Month: June 2014

Toys, Time and You.

 

 

I know that I have touched on this subject at least once before, but I think that it is worth expounding upon….

 

It is no secret that I like eating out.  If I could have any job in the world, it would most probably be that of a food critic, or restaurant critic, or both…  I have traveled to 48 of the 50 states and have eaten in more places, tried more different types of food than I can possibly recount.   I have seen and tasted the “good, the bad, and the ugly!”

 

I remember my parents fussing at me as a child telling me that I was not raised in a barn, where are my manners.  I took this to heart and instead of fussing at my child in a similar manner; I sent her to etiquette or charm school, when the time was right, and then lead by example.

 

Having said that; we went out Fathers Day to a local restaurant that has predicable food, and service.  Walking us back to our table they sat us next to a table that had just finished.  The floor was covered in water, ice, dishes, silverware and upside down cups;  food from half a dozen meals; and peanut shells.  The table was actually cleaner than the floor however; not by much.  The words, “holy molly bat man!” escaped my lips before I was able to restrain myself.  The hostess did not pick up on my displeasure, sat us there and walked off.  If the people at the table that made the mess had not still been there, I would have requested a different place.

 

The family that had made this mess was in the process of paying their bill and made no excuses for the disaster.  If that were my family, I would have been cleaning it up myself; after which, would go no further than McDonalds’ for eating out until course corrections could be made.

 

Across from us were a couple who were engrossed with their smart “stuff” taking pictures of their food and god knows what all.  This was a young couple but still a couple and they were more interested in their phones, than each other.

 

Looking around the room there were other families also engrossed with their “toys.” The children were playing with something electronic instead of eating and the parents were no better.

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We noticed that the hours that we were there, had a “happy hour” which was a combination of a particular type of meal and an adult beverage.  When we tried to order this the waiter exclaimed that it was not available as it was Sunday.  Clearly the menu stated that it was and we got into a disagreement about what the menu stated and what he was willing to do.

 

I finally said “I am not going to let this ruin my dinner,” and proceeded to order the same thing knowing I was going to have to pay more.  These folks are known for their sweet potatoes, which is made much like candid yams, including the marshmallows.  The waiter took our order and then felt it necessary to share that he can’t stand them.  What an odd thing to share with folks who two of the three at the table had just ordered them.   I could not restrain myself at this point and nicely ask him “how long he had been working there.”  “This is my first week!”  I would wager that if I went back tonight; he would not be there.

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The food was as expected although, the service and the cleanliness of the restaurant was below-par by a long shot!

 

Below par is actually a misnomer, in golf that is a good thing; using it in these terms, it is not a good thing.

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Last night I went out again to an upscale seafood place.  Sitting at the Hibachi Grill we were joined by several different folks from different walks of life.  If you knew me personally you know that I have never met a stranger.  I am the one that will talk with just about anyone, anyplace; even on an elevator in New York; be warned.

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This night was no exception and I quickly broke the ice with the different couples and children that had joined us.  One of them had two young children.  One of which was frightened by the “pyrotechnics” and screamed loudly enough to wake the dead; the other child felt it necessary to entertain us with her rendition of Jingle Bells!   This couple had their hands too full to “play with toys” although the mom managed to get some facebook time in between “going through the fields in a one horse open sleigh” and her other child throwing cheerios.

 

This dinner was a rather expensive dinner for two folks so I would have expected the food to be pretty good, not so!  The filet Mignon was overcooked and was more like meat flavored bubble gum.  Medium means pink in the middle, this was well done.  The Shrimp too was overcooked and dry and rubbery.  The chicken was overcooked and dry.  The vegetables were just ok.  The fried rice was really disappointing as it was not anything but rice egg and soy sauce. 

 

These folks usually have a real good “meal service” but, I would not recommend their hibachi grill.  While the chief was entertaining; I suspect that Gordon Ramsey would have not eaten there.

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Maybe it is just me but, I would never take young children to an expensive place if I knew that they were not easily controlled or given to fits of hysteria.  If you are paying $100 and up for dinner, you don’t really want to hear or deal with screaming kids.  Chances are you may have your own at home and have them with a baby sitter as you want some time away from the chaos.  Keeping a relationship with your spouse that does not include changing diapers, or wiping snotty noses, or listening to Jingle Bells in June, is critical for your marriage.  Date nights are meant for the two of you to be around either just yourself or other adults. There are family friendly places where such things are expected but the odds are good the phrase; “do you want fries with that” will be employed sometime during the night.

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These places have entertainment for kids as their take on eating is a few bites, and they are done.  Parents getting their child to sit still when they clearly don’t want to create an unpleasant environment not only for the child but guess what, for them and everyone around them.  It is reprehensible really to bring young children into “adult places” and expect them to behave as an adult.  They don’t have the mental faculties and or the patients to sit for more than about 15 minutes.  

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It is very rare to find children that can sit at a table for any longer than that without being the center of attention in a good way or bad way.  When they can behave themselves at family friendly restaurants, in a consistent manner; than go ahead and try them at nicer places.

 

Even more disturbing, I find that some families will simply ignore their children’s bad behavior all the while messing with their electronic toys!  It is bad enough to sit within earshot of a family correcting their rambunctious child, it is even more upsetting when the parents are oblivious to it and just let them run amuck while they are on FaceBook or some other diversion from reality.

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Training your child is your responsibility.  You can send them to a school for such things or lead by example or both!  Currently, your bad behavior, your child watches. They mimic their parents and so the adage about the apple not falling far from the tree is very germane.   Are your kid’s apples or nuts?

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Put away the toys when you are together as a family.  Put away the toys when you are out on a date.  Make time for dates, without the kids and leave the toys in the pocket or purse or maybe even in the glove box so you won’t be tempted.  Toys, like TV, are neither a babysitter nor a substitute for parenting.

 

If you care to comment on this, please keep it clean and respectful.  With any of my blogs, I will happily discuss any part of them.  I will not tolerate disrespectful comments, nor will I make them.

 

-Best

 

 

 

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To Buy a #motorcycle or not…

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Recently a friend ask if he should consider purchasing a motorcycle…  It is my firm belief that once we reach the age of adult, we must make our own decisions. If someone summarily tells you no or yes than you have given that responsibility over to someone else hence you are not really acting as an adult now are you?  Having said that, I shared my decision making process with him and a few others.  Because it is germane for today I thought that I would share it with you as well.  Why is it salient for this day and time, people often rationalize getting one because of the gas prices. So, this is my take on this topic…

 

There was a time that I wanted a motorcycle.  My father, who had lost his best friend on a motorcycle; VETOED my decision,.  Without incurring any more wrath on the subject; I decided I would wait until I moved out, and get it then. 

When you move out of the house a few things happen.  You have less time for folly, and you have less disposable income.  The motorcycle took a back seat as eating and keeping a roof over my head, and keeping my cars running took priority.

Cars back in the 70’s were not like cars today.  Older cars took regular messing with to keep them running.  Between points and plugs and oil and hoses and the list could go on, today’s cars are much better than they were.  

About that time I transferred to Houston where I worked in the Texas Medical Center.  While there I saw many different types of things including folks rushed to the ER for different reasons.  The majority of the more gruesome reasons were the results of “motorcycle accidents.”  When human flesh comes into contact with anything at 60 odd miles and hour, there is little left for the doctors to do but pronounce “TOD” or time of death.

 Missing knees from accidents were another frequent cause of visits to ER.  That was a long time ago and I had all but forgotten those reasons and truthfully, I would really like to have forgotten all of those memories as there were more that went to the morgue than the operating table.

 Commercials on TV, billboards and magazine ads try to get you interested in some sort of motorcycle like the CAN AM, Harley or pick your poison. They in fact glorify it in such a way that it appeals to your sense of adventure vs. your common sense.  I mentioned to one of my motorcycle riding friends how I would like to get one, it looked fun.  My friend who rides daily told me flat out, “no, you really don’t!”  What a good friend…

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He worked for me for some time and would ride to work most days, even when it was crappy outside, he enjoyed it that much.  Why would someone ride to work in the rain, cold rain at that?

 

I think it is “habit-forming” much like smoking, once you get it into your system, you really can’t give it up easily.  How can I make the claim that it is habit forming?  Easy….

 

When you do something exhilarating what happens?  Adrenaline is released into your blood stream and you what?  You feel good!  It is all about chemicals.  Your body is a cornucopia of hormones and chemicals and different things cause different types of them to be released.  That is why drugs are so addictive; not only are you putting chemicals into your body but, your body releases “feel good” stuff as well, so it is like a double dose!  Why do you think people “cut themselves?”  The body releases endorphins, which are to counteract the pain but, they make you “feel good.”  This stuff is addicting and that is how I think riding a motorcycle, or flying a jet at Mach1, or even riding a roller coaster can be addictive.

 

Bottom line here is that you are an adult, when you move out of the house; you can do what you can afford.  To quote one of my favorite all time celebrities… “Do you feel lucky?”   

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Unfortunately It has less to do with your skill level than it has to do the other eggheads around you.  You know the kind; the kind that are texting while driving.  It maybe the kind that are screwing around with some sort of radio; while driving.  I was hit once by a women who was turned around while driving, slapping her child!  They are some how more adept at messing with something while driving than the other guy, until they run over something or someone.  Driving requires all of your attention, not just some small part of it.

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I used to think, I will just wait until I can move out into the country where there are less people and than I will get some sort of motorcycle.  Sounds good right?  Nice two lane road, no one around but you and the open road and fields… That too was shattered as well; a friend of mine was riding home after an event which he took part in.  There he was in a “perfect” environment, nobody around, clear day and so forth.  Everything was good until, yep, farmer Joe pulled out right in front of him.  He was doing 60 at the point of impact, killed instantly.  The bike was unrecognizable. I went to his funeral. He left a wife and children, siblings, friends and a church family behind.

By the way, I did end up with two motorcycles.  Someone could not pay me for the computer services rendered so they offered me two motorcycles as payment.  One was a Suzuki dirt bike, yellow; kind of cool looking and the other was a Green Honda 700 street bike; huge heavy thing.  I had never ridden or taken lessons so they simply sat on the back porch until I was going to decide what to do with them, learn to ride, or get rid of them.

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I decided to move them away from the center of the back door so I could still see into the back yard when my decision was made.   Knowing nothing about them, I moved the dirt bike first, no problem, it moved much like a bicycle. The Honda was a different story.  I stood beside it, pushed on it to get it centered on its wheels as I had with the dirt bike to then move it forward and guess what happened?  It did not stop moving as I got perpendicular to the ground; as it is very top heavy.  Bottom line, it went over on its other side with me on top of it trying to stop it!  I got hurt on the damned thing without ever riding it an inch!  Lesson learned, sit on it and use your legs to keep it centered while moving it.  That however was enough for me, I sold them and that was it.  Never rode either of them and, I am still around to tell that story.

All through my life there have been subtle reminders, why it is not a good idea, but maybe your “luck” might be different.  Hope this helps in the decision process for you or at the very least; maybe someone else who is also contemplating a bike.  Here is the thing; no one can make the decision for you.  No-One!  You are the adult, you have to make the decision; it is your responsibility, it comes with the territory.

 

 

-Best

Bulletin: #Lois Lerner’s #Email has been lost!

Bulletin: Lois Lerner’s Email has been lost!

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As an IT expert I have to say, “REALLY!”  “How stupid do you think the American people are?”  I realize that is a rhetorical question because obviously there are either some awfully stupid people or awfully gullible people or even awfully greedy people who vote; but this is over the top!

 

There are federal laws that govern how e-mail is to be stored and for federal agencies, it is not on the desktop.

 

As a disaster recover expert again “do you really expect us to believe that the IRS does not store files in a redundant fashion either using RAID or SANS or the cloud…

 

Let’s examine the issues here.

 

Firstly as a publically traded company (which the IRS is not, but they are aware of the standards 😉 you are required to keep all e-mails under SOX.  For that purpose you would use something called e-mail journaling which keeps a copy of the e-mail in a separate area that cannot be deleted.  One would think that a federal agency would at least be required to do that.

 

Secondly, there is FISMA (Federal information security management act of 2002.)  According to FISMA, the term information security means protecting information and information systems from unauthorized access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification, or destruction in order to provide integrity, confidentiality and availability.  This is the FREAKING IRS, do they really expect us to swallow that her e-mails were only stored on her local computer?

 

Thirdly; there are multiple types of redundant technology available and I would have to guess that the IRS takes advantage of Either NAS, OR SANS or the cloud and of course Tape Backup, just in case.  NAS (network attached storage) or SAN (storage area network) allow data from the “email store” to be stored on multiple drives in something known as a RAID configuration meaning, if a drive fails the data is stored on multiple different drives so there is no data loss. With VMWare they can have multiple servers with multiple copies of the data so the e-mail system is incredibly robust.  They have access to all the money in the world; do they really expect us to believe that all of her e-mail was on a laptop?

 

There is also FIPS200 which is part of FISMA…  FIPS 199 (Federal Information Processing Standard Publication 199, Standards for Security Categorization of Federal Information and Information Systems) is a United States Federal Government standard that establishes security categories of information systems used by the Federal Government, one component of risk assessment. FIPS 199, along with FIPS 200, are mandatory security standards as required by FISMA.

FIPS 199 requires Federal agencies to assess their information systems in each of the categories of confidentiality, integrity and availability, rating each system as low, moderate or high impact in each category. The most severe rating from any category becomes the information system’s overall security categorization.

 

 

Just for grins and giggles let’s assume that the IRS is really that deficit of IT talent.  There is forensic software out there that can get e-mails and other data off of purposefully deleted drives or crashed drives.  Often time’s data that has been removed via formatting the drive can sometimes be recovered.  If the NSA wanted it; they could get it!

My final thought on this; the IRS is supposed to manage Universal Healthcare.  All of your personal information will be out there at their disposal; umpteen millions of us will be out there.  Is she going to keep it on her laptop?

This “excuse” is an affront to anyone with a brain; much less anyone with any IT knowledge.

 

-Best

 

 

 

 

part of a political discussion among friends

 

The following is a political discussion that I was having with some friends.  It turned out to be of such detail and work I thought that I would share it here.

 

We were debating which side is better suited to lead the county, the republicans or the democrats. I said neither.  You need to forget the R or the D and look at what they have done how they have voted in the past and look at their character.  Then cast your vote for the best person and not simply by the party.

 

I had such great hope for Obama.  Here is a guy that had the ability to unite the races.  Here is a guy that could show that this victim mentality is self-imposed defeatism.  You can in fact do anything, be anything you want to be.  The only thing stopping you is you.  Instead of this however; he weighs in on a case that would barely make the nightly news in Florida and makes it a national talking point, bringing in every race-baiter in the world further dividing this country.  Has Obama got everything wrong?  I would not say that.  On racial healing the two opportunities he had “the cops acted stupidly, and if I had a son he would look just like him” did not help this country.  As far as I can remember no sitting president has ever weighed in on such matters, period!  I know, and most probably you do as well; that he like “most politicians” are paid for by special interests groups.  Avenue K is where it all happens and we need someone to go to Washington and stop all of this.  If memory serves he said he was going to do this.  He would not allow a lobbyist in the white house.  He has them in his administration.  How we fix it is another story because I firmly believe that once you go to Washington, you loose your soul; probably to the highest bidder.

 

I don’t think in my lifetime we will fix this.  I fear for our children and their children.  I do know that when you spend money like this administration has done; something is going to happen to cause a reset.  I have read history and I know about the Weimer Republic and what happened as a result of hyper inflation.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weimar_Republic  We have seen this most recently in Greece.  I am guessing that is why the president signed directive 302518.  http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-05-29/meet-directive-302518-granting-obama-authority-use-military-force-against-civilians.  Can you imagine our children taking up arms against their parents to quell an uprising as a response to an out of control government?  That is what the 2cnd amendment is all about.  The government should fear the people.

 

We are now over $17trillion in debt and this administration is responsible for a good chunk of it. Yes, Bush started it but, adding to it like they have done is simply irresponsible.  On top of this we have skyrocketing energy cost and an administration that is punishing American Business’s and our number one source of energy which we have in abundance “coal” is off the table.  Where is the coal going, to energy hungry countries like China who don’t care about burning coal cleanly.  Global warming is a problem for America to deal with. 

 

Now they want the rich to pay for college loans.  Like Reagan once said, “vote with your feet.”  What do you think the rich and business owners are going to do?  Those that can move their business to some other country will and those that can shelter their money will and those that can move to a country that is friendlier to wealthy people will.

 

We see that in Texas here today as business’s and people are moving here because of our friendly environment we have towards businesses.

 

Truth be told, we have been bringing our system closer and closer to Socialism since Wilson.  One fee, one tax at a time, like turning the heat on the water; slowly the frog will boil to death.  If we are not a socialist country already we soon will be as there are more people on the government tit now that anytime in history.  While people think that this is a good thing, the truth is the government is hurting those that need the most by not giving them a hand up but a hand out; which can stop at anytime!

 

Wealthy people are already moving from New York as they have this same mentality of socking it to the rich.

 

When the dust settles who will be left to clean up the mess?  Where will the people be that caused it?  As long as politicians are funded to the tune of multiple millions of dollars for campaign funding, we have no hope.  We will have the best government that money can buy…

 

Americans are slowly waking up.  I think this backlash we are seeing with Tea Party Candidates winning elections here and there is America saying, what we have been doing is not working so let’s do something else.  They may be right as the Tea Party vets those who they sponsor.

 

It is time for some non-lawyers to take the lead.  It is time for some business men who know how to balance a budget, who don’t take a pay check until every one else is paid first.  It is time for someone who still respects the flag, and honors the men and women who protect it with their lives to take the helm.

 

-Best

 

#terrorist #AWOL #twelveyearold #slimman

Today

 

So much to talk about today it seems surreal.

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We unlawfully allowed 5 Osama Bin Ladens on the loose, negotiated with known terrorist to “get back” a solder that was AWOL, who had denounced his citizenship, converted to Islam, and is known for his stance on hating America! Was that a bargain or what?

 

On top of this we have his father, also who hates America Bless Allah from the White House and talk about how he intends to get more people released from Gitmo.

 

The White house of course is spinning this whole thing as an oversight!

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Along with that news, 2 twelve year old girls after planning for some months, try to kill their twelve year old friend to please some fictional character made up by some pretty twisted minds, even by Stephen King’s standards.

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Now the crime is so horrific that the girls are to be tried as adults!  You see it really doesn’t matter what the crime is; you really need all of the facts before you pronounce a knee-jerk reaction like trying them as adults!

 

While I detest what these girls did, they were/are  not mature enough to understand what they were getting into with the Slimman character; and they damned sure did not have the maturity to speak with Police after they were “assuming they were” Marandized.  There should in fact be a law that would prohibit the police from Marandizing or taking statements from children without the presence of their guardians and or lawyer.  They should in fact be required by law to only speak with them after the family has had the opportunity to get lawyers involved.  I know that you probably don’t really care at this point you want these girls put away!  This could have been your kids that fell into the wrong crowd or became charmed with mythical creatures that took over their lives!  They are children, not adults and even though they did something very heinous they are not adults and therefor should not be tried as such!

Kids do stupid things and if they don’t have the maturity to deal with the twisted stuff they are exposed to through Hollywood, books, violent Video games, and stuff on the internet, bad things will happen!   We have seen it time after time after time!  After something bad happens a bunch of anti-gun loons come out of the woods and start the same old tired rant about how evil guns are!  We simply never learn, or are too stupid to learn or most probably don’t want to learn as we have an agenda and we want that agenda to work, facts be damned!

 

Some “adults” can not wrap their minds around this crap so how in the world do we expect our children to?  On top of this we are such a non-functional family oriented country that because we are so motivated to succeed; our children suffer and are quite literally at the hands of Hollywood and other outside influences.  We are so removed from our family and friends that we have traded “pokes and likes” for real conversation!

 

And finally we have the Obama administration castrating the American Business man once again by calling for EPA regulations that will drive more and more companies overseas or out of business!

 

The Chinese may very well take the lead as an economic power but my guess is that they will also take the lead in cancer related deaths as they don’t have or care about clean air, water and so forth.  They are very much overpopulated so what if a few tens of thousands die early due to cancer!  They don’t have any kind of record of human rights or caring for, or about their people so, this does kind of fit.

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By the way Al, Global warming is a “global” thing and taxing business’s over here by selling them carbon credits will have no effect on our air or the worlds green house gas emissions as industry will simply move elsewhere.  Those who do not move will simply raise the price of their products in such a way that will take them out of the global market as China and other countries without these restrictions will make the widgets cheaper.

 

Yes you can charge some ridiculous import tax but, you will only continue to hurt the American People who can ill afford to live today, much less in the future.

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This is much like Seattle raising the minimum wage to $15 and hour.  If I have to pay my employees twice what I pay them now, I will have to raise the price of my “widgets” to make up the difference.  So those employees, who now have twice as much money to spend, will have to pay twice as much for goods and services by others.  But we as a country are so stupid, that we can’t figure that one out.

 

Macro Economics must not be taught anymore.  If you raise the minimum wage of “entry level jobs” guess what else you will have to raise? Yep, the salary of those who have worked their way up to $15 an hour as they are no longer entry level and it certainly is not fair to them to get the same wage as a rookie!  If I am paying all of my employees more guess what happens to the cost of my widgets, and the stuff that I need to make my widgets.

 

Of course with the way that we are printing money, it will not be too much longer when paper money will be absolutely worthless and your $15 an hour will be a hollow victory as your money will be worthless as well, as there won’t be anyone in business to pay you.

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In case you don’t have a clue what hyper-inflation looks like, follow this link.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weimar_Republic

 

Take a look at the stacks of money that the kids are using to play with instead of wooden blocks!  That basket of money is for A single loaf of bread… How is that $15 an hour looking to you now?

Minimum wage is for entry level jobs, not real jobs.  If you want more money; get a real job.  Stop the government from strangling American companies through these EPA regulations with your vote!  Become educated on what is going on in the world and stop listening to the Carney Spin from DC.  They don’t tell the truth.  Get your news from lots of different places and not just the main stream “lap-dog” media that we have “enjoyed” for the last 6 years.

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It will be very interesting to see how history treats this time in our history.  It will  be even more interesting to see how we survive it!

 

-Best

 

 

 

 

Attention #CEO #CFO #President #CIO and #hr

Here is some food for thought for you who own or control or have vested interest in corporations.

If you were to go to your CIO or your IS manager and ask the following; what would their response be?

  • Can you show me the network map?
  • Can you show me the documentation on the V-LANS?
  • Can you give me an accurate inventory of the servers that we have including their age and configuration?
  • Can you tell me what is on each server or device and what it does?
  • Who has access to what on each server and who decides what that access is?
  • Can you tell me how they are connected to the network, is there a redundant path?
  • Can you produce an inventory of what software is on each server?
  • Can you show me the recent log files of each server and tell me about what concerns you have regarding what those log files say?
  • Where is the actual software that is on the servers and where are the license keys?

No Excuses!

You would be surprised how many Sysadmins tell me that they don’t keep the software, they just download it when they need it.  Really, you have just had a disaster and your internet is down and will not be up for at least 72 hours, now what?  Not only does it make sense to have the disk for this reason but it takes time (valuable time) to go and find and download software.  They have argued that it is not the most current on the disk.  Why not?  Why have you not updated your Software Library?  There is a lot to being a Sysadmin, (SA) it is not about sitting on your butt in your office surfing the web, reading the news and updating Facebook while being annoyed by the occasional request for a password reset! Old software that is a few versions behind the curve is still better than none!  Even if you “don’t have time” to keep your library updated; something is better than nothing.

Speaking of passwords, most companies really need a security officer and really don’t understand why.  I have seen some Sysadmins that are so lazy that they assign passwords to people and then keep an excel list of them on the server.  These are not really Sysadmins because that is genuinely stupid. To open the company to so many different kinds of fraud, industrial espionage, and other forms of abuse of the system; just because the guy does not want to be bothered with password resets is incredible.  This guy would not be working for me as there is no excuse for this!  I don’t care how “nice a guy he is.”  Laziness and stupidity are a bad combination for a Sysadmin to have.

  • What software revision level are we at and is it the most recent? If not, why not?
  • Are Firmware rev levels kept up with and checked regularly?
  • Are the drivers up to date?
  • Can you produce a list of the passwords for each server?
  • What are the power requirements for these servers?
  • What are the cooling requirements for the equipment and are there any issues?
  • How long can we run if there is a power outage?
  • When is the last time that the batteries were changed out in the UPS’s?
  • Is each and every device in the server room labeled?
  • Is all networking cable installed in a manner that not only makes sense but looks like it belongs there vs. haphazardly plugged in on the run?
  • Can you show me a map of the switches, what port is doing what?
  • Tell me about load leveling.
  • Have all of the intelligent devices SNMP passwords been changed from the default?
  • If so, what are the passwords? If not, why not?
  • Are there traps being sent to a syslog server?
  • Who reads the logs, how often; and are there any concerns?
  • How are the concerns addressed?
  • Show me the notes from change control or change management meetings?
  • Are these notes managed in a responsible manner and are all changes noted in the living document?
  • What is the average age of the workstation on the floor/building?
  • Describe the policy regarding passwords? How often are they changed?
  •  Describe your Hardware asset management strategy?
  • Describe your Software asset management strategy?
  • Who handles the maintenance on the HVAC in the server room?
  • When was the HVAC last serviced?
  • Tell me about your fire suppression.

It has been my experience as an IT manager and a Disaster Recovery Specialist who does many audits; the majority of Sysadmins do a horrible job of Hardware and software management much to the loss of the company and chagrin of the CFO.

Desktops last about 5 years, Laptops 3.  When they are put into service a clock should start running to replace it in X years.  You don’t want employees working on outdated equipment, and you don’t want to install new software on old computers as the license may very well die with the computer.

I have seen too many companies try to get everything they can out of a box.  Amortize the box and when the IRS says it is dead, let it go.  If there is a use for it in some non-critical function, “user discretion,” but add no more software and remove it from critical areas.

I have seen many people struggling along on a machine that is well past its usable life.  Loosing files or data or waiting around for the machine to catch up cost money.  While it may be soft dollars those soft dollars turn into real dollars quickly if you lose enough data and or time.

I used to install older computers in the break room with internet access and the usual windows Facebook type games.   Employees could use them for their private needs before or after their shift or while on break or lunch, and they were non-critical and on their own V-Lan where company data could not be accessed!

Not everyone in the company needs a full version of Office?  A lot of companies have a standard load for all computers.  That should be re-visited as it is wasteful. While  Microsoft would like you to purchase everything for every computer that is simply laziness and wasteful.

Software and Hardware management is in itself a job and proper management of it will produce and ROI.  This is necessary also to provide a budget requirement which the CFO might cringe when he or she sees the request but, at least it is planned and not a surprise!

  • What antivirus software is on them? How did you decide on that software?
  • Are the workstations locked down?
  • Do any users have admin rights? If so, why?
  • Are the USB ports locked down?
  • Are the CD burners locked down?
  • What ports are allowed through the firewall?
  • Is the firewall updated to the latest software?
  • Are traps from the firewall being sent to a syslog server?
  • Who has access to their workstation PC from home? Why?
  • Who has access to their home PC from work? Why?
  • What software is on each workstation?

I run an inventory program like Spiceworks or some other commercially available software, to obtain an inventory of all of the software on all of the boxes and then go through the task of identifying each executable.  I have found numerous Trojans and viruses, remote control software, games galore, software that was not licensed and oh yes, software that they used and did not know that they had as it was installed by previous regimes.  This type of activity is mandatory if you want to recover in the case of a disaster.  It is also mandatory if you want to be licensed properly and not have your neck on the line if some employee gets upset and calls the software police.

Recently the SBA has been advertising a lot trying to get employees to snitch on their company. The rewards to the snitch are inconsequential as the penalties and fines to the company are enormous.  Having that inventory and those licenses and even receipt in a safe place I would think to be a really good idea.

Some companies are so cheap that they use free anti-virus software which is not worth what you paid for it.  I fight viruses daily.  Free is not an option.  If you think that it is, you are diluted and clearly, don’t know what you are doing.

Free software by definition cannot be maintained as well as commercial software.  Who in the hell has money to pay for programmers and security experts and then give the product away?!

Good Anti-Virus software is Patriotic

I made the argument the other night at a speaking engagement that it is actually patriotic to use good anti-virus software. Why?  If millions of computers are taken over at the drop of a hat by some “bad guys” and they target let’s say the FAA or the FEDS, or some other institution and are able to cripple the banking industry, or what have you, and your computer is part of the problem; what then.  A Trojan could be sitting on your computer unknown to you, just waiting for the instruction to start a DOS attack.  Stop being cheap and buy the damned software and protect your computer(s) from being controlled by “evil.”

If a government had more than two neurons firing in their collective heads, they would create a “government approved” anti virus software and give it to its citizens.  Now I know how that would be received by most, if I had a choice I would buy my own as I really don’t want anything big brother has to offer on my computer, but lets face facts.  You probably have things on your computer right now made by the Russian Mafia or worse!   I am certain that a government grant could be created to support a group of “white hat hackers” to help keep America Safe from cyber terrorism. If you do this remember whose idea it was… 

Here are a few more questions for you CIO, /owner types who might actually have some skin in the game.

  • Do you have licenses for that software?
  • Where is that software?
  • Where are the licenses kept?
  • Can we prove that we bought a license for each and every piece of software in the building? If so, do it.  If not, why not?
  • How many employees use laptops?
  • Are they secure?
  • Are they encrypted?
  • Are USB drives or thumb drives that are necessary for business use, encrypted?
  • Do the laptops have up-to-date anti-virus software on them?
  • How old are they?
  • Do they use a VPN to get into the servers from outside of the office?
  • How secure is their VPN? What challenges, if any are there?
  • Do you use security tokens?
  • Can you show me a map of the building depicting which PC is hooked up to which drop?
  • If you are using VOIP can you show me that same map for the phones?
  • Is the map updated as changes occur?
  • Describe your backup policies and procedures.
  • Where is the data being sent off-site?
  • Are we using the cloud for backup?
  • Walk me through the procedure of getting access to the data if this building is blown away.
  • Walk me through the procedure of restoring the servers in another location.
  • Tell me who can do this if the Sysadmin is not available?
  • Have we tested a restore of the data, if so when was the last test and where are the results; if not, why not?

These few questions and comments are off the top of my head and it took about ten minutes to list them.  There are plenty more but, this gives you a small flavor of the kinds of information you should already have and that I gather in a disaster recovery project.

The simple facts are that IT people are loath to document anything.  It is kind of like editing your own work, you know what you meant to say and your mind fills in the blanks.  Documentation should be written in such a way that a technical person not familiar with your company should be able to pick up the document and pieces and re-build your company without you there.

Often I am met with complete truculence and arrogance and lots of attitude by the IT staff of a company that I do a DR for. They don’t want me there as they don’t want me messing around in their sandbox.  Truth be told they don’t want the the facts that they are remiss in their jobs to get to their boss who thinks everything is running perfectly, until it isn’t!

About Me:

If you happen to watch or ever have watched Hells Kitchen, or Kitchen Nightmare, or know who Chef Ramsay is than, you have a clue of who I am, without the foul mouth.  I take IT departments and fix them, and I take no prisoners (no excuses).  Not only do I fix the hardware and software components, but I fix the personnel issues as well. It may be a training issue or an employee that is a poor fit. It may be a lack of people as most companies try to run too thin on staff. There should be no one person who is sacrosanct.  In a disaster you may lose them, so we need things documented in such a way that a rent-a-geek can restore your company.  If there is no documentation, I create it.  Through a test of the DR, we can then hone that documentation to a fine point.

I am a troubleshooter.   Not only am I a problem solver; I have been in management of IT for a large part of my life. I get to the bottom of issues and take corrective action.  IT is ancillary to the business.  IT is a tool that has to be running smoothly; like a Swiss watch.  Your job as CEO is to run the company, not IT.  I have built data centers from the ground up, as well as re-built them while the business kept going all over the country.

From Data, fire suppression, HVAC, power requirements, UPS requirements, floor height, easy access to the equipment, MDF and IDF design’s Data and Voice, from the east coast to the west from the north to south.  I have worked in Union areas of the country to the Wild West where “anything goes.” Been there done that.

Go ask your IT people some of these questions and see if you are satisfied.  After 30 years in this business, I would be surprised if you were.

From me, or someone like me, among the deliverables, will be the documentation that so many just don’t do.  Without that documentation, you are playing with galloping dominoes. Your risk might be small as you yourself know something about it, or it may be huge in that you, like most who run a company, run it from 20,000 feet, through your management.  There are seldom any pleasant surprises in business.

Has anyone at your company done a risk assessment?  Where are you located geographically?  Are you in an area that is prone to earthquakes, Hurricanes or Typhoons? How about tornadoes or fire?

One of the largest risks to a company surprisingly is none of the above.  It is employee error.   I have worked for companies where the Owners were the issue.  One company had their child who played video games work on the equipment and of course screwed it up constantly.  Stay away from those companies as they don’t want to hear the truth.  Their child is perfect, knows everything about anything so it must be the fault of the internet or the software or something else.  I worked for companies where the owners themselves who ran the company, also thought they were the end all be all of IT.  Pride comes before a fall; and believe me, when you own a company you really don’t want to have that fall.  Stick to what you know best and leave the technical things that change daily to those that keep up with it.  We who know this stuff are constantly involved with forums and our peers.  What works today may not work tomorrow.  Unless you can devote your life to this, let those of us who do, do it!

“NO”

One owner takes a passing interest in the latest greatest through a magazine and orders or asked his IT guy to make it so.  If you have a yes-man working for you, do your self a favor and fire him.  Your people who do this for a living should have the ability to say no.  If they say no, you should listen to them.  If you want a second opinion, call your VAR.  If those two don’t jive call another.  Bottom line is you never install REV 1.0 of anything into production, ever!  If your guy cant be honest with you, get real and hire a person who will tell you “no!”  It may save you tens of thousands of dollars, if not your company. I have had yes men working for me in the past and got rid of them.  I depend on Team Cooperation, and that means I need their input.  While humbling oneself to listen to a subordinate can be a challenge at times, they may know something that you don’t.

I once worked for a guy who ran a company selling and servicing office equipment.  This was actually my first real job out of school.  The guy was from Georgia and had been a tank commander in WWII.  His manner was gruff, but he was sincere as the day was long.  We became close over the years as I have always made it a point to look at what successful people are doing, how they got there, and basically what made them tick.

He promoted me to the position of service manager of one of his locations.  He drove me over there to introduce me to the new team and show me around.  While on the road, he told me that one secret of a successful person is to hire people smarter, or at least as smart as you were.  To me, that was probably one of the most salient bits of advice that I could pass on.  That means that the man had humility and, also he must have thought something of me.

While I still struggle with humility today, I am aware of it and work on it.

Hours of Operation.

I had a guy interview with me. Towards the end of the interview, he asked me if there would be any overtime as he had obligations after work and on weekends.  This guy clearly had no clue about the job for which he was applying.  Hourly jobs are Burger King, not Sysadmin or Network specialist, etc.   We get paid well because this becomes the biggest part of our life!  If you are a 9 to 5 guy, don’t look at IT as a career.

As anyone who has been in IT any time at all can attest; this is not a nine-to-five job.  One never knows when something will stop working and you are suddenly pulling an all-niter to fix something.  With VMware and the technology we have today, we can minimize that risk which is something that we do through proper configuration of the servers, building in some redundancy and keeping up with the age of our hardware.

Once you get past a twelve hour day, statistics show that you are much more error-prone, thus shooting yourself in the foot; and possibly the company.  Best practice planning and implementation from the beginning mitigates this risk. Having up to date documentation as well as partnerships with VAR’s will allow you to recover faster, and employ fewer full-time people.  Staff augmentation through a VAR is an excellent way to keep the number of FTE’s down but, that relationship really needs to be solid.

If you want to experience what “cold running blood is” come in late at night to update some software on the server, reboot it and then you see the prompt, drive 0 not found.  This was before the days of raid.  This was when ginning a server started with installing 25 5.25 inch floppies followed by a 12-hour compsurf.  We have come a long way since then, and so have the folks who create viruses.  This is one of the most dynamic industries that I am aware of.  One really must be dedicated to be any good at this.

By dedicated, I mean just that.  Keep up with what is going on through periodicals, peers in the industry, and again I can’t stress this enough at least one good VAR.

On one of my data center re-builds a vendor was doing our cable plant.  They ran long into the night and someone made a mistake.  Instead of pulling the old data lines and stopping, they cut and pulled the phone lines as well.  On another cable job that I was aware of about 3 in the morning a 32 pair conductor cable got stuck.  Instead of seeing why the installer reared back and pulled for everything that he was worth.  He snapped an ionized water line and flooded the computer room in a huge hospital.  Water poured out of the elevator shaft like it was some sort of an elaborate fountain.  Thank goodness that was not my job.

Much like driving less than 500 miles a day on vacation is a good idea; so are the number of hours worked by each person, as mistakes happen. Make sure you have adequate staff to do the job, especially when you are taking on a new project.  How do you do that?  Proper project management methodologies and relationships with VARS… That is another story…

That is another story…

Here is an example of what a sysadmin is as defined by this site.

http://www.supportingadvancement.com/employment/job_descriptions/advancement_services/system_administrator.htm

ESSENTIAL FUNCTIONS:

The System Administrator (SA) is responsible for effective provisioning, installation/configuration, operation, and maintenance of systems hardware and software and related infrastructure. This individual participates in technical research and development to enable continuing innovation within the infrastructure. This individual ensures that system hardware, operating systems, software systems, and related procedures adhere to organizational values, enabling staff, volunteers, and Partners.

This individual will assist project teams with technical issues in the Initiation and Planning phases of our standard Project Management Methodology. These activities include the definition of needs, benefits, and technical strategy; research & development within the project life-cycle; technical analysis and design; and support of operations staff in executing, testing and rolling-out the solutions. Participation on projects is focused on smoothing the transition of projects from development staff to production staff by performing operations activities within the project life-cycle.

This individual is accountable for the following systems: Linux and Windows systems that support GIS infrastructure; Linux, Windows and Application systems that support Asset Management; Responsibilities on these systems include SA engineering and provisioning, operations and support, maintenance and research and development to ensure continual innovation.

SA Engineering and Provisioning

  1. Engineering of SA-related solutions for various project and operational needs.
  1. Install new / rebuild existing servers and configure hardware, peripherals, services, settings, directories, storage, etc. in accordance with standards and project/operational requirements.
  1. Install and configure systems such as supports GIS infrastructure applications or Asset Management applications.
  1. Develop and maintain installation and configuration procedures.
  1. Contribute to and maintain system standards.
  1. Research and recommend innovative, and where possible automated approaches for system administration tasks. Identify approaches that leverage our resources and provide economies of scale.

Operations and Support

  1. Perform daily system monitoring, verifying the integrity and availability of all hardware, server resources, systems and key processes, reviewing system and application logs, and verifying completion of scheduled jobs such as backups.
  1. Perform regular security monitoring to identify any possible intrusions.
  1. Perform daily backup operations, ensuring all required file systems and system data are successfully backed up to the appropriate media, recovery tapes or disks are created, and media is recycled and sent off site as necessary.
  1. Perform regular file archival and purge as necessary.
  1. Create, change, and delete user accounts per request.
  1. Provide Tier III/other support per request from various constituencies. Investigate and troubleshoot issues.
  1. Repair and recover from hardware or software failures. Coordinate and communicate with impacted constituencies.

Maintenance

  1. Apply OS patches and upgrades on a regular basis, and upgrade administrative tools and utilities. Configure/add new services as necessary.
  1. Upgrade and configure system software that supports GIS infrastructure applications or Asset Management applications per project or operational needs.
  1. Maintain operational, configuration, or other procedures.
  1. Perform periodic performance reporting to support capacity planning.
  1. Perform ongoing performance tuning, hardware upgrades, and resource optimization as required. Configure CPU, memory, and disk partitions as required.
  1. Maintain data center environmental and monitoring equipment.

KNOWLEDGE/SKILLS:

  1. Bachelor (4-year) degree, with a technical major, such as engineering or computer science.
  1. Systems Administration/System Engineer certification in Unix and Microsoft.
  1. Four to six years system administration experience.

COMPLEXITY/PROBLEM SOLVING:

  1. Position deals with a variety of problems and sometimes has to decide which answer is best. The question/issues are typically clear and require determination of which answer (from a few choices) is the best.

DISCRETION/LATITUDE/DECISION-MAKING:

  1. Decisions normally have a noticeable effect department-wide and company-wide, and judgment errors can typically require one to two weeks to correct or reverse.

RESPONSIBILITY/OVERSIGHT –FINANCIAL & SUPERVISORY:

  1. Functions as a lead worker doing the work similar to those in the work unit; responsibility for training, instruction, setting the work pace, and possibly evaluating performance.
  1. No budget responsibility.

COMMUNICATIONS/INTERPERSONAL CONTACTS:

  1. Interpret and/or discuss information with others, which involves terminology or concepts not familiar to many people; regularly provide advice and recommend actions involving rather complex issues. May resolve problems within established practices.
  1. Provides occasional guidance, some of which is technical.

WORKING CONDITIONS/PHYSICAL EFFORT:

  1. Responsibilities sometimes require working evenings and weekends, sometimes with little-advanced notice.
  1. No regular travel required.

———————————————————————————————————

This is close, but I would add to this list… I see nothing in this description about documenting anything.  Maybe that is why it is not done in so many places?  Does your SA do this type of thing?

-Best

Directive No. 3025.18, “Defense Support of Civil Authorities”

 

A 2010 Pentagon directive on military support to civilian authorities details what critics say is a troubling policy that envisions the Obama administration’s potential use of military force against Americans.

The directive contains noncontroversial provisions on support to civilian fire and emergency services, special events and the domestic use of the Army Corps of Engineers.

The troubling aspect of the directive outlines presidential authority for the use of military arms and forces, including unarmed drones, in operations against domestic unrest.

“This appears to be the latest step in the administration’s decision to use force within the United States against its citizens,” said a defense official opposed to the directive.

Directive No. 3025.18, “Defense Support of Civil Authorities,” was issued Dec. 29, 2010, and states that U.S. commanders “are provided emergency authority under this directive.”

“Federal military forces shall not be used to quell civil disturbances unless specifically authorized by the president in accordance with applicable law or permitted under emergency authority,” the directive states.

“In these circumstances, those federal military commanders have the authority, in extraordinary emergency circumstances where prior authorization by the president is impossible and duly constituted local authorities are unable to control the situation, to engage temporarily in activities that are necessary to quell large-scale, unexpected civil disturbances” under two conditions.

The conditions include military support needed “to prevent significant loss of life or wanton destruction of property and are necessary to restore governmental function and public order.” A second use is when federal, state and local authorities “are unable or decline to provide adequate protection for federal property or federal governmental functions.”

“Federal action, including the use of federal military forces, is authorized when necessary to protect the federal property or functions,” the directive states.

Military assistance can include loans of arms, ammunition, vessels and aircraft. The directive states clearly that it is for engaging civilians during times of unrest.

A U.S. official said the Obama administration considered but rejected deploying military force under the directive during the recent standoff with Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and his armed supporters.

Mr. Bundy is engaged in a legal battle with the federal Bureau of Land Management over unpaid grazing fees. Along with a group of protesters, Mr. Bundy in April confronted federal and local authorities in a standoff that ended when the authorities backed down.

The Pentagon directive authorizes the secretary of defense to approve the use of unarmed drones in domestic unrest.

In 2010 we saw the uprising in the middle east and we saw how the Greece came apart when their currency became worthless due to hyper inflation and the government simply devaluing it by printing too much of it.

 In Syria we see today the government “quelling civil unrest.”  Admittedly they are the cause of the civil unrest that they are quelling by murdering their citizens with anything from typical gunfire to rockets to bombs to chemical attacks.  I am guessing if they had unmanned drones they would use them as well.

 Understand that the second amendment was designed for the people to keep the government in check through the use of militias if necessary, can you imagine a government run a muck like we see in the middle east today; here in the US where your sons and daughters are ordered by “not just this president but any elected official” to take up arms against you; their parents!

This bill “in my humble opinion” is so far off the mark of what our government is about, it boggles the mind. 

For someone who used to teach “constitutional law” this guy and his people are so far left they make Putin look conservative.

Just my 2 cents worth…