Marriott Rewards, The Ritz-Carlton Rewards, and SPG loyalty programs are merging – Good, Bad, How can I take advantage?

Lots of news and articles are posted about the merger of Marriott Rewards, Ritz Carlton, and SPG loyalty programs.  Here is the primary link for details about the announcement and the impending effect in August of 2018.

https://members.marriott.com/

During the live announcement Marriott stated they read a lot of blogs from the fiercely loyal.  Even after all of that Marriott still makes the best business decisions they could…

giphy1

The Good

SPG and Ritz Carlton top tier hotels cost in points will be lowered to level 7 in August through the end of the year.  A nice window for you to book hotels at a virtual discount.

The new rewards chart (below) is only 8 categories for all Marriott, SPG, and Ritz Carlton hotels!  With only 8 levels to pay attention to and a single chart down from 3 this should be easier to plan.  One would hope that a Tier 5 Ritz Carlton would imply most other hotels don’t reach that level… that said I would guess that RC Tier 5 will be Cat 8 in 2019… which actually costs more (see bad section)

Free Night Award Chart

CATEGORY STANDARD Effective August OFF-PEAK Coming 2019 PEAK Coming 2019
1 7,500 5,000 10,000
2 12,500 10,000 15,000
3 17,500 15,000 20,000
4 25,000 20,000 30,000
5 35,000 30,000 40,000
6 50,000 40,000 60,000
7 60,000 50,000 70,000
8Coming 2019 85,000 70,000 100,000

SPG Platinum status can still be earned this year by 25 stays.  That sounds like a lot but the same status requires 75 nights at Marriotts.  Your status would be good through Jan 2020.  Last chance!

There are now 5 new levels of status to earned based on nights stayed.  At 100 nights you now get an ambassador.

Lifetime status is now based on years at status level and nights.  No more points!  This means butts in beds is more important than credit card holders.  That said see my bad below about needing credit cards to get nights for status.

Lifetime status Marriott Rewards Platinums will be Grandfathered into Platinum Premier Lifetime status.  Sorry SPG lifetime plats but you will only get Platinum in the new schedule.

The website in August should allow you to search all hotels from one website instead of the 3 currently required – Marriott.com, SPG.com, and RitzCarlton.com

 

The Bad

The new night redemption schedule includes peak point costs.  Everyone knows this will be used to abuse the system so just plan on all nights you want to use points being Peak.  Just set your expectations and you won’t be grumpy 🙂

Also the new awards chart Standard levels are HIGHER than current marriott rewards points for lower levels.  One would assume most hotels will be put into a higher level to cost more points than they do today.  The only upside is a Tier 5 Ritz Carlton has to fit on this schedule so one would assume that most Marriott hotels would be a lower level.

Tier 5 Ritz Carltons will almost certainly be Category 8 in 2019 which is 15,000 to 30,000 more points per night than this year.

Free Night Award Chart New vs Old

CATEGORY STANDARD Effective August Current Marriott Rewards Current Ritz Carlton
1 7,500 7,500 30,000
2 12,500 10,000 40,000
3 17,500 15,000 50,000
4 25,000 20,000 60,000
5 35,000 25,000 70,000
6 50,000 30,000
7 60,000 35,000
8 Coming 2019 85,000 40,000

Rollover nights were killed in 2017.  The new requirements in 2018 means you have to start from Zero every Jan 1st forevermore.  The only way to truly earn status is to get a credit card that gives nights on spend.  This in partnership is how you will be able to get status.  Please check the new credit card offers.  Some give you a one time number of nights while others provide you nights per $3,000 in spend.

The new levels are Member, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Platinum Premier, Ambassador.  Is Platinum Premier the best name for 75 nights a year?  Really?  In the old Marriott days Platinum Premier were people with the top 3% of spend in a year… but it came with ZERO benefits.  So the status name has been a joke for a long time for being a name only.

Delta Crossover rewards dies July 15th, 2018.  I wonder if United status will also die?

The Crossover Rewards program with reciprocal benefits for SPG and SkyMiles elite members is coming to an end on July 15, 2018.

Summary

This is about as good as you could expect.  SPG is being neutered and Marriott Rewards is getting more expensive.  However, you can still get free breakfast at 50 nights or more just the same as today!  Some good, some bad, a bit of both.

giphy

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#WindowsInsiders Flight Build Website

While at the 2018 MVP Summit I found from our own Brendan LeBlanc a wonderful website that tracks every single release of the Windows Insider builds.  Great way to keep track of what’s new and whats trending

https://flighthub.azurewebsites.net/

 

Fixed: OneDrive for Business agent running at 25% CPU after the most O365 Patches

Investigation

In January 2018 I noticed a severe impact to my laptop performance. This past week the process Groove.exe (OneDrive For Business) is constantly using 25-40% of my CPU.

OdFB - 1

There are no files to be sync’d and it just constantly states processing changes.

OdFB - 2

I have seen a few threads online stating this may be due to a recent O365 patches.

Pausing sync does NOT reduce CPU utilization.

Exit did not kill the process for over 60 seconds

OdFB - 3

 I did NOT want to do a library repair as I have like 4gb of data sync’d.

Onedrive for Business AUTO RESTARTS after about 5 minutes and right back to 25% CPU

SOLUTION

Update the OneDrive for Business agent!

Who do you tell if you have the older version?

Go to the taskbar and RIGHT click on the OneDrive for Business icon.  If you see text that says Repair as an option… you have the old one (didn’t get a screen capture before writing this blog)

How do I get the new OneDrive for Business Client?

Open PowerShell ISE (Windows Key + X) (NOT as an administrator)

  • This needs to be run in your user context
  • ACTION: Modify the script below with the correct Email Extension

$ODuser = $env:UserName

write-host $ODuser

$ODPath = $env:LOCALAPPDATA\Microsoft\OneDrive”

write-host $ODpath

#Change the EmailExtension

$ODURL = “odopen://sync?useremail=$ODuser@WORKEMAIL.com”

write-host $ODURL

Start-Process “iexplore.exe” “$ODURL

#Start-Process “explorer.exe” “$ODURL” 

What the new client looks like

OdFB - 4

Yea no more CPU spikes or sync errors!

Resolved: Feature update to Windows 10, version 1709 – Error 0x80242006

Working with some of my team mates this week, I was hearing about multiple machines failing the Fall Creators Update (FCU) 1709 with a Windows Update error of ” Feature update to Windows 10, version 1709 – Error 0x80242006 ” .  Looking around the internet I see a lot of people hitting the common solutions but no real success.

Common Solution (doesn’t always work)

  1. Run the Windows Update Troubleshooter
    1. Open the Windows Settings – Formerly known as the Control Panel
    2. Select Update & Security – Last option
    3. Select Troubleshoot – 4th one down left side
    4. Click on Windows Update under Windows.
    5. Click on Advanced on the Windows update dialog box and click on Run as administrator (Enter the credentials if required).
    6. Click on Next and follow onscreen instruction complete the Windows Update troubleshooter
  2. Deleting the %windir%\SoftwareDistribution folder (requires you to stop several services)

The two steps above only partially fixes the issue.  Solution is below!

Windows Update Log File

  1. Create the Windows Update Log file: Get-WindowsUpdateLog
    1. PowerShell Source: https://blogs.technet.microsoft.com/mniehaus/2017/10/10/improved-windows-update-log-formatting-with-windows-10-1709/
  2. Open the log file
    1. I still use cmtrace.exe as my primary log file viewer
      1. https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=50012
    2. I have found Glogg is much faster but less formatting
      1. http://glogg.bonnefon.org/download.html

Root Cause

You have at least two issues

  1. Partial download in the Software Distribution folder may be corrupted (someone rebooted for a reason)
  2. Real: You windows update agent registered a download but can’t clear it out

Solution

You need to stop services remove/rename two folders then restart services.  Please be aware cryptSvc will try to restart so do the following quick.

  1. Press Windows Key + X on the keyboard and then select “Command Prompt (Admin)” or “Windows PowerShell (Admin)” from the menu.
  2. Stop the following services in order Windows Update Services, Cryptographic, Background Intelligent Transfer Service (BITS), and MSI Installer.  The following command lines will work just fine.
net stop wuauserv
net stop cryptSvc
net Stop DoSvc
net stop bits
net stop msiserver

3. Rename the SoftwareDistribution and Catroot2 folders.

ren C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution SoftwareDistribution.old
ren C:\Windows\System32\catroot2 Catroot2.old

4. Now, let’s restart the BITS, Cryptographic, MSI Installer and the Windows Update Services.

net start msiserver
net start bits
net start DoSvc
net start cryptSvc
net start wuauserv

5. Rerun Windows Update to install FCU 1709

Notes

Media Creation Tool Fails

Media creation tool did not work in this environment because all clients are configured to be controlled via Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM or ConfigMgr)

PowerShell

How to stop and start services

Get-Service BITS | Where {$_.status –eq 'Stopped'} |  Start-Service

Get-Service BITS | Where {$_.status –eq 'Running'} |  Stop-Service

How to rename a folder

Rename-Item -path 'C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution' -NewName 'C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution.old'

Rename-Item -path 'C:\Windows\catroot2' -NewName 'C:\Windows\catroot2.old'

 

 

Windows Insider MVP: 2018

Congratulations! Thank you for your continued contributions to the Windows community, we are excited to re-award you as a Windows Insider MVP. This award is a token of our appreciation, your leadership and passion help make Windows the best yet. We look forward to our on-going collaboration with you and all of our Windows Insider MVPs as we continue to strengthen the Windows Insider MVP (WI MVP) Program.

A nice way to start 2018!  Thanks to all that I have had the pleasure of learning from.  I look forward to getting better together and sharing it!

 

 

Motivation: Using Passwords to Achieve Goals

Daily focus / self actualization towards goals is something that has long been studied and debated.  Though many find it hard to keep the habit up and soon life gets in the way.   How to keep my focus on my goals?

I have to type my password in multiple times a day.  For years, I have been using my passwords to remind me to focus on goals.  Personal, family, financial, fitness, travel, etc. There is no limitation on what you can have as a goal.

Now what about security? Most organizations require you to change you password every 90 days. That means you can have your goal a quarter at a time. Perfect.

Will it be easy to guess? I mean aren’t you giving away your password strategy on the internet? Not really. I’ll let this xkcd comic explain it: https://xkcd.com/936/

password_strength

Summary: In short changing your password frequently and using it to set goals or remember those you have lost might actually help you exceed your goals.

Happy 2017!

Fixed: Task Manager Replaced by Sysinternals Process Explorer

I frequently benefit from Microsoft Sysinternals tools like Process Explorer (ProcExp64.exe).  One of the features is the ability to replace the Task Manager Default with Process explorer.

Process Explorer x64

However, I found a bug.  If you use the x64 version of Process Explorer to change the default you can’t change it back!?!?

Solution: You have to open the x86 version of the application.  Set the application again then a tiny check box appears.  Once you have the check box you can undo the default value.

Process Explorer x64 Check

X86 = ProceExp.exe (no 64 in the name)

Enjoy