Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Protect your virtual infrastructure with Hytrust Appliance v2.0

Looking to get control over your virtual infrastructure? Then consider the Hytrust Appliance, which allows you to set up policies, access rules, and other security measures to segregate your virtual infrastructure from your users. It comes with integration with Microsoft's Active Directory users and groups, and a newly designed user interface with the ability to handle extremely large virtual installations.

We tested the appliance on a network of eight VM ESXi and ESX hosts during March 2010.

Pricing: Download for free, limited to managing three hosts
Standard edition $1000 per typical host
Enterprise: $1500 per typical host including federation across multiple appliances

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

ITexpertVoice: Prowess SmartDeploy Eases Windows 7 Migration

SmartDeploy is a software tool that converts virtual machine disk files into Windows Image files that can be used to deploy new OSs, including Windows 7, across an enterprise. This screencast demonstrates its features. SmartDeploy is easier to use than Microsoft’s WAIK, and Kbox, both of which we reviewed earlier on
You can watch the video here:

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Warnings about Wifi-enabled air travel

I have been on a few planes in the past couple of weeks that are Wifi-enabled. American has created an entirely new opportunity for identity thieves here, and while the opportunity to surf and email at 30,000 feet is tempting, count me out for those that will become frequent users.

The problem is that most people get lost in the wonderfulness of the Web and tend to forget that their seatmates can watch every move, see every keystroke (it doesn't take much to follow along, especially at the speed that many people type), and collect all sorts of information. By the end of one flight I was on, I had Larry (not his real name) the HP sales rep's Amazon account, read several of his emails, got to see his new sales presentations that HP corporate sales office had sent him, figured out that he was a recent hire as he was checking HP's Intranet to understand some corporate travel policies, found out who his clients that he had just visited were, and more.

Now, I wasn't really paying that much attention. I was tired, and just wanted to be left by myself for the trip. And I think we exchanged maybe ten words between us all told. But if I really wanted to do some damage, I could be all over Larry's accounts by now (he had some nice taste from what I could see he was looking for on Amazon, too).

Yes, people have been using laptops on planes for years. I used to do it all the time, back when the middle seat was rarely occupied and you didn't have to almost disrobe to get to the gate. But those days are almost as much part of history as calling the people that worked on planes stews. The difference is now that we have Internet piped directly to the seat, people are free to go anywhere and everywhere, and where they go are places that are critical to their life. I wouldn't be surprised if someone was doing their online banking in-flight.

So people, if you are going online up in the air, get a privacy filter for your laptop so that no one else can see your screen. They cost about $30. This isn't complex technology: it has been available almost as long as Windows has been around. And while you are at it, dim your screens to save on power anyway (Larry had one of those nifty power-packs to boost his battery, too). Or better yet: don't work on anything important on a crowded plane – and these days, what other kinds of planes are there? Bring a book or watch a movie if you must be immersed in your electronic cocoon.

I am reminded of a story from my early days as a reporter for PC Week, back in the late 1980s. We were very scoop-oriented, and would always try to get information from the vendors through all sorts of means, some of them probably unethical or at least uncomfortable in the light of the present day. One of our reporters was having dinner with her boyfriend (now husband) at a quaint and cozy Cambridge Mass. restaurant, and overhead two businessmen at the next table gossiping about work. What was unusual was they were speaking rapid German, and both were working for Lotus Development, at the time a powerhouse spreadsheet player. They were in town to discuss the company's future product plans. Trouble was, my colleague spoke German fluently, and got a couple of scoops that were published the next week in the paper. No one knew who the source of the leak was.

Remember loose lips sink ships, the World War 2 posters put up by the government? We need something similar on Wifi-enabled planes. Be careful out there people. You never know whom you are sitting next to.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

ITExpertVoice screencast: Using Windows AIK to Automate Windows 7 Deployment

If you are looking for a way to do massive Windows 7 migration, Microsoft has updated its own tool sets for this purpose, called the Windows Automated Installation Kit or WAIK. It has a lot of new features for both Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. This screencast shows how it works:

Monday, March 8, 2010

Managing the multiplatform mess

I have been using Pandora's online stream music service off and on for several years. What got me more interested lately was it being one of the many services on my Roku video streaming box, which my wife and I use mostly for watching movies from Netflix's "watch instantly" queue.

As I investigated the service more, I came to understand exactly the challenge of what it takes to be truly multi-platform in the current era. It isn't just about having both Web and mobile phone versions of your service, but how you have to go deep into a lot of different devices to appeal to your customers.

The cool thing about Pandora isn't that you can create your own custom radio station that will try to find music based on a particular artist or genre. But that once you set up your account on one platform, you can access it in your car, in your home, and on the road in between. All with the same collection of stations and music. As you spend more time with the service, it tries to figure out your likes and dislikes.

Let's look at all the various places you can get your Pandora fix as an example of how hard it is to become this ubiquitous. First is the Web browser: you have to work in a bunch of them properly, so there is the usual testing in IE, Firefox, Chrome, Opera and Safari. Add Mac, Windows and Linux versions of each browser, and that's 15 regression tests right off the bat. But we have just gotten started. Add in the newer brower versions, like IE8, the fact that Linux isn't a single OS, and 64 bit Windows. Then stir in support for both Flash and HTML v5, and you can easily get more than 200 different environments if you want to support a wider base. Pandora, by the way, doesn't officially support much beyond Flash on Firefox, IE, and Safari on Mac and Windows.

Then we have separate apps for each of the five mobile phone platforms (Blackberry, iPhone, Android, Palm Pre, and Windows Mobile) and four cellular providers because their phones work differently on each network. Never mind that each phone's ecosystem has different rules on how an app can get posted for download and get itself updated. There are at least twenty different tests there. The phone apps have to be designed to work with the limited screen real estate available on each phone, and yet still connect to your account in a way that you can recognize without a lot of user training. Some of the phones have different screen and control button configurations, so just supporting the Blackberry line, for example, isn't so simple. You also need to get the development environment for the phone (typically these run on PCs with simulators that show you what your phone user will end us seeing) and probably a bunch of phones to test out too.

But wait, there is more. How about Facebook, My Space, and other social networks? Don't you want to integrate with them and leverage them to make your app viral? More code to write, more interfaces to learn, more tests to run to make sure you new versions don't break these links.

Then there is support for the home-based entertainment systems. While each of these have some embedded Web browser in them (like the Roku or the Samsung BluRay DVD players), you still have to test to make sure that the pages load properly and the music keeps on playing and your fancy navigation controls operate as intended. There are more than a dozen different devices, including the Ford Sync in-car service that will be available later this year, to test out. The trouble here is that these devices typically have older and less capable browsers that don't get updated, unlike the PC world where users are trying out new versions.

As you can see, it is easy to lose count of how many different platforms you want your app to run on. And then if you have to make choices and limit yourself, how do you do the triage? Do you drop Andoid in favor of Roku? Bring up the new Ford Sync API and leave the Pre to wither away? The user populations of each of these communities is constantly changing, as sales wax and wane.

It is enough to make many of us long for the simple days of the 1990s, when we just had to worry about Mac vs. Windows support.

I got the idea to look at Pandora from an article in today's NY Times. And while the service can wreck havoc on corporate networks (lots of folks start the audio stream and then walk away from their PCs), I think they are doing exactly the right kind of things when it comes to managing their multiplatform strategy.

Making better backups with Sepaton DeltaStor deduplication technology

Sepaton's S2100 is a virtual tape library backup appliance that can work to significantly reduce backup completion and restore times and cut down on storage requirements. It has a flexible capacity to hold from 3.5TB to 200TB and a wide collection of policies that can be crafted to particular applications and circumstances.

We tested a unit on a live network with actual production data with Firefox running on Windows XP in February 2010.

Price: starts at $110,500.
Backup products supported include Symantec's Netbackup and Backup Exec, CA ARCserve, IBM/Tivoli Storage Manager, and EMC.

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About Me

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David Strom has looked at hundreds of computer products over a more than 20 year career in IT and computer journalism. He was the founding editor-in-chief of Network Computing magazine, and now writes for Baseline, Information Security, Tom's Hardware, and the New York Times.