Secret Diaries…..

whats behind the wrapper?

I’m spending a worrying amount of time stuck inside my own head at the moment which is damaging a lot of things. My writing for one.

I actually started work on a novel recently but ground to a halt in a sea of bad writing, two dimensional characters and cliché. Hopefully another few hours of bashing at the keys will get most of that out of my system and I’ll actually be able to move on to producing something worth reading. In order to improve matters I’m looking to do some more structured writing by finding some websites and magazines looking for article submissions with some enforced limits. Even a word count will help focus me at the moment.

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This Saturday saw me become the proud owner of a samsung galaxy portal, not the phone I had originally intended getting but I’m glad I did. Having had a couple of days to play with it I am glad to say it is responsive good looking and a fantastic value smartphone.

I’ve seen a lot of commentary on the net about the camera on this phone and its not that impressive, at only 3 megapixels its a lot weaker than many on the market but as someone who’s grown up surrounded by photographic equipment I don’t see the point of having an 8 megapixel camera attached to sub standard optics on my phone.

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Following the recent glut of half formed ideas and (really honestly) half finished articles I find myself with yet another case of writers block, ideas and topics are floating around in my head but turning them into fully fledged articles is proving difficult.  What follows is a list of things I’d like to write about:

  • The general election, thoughts on the three main parties and why I think this time there is a real opportunity for change.
  • Job searches, and finding work when your already employed.
  • Making extra when that little boost will really help.
  • people to drive and the short lived terror of handing over your car keys.
  • Studying, why I should have concentrated more in school and how much of a challenge it is to keep focussed now.

Each of these is a topic I should be able to write about without difficulty or restriction but the ideas aren’t flowing quite right at the moment, so instead I intend to spend this week researching other peoples methods of getting the creative juices flowing and maybe you’ll see a round up and review later in the week!

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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 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 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 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 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 , 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 cool air 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 its sucked out by some sort of system whilst cool air 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 overtime 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 (Unsolicited 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 replacement filter 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 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 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 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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This week has been a little hectic to say the least, but then they all are at the moment.  Settling in to the wonders of domestic life and keeping up with the chores is taking a lot of my time and energy so when I do have free time I have a tendency to want to sit and do nothing.  The brain cells are firing a bit more creatively though, a lot of ideas for short stories and god knows what else are flying around my head.  Most of this creative burst comes in the car on the way to work which is frustrating as I am of course not in a position to actually do any writing when driving.

The difficulty with being a part time writer/blogger/whatever term you choose to describe yourself is that you can never predict when the ideas are going to appear.  Not having the freedom to write full time causes a huge amount of frustration when the ideas are there but the time isn’t available to get them down on paper.  I’d imagine this frustration is probably quite reversed for a full-time writer with the ideas having to be forced from an overworked imagination on some occasions.

I’m working on getting myself some more time to write and I’m also probably going to make a serious attempt at getting a job which allows me to spend my time writing,  no idea how much chance I’ve got but its got to be worth a try.

With March creeping to a close you’ll (hopefully) see a lot more appearing on here next month, my plan is to take part in NaBloPoMo something which I’ve tried before and failed at but this was during my massive creative drought so I should be a lot more successful.  Until then I’ll continue trying to produce at least one post a week on whatever topic comes to mind.

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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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