Windows 7 on a MAC…hmmm…why?

This story from CrunchGear featuring  Windows 7 being launched on NBC’s Today Show pokes some fun at an older MacBook showing up as a prop in the background.They never actually use it but there’s no reason it wouldn’t work.

win7-macbook

With the move of Macs away from Motorola chips and to Intel processors, running Windows on your Apple computer isn’t all that difficult. Of course die-hard Mac users wrinkle their noses up in disgust and ask why would you want to? But for business computer users it is an acceptable alternative and for many it resolves the dilemma they face when being forced to choose between WindowsPCs and Macs. Now they can use both. In the same computer!

Getting back to why . . .  some folks like Mac computers for their personal use and have used them for years but when they move into corporate computing they are often forced to use a Windows based PC. Traditional IT departments, outsourced organizations and infrastructure doesn’t support Apple computer technologies based in both technology and cultural mindsets. Custom and legacy business software applications are developed for PCs and not the Mac operating system known as MacOS – AKA Snow Leopard, the current version. Up until recently this has created the separation between the two. It seems that Apple is positioning their computers for business users by supporting the use of Windows on their hardware and providing support in their new MacOS for some enterprise tools such MS Exchange for email subscribers using MS Outlook. Microsoft makes a few versions of Office for the Mac and the files are transportable between either PC or Mac platforms.

Windows XP can and does run on the Intel based Mac computers in parallel with the MacOS. Windows Vista never was a choice but Windows 7 has been used during the pre-release period and now with the official release versions. There are two ways to do this.

Boot Camp lets you choose between MacOS or Windows when you first boot up your Mac. When you boot into Windows (XP or Windows 7) your Mac runs just like a PC. To get back to the world of Apple just reboot and choose the MacOS. There are folks who need both environments at the same time and by using software utilities such as Parallels or VMWare Fusion you boot into the MacOS and start up a Windows session in a window. You can swap data between the two environments and with this dual personality Mac users can get the best of both worlds.

Just so you know, I represent a company that sells computer hardware and we carry both PCs and Macs. My customers are home based consumers and business folks. Our techs setup Windows XP & 7 on Macs on a regular basis and it seems to work well for those folks who need both operating systems.

BTW: Hulu.com won’t show the video outside of the US but you can watch it on the NBC Today Show site by clicking here.

Dean

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Apple’s billion dollar endorsement of cloud computing

Apple is building a huge data centre in North Carolina which will cost them one billion dollars over the next ten years. Apple has a culture of secrecy regarding their actions and this activity is no exception. Industry experts and Apple watchers speculate that this Apple data centre will provide the storage capacity required for Apple’s move into cloud computing. Service offerings will range from document storage, movies, music, pictures and Apple’s yet to be announced online application services. They are not alone in building new data centres. Microsoft and Google are also busy expanding their storage capacities to meet the expected needs of the future of cloud computing. It appears that this investment is Apple’s endorsement and show of support for cloud computing.

data-center sign
Flickr photo - Kathika - Creative Commons lisc.

Dean

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Top 5 Technologies for 2009-2011

Following is a list of the top five technologies which will have an impact on how businesses use IT in their operation in the next few years. This is based on a larger list from Gartner Research targeted towards large enterprises but we have picked out the items more relevant to small and medium enterprises. Why do they these matter to your business? They will help you maximise the effective use of IT while driving down costs associated with traditional IT models. Many are easy to setup and low cost to implement. If they work for global enterprises, they’ll work for you.

1. Virtualization

(Definition: Hardware based virtual machines allow the sharing of the physical computer resources between different virtual machines, each running its own operating system. Examples: Running Windows XP on an Apple Mac OS X computer, consolidating many different servers into a single server box.)

Server virtualization is already being used to consolodate multiple boxes into single servers. Storage virtualization offers simplified access by pooling systems and can save big money with storage deduplication. In terms of storage virtualization, deduplication could be a huge money saver because every enterprise has tons of duplicate versions of files clogging up their servers. Desktop virtualization allows users to have a portable personality across multiple systems, delivering a thick client experience with a thin client delivery model. The biggest factor that could drive desktop virtualization will be the advent of low-cost $300-$500 thin clients (nettops & netbooks) based on Intel Atom processors.

2. Cloud Computing

(Definition: Where applications and software services are provided from the internet versus LAN based servers or running locally on desktop/laptop computers. Examples: Google Docs, ZOHO.com, Microsoft Azure)

You need to be very careful about all of the hype, but you need to take it very seriously as well. Deduplication, remote & mobile accessibility, consistency in versions and lower maintenance costs are some of the advantages to cloud computing. It can allow IT to move a significant amount of money from capital expenditures to operating expenditures. Instead of tying up capital in unused infrastructure with cloud computing you only need to pay for what you use, when you use it.

3. Enterprise Mashups

(Definition: Mashups mix content from multiple sources by using feeds from application programming interfaces (APIs). Example: portals.)

Enterprises are now investigating taking mashups from cool Web hobby to enterprise-class systems to augment their models for delivering and managing applications. Portals allow a single sign on point with all required corporate applications accessed from a single point. The advantage comes from efficiency and manageability.

4. Unified Communications

(Definition: The integration of communication services such as voicemail, e-mail, SMS, fax, instant messaging (chat), presence information, IP telephony and video conferencing. Example: BlackBerry accessing applications such as a web browser, texting and email clients which can also be accessed from a desktop computer.)

Enterprises are realizing that they have multiple products and vendors performing the same communications functions, and that this redundancy creates additional expense, makes it more difficult for users to learn, and increases the complexity of integration. Some companies such as Cisco see the desk phone becoming a video and data device. Others see the desk phone going away and mobile phones (with both a business number and a personal number) becoming the sole voice device for most business users.

5. Green IT

(Definition: Green computing is the study and practice of using computing resources efficiently. Example: energy efficient equipment, recycling equipment and printing/document management.)

Many businesses are looking at energy efficiency or ‘green’ products simply for the practical advantages in energy savings. Some companies are emphasizing green activities as part of their social responsibility. Energy will be one of the pre-eminent public concerns of the next decade and energy conservation will be an important part of the discussion. IT departments need to act now to start measuring the energy consumption of IT infrastructure and looking for strategic opportunities to reduce it, before they are forced to act due to government intervention.

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Repair & replace your computers – a blended approach

Intel released a report on the costs associated with extending the life of old computers versus refreshing with new models.  This report is more than an attempt to sell more computers. The fact is, they are right on target in their evaluation of Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). Computers have a limited life cycle both from a physical and use perspective. An old computer is like an old car, it can nickel and dime you to death and eventually leave you stranded when you need it the most. But with today’s tough economic climate many small and medium enterprises are delaying the refresh in an attempt to save cash. Deferring any refreshing of equipment is a false economy and will cost you big time later on. There are other options available though.

The best strategy is a blend of replace and repair.

  • Evaluate your current computer inventory based on age and the role it plays in your operation, critical or non-critical;
  • Refresh critical equipment with new purchases;
  • Replace what is at the end of its life with new equipment;
  • Upgrade the rest to a minimum performance standard;
  • Assign some budget money to cover the cost  of repairs, current and future.

An important trap to avoid is the creation of ‘Frankenstein’ computers. This is when parts from a variety of PCs are thrown together to create a working unit. A drive from this one, a power supply from another, an HP system board in a DELL case, etc. This is a creative approach for the geeks but doesn’t make good sense from a business perspective.

It’s pretty simple really. If your computers need to work to support your business, make sure they are in working condition.

Dean

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Alberta Health Services IT breach – vigilance urged

Taken from a news release posted on the Alberta Government website:

July 8, 2009
Commissioner urges vigilance in wake of computer virus outbreak at Alberta Health Services

The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner has been notified by Alberta Health Services that a virus was present on the Alberta Health Services network in Edmonton. The virus impacted the network and Netcare, Alberta’s electronic health record, before it was discovered and removed.

You can read more about it here . . . Google Links. This follows the theft of two computers from a UofA medical lab a few months ago which contained un-encrypted patient information. The laptops were chained to a desk in a locked room!

Vigilance is the key word here and should apply to any and all businesses that value their data and want to keep it private. These were computer based breaches but we need to apply vigilance across our organizations which include any form of access to data and confidential information. You need to review, evaluate and enforce any policies and procedures regarding how you and your people manage and handle confidential data whether it’s computer based or paper based. Let’s not forget the two recent incidents where Federal officials mishandled confidential and top secret paper documents.

How important is securing your data? Ask yourself this: would you want to do business with an organization who were slack in securing your personal information?

Dean

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Desktop PCs losing out to mobile computing, but not dead yet

According to a recent report, sales of new desktop computers are dropping compared to mobile computers such as notebooks and net-books. Not surprising considering we are all more mobile and need to be connected where ever we are. According to one report desktop computers still capture 47% of the new computer sales market.

Desktop computers still offer great value for money. Most are well spec’d for the price when compared to portables. Easier to upgrade when you want to extend their life or improve performance. A 24″ monitor connected to a desktop PC is easy to look at. Large laptops (17″-18″) are nice but extremely heavy and hard on battery life. There’s also the long-term maintenance issues to consider. Desktop cases have better ventilation when compared to laptops. As a result they are less likely to overheat the internal components and suffer from premature failure. Replacing internal components in a desktop box is cheaper and offers more options when compared to a laptop.

What we are seeing now is a turn around from previous years. Where laptops where niche and special purpose only five years ago they are now becoming standard computers for most of us. Desktops still have a role to play in the corporate environment but they are becoming the new niche technology.

Proposed Cloud/Desktop Model

Proposed Cloud/Desktop Model

Following is a quick sketch of a new desktop computer model. It combines the cloud (application and data) with desktop PCs (MAC, PC and Linux) both corporate and personally owned. I’m working on a full white-paper with details on the business rationale and the tech specs. I’m hopping this sketch will encourage some discussion out in the community and I look forward to hearing from you with whatever you have to say about this.

 

The problem(s) we are trying to solve…

1. access to applications…

  •  
    • the need for standardized enterprise apps;
    • implementation of current patches and service packs installed;
    • cost efficient applications;
    • current applications available when needed;
    • current application versions available when needed.

2. access to data…

  •  
    • reduce and eliminate redundancy;
    • data in multiple locations, some of which may be inaccessible when needed;
    • standardized data formats and file types.

3. secure data…

  •  
    • central repository of data which is secure from theft, intrusion and loss;
    • consistent backup of all corporate data available when needed for disaster recovery and legislative compliance;
    • confidential and private data on mobile storage (HDD, CD/DVD or RAM sticks) with no encryption.

4. consistent desktop software environments…

  •  
    • regardless of which computer an employee uses it will have the same look and feel;
    • a standardized environment which contains any and all enterprise software and utilities based on employee’s role.

5. use of personally owned desktop computers for corporate business…

  •  
    • allow employees to work from home;
    • allow employees to make use of personal choices in desktop computing;
    • create a secure environment for corporate data on potentially non-secure desktop computers.

The solutions…

By combining many new and emerging technologies we are able to provide solutions to the above problems. The problems are diverse but converge at a single point – people who need access to corporate resources. Typically this is via a desktop computer. Since non-desktop computer devices are more in line with modern web access models and in some cases even have constraints in access modes, we will leave them out of this model.

Links to Desktop Virtualization

 

Nortel Office-on-a-Stick

Desktop Virtualization Portal

VMware

Microsoft Desktop Virtualization

Wikipedia

ZDNet – Compliance Issues

ZDNet – White-paper on Virualization

Virtual Machines for the Web Worker

Let me know what you think . . .

Dean

Is your leader computer illiterate?

While taking a quick break, I caught a CNN piece on the comparative computer literacy between Obama and McCain. McCain admits to being computer illiterate and they showed a video clip of Obama almost walking into a concrete flower pot while reading his blackberry. Even George W gets into the piece when he says that people get on the internets to dial-up information. I am not getting into a political discussion on Obama vs. McCain here and I never will. But it got me to thinking about the computer literacy of company leaders and senior executives and how it affects the role of IT in an enterprise.

Is your CEO computer illiterate? Even if they are – does it matter? What really matters is that they understand the value of computing and IT within the organization. It is important that they see the value of IT as a strategic business tool. Even if they ask their assistant to print out all of their email messages so they can read them they can still leverage IT to gain an edge in the marketplace.

Is your CIO computer illiterate? No really! Does your CIO or IT Director or IT Manager embrace technology, love it, use it and evangelize its value to the organization and the world at large? Or do they view it as a beast that needs to be beaten into submission with heavy handed management strategies? I’ve talked to CIOs and IT Managers who seemed to be genuinely afraid of technology.

I was talking to a CIO on cell phone and he asked me to call him back on a land line (his end and my end) because he ‘didn’t like these damn cell phones’. An uncomfortable feeling came over me because of the way he said it. Was he talking about the particular model of phone he was using or because he had poor reception in the location he was at?  My gut told me he didn’t like technology all that much. Further into our conversation on land line it occurred to me that he was a manager first and an IT guy last. Although he had been in IT management in some form or other for almost twenty years the things he said tipped me off to the fact that he didn’t really like technology all that much. His job was to ‘manage’ technology. That was why the senior executive had just hired him into the CIO spot. His purpose in the life of the enterprise was to bring some order to chaos. He outlined to me the value of ITIL and how ‘processes’ and strict adherence to ‘procedures’ would allow him to turn things around. When I told him that I was heavily involved in Web 2.0 as a business tool ‘you know, things like wikis and blogs and social networking’, he replied that he had seen lots of fads come and go in his time and this would pass too. Letting users tell the IT department how to run technology is what created all the problems this company hired him to fix. At the end of the conversation he advised me to forget all about consumer driven fluff and focus on ‘managing’ IT. It would be good for my career.

Another IT Manager asked me to FAX him some information because he didn’t trust email. What? When I told him I didn’t have a fax machine (and I don’t) he said just put it into an envelope and mail it to him. So I did – I put all of the documentation in PDF format with hyperlinks along with some audio and video files on a CD and snail-mailed it to him. I never heard back from him. Maybe he didn’t trust CD’s because they make whirring noises and if you looked at the laser light you could go blind! And this guy was an IT Manager!

Maybe these are odd and unusual examples that I just happened to stumble upon. I think they are. On the other hand I always listen closely to what IT Managers say when they talk about technology. Most aren’t like the two examples above but some show signs of fear and hints of illiteracy. Time for retirement? Maybe!

Dean

 

Lost: data and personal information

Here we go again . . . here is an article from ZDNet … NY Bank ‘loses’ 4.5M unencrypted customer records.

And talk about timing – as I was reading that article, Jennifer Stoddart , Privacy Commissioner of Canada, was on BNN TV talking about data loss. She was to the point and articulate and I really enjoyed listening to her. (NOTE: they are fast over at BNN.ca but the clip hasn’t been posted online yet as I write this. But it will be later  – check it out!)

At the heart of it all was unencrypted data lost over and over again in the same fashion, for the same reasons. The example she gave was of data downloaded to a notebook pc and then the computer would be stolen out of the car it was left in. It seemed to me that MS. Stoddart said something about hearing this story over and over again. (I’ve seen computers with confidential corporate data on the hard drives stolen right out offices). When asked why companies didn’t apply appropriate security to their data, she replied that it was based on cost. As an example she told us about TJX and how investigation has determined that it had been decided by the TJX executives to not implement tighter security prior to the incident because it would cost too much and would affect their profit. Or words to that effect. It’s all about risk management, TJX gambled – and lost. (Don’t get me wrong, I shop at one of their stores and I really enjoy it – they have some great stuff that you can’t get anywhere else. And by the way, I never use my credit card.)

But I’ve been there too and I quote…”Keeping all data on protected servers is just not in the budget! It’s just too inconvenient to not be able to take my data home (or to a conference or a vacation or where-ever) and work on it. I burn everything to CD’s – it’s my backup in case the IT department misplaces it (or) I delete it by accident!”

Is this a good case for ‘cloud computing’? If data lives somewhere other than a local hard-drive is it safer? What about 8Gb USB memory sticks? Should the IT departments fill up USB ports with epoxy as part of their standard desktop configurations? The bank mentioned in the ZDNet article lost their data back-up tape – should they ship their tapes with armed-guards like they do with money?

I used to read this site all of the time but I got tired of seeing the same things over and over . . . but I still wander by once in awhile just in case my name might be on one of data breaches they report on.

www.pogowasright.org

Dean

AIIM report on Enterprise 2.0

Thanks to IT World Canada for linking to this item from AIIM – the enterprise content management association … Enterprise 2.0 – What’s The Real Story! 

The headline from IT World Canada reads: Enterprise 2.0 report: IT managers take back seat. Read the article to get their take on the report from AIIM – but in a nutshell it talks about the fact that IT managers are most likely to be number 3 in leading their organization in web 2.0 or enterprise 2.0.

I’m not surprised! Why should they be the leaders in Enterprise 2.0? Other than the fact that it uses some technology to function, Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 really have nothing to do with the IT department. The IT World Canada author (Shane Schick) did a good thing when he included the quote from OpenText’s Bill Forquer, executive vice-president of marketing,…..

“We’ve seen that with records management over the last number of years. Something like Enron happens and the awareness of records management and policies is suddenly a boardroom-level conversation,” he said. “Part of the business and IT groups that are focused on work-group effectiveness and collaboration could actually benefit from 2.0 technologies and capabilities.”

Records management has it’s own set of experts so why should IT management have anything to do with RM other than providing support for the technology. The same thing happened with web services.

Many years ago when the world wide web first appeared to average computer users, there was lots of denial by IT departments to support it. Eventually the web made it’s way into the enterprise and web services ended up in other departments or divisions such as marketing. There are stories galore of where IT managers did everything from ignoring it to aggressively stand in the way of web being adopted by the organization. Needless to say they were run over and in some cases may even appear to embrace it.

I see the history of web repeating itself with Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0. We are at the point where some get it, most don’t but eventually the enterprise will make it a part of their daily operation and we will grind to a halt when it stops working or they try to take it away from us.

Dean