Friday, July 27, 2007

Microsoft Open Source

Q. What is Microsoft's perspective on open source?

Open source is neither an industry fad, nor a magic bullet. Rather, the development methods commonly encompassed by the term open source have provided customers and developers with additional options among many in the technology ecosystem.

Q. What is Microsoft's open source strategy?

Microsoft is a platform company committed to building technologies that empower communities of developers and partners to deliver compelling software solutions to customers. This approach is reflected in the size and health of the technology ecosystem in which Microsoft participates:

  • 750,000 partner businesses around the world that, according to the findings of a global study of 22,000 technology companies, earn an average of $8 in revenue for every $1 earned by Microsoft.
  • 5,000,000 developers around the world who have created a vast array of applications using Microsoft platform technologies such as Microsoft Windows, Windows Live, Microsoft Office, .NET platform, Microsoft Windows Server, and Microsoft Xbox.

The Microsoft open source strategy is focused on helping customers and partners be successful in today's heterogeneous technology world. This includes increasing opportunities for business partners regardless of the underlying development model. In addition, it includes increasing opportunities for developers to learn and create by combining community-oriented open source with traditional commercial approaches to software development.

Q. Is this a new strategy?

In a heterogeneous technology world, developers, users, and entrepreneurs choose technologies that help them be successful. Today, numerous open source developers and business partners have chosen Microsoft technologies:

  • Developers have created more than 79,000 open source applications using Microsoft platform technologies that are available on the and repositories.
  • Many companies who have chosen to build businesses around open source software are working with Microsoft to deliver value to our shared customers, including SugarCRM, MySQL, Novell, JBoss, Zend, XenSource, Sun Microsystems, Mozilla, Aras, SpikeSource, and Xorp.

Q. Does this site replace Port25 or CodePlex?

No. This site is intended to provide information about Microsoft and open source in one place, serving as a gateway for information about open source engagements and activities across Microsoft. CodePlex is the Microsoft open source project hosting Web site and will continue to be a resource for developers and consumers of open source projects. Port 25 is the public portal for the Open Source Software Lab at Microsoft, and will continue to be a resource for technical insights, blogs, and how-to information for the use of Microsoft and open source technologies together.

Q. Does this mean Microsoft is phasing out the Shared Source Initiative?

No. This site is intended to provide information about Microsoft and open source in one place, serving as a gateway for information about open source engagements and activities across Microsoft. This includes announcements concerning releases of Microsoft code for community development through the Shared Source program; however, the Shared Source Initiative (SSI) will continue to encompass the spectrum of programs and licenses offered by Microsoft to various communities of customers, partners, developers, and other interested individuals. This includes not only the processes for Microsoft product groups releasing source code for community development, but also, for example, the Government Security Program (GSP) for national governments and international organizations; the Windows Academic Program, supplying universities with concepts, code, and projects useful for integrating core Windows kernel technologies into teaching and research.

Q. What is the Microsoft position on intellectual property (IP) and open source?

Intellectual property (IP) serves a vital role in maintaining a healthy cycle of innovation in the IT industry. IP concepts—including copyright, trademark, patent, or public domain—are useful for developers to define terms of use that enable their project or business to thrive, regardless of what development model they choose.

Microsoft Confirms Windows XP SP3

Microsoft Confirms Windows XP SP3

The second service pack (SP 2) for Windows XP was a watershed release. Dropped in August 2004, it addressed a number of issues on the security side: turning Windows Firewall on, rather than off, by default, and including a pop-up blocker in Internet Explorer were two of the major changes. Those upgrades made a big difference in the public perception of XP, and sales, which had been steady, took off.

As analyst Matt Rosoff of independent research company Directions on Microsoft said for a recent story, "People came on board with XP SP2. It's efficient; all the drivers are there; it works as it's supposed to work. It's been out five years now."

Indeed, it works so well that it's cutting into Windows Vista business. Given XP's continued strength, it makes sense that Microsoft continues to support it, and it appears it will do so with SP3, which is scheduled to make an appearance in the first half of next year.

Unfortunately, Microsoft is releasing few details about the service pack. According to an e-mail from a Microsoft spokesperson, "We're currently planning to deliver SP3 for Windows XP in the first half of CY2008. This date is preliminary, and we don't have any more details to share at this time."

Several questions to Microsoft were left unanswered, including any timeline for beta releases, either public or private; new features, fixes or upgrades; and whether SP3 is a response to XP's continued market strength.

However, in a May 21 press release about security protocols, Microsoft anticipated SP3 availability in 2007. "Microsoft is announcing that Windows Vista supports this protocol today and Windows Server 2008 and Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) will support it as well later this year."

Redmond magazine columnist Mary Jo Foley reported recently that Microsoft called that statement a "typo", giving new meaning to the word.

XP SP1 was released in September 2002, making it less than a year from the product's launch, and slightly less than two years between SP1 and SP2. If SP3 meets the current launch window, it will be approximately four years between the latest service packs.

There has been talk off and on over the past several years about Microsoft killing SP3. But given the latest pronouncements, and XP's surprising staying power, it seems clear that SP3 will become a reality. The only question now is when.

How do I… Remove misspelled words from the custom dictionary in Office 2003 or 2007?

This information is also available as a PDF download.

By default, Office 2003 offers a built-in custom dictionary that lets you store terms and names that would otherwise get flagged as unrecognized during a spell check. Word and PowerPoint offer background spell-checking, so all you have to do is right-click on a flagged term (wavy red line) and choose Add To Dictionary from the shortcut menu. Excel and Outlook require you to run the spell checker yourself. When they encounter an unrecognized term, they’ll open the Spelling dialog box and give you the option to add the term to the custom dictionary. Either way, the term will land in Custom.dic, the default custom dictionary file, and all the applications will ignore the term when they come across it again.

Sometimes, though, you may accidentally add a misspelled term to the custom dictionary. For instance, you might unwittingly mistype a company name or some new bit of jargon and add it to the dictionary before you catch your mistake. A dictionary with misspellings in it is somewhat counterproductive, so it’s a good idea to go in and remove them when they creep in. Although Excel and PowerPoint 2003 let you add words to the shared dictionary, you have to use Word (or Outlook) to modify the dictionary file. Here are the steps for doing this in Word:

  1. Go to Tools | Options, click on the Spelling & Grammar tab, and click the Custom Dictionaries button. (Figure A).

Figure A

  1. In the Custom Dictionaries dialog box (Figure B), make sure CUSTOM.DIC (default) is selected in the Dictionary List and click Modify.

Figure B

  1. When the CUSTOM.DIC dialog box opens (Figure C), locate the misspelled word in the Dictionary list box, select it, and click Delete.

Figure C

  1. To replace the term with the correct version, just type it in the Word text box and click Add (Figure D). When you’re finished, exit all dialog boxes by clicking OK.

Figure D

Outlook 2003

If you want to modify the custom dictionary using Outlook, just choose Options from the main Tools menu and click the Spelling tab, as shown in Figure E. Under Edit Custom Dictionary, click Edit. Outlook will then open the custom dictionary as a text file (Figure F).

Figure E

Figure F

What about Office 2007?

The Office 2007 apps all support editing the custom dictionary. And Outlook 2007 (which now offers background spell-checking in messages) includes an option to access the custom dictionary file in a slightly more elegant way than via text file.

  1. In all the apps, you just click the Office button and choose the Options command at the bottom of the menu.
  2. Choose Proofing from the pane of categories on the left (Figure G).

Figure G

  1. Click Custom Dictionaries to open the dialog box shown in Figure H.

Figure H

  1. Click Edit Word List to open the CUSTOM.DIC dialog box (Figure I).

Figure I

From there, it works the same as Office 2003 — except that there’s a Delete All option now. I guess that’s in case you go on a bender and manage to fill up the entire dictionary file with misspelled words.

10 things you can do to give your PowerPoint presentations a heartbeat

This information is also available as a PDF download.

Imagine this: You’ve just returned to your seat for this afternoon’s training seminar. The morning session was pretty interesting, providing information about the design and development of your company’s newest product. Lunch was great — a big catered affair — and now you’re settling in for this afternoon’s topic: Technical specifications. The presenter begins in a tired, flat voice. You watch as slide after slide of monochrome bullet points appear on the screen. You lean back in your chair. Your eyes glaze… you stifle a yawn and begin to imagine yourself in your backyard hammock.

Wait! Come back. It’s only an example.

Your presentations always influence others to take some kind of action. The action might be to listen carefully and learn new information or it might be to drift off toward Dreamworld. The way in which your presentation delivers information has everything to do with how well it will be received. Here are some quick ideas for livening up your presentations to keep the after-lunch crowd awake in their seats.

#1: Make your diagrams move

PowerPoint XP, 2003, and 2007 all have diagramming capability (in PowerPoint 2007, the diagram tool is called SmartArt) — and diagrams are great because they break up slides full of bullet points and convey information quickly and clearly.

You can go a step beyond your run-of-the-mill diagram by adding animation effects to it. Because the different shapes and text boxes in a diagram are all counted as separate objects in PowerPoint, you can assign animation and timing features to each of those elements so they slide in at just the right moment in your presentation. A little movement goes a long way, however, so be careful not to overdo it. You might do a simple slide-in-from-the-left for all the elements in a pyramid chart, for example.

#2: Make it easy for your audience

A truly great presentation offers smart, memorable content in a design that helps reinforce the message and keeps people interested. You can write, edit, and organize the content in your presentation in a way that makes it easy for your audience members to follow your main points.

To make sure your ideas are crystal clear, write the content of your presentation in Outline view (Figure A) before you focus on the design elements (which can be distracting because they’re so much fun). Make your main points your slide titles, include summary slides at key points (wherever it’s appropriate), and end the presentation with a quick review of what’s been discussed.

Figure A

#3: Get great new backgrounds

The templates provided with PowerPoint XP and 2003 may be contributing to the low-oxygen lag in your afternoon sessions. PowerPoint 2007 introduces some new templates (and you can always browse the offerings on Microsoft Office Online to see what users like yourself have created and added). But if you have a special presentation that you want to really wow your audience, consider checking out a cool third-party site, like for some really stunning backgrounds. With just a little searching, you’re sure to find a fresh look that matches the message you want to convey.

#4: Let the Master do the work

If you don’t use PowerPoint often, you may not be comfortable working with the whole Master idea, but Masters can save you a lot of time and help keep your presentation consistent. Suppose, for example, that there are three main sections in your presentation. By creating three Masters, one at the start of each section, you could add a colored bar as a tab along the right side of every side, with red for the first section, blue for the second, and green for the third. Tie the color scheme in with the slide title for each section (as well as the summary slide), and you’ve got a color-coded presentation that continually lets audience members know which section is being discussed and how many sections are left before the break.

#5: Create custom bullets

We can get bored to death with bullet points, but even the biggest bullet-detractors have to admit that they serve their purpose. Ideally, bullet points provide information in a succinct, easy-to-understand format. PowerPoint makes it easy for you to substitute other characters for the regular round (or square) bullets that are part of the presentation template. But did you know you can add your own artwork easily to create customized bullets?

Just display the Bullets And Numbering dialog box and click Picture. If you want to choose one of the snazzy bullets shown in Figure B (by default, PowerPoint 2007 includes bullets from Office Online), simply click the bullet you want to use and choose OK. If you want to add your own art, click Import. Then, navigate to the image you want to use (a stylized version of your company logo? The staff mascot? A thumbnail picture of your product?), select it, and click Open.

Figure B

#6: It’s all in the timing

Getting the timing of your presentation right is really more of an art than a science. If you set up the presentation to advance automatically, you run the risk of going too fast (so not everyone in the audience gets a chance to read everything on the slide) or going too slow (in which case they start heading for their respective mental hammocks). If you decide to advance the slides manually, you run the risk of wandering off topic or over-explaining something that no one else is particularly interested in.

To keep everyone tuned in, vary the timing in your presentations so the shorter slides have less time and the more text-heavy slides have more time. Audience members will realize that they have a limited time to review the points on the slide and should take notice. (If you do things manually, however, keep in mind that off-topic wanderings may cause people to lose your train of thought and mentally leave the room.)

#7: Play show and tell

In today’s YouTube era, you don’t have to go far to be entertained by a video clip on one of your favorite topics. Video clips are fun, fast-moving, and often funny. You can use video to your advantage in your PowerPoint presentation by including key segments at important points. For example, in the Customer Survey portion of your presentation, you might show questions and comments from live customers. Or you might show outtakes of moments that didn’t quite make the cut. Maybe this is the right place for the cell phone video you captured of your manager balancing his coffee cup on his head when he thought no one was looking (or…maybe not).

Add video easily by clicking the Insert Media Clip button on a blank PowerPoint slide. PowerPoint will ask you to choose whether you want the clip to play automatically or when clicked. Make your choice and the clip is added to the slide. In PowerPoint 2007, you can then use the Movie Options tab (Figure C) to add other settings, like looping continuously, playing full screen, and rewinding automatically.

Figure C

#8: A little music, please

PowerPoint makes it reasonably simple for you to add sound effects and songs to your presentations. But one caveat: Sound effects can be really annoying if they are overused (especially the dinging sound of the cash register), so go easy on the bells and whistles (literally). You could add a little sound to mark the start of the new section of your presentation, to give audience members a break while you’re passing out materials, or to play in the background while a montage of images displays on your slides. To add sound, choose Insert and select Sound. You can then specify whether you want to add sound from a file or from the Clip Organizer. You can also opt to play music from an audio track on a CD (remember to take the CD when you present!) or record a new sound.

#9: Mix it up, visually

Once you have a lock on your content, you need to think about the way all the design elements in your presentation will work together. (Some people prefer to choose the design first and add content second –and that’s okay, too.) Templates (and Themes, in PowerPoint 2007) help you make all the elements in your presentation consistent. This ensures that the background, the slides, the heads and text, and the bullets all look reasonably good together.

To really add some visual interest, throw in some stunning, high-quality photos — preferably of people or places. We all respond to images of happy, smiling people and beautiful landscapes. Even if your presentation is about the new electrode style of the capacitors you produce, you can include a few pleasing visuals somewhere in there (perhaps when you’re talking about how happy your customers will be when their capacitors last longer, or when you mention that your top sales reps this year can earn a trip to Hong Kong).

#10 Give a pop quiz

Remember how your geography teacher used to wake everybody up? He’d suddenly say, “Okay, everyone get out a piece of paper and a pencil. It’s time for a pop quiz!” (Can’t you still hear the collective groans?) If you really want to jar your audience members into paying attention, let them know they will be answering a pencil-and-paper questionnaire when the presentation is done. Then, include the quiz with the handouts you pass out at the close of the presentation. If you want to remove some of the pressure, you can make it a little more fun by offering some kind of incentive for answering correctly — maybe free donuts next Monday?

Now you’re awake. I knew that would do it.

10 annoying Word features (and how to turn them off)

This information is also available as a PDF download.

One of the most common complaints about Microsoft Word is its insistence on taking control of the wheel. Many users get completely blindsided by some of Word’s automatic changes, and even the more experienced among them often just live with Word’s shenanigans because because they don’t know how to disable them.

If you’ve gotten more than your share of support calls from users trying to wrestle Word into submission (or pulled out your own hair on a few occasions), the list below will help you quickly cut Word down to size.

A few things to keep in mind: First, many of the options you need are located in the AutoFormat As You Type tab. A similar set of options exists in the AutoFormat tab — but disabling those won’t do you any good with Word’s on-the-fly changes. Users sometimes don’t make that distinction and can’t understand why the changes are still happening after they thought they’d turned off the necessary settings.

Second, some of these options may actually sound appealing to your users but might currently be disabled. You can use this list to help them selectively activate the features they want, not just to turn things off. It’s not always the features themselves that are annoying — it’s just not knowing how to control them.

And finally, Word 2007 offers the same feature set described here, but accessing the options is a little different. The section at the bottom explains how to find them in that version.

Cheap solution: Undo
If you haven’t had a chance to disable an automatic feature (or you want to leave it enabled and override it only occasionally), remember that pressing Ctrl+Z or clicking the Undo button right after Word makes a change will undo that action. So, for instance, if Word inserts a smart apostrophe where you want to retain the straight character to denote measurement, just hit Undo to straighten it back out.

The annoyances

Behavior How to turn it off
#1: Word creates a hyperlink when you type a Web page address. Go to Tools | AutoCorrect Options and select the AutoFormat As You Type tab. Under Replace As You Type, deselect the Internet And Network Paths With Hyperlinks check box and click OK.
#2: Word changes capitalization of text as you type it. A host of settings can trigger this behavior. Go to Tools | AutoCorrect Options and select the AutoCorrect tab. Here, you can deselect whichever check boxes govern the unwanted actions:
  • Correct Two Initial Capitals
  • Capitalize First Letter Of Sentences
  • Capitalize First Letter Of Table Cells
  • Capitalize Names Of Days
  • Correct Accidental Use Of Caps Lock Key
#3: Word inserts symbols unexpectedly, such as trademark or copyright characters or even inserts an entire passage of text. Go to Tools | AutoCorrect Options and select the AutoCorrect tab. This time, find the Replace Text As You Type check box. Either deselect it to suppress all replacements or select and delete individual items in the list below it.

It might make sense to keep the feature enabled and selectively remove items, since the list includes scores of common misspellings that are actually nice to have corrected for you.

#4: Word superscripts your ordinal numbers, such as 1st and 2nd. Go to Tools | AutoCorrect Options and click the AutoFormat As You Type tab. Deselect the Ordinals (1st) With Superscript check box and click OK.
#5: Word converts fractions into formatted versions. Go to Tools | AutoCorrect Options and click the AutoFormat As You Type tab. Deselect the Fractions (1/2) With Fraction Character option.
#6: Word turns straight apostrophes and quote marks into curly characters. Go to Tools | AutoCorrect Options and click the AutoFormat As You Type tab. Deselect the Straight Quotes With Smart Quotes check box and click OK.
#7: When you try to select a few characters within a word, the highlight jumps to select the entire word. Go to Tools | Options and click the Edit tab. In the right column under Editing Options, deselect the When Selecting, Automatically Select Entire Word check box and click OK.
#8: When you type three or more hyphens and press Enter, Word inserts a border line. Go to Tools | AutoFormat and select the AutoFormat As You Type tab. Deselect the Border Lines check box and click OK.

A similar option exists for inserting a table, but it’s generally not going to sneak up on you: When the Tables check box is selected, typing a series of hyphens and plus marks before pressing Enter will insert a table (with the hyphens representing cells). You can turn off that option if you think you might stumble into an unwanted table insertion.

#9: Word automatically adds numbers or bullets at the beginning of lines as you type them. There are two flavors of this potential annoyance. First, if you start to type something Word thinks is a bulleted list (using asterisks, say) or type 1, a period, and some text, it may convert what you type to bulleted or numbered list format when you press Enter.To prevent this, go to Tools | AutoCorrect Options and select the AutoFormat As You Type tab. Then, deselect the Automatic Bulleted List and/or Automatic Numbered list check boxes and click OK.

A related aspect of this behavior is that once you’re entering automatic list items, pressing Enter will perpetuate it — Word will keep inserting bullets or numbers on each new line. To free yourself from this formatting frenzy, just press Enter a second time, and Word will knock it off.

#10: When you type hyphens, Word inserts an em dash or an en dash. If you type a word, two hyphens, and another word (no spaces), Word will convert the hyphens to an em dash. If you type a space before and after the hyphens, it will convert them to an en dash.To disable this feature, Go to Tools | AutoCorrect Options and select the AutoFormat As You Type tab. Deselect the Hyphens (–) With Dash (-) check box and click OK.

Bonus fixes

Word may cause your users some additional grief in various other ways besides automatic behaviors. It goes a little something like this:

User: My document if full of weird code stuff and my pictures are gone.
Culprit: Field code display has been toggled on.
Solution: Suggest that the user press Alt+F9 to restore the display of field code results.

User: I’m seeing gray brackets around a bunch of my text.
Culprit: Bookmark display has been enabled.
Solution: Go to Tools | Options and select the View tab. Then, under the Show options, deselect the Bookmarks check box and click OK.

User: I’m typing and everything in front of the cursor is disappearing.
Culprit: The evil Overtype mode has been activated.
Solution: Go to Tools | Options and select the Edit tab. Then, under Editing Options, deselect the Overtype Mode check box and click OK. (It might be quicker to double-click OVR on the status bar, if you can point the user to it.)

User: Everything’s gone, all my toolbars and menus and everything — there’s nothing here but text.
Culprit: The user has landed in Full Screen view.
Solution: Direct the user’s attention to the Close Full Screen View button at the bottom of the window (depending on the version) or tell them to press Alt+V to display the View menu. They can then select Full Screen to turn off that view mode and return to familiar territory.

Accessing the options in Word 2007

All the settings we’ve discussed here are accessible via the Office button in Word 2007:

  • To get to the AutoCorrect dialog box, click the Office button, select Word Options at the bottom of the menu, and choose Proofing from the pane on the left. In the pane on the right, click the AutoCorrect Options button, and Word will display the AutoCorrect dialog box containing the AutoCorrect and AutoFormat As You Type tabs.
  • To get to editing options, click the Office button, select Word Options at the bottom of the menu, and choose Advanced from the pane on the left. Word will display Editing Options at the top of the pane on the right. In that section, you’ll find the When Selecting, Automatically Select Entire Word check box and the Use Overtype Mode option. If you scroll down to the Show Document Content section, you’ll find the Show Bookmarks check box.
  • The successor to Full Screen view in Word 2007 is Full Screen Reading view. Users shouldn’t get stuck there, but if they do, the Close button in the upper-right corner of the window will take them back to Print Layout view.

How to print a logo in an Excel header

Excel isn’t a word processor, not does it generate reports the way Access does, but that doesn’t mean you can’t improvise. For instance, you can display a graphic, such as a company logo, at the top of each printed page. This is a task you’d expect Word and Access to handle, but maybe not Excel. The following is an Excel sheet in Print Preview. Excel will print the RabbitTracks logo at the top of each page, as a header. You can do the same thing with a footer.

To add a picture to the header (or footer) in Excel 2002 or later, complete the following steps:

1. Choose Page Setup from the File menu. (In Excel 2007, choose Print Titles from the Page Layout group.)
2. Select the Header/Footer tab.
3. Click Custom Header.
4. Click inside the Left section (or the most appropriate section for your needs).
5. Click the Picture icon (the second icon from the right).
6. Use the Insert Picture dialog box to find the graphic file you want to insert.
7. If necessary, click Format Picture to format the picture.
8. Click OK.

If you’re using version 2000 or earlier, follow these steps:

1. Select cell A1.
2. Choose Picture from the Insert menu and then select From File.
3. Find the graphic file and click Insert.
4. Adjust the picture’s size if necessary.
5. Choose Page Setup from the File menu, and click the Sheet tab.
6. Select the Rows to Repeat At Top option, and select row 1.
7. Click OK.

10 midyear resolutions for IT managers

More than half the year has gone by, and some of those promising New Year’s resolutions made at the start of 2007 have probably been forgotten or abandoned. Good intentions are easily lost in the constant competition between project deadlines, operational requirements, and the occasional need to sleep.

A while back, Shannon Kalvar put together 10 resolutions he said would help IT managers stay on top of their shifting priorities and keep the chaos under control. Here’s a recap of his goals to help guide your progress for the rest of 2007.

#1: End where you mean to begin

I lead off the list with a bit of practical time-management advice. I’m constantly amazed at how much time my clients spend “ramping up” for any given day. They read their e-mails, plan a handful of activities, and deal with several interruptions. Then they go to lunch.

Instead of the same old/same old, why not try a different strategy? Spend five to 10 minutes at the end of each workday preparing for your first task tomorrow. This gives you a clear task to start with in the morning and creates some closure for your workday, to boot.

Oh, and don’t “prepare” to read e-mail. There’s no better way to stop your day cold.

#2: Begin as you mean to continue

I don’t know anyone who starts the day saying, “Today I will throw all of my time uselessly down rat-holes.” All but the most depressed and beaten down of us still cling, somewhere in our hearts, to the idea that we can do something useful.

One of the best ways to keep moving is, frankly, to start. Make the first task of your day an active one. Solve a problem. Reach out to a team member or a constituent in person or by phone, not by e-mail. Finish a report or artifact containing actionable information for another person. By starting with action you set the tone for the day.

#3: Act to solve problems rather than reacting to them

We’ve all been there: You walk in, head for your first cup of coffee, and get ambushed by some business-stopping, mission-critical operational problem. In a flash, you’re off to run interference while your team struggles to solve the problem.

Stop. Get your cup of coffee, take a sip, and think for a few moments. Operational plans, knowledge bases, and communications systems all help, but nothing matters as much as your taking an active rather than a reactive posture. Ask yourself the following question: Outside of the obvious reactions, what can I do that will change this situation?

#4: Stop making pigs fly

RFC 1925 established that pigs fly just fine with sufficient thrust. This does not mean that it’s a good idea. In fact, most of the time the pig doesn’t end up where you thought it would, and sitting under it while it’s in flight presents serious hazards.

Everyone occasionally has to loft a pig. What you can do, though, is stop making a habit of it.

#5: Remember that the customer is mostly right

Everyone says, “The customer is always right.” That’s true, as far as it goes, but what is the customer right about, exactly? When is he right about it and what should you do about it?

The customer is always right about what he wants — if he says he wants something, he probably does. That doesn’t mean he needs it, that it would actually help him, or that the business has the resources to accommodate him. In fact, many customers lack the information, experience, and vision to successfully meet any of those latter criteria on their own.

Take the time to listen to the customers, whoever they may be. Listen to what they have to say. Listen to the emotions and the circumstances surrounding their wants. Honestly reach out to them and make them feel heard.

#6: Heed your inner geek

Hearing does not mean giving in. We have the information, the experience, and the vision to help our customers meet their needs and their wants. That said, we have to put needs ahead of wants — otherwise, the core activity of the business will not get done. More important, we have to prioritize those needs so the available resources can accomplish something this year.

Most good managers I’ve met have a little inner voice that whispers warnings when customers’ wants begin to supersede business needs. Listen to that voice. It’s your experience telling you about the bog you’re about to step into.

#7: Best practices aren’t… so stop with the canons already

There is a vast amount of documented wisdom in the IT field. We have people peddling best practices, consultancies that thrive off telling people what to do, and whole industries dedicated to telling us what we do wrong.

Look around. Is your network constantly down? Do your applications get in the way of doing business? Do your users put pins in voodoo dolls dressed up to represent the support staff? If you answered no to these questions, it means you are, at least for now, doing well enough.

Doing well enough does not mean you should not learn about best practices or try to proactively manage the environment. ITIL, COBIT, and other assorted acronyms can help you do some amazing things. Just don’t lose track of where you are in the hope of getting to some promised land.

#8: Know what you want at a meeting

Meetings and their associated IM conversations are a fixture of modern office life. IM makes them more bearable but does nothing to get back the time wasted in most of them.

To avoid wasting your only nonrenewable resource in meetings, you have to make a change more fundamental than chatting with wireless devices. For this resolution, I suggest that you prepare a simple, one-line statement defining what you want from a meeting before you go to it. Do whatever it takes to ensure that you get that one thing done, even if it means taking over the meeting and stepping on a few toes.

In this case, aggression is the better part of time management.

#9: Remember grade-school English

Remember back in grade school when your teacher taught you everything you ever needed to know about project initiation? No? She did, and it goes something like this: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. I might add “How much?” just for good measure.

The next time someone comes up to you with a half-baked project idea, have them go back and answer those questions. Help them if they need it (see resolutions 5 and 6 above), but don’t initiate anything until you get done.

#10: Trust QA, listen to QA; QA is…

…Not a roadblock but the solution. In the hectic world of IT, it seems difficult to take the time to do it right, but there is always time to do it over. This is especially true in an environment driven by customer wants rather than prioritized needs.

Quality assurance is the only way to make sure it gets done right the first time, which in turn reduces the long-term cost and operational pain. Take the time to have someone check over work, even simple things like server builds. Let people check for bugs, correct mistakes, and even critique one another’s work.

The time you save might just be your own.

Change boot options in Windows 2000 Professional

Windows 2000 Professional uses a text file, Boot.ini, in the root folder of the boot drive to define boot options. The settings in Boot.ini determine the menu options that appear when you start the system, as well as how long the menu stays on the screen before the default boot option executes. Boot.ini is a hidden, read-only system file, so you’ll need to configure folder options to display hidden files and not hide protected operating system files in order to view and modify it.

You’ll find two sections in Boot.ini — [boot loader] and [operating systems]. The timeout value in the [boot loader] section determines how long, in seconds, the menu displays before the Windows 2000 boot loader executes the default boot option. Adjust the value to your liking or set it to 0 to boot without a menu.

Each line in the [operating systems] section defines an operating system or operating system option. You can add or modify settings in this section to boot other manually installed operating systems or cloned copies of Windows 2000 Professional.

Disable USB storage under OS X or Windows

Whilst randomly browsing a few days ago I came across a document prepared by the National Security Agency (NSA) that describes how to disable USB storage on Linux, OS X, Solaris and Windows platforms.

For OS X the guide describes disabling USB and Firewire storage:

  1. Log on with an administrator account.
  2. Browse to ‘/System/Library/Extensions’ folder on the system disk.
  3. Trash both IOUSBMassStorageClass.kext and IOFireWireSerialBusProtocolTransport.kext which are found in this directory.
  4. Empty the trash.
  5. Reboot the machine.

Disabling USB storage on a Windows platform is only a little more complicated:

  1. From Explorers folder options ensure that hidden files and folders are displayed, file extensions are not hidden and simple file sharing is disabled.
  2. Open up the properties for %systemroot%\Inf\Usbtror.inf (%systemroot% would normally be ‘C:\Windows’).
  3. Select the security tab and make sure that all options for all users are set to deny. This must include administrators and SYSTEM.
  4. Repeat the above for %systemroot%\Inf\Usbstor.pnf
  5. If USB storage devices have been used on this machine previously then open up the registry editor otherwise ignore steps 6 and 7.
  6. Browse to the registry location ‘HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\UsbStor’.
  7. Open up the registry key ‘Start’ and change the data value to ‘4′. Close the registry editor.

That’s it! If simple file sharing was enabled previously then don’t forget to re-enable it.

Detect rootkits and rootkit behavior with these techniques

When administrators and security professionals hear the word rootkit, most think first of a UNIX-based system. Unfortunately, this only leads to a false sense of security for Windows-based systems. The fact is that Windows rootkits do exist, and you need to be able to detect them.

What is a rootkit?

To clarify, a rootkit is not an exploit — it’s the code or program an attacker leaves behind after a successful exploit. The rootkit then allows the hacker to hide his or her activity on a computer, and it permits access to the computer in the future. To accomplish its goal, a rootkit will modify the execution flow of the operating system or manipulate the data set that the operating system relies on.

Windows operating systems support programs or processes running in two different modes: user mode and kernel mode. Traditional Windows rootkits such as SubSeven and NetBus operate in user mode.

Also known as backdoors or Trojans, user-mode rootkits run as a separate application or within an existing application. They have the same level of system privileges as any other application running on the compromised machine. Since these rootkits operate in user mode, applications such as antivirus scanners can detect the rootkit’s existence if they have a signature file.

On the other hand, a kernel-mode rootkit is remarkably different — and much more powerful and elusive. kernel-mode rootkits have total control over the operating system and can corrupt the entire system.

By design, kernel-mode rootkits control the operating system’s Application Program Interface (API). The rootkit sits between the operating system and the user programs, choosing what those programs can see and do.

In addition, it uses this position to hide itself from detection. If an application such as an antivirus scanner tries to list the contents of a directory containing the rootkit’s files, the rootkit will suppress the filename from the list. It can also hide or control any process on the rooted system.

Rootkit detection

Methods to detect rootkits fall into two categories: Signature-based and heuristic/behavior-based detection.

  • Signature-based detection: As its name implies, this method scans the file system for a sequence of bytes that comprise a “fingerprint” that’s unique to a particular rootkit. However, the rootkit’s tendency to hide files by interrupting the execution path of the detection software can limit the success of signature-based detection.
  • Heuristic/behavioral-based detection: This method works by identifying deviations in normal operating system patterns or behaviors. For example, this method could detect a rootkit by determining that a system with 200-GB hard drive that reports 160 GB of files has only 15 GB of free space available.

Rootkits are hard to detect. But there are programs — some free and from reputable companies such as F-Secure and Sysinternals – to help you detect their presence on your systems. Microsoft has even stepped up to the plate with its Malicious Software Removal Tool, designed to detect and remove Windows rootkits.

Final thoughts

If you discover someone has compromised your machine, it’s vital that you take the necessary steps to find out if the attacker has installed a rootkit — and then eliminate the threat. Applying vulnerability patches after someone has installed a rootkit on your machine won’t close the security holes that already exist on your network.

Mike Mullins has served as an assistant network administrator and a network security administrator for the U.S. Secret Service and the Defense Information Systems Agency. He is currently the director of operations for the Southern Theater Network Operations and Security Center.

Worried about security issues? Who isn’t? Automatically sign up for our free Security Solutions newsletter, delivered each Friday, and get hands-on advice for locking down your systems.

Detect rootkits and rootkit behavior with these techniques

Grisoft has developed quite a following with its free (for personal, non-commercial use) security applications, and for good reason. AVG anti-virus and anti-spyware programs use little overhead and have proven effective at combating common malware. The security products have racked up a number of awards and accolades as a result.

Now there's an anti-rootkit utility in AVG's free software stable, too, and for users seeking a minimum of interaction, AVG Anti-Rootkit Free may very well be the Right Tool for the Job. Find out why in this screenshot gallery.

Grisoft makes its free AVG Anti-Rootkit application available for download. Users download the avgarkt.exe setup file, which features simple installation.

You may download a free, trial version of AVG Anti-Rootkit here.

cheers Aurobindo

Thursday, July 26, 2007


look and learn this art.... if you wanna be a professional drinker....

or wanna be a bartender....

Defunkt the pistol that you pay for
This punk the feeling that you stay for
In time I want to be your best friend
Eastside love is living on the westend
Knock out but boy you better come to
Don't die you know the truth is some do
Go write your message on the pavement
Burnin' so bright I wonder what the wave meant

Eight Words With Two Meanings

1. THINGY (thing-ee) n.
Female...... Any part under a car's hood.
Male..... The strap fastener on a woman's bra.

2. VULNERABLE (vul-ne-ra-bel) adj.
Female.... Fully opening up one's self emotionally to another.
Male.... Playing football without a cup.

3. COMMUNICATION (ko-myoo-ni-kay-shon) n.
Female... The open sharing of thoughts and feelings with one's partner.
Male... Leaving a note before taking off on a fishing trip with the boys.

4. COMMITMENT (ko-mit-ment) n.
Female.... A desire to get married and raise a family.
Male...... Trying not to hit on other women while out with this one.

5. ENTERTAINMENT (en-ter-tayn-ment) n.
Female... A good movie, concert, play or book.
Male..... Anything that can be done while drinking beer.

6. FLATULENCE (flach-u-lens) n.
Female.... An embarrassing byproduct of indigestion.
Male...... A source of entertainment, self-expression, male bonding.

7 MAKING LOVE (may-king luv) n.
Female..... The greatest expression of intimacy a couple can achieve.
Male.. Call it whatever you want, just as long as we do it.

8. REMOTE CONTROL (ri-moht kon-trohl) n.
Female.... A device for changing from one TV channel to another.
Male... A device for scanning through all 375 channels every 5 minutes.
"Any technology sufficiently advanced would be indistinguishable from magic."- Arthur C. Clarke

"Not only does God play dice, but... he sometimes throws them where they cannot be seen."
"There are grounds for cautious optimism that we may now be near the end of the search for the ultimate laws of nature."
-Stephen Hawking

"A conspiracy of three people can be kept secret, if two of them are dead!" - Ben Franklin

"The dinosaurs became extinct because they didn't have a space program. And if we become extinct because we don't have a space program, it'll serve us right!" -Larry Niven

Will Windows work continuously for more than 49.7 days?

Windows crashes
automatically if you don't switch off the machine for 49.7Days.
Microsoft accepts this. Do you know why? In Windows the Virtual
Machine Manager (here after referred as VMM) is responsible for
creation, execution, monitoring and termination of virtual machines.
This VMM, which is a 32 bit, protected mode operating system entity,
provides a number of system services at chip level. One of these
services is "Get_System_Time".This particular service loads the EAX
register with the time in milliseconds since Windows started on that
machine. This service isaccurate to 1 ms. EAX is a 32 bit register in
Intel 386 Processor onwards.
So the maximum number of milliseconds it canhold is (232)-1 =
milliseconds = 4294967.295 seconds = 71582.79 minutes = 1193 hours =
49.7 days So after 49.7 days the EAX resets to zero. Most of the Drivers
use this Time Service to keep track of the Timeout of various
services they provide. So after 49.7days the d! rivers cannot use the
get_System_Time function of VMM and they crash taking the OS along

not very sure abt the authenticity of the same though

Keep Breathing ...... Life is all about living comfortably

3 tips to improve your executive presence

One of the most frequent issues clients ask me for help with is “executive presence”. It’s one of those beauty-is-in-the-eye-of-the-beholder issues to some extent. What works for some people is a turnoff to others. Approaches or styles which are considered appropriate in one organization may be the fastlane to the exit door in another company. But there are a few guidelines which are consistent across most organizations.

If you are getting feedback that your “style” or “approach” needs some polishing, odds are that clear concise direction hasn’t come with the feedback because it’s often tough to package.

These are three of the key ones on which I focus my clients;

1. Men think to talk. Women talk to think. When genders are working together it can sound like a personal relationship on occasion. Women asking the guys why they don’t participate in a discussion but then leave the meeting and have a bunch of ideas; or men asking the gals why they take so long to make a point.

The way our brains are wired, according to recent research out of UC at Berkley really makes a difference in our processing. Women are more prone to thinking aloud and using that to come to a position while men go radio silent while they are noodling inside before making a statement.

If you’re a woman in a male dominated environment, don’t go processing aloud - it can frustrate the men who just want an answer. If your a man in a female dominated environment, don’t give the appearance that you’ve shutdown by processing internally without telling those around you what you’re thinking.

2. When in Rome wear a toga. Dress codes are really vague. Most senior company leaders say that they understand that the days of suits and dresses are long gone. I’m often told by them that they “get it” that their employees want fewer rules and regs which have little to do with performance.

But later, they will make comments which are inconsistent. Behind closed doors they get a little more forthcoming. I’ve been told that capri pants are too much for a work environment or that if so and so should stop wearing pants without his underwear showing if he ever expects to get ahead. “Flip flops? Not what future leaders should be wearing.” Lots of other comments in this vein about both genders.

The real world is that the boss really wants people to follow his or her lead when it comes to standards of dress. If the boss is wearing a sports coat with Dockers, or a businessy skirt with a cotton button down collar, they are sending a signal. Disregard such signals at your own peril.

3. Take your time before you answer. Or don’t. Ever notice how some bosses make a decision in a quarter of a second while others want to have endless meetings or papers written before any movement forward?

How we make our decisions has a lot to do with our personal value systems. Some leaders have learned that any important decision requires a lot of input and noodling, while others show disdain for anything but an immediate answer and direction.

If you have one approach but your boss has the other I suggest you change. Or at least give the impression that you have. Otherwise you risk making your boss nervous - and nobody succeeds when they have a nervous boss. If the boss believes in lengthy and thoughtful consideration before coming to a conclusion but you think that fast decisions are the best; (s)he may start to worry about the caliber of your thoughts and directions. This can lead to doubt about your promotional prospects as well. Same holds true if your boss is one of those shoot-from-the-hip types and you seem to be ponderous and slow off the mark. Don’t try to teach your boss that you have a better style - it doesn’t often work.

A four-step prescription for writing better project plans

A long time ago, in a lifetime far far away, a client asked me to help their PMO produce useful project plans. Never one to turn away a job, I agreed to speak with him and review the documents his team produced. Leafing though the packet, I found the same things I always find in project plans - lack of coherent planning, no focus on document purpose, and a very limited control of how tasks interact to create workable processes.

The good news, I assured my client, was that he had a lot of company in his situation. The better news was that it’s not that difficult to get out of the psychological rut which leads project managers to create useless project plans, post them, then ignore the hoary artifact in favor of more mutable spreedsheets or calendars.

I prescribed him a simple remedy - four questions I always ask myself before I sit down to wok on a project plan. These questions are as follows.

1) What do you want this project plan to do?

My client’s eye’s crossed when I gave him the first question. “A project plan organizes project work in a reportable fashion” he mumbled, trying to understand what the frak I was saying.

A project plan is, when we get right down to it, a document. Documents exist for a variety of reasons. We use them to record information, to communicate information to one or more audiences, to brainstorm possibilities, or as records of exercises undertaken to understand a problem to name just a few.

The first step to creating a “useful” project plan is to figure out what, in a given context, we need the project plan to convey in order for it to be useful. A project plan written to satisfy auditors must meet very specific criteria which might not have anything to do with actually running a project. A project plan written to aid executive reporting might not contain the information an auditor wants, just as one written to help the project manager actually track multiple interwoven sites will read differently than any of the above.

Trying to write a project plan to cover all “whats” generally leaves the author with a confused, useless mess. Not unlike what I find in organizations all over the country.

2) Who will use this project plan?
My client’s suspicions raised even further when I showed him this one. “Didn’t we answer that in the first question?”

Well, yes and no. When we asked the first question we defined a use and an audience. In this question, we try to dig down and figure out who will interact with the project plan and in what ways. Some of this is contextual. In one organization the PMO may dictate that developers always create and update their own tasks, while another may put all the weight onto the project manager’s shoulders.

I generally create a chart when I try to answer this question. In the first column I put roles and/or names if I know them. In the second column I put in how I expect them to interact with the project plan. In the third I put in how frequently they will interact with it.

3) What will the project plan contain?
“Ummm…” my client said. “Don’t project plans contain tasks, dates, and precursor information?”

By this time, he had pretty much figured out my standard “yes but” answer. Yes, a project plan by convention contains all those things.

However, the real question is what tasks? How do we filter and vet the vast amounts of process information required to run a project into a useful document based on what we need it for and who will interact with it? Do we just drop everything into the project plan and hope someone will get around to updating it? Do we use a very minimalistic, critical path kind of approach. If we do the later, how do we determine what needs to be in the project plan and what doesn’t?

I wish I had a handy trick for making this filter. Unfortunately, this is one of those “technique=time+context+person” things. How we build the filter depends entirely on the answers to the previous two questions along with a host of other process related variables. This is why, I suppose, we have consultants.

4) Why is the project plan important?
“Okay. I get the first three. But this is…” I thought I would cut to the chase, because it looked like my client was about to get a headache.

Every document can be important in at least two contexts - the author’s and the reader’s. It’s vitally important to differentiate between the two, otherwise we end up with yet another confused mess involving poor communication and broken expectations.

For an author, the act of writing the document is often sufficient to organize his thoughts and allow him to move forward. He may never have to revisit the document again to gain benefits from it. We generally call this a success, especially if we see a positive improvement in the author’s productivity or development.

For a given reader, the document is only successful if it meets his expectations about what information he will find. To use this blog as an example, if I titled this article “How to make a great cake”, my gentle readers would justifiably want to flog me. For a project plan, we have to know why a reader feels the document might be important to him. Then, and only then, can we hope to meet his expectations.

Each author can with a little bit of work uncover his own motivations. Uncovering the why of a document in a corporate setting can become unwarrentedly challenging due to politics, lack of focus, and compromises which the author might know nothing about. This situation unfortunately dooms the fledgling project manager, but that’s just the way the world works sometimes.

Using these four questions, my client did manage to improve his project managers’ project plans. They ran into some other, more complicated, political situations later on which they found the questions useful for as well. But that is another story…

Exhibit leadership on challenging projects

Project managers need to be leaders. Leadership is easy when things are going well. It’s when times are tough that being a good leader can be hard. It’s also the time when strong leadership is most needed. Here are some things to keep in mind to lead your team through a difficult project.

  • Keep your eyes on the big picture. When things get tough, everybody’s temptation is to become acutely focused on the problems. A leader stays focused on the vision of completing the project objectives. The short-term details are important — to the manager role. While you’re managing the details, your leadership keeps everyone focused on the big picture and the value you’re providing. Don’t get bogged down entirely on the details. Continue to lead as well.
  • Maintain team cohesion. When circumstances get tough, even the most loyal team members can tend to become pessimistic. Team members are tempted to start shooting perceived enemies and, unfortunately, they sometimes shoot each other. They begin to question each other and find fault with one another. A leader fights this urge and helps the team stick together.
  • Be the first to sacrifice. When there’s pain to share, leaders should do just that. If the team needs to work overtime, the project manager should work overtime as well. If the project team needs to come in on Saturday, the project manager needs to be in as well. Don’t just share the pain — take more than your share (but not all) of it.
  • Remain calm. Panic is a common human emotion and no one is immune to it. A leader, however, thinks the problems through and remains rational. Being calm will enable the leader to make the right decisions for the entire team. Panic only leads to disaster, while calm leads to victory.
  • Motivate. In tough and challenging times, people tend to get emotionally drained. They can’t see how it’s all going to work out. The project manager should focus on motivating the team and show how the result will be good. A leader must remain positive and likewise keep the team positive.
  • Create small wins. When things are bad, the team starts to wonder how they can win. The project manager should look for ways to win — even small, interim victories. With each small win, the leader will build esteem and a positive attitude.
  • Keep a sense of humor. Hardly anything in life can’t be laughed at. As the project manager you need to look for opportunities to instill fun, and laugh at yourself and the situations that present themselves.

When project managers show leadership, the team will follow - maybe not immediately, but eventually. The project manager is in the right position to lead the charge and get the entire project back on sound footing again.

How CIOs can meet executive expectations

Commentary--Business demands are increasing According to a Gartner Executive Programs (EXP) worldwide survey of more than 1,400 CIOs, three out of every five enterprises are looking to expand their market share or public mission in 2007. Their executives expect the CIO and the IS organization to play a significant role in improving current business processes, controlling enterprise costs and raising workforce performance. IT contribution to growth is an immediate business expectation. Longer-term expectations for IT call for building new strategic capabilities that will use information to attract and retain customers.

The challenge for CIOs is how much progress have they made against these expectations in the first half of 2007? The answer is important as executives have shortened their expectations, what was a three-year priority is now a one or two-year project. CIOs need to make significant progress on executive priorities in 2007 to meet executive expectations. The rewards for progress are significant as effective CIOs have greater budget increases 44 percent above their peers, they are more likely to report to the CEO (46 percent vs. 33 percent) and their companies are twice as likely to use IT as a source of competitive advantage (64 percent versus 32 percent).

CIOs create value and results through focused leadership on enterprise leverage.
CIOs need tangible progress against the goals of growth and new capabilities as they enter into the 2008 planning and budgeting cycle. CIOs must both strengthen the core of IT and create new sources of value. CIOs cannot rely on traditional actions – like improving operational efficiency, reducing IT costs and automation, which all lead to commoditization – to meet those expectations. Success requires making the enterprise different to attract and retain customers. In response, many CIOs are looking for new sources of enterprise leverage, including technical excellence, agility, information and innovation. CIOs need to create significant change with limited effort through focusing on IT leverage points rather than brute-force change programs.

CIOs need enterprise leverage because the pace and scale of customer demands are overwhelming traditional approaches to change. CIOs create enterprise leverage when a focused effort produces significant results for the enterprise and its strategy Leverage gives CIOs a way to focus their actions and create significant results for the enterprise and its strategies by making it more innovative, use information more effectively and create competitive advantage. CIOs will exploit specific sources of enterprise leverage based on their role in the enterprise and the activities they perform.

Enterprises seek leverage in an increasingly demanding market.
Executives are turning up the competitive volume in 2007. From commercial companies looking to grow market share to public sector agencies expanding their services, all are competing for customers, resources and funding. In the face of this crowded market, executives are pursuing distinct strategies by looking to "get bigger" through mergers and acquisitions ; "faster" at introducing new products; “wider” by expanding their geographic and market reach; and, “closer” to customers to grow the size and value of those relationships.

For the first time in seven years, CEO success requires effective IT. Executives need CIOs and IT to play a significant role in leveraging short-term performance and long-term competitiveness else they too face commoditization in the market. This means that CIOs need to exploit new approaches to transform the business. The good news is that there is a strong connection between effective IT, business effectiveness and innovation. Effective businesses require effective IT to enhance the quality of the customer experience and control enterprise cost structures. Likewise effective IT is a prerequisite to using information to drive innovation.

Creating enterprise leverage changes the roles of the CIO and IT
Creating enterprise leverage positions the CIO and IT in new roles relative to improving current operations and transforming the enterprise. Those that are successful are rewarded by reporting to the CIO more often (46 percent to an average of 35 percent) and they are able to direct more IT resources to strategic projects (43 percent versus 32 percent).

Delivering on executive expectations for new and improved capabilities requires CIOs to make significant improvements in key IT functions particularly those focused on the business application of technologies. CIOs report the need to transform business process improvement, enterprise architecture, business relationship management and business intelligence roles over the next three years.

CIOs need these new business intensive IT capabilities to deliver the new business capabilities executives expect to successfully compete in meeting the needs of demanding customers. The net effect is that leading CIOs recognize that the IS organization they have in place today will not be the IS organization they need in 2010.

Make enterprise leverage a focus of your 2007 CIO agenda.
CIOs are leading IT at a time when IT is in transition from a focus on implementing and operating technology to changing the way the enterprise works. Creating enterprise leverage involves expanding IT's impact beyond making tactical or strategic changes to achieving breakthrough performance. These changes can lead the future of the IS organization in many directions. Thus, the emphasis on flexibility, coupled with the importance of information and information technology, will make the next two years--2007 and 2008--pivotal ones for the CIO and IT.

NASA signs up supercomputing support

NASA has signed a deal with Computer Sciences Corp. for the provision of supercomputing support over the next decade.

The deal is initially for two years, with eight annual options, and could be worth up to $597 million if all the options are taken up by the U.S. space agency.

CSC plans to provide support services to NASA's Advanced Supercomputing Division at the Ames Research Center, the research lab in Silicon Valley that operates some of the most advanced and powerful supercomputers in the world.

The deal will also provide support--as well as high-performance computing research--for the NASA Center for Computational Sciences at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md..

CSC has been working with NASA for about 40 years.

Tom Anderson, president of CSC's North American public-sector division, said the company is pleased to be helping advance the agency's "mission in pioneering the future of space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research."

Cracking open a computer peripherals

Just take a look...

Cracking open a laptop hard drive

Cracking open a flash drive

Cracking open a DVD player

Cracking open Hewlett Packard's IIP, the original personal LaserJet printer

Cracking open the LG C1300 flip phone

Enjoy the pictures!!!

Business Etiquette Abroad

"Etiquette would not seem to play an important part in business, and yet no man can ever tell when its knowledge may be of advantage, or its lack may turn the scale against him." -- Emily Post, 1922.

Although the face of business has changed drastically since 1922, when Emily Post wrote the words above, the secret power of etiquette is just as relevant today. Even in the US, where unspoken values about manners are nearly innate, it is frighteningly easy to offend. But overseas, where the proverbial scales may be calibrated in the metric system or may be spring loaded, you must be particularly attentive to etiquette, or risk unintentionally offending someone.

With today's advanced communication technology and global marketplace, the workplace is becoming more international in nature, and local customs seem to have less sway. But the lightning speed of globalization can be deceptive -- the office environment is thoroughly influenced by the local culture, even in multinational companies. Cultural differences manifest in all aspects of life overseas, but in a few areas they are especially pronounced. Throughout the world, attitudes about time management, personal space, gift giving, humor and food vary enormously. In order to make a good impression on a potential business partner overseas, it is critical to have some understanding of the way in which these topics are treated in the country. Below are a few tidbits about international business etiquette that illustrate some important differences in various areas of the world.

Business Card Protocol

Who could have imagined that so much decorum would surround such small pieces of paper? Before you set off to work overseas, make sure you know the right way to slip someone a business card. In parts of the Middle East, you should never use your left hand when you offer someone a business card, while in many Asian countries, you should always use both hands. In Japan, China, Singapore and other Asian countries, you should spend several seconds studying any business card you are given, and you should never put the card in your pocket or write on it in the presence of the giver.

A Friendly Pat on the Head?

A pat on the head is not a particularly common business salutation, so it's unlikely that you will feel the urge to greet your coworkers in such a manner. But if you are ever tempted to pat someone on the head and you happen to be in Thailand, think twice. The gesture is a grave insult in the country where the top of the head is considered sacred.

Gift Giving

One of the most difficult aspects of working in another country is knowing when it is appropriate to give gifts and what is appropriate to give. In some countries, a gift is a necessary precursor to a business partnership that expresses a willingness to work together. In others, gift giving can be seen as ostentatious and inappropriate in certain circumstances.

Gifts are particularly important in Japan, but you should never give a Japanese company or individual a set of four or nine of anything, as these numbers are unlucky in Japanese culture. Around the world, the wrapping can be just as important as the gift itself. In China, you should avoid wrapping gifts in white or green paper, as they are considered unlucky colors.


Gestures vary greatly from country to country and can easily be the source of slight misunderstanding or serious offences. In Bulgaria and Albania, the gestures are so confusing that they could make your head spin: Nodding your head means no, while shaking it means yes. In Iran, you can go ahead and cross your legs if you want to. But be careful that the sole of your foot isn't facing anyone, as this would be an insult.

Moving Towards A Global Etiquette

Wipul Nanayakkara is originally from Sri Lanka but has worked in Switzerland, Malaysia and Italy and has traveled throughout the world for business. He thinks that, of the indications of a more flexible office environment, "the most important is the attitude towards change. People are very, very resistant to change."

Regardless of the degree to which change is accepted in the country where you work, it is important to familiarize yourself with the fine points of the local business etiquette. Yet if for some reason you find that you have committed a seemingly dire offense, it may not be the end of the world -- or even the interview, as this story illustrates.

Nanayakkara explains that in Sri Lanka, it is generally not acceptable to drink or smoke in front of your boss. But his American friend, "a very outspoken type of guy" who had been working in Malaysia, applied for a position at an investment firm in Sri Lanka. At the last round of the interview process, he was invited to a dinner with the nine other candidates. "Everyone at the dinner was offered a drink,” Nanayakkara says. “Nobody would take one except him, because he thought he wouldn't be selected anyway. So he took a drink, and he was selected." Evidently, some rules of office etiquette are open to change.

Take a Sabbatical Without Derailing Your Career

Are you feeling burned out at your job and in need of the sort of profound refreshment that a two-week vacation can’t begin to achieve? Maybe it’s time for you to go for a career sabbatical, an extended break from your career that can give you the space to explore new directions in your life -- personal or professional.

It’s not easy to get a handle on how likely you are to be granted an extended leave from your employer, even if you’re willing to forgo pay.

The consensus of surveys is that about 20 percent of employers offer what they call a sabbatical, mostly unpaid. Some prestigious firms, including Nike and Newsweek, have offered months-long leaves at full or partial pay. Small firms like Imre Communications of Baltimore, Maryland, offer two weeks extra paid time off every few years, really more of a bonus vacation than a sabbatical.

But when most professionals think sabbatical, they have an extended leave of three or six or 12 months in mind, not just a few weeks, and these career breaks are still rarely granted by US corporations. To take yours, you may need to quit your job with no guarantee your employer will welcome you back.

Certainly, interest in sabbaticals is high among American professionals. Sixty-eight percent of women and 58 percent of men said they would consider taking an extended leave from work, according to an online survey and straw poll by creative staffing firm Aquent and the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth University.

Here’s how to plan and take a sabbatical while reducing the chances you’ll derail your career.

Learn About Your Company’s Sabbatical Policy (If Any)

It’s something of a long shot, but look through your employee manual for mention of sabbatical benefits or ask a trusted human resources representative. “Employers are more open to people coming in and out of the workforce than we think,” says Denise Nash, director of work/life initiatives at Aquent. “But at many companies, the formal policies aren’t in place yet.”

Prepare a Positive Pitch

Before you mention your notion of an extended leave to even one colleague, carefully formulate your upbeat story of what you want to do, why and when you’ll return. “The word ‘sabbatical’ has a certain strength to it,” says Hope Dlugozima, a vice president at WebMD and coauthor of Six Months Off. “Sabbatical sounds like a plan; it implies a certain amount of time and thoughtfulness. Because the word has power, you have to live up to it.”

Think Creatively with Your Boss

If you intend to return to your current employer after your sabbatical and your employer doesn’t officially offer an extended leave, be prepared to brainstorm. “If your boss offers you a raise or bonus, ask if you can have two months off instead,” says Dlugozima. Some firms will even give you money for a creative travel sabbatical that could bring the company good press, Dlugozima adds.

Keep in Touch While You’re Away

Once you’re on sabbatical, whether it’s based in your hometown or on another continent, consider occasionally taking on a small freelance project to keep involved. “If you can do a project once in a while, you can stay out on sabbatical for a longer time,” says Nash.

Just keeping in touch with your coworkers or other professionals can boost your chances for a smooth and successful reentry, according to Ken Montgomery, director of corporate communications for LogicalApps in Irvine, California. “I took an 18-month career sabbatical to go to Malawi and teach in an orphan care program,” says Montgomery. “I was in this incredibly remote village, but we had electricity and a phone line, so I was able to hop online every three or four weeks and send a dispatch with digital photos. Part of this was, I didn’t want people to forget about me.”

Keep Your Skills Honed for Reentry

Sixty-one percent of hiring managers said that an updated skill set was the top factor in hiring workers who had been on an extended leave from the company or workforce, according to the Aquent study. It’s easy to neglect your professional memberships and licensing while your mind, and perhaps body, are elsewhere, but you do so at your own peril.

Next, “be in touch with the company months before your planned return,” says Cali Yost, president of Work+Life Fit in Madison, New Jersey, and a collaborator with Aquent and Tuck on the study. “And be prepared for the fact that you might return to a different job.”

If you do want to take a sabbatical without changing employers, the trend may be in your favor. Says Yost: “Companies are beginning to look at sabbaticals as a way to retain people.”

Casual or Casualty?

Here are answers to some of the commonly asked questions about what to wear to the interview:

In a Business-Casual World, How Do I Dress for an Interview?

Just a few years ago, everyone knew the answer to this question. The standard interview uniform was suit and tie for men, and a suit with a skirt for women. Anyone arriving at work in a new suit was presumed to be interviewing elsewhere that day. But now that workplace dress codes have relaxed, both men and women have more choices when it comes to interview attire.

Does That Mean the Uniform Is Out?

Not necessarily. It's still important to make a good impression. You just face more decisions about how to do that.

How Will I Decide What to Wear to the Interview?

Remember, each company has an individual culture and environment. Try to find out what the standard is for the company before the interview. When you schedule the interview, ask what would be appropriate. Or call the human resources department and ask what the company's dress code is. Sometimes an interviewer will tell you what to wear: "We don't dress up here, so a suit is not necessary." Some people actually go to the place where they will be interviewing and stand outside at lunchtime or after work to check out employees' clothes.

If Not a Suit, Then What?

A good rule of thumb is to wear something somewhat dressier than what the employees wear to work. Never wear jeans and a T-shirt, especially slogan T-shirts. A jacket is always a safe bet for men and women, with slacks or a skirt. Somehow a jacket seems to pull the outfit together and can cover a multitude of figure problems as well.

But the suit is still a staple in some professions. Salespeople, for example, prefer the suited look, as do other professionals such as lawyers and bankers. Whatever you decide to wear, make sure it fits properly and is of the best quality you can afford. What seems like a big investment now will pale in comparison when you get the job.

How About Women Wearing Pants or a Pantsuit to the Interview?

This question is still somewhat controversial. Some observers say women should always wear a skirt. But a recent issue of Biography magazine offers proof the rules are changing. A feature about first ladies shows several presidents' wives, dating back to the 1900s. All the women pictured are wearing skirts and dresses, until Hillary Clinton. Clinton is wearing her now-trademark pantsuit.

If you are interviewing at an Internet company or a bank, it's always best to keep your outfit on the conservative side. You're giving the interviewer a picture of yourself, so make sure it reflects well on you.

Dress for Success

You probably already know that appearance counts, but this is especially true at the job interview. Your interviewer will not only be judging your answers to his questions, but how you've put yourself together.

Check out these articles to create an overall look that says you're professional -- and hireable:

Dressing for the Interview, by Industry

There's no getting around it: In every job interview, you're going to be judged -- at least partially -- by how you look.

But how you should look varies depending on your industry and the job you're interviewing for. Take a look at general interview attire expectations for eight career areas:


"If you're applying for a technical position, you won't need a suit," says Carole Martin, a former Monster contributor and author of Boost Your Interview IQ. "A collared shirt and khakis or slacks would work. Same goes for women -- sweater or blouse and slacks or a skirt."

But upgrade your attire if you're interviewing for a higher-level job. "You dress in the best clothes you have," says David Perry, managing director for Ottawa, Canada-based high tech recruiting firm Perry-Martel International and author of Career Guide for the High-Tech Professional. "No exceptions."


"Nothing is more precise and exact than managing money," says Pamela Holland, chief operating officer for Brody Communications in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, and coauthor of Help! Was That a Career Limiting Move? "You cannot afford to have a hair out of place. Full business professional attire is required and expected."


At a government interview, "don't be flashy," Holland says. "This is a time to show you're responsible, trustworthy and honest."

But a bit of color is OK, whether you're a man or a woman, says Kathryn Troutman, Monster Federal Career Coach and author of Ten Steps to a Federal Job.

"Be conservative with jewelry, makeup and hairstyles," says Troutman. "Be conservative overall." But "the days of all white shirts for men in government need to end," she adds.

Human Resources

For an HR interview, "you must look professional and authoritative," Martin says. "You'll need the look that you could handle any crisis and be dependable."


Typically, a suit is the uniform for a sales interview. After all, stresses Martin, "who would want to buy from a guy in a T-shirt and jeans?"

But you might be able to go with bolder designs and colors, says Holland. "The product or service you're representing will determine how classic versus trendy/fashionable you should be," she explains.


"Here's an exception where a potential employer will understand if you have a little dirt or grease under your nails," says Holland. "You still want to look as neat as possible, but a suit is probably not necessary."

That is, unless you're interviewing at a high-end dealership, says Heidi Nelson, a personnel counselor for Car People Oregon, a Portland, Oregon, automotive staffing service for new-car dealerships. In that case, Nelson says, "I would dress up a bit more."


Image is particularly critical in the hospitality industry, says Martin. A suit is appropriate for some positions but not always a must. However, you always need to make a great initial impression.

"You're representing the company, and you may be the first person seen," she says.


John Coffey worked as a factory production manager for years before becoming a career coach. His take on appropriate attire for an interview in the trades: Business casual.

"For men, this might be a nice pair of Dockers and a buttoned shirt, along with well-kept and polished shoes," says Coffey, career success officer for Winning Careers in Woodbury, Minnesota. "The same goes for women -- nice slacks and a professional business top. I think a suit or sports jacket for this type of work is overkill."

Of course, one industry's excess is another industry's underdressed. So don't be afraid to ask, because no matter what, "your packaging counts," says Holland.

That packaging includes the little things. "The details matter," says Mary Lou Andre, president of Needham, Massachusetts-based Organization by Design and author of Ready to Wear: An Expert's Guide to Choosing and Using Your Wardrobe. For example, shoes "should be in excellent condition, as should totes and outerwear."

"You really never do get a second chance to make a good first impression," Andre stresses. "By investing some time and money in creating a suitable interview wardrobe, you will invite others to easily invest back in you."

Dress Appropriately for Interviews

What do I wear to the interview? It's a question millions of people agonize over on some level while looking for a job.

The bad news is that there are few cut-and-dried answers. As the saying goes, there's no accounting for taste, and each interviewer has his unique sense of what's appropriate interview attire. The good news? Deciding what to wear isn't as difficult as you might think.

Dress One or Two Levels Up

"The rule of thumb is that you dress one or two levels higher than the job that you're going for," explains Kate Wendleton, president and founder of the Five O'Clock Club, a national career counseling and outplacement firm. "If you were going for a job as a mechanic, you wouldn't go in there in dirty overalls, even though that's how you would dress for that kind of work. You would still go in there and show respect. You would go in with an open-collar shirt, clean pants and maybe a jacket."

As Wendleton puts it, by dressing a notch or two above what's standard apparel for the position you're interviewing for, "you're definitely showing that you care about this job, and that you know the game."

Caution Is The Better Part of Valor

When it's time to get dressed for the interview, remember: It's not so much that you're trying to get the job with what you wear, it's more a matter of not taking yourself out of contention with your presentation, Wendleton says. "Interviewers can decide in 10 seconds that they don't want you," she adds. "It will take them longer to decide they do want you." Chances are good that by dressing on the conservative side, you won't unintentionally disqualify yourself. But trying to demonstrate how hip you are with your exposed lower back tattoos or laid-back Juicy Couture outfit could backfire.

This Isn't 1999

Once upon a time during the dotcom heyday, recounts Wendelton, "people would come in with nose rings and sandals, and because there really was a severe labor shortage, they'd get hired."

She says that young, freshly minted grads often make the mistake these days of going too casual, perhaps confusing what once was with what now is. "These days, people are not desperate for you," she points out. "Recent grads tend to dress like they're students at interviews. Nobody forgives that. Not in this market."

Use Your Judgment

Is a suit always a must in an interview? Absolutely not. Michael Smith, who recently searched for a job in the Chicago area, went on an interview in the midst of a bitter cold snap in that region. "So instead of wearing a suit, I wore black slacks and a sweater," says Smith. "The sweater was large and cable-knit but very nice and high quality. The interviewer actually said to me that it was nice to see something other than a suit walk through his door. And a week later, I got the job."

So be sure to learn about an industry's fashion culture; some are obviously more casual than others. It's also usually fine to inquire about the dress code while setting up the interview. An Armani coat and tie or your nice Ann Taylor outfit may not be required if you discover the dress code is casual.

"But it's never fine to go in with a collarless shirt," warns Wendleton. And for men, she suggests putting on a jacket, even when not wearing a tie.

You Might Not Want to Be Too True to Yourself

There are those who say it's pointless to dress for an interview in a way that you wouldn't once you're on the job. Why misrepresent yourself to a future employer or try to be someone you're not?

"If you want to have eight earrings and have your tongue pierced, that's fine," says Wendleton. "But you're showing you don't know how to play the game. If it's so important to you, go ahead and dress like you normally do, but realize that you may not get the job."

Look the Part

Whether you're going to the bank for a loan or to the local auto shop for an oil change, you should look the part. While it's nice to think appearances don't matter, they usually do.

I'm not talking about dressing up or staying in fashion (although I highly suggest it), and this is not a diatribe on how casual Fridays and T-shirts represent the decline of Western civilization. I'm simply saying you are more likely to command respect and get what you want if you're dressed appropriately for your surroundings.

If I'm going to get my car serviced or buy tires, I don't wear a suit. I put on jeans, boots and a cap. I want to be taken seriously by the person with whom I'm dealing. I may be as knowledgeable as the mechanic, but he will make instant assumptions about me based upon my appearance. If I'm in a suit and look as though I don't even pump my own gas, how seriously will they take me? By the same token, if I'm going to the bank to talk with someone about a loan, I don't wear shorts and a cap.

Appearance Equals Message

This really hit home with me at one National Speakers Association Annual Convention. I was listening to a speech by one of the nation's leading sales experts. The audience was made up of sales trainers and sales consultants -- people who make their living teaching others how to make more sales, improve relationships with customers and present a professional image to customers.

Half the room seemed to fit the image of someone a major organization would hire to help their sales staff become more effective. They were dressed casually, yet professionally and tastefully. They were neat, well-groomed and reasonably fit.

The other half of the room was a different story. There were men in sweat suits, others wearing pants about to explode at the seams, and a handful of toupees that looked like they used to reside on forest animals. Now don't get me wrong. You won't find me on the cover of GQ anytime soon, but I try to appear tastefully current and professional.

Would I feel confident putting some of these people in front of my sales staff or clients as an example of what to do? Sadly, the answer is no -- regardless of the information and skills they offer. Many people would tune them out and question their credibility, because their appearance was inconsistent with their message of professionalism and success.

Maybe you've heard the saying, "Don't trust a skinny chef." You should look the part. Although looks and appearances aren't everything, first impressions can count for a lot. It's very difficult to overcome a poor first impression, regardless of your knowledge or expertise.

Smart Stuff to Remember

  • Appearances do matter.
  • Don't underestimate the power of a first impression. People make assumptions about you based upon your appearance at your first meeting.
  • You are more likely to receive better service, command more respect and get what you want if you are dressed and speak appropriately for your surroundings.
  • Your appearance should be consistent with your message.
Ten Interview Fashion Blunders What Not to Wear to the Interview

Any article about what to wear to an interview might well begin with a qualifying statement covering the extremes in various states (New York and California, for example) and industries (technology, manufacturing), which are possible exceptions to the normal rules of fashion. But it might surprise you to learn that those extremes have, over the last couple of years, begun to move closer to the middle ground.

Nowadays, if you were to ask 100 people their opinion about what to wear to an interview, the majority would answer, "Dress on the conservative side." With that in mind, here are some suggestions on how to avoid fashion blunders.

Anna Soo Wildermuth, an image consultant and past president of the Association of Image Consultants International, says, "Clothes should be a part of who you are and should not be noticed." She cites 10 dressing faux pas to avoid when interview time comes around:

  • Wild Nail Polish: This tip is for women or men. Extremely long or uncut nails are a real turnoff, too. Your nails should be groomed and neat.
  • Jewelry That Jangles: Don't wear more than two rings per hand or one earring per ear. And no face jewelry or ankle bracelets allowed.
  • Open-Toed or Backless Shoes: And mules are a definite no-no. Out-of-date shoes should be thrown out or kept for other occasions.
  • Bare Legs: Wear stockings, even in humid summer weather. Stockings can be in neutral colors or a fashion color to match your shoes.
  • Out-of-Date Suits: These have lapels that are too wide (three inches or more) or too narrow (one inch or less). A good tailor can alter lapels. The style for men's jackets is full-body and looser rather than fitted or tight.

  • Short Skirts: Hemlines should not be more than three inches above the knee. Don't wear capri pants or leggings to the interview.
  • Leather Jackets for Men or Women: Even leather blazers are not good for interviewing purposes. They look like outerwear.
  • Turtlenecks for Men: A tie is preferable, at least in the first go-round. At the very least, wear a collared shirt.

  • Printed or Trendy Handbags: Purses should be conservative and inconspicuous.
  • Red Briefcases: Briefcases, purses and shoes should all be conservative in color and in good condition.

Conservative colors in various shades of blue and gray are best. Wearing black to the interview could be viewed as too serious. If you do wear black, make sure that there is another color near your face to soften the look. Brown is still considered questionable as a business color and probably should be avoided. Change your outfit's look for a second interview by wearing a different color blouse, shirt, scarf or tie.

An interview is not the place to make a fashion statement, though those in the art fields and the very famous can be more adventurous. Everyone else should opt for a conservative look. "More and more companies are returning to traditional professional dress," says Wildermuth.

Whatever you wear should accent the fact that you're a professional who's ready to get to work at a new job. Let common sense guide you, and it should be easy to avoid fashion blunders that could damage your chances of getting to the next level in the process. In this market, it is essential that you look good and your appearance is right for the job.

So Beaware of it!!!