Cliff Saran’s Enterprise blog

September 12, 2007  10:39 PM

If only I had backed-up

Cliff Saran Profile: Cliff Saran
Backup, smartphone

So I finally got the new phone. The only thing is that it has taken me two days to get it back to how the original one was before it got lost when I attempted to send it back to O2. It is easy to use Active Sync to backup contacts, calendar entries and email. But how about application software and device drivers?

The software I bought for the XDA Orbit smartphone, was acquired via electronic distribution, so I paid for products using a credit card and was given an unlock code, needed to get the software working once it has been installed.

Even though I store the XDA’s application software on my desktop PC, it is very easy to lose unlock keys. Worse, the device is clearly not the same device O2 lost so, as far as some software makers are concerned, there is no record of the device so I was asked to pay again.

Needless to say this is unacceptable and I managed to get around the repayment problem, but it took ages.

I wish there was a really simple way to use Active Sync to create a mirror image of all the software, settings and device drivers on my smartphone. As these devices get more sophisticated we are going to need PC management tools to back them up and keep then running.

September 10, 2007  8:40 PM

Smartphone woes

Cliff Saran Profile: Cliff Saran
Customer service, Outsourcing

I had some problems with my XDA Orbit which meant it needed to be sent back to O2. Straightforward enough, but my experience has certainly made me feel that O2 customer service was well and truly broken..

I decided to send the phone back via our courier from work, as I believed this would be the most secure way to get it back to the O2 returns department. Not so. O2 had no record of receiving it.

I phoned up (actually one of our secretaries, Beverley phoned) and we were told to fax through a proof of postage and they would ship me a replacement. All very straightforward. But Bev spent over 40 minutes on the phone with O2 trying to fax the paperwork through and they claimed they were not receiving it. It transpired the fax machine had been out of paper for the last three hours.

Continued »

August 29, 2007  10:02 PM

Can IT recognise innovation?

Cliff Saran Profile: Cliff Saran
Facebook, Holway, Microsoft, WiMAX

I was chatting to Richard Holway earlier. He is chairman of the Prince’s Trust Technology Leadership group, Holway is due to speak next Tuesday about the effect of technology like Facebook on corporate IT. Holway believes IT departments are laggards, unwilling to adopt new exciting technology. IT missed the web; no doubt it will miss social media.

In Holway’s vision of the IT landscape, Microsoft simply makes the OS. Users won’t think about how to organise their Windows desktop icons, but instead use their own workspace, what Holway calls their MyTop, to keep track of friends, web links and useful information.

The key thing about his vision is that this information can be accessed from any device. To make this possible Holway believes users will require ubiquitous WiMax for fast mobile Internet and the ability to run applications as a software service. If such an idea took off I wonder if IT departments would recognise the end of Microsoft’s stranglehold on IT?

August 28, 2007  8:42 PM

Microsoft’s unified productivity killer

Cliff Saran Profile: Cliff Saran
Microsoft, presence, privacy

Microsoft is planning to ship Office Communications Server 2007 in October. There is nothing new about the idea of a single InBox for email, voicemail, faxes etc. It’s new to Microsoft and no doubt the company will make a big thing about how Office Communications Server will make us all more productive.

I’m not convinced. It includes the concept of Presence – the idea of being able to tell if someone is available. I used to use MS Instant Messenger and Presence is a genuine productivity killer.

Yes it’s fine to be able to know that someone is free, but it relies on the user having to update their Presence each time they walk over to the coffee machine, have a chat and a laugh with a colleague, go to the toilet, leave for the train, get home, go to the pub, have dinner, watch TV and go to bed.

It’s an infringement on our personal privacy. And if we dare say we’re “Not Available” or “Busy”, Presence status become a bit like the “DO NOT DISTURB” notice you put outside your hotel room when you’ve got lucky. Why am I still busy, why am I not available, what have I been up to all day?

August 22, 2007  8:14 PM

Green memory

Cliff Saran Profile: Cliff Saran
DDR, Green IT, Memory, Moore's Law

I was speaking to Micron earlier. This company is developing DDR2 memory based on a 78-nanometer fabrication process. Now what’s interesting here is that by reducing the size of the transistors, thanks to the 78-nanometer process, the chip actually consumes less power. This means Micron has been able to reduce voltage down to 1.5v from 1.8v.

Now the problem is that the fabrication process allows manufacturers to squeeze even more transistors in the same space. More transistors mean more power. Basically, the power savings are eradicated.

It’s a bit of cat and mouse. But as Micron points out a 2 Gbyte DDR memory chip will actually consume less power than two 1 Gbyte DDR chips. Still, I say, we should aim to write more efficient code – that way we can both speed up application performance and realise the power saving benefits of this type of new technology.

August 20, 2007  2:13 PM

Who’s to blame for Skype’s downtime

Cliff Saran Profile: Cliff Saran
Downtime, Microsoft, Skype, Software Quality

Skype is now back online. But why did it fail? Villu Arak, writing on site stated:

The Skype peer-to-peer network became unstable and suffered a critical disruption. The disruption was triggered by a massive restart of our users’ computers across the globe within a very short timeframe as they re-booted after receiving a routine set of patches through Windows Update.

It looks like Microsoft’s August 14th patch update may be the root cause for Skype spectacular crash. Skype user who downloaded the monthly MS patch had their PCs reboot as part of the update, causing them to restart and login to Skype. This led to a flood of log-in requests. According to Arak, combined with the lack of peer-to-peer network resources, this prompted a chain reaction that had a critical impact – in effect, it was a massive denial of service attack caused by Skype users all trying to login at the same time.

The key question is who is responsible. Should Microsoft be held accountable. Perhaps Windows Update could be reengineered to stagger updates? Maybe the users are at fault as they all tried logging in at the same time. Or Skype should have foreseen these circumstances and worked around such am occurrence.

What Skype’s downtime does show is the fragility of modern IT systems to external factors.

August 8, 2007  9:55 PM

Green is not in Oracle’s vocabulary

Cliff Saran Profile: Cliff Saran
Green IT, inefficiency, Oracle, Software Quality

As I mentioned yesterday, I met up with Oracle president Charles Phillips this morning.

As I suspected, Phillips discussed Oracle’s acquisition strategy, how this had improved support and maintenance, the company’s Fusion middleware and its importance as a standards-based service oriented architecture.

So no surprises here then. However, I did quiz Phillips on Oracle’s green credentials. His first remark to me was that green was a problem for the hardware guys. When I clarified my question by suggesting Oracle relied on high performance hardware and therefore did have a green IT responsibility, he mentioned that the new database offered compression technology and hierarchical storage, which meant users could put data on less power-hungry disc arrays and storage systems.

The answer was not what I expected from one of the world’s largest software companies.

Continued »

August 7, 2007  8:00 PM

Have you seen Oracle h?

Cliff Saran Profile: Cliff Saran
11g, 12i, Hyperion, Maintenance, Oracle, PeopleSoft, Retek, Siebel

Tomorrow, Oracle president Charles Phillips is in London. It’s an interesting time for Oracle. No doubt he’ll be covering how good the new 11g database is; why the 12i enterprise software is brilliant and how well Fusion middleware and the Fusion strategy are doing.

I guess he won’t be talking about “Oracle h”, something Oracle users have been asking for since the company went on a spending spree buying PeopleSoft (and JD Edwards thrown in), Retek, Siebel and Hyperion among others.

Please halt Oracle. With the multi-billion pound acqusitions of the last few years, people out there must be wondering, even wishing Oracle could just stop buying big software companies and concentrate instead on making what it has work well together with seamless integration, consistent licensing and support. It may look good for shareholders and the City, thanks to the lucrative maintenance revenue stream of the companies it has acquired, but I wonder if Phillips honestly believes the billions spent have actually improved customer satisfaction among the installed base of loyal Oracle users.

August 6, 2007  8:34 PM

Facebook: a remedy for spam…

Cliff Saran Profile: Cliff Saran
The next big thing

I wonder if Facebook could be used in business? Using the theory of six degrees of separation, it could be used to create a hierarchical network of people you know starting with your friends or primary contacts, the first degree; their friends and contacts, the second degree and so on.

Spam filters today run complex textural analysis based on dictonaires of sexually explicit terms, Viagra, fake Rolexes etc. This blog posting itself may well end up in someone’s junk email basket due to the phrases used in the previous sentence. And that’s the problem: spam filters are prone to “false positives” – where a legitimate message is wrongly identified as spam.

Facebook illustrates how a social network can be built very quickly among people who share common interests. It is not perfect, but with a little work, I think it could form the basis of an Internet-wide address book, allowing friends, colleagues and business associates to exchange email without spam.

August 2, 2007  6:52 PM

Upgrade or buy new?

Cliff Saran Profile: Cliff Saran
Green IT, upgrade

This week I have posted blogs on how to upgrade an old PC and installing more memory. The main lesson I ‘ve taken away from my upgrade is that it is pretty easy and there is a genuine improvement in the performance of Windows XP, my web browsing experience, files seem to open quicker and multimedia really flies. I think the general responsiveness of the PC has improved dramatically: it’s like a new machine.

Now, while businesses may well choose to buy new PCs every couple of years, the old ones can always be upgraded relatively easily and at low cost to make them work better. Now Dell, HP, Lenovo and others can sell a brand new budget desktop under the £300 mark (such as Dell’s Vostro 200 Mini Tower), offering dual core, x64 memory addressing, 2Gbytes of dual channel memory. But the cost of any new PC is much more than simply its purchase price.

Think of the environmental impact from its manufacture to when it arrives on your desk; installation of your software environment and disposal of the PC it replaces. These all add up. Perhaps it is worth spending a little time, effort and money upgrading instead.

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