Sunday, December 28, 2014

Hard Drive Costs

Everybody knows how fast hard drive costs are dropping, don't they? But really, let's look at the figures.

Here's a chart from That Data Dude.

Impressive. But look closer. The "Avg. Cost per GB" scale is logarithmic!

And look at the knee between 1989 and 1994. The cost per gigabyte dropped 98%. As I recall that was in the throes of  IBM 3390s. The 3390 was announced November 14, 1989 at 946MB. The last entry in the family was the 3390 Model 9 announced May 20, 1993 at 8.51GB. Bigger by a factor of 9.

Looking down at current costs they are pennies per GB. Several organizations with deep pockets have started offering "free" storage.

Think of the opportunities this will offer. Think of the problems this will cause.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Can You Afford for Google to Fail

I guess that headline got you to read this! No, I don't see Google failing as an organization anytime soon. What is evident though is that Google is part of the "Fail Fast, Fail Often" culture.

Google, like many other Silicon Valley companies, tends to iterate through products rapidly. Google so much that it precipitated a meme around Google's Graveyard.

That may be good for Google but is it good for you?

Even though I'm a huge Google user, I've joined the hue and cry about this.

     C'mon Google
     Google Plus Photos NOT
     Google Docs Gadget
     Google Being a Pain

One of the podcasts I listen to regularly is Speaking in Tech. While this is principally enterprise focused, episode #138 covered a couple of Google consumer issues. At 3:47 Greg Knieriemen goes off on Android Lollipop. Then at 10:47 the discussion turns to Google in general.

Sarah Vela puts a point on it.
(Google) can afford to fail in places where their users invest and then (the users) get burned. It makes me a little weary.
And John Troyer adds:
It also makes me wonder what happens when they are running my cloud. ... And ...  what happens when they're driving my car.
Well said.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Lessons from Sony

There's been a big story lately on a hack of Sony Pictures. Terabytes of sensitive data were exfiltrated and posted publicly. There're several theories about the motivations behind this but I want to focus on the security practices. Let's be slow to throw rocks because this could be you.

I'm a big proponent of leveraging size to reduce cost. Sony, Sony Pictures' parent company, had consolidated security management into its global organization. At first that seems like a good idea.

But the result was that the global organization couldn't/didn't focus on local issues. The global team was failing to monitor 149 out of 869 of Sony Pictures systems in their scope. That's 17% of the systems unmonitored.

And the global organization's IT management was aware of this gap and didn't remedy it. Even with 17% of the systems being unmonitored, almost 200 security incidents were reported to the global organization between September 2013 and June 2014.

It is not known if the penetration leveraged any of these unmonitored systems but they certainly were vulnerable.

Lesson: Cost should not be a primary consideration in IT security decisions.

There were also several issues that emanated from the leaked data. In the data were hundreds of RSA SecurID tokens, Lotus Notes IDs, passwords, and certificates - many of them with the required passphrase. One of the certificates was a certificate Sony Pictures used to sign code. Its password was the filename.

Lesson: Lock up the family jewels.

One of the other firestorms has been the content of the leaked e-mails. Beside all the sensitive business discussions were some pretty damning dialogs concerning actors and actresses.

Lesson: Have a policy about what is allowed in e-mail and recurrency training on the necessity of this policy.

Finally, face up to the fact that your company will be hacked.

Articles that I used in this post:


Sunday, December 07, 2014


A random article in my feedly recently caught my eye. The headline was "H-P Moves to Retain Corporate Customers Ahead of Breakup." Well surely they would do that. So what? But I read it anyway.

(This article is in the Wall Street Journal and behind a paywall but if you Google that headline and click on the link from there you'll see the entire article.)

Stop now and go read it yourself.
The Palo Alto, Calif., company said it would offer versions of two computer server lines under H-P's Integrity moniker - Superdome and NonStop - that will be powered by Intel Corp.'s Xeon chips...

These Integrity systems now use Intel’s Itanium (formerly known as Merced) chips. They are pretty much the only users of these chips. At one time even Microsoft supported the Itanium chip.

This was in the era of system vendors differentiating themselves with their own chip architecture. HP previously had PA-RISC. DEC had Vax and Alpha. Sun had SPARC. IBM had PowerPC.

But this isn't a history lesson.

This is the end of purpose built processors. The Intel x86 has won (for now).

The Itaniums ran HP-UX, a version of Unix.
H-P is encouraging customers to move to the Linux operating system...
Antonio Neri, SVP and GM of H-P's enterprise group
Read that again. "H-P is encouraging customers to move to the Linux operating system..."

And on Intel X86 processors.

H-P has just committed hara-kiri.

They have gone from having a differentiating processor and operating system to being just another vendor of Linux and X86.

Sure they can put some lipstick on it with lots of processors and lots of salesmen but it'll still be just another Linux and X86 system.

It's a sad day.

Update: I shared this with the Unix manager at a Fortune 100 company. His comments:
I guess my take is this……. At least they actually documented a direction….. been struggling to figure out where they were headed for a couple of years now.

We’ll still shut them down as fast as we can though, just another O/S and vendor to manage…..
"Just another O/S and vendor to manage." Sad.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Your Grandfather’s Technology

Recently one of my co-workers sent me an article on the mainframe. Now you gotta remember that I'm a mainframe guy. I was into mainframes when 256 kilobytes was a BIG system. I led organizations that bet the company on mainframes. And won. I love to write S/370 assembler!

The article got this right:
...the mainframe computer seems like your grandfather’s technology...
That's me. But...

This article is self serving. And, in my opinion, misleading.

Somehow CA Technologies, né Computer Associates, have gotten the Wired brand in the top right corner. But all of the references are CA Technologies.

A CA Technologies survey found "more than 75 percent of U.S. respondents and more than 80 percent of global respondents confirmed that the mainframe is a strategic or highly strategic part of their current and future IT plans."

But dig a little and you'll find that the survey respondents were "623 mainframe executives." Not exactly objective.

That many organizations are sticking with the mainframe doesn't surprise me. In my consulting role, I see over and over that organizations won't/can't invest enough to implement new open systems. I call these organizations "Dead Men Walking."

And CA Technologies got this right: "...some pundits say the mainframe can’t possibly remain relevant in the cloud computing environment, where vast amounts of computing power and storage are available for anyone to rent at relatively low cost."

And I don't think I'd have used this example: "mainframes are still the go-to technology platform when it comes to tackling big jobs, such as managing the database of a government agency..."

I can't figure where this statement comes from: "...mainframes are hard to beat when you’re trying to plan for unpredictable spikes in network usage." Unpredictable spikes are the nemesis of monolithic mainframe systems. Horizontally scalable systems are made for unpredictable loads.

While I don't disagree that mainframes will continue to be around for a while it won't be because they perform the job better. And the business risk of operating on a mainframe will continue until those businesses migrate or fail. Only time will tell which.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

More Lessons from the Cloud

There seems to be a recurring theme in my posts about outages in cloud services. While not trying to beat that dead horse there are certainly some lessons to be learned here.

Recently there was an 11 hour outage of Microsoft's Azure storage services.

Again users were hard pressed to get details on the outage as "the Service Health Dashboard and Azure Management Portal both rely on Azure."

I commend Microsoft for owning up to the root problem quickly and succinctly.
"Unfortunately the issue was widespread, since the update was made across most regions in a short period of time due to operational error, instead of following the standard protocol of applying production changes in incremental batches."
One of the comments summed it up best:

So much tied into itself that there is no dependency tree - it is a pure network - thus issuing bad changes take down the entire net.

It can be a spectacular update process - minimum to no outage... but only if the updates work.

It also shows a major vulnerability. That central update can take down the entire company if it gets penetrated.

20 November, 2014 12:46
So, lessons...
  1. Diversify - Don't build your notification tool on top of what you're monitoring.
  2. Manage change - Don't let operational error bite you in the a**. Your execution has to be perfect. Users are unforgiving.
These don't apply just to cloud solutions. They apply just as much to your internal solutions.

My previous posts on this topic:

Storm Clouds
When Clouds Go Bump
When Clouds Go Thump
Lessons from the Cloud
When Clouds Go Bump Revisited
To Be Fair
To Be Fair, Again
To Be Fair, Again and Again

Update: Microsoft has published a thorough analysis of the problem with the corrective action. Good job Microsoft!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Chrome Memory

Recently I noticed my laptop running slowly. Processor utilization was nil so I fired up Task Manager to see what the memory usage was.


Chrome was using over 4GB of RAM just from the processes on the first screen.

Here's what Chrome's Task manager showed.

I was running Chrome 38.0.2125.111 m (64-bit).

That just ain't right.

Sunday, November 09, 2014


One of our clients recently was impacted by CryptoWall. It's nasty.
Security researchers at Proofpoint warn that a new variant of CryptoWall recently spread through malicious banner ads. Surfers ran a risk of being faced with ransomware purely by visiting one of the impacted sites, which included various properties in the Yahoo!,, and AOL domains, among others.
This comment makes a good point that the ad networks should be called out for their participation.

This "drive-by" risk is very difficult to protect against. I believe that an ad-blocker will help mitigate this risk. I use Adblock Plus.

Lifehacker had a good article on all the things you can do with Adblock Plus. I also found that Adblock Plus has a page that will let you extend it.

Here're my options:

Adblock Plus is not without controversy. Read about it here.

Sunday, November 02, 2014


So you block third-party cookies?


And you opt-in to Do Not Track?


And you run Facebook in an incognito/private window?


And you block ads with Adblock Plus?


So you think your privacy is protected?


AT&T and Verizon are selling you out on your mobile device.
Verizon and AT&T (are) rolling this out: they’re tagging their customers with unique codes that are visible to third parties
Oh, and they're charging the third parties for YOUR information.

You can see what they're doing by following this link on your mobile device.

Here's what my headers look like.

If you're on AT&T you can go here and opt-out. Good luck though. It didn't do anything for me.

A detailed explanation of how it works is here.

The Electronic Freedom Foundation has this to say:
ISPs are trusted connectors of users and they shouldn't be modifying our traffic on its way to the Internet...

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Home Videos

With a granddaughter, I shoot a lot of home videos and share them to the family.

I upload all my video directly to YouTube. Then I use the YouTube editor to edit and consolidate my videos into a single video. I don't do any transitions or captions but you can do that there too.

Then I use ClipConverter to export the edited video from YouTube to my PC's desktop. I always download in the highest resolution available. Sometimes it takes YouTube hours to present the HD version so be patient.

Next I take the downloaded file and UPLOAD it to Google+. In my case I put it in the same Google+ album with the photos from a given event so that I have a single repository of an event.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Backup, Restore, Test

Do you backup? I sure hope you do.

Do you test your restore? What? No, you say?

My daily driver ThinkPad X201 only came with a 160GB drive. I picked up a 1TB Toshiba for $55 and started looking for a way to clone to it.

Then I thought that I use Windows 7's Windows Backup to make a system image every month. So why not use one of these to "clone" to the new drive?

I ran my system image backup as usual to an external USB drive. Normally when the system image is complete I rename the WindowsImageBackup folder to append the date and system name.

To "test" my restore, I renamed the folder that I wanted to restore back to WindowsImageBackup.

Then I shutdown the X201 and swapped the 160GB drive for the 1TB drive. I plugged in a USB version of Windows 7 64-bit System Repair Disk. I didn't plug in my backup drive yet.

I booted from the System Repair Disk and chose "System Image Recovery." Then I plugged in my backup drive. I had to click on "Retry" and then it found the image I had just made.

I just clicked on through and the restore started. It ran for a couple of hours and automatically booted back into Windows.

Just for giggles I ran SpinRite on the new 1TB drive.

That was really easy and now I'm confident that my system image backups work.

The restore only created a 160GB partition so I used Windows 7's Disk Management to resize.

There's a good tutorial on this process here.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Let's Hangout

Google's Hangouts (Chrome for Windows) is changing almost daily.

Google has been integrating SMS and Google Voice and now they've moved Hangouts to a floating window. The Chrome for Windows app also adds a Chrome App Launcher to the desktop and taskbar.

Not only does it launch Hangouts but also the other apps you have installed in Chrome.

Here's the list of what's new just in the latest version:
What’s new in the Hangouts Chrome app:
-- Native app experience. Hangouts runs in the background and notifies you of new messages and incoming calls with animated notifications. Launch Hangouts from the Start menu, have it pinned on your taskbar and switch apps using Alt+Tab.
-- Always-on-top avatars. Your friends’ avatars animate on your screen and stay on top so you never miss an important message.
-- Auto-minimizing chat windows. Chat windows auto minimize when you’re inactive to avoid cluttering your screen.
-- Message previews. Hover over any avatar to get a peek at the most recent message.
-- Drag and drop. Position the app anywhere on your screen, including multi-monitor configurations. You can also pop out important conversations and pin them to your desktop.
-- Keyboard Shortcuts. Navigate between chats quickly using your favorite Chrome shortcuts.
-- Google Voice support. Connect your Google Voice account to make calls, send and receive SMS, and access your voicemail.
Very interesting.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Auto Awesome

I still grumble about some features (or lack of features) of Google Plus Photos.

However, some of the features are awesome.

Recently we took our granddaughter to a nearby park. I took a sequence of photos of her while she was playing on the swing. Google Plus detected that these were framed similarly and automatically created an an animated gif of her swinging.

That's awesome but that ain't nothing.

The next thing that Google Plus did was that it determined that these same photos had a common background and erased her from the pictures and replaced her with the appropriate background.

I think Microsoft had something similar several years back that are mentioned here and here. If this was ever productized I can't find it.

The animated gif image in this post while an accurate representation of the Auto Awesome image was obfuscated with PhotoFiltre and recreated with Free Gif Maker.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

C'mon Google

Don't you love the new Google Drive? It's got a fresh look and easier to navigate.

Google's support article says "The new Google Drive is the same Google Drive you know and love..."

Don't believe everything you read on the Internet.

Our organization is a big user of Google Drive. Tonight I was uploading a new version of a PowerPoint to Google Drive. I was using the new Google Drive. I couldn't find the "Manage revisions" option.

Hmmm. Well there's a setting to "Leave the new Drive" so I tried that.

What do you know, there's the "Manage revisions" option.

I must have just been looking in the wrong place in the new Google Drive.

Nope. It's gone. "Please note that viewing and managing revisions is only available in the classic version of Drive at this time."

C'mon Google. Don't push us to new services without them being functionally complete.

Don't even get me started on "My Maps."

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Deja Vu All Over Again

My VoIP journey has been a long one. It actually hasn't been very painful, just long. And my wife loves the results. Google Voice has done a wonderful job blocking telemarketers and sending the transcribed voicemails to our phones via e-mail is a hit.

However (and you knew there'd be an "However"), Google has made it more "interesting" than necessary.

In a brief recap, my goal was to move off of AT&T for $50 per month onto VoIP for way less. I chose to use Google Voice on an Obihai OBi100. All of that worked great until Google pulled the plug on XMPP that Obihai used. I inserted Vestalink (ne OBiVoice) and that worked pretty good. I had 2 family members whose incoming calls were always choppy. The workaround was to give them the direct Vestalink DID number.

Then in a sweeping transformation of Google Voice, it seems that Google and Obihai kissed and made up.

The move back couldn't have been easier or smoother. I left Vestalink in place for E911 but I'll probably look at it again when my annual contract comes up for renewal.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

iPhone 6

If I'm anything, I'm NOT an Apple fanboi.

And the Android aficionados are giving Apple heck over the iPhone 6.

But still, there's a lot of innovation in the iPhone 6.

It has 128 gigabytes of flash memory. One Hundred and Twenty Eight Gigabytes! Enough for my daughter's pictures. Nice job.

Apple finally implemented NFC tap to pay. But in Apple's manner, it's not just the run of the mill tap to pay. Apple tokenized the entire transaction and used their TouchID as a second factor. Mechanically in the store it's pretty much the same as Google Wallet but under the covers it's much cleaner. Nice job.

And it has just been discovered that the iPhone 6 has hardware h.265 encoders for use by FaceTime. This will reduce the bandwidth required for over the air video by 50% while not reducing quality. Nice job.

I'm still not going to buy one.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

OnePlus One Doesn't Add Up

I saw my wife staring at her iPhone 4S the other day. I asked her what she was doing. She was reading an e-book on the Kindle app. Lord help her eyes!

This rekindled (pardon the pun) my quest to move her to Android. The new OnePlus One seemed like a good idea: big, fast, pretty, CyanogenMod ...

So I went to eBay and bought an invitation. Currently you can only get the black 64GB model.

It came in a couple of days. I had already been talking it up to her. She wasn't excited but didn't push back.

When it got here it was a different story. She didn't want to transition from iOS.

I knew what was good for me so I let the OnePlus One sit there for a few days. Still no movement.

I posted that I had one for sale on eBay, Google+, Twitter, and Facebook. I got a nibble from a former co-worker who had been playing with one at work.

We worked out a deal and we swapped phones - the OnePlus One for an unlocked 16GB iPhone 5S.

Seemed perfect.

Until she saw it. Her reaction was "The screen is so small." After I climbed down off the ceiling ...

The transition was easy. Well, as easy as anything is that involves iTunes. AT&T was very helpful giving me a new nano-SIM without activating it. Then when I was ready I just called them and it worked. Thanks!

I haven't exposed her to TouchID yet. LTE and 5GHz 802.11n are both nice. And it's light and thin.

DeviceApple iPhone 4SApple iPhone 5SOnePlus One
Device typeSmart phoneSmart phoneSmart phone
OSiOS (7.x, 6.1, 6, 5.1, 5)iOS (7.x)Android (4.4.4, 4.4) CyanogenMod 11S UI
Dimensions4.54 x 2.31 x 0.37 inches (115.2 x 58.6 x 9.3 mm)4.87 x 2.31 x 0.30 inches (123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6 mm)6.02 x 2.99 x 0.35 inches (152.9 x 75.9 x 8.9 mm)
Weight4.94 oz (140 g)3.95 oz (112 g)5.71 oz (162 g)
Body materialGlassAluminium
Physical size3.5 inches4.0 inches5.5 inches
Resolution640 x 960 pixels640 x 1136 pixels1080 x 1920 pixels
Pixel density
326 ppi326 ppi401 ppi
Colors16 777 21616 777 21616 777 216
FeaturesLight sensor, Proximity sensor, Oleophobic coatingLight sensor, Proximity sensor, Oleophobic coatingLight sensor, Proximity sensor, Scratch-resistant glass
Camera8 megapixels8 megapixels13 megapixels
FlashLEDDual LEDDual LED
Aperture sizeF2.4F2.2F2.0
Focal length (35mm equivalent)35.00 mm
Camera sensor size1/3.2"1/3"1/3.06"
FeaturesBack-illuminated sensor (BSI), Autofocus, Touch to focus, Digital image stabilization, Face detection, Geo taggingBack-illuminated sensor (BSI), Autofocus, Touch to focus, Digital image stabilization, Face detection, Burst mode, Digital zoom, Geo tagging, High Dynamic Range mode (HDR), PanoramaCMOS image sensor, Autofocus
Camcorder1920x1080 (1080p HD) (30 fps)1920x1080 (1080p HD) (30 fps), 1280x720 (720p HD) (120 fps)3840x2160 (4K), 1280x720 (720p HD) (120 fps)
FeaturesDigital image stabilizationDigital image stabilization, Picture-taking during video recording
Front-facing camera0.3 megapixels VGA1.2 megapixels5 megapixels
System chip
Apple A5Apple A7 with 64-bit architectureQualcomm Snapdragon 801 8974-AC
Dual core, 800 MHz, ARM Cortex-A9Dual core, 1300 MHzQuad core, 2500 MHz, Krait 400
Graphics processorPowerVR SGX 543MP2PowerVR G6430Adreno 330
System memory
512 MB RAM1024 MB RAM3072 MB RAM
Built-in storage64 GB64 GB16 GB
Talk time14.00 hours
Stand-by time8.3 days (200 hours)
Talk time (3G)8.00 hours10.00 hours
Stand-by time (3G)10.4 days (250 hours)
Capacity1570 mAh3100 mAh
Not user replaceableYesYes
Music player
Filter byAlbum, Artist, Genre, PlaylistsAlbum, ArtistAlbum, Artist, Playlists
FeaturesAlbum art cover, Background playbackAlbum art cover, Background playbackAlbum art cover, Background playback
SpeakersEarpiece, LoudspeakerEarpiece, LoudspeakerEarpiece, Stereo speakers
YouTube playerYesYesYes
Built-in online services supportYouTube (upload)YouTube (upload), TwitterYouTube (upload), Picasa/Google+
800, 1900 MHz
GSM850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz
UMTS850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz
FDD LTE700 (band 13), 700 (band 17), 800 (band 18), 800 (band 19), 800 (band 20), 850 (band 5), 900 (band 8), 1700/2100 (band 4), 1800 (band 3), 1900 (band 2), 1900 (band 25), 2100 (band 1) MHz700 (band 17), 1700/2100 (band 4), 1800 (band 3), 2100 (band 1), 2600 (band 7) MHz
TDD LTE2300 (band 40), 2600 (band 38) MHz
DataHSDPA 14.4 Mbit/s, HSUPA 5.76 Mbit/s, UMTS, EDGE, EV-DO Rev.ALTE, HSDPA+ (4G) 42.2 Mbit/s, HSUPA 5.76 Mbit/s, UMTS, EDGE, GPRSLTE, UMTS, EDGE, GPRS
Micro SIMYesYes
A-GPS, GlonassGPS, A-GPS, Glonass, Cell ID, Wi-Fi positioningGPS, A-GPS, Glonass
NavigationYesTurn-by-turn navigationYes
Wi-Fi802.11 b, g, n802.11 a, b, g, n, n 5GHz802.11 a, b, g, n, n 5GHz, ac
Mobile hotspotYesYesYes
USBUSB 2.0YesUSB 2.0
FeaturesUSB chargingUSB chargingMass storage device, USB Host, USB charging
OtherTV-Out, Computer sync, OTA syncTV-Out, Tethering, Computer sync, OTA syncNFC, DLNA, Tethering, Computer sync, OTA sync
NotificationsMusic ringtones (MP3), Polyphonic ringtones, Vibration, Flight mode, Silent mode, SpeakerphoneMusic ringtones (MP3), Polyphonic ringtones, Vibration, Flight mode, Silent mode, SpeakerphoneHaptic feedback, Music ringtones (MP3), Polyphonic ringtones, Vibration, Flight mode, Silent mode, Speakerphone
Additional microphone/sfor Noise cancellationfor Noise cancellation, Video recordingfor Noise cancellation
SensorsAccelerometer, Gyroscope, CompassAccelerometer, Gyroscope, Compass, Fingerprint IDAccelerometer, Gyroscope, Compass
Hearing aid compatibilityM4, T4
OtherVoice dialing, Voice commands, Voice recordingVoice dialing, Voice commands, Voice recordingVoice dialing, Voice commands, Voice recording
Officially announced04 Oct 201110 Sep 201323 Apr 2014
AccessoriesApple Earphones with Remote and Mic, Dock Connector to USB Cable, USB Power Adapter, DocumentationApple EarPods with Remote and Mic, Lightning to USB Cable, USB Power Adapter, Documentation
MSRP price$ 299