Archive for the 'Cathcarts Corner' Category

Open letter: CD Recycling

Dear IT Industry Colleague,

I’ve just moved house. In the process I realised that I had hundreds of old datas CD’s. Some of them with old backups, many of them used to copy copies of other CD’s some DVD’s with dumps of system folders and so on a so forth.

I figured I’d just dump them in the recycling, which gets collected bi-weekly. On checking though, not only are these not recyclable, but they are actually pretty hard to completely destroy. They also contain a large amount of toxic chemicals, and unless they are sent to a specialty recycling center, most end up in incinerators or landfill, neither is a good thing.

There is a good article here on the general problems with the creation and disposal of CD/DVD’s, from 2013. It says, among other things:

The discs are made of layers of different mixed materials, including a combination of various mined metals and petroleum–derived plastics, lacquers and dyes, which, when disposed of, can pollute groundwater and bring on a myriad of health problems. Most jewel cases are made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which has been thought to produce a higher-than-normal cancer rate within workers and those who live in the area where it is manufactured. They also release harmful chemicals when incinerated.

Having realized the problems, what did I do? First, when disposing old data CD’s and DVD’s you must understand there is an obvious potential security exposure. In principle, any data can be read from the CD. In practice, it may not be that simple if the data is formatted using specific backup programs, encrypted etc. But you do have to consider this before discarding them.

man eating cdI came up with a couple of easy ways to make recovering data hard. One involved scratching the recording sides (remember, some are dual sided). The scratches can be removed but it’s a time consuming process and not something done by someone who casually comes across your CD.

The second process used a nail in a set of grips, I heated the nail and simply pushed a couple of holes through each CD/DVD. Again, some data could still be read by the determined, but very unlikely.

IMG_20160609_182555Once I was done marking all the media, I threw them in an old Amazon box, too them to the US Post Office, mailed them as “media mail” to the CD Recycling Center of America. The CD Recycling Center provides “certified destruction” of your CD’s.

Our industry uses vast amounts of natural resources, it consumes rare minerals at an alarming rate, often mined in difficult, dangerous, and sometimes illegal conditions. Individually this is hard for us to do anything about. Please though, don’t throw old data CDs, DVD’s or any others in the garbage/trash/refuse and especially the recycling.

Yes, it takes a few minutes of your time; yes, it will cost you to box, tape, address and actually post the package back for destruction. Over the years IT has made me a lot of money, it is the least I could do. Please join me. Thank you.

 

VM Backup product comparison

Dell sponsored a VM backup comparison white paper. Those that remember my early 1990’s data protection work will remember the product shootouts I used to do at IBM, picking apart the features and rating the functions to make it clear which products were suitable for what.

If yours is like 52% of IT organizations, your IT stack isn’t 100% virtualized. This probably means you’re managing two backup solutions: one for virtual and another for physical. Virtual capabilities that were once cutting edge are becoming default, but how do you balance ease-of-use with staying ahead of the curve? We drew upon the best research to help you find the optimal solution for your organization.

This guide isn’t quite like those, but I had a read through earlier this morning and it’s worth reviewing if you have VM’s and want to understand how to backup and what products are out there. Yes, AppAssure is a Dell product. The paper is available without registration.

Why do Analysts blogs make it so hard to have a conversation?

One of the most eloquent parts of blogging is the simple use of pings and trackbacks. It allows blogs to do what the web does best, link related conversations and information.

After writing my most recent blog entry, I noticed something that hadn’t occured to me at all before. Very few IT Industry analysts blogs provide this facility. Variously they require you to fill in forms, answer captchas, register and worse. In deference to Roblin Bloor, he has already posted my comment on his blog. But why might do IT Industry analysts make it so hard, surely not because they want to control the conversation?

This is also a tip-of-the-hat to the boys over at Redmonk.com, whose blogs not only support pings and trackbacks, they also post tweets along with blogs entries. Nice one chaps.

Visible personal branding and the big company

I’m keeping busy at Dell, currently working on designs for both our 12g and 13g servers. My current motto is less is more, I’m trying to see what I can cut out to simplify things, as well as what can be automated. In my blog catch-up this morning I came across this excellent post, The psychology of social media: Can a visible brand ruin your life?

No, it is not another warning about posting compromising pictures on facebook, or blogging about doing outside work while telling your boss you are off sick. It talks about some of the issues and values of creating your own “brand” through social media tools. Now, back when Nigel Dessau and I worked together at IBM UK in the mid-1990’s, Nigel was quick off the mark creating content for, and getting involved with IBM UK and IBM Europes first web sites. I had the chance to work with him on some of the content and low and behold, the first Cathcarts Corner was published almost 13-years ago. Over the years, it moved, grew and contracted, and now is just this blog.

One thing I learned though was indeed the value of the perosnal brand. When reading Jennifer Leggios’ blog posting a few things rang true. One, it is worth thinking through before you launch into “just blogging”. It’s not sufficient to work out what you want to talk about and how you say it, but who your audience are, how you will reach them, your style and much more. Secondly, at many IBM Acadamey of Technology annual meetings, and often at other events, we were told by the business executives how IBM wanted the company to be more recognised for its innovation, for its technical leadership, and yes, they promised action. However despite the multi-million dollar marketing campaigns, there are and have never been almost any household names of technical leaders at IBM, or for that matter any major publically qouted company like Oracle, HP in the tech business, but also in other traditional NYSE style big companies GE, General Motors etc. Have there ?

In the second section of her blog post, entitled Workplace Impact, Jennifer talks how the corporation handles the rising, and visible brand that is a key spokesperson. I also worked with one of the tech industries most visible brands, Simon Phipps of Sun, now Oracle. It will be interesting to see where his “brand” goes once things get sorted out at Oracle. While Simon and I worked together at IBM, I was the Linux/Open Source guy, Simon was the Java guy, but he has done a much better job of communicating, and putting the case for open source than I ever could, and in the process created a brand through his blog, twitter and other contributions. I can’t see he’d have had the same success at IBM.

The point that Jennifer makes is it’s how the company reacts that makes the difference. My IBM UK managers where always very supportive of my personal brand, they definately empowered me. However, at a corporate level, unlike Simons’ experience at Sun, it’s my view that most companies practise what Jennifer describes as “talking out both sides of their mouth”. That is they realise that an engineer or technician that creates a personal brand is both getting distracted from their “day” job through their activities, and secondly, is a risk to the company if their exposure gets them unwanted attraction from competitors, start-ups and analyst companies who might offer them a better deal in order to capture the value from their brand.

I’d never thought about it that way, but it certainly puts into perspective the legions of corporate Vice Presidents who march through the PR sausage machine and come out the other other side talking tech, only to disappear 18-months later when they move on to their next assignment and are replaced by the next [insert name here] VP. The only really famous technical person I can recall from IBM, from a public perspective is Gene Amdahl, and thats more legend than fact. Sure, I’ve known many others, but none outside their narrow specialist area and through personal contact rather than through their notoriety, promotion or brand. Can you name anyone ?

Jennifers article is a long, but worthwhile read on the subject of personal brands, and certianly made me reconsider some of my long held views.

Profiles in, err, courage

Back in March I caught an early morning bus on Saturday to downtown Austin to attend Bar Camp IV, suffice to say it’s mostly not a bar, and doesn’t involve camping(anymore).

I attend a few interesting sessions, I learned a few things about Windows 7, mobile development and attended a session on airships and blimps that I assumed was some kind of coded language for a session on clouds, but it wasn’t it WAS about airships and blimps and more.

Big-up to @whurley @sarad and @linearb for organising and to the various sponsors which included not only free attendance, but also free lunch and libations.

I was on my way out when I bumped into Texas Social Media Awards finalist and local tech analyst and sometime contact, Michael Cote from Redmonk. We passed the time of day, and he asked me if I wanted to be interviewed for a podcast, why not?

I learned a ton about Cote from the interview, mostly that he doesn’t forget anything. We’ve met probably 5-6 times in the past and he seemed to pull 1x question from each discussion. I mostly laughed the whole way through, I thought it was going to be a tech discussion, and we did touch on a few topics, but it was just a fun way to spend 10-mins. You can hear the podcast and read the liner notes here on Redmonk Radio Episode 55. – And no, I have no idea why the series was called “profiles in courage”, why I was selected, a why I giggled all the way through. It’s been a while since I did my press training, I don’t remember them telling us about giggling as a technique!

Moo cards II

Moo cards II - The Next GenerationWhen I first created “business” moo cards, it created quite a bit of a stir. So I figured I’d post the moo cards II the next generation design. Unfortunately I didn’t get organised early enough to get them for this weekends AustinBarCampIV, so I’ll be using the standard Dell ones if needed.

I actually found a useful feature of PowerPoint 2007. If you import the image(s). and the text on top, then select all the elements, you can export as a single file, rather than a ppt file or doing a screen copy and then saving with another program. Go ahead, make your own 😉

CV as a cloud tag

@epredator came up with a great idea, to create a tag cloud from your CV using wordle. The output wasn’t perfect the first run as it didn’t match Mainframe with mainframe, or IBM with IBM’s, but after doing a few global changes, here is what I got. Pretty good summary.

Click the thumbnail for a larger version, or try your own via wordle.net


About & Contact

I'm Mark Cathcart, formally a Senior Distinguished Engineer, in Dells Software Group; before that Director of Systems Engineering in the Enterprise Solutions Group at Dell. Prior to that, I was IBM Distinguished Engineer and member of the IBM Academy of Technology. I'm an information technology optimist.


I was a member of the Linux Foundation Core Infrastructure Initiative Steering committee. Read more about it here.

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