Posts tagged “IT”

Keeping the World Safe for Data

Wired describes a supersized server farm (a network/IT facility) in Las Vegas. This caught my eye:

Consider the comic book he penned about his staff, Switchblades: The Dark Ethereals have hacked into Earth’s ionosphere with a plan to destroy the Net! Luckily, Roy, er, Core and his band of super-employees are here to save the day-and keep the world safe for truth, knowledge, and the entrepreneurial way.

Early in my career we did an ethnographic study of senior IT professionals. During a visit to the converted-warehouse offices of a San Francisco clothing manufacturer, the CIO took us on a tour, and as we arrived at an appendage-like access-way, with a small wooden ladder cum staircase going through a heavy curtain. Before we entered what turned out to be the IT department and server room, our host said “…and this is the Batcave.”

That one word led to a significant insight about the identity of the IT professional: talented and heroic science-y types who labor unrecognized far behind the scenes, ready to emerge and save the city when they receive the signal. This informed a new segmentation of their market and some better understanding of how to position their evolving product line.

Although the company is gone from that space (it’s now loft-condo-something), it’s interesting to see that our finding still holds true today.

Is the Next Silicon Valley Taking Root in Bangalore?

When I spoke at Easy6 earlier this year, some of the speakers reminded their audience that companies were doing business in India becaus of the innovation spirit, not because it was cheaper. There is some evidence that it’s actually cheaper elsewhere, even. I wondered at the time how much of that was just blowing smoke; a big lie that people have bought into so they can have pride and work hard and not be seen as America’s Call Center, etc. So it was cool to see an American perspective supporting that supposition in the New York Times.

Read-Ink, one of the self-financed operations, is developing an advanced handwriting recognition software that can read scanned forms, claim forms, medical records and even digital tablets.

Its founders, Thomas O. Binford, a retired computer science professor from Stanford University, and his wife, Ione, a former manager at Hewlett-Packard, arrived here four years ago with five suitcases. They say they are now close to signing up their first business customer.

The signs of this shift toward high-value work are becoming more visible. Executives at Silicon Valley Bank, which is based in Santa Clara, Calif., and provides consulting services to technology and venture capital firms, said they were seeing twice as many Indian start-ups looking for capital investment than even a few months ago.

Library rhetoric

Here’s a nice bit of rhetoric from my local library (sent via email – a nice feature)

Subject: Courtesy Pre-Overdue Notice from Your Library


The item(s) listed below are due back soon. This courtesy notice does not list everything currently on your record, just those items thatare due in the next few days. For questions, please call your local library.

Pre-Overdue? That’s just ludicrous. And insulting. It places the customer’s actions into the category of prohibited, suggesting you are already a violator.

Are we pre-violating the speed limit by driving 2 mph under? Are airline travellers potential terrorists?

For all the protestations about protecting liberty in the face of the Patriot Act we’ve heard by librarians, you’d think the library culture would be a bit more sensitive to the impact of their language choices (being a library, and all that, dealing with words as their primary item of exchange). Screw you, library, for telling me I’ve almost committed a violation. My books aren’t due until they are due, and don’t treat me like an overdue-book-holding-patron until I reach that point.

(chances are this is an automated feature of some IT purchased by the library system by some vendor, where neither the customer (the library) nor the software company gave any thought to thinking about design, brand, communication, customers, etc. but They Love Infstracture and Cost Savings, so off we go. Yuck).

Memories of technology days gone past


Ticketmaster Canada confirmed Friday it is shutting its only unionized call centre in Toronto, along with centres in Vancouver, Calgary and Red Deer, Alta.

I worked at Ticketmaster’s Toronto office (not sure if it’s the same actual office – probably not) as a Night Run Operator back as an undergrad, I think it was 1987 or so.

I would go in on Friday nights and sit there with the computers in an empty office doing homework or listening to the radio. I would wait until all the box offices had closed – around midnight, and then run a bunch of “scripts” and get printouts and move these enormous cake-box sized disc packs from one VAX drive (about the size of a small dishwasher) to another. I had no idea how any of it worked so when something broke in the scripts I had to start paging the regular IT staff who were always drunk and wouldn’t call back forever.

I don’t know why I took this job; it seemed cool. I knew other people that worked there, both doing what I did, or even answering the phones. I got second-dibs on tickets, before they went on sale, and I think that’s how I got 4th row Rush and 12th row Yes or something like that – at Maple Leaf Gardens.

The drives looked something like this
and the discs themselves were

You had to rotate that handle a number of times and then pull it straight up. Sealed inside were many platters of magnetic media that gave the whole assembly it’s capacity. They had two systems running that recorded each purchase transaction, and I would run a backup from A->B and something else, every night.

One guy I worked with had figured out how to purchase General Admission tickets – for free – in between one of the backup stages and then would overwrite any record of it during the backup stages. Since there were no seat assignments, it wouldn’t be very detectable – yeah the overall ticket count sold versus number of arriving guests would be off, but it was GA, so who’d notice? I was horrified at the dishonesty, actually.

And I think we had, in the computer room, these DECwriter terminals.
They weren’t for regular operations but if something went wrong, that was what you had to use to interact with them – but mostly they spat out many pages of transactions – you could see, on paper, every ticket purchased that day. If you worked on a day when a big show sold out (i.e., Floyd) then you would be there a long time while it generated output for each purchase. Name, address, credit card info, etc. And it could take a long time for the credit transaction to be verified – it didn’t happen in real time, so the transaction could go through but you wouldn’t get your tickets sent out in the mail because it would turn out that your credit was no good. I think they had someone who would call you up and talk to you in that case.


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