* Posts by Erik4872

135 posts • joined 11 Jan 2011

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Europe rubber-stamps IBM Lufthansa outsourcing gig

Erik4872

This should be interesting

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

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

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'Shadow IT' gradually sapping power and budget from CIOs

Erik4872

It's all cyclical

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

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

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

Erik4872

Yay Bubble 2.0

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

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

Erik4872

I've experienced a Terry Childs like incident

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

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

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

Erik4872

Top of the app bubble?

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

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

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

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Anonymous ‪hacks the Ku Klux Klan after Ferguson‬ threats

Erik4872

"Hacking"?

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

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

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No more tomorrows for TomorrowNow suit as Oracle and SAP settle

Erik4872

Re: They should have paid twice the original amt

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

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

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

Erik4872

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

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

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

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Erik4872

Answer: By being cheaper on paper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Erik4872

Retail sucks but I see their point

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

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

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

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

Erik4872

Hello again, 1999

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hold onto your hats and follow the BYOD generation

Erik4872

Re: Something to be said for workplace culture @Erik

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

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

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

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Erik4872

Something to be said for workplace culture

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

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

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

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Gov.UK doubles IT outsourcing to £20bn

Erik4872

The tower approach is just as bad as single-supplier

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

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

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

Erik4872

eBay = Home lab bonanza

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

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

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

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

Erik4872

Cloud first indeed

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

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

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

Erik4872

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

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

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

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Cloud skills certification can add zeros to your pay cheque

Erik4872

Oh boy, MCCEs

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

Last time people, Cloud is...

- VMs running on your machines or someone else's

- Easily changeable networking

- Flexible storage

- Flexible provisioning model

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

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

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

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

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

Erik4872

Interesting

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

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

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

Erik4872

Ongoing cost - check!

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

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

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

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Erik4872

Family Friendly workplace!

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

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

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

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

Erik4872

Surprised this still happens

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

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

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

Erik4872

Huge bets are OK for the right reasons

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

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

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

Erik4872

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

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

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Erik4872

It's a systems AND a people problem

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

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

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

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

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

Erik4872

Re: Splitting is the wrong thing to do

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

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Erik4872

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

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

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

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

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

Erik4872

Is this actually warranted?

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

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

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

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

Erik4872

Scary

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

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

5
0

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

Erik4872

Retail bankruptcies are never fun

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

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

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

9
0

Microsoft splurges 2½ INSTAGRAMS buying Minecraft maker Mojang

Erik4872

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

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

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

3
0

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

Erik4872

Expect more of this soon

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

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

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

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

1
0

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

Erik4872

Hardware is here to stay

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

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

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

3
0

General Motors to intro HANDS-FREE DRIVING tech by 2016

Erik4872

Super Cruise

This is (or could be) pretty cool, but doesn't the name sound something like one of the hyperbole-laced feature names of the 60s? Sounds kind of like Positraction (independent rear suspension) or Hydromatic (automatic) transmissions.

"Super Cruise" sounds a little like one of those.

1
0

Jony Ive: Apple iWatch will SCREW UP Switzerland's economy

Erik4872

Re: Well said

"A $10K Rolex on somebody under 40 means that daddy is/was rich."

Usually, but it can also mean they're in sales or senior management. Talk to high-end salespeople in very status-conscious industries...guaranteed you'll see a lot of gold Rolexes. $10K is part of a monthly commission check for some of these folks. And salespeople don't tend to save, they blow their money on flashy toys.

9
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Erik4872

Switzerland still has plenty of other industries...

...like banking.

Someone saying that Rolex is doomed because Apple is rolling out a really fancy Timex calculator watch is a little silly. The author is right in this case -- even above Rolex, there are higher end watchmakers like Patek Philippe, etc. whose watches command even higher sums. And never mind that these luxury timepieces are insanely expensive, they're also throwbacks. Mechanical watches are actually less accurate than ones with quartz movements, but they cost way more due to the workmanship. You're paying for the 15 watchmakers left in the world hunched over a table hand-assembling micro-scale mechanical watch parts..Look at a couple YouTube videos about watchmaking...I have no idea how those guys don't go insane working with such tiny, fragile metal parts. (Also, luxury watches need to be serviced periodically which is extremely expensive (and labor intensive.)

Mind you, I think buying a watch that costs as much as a car is a very strange way to blow one's money. But I guess if you're at that end of the market and you already have everything else, why not go for it?

I think the iWatch will find a place with most of the Apple faithful, but I doubt any executive is going to give up their Audemars Piguet or Rolex.

22
2

Microsoft changes cert test providers, hints at fun new exams

Erik4872

Just a contract renegotiation?

Lots of big companies go through this whenever a service contract is up -- they put it out for bid again and whoever is cheapest wins. Microsoft used to have 2 providers (Prometric and Vue) but something tells me they don't want to support that anymore. In the late 90s/early 00s, certification and training were huge businesses and made a lot of money for Microsoft. I don't have any data, but I doubt people are getting certified at the rates they once were, so they need to cut the costs. I know I haven't taken a cert exam in a while (since 2003 actually,) but I might end up doing it for the new Server 2012 R2 stuff just so I can keep it on the resume. People knock certs, but I know that lots of large companies use them as a first resume filter.

The other thing they could be doing (though I wonder about whether they would) is leveraging Azure to build up a full system environment for a test taker. So instead of the stupid memory tests you get now, you would just be told to complete a series of tasks within a given time allotment. If the environment resembles what they're looking for at the end of the test, you pass. I'd actually like this a lot more. My memory is awful and not having access to Google during a test makes me turn in (IMO) lower scores than I otherwise could have gotten.

0
0

IT blokes: would you say that LEWD comment to a man? Then don't say it to a woman

Erik4872

Re: Another solution

"It's definitely not only men, either. In my line of work there are more galz than doodz, and the ones behaving in an inappropriate manner are more often women "

OK, I know women aren't perfect little snowflakes, but I'm assuming you've never seen something like that the article describes in the workplace. I would assume women are much less overt about it. Unless I'm mistaken, of course...

0
0
Erik4872

Re: Men AND women

"Thinking before they speaking seems to be considered a weakness."

I think a lot of it is the kind of environment you work in. If you work IT in an investment bank, I'm sure a lot of the arrogant asshole banker culture rubs off on people. If you work for a startup, well, that's where the brogrammer meme came from. If you work for a more traditional employer, you still might wind up in a department full of stereotypical basement dwellers.

That said, any of the stuff in this article would have probably gotten the offenders fired for fear of an harassment suit if it occurred in the workplace. Interesting how conferences are considered out-of-office when they're really not.

1
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Erik4872

This is why people treat IT like a bunch of kids.

Obviously, not everyone acts like this. But the ones who do really set a bad precedent for those who wouldn't even think about it.

I think one of the things to remember about conferences is that everyone who isn't an attendee or a technical presenter is connected with sales in some way. Salesmen can be some of the sleaziest people in the world...I've worked with a bunch that fit the descriptions in the article. Conferences used to be the only way a company could advertise their new products with reasonable success, so they deploy their best salesmen to try to reel in unsuspecting attendees. And while it's not 100% accurate, the best salesmen also tend to be the most likely to engage in behavior like this. Think about it -- an introverted techie isn't going to be attracted to a sales career. The entire job is acting like your mark is your best buddy in the entire world, and doing anything it takes to get them to buy something from you. Ex-fraternity guys make good salespeople because of that outgoing personality. Unfortunately, "outgoing" can often end up "offensive" given the wrong set of circumstances.

I'm a guy and wouldn't even think about engaging in some of what the author describes. It is surprising that a "professional" conference turns out like this. Something tells me physicians' conferences or scientific symposia don't have nearly the same problems.

6
1

Linux Foundation says many Linux admins and engineers are certifiable

Erik4872

Good idea if they don't mess it up

I'm sure the Linux community would sneer even harder than the Windows community at "paper MCSE" type Linux certifications. However, there is something to be said for an absolute minimum standard for candidates.

The problem with doing this in "Linux" is how they get around the fact that every distribution does things slightly differently. Red Hat has its own certification, and so does SuSE. So, hopefully a certification like the one they're talking about transcends testing how to drive the admin GUI and modify the RH or SuSE tree of /etc files to make system changes.

Any sort of vendor-agnostic qualification is a good thing. Skill sets vary so wildly that hiring someone means giving them ridiculous tests to see if they're lying about their experience. Being able to stop that might be a good thing.

6
0

Wall Street woes: Oh noes, tech titans aren't using bankers

Erik4872

More bubbly goodness

The fact that these Bubble 2.0 companies are on such an acquisition tear that they can't be bothered to go to an investment bank is pretty clear evidence that everything is going to come crashing down very soon.

That said, it sounds like the investment banking industry is experiencing the same contraction that other service/agent/middleman sectors have been. Now that online real estate listings exist, it's harder for the agents to justify charging 6% (both on the buying and selling end). It was easier when they were the only ones who knew houses were for sale and had the huge binder of Polaroids. The only places that still have high-priced liaisons involved are car dealers (legally protected market in the US,) and the medical industry (private insurance in the US ensures a huge staff of office managers/billing and coding people, etc.) I know no one is going to shed too many tears for the banking industry, but it's just the continuation of a trend.

The one thing I do worry about is the loss of these liaison positions in the economy...millions of people in the middle class are in the middle class because they have a nice stable job being the agent/liaison/whatever. This has the potential to kick them out the same way de-unionization and offshoring kicked factory workers out.

3
0

£100m DMI omnifail: BBC managers' emails trawled by employment tribunal

Erik4872

Re: In other news...

Companies get around this because the rules go something like "you need an email retention policy." I've seen a lot of companies interpret this as "OK, we have a retention policy. No emails will be saved older than 90 days, no backups beyond that time are available." That way, when the lawyers come calling, demanding email discovery, the company can legally say they don't have anything of value to give.

0
0

Secretive Apple's super-secret university is full of BULL chic – leakers

Erik4872

Re: Why is this an article?

Maybe it's kind of like the stories about Google's mythical fun-to-work-in workplaces The tech press has produced more than a few stories about the Chocolate Factory giving an insiders' view to outsiders who "wish they could work there." I've never worked there, don't really have a desire to, but I'm sure a lot of people do, and it makes for good page impression numbers.

0
0
Erik4872

Explains a few things.

The fact that everyone gets indoctrinated in that minimalist design philosophy explains a lot of the product decisions they make. I know that they're designing for simplicity, but IMO Apple software and products are too simple now. I'm not going to go back to the 90s for the single-mouse-button joke, but the fact that the iPhone doesn't even have fixed soft keys makes some operations harder than they have to be.

The original NYTimes article had a good comparison -- 78 buttons on a Google TV remote vs. 3 on an Apple TV remote. Having only 3 buttons means you have to rely on a complex menu/gesture/whatever interface built into software. I think I'd rather have the simple interface for dummies, but also have the other 75 buttons under a flip-out cover kind of like the 80s/90s remotes did for power user features. Mac OS does have this in the form of the terminal and the UNIX kernel underneath all the shiny, but you really do have to hunt for it. I want my 78 buttons. :-)

0
0

Hollywood star Robin Williams dies of 'suspected suicide' at 63

Erik4872

Why are so many celebrities depressed and/or suicidal??

It's a sad thing when anyone feels they need to kill themselves to feel better. But one thing I don't understand and just can't get my head around is why celebrities, star athletes, incredibly rich people, etc. are prone to suicide.

If you're a celebrity, making even one blockbuster movie or TV show will set you up financially for several lifetimes. Business owners who sell a successful company or cash out at an IPO never have to worry about working ever again if they don't want to. Given how much of a worry money is to most people, you would think that these people would have absolutely nothing to be depressed about. And even if they did, they would have nearly infinite resources to buy whatever they wanted, travel wherever they wanted, etc. to make up for it. On top of all that, celebrities have millions of people following their every move and hanging on their every word.

It just doesn't make sense to me. If I had the kind of resources that these people have access to, I certainly wouldn't be depressed.

0
2

IBM can't give away its chip business: report

Erik4872

Re: Normal

"Making things is so last millennium."

Don't you get it? Virtual software-defined hardware is the new new thing. In the cloud! This time it's different.

3
0

vBlock user says EMC bug slipped through VCE's matrix

Erik4872

Fun with integration...

This kind of stuff is actually my job (software/hardware/systems integration.) I don't work for VCE, but I deal a lot with this all-too-typical situation. It's often a huge headache being the "make this stuff work together guy" and adding multiple vendors to the mix all blaming each other just takes it to a whole new level. This job does keep me out of 24/7 ops mode, however I can't tell you how many hours have been spent literally refereeing vendor fights over late night conference calls.

The problem with these integrated stack vendors is that, often, they're so big and unwieldy that Group A who provides the storage array firmware doesn't know that Group B just changed the iSCSI NIC firmware to a rev that's incompatible with Group C's latest compute node hardware rev. The problem rolls up at a human-visible level as "server can't see the storage array" and it takes a lot of troubleshooting to walk back through the entire connectivity tree. So when you get an Oracle Exadata stack, or a VBlock, you get "This recipe worked when we shipped the units." It's slightly easier than trying to marry an HP blade system with a NetApp filer over Juniper switchgear, but you can often run into the exact same problem. If you run into a problem in between recipe releases....that's where the whole "converged system" thing breaks down.

Sometimes the IT exec crowd doesn't realize that there are humans at these companies doing all this work behind the scenes. Humans make typos in documents. Humans also can't test every single little corner case. And when things blow up, you're still relying on humans (a combo of yours and the vendor's) to sit down and figure out what needs to be fixed. One thing that people don't realize is that the squeeze on salaries and entry level IT work dries up the pipeline for truly good systems people. I'm no genius and would never claim to be a "rockstar" or other idiotic term. but doing these kinds of systems integration tasks does require a highly developed troubleshooting skill set. It takes someone with a lot of experience to pull apart a mess and figure out what broke without making the situation worse or losing customer data.

A vendor can sell you a rack-in-the-box, but they need to back that up with talented integration people...and nothing is foolproof. Stuff like this will always happen.

1
0

Clouds gathering above Big Blue's storage empire

Erik4872

Times have changed I guess

"No one ever got fired for buying IBM." I guess that quote isn't going to mean much anymore...

It's too bad, because it's basically a self-fulfilling prophecy. Customers see IBM trying to sell off anything that involves making physical equipment and realize that there isn't much reason to pay the premium for the IBM name anymore. I'm sure low end storage is the next thing to go. We have a fair amount of IBM stuff in our labs and datacenters. It's insanely expensive, and very hard to maintain, but one of the things they do offer is very good on-site service (in my opinion.) We've had situations where they would bend over backwards to get things working again as long as you had a service contract on the equipment. I know most people have had different experiences, but that's what we saw. The problem is that everything is such a disorganized mess from a firmware/documentation/driver perspective that even the service people have trouble finding any information.

It will be very strange to have no physical equipment with an IBM logo on it in a generation, given how completely they used to dominate the computing world.

0
0

Microsoft confirms Office 365 price rise

Erik4872

Looks like they're pulling an Adobe

My assumption is that the next version of Office isn't going to be available stand-alone. It's unfortunate that Microsoft is taking this route. I work for a company that deploys IT stuff in very remote corners of the planet where cloud just doesn't fly. I'm the lone guy sitting in the corner asking server vendors to keep optimizing at least part of their product line for physical OS deployment, and software vendors to not tie their software to the cloud.

The comment about SQL is spot on. We use a systems management tool that requires SQL Server (not System Center...) and the licenses for SQL dwarf the actual cost of the tool, even in Software Assurance SPLA rental mode. Not to mention the fact that Microsoft changed the SQL license terms so that deploying it on physical hardware is obscenely expensive. We had to add ESXi into our customer deployments for that very reason -- it was the difference between licensing 4 virtual cores or 12 physical ones.

Software vendors do know that people are stuck on various applications. Windows and Office are just 2 examples -- Adobe knew they had a lock on the creative market and decided to exploit it. Microsoft is still hybrid for now -- but we'll see what happens!

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