As you can imagine, a company full of great developers such as Microsoft has a bunch of folks that crank out a lot of tools and utilities in their "spare" time. One of those that has been extremely popular internally is VMRCPlus, an alternate interface for managing and interacting with Virtual Server 2005 hosts and guests. I'm a big fan of Virtual Server and use it daily. Like many, I've never been a big fan of the Web UI. VMRCPlus fills that gap by providing a much easier to use and more function UI for Virtual Server. Fortunately, this internal project has matured enough that it is being released to the public with the caveat that it is not officially supported by Microsoft. That said, Microsoft folks are very heavy users of Virtual Server and VMRCPlus is utilized by many of them and has been around for a while so it is pretty mature. It is also an extreme example of how much can be done using the documented Virtual Server COM APIs.
Keith has a good feature list and a link to download here.
Arlindo has some screenshots here.
There is some new SoftGrid content on Microsoft.com to check out. Softgrid is part of the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack and is highly complimentary to SMS and Terminal Services. For those not familliar with SoftGrid, here is the marketing definition:
Microsoft SoftGrid® Application Virtualization is the only virtualization solution on the market to deliver applications that are never installed, yet securely follow users anywhere, on demand. It dramatically improves IT efficiencies, enables much greater business agility and a superior end-user desktop experience.
Interesting post and stats over on www.iss.net www.iis.net. Microsoft.com has now migrated all but one server over to IIS7. 99% of apps worked unchanged. Most folks don't realize this but Microsoft.com has the 4th widest audience in the US and the 5th widest worldwide. The site runs primarily out of two data centers on 80 web servers.
Marc Andreessen (of Netscape fame), started blogging recently at http://blog.pmarca.com/. So far his posts are very interesting and several have great depth, particularly his series "the truth about venture capitalists". My favorite though is his post about personal productivity. Among many suggestions (and a good list of references), are two personal favorites of mine: "do not keep a schedule" and what he calls "structured procrastination".
Do Not Keep a Schedule - The theory here is that by keeping your schedule as completely open as possible and committing to as few appointments in the future as possible you are better able to prioritize your time on a day by day basis. Example: Two weeks from now you are in the middle of several days of critical architecture design reviews when you get an Outlook reminder that you had accepted a meeting with a partner company to see a demo of their product. Most people will stick to attending meetings they committed to and attend the demo and thus attend meetings that are of low priority. Another example: count up the number of hours spent in status meetings, company meetings, webcasts, etc. Keeping your schedule completely open means that in the morning you look at your tasks, you look at the requests for your time, and you decide the priority. Now in a some cases this may not be possible due to job type or environment but for those with the luxury of being able to try this, give it a shot. You will likely spend a lot more time on productive work.
Structured Procrastination - This is one of my all time favorites and is a key to how I keep up with technology and training. Everyone has tasks that they don't like to do and wind up procrastinating on. Sometimes it's actually something that you normally like doing but just don't feel like it on a particular day. On the flip side, there are times when you are really interested in something tangential to what you are "supposed" to be working on. In each of these cases: Do what you feel like doing! As Andreessen wrote "While you're procrastinating, just do lots of other stuff instead." An example of this and how it comes back to learning: This weekend I was planning to do a bunch of reading on Operations Manager 2007 since I'll be attending training on it next week. I wasn't really into it Saturday morning but a couple things I read about PowerShell really got me thinking about that so I spent several hours digging into PowerShell instead. If I had forced myself to stick with OpsMgr, I would have been far less productive since I just wasn't into it at that point. Running with my immediate interest that day in PowerShell I was much more into it and learned a lot more. For me that's been the secret to keeping up with technology over the years. Whatever I happen to be interested in at any given point regardless of whether it is in my current scope or not, I read as much as I can about it until I get bored and move to the next thing. The bottom line is that while you are putting some things off you can certainly be accomplishing a lot of other things.
The two ides above can be pretty powerful. Combined they mean that your schedule is open to do whatever is important and that you will be embracing and working on the things where you will be most productive. For those with the luxury of some independance at work, give them a try and be sure to check out some of the other ideas in Marc's post.