Monday, August 31, 2009

Pakistan illegally modified Harpoon missile and P-3C aircraft

The Obama administration has accused Pakistan of illegally modifying the Harpoon anti-ship missile and maritime surveillance aircraft P-3C for land attacks for potential use against India, validating New Delhi's fears that Islamabad was using US security aid to beef up its military against it.

The Obama administration, reported The New York Times in a front-page story, lodged its protest in this regard with Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in June, adding to the tension between the two countries.

Quoting unnamed officials from the administration and the US Congress, the daily said Washington has also accused Pakistan of modifying American-made P-3C aircraft for land-attack missions, another violation of United States law.

The Obama administration's accusation confirms New Delhi's stand that the US military aid is primarily used by Pakistan to strengthen and build up its army against India.

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna earlier this month said that India has conveyed to the US that all forms of aid provided to Pakistan is "invariably directed" against New Delhi and providing more arms to Islamabad will not help the peace process in the region.

"We have told the US that particularly in case of Pakistan, whatever aid in whatever form has been given to them is invariably directed against India and this has been emphatically registered with the US government," Krisha had said, reacting to the US' plans to provide more military aid to Pakistan.
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Sunday, August 30, 2009

10 things you should know about virtualization

Virtualization has been a major buzzword in the IT world for a few years. Microsoft already has Virtual Server and Virtual PC, as well as stiff competition on the virtualization front from VMWare and Citrix/XenSource.

With all these options, taking the plunge into virtualization can be a big and confusing step. Here are a few things you should know about virtualization and virtualization software before you start to plan a deployment.

#1: Virtualization is a broad term with many meanings

Virtualization software can be used for a number of purposes. Server consolidation (running multiple logical servers on a single physical machine) is a popular way to save money on hardware costs and make backup and administration easier, and that’s what we’re primarily focused on in this article. However, other uses include:

  • Desktop virtualization, for running client operating systems in a VM for training purposes or for support of legacy software or hardware.
  • Virtual testing environments, which provide a cost-effective way to test new software, patches, etc., before rolling them out on your production network.
  • Presentation virtualization, by which you can run an application in one location and control it from another, with processing being done on a server and only graphics and end-user I/O handled at the client end.
  • Application virtualization, which separates the application configuration layer from the operating system so that applications can be run on client machines without being installed.
  • Storage virtualization, whereby a SAN solution is used to provide storage for virtual servers, rather than depending on the hard disks in the physical server.

#2: Not all VM software is created equal

An array of virtualization programs are available, and the one(s) you need depends on exactly what you need to do. You might want to run a virtual machine on top of your desktop operating system, running a different OS, either to try out a new OS or because you have some applications that won’t run in one of the operating systems.

For example, if you’re using Windows XP as your desktop OS, you could install Vista in a VM to get to know its features. Or if you’re running Vista but you have an application you occasionally need to use that isn’t compatible with it, you could run XP in a VM with that application installed. For simple uses like this, a low-cost or free VM program, such as VMWare Workstation or Microsoft’s Virtual PC, will work fine.

On the other hand, if you need to consolidate several servers and thus need maximum scalability and security, along with sophisticated management features, you should use a more robust VM solution, such as VMWare’s ESX Servers, Microsoft’s Virtual Server or (when it’s available) the Hyper-V role in Windows Server 2008. For relatively simple server virtualization scenarios, you can use the free VMWare Server.

#3: Check licensing requirements first!

As far as licensing is concerned, most software vendors consider a VM to be no different from a physical computer. In other words, you’ll still need a software license for every instance of the operating system or application you install, whether on a separate physical machine or in a VM on the same machine.

There may also be restrictions in the EULA of either the guest or host OS regarding virtualization. For example, when Windows Vista was released, the licensing agreements for the Home Basic and Home Premium versions prohibited running those operating systems in VMs, but Microsoft has since changed those licensing terms in response to customer input.

Windows Server 2008’s EULA provides for a certain number of virtual images that can be run on the OS, depending on the edition. This ranges from none on Web edition to one on Standard, four on Enterprise, and an unlimited number on Datacenter and Itanium editions.

#4: Be sure your applications are supported

Another issue that needs to be addressed up front is whether the application vendor will support running its software in a virtual machine. Because VMs use emulated generic hardware and don’t provide access to the real hardware, applications running in VMs may not be able to utilize the full power of the installed video card, for example, or may not be able to connect to some of the peripherals connected to the host OS.

#5: Virtualization goes beyond Windows

There are many virtualization technologies and some of them run on operating systems other than Windows. You can also run non-Windows guest operating systems in a VM on a Windows host machine. VMWare can run on Linux, and Microsoft previously made a version of Virtual PC for Macintosh (but did not port it to the Intel-based Macs). Parallels Desktop provides support for running Windows VMs on Mac OS X. Parallels Workstation supports many versions of Windows and Linux as both host and guest. Parallels Virtuozzo is a server virtualization option available in both Linux and Windows versions. Other virtualization solutions include:

  • Xen (now owned by Citrix), which is one of the most popular hypervisor solutions for Linux.
  • Q, an open source program based on the QEMU open source emulation software, for running Windows or Linux on a Mac.
  • Open VZ, for creating virtual servers in the Linux environment.

#6: Virtualization can increase security

Isolating server roles in separate virtual machines instead of running many server applications on the same operating system instance can provide added security. You can also set up a VM to create an isolated environment (a “sandbox”), where you can run applications that might pose a security risk.

Virtual machines are also commonly used for creating “honeypots” or “honeynets.” These are systems or entire networks set up to emulate a production environment with the intention of attracting attackers (and at the same time, diverting them away from the real production resources).

#7: Virtualization can increase availability and aid in disaster recovery

Backing up virtual machine images and restoring them is much easier and faster than traditional disaster recovery methods that require reinstalling the operating system and applications and then restoring data. The VM can be restored to the same physical machine or to a different one in case of hardware failure. Less downtime means higher availability and greater worker productivity.

#8: VMs need more resources

It may seem obvious, but the more virtual machines you want to run simultaneously, the more hardware resources you’ll need on that machine. Each running VM and its guest OS and applications will use RAM and processor cycles, so you’ll need large amounts of memory and one or more fast processors to be able to allocate the proper resources to each VM.

To run multiple resource-hungry servers on one machine, you’ll need a machine with hardware that’s capable of supporting multiple processors and large amounts of RAM and you must be running a host OS that can handle these.

#9: 64 bits are better than 32

For server virtualization, consider deploying a 64-bit host operating system. 64-bit processors support a larger memory address space, and Windows 64-bit operating systems support much larger amounts of RAM (and in some cases, more processors) than their 32-bit counterparts. If you plan to use Windows Server 2008’s Hyper-V role for virtualization, you have no choice. It will be available only in the x64 versions of the OS.

#10: Many resources are available for planning your virtualization deployment

Virtualization is a huge topic, and this article is only meant to provide an overview of your options. Luckily, there are many resources on the Web that can help you understand virtualization concepts and provide more information about specific virtualization products. The following list should get you started:

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Resume Tip: Show it to prove it

When writing resumes, it is easy to simply list our job titles, dates of employment and provide happy talk about our soft skills. Whenever I got one of these types of resumes as a hiring manager — if it ever got to me in the first place — my first thought was “prove it.”

If your resume said “works well on a team,” it was “prove it.” If your resume said “technical manager,” my thought was “prove it.” If I got too many of those kinds of statements in a resume, I casually tossed it aside and went on to the next possible candidate.

In this economy, you can’t get casually tossed aside

So how do you turn a flat statement into one that makes the hiring manager want to interview you? For that, we turn to the first rule of novel writing: you can’t tell it, you must show it.

Showing it means you have to write about actions the character (you) takes to prove what they are doing for believability. You can’t say “John was a tender person.” You have to write about when John showed tenderness to other people as part of his actions.

Are you showing it to prove it on your resume?

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Nokia Booklet 3G Netbook Packs GPS, 3G, HDMI and...Windows

Nokia has finally confirmed its little laptop. Features include an HD-ready 10-inch display, Atom processor, built-in A-GPS (which works with Ovi Maps), Wi-Fi (plus 3G/HSPA option), HDMI, an SD card reader, and 12 hour battery.

The netbook will weigh about 2.75 pounds, and measure slightly more than two centimeters thin. Further details, including the flavor of Windows, specs, and pricing/availability won't be discussed until Nokia World on September 2

The mini-laptop also comes with an HDMI port for HD video out, a front facing camera for video calling, integrated Bluetooth and an easily accessible SD card reader.

Other premium features include the 10-inch glass HD ready display and integrated A-GPS which, working with the Ovi Maps gadget, can pinpoint your position in seconds and open up access for a truly personal maps experience.

The Nokia Booklet 3G also brings a number of other rich Ovi experiences to life, whether its access and playback of millions of tracks through the Nokia Music Store, or using Ovi Suite to sync seamlessly from your Nokia smartphone, to your mini-laptop, to the cloud.

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PIL challenges ban on Jaswant book

Five days after the state government banned Jaswant Singh’s controversial book ‘Jinnah-India, Partition, Independence’, a public interest litigation (PIL) was filed in Gujarat High Court on Monday, challenging it. This PIL may come up for hearing before a larger Bench headed by the chief justice later this week.

Raising the issue of fundamental rights of citizens to access the book, citybased activists Prakash Shah and Manishi Jani have challenged the notification issued by the government forfeiting and prohibiting publication, sale and circulation of the book under section 95 of the CrPC.

They have termed this as a “colourable exercise by Narendra Modi government with political considerations in view of the approaching by-elections.” They have dubbed this as “an example of defective exercise of power” as the notification does not provide concrete grounds for banning the book.

In fact, the petitioners have argued that the reason that government fears communal instigation with denigration of Sardar Patel and Jawaharlal Nehru doesn’t stand at all because the two leaders do not form a class that could be incited for rioting as per section 153 B of IPC.

Maintaining that they do not share the political ideology of expelled BJP leader, the petitioners have demanded revocation of ban on Singh’s book by stating that it’s a historical work and Singh has dealt with the subject purely from historical point of view and avoided offensive and abusive language. The petition demands an immediate stay on the government’s decision and urges the court to allow the book to be made available for reading in Gujarat.
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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Methods of Sales Forecasting

Sales Forecasting is the process of estimating what your business’s sales are going to be in the future.

Sales forecasting is an integral part of business management. Without a solid idea of what your future sales are going to be, you can’t manage your inventory or your cash flow or plan for growth. The purpose of sales forecasting is to provide information that you can use to make intelligent business decisions.

Sales forecasting for an established business is easier than sales forecasting for a new business; the established business already has a sales forecast baseline of past sales. A business’s sales revenues from the same month in a previous year, combined with knowledge of general economic and industry trends, work well for predicting a business’s sales in a particular future month.

Sales forecasting for a new business is more problematical as there is no baseline of past sales. The process of preparing a sales forecast for a new business involves researching your target market, your trading area and your competition and analyzing your research to guesstimate your future sales.

Sales forecasting is especially difficult when you don’t have any previous sales history to guide you, as is the case when you’re working on preparing cash flow projections as part of writing a business plan. Here is a detailed explanation of how to do sales forecasting.

There are all sorts of ways to estimate sales revenues for the purposes of sales forecasting.

One point to remember when sales forecasting is that if you plan to work with a bank for financing, you will want to do multiple estimates so as to have more confidence in the sales forecast. How do you do this?

Sales Forecasting Method #1

For your type of business, what is the average sales volume per square foot for similar stores in similar locations and similar size? This isn't the final answer for adequate sales forecasting, since a new business won't hit that target for perhaps a year. But this approach is far more scientific than a general 2 percent figure based on household incomes.

Sales Forecasting Method #2

For your specific location, how many households needing your goods live within say, one mile? How much will they spend on these items annually, and what percentage of their spending will you get, compared to competitors? Do the same for within five miles (with lower sales forecast figures). (Use distances that make sense for your location.)

Sales Forecasting Method #3

If you offer say, three types of goods plus two types of extra cost services, estimate sales revenues for each of the five product/service lines. Make an estimate of where you think you'll be in six months (such as "we should be selling five of these items a day, plus three of these, plus two of these.") and calculate the gross sales per day. Then multiply by 30 for the month.

Now scale proportionately from month one to month six; that is, build up from no sales (or few sales) to your six month sales level. Now carry it out from months six through 12 for a complete annual sales forecast.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

How IT leaders are modernizing their business intelligence systems

Here's what a state-of-the-art business intelligence (BI) system looks like: A customer service rep takes a call from a customer looking for an explanation of a medical bill. The rep taps some keys and data quickly flows into her screen. The customer gets a thorough answer and hangs up, satisfied.

That's one example of how a multi-year project to install a best-of-breed business intelligence system has unfolded at Montana State Fund, the largest provider of workers' compensation coverage in the state. "In under a minute, [the CSR] put together some parameters and pulled up a quick screen-generated report," said Al Parisian, CIO of the Helena-based company. "She had a comprehensive, authoritative answer that was compelling because it was factual."

The latest BI systems -- flexible, robust, user friendly -- are moving to tie together more data stores of more data types than ever before, even from transactional systems. They are letting business users easily query them in the course of their jobs. They are proving their value day in and day out with every business decision made, every customer satisfied.

And at many organizations, they are also far from reality.

Unlike Parisian, who basically got to start from scratch in building his BI system, many IT executives grapple with proliferating, complex BI environments. With a mix of reporting tools, data silos and technology requiring IT-built queries, these business intelligence systems can pose daunting challenges from an architectural and organizational standpoint when it comes to adding next-generation functionality.

Consider the situation at digital video recorder company TiVo Inc., where IT wants to break down information silos but isn't sure yet how to implement a cost-effective BI platform. Or Grafton School Inc., a health care nonprofit, where analysts manipulate data in Excel and await an upcoming electronic health system purchase to boost their firepower.

Their road to nirvana -- stores of clean, rich, integrated data accessed easily by those who need it -- is a journey that's barely begun.

Get the data right

Three years ago, that was also the case at Montana State Fund, where 280 employees manage insurance for some 27,000 policyholders. "We went from having literally just a few people using an old operational data store system (for which the reporting front end had broken) to having 20% of company staff using the BI system today," Parisian said.

Today's best-of-breed system, which includes components from Oracle Corp. and SAP BusinessObjects, has been in the works for 2½ years. Starting the project with a consulting firm -- Millbrook Inc., which did the company's data modeling -- was the most important decision Montana State Fund made, said Parisian, who is a member of Millbrook's Business Intelligence Executive Customer Council.

"The quality of your decisions is directly correlated to the data that goes in to them," Parisian said. "Any company around more than a couple of years has legacy data problems coming out the kazoo. You're going to have all kinds of junk."

Once it had installed a coordinated set of products as a brand-new BI suite, the team ran the bulk of its data through extract, transform and load. Now, elements of that data show up as a series of data marts that make up the BI platform. Parisian said 1,800 different elements make up the system's data, and Montana State Fund is currently adding 600 more -- for example, medical payment details for workers. "Upon completing this we think we'll have a rigorous model," he said. "It's being used every day."

Types of data vary widely in any company, as do the needs of employees using that data. But a change in data types is a key trend in business intelligence now, according to Franz Aman, vice president of intelligence platform product marketing at SAP BusinessObjects.

Aman pointed to the oft-cited statistic that 80% of an organization's information is unstructured data -- the emails, Web pages and customer phone discussions that are the lifeblood of many interactions yet not captured by BI. SAP BusinessObjects is investing in this area with what Aman calls "sentiment extraction" -- technology that mines unstructured data to enable the customer service department to gauge the mood of customers who call, for example, and from there report on their satisfaction levels.

Dyke Hensen likes to cite what he calls "high-definitional data" as driving change for business intelligence systems. Hensen, chief marketing officer at PivotLink Corp., a BI Software as a Service vendor, noted that a shoe store isn't selling just a pair of shoes, but a pair of size nine-and-a-half, blue, lace-up shoes, sold with a certain promotional code. "It's a description of an element," Hensen explained. "It's high-attributional, high-dimensional data. These problems are challenging, and they don't fit in a spreadsheet or a SQL server database. People want to report on that information."

Richard Rothschild, senior director of IT at Alviso, Calif.-based TiVo, hears that call. He said he'd like to eliminate siloed reporting and get more specific answers from customer analytics information to improve the bottom line. "I'd love to be able to see what effect a marketing plan has on revenue and retaining customers," Rothschild said, "and here's the data that says it's working."

But the hurdles, he said, are "how to get disparate pieces of data together in a more cohesive space, and technically how do you solve that and come up with a project that will get approved and implemented." Finding the right way to streamline data is a challenge under a budget, too. Rothschild said finding a project that isn't super expensive or doesn't use a lot of resources is key for TiVo, which has about 550 employees.

CIO Bill Davis at Winchester, Va.-based Grafton, which provides health care to developmentally disabled children and adults, has seen the demand for data growing, too; Grafton's analysts would like to access data about client behaviors, symptoms and goals, for instance. An electronic medical/health record system now on the boards will offer built-in reporting and BI capabilities that will take his team's capabilities beyond the Excel files now in use. "We'll have a lot more information than what we have now," Davis said. "The ideal in two to three years would be that we'd have data mapped and loaded, with a dashboard that any analyst or savvy manager could use."

But for many organizations, more systems and more data aren't what's needed.

Reduce complexity

For many, the first step to a new generation of BI is to reduce complexity. Often, that means getting all users on the same platform.
How? Parisian turned off the built-in reporting functions in the core applications at Montana State Fund. "There was a lot of screaming and howling," he acknowledged.

"But we are going to see more and more advantages to our company, as long as we show discipline not to flip on those other screens," he added. Now, all reporting gets done at the BI layer, so everyone uses the same data and does his own reporting vs. seeking custom reports. "It's reduced the amount of noise and fighting over limited resources," Parisian said. A bonus: When the company needs to replace applications, "we don't have to shop for something that has management reports as part of its infrastructure."

Grafton, with 650 employees, has reduced complexity in-house with a tried-and-true BI tool: Microsoft Excel. "We have job streams that run every night and grab data from three different systems to make two big files," Davis said. "Our managers and analysts download them and then parse them through Excel in various ways." It works well, he said, because the IT team doesn't have to generate custom reports.

Even when the electronic health system is up and live, Excel will still have its place. "We'll end up using that as the end engine, but we need something else to get it there," he said. "Say what you want to, Excel can do an awful lot for the majority of our users."

Consider cost

Indeed, Excel is perennially popular for many reasons -- cost among them. New, comprehensive BI systems can be quite expensive and therefore not an option for many businesses, even when BI is a top business priority. So if system replacement (Montana State Fund) or application-based analytics (Grafton) isn't in the cards, another way to move BI ahead is through Software as a Service (SaaS) providers.

"With the ways technology has advanced over the past few years, there's still going to be a lot of BI on premise," said Hensen of SaaS provider PivotLink. He said customers often augment existing BI implementations with cloud or SaaS tools, because it gives them the ability to mash up data, use Web 2.0 tools and reduce costs. "It doesn't mean we do everything," he said. "But the majority of BI is about better operating performance and getting managers closer to data, and that's a great opportunity for SaaS-based BI players."

Aman, of SAP BusinessObjects, said he sees a lot of customers doing hybrid BI deployments -- some pieces installed on-premise, and some available on demand. While data warehouses work better on premise, applications with small amounts of data moving back and forth might work well with a cloud or on-demand model, he said. "Some customers like the cloud for accounting purposes, because you pay as you go and get some capability quickly," Aman said.

However a company procures its BI, its ROI is tied closely to business results. When measuring the effectiveness of business intelligence programs, "The No. 1 criteria is to look at bottom-line business results," said William McKnight, practice manager at Irving, Texas-based consulting firm US-Analytics Solutions Group LLC. He acknowledges that can be difficult to measure. "Short of that, I would go by user sentiment. Is the data they need made available to them in the right format in a timely manner, and structured for their analytical requirements?"

User participation in aspects of system design is a well-known best practice. The team that chose BI for Montana State Fund, for example, included two executive sponsors, two project managers and two employee teams, each divided between the business and technology sides of the house. Increasingly, organizations are moving beyond this initial team to create a group, often called a "BI competency center," to keep the discipline top of mind on a continual basis.

It's "definitely not something that every company has -- far from it," McKnight said. "It's an idea that the technology team needs to be more flexible for its user community, and intelligently look into the future, making sure they're bringing all possible methods of BI to the table."

The future of BI is about helping users get specific information quickly, whether it comes out of email, a transaction database or a data warehouse. There are many ways to get there, but keeping the big picture in mind is key.
"If your data model is a matter of taking what you used to do and putting it into a BI data model, you're putting yourself into a small box," Parisian said. "Step back and look at all the data."

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Sunday, August 9, 2009

Do small businesses need BI?

From: Do small businesses need BI?

Is business intelligence too much bother for smaller organisations? Danny Bradbury looks at how analytics can work for all sizes.

When your business costs nine pounds per minute to run, it is imperative that you maximize your revenues. Luckily, David Wilkinson, the IT director at York Minster, is also the assistant to the chief accountant, so he understands how technology can help managers to find potential improvement in the business.

This is one example of a small business that is using business intelligence software - a technology that has historically been viewed as a tool for larger enterprises.

When many people think of business intelligence, they think of multidimensional data cubes, complex analytics and extensive data warehouses. But the product category spans different levels of sophistication, argues Andreas Bitterer, research vice president at Gartner.

"These are not global companies, so there's a skills difference, there are fewer users, generally, and less sophistication," he says of small businesses. "The main difference I see is that the tool set that a mid-market company would use is more reporting focused, and less involved in high-level analytics with global data warehouses."

Boris Evelson, a principal analyst at Forrester research, says that for many smaller organisations, these reporting tools can often be built directly into the line of business software that they are already using, such as an ERP or CRM package.

"If your entire business is run on a single package, then you don't really need a separate business intelligence application," he says.

For many small businesses, working with one application may even be preferable, because trying to generate a single view of data across multiple sources may be too ambitious.

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Business Mashups LLC is a software development company headquartered in the beautiful city of Chandigarh, India.

We work primarily with offshore customers. We have a global client foot print with customers in India, UK, U.S., Canada, Singapore, Australia, Dubai, South Africa etc. and our forte is developing software solutions for SMEs.

Business Mashups provides bespoke software development services using web technologies. We work in areas such as E-commerce, website development, web enablement, product development, web applications etc. Our solutions enable businesses to leverage leading-edge technology to gain sustainable competitive advantage in today's marketplace.

We build core business applications, like enterprise resource planning (ERP), human resource management (HRM), supply chain management (SCM) and customer relationship management (CRM).

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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Why Should Your Employees Like You?

Managing employees isn’t a popularity contest, but if your workers like and respect you as a person, your company’s bottom line is likely to show it.

Nancy Mann Jackson in a post in "Entrepreneur" writes about handling employees with kid gloves and getting along better with them.

"Taking careful steps to build trust, respect and goodwill among employees doesn’t just make it more fun to go to work, it can also boost your bottom line" She says.

She offers five strategies for maintaining employee relations in a recession and bridging the boss -- employee gap:

Keep your company afloat through the recession--and ensure that employees will stick around when times get better--with some of the following strategies:

1. Nix double standards. Don’t expect employees to follow your instructions if you don’t follow the same instructions yourself. “You can’t just sit back and not have the same standard for yourself as you have for your employees,” Weatherwax says.

2. Share the work. Nothing widens the gap between employer and employee like doling out the “dirty work,” such as asking employees to do something unethical or simply to work an unreasonable number of hours. To earn employees’ respect, business owners, “should never ask an employee to do something that they would not be willing to do themselves,” Darby says.

3. Make them laugh. Humor is proven to reduce stress and take the edge off of a tense conversation. “As the boss, you can set the tempo or the mood for the business day,” Weatherwax says. “If you can have fun with your employees and joke with them, they’ll have more fun and they’ll joke with the customers too.”

4. Enforce consequences. Whether it’s rewarding good work or holding employees accountable for mistakes, enforcing consistent consequences helps workers know what to expect. “Sometimes in tough times we overlook bad behavior and don’t recognize the good work being done by high performers,” Murphy says.

5. Share your thought process. Especially during tough times when employees are worried about keeping their jobs, you can earn goodwill by being open about the choices you make, whether it’s to cut costs or cut personnel. “The more transparent a leader becomes with his decision making process, the more likely employees are to trust those decisions,” Murphy says. “Share the data, explain where you got that data, and why you decided what you did. What scares employees is the unknown, and if you’re not transparent, they’ll expect the worst.”

Nancy Mann Jackson is a freelance writer who writes frequently about small business issues.

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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

How to Answer Difficult Interview Questions

By Jessica Stillman

Last week I carried a post by Jessica Stillman "Avoid Common Interview Pitfall". In this post she shares her readers experiences with difficult interviews, as well as their best advice for how to respond to tricky situations. She covers three types of interview questions that emerged as the most vexing for readers:
  1. Questions about weaknesses or failures – these questions are framed to get you to criticize yourself or to cough up examples of past problems. Examples include the straight up “What are your greatest weaknesses?” and more round about versions such as “Tell me about an actual time when you had a disagreement with your manager” or “Describe a situation where the client was irate and how you handled it.”

  2. Questions on pay and level of ambition – no one wants to sell themselves short but how high is too high?

  3. Oddball questions — these are designed to shake up the interviewee and elicit unscripted answers. Examples abounded in the comments and included everything from “Describe your closet” to the slightly unbelievable but hugely imaginative “Imagine you’re in Antarctica, running naked wearing only a tie around your neck. Suddenly you see a gorilla chasing you. What do you do?’
Thankfully, readers also came through with suggestions –– some hilarious, some dubious, some spot on — for how to respond. Reader Yakimarv, for instance, offers a ballsy response to the question “Where do you hope to be in five years?” He reports: “I looked the interviewer right in the eye and said ‘working your job’ and I think that I shook the guy up ’cause he terminated the interview right there. I was later called by a regional manager and was hired.”

Meanwhile, majorstu suggests one way to frame a strength as a weakness without making the effort absurdly transparent and unconvincing. His solution: use a concrete real world example of how what constitutes a plus to some could be an issue for others. His answer:

I had a very good relationship with my first manager in a job, got performance reviews with comments like “takes charge, gets things done”. Then that manager retired and I got a new one, suddenly the atmosphere changed and my first review commented, “oversteps the bounds of his authority”. I use this response when asked about weaknesses, adding that the weakness is that I try to work through the problems and get the mission accomplished, but sometimes misjudge other people’s perceptions of my attitude.

Techrabbi, however, keeps his answer to the weaknesses question short and sweet: “to the question ‘what is your greatest weakness?’ i like to say, ‘i don’t often interview well.’”

Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management and marketing.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Ajax and Mashup Security

Ajax and mashups represent two new Web application development approaches that both fit under the Web 2.0 umbrella.


Asynchronous JavaScript + XML (Ajax) allows user interaction with Web pages to be decoupled from the Web browser's communication with the server. In particular, Ajax drives mashups, which integrate disparate content or services into a single user experience. However, Ajax and mashup technology introduce new types of threats because of their dynamic and multidomain nature. It is important to understand these threats and to avoid them by adhering to some best practices.


A mashup is a web application that combines content from more than one source into an integrated experience. Usually, the mashup components interact with each other. In the classic example of a mashup, a Craigslist component is combined with a mapping component (e.g., Google or Yahoo maps) such that when a user clicks on a new Craigslist entry, the mapping component updates its view to show the new address.

Mashups typically allow the end user to discover and integrate third party, Ajax-powered mashup components onto the mashup's canvas. Examples in the consumer social networking space include Facebook Widgets and MySpace Widgets, which end users can discover and insert into their pages.

From a technology perspective, mashup components represent Ajax-powered "mini applications" that are assembled into an Ajax-powered mashup container application that provides a framework for the components to communicate with each other. Sometimes the mashup container application enables cross-site communications by providing proxy services to allow server-side redirection to Web servers that are associated with a given mashup component.

Here is a whitepaper from Open Ajax Alliance on Ajax and mashup security that you may wish to peruse.

Ajax and Mashup Security

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"Web Application Security — How to Minimize Prevalent Risk of Attacks"

Vulnerabilities in web applications are now the largest vector of enterprise security attacks.

Stories about exploits that compromise sensitive data frequently mention culprits such as "cross-site scripting," "SQL injection," and "buffer overflow." Vulnerabilities like these fall often outside the traditional expertise of network security managers.

To help you understand how to minimize these risks, Qualys provides this guide as a primer to web application security. The guide covers:

  • typical web application vulnerabilities
  • comparison of options for web application vulnerability detection
  • QualysGuard Web Application Scanning solution

Offered Free by: Qualys, Inc.


Six steps to adopting cloud computing services

What is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing is becoming one of the next industry buzz words. Cloud computing overlaps some of the concepts of distributed, grid and utility computing, however it does have its own meaning if contextually used correctly. The conceptual overlap is partly due to technology changes, usages and implementations over the years.

Trends in usage of the terms from Google searches shows Cloud Computing is a relatively new term introduced in the past year. There has also been a decline in general interest of Grid, Utility and Distributed computing. Likely they will be around in usage for quit a while to come. But Cloud computing has become the new buzz word driven largely by marketing and service offerings from big corporate players like Google, IBM and Amazon.

The term cloud computing probably comes from the use of a cloud image to represent the Internet or some large networked environment. Cloud computing is associated with a higher level abstraction of the cloud. Instead of there being data pipes, routers and servers, there are now services. The underlying hardware and software of networking is of course still there but there are now higher level service capabilities available used to build applications. Behind the services are data and compute resources. A user of the service doesn’t necessarily care about how it is implemented, what technologies are used or how it’s managed. Only that there is access to it and has a level of reliability necessary to meet the application requirements.

In essence this is distributed computing. An application is built using the resource from multiple services potentially from multiple locations. At this point, typically you still need to know the endpoint to access the services rather than having the cloud provide you available resources. This is also know as Software as a Service. Behind the service interface is usually a grid of computers to provide the resources. The grid is typically hosted by one company and consists of a homogeneous environment of hardware and software making it easier to support and maintain. (note: my definition of a grid is different from the wikipedia definition, but homogeneous environments in data centers is typically what I have run across). Once you start paying for the services and the resources utilized, well that’s utility computing.

Cloud computing really is accessing resources and services needed to perform functions with dynamically changing needs. An application or service developer requests access from the cloud rather than a specific endpoint or named resource. What goes on in the cloud manages multiple infrastructures across multiple organizations and consists of one or more frameworks overlaid on top of the infrastructures tying them together. Frameworks provide mechanisms for:
  • self-healing

  • self monitoring

  • resource registration and discovery

  • service level agreement definitions

  • automatic reconfiguration

The cloud is a virtualization of resources that maintains and manages itself. There are of course people resources to keep hardware, operation systems and networking in proper order. But from the perspective of a user or application developer only the cloud is referenced. The Assimilator project is a framework that executes across a heterogeneous environment in a local area network providing a local cloud environment. In the works is the addition of a network overlay to start providing an infrastructure across the Internet to help achieve the goal of true cloud computing.

Steps to adopting cloud computing services

  1. Assess IT software assets, then consider putting commodity and standalone applications in the cloud. The IT team should built a chart showing business users which applications they thought were differentiators and which ones they thought were commoditized and explained why applications they viewed as commodities were better suited for cloud services like email for LiveOffice. Standalone applications like HR/benefits and sales analytics were also better suited for the cloud.

  2. Reorganize IT teams according to application functionality rather than brand. To prepare for a virtualized/cloud environment, eliminate application silos such as those for Oracle or Siebel applications. IT thinks their value is associated with an application rather than a skill, so we need to change the mind-set to skills that we want in this new paradigm, like data management, business intelligence and analytics and the ability to do end-to-end business processing rather than skills tied to a particular application.

  3. Get a handle on your internal IT costs. What does email, ERP and clustered storage cost you internally? You need to know this before you can validate what it costs you in the cloud. Engage the finance department from the get-go to validate these costs internally compared with a services model.

  4. To socialize the cloud computing concept around the business, figure out the terminology that business executives and users are familiar with. When we heard that business users were reading The New Age of Innovation and using terms such as R=G for Resources are Global, he started to adopt the same terminology to explain the benefits of the cloud. You need to sync up the vocabulary around the cloud and virtualization with what the business users are hearing about it.

  5. Engage IT staff members by giving them a role in the process. Make testing cloud services a game for IT. pick several cloud applications for IT to test like sales analytics and HR/employee performance management and have no ground rules. Test whatever service on whatever provider you like.

    I can tell you that there is no better motivation for IT than to see the CIO/CTO doing it himself.

  6. Engage stakeholders throughout the organization. Information security, legal and finance are just a few of the groups that need to be involved.
    It took us two months to figure out security issues in the cloud -- with a lot of trial an error. The consensus in general is that security is ultimately up to you -- most cloud providers leave security parameters up to the customer, whether they be a need for encryption or beyond.
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Monday, August 3, 2009

Making a Meaningful Mentoring Agreement

Successful mentoring relationships start with a clear agreement about goals, procedures, and limitations, says mentoring expert Lois Zachary.

Too often mentors and mentees start off without doing enough preparation and end up with an unsatisfactory experience. Zachary, author of The Mentor's Guide and the recently published The Mentee's Guide to Mentoring, provides guidelines for setting the groundwork for great mentoring.

Preparing for a mentoring relationship

Zachary suggests seven steps in an initial conversation between potential mentor and mentee.

1. Take time to get to know each other. To start out, share career journeys.

2. Talk about mentoring. Talk about individuals who have had a profound impact on your development and learning. Discuss previous mentoring experiences.

3. Share your goals for the process. What does each participant hope to achieve from the relationship?

4. Determine what each partner needs and expects. Be honest about what you need, says Zachary. A brain to pick? Someone who can help you get your arms around a problem? Someone to give you a kick in the pants?

5. Candidly share personal assumptions. As an example of mismatched assumptions, Zachary offers the following example: The mentee assumes that his or her mentor will be a sounding board, help with day-to-day challenges, provide quick answers to questions, and introduce him or her to his or her network. Meanwhile, the mentor assumes that his or her role is to be a guide, asking questions that help the mentee find answers. Unless the two talk their assumptions through, they will be at cross purposes.

6. Share limitations. Each of us has limitations, whether personal, time related, work related, or physical, says Zachary. It's best to share them early on.

7. Discuss personal styles. For example, you may have data from Myers Briggs or other instruments that indicate your need for structure or your resistance to "touchy-feely."

Create a Specific Agreement

After an initial discussion, you are ready to prepare a formal agreement, Zachary says. Here are her required ingredients for such agreements:

  • Well-defined goals (What does each participant want to accomplish?)

  • Success criteria and measurement (How will we know if we have succeeded?)

  • Accountability assurances (How do we ensure that we do what we say we are going to do?)

  • Ground rules (What are the norms and guidelines we will follow? Who will be responsible for what?)

  • Confidentiality safeguards (What do we need to do to protect the confidentiality of this relationship?)

  • Boundaries and hot buttons (What are the not-to-exceed limits? What hot buttons exist?)

  • Protocols for addressing stumbling blocks (What process should we have in place to deal with any stumbling blocks we encounter?)

  • Consensual mentoring agreement (What do we need to include to ensure that this agreement works for us?)

  • Mentoring work plan (What are the steps for achieving our goals?)

Mentoring and training are both important parts of the daily HR challenge. They can be tricky to manage—there's such a load of extraneous planning, preparing, and tracking involved.

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Five marketing time wasters

From: Five marketing time wasters

Deciding how to allocate time and resources is a difficult process for any business -and it’s even harder for start-ups. But of all the allocation decisions to be made, there’s none more difficult than marketing.

In an excellent article Scott Olson tells about five marketing time wasters
the details to each of those can be found at his blog. :

  1. Bloated Marketing Requirements Documents (MRD)

  2. Direct mail lead generation

  3. Analyst subscriptions

  4. Branding, advertising, and trade show sponsorships

  5. Detailed sales PowerPoint presentations

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Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Underground PHP and Oracle Manual

This free PDF book is for PHP programmers developing applications for Oracle Database. It bridges the gap between the many PHP and Oracle books available and shows how to use the PHP scripting language with Oracle Database. You may be starting out with PHP for your Oracle Database. You may be a PHP programmer wanting to learn Oracle. You may be unsure how to install PHP or Oracle. Or you may just want to know the latest best practices. This book gives you the fundamental building blocks needed to create high-performance PHP Oracle Web applications.

About the Authors

Christopher Jones works for Oracle on dynamic scripting languages with a strong focus on PHP. He is a lead maintainer of PHP's open source OCI8 extension and works closely with the PHP community. He also helps ensure that future versions of Oracle Database are compatible with PHP. He is the author of various technical articles on PHP and Oracle technology, and has presented at conferences including PHP|Tek, the International PHP Conference, the O'Reilly Open Source Convention, and ZendCon. He also helps present Oracle PHP tutorials and PHPFests worldwide.

Alison Holloway is a senior product manager at Oracle with a number of years experience in advanced technology. She has presented at various PHP conferences. Most recently she has been working with Oracle VM.

Click Here to download this PDF book (6.2MB)

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