Mark Minasi's Windows Networking Tech Page
Issue #111 September 2013

Document copyright 2013 Mark Minasi; please see below for info on subscribing, unsubscribing or copying portions of this text.

What's Inside

  • News
    • Learn with My Seminars, Audio Recordings and More!
  • Tech Section
    • Watch My Video on Why You Should Be Learning PowerShell.  Please.
    • The scoop on Fall 2013 Windows Connections and TechMentor (Three Weeks From Now!)
    • The NSA Revelations:  Why are we Even Talking About Syria?
  • Conferences
  • To Subscribe, Unsubscribe, Read Old Newsletters or Change Your Email Address


Hi all —

This month, this brief and a slightly unusual newsletter covers three things.  First, I've finally got the video from the "The Case For PowerShell:  Why You Should Learn-PowerShell So You Needn't Leave-Industry" webinar that I did twice last month, and I've got a link where you can watch it, download it or whatever.  Second, I've gotten a lot of questions from regular conference-goers about the unusual situation wherein the autumn versions of TechMentor and Windows Connections are happening three weeks from today on the same week, in the same city.  (It's a little complicated, but it'll be a "good news" story for some.)  Finally, I'm going to put on my "tech journalist" hat for a page and talk about something that's been puzzling me since last Friday (6 September 2013) and ask, "why the heck are we talking about Syria when the NSA revelations are far, far bigger?"  I hope you'll find this interesting but first, a word from our sponsor...

Watch My Video on Why You Should Be Learning PowerShell.  Please.

Sometimes I write about things because I think that they're important to the industry.  Other times, I advocate that you learn some technology because I strongly think that it'll help your career.  And once in a while, I speak about some technology that is just plain fun.  (I know... I need to get out more.)

Very rarely, I get to take on a cause that does all three and honestly, when that happens, it just doesn't get any better.  That's why I haven't been able to shut up about PowerShell for the past few years.  So when my friends at LearnIT! asked if I'd put together a one-hour lunchtime chat about something technological, I said, "sure... can I talk about PowerShell?"  Two Wednesdays ago, LearnIT! rented some bandwidth and server time, and I did a talk that I call "The Case for PowerShell:  Why You Should Learn-PowerShell So You Needn't Leave-Industry."  We were expecting about 100 attendees, so when 800 showed up, the whole thing kind of came apart -- apologies to everyone who couldn't attend the first webinar.  LearnIT! wanted to make all of those almost-attendees happy, so they rented a bunch more bandwidth and server time, and we did it again last Wednesday, again to a huge crowd.  Many folks, however, still couldn't attend, wanted to hear it again or wanted their boss to listen to it, and so my friend Kathleen Dollard -- who is a Camtasia genius (which is why so many folks love her PluralSight videos) took the WMV from the webinar, removed the excess stuff, and created a 66-minute video that I've got up on Skydrive.  So stream it, download it, drop it on a torrent, pass it to your friends or whatever you like from here:

Update: Microsoft has suspended my SkyDrive account, so please try one of these, and apologies for the inconvenience:


Reader Geoff Duke has also kindly mirrored the file here (thanks Geoff!) where you can download it:

In a few words, the video says this:  PowerShell is the premier platform for administrative tools in the Windows world, and will be for the foreseeable future.  Even better, you'll like it, even if you hate command-line tools.  And just to prove it, I teach you a little PowerShell, finding time in the hour to fit in some simple automation.

I'm not exaggerating when I say that while I get a lot of kind feedback from readers and attendees, none have been as frequent and downright excited as folks who I've helped getting started with PowerShell.  But don't believe me... please give the video a try and let me know.  Thanks!

8.1 RTM and 2012R2 RTM are Out

In case you hadn't heard!  If you've got an MSDN or TechNet subscription, head on over there and you can pull down the "1.1" of Microsoft's desktop and server OSes.

The Scoop on Fall 2013 Windows Connections and TechMentor (Three Weeks From Today!)

If you're a regular attendee to the various Windows-related conferences out there, you probably know that three weeks from today, TechMentor Vegas and Windows Connections Vegas both begin their week-long shows.  Yes, they are running on the same week and the same city but hey, things work out that way sometimes.  (Don't blame me, I'm just the piano player.)  Anyway, this same-city-two-shows situation has made a few dozen readers in the past few months ask me how to choose between them, so I thought I'd share my point of view with all of you in the hopes of helping any fence-sitters decide one way or the other.  The fall edition of both shows usually run in Vegas and is typically larger than the spring shows, and this year is no exception in both cases... no news there.  What isn't the same as usual, however, is what they'll cover, and how they cover it, as you'll see.

Windows Connections:  Less "Server", More "System Center"

Fall Connections always encompasses a combination of both IT pro-oriented and developer-oriented talks and topics, but this year they fill out the menu with a bunch of System Center-oriented talks.  About half of the slots in the Windows track refer explicitly to System Center, a few deal with other add-ons like MDOP, inTune and UE-V, and the remainder refer to Hyper-V, PowerShell, Microsoft's free deployment tools, Microsoft's cloud services, and a small but interesting array of "big picture / futures / planning" talks.  With this show, then, Connections is de-emphasizing the "optimizing your AD," "what are the best SAN options for Windows networks" or "building a PKI" kinds of talks -- things built around what's in-the-box with Server -- and moving strongly into System Center education.  So if System Center is on the top of your "things to do" list, Connections may be your best bet!

The folks who run fall Connections have been kind enough to give me an early keynote on what's new in Windows 8.1 and Server 2012R2, a talk on managing Server 2012 and I get to host my friend Mark Russinovich in an onstage chat wherein he'll share some unique under-the-hood tales of Microsoft's massive Azure cloud.

Find out more at, and if you decide to register, then Penton has given me a discount code to share with you:  ITDMVP13.

TechMentor:  Fewer Sessions, Deeper Coverage

TechMentor has also undergone some changes, changing not so much in content focus but in depth, and in a way that I don't recall seeing any Windows show do.  TechMentor has always differentiated itself from other Windows-ish shows with significant breadth beyond the Microsoft universe.  They've always stood alone with their perennial inclusion of a track for those interested in Microsoft certification, and have regularly offered extensive coverage of non-Microsoft topics like Cisco certification, VMWare and network penetration, to name a few.  Like most technical conferences, their sessions have traditionally run 75 minutes in length, a duration that I sometimes joke is the "ISO standard length of a technical talk."  That's a nice amount of time, but a growing number of conferences are trimming that length to 60 minutes, which I think is totally wrong.  (It feels more like a good length for a technical sales presentation.)  Techmentor, in contrast, is going the other way, running all of their sessions at three or four hours.  Even better, some of the sessions feature hands-on exercises.  That means that you'll see fewer sessions on the catalog, but keep in mind that every topic will get far deeper coverage!

The folks who run TechMentor have given me a four-hour precon on 2012's new file server permissions system, Dynamic Access Control and trust me, understanding DAC needs time!  I've also got a three hour session on networking Windows Server 2012 (including lots of PowerShell), and three hours on Hyper-V clustering for beginners.

Find out more and get my registration discount at this link:

I hope to see some of you at one or the other show in Vegas!

The NSA Revelations:  Why Are We Even Talking About Syria?

Relax; before you ask, that headline isn't political, it's just amazement.  It's not a comment on the U.S. government, it's a bit of befuddlement about the U.S. print and electronic press.

Last Friday, I was having lunch with my friend Kathleen, as I owed her lunch for her kind video editing.  We were looking at CNN's iPad app browsing the news of the day, which, as we're American, was all about Syria, chemical weapons, and, as it's CNN, what color eye shadow Kim Kardashian is sporting these days.  Yes, Syria's a big story and the use of chemical weapons by anybody is terrible, but inasmuch as neither Mr. Obama, the UN or Mr. Assad are likely to ask my opinion on the matter, I just kind skimmed the stories and hoped for the best.

But then Kathleen pointed out an article, a kind of below-the-fold piece about some new revelations arising from the files leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.  Basically, the news -- which came from the Guardian, who's doing a great job shining a light on the particularly scary nuggets in the huge pile of stuff that Snowden has leaked -- said that basically the US National Security Agency (NSA) has, through a combination of dirty tricks, brute-force computing and clever math been able to nullify much of the encryption that we trust implicitly and that is essentially the bedrock of modern communications, privacy and commerce.  Some of the high points, vastly simplified, are:

  • If the NSA wants to examine or eavesdrop on anything you do on a Windows or Apple computer, it can easily install a Trojan that no anti-malware software can detect.  That lets them get even the most complex password, if it's stored on your system.
  • They have strong-armed some security vendors into putting back doors into their products.  One of those vendors is rumored to be Microsoft.
  • The NSA pretty much runs WireShark on every ISP, telecom and other communications provider in the country.
  • The NSA keeps a complete database of every email sent through US wires for the past few weeks -- they haven't storage for more yet -- and a simple app lets NSA analysts search to see not only who you've been emailing (the "metadata" that the NSA has already admitted to), but what you've emailed.
  • Some folks observe that the NSA has 11,000 mathematicians on their payroll, and that they may have found exploitable flaws in modern encryption schemes.  In other words, your private keys may not be all that private.

Here are a few links I found interesting:

There's more, but honestly that's not what I see as the most amazing thing here.  Instead, I've been amazed about how little response I've seen about this news.  Saturday morning, I turned on the news channels, expecting to hear more details, NSA denials, government reaction, people marching in the streets.  But all I heard was Syria and chemical weapons.  Sunday... same story, and today, 9 September 2013, no change.

Look, Syria's important, and there are strong arguments on both sides.  Whatever the American government does or doesn't do about chemical weapons in the next few weeks is important, and if you're reading this as an American citizen, then I strongly suggest that you get smart about it and share your opinion with your representative in Congress.  (You know, like when we all sent them emails telling them not to spend trillions on TARP.  Oh, wait, they ignored us.  Hmmm.  Never mind.) 

Seriously, I just want to suggest that the recent NSA revelations are important, very important, and to we IT pros in particular.  If SSL, certificates and VPNs are a joke, then all of us IT pros are out of business.  (Maybe it's time to brush up on your Linux skills... when you get the source code, you know there aren't any NSA backdoors.)  Snowden wasn't even an employee, he was a contractor, and he took this stuff out the door to leak it to the world... how long will it be before someone else with NSA information decides to arrange an early retirement by quietly selling NSA's spymaster tools, information, and keys to some bad guy?

Look, I don't have the answers.  I understand that it's a big old scary world and that every big country and probably a bunch of large non-governmental organizations are all trying to hack each other, and that whatever the NSA's up to, there are at least a few other players doing exactly the same thing.  But I really, really, really wish that every stakeholder from the most casual Internet user to the techiest IT pro were talking less about chemical weapons, and more about computational weapons.

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All contents copyright 2013 Mark Minasi.  I encourage you to quote this material, so long as you include this entire document. Thanks very much for reading, and see you next time.