Posts Tagged

Software

Memory-Lane Monday: Never let a software guy near hardware

This pilot fish gets an early-evening call from his business’s security company, telling him that the computer room is sending out a “high thermal event” alarm.

There’s no answer after several tries to contact the tech who’s on call, so fish makes the 45-minute drive to the office.

“I assumed the office must have lost power and the IT systems were still running on battery backup,” says fish.

Wrong.

“While the general office space was fine and showed no evidence of power loss, the computer room felt like Arizona — the thermometer read over 90 degrees — and the two redundant wall-mounted air-handling systems weren’t running.”

Some of the older hard drives are making horrible screeching sounds as fish gets to work. He props open the computer room doors and then begins to shut down all the servers, arrays and network hardware as fast and as safely as he can.

Once that’s done, he puts some fans in the doorways to draw cooler air in from the main office space. Then fish turns his attention to the pair of air handlers, wondering how two systems running on separate electrical circuits could have died at the same time.

He pushes the power button on one. It roars to life, pumping out cold air.
He flips the switch on the other air handler. It starts right up too.

A few minutes later, the on-call tech arrives with one of the company’s software developers — and an explanation.

“The two had been out golfing at a course about two miles from the office after work,” fish says. “The tech put the on-call cellphone, which was set to vibrate, in his golf bag. He never noticed until they were finished with the round that he had voice mails from me.”

Then fish describes what he found in the computer room — the Arizona-like heat, the screaming disk drives, and the air handlers that were switched off.

That’s when the developer groans. Turns out he had been in the computer room a few hours earlier, troubleshooting a problem over the phone.

But between the noise from the servers, disk arrays and air handlers, he was having a hard time hearing the person on the other end of the line.

“Figuring it would only be a few moments, he turned both air handlers off to quiet things down,” says fish. “But he forgot to turn them back on when he left.

“Fortunately, the damage was minimal — we lost one drive in a RAID array and missed our nightly backup cycle, but all of our systems were working, communications to the remote offices were back up and our data was safe.

“And I got movie passes and a gift card to a restaurant from the developer as an apology.”

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.



Source link

Remote desktop software: 8 enterprise-friendly IT support tools

For many companies, IT support has typically meant a member of the help desk walking over to an employee’s desk and looking over their shoulder to fix any problems, or a quick one-to-one connection between an IT staffer and a remote office employee. With a majority of employees and IT staffers now working at home due to Covid-19, the need for enterprise-level software that can support these larger numbers has also grown.

Remote access tools have been around for years, with a range of features and benefits for companies and individuals looking to help less tech-savvy users with computer issues and maintenance. At its base level, the software creates a secure connection between one person’s computer and a remote connection, allowing the first user to operate the second computer as if they were in the same room. Once the connection is made, several other features such as screen sharing, program installation, file transfer, text chat, and audio and video communications are supported.

Many of these features are also seen in other categories of software, such as web conferencing or videoconferencing apps, which can confuse buyers looking at options for their IT remote assistance needs. In addition, many companies that offer remote support software also offer remote monitoring and management tools, which can actively or passively monitor equipment and devices beyond an employee’s desktop.

There is good news, however: Many of the remote assistance software companies offer tiered levels, allowing for a free download, trial or entry-level version for users to try out, with professional and/or enterprise versions that expand the number of licenses or concurrent sessions allowed. So this category lends itself very well to the idea of “try before you buy.”

Presented below are quick descriptions and links to some of the more popular options for enterprise remote assistance tools, based on our research of the market and the features that most companies would likely need. Your individual feature needs may vary, so head to the company’s website to learn more details about each tool.



Source link

Google suspends Chrome upgrades as COVID-19 impacts software schedules

Google has stopped upgrading its Chrome browser and its Chrome OS operating system because of the COVID-19 pandemic and has not said when it would resume refreshing either.

“Due to adjusted work schedules at this time, we are pausing upcoming Chrome and Chrome OS releases,” Google said in a short statement posted Wednesday to its Chrome releases blog. “Our primary objectives are to ensure they continue to be stable, secure, and work reliably for anyone who depends on them. We’ll continue to prioritize any updates related to security, which will be included in Chrome 80.”

The “adjusted work schedule” clearly referred to the disruption caused by the pandemic, including a six-county “shelter-in-place” order for California’s Bay Area. Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., 39 miles southwest of San Francisco, is located in Santa Clara County, one of the six under lockdown.

On March 10, Google recommended that all North American employees work from home.

According to a now-outdated Chrome release schedule, Google was supposed to upgrade the browser to version 81 on Tuesday, March 17. Chrome OS was to shift to version 81 on March 24. Google had both on a metronomic schedule that delivered new features every six to eight weeks.

Also on Wednesday, Google updated Chrome 80 — the version that debuted Feb. 4 — to build 80.0.3987.149, which contained fixes for 13 security vulnerabilities. The nine that Google called out in a separate post were all rated as “High,” the second-most-serious threat ranking in a four-step scoring system. Only one of the nine noted a bug bounty amount — $8,500 — and five other bug listings said that a cash reward would be determined later.

Four of the nine described vulnerabilities were reported to Google by Yue Mo of the San Francisco-based Semmle Security Research Team. Three of the remainder were discovered by members of Google’s own Project Zero group.

Google did not offer a timetable for resuming Chrome and Chrome OS upgrades. The next in the two product series were slated to release April 28 (Chrome) and May 5 (Chrome OS).

It was unclear if the Chromium project had also paused, although code commits were still landing Wednesday. If the Google-led, open-source Chromium did halt new work, then Chrome (and the other browsers that rely on Chromium) would not be able to progress in any case. Microsoft, which in January released a revamped Edge built atop Chromium, may have to follow Google’s lead and limit its browser to security updates, too.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.



Source link

Can developers dictate how their software is used?

The political leanings of the Silicon Valley are no secret, a strange brew considering the Silicon Valley resembles the era of the robber barons like JD Rockefeller and JP Morgan. Rampant capitalism making instant billionaires has thus far co-existed with rabid supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has said billionaires should not exist.

But lately, the progressive attitudes of the Valley and tech industry in general are coming into conflict, with the loudest recent incident coming last September when a software engineer pulled a personal project down from GitHub after he learned it was being used by the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The developer, Seth Vargo, cited the ICE’s “inhumane treatment, denial of basic human rights, and detaining children in cages” as the reason for taking down his project, known as Chef Sugar, a Ruby library for simplifying the use of Chef, a platform for server configuration management. Varga developed the library while he worked at Chef, and the library was later integrated into Chef’s platform.

The company restored it to the service, with Chef CEO Barry Crist noting the removal of the software had impacted “production systems for a number of our customers.” Crist went on to say he did not think it was appropriate, practical, or within Chef’s mission to decide which U.S. agencies it should or should not do business with. 

The resulting blowback saw Microsoft, which owns GitHub, and GitHub itself under

The political leanings of the Silicon Valley are no secret, a strange brew considering the Silicon Valley resembles the era of the robber barons like JD Rockefeller and JP Morgan. Rampant capitalism making instant billionaires has thus far co-existed with rabid supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has said billionaires should not exist.

But lately, the progressive attitudes of the Valley and tech industry in general are coming into conflict, with the loudest recent incident coming last September when a software engineer pulled a personal project down from GitHub after he learned it was being used by the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The developer, Seth Vargo, cited the ICE’s “inhumane treatment, denial of basic human rights, and detaining children in cages” as the reason for taking down his project, known as Chef Sugar, a Ruby library for simplifying the use of Chef, a platform for server configuration management. Varga developed the library while he worked at Chef, and the library was later integrated into Chef’s platform.

The company restored it to the service, with Chef CEO Barry Crist noting the removal of the software had impacted “production systems for a number of our customers.” Crist went on to say he did not think it was appropriate, practical, or within Chef’s mission to decide which U.S. agencies it should or should not do business with. 

The resulting blowback saw Microsoft, which owns GitHub, and GitHub itself under pressure not to work with the government. Microsoft employees also staged a revolt over the company’s work with the Department of Defense (DoD) over the military’s use of the HoloLens headset. Google employees have also revolted against their company bidding for the $10 billion DoD JEDI contract and forced it to drop out of the bidding.

Whose software is it anyway?

The issue comes down to software ownership vs. customer dependence. Stephen O’Grady, principal analyst with IT research firm Redmonk, notes there are two issues at play here: Do you have an obligation to your customers to support products in a predictable way? And can you deny the right to a particular product or products for a particular customer?

“The answer to the first question, in my opinion, is yes. Particularly for enterprise buyers, the assurance that investments made will be supported over time rather than unpredictably abandoned is huge. It’s part of the basis, in fact, for the old adage that you don’t get fired for buying IBM: the company has a reputation for standing behind the products it sells for long periods of time, making investments in them safe,” O’Grady said.

As for the second question, that’s more complicated, but he still says yes. “In general, companies try not to discriminate against certain types of buyers, both because it goes against the business interests of maximizing revenue, but also because it’s a difficult practice to manage both in terms of legal liability and the public relations appearance and precedent,” he added.

Shayne Sherman, CEO of TechLoris, a PC maintenance and repair site, says ultimately, it is the developer’s prerogative to decide whether or not they want to keep their app on the market.

“It doesn’t matter whether or not others have become invested or dependent on the program. Companies go under all the time and to expect that there should be consequences for no longer providing their services would be unrealistic. The same would be true if a developer deliberately chose to no longer offer their program,” he said.

[ Related article: The many overlaps of politics and technology ]

He added that there is no moral obligation on the developer to continue to offer their program, however, there might be legal obligations. “If the developer sold the distribution rights, the developer might no longer have a say in whether or not they can close an app. Open source would suggest the app is not under such legal obligations. The main issue would likely be if others had access to the original source code for the app, meaning someone else could potential redistribute this app without legal repercussions,” he said.

Akshay “Ax” Sharma, a security researcher at Sonatype and IDG Influencer, said things depend on the license used. “Once you release under a copyleft license, you have already released partial rights to work. How do you take it back? [Essentially,] you forfeit your own right to say I want it back once I released it under an open-source license,” he said.

Copyleft licenses, used in many open-source licenses, are meant to be freer and more permissive than standard copyrights. Those who download the software are within their rights to modify and release their own version so long as they make the code available and include the copyleft license with the code.

Vargo’s move “essentially makes [copyleft] no different from copyright. One of the criticisms of copyright was content creators get to control the culture,” he said. “When I read these articles, it was like, ok you partially waived your right to your work, and then you did not like how that work was used, so you want to reclaim that right even though you’ve already waived it.”

[ Related article: Is open source the transformative solution for activism? ]

Potential blowback for open source?

The question then becomes what does this do for open-source software’s image. This type of activity is unthinkable coming from Microsoft, Oracle or SAP, but will enterprises be reluctant to use a product from a small development house if the developer gets woke?

Rick Stafford, professor public policy at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College, said he understands the ethical dilemma for a developer to want their product to be used and then it gets used in a way they don’t agree with. But what if a new administration comes along and uses the product in a way you agree with?

“If you set the precedent that it can be withdrawn and disrupted, the next administration might say I’m not going to use that again. I’m gonna go elsewhere because I’m not going to go back to the people who withdrew the code. There is too much risk there,” he said.

“You could in essence blackmail people,” he added. “That’s the problem with this. It flies in the face of what open source was supposed to be about. It’s like making a promise. Open source is saying OK you can use this, then say you can’t? Open source is a promise in a sense.”

Stafford said he believes the industry has to work it out on its own because otherwise it falls to the government for a legislative solution, and we all know how that usually goes. Poorly. “If there is to be a law, the industry should play the first role and say let’s work this out among ourselves. We’re not going to get elected officials to figure this all out,” he said.

O’Grady said it can raise questions, certainly, but doesn’t believe it’s a systemic concern for buyers at present. “It’s at least in theory of no greater concern than for proprietary software, because once the code has been published under an open-source license, it can be legally used according to the terms of that license in perpetuity,” he said.

Sharma has discussed the Chef incident with peers and said the reaction was “very polarized” and it came down to personal ethics and morals. “Some colleagues said this is open-source software, why is he pulling back, but others said they don’t like the purpose it was used for. Most sided with developer, but I also saw the backlash about how this impacts open source in general,” he said.

So for now, it seems there is no negative reaction to Vargo’s actions, but if it happens a few more times the mood could turn negative, and trust is not easily regained.



Source link

Microsoft to end updates to Windows 7’s free AV software, Security Essentials

Microsoft will not provide new malware signatures for its home-grown Security Essentials software after it retires Windows 7 in five weeks.

“No, your Windows 7 computer is not protected by MSE ((Microsoft Security Essentials)) after January 14, 2020,” the company said in a support document mainly concerned about the Extended Security Updates (ESU) being shilled to enterprises. “MSE is unique to Windows 7 and follows the same lifecycle dates for support.”

Security Essentials, a free antivirus (AV) program that launched in 2008, was originally limited to consumers. However, in 2010, Microsoft expanded the licensing to small businesses, defined as those with 10 or fewer PCs. Two years after that, MSE was replaced by Windows Defender with the launch of Windows 8.

Since then, Defender has been baked into each follow-up version of the OS, including Windows 10. Windows 7, though, has been stuck with MSE.

Computerworld previously speculated that Microsoft would provide updates to MSE even after Windows 7’s retirement, slated for Jan. 14. The forecast was based on Microsoft’s behavior five years ago, when it kept cranking out malware signature updates for Windows XP users of MSE in the months after that operating system’s April 2014 retirement.

What Computerworld neglected to consider, of course, was that in 2014 MSE still had a large pool of users or potential users, those running Windows 7. Because Microsoft was still required to produce MSE signature updates for Windows 7, there was no, or little extra work needed to push the same updates to XP. That’s not the case now; Windows 7 is the end of the line for MSE.

Without question, it would be in Microsoft’s interest to continue updating MSE on Windows 7 after Jan. 14; unprotected systems threaten the Windows ecosystem as a whole, because exploitation of, say, one Windows 7 PC could lead to the compromise of several other devices on the same network, such as one connecting the machines of a small business. But Microsoft has presumably weighed that against its desire to induce customers to upgrade to Windows 10 and found for the latter.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.



Source link