This Corona Thing

So how are you handling this Corona thing?

Back in January even I thought China would manage to contain it. Neither the previous outbreaks had any major impact on life as I knew it. Even in the middle of the SARS outbreak I flew to Singapore without much hesitation because I had a job to do. But when we saw them building a hospital in what can only be described as panic I realised this would get out of hand. And boy did it ever!

But it didn’t take long for our CDC (“Folkhälsomyndigheten”, or “FOHM” for short) to tell people to work from home if possible. Which I gladly did and I’ve been to the office maybe four times in as many months. And working from home definitely has its challenges that I’ll make a separate post about. But I was still hoping it’d blow over rather quickly so we could all go back to normal but “little did I know” right…

In the middle of March my wife’s grandmother fell victim to our society’s failure to protect the elderly and she passed away which was a big shock to everyone because she was quite the iron lady and we thought that after a week of not getting worse that she’d pull through but unfortunately not.

So we, as in our family unit of 3, started doing our best to minimize the exposure. Not seeing as many people, not going out on many trips or excursions and staying home as much as possible. But the cabin fever of being home this much, especially when working from home, is rather intense and I’m so thankful that FOHM hasn’t instituted a lockdown in Sweden!

But by early April everyone realised how bad this situation was and all companies that were effected by this were allowed to give their employees a paid furlough – working from 20, 40, 60 or even 80% while retaining most of the salary. I wasn’t effected by this as I’m apparently that vital to our IT ops but most of my colleagues went down to 40% or less. And it also effected my wife’s work since people aren’t going out for coffee that much and B2B sales got hurt by everyone working from home so she went from working 5 days per week to 2. Which meant that for 3 days she was home while I was working from home which made it even more interesting.

In early June we finally got tested for antibodies which was negative so as it turns out, we just had the normal flu back in February.

Unfortunately that wasn’t sustainable and eventually there had to be downsizing. I survived the first round of layoffs but my wife didn’t so she’s soon out of a job. That sucks, not only because she’s unemployed but because this was a job where she worked with a product she loves – coffee.

But so far we’re in good health. Well more or less anyway, we’re not suffering from Covid at least. But I know 6 people that have had it and 3 of them are still suffering from fatigue, shortness of breath and heart arrhythmia, scary stuff to say the least so I’d rather sit this one out.

So right now we’re still doing the best we can in little family unit, limiting our exposure, shopping as much online as possible and trying not to go out unless we have to.

The Big Tenant-to-Tenant Migration

As you may know, I worked for the Nordic part of the Thomas Cook Group. I was the O365 admin for a tenant with over 30,000 user accounts. And we ran the Azure AD Connect service for the entire group and had just moved to pass-through authentication with Seamless SSO. Although it was a royal pain sometimes to work in such a large company where even a minor change could take weeks to implement and get approval for from everywhere.

As you may also know, Thomas Cook Group filed for bankruptcy in October last year. And there was no advanced warning or anything about what was going to happen next. But for our part, we realised that we would (if the company survived) most likely be moving our Nordic business to a new O365 tenant so we began planning for that. Over the next few months a lot of stuff happened. The Nordic part of the group was sold off and started their own company NLTG and the old group was shutting down all parts of their business. Except the German part because they were backed by their government so they survived (more on that later).

When we got back after the Christmas break we were given a clear order to evacuate the tenant before end of February. Since we were a separate company and legal entity we were no longer entitled to share the old tenant which, even though it makes sense, pretty much lit a torch under our asses to get this done now. And we realised it wouldn’t be a pretty or a smooth operation, as I recall saying, “this is going to take a sledgehammer, not a scalpel!”. Fortunately I’m very used to sledgehammer my way to getting results. Yeap, thinking back to that SharePoint upgrade that was all over the place!

So there we were, less than 8 weeks to pull off a migration with 3,000 users, 5,500 mailboxes, 10TB of SharePoint data, 8TB of OneDrive data and 12TB of Exchange data. And this is how it went…

Identities : The building block of any good tenant is the identities. When we first planned for the migration our plan was to have a new on-prem AD that would be fed by.. well that’s irrelevant since there was no time for that. The only way forward was to use our existing on-prem AD. But the problem was that MSFT doesn’t support syncing your on-prem identities to two tenants. Why? I have no idea – I fully get how you wouldn’t want that in a production environment (since the UPN domain can only be valid in one tenant) but for a migration like this it would have solved a lot of headaches if we were allowed to do it like that. But nope, we really wanted to have Microsoft support for this. And we also had to retain our e-mail domains since we’re heavily dependant on the brand which is almost as Swedish as Ikea, at least in Sweden. So that presented us with the first big problem – pre-populating the new tenant with 3,000 user objects so we could start copying the data and when it was time to migrate and then play around with the UPN domains so the matching would work. But the first step was creating the 3,000 users as cloud only “onmicrosoft” accounts. This was done using powershell to export as much info on the users as possible (including “usagelocation” and “preferredlanguages” since we’re an org with offices from Thailand to Mexico!) and then powershell to recreate the users as closely as possible. Another step we had to take here was setting up a filter in Azure AD Connect that would only sync users to each tenant depending on the value of an extensionattribute. That way we could make sure no user was synced to both tenants at any time, although it did take alot of tinkering to get that logic working but fortunately Microsoft have documented how to do attribute filtering, so thanks for that.

Authentication: Remember how I said we’d just gone over to PTA for the old tenant? Well this little thing meant that as long as users were logging in to the old tenant (which we knew the Germany company would) we couldn’t use PTA for our users since it’s all based around a computer object in the AD forest with a Kerberos encryption key that’s tied to the tenant! So if we set up PTA for our new tenant that would change the key on the computer object and they wouldn’t be able to login anymore! So to solve this we did a “quick and dirty” setup of a temporary AD FS for our users to use based on domain. This was a surprisingly easy thing to do in Windows Server 2019 but it was an added “gotcha!” of this entire scenario!

SharePoint : The first problem with SharePoint was to determine which sites were relevant to keep and which weren’t. Our entire SharePoint was well over 20TB so we had to make sure to only copy over sites we knew were relevant to the Nordics business. But there’s no way of determining that without going through all the underlying permissions and groups to determine if “our” users are working on the site or not. It’s not like you can ask SharePoint to “give me all the sites that any user with the UPN domain @domain.se is working on”. Or maybe there is, I just didn’t have the knowledge to write that powershell at the time. Once that was done we used ShareGate to migrate all the SharePoint data. The biggest fear was that it wouldn’t be able to match the old identities with the new ones – which it did! I’m pretty sure it went by “DisplayName” to match them but we’re just very very thankful it did because that would have been a mess to sort out. The biggest issue I had with ShareGate was how unpredictable it was when it came to doing incremental copies, which was done through powershell. We split it up on 4 different servers with about 80 sites per server. Sometimes it could complete them all in 2 hours, sometimes it took 8 hours for one server, sometimes longer. During the weekend of the actual move it took well over 12 hours to complete which caused me a bit of unnecessary stress.

OneDrive : Since we already had a pretty nice “masterlist” of users that we would be migrating it was pretty easy to setup a CSV file to map “Old OneDrive -> New OneDrive” that we then used ShareGate to copy. That went pretty nicely although there were some instances of data not being copied over so we had to sort that our after the switch and people were missing a few files. Other than that the issue was the same as above – it was very unpredictable and I had to mess around with the queues on the weekend of the switch. We had one incident of a users OneDrive being almost empty but looking back at the old OneDrive is was empty too. So our theory there is that his OneDrive client must’ve been paused so we had to send that computer to the lab for data recovery – but that’s not ShareGates fault one bit!

Exchange : Oh joy! I was in charge of the Nordics business moving from on-prem to Online 3 years ago so I wasn’t looking forward to another move at all. After doing a quick check around for what tool to use (with our extremely limited budget – our company had gone bankrupt and we were still getting back on our feets!). It ended up being CodeTwo which was by far the cheapest alternative. But as the saying goes “you get what you paid for” and in this instance we paid for a software to move data from Mailbox A in Tenant X to Mailbox A in Tenant Y. And it did that job without much of an issue. There were still a lot of things to sort out around the move (like transport rules, conference rooms) but the big issue was just moving all the data. The biggest issue I had with that software was that they didn’t have a CSV import function when moving tenant->tenant! When moving on-prem -> tenant that wasn’t an issue, but tenant -> tenant, well the only way to enter a mailbox was to actually manually enter a mailbox! So we spent days entering 5,500 mailboxes and matching them with their new mailbox. A simply CSV import would’ve saved us days of work on this. My next issue with the software was when we were up to about 800 mailboxes per server on 7 servers, that really slowed the UI down. At the end it was so slow that when you started a queue for a incremental copy the UI would stop responding and you didn’t even know it was working until it was done and it just popped alive again.

Teams: Now Teams was the most interesting bit. Because Teams is based on so many technologies it was difficult to do a proper Teams migration. No matter how far we looked we just couldn’t find a tool that would migrate Teams with the channel/chats that also took the entire underlying SharePoint site! If you had other document libraries or data on the SharePoint site, then that was lost if you migrated the Team. But if you migrated the SharePoint site you will have lost the data in Teams that wasn’t in the default document library! So we made the choice of migrating the SharePoint sites since noone should have have posted anything business critical in a chat in a channel in Teams. Fortunately ShareGate comes with the ability to recreate O365 groups so all the groups got recreated and we only had to make the ones that were Teams into Teams manually, that was it. But it was a bit of a “unexpected behaviour” for ShareGate when it came to legacy sites (that were migrated from on-prem) that now had an O365 group, it simply wouldn’t recognise them as O365 groups or O365 Group sites and created them as legacy sites in the new tenant regardless. But that was easy enough to handle afterwards.

Licenses: This was another headache but fortunately not mine! Since our old license agreement with Microsoft was tied to our old company we couldn’t use that. And since our company was brand new we had no credit score anywhere so Microsoft couldn’t just hand us 3,000 licenses and hope we’d pay. After a lot of back and forth we managed to get the licenses in place well enough to start the migration and begin copying all that data. But there was still the matter of support contract with Microsoft. There was alot of options floating around to try different support alternatives but in the end we agreed on a premiere support deal with Microsoft. Even though the paperwork got sorted and we were told on Friday January 31st that everything was done and we now had premiere support with MSFT it turns out that like a lot of things in O365, sometimes it can take a day or two for the wheels to turn and you’ll see how critical this became for us.

Additional headache: One headache we had was that we’re not only running a normal business, we’re also running an airline. And the pilots must be able to check their e-mail for any notices and warnings from the aviation authorities before takeoff. This may include stuff like “this aircraft model isn’t flight worthy so don’t fly this aircraft model” and “Iran just shot down a civilian aircraft, avoid their airspace”. Things like that is absolutely critical for the pilots to check for, so saying “e-mail will be down for a day” is completely unacceptable from that perspective. And we were supposed to retain all the e-mail domains, and a domain can only exist in one tenant at a time. So we had to figure out a way to handle this and move their accounts and e-mail domain as quickly as possible to avoid any flight delays because their e-mails isn’t working. (spoiler – their email was down for 90 minutes)

The plan: So the best plan we came up with was to start an incremental copy of all the SharePoint/OneDrive data first thing on the morning of Saturday February 1st. Then at about 18:00 CET we’d set automatic forwarding on everyone’s mailbox in the old tenant that would forward every mail to their new mailbox with the “onmicrosoft” address. That way we were guaranteed no mail would go missing in case of bad timings. Then we did an incremental copy of all mailboxes. We had done this in plenty of tests and it would only take 2 hours so we planned to start with the first most important domain for our airline at 21:00 CET, then when that was done continue with the largest domain we had (with about 800 users) and work our way through our list of about 10 domains.
The switch consisted of alof of steps since we weren’t allowed to sync an on-prem object to two tenants.

  • The first step was to change the UPN domain of the users on-prem to newtenant.onmicrosoft.com and let that sync to the old tenant. Since that domain didn’t exist in the old tenant that resulted in the user being given a oldtenant.onmicrosoft.com UPN domain which was crucial since we knew we would end up having to restore users from recycle bin, which would be problematic if they still had their old UPN domain which no longer was in the tenant.
  • The second step was removing them from sync in the old Azure AD Connect sync and changing the extensionattribute so it would sync to the new tenant. This resulted in all users being put into the recycle bin in the old tenant, and in the new tenant it would match everyone properly as long as the UPN matched perfectly for on-prem and in the new tenant. They were then automatically converted to “synced from on-prem” users in Azure AD.
  • Thirdly we removed the domain from the old tenant and added it to the new tenant. Even though this is a straight forward process when you’ve made sure all objects for that domain are changed so the domains aren’t in use, I feared this step the most since I’ve previously had alot of issues removing a domain like this. Then ofcourse we’d have to tell that domain to be federated so it would use ADFS.
  • Lastly we would change the UPN of the user back to their original UPN on-prem and let that sync to the new tenant which now had the new domain and everything was set.
    When we did this with our test domains (of about 20 users each) this entire process took an hour so we felt pretty comfortable we’d be done at about 3-4 on Sunday morning and then we’d get some sleep before the users woke up to check their phones only to see the “error signing you in” and they’d start calling.

But… “no plan of operations extends with any certainty beyond the first contact with the main hostile force“.

How it played out: I woke up early on Saturday (at about 5) to start incremental copy of all the SharePoint / OneDrive data. Unfortunately Sharegate was a bit unpredictable in it’s behaviour so I had to move sites around in the queues to make it before 18:00 but make it I did. Then I ran the powershell to set the automatic forwarding and started the incremental copy of the mail. The team (4 engineers, 1 external SME/contractor and the project manager) met up at the office at about 20:00 in the evening for pizza and a last “go-no go” check for everything. And at 21:00 I started with our airline domain And by 22:30 it was all done, every user had the proper UPN, licens, login everything was good to go. And that’s when it started – the operations team in our airline said they couldn’t access their emails in the Outlook app on their phones or computers. We had ofcourse verified that it worked through the O365 portal so we knew everything worked. After troubleshooting this for about an hour we decided to log a Severity A case with Microsoft (at 23:30) and one of us would work on this case and the rest continue working with the other domains. That work with the other domains came to a halt for one of our largest domains which wasn’t removed from the ole tenant. No user had it in their UPN, no recipient used the domain, nothing. But the domain never got deleted, it was stuck in “pending”. So another severity A case to Microsoft (at about 00:30) and we proceeded with the next domain. At about 02 in the morning that domain did eventually go away by itself and we thought everything was good when our airline operations team (who’s responsibility it is to keep the planes flying, so I have the utmost respect for them and their challenges!) wanted us to do a rollback and try again at a later date. We spent about an hour with them arguing than a rollback wouldn’t solve this issue and we didn’t have time to try again next week since we had to evacuate the old tenant. Another argument was that this is a client issue and the mails are accessible through the web and we can get Microsoft to solve the client issue after. Fortunately we were able to convince them to proceed but now we’re at 03 int he morning and I had been working for 22 hours straight and I had no energy left in me so I tried sleeping for a bit. After 2 hours I woke up to cheers because now the Outlook clients in our airlines started to work so the biggest issue we had was solved and we could keep on with the remaining few domains.
At about lunch on Sunday morning we were all done with all domains and users and started to do the clean up job of on-prem systems no one knew about that had a EWS configured to the old tenant that no longer worked etc and that continued for days.

So where was Microsoft in this? As I mentioned our premier support deal with them got activated on the day before the switch. But that hadn’t replicated to all systems and instances of those systems in Microsoft so there was a big challenge even to get them to accept a SevA case from us. But we had two cases that managed to register as SevA cases with them during this switch and they weren’t helping us with either of them. The first case was regarding Outlook clients no longer being able to connect. Many blogs on many sites on the Internet says “when moving to a new tenant this may take a few hours”. In our case we were already up to hours and when creating new users we were able to connect to them immediately, but not the ones that had been switched and we didn’t see a reason why. This started to resolve itself after about 6 hours. And it wasn’t thanks to Microsoft doing anything on their side because they called me at about 5:30 on the sunday morning to say “sorry but we still haven’t been able to find any engineer to work on this case”. The other case we had with them was regarding the domain that wasn’t getting deleted. The called back on that issue also after it was resolved to ask us to verify the domain name because according to what they were seeing the domain was no longer in the old tenant so they obviously hadn’t done anything on their end in that case either.

Lessons learned:

  • Powershell and CSV files rule! If we didn’t have the proper master files for data information this would have been alot more difficult.
  • Switching over 1,000 mailboxes from on tenant to another actually does take up to 6 hours for all of Exchange Online to know what hit it so the clients can connect again.
  • Azure AD Connect is very powerful and “smart” in how it matches users.
  • Information and user communication and support is vital for this! In our case we started informing right away it was coming and we had staffed up extra support on the monday to get our business up and running after this big switch and that was really needed.
  • You can get away with buying cheaper “off the shelf” products rather than more expensive products but expect to have to work around their flaws and shortcomings. Do you want to pay twice the amount for a more expensive solution or sacrifice a few days work for your staff for manual work?
  • Test-test-test and test again just to be sure.

Mallorca baby!!

2016-05-24 (14)So I work for the oldest (and biggest) tour operator in Sweden and I’ve never sat foot on Mallorca. Well I wasn’t having that anymore. After trying to find someone to travel with this year we eventually concluded that maybe it was a good idea to go at it alone. To avoid that daily problem of organizing lunch at work – if you’re 3-4 people it works but once yo get to 6-7 it won’t.

We’d done Turkey and Greece already so Mallorca was the one classic still to-do. We found a hotel that was recently built (Viva Zafiro), had good rooms and so we booked it. The wife really wanted the best room with a terrace and private spa and the bells and whistles so ofcourse she got that. After all, I get a discount. As usual we booked an early summer vacation for May because when june-july-august comes Sweden isn’t a bad place to be really.

We started off early with Helenas mother picking us up and driving us to the airport at 5:30am!! I managed to screw up the boarding cards so we didn’t have as much time in Arlanda as we wanted to. So get on the flight and there’s no need for introduction with my colleagues on the plane as I’ve flown with this crew before – twice! Get to Mallorca, manage to find our transfer buss to Alcudia and away we go. We get to the hotel and as usual when a bussload of people comes there’s a queue. But this place is so classy they served us drinks while we waited! 2016-05-25 (4)After that it was off to check the pools and check out the rest of Alcudia!

Our daily routine became pretty much sleep, breakfast, pools, lunch, go around Alcudia, dinner, 9 o’clock show at the hotel and then sleep. And everything was just great!! We didn’t try as many restaurants as we had hoped but that was because we had all inclusive at the hotel which included free alá carte, so there was really no need to go out for fancy food. We did try some local restaurants and the best one by far was Bodega des Port down in the Alcudia harbor! I’ve never seen such a family friendly restaurant and staff at local restaurants before! And the food was awesome too. We also paid a visit to the Sunwing hotel in Alcudia, pretty much because I’m curious of what it looks like.

2016-05-30 (30)The only real “touristy” thing we did was a bus ride out the Porto Cristo and to see the Hams caves where we got some awesome photos from. Also a short stop at Majorica who have been making pearls since 1890 and Helena had to do some shopping. Then when it was time to go home it was ofcourse the day when they had extra security meassures & checks at the airport so we spent most of the time waiting in line at the airport and just a few minutes to browse the tax free.

All in all it was a great week, Sam had an amazing time! And we’d definitely go there again but maybe to Palma next time!

I Finally Made It – MCSE !

Wind back the clock some 17-18 years when I was working as a computer guy at Min Dator spending my days building computers and installing them for our customers. I thought I was pretty darn good at what I did and good with computers. But then we merged with a consultant firm and getting to know those guys with high certification levels made me realise I didn’t know a helluvalot. And then we merged with Pulsen and I tried being a consultant but I could never compete with those guys. And it didn’t help when the boss referred to me as a “resource filler” – that kinda killed my ambition. Then I worked at the lawfirm and it was the most secure employment I could ask for and I had no need or reason to get certifications. But as I was doing my two rounds of trying to get a job before and after the Carema disaster one question kept coming up during interviews. “You’ve done a few courses, do you have the certifications?” – which I didn’t. I never heard anyone say that was bad or that was the reason I didn’t get a job but it showed me that employers actually do care about that.

So when I got the job here I said I didn’t only want to take the courses I wanted to take the certifications too – and my employer said ok to take that expense (granted, it’s only €100-€150 each but still a nice gesture). And after I had the first course, studied for the exam and made it with flying colours I realised how easy it was for me. So my boss and I sat a goal for me (which we use for bonus calculations) to become MCSE – Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert.

MCSE_SharePoint_Blk (Custom)Now 2 years and 7 exams later I did it! It doesn’t change my salary, it doesn’t help me with the ladies, it doesn’t do much at work or at home at all – but it’s a personal achievement that has been in the making for quite a while but I never got the thumb out of my ass to do. It’s also something of a growing up thing – which is totally lame thing to say 3 months shy of being 40. But it is for me! I don’t expect anyone to really understands what it means to me since I’m the only “me” there is – but just respect the fact that for me it’s AWESOME! AND EVERYTHING IS AWESOME!! (yeah, we just saw The Lego Movie)

Corporate Greed

Oh that never gets old, does it? Over the past month there has been alot of talk about how companies in the air line industry shuffle employees back and forth between companies more or less o for profit. And it’s nothing new really, Ryan Air have been using the practice of not actually employing pilot’s at all but rather have them start their own company and being hired on a flight-by-flight basis by them to not have to deal with the HR issues and costs.

But what’s got me riled up about this is how the management of for example Norwegian Air doesn’t see a problem with doing it this way. Or any other airliner seems to have an issue with it either seein as SAS are having issues in Denmark over the same thing – changing the corporate structure and where the people doing the actual work are actually employed. It seems to be total common practice in the airline industry now. In the IT industry it’s pretty common to ofcourse, when I was laid off from my job at Pulsen I almost started my own company as “just a computer guy”. But that would have been more profitable for me then what I actually did which was to look for a normal office job when I could have been paid double for doing the same work. But with these issues in the airline industry I don’t think anyone can ever argue it’s for anyone else than the company to do all this restructuring and reshuffling.

And what pissed me off was that when the strik was in full force and some flights still made it off the ground and everyone called foul and yelled “strikebreakers” – and the company didn’t know what they were talking about because this was a different company that they got the aircrew from. And they really didn’t get how that was just wrong. It’s like they are living in a different reality where you can get away by just having a big enough buffer of companies and sub-companies between you and the actual work.

And in the middle we have us, the consumers who don’t want to pay more than we have to to get from A to B even though their expenses are going up 🙁

A total disclaimer here – I have no insight at all of the structure of our own airline, we may be just as bad, I have no idea.

So Very Close

Just a little personal congratulations to myself for having passed 6 Microsoft exams now, and I’m just one little exam away from being a Microsoft Certified Solutions Engineer. I don’t know why that makes me gigly, not likes it’s going to go down well with the ladies but for me it’s a big deal. And it’s not going to give me a payraise nor going to stop my ear from peeping. So it’s just to boost my ego. If all goes we’ll I’ll be on the advanced Sharepoint 2013 course in one month and write the last exam after that for that glorious title.

Yay for me.

Another Microsoft Course

This week I’m on another 5 day Microsoft course. It’s a rather exciting one too – “Configuring Advanced Windows Server 2012 R2 Services”. Ok that doesn’t sound exciting but for me it actually is since it’s things that I deal with everyday. From NLB to failover clustering – it’s all good fun and usefull stuff. Because I have to admit, sometimes these courses do tend to talk about stuff you’ll never encounter in the real world!

But I am a bit confused. When we were doing the lab for Branch Caching I get a sense of deja vu and realised I know this stuff already thanks to the certification for the course prior to this one! I got so confused I even had to check my MCP status to make sure I didn’t accidentally write the “wrong” exam but nope. It seems MS are a bit confused what’s in the different courses. But I’m not complaining, can never get enough repition on this.

But I do wish MS would make it easier for us and actually license the virtual machines we use…

“Plan B”

So Plan A didn’t work. Those people over at Owncube promised 30 TB (or “unlimited” in the promo e-mail), but when I finally got the backup-routines in place (which included RAR-ing everything first) and the backups actually went through (after getting alot of disconnects) it halted after 600 gigs saying “not enough diskspace”. But when checking the interface is still said unlimited. At that point I couldn’t be bothered with them anymore and decided to go with plan B. So now I have a double-drive USB case hooked up at work with enough storage to take backups of all my stuff at home. The only downside compared to the other alternative is that I will have to prioritize what to backup from home to here because the storage won’t be enough for both. At first. But when I’m not in savings mode anymore (i.e after the summer) I can buy new drives for it so that it’ll have more storage.

So now I can finally change my raid at home from 10 to 0, and go from “only” having 6 terabytes of storage to 12. As anyone with tech knowledge will tell you, raid 0 is suicide redundancy wise but if I have everything backuped up here at work I don’t see the problem. Plus – now the house can burn down and I won’t have lost my “Star Trek” collection!!

This is what happens when I take my work home with me!! Not quite the same with my wife though, her’s is cheaper but it stinks up the entire house with the small of burnt popcorn!

Very, very busy little bee

Really sorry again about neglecting my duties here. It’s just very hectic at work.

Mostly for me the past 6 weeks have been about upgrading Sharepoint from 2010 to 2013 with all the issues that comes with it and all weird phenomenons that only Sharepoint can produce. Right now it’s all done and I’m “only” cleaning up and trying to be friendly with the users who are pissed off, and rightly so!, over features that are no longer available. But not my fault if Microsoft decided to do away with features they think noone is using.

And we’re also being dragged into an outsourcing project. Yeah, you can hear the “*sigh*” already right? The story of me and outsourcing goes back over 10 years and I think it very, very rarely is a good think in the long run unless you only want to save money and don’t want to care about IT issues. But if you have IT as a core for the business it’s a bad idea and Thomas Cook here in Northern Europe is all about IT and selling our products online so we shouldn’t be outsourcing in my opinion. But orders are orders so we’re going down that path and let’s see where it takes us.
But unlike the Carema outsourcing, this time they’ve guaranteed me I won’t lose my job. My problem is will I still want my job when they are done? It’s still about 2 years away from being “said and done” so still a long way to go and a lot of things to be decided. So I’m patiently waiting to see what happens with this, what else can I do? I love my job so much and I don’t want to quit because I think it may not be as a great 2 years from now…

I Love My Employer

I’m going to praise my employer today as much as I dissed my employer 6 months ago!

6 months ago I wasn’t very happy since I hadn’t gotten a raise that I thought I really, really deserved and felt let down, again. And I was pretty bitter about it. But there are other upsides than just salary to working here so I overcame that and kept on trucking.

And last week I had one of those weeks that makes me love my employer. The week began with 2 days training in Microsofts datawarehouse solution, PDW. Not alot of people know about it, let alone have gotten education on it and the datawarehouse segment is growing fast, so I felt quite privilidged to have gotten it for free. Then on wednesday I wrote the exam (and passed) for a Sharepoint 2013 certification, paid by my employer. There’s no reason really for them to pay for it since me having a certification gives them nothing and makes me more attractive to headhunters. And on Thursday I got to work from home which was very relaxing, and then I worked thursday night to apply patches and fixes to our servers. That was about 6 hours work and except the overtime pay I also got all of friday off. So really, that was an awesome week at work! And this week I’m also bound to get the annual bonus which will more than compensate for that lack of raise.

So I’m pretty happy working here!!

Upgraded Image Gallery

I’ve finally upgraded my image gallery and imported it into WordPress with a cool addon. Took me about 3 days of work to get it sorted and adding comments and stuff but it’s been fun going down that memory lane again.

Here are some of my favorite galleries:

As usual the password what the company I work at is know as in Sweden.

Shit, It’s Been A Month?

Having so much to do that I’ve forgotten this little place a bit. But a month, that’s just too long!

Been busy attending a SQL 2012 course and now studying for the exam. And while doing that I’m toying around with Sharepoint 2013 both “on premise” but also the cloud version that Microsoft offers. So yeah, keeping busy!

But I really should’ve posted something when Ferrari won the Chinese GP because that was a helluva good feeling! The race was good but the great feeling of having a Ferrari come in first, and not by a few meters but by actually a big margin. And sipping some Peroni while watching it felt extra sweet!!

Also saw a movie that I can’t talk about. Yet 🙂

Finally!

10 months ago when I was hired it was for one main purpose – to upgrade our Sharepoint 2007 to Sharepoint 2010. Sure it’s normal IT operations, some SQL and Exchange management and other stuff too but mainly it was to upgrade Sharepoint. And now 10 months later the day has finally come for me to start and reap the fruits of the past 10 months work!

All the scripts are written, polished and tested 3-4 times and everything is prepared so at midnight tonight the old Sharepoint 2007 will go into read only mode and I’ll start copying all the 250 gigabyte or so of data and migrate it to 2010. And we’re also taking the opportunity to clean up some previous wrongs (like “SiteDirectory” things). So it’ll take more or less the entire weekend but lot’s of downtime waiting for copying, backups, restores and moving things around in the content databases, all those nifty scripts will do that work, I just have to check in once a while to make sure there are no errors and start the next one. So I’m actually triple booked this saturday – first this work, then Star Trek day in Skarpnäck and in the evening we’re having our neighbours over for dinner and to celebrate Sams birthday. Then on Sunday I might still have some job to do (although if all goes well it’ll just be building the search index which I’ll just start and leave for 12 hours) and off the the kids funhouse at Barkarby. All in all a busy weekend.

But it really feels good that FINALLY! I can put all my scripts and preparation to good use, I’ve waited for over 6 months to get the go-ahead for this!

Happy To Be Here

That title is a little inside joke, but anyway. Today as I walked back to work after taking a little walk after lunch and I saw our building with our logo I got this weird fuzzy feeling. It took me a while to get it but I think I do now. I’m actually proud to be working here at Thomas Cook (aka “Ving” for all you Swedes!). It’s been over 10 years since I could say that.

After working for companies like “Pulsen” who never saw me as an individual but rather something there to make them money, and Carema who tried to make the most of every dollar they had, it’s such a pleasant thing to be able to say that I work at “Ving”. Because unlike “Vinge” (the lawfirm), this company is very well known, have a very good reputation, are very visible in the media and really takes care of their brand. Recently we just had an ad drive and some of the pictures of people on holiday were of gay couples, and it’s not like they made a big deal out of it or anything, the pictures were just there just like that “happy man / woman” couple pictures. I liked that. And yes I do realise that I’m defeating the purpose by actually making a deal out of it, but it can’t be helped! Also the fact that Ving take very good care of their employees. Even though I was a bit peeved at my boss 2 weeks ago for not giving me the bonus I was promised all year, I’ve gotten over it and it’s not like it was personal or anything. And besides, me and the wife are going on holiday soon that’s alot cheaper than it would be had I not worked here.

So yeah, for the first time in 10 years I can actually say I’m happy and proud to be working where I am. Let’s hope that never changes!

Expectations Are Bad

I really do hate expectations and now they’ve cost me about $1500! I wish I could just eliminate them completely. You know when you go into a movie expecting one thing and getting another. I think I’ve learnt to not have expectations in that regard, I’ve been disappointed so many times (“Star Wars The Phantom Menace” anyone?) that I just don’t have them. When I went to see “Prometheus” I made damn sure not to expect an “Alien”-movie and in hindsight most of the people that are giving it bad reviews went in with that expectation!

Now how did that cost me $1500? During my hiring process here at Thomas Cook my boss told me about their bonus system. And at the same time I was pursued by a big company that wanted to hire me and give me a higher salary and when I discreetly hinted at that she again told me about the bonus system and said “over a full year we’ll be able to match them salary wise” and it was one of the reasons I started working here. That and the fact that my boss and the colleague I met seemed like the most professional IT people I’d ever met! And during all of last year I kept hearing about that bonus as a carrot for us to achieve our professional goals here. Even as late as last Wednesday I was promised this bonus is coming with this months paycheck. But I knew I wasn’t going to get the full bonus since I had “only” worked here for 8 out of the 12 months of the year, but that should still give me $1500 after tax.

Well this Monday she called me for a spontaneous meeting to give me the bad news. I had only worked 5 months of the fiscal year and I needed to have worked 6 to be eligible for the bonus, something even she didn’t know about until she checked with HR. So instead of $1500 in cash that I had counted on that was just 4 days away I get $0. I do get something on the side but nothing in real hard cash.

I can’t say that she lied to me during the recruitment process because she didn’t know about this, but it’s very damn hard not to feel disappointed over it. And more than that, I feel like they stole $1500 from me! Because I’ve been promised that bonus 5 seperate times last year and twice this year and when it was only 4 days away it just vanishes!! If they had at any point last year said I wouldn’t get it I think I’d been fine with that, but now it got to the point where I had actually counted on getting it, and it was all going to go to pay our vacation this summer. Even besides that there are so many holes that money would fill that I feel robbed of that money. Kinda like Clark Griswald! But this was after Christmas though…

Anyway, what can I do about it? I’m professional enough to suck it up and keep on trying to do the best job I can! I can’t say I’m less motivated to do a good job than before. But I can’t say I’m happy that Microsofts analysis of our Sharepoint enviroment that I’ve set up said “it’s the most healthy Sharepoint environment we’ve seen” and I get nothing for it except a “good job”.

Busy Little Bee

Sharepoint is keeping me really busy at work. And not only work, I’m finding myself doing alot of work at home as well which is kinda annoying. Not only for my wife but for me – I don’t want to become one of those people who take my work home with me all the time! I wanna be one of those people who goes home at 5 and just stops working, totally disconnects. But when working with so many complex things at this level as well as the fact that here we can’t reboot the servers when we want, it forces me to take my home work with me.

I’m just hoping this is temporary and it’ll subside once the big upgrade is done and I’ll go back to going home at 5 in the afternoon. ‘Cause that’s the way it was all those years on the lawfirm. And at Carema .. well they never gave me the chance to get that into things there so wasn’t a problem.

Another Rant

There are a few things I really hate. And two of them happened today.

First one is people who work with customer service without having the least bit of interest in customer service. I’ve worked for years with support and customer service and I may not be the most service oriented person in the world with a constant smile, but I do like to help people and make their day better and I love to make things work like clockwork. In the past 2 weeks since our freezer gave up the go I’ve had to call a few customer service people and only the one guy at Bosch impressed me, but the other 5 people I talked to at Bosch and the people at If weren’t that well trained in customer service. But when we finally did get our payment from the insurance company we ordered a freezer from an internet retailer. Good prices and good service over the web and on tuesday morning I placed the order since they had it in stock. On Thursday it still hadn’t shipped, so I called them and got a complete nonsense reply from someone at their customer service that basically didn’t do anything to help me or anything. And today at lunch they finally upgraded my status to “shipped”.

And that’s when the other thing I hate came into play. I hate when PR people twists and spin things to make it sound better. Because they included a link to the distributor. And according to them they haven’t received the package. Only a notification about the package they are picking up this afternoon. This isn’t uncommon practice, I order on the web frequently so I know the routine. But I get annoyed at some PR person at “trettio.se” who thought it sounds better to print out “Shipped” as status when in fact it hasn’t been shipped, only “Notification sent to distributor”. But that’s confessing that they still haven’t physically sent the package. So now, according to these two websites, our big ass freezer is lost in cyberspace! I hate that. At my old work they instructed us to “spin” our weekly reports about disruptions in the IT systems. And I hated that too.

Still Here

Sorry for not updating for a while. Not been much to update about.

Except an aspect of my job that came into play last week. Every month Microsoft releases their patches and every IT department has their way of dealing with it. 99% of the patches are for security holes that you don’t need to care about if you have an isolated secured environment. Sometimes your business can accept you rebooting servers during lunch, or as we did at the lawfirm early friday morning. But here we’re 100% exposed to the web and we can’t bring the IT systems down during daytime at all, some systems can’t even be down at all. So last thursday me and 3 other geeks here teamed up at 9 pm and started patching and rebooting the servers that weren’t super critical. And then at midnight we proceeded with the routines to restart our webs, that generate about 75% of our business. So there’s a few things that needs to be done to make sure that anyone wanting to book a holiday at like 1 am can still go ahead and do so. And then we went home at 3 am and I got the day off on Friday 🙂 I kinda like it and will probably do it again. As usual it’s fun until something breaks – and it’s just a question of when a server that’s in our seconday site doesn’t reboot properly and we have to go there at 2 am! 🙂

I like my job 🙂

Chugging Along

Life proceeding as normal here. Getting into how things are done at work. Trying to do house improvements. Trying to be a good husband and father. Just the normal stuff!

But yesterday we broke the routines and went all the way down to Södertälje for a night out with my brother, his girlfriend, my sister AC with her boyfriend. Although “night out” is overstating it quite a bit because we headed back home before 10 pm, but it was still fun to get out of the house and not have another night of slacking in the sofa watching some TV show you never had any interest in before!

Oh and Sam got an outbreak of chickenpox starting last Thursday but it’s already calming down and the fun thing is, he never really noticed it as far as we can tell. He didn’t spike a fever, didn’t have uncontrollable itching or anything, it was pretty smooth sailing. Or maybe that’s because Helena “vacation” started this week and she’s been home with him and he’s gotten almost anything he wants so far. Me, I’m working another week and then have a three week vacation which is fine for me! (since I’m still on an trial-employee status here I only get half the vacation days for now but once I’m made a full employee I’ll get the rest in time for Christmas!)

Impressions So Far

I’ve worked for 4 days here now and time for to write down some first impressions.

So far it’s the professional IT team that I wanted our IT department at Vinge to be and the crew at Carema almost was. Here they share alot of my views that my work is to give service back to the organisation. It’s not to sit on a throne and use my power and deflect every issue that’s not specifically on my table, it’s to listen to what the organization wants and needs and do my best to service them. And it has the clear lines of first, second and third line that was severely hampering is at Vinge and where a bit grey at Carema. And it’s the only placed I’ve been employed at where I wasn’t given Domain Admin access to the network, here I get the access I need to do my job. Which may sometimes get in the way of doing things but it’s a good sign that they really do believe in high security and live up to it!

Those were the pros. As for the cons, the only one I have is that I’m sitting in the middle of a very open office with alot of people. That’s not a bad thing, at Vinge we were three in one room and later we got that down to two and that was pretty sweet. At Carema it was an open office aswell but we atleast had some screens that separated things. And I had a screen wall behind me so I didn’t have alot of people that could see my monitor, here there are atleast 6 people who at any given time can check what I’m doing on my monitor. That has the effect that I can’t do much private stuff here which again goes back to being the professional place I want. Ask me again in 6 months if that’s a good thing or not cause I don’t know yet.