Thursday, December 30, 2010

Windows 7 automatic updates on a new computer stalls in "configuring updates" on Restart -- is Windows Live the problem?

I bought a Toshiba Notebook yesterday for incidental road use, my first taste of Windows 7 starter, not so different from Vista. The bootup was slow at first, but, OK, notebooks are slower.

But what I didn’t like was finding that Microsoft wanted to load 61 updates. The update installs stalled on Windows Live (update #36) for about 30 minutes, and resumed when I played with the cursor, and went into Live to finishing the install, then finishing the other “regular” installs. I don't actually use Windows Live for chat.

The restart got through the reconfiguration on shutdown (just as on Vista), but got stuck at 32% on the boot up. I had to go into Safe Mode to back it out, and then saw that all updates to the operating system itself were marked “failed” (the others, like to Office, had succeeded anyway). It took it back to Best Buy to reupdate. During the restart the second time, it picked up at the 32% immediately and finished relatively quickly. Weird.

Windows 7 does have an extra step in shutting down, which lets you opt out of installing updates. I don't know if it interrupts you and forces you to update the way Vista does.

I also keep getting a failed update to Windows Live on my Vista machine because I already have “another flavor” of Live. What is going on?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

More people get fired over social media posts, and more employers go looking for them

MSN today has a series-report (many consecutive pages) of people being fired for contents on social media posts that disparage the employer or its customers. The incidents today include a Pizza shop employee, an NFL employee, and a teacher.

Many people do not realize that others besides their “friends” may see the posts, and more employers are systematically checking, according to MSN.

The First Amendment would not protect people from reasonable “blogging policies” instituted by private employers (or even government employers). More and more employers are discovering that this is a sensitive issue, although problems related to personal blogs available to search engines go back as far as 2002 with Heather Armstrong (“dooce”).

I’ve written about this on my “BillBoushka” blog before (Nov. 9, 2010 has the most recent case, of an EMS worker).

Fortunately, it does not seem realistic for employers to regulate social media use at home because it is so widespread, but many jobs require the use of personal social media to support the job, not one’s own agenda. Consider how a life insurance agent has to network with people and get leads, for example.

The Charlotte Observer has a typical story by Eric Frazier about the "online gripe" of the Pizza worker who complained about keeping working late by laid-back customers, and there is an interesting Facebook sequence about it.

Here’s a typical MSN link on the story.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Can employees lawfully disclose an employer's security lapses? The TSA story

So, does your employer have the right to expect you to keep the employer’s security deficiencies secret? Probably so, at least according to a recent incident where the TSA acted against a pilot Charles Liu for posting a YouTube video that exposed the apparently lax screening done on many airport employees as they move about.

Is this legitimate “whistleblowing”?

Part of security is that adversaries don’t know exactly what you’re watching explicit and what you aren’t. The TSA can say that this is part of the policy that they don’t disclose a lot of their practices to the media, or allow air industry employees to do so. This sounds like basic employment “confidentiality” to me.

Friday, December 24, 2010

EEOC sues for-profit university corporation for misuse of credit reports in employment

The New York Times, in a story by Steve Greenhouse (Dec. 21), reports that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a suit against Kaplan Higher Education Corporation, for disparate impact against black applicants as a result of the way it uses credit reports to screen applicants. The link for the story is here.

A number of states, including Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, and Illinois limit the use of credit reports in employment decisions. Generally, they may be used only for jobs involving hiring money.

Regulating the use of credit reports in hiring could have an unintended consequence: companies could stil to "social media" background investigations, which are likely to be really unreliable -- the "online reputation" problem.

Kaplan runs “for profit” universities and trade schools and has come under criticism when graduates, not finding good employment, haven’t been able to pay back federal loans.

Back in 1987, Chilton Corporation (a precursor of TRW and Experian), where I worked in Dallas, required all staffers to pass credit checks but TRW dropped the requirement when acquiring the company in 1988.

I’ve never attended a “trade school”, but after a layoff from RCA as an “Operations Research Trainee” in 1971, I applied for an was accepted by a COBOL programming school with a course that lasted about 14 weeks, in northern Virginia. But I dropped it when I got a job with the Navy Department. I would eventually learn COBOL OJT at Univac and then NBC, all in the early 70s.

Monday, December 20, 2010

"Linked IN": avoid trite buzz words on resume; you need a critical mass of 50 Linked In connections!

On Monday morning, during ABC “Good Morning America”, Tory Johnson advised viewers of the three overused buzzwords that “Linked In” says should be left out of resumes. These are:

"Extensive experience"

"Results oriented"

"Team player"

Tory said that to use Linked effectively, you need a minimum of 50 connections. Post about others so they will reciprocate. Once you make the “critical mass” the referrals will start to work.

But it seems that the Internet is making “outside” social interaction more important to the workplace, not less. That’s partly because of Facebook’s own philosophy, that a person has only one real identity, and not separate multiple lives that can be separated. (Then does “Second Life” really make sense?)

This may all be very difficult for older, less “popular” workers. It may make family connections, not less, as we perceived things during the earlier days of the Web a decade or so ago.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

University study of "displaced IT workers" has valuable advice, roadmap for career rebuild (from 2005)

I found this position paper from 2005 from the University of Denver (pdf), “A Career Map for the Displaced IT Worker”, by Jennifer Tierney, Capstone Project, link here.

The paper notes a severe drop in IT hiring and employment after the 2000 recession started (particularly after 9/11), and a failure to rebound in a normal manner for a number of factors, including outsourcing or offshoring, controversy over H1-B immigration, and confusion among employers as to the skill sets they need. There is a comparison to earlier paradigm shifts in manufacturing. The one area with the biggest demand (as of late 2005) was to be security. There is a lot of discussion of published BLS surveys.

Perhaps another reason for “displacement” is decentralization of computing, self-publishing, and social networking, and the growing tendency to depend of open source and “free content”. But that is a trend that could reverse, as I have been discussing on my main blog.

Picture: This bar was trying to design a “solar system” with ceiling Christmas ornaments, as if to celebrate the recent NASA announcements about Gliese, which might have planets supporting life.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

When you have a job, you live in its world

If I get into a Tron time machine and go back to legacy systems of the past, I recall how, once one had a mainframe job, it became your whole universe for months or years. That did create a problem for learning new skills.

At NBC in the mid 1970s, life revolved around accounting closings, that ran on Univac 1110 and Exec 8, a good operating system at the time.

At Bradford Administrative Services, for months I developed, coded and tested the reporting end (MARS) of New York Medicaid MMIS. The design was simple by today’s standards: a COBOL extract from claims detail, sorts of the extracted stubs, and then reports based on conventional control break processing in COBOL, in various sequences, with “unduplicated counts” of beneficiaries a big issue. The State would design the test data, and calculate the results by hand, and come down from Albany and for months we would prove would could reproduce their results in a test system. That was our world. The catered lunchtime sandwiches ($3.50 a head then, put paid for by NYS) were a bonus.

But in the real world, IT professionals have to keep up. It’s beginning to look like too much value to just one company can mean less value to everyone else.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The best home based businesses are all "lab practicals"

“Start Up Nation” (link) has a moving slide show on “Money Central”, “The 10 Best Home Based Businesses”, link here.

You may have to slow down the pace to have time to read the captions.

Most of them are very niche oriented, about very specific kinds of needs and events, like weddings.

In a sense, multi-level marketing, which has been around for decades, is effectively a home-based business, and sometimes so is acting as an insurance agent. You have to decide if you want to represent someone else’s brand.

I think another idea could be to help artists or musicians find more venues to perform, such as “private home” concerts (see my “drama blog” yesterday), or even assisted living centers and nursing homes.

But they all are “practical”. They meet monetizable needs. So does Donald Trump’s “selling lemonade”.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Can employers "retaliate" against fiancees and spouses? A couple legal cases in the pipeline

Robert Barnes has a story on p A3 of the Washington Post Dec. 8, Thompson v. North American Stainless, before the Supreme Court yesterday. Apparently Eric Thompson had been fired by the company when his fiancée (now wife) Miriam Regalado, filed a discrimination complaint. An appeals court had ruled that only the direct victim can file an EEOC complaint for retaliation.  The company said that the law, as written, does not protect "relatives" (even spouses) or those "on the sidelines." And what must the Judiciary do, "interpret the law"!

The link for the story is here.

J. Freedom du Lac has a story on the same page about a similar case involving Brown’s Buick and employee Kelly Ashley, when his fiancée Heather Barb filed a pregnancy discrimination complaint.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Fewer families buy life insurance; fewer agents work; raising questions "can techies sell?"

Sandra Block has a front-page story in USA Today on Friday Dec 3, “Millions of families missing safety net: fewer people are buying life insurance”; online the title is “Households with life insurance hit the lowest level in 50 years”, link here.

The economy is one reason: families have less “discretionary” income, even though there are more low priced term products, and some companies like PrimeVest launched a campaign to convert people from Whole Life to Term. (I got a call from a recruiter about this two days after 9/11, when I wasn’t “looking.”)

Another reason, according to the article, is fewer agents. I have been contacted in retirement from my IT career, the last twelve years of which were spent at ING-Reliastar-Uslico, by a few companies, including New York Life, which I interviewed in 2005. I actually went through some of the interview process, including a “personality test” that asked if you bought things or services from sales people and thought it was OK to do so. The company described a training bonus system, and a need for a “fast start” for new agents, which included an exercise building 200 leads. I still get occasional emails about leads from that experience. There was a Sarbannes-Oxley requirement that new agents not have any other income if they got a training bonus.

I suppose you can make a particular “moral” argument regarding my karma. If I earned a living off of the life insurance industry for 12 years, so which shouldn’t I prove that I can sell it, especially to prove that I can support OPC (other people’s children) if I don’t have my own (the Phillip Longman stuff). Now, I don’t like personally manipulating people to buy anything.

I can see an anti-matter calling, that figuring out how to make Internet advertising “safer” (without the unintended consequences of “do not track” – see the main “BillBoushka” blog the past few days) and selling the “solution” could be a marketing-related job for some people, including me. There’s no reason that life insurance companies couldn’t do behavioral advertising, too (except for the fear that they could use the information they “tracked” to charge higher premiums).

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Telephone sales not an appealing job, it seems, now

I was laid off from my last major IT job at the end of 2001 (after sudden notification on my workstation that my access was “disabled” on Dec., 2001), and my first interim job thereafter started toward the end of April 2002. It was a part-time job, “telemarketing” or rather telefunding for a symphony orchestra. I worked there part time for 14 months and it was a pretty positive experience.

But, I heard negative things there. One person said, “you’re working for a phone bank. People who work for phone banks aren’t bad people but they can’t get jobs anywhere else.” Indeed, these days, I get annoyed when the landline phone rings and it is a fundraising call.

The “do not call” registry and the “crackdown” on telemarketing in the past decade (which largely allowed non-profits to call) have indeed made telephone fund raising and sales seem like a much less desirable form of interim work or work for retirees than it might have seemed ten years ago.

For example, some number of years ago people would sell orchestra or other arts subscriptions, often to the same people one year after another, and make additional income in retirement.

In the Internet age, we have certainly moved into a mindset where in-person (or telephone) salesmanship gets mixed up with hucksterism, and yet people are resisting the privacy-tracking technology that enables our “do it yourself” lifestyles today.

Music in picture (Minneapolis): Ravel, "Gaspard de la nuite"