Monday, May 28, 2007

Final thoughts

Well I have to admit I was pretty sceptical when I started this course and found out it required me to create 15 blogs. I really didn't think there was any value in creating and maintaining a blog as a means of discussing the course and my own personal opinions of it.

As it turns out though I ended up learning a lot about this new medium and its implications in the new IT landscape. It certainly created some headaches for me as I tried to add some of the gadgets that were required but with the help of a friend (Thanks Shawn!!!) and good ole Google I managed to figure it out.

I had read some articles in an IT magazine, Wired, on how blogging was going to be the wave of the future and how every big company was going to have to adopt this new strategy or be left in the dust. I thought this was just shameless propaganda on behalf of the PC mag and its writer but I can see now that there may be some truth to that statement.

Allowing consumers an inside look at a corporation through the blogs of their staff has multiple benefits. No longer is big business this nameless faceless entity. We can actually associate a person with the company and learn valuable information about their top management. We also get an inside look at the organization's culture and learn about new innovations and products they may be introducing.

Conversely organizations can gather very pertinent and invaluable information about their consumers when they add their own blogs to company websites. What better way to gather feedback than through consumers voluntarily voicing their uncensored opinions and thoughts on blogger sites or right on the company's own website.

Overall I feel it has been beneficial to this course as a whole and to me personally. As I have stated I tend to resist change but am now glad this was part of the course since it has given me an inside view on the value of the blog. I may not yet be "swearing by the blog" but this course requirement has certainly opened my eyes to its benefits.

The big picture

For the most part I have used a chapter from the book as a guide for each of my blogs. In this blog I am just going to give my own personal view on how IT has impacted my life.

As I had stated in my first blog I did my best to stay away from technology. Admittedly it was because it seemed so complex and hard to grasp. Computers and the internet were intimidating and I felt only suited for the computer science type people. As time wore on and these technologies became more user friendly I still resisted. It almost became an issue of pride that I could be a fully functioning member of society without the use of technology.

The big turn around for me came when I realized I was going nowhere in my current job and had to start exploring different avenues of employment if I was going to build on my existing education. My mother was actually the one who suggested taking an IT course because she knew several people who had found great success after completing one. Well since mother always knows best I enrolled at ITI.

This was a huge leap of faith to move from Saint John to Moncton and enroll in a complex programming course especially since I had never even sent an email before. I was overwhelmed within days of starting the course since I was several years older than most of the class and all of the students were already proficient with computers. I honestly thought I had just made the biggest mistake of my life.

As it turns out it was one of the best moves I could have made. Even though the IT job market completely hit the skids during the course (An IT job site,, had 55,000 jobs when the course started and only 5,000 by the time I graduated...) it provided me with an excellent framework to build my IT career.

Despite the fact I have worked almost 6 years in the IT industry I am still intimidated and overwhelmed by the sheer size and scope of gizmos and gadgets technology has spawned. My experience has taught me though that simply ignoring these advances will not make them go away and embracing technology instead of resisting it will only be beneficial in the long run.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Kevin Mitnick - super hacker?

Working for a helpdesk in one of the biggest companies in the world was definitely a challenge. Not only did we serve 70,000 employees in North America but we were also partly responsible for calls from around the world. If you had a problem or question on how to do something with any system you had, you called us. Can you imagine the acronyms we had to learn to support a global organization that had just merged 5 years prior from two existing oil giants.

The first acronym you learned though was S&C (Security and Controls). The moment you walked into the place as a helpdesk analyst S&C became your world. This was the number 2 priority (behind safety but in front of helping the customer) that we had to work by. This could at times prove frustrating for clients and analysts alike as it would often interfere with our ability to help people or force them to take much longer routes to get what they needed.

These measures existed for a very good reason though. We were basically the gatekeepers to the guts of the organization because of our ability to control username and password access to hundreds of internal systems. There were of course layers of security to keep us safe from external harm but what easier way into the heart of a corporation than through the front door.

Some of the most notorious "hackers" in the world were not necessarily software geniuses. Kevin Mitnick achieved "hacker" fame not through the manipulation of software code but through the manipulation of people. His best strength was convincing the holder of the keys he was somebody else which allowed him to waltz right into the system.

This certainly makes it clear to the analyst why we have such stringent S&C policies. The hard part is convincing the client that the hoops you are putting them through were for their own good.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Techno spiders

Well this is my technorati post. I was not pleased to learn that my blog was going to be invaded by internet spiders as a result of signing onto their service...(If you missed it, the second option to link the blog to technorati was to send the spiders after your blog).
I actually liked the spiders bit to link the sites and found the technotrati experience generally pleasing overall.

Chapter 8 was definitely heavy on the techno jargon. Lots of acronyms like TCP/IP, HTTP and ISDN. Not to mention this doozy, DWDM - dense wavelength division multiplexing. A term used to describe how optical networks are able to boost capacity by using different colors of light which allows them to carry separate streams of data... OK... That was a mouthful.

The book didn’t stop there either. We were pelted with several more abbreviations including DNS, DSL, NIC, FTP and VoIP. I don’t think there is any group that likes to use acronyms more than people doing IT. Having worked in an ISP (they’re everywhere! Internet Service Provider in case you didn’t know) and for a technical helpdesk I have never been so bombarded with strange 3 and 4 letter words in my whole life. I imagine to some it was like they were speaking a different language. Not unlike during class after an explanation of packet switching…. :D

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

What is Data?

No not that Data. I'm talking about the data that you use to create information. (I'm hoping everyone knows who Data is and I don't wind up looking like one of those rabid Star Trek fans...)
Chapter 7 tackles the question of how we make the most out of our data. Companies will spend enormous sums of money to collect it but without actually turning it into pertinent and timely information it just becomes a costly investment.

Techniques like data warehousing pull data from all departments in the company into a single repository. Data mining, which consists of running complex queries against large volumes of data, can then used to search for patterns. This information can be used by all levels of the organization across all departments creating efficiencies for the entire workforce.

One of the keys for the larger less flexible organizations is the ability to integrate their legacy data (often stored and maintained in mainframe computers) into a modern, more dynamic system. Middleware is used to communicate between the two systems allowing these large companies to avoid the costs of having to replace the outdated software.

Sorry for the stick to the book post but I think Data would have wanted it that way. Just in case you don’t know who Data is.

Now that's a lot of money

The amount of money being spent on IT infrastructure is absolutely unbelievable. Billions upon billions of dollars in the US alone is spent on hardware, operating systems and enterprise software. This doesn't even take into consideration the whopping 700 billion (as of the book date) on networking services alone... 700 billion.... I didn't think there was that much money in the whole world.. :D

There are so many IT solutions out there for any size business that it would seem impossible there were any companies left that didn't have one. IT companies have also made it very easy to get technology working for you even if you aren't an expert or have experts on staff. Everything can be outsourced. Consulting, implementation, training and support can be part of the package for enterprise software. Web developers and hosters are a dime a dozen. They have even developed on demand computing which is a system where you pay for the computing power you use.

I think my favourite has to be autonomic computing; a computer system that can manage itself. This is not yet a full reality but with the amount of money organizations pay for system crashes there is little wonder we are moving towards this. They’ll be able to heal and defend themselves as well as optimize and configure. It’s almost as if they could think. I wonder what your computer could possibly be thinking of you…….

The rise of the machines

We sure have come a long way in a short time. I can remember seeing my first Commodore Vic 20. My friend owned one and it gave me my first taste of video games. We used to play a game called Gorf all the time. It was the coolest thing I had ever seen... lol

Seeing computers evolve over the years has been fascinating to watch. From their humble beginnings as electronic accounting machines through mainframe then personal computers and finally winding up with the internet era. This transformation has been increasing exponentially as time progresses with the rapid advancements allowing us to do more for less.

I realized technology was moving at a stunning pace but I was shocked to read Moore's Law and the Law of Mass Digital Storage. It is absolutely amazing to think that the doubling of microprocessor power and the halving of its cost is happening so quickly. Much the same as the doubling of digital storage for every dollar spent every 15 months. As we continue to advance into fields like nanotechnology these rates could become even more accelerated.

I sometimes feel that technology is advancing so rapidly that we’ll soon be unable to keep up. It used to take years for a PC to become obsolete, now it only takes months. I sometimes wish for simpler times. Where is that Vic 20 when I need it?