Cliff Saran’s Enterprise blog

July 16, 2007  7:45 PM

Say no to default passwords

Cliff Saran Profile: Cliff Saran
Security, Wi-Fi

Wireless routers are so easy to setup. You just plug them in and off they go. This is what the wireless router companies and the sales staff in the big computer retailer wants us to think.

Plug them in; forget security; dont worry about the default password; let’s make the wireless router easy to hack.

At home I can see six wireless networks. Worryingly, only mine’s secure. The war-chalking marking on the pavement outside points out the culprits. A few years ago a chap from Intel admitted to me that he’d been using his neighbour’s wireless Internet connection for six months. He only found out when IT took his laptop in for an upgrade and was promptly warned of the security risk he had posed.

Why cant it be as easy to configure security as it is to plug the router in? One of my colleages spent a day browsing websites to get all the information he needed to configure his router, including the rather useful ipconfig /all tool hidden in Windows XP. Wireless router manufacturers have a huge responsibility. They must make these devices secure by default and the documentation should be written in Plain English to explain, in a jargon-free way how to set up a secure wireless LAN. How difficult can that be?

July 13, 2007  5:16 PM

Security in the hands of the ignorant

Cliff Saran Profile: Cliff Saran

You know what they say about end users. They can’t be trusted. On my train journey home today I sat across from a woman on her mobile to someone or other. Even to my untrained ear, it was pretty obvious she was trying to discretely give out her login details to the person on the other end of the phone. First, she gave out her maiden name; then her password “rainbow1”. And to make sure we didn’t make a mistake she added, “The number one.” Oh and then she gave out her postcode. A person less scrupulous than me would have got her address, gone through the recycling bins and picked out a carelessly discarded utility bill or bank statement. I bet she’s the type of person who clicks on the “too good to be true” email offer or gives out her login details for a free pen.

With end users like her, who needs enemies? They are the weakest link. It’s no wonder anti-virus and security software is a multi-billion pound industry.

July 12, 2007  7:13 PM

Hot xbox 360 – Internet meltdown

Cliff Saran Profile: Cliff Saran
data-centre, Energy efficiency, Green IT

An article by Charles Arthur in today’s Guardian highlights a growing problem for xbox 360 owners – the thing runs so hot, it overheats causing some kind of component failure. So it’s not only poorly engineered – I suspect the xbox 360 is not particularly green either.

The reason I mention this is that Microsoft is planning to offer a high definition video on demand service for the xbox 360. That means households with an xbox 360 and broadband will be able to download 50 Gbyte movies over the Internet.

Call me a cynic but how will the Internet cope with thousands upon thousands of 50 Gbyte downloads every day? It could end up like one permanent denial of service attack as all the bandwidth gets consumed. The only people to make big money out of this will be the network companies, the people who own bandwidth and companies like Akamai that offer content networks to move the data closer to the consumer. Will BT’s 21CN cope?

Continued »

July 11, 2007  8:41 PM

Microsoft software assurance: where is the value?

Cliff Saran Profile: Cliff Saran
Licensing, Microsoft, Software Assurance

In spite of the weather, it is July. This year is the 6th anniversary of Software Assurance (SA), Microsoft’s controversial subscription licensing scheme. Through the three year subscription, users pay 29% of the licence fee per year for desktop software or 25% for server software. Those who bought into in July 2001, and decided to renew in 2004, will be looking renew again this month. Or will they?

Maybe not, according to Julie Giera, a research vice president at Forrester Research. The main benefit of software assurance is the right to get a free upgrade to the next release of the product covered by the scheme. But, as Giera points out, Microsoft’s product roadmap is not exactly set in concrete. It’s easy to miss out on the free upgrade.

Over a quarter of the people Forrester spoke to have no plans to renew their software assurance subscription. Is software assurance a good buy?

July 10, 2007  10:15 PM

VMWare London Symposia: let’s tackle the issues

Cliff Saran Profile: Cliff Saran
IBM, Licensing, Microsoft, Oracle, Support, VMware

Around 800 people turned up at The Brewery, Chiswell Street for what was VMWare’s largest UK event. The company gave a quick overview on some of the new areas it was working on like memory and processor optimisation and VM management.

The Big Question that I didn’t really get a good answer to was the support and licensing issue I’ve been blogging on these last few weeks.

Was I wrong to raise this question of licensing Oracle and IBM software for deployment on a VMWare soft partition, or the Microsoft support issue?

The majority of those 800 were VMWare users after all – how are they getting around these issues?

Continued »

July 9, 2007  7:52 PM

Tackle green IT, make virtualisation affordable

Cliff Saran Profile: Cliff Saran
data-centre, Energy efficiency, Green IT, Licensing, Virtualisation, VMware

Tomorrow I’m attending a conference in London organised by VMWare – VMware Symposia 2007. It should be an interesting day, not least because I’m keen to see what people really feel about the licensing and support issues I have touched on previously.

With IBM, Oracle and Microsoft making it extremely difficult to deploy products like VMWare cost-effectively in a production environment, I began wondering whether people really were implementing production systems using server virtualisation.

I have been in correspondence with Scott Lowe about this, who found several examples of VMWare in production. Scott says:

It’s right to point out the deficiencies that the major software firms have in their licensing and support policies – but it’s also right to point out that they are behind the times.

Scott believes these large software players will be left behind. Perhaps so.

Continued »

July 6, 2007  3:26 PM

InBox woes – unlimited bandwidth is a bad thing

Cliff Saran Profile: Cliff Saran
ASCII, attachments, Bandwidth, Email, Storage

I hate people who send 5Mbyte attachments or larger in unsolicited email messages. I didn’t ask for it; why are you sending this to me? Moreover, I’m not the only recipient. Several colleagues have also received the same information, and the same 5 MByte attachment. Great.

Are these people paid on commission by our enterprise storage supplier, or our ISP? Wake up. STORAGE AND BANDWIDTH IS NOT FREE. Do us all a favour and stop abusing email.

Email is a wholly inadequate a medium for distributing big files. Such large files could simply be downloaded from a website. If you must email me, just send over the link and an explanation note or whatever in plain and simple ASCII – no need for logos, graphics or formatted text either. Thank you.

July 5, 2007  7:54 PM

Just £35 for a PC…

Cliff Saran Profile: Cliff Saran

Occasionally I come across something that just seems totally unbelievable. I received such an email earlier today. A company called NComputing is about to make a big push in the UK with what appears to be a thin client device, screen, keyboard and mouse plus software to turn existing PCs into a server farm…all for £35 per client.

A quick scout of the NComputer site and it seems the company offers low cost computing for schools, small business users and in the developing world.

The device looks pretty basic, but for the first time in ages I feel here is something that may really make a big difference…if it actually works. Has anyone had any experience with the NComputing devices?

July 4, 2007  11:41 PM

eBay Mozilla companion – why?

Cliff Saran Profile: Cliff Saran
Ebay, Firefox, Licensing, Open source

Ebay’s big launch this week was a Firefox add-in called the Firefox Companion for eBay . What? It’s a sidebar in the Mozilla Firefox browser that lets buyers watch the status of all the items they are bidding for. Obviously, this news was big enough for the company to hire out a posh pub in Smithfield and get a couple of hundred people in for some free booze.

Not a bad life eh?

Well, I did have a good conversation with eBay’s Jonathan Gabbai, who worked on the project. What struck me about the Firefox add-in is not the software itself but, the fact that eBay has had to work with Mozilla, and the open source community. This means the code for the add-in will eventually be made available as open source, under the Mozilla public licensing agreement.

July 3, 2007  8:36 PM

Can we cut down e-waste with upgradeable hardware?

Cliff Saran Profile: Cliff Saran
BIOS, e-waste, Green IT, PC, upgrade

I wish PC hardware could be reconfigured, directly through software, to prevent everyone having to upgrade every few years to support new chipsets, processors, memory architectures and buses.

In an article on the BBC’s website last November, the United Nations explained the extent of electronic waste:

United Nations Environment Programme estimates that up to 50 million tonnes of waste from discarded electronic goods is generated annually.

Cut down on upgrades and we cut down on e-waste.

Of course we have firmware upgrades, but this just affects the BIOS. I’m talking about the ability to reprogramme the micro code in an x86 processor, to switch on new functionality; programmable gate arrays that can be reconfigured through software to improve hardware performance.

I bet the hardware companies must think I’m mad. But I believe the gap between an older generation PC and the latest spec is getting smaller and smaller. Soon, PC buyers simply won’t see the value of an incremental upgrade.

Instead, why not shift to revenue based on services, where the PC hardware can be completely upgraded via the Internet. The user simply pays for the upgrade when they need it and there is no need to buy a completely new box. The only time a PC will need to be shipped back to the manufacturer is if a component fails and needs replacing.

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