Wednesday, July 31, 2013

PowerShell PowerCamp 2013 Coming Soon!

I’m getting quite excited about the next PowerShell PowerCamp. This is being held at Microsoft’s London offices over the weekend of October 19/20 2013.

I’ve been working a lot recently with a number of the new PowerShell modules in Server 2012, specially to deploy and test DHCP. But there are so many aspects of Windows Server that you can now manage with PowerShell, it’s really time you learned how to unleash the potential of PowerShell.

I speak to a lot of really smart IT Pros, and there is a reluctance to learn PowerShell or to embrace it. I can understand that (especially from the perspective of the last two weeks of my ‘day job’ ). PowerShell can look like long convoluted text you have to type and it’s got no sense of humour. The ‘red ink syndrome’ as I call it.

PowerShell really is a lot easier, once you get over the learning curve. Really! But there is a need to shift gears a little. Command line admin seems tedious, but tab-completion really does help minimise the pain. Combine this with intellisense built into the ISE, then life really is a lot simpler.

The PowerCamp events are designed to take you from the start to as far as we can take you in 2 days. The feedback on previous camps has been great and I think it fair to say we’ve all learned a lot.

I also try to add some value to each event, and I am negotiating for a guest speaker on the Sunday! More to be revealed once he confirms! I’ll also be hitting up the various vendors to see what swag I can leverage.

So what are you waiting for? See the PowerShell PowerCamp blog posting and book today.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Windows 8.1 Can’t Import VMs Exported from earlier OSs.

Like many, I’ve been experimenting with Windows 8.1. It’s a nice improvement in many ways to Windows 8, but there are still some bugs. Unfortunately, as I have discovered, MS is no longer planning to ship this OS when it’s ready. Instead, they plan ship it when they ship it – warts an all. This post documents another example of that.

Like a lot of Microsoft Certified trainers, I have a huge library of training course related sets of Hyper-V VMs. These are issued by Microsoft Learning (MSL) and are an important part of the classroom experience. Some of these sets are huge (over 20 VMs with a few courses with even more). The VMs are delivered in an ‘exported’ state – the user (the MCT or training centre) just unpacks them, moves the files to the right place then imports the VM into Hyper-V.

In playing with Windows 8.1 Preview, I discovered something pretty nasty with this new OS: you can not import an existing Windows 8/Server 2012 (or earlier) VM that was exported from an earlier OS. This is a nasty bug for many, particularly MCTs and CPLSs (Microsoft’s partners for learning).

The basic issue is that you cannot import an old (exported) VM into 8.1/2012R2. The reason is that there is no support for it – even after this weakness was discovered. The "technical" reason for this is that the MOC VM export files (exp files) use the Hyper-V WMI v1 namespace. In Win8.1 and Win2012 R2, the Hyper-V WMI v1 namespace is no longer present, only the Hyper-V WMI v2 namespace - and the product does not contain a conversion option. Thus you can not import VMs.

The work around is to create all new VMs and use the existing VHDx(s). That sounds ok in principal, but there is a significant legal problem here: namely Microsoft partners are contractually prohibited from ‘fixing’ any of the VMs shipped by Microsoft Learning. Of course, folks can and do do this all time to fix the bugs which MSL cannot and do not fix. But it’s against the CPLS contract. This means that every Hyper-V VM shipped by MSL today can not be run under Windows 8.1, and Server 2012 R2.

I filed a bug on this. You can see it at: although not everyone has access to this part of connect. The answer posted by Microsoft was “it would not be possible to make this change in the product. Our only option right now is to reach the MS learning teams and explain the situation and escalate it in their levels to get this content re-issued. The teams here are backing me for escalation with MS learning.”

So the Sinofksy approach of ignoring the reported bugs and shipping on time no matter what seems to live on. This is really gong to bite a lot of CPLSs – and I can honestly imagine a law suit here. It’ll also make a total mockery out of MSL’s “you can’t change shipped VMs no matter what’ stance.

All things considered, I’d prefer Windows 8.1 and Server 2012 R2 to ship when it’s ready and to ship a set of features that contain good upwards compatibility. Sadly, that is not what MS will ship. This summer is really turning out to show Microsoft in a bad light. First, scrapping TechNet subscriptions and now making my life as a trainer just that much more difficult.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Microsoft Planning to End TechNet Subscription

As has been widely reported, Microsoft recently announced that they were planning to cease the TechNet subscription service with effect from the end of August. This has to be about the daftest thing I’ve seen from Redmond in decades – arguably even worse than Bob, the Kin phone and Vista combined!

The TechNet subscription allowed subscribers to download ISO (or Exe) images of just about all the software Microsoft ships, albeit with some notable gaps like no developer tools (Visual Studio). You also get licenses that allow you to install this software and do long term testing and evaluation. I have used the  subscription for over 15 years (I was one of the very first TechNet subscribers in the UK – although in the early days, there was no software just lots of information that later transferred to the web).

With the TechNet subscription, I get an affordable way to obtain non-crippled software and could install it and use it. I could test things out and learn more about the products and how they interoperate. I know hundreds of others value this ability, which Microsoft has now decided to do away with. The only alternative way of getting this software would be via an MSDN subscription – but MSDN is significantly more expensive and I’ve heard that this cost is going up significantly.

Microsoft is staying that rather than use full use software, we should use evaluation software. That simply doesn’t work since if nothing else there is a much more restrictive time span on the software. Projects lasting a year for example would be scuppered as most evaluation products time out after 6 months.

Frankly, without this sort of low cost source of legitimate and legal software, I’m certain that many will just turn to the black market – it’s about as easy to find boot leg keys as to log onto the TechNet site and get the legal keys! Now let’s be clear – I do not condone pirating of software. But with the removal of a low cost option, piracy, and casual piracy, will only increase. And, for a company that is concerned with what people thing, this move will only make Redmond appear greedy and unhelpful towards the legions of IT Pros that advocate and deploy Microsoft software.

Almost as bad was the cynical way the announcement was made. It was issued at the start of the week of July 4th when a lot of Americans and a lot of management in Redmond, was out on holiday, and the week before the Partner conference. The timing was great – get the bad news out when no one was around to react in Redmond (except with canned statements about how IT Trends and business dynamics have changed’. I can’t help feeling some marketing bod decided to send the announcement like this meant most folks would be away and would not notice till it was too late. Microsoft should know better than to act like this – even the UK’s Labour party found out this approach generates a lot of negativity.

Speaking personally, I mailed Steve Ballmer to complain and have urged others to do so. Frankly, he’s about the only person with the ability to stop the stupidity. A US chap, Cody Skidmore, has created an online petition:

If you care about this – and all IT Pros really should, then can you do three things:

1. Email SteveB@Microsoft and ask him to abort the service’s demise.

2. Sign the petition. As of the time this article is being written, the petition has attracted over 5000 signatures and is getting more every minute. Please add your name to this list.

3. Talk to any journalists you know and ask them to talk up the issue and talk up reinstating the subscription.

This is about the dumbest thing I’ve seen from Redmond since Joe Lindstrom tried to kill the MVP programme. I hope the outcome here is the same (we still have MVPs). But please – get involved and act now before it is too late.

Finally: Please Steve, rethink this. Do the right thing and reinstate the programmne. If you need more email to make that decision, just say the word. If email is what it takes, the community can provide that.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Tale of Two Surfaces–Surface RT/Surface Pro

At TechEd Madrid, as happened at Teched US and at the WWPC, Microsoft sold Surface devices to all attendees at knock-down prices. The RT, the 64GB version, went for a mere £70 and that included the basic keyboard. At those prices, I could not resist and bought both devices. I attended TechEd courtesy of Microsoft and my most excellent MVP Lead Claire Smyth and was able to buy both devices at cheap prices (which I snapped up).

The devices were orderable on the company store, via a voucher code on vouchers that each conference attendee received. I saw several folks selling their vouchers for pretty good money – others were clearly desperate for multiple devices at this very cheap price. I ordered mine online on the Monday night and they were delivered to my home before I got back from Conference.

I note today that Microsoft has reduced the prices by 30% (see Speaking personally, and knowing what I do now, even a 30% cut is not enough. At the price I paid, the RT was a bargain – but at a list of nearly $300, it’s too expensive and it’s why I held off buying either surface system.

Like Apple packaging, the Surface packaging was pretty, albeit pretty minimal. A tiny manual, a charger and the device was all that came in the box. It was easy to get started, as both devices had enough battery charge to get through the OOBE (out of the box experience) and get me to the start screen on both devices.

Now that I have had the devices for a while – I find (surprisingly to me and others) I prefer the RT. It’s a lot lighter, the battery life is great, and is comfortable to use. The pro version, on the other hand, runs pretty hot – not a great laptop companion for a long flight for example due to the heat, and the battery life is a lot shorter (showing the difference between the I5 and Atom chips!).

This week, I am running some training across 3 continents – I have a morning session with attendees from India and UK, with an afternoon session with attendees from UK and from US/Canada. The class uses Cisco’s WebEx conferencing platform and an excellent set of labs provided in the cloud by Virsoft, an Amsterdam based firm. The platform is working great: here’s what it looks like from where I am:


As you can see in the picture, I have the laptop open, with the RT device (far left) being used to browse, and the Pro device which is shadowing my on-line environment. And being old-fashioned, I also have my printed training  book open to the lecture I am giving.

All things considered, I am pretty happy with the RT device, especially at the price. The Pro device, on the other hand, has still not proven its worth to me yet. I need to travel a bit with the pro to see the value. For me, anyway, the Pro is too much like a laptop (short battery life, high heat) and not enough like an iPad (long battery life, light weight, etc). It’s not powerful enough for all my needs (I’d want 500GB of storage, an i7 chip and 16gb of ram (for VMs) or more.

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Friday, July 12, 2013

PowerShell V4 PowerCamp–Next Session 19/20 October 2013

Now that the summer is (nearly) over, it’s time to get back to what mattes. With the imminent arrival of both Server 2012 R2 and Windows 8.1 to general availability, learning PowerShell is now, more than ever, something every IT Pro needs to do! One great way to get up to speed is via my PowerShell PowerCamp event!
What is A PowerShell PowerCamp?
PowerCamp is a fast paced weekend training event that covers all the basic aspects of Windows PowerShell 4 - from the command line to writing production-oriented scripts. We start with the basics including configuration, formatting and providers and remoting and jobs. Then, on day 2, we look at scripting, work flows, managing script libraries using modules, WMI/CIM,  using objects, and finishing with the PowerShell features added into Windows including Desired State Configuration. The event concludes with a short look at PowerShell in the cloud and a quick call out to all the things  we just can’t cover in two days.
The PowerCamp event is a combination of lecture, demonstrations plus Q&A, with the opportunity to type along with the tutor. There are no formal labs. But I do provide the key demos, all the slides, plus a wealth of other add on material on a memory stick you get at the start of day 1. So bring along your laptop, and type away.
What is the Agenda?
Day 1 – The Basics
• PowerShell Fundamentals – starting with the key elements of PowerShell (Cmdlets, Objects and the Pipeline) plus installation, setup, and profiles
• What’s new in v3/v3 – this looks at the things specifically added into PowerShell v3 and v4
• Formatting – how to format output nicely – both by default and using hash tables and display XML
• Providers – getting into underlying OS data stores (certificate store, AD, registry, etc.) via providers
• Remoting and jobs– working with jobs plus working with remote systems using PowerShell’s remoting capabilities
Day 2 – Diving Deeper
• Scripting Concepts – automating everyday tasks including PowerShell’s language constructs, error handling and debugging and workflows
• Modules – managing PowerShell script libraries in the enterprise
• WMI and CIM – we look at the WMI and CIM components, including the new CIM cmdlets
• Using .NET and COM Objects – working with native objects
• PowerShell in Windows 2012 and Windows 8 – a look at what’s there and how you can leverage the huge number of new cmdlets
• PowerShell and the cloud – this module looks at PowerShell in the cloud and how you can use PowerShell to manage cloud computing.
• PowerShell Desired State Configuration

What does it cost?
The cost is £200 (+VAT at the prevailing rate) for the weekend. Meals and accommodation are not covered.
Where is the event going to take place?
The PowerShell PowerCamp is being held at Microsoft Cardinal Place, 100 Victoria Street in Victoria on the weekend of October 19/20 2013. Each day starts promptly at 09:00 and finishes up by 16:45. We’ll also take short breaks throughout the day, including a 1-hour lunch break
PowerDrinks? After Saturday’s session, attendees are invited to a small nearby public house for some lovely English ale, etc. The beer is pretty good there, although the place is on the small size. Previous PowerCamps have invaded the place to the amusement of all.
Who is the tutor?
The PowerShell Weekend PowerCamp is delivered by Thomas Lee. Thomas is a veteran PowerShell MVP who has been involved in the PowerShell community since the very beginning. He provides training and consultancy around a range of Microsoft products, with a recent focus on PowerShell and Lync Server. Thomas runs PowerShell training courses around the world, and has been a speaker at conferences across the world for the past decade. In his spare time, he lives with his wife, daughter, wine cellar, and Grateful Dead live recordings archive in a small cottage in the English countryside. His Twitter handle is @DoctorDNS and he maintains two blogs (Under the Stairs at and PowerShell Scripts Blog at

What do I need to bring
You need to bring a laptop with PowerShell v4 loaded. That can be either native or in a virtual machine. I suggest you have at least two VMs pre-configured – one a Server 2012 R2 installation the other a Windows 8.1 installation. The virtualisation software is not of concern – but you need 64-bit guest OS support for Server 2012! Thus you can use Hyper-V, VMware Workstation or Oracle’s Virtual Box. Heck, run it in a VM on a Mac or Linux PC if you want. Just bring along PowerShell v4!
How do I book?
Contact to book a place and to arrange for the invoice to be paid. Payment must be in cash, cheque or bank transfer – we don’t take credit cards.
More Details
Watch this blog for any hot breaking news on the event.
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Sunday, July 07, 2013

PowerShell Help Information–how to report bugs/issues

As many readers of this blog know, I really value the excellent PowerShell Help information provided both in the box and on the web. With the thousands of cmdlets, providers and the large number of conceptual help topics (help about some aspect of PowerShell), there is a lot of document and a lot of documentation to co-ordinate. It’s a large task and, as is sadly inevitable when publishing such large amounts of information, errors and issues do sometimes creep in. I’ve been doing writing gigs for over 20 years, and it amazes me just how easy it is for simple errors to manifest themselves, despite rigorous checking. I used to get upset when I saw things like in my own writing, but these days, with documentation being electronic, I just look at errors as an opportunity to improve the help text.

I’ve been chatting to the PowerShell documentation team (a great bunch of folks, in case of ANY doubt!), and looking for good ways to ensure errors are resolved. If (when?) you find an error, the best thing to do is to send mail to Mail sent to that address goes straight to the writers responsible for PowerShell content. It doesn’t matter where the error is (so long as it’s on a Microsoft site!!!), if you see an error, please report it.

If you find an error, then report it using the Email address above. Ensure that Microsoft knows about the error and make sure that the error is one that can get fixed. The bottom line is that once published, there is a tacit assumption that it’s correct – thus if YOU don’t report it, it WILL NOT get fixed (unless, of course someone else reports it first!).

When you do report a bug, please give sufficient details to enable the team to find and resolve the issue. Reporting bugs with text like “the help text is broken” is not much help, so please report the specific location, the specific issue and where possible, provide corrected text. The easier you make it on the WSIX team, the faster the error can be corrected.

Please help to make the PowerShell help information even better!

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Thursday, July 04, 2013

Server 2012 R2 is coming–read all about it

As announced recently, the next version of Windows Server, Server 2012 R2, is coming. Last week at TechEd Madrid, Microsoft rolled out a lot of information about this new OS version. There are some really cool features, including PowerShell V4.

In a departure from previous practice, MS is now rolling out key information about this new OS version via a series of blog posts.  Each week on Wednesdays, Brad Anderson, intends to publish a high level blog post on the In the Cloud blog about a part of the overall WS/SC 2012 R2. Brad is unlikely to be doing much actual writing – but should have “guest” content from some of the leaders across the WS/SC engineering team.  To some degree, this is a continuation of the approach Steven Sinofksy took to Windows 8.

Each blog post is intended to link to other more detailed content that describes the technical features that support that scenario.  Such additional, detailed content is planned to reside in various places such as our TechNet blogs (SC, SCSM, SCVMM, SCO, SCOM, WS, PS, etc.), TechNet wiki, Microsoft Virtual Academy and so on. Although the ability of Microsoft to create up to date information on TechNet has not been outstanding.

For the next 2 months at least, the technical information related to WS/SC 2012 R2 will only come from these blog posts and the related content that is released with them.  Microsoft believe that this approach should ensure a coordinated, smooth rollout of technical information regarding R2 instead of just having each individual team randomly posting information about their particular area of the product.

As you will read in the attached post, which is the first in the series, we are aligning everything we do from planning to development/test to release across WS/SC and that extends to include our go-to-market technical communication plan.

The first post in this series is now up. See

This is an interesting departure but should serve to centralise the information in a useful way. It also stops teams randomly telling their story and provides a much more controlled approach. I just hope the Windows engineering team listens and hears the comments that these posts will undoubtedly generate. I hope they do a better job than Sinofsky did – indeed had he listened in the first place, the whole Start button thing would never have been an issue. I get the feeling, after meeting Brad, that he indeed is already doing a better job of listening – and that’s a good thing!

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Wednesday, July 03, 2013

PowerShell V4 Beta is available

The beta of PowerShell’s next version has been released. PowerShell version 4 will ship as part of the Windows Management Framework components built into Windows 8.1 and Server 2012 R2. WMF4 will also be made available for some down-level OSs, including Windows 8, Server 2008, Server 2008 R2 and Server 2012.

Interestingly, WMF4/PowerShell V4 will not ship for Windows 8. For reasons I’m not quite clear, Microsoft believe that Windows 8 and 8.1 are interchangeable in all environment (thus anyone running 8 now will very quickly upgrade to 8.1 and anyone planning to roll 8 out now can simply reset their plans for 8.1). I can’t quite work out why they believe it, but I’m sure they have loads of paid volunteers willing to tell them that.

The new WMF had 5 key features:

  • Windows PowerShell  Version 4
  • Windows PowerShell Integrated Scripting Environment (ISE) Version 4
  • Windows PowerShell Web Services (Management OData IIS Extension)
  • Windows Remote Management (WinRM) and PS Remoting V2.2
  • Windows Management Infrastructure (WMI) (Windows Management Instrumentation appears to have a new name AND some new features).

You can read more details on the PowerShell Team Blog:

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Moving to a Windows Phone–Part 4 –A month On

Some time ago, I got an incentive to get a new Windows Phone – I’ve written a few articles about this ( here, here, here and here). The long and short of it is that I got enough clicks to earn me a new phone so long as I used it solely for 3 months.

It’s now been over a month since I moved over from my older iPhone to a new Lumia 820 Windows Phone (with WP8). It’s taken time to get used to a new device, a new device OS and a new device/OS ecosystem. I’m sure it’s no surprised that one’s reaction to a new phone is a mixture of one’s reactions to all three of these!

The Phone

The phone itself, the Lumia 820 is a step down in quality from the iPhone. It’s nice enough, but the screen resolution is not as good. Having said that, the phone in bright sunlight (like we had today!) is pretty good – better than the iPhone. The phone has a plastic back cover just feels rather like, well, plastic. The Lumia feels ok in the hand while the iPhone, on the other hand, felt great.

The telephone functions (SMS text and PSTN calling) works great so far. As we know, it sucks at home a bit, but that’s O2’s fault as the reception here is sub-optimal. The reception across northern Europe has been good.

The device as a smartphone is excellent. I can do mail, surf the web, play on twitter fairly easily. The wireless aspect is pretty smooth – connection seems easier than in the iPhone across the many Wi-Fi sites I access in my travels.

The phone’s controls are on the side and I find I often turn off the screen when holding it. I am kind of getting used to it though – but I prefer the controls on the top of the phone.

The phone’s back is a hard plastic shell. The Lumia has several striking colours on offer and mine was white. It looked awesome, at first, but the whiteness is fading a bit. It, and the plastic controls, make the phone feel cheap.

The worst aspect of the phone is the screen resolution. It’s just not as good as the iPhone. And that would keep me from buying or recommending the phone.

The OS

The WP8 OS has been quite interesting to get used to – and I quite like it. It’s very different to the IOS/Android. With WP8 there are, in effect just two screens: the first is the start screen with tiles etc. and the second, a full alphabetical list of all the apps on the phone. The former lets you organise how you view all the goodness on your phone while the latter helps you find it all.

This new paradigm has taken me some time to get used to.  But as I use the device more, I am slowly honing in on tiles I need for the 80-90% case and leaving everything the else to the flickable a-z list. It works, but it takes a lot of work to get it all setup. I found the time to get all the applications up and running was longer than for both iPhone and Android.

The Applications

The application ecosystem lags far behind the iPhone and Android.  There are just far fewer applications and applications that exist are often not as good than for the iPhone of Android. There’s no native app for my bank (First Direct)-and although I can use the web site, I really like the iPhone app. There’s also no Drop box application, no decent BBC or Iplayer application either. Sure I can, like my bank use the main web sites for some of these, it’s not as convenient.


The Nokia 820 is an OK phone, with a pretty good OS and a poor application ecosystem. The 820 suffers compared to it’s bigger brother (the 925) particularly in terms of resolution. The WP8 OS works well enough to not be a hindrance but the application ecosystem needs a great deal of improving.

If I had to buy a new phone today, I’d not buy this particular model, but would consider a 925 mainly due to the better screen resolution. The OS is not an issue – if there was a great phone, having WP8 on it would not be an issue.

So thanks to Microsoft for letting me have the phone. If it’s OK by them, I’ll keep it a little while longer (beyond the three months I originally agreed!).

RIP Douglas Engelbard

While his name may be uppermost in your minds, Douglas Engelbard was a computer pioneer – he invented the mouse for example. He died on Tuesday and may be missed for those three of us who recall his name. Another great pioneer – his vision of the future of human/machine interaction was instrumental in shaping what was to become the Internet we all know today. Certainly, his demonstrations and ideas were ahead of their time, but they were valuable nevertheless.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

PowerShell V3 Modules–Updated Help information

PowerShell V3 comes with a key feature: Updateable help. There is virtually no help shipped, ‘in the box’, but with the Update-Help cmdlet, you can download help for PowerShell core and for any module you have loaded on your system. This approach enables Microsoft to update help information without users having to wait for the next release of PowerShell. Not shipping Help in the box was always, to me, a daft way of going about it, but it was the only way we could get updateable help.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that in the recent past, there was a bug in the team’s build tools that led to all the data types of parameters to be missing from the Syntax block at the top of the Get-Help output. This information was still listed in the parameter descriptions shown by Get-Help -Full and Get-Help –Detailed. This may not have been a huge issue but for those of us who teach the discoverability aspects of PowerShell, it was yet another bug to work around.

Thankfully those nice folks at WSIX have found and fixed the bug and have rolled out new Help Information as of today. In all, 12 modules have had updated help published: CimCmdlet, Hyper-V, IScsi, Microsoft.PowerShell.Core, Microsoft.PowerShell.Management, Microsoft.PowerShell.Utility, MMAgent, PSScheduledJob, PSWorkflow, PSWorkflowUtility, ServerManager, and WindowsServerBackup.

At the time of writing, help for Windows Server Essentials 2012 and the pre-release modules for Server 2012 R2, Windows 8.1 and PowerShell v4 has not been updated, although Microsoft are working hard to get the fixes out. Hopefully by the time you read this, these modules too will be fixed.

Updateable help has proved it’s worth this time around. And while the error is certainly regrettable, such things do happen and thankfully, we now have a way to get this information fixed before the next version of Windows!

Monday, July 01, 2013

Farewell Sarah Lamb–TechNet/MSDN Consultant Editor

It was sad to hear that Sarah Lamb, of Microsoft UK, has left as of the beginning of the month. For those of you who don’t know her, she was, inter alia the Consultant Editor for the UK’s Microsoft and TechNet newsletters. It was she who gathered twice monthly contributions from folks around the UK (I often provided PowerShell content). It was good stuff.

Sarah was an amazing person – she always knew how to get excellent and relevant content out, and was a joy and pleasure to work with. With her gone – I feel a huge loss. Some call that progress, I call it sad. But it's life and the new folks I'm sure will do a great job.

Thanks Sarah for the great work you did. I miss you already.

I've edited this, both to remove a typo and to clarify.