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Getting Lucky With Customers?

June 20, 2014

About time, but not for the reasons most people think:

Pressure from US lawmakers has convinced Microsoft and Google to add a kill switch to their smartphone operating systems in a move to deter the larcenous.

The pressure came from “Secure our Smartphones” (SOS), an organization set up by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, who were concerned about rampant smartphone theft in their cities.

The group had already convinced Apple to add the technology to iOS, but now such systems will be installed on 97 per cent of the smartphones in the US following the announcement.

There’s a bunch of stuff in here about how thefts have gone down over time, but I’m a bit skeptical.  Honestly, do you think phone thieves really know which models have kill switches?  No, at the street level, they probably just continue to steal phones.  There might be less money on the back end, so they’re focusing elsewhere, but I can’t imagine some petty criminal checking model numbers from ten feet away before trying to grab a phone.  I’ll be nice and humor the statistics, I suppose.

But really, this is likely to make a major customer of cell phones very happy… Corporations that do a lot of business on cell phones have been clamoring for a way to blow data off a phone.  After a few years of feet-dragging, this is likely to make big changes in the way companies handle the use of phones and the way data can be used remotely.

And all of this because government intervened?  Okay, I might have to be nice to government for a change.  Nah.

Whither Diversity?

June 18, 2014

I’ve long been a proponent of women in the tech workforce.  When I do my work in tech education, I like to see more women/girls getting into technology… mostly because more girls being interested in technology means that more boys will be interested in technology.

But filling the front-end of the pipeline doesn’t necessarily mean results immediately, and it certainly doesn’t guarantee any results.  Check out Yahoo, for instance:

The Purple Palace published the report online on Tuesday, breaking down its employees along both gender and ethnicity lines in its tech, non-tech and leadership divisions.

Much like Google, Yahoo! has fielded a workforce which is, by and large, male and either white or Asian. The company reported that its global operation was 85 per cent male in tech positions and 15 per cent female. Women accounted for a larger share of non-tech positions, with 52 per cent of roles.

If you haven’t seen the Google numbers:

The numbers at Yahoo! bear a striking resemblance to those at Google, which claims that men account for 70 per cent of its total workforce and 79 per cent of leadership roles. Much like Yahoo!, Google counts most of its female employees in administrative “non-tech” job categories.

The utopia of tech HR departments is a workforce that mirrors the world.  Well, go check the schools.  That’s not going to happen anytime soon.  The fallback is that the company matches the tech profiles of IT graduates, which is also a far cry from reality.  Getting a degree doesn’t appear to mean that you actually work in the field, and the field itself certainly doesn’t match what’s already in the workforce.

So, I’d expect that plenty of people will continue to look for solutions. The answer is to take the long view, and to keep tracking.  While results aren’t soon, they’re growing from where they were years ago.  But to that point, we in tech have a responsibility to drive the point harder to the places where decisions are being made.  If we catch kids in middle school, they’re more likely to at least start down the path.  Then it’s up to us to keep them on it.

Cyber-warfare Is Warfare

June 17, 2014

Control of the Internet and communication is now part of warfare.  If you want an example, just look to the (by pretty much any measure) disaster going on in Iraq right now.  The Register has some details:

Iraq has widened its internet ban to include virtual private networks and mobile data in a bid to halt the progress of brutal offensives in the country led by the extremist militant group calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis).

Described as “fascist” and “criminal” by Jon Snow of Channel 4 News, Isis has been using social media to broadcast horrific images of mass executions and other barbaric war crimes. It now controls much of Iraq and is closing in on its capital, Baghdad.

From a tactical perspective, I wonder… where does Iraq think this war is being fought?  I’d suspect that both sides in the conflict believe this to be an isolate civil war, and that cutting off the ISIS access (along with everyone else’s, we’ll get to that) to outside communication prevents them from waging psychological warfare with the Iraqi public.  Saving local morale is, to the Baghdad government, more important that letting the world see the carnage being waged to gain sympathy.

From a strategy perspective, the feeling is that control of communications by a reigning government is the best way to ensure that said reigning government stays in control.  Syria did the same thing, or at least tried.  It’s a pretty savvy thing to do by the government, but it could backfire in both local and global ways.

While I don’t believe that access to the Internet and communications is a human right, there are many who do.  Even as some pretty horrific stuff is being blocked by the government, so is the access to the general public in Iraq, which could cause enough bad feelings towards the government as to move public sentiment.  Getting the whole public majority behind the Iraqi government is nearly as important as rallying the troops to actually beat back the ISIS barbarians at the gate.  Likewise, sometimes letting the world see people who are essentially trying to perpetrate a modern scorched-Earth policy in an effort to win a PR battle is a great way to prove to them that their strategy is a bit, um, dumb.

But my greater point is that cyber-warfare is now just a part of warfare.  I’d suspect that we’ll see more on that, at least if we’re looking, in future conflicts.

The Computer Ate My Homework

June 16, 2014

I’m not the IT expert, but I’m a heck of a lot closer than pretty much anyone in congress.  So news, that the IRS had completely lost a set of e-mails from Lois Lerner’s computer stuck me as pretty odd.  As Hot Air notes, Sharyl Attkisson has a few questions that someone should probably answer in this fiasco:

  • Please explain why redundancies required for federal systems were either not used or were not effective in restoring the lost materials, and provide documentation showing how this shortfall has been remediated.
  • Please provide any documents reflecting an investigation into how the crash resulted in the irretrievable loss of federal data and what factors were found to be responsible for the existence of this situation.
  • I would also ask for those who discovered and reported the crash to testify under oath, as well as any officials who reported the materials as having been irretrievably lost.

There are plenty of other great ones in there, go read the whole thing.

We get constant legal training at my company on how e-mails are retained and what we can and can not say in e-mails.  But one essential piece of the puzzle is that pretty much any e-mail I’ve written in 20+ years can be recovered with the proper legal motivation.  The servers are backed up consistently, and the logs can be used to retrieve individual messages if necessary.  There are e-mail systems that don’t do this, but I can’t imagine that the feds actually use one of them, since it would pretty much violate every information security practice that’s been developed in the last, oh, three decades.

So as far as I can tell, one of two things is going on.  The first would be that the IRS IT department is so totally incompetent that they don’t even know what they’re doing.  The second is that they’re maliciously dissembling to congress and hoping that nobody’s smart enough to catch them.  Both of these scare the snot out of me.

Updated 6/17: Thanks to Mike and Paul for the reblogs.  Anyone visiting is always welcome to jump around the site and see what else we discuss here.  I’ve been kinda’ light on blogging the past few weeks, but it should pick up again for a bit while my travel schedule relaxes, and Lynn might even make a reappearance in a couple weeks.

Updated 6/19: So now the IRS is trying to change the subject to the fact that the hard drive in question from Ms. Lerner’s computer was destroyed.  Honestly, that’s standard operating procedure for an IT department.  You can’t have hard drives hanging around with partially-erased data.  At almost any decent organization, the hard drives are degaussed and crushed when they’re taken out of service, and that includes any hard drive from a decommissioned system.

This is still completely orthogonal to the real discussion.  In the IRS system, e-mail is backed up from the server, not from the client.  Especially as the government is concerned, those backups should be stored for quite a while.  So all this is a distraction from my above point.  This is either total incompetence or deliberate malfeasance, and both frighten me.

How Much Per Hour to Eat Cheese?

June 10, 2014

Most companies have a board of directors, who are in place to guide the company strategy.  While some boards are very active — I know one chairman who spends two full days a week in the offices mentoring the CEO and other key players — many meet on an infrequent basis for a day or two and rarely show to the office.

The Register has a quick article today on board compensation, and how some people are unhappy about it.  Facebook is the subject:

Facebook is currently following its 2012 equity incentive plan, which caps total awards at 25 million shares and individual awards at 2.5 million, which in theory could let the board award directors up to $157m in stock each, based on Monday’s closing price of $62.88.

Although the board hasn’t paid out that kind of package, Espinosa contends that last year’s average take-home pay of $461,000 to non-employee directors was too much. He said the sum was 43 per cent higher than the typical payout at firms like Amazon and the Walt Disney Company, where revenue was twice as high and profits were triple those of the social network.

And who sets the compensation?  Well… the board.  This type of self-governance is probably right to question on occasion, just to make sure the people who are supposed to be the responsible team in charge is actually, well, the responsible team in charge.

This is a tough one for me to comment.  I’m fond of saying that I don’t begrudge anyone’s ability to get paid, though I do begrudge the people who pay it.  Get a sweetheart pension for your work?  Well, fine, you’re the one working.  The union and bosses that negotiated it?  Well, they need to be held responsible.  In this case, though, the people voting on the payment are the people who are getting it.  That can always raise an eyebrow or two, especially if the ceiling is a high one.

I don’t mean to denigrate a company board, either.  Like I said, some members take their jobs very seriously, and actually spend a fair amount of time driving the company to do the right things.  The board is responsible for directing the company to success, and the executive team at the company builds the strategy and action plans to do it.  It’s only when the board is unfairly compensated for a weekend meeting that it generates some ire.

Cutting Off Their Nose to Spite Your Face

June 5, 2014

I’ve been on the road a lot lately, so only catching news on occasion.  I saw this one late last night.  Hey, you gotta’ love New York.  See, not all the whacky ideas come from California.  From the New York Post, thanks Hot Air:

More than half the members of the City Council have fired off a letter to Walmart demanding that it stop making millions in charitable contributions to local groups here.

Twenty-six of the 51 members of the Council charged in the letter that the world’s biggest retailer’s support of local causes is a cynical ploy to enter the market here.

Walmart has apparently given upwards of three million in the last year to charities in the New York area.  Protests will include a nice demo in front of City Hall where people not at all associated with the charities will protest that Walmart is giving money to charities, probably ones that the protesters have not given to at any point.

I’m sure the charities are so excited.  A charity has the option to accept or reject money given to it.  The city council members, of course, don’t have that option, but can certainly raise s stink about how organizations contribute to make a score of cheap political points.

Erika Johnson has a nice video segment of Neil Cavuto destroying one of the council members over said member’s inability to distinguish from personal bias.  Go watch.

It’s a free country, and you can speak your mind… well, unless you disagree with the Left, and then you can’t speak your mind, or donate money, or anything else.  I wonder what would happen if Walmart had been donating to charities that helped some protected class, instead of broad education funds and work programs that can easily be targeted?  Whatever.  Consistency of message is not necessarily the game of some players.

 

 

It’s Not Easy Being Expensive…

May 30, 2014

Hey, would you like some office space in a nice building?  Would you like to pay a lot for it?  One World Trade has some openings.

Only four companies have signed on to base their operations in the World Trade Center as the majority of the world’s most expensive office building remains available for rent.

Magazine publishing company Conde Nast are the largest tenants, having claimed 24 floors starting on the 20th floor.

The China Center, a company that provides office space for Chinese businesses, has signed on for floors 64 through 69.

A hospitality management company, Legends Hospitality, has purchased 100,000 square feet on the 100th, 101st, and 102nd floors which includes the observation deck.

The fourth tenant?  The government… GSA grabbed some space.  Apparently prices for the space are about $15-$20 per square foot more than nearby buildings with less reputation.  Hey, renting new space is tough anyway, and paying for an expensive building project makes it even harder.

And I thought someone quoting me nearly $2 a square foot was egregious last year…

 

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