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Jul 31, 2006

Manage an IT Team + More

Interesting - Considering an offer to Manage an IT Team. I'm way to easy going to manage anyone but theres useful advice for anyone who is considering it. I think I rely to much on peoples own motivation to do whats required - you soon find out that some people just do the very bare minimum to get by; encouraging them to contribute to the team again is a real art.

Ed Brill (a Domino/Notes guy) discusses the requirements for Exchange 2007. It looks like Microsoft are relying on Moores law to come to their rescue. You also wonder if the requirements are designed so as to discourage upgrades and encourage clean installs on a new box and migrate.

Just a little tongue in cheek - Samsung Q1 UMPC vs Apple Newton. Someone needs to invent a top trumps for PC geeks. 2.5 hours is pretty miserable battery life on the Q1 though (30 hours on the Newton is optimistic if you use the backlight, modem or network for any length of time); my old Psion 3a would last about a month on a pair of AA's.

I need to try this - Fix underexposed pictures. I have plenty of non-digital pictures which I managed to botch and came out way to light - after scanning them in they lack vibrancy.

iTunes for your paperwork - Kip. Looks like an interesting idea. They should make this into a more generic personal document management system.

Kind of true - Death of the commandline. This is the kind of thing that spawned the GUI in the first place. You could look up the obscure command that you'll use once in a blue-moon or you could just use the GUI.

Speaks volumes for the mentality of troops in Iraq - "I came over because I wanted to kill people". I'm also tempted to say an armed forces or police recruiting system should weed out rednecks and psychos but then I guess they'd be mixed in with the general population. At least if they're concentrated in a few places you can keep an eye on them.

Nasty but clever - USB Social Engineering. So many clever ways to circumvent security. Definitely something to be said for locking down the desktop.

Simple but addictive Game Boy Advance carts from - Bit Generation.

Commandline image manipulation via feh. Nice name.

This looks really useful - Gorilla Tape. Duct tape is really really useful but sometimes the stickability leaves a little to be desired.

My permalinks are broken which is annoying. Seem fine in cgi mode - just an incorrect file reference in static mode. Off to bug the Blosxom mailing list . . .

[/links/2006] | [permalink] | [2006.07.31-23:13.00]

Jul 30, 2006

New Header - Wharekauhau Lodge

New banner image of Wharekauhau courtesy of Wayne Fisk (aka Stickboy on Flickr).

My old employer generously awarded my partner and I a nights stay at the Wharekauhau Luxury Lodge a few months back. Wayne was a recipient of the same Management award for services rendered to one of our clients - he visited the lodge about a month after we did and took the picture which I cropped for the banner.

Definitely a lovely place - its about 90min drive (or 10min by helicopter for the filthy rich!) from Wellington just outside of the small town of Featherston. Its a shame we didn't stay an extra night but at $600NZ a night per person and $300NZ for a four course dinner for two its definitely something you need to plan ahead for financially (although its probably small change for well heeled American or European travellers) ! After a night you actually feel like you belong rather than just being an observer in an opulant setting - plus they have a number of activities to while away your day which you can't really take advantage of if you arrive late on a winters day.

We got a guided tour on arrival - through the grounds and indoor pool & gym. While we walked out onto the main grounds a helicoptor landed to pick up some wealthy looking types and ferry them back to Wellington. Certainly an insight into how the other-half live.

I think the nicest thing about the place was the way in which the staff made you feel at home - we've stayed in a lot of different places and you always feel like you're imposing (I think feeling uncomfortable about being served is a Kiwi thing). At Wharekauhau the staff were low-key, warm and friendly - its a lot like staying at a wealthy mates holiday home rather than a luxury hotel.

So if you feel like some pampering give the Lodge a try. If we won Lotto we'd definitely be back ;-)

PS - Word of warning: they'll happily deliver your bags to your room and park your car so be sure to clean your car and make sure your stuff isn't spread all over its interior :-) Our Pugeot 205 was littered with the the usual junk associated with a well used car. I'm sure their regular clientele use much cleaner forms of transportation :-)

[/headers] | [permalink] | [2006.07.30-23:32.00]

Jul 25, 2006

Why The Strong Lose + More

Why the US can't win in Iraq (or almost any other low-intensity conflict) Why the Strong Lose. As per the linked page insurgents can afford not to win for as long as their patience demands whereas a super-power can't afford to lose - then it just boils down to attrition and public sentiment.

These guys have an interesting alternative to Microsofts UMPC - DualCor. Some basic tips on Securing Solaris. I like the checksum tools for binaries. Some tips on using the Solaris Solstice Disk Suite. All seems kind of painful to me - sure you get the flexibility but the configuration hassles would seem to be a nightmare compared to simple hardware raid.

Lest we forget - Israelis celebrate terrorism. Some interesting links from Tim Brays blog on the current crisis in Lebanon too (he worked there for 11 years).

Excellent - advice on moving Unix filesystems. Using tar instead of cp for shuffling around data should be engraved on the inside of a Unix admins eyeballs.

Search Popsike for any rare vinyl you might want or have lying around in your record bins. The results may surprise you. I can't seem to find anything I own thats even remotely desirable apart from my Harmony of the Spheres boxset. The strange collector scum that hang onto these albums and don't play them are just plain odd if you ask me.

[/links/2006] | [permalink] | [2006.07.25-09:14.00]

Jul 24, 2006

Human Traffic + More

Rented a bunch of movies recently -

Human Traffic

I was actually after the Acid House and accidentally picked up this instead. It wasn't to bad. Possibly a little to artificially 'hip' for my liking but a pretty funny look at people escaping the drudge of their 9 to 5 McJob's for a hedonistic clubbing weekend.


By the same guy that did Akira - Steamboys animation is of a similarly high-standard but the storyline isn't as good. Essentially its a kind of 'steampunk' sci-fi story set during the industrial revolution of the 1800's. Not bad but not great.

Family Stone

I'm not a fan of rom-coms so my impressions of this will always be biased :-) basically its just a super cliched story of a woman meeting her partners super-tight family for the first time. Intimidating for sure but the feeble attempts at humour and romance through cringe-worthy embarressment fall pretty flat. The plot line as usual is telegraphed halfway through the proceedings and there are no redeeming special effects or performances to carry the movie either.

Dr Who

The first three episodes of the Christopher Eccelston helmed Tardis were a pleasant surprise. I never watched it on TV because I figured it would be terrible. Turned out I was quite wrong and its actually a pretty good adventure show with plenty of tongue in cheek humour to keep both adults and children alike happy. It's a shame Chris decided to give up this role, he was on a par with Tom Baker, as I'm not sure I like the new guy - then again he may grow on me.

Cowboy Bebop: Series 1

Another Anime - this time about the crew of the ship 'Cowboy Bebop' as they hop from planet to planet collecting (or attempting to collect) bounties on various nefarious criminal types. Unlike most Anime this is more about the stories and characters than the usual 'giant-transforming-robot' plots prevalent in many similar shows. I'll definitely be checking out the next in the series.

And at the movies -

As it is in Heaven

Excellent Swedish 'feel good movie' about a sick conductor who returns to his tiny home town to recuperate. The town has a choir in need of some professional assistance and you can pretty much tell what will happen from here on in. This doesn't stop the film from being a refreshing alternative take on the traditional schmaltzy Hollywood fare (any number of 'famous-guy inspires the little-guy to rise above their modest beginnings' movies). Recommended.

[/film] | [permalink] | [2006.07.24-21:03.00]

Reading List (Updated 26/07/06)

Neal Stephenson - Quicksilver

This is a good read and my first introduction to cult author Neal Stephenson - not quite the very first as I had already read his geek monolog on the joys of a command line interface. Basically a historical drama set in the 1600's following three interconnected story arcs with a common element of discovery and change (hence the mercurial reference of the title). Lots of links to famous historical figures that leads to interesting wikipedia lookups as I try and get a handle on some of the characters and locations visited by the characters. About the only downside is that the density of information and sheer size of this book makes for really really slow going. The storylines are good but not compelling enough for me to plow through the next two similarly sized books in the series. However if you really enjoy historical fiction and have some big chunks of time to dedicate to reading then it will be of interest.

Charles Stross - Accelerando

This is much more my speed - I picked it up 3/4 of the way through 'Quicksilver' as some light relief from Stephensons tome. Charles Stross is turning into one of my favourite authors - this collection of three stories (available in free pdf/etext as well as commercial dead tree format) follows one of Stross' favourite themes - the impending Singularity. It touches upon many popular ideas and technologies but pushes them just a little further into the very near future giving it a very realistic feel - wether it will age well is another story. Highly recommended.

[/books] | [permalink] | [2006.07.24-20:57.00]

Jul 22, 2006

Give Structure to Unstructured Data + More

Give structure to your unstructured data - Content Addressable Storage. Fascinating convergence of storage with knowledge management technologies.

Retro - 100 of the Best Spectrum Games.

To true - My Love Hate Relationship with Domino.

Yet Another Best of List - 50 of the Greatest Albums.

Stylus also have a Top 100 Music Videos list.

Useful - Best Windows Admin Downloads.

Trying to encourage people not to send Word attachments harks back to a simpler time on the interweb.

Only in America - Sidewalk SUV. I once read an amusing joke that said you can say the most outlandish thing possible and make it instantly believable by suffixing two words - 'in America'.

Free 3D game engine - Sauerbraten.

This is crazy - ZVG Vector Interface Card - a $250 graphics card that is MAME compatible and pumps out Vector graphics for all of you Tempest, Battlezone and Asteroid fans.

Open Source Internet TV - Democracy.

Handy - Beginners Guide to Manual Photography. I have an old Pentax K1000 and at one stage I used to know what the ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed settings all did and how they interacted but now digital cameras have made it to simple to bother with. I'd still like to mess around some more with it though if only for the magical moment when you get the pictures back several months after you've taken them to see how they've come out.

[/links/2006] | [permalink] | [2006.07.22-05:01.00]

Jul 20, 2006

VMWare Based Security Tools

Came across Stratagaurd and OSSIM - Open Source Security Information Management which both offer VMWare images for their tools.

I'll have to try them out and see what they offer.

[/tech/security] | [permalink] | [2006.07.20-22:42.00]

Jul 19, 2006

Instant Out of Office in Hannover

One of peoples big peeves about Lotus Notes is the Out of Office feature which only responds once a day - the agent can be tweaked to run more regularly but without first assessing the impact first most admins are reluctant to change this setting.

As per Ed Brills post it appears the new version of Notes (nicknamed 'Hannover') will feature an instant OOTO message.

[/tech/domino] | [permalink] | [2006.07.19-19:02.00]

Jul 18, 2006

Music Videos On Youtube

I thought Youtube was one of those annoying things for peoples silly funniest home videos and the usual puerile content people fill these types of sites with. It turns out theres a veritable goldmine of music videos and live performances on the site too. Using the Firefox Video Downloader extension its possible to grab these .flv files and play them back via a Flash Video Player or something like the cross-platform Video Lan Client (VLC).

So far I've linked to saved searches for stuff from Godflesh, Sigor Ros, The Jesus & Mary Chain, Joy Division, Daft Punk, Orbital, Arcade Fire, Mogwai, Tom Waits, Miles Davis, Godspeed You Black Emporer, Stereolab, New Order, The Refused, Pixies, The Breeders, The KLF (watch the one with Extreme Noise Terror), Big Black, Soundgarden, Napalm Death, Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine, Slint, Swervedriver, Happy Mondays etc etc

[/music] | [permalink] | [2006.07.18-20:39.00]

Jul 17, 2006

The Big Here - Wellington, New Zealand

Answers to Kevin Kellys 'Big Here' post questions -

1) Point north.

My desk points North(ish) it might be slightly offset in an Easterly direction.

2) What time is sunset today?

About 4.30pm - the days are lengthening slightly.

3) Trace the water you drink from rainfall to your tap.

Water collects in the hills and ranges surruonding Wellington and goes into reservoirs. I thought the closest reservoir was in Karori but I was reading that it was decommissioned to provide an environment for the Karori Wildlife Reserve. However checking this council water supply map indicates it Karori still have a reservoir and pumping station feeding a sizable chunk of urban Wellington (the ankle/heel of the map below Karori).

4) When you flush, where do the solids go? What happens to the waste water?

I thought it worked its way to either the treatment plant in Miramar or Owhiro Bay. Not 100% sure though.

5) How many feet above sea level are you?

Americans and their quaint imperial fixations. I think we're 50 to 100 metres above sea level. At least 50 but 100 may be too high. The beach is down a hill and about 3-5 minutes walk away in Lyall Bay.

6) What spring wildflower is consistently among the first to bloom here?

Unknown. We have some red flowers (camellias ?) in the garden at the moment - considering its still winter I suspect they're just confused by the sun over the last few days.

7) How far do you have to travel before you reach a different watershed? Can you draw the boundaries of yours?

Unknown. NZ is plenty of water and there are reserviors everywhere so its hard to know when you leave one catchment boundry and enter another. I guess based on the earlier map we'd have to travel out of Wellington towards Tawa which looks to be slightly independent of the main Wellington supply.

8) Is the soil under your feet, more clay, sand, rock or silt?

At the moment I'm in an office on The Terrace. I shudder to think what this place is built on given most of Wellingtons CBD sits on reclaimed land from a earthquake in 1848. Our house is on rock (pretty solid but very brittle).

9) Before your tribe lived here, what did the previous inhabitants eat and how did they sustain themselves?

I'm guessing the Maori lived quite well here. I guess they ate whatever they normally eat.

10) Name five native edible plants in your neighbourhood and the season(s) they are available.

No idea. We do have some rosemary in the garden which is growing wild and I understand you can eat the shoots from ferns too - these seem to be available all year around.

11) From what direction do storms generally come?

Mostly from the South. The storms are pretty brutal.

12) Where does your garbage go?

Owhiro Bay landfill off Happy Valley road.

13) How many people live in your watershed?

I guess the population of greater Wellington is almost 450k.

14) Who uses the paper/plastic you recycle from your neighbourhood?

No idea. Our recycling (bottles, paper, plastic and cans) is collected separately at the same time as our rubbish.

15) Point to where the sun sets on the equinox. How about sunrise on the summer solstice?

No idea.

16) Where is the nearest earthquake fault? When did it last move?

Um, the main faultline which pretty much splits NZ runs right through the centre of Wellington. I suspect the fault moves fairly often in very imperceptible amounts.

17) Right here, how deep do you have to drill before you reach water?

At the office ? No idea - maybe just 5 metres before hitting a storm water drain ? At home - I don't think there is any water under our house - there may be a water table down there somewhere though.

18) Which (if any) geological features in your watershed are, or were, especially respected by your community, or considered sacred, now or in the past?

The Wellington council come to the rescue again with a trail through some of the sacred landmarks in the region.

19) How many days is the growing season here (from frost to frost)?

With the exception occasional crappy winters the growing season is pretty long - tail end of winter through to mid-autumn. The sea air along the coast means we don't get to many frosts.

20) Name five birds that live here. Which are migratory and which stay put?

Tui, Sparrows, Seagulls, Magpies . . . hard pressed to list any others

I think they stay-put but I'm not sure.

21) What was the total rainfall here last year?

The Wellington council has all sorts of useful Rainfall stats. I'll have to dig around for some annual stats . . . found it Wellington gets an average of 1270mm of rainfall and 2025 hours of sunshine a year.

22) Where does the pollution in your air come from?

The airs pretty clean - the worst we get is occasional chimney smoke from the neighbours.

23) If you live near the ocean, when is high tide today?

Seems to be about 11.30pm.

24) What primary geological processes or events shaped the land here?

Earthquakes caused by tectonic movements of the Pacific plates.

25) Name three wild species that were not found here 500 years ago. Name one exotic species that has appeared in the last 5 years.

Ferrets, Possums, Rats (although these may have come with Maori much earlier)

Exotic species in the last five years ? Hmmmm . . . maybe some variety of wasp or other insect ?

26) What minerals are found in the ground here that are (or were) economically valuable?

None that I'm aware of. NZ is relatively miniral poor - there are a few coal and gold deposits around but I don't think there are big seams of iron or copper sitting around anywhere though.

27) Where does your electric power come from and how is it generated?

Primarily Hydro-electricity. There are plans to put in a wind farm close to Wellington though.

28) After the rain runs off your roof, where does it go?

Out to sea via the storm water drains.

29) Where is the nearest wilderness? When was the last time a fire burned through it?

The green belt around Wellington is about 1km away. Its kind of wilderness although it is cut through with plenty of walking tracks. I'm not sure about fires . . . I don't think its been dry enough for anything to burn through . . .

30) How many days till the moon is full?

Its a half moon at the moment - I guess it will be full in 10 to 12 days.

The Bigger Here Bonus Questions:

31) What species once found here are known to have gone extinct?

No idea. Plenty of things have gone extinct in NZ but I'm not aware of any that are specific to the Wellington region.

32) What other cities or landscape features on the planet share your latitude?

Hobart, Tasmania in Australia and maybe the tail-end of the Andes in South America. I believe Wellington is the southern-most capital city in the world.

33) What was the dominant land cover plant here 10,000 years ago?

No idea.

34) Name two places on different continents that have similar sunshine/rainfall/wind and temperature patterns to here.

Maybe Hobart in Aus and probably somewhere in the UK or Ireland on the West Coast . . . maybe Bath or Dublin ?

[/bighere] | [permalink] | [2006.07.17-04:26.00]

Jul 14, 2006


I had a quick look at a Metis report which led me to think that this is something a lot of organisations could use. This tool (which I suspect is pretty expensive) lets you map enterprise relationships.

At a very simple level (its suprising their aren't some open-source equivalents because the idea is so simple) you can create pools of services, servers and applications and then tie them together. That way you can use it as an asset list of servers, operating systems, applications, services, run book and change management system. When you decide to upgrade servers you can immediately see the list of affected services or if you want to update your application (eg Oracle) you can see the list of affected hardware and services the database upgrade will impact upon.

One of those things that seems so simple but also really really useful for planning and tracking IT resources and services.

[/tech/ultimate] | [permalink] | [2006.07.14-21:26.00]

Pre War Blues

If you like old Jazz/Blues check out Honey - Where You Been So Long ?

They feature unreleased mp3's from the pre-war period for free download.

I have a Leadbelly CD which I bought out of curiosity one day and actually quite enjoy now so I'll have to start grabbing some of these to check out similar stuff.

[/music] | [permalink] | [2006.07.14-21:13.00]

Butthole Surfers Live + Brian Jonestown Massacre Albums Available as free MP3's

Links culled from this Metafilter post.

* Butthole Surfers - Double Live

I have Live PCPPEP and Hairway to Steven on vinyl so these will be a welcome addition. Personally I think they stopped being any good after Widowermaker.

* Brian Jonestown Massacre - all of their albums available for free. I'll have to give them a listen - I'd heard a lot about them but never heard any of their stuff. I also need to check out Dig! - comparing the ups and downs of BJM with their colleagues The Dandy Warhols.

[/music] | [permalink] | [2006.07.14-21:09.00]

Where Vista Stores Your Notes Info

Odd - Windows Vista And Lotus Notes - stores personal data in 'c:\Users\Username\AppData\Local\VirtualStore\Program Files\Lotus\Notes\...'

I wonder how many applications this will break or how many people this will confuse ? The 'Users' thing is almost a throwback to the NT4 days. I liked keeping things in 'c:\lotus\' or at least in the login profile.

[/tech/domino] | [permalink] | [2006.07.14-00:48.00]

This week I have mostly been listening to . . .

Crowded House, Ciccone Youth, Tom Waits, Ennio Morricone, Napalm Death, Miles Davis, Barry Adamson, Godspeedyoublackemperor, Underworld, Jesus and Mary Chain, Godflesh, Straitjacket Fits, Bailter Space, Arcade Fire, Joy Division, Low

[/music] | [permalink] | [2006.07.14-00:14.00]

Jul 11, 2006

Thumper + More

Wow! Sun release the Thumper X4500. Up to 24 Terabytes of ZFS'd data in 4U. This thing must run pretty hot and weigh a ton !

Excellent look at The Power of Data Visualisation. Informational tidbit - “The US Institute of Peace receives 27 million dollars next year. The Defence Department receives 560 … billion.”

Useful advice - Here's how to handle a drunken chav. Wikipedia definition of a chav or chavette.

Jeremy Clarkson writes about a recent American interlude Arrested for Looking Wierd. Poor Stig. Jeremy is a funny funny man. To see him knocked down a peg or two you really need to see Trinny & Susannah give him a make over in their 'What Not to Wear' show.

My new workplace uses VOIP (a Mitel based system) so this is kind of useful for beginners - VOIP in the Enterprise.

A good read - Why Do Laptops Schlep Such Data?. People often carry their lifes work on a laptop with little regard for the safety, security and integrity of both their personal information and the organisations.

Review - Parallels Desktop. Virtual Machine system for Intel Based Mac's. If I had one I'd use it :-)

Flashback - The Tomorrow People. I used to really enjoy this show along with 'Dr Who' and 'Saphire and Steel'. Also some interesting links in there to studies which show tv stunts learning in children.

A nice article over at Damn Interesting on Nikolai Tesla. Theres a great bit in Coffee and Cigerettes with the Jack White of the White Stripes demonstrating a home made Tesla Coil to an unimpressed Meg White.

Yet another OS X application list - OS X Software for Switchers. A few I hadn't heard of before

Something I'd like to know more about - Intrusion Detection with Base & Snort.

Clever - Beer Bottle Bricks. Its a shame this didn't take off. Bottles make for fantastic buildings.

Ed Brill points to an article where a CIO voices concerns about Vista and Office 2007 - Bartercard CIO Unconvinced by Vista/Office.

Looks promising - Elisa an open source media center tool.

Microsoft releases Private Folder App. I think I prefer TrueCrypt. There is some wailing and gnashing of teeth as admins worry about the security of corporate date being locked away for ever when people forget their passwords or end up with curruption.

If someone came up with a web based Office suite incorporating a CMS/DMS system it may obviate the need for Office and offline data (except for an export). People could edit via the web and then hit publish to have it auto format to suit some pre-defined template (like TeX) and then print or export as text, word, html, pdf - the system would keep track of revisions and be fully searchable. Then the info would stay in one place and could easily be retasked for whatever flavour is required. Maybe one day :-)

[/links/2006] | [permalink] | [2006.07.11-18:43.00]

Exchange Tips

It looks like I'll never leave Exchange land - so I'm on the hunt for as many tips and bits of information as I can get. The MS Exchange Blog contains all sorts of useful goodies.

[/tech/windows/exchange] | [permalink] | [2006.07.11-18:38.00]

Lotus Notes on Linux

Ed Brill covers the new Notes on Linux. Should be cool.

ArsTechnica covers the same Notes on Linux and brings up the hoary old entry in 'Interface Hall of Shame'.

Interesting discussion in the forums - people can be a little myopic about email and groupware. Integrated Email & Calendaring is not Groupware - what people fail to realise is that Notes/Domino allows for a much higher degree of collaboration than its competitors (Exchange and Groupwise) and does it in a way that actually makes some kind of sense from an IT perspective.

[/tech/domino] | [permalink] | [2006.07.11-18:37.00]

Jul 06, 2006

Solaris 10 Update 2 + More

Get it - Solaris 10 update 2 released. Really need to get this installed so I can play around with zfs.

Handy - Automating Local Admin Password Changes. Useful tips on setting a standard local admin password across your PC's and laptops.

Nice guide to Apples Automator.

Interesting - Firewall Leak Tests Revealed. Shame they didn't test the Checkpoint personal firewall. Also the winner hasn't been updated in awhile.

Low cost option - ATA over Ethernet. Cheaper than iSCSI or Fibre Channel (obviously it has more limitations too).

Interesting - Darkroom is a full screen green on black text editor for Windows. Limits the distractions and procrastination potential of a modern GUI.

Useful - SSH Tricks.

Flashback - Classic Gaming. I could never afford all the 20c coin required to get proficient at Asteroids or Space Invaders.

Good ideas - Business Card Best Practises. The coolest one I've seen has been a stamped steel card made to look like a license plate. Someone really needs to make one with a sandpaper side - get noticed and destroy your competition simultaneously :-)

Interesting - Ten most beautiful OS X applications. I think most people are over the application visuals - if the app adheres to standard interface design and is relatively non-intrusive then it will just work. Having said that Delicious Library (the winner) is a great application - I'd almost buy a barcode scanner to enter my media collection into DL.

Some Kiwi news -

Go the All Blacks - Handbags at 10 Paces. Be sure to watch the video. Hopefull we destroy the Aussies.

Five days of solid raid in the lower North Island leads to Flooding. Fantastically bad weather this week.

A flashback to the days of the 36c Beer. The last time unemployment in NZ was so low was 1982 - back when I was 12 :-)

[/links/2006] | [permalink] | [2006.07.06-19:05.00]


A Kiwi company developed Aftermail which Quest (of Toad fame) acquired in Jan 2006.

Its great - it archives/captures all inbound/outbound email and makes it available via a web interface.

A little Big Brother esque but given an organisations email is owned by the org then archiving it for safe keeping and future reference can only but help keep track of valuable information. You can then just backup Aftermail instead of peoples mailfiles - which they can access themselves anyway should they need to reference something they've since deleted (or had corrupted).

[/tech/mail] | [permalink] | [2006.07.06-09:41.00]

Notes Goodness

A colleague from Cambridge (Hi Chris!) pointed to an interesting piece of pro-Notes news - You’ll Pry Lotus Notes Out Of Their Cold, Dead Hands. Lotus Notes really is a brilliant app once you get over its interface quirks.

Handy - Ed Brill points to a powerpoint presentation chock full of Lotus Notes client tips. Alan Lepofsky has plenty of other useful Notes advice on his site too.

[/tech/domino] | [permalink] | [2006.07.06-09:28.00]

Jul 03, 2006

Outsourcing vs Insourcing

Having been on both sides of the outsource vs insource debate I have a few observations -

Outsourcing Pro's

* Internal IT can focus on big-picture strategic direction while the service provider handles the dull BAU (Business As Usual). So they have all the fun while the provider does all the donkey-work. In a mature partnership there would be a high degree of collaboration between both parties in terms of future direction inline with supporting business objectives.

* Using a leveraged team for services, an organisation no longer needs to pay to keep highly skilled specialists on staff (eg if you have a stable secure network you don't need a fulltime networking or security guru). Also the burden/risk of hiring people, training them and staff-retention is moved to the service provider (afterall they're contracted to maintain certain service levels regardless of staff turnover or resource levels).

* It may be apocryphal (its certainly a figure outsourcing companies tout) but first contact fix rates for fixable calls rises from around 30% to 70-80% under an outsourced service desk. So staff should experience significantly improved service levels for simple problems.

* Incident management and downtime becomes the service providers problem (although they obviously escalate the issues as required).

* Depending upon the particulars of the outsourcing arrangement normally onerous/tedious tasks such as asset tracking, management and auditing (hardware and software) becomes the service providers task.

* A service provider will follow a process laid down by the contract - this can be both good or bad depending upon how it is interpreted on an operational basis. Certainly from a BAU perspective it should mean that everyone will be dealt with in a consistant manner (VIP's are always the exception of course ;-) that can sometimes be difficult to do when people deal direct with internal IT.

* Maintenance windows are simpler to facilitate because the resource provider needs to ensure the work is completed out of hours (something that can be difficult to achieve with internal staff).

These points are particularly relevent if the organisations core business is not IT related (if you're in the IT field or software development then its usually better to stick with internal IT).

Outsourcing Con's -

* Outsourcing isn't cheap.

* The contract needs to be very very well written and the relationship between the provider and client needs to be very well managed - to strictly enforced and it becomes an 'us and them relationship' rather than a partnership and if the contract is to lax and quality of service starts to slip. This is a fairly fine balancing act and is listed as a con because its really tough to manage well.

* An organisations internal IT can become disconnected from the client community if services are outsourced.

* A service provider will usually do 'just enough' to keep the client happy. Until a certain level of trust and maturity is achieved its difficult to see significant improvements or innovations contributed back into the organisation. Then again for certain organisations this may not be an issue if the innovations and improvements are driven by their own internal IT or if you just need to keep baseline services operating normally (eg nothing flashy just keep systems working).

* Problems can often be hidden beneath the surface depending on the nature of the reporting and quality of esacalation/feedback - if a provider is responsible for system downtime but they're supporting a flawed application then all the faults may not be properly fedback to internal IT (if a fault occurs but no one is impacted as it is out of business hours will it still get flagged back to IT ?).

Insourcing Pro's

* Motivated staff have a vested interest in improving IT service delivery. There tends to be a greater level of information and innovation flow.

* Its easier to get a feel for the way an organisation works from the inside - its easier to provide value-added-services based upon this knowledge.

* Its easier to upskill and spread knowledge internally and maintain a team feel within the organisation - eg you have more incentive to grow and develope your staff rather than just hiring people to do a particular task.

Insourcing Con's

* Internal IT staff can become complacent and lackadaisical - this can lead to a negative perception of IT within the organisation. Often this can be a reflection on greater problems within an organisation (eg service/admin bloat in general).

* Internal IT can become self-serving - we need more staff and more gear because we need to implement new stuff (but does the organisation need it ?). IT exists to serve IT rather than the business objectives. Again this can lead to a negative perception of IT within the organisation.

* Internal IT can take awhile to switch culture from the 'I enjoy playing with new stuff' mentality to 'what does the business need'. Similarly Internal IT can become conservative and resistant to change.

* Turnover of staff in key positions can render the organisation crippled until someone else can be bought up to speed (particularly the case with specialists in the field of security, database, networking and development).

* Key staff can hold onto knowledge and not share information - you end up with islands of expertise - this excaberates the problems associated with staff turnover.

At the end of the day the decision to outsource is not one to take lightly and exactly what is outsourced boils down to your own business requirements - many organisations use a hybrid of internal IT complemented by contractors and consultants to assist in specialist areas.

[/tech/outvsin] | [permalink] | [2006.07.03-19:01.00]

Header Graphic

Header graphic is a sunset over Pauanui beach. The Coromandel is a lovely place if you can avoid the Jafa's buying up property and plonking million dollar mansions in amongst the local bach's.

[/tech/perl/blosxom] | [permalink] | [2006.07.03-09:40.00]

Jul 02, 2006

New Look

Ended up modifying an open source template from Asphaug for use with Blosxom. CSS is much trickier to get a handle on than I thought - I can see why templates are so prevalent - designing from scratch is a pain and the tools are not much better than those used at the dawn of the web (ie a text editor).

[/tech/perl/blosxom] | [permalink] | [2006.07.02-09:41.00]

First day back at mill . . .

First day of the new job tomorrow. Just like the first day at a new school :-)

[/tech/jobhunt] | [permalink] | [2006.07.02-09:29.00]