About Once a Month

That is the schedule that seems to be working out for me to actually blog. I still have the itch to produce content, but that back scratch-er seems to be out of reach. I have been wanting to share this podcast with you for a while, but their topics have always been kind of specific and I did not want you to get lost in the topic but rather get to know the guys doing a wonderful podcast. The current one talks about something that we all should care about in some level. The NSA getting all up in our digital business. Go listen to the Super Number One, I’ll wait.

Ok, even if you did not listen the discussion is what really makes me like these two guys. They have a conversation about it. Explore the subject with their own opinion and devil’s advocacy skills as well. I don’t always agree with what they say but they are always on point when it comes to diving a little deeper and having a true discussion. This topic of the NSA listening is an interesting one because it comes to us when a lot of people think of the digital divide as something that separates those from access to the internet vs those that don’t.

Don’t get me wrong, that does exist just as much as the divide between those people that have a bank account and those that just cash their paycheck every week. There are tons of lines that divide us and in cases dissecting our society can be quite complex. This NSA leak business though makes things a lot more complicated.

When was the last time that you saw that both political parties are dancing to the same song?

Why did this dude run to China? I know most of you guys are probably not interested but in the security community there have been a lot of noise about hacking and China lately. It is not new for the people that follow security, the new thing has been that it has been all over the financial news, and even the government wanted to start working on gathering information about attacks.

I work indirectly with security. I do however know analysts both professionally and personally. In fact about a couple of months back I had a conversation with one about this subject of social engineering and China just really hammering the US lately. Then this guy goes running to China with the whole Metadata scandal. If you did not listen to the podcast one of the things said that resonates with me the most (because it was my first comment after the news came out…) it is that this is not new information and basically the patriot act and carnivore were just earlier versions. Prism is really a 1.0 type of thing. My fictional mind says that maybe we are in version 5.0 somewhere underground.

Data without context means nothing and it can be dangerous. I wish I had an opinion on this but in reality we have really no data. We don’t know enough to be pissed about it, scared or feel safe. Can we really ever feel safe? When was the last time that a TSA check made you feel safer while flying?

The government listening to us makes me no more afraid than a corporation like facebook having so much demographic information on us. Or twitter, or this blog, or playing candy crush. Everything we do now has the potential to leave a trail. Whether that trail is used to sell us something or put us in jail when it becomes illegal to drink too much coffee, who knows.

Don’t understand it? Don’t Outsource it!

While it would be easy to just talk about the jobs that get sent overseas, this is also true of letting consultants do something for your company. The term outsource has developed quite the negative cog-notation simply because in some instances, it talks about someone losing their job… in reality the term applies to any time someone is giving work to a third party. When I had to cut the grass at my old place, I ended up “outsourcing” the work… I did it because my Sundays were a lot more fun when I got to go on long bike rides rather than spending them cutting grass.

Companies constantly give work to third parties. Overall it is a great practice for business when it comes to specialized work. In the document imaging world, the most costly part of a project is not even the high speed scanners that can make a project seem unreachable because of cost, its actually the manual labor. Prepping document and capturing the correct metadata from them is very costly and it requires a very specialized workforce. When was the last time you removed a staple from a document… now multiply the time it took you by thousands.

The problem that I have encountered over and over in business is that people tend to also want to outsource things that they don’t understand. It sounds awesome at first… well the company has great expertise in X area, so lets hire them to do the work. It is even worse when the company decides to fire their employees and give the work to another company that promises to do it quicker and for less money than their workforce used to do it.

One of the things I have seen over and over is that the people making the product or simply delivering it can have a great impact on the success or failure of it. Consulting companies often bring their smartest people to the smoke and mirrors show with no intention of using those resources to actually deliver what the company is buying.

Very often it is too late when you realized that you have hired the wrong people to do something for you; but the only way to prevent that is to actually understand what you are outsourcing first.

You might think that building a website is a very simple thing to do in today’s technology driven world. It is actually an extremely complex task. Some companies can do wonders when it comes to the presentation layer and give you something visually stunning… some others can give you functionality others can’t touch. The problem is that I have not seen too many that can do it all. That does not even touch on content and even social media. Those are all moving parts that need to be understood before you contract anyone to do a “website” for you.

Having someone in your company that fully understand what you are trying to outsource is imperative. If you don’t, then you should think about hiring someone that does. Also don’t fool yourself into thinking that because you know something about the process you are outsourcing, that you understand it completely. That was another pitfall I saw many people just walk into.

In the end, I know how my grass is supposed to look when it is cut. The dude that used to cut it always left it a little too low, but it worked out well since I could sometimes skip one weekend depending on rain. It did end up browning some areas once in a while… but hey it was only grass.

Shop Talk

Most of the companies I have worked for have had 3 letter acronyms. From NDS to AON they all come with their issues, perks and in some cases extremely long hours. For a long time I have wanted to blog about more about IT, but fear of losing my job because of it kept me from doing it. If you have not heard yet, I am now moving to a new company and even though there will be an IT component to the job, I will be working more on the business side of things… so I feel like I am finally free to talk. I have written about IT before, but the issue has always been that even if the topics are common across many companies, someone might take it personal and go running to the president of the company saying… John is posting about “bla, bla, bla on his blog.”

That was a very annoying thing, knowing that people from your work read your blog… your personal blog. It would be a lot different if I was posting on my LinkedIn profile about the company in a negative way, but if I talk about how some aspect of IT is X or Y it should not be taken as talking bad about the company. It has been a weird feeling as the internet seems to get bigger thanks to social media, now family, friends and coworkers join the audience of your blog… what for so long felt like an outlet started to feel like something that I had to filter.

I am glad that chapter of my life is behind me and that I feel like I can now speak freely about the IT world without fear of retribution. I have been away from most of the situations that I want to post about now. The topics will be general enough that it should never be associated with company XYZ or employee 1234. I am very excited about this career move, and more so about being able to finally publish some things that were written years ago, and surprisingly enough are still relevant.

Remembering Your Passwords

Today everything wants to remember your password for you, from your internet browser to your mobile device. Is your password remembering supposed to be left to devices and software? What is the point of a password at that point? are we really achieving securiy anymore?

Keyloggers are rampant and visiting an untrusted website can leave you with your information floatig in cyberspace for those that know how to use it. From someone simply reading your e-mail to your identity being stolen. Strong passwords are a must have and remembering the a necessary evil, but a current trend is making this quite annoying.

Before we go on, I beg you to back up your pictures and important infomation in a regular basis. You never know when you computer is going to kick the bucket and leave you without that song that took you days to download back in the napster days. CDs and DVDs are so cheap that laziness is the only thing stopping you from having backed up data. Ok, but enough of this tangent and back to passwords.

Recently I had my main computer malfunction. Thankfully almost everything was backed up prior to an external hard drive, and I was able to keep the computer on life support for long enough to get anything I needed prior to my last backup. One thing I did not back up was my password setting. As you know I love strong passwords, even before many applications started to grade your passwords I was alread using them. My web browser has been remembering those passwords for me and making very convenient for the every day use.

For work I have to remember about 10 passwords that I use in a daily basis. For personal stuff the number is around 25 for various destinations and e-mail addresses. I don’t believe in one password to rule them all, simply because one cracked then not only are people going to be able to read your e-mail, the will also leave your bank account with 20 bucks. So leavin the web browser behind meant that now I had to remember all of those passwords, which was not a big deal, but it did make me think, should I really let this new browser start remembering all my passwords? and further yet, should I trust that my phone will never be stolen and let it remember several passwords for me as well?

The middle of the road for at least the computer is to have a thumb drive with some password management software so you can have access to your passwords from every single computer you get to and you only have to remember one maser password at that point. Realistically though, I don’t even do that even know I have the knowlege and the thumb drives.

I think the best solution is to pick strong passwords that are easy to remember so when you have to either change computers or type that password somewhere public you can remember it and not have yourself locked out. I don’t think that passwords is one thing that you should rely solely on machines to keep fr you.

Account NOT Suspended

Thanks for the texts :) the site is back up now.

Bea had not posted in a while and when she did it seems the little web spiders wanted to crawl all over that site and woke up some kind of hidden robot… bots they tell me are causing the issue.

The back end database for wordpress does not like to get too many hits too quickly so when that happens there is an auto suspend on the account so that the whole web server does not go down. We have some new pluggins that should take care of that issue and I need to do some clean up on the old web server and get rid of some old blogs we don’t use. Maybe this is a sign that spring is coming!

If you have numerous hits on your site and you run wordpress, do yourself a favor and install the WP-Cache pluggin. It will save you some headache.