Convergent Technologies Partners with YMCA through Amplify Austin Event

AMPLIFY: to expand; to make larger or greater, (as in amount, importance, or intensity); to increase the strength or amount of

As many of you know, Rick Gregson, the founder of Convergent Technologies, recently moved from the Upstate of South Carolina to Austin, Texas. One of his motivating factors was the fact that the Lone Star State capital has become quite the tech hub; however, if you know Rick, you know he’s always interested in the community, the culture, and the people around him.

One organization that caught his attention was the YMCA of Austin . All of us here at Convergent Tech applaud the Y’s inclusiveness, its affordability, and the amazing number of programs they provide for all ages. Rick was happy to contribute to their endeavors and is honored that organizers will be displaying the company logo in the TownLake facility.

According to District Executive Director, Tiffany Patterson, one in five elementary school students enrolled in their YMCA Afterschool programs will receive financial assistance, and approximately 4,000 families total will benefit from their Membership for All  financial assistance program. This program reduces the cost of memberships, other program fees, and the childcare services offered by the Austin YMCA, based on income. For the children, the programs provide a safe, creative space outside of their schools. Additionally, 2,000 area kids will learn to swim in 2020 (17,000 have learned for free since 2009), and 44,000 meals will be served at no cost in the YMCA Camp and Afterschool programs..

“I really appreciate the Austin YMCA’s graduated fee structure and community outreach. They work hard to make sure their facilities are run well and everyone gets what they need. It’s about more than fitness; it’s about people. That’s why it’s a really cool organization to support and a great place to come – to exercise, socialize, get acquainted, and get involved,” Rick says. “You should checkout their ‘Art Wall’ too! Fantastic works, local artists, curated by Amber Weber.”

Earlier this month, Amplify Austin (a 24-hour period of giving) helped bring in $273,838 for the Y. In the biggest day of giving, the city has raised more than $57 million for area nonprofits and continues to be an annual effort to boost local nonprofits. #AmplifyATX

To better explain what that means to the people the Y touches, the staff shared some testimonials. Here are a few of the lines that touched us:

 

. . . It’s a place to come and have that camaraderie.

. . . It’s not a place you have to fit in.

. . . Everybody comes because they know they’re welcome

The YMCA has been a special place for us because it’s a place where my daughter can be exactly who she is

. . . It’s given her a sense of confidence and accomplishment.

 

Again, we are grateful for the opportunity to amplify an organization that does so much for so many and fosters a culture that brings people together.

We here at Convergent Technologies would love to be your partner in change. In fact, we’re passionate about change for the better – Change in mind, change in heart. Let’s make these changes together . . .

An IT Company with people in mind.

Transformational IT Consulting Data Science Services

Austin Meet & Greet, Let’s Talk Tech!

Convergent Technologies wants to provide a platform where you can connect with individuals in your field on a personal and professional level. Whether your specialty lies in Microsoft Directory Service, Active Directory/Messaging Migration, or Security/Identity-related interest, we would love to share a space where hardworking professionals are able to share their experiences and challenges. That’s why the CT team is hosting networking events that will involve a number of activities like: meet-and-greets, talks from industry experts, Q&A sessions, and most importantly, the opportunity to forge long-term relationships.

The CT team will be running two separate meet-up groups. One will be held in Austin, TX, with Sr. Founder, Rick Gregson, as the host. As well as another location in Raleigh, NC, with Steve Cogill hosting; who specializes in AI machine learning.

For all of our Austin locals, we will be hosting a meet-up as early as Wednesday, March 18, 2020. The event will be held at Opa – a Greek café located on 2050 S Lamar Blvd from 6:00 – 8:00 PM. So, mark the date and come network with other IT professionals and discuss topics of interest. To RSVP follow the link and be sure to come enjoy a gyro, or three 😉 See you soon!

 

#KeepAustinWeird

#MeetUp

AI/Machine Learning, Consumer Expectations, and Liability

As a Tesla owner, I purchased a Model S two years ago due to its promises of cutting-edge self-drive capability and the fact that I’d never have to buy gasoline again.

It’s been two years, and I’m still waiting to reap the benefits.

My car and I have been through a couple of accidents—the last one while cruising north on I-55 one night between Jackson, MS, and Memphis, TN, with my daughter in late July. The car was on autopilot, and we were getting low on charge. I was glancing between the road and the center screen for details (time/distance) to our next charge stop in Grenada, MS.

The highway is two-lanes in each direction, and it was completely free from any other traffic. There was a short bridge coming up, so I expected a little bump as we crossed the interface. The bump we got was SO much more than expected; what we encountered on the highway actually caused a bit of lift on the car—not exactly “Dukes of Hazzard” but alarming nonetheless. The best we’ve been able to guess is that we hit some sort of an animal that was low to the road . . . a roaming raccoon . . . or an unfortunate armadillo maybe.

Ultimately, this little varmint caused damage to the battery intercooler and resulted in thousands of dollars in repairs surrounding the impact zone in the center, front of the car.

Tesla Roadside Assistance was of little help that night, which is why I’m a fan of AAA.

Long story short—6 weeks and $6K later—I was able to fly back to Memphis and pick up my car. Oh joy.

So what about this autopilot stuff? This is why people buy these cars, right? We’re expecting some “Wow!” from the software, sensors, and associated hardware.

As a consumer, I feel that Tesla doesn’t stand behind their product very well. First of all, for the price of a Tesla, Roadside Assistance should be a stellar experience. “Thank you for being a customer. Are you okay? Are you in a safe place? How may we help?” Customers using their technology want to know Tesla has some skin in the game if there’s an accident.

People driving Teslas aren’t necessarily misusing the technology; we’re simply expecting the technology to perform as advertised. In the time I’ve owned one, I’ve noticed it doesn’t always see soft targets. Damn frightening. A human leveraging autopilot should yield an augmented driving experience. Reasonable safety by either approach—even better together.

The gaps I see in the Tesla software are disturbing though.

Now, with version 10.0, Tesla has released Smart Summon:

With Smart Summon, customers who have purchased Full Self-Driving Capability or Enhanced Autopilot can enable their cars to navigate a parking lot and come to them or their destination of choice, as long as the car is within their line of sight. It’s the perfect feature to use if you have an overflowing shopping cart, are dealing with a fussy child, or simply don’t want to walk to your car through the rain. Customers who have had early access to Smart Summon have told us that it adds convenience to their trips and provides them with a unique moment of delight when their car picks them up to begin their journey. Those using Smart Summon must remain responsible for the car and monitor it and its surroundings at all times.

The Tesla hype

https://player.vimeo.com/video/362609421

SmartSummon experiences as reported by Today on/around Oct 2nd

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3o2sI37xwOc

One YouTube Reviewers experiences based on experimentation

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=enkRALcdPb0

Last year the self-driving Uber accident in Tempe AZ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ufNNuafuU7M

In addition, in my experiences so far, autopilot does not pay attention to stoplights. If you’re the lead car approaching a light, do not anticipate the car braking for you. Scary.

. . . another fact, more annoying than scary—but still, it speaks to a lack of attention to detail and a lack of customer care. Tesla sent me an email about purchasing the self-drive option a few months ago. Funny, I purchased that option with the vehicle—it’s on my invoice! For a software company, wouldn’t you think this vehicle information would be in a customer contact database somewhere? “Send solicitations” vs. “Do not send solicitations” . . . Meh, just a thought.

Autopilot features, especially the shortcomings, aren’t well documented. Perhaps there should be a special endorsement required and maintained for licensed drivers to be able to operate a self-driving vehicle? Again, just a thought. This is an emerging landscape.

We’re still years off, at least a decade in my opinion, for this technology to become practical and trustworthy. I wonder if my Tesla Model S and it’s supporting hardware/sensors will support that software when it’s released?!

Inside “The Crucible”

“Setting the stage for important conversations.”

 That line from The Warehouse Theatre’s website explains Rick Gregson’s decision to have Convergent Technologies support this energizing organization in Greenville, SC. Rick became a Warehouse fan years ago during tougher times when he needed to engage his children. The conversations sparked by plays confirmed his choice of live performance over other options.

 Recently, I was privileged to attend a sponsor preview of Warehouse’s current production, The Crucible. The big question among theater patrons was not why a tech guy would fund the organization. Many companies and individuals favor the arts: some do it because they simply like the theatre; others, because they simply need to itemize deductions at the end of year. The question was why a company defined by technology would ask people to devote three hours to pondering the Salem Witch Trials. A play doesn’t have to reflect the occupation or personality of its sponsor—but the Arthur Miller classic is not exactly the feel-good comedy of the year.

 So, why would Convergent Technologies associate with such a production? As the former editor of New York Theatre magazine and someone who knows Rick well, I may have a circuitous but suitable explanation.

 In a 2012 article in Harvard Magazine, accomplished actor John Lithgow elaborated on his decision to do a play rather than accept a lucrative offer for a TV series. “The whole notion of entertainment is confused and diffused,” he said.

 Video games, reality shows, and streaming TV have contributed to the ADD culture that has miraculously refrained from destroying the cultural arts. One definition Merriam-Webster provides for “crucible” is, “a place or situation in which concentrated forces interact to cause or influence change or development.” In the digital age, the act of sitting through a poignant three-hour production might be more closely related to the Marine Corps definition of “crucible,” as a modern audience endures a few hours of self-examination sans smart phones.

 Coming full circle with this point, the people behind Convergent Technologies deal with complex technological problems on a daily basis. Given enough time and effort, the technical solutions are not that difficult—provided we’ve set the stage for important conversations. That’s when we can not only change but truly develop.

We here at Convergent Technologies specialize in simplifying the seemingly opaque. We have helped many organizations of various scales implement sensible data solutions. Let us help get you there.

The Crucible runs through October 13, 2019; reserve your seats today, observe an amazingly talented cast, and get in on the conversation: https://warehousetheatre.com/ 

 

Talk About TED

My first meeting with Rick Gregson, founder of Convergent Technologies, told me I’d found a kindred collaborator for communication strategy. His demeanor and candor were not what I had expected from someone whose profession involves terminology such as IT ecosystem and Active Directory Migration. Part of that stems from the fact that those terms were new to me; the rest comes from Rick’s contagious enthusiasm to look at things in new ways. This means he’s open to ideas, which makes him an ideal sponsor for TEDxGreenville.

For those who aren’t that familiar with TED and don’t know what he’s talking about—TED is actually a nonprofit organization that began in 1984 as a conference focused on technology, entertainment and design—more specifically the convergence of those elements. You see where we’re going with this: Convergent Technologies has more in common with TED than semantics. Rick is always seeking innovation and looking to include more voices in the conversation. His daily work involves organizations and systems that are coming together, coming apart, or facing complicated transition. His approach to organizational change—which is sometimes less than pleasant—is tactical and practical but always carried out with people in mind.

Since the ’80s, topics have expanded, as has the TED organization, to communities around the world where events are held and speakers are chosen to deliver short, powerful “talks” on their “ideas worth spreading.” In Greenville this week, 11 speakers participated in a “salon” event in honor of the Upstate organization’s 11th anniversary. Each one had exactly three minutes to present. The audience scored them, ultimately producing top contenders for potential spots on the local TEDx conference stage in 2020.

Three speakers were acknowledged by the voters, but more than 11 valuable ideas were spread exponentially. After the conference, for example, I pictured the speaker who talked about college admissions following up with the one who presented on eSports. There was an abundance of opportunity for connection; perhaps ideas worth sharing are worth pairing and bringing to fruition in ways no one originally expected.

Rick Gregson, along with all of us who are associated with Convergent Technologies, LLC, is proud to support the efforts of TEDxGreenville, and we encourage everyone to find a local organization, get inspired by a TED video online, and speak up when you have an idea worth spreading.

We here at Convergent Technologies specialize in simplifying the seemingly opaque. We have helped many organizations of various scales implement sensible data solutions. Let us help get you there!

Make-A-Wish South Carolina Strikes Again!

Convergent Technologies is excited to announce that Make-A-Wish South Carolina  has been able to grant yet another wish locally in our community. We enjoy hearing that the organization we adore and know so well is able to grant these life changing wishes to kids with critical illnesses.

Jenna, a 10-year old little girl, was able to reveal her wish at the Wish Ball. In less than a year, her wish came true and she was able to go on a European cruise with family and friends. While they soaked up the sunshine, Jenna and her family made stops in London, Barcelona, and Gibraltar. The trip gave her unforgettable memories with the people that mean the most to her. With her wish being granted, Jenna found strength in herself that she thought she had lost through all the treatment. Now that she has found a new sense of independence and empowerment, we know Jenna will be able to enjoy new adventures soon to come.

Stories like Jenna’s are so heart-felt to read about, but when you see the action come alive it is truly amazing. Make-A-Wish South Carolina  is an organization we are so proud to be a part of!

Pride and Prejudice

“Pride and Prejudice”, will be held at The Warehouse Theatre starting this evening through the end of the month. This play, sponsored by Jackie and John Warner, will be held weekly: Sunday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings.

As a proud sponsor of The Warehouse Theatre, we’re excited to see the action come to life on stage! The play is based on the novel by Jane Austen. Enjoy the story of Elizabeth Bennet as she faces the pressure of societal norms to find a husband. With everyone bugging her about it, Elizabeth finds herself pondering whether marriage is what she wants out of life. After meeting the charming, Mr. Darcy she can’t help but to doubt herself. Figure out how Elizabeth comes to terms with all of this and join us for an evening at The Warehouse Theatre this summer. Hope to see you guys there!

PS: If you just can’t wait to see what the night consists of, here’s a cool sneak peak!

How to: Active Directory Migration Discovery

So I’ve mentioned this in several posts now.. A well-planned migration comes in phases:

  1. Discovery
  2. End-User Compute
  3. Applications and Services
  4. Cleanup & Closure

So what does a migration discovery actually consist of? What level of privilege should I request in the environments? These are some of the more common questions I’ve been asked.

For my clients, I use a set of custom scripts to extract data from each directory. There are also a number of COTS toolsets available that you can use if you choose. I prefer gathering information in CSV (comma-separated value) or TSV (tab-separated value) formatted outputs so I can easily review the datasets and gain some feel for each environment of interest.

On first-pass, I like to produce a taxonomy of objects for each directory. I use this for high-level discussion with the client and it helps me to visualize and size a level of effort for an upcoming migration.

My typical taxonomy would include:

Users

  • Count, Total v Disabled
  • Normal (but really, who’s normal these days??)
  • Service Accounts
  • Stats regarding logon scripts assigned, home drives assigned, etc.

Contacts

  • Quantity, location/s

Computers

  • Count, Total v Disabled
  • Workstations (OS versions)
  • Servers (OS versions)
    • Domain Controllers, Sites, Subnets

Groups

  • Security Groups (breakout w count by group type)
    • Mail-enabled
  • Distribution Groups (breakout w count by group type)

OU Structure

  • Count, observation (mature, greenfield, etc.)

GPOs

  • Count, observation (mature, greenfield, etc.)

Trusts

  • Count, enumeration

Schema Extensions

  • Count, enumeration

To gather this sort of data, you should request elevated permissions in both the source and target environments. Although active directory is read-only by nature, some things may be restricted. In a single forest single domain implementation, domain admin is usually sufficient. When working with root and child domains in the context of a forest, enterprise admin would be most effective.

When a client refuses, which sometimes happens due to security requirements or organizational complexity, suggest that someone with the appropriate privileges execute whatever discovery tool/scripts you need. If it’s too much hassle, they may grant you permissions after all; otherwise, they run the scripts for you and make the data collected available. Either way, you’re a winner!

After the collections are ran, and the taxonomies are generated, you’re ready to perform some readiness assessment – reviewing users and groups for name collisions, selecting available service attributes for Quest migration manager, and making a determination if you will want to configure object filtering in the toolset.

These types of analyses aren’t so bad if it’s a single domain organization coming into a relatively pristine greenfield; it gets a touch more complicated if you need to collapse multiple domains, or collapsing multiple domains into a well-established active directory environment.

“Measure twice, cut once.” is a mantra I try to impart to my clients. If applied it will help bring some peace and serenity to an otherwise complex and challenging project. Mitigating chaos and risk, that’s why you bring in experienced professionals to help lead the charge. 😊

We here at Convergent Technologies would love to be your partner in change. We’ve assisted many organizations with Microsoft Active Directory projects including assessments, segmentation, consolidation, as well as other forms of migration projects. How may we help you?

Lunch with the Artist

Tomorrow, join Artist in the community while exploring the gorgeous Downtown Greenville riverfront at, Lunch with the Artist. This event is hosted by Foothill Foodie Tours LLC and is held every Wednesday at 1:00 PM. It gives locals and tourist the opportunity to learn the history of the Historic District of Downtown Greenville. While stuffing your brain with knowledge, you can enjoy the beautiful Reedy River Waterfront area, and meet with Artist on Artist Row. This allows you to build relationships with the people in your community while sharing stories and experiences.

The fun doesn’t stop there! The tour ends with a stop at Limoncello, a popular Italian Bistro in town. This is where you will enjoy a delicious Italian dessert and beverage to complete the tour experience. The tour begins in front of the Gunther Theatre, so, be sure to enjoy your to break away and enjoy Wednesday on the river!

25th Upstate Shakespeare Festival

Yesterday evening, was the start of the 25th Upstate Shakespeare Festival, presented by Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina.  This festival season will host, “Romeo and Juliet” and “The Tempest.

The Upstate Shakespeare Festival is funded through the Metropolitan Arts Council, which receives support from local companies in the area. All of the performances showed are free admission and are performed in Falls Park by the Reedy River.

The tragic love story we all know and adore, Romeo and Juliet, will be performed May 22-June 16. While, The Tempest, a performance about a mysterious boat ride, will be showed July 11-August 4. Each show starts at 7:00pm Thursday-Sunday each week. So, go out with family and friends, forget the real world and dive into Shakespeare’s!

#yeahTHATgreenville