Want to know what’s going on? Come to the Black Marble Tech Update

It’s January, which can only mean one thing. It’s time for the annual Black Marble Tech Update. If you’re an IT or development manager, come along to hear the stuff you need to know about Microsoft’s releases and updates last year and what we know so far about what is coming this year.

Tech Updates are hard work to prepare for, but they’re quite exhilarating to present. In the morning, myself, Andy and Andrew will run through the key moves and changes in the Microsoft ecosystem to help IT managers with their strategic planning: What’s coming out of support, what’s got a new release due; in short, what do you need to pay attention to for your organisation’s IT.

In the afternoon Robert, Richard and Steve will be covering what’s important to know in the Microsoft developer landscape and this year they are joined by Martin Beeby from the Microsoft DX team.

You can find the Tech Update on our website as two events (IT Managers in the morning, Developers in the afternoon). Feel free to register for the one that most interests you. Most people stay for the whole day and leave with their heads buzzing.

Microsoft People-centric IT Roadshow

Microsoft UK have been running technical events around the UK for a couple of years now, and it’s a great thing. Too many events are focused in the south of England and there are lots of IT pros north of the M25!

Starting on Monday, the latest series of events kicks off. The People-Centric IT roadshow content is being delivered by MVPs from across the UK and Ireland. Covering hot-topics like Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and information security, the sessions will talk about using the appropriate tooling from across the Microsoft stack to address these real-world problems.

You should think about attending if you want to learn more about:

  • Using System Center and Intune for managing desktops, operating systems and devices.
  • Managing desktop and application delivery with VDI
  • Using technologies like DirectAccess, Work Folders and Dynamic Access Control to give easy and secure access to data.
  • Using Active Directory Federation Services as part of your identity portfolio.

As always, the more people support these roadshows, particularly outside London, the more Microsoft will deliver similar events.

More information about each of the days can be found on the event pages, here:

11th June 2014 – Edinburgh

12th June 2014 – Sunderland

13th June 2014 – Birmingham

16th June 2014 – Bristol

17th June 2014 – Reading

The Sunderland event is being supported by our good friends at NEBytes, too!

Speaking at UK Tech.Days Online 2013

I’ve been supporting the great team of evangelists at Microsoft with their UK Tech.Days events for some time now. I am chuffed to bits that they have asked me to contribute to the fantastic UK Tech.Days Online event. If you haven’t heard about it, go look at the agenda right now! Three days of great content on the latest technologies covering client, server, cloud and dev. The whole thing will be streamed live thanks to the wonder of the internet and includes a live interview with Steve Ballmer.

I am doing a session with the marvellous Steve Plank on the technologies that enable you to move your on-premises VMs into Azure and then a solo session on Windows Azure Backup – something we use already at BM as part of our DPM configuration. Sandwiched between those will be one where Steve covers the kind of automation you can achieve with PowerShell for Windows Azure.

Robert is also involved – I believe he is speaking during the very first session of day 1, on Windows 8.1.

It’s a privilege to be involved in Tech.Days Online and I’m really looking forward to it. Go register and I look forward to answering all your great questions on the day!

Unexpectedly now doing a session at DDD North 2013

I had a surprise exchange of text messages last night with Andy Westgarth. Sadly, one of the people who was to speak in one of the first session slots has had to pull out. Andy did the thing all the best conference organisers do – he called his friends! As a result, Richard and myself will be presenting a session about our experience with Lab Manager on Saturday morning.

Lab Manager is an interesting part of the development puzzle, allowing automated provisioning of environments that can then have software deployed to them and automated tests run against them. However, building a good Lab Manager environment (or machines to then be composed into an environment) is a very different task than the bare-metal scripting guerrilla devops approach that is very en-vogue right now. Richard and I will speak about how we run our Lab from both the perspective of the development/ALM specialist (that would be him!) and the IT guy (that would be me!).

I’ve also been asked to take lots of photos at the event, so if you see me wandering around with my camera, smile and say hi!

Grok talking at DDDNorth 2013

DDD North 2013 is almost upon us and I hope you’re all converging on Sunderland for what should be a great for devs. I’ll be helping out during the day, and I will also be doing a short Grok Talk on how Generation 2 Virtual Machines in Windows 8.1 and Server 2012 are new, different and cool. Come along and heckle, why don’t you?

Being allowed out in public: Forthcoming events

It’s autumn again, and that means event season is upon us once more. In the next few months I’m getting around a bit, so this post is a plug for the events I’m either attending or speaking at.

  • October 1st is VMUG Leeds. I’m registered to attend, but chances are I’ll be spending much of the day helping the Microsoft guys run their hand-on lab. The agenda has some great-sounding sessions and I believe there are still spaces so why not register and come along.
  • October 12th is DDDNorth in Sunderland. Perhaps unsurprisingly my Lab Manager session wasn’t voted in, but I’m sure that’s because the range of speakers and topics available to choose from during voting meant hard choice had to be made <grin/>. As with last year, I’m helping out on the day but I’m also hoping to attend (heckle) some of the sessions. Black Marble should be there in force, as Richard, Steve and Gary are all speaking. Former BM staffer Iain Angus’ session looks interesting too!
  • December 4th is the Black Marble Architecture Forum in the North. With so many great speakers lined up already I’m not sure if Linda will squeeze me in, but I’ll certainly be there to join in the discussion (and make sure the AV works!).
  • January 29th is the Black Marble Annual Tech Update. I’ll be speaking in the morning, IT-focused session. It’s hard work to prep for but great fun to deliver and the feedback we get is always really great so come along if you want to be informed about the Microsoft roadmap to help your planning process. The afternoon session covers the development technologies too!
  • Microsoft also have a new season of Tech.Days about to kick off, so keep an eye on their web site for details.

Links from presentation on Server 2012 R2

Thanks to all who attended the ReBuild and TechEd revisited event today. I promised that I would post the links from the final slide to this blog so you can all start evaluating Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2.

Download and evaluate the Preview software


Refer to additional Windows Server 2012 R2 resources


Windows Server 2012 R2 on TechNet


Refer to additional System Center 2012 R2 resources


System Center marketplace


Server and Cloud Blog


Tech Update for Public Sector

Right now I am putting the finishing touches to my deck for an event Black Marble are running at Cardinal Place next week. As many of you will know, for the past ten years we have run the annual Tech Update covering moves and changes across the entire Microsoft spectrum of products. Until now that has only taken place in Leeds but for the first time we are taking that show on the road.

On Monday 20th May Robert and I will present our Tech Update for Public Sector. Everything you need to know about the Microsoft family for executive planning, as current as we can be. I always enjoy presenting at Cardinal Place and I’m looking forward to it.

As luck would have it, the following day is the Microsoft Management Summit recap, also at Cardinal Place. I’m attending rather than presenting for a change, so if you’re on the cloud track say hi!

Notes from the North East: Imagine Cup Hackathon 2012

We had a great time at the Imagine Cup North East Hackathon this weekend. Black Marble turned out in force with myself, Steve, Richard, Robert, Linda, Josh and Riccardo all helping out. Andy Westgarth and the guys at Sunderland Software City had done a solid job on the organisation and we were well looked after.

There were nine teams there in total, from a wide range of Universities and Colleges in the Newcastle/Sunderland area. I was impressed by their ideas and their tenacity in defending those ideas against a barrage of questions from myself and others. I was also taken by the range of ages we had. Some of the teams were A-level and college students, whilst others were in various years of their university degree courses. Even if they don’t make it through to the national finals this year, the younger teams will gain great experience and can enter again next year and beyond.

Linda has uploaded photos that myself and Josh took during the hackathon to the Black Marble Facebook page and you can find tweets with the #ICNE hashtag.

I’d like to give a big thanks to Finlay Mann for his help over the weekend. Unfortunately, the speaker lined up to run the User Experience workshop was unwell, so I stepped into the breach with Finlay. With no preparation and no slides we managed to cover the subject well, with lots of examples from our own experience.

Thanks are also due to Dan, Liam and  Colin from last years winning North East teams who, along with Riccardo and Josh did sterling work answering questions and helping teams with technical issues all through the night when us oldies had gone to get some sleep!

Gary Short delivered a great session on presentation skills, which is an area where I still feel universities badly let down their students. We were also grateful for mentors from Sage and Ubisoft who gave their time, ran workshops and spoke to teams over the weekend.

Hopefully we will make it back up north for the NEBytes session in March where the teams are invited to attend and practice their presentations for the regional final. All the teams that took part in that last year said how useful it was to receive comments, constructive criticism and questions from the user group attendees.

Overall it was a thoroughly enjoyable day and I’d like to give a hearty congratulations to the attending teams, whose ideas I watched develop and grown over the course of the event and who presented those ideas well to the group at the end of a very tiring hackathon. Well done all!

Looking forward to the Imagine Cup Hackathon

It’s a busy week this week and I’m really looking forward to being involved with the Imagine Cup Hackathon for the North East Region this Friday and Saturday (1st and 2nd February).

Black Marble have a long history of supporting the UK Imagine Cup teams and it’s great to be able to continue that support. We’ll be in The Life Science Centre, Newcastle upon Tyne in force this week. Steve Spencer, Richard Fennell, Robert Hogg and myself will be accompanied by Riccardo Viglianisi and Josh Whittle from Black Marble.

We’ll be proving help and support to teams from the North East alongside Andy Westgarth, MVP and founder of NEBytes, who has worked hard alongside Sunderland Software City and Steve Spencer to promote the Imagine Cup across north eastern schools, universities and colleges. We’ll also be joined by Black Marble event regular Gary Short and members of last year’s North Eastern Region winning teams.

That makes a total of five Microsoft MVP’s, hopefully five members of last years winning teams and other enthusiastic supporters (that would be me!). If you are already involved in the Imagine Cup in the North East we’ll see you there. If not, head over to the Imagine Cup site, or see if your university, college or school is already involved for more information on how to take part. You can register to attend the hackathon on its eventbrite page.