Readers weigh in on . . . 2005

Kids will be kids

A lot of teenagers are preternaturally adept at managing computer systems. Maybe it’s because some of them learned to type before they could write. What they do with those skills is another matter. One Canadian teen used them for nefarious purposes. One father of three daughters wrote in to tell us his kids use them at home, but the idea of a career in IT is anathema to them.

Re: Canadian teen sentenced in Randex virus case (Jan. 5)

Sophos security analyst Gregg Mastoras is quoted as saying that “he’s not out for profit or to damage large corporations. It was more for his own personal knowledge” and “Most of the time it’s done for nothing other than bragging rights . . . They don’t realize who they’re hurting or what’s happening until it’s actually shown to them.” Either Mr. Mastoras is unbelievably naive or he just doesn’t know much about teens. It is impossible that these young hackers aren’t perfectly aware of what effect they’re having — after all they have access to all the news on the subject, just as we do; and if bragging rights are at stake then the more damage they can do, then the more prestige they will get among their fellows.

Nine months probation with no restrictions on his Internet use — what sort of deterrent is that? Putting him to work as a data entry clerk until he’s paid off some portion of the damage he’s caused would bring it home to him. If hacking of this sort is considered undesirable and worthy of criminal investigation then the perpetrators need to be made to understand this! (I won’t say slap on the wrist, I won’t, I won’t . . .)

Peter Lacey

Re: Doesn’t ANYONE want to be a programmer? (July 19)

I am an IT manager with three daughters entering post secondary and none of them is even vaguely interested in this field even though they are all computer savvy. They use the computer all the time, MSN, Internet, etc., have built Web sites with tools but wanting to understand the nuts and bolts? Just not interested. Maybe Dad’s a nerd, or the whole idea seems just really boring. One sees event planning as much more exciting or owning her own gym. I don’t blame them really, when you watch TV there isn’t any shows about guys and girls having problems with IIS and auto restarts. Lawyers, doctors, writers, Police, Fire even the new home improvement shows all at least look interesting. I have another pet peeve with this industry and that is generally once you get into the computer side of things you are stuck there. People do not see IT staff as capable of moving into other areas such as sales or senior management. CIOs do not turn into CEOs. I have made a good living at this but I don’t know if I would recommend it to my kids.

I consistently enjoy ready your column.

Steve Cain
Manager Information Systems
IRLY Distributors Ltd.

Public sector pugilists

From the way the government handled its relationship with small businesses to its outlook on security and privacy issues, nothing rankled readers more than news from the public sector.

Re: Public Works’ procurement changes rile CATA, SMEs (Jan. 12)

The federal government claims that small and medium-sized business has some importance for them but takes our tax dollars and says, in effect, “you have to be a big corporation to work with us.” Now, if only they’d take that attitude at taxation time — I mean, why not? Why don’t they exempt smaller and boutique companies from taxation — since we obviously don’t get any “representation.”

Now, where did they put those boxes with the tea in them?

Jim Love, CMC
Managing Partner
True North

Re: Feds respond to Auditor General’s IT security critique (Feb. 16)

I am a federal government employee who has a strong background in IT security. I am a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) and also on the Advisory Board for intrusion detection of the Systems Administration and Network Security Institute (SANS), a world leader in IT security.

The main problem with IT security in the federal government is not that there is not enough spent on IT security, but that the expenditures go to “toys,” computer hardware and software that are bought as “magic bullets” for security without consideration that security is part of the business process of a department, not an add-on that can somehow make things secure.

IT security is too often a section within the IT function which sees it as an impediment to its mandate. Information is the lifeblood of most government departments, so the confidentiality, integrity and availability of that information should be central to the policy and procedures of a department, not just something to be added as an afterthought when developing departmental systems.

The Treasury Board, the RCMP and the CSE have provided lots of resources so that we could have good IT security, but departments have no incentive to implement these recommendations. Instead these are seen as “nice to have,” but there is no requirement to have any expertise in IT security. Most IT security groups within the government are operational, not policy. They look after the latest toys, but are not at a level to actually influence departmental policy and improve security.

In my department, there is no security policy group, just an IT security operations group that maintains the Internet firewall, installs anti-virus, etc.

The group that does systems planning has no security expertise. Security is seen as an impediment to the development of new systems because it asks nasty questions that can not be answered by vendors. The Departmental Security Officer (DSO) group has no expertise in IT. The IT security manager is also chief of operations. It is seen as somehow outside the mainstream of the department and so has little clout in improving security.

Bill Royds
Ottawa

Re: Feds probe possible holes in critical infrastructure (April 21)

Since I joined the federal government in the 1980s I have witnessed the adverse effects of government downsizing and sweeping budget cuts on redundancy and reliability of government systems and networks.

At one time we had two national weather centres with fully redundant processing capabilities, alternates routes, network paths and backup services including UPS, generators, physical locations and hot sites right down to the local level in many communities.

Many communities had converted bomb shelter facilities into disaster hot sites. Most of these have now been mothballed. Although I am encouraged that this study is taking place, I suspect it will take time, money, patience, planning, and education of the public to regain the ground that has been lost over the past 15 to 20 years. I have been an advocate for addressing these issues for many years, but my voice was drowned out by the political will to cut at any cost. Hopefully this will change. As a public servant and a concerned citizen I will continue to do what I can to help find and implement solutions to protect and improve our critical infrastructure.

Pierre Laframboise
Sr. Informatics Specialist
PWGSC/ITS

Re: Federal IT workers fight proposed incentive cuts (June 27)

What can I say but management has the inherent right to manage?

CS employees were hired fully aware of the IT boom in the National Capital and the bonus pay offered to them. What, did they think the gravy train was going to last forever? All the rest of us Federal Public Service must comply and now it is their turn.

Two options come to mind:

1. Take a job in the private sector before your years of service locks you in.

2. Take what percentage the union can negotiate and get over it.

Welcome to PSC world.

Thank you for letting me comment.

Stephen VanVeit
PWGSC

RIM on the edge

Research in Motion is currently embroiled in a patent dispute with NTP – that much is self-evident. Our coverage of the legal spat started early in the year and will no doubt continue into 2006. As the letter to our March 16 story indicates, there has been a tendency to declare a victor before the fight’s really over. The situation resulted in some interesting points of view from our readership on the nature of intellectual property rights as a whole.

Re: RIM settlement lifts cloud over BlackBerry’s future (March 16)

I am glad to hear of the settlement by RIM with NTP.

I noticed right away the lawyers were there to worry over the precedent possibilities.

Good for the companies involved. For a change they sat down, made an agreement and left the lawyers out of it. All lawyers do is add extra expense to a situation like this and really do not guarantee that all will be well from the settlement.

If we could let the lawyers deal with criminal offenses and let people and businesses carry on with “hand-shake” deals, we would all be the better for it. Every time a lawyer gets their hands on a problem, they only do what is necessary for them to make money.

Dale Lung
FPS

Re: RIM faces judicial setback in patent fight with NTP (Oct. 11)

It comes to no surprise that RIM is tied up in a legal battle over software patents in a country where the intellectual property is about anything.

It also shows how important Linus Torvald’s (and acolytes) fight against software patenting in Europe is. Software patenting limits innovation and only protects big corporation with big money.

The logic is there: put two developers in two opposite corner of the universe to develop a certain software and with no doubts you will end up having some code and function similarities. In other words, put a computation problem in front of a developer and he/she will resolve it. Patenting software is almost like patenting how to hammer a nail. Copyrights protects the illegal copying of software, not patents.

There was once a joke that Microsoft had just patented the binary system. Since everything (almost) can be resumed to a question of “yes” or “no,” everyone had to pay patent fee to Microsoft.

I can almost see this happening for real in the U.S.

Joffrey Bienvenue
IS Operations Manager
Peerless Clothing Inc.
Montreal


Mac attack!

Apple fans rushed to the defence of their beloved OS at every possible opportunity. All eyes were on the iPod in 2005, but Tiger continues to burn brightly.

Re: Put your mini where your mouth is (Jan. 12)

Why is it so difficult for some of you journalists to “get” the Mini? You can’t price-compare it to Dell because the whole point is that it is not Windows. Say goodbye to viruses, malware, adware, crappy user experience, and all that other wonderful stuff PC users endure. The value of having iLife is easily worth the price of the Mini alone, for God’s sake! Then there is OSX which is far more advanced than anything MS has. Plus, I defy you to go price out a comparable Dell system and come out cheaper. You work in a Mac shop, man, you know better!

Maurice Pelletier
Learning Technologies Branch
Alberta Learning

Re: Government builds war room for Canada’s IT security (Feb. 2)

As an Apple and PC network supporter can I suggest that Apple be included in this “war room.” After all, I have never in 10 years found an Apple virus and my ISP spam catcher dumps well over a hundred PC spams and viruses daily.

James Rischmiller

Re: Tiger Beat (May 3)

You said in your article: “It’s the technical underpinnings of the platform – its security, its ability to store and support more memory, its hooks into mobiledevices – that will really matter, at least to enterprise users.”

This gives the impression to your readers, that don’t know any better, that this is something that may be lacking from Tiger, when in fact Tiger, and Panther for that matter, blows XP out of the water in these areas as well. And please don’t try to compare Tiger to Longhorn (the holy grail of all the microserfs), because this bovine dream doesn’t exist in a way that would allow or deserve any kind of real comparison.

Go see for yourself the “technical underpinnings” of Tiger. You will be amazed. http://www.apple.com/macosx/techspecs/

Maurice Pelletier
Learning Technologies Branch
Alberta Learning
Edmonton


Star Tours

Some notable events from the world of science fiction in 2005 included the release of the final chapter of George Lucas’s Star Wars saga and the passing of James Doohan, the actor who played Montgomery Scott on Star Trek. Readers let us know they’re watching. Maybe it’s because Scotty could handle even the worst of IT glitches with a grin and shot of whiskey.

Re: May the Force be upgraded (May 20)

I agree, you most certainly could have saved Anakin Skywalker from the Dark Side!

It is such a joy to read your editorials. Without them the IT Business newsletter wouldn’t be the same. I am just an insignificant retired one-man operation, but enjoy your daily e-mail very much!!

Hopefully I am not the only who appreciates you and pays you a compliment.

Dieter Reimers

Re: How to run your enterprise like the Enterprise (July 20)

Scotty died and there wasn’t (as far as I could tell) a single mention in any newspaper. Conversely, General William Westmoreland died recently and merited a half-page obit. Who had the greater impact on our (I’m being presumptuous here) generation? Go figure.

I still watch some original series reruns, and while they seem hokey by today’s standards, I try my best to remember that they were produced 40 years ago. Groundbreaking at the time.

Rest in peace, Lt. Cmdr. Montgomery Scott.

Brian Oliver

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