TechEd 2004 summary

So, I’ve been to 7 TechEds in a row and this was, by far, the best one for technical content for a ‘jack of all trades, expert of none’ type person like myself. While some of the free stuff wasn’t quite as good as previous years, attendees are getting the post conference DVDs for free. It’s a worthy trade.

Thank you for a wonderful conference. Now if I could just get that free license for VMWare?

There are lots of things that I’ve taken away from here that I should be able to apply in the real world.

Commnet is closing up shortly, so unless I pay the fee for internet access in the hotel (which I’ve heard is not worth it, thought the geek percentage is probably much lower tonight) this will be the last entry from San Diego. Hopefully the pictures will come out well.

Now to go buy some trinkets/gifts for friends and family.

Best Practices for migrating Exchange 5.5 to 2003

This was a really good session, the slides are packed with tips and tricks the presenter has learned in real world consulting doing exactly this. I’m actually beginning to wonder if, maybe, we’ll be able to migrate someday. The attendence in the session was fairly low, but being in a gigantic room on the last afternoon of the conference might have amplified that effect. A couple of people walking by commented that maybe it was because ‘Exchange 5.5 is finally dying’.

I’m probably going to go chat with the presenter, there isn’t much in the way of interesting topics in the last session.

And, just so I don’t forget this: TechEd CommNet

File Server performance

While I don’t run anything that needs to worry about file server performance (~300 users on one decent size box is not hard work), I still went to this session because there wasn’t much else. The presenter had a real cute start:

“Fileserver performance tuning is all automatic in Windows 2003. Thank you.”

He then went on to explain that while that was not true, any changes you do choose to make had better be well tested before you do them in production. He also had a very entertaining display of acting like data going to/from the client by running back and forth across the front of the room, breaking his wireless mic in the process.

Lots of interesting things, one of which is that you DO NOT need an Active Directory to start using Volume Shadow Copy (but you do need Windows XP at the client if you want users to directly retrieve files). Something to think about I guess.

And, disappointingly so, the Redhat shirt has generated a grand total of 1 comment. From a guy at ASU who says they are all Linux except for Exchange. What is the world coming too?

Practical Hardening

Well, this session was definitly worthwhile, and gave some great previews of what’s coming in Windows Server 2003 SP1. The presenter also made a strong push towards eliminating the LANMAN hashes from your organization, if at all possible. This means having a passphrase of at least 15 characters or turning off storing LANMAN hashes, but both of these can break downlevel clients.

So, not useful for us right now, but it does give one heck of an incentive to forge ahead, if possible at all.

Attendee Party and some comedy

(Well, I looked at the slides for the AD Tips and Tricks session, and I think I had seen most of the presentation before, so I skipped out to the hotel and caught a quick nap.)

The attendee party was at Sea World, got to see Shamu drench a bunch of people, saw some sharks up close and ate way too much food, drank too much beer. It’s a pretty big place so it didn’t seem nearly as crowded as some of the previous attendee parties.

Now, it’s Friday morning, I’m sitting in a session about Practical Security Lockdown Techniques and I’m wearing my Official Red Hat Mirror t-shirt. I figure if I get thrown out, all I’ve missed is Friday. I figure this might generate some dialog with other attendees….

Enterprise Class Source Control and Work Item Tracking

Well, Visual Studio 2005 Team System is going to include a bug system like BugZilla, source control that sounds damn nifty, some really cool rules inforcement on checkin, reporting out the wazoo, build automation and a SharePoint based site for each project. And all this will be tied together inside the IDE.
Big note about source control: It’s going to be much more stable for remote developers.

I can see some of the reporting features actually being useful in a smaller environment, but I’m betting the licensing costs and hassle of setting it up will negate any benefits you might see. But, who knows, the academic/Select contract might get it for a song, like everything else. Managers are going to be clamoring for the reports and if they are knowledgable enough to get at it, the raw data as well. I’m actually very interested in seeing the backend database design and the prospects of writing a more portable interface.

And, not to be left out, Visual Source Safe is getting revved again, to VSS 2005. Supposedly many of the major complaints about it have been addressed and it will continue to be the recommended tool for smaller shops.

Next up: AD Tips and Tricks

Current Session

So, the current slot has nothing I’m interested in. So, I’m spending the time catching up on CommNet and doing some TechEdbloggers reading. One interesting entry actually sounds like there is someone out there that LIKES Visual Source Safe. I’m guessing he’s using it in a small environment, like 1 or 2 devs, or doesn’t have to use it over a slow link. I don’t have to do either of those things, but I’ve heard the complaints of others about them. And, fittingly, the next session I’m headed to is about VS 2005 Team System Source Code Control. And again, if I could just convince the developers to use it, I’d be miles ahead.

Exchange for midsize businesses

So, I went to the Exchange for Midsize businesses session thinking we just might fit in that category and I wasn’t wrong: anything over ~75 and under 1000 mailboxes is what they call midsize. Most of what was in the session was a re-hash of previous sessions: spam blocking with IMF, Exchange 2003 SP1, explanations of how RPC over HTTPS needs just about everything to be very modern, cache mode for Outlook 2003, etc. A couple of things I noticed: The IMF installer doesn’t look very polished, it pops several NET.EXE windows (probably starting services) towards the end. Not a big deal, but why do something so kludgy?

At lunch I sat with a couple people from Nebraska, a lady from Des Moines and a lady from Italy. The lady from Italy said that it was considerably cheaper for her to fly half way around the world to TechEd than to attend one of the shorter TechEds in Europe. Nice comment on the shrinking value of the dollar.