Derrick Wlodarz

TechEd 2014 Wrap-Up: 12 major cloud announcements; zero big on-prem news

As a yearly event geared towards my neck of the woods, the IT pro community (non-developers!), TechEd is the sort of Microsoft-focused conference that resonates with me. It's the one large event solely dedicated to the products and technologies I am knee deep in consulting customers on.

While most Microsoft watchers may not have caught it outright, did anyone notice the subliminal theme that arose? All of the major product announcements at the conference were planted in some facet of Microsoft's growing cloud landscape. Before anyone jumps on me for being technically inaccurate, yes, they did announce a few news items based around their traditional on-prem products.

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Why tablets are failing miserably in higher education

While Apple and Google are fighting a FUD war for the hearts and minds of K-12 campuses, there's one area of education that neither has been able to penetrate with success: higher ed. Specifically, I'm referring to the conglomerate of colleges and universities across the US (and likely abroad).

That's because for all their love in the media, tablets have yet to prove their weight when it comes to deep research and content manipulation in the classroom. Real student work comes in the form of content creation, not consumption -- an area Google and Apple are endlessly infatuated with.

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5 areas that need improvement in Office 365 Outlook Web App


Microsoft's timing on a blog post released today, provocatively titled "Outlook Web App provides more efficient calendar delegation and management than Gmail," is rather ironic. That's because I was gathering some thoughts on the areas in which this tool still needs improvement and is lacking. So while Microsoft is busy tooting it's own horn, I'm going to turn up the heat a bit for a reality check on the part of 365 I spend the most time in daily, which is OWA.

Don't get me wrong -- I absolutely love OWA in Office 365 and have been using it primetime since my IT company ditched Google Apps late last year. But it's not without its rough edges.

Continue reading How Washington's IT project Leviathan failed us, and here's how we fix a broken system

Screen and stethoscope

Government IT projects have a tendency to fall on their rear ends more often than not. After the miserable debacle that was last October, I made the case for why the larger than life public face of Obamacare had zero chance of succeeding in original form. Fast forward six months, and after some contractor firings and a public about face consisting of a "tech surge", the website is finally working at nominal levels.

That's not to say no one didn't take the fall for the mess of this bungled IT project gone haywire. The former head honcho of the US HHS, Kathleen Sebelius, had no choice but to step down and take the hushed blame for the mess that unraveled under her command. Publicly, the story goes that she stepped down on her own will. Behind the scenes, I highly doubt this was the entire story.

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Hey Microsoft: Stop caving in to the XP holdouts


Microsoft shocked the IT world this past week by making the cardinal mistake: releasing another XP patch after support officially ended. While I think Redmond makes a lot of mistakes, from licensing nightmares to marketing blunders, this particular move really irks me.

That's because it not only sets the wrong precedent, but it's a direct slap in the face to those fighting the good fight in helping eradicate XP. Specifically, IT pros like myself. As a consultant for my clients, I've been knee-deep in the conversations that Microsoft can't have directly with its customers. You know, the ones actually in the trenches -- not those just sitting in the comfort of their Redmond offices?

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Why Microsoft's Perceptive Pixel is the coolest touch TV you can't buy (yet)

It's tough for me to get too excited about TVs these days. I'm past the glitz of the 3D craze. And "large" 60 and 70 plus inch screens are neat, but after enjoying a 114" viewing area thanks to my home projector the last few years, anything smaller pales in comparison.

Yet when I got to try out an 82" Perceptive Pixel touch TV at Microsoft's Chicago offices earlier today, I couldn't resist wanting one for my own condo or even office. It's that unique of a TV screen, and if when it goes mainstream, it will completely change the way we view interactive entertainment displays.

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TV DVR: The big killer feature missing from Xbox One

Aside from a lack of backwards compatibility with Xbox 360 games (which is being worked on as I write this), what's the other big reason I am holding off on a first gen Xbox One? A TV streaming & DVR experience that was much talked about in the buildup to launch, but has fallen short in reinventing the way we manage and consume TV content today.

When I first heard about Microsoft's Xbox One plans at E3, I was thinking the same thing so many others probably were: my Tivo (or cable box) days are numbered. But my lofty plans for a simplified entertainment center were quickly killed, when I learned that Microsoft had no plans on replacing your DVR, but merely piggybacking onto it.

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Why 3D TV is failing in the home

Does anyone remember Nintendo's Virtual Boy? It was an overpriced, underpowered 3D gaming system from the mid 1990s with little content and awkward hardware to justify its high price tag. Other pesky limitations, like the fact that you could really only play on it comfortably while seated at the dinner table, drove Nintendo to shut this commercial flop down before it became laughing stock for competitors like Sega and Sony.

I'm not interested in strolling down gaming's memory lane here. I never owned a Virtual Boy myself, as my Sega Genesis was enough to keep my gaming heart fulfilled at the time. While the premise of 3D was appealing, the means to getting there were impractical in every sense.

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The Apple myth: Why security through obscurity isn't security

My girlfriend was on the prowl for a new vehicle not too long ago, and decided on a Subaru. Not only do the company's vehicles arguably receive some of the highest safety ratings in the States, but their policy of across-the-board all wheel drive is another nicety I love about them. Even so, she wouldn't think of ditching her safety belt, no matter how safe the cars claim to be.

Likewise, sizable portions of American society lives out in rural areas where crime and theft are almost unheard of. Yet they most likely still use locks on all of their doors, and keep them locked shut at night. Their risk of forced entry or other crimes are leagues lower than in congested urban areas (like my neck of the woods, Chicago) but they still follow plain commonsense.

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Dump the file server: Why we moved to the SharePoint Online cloud [review]

multiple clouds

It's no secret that my company had its own internal usage relationship with Google Apps go sour in the last half year. As our mobility, security, and feature needs continued to grow, at least in my eyes, Google seemed too focused on appeasing education and other niche sectors. As such, they've been leaving healthcare and other business verticals behind.

Is Google Apps necessarily a bad product? Not by a long shot. I just see Office 365 as a slightly better shoe: one that fits snug like a glove for our needs. And it's not just our company that has made the move from Google Apps to Office 365. To be honest, we get about 1-2 inquiries each week with customers who are looking to move in a similar direction.

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Forced to use Windows XP past April? 10 ways to make the best of a bad situation

I've been pressing my day to day clients, as well as informed readers here on BetaNews, on the case for ditching Windows XP altogether. I'm guessing by now that chances are, if you're still running XP at this point, you're probably going to stick it out on the platform for the indefinite short term. I've already written about the best ways to safely migrate off XP without losing functionality in the workplace, but if you absolutely have no choice but to keep riding the sinking ship for now, here's hoping at least you are going to be smart about how you do so.

No, your PC is not going to explode, implode, or just stop working come the April cutoff date Microsoft has set. In fact, your system is probably going to continue humming away as usual. But it's what you can't see that will hurt you the most, and that's what XP holdouts are forgetting: the bad guys are arming themselves to the teeth with exploits, just waiting for April 8 to come and go.

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How PSTN voice in Lync Online will bring unified VoIP to the masses

Let's be honest with ourselves: in its current app-driven iterations, VoIP is nothing more than a value added novelty. Sure, we Skype with grandma and Lync with our coworkers, but the extent of VoIP penetration into our daily lives starts and stops in bite sized chunks. As much as every me-too VoIP provider would love for us to conduct our lives according to the functionality of their limited purpose apps, the average person usually doesn't have the same feelings about VoIP as IT pros do.

Don't get me wrong in any way. I absolutely love what VoIP has enabled my business and clients to do. We're leveraging Lync on a daily basis with our staff in the field and main office. My clients are using a variety of VoIP endpoints like RingCentral or 8x8 desk phones, soft phone apps, Skype -- even GoToMeeting can be considered VoIP for the voice and video capabilities it provides.

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6 reasons why Windows RT is the real future of Windows

The standard fare of tech industry pundits just don't get it when it comes to Windows RT. They lambasted it when it came out in 2012 (in some ways, rightfully so). They doubted Microsoft would release a Surface 2 variant, and Redmond did just that. And they continue to beat the anti-RT drum loud and clear, using RT device sales figures as their proof of a pending death notice.

Perusing Google, you can come across a wild variety of articles that purport to explain why Microsoft needs to ditch RT altogether. Chris Neiger penned one such piece, and even John Martellaro of did his best to argue how foolish Microsoft was for even considering RT a serious contender.

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Watching any Sochi 2014 coverage this month? You'll be doing so on Azure

Over 1000+ hours of live footage covering 98 Winter Olympics events, all being broadcasted over numerous digital and TV avenues -- simultaneously. As an infrastructure geek at heart, and someone who consults clients on their networks, I can't even fathom what kind of backbone is needed to stream a worldwide event like the Olympics. But NBC has fallen back on a familiar face in the cloud arena to make this magic happen: Microsoft.

NBC partnered with YouTube for the 2012 London Olympics and the experience for end users was less than ideal. Robert Cringely had some truthful words about his efforts to catch some footage, and even the NY Times published a scatching piece on the miserable pain that YouTube was putting users through with buffering times. YouTube may be one the most watched video services on the web today, but their secret sauce has traditionally been in handling statically uploaded footage. Live broadcasting is a whole different arena from the little I know about the media arena.

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The Internet of Things: Hasn't SkyNet taught us anything?

Watching my RSS streams in Feedly on a daily basis has had my head spinning lately. It's not the usual flood of tech news getting to me. It's all the stories hitting recently about the so-called Internet of Things. For a topic that has so little to show for it in the real world thus far, it sure garners a disproportionate amount of attention in the tech media. So what gives?

Perhaps someone can fill me in on what this Internet of Things is supposed to look like. Is it a different internet? Is it a network solely designated for these newfound "things" that need to talk to every other "thing" out there? Or is it just more of what we already see in the market: giving every device possible an IP address to sit on. I'm just as perplexed at this bogus concept as Mike Elgan from Computerworld. He's calling it a wild idea that is rightly "doomed from the start" for numerous reasons.

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