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28Jul/10Off

Vulnerable Smart grid (again)

TechOps Guy: Nate

A while back I wrote an entry about the vulnerable smart grid, nothing has changed of course but there is a new article from The Register touting a new report that once again warns about security issues with the smart grid.

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However, Ross Anderson, professor in security engineering at the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory, warns that the move to smart metering introduces a "strategic vulnerability" that hackers might conceivable be exploit to remotely switch off elements on the gas or electricity supply grid.

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The rollout of an estimated 47 million smart meters to each of the UK's 26 million homes by 2020 is estimated at costing around £8bn.

The only issue with the statement I have is the word might. Given the maturity of organized computer criminals out there whether they are individuals, organizations or backed by governments you know they will exploit this stuff it's only a matter of time, and I think the time required is not much more time than it will take to deploy the smart grid itself. The only question is how much damage can they do, could they go so far as to disable the power grid and brick the smart grid devices themselves forcing a wholesale replacement? That is probably a worst case thing.

This is what happens when people who don't know much of anything about technology are put in charge of using it. It's a pretty scary thought, given the scale of these smart grid deployments and the amount of hype surrounding them.

Filed under: Security No Comments
26Jul/10Off

Dell settles with the SEC

TechOps Guy: Nate

This story makes me sick. Everyone in the industry knew it was going on, several years ago Intel was paying off their customers to stick to their products, and not deploy the superior Opteron processors. Intel's strategy to convert the world to Itanium was going down in flames thanks to AMD's extension of x86 - x86-64, combine that with a superior hardware architecture derived from the Alpha (and created by many former engineers who worked on the Alpha - AMD hired many of them). Whether it was the hypertransport design, the itnegrated memory controllers, multi core designs. In so many areas AMD was showing such massive innovations the only way Intel could respond at the time was by paying their customers to not use their stuff.

In no place was it more obvious than Dell. A company that myself I've never had respect for for other reasons(biggest being they don't innovate at all outside of their supply chain). Dell was the only big OEM that did not use AMD processors at all for the longest time.

The Register has posted a couple of articles on this recently with Dell settling with the SEC for a mere $100M.

What upsets me more than anything else, is not the fact that this went on, but the pocket change of penalties that resulted. Intel paid AMD $1.25 billion to settle all outstanding legal cases last year, a small fraction that otherwise should of been paid. Dell pays only $100M, maybe that's enough for the SEC, but on anti trust grounds it should be far more. $100M is not a deterrent. It accounts for a small fraction of what Intel paid them!

Same goes for the settlement Intel paid to AMD, I have absolutely no doubt, as you should have none as well, that Intel benefited FAR more than the $1 billion paid to AMD. It should of been $10 billion, if not higher. Intel wrote that settlement off in one quarter!

It really is depressing to see these big companies get away with this sort of thing. Whether it's Dell, or Intel, or the recent Goldman Sachs SEC settlement. The penalties are pocket change compared to what they should be to make it a real deterrent. And moreover, individuals are not punished in a lot of cases, the company takes the hit, and of course in all cases nobody ever admits any wrong doing. Goldman, like Intel wrote their settlement off in one quarter!

Dell wasn't alone, we all knew it but no other OEM was being so blatenly obvious in their strategy.

Intel's rebates amounted to 38 per cent of Dell's operating profit in the fiscal year 2006, and rose to 76 per cent (or $720m) in one quarter alone, Q1 2007. While almost all of the Intel funds were incorporated into Dell's component costs, Dell did not disclose the existence, much less the magnitude, of the Intel exclusivity payments.

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New York State's lawsuit suggests that the reach of the funding was wide indeed. It alleges that IBM benefited by $130m from Intel simply for not launching an AMD product. HP benefited by almost $1bn. Again, you might suppose Intel might have found better use for such resources - such as R&D.

A lot of the big companies do this sort of thing, it's a wonder that tech startups even bother to start up anymore when there is really nobody keeping the playing field fair. One other similar despicable business deal which I was informed from two different people on both sides of the table was a networking deal Cisco was competing with AT&T for along with some other vendors. AT&T was(and probably still is) the largest user and re-seller of Cisco gear. The competition was the obvious players there's only so many out there! Anyways the deal went down, Cisco lost hands down on many accounts. Their technology just isn't competitive in so many areas. So how did Cisco respond? They came back to AT&T with 95% off list pricing. They bought the business. They didn't win on any real merits, they took a major loss on the deal, which will result in all of their other customers having to continue to pay more to compensate for that. That just makes me sick.

But nothing seems to be on such a grand scale as what Intel did to keep AMD at bay. It was shocking to me seeing the pundits saying "oh well the consumer wasn't hurt by those practices", not taking into account how close AMD came to the brink, with their massive(still massive!) amount of debt they have incurred over the years. An incredible market opportunity for them was there for several years, something Intel kept small by throwing cash at their customers because they had nothing else to offer.

Intel can't afford to lose AMD from an anti trust standpoint, but they also don't want them to succeed too much, a pretty fine line they walk.

22Jul/10Off

Got Hand?

TechOps Guy: Nate

While the days tick by at my current job before the end (still planning on next Wednesday being my last day), I am pretty impressed with the number of senior system engineer/admin positions available, and the sheer number of people getting out of bad situations while the getting is good. Just a couple hours ago I had a friend of mine email me to see if he could bring me into his new company.

Do yourself a favor, at least if you happen to be in the Seattle area, and have mad engineering skills, and aren't totally happy with your current position/company, take a look around, lots of others are hiring people like you, and at the very least you may be able to score more $$.

Even if you are happy, you can use the companies to practice interviewing, I don't know about you but for me it seems the last dozen jobs I've interviewed for it felt like a formality more than anything, I mean the only thing I was concerned about from my end was whether or not I was overqualified (since I do so much more than just systems). I think I interview really well, which is kind of strange to me because I consider myself a fairly shy person at least around people I don't know. But I suppose the high level of confidence I have in what I do overcomes that shyness during the interviewing process.

I don't know how other regions of the country are doing but Seattle is hopping crazy for senior engineers/admins. Kind of reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where George get's "hand" (at least for a short time!), you have hand! USE IT!

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16Jul/10Off

Moving on up, to the west side

TechOps Guy: Nate

So I made the decision, I gave my notice to quit my current gig a couple of days ago. Out of respect for most of my fellow co-workers, I offered to stay the standard two weeks to transition some stuff to other people. I could leave tomorrow and be fine (or yesterday for that matter), doesn't really matter to me.

I just wanted to thank all of my friends, co-workers, acquaintances, recruiters and those I have interviewed with over the recent weeks for the positive support you have given me. It really helped make the decision much easier. I've worked hard, harder than most people I know work in their careers to get where I am today. I've sacrificed a lot from a personal level, because I didn't want to get caught off guard like I did during the last recession. And when I saw signs the economy and society in general was peaking, it was more motivating to get to the top of my game and stay there. And I believe I'm there now(have been for a while). Really takes the stress of a down economy away.

I went through four different job offers before settling on a "Web 3.0" startup in Seattle. They seem to be growing fast and in great need for someone like me. This was the best and most active job search I've had in my career, I've turned down companies before but I've never been so pursed by them both before and after I turned them down. It feels so encouraging that there is such a high demand for folks such as myself, that made the decision even easier -- if I don't have to put up with the current situation that has been festering for years (before I started even!) with no end in sight then I don't have to. It's a very fortunate position to be in I have no problem admitting that, I know people who are in, how should I say it, less than ideal career situations but aren't as fortunate to be able to find a more healthy work atmosphere at another organization.

My work is my life( I'm working on fixing that still), so having a positive professional experience on the job is very important to me. Becuase my work is my life, myself I know of nobody more motivated, more dedicated to their work at least in my field. Which makes it that much harder when an employment situation doesn't work out.

Anyways, on to the category of jobs, my new gig is hiring many more people, including what appears to be a mid level linux system administrator, if you are looking to make a move, drop me a line with your resume and I'll pass it along. I would expect the position to have career growth opportunities given the size of the company and where they are at (they are a pretty young company but not your 10-20 person startup).

Other positions include a lead PHP developer, and a Java developer, I can send you more complete job descriptions if you are interested. And of course willing to split the referral bonus :)

One thing I have learned though, is think twice(or three times) when the position your interviewing for was for someone else who left suddenly. There may be very good reasons why they left, or maybe not. I first noticed signs of problems more than a year and a half ago, but decided to try to work through them and see if things could work out, no such luck! My current position is my 3rd position in which I replaced someone else. The first was my first job, the previous guy was a flake(showed up to work maybe 25% of the time), the second I forgot why the previous person left but the company was halfway decent and I got a lot of stuff accomplished until the economy ate them. And my current is of course the same situation, and the previous two people left for much of the same reason I am, in fact I'm told that I have held my position longer than anyone else had held it at the company. What does that tell you?

Oh and in case it wasn't obvious, my current job is probably open, I can't reccomend anybody senior going there, for reasons I won't get into here. But if your a junior or mid level admin without a lot of career aspirations then it could be a good fit.

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