Under the wire – New Vehicle is official

My wife got a new vehicle before the end of the year.  We knew going into it that we may have an issue with trading in our Expedition as we didn’t have the physical Title.  When we paid off the vehicle, the Arizona DMV sent the title to our old address in North Carolina.  We knew we would probably need to file for a new copy, but decided to take a chance and see what the dealers could do.

When we went to the Dealer, I was up front with them regarding the fact that we didn’t have the Title and the Title was from Arizona.  Their reply was “No problem”.  Of course! 

I have to say that this experience with buying a vehicle was pretty painless and quick.  Until the finance guy came out with the sales guy and told us that there was one problem.  They couldn’t do a Lost Title claim because the vehicle was out of state.  /Sigh

I told them fine, and we’d be back once we got the title.  He promptly stopped us and told us that they had an idea.  We could just fill out the form at the dealership and send it in and we would swap vehicles.  There is always a catch though.  They said we would need to have Title to them by January 30th.  If that didn’t happen we had two options.  1) swap vehicles back or 2) give them the money that they gave us – essentially buying the Expedition back.  They also thought that the title would only take 1-2 weeks to get.  I laughed – come on, this is government we are talking about.  It wasn’t going to be that quick.

Time went on, and after two weeks, Crystal had called the DMV and they indicated it will take 4-6 weeks to get the title.  Well 4 weeks was fine as that would be Jan 30th.  6 weeks would be an issue. 

Last Friday (Jan 27th), I called the Arizona DMV to see if we could get a status on the request.  They indicated that they got the request and it was in processing.  They said the title should be mailed out on Friday, or Monday.  So, that was good news at least – but man they really meant 4 weeks.

That Saturday, Crystal told me (excitedly have you) that we got the Title in the mail.  So, we were good to go.  Right at the end of the count down.  I dropped the Title off at the dealer yesterday and it is officially ours now.  Time to get the DVD players installed.

Say hello to our little friend!

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System Center Advisor launches!

System Center Advisor Product Summary

Today is the day that System Center Advisor released.  It has been in Beta for a while.  John Allwright did a blog post about the release.  Here is a little of what he had to say:

System Center Advisor is a cloud service hosted on Windows Azure that regularly analyzes your servers’ configuration, drawing on the wisdom and experience of Microsoft support staff and its countless interactions with IT professionals to automatically highlight server configuration problems and their solutions for Windows Server and SQL Server. You check for any recommendations by logging into the Advisor portal. You also have the option of email alerts and recommendations delivered directly to your inbox.

You can read the full post here.  You can also check out the Product Page here.

For myself, it is really awesome to see this product released.  I got to know Paul Mestemaker (@paulmest) via this project.  He worked closely with the SQL Support group –  mainly Bob Ward (@bobwardms) and Suresh Kandoth – with a little help from me.  It involved a lot of research and validation on the rules.  I think it’s awesome that the rules were worked on by the support groups.  As Bob called it – Support in a Box, or the Cloud in this case.

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I’m really looking forward to see where this product goes and how it can help our Customers!

Posted in SQL

Getting “Work At Home” working for me

I’ve never been a big fan of working at home.  This has evolved over time though.

The Early Years (Kinda)

Early is relative as I’ve only been with Microsoft for about 6 years.  But when I first started, we were able to VPN into the office using our Smart Card.  This was kinda clunky and slow but allowed us access.  From my point of view, my only real option was to RDP into my Desktop machine at the office to actually work and use the tools I had to use from a Support Perspective.  This was done from my desktop at home as I didn’t have a laptop.

While usable, I didn’t really care for it as it restricted me to a single monitor.  I love multi-monitor and am really way more productive with more screens.  I’ve found that 4 is my sweet spot.  I had 5 at one point, but never really used the 5th.  Probably just because of where it was located.

Not so long ago…

Since then, I’m on my second work laptop.  And this laptop is powerful enough that I replaced my main desktop with it.  My current laptop is my main work console.  Which begins to make working at home more appealing as I have everything I use in a consistent spot whether I’m at the office or at home.  Although this still had the problem of a single monitor. 

I worked around that a little bit by plugging a second monitor into the video port on the back of the laptop.  However, now I had a weird issue of one screen that was normal, and one that was smaller (the laptop).  While usable, it still wasn’t ideal.

I’d say about two years ago, I got onto the DirectAccess project with my work laptop.  I will just say that DirectAccess is really awesome.  No more VPN or Smart Card.  I just boot my laptop and I have access to corporate resources regardless of where I am, as long as I have network access.  This has worked out really well for me, especially when I go to conferences such as SQL PASS.

So, this setup is usable.  It is better then where I started from, but I still didn’t really like it and enjoyed being at the office more as the setup was more ideal with 3-4 monitors.

Today!

I recently built a new gaming box and we did some rearranging of our office space at home.  We also did some network drops and got things wired for 1gb.  Really fast.  I only have two monitors at home though.

So, I decided to try out the RDP session using all monitors and full user experience.  WOW!  With the faster network, this really pops.  Occasionally there is a little lag, but overall, it is very nice and looks great.  I get to work on my laptop, but on my gaming box.  This makes it feel like I’m working on a desktop with two monitors.  A normal setup.  But there is still one problem – Audio and calls.

I’m using Enterprise Voice through Microsoft Lync.  This is basically VoIP on my laptop.  When I first started looking at this, if I got a call or wanted to make a call, I either had to setup my headset directly on my laptop and get out of the RDP session, or use the Lync Client directly on my desktop outside of the RDP session.  Not ideal.

I then found that you can do recording through the RDP session as well.  Although, by default, Windows 7 Client doesn’t support it out of the gate.  I had to enable the following registry key on my laptop:

HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Terminal Server\WinStations\RDP-Tcp
fDisableAudioCapture REG_DWORD 0 | 1

This got my headset to work when plugged into my desktop and use the microphone through the RDP session.  So, now I can do Calls through the RDP session.  NICE!

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Working from home is now very usable for me.  I don’t feel cramped and I feel like I can work at 80% steam.  Would need another monitor to feel at 100%. 

Obviously, another way to go would be to get a docking station at home for the laptop like I do at the office, but that would cost more money and what I have now is pretty darn good.