Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Short Vs. Long

Do you know the old saying, "I didn't have time to write you a short note so I wrote you a long one instead?" In other words, it takes more time to be succinct, to know exactly what you want to say, to choose your words, than it does to free associate. It's hard to be pithy.

Relative to other bloggers, my postings tend to be long. I know that most people who stumble across my blog will not bother to read everything I have to say -- they won't bother to scroll down. Or they'll click through without reading anything because there aren't any pictures.

But long and short need to be qualified by content or depth of meaning. Given a choice between a short note with no meaning versus a longer, well-written note with rich content, I prefer to run longer.

Here's another pithy old saw, "Don't bite off more than you can chew." In other words, keep it simple stupid. Because its not only about how much you can chew its also about how much your readers can swallow. Most readers can't swallow more than a few bites.

In France, to make goose liver pate, the hold the bird's mouth open and jam food down it's throat. Don't try this on your readers!

Based on the few number of hits and the short average amount of time a visitor spends on my blog over the past year, it is clear that my approach is not attracting and keeping readers. Coming soon... Pictures!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Linux Distro Hop

I tried to run the new Ubuntu release, 7.10 (Gutsy Gibbon), last week on a weird-ish machine (two processors and two video cards -- one a PCI card and one on the motherboard). It wouldn't run. Instead the live CD churned a bit and stopped, then dumped the screen to a BusyBox command-line prompt. I chimped on the keyboard a bit before giving up.

I decided to see if some other Linux distros could conquer that box. Ubuntu 7.04 failed like 7.10. PCLinuxOS gave me an X-Window, but it didn't look good. I've got Ubuntu running on a bunch of machines now, and I don't want to have to learn to use the new menu structure of the PCLinuxOS GUI. I decided to move on.

Debian worked, and that is sufficiently close to Ubuntu to look and feel comfortable to me. But that set me to wondering why, if Debian works, Ubuntu doesn't. I think Debian worked because it uses a text-based install, and I was able to indicate the video card and driver I wanted to use.

Back to Ubuntu. According to the documentation I found, there is supposed to be a text-based install option for Ubuntu 7.10 on the "Alternate" CD. Turns out that for now, that is not correct. The Alternate CDs I downloaded from different servers, none of them had a text-based option, at least not from the initial menu.

For now I am using Debian on that weird-ish box. Debian is a little different (Iceweasel = Firefox). Debian appears to be a bit more dogmatic than Ubuntu about open source purity. This may or may not be a problem. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, October 22, 2007

What's Cool About Virtualization

What's all the buzz about virtualization and VMware?
  • By consolidating servers, many of VMware's 20,000 customers have managed to cut IT costs by 50% or more and increase utilization, productivity and efficiency.
    • That should make the finance boys and girls happy.
But here's what I think is cool about virtualization:
  • The "computer" will cease to exist. The network will be the computer. And it will be a much bigger and more powerful machine than I could every afford.
    • Sun Microsystems was right! -- if only a 10 years too early.

  • Forget the "Triple Play" - telephone, Internet and Cable TV - that companies are offering now. Virtualization will provide a "Home-Run" (that's a four-bagger: communication, automation, entertainment and security) to make it seem like we are all living at the Jetson's Sky Pad Apartments.
    • Virtual reality, artificial intelligence and lots of bandwidth under the hood.

  • Many "computer problems" today are the result of user errors. Take the computers away and life will be swell for users (AKA everyone).
    • A small number of IT pros (real and virual) will keep everything on the holodeck running smoothly.
Let me know what you think is cool about virtualization. Leave me a comment.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Interstate Swimming

When you swim from one state to another state; e.g., from Maryland to Virginia and back again, that is interstate swimming.

I am pleased to report that current conditions for interstate swimming in the Washington, DC area are excellent. The temperature of the Potomac River is in the mid 70's, the river is low, and the water is relatively clear.

Yesterday I swam solo from Maryland to Virginia and back again. This is not as crazy as it sounds, because you can see the bottom much of the way across, and you can touch the bottom at frequent points in the crossing.

FYI, the health of the Potomac River now is better than it has been in years past. Plant and fish life are in greater evidence than they have been in years past. Another member of the Interstate Swim Team has reported a rash, which may or may not be related to interstate swimming. I have not had any problems.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Practical(?) IT Security:
10 Policies & Procedures

As a follow-up to my posting containing 10 Practical IT Security Counter-measures, here are policies and procedures that I recommend that organizations and households adopt to enhance security. These are listed in no particular order. I am not sure how practical these recommendations really are. After all, even I violate one or two of these from time to time.
  1. WiFi is a security problem. Encryption is good, but it doesn't deal with the reliability problem. Wire your network. Yes, it is more expensive and troublesome to set up a wired network. However, you will have very little trouble with wires once you've got them installed. You won't have to worry about encryption, interference and eavesdropping. You'll be able to upgrade and integrate your different networks (data, voice, video, etc.) over time.
  2. Portable storage devices (laptop PCs, notebook PCs, PDAs, smartphones, USB thumb drives, etc.) are security problems. Avoid them if possible. When there is a strong business case to get a portable device, strong passwords shall be required for access and data shall be stored in an encrypted "vault" on the device.
  3. Strong security shall be required for access to each PC and local-area network services. Fingerprint readers, two-factor authentication schemes, complex passwords, etc. are acceptable approaches to strong security.
  4. All electronic work (documents, data, emails, etc.) shall be stored on network file storage devices. Portable devices shall be docked periodically and files synchronized to network storage.
  5. Network file storage shall be automatically backed up according to a security plan/schedule.
  6. All work (electronic and hard-copy) shall be archived and destroyed according to a security plan/schedule. Keeping information for longer than you have or need to exposes you to potential liabilities.
  7. No downloading or listening to music. Downloading music is often illegal. Listening to music uses bandwidth which may be scarce.
  8. Never send an email that you would not be comfortable seeing taken out of context and printed in the newspaper under your byline. Emails have a way of coming back to haunt you and/or the company.
    • Do not send or forward jokes, pictures, videos, etc. via email. It is hard to know where they will end up, and they can backfire. Videos especially take up valuable bandwidth and storage space in your mailbox.
  9. 90% of all email today is SPAM. SPAM can contain viruses, adware and spyware. It also takes up scarce bandwidth and mailbox storage.
    • Delete, do not open any email you are not expecting.
    • Turn off the "preview pane" in your email reader because viewing a message in the preview pane constitutes opening an email. Sometimes when you open an html-formatted email, it communicates back to the sender, validating your email address, inviting more SPAM.
    • After receiving an unwanted email message from a sender, do not try and "opt out" of receiving further messages. It probably won't work and it serves to validate your address for the SPAMMER.
    • Do not take the time to report SPAM to "the authorities." It is not your job to police the net.
    • Do not put your email address on your website. Use a web form instead that lets people send a message to you from their browser.
  10. Email messages are not secure unless you encrypt them. Encrypt emails that contain confidential information such as user names, passwords, account numbers, health information, etc. It is not hard to do. But, if your correspondent is not able or willing to receive encrypted email, fax confidential information instead.