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Many (if not all) of you will know by now that the Digital Economy Bill successfully made it through the House of Commons last week, the general consensus seems to be that this was a hell of a rushed job for a highly contentious piece of legislation.  I’d have to agree, although I do applaud the aim of the bill (to stamp out digital piracy) the execution suffers from the same lack of knowledge and bad planning of a large amount of regulation in regards to computing and the internet.

The major problem is the absolute faith the government seems to have that everyone knows whats going on on there own network, in the coporate world this should be true.  If an IT team can’t manage to secure their network in such a way as to stop copyright infringement then the company in question needs to find a new IT team.  Home users however are a different story, many don’t care (let alone understand) about securing their network.  Wireless networks are left with default passwords or weak encryption because the people who set them up are focussed on getting it working fast not on getting it working right.  These people are now at risk, with no proper security and no logging of activity they are going to potentially find themselves cut off by their broadband provider following a court order for a crime they didn’t commit.

Attacking the pirates themselves is the only way to have any effect on the rampant piracy that takes place day in day out all over the internet but it needs to be dealt with in a way that doesn’t put the innocent among us at undue risk.  The Digital Economy Bill appears to be written in a way which flies in the face of hundreds of years of British policy on law and order: Innocent Until Proven Guilty.  It will also have very little effect on those who are guilty, many of them are smart enough to use technology to hide their activities from basic monitoring and any deeper monitoring of traffic can and should be taken as an infringement of civil liberties.

Oh and for those who defend piracy by claiming it causes no harm because ‘I wouldn’t have bought it anyway’ please, grow up and take a look at what you are causing.  It doesn’t matter that you wouldn’t have bought it, that excuse wouldn’t work if you stole a car it certainly won’t work if your stealing software, music or movies.  Your actions cause reactions like the debill, you have attacked peoples livelihoods and their bottom line, they are fighting back.  Thanks, now we’re all screwed.

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So, I’m working on upgrading my home PC largely for the purpose of running virtual machines for Labs on it.  An old socket 939 AMD dual core with 2GB of RAM just isn’t going to cut it.  The problem is I’m hampered by a serious funding crisis, what with rent and bills my spare funds each month are limited and saving is proving challenging.

Various websites suggest ways for IT pros to make a bit of extra cash but in order to raise significant funds you have to invest pretty much the same amount of time as you do in your full-time job, this of course seems to leave me with only two options, get a pay rise (unlikely) or find a new higher paid job (challenging in this economy).  The other option is to find a killer idea that I can turn into my own making business and considering the best one I have at the moment is this place which hardly sees any traffic and most of that is by accident I need to do something drastic to give my self the healthy bank balance I’m looking for.

the difficulty in regards to the job search is the catch 22 situation it creates, I need the better PC to allow me to study for certifications which would help me get a better job but I can’t build the PC until I’ve got the which comes from having a better job….

The long game may work in regards to this little site however, page views are slowly on the up and I’m writing more which can only help.  Writing better would probably be th next stage!

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Ok ok ok, so it’s been a long time since I’ve been on here but oh my god so much has happened in that time.

Where do I begin? Well, as a result of the being ridiculous and sending me to a school which provided no support and then refused to listen when I said I wasn’t happy there I had to re-take the placement which I was fine with. Then there was a whole yo-yo situation about whether I would graduate or I wouldn’t. At first I was told I would graduate but obviously without the QTS (qualified teacher status) and could do the re-take after. That would have been brilliant. Then the next thing I know I’m in Lakeside shopping centre in the Easter holidays with my parents (so a very busy and not so private place) and I recieve a phone call telling me they cocked it up and then I couldn’t graduate. Luckily I didn’t end crying down the phone or in the middle of the shopping mall like a total looney, but as soon as I got in the car it was worse than an Oscar’s acceptance speech.

Months went by and I didn’t hear a thing from the about what was happening and imaginably I became very cross. In fact so cross that my friends kept telling me to make it public about how the were letting me down and cutting me adrift after they stole all my . That’s not really my style so I just threatened the and explained that if I did not hear anything within quite a reasonable time frame I would be seeking legal advice. This seemed to have the right affect because within an hour I had a response from one of the people I had contacted attempting to shift the blame from themselves onto someone else. And so I ended up chasing several members of staff all over the place trying to get someone to give me an answer. Eventually after much arguing with the and refusing to budge outside of their offices (a total of 156 hours was spent camping outside the door waiting for someone to talk to me) I was placed at a really lovely school in South Lincolnshire and the tutor in charge pulled out all the stops by putting me with a lovely class teacher and arranging daily transport to and from work in a selection of very nice cars (a Rolls Royce on the first day seemed to go down quite well with my class).

During this time I was going to stay with a friend of mine who I had met through . She was living in a town which was about a 30 minute drive from the school I would be working at. The house was lovely and ideal for a young couple starting out. However my friend had obviously not read the section in the tenancy agreement that specified that you were not allowed any pets in the house. In fact they had so many pets it could have rivaled London Zoo! And it was clear that this abundance of animal mania was taking its toll on my friend as the house was infested with flies which in due course led to the appearance of maggot larvae in the carpets and cupboards and hatching at any moment. There was animal droppings and urine (and they had some pretty big animals …) all over the place and due to this hideous concoction of germs and just general lack of hygiene an awful smell lingered around the house that could be detected several houses down. It was all quite evident in my fathers face when he dropped me off at the house. We knew they had animals, but we were definantly not prepared for what was inside the house. My dad kept asking me when my friend was out of the room whether I would be ok or not. I didn’t really have any options without costing my family a huge amount of so just smiled and nodded. Dad being dad knew I was only smiling to make him feel better but there was no getting out of the situation. How do you turn around to someone and say “oh by the way I have had a change of plan, your house is so disgusting that the thought of eating anything in this place makes me worry about getting ring worms”? So Dad said his goodbyes and went out to the car where he drove round the corner, called my mum and broke down into tears. Meanwhile I had to try and look at the positive aspects (believe me it was quite hard) but I had to just grin and bare it. Afterall, these people had taken me in rent free (even though my parents had given them a hefty cheque to say thank you) and so who was I to throw that all back in their faces? The days went past, the smell didn’t seem to affect me because I was slowly getting used to it. I was sleeping on an inflatable matress on the floor of their spare bedroom and I kept telling myself I could get through this for 7 weeks. It was only when I had got through two matresses as one of the pets kept getting into the room when I was at work and ripping the lining to shreds within one week and I had to sleep on the floor surrounded by little cacoons of maggots ready to hatch at any moment that I began to feel quite down. I started getting incredibly sick at work, I had rashes appearing all over my body and was just feeling totally depressed. Everyone kept telling me to give up and go home, that it wasn’t worth it but this was my dream. I had always wanted to be a teacher and I wasn’t going to give up, it was only 7 weeks of my life that would work for the better.

At this stage my tutor was becoming concerned with the way I was physically deteriorating. I was barely able to eat anything at work and was coping with 2 hours sleep a night at the most. My poor boyfriend was receiving phone calls every evening where I would just end up crying down the phone for hours, begging him to give me some advice or tell me that it was all going to be ok. The teacher mentor whose class I was teaching on the placement kindly invited me round her home to have dinner with her and her husband who were both incredibly lovely and she was always there to offer support and advice when I needed it. In the end the tutor and my supporting teacher advised me to leave the house and find somewhere else which would be no easy task with no student loan or financial support from the and the remaning £120 of my overdraft left in my bank account. Luckily my parents were incredibly supportive and went looking on the internet for places to rent and hotel accomodation. Unfortunatly at this stage I had only 6 weeks until I finished the placement and no one would accept a lodger for such a short time. Hotels were incredibly expensive and not within easy reach either. However one of the women who worked in the school office knew of someone who could have helped. Her daughter’s friend had a house with two bedrooms and she had recently been made redundant so needed financial help. If she was willing to take in a lodger and my parents were able to pay then I would be able to move. My parents agreed straight away and so I ended up moving in with a person I had never met before in my life. She was incredibly friendly and was really supportive of what I wanted to do and for the first time in what seemed like years I felt I could relax a little.

The placement went from strength to strength after that and I felt so at home in the school. The kids were lovely and respected me as much as any other teacher and I felt like I was part of the teaching team. The six weeks flew by and before I knew it the placement was over. I got glowing reports and references from both the school and my tutor and am and always will be grateful for all their help. It was incredibly sad saying goodbye to the kids after everything that had happened to get me there and then keep me there. I returned a few months later for the children’s christmas concert and the kids all seemed really happy to see me. I secured myself a teaching position on a temporary contract for 8 months in Hertfordshire so unfortunatly that was the last time I was going to see that class. I still feel quite sad about leaving that school several months later. To me they felt like they were my class, the first class that you teach as part of your career and I felt I was achieving isomething with them and as a result they are now the measure that all my other classes from past, present and future will live up to.

Now I am a year 4 teacher, I have moved into my first official home with my partner and although it’s challenging I am finally doing the things I love. Ok, so not every day is a picnic and not every lesson is some all singing, all dancing extravaganza but it’s learning from your practise, reflecting on your experiences and just enjoying it that matters and I wouldn’t want to do any other job in the world right now. Maybe ask me in 20 years if I’m still teaching, I don’t know what the future holds in store for me. All I know is that I have learnt from my experiences as a trainee teacher and now I’m ready for the next chapter in my life.

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As anyone with any knowledge of physics knows energy can never be destroyed, this presents a problem for those of us working in the wonderful world of IT.  Computers use energy and then that energy is left hanging around as heat, obviously this heat has to be dissapated somehow.  For a common desktop this task is performed by a combination of heatsinks and fans, in the realm of the server things become a little more challenging…

For a start, servers are normally in a rack, in a room all on their own, rack servers have a lot less free space inside them for air to move so the chassis itself contains a fantastic brute force collection of fans sucking in at the front and pushing hot air out at the rear.  Great right?  But where does this heat go when its left the server?  In a well configured server room its sucked out by some sort of system whilst is blown in by the same system.

This of course is in a well configured system, in the IT room that its currently my task to maintain the process of keeping the servers cool involves an inadequate air con unit, 2 floor standing fans and a portable unit.  This is because the people who put it in failled to communicate at all and so now rather than out IT room running at a relatively chilly 19 degrees its a far warmer 34.  Thus pushing the temperature of the servers up and resulting i the newest addition to our server rack overheating and shutting down 5 times in the past week.

Discussions are currently on going on the subject of replacing the current unit but until those discussions reach some kind of conclusion every so often I have no other choice but to swear, walk into the room and hit the reset button.  This is followed by a 15 minute wait as first the VMWare hypervisor reboots and then the 6 virtual machines power on.

The upside to this is I have made some cash out of it…

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Yes the old saying ‘its what you do with it that counts’ can be applied to many things, particularly in IT.  Thanks to bare metal hypervisors its now possible to run your entire IT infrastructure on a much smaller collection of hardware than was previously necessary.  Mobile phones can now perform many of the functions which previously required a fully fledged PC.  The relentless march of technology is focussed on power efficient processing.

All this means very little to me at the moment unfortunately because buried under a pile of UBE (Unsolicited Bulk Email or Useless Bloody Email depending on your mindset) more commonly known as SPAM.  Recent statistics put the level of spam currently being pumped out at somewhere around 80% of email traffic, 80% of all email currently flying around the net is totally useless and bloody annoying.  My companies current approach to this massive mountain of crap is…..

…. to place the most weakass, difficult to manage, leaky as all hell spam filter between the outside world and our mailserver.

On most days we may as well turn the damn thing off.

I have made my case for a appliance, a dedicated machine with 24 hour support and a nice easy to use web interface and I’ve been ignored, so yesterday I put some figures together.  I’ve lost the link now but somewhere on http://www.wikipedia.org/ someone gave information from a 2001 study which put the cost of a spam email to the recipient at somewhere around $0.10 (7p) so with this figure in mind I ran through the stats I had gathered and worked out a rough cost per year to my company of the amount of spam which currently makes it past our spam filter and has to be dealt with by a member of staff.  Even I was surprised by the answer:

£31000

31 grand wasted because the company won’t spend £3/4000 on a spam appliance that actually works.

The cost to those sending it out is probably about 10p.

I’ve made my case (again) and I’ll see whether a) anything actually happens and b) I get any credit for it (like perhaps some of that 31 grand being added to my pay packet).

Next I’ll see if I can find a good enough business reason for the company to buy my new home PC.

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IT staff as a general rule suffer from a lack of appreciation by their colleagues when things are working right, this is something that anyone working in a support role has to get used too but its a fairly bitter pill to swallow.  What makes it harder to deal with of course is the level of abuse you take when things go wrong.

A lot of this comes from the fact that many employees and businesses don’t tend to ‘notice’ IT when everything is fully functional, its like not really being aware of the water pipes at home until you turn on the tap and nothing comes out. Its just there. As long as it works it seems unimportant, when it breaks you realise how vital it is. This perception of IT isn’t particularly likely to change, IT now affects every aspect of our lives which results in a certain amount of blindness to its existence. This isn’t something that ‘society’ can really be blamed for, IT professionals have brought it on themselves. We’ve done so much to make IT seamlessly integrate itself into peoples lives its no surprise that it no longer registers on peoples radar until it breaks.

None of this makes any difference to the average IT pro of course, the moment users start clamouring for help because this or that ‘is broken’ we find ourselves seriously wondering where exactly all these people were when we keep things running while the rest of the world fell apart. Where was the praise when IT kept the company working with employees trapped in their homes by snow and ice still able to get on with their working day? The truth is, its not coming, we will forever be the unsung heroes of the corporate world. The mysterious figures who swoop in when the whole thing goes to hell in a hand basket and pick up the pieces putting companies back on their feet.

Its a tough job, but we’ll keep doing it because every now and then, usually when you least expect it someone will walk past your desk and say “thanks for your help, you guys do a really good job”.

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OK….  So its been a while.  Again.

Since the end of August I’ve been busy though, and so has this sites other contributor who has gone from being a trainee teacher to an NQT in her first full time teaching job with Ofsted showing up to inspect the school with very little notice.  We’ve moved into our own little pad and are currently surrounded by cardboard boxes as we try and organise to look like a home rather than a warehouse.

But thats not what your here for, if you’ve stumbled across this it’ll likely be because of the word ‘IT ’ in the subject line so my home and love life will be as interesting to you as watching paint dry (unless thats how you get your kicks of course).  Lets get down to it, the life of an IT is periods of intense boredom followed by extreme pressure and a list full o f criticals (a lot like life generally) the trick as a good is to make sure you can deal with the criticals efficiently with minimal impact to your users.

continue reading…

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The last time you heard from me was back in March when I’d just passed the CompTIA A+ Essentials exam, in the months since I’ve added the A+ IT exam to the collection making me officially CompTIA A+ certified an I’m working hard on the Network+ (using the new 2009 objectives so woohoo! no in depth knowledge of Token Ring required!).

Apart from that I’m expanding my programming skill set to further aid with IT projects here at work (namely our shiny new intranet) and otherwise expanding my IT knowledge.  I’ve also become an AMBCS (Associate Member of the British Computer Society in case you didn’t know) so some nice new letters after my name :)

What else do I have to say after 5 months absence?

I’ve become increasingly frustrated by peoples fire and forget attitude to emails, a huge number of users around the globe appear to be under the impression that emails are totally fail safe, I’m here to tell you this is a long way from the truth.  Between your mail server and that of your recipient there’s a thousand and one different things which can stop your email getting through, quite apart from spam filters and addresses typos every email you send has to pass through a number of different points along its route any of which can fail and stop your email in its tracks.

Lets illustrate the point a little, between my companies offices and the hosting centre where our website sits there are 8 ‘hops’ each hop is a router which handles passing information on to the next step along the route to the destination server.  If any of these hops goes down then the route has to be renegoitiated to get round the break.  This 8 hop route covers a distance of all of about 30 miles by the way.

So lets look at the relative separation between hotmails servers and our mail server here, a much greater geographical distance with even more points of failure.  You see, its a miracle your emails arrive anywhere you actually intend them to.  So the next time someone says no when you ask if they received your email, think before you reply because its entirely likely the reason it didn’t is nothing to do with either of you and is actually because of a faulty step along the way.

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Those of you who have been really paying attention will have spotted an interesting little titbit in my twitter updates, you see last week I passed the wonders of the CompTIA A+ Essentials exam.  This brings me one step close to having a concrete record of my IT skills, not bad when its been your job for 3 years.

 

continue reading…

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I’m still thinking through the consequences of a staff briefing at work yesterday which contained mention of two of the most unpleasant terms you can hear in your working life, redundancy and pay cut. We are officially feeling the effects of the economic hole that British banks have dug for us, which is unsurprising when you think about it most of our clients are retired and living off investment income which means they’ve just seen that income slashed by the massive drop in interest rates. Along with this the falling value of the pound has pushed costs up significantly, particularly in Europe.

All this leads to a situation which many working here have never really experienced, in any real sense hasn’t been too much of a worry for the younger generation and as a result our definition of ‘essential purchase’ is now being found to be flawed. So its time to cut costs both at work and at home, at work this is difficult, IT purchases are already only made when necessary for business functions rather than going for the nice to haves. At home on the other hand things are a little easier, WoW is gone, dad can foot the bill for the Napster subscription because he uses it more than me at the moment anyway and my subscription to CustomPC will be coming to an end. The three regular payments that will hang around are this web space (£5 a month I think I can swallow), my car and its associated bits and bobs (because frankly at the moment it would probably cost me more to get rid of it than keep it) and my mobile (without which I’d actually find it difficult to communicate with the outside world). All these will help reduce the outgoings but I’ll also be looking to increase the incomings which hopefully will include the for the design and construction of a website for the playschool where Funkymonarch’s mum works.

Aside from all this I really need to sit and think about what my options for the future are and precisely where I’m going with my (work) life, do I stay in IT or is now the time to consider other possible career choices? Is now the wrong time to be considering a massive change in direction? A whole myriad of factors will go into making these decisions and the upshot of it all I don’t even know yet, what ever happens interesting times are ahead.

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