* Posts by JerseyDaveC

81 posts • joined 1 Oct 2013

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Monitoring is simple enough – green means everything's fine. But getting to that point can be a whole other ball game

JerseyDaveC

Re: Green means everything's fine

Colour vision is something people forget, unless they have colour vision deficiencies (CVDs) themselves! You're absolutely right that indicators need more than just colours - shapes are handy, as are completely separate sections (if you have a box on the screen labelled "BAD STUFF" and put the alerts in there, it can help).

I'm fortunate in having a fairly mild red-green CVD that doesn't really affect me day-to-day, but given that some sources say it's reckoned to affect up to 8 per cent of men of northern European origin, that's a lot of IT guys who have trouble differentiating "good" from "bad" on a monitoring screen, particularly when the blobs/lines are close together. (I can point at something that's red, and I can point at something that's green, but give me an Ishihara plate with them all mixed together I'm doomed).

If you're about to scream "discrimination", red-green CVDs are a male trait - only half a per cent or so of women of similar origin have a red-green CVD. And you may also be interested that green traffic lights aren't green: they're greeny-blue because people who can't tell green from red often can tell the difference between greeny-blue and red because of the blue component.

JerseyDaveC

Re: Enjoy the downvotes

To be honest I'd love a pointer to some magic product: anyone who can sell me this mythical beast will be welcomed with open arms. And as DJV notes, I can assure you that the original author (me) has nothing to sell in this respect - formerly an enterprise networks and database person I'm now a security guy in a financial business, not a purveyor of fine technology.

I kinda see your point that you've read it as "do everything perfectly", but what I was trying to get at is that utopia is "green means everything is working as it should" but also that it's darned hard to get to a level of monitoring that gives you that, and even harder to stay there in the light of all the inevitable change within one's infrastructure. I've seen it done once, and it was really hard work staying good, but heck, it was worth it. Problem is that one false move mucks it all up.

JerseyDaveC

Yep, you're not wrong there. Dependencies are a pain in the backside and it's hard to get a complete dependency map.

You might like to have a look at moogsoft.com in this context, which I say not from a commercial viewpoint (I know Phil and Mike from my journo days back in the 1990s - they were with Micromuse making NetCool when I first knew them) but because their AIOps stuff is quite clever. It's all about dependencies but it does it in a rather novel way by looking at log data from different sources and reasoning that if your app, your database, your server and your SAN are all giving related errors at the same time, they're probably related.

EU to formally probe Nvidia's $54bn takeover over British chip designer Arm – report

JerseyDaveC

Who would be the first dozen or so you would trust? :-)

Fix five days of server failure with this one weird trick

JerseyDaveC

Re: Sun E250

I once had a Sun E450 with Sun's active monitoring (via a very pricey leased line between them and my client). Idea was that if it died, Sun would notice and would: (a) call my client; (b) dispatch the required spares that the diagnostics had indicated were required; and (c) dispatch the engineer, who came from somewhere miles from where the spares came from.

We knew the engineer quite well and gave him a standing order: don't kill yourself getting here. (You could legally drive from his house to my client's middle-of-nowhere office within SLA, but only just and only if it was 3am with nothing on the roads). And we kept getting monitoring fees waived because most of the time the monitoring centre would only notice when the box restarted, not when it had crashed. So the usual sequence of events was: (a) system would die and refuse to reboot because the self-check failed on the broken component; (b) someone in the contact centre would phone to say it was broken; (c) my colleague and I would scoot into the office, pop out the board the POST was complaining about, and bounce the server; (4) the monitoring centre would call to say: "Your system is down" :-)

JerseyDaveC

Back in the 1990s I had a fleet of Mac Plus machines with external SCSI hard drives. Some of the drives would refuse to start up, and on removing the lids they all hard the same make and model of 40MB (yes, really) hard drives. The ones that worked didn't have that make.

Turned out it was "stiction" - the drive lubricant got viscous when cold and prevented the drive from spinning up. Research showed that whacking it with a screwdriver handle fixed the issue, but after a few attempts the drive would die completely. So we introduced a standard approach: whenever a user reported the problem we'd take a spare hard drive, connect it in series with the failed one, boot the machine from a floppy, whack the failed drive into operation, clone the faulty drive to the spare, and then replace the former with the latter. Must have done 30 of those in just a few months.

JerseyDaveC

Re: Power supply on the floor?

That evokes painful memories of SCSI adaptors whose pins seemed to be made out of a metal with a stiffness slightly less than that of runny custard. And of SCSI chains which didn't work when correctly terminated at both ends, but which were perfectly happy once you removed a terminator and basically configured it so it couldn't possibly work.

JerseyDaveC

Re: The "inspector"

At the fledgling Online Media department of a large publisher we had a pair of SGI Indy workstations - one as the staging web server and one as the production one. This was 1995, so we were talking Netscape's web server package and pretty early adoption.

This was before HTTP 1.1 was introduced (and hence no host headers), so if you wanted to have multiple web sites on a server you needed multiple IP addresses. And at the time you could do virtual IPs on the Indy OS and persuade Netscape to run multiple sites, but it was proper messy. We made it work, but feared that the slightest wrong move would suddenly make it decide not to.

Ouch! When the IT equipment is sound, but the setup is hole-y inappropriate

JerseyDaveC

Anyone old enough to remember the BBC MIcro and its proprietary Econet network? We discovered that if you jam an Econet cable into the tape drive port - something of an achievement as the pinout was radically different - it had interesting crashy effects on the network.

Excuse me, what just happened? Resilience is tough when your failure is due to a 'sequence of events that was almost impossible to foresee'

JerseyDaveC

Re: The

Absolutely right. And the thing is, the more you test things, the more comfortable you become with the concept of testing by actually downing stuff. You need to be cautious not to get complacent, of course, and start carelessly skipping steps of the run-book, but you feel a whole lot less trepidatious doing your fifth or sixth monthly test than you did doing the first :-)

One does have to be careful, though, that if you implement a manual trigger the behaviour must be *exactly* identical to what would happen with a real outage. As a former global network manager I've seen link failover tested by administratively downing the router port, when actually killing the physical connection caused different behaviour.

To have one floppy failure is unlucky. To have 20 implies evil magic or a very silly user

JerseyDaveC

Back in the 1990s the Macintosh II range was great for floppy disk loss. They came with one floppy drive, but there was a little blanking plate over a slot where you could install a second. This blanking plate was really easy to push out, so students at the uni where I was the Mac support guy would do so ... and the next person would insert their floppy disk and hear it drop into the guts of the Mac.

AI in the enterprise: Prepare to be disappointed – oversold but under appreciated, it can help... just not too much

JerseyDaveC

Re: Proof that it's AI

Did you ever see Cognos PowerHouse back in the 1990s, a so-called 4GL, or 4th Generation Language? The idea was that you told it in something resembling natural language (yeah, right) and it wrote the 3GL code for you, which was then compiled to a lower level via traditional means.

In real life, it was rubbish and slow. But that was 25 years ago, so I'm a little surprised we've not seen a 21st Century reboot using modern technology and algorithms.

So you locked your backups away for years, huh? Allow me to introduce my colleagues, Brute, Force and Ignorance

JerseyDaveC

Re: Seen in the wild

Yep. The other ones I had were 40MB Sony drives whose lubricant got all gloopy (a phenomenon known as "stiction"): take off the lid, whack the drive with the handle of a screwdriver, hear it spin up, copy off the data, swap the disk.

A short note to say I'm off: Vulture taps claws on Reg keyboard for last time

JerseyDaveC

Farewell, Kat. Don't be a stranger. Or any stranger.

Hell hath no fury like a radar engineer scorned

JerseyDaveC

And was it a deliberate pun?

I'm surely not the only one who smiled to read about a documentary on an aircraft carrier getting "good ratings" ...

:-)

Talk about a ticket to ride... London rail passengers hear pr0n grunts over PA system

JerseyDaveC

Poor passenger etiquette

By all means publish things like this to the Internet, but do please take your feet off the seats ...

Naming your company 101: Probably best not to have the word 'Oracle' anywhere near branding

JerseyDaveC

Re: Hell hath no fury

Reminds me of when "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" was launched: the advertising rules prevented the makers from advertising on some media (radio was one, I think) because it wasn't butter but had the word "butter" in the name, even though the name made clear they weren't trying to pretend what it was (or wasn't).

Generally Disclosing Pretty Rapidly: GDPR strapped a jet engine on hacked British Airways

JerseyDaveC

Re: Companies about to take security seriously?

Agreed.

A fiver says that they have some internal guidance that has been extensively considered with regard to the variables upon which a fine is based. You can't just slap a maximum fine on someone to make an example of them: if another company is less naughty and gets fined less, an appeal will instantly be forthcoming from the company that got the monetary kicking.

Fines must be proportionate and dissuasive: enough to make it worth taking steps to protect yourself, but not idiotically big.

JerseyDaveC

Re: Companies about to take security seriously?

The concept of a "discount" for reporting promptly is an interesting one. Failure to report on time would be an administrative breach, inviting a fine of 2% of turnover or EUR10m. The data loss itself is a data breach, with a potentially higher penalty of 4% of turnover or EUR20m. Had BA taken too long to report, the ICO would consider a fine for the failure to report (an administrative breach, with a max of 2% of turnover or £10m) AND a fine for the breach (a data breach, with a max of 4%/EUR20m). They wouldn't be added together, though: item 3 of Article 83 states: "... the total amount of the administrative fine shall not exceed the amount specified for the gravest infringement".

Which is interesting, because unless the administrative fine was greater than the data breach fine, it'd effectively be disregarded anyway.

JerseyDaveC

Not going to happen. It's essential for the UK to have its data protection legislation recognised as "adequate" by the EU if UK organisations are to continue seamlessly to exchange information with entities (and about people) in the EU.

Hi-de-Hack! Redcoats red-faced as Butlin's holiday camp admits data breach hit 34,000

JerseyDaveC

Re: Well, that's a coincidence...

Only problem with boycotting Whitbread is whether I can face staying in a Travelodge instead of my usual fleet of Premier Inns ...

TSB meltdown latest: Facepalming reaches critical mass as Brits get strangers' bank letters

JerseyDaveC

Re: Enough blame to go around.

Correct. SIM swap fraud is far from a new thing, and if a phone company doesn't authenticate its customers correctly then it's a very easy thing to do.

Consent, datasets and avoiding a visit from the information commissioner

JerseyDaveC

Re: Commercial relationship?

One of the grounds for lawful processing is that you're doing it in order to satisfy a contract with someone. So yes, it's fine to retain data on sales and the like as long as it's secure. Main consideration is that you shouldn't keep it forever: define a retention/disposal policy and timeline for old stuff and stick to it.

So the suits swanned off to GDPR events leaving you at the coalface? It's really more IT's problem

JerseyDaveC

Re: B2B vs B2C

This is quite an easy one to answer: no, you don't need the consent of the individuals in this context. Your grounds for processing the personal data will be that you're doing so in order to satisfy a contract.

As the outsourced helpdesk entity you're a processor, and the company you're working for is the controller. Both parties are required by GDPR to ensure that an appropriate contract is in place, and if your customer has any sense he/she will ensure there's a right-to-audit in the contract so they can check up on you from time to time (monitoring of ongoing conformance is essential). As a processor you're bound by the constraints that state that you're only allowed to use the data for the purposes included in the contract. If you're based in a country that doesn't have an adequacy finding from the EU then your customer, as controller, should consider this and ensure that they take all reasonable steps to mitigate this, but again that's not an overly hard thing to do (unless you're based in Russia or somewhere equally dodgy, that is).

Adrift on a sea of data: Architecting for GDPR

JerseyDaveC

Re: Liability not asset

That's an interesting way to put it. I say to people that they should assume they'll be hacked (e.g. by zero-day ransomware) and hence plan to mitigate the intrusion rather than just design a protection regime. Like the idea of considering PII as a liability in the same context.

American upstart seeks hotshot guinea pig for Concorde-a-like airliner

JerseyDaveC

There are similarities but they're basically different. It's worthy of note that although Concorde required re-heat to be engaged to move through the sound barrier, it could then be disengaged for supersonic cruise: I gather that the TU-144 had to retain re-heat whilst supersonic. One would think that if they'd blagged the verbatim blueprints it would have been possible to avoid such a fundamental aerodynamic drawback.

Also, I gather that after relations had calmed down between the US and Russia, the TU-144 was used briefly by NASA for scientific research.

JerseyDaveC

Re: The British Airways LCY to JFK route is just silly.

The feature seems to imply that LCY-JFK is the only BA route from London to New York. Worth noting that there's plenty of BA stuff doing LHR-JFK, using 777s and 747-400s.

Sole Equifax security worker at fault for failed patch, says former CEO

JerseyDaveC

Anyone got their auditor's phone number?

I'd love to be a fly on the wall at their next ISO 27001 audit. Auditor: "You rely on one person for some of your critical patching, and there is globally known evidence that you demonstrably don't have a robust process. That'll be a Major Nonconformity, then ... I'll be back this time next month for you to show me evidence of improvement that convinces me not to take away your accreditation."

Feelin' safe and snug on Linux while the Windows world burns? Stop that

JerseyDaveC

Re: Article smacks of...

For those who are thinking I put the wrong date for CentOS 5 dying off ... you're right, it was a typo. Should get corrected soon.

Does Microsoft have what it takes to topple Google Docs?

JerseyDaveC

Office Online needs beefing up

If you've used the online version of Office you'll know that the feature set is majorly limited. You can't do PivotTables or even some of the more basic formatting, and linked documents are a pain in the butt.

If Microsoft want to attract people away from Google Office (do they need to?) they need to make the online version of Office more feature-rich.

Which is ironic given that in the desktop version many of us moan that there are bazillions of features we never use!

'The internet is slow'... How to keep users happy, get more work done

JerseyDaveC

"We should produce a monthly list of the top ten root causes for calls to the help desk, and allocate some resource to dealing with those problems".

Yup: trouble is, as I suspect you've experienced, a lot of places do the first bit but don't quite manage the second ... :-)

WannaCrypt: Roots, reasons and why scramble patching won't save you now

JerseyDaveC

Re: Remember the Millenium Bug?

Indeed I do remember the Millennium Bug: it did actually get a mention in the first draft of this feature, in pretty much the context you cite, but it didn't make the cut for length reasons :-)

Two Sundays wrecked by boss who couldn't use a calendar

JerseyDaveC

I was once an IT manager on a contract that didn't pay overtime, though the company was pretty laid back when it came to sensible time off if you'd (e.g.) been called out at night and were tired. The company I worked for moved office over a weekend, so we spent many hours (including precisely three hours' kip on the Friday night) shifting stuff across town and getting everything working. All part of the job, and it was actually good fun, we had plenty of external help in order to keep the workload sensible, and nobody minded.

A few days after the move my boss collared me and handed me an envelope as "a little thankyou" for a job well done. My goodwill for the company was noticeably enhanced by the cheque for a thousand pounds that I discovered therein.

Life after Safe Harbour: Avoiding Uncle Sam's data rules gotchas

JerseyDaveC

Re: Tricky HR issue there

"But, Your Honor, the defendant wasn't Chinese at the time" ...

JerseyDaveC

Re: Tricky HR issue there

Depends on their citizenship and the level of control on the data. For normal (i.e. not officially "classified") data holding US citizenship, a Green Card or asylum/refugee status will do. For classified stuff they're stricter. I gather that if you have dual nationalities it gets harder and they start considering what was the last country you gained citizenship in and whatnot.

You deleted the customer. What now? Human error - deal with it

JerseyDaveC

Re: Never delete anything.

The problem with keeping everything is that you're sometimes not allowed to.

For example, the data protection laws covering personal data (both those that have been around for years and the new GDPR ones) make clear that you are OBLIGED to delete personal data when you no longer have a legitimate purpose for keeping it.

Defining and agreeing a good retention policy is a pain in the nuts, but it's a pain worth enduring. If someone complains that you deleted something three years ago that they now need, that's tough - because more often than not they WANT the information rather than NEEDING it and may well not have a truly legitimate reason to be using or processing it.

We hold on to data because most of the time we are obliged to keep it for AT LEAST a given period (e.g. keeping tax-related information for six years). It's easy to forget that there is often an upper limit to how long we're allowed to keep stuff for, whether it's a static measure of time or it's in the context of "the requirement has gone away".

Label your cables: A cautionary tale from the server room

JerseyDaveC

Re: Did the consultant get compensated?

Steve: yes, he (I) did: emergency call-out, Sunday rates. And the client was happy with the cost as it got him out of the hole which, by his own admission, he'd excavated for himself.

JerseyDaveC

Re: article header image

Yes, we call the feature: "This Damn War" ... the expression being that of a weary soldier on the battlefield (in this case, the battlefield of life in IT). Bonus point if anyone can remember an IT publication of the 1990s that had a similarly titled column (and written by some of the same people).

When should you bin that old mainframe? Infrastructure 101

JerseyDaveC

Re: SNMP - Ha-Ha

Yup, agreed, which is why I went on to mention that some stuff can't be interrogated with SNMP (e.g. the switch fan issue I mentioned). SNMP's a pain in the bum in a lot of cases (and the first word, "Simple", is a terrible misnomer!)

Wait... who broke that? Things you need to do to make your world diagnosable

JerseyDaveC

Re: different times on their internal clocks, whatever logs..will be almost impossible to collate

it certainly gets a mention in Shimomura's "Takedown" - that's where I learned it all those years ago and it's a lesson that has been useful many times.

JerseyDaveC

Re: Nice when you have the resouces

Yup. And of course the beancounters opt for the 8x5 support option because it's way cheaper than the 24x7 one ... right up until something important dies on the Easter weekend and they expect someone to respond.

Confused by crypto? Here's what that password hashing stuff means in English

JerseyDaveC

Re: Good read as other Reg articles starve the reader of technical info...

Thanks for the positive feedback. If you're old enough to remember Network Week (launched 1995, ran for a few years), you may remember a column entitled "RTFM". This came about by accident: on press day the ed came to me to see if I could throw a thousand words together to fill an unexpected gap. So I did a basic intro to something (IP networking, I think it was) - really noddy but it got us out of a hole. Then we got loads of email from people saying: "Hey, that taught me enough to understand some stuff that people were saying, and helped me be a little bit conversant". So we did loads more over the weeks, and they went down well.

I'll have a chat with some of the editorial gang at the Reg and see what they think.

JerseyDaveC

Re: "To obtain a certificate from a CA you have to convince them of your credentials"

Yeah, it's an interesting point. I remember applying for my first digital cert back in the 1990s - it was an absolute ball-ache as we had to send all manner of documentation to the CA - articles of incorporation, the lot; I was half-expecting to have to send a vial of blood. It's a whole lot easier these days. One would hope that the browser/OS makers would remove trust for CAs that get themselves a reputation for being over-easy ... whether that actually happens is another thing entirely, of course.

JerseyDaveC

Re: One more rule

Yup, I'll second that. It's a mantra that you can apply to pretty well any field of computing, actually - these days there's not often an instance where you have to write something from scratch in its entirety. In fact I can only remember one instance* in recent memory where I've had to do so - most of the time there's something out there that you can use to solve part or even all of a problem.

(* If you're wondering: it was a code library to enable a Mac to interface directly to an Inter-Tel phone system's CTI stream).

JerseyDaveC

Re: Salts?

Fair point: it was a question of where to stop - I was way over the word count already and there were other things I'd have liked to squeeze in too. But you're right - salting's an essential consideration.

JerseyDaveC

Re: Newer is better?

It's an excellent question - and one that we debated at length with the instructor (a time-served, PhD-holding security guru turned security instructor) on my CISSP course last year, actually. You're absolutely right to point out that it says something when an algorithm has been around for years without being (knowingly) broken. On balance, though, we decided that the goal of making SHA-3 significantly stronger than SHA-2, combined with the intense competition and scrutiny involved in the selection process for the algorithm of SHA-3 (it literally was a competition - check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SHA-3) probably made it the one to choose.

In practice I'd be happy with either SHA-2 or SHA-3. And for reasons others have alluded to in comments here, you wouldn't touch the previous versions with a bargepole.

JerseyDaveC

Re: Mistake in Whats Hashing section

Oops - good spot. In my defence it's nearly 40 years since I learned my two times table, so I've started getting forgetful ... :-)

Okay IT pros, change happens. But here's your Reg guide to staying in control

JerseyDaveC

It's a fair comment - and you're right, there are change control processes that are so onerous as to make everyone want to avoid them.

At the very least all change control processes ought to have an "emergency" case that allows for rapid response (generally in cases where something's down or something's so poorly that service will soon be down if you don't act).

And one would hope that dealing with your PFY spontaneously combusting wouldn't require change control; though whether you tell him/her that at the time is down to whether they've made you tea that morning.

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