Archive for July, 2011

The 5 biggest IT security mistakes

IT security can be a thankless task no doubt and mistakes only magnify problems Like cleaning the windows, IT security can be a thankless task because they only notice when you don’t do it. But to get the job done in the era of virtualization, smartphones and cloud computing, you’ve got to avoid technical and political mistakes. In particular, here are five security mistakes to avoid:

 

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1. Thinking that the business mindset of the organization is the same as five years ago.

It’s not. Your power and influence are being whittled away as the organization you work for flings open the doors to allowing employees to use personal mobile devices at work, and pushes traditional computing resources and applications into the cloud — sometimes without your knowledge. You have to be proactive in introducing reasonable security practices onto what are fast-moving technology choices which are sometimes made by those outside the IT department altogether. It’s a “mission-impossible” assignment, but it’s yours. It may involve developing new policy guidance to clearly spell out risk factors so there are no false assumptions.

VIRTUALIZATION SECURITY: Shift to virtualized environments shaking up security practices

2. Failing to build working relationships with IT and upper-level managers.

IT security divisions are typically small in relation to the rest of the IT department. IT security leans on IT staffers to get basic security jobs done. The security professional may have specialized knowledge and a pocketful of certifications like the CISSP, but that doesn’t mean he or she is necessarily admired or liked because of that — especially as security people are usually the ones saying “no” to other people’s projects.

Moreover, don’t think the power structure is always pointing toward the chief information officer as top decision maker. A fundamental shift is occurring in which the traditional role of the CIO as commander of IT projects is declining in favor of the rise of the chief financial officer having the final say on IT projects. Some evidence shows the CFO doesn’t even like the IT department. The CFO’s ideas about security may only go as far as the general legal idea of “compliance.” The job for the security professional must be to communicate, communicate, communicate.

3. Not understanding that virtualization has pulled the rug out from under everyone’s security footing.

Organizations are well on their way to achieving 80% virtualization of their server infrastructure, and desktop virtualization projects are increasing. But security is lagging, with many incorrectly assuming it begins and ends with VLANs. The reality is that virtualization architectures change everything by opening new pathways that can be exploited. As has happened so many times before in the IT industry, groundbreaking technologies have become available for use with inadequate attention paid to the security impact.

Some traditional security products, such as anti-virus software for instance, often don’t work well in virtual machines. Physical appliances may have new “blind spots.” Today, specialized security products for virtualized environments are finally coming to market — and security professionals need to figure out if any of them should be used, while also keeping up with evolving security plans from vendors such as VMware, Microsoft and Citrix. Virtualization holds tremendous promise in eventually improving security, especially disaster recovery.

New book: MCTS Self-Paced Training Kit (Exam 70-643): Configuring Windows Server 2008 Applications Infrastructure (2nd Edition)

We’re pleased to announce that MCTS Self-Paced Training Kit (Exam 70-643): Configuring Windows Server 2008 Applications Infrastructure (2nd Edition) (ISBN 9780735648784; 640 pages) is available for purchase here, here, and here. This Training Kit is designed for information (IT) professionals who support or plan to support Windows Server 2008 R2 networks and who also plan to take the Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) 70-643 exam.

 

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This 2-in-1 kit includes the official Microsoft study guide, plus practice tests on CD to help you assess your skills. It comes packed with the tools and features exam candidates want most—including in-depth, self-paced training based on final exam content; rigorous, objective-by-objective review; exam tips from expert, exam-certified authors; and customizable testing options. It also provides real-world scenarios, case study examples, and troubleshooting labs for the skills and expertise you can use on the job.

You can find the book’s Table of Contents in this previous post.

Here is an excerpt from this Training Kit:
Chapter 2: Configuring Server Storage and Clusters

Storage area networks (SANs), host bus adapters (HBAs), and logical unit numbers (LUNs) were once the sole domain of storage specialists, far removed from the expertise of your average Windows administrator. However, the arrival of new technologies, such as the Windows Virtual Disk service and Internet SCSI (iSCSI), along with the increasingly complex realities of enterprise storage, has brought these once-specialized topics into the realm of Windows Server 2008 administration. To be an effective Windows server administrator today, you still need to know the difference between the various RAID levels, but you also need to know quite a bit more about advanced server storage technologies.

This chapter introduces you to the basics of disk management in Windows Server 2008 R2, along with more advanced storage technologies such as SANs. The chapter then builds upon this storage information to introduce the various clustering technologies available in Windows Server 2008 R2.
Exam objectives in this chapter:

* Configure storage.
* Configure high availability.

Lessons in this chapter:

* Lesson 1: Configuring Server Storage
* Lesson 2: Configuring Server Clusters

Before You Begin

To complete the lessons in this chapter, you must have:

* A computer named Server2 that is running Windows Server 2008 R2. Beyond the disk on which the operating system is installed, Server2 must be equipped with two additional hard disks of equal size.
* A basic understanding of Windows administration.

Lesson 1: Configuring Server Storage

A variety of server storage solutions is available for corporate networks, and Windows Server 2008 R2 connects to these technologies in new ways. This lesson introduces you to the major server storage types and the tools built into Windows Server 2008 R2 you can use to manage them.

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Understanding Server Storage Technologies

As the demand for server storage has grown, so too has the number of new storage technologies. Over the years, the range of server storage options has broadened from simple direct-attached storage (DAS) to network-attached storage (NAS) and, most recently, to Fibre Channel (FC) and iSCSI SANs.
Direct-Attached Storage

DAS is storage attached to one server only. Examples of DAS solutions are a set of internal hard disks within a server or a rack-mounted RAID connected to a server through a SCSI or FC controller. The main feature of DAS is that it provides a single server with fast, block-based data access to storage directly through an internal or external bus. (Block-based, as opposed to file-based, means that data is moved in unformatted blocks rather than in formatted files.)
DAS is an affordable solution for servers that need good performance and do not need enormous amounts of storage. For example, DAS is often suitable for infrastructure servers, such as DNS, WINS and DHCP servers, and domain controllers. File servers and web servers can also run well on a server with DAS.

The main limitation of DAS is that it is directly accessible from a single server only, which leads to inefficient storage management. For example, Figure 2-1 shows a LAN in which all storage is attached directly to servers. Despite the web and App2 servers having excess storage, there is no easy way for these resources to be redeployed to either the Mail or App1 server, which need more storage space.

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The main tool used for managing DAS in Windows is the Disk Management console. This tool, which you can access in Server Manager, enables you to partition disks and format volume sets. You can also use the Diskpart.exe command-line utility to perform the same functions available in Disk Management and to perform additional functions as well.
Network-Attached Storage

NAS is self-contained storage that other servers and clients can easily access over the network. A NAS device or appliance is a preconfigured server that runs an operating system specifically designed for handling file services. The main advantage of NAS is that it is simple to implement and can provide a large amount of storage space to clients and servers on a LAN. The downside of NAS is that, because your servers and clients access a NAS device over the LAN as opposed to over a local bus, access to data is slower and file-based as opposed to block-based. NAS performance is, therefore, almost always slower than that of DAS.

Because of its features and limitations, NAS is often a good fit for file servers, web servers, and other servers that don’t need extremely fast access to data. In addition, NAS appliances come with their own management tools, which are typically web-based.

Figure 2-2 shows a network in which clients use a NAS appliance as a file server.

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Storage-Area Networks

SANs are high-performance networks dedicated to delivering block data between servers and storage subsystems. From the point of view of the operating system, SAN storage appears as if it were installed locally. The most important characteristic that distinguishes a SAN from DAS is that in a SAN, the storage is not restricted to one server but is, in fact, available to any of a number of servers. (SAN storage can be moved from server to server, but outside of clustered file system environments, it is not accessible by more than one server at a time.)

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A SAN is made up of special devices, including SAN network adapters, called HBAs, on the host servers, cables and switches that help route storage traffic, disk storage subsystems, and tape libraries. These hardware devices that connect servers and storage in a SAN are called the SAN fabric. All these devices are interconnected by fiber or copper. When connected to the fabric, the available storage is divided up into virtual partitions called logical unit numbers (LUNs), which then appear to servers as local disks.

SANs are designed to enable centralization of storage resources while eliminating the distance and connectivity limitations posed by DAS. For example, parallel SCSI bus architecture limits DAS to 16 devices at a maximum (including the controller) distance of 25 meters. Fibre Channel SANs extend this distance limitation to 10 km or more and enable an essentially unlimited number of devices to attach to the network. These advantages enable SANs to separate storage from individual servers and to pool unlimited storage on a network where that storage can be shared.

SANs are a good solution for servers that require fast access to very large amounts of data (especially block-based data). Such servers can include mail servers, backup servers, streaming media servers, application servers, and database servers. The use of SANs also enables efficient long-distance data replication, which is typically part of a disaster recovery (DR) solution.

Figure 2-3 illustrates a simple SAN.

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SANs generally occur in two varieties: Fibre Channel and iSCSI.
FIBRE CHANNEL SANS

Fibre Channel (FC) delivers high-performance block input/output (I/O) to storage devices. Based on serial SCSI, FC is the oldest and most widely adopted SAN interconnect technology. Unlike parallel SCSI devices, FC devices do not need to arbitrate (or contend) for a shared bus. Instead, FC uses special switches to transmit information between multiple servers and storage devices at the same time.

The main advantage of FC is that it is the most widely implemented SAN technology and has, at least until recently, offered the best performance. The disadvantages of FC technology are the cost of its hardware and the complexity of its implementation. Fibre Channel network components include server HBAs, cabling, and switches. All these components are specialized for FC, lack interoperability among vendors, are relatively expensive, and require special expertise.
ISCSI SANS

Internet SCSI (iSCSI) is an industry standard developed to enable transmission of SCSI block commands over an Ethernet network by using the TCP/IP protocol. Servers communicate with iSCSI devices through a locally installed software agent known as an iSCSI initiator. The iSCSI initiator executes requests and receives responses from an iSCSI target, which itself can be the end-node storage device or an intermediary device such as a switch. For iSCSI fabrics, the network also includes one or more Internet Storage Name Service (iSNS) servers that, much like DNS servers on a LAN, provide discoverability and zoning of SAN resources.

By relying on TCP/IP, iSCSI SANs take advantage of networking devices and expertise that are widely available, a fact that makes iSCSI SANs generally simpler and less expensive to implement than FC SANs.

Aside from lower cost and greater ease of implementation, other advantages of iSCSI over FC include:

* Connectivity over long distances   Organizations distributed over wide areas might have a series of unlinked SAN islands that the current FC connectivity limitation of 10 km cannot bridge. (There are new means of extending Fibre Channel connectivity up to several hundred kilometers, but these methods are both complex and costly.) In contrast, iSCSI can connect SANs in distant offi ces by using in-place metropolitan area networks (MANs) and wide-area networks (WANs).
* Built-in security   No security measures are built into the Fibre Channel protocol. Instead, security is implemented primarily through limiting physical access to the SAN. In contrast to FC, the Microsoft implementation of the iSCSI protocol provides security for devices on the network by using the Challenge Handshake Authentication Protocol (CHAP) for authentication, and the Internet Protocol security (IPsec) standard for encryption. Because these methods of securing communications already exist in Windows networks, they can be readily extended from LANs to SANs.

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The main disadvantage of an iSCSI SAN is that, unless it is built with dedicated (and expensive) 10-GB Ethernet cabling and switches, the I/O transfer of iSCSI is slower than an FC-based SAN can deliver. And if you do choose to use 10-GB equipment for your iSCSI SAN instead of the much more common choice of gigabit Ethernet, the high cost of such a 10-GB solution would eliminate the price advantage of iSCSI relative to FC.

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Configuring a SAN Connection with iSCSI Initiator

You can use the iSCSI Initiator built into Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2 to connect to an iSCSI SAN, configure the features of this iSCSI connection, and provision storage. To configure a SAN connection with iSCSI Initiator, select the tool from the Administrative Tools group in the Start menu. This step opens the Targets tab of the iSCSI Initiator Properties dialog box, as shown in Figure 2-4.

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To connect to an iSCSI SAN, specify an iSCSI target by name in the Target text box and then click Quick Connect. (Quick Connect is a new feature in Windows Server 2008 R2.) The Targets tab also provides access to Multipath I/O (MPIO) settings through the Devices and Connect buttons. MPIO enables you to configure multiple simultaneous connections to an iSCSI target so that if one adapter fails, another connection can continue processing I/O without any interruption of service. To enable MPIO, use the Add Features Wizard to add the Multipath I/O feature.

After you establish a connection to an iSCSI target, you can use the following tabs to configure the connection:

* Discovery   On this tab, you can discover targets on specified portals and choose iSNS servers.
* Favorite Targets   Use this tab to ensure that connections to selected iSCSI targets are restored every time the local computer restarts.
* Volumes And Devices   This tab enables you to provision volumes and devices on targets and bind to them so they are readily available on system restart.
* RADIUS   This tab enables you to specify a RADIUS server and shared secret for the authentication of the iSCSI connection.
* Configuration   This tab enables you to require negotiation of the CHAP authentication protocol and IPsec encryption for all connections to the local iSCSI Initiator. The tab also provides a unique identification number for the iSCSI Initator, which you can specify on a remote iSCSI target to configure a connection to the local machine.

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Other Tools for Managing SANs

Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2 include the Virtual Disk service (VDS), an application programming interface (API) that enables FC and iSCSI SAN hardware vendors to expose disk subsystems and SAN hardware to administrative tools in Windows. When vendor hardware includes the VDS hardware provider, you can manage that hardware within Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2 by using iSCSI Initiator and other tools, such as Disk Management, Storage Manager for SANs (SMfS), Storage Explorer, or the command-line tool, DiskRAID.exe.

* Storage Manager for SANs   SMfS is available in Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2 as a feature you can add by using the Add Features Wizard. You can use SMfS to manage SANs by provisioning disks, creating LUNs, and assigning LUNs to different servers in the SAN.
* Storage Explorer   Storage Explorer is available by default in Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2 through the Administrative Tools program group. You can use Storage Explorer to display detailed information about servers connected to the SAN and about fabric components such as HBAs, FC switches, and iSCSI initiators and targets. You can also use Storage Explorer to perform administrative tasks on an iSCSI fabric.
* DiskRAID   DiskRAID is a command-line tool that enables you to manage LUNs in a VDS-enabled hardware RAID.

IE Users Have Lower IQ Than Users of Other Web Browsers [STUDY]

A recent study links intelligence test results with browser usage — and the results don’t look good for users of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, especially its older versions.

 

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The study, titled “Intelligence Quotient (IQ) and Browser Usage” by Canadian company AptiQuant, compiled IQ test scores of 101,326 individuals older than the age of 16 and divided them into groups according to the browser they use.

The results are fascinating. Users of Internet Explorer 6 have an average IQ score barely more than 80; Firefox and Chrome users fare much better, with average IQ scores of around 110, while Opera and Camino users have an average IQ score more than 120.

It’s also interesting to note that average IQ scores of IE6 users were significantly higher in 2006, and that the IQ scores get better with newer versions of IE.

Internet Explorer 6 has long been a thorn in the side of developers who hated it for its non-compliance with web standards, while users struggled with its many security flaws. This new study will probably induce more mockery of the ancient (but still sometimes found on older computers) browser and its users, but it’s probably not telling us that much about the browser itself — it’s about unwillingness to upgrade to a new version of any software.

The study concludes that “individuals on the lower side of the IQ scale tend to resist a change/upgrade of their browsers.” It’s only logical that users with a higher IQ are more likely to experiment, choose a different software version or variant (notice that users of IE with Chrome frame score very high on IQ tests) or listen to upgrade suggestions and security advice.

In March, Microsoft started a campaign to get users to stop using Internet Explorer 6. But did it take into account the fact that many IE6 users tend to have lower than average IQ scores? Maybe that’s the key to finally getting rid of the world’s most hated web browser.

“Individuals on the lower side of the IQ scale tend to resist a change/upgrade of their browsers. … Now that we have a statistical pattern on the continuous usage of incompatible browsers, better steps can be taken to eradicate this nuisance,” the study concludes.

4 power tools for students

Your kids can do a great job on even the toughest school projects with just a computer running the Windows operating system and the right information resources. Research no longer requires a trip to the neighborhood library, because a whole world of information—and the tools to put it all together—are right at home on your family computer.

 

 


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Here are four homework power tools that can turn your children’s ho-hum project into A+ work:

Microsoft Math 3.0

Microsoft PowerPoint 2010

Microsoft OneNote 2010

Microsoft Office.com images

Using these four tools can enrich your student’s learning experience and help them produce high-quality work.

You can find more tips for using these and many other tools for learning at Microsoft Education. Check out the Microsoft Student website for software offers and discounts, creative educational games and competitions, tips for staying organized, a student newsletter, lounge, and Facebook page, along with other resources to help students of all ages and abilities to make the most of their learning experience and to have fun doing it.

Microsoft Math
If your middle-school or high-school student is looking for just one resource to help them save time and complete high-quality math and science homework, Microsoft Math is it. From basic math to precalculus to physics, Microsoft Math helps students visualize and see mathematical and scientific concepts as they’ve never seen them before. It gives them step-by-step instructions to help them tackle even the most difficult problems, while gaining a deeper understanding of fundamental concepts.

Microsoft Math includes:

Step-by-step instructions to help solve difficult math problems with the Step-by-Step Equation Solver.

A full-featured graphing calculator, with large two-dimensional (2-D) and enhanced three-dimensional (3-D) color graphs to better illustrate problems and concepts.

The Formulas and Equations Library—a resource with more than 100 commonly used equations and formulas to help you identify and apply the right one for your problem.

The Triangle Solver—a graphing tool that helps you explore and better understand triangles and their parts.

The Unit Conversion Tool—a handy tool that quickly and easily converts units of measure, including length, area, volume, weight, temperature, pressure, energy, power, velocity, and time.

Ink Handwriting Support that recognizes handwritten problems and works with Tablet PCs and ultra-mobile PCs.
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Microsoft PowerPoint 2010
PowerPoint 2010 can help your kids put all the information they gather together into a dazzling presentation that their classmates and teachers will appreciate.

An easy-to-use but sophisticated program, PowerPoint 2010 includes dozens of ready-made slide templates to choose from in many categories, such as academic (now including Spanish class presentations), animals, nature, astronomy, conservation, and world culture. Your students can simply choose a design template, plug in their information, select the slide transitions they want, and be ready to give their presentation to the class. It also allows students to design their own look and feel for their slide presentations.

PowerPoint 2010 includes many new and improved features, many of which students will especially appreciate. For example, you can now automatically save versions of presentations, embed, edit, and play videos in presentations, use transitions with 3-D motion graphics effects, and turn your presentation into a video. For students on the go (and who isn’t these days?), the new PowerPoint Web App is a great advantage. They can store their presentation on a web server and work on it from anywhere, just by opening the presentation in their web browser. That means they can work even when they’re away from home, and they can easily collaborate with other students on group projects, even if their schedules and locations don’t overlap. All Office Web Apps are available by signing in to Windows Live.

If you’re switching from an earlier version of PowerPoint and you want to get up to speed fast, visit the PowerPoint Getting Started site to learn the basics, find the commands on the new ribbon, or take a brief introductory training course.
In Editing view, in PowerPoint Web App, you can add and delete content and format text. You can also add, delete, duplicate, and hide slides.

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Microsoft OneNote 2010
Students have to gather and organize data from multiple sources, in addition to working on group projects with classmates and juggling classes, meetings, volunteer work, and social activities. OneNote 2010, a note-taking program that makes it easy to take, organize, manage, and share notes, can help simplify all these tasks.

Unlike paper systems or word processing applications, OneNote 2010 combines the ability to capture typed and handwritten text, diagrams, drawings, webpage content, and audio notes in one place, with the flexibility to organize and reuse them any way you want. There are many ways OneNote 2010 can help your kids in their studies. Kids can use it to record lectures, create outlines, take notes when they do research online, and organize their notes by page and section. After they’ve done their research, they can quickly create To Do lists and summaries of other tasks from the note tags. OneNote 2010 has many new features that students will love, including the familiar Office ribbon for commands, the ability to create and display equations, touch support, a mini translator, and automatic linking to the notes you’re taking, so they’ll never lose a reference. OneNote 2010 Web App is also new. Students can use it to sync their notebooks to the cloud using Windows Live and then read and edit them anywhere from any computer, using a web browser.

With OneNote, your kids can’t lose their notes or notebooks, they don’t have to carry heavy backpacks, and they can easily share notebooks with their classmates or teachers. Read Top reasons to use OneNote 2010 in the classroom.
You can capture many different kinds of sources in OneNote and keep all related information together on one page. Note tags help you keep track of your To Do list, questions, definitions, and much more.

Whether you’re new to OneNote or you’re switching from an earlier version, you may want to visit the Getting Started page to help you learn basics fast, find commands on the new ribbon, or take a short training on the new features.
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Microsoft Office.com images
No presentation would be complete without some kind of art—a photo, drawing, cartoon, or media clip.

Your students can search for and insert clip art right from PowerPoint 2010. If they want even more choices, they can access more than 150,000 pieces of art, photos, sounds, and animation on the Microsoft Office.com images site download what they want, and then insert it.

To access clip art and other images from PowerPoint:On the Insert tab, in the Images group, click Clip Art.

In the clip art pane, in the Search box, type what you are searching for.

In the Results should be box, select the check box for the kind of media you’re looking for—Illustrations, Photographs, Videos, Audio, or All Media Types.

Click Go.

Browse the images, and double-click the one that you want. PowerPoint immediately inserts it in your presentation.

Note: If you don’t see what you want and you want to search for more images on the Office.com site, all you have to do is click the Find more at Office.com link at the bottom of the clip art pane.

To download free clip art and other images from Office.com:Go to the Office.com images site.

Search the clip art categories for something you like.

Double-click the image. On the new page that opens, you can click Copy to clipboard to paste it in the board on the left while you continue to browse, or you can click Download if you want to use the image. If an image is close to but not exactly what you’re looking for, click More in This Category, or click See Similar Images to view a one-screen collage of similar images that you can browse. Double-click any thumbnail to add it to the clipboard on the left.

In the File Download dialog box, click Save. Navigate to where you want to save the image on your computer, and then click Save.

To insert the image in your presentation, on the Insert tab, in the Images group, click Picture. In the Insert Picture dialog box, navigate to the image, and then double-click it to insert it in your presentation.

PowerPoint 2010 gives you even more creative choices for using clip art in your presentations than previous versions—your kids can apply artistic textures and effects to the clip art and other images in their presentations, and they can copy and paste animated effects from one shape to another.

Each of these four tools makes it easy for your student to research and create high-quality school projects. But even more important, these homework power tools can open your children’s minds to a world of curiosity, ideas, inspiration, and creativity.

iPad 2 Tips Tricks and Shortcuts

While some might argue that it can almost replace a full-fledged computer, the iPad was designed to be simple. Even if you have very little tech savvy, you can probably pick up Apple’s latest tablet and master the basic features in a matter of minutes. And the longer you spend swiping your way around the touch-based iOS, the more you’ll learn. Like it is with any operating system, though, there are just some things that aren’t obvious. You could (gasp!) pore through the 22-chapter iPad 2 User Guide (it’s got three appendices too), to make sure you’re not missing anything, but where’s the fun in that?

 

 

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After almost a month of testing and using the iPad 2, we’ve learned some cool tricks and we want to share. In the slideshow, you’ll find general tips that apply to multiple applications, along with those specific to Safari, Maps, iPod, and Photos. Whether you’re a seasoned Mac or iOS user, or even an Apple newbie, there’s something here for you. Have a tip of your own to share? Let us know in the comments below.

10 hot areas of expertise for IT specialists

My recent article 10 Ways to become an IT superstar generated a lot of feedback. Quite a few IT pros out there apparently want to increase their visibility (and paychecks). One thing that drew a lot of attention in the piece was the advice to specialize. Okay, readers replied, but what area should I specialize in? They wanted to know which subsets of skills are the easiest to master and/or which ones will deliver the most bang for the buck. So in this follow-up, I’ll look at some of the IT specialties that are likely to be in demand in the near future.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

1: To the cloud
You saw this one coming, didn’t you? All the major technology companies seem to be “all in” with cloud computing — Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Dell, CA Technologies, and more. According to recent surveys, at least 50% of organizations are already using some form of cloud computing, and Gartner says the adoption rate is increasing by about 17% per year. According to Dice.com, the number of ads for cloud computing jobs has grown by 344% over the last two years.

2: Virtually speaking
Virtualization has been hot for a while, as companies jumped in to reap the cost and management benefits of consolidating their servers and delivering virtualized desktops and applications to their users. Virtualization is also the foundation of cloud computing, so those with expertise in deploying virtualized IT environments will be in demand both in the public cloud arena and with those organizations that plan to stick with private clouds for now. Dice.com’s data showed a 78% growth in the number of jobs related to server virtualization.

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3: Mobile computing and consumerization integration
Everyone knows mobile computing is hot. Smartphones and tablets, along with laptops and netbooks, are the driving forces behind the increasing consumerization of enterprise IT. There are plenty of advantages for the company: Because employees are willing to buy their own devices, the organization saves money. Because those employees can stay in touch with work, read and respond to email, view attachments, and create documents no matter where they are, they become more productive.

But when employees purchase their own equipment, the downside is that you lose the standardization that comes with company-issued devices. You end up with many types of devices, made by different hardware vendors, running different operating systems and different apps, configured differently. Getting them to seamlessly connect to the company network can be a challenge. Getting them all connected to the company network without putting the network at risk is even more of a challenge. IT pros who have expertise in integrating these new devices into the network and managing them once they’re connected are likely to be in demand by many companies.

Application lifecycle management (ALM) will become increasingly important as the environment becomes more complex with some functions in the cloud and some onsite. Bob Aiello believes configuration management (CM) will evolve into ALM, and the outlook is bright for those with these expanded skills.

4: It’s all about the apps
As Toni Bowers reported in a recent blog post, the hottest job category for 2011 (according to CareerCast.com) is that of software engineer. But it’s a position that’s a bit different from the programmer of yesteryear. On the programming side of the fence, it’s all about apps these days. As smartphones and tablets become ubiquitous, companies will need to develop their own specialized apps for those devices — just as they’ve needed to develop proprietary software for desktop systems.

In addition, cloud-based applications will be big in the coming years, and that means software engineers will need new skills to design, develop, and implement programs that run in the cloud environment. Those who are familiar with Windows Azure, Google App Engine, VMware’s Spring Framework, Force.com, and other cloud development platforms will be a step ahead of the game.

5: Security and compliance
With cybercrime on the rise and increasing concern over the possibility of cyber terrorism and/or cyber warfare, security specialists are likely to continue to be in demand for the foreseeable future. There is a saying in the law enforcement community regarding job security: Thanks to human nature, there will always be criminals — and thus, there will always be a need for the police. That same dark side of human nature ensures that there will always be those who misuse computer technology to attack, intrude, and otherwise attempt to do harm to computer systems. That means there will always be a need for computer and network security specialists.

In addition, more and more government regulation of the Internet and networks, as well as regulatory provisions concerning data privacy, mean security is no longer optional for most organizations. Those who specialize in regulatory compliance are likely to see their job prospects increase as more industries come under the regulatory umbrella.

6: Four to six
When the IPv4 address pool was created in the 1980s, it was thought that the more than 4.2 billion unique addresses possible under the system would be enough. However, the creators didn’t foresee the Internet boom or the possibility that one day, we would be connecting not just multiple computers per person, but printers, phones, and even household appliances to the Internet. This month (February 2011), IANA announced that it has allocated the last batch of remaining IPv4 addresses.

The solution to the problem has been around for a while: IPv6. The new version of the Internet Protocol supports a whopping 340 undecillion (2 to the 128th power) addresses. But IPv6 deployment is not an easy task; working with it requires learning a whole new IP language. IPv6 addresses don’t even look like their IPv4 counterparts; they’re notated in hexadecimal instead of dotted quad. IPv6 is also much more sophisticated than IPv4, with many new features (including built-in security mechanisms). Most important, IPv6 does not interoperate with IPv4, so transition technologies are required to get IPv4 networks to communicate with IPv6 networks.

Obviously, now that we’ve reached the end of the available IPv4 addresses, more and more organizations will be forced to migrate to IPv6. Because of the complexity, there is a shortage of IT personnel who have mastered and really understand IPv6. If you’re one of the few, the proud, who specializes in this area, you’re likely to have plenty of business in the upcoming years.

7: Business intelligence
Business intelligence (BI) refers to technologies that are used for reporting and analyzing data, including recognizing trends and patterns, to make better strategic business decisions. BI uses techniques such as data mining to extract and identify patterns and correlations in large amounts of data.

According to a recent study of midsize organizations that was done by IBM, BI/analytics is the second most popular IT investment (after infrastructure) that companies have planned for 2011. This indicates that specializing in the BI field can be a lucrative strategy and a good investment in your future.

8: The social network
Social networking started as a consumer-driven technology, but the use of social media is now being embraced in a big way by businesses. It can be used to connect with customers, colleagues, and partners to build solid business relationships. That doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be a hot property on the job market just because you tweet and update your Facebook page regularly. But it does mean organizations are looking for people who know how to integrate social media into the business environment in a way that furthers the goals of the organization.

Many companies are looking to develop their own social sites that give them more control and let them target their audiences more precisely. Specialists in social media are sure to find many opportunities as more and more companies stop seeing social sites as just time-wasters that should be blocked and start to recognize the potential for business use. This article offers more information about exactly what a social media specialist does.

9: Public sector computing
On the one hand, many state and local governments are cutting back on their budgets and laying off personnel. On the other hand, governmental agencies are depending more and more on technology to perform their functions more efficiently with fewer personnel. That means specialists in public sector computing can likely find a home in one of the many thousands of town, city, county, state, or federal government agencies that exist in the United States alone.

Although salaries for government jobs are often smaller than those in the private sector, they sometimes offer better benefits, more time off, and a less pressured work environment. There are a number of IT subspecialties in the public sector, as well. These include computer forensics investigators, criminalistics analysts, and personnel who specialize in secure mobile communications technologies for public service agencies.

10: To your health
The healthcare industry is in a state of flux in the United States. Government mandates are predicted to result in cost reduction measures that may result in personnel cuts and/or discourage young people from entering medicine. At the same time, the baby boomer generation is aging and requiring health care. Technology may be one way to fill the gap.

An IDC report published late last year showed that the U.S. healthcare market for IT was valued at $34 billion and was predicted to increase by 24% over the next three years. That translates into a demand for software developers and IT professionals who understand the healthcare industry and its special needs and who know how to integrate technology into the caregiver’s world without dumping a steep learning curve onto people already working in an understaffed and overworked environment.

Yahoo, Facebook and Google to IETF: Where are the IPv6 users?

Meeting of Internet standards body indicates shift in IPv6 debate from content to carriers

QUEBEC CITY — Where are the users? That’s what popular websites including Yahoo, Google and Facebook are asking the Internet engineering community when they are questioned about their long-range plans to deploy IPv6.

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These popular websites — and tens of thousands of others — participated in a successful, 24-hour trial of IPv6 on June 8 dubbed World IPv6 Day. Sponsored by the Internet Society, World IPv6 Day was a large-scale experiment designed to test the readiness of IPv6 to replace IPv4, which has been the Internet’s main communications protocol since its inception 40 years ago.

The Internet’s largest players are providing detailed analysis about their experiences on World IPv6 Day and they are discussing next steps for IPv6 deployment at a meeting of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) being held here this week.

BACKGROUND: World IPv6 Day: Tech industry’s most-watched event since Y2K

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What’s evident at the IETF meeting is a shift in focus on the IPv6 debate from content to carriers. The Internet engineering community appears to be ratcheting up the pressure on ISPs, particularly residential broadband providers, to enable IPv6 to home users as the next step to IPv6 deployment.

“The focus is absolutely on the access networks,” said IETF Chairman Russ Housley. “What World IPv6 Day showed is individuals who wanted to participate from home could not get IPv6 support from their ISPs. They had to set up their own [IPv6-over-IPv4] tunnels, and the average user doesn’t have the knowledge to do that.”

Yahoo said it deployed dual-stack IPv6 and IPv4 proxy servers at seven locations worldwide and created a special infrastructure to improve the performance of the 6to4 tunneling protocol for World IPv6 Day. Yahoo also modified its geolocation and ad-targeting code to be IPv6 aware, and it over-provisioned its IPv6 servers as an extra precaution.

On World IPv6 Day, Yahoo served IPv6 content to more than 2.2 million users, representing a peak of 0.229% of the overall traffic on 30 different Yahoo-affiliated sites. Yahoo hailed World IPv6 Day as a success but turned off IPv6 support after the event.

“IPv6 is not a wide deployment,” said Igor Gashinsky, a principal architect with Yahoo. “That was a lot of work for 0.229%. We need more IPv6 access. Can we break single digits, please, and then we can talk about leaving it on?”

Similarly, Facebook served content to more than 1 million IPv6 users on World IPv6 Day. But this represented only a small fraction — 0.2% — of Facebook users that are IPv6 capable. Of those Facebook users, 0.16% had native IPv6 access and the other 0.04% used 6to4 tunneling.

“There are some people who are very, very passionate about IPv6 … but it’s difficult for most people to understand,” said Donn Lee, a member of Facebook’s network engineering team. “It’s very much a concept of, ‘I have restored my Internet connection.’ That’s what the user cares about. The user doesn’t care about if it’s IPv6 or IPv4.”

The IETF created IPv6 a decade ago because the Internet is running out of addresses using IPv4. The free pool of unassigned IPv4 addresses expired in February, and in April the Asia Pacific region ran out of all but a few IPv4 addresses being held in reserve for startups. The American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN), which doles out IP addresses to network operators in North America, says it will deplete its supply of IPv4 addresses this fall.

Here’s how Microsoft games the patent system to get Android licensing fees

In the last several weeks, a host of makers of Android devices have agreed to pay Microsoft fees for alleging using Microsoft patents when deploying Android on their devices. Why is that happening? It appears that Microsoft may have found a way to legally game the patent system.

 

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Quite a few phone makers have agreed to pay the fees. Last year, HTC agree to pay royalties for the patents. Then in the last week in June, two more manufacturers inked a deal with Microsoft. Velocity Micro signed a deal for for its Android-based Cruz table, and General Dynamics Itronix signed a deal for a small Android GPS device that can be worn on the wrist.

More recently, Onkyo signed a similar deal, as did Wistron, for smartphones, tablets, and other devices.

Why are these companies agreeing to pay up? Timothy Lee in his blog on Forbes, lays out the most logical and compelling reasons I’ve yet heard.

Lee notes that Microsoft has been stockpiling patents for many years, and that it currently has about 18,000 patents in its portfolio. Google, by way of contrast, has been granted only 700. This isn’t because Microsoft is more innovative than Google, he argues. It’s because Microsoft has instilled the idea of trying to grab any patent it can, no matter how far-fetched, into its culture. Google hasn’t done the same.

What does this have to do with Android device makers agreeing to pay for Microsoft patents? Plenty. Lee says that Android has approximately 10 million lines of code in it, and then says:

Auditing 10 million lines of code for compliance with 18,000 patents is an impossible task—especially because the meaning of a patent’s claims are often not clear until after they have been litigated. Most Silicon Valley companies don’t even try to avoid infringing patents. They just ignore them and hope they’ll be able to afford good lawyers when the inevitable lawsuits arrive.

Microsoft has a substantial budget for its legal staff, and can easily afford to sue as many manufacturers as it wants. Those manufacturers, though, typically don’t have big legal warchests. They simply find it easier and less expensive to pay Microsoft for the patents, even if they don’t believe they are infringing.

Microsoft adds RAW photo file support to Windows

Some welcome news for serious photographers running Windows: Microsoft has added support for the RAW file format from within Windows Explorer as well as Windows Live Photo Gallery 2011.

“Dealing with raw images on Windows hasn’t always been easy,” admited Brad Weed, group program manager for Microsoft’s Windows Live in a blog post emailed to me in advance of its posting.

 

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Microsoft today announced the release of a Camera Codec Pack that supports more than 120 RAW file formats from Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, Pentax, Leica, Minolta, Panasonic and Epson. Once installed, Explorer windows will be able to generate thumbnail images from RAW files.

RAW files, often called digital negatives, include all the data that a camera captures electronically. That data is usually processed in some way to produce a viewable image, a bit like film negatives need processing to create prints. Many photography enthusiasts prefer shooting with a RAW format because 1) those files include much more data than a JPG and 2) RAW gives them greater control over what the final image will look like, much like doing your own darkroom work instead of sending film out to be processed. (Am I dating myself here?)
RAW files in Windows Explorer before the Codec
RAW files as they appeared in Windows Explorer before the Camera Codec Pack

However, not all software can deal with RAW files, including many low-end image editors. Until today, Windows Explorer didn’t, either; Explorer could not generate thumbnail images of RAW files the way it did with JPGs. So, even if you chose to display image thumbnails within Explorer, all you’d get is icons showing the application you’ve associated with that file type. (I’ve linked my RAW files to be opened in Photoshop Elements, hence the PSE).
RAW files in Windows Explorer using the Codec
RAW files as they appear in Windows Explorer using the Camera Codec Pack

I’m not sure how many people will be using Windows Live Photo Gallery to edit RAW files. It’s hard to imagine that many photographers shooting RAW are using Windows Live to edit their images, as opposed to, say, robust editors such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom or Apple Apeture — all of which include RAW editors. However, the ability to see RAW thumbnails in Explorer should be useful for hobbyists using the Windows platform. I’ve already downloaded and installed the Codec on my Windows 7 system at home, and it’s nice to see thumbnails of my RAW files instead of icons of the software I use to open them. And I suppose the Windows Live capability could in handy in a pinch, for someone encountering a RAW file who doesn’t usually deal with them.

You can download and install the Codec Pack manually from the Microsoft Download Center.

If you’re wondering, Mac OS X is already able to generate thumbnails for RAW files, and Apple’s consumer-level iPhoto software pulls in RAW files and automatically processes them (unlike Apeture which gives the user more control over that conversion).

How to View Any File in Windows

PC World – Right out of the box, Windows 7 and Vista let you preview most mainstream and multimedia file types. To find and activate the preview function, go to Windows Explorer (click Start and type explorer.exe in the “Search programs and files” box) and click the Preview icon in the upper right corner.


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Unfortunately, the preview pane is slightly eccentric. For instance, if a multimedia file type is not associated with Windows Media Player (WMP), preview won’t work; instead you’ll probably see just an icon of the program it is associated with. Not to worry. To preview a slew of lesser-known file types in Windows, while still allowing you to open the files with the default program of your choice, download and install PreviewConfig. Downloading the K-Lite codec pack will add preview capability for video and audio files like Ogg Vorbis, DivX, and others. And NitroPDF Reader takes care of PDFs. If you stumble upon a file type that those utilities can’t handle, head to your favorite search engine and look for “DirectShow” plus the file type in question to find a free preview handler.

If all that preview-pane tweaking sounds like more trouble than it’s worth (or you’re using Windows XP, which doesn’t have the same preview capabilities), consider a stand-alone program to open your oddball files. Start with VLC, which is free and handles virtually every video and audio file type in existence. For photo and graphics files, try GIMP, a free app that supports a huge number of files and is a top-notch image editor to boot. For viewing and extracting compressed files, you can try freebies 7-Zip and PeaZip, though nothing beats RARLab’s $29 WinRAR, which supports nearly every compression format known to man.

If you’re still using Microsoft Office 2003 and want to read, edit, or save files created in more recent versions of Word, Excel, or PowerPoint, you’ll want to install the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack. Finally, if you need to view various obscure, older business documents (remember AMI Pro, Harvard Graphics, or SuperCalc?) and are still stumped, consider shelling out for Avanstar’s $49 QuickView Plus Standard. It doesn’t integrate into the Windows preview pane, but if you right-click on any supported file, you’ll have an option for the QuickView viewer.