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First, here's some feedback from last week's newsletter Keyboard Conundrums. Concerning so-called ergonomic keyboards, reader Bruce pointed out the following:
The problem with the Microsoft Ergonomic keyboards is that they didn't take into account all those HS typing classes and typists who know that the correct way to type the number 6 on the number row atop the QWERTY keys is with the right forefinger. If they're gonna have one on the left, they also need one on the right, for those of us who learned it that way. Alternately, they could make it like the space bar, and span the gap.
Bruce must be someone near my own age. I still remember my dad telling me I should take Keyboarding 101 in high school, but by then I was already a snob and only hung out with kids who took all 100 classes like myself...
A reader named Rich expressed a similar fondness to mine for those old-fashioned IBM keyboards that gave you a reassuring "click" whenever you pressed a key. Rich also pointed out some compatibility issues that can arise when using KVMs with certain types of keyboards:
I too loved the old IBM clicky keyboards and bout a fancy one with the function keys on the LEFT, I think it was a Northgate brand, so I could have the original flight simulator work properly. (Can you tell how long I've been into computers?) For years now, my home keyboard was an old Mouse Systems ergo keyboard that still works fine. Unfortunately, my old PS/2 KVM was starting to get flakey and with new systems not even supporting PS/2 ports any longer, I got a USB KVM. The Mouse systems keyboard wouldn't work with a USB adapter, so my search was on. I ran across an old MS Pro, but again, it was PS/2, found the MS Natural 1000, but didn't like it and returned it. Finally found the 4000 (still too many keys on top, I'm so used to control (and now windows) keys that I don't need/want special keyboard keys and associated/required software to drive 'em) and ordered one off eBay and like it a lot. The old keyboard had a feature I've always understood was better for wrists in that it tilted up from the front, not rear, the 4000 doesn't seem to have that option, but I saw a front piece for one that I think will work to raise the front. Just haven't gotten around to find it for myself.
Rich then followed up with the following:
Oh, I knew there was something else I wanted to add, and that is my peeve at MS for changing the cursor keys between numeric keypad and letters to vertical, vs. what has/had become the standard of horizontal insert/del/home/end/pgup/pg layout for ages. VERY annoying, so avoided any kbd from MS for ages. Fortunately, this 4000 has the old layout! I never figured out who/why it was changed as the keyboards I measured weren't any narrower, so it didn't seem to be a space/size issue.
I have to agree that it's sometimes the small changes that are most annoying. For example, I used to use SAS + W to lock workstation on Windows NT and was HUGELY ANNOYED when this changed to SAS + K on Windows 2000. Then they changed it to Winkey + L on Windows Vista, and although I continued to be annoyed for awhile, I eventually grew to like this as a simpler and quicker keystroke combination. So one's behavior adapts and evolves over time...
Jay from Illinois also has a fondness for mechanical keyboards:
Let me add the now mostly forgotten Northgate keyboards. They used the best mechanical switches I have ever used and they seem to last forever. I not only have the first ones I ever bought, but I still seem them on EBay list at over $100 each. They can be cleaned and maintained as they are mounted on a metal plate and are capable of being opened. But let me note that they weigh a "ton".
A reader named Bob also expressed some frustration with a certain brand of keyboard:
The first six months they work great but then the natural lubrication in the key mechanism goes away and you wind up with stiff keys like the spacebar and alt keys.
I've omitted the brand name though as I suspect this issue is widespread with many modern keyboards. Have other readers experienced this kind of problem? Email me your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org
Finally, Rob from Colorado wondered about the following:
You would think they would have replaced the keyboard with voice recognition commands by now.
But then what would we do with our hands?
Next, returning to our June 18 issue Password Practices, reader Sheldon from Minneapolis had this recommendation:
Steve Gibson of Gibson Research Corp (grc.com) and host of the weekly "Security Now!" netcast has talked about passwords on several occasions. His latest is summarized on his Password Haystacks page. Some key points are:
Here's a link to Gibson's "Security Now" podcast series:
And here's a link to his How Big Is Your Haystack article:
Finally, we're still getting some feedback concerning our June 11 issue Cloudy Thinking about the pros and cons of cloud computing. Craig from Florida is one who leans towards the pessimistic side:
I am of the more pessimistic crowd. Most customers of any size at all who think about it realize that putting their data where they are not sure who can access or scan it … legally of nefariously, are most hesitant to risk their customer lists and company confidential info…even emails between sales people. A local "private cloud" where you know the folks who run it and trust them… that is a different story… but it all depends on "trust" and most folks don't really trust the cloud. I've been an IT for SMB person for more than 17 years…. Love new technology but not necessary the impersonal, wherever "cloud" …..for company-sensitive data.
Those who feel similar to Craig may want to check out the "private cloud in a box" which will be available soon from Microsoft partner Quanta Computing See the Tech Briefing section of this newsletter for a link to more information on this innovative solution that lets you deploy a private cloud on-premises for your company,
Aaron, who is an IT Manager, also expressed some doubts about the reliability of cloud computing and shared an insightful story about the kind of problems companies can experience when they rely too much on the cloud:
The success of new technology depends largely upon the foundation it is built on. In the case of cloud computing, the foundation is an unstable one. Can anyone say the underlying hardware of the internet is as mature as say… our land-line telephone infrastructure? How often do you have a problem with your land-line telephone service compared to your ISP service? The cold reality of the internet is that it isn't stable enough. Outages happen. Regularly. I'm sure that in urban areas they may not happen as often, but the fact is that ISP services have regular outages in the majority of our country's infrastructure. The fiber, cable, and cellular networks just aren't as mature and dependable a communication technology as our land-line phone system. Gateway's go down, switches go down, farmer's backhoes carve through shallowly buried fiber, neighboring businesses drown out bandwidth due to poorly managed network infrastructure. The list goes on. The one thing that purveyors of 'the cloud' avoid pointing out is that moving your resources to the cloud makes your company solely dependent upon your ISP connection.
A great example of this limitation is the 'cloud' based service we moved to about 2 years ago. Our company is based on the West Coast, the cloud is hosted on the East Coast. They strongly advised we implement redundant ISP connectivity (makes sense). We implemented hardware that supports active-passive WAN connectivity and set up two high-speed ISP services (one fiber and one cable). What they never bothered to mention is that even with redundant ISP connectivity, we lose session states any time an outage occurs on our active ISP service. There is simply no way for the technology out there to migrate a disconnected session from one WAN connection to another without dropping whatever the user was working on at the time. This is simply unacceptable from a business standpoint. The fact that we will not only lose our connection to the cloud at random, but that our users will also lose work just doesn't make good business sense. While I'm sure there may be more robust cloud solutions out there, perhaps ones which allow for offline/online connectivity without data loss, the fact remains that internet connectivity is not always consistent enough for running a business. When 'the cloud' phenomenon has blown over, the ground-based computing environments will continue to enjoy their local sunny weather (so to speak).
Aaron's thoughtful post got me thinking a bit. Is cloud computing for everyone? Perhaps not. For a traditional "bricks and mortar" company, cloud computing might seem tempting as a way of reducing cost. But IMO cutting cost should NEVER be the number one driver behind making a decision to migrate your organization's IT infrastructure into the cloud. On the other hand, for a company whose business model depends entirely upon the Internet, then moving your infrastructure into the cloud is probably a no-brainer because there's really not much added risk involved. Examples of companies whose business model is Internet-centric might include e-commerce companies, social networking businesses, news media, and organizations that have a large mobile sales and/or consulting force.
Do you agree? Disagree? Got more thoughts to share about cloud computing? It's a hot topic so we'll definitely be returning to it in future newsletters, especially to focus on emerging Windows Server-centric cloud solutions, but for now feel free to email me your thoughts at email@example.com if you have anything more to say on the matter.
The evolution of technology continues to amaze me. Hard drives are one example. I just checked on NewEgg and you can now buy 3 TB drives for under $170:
In fact, it's pretty obvious that very large (> 2 TB) drives are the future. For a quick and entertaining look at the past, check out "Timeline: 50 Years of Hard Drives" from PCWorld:
Will your server support very large drives?
Older servers may not have BIOS support for hard drives larger than 2 TB in size as the boot drive. Or they may only allow you to use 2 TB of a large drive. If your server supports only legacy BIOS mode (MBR partitioning) then you're limited to 2 TB and four primary partitions. If your server is newer and supports UEFI as an optional BIOS mode, then GPT partitioning can be used which supports much larger drives if the operating system can support it. Windows Server 2008 x64 and later support GPT for boot volumes.
BIOS support isn't the only thing needed however. If you want to use very large drives then the server's storage controller must be able to handle them too. Older controllers may not support such drives even with the latest firmware updates, so check your vendor's website before you shell out money for drives that may not be compatible with your server.
Also, if you are planning on using drives larger than 2 TB in a system, make sure the motherboard supports SATA 3 speeds (6 Gbps).
Backup and redundancy
If you are going to use very large drive then you should only use them with redundant RAID and make sure you perform regular backups. Why? Think about it for a moment. If it's your main PC, you may end up storing your whole life on your hard drive. (Unless you store your life in the cloud!) So if your drive fails, your life and everything in it (photos, videos, journal, tax records) goes down the drain. And if it's the main file server for your business, then drive failure can mean failure of your business as well.
Backing up a very large drive can take a long time though, so you need to be sure to plan for that. What you could do is create multiple smaller volumes on a very large drive and then stagger backup of these volumes on different times and days. The key questions when considering using very large drives are, Will your storage solution be manageable? And will I be able to recover from failure sufficiently quickly? These are the real issues, not how many bytes you can get for the buck.
Note also that the Backup utility on current Windows client and server versions can't back up volumes greater than 2 TB in size because of VHD format size limitations. This restriction will probably not apply to Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 however because of the new VHDX format supported by those platforms.
By the way, here's the best-data-redundancy-tip-ever: Just store multiple copies of your data on your hard drive.
Several of my geekier colleagues have recommended Hitachi drives as "very reliable" and "never had a problem" when it comes to drives larger than 2 TB:
If newsletter readers have any recommendations concerning very large drives, feel free to send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you want to build a RAID array with 2 TB or larger hard drives, don't use so-called "green" drives, use enterprise-class drives instead. Some types of disk controllers are sensitive to error recovery timeouts, and this can end up causing array rebuilds to occur repeatedly and unexpectedly when green drives are used in such arrays.
I've been a big fan of books from CRC Press since my undergraduate Physics days when I frequently had to consult their Handbook to look up integrals, Fourier transforms, and other fun stuff. ITIL Service Management: Implementation and Operation is the first CRC Press title covering information technology that I've had the opportunity to examine, and I wasn't disappointed. The book has the same degree of rigor and the same clear organization as their titles in the Mathematics and Engineering fields have. If you want to learn how to use ITILv3 to get the best return for your organization's investment in IT service management, then this book is the place you should start. From clear presentation of basic concepts, thru scenario-driven examples, to downloadable worksheets for those who purchase the book, this is the best guide I've seen on implementing ITIL and is worth having on the shelf of IT managers who work in large enterprises.
"During the next week's sailing I came to terms with life. I found that my sense of humor had returned; things which would have irritated me or maddened and infuriated me ashore made me laugh out loud, and I dealt with them steadily and efficiently. Rain, fog, gale, squalls and turbulent forceful seas under grey skies became merely obstacles. I seemed to have found the true values of life. The meals I cooked myself were feasts, and my noggins of whisky were nectar. A good sleep was a valuable to me as the Koh-i-noor diamond. Al my senses seemed to be sharpened; I perceived and enjoyed the changing character of the sea, the colors of the sky, the slightest change in the noises of the sea and wind; l even the differences between light and darkness were strong, and a joy. I was enjoying life, and treating it as it should be treated--lightly."
--Sir Francis Chichester, in The Lonely Sea And The Sky
Chichester was the first person to sail single-handedly around the world by the old clipper route. This book is his autobiography and it's filled with tales of danger and excitement and also with inspiring reflections like the quote above. It's one of my favorite adventure books and I think I've read it at least three times.
Until next week,
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Contact Michael Vella at email@example.com to get your conference or other event listed in our Events Calendar.
Thursday 12 July - Learn why Microsoft Dynamics ERP represents a significant opportunity to meet your business challenges and to increase your bottom line:
Contact Michael Vella at firstname.lastname@example.org to get your webcast listed in our Webcasts Calendar.
You'll soon be able to deploy a private cloud on-premises using technology from Microsoft and Quanta Computing. More info on the Microsoft Infrastructure blog:
We've talked about this subject in several of these newsletters recently. Now find out what Mark Russinovich has to say on the subject:
The SQL Server team at Microsoft has just published two new architecture guides for implementing AlwaysOn with SQL Server 2012:
Microsoft Corporate Vice President Brad Anderson highlighted how Microsoft is designing products to help customers transform their datacenters and modernize their applications:
Learn how to use Windows PowerShell to set up, configure, and control your Windows Server 2012 Remote Desktop Services (RDS) deployments:
Learn how to use VSS for SMB File Shares on Windows Server 2012 to create backups with this blog post that includes scenarios and step-by-step instructions:
Have difficulty keeping up with the latest developments in Windows Server management, tools and cloud computing? Check out the new "blog of blogs" for Microsoft Server and Tools at:
Businesses rely heavily on mission-critical systems to carry out essential tasks, and as Amazon Web Services (ASW) realized earlier this month, the costs and reputation damage of downtime can be disastrous. Discover what a recent cloud outage report revealed about the repercussions of service unavailability – including one company's $17 million loss.
With so many hypervisor options available, how do you determine which one's right for your VDI project? Well, thanks to new agnostic management tools, this once critical decision may not even matter anymore. Explore this emerging hypervisor technology trend and review the VDI benefits it can offer.
While the new enhancements to Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V introduce various benefits, this virtualization platform still has a ways to go. Inside this resource, review an expert analysis of three key features that are still missing from the latest upgrade and learn what should be done to address them.
Upgrading to Windows Server 2012 can introduce substantial complexities for your IT shop if you don't take the right approach. To ensure success – and keep your sanity intact – review answers to common questions about merging the new and older Windows Server versions.
Easter Island Mystery Solved? A new theory says giant statues may very well have 'walked' into place:
"Cooking In Space" – a 2 minute animated short film about two French astronauts:
A human powered helicopter built by students from the University of Maryland set a new world record of 50 seconds! This flight was over twice as long as the previous world record set in 1994:
Polar bear cubs play and wrestle in the snow while their mother keeps a close eye on them from the den:
Mitch Tulloch is Senior Editor of WServerNews and is a widely recognized expert on Windows administration, deployment and virtualization. Mitch was lead author of the bestselling Windows 7 Resource Kit from Microsoft Press and has published hundreds of articles for IT pros. Mitch is also a seven-time recipient of Microsoft's Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award for his outstanding contributions in support of the global IT pro community. Mitch owns and runs an information technology content development business based in Winnipeg, Canada. For more information see www.mtit.com
Ingrid Tulloch is Associate Editor of WServerNews and was co-author of the Microsoft Encyclopedia of Networking from Microsoft Press. Ingrid is also Head of Research for our content development business and has co-developed university-level courses in Information Security Management for a Masters of Business Administration program.