Category Archives: FAIL

Thursday trivia #48

[ putting this in the “FAIL” category since it’s no longer Thursday, but better late than never…]

To begin with, my hearty congratulations to Tony Redmond on receiving a “Distinguished” award from the Society for Technical Communications (STC) for Exchange 2010 Inside Out. This is quite an honor, but a well-deserved one. I read and edit a great deal of material focused on Exchange, and Tony’s book is the best I’ve encountered. Well done.

  • And speaking of books: I have the galleys for Bruce Schneier’s latest book, Liars and Outliers. It’s been an interesting read so far, although much of what he has to say about the nature of trust and how trust granting works seems intuitively obvious.
  • Looks like I’ll be speaking at TEC 2012 in San Diego. That should be fun; I thoroughly enjoyed speaking at TEC 2010 in Vegas.
  • I think it’s telling that if you search for “Exchange Connections 2012” you get this page, which doesn’t actually mention Exchange Connections– you have to scroll the list of icons over to the right to see it at all, and the textual conference descriptions don’t mention it. That’s rather sad. The page that is ostensibly about Exchange Connections is even worse.
  • After next week my teaching schedule will lighten up a bit, so I’m hopeful that I’ll be spending a lot more time flying.
  • Some people tend to think that their negative statements and claims won’t get back to their intended target. Wrong-o.

 

 

 

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Morgan Hill superintendent’s statement on the Flag Four

Straight from the horse’s mouth:

Good evening. This is Dr. Wesley Smith, Superintendent of the Morgan Hill Unified School District.

The Morgan Hill Unified School District does not prohibit nor do we discourage wearing patriotic clothing. The incident on May 5 at Live Oak High School is extremely unfortunate. While campus safety is our primary concern and administrators made decisions yesterday in an attempt to ensure campus safety, students should not, and will not, be disciplined for wearing patriotic clothing. This situation and our response are under review.

We know that this is an emotionally charged topic. We would ask you to encourage your students to be safe and focus on their academics while in school. If conversations and/or activities are necessary to express their feelings on this issue, we will find appropriate venues that do not disturb student learning or jeopardize the safety of our students. Furthermore, we encourage everyone to demonstrate respect for each other, open communication, and responsibility.

Thank you for your support and understanding.

in other words, the assistant principal who caused this mess just got pitched under the bus, and Dr. Smith would really appreciate it if all y’all stayed in school instead of going downtown chanting “We want respect!” while offering none to your adopted nation.

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Filed under California, FAIL

Don’t buy from Airsplat.com

Long story short: their customer support is poor, they don’t stand behind their products, and they aren’t honest about either.

I bought two electric Airsoft rifles for Dave and Tom for Christmas. Tom’s was fine; David’s was poorly designed and built. I got an RMA for it the day after Christmas, then had to fight with them for months before getting a partial refund. First they ignored me, then they claimed that the rifle had been damaged in return shipping (but couldn’t produce a UPS claim), then they claimed that it was damaged before shipping.

I eventually had to dispute the charge with my bank. The whole thing was a big hassle and not worth the few bucks that I might have saved by buying from them instead of a more reputable vendor.

Avoid them.

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Filed under California, FAIL, Smackdown!

Power to the people, California style

My office is currently suffering our second power outage of the year. Earlier this year, a plane carrying Tesla employees crashed into power lines, knocking out power to much of Palo Alto. Yesterday, a transformer in our office park failed, killing power to our building and the one next door. Incredibly, 18 hours later, we’re still without power! People here delight in looking down their noses at places like Athens, Alabama or Houma, Louisiana, but certainly I was never without electricity for longer than an hour or two, even during weather that would make the average Californian run for shelter.

Interestingly, outages seem to be a Palo Alto theme: there have been several other notable outages, and at least one other company has moved to neighboring Mountain View to get more reliable electric service.

Our critical servers are protected with UPS systems, but those only help provide time for a clean shutdown, not for ongoing operations. Our landlords arranged for a 1-megawatt diesel generator to tide us over; it’s set up in the parking lot but isn’t yet providing power to the building. The utility estimates that it will take two or three days to make the necessary repairs and get us back online. In the meantime, I have a fully-charged laptop and a mostly-charged MiFi, so at least I can get a few things done.

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Twitter plugin test, again

This testing is getting pretty tiresome.

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Z-Push considered harmful

So Devin posted about Z-Push, the cool-sound open-source implementation of Microsoft’s Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) protocol. Here’s the problem: the Z-Push folks kinda forgot to buy a license for EAS, and I have a problem with that. After years of complaints that Microsoft wasn’t being open and sharing its protocols, they started to document the behavior of their protocols and offer some of them for licensing, EAS included. That’s good, right? It’s good enough for Apple, Google, and the many other companies that licensed EAS, anyway. However, apparently Zarafa wanted the benefit of Microsoft’s labors without being willing to pay for it, so they built their own implementation. I don’t think that’s fair, and I don’t think the technical coolness of Z-Push should obscure the fact that Zarafa is stealing something that isn’t theirs.

This is what I said in 2002:

Hey, Linux guys: if you want to beat Microsoft, do it by making something better, not by copying their investment.

What happened to Lemonade? How about Funambol? It’s not as though the FOSS world lacks for sync protocols; they just decided that Microsoft’s commercially successful, fully licensable protocol would better suit their needs, so they took it. It boggles the mind. It would be one thing if the protocol were fully open to all implementers, but it’s not. If you don’t like the licensing terms, build your own protocol– that’s not hard to understand, is it?

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Twitter integration test 1

This is a simple test to see whether MT properly runs the MT-Twitter plugin when I post a new item. (I know that Ecto’s plugin works already.) (Update 1: nope, it didn’t work.)

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Scheduled posting test

Hopefully this will magically appear at the correct time.

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Queuing system FAIL

I’m trying to sign my oldest son up for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ summer youth program, Especially For Youth. Frankly, I’m jealous that he gets to go. It’s sort of a combination summer camp and mini-seminary, and everyone I know who’s attended it (or whose kids have been) has raved about it. However, the signup process is giving me a headache. Here’s what’s on my screen right now:

SafariScreenSnapz001.png

So let me count the ways that this reeks of FAIL.

First, it doesn’t tell you what your queue position is. Having a queue length is meaningless; all it does is tell you the total number of people who may (or may not) be waiting for the service. Without some estimate of where you are, knowing the number of people in line or the wait time isn’t helpful.

Second, what does “the average wait time for the entire line” mean? If it’s for the entire line, is it really a total time, or is it the average time that someone has to wait in the queue? It can’t be the latter, because it keeps bouncing up and down. I’ve seen it as high as 130 and as low as 85– during the 240+ minutes that I’ve been waiting.

Third, how about an estimate for when it will be my turn? Is that too much to ask?

Here’s the best part: the registration isn’t first-come, first-served! There’s no hurry to register, but that little detail is several clicks beneath the actual registration screen.

Managing signup queues for high-demand events like EFY is a well-understood problem. If you’ve ever used Disney’s FastPass system, you know about one possible solution (and one that would certainly apply here). The LDS Church does such a good job with its use of technology in general that it’s a real disappointment to see this kind of junk.

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Filed under FAIL, Smackdown!

HOWTO buy additional Microsoft CRM licenses

Suppose you want to buy an additional license for your existing Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online subscription. This sounds like it should be easy, and it is– once you know the trick.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can just do a web search for “buy dynamics CRM license“. That way lies madness, not to mention a big steaming pile of fail.

In related news, don’t think that because the Microsoft Online Services page says you can buy a Dynamics CRM Online subscription there that you can buy licenses for an existing subscription. You can’t.

You might think that the sales chat window that opens on several of the Dynamics CRM pages would help. The sales chat person suggested calling 877-276-2464, option 2. I did, and the phone rang and rang and rang without answering for about 90 seconds. Tom then answered and gave me the magic solution, which I include here so you won’t have to go through this same process:

  1. Log in to your existing CRM page.
  2. Click “Settings” in the lower-left corner of the page.
  3. Click “Organization Notifications and Status”.
  4. In the right-hand section of that page, click “Buy Licenses”.

Now for a brief editorial: this is a great case of an application that makes it needlessly hard to do something simple. Why not have a “buy licenses” link on the page where you add new users? Does “Organization Notifications and Status” sound like the solution to “I want to add a license”? Not to me it doesn’t. This is an area where the Business Productivity Online team at MS has far outdone the Dynamics crew. I sure hope that as these two services are unified that the BPO approach and design win out.

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Ohio State vs Michigan is cancelled

This year’s edition of the annual Ohio State-Michigan game has been cancelled. The Wolverines were on their team bus headed down to Columbus, but unfortunately they couldn’t get past Toledo. (But hey, neither could the Marines, so don’t feel bad, UM fans!) All kidding aside, the boys and I will be watching tomorrow, probably with a plate of boudin in front of us. Go Bucs! (oh yeah, then LSU plays, and then the Saints are on Monday night!)

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Filed under FAIL, General Stuff

test post

Ecto has a twitter plugin, but it doesn’t seem to be working.

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Google: we’re almost sorry about our outage

I got some mail yesterday from Google about their recent Google Apps service outage. Here it is, along with my editorial comments.

We’re committed to making Google Apps Premier Edition a service on which your organization can depend. During the first half of August, we didn’t do this as well as we should have. We had three outages – on August 6, August 11, and August 15. The August 11 outage was experienced by nearly all Google Apps Premier users while the August 6 and 15 outages were minor and affected a very small number of Google Apps Premier users. As is typical of things associated with Google, these outages were the subject of much public commentary.

Well-deserved public commentary, at that, mostly focused on the question of why Google thinks that Google Apps is an enterprise-grade service. Three outages in a nine-day period is not confidence-building.

Through this note, we want to assure you that system reliability is a top priority at Google. When outages occur, Google engineers around the world are immediately mobilized to resolve the issue. We made mistakes in August, and we’re sorry. While we’re passionate about excellence, we can’t promise you a future that’s completely free of system interruptions. Instead, we promise you rapid resolution of any production problem; and more importantly, we promise you focused discipline on preventing recurrence of the same problem.

Notice what’s missing here: any commitment to a particular level of availability, or any information about the cause of the outage, or any information about how they applied “focused discipline” to keep it from happening again.

Given the production incidents that occurred in August, we’ll be extending the full SLA credit to all Google Apps Premier customers for the month of August, which represents a 15-day extension of your service. SLA credits will be applied to the new service term for accounts with a renewal order pending. This credit will be applied to your account automatically so there’s no action needed on your part.

So let me get this straight: in exchange for three days of outages (in fairness, not three complete outages), you’re going to give me a credit for $25/user. That’s not a bad start, but I daresay for most Google Apps customers it’s only a small fraction of their lost productivity. Not to mention that I might not want a service credit in the first place.

We’ve also heard your guidance around the need for better communication when outages occur. Here are three things that we’re doing to make things better:
We’re building a dashboard to provide you with system status information. This dashboard, which we aim to make available in a few months, will enable us to share the following information during an outage:

  • A description of the problem, with emphasis on user impact. Our belief is during the course of an outage, we should be singularly focused on solving the problem. Solving production problems involves an investigative process that’s iterative. Until the problem is solved, we don’t have accurate information around root cause, much less corrective action, that will be particularly useful to you. Given this practical reality, we believe that informing you that a problem exists and assuring you that we’re working on resolving it is the useful thing to do.
  • A continuously updated estimated time-to-resolution. Many of you have told us that it’s important to let you know when the problem will be solved. Once again, the answer is not always immediately known. In this case, we’ll provide regular updates to you as we progress through the troubleshooting process.

Positive steps, but note that there’s no definite delivery date. Note also the weasel language around how “assuring you” is the useful thing to do. No, fixing the problem is the useful thing to do, followed closely by timely and informative status reports. Just look at what Twitter does, then do the opposite. (Actually, for a decent model, check out how the Xbox Live service folks handle outages.)

In cases where your business requires more detailed information, we’ll provide a formal incident report within 48 hours of problem resolution. This incident report will contain the following information:

  1. business description of the problem, with emphasis on user impact;
  2. technical description of the problem, with emphasis on root cause;
  3. actions taken to solve the problem;
  4. actions taken or to be taken to prevent recurrence of the problem;
  5. e. time line of the outage.

This is more like it! However, my business always requires this detailed information. Who says so? I do. I’m betting that Google will closely control this information, and that they will only provide it if they think your business requires such information.

In cases where your business requires an in-depth dialogue about the outage, we’ll support your internal communication process through participation in post-mortem calls with you and your management team.

Translated: “if you take heat for our outages, we’ll be happy to get on the phone and help spin the problem so we don’t lose your account.”

Once again, thanks for you continued support and understanding.
Sincerely, The Google Apps Team

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Security no match for good looking women and chocolate

But you probably knew that already.

A survey out today by the organizers of the tech-security conference Infosecurity Europe found that 21% of 576 London office workers stopped on the street were willing to share their computer passwords with a good looking woman holding a clipboard. People were offered a chocolate bar in exchange for the information. More than half of the people surveyed said they used the same password for everything.

There are a lot of skeptical comments over at the WSJ blog. However, a friend of mine who is a well-known figure in the security community said this in e-mail:

…we did a similar chocolate bar or $2 pen hand out in London to collect passwords. Our gathering password rate was 84%. We then contacted each security domain (we asked for their related email address to send them a free voucher entry for more candy bars). We asked the domain administrators (ISPs, businesses, etc.) to simply review the list and send back the percentage of correct collected passwords. Our response rate from the domain administrators was only 30% or so…I can’t remember the exact number…but it was less than half and more than a quarter. The ones that did respond confirmed that over 60% were the actual passwords.

To this day, if I hadn’t participated in the survey and collected the results myself, I would not have believed it.

So, clearly if you want to fish for passwords, your odds of getting something useful in exchange for a chocolate bar and a few minutes of face time with a good-looking woman are pretty darn good. Scary!

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6 Qualcomm laywers sanctioned over discovery failures

A federal magistrate just hammered six Qualcomm lawyers for failing to properly handle and produce evidence in the long-running Qualcomm vs Broadcom patent dispute.

The judge concluded that their declarations and other evidence lead to “the inevitable conclusion that Qualcomm intentionally withheld tens of thousands of decisive documents from its opponent in an effort to win this case and gain a strategic business advantage over Broadcom,” according to 48-page order released late yesterday.

“Qualcomm could not have achieved this goal without some type of assistance or deliberate ignorance from its retained attorneys,” she added.

Ouch! I’ve written about this issue before, and it’s not going to go away! You’d better have an effective discovery strategy in place before your organization ever gets involved in litigation, and this strategy should probably extend to making sure your inside and outside counsel aren’t stupid enough to try to “lose” e-mail messages. That trick never works.

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