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(In)Security in the Air

File_000 (1)I recently did a round trip on Delta – short domestic flights on Airbus A320. Both flights had WiFi from gogoinflight. You can use the WiFi for free for in-flight entertainment and flight information, or pay for Internet access.

I was somewhat surprised to see that even connected just for the free services a scan from my iPad (Fing) appeared to reveal the manufacturer and MAC address of  every connected device on the plane. For some devices it also revealed the owner’s name. All manner of hacking was, at least theoretically, available to anyone so inclined. I tried it on both legs of the trip, same results.

I also tested in my hotel, to confirm this was not expected behavior. A scan there, on the hotel’s free WiFi, revealed only my own device and the router.

Just thought folks might want to be aware of this potential exposure.

Google account without mail on iPhone

This may be old news to many but I just hit it for the first time.

iPhone, at least at iOS 10, will not allow you to add a Google account that doesn’t have GMail associated with it. It lets you go through the whole Add an Account, authenticates, then throws the account away before you have a chance to turn off Mail. There seem to be a lot of folks posting on the Apple forums with the same issue. The solution below is also there but you need to dig for it.

The workaround: For Calendar go to Settings > Calendar > Accounts > Add Account > Other > Add CalDAV Account. Use for the server name. For Contacts it’s the same except you’re adding a CardDAV account.

Why do they make you jump through hoops like this instead of using the standard Google account setup? We may never know.


Technology changes, people don’t

I just came across a Novell Success Story featuring me and the network I managed in 1991. It touts the productivity benefits of having folks store files in a central location where they can be easily found by others and where everyone will see the same version of a document.

The technology around meeting that need has changed drastically since 1991, and having everyone mobile and wanting their documents from anywhere in the world added some wrinkles we didn’t have when rolling out a file server in the 1990’s. But the business benefits, and the challenges of getting users to understand the benefits and think about it when saving files, has changed much less than we would have imagined back then.

Enjoy for nostalgia or for plus ça change



What should I be when I grow up?

channel_careers3I will be leaving my long-time position as Director of Technology for the management consulting firm Schaffer Consulting at the end of the year. So what do I do now?

Over the years I’ve thought of myself as a system administrator, a server, networks and desktop support guy. I’ve done a lot of telecom management over the years. I’ve worked a lot with collaboration systems.

And lately I’ve been getting more involved with marketing support – websites, social media, email campaigns, CRM. In this new role I’ve suddenly found some of my older experience relevant. I was a trade magazine editor and conference director before getting to where I am now.

I’ve developed a pretty broad range of experience in both tech and business.

But what does it prepare me for? Consultant, analyst, writer, sysadmin? New roles such as community manager? Am I looking for a job, a gig or engagements as an independent businessman?

I think the reality is that I will be exploring any and all of those.

Your thoughts, ideas and encouragement are much appreciated.



An Admin Looks Back at a Career with Notes/Domino

Scanned from a Xerox Multifunction PrinterAs so much is being written about moving off of the Notes/Domino platform I thought it might be useful to look back at my own experience. Much of what I’m reading lately is from Domino developers. This is, in contrast, the experience of a long-time admin.

For many, many years – since we migrated off of cc:Mail if you must know – I managed an infrastucture that eventually included Notes, Domino, Sametime, Quickr, Traveller and CRM running within Domino (iExtensions). This was for a relatively small management consulting firm operating globally.

At one time I managed Domino servers on premise, at a local cohosting site, at my home and on a national hosting provider. This was all to take advantage of Domino’s amazing replication, clustering and failover. We were protected from environmental and hardware glitches about as well as we could be.

In the end that was the products’ downfall though: we could no longer justify running that much infrastructure for under 50 users. We were also migrating our professional staff to Macintosh and the Mac support for Notes, and especially for Quickr, just wasn’t on a par with that for Windows. And finally we had the usual complaints that everything looked and felt old-fashioned.

In late 2014 the company made the decision to go to the cloud and get out of the business of maintaining servers. We looked hard at IBM’s hosted offerings but they didn’t address some of our lingering issues, and they were significantly more expensive than the alternatives.

We ended up going with what was then called Google Apps for Business, now Google for Work, and Zoho CRM.

What did we learn?

The transition was relatively easy in the end. Our Google partner, Viwo, found a tool to migrate all our Notes mail and archives. We moved the contact data from iExtensions into Zoho by simple export/import and abandoned our CRM history. Personal contacts were already on users’ smart phones and came back into Google Contacts from there.

For Quickr places we moved the folders down to a workstation using the Quickr desktop synchronization and then back up to Google Drive using Google’s sync.

The biggest user concern was “what about when I’m on an airplane, in a taxi, in the client’s office, etc.” How would we live without local mail replicas? We make some use of Gmail Offline/Inbox but, in practice, the lack of a local mail replica became a non-issue very quickly.

What was harder to adjust to was the simpler mail and calendar implementation. While Google has addressed some of this over the past couple of years we still miss the sophistication of the various calendar options, true mail/calendar integration and the ability to resort your mail in multiple ways.

Gooogle is, predictably, committed to search as the way to find things.

We make a lot of use of “My Drive” sync in Google Drive. Most folks find this far easier to work with than Quickr Places – and it has the great advantage of working for our Macintosh users!

We found that the native tools on iOS and Android met our need without looking for an MDM to replace Traveller. We tell the device that the Google system is Exchange, as was true with Traveller in the beginning before Traveller support was explicitly added to the mobile OS.

We had very few Domino applications beyond those associated with CRM, and they were very simple. Even so, two years later I’m still using a custom Notes database I put together to manage inventory because replacing it seems like more work than it’s worth. I imagine it will just continue as a local database once we finally shut off the last Domino server. For now what had been the primary mail server is still running for the odd need to get into archival data.

Our experience with non-standard apps points to the real issue with moving away from Domino, as many, many recent posts by Domino developers address. I don’t mean to minimize those issues in any way by recounting our experience. But it’s shared for what it’s worth.

And the winner is …

For anyone waiting for the other shoe to drop from my previous post: We went with RingCentral Office@Hand from AT&T — a name to make even IBM blush. But in limited time with the product it seems to do what they claim and to be a powerful and flexible solution.

As anyone who has supported users knows “powerful and flexible” is not always what users want. My users, at least, lean towards simple and magical in their tastes. But almost everything can be managed from an administration console and once it’s configured it really is pretty simple.

We have desk phones, soft phones for Mac and Windows, mobile apps and a Chrome plugin for GMail (There’s one for Office 365 as well).

I usually promise more details as they become available but I have some hope that this is it. There may not be much more to say.


Phones are complicated

I’ve been focused recently on telephone solutions.

We’ve been migrating our data systems to hosted, cloud based solutions because it no longer made sense for a small organization to maintain servers, failover servers, backup systems, etc. just to provide standard business functions like storage, messaging, directories, CRM, and so on. So wouldn’t the same make sense for phones?

To maintain our current phone system we’re managing a VMWare server, two server instances in the VMWare (PBX and voice mail), and complicated router and firewall settings. The integration with mobile phones, CRM, personal directories, calendar, etc. is pretty poor. It needs vendor-specific wizards on contract to manage it. And it really no longer serves the needs of a workforce that’s rarely in the office.

As on the data side there are many providers who assure us they can provide a hosted solution to address all these issues. And for the most part they can. But here the devil is most certainly in the details:

  • How do the desk phone, mobile phone and soft phone interact for call handoff, voice mail, directory integration?
  • How does the mobile client interact with the native phone features?
  • What PBX features are lost? What new features are gained?
  • Is conferencing included? Voice, screen share, video?
  • How is the whole thing priced and supported?

I think that just scratches the surface but you get the idea. Then add on the issues of swapping out a system that every key employee touches every day, and that can cause the company to grind to a halt if the switchover fails in any way.

I’ll be busy for a while yet I think.

Photo is from a previous long-ago phone migration that actually went fairly well.