October 31, 2012 By Dan Lohrmann
The impact of Tropical Storm Sandy is being felt far and wide.
Here are just four of the hundreds of articles describing the widespread damage and storm impact:
"Post-Tropical Cyclone Sandy knocked out mobile, phone and cable service in many parts of the eastern U.S. on Monday, with about one in four cell sites affected in the hardest-hit band of the country between Virginia and Massachusetts, according to an FCC estimate.
About 25 percent of the cell sites in the 10-state area were out of service at 10 a.m. Eastern on Tuesday, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission estimated. Due to the floods, high winds and snow brought by the storm, there were reports of outages as far west as Michigan, the agency said. The situation could become worse in some areas as backup power supplies for affected cell sites run out, it warned."
“A running CNN tally reflects a steady restoration of power to affected areas, but early Wednesday, nearly 6.2 million customers were still without power in 15 states and Washington.
Here's a look at how Sandy has affected the United States and Canada….”
"Two monolithic buildings in lower Manhattan that serve as major network hubs for the U.S. are operating on generator power, thanks to Hurricane Sandy.
The buildings, known as carrier hotels, are a 2.9 million square foot structure at 111 8th Ave., and a 1.8 million square foot facility at 60 Hudson St."
“Power could be out for a week — a fact noted by some New Yorkers who packed their bags and headed for the exits.
The storm was blamed for 51 deaths up and down the East Coast, according to the Associated Press. The tempest played havoc with the power grid, knocking out electricity to 7.5 million people. More than 16,000 airline flights have been canceled so far. Eqecat, a firm that models the costs of catastrophes for insurance companies, estimated Sandy’s economic impact on the country at $10 billion to $20 billion.”
I found the coverage of Sandy to be very interesting across the major networks this morning. Obviously, the devastation is huge – especially in New York and in New Jersey. Several news outlets were also warning people in other parts of the country about Sandy related scams.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by the storm.
October 18, 2012 By Dan Lohrmann
Another Patch Tuesday is just around the corner, and I feel an urge to rant.
In reality, the actual day each month is just a part of an ongoing cycle. Like a coach’s preparation for the next football game on the schedule. We even tell our rookies, “Don’t worry, we’ve got this down to a science. Just study the playbook and learn the system.”
We scout, breakdown the patch details, analyze the impact, discuss strategy, watch film, highlight strengths and weaknesses, suggest alternatives and finally build a game plan. Actually, I’m exaggerating – but only on the film part.
Here’s the routine… During the first week of the month, we realize that our infrastructure is coming up on that time of the month again. We typically ask: How many patches in this round?
As we approach the big day, we read up on this month’s patches. Are they critical? What if we wait? Should we test them first or just trust the fixes? We call-in to the MS-ISAC’s (or other organization’s) monthly call on patches and check their dashboard for potential critical alerts.
After “the game,” we heal-up as we get ready for next team – I mean patch. That is, unless an emergency update comes along.
Our Network History According To Patch Tuesday
Almost like forecasting the weather and/or analyzing the results after a big storm, Patch Tuesday is an ongoing topic for computer infrastructure support teams. Veteran security pros remember the good, the bad and the ugly regarding viruses, malware and Patch Tuesday. We tell new interns to gather round and we’ll share stories from the past. We could probably create a “Patch Tuesday Hall of Fame” to remember from where we have come.
Do these headlines ring a bell?
Actually, Wikipedia claims that Microsoft officially began Patch Tuesday in October 2003, although regularly scheduled patches have been released on the second Tuesday of each month since the launch of Windows 98.
And this is so much fun, other vendors, like Adobe, have occasionally decided to join in on the Patch Tuesday action. Vendors like Symantec and McAfee are constantly updating their anti-virus signatures, and our teams often ask what zero days attacks can be stopped by different versions of antivirus protection mixed with various operating system patches.
Will there be a new YouTube Channel for Patches in the future? Could this become Reality TV for geeks?
After getting this far, some readers will no doubt think that I am just bashing Microsoft. Actually, that’s not my purpose. I am a fan of Microsoft, Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer and most things coming out of Redmond, Washington. I am lifetime user – from MS DOS to Windows 95 to Windows NT to Windows 7. My family has owned dozens of computers and laptops running Microsoft software over the past three decades in the UK and USA.
I’ve come to think of Patch Tuesday (and other software and operating system updates and upgrades) as a necessary part of life – like cleaning the garage. Somebody has to do this work. Someone has to configure everything when the new PCs get unpacked. I have fond memories of my first Windows-based PC, and I’ve never second-guessed my decision to NOT move to a MAC.
Nor do I want to get dozens of emails from companies telling me that they have a better way for the Michigan government enterprise or my family to apply patches easier (been there and done that) –or- that we need to move to Open Source or convert to all Apple or Google or some other software for all of our computing needs. (Yes – I have an iPad and an iPhone.)
Actually, I appreciate all the work that goes into keeping us safe online - fixing bugs, sounding alarms and upgrading functionality. I know that the bad guys will always try to break into our PCs and servers no matter what. When you’re a long-standing top dog, like Microsoft has been over many years, everyone is shooting at you. I am thankful that they do what they do. Like Hadrian’s Wall from Ancient Roman times, Microsoft has usually protected us on the digital frontier since the early days of the global Internet. Truth be told, cybersecurity challenges as well as support of operating systems are getting more complex and the problems more daunting in 2012. Patch Tuesday is just an industry poster-child for all of this front-line effort.
Nevertheless, it doesn’t mean that I can’t hope that someday…., perhaps…, things will be different. I won’t get that sinking feeling when I see that my PC needs to download and install 20 new updates over the next 30 minutes before my PC is happy again or my shutdown is complete. Our bulletins to systems admins, database admins, security pros and others will be a little less frequent.
Our Future: Window 8 and Windows RT?
Lately, the headlines have declared that PC sales are dropping sharply. It remains to be seen if this is because people are just waiting for Windows 8 or moving away from the laptop and desktops entirely. Some may be moving to Google or Apple or Microsoft’s new Surface RT tablet. Or, is the global economy a factor?
Regardless, as we prepare for the next rollout (at home and work), I’ve started to ponder the age-old question: Will Patch Tuesday ever end? I doubt it, since Microsoft has already announced a massive patch prior to the public release of Windows 8. Of course, they can always change the name of Patch Tuesday, but not the ongoing work. I’m not predicting the end of an era either, since many IT managers prefer Microsoft technology.
I also realize that an entire industry has developed from Patch Tuesday. I suspect that this part of infrastructure support life will continue for many years to come. Every major vendor has vulnerabilities, fixes, new releases, mistakes and just plain upgrades with new features. For most of us, it is just a part of online life – like changing oil in your (real-world) car.
Still, I think no regular event is more of an ongoing support headache for the tech industry than Patch Tuesday. Our enterprises follow, study, refine, fear, talk-about and act on Patch Tuesday more than many other areas of infrastructure, month after month, year after year. Sure other “sexier” topics grab the headlines temporarily, but Patch Tuesday is always waiting for us like the next game on the schedule.
And no CIO, CTO or CSO would mind hitting the delete button – if only the problems would go away with the patches. What’s your experience with Patch Tuesday?
Building effective virtual government requires new ideas, innovative thinking and hard work. From federal stimulus projects to enterprise architectures to cloud computing, Dan Lohrmann will discuss what's hot and what's not in the world of technology infrastructure.