Reliability Monitor and Windows 7 (How it saved my life!)

Ok, so maybe it didn't save my life, but it sure does help me discover what's really happening on my users' computers. No longer do I have to rely on answers from the users. I can simply look at the history of their computer and see new installs, crashes and other valuable information in the Reliability Monitor.

To access the Windows 7 Reliability Monitor the fast way:

  1. Simply click Start, type Reliability and click the View reliability history link that is displayed with the blue flag.
  2. Once in the interface, you can scroll through the history viewing errors, warnings and information entries by clicking on them.

 

The information displayed in the Reliability Monitor will include device driver installations, software installations, system crashes, application crashes, failed installations and more. You can export the data to an XML file, which could then be analyzed by other reporting applications, for example, Crystal Reports supports XML data sources.

Interestingly, Microsoft removed the feature to view remote computers' reliability data through the GUI interface of the Windows 7 Reliability Monitor. With the new tools, to view the reliability data on remote computers, you must use PowerShell , which, quite frankly, sucks in comparison to the graphical view in my opinion. However, there is a nice article at the TechNet Magazine website that gives you the basics of PowerShell and reliability data here: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/magazine/dd535685.aspx.

IT Project Management Jobs

There are many important jobs, or roles, involved in managing an IT project. Some are unique to IT projects, while others are similar to other industries. In this article, I will cover – what I feel are – the top four IT project management jobs. They are:

  • Project Manager
  • Project Task Leaders
  • Project Stakeholders
  • Relationship Liaisons

The first job is obvious: the Project Manager. This individual should be responsible for the core project management responsibilities including:

  • Budgeting
  • Scheduling
  • Team Leadership
  • Conflict
  • Risk
  • Procurement
  • Quality
  • Communications

These are the traditional responsibilities of a Project Manager in any industry. If an individual has the more specific IT project management job, they may also be responsible for technology update management throughout the project lifecycle; however, this is often a post project task.

The second project management job would be that of a Project Task Leader. You might think of this individual as a mini-project manager within the scope of a single project task. These tasks will usually be larger tasks, or task groupings. The Task Leader is responsible for the technical details of how the task will be completed and, if working alone, the actual completion of the task. When working with others, the Task Leader is also responsible for coordinating the work among the task workers.

You might feel awkward thinking of a Project Stakeholder as having an IT project management job, but they do play a key role in the project. The Project Stakeholder(s) must take responsibility for openly communicating with the Project Manager on any issues that will impact the quality, budget, schedule or scope of the project. While the Project Manager should have exceptional communication skills, the Project Stakeholder must also take responsibility to communicate openly and honestly.

The final of the four IT project management jobs I'll specify is that of Relationship Liaison. The Relationship Liaison role is often played by the Project Manager as part of communications management. However, when you are working on mission critical projects and have many departments to serve, it is often more efficient to assign a Relationship Liaison to each department and have these individuals communicate back with the Project Manager.

In this scenario, you would not expect that the Project Manager never speaks with the department heads and users, but the majority of communications will take place through the channels of the Relationship Liaisons. This reduces time consumption for the Project Manager and, in many cases, will actually provide a greater feeling of involvement for the various departments.

When do you consider these and other project management jobs? I would suggest considering the various roles at the beginning and throughout the project. In others words, you'll start your project with assigned roles and responsibilities, however, things can change and you may have to create a new role (like a Relationship Liaison) in the middle of your project. This is the simple reality of the project management world.

Three Secret Motivational Methods of Thomas Edison

Do you every find yourself feeling beaten down by the continue complaints of users, security patches that must be applied and new information you must learn? If you do, you're just like every other technologist and you need a good dose of motivation. If you want to get motivated, study motivated individuals. Thomas Edison had to be one of the most highly motivated men in history. He was also a techie – for his day. He would not give up. May this article be a tribute to him and all who follow the motivational path.

Thomas Edison had just completed a successful test of his Marvelous Talking Machine (the phonograph) when he said these words:

I was always afraid of things that worked first time.
– Thomas Edison

This quote is an excellent starting point for our discussion. I want to talk about motivation. In this article I will reveal three ways to keep your motivation high and become a success in any area you desire.

Thomas Edison is the perfect example of motivation. After hundreds of attempts he finally found success when creating his version of the incandescent light bulb. Here is another quote from Mr. Edison:

I speak without exaggeration when I say I have constructed 3000 different theories in connection with the electric light, yet in only two cases did my experiments prove the truth of my theory.
– Thomas Edison

With this kind of motivation, I think we can certainly learn something from the man. Here are three motivational methods that I have observed in the life of Thomas Edison:

• Maintaining A Dream
• Learning From Failure
• Managing Time

Let's investigate each of these individually.

Maintaining A Dream

I have more respect for the fellow with a single idea who gets there than for the fellow with a thousand ideas who does nothing.
– Thomas Edison

Well said, Mr. Edison.

There is more to maintaining a dream than professing it. Everyone knows that maintenance of anything requires work. We must learn to work our dreams.

There was a time in my career when I dreamed of success in sales as a seminar speaker. I was working for a company that required the sales of resources at the seminars I delivered. I dreamed of what it would be like to sell more than my peers were selling. I dreamed about the feeling of that success. Then I discovered dream maintenance.

I began reading books about selling. I must have devoured five or six books in a two week period. Next I began to think through my goals. How many of this would I have to sell? How much of that? Finally I planned my words carefully. I considered objections that might arise and formulated responses.

Do you know what the result was? Simple. I became the number one sales person on the staff. This is maintaining a dream.

As the single idea drove Thomas Edison to the creation of the incandescent light bulb after hundreds of failures, so let your ideas push you beyond your imaginable limits.

Learning From Failure

If I find 10,000 ways something won't work, I haven't failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward. Just because something doesn't do what you planned it to do doesn't mean it's useless.
– Thomas Edison

I like the perspective of Mr. Edison. He never failed, he only learned. I say that we should learn from failure, he said he doesn't ever fail, that he only takes another step toward success. Either way you look at it, you have to keep pursuing your dream.

I watched my son as he attempted to place a simple crayon into a crayon box recently. This crayon box had small circular holes to place the crayons in. He tried placing the crayon in on its side two or three times with no success, but he did not give up. He then tried placing the crayon in with the sharpened end down and noticed that it looked different from the rest of the crayons in the box. So he pulled the crayon out and flipped it over. Success!

You see, he learned from his failure. He continued until he found success. Persistence is a powerful tool you and I must learn.

An incident in Thomas Edison's youth demonstrates the willingness to learn from failure rather than to quit. When Thomas Edison was twelve years old he took a job as a train boy. He sold newspapers and candy to passengers. He saved all his money and purchased chemicals and tools for his lab.

Eventually the railroad company allowed him to create a lab in a baggage car so he could perform his tests during layovers. One day, the train lurched, and Edison's chemicals dispersed throughout the baggage car. A fire resulted, and Edison was kicked off the train.

Thomas Edison did not quit his experiments. He simply quit experimenting in moving train cars.

Managing Time

The thing I lose patience with the most is the clock. Its hands move too fast. Time is really the only capital that any human being has, and the one thing that he can't afford to lose.
– Thomas Edison

When you feel that your day has been wasted, it is a real motivational sap. It just sucks the positive motivational attitude right out of you.

What are you to do? How can you solve this dilemma?

The easiest way is to reclaim wasted time.

Let me say something clearly here. Personal time is not wasted time. Time with your family is not wasted time. Time alone for personal refreshment is not wasted time. Wasted time is time you spend doing things that will not help you reach any goal that you have. Or, as I mentioned before, any dream that you are pursuing.

Reclaim this time in one easy step. Do you want to know what that step is?

There is no $99.97 package that you need to buy. No two-day seminar to sign-up for (though neither of these would hurt). You simply need to plan your day.

It is estimated that one hour of planning can save three or four hours of work. This is a simple way to reclaim your time.

Summary
In closing, let me quote Mr. Edison a few more times. Listen to how he summarized his thoughts on success:

The three things that are essential to achievement are hard work, stick-to-it-iv-ness, and common sense…

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work…

There seems to be no limit to which some men will go to avoid the labor of thinking. Thinking is hard work…

Genius is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration…

A genius is a talented person who does his homework. I never did anything worth doing by accident…
– Thomas Edison

The Power of Open Questions

Central to successful human interaction is the ability to ask good questions. Through questions you can learn what someone is really thinking, feeling, planning and more.

Most people do not ask the right kind of questions when it comes to information gathering. If your questions can be answered with "yes" or "no", you are probably not getting as much information as you could if you would ask open questions. Open questions cannot be answered with "yes" or "no".

Yes and No Question Openers
If you start your questions with these words, you are very likely asking a yes or no question:

  • Do – Do you think the server is the problem?
  • Did – Did you reinstall the ODBC drivers?
  • Are – Are you planning to install that new driver?
  • Will – Will you be at the security training class?
  • Were – Were you the one who updated the anti-virus definitions?
  • Should – Should we consider an upgrade?

Open Question Openers
If you start your questions with these words, you are probably asking open questions:

  • What – What do you think the problem is?
  • Where – Where did you put the ODBC drivers?
  • When – When will you be installing that new driver?
  • Why – Why do you think we should attend the security training class?
  • How – How should we do the upgrade?

Do you see the difference? (yes/no)

How do you think you can apply this knowledge? (with users, managers, consultants and vendors)

As you can see in these last two examples, yes and no questions can work as leaders to open questions. There is certainly a place for yes and no questions, but they are not the most powerful information gathering questions.

Examples of Open Question Rephrases
Here are a few examples of commonly asked yes or no questions rephrased as open questions:

  • Did you do anything to the computer before it stopped working? (yes/no)
  • What happened to the computer before it stopped working? (open)

 

  • Are there any problems I should know about before buying this software? (yes/no)
  • What are the biggest problems you've had with this software? (open)

 

  • Have you worked with other companies in the same industry as ours? (yes/no)
  • What other companies have you worked with in this industry? (open)

 

  • Did you try rebooting? (yes/no)
  • What have you tried so far? (open)

 

  • Do you see the picture I'm painting in this article? (yes/no)
  • What is the picture this article is painting in your mind? (open)

Summary
In summary, let me remind you of the important facts. There are times when we want to use yes and no questions; however, you'll gather more valuable information by asking open questions. Learn to rephrase your questions as open questions and you'll become a much better technical communicator.