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Tuesday, 30 August 2011

10 workplace blunders to avoid at all costs

10 workplace blunders to avoid at all costs
Some of you will shoot up the corporate ladder like you were born with leadership abilities far beyond those of ordinary mortals. If only that were the case for everyone.
The vast majority of us actually progress in fits and starts, with maybe even a minor correction or two along the way.
Don’t feel too bad; it’s just the universe’s way of screwing with us from time to time, just to make sure we’re paying attention.
Still, I’ve found that most of the issues you’re likely to run into can be avoided if you know what to look out for. Since we can all use a little help these days, here are 10 things you should never do at work.
Note: This article is based on an entry in BNET’s The Corner Office blog.

1: Say or write anything you wouldn’t want plastered on the Yahoo home page…

… or in the hands of the SEC, FTC, DOJ, or IRS. You have zero expectation of privacy at work and should therefore assume that anything and everything is being recorded for all eternity and will come back to haunt you at the worst possible time. That includes emails, phone calls, even hallway or parking lot conversations.

2: Over-apologize

We all make mistakes and it’s always good to fess up, but in business, you can go too far and actually make matters worse. If it’s a minor issue, just a quick “sorry about that” is fine. If it’s a big screw-up, apologize in private, face-to-face. Look the guy in the eye, say your piece, and be done with it. If you want confirmation, then ask, “Are we good now?” Don’t grovel, make promises you can’t keep, or anything else. Just man-up and leave it alone.

3: Take your smartphone to the bathroom

Hopeless addiction to smartphones, needing to stay connected 24×7, and being constantly pressed for time do not belong in a place where flushes can be heard on the other end of the line or, God forbid, the thing can drop into something wet, white, and porcelain. Leave it in your pocket and if it rings, have the good sense not to answer.

4: Cross swords with your boss, your boss’s boss, or any other boss

Too many of you just don’t get how civilization, organization, or the lack of either — which we affectionately call the jungle — works. You simply don’t square off with your boss or anyone in the chain of command. If you lose, you lose; if you win, you still lose. It’ll end badly and reflect badly on you no matter how it goes down. If you want to know how to deal with a bad boss, click the link.

5: Go looking for trouble

If you’re in a bad mood or pissed off at somebody, walk it off or treat yourself to a nice greasy donut or something. If you go looking for trouble, however, I can almost guarantee you will find it and it won’t end well for you. Don’t pick fights, push buttons, or otherwise give anyone a hard time. It’s called acting out, it’s childish, and it’ll stunt your career, big-time.

6: Make commitments you can’t keep or exaggerate your ability or influence

And don’t lie, either. The more straightforward and genuine you are, the smoother your career — and your life, for that matter — will go. Do what you say you’re going to do and leave the BS for the other guy. Your credibility will grow, people will count on you for more and more, and off you go.

7: Get angry, abusive, combative, or loud in an open or cubicle area

Admittedly, I was often guilty of this back in the day. It wasn’t acceptable then and it’s not acceptable now, but at least then, it was a relatively common occurrence. These days, you stand out like a big bully. And nobody likes a bully.

8: Say or do stuff people really don’t want to hear or see

Too much information” might be a bit subjective, but there’s a common sense line you shouldn’t cross, including anything to do with your sex life, religious beliefs, political leanings, finances, holistic cures for mysterious ailments, frequency of bowel movements, revealing tats or scars that are and should remain hidden by clothing… you get the picture.

9: Act like a whiny, PITA negatron

If you’re a big crybaby, nobody will want to have anything to do with you. It’s ironic, but those who do all the complaining are the ones who make the workplace a living hell, not the people or stuff they’re always whining about. Think about it.

10: Talk trash about a coworker to anyone, anywhere on company property

You can be sure it’ll get around and come back to bite you in the end. Save it for friends, your spouse, or better still, the dog.

Other mistakes?

What are some other workplace stunts guaranteed to torpedo your career?

Saturday, 27 August 2011

10 tips for avoiding IT burnout

10 tips for avoiding IT burnout
IT Burnout
Takeaway: If your job is driving you to the breaking point, it’s time to look at a few ways to ease the stress. Here are some strategies to help you prevent a bad case of burnout.
IT pros know all too well that the long hours and deadline-driven stress of the job can take its toll. If left unchecked, excessive stress can lead to burnout. Fortunately, there are some things that you can do to avoid IT burn out. Not all of the following suggestions are going to be practical for everyone, but some may help. Here are the techniques that have worked for me.

1: Take time off whenever you can

It’s common for people working in certain IT positions to go for months without a day off. All those long nights and weekends can really run you into the ground after a while. One of the best ways to fight the inevitable fatigue is to take full advantage of your vacation days.
Over the years, I have had people tell me that taking a vacation is completely irresponsible and that it’s something no true professional should ever do. However, I completely disagree. I have found that for me, there is no better way to recharge my batteries than to take time off.
I realize that this isn’t an option for everyone. But if possible, try taking a really long vacation. I don’t even start to unwind until about a week into my vacation.

2: Identify stressful tasks

Another way to avoid IT burnout is to identify your most stressful tasks. Oftentimes, one or two things make a job far more stressful than it would otherwise be. If you can identify the things that cause you the most stress, you might be able to find a way to reduce that stress. For instance, maybe you can delegate those particular tasks to someone else. Or perhaps you can set aside a certain time each week for dealing with the most stressful tasks so you don’t have to worry about them for the rest of the week.

3: Unplug at the end of the day

Unplugging at night helps me relieve IT stress. Although there are some exceptions, I try not to check my email after 11:00 PM. That way, by the time I go to bed at 2:00, my mind has had time to relax and I don’t end up going to bed thinking about work.

4: Blow off some steam

I have heard various people say that one good way to relieve stress and avoid burnout is to have a hobby. While I agree with that general concept, I have found that not just any hobby will do. Some hobbies are better at taking your mind off work than others. For instance, I used to play golf, but the people I played with always seemed to talk about work. Today, a couple of my favorite hobbies are racing my Cigarette boat and flying RC helicopters. Both of those activities require total concentration, which makes it impossible to think about work.

5: Eat well and exercise

As strange as it sounds, a proper diet and exercise can help you to avoid burnout. Anyone who has ever had a fast food hangover can attest to the fact that people generally feel better when they eat right, and feeling good can go a long way toward helping you to make it through the day.

6: Socialize

When was the last time you got together with your friends or family? Regularly taking a little time out and socializing a bit might help you to forget about work for a while.

7: Develop an escape plan

If your working conditions seem completely intolerable, take some time to determine what it would take to make your situation more palatable. Maybe avoiding certain people would help. Maybe it’s time for a different job. Once you have figured out what would make your situation better, the next step is to come up with a realistic plan for achieving that objective. It might not always be easy to change your situation, and it probably won’t happen overnight. But where there is a will there is a way.

8: Get plenty of sleep

Given all the demands that are placed on us, it can be tough to get enough sleep. Even so,getting plenty of rest is essential to avoiding burnout. When I am well rested, I’m a lot less edgy and I think more clearly, which ultimately translates to doing better work in less time. It isn’t usually possible for me to get enough sleep during the week, so I make it a habit to sleep for most of the day on Sundays. I have found that resting on Sunday makes me better able to cope with Monday morning.

9: Cross train

Sometimes, what really leads to burnout is doing the same job day in and day out. If you are bored to tears with your job, why not start a cross-training program with some other IT staff members? That way, everybody gets a break from the normal day-to-day routine, and the organization ultimately benefits from the diversification of skills.

10: Learn to say no

This might be the most difficult suggestion of all, but sometimes you just have to say no to projects. This is especially true if you are already working nights and weekends just to complete the tasks that have already been assigned to you. Remember, there are only so many hours in a day.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Three reasons Why iPhones are better for business users

Three reasons Why iPhones are better for business users
Clients ask all the time what I think of their smartphones. Committed by multi-year contracts that ultimately run several thousand dollars and outlast some marriages, they want to hear they chose wisely. Unless they chose an iPhone, I don’t have much to say.
That’s the truth. To tell you anything else would be a disservice to them, you and this space. What’s important is why I prefer the iPhone, and the reasons have nothing to do with drinking Apple’s Kool-Aid, being “arty” or wanting to look “cool.” I’m too busy for that stuff.
My office supports several hundred commercial clients. We’ve deployed, configured and troubleshot BlackBerries, Droids, Treos, iPhones and others. Having had to manage email, synchronize calendars, support contacts, configure music and photos, enable video transfer and fix stubborn Smartphone applications more times than I can count, we’ve learned a few things along the way.

#1. Easier email configuration

J. D. Power ranked the iPhone number one according to the results of a business survey. Ease of operation was a major contributing factor. That’s no surprise to me. My engineers and I can configure an iPhone to synchronize email, contacts and calendar information with a properly configured Exchange server inside of 30 seconds. 30 seconds, no exaggeration. I’ve seen just email configuration alone consume three and four hours when working with BlackBerries, often due to the complexities of having to convince cell providers to reset BlackBerry user accounts on proprietary, closed systems.

#2. Tight, customizable security

Thanks to the News of the World voice-mail hacking scandal, smartphone security scrutiny is at an all-time high. Thankfully, iPhones are more secure than many give them credit for.
Leveraging good business practices (enforce encrypted backups, restrict store access, require passcode use, enable 256-bit AES encryption for all handset data and power Cisco- or SSL-powered VPN connections, etc.) helps lock down the devices. iPhones also support remote data wiping, including directly by users within Outlook Web Access when running newer Exchange platforms.
Business applications benefit, too, from heightened security. Because iOS apps run within protected memory spaces, a runaway or malicious program can’t access another application’s data.

#3. Best application support

Whenever a client needs a third-party app (such as a project management tool, task management utility, e-reader, mapping program, notes synchronization app or similar app), there’s almost always an iPhone-specific program available. Apple’s smartphone easily leads the pack.
In fact, it’s not even a race. In July Apple announced more than 15 billion apps had been downloaded by more than 200 million iPhone, iPad and iPod touch users. Certainly, iPhone users have many choices. More than 425,000 apps are available.
Best of all, Apple makes it easy for iPhone users to browse, search, download and update applications. It all comes back to ease of operation. Apple’s become one of the most highly capitalized corporations ever, in part, due to the simplicity and reliability the iPhone provides.

Your take

Techies feel very strongly about their smartphones. You may well agree with the iPhone assessment, or you may strongly disagree. Post your comments below. But be sure to provide real-world examples, too. Don’t just say iPhones are weak; state why they’re weak (maybe your iPhone 4 drops voice calls in a tunnel where your old Motorola handset never failed). Or maybe you think the iPhone rocks, in which case actual examples will better assist other business users in understanding how it helps you (maybe you’re able to run unique applications tailored to your vertical market, for example). Weigh in below.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Five tips for lightning-fast formatting in Word

Five tips for lightning-fast formatting in Word
Takeaway: No matter what kind of document you’re working on, it will probably need some formatting. These shortcuts will help you zip through those tasks so you can concentrate on the content.
Even if you’re a diehard mouse person, certain keyboard shortcuts are undeniably useful — especially when it comes to formatting. Here are five areas where you can save time using the keyboard instead of traipsing around the Ribbon or searching through menus for the options you need.

1: Apply styles

Not everyone uses styles to format their documents, which is really too bad — styles are almost always more efficient than manual formatting. But even if you’re style-shy, you’ll appreciate the instant formatting provided by these little shortcuts. They work on the current paragraph or multiple selected paragraphs:
  • Ctrl + Shift + N applies the Normal style.
  • Ctrl + Shift + L applies the List Bullet style.
  • Ctrl + Alt +1 applies the Heading 1 style.
  • Ctrl + Alt +2 applies the Heading 2 style.
  • Ctrl + Alt +3 applies the Heading 3 style.
  • Ctrl + Shift + S will open the Apply Styles dialog box, where you can choose any style available to the document. (In Word 2003, it will move the focus to the Style box on the Formatting toolbar.)

2: Adjust font size

Word offers two types of size adjustment, although it’s a subtle distinction:
  • Ctrl + ] increases the size of selected text by 1 point; Ctrl + [ decreases the size of selected text by 1 point.
  • Ctrl + Shift + > increases the selected text to the next largest installed point size; Ctrl + Shift + < decreases the selected text to the next smallest installed point size.
So, for instance, the first shortcut would increase a selection of 12-point Calibri to 13 points. But the second shortcut would increase it to 14 points.

3: Modify line or paragraph spacing

These are handy if you’re trying to add white space and/or improve readability in a document but you don’t have a lot of time to spend tweaking the layout and design:
  • Ctrl + 0 (zero) applies or removes 12 points of space above the current paragraph.
  • Ctrl + 5 applies 1.5 line spacing to the current paragraph.
  • Ctrl + 2 double-spaces the lines in the current paragraph.

4: Transfer formatting

I always get some truculent feedback when I share this shortcut — apparently, the Format Painter feature has a militant and devoted following. But this trick offers something Format Painter doesn’t: It remembers the formatting you copied until the end of your Word session. So if you think you may need to apply a particular set of formatting attributes at various times as you work, this trick is golden:
  • Ctrl + Shift + C copies the formatting of selected text.
  • Ctrl + Shift + V applies the copied formatting to a new selection.

5: Remove manually applied formatting

If you often work with documents created by other people, you’ve probably encountered more than your share of extraneous formatting. You may have even applied some dubious touches yourself, in the form of wild fonts or excessive italics. The fastest way to eliminate all the manual formatting from selected text and get back to the underlying styles is to use these shortcuts:
  • Ctrl + Spacebar removes character formatting, leaving just the formatting of the default character style.
  • Ctrl + Q removes paragraph formatting, leaving just the formatting of the paragraph style applied to the selected paragraph(s).

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Securing Mac OS X Lion using Firewall and FileVault 2

Securing Mac OS X Lion using Firewall and FileVault 2
Takeaway: Mac Lion has the features to protect even the most sensitive systems but users should be aware of unintended side effects of both Firewall and FireVault before enabling either.
Apple Mac Lion FileVault
I’d like to show you how to protect your Lion-installed Mac even further via Lion’s Firewall and FileVault software, and explain when it is best to institute these features.
Your users love to feel secure and often times enable features, not knowing what side effects may come of their actions. While their intentions are coming from a good place, doing so can leave a user permanently removed from their files and prevent them from accessing important data on the web. It’s good practice to share these concepts with your users and it will help to prevent future headaches for you, the beloved IT professional.

Lion’s Firewall

Firewalls help prevent unwanted traffic from flowing in and out or your computer systems. The more services you have blocked, the more difficult it is for someone or something to compromise your computer from the outside world. In the workplace, I rarely, if ever, find it necessary to enable the software-based Firewall that Apple ships with its OS. A properly managed network should handle these duties by filtering data at the router level rather than the individual machine. Enabling the Firewall can sometimes have unintended consequences, however, ranging from file-sharing issues, iChat communications not working as expected, not being able to see other machines on the network, and even unexpected disconnects from the Internet are sometimes but not always the result of the Firewall being enabled.
So when is it a good time to use the software-based Firewall? Mobile workers with laptops who frequently attach to remote networks  are the prime candidates. Any machine that can come and go on a managed network is a liability. Portables have a much greater potential to be compromised when away from the mothership and connecting to other public or private networks than they do within the confines of a well-maintained internal network.


FileVault is a completely different beast from the Firewall and it’s important to truly appreciate what it is and what it does. Not taking the time to fully understand FileVault before enabling its use can cause a Mac to become unresponsive, prevent users from being able to log into their accounts, even permanently damage and/or lose users’ data. So with that being said, I’ll lay the ground work here for you to consider it’s usefulness, but be sure to further research FileVault fore the particular needs of your environment.
In Lion, Apple has made some significant changes in FileVault 2. Most notably, Apple has changed the policy from encrypting individual users folders to now encrypting the whole drive, removing the standard OS X login and replacing with the EFI login, which is a lower level way of accessing your hardware when logging in, and granting FileVault access rights to a machine on a per user basis. All of this adds up to a faster, more secure way to protect a user’s data using FileVault.
Unlike the Firewall, which has modest repercussions if you enable it, implementing FileVault requires more caution. As discussed before, just enabling FileVault can prevent a user from ever being able to access his data again. Here are a couple of simple questions to determine if FileVault is necessary for users in your organization.
  • Is the data on your Mac so sensitive that it must be protected at any cost?
  • Is the Mac that you’re considering for FireVault used often for mobile workers?
If your answer is no to either of these questions it’s safe to say that you and FileVault needn’t ever cross paths.
If you answered yes to question one, FileVault should be considered to prevent any from being compromised, especially if there is risk associated with insider threats or physical security in the office is not at the highest level.
Finally, if you answered yes to question two, this is one of the rare times I would consider enabling FileVault even if the answer to question one is no. I say this because it is much more likely for laptops to be compromised, either through loss or theft. In either case, FileVault encryption is there to prevent someone from scouring the data on your machine, and it also makes it very difficult to use and reinstall the OS.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Motorola Photon 4G, The Perfect Combination for Business and Entertainment

Motorola Photon 4G, The Perfect Combination for Business and Entertainment
Motorola Photon 4G
Motorola introduces new mobile phone called the Motorola Photon 4G.
Motorola Photon 4G is a dual GSM/CDMA which comes with octagona design. Comes with a screen size is fairly large, 4.3-inch QHD-based, Motorola Photon 4G equipped with a processor Tegra 2 like any other Motorola devices, Motorola Atrix 4G.

In addition to having a dual-core CPU-based, Motorola Photon 4G will also offer a variety of other trim specifications, such as RAM and internal memory capacity of 16 GB which can be expanded up to 32GB via microSD card.

Motorola Photon 4G It also provides the main camera with a resolution of 8 MP who has the ability to capture 720p video. While the VGA camera is available as a secondary camera located in front of the device is useful for video calls.

For connectivity, Motorola Photon 4G will be presented with features such as Bluetooth 2.1, Wi-Fi b/g/n, and HDMI output.

Motorola Photon 4G, will carry the Android 2.3 Gingerbread OS by MOTOBLUR style UI customization. Motorola Photon 4G will also be equipped with a kickstand that can be used activities such as watching videos without the need to hold the device.

Specifications of Motorola Photon 4G:
  • 2G CDMA 800/1900, GSM 850/900/1800/1900 
  • 3G CDMA2000 1xEV-DO
  • Dimensions: 126.9 x 66.9 x 12.2 mm
  • Weight: 158 grams
  • Screen: 4.3 inch, TFT capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors, 540 x 960 pixels, Multi-touch input method, Accelerometer sensor for UI auto-rotate, Proximity sensor for auto turn-off, Touch-sensitive controls
  • Main camera: 8 MP, 3264x2448 pixels, autofocus, dual-LED flash, Geo-tagging, face detection, image stabilization, Video 720p @ 30fps
  • Secondary Camera: VGA;
  • Memory: 16 GB storage, 1 GB RAM, 2 GB ROM, microSD up to 32GB;
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, DLNA, Wi-Fi hotspots
  • WiMAX 802.16 e
  • 3G Rev. A, up to 3.1 Mbps, LTE
  • Bluetooth v2.1 with A2DP, EDR
  • CPU: 1GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 AP20H Dual Core processor
  • Android OS, v2.3 (Gingerbread)
  • Messaging: SMS (threaded view), MMS, Email, IM, Push Email
  • Browser: HTML
  • GPS: A-GPS support
  • Java MIDP emulator
  • Battery: 1700 mA Li-Po
  • Other Features: SNS integration, digital compass, HDMI port, Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic, MP3/WAV/WMA/AAC + player, MP4/WMV/H.263/H.264 player, Google Search, Maps, Gmail, YouTube, Google Talk, Built-in kickstand, Document viewer, Photo viewer/editor, Organizer, Adobe Flash 10.1, Voice memo/dial/commands, Predictive text input (Swype), 3.5 mm audio jack

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Five tips for printer sharing in Linux

Five tips for printer sharing in Linux
Takeaway: Admins often shy away from sharing a printer from Linux. Following are few simple steps that can simplify setup and sidestepping problems.
Printer sharing in Linux isn’t all that hard. But when asked to set it up, most admins would rather chew off their own arm. Why? Lack of familiarity? Ignorance? Who really knows. But the truth is, it’s not hard and it makes for an incredibly reliable service.
Let’s take a look at some tips that will make sharing out a printer from the Linux operating system much easier for both the admin and the end user.

1: Use the GUI

Both GNOME and KDE have incredibly easy graphical tools to help with the sharing of files, folders, and printers through Samba. The printer sharing feature is found in the Printer Preferences tool on both desktops and can be configured on both the printer and the server levels. The printer level is where the printer is actually shared out, whereas the server level is where a number of options can be set. Most instances will only need the printer-level settings.

2: Make sure Samba is configured properly

One of the issues you will find is that if Samba isn’t configured properly, no amount of GUI will help. This is especially true in a mixed environment. If you do have a mixed environment (especially Windows and Linux), it will be crucial that Samba is correct. Make sure the security= line uses the right mode and that files can be shared to all necessary clients. Once you’ve established that, verify that the entry for the printers is correct. You’ll be looking for two sections: [printers] and [print$]. The former is the global printer configuration and the latter is the configuration necessary for Windows clients.

3: Provide drivers

Unless you’re okay with going to every client and installing drivers for the printers, you will want to have drivers for all flavors of Windows on your printer server for use. These are configured in the [print$] directive in the smb.conf file. The most important entry in that is the path = variable. This will be where the drivers are stored. By default, this is /var/lib/samba/printers/. Make sure you have the explicit pathname to these drivers and to make your life easy, take out any spaces in the directory names for the drivers.

4: Make sure Samba is starting at boot and iptables isn’t blocking

I have found this to be a sticking point in some instances. If power goes out and the Linux machine sharing the printers goes down, Samba may not be running when the machine restarts. When this is the case, no one will be able to print. Of course, how this is done will depend upon which distribution you use. Some distributions offer a GUI tool for this task and some do not. NOTE: Do not do this through the Startup Applications GUI, as that is for user-level applications. Also, make sure your firewall isn’t blocking the ports for printer sharing. The most important port you need to have open is port 631, which is the CUPS (Common UNIX Printer System) port.

5: Grab a Web-based admin tool

CUPS offers an easy-to-use printer configuration tool. Go to http://address_to_printer_server:631 and you will find a tool that makes configuring your printers a snap. To use cups for printer sharing (UNIX to UNIX), you can use the cupsctl command (man cupsctl for more information). For UNIX-to-Windows or UNIX-to-Mac printer sharing, you will need to use a Web-based tool like Webmin. NOTE: When using Webmin, your smb.conf fill will be rewritten. I would make a copy of that file before using Webmin. Samba used to have a tool called Swat for Samba printer sharing setup, but that tool is no longer maintained.

Avoiding problems

As we all know, printing is one of those administrative tasks that can go wrong for so many reasons. Add the layer of multiple platforms and the level of challenge grew even greater. But with the above tips, you should be five steps closer to having your Samba printer server up and running.
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