Stories by Shane Schick

Canadian government hit by foreign hackers

Malicious hackers who may be based in China managed to fool Canadian federal IT staff into providing access to government computers, leading to severe Internet restrictions at Treasury Board and the Finance Department, <a href=""><u>CBC News reported</u></a> late Wednesday.

Survey shows many IT projects halted

Nearly half of respondents in a recent survey say they've put the kybosh on an IT project, according to a survey by the Information Systems Audit Control Association (ISACA).

A professional computer cleaner dishes the dirt

When a British study recently showed the average computer keyboard is dirtier than a toilet seat, Jacqueline Miller's worst suspicions were confirmed.
A computer cleaner, she spoke to Computerworld Canada's Shane Schick about the worldwide problem of dirty keyboards and computers.
How did you get started as a computer cleaner?
Back in the mid-80s &#8212; without saying I'm old or anything &#8212; I was in operations, and part of our responsibility was cleaning the computer room, because of dust and static. So you had to get the suction cups and lift the floor boards. Of course, computers really started coming in to offices in the mid-1990s, and part of my job then was training secretaries how to use a computer. Although they've now been around for a long time, no one really thought about that process of cleanliness, and it's not until all the illnesses got passed around that people started questioning it. (Later), around 2000, there was an opportunity in a company I was doing some work for, again with the computer room. No one ever cleaned it, and the IT guys are just too busy, so a couple of us teamed up. We had to organise a little business, and from that point on there were phones and things there where they said, &quot;Could you do the call centre?&quot; So I've been doing it for several years.
How can you do a good job of cleaning keyboards and phones?
It's got to start at home, with washing your hands. You can't disinfect a dirty surface. And people don't know that. I've called Clorox and Lysol and all those companies, because if you look on the back of those products and it says it's 98.999% effective, that's based on a thoroughly clean surface. So you can wipe your keyboard every day, every week, but if it's not clean, you can't maintain it.
So how do you clean it?
I use a number of brushes, depending on the process. You can't take forced air and spray it. That's doesn't clean it. This is also not about taking the keys off; you want to avoid that, because eventually the sides are going to wear. I tilt it to a garbage can and I brush so that I'm getting the bulk of crumbs and dust off. Then you switch sides and you do it again. Then I take the forced air. If it's a keyboard that hasn't been cleaned in a few years, there's quite a bit of dust. Once you get all your loose stuff, you also have to do your keys, where you're cleaning with a solution. I use something with 90% or more alcohol. I spray my brushes and I scrub the keys with my brushes. Then I get in between the keys with a fine ruler-type object. You can see over time where I'm getting all the guck and discoloration. Once there's no more discoloration I know it's pretty thoroughly cleaned, so I spray it one more time. Then I take the disinfectant wipe and use that.
How often should this happen?
It's up to you as an individual and your use. For me, going into a company, I average every six months for regular customers. Some companies may not want to spend money on a second cleaning. They think they can do it themselves, and that's fine too.
Without over-generalising, is there a difference between the cleanliness of someone in one department and someone in another? For example, is there a difference between the IT department and the senior executives?
IT guys are very defensive. They don't like someone like me coming in and cleaning their stuff. They say they do it themselves. But a lot of times the companies will say, &quot;No, everybody's getting it done.&quot; And they're the filthiest. I had one company that had me speak to their IT guy, and he said to me, &quot;Oh, I put mine in the dishwasher.&quot;
The keyboard? Yes. Who would even think to chance that? I said, &quot;Well, I'd like to know how that works the next day.&quot; And he said, &quot;Oh no, it takes a while to dry out. It takes days, a week.&quot; So what do you do in the meantime? I don't know if he was messing with me or what, but I've read the same thing on the internet. Maybe it's a myth of some kind. But it's stupid, because you're going to chance watering your circuits, and they won't work again.
What about gender differences?
I've cleaned salesmen's PCs, and they're disgusting. [Salesmen] aren't even in the office most of the time. They're out and about shaking hands, pumping gas, eating, all that stuff. And then they come back and they're typing. And those keys &#8212; I remember one guy, after I cleaned phone, saying, &quot;You switched my phone.&quot; He was so sure it wasn't the same one. Then you can get managers who have almost a spotless environment, and women who care enough to call me in who have filthy keyboards.
Does the situation ever get any better?
I can clean some keyboards where they're pretty good now. They don't have the guck built up like they used to between the keys, or on the mouthpiece of a phone &#8212; the initial cleaning of a phone makes a big difference. The keyboard is what needs to be cleaned very often. You can always just wipe down your mouthpiece and handset. They don't get as dirty as your keyboard, because people are eating over their keyboards.

SAS offers greener shade of business intelligence

SAS Institute Inc. is building on its roots in the business intelligence space by offering corporate enterprises a tool that will allow them to analyze the impact their operations have on the environment.

IBM unveils BI pack for InfoSphere

IBM Corp. and Cognos Inc. on Wednesday launched the first integrated products following Big Blue's acquisition of the Canadian business intelligence player, focusing on software to assist with legal compliance and retail issues.

Vista a year on: why uptake wasn't huge

It didn't feel like anyone was really that keen on Vista last year. Seldom has a product been launched with such low expectations from industry observers &#8212; expectations that in some respects had little to do with the vendor or even the product itself.
On this, Vista's anniversary, the occasion feels less like a cause for celebration than a ritual in self-righteousness on the part of those who want to prove how astute they were. I'm not going to bother, because Vista's prospects weren't that difficult to forecast. It's a crappy market for upgrades, especially operating systems. Companies are cheap. XP is still doing a decent job. Instead, why not explore an alternate scenario: What if Vista had taken the enterprise market by storm?
The most basic outcome: corporate networks would probably be safer and better managed than they are right now. These, and not the fancy-dancy UI stuff, were the important feature sets Microsoft incorporated into the product. Would Vista have helped stave off the rampant Storm worm? Maybe not, but it might have gotten in its way a little, and that would have saved many firms a lot of pain. The management features, meanwhile, sounded like a laundry list of what you would assume most IT managers are asking for: Remote Assistance to deal with out-of-office workers, a Performance console to speed up troubleshooting and a completely rewritten Even Viewer to be more proactive about problems. You can't keep whining about how bad Microsoft's software is if you don't give this kind of update a chance.
Vista adoption would have forced a lot of companies to invest in new desktop hardware, which might have led some users to explore the advancements that PC and component makers have been making lately. Home users have already started to experience the power of hyperthreaded applications from the more recent Intel processors, for example, but businesses have been slow to investigate whether they might have processes that could benefit from improved performance at the client level. Instead, they invest in more expensive software and wonder why everyone seems to be working at the same pace they always have.
It should be noted that Microsoft not only hoped for customers to upgrade to Vista, but also wanted them to embrace a combination of the OS, the latest Office and the latest Exchange. If that had happened, a lot more companies might be better prepared to move to unified communications, content management and integration of user applications with business intelligence and other advanced IT tools. Instead, they'll probably try to adopt the advanced IT tools and realise they neglected to lay the desktop computing foundation for such projects.
Vista's supposed failure did not come at a great gain of any competitor, be it the Mac OS or any viable desktop Linux, including Novell's Suse. For all the hyperbole, enterprises did not move en masse from a desktop OS environment to the kind of purely online application environment which Google and others have been promoting. Vista's biggest enemy was the status quo. And the status quo, through the media, analysts and even a lot of customers, got nearly as much marketing support as Microsoft gave Vista.

Vancouver hosts XBRL progress check

Accounting and technology experts are meeting in Vancouver this week to discuss their progress in steering companies towards a standard XML-based way of reporting financial information.

Business-IT disconnect on projects studied

Canadian researchers are interviewing IT professionals in the hope of coming up with a common frame of reference that can be used to improve communication among technology and business executives who are working together on joint projects.

Heart and Stroke Foundation pumps up BI reporting

The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario is hoping its initial deployment of business intelligence software can be expanded to offices across the country as the charitable organization becomes more transparent and accountable to its donors.

Opinion: It doesn't have to BEA this way

When a company the size of Oracle buys a company the size of BEA, it's natural to wonder what will happen to the product line of the company being acquired. In this case, however, there's less reason for speculation, because Oracle's recent history tells us everything an IT manager needs to know about how &#8212; assuming its US$6.7 billion bid goes through &#8212; this will all playout.

Web 2.0 firms try to tie mashups into SOAs

Companies that want to move beyond cutting and pasting information into Excel spreadsheets will have to adopt a set of APIs and create lightweight "mashup" applications that automate business processes, executives said during a Webcast last Thursday.

Accenture spends to beef up IT consulting

Accenture last month announced plans to invest US$250 million (NZ$311 million) to enhance services for datacentre management, green computing, data security and business transformation.

Hurd's internal IT plan has unfair advantages

I don&#8217;t think he mentioned the term &#8220;dog food&#8221; in his keynote speech at HP&#8217;s Technology Forum and Expo in Las Vegas last month, but that&#8217;s obviously what Mark Hurd is preparing to feed his employees.