Oct 052013
 

Today we begin our preliminary research.  Since we have very short attention spans and plenty of disruptions, we figured we’d begin by learning about the project board that should be arriving this month.  We’ve decided to delegate tasks and responsibilities for our project:  Liam to learn about Arduino boards (what they are, what they can do) while I will be responsible for design and assembly of whatever components we cobble together.

 

In the end, we wound up spending more time watching Ice Age 2, but at least I have proof that for five minutes, Liam sat still.

Jul 212013
 
Nobody sees this

Did somebody call me?

I noticed recently that the site was down and had to monkey with something on the server…permissions?  Always permissions.  Nevermind the OS or security method, it’s always permissions.    Lost the mirror drive in the software RAID, and that seemed to mess things up after recreating the mirror on a replacement drive.

I was messing around with Linux a bit recently, and setup some code on my router.  I noticed that since I’ve enabled additional firewall(s) through Optware I don’t seem to be getting any visits from the Russian bots.  I wonder when the site went offline exactly?  DDNS….etc etc etc etc and I never look.

 

I’ve been working on some method to keep track of office tasks/requests which would allow me to automate logging of completed items for documentation, future research and task management.  Increasingly, I am finding automation technologies useful in building workflows.  On OSX, Applescript, Automator workflows, and cron jobs, launchd services for Linux based systems and good old scheduler (at).

I really need to find the discipline to get some classroom training on current programming language syntax and structure.  I’ve got all the tools I need to write, debug and compile any code I want (within reason) – I simply lack the time to….  good excuse writer.

Before I went off on the tangent, I was referring to task automation as a useful tool in managing my personal work flow.  Since I am inherently lazy/busy with endless interruptions and an unpredictable schedule, I am always thinking about disaster recovery/business continuity on a continual basis.  Sometimes (when minor failures are easily recovered), this validates the need for building system architecture that is simple, cost-effective, scaleable, redundant, well documented, and easily replicated or restored following some contingency.  Other times, it feels that nothing is ever completed; projects are not completed in a timely fashion, new challenges are being introduced faster than I can document them (never mind dealing with them).

 

Since business objectives mandate system requirements, it is necessary to support a wide range of system architectures ranging form proprietary IBM AIX systems that are not fault tolerant nor capable of virtualization to more mainstream Windows-based systems and other platforms such as OSX, iOS, Android, and various Linux distros for various devices and systems.  Task automation and scheduling procedures differ greatly from one device to the next.  Programmatically, the logic to accomplish basic tasks like task management, note taking and reporting should be similar all around.  A unifying language such as java should be easy to code to accomplish various tasks and interface in standard database formats/sync protocols (mySQL,SQL,etc/cardDAV,calDAV, IMAP, LDAP, etc).  HTML5 could be employed to skin the interface for mobile devices, or the GUI interface could be ported to various platforms.

DIRECTORY SERVICES

While AD offers a lot, it is still closed architecture and often presents challenges in providing authentication for other operating systems and devices…  but that’s a subject for another day

 

 

 

Aug 182012
 

I’ve been doing the IT thing for a bit now.  In recent years, I’ve found more job satisfaction in finding solutions for complex problems (usually with budget constraints), workflow optimization, and consulting work.  Inevitably, I wind up doing the occasional repair or virus/malware removal job.  Malware removal is probably the type of work I like the least.  Malware removal on older machines (say 4+ years) is especially tedious, given the number of reboots typically required.  While awaiting system reboot, there is plenty of time to contemplate the source of the malware “infection.”

I would say that in the small business world, where company e-mail addresses are used for personal and business purposes, the bulk of malware code introduced to PCs comes from unsolicited e-mail.  It’s amazing how easy it is to trick an unsuspecting user into clicking on a link.  People are so rushed in their work that they miss obvious characteristics of spam e-mail that should be dead giveaways: Spelling and grammatical errors; attachments in .zip format; missing content such as letterhead/company logos, etc.

Since I’ve finally got spamassassin working on the new e-mail server, I’m seeing that our heavy users receive an average of 6 – 8 spam messages an hour during the day.  That explains some malware I’ve had to clean up in the last 18 months.  I guess it’s all the more reason to bring our e-mail in-house.

In conclusion, I would recommend that every small business adopt the following guidelines for use of company e-mail:

  1. Request that users only utilize their company e-mail addresses for company business.  Keep the jokes and topless beach photos to your personal e-mail accounts.
  2. Implement some sort of server-side spam filtering technology.  While client-side filtering allows users to more easily find messages they are looking for, downloading the spam to the e-mail client still leaves the end user vulnerable to malware.

I suppose you could get a little bit more draconian about it and remind users that everything the send/receive via e-mail is the company’s intellectual property…