TechEd 2006 Day 5

This is it. The last day of TechEd. People should be streaming out of here all day, heading for the airport. I’ve usually left in the afternoon, but this trip I;m staying for a few days. It will be interesting to see how dead this place gets. Three sessions today and several hand-on labs. I attended the following sessions:

  • CLI318 New Backup and Offline Files Features in Windows Vista
  • SEC323 Introducing Microsoft Client Protection
  • MGT310R Group Policy: What’s New in Windows Vista

CLI318: Some interesting changes in backups in Vista. For one, the consumer SKUs of Vista come with File and Folder Backup which is focused on backing up data files but not systems files. So these backups won’t do you any good if your system goes south, but at least the data will be safe.

For corporate SKUs, they have CompletePC backups. CompletePC backups are full system backups, but instead of being file and folder based, they backup your hard drive at the block level, creating VHD files in the process. You can actually use these file in Virtual PC and mount them. As part of the demo, the presenter brought a DVD containing a system backup of his laptop. He removed the drive, crushed it in a vice (always a crowd-pleaser), installed a new hard drive, and restored from the backup. The restore process is especially fast, and overall it was a much more satisfying experience than the existing backup offers.

Offline files in Vista are much more capable than in XP. The system no longer excludes any files from being synced using offline files. Previously MDB and PST files couldn’t be synced, and users used to have to deal with warning messages every time they tried to sync. Now in addition to syncing all file types, the system also transitions seamlessly between online and offline modes without any dialog boxes or questions for the user. The transition can even happen if files are open on the network drive. File handles are re-established automatically.

Another big change is per user syncing. Previously, the system would try to sync all files for all users on a laptop, even if the user who logged on doesn’t have access to the files. Now with per user syncs, it eliminates all of the errors that would occur due to permission issues. Lastly, the system used “ghosted” files so that when a user is in offline mode, if there are files that haven’t been synced, they will be listed in a grayed out mode. That ways users don’t have the experience of switching between offline and online modes and having files disappear and reappear. I’ve spent a lot of time in the past reassuring users that their files haven’t been deleted, they are just in a different mode. All in all, our mobile users are going to be very pleased when they get their hands on Vista. I think these changes may be enough to get the holdouts to switch to using offline files.

SEC323: A lot of people raise their eyebrows pretty quickly as soon as you start talking about client security products from Microsoft. Overall, however, I’m pretty impressed with their product strategy and their offerings. I’ll be interested to see how Microsoft prices this for the academic environment; I expect it will be included in Campus Agreement at the usual rock-bottom rates. We’re using a different antivirus package at this time in our shop, but I expect we’ll move to Microsoft’s Forefront products fairly quickly.

Couple interesting points from the presentation: Forefront is a family name, not a product name. For example, Forefront Client Security is the product that is aimed at workstations in corporate environments. The system is based on MOM 2005, and takes advantage of its reporting and alert services. However, it is a separate standalone system from any existing MOM implementation that an enterprise may have in place. Client Security uses WSUS as its mechanism for delivering signature updates. Since WSUS works on a daily sync process, they’ve added an Update Assistant to let WSUS do more frequent syncs and make sure updates get pushed to clients as they are released.

MGT310R: Changes to group policy in Vista are more subtle than some of the other more visible features. In XP we have ~1800 settings, but in Vista Microsoft is adding more than 700 bringing us up to 2500. GP is going to leverage Network Location Awareness to determine how fast of a connection it has. No more reliance on ping to check this. They’ve also swapped out ADM files and their cryptic format for… you guessed it, XML files. The new format is called ADMX and they should be easier to work with. Existing ADM files will continue to work, but things should move to ADMX fairly quickly. To help eliminate sysvol bloat, you will be able to specify a central store for ADMX files.

The rest of the day was spent doing hands-on labs. I hadn’t had a chance to work on these previously, but it was now or never since everything was shutting down at 4 PM. So I worked my way through several labs about OWA 2007, Using PowerShell to manage Exchange 2007, SharePoint 2007, and Office 2007. I was told that several of the more popular labs would show up in the Virtual Labs online, so I’ll need to check periodically to see if any of the ones I missed become available.

I rolled out of the labs area around 3:45, and the place was quickly emptying out. So I made my way out to the buses and said good bye to the convention center and TechEd for another year.