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Normally, when EMC fails, it is worth a giggle. Companies are run by humans, and nobody is perfect. However, their latest one, failing to defend their RSA SecurID two-factor website, is no laughing matter. Breaches like this undermine the trust needed for business and commerce to be done with Information Technology, so it affects the entire IT industry.
(FTC Disclosure: I do not work or have any financial investments in either EMC nor ENC Security Systems. Neither EMC nor ENC Security Systems paid me to mention them on this blog. Their mention in this blog is not an endorsement of either company or their products. Information about EMC was based solely on publicly available information made available by EMC and others. My friends at ENC Security Systems provided me an evaluation license for their latest software release so that I could confirm the use cases posed in this post.)
Of course, EMC did the right thing by making this breach public in an [Open Letter to RSA Customers]. While this may affect their revenues, as clients question whether they should do business with EMC, or affect their stock price, as investors question whether they should invest in EMC, they were very clear and public that the breach occurred. As far as I know, none of the executives of the RSA security division have stepped down. The disclosure of the breach was the right thing to do, and required by law from the [US Securities Exchange Commission]. This law was created to prevent companies from trying to hide breaches that expose external client information.
The breach does not affect RSA public/private key pairs used by IBM and most every other large company. Rather, this breach was targeted to RSA SecurID two-factor authentication. I explained two-factor authentication in my blog post [Day 5 Grid, SOA and Cloud Computing - System x KVM solutions], but basically it is an added level of security, requiring something you know (your password) with something you have (such as a magnetic card or key fob). Both are required to gain access to the system.
Breaches happen. Recently, [Hackers found vulnerabilities in the McAfee.com website]. Last month, fellow blogger Chuck Hollis from EMC had a blog post on [Understanding Advanced Persistent Threats (APT)] in the week leading up to their RSA Conference. It was precisely an APT that hit RSA, so the irony of this breach was not lost on the blogosphere. Perhaps Chuck's blog post gave hackers the idea to do this, like saying "I hope terrorists don't bomb this building that hold all of our chemical weapons..." or "I hope bank robbers don't rob this repository where we keep all the cash..."
(The sinister counter-theory, that EMC staged this breach as a marketing stunt to undermine trust in hybrid or public cloud offerings, such as those offered by IBM, Amazon or Salesforce.com, offers an interesting twist. While computer breaches in general are fodder for [Luddites] to argue we should not use computers at all, this particular breach could be used by EMC salesmen to encourage their customers to choose private cloud over hybrid cloud or public cloud deployments. Given all the extra work that RSA SecurID customers have to now do to harden their environments, that would be in bad taste.)
Over on Mashable, Simon Crosby argues [Why the Cloud Is Actually the Safest Place for Your Data]. I am sure we have not heard the last of the implications of this RSA breach. For now, I have two recommendations for you.
Advanced Persistent Threats, viruses and other malware are no laughing matter. If you are concerned about security, contact IBM to help you assess your current environment and help you plan a robust protection strategy.
Well, it's that Back-To-School time again! Mo's thirteen-year-old reluctantly enters the eight grade, still upset the summer ended so abruptly. Richard's nephew returns to the University of Arizona for another year. Natalie has chosen to move to Phoenix and pursue a post-grad degree at Arizona State University. They all have two things in common, they all want a new computer, and they are all on a budget.
Fellow blogger Bob Sutor (IBM) pointed me to an excellent article on [How to Build Your Own $200 PC], which reminded me of the [XS server I built] for my 2008 Google Summer of Code project with the One Laptop per Child organization. Now that the project is over, I have upgraded it to Ubuntu Desktop 10.04 LTS, known as Lucid Lynx. Building your own PC with your student is a great learning experience in itself. Of course, this is just the computer itself, you still need to buy the keyboard, mouse and video monitor separately, if you don't already have these.
If you are not interested in building a PC from scratch, consider taking an old Windows-based PC and installing Linux to bring it new life. Many of the older PCs don't have enough processor or memory to run Windows Vista or the latest Windows 7, but they will all run Linux.
(If you think your old system has resale value, try checking out the ["trade-in estimator"] at the BestBuy website to straighten out your misperception. However, if you do decide to sell your system, consider replacing the disk drive with a fresh empty one, or wipe the old drive clean with one of the many free Linux utilities. Jason Striegel on Engadget has a nice [HOWTO Erase your old hard disk drive] article. If you don't have your original manufacturer's Windows installation discs, installing Linux instead may help keep you out of legal hot water.)
Depending on what your school projects require, you want to make sure that you can use a printer or scanner with your Linux system. Don't buy a printer unless it is supported by Linux. The Linux Foundation maintains a [Printer Compatability database]. Printing was one of the first things I got working for my Linux-based OLPC laptop, which I documented in my December 2007 post [Printing on XO Laptop with CUPS and LPR] and got a surprising following over at [OLPC News].
To reduce paper, many schools are having students email their assignments, or use Cloud Computing services like Google Docs. Both the University of Arizona and Arizona State University use Google Docs, and the students I have talked with love the idea. Whether they use a Mac, Linux or Windows PC, all students can access Google Docs through their browser. An alternative to Google Docs is Windows Live Skydrive, which has the option to upload and edit the latest Office format documents from the Firefox browser on Linux. Both offer you the option to upload GBs of files, which could be helpful transferring data from an old PC to a new one.
Lastly, there are many free video games for Linux, for when you need to take a break from all that studying. Ever since IBM's [36-page Global Innovation Outlook 2.0] study showed that playing video games made you a better business leader, I have been encouraging all students that I tutor or mentor that playing games is a more valuable use of your time than watching television. IBM considers video games the [future of learning]. Even the [Violent Video Games are Good for Kids]. It is no wonder that IBM provides the technology that runs all the major game platforms, including Microsoft Xbox360, Nintendo Wii and Sony PlayStation.
(FTC disclosure: I work for IBM. IBM has working relationships with Apple, Google, Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony. I use both Google Docs and Microsoft Live Skydrive for personal use, and base my recommendations purely on my own experience. I own stock in IBM, Google and Apple. I have friends and family that work at Microsoft. I own an Apple Mac Mini and Sony PlayStation. I was a Linux developer earlier in my IBM career. IBM considers Linux a strategic operating system for both personal and professional use. IBM has selected Firefox as its standard browser internally for all employees. I run Linux both at home and at the office. I graduated from the University of Arizona, and have friends who either work or take classes there, as well as at Arizona State University.)
Linux skills are marketable and growing more in demand. Linux is used in everything from cellphones to mainframes, as well as many IBM storage devices such as the IBM SAN Volume Controller, XIV and ProtecTIER data deduplication solution. In addition to writing term papers, spreadsheets and presentations with OpenOffice, your Linux PC can help you learn programming skills, web design, and database administration.
To all the students in my life, I wish you all good things in the upcoming school year!
technorati tags: IBM, Linux, Bob Sutor, BestBuy, Ubuntu, Video Games, erase, hard+disk, Google Docs, Windows Live, Skydrive, Linux Foundation, OLPC, Google, Summer of Code, Firefox, xBox360, Nintendo, Wii, Sony, Playstation
My how time flies. This week marks my 24th anniversary working here at IBM. This would have escaped me completely, had I not gotten an email reminding me that it was time to get a new laptop. IBM manages these on a four-year depreciation schedule, and I received my current laptop back in June 2006, on my 20th anniversary.
When I first started at IBM, I was a developer on DFHSM for the MVS operating system, now called DFSMShsm on the z/OS operating system. We all had 3270 [dumb terminals], large cathode ray tubes affectionately known as "green screens", and all of our files were stored centrally on the mainframe. When Personal Computers (PC) were first deployed, I was assigned the job of deciding who got them when. We were getting 120 machines, in five batches of 24 systems each, spaced out over the next two years. I was assigned the job of recommending who should get a PC during the first batch, the second batch, and so on. I was concerned that everyone would want to be part of the first batch, so I put out a survey, asking questions on how familiar they were with personal computers, whether they owned one at home, were familiar with DOS or OS/2, and so on.
It was actually my last question that helped make the decision process easy:
How soon do you want a Personal Computer to replace your existing 3270 terminal?
I had five options, and roughly 24 respondents checked each one, making my job extremely easy. Ironically, once the early adopters of the first batch discovered that these PC could be used for more than just 3270 terminal emulation, many of the others wanted theirs sooner.
Back then, IBM employees resented any form of change. Many took their new PC, configured it to be a full-screen 3270 emulation screen, and continued to work much as they had before. My mentor, Jerry Pence, would print out his mails, and file the printed emails into hanging file folders in his desk credenza. He did not trust saving them on the mainframe, so he was certainly not going to trust storing them on his new PC. One employee used his PC as a door stop, claiming he will continue to use his 3270 terminal until they take it away from him.
Moving forward to 2006, I was one of the first in my building to get a ThinkPad T60. It was so new that many of the accessories were not yet available. It had Windows XP on a single-core 32-bit processor, 1GB RAM, and a huge 80GB disk drive. The built-in 1GbE Ethernet went unused for a while, as we had 16 Mbps Token Ring network.
I was the marketing strategist for IBM System Storage back then, and needed all this excess power and capacity to handle all my graphic-intense applications, like GIMP and Second Life.
Over the past four years, I made a few slight improvements. I partitioned the hard drive to dual-boot between Windows and Linux, and created a separate partition for my data that could be accessed from either OS. I increased the memory to 2GB and replaced the disk with a drive holding 120GB capacity.
A few years ago, IBM surprised us by deciding to support Windows, Linux and Mac OS computers. But actually it made a lot of sense. IBM's world-renown global services manages the help-desk support of over 500 other companies in addition to the 400,000 employees within IBM, so they already had to know how to handle these other operating systems. Now we can choose whichever we feel makes us more productive. Happy employees are more productive, of course. IBM's vision is that almost everything you need to do would be supported on all three OS platforms:
The irony here is that the world is switching back to thin clients, with data stored centrally. The popularity of Web 2.0 helped this along. People are using Google Docs or Microsoft OfficeOnline to eliminate having to store anything locally on their machines. This vision positions IBM employees well for emerging cloud-based offerings.
Sadly, we are not quite completely off Windows. Some of our Lotus Notes databases use Windows-only APIs to access our Siebel databases. I have encountered PowerPoint presentations and Excel spreadsheets that just don't render correctly in Lotus Symphony. And finally, some of our web-based applications work only in Internet Explorer! We use the outdated IE6 corporate-wide, which is enough reason to switch over to Firefox, Chrome or Opera browsers. I have to put special tags on my blog posts to suppress YouTube and other embedded objects that aren't supported on IE6.
So, this leaves me with two options: Get a Mac and run Windows on the side as a guest operating system, or get a ThinkPad to run Windows or Windows/Linux. I've opted for the latter, and put in my order for a ThinkPad 410 with a dual-core 64-bit i5 Intel processor, VT-capable to provide hardware-assistance for virtualization, 4GB of RAM, and a huge 320GB drive. It will come installed with Windows XP as one big C: drive, so it will be up to me to re-partition it into a Windows/Linux dual-boot and/or Windows and Linux running as guest OS machine.
(Full disclosure to make the FTC happy: This is not an endorsement for Microsoft or against Apple products. I have an Apple Mac Mini at home, as well as Windows and Linux machines. IBM and Apple have a business relationship, and IBM manufactures technology inside some of Apple's products. I own shares of Apple stock, I have friends and family that work for Microsoft that occasionally send me Microsoft-logo items, and I work for IBM.)
I have until the end of June to receive my new laptop, re-partition, re-install all my programs, reconfigure all my settings, and transfer over my data so that I can send my old ThinkPad T60 back. IBM will probably refurbish it and send it off to a deserving child in Africa.
If you have an old PC or laptop, please consider donating it to a child, school or charity in your area. To help out a deserving child in Africa or elsewhere, consider contributing to the [One Laptop Per Child] organization.
technorati tags: , Anniversary, DFHSM, MVS, DFSMShsm, z/OS, dumb terminals, cathode ray tube, personal computer, DOS, OS/2, ThinkPad, cloud computing, Web20, Windows, Linux, MacOS, Apple, Microsoft, OLPC
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No, this is not an announcement about myself moving to Nepal.
My friends over at OLE Nepal are [looking for a Super SysAdmin]willing to live in Nepal for five months and help out with their project to help the students in the localschools there. I think this might be a great opportunity for someone to help changethe world. Those of you who have read my past blog posts about the One Laptop per Child [OLPC], such as [Understanding the LAMP platform] and [Supporting OLPC Schools with LAMP stacks] may understand the type of work involved.
I've been working with Dev, Bryan and Sulochan for the past three months (remotely here from Tucson, AZ)but we've come to a point where we need on-site expertise. I will continue to provide remote support.
Given the number of readers who have contacted me over the past year looking for an IT job (or a different job because they are not happy where they are), this could be an amazing experience.
Yesterday, I was able to get the "Build 650" up and running under Qemu emulation onmy Thinkpad laptop computer. Today, I was able to get my Thinkpad and my XO laptoptalking to each other for a "chat".
The built-in "Chat" activity is one of the many kid-friendly activities included onthe XO laptop for the One Laptop Per Child [OLPC] project.It is also possible for two or more people to share other activities, like editing a textdocument, or browsing the internet.
As they say, emulation is only 95% complete, and this is true in this case as well. My Thinkpaddoes not have a built-in video camera, and for some reason the Qemu emulation does not let mehear any sound, despite specifying "-soundhw es1370" parameter. And lastly, it doesn't have the"mesh network" built-in Wi-Fi capability, just standard 54Mbps 802.1g through my Linksys router.
So, I set both XO and Thinkpad to use the new "xochat.org" jabber server so that the two couldsee each other:
$ sugar_control_panel -s jabber xochat.org
I set my XO nickname to be "TonyP" and my Thinkpad to be "Pearson", and chose blue-orange forthe first, and orange-blue for the second.
The process of starting a chat is similar to other IM systems like IBM Lotus Sametime. You havea neighborhood view that shows all people online using the same jabber server. In my case therewere about 30 or so icons on the screen. From the colors on my XO, I was able to locate my Thinkpad,and invite him to a chat. You can share the chat with everyone on the network, or keep it privatebetween two people. I tried both ways to see the difference.
In a private two-way chat, the first person starts up their Chat activity, and sends an inviteto join to another person. The second person sees a flashing chat bubble on the bottom of thescreen to the left of all the other action bar icons. The difference is that the chat bubble isblue-orange matching the sender, rather than black-and-white of the rest of the icons.
If the recipient happens to be busy doing something else full-screen, like browsing the web, theredoesn't seem to be any interruption. It is only when he goes to "home view" will he see the coloredchat bubble and decide to join or not.
The chat itself colorizes the text to match to color of the participant's icons. Blue for one, and orangefor the other. It two people had identical color schemes I guess it might be hard to tell. Thetext is white, so it is best to choose darker colors for contrast.
A nice feature is that you can save your chat session with the "keep" button on the upper rightpart of the screen, and your dialogue discussion will show up as an entry in the "journal".
Using this technique, it is possible for someone who has one "XO" laptop and one regular computer,or two regular computers, to develop and test applications that involve the sharing aspect of educational opportunities. Chats can be between students, student-to-teacher, or event student-to-mentor.