Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Obama wants to raise floor that makes exempt workers eligible for overtime pay

President Obama has proposed making about 5 million more salaried or exempt workers eligible for overtime, by raising the floor for eligibility from the antiquated $23,660 a year to $50.400, as explained in this CNN Money story .

Commentary has pointed out that sometimes fast food places appoint people “managers” and they wind up making less per hour than their direct reports, because of unpaid overtime.

Salaried people may work unpaid overtime when others don’t come to work, and that can exacerbate the paid family leave problem.

Of course, this program probably won’t affect IT workers much (maybe college interns) but I’ve covered it here because the “exempt” issue has been brought up before. 
There is plenty of objection from trade groups for small businesses, as in this Washington Post story by Amrita Jayakumar, here.
Sometimes companies make people into managers with direct reports without their asking for it or consent.  This happened to me once, in 1988. It has the potential of creating “conflict of interest” issues.  

Monday, June 29, 2015

Suddenly, much more specific messages on my IAStorlcon problems

There’s more on my HP Envy instability (running Windows 8.1 with wireless keyboard and mouse). 

 For the first time, IAStorlcon gave an “unknown hardware error”.  However, in the past Geek Squad has checked the hard drive and found no hardware errors.  

Windows explorer gave an IO application error.
A power button restart cleared everything, as usual. 

Update: July 1

One June 26, 2015 Intel offered the following update for Windows 8.1
"Intel Corporation - Storage Controller - Intel(R) 8 Series/C220 Chipset Family SATA AHCI Controller

Download size: 8.5 MB

You may need to restart your computer for this update to take effect.

Update type: Optional

Intel Corporation Storage Controller software update released in December, 2014

More information:

Help and Support:

I am wondering if this is a fix for this problem.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Life as an insurance agent? What would "changing" have meant for me?

What kind of life might I have led had I actually taken up the invitation to become a life insurance agent or financial planner back in 2005?  Both New York Life and Humana approached me then, based on the resume that showed twelve years in the life insurance business as a computer programmer.  The law of karma seems to say that techies are supposed to learn to sell.
New hires were told they had to get off to a “fast start” and the first exercise would be to develop 200 leads.
Social media sites were not as well developed ten years ago; Myspace was humming but Facebook had just been invented. 
But if appears today that agents watch or “troll” services that send them leads from websites offering consumers quotes.  That is explained here at this link. The technique involves calling consumers quickly who show up in these leads. I would think that this would run afoul of "do not track" options and could be difficult. 

Note the advice to publish a video blog.

Toda, though, with Facebook and Twitter so dominant (and with Facebook’s “no double life” and “real name” policy), agents have to live their sales life 24x7.  I, given what I have done with my own journalistic second life, could not envisions the idea of “becoming something else” again.
Is this way of doing business kosher? I don’t want to get phone calls just because I was at a site (unless the site tells me that I will, and have started a transaction).  I don’t like rude calls that say “drop what you’re doing….”
But there has been a cultural change.  A lot of people grow up in a culture where manipulating others to buy things is “normal”.  Today, with the Web, the picture is much more mixed, with some introverted people (especially IT careerists) expecting the Internet to give them more self-sufficiency, and extroverted others expecting them to give them new ways to approach others. 
From my personal perspective, “selling” has come to seem tacky. But is that an attitude I or the rest of us can afford?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

New York Times piece takes up abuse of unpaid overtime for salaried people (plays into parental leave debate)

An article Monday on p. A17 of the New York Times by Fran Sussner Rodgers deals with the “abuse” of unpaid overtime expected of salaried workers (especially in I.T.). It is titled “Who owns your overtime?” and is linked here

It’s pretty obvious that this problem could affect the paid parental leave debate (today, Issues blog).
I can remember being onsite for on-call production support a few times without actual pay.  Back on benchmarks in the 1970s, I would work like 16 hours straight through when there was “computer time”.
Single or childless people could “lowball” those with families in these environments.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

California regulator says Uber must treat drivers as employees

The California Labor Commissioner Julie Su has ruled that an “Uber driver is an employee” and not an independent contractor.  Timothy B. Lee has a recent detailed analysis on Vox here

The ruling could reduce the availability of Uber and similar services in many areas, compared to taxis.  One reason for the ruling was the strict screening applicants go through.  Lee believes that states might have to create an intermediate category of worker between employee and contractor in some sharing economy situations.

A few years ago, I reported about companies that hire customer service reps as employees to work at home with their own computers.  Some IT people do on-call support with their own devices, but this can create security problems in protecting customer PII. 

I can imagine the pressure I could have felt to try driving for Uber had the eldercare situation continued longer.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Workers can be fired for using "legal" marijuana even for medical purposes (Colorado)

Workers can be fired for using federally controlled substances off duty even if recreational or medical use of the drug is legal in the state, at least in Colorado, according to a ruling today by the Colorado Surpeme Court, New York Times story here.
The case involved quadriplegic Brandon Coats, who used marijuana for medical purposes, was fired from the Dish Network, which has a zero-tolerance policy on some substances, even for medical use.
Drug screening used to be more common, as like in the late 1980s and early 90s.  I had a drug test before joining USLICO in 1990, and had three weeks before, walked up an office staircase that had the odor of second-hand marijuana, which rarely causes a problem but conceivably could have. 

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Arlington ditches Windows-based election system (and training); more on mandatory PC updates

A couple of different small items today.
Arlington County had a primary election, and I found that Arlington no longer uses the TI Election system (on Windows XP and then Vista) that I was “trained on” in 2006 when I worked as a “judge.”  Troubleshooting was a bit difficult.  Instead, it went back to a paper Scanlon system, which Minneapolis used in the 1990s.  I was told there were too many security holes and failures with the Windows election system. Here’s a white paper on election IT security.
Yesterday, on both my HP Envy “desktop” and on my Toshiba Satellite, Windows 8.1 forced me to update both computers immediately for a “recommended” (not “important”) level “compatibility” update, listed, KB2976978 here. The Envy would not let me sign off without the update, and on the Toshiba, the trackpad mouse pointer suddenly stopped working (except on the blue screen) until I did an immediate Restart with Update. 
Windows 8 normally has allowed users two days to restart with update.  Maybe I missed the download earlier, but I don’t think so.  The trackpad issue is disturbing.
I don’t like “mandatory” updating to be sudden, because a machine might have to be turned off to go to the airport and started at the airport in a security line.  I have to leave “on time”.  Usually, on a travel day, I bring the machine I will travel with at home first just to check.  But it could trap me in an extensive update cycle. 
Most Microsoft updates are on Wednesday mornings (often the cheapest travel day, unfortunately, and the cheapest flights are often very early). 
Apple’s update protocols seem considerably more considerate.  But last week, on a MacBook, it did a major iOS update, and replace iMovie and several other apps, and took close to three hours.  All went well (on OS 10.8.2 as I recall)  but again, I had to go out and leave it running unattended. 

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Will TSA "failure to detect" scandal affect consumers flying with their electronics?

The recent story about the sacking of the TSA chief after undercover officers found that 95% of potential contraband got through screeners, is important for several reasons.  NBC has a typical account
I have some history with this.  In 2002, eight months are the Big Layoff at the end of 2001, I went to a TSA job fair at a hotel on the 494 strip in Minneapolis-St. Paul.  There would have been a day of “assessments” and possible hire at the end of the day.  I dropped out after I discovered a misunderstanding in the position I would applied for, but that’s another matter.
TSA has also recruited reserve standby screeners from time-to-time, sometimes prescreening at facilities set in computer stores.  But generally an applicant won’t pass the test without having been trained.
I can imagine switching from the career I once had, to a heavily regimented life wearing uniforms and needing to project personal authority and possibly interact with some passengers in an intimate way. 
It’s unclear from the stories – was this 95% fail rate, a recent test?  Has it been this way since 2002?
The other concern is, whether the ability of passengers to take electronics with them (cell phones, tablets and laptops) could be affected.  It doesn’t sound as if he TSA is really able to screen them for unusual devices (like in the movies).  People need to stay wired when they travel, especially for work.  How will this play out? 
Maybe people will have to ship their devices ahead by UPS.  Or maybe short term rentals (comparable to car rentals) can be set up.  This is serious.

Update: June 8

CNN's Bruce Schneier has a valuable perspective on our misplaced priorities in TSA airport screening, here.  I'm pretty much with him on this.