Month: February 2013

Paper vs. Plastic

Paper vs. Plastic

No, not a blog about re-cycling, this is a one sided conversation…well observation really on who we are as a people.

At lunch today my normal routine is to flip out a credit card (plastic) but, I decided to use “real dollars” instead.  When you hand over the plastic it does not really bother you that you just dumped $30 on lunch and another $6 on a tip.  When you hand over cash however; the reality of what you are spending hits home a little faster.

Years ago I took my child to be entertained at a place called Dave and Busters.  I still remember vividly how this resembled a small casino complete with the noises and sounds.  If you have been you know what I am talking about.  If you have not been, the place is an arcade/entertainment establishment geared to getting into your wallet in a big way.

When you go you “charge” one of their credit cards with one of your credit cards (or cash) and then give it to your child to go insert it into a machine and be entertained.  The reward for the child is that the machine spits out reams of paper tickets that one redeems at the end of their day for small toys straight from China.  The better you are at the game the more tickets you get. Yes, there are lights that blink and noises from the machine add to the excitement but the bottom line is that, Pavlov had nothing on these people.

Some children quickly accept the reward to play scenario and manage to use all of the “real money” on their card rather quickly in return for a fistful of tickets.  A quick visit to the place where you exchange your tickets for toys somehow actually teaches the dimmest of children the rudimentary mechanics of math.  I need this much for that and I have this much, how much more do I need?  Since the real money on the card came from your wallet, not theirs, the concept of spending $100 on an item worth $1.50; simply does not compute.  You may rationalize that they had a good time but, the model of using plastic for goods and or services works.

The moral of this story is this; give your credit card a break.  Go by the ATM and put $$ in your wallet or purse.  Only use those $$ for goods and or services.  The paper that you hand to someone is a real good reality check for anyone, including me.  The miles as rewards or the cash back as rewards will be better spent once you (and I) get acquainted with paper and coins once again.  –Best to you and all those that you care about.

Which Anti Virus Software is the Best?

Selecting an anti virus software today is like trying to look at a watermelon in the store and telling how it is going to taste without opening it up. This is also the question that I get asked most frequently.

Not all software is the same and that holds true with the virus itself.

When I evaluate anti virus software I look for several things. Firstly what can I find in the way of reviews on the internet? Try to find independent reviews vs. going to their website.

Amazon frequently has reviews of products.

From a technical stand point I want to know what size footprint it has. When I say footprint I want to know how much of my available memory is it going to chew up and I want to know how much CPU is it going to use. There are several anti virus software’s out there that literally will stop you from using your machine while they scan, update etc. Ideally this type of software should run at a lower priority when you need the resources of your machine. To me there is nothing more frustrating than needing to check your e-mail and the anti virus software among other software takes over your machine for the first 30 minutes doing updates, scans and what have you.

Here is the biggie, will it catch everything?

Sadly there is no silver bullet. Some software makers have a lot of resources to pour into updates and research as well as the ability to quickly push out updates to their customers on an as needed basis. Software like Trend Micro has an easy way to upload suspicious files for them to analyze.

Another thing to look at with software is technical support. How much will you need, what do people say about their support and how much will it cost?

I have been in IT since before there were viruses. I fought the first virus which got out onto our network of several hundred employees through a shared file brought in by an employee on a floppy disk. I say that to set the stage for the different iterations of anti virus software out there. The first company on the scene was McAfee. PcTools was picked up by Symantic and over the last few years there have been many players enter into the game.

My personal favorite as of this moment is EsetNode32. That could change tomorrow as they may rest on their laurels or have a policy change of some sort which would affect the quality of their product. That is the same for all companies.

I see a lot of computers that have been infiltrated. While they all have some sort of protection, free software seems the most susceptible to attacks, MailWare and other forms of infections.

While free is better than none, I would certainly budget anti virus software into my computer needs.

TIP: Go to the store and purchase it in the box vs. getting it online. Do this even for the renewal. One can almost always find it on sale going to the office supply store or even Wal-Mart. Purchasing it online usually involves a third party which makes money off of the sale as well. You pay a price for convenience and it could be as much as 100% more than you would pay in the store. In the below URL’s you can gain quick access to the different brands that I am personally familiar with. Several ranking sites will rank these differently so do your research and roll the dice.

This blog in no way constitutes any type or warrantee or guarantee of usability or protection against the hackers either expressed or implied. While I have had good fortune with Eset, your mileage may vary and I will be held harmless, in the event that your results are not what mine have been.

What you do on the internet and who sends you e-mail may put your computer in less risk or more risk than me. There are independent labs out there that evaluate different software so you might search them out as well. The trick is make sure that they are independent and do not have any dog in the fight. The problem there however is obvious; if they don’t have a dog in the fight, why do the work and give it away? Do your own research. Consumer reports frequently look at this topic as well.

http://www.eset.com/us/

http://shop.trendmicro.com/brand/SB/?cm_mmc=Paid+Search:US-_-Consumer:Brand-_-Google:TrendMicroExact-_-KW=trend+micro&SQ=trend+micro

http://www.bitdefender.com

http://norton.symantec.com/norton/ps/3up_us_en_navnis360_sym_ent.html?om_sem_cid=hho_sem_sy:us:ggs:sy:e|kw0000006084|10257754940&country=US

http://promos.mcafee.com/offer.aspx?id=469920&affid=792&eid=covmcaggl89400000194617s&adid=17846076983&s_kwcid=TC|16933|mcafee||S|e|17846076983

http://usa.kaspersky.com/?domain=kaspersky.com

http://free.avg.com/us-en/homepage

http://www.avast.com/en-us/index

-Best and Happy Computing

Liberals vs Conservatives

Liberals vs. Conservatives

 

The simple facts are that you win elections by defining the other guys as either for or against something, make blanket sweeping statements about them and then get millions of people to spread the lies, or at the very best, half truths.

 

As children we are brought up in school playing sports on one team or another.  The concept is further propagated in sports like soccer or baseball or football or some other sport that happens as a function of school or after school.

 

We learn young through pep-rally’s and cheer squads and alike.  We in fact make signs that say crush, kill or other wise destroy the competition.  The other side or team does this as well.  We are in fact programmed to be competitive at an early age and it carries with us the rest of our days.

 

We pick our sides on the political battlefield as well.  We don’t want to be confused with the facts; we just want our “guy” to win.  We will go door to door, make thousands of phone calls, even go to rally’s carrying on the tradition of “kill crush destroy” the other team.

 

I have made the analogy many times that it is simple a matter of Shirts vs. Skins and most people have lost sight of the fact that it is not about that, but the character of the individual.

 

This last election Obama won because their side painted the other side in a bad light.  They in fact defined Romney as the problem and his policies would put us back into those problems, he is a rich guy and does not care about the little guy and so forth.

 

They painted Ryan as right wing nut job who would keep all women at home barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen and would throw grandma off the cliff!

 

The smear campaigns were ruthless and over a Billion Dollars was spent to win this election.  I can think of a lot of hungry people who would have benefited from a billion dollars.

 

Not unlike the super Bowl, one side is giddy and the other side is downhearted.

 

While politics is an ugly game, and it is a game; the real losers were all Americans.

 

Why do I say this?

 

The issues that were the real issues of this last 4 years were not addressed.  They in fact were swept under the rug by a very clever and expensive PR campaign that knew exactly how to manipulate the American voter.  The GOP having everything they needed to win this election “the last 4 years” did not capitalize on it as they constantly had to defend the lies.   Truthfully the facts of the last four years should have been all any voter needed.

 

A voters mind gets made fairly quickly.  Most people do not spend much time getting the facts.  Who can blame them, we are working more than forty hours a week, trying to keep food on the table, fill up our cars with gas as well as keep a roof over our heads.

 

I know people who cannot afford to heat their house over 50 degrees in the winter time.  These are working people!  I know people who work 60 odd hours a week at two jobs and still have no money left over to put into savings in case of emergency.

 

Americans are hurting and that is one of the issues that should have been addressed.

 

We can no longer afford to be loyal to a party.  We the people need to vet these candidates better.  Candidates will often change party if the constituents in their district change demographically. That should tell you that they are not even loyal to the party.

 

We have seen congressmen change party giving the other side an advantage.  Voting the party line is bad for America.

 

We are manipulated at every turn in the road.  We are manipulated by news Medias that unfairly slant a story one way or another either by embellishing the facts or by omitting some facts or simply by not covering it at all.

 

We are manipulated by Hollywood; from HBO series to movies that play to one party or the other.

 

Our children our manipulated by shows that have some agenda in them.

 

How do you know when you are being manipulated?  For one thing manipulating can be done in many ways.  First and foremost is to play on your emotions.  If I show a devastated forest with dead animals, empty and discarded trash and evidence of pollution I have effectively made you susceptible to my message of recycling and anti-factories and anti-capitalism and so forth.  If I wanted to make an argument against coal I might create an advertisement or even a movie that had this in it.  The Lorax comes to mind.

 

If I made a commercial or movie that showed thousands of people in the street, starving, inadequately fed clothed or sheltered and then showed some fat cats looking out from their ivory towers lighting cigars with $100 bills; I could go anywhere with that.  I could blame big government or I could blame capitalist.  Whatever the message, I could sway voters.

 

Guess what, you are a victim of manipulation on a daily basis.

 

The trick is to know when you are being manipulated.  Once you know how, knowing when gets a little easier.

 

To win an election first you remind people of simpler times.  You remind them of $1 gallon gas, and inexpensive groceries. You then convince people that all of their misfortunes in life are the fault of the other guy and or his party.  The one who has the most money to spend and gets their ads on TV in swing states early and often defining the other guy as the nemesis, wins!  It really is that simple.

 

There is little difference between either party.  They are in Washington or where have you, living like kings, while we the peasants “more like the stepford wives” sing their praises.  We tweet for them, we argue with one another and we call one another names all in the name of our loyalties to the party.  We don’t know history so we don’t learn from it.

 

The problems in this country can be fixed but we the people first have to realize what the problems are, so we can address them.  Those who think that they know will argue and they may even take their shirts off so we can draw delineation between the shirts and the skins.  The simple facts are that this is not a sporting event.  When someone will spend $19 million of their own money to try and get a job that pays $174K per year; there is something wrong!  The system is flawed and needs repair and it starts with us the people.

 

They work for us and are accountable to us.  We need to get the facts and hold them accountable.  I would start by boycotting news media outlets that slant the news one way or another.  We disserve the news that is the truth.  We need a news agency that does not have a dog in the fight that cannot be corrupted by money or bribed with one on one interview in the oval office.  Demand better!  In this case vote with your remote!

 

I welcome polite and civil discourse on this or any subject on this blog.  -Best

 

 

 

 

Information Technology then and now

Information Technology then and now.

Having started in this industry when IBM Selectrics were the only game in town, I have seen many things come to pass.  I have witnessed the end of Greg Shorthand to dictating equipment to word processors and finally executives typing out their own letters and e-mails.

Back not so long ago an executive would dictate a letter to a secretary who would go type it up and return it to his inbox for his approval.  During this process he would change something and she would once again type it up and return it to his inbox.  This process could take the entire day to generate one letter.

The dictation machine came about; and the secretary with Greg shorthand know how, turned into a secretarial pool where somewhere in a smoke-filled room several typists, typed letters and submitted them in similar fashion.  The letter would be accompanied by the tape or in the early days a “dictabelt” or even a wax cylinder.

In the late 70s the word processor came about in the form of a typewriter that could save the keystrokes to a magnetic card.  When the letter came back for revisions the card would be placed into the slot on this huge box that sat on the floor next to the typewriter and the typist would hit “play” and the typewriter would come to life regurgitating the keystrokes until she got to the part that needed to be changed.

It wasn’t too long after that the true word processor was born in that there was a green screen and one typed much like I am doing now.  Editing was not near as simple as this, but it was a huge step up from the manual typewriter.

Before Bill Gates and Steve Job were household names, Xerox, IBM, and Burroughs, not to forget Unisys, Pitney Bows, and Wang, were the big boys.

No one expected that college kids in a garage with a rudimentary understanding of business would revolutionize the world with what we have today.

I met Steve Jobs while working for a company that had one of his creations for computers.  The NEXT computer which was a UNIX based computer that had a GUI that was semi user-friendly. The cases to these computers for whatever reason were crafted from magnesium and shaped like a pizza box or a Borg Cube however; the wiring of them regarding the keyboard and mouse are very similar to what apple is today.  Little did I appreciate at the time the man who started out his career as a techno-criminal by phone freaking, would be responsible for my Smartphone and my beloved iPad. For this alone I am eternally grateful.

As technology is an ever changing target the personnel also have to be malleable and willing to learn, grow and in some cases leave.

After I placed a pc on one secretaries desk and after she had been to training I walked by her one day to see her making a spreadsheet with a ruler and paper.  The PC and Lotus and the secretary were not working well together.

Technology is one part of the equation when it comes to business.  Finding and keeping the proper people is a challenge that can make any CEO’s head spin.

Through the years a niche market evolved from the early days of Novell.  Novell was one of the leading networking companies long before Bill Gates came up with a server OS.  I have worked with their products since ver 1.X.

Novell made a good name for itself early on.  They came up with the idea to “certify” hardware for their product.  The manufacturers of hardware would submit their hardware to Novell and pay them to evaluate their hardware and then put the “Novell stamp of approval” on it, which of course drove the price of their equipment up and made their equipment more in demand.

It wasn’t long after that, they came up with the idea of “certifying” people.  This certification process begat a whole new industry across the entire technological spectrum; the training and testing and certifying of people.

The problems with this are many, and the industry is fraught with deception.  Many people can take a test but cannot physically do the job.  Technology is forever changing which requires ongoing certification classes or CEC.  The cost is very high and the certification may be short-lived.

It did not take me long as I started making my way through the classes and certification process to figure out that this was simply a way for Novell and others to make yet more money.  In fact today there are certifications for damned near anything and everything.  The industry standard as a whole is some sort of certification.

While this may give a hiring manager some quantitative measuring stick to know if John Doe is who he wants to hire as a technologist; myself as a hiring manager, I can tell you that certifications were the last thing that I looked at.  As I worked my way up from the lowly support person to Director Level, I could and can speak intelligently about technology and I can tell if someone is full of….well crap.

The classes and certifications are so expensive that very few people will invest their own money to get them.  That means that some company paid for them.  Again as technology changes the weight of their certification looses validity much like a new car looses value, once you drive it off the showroom floor or in the case of technology, the next day.

Years ago I interviewed for company for a project management position.  I could talk about projects and milestones and task and deliverables all day long; without that certification this guy was not interested. My guess is that he had no idea what a project manager was and the certification was the thing that would do his job for him.  Keep in mind that I had been doing this before there was a class and the PMP certification did not exists.  I could in fact write a book on it.  I was doing this before Microsoft ever thought of MS Project.

When I hired project managers I would ask them to tell me about a project that they had done and I would look for certain details.  The certification was superfluous to me.  Can they do the job? Can they tell me how they can tell  the health of their project. Can they articulate themselves well, verbally as well as in writing? Do they work well with others?

Personnel can make or break a company.  As a troubleshooter not only do I have to determine if the technology is the right fit for the business but, I often have to figure out if this person is the best fit for this position at that company. The problems are indicative of the industry.  As the technology increases or evolves the personnel must change with it, and in fact embrace change because that is what this industry is, “change”.   Information technology is a very fluid dynamic field.  Unlike history or geology, computer science changes with the next program or hardware modification.

One of the issues that I see often is that the higher up the food chain, the more the person in that position does not fit.  When one gets up into the management area where titles are involved, the duties and responsibilities seem blurred.  When there is a failure, the high up individual always seems to have a way to have a subordinate fall on their sword rather than owning up to the fact the he or she is at fault and may need training, be repositioned within the organization or retire.  I knew this as the “Peter Principle.” Simply stated, as one stays within a company long enough he or she is promoted to a place where they can no longer function, as their skill set or intelligence is lacking.

One way to flesh this out is to insist on a root cause analysis of the failure.  Truthfully this should be done every time that there is a failure so future failures can be avoided.  Obtaining clients is an uphill battle, loosing them over an unnecessary screw up is simply not acceptable.

Too seldom will one ever see a CIO take responsibility for his lack of knowledge or forethought as his own ego will not permit him or her admit that, they may be the problem.

Teaching people to own their mess ups is something that we have lost with this new generation of kids coming fresh out of college and expecting a corner office.

I have worked for many CIO’s that were more interested in the bottom line than their job.  My guess is that their boss had incented them to save money so their actions were predicated on not what is best for the company necessarily but what do I have to do to meet my budget or come in under; so I get my bonus.  This is often done at the expense of the company and or personnel.  So in that light, I have decided to define what a CIO is.  See how closely this matches how you define your CIO or if you are one, does this fit?

One of the CIO’s that I know about did not even have a computer at home and when PDA’s were making the scene and everyone had one, he still used a pocket notebook.  This man was the very personification of Scrooge and had no business in that position, but like his boss they were both cheap to a fault and would look for ways to save a dime while costing the company thousands of dollars in lost productivity.  Why, lost productivity is not quantifiable if they never recognized it in the first place.  If on the other hand they had it and one removed it, than they would understand; much like cutting the internet off after they had incorporated it into their business model. This is a serious lack of vision.

So here is my definition of what a CIO is.

A Chief Information Officer (CIO) is responsible for providing the leadership, management and strategic technological direction that will enable the company to achieve its business objectives in a competitive environment. The CIO drives technology enabled innovation to improve the company’s performance and competitive advantage. The CIO champions innovation initiatives through a demonstrated ability to creatively apply emerging technologies to mature business processes in order to improve business performance. The CIO must strengthen the company’s core enterprise technological capabilities and leverage the expertise of third party suppliers and partners. The CIO should work closely with customers, partners, colleagues and other stakeholders to identify and maximize innovative opportunities to use technology to improve business processes and optimize performance.

While having a keen understanding of the business, the CIO should be able to sell his or her ideas to the board of directors, CEO and CFO explaining what the ROI is as well as the TCO.

In short the CIO must be a well-informed technologist with a good understanding of the business model as well as others in that industry and must be plugged into what is current and emerging in the market place to know when and what to explore.

In 30 years of Information Technology I have known one such person.  The rest were neither capable nor qualified to be where they were, they simply had good people around them or they were there because they knew someone.  While there is something to be said for surrounding yourself with people smarter than you are, the sad truth is if they are doing your job, than they are not doing theirs.

We live in an ever evolving world where technology is involved.  There is a term called LOAR.  LOAR stands for Law of Accelerated Returns.  Technology does not evolve linearly; in fact it evolves logarithmically meaning that it builds upon itself.  In the early 80’s we had a CPU that ran at 4.7 MHz and now 33 short years later we have laptops with multiple core CPU’s running 3 or more Gigahertz or GHz!  The technology in our smart phone is far superior to all of the technology that went to the moon in the 60’s!  In a few years your computer or smart phone may guess what you want to look up or what you want to do and start the process before you tell it to.  Advances in the next few years will be amazing and frightening at the same time; there is no going back.  Much like Pandora, once the box is opened we deal with what comes out.

One of the things that I happen to be very good at is going into a company which is having some sort of issues and fixing it.

As a troubleshooter, I often have to go into a company and look at how they are doing business.  What is their infrastructure like?  Were best practice standards followed then and now?  Is there a living document that defines all that is? Has someone like a programmer, been promoted into some management role when they have little or no management expertise?  (That is a common one)  What does your disaster recovery plan look like?  When was it last tested?

This is a very small example of the things that I look for.  When my deliverable (report) is examined by the principles of the company there is often to borrow a term from Bush II “shock and aw”.

Few CEO’s have any idea how tenuous a foundation that their data center is built on. Why, because they trust their CIO and ignorance is bliss.  Even the most astute CIO should have his data center, processes and procedures, looked over by an outside entity that has no dog in the fight.  An outside firm simply looks at what you are doing, how and why and balances that against best practice techniques.  These things often turn up in disaster recovery exercises which turn out to be a lot of ad-hoc work.  The company is better for it and it gives them some metric to measure their staff against.

While the word “Audit” dredges up some scary moments and thoughts the CEO should demand it!

The odds are good that the CEO and above consider information technology a necessary evil.  While it is most likely a cost center, the principles of the company would be wise to understand that without it for three days, the company may very well cease to exist! The marriage of technology and business is here to stay.  While the romanticized idea of a young pretty secretary taking short hand has some appeal, those days like the typewriter are gone.  With the evolution of sexual harassment rules and the overly litigious nature of things today, this is probably not a bad thing.   CEO’s should look at technology and those who maintain it as partners, because they are.

-Best