The Latest on SOPA Ireland

Tonight was the big “debate” on Sean Sherlock’s special instrument (a way in which a government minister an change law without a parliamentary vote).  Sherlock put forward his usual lines which gloss over the fact that the European Courts of Justice say this type of block are illegal, that users & pirates can bypass a block in 5 minutes, and that the text is so open ended is relies on judges (not the elected parliament) to define the details of the law.

Every opposition party objects to this new law.  Two representatives, Willie O’Dea (Limerick – Fianna Fail) and Stephen Donnelly (Wicklow – Independent) offered excellent arguments against this rush to a new law without due diligence and consideration.  I didn’t know Donnelly, and O’Dea has a certain “reputation” at the national level, so this was quite a pleasant surprise.

However, as expected, Sherlock (North Cork) announced he was ploughing ahead with his plans to shirk his duty and not allow our democratically elected parliament define this law that is critical to our ailing economy.

Note: the proposal is that judges can pass injunctions against ISPs or content hosters to block websites that a plaintif claims contains copyright infringements.  Anyone with 30 seconds of Internet experience can tell you that this can be bypassed, or that BitTorrent was designed to defeat this by using infinite seeds.

To make things worse, a Fine Gael TD, Jerry Buttimer (@jerrybuttimer, Cork South Central) claimed that he was inundated by emails by anarchists and keyboard warriors.  Oh the misery!  Well frak him!  We’re letting this bog hopper (I am a culchie but this moron’s performance was a shame on our nation) know what we think.  If you’re from Ireland, then tweet out

My name is <insert name here> and #IAmAKeyboardWarrior

We want these people who think they know better than us to know that we are watching, we are legion, and we are not anonymous.  And we vote.

Keep Up The Pressure on SOPA (Ireland) and ACTA (Everywhere)

Here in Ireland, we get a “show” debate on Fine Gael/Labour/Sean Sherlock SOPA next Tuesday at 6pm in the Dáil (parliament).  It’s mere window dressing as one TD (Dáil member) said to me by email today.  They’re going to blindly push through with this crap unless we make it clear that we’re very angry, and we’ll make them go the way of the Dodo bird … kinda like we did to the PDs in the last elections Smile

The media are refusing to cover this story.  Those 1 or 2 mainstream outlets that do, are burying it way down.  So if you’re in Ireland, tell your friends, tell your colleagues, tell your family, and get them to visit and to sign the online petition.  We need to keep the pressure on the government on this one.

And for everyone everywhere, you need to be aware of ACTA.  It’s SOPA on steroids, and every major country seems to have signed up to the treaty.  You need to fight this one, and that includes you folks in the USA.  Learn about it and contact your local representatives to voice your protest if you disagree with this treaty.  Here in the EU, you can voice your objections with this petition.

BTW, I am actually the victim of having my hard work pirated and I’m against these acts.

Sorry if you came here for Hyper-V or System Center.  I hope you understand the importance of this subject.

Something Stinks In Politics: SOPA & ACTA

Two nights ago I blogged about Sean Sherlock, Labour and Fine Gael introducing an undemocratic change to our laws in favour of the likes of EMI.  Via a “special instrument”, where a minister can introduce new laws without debate or vote in parliament (how dictatorial!) Sean Sherlock means to allow any company to censor what Irish people can see on the Internet.  In other words: SOPA.

As of this morning, over 56,000 people had signed a petition in the last few days to protest this move by Sean Sherlock, a TD from Cork.  Sherlock (a Labour party minister), spent 2 days flicking each of those voting citizens the bird.  IT experts have voiced their concern saying that (a) this would be ineffective at stopping piracy (they’re right), (b) would be abused for online censorship (do you know that we have blasphemy laws now, and they’re trying to introduce prohibition too!?!?!), and (c) would scare away major online employers (and tax revenue) from Ireland such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, and so on.

Meanwhile, Irish media has by and large decided not to cover this story.  Yes, I’m looking at you RTE, Irish Independent, and Newstalk 106-108.  It’s clear that these so-called journalists are in favour of censorship.

After 3 days of pressure we have the following happening.

Sherlock, overnight, announced that he would allow a debate in parliament on this issue.  Uh-huh … and where is the free vote for each sitting member?  And even if there was a vote, government party whips would force members to vote with their minister.  It seems to me that corporate interests of EMI have been given more importance than our rights as citizens.  Rights, by the way, that the European Court of Justice said we had recently in a case where it was ruled that it was against human rights to block internet content at a national or ISP level.

The No SOPA Ireland campaign tweeted this overnight:

@NoSOPAIreland: Looks like some TD’s are just closing the doors to people’s emails. Rather sad considering they do this BEFORE the debate this wk #Bullshit

Are they filtering our emails protesting against Sherlock’s special interest?  Who the frak do these people think they are?  Don’t they realise that they work for us, the voters and tax payers of this country? 

Oh, by the way, if you are thinking either “SOPA is nothing to do with our country” or “SOPA was stopped in the USA” then think again.  Your political leaders are doing their masters’ bidding.  A similar international treaty was signed by the USA, Canada, Australia, Japan, and the EU yesterday.  The interesting thing is that the guy the EU employed to research it resigned in protest over how ACTA is being forced on us.

I for one, welcome any damage that Anonymous decides to inflict on the organs of the state at this point.  As for their promised to hear us out … words are wind.  We know what a politician’s promise is worth.  If your enemy brings a knife then you bring a gun.  Talking is getting us nowhere and its damned time that the political class of this country learn their place.

Irish Government & Sean Sherlock TD Want To Quietly Force Through Their Own Version of SOPA

SOPA was an American bi-partisan bill that presented itself as an anti-piracy law.  In fact, it was a hell of a lot more.  It was promoted by Hollywood, who has refused to change their ways to reflect how Internet business can work (see the possibility of Netflix), and by companies such as GoDaddy who allegedly had something to gain from it (hosting for redirected URLs).  The law was really about uncontrolled censorship that was in the control of the rich and powerful.  They could shut down your web site with absolutely no possibility of defence on your part.  There was a popular revolt in the USA, and SOPA (and the equally bad PIPA) were crushed before they came to vote.

Enter the Irish Government made up of Fine Gael, Labour, and a bunch of unknown government mandarins, all supported by the likes of IRMA, the recording industry which has also fought fair e-business at every turn.

Blacknight’s (the hoster of this site) Michele Neylon issued a press release overnight and posted on his blog.  Thank you Michele, because it seems like our “free” press took a snooze on this one … or they decided to silently support it.

Sean Sherlock, who’s details I’ve shared below, is a Labour party government minister and is trying to introduce this law by ministerial order.  That means that there would be NO VOTE BY OUR DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED PARLIAMENT.

If you are in favour of a free democratic Republic of Ireland, then check out the StopSOPAIreland site, sign the petition, and let Fine Gael, Labour, and Sean Sherlock know what you think of their treason.  In my opinion, this puts them in the same place as Fine Fáil and their “independent” supporters of the last government that sold our country’s future down the toilet for their banker & construction friends, and the irresponsible bond holders of Anglo Irish.

BTW, here’s how to contact Sean Sherlock, TD (Cork East TD, Labour Party, Minister of State for Research and Innovation):

Why don’t you take some time to contact Seanie-boy and let him no what you think of treason.  Am I fired up?  Yup, definitely.  This chiselling away of our hard fought for democratic rights must be stopped.  Do and say nothing, and you’re no better than Sherlock is, and it shows how little you really care.

EDIT #1:

Breaking news.  The “hacktivist” group Anonymous tweeted about this a little while ago:

@YourAnonNews: NEW: Ireland gets its own #SOPA law | | | #OpIreland #Anonymous

@YourAnonNews: Ireland has angered the hive, we will be reporting all attacks through this account | #OpIreland #OpMegaUpload

*Evil laugh*

Netflix Launch in Ireland Will Not Stop Piracy of Movies & TV

We’ve heard all our American friends talking about how great Netflix is for them. We’re read the headlines that it’s responsible for 30% of their bandwidth. And we were excited when we heard they were coming to the UK and Ireland.

In Ireland, we just have shite delivery of TV and movie content. No one rents movies any more. We spend enough time commuting to work and don’t want to pay extortionate amounts for DVD rentals. Online services are limited to iTunes or Zune. Despite the presence of hundreds of TV channels, people have gotten tired of the poor delivery of TV shows from America. For example, Irish TV station Network 2 is where they are typically shown …. when there isn’t some God-awful Man United or Arsenal or Champions League game on. And RTE1 is celebrating their 50th anniversary by filling their hours with repeats of shows made in the 1960s and 1970s. Heck, the funniest show on TV is The Big Bang Theory and they used to show that at 2am in the morning. And anything they do show is years old …. they’re only about 18 months behind on CSI … which they show when there’s no football on a Tuesday night (rare enough).

So it should come as no surprise that just about anyone who has a fixed broadband connection has disks full of “online backups”. That way people can watch all the good shows within a few hours of them being on in America. Yup, the producers earn zippo from this but who’s to blame? If there’s demand but there’s no distribution then people will find a way. Certain music may have been banned in the USSR but the kids still found a way. And the Internet makes it oh so easy (SOPA won’t have a hope BTW).

So along comes Netflix. In the USA you get unlimited content for $8/month. My big fear was of a currecny rip-off. I expected €15 or €20 rates in Ireland. They launched yesterday and the price was a mere €7/month. That works out less than the annual compulsory TV license to pay for the awful state owned broadcaster (RTE). If anything could squash movie and TV piracy then this should be it.

So it appears that half the nation signed up for the 30 day free trial with unlimited access to the Netflix Ireland catalogue. And boy were we disappointed. There might be a dozen movies from 2011. On the TV side, they only have seasons 1 & 2 of Dexter (USA) and season 1 of Outnumbered (UK).

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings was interviewed on Newstalk 106 (radio) this morning at 08:52. I listened to a recording online. People texted in to criticise the service. The content was shite. You’re tricked into Facebook integration to share information about your viewing habits – you have to go into Netflix account settings to disable that.

Long story short: people in Ireland (and the UK) will not pay €6.99/month for an archive of Corey Feldman movies. They want current content. If satellite, cable, broadcast, and online services won’t do it, then they’ll continue to use Bittorrent. I suspect a lot of people will be cancelling their Netflix accounts when their free trials expire. That’s my plan unless the content improves drastically in the next 4 weeks.

Nokia Failing to “Save” Windows Phone 7.5

I’ve been using my own iPhone 4 for a year, and I’ve had a HTC HD7 Windows Phone 7.x handset at work since around June.  It’s no secret that I greatly prefer the iPhone over the Windows Phone.  The hardware feel better in my hand, the OS is more friendly and natural, and iTunes beats the holy crap out of The Curse Of Zune. 

Phones that make calls and send texts are being built in the back of bicycle shops.  The trick is building something that does more.  That starts and lives with the OS and the accompanying software (iTunes/Zune).  My experience with Windows Phone 7/7.5 hasn’t been all that impressive.  Install an app … if you can find a decent one … one minute its complaining about being plugged into the PC, the next it’s complaining that it isn’t.  IT SHOULDN’T MATTER!  yesterday I tried to install some apps.  They just kept failing to download, despite being on a stable wifi network that my iPhone had no trouble with.  For example, I installed Lync on iPhone in seconds.  It took 4-5 times as long to get it to install on WP7, at the same time, on the same wifi.  It’s probably just as well that there aren’t too many decent apps, because navigating them on the folder-less list of apps on WP7 would be a nightmare – folders are just so hard to create an name … wooops, no one has problems doing that on real Windows or iOS.

Lets not forget that Android is out there leading on hardware specs and sales, even if the hardware is fragmented and that MSFT might be the biggest earner on Android s/w “sales”.  Even RIM is ahead of WP7 in the market.

Nokia was supposed to vault Windows Phone to a clear #3 or even a #2 in the market.  I’ve not seen the handsets in person but all reports say they are superbly built devices, even if they are underspecified.  Having a HTC, I can say that Windows Phone needed nicely built devices to compete with the iPhone device.  But it’s still Windows Phone.  It’s still got that stigma.  Microsoft hasn’t won over the consumer.  And sales prove it.

And let’s not forget the marketing.  Compare an iPhone TV advert (which you’ll see anywhere) with a Windows Phone TV advert. 

It’s like comparing iTunes with Zune.  One is thought out and complete, and the other is a MacGuyver job.  Even I’ve seen The Apprentice and know that the product being advertised should be in the advert.  Microsoft seem to have launched the concept of a mobile phone about 15 years too late.

PC Pro has reported on a survey by Exane BNP Paribas.   

2% of Europeans looking for a new handset would pick Nokia’s first Windows model, the Lumia 800.


Ouch!  Where are ITC and the rest of those groups now?  The vocal minority out there is still blogging and tweeting about the magnificence of Windows Phone 7.  If Europe, once a stronghold for Nokia, isn’t interested then there isn’t really much hope.

Windows Phone is going through more upheaval.  Once more, heads have rolled.  Maybe the code merge between the desktop and the phone will happen more quickly than was originally envisioned?

In The Year 2000: VDI Will Replace The PC

Ok, I meant in the year 2009 … err … 2010 … err … 2011 … hmm … maybe 2012?  Some of you might remember back to 1998 or thereabouts when the PC was doomed by the return to mainframe style computing based on WinFrame MetaFrame (aka Presentation Server, XenApp).  Somehow or other, that didn’t happen.  Instead, a few companies did go for this style of server based computing based on Terminal Services Remote Desktop Services Session Hosts – seriously Microsoft, can we just call them Terminal Servers once again?

A decade later, virtual desktop infrastructure was to call time on the PC in the business.  Endless new years forecasts, and a heap of VMware marketing, promised us this would happen in 2010.  Then it would happen in 2011.  I’m betting that come December 2012 the forecasts will once gain proclaim that the coming year will be The Year Of The Virtual Desktop.  Pfft!  Just like this year was, and the year before.

Like I’ve been saying for a couple of years, VDI is a false economy.  Costs go up when you move from the desk to the data centre, and you’re just moving the management problem from one place to another, and adding the need to add more management and lock down to the end user desktop experience – and that’s the last thing the customer (we in IT are in a service business and the business/user is our customer *throws up just a little bit*) wants right now (see Consumerisation of IT).

An article in Network World sums this "year of virtual desktop” claptrap up nicely.  My opinion, and what the local MSFT folks here have been saying too, is that VDI is part of the overall solution, just like *breath in* Remote Desktop Services Session Hosts *gasp for air – I’m sure glad I don’t have emphysema*.

So the next time you see a forecast telling you that the coming year will be the year of VDI (I think they’ve pretty much moved to The Year Of The Cloud these days) or you hear a VMware sales/marketing person telling you that the PC is dead, you know it’s time to either move on, or walk outside to the free coffee in the hall outside.

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What’s The Value Of Training Courses & What’s The Alternative?

Normal practice for a company to up-skill an employee is to send them off to a 5 day training course, usually costing €2,000 plus lost revenue/productivity, travel, and accommodation.  I’ve been on those courses, and I’ve sent people on them.  What are these courses worth? 

I’ve seen behind the curtain of the typical official training course.  Let’s just say that I was not impressed.  The authors were not experts on the subject matter.  Much of it was copied and pasted from the software publisher’s support site.  There was no education on why things are the way they are, best practices, or supported scenarios.  In fact, 40% of the content on that course was irrelevant content that was forced through by marketing.  Official approved training rooms usually have 1 PC per person and attendees are expected to learn failover clustering and management on that!  It seems to me that generic training fails to train.  And folks, things are not getting better.  The authoring of this sort of content is not developed by who you think it might be – it’s usually outsourced on a tender basis (and can mean the cheapest tender wins, which isn’t necessarily a good indicator of quality), they then outsource to SMEs (subject matter “experts”), and they often outsource again to friends or other online contacts because of deadlines.  What can you really learn from that?

Let’s look at the experience from a two perspectives:

The End Customer

A company has hired a consulting company to deploy some technology, e.g. Hyper-V, System Center, SharePoint, Exchange, etc that is new to the company.  At some point, the consultants will leave and the internal IT department will have to take over day to day engineering and management.  The traditional solution is that 1 or more admins are sent away for a week and expected to come back knowing all there is to know. 

OK – consider a Windows Server 8 Hyper-V course.  In the room they’ll get 1 PC with VMs to work on.  They might get partnered up with someone they don’t know, who could be a rookie/moron.  They have enough hardware to build a cluster but with no storage – unless the class hoster sacrifices one of the 10 PCs for iSCSI.  It’s likely the attendees will learn zip/nothing about Storage Pools, and they’ll get a pretty crap education on System Center too.  I reckon you’ll need 4 physical servers plus SAN access to learn Windows Server 8 Hyper-V.

If like the typical course, they’ll learn the absolute basics, and return back to the office the following week not really grasping anything that was implemented by the consultants.

The Consultant

I have to break the 1st rule of the magician’s circle here.  Very often when you hire an “expert” consultant, they’ve just been on the course the week before.  Sometimes, and it’s happened to me as a consultant, they don’t even know the product (I once was forced by sales to pretend I was an expert on a product that I didn’t know the first thing about, and the customers had been on 3 weeks of training – that was an experience full of ecumenical matters).  A lot of customers actually pay for their consultant to learn something because they are Googling on the customer site, or hammering the forums for help, while the customer pays their day rate.

What normally happens is the consulting business decides to sell and expertise but not develop it until they get traction – there’s “no point” in investing €2,000+ per consultant plus lost consulting days revenue until they know that they can sell it.  Then a customer bites and someone is hurriedly sent packing on a course.  The following Monday they are in on the customer site to do a complex install … but all they’ve learned is some terminology and how to run setup.exe.  For example, I hope you now understand that there’s more to a virtualisation project than installing ESXi or enabling the Hyper-V role!

So What’s To Be Done?

Let me talk about my last 3 training courses:

  • SMS 2003: This one was a MOC (MSFT official course) that I did years ago, using some tokens from a MSFT EA.  The content was shite.  I learned more about this product from one of my team and from reading by myself than I did from the course.  The MCT running the course didn’t know the product and we usually went home just after lunch because we ran out of content – she didn’t know how to expand on the brief written subject matter.  It was an appalling waste of time for me, and a waste of money for the others who attended.
  • VMware ESX 3.x: This was a course (official VMware I believe) that was run by the Irish VMware distributor that I did in 2007.  It was excellent – it taught me the fundamentals, the trainer knew the content and could answer my questions.  And the lab – we each had access to servers and storage kept in a back room, giving us close to real world environments.  The following week I was prepared to do a cluster deployment.  That was reviewed afterwards by a consulting company and given a pass.
  • DPM 2010: MSFT Ireland has heard the feedback on training from local partners and started running bespoke training last year.  The first round of courses were developed and run by John McCabe.  It focused on real world preparation of consultants for deploying DPM in customer sites, with plenty of practical work.  And this was made possible by each person having access to several physical servers plus iSCSI storage kept in a back room.

I know that MOC courses haven’t changed much in the 15 years that I’ve been aware of them.  I’ve steered clear, often telling my superiors that I’d much prefer to go to a technical conference where there is level 400 content presented by experts and hands-on-labs to learn on. 

The VMware experience is rare in the overall market – VMware have the advantage of having a small product portfolio, having a tight/small channel, and can control the quality and delivery of content by delivering from it at the distributor level.  The latter DPM 2010 example was the ideal one for MSFT product training IMO – but here in Ireland that experience has a limited number of seats that are only open to the first few Microsoft partners to register.

In the USA, there is a market for bespoke training for the public where the likes of Mark Minasi, Rhonda Layfield, Jeremy Moskowitz, and a host of others run scheduled classes at the local airport business hotel, full of content to teach you everything from the fundamentals to the advanced, often in condensed modules that minimise your time away from the office.  I know that this doesn’t really happen in Ireland. and other than a couple of the Scandinavian deployment gurus, I don’t know if it happens in Europe. 

My gut tells me that there is a market for bespoke training that isn’t MOC, that gives the attendee a real world education that isn’t driven by corporate marketing, and provides them with the equipment that is necessary for a real education.  2012 is going to be a crazy year full of Windows Server, Hyper-V, deployment, and System Center, with customers (adoption) and consultants (competencies) seeking to be re-educated.  What do you think?

Just Because You Can Do Something, It Doesn’t Mean You Should

I get it; money is tight and people need to be creative.  But I also know that you shouldn’t do something just because you can.

Take backup of Hyper-V for example.  Several times, I’ve been challenged on “support statements” for Hyper-V.  People want to, and are, installing backup software (the management product, not just the agent) on the parent partition of Hyper-V hosts.

Microsoft are quite clear on this: it is not supported.  The only things that are supported are management agents such as anti-malware, monitoring, backup, etc.  I don’t care what the backup software vendor says.  If you have a problem with that host when it breaks, you better hope the Company X knows how to fix Hyper-V because Microsoft support will tell you that you did something that wasn’t supported.

Like I said earlier – I’ve been challenged on this during presentations.  OK, I’m quick on my feet when I’m presenting.  I gave the persons in question a simple analogy.  I can hold a loaded gun to my head and pull the trigger.  There is absolutely nothing in the architecture of my rib cage, shoulder, arm, hand, neck, head, the gun or the bullet that prevents that.  However, it turns out that the manufacturer doesn’t support that and there’s a good risk that my brain will fail to function (although some might claim that happened quite a while ago).  Just because you can do something, that isn’t a reason that you should.

Creative engineering is good.  I’ll be among the first to applaud a cool design.  But doing stuff to save €100 here and there, while not understanding the tech, while deliberately contravening the manufacturers support statement, and putting your customer (internal or external) at risk is just plain dumb.  In fact, I’ll have to be stronger about that; knowingly contravening manufacturer support statements is negligent.

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Survey Says? Hyper-V Engineers Are More Manly

Hyper-V engineers are virtually whipping the competition

Last night a reputable source reported that Hyper-V engineers are more manly than those who manage other virtualisation technologies. Some say that Hyper-V engineers have higher levels of testosterone, matched only by Olympic weightlifters. Others say that Hyper-V engineers make DBAs tremble with fear as they walk past their cubicles.  Whatever the case, who would want to compete with that!?!?

Artists impression of a VMware engineer

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