18 posts • joined Monday 29th March 2010 12:41 GMT
Wouldn't mind finding out more about Spiceworks - in the normal El Reg way.
As a monitoring bod who has ended up low on the budget priority then I've had a look at Spiceworks. I would love something that fits inbetween Nagios/Zenoss/Free but looking god-awful and a paid solution of 100k (which also doesn't look great). The internet is full of people extolling one "free" software app against another - usually people proclaiming the others to be fools. However I would love it if El Reg could be my cynical fact checker here in an in-depth article (part 2?).
It's onsite (which is a step above "let us monitor your confidential production servers from the cloud") - but what information goes back to the mothership? Is it just the asset management data? How bad is the advertising on a scale between static banner ad to flash monkeys moving across the screen? How is integration with all the propriety consoles hardware manufacturers are pushing us towards by dropping most of their SNMP support (I'm looking at you, VMWare, HP SANs, Firewalls, HP Procurve, etc). How flexible is it in being able to add data using scripts and all the other duct-tape needed to try and get data into one pane-of-glass?
The community bit sounds ok - but how does it differ from Stack-Exchange or vendor specific forums?
Re: Not just their trading systems
Nope - b3ta doesn't have a paywall - your connection must be censored (some of the other B3TA image manipulations can be NSFW).
Here is the text:
I.T. is a minefield for expensive mistakes
There's so many different ways to screw up. The best you can hope for in a support role is to be invisible. If anyone notices your support team at all, you can rest assured it's because someone has made a mistake. I've worked for three major investment banks, but at the first place I witnessed one of the most impressive mistakes I'm ever likely to see in my career. I was part of the sales and trading production support team, but thankfully it wasn't me who made this grave error of judgement...
(I'll delve into obnoxious levels of detail here to add colour and context if you're interested. If not, just skip to the next chunk, you impatient git)
This bank had pioneered a process called straight-through processing (STP) which removes the normal manual processes of placement, checking, settling and clearing of trades. Trades done in the global marketplace typically have a 5-day clearing period to allow for all the paperwork and book-keeping to be done. This elaborate system allowed same-day settlement, something never previously possible. The bank had achieved this over a period of six years by developing a computer system with a degree of complexity that rivalled SkyNet. By 2006 it also probably had enough processing power to become self-aware, and the storage requirements were absolutely colossal. It consisted of hundreds of bleeding edge compute-farm blade servers, several £multi-million top-end database servers and the project had over 300 staff just to keep it running. To put that into perspective, the storage for this one system (one of about 500 major trading systems at the bank) represented over 80% of the total storage used within the company. The equivalent of 100 DVD's worth of raw data entered the databases each day as it handled over a million inter-bank trades, each ranging in value from a few hundred thousand dollars to multi-billion dollar equity deals. This thing was BIG.
You'd think such a critically important and expensive system would run on the finest, fault-tolerant hardware and software. Unfortunately, it had grown somewhat organically over the years, with bits being added here, there and everywhere. There were parts of this system that no-one understood any more, as the original, lazy developers had moved company, emigrated or *died* without documenting their work. I doubt they ever predicted the monster it would eventually become.
A colleague of mine one day decided to perform a change during the day without authorisation, which was foolish, but not uncommon. It was a trivial change to add yet more storage and he'd done it many times before so he was confident about it. The guy was only trying to be helpful to the besieged developers, who were constantly under pressure to keep the wretched thing moving as it got more bloated each day, like an electronic ‘Mr Creosote’.
As my friend applied his change that morning, he triggered a bug in a notoriously crap script responsible for bringing new data disks online. The script had been coded in-house as this saved the bank about £300 per year on licensing fees for the official ‘storage agents’ provided by the vendor. Money that, in hindsight, would perhaps have been better spent instead of pocketed. The homebrew code took one look at the new configuration and immediately spazzed out. This monged scrap of pisspoor geek-scribble had decided the best course of action was to bring down the production end of the system and bring online the disaster recovery (DR) end, which is normal behaviour when it detects a catastrophic 'failure'. It’s designed to bring up the working side of the setup as quickly as possible. Sadly, what with this system being fully-replicated at both sites (to [cough] ensure seamless recovery), the exact same bug was almost instantly triggered on the DR end, so in under a minute, the hateful script had taken offline the entire system in much the same manner as chucking a spanner into a running engine might stop a car. The databases, as always, were flushing their precious data onto many different disks as this happened, so massive, irreversible data corruption occurred. That was it, the biggest computer system in the bank, maybe even the world, was down.
And it wasn't coming back up again quickly.
(OK, detail over. Calm down)
At the time this failure occurred there was more than $12 TRILLION of trades at various stages of the settlement process in the system. This represented around 20% of ALL trades on the global stock market, as other banks had started to plug into this behemoth and use its capabilities themselves. If those trades were not settled within the agreed timeframe, the bank would be liable for penalties on each and every one, the resulting fines would eclipse the market capital of the company, and so it would go out of business. Just like that.
My team dropped everything it was doing and spent 4 solid, brutal hours recovering each component of the system in a desperate effort to coax the stubborn silicon back online. After a short time, the head of the European Central Bank (ECB) was on a crisis call with our company CEO, demanding status updates as to why so many trades were failing that day. Allegedly (as we were later told), the volume of financial goodies contained within this beast was so great that failure to clear the trades would have had a significant negative effect on the value of the Euro currency. This one fuckup almost started a global economic crisis on a scale similar to the recent (and ongoing) sub-prime credit crash. With two hours to spare before the ECB would be forced to go public by adjusting the Euro exchange rate to compensate, the system was up and running, but barely. We each manned a critical sub-component and diverted all resources into the clearing engines. The developers set the system to prioritise trades on value. Everything else on those servers was switched off to ensure every available CPU cycle and disk operation could be utilised. It saturated those machines with processing while we watched in silence, unable to influence the outcome at all.
Incredibly, the largest proportion of the high-value transactions had cleared by the close of business deadline, and disaster was averted by the most "wafer-thin" margin. Despite this, the outstanding lower-value trades still cost the bank more than $100m in fines. Amazingly, to this day only a handful of people actually understand the true source of those penalties on the end-of-year shareholder report. Reputation is king in the world of banking (see Northern Rock for details!) and all concerned --including me-- were instructed quite explicitly to keep schtum. Naturally, I *can’t* identify the bank in question, but if you’re still curious, gaz me and I’ll point you in the right direction…
Epilogue… The bank stumped up for proper scripts pretty quickly but the poor sap who started this ball of shit rolling was fired in a pompous ceremony of blame the next day, which was rather unfair as it was dodgy coding which had really caused the problem. The company rationale was that every blaze needs a spark to start it, and he was going to be the one they would scapegoat. That was one of the major reasons I chose to leave the company (but not before giving the global head of technology a dressing down at our Christmas party… that’s another QOTW altogether). Even today my errant mate is one of the only people who properly understands most of that preposterous computer system, so he had his job back within six months -- but at a higher rate than before :-)
Conclusion: most banks are insane and they never do anything to fix problems until *after* it costs them uber-money. Did I hear you mention length? 100 million dollar bills in fines laid end-to-end is about 9,500 miles long according to Google calculator.
What else is there?
My own use of Facebook has been dropping off recently - I only use it for pictures or planning events really. However I don't see anything else to go to - If I go google plus then half my friends aren't on it - and it ties me even more into the Google environment. At least being Google(Android) and Facebook I can count on them to compete with each other and not share too much data between themselves.
I used to quite like Flickr - but the big problems of having to get people to sign up if I wanted to control access to photos killed that and I liked to tag people in it with metadata which it didn't support then.
I may be alone in these comments in wanting some kind of Social Media but what else is there?
However I suspect that my age (39) means I'm drifting out of the group that Facebook and the others are marketing to anyway.
There might be an issue with their target audience...
I loved Elite - I played and saw it all without even cheating which is rare for me. The sequels weren't enough of a dogfighter - something that found it's spiritual home in the wonderful Freespace and Freespace 2 games, dogfighting past capital ships. Or the amazing setting of Tie Fighter (now *that* I would fund a remake of! Join the Empire in their fight against Terrorists!) that now looks dated but was so fun!
However my age and responsibilities now mean that I can't enjoy multiplayer games anymore - I've tried WoW and Eve - but with an actual female living with me (distractions I didn't have when I was 12!) and a kid to look after then I can only really enjoy games with pause buttons that can save anywhere. While I still get an awful lot of gaming in, considering, I just need the ability to pause without being ganked while I pick up my clumsy child or not let my girlfriend feel like I'm ignoring her (this pays off many more times than my 12 year old self would have expected too).
I also just don't have the time or inclination to be regularly beaten by 12 year old American's calling me "fag" over voicecoms because I haven't obsessively levelled into a PVP killer.
I have joined groups of older players - I can recommend "The Older Gamers" who have groups in most multiplayer games and who will understand if you can't raid due to your kids birthday or having to go into work on a weekend. However in the end I want my games to be fun and on my terms. Where is the old codger icon?
Dropbox and encryption
As mentioned by many others - don't put things on there that could destroy your life (in the same way that it's rather silly to send emails about secret things too - SMTP can be easily intercepted and often goes through ISP proxies (especially from mobile connections) but no one complains about that) - however it works very well between my multiple work PC's and Ubuntu boxes. I was interested in Ubuntu1 (mainly since it has double the space) although I have read other peoples comments that it sometimes syncs in an irregular fashion with not syncing some files for a day or two. Haven't seen that yet though.
I was interested in encryption - and the best/easiest way seems to be to use ENCFS and create a folder inside your dropbox/ubuntu1/whatever. It's a bit of a pain to get going multi-platform though - the Windows "Boxcryptor" client needs to be the one to create it - and then the unix command line version can open it. It works by encrypting each individual file so you still get the benefit of only having to sync a file at a time rather than a whole Truecrypt container. So it's obviously not as secure but at least it's something. The convenience is worth it.
Um - so what?
As in any communications system then if you don't want people to see it then don't post it. Similar to writing on a postcard. Just because anyone can read it doesn't make postcards "evil".
Personally I quite like the new Timeline system - it looks nicer than the previous mess. All I use facebook for is photos and statuses - if you are of normal intelligence the privacy setup is easy to set so that only friends see your data (although I do leave my name discoverable in case any old school people pop up). Yes the facebook staff can probably see my (limited) info without friending me, but then the telco's and security services can also read your txt's, emails and listen to your phone calls if they really want to - but who has that kind of time and resources?
Oh and for those people saying they don't need facebook since their friends will email/phone them then basically you are adding extra hassle on to those friends. I knew 2 holdouts who have finally joined because they got annoyed they couldn't see details on facebook events on where and who was going (or not) to various parties. Hosts are not going to specially update them via email of every small change unless they are very good friends or family. Get used to it.
Pretty sure this is one I have installed...
I have this reader here : https://market.android.com/details?id=com.chaozh.iReaderFree&hl=en
It was a nice little reader - even if more involved with updates for chinese character support.
However the latest version demands SMS sending, change wifi state, location, and the ability to change your APN - I immediately thought that was dodgy and didn't update. Glad to see I was right.
Anyone recommend an ebook reader that can actually read txt files instead of only mobi and epub?
Good document for cut'n'paste...
Thanks for this document - just nicked half a dozen phrases from it to populate my "process" so I can hand it in quickly and get on with some real work.
It's mostly common sense - i.e. if you have a new project you have to do then work out why, how, when, how much and whether it should be sooner or later than the others.
However if (like me) you have 4 bosses/customers to serve then the real sticking point is the last bit - it's possible the IT director could have final say in this but I can't guarantee a space in his diary for every fortnight when the Sprint process starts again. Which means I end up having to get all the bosses who turn up (that is another problem by itself) to agree. Any ideas?
I was annoyed I didn't know about the May deadline in time to organise an Atheist Apocalypse Party - however I have now been given another chance!
October 21st is a Friday too - drink like it's the end of the world!
Anyone here remember the Enter the Matrix Game?
I am a bit of a heretic - I quite like the Matrix films (although they are so cringeworthy in parts) - so much so that I bought the Enter the Matrix computer game.
What a piece of rubbish - that could have been good. It had full "support" of the Weinsteins - special FMV's that tied in and plots by them, etc. The FMV's were bugged and had no sound for me (and a lot of other people) - major issues with collision detection, etc. Horrible driving sequences.
Admittedly this was by Shiny via publisher Atari however the Weinsteins had executive control over this game. I don't know who looked at the bottom line and said "Ship It" - however it must have been agreed with the Weinsteins.
It is the case that every movie tie in has to ship in time to tie in with the movie release. Every game slips a bit due to QA. Add those two together and you get half finished rubbish being released to cash in on the hype.
It is a different market to the iPad
I should know - I bought one since it would
a) fit in my suit jacket pocket and I wouldn't need a briefcase to carry it around. Even fits in my suit trouser pockets although not stylishly.
b) You can hold it one handed from behind - which I do while reading my books on it one handed while holding onto something on the tube in the morning
c) Doesn't have iTunes tying me to just one computer but it just appears as a removeable drive on any computer I own at home or work.
d) It is also my phone so I only have to charge one thing - I have a bluetooth headset to avoid Dom Joly moments although it's speakerphone is very good for conferencing in my daughter when her mother is away on business.
e) (Using "locale") I have it go silent at night, wake in the morning and only connect to certain wifi - siwtching off it's wifi to avoid powerdrain elsewhere.
Apart from all that - yes the software isn't as nice or polished - but it works for me and Apple can't stop me doing what I want with it. Android software will catch up in a year or two.
Take the money or the job?
Either way the 3 people will get their "honour" back.
They will easily get multi-millions in damages and backpay OR they can carry on working there. Hard to imagine they could get both.
So ... cash or keep on working?
If this was a proper spy thriller then it would turn out to be a conspiracy by the 3 people who were sacked to leak anonymous spy drivel to the security chief in order to get themselves fired and then a huge lawsuit payout. :)
Flash Protest in 45 minutes time...
Just heard from Demotix that they want photographers at the Flash Protest:
Dear London team,
It has been brought to our attention that a flash mob has been organised in protest of today's arrest of wikileaks founder Julian Assange:
flash mob protest in support of Wikileaks & Freedom of Speech TODAY Westminster Magistrates Court 13:30, London, U.K
If you are in the area and are interested in covering this event please remember to stay in touch via our twitter account or email and to upload your images / videos of the flash mob as soon as you can.
Reply to irish donkey
They posted this recent column about ACTA here : http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/8011895.stm
As a simple google would show (and a few more) - why don't you try their comments board instead of the Reg?
The failure of the long distance reporter.
Nope - don't like Murdoch and the right wing bias in the papers - however also sick of the left wing winge too. I get my news from the BBC (which is left-ish but tries to be balanced) and is also one of the few news organisations that still have international correspondants and reporters. It's just too expensive for most other sources.
All around the world, the international news desks are closing and being replaced with a Reuters feed or other newswire.
To be honest most of the public don't care (which is a shame, but human nature not to care about events elsewhere) so the papers fill in the gaps with celeb gossip and editorial columns.
Now - to be fair - I would pay for a good column. I like Charlie Brooker - I don't care that he is in the Guardian. I like El Reg due to the personalised news output. I could probably get most of the El Reg news in dry formats elsewhere but prefer the amusing slant on the everyday stories.
I do agree with the earlier comment about using this as a future stick to beat the BBC with since they "can't compete with taxpayer funded free news".
SecureRom and the Task Manager of Doom
SecureRom not letting you play because you have a CD drive emulator. Ok - can almost understand that (but then I only use it for work and have a separate PC that is my game PC).
However SecureRom 7 doesn't let you play if you have - at any time since bootup - run the SysInternals Task Manager (now owned by Microsoft - free on the website just google it - and still so much better than the built in one). It doesn't even have to be running any more.
I assume that SecureRom processes can't hide from the SysInternals Task Manager and so is counted as a "debugging" tool.
As for Ubisoft and the always-on connection then presumably they have tested their games on something better than my flaky Virgin broadband. I'm avoiding their games until they remove this ... or perhaps the Pirate's Hack might be useful to play a legitimate game.
I left during the Phorm debacle...
...and I'm never going back.
I was *almost* tempted by fast 20mb ADSL ... until I realised the local exchange wasn't upgraded and I could get the same service (i.e. not very good) from Virgin.
Surely most businesses have their own tech support anyway? Or are they trying to pimp "small business tech support"?
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