* Posts by Erik4872

196 posts • joined 11 Jan 2011

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Amazon putting London’s hipster startups in the loft

Erik4872
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Just cashing in on Bubble 2.0

Back in the 90s, most of these cloud-based startups would have had to put up lots of cash to build out or colocate in a data center. For us regular geeks, when that bubble popped, we had our choice of horrendously expensive equipment, Aeron chairs, etc. for pennies on the dollar. Now Amazon, Microsoft, etc. are going to have all that gear and it'll be all for naught. The public cloud is also allowing these startups to last longer than they normally would have, given they only have to pay monthly for their usage.

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Intel workforce diversity report throws up a bunch of 'unknowns'

Erik4872
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Wonder how much longer this will be a problem

One of the secrets that are kept from new engineering students is the tendency of the profession to grind down new hires and spit them out when they're "too old." It doesn't happen everywhere, and high-end chip designers, EEs, etc. may be less affected than run of the mill techies. But, now that this fact is starting to become common knoweldge, wouldn't it make sense that fewer smart people of any race are enthusiastically embracing an engineering job? If you want to get qualified candidates, as well as a diverse workforce, the perception of engineering as a dead end, easily offshorable, unstable career choice needs to go away. Combine that with improving education before college, and you should have a healthy crop of eager new grads willing to work in what is quite honestly still a very interesting field.

The last financial bubble showed that financial firms siphon away a lot of top technical people to work on HFT and other projects. For those who like a stable career, medicine is also available to smart people. If I were 18 again, I'm not sure I would consider the effort of an engineering degree if I could just go get an MBA, or any of the other paths to riches.

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Oracle pulls CSO's BONKERS anti-bug bounty and infosec rant

Erik4872
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She's not going to win any friends like that...

This was a very unprofessional post from the CSO. You'd expect something like this from a kid who thinks they know everything. I guess Larry likes to hire corporate officers that share his personality.

That said, I do wonder how many of Oracle's incoming reports are submitted by kids running exploit hunting kits they download on the Internet and don't understand the output of. Hiding behind the license agreement isn't an acceptable answer, for the record, but I imagine that reports like this can get tiresome. I know the security research field has grown up slightly, but I often see examples of "researchers" trying to make names for themselves by showing more than a little hubris.

I'm sure Microsoft, Cisco, etc. have boilerplate text somewhere in their agreements preventing reverse engineering as well. That doesn't mean it doesn't happen!

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Apple splashes dough to keep Big Cheese safe

Erik4872
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$700K is -nothing-

Apple is a public company and has to report stuff like this. I can't imagine what private companies stuff into executive compensation. Over the years of looking at job postings, etc. it's not uncommon to see large companies hiring an entire flight crew for their private jet fleet, security details, house cleaning services for the CEO, and others. We lowly employees don't get to write stuff like this into our contracts. $700K is a handful of ex-military security guys and part of an armored limousine.

One thing I'm not too keen about is execs basically getting their entire luxurious lives paid for by their company, then turning around and whining about paying taxes. Small business owners do this to a lesser extent too -- funneling their personal expenses through the corporation to reduce their net earnings and lower their tax bills, all while benefiting from the cars, houses, etc. that the company buys them. (Most companies hide this by giving "loans" and gradually forgiving them.)

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RSA chief uncans insurance giant's mega IT infrastructure review

Erik4872
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He's right, outsourcing doesn't work

The main problem is that whether it goes to the cheapest body shop in India, or into an office down the road, companies lose control of their systems to a disinterested third party. I've worked on both sides of the fence and this is the one truth that cuts through the debate. Once a company outsources, IT is no longer strategic no matter what anyone says. The outsourcing company takes a "we pay you for this, don't bother us with IT stuff anymore" attitude, and the company doing the work will now do the bare minimum to keep from losing the contract. There's no smoking gun (yet), but I'm convinced that's what's behind some of these high-profile security breaches...a service provider that barely cares, providing service to a company who doesn't want to know how things work anymore. It turns IT into a big mediocre mess.

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Oracle brews PERPETUAL, all-you-can-eat database licence

Erik4872
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Watch out for the little extras...

If this only covers the database, I wonder what they're going to do for all their other messy enterprisey applications (Financials, PeopleSoft, JD Edwards, Siebel, WebLogic, Solaris, and so on).

Also, the other thing that isn't mentioned is the support entitlements. I set up Oracle RAC for a proof of concept in our lab a couple years ago. I don't know how i could have completed it without falling back on our company's paid-up Oracle maintenance contract. The released software (available for "free" on their site) was not usable (read: would not even install properly) without several patches, only available from My Oracle Support. The documentation had errors in it, which were highlighted in several linked "support notes" and also only available on MOS.

Seriously, the entire Oracle infrastructure is designed around the expensive consultant model. I wouldn't be surprised if they raise the support rates to compensate for it.

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And so it begins... Cleaning up HMRC's £10.7bn Aspire mess

Erik4872
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Sounds like a good idea

In the US, we're no stranger to failed gov't IT projects either, and it's always IBM, HP, Accenture, CSC and their like walking away with millions for delivering nothing.

It sounds like this might be a good way to run projects -- set up a not for profit company, basically controlled by the contracting entity, and keep it in existence for the life of the project they're building/running. You get the flexibility in hiring, the control to make sure the company doesn't go off the rails overbilling and endlessly submitting change orders, and the fact that, at least on paper, companies with a checkered history of delivering anything don't end up profiting.

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I, for one, welcome the rise of the Infrastructure Endgame Machines

Erik4872
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Admins --> Systems Integrators

The end result of all of this convergence is that IT folks are going to have to have more of a systems integration skill set. I agree that it will probably knock down a lot of the silos we see in IT, especially in domains like Storage Admin or VM Provisioning Admin. This is mainly due to the fact that a lot of the vendor-specific complexity will be abstracted away once the fundamental units shift completely from, say "NetApp LUN" to "XXX GB generic storage." Or, "VMWare VM version 8, name X, disk 1 on datastore Y, NIC on VLAN Z, host group A, affinity policy B" shifting to "Database Server Template Z" All of that complexity is going to exist still, but it'll increasingly be inside a "no user serviceable parts inside" box.

The first comment up top says "sounds like a mainframe" and they're absolutely right. IBM rolls in a generic "box" with all the functionality abstracted away, automatically sends service guys to fix broken stuff, etc. and charges an eye-watering fee per MIPS to pay for it all.

I think IT people who are sufficiently schooled in the end-to-end functionality of systems and applications will still have a place at the table. Except for the simplest of web-based cases, like phone app front ends or something, I can't see -all- of the complexity needed to get something working reliably go away, nor can I see developers being handed the keys and being told "go nuts, provision anything you need." (No offense to developers, but that method is how we get system requirements of 4 socket equivalent reservations with astronomical memory and disk requirements for simple apps.) It will be a big shift for many in IT - I know lots of people who are geniuses in a few tools and have spent lots of time learning a very narrow specialty.

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'White hats don't want to work for us' moans understaffed FBI

Erik4872
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FBI agent and white hat hacker aren't even in the same Venn diagram

As mentioned by other commenters, the FBI isn't exactly welcoming of people who typically live outside of normal law enforcement culture. Even if you're a "cybersecurity specialist", you're a Special Agent first. This means it's a law enforcement job predominantly, there's a huge gun culture, and the "bully police officer" mentality is strong. If you don't fit that mold you're not going to do well there.

To lawfully get a top secret clearance, you basically need to not use drugs ever, have very little outstanding debt, have absolutely nothing in your background that some overworked investigator won't find alarming, and never have had any run in of any kind with the police. There's a good reason for this; it's been shown that people with things to hide are easily converted into spies. But at the same time, it makes a lot of hacker types ineligible. In addition, the bureaucracy is an anathema to most people who would be desirable candidates. As a result, ex-military people gravitate towards jobs like this, but they aren't necessarily the best fit.

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John McAfee: Ashley Madison hack may ‘destabilise society’

Erik4872
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"Wildcard" indeed

McAfee and RMS are constantly trading places at #1 and #2 in the list of strange public figures in the tech industry.

In McAfee's case, I guess it's partially due to the fact that he probably has more money than he could ever use in a lifetime. It's really strange how never having to worry about money changes the calculus on people's actions. That said, you see lottery winners who manage to blow through $150 million and celebrities/athletes who end up broke a few years after their prime. I've always wondered where all the money goes, especially in the extreme cases. There are only so many luxury goods, houses and cars one can buy.

That said, anyone at AM who can be social-engineered after all this mess is a complete idiot. Who gives their password to anyone??

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HP slaps dress code on R&D geeks: Bin that T-shirt, put on this tie

Erik4872
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Re: Usual problem of drawing the line

"Not quite as bad as the mid-morning onesie-and-slippers crowd at my local Asda, though."

I remember seeing Asda is now a Walmart subsidiary. Perhaps they're importing the customer base as well? http://www.peopleofwalmart.com

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Erik4872
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This can go both ways

In my opinion, a place with an overly strict dress code is covering up for bigger management problems. I work in a US office (engineering division) of a European company. The dress code is "officially" business casual, and pretty easy to live with compared to some places. It's pretty much enforced only when the higher ups are here to inspect their minions. Everyone wears pretty much the same uniform (collared shirt, pants of some sort, non-sneakers) but no one has ever come down on anyone for wearing jeans or whatever. When we go to the European locations of said company, business casual is different -- it's usually a jacket with no tie for the men and more formal attire for women.

The company also has a lot of outsourcing customers, so of course they have a fancy impressive "command center" type setup far away from us engineering minions. There, the staff actually have uniforms (stop laughing, not Star Trek uniforms...just enforced dress code with company shirts, etc.) This is the only time I can see a dress code being mandatory -- frequent customer visits, low-level staff who are mostly new grads and might not know how to dress yet, etc. Unfortunately the customers are always right in this case, and most of them are reassured by clothing for some reason.

I think it's silly to enforce a dress code in locations where the customers never see your employees, but it keeps HR people employed and makes the VPs happy, so it's not going away any time soon. The fact that this is HP, however, leads me to believe there's bigger problems lurking under the surface. When you have to resort to enforcing dress codes, work hours, etc. it's a sign of poor management. As far as what image you project, it could go either way. Some people equate sloppy T-shirt and ripped shorts with creativity, and some people equate a suit and tie with a no-nonsense attitude. Within reason, people should dress the way they feel comfortable. I've pretty much always done collared shirt and pants regardless of dress code -- I'm just not someone who looks good in sloppy clothes IMO.

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Accenture still a little peckish as it snaps up digi biz Chaotic Moon

Erik4872
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How does this fit?

From their website: "We are a group of thinkers, builders, designers, developers, leaders, dreamers, and doers hell-bent on changing the world through better digital experiences. Using talent, expertise, and sheer brute force, we transform bold ideas into the world's best software products. Simply put, we're the best. "

So basically, Accenture just bought a bunch of hipster phone app designers. The Accenture I know does the following:

- Sells a magical business process outsourcing service to execs via PowerPoint presentations

- Once sold, offshores all the actual work these consultants would do to whatever country is cheapest this year

- Singlehandedly keeps American, United, Delta, Hilton, Hyatt and Marriott from imploding by contributing a large chunk of their daily revenue flying and hotelling "consultants" all over the US (and billing it back to the customer.)

- Provides jobs to 23-year-old "subject matter experts" who provide deep business insight and strategic guidance to customers based on their years of practical experience working at Starbucks over the summer.

I don't see the fit, especially since any software they write is done offshore anyway.

Can you tell I've worked in an "Accentured" IT department previously? I'm secretly envious of their business model...truck in new grads in shiny suits, pay them peanuts because you make them feel important by flying them all over the place, and collect massive fees.

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NASA briefing in HOURS: 'We are upon the CUSP of finding ANOTHER EARTH'

Erik4872
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Hmmm...

Finally, a good reason to migrate to IPv6.

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Big Blue bafflement: Anyone in IBM Storage know which way is up?

Erik4872
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Maybe customers are worried...

Could it be that IBM's storage customers feel that this is the next product line to get Lenovofied?

IBM has been selling off every division that makes tangible products...PCs, POS systems, printers, servers, chips, etc. etc. The only things that they appear willing to keep are the mainframe and some kind of strange Accenture-style consulting operation. Maybe customers are noticing this and deciding not to end up shuffled off to a new vendor. Or, they could be waiting for the price drop that's sure to occur when Lenovo picks them up.

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Ashley Madison invites red-faced cheats to bolt stable door for free

Erik4872
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Wow

Good thing I'm happily married. I cannot imagine how much divorce lawyers, private investigators, Gawker and others are salivating over having that data released. Here in the US, our politicians have a pretty bad habit of using social media irresponsibly - a few are forced to quit over it; see the unfortunately-named Anthony Wiener. I'll bet more than a few Congresspersons will be on that list, as well as way more than a few executives of major corporations.

I have no idea how people keep an affair secret. Between my wife, 2 kids and a very hectic job, I can barely tread water in my own life let alone keep something like that under wraps!!

Maybe something like this will be the final lesson for people not to divulge their entire life on the Internet. Even cursory Facebook glances of potential job candidates reveal a lot about someone that you don't necessarily want to put out there. And, a lot of companies don't just do a cursory social media glance... My kids are still little, but I wonder if people will have wised up before I have to start telling them not to post drunk pictures on Instagram.

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Pray for AMD

Erik4872
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Always going to be 2nd place

I've only dealt with AMD systems in a few situations:

- Way back when, before Intel made 64-bit Xeon chips and while they were pushing Itanium as the future, AMD had the advantage of allowing you to stick with x86 and still get 64-bit addressing...the other choice was to throw everything away and jump to a new incompatible architecture. So, a lot of places building out data centers in the early 2000s standardized on AMD at least for a while (some still do.)

- My focus is end user computing, and I've seen a few very large companies buy the one or two models of AMD-based PCs that HP or Dell offer for the sole reason that they're cheaper than Intel.

- Unfortunately, AMD is usually found in the lowest end cheapest consumer PCs, simply because the big OEMs will only focus on price and need a way to offer a "really cheap" option. This means an otherwise good CPU only gets its lowest end models paired with the worst possible hardware to make a crappy experience for everyone.

Until they can fix their image, they're always going to be an "Intel monopoly buffer."

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Peak Google? Chocolate Factory cuts costs amid dwindling growth

Erik4872
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Just the next phase rolling in

Those of us old enough remember a time when IBM and Digital were the Apples and Googles of the day. Sane thing goes for Sun Microsystems and Microsoft in the 90s. These companies may not have had indoor playgrounds for all the recent college grads or infinite free food, but they did go into a phase where they grew to a massive size and paid people extremely well. IBM nearly died under its own weight in the early 90s when they missed the mainframe-to-client/server shift. Microsoft is now all about squeezing nickels out of every corner of their business, when they basically used to run a fully self-sufficient programmers' dorm complex. Sun got eaten by Oracle, but before that they were beyond massive. Before the ill-fated Compaq merger, Digital was one of the best places to work in technology compensation-wise. I sometimes think it would have been cool to be about 15 years older so I could have cashed in at a tech company that produced actual products instead of a social media startup.

One key thing about all of these examples is that the companies involved have a niche that they can't be unseated from. IBM still has the mainframe, allowing them to paper over the disaster that is the rest of the business. Sun was "the dot in dotcom" and built out a lot of the dot-bomb data centers with VC money. Apple basically has a printing press cranking out $100 bills in the basement; they have millions of rabid fans paying massive margin on cheap-to-make hardware, and they get a 30% cut of everything these rabid fans buy. (That said, Apple has been pretty quiet in terms of Silicon Valley excess, unless I'm missing something.)

A good rule of thumb is that this new phase happens when new headquarters get built or moved into. (Isn't Apple building a new building?)

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Microsoft SLASHES 7,800 bods, BURNS $7.6bn off books in Nokia adjustment

Erik4872
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Re: Windows 10 is Phone Centric

"I see Windows 10 as a fail and Windows 7 getting extended past 2020."

We'll see. Windows 8 is already being treated exactly like Windows Vista was right before 7 came out. Basically, they're doing everything they can to bury Win8, including offering upgrades from Windows 7 and 8 for free. I think Microsoft will do the absolute bare contracted minimum to support 7 and 8, holding out the "Oh, that's fixed in the free Windows 10 upgrade!" carrot. For example, don't expect features to be back-ported the same way some of the Server 2012 features are coming back to Server 2008 R2 as installables.

Go look at Windows Feedback in the Preview, and type in "aero" or "title bar color" in the search box. You will see hundreds of "OH PLEASE GOD GIVE US BACK AERO" posts with hundreds of upvotes. It's obvious that they're not listening, and are determined to make a go of Windows Phone in at least one market segment. With that phone focus comes the OS monoculture. And in true Jobsian style, everyone's user interface must be identical.

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Erik4872
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End of an era

Now that Windows Phone is pulling a BlackBerry, and Windows RT is toast, along with the walled-garden Surface non-Pro tablets, maybe they can focus on PCs again. Windows 10 was a good start for them as far as distancing themselves from the Windows 8 era, but they need to face reality. No one is buying apps from their store, they're not going to get the 30% cut of everything Apple gets.

They need to focus on building a really great general purpose OS that runs on a variety of devices.

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How do we train the next generation of data centre wranglers?

Erik4872
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Re: Demise and rise of the IT generalist

"The question is... how do we fix this problem?"

That's a hard one. I've been doing the generalist thing for close to 20 years. And at every place I've worked, there's a huge pressure to specialize. If I actually have a specialty, it could broadly be described as "systems management and integration," and even that's a generalist job.

Like you've noticed, the big money in IT is the contract mercenary who has an incredibly narrow but extremely deep skill set. In the "systems management" specialty, I've bounced between Altiris, Microsoft's System Center products, CA's (crappy) products, LANDesk, etc. I've had to learn how each of these do things differently, but at the end of the day they're all systems management tools that do the same basic stuff. I work for a professional services company, so I get the chance to bounce around a lot more than I would in a traditional "big corporate" IT role. And yet, I'm not the mercenary type - I have a family and can't travel 40+ weeks out of the year. Those who can, and become absolute geniuses on one or two of these products, make way more than I do. I've worked with more than a few consultants who work many different contracts per year, don't have a permanent residence, and basically live in hotels making multiples of my salary. The downside is that these guys don't really have a handle on the overall picture, from end to end, like generalists do.

Here's what I think _might_ happen to fix things. Corporate IT jobs are increasingly going to be more about herding the vendor cats to make your virtualized cloud based whatever-aaS work. Getting all of this reliably functioning requires a generalist's training...even if it's not your problem to fix, you need to know enough to tell who's to blame.

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Microsoft: This Windows 10 build has 'NO significant known issues'

Erik4872
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Still too tablet and phone-centric

I've been working with Windows 10 since the start of the preview program, and it's come a long way. One thing that really does bother me is the rapid shifts in user interface from one build to the next. Every single build, it seems they try to introduce more and more phone-like qualities. We desktop users really want the ability to control user themes, for example. Phone users are stuck with whatever Android skin their carrier chooses to implement, or iOS, and it's a take it or leave it prospect. Desktop and laptop PC users are a little different -- most still expect some level of control over the UI, and a lot of that was taken away in the later builds of Windows 10.

The good thing is that the OS under the hood really seems to be shaping up. I just don't understand why Microsoft doesn't seem to want to support themes, especially since they are expecting a bunch of Windows 7 users to come over to Windows 10. Why not make the transition easy? What if someone actually likes the flat Windows 8 UI? Oh yes, I forgot -- marketing and brand identity.

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Tech Mahindra posts profit warning: The end for Indian outsourcing?

Erik4872
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Next shift?

Every single offshoring firm is going to end up chasing the cheapest labor they can get around the world. When that offshored service that used to cost them $2/hour to deliver starts costing them $3, they will be on to the next cheap country. Vietnam, Indonesia and all of Africa are probably next.

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'Private' biz Xiaomi sets up Communist Party exec committee

Erik4872
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This is why we should be worried

I'm barely old enough to remember when Japan was going to take over the world in the late 80s. Their manufacturing capabilities were quite impressive, and the US had just started into the next phase of the Rust Belt era, after the first round of offshoring and southern migration of factories. I even remember they were making some high-dollar real estate purchases like Rockefeller Center in NYC, basically just for show. Business schools were starting to teach Japanese as part of the curriculum, and people were told that we had better learn Japanese ASAP, lest we be left behind. The whole thing was driven by an asset price bubble that eventually popped, but I think this time might be different.

Why? China isn't Japan:

- Their population is huge, with a growing middle class, so in the long run they win by numbers alone.

- Their internal setup (de facto capitalism with central control of communism) avoids many problems associated with aligning the public and private sectors' use of resources

- That same internal setup allows them to basically do "whatever is necessary" to expand the economy.

Public influence over private companies is one very big difference. Like this article shows, the influence isn't secret and hidden behind political contributions. It's out in the open and the Chinese government has a say in how these companies run things.

The other difference is the amount of resources China seems willing to sink into a rapid urbanization and middle class creation project. During the recession, they have basically poured limitless resources into construction and development projects, growing a huge infrastructure. Western governments (the US in particular) aren't even willing to fund current problems, let alone play the long game. The US can't even muster stable highway funding to replace 1950s-1970s era infrastructure. And because everything is centrally controlled in China, there's no worry of an economic collapse.

So, I don't know - I doubt it will be an overnight takeover, but I definitely see China having a way bigger role in world economic affairs in my lifetime.

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Layoff-happy Capita charges staff to use cutlery in canteens

Erik4872
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New MBA textbook case coming...

This definitely sounds like something cooked up by an accountant who was asked to squeeze a few extra cents out of the catering company contract, and was told that the catering company wouldn't budge unless they started charging for staff to use their stuff. Some things look great on spreadsheets but don't play out in the real world. See offshoring, sneaking in reduction of a product's package size instead of raising the price, and many others.

I imagine this kind of thing is felt more in Europe than in the US. I work for a European company in the US, so I have a lot of experience with lunchtime in both places. The US lunch is either a hurried affair squeezed in between meetings, nonexistent, or involves driving somewhere. Most European workplaces I've been to treat lunch as a shared meal among the staff, and the food in the canteen is actually decent. But, telling someone they can't have a plastic fork without paying is the literal definition of nickel-and-diming them.

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Yahoo! displaces Ask in Oracle's Java update crapware parade

Erik4872
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Great

The JRE crapware bundle is the main reason why we have to maintain managed installs of JRE. That, and the frequent "security patches" that block more and more features from running without a million changes.

I know Oracle targets both businesses and consumers with the Java installs, but I've counted 3 major changes in the last 2 years in the way JRE handles security, all of which required changes to certificate stores, client settings, etc. just to get some lousy line of business app running its applets.

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Bank of England CIO: ‘Beware of the cloud, beware of vendors’

Erik4872
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Re: Sounds like a bigoted, stereotyping git to me

"Why, because all your staff are handsome, strapping and athletic? Not the best way to attract the kind of people you obviously need, resorting to passive-aggressively offensive stereotyping of your target employees."

I'm not sure how it works in England, but most highly-compensated bank employees here in the US are drawn from the Ivy League old-money crowd. So, I would expect there is a little bit of a monoculture going on... The opposite stereotype could be the loud-mouthed ex-fratboy i-banker in the $2000 custom suit lighting his cigar with a $100 bill while driving his Bentley with 2 supermodels in the back. :-)

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Erik4872
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Actually, this is pretty sensible

Just like everything. there is a middle ground, and cloud vendors have taken advantage of business folks' tendency to bounce between the extremes as of late. I think businesses love the idea on paper because it lets them get rid of IT assets the same way they like to get rid of permanent employees...and some MBA somewhere says it will save them money in the long run.

What's so crazy about taking the good parts of the "cloud", namely virtualization and flexible provisioning, but not handing your data over to a disinterested third party? Almost no one I know, even cloud haters, advocates installing an OS directly on a physical server anymore, and provisioning applications the same way we did in 2001.

I think right now, the public cloud vendors are stuck in a price war, so rates are going to be low for as long as those vendors want to keep losing money. Once they're hooked, however, I fully expect Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Oracle, etc. etc. to start slowly turning up the prices. Why? Vendor lock-in. Yes, a company can get their data out of the cloud, but switching vendors is a huge pain and inertia will take over.

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Mainframe staffing dilemma bedevils CIO dependents

Erik4872
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If they don't pay for it, they don't get the skills

I work in an industry that is heavily dependent on mainframes. They're so embedded in the business processes that I doubt anything will ever replace at least the concepts involved. From friends I know who work at the big service providers, I've heard there's definitely a challenge getting new graduates interested in even learning about mainframes. It's seen as dead-end work by many, but I think people can definitely make some money off the skills shortage.

The problem is that companies are looking at this problem like they look at every IT problem -- "Oh, we don't have the skills and no one wants to learn. Let's send it all to India! They'll never complain!" I think that if companies invested in training for people, and found some way to ensure people don't get stuck in a career rut, they'd have the skills they need. It's just systems work after all -- but on systems that involve concepts that many younger people haven't even encountered. The problem is that whole "mainframe guy == untrainable curmudgeon" mindset that companies seem to have in regards to hiring. I don't know -- I'd rather have a greybeard who has had to keep systems going that you can't just reboot than a newbie with a Red Hat certification.

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Microsoft spunks $500m to reinvent the wheel. Why?

Erik4872
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Could be a couple things...

I can think of a few reasons:

- Heading off the need to pay startup founders off later in the form of patent licensing. If you acquire the company before they amass enough IP, you don't have to pay for it later.

- Microsoft is still scared to death of mobile/tablets and wants to become an Apple-style middleman. For this, they need a platform people will gravitate towards. So, they'll buy anything and everything in hopes that something users love comes of it.

I'm seeing a lot of the second one in Windows 10. Microsoft is hell-bent on making a go of Windows Phone, and also hell-bent on convincing PC users that they'd rather be using tablets with Store-curated apps. Despite the massive pushback by customers with Windows 8, they're not giving up. Metro lives on, and they've put back only enough PC functionality to keep people from screaming.

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Fanbois designing Windows 10 – where's it going to end?

Erik4872
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I think they're at least trying

I've been signed up for the preview since the beginning, simply because I like the under-the-hood enhancements Windows 8 made, but hated the user interface. I still hate the Modern UI or whatever they're calling it now, but it's been toned down to a reasonable level that I can live with. And Apple knows all, so if they flatified their OS, it must be right. :-)

One of the nice things about this is to see whether or not this new OS will be a good fit for all the users in our organization who will be Windows 7 upgraders. I am very unhappy with the fact that Microsoft still doesn't seem to want to include advanced theme support in the OS. My feeling has always been this -- disable all the UI elements you want by default, but leave the hooks in to turn the classic themes back on. Unfortunately, since they also want this to run on phones, we are going to get a phone user interface whether we like it or not.

It is very strange watching the Windows Feedback on this go back and forth -- Aero and theme support!! No Aero!!! Bring back Windows Classic!!! Soliciting input from users that aren't part of some focus group is a good thing, and a big change from the way Windows 8 seemed to be built up. But it can sure result in a lot of confusion.

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Insurer tells hospitals: You let hackers in, we're not bailing you out

Erik4872
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Re: I don't know about licensing

Fair point...but companies fail to listen all the time, and if the monetary damages were low enough per incident, they might still have the incentive to not invest in proper controls.

If you read the document, one of the points the insurance company alleges is that anonymous FTP was left open to the Internet, and people were able to just walk in and browse the filesystem. That's amateur hour, not some sophisticated attack requiring probing of OS components and crafting just the right magic packet to trigger a vulnerability, or an elaborate trick requiring smuggling hardware into the network. It just smells like what I experience a lot, an underpaid, stressed out consultant making a tiny percentage of his company's bill rate making a dumb mistake simply because they have no incentive to do it right.

So, I say that IT and SW development should be split into technician class and engineer class positions. Technicians do what they do today, fix bugs, monitor systems, support users. As they gain experience, they gain responsibility and salary. When they get to the licensed engineer stage, they prove they have a minimum amount of education and experience, pass an exam, and get assigned the big-boy/girl work. With that power and money comes the responsibility of being liable for screw-ups, something that is sorely lacking today.

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Erik4872
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Hope this one sticks

Usually, when an insurance company tries to weasel out of paying a claim, people get pissed off. I've heard horror stories of people paying into auto or homeowners' policies for decades, only to have a legitimate claim tied up for years if even the slightest grey area comes into play. But this one I can get behind, being an IT guy who sees this go on all the time.

Companies have spent so long cutting their IT departments to the bone, hiring expensive "consultants" who provide insecure systems because of the accounting that makes it favorable to have contractors vs. employees. As a result, we get disinterested, disconnected people who have no idea how the particular organization they are working with works, and just shove in whatever boilerplate system fits.

If companies actually have to pay real damages for security problems, this might change things. I've always hated how retailers trot out their PCI audit and skate free whenever credit card information is stolen...there's zero incentive to fix the problem. It might open up the IT "profession" to licensing, which I would be all for. Getting your company in legal hot water _and_ getting sued for malpractice on top of it might be the incentive some "IT professionals" need to invest in their skills and not implement whatever compiled that week.

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WHOOPSIE! Vast US health insurer CareFirst plundered of 1.1 MEELLION records

Erik4872
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Here we go again

These security problems are becoming so routine. Unfortunately, like all the other ones, nothing is going to change. Insurance companies will pay out the damages, and everything will go back to the way it was. This happens all the time with retailers -- "oops, sorry, here's a credit monitoring service. Now, let's get back to outsourcing our IT department to the lowest bidder."

I'm guessing that one of the problems here might be outsourced IT. Not that in-house IT would have been guaranteed to catch problems, but I've worked on both sides (outsourcer and outsourcee). The second you do this, a huge wall goes up blocking new changes. Everything either side wants to do turns into a mess of cajoling the other side to agree, scheduling changes, paying for changes, etc. etc... This comes to a point where on-site staff stop caring and just let things go because it's too much work to manage.

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Apple will cut down 36,000 acres of forest in 'conservation scheme'

Erik4872
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""Managing your supply chain" is great right up to the point where you truly believe that you can out-innovate entire industries outside of your core competency."

It seems to me like owning everything involved in production would be the ideal to work towards. You wouldn't have suppliers raising prices on you and you could therefore maximize profitability. Imagine if a car manufacturer owned an iron mine, ore producer, steel production, etc. Iron ore goes in one end, out comes cars on the other end, all under your control. As far as competencies go, you buy that along with the components in the process that you acquire. It's probably not practical for GM to be in the mining business, but certainly being involved in the raw materials in some way or another lets you dictate material prices.

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Erik4872
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Isn't this just supply chain control?

I guess Apple has money to spend, but it's interesting seeing moves like this and I wonder if it's a trend. When oil prices were getting crazy, Delta Airlines bought an oil refinery so they could control the cost of refining jet fuel. I think this is the same kind of thing -- Apple wants to lock in the price it pays for paper packaging products. Who knows how much it actually costs them to make fancy boxes, but I guess a bunch of MBAs did the math.

The Delta thing apparently didn't work out as they had planned since oil prices dropped, but long term it seems like a good strategy. Airlines live and die by fuel prices; it's a monster percentage of the inputs to their service, the next biggest one being labor (they just lease the planes.)

Moves like this actually sound good on paper -- by owning the means of production, you aren't subject to price fluctuations. However, I know the hip business triend is to outsource everything except for the executives and build a business on a massive tower of interlocked contracts with suppliers.

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Learn yourself hireable: Top tips for improving your tech appeal

Erik4872
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Re: ITIL??? Sweet lord NO.

Try working in an environment that fully embraces every word of ITIL. If you aren't careful, it's suicide inducing. I work primarily for IT services companies, and a lot of them haven't learned that ALL of ITIL is not meant to be implemented in every environment. Prepare to wait 3+ weeks for changes to happen that fall even slightly out of the routine maintenance type of changes.

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Apple orders white box servers from Taiwan for data centre refresh

Erik4872
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Not all places are hyperscale

At opposite ends of the spectrum are two very different compute users:

- Silicon Valley startup company style -- cloud first, cloud always, no hardware onsite except the trendy MacBook Pros our developers use, and no money for systems R&D

- Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft -- millions of identical servers to serve the cloud to everyone, the ability to have data center minions take care of maintenance, and lots of R&D money.

Somewhere in the middle is everyone else. You don't just buy an HP, Lenovo or Dell server for the box - you buy the warranty, the integration of all the components, and the driver/firmware updates needed to keep it running. That's where enterprise computing lives. These vendors can't hope to win contracts for cloud providers because the cloud providers don't care about the warranty. The company I work for deploys infrastructure in locations around the world. We don't employ our own hardware technicians. when something breaks HP comes onsite and replaces the parts. The cost of doing that is built into the server and the service contract. Apple has 100 acre data centers and probably employs 2 or 3 techs onsite to change out hardware whenever they get around to it -- the cloud allows for that. Even companies that build their own private clouds usually use vendor supported hardware, since taking care of the hardware is still a concern when you run it yourself.

Unless absolutely every company buys into the public cloud completely, there will be a place for enterprise grade hardware. It won't be the same as it was before, just like desktop PCs aren't selling as well now that tablets are a thing. But everyone who buys the Gartner predictions just isn't thinking it through.

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Delving into Office 2016: Microsoft goes public with new preview

Erik4872
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Holy crap, they listened to something!

I see they decided to put some color back into the user interface, and get rid of the SHOUTING RIBBON TABS. It may seem like a minor thing, but I've been holding out on upgrading most of my Office 2010 instances because I can't stand the bright white UI. Try typing in Word for a couple hours or noodling away in Excel...even with the "dark grey" theme on, your eyeballs hurt. If they haven't broken everything else in Office 2016, I think I'll be upgrading finally.

I'm not a big fan of the recent trend towards "take it or leave it" user interface choices. This goes for Apple as well...it seems to me like some marketing group is trying to push the message that your PC is just a giant phone. If you're going to provide a full desktop OS like Windows or Mac OS X, provide the user some customization opportunities.

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Convenience trumps 'open' in clouds and data centers

Erik4872
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You need to define your comfort level

The problem with any open environment like this is that, even with controlled release schedules, things are going to change quickly and there is no guarantee anyone is going to keep the documentation up to date. Note that there is no guarantee in the closed source world either, but VMWare, Microsoft and others do offer paid support and fixes for problems that you don't have to roll yourself or ask very nicely for someone else to.

If you're Facebook, Amazon, Google or any other company driven primarily by technology, than you will most likely be able to demonstrate the case for keeping a team of OpenStack experts, Linux kernel hackers or any other open source stuff you use. If you're an academic institution, you have staff whose job is ostensibly to learn and use new technology, and contribute to its development. If you're a company who only uses technology, you will most likely be happier with VMWare or Microsoft handling things for you.

Businesses have willingly gone in for lock-in forever. IBM's cash cow is still companies paying by the MIPS for mainframe access, and in some cases, there's no where for that workload to go without causing a major disruption. Microsoft has had the Windows/Office lock-in on most businesses for a very long time. What this model does offer is stability and accountability, which businesses like. Open source projects really have evolved lately, but most businesses are still not ready for a "roll your own" system. Decision makers are especially leery about support being provided on a best effort basis. Look how much Red Hat makes by effectively wrapping open source Linux in a support model.

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Pre-split HP flops out plan to keep its sales pecker up

Erik4872
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Interesting strategy

I wonder what's going to happen when the tablet market cools down to pre-hype levels. Sure, desktop PCs aren't going to go much further than they are now, but I can't imagine people not wanting the convenience of a laptop with all your files on it, that doesn't have to be online all the time, and lets you do document editing. And as for a desktop, well, I have my laptop plugged into a keyboard, mouse and 27" monitor through a docking station.

I think focusing on high-end business grade laptops and workstations is the way to go. Assuming Microsoft doesn't re-tabletify Windows 10 before release, people are going to be buying machines again sometime.

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IBM staffers climb over each other in race for redundancy payout

Erik4872
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So who will they be left with?

One of the big things about a voluntary layoff like this is the fact that it naturally selects people who are talented and have a chance getting a job somewhere else. It may not be true for regular corporate paper pusher type jobs, but for tech jobs you're almost guaranteed to lose anyone who is reasonably good. And it gets worse, because the next wave of self-layoffs will be the people who hate the way the place has become, and are lucky enough to find something somewhere else. I don't think I'd want to be working there after those first two waves hit.

That said, I wonder how much of that division is crusty old MQSeries guys who don't really contribute much anymore. (Not an ageism thing -- I'm old too. I'm talking about the people who have carved out a nice comfortable niche in a profitable product line and just sat there for ages.) The problem is that when you start painting people with the "old" brush, you stand to lose the really talented people who have kept up, know products back and forth, etc.

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MOOCROSOFT tosses seven proper tech courses online at edX

Erik4872
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PowerShell

Funny you mention that - I'm in systems architecture too and have the same gap. The few times I've sat down to do something with it, I've been extremely impressed with how cool it is. The problem is the high bar to get anything reusable done. Command line stuff is great - you don't need hundreds of utility functions in VBScript to parse text files, interpret command output, etc. The thing that I think really puts people off is the syntax. It's similar to DCL (OpenVMS command shell,) super-long commands that have a million shortcuts and ways to be abbreviated, with variables and control structures that seem to come from Java, C#, the UNIX shells, Perl and who knows what else. And of course, this gets more complicated when you start adding in vendors' custom PowerShell cmdlets to the standard mix.

Once you get enough practice it's really not that bad, but for a language aimed at administrators, there's a pretty steep learning curve to get beyond the basic command line stuff. One of the things you have to let go of is that the interpreter is basically doing everything for you and you're just gluing the results together...very different mindset from VBScript and the batch language.

It is good to see Microsoft trying to get admins to learn and use PowerShell though -- not that they haven't, but making the courses free is a huge step to ensuring adoption.

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Google creeps up on another sector: Adds car insurance to Compare

Erik4872
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Yay for automation - oh wait, no one can buy our policies anymore!

I guess this is going to add another few thousand people to the "now unemployable" pile. Who needs those expensive insurance brokers? I know I sound like a Luddite, but I really don't see a future that looks good for anyone employed in a service sector job based on obtaining and sharing information. Hopefully we'll skip the bloody revolutions and just install suicide booths a la Futurama or go the Soylent Green route.

One thing that people should think of when buying insurance is the likelihood that they will have a good experience should they need to use it. Most people either never use their car insurance or get the occasional bumper fixed. The question is, does the cut rate company pay out when a serious accident or any sort of legal gray area arises in your contract? What happens when that $1000 body shop bill becomes $750K in medical expenses, long term care, and millions in personal injury lawsuits? Lots of homeowners whose houses burn down tell stories about how their insurance companies took years to pay off on fires that were ruled accidental.

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Hillary Clinton draws flak for using personal email at State Dept

Erik4872
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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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