Tag: technology

What If?

What If?

Every day someone finds something.  This day was no exception.  The more creative the attack the more interesting the day.  If you call that number they try to get you to give them $199.00 to unlock your computer.

You can send me some money if you like but, here is the fix for this…

CTL ALT DEL , task manager, kill the process, aka browser and then do not restore the page when you reload the browser.

I am not affiliated with CCleaner but I sell a heck of a lot of it for them.  Install it and let it clean your browser after every use.  $25 a year and damn well worth it!

As one might use an explicative to emphasize a point, I often use a somewhat tawdry analogy for this purpose.  Surfing the web with inadequate anti-virus software is like “hooking up with a stranger” without using protection.   Not only is it idiotic, but dangerous!

Having been in Data Processing, or the IT business since before Steve Jobs or Bill Gates was a household name, I know a thing or two.  The scars on my back are from arrows taken in the trenches of digital mayhem. This bedlam was caused by such things as bosses wanting to be on the bleeding edge, to software not ready for prime time, been there done that.

Free antivirus software is not worth what you pay for it!  

The best security software is going to have a price or cost to it.  Why?  It takes many engineers, coders, and much research to create and maintain a massive program like anti-virus software.  Who is going to do that for free?  More importantly, why?

While someone might write an app for free, to get their name out there; anti-virus software takes a village.

Much like hiring someone to sell your home, you don’t hire someone who does it part time or as a hobby. If you want to get something done, give it to a busy person.  If you want to sell your home, hire someone who’s lively hood depends upon them being successful.  You want a secure computer, hire or purchase the product with the most to lose if it fails.

There is much more to the process of considering which product to purchase but, free is not a reason.  I would argue that free is a cause to eliminate that choice.

The reality is that the internet has become the wild west.  The bullet that finds you can come from almost anywhere. Every company that uses computers should have a security officer.  His or her job should be to focus their attention on threats out there and the best way to keep them from affecting that company.

I find it surprising that politicians are screaming about Russian hacking of our computers.  What the hell do you expect?  You just assume that someone with a certification gives a damn!?

What worked in 1982 does not work now.  Having a “PC Wizard, or your grandchildren” working for you is tantamount to a trapeze act, blindfolded and working without a net.  Insurance companies and credit card companies are now aware of this and demanding your strategies to be secure in the world of cyber threats.  They should audit you, and they should hire folks like me who know what to look for.

White Hat hacking allows us an inside look at what one might expect.  We learn many ways to infiltrate a company.  The same applies to the TSA in homeland security.  While I would probably choose a job to be that guy that test the security systems of the homeland, airports and such, it is much easier to check companies.

The first thing I must do is understand you.  More importantly, know that entity many of us in the biz call “users.”

Too many infiltrations are accomplished with something called click bait.   “Ten pictures that should never have been made public…” With half a picture of some scantily clad woman visible, how many will click?

Human nature dictates men will want to see what the camera saw. “Boom, you’re infected.”

Good antivirus software will stop any activity created by software manipulation but, the caveat or keyword there is “good.”  What if you bought the bargain basement software or just used the free stuff?

For the coders to write the fix, someone must fall prey to it, report it, and then they must institute a fix.  That is why Software of this type is never static.  Updates are consistent and often.  New threats are released hourly.  To run a company dedicated to this is no small task.

Maybe you own a plant which produces widgets.  Your widgets are better than others, and your competition wants the skinny.  You hired someone like me for your IT manager or CIO so they cannot get in through your firewalls.  Your safe, or so you think.  Industrial espionage is rife in the competitive world of gadgets and widgets.  If I want in bad enough, I will contract one of my guys to write a program that will hide on a computer until certain key phrases are typed, and then it will activate.

“Wait, you said my firewall is secure, Fort Knox secure!”

“Why yes I did, so I am going to place this little program on a thumb drive and…I am going to put some naughty pictures on it with some commercial looking writing on the outside of the device to make the person who picks it up from the parking lot where I dropped it, think that they have something juicy.”

Possibly just tossing a thumb drive out the window of my car near the parking lot with a few files on it, and the Trojan would be enough to get me into your network.  I will purchase some chrome colored or fancy looking thumb drive to be sure that it is spotted.  I will know when the landscape folks work, so I make sure and plant it after they have done their thing so that one of your employees will find it.

Maybe I send one of my spies out to places that your guys eat and leave the drive on the table by the ashtray or the salt and pepper shaker at the table they eat every week on a given day and time.

Possibly I get one of my people inside your company, hired by you.  They install some remotely controlled program like Team Viewer on their PC and Viola; you are hacked.

Because your IT guy is so sure that his firewall is good enough, or your engineers are so demanding that he left the USB ports open for use by them, with lax policies he leaves your company vulnerable too.

How do we stop the threats?

One way we do this is with training.  Every employee should sit through CE training on the essential use of the corporate computers.  This is information that they can bring home and share.  Education is by far the best tool one can have in their arsenal.

All of the policies are trumpeted for them to hear and before they leave they sign a document saying they will adhere to them.  With it harder and harder to fire people these days, that too is one more tool in your belt.  Good employees, you want to keep, those that prove lacking, they need to go.

I could easily make the argument that good computing practices are patriotic.  I could certainly apply this to purchasing respectable anti-virus software and creating policies and procedures that protect your business but, the bottom line is, in the end, it will save the company money.

I was making this argument to a CEO of a good sized company when he stopped me and said, but viruses help your bottom line too.

I argued that I would much rather use my time and talents to design safe environments for companies like his than put out fires.   It is considerably less expensive to install a good fire retardant system then to try and rebuild.  Yes, a metaphor for using robust best practice standards in computing vs. reacting to noise.

Noise is the result of a problem created by an event that was unplanned or caused by employee error.

A good security person is somewhat paranoid and is always asking, what if?  I do this in disaster recovery scenarios balancing those “what if’s” against statistics and a risks assessment.

With proper education, we can mitigate the employee errors.  Using proper procedures and policies, we can diminish the unplanned events, i.e. viruses or other malicious code.

When I run into companies that think free antivirus software is adequate, it makes me a little crazy.  If they are a public company, trust me, I will not purchase their stock.  Flirting with disaster out of sheer frugality or ignorance is idiotic.

If you keep your guys around because you like them, think again.  I may love some folks, but I would not hire them for certain positions if I could find someone better.  I don’t have to like you, for you to work for me.  If you are the best person for the job, you get the job.  P&L trumps feelings!  Feelings can be costly and can be a liability.  Logic in business is your ally.  Logic must always be forefront when making business decisions.

I have walked away from companies who have their kids working for them.  By hiring the children, you open yourself up to losses that could be untold.  One company had their children not doing the paperwork necessary to complete the task, thus losing money in that department.  Hiring me to do an analysis, it did not take long to find the problem.  I fired her children after trying to work with them.  I kid you not one of them actually cried in my office after telling him time after time he must do all of the job.  A grown man crying!  There is no crying in IT.  Either perform the work or get the hell out!  Either do all of the job or learn to ask, “Do you want fries with that?”   Is that too tough?  I felt for the kid but, feelings do not dictate policy.

Do your kids a favor and don’t hire them.  The real world does not work that way so why in the world handicap them, and make them believe that it does?

Over the years there are best practices that have been created by time trusted procedures and policies.

Some are things like:

  • Hardware Asset management.
  • Software Asset management
  • Security both physical and digital

I could write a book on the subject, but I will spare you the details.

Today, now more than ever we must harden our networks.  We must have sound policies and procedures in place, and they must be adhered to.  Documentation is essential, and it must be updated.

I don’t relish firing people but, sometimes their people are the problem, and the CEO is so far removed from the process they just don’t know it.  If training can fix it, I am all for it.  Attitude too plays a crucial role in the process, and I will not tolerate a crappy attitude.  Life is too short, and the subject matter is too important.

I love the HR folks because often they are the gatekeepers, saving the CEO from disaster.  Good HR folks are worth their weight in silver.  Gold, maybe not, so let’s stick with silver. Worthy people are not that hard to find as many would have you believe.  Upright people are around, but they may not have everything that you are looking for immediately.

Instant gratification is an expensive luxury and can be elusive at best.  Where employees are concerned, I want to start with a “good foundation.”

We place certifications above character, and that is part of our modern day conundrum.

I hired a grocery store manager and trained him for a job in IT.  He had little experience in the job I hired him for, so why did I hire him?

He had the right attitude and wanted to learn.

I had the time to train him.

The money used for training him was penny’s compared to hiring exactly what I was looking for.

He did not have the bad habits that come with so many “experts”  with the certifications, and their egos.

He ran a grocery store and let me tell you; he was not afraid of work!

Back in the day, we had interns or apprentices.  Folks, we need to look carefully at that once again.  I have hired many over the years that had the right attitude and the skill set to learn.  American people are out there struggling, and we won’t give them a chance.  Why?  Instant gratification.  We need someone who can step into the job right now, and we run with minimum employees because of what?  Because it is so expensive to have employees.

That is one of the things we need to push back on Congress and health care to fix, but the reality is, internships and apprentices I think are essential to finding and creating good employees.

Every job fair that I go to has thousands of workers looking for work.  If you can’t find them, you are not looking!  I spot good employees daily.  There are times I would love to go work for a recruiter just because I can spot talent!

Are they the exact racehorse ready for the Derby today?  Maybe not, but can they be trained?  There are virtual diamonds in the rough everywhere, looking for a chance! We are begging to bring in more H1B folks instead of taking care of our own.  That is not very damned patriotic if you ask me!

Our schools are a disaster in my opinion.  In speaking with college graduates today, I am frequently amazed at just how ignorant and totally out of touch with reality that they are.  Someone somewhere screwed them to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars for an education that is worthless.  When they think voting for a socialist is a good idea, they were screwed by their college and should demand their money back!

Today we have kids tens of thousands of dollars in debt, and they cannot find a job.  I know of several college grades making much less than $15 an hour.  Our educational system needs an overhaul.

As quickly as a company can get a process documented and packaged, they send it overseas via a VPN over the internet, sending jobs out of the country.

Trades are being overlooked for white collar jobs which are going the same way.  IT jobs are vanishing in the states.  Virtual IT shops are set up in some foreign country, hiring an English speaking American to act as a liaison between them and their Indian or other counterparts.  With an American point of contact, it is then up to the American to manage the folks in another country who speak little English, making little money, to be the IT shop for these American companies.  This same person puts an American face on their business while working with their client managing the “noise.”

“Do you see any security risk there?”

You have no clue where your intellectual property is going or who is seeing it.  Maybe you have a contract but so what.  Much like HIPAA was created to protect your health information, do you honestly feel as if your information is secure?  If you do, you are fooling yourself.  Read the documents you sign when you visit the doctor.  You sign things saying that your information is protected and then you sign a document which pretty much gives them a pass to do whatever they want to do with your information.  Smoke and mirrors.

Doctors and hospitals are hacked and the information is stolen all too often.  Why?  How?  Piss poor planning on someone’s part. Using some cheap method to get things done perhaps?

Your contract with your Virtual IT company is as worthless as the paper it was printed on.  Yes, that deal might make you feel better but, know if you are a developer, someone in some other country has your work and if they can use it, they will.

I want to touch on Software Asset Management as it is germane to this subject.  All of the subjects are salient, but that one, in particular, is in the case of security.

There are tools which you can use to inventory every program on every PC.  Why?  Why would you want to do this?

Licensing of software is an issue, but more importantly, you should want to know what is on those PCs.  The first time I did this for a company I was struck with the reality of the sheer number of programs designed for remote control of a PC, that was active.

In this world we live in, corporations can ill afford to have the wild west inside their computer networks.  Besides the games and other foolishness that was identified, the risk to the infrastructure was phenomenal. The company is liable for every program on their PC’s, no matter who put it there.  If they are audited for their licenses, and someone like myself does an audit and finds them, they must then produce that license.  Can you?  Can you put your hands on all of your licenses?

Ignorance is no excuse!

Having been part of the evolution of the business process, dating back to the secretary and the typewriter to current day, I have seen the learning curve first hand.  Fighting the first virus on a network before there was anti-virus software; asking “what if” became second nature.

Back when Gregg shorthand was used, a business letter cost an average of $100.00 back then.  Now we type out e-mails with the ease of few keystrokes and dictation is a thing of history.  Technology has improved the business process, but the bad guys have found a way to make it interesting.

The very tools we use to make our lives easier are under constant threat by evil forces that look for ways to extort money or steal your property either through the exploitation of your network, or your employees themselves.

We use the cloud as if it were a hard drive in some vault in our closet.  We send information to the cloud without a clue where the cloud is and who has access to it.  Why we don’t encrypt that data before it leaves our computers is beyond me.  If I were a villain, I would be looking for ways to infiltrate the “cloud.”

“What if?”

The opinions expressed are my own as well as the intellectual value of the information put forth for your consumption.

© All Rights Reserved 2017

 

Netflix Scam

Netflix Scam

 

No Netflix is not the problem, a phishing scam, however, is out that you should be aware of.

Since so many of us now receive our entertainment over the internet, it is a good gamble that you might have Netflix.

Again many of us have it set up to bill once a month from some sort of banking institution whether it be your bank, credit card or PayPal. The e-mail looks like it came from Netflix until you look a little closer at the sent from.

Netflix AT dallas180.arvixeshared.com  (don’t e-mail to it…)

You will notice it is not Netflix.com

The message is telling you that they were unable to get your payment info and if you don’t update the info soon you will lose Netflix.

Then, of course, there is a link that they want you to follow.

God only knows how many will fall for this. Considering it was sent to tens of thousands you can bet a percentage will click and update. Always check to see that the sending e-mail is legitimate. IE Netflix.com and, hover over the link and make sure it stays Netflix.com and not something like I posted.

If you question it at all, call the institution or get online, not following any link from an e-mail and check for yourself. Once they get money from your account, if that is indeed their ploy it will be gone. The ploy could simply be to get you to click so they can put some sort of virus or cookie on your computer. E-mail is an excellent way to get infected, and because the scheme requires input from you, your protection might just allow it.

Practice safe computing… -Best

 

Hidden White House camera catches Trump’s leaker!

Hidden White House camera catches Trump’s leaker!

 

 

Did I get you to click, did I get your attention?

Many have e-mailed me asking where I have been as my phone has been busy.  What I just did with that title is called phishing.   No, I am not infecting you, as the matter of fact if you read this you might very well be better off!

Had I said something even more audacious using Ivanka’s name and Nude in that title more of you would have clicked.

Those that write worms and Trojans and other malevolent spyware know how to prey upon your weakness.  They studied the human heart enough to know that we cannot resist a story like this, especially if it is something negative about Trump.  They manipulate you through your emotions.

Once you click on a link, many firewalls and antivirus software’s will assume that you know what you are doing and let you click, thus screwing up your computer and possibly give you something to “wannacry” about.

Yes, I specialize in disaster recovery, but if someone has not taken me or someone like myself up on these services before the crises and they suffer a loss, They might want to cry!

CIO’s and their teams must provide the company with several layers of protection which includes the best anti-virus software on the market.  It includes making sure that all systems are patched and up to date.  The companies that are the most vulnerable are the companies who take IT and what it does for granted, not supplying them the resources that they might need.  These businesses that have someone in their IT department who is lackluster in keeping up with updates is another.  Maybe they fail to stay informed of threats making their company fair game for the people inside the castle who click on the shiny red button or trinket of knowledge; looking for scandalous information on a person that they hate or a nude picture of their daughter or wife.

Human nature is predictable which is what the evil dudes depend on.  You too know human nature if you are a human.  There are few good surprises in business and even fewer in the IT industry. Vigilance on your IT crews part must be elevated as the threats are more dangerous and more frequent.

I have an article called Attention CEO-CIO and so forth, read that.  I don’t want to waste my time writing it all over again.  It is full of good information.

Develop and test a DR plan.

Use technology only to give your employees access to what they need and not what they want. Be judicious with updates, checking of logs and the software that is in your domain.

  • What is on each PC?
  • Do they need it?
  • Do you have licenses for it?
  • Do you have that software updated and in a vault in case the worst happens?

Using a program like Spiceworks not only can you account for all of your hardware but you can get a listing of every executable on each PC.  This information is an eye opener.  Frequently the CEO will ask, what do they need that for?

That is a good question, but the real wake-up calls are, is it legal? What is it and where did it come from? What does it do?

I find remote control software on PC’s that is waiting for some remote PC to dial in and take over the PC which if left attached to the network, lets the villain into everything!

This is where I have been and will most likely be again as the threats are more often now than ever before.

Those of you that follow my blog know of what I speak. Vigilance is not a nice thing if you have time.  Attention to Security is mandatory.  It is much easier and cheaper to fix what you have now vs. trying to restore what you have with an untested backup solution.

“How do I do that, we don’t have time?”

If that is your answer, you probably ought not to be where you are at.

Hire a technical crew (preferably from your vendors which you should have a relationship with) give them the backups in an offsite facility designed for such things and tell them to restore your company.

You have a person there to take notes, but not to assist them, for practical reasons that man went under the bus with the rest of your IT employees.   When they get your company “live;” you then bring in a Skelton crew. Have them perform their functions at that site, and again take notes.

I can almost guarantee it will never get to the point of your employees headed to the hot site to test things unless of course, you are one of the few who is vigilant.

The purpose of the exercise is to figure out what the deficits are and then create a plan to fix it.

“Our stuff is configured so that we would need to be there to make it work?”

I have seen it, and that is not smart.  Best Practice is around for that reason.  Your company must be using “best practice methodologies” as those are what SME’s  will be expecting.  You don’t want some outside firm to guess at what you have done and try to put band aids on stuff.  In the event, your IT folks do get hit by the bus you want to be able to hire SME’s and have them quickly take your documentation and step in, while your IT guy recovers or you replace him or her.

  • Don’t fall for bogus click baits
  • Don’t surf the web carelessly at work
  • No Nigerian prince wants to give you money
  • The IRS will not send you an E-mail telling you to look at this attachment.
  • Buy install and maintain the best antivirus on the market.
  • Have an inventory of your purchased software, know where the licenses are and the updated software disk.

“I just download the software when I need it.”

“Your internet is down, and will not be restored for three weeks…where is that software going to come from?”

Just when I think I have seen and heard it all, I am amazed at the stupidity or ignorance that abounds in this industry. Folks, if your ego cannot afford to look at how you are doing things, possibly you are in the wrong job.

I had finished advising a client recently and was still in earshot when I hear the CIO tell his boss that I was not correct and making too much out of it!  WTF!  This guy was so egocentric or afraid for his job that his ego could not handle the fact that he was wrong about so many things that he lied to his boss and put the company in harm’s way!  I was not wrong!

Look, I have no dog in the fight!  I am going to call them as I see them and what you do after that is on you.  If your IT guy hung the moon; good for you! When the feces hits the rotating oscillator, I would love to be a fly on the wall when he tries to talk his way out of it.

A short story totally out of left field is this.  We have all seen drivers text or do something with that smartphone going down the road.  If you haven’t maybe you are texting and driving and I am talking about you!

Driving up 45 from Houston, during a thunderstorm, there was this fuel truck, 18 wheeler doing the dance.  You know the dance where they are all over their lane occasionally dipping into the next lane or possibly onto the shoulder. I saw him in my mirror as he was advancing close to me.  Getting out of his way, I noticed as he passed me that yes, he had his phone in his hand.

This was a fuel truck; you know the kind with the volatile product in it!  Slowing way the hell down I let him pass.  Ten miles down the road there he was, stuck in the ditch.  He ran off the shoulder into the rain-soaked ditch and buried it! Now, this could have been so much worse!

“Do you think he called his boss and said.” Funny thing, I was texting my wife a grocery list and the next thing you know I am stuck in the ditch, isn’t that a knee slapper?”

“No, he will tell him that someone cut him off and if he has an otherwise good track record his boss will buy the lie!”

IT guys with ego problems are like that, as was this one guy. Trust but verify!

Look at that other article and ask your folks some of those questions and see what they say.

Hope you don’t WANNACRY and that all of your employees don’t click on stupid things.

 

-Best

 

 

How often Should I Change the Ribbon

How often Should I Change the Ribbon

 

 

By far this is the most often asked question when I am speaking with a customer.

First things first, however.  There are three different types of ribbon for your consideration.

rapidprint ribbon a

By “type of ribbon,” I mean what fabric was used.

  • Nylon
  • Cotton
  • Silk

Nylon, most probably the least expensive of the three has plusses and minuses.

Nylon takes more abuse but, does not hold as much ink as some others.

Cotton, also not the most expensive holds much more ink for a longer period. However, Cotton pulverizes much easier than Nylon.

Silk, the most expensive of the three holds together longer and is in the middle of the road as far as its ability to retain ink.

“Great, there are three types, which one do I need?”

There are a few different factors to consider.

Your average humidity.  The moisture in ink will evaporate much faster in Arizona, than Florida, for example.

“Why do I care about how fast the moisture evaporates?”

The medium for the ink is the moisture.  When the ribbon is dry, the quality of the print is diminished.  Also, it is my contention that the moisture from the ink assist in lubricating the type section allowing it to wear much slower than pure metal on metal.

Pulverization

As the solenoid under the type section rises to strike the type section, it places the imprint on the document of the date, time and whatever other information you may have on your individual plates.

Each time it does this, it breaks the bonds in the fabric a little, which is the ribbons substrate or media which holds the actual ink.

During the ribbons life cycle, the spooling mechanism rolls the fabric back and forth as it nears the end.  Several passes of the ribbon are possibly before the ribbon should be replaced.

I tell customers to make an imprint right after they change the ribbon.  Take that example hang it by your machine somewhere.

Much like the brakes on your car, you have no idea that from the get go they are performing less efficiently until one day you hear the ubiquitous squeal from a metal warning indicator telling you to service your brakes.  Each day they wear just a little bit more and stop just a little less efficiently.

Your ribbon from day one slowly loses ink, and before you know it, you are not able to clearly see the imprint.

“Why is this a problem, I want to get the most out of the ribbon I can!”

“No, no you don’t.  Most of you are scanning or imaging your documents.  That means that the original text must be legible.  Since most scanners do not get 100% of the original “value” or the image darkness, the original needs to be as dark and definite as possible.”  Secondly using a ribbon too long will cause pulverization of the substrate.  If you have ever looked inside your Rapidprint or Widmer file date stamper and seen “gunk” in the wheels or plates. That is from ribbon fragments and paper dust bound together with ink as the glue.”

Do not try this at home!

Many of you have attempted to clean this yourself.  Once you try this, quickly you will see the error in your way.  Using an old toothbrush and alcohol should be an easy task!  There is a reason that I do very little service in the field.  One customer did this and told me of the experience.  I did not mean to laugh but, the walls appeared as though an inkwell blew up.  Her clothes, desk and anything within proximity was spotted with ink.

Never mind the mess that this process makes here is the real bugaboo.  When cleaning the machine, you take the oils and other chemicals away which lubricate the wheels and mechanism.

I disassemble each machine after cleaning it replacing the worn parts, and then I replace the lubricants.

For these to function properly the tolerances are critical.  Some have tried to replace parts by themselves to find they got into more than they bargained for.

If the machine full of gunk is left untreated, the mechanism will wear faster, and the imprint will not be clear but smeared as the letters like “O” will be filled in and appear as a large dot instead of an “o.”  The same applies to the numbers 0 or 6 or 8 or 9 and any other letter than has a closed circle of some sort.

Since these machines can cost up to $1000 each, it is a super good idea to have them serviced occasionally.

Changing the ribbon when the print starts to get too light is also a good idea.

At TimeDok we sell and service these machine and have done so since 1995.

If you purchase a dozen or more ribbons from me at one time, I pick up the shipping.

In summary, Silk is the most robust ribbon for those of you who don’t like to change them as often as you should.

Cotton will render the best print image but will pulverize and needs to be changed when the print gets too light.

Nylon is less expensive than Silk and does hold up better than cotton but will not last as long as cotton or silk.

One of the other things I see too often is this.  “The spooler is not working!”

Go here and check this out before you send me your machine

http://www.timedok.com/Support.html

The other guys won’t tell you that…

While I actually want your business, I don’t want it under false pretense. Many times the ribbon was installed improperly, and it will not spool if it is.

Follow me on Linked In or check out my website at www.timedok.com.

“Is it feasible to use Timedok for my service as I am not in Texas?”

If you can get UPS to come to your location then yes.  I currently have customers in all 50 states and in some of its territories.

Call or write for details.  Many times a machine will just show up with no advanced warning from a new customer.  That is ok too but, a heads up would be nice so I can get to know you a little and vice versa.

http://www.timedok.com/contact.html

 

 

 

GreCom PSR 700

GreCom PSR 700

Tacky radio

psr-700

Well, one would think that I was about to write a commentary on some DJ, or perhaps some radio personality that was messy, or ill fit for their job but, that is not the case.

This is actually a technical article regarding the GRECOM PSR 700.

This radio is actually a very nice, easy to use scanner, for the person who wants to listen immediately without punching in all of those dozens of frequencies.

The data base comes on a small SD card that you simply install in the radio under the batteries and it is then menu driven with familiar controls as it mimics the old iPod in many respects.

I picked up the radio the other day as I have not used it in over a year.  With Trumps visit coming up and all of the protesters I thought that listening in might prove interesting.

When I picked up the radio it literally stuck to my hand.  This thing was made in China and I am guessing that like their famous capacitor flub up they too did not do something right with the chemical makeup of the case on the radio.  The plastic actually started to break down and reacted with the atmosphere “I am guessing.”

If you run your fingernail along the back of the plastic the “sticky” actually comes off and adheres to your fingernail much like the glue on those nasty little labels that you find on so many things that you buy now days.

Going on the web looking for a solution there was not one.  There are others that have reported this but, Grecom is out of business.   I am guessing that the refund or warrantee of all of the radios that this affected was too much for them and they abandoned those customers.

I took the battery cover off and simply tried to wash it.  Dish soap and a brush just made a sticky mess of both the brush and my hands.

Even if it worked you could not run the radio under water so some other form of “fix” was going to have to be discovered.

Goo Gone to the rescue.

Using Goo Gone and that little plastic tool that you use to take laptops of smartphones apart worked nicely.

Simply get a little goo gone on your finger and rub it on to the area that you want to clean.

After it sits for a few minutes use the tool much like a scraper and small deliberate strokes and you will see the sticky crap come off and pile up at the end of the stroke.

If you feel comfortable dismantling the radio first that might be your best bet as any mistake will have this stuff inside your radio.

I carefully did this too all of the surfaces removing as much as the sticky stuff as possible.  I then got a cloth rag and with some force rubbed and buffed the rest as best I could.

I finished the process with “Windex,” and a paper towel. Dampen the paper towel with Windex, never spray it on to the radio.  Small deliberate forceful strokes, removed the rest of the nastiness that was nothing more than flypaper on my radio.  Cosmetically the radio is not as pristine as it once was, and the lettering that was under the sticky mess disappeared as well.

The radio is still usable, and does not stick too anything any longer.

If you are thinking about buying one of these online think twice as you may be buying a sticky mess.

This is not for the faint of heart and I am disappointed that I spent that kind of money and have a radio that clearly is not as pristine as it was when I bought it.

If you have one of these here is the page for downloads and if you want third party out of warranty service..  I contacted them several days ago and no response so, your mileage may very…

http://www.greamerica.com/

346589

108556-03 108556-04 GooGone-4oz

-Best

© All Rights Reserved 2015

Guns, Violence and Video games, is there a connection?

Guns, Violence and Video games, is there a connection?

My heart goes out to the people in Charleston. The senseless violence in this country seems to be more and more frequent.  While the left will tell you it is the lack of gun control, and use this and every occurrence of gun violence they can to push an agenda; they are dead wrong.

Going after the law abiding citizens’ guns is like going after silverware because there are so many fat people around.  Yes, it really is that ludicrous!

While the country is grieving for these folks; we have idiotic politicians out there using this as a bully pulpit to push a very liberal agenda which also happens to be a dangerous one.

In my business it is necessary to do something called a “root cause analysis.”  Simply stated, what happened, how did it happen, and how can we prevent it from happening again.

  • It is more than putting magnetometers at the entrances of all public buildings with security guards.
  • Do we attend church via skype, and turn Xenophobic?
  • Do we use this as an excuse to not attend church?
  • Do we listen to it on the TV or Radio and think that is good enough?
  • Maybe we use this as an excuse to qualify the absolute lack of a god as a good “god” would not allow this to happen.

The problem is much deeper than this and I am glad that this kid is still alive so we can learn from him, what set him off.

Instinct tells me that when investigated, you will find that he spent untold hours playing violent video games with other on-line people, and simply took it to the next level.  These games are so realistic that I fear that after enough of it, the lines between reality and fiction become so blurred that killing for real is simply a “level up” for him.

Since he gave up so easily, my guess is that he is a coward, and picked a soft-target like a church where the odds of him getting hurt were minimal.  Being a black church, there may have been an element of racism involved, which made the target more palatable.  His racism again would be interesting to study as how and why?  Was he picked on or bullied by blacks as a school child?

With the uproar in Baltimore and Ferguson, who knows if that pushed him in that direction?

We cannot afford to ignore these “simulators for killing” any longer.  Mental health needs to be a priority for this, and all future administrations as technology pervades our lives and these “kids” who have so much time on their hands and play these games for hours and hours on end.

Cars kill, knives kill, baseball bats kill, just about anything can be used as a weapon!

The common denominator is people.  People kill,
and the motives need to be looked at.  Go, look for yourself at some of these games and the realities of them.  Go to your local game store and look at demos of them, watch these kids as they play these games.

They are dropped into a war-time situation where killing with realistic effects are over the top.  I would not be surprised to find that this creep that killed those folks suffers from some sort of PTSD from video games!

Now, go take on the day!

© All rights reserved 2015

http://www.guard-protect.com

Technology, Have we gone too far?

There are days that I long for the twisted pair; you know the POTS line or (plain old telephone service.)  Yes, the one that hooks up to the one phone, on the wall or in the hallway in that special little nook that was designed by the architect for it. I would even go back to the dial phone, as I think that it was not only a simpler time, but probably a more reliable form of communication. OK, maybe not, but since we were not on it all of the time we had no idea when it was not working.  The phone after all was not for kids..

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I don’t know how many of my friends had a dial phone but, if you did not, you missed out.  Calling a radio station to be the 25th caller was a real chore back in the day.  If you won and I did once, it was a real conquest!

Speaking for me personally, I have at least 6 email addresses, the cell phone, the business phone, fax lines, house phone and of course SMS text messaging and even IM on FaceBook.  I am also a ham radio operator and have half a dozen radios that can all be going at the same time, but most of the time not.

hamoperator

No, not me, but my station back then looked a lot like this!

It would seem that I should be able to be reached.  Back in the day, I had a pager as well although, that thing was really nothing more than an electronic leash; for whoever had the number.

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When I was a kid if I wanted to talk with a friend, I would go get on my bike and ride to their respective homes and ask the “parent who answered the door” is “fill in the blank” home and can they come out and play?  Yes, a little like the Cleavers..

Beav20

When I was a little more sophisticated, (8years old,)  I used a Walkie Talkie to talk with my friends that lived within a half mile or so.  That in a large part prompted me to get my ham radio license at a whopping 13 years old.  With that; I have visited with thousands of folks all over the world, but that is another story for another day.

My_First_Walkie_Talkies2

The Smart phone, which is why I am writing today, is a marvel of technology.  It is the Swiss army knife of communication!  With that device I can call anywhere in the world from just about anywhere.  I can send text messages and pictures of whatever interest me.  I can get them as well.  I can send a video to someone or receive the same.  With Facetime or Skype, I can live video chat with people too!  I can watch movies or play games and yes, I can poke someone on facebook from the waiting room at the Dr.s office. The camera quality is such that if I had the mind to I could take a “quality picture of my dinner” and post it on facebook as we all want to see what you ate for dinner, right? Wink wink.  The camera part is really quite true, it is a really decent camera for a phone!

Mobile

There are some issues with this however; of which I wish to expound upon.  First and foremost, SMS text messages (at least with my phone and service) are not guaranteed to make it.  Back when e-mail was new, the common greeting on a phone call was “did you get my e-mail?”  E-mail is not 100%, it never has been, and it never will be.  E-mail is more reliable today as the servers are more persistent and the internet is more robust.  It is still not guaranteed to get there.

internet

Text communication whether SMS or e-mail or chat on some service can be dicey as you don’t get the facial queues that you do; well… in person.  One can discern some queues in tone of voice when on the phone but, without emoticons and “LOL,” we might not know if the person was serious or kidding!  That type if communication leaves lots of room for miss-communication.

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We are in fact a world in transition regarding our communication. I have many “friends” on Facebook but, how many of them know me personally?  How many of them know my favorite colour or type of food, or I theirs for that matter?  So one has to ask, just how good of friends are we?  Would they even want to be my friend in person?

Facebook_Waning

When is the last time that you spoke with your neighbors?  Do you know their names or anything about them?  I have two new neighbors of which I have made a point to introduce myself to, welcome them etc but, I also made a point to know their dogs name, and introduce myself to him as well.  You should have seen the owners face light up when I took the time to get to know his pooch! I am not bragging about myself; or chastising you, I mention this because I realize that most of us pull into the garage, and close the door behind us.  We leave the same way and “in my case” I use a lawn service so I don’t even have the opportunity to meet while I am butchering my grass. “hence the lawn service, I ruined the yard when I cut it the first time.”   It was tiff grass I think, and my mower was not made for it…. I think.  That is my excuse and I am sticking to it!

Don’t depend on text or e-mail as it is not super reliable.  There are times my phone will go off in the middle of the night, with all sorts of text messages, from days ago!  I keep it with me most of the time but I have to admit, it too feels a little bit like a leash at times.

You know the old story about the lost invitation to the party, it may really have gotten misplaced.  If something seems out of character with the person that you know, trust your instinct and call. If the invitation to the party does not arrive, call.  If you were not invited well, re-evaluate that friendship.  If you sent them a text, they may not have responded because they did not get it!

Finally, turn off the computer, phone, and tablet and unless you are watching a movie with the family, turn off the TV too.  Spend time with those that you love, as you never know when or if you might have the opportunity to do it again (if ever.)  Life is too short to have regrets and when I see complete families out at expensive restaurants, all on some phone, or some device well….it makes me a little sad for them.  What memories will the children have?  What about mom and dad when the kids are gone?

To me eating out is an event.  To some, who do it all the time it is simply eating.  I can eat at home but there is the preparation and the cleanup.  If I eat out I am “served!”  There is not preparation and no cleanup and there is also the friendly exchange of conversation not only between whom I am eating with but, I also make a point to learn the servers’ name, and use it.  While they are, “serving me;” I make certain that they know I appreciate them.

dining

Life is about making memories.  Good or bad, life is what it is.  One day, not too many years ago I was taking my daughters friend to a college across town.  After we left her college I picked up a bolt in one of my tires which left me and my daughter stranded on the side of the road in a less than great area of town.  It was summer about 110 degrees on the side of the highway.  It was about 300 after I got the car jacked up and about 500 when I discovered that the oil change service that rotated my tires had not put the tire lock key back in the glove box!  We had no water, and now I was back out in the heat taking the jack back from under the car all the while having her call the auto service. You know *4357… Yeah that one.

After getting back in the car, the auto service had no information on me or the account and would not send a wrecker.  Even after I told them that I would pay the wrecker just please send one! They refused to help because I was not a customer they were not obligated to lift a finger.  The auto service was paid for through the cell phone carrier and it is insurance that you pay for monthly.  We were a customer and the customer service girl just fat fingered it when she looked up the phone number, you know the 10 digit phone number that should have been on the screen in front of her!?

Very long story short, after witnessing drug deals, going through gas to keep the air on and doors locked and wondering if the car would overheat, and having to go to the bathroom, we finally got a wrecker right at 5 in the afternoon, rush hour traffic!  We had been out since 9am without food or water or bathroom, on the side of a busy highway since about 10 am.

Even though that was not a great memory, it is a memory, and I did get to spend the entire day with my daughter with no computer to compete for my time with her.  OF course in retrospect, I don’t think either of us was real great company…

smartphone-manners

Is a poke on Facebook, or a text to someone, more important that being with friends or family in person?  I too am guilty but, I try to be aware of it and resist the temptation.

-Best to you and those that you care about!

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

Attention CEO CFO President CIO and of course 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 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 their 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 loose 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 produce 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 upsets 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 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 than 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 loose 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 deliverable s 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 Corporation and that means I need their input.  While humbling oneself to listen to an underling 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 your 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, re-boot 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 cant 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 a vacation is a good idea; so is the amount 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…

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 sometime has to decide which answer is best. The question/issues are typically clear and requires 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

Out of the box thinking continued…

After doing a little research on prisons, I have come to the conclusion that there are huge financial gains for “thinking outside the box” on this issue.

 The average cost to house a prisoner is $20k per year, give or take.  These include statistics in states where there is over crowding and states where there is not.

 http://www.vera.org/sites/default/files/resources/downloads/Price_of_Prisons_updated_version_072512.pdf

 What if we took all prisoners with non-violent offenses, although I would start with the 75 thousand non-violent drug offense inmates and made farmers out of them?  This could be their choice but, time off for good behavior while learning how to farm and become productive would be a win! Monitoring of them could be easier and less expensive with technology i.e. drones or proximity devices etc.  

The simple facts are that this cost “the tax payers” tons of money each year, both at a state and federal level.

If we were able to get the 75 thousand currently sitting in prison on non-violent drug offenses off the prison role and working on a farm being productive, that alone is $1.5Billion a year of tax money that could be used for something else.   

 Now how many are in prison for other non-violent offenses?

Factor into this the folks that are on welfare that can work and don’t, as well as the street folks who might want to take part in this, (comes with a place to live, heat and food.)

 Lets get them to grow staples that the country needs and then they all of the sudden are a “profit center” if you will.

 Between making a business out of housing criminals, entitlement spending and spending on aliens that are here illegally; tax payers bear one hell of a burden.  We really need some “out of the box thinkers” to address these problems.

 We really need some of these thinkers for the illegal alien issues here in this country.  I really hate to use that terminology for them.  If I lived there, I would do my best to come here as well.  While I would do my best to come through the front door, that is certainly a lot easier said than done.   Some of the basic arguments that I read are false however.  There are plenty of “white people” that will do those jobs.  There are plenty of “Americans” that will do those jobs.  To say that white people and or Americans are too lazy to do them is a blatant falsehood and offensive to me.  If you need work, you will do what you have to.  If the government is paying you not to work, well that is really the cruckst of it, isn’t it?  Who would dig ditches if the government will pay you stay home and watch The View or some other absolute mind-rotting nonsense?

 Propaganda comes in all shapes and sizes.  It comes from those that you “trust” on the nightly news, to shows from Disney with fuzzy little creatures.  Third world countries are not the only ones brainwashing their citizens.  While we can still get multiple views on certain topics, some countries have state run everything so the only “view” that they get is whatever the “government in power” wants them to have.

Currently we have the first amendment (free speech.) That however is under attack by the political correct police.  This needs to be stopped.  If what you say offends others let them not listen to you.  They have the right to not listen just like you have the right to make a complete and utter ass of yourself.  If I can control what you say under the guise of political correctness, than I can have free reign on a myriad of subjects and you cant say anything bad about.  Friends, that is not right and “UN-American!” 

The real trick is finding the multiple views as for some reason the media is in love “or in bed” with the progressives in this country.  I personally read news from all over the world as there is always something going on that other countries find newsworthy.  The BBC which is liberal is for the most part “right” of most of our media.

 It would be refreshing to have objective journalist again.  It would seem that the only time that they are tough on the government is when the GOP in charge.  I am not saying that the GOP is right, what I am saying is that we need objective standards in the media.  If the president drew a crowd of 5000 at some event, both FOX and CNN should say 5000, not “that there were only a few thousand” or “there were absolutely THOUSANDS that showed up for the event!”  Both statements are correct, and both are misleading. 

 There are thousands of folks out there “speaking of thousands” who have probably thought about these issues from time to time.  Let’s noodle this around a little and see what we can come up with.  Let’s have a little “enlightened conversation.”

-Best to you and those that you care about!

Technology, the Good the Bad and the Ugly

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As someone who makes a living either by designing systems or complete data centers or managing or servicing same, I probably am more in tune with technology than the normal folk.  That is not bragging, it is simply stating facts.

The other day while I was in the super market, upon checking out there was two long lines, waiting to check out.  Employees could be seen wandering by, looking at the lines and then continuing on their way.  This was a major chain grocery store.

The longest line was for the automated kiosk.  As there were long lines of folks with overflowing carts at the one “regular” cashier I opted for the kiosk.

While I could go on about how we are loosing touch with our customers using things like kiosk, and lets face it the internet; kiosk in a grocery store are a mistake.  While waiting my turn to “check out” , there was one middle aged lady wondering around from kiosk to kiosk, as the red light on top of each one blinked on a few second apart.  That is not fair to the customer and certainly a terrible job for the lady.  I personally vote with my feet.

There are too many different items and some are not even in the system.  When the normal cashier has to obtain help, “price check” what do they expect us to do?  “They” don’t care.  They are saving the salaries of 4 employees, while getting you to do their work.

Other technology which is problematic is automated machines that call you.  It is bad enough to call a company and have to “listen closely to our menu as our menu items have changed.”  Weaving my way through automated machines or IVR’s, when I need customer service, just adds gasoline to the fire; and I install this stuff!

Now we have a constant stream of calls on a daily basis from an automated outgoing IVR trying to sell us something or “hold on for an important message!”  The only positive to this is; I don’t really feel so bad hanging up on a machine.  The problem with hanging up is that it simply puts your number back into the queue and calls you another time.

Technology replaces people, workers.  There is a glut of un-employed people in this country and there is a plethora of new technology taking their place.  While no businessman starts a business because he wants to employ people; employees are a necessary “evil,” or are they?

Technology also strips away our rights as citizens to expect some modicum of privacy.  From backscatter radiation machines at the airport removing your clothes, to the “no warrant needed” to be wire tapped by just about anyone that wants to.

Some graduating high school kids ask me what I thought they should major in.  I pointed them towards the medical field as I don’t see a kiosk doing this.  There are of course in the works ways to contact a doctor over “Skype” or other such network.  There is no telling what part of the world the call will go and as far as privacy, who knows.  How does a doctor from 3000 miles away palpate your abdomen?

Lastly, I want to touch briefly on Drones. I find it inconceivable that we can be watched in more places than ever before.  Cameras at every street corner with facial biometric ability to track whoever “they” want to is a little spooky.  Law enforcement with remote control drones that they can fly over any place that they deem of interest and “look” down as to the goings on, possibly in your back yard or through your window.

It is not just law enforcement that has these but private citizens have them as well.  Currently they are a bit pricey but as the technology becomes more accessible, the prices will come down enough so eventually the pimple faced kid next door will have the ability to fly a camera outside your window, or over your pool.

There are cameras on these drones that have such a high rate of magnification, they can see into your open window from blocks away and tell how many freckles you have on your bottom.  There are also FLIR “infrared” cameras that can see heat signatures so you are not even safe to skinny dip in the dark of night!

Google has already proven that you really have no right to expect privacy in your own back yard as the satellite views of neighborhoods and so forth have been littered with people nude sunbathing.

Military drones are equipped with technology that from 17,500 feet can tell what kind, and color of the clothes that you are wearing.  The drones for “use over the US,” are to be equipped with technology to tell if you are armed or, electronic surveillance of your cell phone.

If one wanted to get “off the grid” as it were, one would have to live like a caveman with no technology what so ever.  Maybe we should find the Sasquatch and find out how they do it.

We are an overly litigious society and perhaps this is one law suite that needs to be fought, if for no other reason than to shine the spot light on a situation that is quickly coming upon us and will get out of hand in no time.    I happen to believe that you do have a right to privacy in your home, your back yard, and if you own a lot of land, there too.  Law abiding citizens should not have to worry about this sort of thing.  I also happen to believe that any branch of law enforcement should be required to obtain a warrant before any type of wire tap, or flying some sort of camera over or around your property. We live in a new age and Orwell may have just missed it by thirty years.

-Best to you and those that you care about.