Tag Archive for OSX

SpiceWorld London Day Two

So that’s it, finito, over, done! Day two of SpiceWorld London is officially closed, and we are all left contemplating what we’ve learned, the new acquaintances made and how we are going to use the information we have learned over the past couple of days to influence our jobs and careers moving forward.

With the removal of the marketing track and most of the main hall sessions, today was a quieter, more tech focussed event than Tuesday. The more subdued atmosphere may also have something to do with last nights party of course… That said, I saw significantly more discussion and interaction at the sessions I attended, which always makes for a more engaging event. I was able to catch 4 sessions on a variety of subjects including cryptography, Windows 10, certification and a session on the SpiceWorks community, and what they’re developing.

The first (and most well attended) session of the day was on all of the new improvements and features in Windows 10. Two of those features in particular stood out to me, one of which generated some (rather heated) debate in the room!

The first feature which rather concerned me was around the potential privacy issues with Cortana. There have been a number of fairly high profile privacy issues with recent editions of OS X and Ubuntu, yet Microsoft seem to be quite happy to have joined in. Many smarter people than me have articulated the risks of the direction in which our industry is headed when it comes to privacy!

The feature which actually generated the most debate in the room was around the requirement to have a Microsoft Account in order to use the features of Cortana, and the subsequent impact it may have when user’s either want (or don’t want) to use their personal accounts to enable this feature on their corporate devices. Undoubtedly this would be Microsoft’s preference as it enables them to build up a more accurate profile of you from the data collected in both halves of your life (tin foil hats at the ready people!).

hat

The alternative of course if for users to maintain two separate identities with MS, for example based on their corporate email. This then has the potential to lead to confusion for users, and additional work for the IT department who most likely have to setup and support these accounts, in addition to everything else they have to manage. There were some fairly strong opinions in the room to say the least, and the atmosphere got pretty tense at one point!

On the plus side, it was nice to be reminded that Microsoft do seem to be taking security pretty seriously these days. Here’s a quick reminder of all of the security features now built into Windows:

The final session I attended mirrored the first in many ways, being all about IT certification, this time led by CBT Nuggets instructor Chris Ward. Chris’ style of presentation was very different, and the structured part of the session was relatively short, lending itself to a much more interactive event. One discussion I found particularly interesting was started by one of the attendees who runs a team of contractors at a large organisation. His challenge was with an individual who was still working from some very old certs and skills, who kept saying he had no time to train himself and that the company should send him on a paid VMware course. To me, there are numerous issues with this situation, and yes I may be over simplifying a bit, but:

  • One of the reasons for using contractors is that they help you to fill skills gaps. If you have a team full of contractors, and you don’t have the right skills available, you’re doing contracting/outsourcing wrong!
  • Yes, contractors earn more and pay less tax, but they need to fund their own holidays, and more importantly, their own development. It’s not all roses! If contractors are not willing to invest in their own skills, why would an organisation want to hire (or in this case renew) them?
  • Contractor or not, people can’t expect their employer to drive their training, or indeed fund all of it. Individuals need to take some level of responsibility for this themselves, particularly in this new Self Study Era we seem to be moving into…

My final key takeaway from Chris’ presentation was something which I intend to make my life’s goal; maintaining the grooming standard!

Mullet
Reflecting back on the past couple of days I would say that you are in of a first or second line IT engineering role, perhaps working as the sole IT guy in an SMB, or even as an IT manager, then the Spiceworld conference is definitely worth checking out! There are a wide variety of sessions on different areas of IT and you can dip in and out of subjects depending on your interests. You can also take this one step further by attending your local SpiceCorps meet up.

If you want to go that bit deeper dive, then on you might want to consider either alternatively or additionally attending some of the more vendor focussed user groups such as VMUG or CitrixUG, and if talking to tech marketers is your thing, there are plenty of them at the massive vendor agnostic events such as Cloud Expo and Apps World.

Disclaimer: Please note that Spiceworks kindly provided my entry to the event, but there was no expectation or request for me to write about their products or services.

Public Speaking Tips for Tech Talks and #VMUG Sessions

Keep Calm and Speak at a VMUG

Public speaking can be daunting if you don’t do it regularly (and sometimes, even if you do!). As part of my role I regularly talk to small groups of 5-10 people, but this year I have had the opportunity to speak a couple of times at the London VMUG.

The following tips are a combination of my own experience, both where I think things in my sessions went well, and equally where I could definitely have improved. Many thanks to Mike Laverick, Simon Gallagher, Andrew Audsley and Mark Wilson for their presenting and technical tips as well!

Presentation Tips

  • Facts, figures, best practices and suggested configurations are interesting, but sharing of real life experiences is what people come to hear. Anecdotes are much more interesting.
  • Talking about what works and what went well is great, but issues or things that didn’t quite work out as you expected are just as valuable, if not more so.
  • Gauging the audiences level of knowledge / experience early on can be very helpful. The first thing I did in my last presentation was to ask how many people in the room worked with or designed storage on a regular basis. As it was a “Noddy’s Guide”, I was expecting few hands, but in fact ¾ of the room put their hand up! The advantage of asking this up front is that I was able to tweak my session to the audience by dropping or de-emphasizing a lot of the simpler stuff and concentrating on the more complex / interesting bits.
  • By talking about what you did / would do in a scenario, as opposed what you think other people should do, they are be more likely to be receptive. This subtle difference can change the feel of a session from being a lecture, into a discussion. If the intention of the session is to get people to interact, this might encourage people to step up and say what they would do in the same situation, or to talk about their experiences.
  • If you are not 100% sure of / expert in all of your content, consider including “islands” of content at regular intervals (e.g. every 10-15 minutes), where you know the content really well. This means if you happen to start to drift and lose your way a bit, you can anchor to the bits you know really well and build your confidence back up before moving on to the next bit of the presentation.
  • Don’t be off put if you don’t get a huge amount of interaction, especially with large groups. The bigger the audience, the less interaction you are likely to get, unless you specifically ask for it or start picking on audience members!
VMUG Audiences Are Friendly!

Dont worry… VMUG audiences are friendly!

  • Don’t be nervous about the audience! Much like a wedding speech, its worth remembering that the VMUG audience at a community session really want the speaker to succeed. It’s unlikely you will find a more friendly and willing audience in almost any other situation.
  • Lists are not exciting, and neither are multiple slides of “and another thing” type of comments. I definitely felt I should have tried to break up my last session into different types of content and context, which would have made it more interesting.
  • Even if you plan your presentation to the minute in advance, things never quite work out that way! You are likely to be asked questions, stopped mid flow, projectors turn themselves off and start smelling a bit smoky etc… the best thing to do is plan a shorter presentation as you will undoubtedly use all the time anyway!
  • When it comes to slides less is most definitely more!
  • You don’t actually have to go through every line on every slide, sometimes simply picking out the most pertinent bits can make for better flow, and the decks are usually available after anyway, so someone who is really interested can read the detail if they want to.
  • One other tip which Duncan Epping gave recently and I definitely agree with is to practice your presentation a few times through in advance, but don’t over-practice and end up being too robotic. Everyone has their own style but I personally like to use the slides as a talking point and guide, rather than planning word-for-word what I’m going to say.
  • Once you have your initial draft, try it out on some friends or colleagues in the industry. This can be invaluable for working out your timing and getting a feel for what works and what doesn’t. I ended up rewriting large chunks of my storage presentation after running through it with some guys from my team at work.
  • Don’t forget about the awesome FeedForward initiative! I was fortunate enough to have the inimitable Mike Laverick provide me with FeedForward prior to both of my London VMUG sessions, and in both cases he provided lots of valuable suggestions and improvements to my content and style as well as coming up with a few ideas I hadn’t even considered.

Tech Tips

  • As I have painfully discovered first hand, no matter how much prep and testing I did on my slide deck, it still went wrong! From now on I plan to have a backup plan; a PDF copy I can whip out if PowerPoint goes nuts again!
  • Don’t use PowerPoint animations… they’re unreliable at best!
Sacrifice to the Gods of Demos

Sacrifice to the Gods of Demos

  • If you are going to do a live demo, don’t forget to sacrifice an old laptop, phone, printer or other electronic device to the gods of Demos! [Alternatively, you could just record a copy of your demo in case it all goes wrong then you have a backup plan].
    A prime example of this (and I’m sure he won’t mind me sharing it) was our London VMUG’s very own Simon Gallagher who was doing a software demo. He tested it successfully just minutes before his presentation was due to start. During his presentation the demo then decided to fail! After a bit of investigation, Simon realised that the license key on his software ran out in the few minutes between his last test, and his live demo starting. Talk about unlucky timing?!
  • [Mac] Mirroring screen contents instead of using presenter view tends to work more consistently, rather than extending the desktop to the projector. In my day-to-day work this is what I have always done and its always worked very reliably. It does mean you can’t use speaker notes though of course.
  • [Mac] Consider running PowerPoint in Parallels or Fusion on Windows. The Windows version of PowerPoint is apparently more consistent!

If you have any more tips or suggestions you think would be worth adding to the list, please feel free to contact me and I’ll be happy to add them for the benefit of others!

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