Older blog entries for kgb (starting at number 347)

Losing Company Honesty

Something the Internet has been good at is helping create companies that go through a tremendously fast growth. Within the span of just a few of years we can observe what use to take 20 or 30 years in a company’s life cycle. When the customer experiences that kind of pace from a service, changes that were subtle become easy to see. Some of the first things to change are openness, honesty and accessibility.

Internet startups tend to be more open than larger companies. They have little choice. Their survival depends on building a trustworthy customer relationship, word-of-mouth endorsement, and they don’t have a lot of spare resources to bury unpleasantness. You can see this when you need to report a problem or get special assistance if the information for contacting them or submitting problems is easy to find on their web site. Even more when you can get a hold of the very people responsible for supporting or creating the software/service you are using.

But unless a company has a very good product or reliable service, their growing customer base can over-whelm them with problem reports and support demands. Sometimes they’ll hide their email address in favor of an online form, or make it impossible to find out how to contact them at all. Their FAQ becomes a controlled PR tool – existing just to give answers to obvious things while not even mentioning the problems the majority of users are experiencing. These are practices designed to make a company look good (perhaps to lure in a buyer) rather than sustain a long-term reputation of customer satisfaction.

I experienced this just today with Facebook. Large numbers of my photos “vanished” from my profile, probably for the 3rd time in 2 years.. Their FAQ is filled with things like “How do I do this?”, but nothing about reporting the repeat problem of lost photos. A problem very visible to users and frequently discussed on the Internet. None of the links on their site are a “contact us”. It took me 20 minutes of full site searches to find an online form for submitting a problem. I was happy to find it, but it was so generic that I have no idea if it will get seen by anyone in a position to act. It did not assign me a request number or say that anyone would be in contact. It did not even allow me to classify the type of problem I was reporting. [UPDATE: It sent me a confirmation email that the problem was received. I never got an answer back from a person].

Compare that with Disqus or Google. Google does have “contact us” on their company page, and their project pages usually have Internet groups, forums, or Wikis so any knowledgeable person can help. Disqus also is known for the developers responding to requests for help, even from Twitter.

Whether a service is free or paid, customers do not appreciate being treated like they are an annoyance. If your company does not have the resources to respond to their customer base, set up forums and wikis and help people help each other – but keep it honest. Don’t hide problems people need help with. Appreciation for providing help is great PR. Let FAQs actually be driven by the frequently encountered problems. Give fixing frequently reported problems priority so they go away from public discussions on their own. If a company doesn’t provide these resources themselves, the community may do it anyway, and when they do your company will have less of a voice in it.

Syndicated 2009-06-10 06:25:54 from Keith Barrett Online » Technology

DMV Bans Smiles in License Photos

Because more and more government systems are implementing face recognition technology, they are requiring that everyone have an unemotional expression when having photos taken in order for the software to better match the faces. A story came out today that the Virginia DMV Bans Smiles in Driver’s License Photos.

It seems to be standard practice lately for agencies and law enforcement to adopt obviously inappropriate policies on its citizens and wait until they are fought to have them removed. It wasn’t until the last few years that social security numbers were removed as an ID number. We seem to be one large beta test population groups for every piece of photo and scanning technology the government buys. It may be easier to apologize than ask permission, but it’s usually more expensive too. I hope someone challenges this in court because it should never be illegal to smile, or be refused your tax paid government services because you do smile.

The Declaration of Independence says “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”. We need more happiness. All government IDs are going to look like mug shots. And it’s not a matter of choice – the DMV software will actually reject your photo if you do smile and ask you to do it again, so unless you co-operate you do not get a driver’s license.

Remember that as you continue to give away your freedom and privacy, you are also not allowed to smile in the process.

Syndicated 2009-06-04 06:37:22 from Keith Barrett Online » Technology

Ridiculous IT Job Posts

I received an unsolicited email today advertising for an open Information Technology position. I’ve written previous articles referencing studies reporting that IT is the most abused job you can have, and it’s job postings like this (all too common) that show it:

Unix and OpenVMS Administrator

Hello,

My name is Arjun and I’m a recruiter at [redacted].

We have an urgent contract for one of our direct clients:

Job Title:  Unix and OpenVMS Administrator
Location:  RICHMOND, VA

Job Description:

Required Skills : Unix and OpenVMS

1. Must live and work Richmond VA on site daily presence is required by the contract with our customer
2. Willing to work OT in a manufacturing environment
3. Willing to be on call rotation
4. Can pass background check and drug screening
5. DEPENDABLE
6. RELIABLE
7. Strong communicator
8. Excellent verbal and written skills
9. Works well in structured TEAM environment

Technical skills required
1. Excellent/proven knowledge & skills in OpenVMS 6.2 and 7.2
2. Knowledge of VMS running in Windows via Charon emulator
3. Knowledge and use of Change Management tools and process

Nice to have
1. Excellent skills in Windows 2K and above
2. RDB
3. Knowledge of LINUX and/or HP UX v11,
4. Understanding of SAN storage relating to HP – UX

If you are qualified, available, interested, planning to make a change, or know of a friend who might have the required qualifications and interest, please call me ASAP, even if we have spoken recently about a different position. If you do respond via e-mail please include a daytime phone number so I can reach you. In considering candidates, time is of the essence, so please respond ASAP.

[Redacted] is a global IT Consulting company with over 30 Fortune 500 customers.  You may visit our website to learn more about us.

The first 6 requirements listed, the most important ones, are that you (1) move here, (2) work frequent overtime (3) carry a pager (very likely 24×7 given the OT requirement), (4) pass background checks, (5 & 6) must be reliable and dependable despite all these demands on your personal life. The post then points out a few technical requirements. The entire post does not explain what the job is, the real responsibilities, or the rewards. The best it does is list a few desired technical skills for a computer system that has not been made in 25 years.

Any employer seeking skills 20+ years outdated will need to be much more flexible if they hope to attract anyone from that niche. It’s also humorous to toss in at the end that Unix, Linux, Windows, and SANs skills are a plus. Besides painting a picture of only seeking supermen that are willing to give up their lives for the job, the “nice to have” skills are in conflict. I actually met the unique technical requirements of this position, and I can tell you that people who know VMS and Unix and Linux and Windows are few, and all would expect a fair compensation for this work even before the demands of the on-call are considered,

It’s hard to know who’s at fault here. The company could be such an demanding, unrewarding place that this is the best way to write up the opening. Or it could be that the recruiter has no idea how to promote jobs. The most attractive thing about this job the way it’s written is that it’s a contract, meaning it would eventually end.

What’s more common is that IT job postings have such a long list of required skills only supermen or extremely niche people can fill them. The most common reason for this is that a company is trying to find one person to do the work of several, or a long-time employee that was involved with multiple systems has left and they are trying to find an identical replacement.

From a recruiting position; a job posting is an advertisement. This should have promoted the benefits of working for this company and the compensation for the demands made on you. Remember you are trying to attract the best people you can.

If this posting was written as a restaurant ad it would read like:

Come dine with us – we serve 20 year peanut butter sandwiches. You will be forced to stay all day to ensure you have breakfast, lunch, and dinner here, and will be required to wear a shirt advertising our busines anytime you are in public. The kitchen will be noisy, and you will be required to prove you aren’t sneaking in any other food. You must smile the whole time, and the final cost of your experience will be a surprise. Experience eating lobster or working as a gourmet chef or a farmer is desirable.

Syndicated 2009-05-31 02:37:12 from Keith Barrett Online » Technology

Early Linux History

These are some of the earliest events in the history of Linux (pre version 1), shown directly from their USENET conversations. At some point I hope to construct a time line of the significant events (I have newsgroup discussions and announcements of many first events).

Linux 1991

Linux was a fairly active on the internet in 1991. Most of the action revolved around the kernel and file systems. Back then there was no WWW — users interacted via the Linux USENET newsgroup (which had no spamming and little flames back then), plus email. Binaries (especially the kernel) were so small that they were sometimes posted directly to the newsgroup as UUENCODE files. Here is an archive of the Linux newsgroup from 1991. You will notice that Linus was very interactive, as well as Ted Ts’o (I believe he was the person who created this archive file).

1991 Linux Activists

Linux 1992

Here is an archive capture of the newsgroup from 1992.

1992 Linux Activists

Also in 1992, a publishing company named JANA was the first to create CD-ROM captures of the mit and newsgroup archives and sell them. These were labeled “Expo Edition CD-ROM NEWS” (when they had a label). It is from these CDs that I have extracted these archive files.

Personal Linux Histories

Here are most likely the first postings of some well known (to me) people in the Linux community. The people are listed roughly in the order that they began to appear on the network. By March 1993, all of these people were frequent posters to the newsgroups and there are a large number within the archives. One of the more entertaining things to look for is the old tag lines in their signatures and their old email addresses.

Linus Torvalds

This 11/6/91 posting is the first I have from Linus. Obviously these aren’t his first, but it must be darn close.

Interestingly; Linus is the only person in this list that I haven’t met in person.

Ted ‘Tim’ Ts’o

Ted, currently the CTO of the Linux Foundation, is probably the oldest USENET poster next to Linus. His posts go all the way back to the first 1991 entries I have in the archive. This 11/7/91 entry is his first posting claiming that he just heard about Linux and is creating the Linux 0.10 archives on tsx-11.mit.edu.

Alan Cox

Alan was the maintainer of the Linux kernel for a long time. This is the first post I have by Alan, made on 7/17/92. HERE are a few more.

Philip “Bryce” Copeland

Bryce and I worked closely together on the Open Source Piranha project and now works for Oracle UK. This is Bryce’s first newsgroup posting from 10/2/92, and possible his first use of Linux, Bryce was handling the Network FAQ (which was his 2nd posting).

Stephen Tweedie

Stephen, the creator of the Linux ext3 file system, was a very frequent poster. This 10/12/92 entry is the first postings I have on record from Stephen. HERE are a few more. He was hacking everything! He and I had several interactions on the newsgroup.

Erik Troan

Erik was the head of development at Red Hat while I worked there. This 2/8/93 posting is the earliest post from Erik I could find (it’s followed by an interesting post from Linus). His next postings were later that same month, and contain a response from Ted. Other early posts also included his mentioning that this new thing called Windows NT will be coming out soon (PROVING that Linux is older than NT), and his responding to the suggested creation of the first Linux magazine. There’s also an interaction between Erik and Ted in there.

Keith Barrett

[No Wikipedia page yet]. I personally became involved in Linux in January 1992. Back then software distribution was handled by posting to the Usenet group. I have a record of installing TAMU on March 27, 1993. The kernel release was .99pl3 in the popular distributions SLS 1.01 and TAMU. Slackware was also out, but SLS was still more popular. The .99pl5 kernel was just about making the rounds I believe.

Here are some of my posts concerning problems when I quickly switched to the SLS release, HERE is my first posting to the newsgroup, and interestingly the first person to respond to my post was Ted Ts’o. I was asking about SCSI tape drives and eventually did some driver testing and got listed in the SLS and Slackware “Hardware Compatibility” document.

HERE is posting where I suggested a breakup of the Linux newsgroups, immediately followed by Stephen Tweedie proclaiming his support.

I also was the FIRST person to suggest that Linux have a mascot!. I doubt I’ll ever get historical recognition for it, but look at the end of this posting.

I joined Red Hat in 1999, working on the Piranha Open Source project, and was a co-creator of the Red Hat High Availability Server product. It was great to get paid to do my long-time hobby!

Syndicated 2009-05-30 16:32:25 from Keith Barrett Online » Technology

Disneyland Paris in 3D

Just like I described for Walt Disney World, now Disneyland Paris has been added to Google Earth in 3D renderings. If you’ve never been there, now you can travel virtually.

Syndicated 2009-05-29 02:39:53 from Keith Barrett Online » Technology

17 May 2009 (updated 18 May 2009 at 14:16 UTC) »

The End Of Live Journal

I am relaunching my blog on a WordPress platform very shortly, and have migrated all my content there, including everyones comments.

To ensure search engines (Google) index my new blog correctly, and to centralize the traffic there and prevent confusion, I have deleted most of the content here in Live Journal. With few exceptions, I removed every entry that did not have any comments. I kept all the entries with comments so my friends can still view our shared memories, but I have marked all those articles private to prevent outsiders and search engines from reaching them.

I am extremely appreciative of everyone that enjoyed and commented on my articles (you know who you are). Rest assured you will have a new, nicer home to continue doing so shortly and I hope you do!

When I started this blog, MySpace and Facebook did not exist. Most of you are my friends in those platforms and will still be able to view the deleted material there.

The new blog will have more things than here, as it will include personal, technology, and WDW related posts together. You'll select that you want to see. You will not need to create any accounts to leave comments there either (although doing so will give you more control over your avatar) -- you'll be able to log in using your WordPress, Facebook, OpenID, Disqus, or Twitter credentials as your login ID

Keep your eye on keithbarrett.com . The entire site is getting a makeover (at last) and will include the blog and all the postings that were here.

When it is launched I will update this entry here as well.

I probably will not visit LiveJournal to read anything in the future, but if you are my friend on Facebook I will see what you post there.


P.S. This reminds me of when TextAmerica (my original photoblog) went away. I guess blog sites do have a lifetime and move on.

Syndicated 2009-05-17 21:59:39 (Updated 2009-05-18 13:24:41) from Keith Barrett

14 Jan 2009 (updated 4 Aug 2009 at 06:11 UTC) »
11 Jan 2009 (updated 4 Aug 2009 at 06:12 UTC) »
25 Dec 2008 (updated 4 Aug 2009 at 06:12 UTC) »
22 Nov 2008 (updated 4 Aug 2009 at 06:12 UTC) »

338 older entries...

New Advogato Features

New HTML Parser: The long-awaited libxml2 based HTML parser code is live. It needs further work but already handles most markup better than the original parser.

Keep up with the latest Advogato features by reading the Advogato status blog.

If you're a C programmer with some spare time, take a look at the mod_virgule project page and help us with one of the tasks on the ToDo list!