Thursday, March 15, 2012

Workers for the world, get a life

“One hundred fifty years of research proves that shorter work hours actually raise productivity and profits -- and overtime destroys them. So why do we still do this?”

For years, I’ve been preaching that productivity comes from working smarter and more efficiently, not longer. Reports of productivity gains that come from firing people and having the remaining folks work do their jobs too are BS.

This article posted on AlterNet, Why We Have to Go Back to a 40-Hour Work Week to Keep Our Sanity by Sara Robinson is one of the best I’ve seen on the point.

Folks, if you’re regularly working more than about 40 hours, change your life.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What Bogus BS!

Keynote’s Mobile Minute quotes a study by The Yankee Group that states it measured website performance comparing a desktop computer with a tablet and a smartphone (the ubiquitous iPhone and iPad) and lo and behold, the results showed that the tablet was 8X slower than the desktop.

Of course, the desktop was probably connected via wired 1GB Ethernet, while the tablet and phone were connected via Wi-Fi and 3G, but who’s counting. (The blog entry I saw doesn’t have a link to the data so I can’t confirm my prejudicial reaction.)

Why not expend bits on something that’s not obvious?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Is Windows 8 Server Going to be Expensive Linux?

What’s with Microsoft’s enterprise envy? It’s getting worse and worse. Not they’re saying people aren’t interested in ease-of-use and don’t need a GUI to manage servers.

Here’s one of many quotes on the subject. This one’s from

Optional GUI. Removing the GUI shell from Server is as easy as unchecking a checkbox or running a PowerShell command, and doing so can increase server stability and reduce the number of patches that have to be installed. Microsoft is on a mission to remove the GUI entirely, so Windows Server 8 is your chance to start getting used to the brave new world on your own terms. You'll rely on rich, client-side GUIs and on the PowerShell command-line. It's happening. Not everyone is happy about that, but it's happening anyway. Might as well start getting used to it.

I appreciate that the command line and scripting can be very useful in automating processes and that uber-geeks would rather type commands than click a mouse, but come on. If I wanted to manage my servers from the command line, I’d use Linux and save tens of thousands of dollars.

I’m not completely against the CLI – I use it when I must. But the whole history of Microsoft Windows Server is predicated on the lower costs of management due to its interface and other design features. I guess Microsoft doesn’t really believe in that any more.


Monday, October 31, 2011

Know thyself–not so fast

A quick copy of Andrew Sullivan:

Jonah Lehrer reviews Thinking, Fast and Slow, a new book by Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman:

Teaching people about the hazards of multitasking doesn’t lead to less texting in the car; learning about the weakness of the will doesn’t increase the success of diets; knowing that most people are overconfident about the future doesn’t make us more realistic. The problem isn’t that we’re stupid—it’s that we’re so damn stubborn. ... [Kahneman's] greatest legacy, perhaps, is also his bleakest: By categorizing our cognitive flaws, documenting not just our errors but also their embarrassing predictability, he has revealed the hollowness of a very ancient aspiration. Knowing thyself is not enough. Not even close.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Caring for your PC even when it’s not caring for you

PC’s are finicky beasts. Manufacturers often select hardware components with cost rather than quality as the primary consideration. The application programs, more and more often required to work together as one toolset face the challenge of not crashing each other; or themselves. Microsoft, the developer of the most popular operating system, Windows, has endeavored mightily to keep their OS running – through version after version – so that today: Windows 7, even installed on a home built PC runs. Well. Reliably.

But it can’t do it alone. At least not on a computer onto which new programs are frequently installed, vast reaches of the Internet are explored and the testing of devices, programs and systems both local and distributed are a constant activity. Windows needs help.

Geeks like me, pay attention to the utilities that can keep PC’s healthy, happy and sound. We don’t like to pay too much – or anything for the utilities. But they have to work to keep the machine going and to get us out of trouble when something goes wrong in spite of our protective efforts.

Of the many independent developers and companies that create utilities for PCs, one of the best is iolo technologies. They call themselves the PC Tune-up Experts and having used a wide range of their products, free and not-so, over the years I can attest to the fact that they are the go-to company for the tools to keep your PC humming.

This review if on Iolo’s core product for individual use: System Mechanic. This venerable product is now up to version 10.5 and those years of experience show clearly in its mature, easy to navigate interface, broad range of features and ease of use. Ease of use is important, even for experienced folks, for at least two reasons. First of all, you don’t want to spend large amounts of time doing a tune-up. Tune-ups should be fast and invisible. But you also don’t want to make wrong choices when the mechanic asks you about what to do about an odd file, registry entry and so forth. System Mechanic does a great job in providing the information you need to make those choices without burdening you with too much jargon or obscure references.

What’s best:

The first thing I like is the first thing you see when the program start up:


The overview screen shows you your systems status – in this case Poor, plus suggestions on ways to improve performance. If you have faith, you can merely click Repair All and everything will be taken care of, but if you’re like me, you both want to be in control and know that some of the things a tool such as System Mechanic sees as problems are things you’ve done on purpose. So, you should click View Problems. This is where System Mechanic stands out:


SM Dashboard Properties

The list alone provides excellent information on the issues found and gives you the option to choose which items to fix, drill down and select items to fix with higher granularity, schedule maintenance and most importantly, choose to ignore certain problems. Because for you, they’re not a problem.

For example, one of the problems System Mechanic identified on this PC was that there were 4 repairable security vulnerabilities. If you click the repair button you can choose to repair the problems right away, hide the problem or start a wizard from which you can determine what to do about the identified vulnerabilities.

SM Fix

For example, the first item in the list is my company’s SharePoint portal. It’s showing up as a trusted site. Which it should be. But System Mechanic explains the risks. You’re then given the option to repair – meaning no longer trusting the site – or ignore this issue for this session or permanently. Similarly  .hta, a .js and a .vbe files were found. All of these can pose risks to security. If you look closely you can see that the recommended repair is very slick – open the files in notepad. This prevents them from executing so you can inspect the files if you’re unsure.

These clear, well documented choices are available for all the repair scenarios. What’s best about this is that after a few months, System Mechanic is ignoring things you want it to ignore and you can do your repairs more quickly.

This same attention to ease of use and what I call user screw-up protection is carried out throughout the product. Whether you’re looking to automate some or all of the maintenance tasks or check your Internet Security status, the interface is clear, and well explained.

SM Automated Tasks

My other favorite set of features is the toolbox. Here you will find a selection of maintenance and repair tools that can be run individually or in sets to handle almost any system issue.

SM Tools

I’m the type of guy who likes to run the tools separately when I have a problem, but the batch ones work great when I just need to clean up a mess.

I could go on trough all the features, but you’d be better off just downloading a trial version to see for yourself. Better yet, just buy the darn thing. It’s not expensive and it really works well.

Before I go, there’s one more set of features that are extremely useful. It starts with reports that show you the status of your computer – nothing unusual there, but beautifully presented – and goes to a history view that shows you what System Mechanic has done on your machine over time.

SM Reports - History

What makes the history so useful is that there is also the ability, via SafetyNet to revert the changes from a session – just in case you didn’t let System Mechanic prevent you from doing something stupid.

There are lots of products that offer similar collections of utilities. In fact, iolo makes one called Advanced Systems Care that comes in both free and Pro (money) based versions. But for me, System Mechanic offers the best combination of tools, ease of use, regular updates, and functionality of the products I’ve used. And, when I’ve completed a session, my computer runs better. And that’s no placebo effect!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Personal mobile devices and the future of computing

Several decades ago I wrote that them main reason for personal computers was for communication. that was before the public Internet. Now, not only is it obvious that personal computing is for communication, but a whole range of industries have grown up in support of that proposition.

Smartphones have lead the evolution and will continue to do so, but tablets, like the iPad I'm using to write this, are the true demonstration. The evolutionary trend is moving faster and faster. Communicating with a device now... Will we still need devices in 10 years.

The proliferation of mobile computers has helped lead to the exponential growth of data centers and thus the need for a refresh of the centralized computing paradigm. Where there has been a move to RAIC in the data center, a case can now easily be made that what needed is not tens of thousands of small servers but hundreds or thousands of very large servers. The re-emergence of the mainframe, but a new type of mainframe. One not dedicated to the running of giant transactional applications. Instead, perhaps just very powerful hardware platforms that can deliver the tens of thousands of servers. Beyond VMs.

I've been studying the large systems I'd ignored in the past and am wondering how these systems can succeed in a market now dominated by simple inexpensive, easy to use, servers. More study is needed.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

I guess this one doesn't go to thirteen!

Symantec recently announced the newest version of Backup Exec replacing the current Version 12. The new version is called Backup Exec 2010.

I guess the realized that no one would buy version 13 of a backup software product.