Tuesday 27 March 2012

Social Media: Lose your liberty for the abuse of your freedom

Consequence arrives swiftly
The jailing of Liam Stacey today for 56 days for acts a judge condemned as "vile and abhorrent" brings into focus the consequences of the abuse of social media tools.
Mr Stacey, a 21-year old biology student had taken the opportunity to be nasty and unsympathetic when Patrice Muamba, a football player unfortunately suffered a cardiac arrest whilst playing some 10 days ago.
When called out for his comments, he became more unstrained in racist and atrocious abuse that people who read his comments contacted the police to act on his expressed views.
With freedom some responsibility
There is a place where people might have forcefully defended the freedom of speech and that in itself is a right but such freedoms must be used responsibly and with consideration – that is what differentiates between those who are considerate and those who are unreasonable or even worse.
A person when told they are wrong should be able to recognise that fact, accept fault and do well to make amends through apology and restitution. To stubbornly hold one’s ground in defiance even if you are not answerable to anyone and though have acted in utterly bad taste might well be delusional and foolish.
No excuses
In the case of Mr Stacey, he had revelled during the day and gotten apparently drunk in celebration of the victory of the Welsh rugby team, but drunkenness is no excuse for bad behaviour or the lack of restraint. Those who drink and drive can expect to face dire consequences when nabbed by the long arm of the law and in this case, those who drink and type stupidly will find themselves brought to book well beyond their expectations.
It might well have been a moment of foolishness, exacerbated by drunken stupidity and emboldened by a sense of anonymity provided by the Internet which naively allows for impunity and thereby no inkling of consequence, we know better now.
Express for distress
Mr Stacey has been made an example of and a precedent has been set; you cannot be ensconced behind a computer in some non-descript place fulminating in contrary and vile vituperations expecting nothing to result as your future begins to take a turn well beyond your control.
Once you sit at a keyboard and begin to type to the viewing and reading of a public, you automatically and implicitly assume responsibility for your publications be they on fast moving theatres of discourse as Twitter, Facebook or on blogs.
You cannot set out to abuse, offend and vilify for a thrill at the expense of others, even if there are few that might see your jokes, there might be many more that have just cause and purpose to seek redress for offence.
Seeking polite society again
We can for all reasons and manner of expression have the broadest range of views but they must be expressed with consideration, politeness [this is me being old-fashioned when rudeness with expletives comes easily to many], decency, with respect, in fairness, within a sense of discernment of the public mood and with some restraint even if the view is somewhat valid and true.
We all have the ability to be disagreeable, nasty and cantankerous but we can choose to just disagree, whilst being nice and sometimes restrain the urge to say anything.
That this issue has been so swiftly dealt with is instructive to matters of racial abuse and other reprehensible behaviour especially when it comes to football with players and the fans alike where the authorities seem to tardy in dealing with reports of offence and abuse – they need to be more responsive.
Your freedom or your liberty?
One can feel quite sorry for Liam Stacey but the bigger lesson to the many that learn of his ordeal should be, what you write matters; if you are vile, you are crossing a line and should immediately reflect, review, recant and repent, in any case you are not guaranteed anonymity whilst your excuses might not hold water as to your state of mind or the abuse of your computer.
If you cannot police your social media activities, the police will be on your door step and your freedom of expression just hours before might well be the loss of your freedom for days, weeks, months or even years – the harshness of the sentence might be determined by the absence of heart in the sentence that put you in trouble in the first place.
Don’t take undue liberty with your freedom of expression, else the law will be at liberty to curtail your freedom and restrict your liberty at the pleasure of constituted authority.

Tuesday 13 March 2012

My Droid - Restoring the sounds to wake up to

Missing sounds of Bach
My Droid life has it excitements of annoyance and discovery but there is never a dull moment.
I cannot remember why I encountered my most recent problem; I had been missing calls for about a month or so because I was not hearing the phone ring.
My ringtone is an MP3 [Music-encoded] file by Johann Sebastian Bach, a church cantata Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, shortened to Wachet auf which in English is Sleepers Wake or in full Wake up, the voice calls to us.
There have been times I have seen the screen on my phone light up but with a non-distinct and unfamiliar sound signifying a call was coming in.
Unravelling the problem
At first I thought it was a bug that I considered getting a volume booster but other features like the dock-mode that allowed me playback my classical collection, the bible or other messages seemed to work fine, I was a bit baffled.
Over the last few months there have some changes to my phone like when I was in India and I used an Indian SIM, that seemed to mess up the workings of SPB Shell 3D, a user interface I had used with my previous Windows Mobile phone that I thought I could not do without.
HTC eventually worked on their HTC Sense user interface that improved its performance after an upgrade that I was no more bothered about the 3rd party application.
Then last month I upgraded my microSD card and I think that was when my ringtone was reset to a default I was unfamiliar with.
Solving the problem
I did not realise how bad it was until this morning when two calls were missed with the phone literally beside me and I was notified of voicemails left by the callers. Then I had had enough and scoured the web for ideas as to why I was not hearing my phone ring.
When I checked the Sound options under the Settings menu, I realised my ringtone was not in the list, so I searched for my original ringtone, set it as the new ringtone and it played back just as I would have expected.
Soon after a call came in and well, I heard my phone ring - Problem solved.
Something to keep in mind
The lesson learnt? Anytime you make any major changes or installations to your mobile phone check that the significant notifications have not been reset.
Primarily, if you expect an audible alert for incoming calls, messages, emails and any other indicators, check those settings and ensure they have not been changed.
Also check that your user interface has not been modified and the frequently accessed applications have not been impaired or corrupted.
In the end, it saves the annoyance of missed calls especially where you are expecting responses for interviews and job applications in a rather turbulent employment-seeking environment.

Tuesday 6 March 2012

Windows 8 Customer Preview - Not on your old laptop

Not fully cooked
Every once in a while I go the whole hog to test Beta software, this is software that has not yet been released as completed but at a stage where the manufacturer is confident enough to give the wider public a run of the product and obtain feedback that will allow issues, problems, bugs and other unforeseen scenarios to be ironed out.
Last week, Microsoft released the equivalent of a Beta for their next version of Microsoft Windows which they have with marketing aplomb called Windows 8Customer Preview.
Normally, people would think for such a new operating system, there will be such stringent requirements to run it but Microsoft seemed to lower the bar.
Hope at first
Now, Microsoft does suggest that we can install this on the same hardware that powers Windows 7, but is unlikely that many like me will be ready to jettison our main Windows 7 systems or laptops for software that is in flux.
However, if perchance one of our trusty but old workhorses can be brought back from the brink of obsolescence that would be wonderful.
So I looked through the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) to see if my workhorse qualifies and this is what Microsoft says I need at the minimum.
Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster – I have a Pentium M running at 1.7 GHz
RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) (32-bit) or 2 GB (64-bit) – Planning to run 32-bit, I have 2 GB
Hard disk space: 16 GB (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit) – 80GB hard disk with 29GB free, planned a wipe, then install.
Graphics card: Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device or higher – Supports this minimum.
It was my 7 year old laptop generically built by Compal, for many vendors who rebrand it for their line of products.
Backup always
As I am quite fastidious, I did not backup my laptop, I took an image of the disk using an old copy of Symantec Ghost running from my customised BartPE [A pre-installation environment that is a cut-down version of Microsoft Windows XP allow you to perform tasks like accessing your hard disk without the problems of open files.] boot CD streaming it over the network to another server. Backups are critically essential; my main systems get backed up every day.
This laptop however is mainly only used for Skype calls but for this situation, it was only right to take a disk image, just in case.
And so fast
Having obtained the ISO image, I burnt the image to DVD using IMGBurn a really neat and free tool and booted up my laptop with the DVD.
I could not get beyond the initial screen it was a Windows Recovery Environment screen suggesting “Your PC needs to be repaired”; it was an unexpected error with the error code 0xc0000260.
My PC had already passed the assessment test for installing Windows 7, so I thought; it was registering an indeterminate error.
Getting beyond that
I then found out I could run the Setup from within Windows XP Professional if I had Service Pack 3, you can determine that with pressing Window key + R to bring up the Run dialog box and type in WINVER – this will reveal what version of Windows you are running.
So, rebooting my laptop to Windows XP, I inserted the DVD and ran setup, over the next 90 minutes, I had the installation go through and complete. When my laptop restarted, I got that Windows Recovery Environment Error again.
This time I had to search for what Error Code: 0xC0000260 meant when installing Windows 8 Customer Preview.
The long and short of the tale is the code has changed from the version before the Customer Preview where according to comments Windows 8 did install without issues but now certain other checks are being made that makes the installation and start-up fall over at the Windows Recovery Environment.
Solutions and alternatives
The skinny on the matter is this.
Others had issues with installing it on their virtual machines, notably, VMWare and VirtualBox and the suggestion was to enable PAE/NX settings for the Virtual Machine or for hardware enable the PAE feature in BIOS – those features however are not offered on the Pentium M processor on my laptop, you can determine what kind of processor you have with CPU-Z.

In the end, we are waiting to see if Microsoft will offer a way to put new wine in old wine skins allowing us to revive our trusty old laptops with this new-fangled operating system.
Meanwhile, I restored the Ghost disk image back to my laptop and installed Windows 8 Customer Preview on a Virtual Machine created on Hyper-V on one of my other systems, a bit disappointed in the fact that I could not get my laptop a new lease of life but at least I get to experience the look-and-feel of Windows 8 – Quite so different, I’ll say.

Thursday 1 March 2012

My Professional Life: A Synopsis

My professional Information Technology life
It started in 1988, which is when I got my first job supporting Information technology installations that included hardware maintenance and repairs as well as the installation/support of software and the resolution of problems that arise from such deployments.
I trained as an Electrical/Electronics Engineer, learnt to program in Basic, ForTRAN 77 and Pascal but it was not long before I realised that most of the hardware components even where they could be fixed our customers preferred to replace faulty systems and have their systems functional in the shortest possible time so they could get on with their work.
This became the excitement of my whole career, looking for working, functional, cost-effective and enduring solutions to problems my customers have.
Addressing thorny problems
Most of my working life has had me in consultancy positions crafting methods and processes of getting disparate systems and applications to work together, the first of which in those days was mail-merging a Dbase III address database into a formal letter in Wordstar, working with Lotus 1-2-3 and Harvard Graphics for presentations, then being an expert for a legal publishing company working for Xerox Ventura Publisher, Dbase III, WordPerfect, CorelDraw and many other utilities.
When I worked for a further education college, I laid out the plan to migrate from the then expensive support structure and archaic network operating system of RM Machines to more open and cost-effective third-party systems running on Novell Netware 3.11 and more contemporaneous Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office software on the clients.
Server Support & Software Distribution
After that project, I ran Novell Netware environments for an actuarial firm and then for an insurance firm offering remote support to over 20 sites in the United Kingdom and abroad. By then, I was already Novell Netware Certified and was ready for my new assignment at an oil company where I deployed the first software distribution process using Microsoft SMS 1.1.
From 1996, I have designed, built, supported and trained people and teams in Microsoft SMS 1.1/1.2/2.0/2003 and Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007 in the finance, insurance, computer services, aviation, banking and electronic consumer goods industries.
Changing the organisation
Software Deployment for me has not just been a tool, it has been a method that extends to the improvement of the interaction that users in an enterprise have with the systems that can make them more productive in their work life.
The basic concept that has governed the work I do is optimising and perfecting the user experience such that what the user needs is available in a timely and affordable manner, meaning that the support frameworks have to be streamlined, the solutions have to be easy and the ideas have to be repeatable with respect to device, usage and access.
That is what makes my work fun and challenging, I always look forward to opportunities that are receptive of progressive change and it is my job to ensure that the process of change is as seamless and pain-free as possible.
This blog will serve as forum to offer ideas, bring together opinions and highlight different aspects of my career.