Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Windows Connections: Tuesday Sessions

After yesterday’s lengthy and mixed quality keynote addresses at the conference, this morning’s keynote was exactly what I hoped for. Tony Redmond of HP returned to the topic of Exchange 12: The next frontier?

Tony is an accomplished IT Pro, author, and very capable presenter. His presentation was well organized with just the right amount of technical detail, sprinkled with his mild Irish lilt and good humour. If there is one complaint, and it’s a minor one, it is that Tony, like so many other speakers these days, kept using the phrase which is a pet peeve for me – “In terms of…” to introduce each new slide in his slide deck. Still, he knew precisely how to present the large picture before delving into the details, something again which many presenters fail to do well. I came away from his session not only with a better grasp of the feature set of Exchange 2003 and tools available now to optimize management of the existing version, but a very thorough understanding of the technical issues surrounding the next large release of Microsoft’s winning messaging product. A very good session.

Sean Deuby’s Optimizing Active Directory was another well organized and well presented session. I learned maxims for performance, factors affecting performance of AD, and tools to use in troubleshooting AD performance (such as Sysinterals, Server Performance Advisor, and ADTEST). Sean also spoke to why the 64-bit hardware platforms will become increasingly important to IT Pros over the next two years.

One of the great finds of this conference has been Dan Holme. This guy is amazing! I went to two of his sessions today – Deploying Windows Server Update Services and Practical Solutions to Manage Business and User Data with Active Directory. Dan has incredible energy and is better organized than almost any other presenter I have witnessed. His slide deck was extensive for both presentations, but it is because he truly understands how important those slides are as take-aways for attendees. Since he hasn’t written a book yet, those notes become our lifeline to implementing the recommendations he made in his presentations. Undoubtedly, because of his presentations, I will be implementing WSUS safely as well as beginning some new practices for desktop and notebook users where I work. Thanks, Dan!

Ruth Morton and I, two of the three organizers for the new WWITPro user group for the Waterloo/Wellington regions on Ontario, met at lunch to talk to the good people of Culminis – Peggy and Frank. We will be dealing with these people a lot over the next few years as we grow our user group. They seem like “good” people.

Another presenter that I will want to follow more closely in the future is Jeremy Moskowitz. His afternoon session was Group Policy Settings That Really Work. Jeremy is an engaging presenter with a good sense of humour. Although his slide deck and notes were not as well organized or useful as Dan’s, that is only to emphasize how truly extraordinary Dan’s material and presentations were. Jeremy tends to promote his business and books a little more than I would prefer at a conference like this, but that may be simply a personal preference. Coming from his session, I did gain a number of new ideas about how to organize and design group policies, tools to consider in implementing group policies, and resources to exploit for further assistance, Jeremy’s book being one of them, ironically!

Finally, one of the interesting aspects of this conference has been the trade show. The organizers want us to evaluate sessions and visit as many booths as possible. To trigger the desired behaviour, the organizers are providing some interesting incentives. For every evaluation of a session attended, when you submit the form, you get a ticket for a draw on free registration for another WinConnections conference in 2006. That would be great to win! To encourage visiting trade show vendors, we were given a card to get stamped by each vendor in the show. Those who get their cards fully stamped, get to be in a draw for a Harley Davidson motorcycle! Although there simply isn’t enough time to spend “quality” time with each vendor, the encouragement of the draw is enough to ensure most of us at least pick up the vendor literature and get “scanned” for what is sure to be a barrage of phone calls, email and promotional literature sent our way after the conference. I think it’s a decent trade-off.

So, thus far, this has been an excellent conference. Time to get ready for Wednesday’s sessions.

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