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Archive | April, 2004

How blogging can provide unsolicited possibilities

I have been writing this weblog now for less than a year now. During that time it has come to be a resource for many different things, but it has provided me with several unexpected opportunities. By having a weblog that anyone can use, I have been interviewed by two local newspapers, the Bucks County Courier Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer, and I recently received an offer for a free piece of software for the purpose of reviewing it and publishing the review on my site. In the past it has been difficult for a small site or individual like me to even be noticed by organizations like the Inquirer or by companies producing software. Further, software and hardware companies haven’t had a mechanism for finding people like me with influence over the buying decisions of others, nor have people like me had the opportunity to influence such a large group of people.

I guess what I am saying is that there is some serious potential for people to consider when starting a weblog, it doesn’t just have to be a time consuming endeavor – it can provide real results. I haven’t even mentioned the clients I have gotten because they found me through my weblog. If you are reading this and have thought about creating a weblog, you should give it some serious consideration.

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Overseas outsourcing vs. insourcing

Here is an interesting article over at the NY Times about whether or not it is always smart to outsource some high tech jobs to India or other countries. I have only ever been on the customer end of these transactions, so my experience is related to how it affects my perception of the company and the service I am getting rather than how it affects my job. My personal opinion is that companies have to do whatever they can to cut costs as long as it doesn’t jeopardize the satisfaction of their clients, and I have had a number of issues with the inflexibility that results from an outsourced support staff. The article discusses the need for outsourced work to be best handled through rules that are concrete and quantifiable, and I think too many organizations think tech support is one such job, while I would maintain that is the furthest thing from it.

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Great article on employee use of the Internet at work from Wired magazine

If you have employees and an Internet connection at your office, you should read this article. It discusses the differences between how users responded to a survey about personal use of the Internet and what actual experience has shown. The highlights include:

  • 6% of survey respondents admitted to having downloaded spyware onto their computers, while administrators estimate that 30% of their corporate workstations have been infected with spyware at one time or another;
  • IT managers estimated that 10% of help desk calls were related to non-work-related applications – usually problems created by spyware;
  • employee use of non-work-related applications and related bandwidth strain has slowed down a mission-critical project at one-third of respondents’ organizations;
  • 21% of employees who responded to the poll said they use streaming media to do such things as listen to Internet radio or watch live newscasts via the Web. But only 6 percent admitted to ever downloading and storing any non-work-related video clips or music onto their work computer;
  • IT managers responding to the poll estimated that, on average, roughly 10% of their company network’s disk storage space is taken up by non-work-related files, such as MP3s, photos and movies;
  • The majority of employees surveyed said they spend between one and five hours per week using the Internet at work for personal reasons;
  • 14% of employees admitted to playing online or downloaded games at work;
  • 27% of those surveyed said they feel using the Net for personal reasons made them more productive at work;
  • 49% said they would rather give up their morning coffee than their ability to use the Internet at work for personal reasons.

These are very interesting results, and every employer or business owner should be aware of the realities associated with personal use of the Internet by employees. At the same time, those employers should also be aware that they are typically asking employees to do much more with fewer actual people than we have in the past, as evidenced by the increasing productivity percentages that are reported in economic data every month. There needs to be some sort of a balance between what the business needs and what an employee needs for staying happy and healthy, but I would definitely agree that spyware presents one of, if not the, biggest dangers to corporate networks and computers today, and it almost always results from personal use of the Internet on work machines.

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Sonicwall Content Filtering rating request

I have noticed a number of people on various sites stating that their site had been classified incorrectly as pornography or something objectionable. If that happens, you can look up and request a re-rating for any site at this location.

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My second Sonicwall roadshow

First, I want to apologize for the lack of posting this month. This has been a very busy time for me, and I haven’t had a lot of time to keep the posts coming. I will try and pick it back up a little.

To that end, I attended my second Sonicwall roadshow in as many months today. It was held in Valley Forge, PA, and was presented by Greg Croce, the Sonicwall Territory Manager, and Tom Bulthaupt, the Territory SE and Eastern Region SE Manager. They provided an overview of the new Sonic OS 2.x enhanced firmware, which was primarily a rehash for me from the last roadshow, but I did get a couple of nuggets of information that were new.

The biggest piece of news is the impending release of the new SonicWall Pro 5060, a six-port gigabit ethernet solution that will come in two flavors (6 copper ports, or 4 copper and 2 fiber sx/sc ports). It looks like the box is going to retail for either $9,995 or $11,495 with 1 year of the new IPS deep packet inspection service included in the price. On the presentation slide for the 5060 was a little blurb mentioning a new product that is ultra hush-hush, the SonicPoint, which should probably be an integrated security/wireless roaming solution that will work with the Pro series of firewall appliances. We’ll have to watch closely for the announcement on these products when they are more readily publicized.

The other useful tidbit I got was the impending release of 2.5 firmware, which should be by the end of this quarter and will address a number of requests, including source-based routing in SonicOS enhanced for forcing certain IP addresses and/or protocols to use a specific WAN interface in a load balancing/failover configuration.

I continue to be impressed with the recent flurry of innovation out of the folks in Sunnyvale. Keep up the great work!

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WalMart double bills credit card customers last week

If you shopped there with a credit card last week, follow their advice and check your bill.

The Bigger They Are …

… the bigger their screwups. Wal-Mart screws up big time, double- and triple-billing customers who shopped there last week and paid by credit card. The retail giant says the problem — a computer glitch — is fixed, but advises customers to check their bill.


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Analysis of Real Networks’ Real Player

The folks at Wired have undertaken an analysis of the problems Real Networks has had in recent years with the decline of their market share in the Internet audio player market. Here is the quote I think they got the most wrong:

But the installation of Windows Media Player on almost every new PC created “a tremendous headwind against Real,” said Richard Doherty, director of Envisioneering, a market research firm. “It’s a handicap and a challenge for anyone who isn’t an embedded player.”

The problem for Real hasn’t been Microsoft’s bundling Media Player with Windows. It has been Real’s almost virus-like approach for their product. The article does focus on the issue of users finding the free version on Real’s site and the fact that there are pop-ups and other problems, but this one paragraph makes me feel as though they still try to blame Microsoft for Real’s recent slide in market share.

Speaking as a technologist, I stopped downloading and installing Real Player because it installed unwanted components, like their ridiculous download manager, that interrupted the rest of my computing experience. Further, they made it extremely difficult to fully get rid of their product. As a user with broadband, I don’t care about having to download and install an application like Real Player. I do care, however, that the application feels less like something that will give me a high quality experience and more like something trying to find a way to extract every dollar possible from me. And yes, at one point I owned a subscription to Real Player plus, but I have since switched almost exclusively to WMP for streams, unless I have no other option.

Read the full text of the Wired article – Find the Download in a Haystack.

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Thorough analysis of the US IP network’s potential future

[via CNET News]

One nation under Internet Protocol

J. William Gurley considers the likely timetable for a single, super fast pipe into the U.S. home.


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Good article on securing your Pocket PC

[via PDACorps]

Securing your Pocket PC

Chris De Herrera at CEWindows.net has published an excellent guide to securing Pocket PCs running the Windows Mobile 2003 OS.  Whilst ostensibly aimed at companies deploying Pocket PCs, it contains important points for all users to note regarding the security risks of using these devices to store important information.  Notable threats include the general lack of virus-scanning software on most PPCs and the possibilities of keyboard sniffing through third-party SIPs. Read the entire article here.

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Scoble has a new “aggregator” blog

Rober Scoble, famed blogger who is now working for Microsoft, is using a new tool from Kunal Das that allows posting directly to a MovableType weblog by copying an HTML-formatted email to a folder in Outlook. The tool is HUGE for the link-blogging world. It is especially great for those of us using NewsGator to follow syndicated feeds, since it correctly parses the NewsGator posts. My only request would be the removal of the NewsGator “Related” link and the inclusion of the link to the original post from the original source. Here is the link to Scoble’s aggregator blog.

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