Let’s *not* let them (NZ government workers) use Chromebooks

Technology journalist Bill Bennett muses in a post from a year ago titled “Let them (NZ government workers) use Chromebooks” about the potential cost savings and productivity gains to theoretically be had from deploying the Google office productivity stack for NZ government workers. Some excerpts:

“Put aside for a moment the security risks and the NZ$2 million paid to Microsoft for extra [Windows XP] support… One solution would be to write off all the existing computers and replace them with Chromebooks… There would be immediate savings. Chromebooks can’t run Microsoft Office. Government departments can shift to Google Apps… Getting all government employees and applications into the cloud means there will never again be a situation like 40,000 computers using out of date software.”

The security risks and $2 million dollar figure can be viewed as part of the exit cost of adopting the Microsoft platform to begin with. 13 years ago there may have been a reasonable case for Windows XP being an adequate desktop solution, which is clearly no longer the case in 2015. However, suggesting that NZ government trades one proprietary ecosystem (Microsoft) for one even more closed is not an advance at all. From a technology perspective, Google Apps for instance is completely welded shut – with a non-standard and entirely Google-secret document format at its core.

Yes, there’s a strong case to be made for the combined benefits of moving computing services off the Microsoft desktop platform and onto a Linux-based OS (Chrome OS is but one example, Ubuntu is another), replacing full desktop computers with thin clients, and adopting cloud-hosted applications. However, I would seriously question the wisdom of government migrating to a platform so tightly controlled by a single vendor – not to mention one that derives ~90 percent of its total global revenue from advertising, or that has a long track record of startlingly short product lifespans. It would drastically curtail competitive supplier choice, and in the case of Google Apps (and to an extent Chrome OS), eliminate the freedom to self-host the technology in-house or via a third party as and when the situation or requirement arises.

The $2 million dollar figure for Microsoft’s extended Windows XP support might well pale in comparison to migrating off a proprietary, cloud-only solution 13 years from now. The point being, any serious discussion must take into account exit costs, and not simply the superficial low cost of entry, be it Office 365, Chrome OS, Chromebooks, and so forth. This is an aspect Bill Bennett’s article omits, much like most other opinion pieces on the matter.

Apropos of this, in the time since the source article was written, the reasons for the UK government mandating ODF for document interchange (to the detriment of both Microsoft and Google) makes for worthwhile reading.

ASUS & McAfee’s cringeworthy antivirus campaign

Exhibit A:

ASUS and McAfee antivirus campaign screengrab.

Oh, if only it was this much fun. Which – if you’re the poor sod who’s ever spent hours having to wrestle with antivirus software such as McAfee that’s proved to be completely useless in removing any number of infections from Microsoft’s godforsaken products – it’s really not.

Enough with the cutesy ads ASUS, do the right thing by your customers, and give us some laptops with Ubuntu preinstalled with first-class support, please.

(By the way, ASUS products from a hardware standpoint are generally incredibly well designed.)

On Microsoft killing the Internet Explorer brand

The problem is, Internet Explorer – while a simply awful piece of technology – will forever be associated with being tied to an equally mediocre OS (Microsoft Windows). Open source it already, and kill off its dependency on Windows. Not rocket science.

Microsoft is killing off the Internet Explorer brand (The Verge)

“Potato-chip News”

Somewhat corny title, but the content is mostly spot-on. In November last year I ceased reading the NZ Herald, Stuff et al for this very reason. Overall it’s been a net positive, saving a couple of hours time each week. Targeted news can otherwise be obtained via an RSS feed.

If you haven’t stopped reading yourself (and switched off the telly for that matter as well), I highly recommend giving it a try:

Avoid the Dangerous Allure of “Potato-Chip News – Gretchen Rubin

“Slack is killing email” – yeah, right

Responding to glorified technology advertising publication The Verge running this silly clickbait headline a while back, here’s my prediction on where Slack will eventually end up. As posted on Twitter, recorded here for posterity.

Slack exchange from Twitter

Thunderbird, Gmail, and the “less secure apps” thing

For those folks wanting to use Thunderbird as a Gmail client and who are encountering an incorrect password error when attempting to configure the account in Thunderbird (irrespective of two-factor authentication), this is most likely due to Google enforcing OAuth. Google are spinning this as a “secure vs. less secure application” problem, suffice it to say opinions appear to vary on this.

For now, the conditions under which you may or may not see the incorrect password error prompt when hooking Thunderbird up to a Gmail account can be found here.

And on the Thunderbird developer community side, discussion about this can be found here.

EDIT: we’ll also highlight this most excellent point, from Twitter:

Can’t disagree with this.

 

 

On Windows 10…

Microsoft spent four years hyping Vista, and it was a colossal, costly failure when it was eventually released. They then hyped Windows 8 as some sort of unified miracle OS for desktop and mobile devices – and it turned out to be a two-headed abomination that had seasoned professionals tearing their hair out. And now, Windows 10 – which Microsoft’s marketing geniuses think they can smooth over Windows 8 bad customer experiences with by skipping a major version number.

How many more expensive, time-wasting chances are folks going to give before realising Microsoft just cannot get it right?

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Extreme fan noise with an HP ProLiant ML110 G7

A little while back I posted some initial impressions of the Hewlett Packard ML110 G7, and noted:

“One review made mention of the ML110’s quiet operation and how it would not be noticed in an office environment. Well, unless your office happens to be on the factory floor of an air conditioning manufacturing plant, you’re going to notice this thing…”

Out of curiosity I decided to look into this a bit more. It turns out a whole bunch of other folks have encountered the same thing, and if you perform an online search for “HP ML110 G7 fan noise” you’ll find many forum posts with all manner of straw clutching – from running every firmware and BIOS update under the sun, to nuking warranties with third-party cooling hacks.

One thing I noted with my unit was the actual reported fan speeds via the LOM were in the order of 31%/13%/10% for the three fans respectively – which hardly accounts for what sounds like a system with its fans running absolutely full tilt (completely unsuitable for office operation).

Buried in one forum post was information apparently passed on from HP’s support personnel to an affected customer, advising them to reseat the front fan (referred to as the PCI fan in the service manual), as apparently it may become dislodged during shipping. Sounded rather odd to me as clearly the fan itself is functioning (a bit too well…), but as it turns out this totally nailed the problem. After disconnecting the fan’s motherboard connectors and physically removing the component, then letting the system boot, POST and shutdown with a fan error, then reconnecting everything and powering it back up, the server is now quiet.

Updating iLO3 firmware on an HP ML110 G7

Hewlett Packard’s website is an embarrassing mess. Don’t go looking for an easy-to-find page for the iLO3 with a one-click firmware download, because you won’t find one. The state of HP’s site is a rant for a future post, but for now here’s a quick guide to getting your hands on the latest iLO3 revision. The sole catch is that you’ll need a Microsoft Windows-based PC at some stage, irrespective of which OS you have installed on the server itself (OpenIndiana in my case).

First, go to HP’s product page for the ML110 G7. Next, we’ll choose “Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2” (blech…) as our OS:

HP ML110 G7 product page

Look for the Lights Out Management Firmware section, and click the relevant link to start the download (we’ll go for a 64-bit Windows target OS):

Download the iLO3 installation file

Now, run the downloaded executable file (named “cp022549.exe” in this example) on a Windows-based system (Windows 7 or Windows 8 will do just fine) and extract (not install) the file contents to disk:

Extract the downloaded file contents

Look for the .bin file in the extracted files – this is the one we need:

Look for the firmware BIN file

Now, go to the iLO3 admin BUI, upload the .bin file, and wait for the update to complete. Once the LOM reboots, verify the firmware version:

Prepare to upload the BIN file

Firmware file is uploading

Updating to the latest firmware

Before:

Compare the old firmware version to the newest

After:

iLO3 firmware is now at the latest version