Editor's Note - April 2001
What do you call a collection of unrelated items?
You call it this Editor's Note.
There is a relationship underneath, though you may have to dig for it. The connection among the topics is that of making it easier to do your daily IT-professional tasks.
TechEd is Coming
TechEd is Microsoft's annual traveling road show of seminars, courses, and tutorials on technical topics. Each session, each track is designed to offer pertinent, topical, pragmatic information on being successful using Microsoft technology. As a sometime TechEd speaker myself, I will admit that not every single session connects with every attendee, but overall the batting average at TechEd is quite high.
This year, the US version takes place in Atlanta, June 17-21. I know that devoting a full week "2% of your annual working time" can seem daunting. There are problems to solve, fires to fight, departments to run. But recall the old saying, "There's never time to do it right, but always time to do it over." Think of TechEd as buying time up front to do the planning and strategic thinking that reduces the number of do-overs. Most attendees find it time well spent.
This year, one of the key tracks is Web Services - and it comes at a great time to really dig into this area. The dotcom hype is over, as is the panic to do something/anything! Whether your business is small or large, whether it's your business or you're a consultant or provider, Web Services can add value. Web Services can also cut the frictional costs of doing business over time. That's the stuff you get promoted for.
And there's plenty of material offered around daily IT tasks, too; it's not all about the future.
When I attend these types of conferences, my strategy is to pick and choose among the tracks. I start by identifying half a dozen sessions I absolutely must attend. Then I build schedules around those, looking for a mix of sessions that help me do my daily job, that prepare me for the future, and that simply seem interesting (often in areas that I know little about). I find it effective not to plan too far in advance, maybe a day at a time, other than my "must" sessions. I'll hear about great sessions, find something at one session that points to another I hadn't thought about, etc. (Sounds a bit like normal IT life, doesn't it?) I invariably come away feeling that I've learned quite a bit - not just facts, but ways to plan for my organization's future.
And plan to attend one other event at TechEd: we'll be doing something special for TechNet subscribers.
Subscribing to TechNet, or Paying for What You Get for Free
So what else do I get if I subscribe to the offline version of TechNet (CD or DVD)?
It's a very nice handle, actually. It measures about 8 inches, perhaps a bit less for the DVD version. It's attached to a high-quality binder. Inside that binder are a lot of disks, with more arriving every month. On those disks... is pretty much the same content you get on the Web.
What a deal, huh?
Amazingly, it is a pretty good deal. As an IT pro, what do you have the least of? We all complain about budgets, but for most of us, what we need is time. At our annual reviews, we can put in for more budget, but the only chance to argue for more time is at our Final Review. My understanding is that we all lose this last argument, though I'm certainly hoping to postpone mine for a while!
A TechNet subscription is time in your bank. (And since time is money, we do ask you to pay for it.) It puts the information you need at your fingertips - whether you're at your desk, on the go, at a user's or client's side, disconnected from the 'Net, or at the end of a slow connection. Need to look something up? Slip in a CD or DVD, and you're set. Need a ResKit? It's in the binder. Attached to that handle.
Or step up to TechNet Plus, which contains a lot of great stuff that's not out on the web. Beta versions of key products. Evaluation versions. We include betas or "evals" of almost everything Microsoft ships in the IT/server space, whether you use it (Visio 10, Host Integration Server), install it (Exchange 2000, SQL Server 2000, etc.), or support it (Office XP). It includes everything in TechNet, including the cool handle and the now-bulging binder.
We also have server/license versions available. Put it up on your departmental server so your whole IT team can use it - after getting the proper number of licenses, of course. And then you can fight over who gets the handle. Or maybe hold a contest to decide.
In fact, I have just the right contest in mind. TechNet announces The Return of the Puzzler. Or Son of Puzzler. I Know What You Did Last Puzzler. It's baa-aack!
Try it out! Test your knowledge of the intersection of Microsoft products and IT topics. See if you're up to the challenge of the fiendishly difficult questions our team of experts are posing for your amusement. (Okay, it's one expert, and the questions are not really that hard. But pretend.)
And since I promised the thread connecting these topics was making life easier, we'll give away a Sprint PCS™ cellular phone to one lucky person, drawn at random from everyone who submits a full slate of correct answers. People had a lot of fun with this last year - the Puzzler, that is, not the phone, which is new. So go challenge yourself. And then challenge the smart folks in your organization to a company Puzzler Showdown.
I'll bet you can find the answers in TechNet - on line or on your new subscription CDs.
Last time around, I talked about the fact that it's sometimes harder to find things on TechNet than it should be. The content is there, but there's so much great content that it's hard to locate the single item you need, when you need it. I described some of the things we're working on to make this better. And I asked for you help in telling us how you would improve TechNet. If you have a moment and haven't yet read this column, I'd appreciate it if you'd take a look and tell me how we can better serve you.
Or just click here to tell me how we can do more to help you. We succeed only when you succeed.
Steven B. Levy
Product Unit Manager