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Homework…it’s not what it used to be

Jamie at 2

Jamie at 2

Think back, way back, to high school. For me, it was all about big hair, parachute pants, and blue mascara. Now that you’re sitting there feeling the teenage angst and acne, think back to when you had partner or group projects. You had to figure out who’s house you were going to and how you were going to get there. Just getting the group together to work on the project was a project in itself. Well that is quickly changing.

As some of you know, I have a daughter in Grade 9. She’s been on computers since she was in diapers.  or her, the computer is just a tool. We’ve been lucky in elementary school that her teachers have always encouraged the use of computers (not so much for my son who’s still in elementary school). I have been pleasantly surprised on how much she has been able to do online in high school. She accesses her textbooks online, submits her papers, and even music compositions, via the school private cloud. Her teachers upload her marks to a secure website which the parents have access to. But last was the first time I had noticed her collaborating on a paper online. Yes, she chats with her classmates and they have emailed papers back and forth, but tonight I noticed she was editing a document real time using the school board’s Google Drive cloud. Her classmate was on the phone and they were discussing the changes and editing on the fly together, and they could see each others edits. For my daughter this not new, she is my editor (you read her work whenever you read one of my blog posts), and we co-edit pieces all the time, but this was the first time I had seen her do it with a classmate. She and my son are usually way ahead of their peers when it comes to technology, and they are usually helping their classmates, and sometimes teachers, with technology in the classroom.

The one thing that puzzles me about last week was why on earth were they using the phone? Talk about old-fashioned.

Categories: Cloud, Education Tags: , ,

Test Day – My view on Industry Certifications

Update: Passed the exam this morning.  MCSA: Windows 2012 Server

I finally scheduled Microsoft 70-417 Windows 2012 Upgrade exam for tomorrow.  Am I nervous? Not really.  I have lost count of how many exams I have written over the years.  Do I still believe in industry certifications after all these years? Yes, I really do. As an IT professional it’s imperative that we keep up with today’s quickly changing technologies.  Writing exams forces us to learn what is new and exciting.  Should your IT professional be certified? Yes!  I know some people will argue it’s only a paper exam but at the very least the exam taker has had to review the new material.  Would you want your vehicle technician to only have skills that date back 10 years? Probably not.  It’s the same with your servers.  You wouldn’t want an IT professional who has a 10 year old skill set working on your 2012 server.

Back to the books for some last minute cramming this evening.

Categories: Education Tags: ,

Back to the Books

Study NotesI recently had lunch with my favorite Microsoft Evangelist, and as we munched our way through our salads, he put a major bee in my bonnet. Not quite a bee, but more like a bat. We started discussing Microsoft System Center, HyperV, and other big company technologies that I haven’t used in years. As you all know, I focus on the small business tech for a living. He started me thinking about what is new in big business, and I got curious and started poking around the Microsoft certification website. After reviewing my Microsoft transcripts, I was pleasantly surprised to realize my current certifications easily allow me to upgrade to the new MCSE Private Cloud certification. After all, there are only 3 Microsoft exams for me to complete. I love studying and learning, and this is just the push I need to upgrade my skill sets. Now some of you may be asking why I am pursuing “big business” technologies instead of small business ones. The answer is simple: small business tech is just big business tech scaled down. Small business IT professionals still need to understand current technologies and how to implement them. Eventually, these big business technologies make their way down to small business, usually in a smaller-scale version. The trick with small biz is to implement, factor in company growth, and stay within budget.

I have set an ambitious goal for myself to attain the MCSE Private Cloud certification. I would like to have it completed by Canadian Thanksgiving, about 3 months from now. How am I going to do this? I will dedicate 2-3 hours each evening to study. Luckily, I work for myself, so I can schedule around my clients’ needs. I did the MCSE 2003 (7 exams) in 18 months, while working full time and having two day care-aged children.

It’s been sometime since I wrote an exam, at least 4 years.  I love hitting the books, and learning something new and I am very excited to put the gray matter into action again.  The new skills I learn from upgrading my certifications will help my small business clients now and in the future.

PS I hope to add MCITP for Office 365 by Christmas.

Categories: Education, New Tech

When the Windows Support Team Calls!

After another call from the helpful folks at the Windows Support Team this week, I decided it might be a good idea to explain how this group tries to scare people into purchasing their services to solve your nonexistent computer problem.  This scam has cost people thousands of dollars.

Here’s their basic script:

“Hi, I am (insert name here), calling from the Windows Support Center (or something similar).  Your computer is sending us reports that you have a (insert problem here).”

Now they will try to convince you of this by having you type in commands to prove that your system is really having (insert problem here).

(Insert name here) will instruct you to press the Windows Key and the letter R, and then you will be instructed to type eventvwr in the dialog box.  This will launch the Event Viewer.  The Event Viewer is part of every Windows operating system.  It provides details about the services running on your computer.  He’ll continue to instruct you, telling you to “Click on Custom Views.”  This will display a window with a list of errors and warnings.  I have posted mine for reference.

I know that these are normal errors and warnings, but the friendly folks from (insert company name here) are hoping you don’t know this, and that all these errors and warnings will convince you that there is a problem.  (Insert name here) states that this is a symptom of (insert problem here), but would like to check one more place to confirm.  This is their way of trying to gain your trust and prove that they are really trying to help you, when that’s not their intention at all.

Now he’ll have you press the Windows key and the letter R again and have you type inf in the dialog box.  This will launch the Inf folder.  Friendly (insert name here) will tell you these files are a result of  (insert problem here), confirming your system has (insert problem here).  The INF folder is a normal folder in the Windows operating system and contains driver files, not files related to (insert problem here).

Now they will offer to help “fix” your “problem”.  All you need to do is give them your credit card or visit a website.

This is a scam. Do not give them any information.

Microsoft will never call you about your computer issues. They have issued a statement about this scam here. Your computer is not randomly sending reports to Microsoft or (insert company name here).

After months of (insert company name here) calling to help me solve my computer issue and me poking at them I have learned a few things about their operations.

  • The friendly folks from (insert company name here) will insist this is not a scam and it was your computer that sent the messages.
  • They will be vague about the problem.
  • There is usually a lot of background noise on the call.
  • They only work within their script.
  • They tend to be very demanding and brash.

On average I usually receive a call a week, and it’s become a game for me.  To keep myself amused, I use the following strategies:

  • After thanking them for calling and explaining the problem, I tell them I run Linux/Mac
  • I let them know that I was unaware that my Linux/Mac were sending reports to Microsoft
  • I have them explain what the Windows key looks like – then ask why I don’t have a Windows key on my Mac
  • I ask for help on other Microsoft issues (printer, server, etc. problems)
  • I ask them questions that require very specific Microsoft knowledge – this usually frustrates them
  • I try to sell them something, like an electric dog polisher (thanks Steve Martin)

What do you do when they call you?

Notes:

*Insert Company Name Here – Esolve, Windows Support Company, Windows Technical Support or a variation of these.

*Insert Name Here – Tends to be a generic name.  I have never had a female call.

*Insert Problem Here – Usually they claim it’s a virus or the system is running slow.  Or the system is running slow due to a virus. 🙂

Why Do We Still Have Snow Days?

A few weeks ago I had a lovely lunch with Mitch Garvis, a Microsoft Valuable Partner (MVP). For some excellent tech insight, you should check out his blog and follow him on Twitter @mgarvis.  He asked me what I would like to see technology do in the future…my answer: “end snow days”.  The look on his face told me he didn’t see the connection between technology and snow days.

I live in a small city in the snow belt.  Classes are not canceled that often, but the school buses are.  My daughter takes a school bus and there have been several days when she hasn’t attended school because the buses have been cancelled.  If my husband and I can re-arrange our schedules, one of us will drop her off and pick her up; but otherwise she stays home and chats online with her classmates who are also at home.   If she is chatting with her friends online and her teacher is at school (which has Internet connectivity), why can’t the students, both at home and in class, and the teacher have an online  lesson?

Not only could we use this model for snow days, but we could free our elementary children from the education “box” they are stuck in.  Skype In the Classroom is free, and already connects teachers and projects together.   Could this model be expanded to include experts on different subject matter? This would make learning a more interesting and interactive experience.  To keep our kids exposed to current technologies not only makes learning fun, but it also ensures they can use technology to their advantage; whether it’s in school using a Smart board or outside of school teaching a grandparent how to communicate over the Internet. Our education system needs to change and adapt to meet the needs of our younger students. Education should encourage our children develop a passion and desire to learn about a variety of topics, not just curriculum in the box.

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