Mar 25
Tools for the Mixed Physical and Virtual Classroom

​Well, I have been published again. And this article was asked for by Training Industry Magazine. Nice to have recognition for efforts to keep a high standard in the classroom.  

Many classes are a mixture of students in the room and students tuned in. This is the most trying scenario for trainers, as you can't sit down and devote to the remotes, but you can't wander the classrom and ignore them. 

What the article doesn't tell you is the exact tools (I guess for fear of "selling" tools or conflict of interest. But I use Adobe Connect for the virtual classroom and full camera, portable clip mic and a camera for the classroom, so virtuals can see the students. Always live camera except for the labs, where a still of a classroom or live cam of the students is shown. 

I use ManyCam software to switch cameras and add still images and effects and I use "green screen" behind me to use any background I want. That is the coolest thing and I can use a beach/palm tree picture to look just like newscasters on location... lots of fun. 


It is important to keep the same tried and true methods used in conventional classrooms. Keep them engaged, keep it interesting and ensure you know your stuff. Recommend that they get a comfortable headset with a mic, so they can participate. 

You can read more, but glad to reach a bigger audience when I figured out what works and what doesn't. 

Now if I could just figure out how to award virtual Tootsie-pops during morning Jeopardy reviews....


Oct 14
Windows 10 Follow-up

Many of you would think I only do Windows 10 related courses and seminars lately, but I actually do all core IT server and infrastructure courses, about 175 in all. My 17 certifications keep me hopping.

With my MCSE: Private Cloud certification, I am busy with the System Center 2012 suite and all its 8 products watching over our networks and automating them.

But to follow up on the Windows 10 seminar last month, here is the powerpoint deck, recording and the Q and As afterwards:​

As a follow up, there are 3 courses you could sign up for with your favorite training provider:
Windows 10 First Looks for IT; Course 40336
​Installing and Configuring Windows 10 Course: 20697-1A
Deploying and Managing Windows 10 Course: 20697-2A
We'll be running lots of these....
See you in the physical or virtual classroom!



Sep 27
The Latest Windows 10 Webinar

​This Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Join me as I deliver another fast-paced 30 minutes of Windows 10 excitement from TrainCanada.

Things have changed since our last webinar and we have the stats to prove it. Bring your lunch and your questions.

Go to to register.


Aug 20
Upgrades to Windows 10 So Far!

Hi Everyone,

So have you taken the plunge? Millions have and I am happy to report that of the 7 machines here in this office, 5 of them went so smoothly, I didn't need to use my MCSE troubleshooting skills. This upgrade was designed for end users and will take the guesswork out of upgrading. You would see this familiar screen if everything is going well:

But it can stop before it reaches 100% as it did on two of my machines. One a reputable and new laptop and the other on a generic mini-tower PC. In both cases, you need to get some technical help as this upgrade is smart enough to realize this isn't going to work and simply rolls back your machine to what it had. So there is no harm done.  (the mini-tower made it to 53% before it rolled back and said there was something wrong.) There are friendly error messages meant for end users, not technical troubleshooters, so you won't see hyrogliphics that you have to report to someone. Here is an example when I accessed the music app on Windows 10 on one machine:

TheServerStumbled.jpgNow I like this. To expect end users and non-technical consumers to do their own upgrades, this is needed. We don't feel so foolish and we can even chuckle at the message. There are many of them when you do a web search. Personifying your computer helps to put us at ease.

So remember, there can be many reasons for the upgrade not to work. It isn't going to fix problems you already had on your PC, as in the past. But a technical troubleshooter can look at your Event Viewer and other system logs and files to determine what needs to be fixed to upgrade. It could be a bad driver, an application, a virtual PC onboard or many other things. Hang in there; seek help and move on. (it could be no available drive space)

Everyone is loving Windows 10 and I get a lot of feedback since the "First Looks" seminars I gave. Time to upgrade, move on and enjoy all it has to offer. Millions have already and we have stamped our approval. There are some vocal ones who are having trouble, but they are the few.

My next test will be to have 4 Windows 10 machines around me with Cortana listening for a commnent. When I say "Hey Cortana..." and they all jump to listen, I want to hear how all four respond at the same time... might be in harmony.. (just kidding) but it might be four different answers!


Jul 29
Today is the Day!

​July 29th... the day of the Windows 10 release to millions of devices. Many of you have reserved your copy using the white Windows logo on your taskbar. If not, read my earlier post below.

Now its the release date and how does it work?

If you go to Windows Update on your computer, you will see the status. (just type "Windows Update" in the Start/Search box on Windows 7 or just start typing Windows Update on Windows 8 Start screen.) You might have to install updates that have been waiting but eventually, you will see this:UpdateReservedSmall.png

Wait for it... it will notify you when your Windows 10 download has finished (about 3GB) and then you can upgrade. It's free for all of us using Windows 7 or 8.1 Let the fun begin!

Let me know your thoughts on the process and the results.




Jul 16
Windows 10 Building Momentum!

​I can't help but write again about the building interest in Windows 10 as indicated by my webinars I have delivered. My most recent one was two days ago and there were over 550 registrants. The previous one to that had 132 registrants. This is a North American audience from both shores and both borders!

The interest and curiosity are growing. This thing is real.

Now there have been some really interesting questions asked in the Q&A at the end, and some interesting feedback from these sessions. Most want the sessions longer, and that is understandable given that this is an operating system, not just a single product. If I were to give a webinar on the new PowerPoint 2016, I could fit that into 30 minutes. But a whole operating system with so many new and exciting parts? Not really, and I ran out of time everytime.

Some of the comments at the end were surprising too, like references to the HAL (this was a first looks course...) and anything deep dive was inappropriate here. We need more technical courses and they will come soon. This was a first look session, light and overview of what's to come....


Most comments were, Excellent, Awesome, knowledgable, too short, could be longer...

Here are some quoted comments:

"I appreciate the quick overview.  It was very informative. I missed the server and IoT but its probably on the video? You gave an excellent Windows 10 presentation."

"it is a very good experience for me. Easy to use and convenient. I enjoy the session a lot. Thanks!" 

"Speaker was knowledgeable and covered areas well.  Think this particular webinar could have been 1 hour."

Thanks to all who attended and spent the time to tune in. More sessions to come and many of you will have Windows 10 by then. Let me point you to the official Microsoft FAQ on Windows 10 and the upgrade....

Jul 10
System Center Configuration Manager 2012 R2

​This week we are just finishing our course in Vancouver on SCCM 2012 R2 with live students and virtual students from around Canada and the USA. The product is so rich now and feature packed that there is so much to do in only 5 days. (M10747D)

The Windows 10 Wow webinar went well and I am scheduled to do more coming up. Lots of interest in Windows 10 and it relates to System Center too, as we will be imaging it and supporting it very soon. Thanks for all of you who attended the training. There were over 130 registrants and I couldn't personally text you all while it was happening. Here's a link to the YouTube recording:


Jun 18
Windows 10 WOW Session Live Broadcast

​Join me virtually at lunchtime for this live event -Howard


Webinar Summary:

Join us on Friday June 25th with Howard Forder to get an overview of some of the most talked about enhancements with Windows 10 which is slated for public release on July 29th, 2015!


We will go over: 

·        The Major Announcements

·        Universal Windows and Apps

·        Live Demo of new features

·        Server Products and IoT (Internet of Things)

Webinar Details:

·        Windows 10: What's New? 

·        To Register: Click here

·        Date: June 25th, 2015

·        Time: 12 Noon - 1 PM (Including 15 minutes of Q&A)


May 07
Broadcasting a Course

​This could be a big topic and a lot of writing, but I will make it short and simply suggest what I use.

For delivering virtual courses, that is, live Internet deliveries, we need to use a mic and some way to control it. In most delivery platforms like Adobe Connect, it will use the local plugged in mic and you control the volume with its audio wizard.

But has anyone listened to the sound that a student hears? Many trainers have never listened at the student side. If they did, they would throw away a desktop mic, room mic or conference phone. The echo, low sound and low quality sound is irritating when a student has to endure 6 hours of instruction. Might be fine for that one hour WebEx session. We put up with laptop speakers and tiny mics.

Here is what I use for my studio and for the mobile classroom. (the mobile classroom is any classroom where I am asked to deliver virtual, or live students plus virtual and I bring my equipment with me). I use this setup for recording how-to videos too.

Get a Good "clip mic". These small mics clip onto your tie or button-line of your shirt. They are close enough to your mouth without being in the way and they are consistent, as they let you move your body without the mic staying behind. Don't clip it to one side only or a collar. When you head moves, the sound dimishes. Keep it center along your shirt button line about 2 or 3 buttons down.

My clip mic connects to a wireless transmitter that you put in your pocket or clip to your belt. Total freedom to move around. The receiver is a small black box near your computer or mixer where the sound will go. I use a small inexpensive mixer that you can carrry around with you. The output from the mixer goes to your PC as a USB input or even old school line out and in. This may sound like overkill, but the sound is amazing and students comment on it (good things). The mixer has a mic preamp, treble and bass adjustments, panning (move your mic to left or right or center), reverb, recording out, line out and other functions you may not use. It also has line inputs to bring in or "mix" other sound sources... computers, CD players, iPhones and other sound sources.

For the mic system, I use the Shure BLX Wireless Presenter which has the clip mic and the receiver pair. $150 to $250. These used to be $1000. You can also use a hand-held mic with these recievers but that would be for singing....

ShureBLXWirelessPresenter.jpgFor the mixer, I use the great quality but inexpensive XENYX line of mixers, thanks to CTE Solutions for using them in their classrooms and proving their value. I use a 2 mic/10 input QX1002USB but for portable use or first time trainers, use the QX502 or 302. The 302 has only one mic input and room for line inputs if you need them. That should be enough. I saw a 302 at Long and McQuaid for $87.00


Regardless of the mixer, keep it simple and get to know how to use it. For example, one classroom I was in had the reverb up to 75 (that orange display you see) and no one knew what was causing it. (should be zero for speaking). We only use reverb if we want to break out in song... and we shouldn't! Make sure you get a USB version of a mixer so you can easily hook it up to your computer... any computer and get broadcasting.

I will write more later on how to use a mixer properly. It can be very easy for the non sound engineer like most of us. We just want a great delivery without the ugly sound or ugly video quality.

I'll take care of that so you can focus on teaching. Tune back for the next post.

Apr 13
System Center Orchestrator Rocks!

​This week a dozen or so virtual students and I have got together to cover the 55007 course on SCORCH!

I am sure all kinds of jokes can spawn from such a nmemonic. This course is from my broadcast studio in Toronto and the time just flies. Remember the best experience you can have as a virtual student starts with the right equipment. Get yourself a comfortable headset with a mic. You want to be able to ask questions, chat with others and hear the instructor clearly. Not to mention the discussions with other students. Speakers and mics don't work and feedback with delays are very anoying.

Get the most out of your virtual learning classroom. Here is one sample of a popular headset used by many. It's the Plantronics Audio 655 USB and sells for about $32 on Amazon. Plenty of other headsets will work. Make sure they are USB and comfortable. A noise cancelling mic helps a lot. Remember you will be wearing it for 6 hours while learning.


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