Microsoft and Yahoo! Get It On

As I mentioned recently, this cropped up again in the rumour mill.  The board oustings in Yahoo! after the previous failed negotiations seemed to have done the trick.

Yahoo! and Microsoft announced an agreement that will improve the Web search experience for users and advertisers, and deliver sustained innovation to the industry. In simple terms, Microsoft will now power Yahoo! search while Yahoo! will become the exclusive worldwide relationship sales force for both companies’ premium search advertisers.

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Dodgy PC/Laptop Repair Investigation

It must be a slow news day in the UK.  The main story on Sky News is an investigation they did into laptop and PC repair shops.  The loosened a memory board and sent in a researcher to several shops for repair.  There was activity tracking software installed and it also used the web cam to record.  A number of shops faked faults and copied personal information from the laptop.  The video is here and the report is here.

If you are bringing a machine to one of these places then put in a blank disk and install something on it.  That’ll keep your data safe.  However it won’t do anything for claims of other repairs being necessary.

Eircom Confesses DNS Cache Poisoning Attack

Those Internet “experts”, Eircom, finally confessed that they were victims of a DNS attack called cache poisoning.  When your client goes to your ISP’s DNS server to convert http://www.honestjoescars.com into an IP address your DNS server might need to go to another DNS server to do the job.  It will get the result, cache it and then pass the result back to you.  It might hold that cached lookup for 24 hours and all subsequent client requests for http://www.honestjoescars.com will get that cached result.

Someone planted poison cache results on the Eircom DNS servers.  When Eircom’s customers tried to browse certain sites they were sent elsewhere … to the sort of site you might not want to go to.  Eircom fervently denied there was an attack.  Everything was fine.  But customers who changed their TCP settings to use the OpenDNS servers had no issues.  Strange, eh?

Siliconrebuplic posted the news.

Shared ICT Services For The Civil Service?

SiliconRepublic reports that the “An Bord Snip” (advisory report on cutting Irish government expenses) has told the government that they should shake up IT services in the civil service.  They want expenses cut by 50%:

  • Less consulting/contractors
  • More in-house skills
  • Shared services

For example.  Each an every department, no matter how small it is, has their own IT organisation, buying power, staff, consulting services, etc.  That’s some massive wastage.  We could probably run our entire government off of a single Exchange 2007 cluster (replicated of course) instead of an Exchange installation in countless departments.  That sounds like a perfect scenario for Exchange 2010 DAG’s.  I know of one major department where their entire “hands-on” staff are a collection of consultants and contractors that costs the tax payer a fortune.

Bord Snip also said the government should have a Steering Committee made up of senior ICT advisors from the private sector.  I’ll volunteer for that one, thank you very much.  I could do with some mileage and hotel expenses as well as a few junkets to somewhere sunny.

Google Chrome Operating System

Google have announced that they are developing an x86 operating system called Google Chrome Operating System.  There’s no real details and nothing to see yet.  They’re initially aiming at NetBooks and it will be Linux based.  It’s not a real threat to Windows dominance but it will probably take a certain percentage of geek machines.  They’ll make more announcements in the Autumn.

EDIT #1:

I’ve been thinking about this a bit since I posted it.  I attended a presentation by a senior MS security engineer earlier this year.  He said they were impressed by how well Google had responded to early vulnerabilities in the Chrome browser.

I think some people view Google as being some light side of The Force.  Sorry to burst some bubbles but Google is a business and they obviously want world dominance in their market.  To me, they strike me as being a little like Sun; lots of talk about open and cross platform but in the end, they only want 1 platform: theirs.

It wouldn’t surprise if Chrome OS turns out to be a Chrome browser only OS.  Want an Office product?  You’ll have only one choice: Google Apps.  Want an RSS reader?  Google Reader.  Want email?  GMail.  This might be fine for a tiny percentage of users but it won’t be good for the majority. 

I may be way off on this but I certainly won’t mistake Google for being some altruistic force in the universe.  They’ve got shareholders and profit&loss statements to think about.  Dominance on mail, search, etc, means dominance in Internet revenues.  Apps is a subscription service so dominance there cleans up for them too.

However, competition is good.  Maybe this will shake things up on the desktop market price and product packaging-wise.  My thoughts on that have been posted before.

Microsoft Ireland To Open The New Data Centre

MS Ireland is opening the new data centre in Dublin tomorrow (July 1st 2009).  It’s down the Nangor Road, near the Air Corps base, and across from the Grange Castle golf course.  Why there?  That’s the most connected road in Ireland, thanks mainly to the presence of DataElectronics (DEG).  DEG is an Irish colo hosting facility and just so happens to be the one we use at work.

This data centre will host MS internal service but also the hosted services.  Being American, it’s subject to the Patriot Act so companies worried about the European/Irish data protection directive might not be able to consider those services.  Otherwise, there’s some seriously cool offerings for small, medium and large businesses.

Grangecastle is “is the first “mega-data center” Microsoft has built outside the U.S. The 303,000 square foot first phase of the building will be supported by 5.4 megawatts of electricity and have a Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) rating of 1.25, the company said. The $500 million project will eventually include about 550,000 square feet of space”.  This data centre will run “hot”, i.e. not at the usual 19C or 21C but at 30C.  This saves a fortune on air conditioning power consumption and is fully supported by HP, MS’s (and mine) preferred supplier of servers and storage.

A Chicago data centre will also be opening.  This is the first of MS’s next generation data centres based on a fault tolerant, scalable, economic and power efficient container model.  Each module is a pre-build container that is dropped into place and connected to a permanent corridor.

EDIT#1:

PS Microsoft, I’ll be just around the corner if you feel like giving me a tour tomorrow 😉

1/4 Of Irish Companies Making IT Staff Redundant

More doom and gloom I’m afraid.  There’s a story on Silicon Republic that 1/4 of Irish companies say they will be letting IT staff go.  As usual, IT is seen as a non-revenue generating cost centre that cannot add value to the business.  Personally, I see that as being a failure on the part (not necessarily both) of two parties:

  • Management or directors who do not appreciate the skills of their staff and lack the vision of how to use IT to enhance their competitiveness and efficiencies.
  • IT staff who fail to develop their skills and provide advice to management, i.e. the 10-till-4 administrators that you may seen me talk about before.

It seems that most of these businesses have ongoing IT requirements and projects that must be finished and they will be looking at contract or temporary staff to complete them.

The last time we had an “IT recession” was in 2000-2002.  There was almost no movement on the permanent job scene in IT.  But contract work was pretty lively.  I tried to get into contracting then but couldn’t do it.  You had to have some sort of background in contracting before an agency would submit your CV.  I got lucky when a relative put my CV in with his employers and I finally got my foot on the ladder.  I think it might be like that again.

If you are contracting for the first then consider your options and requirements.  In Ireland you must have a company.  You cannot set up as a sole trader in IT contracting.  That’s reserved to the likes of builders, i.e. it’s defined as someone who works under their own direction and brings their own tools onto the site.  A call to Revenue confirmed an IT contractor must have their own company.  You can set up a company but there’s a tonne of paperwork that can take months, e.g. set up the company and 2 directors, set up VAT, set up bank account, set up PAYE taxation, monthly VAT reports, quarterly VAT reports, annual VAT reports, annual CRO report (this is a real biggie because there is ZERO flexibility on it), annual directors reports and pension compliance.  The benefit is you have all the perks of a company, e.g. purchase assets, depreciate them and write them off from VAT.  If all the paperwork sounds too nasty and you need to get up and running quickly then you can join an umbrella company managed by an accountant.  All you have to do each month is submit your timesheets to the accountant along with your expenses.  You cannot expense assets, e.g. a laptop, because you don’t own the company.

Finally, do a lot of research on the accountants.  I went through 3 before I found one I could trust.  The first one was a fool.  The second wouldn’t answer the phone or return my emails.  The 3rd didn’t do the paperwork or advise me and put me in a bind which took some work to sort out.

Cisco Getting Into Server Virtualisation

I just read on Silicon Republic that Cisco plans to get into server virtualisation to compete against the likes of HP and IBM.  They’re planning by being on the market by March (probably the USA initially).

That’s a strange move.  Server sales are not exactly going to increase.  In fact, with a global recession there’s not going to be a big market.  Cisco don’t have a reputation in either the server or virtualisation markets.  In fact, many people are not exactly big fans of Cisco – some would say they take good products and make them expensive and complicate support unnecessarily.  They’re also going up against established competitors.

Cisco is aiming at the data centre market where they already have a good presence in the network equipment market space.  The Register thinks that Cisco will use VMware as their software because they own 2% of the company.  The challenge will be in developing unified management.  Cisco, if they play it right, might be able to integrate physical with virtual network management.  I’m guessing the price of a Cisco solution will be significant and a major obstacle.