It’ll soon be Thanksgiving here in the United States, a holiday where friends and family gather to consume prodigious quantities of food, squabble with relatives, and attempt to enjoy a few days away from the workplace. If you’re not an American and need a primer on what Thanksgiving is all about, please refer to Empire Online’s excellent guide to Thanksgiving for Non-Americans. You could also watch Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, a film I consider to be simultaneously one of the best comedies of all time as well as a subtle reminder of what Thanksgiving should be about.
Giving thanks for family, friends, and the things you’re most fond of is a custom for many people around Thanksgiving, so in the spirit of the season, I’ve decided to put together a quick list of some of the things that IT professionals can be thankful for this year. Feel free to agree or disagree — and add a few of your own things to be thankful for by sounding off in our comments section.
Sure, Windows 8 is all over the news these days, and it is does happen to be the latest and greatest client operating system from Microsoft. But let’s hear it for Windows 7, which is arguably the best example yet of what an OS optimized for a traditional mouse and keyboard should be. I’ve been an avid Windows user since the original release of Windows 1.0 in 1985, and Windows 7 is the most reliable OS I’ve ever used. Solid, speedy, and wrapped in the familiar, recognizable Windows UI — with a start button! — Windows 7 has earned its place as the client OS of choice for most system administrators these days. Forrester Research also has some data to back up the assertion that IT departments love Windows 7, with survey results showing that IT purchasing decision makers are more likely to deploy Windows 7 than Windows 8
True, coffee isn’t software or hardware. But how many system administrators wouldn’t be able to get their days started without a steaming cup of java? I’m a tech journalist covering the IT industry, and I can’t get enough of the stuff. I’m also thankful that I don’t live too close to a Starbucks or Dazbog coffee shop, since a large chunk of my disposable income would probably be left in their cash registers. All of this talk about coffee reminds me that I need more coffee. But perhaps I should start using System Center to monitor my coffee consumption.
Coffee: It makes the IT world go ’round. (Image via Starbucks)
I’m back now, with a fresh cup of coffee, sipping happily in front of my monitor. Where were we? Ah, that’s right — things we can be thankful for. The next thing we as system administrators can be thankful for is Windows Server 2012, which is the best Windows Server OS ever. While the jury is still divided on Windows 8 — We have an article making the case for Windows 8 deployment and another one arguing against it (and both articles are equally popular) — Windows Server 2012 provides server OS goodness from every angle. Just look at these features: Hyper-V 3.0. PowerShell 3.0. Shared-nothing live migration. Revamped Server Manager. Even the much-maligned and despised CHKDSK command has been given a radical makeover, which helps put Windows Server 2012 on this list. Want more? Check out my Top 10 Features of Windows Server 2012 for more superlatives about Microsoft’s flagship server OS.
The spiffy new server manager is just one of the thousands of new features in Windows Server 2012. (Image via Microsoft.)
According to many of the IT pros I’ve talked to, PowerShell also draws mixed reviews. Some admins love how powerful PowerShell is, while others dread mucking about too much in the command-line, preferring to use the traditional Windows GUI to get tasks done. For system administrators in the latter camp, I’d suggest that you give PowerShell another look. It’s a godsend for automating mundane and repetitive admin tasks, and also gives you unprecedented power and flexibility with just a few lines of text. We have a ton of resources here on the Petri IT Knowledgebase for learning PowerShell, so I’d urge you to take the plunge.
Windows PowerShell can be an excellent tool for managing your IT infrastructure. (Image via Jeff Hicks.)
Everyone loves free system utilities, and perhaps none are more widely-used than the stable of why-didn’t-I-think-of-that tools included in the Microsoft Sysinternals suite. Microsoft Technical Fellow Mark Russinovich has also been busy updating most of them to support the latest features of Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012. There are too many to list here, but do yourself a favor by visiting the Microsoft Sysinternals website and taking advantage of all these great, free, and incredibly useful tools and utilities.
The handy Sysinternals Process Explorer utility (image via Microsoft Sysinternals)
While the iPad has been steadily invading offices since it was released in April 2010, the Fall of 2012 should go down in history as the season of the tablet PC. In addition to the fourth-generation iPad, Apple has introduced the new, smaller form-factor iPad Mini. Not to be outdone, Amazon has revamped its Kindle Fire tablets by bringing out the Kindle Fire HD and upgrading the original Kindle Fire. Microsoft has finally entered the tablet race with the introduction of the Microsoft Surface with Windows RT (soon to be followed by the more-capable and intel-powered Microsoft Surface with Windows 8 Pro tablet), and Asus has the Windows RT-powered Vivo Tab. Finally, let’s not forget the flood of Android tablets we’ve seen over the last year, including the Asus Transformer, Google Nexus 7, and more. While the desktop and laptop PCs are probably never going away, I know many system administrators who can’t live without their tablets.
Microsoft enters the tablet race: The Surface with Windows RT. (Image via our Microsoft Surface with Windows RT Review.)
All work and no play makes even the system administrator a dull boy (or girl), right? Microsoft has recently released the latest installment in the Halo franchise, much to the delight of fans of the well-armored (and taciturn) Master Chief. Halo 4 is the most visually impressive game in the series, and developer 343 Industries manages to keep — and improve upon — the game elements that made the earlier games in the series so memorable. Not to be done on company time, mind you, but blowing up some aliens and saving the universe can do wonders to help relieve office stress.<
All hail the Master Chief. (Image via Microsoft.)
Have anything else you’d like to add to this list? Feel free to tell me what you think by adding a comment to this blog post or reach out to me on Twitter.