* Posts by Erik4872

278 posts • joined 11 Jan 2011

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From Watson Jr to Watson AI: IBM's changed, and Papa Watson wouldn't approve

Erik4872
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What would a private IBM be like, I wonder?

It would be very interesting to see something huge like a pension fund or investment house leverage-buyout IBM and take it private. You would need Sagan-esque "billions and billions" of dollars to do it, but the experiment would be fascinating. It seems to me that any company with so much in the way of resources, patents and intellectual capital could do incredibly well when removed from the yoke that is the public market. I've been watching the slow decline of IBM for quite a while from the outside, just as an observer and occasional customer.

That would be an MBA case study for the ages and any success would probably cause MBA's brains to self-destruct. They've been conditioned for so long to manage purely by spreadsheet, not own anything, focus on next quarter, get rid of as many talented expensive people as they can, and care only for the share price.

I'm old (just turned 40 last year,) but I still say that large employers owe some loyalty to their workers if that loyalty is returned. People work for large employers because they're not Silicon Valley entrepreneur types -- they're there to do a job. In previous times, a job well done was rewarded with promotions, competitive pay and no capricious layoffs. I do know a lot of older IBMers who echo the article's sentiments -- up until Gerstner showed up and shook things up, it was a great place to work. You could expect to be moved several times in a career and put in a lot of extra time for the company,but it was rewarded with a stable life for one's family. I think one of the problems is that employees are seeing even the IBMs, the GEs and the other huge companies treating their employees as disposable. Once that gets too far embedded in people's psyche, they're not willing to give any loyalty back which is why you see people leaving jobs after only a year for just a small salary increase or silly perk that the current company doesn't have.

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Cisco is to spend $10m on infosec scholarships to 'widen talent pool'

Erik4872
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Does that come with a guaranteed job?

The problem is not having enough smart people; the problem is having enough smart people who see a future in the IT world. Students aren't dumb, and there are very few dedicated (crazy?) people these days who study in fields that don't have an immediate ROI (at least here in the US.)

If you want to train the "next generation of cyberwarriors" or whatever, you need to provide enough entry level jobs that these students can graduate into. You then have to have a progression of roles, leading to higher salaries and more interesting work over time, to keep people in the field. Offshoring and outsourcing have destroyed entry-level IT and the informal apprenticeship system that people in my generation went through. (By this, I mean graduating from help desk to in-person support to data center monkey to junior sysadmin and so on.) Those entry level jobs in the US are most likely filled by close-to-minimum wage body shop employees or H-1B visa holders these days.

If I were a very smart student now, I'd be targeting professions that cannot be offshored such as medicine or high-end consulting. Doctors in the US have it made once they're licensed; they were smart and set up a system that prevents oversupply, lobbies against legislation that would lower their pay and regulates practice. We in IT-land could learn a lot from them.

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Microsoft's paid $60 per LinkedIn user – and it's a bargain, because we're mugs

Erik4872
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I'll never get the marketing people's valuations...

I have absolutely no idea what real world metrics marketing people use to value the personal data for an individual. I'm a good example of an edge case in their world; I'm 100% unaffected (in a positive way) by any advertising. I have never bought a product or service based solely on an ad. Yet, there are apparently billions of drooling idiots out there who will buy whatever the advertisers tell them to.

I think the acquisition makes sense given the shift I'm seeing with Microsoft. They're going from selling software by the license to being the toll collector for everything. If they can collect a toll on the employment process, basically by doing nothing beyond making sure the platform stays up, then they win as soon as LinkedIn Premium subscription and recruiter revenue reaches the purchase price plus the running cost. It's the same mentality as Azure...Microsoft is increasingly making it very difficult to purchase one-off licenses or to sign enterprise agreements that don't involve Azure-hosted software. Our company, who was staunchly against putting source code for anything out in the cloud, caved and asked me to start designing a VSTS solution for our developers. New services and applications are cloud-hosted because everyone's convinced it's cheaper than buying hardware and software. It's a big shift, but Microsoft is pouring all that extra money into making sure it collects revenue at every exit point from a service.

If even a small percentage of LinkedIn users falls into the gullible-to-advertising category, then $60 per user is a bargain -- they'll be able to resell that data over and over again for multiple times that amount. LinkedIn isn't like Facebook; people use it to get jobs and post mostly factual, real content.

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Government regulation will clip coders' wings, says Bruce Schneier

Erik4872
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How about professional engineer status for coders?

In the 20 or so years I've been in the IT field, much of which has been doing systems integration work on really crappy software, I've often wondered why we don't have some sort of PE-style licensing arrangement. This would in my opinion get around "regulations" forcing people to code a certain way, by making individual practitioners responsible for the abominations they write. The second you try to regulate something like coding methodologies, it'll be obsolete overnight. Let's say you're able to replace the hodgepodge of educational backgrounds out there with a reasonable set of prerequisites. Make sure people actually understand what the stuff they're writing does when run on real-world systems.

I fall into the self-trained camp, but I would welcome the opportunity to make my education more formal. PEs require an engineering degree, experience and a licensing exam as a minimum barrier to entry. I'd say that beats coder bootcamp and stackoverflow reading any day of the week.

And, as much as malpractice lawsuits scare me, the idea of personal responsibility for bad work holds value for me. One thing about our field that drives me nuts is watching someone screw something up, entirely their fault, then get fired, then land another job a week later with a hefty raise. Mistakes shouldn't be able to be covered up by cleaning up your resume and applying somewhere else.

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The Windows Phone story: From hope to dusty abandonware

Erik4872
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I wonder when Microsoft is finally going to pull the plug.

Intel isn't making low-end mobile chips anymore, handset manufacturers aren't interested in making phones, Microsoft is killing or selling off their own capacity to make new phones, _and_ no one is writing Windows Store apps to the extent they write Android or iOS apps.

I'd love to see them just drop the whole thing all at once, say "oops" and get back to focusing on Azure and Surface and software. But that won't happen -- they're just going to slowly let it bleed to death. At least HP had the guts to just shoot webOS in the head and get it over with...not the greatest decision IMO, but it was decisive.

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Whitman deletes another chapter in HP history as CSC and ES borg

Erik4872
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"The only way they could be turned around is by being allowed to innovate again."

I think that's part of it. EDS may be or may have been a semi-reliable ATM for the rest of HP, but I doubt it. Any time I've ever had any dealings with the EDSes of the world, I've been amazed at just how many highly-paid project managers and account executives have been involved. So they may offshore the actual work to the cheapest, lowest quality place they can find, but they need to keep all those account executives, PMs, technical liaisons, escalation managers, senior escalation managers, VPs of service delivery, etc. paid well and flying around the world.

It's the consulting model -- Accenture, EDS, CSC, IBM, and all of them do it. Every engagement has three tiers:

- Insanely compensated senior management who sell the dream to the executives

- An army of new graduate, no-experience PowerPoint-wielding 24 year old analysts, consultants, PMs and what have you flying 48 weeks out of the year, billable to the client, to be the public face of the project

- Offshore minions in cheap country of the week doing any work that is necessary

The problem is that those top two tiers are expensive and I think companies aren't as willing as they were to pay for it anymore.

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Erik4872
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Maybe IT services just isn't worth it anymore?

I'm sure this is just another bonehead move on the HP executives' part, or more likely their management consultants from McKinsey or similar. But...could it be that companies are starting to wake up and realize that deals with these mega-outsourcers never go as planned? Seriously, I've worked for providers as well as companies who partake in IT services outsourcing. The weird wall that builds up between the two companies causes IT progress to slow to a crawl. One side is trying to get away with as little work as they can for maximum cost, and the other is trying to minimize cost by refusing to pay higher rates for better service. This is always a recipe for disaster unless the company involved really has no interest in IT investment and just needs to keep the lights on.

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Hey you – minion. Yes, IT dudes and dudettes, they're talking to you

Erik4872
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Re: But how can you become an effective Architect

"But how can you become an effective Architect if you haven't first been an Administrator?"

Yes, this is the killer. Entry level positions need to be available in the field. People don't just wake up and become systems architects. It takes a lot of experience, hopefully in diverse environments, to get the exposure you need to make smart choices that aren't just "well, Gartner says these guys are good..."

"And as for Administrator jobs becoming redundant, not while my co-workers refuse to write anything down and hold it in their heads instead."

Totally agree, but I've seen many situations in my career where people didn't document anything for "job security." They've been laid off like anyone else, and it's fallen to the ones left behind to very carefully probe around and solve the puzzle. Terry Childs comes to mind, as does my own personal experience with the "network BOFH" who built a huge enterprise network by himself and failed to document anything. Getting rid of him meant a huge spend on network consultants, but he was gotten rid of all the same and the company paid the fees to get their network back.

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Erik4872
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Agree somewhat, but don't call it "architect."

I've been in systems admin and engineering for almost 20 years. Most of your article is very much correct, but please don't call the smart people "architects." I've been anointed an architect because of my company's rigid promotion hierarchy and partly because that's what IT calls its smart guys. [1] Honestly, the term is so badly misused. Most "architects" I know and interact with spend their days reading Gartner reports and drawing pretty Visio pictures, and are disconnected from day-to-day real world stuff. These are the guys who come in from the consultancy down the road and foist the latest best practices document on an unsuspecting audience of executives. I end up having to deconstruct a lot of these presentations and often force-fitting whatever pile of garbage the execs got sold into a working environment. Maybe we should reserve the term "systems engineer" for the top smart person role and leave the "architect" job off in some fluffy cloud bubble somewhere because of the connotation.

I've said before that the people who are going to survive the next wave of IT cuts and still get paid reasonably well are generalists. It's going to be much more about connecting third party services and making then work as reliably as the stuff the company hosted in a data center. That requires a lot of "systems thinking" and the ability to troubleshoot quickly and efficiently on systems you don't necessarily have full control over.

I'm already seeing this manifest itself -- the latest generation of storage provides "good enough" performance without a storage wizard turning the dials in many cases. The server OS vendors are increasingly moving towards containerization, microservices and cloud hosting. Anyone whose sole job is in that minion category, just closing support tickets all day, is going to have to learn a lot more to keep getting paid the big money. Even if enterprises don't adopt the cloud in huge numbers, this will still be true. I'm working on a big new development project in Azure, and honestly the developers have absolutely no idea how complex it's going to be from a systems standpoint. I don't have to build pieces of kit anymore, or implement a massive hardware cluster, but I do need to make sure the application's components function in someone else's data center. The complexity is still there; the basics are taken care of but that's it!

[1] Don't take "smart guys" as self-promotion. I know full well I don't know everything and when I should be talking to someone who does.

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Inter-bank system SWIFT on security? User manual needs 'revamp’

Erik4872
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Purpose-built systems are never secure

I work for a company that's similar to SWIFT and maintains a very critical set of systems worldwide that perform...a useful function, let's call it. To say I'm not shocked that SWIFT is vulnerable is an understatement.

Truth is, any vertical, "closed" purpose built system built before the late 2000s isn't secure, and I'll bet a lot after that aren't either. Computers connected to systems like this are considered unreachable even in cases where the machine also has Internet access, for example. Until a few years ago, that was a safe assumption. Systems in networks like these are trusted, their requests aren't validated because it's assumed that there's no way to generate the appropriate messages in a non-official manner.

It's very interesting that international wire transfer is such a trusting system. You send a wire request, and it's just like handing a bag of cash over to the other party with very few checks in place. Attacks on systems like this are going to gain in popularity, simply because they're easy lucrative targets.

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Lending Club CEO booted out for dodgy deals

Erik4872
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Web 3.0 disruption bubble...

Uber, etc. are riding this disruption wave too -- basically, do an end run around regulations and build a business based on the fact that you can be cheaper than companies that need to follow the "old school rules." It reminds me of the dotcom boom where startup CEOs were saying the old rules no longer matter regarding profit & loss, sticky eyeballs were currency and they would make it up in volume.

I'm guessing, at least here in the US, that part of this love of disruption is the Libertarian leanings of many techies. Most people who call themselves libertarians think that any rule, regulation or government agency that sets rules is a roadblock to the free enterprise system and needs to be destroyed. I'm not a fan of regulation for the sake of regulation, but I do feel that a completely lawless "free market" will never work for everyone. It would be great for the business owners, but bad for consumers.

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Woman charged with blowing AU$4.6m overdraft on 'a lot of handbags'

Erik4872
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Question from a Murican...

What's a bank overdraft? It sounds like it's a little more than the "overdraft protection" we have on bank accounts. Indeed, it sounds like a massive line of credit.

Here, if you have overdraft protection, the bank either fronts you money for an enormous interest rate (but still less than bouncing a check) or transfers money from your savings if you have any. It's generally not a good thing to run your checking account in the negative for too long because the interest adds up. Is that not the case in the UK/Australia? When you get paid, do you just reduce the negative balance but forever owe to the bank?

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Opower, my power: Oracle spends $532m to get some utilities cloud, er, power

Erik4872
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Oracle's buying an IoT Cloud

Seems like Oracle's trying to build out a cloud with all the applications pre-written. I guess this makes sense, because most enterprise IT people I know are avoiding Oracle as much as they can these days. That means that their cloud is going to only sell to the Oracle True Believers out there, of which there are fewer as of late.

It's a good strategy, in that they will become the toll bridge for the IoT in sectors that they cover. Smart meters are a perfect target, because power companies are most likely dependent on Oracle's enterprise software stack.

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Reskilling to become a devops dude could net you $105k+

Erik4872
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It is a big shift for many IT folks

Think about the traditional split between development and systems work. Both have their share of very deep specialist knowledge and siloing, but it usually breaks down like this:

- Developers write code on their own machine or VM, package it up and send it to the systems guys to implement, not knowing or caring how the code operates on real (virtual) production hardware.

- Ops guys are typically developers of automation tools, and that's pretty much it. They focus on keeping the tower of messy stuff developers write functioning.

Now that traditional hardware is being abstracted away, it seems to me that these groups need to meet somewhere in the middle. There's going to be either less work for hardware or data center experts, or it will move to service providers who will squeeze salaries to make their margins work. Similarly, developers will have to learn a little bit about the systems their stuff has to run on to remain useful in the world of offshoring and H-1B replacements of staff. The salary squeeze is definitely happening at both ends, and cloud seems to be the driver. Developers aren't commanding massive salaries anymore for knowledge of a small set of web frameworks (except in startup-land) but developers with a broad base of knowledge will always do well. Similarly, the "EMC guy" or "Cisco guy" or "Windows Server guy" is seeing less of a premium for extremely narrow sets of skills.

I definitely see less of a role for deep specialists on the systems side with software-defined everything coming down the line for most environments. The thing that has to calm down is the hype around DevOps. There are so many tools, frameworks, orchestration layers, ALM products, etc, and so much breathless chatter about it that the core message sometimes gets lost.

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Unisys releases its ClearPath MCP OS for VMs or x86

Erik4872
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Neat, but how useful is this?

I know Unisys has a big niche in airlines and government systems, but that's just it - it's a niche. I think the interesting thing is that they're giving up the proprietary hardware. I think IBM's the only one left building their own stuff from scratch to run a proprietary OS:

- NonStop is migrating to Intel

- HP Itanium hardware is nearly done, being replaced with RAS-able x86 boxes

- HP-UX and OpenVMS are being ported to Intel x86

I wonder how many people are going to actually pick this up and run with it. (I'm checking it out as I'm an obscure OS geek.) It's not like anyone is writing new greenfield Unisys applications anymore.

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Microsoft lures IT pros with breadcrumb trail of candy to its cloud

Erik4872
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Azure needs to be explained better for IT pros

I'm an "IT Pro" as far as Microsoft is concerned -- I'm a systems engineer/architect who basically designs infrastructure requirements for new projects, automates stuff, builds things, and fixes broken things. I wear lots of hats, but I'm definitely not a "software developer" in the traditional sense of the word. It's the classic struggle played out in a new environment -- developers want to deploy on command to inexhaustible magic hardware resources, and the systems guys want to maintain some sort of order. I'm the one trying to pull our development managers away from the huge vat of vendor Kool-Aid and explaining to them that "cloud" doesn't mean you can just abandon any sort of operational discipline. I'm doing a huge Azure-based project design now, and it's a big learning curve to design a real-world, secure cloud system, but the developers are being told everything is push-button easy.

Microsoft specifically, and cloud vendors in general, need to do the following to bring "IT Pros" on board:

- Make systems-focused documentation available in parallel to developer-focused documentation. It's very frustrating having to find random blogs on how to do traditional infrastructure tasks like network plumbing, while the dev side is just told "all you need to do is push the Deploy to Azure button in Visual Studio."

- Describe in better terms how all the Azure services map to real world on-site systems. (I'm thinking of writing a book or at least a blog series on this, once I figure it all out, because no one has.)

- Start transitioning traditional sysadmins away from caring for servers to caring for millions of little pieces of code running "somewhere." That's a huge leap, and one some of my colleagues are having trouble making.

I think what Microsoft is doing is a good start. Especially in the crappy work environments that are commonplace, training is nonexistent, so you need at least reasonable free access to software and services if you expect people to come along for the ride.

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Job ad promises 'Meaningless Repetitive Work on the .NET Stack'

Erik4872
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Refreshingly honest

There is sometimes no getting around the fact that not all jobs are writing AI algorithms for Google self-driving cars, or designing the next iPhone. I've worked for a lot of organizations like that who maintain systems that simply need to _exist_ for critical things to continue working. It's boring, there's decades of legacy technology and software, and these jobs require people who can tune out the buzzwords and just keep the ship running.

I actually find this a refreshing change from ads that tout any or all of:

"fast paced" (80 hour weeks minimum)

"cutting edge" (developers dumping barely-working software to production, Framework Of the Month Club)

"collaborative environment" (anyone over 30 need not apply)

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Intel bins ESXi in in-house private cloud revamp

Erik4872
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Re: One good product

I think the decline really started taking off when Microsoft baked Hyper-V into Windows Server for free. It still doesn't have all the features that ESXi does, but it's good enough for most applications and getting more capable. And with native Linux support, there's now very little reason to pay VMWare for VSphere in most small environments.

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French thrash Brits, Germans and Portuguese in IT innovation

Erik4872
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The DevOps fad...lots of fun!

It follows that DevOps is going to be the new fad technology to chase. We've spent the last 10 years building up the Social Mobile Agile 2.0 Bubble and have millions of apps whose back-ends need to be looked after. I think the concept is great - sysadmins should know a little about development, and developers should know way more than they do about how their products work in real world systems. What's going to cause people to lose the plot is the millions of tools, frameworks and "single panes of glass" cooked up by these new ops "innovators." I think a lot of this stuff is going to end up shelfware after the hangover wears off.

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Cyber-security pro? Forget GCHQ, BT wants to hire 900 of you

Erik4872
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Question is what they will get...

It's probably the cynic in me talking again, but my experience with "infosec experts" has been pretty mixed. I assume they're looking for actual talent. My experiences have been that some security people are simply there for security theatre -- PowerPoint jockeys from consulting firms, PCI auditor box-tickers, and so on. I don't blame them, security is a very lucrative IT subspecialty that's very easy to ride along on without doing too much.

If they (and GCHQ and the CIA/NSA) are looking for real experts, that's going to be the tricky part. The real experts aren't cheap, and most of them don't want to work for a telecom company or government agency. Especially the CIA/NSA -- someone would really have to love their country to accept the low pay and invasive background checks required. Then again, government positions may be the only stable jobs left 10 years from now, who knows?

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Microsoft: We have a bullet ready for 12 competencies

Erik4872
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Not surprising

These aren't technical certifications per se, they're sales and marketing competencies. As in, this partner has been fed enough sales content and has enough experience to effectively sell Technology X. I think they're just not bothering to continue actively supporting non-Azure deployments of various technologies. After all, if a technology is available in Azure as a purchasable service, there's no reason for Microsoft to help channel partners sell it when they can collect the money directly.

The next few years are going to be interesting for Microsoft. It's very obvious that they're done selling one off software licenses by default. They definitely prefer the lock-in of permanent revenue streams renting capacity in Azure. Some companies will never fully migrate to the cloud, but the resistance is getting less and less each year. That's going to mean interesting times for hardware vendors as well, who will end up mostly selling to cloud providers.

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India continues subsidising elite IT schools

Erik4872
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It's the public version of the Ivy League ticket

Here in the US, we have an equivalent setup with the Ivy League universities. Thousands and thousands of students (and their parents) go to extreme lengths to get into these schools for one simple reason -- getting into and graduating from one is almost a guaranteed ticket to success. Either you will make connections with kids of some of the richest people in the country, and/or you will be recruited for incredibly lucrative positions in law, medicine, investment banking or management consulting. In particular, all the banks and white shoe consulting firms recruit exclusively from the Ivy League for the best positions. Wealthier parents will pay private school tuition fees from preschool on with the implicit promise that their kid will be qualified to get into the Ivy League later.

We also have a public higher education system (which I went through.) If you go to a good state university with good programs, and have a little bit of motivation, you'll do OK. The experience is a little different - I'd liken it to dealing with a state agency in many respects, but that teaches you something too. My private school graduate colleagues have told me that once you're in an elite institution, they basically make it very difficult to fail after that; you get tons of support. At the big state U. I went to, no one really cared if you passed or failed as they were dealing in volume.

The indian example of the IITs is a preview for what could happen in the near future as good jobs become more scarce. In India's case, the income inequality there means that getting into an IIT is like winning the lottery in terms of success; the alternative is a life of grinding poverty.

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SQL injection vuln found at Panama Papers firm Mossack Fonseca

Erik4872
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Proof that most companies have no clue about security

This is interesting because I assumed that law firms handling extremely sensitive offshore tax haven creations for the richest people in the world would be super-paranoid about security. But, it's not surprising -- every industry I've encountered that I've assumed is at least security-aware actually isn't.

It's a good lesson though -- never put anything Internet-facing anywhere near your internal network. These days, it's easy to host the public stuff in a public cloud so you can control the entry points more closely. Also, relying on third-party plugins and frameworks for core development can be dangerous if your admins aren't being diligent about patching every component as soon as the patches appear. Just last week we saw the issue with the left_pad JavaScript function being pulled -- it goes to show you how many developers are relying directly on third parties for core functionality, and in some cases not even bothering to take a local copy of the dependencies!

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This year's H-1B visa lottery jammed full in just six days

Erik4872
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Time for a modern IT professional organization.

The root problem isn't the visa program itself - it's the loopholes that Infosys, Cognizant, IBM, HP, Accenture, Xerox and all the other outsourcers use. The company is sold an outsourcing contract where the outsourcer promises to take over the entire IT operation. All the "expensive" IT workers are sent to the outsourcer, who then swaps in replacement H-1B staff, and fires the former company IT guys after the replacements are trained. As part of the deal, the company gets to pull a "Pontias Pilate" and wash their hands of the workers with no direct involvement. The company can point to the outsourcer and say "We have no idea how they provide services to us, nor are we in a position to tell them how."

This is the loophole that needs to be closed. As it is, you're taking, say, a DBA or developer making $100K and simply swapping them with a $30K version. This is why the offshore houses snap up all the visas available. Any tech company that tries to buck that trend is going to get killed in the cost department, so I see why they do it. But, this is an example of an obvious unintended consequence based on lawmakers not knowing what's involved in technical work.

I think the only long term fix is to come up with an IT professional organization (not union) with some teeth and a loose set of practice standards. They can then go and lobby (read: bribe) Congress and get the loophole closed for everybody at once, so that no tech company has an unfair advantage.

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Storage admins.... they'll take your jobs

Erik4872
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Long live the generalist?

I don't think it's just storage. Like the article mentions, the dedicated, deep-knowledge server admin is going away as well. Part of this is automation -- tools like Chef/Puppet on the Linux side and PowerShell DSC on the Windows side are making it incredibly easy to stand up environments. The other part for the hardware and infrastructure nerds (like me!) is the cloud. I'm currently working on a project that's 100% in Azure, and it's a huge leap going from physical hypervisor hosts to hardware you can't see or touch. It's just as complex, but in a different way -- now you have to design your system to stand up to an environment that you don't control the downtime on, plus wade through all the marketing hype and figure out how things are actually accomplished.

I think the long term answer is to do everything you can to stay a generalist. I've worked almost exclusively for big companies that had the storage silo, the network silo and the server silo. Colleagues of mine have invested years of their lives learning the ins and outs of, say, VMWare or EMC or Citrix to the exclusion of all else. It's very easy to get trapped, because once you're the expert on a particular system everyone wants your knowledge...until they don't need it anymore!! My plan has been to get involved with a little bit of everything, and that has landed me in a systems architecture role. I do end user stuff, servers, storage, enough networking to survive, you name it. My next move is basically to become a platform-agnostic automation guru, because that's definitely where things are headed. Sysadmins for the most part will be taking care of thousands of machines and aren't going to be able to do it with manual changes.

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Your pointy-haired boss 'bought a cloud' with his credit card. Now what?

Erik4872
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Re: I see your " IT by magazine" and raise it ...

"IT by inflight magazine"

Oh yes, I've had to respond to many a sent-from-the-road email asking why we don't have big data analytics in the cloud. I really wish they'd focus more on the ads for the executive dating services.

Flying from time to time, I've also thumbed through these magazines. It's amazing how many companies place "infotisement" articles, and it's no wonder why things like Salesforce et al became so popular. At the same time, the choice of advertisers and the nature of the content set an interesting vibe. I can just picture a middle-aged sales executive in a suit settling in to his 90th flight segment of the year as the target audience. Not being in sales, I'm not sure how relevant this stereotype is anymore...how many sales guys these days are like the guys you used to see at trade conferences when that was the only way to learn about a product?

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IT freely, a true tale: One night a project saved my life

Erik4872
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Not sure if HR is the best choice of confidant...

At least here in the US, where there are very few worker protections, HR is not tasked with making sure you're happy. Their primary goal outside of basic payroll/benefits functions is to reduce the company's liability caused by their employees. I'd liken it to having to call the police to resolve a problem -- once the police are involved, the situation is typically so bad that you can't recover from it easily. Police are just going to sort it out the best they can, and someone will (figuratively) "go to jail" to resolve it. I've never had anyone I know who went to HR for a problem not regret it later. This is especailly true for some friends I've known in long-service government jobs where they're basically stuck with the same manager they've had a dispute with for their entire tenure.

I'd say the best choice, if you can manage to do so, is to find a new workplace. That's not an easy thing always -- I have a family and am not about to move across the country for a job that may or may not be stable, for example. When you stay somewhere you're miserable, everyone has to deal with it.

There's no doubt that stress in IT is real, and it takes many forms. Some workplaces are constantly in layoff mode and threatening the staff with that blunt weapon. Some work you to death. Some are just so backwards and clueless that it drives the clueful crazy. My personal way of dealing with it has been to continuously remind myself that it's only a job. You'd be surprised how many people forget that and let it eat them up inside!

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DevOps, huh? Show me the money. Show me the MONAY!

Erik4872
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High salaries? Likely not...

DevOps is a culture shift, but it's also a role shift. It's a way to allow a company to not pay for operations staff, while simultaneously allowing their developers to pump out releases faster than the traditional ops cycles would allow. It's true that traditional badly run IT operations groups are an impediment to getting anything done. However, DevOps' promise is allowing developers to safely roll stuff out. The reality is that people who understand _both_ coding and the systems their code runs on are very hard to find in the same person. I know developers who can't even take care of their own PCs, and I know systems admins (not very good ones) who can't throw together scripts to automate tasks.

Do I think it's a buzzword or fad? Partially...no doubt there are lots of high-dollar consultancies, books authored and conferences based on it. I guarantee there are tons of magic wand wavers out there selling their services to CIOs for massive sums. But -- as companies start either moving their stuff to public clouds or making their traditional data centers look more like public clouds, I think there will be less of a line between the pure developer who throws code over the wall and the pure sysadmin who mounts the blobs provided by developers on the appropriate server. There has to be some crossover. I just wish I didn't have to call myself a "DevOps Specialist" or provide my skills "as-a-service" to be heard.

Will there be high salaries? Not likely. Whether you're a "rockstar" dev or a "guru" systems guy, the long term trend is downward. There's offshoring, outsourcing, commoditization, the shift to public cloud, and all sorts of other factors. I don't think it's going to turn into a minimum wage job, but it's sure going to look different. People in the US and Europe who work for big companies are just going to be driving a team of thousands of random offshore people or brokering requests between cloud providers. People who work for small companies are just going to wear all the hats, all the time, for less money. That said, the short term payoff for being a PowerPoint jockey at one of the DevOps consultancies or writing yet another wrapper tool will be high until the dust settles down and business as usual commences.

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Feds raid 'extortionist' IT security biz Tiversa, CEO put on leave

Erik4872
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"IT Security" firms are interesting

Every audit I've ever seen from one of these "IT Security" firms reads like it came from a protection racket. "Nice infrastructure you have there, it'd be a shame if something happened to it..." Speaking as someone in the trenches, I have been asked to review their "reports" after they preyed on the clueless CIO and made him pay ungodly sums for their services. The truth is that security on an open set of systems is complex. Execs and standards bodies love their little checklists, but you'll never be safe from the idiot employee who clicks the link in their email for a cat video and gets malware.

I would be quite happy replacing the security snake oil salesmen (and other snake oil salesmen) with a professional licensure environment for IT. Security breaches would be punishable by something other than losing your job, then doctoring your resume and moving on. Companies who refuse to listen to security advice would face more than just a year of free "credit monitoring" for every customer. Of course, this will never happen but I can dream...

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Michigan shooter says 'mind controlling' Uber app told him to kill

Erik4872
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That's pretty sad

The cynic in me wonders if the guy's lawyer is trying to gain a little anti-Uber publicity to distract people from the core issue. That said, mental illness is really sad. It must really suck to lose control of your brain.

One thing I'm hoping will start swinging the other direction is the removal of state support for the mentally ill in the US. It seems to me like the second it was no longer imperative that dangerous mentally ill people be locked up, and could be controlled by drugs, the reaction was to close down all the mental hospitals. I'm just not sure why a smaller mental health system with some inpatient components couldn't be put in place to be an alternative to cycling in and out of prison or homelessness. True, there was patient abuse back in the bad old days when anyone could be permanently committed for any abnormal behavior, but why not treat it like a disease?

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Hey Windows 10, weren't you supposed to help PC sales?

Erik4872
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PCs aren't dead in their niche

Traditional PC makers are in a bad spot. Most people are fine with tablets and phones for content consumption now, and PCs are lasting longer and longer these days because there's just so much processing power and speed with SSDs, etc.

That doesn't mean there is not a strong market for PCs within their segment. If manufacturers would stop focusing on trying to wring out margin on $300 garbage consumer PCs sold at Best Buy, they'd find there's money to be made at the high end. I'm personally considering replacing my home workstation after a long stretch, and I'm certainly willing to spend money on quality systems. Lenovo makes a nice line of workstations, along with capable midrange corporate PCs, but they also make a line of consumer junk.

These manufacturers would be fine if they abandoned the consumer market and aimed a little higher.

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Met Police hands £250m to CSC in IT outsourcing carve-up

Erik4872
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When in MBA school do they teach them this saves money?

It amazes me that outsourcers can continue pulling this same set of tricks over and over again. You would think businesses and government agencies would have caught on by now.

It's always more expensive in the long run, it usually results in lower levels of service, and people still continue to think it's the magic cure for all IT ills.

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Solution to tech bros' disgust of SF homeless people launched

Erik4872
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Is it already April 1?

Very funny guys, and it even uses the social media bubble meme of dropping the "e" from the end of the product name ("cleaner" becomes "cleanr", instant marketing genius; here's a $150K salary!) So if the cloud service powering this real time reality distortion field goes down, is there a local backup to at least filter out the "yuck" category? :-)

I never thought anything would top the dotcom bubble for sheer ridiculousness of startup executive personalities. I'm wrong! 24 year old CEOs with way too much money make for very entertaining stories.

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Terrified robots will take middle class jobs? Look in a mirror

Erik4872
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I'm more worried about stability of society than displacement.

I'm a little concerned about what's going to happen if pretty much every middle class job gets eliminated. Mechanization of agriculture pushed people into industrial jobs. Automation of industry pushed people into corporate jobs. Automation and offshoring of corporate jobs is pushing the lower-end people into crappy service jobs. Unless the next step is for all of us to become international YouTube celebrities or something, the entire model is going to have to change. There just isn't another place to go this time around.

I've worked for big companies doing IT for almost 20 years now. Big companies used to have thousands of people paid middle class salaries to do things like answer correspondence, type memos, etc. when those things couldn't be automated. There are still a good number of jobs that involve taking an input stack of paperwork, performing some sort of process on it, and sending it to the next person in line. And people are paid decent money for that. People buy houses, cars, other toys, and have children based on the idea that they will have some way to support them. Your average megacorporation has a headquarters that can span multiple full size office buildings, and you can bet that not everyone is an IT wizard or executive.

So I'm not fearful of change; I'll adapt if I have to. I am worried that there will be no way to adapt and still have a comfortable life.

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Permies sitting pretty as fifth of contractors see rates cut

Erik4872
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Contractor rates are insane, so this isn't surprising

Because of the way the accounting works out, companies happily spend multiples of a permanent employees' fully loaded cost on contractors. I work with people doing the exact same kind of work I am for 150 USD/hour -- or at least that's what their "consulting" company bills them out at. The big difference is that the company can just tell the contractor to disappear that day if they decide to. Firing permanent people in the US is very easy too, but it is still difficult and companies love to reduce difficulties like severance, etc.

It seems like contractors, at least the technical ones, get work on a lot more things, but the downside is the instability. Those $150/hr rates are nice, but you have to be constantly chasing them. Also, it's not family- or life-outside-of-work-friendly. Unless someone gets really lucky, getting top rates as a contractor requires travelling around the country constantly; again, I know someone who bills at crazy rates, but the downside is 40+ weeks of business travel a year.

I also wonder if this includes the PowerPoint jockeys from the various management consulting firms. The compensation system in that realm is another parallel reality compared to straight technical resources.

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IT's Holy Grail, but is DevOps a Poisoned Chalice for sysadmins?

Erik4872
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It cuts at both ends of the spectrum

As has been mentioned, bad sysadmins don't do anything differently from the way they did 20 years ago, and don't automate things as a general rule. That's the low end of the spectrum. At the other end are the wizards and greybeards of systems -- the "specialists." Both are being squeezed in this brave new world. Specialists have extreme domain-specific knowledge on a narrow range of products -- SANs, Cisco network gear, VMWare, management tools -- and contribute to the silos in enterprise IT. Vendors don't help either, making their products specifically hard to work with unless you invest time to gain that extreme level of knowledge.

I still think there's room for qualified generalists in the middle who would more easily be able to make the leap. I know a few bad sysadmins who are very worried. I also know a few wizards. For example, the Citrix wizard is getting a little worried now that Terminal Services is getting better and more client apps are HTML5 based. The Cisco savant is starting to see SDN encroaching on his world. I've always been kind of an end-to-end guy when it comes to sysadmin work, so hopefully I'll be able to make the move when and if it does come around. Who knows, it could all be a fad, but in this world of cost cutting and offshoring, I'm assuming it isn't.

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Private clouds kinda suck, you know?

Erik4872
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It's relabelling but with a twist

Think of all the work required to get an older enterprisey three-tier application up and running in a big company on physical infrastructure:

- Architecture and design phase, all following billions of pages of "best practice" bought from some consulting firm (weeks)

- Hardware specification and procurement (often takes weeks/months)

- Data center planning (usually a couple weeks to secure a few U of rack space)

- Network planning (switches, switchports, VLAN assignments, IP address assignments, firewalls)

- Storage planning (LUNs required, backup strategy, fibre channel cards and zoning if you're real oldschool)

- DBA planning (sizing, backups, selection of software)

- OS and software licensing and procurement

- Hardware reception, rack and stack

- Network team configurations

- Storage configurations

- Bickering back and forth between network, storage, DBA and infrastructure teams during integration

- OS install

- DBA wizardry

- And finally, the enterprisey app install

The difference between this and virtualization is the ability to cut out the procurement phase assuming capacity exists. This is the VMWare virtual infrastructure phase, making server deployments less painful.

The next leap for older-school enterprises is rebuilding their apps to be more cloudy, using web services and the like. This is going to be the bigger leap that makes it easier to decouple from some of the siloed IT departments. Of course, the complexity doesn't go away, but it does get abstracted.

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For sale: One 236-bed nuclear bunker

Erik4872
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Interesting

Looking back on the Cold War era, it's pretty amazing to see facilities like this. The assumption that anyone important could get to them in time seems quite absurd. You would need to start moving everyone at the first sign of a potential launch. That, and it would have to be maintained 24/7 to be fully ready. I can't imagine how much that cost.

There was a very famous bunker in West Virginia that was decommissioned after the location was leaked, but it was built into the basement of a luxury mountain hotel. Getting even a few key people out of Washington DC and all the way across Virginia in the middle of a panic, even in military helicopters wouldn't seem to be possible to me.

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Lincolnshire council shuts down all IT after alleged 0-day breach

Erik4872
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Re: WTF?

"Where were they browsing??"

Idle hands... :-) I'm only half kidding, and it's not just a government thing. I post on The Reg and the like while I'm trying to solve a problem or wait for something to finish. There are some people in large companies (and local councils also) who do very little beyond manning a desk for the entire day. I think God that I've never had to manage the internet connection at some of the places I've worked, but I've heard many stories.

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Erik4872
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Cryptolocker strikes again??

The worst thing that has happened recently to places that have no IT, or awful contracted IT, is Cryptolocker and the like. It's the perfect storm of users demanding to be administrators, looking for dodgy Internet content and never backing up their stuff. It may have been a zero day breach, or it may have been an "Oh crap, shut everything off before the entire file server gets encrypted!"

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China has a chip to fry with y'all: Wants its own chip smarts and fabs

Erik4872
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Interesting times

Everyone loves to talk about US government corporate welfare, but China kind of takes it to a new level. We'll see how long it takes to go from "we want a chip fab and semiconductor manufacturer" to "People's Semiconductor buys Intel _and_ AMD on same day in $10 trillion mega-merger!" That would get around that "change of control" clause in AMD's x86 license.

The big difference seems to be that Chinese industry is much more aligned with state policy, which makes sense in their system. From an outsider looking in, it's pretty amazing how quickly resources are diverted to projects deemed critical. Very different from the US federal government being unable to channel highway refurbishment funds to avoid the occasional collapsing bridge...

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Microsoft struggles against self-inflicted Office 365 IMAP outage

Erik4872
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Is part of the problem all that abstraction?

Every new project I've been involved in is many, many layers divorced from the real software, OS and hardware that it runs on. Is it possible that there's so much high-level stuff involved in Azure that directly managing each O365 customer as a discrete Exchange instance isn't really possible anymore? They mention a failed update, but you would think an update to Exchange could be rolled back. Unless that update had a knock-on effect to other software-defined stuff for that customer, that is...

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Oracle blurts Google's Android secrets in court: You made $22bn using Java, punk

Erik4872
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Standard Oracle practice

Why do you think everyone who can is abandoning Solaris? Or Oracle's version of MySQL? Or Oracle's database and software platforms for that matter? When Oracle bought Sun, I knew that was pretty much going to be the end of new Solaris deployments, and that's exactly what's happening. The problem is that Oracle never gives anything away long-term; eventually they will take it back if they see a way to do so.

Oracle is doing the same thing with Java -- they're now changing the licensing of the runtime environment for customers who use it directly in certain embedded devices -- it used to be a free platform, still is for most uses, and that's why software was written in it, CS programs are based around it, etc. I know a few embedded device manufacturers who are taking the painful step to move years of Java code onto something else just so they don't have the uncertainty of having to suddenly pay millions of dollars when Oracle comes to collect license fees.

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Hortonworks shares plunge 22% after secondary IPO news

Erik4872
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Most people aren't ready for Big Data yet

Outside of the Internet startup bubble, Big Data is still a pretty hard sell. Even businesses with high transaction volumes have a pretty good handle on analytics, and frankly have been sold management consultant snake oil for ages. In startup-land, the draw is the fact that the only way some of them can make money is mining and monetizing customer interaction data.

I'm not saying big data is useless, but the breathless consultant hype has to die down and people need to understand what it really offers them.

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Microsoft herds biz users to Windows 10 by denying support for Win 7 and 8 on new CPUs

Erik4872
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Big shift for enterprise customers!

I work in "enterprise" end user computing. For those unaware. the typical desktop OS and hardware lifecycle is like this:

- OS images and software packages are certified and used for as long as possible. Sometimes this can be for a very long time if applications require an OS or hardware feature that gets dropped or changed.

- Enterprise desktop and laptop hardware from the Big 3 (HP, Lenovo, Dell) is on an 18-month sales cycle.

- Enterprise desktops are on a very conservative update track compared to consumer machines. Often, this is because they're sold into places that still need legacy stuff like serial ports, full BIOS emulation, and the ability to run very old OSes (even if the vendor doesn't explicitly support it.)

- Because of this, the progression usually is:

- Intel/AMD comes out with whizzy new architecture

- Enterprise desktops are released pretty far into the architecture cycle, and sometimes skip the "tick-tock" architecture change and opt for the die-shrunk version of the chip.

- New models are released with some overlap of the old ones to ensure companies have time to make sure all their applications work on the new hardware.

This announcement from Microsoft is a big shift. They're basically saying that anything you buy after a certain date will not be able to run supported Windows 7. I don't know what they're planning to tie this to, but it basically sets an expiration date for Win7 even for the most conservative Windows shops.

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Erik4872
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Re: I just don't get the Windows 10 hate

I'm not in the camp of breathless "Windows 10 is malware!" people, but the truth is that Microsoft is making It very difficult for average users to use their PCs in non-smartphone mode. Their justification seems to be that people are fine with Apple and Android phones phoning home, and it's pretty obvious that Microsoft wants to turn end user platforms into phone-style terminals. It does take a lot of work, and it's a moving target, but it is possible to disable almost all of the communication.

I think Microsoft did a decent job fixing up Windows 8.1, and I'm no longer using 7 personally. But, I work in an environment that will be very slow to update from 7 due to a lot of legacy code. And when we're talking legacy, we're talking un-replaceable 16-bit code in some cases. Big businesses have stuff like this, and it'll take something like cutting off support to get them fixed; that's just real life.

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NY to Charter: Sure, we'll approve that TWC merger, if you boost our broadband speeds

Erik4872
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Proof will be in the execution

Having grown up in the upstate (non-NYC) portion of New York, all I can say is "good luck with that." For those who are unaware, the upstate and downstate parts of NY are 2 different worlds. Upstate NY is very thinly populated in some places, and economically depressed in many others. Getting working, reliable 100 Mbps broadband to some of the little villages in the Adirondacks is going to be a challenge, let alone 300 Mbps. And the economics of providing broadband upgrades to decent-sized cities that are losing population and lacking people willing to pay for it is also going to be interesting.

I imagine it will work for metro NYC (and maybe Albany.) The contract probably specifies "average aggregate bandwidth" or some other clause to get them out of properly lighting up every single hamlet. At least it's cable, so it's a little easier than providing wireline DSL service.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook was paid more than $28,000 a day in 2015

Erik4872
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A lot of this is reciprocal board membership

"Compensation Committee" indeed. The issue with large company boards is that their directors are also directors of other large companies and vice versa. Board members set the rules, so it's not surprising that they would help each other out to ensure their goals are quite attainable. Apple is in a position right now of being the gatekeeper for massive amounts of app and media purchases on their already high-margin devices, ensuring they can collect a toll for as long as people want to keep buying media and apps. So, I don't expect them to be in trouble any time soon.

It's the executive version of the same game most large company workers have to pay to get a bonus payout. I'm not sure which consultancy came up with it, but I've worked for 3 employers now who use the "trigger, on-target, max" SMART objective thing. I'm sure the rules for the executives are much easier to follow along with.

Hopefully he'll be like many multibillionaires and try to do something good with all that excess money even before he dies.

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The designer of the IBM ThinkPad has died

Erik4872
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Lenovo's latest ThinkPad design did him in. :-)

Oh well, hopefully the clean ThinkPad design will come back in a "retro" phase 10 or 20 years from now.

I think I'm one of a dying breed that likes the boring, functional ThinkPad design. It would be interesting to see what happened if Lenovo licensed the design to a third party and let them keep making similar machines while they set their sights on copying Apple some more. (Lexmark did this when they stopped manufacturing IBM Model M keyboards (the clicky ones) and you can still buy them from the new manufacturer at pckeyboard.com.)

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HPE's London boozer dubbed the 'Hewlett You Inn?'

Erik4872
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Is the company bar a European thing?

Being from the US, I was a little confused when I saw this. HPE is actually building and running a bar? For employees or customers?

I know companies rent "hospitality suites" at trade show hotels to provide the traditional "hookers-n-blow" to their CxO customers, but I've never heard of a company operating a full time booze joint. Those suites are usually pop up locations.

(The name is awesome BTW)

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