Microsoft Licensing: Part 9 (useful links)

This content is 16 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

When I set out to write a series on Microsoft software licensing, I never expected there to be a total of nine posts.

For those who missed the others, they were:

  1. Client and server.
  2. Licensing without CALs.
  3. Server products.
  4. System Center products.
  5. Virtualisation.
  6. Forefront security products.
  7. How to buy Microsoft software.
  8. Software Assurance.

In this final post in the series, I’ll provide some useful links to Microsoft software licensing resources.

To start off with, there’s the Microsoft Licensing Reseller Handbook – intended for partners but publicly available and packed with links.

For those interested in volume licensing, the Microsoft Volume Licensing Reference Guide is intended for customers and explains the various options that are available.

Next up, there’s Emma (Lady Licensing)’s Licensing and Software Asset Management blog… which has a stack of information but I do find it a little odd that almost the first thing you read on the site is a notice that shouts “DO NOT COPY CONTENT WITHOUT MY EXPRESS PERMISSION” when the whole point is about sharing information (try Creative Commons) and much of that information appears to be a direct copy and paste from information provided by her employer (Microsoft)!

Other links that might be useful include:

If you have a licensing query and it’s not covered in any of the links here, call Microsoft – for UK customers the number is 0870 60 10 100.

Finally, I mentioned in the first post that this series has been based on information from a TechNet presentation at Microsoft UK – thanks to Jackie Elleker at Microsoft UK for presenting the information in a way that even I could understand – and for answering my many questions. Jackie has also produced a short video with Blue Solutions in which she explains many of the key points of Microsoft Licensing – including payment options.

So much for APACS’ Faster Payments… it’s easier to write a cheque

This content is 16 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

In recent weeks, I’ve come to the conclusion that the UK banking system is in chaos. New technology is great – I just wish that the banks could get it working properly.

On 27 May 2008, APACS, the UK payments association launched its new Faster Payments service. Faster Payments – that sounds good – faster than what? Well, faster than BACS Direct Credit. As I understand it, the Bankers’ Automated Clearing Services (BACS) system is 40 years old and dates back to times when the big clearing banks literally exchanged tapes with outgoing transfers batched up on day 1, sent between banks on day 2, and transferred in to the receiving bank on day 3. For a long time, that’s been the reason that transfers took 3 business days; however in the days of electronic transfers, what has really been happening is that the banks have sat on our money for a few days and earned some interest whilst we wait for it to be moved. When we need to move money quickly (for example, when buying a house), the banks use a system called CHAPS – and customers are charged for it.

According to APACS:

“The Faster Payments Service enables electronic payments, typically made via the Internet or phone, to be processed in hours rather than days.”

It sounds great. My bank is part of the scheme, so is my wife’s bank but the bank where we keep our savings (to get a better interest rate) isn’t so we’re stuck with BACS for a while longer. That’s not so bad, but then I tried to make a payment between two UK banks and the sort code was reported as belonging to as a bank in France. Err, “Non! Ce n’est pas correct”, thought I. So I called Bank A and they told me that I had the wrong sort code for Bank B. When I explained that the same page on the website showed an existing link to another account at Bank A with the same sort code they acknowledged that there was a problem and asked me to try again the next day.

It worked the next day and I put it down to an isolated incident but then I tried to make a payment from my account (at Bank B) to my wife’s account at Bank C. Both banks are part of the Faster Payments scheme. And Bank B wouldn’t let me pay money to Bank C because they said I had the wrong sort code. When I explained that I didn’t and that I was reading the details from my wife’s bank card and statement they said there was nothing they could do about it as Faster Payments doesn’t let them override incorrect details and that I’d need to get my wife to call Bank C (why? what could they do about problems with Bank B’s systems?). I guess I could always write a cheque! So much for Faster Payments!

The next day I was in town and, after making a purchase at the Apple Store in Milton Keynes, I needed some change to pay for car parking. One of their staff, “Bill”, who was clearly not employed for his social skills said that they could not help. So I went to the bank. This particular branch of HSBC has no counter staff but does have a few people standing around next to a line of machines where people can interact with the bank’s computers and withdraw/deposit funds. Very 21st century. Or it would be if it didn’t need so many staff to show people how to use the machines. One of those machines is supposed to issue coins in exchange for notes but it was not working. So I asked if the bank staff could change a £10 for some coins. No – the staff don’t have access to any money. After all, it’s only a branch of one of the UK’s largest banks…

Thankfully the staff in the nearby Gap store (where I didn’t buy anything – I just explained the situation and asked for help) were more than happy to open the till and change my tenner… then, as I passed the Apple Store, Bill asked if I had got my money and I said “Yes, thank you. No thanks to the Apple Store.”, to which he replied “woooooooooo!!!” (how very professional…).

So, it seems that Faster Payments don’t work. And that my bank can’t change notes for coins because the machines have taken over. First Direct also wants me to switch to paperless billing but the statements I can download from their Internet banking service are in formats that are pretty useless for local storage (only American Express seem to have a clue on how that should work – with 6 months of statements available for immediate download in PDF format and all others available from archive on request). Add to that the excessive bank charges, the fact that they seem to have totally lost their way on the customer service front (although at least their call centres are in the UK) and that none of the banks seem to be able to get their heads around secure logon for their Internet banking sites and it seems to me that the whole industry is a mess.

Microsoft Licensing: Part 8 (software assurance)

This content is 16 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

In my earlier post on how to buy Microsoft software, I mentioned Software Assurance (SA).

SA includes upgrade rights for all software released during the period of the agreement along with a number of additional benefits. Purchased as part of a volume license agreement or on an individual product, SA is a contraversial subject – Microsoft will highlight the many advantages that it offers to customers, whereas IT Managers will often question its value.

Unless included within the terms of an Open Value License or Enterprise Agreement, SA costs between 25 and 29% of the accompanying license price and, although it can be renewed, it ends when the accompanying agreement terminates. An ROI tool is available to help assess the likely financial benefits of SA but the trouble with software is that it’s a bit like the proverbial London Bus – you wait years for a new release and then they all come along at once…

For an IT Manager, this may mean that they don’t percieve their SA as having provided much benefit (e.g. if they didn’t see many new releases during the period of their agreement) but it can also work the other way. For example, I know of at least one Microsoft customer that has not resigned their EA because in the last few years they have gained the rights to upgrade their desktop from XP to Vista, their Office productivity suite from Office 2003 to 2007, their server infrastructure from Windows Server 2003 R2 to 2008 and to perform a number of server application upgrades (Exchange Server 2003 to 2007, Live Communications Server 2005 to Office Communications Server 2007, SharePoint Portal Server 2003 to Office SharePoint Server 2007, Systems Management Server 2003 to System Center Configuration Manager 2007, Operations Manager 2005 to System Center Operations Manager 2007, etc.). Now they have the right to use all of that software so they have their infrastructure upgrades for the next few years “in the bag” and see no reason to resign the EA. That’s not good for Microsoft, but very good for my anecdotal customer.

The full list of SA benefits, at each stage in the lifecycle, includes:

Lifecycle Stage Benefit
Plan New Version Rights
Spread Payments
Deploy Desktop Deployment Planning Services
Information Work Solution Services
Training Vouchers
Use eLearning
Home Use Program
Employee Purchase Program
Windows Vista Enterprise Edition
Desktop Optimisation Pack
Enterprise Source License Program
Maintain 24×7 Problem Resolution Support
TechNet Plus subscription
Cold backups for disaster recovery
Transition

There exact benefits that are available depend on the volume licensing agreement in place and an SA benefits comparison chart is available for download.

One of the major benefits for corporate users with Select or Enterprise agreements is the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP). This contains five additional technologies: Microsoft Application Virtualization (formerly Softricity SoftGrid); Microsoft System Center Desktop Error Monitoring; Microsoft Asset Inventory Service (formerly AssetMetrix); Microsoft Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset (formerly Winternals Administator’s Pak); and Microsoft Advanced Group Policy Management (formerly DesktopStandard GPOVault).

MDOP is a big pull for many organisations – particularly the Application Virtualization element – but it is a subscription service which means that when the accompanying volume license agreement ends so does the right to use the MDOP tools.

For many, a crystal ball would be useful when deciding if SA is appropriate – it all depends on how an organisation’s roadmap is aligned with new product releases and consequentially whether the benefits of SA will actually be of use. My view is that there are some substantial benefits available – and I’d suggest that the MDOP benefits might actually help to reduce operational costs and therefore finance the SA.

In the final part of this series on software licensing, I’ll summarise the eight posts so far and provide links to further information.

High volume, low cost, portable hard disk

This content is 16 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

When I bought my MacBook, I immediately upgraded the hard disk to a 320GB model (I generally avoid Western Digital, but I decided to risk it this time on the basis that as long as the data is backed up then everything should be OK).

Ever since then, I’ve been looking for a suitable USB-powered hard disk to back the MacBook up. I wanted a good-looking portable unit but upgrading the disk to match (or exceed) the internal disk was going to be problematic from a power and cooling perspective. Then I walked into PC World yesterday and saw a 320GB Western Digital My Passport Essential hard disk for £99.99. Unfortunately they only had the 320GB size in Midnight Black (my MacBook is white), so I paid a little bit more for an Arctic White one from dabs.com.

Even though the drive supports Windows and Macintosh computers (and, although it doesn’t say so, it should work with any other PC operating system as long as it can load the appropriate USB drivers), the supplied software is only for Windows. I moved the software to another disk and connected the drive to my Mac, where I reformatted it using HFS+ and a GUID partition table (the drive was supplied as FAT32 – which is great for device portability but does have some limitations on file size – and with a master boot record (MBR). As it happens, that step was not necessary because my chosen backup software erased the disk.

After running Carbon Copy Cloner my Mac hard disk contents were duplicated onto the external disk and I could breath a sigh of relief, safe in the knowledge that when (not if) the internal hard disk fails at least I have a copy to work from.

Carbon Copy ClonerThere’s just one point to note about the cloning process… on my 2.2GHz MacBook with 4GB of RAM, the cloning operation started out by taking around 4 minutes per GB. With just short of 300GB to transfer that’s 20 hours, so I did’t pay too much attention to the progress bar (which indicated that the clone was about 25% complete after about 12 minutes) – it just happens that the operating system and applications (at the front of the disk) have lots of small files whereas my data (written later) includes a lot of large media files. Even as the progress bar slowed to a crawl, the file transfer rate seemed to improve and the operation finally completed in about 6 hours and 40 minutes. Subsequent backups should be faster as they will be incremental.

World Environment Day 2008

This content is 16 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

Today is World Environment Day 2008 – a day for promoting environmental awareness with the aim of moving towards a low carbon economy.

Generally, I’m in favour of reducing carbon emissions. Regardless of whether you believe that global warming is a man-made phonomenon (not everyone does) the idea of pumping out fewer harmful gasses just seems to be the right thing to do – why would you do anything else?

Unfortunately, governments and businesses can harness people’s good intentions and use it to further their own causes. It seems that the UK Government, for example, is hoping that rising fuel prices and increased pressure to adapt green travel initiatives will avoid the need to invest in the nation’s infrastructure – meanwhile our roads are falling apart, trains are full (and the service is variable) and if you live outside a city then public transport is not generally practical. Then there’s the whole “green” energy issue. The windfarm that is being forced upon local people where I live sounds great. At least it does until you realise that it wouldn’t be viable without massive subsidy (because north-east Buckinghamshire is not a very windy place – even if the UK is as a whole) and that those subsidies (paid for by consumers who are already struggling with rising energy prices) are being pushed through a complicated chain of investments back to companies based in the Bahamas and the Marshall islands (both considered to be tax havens). How cynical is that?

That’s not to say that we shouldn’t all do our bit. Hopefully I’ll write a bit soon about my investigation into energy usage for some of my IT – looking at the items that consume the most power and how best to reduce the markwilson.it carbon footprint. I do find it a little odd though that so many companies are adopting the “Please consider the environment – do you really need to print this email?” message and including it in their e-mail signatures (including where I work – where, paradoxically, many of our printers are old and inefficient and very few them support double-sided printing…). Think Before You Print But do people really print their e-mail? (I admit that I do sometimes print documents that I’m reviewing because it’s easier to read in print than on the screen). Regardless, I preferred to use the slightly punchier “Be green: keep it on the screen” line until I saw one of my colleagues from down under using a “Think before you print” logo which I’ve since adopted – much broader in scope than just not printing e-mail.

One thing’s for sure – there are very few “right” decisions on green issues. Not so much black and white but with many grey shades in between (perhaps that should be not so much forest green or spring green but emerald, jade and lime). Sometimes, it’s difficult to know what the right choice is… for instance, should I buy fair trade produce and help out poor farmers in developing nations – or should I stick to local produce, and reduce my food mileage? I guess it all depends on your point of view.

Leon Hickman: A Good Life - the Guide to Ethical LivingIn the meantime, a good read if you are interested in the whole idea of sustainable living (I even started to grow my own vegetables this year!) is A Good Life – the guide to ethical living, by Leo Hickman.

Podcasts I listen to/watch

This content is 16 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

After three years of listening to podcasts, I’ve recently been reviewing my selections. Some have been culled as a result so I made a list of what I consider to be hot – and what’s not.

I did write something about this a year or so back and I guess the list will be updated fairly frequently, so I’ve made it a page outside the normal blog structure

Podcasts I listen to/watch (revisited)

This content is 16 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

It’s certainly not a directory, but here’s a list of what I consider to be good for keeping up with tech news and general geekiness and what’s been chopped from my iTunes because it went downhill…

What’s hot?

  • The Archers – the only soap opera worth bothing with!
  • Friday Night Comedy from the BBC. Taking over the Now Show’s feed, I get the News Quiz or the Now Show (whichever is in season), delivered to me automatically. Just a shame that licencing restrictions mean any commercial music is removed from the podcast version…
  • Guardian Tech Weekly – as the title suggest, a weekly technology update from The Gruniad. Definitely worth a listen.
  • Tekzilla. 1 minute daily tips with an end-of week tech magazine show.
  • Wired UK Podcast – a bit geeky at times and a bit too consumer-focused, but I like it.

And what’s not?

  • The Anderson Tapes. Clive Anderson’s weekly podcast for the Telegraph. Only ran for one series and sometimes the humour was a little too predictable.
  • The Digital Story. Derek Story has a lot of advice but I also have a stack of unlistened episodes… I never did manage to get into this one.
  • FLOSS Weekly. Interesting interviews with pioneers and leaders from the world of open source software. Unfortunately Leo Laporte butts in a little too often.
  • FT Digital Business podcast. This one’s a new one on me… could turn out to be an interesting insight into the world of business IT. Probably really interesting but I have too many podcasts to listen to and so little time.
  • iLifeZone. Podcast about the iApps on the Mac. Too many of Scott Bourne’s Mac fanboy views. Too much Mac elitism.
  • In Business. Interesting insight into global business issues. Interesting, but another podcast that I never found enough time to listen to regularly.
  • Inside the Net. Amber MacArthur and Leo Laporte used to interview lots of interesting Web 2.0 people. Then it went over to a live format (Net at Night) and I stopped listening.
  • MacBreak Tech. Sometimes interesting. Sometimes dull. Sometimes displaying complete ignorance for anything not developed in Cupertino and given a fancy UI. Changed names to Inside the Black Box and then stopped.
  • MacBreak. Pretty cool video podcast with lots of tips and tricks. I prefer Tekzilla though…
  • MacBreak Weekly. This one nearly got the chop for getting too long and being too fanboyish. Still there for the time being but on probation… Would be cool if it was just Merlin Mann, Alex Lindsay and Andy Ihnatko.
  • MacFormat – This Week. A bi-weekly podcast with news, reviews and tech tips from the world of the Macintosh. Saved me from reading the print magazine, which is probably why they stopped producing it!
  • MAKE Magazine podcast. Still waiting for me to find the time to watch some episodes…
  • Pad Addicts. British iPad podcast. Terrible production and presenters lacked any kind of authority. Imagine Chris Moyles ranting on about the iPad, but worse.
  • PixelPerfect. Still waiting for me to find the time to watch some episodes…
  • Podgrunt. It promised to tell us how to create podcasts but sadly it never got past the first episode.
  • Red Hat Magazine. A bi-monthly podcast that promised much from the world of open source but stopped being updated in November 2006.
  • Security Now. Interesting reviews of security issues. Sometimes a bit ignorant to enterprise IT issues – but certainly worth a listen for Steve Gibson‘s view on security. Leo Laporte drove me mad – I had to stop listening to this.
  • Slashdot Review. A roundup of the day’s news from Slashdot but it sent me to sleep… (not good whilst driving!)
  • Systm. A cool video podcast featuring loads of tech DIY projects. Originally started by Kevin Rose (of Digg fame), then off air for a while but came back to our screens in May 2007. Disappeared again.
  • This Week In Photography. Great digital photography podcast with some interesting guests. Even Scott Bourne’s not too annoying on this one and lots of interesting videos in the feed between the weekly audio shows. Too bad they spend so much time bragging about top-end Nikon and Canon DSLRs that most of us can only dream about… The episodes started getting a little too long, Frederick Van Johnson seemed to always ask the same question of all the guests, and I tuned out…
  • This Week In Tech. Started out as a great review of the week’s news. Then got too big for it’s boots – too much “personality” and not enough news. Culled from my iTunes after 3 years of listening…
  • Videogrunt. Could have been so good but suddenly stopped broadcasting after just 5 episodes of (very high quality) content.
  • Windows Weekly. Microsoft-focused Podcast with Paul Thurrott and Leo Laporte. Slightly too consumer-focused for my liking but that’s the way it is. Luckily they stopped doing phone-in episodes but I fear they may well start again now that the TWiT network is going “live”. This was the last of the TWiT podcasts to drop out of my list, but I couldn’t stand any more of Leo.
  • You and Yours Environment. Topical “Green” consumer issues. The BBC changed the way they distribute this and I stopped listening.

[Last updated 3 June 2008]
[Updated 21 September 2008]
[Updated 17 January 2009]
[Updated 5 April 2011]
[Updated 7 October 2011: converted from page to post; no longer “sticky”]