FryUp: Rock the NAD

The power of subliminal messages; VoIP doesn't care about geographical allocation; and savvy users find their way around IT security bans

Top Stories

- Rock the NAD

- I’m sorry, but you can’t do that

Take a pay cut

Pointy-headed bosses and evil HR managers take note: sublims are not outlawed on the desktop. Not yet, so make the most of them while the going’s good.

- Subliminal Message

Rock the NAD

Geographical allocation of phone numbers is pretty much meaningless, thanks to voice over IP, which doesn’t care about such things. I’ve been saying this for a long time now, but it seems like a hard pill to swallow for those with a telco mindset.

Jenny Keown at Computerworld’s sister publication The Independent Financial Review writes that Skype has managed to buy around 90,000 New Zealand local numbers. TUANZ is up in arms, but I don’t see what the problem is. Sure, it makes mockery of the whole “free local calling” concept, but who needs national/international phone numbers nowadays? Nobody does. In the age of VoIP, they’re artificial constructs that serve only to bump up the cost of calls.

Yes, I’m aware of the emergency services relying on numbers being allocated to specific areas, but there are other ways to deal with this.

They also don’t sit well with the idea of being allocated a personal phone number for life (which in all likelihood won’t be a numeric one), and therefore, numbering based on locality must die.

I hear that Callplus is in luke-warm water with Number Administration Deed (NAD) rules too, as it’s been assigning 028 numbers, reserved for mobile use, to fixed-line customers. Even if that’s correct, so what? It’s neither here nor there, but just another number.

- 90,000 NZ phone numbers sold to Skype

I’m sorry, but you can’t do that

IT security is a vexed topic, because the main protective layer is not some clever software or firewalls that fend off threats, but the simple ban on doing certain things. Obviously, some of the things banned should be just that, but this week’s been something of a revelation for me, as both the MIS department I’ve dealt with and its users agree that the things that can’t be done actually hinder productivity.

Despite that, the risks of lifting the ban are deemed too great. Having seen the havoc people can wreak by simply doing unexpected things, I fully sympathise with that. Furthermore, any networked environment nowadays tends to be hostile to some degree, and there are legal requirements as well to take into account, when it comes to keeping track of information flows within a company.

The flip-side of that coin however is that more savvy users take matters into their own hands, and try to work around the bans and blocks. What’s been particularly interesting this week is that some quarters of the MIS custodians actually agree that the bans are bad, and without compromising existing policy, suggest ways to bypass them.

It makes me wonder how fine-grained IT security policies have to be, to take into account users’ varying needs — it’s abundantly clear that a blanket policy covering everyone with no exceptions doesn’t work. I’m quite keen to explore this area further, if only to see how hard I’ll end banging my head against different brick walls. More to come soon…

Garfield

Cartoon by www.xkcd.com

Robert X Cringely

Escape from vista hell

You think Windows Vista has been causing you fits? Consider the case of Cringester GM. Back in March I reported on the problems he was having with his “Vista compatible” Dell 9200 and its Intel RAID array controller. Fortunately, this story has a happy ending, thanks to patient persistence on the part of both GM and Dell tech support. The trouble began when GM upgraded his XP machine to Vista. At first, his PC would just randomly freeze for 30 seconds. But when he ran iTunes or any graphically intensive program, Windows went spiralling into the blue screen of death, then rebooted. When it came back, his RAID array was kaput. He wrote: "Pretty much doing anything with iTunes could trigger the failure and the destruction of the RAID array. The error would occur randomly with almost any program that started doing a lot of page swapping — but I was having particular problems with Corel Paint Shop Pro, Sony Vegas Movie Studio Platinum, and Sony DVD Architect." I'll spare the ugly details about all the fixes GM tried that didn't work, or the time he spent on hold waiting for Dell support, or the chat sessions with techs whose only solution was to a) reinstall XP, or b) call Microsoft, or the many hours logged in the Dell forums with similarly afflicted owners of Dimension 9200s. After I politely inquired on his behalf, Dell sent him a new Dimension 9200 last April. This one had the same problem, only worse. A few weeks went by with no word from Dell. Finally, after sussing out the problem on his original machine, Dell sent him some beta drivers and instructions on how to delete some troublesome keys from the Windows Registry. Eureka! GM's RAID drives now work without any more BSODs.

This happened last May. Now, finally, I have a Dell-endorsed solution I can share with other Vista/RAID sufferers. Per Dell spokesmaven Anne Camden: "This issue appears to be solved with an updated driver: the Intel Matrix Storage Manager Driver (v7.5.0). Frankly the symptoms described by most customers — hard systems lockups for 15-30 seconds at random intervals — a general enough to be attributed to any number of causes. In this case, a combination of some excellent sleuth work by both the forum members and the Dell engineering team determined that the application of this driver solves the issue the majority of the time. (UPDATE: Dell has since provided me direct access to the executable file containing the new drivers. You can download it here.) Kudos to Dell and our intrepid Cringester for finding a fix. But what an incredible hassle the transition to Vista has been for some consumers. GM, who when he isn't rasslin' with RAID arrays is CTO of a small software company, says there will be no Vista for his firm in the foreseeable future: "I installed Vista on my home machine to get enough experience with it to make better decisions about when / how to implement it for our 70 some programmers.  Based on my experiences, and that of our regular tech support staff we're holding off, and still buying XP machines for now.  Vista is pretty, but not ready for prime time in the business environment." Imagine buying a new car and having to wait six months for a set of radials that are compatible, or getting a new car stereo and discovering it can't play CDs produced before 2006. Only in high tech can companies get away with this kind of crap.

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