Tips and Tricks for Families at TechEd 2012 in Orlando

Wednesday, May 25, 2011
My wife, Amy, wrote the following helpful tips for families who will be accompanying their significant other to TechEd in Orlando:

You’ll most likely be in a hotel on or near International Drive. There is a trolley called the I-Ride Trolley that runs up and down the street. Buy the 7 day ticket pass at your hotel's concierge. The trolleys run about every 15 to 20 minutes at stops all along the drive. There are well marked signs for the trolleys and they are so much more comfortable than walking in the heat with kids.

There's tons to do on International Drive. Lots of different themed mini golf places, the Wet 'n Wild water slide park, an upside down museum (WonderWorks), and a go-kart park. Be sure to check your hotel for discount tickets and coupons - they're everywhere.

There are not a lot of “kid” places to eat, just a Denny’s, Chuck E. Cheese's, and a
huge McDonald's with a fun zone. If you order in, like pizza or something, remember that there are thousands of guests in town for the conference and it could, and probably will, take well over an hour to get the food delivered. The other restaurants get very busy in the evening, so call ahead for reservations. There are no grocery stores are nearby.

Take advantage of the breakfasts at your hotel and grab a few extra pieces of fruit for the room and hungry kids for later. Have your husband or wife bring back extras of all the snack handouts from the conference. You could practically feed off of these alone for the week. It’s usually all grab and go, prepackaged stuff from granola bars, to cookies, to Power Bars.

Remember it’s going to be hot and humid, so be realistic about how much you and your children can do. I find that mine are very happy to get the afternoon off to just play in the pool at the hotel. It also helps if your hotel offers an adult “happy hour.” :-)

Most hotels offer shuttle service to Disney World and other parks (Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, Epcot, Sea World, etc). Check at the front desk the day before, as you might need to reserve a seat.

Theme parks are all fun but choose wisely based on your children’s ages. If they are over 10 then
Animal Kingdom in Disney World would be OK, but might be bored with the rest of the “princess” thing. Universal Studios is fun for older kids, but not for younger ones due to height requirements on most rides. Islands of Adventure is a good dual choice with things for older and younger kids and is near a nice “downtown” area called CityWalk with restaurants and shops just outside the park.

If you have a car, Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral is not that far away. It’s only about 40 minutes, but remember that there are toll roads all over the state so have lots of change handy. The Kennedy Center is amazing and worth going to if you can make it. You can spend the whole day there. If no car, check with the concierge for a tour group. Allow a full day to enjoy it all. It will be in the mid 90’s and humid, so hats, sun block and lots of water are a necessity.

UPDATE - My husband just got back from TechEd Atlanta and told me that it would be in Orlando again next year.  It reminded me that I had written up some tips for him to post the last time in 2008 and I wanted to take the opportunity to update that info.

In 2008 Orlando, my kids were 8 and 12.  If we go next year, they’ll be 12 and 16.  I say “if we go” only due to the difficult timing with school ending the same week.  Otherwise, we would definitely go again!  The kids still mention things we did that week and ask when we can go back.  We’d probably do most of the same things again, but as ours are now older, perhaps not Disneyworld.

I reviewed my previous blog to see what I might change and I do feel everything is still pertinent with a few notes.

GatorLand was a place I forgot to mention, which is just a short drive outside Orlando.  It was fun and kitschy.  It’s a little place, but great in quirky sort of way; like a mini zoo.

I would also recommend renting a stroller at the big parks.  Even if your kids are old enough to walk it, what with the heat and humidity it was nice to have someplace to put them (even with legs hanging over the side) and not have them complaining (except about whose turn it was).  Also it gives you someplace to put your backpack and water bottles.   What with my oldest being 16 next year, maybe I can ride in the stroller next time and have him push me.  :)  I can just hear the, “Mom, you’re embarrassing me”, now.

Lastly, I can see an opportunity for a beginning of the week get-together/meet-and-greet for spouses with or without children.  If you’ve gone with your spouse before, you know we basically don’t see them all week.  It might be nice to have an opportunity to meet each other at the beginning of the week and see who you might want to hook up with.  Who knows, with enough interest, maybe we could qualify for group discount admission to the theme parks.

TechEd veteran and mother of an 11 and 15 year old

Do you have other tips for TechEd travelers with families? Leave a comment below!
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Error Running New-TestCasConnectivityUser.ps1

Wednesday, May 25, 2011
I ran into a strange problem running the New-TestCasConnectivityUser.ps1 script at a client today. When I ran the script to create the test account on a new Exchange installation, I received the following error:

CreateTestUser : Mailbox could not be created. Verify that OU ( Users ) exists and that password meets complexity requirements.

I verified that I could create a user account in the User container in AD just fine using the same password I supplied in the script. Obviously, I had sufficient rights and the password was complex enough.

After examining the new-TestCasConnectivityUser.ps1 script I noticed that the $OrganizationalUnit variable is looking for a match in AD for "Users". A quick search using AD Users and Computers found that the client had many OU's named Users throughout AD. The script was actually bombing out because it didn't know which "Users" OU to use.

The fix is to add the following line below line 171 in the script to make it look for a better (more specific) match:
OrganizationalUnit = "CN=Users,DC=domain,DC=com"
Be sure to edit this to match your domain naming context.

Then save the script and run it.
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Registration for TechEd 2012 is Now Open. Save $500!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Register for TechEd 2012 before June 30, 2011 and save $500 with Early Adopter Savings!

Microsoft TechEd is the largest conference in the world on all things Microsoft.  Boost your knowledge and career by attending TechEd.  Meet and learn from the Microsoft product teams who write the applications and platforms that you use every day!

This is the largest discount available for TechEd 2012.  Don't miss out!
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Save the Date - TechEd 2012 will be in Orlando!

Sunday, May 22, 2011
Microsoft TechEd 2012 North America returns again to Orlando, FL June 11-14, 2012.

I think Orlando has the best conference center layout of any TechEd I've attended.  The large vendor and eating areas are central to all the breakout sessions and it's much easier to navigate.

The hotels are all close and there's plenty of things to do.  If you're bringing your family, I'm revamping an article I did in 2008 about things to do with family and kids while in Orlando.

Beginning May 24, 2011 you can register for TechEd 2012 and receive a HUGE $500 discount if you register before June 30, 2011!  I've never seen this big of a discount before.  Click here for details!

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TechEd 2011: Day 4 Review and Random Photos

Friday, May 20, 2011
Today is the last day of TechEd 2011.  It's been an amazing conference and I'm sad to see it end.  We spend so much effort getting ready for this and it's always a huge success.
It's amazing to see the amount of effort and logistics that go into a conference like this.  There are a tremendous number of details that need to be managed.  Brandy Pepper did an absolutely awesome job managing most of these.  Thanks, Brandy!

Me and Brandy Pepper (@TechEd_NA)
Vendor area
On this final day of TechEd, I usually take advantage of the smaller crowds on the vendor floor to talk with vendors I'm interested in.  I spoke with Vision Solutions (Doubletake), F5 Networks, HP, Dell Compellent, Barracuda Networks, and others.

I attended the Speaker Idol contest to watch TechEd attendees compete for the best speaker on any technology they chose.  Mark Manasi and Mark Russinovich we among the judges.  It was fun.

Speaking of Mark Russinovich, we attended that Microsoft Springboard party the night before where he autographed copies of his book, "Zero Day" which I'm currently reading.  Great book and I highly recommend it.  The rumor is that this will be a movie soon.

My autographed copy of Zero Day.  Glad to help out, Mark!
I attended a Windows Internals session with Mark Russinovich, "Case of the Unexplained: 2011" which was packed.  I had a great seat next to Scott Ladewig who had VIP seating for winning the TechEd VIP contest and a free trip to TechEd 2012!

The last session of the year was with Mark Manasi, "The Network Files Case #53: Diagnosing Diseases of DNS."  Mark, as usualy, was highly entertaining and covered 4 hours of DNS information in 75 minutes.

With that, we all went back to our hotel rooms to get ready for the epic TechEd Attendee Party, this year at World of Coke and the Atlanta Aquarium.  Everyone had a great time with food, drinks and music.  All the exhibits were open and we made the most of it.

The Krewe gathreing around for pictures

The Krewe 2011

Me and Michael Bender (@thekrewe)

The plaza between World of Coke and the Atlanta Aquarium

The food was really good

The Atlanta Aquarium

Tunnel through the shark tank

World of Coke

See you next year in Orlando!
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4th Annual UC Roundtable

Thursday, May 19, 2011
The 4th Annual UC Roundtable was a great success!  About 40 TechEd attendees who RSVP'd joined me, the Exchange Microsoft Certified Master (MCM) team, F5 Networks and the Exchange product group for an entertaining evening at the Georgian Terrace Hotel in Atlanta.

F5 sponsored the event and provided a carving station, macaroni and cheese martinis (which were awesome), and a full bar.  Everyone seemed to have a great time.  Thank you very much, F5 Networks!

At the Roundtable I was able to let everyone know that F5 is about to release there BIG-IP Local Traffic Manager (LTM) Virtual Edition (VE) for Hyper-V!  It's in RC now and should RTM in about two weeks.  BIG-IP LTM VE allows you to virtualize your load balancers using the same highly configurable and scalable application found on on the BIG-IP applicance.  I highly recommend that you check out the free 90-day trial download when it's available.  They already have a BIG-IP LTM VE for VMware avaialble.  It's great to use for your Exchange or Lync test lab.

Among the attendees were three gentlemen from the University of Illinois, who are in the middle of a 30,000+ Exchange 2010 migration and Lync deployment.  They are going to replace over 34,000 copper phones with Lync soft phones and centralize their Exchange deployment.  Interestingly, they are using the same Exchange storage model that Microsoft uses internally -- JBOD for database/log storage (70% DB / 30% Logs on 2TB SATA drives) running on Dell 610 and 710 servers.  They will be consolidating 30+ mailbox servers down to nine, including lagged databases.  Cool stuff!

Being a larger number of people this year, we broke up into smaller groups where we shared war stories, questions, and laughs.  It was good to see the MCMs and Exchange team mingle and interact with everyone.  That was a lot of talent and experience in one location!

Great conversations at the UC Roundtable

Michael Bender, Aubrey Moren, and Chris Haaker

Lars Eber, Scott Feltmann, Scott Ladewig, Claudia Perez, Sandip Vashi, David Carr, and myself

Me with the guys from the University of Illinois - Devin Gengelbach, Brent Tuggle, and Kevin Bird

Our hosts - The F5 Team!

Me and David Bjurman-Birr, head of the Exchange MCM Program
Next year TechEd will be in Orlando, FL on June 11-14, 2012.  I hope you can make it!
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TechEd 2011: Day 3 Review and Random Photos

Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Today was a very busy day, as opposed to the other days that were just busy.  :)

I started with the session, "Exchange Server 2010 High Availability Management and Operations" with Scott Scnoll.  GREAT session with clear concise explanations of the cmdlets and scripts written for Exchange 2010 about HA and DR.  All of the content was new this year.  Be sure to view it at TechEd online.  The session is now available for download.

Next, I took in another security session, "Rethinking Cyber Threats: Expert Panel" with Laura Chappell, Marcus Murray, and Paula Januszkiewicz.  Topics included security, government regulations, IPv6 threats, and "How do you fix stupid".  I was able to ask Marcus if Mark Russinovich detected the keylogger Marcus installed on his laptop at the MVP Summit using SysInternals tools, or if he just reimaged.  The answer was, "That's under NDA. I want to come back next year."

I then went to my first Lync session, "Troubleshoot Microsoft Lync 2010".  All the Lync troubleshooting tools were covered except Snooper, for some reason.  What I found interesting was when he showed how to use the monitoring server to get metrics on call and video performance.

I had a TechEd focus group to end my day and then went back to the hotel to get ready for the real UC Roundtable.

The Security Experts Panel.

TechEd Stats for 2011

The TechEd Connect Zone

Must be a problem in this area

CNN Headquarters across from the confrerence center
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The (not really) UC Roundtable Pre-Con Event

Tuesday, May 17, 2011
"Join us now as we tumble down the rabbit hole and into a strange world in which sound and inner-vision is mutable and language is communicated in pure form."

First, let me begin this story by saying that I will never have a career in event scheduling.  I'd love to blame this on my iPhone or third-party mobile device, but I can't.  It was an amazing combination of coincidence and miscommunication.

As background, I am holding my 4th Annual UC Roundtable event this year at TechEd.  This is usually an informal get-together with Exchange and Lync Server IT Pros held at a local bar or other social location offsite.  This year, the Exchange Microsoft Certified Master (MCM) team asked if we could join forces with F5 Networks to bring all these groups together, along with the Exchange product team.  This event was scheduled for Wednesday from 6:00-8:00pm.

Through a tragic set of events, I was told Tuesday at 4:30pm that the event was happening THAT DAY, not Wednesday.  I couldn't believe it, and asked repeatedly, "You're kidding, right?!?"  I had to notify 38 people that the event was happening in 90 minutes.  Even so, almost everyone confirmed that they could make it, even on this short notice.  Thanks, folks!

When I arrived at the hotel where the event was being held, I found that the room was clearly not ready.  I checked with the catering manager who told me that the room was indeed booked for Wednesday, as I originally planned.  Now I've got 36 people and the Exchange product team showing up with no place to go.  The bar in the hotel couldn't accomodate that many people in any sort of format that would work.

I got ahold of David Bjurman-Birr, the head of the Exchange MCM group, who happens to be staying at the hotel and told him what was happening.  He offered to have everyone come up to his suite for drinks.  I had no other alternative, so we did -- all 50 or so of us.  Needless to say, it was more of a frat party than anything else.  David and Melissa were totally gracious and acted like this is nothing new, fixing hors d'oeuvres and drinks for everyone.  It was quite the spectacle, but everyone told me they had a great time.

Everyone still plans to attend the real UC Roundtable tomorrow evening.  I hope.
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TechEd 2011: Day 2 Review and Random Photos

Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Second day is nearly done.  I started off with another Laura Chappell session, "We Don't Need No Stinkin' GUI: Command-Line Capture Techniques (Remote Options)".   It sounded good when I signed up for it, but it wasn't right for me.  Unfortunately, it was on the far side of the planet and took a very long time to get to my second choice, "Hyper-V and Dynamic Memory in Depth".  This was a better fit and I enjoyed what I saw of it.

Next up was "Best Practices for Virtualization for Microsoft Exchange 2010" which I decided to attend because of the new virtualization support agreement. Now that Live Migration is supported, I asked if vMotion is, as well.  The answer was, "We support Live Migration type technologies, as long as they're on the virtualization support list."  Throughout the sessions, I've decided to tweet important points that are discussed or mentioned.  Follow me on Twitter if you'd like to keep up.  WIFI is much better this year and I've not found any connectivity issues so far.

The next session was "Load Balancing with Microsoft Exchange 2010".  Really good session and demo with F5 hardware load balancers.  Awesome equipment and this was one of the best deep-dive sessions so far.  Lots of good info, but it was covered fast.  There was really nothing new in this session from last year, but if you want to do a proper large-scale deployment you have to get the load balancers right.

Attendees evaluating their swag

Some of The Krewe

Stephen Rose (Sprinboard), Joey Snow and Adam Carter (Channel 9/Edge)

Michael Bender (@TheKrwe) and Jessica Anderson from Xiotech, a sponsor of The Krewe Meet-N-Greet
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TechEd 2011: Day 1 Review and Random Photos

Monday, May 16, 2011
The Georgia World Congress Center
 Whew, TechEd Day 1 is in the bag!  And speaking of which, here's what the TechEd bag looks like.

The TechEd 2011 Bag

Yesterday was a day to get registered, meet up with other people, and get bearings on the conference center.  After that, I was able to take in a game at Turner Field where the Braves beat the Phillies 3-2.

The evening ended with an epic Meet-n-Greet party with The Krewe at STATS bar in Atlanta.  A terrific time was had by all.  We had about 150 people show up, including old and new members of The Krewe.  It was a great time!

The Krewe Meet-N-Greet Party
 Day 1 of TechEd Atlanta started with the keynote address at 9AM with Robert Wahbe, Corporate Vice President of Server and Tools, and Jason Zander, Corporate Vice President of Visual Studio.  As usual, the first hour was devoted to IT Pros and the second for developers.  And as expected, we heard how wonderful life is going to be when we move into the cloud.  As one person tweeted about 15 minutes into the keynote, "Drinking game is cancelled. If I took a drink every time keynote speaker said 'cloud,' I'd be dead by now."

We followed up the keynote with a brief visit to the vendor area and a not so brief trip to the food area (aka, Tennessee, because it's so far away from everything).  As we entered the food area, the wait staff started applauding and cheering us to have a great lunch.  It was like being in a parade.  Very surreal.

My first session was with Laura Chappell on "Wiretapping 101: Catching Evidence on the Network."  It was a good session and was highly technical and entertaining.  Laura is great, but she needs some Ritalin.

I followed that up with my first Exchange session, "What's New in Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 SP2: Featuring GAL Segmentation."  We learned that SP2 will be released in the second half of this calendar year.  It will have over 500 bug fixes and include some knew features which require schema changes.  OWA Mini will be like a completely rewritten OMA for text-based browsers.  GAL segmentation allows you to have more than one Global Address List in the organization.  Users assigned the GAL policy 1 will only see users in that policy, and users assigned GAL policy 2 will only see their users.  There are quite a few caveats about this feature, like it doesn't work for Mac clients.  It's still early in the development cycle, so we'll have to see how it pans out.

They will also have a fix for CAS redirection when a user signs into OWA from a less optimal site.  Rather than logging in and getting a link that says to use a different CAS, and then having to log in again on that CAS, the first CAS will automatically pass credentials to the second CAS.

From 6-9PM was the vendor reception party, where there was mass consumption of food and drink while collecting large amounts of SWAG.  Personally, I wasn't too impressed with the food (bland/cold) and there wasn't much in the way of SWAG.  No biggie, that's not what I'm here for.  It was good hanging out with my friends.

Tomorrow I'll be up bright and early, attending mostly Exchange and Lync sessions.

Here are some random photos from the day:

Welcome to TechEd 2011
The TechEd Alumni Lounge
The vendor area being setup on Saturday
The $5 cell phone charger. The free one is on the left.
Centennial Olympic Park
Me and Aubrey at Turner Field to watch the Braves
Our TechEd Krewe buttons

Me and Scott Ladewig at our special Blogger Hub area in the Connect Zone
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