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5 Links for Developers and IT Pros 12-13-13

  
  
  

5 at a mall in Montrealby Ron Miller
Ness Blogger

It's Friday and that means it's time for our weekly feature where we search the Web looking for 5 interesting, funny and poignant links for developers and IT Pros.

If you missed our most recent post, Companies still struggle with apps vs. browser question, please check it out. New data from Adobe suggests that apps users are far more engaged than mobile web users, but the data itself might not be the end of it because you still need to develop your mobile strategy in the context of your particular business goals --and so the question remains unanswered because there is no right answer.

And without further delay, here we go with this week's links:

Why Johnny Can’t Write Multithreaded Programs | Smart Bear Blog

Many programmers lose the thread when writing multi-threaded programs and this writer believes it's because they forget to apply basic programming principles.

Never, ever do this to Hadoop | InfoWorld

What is "this" in this case? It's putting Hadoop on a Storage Area Network. The writer argues that for performance reasons you should never do this, but instead buy servers with local disks or you will regret it. 

How to Recruit a Good Developer When You Don't Code | Mashable

It's always a challenge when you lack a set of skills like programming to know what you're looking for when you hire a programmer, but many startups are faced with this dilemma. You could have a great idea, but lack the programming chops to deliver it, and for that you'll need a programmer or two to help you get going.

Why CIOs stick with cloud computing despite NSA snooping scandal | PCWorld

Conventional wisdom says, CIOs were afraid of cloud for security reasons before the NSA revelations broke. This should only add fuel to the fire, right? Actually at least some CIOs say the advantages of the cloud outweigh the risks and they're going to continue to use cloud services in spite of surveillance.

Obama says he's not allowed iPhone for 'security reasons' | Reuters

BlackBerry may be in trouble, but the president is still using his and he says that his IT department won't let him switch to an iPhone because of security concerns. Looks like he'll stick with the BlackBerry for the time being until his staff figures out how to secure other phones.

Photo by Ron Miller Used under Creative Commons Share Alike/Attribution License.

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5 Links for Developers and IT Pros 11-1-13

  
  
  

Number 5 section marker at Arlington National Cemetary

by Ron Miller
Ness Blogger 

It's Friday and that means it's time for our weekly feature where we search the Web looking for 5 interesting, funny and poignant links for developers and IT Pros.

If you missed our most recent post, Infographic: Mobile Developer Trends, please check it out. Smartphone developers have a lot of options besides iOS and Android, and this infographic illustrates some of the latest trends in mobile development including the most popular platforms. Number 3 might just surprise you

And without further delay, here we go with this week's links:

Focus…it’s all about the UX | A Screw Loose Blog

Brian Katz is fed up with business complexity and he's not going to take it anymore. He says it's time we focused on the user and that means starting with interface. Make it easy. Hide the complexity. 

Tech industry calls for 'oversight and accountability' of NSA surveillance | Computerworld

Speaking of being mad as hell, how about the NSA grabbing data from Google, Yahoo! and other online services. Nobody understands better how hard it is to balance security and privacy than American tech giants, but they support ending bulk surveillance as a starting point --and at the very least starting a discussion on how to reel in the NSA.

Straight talk about cloud migration myths | IT Middleground

We've all heard the cloud FUD before, especially about security, but this piece gives you some straight talk on moving to the cloud and tries to bust some of the myths and fight FUD with information.

German Chancellor's BlackBerry Likely Withstood NSA Tapping | eWeek

For the all the fuss over allegations that the US spied on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, it turns out between her Blackberry and the Secusmart chip inside of it, it is highly unlikely that the US was ever able to access any meaningful information from her phone.

Beating the Budget Blues | Enterprise Efficiency Blog 

Just about everyone works within budget constraints, but CIOs can't worry about what they don't have, they need to concentrate on spending the money allocated to them as wisely as possible to meet the needs of the business, and technology for technology's sake is not necessarily a good investment.

Photo by Tomma Henckel Used under Creative Commons Share Alike/Attribution License.

5 Links for Developers and IT Pros 9-6-13

  
  
  

Number Five on a door at Montreal movie theater

By Ron Miller
Ness Blogger 

It's Friday and that means it's time for our weekly feature where we search the Web looking for 5 interesting, funny and poignant links for developers and IT Pros.

If you missed our most recent post, Stable company seeks mature mobility model for long-term relationship, please check it out. When it comes to mobility, companies can identify their maturity level along a spectrum, according to a recent study released by Kido Communications for Ness. Is yours a brat? 

And without further delay, here we go with this week's links:

How to remain secure against NSA surveillance | The Guardian

There are ways to protect your enterprise from NSA surveillance and this article outlines some ideas. A better way would be to pressure the government to stop because it's bad for your business if you're feeling your systems are insecure from government intrusion.

6 free IPad productivity apps you can't live without | ITworld 

Some IT pros still think of the iPad as a toy, rather than a device for working, but these apps could change your mind. And if they don't? What you want for nothing? Your money back?

CIO Lessons From Power Tools | Enterprise Efficiency

Who would have thought that power tools could have management implications, but it turns out that you could learn a lot about from a power tool and you might recognize some of the challenges you face at the office as you undertake your home improvement project. This writer did.

Software Security: Balancing Resources and Risks | Smartbear

Software security as network security is always going to be a balancing act. You have to look at your personnel, your requirements and find the right balance between risk and resources for your company's needs.

The enterprise smartwatch invasion starts now | CITEworld

Are smartwatches toys, or are they like tablets, a new device marking time before you see one in the enterprise. C'mon you know your CEO is going to walk into the office in the next few months wearing a new Samsung Smartwatch and ask you to support it --then we'll be off to the races.

Photo by Ron Miller Used under Creative Commons Share Alike/Attribution License.

5 Links for Developers and IT Pros 7-26-13

  
  
  

by Ron Miller
Ness Blogger 

5 with flag on top at checkout at Home Depot July 4th weekend 2013.It's Friday and that means it's time for our weekly feature where we search the Web looking for 5 interesting, funny and poignant links for developers and IT Pros.

If you missed our most recent post, Implementing ideas at the speed of thought, please check it out. Today, access to mobile development platforms and cloud services means if you can think it you can develop it without the cost associated with building your own infrastructure.

And without further delay, here we go with this week's links:

Five cloud mistakes guaranteed to make your deployment fail | Cloud Pro

You've heard all the advice you need to do a successful cloud deployment, but here are five ways to guarantee not that you'll succeed, but that you'll fail. You probably want to avoid these.

A CIO's hierarchy of needs | Word of Pie

Every CIO has a series of needs and tasks he or she must do to be effective. This post looks at these in the form a pyramid a la Maslow's hierarchy of needs. 

The irrelevance of Microsoft | Benedict Evans

You've probably heard that Microsoft had a losing quarter, which is hardly reason to hit the panic button even if it was their first losing one ever, but Evans looks beyond the quarter to the long term. And these graphs may convince you that Microsoft is in far deeper trouble than one bad earnings report would suggest. 

Clashing Coding Styles: Learning to Work with a Growing Team of Programmers | Smartbear Blog

If you have a large project team, chances are you are going to have a range of coding styles, and much like making a writing project with many voices sound cohesive, you need to do the same with your coding project. This article offers some practical advice on how to make that happen.

Majority of businesses remain in the dark over data breaches | DaniWeb

A new study by Verizon found that a vast majority of companies have had breaches and it takes several months for them to realize and most of the time they find out from third parties or customers, not through their own security apparatus. That's a pretty sad testament.

Photo by Tomma Henckel Used under Creative Commons Share Alike/Attribution License.

Note: I'm heading on vacation for a couple of weeks, so the 5 Links for Developers and IT Pros series is taking a break with me. See you in a few weeks.

How to migrate Windows without killing your CTO

  
  
  

by Madhan Gopalan
Ness AVP, Financial Services

canstockphoto0907862A large Financial Institution’s CTO once asked a gathering ‘Do you know how long it takes to transform an IT organization like ours?’ As you would have imagined, the responses varied from one-year to several years. Once the responses stopped, he softly said ‘Two and half CTOs’. The crowd burst into laughter.

Operating System migrations, especially in large firms, may not be as dramatic as this CTO indicated, but it sure has a lot of challenges and 18 to 36 months’ time frame, depending on the size of the organization, to migrate to a modern desktop. Here are a few things to consider while migrating from XP to Windows 7 or 8 if you are running the technology for a large firm

The right governance, participation and communication

The right Governance may sound a little dull, but it is a primary requirement, without which your migration program is bound to fail. To start with, identify the project team and set expectations with different groups, regions and business departments within the organization. Also, a change of this size, to be successful, requires participation at all levels. Hence, involve people at all levels – strategic, tactical, functional and technical. Appoint champions and liaisons who can take your cause and message down to the last employee. Administrative Assistants fit this bill really well. To start with, set up monthly steering committee meetings at the strategic level and bi-weekly or weekly meetings at the tactical level. Communicate frequently and copiously the status of the program and the results to all the stakeholders.  Also, keep the process transparent.

Testing, testing and more testing

I cannot emphasize enough the need for testing your key and critical software platforms, applications, and models before migrating to the latest version of Windows. Microsoft provides a list of all the market applications that are certified for Windows. 

But that does not mean you are good to go just because you see your application on that list. For instance, as you would expect, Excel is certified for Windows. But that doesn’t mean the model you built on Excel with underlying programming (say Macros and VB Code) will work automatically just because Excel is on the approved application list.  You may have to do little tweaks and in-some cases rebuild these models. Testing assumes even greater importance in firms that have home-grown solutions. 

Here are a few things to keep in mind when testing your apps:

  1. Applications are best tested using spare test machines that are exact replicas of the existing machine but with latest software. However setting up test machines can be a logical nightmare especially in large organization with multiple locations. In this instance, you can use a Virtual Desktop Instance (VDI) that has the latest operating system and application software. 
  2. Before starting the testing process, take the inventory of all the applications that are typically used by the employees. The Systems Management Server application should help you to get the inventory at the user level. However, access to websites and select plug-ins and tools downloaded from third-party software providers’ websites may not show up in the application. Watch out for them. 
  3. If a given application is used by more than 10 people, the best practice is to package it and test it thoroughly before being pushed into a given computer in an automated fashion. That way manual installs can be avoided.

Setting expectations and handling apprehensions

The personal computer, as the name suggests, is indeed personal to the individual using it. Consequently, you are likely to face a certain degree of resistance when you try to change something that is close to them. After all they have been using it all these years without much ado so why make a change. 

Here are the few things that you can do to set and manage expectations and keep the apprehensions under control:

  1. Tell them that Microsoft typically stops supporting earlier versions after a certain period of time. For instance, Microsoft plans to stop supporting Windows XP and Office 2003 by April 2014. Also, demonstrate the benefits and the cool user interface.
  2. Communicate regularly through emails, blog posts and on the company intranet about the imminent change -- and the do’s and the don’ts as well.
  3. Before migrating, back up all the data and ask the users to move all the data, if any, in the desktop to a network location.  That will provide the assurance to the employees that they should get their data back after the migration is complete.
  4. Most employees freak out if they find something is missing. Hence, once you are done migrating the machine, ensure that their settings (especially bookmarks), applications, data files are properly reinstated.
  5. Keep a well-trained team and if possible a dedicated phone line to answer queries about accessing the new system.  I also would recommend a Microsoft Office trainer to be part of the team who could periodically run training classes for those who chose to attend.

Rolling out and getting feedback

Before rolling out in a large scale, do several pilots. This will provide you a sense of all the dependencies involved and the level of user readiness. Also, the most common mistake is excluding a specific group of people from the pilots. Involve all the groups – functional, technical, legal, finance, sales, marketing and general administration – to actively participate in these pilots. Also, obtain feedback from them through surveys and other means so that you can constantly refine your migration process 

If you follow this advice, you should have a smoother transition from one version of Windows to another -- and just maybe you can do it faster, more efficiently, with fewer headaches. And maybe that CTO at the party can survive to do his job another day.

The author, Madhan Gopalan, based out of Hackensack, NJ, is an Associate Vice President with Ness Technologies. The views expressed here are his own and not necessarily that of his employer. He can be reached at madhan.gopalan@ness.com

Photo Credit: (c) Can Stock Photo 

5 Links for Developers and IT Pros 3-22-13

  
  
  

by Ron Miller
Ness Blogger 

5 3 22 13It's Friday and that means it's time for our weekly feature where we search the Web looking for 5 interesting, funny and poignant links for developers and IT Pros.

If you missed our most recent posts, Flummoxed by Samsung Knox and iOS Rules the Sky Infographic, please check them out. In the former, Glenn Gruber wonders if a containerization approach is the best way to secure enterprise data on mobile devices, and in the latter, when Go-Go inflight analyzed which customer devices were connecting to its inflight service, it found iOS was the clear winner.

And without further delay, here we go with this week's links:

Microsoft's baffling 'multiple personality disorder | ZDNet

Anyone who has used Microsoft knows this good Microsoft-bad Microsoft swing. In some cases, Microsoft seems to completely get what customers need, while in others, it is bafflingly tone deaf.

7 Editors for the Android — for Free or Cheap | Smartbear

C'mon who doesn't like something for nothing or at least a good deal. That's what you'll find in this round-up of free or low-cost Android editors. Surely, there must be one for you.

The 5 things you need for the perfect smartphone | ZDNet

If you could have the perfect smartphone, what features would it have? This writer rounds up five features for that perfect phone. See if you agree.

Advice to CIOs: Don’t Choke On the Alphabet Soup | Laserfiche Blog

It's easy for CIOs to get caught up in their shifting roles as more of what used to be their jobs gets delegated to other C-level executives, but this writer says it's important to keep your eyes on the prize and strive to innovate.

Show Me the Money: Which Mobile Apps are Profitable for Developers? | Smartbear

Mobile developers will want to check out this report on which mobile apps make the most money. You might be surprised to learn for instance the most profitable platform is probably not the one you think it is. 

Photo by Ron Miller. Used under Creative Commons Share Alike/Attribution License.

Your IT Department Can't Ignore Disruption

  
  
  

by Glenn Gruber
Ness AVP Travel Technologies and Mobile Solutions

“If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less”.  
General Eric Shinseki,  Former Chief of Staff, U.S. Army, now Secretary of Veterans Affairs

Managing change is hard. Many companies and even whole industries have been blindsided by new entrants who are empowered by technology and changing consumer behavior, and not bound by old business models and processes. What’s more troubling is that these incumbents don’t fully comprehend the extent they need to transform their technology operations to compete in the future. It is a transformation from an IT organization to a software engineering team and from business as usual to an organization that is agile and aligned with the business.

Many companies are making the shift from developing software in-house to ones that create customer facing software in the cloud and on mobile devices. It's not always an easy transition to make, but those who fail to do it, could be doomed to irrelevance because the market is changing and you have to make that adjustment before it's too late and you end up like General Shinseki's quote.

Most conversations around innovation and disruption tend to be focused on technology companies. But digital is driving disruption in our most traditional industries:

disurption

This disruptions aren’t simply in the conversion from analog to digital, but in the changes in business models and business process that the digital transformation enables. Cloud and mobile are fundamentally changing the way that consumers are accessing the products and services they purchase. As a result, increasingly, software will be at the center of how you differentiate your company from competition and engage with your customers.

Worse yet, cloud and mobile have also conspired to make it faster, easier and cheaper for new entrants to come on the scene. A decade ago, a company had to raise at least $10M to bring a concept to market. Today, modest Angel funding and a credit card can allow companies to build better, more scalable products for at least an order of magnitude less in terms of cost and time to market.

Perhaps Marc Andreesen said it most succinctly: “Software is Eating the World”.

The problem is that too many companies are set up to be feasted upon.

The Stakes are Raised

When you’re competing with companies who are nimble and starting from a clean slate, being bound by the past is crippling. 

So if software is the key to tomorrow, the simple answer is to invest in technology. But unfortunately that transformation isn’t quite so simple. 

Building customer-facing (e.g. revenue generating) systems is a very different activity than building internal IT applications. The stakes are far higher with the cost of failure measured in customer attrition, lost revenue, falling profits and damaged reputation. Application resiliency is paramount. 

The skills required to build ‘commercial-grade’ software are different than those that reside in many IT organizations. That’s because software products are NOT simply a different type of IT project.

In an article about the Informationweek 500 rankings, Vail Resorts CIO Robert Urwiler summed it up well: “It's incredibly rewarding to work on customer apps, but IT can't pretend that it's the same as building internal IT systems. I don't know that every CIO will be able to make the transition, and it frankly creates a different kind of IT organization.”

So there are significant implications both in terms of the type of transformation that’s required in your team and on the software development partners that you engage. How you manage that transformation and selection of partners is critical to success. 

How Do I Know If I'm Ready?

So if you want to compete in the future, you have to do an honest assessment of your organization and ecosystem:

  1. How tight is your software engineering process? This is a multi-faceted question and speaks of perspective. Does your process match the business anymore? Historically Waterfall processes, requirements gathering and 2-3 year project plans were de jure. But today’s business moves much faster than Waterfall can react to. Agile processes are much better suited to adapting to changing requirements and has the added benefit of providing much more transparency over progress, as well as better alignment and collaboration with the business.

    Some may feel that they may follow best practices. But that’s because best practices to them means best practices they’ve seen in their own experiences, not necessarily best in class. Also some may look at how they compare versus competitors in their own industry. But even if you do well in that comparison, you might not do well against a software company, which could very well be your new competition. Start by looking at key productivity metrics like velocity (e.g., Story points delivered, not LOC), defects, rework and schedule variance. Only by looking at hard metrics, can you assess how well you're (or how poorly) you're doing. If you don’t have metrics, it likely means your engineering process hasn’t been optimized.
     
  2. Assess your team. Forrester Research has done some great work on building high-performance teams (subscription required). In software development, the biggest pejorative is calling someone a "code monkey." It’s the moral equivalent of the interchangeable factory worker – you can write code, but there is no implication of expertise or artistry. The premise behind Forrester’s Jeffrey Hammond report is that software, often looked at as a algorithmic process (i.e., paint by numbers) is actually a heuristic process and requires creativity to truly excel. So do you have the people with the right characteristics who can propel you to excellence in the future or do you need to change the team up to get you where you need to be? It's a crucial question.
     
  3. Evaluate your partners. Just as you look inward, you also have to look at the external partners who contribute to the software development activities. Many companies have used the traditional ITO mega-firms to build software, as they just expanded from other services they may have started with such as infrastructure management. But software engineering for external customers and internal IT are different animals. And the resources they have and the models they use aren’t necessarily well aligned to commercial grade software engineering. They may be able to provide armies of people, but they aren’t the elite special forces types. You may want to consider engaging boutique firms that focus on software engineering for these kinds of activities. Remember to focus on the right tool for the right job.

Former NFL General Manager Michael Lombardi, who is currently an analyst for the NFL Network, once said “Don’t confuse hope for a plan”. Conflating these terms is what causes many franchises and companies to fail. Football teams may hope that rookies improve or that there will be fewer  injuries, but things rarely work out the way you hope because everyone tends to overrate the talent they have or fails to factor in outside events

That's why assuming that things will change radically without radical change is more often than not delusional. You need a plan. And it starts with an honest assessment of your talent and devising a concrete plan on what changes you will make that will lead you to success.

If you can put a plan in place to change the way you do business, you will be in a better position to manage the change and deal with whatever unknowns come your way. But doing nothing simply dooms you to irrelevance. The world is changing whether you acknowledge it or not. You might as well try and control it as best you can.

5 Links for Developers and IT Pros 11-30-12

  
  
  

5 11 30 12It's Friday and that means it's time for our weekly feature where we search the Web looking for 5 interesting, funny and poignant links for developers and IT Pros.

If you missed our most recent post, Even in the cloud, IT has a big role to play, please check it out now. IT pros need to understand their role is changing in the face of the cloud, but that doesn't mean they don't have one.

Please consider subscribing if you like what you see here, and if you have something to say, please feel free to leave a comment and let us know what you think.

And without further delay, here we go with this week's links:

13 Top Tech Trends for 2013 | 21st Century IT

If you follow tech news, you probably won't be surprised by this list, but have a look and see if you agree with the picks. Will the Internet of Things and 3D printing really be what we're talking about next year in IT? I guess we'll see.

As Boom Lures App Creators, Tough Part Is Making a Living | NYTimes.com

The good news is that anyone with some programming savvy can create an app. The bad news it's harder to make a living than it looks, but that hasn't stopped people from trying. 

Pearson exec: we need to be an “Electronic Arts for education”  | GigaOM

For Pearson, becoming the "Electronic Arts" of publishing means making the digital textbook experience more interactive and more interesting to today's students. 

In the Olympics of Algorithms, a Russian Keeps Winning Gold | MIT Technology Review

Did you know there was actually contest for computer programmers and the best ones in the world are from Russia. In fact, the top programmer has won the competition every year since 2005.

How Steve Jobs Ruined My Life, A CIO’s Confession | Word of Pie

In this tongue-in-cheek piece, a CIO complains how if it weren't for Steve Jobs, life would be easy and he would still be in control of his enterprise. Instead, thanks to Jobs he has to deal with easy-to-use apps that are difficult to manage, which has also lead to the BYOD phenomenon and the consumerization of IT -- and now it's suddenly much harder to be a CIO. Thanks Steve.

Photo by Ron Miller. Used under Creative Commons Share Alike/Attribution License.

Actually, CIOs Would be Foolish to Ignore Big Data

  
  
  

6914441342 605f947885At the end of last month, Art Langer wrote a guest column in the Wall Street Journal called, CIOs Shouldn’t Let Big Data Rule Their Decision-Making. Wow, I couldn't think of anymore wrong-headed advice than ignoring data.

His point was that sometimes data doesn't tell the whole story. To illustrate this, he cited some experiences from years ago in which relying on data resulted in mistakes. He argued that we should not forget the human factor.

Langer has impressive academic credentials including being the head of the executive masters program in IT management at Columbia University, but telling CIOs to ignore Big Data is just crazy talk -- and not the kind of advice he should be offering future IT managers.

First of all, the examples he cited are really, really old. Today, CIOs have access to data stores that could actually give them much more insight than was possible in the 80s and 90s. And using that data, CIOs can make more informed and better decisions than ever before. To ignore that would be insane.

A recent report commissioned by the U.S. government called Demystifying Big Data (pdf link), described the value of big data this way:

"Hidden in the immense volume, variety and velocity of data that is produced today is new information, facts, relationships, indicators and pointers, that either could not be practically discovered in the past, or simply did not exist before."

And therein lies the flaw in Dr. Langer's argument. Surely bad decisions have been made in the past based on bad data, but ignoring big data because of those past errors doesn't make sense, not when the sheer amount of data available makes it much more likely that data-driven decision making will lead to a more positive outcome.

Of course, there is always going to be the human factor that Langer argued for, and the big data analysis tools available today are not necessarily ready to pull out those serendipitous discoveries the government report alluded to -- but that doesn't mean a man who is helping to shape the minds of tomorrow's CIOs should be so dismissive of it.

In fact, in a presentation at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference last June, author and MIT professor Andrew McAfee argued that if companies want to succeed they need to rely less on human intuition and more on actual data. Interestingly, Langer actually cites one of McAfee's books at the end of his article, but I believe he misses the key points McAfee and fellow author Eric Brynjolfsson were trying to make in their book, Race Against the Machine when he suggests they argued for the human factor.

McAfee said in his June presentation that we had to get past this notion that humans can somehow outthink computers or that it's up to managers "to steer the battleship." As he put it, "People need to get out of the way and have less faith in intuitive decision making and base [their decisions] on data."

McAfee recognized something that Langer missed and that's the fact that people can't possibly keep up with the volume of information out there today, and within that volume lies many insights, ones that it would be impossible for even the smartest humans to find -- at least quickly enough to matter.

Of course, there will always remain a human factor, and machines aren't fool-proof either. They are after all created and programmed by humans, but it's clear that big data, whatever you may think of its place in the current hype lexicon, has a very real role to play in today's CIO decision making, and those that ignore it, put their companies at risk -- and by extension, their own jobs.

Graphic by luckey_sun. Used under Creative Commons License.

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