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Emory University SCCM Server Accidentally Reformats All Computers Campus-wide

FreelanceWizard Re:Surprisingly Infrequent (564 comments)

We use SCCM extensively at my office, and yes, it's entirely possible to tell it to reimage every single computer. You just need to target the deployment at "All Systems" and make it mandatory. My guess is that some admin picked the wrong collection, which is fairly easy to do in SCCM 2007 (2012 has Collection folders, which helps with that), and there's no warning messages -- just a summary of "this deployment is going to these devices, click Finish to do it." Of course, most other mass management tools assume that the admins know what they're doing, so they don't have much in the way of guard rails either.

One of the more obnoxious elements of SCCM is that there's no real way to recall a command you send out; clients pick up policy at periodic intervals, and without manual intervention, they'll just grab the policy and do what it says even if you kill the server in question. You can block deployments by taking down distribution points (if the clients can't grab content, they won't run the deployment), but you still have to be fairly quick about it to stop it.

What we do to prevent these sorts of disasters is implement process around the use of the ConfigMgr console and ensure only the people who know how to use it actually use it. To prevent an OS reimaging incident, our OS deployments go through a static set of collections by process and are always optional (requiring a manual touch, either at PXE boot or in the UI) except for a specific set of collections that are segregated in their own folder and have names and descriptions with scary words that make it clear what's going to happen. For instance, in our "Clean Reimage" folder, we have a collection that says, "Windows 7 Reimage (Clean, PXE, Forced)" with a description to the effect of, "*** A computer placed in this collection will be REIMAGED and LOSE ALL LOCAL DATA. Local state is NOT preserved or transferred. ***" If we were a larger IT organization, we'd probably use SCCM's role-based security to limit access to clean reimages to a specific group of people.

about 2 months ago
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The SEC Is About To Make Crowdfunding More Expensive

FreelanceWizard Misleading summary (366 comments)

If you actually bother to read the Federal Register text, you can see in the second paragraph of the introduction that the JOBS Act, and this subsequent regulatory structure, only applies to crowdfunding where the reward is a security. It specifically explains that this is different from the current model of crowdfunding in the U.S., where the donors receive some "token of value" related to the project, not a share of future financial returns. The SEC isn't trying to regulate the current system, but is trying (as directed by that law) to allow crowdfunding where the donor award is a security; the current regulatory structure, based on the Securities Act, largely makes this sort of model impossible due to the various requirements of public offerings.

So, there's nothing to get up in arms about. This is just a move by the SEC to allow something that isn't currently permissible under U.S. law, not an attempt to "tax Kickstarter" or "regulate Indiegogo" or whatever other nonsense people claim.

about 7 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: How Best To Synchronize Projects Between Shared Drive and PCs?

FreelanceWizard Source control (best) or Offline Files (okay) (238 comments)

You have programmers. You have multiple projects. They might be working offline. For this, you really need a Distributed Source Control system such as git or mercurial. I personally recommend mercurial as it's got good Windows tools (TortoiseHg and HgScc for Visual Studio integration). You can put your "pure" repository on your share, then have the programmers push to it -- or, better yet, have an "incoming" for each project to which anyone can push, then a "pure" to which only project leads have write access and into which they can push approved versions.

If, for some reason, you simply can't run source control, Windows offers Offline Files functionality that can sync individual folders if you set them up correctly. What this means is that you need to ditch this "shared drive" concept and set up your file shares correctly -- by which I mean having multiple shares, one for each project. Users then connect to the share in question and choose to make it offline, or you create drive maps and enforce offline files using group policy.

about a year ago
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Acer Pulls Back From Windows To Focus On Android and Chromebook

FreelanceWizard Re:From the ashes into the fire? (253 comments)

Actually, as the people who found the first RT jailbreak noticed, the only thing keeping Windows RT from running ARM compiled applications (which you can create in Visual Studio, even!) is a policy that mandates that only Microsoft-signed executables can run outside of the WinRT environment. If Microsoft removed that restriction by changing a single registry key, all of that compatibility would suddenly appear. In fact, .NET apps distributed in PE form and compiled for Any CPU would be able to run without being recompiled at all.

about a year ago
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Microsoft Cuts Surface Pro Price By $100

FreelanceWizard Re:Sounds good, But! (341 comments)

Yes. Turn off Secure Boot in the UEFI firmware menu (accessed through Advanced Startup), then boot off the USB Linux boot device of your choice. I expect a modern distribution of Linux will have drivers for most of the hardware inside the Pro. Alternatively, run it in Hyper-V (or VMware, or VirtualBox, or the hypervisor of your choice), since it's an x86 Windows 8 device with hardware virtualization support.

Only the RT has the "permanently locked" Secure Boot setting. The Pro is a full-fledged i5 device that can run Linux just fine.

about a year ago
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Using Java In Low Latency Environments

FreelanceWizard Re:The advantage of Java -tm (371 comments)

In .NET, you exactly have the same thing: ObsoleteAttribute. It's not often used, but it does exist.

about a year ago
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Oracle Discontinues Free Java Time Zone Updates

FreelanceWizard Re:Actually: Why are these needed? (405 comments)

No. Windows handles DST rules in the registry, so it's perfectly capable of date-dependent DST rule handling. The article discusses those recommendations as a way to avoid problems caused by issues with Outlook and Exchange 2003, both of which have their own unique ways of handling TZ changes (basically, they fail to store TZ information with dates, so TZ changes screw up the display of appointments). The problems were largely addressed in Outlook and Exchange 2007 and completely fixed in the 2010 versions, which keep the appointments in GMT-plus-offset format.

There's legitimate complaints you can have with the way Windows handles TZ changes -- personally, I'm not a fan of having to install TZ patches from Windows Update and I really dislike how Windows keeps the RTC in local time instead of GMT -- but don't blame it for the failings of antiquated and soon unsupported Office programs.

about a year ago
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Ask slashdot: Which 100+ User Virtualization Solution Should I Use?

FreelanceWizard Re:Hyper-V or vSphere. (191 comments)

Honestly, I've not found that to be the case. In most cases, you can disable the integration drivers in the guest, then move the VM to the new virtualization platform and start it back up. You may need to do a startup repair or in-place upgrade on an older version of Windows; Windows 7 (2008 R2) and 8 (2012), however, are fairly resilient.

The smoothest way to do it, though, if you've got the time, is to use the new platform's P2V tool to create a new virtualized VM based on the old one. This is how I've moved guests from Virtual Iron and Oracle VM to Hyper-V. In general, I'd say this is probably the smoothest way to move a VM running any OS to any other hypervisor, as it gives you a backup copy on the old hypervisor if needed and ensures that any special drivers are injected for the first startup.

about a year ago
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Windows: Not Doomed Yet

FreelanceWizard Not doomed, but in need of some help (737 comments)

There's lot Microsoft could do to make solid progress, starting, naturally, with getting rid of Steve Ballmer.

* Subordinate the desktop to the Modern interface. Give each program that isn't written for Modern its own virtual desktop and make them act like Modern apps in the charm bar, SideView, and the like. This whole "desktop is desktop, Modern is Modern" nonsense has got to go.
* Make a Modern version of Office.
* Remove the "Windows Store apps only" restriction on ARM so it can benefit from backwards compatibility. Backwards compatibility is the major selling point of Windows (enterprise management is the other).
* Start selling Windows to ARM device manufacturers in much the same way DOS was sold to the various 8 and 16 bit computer manufacturers. Go one step further and let people buy copies of Windows for ARM at a reasonable price to put on their own devices.
* Consider selling Windows as a subscription product, similar to Office Home Premium.
* Stop changing the API to chase your competitors. WinRT is a pain for everyone on the client side and doesn't really help drive devs to the platform. Instead, seeing JavaScript (of all things!) as one of the "key" platforms for Modern on MSDN drives away other developers. Likewise, telling WPF, WinForms, and Silverlight developers that much of what they know is useless (because WinRT is /just different enough/ to be incompatible with all of these) isn't the best way to make friends with developers.
* Correct your internal struggles by not having groups fighting with each other. If this means divesting business units or firing managers, so be it.
* Stop hiring H1B consultants and engaging in weird hiring practices, like "Interview 2.0" questions and direct out of college hires. Find the best developers for your own organization and hold on to them, rather than grinding down fresh graduates. Your developer tools group seems to understand this.

about a year ago
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Ask Slashdot: What Planks Would You Want In a Platform of a Political Party?

FreelanceWizard Re:Secularism (694 comments)

It can with a simple rule: a law is, prima facie, a violation of the separation of church and state when the only articulable purpose of the law is religious in nature. For a law to not run afoul of this, it has to have some purpose to society that isn't derived from religious principles. That doesn't mean that it can't have a purpose derived from such principles, only that that can't be the only purpose. For instance, most religions prohibit the killing of other people, but preventing murder has non-religious purpose as well. An example of a law that would run afoul of the rule would be a dictate that attempts to convert people from one religion to another is punishable by death. It has no articulable secular purpose, and therefore wouldn't be permitted. (A more recent and U.S.-specific example of a law with no articulable secular purpose is the banning of civil unions with the same rights and benefits as marriages.)

The reason why this rule works in the U.S., at any rate, is because a law that only has a religious purpose is either an establishment of religion (by granting extra rights to a religious group) or an impediment to its free exercise (by removing rights from those who follow a different religion or none at all, which is in itself a religion in this view).

about a year ago
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Certificate Expiry Leads to Total Outage For Microsoft Azure Secured Storage

FreelanceWizard Re:Liability (176 comments)

Actually, Microsoft has a wide variety of SLAs with financial penalties covering the Azure cloud. I expect customers will be able to claim at least a 10% service credit on this, as it's definitely an issue within Microsoft's control and definitely would cause a miss of the monthly availability number.

Review http://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/support/legal/sla/ if you're interested in the Azure SLAs. Interestingly, Amazon has a much less tough SLA, as it's calculated on a yearly basis and doesn't have as brutal penalties (Amazon at most credits 10%; Microsoft credits up to 25%).

about a year and a half ago
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Microsoft Says Google Trying To Undermine Windows Phone

FreelanceWizard Re:Fair for the goose... (476 comments)

Actually, Windows Phone 8 uses MTP for transfers to and from the computer. That's actually a source of much unhappiness among WP owners, though, since they now have to transfer everything out of Zune (which no longer works) to a different media management system -- and the Windows Phone desktop software for 8 is of questionable quality. However, that does mean that it should be much more usable on other OSes now.

about a year and a half ago
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Inside an Amazon Warehouse

FreelanceWizard Re:Humans? (206 comments)

They don't have to be. One approach is to create high churn through abusive behavior and unreasonable KPIs; this works if you don't really care that much about error rates and don't need your personnel to be able to do more complicated tasks besides "pick, pack, ship." On the other hand, at my company (we do aviation fulfillment), our warehouse personnel are paid well, given reasonable KPIs, and treated well, and so our churn is extremely low. I believe this year our warehouse churn has been 0%, and it's historically around 1% or so. The advantage of this approach is that you have better quality control and personnel who can competently handle things like dangerous goods. Perhaps most importantly to us is that you don't have to have the obsessive security most fulfillment warehouses have, which ultimately saves money. Funny enough, when you treat your personnel well, you don't have to worry about them stealing from you.

about a year and a half ago
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Virus Eats School District's Homework

FreelanceWizard Re:The real problem (321 comments)

You do know that non-admin users have to provide an admin login to elevate using UAC, right? And that proper Windows practice since Windows 2000 has been to run users as non-admins?

about a year and a half ago
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Microsoft Co-founder Dings Windows 8 As 'Puzzling, Confusing'

FreelanceWizard Re:I actually have come to peace with it (343 comments)

Actually, you can just start typing on the start screen to find, well, anything; it defaults to apps, but the search hits all search providers. The WinKey+F shortcut isn't needed.

about 2 years ago
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Microsoft Co-founder Dings Windows 8 As 'Puzzling, Confusing'

FreelanceWizard Re:Better than the unix command line? Seriously? (343 comments)

There's lots of ways to skin that cat, but I'd start with:

* Installing software: Use the invoke-expression and invoke-command cmdlets to run msiexec, after using new-pssession to connect to the machine
* Modify the registry: Powershell has a provider that treats the Registry as a drive. Use get-itemproperty and set-itemproperty to edit values. Or, follow the above process and use regedit /s to import a .reg file.
* Format a disk: Invoke-command + diskpart.
* Manage services: Invoke-command + sc or the *-service cmdlets (get-service, stop-service, suspend-service, etc.)

I'm no PS expert, but I was able to find this all in a few minutes of searching.

about 2 years ago
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Ask Slashdot: How Would You Fix the Linux Desktop?

FreelanceWizard Re:It's not broken. (1154 comments)

Insert disc, click Next a few times? Windows 7 and 8 are trivial to get going from zero, especially since they come with at least basic drivers for most things and can get the rest from Windows Update automatically once they have a network connection.

While the Linux installers have come a long way since the olden days, they're still a fair amount more complex than the modern Windows or OS X installers.

about 2 years ago
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Makerplane Aims To Create the First Open Source Aircraft

FreelanceWizard Re:Making airplanes is all about regulation (100 comments)

Nope.

Basically, when you complete a kit plane, you get it certified by the FAA as an experimental aircraft. Those can be flown anywhere that's permitted by their equipment and your licensing; for instance, the plane has to have its minimum equipment list to fly at all and navigational aids to fly in IFC. The major restriction on an experimental aircraft special airworthiness certificate is that it can't be used for commercial cargo or passenger operations.

about 2 years ago
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CowboyNeal Weighs In On the Windows 8 "Metro" GUI

FreelanceWizard Re:Apps are poorly implemented. (671 comments)

To close a Metro app, grab the top of the screen and drag it to the bottom, either by swiping or dragging with the mouse.

I agree it's not intuitive, though. I found out about it via web search, and if you have to search just to perform basic functions in your OS, something's wrong -- either the OS needs to come with a tutorial, or the UI affordances need to be more obvious.

about 2 years ago
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Is It Time For an OpenGL Gaming Revolution?

FreelanceWizard Re:DirectX has the advantage of other features (496 comments)

While DirectSound and DirectInput are now deprecated, you now have XAudio2 (or Core Audio, depending on your needs) and XInput. XInput isn't an exact replacement, however, since it only supports XBox360 controllers and those that can emulate one with their drivers.

about 2 years ago

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