Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

Wikileaks Revelations Expose How the CIA Wants to Destroy Everyone’s Privacy

Analysis of the recent CIA/Wikileaks dump. Backdoors, and known defects used for exploitation are ALWAYS a bad idea. Any politician who advocates for backdoors simply doesn’t understand the Pandora’s box they are opening.

Josep Goded

On Tuesday, Wikileaks published 8,761 documents revealing how the CIA hacks Samsung TVs, computers, phones and cars to spy on civilians from all over the world. For that to happen, a CIA team created a new software capable of infecting the previously mentioned devices to transform them into microphones ready to spy on their owners, including when the devices are apparently in off mode.

Once the device is infected, the CIA can bypass the encryption on apps such as WhatsApp, Telegram, and Signal by using phones that use Google’s Android and IOS platforms to collect audio and message traffic before encryption is applied. Further, infected devices can also be instructed to send the CIA the user’s geolocation, audio and text communications as well as to covertly activate the phone’s camera and microphone.

According to Wikileaks, each technique the CIA has created ‘forms a “fingerprint” that can be used by…

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Mainframe Assembler Language 2.0

Those that still follow my blog from my days working in the IBM mainframe arena might be interested in the following.

One of the stalwarts of software at IBM, and self described grand poobar of High Level Assembler, John R. Ehrman has a 1300-page 2.0 version of his book “Assembler Language Programming for IBM System z™ Servers ” and it’s available in PDF form here. There are a wealth of other assembler resources that John has contributed here on ibm.com

Retired Until Further Notice

RUFN. I can’t remember where I first saw this, I think on an ex-colleagues linked-in status(*1). Back in September I declared I was done with cube life and it didn’t take long before it was time to part company with Dell.

I’m at an important crossroads, starting to pack up my Austin home, and move to a new house my partner, Kate, and I are building just south east of Boulder CO. Kate is already living in Boulder, where we are partners in Boulder Bodyworker.

So it seemed like an appropriate time to take some time out, and start an exciting new phase of life for me. I’ll be keeping busy, while I don’t have any active movie or music projects at the moment, I am behind on working on a project for Tri Equal and also a member of the advisory board  of the Professional Triathlon Union and continuing generally as an activist in the triathlon community.

I’m available for consulting work in the new year, especially for small to medium sized businesses that want to get an insight or review of their technology strategy; a perspective and advice on working with open source; data center operations.

Otherwise I’ll post here as appropriate and see how things develop next year. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

 

*1. Yeah I’m aware of the slang usage.

The Open Mainframe Project

It would be remiss of me not to mention another new Linux Foundation project, the Open Mainframe project. I’m actually be pretty interested, from a purely personal perspective, to see what this project does and where they plan to take Linux on the mainframe.

I’m glad to see that both Linux on the mainframe, and the ecosystem is still thriving. Having been involved with it heavily back in the late 90’s, and writing essentially the only public strategy in the original and republished IBM Redbook “Linux for S/390”. The first four chapters were mine.

I can recall with great fondness discussing with them head of IBM Systems Group, and future IBM CEO, Sam Palmisano and many others, the real reason Linux would be key to future success, it’s freedom. With India and China coming on stream as technology powerhouses, with millions of future programmers, it was clear that they would learn on Linux.

Even Windows was still the most pervasive operating system in 1998-2000, it was clear from anyone who understood technical people that Linux would influence not jut code, but threading, languages, library structures, call interfaces and more at the system level. For no other reason than people can study the source, learn from it, adapt it etc. and that was a train IBM couldn’t stop, we needed to be on board before the train left without us. There is a good NY Times article from the period here.

Good luck to the Open Mainframe project.

The technology curve and it’s impact on staff

Picture from wikipediaThe Hype curve is an interesting thing, especially in the modern development and services organizations. It’s been my observation that increasing, staff hiring, to fill out development teams, as well as the services teams follow pretty much the same curve. Development staffing tends to lag 3-6 months, services staffing, another 3-6 months.

The way it works is this. In the technology industry you build up products and services in specifics areas, they follow pretty much what has become known has the “Gartner hype cycle“. A few visionaries are required at first, eventually the adoption rate is so high and so fast that customers can’t get the people they need and you build up services teams to help them often in conjunction to the products you are bringing to market. No one wants a technology they can’t use.

Eventually customers and adoption of a given technology gets to a point where one of three things happen. 1. the technology is simplified and commodotized to the point where you can’t make money from it, or the customers are no longer buying it 2. The customers have taken on board their own teams to do the work or 3. The technology itself is no longer relevant and has been superseded. This can happen very quickly, I could give a number of examples of things I know from my time at Dell, but thats not the point.

Such is the state of the technology industry, that when you reach anyone of these situations you have to look at the people you’ve got and decide how best to use them going forward. Not everyone is willing to re-train, may IT skills are NOT transferable from project to project and while it seems harsh, a team of people focused on the inner workings of a technology from 5-years ago will often be better off being let go to find opportunities with the skills they have, than put into new positions, on new technologies for which they have weak skills at best. This is especially true for services teams. Remember, customers and businesses are being charged for, or paying for the skills, knowledge and experience when they buy services, not to have someone train or re-train on the job.

As I’m sure you are aware, the IT industry is in a constant state of change, old paradigms are going quickly. Expecting businesses to hold on to staff that no longer have the skill and knowledge to develop the products, or deliver the services that will be needed in 18-24 months, much less over a longer period is, sadly a concept from the 1990’s and earlier. Layoffs in advance of change are an important way to balance the demands of an ever changing industry.

I wrote a recent blog post about staying relevant in a large company which applies to a point here https://cathcam.wordpress.com/2014/07/16/how-to-stay-relevant/

What’s a standard…

image

As I was working on my latest proposal for the Linux Foundation,  I got this fortune cookie in my takeout.  A reminder,  a standard is only as good as it’s adoption.

DMTF Announces New Vice President of Finance

Selva Subbiah from Dell joins Jon Hass, who is now Chairman of the Board of the DMTF, and Yinghua Qin from Dell Software Group who is VP of Regions. The DMTF remains a leader in industry standards, and is key in both emerging standards as well as getting engagement from the Asia Pacific region and their manufacturing and customer base.

It is an another excellent example of Dell broadening its’ horizon in both the technology industry, as well leadership in emerging and existing standards.

Dell iDRAC w/ Quick Sync

It’s not dead, It’s RESTing

Not withstanding the dead parrot sketch, here is a great example of the technology is “dead” type article I wrote about here , if you are a programmer, agree/disagree?

Claiming anything is dead often gives the claimer the right not to understand the thing that is supposedly “dead” but to just give reasons why that must be so and move on to give advice on what you should do instead.

 

Gaining a better city view

10584048_10152680088100530_6382819846875428430_nMckinney Texas is a great city, it contains all the best things about Texas towns and architecture.

Now I’m delighted to say they’ve adopted an become a reference for a number of our products. You can read the full solutions brief here.

The city deployed Foglight Application Performance Monitoring (APM) and Toad Data Modeler from Dell Software to increase application visibility, speed troubleshooting and improve integration giving

  • Better visibility into the city’s critical
    web and legacy applications
  • More-modern applications and services for employees and residents
  • Faster diagnosis and problem resolution
  • Proactive troubleshooting
  • Stronger integration of disparate applications
  • Ability to get more out of existing infrastructure

Yes, the picture is of McKinney Falls State Park, it’s not a city property.

Dell PowerEdge 13g Servers with NFC

Although I have not worked in the server group at Dell for almost 3-years, I was delighted to see in among the innovations announced at yesterdays PowerEdge 13g launch, the Near Field Communications (NFC) concept and prototype I proposed just over 2-years ago.

The enhanced at-the-server management, and from anywhere: Dell introduces iDRAC Quick Sync, using Near Field Communication (NFC), an industry first. And is one example of many that belies the notion, commonly held, that Dell doesn’t innovate.

For customers managing at-the-box, this new capability transmits server health information and basic server setup via a hand-held smart device running OpenManage Mobile, simply by tapping it at the server. OpenManage Mobile also enables administrators to monitor and manage their environments anytime, anywhere with their mobile device.


Growing software influence and Dell

A few things have happened in the last couple of months that show the growing influence and maturity of the software team at Dell, and it’s been on my backlog to write up as a blog post.

DMTF VP of Regional Chapters

Yinghua Qin, the Senior Software Manager in our Zuhai China laboratory has been accepted as the new VP of Regional Chapters at the DMTF. This is an outstanding opportunity for Yinghua, who leads the Foglight and a number of software engineering projects, as well as serves as the local liaison to Sun Yat-sen University(SYSU) school mobile engineering (SMIE). Yinghua reports to the Foglight lead architect Geoff Vona.

Dell actually has at various stages in the past been very proactive with the DMTF. Current board chair, Winston Bumpus, was formally a Dell employee; My ESG colleague Jon Haas has been a major contributor to a number of standards. I for one am looking forward to the increased cooperation that working in international standards can bring.

Open Source Project

The Dell Cloud Manager product development team have open sourced their blockade test tool. Blockade is a utility for testing network failures and partitions in distributed applications. Blockade uses Docker containers to run application processes and manages the network from the host system to create various failure scenarios.

It’s a small step, but congratulations to Tim Freeman and the team for navigating through the process to produce the first new open source development project from the Dell Software Group team.

Angular giveback

A number of our development teams are using Angular.js. Once again after an original approach in November by Sara Cowles from the Dell Cloud Manager team stepped forward and asked the right questions, after checking with other teams, I was happy to sign the Google CLA to fax back to google.

Yocto – Embedded Linux and Beyond

Congratulations also go to Mikey Brown from Dells’ Enterprise Systems Group(ESG). Mikey has picked up the mantle of a project I was a big supporter of, when I was in ESG, Yocto. After doing a great job getting a couple of our embedded Linux offering back on track using Yocto, and the build infrastructure around. Mickey has re-connected with the Yocto team.

Each of these on their own are small steps, but these plus a number of other things going on give me a good feeling things are heading in the right direction. I’ll get to go have another facsinating time hearing from students about how things look from their side of the technology field when I head over to Texas A&M University(Insert “GO AGGIES” here!) to address class 481 on 2/25.

TechWeekEurope UKSoftware Will Make A Quarter Of Dell’s Profits – Swainson

Great software overview of what’s going on here at Dell.

http://www.techweekeurope.co.uk/interview/dell-software-swainson-119426

Quest Software Update

Friday Dell announced that we’d closed on the acquisition of Quest Software. The last 50-days or so has been a blur for me,  as I wrote back in July I’ve moved to the new Dell Software group, and was asked to lead the technical integration and R&D integration of Quest Software. We’ve been busy visiting as many of their R&D centers as we can, and this will continue through the end of October.

I’d describe it as a roller coaster, the ups have been meeting the great teams in Linden UT, Toronto, Ottowa, Halifax Canada, St Petersburg and Moscow in Russia, and spending time both networking with Quest Executives and team members at VMWorld, as well as some of the other teams like AppAssure and SonicWall that are part of the new Dell Software group.

The downs in my roller coaster have been the travel, I really don’t enjoy the day-in, day-out, overnight travel. Especially as things always seem to be more difficult than they should be. For instance, applying for a work visa for China apparently requires submitting both my passport and green card, which means if stopped by the police, or immigration officials anywhere, I can not prove I’m legally in the USA. This happened to me once already on an checkpoint on I10 near Corpus Christi and I hadn’t even left Texas, not a pleasant experience. Then there was the guy sat opposite me on the train from Moscow to St Petersburg, rather than ending up with a Contagion like pandemic infection, I just got a bad cold.

However it’s been tempered by my travel colleagues, Elaine from Quest and Craig from Dell who are the actual R&D project managers for the acquisition.  We’ve been joking about making Rock and Roll style tour t-shirts, a simple Dell Software logo on the front, on the back it would have QUEST: The final tour and a list of the dates and locations. I still may do it, especially as we have Buffallo Grove, Madison WI, Berlin, Dresden, Israel, Horton and Poole in the UK, Honk Kong and China all before the end of October.

The best thing has been meeting all the great software experts, seeing some of the great products, to mention just a few: the great new UI on the Site Administrator for Sharepoint; the Quest Books software for electronic publishing; the Open source work going on at the Linden UT labs; the really great platform work that has been done for the Foglight and Netvault XA software, and much, much more.

In addition to that, the Software Group CTO team is starting to fill out, Jay and Craig are hear from the Enterprise Solutions Group(ESG) team, and we’ve been joined by Graeme, a former colleague and fellow Distinguished Engineer from IBM and of course Don Ferguson is the CTO, and VP for our group. Jai Menon, former IBM Fellow and for short period of time, my manager at IBM, has also joined Dell ESG as CTO and so we are really getting things “better together”.

Blades a go-go in Austin

We’ve been working on some interesting technology prototypes of our common software architecture. It forms the core of the “Maverick” virtualization solution, the orchestrator for the Dell Virtual Integrated System(VIS).[More on this in a follow-on post].

We have a far reaching outlook for the common software architecture including embedded systems. One thing I’ve been looking at is creating a top-of-rack switch, with an embedded management server. We demonstrated it to Michael Dell and the Executive Leadership Team on Monday to show them where we are with software.

The same stack and applications for the next generation Blade Chasis Management Controller (CMC). For VIS, we are building a set of “adjacency” services so that it can scale to thousands of physical servers. So it was with some interest when I saw this piece in the Austin American Statesman, our “local” paper. It covers the new $9 million supercomputer at the J.J. Pickle Research Campus of the University of Texas, to be installed next year.

The newest “Lonestar” system will be built and deployed by the Texas Advanced Computing Center; it’s expected to be operational by February 2011 and will will include 1,888 M610 PowerEdge Blade servers from Dell Inc., each with two six-core Intel X5600 Westmere processors.

Our VP of Global higher education, John Mullen, was quoted as saying “The system will be built on open-system architecture, which means it can be expanded as needed, that’s a cost-effective switch from proprietary systems of the past.”

Another coincidence for me, the entrance to the J.J. Pickles campus is right opposite the entrance to my old IBM office on Braker Lance, proving once again that old adage, as one do closes, another opens.


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 am a Fellow of the British Computer Society (bsc.org) 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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