Office 365 Exposed ep 01 / Exchange Exposed ep 05

We’re baaaaack…

Last year, Tony and I started producing a podcast for Windows IT Pro called “Exchange Exposed.” It was moderately successful, but the demands of producing and delivering the podcast on a regular schedule didn’t mesh well with Penton’s plan for world domination, so Tony and I took back the rights to the podcast and are recording and distributing it ourselves. However, because of some peculiarities of the way the iTunes Store lists podcasts, we couldn’t just add new episodes to the existing podcast… but we didn’t find this out until the current episode was recorded and ready.

Going forward, we’re retitling the podcast to “Office 365 Exposed” to reflect the reality that Exchange and Exchange Online are part of the Office 365 family. Unlike some other Office 365-branded media that focuses exclusively on SharePoint, we’ll be covering the non-SharePoint part of the ecosystem with vigor and depth. There’s a lot to talk about!

In this episode, recorded at IT/Dev Connections in Las Vegas, we get some quality time with special guest Bhargav Shukla of KEMP Technologies to discuss the release of Exchange 2013 CU10, the impending release of Exchange 2016, and what the future of on-premises Exchange looks like. Give it a listen below. In a day or two, iTunes should pick up the feed and you’ll be able to subscribe, or you can point your RSS feed reader to the “Podcasts” category here.

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Filed under Podcasts, UC&C

Office 365 Pro Plus licensing change?

Microsoft has a really complex infrastructure for deploying new features into Office 365. This deployment process, internally known as “flighting,” involves rolling out code changes across a huge base of servers— by some estimates, more than 600,000 worldwide— spread across dozens of data centers all around the world. This poses an interesting challenge. Flighting has to be automated because of the scale necessary, but with an automated tool that works at high scale, you can make a quickly replicated mistake. Think of it like shooting yourself in the foot with a machine gun.

Recently one of my customers notified me that they had noticed a change in their tenant: each user with an E3 or E4 license was now showing a possible total of 10 product activations for Office 365 Pro Plus. The limit had previously always been 5, meaning each user may install Pro Plus on up to five PCs and Macs. The release of Office applications for Windows 10, iOS, and Android devices changed things slightly; you were allowed to install on 5 PCs/Macs plus 5 tablets or mobile devices. At various times I’ve been told that the limit was 10 (5 PC + 5 devices) and 15 (5 PC + 5 tablet + 5 phone), but in any event, the user interface in the Office 365 management tools has always reported per-user activation as N installed copies out of a maximum of 5.

Immediately upon hearing this, I checked my tenants. Sure enough, now my tenant users were showing a maximum of 10 installs.

I followed up with some local Microsoft folks and was told that they were told by Office 365 support that this was a mistake, whether in flighting or configuration I’m not sure. However, two-plus days later, tenants are still showing 10 activations. I took the below screenshot a few minutes before writing this post; it shows 4 activated Pro Plus installations, with 6 more available.

10 license

I’m going to reach out directly to the O365 team to ask whether this is: a) a temporary mistake that will be reversed b) a policy change that hasn’t been officially announced or c) a restatement of the 5 PC/Mac + 5 device policy that was already in place. I’ll report back what I find out. 

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Training Tuesday: Rocketman Olympic Triathlon (23 August)

This time, it was personal.

See, last year, I signed up for the bike leg of Rocketman and failed to complete it when my bike broke. Then this year, I lost my Olympic virginity at Renaissance Man with a disappointing time. I was highly motivated to finish this year’s Rocketman well… so I did.

Pre-race and setup

Rocketman is legendary for being well-organized, so I expected all the race logistics stuff to go smoothly, and it did. This was the first year on a new course, after many years of doing the race at Redstone Arsenal, but the race director did a great job of posting the course maps early, marking the course, and generally communicating what the changes would be. Matt and I went to Fleet Feet on Saturday, grabbed my race number and swag bag, and then headed home so I could pack.


That looks like a lot of stuff, and it is. At the bottom, you can see my race number (attached to my Fitletic race belt), watch and heart rate monitor, and Garmin bike camera. My ancient iPhone is running the Wahoo Fitness app so I can watch my heart rate, cadence, and power on the bike; then there are two pairs of (large) shoes, my helmet and swim cap, and 3 water bottles. Not shown: all the stuff I normally take to eat and drink during the race. (Hint: it wasn’t shown for a good reason!)

I packed my bag, loaded the bike on the car, and went to bed. When I woke up, a scant 5 hours later, it wasn’t because my alarm went off. It was because the cat was burrowing under the covers because of the thunderstorm outside. Not a good sign.


I was a little apprehensive about the weather when I went to bed, with good reason. The picture above shows the radar picture as I was loading the car; what it doesn’t show is that the line of storms was moving directly towards the race site. I loaded up and headed out to the race site in heavy rain, not a little wind, and occasional lightning– and it was getting worse the closer I got to Ditto Landing. Luckily, by the time I got there, it was only raining, but the damage had been done (at least to the parking area, which was thoroughly inundated and had turned into a swampy, muddy mess).

While driving, I had my usual shake (50g Karbolyn + a scoop of vanilla protein), at which point I realized that I didn’t pack all the nutrition stuff I meant to bring. Alas. I had mixed up a batch of Mercury and then frozen it in my run and bike bottles, but didn’t bring any gels, waffles, or (my current favorite) Uncrustables.


I picked up my timing chip and got my body marked, then learned that there was a 30-minute delay. This gave me enough time to brave the bathroom line and get everything set up in transition. Because it was overcast, I decided to leave my sunglasses in my transition bag, but stupidly put my eyeglasses in there too. They chased us out of transition and over to the swim start, where two long ramps (probably 25′ or so) were set up to get us into the water. This was a great alternative to picking our way down the rocks on the shore or jumping feet-first off the nearby dock (also about 20-25′ above the water), the other two choices. The race organizers thoughtfully put carpet down on the ramps to make them less slippery. Then… it was time to wait, and wait, and WAIT because I was in swim wave 6. Luckily there were plenty of familiar faces around, including friends from both last year’s Tri101 and this year’s Tri201. One of my favorite things about triathlons is the huge and welcoming tri community in Huntsville, so I always enjoy seeing my posse at local events.


The swim was just OK. I got down the slide with no trouble, then waited near the start line for a wave start. The water was warmer than I expected (and warmer than the air!), which was nice. I didn’t especially like having to tread water while waiting for the start, though, as I worried that it would tire me– I need to work on more efficient treading. The swim itself went pretty much just like the RenMan swim did; I maintained a steady pace, didn’t swim exactly a straight line, and finished with 1646 yards (on a 1500m course, that means I swam about an extra 6 yards– not too bad) in a little over 41 minutes. This was a bit disappointing since I had been breaking the 2:00/100y pace barrier in the pool. However, I finished the swim with plenty of energy, which is always a plus. I feel like I could do the half-Ironman swim distance at this same pace and still be capable of continuing the race.



It had stopped raining before the swim start, but I knew the roads would be wet so I had planned to be conservative on the bike. I got a good start out of T1 (despite having to go grab my eyeglasses out of my transition bag); I had a dose of Chocolate Outrage (that’s a Gu flavor, not a philosophy), saddled up, and rode out. At the halfway point, I was just under my PR time for the 40K distance, so I figured I would come in close to a PR time.. but either the ride was longer than I thought, my math skills are poor, or I inadvertently lessened my effort because I was still about 10 minutes over that time. I finished the bike in 1:38, which kinda sucks. I know I can do better than this. Speeding up my ride is going to be my primary focus going into my next race, I think.

T2 went quickly. I couldn’t find my second Gu, and I didn’t have anything else to eat, so I just swapped out my shoes, put on my 2014 Rocketman visor, and hit the run.


The run was my big success for this race. I ran the 10K course in about 1:01, which is (it’s true) 5 min off my PR for a standalone 10K but almost a 9-minute improvement over my Ren Man time. The cool weather definitely helped; we had a bit of drizzle on the outbound leg, which was a nice addition. The course was flat and fast, although by about mile 4 my legs were pretty tired. On the last half-mile or so I went as fast as I could, so my finish line crossing was more of a shamble.

The post-race setup was decent and pretty standard for races in Huntsville: free pizza, fruit, and a welcome tent set up by Fleet Feet for the Tri201 program participants. However, I have a major gripe: race entrants were promised two free Rocket Republic beers, and by the time I finished there was no more beer. After motivating myself with the thought of a tasty brew at the finish, this was a major disappointment. I did, however, get one of the coveted finisher glasses, plus a nice glass from the Tri201 coaches.

One of the things I most enjoyed about this race is that the announcer stayed on station and called out the name of every finisher. Hearing “Paul Robichaux…. from Madison, Alabama… YOU. ARE. A. ROCKETMAN!” was pretty thrilling. My gun time was 3:30:09, so nearly 10min better than Renaissance Man but still a good ways off from my goal time. Still, it’s only my second Olympic-distance race so I have a lot of potential for improvement.


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Fuel shenanigans

The saying goes that “you can never have too much fuel unless it’s on fire.” I have always been a believer in that truism, so I always fill the tanks before I go anywhere… except on a recent trip, which just confirmed the wisdom of whomever came up with the old chestnut.

I was flying DCU-IGX, which I flight planned as 394nm, just under 3:00 of flying time, and about 48 gallons of fuel. Sure enough, when I arrived, I’d drained one main tank, one tip tank, and about half of the other tip tank. The CGR-30p engine monitor, my analog gauges, and my eyeball inspection all agreed.

Fuel at IGX was $5.28/gallon. Fuel at my home airport is $4.80/gallon. “Hey,” I thought. “I have enough fuel to get home if I just fill the tip— that will give me 59gal on board, which still gives me a VFR reserve.” Visions of dollar signs dancing in my head, I filled out the fuel ticket and went into town to lift all the weights with Alex. When I returned, I verified the fill, sumped the tanks, and headed to the departure end of the runway with 59 gal on board.

Once airborne, the problems started. ATC wanted to vector me well north of where I wanted to go because of weather, and to keep me out of the RDU arrival corridor. They also gave me a higher altitude, so I burned more fuel in the climb than I’d expected. Once I got past the first waypoint, I had to divert around more weather… see where this is going? About 40 minutes into the flight it became clear that I didn’t have enough fuel to get home without a stop.

I’m not talking “had enough fuel if I ate into my reserve,” I’m talking “engine monitor shows negative fuel remaining on landing.” Noooope.

A little head scratching ensued, and I determined that I had plenty of fuel to make Winchester, where fuel is only $4.09/gallon. When I landed, I took on 71 gallons out of the 82-gallon usable capacity— within my 45-min reserve requirement, but just barely.

Lesson learned: by not filling that tank in Chapel Hill, I saved (25 gal * $0.48/gal)… a whopping $12. Then I cost myself another 30-40 minutes of diverting to Winchester, landing, fueling, and returning home. In this specific case, I was lucky because Winchester is open 24/7 and is easy to get into and out of, and their fuel is cheap. I probably netted a few dollars of savings filling up there as opposed to filling all 4 tanks in Decatur— but that unpleasant feeling of not having enough fuel aboard is one I don’t care to repeat.

Fill ‘er up!


Filed under Aviation

Windows Hello and Microsoft Passport intro

I’ve been working on a white paper explaining how Windows Hello and Microsoft Passport work together in Windows 10– it’s a really neat combination. Over at my work blog, I have a short article outlining what Hello and Passport are and a little about how they work (plus a bonus demo video). If you’re curious, head over and check it out.

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Filed under General Tech Stuff, Security

Training Tuesday: I am a swimmer

Some titles are granted by an external authority. We, rightly, are suspicious of people who decide to call themselves “doctor” or “colonel” without having earned those titles.

Other titles are ones we bestow on ourselves. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard accomplished triathletes demur the title of “athlete” or “triathlete”. The fact is simple: if you do triathlons, you are a triathlete, period. It doesn’t matter what your pace is. It doesn’t matter what distance races you compete in. Hell, it doesn’t even matter if you’re really competing or just entering the races because you enjoy them. If you do the work, you’ve earned the title.

I was thinking about this topic last night when I was busy swimming 1600+ yards in Lake Guntersville as part of my triathlon class. As I made my way back and forth along our marked swim course, It gradually dawned on me: I am a swimmer. Literally, I am a person who swims.

Am I a fast swimmer? No.

Do I have good swim technique? No.

Is there a lot of room for improvement in my performance? You bet your pool toys there is.

But do I get in the water and cover distance? Damn right I do.

Thanks to the madmen at CHP, I have the strength and endurance to swim a half-mile or more, in open water, without stopping. Last year I couldn’t swim one length of the pool without flailing. Six months ago, a 400yd swim would leave my upper body feeling wrung out and useless for the rest of the day. Now I actually find that swimming for an hour at my cruise pace is less tiring than running or biking for an hour at those cruise paces. (And yes, for you experienced swimmers out there, I know that means I need to go faster).

Sometimes I doubt myself. Many of my friends and competitors have years– or decades– of swimming experience. I’m in the water with people who swam competitively in high school and/or college, people who have worked as lifeguards, people who routinely swim miles in open water because they enjoy it. I may not be any of those things, but…

I am a swimmer.


Filed under Fitness

Renaissance Man Olympic triathlon (12 July 2015)

Executive summary: this was my first Olympic triathlon. It went better than I expected but not quite as well as I wanted.


This is the second year of Renaissance Man. Last year, my friend Laura (who was in Tri101 with me) did it as her first Olympic, and she spoke highly of how well the race was organized and how much fun it was. I hadn’t planned to do another Olympic before Rocketman, my goal race, but I decided to do this as a checkpoint to assess my fitness and race readiness. I wanted to try to complete it in under 3:30. The last several races I’ve run have been out of town, so one of the things I wanted to see was whether racing away from home has been slowing me down. Another thing I wanted to check out was whether my new race nutrition plan would make a noticeable difference. My coach has me eating a target number of calories (with specific targets for protein, fat, and carb intake) each day. The actual target amount varies according to that day’s planned activities.

The big question: exactly how hot would it be on race day? The other big question: how would I perform on a 1500-meter open-water swim in the scenic Tennessee River?


I should have taken pictures of all the crap I had set up before the race because it was pretty epic. Apart from all the normal contents of my triathlon bag (bike shoes and helmet, running shoes, race belt, towel, transition mat, sunscreen, and so on), I also had food strewn all over the kitchen counter. My coach’s recommendations were for ~ 50g carbs and ~30g protein an hour or so before the race, and I knew that I’d want plenty of Mercury (the hydration drink I use). I mixed all that stuff up on the counter the night before, strapped my bike on the back of the car, and packed my bag the night before.

Race day dawned and I was up and rolling just before 5am; the race venue is about an hour’s drive from my house and I wanted to have as much time as possible to get set up in transition and have a warmup swim. After a totally uneventful drive, I found the place, parked, got my race packet, and started setting up in transition… only to find that I didn’t have a race number for my bike. Yikes. Under USA Triathlon rules, that would result in a 2-minute time penalty if the refs caught me. I went back to the packet tent but they couldn’t make a replacement, so I decided to brazen it out, set up the rest of my stuff, and headed to the beach for a warmup swim. Not, however, before taking this panorama:


My warmup swim went well, the pre-race briefing didn’t contain any surprises, and the singer who performed the National Anthem was terrific. TIME TO RACE.

I’d been fairly nervous (for me, anyway) about the swim. I’d swum 1500+ yards in a single workout, but never without stopping, and never more than about 600 yards in open water. I really felt good about the swim after the easy 600 I did on Thursday– that was just supposed to be an easy cruise without stopping, and that’s just what it was. After a quick warmup, which was really just some splashing, I lined up to wait for the time trial. This race featured an


My target time was 45min, and I ended up swimming 1637y in 41:10. If I hadn’t done such a poor job of sighting, I would have been under 40min. If you look at the course plot on Strava you’ll see what I mean. Still a lot of work to do here but I am überproud of myself for swimming that distance without stopping— that’s a big milestone for me.

Just a shade over 5 minutes, which is far too long. I’ve got to practice this more so I’m not so damn slow. In my defense, I had to go back and get my helmet sticker out of my bag, which was off to the side. I also put on my run belt so I’d have a visible race number–  I was paranoid about our local USAT ref, who is a real stickler. (My friend Tony got a 2-minute penalty for obstructing, so the struggle is real). I also took 200mg of caffeine here.


The ride was pretty decent. I rode about the first half of it in the small chain ring because I’m a dumbass; on one section of flat road, I was doing about 110rpm and couldn’t get above about 20.5mph, and then when I figured it out, boom. My average speed went up after that. (Takeaway: pay more attention). My sustained cadence still needs work but this was very close to a 40km PR for me— my previous PR was done on a group ride (so drafting) with two breaks en route. I actually passed a few people, which was a real treat for me. Had ~40oz of Mercury on the ride + 1 Gu. I probably should have had a third bottle; that’s on my shopping list, though it means I need a new bottle cage.



This was my first race with my new Stages power meter, about which more later. It wasn’t super useful to me, apart from being able to see my average and instantaneous power. I am not yet at the point where I can produce a consistent power output on demand, nor where I can figure out what power output I should be targeting. But I’ll get there.


I got into T2 and out again in just over 3min, which is decent for me. During that time I scarfed down a Honey Stinger waffle, swallowed 4 SportsLegs with a swig of Mercury, swapped out my helmet for hat, and off I went. Next time I need to eat my waffle on the run.


“Trudged” is a word I might use here. The run was miserable. It was my slowest-ever 10K, at a 13min/mi pace. Coming out of transition my legs were leaden. It didn’t help that the first half of the course had lots of rollers and zero shade. I never even saw the famous lions at the University of North Alabama. I guess I was too busy suffering. I had 2 x 8oz bottles of Mercury with me and the first one was gone inside the first mile. Luckily there were aid stations about every mile, although the first one was out of water when I got there! I was pounding water like it was free beer. My quads and calves were both equally bad; I think I need to work on my swim kick, among other things.

I’m really disappointed by this aspect of the race, frankly, because I know I can run a 10K faster than this.

Side note: the hottest I have ever been in my entire life was when I stopped to use a dark green port-a-potty in downtown Florence. Never in my life have I experienced such a temperature.

Race organization

Registration was simple, packet pickup was efficient, and the volunteer support was superb (especially the Borden Dental ladies at body marking and the Listerhill Credit Union staff who manned a drive-through aid station on Court Street, complete with music, food, and ice water). I was disappointed that by the time I got to the finish line, they weren’t still announcing finisher names and times, and that there was nothing other than half-bananas to eat post-race (though some pizza did eventually appear). Overall, you expect these kinds of glitches during a race’s first few years, so I’m sure next year they’ll have them sorted out.

The big takeaways

53 weeks ago, I had never run a triathlon (nor a half-marathon, nor any distance over five miles). On the one hand I am delighted by my progress– I ran an Olympic distance triathlon, something I never would have guessed I could or would do as recently as 54 weeks ago. On the other hand, the gap between how I want to perform and how I do perform is pretty clear. I’m setting some aggressive goals for my next race and will be working hard to hit them.


Filed under Fitness, General Stuff