I spent a large portion of this week at DEC 2008. I mentioned previously that I’d be presenting as well. Now that I’ve had a couple of days back to catch up with work and home, I wanted to recap the amazing experience, and share a few bits of info that I learned as well.

Sunday March 2nd was only registration and the reception for me. I just used the brief time downtown to meet with the Centrify and Likewise teams who worked so hard over the previous month to help me prepare my presentation for Wednesday. I met a bunch of great new contacts as well – not a conversation passed that I didn’t learn something new.

Monday the 3rd included Gil Kirkpatrick’s discussion on AD administrators vs. software developers, Jerry Camel and Brad Turner’s overview of proper architecture for ILM “2″, how Microsoft is using Windows Server 2008 (Brian Puhl), an amazingly indepth look into AD with Dean Wells and Joe Richards, and a discussion about how Centrify DirectControl works (in Centrify’s vendor track).

Gil Kirkpatrick covered things like mistakes that developers often make because they’re taught how to write well-constructed SQL queries, but not well-constructed LDAP queries. He discussed at great length 11 tips to help ensure that directory-integrated software performs as it should, without killing domain controller performance. The most interesting part, however, was his suggestions on how to talk with software developers so that both halves of the IT team can create a well-rounded product.

After lunch, Brian Puhl with Microsoft IT spoke at length about the rollout of Windows Server 2008 within Microsoft. He talked about the problems they encountered running a release candidate OS, and how their rollout process works, from the test domain to the “pre-production” forest of 5000 real users, to the “real” production forest. That they’re able to run in 2008 Forest mode already is impressive to me. The discussion of using RODCs (Read Only Domain Controllers) in DMZs and remote offices was also very cool.

Dean Wells and Joe Richards – if you ever get a chance to see them speak, take it. Not only do they know things about AD that nobody in the audience knew (and the attendees at DEC are *smart*), but they present really well – personality, humor, and great new info. They covered things like exactly what AdminSDHolder does, and how precisely the Infrastructure Master role works (down to the changes inside the DIT itself). They also had a few things to say about the Second City itself.

I spoke in Centrify’s vendor track about their DirectControl product. We had a decent turnout, considering it was a vendor-specific talk. Likewise Software, NetPro software, and OptimalIDM threw some pretty great parties after hours. It was interesting meeting people like Mark Foust, Mike Dube, and Stuart Kwan from Microsoft, Manny Vellon from Likewise Software, David McNeely from Centrify, and John Serban from WaMu, and talking to them about work and other things.

I’ll follow up on Days 2 and 3, including my presentation, in the next few posts.

Back in Sydney after visiting Port Douglas (dove the Great Barrier Reef and visited Daintree Rainforest National Park), and Uluru and Kata Tjuta National Park. That makes 3 UNESCO (United Nations Education, Science, and Cultural Organization) World Heritage sites in 3 days. With the Greater Blue Mountains area near Sydney and the Sydney Opera House tomorrow, thatll be 5 in just this vacation. Ive only visited 3 in the US so far (Yellowstone, Statue of Liberty, and Redwood National Park).

Back in another week!

Today is my last day on the job before starting a 2 week long vacation to Australia, visiting Sydney, Port Douglas, and Uluru. Ive been asked several times if I got a GSM phone to be able to take calls there in case something went horribly wrong at the office, and as a follow up, if Sprint has service out there (when they hear Im not taking a GSM phone).

I make it a point in my work to make sure someone else can effectively back me up on all aspects of my work. There are some people Ive worked with who seem to think that if they are indispensable, then the company cant fire them. However, it also means, to me, that they cant be promoted, cant go on vacation, and cant even have an evening at home with family. So, when I design things, or fix something that broke, or make changes to make something work better, I make sure to include as many team members as I can, so that I can do things like take my wife out, and not be tied to my phone, worried that it may ring, even when Im not officially on-call.

To that end, I spent a lot of time over the past few weeks giving a lot of history to the newer members of our team, so that they understand the decision making process that led us to the system state were at now. Why do we have to reboot Terminal Servers every weekend? Because of a memory leak in Windows 2000 that our application and settings trigger fast enough to require it. Not just which servers do we have to have up 24/7?, but why those servers, and not others, even if theyre in the same priority group. This has been tremendously helpful to them in their day-to-day work, evidenced by the lower volume of questions theyre asking to other members of the team.

So, after all this work, how are things set? Does everyone in the team have the exact same skillset at the same level as me? No, because were different people. Will it maybe take them a few minutes more to solve <insert particular problem here>? Maybe, because I may be the most knowledgeable person on that application, but that doesnt mean that they cant fix it quickly. So I spent half of the day today re-iterating those facts to people who are worried that the company will fail if Im not here (it surely wont – Im not that important).

Now, then, off to vacation – Ill write a blurb about it in 2 weeks, then a few days later about how busy I am catching up!

I found this in the news today and hunted down the original paper at Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. It shows that children as young as 3 years old are greatly affected by marketing and brand loyalty, with as many as 73% of kids 3-6 preferring food in McDonalds wrappings to the same food in plain paper. Even if that item was a carrot, kids preferred it significantly over the generic item.

Reading further, the stats get more interesting. The more TVs in the house, or the more times the kids ate at McDonalds per month, the greater the preference for the branded food. The whole paper is a really fascinating read, but it does get (as most scientific publications do) pretty stats-heavy, so if you dont follow statistics very well, just plow through it and check out the graphs and findings.

Moral of the story?

For parents: Remove TVs from the house, and eat healthy at home more often.

For businesses: your branding can be extremely powerful. Even the kids who NEVER ate McDonalds preferred the branded food.

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