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* Posts by Keith Langmead

96 posts • joined 8 Mar 2007

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MARS NEEDS OCEANS to support life - and so do exoplanets

Keith Langmead

Re: Not sure about this

While the mass media may word it that way, I think from a scientific point of view the point is in identifying those planets that definitely CAN support life rather than excluding others.

If you assume that there may be many forms of life, and they may be capable of surviving on any planet in any solar system, then suddenly any planet is a likely candidate. If that's the case where do you focus your attention? It's far simpler to focus on what we know for sure, and base the search on conditions that make life possible here (and which as far as we know preclude it on Venus or Mars). Besides, in searching for planets with Earth like conditions they're not only looking for planets which may already have life, but also planets which could support us were we one day able to reach them.

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The Windows 8 dilemma: Win 8 or wait for 9?

Keith Langmead

Long winded search

"On a non-Update 1 system, searching meant you had to swipe your finger in from the right edge of the screen to start the process, or hover your mouse over the lower-right hand corner of the screen and then move the cursor up to the Search box to type in your query."

Yeah, or you could just press Start on your keyboard and immediately start typing what you're searching for! Why faff around hovering over things with your mouse etc, especially on a system with a keyboard?

I'll admit it's nice to have an actual search box on the Start screen, but purely because the idea of just typing without putting the cursor somewhere does blow some users minds.

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Everyone can and should learn to code? RUBBISH, says Torvalds

Keith Langmead

Re: arehole

"What's not so fine is trying to train up a generation of coders who will lead the march into a glorious British capitalist future of economic innovation. That's moronic, because the real problems with innovation and business in the UK are social and political, and creating a generation of kids who know Python won't even come close to solving them."

Well said. That's my biggest issue with the policy, not that they want to give kids a taste of what programming is about, but that their aim seems to be to produce an army of coders who'll keep the UK ahead. Aside from not being the most effective way to teach things like logic, or that if a child does take an interest the teacher will be unlikely to have the skills to help them progress, I find it somewhat insulting that they assume that programming is the only area in computing that anyone should care about. Are they going to follow it up with a year of networking, a year of sysadmin'ing, a year of DBAing etc?

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HP: Customers, partners are fleeing IBM x86 since Lenovo System x bid

Keith Langmead

Probably scared of competing with Lenovo servers

To my mind it can only be a good thing. IMHO Lenovo desktop / laptop kit these days is far better than the HP equivalent, so I can only hope Lenovo entering the server space will improve things in that arena as well!

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Fat-fingered admin downs entire Joyent data center

Keith Langmead

Re: Poor sod...

Though you can guarantee he'll be getting the piss taken out of him over it by the other sysadmins for years to come (in a light hearted way of course). My major screw up was about 10 years ago and it still comes up occasionally, and we still mention a friend of mines best screw up now and again some 15 years later.

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Keith Langmead

Re: Jheez, poor bastard. :\

Definitely true! Only after experiencing that sinking feeling where it feels like the bottom has just dropped out of your world, and then having to tell your boss what you've done, only then can you truly appreciate axioms like "don't assume, check" and "hope for the best but plan for the worst". Until then they're just words that are impossible to put into proper context.

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Windows XP fixes flaws for free if you turn PCs into CASH REGISTERS

Keith Langmead

"Updates for free ? Maybe not. But I certainly do not think that Microsoft has the right to arbitrarily decide to no longer support a product that millions of customers are still using."

Hardly arbitrary, MS have documented their life cycle policy for years, and in the case of XP they've already extended it far beyond when support should have ended.

It's interesting that people only seem to get worked up over MS stopping support for one of their products, but no one seems to put it into context. They're no different than other OS suppliers. Apple stopped support for OSX 10.6 (Snow Leopard) last year (original release date 2009). RHEL 4 stopped being supported two years ago after only 5 years. Debian 5 after only 3 years.

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Inside the Hekaton: SQL Server 2014's database engine deconstructed

Keith Langmead

Re: my tuppence worth

"Server versions can go up to 64GB."

Though that's only if you're running Enterprise or Datacenter editions, otherwise you're limited to 4GB on 32-bit standard.

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Web data BLEEDOUT: Users to feel the pain as Heartbleed bug revealed

Keith Langmead

Re: That is what you get for using Windows

If it's old you might be fine. From what I can see the issue only affects the newer versions of openssl, older versions like 0.9.8 and below don't have the vulnerability, so some older kit will likely be fine. For instance Watchguard report some of their older firewalls are unaffected, and I believe CentOS 5.x is also fine as it doesn't support OpenSSL newer than 0.9.8, unlike any of the CentOS 6.x versions which have the newer one and therefore need looking at.

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Meet Microsoft's latest Windows Server reseller – come on down, Google

Keith Langmead

2008 r2?!?

Why would anyone want a new box running 2008?!? It sucks, it's the vista of the server world! Only reason for using 2008 rtm is if you need 32-bit windows but since that's not an option in r2 I don't see why you wouldn't want 2012 which is a far better os imho. Perhaps avoid 2012 r2 if you're scared of being up to date, but personally I think it's the best windows server os yet.

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MPs urge UK.gov to use 1950s obscenity law to stifle online stiffies

Keith Langmead

Headline grabbing

To my mind this definitely smacks of headline grabbing rather than an attempt to protect children.

Having told us that the network level filters are necessary and will solve everything, now they're saying that they need additional protections.

If they really want to protect children then I'd have thought the obvious place for them to look first is at helping to make the network level filters and home based filters more accurate. Rather than dumping costly requirements on anyone hosting a site featuring adult content, surely the simpler method would be to come up with a universal way to identify those sites. For instance agree on a collection of tags, for instance Adult, Porn, NSFW etc, which could simply be added to the meta data of any adult oriented websites. The filters can then easily look for those tags and immediately restrict access to those people who don't want that material visible.

You'd obviously make it clear that should sites fail to implement those simple fixes then more stringent legal action may follow, but start with the carrot and move to the stick only when required.

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'Amazon has destroyed the unicorn factory' ... How clouds are making sysadmins extinct

Keith Langmead

Re: PowerShell?

"I've been one of those some of us for 20 years. The point I'm making is that previously you had to use a mishmash of whatever the heck worked to get things done, VBScript, Perl, Batch and in my case the UnxUtils Win32 ports to give me stuff like sed, awk, grep, wget, etc when Perl wasn't allowable or practical."

Oh yes, been there, done that. Batch scripts basically acting as a wrapper to call vbs scripts and Win32 ports of Unix commands. Those Win32 port files are quite possibly the most used utils I've ever found. It's so much nicer now finally having a uniform language that can do all that (I know you probably could in VBScript, but I never really got my head into it), without having to worry whether I've already copied those scripts to a server. Being able to include much better help and error trapping is a benefit as well of course, using something designed for SysAdmins rather than programmers.

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Keith Langmead

Re: I'm glad people believe sysadmin skills are becoming extinct

"Those are people who live in the Microsoft bubble where people believe they don't need to be able to program, and that somehow it is normal that e-mail is something complex."

To be fair, I imagine there are people like that on both sides of the OS divide, with people considering themselves "Linux admins" because they admin a cPanel install on a Linux box, yet have no idea how to do anything at a bash prompt.

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Friends don't do tech support for friends running Windows XP

Keith Langmead

Re: "13 years. 13 years. 13 years is far too long to expect support."

"So we're really not talking about systems as old as 13 years, we're talking about machines that could be less than 5. And some businesses with volume licenses may well have still been building XP systems more recently than this."

In a business environment perhaps, but in the home it's quite possible. Until this Christmas my parents were still using their 10 year old XP machine, and it's these types of people I think MS are targeting. In my parents case I got so fed up with having to support XP legacy that I bought them a new Windows 8 box instead. Bit of a learning curve for them admittedly, but after showing them how it works I think they've got the hang of it now.

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Spam drops as legit biz dumps mass email ads: Only the dodgy remain

Keith Langmead

Re: Mass e-mail != Spam

I suspect there's two elements to the problem. 1) users have been told for ages not to click unsubscribe links in emails since it identifies them as being real people. 2) webmail sites like Gmail make it very easy to mark unwanted messages as spam without having to provide any justification, so users get in the habit of hitting the spam link since it's easier than doing it properly, without understanding the ramifications of what they're doing.

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Cryptolocker infects cop PC: Massachusetts plod fork out Bitcoin ransom

Keith Langmead

Re: To be fair ...

Always nice to read comments and articles from people who've clearly never seen the thing they're writing about!

"The problem is in the helper applications. Adobe's PDF Reader is a particular culprit. There is no way that viewing any kind of document should EVER allow any executable code to run without further explicit confirmation from the user. We are far too lenient about applications that allow remote execution exploits."

Except it's not an actual PDF attachment, it (at least with the variant I've seen in the wild) is an executable, with its icon set to be the standard PDF document icon and a file extension of .pdf.exe, so on machines with the default "hide extension of known file types" option enabled it looks like a pdf file. The example I saw even displayed as having come from another member of staff (a valid address) rather than some government agency.

Surprised there's been no mention in the articles about this of how it also attacks mapped drives, so it's not just the local system at risk. The client that got this had not just that users machine infected, but also every file that could be accessed via his mapped drives. Fortunately we had backups of the server data, but the client machine's data was less fortunate. Served as a valuable explanation of why we kept telling them to store their data on the server!

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Thought you didn't need to show ID in the UK? Wrong

Keith Langmead

Not just Newquay

It's not just Newquay, I believe most places in Exeter don't accept them either any more. Certainly a few years ago when I had some young friends at the Uni they confirmed that some or all pubs wouldn't accept NUS cards or even PASS cards as proof of age, so many of them had to permanently go around with their passport when on a night out.

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Want to go to billionaire Sun kingpin's beach? Hope you're a strong swimmer

Keith Langmead

Does seem a crappy way of going about things but I guess it depends on whether he now goes into discussions with people about granting access. Much easier to start from a position of "I don't have to be here, I'm legally entitled to just deny access, now let's haggle." than one where the others may or may not have rights.

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Z30: The classiest BlackBerry mobe ever ... and possibly the last

Keith Langmead

Re: Here we go again...

"It's aimed at RICH grown-ups. I don't know anyone who would spend that kind of money on a mobile and if I did, I'd have to say they were fucking lunatics."

Hardly, I'd say for what it does it's a bargain! Considering my last three phones were an XDA Exec, Nokia E90 and Nokia E7, all of which cost around the £600 unlocked, getting this for £475 when it's only just come out is hardly a wrench.

I've had mine for about a week now and absolutely love it. As someone who's always had a full physical keyboard that takes a little getting used to, but the soft keyboard is superb and it's improving as it learns how to write. The way everything fits together seamlessly is great, as is the granularity that you can choose which things alert at what time. Definitely the best phone I've ever owned and the biggest jump in improvements from one phone to another.

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Want to keep the users happy? Don't call them users for a start

Keith Langmead

Re: Do not trust but don't dismiss either

So agree with you. I've had so many calls over the years from clients with email problems where it turns out the Internet connection is down. But they're users, they don't make that same mental connection.

The other thing I'd add to the list is honesty. Admit when you make mistakes, come clean on screwups, and users are more likely to trust you. Also when something really isn't your fault they're far more likely to believe you.

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How do you choose your vendors?

Keith Langmead

Completely agree. I'd add to that the sales guys who insist on speaking to you on the phone rather than just replying to an email. I can understand the whole "it's more customer friendly", but if I'm asking for specific information and I've already asked you to email then JUST EMAIL! I know my boss has ditched at least a couple of suppliers who figured it was better to interrupt him than simply email like he'd requested.

The other big thing for me is honesty, not in terms of those mentioned already, but simply the willingness to admit when you've done something wrong, or when you don't know the answer. We all make mistakes, and I'd much rather know about it quickly re-arrange timescales etc accordingly, than live in ignorance until a deadline has been missed.

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PowerShell daddy on Windows Server 2012 R2: Cloudy cloud cloud

Keith Langmead
FAIL

Re: Flawed as usual

"A VM which only runs the latest MS OS and can't emulated H/W is freaking useless..."

Where does it say that's your only choice? If your client machine's running 2012 you can take advantage of the benefits of a generation 2 VM, if not then you continue like before with a normal VM that functions like it always has.

"If I was an enterprise admin, I'd probably want a proper hypervisor OS which is optimised to run and support VMs, without all the unnecessary cruft in a 'server' (glorified client) bloated carp kernel OS."

If you were an enterprise admin you'd probably already know that Hyper-V is a type 1 hypervisor, so it's already running on bare metal without the OS bloat. You can install the standalone Hyper-V Server to avoid having a management OS on the server, or install Server 2012 with Hyper-V, but either way the Hyper-V part is type 1. In the latter case the Windows OS is technically referred to as a management OS rather a host (since the other guest OS's sit on-top of Hyper-V NOT Windows Server).

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Coke? Windows 8 is Microsoft's 'Vista moment'. Again

Keith Langmead

Re: Licenses 'sold'.

What would be an interesting figure to find out is how many of those licences have had their downgrade rights enacted, so they're actually used to license a Windows 7 / Windows XP install.

While Win8 is far from perfect I don't think some peoples blinkered attitude to change helps, especially when it comes from those of us who should be able to handle it. Having got my head around the new ways of doing things I much prefer Win8, and found for most customers simply spending a little time to familiarise them with the new ways of navigating, shutting down etc removes most of the concerns they have with it.

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Google: Our 'freedom of expression' should trump punters' privacy

Keith Langmead

Scarily agree with Google!

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I actually agree with Google on this one. If there's a legitimate reason under EU law to have information about you taken down then you should be making that demand on the website, not the search engine. Surely the point is to prevent people from accessing that information about you, in which case simply taking it off Google hasn't done that. If you can't justify taking it down from the website under EU law then how do justify taking it down from Google?

Once taken down from the website of course it's a different matter, and if Google don't then remove the entry from their listing, and more importantly their cache, then there's obviously a case to answer.

It feels like anyone taking this route is either being lazy, feeling it's easier to make the request from a large organisation like Google rather than a smaller website, or they know the request lacks merit under EU law and would be rejected by the smaller website owner.

Agree with Fred's comment about Google siting their being a US company though. It's a stupid argument, and you have to wonder how many people end up thinking "I agree with your premise, but you've pissed me off with that comment so now I'm against you".

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Education Secretary Gove: Tim Berners-Lee 'created the INTERNET'

Keith Langmead

Re: Hmm

"The most important thing for teaching is good teachers rather than good subject knowledge. A CompSci graduate is complete overkill for teaching computing to lower years."

I disagree, the most important things for a teacher other than the ability to teach are enjoyment and knowledge of the subject. If the teacher doesn't have a passion for what they teach then that will come across to the students and the lessons will be boring. Think of those great teachers you've had that engaged with the class and generated excitement about their subject, they're the ones encourage students to learn. I can't imagine an arts grad who decides to do this for the extra beer tokens being nearly as good as a computer geek who wants to pass their knowledge on.

A CompSci graduate may well be overkill for many students, but the same could be said for science teachers with degree's in their chosen subject. When a gifted student gets ahead of the class and asks tricky questions attempting to push themselves, that's when that additional knowledge comes in and becomes important.

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Climate sceptic? You're probably a 'Birther', don't vaccinate your kids

Keith Langmead

Re: You count engineer as a scientist?

There are plenty of proper engineers who'd scoff at you calling yourself an engineer. In any other profession it takes more than just going to Uni for 4 years to call yourself an engineer, you have to be properly accredited as well. It's only within IT that we get to blindly call ourselves engineers, and I believe the other professions hate us for it since it devalues the work they do.

IIRC while they might just be doing screwdriver jobs in your house, proper BT engineers have to do a LOT of training to get that title, and are arguably more entitled to use the name than a programmer.

Hell, I've spent 12 years actually working in and with computers, but just coding on them, and I still feel somewhat uncomfortable about being referred to as an IT "Engineer", though most people can at least understand that term compared to something like Sys Admin.

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Fired Toyota coder trashes systems, steals data

Keith Langmead

Re: This depends where you are

There's definitely no excuse for not locking out a member of staff when they're fired, hell in the past I've been asked to disable / remove someone's access (but not discuss it with anyone else) while said someone's been in the meeting being fired.

When it comes to notice periods for people in sensitive positions (for instance Sys Admins where they need elevated access just to do their jobs), a common method I've seen is garden leave, where the person is paid as normal during their notice period, is excluded from actually working at the company (since they no longer have access), but is required to be available if required during that time in case they need information / help etc since they are still technically employed during that time.

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IT departments are BRATTY TEENAGERS

Keith Langmead

Re: Trevor Pott

I think he makes many valid points but they're only one side of the issue. I agree that as techies we can be a little too eager to opt for the solution that gives us more toys to play with, and to lose sight of the business side of the equation. Building the best all singing all dancing solution that incorporates every element of failover, expansion and redundancy from a MS whitepaper might sound great, but spending £50k+ on a solution that might save the company £1k per year just isn't worth it. And while we might try to deny it, us techies are just as keen to build our own little empires as any other part of the business.

But on the flip side, guys like this and others in management need to treat IT as a key element in finding the appropriate solution, not simply the implementers of whatever management decide is the best way to go based on little or no actual knowledge. Sometimes management may have the right answer, but if they don't include IT in the decision they'll never know if there might have been a better, cheaper and quicker solution available that they weren't aware of.

In my experience almost all solutions that have come from IT controlling the direction are anything but random, it's where management change their minds, update the spec mid project, and fail to give an overview of the long term direction being taken that the approach becomes random, as IT has to scramble to pry different systems alongside each other.

Too often I think management take the view of "oh, they don't need to know those details", and are then annoyed when the solution presented doesn't meet all the requirements that have existed purely in the managers own head. If there are specific constraints, objectives and long term plans then we NEED to know about them.

Any task can be broken down into Why, What and How. Why and What are down to management to decide, and they NEED to tell us the What with which we decide on the How. IT don't need to know the Why as long as the What includes those constraints and considerations that will make a difference to How. Management can make suggestions for How, but at the end of the day, that's what we're paid for!

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Sysadmins! There's no shame in using a mouse to delete files

Keith Langmead

Different tools for different situations

Completely agree with you. I regularly use both method, with the choice depending purely on which is more suitable and convenient for a given situation. If I want to do the same exact task lots of times then being able to script and automate it is fantastic, but for those simple tasks I do once in a blue moon I'd never remember the specific command, but a GUI is easy to remember.

I loved it with SQL 2005 when they introduced the option to generate the script for what you'd just setup in the GUI. It might not have been the most efficient code, but for something I want to run at night once a week / month I don't care, it's not worth spending hours working out how to script it manually. On the other hand, I hated how MS decided with Exchange 2007 that lots of functions (including some simple day to day ones) should be done exclusively via PowerShell! Why? Allow me to do everything via either interface (allowing for some specific, unusual, high level options you couldn't fit into the GUI) and let me decide which one suits my current task.

GUI wizards may be simplistic at times, but they do make delegation of simple tasks to junior staff much easier. I can show a junior how to run through the wizard and be confident of them not screwing anything up, at the command line I wouldn't feel as secure. But having the command line option means I can use that method when something more complex comes along that the GUI can't handle.

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Keith Langmead

Re: Remote Control

Surprised no one's mentioned PowerShell, which certainly since v2 has included the ability to remotely administer systems!

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Girl Geek Dinner lady: The IT Crowd is putting schoolgirls off tech

Keith Langmead

Re: What A Load Of Girlie Bull-....

@Mad Mike. I definitely agree with the first paragraph! I think part of the issue tends to be that people forget that "IT" is a VERY large subject containing a lot of very different disciplines, each of which tends to lend itself to certain types of people.

I remember reading some research years ago that mentioned how typical personality traits of programmers for instance don't tend to match those of many women, but the more cautious, careful and planned approach required of good DBA's and Sysadmins is a far better match. In fact if you simply look on the Technet forums you'll notice that in the DBA and Sysadmin arenas there are quite a few very skilled and knowledgeable women working in those fields.

The problem in my opinion (and this also applies to getting guys into IT) is that IT education is still very much geared towards the belief that IT = programming. Most courses (school/college/uni) focus on teaching programming languages with some coverage on other areas, so the only people likely to attend them are 1) those who want to be programmers, and 2) those who're into computing enough to put up with a few years of learning things they don't care about to get a piece of paper and get a job in the area they're actually interested in.

If they specifically want more women in IT they need to focus on those disciplines that women actually want to do and have a passion for, show girls that those career paths are available and how to get into them, and stop treating the entire IT world as if it's a single career path.

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Workers can't escape Windows 8 Metro - Microsoft COO

Keith Langmead

Re: I don't want to work harder.

Personally I've very glad I rarely end up doing desktop support these days, since I'm mainly server orientated, but I feel really sorry for the poor buggers who'll have to support this! Effectively we now have two completely different Windows UI's to learn, since some users will be using Metro entirely, while others will be breaking out (well as much as is possible) to the proper Windows desktop, and we'll need to be able to cater for both groups!

I can't help thinking Kevin Turner's never actually MET a real life user. They're going to hate it, it's going to confuse the hell out of them just when they've finally got used to things like the start bar. Geeks might put up with it, learn to use it etc, users won't. They'll moan, complain, and refuse to use it, and that will give IT Support even more of a headacre.

At least with 7 they had the geeks on side, liking the new features and willing to pass on the new benefits to their users, with this, not so much. When asked by users why they need the new version, there'll be less "let me show you the features that will make things easier for you", and more "I dunno, I think it's shit as well but we've been told to upgrade you".

I'm really disappointed by 8, which is a shame since with the new virtualisation tech built into it I was really looking forward to it coming out. Now... not so much.

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Stop snubbing top scientists' advice, Lords tell MPs

Keith Langmead

Re: Education does not equate to Knowledge

Part of the problem to my mind is that this seems to be seen as an either or option. Personally I'd prefer not to see either side making policy without the input of the other side. At the end of the day it's governments job to set policy, BUT they should always at least consult those in the know before doing so. There's simply no excuse for setting a policy that fails when the relevant people could have predicted it if they'd simply been asked, but there are occasions where other issues might outweigh the science.

For me I think the key would be having greater transparency in the whole process. Ministers should be able to choose which advice they heed and which they ignore, but where they choose to ignore it they should have good overriding reason for doing so, and that reasoning should be documented publically. If they know that their decision to ignore scientific advice and their reasons behind it are documented and able to be made public, it might help focus their minds to ensure they really do have good reason to decide one way or the other, and aren't simply trying to appease the Daily Mail reading voters.

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Royal astro-boffin to MPs: Stop thinking about headlines

Keith Langmead

I agree, I think the biggest issue, and unfortunately it's where the majority of the general public encounter science debate, is on those TV programs which feel a need for a balanced opinion on topics where there is little dissent from the mainstream scientific community. You end up with Prof Jo Bloggs who's worked exclusively in the field for the last 30/40 years having to justify his findings against the views of some random oik they pulled off the street. You end up in a situation where if random oik is better at communicating / hyping up his/her own views then they end up trumping the far more qualified expert, regardless of the validity of their argument. And unfortunately as we're well aware, for many boffins and geeks public speaking in simple language isn't something that comes naturally (major generalisation I know).

If they can't find someone of at least reasonably similar standing in that field to argue against the prof then they should either not bother aiming for balance, or be far more careful how they tread.

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The new touchy-feely Doctor Who trend: Worrying

Keith Langmead

don't think that's quite right

Close but no. Time broke because she failed to kill the Teselecta with the Doctor inside, she just didn't know that it wasn’t the Doctor standing in front of her. That was the true fixed point in time, not the actual Doctors death, but obviously no one else knew that. Therefore her kissing the Teselecta at the end restored time to normal. I agree with the rest of it being a bit muddled though. I have to assume Ian Harrison didn't bother actually watching (or paying attention to) the end of the episode.

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Windows 8 to boot in 8 seconds

Keith Langmead

Yes Hibernation has been around for a long time, but the problem these days is that as powerful computers get more and more memory in them that means more and more data that needs dumping to disk every time. Hiberating an 8GB computer takes quite a long time.

OK, so this isn't revolutionary, but to my mind it is smart evolution. If you can't fix all the problems in one hit, at least fix some of the little things that you can control.

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Thousands of gb.com sites go dark

Keith Langmead

Re: Nominet

Yeah they changed all that years ago. From memory I believe registrar's are no longer allowed to withhold making changes to a domain for any reason. In any case if you do have issues getting a domain transferred to another registrar you can simply go direct to Nominet, pay them £10 (again going from memory) and they'll do it direct without involving the troublesome registrar.

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Microsoft pounces as Mozilla shuns enterprise

Keith Langmead

One size doesn't fit all

When I first read this my first thought was that Mozilla were shooting themselves in the foot, but the more I think about it the more I've come to the conclusion that it's not such a bit deal. The key is that one size rarely fits all successfully.

In a corporate environment the key requirements are stability and reliability. You want to know that everything will just work, wizzy new features are all well and good, but since the development / testing cycles take so long it's unlikely any internal apps etc will need the latest and greatest features in the short term. An admin wants control over what users are doing and how they do it, and the certainty that things will work as expected, so they don't end up with those on high yelling at them because something hasn’t behaved as expected. I agree with the comments about "apps should be standards compliant and just work", but in the real world that simply can't be relied upon. Telling the MD that staff can't do their work because the developer didn't follow the correct standards and it's not your fault won't wash.

In a home environment on the other hand most people are more tolerant of stability issues (I know I certainly am), but they want to be able to use the latest and greatest apps etc. Facebook games, streaming videos etc are important at home, not in the work place, so rapid deployment of the latest features is important to them. The raft of add-ons available in Firefox can be great for a home user, but again is a pain for an IT admin.

So, while I wonder if Mozilla are being short sighted in ignoring Enterprise environments, if their aim is to target a specific niche (eg home users) then in that respect this is probably the best way to do it, since MS clearly aren't aiming their efforts in that direction.

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A sysadmin's top ten tales of woe

Keith Langmead

A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing

Many years ago whilst at Uni I was the main sysadmin for the SU's computing society (TermiSoc for those in the know), which had three linux servers of our very own, stored in one of the Uni building's basement.

There were a few other guys who also had root access, one of whom was very interested in security and spent a lot of time attempting to hack into and then improve our systems.

Now this guy had been reading about the risks of files being owned by root and having execute permission within user accessible folders. He started searching through the filesystem, and discovered that within each users folder there was a . and .. folder with the permissions he'd been looking out for. Now while the exact details are a little fuzzy (it was at least 12 years ago) I know our ever diligent security geek decided to fix this issue. He proceeded to change the permissions on both folders to prevent executing by normal users.

Shortly afterwards he started hearing people in the lab comment that they could no longer login. Of course removing that permission prevents a user from traversing back through the folder structure, and the login process is unable to traverse to the home directory and /etc directories. The only user able to login was root, but we'd already restricted that so remote connections were only allowed by normal users, who could then su to root, so we had no remote access what so ever.

Myself and another sysadmin friend, with resident security geek in tow, had to get someone to let us into the basement so we could get console access to the machine and fix the glitch. A fun day, but I think everyone learnt a valuable lesson, and of course the story continues to be recounted occasionally to this day!

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Microsoft becoming Apple with Windows 8 control freakery?

Keith Langmead

I think you overestimate normal users

While that might be true for techies, I don't think it is for normal users. As far as they are concerned, they have a computer and it runs Windows. If there is a problem then it's Windows that has crashed, Windows that has lost their work, Windows that is performing slowly. They don't know or care about the rest of it, and most don't even realise that there are differences in quality and performance between seemingly identical components. If a user buys a crappy PC made from really cheap components, they won't blame the computers hardware when things go wrong, they'll blame Windows, and for that reason I completely understand why MS a going down this path.

Now what they haven't said (at least in this article) is if retail / upgrade copies of Windows 8 will no longer be available. As long as they are then I don't see an issue. Techies wanting to build their own spec computer still can, and will have the knowledge to know that issues could be either hardware or software. Normal users buying branded computers will be assured that the computer they buy is properly built and designed to run that version (rather than it simply being shoe horned on like many previous versions have been on old kit), and it will hopefully then be more stable. Of course it might not work, but either way, whether it's a hardware or software problem a user experiences they will blame Windows by default, so MS have little to lose in trying to reduce the number of hardware issues tainting their reputation.

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Southampton Uni shows way to a truly open web

Keith Langmead

What about how people ACTUALLY read?

Completely agree, he also seems to miss the fact that many people use PDF's as a way to send an electronic document in a fixed form, eg a quote, invoice, contract etc, so you can be reasonably sure that it hasn't been altered (yes I know there are ways to do it, but most users wouldn't know them). In terms of portrait / landscape I can kind of see where he's coming from, however I think he's missing how people actually read. A column of text is far easier to read and scan through, than a wide long line of text, that's why after all many documents in A4 portrait have two columns.

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Google battles Derby cops over access to Street View data

Keith Langmead

Yeah that's what I thought

There may have been more recent updates, but a quick search shows that back in March 2010 the EU demanded that Google delete the unblurred images after 6 months. At the time Google said their policy was to delete them after 12 months. Either way, if this happened (and was photographed) in June 2009, the unblurred pics should have been long gone by November 2010 when this was apparently first raised with Google.

So my guess would be that either a) Google are taking the piss, knowing full well they don't have them any more, or b) if it's possible to recover the data from backups, they want a proper court order (which possibly then allows them to recover the costs), before they make any efforts to recover the image from backup since it's unlikely to be a quick and easy job considering the mass of data they have.

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Three short papers about SQL Server

Keith Langmead
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Understanding of Named Instances

"Named instances provide complete database isolation while allowing consolidation onto the same server. But it is a bitch for back-ups. Each instance must be maintained separately from the other instances on that server"

Have you missed the point named instances entirely? Of course you have to maintain them separately, that's the whole point! Each instance isn't just a isolated session of a single installation of SQL, it's a completely separate installation of SQL. You could have multiple identical instances, or you could have each of them running with a different version, 7, 2000, 2005, 2008, or even different service packs. Server\Instance1 and Server\Instance2 are in no way shape or form connected to one another, other than they both reside on the same server, and as such have to be treated, backed up and patched accordingly.

I'd be concerned about anyone happy to just role out a patch / service pack to multiple instances at the same time in a production environment, rather than properly installing and testing them individually.

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Kaminsky calls for DNSSEC deployment

Keith Langmead

@Hugh McIntyre

Not sure I follow your logic here. Signing DNS and SSL certificates are two completely different things, and serve completely different purposes.

DNSSEC confirms that the IP address returned when you make a DNS request is the correct one.

SSL confirms that the website you reach is the real one, eg the https:\\secure.foo.com you see really does belong to Foo Corporation, and not Mr B H Hacker who's setup the site on his server and tricked your computer to go to him instead of the real one. It provides authenticity by ensuring that if you want to purchase an SSL certificate for Foo Ltd, you can prove that you really are Foo Ltd (there's quite a few checks done, especially if you're a Ltd or PLC company, hense their justification for the high prices). And finally, and perhaps most importantly, it allows you and the server your connecting to to establish a secure tunnel down which all the communications are sent, thus protecting you from anyone sniffing your connection.

What SSL doesn't do is care about what IP address the site is on. As long as you have the certificate information you can install it on any server at any address. So the two don't cross over at all, to my mind they compliment each other, improving the overall security for viewing normal websites, and improving yet futher the security of secure websites.

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Exam board to hear appeal over format cockup

Keith Langmead

Re: Daniel Bennett & Pierre (and a couple of others)

Thanks guys, I was beginning to lose hope of intelligence anywhere in this thread!

Completely agree with the points made about the documents not being editable, however everyone seems to have missed another major reason for not allowing word docs.

When transferring a word document from one machine to another you cannot be certain how it will render. Depending on how the original machine is configured, how the viewing machine is configured, which fonts are loaded on each, the default paper sizes, borders etc, will make a difference on how the document looks on the viewing machine. Assuming at least some of the marks for this work are for presentation, how can the examiner be certain that what they are seeing on their screen is what the student intended to present? If the student creates a document which is well laid out and presented, but it doesn't render properly on the examiners machine, should that student be marked down for it?

One of the main benefits of PDF (other than the difficulty of altering it), is that the way it always renders the same on all machines, so you can be certain that if it looks correct on your machine when you create it, it will still look the same when it is marked.

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UK launches major road signage review

Keith Langmead

So where is it?

OK, am I missing something here? Where is the actual consultation? The NDS page doesn't show a link, and neither does the DfT page. Of course I'm assuming there is more to it than what's listed on those two pages, and some way to actually submit feedback on-line rather than having to resort to... *shudder* hard copy!

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Asus M930 Windows Mobile smartphone

Keith Langmead
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E90 competitor that doesn't compete

I would think the only people who'd want this are those who want an E90 on the cheap! It looks like they've taken the basic form factor, and then removed all the good points from it.

Smaller screen and lower res as already mentioned aside, having the phone only able to open to an angle is going to be annoying for anyone wanting to use when it is in their hands rather than on a desk, and seems like they've gone back to the old communicator style! One of the best things with the E90 is being able to use it at an angle on a desk, but also to open it completely when in your hands which makes it so much easier to see the screening while typing.

This is a phone without a market. At the top end people will pay the extra for the quality of an actual E90, and at the low end, there are better, cheaper and more functional smart phones already out there which do the same things better.

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Tardy Apple finally releases DNS patch

Keith Langmead

Multiple fixes in one update!

Sorry but WTF! You have a vulnerability which is being actively being exploited, so you issue a patch which fixes not only that but four other issues as well!

Why? As a windows admin that would give me serious concern! Taking the DNS patches on their own, I can assess the risk of being attacked against the risk of something breaking, but add in additional patches and you increase the chances of something breaking, which only encourages admins to do more testing, rather than getting a critical fix roled out asap.

This should have been issued on it's own, with perhaps the other updates issued as a separate update... or do Mac's not have a decent Windows Updates / WSUS / SMS capability to help manage this properly?

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Whitehall orders green paint for IT dept

Keith Langmead

Software distribution

"So just how are the software distribution (well the team they pass it off on to anyway) team actually meant to push patches out to the desktops?

considering S.W.D cant do it between 7am and 7pm due to stupid rules already put in place by them?"

Well any half clueful server admin would already have this kind of thing centralised and automated. Ever heard of WSUS, SUS & BITS? Updates can downloaded to the PC during working hours without causing disruption (thanks to BITS), and then if the office shuts at 19:00 you can either set all machines to shutdown at say 19:30, while telling your windowsupdate GPO to install updates and then shutdown at 19:00 (so they either shutdown as a result of an update, or where non are required it roles over the timed shutdown).

Any users complaining that they're "in the middle of something" can simply hibernate their machines at the end of the day before they are forcably shut down to maintain the previous days state.

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