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Archive for June, 2010

I got paid to search with Bing

June 29, 2010 Leave a comment

This showed up in the mail and I thought it’d be fun to share.

Benefits of the Cloud

June 26, 2010 Leave a comment

One thing that I’ve noticed about tech reports talking about the cloud is that they never get the benefit correct. That doesn’t mean that somebody doesn’t understand it, it could just be that I haven’t read their articles. Most all writers talk about how the motivation behind the cloud is for large companies to outsource their IT budget. But that’s not what it is! The reason why a company would host another companies infrastructure is that the client company can’t make the most of their hardware.

For example, a small company wants an Exchange Server. So they buy the hardware and the licenses and setup the server. But they didn’t have enough money for purchasing redundant hardware. If the small company pays for a hosting company to host their mailboxes they would pay less than what they what running their own server would cost them. The reason is because they just wouldn’t have enough users to make the most of the hardware. But a hosting company (also known as the cloud) would have enough hardware for redundancy, and enough clients to make the most of the hardware.

So for a large company it’s not worth it to migrate to the cloud. A large company can use all of the servers resources and afford redundancy. So I can see in the future as medium sized companies grow to large companies that they’ll be able to afford to bring their data in house.

How to find a cat that doesn’t meow

June 12, 2010 1 comment

For all of those who don’t know, Amanda and mines cat Isis doesn’t meow. She will when we’re giving her a bath, but then it’s more of a threat to kill us all once she’s been dried off.

On Thursday I come home and David is there playing Guitar Hero III. I’m putting my jacket away in the coat closet and Michael comes out from the back room. We go look at the kittens and talk about the kittens for a little while. I’m walking around, getting the kittens food, etc. when I notice that I don’t see Isis. No big deal. Then when talking with David I hear Isis collar jingle. I look around, no Isis. Hmmm. She must have ran by really quickly.

For the next few minutes there’s still more coming and going and I don’t see Isis, and neither do Michael or David. I hear the jingle when watching Guitar Hero and then really look around. I don’t see Isis at all. What is she up to. I go and grab something in the kitchen and when I’m walking back I see a paw desperately pawing out from the coat closet. Poor Isis. She must have seen my putting my jacket away as an opportunity to investigate the coat closet, and I shut her in!

Categories: Pets

Self Signed Certificates should be more acceptable in the Windows system

June 12, 2010 Leave a comment

Computer Certificates are important, but complex things. They’re used by servers to validated that they are who they say they are. That might sound confusing, but there are tricks that hackers can do which will intercept calls from a client to a server. It’s known as DNS redirect. The client has no idea that it’s not talking to the server it thinks it’s talking to. The current existing solution to this problem is certificate authorities. Getting certificates are expensive.

The way it works is that your Operating System comes configured to trust a certain set of certificate authorities. The idea is that if the base certificate authorities are compromised the whole internet isn’t trustworthy. So we’re all in it together. Then what happens is server administrators request certificates from the authorities and installs them on their servers. Then when the client (you) go to the website the server hands back the site and the certificate. At that point the client verifies with the certificate authority if the certificate matches the server name. If the authority says yes, the user doesn’t even know what just happened on their behalf. If the certificate does not match the browser throws up errors.

I think that while this is good for “trusting” websites the first time you send secure information to them, I think there’s another solution that would less expensive for everybody (except the certificate authorities who would lose money). It’s possible for servers to create self signed certificates. With the way things stand now, clients consider self signed certs to be as bad as invalid certs. I think that the scenario of somebody logging into their companies computers for the first time, and accepting the self signed cert, should be a way more user friends scenario than what it is today. What should happen is the browser should ask the user “Do you want to trust this certificate” and the user can verify that the websites IP Address hasn’t been high jacked, and accept the cert. Then every time after that the websites is trusted, because it remembers the self signed cert.  

Why doesn’t my computer help me?

June 5, 2010 Leave a comment

Have you ever tried to do something on your computer, couldn’t figure it out, and then go to Help? You probably have. How many times have you done it? Probably not more than once. Microsoft goes through a lot of effort to hire technical writers and who try to predict why people will use Help. The end result is a lot of effort gone to waste. Most of the time (in my opinion) people are trying to find an option, button, or configuration that they know they’ve seen before, and now they just can’t find it.

Macintosh started going in the right direction in having the Operating System help the user with the Spotlight feature in Mac OS X. That was released in 2001 and they’ve done some really nifty things with it since. I don’t think Macintosh has solved the problem yet, but they are way ahead of everyone else. Windows started to go in the right direction with the Control Panel in Vista (released in 2006). Type a word into the Control Panel search bar and human readable sentences will appear, which are links to windows. But this still involved a human thinking of all of the ways to express problems and solutions to the problems.

I can’t believe it took to Windows 7 to get the control panel search results into the Start menu, but it did. Even in Windows 7 it’s not quite right. If you’re on a Windows 7 computer (and it probably works with Vista) go to the control panel and type Environment. That seems like a reasonable way to look for how to change environment variables. The first sentence that shows is “Edit System Environment Variables”. This looks promising. But if you click on it you get sent to the System window under the Advanced tab with options for “Performance”, “User Profiles”, and “Start Up and Recover”. What the crap? None of these have anything to do with Environment Variables. Looking harder you see at the bottom there is a button to edit Environment Variables. Clicking on the button the Environment Variables windows pops up. Why wasn’t this the window that the control panel search linked to!

Even though there’s work to do, someone on the Windows team gets it. Now what they need to do is propagate this through out the rest of the OS. Here’s what they need to do. In addition to all of the well thought out help files (which are never used) have the OS index all of the menus and submenus in a program when it gets installed. Then when the user opens up that programs Help and does a search, if there is an exact match to the search phrase in the applications menu’s, have that be the top of the search. Then when the user clicks on the result it will take them to the sub-menu tab where the search phrase exists. This will solve the vast majority of user experience issues with Windows computers. The operating system will be able to help users solve their problems.

I’m fairly confident that a measurable percentage of the rise of Google came from people trying to find out how to use their computer. They were thinking “I know there’s a way to do this, I’ve done it before” and since Help didn’t help them, they turned to the internet. From a Google search they found a blog or forum post where they found somebody describing how to find the hard to find option. How happy would Microsoft would be if users could start turning to the OS to start solving their issues instead of “Googling it”?