Monday, 1 February 2010

Light the Kindle-ing

Not long ago I was struck by an article about Kindle readers. The price of the device was quite substantial, and what does it do? – it allows you to read a digital book.

Now depending on your literary tastes, it’s quite difficult to justify the ROI on one. How many books do you buy to cover the cost of one of these devices (are they cheaper electronically)? They are definitely more environmentally friendly – no rain forests were destroyed in making the reading experience possible. Does the “convenience” give you a payback? How many books can you read at the same time? If you buy a paperback at the airport and abandon it once read, that’s a lot cheaper than abandoning the Kindle. Of course if you work for MI5, then the cost is going to be a lot higher – even lives come into the equation.

Back in the day, BSkyB sold their decoders - then they realised this was a hindrance to signing people to contracts – the real money maker. The decoder is simply a delivery mechanism. Maybe the Kindle should come bundled with an acquisition of books from a publisher. It’s about reading (selling) more books in reality…

It all comes back to the old question of technology and it’s perceived usefulness. Isn’t it always about the application (both software and use of)?

So the arrival of the iPad piqued my interest…

I know there are some things missing, like USB/firewire ports, etc. But casting my mind back to iPhone version 2 (and 3), these issues were rectififed/addressed quite successfully. Where is the hook? Phone contracts and the Apple store where the apps make the device absolutely “essential”.

My wife has integrated her iPhone into her work life (which has bled into our personal lives too), and yes, she’d get by without it, but it fills many gaps for her.

Like most IT practitioners – I try to wait for service pack 1 before rolling out to live systems in the work place, so I think I’ll wait and see.

However, I look forward to iPad version 2 with a certain amount of anticipation. I also can’t wait to see how the Kindles of this world respond?

Competition anyone? I hope so…

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Knit 0, Perl 1

That's the score so far in my quest to get into the onion!!

My confidence levels are as high as they were when I first saw APL and RPG. Intuitive it ain't but I guess I will get contemptous after some more familiarity with the language - though I imagine this will take a bit longer than I had hoped.

As usual, I managed the "Hello World!" thing, so that's a start. I'm trying to get my mind around data types and sigils...yes, so much fun!

One of the more appealing things is the part about laziness being good as far the ethos of the language is concerned. I believed in that paradigm when I first heard the story of how Henry Ford got things done. It makes so much sense to get the most efficiency out of something, and shortcuts are often achieved by finding the quickest route from A to B with the least effort. That's my story anyway and I'm sticking to it.

Why the self-inflicted pain? I need a good string manipulation language without all the technical overheads of C includes, type mismatches, make files, etc, etc.

Oh, and it has to be free. Always a good thing in my book. Why? Because I'm going to invest my time in this endeavour, which is more precious to me than money.

Wish me luck as I attempt to at least get the skin off the onion.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

New/old ideas - part 2

So, we had all bases covered.

Yes, yes, I know...fortunately, we did not have a DR incident. What we had was a fiddling IT guy/manager/idiot (delete where applicable).

I'm usually one of those guys who likes to leave that big dog sleeping.

Fortunately I didn't.

I have the use of an Asus EEE(k) netbook and it comes (actually past tense now) with XP Home edition. If you have tried to use this piece of shoftware (saved that one in time!) you know it doesn't work very well on Windows Active Directory or AD (who thought that one up - messiah complex or what!).

Anyway, in trying to install XP Pro (comes with white handbag and stands on street corners - no? OK) on the EEE machine, which has no DVD/CD/Floppy drive, on the train home no less I discovered a few home truths.

1. If the serial numbers for installing MS Office are stored in an encrypted spreadsheet, and you don't have Office installed (obvious because you are installing it), you encounter a true life chicken and egg situation.

2. If the images/files required are stored in an encrypted self extracting archive on your memory stick, but no extractor program exists, you land up kicking off the whole extraction routine. In our case, that's a few Gigabytes.

3. If you don't have bootable media, which typically memory sticks aren't, you won't install the server software.

Now my commute is long, around 2 hours each way, but the only portion where I can safely work on the laptop is about 55 minutes, so that was not nearly enough.

However, my little exercise was very useful to us as it highlighted some holes in our DR planning and allowed us to make some changes.

So we fixed point 2 above by leaving a free-standing extraction utility on the memory stick instead of inside the archive.

Point 1 was solved by using a marvelous product called Portable Apps - go here immediately, do not pass GO. It allows you to run applications like Firefox and OpenOffice. It's all self-contained, so it's basically your office/home environment (temp files, cookies, the lot) on a memory stick.

Have memory stick, will travel!

OpenOffice therefore solves point 1 above.

Point 3 took a lot longer and is a work just out of progress. It consists of making the USB drive bootable. I pointed one of my IT guys (who is a LOT cleverer than me at these things) at this website

Not for the faint-hearted, but the rewards are enormous. You get a bootable USB key running XP or Vista, or a Linux distro. Built in are tools to re-partition, re-format, etc. Drool-stuff for the techie with a) too much time on their hands or b) a boss who sees a business use for it.

So, we think we have covered a few more bases, but have we covered them all?

In answer, in this instance as in life, the more I learn, the more I realise how little I know.

But I am learning...

New/old ideas - part 1

The more things change, the more they stay the same I'm told.

I started a new job in November, and my primary objective when walking in the door is to secure the business, whatever part of it I'm responsible for.

Now anyone in IT, especially in management, will immediately think of backups and disaster recovery (DR) in the same thought (don't have breaths in my mind...)

Backups and DR go together for IT - ALWAYS. Usually you can't have one without the other. The DR plan is more complex and business encompassing, but without a form of backup, there is nothing to recover in this day and age - try running your business during a powercut these days. No computers, no service - simple. You can tell I come from an IT-centric world (similar to ego-centric I guess).

So, we have our backups which are basically all the data, but that's not enough. You need backups at different levels. As an example, if you have a complete wipeout of your facility, you will acquire new servers, backup devices (for restoring of course) and workstations. The servers typically come with no operating system, so how do you rebuild them?

Not off the backup.

Either you buy a new copy of Windows Server and install from scratch and then start restoring, or you have a copy somewhere. Now you could store all your software in an off-site location, but in this day and age why have books or boxes of CDs/DVDs when you can rip the images and dump them on a memory stick. 16Gb is quite cheap these days and they come in 64Gb versions now as well.

So that's what we did. And we have 4 of them, each a copy of the other left with key company officers for THAT day, may it NEVER come.

But just in case...

Off-line happenings and reflections

It's been a while and a lot has happened in the real world.

New job, credit crunch, new year, new dog, new US President, light snow causing havoc - it's doesn't get much more exciting than this. Something to do with that old curse...

And one of the major happenings is the credit crunch. Talk about financial uncertainty, the oil price went under $50/barrel recently - just a third of it's all time high last year. Dollar to pound rate from over $2 to the pound, to $1.4-something in about a year as well.

And bold as brass, the country gets nationalised to boot. Free enterprise didn't seem to be working - not for the rest of us anyway, only the drivers of the gravy train.

Speaking of which, my train ticket went up - service levels didn't of course.

Being in IT, these things didn't really bother me too much over the years. Job satisfaction & security being fairly satisfied, one can become somewhat insular.

But with time and age, I guess we pick up perspective, and of course caution - something we shouldn't exercise too much of, otherise inertia kicks in.

Nuff yacking, drink up the beer and get back to something more technical!

Friday, 15 August 2008

Cloudy(y) computing

One of my favourite quotes is: “You’ve reached middle age when all you exercise is caution”.

I read a report recently about 2 organisations moving off their own servers to Google apps and Gmail, thereby saving huge amounts of money. Quite enticing one would think.

This was confirmed in the July issue of Information Age. In the same article it mentions there is a Gartner report endorsing cloud computing. Then the very next paragraph states that the same organisation published a report warning of the dangers of cloud computing.

I have always been quite cautious (first glimpse of my exercise regime) of external suppliers holding all our data, or intellectual property. Why? It’s unlikely they will mine it, there’s too much of it, not just ours, unless of course they have an employee who makes a business of selling our data to our competitors. Which could be the case with one of our employees anyway, so that’s no different.

No, for me it’s the cloudy-ness of the cloud, the lack of visibility. It affects corporate issues such as compliance. And risk.

There are many questions to be answered about the issues surrounding the “safe” (whatever that may mean) use of the cloud, and I believe some questions are still to be asked.

In the meantime, I’ve hit middle age on this one and I’m exercising caution for all I’m worth!

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Interaction Technology reflections

Just had to reflect on some of the concepts previewed on Mozilla's site for their Aurora browser interface.

The title above cannot be reduced to IT because what I saw today of the proposed Aurora browser from Mozilla is more than just nuts and bolts.

I have only watched the first video as yet (I will watch the rest), but it has fired my imagination so.

Having been immersed in IT since 1984, I have seen quite a few changes along the way. It is maturing all the time, some areas more quickly than others. What is always gratifying is when someone takes disparate strands and ties them all together.

The browser technology previewed here promises much, not just for the lay user. It has all sorts of wider applications and draws from so many other areas. I look at the interface and I think mind maps. The interface gets more human-like, because as people, one of our distinctives is our ability to reference, see isomorphisms, make connections.

That's for me the biggest positive so far with this.

Watch and enjoy...