The ole blog’s been suffering lately

Hope you’ll all forgive me — the blog’s been suffering lately. Life’s been pretty crazy the last few months and I’ve been away traveling for work. Much of Septemebr has been spent away from home, then toss in fall baseball and the ole plate is pretty full. Hopefully things will slow down a bit in October and I’ll get back to bloggin’.

Be Bold and Courageous

First off let me say that this posting is for me and my own personal development.  If you’re not interested in, concerned with, or just wondering what the heck;  keep in mind the URL you typed in the browser that got you here is my name, not yours.  You’re free to leave just as quickly as you came.

A couple weeks ago the company I work for put on a “Life Skills” weekend in St. Louis, with about a third of employees and their spouses from all over the country attending.  It was great to finally put some faces with people I talk with on the phone, not to mention this company knows how to put-on a shindig.  Anyway, the theme for the weekend was to “Be Bold and Courageous”.  And my wife and I attended several conferences from raising kids to building a stronger marriage.

I intentionally held off posting anything about the weekend to let things sink in a bit.  Initially, I felt that while it was a great time and I’d definitely go again; it was high on motivation, but lacked much in the way of substance.  Now, I’m not so sure.  As I’m beginning to recognize many things I do now or could do differently that contribute to me and my family’s overall life experience.

For me personally even though it wasn’t a topic covered at the conference.  I’ve come to realize some of my shortcomings and how they affect others.  As an example, for the first time I realized that while I’m pretty much a “glass is half full” kind of guy in a strategic sense, you’d never know it because day-to-day I’ll act tactically as a “glass is half empty” sort.  I can’t begin to express the sort of frustration/tension this has caused me and others in both my home and work lives.  And at this point, I’m still not sure how I’ll reconcile these two opposing personality traits, but hopefully recognizing it is the first step to recovery.  And admitting it here will hopefully keep it forefront on my mind to do something about it.

There are, were, additional things I took away from the conference, but I’ll write about those another day.  In the final analysis, the challenge that frankly each of us face every day, is to find the boldness and courage to act in the best interest of what is right and just, for you, your family and the world!  Here’s to hoping you and I live up to that challenge!

You can’t install ScriptLogic on Thursdays

Spending almost my entire life working with technology – the last 10 years in Information Technology, I thought I've pretty much seen and heard it all. Obviously not yet. Today while Joel (one of our network guys) was working on a new Vista box we have, he ran into a little issue with ScriptLogic. ScriptLogic is a program we use at Learfield that helps us manage computer configurations and login scripts. Anyway, after an hour or so scratching his head, he called tech support and they tag teamed the issue. And after another hour we had our answer, ScriptLogic had just discover a problem… Seems you can't install on it Thursdays. Honest to God, I'm not making it up. The work around; either disable Vista's UAC (user access control – the Secret Service guy in the Mac ads) or wait till Friday or another day just so long as it's not Thursday.

That wondrous piece of engineering made us laugh the rest of the day.

Why IT and Users Hate Each Other…

I just loved this article about the state of IT support and user satisfaction (rather old, 3/2006 and long), but it's on point with a lot I've been reading and listening to recently. Honestly, it amazes me the disconnect that exists in a lot companies between the business and IT. And while some distance exists where I work, it's more-a-kin to a small creek than the Grand Canyon that divides these two elsewhere. Bill Weldon (CEO) and LaVerne Council (CIO) of Johnson & Johnson discussed this a bit in their recent Change Artists interview (free registration). They appear to understand the value that can/should be achieved by an IT department that "gets it" when it comes to business goals and direction.

All companies understand the unpinnings IT provides to facilitate business, but most I fear struggle taking the next step – where IT could assist a company become faster, smarter and ultimately more effective, not just efficient, within its core business. Something as simple as a parallel planning process where business and IT strategy are developed together as a single strategy is a start, but ultimately it means letting IT inside and developing trust between these two very different disciplines.

One of the comments I thought was right on point.
"One of the key strategies to business/IT integration is to get IT folks to understand the business itself, and how technology can contribute to the bottom line. Taking IT people more than halfway to the other side is easier than getting non-IT people to understand what we do."

We discuss this very thing around here, but it's difficult to develop consensus, action and thus, results. It's hard, but important work and remains a focus of what we do in our IT department – hopefully yours too.

TGIF

It's been a crazy couple weeks at work – riddle with problems and challenges. We've refined our patching process for desktops and will finally start using Radia to distribute them next week. It's been a long haul – six months or more of testing, tweaking, etc. Now it's time to play catch up!

I've spent most of my time working on HP OpenView. About 10 months ago we purchased OpenView Operations and Network Node Manager. Some days I just wanna pull my hair out, but when I'm just about to loose it, it seems a break thru always saves the day.

We're also in the process of hiring a systems person for IT. They'll be responsible for all the network devices, switching, routing, etc. They'll also keep a watchful eye on things from a security perspective. This addition will help take the load off my server admins and allow them to focus on maintaining the servers and various the systems/applications we all depend on.

Honesty in business

Last week several of us spent a couple days in management training where one of the discussions covered morality in business, new vs. old. I realize this is nothing new in the business world and is a topic business has long struggled with, however I thought the illustration put it in plain and simple terms. The choice should be an easy one.

Then later in the week I read an article in Computer World by Frank Hayes, HP: No Surprise. At Learfield we do lots of business with HP so this caught my eye. Seems the actions of a board member or hired outside investigators may have gotten HP into trouble with California’s attorney general. HP while investigating possible board room leaks may have illegally obtained the home phone records of several reporters as well as its own board members. Frank correctly points out that a company that can’t trust its own leadership is not just suffering from paranoia, but outright despair.

“HP needs a values transplant. Hard as it is to believe, the company that was once the epitome of wise management in the IT business has become a corrupt, dysfunctional travesty of itself.”

Frank – I don’t think it could be said any better!

Learfield purchases it’s first Mac

Ok – you can stop already… a couple weeks ago I purchased Learfield’s very first Mac and boy have I caught my share of crap over this. So here it is, I’m now referring all questions to this posting – that is unless you can fire me, in which case I’d be happy to discuss further.

1) Learfield has been using a small video presentation on iPods which they present as part of their pitch to some clients. Despite having a pretty good set of video tools at home, these videos take me between 8 – 12 hours to convert and copy over to the iPods. Everything I’ve read claims this is a pretty simply and quick process on the Mac. So now Learfield owns a good set of tools for this.

2) Since Mac now uses Intel hardware and is able to run XP via boot camp, it’s a win – win. We can now have the video tools we need on a box that still fits into our network. It’s a dual purpose box.

3) I had to purchase a new laptop for our open helpdesk position anyway. Now it’s a win-win-win.

4) And yes, I admit it – I want one. I’ve read so much good press about these machines; it seems like a technology we should look at, especially considering everything above.

So there you have it – if you wanna poke fun at me, do it here, besides I’m in Radia training all week.

Radia upgrades are in the works

The Net.Works folks are back at Learfield this week assisting us with a Patch Manager upgrade for Radia. In between all the questions, brain storming, and seriousness of what’s going on; we try to have a good time. Still pretty new to Radia we struggle to wrap our heads around this extremely flexible product.

Jamie has taken over our Radia and backup Admin position, so we’re looking for a new helpdesk person (spread the word). Jamie’s move to Radia will enable us to develop the required skills and make better use of the Radia suite of tools.

For those of you not in the know; Radia is a set of tools we use to manage our desktop environment at Learfield. We use it to install software, track licensing, track and report on assets, and patch Windows security flaws. And while there is significant upfront work in preparing and testing new software packages and patches, once through, it’s just a few mouse clicks to push those changes to the 400+ computers we have scattered across the country. An amazing time saver if you consider how long it’d take us to install a single update if we had to manually contact every person in the company and remote control their computer to install the update. Now imagine Microsoft releases 20 updates a week; 20 X 400 = 8000 installs – thank God for Radia. We simply couldn’t keep up without it!

Back amongst the living

This week I spent most of my time working on an IT roadmap that lays out IT strategy for the next 12-36 months. It’s always a struggle to go from being in the trenches to flying at thirty thousand feet, but once I get there I love the view. At 30,000 feet things seem so clear and the decisions seem easier – not easy, but easier than all the smaller day to day decisions that go into achieving various objectives and goals. I’m sure that’s true of most people; somehow it’s always easier to envision a picture than it is to actually paint one.

My wife is kind enough to allow me to take over the living room; where I get in the “zone”. I refer to the zone as intense focus. It’s a talent or curse I’ve always possessed. While in the zone, I’m immune to almost any distraction. And once there, with the creativity juices flowing; I’m not coming out until either I’m done or the inspiration runs out. Not much eating and very little if any sleeping once in the groove. Years ago I went 36 hours straight working on a network problem. I’m older now and that’s gotten a lot harder than it used to be.

It’s always a fun time, I enjoy the work, but I’m also glad to back among the living.

Backup: A success story in the making?

So about a year or more ago the CFO tasked the IT department with finding a transparent backup solution for our mobile users. Transparent meaning that the mobile users didn’t have to think about anything concerning their backup process. Well, maybe – just maybe we’re there.

Seems like we’ve demoed a lot of software, but in reality I guess it wasn't all that much. Buried with many projects and explosive growth this year, it’s just been difficult to focus on the project. I’ve already blogged my disgust with CA’s products so I won’t bash them anymore, but will say Atempo/Storactive’s LiveBackup appears to live up to everything CA’s Backup for Laptops and Desktops didn’t and then some.

LiveBackup is basically real-time replication for mobile users or desktops. Policy driven, AD integrated and about a 15 minute install if you already have a server with MS SQL available. I finished installing the product about an hour ago; installing the client via an active X control and a web browser (there are several possible installation methods; including group policy) what could be easier? After installing the client, it immediately began caching my data files locally and fairly quickly began streaming those files to the backup server. Unfortunately, it wasn’t able to finish up before I had to leave the office – not a problem. Here I sit at home typing this on my DSL (no VPN necessary) as the client software continues backing up my data via HTTP and SSL. I didn’t have to tweak, touch or even think about it.

All-in-all, I’m impressed. This is the way it’s supposed to work – no fuss, no pounding your head against the wall, no need for tech support. A simple, elegant solution that appears to simply work! So if you have a mobile backup issue that needs solving, be sure to check out LiveBackup.