* Posts by Erik4872

152 posts • joined 11 Jan 2011

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Hillary Clinton draws flak for using personal email at State Dept

Erik4872

How is this different from private business?

I've worked for lots of companies where the CEO and other executives use their personal email accounts almost exclusively. Top execs usually aren't reading or writing their own email anyway, at least in the places I've worked. The CEO's assistant does that -- they're the ones using the CEO's email account to read and respond, and usually are told either directly or from that personal email account what to do.

Not using your official email account is also a good way to get around e-discovery of your personal life. One place I worked for was so spooked by e-discovery that they set email retention for everyone to 30 days...if anyone came looking for evidence, they had better do it quickly. With CEOs being public figures, likely sued many times a year, they might not want their official email accounts to contain details of their...personal lives...that wind up in front of a jury.

Government is a little different, because top Cabinet posts probably have the same rules requiring archive and retention of official communication. It sets up an interesting approval circular reference when your manager has to approve IT requests...seriously, does the President do that? :-) Who approves his IT requests?

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$250K: That's what Lenovo earned to RAT YOU OUT with Superfish

Erik4872

The problem is margin

I'm an end user computing person, and it's amazing how thin margins on consumer hardware actually are. That doesn't justify this, but you can see how a vendor could see a quick win, any win, in the crap hardware territory that they push out to consumers. This is the stuff you buy at Best Buy/Staples - the $200 desktop or $300 disposable laptop. The $500 business desktop or $900 ThinkPad T series is a whole other class of machine.

Lenovo, HP and the like make good business hardware, and for the most part, the default image isn't loaded with this garbage. The worst I've seen is a free McAfee or Norton trial, and I think the main reason they do this is for the small/medium business types who just use the factory image as-is. They know that most business customers are going to blow away the factory image anyway once they steal the useful stuff off of it and use it to integrate the hardware into their standard image.

If PC manufacturers could somehow just dump the crap-grade consumer hardware, they'd be in good shape. Unfortunately, enough people still refuse to pay more than $400 for a machine. I do give Microsoft points though -- they're helping by allowing savvy users to legally turn in their OEM license key to get a non-bloatware version of Windows. Unfortunately, they're not able to help integrating all the vendor drivers and utilities.

Side note - even on business laptops, it's amazing how much of the hardware requires actual software programs to control it these days. I just worked on getting a new HP EliteBook into our "supported hardware" category, and I needed about 5 non-crapware applications installed just to let me control the hardware!

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HP Services engineer dispatch tool 'broken', say engineers

Erik4872

But it works in the lab!

I feel like I've seen this before...oh wait, I'm living it right now.

The little niche of my company that I work in is involved in doing managed IT in hard-to-reach places. I'm currently trying to explain to the new product manager that all the magic shiny tools the salespeople are showing him don't work outside of a high-speed LAN. Software vendors seem to assume that everyone has gigabit Ethernet on site and multiple redundant Metro Ethernet WAN links between locations. Getting systems management tools built for these environments working in our just-above-dialup conditions is a challenge to say the least. Forget the cloud - we're lucky to have connectivity in some locations.

Unfortunately in my company, product managers do all the magic tool buying and we're just told to make it work. Some of this stuff must have been sold over many rounds of golf, lunches and strip club visits...

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Big data = big loss for Hadoop-flinger Hortonworks

Erik4872

Big data hype cycle over?

I guess this is the top of the hype cycle. It also explains why professional services are still growing. I imagine the following conversations are happening now:

CEO: I want us to be ahead of the curve on this Big Data thing I read about in an airline magazine.

CIO: But sir, we don't have the kind of customer data that would even be useful to analyze.

CEO: Nonsense! I just hired Hortonworks to help better monetize our customer interactions with best of breed solutions that transcend outdated business models.

So yeah, there's going to be a lot of professional services engagements, something resembling a Big Data analysis solution will be delivered, and it will be promptly relegated to the shelfware pile.

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Apple Watch 'didn't work on HAIRY FANBOIS, was stripped of sensor tech'

Erik4872

Re: Progression

It's not going to be the Apple Watch +. Next year is an "S" year. It'll be the Apple Watch S. Followed by the Apple Watch 2, Apple Watch 2 Titanium-With-Gold-Accents (Early 2017), Apple Watch With Retina Display (Late 2017), Apple Watch Air 3, etc. etc.

It's funny how Apple isn't a big fan of reliable model numbers and just describes what something looks like when they do a mid-model revision. Even Mercedes and BMW have letter and number designations, and that's who Apple seems to emulate on the conspicuous consumption spectrum.

(Disclaimer, I actually like some of the stuff Apple produces, but I'm not a big fan of the premium they charge. I do, however, recommend their phones and computers to people who just want working maintenance-free systems for home.)

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City broadband ISPs: PLEEEEASE don't do 'Title II' net neutrality

Erik4872

I think it's a good idea

My choices for broadband access are basically the (really good) local cable company and Verizon FiOS. I know that not everyone has a good set of options, and this seems like a good idea to set standards.

ISP service is a utility now, just like water, electricity or gas. You're basically paying someone to route data packets to and from your house, much like you pay for electricity into the house, or wastewater/garbage out of it. It doesn't seem out of line for the FCC or state public service commissions to regulate the standards of service. ISPs routinely oversubscribe links, or conveniently forget to fix problems in areas that are hard to serve (example: rural locations.) If every customer were afforded a minimum standard of service, and could choose to pay for more than the minimum (and get what they pay for) then this is a good thing. It would force carriers to maintain their infrastructure instead of just letting it rot away. Everyone hated the AT&T monopoly on phone service, but at least everyone was reasonably assured that their phones would be working whenever they wanted to make a call. That was the price AT&T paid for the ability to charge monopoly level rates -- they had to keep their networks in good shape. Same thing here -- treating data as a commodity to be pumped in and out of your house is the right way to go IMO.

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RadioShack lists 1,800 stores facing the axe across America

Erik4872

Too bad but not surprising

The last time I was in a Radio Shack was about 5 years ago, and I had an actual nerd errand in mind -- building a custom serial cable. If I hadn't known exactly what I wanted, I doubt I would have gotten any help. They've been a cell phone store for ages now.

I guess the problem is that the world kind of moved on from component-based electronics and things are pretty much throw-away now. It's not possible to do board-level repairs on most electronics now. The "maker" crowd who would buy stuff like Arduinos, 3D printers and other stuff Radio Shack could sell is savvy enough to buy them online. Amateur radio is pretty much dead to new entrants, and things like home audio aren't as exciting as they were.

I'm pushing 40 now, so I'm old enough to remember when Radio Shack was _the_ place for card carrying nerds. Because of that I'll miss them, but they're just not relevant in 2015 unless gadget repair somehow magically gains traction again.

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Microsoft explains Windows as a SERVICE – but one version remains a distant dream

Erik4872

Windows 365 is here?

It seems like Microsoft is planning on transitioning consumers to a "Windows 365" style subscription where they have to keep paying to use the software. Consumers are used to paying for AV subscriptions and Office 365 now, so I guess they figure it's time to pull the plug on perpetual licensing.

Businesses on the other hand are probably going to be bullied into buying licenses with Software Assurance, so they're still basically renting the software 365-style. Microsoft will probably make the terms of a perpetual license deal so much less appealing that businesses will just sign up.

Now, the question is this -- from a systems management perspective -- there's an LTS branch and a CBB branch. Are there going to be, dare I call them, Service Packs that roll up the previous LTS to where the CBB is at that point? Or are LTS customers stuck with zero new features? Or if they choose to install some of the features, are they in some weird unsupported middle ground? Previously, if you took a service pack, it meant taking all the features that went along with it. If they're going to be dribbled out over time, that's going to make for some messy configurations.

If LTS/CBB is just another term for service pack, we're good. Having a jumping-off point to test applications against is a good thing, and I wouldn't want that point to get 10 years stale...but I also don't want 45 new changes every month breaking things!

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Anthem, America's second biggest health insurer, HACKED: Millions hit by breach

Erik4872

Outsourcing strikes again maybe?

Who knows if it's the case, but it seems to me like a company providing health insurance wouldn't consider IT one of their "core competencies". Not to say that in-house IT would have prevented it, but I've worked in lots of places where all or part of IT was outsourced, and it throws up a huge wall of abstraction that makes it very difficult to make changes, audit stuff, etc.

It'll be interesting to see what comes out of the investigation. My guess is that their in-house security team has been reduced to rubber-stamping the outsourcer's plans, so as long as they're following ISO9000 or whatever, their insurance company will pay for the loss and nothing will change security-wise.

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FBI-baiter Barrett Brown gets five years in chokey plus $890,000 fine

Erik4872

Not so sure what he's so happy about

I'm sure he was just trying to be a jerk with that statement, but prisons are generally places normal people want to stay away from. There's a reason why the recidivism rate is so high -- other than the fact that a prisoner has basically no chance of getting a decent job once they get out. From what little I've seen, the whole experience probably just rewires you, especially on long stays. Before the US closed all the mental hospitals and let everyone out on the street, that was what patients described too...you just get so wrapped up in the routine.

Unless he's basically spending the time in solitary confinement, he's going to end up hanging out with a bunch of...interesting characters.

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FIVE Things (NOT 10: these are REAL) from the WINDOWS 10 event

Erik4872

They are still not listening

As much as Microsoft might like it, they are not Apple and they're not making iPads and Macs. There is still a sizable community of "utility" PCs used in businesses. For those users, familiarity is key, and that's why I think they should bring back the ability to use classic or Aero themes in the OS.

Think about it -- if you're an enterprise, and 70% of your PCs are used by cubicle drones cranking out various tasks, you want to keep things as static as possible without getting hacked or losing support. Now Microsoft comes along and says "all is forgiven, have a free Windows 10 upgrade." Wouldn't it be great if a business could swap out the user's OS, and it would mostly look like and work like the Windows 7 they were used to? I could see that as a huge selling point for non-consumers.

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Venture Capital investment in Silicon Valley hits dot-com boom levels

Erik4872

This boom may bust a little slower.

One of the things to remember about the differences between 1999 and 2015 is the way these new breed of Internet startups get online. Before, it meant a huge fixed cost of renting space in a data center, and telcos/colo centers geared up to do this. Now it's almost all hosted on AWS/Azure/some other public cloud. The last bust triggered a huge bankruptcy bonanza on eBay for equipment. Now, it's going to trigger a price war between the public cloud providers who are going to be fighting to give away that overcapacity.

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IBM ushers in BIGGEST EVER re-org for the cloud era, say insiders

Erik4872

Re: Possible dead wood cleanout?

Interesting, so it's even dumber than I thought. My assumption was that they would be going after the multiple product managers, marketing people, customer liaison people, etc. that would have been totally redundant in each silo. My experience with IBM is as a customer, and an acquaintance of lots of people who have cycled in and out of there over the years. As a customer, I can tell that, right now, they're just too large to effectively address questions. Hearing the war stories from former employees, it sounds like this huge bureaucracy is basically self sustaining and you end up spending more time playing in that world than doing actual work. (I see a little of this in my company, but I'm a product engineer, so we need to produce real stuff.)

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Erik4872

Possible dead wood cleanout?

Since IBM is actively trying to remake itself into a consulting firm that just happens to write software, I'm guessing these changes are being made to manage out anyone in their hardware product organizations.

It's so strange to see such an iconic company that basically defined a large chunk of business computing in the 20th century like this -- selling off anything that involves physical hardware to the highest bidder. From what I've heard from colleagues, it was always kind of a strange place to work, but lately it has taken on a whole new level of strange.

In any org that large, there's bound to be a fair amount of dead wood hiding out. I work for a fairly large multinational and we see it all the time - multiple layers of management that basically exist to provide promotion opportunities for key staff, whole product divisions whose product has been cancelled, but somehow they're still there, and so on. Cutting or moving truly dead wood is one thing, but from what I've heard, IBM has started hacking off the living bits now. I'm sure it will get worse as the entire management tree in each of those silos they're looking to kill starts scrambling for survival and throwing the actual workers overboard.

I wonder what will happen when businesses finally migrate completely away from mainframe, iSeries and AIX...it'll be interesting to see a massive top heavy org like IBM try its hand at white-shoe management consulting as its primary business.

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Microsoft patch batch pre-alerts now for paying customers ONLY

Erik4872

Maybe trying to cut down on zero-days?

I do a lot of work on end user computing stuff, so patching Microsoft stuff is a pretty big part of routine maintenance work. Advance notification messages are pretty vague, and only give high level details about what's coming. In my experience, they're aimed at huge IT organizations that have to move heaven and earth once a month to crank up the change management engine and follow the ITIL best practice stuff to test and roll out patches. Basically, it lets the patch testing and rollout team say, "OK, what OS components do we have to target regression testing at this month?" When you support thousands of end users running hundreds of apps, you need to be selective.

You could be cynical and say Microsoft is just trying to get companies to sign up for Premier Support (which is not cheap but very necessary in a complex MS environment.) But, is it possible that they don't even want to drop the vague hints that the ANS messages give? When you're talking about vulnerability hunts at the scale of nation-states and organized crime, could even telling them that there's a bug in this component be too much information? In my mind, that would be pretty much an open invitation to just start hammering that particular component over Pre-Patch Tuesday Weekend, and see if you can find what they found before they get a chance to release a patch.

Seems plausible to me, they might just be adjusting to the fact that vulnerabilities aren't generally found by people living in their parents' basements anymore...they're found by companies, governments and criminal gangs first.

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Hackers pop German steel mill, wreck furnace

Erik4872

The Internet of Things will save us all!

I wonder what's going to happen when everyone's furnace, toaster, refrigerator and lights are connected to the Internet.

Stuff like this is crazy. I don't work in automation, but i do work in an environment that requires a network with no Internet access for some key functions. Part of the reason for this is that, like the SCADA gear everyone's talking about, we deal with wacky proprietary crap that absolutely fails to work when you start turning even basic Windows security on. The crap vendors won't (or can't in some cases) fix the problem - most of them are either the only supplier or one of two in the world. The problem is that all the stuff you can't secure *needs* to be air gapped. It's a major pain to deal with and requires nasty workarounds like sneakernetting files around, but it has to be done. This goes doubly so for us because some of these devices are actual end user machines with people sitting in front of them.

Everyone forgets that these Internet-connected devices, even though they communicate through standard protocols, have that server software implementing the protocols sitting somewhere. In the case of IoT things, that could be a cheap system-on-chip, or a Windows 2000 Server SP3 embedded computer with no upgrade capability.

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Microsoft drops early Chrissie pressie on Mac Office fanbois

Erik4872

The 365 shoe drops...

I knew it was coming, but wasn't sure where they were going to start. The fact that you can only get the updates if you're a 365 customer is a pretty good indication of your status if you buy a one-off perpetual licensed copy. Second class citizen, indeed.

How much do you want to bet Microsoft is releasing the ability to change the blinding white-on-white color scheme in Office 2013, but only for subscribers? (Unfortunately, I'd pay for that - I spend at least a couple hours a day in Word and Excel and even in "gray" mode I'm getting headaches!

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Europe rubber-stamps IBM Lufthansa outsourcing gig

Erik4872

This should be interesting

The company I work for does work with Lufthansa. We're far from a bottom-of-the-barrel, lowest-bidder IT outsourcer like IBM, and we _still_ have major issues dealing with them. It's a personality thing more than anything else.

I cannot imagine the hilarity that will ensue the first time the LH folks are told that they now need to call IBM's Global Center of Excellence Support Desk and talk to "Steve" for even the simplest IT change. Or maybe it's a good thing -- ITIL and the like might appeal to the rigid engineering culture. It all depends on how many more layers of crap they now have to wade through to do something, just like any IT outsourcing deal.

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'Shadow IT' gradually sapping power and budget from CIOs

Erik4872

It's all cyclical

Businesses, especially those whose primary focus is not technology, are not concerned about IT and information security, full stop. All of the credit card related breaches are covered by insurance, so businesses see no need to protect payment systems. Maybe the Sony Pictures hack will ring a few bells, now that some of the corporate dirty laundry is starting to be circulated. It's a whole different thing when emails about your political opinions, what you think about your employees/customers, or other secrets come out as opposed to something your insurance company just writes a check for.

All the breathless Gartner people talking about BYOD being the future are blissfully unaware of the fact that doing it correctly basically means a complete network transplant. It used to be that you trusted most things sitting behind the firewall. Once you start letting phones, tablets, etc. into the system, everything becomes untrusted no matter where it's connecting from. Most companies aren't willing to pay the money required to do this correctly. I would say most IT organizations are jumping around making executive iDevices work come hell or high water now. Anyone who doesn't is going to be called obstructionists like this article seems to state, and will be outsourced to India.

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Storage firm Box: We're BIG enough... to FLOAT

Erik4872

Yay Bubble 2.0

How is this any different from pets.com? I can't believe we haven't learned anything from the dotcom bubble.

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YOU are the threat: True confessions of real-life sysadmins

Erik4872

I've experienced a Terry Childs like incident

I'm not surprised that systems people are looked on with suspicion. I've seen a pretty even split between normal people doing their best to maintain order and be nice, and BOFH-level personality issues. Look at how many people came out to defend Terry Childs' actions. The facts of the case are that he basically used his power and a lack of oversight to insert himself as the single point of failure in the network, keeping all the config files stored in memory, with the only backups being in his possession. There's no way to defend that.

At a previous very large employer that grew from a startup, we had Network Guy. NG had built the entire infrastructure from the ground up, and had been allowed to run it unchallenged for years.The only problem is that nothing was documented, and the only people he allowed access to the equipment were 2 employees who followed his orders. He also had a personality that could be best described as "acerbic" and was highly possessive of "his" network...typical ThinkGeek T-shirt guy. When Startup became Big Company over a 5 year period, the CIO rightfully started worrying about what would happen if NG quit, was fired, or was incapacitated. When the CIO brought someone in to work with him and document everything, NG's response was simply, "No, I will not be doing that." It took firing him, getting the minions back under control, hiring a couple of consultants and very carefully probing every corner of the network to get things back under control. So yes, control freaks who get system admin jobs can really be a problem. Being a *good* control freak is a great thing, but being the SPOF is not.

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Uber exec wanted to sic private dicks on critics ... Hey, Emil Michael, COME AT US, bro

Erik4872

Top of the app bubble?

I seem to recall more than a few news stories from 1999-2000 involving insane tech startup CEO behavior that have a similar smell to this one. Every corporate executive has to have some serious balls and be willing to do crazy things, but it's that special combination of inexperience and hubris that surfaces these interesting news stories. Even Zuckerberg manages to keep a reasonably low profile and have his handlers take care of things.

Most entertaining of the bunch is the one about the "CEO in the plastic pants" from theglobe.com. http://online.wsj.com/articles/SB988750097459636

I imagine we'll be seeing a few more of these before the final pop.

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Anonymous ‪hacks the Ku Klux Klan after Ferguson‬ threats

Erik4872

"Hacking"?

Whenever I read something about a celebrity's Twitter account being "hacked", I have to wonder what actually happened. Twitter is just a password-protected web service, so are the people targeting a particular person and installing keyloggers, or are the super-secret passwords for these accounts not so super-secret?

I wouldn't be surprised if some of the largest corporate Twitter accounts have a password similar to "123Passw0rd" to make it easier for the marketing interns to update the feed.

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No more tomorrows for TomorrowNow suit as Oracle and SAP settle

Erik4872

Re: They should have paid twice the original amt

That's where things get fuzzy in the enterprisey software world. Packages from vendors like SAP, Oracle, CA and other truly "closed shops" have a support structure such that you need a network of the vendor's very expensive consultants to do anything useful with them. I don't do ERP systems, but I mess with systems management tools and databases a lot. Complex Oracle DB installations are _possible_ to do just from the public manuals and documents, but you almost always need access to Oracle's support "notes" to let you know what tweaks need to be done, what order the mystery patch bundles need to be installed in, etc. SAP is worse-- basically the only way to get systems-level experience with the product (enough to go to another company and implement it) is to do time at one of the Big 3 consulting firms. And CA delivers shockingly incomplete products with useless documentation -- any attempt to build a production implementation of some of their tools without (expensive) help is bound to be a nightmare.

TomorrowNow looks like they chose the "less than ethical" route to work around this problem. The consultantware business model really stinks, but SAP was looking to lock existing JDEdwards customers into the same model with a different company.

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Revenue drops at IT giant CSC... 'Good progress' says chief

Erik4872

"I recall being told by one of the money girls there and she told me how they actually payed mortgages for certain level "vice presidents". Really? "

Actually, it's pretty common for VPs and above of large companies to negotiate stuff like that into their employment contracts. This is where those occasional job postings for "driver," "ATP-rated pilot," and "personal security guard" come from. Both public and private sector organizations tend to pay for most personal expenses of at least the top level of executives.

I'd love to be in a position someday to say, "Gee, I'd love to work here, but you have to pay for my house and my kid's college tuition or the deal is off."

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Erik4872

Answer: By being cheaper on paper

How do they get repeat business you ask? The cynic in me says it must involve a large number of trips to golf courses, strip clubs, fancy restaurants and resort properties for the decision makers. Unfortunately I'm not high enough on the ladder to receive said kickbacks.

Actually, I've worked for outsourcers and outsourcees.The tricks of the trade appear to be:

- Be as cheap as possible on any rates you quote the customer, but leave the contract so open that anything can be classed as "time and materials". Any service that is not written directly into the contract will then be changed at much higher rates. Idiot MBAs only see the Excel sheet showing that Number X is less than Number Y, plus they figure they'll be gone with performance bonus in hand once the contractor stops performing.

- Promise that your company will make every possible IT problem disappear. This makes the CIO and above happy, since they feel they'll be off the hook for any IT worry once they hand the outsourcer their money.

- Promise the A Team, then swap in the D Team when the customer isn't looking. (I've been on the A Team, and also had to deal with the D Team when I've worked on the customer side. It's a mess.)

- Get Gartner to say you're in the Magic Quadrant of IT Service Providers. If Gartner says something, there is a 100% chance that any CIO will believe it.

- Become ISO9001/ITIL/whatever certified. This is a big deal for whatever reason.

You're right though - I don't know how anyone who's worked with any of the big outsourcers (HP, IBM, Accenture, CSC, Verizon, Infosys, Tata, etc.) could recommend them in another position unless they really had no clue how much damage some of these large contracts can do.

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REVEALED: Apple fanbois are 'MENTALLY UNSTABLE' - iShop staff

Erik4872

Retail sucks but I see their point

My wife and I both have iPhones and she's got a MacBook Pro. (I'm the old fart lugging around the ThinkPad...) Whenever we've gone to Apple for help we haven't had any issues, but I think that's because we're nice reasonable people. In our experience, if you buy the warranty or have a legitimate problem during the manufacturer's warranty, they'll try to make things right. That's part of the price -- even my old fart ThinkPad with the accidental damage protection means that I can get a Lenovo guy to show up next day to fix something...and the laptop is about twice the price of Lenovo's crappy consumer machines.

That said, I can corroborate some of the stories in that thread. I've heard lots and lots of iTantrums whenever I've brought our things in to be looked at. It's usually business types whining about how important their work is and how they need a new device *right now* or the typical know-nothing consumer who feels they have the right to yell for buying an expensive phone. Telling someone under 30 that they'll be without social media in their pockets for a few days is like a prison sentence apparently.

Apple's in an interesting spot with their stores -- they don't just sell computers, they sell the Portal to Your Life for many people. Losing a phone or the data on it is pretty traumatic and Apple does their best to hide complexity from users that might allow them to recover things on their own.

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TECH BUBBLE? No, no way, nope, says Silicon Valley investor

Erik4872

Hello again, 1999

I'm surprised daily reading the tech press and seeing story after story about revenue-free companies generating huge valuations and IPOs of companies that have no long term business plan. I feel like I went back in time 15 years and that we've learned nothing. I know interest rates are low, and there was bound to be a stock bubble after the real estate mess, but technology AGAIN? Pick something else next time, like tulips!

It's the dotcom bubble all over again, but with phones and social media this time. It's interesting because the Apple/Android smartphone ecosystem allows for lots of cool useful things to be built. It also allows for dotcom era startups to pop up out of the woodwork again and easily build user data-collecting apps that don't actually have much technical merit. And this time it's beyond easy -- the phone platforms practically give you every functionality you would have to build yourself through APIs.

Let's look at some of the parallels...

- Outsized startup founder/CEO personalities and puff piece journalism about them?....Check.

- Companies with no revenue model beyond ads?....Check.

- Buzzwords then: Eyeballs, Sticky, Web. Buzzwords now: Big Data, Mobile, Social, Cloud.

- Huge infrastructure spend....Physical then, virtual/cloud now. (Too bad, no dotcom bankruptcy sales this time....)

- Sky high real estate?...Check, in NYC and SF, just like last time.

- Insane employment market? Not as bad as then, but anyone who can say "Hadoop" has a job now.

It's funny, I've been over in my little corner of tech (systems/infrastructure) through both bubbles, and watched people get filthy rich, all while mostly ignoring it. Maybe if there's a third one I'll ditch the actual knowledge and go work for a cloud-based social frictionless mobile infotainment monetizer as a Big Data Specialist or something.

All I know is this -- all the coders cranking out phone apps now are going to be just like all the HTML developers back in 1999 when the music stopped. Hopefully this tech recession won't be as bad...

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Hold onto your hats and follow the BYOD generation

Erik4872

Re: Something to be said for workplace culture @Erik

By that, I meant being dinged for being "late" after having done the equivalent amount of work after the kiddies went to bed -- not overtime in the strictest sense. Being a dad for the last few years really has exposed me to how unpredictable daily life can get when you add 2 kids to the mix.

Example, I'm a boss of a small team, small enough that we all work like dogs to keep up with the schedule. If somebody says they need to come in a couple hours late, I don't blink an eye because I know it all evens out and people will be putting in the effort when it counts later. And I often have to do the same things -- coming in late, leaving early, working crazy hours to make it up, etc.

You're right though - where this gets sticky is when you're charging time to a customer...but that's not the case here. They're just being idiots.

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Erik4872

Something to be said for workplace culture

Disclaimer: I think anyone who would voluntarily accept lower pay solely so they could play on Facebook and tweet while working is a little silly and deluded about their relative importance in the world.

But -- there really is something to be said about a company that has a decent culture. I'm not talking about Google-style futuristic lounge furniture and silly college kid-oriented perks. I'm talking about a reasonable level of trust of the employees. I've worked for a place that was run like a call center, even for professional staff. Proxy blocks everything non-work related, managers micromanage, and connecting anything to the network is a firing offense. Most people who had a choice got out of there quickly, and the word around town is such that people try to avoid working there in the first place. My current employer is pretty decent, and people do indeed accept lower pay here for a more relaxed atmosphere. And in return, I sometimes get up at 2 AM after solving a problem in my sleep to put in some effort to write down the answer before work.

My wife kind of has the opposite situation - she works for an outfit that pays higher than average for similar work, and has a good job but the culture at least in her division absolutely sucks. How many professional-level, salaried employees do you know that are subject to a daily attendance count and not allowed to count off-hours work as work time? Needless to say she's looking for something else but the extra money she makes is tempting. Some manager types really don't understand that there's a difference managing a retail worker or call center worker, where your primary concern is whether they're sober while working and eventually make it in, and a professional who puts in a lot of extra time and effort.

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Gov.UK doubles IT outsourcing to £20bn

Erik4872

The tower approach is just as bad as single-supplier

Anyone who has worked for an outsourcer who has to work in their "tower" with other vendors in the other "towers" knows how bad things can get. ITIL and stuff is supposed to take care of this, but it just results in more paperwork and you're still talking third-hand to the customer.

The whole outsourcing concept just doesn't make sense. There is no way any business, public or private, could run an IT department cheaper by paying a company to do it who also has to make money. In the US, there is a lot of government IT outsourcing as well, but I imagine a lot of that is driven by people complaining about taxes, "lazy entitled government employees" and the fact that civil service is pretty much the only place you can get a guaranteed pension anymore. I would think that the UK and Europe in general would have a lot fewer "deficit hawks" constantly calling for the dismantling of all government departments.

2
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Forget WHITE BOX, it's time for JUNK BOX NETWORKING

Erik4872

eBay = Home lab bonanza

The only way I would even think of doing production junk box networking would be if so much redundancy were designed in that it wouldn't matter if you had warranty support or not. VM host blows up, oh well, at least the VM is safe and running on another host...

Company labs and home labs are a totally different story. Even without the dotcom bankruptcy sales (which were awesome back in the day) there is so much equipment being refurb'd or sold off-lease that's like new. I have a Cisco 3750G switch and a very well-licensed ASA5510 that I paid a few hundred apiece for -- easily would have been $5k even with discounts. One of the big things that I'm predicting will be up for sale more often soon is IBM System x boxes -- as customers decide they want to upgrade early to avoid the slow IBM death spiral re: support.

Anyone who's done IT work in large corporations knows that every project has "spare" hardware that somehow makes its way onto the eBay market, new-in-box, never powered on or installed. I've bought a lot of dubious-origin servers for the home lab that way. And since lots of companies lease their equipment, it winds up on eBay anyway with resellers trying to shift it.

1
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Programming Office 365: Hands On with Microsoft's new APIs

Erik4872

Cloud first indeed

Microsoft is making all the moves to desensitize businesses to their worries about the cloud. Azure AD is going to be a big thing once Windows 10 comes out...not quite a Windows Live consumer account, not quite an on-premises Active Directory, but cheaper than running your own DCs for small business. It's vendor lock-in all over again -- no business is going to switch away from Microsoft's AAAaaS once they make the move even if the price goes through the roof. Same thing goes for the rest of Office 365 -- changing out the way users save files once they get used to storing them in the cloud will be just too hard. They basically want to rebuild their Windows/Office monopoly in the cloud.

It's an interesting strategy - solve difficult problems that are very hard to change the processes of later (authentication, file storage, systems management, etc.) and even if it's not ideal, companies will permanently be paying the subscriptions because it's too hard to change and/or too cheap (in their minds) to do on-premises. Problem is, those subscriptions add up over time. How many people have heard someone at a car dealer say "how much can I get for $X per month?" not realizing that they're going to get tricked into a non-optimal lease or be paying a car loan for 7 years...

7
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Lufthansa tosses IT biz to Big Blue, inks outsource deal with IBM

Erik4872

Hmmm...this won't end well, I've been through it before.

A previous poster mentioned that most airlines already outsource, and that's true. The problem is that, on paper, the costs are lower. The reality is that the vendor will proceed to nickel-and-dime the airline on a time and materials basis for everything that isn't literally written into the contract. The service quality drops because the vendor replaces the knowledgeable in-house talent with the cheapest they can find. I worked for an airline in the US that outsourced its data center and network to a large provider, and was retained on the in-house IT team. Everything routine that we used to do became an absolute nightmare because of finger pointing and process/paperwork. We got to the point where we were figuring out how _not_ to trigger changes in the environment to avoid the massive headaches and late night conference calls. And since this is IBM...they have a lock on the patent for how to provide the least amount of service for the most amount of money.

I seriously wonder if someday, far in the future, MBA school case studies will look back on this era (80s to now basically) as the outsourcing era and teach it as a "how not to do things" case. It really doesn't make any sense -- how could anyone possibly do a task cheaper than your in-house, "free with purchase" resources?

5
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Cloud skills certification can add zeros to your pay cheque

Erik4872

Oh boy, MCCEs

Microsoft Certified Cloud Engineers, looks like the late 90s have come back around. :-)

Last time people, Cloud is...

- VMs running on your machines or someone else's

- Easily changeable networking

- Flexible storage

- Flexible provisioning model

- In some cases, magic SaaS that you're told to ignore the inner workings of

Any systems guy who understands all of the underlying technology and can work with whatever automation framework ties it all together is a Cloud Engineer. The main difference with the Cloud in terms of AWS/Azure/whatever public or private cloud is that developers get the chance to run wild on someone else's hardware and without properly sizing/scaling their application. And in the public cloud, developers often don't see the results of a bad architectural decision or a runaway application because of the scale of the back end.

The thing is, the public cloud is pretty cool taken with the right grain of salt. For the most part, Amazon and Microsoft have made sane architectural choices, and provide devs the opportunity to properly build in failover, etc. into the system. The problem is when developers who may or may not get the entire "big system picture" are able to throw up huge production applications with big flaws in their design in the name of agile development. That's when you hear of a startup's web applications falling over because someone decided not to invest in the additional availability zone, etc.

I think the big thing that's coming up next is that systems integration, aka the "make shit work" department will be seen as more important than it is now. Devs are great, sysadmins are great, but the real test is when you slap 17 things that weren't designed to go together into the same space and start grinding out the dependencies. (This is what I do, and it's something that there's no certification for...you need a very good teacher and OJT in the form of a stream of crazy problems to solve.)

1
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Docker's app containers are coming to Windows Server, says Microsoft

Erik4872

Interesting

One of the toughest things to do to get a Windows application stack working is to work out and deploy all the prerequisites. I think that as long as an organization can keep its developers under control the idea of containerized applications is a good one.

Unfortunately, my job is in systems integration, so I get to see exactly what happens when developers aren't controlled, when salespeople sell things that don't exist, etc. DevOps is a good model when your Devs also have some Ops skills. When they don't, it's a mess. In my experience, developers have very little insight about how the infrastructure works once they get their application to "run". Admittedly, we're in an era of infinitely elastic cloud computing (ha ha...) so who cares if the devs build something that requires 6 cores of CPU running flat out for minutes at a time?

8
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Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!

Erik4872

Ongoing cost - check!

"I assume freezing your eggs has an ongoing cost."

Oh, indeed it does, as does everything infertility related. This is the US experience I'm talking about so it may be different elsewhere. Fertility treatments are similar to cosmetic surgery - the cost is extremely high, demand is high, and insurance coverage is spotty or sometimes nonexistent. In our case, my wife's insurance plan covered parts of the whole IVF adventure but we still had to pay many thousands of dollars out of pocket. Because it's an elective procedure, and self-selecting for the affluent types, like plastic surgeons, fertility docs charge whatever their rockstar reputations bear. The clinic we selected was actually decent and did a great job, but you could tell they were clearing millions a year. Our doc was pretty up front about it -- he told me there are a lot of couples like us who have a flat budget and just want to see if they can fix a problem, but he also sees a ton of early-40s women who spent the last 20 years being lawyers, executives, etc. and now all of a sudden want a kid to add to the accessory closet. And that's where the majority of the clinic's income comes from -- the richer clientele will just keep trying and trying even after they've been advised that their probability of success is low. Less affluent folks will give it a couple of tries until their money and insurance coverage runs out.

So the moral of the story for all the 20something hard charging potential moms out there is that it's not a simple click of the "freeze/unfreeze" radio button on a web form. There are huge costs when you want to go turn those eggs into little dudes and dudettes!

0
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Erik4872

Family Friendly workplace!

Speaking as the husband of someone who had to go through the IVF process later in life, for reasons other than working 80 hours a week in some Web 2.0 startup, those female employees might want to think about this. Pregnancies are higher risk when you're older, the work involved to unfreeze, fertilize and transfer those eggs back is expensive and painful, we got 2 awesome kids out of the deal, but what a pain in the butt it was.

Also this is a little different from the "lean in" SV female executive -- most Apple and Facebook employees aren't 45 year old millionaires who go to a fertility doc, write a $200k check and say "Give me a baby!" This is a company telling its workers that they are better off slaving away on code and putting off that messy childbearing thing until later.

I know the Millenial trend is towards fewer or no kids. In one sense this is good because people don't need children for a farm labor force anymore, and there's less chance of needing "spares" due to fewer childhood illnesses. But a policy like this should send up a huge red flag for any woman working at Apple or Facebook. I think they mean well, but I read this as "We'll do anything it takes to keep you on the 90 hour treadmill. Anyone who wants to enter the baby club will be subtly told that there are 500 other suckers waiting for your job." It reminds me of EA and other video game shops exploiting the legions of kids coming out of school willing to be abused so they can bresk into the exciting world of game development.

2
0

Adobe spies on readers: 'EVERY page you turn, EVERY book you own' leaked back to base

Erik4872

Surprised this still happens

One thing software companies should realize by now is that anything they release is going to have the debugger run over it, have its network data transmission scrutinized, etc. by someone, and the results will be blogged about. I'm assuming this is just some developer testing feature that got left on...software companies wouldn't send this kind of data in cleartext.

One would think that if a software company wanted to collect analytics in a way that violated the terms and conditions, it would at least be encrypted and set to be dribbled out at random intervals or embedded in the DRM requests to make detection more difficult.

2
7

Leading like Mad Leo: HP's Whitman rolls out Apotheker's PC plan

Erik4872

Huge bets are OK for the right reasons

HP has increasingly made bigger and bigger bets on huge shifts in their strategy, the latest of which is the shunting off of their PC and printer business. I personally don't believe all the Gartner hype about PCs disappearing completely, but HP sure seems to. I know the role of PCs will be severely diminished, but there's still money to be made producing a solid product that doesn't fall apart. I posted previously in another HP article that they really need to just dump the whole consumer garbage dump overboard and focus on higher-end higher-margin machines. No one wants the garbage HP Pavilion line of laptops or the $49 disposable printers.

I guess the big thing that bothers me most is that all these shifts are being driven by the stock market and people clamoring for constant growth. But why couldn't she just hive off each division, let them do their own thing, and roll up all their profits to the top level?

6
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AT&T fires insider for slurping customers' social security numbers, driver licenses and more

Erik4872

Re: Why do AT&T even have these details?

It's mainly because there's no national ID system beyond the Social Security number. The SSN is mainly used for credit reporting purposes so they can uniquely identify you if and report you if you fail to pay on your contract. States issue their own drivers' licenses which have unique numbers, and shockingly few Americans have current passports. I guess that's part of living in a huge country that spans 4 time zones (and doesn't have the best record of understanding that there's a whole "rest of the world" out there.) So, SSN and DL numbers are the main ways people are identified in the US.

0
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Erik4872

It's a systems AND a people problem

These data breaches keep happening over and over, and in my mind it boils down to a couple of reasons:

- Companies "rightsizing" their IT expenditure by outsourcing systems support/security to the lowest bidder. A third party doesn't care about your system beyond doing the bare minimum to continue getting paid under the contract.

- In the case of insiders, I think a lot of that has to do with companies treating employees poorly. I'm very lucky to have a good job with a decent company, but some places can be awful to work at. I could definitely see some staffer saying to themselves, "Why not? Who cares about the company when I could make some quick money selling the customer database to someone?"

Bring some knowledge back in house, treat people right, give them ample time to plan things correctly, and you will have fewer breaches.

0
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Meg Whitman: The lady IS for TURNING. HP to lob printers'n'PCs OVERBOARD

Erik4872

Re: Splitting is the wrong thing to do

iLO in PCs -- if you're willing to spend the money and licensing costs for systems management software that's compatible with it, Intel vPro offers the most useful chunk of that functionality. We're currently looking into it. Intel and the device management software manufacturers have purposely made it complex to implement, but it's there.

0
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Erik4872

HP is pulling an IBM...but they can't pull it off.

So, it sounds like they're hiving off PCs and printers to give them an excuse to strangle the life out of the business and kill it. Good job, HP, following right along with IBM's playbook so far. Focus on high margin servers, software and "services." Because any company that makes any physical products anymore is a total chump that's undeserving of investment.

The problem with this IBM model is that HP's "services" division is the old EDS...and it's even worse than IBM's "services" division. Servers, with the exception of the Itanium write off they'll have to do in a few years, are still pretty healthy. But without the other divisions driving end user demand, the talent is likely to go elsewhere.

If it were me, I'd just take an axe to the horrible crapfest that is their consumer line of PCs, laptops and printers. That's what needs fixing -- tons and tons of different HP Pavilion models, each made for a particular retail chain, with almost no support. And the $49 printers designed to prop up the ink division -- not a good long term strategy. Everything consumer that HP has done isn't worth buying. Their high end laptops and PCs are good. (laptops' current design sucks, but they don't break in 89 days.)

0
0

Read IBM's note to staff announcing mandatory training and 10% pay cut

Erik4872

Is this actually warranted?

I work for a large multinational organization (nowhere near IBM-sized.) Like IBM, we do have a huge "operations" team that, by our estimates in Engineering, is extremely bloated and overstaffed. Our team does pretty good work but never gets extra headcount or budget. Our operations team gets whatever they ask for in terms of people and budget simply because they play the right political connections. And their work product is absolutely horrendous. I just got off another extremely frustrating conference call with some of these folks -- it's amazing how much effort they go through to avoid doing work.

So here's a question. I know this is most likely IBM trying to quietly fire US workers by making them angry enough to quit. However, having seen something similar to what the memo is describing, I wonder if it's even partially warranted. IBM has been doing some pretty nasty underhanded things to its "expensive" onshore resources lately. But I do see how easy it is for someone to carve themselves out a quiet little niche in a big organization and stay firmly planted there for 20+ years. Maybe they're actually going through and cleaning up that part of the dead wood. That said, it looks like they're trying to "retrain" people to be social media and cloud consultants. I'm not sure that's a good strategy if these people are the scary smart folks who quietly keep zOS or DB2 puttering along.

Does any IBMer have any insight on this? Are these just people who haven't gotten "outstanding performance" or whatever on their reviews and they wound up on some HR list? Or is there an actual reason beyond rehiring US workers in India?

2
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No biggie: EMC's XtremIO firmware upgrade 'will wipe data'

Erik4872

Scary

I wouldn't want to be the storage admin who, even after triple checking the backups and praying to the array gods, lost data after this upgrade. If I were EMC, and had absolutely no way to make that update non-disruptive, I'd be sending teams of people and tons of free loaner units out. Not really knowing what's involved here, this kind of update must be so drastic that there would be no way to read data from the "old firmware format" disks. How could that be possible? No matter what form you store the data in on the physical disk, it still has to be in a logical format that can be interpreted. How hard would it be to write firmware that can read the old disks and do the conversion when the array reboots?

I don't know, maybe EMC should just give away disks and have the customers migrate the data to a new array and give them back the old one when they're done.

5
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As bankruptcy looms for RadioShack, we ask its chief financial officer... oh. He's quit

Erik4872

Retail bankruptcies are never fun

I remember when Circuit City went belly up last decade. Admittedly, their strategy of "Let's fire our experienced salespeople because they're too expensive" was one of a string of failures on their part, but they left behind a big footprint. There are still old Circuit City stores in my neck of the woods that haven't been rented by anyone else, leaving a blighted empty big box store that really can't be used for anything other than another big box. All the brick and mortar chains are going to be releasing lots of real estate onto the market when Amazon finally brings the hammer down. Home Depot is built right across the street from Lowe's. 4 supermarket chains all coexist basically right next to each other in some spots. I've seen street corners with a Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid all on the same intersection. Best Buy is right next to....oh wait, there's no other large electronics retailers anymore and they're still on the verge of going under. I remember reading that the reason Sears is still in OK shape is because they either own or have ultra-long term leases on their stores, which is apparently a rare thing nowadays.

Radio Shack is just in a bad spot. Fewer people are learning about amateur radio, analogue electronics outside of audio is just not the thing to tinker with anymore, and it's not really possible to do board-level repair on gadgets. I do remember growing up in the 80s, and seeing them selling lots of stereo equipment, electronic gizmos like clocks, CB radios and radar detectors, and of course the Trash 80 and Tandy PC clones. Since anyone can buy a cell phone cheaper from Amazon or a carrier's store, there's really not much left for them to sell to people. I go there very occasionally when I need a cable or something that I can't wait for, and they're always very expensive with a limited selection.

The funny thing is that I do remember when they were at least a reliable choice when you wanted something electronic, and they even had their own factories making components back before that got offshored. That's kind of the only reason they're not bankrupt yet...those early years let them build up huge reserves. Kind of like Dell, or to a lesser extent, IBM...still plugging along but a shadow of their size and influence during their "golden age."

9
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Microsoft splurges 2½ INSTAGRAMS buying Minecraft maker Mojang

Erik4872

Can't we just pop the bubble now and get it over with??

The flashbacks to the dotcom bubble have been getting stronger lately, and I thought they had peaked with the WhatsApp purchase by Facebook. But this just sounds like some investment banker whispered in Microsoft's ear that they need a cloud-enabled gamification platform combined with a social media property with synergies in the pre-Millenial market demographic to monetize revenue streams via integrated immersive infotainment apps. Oh, and Big Data.

I'm not saying it would be great to wipe out all this stock market value, after all, my retirement's in there too...but it might shock people back into focusing on fundamentals like actually producing a product or software that isn't driven by fads in mobile, social media, an app ecosystem, or The Cloud. I do think that deals like this, the WhatsApp deal,. the Instagram deal, Snapchat turning down a $3B buyout by Google, and the Twitter craziness are going to be remembered as the end of Bubble 2.0.

3
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Microsoft to patch ASP.NET mess even if you don't

Erik4872

Expect more of this soon

Microsoft's commitment to rapid product releases and bundling security patches with behavior changes is going to assure that we have these problems more frequently. In The Real World, it's not uncommon for an "enterprisey" business system to be deployed that takes advantages of certain "features" in an OS, browser, etc. Said system is usually one-off, costs tons of money to replace or fix, and can't easily be extracted from day to day business operations. Yes, running something like IE 6 or unpatched JRE 1.4 is awful, but sometimes it's necessary. The consultants who build said systems are already long gone and often demand huge sums when they are called back to update these kinds of applications.

I'm hoping that if Microsoft stops releasing discrete "versions" of their products, as they're rumored to be considering, they'll at least do a Long Term Stable branch like some of the Linux distributions do. That LTS branch can have the old patch framework -- patches are patches and feature updates are optional.

We're currently dealing with this fun combined feature/patch...identifying and fixing this on a universal basis for everyone in our organization is going to be fun.

http://blogs.msdn.com/b/ie/archive/2014/08/06/internet-explorer-begins-blocking-out-of-date-activex-controls.aspx

1
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'Software-defined' IS just a passing fad: HP techie Fink Tank lays down law

Erik4872

Hardware is here to stay

The problem for HP and others is what kind of hardware will run all this software-defined stuff. If you believe all the Gartner pundits, who are breathlessly pointing at all the social media startups who have eschewed traditional hardware, then HP and the like are toast. However, like everything, I think the answer is somewhere in the middle. Large cloud providers like AWS, Azure, and so on won't be buying HP hardware -- they have their own reference designs they ship off to Joe's Server Shack, and they order 50,000 of them at a time. They also have the people to maintain said hardware in the absence of a warranty. Huge Internet properties will also follow a similar course -- Google and Facebook are always held up as examples of this.

The things I do see becoming less relevant are extremely expensive managed storage (EMC, NetApp) and possibly networking (Cisco.) But even with that, vendors are trying to lock people into software-defined networking and compute on their blade chassis. Expensive storage will live on, but it won't be the only choice like it was in datacenters...only workloads that need that kind of uptime or performance will get it. Others can deal with software-defined storage controlling disks on a less expensive platform.

For the average business with on-site infrastructure, HP et al still have plenty of people to sell to. Some margins will take a hit, but the business will be there.

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