure, which I never understood. You NEED to be testing out Azure as this is the future for many things we do as IT Pros. That…is a reality though we may not like it.
§  This further solidifies it’s really about developers at Microsoft. Also, it solidifies Microsoft’s long-term vision of an “A La Carte” world of IT.
§  My hope is that Microsoft hears the feedback on this and delivers an option that meets the needs of IT Pros at an affordable cost.
Want another option besides MSDN? Check out the Microsoft Action Pack for Microsoft Partners. Most of probably qualify as a Registered Partner. I had this for a number of years as an SMB consultant and found it quite useful. While not the “All you can eat buffet” of TechNet, it gives you internal use rights that many of you are looking for. I believe the cost is $400/yr. Also, being a partner gets you access to Cloud Essentials if you qualify.
If you really feel strongly and want to send Microsoft a message, you can sign this petition. It was started by Cody Skidmore.
In the end, it’s all about choices. I tell my students all the time that you have to invest in your careers, and sometimes that is more than sweat equity. What you choose to spend on your career is a personal choice. I believe a majority of what we do as IT Pros can be accomplished through the free resources available to us. However, for those with speciality scenarios, you may have to fork over some cash to get what you need. Cost of doing business in today’s IT world.
Till Next time…Mike
Email from TechNet Subscription Team:
As IT trends and business dynamics have evolved, so has Microsoft’s set of offerings for IT professionals who are looking to learn, evaluate and deploy Microsoft technologies and services. In recent years, we have seen a usage shift from paid to free evaluation experiences and resources. As a result, Microsoft has decided to retire the TechNet Subscriptions service and will discontinue sales on August 31, 2013.
Additional Information:
More background on Microsoft’s decision to retire the TechNet Subscription service and the implications for current subscribers is available on the TechNet Subscriptions Retirement FAQ page.
Subscribers with active accounts may continue to access program benefits until their current subscription period concludes.We are committed to helping customers through this transition phase and will remain focused on providing IT professionals with free access to a broad set of TechNet assets that support the needs of IT professionals around the world.Improved Free Offerings for IT Professionals Include:
§  TechNet Evaluation Center: Free evaluation software with no feature limits, available for 30-180 days. Includes rich evaluation resources and TechNet Virtual Labs, which enable you to evaluate software without the need to install bits locally.
§  Microsoft Virtual Academy: Free online learning site, with over 200 expert-led technical training courses across more than 15 Microsoft technologies with more added weekly.
§  TechNet Forums: Free online forums where IT professionals can ask technical questions and receive rapid responses from members of the community.
Please note, MSDN Subscriptions provide a paid set of offerings that are also available for those who require access to evaluation software beyond what the above free offerings provide.
Thank you for your understanding as we increase focus on growing and investing in our free offerings to better meet the needs of the IT professional community.
Do not reply to this e-mail. This message was sent to you using an automated system. This e-mail alias is not monitored for replies.
– TechNet Subscription Team

Drinking the PowerShell Kool-Aid…Repost

This is a reposted blog from my now dead wordpress site so formatting may be poor…

So I’ve recently drank the kool-aid and I’m all in on PowerShell. After TechEd this year and speaking with lots of IT Pros & Industry folks, I knew it was time for me to get up to speed on PS or be left behind.

To this end, I have been working through Learn Windows PowerShell 3 in a Month of Lunches, 2nd Edition by Don Jones and Jeffery Hicks. This IS the place you should start if you are a PS newb like my self, or is the proper term PoSHnewb. Don and Jeff do a remarkable job of teaching PowerShell the way IT Pros work. For the most part, we are not programmers; we’re technicians, administrators , or architects, and that is how we need to use PowerShell; as a tool in which to perform singular or repetitive tasks, mostly from the CLI and sometimes as a script.

I like this book so much that I am having my 4th semester students go through the book to learn PowerShell in a way that will prepare them for the real world. They’ll need the help as I threw a curveball into the usual mix of work for my Windows Server Pro class. Normally, each student completes an individual case study where they build out an SMB windows network in VMs. This semester, I scaled back some of the case study tasks to reduce complexity of the overall network, and now I am requiring them to build the entire Windows Server 2012 network with PowerShell. How crazy is that???? I am doing the project along with them so I can hopefully catch and “gotchas” before they do.

So as I’m working my way through my PowerShell journey, I thought it would be cool to share code examples as they get created. Let me warn you…I can barely script my way out of a paper bag so scripts will be functional but probably could use some streamlining.

In any case, here’s the first useful script I wrote called DumpHistory.ps1. This script is a simple PS script to display and create a text file of all commands executed in the CLI during a specific session. The reason I came up with this was I teach my students to use get-history as a way to see what they have done, as well as keep track of their work. I wanted a way to easily create dumps of my history so I can review them at a later date as well as prep for demos. Again, I am sure someone else has done this, and probably cooler. That’s not the point. For me, it’s about thinking about process I do on a regular basis and seeing if I can create a tool to automate that process to some level.
##Create a text file containing history of PowerShell Commands based on input file name and current date
##Created by Michael Bender
##Created/Revised 10/9/2013
##Create variable for current date
##Get User Input for Name of File
$History=Read-Host “Enter Name for History file”
##Retrieve current CLI history and output to file
Get-History | Out-File C:UsersmikebSkyDriveMatcFall2013ServerProPowerShellhistoryfiles$History.$mo-$dy-$yr.txt

Note: I have the out-file location hard-coded since I use the same location all the time. If you needed to specify the location at each running, the script could be modified by creating a variable for the location with read-host.

A zipped copy of the file is located
If you have any suggestions on cleaning this up, please add in the comments.

Till next time…Mike

Windows Server Administration Fundamentals course is LIVE!

Greetings True Believers,

After a number of long months, I finally released my first video course with Pluralsight. It covers Windows Server Administration Fundamentals and is based around the Microsoft MTA exam, 98-365. It is based on Windows Server 2008 R2, and I it’s a great foundation course for those new to IT or needing basic knowledge of servers. This part of the course focuses on servers in general, installing the OS, and other general server tasks. Part 2 of the course will focus into specific roles such as DNS, DHCP, AD, etc. That should be out over the summer

If you are not a Pluralsight subscriber, you can sign up for a free 10-day trial here.

Big thanks go out to friends and family especially my wife, Mel, for putting up with the project while we transitioned through home building/apartment living to our new home. Thanks for your support:) Also, my editor Lisa Szpunar who kept me sane and got the course to the finish line.

Till next time…Mike