Categories
Articles Technology

BASIC Is Now 50, and I Still Miss It

One of the most popular computer programming languages ever just turned 50, but almost no one uses it anymore. BASIC, short for Beginner’s All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code, may have gotten its start in 1964 at Dartmouth College as a math project. But it ended up defining home computer ownership for an entire generation.

BASIC BEGINNINGS

As a kid growing up in Brooklyn in the early 1980s, getting my first real computer—an Atari 800—was a huge turning point. Radio Shack TRS-80, Apple II, IBM PC, and Commodore 64 owners all experienced a variation of the same thing. As a certifiable Atari nut, I subscribed to the then-new Antic magazine; the contents of all issues can be found at www.atarimagazines.com. Each monthly issue had plenty of BASIC programs to type in. I killed a lot of evenings and Sundays in elementary school doing just that.

The results were laughable by today’s standards. I distinctly remember my dad and I spending one Sunday afternoon typing in this flag program in BASIC; it was one of the first ones we did, when we first got the computer. It seemed really long at the time (though later I would type in programs ten times its size, and spend several days on them). When we finished, it naturally didn’t work at first; we had made at least one mistake somewhere, so we spent even more time figuring that out.

After all that, when we finally got it right, we typed RUN, and—ta da!—it displayed a blocky, pixelated American flag on the screen, complete with white dots for stars. And that was it. “This is what we get for all that? You’ve got to be joking,” my father said. After that, I was the one who typed in all the programs. I didn’t mind.

CODING FOR FUN AND (NO) PROFIT

From then on, it was off to the races. I typed in code for more graphics demos, puzzle games, text adventures, disk utilities, printing projects—you name it, and there were probably a bunch of nearuseless-but-still-fun programs I could type in or write myself. Eventually, I started running a BBS on the Atari 800. Being in Brooklyn was key for that, because I ended up making some close friends who all happened to be in the New York City area.

At the time, schools began adding computer labs; my elementary school had a lab full of Commodore PET machines, and we were issued great big yellow binders full of exercises and programming examples to type in over the course of the semester. We learned about avoiding spaghetti code (too many GOTO statements), how to design simple and clear user interfaces, and how to program rudimentary graphics and sound on what were even then considered obsolete computers.

To be fair, BASIC had something of a less-thanstellar reputation among true power users at the time. Because it’s an interpreted language, there was a huge amount of memory and CPU overhead to get it to work. Before you could run programs, you had to run BASIC first, and then run your code on top of it. Games programmed in BASIC tended to be sluggish and unresponsive compared with those written in assembly, which was much tougher to learn but gave you more direct access to the “metal,” or hardware.

“There’s still a need for new software—but not for the kinds of things you’d program on your own.”

“C” ISN’T THE SAME

Time magazine’s Harry McCracken recently wrote a stellar overview of how BASIC impacted being a computer user in the late 1970s and early 1980s. I’m definitely on his side; I believe something is lost today in that more people don’t know how to program.

Granted, it’s different now; the computer was a completely novel thing back in the early 1980s, and it was great to learn to program it and watch it do things. If you needed a mortgage calculator, or (ahem) a Dungeons & Dragons character generator, you’d look up the necessary BASIC commands in whatever book you had, and write it yourself. Game programmers would make all their own art and sound effects, and because resolution was so low, you could even get away with it.

Now, with a single tap, you can download any of more than a million apps on your phone, all of which do much more than that out of the box, and look and sound amazing in comparison, with professional art and sound design. If you want to write something yourself, it’s much tougher now, given the complexity of each OS, and less immediately gratifying.

There’s still a need for new software—but not for the kinds of things you’d program on your own, like that mortgage calculator or character generator. If you need a rudimentary app that does X, you can probably find a zillion of them on the Web with a Google search. Many will even run in your browser, so you don’t have to install anything. And although BASIC itself still exists in newer forms like Visual Basic and QBasic, they’re footnotes rather than the main story, at least with regard to owning a computer.

I went on to get a computer science degree, but I never really enjoyed C programming in the same way I did BASIC and didn’t make a career of it. I’m heartened that so many people do, and I’m in awe of their skills.

But that’s the thing: Even though I wasn’t a natural-born coder like the John Carmacks of the world, BASIC meant that I could still learn to program, and learn everything about how computers work.

“BASIC programming looks pretty tame today. But I can’t imagine my childhood without it.”

In a world of quad-core phones and highdefinition game consoles, BASIC programming looks pretty tame today. But I can’t imagine my childhood without it, and it’s a bit sad to me that there isn’t a modern-day equivalent of an easy-to-learn programming language for everyone.

 

Source – PCMag

Categories
Technology

Demystifying Nigerian ATM Experience

The ATM in Nigeria has gone from a mysterious machine of very high distrust to a basic essential. Understandably, being at the perceived epicentre of online fraud and Internet scams has made Nigerians exceedingly weary of this machine which spits cash at the punch of just four digits. My personal take though, is that there exist more advanced hacking centres outside of Nigeria. Common knowledge seems to suggest that parts of Eastern Europe and Asia top Nigeria by a country mile.

My wife and many others like her, who have vowed never to test the efficacy of the banks’ assurances on the safety and security of their ATM systems against the increasing ingenuity of fraudsters have now become unwilling converts due to the higher risk of being unceremoniously shut out of modern day transactions. Regulatory pressures a-la the Cashless Nigeria initiative by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has also played their part in this conspiracy against the conservatives. Hefty penalties have now being instituted on cash transactions beyond a certain threshold. Thankfully, she has broken ranks and acquired an ATM card just only last year.

The CBN has tried to allay the fears of Nigerians by enforcing on the banks additional security measures such as the installation of anti-skimming devices, and two camera systems on all ATMs. The rational being that a fraudster who covers both cameras with his hands to avoid detection will have no spare to conduct his nefarious activities.

The average customer experience of the ATM user in Nigeria is still a tale of woes, mostly self-inflicted, and inadvertently by the same banks in whose major interest it should be to drive adoption to cut the relatively high cost of serving customers within the branch.

austin okere1Two very glaring examples; it is reported that on the eve of Christmas last year, customers looking for ATMs to withdraw cash for their festivities in the Gbagada area found to their dismay after visiting many ATMs and being greeted with the now familiar ‘temporary out of service’or’Unable to dispense Cash’messages, that the only ATMs that seemed to be working on the whole axis were the UBA ATMs at the Charlie Boy Bus stop.

Of course the queue had built up to the extent that faint hearted customers rather opted to go without cash than risk the possible consequences of a stampede. Similarly, on December 14, 2013 there were reports that virtually no ATM was working in the Badagry area.

These experiences are exacerbated majorly by the following factors; firstly, stagnation in the ATM population in spite of significant adoption rate by Nigerians. The ATM population in Nigeria has been stuck at the 11,000 mark for the past six years, resulting in an average of 11.39 ATMs per 100k adult population (adult population in Nigeria being about 56% or 95.2m according to a World Bank report on population).

This is not unconnected to the Central Bank’s misadventure with the Independent ATM Deployers (IAD) experiment of 2008 that barred banks from deploying ATMs outside their branches. This resulted in the abrupt halt in the momentum of ATM deployment by Banks. This was largely due to the hasty conduct of the CBN in trying to swallow an elephant at one go. Noble as the intention was, a pilot scheme would have uncovered the soft underbelly of the strategy, the major shortcoming being the fact that the cash in the offsite ATMs would have been too expensive for the IADs to carry, and therefore compel them to charge customers very exorbitant rates or render them totally unprofitable at the flat rate of N100 per withdrawal,then allowed by the CBN.

Six years later we have less than the 11,800 achieved at the highpoint, because many banks had to abandon the long term rents secured for their offsite ATMs and wheeled the ATMs into warehouses and parking lots because the IADs could not afford the book value to take on the sites and ATMs. The operational lives of those ATMs, about a third of the total volume were cut short, as they were subsequently unusable two years later when the CBN rescinded her decision.

Comparatively, Indonesia with an adult population of about 90m, more than doubled their ATM installed base from 16.7k in 2011 to 36.5k in 2012, resulting in 37 ATMs per 100k adult population, about three time the ATM per adult capita in Nigeria. South Africa has 60 ATMs per 100k adult population, while the UK has 124 ATMs per 100k adult population. Nigeria clearly has a lot to do as the largest economy in Africa.

Secondly, the quality of notes in the ATM are a far cry from standard. In the early days, the ATM was where to go if you wanted crisp notes. Today, the notes in the ATM are sometimes worse that the change you receive at the flea market. This is underscored by the fact that the security features and the general quality of the naira could do with some enhancements. Dirty notes generally cause paper dirt to be lodged in sensitive parts of the ATM when it is dispensing cash, therefore resulting in more frequent system faults or currency jams.

A telling revelation when we compare the work rate of the ATM in Nigeria to say the UK is that the Nigerian ATM has to dispense on the average five notes to one in the UK, if it is dispensing N1,000 notes and the UK one is dispensing 20 pound notes (20 pounds is approximately N5,000). This coupled with the low ATM density and challenged note quality contributes a lot to the frequent breakdowns and ‘unable to dispense cash’ notices.

Thirdly and very importantly, most ATMs in Nigeria are not under any guaranteed service level supportprogram. This is very shocking, and a serious anomaly by any stretch of the imagination. Banks inadvertently encourage this malaise. There is a notion that appraisal and compensation for ATM support heads in the E-banking departments seem to be heavily skewed on how much they can save in the ATM support costs. So they devise all means necessary to achieve this, even at the detriment of customer experience and the banks’ brand erosion. There is a blatant refusal to sign any Service Level Agreements (SLA) support for the ATMs in the first year of purchase under the illusion that warranty on the systems equates to SLA support. This results in fallacious claims of reduction in support costs.

This alluded cost efficiency cannot be further from the truth. Warranty and SLA support are quite different from each other as any owner of a car under warranty well knows. While SLA defines the time within which an ATM should be fixed or replaced in the event of a fault (usually two hours within urban areas and six hours in remote areas), warranty relies on a best effort basis for the replacement of factory defective parts.

Parts that are rendered unusable due to wear and tear, or as a result of exogenous effects such as power surges cannot be claimed under warranty (as sometimes the bank officials are wont to ferociously argue). For simplicity, warranty on ATMs is very similar to that on automobiles. If you drive your new car which carries a three year or 100,000km warranty to the dealer for a part replacement.

Firstly they check that it is not normal wear and tear, and that it is not due to abnormal circumstances such as the wrong type of fuel or an accident. Then they take in the car and order the part. They call you when the part arrives, which takes an average of three months, and then slap you with a labour bill. This is the type of service that the Bank is hoodwinked to render to their hapless customers. It is worthy to note that warranty does not cover periodic maintenance of the machines. Imagine driving your warranty car for three years straight or 100,000km without any service or Oil change! Not opting even for the bare bones labour-only quarterlypreventive maintenance service does drastically shorten the lifespan of the ATMs. It is therefore not surprising that some relatively new ATMs needlessly break down and cause customers to spend eternity looking for a working one, or in an endless queue.

The average annual support spend on an ATM in Nigeria is $2,500, about half of what obtains in Indonesia and South Africa, both spending about $4,500 per ATM per annum. By investing the right amount to keep their systems properly maintained, they prolong the lives of their ATMs and ensure better customer experiences, which we readily testify to when we visit those countries.

Thirdly, we now know that most ATMs work with the windows operating system. Many are currently on the Windows XP platform which has recently been announced by Microsoft as de-supported, and a new operating system, windows 7, announced to replace it. This means that any ATM that is not upgraded to the windows 7 operating system shall be vulnerable to viruses and fraud attacks, since the new security patches shall not work on them. Worldwide, 2.2m ATMs are vulnerable.

In Nigeria, a significant number of the installed base shall be affected. The solution is a simple upgrade of the operating system if the ATM is upgradable. This is free if the bank has been paying their software maintenance fee. They will otherwise have to incur huge capital costs to repurchase the new software licenses. Available data suggests that many banks have not kept up with the software support fees. A further complication is that certain category of ATMs cannot be upgraded because of non USB Interfaces. These have to be replaced, and will further deplete the already stretched ATM density.

Lastly, there are serious challenges in stable and consistent power supply, and network connectivity, both of which the ATM cannot operate without. There are also infrastructure challenges in access roads to ATMs in rural areas which cause support engineers to spend significantly more ‘travel time’ than ‘dwell time’ to fix machines. A possible solution will be for service providers to have enough support offices across the country than depend on engineers being dispatched only from the three commercial centers of Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja. Cross training support engineers on ATMs, inverters and network connectivity will ensure that the first engineer to arrive at the ATM can fix the fault and does not have to call another specialist. A monitoring system if installed by the provider would ensure that the ATM correctly diagnoses itself and advices on the correct spare part to be carried to site. A monitoring system will however, require client licenses on the ATMs for which maintenance fees are due to be paid, and which many banks shy away from.

Banks are by no means the only clog in the wheel of good ATM customer experience. Some of the blame lie squarely on the shoulders of the service providers. In a bid to win business at all costs they are ready to accept terms that tempt them to cut corners in quality of products and service delivery. For example, there is a need to install monitoring systems and a call centre to aid support efficacy. There is also a need to ensure that the custodians are sufficiently trained to provide the crucial first level support. The negligence of these will make the support process expensive, unwieldy and ineffective. This drives the proverbial ‘race to the bottom’ for all stakeholders. A decimation in the number of service providers or their replacement by uncertified operators willing to collect the cutthroat rates offered by the banks will not bode any good tidings for the banks nor their customers.

Another emerging class in the clog of ATM availability is the gang of Marauders who attempt to blow-up the ATMs to gain access to the cash in the safes. For this group, Banknote staining could be an effective prevention technique, in which the anticipated reward of the crime is removed by denying the benefits, by marking the cash stolen with special security ink. Of course the ink should be machine detectable to ensure that deposit machines reject stained notes.

Surprisingly, some customers are also culpable. Furiously banging the ATM when ‘it swallows your card’ or does not dispense the money on your transaction will not solve any problem. If anything at all, it will only compound the problem by taking that ATM out of service. In the rare instance of this anomaly, the right thing to do is to call the number on the ATM body or visit the bank. There are usually journal entries and time stamps that will prove that you were not paid what you have been inadvertently debited, and a routine for redress and refund instituted.

While acknowledging the significant progress that we have recorded in payment systems, underpinned by the opportunity for the average Nigerian to be availed of having access to the global installed base of ATMs, courtesy of his local bank ATM card, and without recourse to a foreign bank account and ATM card, there is still the need to ensure that charity truly begins at home.

The above is not intended as an exercise in ATM service indictments, but rather a discourse that will help in the appreciation, and management of the root cause of the below average ATM customer experience in Nigeria from which we are all groaning.

 

Austin Okere, Group CEO, Computer Warehouse Group PLC

Categories
Advertorial

Clearance Sale: Netgear WNDR3400 Dual Band Router with NAS & DD-WRT Firmware (N12,000.00)

wndr3400The Netgear N600 Wireless Dual Band Router WNDR3400 supports true dual-band and offers fast wireless performance and long range. It has a useful set of networking features, such as Guest zone, network storage, traffic meter, and USB external hard-drive support for network storage. Also, it’s aesthetically pleasing and comes with an intuitive Web interface, all at an affordable price.

It has the stellar performance and features of a high-end wireless router and offers all-round great wireless performance on both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands with excellent range, especially on the 2.4GHz band.

If you’re looking for a well-rounded wireless router for your home and don’t want to spend much, the WNDR3400 is your only choice.

The DD-WRT Advantage

DD-WRT is an open-source alternative firmware for routers. Its software unlocks features that are not ordinarily present in Netgear WNDR3400. It is, unarguably, the best aftermarket router firmware upgrade around. It is a popular router firmware choice for hobbyists, homes, businesses and router manufacturers as well. Put simply, DD-WRT Turns Netgear WNDR3400 into a turbo-powered router.

Indeed, your router is only as good as its firmware. DD-WRT has been flashed on the WNDR3400 router in order to grant the user extra functionality, which hardware manufacturers seem reluctant to include in stock software.

Features

techspecs-wndr3400-diagram-photo-largeThe WNDR3400 is capable of simultaneously broadcasting Wireless-N signals on both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies. The 2.4GHz is the popular wireless band shared with other home devices such as cordless phones and Bluetooth headsets. The 5GHz band is somewhat more exclusive and therefore should offer better throughput performance. By being dual-band, the WNDR3400 supports virtually all existing network clients.

The WNDR3400 comes with a USB port for NAS function. The router supports hard drives formatted in both NTFS and FAT32 file systems. This means you can just plug in your current external hard drive with data already on it and share it with the rest of the network. The router supports Windows’ SMB protocol, which allows any computer in the network to access its storage using a network browser (such as Windows Explorer) without having any additional software installed. It also supports Macs and the shares will automatically appear in Finder.

The router restricts access to this NAS storage via password. You can set a password for read-only access and another for read/write access to a particular folder on the external hard drive. Once set, the restriction is applied to anyone wanting to access that folder. The router’s NAS feature can also handle other NAS functions such as FTP and HTTP. You can also set up remote connections to access the data via Internet.

Technical Specifications

[ws_table id=”22″]

 How To Place Your Order

Click here to leave a message via the the contact form. Free delivery to locations in Victoria Island/Lekki/VGC/Ajah Axis.

 

Categories
Hack

Heartbleed – What You need to know

A major new vulnerability called Heartbleed could let attackers gain access to users’ passwords and fool people into using bogus versions of Web sites.

Heartbleed is a recently discovered software flaw that could leave millions of servers on the Internet open to an attack which allows sensitive data, such as user passwords, to be stolen.

The issue – which has been around for over two years but was only recently discovered – should not be ignored. It is a major issue and it appears a significant portion of the Internet has been affected. Because this exploit leaves no trace in almost any system it is very difficult to determine the extent to which anyone has been compromised through this.

The heart of the problem lies in open-source software called OpenSSL that’s widely used to encrypt Web communications. Nayer explained that a flaw in the programming on some versions (OpenSSL 1.0.1-1.0.1f) means attackers can view small portions of what is being stored in the server’s memory which includes data such as usernames, passwords, credit card numbers and any other sensitive information.

Grayson Milbourne, director of security intelligence at Webroot added it is software vulnerability not an infection.

“A vulnerability is a flaw in the code of an application which allows it to be exploited. In the case of the OpenSSL Heartbleed vulnerability, researchers found a flaw in how the data was being encrypted and transmitted,” he said.

Nayer said it is vital that the company’s technical team knows all the websites and web services the organisation has so they can check all the necessary sites. He recommends asking the IT department the following questions in addressing the issue:

  • How have you determined whether each of our websites and web services have OpenSSL service enabled?
  • What type of sensitive information do we have that is accessible from the internet? What type of information would have been at risk?
  • Have we looked at our logs to determine if there have been any successful or unsuccessful attempts to exploit this issue? What did we find? Are we monitoring our network to look for indications of attacks?
  • What steps have we taken to mitigate the issue?
  • How have you confirmed that the fixes have been applied successfully?
  • Have you gotten assurances from our vendors, external hosting providers and application cloud services that they have fixed any vulnerable systems?

Nayer said if the company’s website is internally hosted the organisation can run the command ‘openssl version’ on the server to find which if an affected version is being used. However, if it is hosted externally it is necessary to contact the hosting provider for more information.

“If your system uses a vulnerable version of OpenSSL (1.0.1-1.0.1f) you should immediately upgrade to OpenSSL 1.0.1g. If you are unable to immediately upgrade you can recompile the version of OpenSSL you have with ‘-DOPENSSL_NO_HEARTBEATS’ set,” he advised.

It would also pay to consider if it is appropriate to revoke any Certificates which were used while the organisation ran exposed versions of OpenSSL.

“Even after a fix is applied, the private cryptographic keys your systems are relying on to protect their communications could already have been compromised and this fix won’t address that compromise,” he said.

Nayer recommends increasing monitoring for unexpected activity in your systems, and train call centre and client facing staff on how to respond to inquiries on the topic.

Additionally, Milbourne recommends changing passwords although this isn’t a full-proof solution as it’ll only help if the website in question has put in place required security patches.

“To be on the safe side, I recommend changing passwords at least every three months and to make sure your personal email password is different from every other password,” he said.

Source

Categories
Hack

Bank App Users Warned Over Android Security

Mobile banking on Android smartphones could put consumers at risk of fraud and cost banks millions.

An IT security company, MWR Labs, investigated the security standards of Android mobile phone brands to determine the overall exposure to risk of consumers who use mobile banking. It said that its results indicated that on some handsets as many as 64 per cent of manufacturer added applications were exposing users to serious security issues.

Mobile-moneyThe company looked at six classes of potential vulnerabilities in apps and packages in the leading brands and mobile phones using a modified version of Mercury, its security testing framework, to automatically scan the devices and identify security weaknesses.

The research discovered security vulnerabilities in software added by phone manufacturers or network providers which could be targeted by a malicious application inadvertently downloaded by the user. These weak apps often have more permissions that allow them to access contacts, make telephone calls and even record the content of those calls, meaning that the potential consequences are serious and sensitive data could be compromised. Other applications were found that allowed further apps to be installed with an arbitrary set of permissions, essentially leaving consumers fully exposed to fraud.

“We found that while banking apps were generally well written and had very few security issues, the integrity of consumer phones was often compromised by software provided by the phone manufacturer or additional software added by the network provider, exposing online banking customers to potential fraud,” said MWR’s managing director Harry Grobbelaar.

“Some of the leading Android handset manufacturers are already looking at shipping mobile devices with native near-field communication (NFC) payment functionalities but if the software in the phones is not secure, the risk will then be even higher,” he said.

He said that as more businesses use smartphones as mobile point-of-sale devices, these devices will become critical in the payment chain and if not adequately protected could “introduce additional risks for card fraud that could cost banks millions a year.”

Grobbelaar added that there were many examples of malicious apps sending premium rate text messages and expected there will be a “natural progression” to higher value areas such as payments and banking.

This article was first published on ITPro

Categories
Hack

How To Capture Streaming Music From Your PC

I subscribed to the music service Deezer a few weeks back. With a monthly subscription of US$4.99 (NGN800), Deezer gives you unrestricted access to about 30 million+ music files for your listening pleasure. You are able to stream any music track or if you prefer, you can even save the tracks to your device (PC or mobile device) for you to listen to when are not connected to internet.

The snag with this arrangement is that;

  • the music files are not in your regular mp3 or wma format but some unidentifiable encrypted format.
  • access to your music files are cut off any month you fail to pay your subscription. You lose access to all your music files until you renew your subscription.
  • you are restricted to the music player app provided by the music service both on your PC (Chrome Browser app) or mobile device.

In a bid to avoid the restrictions listed above, I started looking around for a way to capture streaming audio from either my PC or mobile device. I met a brick wall with android, there was no app available for what i wanted to do. At least, i did not find any.

For the PC, however, the story was different.

I revisited this Windows application called Audacity. For those that know, this application has been around for quite a while – but not with the features in its latest iteration. From Audacity version 2.0.4 onwards, Audacity can record computer playback even on budget laptops with sound devices lacking that ability.

dj

On other operating systems (Linux and Apple OSX platform application), Audacity does not provide its own ability to record computer playback but can do so if the computer sound device offers this ability.

The process of capturing streaming audio using your Windows PC is realtime. You have to play all the tracks from start to finish in realtime to capture the songs. If the total playtime of the songs in your playlist is, say, 6 hours, it will take that many hours to capture your songs into mp3 format. Good thing is, you can lower the volume of your PC speakers to the minimum or even insert an ear phone piece into the earphone jack to listen to the songs while playing without interrupting the recording process.

Methodology

1. You will need a PC with at least 2GB RAM, 2Ghz Processor with OS Windows Vista, Windows 7 or Windows 8. However, Audacity recommends a minimum of 4GB RAM to prevent any hiccup.

I will be using a Core i3 2.3Ghz processor, 8GB RAM, Windows 8.1 HP Pavilion G6 laptop for this test.

2. Visit Audacity download page and grab the latest version of the software http://audacity.sourceforge.net/download/

3. Install and configure as follows;

  • Launch the software, select Edit –> Preferences

Screenshot (2)

  • Select the options as shown below. The Host entry must be Windows WASAPI. Under Recording, search for any entry with “(loopback)”

Screenshot (3)

  • Save your settings and you are ready to roll.

The software looks a bit intimidating but you do not need all the available features. The control buttons are top left (as shown in the image below). When you are through, click on File –> Export to save the music file in any format of your choice. Note that to save in MP3 format, you need to install the Lame Encoder on your PC

Screenshot (5)

Categories
Articles Technology

What IT Skills And Roles Will Be In Demand In 2014?

Indeed, much of what follows should sound familiar. This could be a good thing. Earth-shattering predictions have a knack for missing the mark. (Apocalypse 2012, anyone?) So the job-market calls that Jack Cullen, President of IT staffing firm Modis, and other industry experts shared with InformationWeek are more realistic and more useful if you’re looking for a new position in 2014.

“There’s nothing that I would say is the new ‘hottest thing ever’ ” coming in 2014, said Cullen, in an interview.

Here they are, in no particular order:

1. Big data experts.

Yesterday’s buzzword is tomorrow’s hot job market. While the hype around big data isn’t new, Cullen thinks actual hiring in the category will start to gain tangible ground in 2014. “The area where I think we’ll see some pickup, that people are still trying to figure out, is this whole world around big data — whether it’s products like Hadoop or big data analytics” or other relevant skills, Cullen told us.

2. Business intelligence (BI) designers.

Tom Hart, CMO of staffing firm Eliassen, offered another specific example within the big data universe: the ability to turn all of that information into stuff the executive suite, marketing, and other non-technical business units can actually understand and use. (PowerPoint achieved popularity for a reason, people.) Enter BI designers.

“There are plenty of companies that can help you to store data, build redundancy into storage, and normalize the data for efficient storage and access,” Hart said via email. “But there’s clearly a shortfall of talented developers that can help you to interpret and present the data in a meaningful way, in the form of executive-level or business-level dashboards, guiding the decision-making process through the intelligent discerning and representation of that stored data.”

3. DevOps experts with cloud and mobility skills.

We’re cheating a bit here. IT pros with serious DevOps chops are in high demand right now, according to Kevin Gorham, recruiting manager at Hollister. That’s going to continue in 2014; DevOps experts who build and maintain cloud infrastructure and mobile apps are sitting pretty in the labor market.
“If I have people with this skill set, I can call my clients and easily get several interviews set up for these candidates. They really are a walking placement,” Gorham told us in an email. “They can command higher salaries, and I’ll often get into a bidding war with my clients over these potential hires. Developers who are more of an engineer and can program and script in Linux — not your just your run-of-mill admins — are highly marketable, too.”

4. Linux pros.

Indeed, while “Linux” and “hot” don’t often appear in the same breath, IT pros with Linux expertise will remain in demand in the coming year. In 2013, the “Linux Jobs Report” — produced by Dice.com and the Linux Foundation — found that three out of four Linux pros had received calls from headhunters in the previous six months. Meanwhile, 90% of hiring managers reported difficulties filling Linux positions.

Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation, expects even more favorable conditions for Linux job seekers in 2014.

“Demand for Linux professionals continues to go up and represents a multi-year trend that is the result of Linux becoming more and more ubiquitous. It is the software that runs our lives, and we need more systems administrators and developers to keep up with the growth,” Zemlin said via email. He attributes much of the demand to wider business adoption of open-source technologies in general, and added that the Linux Foundation will ramp up online learning and advanced training opportunities in the coming year to help meet demand. “If you’re an IT professional looking for long-term career growth, there is no better place to be than working with open-source.”

5. Mobile developers.

Stop the presses: Mobility is hot. Specifically, IT pros with legit mobile development skills can effectively call their own shots right now. Hart of Eliassen points to mobile as a job category that essentially has negative unemployment: There are more open positions than qualified people to fill them.

“While there have been plenty of early adopters, many companies are just starting to figure out how to either enhance access or boost sales, related to their product and service offerings,” Hart says. “Mobile application developers are in great demand, and this will continue for some time to come. If you’re looking to secure your employment status for the long-term, enhance your mobile app development skills.”

6.The “old” reliables: .NET and Java developers. Sticking with the development side of IT, Cullen of Modis expects .NET and Java programmers to have no trouble finding work in 2014. The two platforms remain ubiquitous in application development. They’re “going to remain relatively hot,” he predicts.

7. Business Analysts (BAs) and Project Managers (PMs).

Cullen said his firm’s clients continue to seek qualified BAs and PMs for their IT organizations. Both are “old” job titles. What’s changing, Cullen said, is that employers are increasingly seeking very specific experience and skills in those roles. “What companies are looking for, instead of just bringing in a generic BA or PM, they’re looking — particularly in the financial services sector — for some real specific areas,” Cullen said. For example, “derivatives experience, capital markets experiences, low latency-high frequency experience — they want skills very specific to a type of application in those areas.”

8. Small and midsized business (SMB) IT pros.

This one’s not so much a skill set as a growing employer pool. Cullen said Modis’s SMB accounts have robust hiring plans heading into the new year. “Companies that used to have maybe a one- or two-person IT staff are expanding that to four or five.” He attributes that expansion to several factors: business growth, competitive advantages, and — perhaps most of all — more SMBs figuring out how IT investments can help them cut costs in other areas of their organizations. In other words: SMBs aren’t necessarily adding headcount overall, but instead are redirecting existing resources into IT — welcome news for job-hunters.

What’s not hot? Traditional telecommunications roles will shrink as more and more businesses move into cloud environments, according to Cullen. (Cloud computing, meanwhile, can be a lucrative career path.)

Cullen also says IT pros with Oracle and SAP skills may find a flatter job market next year. He points to the expensive, cyclical, and sometimes slow-moving nature of large enterprise software deployments as the reason: 2014 may simply be a quieter year for internal enterprise application projects.

“The demand for Oracle and SAP — I can’t say it’s gone dramatically down. But it’s not as robust as some of the other areas,” says Cullen. “A lot of these companies over the past two years have invested in their enterprise [applications], so maybe it’s going to be a little bit less of an investment on that side [in 2014], as opposed to a big increase in investment on their web side.”

 

Kevin Casey is a writer based in North Carolina who writes about technology for small and midsized businesses.

Categories
Hosting Technology

Aaron Levie, The 28-Year Old CEO Of The Billion Dollar Cloud Computing Company “BOX”

BOX, which Levie launched out of his dorm room at the University of Southern California in 2005, is a golden child among Silicon Valley tech companies.

The company has more than doubled its revenue every year and is on pace to reach $100 million by the end of 2013. Box has more than 900 employees, spread out in offices in Los Altos, San Francisco, London, Paris, and Munich. Next year, Levie and his co-founder and chief financial officer (and boyhood friend), Dylan Smith, plan to take the company public.

Investors, who have poured $300 million into the start-up, are valuing the business at $1.2 billion—a sign both of their belief in Box and their confidence that cloud computing has finally matured. In one recent survey of IT buyers, researchers noted a “whopping 65.6% of respondents indicated cloud as a top investment area for 2013.”

aaronlevie-incmagazine-1026x1617_26981Even these numbers, however, don’t explain why Aaron Levie is Inc.’s Entrepreneur of the Year. That has more to do with his anticipation of change and his boldness in doing what looks crazy in the short term but in time looks revolutionary. Cloud storage is basically a commodity. Levie recognized this early on and changed Box’s orientation from consumers to enterprise customers, where his relentless focus on great design was particularly striking—and thus he put some distance between Box and the pressures of the commodity marketplace. He moved quickly into mobile. He got out in front of fears about security. He was, and is, unencumbered by legacy ideas and models, and he keeps making good decisions.

Levie likes to say that fundamental shifts in technology come around only every 10 to 15 years, and much the same could be said about an entrepreneur like him. He possesses the sort of wisdom and focus you’d expect of an industry guru, but he acts with the 24/7 obsession of a scrappy startup founder. Give him 10 minutes, and he will make you a believer. Scott Weiss, a partner at Andreessen Horowitz, one of the venture firms that have invested in Box, describes Levie as a “glow-in-the-dark” entrepreneur. “He’s unmistakable,” Weiss says. “You talk with him for five minutes, and he says something funny and something smart and something insightful. He’s a larger-than-life character.”

He’s also only 28. Levie stands a little under 6 feet tall and has a slim, wiry frame. His hair sprouts in a graying forest above his forehead. His eyes, deep-set and bluish-gray, are each covered by a thin wisp of a brow. Like a lot of young tech entrepreneurs, he has a uniform; his is a slim-cut J. Crew suit, a pressed button-down shirt, and red sneakers.

Levie’s routine over the past several years has been stringent. He wakes at around 10. He showers quickly, and arrives at the office by 11 a.m. He downs two coffees, sometimes holding two cups at once. He rarely eats breakfast or, for that matter, lunch. He spends 90 percent of his daylight hours in meetings or interviews, to which he walks very quickly or even runs. He is almost never at his desk. At around 7:30 p.m., he takes a nap for about an hour, and when he wakes up, he gets really, really productive. Each night, he probably sends a couple of hundred emails, and by 2 a.m. or 3 a.m., he’s finally done. Levie does not take weekends off, and, in the last handful of years, he has taken one vacation, a three-day trip to Mexico with his girlfriend.

For all his decisiveness, he is a somewhat uneasy man—self-deprecating, certainly less cocksure than your average 28-year-old centimillionaire—and as he talks about Box’s competitors in a crowded market, I begin to understand why he drives himself so hard.

“My hair’s gotten grayer,” says Levie. “I was gray before Obama was.”

Box’s daily battles are with Accellion, Citrix, Huddle, Google, Hightail, IBM, and Oracle—and the biggest of them, Microsoft. Microsoft’s SharePoint collaboration tool is a behemoth that generates nearly $2 billion in revenue from 65,000 companies, which manage a total of 125 million SharePoint licenses.

And, as with Facebook, many of Box’s early users were driven to the platform because their friends or colleagues were using it. It had a viral network effect because it was different, better. Using Box makes sending files easier and makes collaborating with co-workers faster. In some small way, it makes work more fun.

“I’ve just seen the future… and there’s no longer any paper in it.”

Technically speaking, building a mobile platform on which to send company files isn’t all that challenging. The real difficulty is proving that the information will be secure. The idea of being able to share any file with anyone at any time is alluring, but it also introduces a massive security risk, especially for businesses dealing with sensitive customer information such as credit card numbers and health care records. Among IT professionals and their employers, there is tremendous unease. Levie saw that as an opportunity.

“The idea is, ‘How do we make Box become the enabler for them to be able to move to the cloud—the solution for their security in the cloud,’” Levie says. “So not that it’s a check box that allows them to adopt Box; it’s actually the reason they put documents in the cloud.”

Box is able to provide this service to companies like drchrono because, as of April 2013, Box was certified as Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, compliant, the industry standard for protecting electronic health records. Getting HIPAA certification is the official way to assure patients a provider is taking all the right steps to protect their medical information online. But becoming HIPAA compliant is a notoriously lengthy and expensive process. (Share-Point is HIPAA compliant; some other Box competitors are not.) HIPAA compliance is proving valuable: In 2013, Box’s sales in the health care industry grew more than 81 percent.

When Levie first announced that he was building an enterprise software company for the modern age, he was 23. He had no idea what the conventions of the game were. He had never used any of the software he hoped to disrupt. Not knowing the conventions—or simply refusing to acknowledge them—appears to have become Levie’s best asset. And the fact that he feels the odds are against him and against Box—that isn’t a reason to stop; it’s a reason to continue.

 

ERIC MARKOWITZ is a reporter for Vocativ.com.

Categories
Networking

Back To Life!

Cisco E1200I picked up a number of WiFi routers on Amazon last December for a very good discount, hoping to make a good profit selling them in Nigeria. The Linksys E1200 brand of WiFi routers was retailing for $19.99 (about N3,200) apiece, and my plan was to sell them for N10,000 each.

It was not until i had taken delivery of them that i realized that i just might have flushed my money down the drain because the router had a bouquet of issues bedeviling it.

Issues included;

– Dropping/Intermittent wireless connectivity
– Slow downloads and uploads speeds
– Seemed not to be able to handle more than 5 or 6 connected devices at once
– Power cycling does not always fix issues and sometimes hard reset is necessary

Apparently, there were issues with the firmware that was bundled with the device. Repeated updates to the firmware failed to fix the problems. Extensive search on the internet revealed a horde of very dissatisfied customers. The customer services of Cisco (the manufacturers of the device) also did nothing to help the situation.

It was a painful decision but i just could not sell devices that i knew were faulty, so i let them gather dust in the store, swearing never to be blinded with greed again when making business decisions.

That was until i decided to pay a visit again to DD-WRT.

DD-WRT is a site that develops and host Linux-based firmware for wireless routers and wireless access points. It is compatible with several models of routers and access points and is among the many third-party firmwares, which are designed to replace the firmware that ships pre-installed on many commercial routers. There are many advantages to running alternative firmwares as they unlock features that are not present ordinarily on all routers and can give your low budget routers features that are not available on even some professional grade routers, unlocking settings that are not accessible normally; static routing, VPN, repeating functions, boost your router range by increasing antenna power and overclocking.

It is a fact that your router is only as good as its firmware, the software that makes it tick.

My earlier check on the site dd-wrt.com in early December 2012 listed the Linksys E1200 as not being supported by this open source firmware. However, what i did not realize was that it became supported just a few days later.

I have upgraded the firmware of all the routers in my possession and now they are worth all the N10,000 ($62.50) that i am asking for them.

With the latest tested and stable builds of DD-WRT customized firmware, the true capabilities of the Linksys (Cisco) E1200 hardware are unleashed. Now you can create a personal VPN network, manage several wireless and guest networks, take advantage of advanced QoS bandwidth controls, and lots more. I have since parked up my Belkin Wireless N+ Router for this beauty and i am absolutely loving it!

Categories
Gadgets

Check Out These Awesome Ways To Use Your Flash Drive

Flash or thumb drives are probably a dime a dozen nowadays with good quality original 2GB drive costing as little as N1500.  Apart from the popular use of simple file transfers, many are missing out on the best use that any of these tiny data buckets can fulfill. Enthusiasts know that flash drives are the perfect portable repositories for all sorts of software that can breathe life or enhance your PC usage experience.

Run Portable Applications

The first thing you’ll want to install on your USB rescue drive is PortableApps, a free, open-source platform for installing desktop applications on USB drives and other removable media. PortableApps manages the installation of new portable software on your USB drive, and it also acts as a front end when you’re actually using the USB drive, allowing you to browse and launch applications easily.

PortableApps maintains a list of hundreds of “portable” versions of popular free programs, each of them designed to work without installation. For the complete list, see portableapps.com/apps.

Each of the following applications that has “Portable” in its title is available for the PortableApps platform. You can download these items at the URLs provided, or start PortableApps and click Apps ▸ Get More Apps. You’ll see a large list of applications; just check the ones you want and then click Next to download and install all of them automatically.

Boot an operating system

If you want to do more than just run your own applications, you might want to consider booting an entire operating system from your USB flash drive. You can boot either Windows or Linux from a USB flash drive; however, the process is not an exact science and you may be in for a technical adventure.

Most existing operating systems support or can be adapted to support this feature.

Run A Website From It

If you are a Web developer, you may be interested to know that with Server2Go, you can easily run a Web server that supports Apache, PHP, MySQL, and Perl right from a USB flash drive. You can use Server2Go right out of the box without any installation. It runs on all versions of Windows, supports most common browsers, and is completely free. To a developer, the benefits of having a portable Web server on a USB drive are numerous. For example, imagine being able to carry a live Web site demo into a sales pitch meeting. For more information about this package, visit the Server2Go site.

Lock Your PC

Have you ever seen a movie in which a person in some secret government installation simply inserts and removes a card to log in and log out of a PC? If you thought that idea was cool, you’ll definitely want to investigate Predator. Once installed and configured, this little freeware utility will allow you to turn a USB flash drive into a key you can use to lock and unlock your computer.

While the USB flash drive is connected to your computer, everything works as it normally would. Once you remove the USB flash drive, your computer is locked down — the keyboard and mouse are disabled and the screen darkens. To unlock your computer, you just plug in the USB flash drive and the computer will be unlocked and you can begin using it.

PREDATOR locks your PC when you are away, even if your Windows session is still opened. It uses a regular USB flash drive as an access control device, and works as follows:

  • you insert the USB drive
  • you run PREDATOR (autostart with Windows is possible)
  • you do your work…
  • when you’re away from your PC, you simply remove the USB drive:
  • once it is removed, the keyboard and mouse are disabled and the screen darkens
  • when you return back to your PC, you put the USB flash drive in place:
  • keyboard and mouse are immediately released, and the display is restored.

It’s easier and faster than closing your Windows session, since you do not have to retype your password when you return.

Turn a USB Flash Drive into Extra Virtual RAM

It is not hard to turn an extra USB stick lying around collecting dust into an extra memory for your computer, allowing it to run speedier and manage more applications better.

You can put the flash drive to good use by using it to increase the virtual RAM on your Windows computer, preferably a USB drive smaller than 4 GB. The procedure has been summarized below:

  • Rename your thumb drive as “RAM DRIVE” or something similar, so you can see which drive is being used as RAM.
  • Delete all the stuff on the flash drive. Check for hidden files.
  • Right click on My Computer, and go to Properties. Once there, click on Advanced and go to the system output’s Settings.
  • Click on Advanced, and then Edit.
  • Click on your thumb drive above, and select “user-defined size.” Here you can see the size of your flash drive.
  • Calculate the size of the flash drive, and subtract 5 Mb.
  • Type this number in the first box. In the second box, type in the same number.
  • Click Set and confirm all your settings, applying them wherever you can.
  • Restart your computer.

Windows 7 users should go into their System Properties, under the Performance tab for these options. After you’re done, your computer will recognize your flash drive as extra virtual memory. Do not pull out your thumb drive after these settings are implemented. It could crash your computer. More detailed information can be found here.

usb001pic