Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Piers Morgan weighed in angrily tonight on employers' asking for social media passwords


Piers Morgan weighed in angrily tonight on the practice of a few employers asking for applicant’s (or maybe even employee’s) Facebook and other social media passwords (bypassing privacy controls and Facebook TOS agreements), link here. “Only in America” the articulate Brit said, can this happen.

Until about 1971, H Ross Perot’s Electronic Data Systems (EDS) actually conducted surprise interviews of candidates by showing up at their homes or apartments.  One person whom I worked with at Bradford National Corporation  on New York State MMIS in 1977 (the man who interviewed me for the job that I got) later said that when EDS showed up at his house, his wife was very incompletely dressed.  

I can say that IT agencies that send consultants to client sites could be worried that Facebook or other social or self-published online media could drive away client business, even relatively "private" material on social media accounts or listservers.  

Picture: A post St. Patrick's Day "Irish" parade assembles near Fort Hamilton. Brooklyn NY, not exactly controversial with employers.  

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Electronic Frontier Foundation advertises position (San Francisco)


The Electronic Frontier Foundation has posted a job opening for a Web Developer, with emphasis on projects that help individual web users counter surveillance and terms-of-service abuse. The link, advertised on Twitter today, is here . 

The job is in San Francisco.  I have visited the location myself (back in 2002).   The technical requirements are substantial, with fluency in areas like Linux internals and server-side programming.  

I've been a donor supporter of EFF since 1998, when I became a plaintiff in the COPA litigation.  

Picture: Proof of a theorem in statistics at a classroom at CUNY, NYC.




Sunday, March 25, 2012

My 1991 "Legendary" print-stacking mainframe project


It was about twenty years ago that I implemented a mainframe project in a salary deduction billing system with the prosaic purpose of stacking all the bills sent to member employers one database and printing them in one stream so they could be mailed automatically.  It was said to enable user departments to eliminate one clerical position.

Technically, the project involved writing the print images onto shared VSAM file set up to “emulate” IDMS running through a CV.  I remember that once in a while VSAM errors were generated anyway. 

And back in 1991, random VSAM writing could be slow.  It could take about three hours to write 26000 images in the last step for the largest bill.   Well, the biggest bills were single threaded and run as “night bills”.  Oh, those were the days, as that song goes.  At work, this project got the nickname “The Legendary” (sounds like Tubin’s Second Symphony).

My resume (as I wrote it in early 2002 with the help of an outplacement company) describes this “accomplishment” as follows:

“Reduced head count (by 2) for administration of billing of life insurance premiums to employers through salary deduction, by developing major reporting system enhancements. I extensively modified and tested a number of batch COBOL and IDMS programs and designed a batch job to capture print images from a common source, after debriefing users. I also provided ongoing support to salary deduction system with respect to such issues as complex scheduling of multiple billing and collection and missed-deduction letter-generation jobs, and electronic data transfer.”

No wonder people lost interest in the mainframe world. It got boring.



Thursday, March 15, 2012

Companies find applicants not having been taught the skills they need -- but what are they?


Tech Republic has an article by Nick Heath, “How to solve the Tech skills crisis? Make IT cool again”.  He specific addresses the problems companies in the UK are suddenly having in recruiting IT people, (website url) here.

I still think companies need to clarify what they really want, and what they think a career in IT "really" means.  The old mainframe market has fragmented into specific skillsets for older technologies that slowly die out.  No one can plan on serving these needs forever.  But employers and recruiters fail to come up with any sort of coherent strategy to

To “the kids”, IT refers to what they need.  It’s the support and infrastructure for the latest app.  It's what you need to do music composition at a professional level.  (Read: Skills with the world of Steve Jobs.)   We have a pretty good idea what kind of qualities you need for a career at Facebook or Google.  It’s what the older legacy companies need now that seems a mystery.   

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Past misadventures when volunteering to do NGO's homework on old computers


I recall purchasing an Everex laptop in 1992.  MS-DOS only, with Windows 3.1 optional, and Wordperfect.  Then at the end of 1993 I picked up an IBM PS-1 desktop, and it still was common to use the DOS prompt for many applications, including dBase-IV.  I wound up with Ashton-Tate’s product on both machines in that old Arlington high-rise apartment.  I remember the days well.

I didn’t start using email until August 1994, after returning from a trip where I had decided to write my book.  I remember then that we had two kinds of services with proprietary content, AOL, and Prodigy.  They had both been pre-installed.  At 2.4 baud, they were both slow.  But it was from the old AOL that I found out, in 1995, when I got home from work, about the OKC attack.

Previously, on an AST computer purchased at the end of 1988, I had played with Microrim’s RBase, because it was the first to have SQL.  I tried doing my income taxes in the early 1990s by writing my own C program.

I tried to get PC experience then also by volunteering. For a social organization in DC, I did the mailing list on dBadeIV.  Finally, in May 1994, I got a complaint about returned mail.  I stopped. But I checked what I had entered against the envelope stubs I had been given.  As far as I could tell, I had entered the addresses correctly.

I was told that my involvement with the group wouldn’t be effective unless I spent even more time with it.  I’ve been told that my more than one non-profit.  “They” want to monopolize your time. 

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Webroot (security vendor) advertises major position in customer education



My own security provider (on my “main” Dell XPS Windows 7 Professional machine) Webroot advertised on Twitter a major job opening for Education Specialist, in San Mateo CA, link here

I generally don’t see a lot of ads online for trainers for software companies, even though in my day I went to a number of courses (PowerBuilder, Java, Web Logic).  Often trainers work for companies that specialize in training rather than for vendors.

This appears to be a high-level position, requiring plenty of imagination in designing training curricula for sales force and for corporate customers.

Webroot has recently placed a lot of emphasis on cloud-based security rather than the traditional model of using signature files. 

Sunday, March 04, 2012

What does "going the distance" mean for older IT workers?; companies brace for retirement of "mainframe knowledge"


I’m ever more impressed that ever these days about how many innings a career needs to have. 

I went 31-plus years without a layoff and with almost no unemployment gaps in my “mostly mainframe” IT career.  But in December 2001, it had a cardiac arrest.  I was 58.  At the time, companies expected people to “retire” in their late 50s, and start drawing social security at 62.

Of course, this is no longer sustainable.  “Going the distance”, to provide analogy to baseball’s idea of a complete game, now will mean making it to perhaps age 73 or so, going 45 years instead of 30.

Companies are expecting mainframe-savvy workers to disappear, or at least it would look so from this article on “Mainframe Zone”, by Stu Henderson, recent (Feb. 15, 2012) link.

Here’s a perspective from IBM in building applications in z/OS, with some discussion of the philosophical implications of the history of EBCDIC, which was in wide use in the old computing world before ASCII was, link.