June 16, 2010 9:26 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
ethics of charging for non-working services
, service provider issues
, voice mail woes
My good friend, and occasional employer and/or collaborator, David Strom, produced a very nice Web Informant blog today entitled “Strom’s cable Internet odyssey.” Therein, he recounts some amazing and bothersome issues in getting Internet service up and running in his office space. It’s an interesting litany of customer service woes and inefficiencies that helps underscore his point that the US is falling off its perch at the top of the Internet hierarchy because service providers…well…suck at providing customer service, even when they excel at delivering or using technology.
I’m in the middle of a similar imbroglio with Time Warner Cable right now about voice mail service for my primary phone line. Although I’m paying for voice mail, it’s not working right now, and Time Warner can’t even tell me when it will become operational once again. I’m actually thinking about going out and buying a cheap answering machine just so I won’t miss messages in the future. Because my Dell All-in-One 968 has a fax machine built-in, that means people who currently call me and *want* to leave a message end up listening to (and presumably, hanging up on) that annoying fax machine handshake tone once the phone does answer.
It’s irritating to discover from an aggrieved third party that a service you depend on isn’t working (I’d rather hear it from the provider directly, along with at least a cursory apology, and an estimate of uptime) . It’s even more annoying to discover that a service you need is “out of service” for an indefinite period. It’s infuriating to find yourself in a situation where the provider can’t even tell you what’s causing the problem, or when normal service will be restored. It’s also astonishing that a provider will happily charge you for a service that’s not working, unless you report the outage and request a credit against your usual account charges. Surely, they must know it’s not working, and they must also know it’s not fair (or ethical) to charge for a service that’s not presently available, either. But that’s not the way things work in these United States right now.
As Mr. Strom no doubt wanted the reader of his blog to ask, I too find myself asking “What’s this country coming to?” Sheesh!
[Follow-up half an hour after this post went live: I finally got to a knowledgeable and capable support tech at Time Warner. He actually called my voicemail to verify it wasn't working, then discovered that my account had been disabled for some indiscernable reason. He subsequently re-enabled my account and was then able to restore my voicemail service. Thank goodness!]
June 14, 2010 8:20 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
but not yet recovered
, corners are in sight but not yet turned
, IT jobs marginally up
, IT jobs situation
, More modest signs of IT jobs improvements
John Oates recent Channel Register story “IT jobs market recovering well/So where’s my raise?” cites a four percent increase in technology jobs advertised for Q1’10 versus Q1’09 as evidence of recovery. I’d say it’s evidence of (slight) improvement, but I’m not sure that “recovery” really comes into play until we make up for the ground that’s been lost in IT and start whittling away at the new jobs needed to put recent college grads and other new entrants into the IT workforce into permanent, full-time jobs. But then again, it’s not entirely useless to use advertisements as a metric for job availability because employers still lean pretty heavily on ads to help get the word out about positions available.
An interesting data point from the story includes mention that finance is still the top opportunity for both full- and part-time positions, in both the permanent and contract employment markets. Given the turmoil in the banking and finance industries, I guess it makes sense that crunching more numbers and managing more data might aid a return to normalcy for those lines of work.
Skills-related terms in job postings/ads indicate that SQL is mentioned most often, followed by C and C#. To me, this says that employers are looking for database mavens on the one hand (SQL) and for developers on the other (C and C#). Next most frequent terms: .NET, SQL Server, and ASP would appear to bear this out, and to indicate that the Web is increasingly where development is at as far as jobs are concerned.
The site (CWJobs) that hosts and tracks such advertisements is quoted as saying “…it was encouraging to see some signs of improvement and they hoped it marked increased investment in IT.” So do we all, sez I; so do we all!
June 11, 2010 4:41 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
MCAS reverts to MOS
, Microsoft Office Specialist certification
, MOS certification
, MS certification
MOS stands for MIcrosoft Office Specialist and is a family of certifications from Microsoft Learning that deals with all the major office components — namely, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Access plus SharePoint and Project. In fact, core Office components (Word and Excel) even offer Expert designations, and a Master certification is available for various major versions of Office (2010, 2007, and so forth) as well.
MOS was the designation for Office certs prior to the introduction of MS Office 2007, and is once again the designation for MS Office 2010 certifications. There was a brief hiatus during which these credentials bore the Microsoft Certified Application Specialist, or MCAS, designation but all those certs have now been folded back into the MOS Program. All MCAS holders qualify for similar MOS credentials for Office 2007, and can even order certificates to that effect from the company that runs the MOS Program for Microsoft — Certiport — for a modest fee through their login portal.
Graphical blurb from the MS Learning MOS page
According to Anne Martinez’ latest Certification Watch (Vol 13 #8) the real reason for the name reversion is that “…the MCAS name never caught on.” My educated guess is that because the MOS program was around for such a long time, and Microsoft didn’t really go into a full-court-press rebranding effort, nobody bothered to change their nomenclature and the program handle stayed MOS in employers’ and cert-holders’ minds, even if that’s not what MS was calling the program during that brief interregnum.
June 9, 2010 1:22 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
, Cisco certifications
, Cisco Certified Architect
, IT certification
I had the good fortune to spend some time on the phone last week with Fred Weiller, Director of Marketing for Learning at Cisco, along with Erik Ullanderson, Manager of Global Certifications for the same company. We talked our way through the new Cisco Certified Architect credential (sometimes abbreviated as CCAr). The Cisco Certified Architect is the highest step on that company’s “design track” which starts with the Cisco Certified Design Associate (CCDA), goes onto the Cisco Certified Design Professional (CCDP), then to the Cisco Certified Design Expert (CCDE), where the aforementioned CCAr credential serves as the capstone for that sequence. Cisco’s impetus for this program came from customer input regarding the job roles they seek to cover with certifications, and the kinds of skills and knowledge that should go with them.
As is typical for many capstone or top-rung credentials, including numerous other architect certifications, the Cisco Certified Architect is completely performance based. Rather than relying on various types of automated question banks, which may or may not be accompanied by lab or other performance based tests (like the lab tests that go with the CCIE and CCDE), the CCAr credential starts out with a variety of qualification steps and hurdles to overcome, and includes several interviews and face-to-face encounters along the path from application to completing a design exercise, to defending that exercise before a panel of other certified architects, to earning the certification. The process kicks off with an application that includes a resume and professional experience component, followed by a phone interview to determine if an applicant’s verbal skills and real-world knowledge match up to his or her professed experience, skills, and capabilities.
For those candidates who survive the phone interview, their next step is to respond to a series of questions and requirements that add up to something like an RFP. This is delivered via email, and a lengthy and formal written response is required. Of course drafting such a response takes substantial preparation and research, with time and room for candidates to submit follow-up queries to elicit additional details and information as needed. In fact, the response and submission process is realistic enough that it includes mid-course “curve balls” of the “can you add this?” or “can we change X to Y?” form so familiar to practitioners in the field who service real client needs and requests. Once the proposal is submitted, a candidate must appear before a committee of certified professionals (Cisco expects those individuals who earn the CCAr to be willing to give back to the community by serving on such panels themselves, once they make the grade) to explain and defend its content, strategy, and so forth. Questions and coverage come from the worlds of business, technology, finance, and so on, where proposals must meet financial needs, match stated business visions, meet feasibility and implementation requirements, and match up with enunciated short-, medium-, and long-term goals for their target businesses or organizations.
Right now, less than ten individuals have earned the Cisco Certified Architect credential, and Cisco’s expectation is that in the next 36 months that number will climb to something higher than 10 but less than 99 certified individuals. Interestingly, Ullanderson emphasized the importance of soft skills to earning the CCAr credential as well as a solid and substantial mix of business and technology skills. Individuals must provide strong verbal responses to the telephone interview to get past the initial hurdle to program entry, and then make a substantial showing in the proposal defense before the committee that follows submission of the written version. That written proposal also means that candidates must demonstrate solid and convincing verbal communication skills, as well as business skills and knowledge necessary to deal with financial and business considerations, as well as technical ones, at each step along the certification process. And of course, quick and well-informed thinking will be essential to surviving the proposal defense, where candidates will be probed on more than just the proposal’s contents and coverage.
A typical profile for potential candidates is someone who’s got ten or more years of networking experience with plenty of technical background and on-the-job training and learning behind him or her. People who have worked on implementation and troubleshooting will also have to be able to draw upon design skills and experience as well as understanding how to navigate in and around the business-technology interface. A typical candidate who survives initial screening should need somewhere between three and six months to complete the certification, but the greatest amount of effort for this credential is bound to go into personal preparation, development, and learning. Would-be candidates need to make sure they’re ready to tackle the demanding CCAr credential, particularly by interacting with other certified or qualified individuals (Cisco will make various online venues and communities available to vetted candidates) and also by working through the proposal research, development, and defense efforts.
This sounds very much like a solid and substantial certification, and is bound to help develop the Cisco certification community further. Visit the Cisco Certified Architect home page for more information.
June 8, 2010 7:25 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
, IT employment
, May 2010 employment situation summary
, May 2010 IT employment
To me the most interesting thing about the latest Employment Situation Summary (May 2010) is that once again we’re going essentially nowhere from the preceding month. Though the numbers show a solid increase in employment for May of 431,000 jobs, 411,000 of those derive from hiring to staff up for the US Census. In fact, private sector employment shows a net increase of only 41,000 jobs over the previous month (less than 25% of the previous month’s growth of 195,000 jobs).
Given the recent downturn on global stock markets (three or more trading days in the last month have witnessed point drops in excess of 300 for the Dow Jones Industrials, and other indexes have seen multiple drops of three percentage points or greater on multiple days in this period as well) and a lackluster job growth situation, optimism about growth and recovery appear to be on the wane right now. I’m not convinced it’s once again time for total doom and gloom, but certainly a bit of caution and conservatism is called for, both for IT employers and those on the hunt for IT jobs.
And in fact, the information sector for May was dead flat with neither growth nor losses to report for that period. Here’s the snippet from Table B-1 that tells the information sector story:
Table B-1 Headings
May Information numbers
While things are going nowhere, that’s still not as scary as going down, down, down. Personally, I’m hoping to see another up month soon, and after that, a few such months in sequence wouldn’t go down badly, either.
June 3, 2010 3:05 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
computer forensics certification remains a wild frontier
, computer forensics certifications
, IT certification
Last week, I got a phone call from one of my publishers asking for a revision to this Sybex title Computer Forensics Jump Start by Michael Solomon, Diane Barrett, and Neil Broom (Sybex, 2005, ISBN: 9780782143751). Always glad to revise a book (which means it’s still selling, and the publisher thinks it will stay that way, or it wouldn’t risk the costs of writing, editing, laying out, and printing a different version), I’m in the process of building a revision plan.
Part of the coverage in that book deals with various Computer Forensics certifications. In fact, here’s the very list that the book currently includes:
- Advanced Information Security (AIS): An old Security University offering, now defunct. Will be replaced by the Q/FE Qualified Forensic Expert credential instead.
- Certified Computer Examiner (CCE): still going strong, and shows strong signs of a thriving and vibrant certification program.
- Certified Cyber-Crime Expert (C3E): Warren Kruse, the tech editor for the last edition of this book had his hand somewhere in this program, but I can’t find any evidence that it’s still up and running (all links lead to a dead end on the parent organization’s home page, which is not a good thing, and the toll-free number listed on the page is out of service). I’m going to axe this one.
- Certified Information Forensics Investigator (CIFI): This is a cert from the International Information Systems Forensics Association (IISFA). You can’t access information about the cert directly from the Website, and they don’t provide contact information other than a general email address. I’ve sent an email to this address to see what kind of response it elicits, but I get the willies whenever a cert program isn’t fully-fledged with a public website, transparent info, and complete contact information for the parent organization.
- Certified Computer Crime Investigator (CCCI): The High Tech Crime Network is still plumping its various credentials, including basic and advanced versions of this cert, as well as the CCFT that follows next. I need to do some more digging here (and for the next item, ditto).
- Certified Computer Forensic Technician (CCFT): see previous item.
- Certified Forensic Computer Examiner (CFCE): The brainchild of the International Association of Computer Investigative Specialists (IACIS). The same organization that offers the credential also offers training on the background and bundles the exam costs in with those charges. Their phone rings into voicemail, and while I see signs of legitimacy in this program, I want to interview some principals before I let this one stand in our revised list.
- Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA): ISACA is well-known for this cert, but because it’s aimed at audit in general rather than at computer forensics in particular (it does include coverage of forensics, but its coverage goes well beyond forensics alone) I’m not sure I’m going to keep this one on the list.
- EnCase Certified Examiner Program (EnCE): EnCase is one of the biggest and best-known names in the forensic software space, and one of the few to offer its own dedicated certification program. For those who use this tool, this cert becomes a badge of competency and legitimacy. Like IACIS, the same company that offers the cert also offers (and requires) the related training.
- GIAC Certified Forensic Analyst (GCFA): The GCFA is a well-known and widely available source of vendor-neutral security certifications from an active and well-respected player in the infosec field. They, too, offer (but don’t require) training to prepare candidates for the related certification exam.
- Professional Certified Investigator (PCI): ASIS International is the parent organization for this senior-level security/forensics certification, which has been around longer than any of the others mentioned here. It offers considerable cachet and comes with a well-established sense of validity and legitimacy.
What I’d like to hear from readers is any experiences they’ve had with any of the certs mentioned here, or their recommendations for other certs to add to this list (I’ve indicated which ones are likely to be removed: if you want to object, that’s also entirely welcome). As you can tell from my comments, forensics certification remains a kind of “wild frontier” where anybody who wants to hang up a shingle can start a cert program in this area, and try to grow a certified population. Separating the wheat from the chaff in this big field of dreams and drama will be an important part of revising the book. Please help!
May 28, 2010 7:33 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
Win7 Upgrade Advisor updated
, Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor
I was just poking around in the MS Download Center, and I discovered that a new version (2.0.4000.0) of the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor has been available since April 20, 2010. Maybe that makes me a member of the “better late than never school” but it’s still an important program for many companies and organizations that are pondering or planning adoptions of Windows 7, along with at OS migration on some platforms.
The program still looks and acts the same, but I can tell from some updated messages relating to certain programs on my test PC (DualBoot Pro and ISO Recorder, to be specific) that the software has been updated with additional recent update and version information.
If you’ve got an older version of the software (look for a creation date of 10/21/2009 in Explorer) you may want to grab this newer one. It’s always a good idea to use the latest and greatest Upgrade Advisor — especially when and as you find yourself checking upgrade status on any particular Windows machines.
May 28, 2010 7:21 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
faint personal signs of improving work conditions
, More signs of economic improvement
, personal opporunities for IT work on the rebound
In the past couple of months, I’ve written about various signs that the economy is finally turning around, small step by agonizing small step. You can find me writing about improvements in employment, small jumps in manufacturing, and even tiny increments of job growth here and there. Today, I had lunch with a friend and former colleague from NetQoS, and got some more slight and gentle signs of improvement.
Let me explain: Jim and I are both well-educated, white males with advanced degrees and 20-plus years of experience in the job market, with about 20 years of executive level experience between the two of us. In case you didn’t already know that makes it darn difficult for either of us to find work, especially work with pay commensurate with our years of experience and the few gray hairs we have left.
But finding work we are. Jim left his job recently and was expecting it to take a year or more to find a VP-level position, or higher, at a local company in the Austin area that meets his now very well-developed sense of what makes a good potential employer, and an equally good potential job. Much to his surprise — and mine — he finds himself pondering multiple at least tolerable job offers at decent-to-better-than that companies, and is even mulling over a few more entreprenuerial opportunities as well.
As for myself, in the past couple of weeks I’ve had so much work come knocking on my door that I’ve had to turn a handful of jobs away simply for lack of bandwidth and resources to service them. And let me be clear: I’m not looking for full-time employment right now, though I would certainly consider any good offers that might be tendered in my direction anyway.
Though neither of these situations is typical, or perhaps even ordinary, these days, I can’t help but find my optimism perked up by these occasional rays of economic sunshine in what has been a pretty dreary landscape until recently. Given all the work I know of out there, and the gradual reawakening of some go-go mentality, I don’t think I’m wrong to see some signs of improvement, no matter how slim and evanescent they may turn out to be. Buck up: it could definitely be worse!
May 27, 2010 4:27 PM
Posted by: Ed Tittel
, volunteer work experience counts
, volunteering can provide job opportunities and contacts
It might seem countintuitive for new or pending IT graduates to read that by giving of their time, skills, and knowledge they may very get something substantial in return. Although it’s unlikely that recent grads will luck into a job with the very group or organization they might choose to support with their time and effort, it’s important to remember that all of these outfits are staffed primarily by volunteers. Working in a volunteer group is a great way to meet people and make contacts you might never otherwise be able to make on your own.
Just for grins, I surfed over to my local public radio station (KUT Austin) and checked out their “Get Involved” section, where numerous volunteer organizations get the word out that they’re looking for volunteer help of all kinds — this morning, in fact, there were 61 such organizations listed, all of whom can probably use some help with computer-related tasks and activities, and some of whom focus directly on such matters (Goodwill Green Works, Austin Partners in Education, Military Children Education Coalition, Community Tax Centers, Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic, and more).
By reaching out to others, and giving of yourself, you not only do some good for those you seek out by volunteering. You may also do yourself some good by gaining additional experience and by making contacts that may in fact lead to a real job someday–hopefully, sooner rather than later. If your local area has a public radio station, you can use it to find volunteer opportunities easily; if not, use your favorite search engine to see what kinds of volunteer organizations are looking for help where you live.