Ramblings, meanderings, rants and discoveries.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

IT Professionals and Literacy

.. or lack thereof. "What!?" say you. Well I hope this is the case rather than what my suspicions lead me to believe. But I get ahead of myself.

I was recently on a game. Now I have played this game for years and have used the same client software for years. (ZMud if anyone cares.) So while playing another person mentions they are rebuilding all of their macros, scripts, etc in ZMUD due to a hard disk failure. He is having a problem with a math function so I go to the creator's site to peruse the forums as I KNOW I have seen a similar little app there. (It just calculates number of enemies killed experience gained and averages.) When i connect to the forums my pages starts to "roll". It perpetually refreshes. I mutter about the damn Opera update and fire up Firefox - Same thing. Hmm So I fire up the old I.E. Old in that it is NOT updated. Page loads fine. I report it in the forums and go on my way.

Next day I check to see if they have any idea what it could be (I did check the obvious as well as run an internet search on similar problems. I may have an idea, but so far this is the ONLY forum where I have seen this behavior and I would LOVE to know what changed there so I can figure out what is fighting with what.) I see a reply from another user and it says HIS version of Firefox runs fine and so it must be something with my machine did I check for viruses, etc. I reply to the condescending tone of the post with yes, it used to work and has stopped so I thought just perhaps someone might be interested in the issue as it may affect readership. Went on to explain it is a known issue with Forefox and Skype (which I do not use), but was also occurring in OPERA and seems to only work with an out of date I.E. I have not gone back to check further responses yet because now we get to what REALLY leads me to hope that it is a lack of literacy on the part of IT professionals.

Dh has been complaining his account loads slowly and his internet browsing is slow. I watched him the other day. It does seem slower than either my daughters' or mine. I look at start up, devices, etc. I notice under adapters there is one, 6TO4, that is not loading and there are MANY instances of the driver attempting to do so. So, what is this adapter and why is it not working? I punch in a search for it and find many forums with posts addressing this. I pick a techie helping techie forum and settle in to read.

A person who is a database person posts the exact issue with his laptop with Vista Home Premium. He is hoping a network guy will tell him if what he thinks (that he can safely disable this) is true. He mentions that he has followed the usual track of checking it, searching the driver, searching the MS site, checking for upgrades, etc. Sounds like what I am looking for.

There are 5 answers to his issue. 3 of them tell him to download and upgrade the most recent version from his laptop manufacturer. One tells him to check for ad ware and viruses. The last one points him to an article on the MS support site that states it is a component put in place for enterprises going from a v4 protocol to a v6 protocol as a stop gap and that most people are safe disabling the device. (What do you know a meaningful name from Microsoft I am impressed!)

I hope that the first 4 'professionals' have problems reading for it seemed to me the user with the issue stated he had attempted those actions. I hope they were not just posting something so that they could have their name out there and add to their branding. Because if that is the case they did more harm than good. They have proven what users have said about techies is true. They never listen, they never believe you and they are useless.

I expect a bit of condescension on a gaming forum. After all most people on those are NOT professionals, or if they are they are they are not required to behave as such. (the owner is always polite btw and I recommend ZMUD and CMUD) But on a forum where all members are thought to be in the same field although with different areas of expertise, I would never expect people to rush to get a message up so they can raise their activity level on the forum, or so that they can get a thrill in seeing their name on a technical forum. I would hope they are professionals. So I suggest HR departments start enrolling their IT staff in literacy programs. It seems they need it.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Bots and annoyances - How to fight back

We have all had them, bots or even live people who we do not know that decide to contact us while we are online on an IM. IM is a wonderful thing, too bad these bots are about to ruin it.

Lately I have begun fighting back. But merely reporting a username based on a "hi are u there?" message is not enough to go on for an abuse report. So, since i trust my firewalls and AV's I have begun answering them, logging them, and reporting. I advise everyone to do the same. Why you ask it won't stop them..

No it will not. But it may make the IM makers plug the issues that allow people to run these bots. If you are a bot maker reading this TFB. Bots do have their uses but it has hit the point where people who can barely turn on a machine can download a bot to annoy people trying to get work done.

Here is the anatomy of bot IM

Without fail they all have screennames like marvinvalenciagndhs. They begin with any1 there?. If they get a response even an auto one they respond with something Like Hi how u doing. Next response is "It's Ashley" or Alissa Or some female name usually starting with A and having 2 syllables. Now why Ashley is writing from Marvin's account is suspicious enough.

Now the variations start some will tell you they know you and try to get you to connect to a website to view their pics or hot webcam action with their roommate or whatever.

Some will say "you don't know me I got your name from Ashley" then proceed to tell you some sob story about how their boyfriend dumped them or their husband is always out of town and they want to meet up and party with you but they need to know you are ok first.

Either way, an attempt will be made to get you to connect to a website. I HOPE everyone knows better. It is most likely a phishing site or an infected page. Even if it IS a webcam of 2 hot chicks, why would they contact you if they did not want money in some way shape or form and you can rent a porn dvd for the price they will charge. So I will assume that you have not connected to www.hotchicksonawebcam.com and continue

Some will send a link to get off their list. Guess what.. Yep don't buy it. But at this point you have enough to report. So now it is time to hit the ignore button and go to Yahoo, GMail, MSN, ICQ or whoever to report.

FIRST make sure you save a copy of the log file. attach it or copy and past it into your complaint. Next include your real (or business's) name and the IM screenname you were using at the time of the spam. Tell them up front you are tired of this time waster and will reporting EVERY SINGLE ONE in the future. Follow through with that threat. I am betting that it will take only about 5% of the users reporting every single one to effect a change.

Now how do i know these are bots? well most people when someone replies to an "are u there" with "fuck off bitch" will either be insulted or go into a lot of explanation of who they are and how they know you. And they will find either it is a case of mistaken identity (I have done that myself) and apologize for bugging you or they will be someone you know and you will apologize. Real people do not go on to post websites to an IM until they are certain they know the person they are to whom they are typing.

Of course if you are a decent bot writer yourself, you can always set a bot to catch a bot, the only risky thing in that is that some of these bots are actually set to try and hijack your account when you are not online to send their URL all over through your contacts list. So I would advise against unattended bot baiting.

Let's get rid of these so we can go back to using IM for work and fun with our friends.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The I in IT

Once upon a time the IT department was kept in the basement and thrown bones every so often. The rest of the company never understood them and that was fine with everyone. We were let out of our cages to go fix stuff. We were faceless, nameless (as one manager said were were the Shadow Ninjas we fixed stuff and you rarely saw us do it.)

Somewhere along the line all that changed. It was sometime in the 90's. Probably about the time Windoze 95 was released. Suddenly we were adored, worshipped and fawned over. Salaries went skyrocketing and people began to flock to the field.

Then it started happening - branding, image, marketing yourself as an IT professional. It was no longer enough to do your job and do it well, you had to be known; in some cases being known counted for more than knowing your job. Then the bottom fell out of the market for IT professionals. Why is that do you think? Well some maintain we did it to ourselves to some extent and that the nails were driven in by those who are impressed by the look not the knowledge. Egos have ballooned and more and more we see sites, blogs and information that are written by people who bow down to the almighty *I*.

First, let's look at the boom in IT. In the late 90's IT was the place to be. Consulting companies like the now defunct EDS (bought out by HP in July) had strict requirements to be a programmer with the title Software Engineer or Systems Analyst. But almost none to be a Business Analyst, even though in many client locations they performed the same or very similar tasks. Usually a BA cost less than an SA though the client.

Now like most companies, each job title had a level and each level a salary cap. Let us say an employee was a BA level 1. That would mean they had a salary cap of say 30K. So, for a raise you had to be promoted by a manager to a BA level 2 and then you could code pound merrily until your salary broke say 45K. Only thing was a BA level 3 was a manager type. Many code pounders do not want to be a manager and deal with HR things, so as an employee under them approached the next cap; good managers would sound them out and mentor them as to their next step in the company, bad ones forced techies into management. Most of them left the company because they hated being a people person.

The hybrids went to SA boot camp. Most of us never wanted to be more than a Project Manager or Team Lead. A full class at the beginning was around 30. Usually that whittled down to about 20 by the end. The thing was over half the class was frequently comprised of people from the marketing side of the company. When asked why they wanted to become coders, most answered, "Because I can make a lot of money."

That *I* should have been the first red flag to the industry, the answer was not because technology was cool, or users needed friendlier apps, or companies need better systems that are secure or that tools could be more efficient. It was about the person. Unfortunately, that has carried over into the present day. More next time.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The difference between Doze and Nix Users

Company is gone, kid is back in school and I am faced with a dilemma: Ubunti, Solaris or Fedora? you see I am sitting here surrounded by machines. If you have read previous blogs you know at least one is parts only now, however. There is this little Pentium - one of the first coprocessors. It is a machine that was proprietary, it is an AST. Yep they are gone, but the machine is still running.

It was great box in the heyday of machines, now about all one can say is it still runs. And it does. So I decided to give it a new lease on life by reformatting it with a *nix, except which one? So I went asking people who use *Nix variations. I heard good things about them all. Then it hit me.

When a new feature comes out in a *nix product all the users get excited even if it is not on a product they use presently. I heard about Fedora from people who run Suze, Ubunti from Fedora users, Suze from a Ubunti user, and Solaris - well I have a soft spot for Sun.

When a new feature or even a new operating system comes out for windows users and administrators alike seem to approach with caution and trepidation.

Microsoft are you listening? People look forward to new products from those others because they work. Because they help them do their job better. Their job is to run IT so the users can do their job better. Not so they can spend days even months working out how to get an app to run.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Talk about Timing..

I just finished filling out an application online for an editor's position, when I started going through my mailbox and looking at the news letters. that is when I ran across this little gem.

Who Lies More On Resumes?

That started me thinking back to when I had a say in the hiring process and worked as a headhunter. I hit many who claimed to have skill sets they did not. Some had no knowledge of the software packages and languages they claimed to, others and far more common, claimed to have levels of expertise they did not.

Perhaps that is where I have gone wrong all this time. Maybe it is not that I am over the magical number of 40, maybe it is not that I made too much for one end of my industry and not enough for the other, maybe it is because I refuse to lie on my resume and to headhunters about what I can and cannot do. And here I was a member of two of the industries that lie the most about it. Hospitality/Travel and IT.

I have spoken to people who have claimed to support packages that never existed. To people who claim to be SQL experts and cannot even tell me how to delete a group of records based on one criterion. I have worked with people who have no clue about emulation and connectivity packages that are considered the industry standard. Yet all of them on their resumes claimed to be experts.

But the other side of this equation, the ones that make the applicants feel secure in lying is the companies themselves. You see back in the stone age, when I was a headhunter for IT and Telecommunications, we talked to the head of the IT dept for our job specs. We spoke to the decision maker. He (rarely in those days were women in the head IT positions) understood that we perhaps did not know everything there was to know about the technology, especially if it was an emerging one.

One of my most memorable contacts with a headhunter was one who was convinced I knew C++. Now I have done some work in ANSI C way back and I continue to code some for a game in an ANSI C based language. Some things are common still, pointers, includes, objects, containers. BUT the OO aspect of the language makes programming much different. (I have done some OOP with application languages such as PAL, DBA, etc, but mainframes tend to like structured.) Well this headhunter was desperate (he must have been) My first statement was - I am not looking to move - and my second was - C++? nope. Yes, my resume has C on it - ANSI C.

He would not take no for an answer. He wanted to know how many objects I had created. How many containers, About pointers I had used. Obviously he was reading off a list of questions. Finally I got through to him that I was not what he was looking for. That to me a container a pointer and a string are all objects. His complete confusion at the terminology told me he did not know programming.

But I wonder how many people gave him answers and he presented them. And I wonder how many of them wasted the hiring professional, the IT manager and who knows who else's time before a person in the enterprise who knows C++ pointed out the skill set was not what they wanted. I learn pretty fast. I do have background in a lot of languages, life cycles, case tools, environments and applications. There are only a handful that I would claim to know well though, even though I have collected many pieces of paper over the years that says I can follow along in a training course.

I know database design, ETL, BI tools, reporting tools. I can make your data turn flips through hoops. I will not lie on a report, but I can usually make it show what you want. BUT I have to know the data and the industry. I will never claim to know understand or know the insurance industry. I worked in human resources, travel, publishing, music and in retail - with a smattering of wholesale. I know marketing, SLCs. testing and measurement standards. I know Unit and system testing and many other aspects of both IT and the industries in which I have worked. Some of those skills are cross industry and platform, some are not. But the two skills it seems I lack is bragging about knowing my job as if it is something extraordinary and lying on my resume. Anyone know where I can get certification in those skills?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

It has been a while

I still live, I have many things to go off on. (Like WHY does disk defragger keep wanting internet access? Sorry am NOT gonna let my machine function as the defragger for the world wide web.) ANd much else. However am actually geeking out and working on zones for Valhalla Mud (yes a shameless plug - GO there NOW!) After i get these up and debugged and don't crash the game (I hope) Will be back in cranky mode.

In the meantime, got here and enjoy this man's webcomic. Pancakes is my spiritual guide.

The Secret of Mana Theater

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Vista Rebellion

"Service Pack 1 for Windows Vista is an important update for Windows Vista. Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1) contains many security, reliability, and feature updates for Windows Vista. A program may experience a loss of functionality after you install Windows Vista SP1. However, most programs will continue to work as expected after you ..."

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It seems that Microsoft hasn't "gotten" it yet. There is a rebellion taking place and they are missing it. You see many users and developers hate Vista. Ok, maybe it is not so much Vista as the way in which Microsoft Corp seems to be railroading us into using it. Except they seem to have backed off that a bit.

I use a lot of utilities, freeware and shareware. I believe in supporting those who make a good tool or a neat gizmo. Vista has been out for over a year. Yet, a lot of both commercial and shareware apps do not support it. Why? Because we have finally had enough of being told what we MUST do.

I hit my first instance of that way back when helped develop proprietary software. We had hired a consulting firm to help us with a 'quick start' on an app we had to port over to Windows 95, The were a Microsoft Solutions provider so guess what they suggested we use? Yep a Microsoft product. It was a database app so they suggested Access. Except... When we attempted to recreate a lot of the queries we had built in Paradox for DOS we got a "query is too complex" Message.

Fine for use we knew how to work around it but for users who needed to create different reports, we needed an easy solution. We mentioned this to the Consultants who said, "They will have to deal with it." My answer was "no, they do not they can buy another company's product and services." For years, it seemed the companies, end users and even developers did not believe this. Finally the last straw seems to have been reached. The high-handed way in which Microsoft decided everything must be Vista started the rebellion. People refused to buy it. Developers refuse to develop for it. Microsoft seems to have relented a little.

Now the service pack. Guess what every one of those companies listed have put forth the effort to build a product that works on Vista or did in some way prior to the service pack. They spent money on developers' salaries, testing, hardware and software. Now they will not work. Zone Labs already has their fix out as does Trend Micro, but at what cost? And what happens when SP2 is realeased?

The companies who are listed above at least put forth the effort to create a package that works with Vista. Now Microsoft in their usual high-handed manner lists them as not working on the fixed O/S and says contact them for more information. It doesn't care if your preferred firewall doesn't work, if your emergency virus removal doesn't work. Why? Because they are Microsoft. Never mind that the consumer of THEIR product probably put out money for the packages.

Like it or not, there is a recession on. That means people do not have that extra money to spend. That means the next O/S upgrade that costs consumers up front and has hidden costs such as this will refuse to buy. Get the message Microsoft - We do not HAVE to there is always *nix and OS 10.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

February Blahs

February is a dreary month. So I like to forget it exists and drown myself in geek like activities. This year - so far it has been nothing but one disappointment after another.

Zone Alarm - I used to love this firewall. It was great. Now I question it. I have had no intrusion attempts since installing it. At least according to it. I used to have pages on my 98 machine. I have not chaged internet providers, I have not changed my browsing habits, much. So suddenly going to Vista and the new version made all those SQL Server worms leave my ISP alone? I MIGHT believe it IFF every time it asks for permission for a file to access the internet it did not come back with no info in the knowledgebase about these files. Many have been in the system since XP. I fear Zone Labs may be losing their edge, I hate to see that.

Firefox - Yes it is one of the most popular browsers. Yes I have it and use it. But since it is becoming more and more popular, it is losing it's edge imho. It now takes longer than Opera (with multiple tabs) to load. Its interface looks a lot like Opera. (althought I may have Opera to blame for that, too) But now sites that look best in Firefox no longer look good in Opera. Opera hasn't changed. Sigh. So Firefox has bought into the heavy overheads to make it more user friendly. Also, it seems it is very forgiving of HTML errors to the coder. The reason I have Firefox is a convention I wish to attend this year could only do online registration if we had Firefox. The forms did not even work in the virus breeder known as I.E. Bad show on the part of the developer, but still one wonders why they would not work in ANY other browser? Trying to become Microsoft, guys?

Opera - Yes, it is still my main browser. The reasons? First it is not very popular, that means the hackers have not found security holes in it or do not bother to exploit them. But the developers seem to have a severe case of Firefox envy. Go back to making a fast loading, efficient browser that is W3 compliant. That is all I ask guys.

Gaming companies - EVERYTHING is online, yet nothing seems to be compatable with anything else. And why can't someone make or include a basic translator built into the gaming interface online. I would love to have more friends in Europe, but my French is borderline, My Italian is awful and forget my German. It would be nice to coordinate. More on that here.

ISPs - All seem to assume that we have access to high speed lines. I do not. Well I may, but it seems AT&T themselves are not certain. At&T decided to charge more for dial up than for DSL. You can read about it here. Good thing I use Earthlink.

Panda Security - Another company I loved. Great scanner, online capability. BUT their site still links to a scanner that does not support Vista. Guys, the OS has been out for over a year. Get with it! Trend has been supporting it since May of last year at least. Oh yeah and NONE of em support Opera, but at least most now support Firefox.

And last but certainly not least:

MICROSOFT - First I want to know what is in each update, so I can decide if I need it. The user friendly update check just lists updates, one has to go difgging to find out, How ard would it be to put a little sentence or two. Like, fixes a home networking issue. Security issues in OS fixed. I mean they'll all be in the cume anyway. But at least let me save a little time? Then there is the latest udate to I.E. Ok sometimes I still need it to check a site. So I admit I keep it updated. Well I did until recently. Update failed. It happens. So I check details. I get the usual helpful Microsoft Information - Error details: Code 800719E4. So I hit the site and go looking. DO you know running a search for that error code returned the result that the code was not found ANYWHERE on the site? The get help, link next to the code listed a few obvious options but nothing with information about that code.

What's new. Did I really expect Microsoft to make it easy for me to find how to fix my own machine? I am certain they would rather have me throw it away and buy all new from them again. It Ain't happening. Not even if I have to get an AS400 or an HP 9000 and load their proprietary O/S At least they give users of their operating systems a manul with a list of the error codes.

Maybe next month will be better. I doubt it, but I can hope.