Anti-virus on a Mac? Yup, it’s time.

It is sad to say, but Mac has become a target for malware. Mac Defender proved that.  So it’s time to start using an anti-virus.  There are many out there.  Sourcefire has ClamAV which Mark Allen has put a nice front end on to create ClamXav (open source and free, but please donate) which works well on a Mac.  Another good option is a slightly more user friendly Sophos http://www.sophos.com/en-us/products/free-tools/sophos-antivirus-for-mac-home-edition.aspx (again free).   I’ve tried using Norton and McAfee in the past but they were resource hogs. I don’t think it matters as much what you use, just that you are using one.  

Little Snitch is nice too, it’s not an anti-virus but it does alert you to all the apps that are talking across your network. Interesting to see if nothing else. 

 

No script is another tool to look at if you use Firefox (or not scripts for Chrome). Again, I allow most scripts to run, but it is good to see what scripts different websites are running and what they are tracking.

iPad2 vs what? Part 2 (I might have an answer!)

I think I have finally figured out the competition to the iPad 2.  It’s the MacBook Air!  No, seriously, the Air.

 

I have been able to use a 13 inch Apple MacBook Air at work for the last couple of weeks and I find I rarely pick up my Samsung Galaxy Tab at work now.  The Galaxy Tab is still great while I am sitting waiting on for my daughter or for surfing while watching TV (normally the iPad2 is being used by someone too, I rarely get to touch it).  But I haven’t use the Galaxy Tab for data capture or creation since I started using the Air.  The Galaxy Tab, much like the Apple iPad 2, is great for consuming content, but honestly still has some serious flaws in creating content.  The Air doesn’t have those limitations. I have a full screen and a full size keyboard.  It’s fast and powerful with a huge hard drive and 4GB of memory. All the applications that run on my MacBook Pro seem to run just fine on the Air. So I gave up a DVD/CD slot, which, honestly, I rare use anymore anyway.  It’s like when we lost the 3.5 inch floppy drive, who misses that anymore? Even the price points aren’t that too far off between the two devices. And I still have iTunes, Kindle, Evernote and most of the apps I use on my Galaxy Tab or iPad2.  I didn’t loose anything. The killer device against the iPad 2 is the MacBook Air!

 

Work has settled on the 13 inch Air as the best compromise of power vs. form.  And I have to say the screen is great (1440 x 900) and I love how long the battery lasts. And it’s fast, wake from sleep is instant and boot time is less than 15 seconds.  It is so thin (0.11 to 0.68 inch thick, it tapers – thin in front, thicker in the back) and weights in at only 2.9 pounds.  But, I think, if I were to buy an Air for my own personal use, I’d go for the smaller 11 inch.  I know the battery doesn’t last as long and the screen would be smaller, but the 11 inch form factor would make it a direct competitor to the iPad2 for me. And a much more capable competitor!

 

I am still interested in seeing what “iPad killers” finally roll out this year.  Samsung always does a good job with their consumer devices and LG should come out strong. The RIM Playbook will be a non-starter, I think everyone knows it’s dead on arrival. Dell is boring, even for business users.  The HTC Flyer seems to be over priced and very similar to the old (Oct 2010) Samsung Galaxy Tab. The Xoom could be competitive, if they had flash and 4G already and lowered the price $100 to $200.  A few other players (Hello HP / Palm!) are talking about cool stuff, but I haven’t seen anything real that I can touch yet. So, right now, the only competition Apple has is…  Apple!  Check out the MacBook Air, if you produce content, or are a creator (Developer), then it could turn out to be a better solution for you than the iPad 2.

Does owning a camera make you a photographer?

Just because you own a camera, it does not make you a photographer.
Just because you know where Home Depot is located, it doesn’t make you a General Contractor.
Just because you own a car and you know where the hood release is located, it doesn’t make you a mechanic.
And just because you own a computer and set up your wireless network at home, it doesn’t make you an IT professional, much less a CIO.
There is a difference between a hobby and being an expert in something.  Novice vs professional.
Do you know how to do it right?  And why it’s “right?”
Do you know the dependencies and the trade offs?  The gotchas?
Have you spent the time to get the education and put in the hands-on the job time required? Have you put the time in to become an expert and are you ready to put your name (or more) on the line?  We all have opinions, depending on the subject at hand, some of those opinions mean more than others.
Let the professional do their job, watch, and see what you can learn.
And, for the argumentative out there, just because you own a camera, it does not make you a photographer, it means you can take a picture.  It doesn’t mean you know composition, lighting, depth of field, etc. – it means you can click the shutter.  And we’re proud of you, it’s a start, now go learn from an expert…

I saw your email, but I didn’t read it.

That is a real quote someone had the nerve to say to me: “I saw your email, but I didn’t read it.” And this was while I was doing them the favor!
I tried to respect this persons time, so I had sat down before our meeting and wrote up a list of everything that needed to be done before our meeting to make us as efficient as possible.   I even put in details on what we would be doing and tried to answer questions and concerns I thought that might come up.  Then in the first 5 minutes of the meeting it became clear that the person hadn’t read my email.  Then he just fessed up with a “I saw your email, but I didn’t read it.”
Guess I have to respect the honesty, but needless to say our meeting took much longer than it needed to.  And I don’t know how many other “favors” I’ll do for him in the future.
Please don’t be that guy.

Interview questions

Some of my favorite interview questions.  It’s about logic and your thought process, less about a specific correct answer: 

– why do you want to join this team? this company?  (hint: a paycheck is not a good answer)
– what do you bring to our team that we don’t already have?
– tell me about the most difficult project you had to work on and how you prevailed? Or failed and how you would approach it different next time.  Either is fine.
– tell me about a time you worked on a project that failed.  What did you do?  What would you do differently?
– tell me about the best project you worked on.  What made it so great?
– tell me about a time you had to work with a difficult person.  What did you do?
– what would you do if a client keeps asking for more functionality on a project that is already in development?
– how would you estimate the height of a building if you didn’t know the height of the buildings near it?
– why are manhole covers round? 

I’d love to hear any great interview questions you use.  Please share them with me.

Hiring – recruiting and interviewing

Employees are normally one of the largest expenses for most businesses.  And just the hiring and training of new employees are a huge expense, both monetary and time invested. So, my question is, why don’t we invest more on recruiting and interviewing?

Too often job descriptions are done just because HR forces the manager to write it. Very little real thought is put into the skills and experience required to succeed at the job. Rarely is there training for managers on how to write a good job description. I’ve heard HR complain about how poor the job descriptions are that they have to work from, but then I don’t see them coaching the managers on how to improve them.

What is the saying? Garbage in, garbage out…

Interviewing is another area more investment could be made.  How many interviews turn into popularity tests? The interview ends up coming down to do they seem like a nice person? But this isn’t a first date. The question should be “do they have the skills and experience to do the job” (ok, and would they fit on the team)? If there is more than one candidate can you, in a unbiased way, truly compare their skills, especially if the interviews were done over a period of time? If you have different people talk to the different candidates could you compare the assessments?  Could you defend the hiring if you were sued?

If you need justification, just look at how painful is it if you end up hiring the wrong person.  Both for you and that poor person! And it hurts the business – if nothing else, the delay in building a high performing team. Not only does a bad hire (bad may be a strong word – how about a wrong hire) effect the employee but the rest of the team also.

So how much should we invest into the hiring process?  Are you investing enough?

Ready, Aim, Fire!

I wrote my last post about project management. How you should know what your targets (due dates and milestones) are before you start firing (start development).  But the same is true in business too.

How often are decisions made focused on the now, the immediate need? It may fix what is broken, or at least the visible symptoms, but does the solution fit into the larger picture?  Will it cause other issues later?

Many times, in this tight economy, this is driven by a perceived lack of resources, but as I have posted before (in my review of Rework) when resources are scarce is the time when you need to be more creative. Not enough money to keep up your MS Exchange infrastructure?  Dump it and move to Google Apps email (Enterprise level email).  Not enough money to expand you SAN for network drives for your users?  External hard drives are cheap now.  Not enough money for your DR plan for your production site?  Move test and staging to a different location and make that your hot swap (just make sure you built the infrastructure properly).

Sometimes a disjointed strategy, or one that not all the leaders have bought into, can also cause decisions to be made that are fine for the silo’ed department, but maybe isn’t the best decision for the entire company.  I have to believe that those VPs really do think they are making the best decision for the company.  I hope it isn’t just ego getting in the way.

And, it could just be the company has grown so big, or is spread out in multiple locations that it becomes real difficult to make the “right” decision that works for the entire company.  And finally, I will admit in certain cases there isn’t one “right” decision. Sometimes you have to pick the lesser of two not super solutions and make it work.

But in general, when making large IT purchases or fixing broken business processes it is so much better for the company long term to take the time to make the right decision now.  It isn’t easy to do the leg work and do the research.  It isn’t easy to get agreement across departments.  It isn’t easy to sacrifice your political capital.  But it is so much better than creating new problems for yourself because you didn’t do the work. And it is so much better than having to un-do it later and then put in the right (better) solution.

Ready, FIRE, Aim, aim, aim…

How many times have you seen a project fall off the rails because there wasn’t a real documented plan?  Everyone on the team knew what they had to do, the assignment was clear, but the PM hadn’t put together a good project plan.  No milestones were documented, due dates were not firm (except the final due date at the end), and time wasn’t allowed for internal review. How often is QA skipped because there isn’t enough time? It’s the ready…, Go!, ok change, ok change, ok change mentality…

I know some people look at Work Breakout Structures (WBS) with disdain, but to me you have to be able to see the whole task, with all the intermediate due dates and milestones to know how long you really have to get the work done.  Without a WBS how do you know if you are on track? With a WBS you can just look at the date and the tasks being worked at that time and it is pretty easy to see if you are on time or not. Without a WBS how do you know if something slips early in the project how that effects other later tasks?  What is dependent on that task?
The other benefit of a WBS is if you have resources and days assigned you can easily see who is over booked, who is not fully booked, and maybe balance out the work load a little. Before you kill someone with too much work!  🙂
Finally, the biggie to me is, with a WBS it is real easy to show a client what a change request does to the schedule.  It not just “we can slip this in, it shouldn’t be a big deal.”  Without a WBS you can talk about it, but that doesn’t mean much.  With a WBS you can actually show the real impact.  So much harder to argue magic (magic in this case = this little task takes up no time at all) when you have real numbers and dates in front of you…
So remember the order should be Ready, Aim, FIRE!  You are much more likely to hit your target (due date).
Some of the tools I have used to create WBS:

Should I even be doing this?

Everyone I know is too busy.  Work is crazy!  Too much to do and not enough time.  Heck, that is true for life in general now!

The question (that I don’t ask myself enough) to ask is “Should I even be doing this?”
Why am I doing this task in the first place?  Am I doing this because it is a habit now? Or, the last person in this job did it?
Who is consuming the output of the effort?  Do they derive a value equal or greater then the effort that goes into doing the task?  Or does it end up an unread email in someone’s inbox?
Is there someone better suited to do this?  Either better skilled? Or at a more appropriate pay grade (up or down)?
Can I make it more efficient?  Am I attending a regularly scheduled weekly hour long meeting? That is 50 + hours a year!  Can you honestly answer the question of “what is the value you bring to yourself, your team, or to the meeting?” Do you like the answer?  If not, why are you going?  Can you just stop going?  Will anyone notice?
Ok, maybe you can’t just stop going…  But is there an agenda?  I bet there isn’t.  Can you ask the leader to create one from now on?  Can you attend just part of the time? Or actually, do everyone a favor – is there a way to make the meeting only 30 minutes?  I have learned that meetings expand to fit the time allotted.  Allot less time!  Can you do the meeting in 15 minutes? How about 10?
I have said it before – email isn’t work.  Turn off your email client and get real work done!  You might be surprised at how much you can do when you aren’t distracted!  Try checking email just on scheduled intervals – maybe first thing in the morning, lunch, mid-afternoon and then right before you leave.  Instead of spending half your day on email, you are now only spending 30 minutes to an hour a day.  You just gained 2 – 3 hours!
Do you have an agenda of what you want to accomplish each day?  You are pretty much guaranteed not to get it done if you haven’t thought through what it is you need to accomplish.  It is easy to spend your day in endless meetings and checking email if you don’t have a clear picture of what you really need to accomplish.
So next time you think you are just too busy and it is impossible to do all the work you have, ask yourself “Should I even be doing this?”
Helpful external links:

Does your company have too many people paid to say “No?”

Does your company have too many people paid to say “No?”

Is it harder then it should be to get simple things done?  Have employees been trained that it is impossible (or at least hard) to make change or to improve things so they have given up (think most Federal Government jobs)?  Talk about killing innovation!  When it is hard to even get your job done and to make incremental change, why would anyone be crazy enough to try to innovate?
Some companies just seem to slide into a culture of No.   “No” is safe.  It is easy to say “No, you can’t do that. Convince me why we should.”  They exert their power.  They may even get patted on the back for saving the company money (at least in the short term).  Good thing you shut down that crazy idea.
Soon everyone becomes a road block. The company is able to cut short term expenditures, but there is no growth.  Even if the leadership talks about grand vision and goals, if they don’t change the culture of No it will never happen. That vision will be killed by 100 little No’s from everyone “just doing their job.”  Then management will wonder why that grand idea didn’t come to fruition. Must have been a failing on how it was implemented, right?

Maybe it’s time to convert some of those “No” people into “How can we do that?” people?