Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Great Manager should be Human

Over the years I've had my share of snakes and weasels looking for the next great score or political angle to play. They spent more time scheming, planning political tactics then actual productive work. If they devoted a fraction of this energy to productive business goals the term 'overtime' would be extinct. Speaking of extinct I've had my share of stubborn dumb-ass mules (when I say ass I'm referring to a four legged animal not human body part) who are absolutely clueless yet stubbornly argue their position why a project or idea should be implemented their way despite their way having more holes then the Titanic. This breed should have died out long ago from the corporate world; yet they've managed to proliferate and multiply like rabbits. Then of course you've got your elephants that have been there since the last ice age. They seem to know everything and everyone yet are completely unmovable if change is required because we all know times change and business models must evolve or die. But these elephants continue to run the show like its 1855 and their favorite justification why things should not change "We've always done it this way and its worked well thus far". Somehow everyone realizes business model must change but ultimately leave things status-quo because no one is willing to take down the elephant. Then of course you have your hawks who watch you with these piercing eyes from across the room micro managing your every move in the cubicle maze you call home eight hours a day. Why delegate if you're going to criticize my work and do it your way in the end, might as well do it yourself and don't waste my time. Speaking of status-quo the chameleon is best at this game. A manager that is never there especially when a tough decision must be made or physically not there; they manage to disappear leaving you on your own. Of course the other great chameleon talent is to change their color with the latest flavor of the week idea how to improve morale productivity or what have you. If someone comes up with a crazy idea they're the first to jump on it and push you like crazy only to change next week. Ultimately the disappearing chameleon gets all the credit for your hard work. Then of course you have your Lion; king of the office jungle that thinks they run the whole show or at least act like they do. The lion will devour and eliminate all to ensure their place on top of the office food chain remains in tact. They will motivate weasels and snakes under their control to enact sabotage and ensure projects and ideas they don't approve fail. They recruit hawks from other departments to be their eyes and ears to ensure their own agenda moves ahead with little thought for what is best for the company. Then of course there is us; the lonely tiny ant tirelessly working at all hours including weekends if necessary never recognized, for its efforts in keeping the office jungle clean. Simply stepped on or brushed aside for convenience. The corporate world is a jungle and if I could wish for a great boss I'd want them to be simply human.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Easy iPhone Tethering without Jail Breaking

iPhone Tethering has been a hot topic since the iPhone stormed the mobile industry 2 years ago. However Apple in their wisdom or lack of, took 2 years to offer a viable tethering option. Prior to 3.o update road warriors had to resort to illegal rituals in fulfilling their dreams of anywhere Internet access. Well no more, as you all know Tethering is available in some iPhone loving nations, throw away your tin foil antennas legal Internet access bliss is here. Albeit in some countries at an additional cost but its here.

Apple keeping inline with their philosophy have made tethering stupid easy. Simply using your iPhone USB cable connect to any laptop and voila Internet bliss. But don't take my word for it; have a look a this YouTube Video I made.

I guess I should add another tidbit, my carrier here in Canada "Rogers" has not only enabled iPhone tethering for all iPhone carrying customers but is not charging extra for it. Until the end of this year (2009) iPhone tethering is free; provided you have a data plan and stay within your data limit. (6GB on my plan)

No doubt Rogers is doing this to gauge usage patterns while hiring over paid bean counters to create a profit optimal add-on tethering plan. But for now FREE iPhone tethering is here... smoke em while you got em... cause on December 31st 2009 at midnight the bubble bursts.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

CA Internet Security Suite 2009 Trashes Windows System Files

CA Internet Security Suite 2009 trashed Windows XP SP3 System files following a recent signature update. Signatures version 6604 seems to be falsely identifying several Windows system files and placing them in quarantine. Many home, home office and small business users have reported the following files were affected; (This list is not comprehensive, these are the most commonly reported quarantined files)

  • c:\windows\system32\net.exe
  • c:\windows\system32\netsh.exe
  • c:\windows\system32\reg.exe
Community Forums lit up like a Christmas tree however CA was slow to respond or acknowledge there was a false positive problem. Late Thursday afternoon a notice was posted on CA's Virus Signature Update site indicating there was a problem, urging users to follow these steps in resolving this situation.

Community Forum users stepped up to the plate indicating this situation to be a false positive problem and suggesting short term fixes one of which was to disable Real Time Anti Virus Scan which seemed to be the culprit in this fiasco. Short term or not disabling any Anti Virus is a recipe for disaster. However in this case because CA was dragging its heels this fix was the best solution at the time. CA should take a page from it user Community and step up to the plate quicker with solid answers when users ask questions. Many users were frustrated and vented their frustration and disappointment in CA's handling of this situation. Amongst the tidal wave of forum posts users were trying all sorts of solutions thinking this was a real virus threat. Some went to the extreme of restoring entire systems to previous image backups only to be back in the same spot after updating CA signature file version 6604. Others not so quick on the trigger took time to investigate in detail before attempting such drastic measures. But in any case scenarios like these waste everyone's time, effort and in some cases data as many reported blue screens or problems booting after CA Anti-Virus happily quarantined Windows System files.

Situations like this prove several things;
1. Disaster strikes when you don't have a good backup.
2. Quality Assurance Cycles are way too short or non existent
3. Windows users have been conditioned to eradicate anything when they see the words VIRUS and INFECTED. not giving the process much scrutiny before proceeding to restore from backup.

#1 is easy to fix... BACKUP regularly. Disk is cheap there is no excuse.
#2 is harder to control by users but hopefully CA has learned something from this situation. If not someone most certainly got fired today.
#3 False Positives do happen people; they've been with us since the very first Anti-Virus snake oil sales man conned you into buying his software many years ago. Unfortunately this is today's reality in the Windows universe. However please scrutinize and be informed before doing anything drastic.

For CA today was a BAD day, for us mortals Today was just another day in the Windows-verse hopefully none of you have lost much data but cheer up tomorrow is another day.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Virus strikes while reinstalling Windows

I heard more than one security expert preach "disconnect your machine while reinstalling Windows" I never really believed it until now. Is it really possible to be infected while reinstalling Windows? In short the answer is 'YES'

Recently at work we were rebuilding a Server with Windows Server 2003. Upon installation routine completion we attempted the usual configuration most system administrators can do in their sleep. This time however we couldn't access Task Manager. Windows kept saying its been disabled by your Administrator. Being the geeky technical types we checked Active Directory Group Policies and a bunch of other security policies. We must have spent just under an hour on all these other items before we saw the light and decided to scan for viruses. Remember this Server was just freshly rebuilt, we have not even browsed the Internet on it.

20 minutes after we initiated a scan we confirmed an infection. Needless to say we were blown away. When dust settled the reality of the situation hit us hard. "Oh my god" we have a worm loose on our network. It's actively scanning vulnerable machines. Panic set it and like good little fire fighters we set gears in motion looking for other Servers with similar symptoms. Took us several days to track down a handful of other Servers infected with same virus strain.

There you have it "Proof" you can be infected while reinstalling Windows. When you think about it. Makes total sense, I mean reinstalling from original Windows Recovery CD your going back in time potentially erasing years of security, years of painful and diligent patching.

Needless to say we've changed our practices... but only after learning the hard way.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Conficker - When will people get it?

Conficker was big time hyped in the media last week. What makes Conficker so special and raise its media worthiness status? Its just another piece of malware code infecting yet more Windows boxes turning them into spam spewing zombies or identity theft honeypots. By Symantec estimates Windows claim to fame in 2008 is over 1 Million Viruses and other flu causing agents are now floating around the Internet. Why are media outlets focusing on one or the other at any one time.

Shock and Awe. Simple as that. Media whether its TV, Radio, Print or other need sensational headlines. On the flip side hearing regular reports about each new Virus or piece or malware makes no sense and would eventually be counterproductive. People would stop listening. But splash the latest malware name everywhere and people listen.

However this is bad security... Viruses and malware work because people don't know or just don't care. Most don't understand the realities of malware infection, SPAM and Identity Theft. Most users I speak to don't understand and when I sit down and explain how things work they're amazed and shocked.

I think education is the key to a safer computing and Internet environment. It works in a business environment. When I've conducted training sessions with my users, I see a higher long term awareness of malware and Spam avoidance. Throwing more money into bigger and better Anti-Virus software isn't the answer. Users must take ownership of their machines and must understand the consequences of not protecting themselves. Until this happens Viruses and malware will continue their free ride from oblivious users.

Media outlets can help by spreading the education news. Instead of reporting splashy new malware, instead why not educate users how to protect themselves. Sure its not a headline grabber but if you repeat something 20 times it becomes a habit.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Will Apple survive Steve Jobs' Retirement

Will Apple survive? This question has been asked, reviewed, smelled, analyzed, calculated, x-rayed, argued, debated and more with Steve Jobs taking a health break from daily company operations. Today Apple held an iPhone 3.0 preview event and Steve as expected was no where in sight. Initially many pundits said Apple will suffer without Steve most talking doom and gloom. It seems however not everyone is looking to sell their Apple stock, in fact it seems Apple's stock price is doing quite well; despite Steve's absence.

In the late 90's it seemed certain Apple Computer as a company was toast; sinking faster then the Titanic. Along came Steve and pulled his beloved Apple from certain death. He's done an amazing job in returning Apple to its former glory. But what happens when Steve departs once again and this time for good? I'm guessing nothing; at least in the long run. Yes I do believe there may be initial shock waves with some instability following Steve's departure, but if Steve surrounded himself with the right kind of people, people capable of running Apple with same conviction and passion I believe Apple will survive and prosper.

I think some recent changes (i.e. MacWorld Conference) is putting some of these changes in play, in part getting everyone ready for his departure. Steve certainly is not front and centre as much these days, his generals are taking his place at some recent events. Its a hard adjustment, but it seems Apple is making baby steps in weaning us off Steve's drug. I'm as guilty as the next Apple Fanboy, waiting to hear his next sermon of the next great Apple must have product. But ultimately we have no choice, Steve is getting older and we all know that sad day is coming when Steve will officially resign his papacy. But until then keep saying... I believe in Steve he'll be with us forever!

There you have it, Google as my witness I predict Apple will survive and prosper after Steve Jobs departs.

Monday, March 16, 2009

iMac - A Switcher's Story - Day 5

DAY 5 +

iMac has been great! Sweet machine!. I even have my wife drooling over it. She totally blew me away how quickly she's adopted Apple and OS X. Even now she'll walk by it and comment "wow, I love this computer" and believe me my wife is not a computer lover. In fact she hates them. She tolerates them and no more... really. If it wasn't for the Internet she wouldn't use one.

I've loaded all software and configured everything just the way I like it. I must admit I don't miss Windows or IE one bit. Not that I was an IE fan. In fact Internet Exploiter is something I despise and use only when no other options available. I've enjoyed using Safari 4 even in Beta its one excellent browser. I don't miss Microsoft Office, Outlook or any Windows applications. Everything I've needed to accomplish to date including (Torrents, FTP, DVD Burning, Skype) I've done well and with less headaches.

Don't get me wrong there are a few things I miss (Games and AnyDVD) I have not found an OS X equivalent. But these are small sacrifices for the peace and tranquility OS X offers. I certainly don't miss the constant Anti Virus and Spyware WHAT IF? questions. Every time I used Online Banking I would ask myself should I check for any viruses? I wonder If I'm infected with anything. Well with OS X I don't have to worry about it at least not yet.

There is one thing I do hate, well maybe hate is too strong. I'll say 'dislike' ~ iMac's new smaller keyboard. I find it small, cramped and at times difficult to type.

Over all I've bought into Steve Jobs evangelical Apple sermon. I've been converted. Amen Father Steve!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

iMac - A Switcher's Story

iMac ... switched and love it!

I finally did it, I've been saying I'll switch to Mac for well over a year and two days ago I finally did it. In all honesty I would have done it sooner but was waiting for Apple to refresh their aged offerings.

As soon as I heard iMac's and Mini's were refreshed I went out and got a 24" iMac first day my local Best Buy had them in stock. Didn't even have them on display yet when I picked mine up.

Goodbye Dell Dimension 4700 and Asta La Vista Microsoft!

NTLDR is Missing

Recently a friend of mine sent me an email complaining his computer would not boot. He said "it just displays NTLDR is missing - Press any key to restart". He was running Windows XP Media Centre Edition on a white box clone; I gave him some suggestions, sent him some web site links and screenshots.

A few days later I received an email full of hate flaming Microsoft and their Windows empire. In the end he decided to become a switcher as Steve Jobs would say and join the Apple Evangelist camp. He purchased a Unibody 15" MacBook Pro.

He asked me to come by and help make the transition smooth. Along with his nice shiny new MacBook Pro he purchased a Time Capsule to share his USB printer, replace his aging Linksys and Backup his data. A very sweet setup, Time Capsule is an interesting concept.

This was my first time with Apple's Time Capsule but I must admit it was super easy. Initially I was stumped as I was used to Linksys type web interface. No such thing in the Time Capsule. Apple provides the Airport Utility. Essentially a step by step wizard.

After migrating everything to OS X I turned my attention to his Windows machine, which continued to display "NTLDR is missing" I won't go into great detail but I spent an hour trying different troubleshooting techniques to rebuild his MBR, restore NT Loader from Windows CD, XP Recovery Console and many other things. I was ready to give up, when something caught my attention. When his machine restarted soon after BIOS post his machine made a noise I have not heard in a long time. Those of you that have been around computers before USB will know this sound very well. I heard a faint click when floppy drive engages floppy disk. You see his computer case has one of those front cover doors covering everything except his primary CD/DVD Drive. Sure enough I swung the cover door open and there it was a floppy disk engaged within floppy drive. After ejecting floppy disk I gave the old three finger salute and Windows booted just fine. I thought to myself WTF! who has floppy drives these days? My friend told me he's never used it and completely forgot about having a floppy drive.

There you have it! If your computer displays "NTLDR is missing" even if you've never used it check for a floppy drive. Its too bad my friend had to learn it the hard way. It was a very expensive floppy I figure at least $2000 including cost of Time Capsule. But in any case he's happy with his Apple transition. Steve Jobs would be happy! Perhaps this could be Apple's next PC/Mac commercial material.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Energy Efficient Power Supply

Are your shopping for a new computer? If you are or just wanting to replace an old ATX power supply.... LISTEN UP!

Not many people know but your typical low end or budget ATX power supply is very inefficient in how it uses electricity. A typical 600W power supply will actually use quite a bit more then 600W in fact would draw more like 1000W if its rated 60% efficient. Thats a lot of money wasted... not to mention all the heat it generates. The additional 400W is HEAT! 

There is a new generation of power supplies rated "80Plus" this means a typical 300W power supply would only draw 375W power because it is 80% efficient. Read this

Stop turning money into heat.... buy one of these 80Plus power supplies, save money on your electrical bills and reduce heat output in your computer case... your CPU will thank you.

Here is a list of manufacturers with 80Plus power supplies 

Russian Airline says "drunk" pilot is not a problem!


Wait just one minute... since when is it ok to pilot an airplane while drunk? What is more astounding is Aeroflot (Russian National Airline) didn't think there was anything wrong and was defending their pilot. They even made up some story about him getting high blood pressure from the ordeal. Yeah right... more like recovering alcoholic needed treatment.  I for one am glad passengers stood up for themselves and refused to fly with this guy.  

This story makes you think, next time you fly... ask yourself is my pilot sober?

Full story here

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Ultimate Public Bus - What a ride!

Panama has it figured out. Check out these public buses! Talk about the ultimate pimped-out ride. I just got back from a Caribbean Crusie (absolutely loved it) Panama was one of the countries we visited. 

These wicked buses were all over the place. School Boards are you listening? I'm tired of Yellow school buses, these are so much better. 

From what I saw each one was unique in its theme, colors and design. Not sure who pays for this artwork but I think its so much more interesting then plain old Yellow.
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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Palm Pre CES 2009 Keynote in High Def

Palm has posted their CES Keynote here

After watching it I'm really excited about the capabilities of this device. I think Palm definately has a winner on their hands. I really love the Synergy feature. Dare I say Palm Pre may be an iPhone killer? or at least raise the bar higher. ~Apple are you paying attention?
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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Palm Pre Mobile Phone - iPhone Killer?

What a surprise, Palm has made quite a splash with this device at CES 2009.

I've always loved Palm devices; I've had numerous Palm PDA's and most recently (until the iPhone) was a devoted Palm Treo 650 user. I really liked the Palm platform although constant crashes of the Palm OS was a pain in the rear. My Treo rebooted at least once a day. When the iPhone hit the street I jumped on it right away. Palm OS was so very much outdated. I couldn't wait for the iPhone it was like a breath of fresh air.

I've been using the iPhone for quite some time now; absolutely love it. Although there are a few things I really hate. 

1.  Apple's almost anal control of the device and the App Store
2. No Copy/Paste
3. No Tethering
4. iTunes centric

I'm sure many out there feel the same way and dare I say Apple is acting like Microsoft in some respect? ~locking people in... Don't get me wrong I'll be the first to thank Apple for reinventing the mobile phone market. For years mobile phones were blah; no innovation from any major player (Nokia, Motorola, Sony Erricson) These guys were all asleep at the wheel. Then Apple came out with a huge punch and became a runaway leader from day one. Now everyone is trying to catch up. Great to see!

Given all the iPhone wanna-be devices out there I'm so glad Palm did not follow the rest like a Lemming. From the screenshots and youtube videos it definitely looks like Palm's new Web OS has some unique and interesting features (i.e. Card Stack and Multitasking) I think multitasking will be important moving forward and the killer feature of future mobile phones. Unfortunately Apple in its wisdom excluded multitasking from the iPhone. I wonder if they'll change their mind in future updates?

I guess time will tell if Palm's Pre will help them regain past glory... and reverse current dwindling market share. 

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MacBook Happy Again! Got a new MagSafe Adapter

It's very crappy outside today, lots of snow, high winds and nasty cold. I braved the elements and drove down to Best Buy. I dropped a few dollars; and a gift card I got for Christmas ... bought a replacement adapter. Can't live without my MacBook. 

Store wasn't very busy today, not surprised given weather outside. 
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MacBook MagSafe Power Adapter BURNS!

Today was a bad day! As you can see from these photos (taken with my iPhone) my MacBook's MagSafe Power Adapter bit the dust and melted. Well not the adapter itself but the attached cable running from the power brick to my MacBook. Of course its not under warranty (I've had my MacBook over two years) and I don't believe Apple ever had a recall on these suckers ~I should probably check.

In any case cord was hot to the touch when MagSafe Adapter was plugged into an outlet. Glad I noticed it when I did. Could have had a nice fire at my place. Wonder if anyone else experienced similar problem? Google here I come...

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