Microsoft Ignite Orlando – What To Pack!

Microsoft Ignite Conference 2019 is taking place in Orlando, Florida from November 4-8, 2019. This is one of the largest Microsoft conferences in the world but there is always the dilemma of what to pack. Here are some suggestions from a conference veteran like me to help you with that the task of packing. While the conference is a week long, it is not necessary to go overboard with the packing and even bring the kitchen sink!

What to Pack:

#1: Shoes – Make sure you have comfortable shoes to wear during the conference as you’ll be spending a lot of time in them everyday. The conference involves a lot of feet power and you’ll be glad you have some good shoes. Also, make sure you have broken in your new shoes prior to the conference.

#2: Tech – Start collecting all the cables and charges you’ll need to keep your devices up and running at the conference. I recommend that you pack a portable battery charger for your smartphone(s), especially helpful when you are on-the-go and the power outlets are not easily accessible. It’s also advisable to pack a small power strip as power outlets can be scarce and you’ll make friends by sharing an outlet with others. This is also handy to use in your hotel room where the power outlets could be inaccessible due to their location (behind the bed, behind the entertainment system, etc). As for the portable battery chargers, I’m a big fan of the Anker brand for their ruggedness, quality, capacity, and great customer service when I need them.

#3: Clothes – The setting for the conference including the social events is casual. Pack comfortable clothes, don’t pack too much as you’ll receive loads of tshirts at the conference to last you for years to come. So, travel light. You’ll definitely want to pack the essential items such as socks, underwear, a hoodie or sweatshirt for the cold conference rooms, some shorts, a pair of jeans or casual pants, a couple of shirts, and whatever else you think is essential. Don’t forget your toiletries too. Keep in mind that the weather in Orlando can be hot and humid. The current forecast during the conference is a high of approximately 80F and a low of approximately 60F.

#4: Bottle / Mug – A traveling coffee mug if you’re a coffee drinker. Makes it easier to fill up on coffee and to travel from session to session without spilling. Plus, you’re helping safe the planet without using the disposable cups. You could also bring a water bottle as you should rehydrate often, however you will receive one along with a backpack when you sign in for your Microsoft Ignite badge on-site.

#5: Cards – Bring along some business cards for networking purposes as well as to enter some cool contests organized by several vendors. I generally get my cards ordered in advance from Moo as I prefer the mini-card format and the high quality. You can also order some inexpensive business cards from VistaPrint but since it’s late in the game now to get some cards ordered in time for the conference, either make some at home with your personal printer or order some in-store at places like Staples.

#6: Social Media – Networking is one of the most important aspects of attending a conference such as Microsoft Ignite. By now you have connected with several attendees via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Slack, and Microsoft Tech Community. If you haven’t, then it’s time you get on the social media band wagon to collaborate with others, make some new friends, help to enhance your career, don’t feel left out at the conference, and so on. One tip for helping with the process on location and to make the social media connections as smooth as possible is to print QR Codes of your favorite social media medium such as Twitter or Facebook. This way, you can easily whip out your QR Code when you meet someone that you’d like to connect and they can easily scan the code with their smartphone which will pull up your information with ease.

#7: Luggage – Apart from your main suitcase or bag that you will pack with your clothes and above items, it is advisable to pack an empty bag that can fold such as a duffel bag. You’ll Thank me later when you realize by the end of the week that you have collected way too much swag but luckily you have that extra bag to bring all those tshirts and “things” home. Keep in mind that you’ll have the spanky new conference backpack to pack as well in case you traveled to the conference with your own.

#8: Laptop / Tablet – I generally travel with two laptops, one in case I need to jump in to handle some work issues back at the office, and the other as a personal device for daily use. Another reason for traveling with more than one laptop is in case one of them crashes for whatever reason and I still have something to manage my personal and work life. As far as note taking goes at the conference, I tend to use my iPhone as my primary device along with the OneNote and Twitter apps. If you have been my follower on Twitter, you’ll know how much I use that medium for note taking, as I do that quite efficiently with unique hashtags for each session and other matters related to the conference. So, if you’re not following me, do so now. You’ll find me as @Hoorge on Twitter.

#9: Medical – If you take any prescription medication, make sure you bring those and preferably in their original packaging, and this is to avoid any issues with TSA at the airport. I travel with my CPAP machine for my sleep apnea, so I always make sure that I have the power cord, hose, mask, and other fun stuff that goes with the machine packed as a priority item the morning that I’m leaving for the airport. If your CPAP machine uses distilled water for humidity control, you can always pick that up from a local pharmacy such as Kinney’s or CVS near your hotel. If you use spectacles and have an extra pair, bring that with you incase you encounter an unfortunate accident and break your main “four eyes”.

#10: Smartphone – I think it goes without saying that you won’t be traveling to the conference without your smartphone. To make your life a little easier, make sure you have enough free space to capture photos and videos during the week. Also, if you haven’t already done so, install apps such as OneNote for note taking; Twitter and Facebook for social media; OneDrive or Dropbox for uploading photos and videos to free up space on your device and for backup purposes; Microsoft Office Lens for capturing whiteboards, slide decks, business cards, and more; WhatsApp, Messenger and Slack for communication; Waze or Google Maps for navigation; and last but not least Untappd if you’re a beer lover.

#11: Camera – There are always some wonderful opportunities for capturing some great photos of the conference and the city of Orlando, so bring a camera with you. I would avoid bringing a large professional DSLR type camera with lenses and speedlights such as the Nikon D700 camera and the 24-70mm f/2.8 lens which I often use for my freelance photojournalism work and event photography. It’s cumbersome to travel with type of gear and to juggle during the conference. I tend to rely on my nifty iPhone for all of my photography and videography captures, and this year I will bring my Sony a6500 camera to do some high quality photo and video captures since this camera is pretty light and smallish. Selfie sticks can be fun but I’ll leave that at your discretion.

#12: Fitness Trackers – No doubt there’s going to be some tremendous amount of walking during Microsoft Ignite, so don’t forget to pack your fitness tracker units like Fitbit, Microsoft Band, smart watches and their respective charging units to see if you break any step records. Find a few friends and do a step challenge for the week.

#13: Credit Cards / Cash – As far as cash is concerned, you won’t need to carry much with you as food and drinks are generally covered at all of the evening social events, plus breakfast and lunch is provided at the convention center for attendees. I would carry a small amount of cash for incidentals and tips or when you need to split a bill with others. Credit Cards is the way to go for everything else but beware and pay attention to your statements as fraudulent charges have been reported by attendees from past conferences sometimes even 6 months after the fact. If you want some peace of mind and avoid the hassle of compromised credit cards, get a couple of prepaid credit cards with limited amounts on them to use in restaurants, bars, and other establishments.

#14: Snacks – Each day at the conference can be long, tough, and super busy as you run from session to session and network with fellow attendees. Sometimes, it can be a challenge to spare some time for breakfast or lunch, so food items such as granola bars, health bars, nuts, and pop tarts can be extremely helpful. While you may not need to bring any from home, although you could pack some in your suitcase, you can pick them up quite easily at a convenience store near your hotel.

#15: Sriracha and Beer – It goes without saying, I travel with my favorite hot sauce to spice up my conference center meals. How so you ask? Well, I often travel with the Sriracha2Go keychain container or the Sriracha2Go packets and they are so handy to have if you like to spice up your food on the go. As for the beer, there’s always a beer share happening during the week and several attendees often meetup to share and try out craft beer from all over the country and even from abroad. Pack some of your local craft beer in your suitcase and enjoy them with some old and new friends. Don’t forget to double ziplock bag them and wrap them with your clothing to avoid breakage.

#16: Trinkets / Souvenirs – It’s never a bad idea to bring a few little trinkets from your local town / city / state / country such as keychains, stickers, fridge magnets, candy, etc to hand out or exchange with a few fellow attendees. They become conversational items and everyone loves a little gift.

Hope this list will help you with your packing for the conference and has provided some helpful suggestions for things you may not have thought about. Good luck and see you soon in Orlando!

Follow (@Hoorge) on Twitter and join Tech Konnect on Facebook and Twitter (@TechKonnect) to stay current on technology related matters.

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Free Certification Exams at Microsoft Ignite 2019

Microsoft Ignite 2019 Conference is taking place in Orlando, Florida from November 4-8, 2019. There’s some great news for everyone who will be attending the conference. Microsoft is offering free certification exams at the convention center during the conference, and these exams range from $99 to $165 each. Please note the free exams are for the Role-based certifications only (MS-xxx, AZ-xxx, MD-xxx, MB-xxx) such as Microsoft Azure and Microsoft 365. Sign up in advance to lock in your spot, and get certified! Below are the steps to do so:

  • Go to this landing page or here with the list of Role-based certifications available.
  • Select your preferred certification and click on Schedule exam
  • Fill out your profile information. Make sure your name matches your legal IDs which will be required to sit for the exams
  • Select “Continue To Pearson Vue”
  • On the Select Exam Delivery Option page, choose “At a local test center”
  • Click on Schedule this exam
  • On the Test Center Search page, type “Orlando, FL” and click search.
    Choose option 3 from the search results for “Microsoft Event Test Center, Orange County Convention Center”, and click next
  • On the Choose Appointment page, change the month to November and pick a date which you prefer to sit for the exam. You will be given a selection of times to choose from. Pick one.
  • Click on Proceed to Checkout, and confirm your personal information on the following page and click Next
  • Agree to the terms and conditions and click Next
  • Confirm the payment information which would be USD$0.00
  • Click Submit Order to confirm
  • And Voila, your free Microsoft certification exam confirmation

My friend Vlad Catrinescu has has usual study guides to help you study for a few of the role-based exams. See below:

Good luck on your exams and have a great Microsoft Ignite conference.

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Windows 7 Support is Ending – Upgrade to Windows 10 ASAP

Windows 7 start screen displayed on a laptop at a desk

Starting January 14, 2020, Microsoft will no longer provide security updates, software updates and technical support for computers running Windows 7. Start upgrading the Windows 7 computers in your organizations or in your homes to Windows 10 ASAP.

This website, Windows 7 End of Life provides a nice countdown along with a calculator to determine how many computers you will need to upgrade per month, per week, or per day given the number of Windows 7 computers you have left to upgrade.

Nash Pherson, the creator of the Win 7 End of Life website also provides a nice PowerShell script to find all the Windows 7 computer objects remaining in your Active Directory. Great resource, Thanks Nash!

This is the Windows Lifecycle Fact Sheet for every Windows product available, which provides information for support timelines and more.

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Microsoft Insider Programs

Microsoft provides several Insider programs which you can participate to get a preview of the latest features and updates, as well as provide feedback to Microsoft for bugs, issues, and request features.

In case you are trying to figure out what Insider programs are available and how you can sign up to participate, see below for the individual programs.

Windows Insider
Bing Insider
Microsoft Edge Insider
Microsoft Office Insider
MSIX Insider
Visual Studio Code Insider
Visual Studio Preview
Skype Insider
Xbox Insider

Source: https://insider.microsoft.com/en-us

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Microsoft MVP 2019-2020 Renewal

I’m so Thankful, honored, and excited to receive the above email from the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) Award team confirming my award renewal for the 2018-2019 year. This is my second consecutive award since receiving my first one on January 1, 2017. It has been a wonderful, exciting, fun, challenging, and rewarding experience with endless opportunities.

The MVP award has provided me with some great opportunities in terms of my career growth, skill development, and avenues to give back and help others in the IT Professional community. I have been invited to speak at conferences such as Microsoft Ignite (Orlando 2017 & 2018), MVP Community Connections (Boston and New York City), TechMentor, IT/Dev Connections, MMSMOA, user groups, various webinars, as well as opportunities to guest blog, join technical expert panelist, review technical books, test and evaluate software, provide technical expertise, guest speak on podcasts, community reporter at Microsoft Ignite 2017, community engagement specialist at various events, and much more.

This is my 3rd MVP Award and I am very grateful and appreciative for it and for the various opportunities provided to me over time. Thank you very much to each and every one of you for making me successful in my efforts as a MVP, IT Professional, and community contributor, and for providing me with the valuable resources and networking opportunities. Thank you!

MVP Profile

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Windows PXE Boot Issues – KB4493467 (April 9, 2019)

Microsoft has acknowledged an issue with PXE boot affecting Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2 systems caused by a Security-Only update (KB4493467) released on April 9, 2019.

The Issue:

After installing this update, there may be issues using the Preboot Execution Environment (PXE) to start a device from a Windows Deployment Services (WDS) server configured to use Variable Window Extension. This may cause the connection to the WDS server to terminate prematurely while downloading the image. This issue does not affect clients or devices that are not using Variable Window Extension.

The Workaround:

To mitigate the issue, disable the Variable Window Extension on WDS server using one of the following options:

Option 1:
Open an Administrator Command prompt and type the following:

Wdsutil /Set-TransportServer /EnableTftpVariableWindowExtension:No

Option 2:
Use the Windows Deployment Services UI.

  1. Open Windows Deployment Services from Windows Administrative Tools.
  2. Expand Servers and right-click a WDS server.
  3. Open its properties and clear the Enable Variable Window Extension box on the TFTP tab.

Option 3:
Set the following registry value to 0:

HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Services\WDSServer\Providers\WDSTFTP\EnableVariableWindowExtension”.

Restart the WDSServer service after disabling the Variable Window Extension.

Microsoft is working on a resolution and will provide an update in an upcoming release.

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Windows 10 Automatically Uninstalls Problematic Software Updates

Patch Management is an important role of a Sysadmin in the Enterprise, because securing endpoints with security updates to keep systems secure and functional, receive fixes that resolve issues, and patch security holes is highly important. However, with the frequency of security updates which are released these days, patch management tasks feels like a full-time job!

For the most part, monthly patches are straight forward, however in recent months, they have been problematic where they have caused system crashes, blue screens, application functionality issues, and introduced other bugs. Some faulty patches are quickly reversed or rectified by Microsoft, while others go unfixed for a longer duration causing further duress and downtime in many organizations. This has been a major pain point for Sysadmins in the field.

Well, we may have some reprieve from these buggy patches. Microsoft has announced that it will start uninstalling problematic patches automatically from Windows 10 systems when it detects a startup issue due to incompatibility or issues stemming from a recently installed patch. The following notification will be presented:
“We removed some recently installed updates to recover your device from a startup failure.”

According to this KB4492307 posted by Microsoft, the problematic patch will not be reinstalled for 30 days to allow Microsoft and it’s partners to investigate and fix the issues. This process seems like a good proactive approach by Microsoft to get a handle of buggy patches, however more information is needed in terms of how this will work with detection, deployments, and compliance of these patches using ConfigMgr and WSUS as mechanisms for patch management in the enterprise. Time will tell, we hope!

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Free Microsoft Learning For AI

Microsoft is a leading edge company for Artificial Intelligence (AI) and has been working in this space for quite some time to bring AI into business processes including several Microsoft products.

Today, Microsoft announced via a blog post “Microsoft launches business school focused on AI strategy, culture and responsibility” that it is providing a free learning platform for AI at Microsoft AI Business School. This is going to be a hot sector in the Information Technology industry and now is a good time to get your feet wet with some AI knowledge. Happy learning!

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Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT 8456) Released

The Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) has been released and the most current build (8456) which can be downloaded from the Microsoft Download Center. This update requires the Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit (ADK) for Windows 10 version 1809 (10.1.17763.1) which is available for download on the Microsoft Hardware Dev Center.

The official MDT release note are available here:
https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/sccm/mdt/release-notes

Some of the significant changes in this update include:

  • Supported configuration updates
    • Windows ADK for Windows 10, version 1809
    • Windows 10, version 1809
    • Configuration Manager, version 1810
  • Major changes
    • Nested task sequence support for LTI scenario
    • Modern language pack supportNote 1
    • Support for Configuration Manager version 1810Note 2
    • IsVM evaluates to False on Parallels VMs
    • IsVM = False when VMware VM is configured with EFI boot firmware
    • Gather doesn’t recognize All-in-One chassis type
    • MDT doesn’t automatically install BitLocker on Windows Server 2016
    • BDEDisablePreProvisioning typo in ZTIGather.xml

Check out Johan Arwidmark’s “A Geeks Guide for upgrading to MDT 8456” blog post for steps to upgrade MDT as a standalone and in ConfigMgr.

The following post provides some information on How to get help with MDT, in case you need it.

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Windows Server 2019 Now Available

The ISO download for Windows Server 2019 has been released and is now available from the Microsoft Volume Licensing Service Center (VLSC) portal. You’ll find the 64-bit ISO file with a download size of 4351 MB.


Here’s a short description of Windows Server as seen in the VLSC portal. To learn more about Windows Server 2019, such as features, deployment, management, system requirements, and more, read HERE!

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