Tag: CEO

To Insure Prompt Service T.I.P.S.

To Insure Prompt Service T.I.P.S.

 

A recent article about tipping brings to the forefront of our “things to talk about;” tipping.

Europe has simply raised the cost of goods and services 20% to 30% in their restaurants and stopped tipping. The money “supposedly” used to increase the wages of the employees as well as pay for things like health care. I do not see any issues here, do you?

In theory, it sounds great but what accountability is there on the shop owners that they will use that money for those reasons?  The answer is none.

I would prefer to TIP my server, as his or her service can be quantifiably assessed by his or her clients. They get immediate feedback.

Speaking of jobs if I could choose, I would like to be a restaurant critic.  I already am a foodie and know something about food.  I used to travel a lot, when on an expense account one of my companies allowed generous benefits in that area.   Taking clients out to dinner often times I went to 5 star places and came to know the difference between good, mediocre and bad.

If I could have dinner with one celebrity, it would be Gordon Ramsey.  In the world of IT, I am just like him, other than I can choose my vernacular better than he…I still have that style and appreciate an honest person.

Life is not fair.

Not everyone will have the same skills and talents.  When you as a younger person piss off your opportunities afforded to you in school, you relegate yourself to jobs that are currently being taken by others from other countries that think those jobs are sweet; you limit your possibilities!

In the food services industry, servers that are good, earn more money than those that work in the back room. 

I would point out that the kitchen helper position is not exactly a career choice that anyone should aspire to.  Much like working in the mailroom in a large corporation, those are entry points into the job market.  They are minimum wage jobs because they require little talent to perform.

Retail sales is not a career choice, it is an entry point.  The problem is that managers that work there will tell their people anything to encourage them to keep their nose to the grindstone and work hard as they see management potential in them.   Most of the time they are lying in an effort to placate you into giving them more of your time in return for part time minimum wage dollars.

“Time is expensive.”

When you boil it all down, what you are selling is bits and pieces of yourself through the time you invest.  We are all whores if you think about it; we will do almost anything for money.

“Money truly is the root of all evil!” 

People that find a way to live comfortably, without killing themselves to earn more money, are probably the true winners of the game of life.

Higher paying jobs are inherently more stressful, and stress kills.  Stress produces a hormone known as cortisol.  This hormone is the “fight or flight” hormone, released when danger is present.  When we stay in a stressed out situation, that hormone is released in copious amounts, and often…that takes a toll on your body and your health suffers.

If corporations had a brain in their collective heads, they would look into ways to reduce the stress on their employees; as stress leads to job burnout, sick time and turnover.  Those are costly!

If you can live on minimum wage, work your 8 hours and whistle while you work, your life might be sweet.

Those who chase the dollar their whole life, typically die young and leave their life’s work to their spouse or their greedy progeny to fight over, allowing attorneys to swoop in like vultures, and acquire the bulk of it.

Tips for success.

  • Get a good education.
  • Find a trade or skill that cannot be outsourced, and master it.
  • Discover all of your talents and skills.  What are they? Take an inventory of them.
  • Are any of them marketable?
  • Figure out what you like to do…what makes you happy?
  • Can you find a job doing that?

 

Keep toxicity out of your life.

If you have toxic friends, develop boundaries and keep them outside of them.  If your job is toxic, find something else as soon as possible.  We all have worked around toxic people who bitch and moan incessantly.  That is their own toxic cesspool, which they most likely have created.  Stay out of their sphere of influence.  Do not add to it and certainly do not marry into it.  You cannot fix stupid and you cannot help someone that does not know either that they need help or that they do not want it.  Some people actually enjoy being miserable.  They like to be the victim.  You cannot help them.

As a manager, identify those employees and try to work with them through HR, or get rid of them,  that BS is contagious.

Tomorrow is never coming back.  The time you spent reading this is gone, forever.  The time I spent elucidating my thoughts on these subjects is gone as well.  I hope that I spent that time wisely. I am optimistic in thinking that you got something out of it.

Time is your stock in trade. Time can be measure in heartbeats as you only have so many.  There is a finite number of times that your heart will pump that life force around your body. Do not waste it.

Now go take on the day!

 

-Best

© All Rights Reserved 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Open Letter to Apple or Darkware , the new frontier…

Open Letter to Apple or Darkware , the new frontier…

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Problem: There needs to be an easy way to sync your existing iPhone and or iPad with a new computer, and here is why?

I met Steve Jobs years ago when I was working at an agency that used Next Step computers.  Steve was an out of the box thinker “creating things in his garage” before the first apple anything ever was created.

Apple enjoys being one of the “big dogs” today not because of the mac, although it didn’t hurt but, the iPhone and of course tablets which they have excelled at.

Recently when the hardware crashed on my PC, even though I had a backup of the data, the iTunes files system to me was lost as it was tied to that computer. The OS with Microsoft dies with the computer so you get to buy everything over again.

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One of the success stories of Microsoft was and is, to keep their software “intuitive and consistent.”  Apple does this as well, once you know the basics, you can fumble your way through the rest.  When however; you have an issue like this, what are the workarounds?

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I need to move my data over to a new computer, migrate my iTunes stuff to the new computer, install the newest version of iTunes and sync the phone, iPad etc. right?

Folks, it should be this easy.  It should not take more than just a couple of steps in keeping with “apple simplicity.” To recover from something like this.

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I do not want or need a laundry list of things including standing on one foot while reciting the star spangled banner backwards, pressing a combination of half a dozen keys in separate sequences and purchasing some “Darkware” program that has no guarantee of working because, it too was invented in some basement by some pimple faced kid.

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There is in fact no way that I can see to do this without wiping out the phone, iPad (s) and starting from scratch which would not aid me in importing my contacts into Outlook at all! I also have no idea how much data that is on the phone / iPads that I would lose!

Outlook by the way has an equally convoluted way of doing this but, at least they have a way!

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Outlook, why don’t you write a program to do this all “programmatically” for your faithful users?

I de-authorized the dead computer but when I tried to authorize the new one, no such luck, still too many computers authorized!  3, three computers authorized and there are still too many!  Out of a possible 5, 3 is too many!  So, I de-authorized everything!  Now what!? Now you have to wait something like 90 days to re-authorize things…..?

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Doing the normal search thing, reading the blogs, researching all of the work around(s), I became frustrated to the point of thinking, “maybe it is time for a switch!”

Maybe, just maybe I really don’t need a smart phone at all.  How about a flip phone that just makes calls and receives calls!?  Have we come to that?  Have we come full circle?

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Not only do I need a device that works as I expect it to but, I need it to play well with other operating systems.   I should not be forced to follow the threads of other frustrated users until I discover some clandestine piece of software that could cause your device to no longer work! I need something that “Apple” has invented, created or has included with iTunes as an easy way for people like me to recover from!

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If I have to search the web and buy some third party software to fix Apple’s short shortsightedness for convoluted way of keeping people from sharing their songs with their teenage girlfriends, we have gone too far!

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I would much rather find another product that has already done that.  Things break and there needs to be some part of the program that allows for this.

This is Apple’s problem and they need to create a solution.  A solution that does not include forcing people like me to drive to the mall and to wait in line at the Genius bar to find out how much of a genius they are or are not.   Also to find out that I should simply  “google the problem, someone may have written something!”  Really, is that the best you got!?

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One of the first issues I had with the iPhone is I needed a way to organize my apps with the computer.  Do you think for a minute there is a way to contact Apple to get their attention?  I posted the idea for “free” to them in a public forum and I will be damned in about nine months’ time, it was there.  What would you care to guess that some employee who read my post offered the idea us as his?

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Well Apple, here is another free Idea, just fix the damned thing so I can get on with my life!

Thanks!

-Best to you and those that you care about.

Copyright 2015 All rights reserved

Www.guard-protect.com

Www.timedok.com

Time to #die #computer #PC

Time to #die #computer #PC

Time to Die

Before you think this is some macabre blog about life and death hold on! I am talking about time to let your trusted computer retire.

“Why the hell is my computer so slow!”  I substituted “hell” for the F word!  You get the point.  People are frustrated and just pissed off by the time I get a call.

The average life span of a PC is about 5 years, give or take.  The issues I have with that are many, and most of that revolve around the EULA. (End User License Agreement)

6a00d83451fb6769e200e54f64c4268833-800wi Does anyone read these?  I did a couple of times and boy oh boy, you need a lawyer to figure it out!

If you purchase a computer with an operating system that dies than the OS dies when the computer does.  Unlike the old days of DOS and or early Windows.

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When it gets right down to it the expensive part of the computer is not the hardware, but the software.  The OS is about $150 or so… Ok I can stomach that.

Office full blown is $500! Does it die with the computer?

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The Adobe suite is off the charts expensive, does it die with the computer?

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Why is it that a computer running an OS runs just fine and as time goes by it slows down?  Does the computer just get tired?

Resmon screen shot showing CPU busy calculationsThree finger solute brings this up…

It has a lot to do with the patches and ad-ons that we do to them.  A computer is much like a baby.  Everything that you do to it, or with it from its “birth,” has some effect on it.

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Herbie Pulling a trailer and from the 1954 movie the long long trailer Ricky and Lucy pulling a trailer full of rocks.

I equate it to a car.  Let’s say your car is a Volkswagen beetle that new, gets you down the road and does what you want it to do.  After a few months it is not quite as Zippy as it was earlier and after a year it starts showing its age.  You take it in for a tune-up, start using a higher grade of gasoline and for a while it works fair.  Then after a while going up hills are a struggle.  After downshifting to 2cnd you make it up the hills but you remember earlier in its life when maybe you only had to downshift to 3rd but for the most part; not at all.

After much head scratching you start looking at every little detail of your poor car.  Suddenly you find out that your partner in crime has secretly had a fascination with collecting rocks.  Your poor car is hauling tons of rocks in the “bonnet” under the back seat, and even the glove box!

Some of the rocks have been there so long that they have become part of the car!  After removing all of the rocks that you can; the car once again makes it up the hills but not as fast as it did when it was new.

Your computer when new; was the fastest thing around, if you are like me, you over buy!

After months and maybe years the computer much like the car has the occasional issue with web sites, or e-mail or loading a picture file to edit.

Time to look for rocks.

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You buy a product like Crap Cleaner and you let it work its magic.  Not before too long, your computer is running “ok” so you push on.

After a few years Crap Cleaner no longer does it.  You enlist the help of someone like myself.  I hunt and kill malware and other viruses. I check for the latest drivers and work my magic and manage to get your computer running as it should, but it is not as good as it was new.

SWT Yep, that is me….

Why?

I can tell you that it is most probably not the hardware.  I can prove it to you by installing another hard drive and installing the virgin OS that your machine came with.  The machine will behave just like it did out of the box, until you put your “stuff” back on it, most of the time.

Uninstall Crap

One of the things that I find the most, is people install all of this “stuff.”  It all looks cool until you see that your computer is full of trial-ware, and other “stuff” that you don’t use.  Delete it or “uninstall it.”

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Startup

A quick look at the startup software will usually tell you that you have too much crap starting up.

A CTRL ALT DELETE or three finger solute will bring up a menu which you can then bring up task manager.  Look at the processes utilization and so forth and see where it is.  Frequently I see machines that have used all of the allotted memory and are now into virtual memory.  Virtual memory is orders of magnitude slower than “real memory” as it is swapping to your hard drive.  Troubleshoot the issues and remove programs or processes that are starting up that you really don’t need.  The goal is to keep the machine using only real memory and not have to deal with a bunch of “Rocks!”

Hardware dust bunnies

dirty-computer-fan I have seen worse! IMG_0228

They are overclocking some computer so they have taken to using water cooling systems much like they did back in the days of the Amdahl MainFrame’s.

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There is a special breed of animal that I liken to gremlins.  They live inside your computer and other electronic “stuff.”  They plug up the vents, restrict air flow and clog up fans and get inside your CD Rom drive stopping it from working, even inside your floppy drive if you still have one.  These are the ever present Dust Bunnies that once only lived under beds and furniture.  Now they have found a new occupation destroying electronic stuff and they are not even cute!

dustbunnies-by-suzanne-proulx Someone had way too much time on their hands…

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Just like Gremlins, don’t get water anywhere near them!

One thing that I never overlook is cleanliness of the machine.  These things are ecological disasters when it comes to dust!  If Hoover was smart they would build a combo PC / Air Cleaner as these things really do look like the inside of the vacuum cleaner bag.   If you have pets or maybe are in a warehouse etc. the problem is exacerbated.  While I really want to title this BJ, I decided that might be too crass.  You get the idea, take it outside and blow the crap out of it, “literally,” with an air compressor if you have it, or that expensive canned air. I clean mine out every 6 months and that goes double for laptops as people use those things in strange places, even on their bed where the machine can’t breathe correctly! Laptops should be used on a hard surface, not carpet, couches or beds!

These machine generate heat and must be adequately cooled.  If your machine is still running warm after the BJ, consider buying and installing a better CPU cooler and even more fans for the case.

While I am talking about hardware, make certain that your power supply is up to the task at hand.  It needs to be able to produce more wattage than you need and it should have a large fan in it that moves lots of air.  Today they have power supplies that have plug in cables that give you the ability to only use that which you need in the way of cables and not have a lot of extra wire floating around inside the box!  Anything in there that you don’t need can obstruct air flow.

While I am talking about cables, dress them properly.  They should be neatly tied together and routed where they do not obstruct a fan from turning and if possible away from air paths so cool air can make its way through the case.

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Antivirus

Antivirus is Key to computer users today and more critical than ever before.  While my tin foil hat side of me thinks that the creators of this software are all out to be better than the next guy by actually producing and passing the thousands of viruses out there; I don’t have the smoking gun.  I see that this is a huge industry and where there is money there is greed / motive.  I cannot fathom why anyone would sit around in their mother’s basement in their underwear writing destructive viruses if they cannot see the effect of their work and are not being paid.

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Eww, I just about feel bad putting this here….

My current favorites are Eset Node 32 and Trend Micro.  I also have Norton running on a PC that I use infrequently and do not depend upon or even allow anything “free” other than defender on my network / lab computers / home computers.  Free is not worth what you pay for it!  Defender is not the end all be all product and I would never depend upon it as my sole protection.  That would be like people practicing the “rhythm method” for birth control, you know what they call those folks right?  Parents!

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Get the latest updates

Allow the stinking updates from Microsoft as they have a vested interest in your machine working properly.  Like the antivirus folks who work tirelessly to constantly put out new updates, so does Microsoft.  It may be a simple tweak and yes, they frequently allow stuff out that should be tested more thoroughly so you may want to wait for a few days before you actually install it yourself but, most of the time they are the thing to do.

Turn off indexing

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By default Windows has indexing turned on.  As your computer ages and you fill up those massive terabyte hard drives with stuff, the computer uses valuable horse power to index all of your stuff.  That can slow your machine down to a crawl!  Unless you search for files constantly turn off indexing! If you still want to have faster access to certain files you can selectively index.

Defrag

After all else, run check-disk and then defrag your hard drive.  If during the checkdsk process you find bad sectors don’t wait, stop right there and back up everything and replace the hard drive!  Most all electronic equipment is rated in MTBF or (mean time between failure.)  It is not a matter of “if” but when it will fail.

Let it Die

XP is dead, get over it.  End of life software keeps those that write the stuff in business.  Software is an incredibly dynamic industry.  Linux is more static if you want to learn something totally new but even it changes.

Machines that run DOS have been re-cycled and are polluting third world countries where some send old boards and parts to allow low budget workers to re-claim precious metals at risk to the person and their ecology.  If old Al really wanted to something of value, he would tackle this issue as those people are seriously polluting their environment as our garbage is a job for them.  Bottom line, re-cycle your old hardware in a responsible manner.  PC’s are not an investment in hardware but rather for what they do!  They have a finite life and when they start sucking the life out of you by you having to baby them, wait on them and spend your hard earned money to “fix them” get a new one!

 trs80ii DSC06133 os2warp4xp_boot2000px-StartingMsdos2 If I had a nickle for every time the phone rang asking me what do I do now with this C thing….!

If you decide to re-cycle any old computer and you are worried about your “information, as you should be” remove the hard drive and hang on to it.  When you are certain that you no longer will need anything that possibly could be on it, take your drill and drill a hole, straight through it, hit it with a hammer multiple times, after dropping it on a cement surface, and then put the remains into the recycle bin. Wear your safety glasses just in case….

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I am experienced in forensic computing so trust me, if you do any of the above, or some combination, nobody will get anything off of it, ever!

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Crap Cleaner as part of its program has something called Drive Wiper.  That may very well do it, without all of the destructive energy being spent.  Once you run it everything is gone to the great bit bucket in the sky, or basement..

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Who am I?

I am just a guy who has been working with computers since before Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were anyone, period!  The internet was not around and Al Gore was still inventing the calculator to determine how much to charge for green-house gas emissions, from the basement in his mansion!

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Al, what can be said?  

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Actually a lot, can you say “MEME,” I bet you can…

There was no e-mail, no internet; and porn was not digital anywhere!  There was still Greg Shorthand and Secretaries were a hot commodity, as executives could not construct a proper sentence without them.

005184115 First picture of something racy that was found on the internet I think using “gopher.”

gopher2 Early Internet usage… This is actually advanced as there is a browser!

I lecture, consult, and when time permits, give back to the community with things like this “free advice or entertainment.”

Re-post this if you think that it will help your folks, or readers, or some family member that wonders why their computer is “so slow!” just don’t edit it and make sure proper credit is given.  Thanks!

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Just in case: There are no warranties expressed or implied with this “free advice” for the legal record, let’s call this “entertainment” as I know that there are those out there that will do something to their computer and try to claim that this blog was in some way responsible and they might even be the ambulance chaser attorney type, that sees a lawsuit in a free lunch!

So, anything that you read here is “entertainment” and if you should try this at home, you do so at your own peril, if something goes awry!  “Plain language…if you stuff it up” I am not responsible.

Stuffed Up!
Stuffed up!

-Best to you and those that you care about!

Copyright 2015 TimeDok, All rights reserved

Www.Guard-Protect.com

Www.TimeDok.com

Moving?

If you are a CEO, or owner of a company, you know that the logistics of moving are a nightmare!

I have moved data centers while keeping the existing company going.  That is what got me interested in Disaster recovery.  If you are going to provide business continuity during a disaster, providing the same for a move is a little simpler.

If you have a disaster recovery plan, this would be an excellent way to test it.  If you don’t; may I suggest you create one before the move and then use the move as a way to test it?

The simple facts are that most CEO’s are oblivious as to the true state of their data infrastructure.  It seems to work and beside the occasional glitch, business continues.

As a DR specialist I see things way too often that are far from “best practice” and usually so sub-par that the person in charge of the mess does everything they can do to get me out of there before their boss learns the tenuous situation that they have going on.

Rule of thumb.

You don’t have to understand too much of the technology to know if you are being snowed.

Go into the wiring closets and or data center and look at how things arranged.

Are the cables dressed as they should be or are they simply plugged in with no rhyme or reason?

Is everything in the computer room labeled?

Can your CIO or manager or sysadmin produce an up to date network map?

Can they produce your software licenses in case the SBA comes for a visit?

Can they produce an accurate inventory of all of the software in your company?

Can they show you the “run book.”

These are just real simple things that you can look for to get a feel for how prepared your company is to either move, or recover after a disaster.

Usually the turnover in such a company results in messes being piled on top of messes.  Before the Gordian knot becomes truly inexorable; a review is necessary.

The review turns into an audit which inevitably makes those who are responsible anxious.  My job is not to point fingers, but simply point out that which needs to change.

See my blog “attention Ceo CiO etc…

https://thetimedok.com/2014/06/02/attention-ceo-cfo-president-cio-and-hr/

There are many things in there to ask of your staff.

The point to this writing today is simple this.  If you are pondering a move, using your disaster recovery plan as an outline for the move, has lots of advantages.

The main advantage is that you get to test it, and work on it.  While it may not be complete it is a starting point.

We live in difficult times; not having a DR plan is like driving without insurance, risky.  While driving without insurance could get you a ticket, or paying for the other guy out of your pocket, not having a DR plan could cost you the entire company.

Feel free to contact me if you need some help.

Staylor AT guard-protect.com

Yes, robots see e-mails and spam me so simply replace the AT with the @

-Best

The CIO

Frequently young people ask me what it takes to be in IT or even the CIO.

Over thirty years of OJT has taught me a thing or two about management.

When I was working in Corporate America, often times I would do things that were for the “good of the company,” that my subordinates may not have liked.

In one of my previous post I speak about documentation being the bane of IT people.  As a manager of this group, documentation is key.

Many times I go into a situation to “trouble-shoot” and when I ask for the network documentation, I am met with blank stares.  If I task you with driving from Baltimore to LA without a map or GPS, the odds are good that even with the occasional road sign to assist you, you would make a few wrong turns along the way. While this is a real simplistic metaphor for the problem, you get the point.

While I encourage the creation and continual update of a “run-book,” most IT people laugh. One of them even told me straight up “that will never happen.”  He was terminated soon after that remark.  Attitude is a key component of any employee, and crappy attitudes I can do without.  It happened, it just did not happen with him.

The data center and the associated infrastructure does not belong to you the geek; but the company.  You are entrusted with its care and feeding.  The direction of how, when, and why, comes from somewhere else. Understanding your role in this universe is salient advice, that I would give any techie that wants to stay employed.

While I have stepped on a few toes over the past 30 years; most of my previous employees would follow me to a new company if I asked; and have done so on many occasions over the years.

What does it take to be the “guy in charge?”

It takes a person who firstly loves technology.  Eating and breathing the newest technology I believe is a trait that is indicative of a successful CIO.

Second, it takes business acumen.  Technology is great; having the business prowess to realize that there is a bottom line and in order for the company to stay viable, purchases should be made with business objectives in mind.  I cannot tell you how many times I see things that were ill-advised purchases, which were no longer in use, and lost revenue.

Having a vision of where the company is headed is key to purchasing the correct hardware and software.

If you have read any of my other blogs you know that I believe in leading by example.  Gaining the mutual respect of your employees is paramount.  Sometimes a new broom must sweep clean, and that too has been the case on a few occasions.

Be smart enough to utilize a VAR.  The business case is simple…

Yes, they markup their products that they sell you however; you gain the expertise of their staff who see what works and what does not.  They are in multiple businesses and have the advantage of working with all of the latest and greatest. They stand behind what they sell you.  If it breaks, they deal with it.  They deal with all of the major vendors and know what is coming down the road.  Having access to their insight is invaluable.

Never buy from internet “cheapie” stores and here is why?  If they have it and it is discounted, there is a reason.  It may be buggy or is no longer supported or outdated.

If you want to take a chance for your home stuff, go for it.  Business applications are more traffic intensive than your home network or pc.  If you have routing issues or excessive collisions at home, the odds are good that you will never know it unless it becomes critical.  In business, you have possibly hundreds of computers hooked to the network thus stressing the networks ability to perform.  Do you really want to do that with cheap, no-name or outdated hardware?

If you want to shop your toner, go for it, other office supplies; have at it.  Networking equipment, do not be tempted.  The few dollars you “think you saved” will most probably cost you big time in the end.

Realize that there are things like hardware asset management and make sure you follow through.  Repairing and putting new software on old hardware is a fool’s mission in that the license most likely dies with the hardware.  Old hardware is already outdated and slower than what you would have today.  There is also S.A.M. or software asset management, which also is a key element to the bottom line.

  • Desktops last no longer than five years.
  • Laptops, around three years.
  • Smartphones about two.

Since the software cost much more than the hardware you can see how keeping that old boat anchor alive is probably not a good idea.  XP is dead, get over it and move on.

This is one reason why leasing for large companies might make good sense.

I once worked for a CIO who did not even have a PC at home.  He reminded me of the old guy that did not even want a cell phone as there was nobody he wanted to talk to bad enough to have one.  My point is that you must have a balance between the financial aspects of the business at hand, and the technological aspects.  This guy cost the company millions of dollars because he was so inept where technology counted.  While he did not have an abacus on his desk; he definitely was old school and inflexible.

Too many times I have been in companies where the CEO or owner wanted to play IT rather than run the company.  The CEO did not get there by being stupid but, IT is not his forte’; it is yours.  Unlike we “the nerds of the world” who eat breath and defecate this stuff on a daily basis; he or she may read something in some periodical and think, wow this looks good “do this!”

Your relationship with this person should be on a solid enough footing where you can tell them the truth of the matter.

Falling back to re-group and gather pricing, TCO and an ROI is always a crucial part of the decision, not to mention, does it make business sense to do it in the first place.

Don’t be afraid to tell the truth.  I have had a yes man working for me that I had to get rid of.  I depend upon my subordinates to debate with me if they think that I am wrong.  They might very well loose anyway but, differing opinions are necessary, and crucial to the process. Having the humility to listen to them is part of being a good CIO.

Project management is a key part of being an IT manager.  Yes, you can hire a project manager but let’s face it; it is really not all that difficult.  We have all of these certifications for everything in the world.  While a piece of paper gives the clueless hiring entity a metric of your ability, it is not the end all be all.

I have inherited “certified employees” that were academically sharp but, not able to do the job at hand. They can read and regurgitate information but could not turn a screwdriver. Book sense and practical; not one or the other.

I was a project manager before there were such things, at least certified project managers.

I ran as many projects as 30 at one time, most in a spreadsheet, well several spreadsheets.  I knew what it was going to cost and how much I was going to have spent on each and every milestone.  I knew who would be doing which task at what time and how long it should take.  If I can do that in Excel, do I really need to hire a PMP?

In order to be a good manager having the ability to do each and every job, makes life much simpler.  You cannot be “BS’ed.  Can you do it as fast as someone who does it day in and day out?  Probably not but, you could do it if needed which gives you a leg up and makes each and every employee under you “expendable.”

I don’t mean to sound harsh.  There is this attitude among most IT guys that if they are the only person who can do it, they are sacrosanct. So, they don’t document their job and of course they don’t let on their tricks or where the bones are buried. Nobody in any company should be untouchable.

This is dangerous for you the CIO and damned hazardous for the company.

This is why the owner or CEO of any company should have a disaster recovery plan and test that plan with people other than his or her employees.  If a technical group of people can bring your company back from the brink, in an offsite location, in a short amount of time, than your documentation is solid.  If not, than your guys have some “splainin to do.”

Plans such as these rarely work perfect the first time and I expect that.  That is the process by which the documentation is refined in such a way that it will work.  No one can get every detail the first time around but eventually you can nail it down in such a way that the company would survive if a disaster was declared.

These have been my precepts from day one of management.  There are lots of things that go with this but you can see the logic and of course you can see how this would intimidate the person who may be out of their comfort zone to start with.  This is one of the problems that I am forced to deal with when I am called in to do a DR plan.  The employees are seldom on board with giving me information, which means that I have to go and get it. This is where I end up stepping on toes.  If I have to go dig it up, it is much more costly and it extends the project time.  Nobody wants their “mess” exposed during the audit so it is seldom easy to get through this process.  Even though upper management is on board, the employees are most of the time, evasive if not truculent; and unwilling to share.

So my last thing that I would offer is patience.  Weekly meetings with upper management your progress will ferret out issues like, uncooperative employees.

-Best to you and those that you care about.

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

NO!

No

 

“No” is a word that too many CEO’s need to hear.  The problem is that too many hire people that will agree with them or say “yes” or “great idea” or some other such yes-man technique as they either fear that their boss does not want to really hear the truth or they are cowards or simply not well informed. 

 

It is not only CEO’s that need to hear the word “no” but a lot of politicians need to hear it as well.

 

For instance, did Truman really need to drop not one but two atomic bombs on Japan to end the war?  I would argue that one would have been enough and I would also argue that it could have been dropped on a small island that we were loosing so many marines on or perhaps an unpopulated island. Leveling that island would have been enough to demonstrate our resolve and abilities.

 

The simple truth is that Japan was already war weary and the people of Japan did not want this war. We could speculate who and why things transpired the way that they did but the end results of those decision have still not fully played out.

 

Yes, Japan surrendered. But now any dictator or want-to-be dictator in the world set their sites on getting an atomic bomb too.  If the US had them than of course Russia needed them hence so many years of the cold war. Of course China would need them and of course any country with a dictator would need them as well!

 

Like Gunpowder, this is something that Einstein should have kept under his hat.  Any time anyone makes any sort of advancement in technology, the dictators of the world wonder how to use it as a weapon.   If one country has it, than they need it as well.

 

We have enough weapons of mass destruction to kill every living thing on earth many times over and yet we still keep trying to make something just a little more lethal.

 

No, that is not a good idea.  Wasting so much money and resources on finding better ways to kill is just so juvenile.  Now you put these weapons of mass destruction in the hands of irrational dictators and you place the entire earth and all of its inhabitants in grave danger.  Brinksmanship is not lost on today’s “leaders” who seem to be nothing more than your classic neighborhood bully who will gladly get someone else to do his fighting for him.

 

If a race of beings from another planet were to visit and watch some of our news or other “entertainment” they would most certainly put some sort of beacon around our solar system warning anyone else to stay the hell away!  We have entire countries to this day that are xenophobic in nature and bent on destroying anyone that does not agree with or cow down to them.   This is 2014 and this is going on today!

 

Imagine if you will the difference between you and the Chimpanzee. Where DNA is concerned there is exactly one percent difference between human DNA and that of the Chimpanzee.  That is 1%, that is it!  Now let’s talk about intelligence of humans compared to that of the Chimpanzee.  We think that we are intelligent because we have a space station, physics, music, weapons of mass destruction and of course we have E=MC2.  The Chimpanzee can make and use tools, stack boxes to get to a banana and even use tree branches to escape their confinement in a zoo.

 

If this race of Aliens were watching us they may very well compare us to their progeny when they are in kindergarten.
Their 1rst grade kids may come home from school with something that looks like your masters thesis while ours come home with macaroni art or clay ash trays.   To think that we are intelligent and that we could have anything to offer to a race of aliens that can traverse interstellar space borders on hubris.

 

One of our most beloved “inventors” was Thomas Edison.  What history does not tell you is that this man was anything but nice.  When Tesla came up with the concept of AC vs. DC as a way to power the city, Edison was furious. Instead of being an open minded person, he tried his best to discredit the idea.  One of the ways that he did this was to electrocute an Elephant in public trying to turn public opinion on AC.

 

While both men were “out of the box” thinkers, one needed some morals; the other needed some business acumen.

 

Some CEO’s of auto manufacturers really needed someone to say “no” to them.

 

The Chevy Vega with that crappy engine comes to mind along with the Pinto’s exploding gas tank.  GM using plastic parts in transmission was another not so bright spot in trying to make things cheaper.  Liquid filled motor mounts was another costly invention that failed and let’s not forget “air bag suspension!” “Not a better idea!” 

 

Bringing German engineering to Texas was really not too smart in the early days, as air cooled engines in 100 plus degree weather did not work so well.  The VW Microbus while a really cool looking van was not really very well suited for Texas or any place that was not flat.  They were so lacking in power that if one had to go up hill, they may very well not make it.  On top of that if the engine got a little oil and or grease on the housing and one did not take great care to keep it clean, it might very well catch on fire as was the fate of many of those vehicles.  It would be an interesting statistic to see what percentage of microbuses did not burn up compared to those that did.

 

Aluminum wiring for houses was another area where someone should have said “no.”  While aluminum wire conducts electricity better than copper and while it is cheaper than copper; that is where it stops.  When you connect aluminum wire to electrical outlets, switches and so forth that are not specifically designed for this, you increase the chance of fire.

 

Dissimilar metals have different coefficients of thermal expansion due to differing resistances of the metals. I have actually tracked down problems like this in a house that was made in 1957.  Using an old transistor radio tuned off of any station, I tracked the source of interference down to an electrical socket in one of the rooms of the house.  Removing the cover of the socket revealed a blackened terminal that was arcing right in front of me when a load was present. This arcing causes heat to be generated.  The heat can be sufficient enough to cause a fire to start.  Houses made in the late 50’s 60’s and 70’s in the US should be checked for such wire and if it exist, should be brought up to code.

 

Even though it would have cost the builder a few more dollars, they elected to save a few dollars on each house and use aluminum.  Someone should have said “no.” How many people have died in house fires caused by aluminum wire?

 

Ralph Nader, love him or hate him is such a person who is an activist for humanitarianism among other things.  Back in the day, I was not a fan because it was his activism which did away with the Corvair.

 

The 61 Corvair was probably one of the coolest cars to drive but also very dangerous.  Rear engine cars create an environment that would allow a car to spin out more easily as the weight was behind the axle.  Along with cars like this, his activism did away with the metal dash.  

 

I restored an old Victrola not too long ago. While the genius of the device “again thanks Edison” is impressive, looking under the hood so to speak is what impressed me more.

 

Under the deck is a large spring and a governor consisting of weights that move out the faster the turntable spins.  This governor is quite an impressive piece of mechanical engineering. The weights resemble steel balls that when expanded, slow the rotation down.  Much like a ballerina bringing her arms in, speed up; so too the governor of the Victrola.  This is where the phrase “balls to the walls” came from.  The idea was of course to go fast enough to cause the balls of the governor to expand far enough to hit the casing “walls” around them.

 

Anyone in power of anything needs a governor. Even Bill Gates needs such a thing, although I suspect it is his better half.  We all need someone to challenge our decisions from time to time.  Some would argue that religion serves in such a capacity, others would argue, that is why we have laws. 

 

So if we had neither; what would we be like as a people today?

 

One only has to study history to learn the answer to this.  The problems are that we are too busy doing other things to look back.  If I were to tell you that early man hunted, killed and ate each other as matter of day to day life, some of you would not believe me.  Some of you would say that you had heard of it in the deepest darkest parts of Africa a long time ago.  It amazes me that we have survived our animalistic instincts and tendencies.  

 

If I were to tell you that there was a group of people that considered torture an art form, you might shake your head.  Certainly not you decry..  [1]

 

If reading about the Assyrians does not give you nightmares, read about some of the 25 most brutal torture techniques. [2]

 

[3] Vlad the Impaler was someone history should learn from.  Real nice guy!

 

History is full of this stuff.  When we hear on the news that someone was murdered in some drive by shooting or some crime of passion, by histories standards, that isn’t nothing!  I don’t mean to diminish their acts but by yesterday’s standards, that is child’s play.

 

There is a culture that is into bondage and such and one has to wonder if it is a leftover from earlier times when nothing was off limits.

 

The very cross that people wear around their necks is a miniature copy of a device that was made for torture.  The traditional way to punish a criminal in those days was to nail them to that cross.  This made it very difficult for them to breath so they would let them suffer for several hours before they would come along and break their legs so they could no longer support themselves, thus suffocate.

 

When they execute someone by lethal injection they are executing them on a device that looks like that very cross, just a little wider place to place the body, soon to be corpse, arms stretched and tied and feet held in place while the paralytics enter into the body and stop the bodies ability to breath.   Some say that this is too kind and that they should be killed in some horrific manner.  Really, does that sound familiar?

 

These documents are hard to read.  This is important stuff as this is where the human race came from.  This is where you and I came from.  This is where Stalin and Hitler and many other modern day killers, came from.

 

We are capable of horrific acts!  We can choose.  We also come from the likes of Brahms, Ptolemy, Aristotle, Plato, Chopin, Pythagoras, Newton, and Voltaire to name just a scant few.

 

I often wonder about these violent video games that some play.  They are very much simulators for war, violence and the conditioning of the brain to accept such things.  We come from a very violent past and much like the alcoholic, steering clear of such things is probably a good idea.  

 

We have thousands calling for stricter gun control.  Do they think that laws regarding guns will affect criminals?  It is a knee jerk reaction to violence, nothing more, and would serve nothing other than emboldening the criminal element among us.

 

Japan would never invade the mainland and it was never their plan.  Why?  They knew even back then that most Americans had guns.

 

If you think that I am full of shit, ask yourself “why these video games are developed in the first place, who thinks up this stuff.”  Than ask yourself, “why do they sell so many of them, why are they so popular.”

 

Pornography fills something inside us that is basic and part of the programming.  Violence does the same thing both in movie and of course video game and I would argue that some people who practice it for real have the need for the adrenalin etc that it releases.   

 

It would be an interesting experiment for someone to develop video games where one can capture and torture their victim in ways mentioned below.  Complete with screaming and gnashing of teeth and so forth.  As sad as it is, I would bet that they would sell.  The interesting part would be to see what demographic buys them, how many hours they “play the game” and how does it affect them. I would argue that it would condition them to be “monsters in the making.”  The world needs less of this stuff, not more of it.  That is my humble opinion.

 

Science makes arguments against the existence of God.  A belief in God humbles one and I think assist us with being moral.  Some will claim that they are a good person and don’t need such a belief to “be good.”

 

If you use God as an excuse to stop asking questions than that is a problem.  Where there is mystery, a question to be answered, than search for that answer.  Science and God must necessarily co-exist.

 

The links below are to some sites that speak of evil people and or techniques used to torture people.  These are a scant few that history is full of.

 

All through the history of man, violence prevails.  Some of the violence is mystical in nature and some is downright evil.  The American Indian tortured white man by some horrific means as did the [6] Chinese torture people as did the Japanese. [5]

 

When you read about some of this stuff, it really makes you wonder why God would allow this?

 

[1] http://faculty.uml.edu/ethan_Spanier/Teaching/documents/CP6.0AssyrianTorture.pdf

 

[2] http://list25.com/25-most-brutal-torture-techniques-ever-devised/

 

[3] http://www.vladtheimpaler.info/the_impalement.html

 

[4] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Captives_in_American_Indian_Wars

 

[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nanking_Massacre

 

[6] http://www.ishr.org/Methods-of-torture-in-the-People-s-Republic-of-China.1047.0.html

 

These links are a drop in the bucket.  That is the sad part.

 

No, no advanced race or being would come here looking for anything from us.  They might come here to enslave us, eat us, kill us and take our resources much like we exterminate insects before we build a house on the land they occupied. 

 

Unless they like music, or poetry or our understanding of math and science and physics I would not hold much hope for a friendly meeting.

 

As always I welcome your thoughts, input, and of course enlightened conversation regarding this or any other blog that interest you.

 

-Best to you and those that you care about.

 

 

IT in a Nutshell

IT in a nutshell..

Most CEO’s or presidents of companies have no idea that the sword of Damocles’ is right over their head.  They don’t know because they are blissfully ignorant of the workings of their IT department.   Truth be told IT, is a cost center and frowned upon in most companies as they “don’t produce.”  This is true in the mindset of the upper echelon. They put up with the CIO or his people and equivocate when it comes to allowing them money for projects, as they really don’t have a clue.  Their job is to run the company, not IT.

There are three basics tenants of IT.

  • Provide the infrastructure for people to be productive.
  • Provide the security to safeguard the company’s assets both in intellectual property as well as physical property.
  • Provide mechanisms for future growth and have a robust enough environment to handle ad-hoc projects.

In working with most companies the infrastructure grew behind the power curve out of necessity. This of course is the most expensive way to grow your infrastructure in that many things are done to “temporarily” get them through the “event”.  Emergency projects are hardly ever well thought out, and hidden surprises are always lurking.  Remember that old axiom; there are never any good surprises in business.

One of the things that I talk about a lot is hardware management.  Each and every piece of hardware in your company has a life cycle.  Not unlike your car or home computer or cell phone.  Planning for the life cycle for equipment allows the company to budget for replacement of same and keeps the down time to a minimum as well as keeps the employees productive.

Down time is expensive both in hard and soft dollars.  If you have 300 people who can’t work because the server is down, you are loosing money.  If Sally can’t assist the outside sales people because her pc is moving at the speed of drying paint, they both are loosing time which is “MONEY!”

S.A.M. or software asset management is also something that the IT department seems to ignore and this is really something that should grab at least the attention of the CFO.  Does each and every person need a full copy of office or do they simply need Word or Outlook.  I was in one account where each and every machine had a full version of office on it.  40% of these were used as a terminal: that was it!  Five hundred dollars times 120 machines is $60K wasted!  Can you tell me one company that could not use an extra $60K?

Now, add to this scenario that this guy was installing this software on machines that were already past their life cycle.  I don’t profess to be an attorney or a legal scholar on EULA but, it is conceivable that when that machine dies, that license will die with it.  There may be hoops that you can jump through to get Microsoft to allow a transfer of the license but, what are the odds that this guy will do it.  It is not his money after all.

There was one company who had 300 locations with 2.5 machines per location.  These were servers so each had a copy of Microsoft “flavor of the day” server on it.

The application that was on there was a home grown point of sale.  It was compiled to run on the Microsoft platform.

When I ask why they had not considered LINUX as an alternative I was laughed at.  Here are the scissors that will cut the thread.

There support desk was equipped with PcAnywhere and each and every call for help meant that a remote session would be placed to assist the person with their machine.  Push come to shove the machine was sent to the Depot where another was sent out as a replacement.  As the hardware evolved some locations had newer equipment.  The variables were mind numbing.

Had they used LINUX a simple telnet session would have allowed the help desk to terminate a daemon and restart it all behind the scene.  Licenses for server software, remote connection software, anti virus software would have been avoided.  The other thing about LINUX is that it is more forgiving of hardware platforms in that they could have used their equipment until it died vs. replacing it when the software dictated it.  This particular CIO had no technical background other than he knew some programming.  He did not embrace technology at all and did not have a computer at his home until his kids wore him down.  Any CIO that does not embrace technology ought not be a CIO.  Oh yes, LINUX is free and the kernel can be hardened so it can be very secure.

How is it that these two people were in the place that they were in?  They were likable! The failure here cleary sits on the CEO or the person they report to.  If I am hiring someone for a position, I don’t care if I like them or not.  They must be able to perform the job that they are being hired for and, if I like them it is a plus, not mandatory!

Ethical hacking is becoming more and more in vogue. The bad guys are out there doing their thing and we simply buy anti virus software and hope for the best.  Some of us don’t do that, we use something that is free or not at all.  Free is not worth what you pay for it when it comes to anti virus software!  Do your homework and see who is touting what and why.

As another add on to the cost center and depending upon your desire to be safe, I would consider hiring a security person who has been around the block a few times.  This is not some kid fresh out of college who is academically savvy but, someone who has the scars on their back to prove that they have been there.

In a nutshell, any connection to the outside world is a portal for the bad guy to get in.  Even if you have a secure firewall you have people on the inside who may be working for the competition.  There are many products that allow a PC to be remote controlled from outside the building.  Some are actually viruses and others are installed by an unwitting employee or worse, a spy.  Software audits are a necessity; not something you do if you have time.  Speaking of which; the anti piracy folks are at it again offering huge rewards if you report someone using business software without a license. Another reason for SAM.

While you may think that I am paranoid (a little paranoia is a good thing btw) I assure you that industrial espionage is real and there are those that do it for a living.  Your security person would be actively monitoring the traffic coming in and leaving the building, looking for anything on ports that are typically used for such things.  Activity during off hours should be a red flag.  There is something called SYSLOG which is basically a service that talks with a server and creates logs of events.  Along with server logs this log should be monitored for unusual activity.

One way a person might gain access to your stuff is to drop a thumb drive or dvd in the parking lot.  Label the dvd X pics or have bunny rabbit ears on the thumb drive.  I would be surprised if someone did not pick it up and stick it into their machine to see what was one it.  Of course it would contain a program that would install a remote control host and the person would never know as he would be too busy looking for pictures.

Physical security is also a must. Keycards with picture ID’s on them would be ideal.  Cheap and effective.  With this you can track employees movements through the day / night.  Along with security cameras if things turned up missing one could read the keycard report and know who it was and where they were and then look at the footage with that timestamp to see if they were carrying anything.

Biometrics are becoming in fashion as well.  While I would want to stay with tried and true I would definitely be monitoring this to see when and if it made sense to move that way.

This scratches the surface and as you can see, security is physical, it is Cyber and it is employee education along with policies.   Any configuration of a user’s machine should be done by IT.  Users should not have any more rights than they need to function.  That allows for protection of your data, declines viruses administrative rights as they usually assume the rights of the user and, protects the machine from being altered making more work for the IT department when it breaks or more often than not broken.

A little forethought and planning on the IT department can help them to run lean on employees as well as protect the company’s assets.

The statement is an excellent ingress into the last thing that needs addressing.

More times than I can write about I find that data centers are a cobbled together disaster waiting for some event to push them over the edge.  There is a web site dedicated to such things and if I had had a mind to, I could have created such a site like that with just what I have seen.

Along with hardware management and software management a strong dialogue needs to exist between the CEO and the CIO.  Business needs and or possible needs to be accounted for and anticipated.   Looking back at the past one could extrapolate what may be needed into the future and at least make plans for growth.  A robust well thought out network that is well managed and maintained is a crucial starting point.

I could write on entire book on what that means but, what it does not mean are knee jerk throw it together solutions “because we needed it yesterday!”  Any change might effect some other part of the business and or company or have unintended side effects.  If they don’t have one I stress the importance of change management.  This is crucial to the success of just about any company with technology.

Proper consideration should be given to each and every device and or software that is to be installed.

Parting thoughts:

There is no room for emotions in Information systems. Emotions cloud judgment and, judgment is crucial for success.

You do not hire or fire someone because you find them likable or distasteful. Either they are well qualified and have a well defined track record or they don’t.  The rest does not matter unless they are insubordinate or are deemed unfit. They are not your friend and don’t think that they are.

Never hire anyone that you cannot fire.  Family and friends even if the company is ok with it are a liability as employees. At best they will be a burden upon yourself, and at worst you will loose them as friends and they might compromise your job.

Surround yourself with people that are smarter than you, you will be well served.

Keep your ego in check as it will defeat you.  Humility will allow you to “hear” from those that probably know what you are seeking.

When you get in too deep, call for help; admitting trouble is always preferable than suffering defeat because of pride.

There is never any case for listening to or passing on rumors.  Small people talk about people, others talk about ideas and things.

Your employees and vendors job is to make you look good; your job is to make them look good.

-Best to you and those that you care about!

Big Red Button or Time to Panic!

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Nothing says “push me” like a big red button.  One of the office supply stores even created a big red button that says “EASY” on it, to advertise how they can simplify your work life.

One of the data centers that I was responsible for had such a button.  It was covered with a little plastic rectangular box that said “emergency shut off” on it.

I have been in many data centers during my career.  There were several that had a big red button by the door with it sole purpose to release the magnetic latch on the door, to open it.

Like any other location, security in a data center is paramount.  Not only are network security firewalls and such important but physical security as well.  Only those who needed access to the data center, could access it with their security card.  Not even the CEO had access as he did not need it.  Their entrance was logged and in fact throughout the building one could forensically track any employee’s movements as this card was necessary to gain access to just about anywhere.  With the technology available today, I could design such a better system, but that is beyond the scope of this document.

One day, a vendor was visiting with a proposed solution to a problem.  Like any other vendor, if access to the data center is required, they are escorted at all times by one of, if not more of my staff or me.  The data center was in the middle of a retrofit and redesign while keeping the company running in parallel.  (This is much like changing the tires on a race car while it is moving down the track.)  On their way out of the data center, just as quickly as anything, the sales guy in front reaches up to the left of the door pops the cover open and pushes the big red button!  By the time that the sound of “NO” had left my lips, there was an eerie quite in the room.

The chain of events that this action triggered, were phenomenal.  Lights went off, the air handling unit went off, the Battery back-ups clicked on and for the moment; it looked as though the carefully engineered back-up power supplies were working.  I should mention that the look on this guys face was priceless, and I am just about certain that he had to change his shorts afterwards.  It dawned on me that no one had tested this button, and nobody knew where all of the circuit breakers were; well almost no one.  As I was the one that specified the power requirements for this data center and oversaw the installation of the new transformer, I knew where the main breaker was.  Within moments I had most of the power back on however; there was one legacy system that was still not on main power.

In another closet in another part of the building were still more circuits for this room.  I did not have a key to this and getting building maintenance involved was time consuming as they typically think like union employees; (don’t care if the place is on fire, when it is time for a break, they take it.)  Before the UPS was totally drained for that system I had gained access to that closet and found one tripped breaker.

I had inherited a mess of a data center that was put together on a shoestring budget.  Not because the company could not afford to do it right, their boss was cheap beyond reason.  They had cut corners at every place they could, including splicing old type 3 wires to cat 5 wires and running 16mg token ring over it.  They could not understand why 5250 and 3270 traffic would constantly be garbled and why connections to the server would be dropped frequently.  When I say spliced, I literally mean wires twisted together and a wad of electrical tape stuffed in the wall and or ceiling.  (Another story)

It did not take me long to get that circuit changed over and documented with everything else.  I also got to check off the list “test emergency shut down.”

Moral of the story; if you have a big red button, find a time to test it.  Secondly make certain that the button is labeled in big white letters on a red sign etc EMERGENCY SHUT OFF!

I am a stickler for documentation, which IT personnel are loath to do.  A living document should exist within each and every company that explains the ins and outs of everything, so if need be, someone else can take over.  It is part of the audit process for a disaster recovery plan and is one of the deliverable s.

-Best to you and all those that you care about!