Directory Services: MVP Renewed.

I am once again honoured to be a recipient of the Microsoft MVP award for Directory Services.

Since first becoming an MVP in 2009, the Directory Services designation has evolved to cover many complimentary technologies and solutions in both on-premises and cloud solutions, such as traditional Active Directory to Azure Active Directory.  Microsoft’s rate of innovation and change within the Azure space alone is phenomenal and shows no sign of abating and  whilst these new technologies are exciting they have to be learnt and understood in order to implement and support the adoption of these new technologies.

The book I am currently reading “Rookie Smarts” by Liz Wiseman highlights an interesting research analysis, in the book Liz states that.

Knowledge decay in the 1970’s was 10% per annum” but “In 2005 it was estimated that knowledge becomes obsolete at 15% per year, but in high tech this is as much as 30%.   If information doubles every 9 months and decays at 30% a year; within 5 years, only 15% of your knowledge will be relevant”.

If I want to keep being awarded the MVP designation, it’s obvious (well to me anyway) that I need to keep up with the technology (as well as supporting the community), else my skills will soon be as relevant as my MCSE in NT 3.51.

Thought Leadership.

It never fails to amaze me how ones words and actions can directly and indirectly influence another person’s actions or even alter their career path.  Over the years I have always tried to share my knowledge with my peers and the IT community as a whole and yesterday I felt rather humbled to receive this comment in an email.

This is my first full time AD role. I find it funny you ask [sic. an irrelevant question], you’re indirectly responsible for me getting this job.  I followed your work for years, so thank you.

It’s the little things that make a big difference.

The hidden benefit of hacking your own Active Directory?

This summary stems from a brief conversation within a peer circle. A parallax perspective on the issue of passwords. 

Most IT organisations have an IT Security policy, which defines the required password parameters for an organisation.  Active Directory provides a method to enforce the password parameters, from their complexity and length to the frequency that they must be changed. 

Once a company’s password policy is understood and required parameters are known, internally bad practice can set in and this is not necessarily limited to the end users, IT can equally be at fault.  For example the service desk may create all new user or service accounts with the same common password.  Password1234$$ or Welcome2015! 

So what has this got to do with hacking your own Active Directory? 

Using one of the numerous Active Directory password cracking tools on the internet, you can analyse (crack the easy ones) the passwords stored in Active Directory and produce a list of the most common passwords.

These common passwords can then be cross referenced to their owners and with a little bit of mathematics, it is possible to deduce that perhaps with 10 passwords, 70 % of all systems can be accessed, not only is this a rather frightening metric, but this is reality and one attack vector for anyone with access to a domain controller. 

This is not a simple problem to fix with the current architecture of Active Directory, but with small process changes and education around the use of common passwords the percentage of systems that could be accessed or compromised may be reduced. 


Active Directory: What to learn next?

The Microsoft MVP summit was held last week (3rd – 7th November) in Redmond, where I had the good fortune to spend the week with members of various Microsoft product teams that are responsible for what we commonly know as Active Directory.  I can genuinely say that in technology terms I have not been this interested in the future of Windows since I did my first Windows Server 2000 course (MOC 1561) back  in 1999.

The MVP Summit content is mostly under NDA and I have always respected the NDA and with this in mind all I will say is that over the next few months I will be reading and learning as much as I can on the following areas of Microsoft technology.

Azure Active Directory

Azure Active Directory Sync Services

Azure Rights Management

Windows 10

I would also recommend that you start to start to think about the concept of Active Directory being an identity provider and that in the future it will all be about managing identities and not solely about managing the technologies that deliver them.

Food for thought, think about what type of identities your business will support, business only or perhaps personal too? What is an identity? What is a personal identity? Who owns the identity?  (I will follow up on this concept with another post).

Lifelong Learning

There are so many things to learn about in life, that I rarely find time to read fiction and over time I appear to have made an unconscious decision to subscribe to constant or “lifelong learning”.

This may appear to directly contradict what I stated in this post , but lifelong learning does not necessarily relate directly to the skills you need to do your job, it may give you the ability to progress or diversify in your career, skills that compliment your current skillset to enable you to advance into management or leadership positions; equally you could learn about something for no other reason than to learn about it.

Since embarking on lifelong learning, I have academically studied wireless and mobile data networks; copyright and mathematics; additionally self-studied TOGAF©, Six Sigma© and evolutionary leadership. Many of the new skills that I have learned, I have found helping me in my professional career and personal life in ways that perhaps I did not originally conceive when I started to learn. The skills I have learned for example, the mathematics has enabled me to assist my son with his homework; copyright introduced ethical concepts into my thought process and TOGAF© has made me think about how I approach aspects of the deliverables I produce.

My constant quest for knowledge has also had what some people may determine being a negative benefit, such as I have picked up systems at work and learned them because I needed to leverage the applications capabilities, by default I became the owner and administrator of the application, which was not my intended outcome.

As Francis Bacon is attributed to have said “knowledge is power” and for me the power comes from knowing more about what you currently don’t know about. Lifelong learning is not down to your employer, whilst they can contribute it is ultimately your choice.

So where do you start? Pick a topic or subject, buy a book, find a website and start to learn.

Originally published on LinkedIn.

I don’t need to be managed but I do need a mentor.

I am at the point of my working career where effectively I don’t need to be managed, I know my role, I know how to behave and I am also very aware of what will happen if I don’t perform. I have learned to ask what the priorities to the business are and I work to them accordingly, senior people within the organisation know I will get things done if given an open road and the opportunity to deliver.

With certain professions there comes a certain point in time where you have to take a step back and think am I still as effective as I once was, when professionals such as footballers and athletes face this question they often take up management or coaching roles which enables them to mentor the new talent that is coming through their profession, though this usually does not happen overnight.

I feel that am fast approaching the professional crossroads of my career, I regularly ask myself, Am I as effective as I once was? Am I still relevant? My current answer is yes, but I am aware that technology is constantly evolving and soon technology will creep up on me and when it does, it will mean that I will have to learn an entirely new set of skills, at which point I will ask myself the same questions. Am I as effective as I once was? Am I still relevant? This time I will probably answer No.

In preparation for the next phase of my career, I need to find myself a mentor, one who can help to prepare me for the future, so that when I do move into more of corporate management role, just as I now don’t need to be managed, I will know my role and what is expected of me, albeit from a totally different perspective.

So to all the current managers out there, by enabling someone else to do your job, you too maybe able to succeed further – but perhaps only if you also have a mentor.

Originally posted on: linkedIn

Brazilian laptop and the ?/ᴏ key does not function.

It always happens on a Sunday.

Whilst working on a rollout on the outskirts of Rio, I discovered that the ?/ᴏ key was not working on the laptops I was deploying.


The machine did not have an OEM installation of Windows 7, but a customised image with the Brazilian MUI installed.

To resolve I had to add this registry key and reboot.

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Keyboard Layout]
“Scancode Map”=hex:00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,02,00,00,00,73,00,1d,e0,00,00,00,00

This issue occurs with ABNT and ABNT2 keyboards.