Deconstructing the healthcare.gov website fiasco

By reader request, I’m going to grab onto the third rail and talk about the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare/healthcare.gov website fiasco.

As someone who has been involved in a large number of IT projects, inside and outside the government, successful and failed, I can speak to that. I know the burning question in everyone’s mind is how can three guys banging away at a keyboard for three days build a better web site than the United States Government?

The snarky answer is that the best projects I’ve ever worked on have been when someone asked for something, then one or two other guys sat down with me and we banged away at a keyboard for a little while and didn’t tell anyone what we were doing until we were done.

But it’s probably more complicated than that. Read more

Windows NT turns 20

The first version of Windows NT, version 3.1 (to coincide with the then-current 16-bit version of Windows) was released 20 years ago today. It was an insanely ambitious effort for Microsoft that took a while to pay off, though it eventually did in spades. Windows NT was what killed off Novell and OS/2 and turned the proprietary operating system market into a duopoly. Although a user running it wouldn’t see much difference between Windows NT and regular Windows except that it didn’t crash nearly as much, it was the first version of Windows that qualifies as a modern operating system, with pre-emptive multitasking and protected memory.

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Have a busload of servers? Need to know what version of Windows they’re all running?

Every once in a great while, I have to answer a question like what version of Windows a range of servers is running. If the number of servers is very small, you can just connect to them with a Terminal Services client and note what comes up. But sometimes that’s impractical. Right now I’m working someplace that has 8,000 servers, more or less. I’m not going to check 8,000 servers manually. I’m just not.

Here’s a more elegant, much faster way to go about getting that information.

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The trouble with bringing your own software

PC Magazine is advocating a bring your own laptop, with your own software approach to business. It likens it to mechanics who bring their own tools.

The trouble is that while mechanical tools in a toolbox operate autonomously and don’t interfere with one another, software residing on a computer does. Read more

Don’t read too much into the PC sales drop just yet

If you’ve been paying any attention at all, you probably know that new PC sales are in the toilet–out of the five biggest vendors, the only one whose sales managed to hold steady in Q1 2013 was Lenovo, while the other four saw a sales decline. So now Slashdot linked to a ZDNet piece stating that Windows is over, and said it must be true because ZDNet always sides with Microsoft.

Let’s not read too much into that. The author of the piece is a longtime open-source advocate. The points he raises are completely valid, but if there’s one person who’s going to take Microsoft to task, it’s Steven Vaughan-Nichols.

Microsoft has a long road ahead, but there is precedent for salvaging the boondoggle known as Windows 8. And I don’t think Windows 8 is the only factor here. Read more

Windows 8 comes out later this year, but I won’t be moving just yet

So Windows 8 was released today. I won’t be moving to it anytime soon.

There are some people who make a habit of waiting for Service Pack 1 to be released before upgrading to a new version of Windows. The trouble is, I can think of one instance, Windows NT 4.0 Service Pack 1, that was much more problematic than its predecessor. And in more recent years, service packs have become more arbitrary. Knowing that practice exists, Microsoft releases Service Pack 1 based more on uptake than on actual need.

So I have a different rule I follow. Read more

Happy late birthday, OS/2

Twenty-five years ago this month, on April 2, IBM announced its new PS/2 computers and a new multitasking operating system to run on (most of) them–OS/2. They even lured a bunch of the actors from M*A*S*H to do an ad campaign for them.

It didn’t seem like it at the time, but that was the beginning of the end of IBM’s PC business.
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Move the print spool directory to your ramdisk

You can improve the speed of printing slightly and, depending on the nature of your print jobs, dramatically reduce disk writes if you move the print spool directory to your ramdisk. It’s a little performance tweak you might have never heard of, but it’s helpful.

This trick works best with a ramdisk product that loads a disk image at startup, such as Dataram Ramdisk.

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