Archive for September, 2006

Education is important to successful businesses

Saturday, September 30th, 2006

“So let me get this straight…you were turned down for a promotion because…you were going to school for something other than the position?! Who goes to school for a specific position? The education is the most important part, position be damned. Their loss, our gain.” – a representative from my current employer regarding my former employer.

Anti-spyware and anti-virus rant

Tuesday, September 26th, 2006

I can see how someone could make a lot of money by supporting people’s Win-boxes with all these virus and spyware scanning tools but otherwise it’s a big waste of time. Rather than load my friends and family’s Win-boxes with all these scanning tools I just install Ubuntu or SUSE Linux (both free) on their system and have them dual boot and instruct them to use Linux on-line only and use Windows offline for whatever.

The result? They don’t have to worry about updating/installing new versions of a closed source software firewall which may or may not need tweaking with each new version, they don’t have to install more “lipstick on a pig” closed source tools to help “secure” a closed source system. Sure, some of the closed source free security tools may sound great, they may work well for some purposes, but what is really inside the code? What other code may take advantage of the scanning program itself? There are just too many unknowns, IMO, to place any trust in all these closed source so-called solutions.

I’ve set many computer newbies up with Linux dual boot setups and they are all very surprised at how much easier Linux is to use on-line with Synaptic or YaST and all the open source programs they have available at the click of the mouse. The program descriptions are there, Synaptic shows where the programs are installed (unlike a lot of .EXEs made for Win which still leave shit all over the drive after their uninstall), and they can remove whatever they want when they want just as easily as they installed the program.

But for many it doesn’t matter, they grow angry when you mention Linux, and call you a zealot for suggesting it. They are happy with their broken systems and will continue to throw lipstick on a pig and feel safe in their illusion while they will never know what really squeals beneath in the closed source.

I for one am tired of seeing infected Windows machines bouncing around in my firewall logs. Sometimes I think the world needs just one more worm/virus that formats the hard drive. It might be just enough to wake people up.

Quote of the week: September 25th, 2006

Monday, September 25th, 2006

English doesn’t borrow from other languages. English follows other languages down dark alleys, knocks them over the head, and goes through their pockets for loose grammar.

I have escaped!!!

Friday, September 22nd, 2006

FINALLY after going through hell over the past two years, I have finally quit my old job. Below is the resignation letter I had submitted two weeks ago to our Human Resources Manager:

Please consider this as my resignation from my position as the (my position), effective September 22, 2006.

Although I have enjoyed working with (company) and have learned a great deal, I would really like to operate in a wider management sphere. Since (company) has not been able to provide this opportunity, I feel that I should seek a position that allows greater freedom to make decisions and to function more independently. As you know, the scope of my job has widened significantly over the last year and a half. Also over that time, I have had many differences of opinion with my Manager regarding the processes, work assignments, goals, and the increase of new tasks assigned to the (my position) position. This lack of a clear direction has affected my ability to efficiently perform the functions I was originally hired for and has left me feeling uncertain about the future of the (my department) department.

I have discussed my professional aspirations with another employer, and they have stressed the accelerated demand for my skill set as well as a better opportunity to support my family and academic goals. I’m sure that I’ll have no difficulty finding what I’m looking for from my future employer.

I will make myself available for an exit interview with you at your convenience any time over the next two weeks. Thank you for the experiences and I wish yourself and the company best wishes.

Quite honestly, besides my Manager in particular, what drove me to look for employment elsewhere is when I had been turned down for another job within the company because I was going to school for something not completely related to the job function I was applying for. Seriously, I was pulled into an office and was told I didn’t get the job, point blank, because I was going to school for something not completely related to the job function. My degree was IT-related and not “Customer Service” related. I had all of the qualifications to perform the job and could have easily stepped in to the position with minimal training. It is my perception that I was effectively punished for bettering myself.

The end result also ended up with one sad fact – after being employed with this large, worldwide corporation for 1 week short of 11 years, they didn’t even bother to find out exactly why I was leaving. I guess I’ll never understand why an employer wouldn’t be curious as to the exact reasons why a long-term, good-standing, hard-working employee is leaving their company, but perhaps that’s the reason why their stock has continued to plummet over the last 4 years (from $22.00/share down to $10.00/share in just the last year alone) while their competitor’s stock has steadily risen over the last 4 years (from $27.00/share up to $47.00/share for their largest competitor and from $18.00/share to $33.00/share for their 2nd largest competitor).

My suggestion is simple – start treating your employees like people rather than a commodity because the good employees have been leaving for the competition in droves for the past few years. The scare tactic of a “the job market is terrible – you’re lucky to have a job” is losing it’s sting as it becomes more apparent to many people that this is simply untrue. The job market has been steadily making a comeback and now you’re feeling the backlash of the past mistreatment of your employees.

We’re leaving. It’s your fault. Now you’re left to struggle.

Professionalism and resignations

Monday, September 18th, 2006

Letting an employee go as they’re giving their “two weeks notice” is something I’ve seen with my employer before and apparently it’s becoming more popular.

An employee is no more likely to hurt you after giving you their resignation than before. They likely knew much sooner, so they’ve had all the time they needed to do anything. You’re making up a risk, claiming it could cost 3.2 billion dollars per second, and that having the employee killed is obviously a smart move, fiscally speaking.

If that employee was George from Seinfeld, controlled the world markets, and had just had a fight with his boss it might even be true. But really that person is moving, or found a better job, or has some totally non-hateful reason for leaving and planned to use the two weeks to wrap up their work, whose worst crime will be extra networking time with co-workers. Or, if they are malicious, they’ve likely got an IQ over 7 and they’ll have already done whatever they were going to do.

In the end, you create a lot of ill-will within the professions that staff your company. That cog you fired can be replace with a call to HR, but that cog’s co-workers and friends now don’t see you as a good workplace. There appears to be a flood of tech workers, but some companies just can’t seem to find anyone good… The real risk is that an overstuffed security nazi with a fetish for bureaucracy is destroying the assets of good-will, loyalty, industry reputation, and chasing away the R&D core of the business, those who should have the most invested in the company’s future.

Listening to employers like mine has made me realize that the best time to give notice is monday at 11am, right after the weekend testers report and the project steering meetings, when I’ve got what feels like half of the shared files in the project open and checked out, and sixteen things and waiting on my simple yes-no. I figure, that way if you’re nice, I keep working and wrap up everything happily, perhaps even trying to delay my new job to finish a project. But, if you aren’t nice, I’m spared all the actual hassle of my week at work, still got the coffee and donuts, paid for the whole day, and I get to imagine you justifying the huge expense of everyone twiddling their thumbs because they’re waiting on my job functions that I hadn’t reassigned to anyone else, etc…

You see, these security nazis… their silly policies interfere with things they couldn’t begin to contemplate, their interference can cause tons of PR problems, etc. Incalculable losses. Better to just fire them immediately. No thinking VP or HR manager ever keeps one of these loose cannons on staff. The potential liability is enormous.

I think people to be treated like a trustworthy, normal human being. No one likes being treated like a criminal; people are not liabilities.

The real liabilities are our mistreatment of employees, and how the reaction to lack of respect and trust takes form from them. The majority of the time that an employee does something bad to his or her workplace, it’s an act of revenge or bitterness because they wronged and feel disrespected. Contrary to popular belief people do not cause mayhem and mischeif to others for no reason.

What we really need to look at is the behavior of companies towards the people they employ, and the people they consider customers.

Seriously, where’s the risk? Anything the person who is quitting wanted to do to “trash the system” could have been done before they handed their notice in. How does immediately cutting them off (and probably pissing them off in the process) decrease the risk?

A mature, thoughtful organization would realize a couple of things. First, they are sitting with a whole lot of implicit knowledge about the current assignments. Having them spend the last two weeks document it all and bringing other people up to speed on it is a pretty good idea.

Second, they are leaving. There is a reason for it. Is it the salary? Personal conflicts? The hours? Too little challenge, or too heavy a workload? Is there a problem with the social climate in the department? A good organization will want to know, and conduct exit interviews to see if there are points they should improve. Perhaps even catch a disaster in the making before it explodes in their faces.

Third, they are now an ex-employee. They will go out in the world and socialize with their peers at other companies – some of whom their previous employer may well want to hire at some point in the future. If their final impresion of the company is that of a bunch of posterior orifices, that’s what they’ll be telling people when they ask them about their opinion on applying for a position there. If, on the other hand, they do a good job of taking care of them up until the moment their contract ends, showing interest as above and so on, the impression will be vastly better, and they’ll effectively be sending out a PR representative that will be giving a much better impression about the company for years to come.

So yes, there are very good reasons not to just cancel a passcard and give them thirty minutes to pack their personal belongings before having them escorted out by a rent-a-cop.

It is almost impossible to actually explain fully and honestly why you’re leaving without sounding bitter or nasty too. Gee, Mr BossMan, I’m getting a significant pay raise, 50% shorter commute, working with new technology, doing interesting (very not-boring) stuff, the health insurance is cheaper and better, they actually reward you for going to school (rather than treat you like a traitor), they have an automated system to make sure reviews/raises are on time (not two months late every year), and you are also awarded as well as encouraged to do innovative things.

At least most places are not as bad as banks – if they overhear you talking about leaving, that will be your last day at work.

Quote of the week: September 18th, 2006

Monday, September 18th, 2006

“I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

A student having Windows issues

Sunday, September 17th, 2006

I had posted this in a course I am taking and thought it might help others…so here it is:

I have Norton and Pest Control-the thing is I have a something on my computer that is quarantined but the software will not allow me to delete it or get it off my system. Is this where you would have to take your computer in to a tech and pay for services to remove it?
[…]
Another thing is that people are so use to Microsoft that they have an unseen fear of learning a new OS, and that could be due to Microsoft dominating this arena for so long. People are apprehenceible to change something that have become accustomed to for so long.

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Us humans are creatures of habit and not everyone likes change – I think it’s just human nature for the most part. Honestly, if someone is used to using Windows and they take the appropriate measures of securing it as well as they can (unlike my sister continuing to use Internet Explorer rather than Firefox), I say stick with what works for them. The main reason I switched is because of applications developed for Linux and not Windows (though some are being ported over). That and I got sick of the lockups and crashes when an application would hang.

Anyway, as far as the issue you’re having with Norton goes, I would probably try and figure out if the quarantined file is affecting your machine. It probably isn’t since Norton has said it has quarantined the file, but one thing that you could do would be to open up the Task Manager and see what process are running and what percentage of the CPU they’re using. System Idle Process should be taking up the majority of your percentage if you’re not doing anything at the time. If something else has a higher percentage, try googling the application that’s taxing your CPU to see what it does. If you got the time, google all of the processes just to get a better understanding of everything that’s going on while your computer is running. Just be careful if you start “ending processes” 😉

Trying out Ubuntu Linux

Tuesday, September 12th, 2006

I posted this in one of my online courses and felt it would be useful for anyone thinking about trying Linux out for the first time.

I’d like to move into learning Unix and wondered if you had any suggestions.

Ubuntu Linux is, without a doubt, the way to go if you’re new to Linux.

I’m assuming you’re running just a run-of-the-mill PC with an Intel or AMD chip (x86, not 64-bit).

-Go here to choose a mirror to download from.

-After you’ve chosen a mirror, select the “Desktop CD” image and click on the “PC (Intel x86) desktop CD” link. It should be right around a 700MB download.

-Burn the bootable CD.

-After burning, put it back in your CDROM and reboot.

You will boot into what they call a “live” version of Ubuntu. The OS loads into RAM, so nothing gets installed on your hard drive unless you click on the “Install” icon on your Ubuntu Linux desktop. This allows you to play around with Linux without actually installing anything. The drawback with only using the live CD is that it is slower because your CDROM is slower to transfer information than your hard drive. Please keep this in mind while you’re playing around with it and I can assure you the OS is MUCH faster when installed on the hard drive. Again, the purpose of the CD is to let you try it without having to install anything.

If you choose to install it on to your hard drive, it’s a fairly simple process, but PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE realize that if you install on the same hard drive as Windows, it will likely trash your Windows install. Your best bet is to get a 2nd hard drive and install Linux on that, then you can “dual boot” Windows and Linux. What this means is when your machine boots, you can pick to boot into either Windows or Linux. When you install Linux, this will be set up automatically for you.

I can tell you that the CD runs fine on a 800Mhz AMD w/256MB of RAM and I’m sure it would run alright with slightly lower specs as well. Screenshots and points of interest here.

(I’ll post this over in the Water Cooler forum under the “links” thread too)

Quote of the week: September 11th, 2006

Monday, September 11th, 2006

“Blink your eyelids periodically to lubricate your eyes.”

— HP “Environmental,Health & Safety Handbook for Employees”

What to do if you suspect Identity Theft

Sunday, September 10th, 2006

As I posted once before, if you ever suspect (or know) you’ve been the victim of Identity Theft, here’s what to do:

Contact the credit agency of your choice to put a fraud watch on your file. The agency you contact will notify the other two for you.

Equifax: 1-800-525-6285; www.equifax.com; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241

Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); www.experian.com; P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013

TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; www.transunion.com; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790

Its also a good idea to call 1-888-5OPTOUT to prevent banks, insurance companies, and those pesky fakers (remember the ChoicePoint fiasco) from getting ahold of your credit report. All 3 agencies use that same number for the opt out process. That should significantly cut down on those pre-approved credit card offers you get in the mail that can be stolen and used in your name as well.

And for the Active Duty members in the crowd that happen to be TDY, you should consider getting an Active Duty military alert placed in your name in addition to a fraud alert. You can never be too safe when it comes to preventing ID theft. However, no matter what you do there’s still no guarantee you won’t fall victim to the random oddity that can occur (such as a bartender swiping your card # and going nuts on Amazon).

For more info on how to minimize the risks of ID theft, or how to recover from it, check out the FTC’s website at www.ftc.gov/idtheft