* Posts by Erik4872

176 posts • joined 11 Jan 2011

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

Erik4872

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

""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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How is this different from private business?

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

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

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

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

Erik4872

The problem is margin

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

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

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

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

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HP Services engineer dispatch tool 'broken', say engineers

Erik4872

But it works in the lab!

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

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

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

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Big data = big loss for Hadoop-flinger Hortonworks

Erik4872

Big data hype cycle over?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Erik4872

Re: Progression

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

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

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

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

Erik4872

I think it's a good idea

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

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

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RadioShack lists 1,800 stores facing the axe across America

Erik4872

Too bad but not surprising

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

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

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

3
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Microsoft explains Windows as a SERVICE – but one version remains a distant dream

Erik4872

Windows 365 is here?

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

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

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

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

2
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Anthem, America's second biggest health insurer, HACKED: Millions hit by breach

Erik4872

Outsourcing strikes again maybe?

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

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

5
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FBI-baiter Barrett Brown gets five years in chokey plus $890,000 fine

Erik4872

Not so sure what he's so happy about

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

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

3
1

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

Erik4872

They are still not listening

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

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

6
0

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

Erik4872

This boom may bust a little slower.

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

0
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IBM ushers in BIGGEST EVER re-org for the cloud era, say insiders

Erik4872

Re: Possible dead wood cleanout?

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

1
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Erik4872

Possible dead wood cleanout?

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

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

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

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

2
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Microsoft patch batch pre-alerts now for paying customers ONLY

Erik4872

Maybe trying to cut down on zero-days?

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

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

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

1
1

Hackers pop German steel mill, wreck furnace

Erik4872

The Internet of Things will save us all!

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

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

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

1
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Microsoft drops early Chrissie pressie on Mac Office fanbois

Erik4872

The 365 shoe drops...

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

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

4
2

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.

0
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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.

6
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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.

0
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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.

6
1

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.

2
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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.

7
0

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.

0
0

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."

0
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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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