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Ask Slashdot: Should Employers Ban Smartphones?

xdroop I Advise On Security Policies Like This (510 comments)

Part of my job is to advise companies on security policies like this, and I have advised in favor of such restrictions when asked. However this is done out of respect for the end-user's privacy. The reasoning is that there are two conflicting priorities in permitting BYOD use and network access:

First, as a security officer I have a duty to ensure that the network and all devices connected to it remain secure.

Second, as an agent of the company I have absolutely no right to dictate to an employee what they must or must not do with their device to prove that it is secure. It is their device which they purchased with their money to use for their own purposes.

Since I cannot prove that the device is secure without violating their privacy or exerting an unreasonable amount of control over the device, the only resolution is that the device is not permitted.

If you really need a device, then the resolution to that is to get the company to buy you a device -- at which point the company owns it, and can dictate what security measures are taken.

At the end of the day, a company pays you to do a job, and as such has the final say over how you do it and what tools you use to do it. It may not be your choice, or the best choice, or even an efficient choice. But that's how they want it done.

Good employers will listen to their staff and make adjustments and get the tools that their staff need. But it isn't mandatory.

If you don't like the job, and the employer won't change it to suit you, you have two choices: live with it, or leave.

about a year and a half ago
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Ask Slashdot: Documenting a Tangle of Network Devices?

xdroop You will never succeed. (165 comments)

Been there. Done that. Failed repeatedly, and for various interesting reasons, none of which are generalizable.

Your problem has several aspects to it, and as far as I can nobody's talked about them. Lots of the answers talk about specific parts of the problem but not in a general way.

Here's your problem:

  • Figure out what you have: this is a basic inventory.
  • Figure out how it is connected together: this is a wiring table. Some people will tell you that a wiring diagram is good enough, but after a certain point you can't use them because they get too big and the layout problems start to get non-trivial. So you need a table. Which means you need a way to identify each wire. At both ends. Uniquely. Accurately.
  • Figure out how to store it all. Visio for simple, high-architecture diagrams, yes. We use Sharepoint and custom tables for the actual device and wiring tables, but Excel will do. There's a whole essay that could be written on this (and I feel like I've written parts of it repeatedly) but the #1 aspect to this issue is that WHATEVER YOU PICK HAS TO BE SIMPLE AND STAY OUT OF PEOPLE'S WAY OR THEY WON'T USE IT. You have to make it trivial to keep the data up to date. You have to somehow make it harder to not do the wrong thing -- but since the wrong thing is to ignore the documentation and just slap your wire in there, that's impossible. Which means you need:
  • A way to detect changes that are made without authorization. I have a home grown collection of tools (rancid, nagios, arpwatch) and scripts that detect most of the day-to-day possible changes that happen on my particular network. I like the idea of NetDisco but have never achieved a working instance. The problem is that while detecting adds and moves is easy (because a move appears as an add) detecting decommissioning is hard. So the documentation rots. So you need:
  • Tools that can detect the current state of the network. One of my copious-spare-time project (for the last ten years *sob*) has been writing a perl script that can query my snmp switches and tell me what port a particular MAC address is connected to, right now. I can't tell you how many times that script has saved hours of f---ing around at various places. But you need SNMP-manageable gear for something like that to work. So you need:
  • Management that will support you in this endeavor. Management that will spend the extra bucks to ensure that equiptment can be monitored for changes by external systems. Management that understands that documentation needs periodic auditing and that the crazy guy ranting about unauthorized changes has been empowered by management to enforce documentation about these changes. (Which is hard when its your boss making the changes.)

Frankly the last issue is the most important. If you can get management to sign off on spending money (and really, your time is their money) then you are 50% of the way home. If you get sandbagged halfway through when you discover you need to unplug three linksys switches that happen to form the iSCSI core network that will take the world offline for six hours to sort out a spanning-tree loop, then you'll have other problems. But the technical ones are easy to sort out once management has committed to spending time and money to solve them.

more than 2 years ago
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Ask Slashdot: Why Aren't You Running KDE?

xdroop Volume == defaults (818 comments)

Because Gnome is the default. I have to touch dozens of computers in a week, many of them freshly built, and I gave up trying to customize all of them a long time ago. Basically the only thing I customize now is the .bash_profile and the .vimrc -- both of which can be wget'd trivially quickly. I don't have time to fuck around with window managers any more.

more than 2 years ago
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Digging Into the Electrical Cost of PC Gaming

xdroop Re:Components (162 comments)

This doesn't work for the same reason that virtualization rarely yields absolute savings. Instead of "doing the same with less", the pointy heads see all this newly-freed up hardware and decide to re-use it. You end up "doing even more with the same". So your costs-per-work-unit go down, but your absolute costs stay the same (or go up once virtualization costs are factored in).

The same goes for people buying hardware. We rarely say "oh, I can buy this computer that has A) the same performance and B) better energy consuption rates as my existing one for less than I paid for it" -- we say "oh, I can buy one that is so much faster and powerful (and ususally, energy-hungry) than my existing one for the same as I paid for the originial".

Why spend more money to get what you already have, when you can spend more money to get -- more?

more than 2 years ago
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Stolen iPad's Reported Location Not Enough To Warrant Search, Say Dutch Police

xdroop Re:Double standards for network tracking (619 comments)

Don't be stupid. You very well know that that iPad is worth, at most, $1000, while a single downloaded song is worth easilly ten times that much.

It is all about putting policing resources where they will generate the most revenue for the politicians^W^W^W^W^W^W^W do the most good.

more than 2 years ago
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Have Online Comment Sections Become Specious?

xdroop Is it 2010 again? (429 comments)

You guys all remember that we read this back in 2010, right?

I mean, s/Fark/Gawker/ and all that, the only notable difference is that the Fark guy said only 1% of the comments were worth anything, while the Gawker guy says 1 in 5. Which would be a huge improvement if it had any basis in reality.

more than 2 years ago
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Ask Slashdot: Getting a Grip On an Inherited IT Mess?

xdroop Re:methodically and late into the night (424 comments)

What happens when he's on vacation or sick and a server dies? What happens when the website has an issue and then *anything* else goes wrong?

Oh, that's easy:

  • He gets called in from being on vacation or sick;
  • he gets to work uncompensated time to fix the problem;
  • if he fails to either respond to the call OR fails to fix the problem, he gets fired;
  • if he succeeds in fixing the problem, he gets threatened with termination should something else fail while he's "unavailable".

In fact, I'd lay odds that's how the vacancy occurred.

more than 2 years ago
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Have Walled Gardens Killed the Personal Computer?

xdroop Re:You Software Engineers Don't Get It (848 comments)

It is more subtle than that. The problem is that the "freedom" being exercised in the current ecosystem is that of the Software Engineer: they have the freedom to write bad applications (or write good applications badly, which is different). The end result is that the end user no longer cares if you, the Software Engineer has unfettered market access to their device. They are tired of dealing with the garbage that the unfettered market is providing. They don't want freedom -- they want to do the things that these devices are supposed to enable, instead of being hung up on the devices themselves. For example, the difference between operating a camera and taking a picture.

Your reply also confuses me, as you seem to take a position against mine, then go on to use your own poor experiences with your non-restricted Android platform as an argument -- which to my mind, just reinforces my argument. If someone had been curating your app experience with the Android, it might not have been so bad.

more than 2 years ago
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Have Walled Gardens Killed the Personal Computer?

xdroop You Software Engineers Don't Get It (848 comments)

Apple's App Store is a logical result of the chaos that's been exhibited on general purpose computing platforms for the last 20 years.

When end users experience crashes, blue screens, data corruptions, poor user interfaces, hung devices, and insufficient functionality, they are not "feeling their freedom". They are feeling the results of you exercising yours. And when their "local nerd" is asking them questions which leadingly suggest that they shouldn't have been doing what they've been doing, they feel angry.

End users want computing like they want toast. Put in their bread/data, push a button, and get their toast/video. The fact that this is very hard, and in some cases virtually impossible, does nothing to limit the end users' expectations. For years they have been told these computers will make their lives better and enable them in so many ways -- which they have, but they sure don't like the hidden costs that these ecosystems have dumped on them.

You know all those arguments that have been made? If you don't like it, you don't have to use it! That's all the end user is doing.

Sturgeon's Law explains that 90% of anything is crap. If curation -- in the form of App Stores or whatever -- can change those odds, even just a little bit, end users are going to move towards them in droves.

Software engineers have squandered their freedom, and end users are increasingly acting like they don't want to have any part of it any more.

(I wrote up a much longer article on the same theme.)

more than 2 years ago
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Does Open Source Software Cost Jobs?

xdroop Small Business Tech Support Economics 101 (530 comments)

[...] except now you have to pay that same netadmin outrageous consulting wages 'cuz he's not on the payroll.

You know, that's exactly the argument I use with my customers. When something breaks, yes, you pay me more per hour than you'd pay someone you have onhand full time. However, I know for a fact you don't have enough work for a full-time body, therefore every hour I'm not here you pay me less than you'd pay someone you have onhand full time. Since (for these customers) there are hugely more of the latter than the former, I'm a better deal than the full-timer -- up to a certain point, when I can help you transition to a full-timer instead of using me.

And even better, if things break so hard you need two or three or more sets of hands to put things right, I can "scale up" faster and cheaper than looking for more full-timers.

When people say that open source lets people do more with less, they lose sight of the fact that it is the businesses doing the more. The fact it is with less IT/ICT -- that's business. Its no different -- and should be mourned no more -- than all those photocopiers putting typing pools surplus to requirements.

more than 2 years ago
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7 Days In Email Hell

xdroop Re:I don't remember those 90s... (213 comments)

I hate you, I hate you, I hate you.

Not only did I think Self, that assertion about running Windows98 on a 286 sounds incorrect, I was sure that Windows95 and higher required the 386 protected mode instruction set, which in and of itself is painful, but I actually wasted time googling Windows98 system requirements, where I found this page at microsoft, which reads in part:

A personal computer with a 486DX 66 megahertz (MHz) or faster processor (Pentium central processing unit recommended).

Oh my god I hate you. Perhaps almost as much as I hate myself... but that's a different problem.

more than 3 years ago
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Ask Slashdot: How To Monitor Your Own Bandwidth Usage?

xdroop nfsen (319 comments)

I use a Linux router running nfsen on the internal interface. From there I can set filters that count flows, bytes, and packets in and out of the router. (I can also go back in later and look at who was doing what if the resulting graphs look funny.)

I don't expect the numbers that I get to match what my provider's say; I just expect that if they claim I am over, I will be able to confirm that (within certain loose percentages) and then figure out why I am over.

more than 3 years ago
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Debian Is the Most Important Linux

xdroop Re:Try CentOS (354 comments)

That's because they're big, clueless dinosaurs, who don't understand that Debian is the more complete, better maintained solution [blah blah blah blah]

No, they run it because the tools they run on linux demand a platform which can reasonably be depended on to be universally the same everywhere, and available with support contracts so that if something is wrong you stand a chance of getting it fixed beyond the usual dude, you have the source, fix it yourself that free software so enjoys.

Seriously -- these tools can cost so much that even a "real" Red Hat support license for the platform is noise. Just pay the man and be done with it.

Some of us have work to do.

more than 3 years ago
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When the Internet Nearly Fractured

xdroop TL;DR Generation (119 comments)

I am astounded both that a three-page article is described as "lengthy", and that the first (and only comment displayed to me currently) starts out:

I must admit that I haven't RTFA.

I guess if it is longer than a tweet, it's too long.

more than 3 years ago
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Should Employees Buy Their Own Computers?

xdroop Re:NO! (498 comments)

Do you know why IT folks hate personal devices? It is because it isn't IT's. We cannot make rules over what you can or cannot do with your equipment. We can't tell you not to download spyware. We can't tell you not to let your teenage daughter install cute cursor packs. We can't make you buy decent (or any!) anti-virus or security software or force you to stay up-to-date with patches.

And what plusses are brought by personal equipment? Well, we are now on the hook to support your own weird applications, like some graphics package that was downloaded off a Russian server and is entirely in Korean(*). We are now on the hook for keeping your eight-year old second hand clone (built by your son's super intelligent friend) running(*). We have to get the company VPN solution working with your weird combination of hardware and software(*). We are now encouraged to install "field evaluation copies" of corporate software(*) so you can do your job when your not-entirely-compatible open source package(*) causes hilarity.

And, when you ignore all this and corporate security is compromised and thousands of pieces of private data are "accidentally circulated more widely than initially intended", it is OUR ass on the line.(**) Frankly, if I'm the one getting canned when it doesn't work, it's MY F***ING network.

You bringing your equipment in may save you time, but it doesn't save the company any money.

(*) = actually happened to me.

(**) == happened to someone I know.

more than 3 years ago
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Scientifically, You Are Likely In the Slowest Line

xdroop Re:WTF is this noise? (464 comments)

Irony is a user with a six-digit uid complaining that the site went to shit. Everyone knows that the site went to shit before uid 2000 was claimed.

more than 3 years ago
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Information Rage Coming Soon To an Office Near You

xdroop Re:Constant e-mail bombardment (aka signal to nois (201 comments)

Ranting until someone's ears fall off is the only real way to respond.

Yeah sure, like that doesn't take time to do properly either. "F--- off d00d U suck" is not a proper rant.

more than 3 years ago
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School District Drops 'D' Grades

xdroop Re:Why Am I Suprised (617 comments)

/me wonders if you got modded "insightful" due to your observation of the administrator's... uh... well.

about 4 years ago
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School District Drops 'D' Grades

xdroop Re:Average (617 comments)

Yeah, but if you can't focus your attention long enough to remember the capital of Nebraska is, what good are you going to be as an employee? The best indicator of future performance is past performance. It isn't fair, but it has been proven. Yes, people can and do change, but most of the time they don't. Every job involves some degree of doing stupid stuff that has no immediate point to you. If you can't play the game at school, it doesn't bode well for your employment history.

about 4 years ago
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How To Build Roads To Control How Fast You Drive

xdroop Re:Fuck this article (801 comments)

Seriously?

Cars today have more horsepower, more traction, better safety, and more braking power than cars 20-30 years ago.. Yet, our speed limits have decreased.. Why?

Because the monkey behind the wheel hasn't improved any, is now distracted by his cell phone, GPS, and on-board DVD players, and statistically is older than the monkey behind the wheel was 20-30 years ago.

Basically, the monkey is the critical part in the system, and it just isn't getting any better.

(Well except for you. You are a MAGNIFICENT driver, and we should all just stay the hell out of your way when you drive.)

more than 4 years ago

Submissions

xdroop hasn't submitted any stories.

Journals

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xdroop xdroop writes  |  more than 11 years ago It is December 17, and I'm done my Christmas shopping. Neener, neener, neener.

Bring on the Visa bills. (Ack! Pbth.)

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xdroop xdroop writes  |  more than 11 years ago sucks. But it is over now.

In other news, the service bastards have still not come out to visit my badly-assembled furnace. You know, they could call. Call me and lie to me, that's fine. Say we are really busy with lots of people who have no heat at all, sir, we will not be able to see you today. Someone will call you tomorrow to reschedule, and then I'll get pissy at the front office crew who are the ones blowing me off. But no, no call, no visit, nothing. This is the third time I've been stood up. That's three strikes. I'd say they were out, but they've never been in. Hopefully the unsuspecting service rep will actually follow up on this tomorrow, and I'll vaguely threaten to let her have it. On the face of it, they have a problem with their trade, who is making them look bad. But that's not my problem. What do I want? I'll tell you what I want. I want some guy with a toolbelt to show up and fix my furnace, that's what I want.

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xdroop xdroop writes  |  more than 11 years ago Am I the only one bothered by the fact that the stream of spaceships outside the chancellor's office was a little... repetitious?

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xdroop xdroop writes  |  more than 12 years ago Trollin' trollin' trollin...

But wait, I'm wearing the wrong suit for this.

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