Friday, July 29, 2011

SysAid's SysAdmin Day Song

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Get ready for SysAdmin Day on July 29

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Custom distro hammers hardware to detect system failures

By Joe Brockmeier

One of the things I love about Linux? You can do so many interesting things with it. Take, for example, Breakin [1] — a stress-testing and hardware diagnostic tool that will put hardware through its paces to make sure it's production-ready. The 3.2 release was announced today with the addition of several new utilities and improvements to its user interface.

Breakin is a distribution to run diagnostics on systems to find hardware issues or component failures. Put together by Advanced Clustering Technologies [2], Breakin is a Linux-based live CD that tests memory, the CPU, hard drives, (supported) temperature sensors, and looks for any Machine Check Exception (MCE) errors generated during the tests.

Hard to use? Nope. The default mode doesn't require any feedback. Pop it in, and let it run. It runs from CD or DVD, USB keys, or if you do a lot of hardware testing you can provide the image over the network for hardware that supports PXE booting. They recommend letting it hammer the hardware for at least 24 hours, but longer is better. You can even peek in on the testing results remotely via SSH — so this is a nice little tool to have if you're renting dedicated servers in a remote facility.

It's not all about hammering hardware, though. Breakin also includes a number of utilities so it can be used as a rescue environment as well. If you're using Breakin to diagnose hardware problems on systems in production, this can come in fairly handy.

Why is Advanced Clustering Technologies developing Breakin? ACT president and CEO says that the company had looked around for a tool that would "adequately" test hardware before they ship it to customers — but they struck out. "Most commercial software you find for this is very inadequate — many are still based on DOS, others are Windows-based and require you to install an OS first before running the test. Our needs were something that could be automated into our production environment, and something we could re-distribute to our customers in case servers starting having problems once deployed."

Breakin is (almost) fully open source and can be downloaded as a pre-built image, or grab the source using git [1] and modify and build it yourself. (It uses the Intel MKL library and AMD's Core Math Library, which are not open source.) The company is hoping for feedback from the community on its performance on a wider range of hardware. It's tested on ACT's servers and workstations, but should also work on a wide range of Intel/AMD servers.

U.S. Renewables Outpace Nuclear Power

  • The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that renewable energy sources in total have surpassed nuclear power, and are likely to widen the gap unless new nuclear plants are built.U.S production of energy from renewable sources recently passed that from nuclear reactors despite administration efforts to revitalize U.S. nuclear power generation with federal loan guarantees for constructing new nuclear reactors.
    In his 2011 State of the Union speech, President Obama said, "We need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. That means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country."
    Obama's attempt to paint nuclear energy green, however, was before the nuclear disaster in Japan, which has prompted nations worldwide to back away from nukes, including Germany which has pledged to concentrate on renewable energy and shut down all its nuclear power plants by 2022.
    The Obama Administration, on the other hand, is currently proposing to add $36 billion to the current $18.5 billion in loan guarantees for new nuclear power plant construction in its FY2011 budget, bringing the total to $54 billion—nearly tripling the money currently available for new nuclear reactors.

    Renewable energy passed that of nuclear power in March 2011 (in quadrillion BTUs). (Source: Energy Information Administration)  
    Meanwhile the world continues to reel from the triple meltdown at the Fukushima-daichi nuclear complex in Japan. Efforts there have been plagued by problems and missteps.
    In the wake of this continuing fiasco, one bright light shines--namely, that renewable energy sources have already passed nuclear power generation in the U.S. and are on-track to outpace oil too.
    The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported that renewable energy sources--which include hydroelectric, solar, wind, geothermal, and bio-mass/fuels--were responsible for 0.805 quadrillion BTUs of energy, or about 17 percent of the total U.S. energy generation, in March 2011. Nuclear, on the other hand, provided 0.687 quadrillion BTUs, or about 14.5 percent, according to EIA estimates.
    Comparing the entire first quarter of 2010 to 2011, renewable energy sources rose about 15 percent, according to the EIA, and compared with the first quarter of 2009, renewable energy rose over 25 percent, marking accelerated growth in 2011.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The future of IT will be reduced to three kinds of jobs

Takeaway: The IT profession and the IT job market are in the midst of seismic changes that are going to shift the focus to three types of jobs.

There’s a general anxiety that has settled over much of the IT profession in recent years. It’s a stark contrast to the situation just over a decade ago. At the end of the 1990s, IT pros were the belles of the ball. The IT labor shortage regularly made headlines and IT pros were able to command excellent salaries by getting training and certification, job hopping, and, in many cases, being the only qualified candidate for a key position in a thinly-stretched job market. At the time, IT was held up as one of the professions of the future, where more and more of the best jobs would be migrating as computer-automated processes replaced manual ones.
Unfortunately, that idea of the future has disappeared, or at least morphed into something much different.

The glory days when IT pros could name their ticket evaporated when the Y2K crisis passed and then the dot com implosion happened. Suddenly, companies didn’t need as many coders on staff. Suddenly, there were a lot fewer startups buying servers and hiring sysadmins to run them.
Around the same time, there was also a general backlash against IT in corporate America. Many companies had been throwing nearly-endless amounts of money at IT projects in the belief that tech was the answer to all problems. Because IT had driven major productivity improvements during the 1990s, a lot of companies over-invested in IT and tried to take it too far too fast. As a result, there were a lot of very large, very expensive IT projects that crashed and burned.
When the recession of 2001 hit, these massively overbuilt IT departments were huge targets for budget cuts and many of them got hit hard. As the recession dragged out in 2002 and 2003, IT pros mostly told each other that they needed to ride out the storm and that things would bounce back. But, a strange thing happened. IT budgets remained flat year after year. The rebound never happened.
Fast forward to 2011. Most IT departments are a shadow of their former selves. They’ve drastically reduced the number of tech support professionals, or outsourced the help desk entirely. They have a lot fewer administrators running around to manage the network and the servers, or they’ve outsourced much of the data center altogether. These were the jobs that were at the center of the IT pro boom in 1999. Today, they haven’t totally disappeared, but there certainly isn’t a shortage of available workers or a high demand for those skill sets.
That’s because the IT environment has changed dramatically. More and more of traditional software has moved to the web, or at least to internal servers and served through a web browser. Many technophobic Baby Boomers have left the workforce and been replaced by Millennials who not only don’t need as much tech support, but often want to choose their own equipment and view the IT department as an obstacle to productivity. In other words, today’s users don’t need as much help as they used to. Cynical IT pros will argue this until they are blue in the face, but it’s true. Most workers have now been using technology for a decade or more and have become more proficient than they were a decade ago. Plus, the software itself has gotten better. It’s still horribly imperfect, but it’s better.
So where does that leave today’s IT professionals? Where will the IT jobs of the future be?

1. Consultants

Let’s face it, all but the largest enterprises would prefer to not to have any IT professionals on staff, or at least as few as possible. It’s nothing personal against geeks, it’s just that IT pros are expensive and when IT departments get too big and centralized they tend to become experts at saying, “No.” They block more progress than they enable. As a result, we’re going to see most of traditional IT administration and support functions outsourced to third-party consultants. This includes a wide range from huge multi-national consultancies to the one person consultancy who serves as the rented IT department for local SMBs. I’m also lumping in companies like IBM, HP, Amazon AWS, and Rackspace, who will rent out both data center capacity and IT professionals to help deploy, manage, and troubleshoot solutions. Many of the IT administrators and support professionals who currently work directly for corporations will transition to working for big vendors or consultancies in the future as companies switch to purchasing IT services on an as-needed basis in order to lower costs, get a higher level of expertise, and get 24/7/365 coverage.

2. Project managers

Most of the IT workers that survive and remain as employees in traditional companies will be project managers. They will not be part of a centralized IT department, but will be spread out in the various business units and departments. They will be business analysts who will help the company leaders and managers make good technology decisions. They will gather business requirements and communicate with stakeholders about the technology solutions they need, and will also be proactive in looking for new technologies that can transform the business. These project managers will also serve as the company’s point of contact with technology vendors and consultants. If you look closely, you can already see a lot of current IT managers morphing in this direction.

3. Developers

By far, the area where the largest number of IT jobs is going to move is into developer, programmer, and coder jobs. While IT used to be about managing and deploying hardware and software, it’s going to increasingly be about web-based applications that will be expected to work smoothly, be self-evident, and require very little training or intervention from tech support. The other piece of the pie will be mobile applications — both native apps and mobile web apps. As I wrote in my article, We’re entering the decade of the developer, the current changes in IT are “shifting more of the power in the tech industry away from those who deploy and support apps to those who build them.” This trend is already underway and it’s only going to accelerate over the next decade.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Maker Fair July 30-31, 2011 in Detroit

Click here if you are unable to view this message in your email
The Henry Ford    
Museum | Village | IMAX | Factory Tour | Research Center

The BDPA Insider - July 24, 2011

What better way to start the day than with your weekly message from BDPA!

In this issue:
Take Five: Osedra Siler (BDPA Indianapolis)
Take Five: Danielle Cauthen (BDPA New York)
Fundraising Tip: Stage a Board Member Thank-a-Thon

Top IT jobs in demand in 2011-Q1 - A market report of technology careers
New college grads doing better at the pay windowCIO Magazine - 7 Ways Job Seekers Self-Destruct
IT certifications have lost their pricing power
2011 BDPA Technology Conference Video
Blacks Gone Geek Live! 2011 National BDPA Conference
BDPA National Conference Career Fair Registration Now Open

2011 National BDPA Conference Registration Now Open

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Did WWIII Already Start?

Last week the Pentagon detailed the most serious cyber-attack on U.S. national security to date. Was WWIII just declared?
Intruders crossed the line in March by stealing over 24,000 classified design documents from a government contractor, according to Pentagon disclosures last week. This promoted the U.S. Cyber Command to go on the offensive.
Cyber-space began as a way for citizens to "connect, socialize and organize themselves," according to the "Department of Defense Strategy for Operating in Cyberspace." Now, however, over 2 billion global users share cyber-space with over 15,000 U.S. Department of Defense networks and 7 million computing devices at hundreds of installations in dozens of countries worldwide, resulting in millions of daily probes and the theft of thousands of classified documents yearly.

U.S. Cyber Command will coordinate U.S. security efforts within each branch of the military, including the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.
In March, one of these groups went over a red line, spurring the DOD to announce to the world that it will henceforth retaliate with active systems that detect intruders and relentlessly track them down in cyber-space.
"Foreign intelligence organizations have already acquired the capacity to disrupt elements of DOD’s information infrastructure," according to the DOD "Strategy for Operating in Cyberspace." Henceforth, DOD will "organize, train and equip for cyber-space as we do in air, land, maritime and space to support national security interests [in which] a cornerstone of this activity will be the inclusion of cyber red teams throughout war games and exercises [to develop an] active cyber-defense capability to prevent intrusions onto DOD networks and systems."
While WWIII was not officially declared, the DOD has put foreign governments and civilians on notice, warning DOD insiders in particular that henceforth they will suffer the "imposition of higher costs for malicious activity." The DOD "Strategy for Operating in Cyberspace" openly endorsed integrated offensive operations meant to disrupt the planning and execution of planned attacks, including the use of honeypot code to circumvent anonymity in order to track down attackers and stop their activities. During war-game scenarios cyber-attackers whose physical location has been identified can thus be dealt with by conventional forces.
"Active cyber-defense is DOD’s synchronized, real-time capability to discover, detect, analyze and mitigate threats and operates at network speeds by using sensors, software, and intelligence to detect and stop malicious activity before it can affect DOD networks and systems...these efforts will include development and integration in the areas of mobile media and secure cloud computing," according to the DOD document.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Motivational Moment

The world pins no medals on you because of what you know, but it may crown you with glory and riches for what you do.

Knowledge is an important component of success in any field. To accomplish anything worthwhile often requires years of study. But knowledge alone is not power; it becomes powerful only when it is applied through positive action. Study after study of successful people reveals that they have a bias for action. They gather the appropriate facts, relate them to their knowledge about the subject, develop an implementation plan, and then get into action. When in doubt, it’s far better to act too soon rather than too late.

The BDPA Insider - July 17, 2011

The BDPA Insider - July 17, 2011

What better way to start the day than with your weekly message from BDPA!

In this issue:  

Click here for the latest issue of "The BDPA Insider":

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This video provides a preview of the 33rd annual BDPA Technology Conference set to take place August 3-6, 2011 in Chicago, IL.

Video Credits: LeVern Danley (LAD4 Creations)

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BDPA Foundation News, Tuesday, July 12, 2011
by Wayne Hicks
In This Issue
Why Yo' Momma Won't Use Google+
Bemley Scholar: Francisco Nunez
BDPA Calendar of Events
President Profile: Toni Love
Career Center (224 Jobs!)

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Careers in Technology and much, much more

The objective of this workshop is to inspire you to embrace and effectively use Information Technology in your academic pursuits and professional career.

Careers in Technology and much, much more
Who: Milt Haynes, Founder, Blacks Gone Geek [bio]

Date: Friday, August 5, 2011 
Time: 2:15 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.

Where: Hilton Chicago
Room: TBD
Address: 720 South Michigan, Chicago, IL 60605

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BDPA Atlanta chapter had its greatest finish in the National BDPA High School Computer Competition (HSCC) championships back in 2008. The members of that team came in fifth place and earned Jesse Bemley Scholarships.

One of the talented members of that team was Nia Love. She is a multi-dimensional graduate who played basketball, golf and softball at Mt. Zion High School in Atlanta GA. She plans to use her Bemley Scholarship to study criminal justice at Valdosta State University.

Nia shared thoughts about her BDPA experiences:

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Naomi Matthews was a member of the HSCC team trained by BDPA Washington DC chapter that earned a silver medal at the 2010 National BDPA High School Computer Competition (HSCC) Championship held in Philadelphia. In the process Naomi also earned a Jesse Bemley Scholarship which she plans to use to study computer science in college.

Here is her HSCC testimonial:

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Have you ever wondered what your members are thinking? Remember the 'invisible thought bubbles' that are drawn about the heads of your cartoon heroes? Ever wonder about the 'invisible thought bubbles' running over the heads of your chapter members? Perhaps they are thinking about things without telling you.

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If you are unemployed or underemployed, this post is for you.  

I was laid off from my job on in mid-January of this year and I'm still looking. It's been 6 months but I'm not worried. I'm willing to put in the extra time and effort to find my ideal job. What keeps me motivated? Check this out!

Are You Motivated? by MicroTrain Career Services

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Are you taking your career in a new direction?
...or are you just entering the workforce?
...or are you undecided about your career path?

Then this EXPO is for you!!
August 5-6,  2011
Chicago Hilton
720 S. Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60605

Click here to download the Career Fair Flyer to give to a friend:

Click here to register for the Friday event:

Click here to register for the Saturday event:

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Please accept our invitation to join us in the City of the Big Shoulders by registering for the 33rd Annual National BDPA Conference, August 3-6, 2011 at the Hilton Chicago.

Click here to register for the 2011 National BDPA Conference today!

Quick Links...

Don't be the victim in your career

Takeaway: Don’t give in to victimhood and long years spent being pushed by circumstance. Take charge of your career.

Anyone who has spent more than a few months working in IT has probably heard some variation of the following:
“I love my job, but executive management just doesn’t understand IT and what we do.”
“My current position is great, but it seems like everyone around here who gets promoted turns into an idiot.”
“No one appreciates or talks to IT until something breaks, or they’re already half done with some project that should have involved IT from the beginning.”
Like any good gripe, there is some combination of truth mixed with general grumbling and an occasional touch of victimhood, the exact ratio varying depending on the employer and employee. Debating the mixture of each is not a particularly fruitful exercise, and instead I offer the following tips to overcoming the usual negatives of an IT career and accelerating your growth in the field.

You, Inc.

No one cares more for your self-interest than you, period. I’m amazed and flabbergasted by employees who thumb their blackberries into the wee hours of the morning and then spend the next day complaining about how tired they are while cursing their employer for somehow forcing them to spend every waking moment replying to generally unimportant emails. These same folks often have a bazillion hours of accrued vacation time that disappears each year, which they bitterly lament as if they were expecting management to handcuff them and cart them off on a forced holiday. For better or worse, the days of lifetime employment and job security have largely been replaced with nameless, faceless corporate management obsessed with profit and cost cutting. While it is obvious what we have lost, what has been gained is an ability and expectation for employees to act more like “free agents,” negotiating hard for their interests and swapping employers, positions, or skills as they choose or circumstances demand. While there’s a risk of coming off as obnoxious, I’d error on the side of being overaggressive than overly passive when looking out for your interests.
Plan your career as if you’re planning a business, detailing your profit requirements, skills you want to acquire, and geographies and industries you want to experience. If a leadership role is what you’re after, determine how you’ll learn basic management and advanced leadership and approach people around you whose skills you admire. Rather than waiting for HR to approve training budgets or launch a formal mentor program, seek the best and most talented and establish a rapport. At the very least, you’ll feel far more empowered by taking control of your development, and you’ll likely mystify those around you as you advance while they’re waiting on HR or some contrived “training fairy” to build their skills.
Evaluate your performance against this personal “business plan” each year and change the plan or correct your course as necessary, but never let circumstances batter you through life like a piece of driftwood on a stormy sea.

They don’t call it “fun” for a reason

Perhaps in all but a few exceptional cases, most of us would rather be doing something other than devoting the majority of our waking hours to work. While mattress testers and motocross racers may not share this complaint, the rest of us are forced to endure situations that can be stressful and keep us away from friends, family, and our preferred activities. This is often just as true whether you’re an IT analyst, VP of marketing, or CEO, and my father would often provide the above quip when I complained about the trials and tribulations of the world of work as a younger man. While you probably will not experience unbridled rapture every minute you spend ensconced in your office or cubicle, you need not grit your teeth and nobly endure endless self-flagellation in a dead-end job. If you’re missing most of the marks on your personal “business plan,” then force a change or accept your circumstances and stop complaining.

You can still excel as “best supporting actor”

Except in the case of pure technology companies, in most businesses IT plays a supporting role to sales, marketing, and product development. Like a Hollywood or stage production, a bad supporting actor can ruin the production, but an excellent one usually goes unnoticed since they allow only the star to shine all that much brighter. The lot in life of corporate IT is similar. When everything works perfectly, no one cares, despite the thousands of hours spent to achieve that state of boring bliss. Should a server hiccup or application fail, you’re suddenly public enemy #1. While I may have been harsh when I suggested those seeking undying affection get a dog, the fact remains that most corporate support functions are cursed with this existence, and lamenting it does little to help. The hidden benefit to most support roles is that you get to interact with all the moving parts of a business. Even the most junior IT analyst might be involved in meetings with the corporate controller on Monday and a VP of Sales on Wednesday. Use this access to explore how your company works, what role each different function plays, and how it interacts with the whole. Consider how your technical activities solve a business problem and how the different functions face similar or different challenges. This knowledge can be used to explore a career outside IT or move into consultative and management roles within IT.

Management ain’t magic, it’s learned

This is targeted more toward IT leaders and upper management, but one of the gravest sins you can commit as a leader is expecting that management and leadership skills exist naturally in everyone and will instantly flourish once you assign a new manager a cadre of direct reports. Most would laugh if I suggested taking a competent writer, plopping them in front of the latest development environment, and expecting them to write clean and efficient code since they’ve demonstrated excellent keyboarding talent, yet corporate management does the equivalent daily. Without a second thought, a talented technician or project manager will be promoted to an IT leadership position, and then their managers watch in horror as they spectacularly fail. Like any other skill, management and leadership are learned talents, and expecting someone to thrive in a new role without training and development is ludicrous. Furthermore, this usually destroys two formerly effective positions by removing the technician from the role they excelled at, then not equipping them for success in their new role.
With careful planning and a focus on managing and running your career in an active and aggressive manner, you can excel in IT or any other field. Furthermore, approaching your career as a free agent opens up the entire world of employment, be it at a different company, in an entrepreneurial role, or in a position totally unrelated to technology. While it may be scary to embrace the fact that you wield so much power over your own career, the alternative of victimhood and long years spent being pushed by circumstance through your working life is far less palatable.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Coming to a Desktop Near You: Virtualization

Will desktop computers become an IT endangered species in 2011?Well, now you've really done it. You virtualized your storage, then turned to the servers and got rid of a bunch of them, too. Even the enterprise network has been virtualized and optimized, leaving applications running on who knows what, who knows where. And now, with a never-growing budget in hand, you turn your attention to the last bastion of "unvirtualized" IT goodness:  the desktop.
Well, it's certainly not like we haven't tried this before. Almost 20 years of thin-client goodness has been there as companies like Citrix emerged and moved from multiuser OS/2 (yes, started by recreating what Unix minis did great back in the day) to serving up remote Windows sessions from data center-based servers to thin-client devices on workers' desks.  I thought then that we had come full circle, back to the pre-PC days when every user had a dumb terminal. 
The truth is, I always was a huge believer in the benefits of this approach, and went so far as to become a marketing vice president for two very early blade server companies, although we called them "communications servers" at the time. But did I ever imagine that those served-up sessions would replace PCs? Nope.
So here we are, 2011 and I smell deja vu all over again. Yes, I understand the benefits of a virtualized client--enhanced security; limited ability to take corporate intellectual property away; and greatly reduced support and upgrade costs. But I see two big DANGER, WILL ROBINSON warnings coming down the path.
First, there's the client-device problem. Some organizations will take the Bring Your Own Device, or BYOD, approach, allowing remote or field users to access their desktops from their home PC, laptop, tablet or--heaven forbid--phone. Welcome to IT/telecom hell as the Blackberry/iPhone/Android/Linux/Windows issues grow a hundredfold, at least.
Second, and perhaps the larger issue, is the "Not MY Apps" factor.  We've become so hooked on our personal productivity (and time-wasting) applications that the lack of persistence when disconnected and the loss of ability to use local storage will lead to even more users bringing their own--productivity applications, that is, whether OpenOffice or Microsoft or who knows what--that will then become a further burden as IT tries to (1) figure out how to get the users' data integrated into the virtualized systems, and (2) determine how to keep the users' family photos from ending up on network storage in the data center.
Are Web-based applications a better way to go? Is there a different take on this that you've tried and gotten to work without a revolt? If so, I'd love to hear about it, so add your reply to the end of this story and let me know.  I expect we'll keep that conversation going for a while.
I still dream of the day when "the office" is encapsulated into a virtualized object and served up to our devices--whatever they may be.  And yes, there will be those early adopters who will get there this year, following decades of IT pioneers who have the arrows in their backs to prove they paved the way. Till then, be prepared to pry full-blown client PCs from many sets of dead, cold fingers that just aren't ready to let go.
Maybe next year?

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Motivational Moment

Living without a definite major purpose promises nothing but a scant living.

You may get by in life without a Definite Major Purpose, but you will never get ahead. Definiteness of purpose is the starting point of all achievement. Financial goals in particular should be specific, definite, and measurable. You should know what you plan to earn, by when, and how you plan to do so. The greatest advantage of financial security is the peace of mind that comes from knowing that, whatever challenges life brings, you are equipped to deal with them. You will be better at whatever you choose to do because you can focus on opportunities instead of struggling to eke out a living.

Permanent link to this post: Living without a definite major purpose promises nothing but a scant living.