Tag: software

What do I do when?

What do I do when?

If I had a nickel for every time that someone asked me this, I might very well be in Bora Bora or the Maldives working on a tan after that wicked winter that we did not have.

While I stress good anti-virus software such as Eset, no one program is the “Silver Bullet!” You must have some computer smarts when accessing the internet.

When we traverse the back alleys and the main thoroughfares of the “information highway,” it is imperative that we employ a little common sense.

I have written extensively about what to do and not to do in the past, but this latest phone call was rather unique.

While navigating the highways and byways sometimes, we are thrown a curve. Much like a roundabout in a city that does not have them, ever!

“What do I do if a dialogue box appears and it is in some other language?”

You are either surfing the internet or on Twitter or some other app and all of the sudden a dialogue box appears with prominent places to click but, the writing is in a language that you don’t recognize, what do you do?

“If you don’t know the answer to this send, me a nickel.”  I am joking but can you imagine someone spending .50 cents to send me a nickel?  I guess I could do a PayPal donation button. 🙂

What do I do when a dialogue box appears that I am not expecting and it might be in another language?

A:) Click on one of the boxes that appear to be the “no” box.

B:) Get out your smartphone. Look for a translation application and see what it is before clicking

C:) Pull up task manager, {ctrl alt del}, and kill the app completely (end task)

I realize I made that too easy but would you care to guess how many will just click the button to the right hoping it is the “go away” button?

Pop-ups are rarely a good thing.  There are settings in most browsers that will eliminate such things, but still, some brilliant programmer somewhere figures out a workaround to get the pop up to appear anyway.

With all of this talk about cyber warfare and cyber espionage, having real anti-virus software is not only critical but also patriotic.

I was giving a talk, and one bright young man said that his free antivirus was all that he put on his companies PCs. Later that evening I learned that he worked for his parents! I sure hope that they have good insurance and a great backup, disaster recovery plan when their computers are trashed, or compromised or both.  Free is not worth what you pay for it.  PS… Never hire anyone you can not fire!

If you love your kids (and your sanity) make them find a job with another company.

Why is it patriotic?

Infections of all kinds make it through and sit there waiting for the right moment to activate. Once someone, somewhere, wants to pull off his or her attack, they only “turn it on.” Your computer along with millions of others attached to the internet becomes active participants. The attack could be something as common as a DOS (denial of service) attack, or it is watching every keystroke you make looking for passwords and identity info passing that info back to some nefarious server in someone’s closet.

I have no deals or allegiance to ESET, right now I think it is one of the best out there.

Anytime your application is acting “wonky” task manager is your friend.  Pop-ups are rarely useful, especially if they make it through your no pop-up settings.

Bonus Question, Why is B not a right answer?

Think about it; some programmer wrote some interesting looking dialogue box to do something that popped up in the middle of searching for more information on March Madness “while you are working.”

You pull out your smartphone, the camera comes on, and soon you discover that some programmer tells you that you are a winner!  Click here to claim your free IPad!  You know that is a ruse because you have already won one and it never materialized.  Begrudgingly, still upset about the last fraud, you click the no thank you button with hopes that it will now go away.  What if the “No thank you” button activates some series of scripts? These scripts require your input to tell your antivirus software to ignore the threats.  Yes, you understand all of the risks, and you want to do this anyway?

By the way, that little X up in the corner could also be a “yes please screw up my computer and infect it as our IT staff does not have enough to do.”

Task manager good, Task manager is your friend, become one with Task manager….

“What if the pop up is in English and it tells me I won and iPad.”

Task manager good, Task manager is your friend, become one with Task manager….

Now get back to work!   🙂

Single point of #failure, #programming and why a #CIO is important.

Single point of #failure, #programming and why a #CIO is important.

A few weeks ago we talked about, single points of failure.  We talked about power lines and data lines having more than one place of ingress to the building.  We spoke of multiple power sources, as well as multiple data paths; much like the internet has multiple data paths. See that post for more information about hardware single points of failure.

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Today the subject closely relates to this but it is “software.”

Some companies use off-the-shelf solutions and some decide to “roll their own.”

Today we are going to look at the pros and cons of this practice.

Off the shelf:

PRO—

Ready to go with a company to back you up.

A “normal” IT guy or gal can install it and most probably support it as most of these types of software companies have classes on their software.  They offer such classes because they want their product to be successful and they most probably offer some sort of certification for it as IT folk seems to be “gaga” over certifications!

If there is a problem there is a support path.

Depending upon the complexity of the software there may be add-on-modules for your particular needs.  That translates to a cost savings of only buying what you need.

IT personnel are much less expensive than in house programmers and unlike in house software, there is an end to the expense.

Canned software is also easier to find IT people who can work with it vs some home grown software that no one has ever seen before.

Hiring your own in house programmers is like hiring a carpenter to do some project for you that charges by the hour and the project that you want him to do is ill defined.

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There was a show not too many years ago called Murphy Brown who had Eldon the painter in her house.  Eldon was always doing something and was in her house for the entire show doing something.  While Eldon was a bit player and supposed to be there for this part, the analogy is that she left everything up to him and he had a job for life.

You don’t want an Eldon working for you, unless you really like his company.

With off the shelf or canned software you work within its limitations.

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Scope Creep:

Having managed programmers in the past and reporting their progress to the president and or board, it never ceased to amaze me that someone would ask the question, what would it take to make the software do X.

The way that this works is the decision makers come up with a defined set of expectations, which allow a budget to be created.  Once that process is done, so is the definition of the project.  It is then up to the manager to manage the project and make sure that certain milestones are met and in budget.

The danger of developing things in house is that inevitably someone modifies the definition after the budget has been blessed.  If you have no “extra” built in for unforeseen events, than you have to go back to the board and beg.

You can explain it is because they wanted something else but you still come off looking bad.  You should have foreseen that they were going to ask for that and put it into the budget.  (There is a little truth to that last statement.)

With canned software, the project is much more manageable as the cost is pretty much set in stone.  Support contracts are easily budgeted for as is training of your people.

Designing in house software has more risk than payback.

Most probably you keep your staff small so if one person does this part of the project and another that part of the project and then something happens to them, well, you have a single point of failure.

Documentation of the software developed in house must be meticulously managed and like a DR plan, it must be tested! If it is not done in this manner the software becomes worthless when that developer is no longer there.

Around 10% of development time is or should be documentation time.  Documentation should contain a version number much like the rev level of the software.  Outdated documentation is worthless.

Unlike the mindset among some IT people that do not document anything, the programmer must document their software in such a way that a future programmer can pick it up and run with it.  This documentation might include things like UML diagrams and key design features. Comments in the code are nice, but are not enough.

As with any DR, there is a “living document” as it also is with code.  The documentation is a live process and must be updated as the code is developed.

Programmers certainly know the best practice techniques of this process but the CEO may not.  Some people develop self documenting code.

The old adage “Don’t expect what you don’t inspect.” Is salient, germane and just damned important!

There are no good surprises in business and if you keep with that as your mantra, you will be served well.

The Cons to off the shelf are that it is fixed.  Whatever you purchased is only as flexible as it was designed to be, “a one size fits all” solution.  For most companies this may be enough.

Most companies are generic enough that they can work with that.

Some projects are just foolish to try and roll your own as the cost will not justify the ends.

I know of one company who has someone in the upper echelon of the company that is a developer.  Instead of using canned software for such things as DNS, they wrote some scripts with pointers to a LMhost file.  Of course there was no documentation so as an engineer figuring out why there were duplicate IP addresses or why IP addresses did not match the device and so forth was a nightmare!  Wireshark to the rescue.

There are standards in the industry for a reason.

Canned software allows the CEO to get the best talent for the job and allows him a wider field to choose from.  If their set up is so unique that only a select few can manage it, he is paying way more for a system that dies when the creator of it dies or just gets upset and quits.  The golden handcuffs are than on the business owner as he must necessary play nice with his programmers.

Remember, no employee should be sacrosanct.  Everyone must necessarily be treated as expendable because of the “hit by a bus scenario.”

hit-by-bus

In house code must be tested to make certain that it is supportable by outside people.  If it is not, it should be fixed, scrapped or replaced with something that is, or is off the shelf.

Canned software?
Canned software?

This is a very important reason to have a “good CIO!”  Any good CIO has the companies’ best interests at heart and knows better to save a penny here and waste thousands there.  The CIO must be incredibly technology savvy as well as possess business acumen.

I have worked for many over the years that were one or the other or neither, but they did go to school with the president so they were buds.

Failure to plan is planning to fail!

Hire a CIO that knows his or her stuff.

If you are uncertain, hire a DR consultant to come do an audit.

The consultant, if met with truculence on the part of the IT staff, would be a good indicator that your staff know that they have bones buried.

Plan to look carefully at your software needs and if you decide to develop in-house, make sure that your CIO knows what his or her programmers are doing.

Programmers make lousy CIO’s, just like a surgeon makes a lousy GP.

If you have a belly ache and go to a surgeon for advice, what do they do?  They cut flesh.  Their first thought is to open you up and see why you hurt!

You go to a GP who takes your history and discovers that you had sushi some time back, has you checked for the helicobacter virus; a few antibiotics later you are fine and you don’t have some scar on your belly, not to mention a long recovery time.

Bad decisions in business cost money and bad decisions with your health also cost money and could cost you your life.

Programmers not only make bad CIO’s, they make bad managers. Most programmers are very myopic. They have to be to code.  When you take someone with that skill set and throw them into management, they do not have the breadth of experience necessary to handle a wide variety of issues.  I have seen too many over my career that started out as programmers and made convoluted programmatic solutions for an easy fix situation.

There was an old cartoon many years ago where there were two computers in a room.  The Secretary and the exec, both on their computer.  The IT guy played as Goofy, or a Goofy look-a-like was asked to find a way to get the file on a diskette from this computer to that one.  Goofy takes the disk, scratches his head for a second and then like a Frisbee, tossed the disk to the secretary.  K.I.S.S.

The CIO must know enough about all things IT, to know when smoke is being blown up his or her southern most orifice.  The CIO must also have enough business savvy to be able to negotiate with the CFO who has a different skill set, as well as deal the CEO and those on the board of directors.

What you don’t want is some sycophant working for you and you don’t want a control freak either.  The CIO must be very well rounded with lots of experience.

Management must not become your single point of failure.

-Best

Copyright 2014 Timedok All Rights Reserved

Dot Zero

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After 30 odd years of being in the field of Information Technology; one might have guessed that I had picked up a thing or two.

 

When a project does not go as planned something called a root cause analysis needs to be performed.  Basically why did the project fail?   Was it poorly planned, poorly funded, poorly thought out, were the deliverable s too much or too little? 

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There are a host of things that should be considered before embarking on any project.  One really needs to play the “what if” game.  We are not striving for analysis to paralysis here but, we do need to know that everything is well thought out and a fallback plan is in place.

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Is the project necessary? 

What are the driving factors for the project?

What are the deliverables?

What will the TCO (total cost of ownership) be?

What is the (Return on investment), ROI? 

How long to implement? 

What impediments to business will the project cause, if any? 

Are those impediments accounted for with workarounds?

What are the risk?

Are the milestones clearly defined and; expectations set with all members of the project?

Are the tasks clearly defined and assigned?

Is there a test plan to determine feasibility as well as to determine a baseline?

Is adequate documentation of the project occurring?

Are key players involved through a process like a change control committee?

Will training be necessary and if so; has that documentation been planned for and prepped?

If tweaking was necessary, what was it and why?

Did the project perform as expected, if not why not?

Did the project come in at or under budget?  If not why not?

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Some manager’s think that upgrading to the newest latest greatest is the thing to do and press on.  I for one, have learned never be on the bleeding edge of technology.  I always wait until a service pack has been released, especially if Microsoft is any part of the equation. Never load Rev.0 into a production environment, unless you really don’t like your job or company as you will most certainly have to explain why as it most likely will fail.  As the sysadmin you really have to be able to tell your manager “no,” and back it up with sound logic and reasons.  Some will ask for the .0 not realizing the inherent dangers that go along with that.  You will be the one with the arrows in your back from the users, and the owners / manager  and CEO.  They wont see the software bugs as the issue, they most likely will blame you and or your staff, or anyone that had their hands in it.

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The hallmark of a PM is to be able to communicate every aspect of the project with everyone involved.  To be able to manage their resources in such a way as to not have any wasted dollars or time.  The project should be on track and on budget at each and every milestone.  Having a good Gantt chart, or at the very least a good plan of the project in excel will help to keep you from getting off track.  There are no good surprises in business and hardly ever any good surprises with projects!

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-Best to you and those that you care about.

 

 

 

 

Did you really want that raise?

Did you really want that raise?

Whenever your company ends its fiscal year; a few months before that your boss’s boss will request budgetary needs for the next fiscal year.  After your boss justifies and negotiates those needs he or she will receive some sort of dollars in the form of a budget to work with but, probably not what she was asking for.  In that request will be money for salaries including raises and bonuses.  Many times, the budget may include things like square footage that your department occupies with a cost per square footage.  This even includes a share of the light bill, telephone, software and computer cost.

There is also something called the “burden.”  Simply put your salary not only includes what you take home but what the company has to pay in taxes on your behalf, as well as insurance of different kinds, social security and yes the square footage of your cube or office.

I know one large company that has its workers telecommute a few days each week and two people share one desk when they are in the office.  And by a desk I mean a very small cube.  The proximity to one another is so close that a flatulent individual could take out half the team!  In all seriousness, someone coming to work ill could easily affect the whole team.

Companies live or die by their Profit and loss statements or P&L.  Where the government simply prints more money, ( I use the post office as an example currently $15.9 billion deficit)  a real company has to sell its products and or services at a high enough profit to stay in business and to pay you the employee, keep the lights on, the rent paid and afford to pay for the supplies to continue to produce whatever it is that your company does.

Companies have a set range of what they will pay for whatever your title is.  Once you start making too much (generally from longevity,) you pop up on the radar screen.  While the scale is a sliding scale it does not slide as much as inflation.  In the information technology industry the window actually went down over the last few years because of outsourcing “cheaper labor” and H1B workers who are brought in by the tens of thousands.

Lobbyist petition the government to allow more and more H1B workers into the country each year as their mantra is “that no one in the US can do the job.”  That is not true and any visit to a job fair will wake up those who pettifog the H1B issue.  There will be thousands of people waiting in line to submit their resume’s for a half dozen jobs.  If the lobbyist were truthful they would say that there is no one in the country who is willing to go from a six figure salary to $30K per year.  That is not even a true statement however as I have met many X programmers and IT types who are working at the hardware store and yes Wallmart for less than $10 an hour.  As far as business is concerned, people are expendable.

The review is a tool.

This tool in the most esoteric of realities is a dialogue between you and your boss.  The review is designed to point out areas that need improvement, areas where you are meeting expectations and areas of excellence.  This is also the time that expectations are set for the next year.   The review is written in such a way as to assign some subjective quantitative assignment to you, rating you as a 2 or 3 on a scale of 1to 5.  If there is vertical growth potential or you are the Green Lantern or Wonder Women, than you may get a 4 or 5.

One of my bosses’s had a personal philosophy that there should be some 1’s or 2’s on everyone’s review as “no one is perfect!”  That was the most abhorrent, vile, disgusting flagrant use of the review as a tool; to screw people out of a decent raise.  To take a nit and make more out of it than it, for the sole purpose of lowering ones overall score is simply wrong! But, people do it.

Your survival at any company requires you to do whatever it takes to move up into that next pay grade.  If you don’t or there is not a place to move up to, your time will be limited to how much you make and how valuable you are to that company at that pay range.

There is something called a KPA or Key Personnel Assessment.  Some larger companies will hire outside firms to audit their payroll and personnel, make recommendation and then out of the blue announce a layoff of several hundred to several thousand employees.  If you have been in your job for many years and have not moved up and are not Superman or Wonder Women; you should be dusting off your CV.  If you are outside that range, your boss has to justify your existence to his boss who does not know you from Adam, or care.  It is kind of like buying a shirt at Wall Mart vs. Dillard’s; same shirt, same brand same quality just half the price.

The only way that you want to be on any radar screen is, because you are a super hero!

His boss will take a more pragmatic approach to your employment.  If he can replace you with a young college kid or someone from another country on an H1-B that can be hired at significant cost savings; you will need to find a new gig.   At the end of the day it is about the bottom line, what you bring to the table every day vs. how cheaply you can be replaced.

We as humans take this personally.  I don’t know how you could not take it personally especially with men.  There is a difference between the sexes other than the obvious.  Men identify who they are with what they do.  If you are the type of person who will do what it takes to get the job done, sacrificing your personal life for the company, a lay off will affect you more than an hourly person who simply puts widget A on block B for 8 hours.  I am not saying that they won’t be affected; it just will not be like the former example.

When you get your review and you know that you have busted your hump and your review is loaded with criticisms, get out your CV as you have reached that glass ceiling and are no longer a “good deal.”

I was once asked if I would take a lump sum bonus instead of a raise.  That should have been a huge clue.

I used to have to re-write my reviews for my people often and make them worse than what they were as my boss wanted to use that money for other people and or things.  My department was not valued as highly as the programmers.  Foolishly, his logic was that programmers create and are therefore “creating a product.”  The support staff is simply a necessary evil.  Since their programs were not for sale; just part of the infrastructure they were of no more value than the people who network everything and keep it going.

The moral of this story is; if you get a 2% raise, simply thank them, turn around and leave their office showing as little emotion as possible and be thankful that you were not one of the people getting let go, or riffed.

At the same time, if you have been there for several years, shopping the job market would be a good idea.  It is much easier to get a job if you are working. The simple facts are that you get the best deal when you negotiate up front; during the hiring process.  Once after you are “one of the staff” you become just a cog in the machine.  While I realize that this sounds a little de-humanizing; one should never expect to get the jollies at work.  Few people really enjoy what they do for a living.  If you wake up in the morning and spring out of bed and cant wait to get to work because you love what you do that much, you are in the minority.  They exist and I know people like that however; the majority just goes through the motions.  –Best to you and those that you care about!

Which Anti Virus Software is the Best?

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

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

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

Amazon frequently has reviews of products.

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

Here is the biggie, will it catch everything?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.bitdefender.com

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

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

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

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

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

-Best and Happy Computing