Time to move on

You likely don’t know this, and probably don’t care ūüėČ , but this blog is currently hosted on WordPress.com. ¬†I’ve been very pleased with their hosting service (no monthly fee for one blog, but it is supported by WordPress ads), and have been delighted to participate in discussions over my Kiosk mode blog posts from 2013. So happy to know that has been helpful to people over the years!

The time has come for me to move my site from WordPress.com to a new host. I’ll be using Amazon Lightsail and likely still using WordPress – but an install I can customize and have full control over. I plan to use Google Analytics instead of WordPress stats, as the data received is much more usable and actionable.

The reason I post this is that I want to be sure my followers are able to continue receiving content, as I plan to post more content in 2017. I will be moving subscribers over using WordPress/Jetpack, as noted here, so the experience should be seamless for you. Please check back in the coming weeks to be sure you are still following!

Thanks for being a follower of this blog!

The Great Escape (from Yahoo!)

If you don’t care about reading my thoughts and just want to move your stuff from Yahoo! to Gmail click here.

Author’s note:¬†this post was originally intended for family/friends, so my security/privacy preferences have been (somewhat) tamed for the audience.

What?!?!

This is a step-by-step guide to switch from Yahoo to Gmail. If you’re looking for how to transfer your email or contacts from Yahoo to Gmail, you’ve come to the right place!

First, some background on why I think this is so necessary.¬†Hopefully you have heard by now about Yahoo!’s¬†massive data breach – an estimated 500 MILLION accounts! ¬†This included significant pieces of data:

“The account information may have included names, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, hashed passwords (the vast majority with bcrypt) and, in some cases, encrypted or unencrypted security questions and answers,”¬†Yahoo said in a statement.

So, what now? ¬† Well, first, this Dilbert strip is probably indicative of Yahoo! in 2014.¬† Continue reading “The Great Escape (from Yahoo!)”

8 months at OpenDNS

Hard to believe it’s been so long since my last post here. ¬†Life with a little one goes by so fast! ¬†I never realized how quickly time goes, and I also never believed anyone that told me time flies when you have kids ūüôā

So, the past 8 months have been quite the journey. ¬†When I was hired, I was hired to fulfill two roles – Technical Account Manager and Sales Engineer. ¬†After looking at a lot of data around where my time was being spent in my first few months, it was clear that it was time to split the role in two. I’ve moved¬†into the¬†Sales Engineer role for our MSP Sales team at OpenDNS. ¬†This has proven to be¬†a great¬†fit for my personality and skill set, and it’s been so exciting and rewarding to be able to support¬†our sales team with¬†technical expertise and helping our MSP Partners¬†deploy and use¬†our products to protect their customer networks.

On a recent¬†post on this blog, I talked about my career search and how I spent a lot of time looking for the role that would be the best fit and I can definitely say that I’m in that role now. ¬†That’s not to say, however, that I’m not looking for ways to improve and grow – because I do that daily. ¬†But I can definitely say that the work I do daily is rewarding, challenging and exciting. If you’re in a career search, i strongly encourage evaluating something like the PRO-D evaluation to help find career paths that work within your personality and competencies.

I remember during my high school and college days always saying how I could never see myself being a programmer because I didn’t “want to be in a cube all day” and never talk to people. ¬†It’s funny how stereotypes get destroyed when you work with different people. ¬†I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with our developers and am actually working with some programming of my own (Python, mostly) and taking a Computer Science Intro course from Harvard on EdX. ¬†Depending on how things go, there might be some additional classes in my future for Computer Science, as I’m really loving the topic and I really love being able to write¬†scripts to make large tasks¬†easier to accomplish.

My transition from an MSP service desk to being on the vendor side has been great, and I’m so glad that I’ve made the switch to working for such an awesome company as OpenDNS. I wrote a quick post about my transition over on our blog, and you can find it here.

What’s in a name?

As you read in my last post, I’ve certainly moved out of nonprofit sector. In light of that, the naming convention of this blog is certainly not consistent with my role. ¬†When I began this blog, the purpose was to provide opinions and (hopefully) useful technology information for those working in the nonprofit sector. ¬†I definitely have a desire to see nonprofits succeed with technology and to use it to improve their work experience and their productivity.¬† Continue reading “What’s in a name?”

Life changes

change-wordle

Over the past few months, there have been a lot of changes in our family.First, we celebrated the birth of our first child in April. There’s quite a long story behind our journey to parenthood, but we are happy and blessed to have our son with us.

Secondly, over the past 6-8 months, I’ve felt a stirring to begin a change in career. Just like everyone who’s ever changed jobs, there were certainly multiple factors to my desire for the next step. The first key for me was realizing that I was on autopilot. Some of you have spent time on this site discussing RDS implementations and issues, and once our implementation was done, due to budget constraints, we were unable to pursue any new projects. This left me in a position of being on autopilot because no new projects or tasks were being done. This, to me, is difficult to maintain over an extended period of time, and drove me to begin the process of searching for my next challenge.

Continue reading “Life changes”

Kiosk Mode for Windows + SSO for RDP (part 2)

Last time we looked at Kiosk Mode for WES 7. This can also be used for Windows 7 Professional installs, and I plan to test with XP in the future. That could help provide low-cost kiosks for almost any scenario (libraries, church public use PCs, etc).

Today, however, I wanted to go through my struggles with SSO with RDS. My initial thought was that I didn’t want any prompt on the user screen, I wanted the ‘typical’ Windows Server 2008 R2 login screen as shown below. Continue reading “Kiosk Mode for Windows + SSO for RDP (part 2)”

Kiosk Mode for Windows + SSO for RDP (part 1)

This will be a multi-part series on implementing thin clients (or thick clients) with a kiosk mode connecting to an Remote Desktop Services (RDS) farm with Single Sign On (SSO).  I hope to help consolidate 12+ hours of research, testing and configuration changes over the past few weeks, with most of that being this week as we began finalizing our implementation plan for 45 new thin clients.  I hope this is helpful to someone who may be thinking about a similar project, or maybe implement items learned here for something completely different.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time trying to find the solution to this problem for our thin client implementation, and only after several weeks of trial and error was I able to piece together multiple bits of knowledge to accomplish my goal.

Project:
Deploying 45 new thin clients to two of our facilities. Continue reading “Kiosk Mode for Windows + SSO for RDP (part 1)”

The Importance of [good] Project Management and Communication

I know it’s been a long time since I last posted…and for that I apologize.¬† Now that life has settled down a bit, I’m able to dedicate a little time to this…that being said, let’s dive right in!

I am constantly reminded of the need for a client to have a good project manager, especially when working between multiple vendors.¬†¬† Most software vendors have project managers that will work directly with the client on a particular project or task (depending on the size and scope of the task), but when multiple software vendors are involved, many times the customer gets lost in the shuffle if they aren’t careful to have a strong project manager.¬† From the customer’s perspective, setting proper (and realistic) expectations from the beginning is key.

Scenario:

Scope: Vendor A and Vendor B build a bi-directional interface to share information across the two applications.
Expectations: Vendor A configures interface for both applications, Vendor B will verify complete implementation and schedule training with the client.
Initial Estimated Timeline: 2-3 weeks after initial install

Actual Process:

Day 1-3:  Vendor A completes the interface installation, and informs the client that everything is complete.   Vendor B completes first set of tests and finds 2 bugs which need to be addressed by Vendor A.  Customer is given the steps necessary to verify bugs are fixed.

Day 5-7: Vendor A resolves first set of bugs, Customer tests and verifies.

Day 8: Customer discovers that Flat file from Software A is needed to import into Software B.  Requests the appropriate format from Vendor B and sends to Vendor A.

Day 14-19: Vendor A creates flat file and imports into Software B. Customer finds possible bug, requests information from Vendor A.  Vendor A states all information is correct, asks for Vendor B to verify completion.

Day 20: Vendor B verifies import was correct, but bug that customer found does exist.  Vendor B and customer confirm exact problem and provides documentation to Vendor A.

Day 24-31 – Vendor A resolves final bugs and releases client for training.

 

What you don’t see in this process is the dozens of emails from the client to both vendors and multiple phone calls that took place to resolve the various issues that should have been taken care of on Day 1.¬† Imagine this process without a client advocate [read: project manager] to manage this process and maintain the information flow between both vendors and the client.¬†¬† Without diligent communication and follow-through by the project manager, what would have happened is that on Day 1 when Vendor A completed their steps, the client would have called to schedule their training with Vendor B.

This is because the client assumes that Vendor A and Vendor B have already done this process hundreds of times, and that everyone already knows what they’re doing.¬† Unfortunately, there are too many variables in software implementations that what may seem simple (even to technical staff) is not necessarily so simple.

As you can see from this scenario, it took 31 days rather than the 14-21 days that were originally estimated.¬† According to both vendors, 14-21 days was a very exaggerated time-frame, as the process was “simple” to finish.¬†¬† In this case, it wasn’t so simple.¬† To me this stresses the importance of a project manager on the client side of the project.¬† It helps for that person to be knowledgeable enough to actually get involved in the nuts and bolts of the implementation to keep both vendors honest.

This is an important part of the vendor-customer relationship going past the project, because a smooth, timely project helps create a positive relationship for both the client and the vendor(s).¬†¬† Remember all those vendors who couldn’t manage a project to save their lives?¬† I sure do.¬† In fact, I’ve even been on the vendor side of the unmanageable projects that turn out to be a nightmare because of any number of reasons.¬†¬† No vendor ever tries to create a project that doesn’t go smoothly, so anything the customer can do to help the process is extremely important.

Since I try to focus on nonprofit organizations here, I know that a staff member dedicated to project management can be quite expensive and that’s not necessarily feasible for each organization.¬†¬† If I had any advice for those looking at upcoming projects or even current projects, it would be to find the person that is your “Super User” (for application projects, etc.) or is one of the folks that this project is designed to benefit (stakeholders) to be involved in the project management, even if only in a limited scope.¬† It’s important that the person involved has a stake in the success of the project, because that gives them motivation to see the project come to a timely, successful completion.¬† And while project timeliness is important, a complete and successful project that is 3 days over the due date is better than a project that’s on-time but has many outstanding issues that will ultimately carry past the due date to resolve or cause significant technical, operational or logistical problems in the future.

If you are needing technical assistance with project management for vendors, please feel free to get in touch with me.  I have a consulting company that specializes in Information Technology needs for small to medium-sized organizations, and project management is something I do as part of my consulting.

A discussion on desktop security

Desktop security can be very frustrating for IT professionals as we try to find the delicate balance between security and user experience. ¬†Most end users take things for granted and don’t realize the potential danger that lays in wait in advertising and other lovely pop-ups that warn of impending doom of their computer or hard drive that must be saved by this “free” software!

For those that wonder how this may apply to nonprofits, just remember that productivity is just as vital (if not more) in the nonprofit world as it is in the corporate world. ¬†Having lost time due to a virus outbreak is annoying, but lost or stolen data, downtime because your ISP has turned off your internet access due to SPAM emails being sent out, etc. is much more than just annoying. It can take a lot of time to rectify the virus problem, and that doesn’t include the network cleanup, ISP phone calls and calls to customers or donors letting them know their data was either lost or stolen.

Antivirus software such as Symantec, ESET NOD32, or my personal favorite, Vipre Enterprise, can only do so much with a persistent user who really wants to install that free software. ¬†There’s only one sure way to prevent that software from being installed – and that’s to prevent the user from installing it at all.

This is probably one thing that most IT staff (volunteer or paid) get soft on with their end users – local admin rights. Being a local administrator, for those that don’t know, gives you the “keys to the castle” to make all system/registry/file changes, which also allows any software you install to make those changes. ¬†Virus, spyware and other malicious software (well, all software, actually) will run within the security context of the logged in user. ¬†This means, to continue the key analogy, that any virus that attempts to run on your computer has access to everything door/room that you do. ¬†Microsoft notes this on many, if not all, of their security patches in a statement similar to this:

“An attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could gain the same user rights as the local user. ¬†Users whose accounts are configured to have fewer user rights on the system could be less impacted than users who operate with administrative user rights.”

For management, power users and even IT personnel, it’s fairly often that software needs to be installed, updated or system changes made for a variety of reasons, so local administrator access is really the default in most people’s network configuration. ¬†Step 1 – Join PC to Domain, Step 2 – Add user to local Administrators group. ¬†The alternative is to log off and then log back in with an administrative user to make any system changes. This is not only annoying, but it’s also inefficient. ¬†However, virus outbreaks, as I noted earlier, ¬†are much more costly.

In my network, I apply the following principles:  1) No local administrators unless a specific application requires it (there are some older applications that do require it).; 2) Use Restricted Groups in Group Policy to assign workstation administrator accounts (that are not domain administrators) to all PCs within the domain.; 3) Use Vipre Enterprise for antivirus and malware protection.

Restricted Groups are a very powerful tool in Group Policy to assign users to specific groups on a local machine, but they must be used carefully. ¬†Restricted Groups is a wipe/replace setting, which means that any user(s) you put in the local Administrator group will replace the existing users. ¬†So be sure to add the “Administrator” account in addition to any domain accounts you would like to add to the Administrators group. ¬†More information is available from Microsoft here (http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc785631(WS.10).aspx).

For those that don’t have any special applications that require administrative permissions can feel free to quit reading now, as I know this is long-winded. ¬†But for those that want to implement these security measures but have some older applications that require local administrator access, keep reading for tips on that.

Continue reading “A discussion on desktop security”

A New Beginning

After a lapse in my attempts at writing/blogging on all things technical, and some opportunities to share my knowledge and experience with others, I felt it was time to write about things that not only are IT-related but that are helpful to nonprofit organizations who struggle with a lack of IT leadership.

Traditionally the nonprofit sector is lacking in leadership in technology, and it ultimately hurts the organization with increased costs or less-than-spectacular results.  I plan to share not only high level items, but also some tips for use in day-to-day IT infrastructure.

Not all of my posts will be nonprofit-specific, but I hope that those in the NFP sector can benefit from my experiences and challenges in a nonprofit world.