TechEd

How to Virtually Attend MS TechEd North America

Well everyone, I made it here to Houston for Microsoft's TechEd North America that starts on Monday. The whole week kicks off with a some great information from Brad Anderson in the Keynote. Everyone loves to push in to the Keynote and get to see the information. Now, I know many are saying "But Jared, I didn't get to attend TechEd this year." First, I hate to hear that as conference events like this are great learning experiences but also incredible networking opportunities. Attendees get to spend time at events like this with vendors and experts in the technology that is out there. So what are the people that couldn't come to Houston to do?

Well, let me tell you what you can do … attend Microsoft TechEd virtually! Here are the best ways to attend TechEd virtually:

Follow the #MSTechEd hashtag on Twitter.

Almost all of the attendees will be sending out information with #MSTechEd. Following it will get you access to that information. Twitter is a great way to follow all the fun information from TechEd. Presenters will also send out their information via Twitter like their decks and other details.

Sign up for the TechEd Live Feed.

Yes! You can follow along with some of the content, including Brad Anderson's keynote, on the TechEd Live Feed. They also plan to show other sessions live on the feed like:

  • Deep Dive: The Future of .NET on the Server
  • Enabling Enterprise Mobility with Windows Intune, Microsoft Azure, and Windows Server
  • Mark Russinovich and Mark Minasi on Cloud Computing
  • Microsoft System Center 2012 Configuration Manager: MVP Experts Panel
  • Real-World Windows 8.1 Deployment: Notes from the Field
  • What’s New in Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V
  • Windows PowerShell Unplugged with Jeffrey Snover

On top of that wonderful content, you get to watch Joey Snow and Rick Claus in between the sessions doing interviews and talking tech. What more would you want? Head on over to register for the TechEd North Amercia Live Stream Here.

So, now that you are getting connected and following along, you get a good flavor of TechEd here in Houston. What can you do next? Look at other opportunities like Stephen Rose's Windows Unplugged tour stopping in US cities, TechEd Europe in Barcelona later this year, and also local events and user groups. The key thing that conferences give us is networking opportunities along with the training. The great thing is many of these opportunities can be found out there and even in your own part of the world. Just look for them and get involved!

Oh, and if you follow me on Twitter and don't want to get overloaded with TechEd content, just filters out #MSTechEd or #TheKrewe if you really want to block it. I would say don't and follow along, but I can understand.

How I Select My TechEd Sessions

I got a great opportunity from Denise Begley from the Microsoft TechEd planning team to talk about my session selection process. She wanted to hear from several returning alumni (including Harjit Dhaliwal, and Michael Bender) about their process to help brand new attendees or others reading the official Microsoft TechEd Blog. I felt it was an honor and wanted to give back to the TechEd Community that has taken me in to offer my view on schedule building. Head on over to the Microsoft TechEd Blog to read the other posts with Harjit's and Michael's process. Here is my full process:

Going into TechEd 2014 in Houston, my selection process has changed for this coming TechEd due to many factors. In the past, I spent a lot of time looking through the schedule and trying to select which sessions I want to go to. To give a little bit of reference here, I have attended the last 3 TechEd North American conferences: Atlanta, Orlando, and New Orleans.

In the first year at Atlanta, I tried to get to every session at every offering. I had listed in my schedule one session per time period and spent my time running as my sessions were so spread out. If you stayed in one vertical of sessions, you didn't have to go too far. I was choosing sessions from all over. By the time I made it to many sessions, the rooms were full with no real empty seats to be found. I spent a good amount of time sitting on the floors with my back to the wall. I was shooting pictures of the slides and trying to scribble a ton of notes.

I learned many lessons from Atlanta and had a different plan of attack for Orlando. I also had the notion of taking more tests for my certifications. The sessions I went to were more focused on technologies I was investing in and I spent a lot of time in exam preps and taking exams. On top of that, I was doing more meetings in the hallways, Alumni area, and the Expo floor. I knew I was going to be able to get videos and slide decks from all the sessions when I got home. The focused sessions got me great content and I was very happy with the results of the sessions, just not of my test taking.

  • Having learned my lessons, I head into New Orleans with two thoughts in mind:
  • I wanted to focus on content of areas that really caught my interest like SharePoint, Private Cloud with System Center, and Windows 2012 R2.
  • My time in sessions was important but I didn't feel like I had to attend sessions in every block so I had time to spend chatting in the Alumni Lounge and the Expo floor.

I went through the schedule planner and blocked out the specific sessions I did not want to miss. Then, I went through finding the presenters I really like to listen to. Lastly, I filled in my schedule with other sessions that caught my interest. In my OneNote, I noted which items were "had to attend", "nice to attend", and "just filler". I used this to block out my time to meet and stroll the Expo floor. I also planned multiple sessions per time block if I couldn't get to the room due to logistics or the room being full. All in all, I was impressed with the strategy.

So, you have heard my thoughts about prior years. Now, I will let you know about this year's TechEd. I am looking at some changes again for a couple of reasons:

  • I attended SharePoint Conference earlier this year so I have learned a lot of SharePoint.
  • I am in a new role that is SharePoint focused but I need to also get more of the Microsoft Stack under my belt, like System Center, Azure IaaS, and SharePoint integration into Exchange.
  • I am using the new schedule manager to indicate which sessions I want to attend and which are my backups.

So, starting my journey to Houston, I started my session planning by finding all the presenters I want to hear. Yup, that's right, I am starting with the Speakers. I looked for sessions from Rick Claus, Joey Snow, Pierre Roman, Mark Minasi, Mark Russinovich, Jessica DeVita, and Ed Horley. Some of these are friends I want to support and have great material to present; others are presenters I want to see in person. Next, I went through by Topic/Product and pulled up items like SharePoint, IaaS, System Center, Windows Azure, and more. Once that filled up my schedule, I looked at timeframes with zero or one session. In those blocks, I looked at the specific offerings at that time. Last thing in my schedule build is the Hand On Labs. In years past, I either did not take advantage on-site or took very little advantage. This year, I might look for more HOL work to try and learn some things that way. I will be keeping my schedule flexible as well but the items marked as primary are going to get me there.

Here are some of the sessions I have selected:

OFC-B220 - Stop, Collaborate, and Listen - Jessica DeVita
Jessica is talking about how to think about collaboration even before acquiring tools to do that collaboration. As she says in the description, "Before you start down the path of selecting a tool, you have to determine your organizational readiness and understand the what, why, and how of collaboration systems." With my current job in SharePoint, this is food for thought.
DCIM-B325/326 - The Real-World Guide to Upgrading Your IT Skills AND Your Infrastructure (parts 1 & 2) - Rick Claus, Joey Snow
Are you an IT Pro scared about what "The Cloud" really means for you? As they say in their description, "Two self-proclaimed “Server Huggers” will take you along their journey of how they overcame their apprehension of Cloud technologies to level up their IT Skills. In other words bringing clarity to the role of the IT Professional in a cloud world." I am starting to see where "The Cloud" integrates into my future as an IT Pro but think more folks can get a lot out of this session.
DCIM-B359 - TWC: Pass-the-Hash: How Attackers Spread and How to Stop Them - Mark Russinovich, Nathan Ide
I have heard about this presentation as it was given at the RSA Conference earlier and want to see it myself. Security is a theme for IT Pros in the future, regardless of The Cloud or on-prem. Mark's talks at TechEd always give you the best insights to Security.
WIN-B354 - Case of the Unexplained: Troubleshooting with Mark Russinovich
This session is always full! This session is always fun! I got to attend my first year in Atlanta and Mark returns every year with new cases of the unexplained. He goes through, showing how SysInternals tools were used to find either bugs in products or malware hidden away on user systems. While it is a full house every year, try and get into this one or watch it later.
OFC-B333 - Microsoft SharePoint on Microsoft Azure VM and Virtual Networks: How the Cloud (IaaS) Changed the Way I Work and Improved Customer Productivity - Patrick Heyde
At the same time Mark has his Case of the Unexplained, Patrick is giving his session on SharePoint on Azure IaaS. Knowing that Mark's session will be full, I am giving major consideration on passing it this year for listening to Patrick talk about this topic. As a SharePoint Engineer, I need to understand this as an option for hosting SharePoint to a group/company in an isolated space while the servers are in the cloud.
DCIM-B373 - How IPv6 Impacts Private Cloud - Ed Horley
Sign up for this session now! Go on … go put it in your schedule. IPv6 is coming for all of us and Ed is here to help all Windows Systems Admins understand its impact on us. Ed has written the book on IPv6 for Windows Systems Admins. This is going to be coming sooner than you might imagine so pop in and learn all you can.

Those are a few of my selected sessions. How are you planning your schedule for TechEd in Houston this year? Looking forward to seeing everyone there? I sure am. See you in Houston!

UPDATED! PowerShell and MS TechEd - Downloading the Videos

As many of you have seen that attended TechEd, a majority of the videos from TechEd are posted now to the MyTechEd site via Channel 9. In the past, there have been some great folks making scripts to download all of the videos and 2012 is no exception. The two that are the best at what they do are great in and of themselves. I decided to mash them up for myself and love the results.

To be clear, much of the work has been done by Stefan Roth from http://blog.scomfaq.ch/ and Tim Nilimaa from http://infoworks.tv/. These guys came up with great scripts and I believe I used Tim's from last year to download all of the 2011 content. In looking over their offerings, both offered some great features. All I did was cut and paste, changed variables, and tested it to ensure that it worked. So here's my overview of their code.

Stefan created his code to read the session information from a text file that included the file extensions in the text file. He also placed the download into a try-catch that allowed him to write out the "missing" files into an error log that could be used to re-run and catch missing files. His file transfer mechanism was the direct file transfer from the hosting server which made it so you had to close the PowerShell window.

Tim created his version 1.2 code to read the session information from a text file where the session title is listed without file extensions. This allows for flexibility of downloading any file named properly with the session title based on the file extension, .wmv for videos and .pptx for PowerPoint decks. He also showed the status of all downloads based on the sessions in the file and the current file download while using an Async file transfer. This made cancellation via CTRL-C very easy.

What I did was took the Async file transfer and status system of Tim’s code and added it to Stefan's code with the try-catch. I also did some clean-up of a few things and made the pathing work for what I wanted, basically having the code drop the videos into a \Videos\ folder from where I direct the path to. If you want to download the PowerPoint files, just change the .wmv in the sessions file to .pptx and it should get the ones posted. I am looking to make a revision to the code to add in a variable that will say to download WMV, PPTX, or both files but that is not in here yet.

Download a .Zip file containing the PS1 and the sessions.txt file here.

I want to thank Stefan and Tim for allowing me to post this. Make sure to visit them at:

They have great information on their blogs about their PowerShell and much more. Check them out!

Jared

Updated: 6/21/2012 - 3:00 pm PT

I received a tweet from Brad Huffman (@bradhuffman). He stepped up and made some of the things I was planning to look at this weekend. Great job by Brad and I want to point people to his blog post at:

http://bradhuffman.com/wordpress/2012/06/21/teched-downloader-mashup-powershell-script/

This sort of community work is what community in the IT Professional world means. Great job again Brad!

MS TechEd - A Sophomore Experience

Last year in Atlanta, it was my first year at MS TechEd. My eyes were wide like saucers as I ran around the facility, looking at all the newest things from Microsoft, trying to scribble notes furiously, taking pictures of the PowerPoints and running to the next session. I learned a lot then and took that to Orlando with me.

I have changed my outlook on what TechEd is to me. Last year, I was running around doing the things that a newbie does. This year, I sat back before I got here and really looked at what I wanted to accomplish: pass some tests, work more in the hands on lab, and network with other IT professionals from around the world including my friends in TheKrewe.

Sessions are good and I worked through the catalog finding the sessions that I want to attend in person. One advantage attendees get is the content, both the presentation decks and audio/slide/demo recordings are available soon after TechEd. After reviewing what we get after the conference, I feel I can get as much out of the recordings provided after the sessions as I can in person.

Testing for certifications at TechEd in Orlando has been a major learning experience for me. I had signed up for 3 tests while I was here, 2 that were free and one I paid for. In the end, I did not pass any of them but learned so much about testing and how to prepare for them. One of my past feelings about the certifications was that people could just study and pass the tests without having a lot of hands on experience. That viewpoint has been completely changed for me after two of my tests were in technologies I did not have time to personally review and play with the tech. I came out of both tests with reasonable scores but no where near passing. The last test was one in technologies I do work with a fair amount at home in my home lab. I scored better on this test but still it wasn't passing. For future testing, I need to set out a better learning plan and really work to setup labs where I can create the technologies that I am being tested on.

As I write this post on Thursday morning, I have not had the time in the labs as I wanted. After I finish this and have some lunch, my plan is to head into the lab and try a few of the labs. The tech behind the labs is amazing: large blade servers, huge fiber SANs, and Microsoft's Private Cloud that is creating and destroying VM's for each individual's labs. Watching the management systems go on the large hosts is fun and they have small thumbnails of all the VM's being used by the lab. Geeks and their toys.

The last thing is what I think tech conferences is really about: networking. This is not routers and firewalls; this is about meeting and creating friendships and connections with others in the technology world. I learned this at TechEd Atlanta and started creating some good friendships that continue all year long via social media technologies like Twitter, Facebook, and instant messaging systems. Taking the time to meet folks including just introducing yourself to people is some of the most important things you can do. Those connections can last more than the information from the sessions.

I am lucky to be in the unique position of affording MS TechEd personally and making this my vacation each year. Many folks come here paid by their companies or through others means. No matter how you get here, you need to get here if you support or utilize Microsoft technologies in your professional life. You will never regret the trip and the information you can take home and the connections you make!

Jared

TheKrewe Meet and Greet 2012

With MS TechEd 2011 in Atlanta being my first time at TechEd and first time at a major tech conference, I wanted to reach out and find a good community to be part of. After checking in, I found my way to "TheKrewe Meet & Greet" on the rooftop of a bar/club near the convention center. I got there as they were setting things up and people were starting to mingle both in the bar and up on the roof. I didn't stay long as my travel in was getting the best of me but I knew these were my folks.

Flash forward to through the months in between TechEds and I have become pretty good friends with members of TheKrewe. With Twitter as the primary tool that we use to keep in touch, I have both lists and search filters that keep me up to date on happenings and when folks come into the Seattle area for conferences or meetings there, trying to setup little gatherings when we can. The community still grows and continues in the "off-season" of the year and TheKrewe helps each other where they can.

June rolls around and MS TechEd gets closer. Michael Bender has been planning a bunch of stuff for the annual kick-off party called the Meet and Greet. Excitement builds and we hear of great plans. From what I understand, we are having the Meet and Greet at the origination point of TheKrewe from a prior MSTechEd here in Orlando. I am so excited to see (and even meet in person) some of the people I call good friends but only talk to online.

The party starts and the place is packed, literally packed. Howl at the Moon is a dueling piano bar which adds a fun time to the event. There is food and a good amount of open bar amenities for those that choose to imbibe. Thanks to great sponsors like Microsoft Springboard Series, X-IO Technologies, Axceler, Vision Solutions, New Horizons, Big Bang LLC, and Data Core Software, a good time with friends turned into a fantastic event! I personally can't thank them all enough for helping TheKrewe kick off this week.

While the event was a blast, I personally want to thank my friends in TheKrewe for bringing me into the fold. I have told some folks that MS TechEd is now my annual vacation unless my employer pays for me to go in the future. I come here to learn, to meet folks and to get together with TheKrewe.

Thanks to:

  • Scott Ladewig and Mike McAtee that pulled me in last year in Atlanta and made me welcome.
  • Michael Bender for his evangelizing and organization
  • Peter Gray for our chats on Twitter and WLM. Feeling like I found my brother.
  • Tracy McElroy for helping setup our core team SharePoint and for your new gig. Congrats again man!
  • Tiffany, Tia, Claudia, Brandy, Veronica, and LoriJo for being the lovely ladies that I know of TheKrewe
  • Simon Davis, Fredrik Nilsson and Bjarne Duelund for connecting TheKrewe outside of the US.
  • Meeting folks I have had lots of conversations with like Mike Talon, Tom Kupka, Jeff Gerard, and Aubrey (still jealous that you get to see Rush live this September)
  • Matt Griffin for stepping up his game and helping coordinate the volunteers last night.
  • Henrik Sorensen and his teammates Travis and Nathan from Canada (eh?!)
  • New folks I met like John Flores, Nia Angelina, Brian Bell, Nick Pizzalato, Denny (That's Mr Denny to you), and Cliff Chavis (we need more time together to chat)
  • Running into the Microsofties like Stephen Rose (So glad your friend is lining up for his liver transplant. Give to him and his family here), Rick Claus, Joey Snow, Brandy Pepper and Veronica Sopher.
  • Some great people like Mary Jo Foley and Darryl Taft in the media.

To find out more about TheKrewe, check out @TheKrewe on twitter or do a search for #TheKrewe. You can also see the website at http://www.thekrewe.org/. If you are going to be attending TechEd 2013 (sure to be in New Orleans), keep your eye out for information on TheKrewe Meet and Greet there!