Author: Adam Fowler

My work/life changes – I’m Now At Microsoft

Hello everyone! You may have noticed things have been quiet here for the last few months, so I wanted to explain what has been going on, where I am now, and what the future looks like.

Up until recently I was in an IT Director position. This is of course a much less hands-on technical role which was resulting in less of my general ‘this is a technical problem that I couldn’t find a solution to online, so I worked it out myself and here’s what I did’ blog posts which I enjoy writing and sharing.

I also stopped writing my weekly roundups of TechCommunity. Although they were useful for me to write, in that I’d learn what was going on and had a few people comment the round-up was useful – they’re really only good content for a short period of time for a reasonable amount of effort, and my blog is more of a library of interesting information rather than ‘news’.

Even my Twitter was suffering (or benefiting if you don’t like my tweets) – the random observations/questions/discussions that I use the platform to throw things at as part of processing thoughts or getting the hive-mind’s opinions back on was not being used.

Another point around the above is where I was mentally. I was becoming checked-out generally and didn’t like where my mind was, which was an ‘indifferent to too much’ state and was finding it harder to buy into what I needed to do to do my role best. I was missing passion for my work and had changed from waking up and looking forward to what I’d get up to. There are many factors that affects something like this which I won’t get into the details of; but I knew I needed to change something. The whole ‘great resignation/reshuffle‘ generally aligned with my situation – for example I wanted to be at home with my family and kids more, and have more flexibility in when I could work or not work, and come into the office or work from home… harder to do as an IT Director, as I hold a high expectation on what I do and deliver.

An opportunity came up after applying to work for Microsoft as a Customer Success Account Manager. The role aligned with a lot of what I enjoyed – being across Microsoft technologies, talking to others about how they can keep up with and move along the technology track and use the products they’re already paying for, as well as a high degree of autonomy. There’s even an aspect of keeping customers up to date with what’s new and coming from Microsoft – somewhat aligns with my TechCommunity posts above, doesn’t it?

So, that’s what I’ve spent the last 2 months doing. Wrapping up the old role, and starting a rather different, but in some ways still similar, role at the company I’d aligned a lot of my working career with. I wanted to focus on the offboarding and onboarding without other distractions, and get through that big change.

You may have also noticed that I’d had to rebrand this website a bit. Along with onboarding, I had to hand in my Microsoft MVP badge – so that’s all gone now. The good news is that this blog didn’t exist to service that title, it was a nice reward but not really a driving factor. I still like to write to help my brain process what I’ve learnt or sharpen my understanding of a topic as I research while writing to make sure I’m getting it right.

At the time of writing, I’m week 2 into the new Microsoft role – a lot more to learn, but having a different challenge and being thrown way out of my comfort zone was something I needed to help get re-engaged in my work. What I’m hoping is that this will also lead to some new blog posts – probably (definitely) less PowerShell commands, and potentially some more higher level considerations or gotchas that align with what I need to learn as a part of my new role.

Looking forward to seeing what life in Microsoft is like and how my life will change around having a more flexible role!

Climate Wizard CW-3 Indirect Evaporative Cooler – My Experience

I moved house a bit over a year ago – a bigger, newer house but with an older evaporative air conditioner. Before even moving in I wanted a new air conditioner sorted as I’m rather ‘heat intolerant’. My online research into air conditioning options stumbled across something new – not refridgerated, but an evaporative cooler that didn’t make the air humid. It was the Seeley International Climate Wizard CW-3, and it was only available in South Australia while they were piloting a smaller model for home use. The technology has been around for a while used in businesses (such as McDonalds), and claimed somewhere between 60-80% energy savings compared to ducted refrigerated cooling.

The unit also has an option of connecting a gas heater to it, but I already had ducted gas heating in the house that worked, so didn’t take that option.

It seemed like an obvious choice – better for the environment, and providing as good cooling as any other option out there. I spent considerable time with a reseller of the product, getting my head around this expensive decision that I’d have to live with. Beyond having to have extra reinforcement in the ceiling/roof due to the weight of the unit, there didn’t seem to be much else to worry about, so I went ahead with the install.

Once installed, I realised one component I overlooked – zoning. I had just assumed this had controls for rooms so I could turn rooms off/on, or focus the cooling in a certain area. It doesn’t do that. It also flushes at least daily, which comes out of a black hose on the roof. This is just resting up there and overfills the gutters, pouring off the house. This is probably easily fixed by working out a better location for the hose, but I’ve also realised when turning on the A/C or when it decides to take water, it will affect water pressure in the rest of the house. A bit annoying, but I can live with this.

Also, the A/C is still an evaporative unit. It either needs doors/windows open to work, or an inlet inside the house (not an option I was presented with, but their documentation indicates

What I can’t live with however, is the lack of actual coolness the A/C unit provides. If it’s not that hot outside, it actually works quite well. I had a problem where it would actually cool too much at night, and without zoning I had to turn the entire unit off even if some rooms were warmer than others. Worse than this though, is when it’s warm (roughly above 32oC), I can’t get the indoor temperature below 23oC. The hotter it gets, the worse the unit performs. Below is an example of the unit showing 33oC outside the house. Rather than setting a cooling temperature to aim for, I’ve set the speed to 10 – as high as it goes (there’s no 11 sorry). You can see the unit shows the indoor temperature as 25oC.

After the first year of having the unit, I had real doubts that I’d raised with the installers but weren’t addressed. To protect my family, I ended up installing three split systems in the bedrooms over winter, in case it became hot. When the above happened, I checked the temperatures they reported:

This is just way too hot. For the second summer I raised my issues again, and had multiple technicians out. When a Seeley technician came out and I showed them the above, they said they didn’t know how the temperature worked on another manufacturer’s units or how accurate it was.

The company hasn’t been great in responding, as getting someone out in the afternoon on a hot day seems to be a challenge. I’m waiting for the next hot day (and we’re not seeing many of those now) to have a team look at the entire setup. I just want the unit gone, and use a ducted refrigerated unit. I know those work, and I have solar on the house so plenty of ‘free energy’ to use during the day.

The owner manual is available here if you want to have a read. I found the unit performed even worse on humid days – which doesn’t happen much in South Australia – and the manual ‘covers’ this buy saying it just doesn’t reduce the temperature as much as on drier days. Great.

I also looked back at their case study on McDonalds and found one key phrase. They use this technology in conjunction with the refrigerated cooling system.

At this stage I’m still waiting for Seeley to come good – they want to see the unit not working for themselves, but I don’t know how they can resolve this as I’m struggling to see how it’s a fit for purpose unit by itself. Maybe there’s something special about my environment and unit, and others are having an amazing experience; I hope so.

Microsoft TechCommunity Top Posts March 2022, Week 1

Here’s my picks of the latest TechCommunity posts that I thought were worth sharing:

Automate your patching using Azure Arc and Azure Automation!

Azure Arc is another Azure service I haven’t used, but looking at this post I really want to know more. You can manage your on-premises servers (also Kubernetes clusters and SQL Servers) in Azure Arc by installing an agent. It’s also free*! to add servers in to manage, but I expect there’s some minimal related expenses with Log Analytics and runbooks. Worth having a play around with, especially if you’ve got minimal Azure services and want something to play with, without migrating actual services in.

Quickly Estimate Replication Time for Azure Migrate Virtual Machines

Posts from Microsoft internal staff on what they’ve done for customers are always helpful. This one’s a simple process on how to calculate an estimate on how long it would take to migrate a VM to Azure using the size of the VM, the bandwidth available, and factoring in 30% compression.

New security solutions to help secure small and medium businesses

Microsoft Defender for Business is out, which is great news for the smaller (or leaner) businesses. A bunch of content here around the product, but also Microsoft 365 Lighthouse for partners to support businesses for those using a partner to manage their security.

New Teams Exchange Integration Test in the Microsoft Remote Connectivity Analyzer

The Microsoft Remote Connectivity Analyzer is a very useful online tool for testing internet connectivity to different services, Exchange, Teams, Skype for Business/Lync amongst others. It’s worth checking what’s there so you’re aware of what it can do before you need it. Also linked is the SARA Client, a nice tool that can detect problems and misconfigurations of local Office installs.

Microsoft Defender for Cloud Price Estimation Dashboard

“How much does cloud cost?” is a much more complicated question compared to on-premises, but such is the price of flexibility and a modular approach to using the bits that you want. Price Estimators like this that are easy to use are valuable to help answer the above question.

Enrolling Microsoft Teams Rooms on Windows devices with Microsoft Endpoint Manager

If you’ve looked into Microsoft Teams Rooms devices, you’ve had to look through the differences between Android and Windows based ones. This article focuses on Windows, as you can’t just put a Windows device out there unmanaged; there’s ways you can enrol and manage these devices in Intune (how do you ensure they’re patched etc otherwise?). This is a very long (lots of screenshots!) and detailed article on how to onboard the MTR for Windows type device.

https://twitter.com/MSITTechNews and you can see my previous TechCommunnity picks here https://www.adamfowlerit.com/tag/techcommunity/

Microsoft TechCommunity Top Posts February 2022, Week 4

Here’s my picks of the latest TechCommunity posts that I thought were worth sharing:

Microsoft Defender for IoT – General Release Update

If you’re using Microsoft Defender already, this is a really nice edition to the feature set. Agentless network detection and response of your IoT devices ‘just happens’ from our point of view, and it’ll pick up things like printers, smart TVs, CCTV systems – all that other stuff that most people ignore – and detect potential issues. Check out the features here.

Troubleshooting issues with Distribution List to Microsoft 365 Group upgrades

When I first learnt about Office 365 Groups (which of course are now called Microsoft 365 Groups) I first thought ‘why don’t I upgrade all my DLs to this? However, after some testing there were differences that I couldn’t get around – the biggest being that if you email a DL as a member you get a copy of the email. If you email a Microsoft 365 Group as a member, you don’t get a copy of the email to you – because that’s ‘smarter’. Maybe, but people still like to see that email come back so they know they’ve successfully emailed a group. I really wish this was an option… anyway, my gripe aside, there’s other things that can go wrong when migrating over, and here’s some common scenarios to look at – including a nice tool called DLT365Groupsupgrade which is a PowerShell script to see what might be wrong and report back. Nice!

What’s Next in Microsoft Sentinel?

Microsoft Sentinel keeps getting better, and has done well to make a good name for itself in an already crowded SIEM space. One of the big additions is now support the MITRE [email protected] Framework, and another having a Unified Threat Hunting Community on GitHub where people can add and share their hunting queries.

Protect your Google Cloud workloads with Microsoft Defender for Cloud

Another one I like because it’s Microsoft applying one of their toolsets to someone else’s cloud. If I buy Microsoft Defender, I shouldn’t be limited to just Microsoft products. Defender for Cloud can now analyse the Google Cloud Platform (it could already do Amazon Web Services) and provide a bunch of recommendations, as well as Threat Protection for workloads.

The new and better ‘WordPress on App Service’

A few years back, I tried to move this blog to WordPress on Azure. It was a frustratingly confusing and messy experience that I tried more than once, and gave up on. I’m hoping this improved App Service makes it a lot easier, maybe I’ll try again in the future :)

Best practices for successful large meetings in Microsoft Teams

If someone wants to run a large meeting, send them this link. A bunch of considerations that will save pain and embarrassment when someone thinks they can just ‘wing it’ in front of a large live audience. There’s also other ideas around engagement and interaction, as well as limitations that are worth being aware of.

Microsoft Bookings and Education Sector

I don’t think Bookings gets the recognition it deserves. I use it all the time now when someone asks about my availability, and have the link to My Bookings page as a template in Outlook. Here’s some use case ideas in the education sector, but don’t think the product is limited to that in any way. Make booking appointments a lot easier – and think about what functions can be booked, not just people. Training, inductions, reviews; Bookings done right can save a lot of people a lot of time.

That’s it for this week, as always you can see the entire feed of TechCommunity posts at https://twitter.com/MSITTechNews and you can see my previous TechCommunnity picks here https://www.adamfowlerit.com/tag/techcommunity/

Microsoft TechCommunity Top Posts February 2022, Week 3

I’m a little bit late due to a cold but here’s the rundown of my picks of the TechCommunity posts of the week:

Quickly get assessment recommendations in Microsoft Compliance Manager

The Compliance Manager in Microsoft 365 covers a lot of areas around reducing risk, data protection and regulatory standards, and now there’s an extra layer (at a cost) to use templates that can apply to different regions, industries etc. You can do a 90 day trial to check it out. There’s a general push I’ve seen towards companies needing to be more complaint than ever before, so I expect many will need to start looking into these.

Microsoft Compliance Manager (MSCM) Ninja Training: Q1 2022

No idea about Compliance Manager? Luckily Microsoft has a bunch of free Ninja training on it at three levels – fundamental, intermediate, and advanced. If you think you’re already a pro at it, then take the Knowledge Check quiz and see how you do.

The Splunk Add-on for Microsoft Security is now available

It’s not all just about Microsoft Sentinel as a SIEM in the Defender space, you can now send off your Alerts and Incidents to Splunk if that’s your preferred platform – and it’s this sort of open approach that will continue to help the Microsoft Defender stack continue to be successful and grow in the security space.

New tools to create and customize professional looking diagrams in Visio for the web

Visio for the web is getting several more features drop soon and for many, negates the need for a full desktop install as well as actually paying extra for a license. The two features I like are Format Painter (like when you do it for text, but instead a Visio object), and Snap Experience Improvements to make aligning your objects a lot easier to do. If you haven’t already, promote Visio for the web in your company and to your userbase!

Autoruns v14.09, ProcMon v3.89, Sysmon v13.33 and ZoomIt v5.10

Many people don’t know about the sysitnernal tools, or if they do, don’t know many of the actual tools themselves and what they do. The above four products have new versions, with the most notable being Zoomit which now supports pen and touch drawing as a part of it’s screen annotation and magnifying abilities – great for live presentations and demos.

Windows Server Hotpatching is here!

The start of something many of us have dreamed of for a long time – applying patches and not requiring a reboot. Also, it only applies to patches that are in the hotpatch program – but it’s a start. This does just apply to Windows Server 2022 Datacenter: Azure Edition (Core) so that’s a bit of a limited audience, let’s hope this expands to everything.

Reconnect Series: Richard M. Hicks

If you have ever looked into Direct Access or Always On VPN, you would have seen Richard Hicks’ name come up. A very nice guy who even took the time out to talk to myself and a few colleagues over a call on some Always On VPN woes we had hit during rollout. If you ever need anything in this space, be sure to see what Richard has to say on the matter first.

Azure AD Certificate-Based Authentication now in Public Preview

For the use cases where you’d like cert based auth, you can now try this with Azure AD. The official documentation on how to set this up is here and as the article shows, after entering a username you can use the ‘Sign in with a certificate’ option in lieu of a password. This removes one of the remaining needs of running ADFS yourself.

Security baseline for Microsoft Edge v98

Keep on top of the Microsoft Edge Security Baseline – you’ll have to check this out with every version release of Edge. Three settings are highlighted to review, along with 10 new settings.

New and exciting features available for Microsoft Teams breakout rooms

Breakout rooms were one of those features Zoom had and Teams didn’t – but Teams has caught up, and continues to bring new features to the function. There’s more options around reassigning participants already in breakout rooms, better overviews of what’s happening with the participant assignment experience being updated, a breakout room timer that can be visible for participants, and Breakout room managers support letting more than just the organisers of the meeting manage the breakout rooms. All welcome additions and updates!

Why Yammer? Perspectives from community professionals

Yammer is one of the less celebrated aspects of Microsoft 365, and Rebecca Jackson consolidates many considerations on the benefits of Yammer. Worth a read from those who use and appreciate the platform.

Streamlining the submissions experience in Microsoft Defender for Office 365

The team is moving all the different types of submissions from users into a single area now, which makes management a lot easier. The four types of submissions are Emails, Email Attachemnts, URLs, and User reported messages. This is rolling out right now and you may already see these four tabs in the Submissions area of the Microsoft 365 Defender portal.

That’s it for this week (so much stuff!), as always you can see the entire feed of TechCommunity posts at https://twitter.com/MSITTechNews and you can see my previous TechCommunnity picks here https://www.adamfowlerit.com/tag/techcommunity/