February 2015

Monthly Archives

  • Getting Rid of Lenovo’s Superfish Vulnerability


    As you may have heard by this point, Lenovo loaded an adware package called Superfish Visual Discovery onto many of its devices. Annoying? Absolutely: Nobody likes an add-on that inserts sponsored links into your search results. But Superfish became downright dangerous when security researchers realized it could easily double as a handy tool for a man-in-the-middle attack, thanks to its ability to always appear as a “Trusted Party” to websites.

    The revelations have left Lenovo scrambling to repair the damage. “We ordered Superfish preloads to stop and had server connections shut down in January based on user complaints about the experience,” Lenovo wrote in a Feb. 20 statement. “However, we did not know about this potential security vulnerability until yesterday. Now we are focused on fixing it.”

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    The company also insisted that Superfish was never preloaded onto its ThinkPads, tablets, and enterprise hardware; but that means any other devices released between September 2014 and February 2015, including laptops in the company’s popular Yoga line, are apparently vulnerable.

    Those who want to trust Lenovo’s automated tool for deleting Superfish can find it on the company’s website. Otherwise you can take the following steps to manually uninstall it:

    1. In Windows, open “Search.”
    2. Search for “Remove Programs” and select “Add or Remove Programs”
    3. In the subsequent list, find “Superfish Inc. Visual Discovery”
    4. Click “Uninstall”

    After that, users should make sure the SuperFish Certificate is removed from their PCs, as well. Lenovo offers a step-by-step walkthrough for systems running Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Opera, Safari, Maxthon, and other browsers that rely on the Windows Certificate store.

    For Lenovo users, a handy Web page from LastPass will also verify whether SuperFish impacted your system. Better safe than sorry.

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    Image: LastPass

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  • Banish Your Job Ghosts

    Laschon Maximilian Shutterstock

    While you can survive a toxic workplace, the emotional aftereffects can linger long after you leave. Your pent-up anger and guilt can affect your future job search. Don’t let that happen; the ghosts of bosses past shouldn’t influence how you look for work.

    Sort It Out

    No matter how long ago the lousy job, if the very thought of it still grinds you up, you haven’t processed it. Maggie Graham, a certified professional career coach, notes that you can’t just package up the time you spent there and move on to the next job without some recognition of how it affected you: “If you don’t sort through the muck of the past, it’ll come back to haunt you by showing up in interviews.”

    Recognize Your Loss… and Learn From It

    There’s grief in endings: You’re leaving behind people, a place and habits that made up your days. With that in mind, consider what you’ve left behind at your old job, and determine if any of it had value.

    “That terrible job may have been a very bad fit, but what did you learn from it?” asked Jacqueline Whitmore, a business etiquette expert and author. “I worked as a flight attendant for a year and if that doesn’t teach you about human behavior, I don’t know what would.”

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    Reframing the story is critical, she added: “You learn something from every job you have. A new job is not going to be like the job you hated. The people and place will be different.”

    You have the opportunity to build something new—but how do you begin exorcising yourself of the old? Graham suggested making checklists of your previous job’s benefits, as well as what you won’t miss about it, and measure those against your next job offer. “If you can’t recognize the qualitative variables that touched you,” she said, “you won’t be able to fully evaluate the next opportunity.”

    Find a Shoulder

    Here’s the thing: you never need to go back to your old, bad job. So move on. “You can’t sit in the negative,” Whitmore said. “No one wants to work with a complainer, even if they’re complaining about a very old job, that experience is not part of the present or future.”

    But that doesn’t mean you can’t commiserate with former colleagues and others in your industry. “It’s so helpful to know that you’re not alone and that others share the emotional aspect of your experience,” Graham said.

    Graham knows the power of a sympathetic shoulder. At one point, she ran a job-search group where the bulk of attendees came from one company that had laid off nearly 6,000 employees. “They sat together even if they didn’t know each other before they were laid off,” she said. “They called the first phase of their job searches the “[Company Name] Detox.” The attendees joked freely that they were going through deprogramming from a cult “because the intensity of [the old job’s] stressful culture consumed their whole lives.”

    When Graham met with clients from that company who chose not to attend the job search group, she found they struggled more than the group attendees to move on, and didn’t have as strong a success rate in converting phone interviews into in-person interviews.

    Once It’s Over, It’s Over

    Whitmore has been downsized four times in her career, but doesn’t feel angry about those particular events because it was “just business.” She believes her former employers were doing what they had to do to remain fiscally sound, and that kind of job loss simply isn’t personal… even if it feels that way.

    When the job itself was bad, Whitmore took what she could from it and moved on, because once something’s over, it doesn’t have to be repeated. “It’s true that not all jobs are a good fit,” she said. “If you find yourself back in another environment where what you’ve learned from past experiences makes it clear that it’s not working out, you can plan an exit. In this era, we all know it’s much more common not to stay in the same place for 25 years hoping you’ll get a gold watch.”

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    Image: Laschon Maximilian/Shutterstock.com

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  • Closing HIT’s last mile gap

    “I feel like I'm in a new marriage and we haven't really dated that much in the past but now I have to engage with them.” Gavin Krumenacker was quoting someone he met at a healthcare management event because the comment sums up the way many HIT managers feel these days.

    Privacy & Security

    Closing HIT’s last mile gap

    Much the way telecommunications providers once struggled with the home stretch of connectivity, healthcare organizations today are grappling with compliance, disclosure policies, and security.

    Healthcare IT News


    read more

  • Forging a Career Path When the Route Is Unclear

    shutterstock_Sergey Nivens

    Up-and-coming companies seldom offer well-defined career paths that guide IT professionals from one position to the next. Enterprising employees are instead expected to identify an emerging role or need and pilot themselves to the next career opportunity.

    “You have to know where the company and your particular niche is headed to steer your own IT career,” said Katy Piotrowski, CEO of Career Solutions Group, a career planning firm based in Fort Collins, Colo. “The key is finding an opportunity that leverages your strengths in a way that benefits both you and the company.”

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    A few years ago, no one had even heard of a UI designer, data scientist or cloud-services specialist—and now they’re mainstream jobs. Entering a new field, or innovating on an existing one, will give you an upper hand over potential rivals in your company and industry. But plotting a career path when the route is unclear is often easier said than done.

    Get Out in Front

    Stay abreast of emerging technologies (as well as economic, regulatory and competitive changes) that may impact your company over the next few years. Position yourself as a mover and shaker by discussing these events with your boss.

    “Once you’ve outlined the need, propose a new position or kick around some possible roles,” Piotrowski said. “You don’t have to be a job hunter to reap the benefits of an exploratory interview. They’re also an effective tool for current employees who want to gather information about a possible career change.”

    Even if your boss isn’t ready to act on a trend, planting seeds with decision-makers can result in a new opportunity down the road. Plus, it positions you as a doer and innovator instead of someone who’s fixated on titles and promotions.

    “Don’t wait until the perfect job description pops up, because by that time, they already know who they want to hire,” Piotrowski added. “Take the initiative by showing interest and proactively solving problems so executives will give you a shot when the time is right.”

    Try the Sampler Platter

    If making a full-blown transition to a new and better role seems risky, take small steps by volunteering to attend conferences, learn new skills, oversee small projects or tackle stretch assignments. These so-called “career change experiments” can help you refine the job description, close skill gaps, define deliverables and confirm the mutual benefits and interest in creating a new position. Experienced trailblazers often dip their toes in the water before they take the plunge.

    “Testing the waters benefits both parties,” Piotrowski said. “I like the idea of trying out a role for three months. It makes it a lot easier to return to your old position if things don’t work out and a lot easier for your boss to say yes. In the meantime, you’re acquiring valuable skills and experience.”

    Learn From Other Trailblazers

    No two career paths are the same. You can learn a great deal by studying the actions and routes of those who’ve carved out new roles for themselves, especially within your own company.

    Networking with first movers who are already dabbling with a new technology or niche can bolster your planning efforts. For instance, a mentor can help you identify emerging problems and opportunities, plot a career path and develop a pitch that will resonate with your boss. He or she can also help you pinpoint the skills and expertise necessary to pursue your next position.

    “Blending outside information with your existing technical knowledge and interests is the secret to making a custom tailored career plan,” Piotrowski said. “It’s not about following a well-trodden path, you have the luxury of setting your own course when the route isn’t defined.”

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    Image: Sergey Nivens/Shutterstock.com

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  • Amazon Web Services Continues Cloud Domination

    In the cloud computing space, there is Amazon Web Services and then everyone else. The tech giant has established itself as the preeminent vendor in this burgeoning industry, so much so that the company recently experienced a five-year high in terms of its infrastructure market share, according to a new Synergy Research Group report.

    The research firm said Amazon Web Services held 28 percent market share for the full year in 2014, followed by Microsoft at 10 percent. IBM was third with 7 percent of the industry, while Google accounted for 5 percent, Salesforce at 4 percent and Rackspace with 3 percent.

    What is most telling about the current state of the cloud-based infrastructure market is that Amazon Web Services and the next five vendors in the industry are roughly neck and neck in terms of share.

    Revenue is also trending upward
    The Synergy report noted cloud infrastructure service revenues, which include private clouds, hybrid models, Infrastructure-as-a-Service and Platform-as-a-Service suites, totaled nearly $5 billion during the fourth quarter of 2014. Total earnings for the full year surpassed $16 billion, up almost 50 percent from 2013 levels.

    The analysis indicated AWS increased its revenue by 25 percent between the third and fourth quarters of 2014.

    John Dinsdale, chief analyst and research director at Synergy, explained the global cloud market is trending in a positive direction, thanks to existing adoption barriers or perceived challenges dissipating.

    "The momentum that has been built up at AWS and Microsoft is particularly impressive. They have an ever-broadening portfolio of services and they are also benefiting from a slowdown in the super-aggressive price competition that was a feature of the first half of 2014," Dinsdale added.

    Amazon in fierce battle with cloud vendors
    The competition between Amazon and the other major cloud vendors is great news for potential adopters. As these service providers battle for client dollars, customers can procure cloud suites at even more affordable rates.

    451 Research's Cloud Price Index declined more than 1.3 percent at the start of December 2014, due in large part to Google's 79 percent price cuts. Amazon Web Services reduced its bandwidth by up to 43 percent.

    Analysts at 451 suggested Google's pricing reductions were in direct correlation to the company's ambition to remain competitive with the cloud market's leading vendors, especially Amazon.

    Owen Rogers, senior analyst at 451 Research, said the attention given to Amazon and Google price cuts could lead some organizations to think they could "save a small fortune" with these services. The cost of applications was only 1.5 percent lower than two months prior.

    "However, extrapolate those price cuts over a year and we're looking at a 10 percent drop, certainly not to be sneezed at," Rogers indicated.

    IT vendors can capitalize on healthy competition
    Third-party service providers that help clients adopt and maintain IT suites should use the competition between Amazon, Google and Microsoft to their advantage. With prices coming down, firms may finally decide to implement cloud environments. Vendors that offer cloud readiness tools to customers will be able to identify any infrastructure issues beforehand, so companies can select the best model for their unique businesses.

    As cloud brands continue to try and one-up each other to attract clients, third-party service providers have to do the same to differentiate themselves from the competition. Vendors that can determine how networks and servers will perform in cloud environments prior to any official deployment can position customers on the right path from the start of the adoption process, not during or after cloud suites are already in place, establishing a true competitive advantage over other firms on the market.

    The post Amazon Web Services continue cloud domination appeared first on RISC Networks.

  • Cloud Pricing Taboos

    Cloud Computing looks to be making the transition from a development and test option to a primary considerations for many businesses, but many are finding the pricing models and options overwhelming and complicated to figure out.

    In the fall of 2014, 451 Research released a report at their Hosting & Cloud Transformation Summit that included information about the top cloud computing-related pain points, which pricing/budget/cost rated as the number two pain point on that list behind security.

    How does an organization determine the best cost for their environment, what should they buy, what cloud providers should they consider. Regardless of the fact that Google, AWS and Microsoft appear to be playing the pricing battle to try and win the title of lowest priced public cloud offering, cloud computing decisions are no longer based just on price. IT leaders are looking at a variety of criteria in their decision making process, and are looking for processes, tools and ideas to simplify this challenge for them.

    Tale of Two Approaches

    Our data shows that most organizations could be saving an average of 66% on their IaaS infrastructure by simply gathering performance data from their infrastructure and making decisions on application and workload usage vs. using an inventory approach (buying exactly what you have in the data center in the cloud). Then we have reserved capacity vs. on-demand capacity in AWS, which can cause some IT buyers a little anxiety.

    We recommend for anyone moving to AWS for the first time or for a new application to purchase On-Demand instances to see how your application runs in AWS, and then if you are happy with the results than you can consider buying reserved instances.

    Something to consider when buying reserved versus on-demand; you are committing to a 1 year or 3 year term when buying reserved instances, which can have a 30-50+% savings over on-demand pricing, but you are stuck with the hardware characteristics of that instance. What does this mean? When you buy reserved capacity you are buying specific technology that you will run your application for the next year or three years, with no upgrade options. In some cases, organizations have purchased reserved instances of a specific hardware type, and a month later AWS lowers the price on their newer hardware technology, but you are stuck at a higher price on older technology.

    If your use case is suitable for that option, and it is the right fit for your business, then go with that option. But if your application is of dynamic nature and you need better performance on newer hardware technology throughout the year or over the next three years, than on-demand pricing may make the most sense for your organization.

    Most of these issues are addressed specifically to AWS, but Microsoft has developed their model to align with AWS. Microsoft has pledged to stay comparable with AWS with respect to pricing. Do not assume that AWS or Microsoft are going to be the best option for price for your business, we see situations where AWS and Microsoft are not necessarily the best price for larger instances. In cloud we are not paying for what we use, we are paying for what we reserve, and in some cases we are paying too much.

     Network I/O and Percentage of Daily Cost

    We looked at 148 of our clients and looked at just network I/O, let’s talk about the percentage of daily cost. If you take network I/O and you are going to spend $10 a day on a cloud server, based on your network usage, what percentage of that cost is made up of network I/O?

    Our analysis showed that most organizations saw less than 25% of their cost of cloud was made up of network I/O. In some cases the network I/O of a particular server can make up 50-75% of the total daily cost of a server running in cloud. In 2% of the cases we evaluated, organizations had servers/workloads that network would make up greater than 75% of the total cost of running that server in the cloud.

    If you have large database servers with data replication and high network communication to those applications, the cost of running those applications in the cloud may be prohibitive. We believe that before you can truly determine if the cloud is the right place for your application, you should complete a thorough readiness assessment of each application and their dependent workloads. Know before you go!

    Keys to Success with Cloud Pricing

    How can you be prepared when moving to public infrastructure-as-a-Service, you need to make sure you do not overbuy from a capacity standpoint.

    1. General Usage information for CPU, Memory and Disk I/O – You need to have a clear picture of the workloads you plan to move to cloud, and this includes CPU, Memory, and Disk I/O to ensure you are not going to over pay capacity.
    2. Current network usage and impact on performance – Including network usage when planning cloud cost models is critical. In some cases, your servers network I/O may make up 75% of the total cost of moving to cloud. It would be great to know this in advance.
    3. Application dependency mapping – Prior to pricing out your cloud implementation, it is important to understand all of the associated dependent workloads that may have to be moved with your application. It is much easier to price an application stack than pricing individual workloads.

    The great thing about IT today is that organizations have plenty of choices of where and how to run their applications. The problem is that with a ton of choices, it also makes selecting the best option for your business.

    We recommend that prior to selecting a cloud provider, you should have a clear picture of your entire environment, including full application dependency visualization for each application and a full communication density map of all of your host and client connections. Don’t make the mistake that plenty of organizations have made before you, it could save you hundreds of thousands each year in unnecessary cloud cost.

    The post Chapter 4: Cloud Pricing Taboos appeared first on RISC Networks.

  • IBM Layoff Rumors Fly Fast and Furious


    Rumors are flying fast and furious that IBM will lay off more than 100,000 workers sometime in the next few weeks. But news sources are reporting that the cuts will more likely be on the level of 10,000 jobs.

    The original report of mega-layoffs came from Robert X. Cringely, a self-described “Silicon Valley iconoclast,” who wrote in Forbes about an IBM reorganization codenamed Project Chrome. In Cringely’s telling, Project Chrome will result in the layoffs of 26 percent of IBM’s workforce, accompanied by a major restructuring of the company’s assets. The employee cuts will supposedly hit IBM’s mainframe and storage divisions the hardest. (Cringely’s reporting derives from anonymous sources.)

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    “In saying the company is in a transition and is going to go through the biggest reorganization in its history, will this really fix a very obvious customer relationship problem?” Cringely concluded. “No, it won’t.”

    IBM told Cringely, in an update to his original article, that the cuts would come to only a few thousand people, not 100,000.

    Separately, an unnamed IBM spokesperson told TechCrunch that the layoffs would roughly total 12,000 employees—even as an anonymous source suggested the number would be much higher. “After we published this article, a source approached TechCrunch, telling us the layoff number was 10 percent of the workforce (or 43,000),” the publication reported, “and that the layoffs would be conducted in approximately 10,000 employee increments per quarter until the company righted the ship.”

    Whether or not any of these reports prove accurate, it’s undeniable that IBM is frantically attempting to transform into a firm that can better compete in a cloud- and mobile-centric world. Between its recent partnership with Apple to push iOS devices and apps to the enterprise, to its work in artificial intelligence, Big Blue clearly wants to push beyond Oracle and other business IT rivals. But what is the human cost of that reinvention?

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  • Cloud computing responsible for fair share of IT infrastructure market

    Cloud computing has taken up a mantle throughout the IT industry, especially in critical market verticals. A new IDC report indicated the technology accounted for one-third of ethernet, disk storage and server infrastructure budgets during the third quarter of 2014. Overall year-over-year cloud revenue for the period improved 16 percent to $6.5 billion, with public clouds accounting for almost half of this figure, achieving 18 percent year-over-year increases.

    Richard Villars, vice president of data​ center and cloud research at IDC, explained public and private cloud computing make up a part of the 3rd Platform, which also includes mobile devices, social networking, and big data and analytics. Cloud solutions are "digital content depots" and "compute factories" that will usher in this next IT phase.

    "Whether internally owned or 'rented' from a service provider, cloud environments are strategic assets that organizations of all types must rely upon to quickly introduce new services of unprecedented scale, speed and scope. Their effective use will garner first-mover advantage to any organization in a hyper-competitive market," Villard said.

    Cloud computing's impact could be even greater
    The amount of organizations using or planning to launch cloud services is already at a healthy level. Should more businesses overcome their data concerns, the sky might be the limit in terms of the technology's adoption rate.

    A joint NCC Group and Vanson Bourne study found 40 percent of companies have not implemented cloud computing yet because of data loss fears. These worries are due primarily to whether cloud environments are offline, with roughly 75 percent of respondents reporting it would take more than one week to incorporate contingency plans following such outages. Another 5 percent noted their recovery time would require between two to three months.

    The interesting part of the survey is that cloud computing can actually enhance disaster recovery if the proper service is available. Cloud environments enable end-users to access corporate content through PCs, tablets and smartphones, so employees can get back to work following a disruption. Firms may be forced to close their offices for a period of time, so having a somewhat productive workforce in place goes a long way toward generating revenue during difficult periods.

    Daniel Liptrott, managing director of NCC Group, noted 2e2, an IT services provider, is the perfect example of how an organization can struggle without the necessary disaster recovery protocols.

    "In a sector where time equates to large sums of money, organizations should ensure that they have comprehensive and effective disaster recovery plans in place to avoid costly delays if something goes wrong," Liptrott added.

    Support your IT infrastructure, disaster recovery with the right cloud model
    Businesses that research potential cloud offerings before any implementation can determine whether certain services offer the necessary data protection. The key to achieving this goal is through testing different cloud environments prior to launch.

    Cloud-readiness tools enable companies to compare services and how their unique IT environments will interact with each solution. First-time adopters that want to minimize any complications with the technology from the start can do so from the beginning of the process with RISC Networks CloudScape.

    The post Cloud computing responsible for fair share of IT infrastructure market appeared first on RISC Networks.

  • JavaScript Tops Popular Languages, As Swift Rises


    Developers assume that Swift, Apple’s newish programming language for iOS and Mac OS X apps, will become extremely popular over the next few years. According to new data from RedMonk, a tech-industry analyst firm, Swift could reach that apex of popularity sooner rather than later.

    While the usual stalwarts—including JavaScript, Java, PHP, Python, C#, C++, and Ruby—top RedMonk’s list of the most-used languages, Swift has, well, swiftly ascended 46 spots in the six months since the firm’s last update, from 68th to 22nd.

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    “When we see dramatic growth from a language it typically has jumped somewhere between 5 and 10 spots, and the closer the language gets to the Top 20 or within it, the more difficult growth is to come by,” RedMonk wrote in an accompanying blog posting. “Given this dramatic ascension, it seems reasonable to expect that the Q3 rankings this year will see Swift as a Top 20 language.”

    RedMonk pulls data from GitHub and Stack Overflow to create its rankings, due to those sites’ respective sizes and the public nature of their data. While its top-ranked languages don’t trade positions much between reports, there’s a fair amount of churn at the lower end of the rankings. Among those “smaller” languages, R has enjoyed stable popularity over the past six months, Rust and Julia continue to climb, and Go has exploded upwards—although CoffeeScript, often sited as a language to watch, has seen its support crumble a bit.

    Here are RedMonk’s top 20 languages:

    1. JavaScript
    2. Java
    3. PHP
    4. Python
    5. C#
    5. C++
    5. Ruby
    8. CSS
    9. C
    10. Objective-C
    11. Perl
    11. Shell
    13. R
    14. Scala
    15. Haskell
    16. MATLAB
    17. Go
    17. Visual Basic
    19. Clojure
    19. Groovy

    A more intensive look at RedMonk’s data is available on its blog.

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    Image: RedMonk

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  • For Mobile Apps, 2014 Was a Very Good Year

    App Annie Screenshot 1

    App Annie has posted a helpful retrospective of the mobile-app ecosystem in 2014, and some of the data points are interesting.

    For starters, Google Play outpaced Apple’s App Store in terms of total downloads, although Apple remained well ahead with regard to total revenue generated by mobile apps.

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    Second, multiple categories of apps enjoyed explosive growth, with messaging apps (WhatsApp, etc.), mobile video, travel and transportation apps leading that charge. “Super casual gaming,” as defined by games such as Flappy Bird (remember that one?), also had a superb year, with one or more apps in that category ending up in the top 10 downloads for both Apple’s App Store and Google Play for 10 months last year.

    For social networking, photo and video apps, user demographics skewed more female, while gaming remained slightly more male:

    App Annie Screenshot 2

    Worldwide, the top apps of 2014 on both Apple’s App Store and Google Play included Facebook Messenger, Facebook, WhatsApp Messenger, Instagram, and Skype; top games included Candy Crush Saga, Subway Surfers, My Talking Tom, Farm Heroes Saga, and Clash of Clans.

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    Images: App Annie

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