CIO Symmetry

August 13, 2008  2:24 PM

America fails – miserably – to capture Internet equality medal

Glen Weaver Profile: The Weave

Here’s a shocker: Broadband in the U.S. isn’t up to snuff and because of that our children will fall behind the rest of the world.

So we learn from a new report by, er, the Communication Workers of America, er, the AFL-CIO.

According to the report, the U.S. is lagging far behind other developed countries in broadband speed. Median download speed for the nation is a measly 2.3 mbps. Compare that to Japan, where the median download speed is apparently 63 mbps. France, for a European example, pulls 17 mbps. Our neighbors to the north aren’t great – 7.6 mbps – but still, that’s better.

Data in the report was compiled by cataloging the results of voluntary upload/download speed tests by users nationwide. The report breaks it down by state. Rhode Island comes out the best, pulling a 6.8 mbps download median. Puerto Rico finishes dead last at a .5 mbps download median. Behind that is Alaska with a .8 mbps median.

The results favor densely populated areas, with rural counties and states dragging the numbers down. This could explain why Japan has done so well.

So take report statements like “At this rate, it will take the United States more than 100 years to catch up with current Internet speeds in Japan” with a block of salt.

Still, it’s hard to argue with what stands for here: Universal Internet access and an end to the digital divide.

The deck has always been stacked in America. That “haves” and “have-nots” thing is no joke. The Internet is a must-have for any meaningful economic success. Failing to provide quality access to rural and poor children, who have few powerful advocates, will only serve to exacerbate the shameful disenfranchisement.

Meanwhile, our president tells Bob Costas that “I don’t see America having problems” and we’re all supposed to sit back and smile because we’re ahead in the medal count.

August 12, 2008  5:33 PM

Press releases as prose

Glen Weaver Profile: The Weave

I don’t doubt that writing a press release that catches the eye is a tough job.

But this is just dumb:

“Dear Zach,
“Will Shakespeare sure didn’t have to wrestle with the issues IT managers’ face today. After five years of development and some high-profile delays, Microsoft finally launched Microsoft Vista and 2007 Microsoft Office”

Then there’s something about Hamlet and “to upgrade or not to upgrade.” Whatever.

“Will” Shakespeare died in 1616. The earliest computers showed up sometime in the 1940s.

August 12, 2008  3:23 PM

Hackers on the MBTA, or: Why Boston’s subway system deserves to be compromised

Glen Weaver Profile: The Weave

Well, this is embarrassing. Three MIT students write a paper on how to hack the greater Boston subway fare cards.

Said students are given an ‘A’ for their work and are booked to present at the annual DEFCON hacker conference in Las Vegas last weekend. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (known as the MBTA, the state agency that runs the subway) sues to keep the trio from presenting.

Filed in court to stop the presentation: Instructions on how to hack the MBTA fare system. Still available on MIT’s servers: The slide presentation to accompany the talk. This is really worth flipping through.

So not only did the MBTA’s lawsuit completely defeat its own purpose, it has also logged yet another example of the agency’s complete incompetence.

And this is why it deserves to be hacked. Continued »

August 11, 2008  2:17 PM

MSM Monday Round-up

Glen Weaver Profile: The Weave

Anybody else fed up with passwords?

A San Jose State University professor tells us why we should be in The New York Times. It’s about time. Does anybody really think there’s a password strong enough to keep a determined intruder out? Plus, all these single-sign-on pop-ups are ticking me off.

Actually, is the Times hiding the fact that it covers hacker conventions? This story here tells us about a major Internet security hole. We meet Dan Kaminsky at a “technical conference in Las Vegas” on Wednesday. Now, DEFCON16 didn’t start until Thursday, though Kaminsky was scheduled to speak at that as well. And the Times interviews other “technical experts” which is a pretty bland title. Hackers?

The coolest thing about DEFCON? Three MIT students have managed to hack Boston’s subway fare cards. So what does the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority do? Sue the students to stop them from preventing their findings. Hey, that’s a step up from the MBTA’s average, everyday in competency.

And over at Slate, Vista just can’t catch a break.

August 8, 2008  7:37 PM

Save the data! How safe is our personal information?

Kristen Caretta Kristen Caretta Profile: Kristen Caretta

The search for the missing Registered Traveler laptop is finally over. The laptop, belonging to Verified Identity Pass Inc.(VIP), was reported missing from a locked office in the San Francisco International Airport on July 26. The laptop was unencrypted and contained the personal information of 33,000 people (including names, passport numbers and addresses) who were enrolled (or were in the process of enrolling) in Clear, VIPs Registered Traveler Program. On August 5, local news station CBS 5 reported the laptop had been found in the office it had gone missing from. VIP spokeswoman Allison Beer said, “it was not in an obvious location.”

Huh? Could this information be so easily misplaced?

According to their site, Clear members are prescreened (personal information, biometric data, etc.) and are able to pass through security fast lanes at designated airports, “saving time” while traveling. What about saving their information in encrypted files?

In their August 5 press release, VIP CEO Steve Brill apologized for the confusion and reassured Clear members, stating “…in an abundance of caution, we treated this unaccounted-for laptop as a serious potential breach. We’re glad to confirm that a preliminary investigation shows no personal information was compromised.” Losing the laptop in the first place compromises information. Again, this wasn’t just any company laptop—this laptop was loaded with personal unencrypted information. Again, why was this information left unsecured?

Having your laptop stolen (or misplacing it) is a scary thing (more so if you have to answer to 33,000 people and not just your company’s IT department), yet people are still having a difficult time keeping tabs on them. According to UK site The Register, Absolute Software has even recently added GPS tracking to its laptop theft recovery service. Embedded GPS receivers submit latitude and longitude information to Absolute’s Web-based IT management portal, showing current and previous locations the laptop had been. Of course, this also eliminates some of the user’s privacy. As stated in the article, “use of the technology means that salesmen may no longer be able to claim that they are visiting client premises rather than sneaking down the pub.”

As technology grows and changes, personal privacy may be thing of the past. Is this ultimately a good thing if it keeps our information safer? Can we even trust those who have our personal data? People are banking online, scanning their irises to breeze through airport security and fingerprint scanning to access their laptops—and this personal information could be targeted by thieves and hackers.

Who knows? What I do know is this: keep an eye on your data and your laptop (I’ll even throw in a tip on laptop protection).

August 8, 2008  1:47 PM

Weekly Wrap-up

Glen Weaver Profile: The Weave

And this week we:

Learned more about Latin American currency than we ever thought we would. All to take a look at Brazil’s potential for offshoring IT work.

Tried to rent a tent from Eastern Mountain Sports. Came back with a lecture on the value of outsourcing network administration.

Found that meticulous oversight of your master data management plan not only makes life easier down the road, but it might keep the lawyers away too.

August 6, 2008  1:30 PM

Microsoft’s Midori: Straight up or on the rocks?

Kristen Caretta Kristen Caretta Profile: Kristen Caretta

Microsoft is planning for the retirement of Windows by working on a new operating-system—Midori.


Well, more than likely considering all the Internet-buzz about it (one of many projects in ‘incubation,’ according to Microsoft).

But, Microsoft is staying tight-lipped and has not officially released any details about the code-named Midori project. According to the BBC, Software Development Times published Midori details after gaining access to some of Microsoft’s internal documents.

Midori is believed to be an Internet-based operating-system as opposed to its hard-drive-installed older brother, Windows. Rather than being installed onto individual machines, the Midori operating system would be similar to a “software-plus-services” approach or “cloud computing.” As the SDTimes put it, the Midori documents show “applications running across a multitude of topologies, ranging from client-server and multi-tier deployments to peer-to-peer at the edge, and in the cloud data center.”

Microsoft may be spot-on with this. Windows was initially popularized pre-Internet — a time when people relied solely on their very large and very stationary PCs. Times have changed. Computers are smaller and easily portable, connecting to anyone, anywhere. If Microsoft can make Midori a (properly functioning) reality, then we may be seeing a much-needed change.

Virtualization is becoming more and more popular and Microsoft will have to do something to keep up and stay on top (every PC purchased may not be pre-installed with Windows some day).

They may have started by building some hype…

It appears someone spilled the Midori, Mr. Gates.

August 4, 2008  9:04 PM

Forrester: No room for cowboy culture in IT

Glen Weaver Profile: The Weave

Just like Toby Keith, I should have been a cowboy.

Alas, I went into journalism and never did get the hang of a lasso. If you’re in IT, a new Forrester report says, you should let those cattle drive dreams go as well.

It turns out the cowboy culture is just about the most destructive way a CIO can run an IT shop. The result, Forrester vice president and principal analyst Marc Cecere says, is complete chaos. On the other end of the culture spectrum is a completely IT-centric shop. An isolationist policy that separates IT from the business can lead to over-control and is just as bad as playing Lonesome Dove.

Forrester is urging CIOs to aim somewhere in the middle. Be autonomous without being isolationist, the analysts say. Pay attention to metrics — but not so much that you take the rational thinking element out of IT.

In short: Stop, think.

Culture is important. There are some things money can’t buy, and a comfortable work environment that emphasizes positive, forward thinking is one of them.

So stop, think. Assess whether your employees are happy, whether IT culture in your company jibes properly with other business units. Is the culture in your IT shop promoting the business or is it keeping things status quo? Worse, is it hindering the business?

Should you need an IT attitude adjustment, here are Cecere’s 10 steps: Continued »

August 4, 2008  1:01 PM

MSM Monday Round-up

Glen Weaver Profile: The Weave

The big papers have been focusing on consumer technology a lot recently. The iPhone, Facebook, the ill-fated launch of Cuil. Sure, it’s The New York Times. General audience. I get that.

But still, there must be more to computers than friend lists and monthly data plans, right?

Hey, don’t try to tell John McCain that. Or anybody participating in the latest debate over whether it matters that McCain can’t use what Larry the Cable Guy would call a “come-poo-ter.”

The New York Times did weigh in yesterday, laying down a fair examination of whether it does matter. But the major problem with this debate is where the touchstones have been placed. Consensus seems to be that McCain is computer-savvy if he uses Facebook, MySpace, e-mail and Twitter.

Frankly, I don’t want a president who Twitters, but that’s beyond the point.

The major problem with this discussion is that computer has been defined as “social networking.” We shouldn’t care if McCain can best us at whatever version of Scrabble hit Facebook this week. We should be asking that our next president understand the IT outsourcing industry, H-1B visas and the concept of green computing.

This is not to downplay the importance or forward motion of social networking. If Barack Obama finds Facebook a useful tool to distribute his message and raise funds, then so be it. Good for him.

But where does the computing industry fit into his energy profile?

Of course, these topics are boring. At least to the general population. Besides, taking up H-1Bs in the greater presidential debate would require McCain, Obama, their staffs and the media to understand them in the first place.

Maybe they should all stick to Facebook.

August 1, 2008  12:28 PM

Weekly Wrapup

Glen Weaver Profile: The Weave

I just finished taking the SaaS quiz we put up on the site yesterday. I got eight of 10 questions right, which is pretty poor considering I wrote most of the stories the quiz is based on.

Can I fail at my own game?

Besides the quiz we ran a few stories on the site this week. One found Gartner basically saying “Cut it with the bellyaching. You really do have to take Vista.” I got a few emails after that one. People just can’t love that thing.

The other one had to do with finding a new spot to store your servers. There is no shortage of companies willing to lease you or sell you data center space. Our expert tells us to pay attention to the long-term tax deal and utility rates.

My editor, Kate Evans-Correia, often writes about Facebook. But this week she turned in a column about working during vacation. Know what else I guarantee you she did during vacation? I’ll give you a hint. It’s got a nice blue-and-white color scheme and Mark Zuckerberg invented it.

Honestly, though, all that work was nothing compared with sweating out the Manny Ramirez trade rumors.

Alright, weekend time. I’m catching Old 97’s at some roadhouse on Cape Cod right on the beach. May all of your weekends rock just as hard.

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